Monthly Archives: December 2010
- “Where disagreement becomes a death sentence” – Zenit news interviews Shaheryar Gill, a Pakistani-born lawyer providing “an insider’s look” at Pakistan’s anti-blasphemy laws. On December 3rd, a hardline, pro-Taliban Pakistani Muslim cleric on Friday offered a reward for anyone who kills a Christian woman sentenced to death by a court on charges of insulting Islam.
- Meanwhile, in Iraq, an elderly Christian couple was killed in their home Sunday night in Baghdad, days before they were to finalize the transaction on their house and join an exodus of Christians fleeing to the safety of the North.
Earlier this month, a young Syrian Orthodox engineer was abducted from his shop and murdered, provoking the representatives of the Christian communities to withdraw in protest from the conference on Social Coexistence and Tolerance, organized by the Iraqi Ministry for Human Rights.
Muslim leaders are also sounding the alarm, calling on the Baghdad government and U.S. forces to provide safety for the Christian community.
- In Iran, Youcef Nadarkhani, a pastor of a church of about 400 people, was convicted of apostasy and has been sentenced to death for allegedly renouncing his Muslim faith. According to CNN, In the southern city of Shiraz, another Christian pastor, Behrouz Sadegh-Khanjani, 35, is facing a possible indictment for apostasy.
In his book-length interview Light of the World, Pope Benedict emphasized that, with respect to Muslims:
“The important thing here is to remain in close contact with all the current within Islam that are open to, and capable of dialogue, so as to give a change of mentality a chance to happen even where Islamism still couples a claim to truth with violence.”
Earlier in November, he renewed his call for religious freedom in Muslim countries Continue reading
Hattip to Bookworm Room. The Queen of the tap-dancers, Eleanor Powell, filmed this sequence with her dog Buttons, in the film Lady Be Good in 1941. Powell trained the dog herself, and the filming occurred in her living room in order to make it more comfortable for Buttons as the dog was used to performing there. Both Powell and her dog give energetic performances and they both seem to be having a good time. Continue reading
The reaction to Judge Hanson’s ruling in Virginia v. Sebelius was predictable: rejoicing on the right . . . not so much on the left. A few people actually attempted to analyze the decision on a legal, rather than policy basis. (Shocking!)
It’s also not surprising in the least to hear the talking point going out – like on the appropriately named Talking Points Memo blog linked above – that this demonstrates conservative hypocrisy with regards to judicial activism. After all, don’t conservatives bemoan activist judges who overturn the will of democratic legislatures? This would be a fair point if it actually captured the gist of conservative sentiment on judicial matters.
As I wrote a bit over a week ago, my attention was caught by a post in which Brett Salkeld asked the question, Does the Injunction that Wives Submit to Their Husbands Have any Content? He said:
I am not so progressive that I am opposed in principle to the idea that there might be something of value in this claim. In other words, I do not presume that Paul’s teaching on this matter can be dismissed simply as a function of his era. Of course, investigation may determine that his teaching is not central to the Christian understanding of marriage and is simply the result of his writing at a particular time and place, but that is not my presumption. Such claims, for me, must be demonstrated, not presumed. I am conservative enough to insist that they are are not self-evident.
I have found myself frustrated, however, by those authors and commentators within the church who insist that wives must in fact submit to their husbands—that men are, necessarily, the “head of the household.” Such an insistence is typically followed by numerous qualifications and caveats indicating precisely what such a claim does not mean in the concrete. Men are not to be tyrants. They are not to make every decision independently. They are to provide space for the development and self-expression of their wives. All well and good, of course. Who would disagree with any of these? But as easy as it is to highlight what not to do in the concrete, it seems to me that this teaching will have no purchase on the reality of contemporary marriage if no one can articulate what it actually does mean in the concrete. Continue reading
Justice Stephen Breyer of the US Supreme Court has never been a fan of the Second Amendment. On Fox News on Sunday he made an historical claim that I would like to analyze in this post.
Madison “was worried about opponents who would think Congress would call up state militias and nationalize them. ‘That can’t happen,’ said Madison,” said Breyer, adding that historians characterize Madison’s priority as, “I’ve got to get this document ratified.”
