Monthly Archives: May 2011

Paul Ryan and Archbishop Dolan on Catholic Social Teaching and Budget

Recently, Rep. Paul Ryan wrote to New York’s Archbishop Timothy Dolan to “to provide facts about [Ryan’s proposed] Budget to help advance an informed debate in light of social teachings about the well-being of the family, subsidiarity, the preferential option for the poor, and the dignity of the human person.” The letter outlined some of the main features of the Ryan plan, and suggested ways in which this plan was designed to meet the goals and principles of Catholic Social Thought. Here’s a snippit:

Nothing but hardship and pain can result from putting off the issue of the coming debt crisis, as many who unreasonably oppose this Budget seem willing to do. Those who represent the people, including myself, have a moral obligation, implicit in the Church’s social teaching, to address difficult basic problems before they explode into social crisis. This is what we have done, to the best of our ability, in our Fiscal Year 2012 Budget Resolution.

Yesterday Archbishop Dolan responded: →']);" class="more-link">Continue reading

Rick Santorum: “I Do Not Believe [Enhanced Interrogation] is Torture”

Former Senator Rick Santorum, a Catholic, has formed an exploratory committee to see if he can generate support to run for President.

Apparently there is a big flap between Rick Santorum and John McCain on the issue of waterboarding (enhanced interrogation) which was used to gain the cooperation of Khalid Sheik Mohammed — cooperation that led to his giving information which enabled our forces to find Osama Bin Laden.

Read “The Waterboarding Trail to Bin Laden: Former CIA Director Michael Hayden said that as late as 2006 fully half of the government’s knowledge about the structure and activities of al Qaeda came from harsh interrogations”

I have been back and forth on the waterboarding issue, but I have come to the conclusion that this whole thing is being blown out of proportion due to a lack of understanding of what waterboarding is. Today, Mark Shea, who I love and respect, is engaging in some brutal ad hominem against Rick Santorum. So who is right and who is wrong here? Let’s take a step back, a deep breath, and consider the facts.

Is waterboarding “torture”? I would agree with these remarks below from Fr. Brian Harrison at Catholic Culture:

Even deciding what exactly we mean by torture is not easy. The Catechism of the Catholic Church describes it as “physical or moral violence” (CCC 2297); the definition given by the 1984 United Nations Convention on Torture is “the intentional infliction of severe pain.” The words violence and severe are themselves somewhat vague. Who draws the line — and where? — as to which specific practices are harsh enough to correspond to those words? What has become clear in the contemporary debate is that while many shudder-evoking practices (which needn’t be spelled out here) are recognized by everyone as meriting the name torture, there is no consensus about whether other less extreme interrogation techniques really count as torture: for instance, sleep deprivation, being kept under harsh temperatures or in uncomfortable positions, or “waterboarding” (which causes a brief, panic-inducing sensation of being about to drown but no pain or injury). Since no Catholic magisterial intervention so far offers any real guidance for resolving this controversy, the only methods we can be sure are included under “torture,” when that word appears in Church documents, are those in the former group.

“Inducing panic”, such as we find in waterboarding, is not “torture”. Considering that it is not torture in the first place, all other points appear to be moot.

Rick Santorum responded on the Mark Levin Show yesterday to the false claims that he endorses the use of torture. (CLICK HERE to watch video at The Right Scoop to hear his remarks.)

Again, I’ve been back and forth on the issue, because I did not understand fully what waterboarding is and how the Church defines “torture”. Now, I know. It’s not torture and it did gain information necessary to capture Osama Bin Laden. It was not used to force anyone to confess a crime but to gain information. The intent was to defend life and the action was not torture. Case closed.

