I was somewhat fascinated the other day, when participating in a discussion of school vouchers on another blog, to hear someone make the assertion that public schools are “more democratic” than vouchers because everyone must use the curriculum which is decided via “the democratic process” in public schools, whereas with vouchers someone might attend a religious (or otherwise flaky school) teaching things you do not believe to be true.
This strikes me as interesting because it suggests to me a view of democracy rather different from my own. Thinking on it further, I think there are basically three reasons why one would consider deciding things democratically (defining that broadly here as “by majority vote, either directly or via elected officials”) to be a good thing:
Something for the weekend. For a wonder I am posting an Irish song about something other than rebellion against the British! The incomparable Wolfe Tones singing The Hot Asphalt. I trust this song will be appreciated by all who have ever worked on a road crew or who have ever had a family member who worked on a road crew. It is tough work, necessary work, and, until this song, unsung work. Here is another set of lyrics for the song.
Critics of the Bush Administration often complained (especially during his first term) that Bush used 9/11 as a justification for nearly everything he did. Given that the country was widely supportive of the administration in the years right after the attack, this was (the complaint went) a way for Bush to do things he’d wanted to do anyway under the guise of responding to an emergency. While I think this complaint was overstated, there is an element of truth to it. For instance, I don’t think there’s a whole lot of question that many within the administration (rightly or wrongly) wanted to get rid of the Baathist regime in Iraq even prior to taking office.
In this respect, Obama seems to have found his 9/11, his excuse for doing all the things he and his party want to do while assuring everyone it would be a Very Bad Idea it not Downright Unpatriotic for them to disagree. Obama’s 9/11 is the recession, or as the media seems to have named it “The Worst Economic Downturn Since the Great Depression”. (This is, to my mind, a rather unwieldy name. Perhaps we could just call it the “Big Recession” or the “Little Depression”?)
Thus, in his presentation of a new budget which is heavy on partisan measures (big tax increases on “the rich” and preparation for major changes in social service structure and spending) and racks up the largest deficit (as percentage of GDP) since 1942, Obama assured people that this was necessary in order to restore the economy:
I have referred to the “Stimulus” bill as the Bankrupt the Nation Act of 2009 here, here, here, here, here, and here. Now we have Senator Judd Gregg (R., N.H.), the man who Obama wanted to be Commerce Secretary, confirm what should be obvious to everyone: we are on the road to national bankruptcy. Heaven knows this problem didn’t start with President Obama. However, his misguided policy of multi-trillion dollar annual deficits will push us over the brink into national insolvency. We are in for very tough economic times for a very long period.
Hattip to Father Z at What the Prayer Really Says. The Civil War and fried chicken, brought to us by an American turned Australian, what could be more American than that!
A decrease in solidarity means people have fewer resources to turn to in time of crisis.
With a decrease in solidarity, a man either makes it on his own or fails on his own.
If a man is struggling to make it on his own, a child becomes an unwelcome hindrance. A child is an economic drain, and if a man has no other resources, a child might destroy his chances of success.
Thus it should come as no surprise that programs to provide economic aid to poor soon-to-be-parents would decrease abortion rates to some extent.
Archbishop Chaput gave a remarkable address in Toronto on Monday. Here is the address with comments by me interspersed:
I want to do three things with my time tonight. First, Father Rosica asked me to talk about some of the themes from my book, “Render Unto Caesar: Serving the Nation by Living Our Catholic Beliefs in Political Life.” I’m happy to do that. Second, I want to talk about some of the lessons we can draw from the recent U.S. election. And third, I want to talk about the meaning of hope.
[I’m aware we have just entered into the Lenten season and should be reflecting on more serious matters, but this was too good to pass up — bear with me.]
Last week a group of “student-empowering, social-justice-minded” students and assorted ragamuffins and rabblerousers from neighboring colleges (many affiliated with TakeBackNYU) had the stunningly-brilliant idea of barricading themselves in a food court in New York University’s Kimmell Center, “in a historic effort to bring pressure on NYU for its administrative and ethical failings regarding transparency, democracy and protection of human rights.”
