Monday, January 25, 2010

More Trouble for President Obama

One week after the devastating geological earthquake in Haiti, a political earthquake shook the United States. On Tuesday, January 19, in a special election, Massachusetts voters elected Republican Senator Scott Brown to replace the late Democratic Senator Ted Kennedy. Nicknamed the "Lion of the Senate," Senator Kennedy had served continuously from 1972 until his death in 2009. Moreover, Kennedy had been preceded by a Democratic senator for several years prior to his own record-long reign.

The political significance of this event cannot be underestimated, for many reasons. This marks the first time in more than 40 years that Massachusetts has elected a Republican to the U.S. Senate. The Bay State is a reliably Democratic domain that, less than one and a half years ago, helped carry President Barack Obama to the White House with 68 percent of the vote. So why didn't the state's voters act predictably and follow tradition by choosing Democratic senatorial candidate Martha Coakley to succeed Kennedy?

The answer is that the people of Massachusetts didn't like what Mrs. Coakley stood for, and what she represented. She stood for forcing all health care professionals in the state, including Catholics, to perform and participate in abortions even if they object to doing so for conscience reasons. Such a draconian position--which is in flagrant violation of the laws of God and nature, and indeed of our Constitution and Bill of Rights--was unacceptable even by the liberal standards of the
Massachu- setts electorate. Mrs. Coakley also stood for President Obama's healthcare reform plan, which has no conscience protections for pro-life medical professionals and would tax individuals who do not have "acceptable" health care coverage as defined by the government. Among Massachusetts voters, even many Democrats could not tolerate such measures.

Finally, as a Democrat, Mrs. Coakley represented the currently reigning political party in Washington, D.C, which is rapidly becoming a symbol of incompetent, immoral and corrupt government. And this is where the broader implications of this astounding upset come into play. If Democrats in the Bay State have grown frustrated enough with their party's performance in the federal government to blow their top and elect a Republican, then we can be sure that American citizens in general are even more frustrated with their elected representatives. Thus, Mrs. Coakley's loss to Senator Brown, together with the recent election of Republican governors in New Jersey and Virginia, represent a clear vote of no confidence in the Obama administration.

It should be noted that Massachusetts' new Republican Senator Scott Brown is not actually pro-life. Nonetheless, his election is still to be celebrated, because he represents the lesser of two evils in a very important respect. Martha Coakley supports the Democratic healthcare legislation in the Senate, especially the abortion provisions; Senator Brown, despite his support of abortion, opposes the Democratic healthcare legislation. Thus his victory also represents an important strategic victory for the pro-life movement in the United States.

Another significant thing is that as a result of this special election, the Democratic Party no longer constitutes a supermajority of the United States Senate. With 60 senators, Democrats could invoke the cloture rule to end debate and force a vote on any measure they wished, including a healthcare reform bill, and could also easily pass it. Now, with only 59 seats and not a single Republican senator in favor of the pending healthcare bill, that bill may never come to a vote, much less be passed, by the Senate. The door has now been opened for Republican senators to continue the Senate healthcare debate and challenge their Democratic colleagues regarding the contents of the healthcare bills. This is very good news for the American people, who have registered their intense dissatisfaction with the prevailing Democratic health care bills in opinion polls and to their elected representatives in the preceding months.

There are many reasons for the landslide opposition of the American people to Democrat- ic healthcare reform. One is its gigantic $2.3 trillion price tag, which comes at a time when our national debt is already $13 trillion and most Americans are hurting financially due to the effects of a Great Recession. They do not trust the smooth promises of their Democratic politicians that the healthcare reform bills currently on the table will make health care more affordable and accessible for all Americans. They realize that, far from increasing the healthcare options available to them and bringing down healthcare costs, the new system will create a giant new government bureaucracy, funded by unprecedented income tax hikes, devoted to its subjects' healthcare a la Communist Russia, requiring the participation of all American citizens under penalty of yet more taxes. The image of Democrats as "tax-and spenders" has reared its ugly head to a whole new level at a time when average Americans are already crushed by their income tax burdens. If the economy is to recover, Americans must have money to spend, and they will not have such money if it is annually depleted by excessive taxes.