Related at Catholic Online: Silence on Santorum is Deafening: Republican Establishment Sends Signals

Related at WMUR, New Hampshire: Conversation with the Candidate, Rick Santorum

Gingrich and the Fine Art of Political Suicide

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Newt Gingrich is the fastest GOP presidential candidate political suicide since Mitt Romney’s old man George Romney cratered in the Republican Presidential primaries in 1968 after claiming that he had been “brainwashed” into supporting the  Vietnam War.  Gingrich has received near universal conservative condemnation for attacking Paul Ryan’s budget plan on Sunday on “Meet The Press” on NBC and seeming to endorse a form of ObamaCare.  How ironic that Gingrich, who has always prided himself on his futuristic innovative thinking, was done in by attempting to appease non-conservatives on a low rated show of the increasingly irrelevant lamestream press.  The new media, talk radio, blogs and conservative outlets on the net, ran with it, Gingrich is now political toast and he simply can’t believe what has happened to him in such a short time span.

In response to this, Gingrich released this incredibly delusional statement:

The literati sent out their minions to do their bidding. Washington cannot tolerate threats from outsiders who might disrupt their comfortable world. The firefight started when the cowardly sensed weakness. They fired timidly at first, then the sheep not wanting to be dropped from the establishment’s cocktail party invite list unloaded their entire clip, firing without taking aim their distortions and falsehoods. Now they are left exposed by their bylines and handles. But surely they had killed him off. This is the way it always worked. A lesser person could not have survived the first few minutes of the onslaught. But out of the billowing smoke and dust of tweets and trivia emerged Gingrich, once again ready to lead those who won’t be intimated by the political elite and are ready to take on the challenges America faces. ']);" class="more-link">Continue reading

Grover Cleveland and the Great Confederate Battle Flags Furor

During the Civil War, the flags carried by military units had intense emotional significance for the men who fought and died under them.  The flags not only symbolized the nation or state, but also stood for the units that carried them and the men who bled in their defense.  At the end of the War hundreds of captured Confederate battle flags were held by the Federal government and the victorious Union states.  Objects of pride for the men who had fought for the Union, their treatment as war trophies by the victorious North was a sore point in the vanquished South.

In 1887 Grover Cleveland was President.  The first Democrat elected to hold the office since the Civil War,  Cleveland was also the only non-Civil War veteran to hold the office since the end of the War.  During the War he had hired a substitute to fight in his stead, a perfectly legal, albeit unheroic, method of not having to fight one’s self in the conflict.

In 1887 the Secretary of War mentioned to Cleveland that the Adjutant General of the Army had suggested that the return of the battle flags to the Southern states would be a graceful gesture that would be appreciated in the South.  No doubt thinking that after more than two decades wartime passions had subsided, Cleveland ordered the return of the captured flags to the Southern governors.  This was a major blunder. →']);" class="more-link">Continue reading

WEDNESDAY EXTRA EDITION

A round-up of some of the best punditry in the Catholic Blogosphere, courtesy of ThePulp.it:

“Why Is Mugabe Visiting the Vatican?” – James Kirchick, New Republic

. . .Mark Stricherz of Catholic Vote wrote about this here. . .

God & Political Science – Timothy Shah, Daniel Philpott & Monica Toft, PD

Exposing the Death Dealers – Amy Welborn, Crisis Magazine

Syria Christians Fear for Religious Freedom – Reuters

Pro-Lifers Help Win Canadian Baby Battle – Maryann Gogniat Eidemiller, OSV

About Face on Same-Sex ‘Marriage’ – Joan Frawley Desmond, NCRegister

Abp. Jose Gomez: You Have a Duty to Confront This Culture – Cal Cth Daily

Fig Leaves & Falsehoods (Lying & Planned Parenthood) – Janet E. Smith, FT

Quaeritur: Selling a Rosary & Other Sacred Things – Father John Zuhlsdorf

Paternalistic Violence in the New World – David, The School of Salamanca

Monster Baptism & Chemical Pregnancy – Doctor Stacy Trasancos

The Sistine Chapel, In the Depths of Wales! – Richard Collins, The Guild

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If you liked this roundup of the best posts from around the Catholic blogosphere, visit ThePulp.it for daily updates twice a day.

For ThePulp.it click here.

