Affirmative Action and Me

Friday, July 31, AD 2009

It always annoys me when I am confronted with a form which demands to know my “race or ethnicity” and offers no “mixed” option. Being exactly half “white” and half “hispanic”, it seems tiresome to have to pick one or the other. “Just pick the one you feel represents you most,” a nice lady at the DMV once told me. But of course, what I think represents me most is being half each — not picking one over the other. I would certainly not say that I “am” Hispanic, yet the experience of having a large Mexican-American half to the family is hardly accidental to my life experience.

One of the areas I knew this would make a more than usually substantive difference in my life was deciding how to fill out college application forms. I objected to the idea of racial quotas (something that was still going on fairly explicitly in 96/97) and I figured that with an English last name even if I were tempted to try to take advantage of “Hispanic” status, I wouldn’t pass the laugh test. So I put myself down at “Hispanic” on the PSAT and “white” on the SAT, and simply refused to pick on all my college applications.

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34 Responses to Affirmative Action and Me

  • I think you’re giving the admissions people too much credit. They don’t go out of their way to admit black or hispanic students because they think they will perform better than their test scores would indicate. If that were the case, then the dropout rate for such students once admitted wouldn’t be so high. What they want is to have a certain percentage of the student body be black and hispanic, because otherwise it just looks bad (and when it comes to the racial composition of a school, “looks bad” can have some very real and serious consequences).

    It’s not Harvard’s fault that the public school system is such a mess, so on one level I’m sympathetic to the situation such schools find themselves in. But there’s nothing admirable about what they’re doing.

  • As Judge Roberts said, the way to stop discriminating on the basis of race is to stop discriminating on the basis of race.

    Different treatment/standards/barriers to entry on the basis of race and.or ethnicity was wrong before the Brown decision and it is wrong now. The principle is the same, and it is important. The difficulty comes in accepting what has come to be termed “disparate impact” – yet those persistent gaps can hardly be addressed by an employer or a university, and I think you are right to suggest that such attempts lead to insecurity and also resentment.

  • I think you’re giving the admissions people too much credit. They don’t go out of their way to admit black or hispanic students because they think they will perform better than their test scores would indicate…. But there’s nothing admirable about what they’re doing.


    I think there’s something potentially admirable about what some of the better justifications of affirmative action say they’re trying to do (even the playing field to let in people of ability even if their educational or personal backgrounds haven’t allowed them to score as high on tests and get as high grades as other students) but so far as I can tell virtually no one has actually implemented it in this way — they’ve simply instituted systems of racial favoritism.

    On the drop out rates — I suppose it’s possible that admissions people deceive themselves that everyone they are admitting is of equal ability, but results would appear to be that even if the abilities are equal, the habits of success are different enough that they’re not necessarily doing anyone any favors.

  • Half white/half hispanic?

    Those categories are not mutually exclusive. One can be 100% white and 100% hispanic. They are two separate categories (race and ethnicity – or more precisely, national origin as Hispanic simply refers to those with ancestry from Latin America. Curiously enough, Spaniards are properly classified as Europeans – even more so than Anglos from England) although often confused as being in the same category and treated that way. I have even seen some forms that have a box for “white Hispanic” and “non white Hispanic” – at least that gets a little more accurate.

    The “Hispanic” race thing and the “Central America” as a continent thing are two of my biggest pet peeves.

  • My wife went to school with a kid who got a free ride to Boston College on some sort of affirmative action scholarship program. He was an affluent descendant of Spanish royalty.

  • I like the ones that have a slot to write things in.

    I tend to put “human” or “American,” depending on the day. ;^p

    One of my buddies on the ship, Brach, is a solid heinz-57– not a single one of his grandparents looks anything like any of the others. I think he liked to check all the boxes, or write “yes” in….

  • My husband knew someone in college who was not permitted to take Spanish for her foreign language because she was ethnically Hispanic, even though she didn’t speak the language.

  • Sometimes I write in the “other” column “Whitexican” (pronounced ‘white-sican’).

    One time I put down, Celtic-Norse-Norman-Welsh-Cherokee-Castillian-Portuguese-French-Jew-Mexican-American.

    That was fun.

  • Speaking of government forms, in the military on most security forms, at least in the 70s, there was a section asking if any of your relatives or friends had ever advocated overthrowing the government. A friend of mine would always put down the names of two of his Confederate great-grandfathers!

  • I love the idea of checking all the boxes, Foxfier. One of the great things about our military is that they were much quicker than society at large to figure out that the color or surname of the guy watching your back doesn’t matter–what matters is that you can trust each other with your lives.

    When you consider that one of our most prominent Hispanic politicians is a guy named Bill Richardson, that a pop singer named Linda Ronstadt once released an album of traditional Mexican/Southwestern music titled “Canciones de Mi Padre” (Songs of My Father–Ronstadt’s paternal line was Southwestern Hispanic with smatterings of North European) and that a singer named Ricardo Valenzuela (aka Ritchie Valens) had to learn the lyrics to the traditional Mexican song he made famous (“La Bamba”) phonetically because he spoke no Spanish, you realize that the Hispanic identity is easily as complex as the American (or Norteamericano, as folks South of the border like to remind us) identity.

    Like Darwin, I am of Hispanic and North European (mostly German) heritage. I consider Spanish and English both native languages (I spoke both from early childhood and, though I don’t use Spanish much these days, can still think in it.) Growing up in the mountains of Virginia, I was very aware that my bilingualism set me apart and identified strongly as a Hispanic although my maiden name is German-derived. Thus I can relate to the desire to check multiple boxes, especially when a college admission or grant could be on the line.

    Unfortunately for me, my mother’s Cuban family was as mixed as any “melting pot” family here in the U. S., and her maiden name came from a Georgia-born grandfather (with a Hispanic mother, no less) who settled in Cuba after the Spanish-American War. He bore an English surname that had been in the States since colonial days. I abandoned the idea of playing up my Hispanic roots, figuring that even if I employed the Spanish practice of tacking on my maternal surname after the paternal one, I would mark myself not just as doubly a yanqui, but thanks to my Georgia ancestor as a yanqui with connections to a First Family of Virginia to which any relationship I may have is well over two centuries distant.

    Is it any wonder I don’t take those ubiquitous ethnic identity boxes very seriously?

  • One of the guys I work with was invited to joing a lawsuit against our agency because he had been included on a list of Africen-American officers who had been in a senior but non-supervisory position for more than ten years.

    He did not reply to any of the six letters that “invited” him to join the suit.

    A seventh communication, in the form of an e-mail, explained that it was “African-Americans like him” – the ones who failed to “stand up to discrimination” in hopes of “getting along” that were a cause of continuing injury.

    My friend wrote one of the funniest responses I have seen, explaining that he was indeed of African descent but that he would have difficulty documenting that fact since he could only trace his family history six generations, back to Bavaria. He went on to explain that his ancesters left Africa many generations in a massive migration from the Rift Valley and that it is believed that they made their way north through Turkey. He went into great details about the Indo-European language theories and such…

    Curiously, he never received a reply.

  • My daughter delights in writing “Celtic” when asked.

    Would cminor share the words to LA BAMBA? He will certainly know the song [to the same tune] which sings “I wish I knew the word to La Bamba , oh oh oh”.

    What about Basques? Catalans?

    I think it was the U of Wisc which would not accept Spanish as equivalent to Hispanic. They also discriminated between Venezuelan [bad] and Dominican [good].

  • What about Basques? Catalans?

    Ooh, good point– reminds me that my dad’s mom found it VERY important to point out which county of Scotland her dad had come from, and that a good 80% of my mom’s home town was from County Cork. (and it mattered)

  • I am still waiting for the Irish-Scottish-Cherokee box on one of those government forms!

  • In reply to both Gabriel and to Darwin’s original post, I often end up addressing many similar questions in my work as a linguist and Spanish professor here in Texas–it should be noted that most of my students are definitely Caucasian, although there are a significant minority who are 1st- or 2nd-generation Hispanic Americans (mostly with Mexican roots, this being Texas!)

    In Spanish, the terms “hispano” and “Latino” should derive from their roots: “hispano” referring to any descendants of Spaniard conquistadores in the New World, and “Latino” referring to all descendants of any of the Latin-based languages that grew out of the Roman Empire, so technically the French, Italians, Romansch (small minority Romance language in Switzerland), Portuguese, and Spaniards should be counted as “Latino”. In current practice here in the States, and also I think around most of Spain and Latin America, “hispano” does refer to the linguistic group itself (even if most Latin Americans now have some degree of racially-mixed African or indigenous ancestry), while “Latino” refers to Latin Americans, including Brazilians, who speak Portuguese.

    I used to live and work in the Basque Country in northern Spain, and I am intimately familiar with practically every last little pueblo all over Spain (except for the far-off Canary Islands, to the west of Africa and well south of Europe), including some very close friends who are Catalans. Racially speaking, both groups are very much Caucasians, esp. the Basques, many of whom resemble big-boned, fair-skinned Germans or Eastern Europeans. Interestingly, the Basques are completely unique not only linguistically (Basque is not related in any way to any other language on Earth–Castilians often tease that it’s the language that ancient saints used to speak to, and drive away, sea monsters!), but also their blood type is exceedingly rare and their genes are unrelated to any other genotypes around most of Western and Central Europe. Nevertheless, all but the poorest and least educated people in each of these areas speak fluent Castilian Spanish and certainly would have no trouble living and working in any Hispanic Latin American country. For that matter, many Basques (shepherds, by tradition) immigrated to the United States, Chile, and Argentina, especially the mountainous areas therein, to escape from Franco’s oppression in the 1930s-1940s. You’ll find dozens of interesting Basque surnames in the US mountain west, esp. in Idaho, Wyoming and Montana.

    All of this gets back to Darwin’s original post and point that affirmative action, if it is to be used at all (and I don’t agree that it always should be!), should focus on economic differences as opposed to racial ones, which are rendered essentially meaningless in the greatest melting pot society that the world has ever known!

    P.S. Oh, and I should point out that Basque food is universally heralded as some of the finest cuisine in the world! Try it, y’all!

  • . For that matter, many Basques (shepherds, by tradition) immigrated to the United States, Chile, and Argentina, especially the mountainous areas therein, to escape from Franco’s oppression in the 1930s-1940s. You’ll find dozens of interesting Basque surnames in the US mountain west, esp. in Idaho, Wyoming and Montana.

    Modoc county has a lot– that’s up in the corner of Cali, inland.
    No idea what my Godfather (he was Basque) would’ve looked like if he hadn’t been a rancher– as it was, Jean B. looked like he was made of boot-leather and spare corral boards– most of the Basque ladies I can think of in the valley look kinda Italian.

    I can’t even imagine his reaction if he were asked to check in a box what his “race” was.

  • I had the same thing happen when I applied to law schools. I had ivy league schools sending me info for ‘hispanic’ admissions, which apparently meant that I didn’t have to have the same high LSAT scores and GPA as the ‘whites’ did. Seeing as my mother didn’t raise any idiots, I felt I should attend a school in line with my scores and ability. No point in being set up for failure by competing out of your league. It just makes minorities feel that much more denigrated. Thomas Sowell wrote some good things on this very topic.

  • Thomas Sowell wrote some good things on this very topic.

    Heh. I used to eat in the university dining hall with Thomas Sowell’s son. Nice guy.

  • The problem with affirmative action is that its had too many competing justifications, and as a result, the policies instituted don’t correspond well with any of them. If it were aimed at at correcting historical injustices, then children of holocaust survivors would not have been denied consideration. If it were a way to help those compete who were disadvantaged, then very poor white people would be expected to benefit more than wealthy minorities.
    If it had been intended as a way to make the country less prejudiced, then at some point it seems to have became counter-productive given that it is now a racially divisive issue and a source of enmity and bitterness. Furthermore, by grouping everyone of one race together for treatment designed to help those who are disadvantaged, the members of that group end up being stigmatized.

    It seems to me that by never establishing clear goals, we got policies which were a mess.

    I rather like the idea that people with disabilities or who grew up poor (regardless of race, creed or gender) all had burdens or disadvantages that others didn’t, and that if we want to have affirmative action programs, then they should be the recipients of the benefits. Inasmuch as minorities are disproportionately affected by poverty, the programs would still allocate benefits to the minority populations at a proportionately higher level than to whites, but it would be a just allocation that since it is open to all.