While I’m on the topic of narratives, Matthew Boudway at dotCommonweal has a post up entitled “They Cannot Fathom Their Failure”.* The post is based on a George Packer column, which basically makes the argument that conservatives “cannot fathom the failure of their philosophy” after the recent financial crisis, and that to deny they have been discredited is a form of self-delusion. This is a charge, I suppose, to be approached with trepidation; false consciousness is notoriously difficult to disprove. That said, it may be worthwhile to offer some thoughts in response. Here is an excerpt from the post:
…“[T]hey cannot fathom the failure of their philosophy.” Not “they will not fathom” it. They cannot. Sure, the response of many conservatives to the bailout and the stimulus package has been opportunistic and cynical. Many of them, though, simply cannot imagine what it would mean — what it now does mean — for the premises of their policy agenda, and indeed of their entire political philosophy, to have failed. Not even the most spectacular failure can force anyone to learn a lesson he desperately wishes not to learn. Historical events are always complicated and contingent enough to admit of more than one interpretation, and the most plausible interpretation is often not the most attractive.
Bobby Jindal appears to have recovered from whatever it was that afflicted him last night:
One of the difficult balances to achieve in the area of politics dealing with “social services”, and with bringing a proper Catholic understanding to how we as Christians should strive to shape such policies, is knowing how we should balance efficiency with proper concern for human dignity and human pride. I see this as being particularly the case when it comes to some of the large scale assistance programs which form part of our “social safety net” in the United States. Many of these are, it seems to me, essentially welfare of “assistance programs”, yet are cloaked in the form of all-encompassing “savings” or “insurance” programs.
For example, the purpose of Social Security was clearly to assure that the aged are not relegated to poverty once they are no longer able to work. In the past, this was done through private savings, the help of one’s children, and the help of one’s community. However, these mechanisms often fell through, and so people often found themselves in poverty in their old age. Thus was created the Social Security system, which collected money via a payroll tax and “saved” it to fund retirement payouts after age 65. Medicare, which is designed to assure that the elderly can afford medicare care is much the same.
Pope Saint Leo the Great on Lent:
I. The Benefits of Abstinence Shown by the Example of the Hebrews.
II. Use Lent to Vanquish the Enemy, and Be Thus Preparing for Eastertide.
III. Fights are Necessary to Prove Our Faith.
IV. The Christian’s Armour is Both for Defence and for Attack.
V. Abstinence Not Only from Food But from Other Evil Desires, Especially from Wrath, is Required in Lent.
VI. The Right Use of Lent Will Lead to a Happy Participation in Easter.
I like the Bishop of Peoria, my Bishop, Daniel R. Jenky. He is a bluff good humored bear of a man, orthodox to his core, outspokenly pro-life and a good all-around shepherd of the diocese. I like him even more after he wrote this letter.
Even before Slumdog Millionaire won the Oscar for Best Picture last weekend, the popular/artsy/Bollywood crossover flick had created a strange new tourist trade: People traveling to Mumbai to visit the vast slums which are home to 10 million people and the setting for the movie. I must admit, the idea strikes me as fulfilling every negative stereotype of self-indulgent Western patronization towards the world’s poor. “Oh, let’s go tour these slums and see how the little people of the world live! How caring of us to spend our vacation there, and then we’ll hit the beach afterward.” Still, I’m sure that everyone means well, and according to the article the tours are being conducted by some locals who insist on small groups, no cameras, and return 80% of the profits to help people in the slums.
Still, I was particularly struck by a passing reference near the end of the article, which struck me as showing exactly the sort of difficult balance that good intentioned Westerners seeking to regulate the third world for their own good often fail to take into account:
One of the great principles that tends to be ignored in our debates about economics, social justice, and governmental involvement in the lives of the people is solidarity. We argue about how involved the government should be in our lives, what kinds of safety nets it should provide, and to what extent it should mandate and appropriate in order to provide for the most needy of society. We argue about how well certain economic theories–capitalism, Keynesian economics, socialism, etc.–work in providing justice, or even providing just shelter and food. We argue about subsidiarity, and how it should be practiced, and while that touches on solidarity, it doesn’t fully overlap.
One of the arguments about governmental involvement is how the aid provided is cold and distant. By the time the welfare check is spat out of the massive, convulsing, bureaucratic mess that is the government, any principle of charity has been rendered flat. The recipient is a name on the list, judged worthy to receive a handout based upon an entry in a database. At first this seems like an argument of aesthetics. If a man receives a welfare check from the government rather than from friends in the community or local charities, he still receives the money he needs to survive. Yet there is a deeper problem here than merely looking at from whom the money comes, or how much charity exists in the entity delivering assistance. The continual reliance on the federal government to solve our problems aids in the breakdown of solidarity.