Silence on Santorum is Deafening

Catholic Online – Republican Establishment Sends Signals by Deacon Keith Fournier

The Silence on Santorum is DEAFENING – in the media and among these establishment Republicans. Have you seen a photo of Rick Santorum in news reports when the remaining field of Republican candidates is discussed? Or, consider when the Pundit class assembles on the screen to banter about the emerging field of Republican challengers to the President – be it on MSNBC to mock them or on FOX to pontificate about them – have you even heard the name of Senator Rick Santorum mentioned?

Dumb Idea of the Day Courtesy of Ezra Klein

Ezra Klein, the founder of journolist, proves yet again why whatever the Washington Post is paying him is much too much:

Here’s your out-of-the-box policy idea for the day:

America should implement weighted voting to make voting more objective and fair, and give the young more power, because the consequences of political decisions will affect them the longest. Weighted voting would restore power to twenty and thirty year olds, where it resided before the advent of medical science. With the aid of computers, it would be easy to give everyone a Voting Score, just like we all have a credit score. ']);" class="more-link">Continue reading

General Longstreet, Catholic Convert, Husband of “The Fighting Lady”

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Hattip to Pat McNamara for his post on Longstreet’s conversion which inspired this post.

Lee referred to James “Pete” Longstreet as his “Old War Horse”.  One of the more talented corp commanders of the Confederacy, Longstreet’s memory was long blackened in the South after the War due to Longstreet becoming a Republican and working as surveyor of customs at the port of New Orleans in the Grant administration, and by the efforts of a coterie of former officers of the Army of Northern Virginia, led by Jubal Early, who blamed Longstreet for the defeat at Gettysburg.  The vituperation that he received mattered little to Longstreet who throughout his life did what he thought was right no matter what other people might think.  In 1874 he became adjutant general of the Louisiana militia.  In an uprising of the White League he was wounded and taken prisoner in his own customs house.  His captors gave the rebel yell.  The wounded Longstreet looked at them with disdain and said, “I have heard the yell before.” →']);" class="more-link">Continue reading

Once Again, Real Life Imitates South Park

Some of you no doubt find South Park to be a bit crude and maybe even offensive.  But I am constantly amazed at how often their satires run so true to real life.  Case in point: Stephen Hawking.  In a recent interview with the Guardian Stephen Hawking had this to say:

The universe is governed by science. But science tells us that we can’t solve the equations, directly in the abstract. We need to use the effective theory of Darwinian natural selection of those societies most likely to survive. We assign them higher value.

This caused Carl Olson to quip that Hawking “does, in fact, believe in and worship a god—the name of which is ‘Science'”.

That brought to mind the two-part episode from season ten where Cartman travels into the future and discovers an Earth where everyone is now an atheist (content warning).  Exclamations of “Science help us!” escape from everyone’s lips in times of trouble.

I’m not going to read too much into the South Park episodes, but they hint at a larger truth.  Even atheists cannot escape religion.  Near our house is something called the Washington Ethical Society.  We used to drive by this place when we went to Mass in the city, and they hold weekly meetings every Sunday.   Yes, it is essentially a Church for atheists.  Frankly, one would think that one of the “benefits” of being an atheist is not having to go to Church on Sunday, but for these atheists they can’t escape the Sunday obligation.  I don’t know if they sing hymns to science but I’m sure their gatherings are something to behold.

At any rate, there’s more from Olson as well as Msgr. Charles Pope on Hawking’s philosophy.  Msgr. Pope is troubled by where Hawking’s philosophy trends (the part in bold is from the article, the rest is Msgr. Pope):

When asked what is the value of knowing why are we here, Hawking replied, “The universe is governed by science. But science tells us that we can’t solve the equations, directly in the abstract. We need to use the effective theory of Darwinian natural selection of those societies most likely to survive. We assign them higher value.” This is so limiting. It is also philosophy, not science to say this. Mr Hawking is entitled to have a philosophy, but when he says the world is “governed by science” and then goes on to philosophize, that looks pretty silly and contradictory. Further, Mr. Hawking, if you ask me, is edging dangerously close to eugenics in what he says here. What exactly assigning a “higher value” to certain societies looks like as a practical matter is uncertain in what he says, but I sense a growing darkness here, not light. Margaret Sanger and Adolph Hitler may well be smiling as he says this. BEWARE!