  • Ockraz-
    one more reason– to make the favored minorities feel good that they achieved something.

    Instead, I still wonder how much of my advancement in the Navy was because I’m a girl, and how much because I did my job well.

  • Foxfier,

    Making them feel good that way can be another case of a poorly accomplished goal since it can (as you indicate) leave one with doubts that one need not otherwise have had. It also strikes me as evidence of a fairly patronizing attitude (which runs counter to feminist ideology).

    My dad brought to my attention another goal. Back in the 60’s there were apparently still pockets of ugly racism (concentrated more in the South for obvious reasons) that publicly challenged the ability of non-whites to achieve in some fields.

    Affirmative action did unequivocally demonstrate that those people were just racists trying to pass off hateful stereotypes as facts and therefore it did nullify one form of racist rhetoric. On the other hand, I think that when it continued long after it served that end, it provided an opening for a new way for people with racist ideologies to appeal to others- since the frustrations of impoverished whites could now be exploited on the basis of reverse discrimination.

  • Steve Says Friday, July 31, 2009 A.D. at 3:00 pm
    “My wife went to school with a kid who got a free ride to Boston College on some sort of affirmative action scholarship program. He was an affluent descendant of Spanish royalty”.

    The Jesuit college? Poor guy.

  • Kevin in Texas Says Saturday, August 1, 2009 A.D. at 1:39
    “…it should be noted that most of my students are definitely Caucasian…”.

    If ever they are in Moscow, they should never refer to themselves as Caucasians. The Russian Moscovians consider Caucasians [people from the Caucasus area] as something less than mafiosi.

  • ockraz Says Saturday, August 1, 2009 A.D. at 5:05 pm
    “…It seems to me that by never establishing clear goals, we got policies which were a mess…”

    Welcome to normal conditions in the good ole U.S. of A. It was not that long ago that there were separate facilities for “whites” and “coloreds”. I came by bus from Mexico City to NYC in 1959. In town after Southern town, there such sections, in diners, waiting rooms, and the like.

    It was to throw up.

  • Mention of Thomas Sowell makes me think that Justice Thomas should also be mentioned.

    It is his contention that separate conditions for “blacks” [or Hispanics or Indians] gives the impression that they are like puppy dogs and act alike and think alike. Thomas’ fine phrase is that he looks through the Constitution at the Declaration.

    Even the fact that some blacks are Republicans scandalizes the lefties.

    How dare they! Are they not grateful for what the Democratic party has done for them? [I mean after the Jim Crow period and KKK and Gov. Faubus and the condition of semi-slavery in the South].

  • Foxfier Says Saturday, August 1, 2009 A.D. at 5:41 pm

    “Instead, I still wonder how much of my advancement in the Navy was because I’m a girl, and how much because I did my job well”.

    Of course you did better. You are a girl. Do you not wonder why men are called meat-heads?

    Do you not know that among sellers of relics men’s brains sell for far more than women’s? Because the women’s brains are used.

  • My family is almost completely Irish, although there’s a touch of Alsatian, Dutch, Scot and, gasp, English, but we try not to talk about the English side of the ancestry. 🙂 Basically, we’re from County Mayo, God help us, just up the road from the Shrine of Our Lady of Knock.

    My wife’s family came from Japan. Before we got married, both mother-in-laws felt that the ‘intended’ wasn’t good enough for their child, especially after World War II, you know. My father-in-law’s Silver Star in World War II one-upped my father’s Bronze Star, however, so that settled things down a lot. Oh, that and having the first grandchild on both sides of the family. 🙂

    Our son writes in that he’s other: “Japirish.” One daughter says that she’s “Hapa,” which is Hawaiian for “half” and she’s always on the lookout for other Hapa’s, like speed skater Apollo Ohno and baseball player Travis Ishikawa (SF Giants 1st base). I don’t know what our older daughter puts down. Amongst my wife’s family, there are in-laws who are Danish, Portuguese, Chinese and Haitian.

    My wife was very concerned during their college application process that the kids not mark Asian because that would make it harder to get into certain schools. Back in the 20’s and 30’s, the elite schools had quotas on Jews. Now it’s Asians.

    Before the 2000 census, there was a great outcry about allowing a “race” answer of “mixed.” They claimed that this would dilute the percentage of minorities and they wouldn’t get their fair share of funding, et al. directed on the basis of minority-ness.

    Unfortunately, as much as most people are past the subject (hey, even that man in the White House is part Irish), there are those whose job it is to keep this on the front burner. To sing the old songs and recite the old wrongs. My grandmother could talk about King Billy at the Battle of the Boyne as if it happened yesterday. If you’re in charge of the affirmative action program, would you propose to end it? And if you aren’t and you propose to end it, it’s clear that you’re a bigot, beyond the pale, as it were. There are no conditions under which they would agree that the old prejudices are over, because keeping them alive as a grievance is their source of income. The rest of us get on with our lives and try to stay away from them if possible.

  • Reminds me…. my grandma was about as racist as they came– class-ist, too. She didn’t like anyone who wasn’t well-raised Scottish, and a good, old, solid Protestant. If you were rude enough to bring it up, she’d recite how horrible they were!

    But she married a guy who was English with some Indian…her sons married Basque, English, Italian and Irish, all the girls Catholic (worse yet, the odd numbered ones became various flavors of Bible church)

    She doted on my Godfather– Basque– and she did cooking classes for 4H for years. Over half of the 4H cooking girls were Mexican, often with little English. ENDLESS patience with the kids, and she was one of the fairest reporters that the newspaper ever had.

    I’d gladly trade a dozen folks obsessed with how fair they are for one “racist” like her– EVERYONE was an exception to the rule, and if she liked you, she’d walk through fire for you. Might sigh and fuss the whole time, but woe unto him who thought that meant she was giving up.

  • Heh.

    Yeah, here I am 50% Mexican-American, 25% pure County Cork Irish, and 25% mixed Irish-Scottish-English-who-knows-what-they-were-disreputable-enough, but of course I ended up with the English last name. 😉

    Takes a little edge off any Irish-inspired ranting against the bloody English, and how can I object when my paternal grandfather (a mid-life convert) was one of the mildest, kindest men I’ve ever known.

  • Foxfier,

    Probably not too much. The Navy’s pretty good about advancing people who deserve more responsibility. I’d say you should give yourself a pat on the back for all your hard work!

  • I went to college in the ’70s, a private college for women. At the time I had no doubts that my acceptance was based on my grades and test scores. (Ah, the confidence of youth!) Looking back, I sometimes wonder if I was accepted primarily because I was Mexican-American.

    College was where I discovered that to some Anglos (especially liberal academics) we really did all look alike. I remember the creative writing professor who scolded me because I never wrote any gritty stories set in “the barrio.”Excuse me — I’m a girl of the sheltered suburbs and my native language is English.

  • I had a roommate from Chicago in College who was first generation American. His family had been illegals from Mexico, before becoming naturalized citizens. He complained to me that his advisors kept trying to push Mexican related courses on him. All he wanted to do was to become an architect and lead the good life here in the US. To his advisors he was merely an affirmative action Hispanic, instead of the Pedro I came to know who had a wicked sense of humor, a keen mind and a drive to succeed.

  • Sorry, Gabriel Austin; I’ve been out of the loop.
    There are a number of good lyrics sites; I googled the song and picked the top listing:
    From what I recall it’s accurate–the song, as you can see from the English translation, is pretty nonsensical.
    Wikipedia, incidentally, has an entry on the song that is kind of interestng.
    And sorry, I’m afraid I’ve never heard the parody. I’ll have to look it up.

  • Oooh, if you enjoy singing La Bamba, you might like this one:

    Tunak Tunak Tun. (Believe it or not, it’s a love song….)

2 Responses to Pliers Are Even Cheaper

Res et Explicatio for A.D. 7-30-2009

Thursday, July 30, AD 2009

Salvete AC readers!

Buckle Up! Because here are today’s Top Picks in the Catholic world:

1. Newspapers outlets and news agencies are reporting that Pope Benedict XVI has signed off on the laicization of Father Tomislav Vlasic.  Tomislav Vlasic is one of the leading priests alleging that apparitions of the Blessed Virgin Mary have been appearing continuously to six Croat seers since June 24, 1981 in the Bosnian town of Medjugorje.  These apparitions are continuing to this day and has been visited by an estimated 30 million pilgrims.  An estimated 40,000 messages have been conveyed to the seers by the Blessed Virgin Mary.

Officially the Vatican has not decided on the matter of these alleged apparitions of the Blessed Virgin Mary.  The Vatican has recently taken over the case of reviewing these allegations from the local Bosnian diocese.

There are skeptics and proponents debating the facts and implications of the latest scandal over Medjugorjie.  But what is clear is that Medjugorgie has lost more of its tarnish these last few years.

I won’t argue with the genuine conversions and sincerity of many believers that have occurred at Medjugorie.  Though I have a couple doubts concerning these apparitions which I will write to in a separate posting for a later date.

2. Quote of the Day:

“We do know that at the end of time, when the great conflict between the forces of good and evil takes place, Satan will appear without the Cross, as the Great Philanthropist and Social Reformer to become the final temptation of mankind.”

Archbishop Fulton Sheen (Life of Christ, p. 10)

Kind of sucks the wind out of your sails doesn’t it if you believe in the redistribution of wealth and all.

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12 Responses to Res et Explicatio for A.D. 7-30-2009

  • “I already love this man!”

    Oh great, Tito Taco has gone all bender on us; what’s next? Same-sex marriage?

  • e.,

    That’s Double-T to you.

  • Sorry, mate; I go for Double D’s! *wink*

  • My “Too Much Information” meter just exploded…

  • I’ve long believed the sheer duration of the Medjugorje apparitions was reason enough to suspect something fishy. Most genuine/approved Marian apparitions happen only once, or a few times, and span a few months at most, like Lourdes and Fatima. Genuine seers may have apparitions occasionally over the course of their lives (like Fatima seer Sister Lucy did) but not “on command” or on a regular basis, and if they do, they don’t publicize them. I could never believe the Virgin Mary was THAT much of a chatterbox that she would talk to these kids (who, of course, aren’t kids anymore) every single day for (as of now) more than 28 years.

    I know lots of people argue that Medjugorje produced all kinds of “good fruit” in the form of conversions, healings, etc.; but the same argument can be made about a lot of other non-approved apparitions, and about organizations such as the Legionaires of Christ and Regnum Christi which are now proven to have been founded on fraud. The “good fruits” are, perhaps, just God bringing good out of a bad situation.

    However, why does article linked above mention Ivan Dragevic’s marriage to a “former beauty queen” — not that there’s anything wrong with that, eh guys?

  • Elaine,

    Good point on that marriage.

    Yeah, nothing is wrong with that, but in a future posting I will touch on this, but briefly say it here.

    The Blessed Virgin Mary asked him to enter the priesthood and he decided not to.

    How many of us struggle for direction from God and here is Ivan telling the Holy Mother “no”.

    That was the back breaker for me.

  • “The Blessed Virgin Mary asked him to enter the priesthood and he decided not to… here is Ivan telling the Holy Mother ‘no’.”

    Ah, but what if the Holy Mother didn’t really speak to him in the first place? Church authorities have ruled more than once that there is no evidence to prove that she did.

    Of course that makes Ivan’s situation even worse, because it means either 1) that he has been duped or deceived into thinking the apparitions are genuine when they are not, or 2) he knows the apparitions are fake and willingly participated in fraud by pretending they were.

  • The Vatican approved apparitions the children didn’t even hesitate to join the convents. Yet Ivan, and a couple others, chose to live a more materialistic lifestyle.

    That is what disturbs me.

    They have broken many of the guidelines that are normally followed to be approved.

    Hence my skepticism on the matter.

  • I see what you mean, in that genuine visionaries normally don’t try to make a living off their visions or messages, and often hesitate to tell anyone about them at first, because they can’t believe Jesus or Mary would choose to speak directly to someone as unworthy as them.

    Although there were no such people as “jet setters” in Bernadette’s time or in the era of the Fatima visions, I can’t picture any of them becoming jet setters and running all over the world, speaking to conferences and giving interviews and such. However, while the majority of genuine visionaries do enter religious life, is it really a “rule” that they HAVE to or else the vision wasn’t genuine?

  • Elaine,

    It’s not a rule, but it certainly lends credibility.