Is it any wonder that we have become so polarized, so factious, so estranged?
The things you find on the internet! Before most stations went 24 hours a day, tv stations when they signed off would usually play the Star Spangled Banner. The above is a version I treasured in my mispent nocturnal youth.
Hattip to commenter Blackadder who brought this to my attention in a post on Vox Nova last year. On the 277th birthday of George Washington, it is appropriate to recall these words of Pope Leo in regard to the Father of our Country:
“Nor, perchance did the fact which We now recall take place without some design of divine Providence. Precisely at the epoch when the American colonies, having, with Catholic aid, achieved liberty and independence, coalesced into a constitutional Republic the ecclesiastical hierarchy was happily established amongst you; and at the very time when the popular suffrage placed the great Washington at the helm of the Republic, the first bishop was set by apostolic authority over the American Church. The well-known friendship and familiar intercourse which subsisted between these two men seems to be an evidence that the United States ought to be conjoined in concord and amity with the Catholic Church. And not without cause; for without morality the State cannot endure-a truth which that illustrious citizen of yours, whom We have just mentioned, with a keenness of insight worthy of his genius and statesmanship perceived and proclaimed. But the best and strongest support of morality is religion.”
Last year, commenting on Pope Benedict XVI’s historic visit to the United States, Bishop Bernard Fellay, Superior General of the SSPX, remarked:
And now, we have a perfectly liberal Pope, my very dear brothers. As he goes to this country [the United States] which is founded upon Masonic principles, that is, of a revolution, of a rebellion against God. And, well, he expressed his admiration, his fascination before this country which has decided to grant liberty to all religions. He goes so far as to condemn the confessional State. And he is called traditional! And this is true, this is true: he is perfectly liberal, perfectly contradictory. He has some good sides, the sides which we hail, for which we rejoice, such as what he has done for the Traditional liturgy.
What a mystery, my very dear brothers, what a mystery!
As Fr. John Zuhlsdorf (What Does The Prayer Really Say?) noted at the time, Fellay’s remarks are indicative of a point he has maintained time and again: the greater dispute between the SSPX and Rome is not so much over questions involving liturgical reform (and the ‘reform of the reform’) — on which there is a great deal of room for agreement — or even the matter of the excommunications; rather, the chief problem hinges on the Society’s objections to Vatican II’s articulation of the principle of “religious liberty” and the relationship of civil and religious authority.
These are grim economic times. With the federal government spending money like a charter member of shoppers anonymous it is a safe bet that times will be getting grimmer yet. In these days it is important that the people have something to smile about, rather as the Three Stooges brought laughter during the Great Depression.
Something for the weekend: A New Argentina by the original Broadway cast of Evita. Patti Lupone in the title role is the essence of explosive energy. I have always loved this musical. It is a superb cautionary tale about what can happen to a nation when an economically illiterate leader is elected on a popular frenzy of adulation. Peronism has been a plague on the politics of Argentina ever since. Perhaps too high a price to pay for a nation to provide fodder for a musical.
I continue once again with my shameless promotion of Paulist Father James DiLuzio and his Luke Live performace, part 3, covering Luke chapters 17-24.
Over the last two days, the conversation we had (Father DiLuzio continually encouraged us to have a dialogue on the text, to reach deeper meanings) focused on two fairly notorious characters: Judas Iscariot, and Pontius Pilate. Now, in general terms, these two have been condemned since the inception of the Church. Judas, the betrayer, has classically been believed to be in Hell, and every week we recite in our creed: He was crucified under Pontius Pilate.
Hattip to Jeff Miller at The Curt Jester. In purely human terms this is a waste of time. Obama is a hard core pro-abort. The idea that he will change his mind and open his heart to the unborn is ridiculous, almost as ridiculous as the idea that a movement begun 2000 years ago by a group of peasants in a backwater of the Roman Empire could now command the allegiance of a third of humanity. Hmmm, I’d better start praying!
While most of our recent public debates have centered around topics on which economist’s disagree, Harvard Economist Greg Mankiw recently posted a list of fourteen propositions that most economists accept, which is an excerpt from his popular macroeconomics textbook. I thought it might be of interest to some of our readers, as discussions of the common good and public policy often touch on these subjects:
Almost no matter who you are, the above is almost certainly true. Yet it’s a fact that few people seem to readily grasp.