The first commenter objected to Msgr. Pope’s anaology*, but it happens to be spot on.  Readings Hawking it is tough not to draw another cultural analogy, this time to C.S. Lewis’s That Hideous Strength.  That novel is the third part of Lewis’s space trilogy, and the plot revolves around the British Government’s new scientific institute, the National Institute for Coordinated Experiments (NICE).  The institute does some awful stuff in the name of science and progress, and the novel itself serves as a warning against the utopian promises of over-eager rationalists.

Hawking might be a brilliant physicist, but he should leave theology to the grownups.

* On a tangential note, I find myself getting more agitated by a trend in comments sections.  Why do people feel that they can completely discard the rules of grammar, capitalization and punctuation when they write comments on blogs?  The commenter on Msgr. Pope’s blog – the inaptly named Sophia – decided to take the opportunity to insinuate that atheists were smarter than religious people, all the while failing to capitalize a single word in her screed.  Why should I take anyone seriously when they can’t even obey the simple rules of the English language?  No, we’re not writing dissertations here, but if you can’t even be bothered to hit the shift key before typing the first letter of the first word of your sentences, then I will automatically discount anything you have to say.  I can understand typos as I’m sure there might be one or two above, and I’m not a perfect grammar student.  But can you at least make an effort to write properly on a discussion forum?

/End rant.

The Battle of New Orleans Brought to You By Cecille B. DeMille!

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American history tends to be ignored by Hollywood and therefore it is unusual for a battle to receive treatment in a Hollywood feature film.  It is doubly unusual for a battle to be treated in two Hollywood feature films, but that is the case for the battle of New Orleans.  The 1938 film was directed by the legendary Cecil B. DeMille and had Frederic March, an actor largely forgotten today but a major star in his time, as Jean Lafitte.  Two future stars have bit parts in the film:  Anthony Quinn and Walter Brennan.  Hugh Sothern who portrayed Andrew Jackson would also portray Jackson in 1939 in the film Old Hickory.

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Why Doesn’t Warren Buffet Pay Extra Taxes?

This WSJ editorial caught my eye, because it makes a seemingly valid point about wealthy people who call for higher taxes on the rich.

I wish I had a dollar for every time a wealthy liberal has declared he thinks he should pay more taxes. That list includes Warren Buffett, George Soros, Bill Gates Sr., Mark Zuckerberg and even Barack Obama, who now says that not only should rich people like him pay more taxes, they want to pay more. “I believe that most wealthy Americans would agree with me,” he said of his tax-hike plan. “They want to give back to the country that’s done so much for them.”

So why don’t they? There is a special fund at the Treasury Department for taxpayers who want to make “gift contributions to reduce debt held by the public.” But very few do. Last year that fund and others like it raised a grand total of $300 million. That’s a decimal place on Mr. Zuckerberg’s net worth and pays for less than two hours worth of federal borrowing.

I understand the basic satisfaction of saying, “Look, mister, if you really want to pay more taxes, no one is stopping you,” but I don’t think that it’s actually a very good argument. The reason why people like Bill Gates and Warren Buffet advocate for higher taxes but don’t voluntarily pay higher taxes than the law requires is pretty obvious: →']);" class="more-link">Continue reading

Tin Foil Hat Comments

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It is not all fun helping to run a blog.  I assume some of you think that being a blogger merely is writing any fool thing you please and then posting it.  Well, actually that is about 90% of it.  However the other 10% involves such tasks as deleting what I like to call tin foil hat comments.  Here is one we received yesterday: →']);" class="more-link">Continue reading

More Oil, Less Hydrochloro-Bullhockey Please

The NRSC has come up with yet another great ad. This one pulls no punches.

