25

The Ultimate Left-Wing Tax System

Recently Matt Talbot of Vox Nova offered up the following plan for tax reform:

I propose that there is a one-time, 20% federal tax on all financial assets over $2 million – assets in IRA’s and 401(k) plans would be exempt, provided the particular accounts were held on, say, September 15, 2008 (this would prevent using retirement accounts as an anticipatory shelter.) Yes, the stock and bond markets would take a hit; can’t be helped, and the stock market is way over-valued anyway, by historical standards. The stock market should be there to finance capital investment, not to enrich Wall Street greedheads.

In the comments my co-blogger Darwin had some negative things to say about this plan. Truthfully, though, I think that properly implemented a one-time wealth tax could work pretty well. In fact, I would say that the main problem with Matt’s proposal is that it is much too modest.

For one thing, as was noted in the comments to his post, restricting the tax to financial assets over $2 million excluding IRAs and 401(k)s is not going to raise much revenue. And the more exemptions you have in the system, the more likely it is that the rich will just hire tax attorneys to hide their assets and avoid the tax. To deal with these problems, I would make the wealth tax all-inclusive.

Since wealth inequality is much much greater than income inequality, this would be a highly progressive measure. However, without a lower limit, you might worry about the impact of this proposal on the poor. To offset this, I would institute a guaranteed minimum income. The minimum income level would have to be pretty low to avoid work disincentives and keep the plan fiscally responsible, but it would be high enough that even in the first year it would be enough for the poor to pay the tax. Unlike the wealth tax, the guaranteed minimum income program would be ongoing, and would be in addition to rather than instead of all existing federal assistance programs.

Going forward, I would replace corporate taxes at the federal level by raising the capital gains tax rate to 23%. Finally, I would simplify the tax code, eliminating all deductions and replacing the current bracket system with two brackets: 10% for income under $100k, 23% for above that.

Finally, to ensure that the rich don’t hide their assets to avoid the tax, I would deputize every store clerk in America as an IRS enforcement agent. Try as they might, wall street greedheads would not be able to avoid the tax. They could bury their gold in the backyard if they wanted, but as soon as they dug it up to buy a new yacht we’d get ’em. Continue Reading

7

Obamacare Ruled Unconstitutional

In the second ruling of its kind, a Florida judge has found the provision mandating individual health insurance to be unconstitutional. Even more interesting to me is that the judge found that the provision was inseparable from the rest of the bill, so that the whole bill is unconstitutional.

The first part may not be that important, as the Supreme Court will have the final say. However, it will be interesting to see what happens with the separability issue. I wonder if Obama will be encouraged by this ruling to start working with Republicans to put many of the positive/popular aspects of the plan (like not denying people with pre-existing conditions) into law such that they are not dependent on the individual mandate. If not, Obama is risking his legacy on getting a majority of Supreme Court justices to believe that’s it ok for the government to mandate people buy something with no way to opt out. That seems to me to be a very dangerous gamble, and considering the political capital Obama’s used on this reform, it would be wise for him to try to preserve what he can and keep as little in the hands of the judiciary as possible.

1

Funding Falsehood

It was widely reported a few weeks ago that it had been conclusively shown that not only was the Lancet study claiming to suggest a connection between the MMR vaccine and Autism unsupported by further research but the original study itself was actively fabricated. The doctor who wrote the fraudulent paper falsified his data in order to reach the desired result, and did so because he had received a retainer from a law firm that was seeking to file a lawsuit against vaccine makers.

Listening to an hour long interview with the investigative journalist who got to the bottom of it all, however, I was somewhat shocked to hear that the reason why the law firm in Britain was originally fishing for an expert to support their claim is that the British government provides funding to law firms who appear to have a valid case against a medicine. Continue Reading

5

Hell and Good Intentions

L’enfer est plein de bonnes volontés et désirs.  (Hell is full of good wishes and desires.)

Saint Bernard of Clairvaux

Klaven reminds us of something that is very true in the above video.  In human affairs someone who, from the outset, intends to do evil can cause quite a bit of calamity and tragedy.  However, for true catastrophes you generally need someone who is seeking to do good, but is blind to the negative consequences of his actions.  History is replete with examples.  Martin Luther, I think, really did start out honestly intending to merely give impetus to reform within the Church.  Gandhi did not want to see India divided once the British withdrew because he honestly believed that Muslims and Hindus could live in peace together throughout the subcontinent.  Neville Chamberlain resisted taking any stand against Hitler until September 1939 because he honestly wished to spare Britain another World War only a generation after the first one.  Continue Reading

16

A Call to Arms: Oral Contraception and its Insult to God

Christianity does not simply ask followers to respect life, nor does it insist they denounce the everyday sins of humanity. Truly devout living compels us to actively defend the right to life, which is our duty as the children of God.  However, the defense of life involves education and exposing disturbing signs of moral decay. Heavily responsible for these recent immoral trends, dangerous forms of unnatural contraception are an increasingly-valid threat and widely misunderstood. Although the bible asserts that children “are a blessing to be cherished and cared for when given,” these methods of pregnancy prevention challenge those words with their blatant disrespect for life, increasingly leading young adults astray.

Nevertheless, many families continually choose these “convenient” forms of contraception to control their family size. Even unmarried couples now frequently use these forms of birth control to recklessly satisfy their sexual desires. Even more troubling still are the countless young people engaging in sex freely because a variety of dangerous contraceptives apparently allow it. The use of these products isn’t just an insult to relationships or marriage, but an attack on the entire foundation of children and the family itself.

Continue Reading

9

Lincoln’s Dog Fido

(Faithful readers of this blog will no doubt be saying to themselves, “Yep, I knew eventually McClarey would write about Lincoln’s dog!” )

One hundred and fifty years ago the Lincolns in Springfield, Illinois were making preparations for their move to Washington.  One sad task for them was to find a new home for their dog Fido, who had been a member of the family since 1855.  Mr. Lincoln was an animal lover, and Fido, a mustard colored mutt, often accompanied him as he went around Springfield.  When they went to the market Fido would bear a basket in his mouth.  The dog could be seen waiting patiently outside of the barber shop while Lincoln’s hair was cut.  Fido was an inside dog, and seemed to think that a horse hair sofa in the house was his own personal domain.

Lincoln hated to part with Fido, but the dog was terrified both of cannon fire and trains, and he decided that Fido would have a hard time dealing with the train trip to Washington.  Fido was placed in the care of John Roll and his family.  Roll was a carpenter friend of Lincoln’s who had helped Lincoln remodel his house.  He had two young sons for Fido to play with.  The Rolls were asked never to scold Fido for coming into the house with muddy paws, to never tie Fido up in their yard alone, and to allow him into the house when he scratched on the door.  The Lincolns gave the Rolls their horse hair sofa so that Fido would feel more at home.  Shortly before they left Springfield, the Lincolns had a photo taken of Fido,  an image of which is at the top of this post.

Continue Reading

7

The Economic War Between The States

Years ago, this satirical piece in The Onion poked fun at interstate rivalries with its account of “Middle West peace” in peril.

Thankfully, battles between U.S. states haven’t resulted in actual violence for nearly 150 years. However, there is another kind of battle going on between states, and even between communities within states, that has been destructive in a different way.

I am speaking of the economic battles states and localities wage against one another when they compete for new businesses via economic incentives such as tax breaks, regulatory exemptions, or taxpayer funded grants and loans that are offered only to specific companies.

In 1996, economist Lawrence Reed wrote a widely reprinted essay titled “Time to End the Economic War Between the States.” Reed called the constant battle of states and localities to outdo one another with economic incentives to prospective employers “an exercise in mutual assured destruction, or at least one in which the victories are Pyrrhic ones at best, with the victors losing almost as much as the vanquished.”

Nine years later, in 2007, Federal Reserve economist Arthur Rolnick used nearly the same language in testimony to Congress about the ill effects of this approach. He proposed that Congress use the Constitutional interstate commerce clause to prohibit states from engaging in these tactics — although that raises questions of its own for advocates of federalism and smaller government.

According to Reed, the earliest example of this type of economic incentive was the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania’s offer of $86 million in incentives to build a Volkswagon factory in 1976. The factory was supposed to produce about 20,000 new jobs, but actually employed only 6,000 people before it shut down 10 years later.

The practice really took off in the 1980s with highly publicized competitions between states and communities for new manufacturing plants and other facilities. More recently, states have competed for TV and movie productions with tax incentives for producers who shoot on location.

Most states now have economic development organizations devoted entirely to putting together incentive “packages” for new or existing businesses. Aggressive pursuit of businesses with tax breaks and other public subsidies has become so common that major employers have come to expect and even demand it, and most state and local governments have concluded they have no choice but to play the game.

Some businesses seem to use these incentives almost as a form of extortion — for example, professional sports franchises that threaten to move elsewhere if they do not get public financing for a new stadium or arena.