I was struck by this as I continued to read the exchange between Ross Douthat and Will Wilkinson over whether secular libertarian intellectuals should all pack up and join the Democrats. Will predicts:
…I think intellectual capital flight from the right really does threaten the GOPs future success. If Republicans keep bleeding young intellectual talent because increasingly socially liberal twenty-somethings simply can’t stand hanging around a bunch of superstitious fag-bashers, then the GOP powers-that-be might start to panic and realize that, once the last cohort of John Birchers die, they’ve got no choice but to move libertarian on social issues. Maybe. I like to imagine.
This reads like it comes from some alternate universe, to me,
Hattip to Jay Anderson at Pro Ecclesia. The Pope reminded Speaker Pelosi in their meeting of the Church teaching on life.
“The Vatican released the pope’s remarks to Pelosi, saying Benedict spoke of the church’s teaching “on the dignity of human life from conception to natural death.” That is an expression often used by the pope when expressing opposition to abortion.”
The 15 minute meeting was closed to reporters and photographers.
“The Vatican said it was not issuing a photo of the meeting — as it usually does when the pope meets world leaders — saying the encounter was private. The statement said the pope “briefly greeted” Pelosi and did not mention any other subject they may have discussed.”
I wonder if Pelosi is bright enough to realize the snub that the Pope just gave to her pro-abort self?
Update I: Ed Morrissey at Hot Air reminds us of why the Pope felt it necessary to repeat Church teaching on abortion to Speaker Pelosi since, judging from her own words, she is woefully ignorant of it.
Update II: The ever perceptive George Weigel wonders if the Pope and the clueless Speaker were at the same meeting.
I continue now with my shameless promotion of Father DiLuzio’s Luke Live performance. Again, we were treated to a wonderful exchange of ideas, marked by a charismatic leader who helped enliven St. Luke’s Gospel and knit the narrative together. Father DiLuzio offered us to begin with the choice of hearing entire chapters at once, or breaking it down into slightly smaller pieces. Having seen yesterday the amazing continunity of a text that, for many of us, originally seemed a disjointed collection of brief non-sequitors, we voted roughly 55-45 to continue being inundated by large chunks of text. And so he began his recitation starting from chapter 18, and the parable of the persistent widow.
In an essay entitled A Campaign of Narratives in the March issue of First Things (currently behind a firewall for non-subscribers), George Weigel writes:
Yet it is also true that the 2008 campaign, which actually began in the late fall of 2006, was a disturbing one—not because it coincided with what is usually described in the hyperbole of our day as “the greatest economic crisis since the Great Depression” but because of how it revealed some serious flaws in our political culture. Prominent among those flaws is our seeming inability to discuss, publicly, the transformation of American liberalism into an amalgam of lifestyle libertinism, moral relativism, and soft multilateralism, all flavored by the identity politics of race and gender. Why can’t we talk sensibly about these things? For the past eight years, no small part of the reason why had to do with what my friend Charles Krauthammer, in a nod to his former incarnation as a psychiatrist, famously dubbed “Bush Derangement Syndrome.”
Raising this point is not a matter of electoral sour grapes. Given an unpopular war that had been misreported from the beginning, plus President Bush’s unwillingness to use the presidential bully pulpit to help the American people comprehend the stakes in Iraq, plus conservative aggravation over a spendthrift Republican Congress and administration, plus that administration’s failure to enforce discipline on its putative congressional allies, plus public exhaustion with a familiar cast of characters after seven years in office, plus an economic meltdown—well, given all that, it seems unlikely that any Republican candidate could have beaten any Democrat in 2008. Indeed, the surprise at the presidential level may have been that Obama didn’t enjoy a success of the magnitude of Eisenhower’s in 1952, Johnson’s in 1964, Nixon’s in 1972, or Reagan’s in 1984.
Still, I would argue that the basic dynamics of the 2008 campaign, evident in the passions that drove Obama supporters to seize control of the Democratic party and then of the presidency, were not set in motion by the failures and missed opportunities of the previous seven years but by Bush Derangement Syndrome, which emerged as a powerful force in American public life on December 12, 2000: the day American liberalism’s preferred instrument of social and political change, the Supreme Court, determined that George W. Bush (the candidate with fewer popular votes nationally) had, in fact, won Florida and with it a narrow majority in the Electoral College. Here was the cup dashed from the lips—and by a court assumed to be primed to deliver the expected and desired liberal result yet again. Here was the beginning of a new, millennial politics of emotivism (displayed in an astonishing degree of publicly manifested loathing for a sitting president) and hysteria (fed by the new demands of a 24/7 news cycle).
