Category Archives: In the news

How your tax dollars are really spent

Ever wonder how your federal tax dollars are really spent?

Third Way, a Washington think tank, has come up with a “Federal Tax Receipt Calculator” to help taxpayers discover where their money goes – right down to the last penny.

It’s an absolutely fascinating idea. You simply enter your federal tax bill and an instant “receipt” is produced with a line-by-line accounting of your tax dollars.

It shatters some myths about all our money going to other countries for foreign aid.  It also will open your eyes to how much is going to military operations and how little to other areas.

Suppose you paid $4,000 in federal taxes this year. Here are some of the interesting results:

* 20.4% or $817.98 went to Social Security

* 20.2% or $806.86 went to defense spending, including $188.25 for Iraq and Afghanistan operations

* 2.9% or $115.86 went to education, including $58.73 for elementary and secondary school education

* 1.0% or $39.62 went to environment protection and natural resources

* 0.7% or $29.66 went to space and science

* 0.6% or $22.65 went to foreign aid

* 0.2% or $9.43 went to support Native Americans

* 0.1% or $2.93 went to arts and culture, including $1.07 for the Smithsonian Institutions and 5 cents for the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum

A day after taxes were due, check out the calculator here.  You’ll be amazed at the results.

 

 


Shock or awe?

Participants in the Maryland March for Life carried yellow balloons with a positive pro-life message. (CR Staff/Owen Sweeney III)

Kay Cole of Holy Family in Davidsonville distributes signs before the Maryland March for Life March 14. (CR Staff/Owen Sweeney III)

Moments before the Maryland March for Life kicked off March 14, I watched a handful of participants move to the front of the line and unfurl a banner with graphic images of aborted fetuses. It was a sharp contrast to the other images that were in abundance that day – pictures of smiling babies, banners with messages such as “Protect Maryland Women” and bright yellow balloons each stamped with a smiley face surrounded by, “Smile! Your Mom Chose Life.”

Someone discreetly told the holders of the graphic banner to step away from the front of the line. They complied, and I don’t think they carried their banners the rest of the day. At least, I didn’t see them as I marched through the streets of Annapolis.

It’s always a big debate in the pro-life community whether graphic messages are appropriate at pro-life events. Some argue that people must see abortion in all its horror for hearts to be changed. Others point out that gruesome images turn people away, preventing them from hearing a positive pro-life message.

The bishops of Alberta, Canada, have decided not to participate in their local March for Life this May precisely because they couldn’t be guaranteed the absence of graphic signs. According to a March 15 article posted on the BC Catholic website, Edmonton Archbishop Richard Smith said the presence of images of aborted babies at the march is not consistent with the message the bishops wish to share about the dignity of human life.

“We think a far more effective image, that would be consistent with what we are proclaiming, would be the images of unborn living children,” Archbishop Smith said. “That says the same thing and it says it far more beautifully.”

The archbishop was right on track.

Baltimore Raven Matt Birk participates in the Maryland March for Life in Annapolis March 14. (CR Staff/Owen Sweeney III)

This year’s Maryland March for Life was beautiful. Participants were prayerful and enthusiastic. Baltimore Raven Matt Birk gave a compelling personal testimony on why he embraces the sanctity of life. (Check out The Catholic Review story on Birk here). Pro-life leaders laid out ways participants could work to change Maryland’s permissive abortion laws.  A local Christian radio host told the story of how she lived with the pain of having an abortion and how she now works to convince other women to choose life.

Thank God those uplifting messages weren’t marred by graphic signs.  Rather than shocking people, let’s awe them.


BREAKING NEWS: Federal Court strikes down Baltimore pregnancy center sign law

Major news out of Baltimore.  A federal court just struck down a Baltimore law that required the posting of specific signs at pro-life pregnancy centers .

Here’s a clip from a story I just finished for The Catholic Review:

U.S. District Court Judge Marvin J. Garbis ruled Jan. 28 in Baltimore that it is unconstitutional to require pro-life pregnancy centers to post signs with language mandated by the government.

The ruling was a major victory for the Archdiocese of Baltimore, which had challenged a Baltimore City law passed in 2009 requiring the posting of signs at pro-life pregnancy centers stating that they do not provide abortion and birth control.

The archdiocese argued that such signs were a violation of First Amendment rights and that the law unfairly targeted pro-life pregnancy centers while no such signs were required of pro-choice centers indicating which services they don’t provide.

“The Court holds that the Ordinance violates the Freedom of Speech Clause of Article I of the Constitution of the United States and is unenforceable,” Judge Garbis wrote. “Whether a provider of pregnancy-related services is ‘pro-life’ or ‘pro-choice,’ it is for the provider – not the government – to decide when and how to discuss abortion and birth-control methods.”

Judge Garbis said the government cannot, consistent with the First Amendment, “require a ‘pro life’ pregnancy-related service center to post a sign as would be required by the Ordinance.”