    If Ivan chose to live simply then it would certainly have not put any doubts in my mind, but since he lives like a rock star, it begs the question.

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White House Meeting Ferments Beer Brew-hahha

Thursday, July 30, AD 2009

It’s not unusual for people attempting to smooth over a contentious discussion to say that they’d of course be willing to get together for a friendly beer some time. Apparently, when one has the resources and media visibility of the President, it’s possible to actually pull this off, but trouble can ensue.

When President Obama called Cambridge police officer Crowley last week to try to smooth over tension resulting from Obama’s declaration that Crowley’s arrest of Professor Gates had been “stupid”, Officer Crowley suggested that the three men should get together for a few beers. It seems that Obama thought this was a good idea, and a beer summit between the three men is currently scheduled to take place are scheduled to get together at a White House and knock back a couple cold ones.

However, this morning’s Wall Street Journal reveals that peace making is never simple, American brewers are upset over the likely offering at the beer fest:

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24 Responses to White House Meeting Ferments Beer Brew-hahha

  • Hard to fault the President’s fridge choices, at least for the first two. I’m especially fond of Red Stripe. However, I’ll stipulate that Blue Moon is a trifle overrated, if still solid.

    In the spirit of “Buy American,” let me suggest the fine Texas brew Jay Anderson put me on the trail of: Shiner Bock.

  • I agree with Dale that Blue Moon is overrated. There are many other domestics of its type that beat it hands down.

    As I am an IPA fan, I’d pick Sierra Nevada’s or even Anchor Steam’s.

  • I agree with the above about Blue Moon. Still hard to fault anyone who prefers it because it’s still far better than any of the American mass-market brews. You want to rail on the evil effects of a consumerist society – start there!

  • Yes on the Shiner, Dale! But I doubt the President would go for a Texas beer.

  • They could have compromised, maybe Rolling Rock….anyway, I am a big fan of Shiner and Blue Moon. And people do rightly state that Blue Moon can be overrated – but I bet they have yet to try it from the tap with an orange slice. Finally, I also like several of the beers people tend to make of – namely Miller GD and HL.

    Or maybe I drink too much…..

  • Blue Moon isn’t my choice of beer, but with an orange slice and from the tap, it isn’t bad.

    Red Strip and Bud Light are terrible choices.

    As I’ve said elsewhere, Shiner and Abita are excellent American choices. Better than the name-brand stuff, and much better than the West coast micros (I think it was Anchor Steam that I was given a little glass of in one of those taster deals-couldn’t finish it, it was so nasty.)

  • I’ll give the President his due. This is a good idea and kudos for him for running with it.

    Now if they’d only serve PBR in tall cans…

  • I just tried Shiner Bock for the first time last week – it was very good. As a Chicago fellow, I would hope the President preferred Goose Island – maybe a Honkers Ale.

  • Zak,

    I love Goose Island 312.

  • One could pretty easily list off two dozen breweries whose offerings are better than the brews on offer at the White Hous, but if we’re calling out local favorites I have to stand up for St. Arnold’s (down in Houston) over the more mass market Shiner. Also Independence Brewery here in Austin, with a solid Independence Ale (classic American pale ale) and for those who don’t like the bitterness as much, Bootlegger Brown Ale.

  • Let’s through in Smuttynose also.

  • And to wrap up, if one is ever in Boise, go to The Ram and get the Buttface. Its pronounced the way its spelled.

  • I am partial to the Otter Creek brews myself, particularly the Stove Pipe Porter. But I’m also down with the “Champagne of Beers”: Miller High Life.

  • Paul, I’ve never had any Otter Creek’s before but I sure appreciate a nice porter. Darwin turned me onto Samuel Smith’s Taddy Porter – it’s an old English brew. Dude, it’s beautiful…

    Oh, Rogue’s Mocha Porter has a lot of character and believe it or not, Samuel Adam’s Honey Porter is really nice.

  • Apparently the Beer Summit is inspiring all sort of beer related analysis.

  • But I doubt the President would go for a Texas beer.

    His loss, Jay.

  • I think it’d be funny if the president drank Arrogant Bastard Ale.

  • After moving to Texas a few years ago, I fell for Shiner hard.

    It’s what I order every time here in Houston.

    God help me if I ever visit out of state or if a restaurant doesn’t carry Shiner.

    I’ll have to “regress” to rum or scotch beverages.

  • As one of the rare breed of mostly Irish Americans who are life-long abstainers from beverages containing alcohol, I will not venture an opinion of the beer to be served. I would merely note that if any DC cops are below their DUI quota of tickets, this get together presents possibilities!

  • Not a summit, just a beer, Obama says

    Beer offer turns Gates situation into brewhaha

    Wilmore noted that Gates had said “yo mama” during his confrontation with Crowley.

    “How many decades has he been holding that in?” Wilmore said. “Did he call him a jive turkey, too?”

    Wilmore did have one thing in common with white comics: He couldn’t resist a beer joke.

    “Alcohol — that’ll end well,” he said. “Booze isn’t how you resolve a racial conflict. It’s how you start one.”

  • Killian’s Red is good– very inexpensive, yet high enough quality that my Guiness-snob beer drinker friends enjoy it without qualm. (Me, I enjoy both Killians and PBR cans.)

    Wanna be practical, a variety pack of Weinhards would probably be the way to go, though.

    Wait, I suggested practicality… for a college professor and a politician… where was my mind?

  • They could’ve gone with Yuengling,(Oldest AMERICAN beer)!

The Population Bomb and Politicized Science

Thursday, July 30, AD 2009

Hattip to Alberto Hurtado at Southern Appeal.   The myth of the Population Bomb is a cautionary tale of the dangers of politicized junk science.    Paul Ehrlich’s best seller in 1968 helped propel public policy in an anti-natalist, pro-abortion and pro-contraceptive direction.  As I hope all of our readers know, the book was a heap of rubbish, making wild alarmist predictions about the dangers of population growth, none of which came true.  Good articles on Erhlich’s bomb of a book are here, here, and here.  Rather than a population bomb, we have a population implosion throughout most of the world, including in Muslim states

Now why would a book that was so spectacularly wrong headed have so captured the imagination of policy makers for generations?  Because books like Erhlich’s truly have nothing to do with science.  Science jargon is merely a wrapper for a political agenda;  in Ehrlich’s case one which was both radically pro-environment and anti-human, with a heaping dollop of hatred for people who had more than two kids.  I have a great deal of respect for science, and little but contempt for those who attempt to claim the mantle of science for political agendas through the use of junk science.

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12 Responses to The Population Bomb and Politicized Science

  • “The fetus, given the opportunity to develop properly before birth, and given the essential early socializing experiences and sufficient nourishing food during the crucial early years after birth, will ultimately develop into a human being,”.

    Reminds me of an old lawyer joke, which I will adapt accordingly for the occasion:

    Q: What’s the difference between John P. Holdren and a sperm?

    A: The sperm at least has a 1 in a million chance of becoming a human being.

  • On lawyer jokes:

    Q: How does a Catholic lawyer practice licit family planning?

    A: His personality.

    Told to me, of course, by a loving wife of a Catholic lawyer, with a good sense of humor.

  • So that explains it!

  • Has anyone read Fatal Misconception: The Struggle to Control World Population by Matthew Connelly? I’m intrigued by the review here:

  • not long after Ehrlic’s book there was another pretty much refuting it called “The Great American Stork Market Crash” or something similar. Can’t recall the author.

  • Fatal Misconception was a good book, marred slightly by the author’s apparent need to throw out the occasional anti-Catholic statement to prove he wasn’t a religious zealot.

  • He needed to establish his “street cred,” eh?

    I thought this passage was particularly redolent of something fishy going on now:

    For population experts this was the beginning of constantly expanding opportunities. The budgets, the staff, the access were all increasing even more quickly than the population growth their programs were meant to stop. There was “something in it for everyone,” Population Association of America President John Kantner later recalled: “the activist, the scholar, the foundation officer, the globe-circling consultant, the wait-listed government official. World Conferences, a Population Year, commissions, select committees, new centers for research and training, a growing supply of experts, pronouncements by world leaders, and, most of all, money—lots of it.”

    Not to labor on anecdotes, but I hear from a reliable source in the foundation world that the population control dogma is apparently still very much in fashion there.

  • On the subject of population growth, I’d also recommend Julian Simon. It was Simon, more than any other figure, who helped discredit Ehrlic’s doommongering.

  • Mark DeF:

    LOL! My wife will love that one!

  • j. christian: It is still evidently widely believed in the UK. I read the UK papers and comments sections online fairly frequently and whenever they print an environmental story, it doesn’t take long at all for a commenter to start grousing about “how the real problem we face is overpopulation.” Then other people will chime in. Some even seem to believe that the government is hiding that little tidbit of information from them.

    Given that the UK, like the rest of Europe, suffers from a lower-than-replacement level birth rate, it just goes to show how people latched on to the “population bomb” theory back in the 1970’s and refuse to let it go. Of course, if you forshook having offspring because Ehrlich and Co. scared the granola out of you back then, it would be very difficult to admit you made a mistake. The people who took zero-population growth very seriously were the boomers – too late for them to say, “Gee, I guess I’ll have that second child after all.”

  • The people who took zero-population growth very seriously were the boomers – too late for them to say, “Gee, I guess I’ll have that second child after all.”

    If I were a boomer without children, I might try to rationalize my decision that way. Interesting idea.

  • It was way back in 1840s that a guy named MALTHUS was worred acout OVERPOPULATION; we just have wackos like PAUL EHRLICH continuing this poppycock

ObamaCare: A Pre-Mortem

Wednesday, July 29, AD 2009


Barring some political miracle, National Health Care is dead. Many  current polls indicate that a majority of the public is now against it.  There is no chance of having a vote in either chamber of Congress before the August recess.  Considering the high popularity numbers that Obama had coming into office, and the wide majorities that the Democrats enjoy in Congress this is astounding.  What caused this debacle?  A few thoughts.

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31 Responses to ObamaCare: A Pre-Mortem

  • You mention the “stimulus” bill and the budget, but I think this needs to be emphasized:

    By essentially wasting $ 1 trillion on a pork bill that did absolutely nothing to stimulate the economy and put no money in the pockets of most voters (at least our family got $2400 under Bush, which helped pay for my kids’ Catholic school), the Democrats completely blew up the budget and used up what little political (and actual) capital there might have been for enacting a health care plan.

  • Technically, we are getting up to $800 per couple under the so-called stimulus package.

    But IIRC it’s being done through a remittance of payroll taxes in each paycheck, so I can’t blame you for not missing it.

    However, you nailed it on the source of the skepticism: the administration shredded its credibility by pushing through an ineffective spending bill that has come nowhere near to doing what its proponents asserted it would.

    Had there been a lot more infrastructure spending and a lot less wish-listing, I think there would still be a reservoir of good will. Instead, we have revelations like this, which make skeptics out of anyone who isn’t a daily pom-pon shaker for the administration:

  • Leaving aside a prudent distrust of politicians and a party that are beholden to special interests, love power, harbor contempt for the common man, and have no sense of fiscal sanity, why would any sane person want people who consider killing societies weakest “health care”?

    A link to a bigger version of that chart.

  • Ugh, should have been “society’s”. Combat illiteracy – it’s killing me. 😉

  • It strikes me that ObamaCare (like ClintonCare and Bush’s attempted reform of social security) is suffering from the fact that it either could not be or simply was not explained in a manner such as to gain the support of a significant portion of the population.

    One thing that is hard to get used to in the corporate world is that it doesn’t matter how good your ideas are if you can’t present them to decision makers in a way that convinces them to let you act on them. What political parties seem to have some difficulty grasping is that on a sufficiently big change in civic structures, the entire voting population counts as the decison makers. So if they can’t package something in a way that voters can understand its benefits, it will run aground unless the politician has enough capital to pull off the “trust me on this one” approach.

  • Jay simply asserts without argument. Well, here is the argument for the stimulus: we have seen an enormous decline in private demand. the only reason why we have not seen a similar collapse in overall economic activity is because it was cushioned by a large increase in public demand. See Krugman:

    Much of this has been through automatic stabilizers, not stimulus, but automatic stabilizers are far lower in the US than in Europe (income tax is less progressive, social safety nets are smaller), meaning that discretionary stimulus needs to be larger. Of course, given capacity constraints, much of the money hasn’t been spent yet. But in countries where it has been spent quickly, and where automatic stabilizers are similarly small, fiscal stimulus has been a huge boon for growth. I’m talking mainly about China.