However, in addition to these financial and economic reasons, Americans have a potent moral reason for opposing Democratic healthcare reform: It would force doctors and nurses everywhere in the United States to perform and participate in abortions. This same week, hundreds of thousands of Americans peacefully demonstrated for protection of the right to life of the innocent unborn. In Washington, D.C., 300,000 American citizens, half of whom were under the age of 25, participated in the 37th Annual March for Life, which became the longest march in American history. Americans have made clear their opposition to the radically anti-life agenda of the Obama administration, which this administration has attempted to bury in the healthcare bills. This agenda was previously enshrined in FOCA, which President Obama had promised Planned Parenthood to sign upon becoming president. But FOCA failed, and now the administration's Plan B--abortion coverage through healthcare reform--is collapsing.

In the words of President Obama himself during a visit to Ohio on January 22, his "agenda seems to be running into a buzz-saw." We had much to rejoice about in this week of political shakeup for the Obama administration. However, amid the celebration of the moment we must be careful to remain vigilant. As Republican Representative Thaddeus McCotter of Michigan's 11th district cautiously observed on The World Over Live with Raymond Arroyo on January 22, "I'm not going to brag about having 41 seats when the other side has 59." We still have our work cut out for us in the pro-life movement. Therefore, we must continue to work to build a culture of life and especially offer prayers and sacrifices for full restoration of the legal guarantee of the right to life.

Keep the People of Haiti in your Prayers

Although media attention to Haiti has waned and relief programs are now well underway, the situation is still very difficult for millions of homeless people in this impoverished Carribean island nation. It will take years for them to recover and rebuild their country. Moreover, the situation is complicated by a corrupt, evil government that has protected its own wealth while leaving the national economy in tatters. We need to pray especially for the Catholic Church in Haiti, which lost its archbishop and hundreds of priests, seminarians, monks and nuns in the tragic earthquake on January 12. Let us pray that the Lord will help the suffering people of Haiti to rebuild their country; that He will turn the hearts of their leaders away from sin and self-aggrandizement so that they will promote sound economic development for the common good of all Haitians; that the human rights and God-given dignity of all the people will be respected; and that the citizens of Haiti will experience true freedom, security and peace.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Darfur Update

This is a hopeful yet critical year for Sudan. The country's first presidential elections since 1986 will be held this coming April. Unfortunately, the conditions for a free and fair election do not exist in Sudan right now. Sudanese president Omar al-Bashir is forbidding political opponents from organizing public rallies; arresting and imprisoning hundreds of dissidents; and arresting and beating journalists who report these incidents. Bashir is taking every possible measure to ensure his re-election against the wishes of the people of Sudan. Why? Because Bashir is a corrupt and murderous leader--and if a free and fair election were held in his country, Bashir would be voted out of office. During the past seven years, Arab Janjaweed militias--armed and funded by Bashir's regime--have carried out a systematic extermination program of the non-Arab inhabitants in Sudan's large western region of Darfur, killing upwards of 500,000 innocent people. This far exceeds the estimated 150,000 people killed by Saddam Hussein between 1983 and 1991. And while the International Criminal Court has filed charges of war crimes against Omar al-Bashir and issued an arrest warrant for his capture, the United States has taken little tangible action to help stop the genocide.

The Save Darfur Coalition, of which I am a part, is a not-for-profit political advocacy group that has been working to change that. The Coalition "is an alliance of over 190 faith-based, advocacy and human rights organizations whose mission is to raise public awareness about the ongoing genocide in Darfur and to mobilize a unified response to the atrocities that threaten the lives of more than two million people in the Darfur region." Over the past few years, we have achieved several notable successes such as getting Fidelity (a major U.S.-based investment company) to divest from corporations that fund the mass murder, getting President Bush to uphold our commitment of troops for the UN-AU pracekeeping force in Darfur, getting the ICC to hold Bashir accoutable for his crimes, and getting all three 2008 U.S. presidential candidates to sign a statement pledging "unstinting resolve" to end the genocide in Darfur.

Our most notable success to date has been getting the U.S. government to formulate a comprehensive policy for Sudan that calls for a combination of pressures and incentives on the Bashir regime to stop the Darfuri genocide. The Obama administration released its Sudan Policy Review entitled "Sudan: A Critical Moment, A Comprehensive Approach" on October 19, 2009. But although this document contains many of the policy objectives we have been working for, the U.S. government has yet to back up its strong words with concrete actions. Our challenge now is to hold the U.S. to its officially proclaimed commitment to stop the genocide and save the people of Darfur.

The Save Darfur Coalition has urged me to forward the message below to as many people as possible. Please read and consider joining the Coalition--it's free--so that we can work to halt this unconscionable tragedy, the first genocide of the 21st century--the ethnic cleansing in Darfur.



