Monthly Archives: July 2011

There’s A Law About That?

The FCC is coming under fire from Congress for lax oversight of kids’ programming.  So what’s the problem?  Is Joe from Blue’s Clues working a little too blue, if you catch my drift?  Are the explicit drug scenes from Yo Gabba Gabba getting a little too out of control?  Is the lack of parental oversight of Max and Ruby sending a bad message?

No, none of that.  Evidently there are too many commercials.

I am not making this up.

TV watchdog groups say the Federal Communications Commission needs to better target kids’ programs that have too many commercials, and they want the commission and Congress to strengthen oversight of the Children’s Television Act.

Fueling the drive is a Government Accountability Office report issued last week that highlights FCC shortcomings in enforcing the landmark 1990 law intended to raise the quality and educational value of children’s programming while also limiting advertising. The report said the FCC has been lax in ensuring compliance from cable and satellite providers and questioned the commission’s guidelines for determining the educational value of children’s shows.

You mean to tell me there is a law out there that dictates the amount of commercials that can be shown during children’s programming?  Surely you jest.

Congress crafted the law in response to a decrease in educational shows during the 1980s that corresponded with an uptick in commercial blitzes during children’s programming. To shield youngsters from excessive commercials, the law restricts advertising during children’s programs to 10.5 minutes per hour on weekends and 12 minutes per hour on weekdays.

I repeat: there is a law, passed by Congress, signed by a President, that actually dictates the amount of commercials that are to be shown during kids’ shows.  The government of the United States deemed this an issue worthy enough of oversight.

Moreover, there are people who think the government isn’t doing enough.

During the Clinton administration, the FCC was “paying attention to children’s education, and the quality of children’s programming improved,” said Dale Kunkel, a child media expert and a communications professor at the University of Arizona.

“We slowly moved to a posture in the 2000s where they completely ignored the issue and the broadcasters offered whatever they want,” he said.

Wait a second.  Broadcasters can offer programs that viewers have the option to watch, or not watch?  What is this, a free country or something?

Look, I’m all for making sure that the airwaves are generally clean for kids.  While parents have the ultimate responsibility for watching their children and making sure that the content of what they’re viewing is appropriate, it’s helpful to be assured that they’re not going to watch all the animals from Franklin get a little too friendly (and at least they’ve finally had the decency to put some clothes on little bear).  But do we really need the government to dictate the quality of educational programming available, or the precise amount of commercial time airing on television?  Is there anything that busybodies won’t ask the government to oversee?

July 21, 1861: First Battle of Bull Run

History is unkind to defeated generals.  All most of us recall about Irvin McDowell is that he commanded the Union army at First Bull Run, First Manassas south of the Mason-Dixon line, and was beaten by the Confederates.  He had a long and illustrious career in the Army both before and after Bull Run, but none of that matters.  He is the defeated general at Bull Run, and after History places that stamp on him, nothing else really matters.  In John Brown’s Body, his epic poem on the Civil War, Stephen Vincent Benet has a few words on McDowell that I believe should be remembered. →']);" class="more-link">Continue reading

Dog Days of Summer Open Thread

We haven’t had an open thread in a while, so here we go.  The heat across most of the nation is unbearable, so blogging in air conditioned splendor is fairly attractive right now.  The temperature reached 100 degrees today at around 2:30 PM in Pontiac, Illinois as the family and I were driving back from Springfield, Illinois.  Thursday we will have more of the same.  Friday the temperature is expected to plummet all the way down to 90!  Time to dust off the winter coat!

Rudy Giuliani Should Stay Out Of Public Affairs (Updated)

Despite my opposition to his presidential candidacy in 2008, I’ve always liked Rudy Giuliani.  Most of that stems from having grown up in New York and seeing the city’s renaissance under Mayor Rudy.  Also, despite his socially liberal views, Rudy generally refrained from head-on confrontations with social conservatives.  He always struck me as the type of guy who understood that his positions were in the minority within the party and so, unlike other social liberals, Rudy focused his fire on the left and largely kept mum on social issues.

