Paul Stefan James lived for only forty-two minutes – with a heartbeat, but never taking a breath. It seemed like a cruel coincidence that his mother’s Chicken Soup for a Mother’s Soul calendar had those words to offer on his birth date.
"As much as I thought I was a freedom fighter trying to bring freedom and save lives," Chai Ling, a former student leader in the Tiananmen Square democracy protests of 1989, testified at a recent Capitol Hill hearing, "I did not realize how much I was turned into the same sinful being" as the Chinese leaders enforcing the country's one-child policy.
The jarring admission came before a House hearing marking the 31st anniversary of China's one-child policy. It was meant, also, to inspire legislative action on the China Democracy Promotion Act of 2011, which would allow the president of the United States to deny visas to officials involved in human-rights abuses.
"I'd like you to convert Chicago," Father Robert Barron remembers his boss, Francis Cardinal George, archbishop of the Windy City, telling him about six years ago.
The result of that charge will be airing on many PBS stations, starting this week.
Barron, a Chicago priest and professor, has created a remarkable book and TV series called "Catholicism" -- which, in reintroducing a 2,000-year-old tradition, manages to be both elaborate and humble. It's self-conscious as a work of evangelization (complete with available study guides and a prayer card for those who care for such things), yet welcoming to a wide potential audience.
Seventy years old, Bob Turner was retired with 13 grandchildren, sitting comfortably in the Breezy Point section of Queens, N.Y. to enjoy life and be generous to his church and family. But now he's one of 435 legislators trying to get something constructive done in a town that often seems poised for something very different.
He spoke at his congressional campaign's victory party in Howard Beach early in the morning on Sept. 14, armed with a message that was as humble and confident as the messenger delivering it. He has been elected to the seat vacated by the now-infamous Anthony Weiner, a seat that may very well be redistricted out of existence next year. Which is actually just fine with him.
Just like that, most of America can move on from any concern about the very existence of Dominique Strauss-Kahn. The former head of the International Monetary Fund is a free man, proclaiming his innocence. But what about our innocence? It still seems to be missing.
In May, the once-potential French presidential candidate was accused of sexually assaulting a luxury-hotel maid, and arrested in New York -- dramatically taken from his Air France plane at JFK airport. The case would unravel for prosecutors, as his accuser was caught making false statements; it ended up being dismissed.
I've been wondering for a while now why the heck Rep. Thad McCotter is running for president of the United States.
Yes, you read that correctly.
You may not have encountered the Michigan Republican as a candidate because he did not meet the one-percent poll- threshold rule for the recent Fox News debate in Iowa. But days later, at the Iowa Straw Poll in Ames, there he was.
There's no escaping the Obamas. As I was watching "Phineas and Ferb" with three of the fittest boys under 10 in America, there was Michelle Obama promoting fitness and physical movement. Putting aside her policy prescriptions, it's certainly not a bad message. And Pat Castle would be more than happy to lead the training.
The first lady might not be that into the direction he'd lead, however.
This was going to be a column insisting that Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida run for president of the United States. Now. Even though he has ruled out the possibility; even though he is but a baby senator. (Neither of these considerations has invariably stopped people in the past.)
But no: That's not this column. Not because I don't think it might be an excellent idea, but because I take a man at his word. He has a young family that has already endured a long and brutal campaign. And I'm actually not a fan of leaping from two minutes in the Senate to a potential presidency. As one seasoned political pro puts it: "We don't do ourselves or our future leaders any favors by rushing the wine before its time. Reagan would not have been nearly as good a president had he won in '68 or '76 as he was in '80, having been tempered by failure and steeled by defeat and adversity."
Sometimes, the yelling stops long enough to remember that there are real people involved in abortions.
And not just the youngest one, who doesn't get a say in the decision.
I read the other day a piece about the "safe and successful" telemedicine abortions, getting "high grades" in Iowa. That's an abortion where a doctor doesn't even have to be present. The clinical efficiency with which the story was written was jarringly chilling.
But it's not the congresswoman herself who is to blame for the pain. It's so many of the stories about her.
We're still months away from the first caucus or primary of the presidential nominating season, and already things have gotten way out of control. Accusations that Minnesota congresswoman Michele Bachmann is heavily medicated on account of incapacitating headaches were just the latest attempts to nip her candidacy in the bud. A former aide insisted: "The migraines are so bad and so intense, she carries and takes all sorts of pills. Prevention pills. Pills during the migraine. Pills after the migraine, to keep them under control. She has to take these pills wherever she goes."