I assume that the Justice is referring to Federalist 46 written by James Madison, and which may be read here. (I apologize in advance to our resident blog expert on the Federalist papers Paul Zummo. Paul, if you see any mistakes on my part in the following, please let me have it!)
The Justice is correct that many in the states were concerned that the proposed new federal government would have too much power, and Federalist 46 was written to help allay those concerns.
The only refuge left for those who prophesy the downfall of the State governments is the visionary supposition that the federal government may previously accumulate a military force for the projects of ambition.
Madison realized that this was a sensitive point. The American Revolution had only ended five years before, and the attempt by Great Britain to rule through military force was a raw memory for all of his readers. Madison tackles this fear head on by comparing the military force of a standing federal army to the militias of the states:
Let a regular army, fully equal to the resources of the country, be formed; and let it be entirely at the devotion of the federal government; still it would not be going too far to say, that the State governments, with the people on their side, would be able to repel the danger. The highest number to which, according to the best computation, a standing army can be carried in any country, does not exceed one hundredth part of the whole number of souls; or one twenty-fifth part of the number able to bear arms. This proportion would not yield, in the United States, an army of more than twenty-five or thirty thousand men. To these would be opposed a militia amounting to near half a million of citizens with arms in their hands, officered by men chosen from among themselves, fighting for their common liberties, and united and conducted by governments possessing their affections and confidence. It may well be doubted, whether a militia thus circumstanced could ever be conquered by such a proportion of regular troops. Those who are best acquainted with the last successful resistance of this country against the British arms, will be most inclined to deny the possibility of it.
So far so good for Justice Breyer. However, he misses completely the import of other things that Madison says in Federalist 46.
Besides the advantage of being armed, which the Americans possess over the people of almost every other nation, the existence of subordinate governments, to which the people are attached, and by which the militia officers are appointed, forms a barrier against the enterprises of ambition, more insurmountable than any which a simple government of any form can admit of. Continue reading
A copy of the decision is here. Two other federal district courts have previously upheld the individual mandate against constitutional challenge, and at least one suit remains pending.
It’s often claimed that the individual mandate is a necessary compliment to the provisions of ObamaCare banning denial of coverage based on pre-existing conditions and so forth. The idea is that if an insurance company can’t deny you coverage once you are already sick there is a strong incentive not to get coverage until you are already sick, which leads to a death spiral (that’s a technical term) of increased insurance prices and lower levels of coverage.
However, as Paul Starr noted back when the bill was being debated, there are ways of dealing with this problem that don’t involve a mandate:
The law could give people a right to opt out of the mandate if they signed a form agreeing that they could not opt in for the following five years. In other words, instead of paying a fine, they would forgo a potential benefit. For five years they would become ineligible for federal subsidies for health insurance and, if they did buy coverage, no insurer would have to cover a pre-existing condition of theirs.
The idea for this opt-out comes from an analogous provision in Germany, which has a small sector of private insurance in addition to a much larger state insurance system. Only some Germans are eligible to opt for private insurance, but if they make that choice, the law prevents them from getting back at will into the public system. That deters opportunistic switches in and out of the public funds, and it helps to prevent the private insurers from cherry-picking healthy people and driving up insurance costs in the public sector.
For whatever reason, the Democrats choose not to head this advice, and didn’t include any alternative to the mandate in the bill, even as a fall back measure. This means that, if the mandate is ultimately found unconstitutional, there will be nothing in the law to prevent the “death spiral” scenario. Granted, this can always be passed in the future, but this may not be as easy to do depending on the political environment at that time. Why the Democrats didn’t do this is a mystery to me.
So many books! So little time! And, unfortunately, not enough to afford them all. Erasmus’ motto, “When I get a little money I buy books; and if any is left I buy food and clothes” worked during college, but is hard to get away with once you’re married with children and have a spouse to answer to. =)
We’ve heard much lately of Pope Benedict’s interview with Peter Seewald: Light of the World: The Pope, The Church and The Signs Of The Times, regarding which Ignatius Press’ Carl Olson has been doing a magnificent job rounding up reviews and discussion across the web; and George Weigel’s “sequel” to his reknowned autobiography of John Paul II: The End and the Beginning: Pope John Paul II — The Victory of Freedom, the Last Years, the Legacy, and Patrick W. Carey’s biography Avery Cardinal Dulles, SJ: A Model Theologian.