    Now, on the composition. As any economist will tell you, multipliers are larger for spending than for taxes. The tax cut component of the US stimulus was, I believe, too large. If you want the most bang-for-back, you’ll go where the multipliers are largest, and that’s on the spending side, espcially capital spending.

    The economic illiteracy on display in public circles is simply staggering. Quite aside from the laissez-faire small government ideology (stop exempting the military, and we’ll talk), you have pundits railing against “pork”. Well, sorry, but that is precisely the point. When you have a major across-the-board collapse in aggregate demand, and when monetary policy has reached its limits (interest rates at the lower bound), then you need government spending. It is an extreme response to extreme circumstances. You are *supposed* to spend more in times like this, and spend less when times are good. But the pundits just don’t get this.

  • Complexity? what this chart fails to note is that the current system is even more complex. What I find highly frustrating, as somebody who has been following healthcare wonkery for years, is the sheer ignorance out there about what this reform does and does not do. I would actually fault its timidity, for not doing enough to curb the bad behavior of the private insurance companies. It changes too little, not too much.

    But look at the rhetoric. We are suddenly moving to “government” healthcare. Of course, if you actually looked at the proposals, you would see the public option limited to those who can participate in health insurance exchanges, which in turn is limited to the unemployed, the self-employed and small businesses. The CBO thinks that only 27 million would be in the exchange by 2019, and only a small portion of these would be in the public option. For everybody else, it’s old-style employer insurance.

    And then there are the people who rail against the *costs* of government healthcare, oblivious to the fact that costs are rising substantially more slowly in medicare and medicaid than in private insurance (7.3 percent verus 4.6 percent for the average annual increase in premiums). And then there is the widely circulating story at the guy at sme town hall meeting who yelled out “keep your government hands off my Medicare”. We might smile, but this kind of delusion is only mildly hyperbolic.

    Of course, this is what the opponents of reform want. They don’t want people actually trying to understand what is going on. They want slogans and scaremongering. Because there is a lot of financial interests at stake here. And God forbid we reduce the profitability of the private insurance companies.

    Ezra Klein sums up my feelings completely; “what has kept health-care reform at the forefront of liberal politics for decades is moral outrage that 47 million of our friends and neighbors are uninsured. That medical costs are one of the leading causes of bankruptcy in the United States. That an unemployed machinist gets screwed by fly-by-night insurance schemes while a comfortably employed banker need never worry. That the working class ends up in emergency rooms with crushing chest pains because they didn’t have health insurance and didn’t get prescribed cheap blood pressure medications five years before.”

    As the Church would say, health care is a human right. Let’s treat it that way.

  • Jay:

    Ten days ago, I posted Robert Samuelson’s very fine post-mortem on the stimulus bust in the Washington Post 10 days ago. He argues convincingly that there was a need for the stimulus, but notes that what was enacted was an underpowered failure, misconceived from the start:

    On humanitarian grounds, hardly anyone should object to parts of the stimulus package: longer and (slightly) higher unemployment benefits; subsidies for job losers to extend their health insurance; expanded food stamps. Obama was politically obligated to enact a campaign proposal providing tax cuts to most workers — up to $400 for individuals and $800 for married couples. But beyond these basics, the stimulus plan became an orgy of politically appealing spending increases and tax breaks.

    More than 50 million retirees and veterans got $250 checks (cost: $14 billion). Businesses received liberalized depreciation allowances ($5 billion). Health-care information technology was promoted ($19 billion). High-speed rail was encouraged ($8 billion). Whatever the virtues of these programs, the effects are diluted and delayed. The CBO estimated that nearly 30 percent of the economic effects would occur after 2010. Ignored was any concerted effort to improve consumer and business confidence by resuscitating the most distressed economic sectors.

    Vehicle sales are running 35 percent behind year-earlier levels; frightened consumers recoil from big-ticket purchases. Falling house prices deter home buying. Why buy today if the price will be lower tomorrow? States suffer from steep drops in tax revenue and face legal requirements to balance their budgets. This means raising taxes or cutting spending — precisely the wrong steps in a severe slump. Yet the stimulus package barely addressed these problems.

    To promote car sales and home buying, Congress could have provided temporary but generous tax breaks. It didn’t. The housing tax credit applied to a fraction of first-time buyers; the car tax break permitted federal tax deductions for state sales and excise taxes on vehicle purchases. The effects are trivial. The recently signed “cash for clunkers” tax credit is similarly stunted; Macroeconomic Advisers estimates it might advance a mere 130,000 vehicle sales. States fared better. They received $135 billion in largely unfettered funds. But even with this money, economists at Goldman Sachs estimate that states face up to a $100 billion budget gap in the next year. Already, 28 states have increased taxes and 40 have reduced spending, reports the Office of Management and Budget.

    There are growing demands for another Obama “stimulus” on the grounds that the first was too small. Wrong. The problem with the first stimulus was more its composition than its size. With budget deficits for 2009 and 2010 estimated by the CBO at $1.8 trillion and $1.4 trillion (respectively, 13 and 9.9 percent of gross domestic product), it’s hard to argue they’re too tiny. Obama and congressional Democrats sacrificed real economic stimulus to promote parochial political interests. Any new “stimulus” should be financed by culling some of the old.

    While I don’t think he’d agree that it does “absolutely nothing to stimulate the economy,” he’d certainly concur that what was enacted had no prospect of doing what its proponents said it would.

  • Did I mention that I posted it ten days ago?


  • Minion:

    Jay did not say that we shouldn’t have spent the stimulus money; he said the way the stimulus money was spent was retarded. Considering most of the money won’t be spent yet, while France has spent most of theirs, that’s a fair argument.

    Second, current system = bad does not lead to proposed system = good.

    Third, how on earth is one supposed to what the reform does? It changes daily! I’ve tried to keep up and I’ve had no chance; I can’t imagine what most Americans think!

    And finally, health care = right. Obamacare, however, is not a right and Obamacare does NOT = Church envisioned health care.

  • No, seriously. Does anyone else hear that sound (like an annoying gnat that won’t go away)? If you listen close enough it sounds like “I luvzzzzzzz me sommmmmmme Obbbbbbammmmmmma.”

  • Jay:

    You need to be drinking more Kool-Aid so that the “annoying gnat noise” in your ear turns into a beautiful song that you sing loudly every day.

  • Guys,

    While I agree that MM’s mixture of bow-before-my-authority expert posing and loud moral indignation is very annoying, let’s try to tread the line of not stooping lower in responding to it.


    Ezra Klein sums up my feelings completely; “what has kept health-care reform at the forefront of liberal politics for decades is moral outrage that 47 million of our friends and neighbors are uninsured. That medical costs are one of the leading causes of bankruptcy in the United States. That an unemployed machinist gets screwed by fly-by-night insurance schemes while a comfortably employed banker need never worry. That the working class ends up in emergency rooms with crushing chest pains because they didn’t have health insurance and didn’t get prescribed cheap blood pressure medications five years before.”

    As the Church would say, health care is a human right. Let’s treat it that way.

    See, here’s the thing, MM. I could take the moral indignation a lot more seriously if it didn’t seem to only be trotted out in efforts to come up with systems designed to bring the electoral gold of the middle class into a government run health care system. The interest in reducing costs in the current system, making incremental changes to allow primary care to be more affordable for the uninsured, or setting up more efficient programs specifically to help those who cannot afford coverage or care seems to be rather sparse in the liberal camp. The interest is almost exclusively in finding a way to work towards a large government run program which the vast majority of Americans would eventually participate in — something which would represent a significant power increase for the people pushing it.

    Why the lack of interest in attacking the real problem (high costs and inability of some people to afford health care they need) when not associated wish the large government solution which has been on the progressive wish list for so long? It seems to suggest that the motives are rather less sterling than you present.

  • My. I am surprised by the behavior of some commenters here, especially those who usually demoan the mean-spiritedness of their imagined ideological counterparts in commenr boxes.

    I guess it depends on what side you stand on on your imagined ideeological divide.

  • Was I responding to someone? What? Did somebody say something?

  • Jay is an example of everything I am talking about. If somebody comes along with facts and arguments that go against cherished talking points, lets just change the subject to taunts and slogans. Hmmmm, doesn’t that sound familiar?

  • Darwin,

    Moral indignation? That would be righteous moral indignation!

    “sytems designed to bring the electoral gold of the middle class into a government run health care system”. What in God’s name does this mean?

    Did you read what I wrote? Let’s start at the basics. “Government run” health care means precisely that – the governmment employs and pays the healthcare workers and owns the facilities. Think of the UK. I personally support single payer which is NOT THIS. Single payer basically means a single insurance agent to leverage economies of scale, cover everybody, don’t try to weed out people for profit purposes, and use monopsony power to get better deals from suppliers.

    I support single payer not on ideological grounds, but on pragmatic grounds — it seems emprically the best way to contain costs and deliver superior outcomes. It’s gives good bang for buck. Of course, this is not the only way to do it. As I said elsewhere, the core principles of reform include community rating and the individual mandate, and this can be done with regulated private markets.

    The proposed reforms are a mere timid step in this direction. For people with employer converage, nothing much will change. Others can join the regulated exchanges. To me, this is exactly the kind of “incremental change” we need. It’s far less radical than previous proposals, including Nixon’s. It represents the best way of increasing coverage and reducing costs. Unless of course, like the GOP, you have a vested interest in protecting the balance sheets of the insurance companies.

  • Unless of course, like the GOP, you have a vested interest in protecting the balance sheets of the insurance companies,

    One might argue that the absence of tort reform is due to the Democrats’ vested interest in protecting the balance sheets of plaintiff attorneys instead of actually cutting costs.

  • I support single payer not on ideological grounds, but on pragmatic grounds — it seems emprically the best way to contain costs and deliver superior outcomes.

    Per a prior conversation, did you ever look into Singapore’s health care system?

  • Blackadder, ever an optimist, seems to think that he’s talking to someone who has any interest in learning new facts and evidence, as opposed to cutting-and-pasting one of his four blogging scripts (“prolifers are bad,” “Americans are Calvinists,” “Obama is good,” “single-payer is good”) into every discussion.

  • Singapore — yes, has some good aspects, but does a lousy job dealing with tail risks. As I keep saying, my preference is based on pragmatism. A private system based on community rating, the universal mandate, and subsidies for the poor would be a very good start. It just not would be as efficient as a public system.

    Michael — I have no problem with tort reform. Unfortunately, the costs of insurance and defensive medicine represent an insignificant part of healthcare costs.

  • Did you read what I wrote? Let’s start at the basics. “Government run” health care means precisely that – the governmment employs and pays the healthcare workers and owns the facilities. Think of the UK. I personally support single payer which is NOT THIS.

    I did not think that you were talking about single provider health care, nor was I addressing the question. I’m not sure why you like to try to shoe-horn your oponents into positions they don’t hold, but it doesn’t get conversation far.

    I support single payer not on ideological grounds, but on pragmatic grounds — it seems emprically the best way to contain costs and deliver superior outcomes.

    So you keep saying — even when people point to non-single-payer systems which work better than the single payer ones. (Heck, even the much vaunted French system is not actually a true single payer system.)

    And although you say your support is non-ideological, I can’t help seeing it as awfully convenient that a statist technocrat cries foul at any suggestion, however helpful it might be, which does not increase the amount of statist technocrat control over health care in the US — and supports programs other than his preferred one so long as they expand the reach of government.

    I will agree with your later comments thus far, however: It’s true that the proposed reforms are a timid step, delivering much complication and little improvement by anyone’s standards. Of course, that leaves me wondering why you’re so fiercely supportive. Why not hold out for what you think would actually solve the problem? Or, should we perhaps take that as a sign that you see the currently proposed legislation as being a clear step in the direction of a single payer system?

  • If somebody comes along with facts and arguments that go against cherished talking points, lets just change the subject to taunts and slogans. Hmmmm, doesn’t that sound familiar?

    Indeed —

    His name, or rather alias, happens to be Morning’s Minion!

  • As any economist will tell you, multipliers are larger for spending than for taxes.

    The size of the multiplier is precisely what has been disputed by Casey Mulligan, Gregory Mankiw, among other ‘economic illiterates’

  • Art, my wise friend, why aren’t you following the sage advice you gave me just yesterday? 😉

  • Guess I can’t resist, sometimes.