Dear friend,

One year ago today Barack Obama was sworn in as the 44th President of the United States. As he took office, he promised high-level leadership to bring peace to Darfur and all of Sudan.

Unfortunately, President Obama's strong words in the campaign have yet to be accompanied by the kind of decisive leadership we expected from the new President.

Millions of people in Darfur still live in camps with the ever-present threat of violence. All of the people of Sudan continue to live without even the most basic human rights. Now, indicted war criminal Omar al-Bashir is preparing to steal the country's first election in 24 years.
We must not let this happen.

Secretary of State Clinton took a small step forward when she recently called on Sudan "to suspend elements of the national security and public order laws that are incompatible with free and fair elections."

But her words still lack the support of the President himself, who has remained silent instead of calling out Khartoum for its lack of progress.

Sudanese security forces continue to harass and intimidate their political opponents. Violence and insecurity in Darfur will make voting difficult—if not impossible. The regime in Khartoum wants to use the upcoming election to tighten its grip on power and insulate its leadership from the reach of international justice.

Thank you for your support and your activism.


Mark Lotwis,
Save Darfur Coalition

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Check Out the New Decent Films!

Steve Greydanus, film critic for the National Catholic Register, has just redesigned and improved his website,, in honor of its tenth anniversary. For years this ever-growing site has been my principal reference and source for movie reviews from a Catholic perspective, and I am happy to see it get even better. Especially if you're a Catholic who wants to enjoy more good movies but doesn't know which ones they are, I'd highly recommend you visit this site. You can click here to read a blog post Mr. Greydanus has written about the new Decent Films Guide. Or, go straight to the home page here and see it for yourself.

Friday, January 8, 2010

Quote of the Day

Let us work, then, for justice in the world, so that the nations of the earth will be moved to draw back from ominous arms races and unbalanced concentration on the tools of war, from the terrifying proliferation of nuclear weapons and from senseless quarrels and insane hatreds. Let us turn our united efforts instead to true human development throughout our world and to the betterment of all our brothers. Let us pray on this night, Christmas Eve, that all the nations of the earth may turn away from the ever present sounds of conflict and hear the angel's clear invitation to peace through love of God and neighbor.
--Cardinal Terence Cooke

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Upcoming Elections in Sudan

Here is the latest from the Save Darfur Coalition:

Dear Justin,

Intimidation, torture, and violence. Hundreds of activists, opposition party leaders and journalists arrested and beaten.

Welcome to election season in Omar al-Bashir's Sudan.

Sudan's first multi-party elections in 24 years are scheduled for April 2010. The elections were intended to serve as a capstone to the democratic transformation of Sudan promised in the Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA) that was signed by North and South Sudan in 2005. Instead, none of the conditions for truly free and fair elections are in place.

Bashir's regime has failed to: ensure freedom of association, movement, assembly and speech; limit the broad powers of arbitrary arrest, detention, search and seizure; end press censorship; allow equal access for all political parties to media; implement mechanisms to prevent election related violence; and allow unrestricted access for both domestic and international observation teams.

Not only are brave Sudanese who call for greater freedom being violently suppressed, the current conditions in Darfur make credible elections there inconceivable. Random attacks on civilians continue, movement of UN peacekeepers is restricted, and millions of Darfuris who live in displacement camps worry that participation in the election will lead to denial of their right to return to their homes. Any national election that does not include Darfur cannot be viewed as legitimate.

So what is the benefit of elections for Bashir's genocidal regime? They are a means to give it a veneer of legitimacy.

And without scrutiny by the Obama administration and the international community, the elections will deliver the sort of legitimization that Bashir desires.

This is why it is critical for the U.S. government to shine a spotlight on the fact that the political freedom necessary for free and fair elections in Sudan does not exist. We need President Obama and our elected leaders to send a message to the world that they will not recognize the results of an illegitimate electoral process, and will not permit a fugitive of the International Criminal Court to legitimize his brutal dictatorship.

Over the coming months we will need your help to make sure that our leaders do not let the upcoming elections provide legitimacy to Bashir's government. We will be collecting signatures, organizing lobby days and local events, blogging, and raising awareness through the media and social networks.

The people of Sudan need our support. Spread the word to your friends and family and encourage them to learn more.


