Monthly Archives: April 2010

The Tea Party and Social Conservatives

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Hattip to my friend Paul Zummo, the Cranky Conservative.  When asked what type of conservative I am, I have usually responded “just conservative”.  Like most conservatives I know, I am conservative on social issues, fiscal policies and foreign policy.  When one part of conservatism is ignored in a political race, electoral disaster often looms.  That is why I embrace completely what my fellow Illinoisan, Paul Mitchell said in a recent speech:

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Looking into the Cloudy Ball

Tax day is a day when all Americans are reminded about the importance of politics and think about the importance of the political future so they can adjust their budgets accordingly. Most of the time in politics we have a reasonably good idea of what’s going on: what the issues are going to be, who the favorites in the next election are, who are the main blocs, etc. Of course, there are always surprises and upsets.

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Happy Tax Day!

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It takes me approximately eight hours each year to prepare my federal and state income tax returns.  This does not take into consideration the quarterly estimated payments I make which probably take 20 minutes each.  After a long and frustrating day preparing a fairly complicated tax return, I, Union loving Don McClarey, often end the day as I am writing the check to the Federal government by playing the song below: →']);" class="more-link">Continue reading

Tax Man Max

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From School House Rock.  A celebration of taxes on Tax Day!  Don’t you feel better?  Actually, neither do I.

The Marquis de Bonchamps (1760 – 1793)

383px-Bonchamps

Throughout its history, France has produced some of the finest warriors for the Christian faith and the Catholic Church. I think of Charles Martel, who defeated the Muslim invaders at Tours in 732. I think of St. Louis, or Louis IX, the only French monarch made a saint for his role in the “Crusades”, his promotion of the Church, and his intense personal piety.  I think of Saint Jeanne D’Arc, the Maid of Orleans, who was inspired and instructed by God to resist the brutal English occupation of France during the Hundred Years War; a war that the Church repeatedly and unsuccessfully tried to bring to an end for all of the devastation it wrought.

During her darkest hour, Catholic France produced one last great hero: Charles Melchior Artus, the Marquis de Bonchamps.

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I'm So Tired of Hearing Jesus' Name in Vain (Tiger Woods Should Apologize Again)

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Be warned- the video above re-plays Tiger Woods unleashing his fury over his golf game with abusive, offensive language.

I’m not interested in getting into the whole sordid Tiger Woods’ womanizing issue- I am, however, ready to start challenging the whole phenomena of using the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, as some kind of throw-away profanity. It doesn’t really matter what the religious make-up of the blasphemer is, but it seems to me that when a Buddhist like Tiger Woods decides it is fair-game to throw out the use of Jesus’ name in a derogatory way on National TV- well this should be a teachable moment.

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ObamaCare Bounce? What ObamaCare Bounce?

Perhaps a sign of public discontent with the passage of ObamaCare, the Republicans now lead by four points, 48-44, on the Gallup Generic Congressional ballot among registered  voters.  It is rare for Republicans to take the lead in this poll as Gallup notes:

The trend based on registered voters shows how rare it is for the Republicans to lead on this “generic ballot” measure among all registered voters, as they do today. Other recent exceptions were recorded in 1994 — when Republicans wrested majority control from the Democrats for the first time in 40 years — and 2002, when the GOP achieved seat gains, a rarity for the president’s party in midterm elections.

On the other hand, the Democrats are not performing in the poll as they have in years when they have won Congress:

In midterm years when Democrats prevailed at the polls (such as 2006, 1990, and 1986), their net support among registered voters typically extended into double digits at several points during the year — something that has yet to happen in 2010.

Gallup notes the enthusiasm gap that currently exists between the parties:

Gallup will not begin identifying likely voters for the 2010 midterms until later in the year. However, at this early stage, Republicans show much greater enthusiasm than Democrats about voting in the elections.

In other poll news, the Republicans retain a nine point lead, 45-36, over the Democrats on the Rasmussen Generic Congressional ballot of likely votersRasmussen also reports that in his latest poll on repeal of ObamaCare, 58% of voters support repeal.  Nate Silver at 538, a site which leans left politically, states the following in regard to current generic ballots:

Their bad news is that the House popular vote (a tabulation of the actual votes all around the country) and the generic ballot (an abstraction in the form of a poll) are not the same thing — and the difference usually tends to work to Democrats’ detriment. Although analysts debate the precise magnitude of the difference, on average the generic ballot has overestimated the Democrats’ performance in the popular vote by 3.4 points since 1992. If the pattern holds, that means that a 2.3-point deficit in generic ballot polls would translate to a 5.7 point deficit in the popular vote — which works out to a loss of 51 seats, according to our regression model.