Sometimes the most radical ideas are the most sensible For instance, take the recent decision by John Garvey, president of the Catholic University of America in Washington, D.C., to phase out co-ed dorms, returning to single-sex residence halls.
Garvey presented a fairly practical case for the move: Not unlike many colleges, there is a drinking problem on campus. And as Christopher Kaczor, professor of philosophy at Loyola Marymount University in Los Angeles, whom Garvey cites, has surmised: Increased binge drinking in co-ed living situations may be explained by a "'party' expectation that students fulfill. College males want to get females to drink more ... College men themselves drink more as 'liquid courage' to approach women and as part of the process of encouraging female drinking (for instance, with drinking games). In order to demonstrate 'equality' with male students and so as not to seem prudish, college females drink more than they otherwise would. Single-sex residences reduce this binge-drinking dynamic."
Want a little wisdom? Given we're a culture that tends to be self-help hungry, odds are that you and I aren't hostile to a little good advice. Who would be?
Well, May and June were months populated by commencement addresses. Some were memorable; some were political; some were self-indulgent. Some need to be reread now that the parties are over, internships are being settled into, vacations are being enjoyed, or the satisfactions of labor are giving way to harsh realities about paychecks, FICA --- and, well, don't ask Paul Ryan how bright that future looks about now.
With that question on "Fox News Sunday" to Rep. Michele Bachmann, Chris Wallace may have given a rallying cry to the new feminist revolution in American politics. Except the f-word will likely be nowhere in evidence.
Wallace apologized, and in a sense the whole kerfuffle is over -- but only for him. He was only hitching onto the mainstream media's presentation of Bachmann, as a dim bulb, leaving the three-term congresswoman and former tax attorney to have to explain to him "I'm a serious person."
"I've given birth to five babies, and I've taken 23 foster children into my home," Michele Bachmann explained from the stage of the first major Republican presidential primary debate of the 2012 season.
Jon Stewart would joke the next day that Bachmann was the winner of the primary "baby-off." Imagining himself as the moderator, "The Daily Show" host added: "And I just wanna ask everyone else here up on the dais, have you ever had to divide a birthday cake into 28 equal pieces?"
"Every man, by the nature of his being, is called to generate love."
So the Rev. James A. Wehner tells his seminarians, from his perch as rector of the Josephinum, a pontifical college and seminary in Columbus, Ohio. His is a message necessary to the training of priests to a calling that has been marred by scandal, but also to a society that has been afraid to talk frankly about how essential the unique masculine gift of fatherhood is to our lives, our families and our culture.
IF WE ALLOW GAY MARRIAGE NEXT THING U KNOW PEOPLE WILL BE MARRYING GOLD FISH, Miley Cyrus tweeted.
She was protesting news that the president of Urban Outfitters has contributed to former Pennsylvania senator Rick Santorum, and taking some liberty with arguments Santorum's made about the importance of protecting traditional marriage.
Seventeen-year-old Scotty McCreery may have won "American Idol" singing wholesome country ditties, but playing in the background was a blues song older than the fresh-faced singer.
On lead vocals of this heart-wrenching ballad was Aerosmith frontman and Idol judge Steven Tyler. In his new autobiography, Tyler recalls an abortion he made his 16-year-old girlfriend have. He recalls: "It was a big crisis. It's a major thing when you're growing something with a woman, but they convinced us that it would never work out and would ruin our lives ... You go to the doctor and they put the needle in her belly and they squeeze the stuff in and you watch. And it comes out dead. I was pretty devastated. In my mind, I'm going, Jesus, what have I done?"
"I heard someone say yesterday that the last years had been completely wasted as far as he was concerned. I'm very glad that I have never yet had that feeling, even for a moment," Dietrich Bonhoeffer wrote in April of 1944.
Horrified by the Nazi treatment of Jews, the German Lutheran pastor would join the conspiracy against Hitler and ultimately be hanged in a prison camp the next year.
In New York City, 41 percent of babies are aborted.
It's even worse than that, actually.
As the Chiaroscuro Foundation, a group that supports abortion alternatives, has pointed out: "Sixty percent of African-American pregnancies in New York City were aborted in 2009, the most recent year for which data is available. In a 10-year period beginning in 2000, more than 900,000 pregnancies in the city ended in abortion -- nearly one-eighth of the entire city population of just over 8 million."
Abortion, of course, is a hot-button word, bringing up all kinds of emotions in all kinds of people.