Here are a few more on the horizon that might be of interest to our readers (and which are definitely on my “to read” list from 2010). Continue reading
No doubt many of you spent the weekend ignoring family and holiday festivities and perhaps even food & drink in order to study up on the all the bowl games so you can make your picks for the TAC Bowl Pick’em contest. But it occurred to me that while we at TAC have talked a lot about who would win the most games, we never discussed who ought to win those games.
A few months ago, we discussed how the New Orleans Saints were the team that all good Catholics ought to cheer for. After that post, I had a lot of feedback thanking me for providing this guidance but also wondering if there could be some guidance on the college level. Take this email for example:
I am a twenty-something in West Virginia whose hobbies include making parody blogs and using political terms I don’t quite understand. I have hated football for some time, believing it to be anathema to my own beliefs. However, after reading your post I realized my hatred of football was a product of my own fascist tendencies.. However, there are no pro teams in West Virginia but there is a college one; I would prefer to cheer for a college team but require your guidance to know who to root for.
Or this one :
I am a Cowboys fan living in Ohio. However, after your post I find my heart step by step being moved by what can only be the Holy Spirit to cheer for the Saints. I could hardly help myself from letting out a hearty “Who Dat!” after Malcolm Jenkins stripped the ball against my former favorite team on Thanksgiving. I pray that God can grant me the faith to bleed black & gold. But this is not enough, as I have started to examine my college allegiances. Is there a college team out there that can inspire my soul the way the Saints do?
There were many many emails like this, almost as many emails as there are people who honestly think the executive order has the legal effect Bart Stupak claims it has. So for these few months, I have been discerning what the standings of many college football teams are in the eyes of God. Continue reading
Johnny Depp has always been high on my list of very irritating actors, so it was against my better instincts that I truly enjoyed the above trailer. It looks like the film Rango will be a grand spoof of some of the spaghetti westerns of my mis-spent youth and should be a lot of fun. Besides, I have always been a sucker for owl mariachi bands.
Advent might be summarized by John 3:16: “For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish, but have eternal life.”
In daily life it is often easy to lose sight of the fact that we are always in the hands of an infinitely loving God who became one of us, His creatures, as a result of that love. Men often fear and deny God I think out of a profound belief that they are unworthy of this love. Peter, the prince of the apostles, after meeting Christ asked Him to leave him because Peter was a sinful man. In our times, drenched in cynicism and wallowing in sin, love is in short supply it seems, and the idea of a loving God is one that many of us flee from and attempt to futilely deny. This attitude calls to mind this passage from the Screwtape letters:
The truth is I slipped by mere carelessness into saying that the Enemy really loves the humans. That, of course, is an impossibility. He is one being, they are distinct from Him. Their good cannot be His. All His talk about Love must be a disguise for something else—He must have some real motive for creating them and taking so much trouble about them. The reason one comes to talk as if He really had this impossible Love is our utter failure to out that real motive. What does He stand to make out of them? That is the insoluble question. I do not see that it can do any harm to tell you that this very problem was a chief cause of Our Father’s quarrel with the Enemy. When the creation of man was first mooted and when, even at that stage, the Enemy freely confessed that he foresaw a certain episode about a cross, Our Father very naturally sought an interview and asked for an explanation. The Enemy gave no reply except to produce the cock-and-bull story about disinterested love which He has been circulating ever since. This Our Father naturally could not accept. He implored the Enemy to lay His cards on the table, and gave Him every opportunity. He admitted that he felt a real anxiety to know the secret; the Enemy replied “I wish with all my heart that you did”. It was, I imagine, at this stage in the interview that Our Father’s disgust at such an unprovoked lack of confidence caused him to remove himself an infinite distance from the Presence with a suddenness which has given rise to the ridiculous enemy story that he was forcibly thrown out of Heaven. Since then, we have begun to see why our Oppressor was so secretive. His throne depends on the secret. Members of His faction have frequently admitted that if ever we came to understand what He means by Love, the war would be over and we should re-enter Heaven. And there lies the great task. We know that He cannot really love: nobody can: it doesn’t make sense. If we could only find out what He is really up to! Hypothesis after hypothesis has been tried, and still we can’t find out. Yet we must never lose hope; more and more complicated theories, fuller and fuller collections of data, richer rewards for researchers who make progress, more and more terrible punishments for those who fail—all this, pursued and accelerated to the very end of time, cannot, surely, fail to succeed. Continue reading
From the Internet’s only reliable news source. President Obama exits a press conference early, leaving former President Clinton in charge in order to promote a tax deal that is unpopular with most of his base.
