Monthly Archives: January 2011

The Wages of Sin Is… Higher Taxes?

A few months ago I wrote this reflection on the idea that bad leadership can be seen as a punishment or consequence of sin, and how the ethical and fiscal train wreck that is Illinois state government might serve as an example of this concept.

Now we are seeing further evidence of this concept. In the waning hours of their own lame-duck session, the Illinois General Assembly early this morning passed one of the most drastic tax hikes in state history.

The measure raises the individual income tax rate from 3 to 5 percent (thereby increasing each individual’s total tax liability by 66 percent) and the corporate tax rate from 4.8 to 7 percent. Gov. Pat Quinn has promised to sign the tax hike into law as soon as possible.

The corporate income tax, combined with an existing 2.5 percent tax that replaced an old personal property tax, means corporations in Illinois will be taxed at a total basic rate (not accounting for any exemptions or deductions) of 9.5 percent, the fourth highest rate in the nation. Although the tax hikes are supposed to be in effect only for the next four years, most residents expect all or part of the increases to end up being permanent.

The reason for this action is the state’s cataclysmic $15 billion-and-mounting budget shortfall. The growing deficit threatened to lower Illinois’ bond rating to junk status, possibly within days. In response, lame duck legislators in the last 12 hours of their term voted to approve the tax hike. A loose spending cap was approved along with the tax hike, but no specific or significant budget cuts accompanied this legislation.

Needless to say, the impending tax hike has many residents angry and feeling betrayed yet again by their elected officials.  Gov. Quinn, elected to a full term by a very narrow margin, had said prior to the election that he would not approve of raising the income tax for individuals beyond 4 percent. However,  this measure goes a full percentage point higher. Many predict a significant loss of jobs and residents as a result.

But what does this have to do with the “wages of sin” spoken of by St. Paul?

Continue reading

Would Repealing ObamaCare Break the Budget

One of the priorities of the new Republican majority in the House is to repeal ObamaCare — though this would in effect be a purely sympolic move since a repeal would have no chance of passing the Senate, much less surviving an Obama veto. Nonetheless, pundits are having their say over the matter, and one of the odder arguments being advanced is that repealing ObamaCare would result in increasing the budget deficit. This has allowed Democrats to accuse Republicans of not only wanting sick people to go without treatment, but of wanting to spend more money than it would cost to insure them. How exactly does this math work?

As Ruth Marcus points out in the Washington Post, there’s a lot of funny math going into the CBO projection that repealing ObamaCare would increase the deficit.

The Congressional Budget Office projects that the health care law, if implemented as promised, would save $230 billion over the next decade. There are two important words in that sentence: projects and if.
Continue reading

Civil Litigation: The Truth, The Whole Truth And Nothing But The Truth

Well, even the New York Times is reporting what a dismal choice law school tends to be for so many would be attorneys these days.  Read all about it here.

My favorite passage in this story is this quote from a jobless law school grad who owes 250k :

“It’s a prestige thing,” he says. “I’m an attorney. All of my friends see me as a person they look up to. They understand I’m in a lot of debt, but I’ve done something they feel they could never do and the respect and admiration is important.”

I had a root canal done yesterday and I really appreciated the roar of laughter that paragraph elicited from me.

I have written several posts in the hopes of giving people thinking of law school some idea of the debt ice berg they are probably sailing towards.   This is the start of a series to give some idea of what the practice of law tends to be in reality, rather than in theory as set forth in law schools.  Continue reading

On the Transformative Power of Hate

Midway through college, I found myself (in part, I am sure, through my own fault) sucked into one of those interpersonal dramas of the sort that can only take place in an environment where lots of young adults with much time and little sense are living with each other in a small residential college 24/7. I had a falling out with my roommate, and since the room had become a rather difficult place to live, I arranged with the residence director to move into another room in the dorm. This was almost but not quite the end of it. For a few weeks longer there were random knocks on my door, anything I put on my bulletin board was slashed to ribbons, milkshakes had a way of happening to get spilled on my car, etc. And then all was forgotten.

But during that brief period during which the strife could not be let go, I developed a reflexive reaction to everything about the former roommate. Seeing a car on the highway the same color and model as his would make me angry. Just hearing the roommate’s name would cause a tightening feeling in my stomach. Even if one would be glad to be done with it all, being hated by someone else is something which cannot help but cause significant changes in you. Hatred is never a one-way relationship.