Thank goodness for the royal wedding! It took U.S. media attention off Donald Trump for a few minutes. In case you missed it, President Barack Obama actually made a statement about Trump's search for Obama's official birth certificate, now made public by the White House.
One assumes the president took Trump seriously not to help generate free publicity for the "Celebrity Apprentice" finale later this month, but to keep the flamboyant real-estate mogul front and center as the face of GOP 2012. Trump is currently polling well. He's doing so because he appears to have a fearless streak when it comes to Obama. The Donald shows some passion, while most potential GOP contenders are comparatively on the sidelines.
"I am so glad not to be in high school anymore," Mary Hardy tells me.
The wise college sophomore was responding to an article I asked her to read about adolescent girls dressing badly.
As in, like sluts.
Mary tells me: "My parents never let me dress like that and I am grateful -- only now -- to them because the boys in high school, although they did not say it, did respect me more especially at the dances, where no one tried to come up and 'dance' with me in the manner they did with the other girls, whose bodies were mostly exposed."
"(T)his is a loving, caring Jesus," is how the New York Times recently profiled a leading man in a play about abortion written by a Notre Dame grad.
The script dialogue includes a woman asking Christ: "Did you ever say, 'I'm Jesus, and I say that stupid girls who let guys talk them into going to the back seat of their cars have to have babies?' Did you say that ever?"
"He feels things like a normal guy from Queens. Not like a politician."
That's Maggie Gallagher, stalwart defender of traditional marriage, on The Donald.
When asked about gay marriage, real-estate tycoon and longtime media celebrity Donald Trump sorta shrugs, sorta hesitates, because it's not something he wants to campaign on or particularly talk about. But he says he's against it, and has said so a few times now.
Ilario Pantano, a former sniper, sat in my office, rolling his shirtsleeve back down after showing me the United States Marine Corps tattoo on his arm. He wasn't showing off. He was making a point. "If my country is worth dying for, it's worth fighting for." Which is what brought him to Washington.
He's put his life on the line in the Marines, and now the North Carolina resident is in the embryonic stages of his second run for Congress. Last year, he fared reasonably well in a district that's been voting Democrat since the Reconstruction. The problems that called him to duty on the campaign trail have not gone away, and the people who had faith in him still deserve an alternative to their current representation. So Pantano feels like he owes them a second try. And with his national-security and economics experience available during a critical time in our history, he owes his country another effort, too.
"Dad may try to ruin your style, but dry stains won't."
The revealing dress code of the American 'tween may be best dramatized by yet another pop-culture slap in the face of fatherhood: A Tide commercial.
Dad knowingly wipes off dirt on his daughter's way-too-short skirt. Mom is all too happy to get things clean with the product being advertised.
Why are moms sometimes all too happy to let their daughters walk out the door looking like prostitutes? It's a question that was recently asked by Jennifer Moses, author of "Food and Whine: Confessions of a New Millennium Mom."
That was the most frequent comment I received via e-mail on the September night Sarah Palin spoke to a riveted Republican National Convention in 2008, as the vice-presidential nominee spoke of hockey moms, pit bulls, lipstick, the dignity of human life, and the future of our nation.
I suspect every man who e-mailed wasn't revealing his secret fantasy -- his wife wearing stilettos as she tries to save the world from a Barack Obama presidency. He finally saw, on prime-time television and impossible for the media to ignore, a woman in politics who closely resembled his family's values. After decades of ladies on the stump reading from a Ms. magazine script, here was a woman on a presidential ticket who didn't seem to feel the need to suppress her femininity or perversely use it to advance a most un-motherly agenda.
"Wife number three and I made a movie about the Pope, so my divorces and adulterous affairs don't count."
That's how one person greeted Newt Gingrich's recent announcement that he is seriously considering the possibility of running for president. Most followers of the presidential-primary scramble figured as much already. But Gingrich's press conference ushered in an open season on the man and his personal life.
The negative comments have focused on more than the former congressional speaker's personal infidelity. They've gone after his professional record, too. It's always hard to divorce one from another.
"What can you do to stem the tide of teen pregnancy?" Jacquelyn Wideman asks from New York City, where the rate is at least 12 percent higher than the national average.
"Get them engaged," she says, answering her own question.
To do this, she proposes New Directions, a proposed charter school for Brooklyn's Bedford-Stuyvesant neighborhood. The idea behind it is to get teenage mothers and fathers dealing with their new responsibilities in "a motivational, supportive environment," Wideman, a nonprofit consultant on the planning team, explains. "The proposed charter high school seeks to give them the environment, the area, the access to continue their education."