Until now.

He may not agree with the vote in New York to legalize gay marriage, but former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani said the Republican Party should butt out of the bedroom and stick to fiscal policy.

“I think the Republican Party would be well advised to get the heck out of people’s bedrooms and let these things get decided by states,” Giuliani said Sunday on CNN’s “State of the Union.” “We’d be a much more successful political party if we stuck to our economic, conservative roots.”

There are so many problems with this statement that I almost don’t know where to begin.  First of all, we need to retire the “stay out of people’s bedroom” meme.  It’s a silly cliche and it is used to shut down debate.  As is the case with abortion, I don’t think too many marriages take place in the bedroom.  The implication is that this is ultimately an issue that revolves around sexual morality, but that misses the point.  Nobody is urging that gays be prohibited from doing what they want behind closed doors.  Gay marriage opponents simply do not want the definition of marriage to be changed.  In point of fact, the libertarian position on this issue would not necessarily be for marriage to be opened to gays, but rather for the state to get out of the marriage business altogether.*  The people advocating government involvement in this area are gay marriage advocates, not opponents.

*The merits of this particular argument have been debated here and elsewhere, and I’m not particularly concerned with continuing that discussion here.  I just bring it up as an example of what the libertarian position is, not what it ought to be.

Giuliani also seems confused as to which side is making all the noise.  Conservatives aren’t the ones who started this debate by advocating for a change.  We’ve been the ones fighting a rearguard action to fend off those who would fundamentally alter the definition of marriage.  Saying that we’re the ones who need to be quiet about the issue is completely hypocritical.

Rudy then tries to have it both ways, later saying that he’s personally opposed to gay marriage but that he supports the democratic process in New York.  Well which is it, Rudy?  If you think that it’s a bad idea, why are you telling others who share your view to shut up about it?  Do you think that you can play both sides by feigning opposition while ultimately taking the side of gay marriage advocates?  More importantly, Giuliani reverts to another tired meme that is constantly trotted out during this debate.  Just because one believes in the principle of federalism it does not mean that one should not inveigh against states making bad decisions.  Curiously the same people now talking about the glories of federalism didn’t seem to have the same opinion about remaining silent on state laws when it came to the Arizona immigration debate.  Just because a state has the right to do such and such doesn’t mean that you can’t lobby the people and legislators of said state to reach a different conclusion.  This is akin to the first amendment argument wherein people use the freedom of speech as a crutch when criticized for saying something stupid.  Freedom is a two-way street, and we are allowed to criticize bad ideas and work for change within the states.

Finally, the political calculation is just off.  Perhaps it’s unsurprising that the man who waged one of the worst presidential campaigns in history is offering bad political advice, but time and again polls show that it’s on social, not economic issues that conservatives are more in line with majority opinion.  It’s one of the great fallacies of our era that conservatives should concentrate on economic issues in the interests of electoral gain.  There’s a reason New York is the first state to enact gay marriage through the legislature.  If being pro-gay marriage were a winning issue, then more states would have permitted it through the democratic process by now.  And of course this ignores the more important issue about abandoning principles in the interests of political expediency.

Update: Semi-related, here is a story linked at Creative Minority Report about Vermont Inn Keepers being sued for refusing to host a gay marriage reception.

What now Rudy?  Should gay marriage advocates stay out of Catholic innkeeper’s bedrooms?

July, Springfield and Lincoln

 

Well, it is time again in the McClarey household for our mini three day July vacation.  (We take a week off in June and August.)  Today we make our annual pilgrimage down to Springfield to the Lincoln sites.  We say a prayer at the tomb of Mr. Lincoln for the repose of his soul and the souls of his wife and children.  All of Lincoln’s immediate family are buried there except Robert Lincoln, a Civil War veteran, who is buried in Arlington.