I think of this at the moment because our country looks increasingly like two camps that would really like to be warring, except for the fact that actual civil wars cut into work hours more than blogging does. When Representative Gabrielle Giffords was critically injured, and six bystanders were killed, by a gunman who was seriously disturbed, to say the least, it could have been a moment for the country to pull together in a sense of common sympathy for the dead and injured and outrage that violence had been brought into our civic life, where it has no place.

House Speaker John Boehner stepped forward and delivered standard unifying rhetoric for such occasions, “An attack on one who serves is an attack on all who serve. Acts and threats of violence against public officials have no place in our society… This is a sad day for our country.”
Continue reading

An Analysis of the 2010 House Elections

I’m a bit late with this post, but it seems appropriate now as a sort of follow-up to my previous post regarding the House of Representatives.  When someone is both a political junkie and a stats nerd like I am, it’s hard to resist the temptation to delve into the numbers of any election.  So I am going to take a closer look at some of the more interesting figures from last November’s election results for the U.S. House of Representatives. Continue reading

Feeling Cranky

I brought back my old blog, at a slightly different address, and addressed the Arizona shooting.  Hopefully this will be the last word I speak on what has been some rank opportunism.

First Amendment? What First Amendment?

The above video is a stirring rendition of a campaign song for Abraham Lincoln in 1860:  Lincoln and Liberty Too, probably the most effective campaign ditty in American political history.  It was sung everywhere by Republicans in 1860, from huge campaign rallies to small gatherings of Lincoln supporters.  Lincoln Wide Awakes would hold torch light processions throughout the North singing the song at the top of their lungs.  The type of enthusiasm generated by the song helped give Lincoln a popular vote plurality in 1860 and an electoral landslide. 

I think the song would probably be illegal under legislation proposed by Congressman Robert Brady (D.Pa). 

“Rep. Robert Brady (D-Pa.) reportedly plans to introduce legislation that would make it a federal crime to use language or symbols that could be perceived as threatening or inciting violence against a federal official or member of Congress.” 

Critics originally took Palin to task for the apparent use of the crosshairs of guns to identify the districts. The controversy re-ignited Saturday after the shooting, since Giffords’s district was included on the map.  

Brady singled out the map as the type of rhetoric he opposed. 

“You can’t put bull’s-eyes or crosshairs on a United States congressman or a federal official,” he said. 

However, a Palin spokeswoman denied Sunday that the image was intended to depict gun sights. Palin offered condolences to the Giffords family and other victims of the shooting on her Facebook page Saturday. 

 Here is the ad from SarahPac that has Congressman Brady so worked up:  






The crosshairs on the map indicated members of Congress targeted for defeat by SarahPac.  Such targeting imagery of course is commonplace in political campaigns.  Only a moron, or a partisan hack, would think that violence in any way was implied by the use of this image.  As far as American political speech goes, this was pretty tepid stuff.  Continue reading

Former Planned Parenthood director tells her story.

Next Tuesday, January 11th, Ignatius Press will launch a new book by former Planned Parenthood director and 2008 “employee of the year” Abby Johnson.

Unplanned is a behind-closed-doors expose of one of the biggest providers in the abortion industry, and a testimony of how Mrs. Johnson went from directing an abortion facility to working for the prolife cause. (And not just any abortion facility but the place at which the first 40 Days for Life campaign was launched in 2004).

As expected, Planned Parenthood isn’t taking this lightly. They filed a lawsuit to shut her up — but had their case dismissed.

Get all the details here, and purchase Unplanned from Ignatius Press at 35% off. You can also read the first chapter of Abby’s story in its entirety.

Abby also blogs at:

Please join her prayer campaign for the conversion of Dr. LeRoy Carhart, one of the most experienced second & third trimester abortion providers.

Increasing the Size of Congress: Would It Work?

One of the main objections that critics of the Constitution had was that the proposed U.S. House of Representatives would be too small.  Article I, Section 2 decreed that the number of representatives should not exceed one for every thirty thousand.  Critics feared that such an enumeration would mean that the districts would be far too large, and the representatives would not be close enough to the people they represent.  State ratifying convention offered up several amendments to this plan, and the first Congress included a revision to this section as one of the twelve original amendments to the Constitution.  In fact, if it had been ratified it would have been the first amendment, and it so read:

Article the first … After the first enumeration required by the first article of the Constitution, there shall be one Representative for every thirty thousand, until the number shall amount to one hundred, after which the proportion shall be so regulated by Congress, that there shall be not less than one hundred Representatives, nor less than one Representative for every forty thousand persons, until the number of Representatives shall amount to two hundred; after which the proportion shall be so regulated by Congress, that there shall not be less than two hundred Representatives, nor more than one Representative for every fifty thousand persons.