Archbishop Edwin F. O’Brien, who had actively campaigned against the law when it was being considered by the Baltimore City Council, called the ruling a “clear victory both for pregnant women in need of assistance and for First Amendment principles we treasure in a free society.”

In a written statement following the ruling, the archbishop said crisis pregnancy centers were an “integral part” of the archdiocese’s efforts to help women looking for help carrying their babies to term.

“In Baltimore, these centers assist thousands of women every year who are trying to embrace the gift of life in their unborn children,” Archbishop O’Brien said. “And this ruling allows the important and compassionate work of these pro-life pregnancy centers to continue without interference from Baltimore City which sought to target these centers because they are pro-life.”

The archbishop added that “The ruling also upholds the constitutional rights under the First Amendment that protect private citizens such as those who work and volunteer in pregnancy centers from having to convey a government-mandated message.”

David W. Kinkopf, an attorney with Gallagher, Evelius and Jones who represented Archbishop O’Brien at an Aug. 4 hearing in Baltimore on the issue, said the ruling was a “great victory” for pro-life pregnancy centers and the Freedom of Speech.

Kinkopf noted that the ruling holds that because the city was regulating “core-protected speech” and not merely “commercial speech,” there was heightened scrutiny under the First Amendment.

“We think the judge got it right when he basically said there’s no place for the government to single specific speakers out for unfair speech regulation,” Kinkopf said. “The kind of speech these pregnancy centers are engaged in is not commercial speech -it’s deeply personal, moral and very important speech that deserves the full protection of the First Amendment.”

Click here to read the rest.  The Catholic Review will have much more on this story.


BIG NEWS! Federal Court rules in favor of Archdiocese of Baltimore on pregnancy center sign law

This story just broke in Baltimore.  I’m working on it now, but here’s a quick snip from a ruling by U.S. District Court Judge Marvin J. Garbis.

The judge ruled today that it is UNCONSTITUTIONAL to require pro-life pregnancy centers to post signs with language mandated by the government. The Archdiocese of Baltimore had challenged a Baltimore City law passed in 2009 that required the posting of such signs.

Stay tuned. Much, much more to come!

The Court holds that the Ordinance violates the Freedom of Speech Clause of Article I of the Constitution of the United States and is unenforceable. Whether a provider of pregnancy-related services is “pro-life” or “pro-choice,” it is for the provider–not the government–to decide when and how to discuss abortion and birth-control methods. The Government cannot, consistent with the First Amendment, require a “pro life” pregnancy-related service center to post a sign as would be required by the Ordinance.

– Marvin J. Garbis, United States District Judge

 UPDATED: Here’s a link to the complete story.

 


Sargent Shriver: Cardinal Gibbons’ godson remembered

Sargent Shriver is shown in a Life photograph. The former vice presidential candidate was the godson of Baltimore Cardinal James Gibbons.

This week’s cover story in The Catholic Review spotlights a mother and daughter who are planning to jump into the icy Chesapeake Bay at the end of the month to raise money for the Special Olympics.

Was it mere coincidence that the story went to press the same day R. Sargent Shriver, longtime Special Olympics  advocate and the last pro-life Democrat nominated to a presidential ticket, died at age 95?

Son of Carroll County

Born in Westminster, Md., on Nov. 9, 1915, Shriver was baptised by legendary Baltimore Cardinal James Gibbons, a family friend who served as Shriver’s godfather. The internationally-known prelate was a frequent guest at the Shriver homestead in Union Mills, and his young godson often served as an altar boy when the cardinal celebrated private Masses in the family chapel.

The Shrivers owned the B.F. Shriver Company, a canning corporation with about half a dozen factories in Carroll County. Young Sargent attended St. John School in Westminster for grades one through three. After his family moved to Baltimore in 1923 when his father took a banking job, Shriver transferred to the “old” Cathedral School in Baltimore for grades four through seven. He later went to the Canterbury School in New Milford, Conn.

Lifting up people at home and abroad

In a 1994 interview with The Catholic Review, Shriver reminisced about how service was imbedded in his genes. He served in the Kennedy administration as the director of the Peace Corps. In the Johnson administration, Shriver started Headstart and numerous other social service programs as the top general in the “War on Poverty.”

Shriver later served as President Johnson’s ambassador to France when French President Charles de Gaulle was asserting his nation’s independence and “making it a tense time” for Franco-American relations, Shriver said.

It was during that time when Ambassador Shriver and his wife, Eunice Kennedy Shriver, began a program benefiting French children with disabilities.

“Eunice rolled up the rugs of the embassy and had handicapped children in playing games,” Shriver said.

The former ambassador recalled that President de Gaulle’s wife, Yvonne, requested a meeting with Mrs. Shriver after learning of the program. Unknown to the Shrivers, the de Gaulles had a daughter with Down Syndrome.