Both economic conservatives and liberals have criticized this approach and noted that it rarely delivers all the benefits promised.

So, is there any way to call a cease fire in this war? Continue Reading

3

Hannibal and 16 Tons

Something for the weekend.  A song about Hannibal to the tune of 16 Tons.   Hattip to Hank at Eclectic Meanderings.  I have read quite a bit about the Punic Wars, but I have never seen information on them conveyed more fetchingly than when sung by “Anna Domino”, as she does her dance of the elephant veil and sings her song.  What a hoot!  This is one of a series of videos put together by history for music lovers, and long may they prosper! Continue Reading

19

Rewinding Taxes to the Good Old Days

For decades, progressives tended to accuse conservatives of wanting to bring back the ’50s, but in recent years the shoe is on the other foot, with some prominent progressives saying they yearn for the good old days when unions were strong, manufacturing was the core of the economy, and the top marginal tax rate was over 90%. I wanted to see what the real tax situation was for people in a number of different income situations, so I decided to pull the historical tax tables and do the math.

Luckily, the Tax Foundation publishes the income tax tables for every year from 2010 back to 1913. I decided to compare 2010 and 1955. Here are the 2010 tax tables:

I then got the 1955 tax tables and adjusted the income brackets to 2010 dollars using this inflation calculator. (For those interested, the inflation factor from 1955 to 2010 is 713%) The result is as follows:
Continue Reading

30

Egypt on the Brink, Obama Doing His Best Carter Imitation

[Updates at the bottom]

Egypt has sent out the army to the streets of Cairo with reports of gun-battles and deaths everywhere.  Media sources are reporting 870 wounded, but this can’t be confirmed as of now.

How important are the events occurring in Egypt today in reference to the United States?  Very important.

Any person of history understands that in the 20th and 21st century, how Egypt goes, goes the Middle East.  The most distinguished Islamic university is located in Cairo and militant Islamic organizations such as Al-Qaeda are off-shoots from the Muslim Brotherhood, an extremist Muslim organization based in Egypt seeking to return to the days of Muhammad.

Continue Reading

4

Feast Day of the Dumb Ox

 

“We call this young man a dumb ox, but his bellowing in doctrine will one day resound throughout the world.”
Saint Albert the Great
“Somehow they steered that reluctant bulk of reflection to a seat in the royal banquet hall; and all that we know of Thomas tells us that he was perfectly courteous to those who spoke to him, but spoke little, and was soon forgotten in the most brilliant and noisy clatter in the world: the noise of French talking. What the Frenchmen were talking about we do not know; but they forgot all about the large fat Italian in their midst, and it seems only too possible that he forgot all about them. Sudden silences will occur even in French conversation; and in one of these the interruption came. There had long been no word or motion in that huge heap of black and white weeds, like motley in mourning, which marked him as a mendicant friar out of the streets, and contrasted with all the colours and patterns and quarterings of that first and freshest dawn of chivalry and heraldry. The triangular shields and pennons and pointed spears, the triangular swords of the Crusade, the pointed windows and the conical hoods, repeated everywhere that fresh French medieval spirit that did, in every sense, come to the point. But the colours of the coats were gay and varied, with little to rebuke their richness; for Saint Louis, who had himself a special quality of coming to the point, had said to his courtiers, “Vanity should be avoided; but every man should dress well, in the manner of his rank, that his wife may the more easily love him.” Continue Reading
16

Bishopess Mangles Church History for Paulists

 

Christopher Johnson, a non-Catholic who I have designated Defender of the Faith, has a not to be missed post on the farce that ensued when the Paulists had the presiding bishopess of the Episcopalian church in this country deliver a lecture to some Paulist seminarians:

Each year, St. Paul’s College, a Roman Catholic institution for Paulist seminarians in Washington, DC, hosts what it calls the Hecker Lecture.  This year’s speaker was the Presiding Bishop of the Episcopal Organization, the Most Rev. Katharine Jefferts Schori.  And I cannot remember the last time I read any sort of message about anything at all that fell completely apart in the very first sentence:

We are the respective heirs of different strands of western Christianity.

No “we’re” not.  “We” were all one big happy family until the 1500?s when “we” Anglicans decided to go it alone.

I will not begin with the Reformation, but with a much earlier, indigenous Christianity in the British Isles.

And herrrrrrrrre we go.

Roman soldiers appear to have taken the Christian tradition with them when they were posted to the frontiers of the Roman Empire – at least by the second century.

An alternative theory suggests that British Christianity was kept alive in Middle Earth by hobbits and that Frodo is Elvish for Jesus.  That’s my story and I’m sticking to it; if the Presiding Bishop can live in a fantasy world, so can I, consarnit.

That tradition remained when the Roman Empire receded, but the faith continued to grow and develop in its new context.

Sort of makes one wonder why the western Church sent all those missionaries to the British Isles.  Why did Columba leave Ireland and set up Iona?  And just what was he telling the Picts anyway?

If we would look for a modern parallel, we might point to the development of the Three Self Movement in China, with roots in the various colonial plantings of Christianity in the 16th to 19th centuries.

Awkward analogy, that, insofar as, whatever its origins, Three Self was at one time shot through with Communists who didn’t believe all this supernatural crap, becoming, in effect, a sort of Episcopal Organization backed by fiercely-atheist state coercion.

Gregory sent Augustine to 6th century Britain, and challenged him at least in part to bless the best of local tradition in recognition that God had already been at work there.

I believe that would be Pope Gregory and does the fact that Pope Gregory sent Augustine to Britain suggest anything to you, Kate? Continue Reading

23

New Jersey Loves Illinois!

I was on my way to court yesterday morning when I heard this ad on WLS attempting to lure businesses from Illinois:

“Hi, I’m Chris Christie, Governor of the State of New Jersey. I know what you’re thinking, ‘Move my business to New Jersey? Really?’ Really. My administration has worked hard to change the direction of our business climate, plus our state has many advantages. We have an incredible talent pool to drive your business. Innovative financing, incentive and assistance programs. And an exceptional quality of life for the people who live and work here. Oh, and one more thing. As long as I’m Governor, I will not raise your taxes. I am proud of the new direction we’ve brought to New Jersey: lower taxes, reduced government spending and less regulation: a better home for business — today and in the future. Don’t let Illinois balance its budget on the back of your business. Choose New Jersey – we mean business.”

Go here to listen to the ad. Continue Reading

19

Bishops are to Blame!

Michael Voris in the Vortex addresses the problems and opportunities lost by American bishops following the conclusion of the Second Vatican Council which finished in the cultural upheaval of 60s dissent and disobedience within the Church in America.

Souls are at stake and our bishops seem more concerned about the next fundraiser or not leading with boldness and the Truth.  Instead they grovel to political correctness and stand quite on society’s most contentious issues such as abortion and same sex marriage.

Bishop Athanasius Schneider gave an important speech recently where he constructively and critically examined these issues of episcopal disregard.  Especially in the education of the laity with proper catechesis and the lack of defense against modernism and dissent, which have infested chanceries with “yes”-men in which the Pope calls, “professional Catholics”.

Watch this segment of the Vortex to get the full story:

Cross posted at CVSTOS FIDEI.

6

Gadsden Flag

Adopted by the Tea Party as the symbol of their movement, the Gadsden Flag goes back to the very beginnings of the Republic.  Benjamin Franklin was indirectly responsible for the flag.  In his Pennsylvania Gazette on May 9, 1754 he published a cartoon of the 13 colonies as a rattle snake and how desperately unity between the colonies was needed.

In December 1775 he wrote an essay in the Pennsylvania Journal which set forth why the rattlesnake was a good symbol for the American spirit:

“I recollected that her eye excelled in brightness, that of any other animal, and that she has no eye-lids—She may therefore be esteemed an emblem of vigilance.—She never begins an attack, nor, when once engaged, ever surrenders: She is therefore an emblem of magnanimity and true courage.—As if anxious to prevent all pretensions of quarreling with her, the weapons with which nature has furnished her, she conceals in the roof of her mouth, so that, to those who are unacquainted with her, she appears to be a most defenseless animal; and even when those weapons are shewn and extended for her defense, they appear weak and contemptible; but their wounds however small, are decisive and fatal:—Conscious of this, she never wounds till she has generously given notice, even to her enemy, and cautioned him against the danger of stepping on her.—Was I wrong, Sir, in thinking this a strong picture of the temper and conduct of America?”