As it turned out, this was only of the original twelve never to be ratified by the states.  Ten were immediately ratified and became known collectively as the Bill of Rights, and an 11th – dealing with Congressional pay raises – was ratified in 1992 and became the 27th Amendment.

If critics were outraged at congressional districts of 30,000, imagine their horror at today’s apportionment.  After the 2000 census the average size of a congressional district jumped to 646,952, a number that has swelled to just over 700,000 in light of the recent census.  In other words, Congressional districts are roughly 23 times larger than originally planned.

So if the states ever got around to ratifying what would have been the first amendment, Congress would increase about fifteen-fold, or to 6,525, as opposed to the current total of 435.   And if we went with the original number prescribed in the Constitution, there would be just over 10,000 members of the U.S. House of Representatives.  Yee-haw!

It’s probably safe to assume that we will not be increasing the number of representatives by that margin anytime soon.  But as something of a fun little thought experiment, what would happen if we “merely” increased the House by triple it current size? Continue reading

The Left and the Political Blood Libel

As indicated by the video above, many people on the Left have been relentless, since news broke of the shooting of Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords and the other victims, on trying to blame conservatives somehow for the actions of one crazed lunatic.  There is no evidence that the gunman was motivated by anything other than the severe mental illness that he seems to be afflicted with.  However, those on the Left seeking to demonize those they politically oppose will not let a little thing like the truth stand in their way.  Glenn Reynolds, the Instapundit, takes a look at all this today in a column in the Wall Street Journal:

Shortly after November’s electoral defeat for the Democrats, pollster Mark Penn appeared on Chris Matthews’s TV show and remarked that what President Obama needed to reconnect with the American people was another Oklahoma City bombing. To judge from the reaction to Saturday’s tragic shootings in Arizona, many on the left (and in the press) agree, and for a while hoped that Jared Lee Loughner’s killing spree might fill the bill.

With only the barest outline of events available, pundits and reporters seemed to agree that the massacre had to be the fault of the tea party movement in general, and of Sarah Palin in particular. Why? Because they had created, in New York Times columnist Paul Krugman’s words, a “climate of hate.”

The critics were a bit short on particulars as to what that meant. Mrs. Palin has used some martial metaphors—”lock and load”—and talked about “targeting” opponents. But as media writer Howard Kurtz noted in The Daily Beast, such metaphors are common in politics. Palin critic Markos Moulitsas, on his Daily Kos blog, had even included Rep. Gabrielle Giffords’s district on a list of congressional districts “bullseyed” for primary challenges. When Democrats use language like this—or even harsher language like Mr. Obama’s famous remark, in Philadelphia during the 2008 campaign, “If they bring a knife to the fight, we bring a gun”—it’s just evidence of high spirits, apparently. But if Republicans do it, it somehow creates a climate of hate.

There’s a climate of hate out there, all right, but it doesn’t derive from the innocuous use of political clichés. And former Gov. Palin and the tea party movement are more the targets than the source. Continue reading

Time to Drive Planned Parenthood From the Federal Trough

Congressman Mike Pence (R.Ind), has been a tireless advocate of driving Worse Than Murder, Inc, a\k\a Planned Parenthood away from the Federal trough.  Last week on January 7, he reintroduced his bill to defund Planned Parenthood.  Here is his statement:

“It is morally wrong to end an unborn human life by abortion.  It is also morally wrong to take the taxpayer dollars of millions of pro-life Americans and use them to promote abortion at home or abroad.

Continue reading

Fighting the Good Fight: The Father Peter Whelan Story

“Fr. Whelan, a Catholic priest from Savannah came in and spoke words of cheer to the condemned and prayed for the forgiveness of their crimes. This lone priest was the only minister of the Gospel that ever came into the prison to speak a kind word or set aright our misguided souls. He made regular visits to the prison, consoled the dying and anointed the dead of his faith. Too much praise cannot be accorded this reverend gentleman for trying to turn sinners to Christ; but in the Last Day, Heaven will cry out for vengeance on ministers of other denominations for their indifference toward their kindred confined in prison.”

Charles Fosdick, Company K, 5th Iowa Volunteers

Hattip to commenter Jim Schmidt.  Faithful readers of this blog will recall my post Priest of Andersonville in which I related the story of Father Peter Whelan, a Roman Catholic priest and Confederate Army chaplain who, on his own initiative, ministered to the tens of thousands of Union prisoners of war at the infamous Andersonville prison in 1864. Continue reading

Congresswoman Shot, At Least Six Dead in Arizona

U.S. Representative Gabrielle Giffords (D-AZ) was one of over a dozen people shot today at an event in Arizona, and  federal judge John Roll was one of those killed in the shooting.  Early reports indicated that Rep. Giffords had died, but now it appears that she pulled through surgery, and her prognosis is positive.