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How to Get There from Here

Tuesday, July 28, AD 2009

There’s been much discussion of late about what other country’s health care apparatus the US should consider emulating, and in such discussions France is often mentioned. Now, all cheerful ribbing against the French aside, their health care system is not nearly as “socialized” or nearly as afflicted by treatment denials and waiting lists as those of the UK or Canada. It is also rather more like the system that the US already has, in that it is a hybrid public/private system, though in their case there is a guaranteed base level of coverage everyone has through the government (funded via a hefty payroll tax — not unlike Medicare) which most people supplement with private coverage. Most doctors are in private practice, and 25% do not even accept the public plan, just as some practices in the US do not accept Medicare. However, everyone does have that minimum level of coverage, and the French spend a lower percentage of their GDP on health care than the US (11% versus 16%) which when you take into account that France’s GDP per capita is a good deal smaller than that of the US (which is the polite, economist way of saying it’s a poorer country) works out to the US spending about twice as many dollars per person on health care, while still not having universal coverage.

So what are we waiting for? Why don’t we go enact the French system here right now? Why doesn’t Obama put on a jaunty beret, dangle a cigarette coolly from the corner of his mouth, hoist a glass of wine, and just say, “Oui, nous pouvons.”

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9 Responses to How to Get There from Here

  • Well done Darwin,

    Many factors in health care. One is physician salaries as pointed out in other posts. Many factors in physican salaries as you point out including the high cost of medical school and indirect malpractice costs. If those aren’t addressed while cutting physician salaries, problems will most certainly follow.

  • Dear God… someone finally stopped talking about British and Canadian health care and realized that are quite a number of schemes to reach universal coverage and single-payer systems aside (I don’t feel like having that go-round), France is a pretty good model.

    Moreover, I think if we attacked education (costs) and provided greater assistance to medical students (not just with public funds), we could slightly lessen doctor salaries — as health care costs go down and depending on their specialty.

  • And by ‘lessen’ I don’t mean put caps on it via legislation.

  • Related to this but in a more general sense: I think that dealing with a situation like this (in which it becomes necessary to drive a group of people’s income down for the common good) the impersonal nature of markets is generally more socially acceptable than government action. I don’t think anyone would tolerate reducing doctor pay 30-40% by fiat, even when they generally make a lot of money. But creating the conditions for it to gradually reduce due to market pressure doesn’t have the same antagonistic edge.

    Just had to get the market plug in. 🙂

  • 30 – 40% again seems not to take into account malpractice costs let alone medical school. Maybe your figures take into account malpractice costs. But if not, using your figures, a specialist in the US averages 230k vs 149k in France. Subtract the average 55k for malpractice and you get a difference of 175 vs 149. Excluding medical school costs you’re now talking about a 14% difference, not 30 – 40.

    What’s the average malpractic attorney’s pay?

  • Actually just Googled it. In 2006 it was 100k.

  • I guess, I’m not sure how stuff like malpractice insurance is usually accounted for. Do doctors always have to pay it out of pocket (thus out of their personal pay) or is it often payed by their practice as a business expense?

    Either way, significantly reducing the malpractice lottery would have a salient effect on health care prices — not just in allowing for health care providers to charge less, but also reducing the number of extra procedures which are done for tail covering purposes rather than medical effect.

  • Depends on the practice. Those that are stand alone pay out of their own pocket. Those in large practices or hospital based practices get it paid for. But that will be considered part of compensation and usually salaries are lower to reflect that. Either way, there is a cost to income from malpractice premiums.

  • The cost of malpractice insurance is inflated by insurance companies, just as insurance companies inflate the cost of medical insurance. But the big issue is that usa doctors and hospitals do not like to be held accountable for their bad medical practices and poor outcomes. Their private for profit medicine ranks 37th in outcomes compared to other countries, which rank muych better using national health programs. Malpractice costs would clearly go down if usa outcome rankings improved. The fact that france ranks number one, having the best outcomes, while paying their doctors much less, is all just a further indictment of our private medical system in the usa.

6 Responses to The Albino Code

Reading Michael Burleigh

Tuesday, July 28, AD 2009

Despite a semester overseas in England and mandatory schooling in the subject, it is to my great regret that I neglected to pay much attention to European history in college. What I did study a decade ago I’ve barely retained — something I’ve been compensating for in years since, by way of a 45 minute subway commute that provides just enough time to get a few chapters in.

The British historian Michael Burleigh is one whose work I’ve discovered recently and have benefited greatly from reading. Earlier this year I finished Earthly Powers (“The Clash of Religion and Politics in Europe, from the French Revolution to the Great War”) and am now working through the sequel: Sacred Causes (“The Clash of Religion and Politics, from the Great War to the War on Terror”). Both volumes are fascinating studies of European history, through the prism of church-state relations and the myriad attempts of each to assume the role of the other.

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6 Responses to Reading Michael Burleigh

  • Christopher, Burleigh is one of my favorites of the current crop of historians. His recent book Blood and Rage on terrorism is must reading. Here is a link to a review by Andrew Stuttaford.

    Here is a link to his blog.

    Burleigh is immune to the problem that afflicts most historians today, a tone deafness when it comes to religion. Burleigh understands that much of politics since 1914 really cannot be understood unless we realize that a fair amount of it, especially in the totalitarian states, was a search for substitute religions.

  • Burleigh is generally excellent. But I have one quibble with him – he seems to have a blind spot where the Irish are concerned. In “Sacred Causes,” he is not just very hard on the IRA (they are entirely fair game in my book), but on the Irish people and culture as a whole. I do not have a drop of Irish blood and I thought he was being unfair. Paul Johnson, who wrote a short history of Ireland, is much more evenhanded.

  • Thanks you for sharing your thoughts on this. I too enjoy Burleigh’s work, also enjoying his frequent contributions to Standpoint ( Also, for any who enjoy the Hoover Institution’s presentations (many of which are available to download, for instance, through iTunes), Burleigh somewhat recently gave a great speech there, definitely worth checking out.

  • I too found his take on Ireland a little odd. His chapters on Spain and Ireland in this century certainly seem to contradict the assertions of some that a focus on moral issues is particularly Protestant or Calvinist, since ultra-Catholic governments also engaged in such practices. I found both Earthly Powers and Sacred Causes very interesting, and I wish they could have been longer – there was nothing on secularization in Scandinavia, which I thought would have made for an interesting comparison with Britain.

  • Sounds interesting. I’ll have to look at these.

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6 Responses to Catholic View of the Political Community (Part 5)

  • “Careers and reputations are often deemed more important than what the natural law and common good would demand (witness the Supreme Court).”

    Good post. THough I perhaps differ with some specifics you put it. I am a NAFTA supporter(it might need to be tweeked) but I think it is on the right path. I am not sure being pro NAFTA is anti Catholic but perhaps I am reading too much into your comments.

    I am curious if you would elaborate on your Supreme Court Comment. IS there a “Catholic” way to look at Const law? If so if this goes beyond the intent of the founders is it correct that the Court take power that is not delegated to them to enforce a common good? I think Archbishop Chaput would disagee looking at recent comments. I am not saying that natural law cannot be a jurisrudence for the Const. But again the court operates in the realm in the power that is given them.

    Again I am curious about that comment

  • Actually, Carl Anderson, the Supreme Knight of the Knights of Columbus in his book “Civilization of Love” seems to hold a somewhat similar position, jh, in regard to NAFTA.

  • “Actually, Carl Anderson, the Supreme Knight of the Knights of Columbus in his book “Civilization of Love” seems to hold a somewhat similar position, jh, in regard to NAFTA.”

    What postion is that? Again just curious. I think NAFTA needs to be tweeked as I said but it get tiresome for me to deal with Catholics on the Far Right( the horrible NAFTA Highway conspiracy) and other conspiracy theories and those on the left with their protectionist theories.

    I am saying when we are dealing with something as complicated as the NAFTA agreement there is not one “Catholic” position.

    I very much like the above post but while it speaks of looking to the Catholic commom good it seems to imply that there is a common Catholic true response to the Federal Reserve to Iraq to Nafta.

    I think that cuts off discussion and sort of lets say undermines the true intent of his post.

  • Anderson supports NAFTA but thinks reforms are necessary. I read the book when it first came out. I would have to check.

    On the other matter, I think a distinction needs to be made. And I hope my clarifications are there. I think there is such a thing as a ‘true’ Catholic response — objectively speaking. I do not believe that all moral judgments to a given situation are equal, that would be relativism. While reasonable minds may disagree on matters of prudential judgment (and none of us are barred from receiving communion as with advocating direct intrinsic evils), the fact that we can disagree often leads in my mind to a sort of relativism where our positions on other matter are almost entirely left to our discretion. I’m not saying this is anyone’s conscious thinking, but discussion of it almost seems to suggest that.

    I think there is a ‘true’ Catholic position to the war in Iraq. I’m not prepared to say what it is. The Church does not declare definitively on it for a number of reasons, but the moral principles given to us should allow us to reach a conclusion. Who is right and who is wrong at the end of the day, we will know when we die. But this does not mean that good intentions and one’s reasons simply because one thinks them derived from church teaching and principle make them a Catholic position or a “Catholic response.” I think the true Catholic response is the one *most* in accord with objective moral norms and I cannot think that even with the diversity of Catholic positions we take, all of them are ‘true’ Catholic responses. They cannot be. Again, that would be relativism.

    Because of the lack of unbiased facts, presentation, and many factors prevent the Church from definitively saying what the Catholic position is on matters where the morality is not so obvious. As it so happens, our church leadership is just as ready to divide on what is and what is not the Catholic position on some matter. And even moreso, it is not a prudent idea pastorally to tell everyone what to think on every issue and not allow some intellectual freedom as well as attempt, in the form of trial and error, to develop in moral virtue.

    In that sense, no, there is no ‘true’ Catholic response dogmatically put forward for us to readily advocate. We have to come to the best judgment we can make that we deem best in accordance with church teaching and dialogue about it and present our case the best we can. For me, in many circumstances, it tends to be a Democratic position. It seems obvious to me in a lot of cases this best reflects the teachings of the Church. This is not the case with other Catholics. While open to being wrong (and I have adapted my opinion on a number of issues because of dialogue), I think my view is profoundly Catholic and the ‘obvious’ Catholic position until I see credible reason to think otherwise.

    I’m not accusing you of thinking a certain way. I’m just commenting in general that I think that the phrase “matters of prudential judgment” which refers to non-intrinsic evils leads to some sort of relativism among Catholics where since the Church has no “official” position, we can adapt almost any view as long as we can give it a Catholic spin — or at least this is my perception of it. Whereas, I think while there is no “official” position because it is humanly impossible to verify because of the question of the source of facts, dispute about circumstances, et al, thus all are left to prudentially come to a conclusion — which in my view means that we are all seeking the Catholic position, though, we cannot precisely say what it is — and whatever position any number of Catholic positions taken are “Catholic approaches” insofar as they are based on Church teaching, but I don’t think all views necessarily take everything into account at the proportionate level they are meant to be.

    It’s just one of the things that bother me when people talk about “non-negotiables” and matters of “prudential judgment.” I hope I articulated it well enough.

  • My own personal take on the application of general principle and worldview as presented by the more-or-less complete Catholic social doctrine- is that NAFTA-economics is flawed, not in that there is a trade agreement between nations, but that economics must involve true freedom which is not merely contractual, but moral, representative of true human freedom which is connected to the ends of Man (of all mankind)- which is the proper return to God. Economics is about more than mere cumulative desires/supply-demand- but how are all the people in the chain of economic transactions affected- be it the producers/workers, the sellers, the consumers. A good critique of this kind of critique is found in William Cavanaugh’s book – Being Consumed- and it is supported by what I have read over the years in official Catholic teachings- right up to the current encyclical.

    So- if NAFTA-economics can be generalized to say that it does not include provisions that look after the welfare of workers/farmers/small communities with the rights of subsidiarity, and the environmental health – then it is a flawed approach to trade and relations between nations. The fact that Mexico was quickly abandoned as a source of cheap human labor when China opened wide- to provide huge access to cheap and hardly “free” laborers- exposed the false myth promised by NAFTA- and we see how the Mexican people feel about NAFTA as they have voted with their feet in fleeing their country for America.