The Marines, newly created by the Continental Congress, painted their drums yellow with a rattlesnake with thirteen rattles and the motto “Don’t tread on me.”  Colonel Christopher Gadsden, delegate from South Carolina, designed the Gadsden Flag and presented it to Commodore Esek Hopkins in December 1775 to be displayed from the mainmast of his flagship.  He presented another copy of his flag to the legislature of South Carolina:

Continue Reading

22

State of the Union Immediate Reaction

The president has just wrapped up his speech. Some quick thoughts:

  • I think it was better to not have everyone sit according to party.
  • I know we had this emphasis on a “new kind” of SOTU. I’m not buying it. To be sure, it had a theme which was good. But in the end, just “we can do it! Remember after Sputnik!” isn’t much of a theme, leaving us left with what the SOTU always is: a bunch of presidential policy proposals, or as Chief Justice Roberts put it, a political pep rally.
  • Very glad he addressed the BP oil spill. Oh wait…
  • He talked about the old world where hard work kept your job but that that world is gone. Could we at least give a thought to figuring out if we can restore that world before we forsake it? Or are we doomed to Wal-Marts?
  • I want to know how he’s going to simplify the tax code and the federal government. Good ideas, but the devil is in the details.
  • Not subsidizing oil companies is probably a long over-due reform, but good luck getting it through, especially since Obama has been so unreasonable with the drilling moratorium
  • Everyone should have the opportunity to go to school, but does giving everyone a degree mean automatic economic success? Shouldn’t we be looking instead to figuring out how to make four-year institutions more effective and less costly?
  • On illegal immigration, I had hoped to hear more than just how illegals who get an education ought to be allowed a path for citizenship. I suppose with the climate no more can be said, which is very sad in itself.
  • Why didn’t we spend all this money on the infrastructure 2 years ago when we needed immediate jobs? Now we have debt and no infrastructure; we’ve missed our opportunity and with the deficit I’m suspicious of too many infrastructure building programs.
  • I don’t think Obama has a clue how to rein in the deficit. He gave some good ideas, but not nearly enough to convince me he can get it done.
  • If someone could ban the cheap shots to random Americans stuck in the Chamber for those brief snap-shots, I would vote for them regardless of what they do.

Those are my thoughts at the moment. What do you think?

62

Nullification: A Terrible Idea Whose Time Hasn’t Come

There’s been some buzz lately about states kicking the idea of nullification around.  State legislators in Nebraska have been circulating a little tome by Thomas Woods on the subject, and there’s been some news reports of states considering the idea with regards to health care.  Before conservatives go trumpeting this idea as some way of saving the republic, let’s keep in mind something: it’s a bad idea that happens to be unconstitutional.

Whenever the idea of nullification comes up we inevitably hear about Thomas Jefferson’s Kentucky Resolution and James Madison’s Virginia Resolution.  They were penned in response to the passage of the Alien and Sedition Acts of 1798.  The key passages from Jefferson’s resolution is as follows: Continue Reading

18

Illinois Appellate Court Kicks Rahm Emanuel off Chicago Mayoral Ballot

The above video exemplifies the attitude that many politicians in Illinois demonstrate  to laws that stand in their way.  Rahm “Never let a crisis go to waste” Emanuel was a Chicago congressman.  Besides being noted for a fondness for a  certain four letter word which I discussed in this post, Emanuel is also noted for two things:  he came up with the strategy of running phony conservative Democrats for Congress around the country, which helped the Democrats take back the House in 2006, and pad their short-lived majority in 2008, and he was Obama’s chief of staff.  After tiring of being chief of staff, after Richie the Lesser, Mayor for life of the City-State of Chicago, decided that he didn’t wish to go on being Mayor until he died, like his father Richie the Incoherent, Rahm decided that becoming Mayor of the Windy City was an excellent escape plan from the Obama administration.  After he announced, he quickly became the front runner, facing only token opposition.  The election is set for February 22.

There was one pesky thing standing in the way of Rahm and his coronation.  A provision in the state municipal code which requires that someone actually live in a city for at least one year, before seeking office to run the place.  However, this is Illinois!  When is the last time that the law in Illinois prevented a powerful Democrat from doing whatever he pleases?  (If you regard the question as other than entirely rhetorical, I will assume you do not live in the Land of Lincoln.)  The Cook County Board of Elections determined that although Emanuel resided in DC while he was Chief of Staff, and had rented out his Chicago house, he was, mirabile dictu!, still a resident of Chicago.  A Chicago Circuit Court judge affirmed this decision.  However, in a stunning development, an Appellate Court panel ruled two  to one that Rahm is not a resident of Chicago and is not eligible to have his name appear on the ballot.  The decision may be read here. Continue Reading

Quaker Suicide Bomber Kills 31 at Moscow Airport

The death toll is at 31 but a Quaker terrorist group is being speculated as the possible perpetrator to this horrendous act of violence in Moscow’s most busiest airport.

Terror analysts are surmising that it could very well be the work of the Quaker extremist group called “The Real Quaker Faith”.  A minority of analysts are insisting it is the work of the “Reformed Amish Fellowship of Unsmiling Dutch”.  But most agree it is Christian sect of believers that are being credited (sic) for these latest bombings in Russia.

The attacks look very similar to the acts of terror committed by the “Religious Society of Friendly Russia” terror group as well as the “Russian Friends Religious Society” terror group where recent suicide bombers set themselves off at Unitarian-Universalist Churches as well as Tony Robbins seminars.

President Obama has already issued a statement of not jumping to conclusions and is urging caution in rushing to judgment and laying blame.

Sarcasm off/

5

Vatican Bank Chief Condemns Keynesianism

Current fiscal and monetary policies in the United States and Europe risk increasing government control over national economies, resulting in weakened political strength throughout “the whole of the western world,” the Vatican’s top banking expert said.

Writing in the Jan. 14 edition of the Vatican newspaper, L’Osservatore Romano, Tedeschi warned of the growing influence of “Keynesian” economic theory on both sides of the Atlantic.

Governments on both sides of the Atlantic, he said, are committed to Keynes’ policy of increasing public debt to sustain levels of economic production, consumption, and employment.

He said artificially low interest rates are another key to the strategy of increasing spending and discouraging saving. With no incentive to keep money in the bank, those who would have otherwise been savers are pushed to spend.

“Zero interest rates factually equal a de facto transfer of wealth from he who was a virtuous saver (although not for Keynes) to he who has become virtuously (for Keynes) indebted,” he said. “Practically, it’s about a hidden tax on poor savers, a tax transferred to the wealthy, (that is), over-indebted states, business people and bankers.

More. That sound you hear is Morning’s Minion’s head exploding. Continue Reading

5

The Real Fighting Irish: A Review of Notre Dame and the Civil War

The peaks of Notre Dame history are shrouded in the mists of war.

Father Hugh O’Donnell, President, Notre Dame-1941

I think it was in 1964 when I read my first book on the Civil War, The American Heritage Golden Book of the Civil War, and I immediately thereafter developed a life long passion for the subject.  Over the intervening 47 years, I have read hundreds of books on the War.  Truth to tell, more than a few of the books I have read on the Civil War have left me with a ho hum feeling, not telling me much that I haven’t read many, many times before.  I am therefore always pleasantly surprised when a tome on the Late Unpleasantness can give me lots of new information, and such is the case with Notre Dame and the Civil War, by James M. Schmidt.  Mr. Schmidt, knowing of my interest in US Catholic Chaplains in the military, was kind enough to send me a review copy, and I am glad that he did, as he has brought forth facts and new pieces of information about Notre Dame and the Civil War that I have not read elsewhere.

Many Protestant denominations in the country were ripped asunder North and South by the Civil War and the decades of turmoil leading up to it.  Not so the Catholic Church in America.  As a global Church, it was not unusual for Catholics to find themselves on different sides in civil wars or national conflicts, and there was never any threat to the unity of the Church in America.  Individual Catholics fought bravely for both the Union and the Confederacy.  The Catholics of Notre Dame, except for a few students from the South, were whole heartedly for the Union.

Even before the Civil War, as Mr. Schmidt brings out,  Notre Dame students were preparing to fight.  Two student military companies were organized in 1858, part of the craze for militia companies, well drilled, in fancy uniforms that swept the nation in the late Fifties.  It was fun being a part time soldier:  drills, nice uniforms, parades, pretty girls cheering on the side lines.  Many of the students of course were soon to have first hand knowledge of darker aspects of military life.

Schmidt skillfully relates the fever to enlist in the Union army that swept through the students of Notre Dame after Fort Sumter.  Along with their students, Notre Dame priests also served as chaplains.  Most famous among them was of course Father William Corby, who marched and fought with the Irish Brigade and who gave them mass absolution on the second day at Gettysburg before they charged into battle.  The book relates the adventures of Father Corby, but also relates the stories of other Notre Dame priests who served as chaplains, including Father Paul E. Gillen, Father James Dillon, Father Joseph C. Carrier and Father Peter P. Cooney, all of whom will be featured in posts in the future.

The Sisters of the Holy Cross of Notre Dame also got behind the war effort.  Sixty of the Sisters would serve as nurses during the war.  The role of Catholic Sisters as nurses in the Civil War is one of the great largely unsung stories of the War.  Usually nursing Protestant soldiers, the Sisters, through their bravery, skill at nursing and simple charity and kindness, often turned fairly anti-Catholic men into friends of the Church and not a few converted to the Faith.  Mr. Schmidt gives these heroic women their due.

