Monthly Archives: January 2011

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: →']);" class="more-link">Continue reading

Illinois Appellate Court Kicks Rahm Emanuel off Chicago Mayoral Ballot

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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. →']);" class="more-link">Continue reading

The Assisi Gathering: Some Potential Invites

I honestly can’t believe they’re doing this again. I oppose gatherings such as Assisi for many reasons that I could explain with a lengthy diatribe full of references and quotations, but I decided to go with withering sarcasm instead.

Check it out and comment on it here.

I believe these meetings are immoral and imprudent. Even if they’re called by the pope and supported by the hierarchy. And I think they would find some of the answers to their own questions about the crisis of the Church, of Christianity, and religious faith in general if they examined their personal reasons for being a part of,  as well as the objective social effects, of such gatherings. It was quite disappointing to hear a man who has spoken out so many times about the dangers of relativism call for an event that practically embodies the abstract concept in the physical world.

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/

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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. →']);" class="more-link">Continue reading

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.

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John Adams’ Finest Hour

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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. ']);" class="more-link">Continue reading

Shiloh’s Hill

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Something for the weekend.  Shiloh’s Hill.  This moving song on the battle of Shiloh is based on a poem written by M. G. Smith who fought in the battle with Company C, 2nd Texas Volunteer Infantry.  The song is performed by the 97th New York regimental string band. →']);" class="more-link">Continue reading

Gosnell, Abortion and Reality

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“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. … ']);" class="more-link">Continue reading

Ralph and Ron: An Ideological Alliance?

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I’m never going to be excited about major party politics. When we come to the finish line, I will hold my nose and vote for the lesser evil, since I don’t see the harm in using my vote. But I’m not going to sit around and speculate about which mainstream GOP or Democratic politician is going to be the frontrunner for 2012. I’ll let others worry about that.

I’d rather focus on the men of principle who sometimes get involved in these races, even though they have no chance of winning. Independent or “outsider” candidates and their campaigns serve a couple of vital functions: they bring viewpoints delegitimized and mocked by the main news sources on the left and right to the forefront, which in turn reminds us that we still live in a relatively free country and haven’t become a fascist dictatorship like China. They can also put some pressure on the major party candidates to take certain issues more seriously.

Recently Judge Andrew Napolitano, the only man on the major networks I can bear to listen to for more than a few minutes, invited Ron Paul and Ralph Nader on his show to discuss the issues and discover the extent to which “progressives” such as Nader and libertarians such as Paul can agree on them. I wasn’t surprised to discover that they agree on quite a bit, as you will see if you watch the video above.

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Bankruptcy Coming Soon to a State Near You

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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. ']);" class="more-link">Continue reading

Senator Jefferson Smith, the Tea Party and America

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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:

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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.” ']);" class="more-link">Continue reading

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.
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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). →']);" class="more-link">Continue reading

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.  →']);" class="more-link">Continue reading

Head of CCHD Was Treasurer For Pro-Abort Candidate

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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. ']);" class="more-link">Continue reading

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. →']);" class="more-link">Continue reading

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