Mark Lotwis
Save Darfur Coalition

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Get the Scoop on Counterterrorism

My sense of deja vu is starting to get overwhelming. This afternoon, I read an Internet news report from Reuters about President Obama's expected announcement of some changes in his administration's counterterrorism policy. This comes after an attempted Christmas Day transatlantic airliner bombing, alleged to have been plotted by a 23-year-old Nigerian suspect en route from Amsterdam to Detroit. Apparently, this man (named Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab) was in cahoots with al-Qaeda operatives in the Middle Eastern country of Yemen, yet despite this fact, somehow slipped through cracks between intelligence agencies and managed to smuggle explosives onto a commercial civilian airplane headed for the United States.

Something doesn't add up! What's wrong with this picture?

Well, for starters, the Bush administration was supposed to have fixed any lingering communication problems among U.S. intelligence agencies that might have allowed a terrorist to proceed this far with his plot. The USA PATRIOT Act, a landmark piece of legislation enacted in 2001, broke down virtually all barriers between U.S. intelligence, defense, police, security, investigation, and immigration departments, enabling and requiring these different agencies to share any and all terrorism-related information with one another. Thus an all-new network infrastructure was formed that should intercept terrorists long before their plans reach execution stage. Add to this the War on Terrorism, military action against al-Qaeda, the Department of Homeland Security, and better passenger screening at airports, and you have a thick, interlocking series of nets designed with the official purpose of catching terrorists and disrupting their activities.

President Obama talked tough against terrorism and boldly pledged to continue his Republican predecessor's War on Terrorism as he took office in January 2009. All was more or less quiet on the terrorism front until December, when the recent incident threw the issue of terrorism back into the spotlight. Now Republicans are charging President Obama with weak and inadequate counterterrorism policies, and the president himself seems to be admitting that they are right with his announcement of some changes to those policies. But is President Obama really to blame for the latest terror fiasco?

It is worth noting that high-profile terrorist attacks marked each year of the Bush administration (9/11, 2001; Bali, Indonesia, 2002; Istanbul, Turkey, 2003; Madrid, Spain, 2004; London, 2005; Iraq, 2006; Algeria, 2007; Mumbai, India, 2008). Moreover, in 2006 alleged al-Qaeda suspects came frighteningly close to carrying out a well-engineered and coordinated effort to bomb multiple transatlantic airliners flying from Britain to the United States.

U.S. counterterrorism debacles even date back to the Clinton administration, during which terrorists attacked the basement of the World Trade Center (February 26, 1993); attempted to assassinate Pope John Paul II with a bomb on his plane to the Philippines (1995); Osama bin Laden established al-Qaeda training camps in Afghanistan (1996-98); and U.S. embassies in Kenya and Tanzania were simultaneously bombed (August 7, 1998).

Perhaps the most spectacular counterterrorism failure that runs through the past three administrations is the seeming ability of Osama bin Laden to escape justice as long as he pleases. Acting upon U.S. intelligence regarding bin Laden's location, President Clinton fired cruise missiles at bin Laden's training camps in Afghanistan in an attempt to kill the infamous terrorist leader and financier himself in 1998, but for some reason the missiles missed their target. Bin Laden remained on the run thruout most of the Bush administration, yet somehow we never managed to capture him. He survived our multilateral invasion of Afghanistan and overthrow of the illicit Taliban regime, which had been his host government, and continued to crank out televised speeches denouncing our foreign policy. Meanwhile, U.S. intelligence reports indicated that bin Laden was hiding out somewhere in the Afghanistan-Pakistan border region, yet his exact location was never conclusively identified. Senator Barack Obama and his running mate, Senator Joe Biden, capitalized politically on this failure in their 2008 run for president by promising a repeat of the Clinton strategy to deal with bin Laden: raining a trio of nuclear missiles on Pakistan if Osama is found there. As of this writing, America's no. 1 Most Wanted Terrorist is still at large.

Ironically, during the Bush administration, Democrats blamed the terrorist crimes and attempts on the president's overbearing, military counterterrorist policies. A similar attempt occurs during the Obama administration, and Republicans blame him for not being tough enough on terrorism. Our politicians have taken credit for what they didn't do right (in the case of President Bush) and apologized for what they didn't do wrong (in the case of President Obama). They have become accustomed to playing politics with terrorism, but this only heightens the urgency of the real issue. The issue is that the U.S. intelligence community--which includes the CIA, the State Department's Bureau of Intelligence and Research, and dozens of sub-departments that serve them--seems to harbor a flaw that transcends political parties and presidencies. Moreover, this flaw has continued through four different CIA directors in the time period we are considering.