These sorts of questions have been the subject of many, many academic studies, almost all of which involve far more rigor than what I’ve applied here. This is just meant to establish a benchmark. But that benchmark is a really bad one for Democrats. One reasonably well-informed translation of the generic ballot polls is that the Democrats would lose 51 House seats if the election were held today. ']);" class="more-link">Continue reading

The Birth of Freedom

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A trailer for a documentary from the Acton Institute.  This documentary examines the role of Judaism and Christianity in creating the conditions which led to the concept of human freedom cherished in the West.  A number of short clips from the video are available on-line and I will be using them in posts in the days to come.  In regard to the trailer I would state the following propositions for discussion:  (1)  The clash between Church and State that characterized Western Europe in the Middle Ages was a fundamental pre-condition for the concept of limited government as it developed in the West; (2) the insistence of the Church that all men and women were equal in the eyes of God established the basis for the concept of human rights; and (3) that as a Western society becomes divorced from its religious roots the very concept of freedom as it has been understood in the West becomes difficult to maintain from a philosophical standpoint.

Safe Eating!

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From the only reliable source of news on the net, the Onion.  I can think of many things depressing in this world but eating alone is not one of them.  Of course, between the sound of kids eating, a dog seeking handouts, telephone calls and my wife bringing me up to date on household and school events, the eating portion of a meal often seems to be of secondary consideration around my house!

Maybe They Should Have Read the Bill?

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Hattip to Allahpundit at Hot Air.  Sometimes life is so much funnier than any comedy ever written.  Apparently the wise Congress Critters who passed ObamaCare may have taken away their own health insurance.  According to the New York Times:

The law apparently bars members of Congress from the federal employees health program, on the assumption that lawmakers should join many of their constituents in getting coverage through new state-based markets known as insurance exchanges.

 

But the research service found that this provision was written in an imprecise, confusing way, so it is not clear when it takes effect.

 

The new exchanges do not have to be in operation until 2014. But because of a possible “drafting error,” the report says, Congress did not specify an effective date for the section excluding lawmakers from the existing program.

 

Under well-established canons of statutory interpretation, the report said, “a law takes effect on the date of its enactment” unless Congress clearly specifies otherwise. And Congress did not specify any other effective date for this part of the health care law. The law was enacted when President Obama signed it three weeks ago.

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Is John Paul II still great?

I’ve been asking myself that question as I’ve read the discussions about the sex abuse scandal and asked it again while I read Ross Douthat’s editorial at the NYT this morning. The most pertinent part is this:

But there’s another story to be told about John Paul II and his besieged successor. The last pope was a great man, but he was also a weak administrator, a poor delegator, and sometimes a dreadful judge of character.

The church’s dilatory response to the sex abuse scandals was a testament to these weaknesses. So was John Paul’s friendship with the Rev. Marcial Maciel Degollado, the founder of the Legionaries of Christ. The last pope loved him and defended him. But we know now that Father Maciel was a sexually voracious sociopath. And thanks to a recent exposé by The National Catholic Reporter’s Jason Berry, we know the secret of Maciel’s Vatican success: He was an extraordinary fund-raiser, and those funds often flowed to members of John Paul’s inner circle.

Only one churchman comes out of Berry’s story looking good: Joseph Ratzinger. Berry recounts how Ratzinger lectured to a group of Legionary priests, and was subsequently handed an envelope of money “for his charitable use.” The cardinal “was tough as nails in a very cordial way,” a witness said, and turned the money down.

This isn’t an isolated case. In the 1990s, it was Ratzinger who pushed for a full investigation of Hans Hermann Groer, the Vienna cardinal accused of pedophilia, only to have his efforts blocked in the Vatican. It was Ratzinger who persuaded John Paul, in 2001, to centralize the church’s haphazard system for handling sex abuse allegations in his office. It was Ratzinger who re-opened the long-dormant investigation into Maciel’s conduct in 2004, just days after John Paul II had honored the Legionaries in a Vatican ceremony. It was Ratzinger, as Pope Benedict, who banished Maciel to a monastery and ordered a comprehensive inquiry into his order.

So the high-flying John Paul let scandals spread beneath his feet, and the uncharismatic Ratzinger was left to clean them up. This pattern extends to other fraught issues that the last pope tended to avoid — the debasement of the Catholic liturgy, or the rise of Islam in once-Christian Europe. And it extends to the caliber of the church’s bishops, where Benedict’s appointments are widely viewed as an improvement over the choices John Paul made. It isn’t a coincidence that some of the most forthright ecclesiastical responses to the abuse scandal have come from friends and protégés of the current pope.

Douthat is not alone here; most have pointed out (including Rod Dreher, who left the Church b/c of his disappointment w/ the abuse scandals) that Benedict has gone to great lengths to clean up the mess that his predecessor made. But does a “great” make that kind of mess?