Continue Reading

4

John Adams’ Finest Hour

The HBO miniseries John Adams brilliantly recreates, in the above video, what has always struck me as John Adams’ finest hour.  Adams, an ardent patriot, was sickened by the carnage caused by British soldiers when they fired into a crowd of Boston rioters on March 5, 1770.  Nevertheless, when approached by the soldiers to defend them he agreed, realizing that thereby he would make himself hated by his patriot friends.  He did this because he believed the soldiers were innocent of the homicide charges against them, the soldiers being under attack by a mob when they fired, and he wished to ensure them a fair trial, notwithstanding the high emotions running against them throughout Boston and Massachusetts.  As Adams wrote three years late on March 5, 1773:

“I. . .devoted myself to endless labour and Anxiety if not to infamy and death, and that for nothing, except, what indeed was and ought to be all in all, sense of duty. In the Evening I expressed to Mrs. Adams all my Apprehensions:That excellent Lady, who has always encouraged me, burst into a flood of Tears, but said she was very sensible of all the Danger to her and to our Children as well as to me, but she thought I had done as I ought, she was very willing to share in all that was to come and place her trust in Providence.”

Adams conducted a brilliant and successful defense of the British soldiers.  Go here to read his closing argument to the jury, and always recall this ringing line:  Facts are stubborn things; and whatever may be our wishes, our inclinations, or the dictates of our passions, they cannot alter the state of facts and evidence. Continue Reading

6

Gosnell, Abortion and Reality

 

“What we want, and all we want, is to have with us the men who think slavery wrong. But those who say they hate slavery, and are opposed to it, but yet act with the Democratic party — where are they? Let us apply a few tests. You say that you think slavery is wrong, but you denounce all attempts to restrain it. Is there anything else that you think wrong, that you are not willing to deal with as a wrong? Why are you so careful, so tender of this one wrong and no other?  You will not let us do a single thing as if it was wrong; there is no place where you will allow it to be even called wrong! We must not call it wrong in the Free States, because it is not there, and we must not call it wrong in the Slave States because it is there; we must not call it wrong in politics because that is bringing morality into politics, and we must not call it wrong in the pulpit because that is bringing politics into religion; we must not bring it into the Tract Society or the other societies, because those are such unsuitable places, and there is no single place, according to you, where this wrong thing can properly be called wrong!”

Abraham Lincoln, speech at New Haven Connecticut, March 6, 1860

Thirty-eight years ago today, the US Supreme Court in Roe v. Wade struck down the laws against abortion throughout the country on the grounds that they were unconstitutional.  The decision was, as Justice White noted in his dissent, a “raw exercise in judicial power”, as there was no basis at all in the Constitution to support the ruling.  Since that day approximately a million, on average, unborn children have been put to death each year, and a large and powerful faction has championed these deaths as right and proper and opposed all efforts to ban or restrict abortion.

It is fitting that as we observe this dreadful anniversary, the nation is shocked by the revelations at the murder mill run by abortionist Kermit Gosnell for over three decades.  As Paul noted in his post on Gosnell here last week the grand jury described his activities in gruesome detail and noted that he was able to do this only with the complicity of the local authorities:

We discovered that Pennsylvania’s Department of Health has deliberately chosen not to enforce laws that should afford patients at abortion clinics the same safeguards and assurances of quality health care as patients of other medical service providers. Even nail salons in Pennsylvania are monitored more closely for client safety.

The State Legislature has charged the Department of Health (DOH) with responsibility for writing and enforcing regulations to protect health and safety in abortion clinics as well as in hospitals and other health care facilities. Yet a significant difference exists between how DOH monitors abortion clinics and how it monitors facilities where other medical procedures are performed.

Indeed, the department has shown an utter disregard both for the safety of women who seek treatment at abortion clinics and for the health of fetuses after they have become viable. State health officials have also shown a disregard for the laws the department is supposed to enforce. Most appalling of all, the Department of Health’s neglect of abortion patients’ safety and of Pennsylvania laws is clearly not inadvertent: It is by design. … Continue Reading

4

Bankruptcy Coming Soon to a State Near You

When the clueless New York Times, fishwrapper of record, notices something, you can rest assured that, after you extract the political spin, they are merely restating the obvious, and so it is today:

Policy makers are working behind the scenes to come up with a way to let states declare bankruptcy and get out from under crushing debts, including the pensions they have promised to retired public workers.

Unlike cities, the states are barred from seeking protection in federal bankruptcy court. Any effort to change that status would have to clear high constitutional hurdles because the states are considered sovereign.

But proponents say some states are so burdened that the only feasible way out may be bankruptcy, giving Illinois, for example, the opportunity to do what General Motors did with the federal government’s aid.

Beyond their short-term budget gaps, some states have deep structural problems, like insolvent pension funds, that are diverting money from essential public services like education and health care. Some members of Congress fear that it is just a matter of time before a state seeks a bailout, say bankruptcy lawyers who have been consulted by Congressional aides. Continue Reading

17

Senator Jefferson Smith, the Tea Party and America

My colleague Michael Denton has a thought provoking post which may be read here, in which he contends that the film Mr. Smith Goes to Washington does not stand for the ideals of America, but rather that the Christian message of Love Thy Neighbor is what saves Senator Smith.  Michael makes many valid points in his cogent post, but I respectfully disagree that the film is as negative about America as Michael contends, and I think that if the fictional Senator Jefferson Smith were brought to life in our day, he would be a leader of the Tea Party movement.  Here are my reasons for making these statements:

1. The Founding Fathers:  Like the Tea Party movement, Jefferson Smith takes his inspiration and his political principles from the Founding Fathers (with Lincoln thrown in).  We see this clearly in this scene:

Smith is a reminder to a jaded world that, “Great principles don’t get lost once they come to light. They’re right here; you just have to see them again!”

When he momentarily loses his idealism about these principles he is reminded that the principles are true by his formerly cynical secretary Clarissa, stunningly portrayed by Jean Arthur, who he, unbeknownst to himself, has converted to his point of view:

“Your friend, Mr. Lincoln had his Taylors and Paines. So did every other man who ever tried to lift his thought up off the ground. Odds against them didn’t stop those men. They were fools that way. All the good that ever came into this world came from fools with faith like that. You know that, Jeff. You can’t quit now. Not you. They aren’t all Taylors and Paines in Washington. That kind just throw big shadows, that’s all. You didn’t just have faith in Paine or any other living man. You had faith in something bigger than that. You had plain, decent, everyday, common rightness, and this country could use some of that. Yeah, so could the whole cockeyed world, a lot of it. Remember the first day you got here? Remember what you said about Mr. Lincoln? You said he was sitting up there, waiting for someone to come along. You were right. He was waiting for a man who could see his job and sail into it, that’s what he was waiting for. A man who could tear into the Taylors and root them out into the open. I think he was waiting for you, Jeff. He knows you can do it, so do I.”

2.  Faith in the People-This of course is an axiom of democracy.  Democracy makes absolutely no sense unless one believes that most people do wish to do the right thing most of the time, once they are sure of what is right.  Jefferson Smith has this faith as does the Tea Party with its populist appeals.  He believes that once the people of his state know the type of political corruption that controls their state, they will rise up to crush Taylor and his machine.  The villains of the film agree with him:

James Taylor to Senator Paine:  “If he even starts to convince those Senators, you might as well blow your brains out, you know that, don’t ya? This is the works, Joe! Either we’re out of business or we’re bigger than we ever were before. We can’t miss a trick. We can’t stop at anything until we’ve smashed this yokel and buried him so deep…”

Taylor fears the people of his state and that is why he uses gangster tactics to keep the news of what Jefferson Smith is saying on the floor of the Senate from getting to them.

When Smith is confronted with Taylor’s astroturfed messages denouncing him, he refuses to give up, his body giving way, but not his spirit.  Ironically, I think if a vote were cast thereafter in the Senate, Smith would have won.  The Senators are viewed in the film as listening to him intently towards the end of the filibuster and are portrayed in the film as increasingly sympathetic to him:

Senator:  “I didn’t like this boy from the beginning. But most of us feel that no man who wasn’t sincere could stage a fight like this against these impossible odds.” Continue Reading

20

The Magical Mystery Glock

In the wake of the Tuscon shooting, there have been renewed call for gun control. This is hardly surprising, and while from my own point of view it seems like an attempt to make political hay out of widespread shock and fear, and I can certainly understand that for those who believe that our current gun laws make violence more common, this sort of event would seem to confirm their thesis. What is not, however, reasonable from those who believe that gun control would be a good thing for our country, is the odd fixation of the anti-gun lobby on the Glock brand.