I hope the 2012 Republican candidate is great as well – and not just on the issue of energy policy.

Condescender In Chief

Charles Krauthammer has an excellent column about President Obama’s immigration speech in El Paso the other day.  Here’s a sample:

The El Paso speech is notable not for breaking any new ground on immigration but for perfectly illustrating Obama’s political style: the professorial, almost therapeutic, invitation to civil discourse, wrapped around the basest of rhetorical devices — charges of malice compounded with accusations of bad faith. “They’ll never be satisfied,” said Obama about border control. “And I understand that. That’s politics.”

How understanding. The other side plays “politics,” Obama acts in the public interest. Their eyes are on poll numbers, political power, the next election; Obama’s rest fixedly on the little children.

This impugning of motives is an Obama constant. “They” play politics with deficit reduction, with government shutdowns, with health care. And now immigration. It is ironic that such a charge should be made in a speech that is nothing but politics. There is zero chance of any immigration legislation passing Congress in the next two years. El Paso was simply an attempt to gin up the Hispanic vote as part of an openly political two-city, three-event campaign swing in preparation for 2012.

Accordingly, the El Paso speech featured two other staples: the breathtaking invention and the statistical sleight of hand.

Krauthammer continues, calling out the president for his abuse of statistics and his demagoguery.

For a man who has blown so much hot air about civility and changing the dialogue in Washington, President Obama has been in fact more overtly partisan than any president I can recall, and my political memory dates back to Reagan.  Most of the president’s major addresses contain the following elements:

1 - Discussion of other side’s opposition to his plans in tone that suggests mild surprise and even outrage that other people have differing viewpoints.  President Obama often pays lip service to respecting other’s viewpoints, but when he actually gets around to discussing policy issues his tone becomes sarcastic and mocking, as though no sentient human being could possibly think other than he does.

2Erecting strawman arguments and mischaracterizing opponents’ positions. An absolute staple of any Obama speech, as highlighted by Krauthammer above.

3 – Testily dismissing opponents.  Having characterized his opponents as people who want to starve the elderly, children, women, Asians, Eskimos, and puppies, President Obama then concludes this portion of his speech with a metaphorical wave of his hand.  On several occasions he has quite literally said that Republican input was not welcome.

What a uniter, that guy.

And here’s the thing.  In a certain sense I don’t really care.  There were times during George Bush’s presidency that I wanted him to be a bit feistier and take on his opponents more fiercely.  Presidents are supposed to be above the fray, but that’s a bit of hogwash.  Presidents can be partisan crusaders as long as they keep it within respectful limits.  In other words, they should be above the level of your typical comment box antagonist.

Besides, when President Obama gets into sarcastic mode it’s one of the few times he almost seems human and non-boring.  Most of the time Obama displays two rhetorical styles: faux Martin Luther King Jr, and robot teleprompter reader.  Either he’s doing his worst impression of a dynamic speaker or else he sounds like someone who has just woken from a deep nap.  I don’t know who these people are that think he’s a great speaker, but frankly he rarely speaks like a normal man except when he’s cranky and sarcastic.  In fact, if he were more regularly sarcastic and petty then I might be able to sit through more of his talks.  At least then they would be entertaining.

No, what grates about his divisive rhetoric is that it contradicts all his campaign blabber from 2008.  Oh, sure, it’s the same nonsense we hear from all camps every election season, and I’m sure several GOP candidates this Fall and Winter will go out of their way to make some appeal to “curing our partisan discord.”  Hopefully I will have my bucket at the ready for such moments.  But not only has Obama not kept this unkeepable promise, he actually has gone above and beyond to completely obliterate any sense of being some kind of uniter.