Now I certainly think that JPII is a saint. I don’t think that’s in question. Interestingly enough, I have not gathered from the media’s coverage that they would disagree with that. In fact, I would say that he probably merits very serious consideration as a doctor of the Church for Fides et Ratio and “man and Woman He Created Them: a theology of the body” Heck, I even have a poster of him in my living room (which is useful for showing to Mormon missionaries when they ask if I’m religious).

But having the title of “the great” means something extra than sainthood, doesn’t it?

Of course, this is difficult b/c “the great” title has no requirements, no set guidelines. This can be a big deal, as often the rules determine the result (for example: the importance you attach to Superbowl wins affects whether you think Manning or Brady is superior. of course this question is irrelevant b/c Brees is better than both of them but I digress).

Adding further difficulty is determining how significant this scandal is. While I’m sure this has profoundly affected those who have suffered from child abuse, I’m not sure if this will be a big deal thirty, fifty, a hundred years down the road. Right now of course it seems huge but how many people will be aware of it in the coming generations?

For JPII to not be determined great, it would have to be that the sex abuse scandal made enough of a dent in his legacy. This is not a minor feat, as JPII deserves significant credit for stabilizing the Church following Vatican II (setting the stage for the current traditonalist revival), excellent contributions to theology (including Fides et Ratio and Theology of the Body), an excellent charismatic approach that changed the nature of the papacy, and-oh yeah-helping to peacefully bring down the Soviet Union.

I tend to think that in the end, he will be deemed great though for the moment I hesitate to use the term. In the end, I think this storm will pass and we’ll be left with the memories of a great man with great accomplishments. But I think it’s possible that in reflecting on the failures of JPII’s papacy that perhaps we’ll choose not to use the term, and that’s not a possibility many were entertaining 5 years ago when JPII came into eternal life.

I would really like to know how other people are approaching this problem. Please leave comments.

Of course, one has to think that if Benedict is doing better than JPII, and JPII is “the great”, ought perhaps Benedict be up for the term? Food for thought.

Are Great Books Not The Answer?

Patrick Deneen of Georgetown University has an essay on Minding The Campus in which he argues that cultural and intellectual conservatives should be more cautious about championing Great Books type programs in colleges and universities as an antidote to the rootlessness and relativism of the modern curriculum, because the Great Books format itself is often essentially relativistic:

Most curricula in the Great Books offer the various philosophies as inherently coherent and valid systems, suggesting to each student that there is finally no basis on which to decide which philosophy to adopt other than mere preference. One must simply decide. This Nietzschean (or Schmittian) lesson is reinforced by the typical organization of such curricula (where they persist), which is typically chronological. Given that most students today have deeply ingrained progressive worldviews (that is, the view that history has been the slow but steady advance of enlightenment in all forms, culminating in equal rights for all races, all genders, and all sexual preferences), a curriculum that begins with the Bible and Greek philosophy and ends with Nietzsche subtly suggests that Nietzsche is the culmination of Enlightenment’s trajectory. The fact that his philosophy is reinforced by the message that an education in the Great Books consists in exposure to equally compelling philosophies between which there is no objective basis to prefer only serves to deepen the most fundamental lesson of a course in the Great Books, which is a basic form of relativism. The choice of a personal philosophy is relative, and the basis on which one makes any such choice is finally arbitrary, the result of personal preference or attraction.

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Sex, Lies and Planned Parenthood

Hattip to Patterico’s PontificationsWorse Than Murder, Inc, aka Planned Parenthood, has written a guide entitled Healthy, Happy and Hot.  It is subtitled a Young Persons Guide to Their Rights, Sexuality and Living With HIV.

This pamphlet is truly based upon irony in that if there is one organization more dedicated to promoting sexual promiscuity other than Worse Than Murder, Inc, I am unaware of it.  From passing out contraceptives to kids without parental consent, to promoting the idea that sex is the be all and end all of life, to killing the inevitable offspring that result from sexual activity between men and women, Planned Parenthood has done everything possible to promote a cultural atmosphere in which sexually transmitted diseases can run rampant.

So a teenager who has followed the advice of Worse Than Murder Inc and has HIV now is supposed to look to them for guidance?  I honestly sometimes think that Satan has a deep streak of the dark comedian about him.

Well, what sort of advice does Planned Parenthood dispense to their victims who have a fatal illness?    On page one the pamphlet stresses that people with HIV have a right to express and enjoy their sexuality.  But of course!  For Worse Than Murder, Inc, life boils down to:  “I fornicate therefore I am.”

In regard to disclosing the fact that a person has HIV to someone they are having sex with, the pamphlet states:

Some countries have laws that say people
living with HIV must tell their sexual
partner(s) about their status before having
sex, even if they use condoms or only
engage in sexual activity with a low risk
of giving HIV to someone else. These laws
violate the rights of people living with HIV
by forcing them to disclose or face the
possibility of criminal charges.