The Glock 19

One common question from gun control advocates in the wake of the shooting was, “Why would any reasonable person think that civilians should need or want to own Glocks?” New York Times columnist Gail Collins summed up this line of thinking well in a column entitled “A Right to Bear Glocks?” Collins writes:

Today, the amazing thing about the reaction to the Giffords shooting is that virtually all the discussion about how to prevent a recurrence has been focusing on improving the tone of our political discourse. That would certainly be great. But you do not hear much about the fact that Jared Loughner came to Giffords’s sweet gathering with a semiautomatic weapon that he was able to buy legally because the law restricting their sale expired in 2004 and Congress did not have the guts to face up to the National Rifle Association and extend it.
Continue Reading

50

Is A Preferential Option for the Poor Bad for the Poor?

Admittedly this sounds like a silly question, but it is effectively one that Kyle Cupp is asking over at Vox Nova:

Putting aside whether or not the theory actually works in practice, a question I don’t here wish to debate, does trickle-down economics embody what has been called in Catholic circles the preferential option for the poor?

I’m inclined to answer that it does not, that while helping to generate pools of capital at the top may benefit the poor through a process of “trickling down,” the theory itself embodies a preferential option for the rich.

Kyle wants us to put aside the question of whether “trickle-down” economics actually works, so for purposes of considering the question we can assume that trickle-down does make the poor a lot better off than any alternative. So what Kyle is really asking here is whether a preferential option for the poor might require us to make the poor worse off (e.g. by rejecting trickle-down economics). Continue Reading

2

Bees in the Mouth

All the recent hubub  about our political rhetoric led me to re-read a book by Peter Wood called A Bee in the Mouth: Anger in America Now. It was published in 2006, so at the time Wood focused mainly on the angry political rhetoric of the left.  He didn’t claim that political anger was solely a phenomenon of the left, but most of the examples of heated rhetoric came from left-wing sources. (This, by the way, is where I got that quote from Paul Krugman that I cited last week.)

At any rate, Wood concentrates on what he terms “new anger.”  He acknowledges that there has always been heated political argumentation, but that stylistically much has changed.  People worked hard to suppress anger – witness George Washington’s dedicated attempts to control his quick temper.  Now anger is celebrated.  It has become something of a performance art in our modern society, and we celebrate expressions of righteous anger.   As someone who titles his personal blog (tongue-in-cheekly) the Cranky Conservative, I can see the merits of his argument.

Though Wood makes many decent observations, there are two problems with his book.  Continue Reading

5

Head of CCHD Was Treasurer For Pro-Abort Candidate

In a dog bites man story, and an example of good blog journalism, Creative Minority Report has broken the news that the head of the CCHD, Ralph McCloud, while he was head of the CCHD, was the campaign treasurer for pro-abort Wendy Davis in her successful run in 2008 for the Texas State Senate:

 While the Catholic Campaign for Human Development (CCHD) has come under well deserved scrutiny for supporting groups such as ACORN and groups with ties to promoting abortion, CMR has uncovered that Ralph McCloud, while heading the CCHD in 2008, was simultaneously working as a highly placed campaign official for a pro-choice politician seeking to unseat a pro-life politician.according to public records, McCloud also worked as the Treasurer for Planned Parenthood endorsed Democrat Wendy Davis.Annie’s List,raised hundreds of thousands of dollars for Davis in 2008 while McCloud worked as Treasurer. The group even gave a spirited endorsement of the pro-choice Davis, who succeeded in defeating her pro-life opponent.

As you likely know, CCHD is the bishops’ anti-poverty program which funds community organizing and economic development projects and has been at the center of a number of controversies. Ralph McCloud was named head of the CCHD in November 2007. In his first year as head of the CCHD,

Why would the director of the CCHD, during his tenure as head of an ostensibly Catholic institution act as champion and treasurer of a campaign for a pro-abortion politician seeking to oust a pro-life politician? This is the textbook definition of scandal.

According to the United States Conference of Catholic Bishop’s website, “the CCHD fully upholds the Church’s teaching on the sanctity of human life from conception through natural death.” But acting as Treasurer for a pro-choice politician means that every single yard sign, every press release, every brochure or pamphlet of the Davis campaign had Ralph McCloud’s name on it. So in short, while heading up the CCHD, McCloud was very publicly working against the stated goals of the organization he oversaw.

Isn’t that a bit confusing to Catholics? Isn’t that in itself a scandal to the faithful?

McCloud himself labeled questions about another CCHD employee John Carr’s commitment to the pro-life cause “very disturbing allegations” which he believed were unfounded. CMR believes it to be equally disturbing that McCloud would work for a campaign garnering donations from Annie’s List (a pro-choice PAC), Planned Parenthood and ACORN.

Go here to read the rest at Creative Minority Report. Continue Reading

14

Is Mr. Smith in the Tea Party?

Now that college football season is over, Tito is going to make me write real posts again.

There was an interesting post a few days back from Stanley Fish comparing Palin’s vision of American to Frank Capra’s, particularly as embodied in his classic film (and my favorite movie) Mr. Smith Goes to Washington. The movie *spoiler alert* involves an young idealistic Boy Scout leader who is nominated to the Senate because the powers that be, including a sitting Senator and a large businessman, believe he can be easily manipulated to serve their interests. Mr. Smith stumbles into the corruption and attempts to expose him. His enemies mount a successful smear campaign for them, causing Mr. Smith to have to filibuster both to save his seat in the Senate and to expose the corruption. This is where Fish (who also mentions some other Capra works) comes in:

In each of these films the forces of statism, corporatism and mercantilism are routed by the spontaneous uprising of ordinary men who defeat the sophisticated machinations of their opponents by declaring, living and fighting for a simple basic creed of individualism, self-help, independence and freedom.

Does that sound familiar? It should. It describes what we have come to know as the Tea Party, which famously has no leaders, no organization, no official platform, no funds from the public trough. Although she only mentions the Tea Party briefly in her book, Palin is busily elaborating its principles, first in the lengthy discussion of Capra’s Jefferson Smith and then, at the end of the same chapter, in an equally lengthy discussion of Martin Luther King. These two men (one fictional, one real) are brought together when Palin says that King’s dream of an America that lived out “the true meaning of its creed” would be, if it were realized, “the fulfillment of America’s exceptional destiny.” A belief in that destiny and that exceptionalism is, she concludes, “a belief Senator Jefferson Smith would have agreed with.” (In the spirit of full disclosure, I myself became a believer in American exceptionalism the first time I visited Europe, in 1966.)

Exceptionalism can mean either that America is different in some important respect or that, in its difference, America is superior. Palin clearly means the latter:

I think however that the idea which Fish ascribes to Palin, namely that Mr. Smith stands for a lot of ideas of the tea party, is wrong. Continue Reading

1

House Votes to Repeal ObamaCare: 245-189

The House voted to repeal ObamaCare yesterday with the vote being 245-189.  Every Republican voted for repeal and they were joined by three Democrats.  (Passage of ObamaCare in March of last year was 219-212.)  Now the bill goes to the Senate where Harry Reid, Senate Majority Leader, has pledged that the repeal measure will never come to the floor for a vote.  Not so fast Harry!  Mitch McConnell, Senate Minority Leader, is pledging to get a senate vote on repeal:

 

 “The Democratic leadership in the Senate doesn’t want to vote on this bill,” McConnell added. “But I assure you, we will.” Continue Reading

29

Monsters

Every now and then we need a reminder that true evil exists in this world.

An abortionist arrested in Philadelphia faces eight counts of murder, one for the death of a patient, and the other seven for killing babies who survived his botched abortions.  The district attorney alleges that Kermit Gosnell used a pair of scissors to sever their spinal cords.

Ed Morrissey links to the Grand Jury report.  It is truly gruesome.

One woman, for example, was left lying in place for hours after Gosnell tore her cervix and colon while trying, unsuccessfully, to extract the fetus. Relatives who came to pick her up were refused entry into the building; they had to threaten to call the police. They eventually found her inside, bleeding and incoherent, and transported her to the hospital, where doctors had to remove almost half a foot of her intestines.

On another occasion, Gosnell simply sent a patient home, after keeping her mother waiting for hours, without telling either of them that she still had fetal parts inside her. Gosnell insisted she was fine, even after signs of serious infection set in over the next several days. By the time her mother got her to the emergency room, she was unconscious and near death.

A nineteen-year-old girl was held for several hours after Gosnell punctured her uterus.  As a result of the delay, she fell into shock from blood loss, and had to undergo a hysterectomy.

One patient went into convulsions during an abortion, fell off the procedure table,  and hit her head on the floor.  Gosnell wouldn’t call an ambulance, and wouldn’t let the woman’s companion leave the building so that he could call an ambulance.

And to cap things off: the state did nothing to stop this.

We discovered that Pennsylvania’s Department of Health has deliberately chosen not to enforce laws that should afford patients at abortion clinics the same safeguards and assurances of quality health care as patients of other medical service providers. Even nail salons in Pennsylvania are monitored more closely for client safety.