According to President Obama, intelligence agencies had the information necessary to prevent this terrorist attempt but failed to connect the dots. This is the same problem that has been plaguing the United States intelligence community since the Clinton years; it has resurfaced over and over again in Congressional reports, independent investigations, and the memoirs of senior officials from former administrations, during the past two decades. The question is, why has this vexing problem persisted with such remarkable regularity for almost twenty years through three different presidencies, including one that saw a complete revision and expansion of the federal government's counterterrorist system?

The suspect in our current terrorism case, Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, has a supposed connection with al-Qaeda in Yemen. This rather obscure country dominating the southern tip of the Arabian Peninsula has some significance related to last month's foiled Christmas bombing. For one thing, it is the birthplace of Osama bin Laden. He was born in Hadramawt, a lonely desert region famous since antiquity for producing the world's finest frankincense, some of which was offered to the Baby Jesus by one of the biblical wise men. Unfortunately, this nation that yielded a gift for the Prince of Peace has become a place where certain terrorists plot to kill innocent human beings in the name of freedom. Its extremely hot, dry climate, low population, limited government and ill-defined borders with neighboring countries render it amply suitable for clandestine subversive activities. Yemen has a fair amount of political instability in its history. During part of the Cold War, this region was divided into two nations, one under Communist rule (South Yemen) and one free (North Yemen). While popular dissatisfaction affected both republics, terrorist incidents climaxed in the years following the reunification of Yemen in 1990.

While not the center of al-Qaeda's presence, Yemen serves as an al-Qaeda outpost. The Arabian nation is also a major ally of the United States, commanding a strategic position for ships and warplanes between the Red Sea and the Gulf of Aden. Every year we give a good deal of financial and military support to Yemen's government, and Yemen in return looks out for our oil interests in the Persian Gulf; allows us to maintain military bases for our fighter jets on its soil; and allows our Navy ships to dock in port there. On October 12, 2000, suicide bombers--allegedly members of al-Qaeda--detonated a small boat laden with explosives near the U.S.S. Cole as it refueled in the port of Aden, killing seventeen Americans and injuring 35 others. This terrorist attack also happened during the Clinton administration. Yet if Yemen is our ally, another question emerges: Why is al-Qaeda still alive and well there today?

As we review the above examples, it becomes increasingly evident that neither Republican nor Democratic presidents are at fault for the string of lapses in security against terrorism in recent years. Nor have the U.S. military, intelligence agencies, security forces, or immigration officials necessarily been culpable for these failures. Something else is going on that renders the United States itself incapable of preventing certain terrorist attacks and plots that would seem to be easily preventable. America has a back-door enemy. Her federal government, military headquarters, and even intelligence agencies have been infiltrated by agents of a foreign power. While our politicians play politics with terrorism, these spies have quietly hijacked our government and are stealthily moving the pieces in a much more deadly, secret game.

You can find out which foreign power this is, its effect on our government and intelligence agencies, the organizations its agents belong to, the unique religious extremist philosophy they follow, and what the object of their game is, if you read my book, America's Back-Door Enemy: Unmasking the Unknown Terrorists. Scrupulously researched and authoritatively written with over 500 references, this book will help you make sense of the confusing picture of terrorism and America's response to it. Available on Amazon, at your local bookstore and direct from the publisher.

Monday, January 4, 2010

Happy New Year!

I am looking forward to doing a lot more blogging this year! In addition to keeping readers abreast of important news and information about my book on terrorism, here is a look at what to expect on Justin's Corner in 2010:
  • More pictures;
  • More posts on abortion, the pro-life movement, and the struggle to protect traditional marriage;
  • Continuation of my article series studying the Holy Father's encyclical on globalization;
  • More analysis of health care reform;
  • Details about my second book (which hopefully will be completed this year);
  • Reviews of interesting programs I see on EWTN;
  • Wall-E: An in-depth look at this charming and imaginative Disney-Pixar movie reveals that it is more than just whimsical sci-fi for kids;
  • Astronomy news and information along with my opinions about space exploration, with a special tribute to the Hubble Space Telescope;
  • Why alternative energy solutions make so much sense, both for the planet and your wallet;
  • And much more!
I plan to maintain my Newsvine blog a little better this year as well, so you can continue to find news stories that I am following at that location, some of which I may write about here.