What about the well-being of those people who might be infected by you or have been infected by you?  Page 3 indicates that those people really have to take second place behind number one:

You know best if and when it is safe
for you to disclose your status.
There are many reasons that people
do not share their HIV status. They
may not want people to know they
are living with HIV because of
stigma and discrimination within
their community. They may worry
that people will find out something
else they have kept secret, like they
are using injecting drugs, having
sex outside of a marriage or having
sex with people of the same gender.
People in long-term relationships
who find out they are living with HIV
sometimes fear that their partner
will react violently or end the
relationship.

Sharing your HIV status is called
disclosure. Your decision about whether to
disclose may change with different people
and situations. You have the right to
decide if, when, and how to disclose your
HIV status.

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The Last Enemy to be Destroyed is Death

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If we are going to be Catholic spokesmen going public with our views, we have to pay special attention to our spiritual lives. I can see how easy it is to get bogged down in the blogosphere in the mire of negativity, in heated exchanges like we never encounter in our normal daily lives- like before in the days before the internet.

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Cardinal Newman Development of Doctrine-Fifth Note-Anticipation of Its Future

Continuing on with my series on the Seven Notes, I would call them tests, which Venerable John Henry Cardinal Newman developed for determining whether some aspect of Church teaching is a development of doctrine or a corruption of doctrine.  We began with Note Six-Conservative Action Upon Its Past, and I would highly recommend that any one who has not read the first post in the series read it here before reading this post.  We then proceeded with an examination of the First Note-Preservation of Type here,  the Second Note-Continuity of Principles here , the Third Note-Power of Assimilation here and the Fourth Note-Logical Sequence here.  This post will deal with the Fifth Note-Anticipation of Its Future.

Newman contends that in the development of an idea we may see anticipations of future developments at any early stage in the history of an idea.  Such anticipations may serve as evidence, after such an anticipation of a development comes to fruition, that we are seeing a true development and not a corruption of the idea.  Newman demonstrates what he is talking about by noting stories of the lives of great men when an early event anticipates the later course that a life is to take.    

Nothing is more common, for instance, than accounts or legends of the anticipations, which great men have given in boyhood of the bent of their minds, as afterwards displayed in their history; so much so that the popular expectation has sometimes led to the invention of them. The child Cyrus mimics a despot’s power, and St. Athanasius is elected Bishop by his playfellows.

In the world of English politics Newman sees in the reign of James I an early use of patronage to influence political parties. 

In the reign of James the First, we have an observable anticipation of the system of influence in the management of political parties, which was developed by Sir R. Walpole a century afterwards. This attempt is traced by a living writer to the ingenuity of Lord Bacon. “He submitted to the King that there were expedients for more judiciously managing a House of Commons; … that much might be done by forethought towards filling the House with well-affected persons, winning or blinding the lawyers … and drawing the chief constituent bodies of the assembly, the country gentlemen, the merchants, the courtiers, to act for the King’s advantage; that it would be expedient to tender voluntarily certain graces and modifications of the King’s prerogative,” &c. The writer adds, “This circumstance, like several others in the present reign, is curious, as it shows the rise of a systematic parliamentary influence, which was one day to become the mainspring of government.”

Newman saw the Lutheranism of his time as sunk in heresy or infidelity.  He sees anticipations of this in the positions of Martin Luther.

Lutheranism has by this time become in most places almost simple heresy or infidelity; it has terminated, if it has even yet reached its limit, in a denial both of the Canon and the Creed, nay, of many principles of morals. Accordingly the question arises, whether these conclusions are in fairness to be connected with its original teaching or are a corruption. And it is no little aid towards its resolution to find that Luther himself at one time rejected the Apocalypse, called the Epistle of St. James “straminea,” condemned the word “Trinity,” fell into a kind of Eutychianism in his view of the Holy Eucharist, and in a particular case sanctioned bigamy. Calvinism, again, in various distinct countries, has become Socinianism, and Calvin himself seems to have denied our Lord’s Eternal Sonship and ridiculed the Nicene Creed.

Newman concludes by stating that a definite anticipation of a future development in an idea is evidence of a true development rather than a corruption.

Newman on the Fifth Note: →']);" class="more-link">Continue reading

I Have Known Lightness and Darkness

The God of Scripture- the Blessed Trinity- is such a compelling Mystery- a total All or Nothing Proposition- I can’t believe that we try to put this God on trial all the time- we try to use Him when all else fails or we make light of Him when all is well. I have come into the “All” phase of the spiritual life- like being husband and father- it is now cemented in my soul- it cannot be otherwise unless I somehow lose my mind, lose my heart, and thus lose my humanity and soul- God forbid I ever stray from Jesus’ Way for even a minute- I have known Lightness and Darkness- why I ever chose blindness I cannot say- some combination of youth’s folly and demonic persuasion coupled with a weak will and underdeveloped intellect- perhaps that explains much of it.

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