Unfortunately we will never learn, and again we’ll fall for this cheap rhetoric in the future.  As I said, we’ll get more of the same in 2o12.  Like the rising of the sun and its setting, empty campaign promises of entering into some non partisan fairy land are sure bets.  Such meaningless dribble overlooks two facts of life:  there have been very few times in American history when we have not been subject to deep partisan divides, and there will never be a time in America where people do not have passionate beliefs that are irreconcilable with other beliefs.  That’s not to say we have to be jerks about it, but it should make us wake up to the reality that differences of opinion will always exist in a free country, and glossing over those differences by vacuous campaign rhetoric won’t bring us any closer to bridging those gaps.

The Mighty Thor!

 

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I went to see the Thor movie yesterday with my family and I was surprised by how much I enjoyed it.  Thor was one of the more original superheroes devised by Marvel in the Sixties.  Doctor Donald Blake, on a vacation in Norway, stumbles into a cave where he finds Mjolnir, Thor’s hammer, disguised as a walking stick.  Striking it he is transformed into Thor, god of Thunder.  As Thor, Blake finds that he has super strength, can fly by flinging Mjolnir and hanging on, that Mjolnir is close to indestructible and will return to Thor after he throws it, that he can produce lightning and thunder by striking the ground with Mjolnir, etc.  After a few issues, Thor went to Asgard and met the rest of the panoply of the Norse pantheon, including his father Odin, and his adopted brother Loki, god of mischief and eventually god of evil.

In his early years Thor had adventures on Earth, or Midgard as the Norse referred to it, and in Asgard and the other nine realms of Norse mythology.  An early feature of the series was Tales of Asgard, where episodes of Norse mythology were re-enacted, sort of Marvel Comics meets Classics Illustrated.  Eventually Thor spent most of his time in Asgard, his secret identity of Donald Blake going by the board, especially after Thor learned that he had always been Thor and that Odin had placed him on Midgard in the guise of Donald Blake in order to teach him humility.  Thor was one of my favorite comic book series as I was growing up in the Sixties.  I was fascinated by the Norse mythology background and I found the Thor stories to be more imaginative than the more prosaic and formulaic superhero adventures of most of the other comic book series.  I also found the quasi-Shakespearean language in which Thor and the other Norse “gods” spoke to be a hoot!

Though thou be truly pure of heart – in thine innocence, thou art fair misguided! The true guru thou seekest doth lie within thyselves! Heed you now these words: ‘Tis not by dropping out – but by plunging in – into the maelstrom of life itself – that thou shalt find thy wisdom! There be causes to espouse!! There be battles to be won! There be glory and grandeur all about thee – if thou wilt but see! Aye, there will be time enow for thee to disavow thy heritage – yea, thou mayest drop out fore’er – once Hela herself hath come for thee! But, so long as life endures – thou must live it to the full! Else, thou be unworthy of the title – Man! ']);" class="more-link">Continue reading

SATURDAY EXTRA EDITION

The following is courtesy of ThePulp.it:

The Speaker and the Scholars – Carson Holloway, Catholic Vote

Torture Didn’t Lead Us to Bin Laden – Matthew J. Franck, First Things

The Meatless Mark of Identity Restored – Rich Leonardi, Ten Reasons

Subsidiarity, Funding, and the Arts – Jordan J. Ballor, Acton Institute

Bp. Conley on Transcendence in the Liturgy & the New Translation – Fr. Z

Addressing the Church’s Attrition Problem – Margaret Cabaniss, Crisis Mag

Playing the Bully Card – Anthony S. Layne, Outside the Asylum

Movie Fails to Capture Anti-Catholic Brutality of Spanish Civil War – CNA

A Real Person Can Truly Love – Anthony Buono, 6 Stone Jars

On The Power of Personal Witness in the Priestly Proclamation – Msgr. Pope

Comedy Movie Night – Frank Weathers, Why I Am Catholic

The US/Pakistan Tightrope – George Friedman, MercatorNet

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If you liked this roundup of the best posts from around the Catholic blogosphere, visit ThePulp.it for daily updates twice a day.

For ThePulp.it click here.

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