I think this analysis gets things exactly backwards.
For those in the pro-life movement who may sometimes get discouraged, take a good look at this speech. This struggle for the unborn will be fought until it is won, if not by us, then by the pro-lifers who come after us. Naturally the judges at the speech contest where this speech was delivered disqualified her because of her success at articulating the pro-life message. This decision was later reversed after one of the judges stepped down and our pro-life speaker was declared the winner. Truth will prevail if we have the stomach to proclaim it in season and out of season.
This week, at St. Paul’s Newman Center in Laramie, we have Father James DiLuzio visiting to perform his Luke Live, essentially a performance of the Gospel of St. Luke. We are on the final run of the gospel, covering chapters 17-24. I have to say, Father DiLuzio is quite an engaging, energetic fellow, and last night’s session was a blast. I’m looking forward to the next three, and I hope to report on them each day, with what we discussed and what observations we made. (And if anyone else has had the pleasure of joining Father DiLuzio for Luke Live, please feel free to share your observations!)
I posted last week about the negative reception to Geithner’s bank plan. Here, for instance, was Paul Krugman’s take:
It’s really not clear what the plan means; there’s an interpretation that makes it not too bad, but it’s not clear if that’s the right interpretation….So what is the plan? I really don’t know, at least based on what we’ve seen today. But maybe, maybe, it’s a Trojan horse that smuggles the right policy into place.
Not exactly an enthusiastic endorsement. Today’s Washington Post has some of the back story:
Just days before Treasury Secretary Timothy F. Geithner was scheduled to lay out his much-anticipated plan to deal with the toxic assets imperiling the financial system, he and his team made a sudden about-face.
Running into this article the other day, I was startled to find how many of my own intellectual hobby horses it touched upon. Arnold Kling and Nich Schulz are economists, and their topic is in equality in the modern economy. They cite Google co-founder (and billionaire) Sergey Brin as an example of many of the forces they believe are driving inequality and list the following major forces:
Technology: Brin’s wealth comes from the famous search engine he pioneered with cofounder Larry Page. Their company is a mere ten years old. And yet in the blink of an eye, he has become one of the richest men in the world.
Winners-take-most markets: Certain mass-market fields tend to simulate tournaments in that they produce just a few big winners along with many losers. These include technology/software, as in the case of Google, but also entertainment (Céline Dion), book publishing (Stephen King), athletics (Tiger Woods), and even some parts of academia, finance, law, and politics (as the impressive post-presidential earnings of George H. W. Bush and Bill Clinton demonstrate).
The Vatican is expected on February 21 to announce the date of Father Damien’s canonization. So much has been written about the famed leper priest that I feel no need to discuss here the basic facts of his life. After his death from leprosy grave libels were made against Father Damien, chiefly by a presbyterian minister C.M. Hyde, who, oddly enough, had praised Father Damien during his life.
Wyoming recently has passed legislation that “bans” smoking in public places (except for a list of particular establishments where smoking is still permitted, and except for any county or municipality that doesn’t want to participate in the ban). There once was hope of increasing the “sin tax” on chewing tobacco. Elsewhere in the nation, we have had strong campaigns to reduce smoking for sake of health and public expenditure. Now the campaigns are shifting gears and targeting refined sugars, transfats, and calorie-laden meals.
I understand, to an extent, why people are so concerned about how many times we vist McDonald’s, or much fat is in that bag of potato chips, or whether or not we buy “Biggie”-sized soft drinks. As we continue to pay for insurance, either private or governmental, the effects are clear. Bad health practices lead to increase in expenses. Yet what I find odd is how the whole matter is couched almost as a moral dilemma, a moral crusade. Isn’t just unhealthy to partake of deep-fat-fried potatoes–it is an abomination that should be punished.
Now, I seem to remember a certain gentlemen who came around saying something like: “Do you not realize that everything that goes into a person from outside cannot defile, since it enters not the heart but the stomach and passes out into the latrine?”
Is it just me, or is our society unwittingly attempting a reversion back to the Old Covenant (though we’ll pick different foods to declare “unclean”)?