    As for the Supreme Court- I resoect Archbishop Chaput very much and haven’t read his take on how we should expect our Highest Court to involve natural law reasoning and common good outcomes into their daily work- but it seems to me from reading the social doctrine that there can be no mere positive law theory of interpretation that can replace the demands of justice inscribed in the natural laws given us by God and accessible to all, but there is a big help given us by the Church- I would recommend Prof. Rice’;s book on the Natural Law, as a good application of what the Church teaches. I would compare strict contructionist interpretation theory to a Fundamentalist reading of Scripture- not a perfect analogy of course given the uniqueness of Scripture and Catholic Magisterial guidance

  • I don’t think there can be, or ought to be, a defined “Catholic” position on EVERY single political or economic issue, for the simple reason that the Catholic Church, by definition, crosses economic and political boundaries — it’s universal; that’s what the name means! The kind of political or economic or military policies that “work” for one nation, or at one particular time in history, aren’t necessarily going to work in another nation, another culture, or at another time. So there has to be some flexibility.

    What the Catholic (Universal) Church does is set forth universal principles –protection of innocent human life, of the poor and vulnerable, of the family as the basic unit of society, and of human dignity (including religious freedom). How these basic principles are best applied at a given time and place and in a given situation is what lay people are called to figure out, and to do.

    Although the “non negotiable” issues with absolutely no room for compromise like abortion, euthanasia, and same-sex marriage get most of the attention, it seems to me that the vast majority of economic and political issues are matters of prudence about which faithful Catholics are free to disagree, and to change their minds — and this is as it should be.

No Strongman for Honduras

Monday, July 27, AD 2009

Tomorrow will mark one month since Honduran President Manuel Zelaya was roused from his bed by members of the military and escorted, in his pajamas, to a plane heading out of the country. Later that same day, June 28th, the Honduran congress elected Roberto Micheletti as interim president, with a term to expire on January 27th, 2010 — the date on which Zelaya’s term would otherwise have ended.

Since then, things have held in a state of tense limbo. No other country has recognized Micheletti as the legitimate president, and Zelaya is now camped out on the Honduras/Nicaragua boarder pushing for his return. Venezuelan strongman Hugo Chavez, a backer of Zelaya, has darkly threatened consequences if he thinks Venezuelans in Honduras might be threatened, but to date no outside power has attempted to force the Honduran military to stand down.

However, the situation is more complicated than a simple coup. This in depth article in the weekend’s WSJ on the lead up to Zelaya’s ouster is a pretty good primer on the subject. The military removed Zelaya in response to orders from the Honduran Supreme Court for the military to arrest Zelaya for disobeying the constitution. Zelaya was attempting to push through a ballot referendum to change the constitution — his primary object according to most Honduran authorities and observers being to remove the constitutional provision which limits each president to only one term in office. In this, he was following the example of other Latin American presidents who have sought to remove the constitutional provisions in their countries that were designed to keep one man from maintaining power indefinitely.

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13 Responses to No Strongman for Honduras

  • I thought this was a good post. I have a friend who was a missionary in Honduras when the coup happened who left out of fear of an invasion or other violence. This post mirrors much what of what she’s told me about the situation.

    She also has her own blog, if anyone’s interested:

  • “there is no denying that the precedent of the military stepping in and removing a sitting president, no matter how poorly behaved, is deeply troubling — especially in a region in which there is such a recent history of frequent military coups.”

    To what extent is this concern simply a habit of the Anglo-American approach to government and the military? In many Latin American countries, doesn’t the military have police powers we Americans would rigorously separate?

  • Nine years ago, a column of soldiers and civilian demonstrators ejected the President of Ecuador from office. The Clinton Administration remonstrated with the parties involved to allow the constitutionally-designated successor to take office. This was done after some hours and the matter was closed. That particular column of soldiers was not, as were their Honduran counterparts, enforcing a court order. IIRC, the deposed President of Ecuador, Jamil Mahaud, seemed relieved to be rid of the office (the country being in the midst of a wretched economic crisis). The disposition of the U.S. Government this time has been inexplicably stubborn in insisting that this dodgy fellow Zelaya remain in office. Roberto Micheletti is the constitutional successor, Zelaya has almost no partisans left in the national legislature, and general elections are due to be held on schedule in November. It sometimes seems as if when this Administration is given a choice of alternatives, in reliably chooses the worse one.

  • “there is no denying that the precedent of the military stepping in and removing a sitting president, no matter how poorly behaved, is deeply troubling — especially in a region in which there is such a recent history of frequent military coups.”

    There are nineteen Latin American republics. The last conventional military coup among them – featuring the replacement of the antecedent government with a military board or autocrat – occurred in Paraguay in 1989. The last which featured the replacement of a constitutional administration with a military government occurred in Bolivia in 1980. You have had various incidents falling short of that, where the president of the republic was ejected from office but the whole of the remaining nexus of constitutional office-holders remained in place. In a couple of cases, the military was the prime mover and in others, the president resigned and left the country in response to street demonstrations.

  • It may be my combination of American cultural prejudices and too much reading of Roman history (where although many of the better emperors were generals — the tendency of generals to vie for imperial power was in the long run destructive) but I would prefer to see the military not involved in removing a sitting president from power even if they then step aside to allow another constitutional leader to take power. It just seems like a destabilizing force.

    So in that sense, I’d marginally prefer to see a politically neutered Zelaya returned to power for a few months and then replaced.

    However, my overall sympathies are much more with Micheletti and the military. What must absolutely not happen is for the Obama administration to put the power behind Zelaya to allow him to come and band make himself a Chavez-style indefinite president.

    It sounds like part of the problem is that for some reason the Honduran constitution includes no provision for impeaching a sitting president, though it does allow for replacing him if he’s left the country. (Thus Zelaya’s expulsion rather than arrest and trail.)

    At first it seemed like the administration had taken precisely the wrong approach to thing, but apparently Clinton is now no longer calling Zelaya’s outer a coup (which Zelaya is objecting to loudly) and is only pushing for his return with sharply limited powers. With those conditions, I could see that being the best way to save the appearances, though I certainly wouldn’t mind seeing Micheletti serve out his term instead. To my mind, the essential thing is that elections take place as scheduled in November and Zelaya not be on the ballot.

  • I may be wrong, but one of the things that I’ve found interesting is that there doesn’t appear to be much popular support for a return to power of Zelaya (which one would expect if it were a stereotypical military coup). Besides supporting a ‘rule of law’ approach to the situation, by supporting Zelaya’s return Obama may undercut Chavez’s status as a regional powerbroker. I wonder how much that was a factor.

    DarwinCatholic: What is the meaning of your username?

  • DarwinCatholic: What is the meaning of your username?

    Well, sad to say, it’s not that I’m from Australia.

    My handle dates back to my own blog (still active, and co-written with my wife) which bears the subheading, “Because most philosophies that frown on reproduction don’t survive.” When we got going, I was writing a lot about the demographic tends of different political and philosophical viewpoints. As it happens, I also have a lot of interest in evolution and its relation with religion, so the theme sort of tied in there as well.

    Since I’ve been around as “DarwinCatholic” for about four years now, it seemed like a shame to lose the branding even though I went ahead and put my real name on the contributors page here, so I’ve kept the handle.

  • I came over from the Vox Nova link after I saw your comment on Exceptionalism. It embodied so well the frustrations that I’ve felt about people who have seem to confuse principled opposition of one sort with partisanship or unreasonable attention to ‘one issue amongst many.’ I thought it was a terrific comment!

    I’m interested in the relationship between evolution and philosophy (and ideologies of all sorts)- especially the theory that memetics is akin to genetics.

  • Thanks. I was a little disappointed none of the principals there responded to that, but so it goes.

    I’m never sure whether to think that memetics is terribly clever or terribly silly, but the idea of selective pressures acting on ideas is certainly interesting. There do certainly seem to be selective pressures on ideas, which include how well they fit observable reality, whether they provide the user with a certain sense of satisfaction, and whether they encourage behavior likely to result in their perpetuation. (e.g. The Shakers’ beliefs about celibacy were a major obstacle to their continuance as a sect.)

    I’m wary of the whole thing, because it seems like memetics is partly a way of treating ideas as if their appeal is more important than their truth, but it does seem like a useful way of addressing why certain ideas are persistance regardless of their truth.

  • “I’m wary of the whole thing, because it seems like memetics is partly a way of treating ideas as if their appeal is more important than their truth” – Well, I think that it is not so much that it says that such things are more important (which is a value claim) as it is a theory to explain why some ideas succeed and others don’t (which is a non-normative account of patterns of behavior). After all, societies do seem to adopt ideas in ways that do not merely take into account the verity of the ideas. (Otherwise crackpot ideas would never become popular and good ideas would never be assigned to the historical dustbin.)

  • True. And in that aspect I think it’s an interesting approach to ideas, and has the capacity to tell us a bit about ourselves in that what ideas appeal to us tells us about ourselves.

    I guess it’s not the field itself that I’m concerned with so much as some of the people who seem to be interested in it.

    But then, that can be said of many fields, many of which I find interesting.

  • I guess it’s not the field itself that I’m concerned with so much as some of the people who seem to be interested in it.

    Do you have an opinion of Rene Girard? Isn’t he the father of mimetic theory?

  • Both views have their origin in the word ‘mimema’ (something imitated), but one is memetics and the other is mimetics. I’m not very familiar with the modern continental philosophers, but I think that his idea deals with how imitating other people is a feature of human psychology. (?)

    Memetics is a term that the biologist Richard Dawkins came up with. The original idea seems to have been that from an evolutionary perspective, the success of an organism is actually a matter of gene transmission (and not the fate of the organism itself)- but that beyond that, it wasn’t the genes in the sense of particular genetic material, but the genetic coding. In other words, it was the information encoded in the genes. The theory is that just as a gene can be understood as a self-replicating unit of biological information a ‘meme’ (it rhymes with ‘theme’) is a self-replicating unit of information that is cultural rather than biological.

    Memes can be technological innovations, or stories, or ideologies, or any information that can be transmitted and reproduced from person to person. The interesting part is that you can look at the way that memes are transmitted or mutate and draw analogies to the way that genes work- and theorize about what has or will happen to ideas in a culture.

Father Cyclone and the Fighting 69th

Monday, July 27, AD 2009

Father Larry Lynch


Larry Lynch was born, the first of 12 kids in his family, in the City Line neighborhood of Brooklyn on October 17, 1906.  He grew up on some pretty tough streets while also serving as an altar boy at Saint Sylvester’s.   He came to greatly admire the Redemptorists, an order of missionary priests founded by Saint Alphonsus Liguori in 1732.  In America the order had distinguished itself by its work in some of the roughest slums in the country and thus it was small wonder that a tough street kid would be attracted to them.  Larry Lynch was ordained a priest in the Redemptorist Order in 1932.

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6 Responses to Father Cyclone and the Fighting 69th

  • I think if Father Lynch had survived, considering his great faith and love, he would have likely seen the terrible inhumanity of modern war and come to speak out against it. How could he not, having seen those he loved so dearly destroyed by not only metal and fire, but spiritually impoverished due to killing so many innocent civilians? He would likely have followed in the footsteps of George Zebelka, the Chaplain who ministered to those who dropped the atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki:

  • What do you think we should have done after Pearl Harbor, Nate? Should all of the Pacific have been left to Japanese imperialism? You must know how the Japanese treated the people of the Phillipines, China and Korea. Many thousands of women were forced into sexual slavery.

    Contrary to what Michael I. might think, I do not love war. I am at loss to imagine what else we could have done under those circumstances.

  • Nate, I think it is the height of folly to say what Father Lynch would or would not have done beyond the years that the Lord alloted to him, since that is based upon nothing but speculation. All we can do is to celebrate what he did with his life, and that is what I have done.

  • Another inspirational story of a truly inspirational, and manly man of God.
    Thanks Don.

  • Thank you Don. Priests like Larry Lynch light the way in dark world for all of us.

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7 Responses to "Jesus, Jesus, Jesus, receive my soul!"

  • Inspiring article. Thanks!

  • Today’s brand of Catholics wouldn’t give a pittance about the brave souls who died a gruesome death at Tyburn; indeed, they would look at these loyal Catholics as nothing more than needlessly adamant stiffs who cared nothing for the noble glory of “ecumenism”, where conversion to Catholicism isn’t the way to a united Christendom but, instead, look to the compromising of Catholicism proper as the very means to achieve just that.