The State Legislature has charged the Department of Health (DOH) with responsibility for writing and enforcing regulations to protect health and safety in abortion clinics as well as in hospitals and other health care facilities. Yet a significant difference exists between how DOH monitors abortion clinics and how it monitors facilities where other medical procedures are performed.

Indeed, the department has shown an utter disregard both for the safety of women who seek treatment at abortion clinics and for the health of fetuses after they have become viable. State health officials have also shown a disregard for the laws the department is supposed to enforce. Most appalling of all, the Department of Health’s neglect of abortion patients’ safety and of Pennsylvania laws is clearly not inadvertent: It is by design. …

Starting at page 99, the Grand Jury report details of the killing of viable babies.  I do not recommend you read this unless you have a very strong tolerance.  In short, these murders were so awful that even staff began to question the practices of this doctor.

These killings became so routine that no one could put an exact number on them. They were considered “standard procedure.” Yet some of the 100
slaughtered were so fully formed, so much like babies that should be dressed and taken home, that even clinic employees who were accustomed to the practice were shocked.
I’m not going to paste it here, but look at the opening paragraph on page 101 and tell me that Satan is not at work in this world.
15

The Materialism of Limited Toolset

I make a point of always trying to listed on the EconTalk podcast each week — a venue in which George Mason University economics professor Russ Roberts conducts a roughly hour-long interview with an author or academic about some topic related to economics. A couple weeks ago, the guest was Robin Hanson, also an economics professor at GMU, who was talking about the “technological singularity” which could result from perfecting the technique of “porting” copies of humans into computers. Usually the topic is much more down-to-earth, but these kinds of speculations can be interesting to play with, and there were a couple of things which really struck me listening to the interview with Hanson, which ran to some 90 minutes.

Hanson’s basic contention is that the next big technological leap that will change the face of the world economy will be the ability to create a working copy of a human by “porting” that person’s brain into a computer. He argues that this could come much sooner than the ability to create an “artificial intelligence” from scratch, because it doesn’t require knowing how intelligence works — you simply create an emulation program on a really powerful computer, and then do a scan of the brain which picks up the current state of every part of it and how those parts interact. (There’s a wikipedia article on the concept, called “whole brain emulation” here.) Hanson thinks this would create an effectively unlimited supply of what are, functionally, human beings, though they may look like computer programs or robots, and that this would fundamentally change the economy by creating an effectively infinite supply of labor.

Let’s leave all that aside for a moment, because what fascinates me here is something which Roberts, a practicing Jew, homed in on right away: Why should we believe that the sum and total of what you can physically scan in the brain is all there is to know about a person? Why shouldn’t we think that there’s something else to the “mind” than just the parts of the brain and their current state? Couldn’t there be some kind of will which is not materially detectable and is what is causing the brain to act the way it is?
Continue Reading

47

Seymour Hersch Channels Dan Brown

 

Hattip to Christopher Johnson at Midwest Conservative Journal.  Seymour Hersch, part time left wing loon and full time writer at the New Yorker, critiques US policy in the Middle East and blames us papists:

In a speech billed as a discussion of the Bush and Obama eras, New Yorker journalist Seymour Hersh delivered a rambling, conspiracy-laden diatribe here Monday expressing his disappointment with President Barack Obama and his dissatisfaction with the direction of U.S. foreign policy.

“Just when we needed an angry black man,” he began, his arm perched jauntily on the podium, “we didn’t get one.”

It quickly went downhill from there.

Hersh, whose exposés of gross abuses by members of the U.S. military in Vietnam and Iraq have earned him worldwide fame and high journalistic honors, said he was writing a book on what he called the “Cheney-Bush years” and saw little difference between that period and the Obama administration.

He said that he was keeping a “checklist” of aggressive U.S. policies that remained in place, including torture and “rendition” of terrorist suspects to allied countries, which he alleged was ongoing.

He also charged that U.S. foreign policy had been hijacked by a cabal of neoconservative “crusaders” in the former vice president’s office and now in the special operations community.

“What I’m really talking about is how eight or nine neoconservative, radicals if you will, overthrew the American government. Took it over,” he said of his forthcoming book. “It’s not only that the neocons took it over but how easily they did it — how Congress disappeared, how the press became part of it, how the public acquiesced.”

Hersh then brought up the widespread looting that took place in Baghdad after the fall of Saddam Hussein in 2003. “In the Cheney shop, the attitude was, ‘What’s this? What are they all worried about, the politicians and the press, they’re all worried about some looting? … Don’t they get it? We’re gonna change mosques into cathedrals. And when we get all the oil, nobody’s gonna give a damn.'”

“That’s the attitude,” he continued. “We’re gonna change mosques into cathedrals. That’s an attitude that pervades, I’m here to say, a large percentage of the Joint Special Operations Command.”

He then alleged that Gen. Stanley McChrystal, who headed JSOC before briefly becoming the top U.S. commander in Afghanistan, and his successor, Vice Adm. William McRaven, as well as many within JSOC, “are all members of, or at least supporters of, Knights of Malta.”

Hersh may have been referring to the Sovereign Order of Malta, a Roman Catholic organization commited to “defence of the Faith and assistance to the poor and the suffering,” according to its website.

“Many of them are members of Opus Dei,” Hersh continued. “They do see what they’re doing — and this is not an atypical attitude among some military — it’s a crusade, literally. They see themselves as the protectors of the Christians. They’re protecting them from the Muslims [as in] the 13th century. And this is their function.”

“They have little insignias, these coins they pass among each other, which are crusader coins,” he continued. “They have insignia that reflect the whole notion that this is a culture war. … Right now, there’s a tremendous, tremendous amount of anti-Muslim feeling in the military community.”” Continue Reading

2

An Honest Woman of the Left

Last week RFK, Jr, attempted to tie in the slaying of John F. Kennedy in Dallas in 1963 with the Giffords shooting:

“Jack had received myriad warnings against visiting the right-wing Texas city. Indeed, there had been a sense of foreboding even within our family as he and Aunt Jackie prepared for the trip. Jack made an unscheduled trip to Cape Cod to say goodbye to my ailing grandfather. The night before the trip, Mummy found Jack distant and brooding at a dinner for the Supreme Court Justices. He was very fond of Mummy, but for the first time ever, he looked right through her.

Jack’s death forced a national bout of self-examination. In 1964, Americans repudiated the forces of right-wing hatred and violence with an historic landslide in the presidential election between LBJ and Goldwater. For a while, the advocates of right-wing extremism receded from the public forum. Now they have returned with a vengeance — to the broadcast media and to prominent positions in the political landscape.”

 

RFK, Jr missed a little point in his tirade of course.  Right wing opposition to JFK, in Dallas or elsewhere, had nothing to do with the fact that JFK was murdered by Lee Harvey Oswald, a Communist, a former Marine who attempted to defect to the Soviet Union.  This omission is noted by Violet Socks in a brilliant post that may be read here at her blog Reclusive Leftist.  Here is a portion of what she writes:

But the essay is missing a sentence. I was so sure the sentence had to be there that I read the entire piece three times, and then started doing page searches to find the missing words. Surely the sentence was there and I was just somehow not seeing it. It’s the sentence that goes something like, “Ironically, despite the atmosphere in Dallas, it turned out that Uncle Jack’s assassin was a misguided pro-Castro Marxist.” Because that, of course, is what actually happened. That was the great irony of the JFK assassination. Dallas was infested with wingnuts (though they weren’t called wingnuts back then), and at first everybody thought that’s who killed the president. But lo and behold, it was just Lee Oswald, delusional Communist blowhard. As Jackie Kennedy remarked bitterly, JFK didn’t even have the “satisfaction” of dying for his liberal ideals; instead his assassin was just a “silly little Communist.”

She ties this in with the Giffords shootings:

Nor can you even say that the anti-JFK stuff in Dallas gave Oswald the idea of killing the president. He’d already tried to shoot General Walker back in April. In October 1963 he watched We Were Strangers, a film about political assassination, and according to Marina was very excited by it. There’s also good reason to believe he’d seen Suddenly and The Manchurian Candidate, both films about shooting a U.S. president—and both starring Frank Sinatra, weirdly enough. (Wait, is Frank implicated?)

If you want to make the case that violent political rhetoric in general begets real violence, then make that case. Don’t fudge the data and don’t cherry pick your facts. Don’t talk ominously about right-wing vitriol and look meaningfully over at Dallas 1963, or at Tuscon 2011. Unless, of course, you want to argue that right-wing rhetoric is dangerous because it drives leftists and schizophrenics to murder, but somehow I don’t think that’s the goal. Continue Reading

9

The Hero and the Priest

 

 

Andre Cailloux was born a slave in Louisiana.  He lived his entire life in and around New Orleans.  In 1846 his petition for manumission, with the support of his owner, was granted by an all white police jury in New Orleans.   The next year he married a former slave, Felicie, with whom he had four children during the course of their marriage, and set up a cigar making business in the Crescent City.  He soon became recognized as a leader in the free black community of New Orleans.  Cailloux, a firm son of the Church, learned to read with the help of teachers at the Institute Catholique.  Through his own efforts he became an educated man, fluent in both English and French. 