The alleged shooter was Jared Lee Loughner, and Daniel Foster has some screenshots from the shooter’s YouTube page.  Unsurprisingly a disturbed individual.

Pray for the victims and their families.

Marines’ Hymn

Some people work an entire lifetime and wonder if they ever made a difference to the world.? But the Marines don’t have that problem.

Ronald Reagan

Something for the weekend.  The oldest of the official songs of a branch of the US military, the composer of the Marines’ Hymn is unknown, but is thought to have been a Marine serving in Mexico during the Mexican War, hence the “Halls of Montezuma”.  The music is taken from the Gendarmes Duet from the Opera Genevieve de Brabant, written by Jacques Offenback in 1859.

Prior to 1929 the first verse used to end:

” Admiration of the nation,
we’re the finest ever seen;
And we glory in the title
Of United States Marines”

which the then Commandant of the Marine Corps changed to the current lines.  On November 21, 1942,  Commandant Thomas Holcomb approved a change in the words of the first verse’s fourth line from “On the land as on the sea” to “In the air, on land, and sea”.

My favorite rendition of the hymn is in the movie The Sands of Iwo Jima (1949)  This film earned John Wayne his first Oscar nomination as best actor.  (Broderick Crawford would win for his stunning performance in All The King’s Men.)   Wayne was initially reluctant to take the role, partly because he had not fought in World War II, and partly because he saw script problems and didn’t like the character of Sergeant Styker as initially written in the screen play.  (There is evidence that Wayne, 34 at the time of Pearl Harbor, and with 3 kids, did attempt to volunteer in 1943 for the Marine Corps with assignment to John Ford’s OSS Field Photographic Unit, but was turned down.) 

Wayne was convinced to take the role because the film had the enthusiastic backing of the Marine Corps, which viewed it as a fitting tribute to the Marines who fought in the Pacific, and to help combat a move in Congress to abolish the Corps.  Marine Commandant Clifton B. Cates went to see Wayne to request that he take the role and Wayne immediately agreed.  (Thus began a long association of John Wayne with the Marine Corps, including Wayne narrating a tribute to Marine Lieutenant General Chesty Puller.)  

 Appearing in the film were several Marine veterans of the Pacific, including Colonel David Shoup, who earned a Medal of Honor for his heroism at Tarawa, and who would later serve as a Commandant of the Corps, and Lieutenant Colonel Henry Crow who led a Marine battalion at Tarawa.  The Marine Corp hymn is sung in the film after the death of Wayne’s character, one of ten films in which a Wayne character died, and as the raising of the flag is recreated. 

 Taking part in the flag raising were Rene Gagnon, Ira Hayes and John Bradley, the three survivors of the six flag raisers who survived the battle.  (The three men who raised the flag and subsequently died in the battle were Franklin Sousely, Harlon Block and Michael Strank.)  (First Lieutenant Harold Schrier, who led the flag raising party that raised the first, smaller, flag on Mount Suribachi, and who was awarded a Navy Cross and a Silver Star for his heroism on Iwo Jima, also appeared in the film.)  The flag on top of Mount Suribachi could be seen across the island, and was greeted with cheers by the Marines and blaring horns by the ships of the Navy.  A mass was said on Mount Suribachi at the time of the flag raising and I have written about that here.  Go here to see the ending of the Sands of Iwo Jima and listen to the Marines’ Hymn. Continue reading

Dating Advice From Uncle Joe Biden

Joe Biden gives dating advice to the daughters of new members of the Senate.  This video is a prime example of why Biden has always been a figure of fun to me rather than a figure that gets me angry.  Joe Biden is none too bright, as he has demonstrated by his endless gaffes, and a few instances of plagiarism, and I regard his policy positions, notably his pro-abortion position, as appalling.  However, the man does have a certain daffy charm, rather like a sweet old uncle who, at every family reunion, confuses the names of most of his nieces and nephews, specializes in non-sequiturs, and invariably will end up passed out on the pile of coats in the spare bedroom.  Of course, the dazed and confused sweet old Uncle isn’t a heartbeat away from the presidency, Heaven help us all, as Joe is.