“If we had been briefed by the CIA,” Shriver said, “we couldn’t have touched a more sensitive spot in a good way.”

With the support of her husband, Eunice Kennedy Shriver founded the Special Olympics in 1968. Sargent Shriver would go on to work as chairman of the board emeritus for the Special Olympics and president of the Special Olympics Movement from 1984 – 1996. He also served the Special Olympics as chairman of the board of directors from 1990 – 2003.

Champion of the Sanctity of Life

After returning to the United States in 1970, Shriver was tapped to be Sen. George McGovern’s vice presidential running mate in the 1972 contest with President Richard Nixon and Vice President Spiro T. Agnew of Maryland. The McGovern-Shriver ticket lost in a landslide.

A daily Mass communicant and dedicated pro-life supporter, Shriver ran for president himself in the 1976 campaign at a time when some newspapers reported that he was against a constitutional amendment outlawing abortion. It’s a charge Shriver denied in his 1994 Catholic Review interview.

“I am not against a constitutional amendment on abortion,” said Shriver. He added, however, that he didn’t think an amendment had a chance of passing.

“In a secular society,” he said, “secular laws are not exactly the same as the moral laws. In this society with a wide variety of religions, it’s unlikely that our secular laws will ever be in full agreement.”

Shriver and his wife campaigned against Maryland’s permissive abortion laws in 1992. They spoke at a pro-life rally at the Turf Valley Hotel and Country Club in Howard County as voters were considering a referendum on the issue. That same year, a presidential election year, he joined his wife and other pro-life Democrats in signing a full-page New York Times political advertisement titled, “A New Compact of Care: Caring about Women, Caring for the Unborn.”

Burial wishes

Shriver never forgot his Maryland ties. He and his wife gave a life-size portrait of Cardinal James Gibbons to the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary in 1989.  The painting had been in their private collection for years.

Although Shriver will be buried next to his wife in Massachusetts, it seems he had at one time longed for a different option. In his Catholic Review interview, Shriver spoke of returning to his beloved Carroll County. He recalled visiting old Westminster friends like Eddie Weant, a lawyer who lived in the same house where he had been born.

“I had kicked around the world, been everywhere, seen everybody, done everything,” Shriver said. “Was I any better than Eddie? Did I know anything about life or people he didn’t know? Was Willis Street any less interesting than Fifth Avenue, New York? I’m not sure.”

“All I do know is that Eddie and Sally have lived a full and rewarding life and almost all the values they rely upon are the same ones I learned here,” Shriver added. “No wonder I long ago bought a burial plot in St. John’s Cemetery where I hope (to be buried) one day. Then I’ll be back in Westminster where I belong – for good.”


Monk caught with former nun’s skeleton

Here’s a very strange story out of Greece.

A monk, along with two other people, was arrested at the Eleftherios Venizelos airport in Athens, Greece after security personnel discovered the remains of a human body in their luggage as they tried to board a flight to Cyprus.

The remains of Eleni Vathiadou, a former nun, were stolen by the trio after a memorial service held by the woman’s family at a local cemetery on Sunday to mark four years since her death, reports the Cyprus Mail.

“In my opinion this cleric should be punished; the situation is unacceptable, it is sacrilege,” says Cyprus’s Archbishop Chrysostomos.

The three claimed they did it because she was a saint, but the church leader suspects otherwise. “They are probably acts of quackery by some aiming to make financial gains. That is my suspicion.”

Police spokesman Michalis Katsounotos says, “Our compatriots claimed that they dug up the remains because they considered the deceased a saint,” reports the paper.

Vathiadou had once been a nun at a Cypriot monastery and was never officially declared a saint by the Cypriot or Greek Orthodox Churches.

More here


Romanian witches fight new taxes

Don’t mess with witches. They’re fighting back against new taxes in Romania:

Everyone curses the taxman, but Romanian witches, angry about having to pay up for the first time, hurled poisonous mandrake into the Danube River on Thursday to cast spells on the president and government.

In the past, the less mainstream professions of witch, astrologer and fortuneteller were not listed in the Romanian labor code, and people who worked in those jobs used their lack of registration to evade paying income tax. Under a new law, they will pay 16 percent income tax and make contributions to health and pension programs, like other self-employed people.

A witch named Alisia, who was at the protest on the Danube, called the new tax law “foolish.”

“What is there to tax, when we hardly earn anything?” she said, identifying herself with only one name as many Romanian witches do.

Superstitions are no laughing matter in Romania — the land of the medieval ruler who inspired the “Dracula” tale — and have been part of its culture for centuries. President Traian Basescu and his aides have been known to wear purple on certain days, supposedly to ward off evil. And the Communist dictator Nicolae Ceausescu and his wife, Elena, had their own personal witch.

Full story here.


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