At the beginning of the Civil War Cailloux became a Lieutenant in the 1rst Louisiana Native Guard, a Confederate black militia unit made up of free blacks to defend New Orleans.  After the first battle of Manassas, the 1rst Louisiana Native Guard volunteered to guard Union prisoners.  The offer was declined with thanks by the Confederate government.  No effort was made by the Confederate government to supply uniforms or weapons for the unit, and the men supplied themselves out of their own resources.  (It should be noted that many white Confederate and Union units  were in the same boat at the beginning of the War, as the number of volunteers vastly exceeded the ability of the governments to provide for them.)  The 1rst Louisiana Native Guards did participate in two grand reviews in New Orleans with other Confederate units. 

After the Confederate Congress passed a conscription act in 1862 making all whites of military age subject to a draft, the white officers in the 1rst Louisiana Native Guards were transferred to other duties and the regiment was disbanded on February 15, 1862.  Needless to say, the Confederacy missed a golden opportunity at the beginning of the War of enlisting free blacks.  Blacks given any encouragement at all to enlist in the Confederate Army, especially with a promise of eventual emancipation for all blacks, might have helped alter the outcome of the War.  Of course if the Confederate leaders had been willing to entertain such ideas at the beginning of the War, neither secession nor the War would have occurred.

After the capture of New Orleans by the Union, Major General Benjamin Butler decided to reconstitute the 1rst Lousiana Native Guard as a Union regiment.  Cailloux rejoined the regiment and was made Captain of Company E.  The black population of New Orleans responded enthusiastically to Butler’s initiative, and the Native Guard soon grew to three regiments. 

In December 1862 Butler was replaced by Major General Nathaniel P. Banks.  A former governor of Massachusetts, Banks was one of the worst Union generals of the war ( I believe the man he replaced, Benjamin Butler, deserves the chief position as most incompetent Union general.)  Forces under his command were so regularly beaten by the Confederates, that they nicknamed him “Commissary” Banks, since they would seize Union supply trains after they whipped his forces.  Banks replaced the black officers in the second Native Guard regiment with white officers, as it was the usual Union policy not to commission blacks.  However, the black officers in the first and third Native Guards remained in their positions.

The regiment was utilized for fatigue and guard details until it entered combat in the siege of Port Hudson, a Confederate fortified position north of Baton Rouge which the Union needed to seize as part of the campaign to bring the Mississippi under Union control.  On May 27, 1863 Banks, who commanded the Union army besieging Port Hudson, ordered assaults on the Confederate fortifications.  The 1rst and 3rd Louisiana Native Guards participated in these attacks.  The Union troops fought heroically, but Banks, with his customary lack of even elementary military skill, failed to coordinate the attacks, and the Confederates beat back the assaults with relative ease.  Captain Andre Cailloux, heroically leading his men, was killed. Continue Reading

3

Joseph H. Rainey-First Black Congressman

 

The first black Congressman elected and seated in the House of Representatives was Joseph H. Rainey of South Carolina.  Born to slaves on June 31, 1832 in Georgetown, South Carolina, he became a free man soon after his birth, thanks to his father, Edward Rainey, a successful and industrious barber who purchased his family’s freedom.  He followed his father in the barber trade, until the beginning of the Civil War.  Drafted as a laborer, he worked on fortifications and blockade runners.  Escaping with his wife, they spent the rest of the war in Bermuda where Rainey resumed his trade as a barber.  After the war he returned to South Carolina and became active in Republican party politics.  Well read and intelligent, Rainey quickly made his mark.  In 1868 he was elected as a delegate to the South Carolina constitutional convention.  In 1870 he won election to the state senate of South Carolina and then, winning a special election to fill a vacancy, he was elected to Congress and would serve there until March of 1879, making him the longest serving black congressman until William Dawson of Illinois eclipsed his record in the 1950s. 

In Congress Rainey fought for civil rights for blacks and against the ultimately successful effort in the South to effectively disenfranchise blacks.  He brought to his efforts a keen wit and eloquence as can be seen in this speech which he delivered after disparaging remarks were made about blacks in the South Carolina legislature by Democrat Representative Samuel Cox of New York in 1871:

The remarks made by the gentleman from New York in relation to the colored people of South Carolina escaped my hearing, as I was in the rear of the Hall when they were made, and I did not know that any utterance of that kind had emanated from him. I have always entertained a high regard for the gentleman from New York, because I believed him to be a useful member of the House. He is a gentleman of talent and of fine education, and I have thought heretofore that he would certainly be charitable toward a race of people who have never enjoyed the same advantages that he has. If the colored people of South Carolina had been accorded the same advantages—if they had had the same wealth and surroundings which the gentleman from New York has had, they would have shown to this nation that their color was no obstacle to their holding positions of trust, political or otherwise. Not having had these advantages, we cannot at the present time compete with the favored race of this country; but perhaps if our lives are spared, and if the gentleman from New York and other gentlemen on that side of the House will only accord to us right and justice, we shall show to them that we can be useful, intelligent citizens of this country. But if they will continue to proscribe us, if they will continue to cultivate prejudice against us; if they will continue to decry the Negro and crush him under foot, then you cannot expect the Negro to rise while the Democrats are trampling upon him and his rights. We ask you, sir, to do by the Negro as you ought to do by him in justice.

If the Democrats are such staunch friends of the Negro, why is it that when propositions are offered here and elsewhere looking to the elevation of the colored race, and the extension of right and justice to them, do the Democrats array themselves in unbroken phalanx, and vote against every such measure? You, gentlemen of that side of the House, have voted against all the recent amendments of the Constitution, and the laws enforcing the same. Why did you do it? I answer, because those measures had a tendency to give to the poor Negro his just rights, and because they proposed to knock off his shackles and give him freedom of speech, freedom of action, and the opportunity of education, that he might elevate himself to the dignity of manhood. Continue Reading

8

Susannah York of ‘A Man For All Seasons’, Requiescat In Pace

Susannah York succumbed to cancer this past Friday at the age of 72.

She is best remembered for portraying Saint Thomas More‘s daughter, Margaret More, in what is arguably the greatest Catholic film of all time, A Man For All Seasons.

She was very beautiful and enchanting and her role as Margaret More captured the essences of an integrated Catholic life that is an excellent example for laypeople everywhere today.

The following clip is that of the King paying his Lord Chancellor, Saint Thomas More, a visit on his estate.  The King encounters More’s family and is introduced to More’s daughter, Margaret, at the :45 mark of the clip.  They engage in conversation at the 1:32 mark of the clip.  The entire 10 minutes should be viewed to really enjoy her performance and appreciate the film itself:

Here is the trailer to that magnificent Catholic film, A Man For All Seasons:

Post script:  I was unable to find out if Susannah York was a Catholic or not, but her portrayal of Margaret More is a fine example of living a Catholic life.

Cross-posted at Gulf Coast Catholic.

2

“Settle for Nothing Less.” (Walker Percy)

Q: What kind of Catholic are you?
A: Bad.
Q: No, I mean are you liberal or conservative?
A: I no longer know what those words mean.
Q: Are you a dogmatic Catholic or an open-minded Catholic?
A: I don’t know what that means, either. Do you mean I believe the dogma that the Catholic Church proposes for belief?
Q: Yes.
A: Yes.
Q: How is such a belief possible in this day and age?
A: What else is there?
Q: What do you mean, what else is there? There is humanism, atheism, agnosticism, Marxism, behavioralism, materialism, Buddhism, Muhammadanism, Sufism, astrology, occultism, theosophy.
A: That’s what I mean.
Q: To say nothing of Judaism or Protestantism.
A: Well, I would include them along with the Catholic Church in the whole peculiar Jewish-Christian thing.
Q: I don’t understand. Would you exclude, for example, scientific humanism as a rational and honorable alternative?
A: Yes.
Q: Why?
A: It’s not good enough.
Q: Why not?
A: This life is too much trouble, far too strange, to arrive at the end of it and then to be asked what you make of it and have to answer, “Scientific humanism.” That won’t do. A poor show. Life is a mystery, love is a delight. Therefore I take it as axiomatic that one should settle for nothing less than the infinite mystery and the infinite delight, i.e., God. In fact, I demand it. I refuse to settle for anything less.