    Unlike the stalwart Catholics of those days in England who went so far as even sacrificing their very lives for the True Faith, the Catholics of today seek to destroy the very Faith for which they and Our Lord Himself died for.

    Truly, a pity; but, then again, a compromised Faith to today’s breed of Catholics is the Catholic faith regardless; at least, according to these seemingly noble ecumenical patriots!

    Talk about Salt going Flat!

  • No e., you overstate the case. There are plenty of Catholics today who would regard Blessed Ward as a hero as well as a Saint.

  • Donald,

    The point being, as had been the case historically, that conversions are more often the way to ensuring not only a more genuine preservation of that which is handed down (i.e., both Scripture & Tradition); but that which is more conducive towards rebuilding that Christendom which had been unfortunately lost centuries ago.

    There are those of certain Catholic stripe who seem to think that unity at all costs, even to the extent of compromising the Catholic Faith itself, is the way to go; however, they neglect the fact that by far it is conversion of the protestant that is (and has been) the better way to go — and, indeed, has produced some of the more distinguished Catholics even in our times.

    I would think historical precedence counted for at least something even in this day and age where rampant revisionism has been an unfortunate condition of today’s society.

    Yet, “ecumenism” of the vile sort has become the rallying cry of today’s generation of Catholics to the very detriment of the Catholic Faith.

  • A look back at Church history e. will always show more that a few Catholics who do not recognize the precious gift that they have been granted. Fortunately there are other Catholics like Blessed Ward who recoginze that the Faith is the most important thing that they possess. I think if push ever comes to shove you might be pleasantly surprised to see how many Catholics would be willing to defend the Faith with the same intensity Blessed Ward did. I agree with you that one convert like Blessed Ward is worth more than most of what has passed for ecumenism since Vatican II.

  • Donald,

    Which is perhaps amongst the very reasons why I admire a great many of your posts since you often offer us such reminders of how precious the Faith actually is and, most especially, our past; as this one is amongst those particularly inspiring and just as poignant as some of your previous!

  • Thank you e. When we think of the Catholic Church, the part on Earth today is only a small part of a Church stretching from the Crucifixion to Eternity. It is easy to lose sight of that fact.

8 Responses to Hey There, Obama!

  • Great way to make use of the worst song of the last decade!

  • Thank you Ledygrey for bringing this superb video to my attention!

  • I’m sure you folks will be happy to hear that “Hey There Obama” was the first YouTube project of a Catholic homeschool family in Michigan. Dad (John) wrote the song, gathered the photos, and played the older federal agent; our oldest boy John-Henry (16) filmed the video, did all the editing, and played the younger agent; Mary-Grace (9) had a cameo; and our local DRE played the lead role. Another local Catholic teen, Matt, did our audio recording and editing. Humor is a great weapon in the culture wars, and we’re grateful to all those fellow believers who are helping us to battle the Cult of Obama.

  • You and your family are to be congratulated John! The video is fantastic, and I am unsurprised that a Catholic homeschooling family was behind it. Humor can often reveal truth and I think that is just what your video did. Very well done!

  • Mr. Keenan –

    Again, it is indeed a commendable effort you and your family have made. Thank you! It certainly made my day upon viewing (and re-viewing) and I’ve since shared it with my family and friends. Also, as you know, I’ve placed it on my blog as well (thank you for stopping by and leaving your kind words). Hopefully, we’ll see your admirable project with view-count which rivals other videos which are the medias’ darlings.

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Saturday, July 25, AD 2009

Something for the weekend, Waterloo by ABBA.  I played this last night while perusing the President’s declining poll numbers and this story.  I will not even attempt to defend my liking for ABBA.   I realize their music is the worst type of disco treacle but I still like it.  Feel free to mock away in the comboxes.  I will make no attempt to defend the musically indefensible.  I may inflict more ABBA on the readers of this blog, but I will do so at decent intervals.

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19 Responses to Waterloo

Obamacare: If Congress Passes It, Let Them Live Under It

Friday, July 24, AD 2009

Hattip to Robert Stacy McCain at The Other McCain.  Rep. John Fleming (R. LA.) is the sponsor of House Resolution 615 which states that in the event National Health Care passes, all members of Congress who vote for it are urged to receive their health insurance under it.  This sounds like a very good idea to me.  If it is good enough for voters it should be good enough for CongressCritters.  Of course urging isn’t enough.  They should be required to be subject to Obamacare if it passes.  Here is the text of the resolution.

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9 Responses to Obamacare: If Congress Passes It, Let Them Live Under It

  • I agree. why not? I suspect most people pushing this line really don’t understand the reforms.

  • Actually Tony I believe the opposite is true, and that those who truly understand this bill would be the last who would wish to have their own health care depend upon it, but I congratulate your willingness to have Congress live under what they create for others.

  • One of the things that I find striking is that the stealth inclusion of FOCA in some of the House drafts has received so little attention.

    I received an urgent Knights of Columbus e-mail alert about it and confirmed with my Congressman’s office that the inclusion is true but none of the media outlets, including Fox, are carrying anything about it. Even the Catholic websites and blogs have been largely silent.

    I suspect that, if FOCA had made it out of a committe on its own, we would have been up in arms… you know, as Catholics and all. Shoving into the text of an healthcare draft though warrants not even a remark.

    What gives?

  • I agree. why not? I suspect most people pushing this line really don’t understand the reforms.

    Bill’s only 1,000 pages long. What’s not to understand?

  • Is it even a bill yet?

    As best I can tell, there are at least 5 much smaller proposals that have yet to be incorporated into a single bill. I don’t know what the Speaker is expecting to vote on by Friday, but it doesn’t sound like they have gotten beyond the committee markup stage.

  • Nice idea, but the amendment has no chance of passage. Sort of like how congress will write workplace rules and then exempt themselves. Best analogy to this I can think of is food. Consider congress a pushy chef who is insisting you pay for and eat his new concoction but when you ask him how it tasted when he tried it the chef says “Are you nuts? I wouldn’t eat this crap and definitely won’t pay for it.”

  • Why stop at Congress – shouldn’t the President who signs it also be subjected to it? I would love to see in one of these O press conferences someone challenge the President to give his oath that if O’care passes, and he signs it, he will take the public option.

  • Sort of a “poison pill” provision, eh?

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Understanding the Police

Friday, July 24, AD 2009

The nation (or at least, that portion of it which follows the news cycle) suddenly found itself in one of these “national conversations” about policing this week, after President Obama accused the Cambridge, Mass. police of having “acted stupidly” in arresting his friend and supporter Prof. Henry Louis Gates Jr. outside his own home for “disorderly conduct”. The police report, minus some privacy data such as addresses, can be viewed here. The short version, is as follows: Prof. Gates returned from a trip to China and found himself having trouble getting into his house, so he and his cab driver forced the door open. A passerby saw this, feared a burglary was taking place, and called the police. Officer James Crowley of CPD arrived on the scene shortly thereafter, saw Prof. Gates in the house as he approached it, and though he looked to be a resident, but knocked, explained the situation, and asked for ID to be sure.

Here the two versions of the story diverge. According to Prof. Gates, Officer Crowley repeatedly refused to identify himself, lured him out onto the porch, and then arrested him. (You can read the Professor’s version in an extended interview here.) According to Officer Crowley, Prof. Gates did provide identification, Crowley was satisfied that he was the homeowner, but Gates had immediately taken an angry tone (repeatedly accusing Crowley of treating him this way because he was black) and that Gates followed him outside, accusing him of racial bias and generally shouting at him, until after a warning Officer Crowley arrested him for disorderly conduct.

Now, I think it’s pretty appalling to be arrested at your own house for yelling at someone, even a police officer. At the same time, the police report rings a lot truer to me that Prof. Gates’. And while even given that account, I don’t like the idea of arresting someone in front of his own house for being loud and rude towards the police, it strikes me that Prof. Gates violated a lot of the very basic rules that everyone knows about interacting with police. Perhaps I can best explain with an example:

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29 Responses to Understanding the Police

  • I have 2 reactions to this:

    (1) I believe you are being far too deferential to what has become a great abuse of authority by law enforcement agents — they will arrest you for simply not showing them the respect they think they deserve. It might have been imprudent for Gates to yell at the cop (though as a black man in the this country, I sympathize with him), but there is no law against being rude to a cop. We are all trained to be as polite as possible around cops, as even looking at them the wrong way might risk an adverse reaction. This is a daily abuse of power that attracts minimal attention. It’s even worse when they use weapons of violence such as “tasers”. As Josh Marshall put it, this particular cop should not have gotten into a “macho pissing match which ends up getting decided in the favor of the cop because he has the handcuffs and the gun”.

    (2) Your interaction with this particular cop arises from the lack of gun control in this country. Law enforcement agents could be faced by people with guns any time. The best solution is a complete handgun ban, and let is look forward to the day when we can have an unarmed police force, as is the case elsewhere.

  • The best solution is a complete handgun ban, and let is look forward to the day when we can have an unarmed police force, as is the case elsewhere.

    What color is the sky in your world?

  • The same color as the sky of the USCCB, when they called for a handgun ban.

  • Ah yes, the USCCB, always to be relied on in a pinch as the authoritative and final voice in any conflict.

    Unless of course you disagree with them coughNotreDamecough.

  • Heather MacDonald, who has done a lot of crime stat and police research for the Manhattan Institute, is worth reading here:

    Obama and Patrick are, I think, being pretty irresponsible here, especially given the police report and the strong support given by officers of varied backgrounds in the CPD.

  • (1) I believe you are being far too deferential to what has become a great abuse of authority by law enforcement agents — they will arrest you for simply not showing them the respect they think they deserve.

    Seriously, you should try reading Barker’s book — especially as someone who lives in the DC area and thus deals with another big city police department. You’re talking in stereotypes so incredibly broad that you’d mock them viciously if applied to any topic you knew anything about.

    (though as a black man in the this country, I sympathize with him)

    Interesting. I never knew you were black.

    (2) Your interaction with this particular cop arises from the lack of gun control in this country. Law enforcement agents could be faced by people with guns any time. The best solution is a complete handgun ban, and let is look forward to the day when we can have an unarmed police force, as is the case elsewhere.

    Given that the rising number of gun crimes in the UK has caused them to seriously consider arming their police now, years after enacting a total handgun ban, I’m not sure how this adds up. Also, your point about police elsewhere being unarmed doesn’t really fit with my experience of routinely seeing police carrying submachine guns in France and Italy.

  • Something tells me that cops will always be wary of whether the people they are approaching are armed.

    Anyway, my fiance got pulled over today for going 72 although she was in a 1994 Nissan Pathfinder that shudders at about 65. She was polite and nothing terrible happened (other than the ticket, but as the cop forgot to check her insurance, it was clear he was in a hurry to meet a quota). Still a BS ticket (it will be fixed), but I think cops do enough for so little payment that being polite is a reasonable thing. They’re paid too little to do too much, and they are human beings, after all.

  • The USCCB has a position on Notre Dame? I must have missed that. But while you are busy fighting symbolic battles, I care about the real world, and how policy decisions affect real people. And yes, the the “right” to own a firearm is *not* an unqualified right, and I belive it to be gravely immoral to support such an unqualified right in at atmosphere of such off-the-charts gun deaths.

    Darwin– I’m familiar with the UK debate. But let’s have some perspective– look at the gun deaths per capita here and there. Gun homicides per 100,000: 3.7, England/ Wales: 0.11. In Europe, you will often have an unarmed police force, with special divisions allowed to carry weapons (such as those dedicated to fighting organozed crime). That may be remote in the United States, but can….hope.

  • I would hazard a guess that poverty levels are a much greater influence on crime than access to guns.

    Anyhow, on the Gates affair–from everything I’ve read, it sounds like both parties behaved pretty badly, escalating it to a level where the cop took Gates into custody seemingly to avoid losing face.

  • I might suggest that constricted time horizons and the effect of same on self-control and personal discipline have an influence over poverty levels and crime rates in tandem.

  • But while you are busy fighting symbolic battles, I care about the real world, and how policy decisions affect real people. And yes, the the “right” to own a firearm is *not* an unqualified right, and I belive it to be gravely immoral to support such an unqualified right in at atmosphere of such off-the-charts gun deaths.