The Constitution Then and Now

I have just finished a rather thorough book on the history of the ratification debates written by Pauline Maeir, titled Ratification: the People Debate the Constitution.  The recurring theme throughout the debates from the Constitution’s opponents is concern that the Framers had created a centralized state that would, especially through its vast taxing powers, become corrupt and tyrannical.  I have been over this to some extent in a previous post, and I once again highlight the words of the Anti-Federalist writer Brutus because it is one of the best expressions of anti-constitutional angst:

Exercised without limitation, it will introduce itself into every corner of the city and country. It [the national government] will wait upon the ladies at their toilett, and will not leave them in any of their domestic concerns; it will accompany them to the ball, the play, and the assembly; it will go with them when they visit, and will, on all occasions, sit beside them in their carriages, nor will it desert them even at church; it will enter the house of every gentleman, watch over his cellar, wait upon his cook in the kitchen, follow the servants into the parlour, preside over the table, and note down all he eats or drinks; it will attend him to his bed-chamber, and watch him while he sleeps; it will take the cognizance of the professional man in his office or his study; it will watch the merchant in the counting-house or in his store; it will follow the mechanic to his shop and in his work, and will haunt him in his family and in his bed; it will be a constant companion of the industrious farmer in all his labour, it will be with him in the house and in the field, observe the toil of his hands and the sweat of his brow; it will penetrate into the most obscure cottage; and finally, it will light upon the head of every person in the United States.

Fast forward 223 years later (or more than 100 years if you’re Ezra Klein), where we witness the Constitution being read aloud on the floor of the House of Representatives.  Republicans have promised that in every proposed piece of legislation they will cite the constitutional authority for each provision – and contra what the New York Times may think, Congress, and not just the Judiciary,  has the authority and ability to interpret the Constitution for itself as a body (as does the President).  The reason for all this as that conservatives feel that a more filial observance of the powers – and limits to said powers – of the Constitution will reign in the federal government.  In other words, we need to more faithfully interpret the Constitution if we want the federal government to become less centralized and less tyrannical.

So were the Ant-Federalists right?  Reading Maier’s book, as well as any selection of the Anti-Federalist papers, one is almost tempted to label the constitution’s original critics as prophets as indeed many of their worst dreams came true.  Perhaps the most prescient prediction is that the federal government would, in essence, swallow up the states as state and local governments have diminished in power and authority over the years.

It’s also worth remembering that the Constitution was intentionally designed to increase the power of the federal government.  I cringe a little when conservatives claim that the Constitution was designed to limit the powers of the federal government.  Well, in point of fact the Constitution was meant to improve upon the Articles of Confederation and make it easier for the federal government to act.  Under the Articles of Confederation legislation required unanimous consent among the states.  Further complicating matters, some states refused to furnish needed funds to keep the national government solvent.  So the purpose of the Constitution was in fact to enhance federal authority.

But the story doesn’t end there.  The delegated powers were few and well-defined.  One of the principal Anti-Federalist arguments was that the Constitution lacked a Bill of Rights, to which the Federalists responded that the Constitution itself was a bill of rights.  The people need not fear that the federal government would engage in actions that were clearly outside of its delegated authority.  Eventually the first Congress would adopt a bill of rights, partially as a means to placate reluctant ratifiers.

And so now proponents of limited government turn to the Constitution in order to justify a more limited state.  Are we simply wrong?  Perhaps the Constitution’s grant of authority is as broad as the Anti-Federalists feared, and we are clinging to a mistaken notion of what the Constitution does and does not prohibit.  I’m sure several people reading this would tend to agree with that notion.  Anybody remotely familiar with my writing would not be surprised when I say that part of the crisis we face is due to a neglect of the original intent of the Constitution.  The problem lies principally with a judiciary that has mis-interpreted the Constitution so overwhelmingly that they have rendered large parts of it – especially the Tenth Amendment – practically null, while expanding and twisting other elements – notably the commerce clause and 14th Amendment – to fit their needs.  Personally I think the case of Wickard v. Filburn did more damage to the Constitution than any other decision other than Roe.  If you’re not familiar with the case, do read the opinion of the Court as handed down by Justice Jackson, and see how the Court – unanimously – decreed that eating food that you grew on your farm somehow affected interstate commerce.  Once such a tenuous connection was made between private activity and interstate commerce, the floodgates were opened, tempered only slightly by narrow Supreme Court decisions in the late 90s that did not fully reverse the reasoning behind Wickard.

At any rate, I find it mildly amusing that proponents of limited government have transformed from the most virulent opponents of the Constitution to its most vocal supporters.  I suspect that conservatives and leftists will have wildly varying opinions as to what that signifies.

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