It’s a commonplace of sorts in Catholic and conservative circles that democracy without virtue will quickly become tyranny. At the same time, this is one of those phrases which seems to drive secular commentators to distraction. How could liberal democracy lead to tyranny when it’s clearly those authoritarian religious people who want to be tyrants?
Damon Linker (the “the theocons are coming” chicken little whom First Things once made the mistake of briefly employing in his younger days, thus giving him the claim to know the “theocon conspiracy” from the inside) has a post on The New Republic blog which seems to me to throw this point into sharp relief. Linker, it seems, tired of attacking “neocons” and decided to go after the more quixotic paleocons as his newest batch of crypto-authoritarians. The following section is fascinating in its thought process:
I have never liked President’s Day. Why celebrate loser presidents like Jimmy Carter and James Buchanan, non-entities like Millard Fillmore, bad presidents, like Grant, with great presidents like Washington and Lincoln? We have had other great presidents, and one of them, although Republican as I am I bridle on bestowing the title upon him, was Andrew Jackson. No one was ever neutral about Old Hickory. He is described as the father of the Democrat party. Actually, both major parties owe their existence to him. The Whig party, the main ancestor of the modern Republican party, was founded in opposition to Jackson’s policies.
During his term as President, George W. Bush had on loan from the British government a bust of Sir Winston Churchill in the oval office. The Brits offered to extend the loan to President Obama. Nope, he decided to send the bust packing. Perhaps some of our thoughtful readers might have guesses as to what bust Obama might replace it with?
The Bankrupt the Nation Act of 2009, often erroneously called the “Stimulus” bill, fittingly passed on Friday the 13th.
So you’re a single Catholic sitting at home with nothing to do on St. Valentine’s Day, what are your options? Well there are many things that you can do, especially if you want to resolve your current status as a non-married person. If you’re not called to religious life, you are most certainly called to married life with very few exceptions, yet you’re sitting on your couch still being single. In this column I’ll offer a basic and fundamental template for a single Catholic in pursuing your future spouse(1).
While we’re discussing libertarianism and its derivations, Randy Barnett at The Volokh Conspiracy recently flagged a post by a libertarian that I found interesting:
I’ve always found libertarianism to be an attractive political philospohy. But…the libertarian perspective has a couple of traps. The trap Barnett describes is a particularly tough one to get out of: once seduced by a libertarian idea, like “goods and services are produced & distributed more effectively when markets are not interefered with by coercive agents like government”, its apparently obvious correctness turns it into a sort of semantic stop sign.
I went through a phase where if, say, education or healthcare policy came up in conversation, I’d say “Markets! Markets markets markets! MARKETS!” I found these conversations astonishingly unproductive, but I didn’t think to blame myself.
Donald linked below to a discussion of the death of “liberaltarianism”, which led many to ask what exactly that is. As it so happens, I’d been reading about this seemingly contradictory phenomenon on Ross Douthat’s blog the other day. It seems all this goes back to a piece Brink Lindsey originally wrote for The New Republic a couple years ago in which he complains:
Conservatism itself has changed markedly in recent years, forsaking the old fusionist synthesis in favor of a new and altogether unattractive species of populism. The old formulation defined conservatism as the desire to protect traditional values from the intrusion of big government; the new one seeks to promote traditional values through the intrusion of big government. Just look at the causes that have been generating the real energy in the conservative movement of late: building walls to keep out immigrants, amending the Constitution to keep gays from marrying, and imposing sectarian beliefs on medical researchers and families struggling with end-of-life decisions.
Though he admits there’s not been much real movement on the part of Democrats to please libertarians, he cites a few things: Continue Reading
Something for the weekend. Here is an excellent video for the song Richmond is a hard road to travel, which retells the less than successful attempts of the Union army to seize Richmond from 1861 to the beginning of 1863. This is one of the best historical music videos I have seen on the net.
I have this particular video clip of toddling quadruplets laughing their diapers off saved on my YouTube list for quite a long time now. You may have seen this awhile back on America’s Funniest Videos. These four quadruplets never fail to put a smile on my face. So enjoy and get your Saturday off to a great start.
Happy St. Valentine’s Day!