Conversations with Walker Percy (1985)

3

Father John B. Bannon: Confederate Chaplain and Diplomat

 

There were a great many brave men during the Civil War, but I think it is a safe wager that none were braver than Father John B. Bannon.  Born on January 29, 1829 in Dublin, Ireland, after he was ordained a priest he was sent in 1853 to Missouri to minister to the large Irish population in Saint Louis.  In 1858 he was appointed pastor of St. John’s parish on the west side of the city.  Always energetic and determined, he was instrumental in the construction Saint John the Apostle and Evangelist church.  Out of his hectic schedule he somehow found time to become a chaplain in the Missouri Volunteer Militia and became friends with many soldiers who, unbeknownst to them all, would soon be called on for something other than peaceful militia drills.  In November 1860 he marched with the Washington Blues under the command of Captain Joseph Kelly to defend the state from Jayhawkers from “Bleeding Kansas”.

With the outbreak of the Civil War, most of the Saint Louis Irish were strongly Confederate in their sympathies and Father Bannon was of their number.  The Irish viewed the conflict in light of their experiences in Ireland with the English invaders, with the Southerners in the role of the Irish and the Northerners as the English.   Confederate militia gathered at Camp Jackson after the firing on Fort Sumter, and Father Bannon went there as chaplain of the Washington Blues.  Camp Jackson eventually surrendered to Union forces, and Father Bannon was held in Union custody until May 11, 1861.  He resumed his parish duties, although he made no secret from the pulpit where his personal sympathies lay.  Targeted for arrest by the Union military in Saint Louis, on December 15, 1861, he slipped out of the back door of his rectory, in disguise and wearing a fake beard,  as Union troops entered the front door. 

He made his way to Springfield, Missouri where Confederate forces were gathering, and enlisted in the Patriot Army of Missouri under the colorful General Sterling Price, who would say after the War that Father Bannon was the greatest soldier he ever met.

He became a chaplain in the First Missouri Confederate Brigade, and would serve in that capacity until the unit surrendered at Vicksburg on July 4, 1863.  He quickly became a legend not only in his brigade, but in the entire army to which it was attached and an inspiration to the soldiers, Catholic and Protestant alike.  At the three day battle of Pea Ridge, Arkansas, March 6-8, 1862, he disobeyed orders for chaplains to remain in the rear and joined the soldiers on the firing line, giving human assistance to the wounded, and divine assistance for those beyond human aid.  For Catholic soldiers he would give them the Last Rites, and Protestant soldiers, if they wished, he would baptize. Continue Reading

6

Lincoln and the Blood Libel of 1860

 

 

This has been going around the internet.  I am regretful that I did not recall this section first of Lincoln’s famous Cooper Union Address on February 27, 1860:

I would say to them:–You consider yourselves a reasonable and a just people; and I consider that in the general qualities of reason and justice you are not inferior to any other people. Still, when you speak of us Republicans, you do so only to denounce us as reptiles, or, at the best, as no better than outlaws. You will grant a hearing to pirates or murderers, but nothing like it to “Black Republicans.” In all your contentions with one another, each of you deems an unconditional condemnation of “Black Republicanism” as the first thing to be attended to. Indeed, such condemnation of us seems to be an indispensable prerequisite–license, so to speak–among you to be admitted or permitted to speak at all. Now, can you, or not, be prevailed upon to pause and to consider whether this is quite just to us, or even to yourselves? Bring forward your charges and specifications, and then be patient long enough to hear us deny or justify. Continue Reading

10

Yeah, Truth Is Definitely Stranger Than Fiction

One of the Giffords shooting victims, James Eric Fuller, joined in with the attempt of the Left to blame the Giffords shooting on conservatives:  “It looks like Palin, Beck, Sharron Angle and the rest got their first target,” Eric Fuller, a former campaigner for Ariz. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, told Democracy Now. “Their wish for Second Amendment activism has been fulfilled.”

Today Mr. Fuller was arrested for making a death threat: 

Toward the end of the town hall meeting Saturday morning, one of the shooting victims, J. Eric Fuller, took exception to comments by two of the speakers: Ariz. state Rep. Terri Proud, a Dist. 26 Republican, and Tucson Tea Party spokesman Trent Humphries.

According to sheriff’s deputies at the scene, Fuller took a photo of Humphries and said, “You’re Dead.”

Deputies immediately escorted Fuller from the room.

Pima County Sheriff’s spokesman Jason Ogan said later Saturday that Fuller has been charged with threats and intimidation and he also will be charged with disorderly conduct.

Among the dignitaries at the town hall taping were Mayor Bob Walkup, U.S. Rep. Raul Grijalva and former Congressman Jim Kolbe.

All this is somewhat explicable when one reads up a bit more about Mr. Fuller.  Go here to do so. Continue Reading

6

The Vacant Chair

Something for the weekend.  The incomparable Kathy Mattea singing the Civil War song The Vacant Chair.  Originally written in 1862 to commemorate Second Lieutenant John William Grout, 15th Massachusetts, who was killed at age eighteen at Ball’s Bluff, one of the early battles of the War, it proved immensely popular North and South as the nation eventually mourned approximately 620,000 vacant chairs. Continue Reading

11

Buying A Car To Save Money

Cars that get over 40 miles per gallon in fuel efficiency are, reportedly, becoming all the rage, with more models from American and foreign car makers being introduced at the latest Detroit Auto Show.

So I got curious, having just started a 18-mile-each-way commute, what exactly are the savings one can achieve by buying a more fuel efficient car? I assumed a situation faily like mine: My car is paid for and costs me only minimal maintenance to keep up (a 14-year-old Toyota Camry) and a 20 mile each way commute.

Say you’re considering buying a new car which gets 40mpg for $20,000. That seems moderately standard for these cars. Assume a 40 mile daily round trip commute, and an additional 40 miles of weekend or additional driving. Assuming a current care actual efficiency of 20mpg. Assume the price of gas goes up to $4/gal. How long would it take for you to make up the cost of that new car in fuel savings?
Continue Reading

12

A Matter of Perspective

So what right-wing columnist said this:

All this fuss about civility . . . is an attempt to bully critics into unilaterally disarming – into being demure and respectful to the president.

Actually, it was Paul Krugman, quoted in a Stephen Miller article titled “Anger Mismanagement,” published in the Wall Street Journal on March 19, 2004.

Hey, at least this can be one time where I totally agree with Paul Krugman.  Oddly enough, apparently I am in fuller accord with Paul Krugman than . . . Paul Krugman.

2

Life Imitates Art

Orwell’s two minute hate from 1984 is brought to film in the above video.  Below is a video montage of tweets calling for the death of Sarah Palin which went out after the Giffords shootings.  (Strong content advisory:  many of the tweets are very vulgar and obscene and all of them are examples of congealed hate.) Continue Reading

25

The President’s Speech

I did not watch President Obama’s speech last night, nor any of the memorial service turned pep rally, but I have read the transcript.  After reading through it I have to concur with the majority sentiment that this was a very good if not excellent speech. In fact this is perhaps the best one the President has given, granted that is a pretty low bar.  President Obama’s speeches can most charitably be described as vague, but this one contained a very clear message and was very appropriate for the occasion.  I was struck in particular by this passage:

You see, when a tragedy like this strikes, it is part of our nature to demand explanations, to try to impose some order on the chaos, and make sense out of that which seems senseless.  Already we’ve seen a national conversation commence, not only about the motivations behind these killings, but about everything from the merits of gun safety laws to the adequacy of our mental health systems. And much of this process, of debating what might be done to prevent such tragedies in the future, is an essential ingredient in our exercise of self-government.

But at a time when our discourse has become so sharply polarized  at a time when we are far too eager to lay the blame for all that ails the world at the feet of those who happen to think differently than we do  it’s important for us to pause for a moment and make sure that we’re talking with each other in a way that heals, not a way that wounds.

Scripture tells us that there is evil in the world, and that terrible things happen for reasons that defy human understanding. In the words of Job, ‘when I looked for light, then came darkness.’ Bad things happen, and we have to guard against simple explanations in the aftermath.

For the truth is that none of us can know exactly what triggered this vicious attack. None of us can know with any certainty what might have stopped these shots from being fired, or what thoughts lurked in the inner recesses of a violent man’s mind.

Naturally there’s been some blowback by some conservatives horrified at the notion that anything President Obama has done or said could ever garner praise by fellow conservatives.  For example, just read the comments to any number of blog postings on the Corner last night.  Almost all of the NRO contributors praised the speech, drawing the ire of a large band of followers (though not all, certainly).  I’m not really sure what more the President could have said.  If there’s any criticism due this speech it is that it does seem a bit over-long.  It’s almost like one of those homilies where it feels like the Priest is vamping in order to hit some pre-conceived notion of how long the talk should be.  But it is foolish to have  expected the President to have delivered a full-blown attack on leftists who engaged in any “blood libel.”  The tenor of his remarks were certainly appropriate for the occasion.

I don’t think that President Obama’s political career is suddenly going to be rejuvenated because some right-wing pundits like one speech that he gave.  If this wasn’t your cup of tea, fine.  I’ve found myself disliking many an Obama oration that others have drooled over, so opinions may vary.  But to me this was a speech well worth the praise it has received.