Wait, this isn’t an Onion video? You mean President Obama really did this?
Well, I guess it’s official. The administration has descended into self-parody.
Something for the weekend. O Holy Night. The rendition above is done by Celtic Woman. The hymn was written in 1847 by Placide Cappeau at the request of his parish priest. The English version was written by John Sullivan Dwight, a Unitarian Minister in 1855. Judging from the lyrics, it is amazing how orthodox this Unitarian Minister was: Continue reading
Fr. Robert Barron responds to an article in Commonweal by Cathleen Kaveny (“Long Goodbye: Why some devout Catholics are leaving the Church”).
Another fine econ 101 video from the Center for Freedom and Prosperity. One of the main economic problems of our time is that we Americans tend to be experts at spending money and novices at making money. I will have a post on Christ and Scrooge later this month which will be rather negative towards Scrooge. (Surprise!) However, perhaps nationally we need a bit of the Scrooge attitude towards making money and less of the spendthrift habits that have been a disaster for us publicly and privately.
As if one didn’t have enough books to read already. From Paulist Press, a new biography of Avery Cardinal Dulles, America’s most distinguished Catholic theologian, who passed away in December 2008. (And at 736 pages, it sounds like quite a read).
Avery Cardinal Dulles, SJ: A Model Theologian, 1918-2008
by Patrick W. Carey. Paulist Press. 736p.
Reviews and Related Info
- Patrick W. Carey (Faculty bio, Marquette University).
- An Intellectual Pilgrimage, by Jeffrey Gros. America November 29, 2010.
- There will be a panel discussion of Avery Cardinal Dulles: A Model Theologian at Fordham University on December 14, 2010 to discuss the book. Attendance is free. (See link to PDF Flyer for details).
I’ll leave it up to others on the blog to discuss the merits of the compromise on taxes and unemployment benefits recently reached between President Obama and Congressional Republicans. For what it’s worth, I’d probably vote for it were I a member of Congress (shudder), but I do think that the Republicans could have pushed a little harder on certain measures.
What fascinates me as a student of American history are some of the reactions, and also some of the reactions to the reactions. First of all, Congressional Democrats have rejected the measure in a non-binding caucus vote. This has caused Jim Geraghty to ponder:
Normal? No. But I think this is a positive development in a way. Continue reading
One argument commonly made by inflation hawks is that inflation is bad because it is a tax on savers. The idea being that since inflation erodes the purchasing power of a dollar, those who keep their money in a savings account will end up being able to buy less with that money down the road if there is inflation than if there is not. There is an element of truth to this idea, though if inflation is expected there are ways to deal with the problem, such as offering higher interest rates for savings accounts.
A propos of David’s post earlier to day, however, it occurs to me that there is a flip side to the inflation taxes savings argument, namely that disinflation (i.e. lower than expected inflation) functions as a tax on the unemployed. When a certain amount of inflation is expected over the coming years, this ends up getting built into people’s wage demands, contracts, loans, etc. If inflation is approximately 2-3% a year for several decades, then people will come to expect a raise of at least 2-3% a year to cover the increase in the cost of living, and they will get upset if this doesn’t happen, even if inflation is significantly below 2-3% (on election day I met a man who was angry he had been denied a cost of living raise in his Social Security for 2009, even though there was deflation that year).
If expected inflation doesn’t appear, there won’t be enough money for businesses to pay their workers and will have to cut either wages or employment. But since workers hate nominal wage cuts (even where these don’t translate into real wage cuts), employers tend to respond to this situation by laying people off rather than spreading the pain around. The result is that during inflationary or disinflationary periods real wages tend to increase (since prices are falling while wages remain constant in nominal terms) and so does unemployment. Functionally this acts as a kind of wealth transfer from the unemployed to those who still have jobs. Thus, tight money is a tax on the unemployed.