Robert Stacy McCain has a brilliant column here on the death of the idea of a liberal and libertarian alliance. Libertarian sites are noted for their scorn of traditional conservatives. It will be amusing to see how much their economic and small government ideas need to be trashed before they decide that government sanctioned hedonism is not satisfactory compensation for paying for the socialization of America.
As an analyst, one of the things that fascinates me about the latest Obama cabinet snafu is that it centers around data ownership. GOP Senator Judd Gregg had been nominated to head the Commerce Department, but withdrew his nomination yesterday over “irresolvable conflicts“, large among which was disagreement over management of the US Census. Although the Census has traditionally been run by the Commerce Department, White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel had indicated after Gregg’s nomination that the Census Bureau would be moved to report directly to senior White House officials.
Effectively, this would have created for Emanuel the largest political polling organization in the world — funded at government expense. Having influence into census methodologies, questions asked, and the priorities of census data analysts would not only give political operatives in the White House an incredible data edge of their opponents, it would also give them an inside edge on redrawing congressional districts as the result of the 2010 census.
For those with a great deal of faith in the chances of putting together a truly “bipartisan” cabinet, Gregg’s withdrawal is a setback. However, the fact that other members of the administration were seeking to take from Gregg’s control any politically potent processes, the commitment to real bipartisanship seems to have been shallow anyway. And one hopes that with a new nominee the Census Bureau will stay in the Commerce Department and remain less politicized than it would have if reporting to Rahm Emanuel.
Some of our readers south of the Mason-Dixon line no doubt have perhaps felt left out in my many posts regarding Abraham Lincoln. I am fully aware that great Americans fought on both sides of the Civil War, and one of the greatest of Americans, of his time or any time, was Robert E. Lee.
Several fine observances of the birthday of the Great Emancipator around Saint Blog’s. Crankycon has several first rate postings on Mr. Lincoln. Jay Anderson at Pro Ecclesia has selections from two of President Lincoln’s finest speeches. Paul at Thoughts of a Regular Guy reminds us of why we residents of Illinois are proud to call ourselves the Land of Lincoln (Although considering the condition of the Sucker State currently, I doubt if Mr. Lincoln would consider it a compliment!)
It seems a bipartisan effort to ensure that there is some sort of stimulus bill, and only a few politicians think there should be no package at all. Many economists have warned in the past, and continue to do so now, that stimulus packages like the one currently waiting final approval, do not work. Let’s take a moment and examine the arguments as to why they don’t work.
President Obama ran on a platform of Hope and Change. From the details of the National Bankrupt the Nation Act of 2009, sometimes called a “stimulus” bill, we can now see who gets the change:
“Q: What are some of the tax breaks in the bill?
A: It includes Obama’s signature “Making Work Pay” tax credit for 95 percent of workers, though negotiators agreed to trim the credit to $400 a year instead of $500 — or $800 for married couples, cut from Obama’s original proposal of $1,000. It would begin showing up in most workers’ paychecks in June as an extra $13 a week in take-home pay, falling to about $8 a week next January.”
Thanks a heap!
“Now he belongs to the ages.” So said Edwin M. Stanton, Secretary of War, who had kept vigil at Lincoln’s deathbed, after Lincoln died from an assassin’s bullet.
For the past few weeks in the leadup to today, the 200th anniversary of Abraham Lincoln’s birth, I have examined various facets of the public life of Abraham Lincoln. Of course, the most important part of Lincoln’s life came, as it will for each of us, after his death when he stood before God for the particular judgment. In this life the outcome of that judgment is unknown to us. However, I think the record is well-established that during the Civil War Lincoln found his mind and his heart turning increasingly towards God.
Archbishop John Hughes (1797-1864) of New York, was a titan within the Catholic Church in America in the nineteenth century. Overseeing with skill the explosive growth of the Church in New York, and helping lead generations of Catholic immigrants out of poverty, he also found time to take part in the public affairs of his day, and was probably the best known Catholic churchman of his time. He was also a very tough and fearless man. After the anti-Catholic riots in Philadelphia in 1844 he called on the mayor of New York, an anti-Catholic bigot, and informed him that if a single Catholic church were touched in New York, New York would be a second Moscow. (The reference was to the burning of Moscow in 1812 during Napoleon’s occupation of the city.) Not a Catholic church was touched. On another occasion when a threat was made to burn Saint Patrick’s cathedral the Archbishop had it guarded within hours by 4,000 armed Catholics. No wonder his enemies and friends nicknamed him “Dagger John”!