    Given that you have repeatedly argued that it’s appropriate for Catholics to essentially ignore the abortion legality issue in regards to politics because the issue is “dead” when only one party supports outlawing abortion, I’m not sure how arguing for a handgun ban is “real world” when neither party even remotely supports that.

    Even if one supported a total US handgun ban (which arguably would not achieve your stated objectives anyway), it is obviously a total political impossibility at this point. Why bring it up? (Note that the USCCB has not recently.)

    Besides, this is a total red herring to the topic of this post, which has to do with the appropriate interaction with police officers. In regards to which, I advise you to educate yourself if your above comments are representative of your knowledge level.

  • I advise you to educate yourself if your above comments are representative of your knowledge level.

    Seconded. How about a ridealong, MM?

  • Indeed, save the Second Amendment issues for another date; this Gates debacle has nothing to do with them and, as DC astutely observed, nothing more than a red-herring/baiting tactic.

    An irrefutable point remains that Obama acted irresponsibly and ignorantly by offering his opinion (even though he was “asked” by a pre-screened reporter), particularly in light of his own admission/preface that he did not have all the facts before him. He recklessly escalated a local, municipal issue into that of a national “race” issue.

    But, Obama has his own agenda and as has been discussed elsewhere at length, Obama’s relationship with Gates, Gates’ attorney Ogletree and Obama’s issues with (if not contempt of) the Cambridge Police Department are long-standing.

  • Gates received precisely the same treatmant a white man would have received who lipped off to the police. I have many clients who can sorrowfully attest to that fact. As I never weary of telling my clients who run afoul of the police, you treat them with courtesy, ask to see your attorney, and leave it to me to battle with them in court. This is not rocket science. Some cops are bullies, most are just normal people trying to make it through the day. Treat cops with courtesy and a situation almost always improves. Shoot your mouth off at them, and you end up paying expensive fees to someone like me to straighten out a completely avoidable situation.

    Personally if I had been Gates I would have been pretty ticked off too. However, I would have been smart enough to have treated the cop with courtesy, resolved the initial situation quickly, and then have a discussion with the States’ Attorney, the Police Chief, and the head of the police review board the next day. Of course I would also have had a word or two with local media outlets. Life goes so much smoother if you engage the brain first instead of the tongue.

  • I think it is absolutely ridiculous that a person can be arrested for “talking back” to a cop.

    In this age of video cameras we’ve seen instances where cops, not knowing they are being watched, at like fascist thugs. I saw one case where a cop taunted a man, saying, “I can say whatever I want and they’ll believe me instead of you.”

    It is because of the rash actions of police that some violent criminals get off on ‘technicalities’, while people who did nothing more than utter a remark some cop found annoying end up being harassed with court dates, fines, etc. Abuse of power is something that always needs to be taken seriously.

    That said, I couldn’t disagree more about a ‘handgun ban’. With due respect to the USCCB, I want to hear the moral reasoning as to why I, a responsible, law-abiding citizen, should not be allowed to purchase a handgun for home and self-defense. An approach that only looks at raw statistics misses the fact that it is precisely those people inclined to break laws already that are going to use guns for evil.

    I think it is possible that their reasoning is flawed.

  • Given that you have repeatedly argued that it’s appropriate for Catholics to essentially ignore the abortion legality issue in regards to politics because the issue is “dead” when only one party supports outlawing abortion…

    I never said that. I said that I believe it is deeply wrong to support the party in question, and that its tactics will set back the pro-life cause. That is my own judgment only.

  • “I think it is absolutely ridiculous that a person can be arrested for “talking back” to a cop.”

    Most states have fairly broad “disorderly conduct” statutes Joe. Here is a link to the Illinois statute:

    Now I can usually win these cases for clients as most jurors and judges tend to sympathize with the Defendant as long as only words were exchanged. However the client is still out my fee plus time off from work. I think that is a high price for venting spleen, but if people wish to do so I am always happy to represent them. After going through the legal system most agree with me that courtesy is normally a cheaper way to go.

  • In this age of video cameras we’ve seen instances where cops, not knowing they are being watched, at like fascist thugs.

    On the contrary, Joe, I think that the vast majority of those police cameras show that the police act with incredible restraint in the face of fairly regular hostile encounters. For every Rodney King incident there are hundreds of non-incidents. They don’t make the news, however.

  • My perspective on law enforcement tends to be favorable — most likely, because I am a white, middle class female whose only run-ins with the law have been a few speeding tickets, and who as a newspaper reporter for 2 years on a small-town police and court beat, had to treat them with courtesy and professionalism. I did not happen to encounter any blatant instances of police brutality or corruption on my beat, but if I had stuck with it longer, or covered a bigger city, I probably would have eventually.

    I agree with j. christian that for every instance in which a cop acts like a thug there are probably at least 50 other times when they don’t. Bad cops (like bad teachers, bad priests, etc.) always get more attention than good ones.

    As for gun control, I’ve never owned a gun, and only fired a gun once in my entire life (skeet shooting on a camping trip). But — I firmly believe that since people have a natural right to defend themselves, any adult should have the right to own a gun UNLESS a good reason exists to deny them that right (criminal record, mental instability, failing to be properly trained in the use of firearms, etc.) If someone uses a gun to commit a crime, punish them with an additional fine or prison sentence for the misuse of the gun, just as we punish motorists who drive drunk or reckelessly.

  • I have a few relatives who are cops. The thing to remember is when the police enter a home, they have no idea what to expect. It might be nothing or there might be one or more armed criminals in the shadows. How do they know? When you are dealing with a cop who is already on edge, the wise thing is to defuse the tension, not pour fuel on it.

    I can understand why it happens, but there are blacks who are too quick to assume that somebody of a different race who is being a jerk to them is doing so because they are black. I worked with a black woman once who was sure that the Greek sandwich shop owner in our building hated her because she was black. But he was rude to me, rude to just about everyone who came in the place. He was like the Seinfeld soup Nazi; he was nasty to everyone, and unlike the soup Nazi, it’s not like his food was so great that you were willing to tolerate abuse. The place eventually closed and let us hope he is making a living in some business that does not involve customer service. There are racists, and then there are just people with king-sized chips on their shoulders.

  • I think it is absolutely ridiculous that a person can be arrested for “talking back” to a cop.

    Well, obviously, as a person qua person, there’s no reason why talking back to a cop should result in being arrested, any more than it would be fair for me to be arrested for talking back to you.

    I think the key thing here, however, is that when an officer is attempting to do his job (investigating a potential crime) if people just talk back and yell at him and accuse him of being a racist and generally are disruptive, it prevents the cop from being able to do his job.

    When you’re the one being stopped by the police, and you know there’s nothing all that bad you were doing, it’s natural to be indignant. I’m sure the last thing that Prof. Gates wanted to deal with the day he got back form China was some police officer showing up on his doorstep wanting to know if he was supposed to be in the house. The thing to understand is, not only does the officer have no idea if you’re really innocent or not, but he very frequently deals with people who are not innocent and try to bluster or fight their way out of the situation.

    That’s why many states or cities have “contempt of cop” laws — so that people understand they need to cooperate or else face consequences. (Though often, the consequences are just hanging out in the cooler for a couple hours and then being released without charges.)

    Anyway, I know I must sound like a broken record on this, but I do strongly recommend Barker’s book, which you might be able to find at a decent library. It’s certainly not a “cops are always right” book but it both helps you understand what cops deal with and where they’re coming from — which often makes things more sympathetic, and in other cases at least helps one understand what the life of being a big city police officer tends to do to people. To understand all is not necessarily to forgive all, but it is useful nonetheless.

  • Police officers are trained to respond professionally to provocation. When an officer fails to do so, it is a serious problem.

    My guess is that the behavior in question was far more than merely “being rude.” (I make that assertion based upon the reputation of the officer involved.)

    In most of the arrests that I have seen “go wrong,” it is the failure to follow lawful orders that pushes officers up the “ladder of force.” It isn’t that the SUBJECT is merely rude but that an officer orders them to “show me your hands” or “stop where you are” and the SUBJECT continues to approach and refuses to comply. Officers then become all too aware of their vulnerability, particularly in enclosed spaces.

    There are a number of simulators that officers receive regular training on that provide reasonably close simulation of such incidents. It is disturbing to die in these simulations but virtually everyone does since correctly gauging the conditions is incredibly difficult. The inclination is either to be too aggressive or too reserved. Either one can get someone killed.

    As to the firearms issue… Whether or not handguns were illegal would not have changed THIS situation, as best I can tell. Officers will continue to assume the worst since doing otherwise will get you or your partner killed.

  • Interesting that no one here has law enforcement experience. Lots of first stones cast, though.

    I wonder how many people could do the job for one day, let alone a full career.

    Meanwhile, be sure to take such domestic tranquility as we have for granted.

  • I wonder if we are not overlooking one aspect: that of the tendency overpaid Harvard professors [whatever their color] to be rude and overbearing.

    I would be curious to know what would have been Prof. Gates’ reaction if, while he was in China, his house had been burglarized.

  • I am a family man and huge advocate of Law and Order- see my post “Take Back America Street by Street” from April 21 here at American Catholic.

    We need a really strong police presence, and we need really effective means of watchdogging police powers- to make sure abuses do not become systemic institutionally or along racial lines- for example. Targeting the bad neighborhoods to help break the cycles of crime and criminals, and fostering solid team values among police by bringing together mixed-race squads, with family wages to protect against corruption and add to the community prestige and role-modeling potential.

    With this must be very transparent policing departmental policies, and citizen board advisory and oversight committees- to make necessary reforms and weed out bad apples.

    How much of this is going on with the Cambridge police situation? If charges of racial abuse are being made, police should be trained to call for back-up quickly and to have minority officiers also prepped for responding to put more diverse perspectives at the scene asap.

    In an unfallen world, we wouldn’t need to do all of this, and after getting America under a better code of conduct, and breaking down many of the root causes of criminal behavior, we can begin then to cut back on the policing presence- but right now is the time to push forward not pull back to armed fortresses while the streets go more and more into the hands of the criminally-inclined.

    On the Gates particular situation- Obama was wrong to weigh in with only a partial set of facts- and if Gates was getting out-of-hand verbally, but not violently- that would have been the time to call for a racially-mixed back-up team to get that diversity check to ensure that there wasn’t something racial in the mix that was adding fuel to the fire rather like the firemen in Fahrenheit “451”? who start fires rather than put them out. I don’t have all the facts so I won’t go out on a limb and say one or the other parties was at primary fault.

  • Elaine,
    Though being a white female may help, it’s no guarantee (trust me) that you’ll never find yourself face-to-gun barrel with an officer (even when you’re not breaking any laws!) Prudence dictates not elevating the threatcon level.

    There’s been a lot of weighing in here on the appropriate way for police to deal with an unruly individual who has otherwise not broken the law. It was my impression that shouting and behaving in a threatening manner toward another person constitutes assault and is therefore grounds enough for arrest. I’d be interested to get the perspective of some of the legal eagles who write for or read this blog on that.

  • I am not a legal eagle, but I can tell you that there are provisions of the Penal Law of New York which define the crime of ‘Menacing’ and the crime of ‘Harrassment’. These are class b misdemeanors and more serious than ‘disorderly conduct’. I am not sure either would apply given the precise facts of the case. If Dr. Gates had brandished a truncheon as a weapon the former might apply and if he had followed the officer down the block shouting obscenities at him the latter might.

  • Tim: One of the officers on the scene at the Gates house was black. He backs Crowley’s account. And Crowley has taught courses on racial profiling. He has been praised by the other officers in his Department for being an excellent cop.

    That’s why the attempt to make this into an example of racist injustice has backfired. If Crowley had a record of harassing minorities in the past or was rumored to be a less than honest cop, I’d have a different take on it.

    Remember, Cambridge is not only wealthy but one of the most liberal of communities in a very blue state. I am finding attempts to equate this to Alabama in 1958 rather risible.

    Gabriel Austin: You make a good point. This is probably as much about class as it is about race. Haaavard professors of any color undoubtably get quite a bit of deference in Cambridge, which is probably why Gates thought showing the cop a Harvard ID (with no address on it) would be sufficient. When the cop was unimpressed, Gates played the race card.

  • What I find most irritating about this is Obama’s remarks. I recall that Nixon also put his foot into it when he publicly opined that Charles Manson was guilty – while the trial was still going on. The press, rightly, criticized him for that. I’ve not seen much press criticism of Obama – but then he is “The Won”.