We also go to the Lincoln Museum, which is first rate.  For those of you with time to kill, go here to watch a CSpan two and a half hour (!) tour from 2005 of the Lincoln Museum. →']);" class="more-link">Continue reading

Obamacare to Require Coverage of Contraception

In a move likely to surprise only those on the Catholic Left, the government received a recommendation (which it is almost sure to implement) to require all insurance companies to cover contraception as it is a preventive service. This will not allow for insurance companies to require a co-pay for these services. This includes not only all FDA-approved contraception procedures, but also all sterilization procedures as well as education and counseling for “all women with reproductive capacity.” I’m not certain, but I assume “all FDA-approved contraceptive procedures” would include some abortifacients, specifically the “emergency contraceptives” that prevent implantation (considered by some to not be abortive because they define pregnancy at implantation not fertilization).

There do not yet appear to be any provisions providing for entities to opt out of this kind of coverage, which likely means that Catholic employers are now mandated to provide insurance will have to pay for contraception and abortion.

Thanks for your hard work, Mr. Stupak.

 

Matthew Brady, Father Thomas H. Mooney, Dagger John and the Fighting 69th

The above photo is one of the archetypal Matthew Brady photographs of the Civil War.  Whenever religion in the Civil War is mentioned in a history, odds are you will see this picture.  It was taken on June 1, 1861 in the camp of the 69th New York, later to be christened The Fighting 69th  by no less an authority on fighting  than Robert E. Lee, and it depicts Mass being said by Father Thomas H. Mooney, the first chaplain of The Fighting 69th.

Born in Manchester, England, and ordained in 1853 in New York City, Father Mooney had been pastor of Saint Brigid’s in New york City, as well as being the chaplain of the 69th New York.  Archbishop Hughes of New York City, known universally by friend and foe as “Dagger John”, warned Father Mooney about the large number of Fenians, a precursor of the Irish Republican Army, who had enlisted in the regiment:

“They are incompetent to be admitted to the Sacraments of the Church during life and of Christian burial after death, unless they shall in the meantime renounce such obligations as have been just referred to. In regard to the whole subject, you will please to exercise all the discretion and all the charity that religion affords: but speak to the men and tell each one (not all at one time) that he is jeopardizing his soul if he perseveres in this uncatholic species of combination.”

The Church in Ireland and America had a mostly negative view of the Fenians due to an overall opposition to revolutionary movements in Europe by Pope Pius IX and because the Fenians called for a separation of Church and State In Ireland.

The 69th was one of the first Union regiments to go to Washington in 1861 in response to Lincoln’s call for volunteers.  Father Mooney went with it, and quickly proved extremely popular with the men and officers of the regiment.  He founded a temperance society in the regiment,  held daily Masses and confessions, and was tireless in reminding wayward soldiers in the regiment that this was a great opportunity for them to return to the Faith.  A correspondent for the New York Times reported on the high esteem in which Father Mooney was held:

As for the Sixty-ninth, they turned out more than twelve hundred muskets, leaving yet another hundred — the newly-arrived Zouaves — in their late headquarters at the College. This Regiment has grown into great fever in Washington — not a single one of its members ever having become amenable to the police authorities in any way; and its discipline and efficiency having frequently been made the subject of complimentary notice by Gens SCOTT and MANSFIELD. For very much of the good order and moral restraint existing in the ranks, it is doubtless indebted to the ceaseless and zealous exertions of Father THOMAS MOONEY, an admirable specimen-priest of the true high type, who, if he were not chaplain, would certainly be a candidate for Colonel — fate and a sanguine temper giving him equal adaptation to the sword of the spirit and the “regulation sword” — a veritable son of the church-militant. But this again is a degression.

Father Mooney’s career as a chaplain was cut short by “Dagger John”.   On June 13, 1861 the 69th was helping to emplace a rifled cannon in Fort Corcoran, named after Colonel Corcoran the commander of the 69th, near Washington.  Everyone was in high spirits.  Father Mooney was called upon to bless the cannon.  Instead, he decided to baptize the cannon. →']);" class="more-link">Continue reading

The Constitution Isn’t A Suicide Pact

But it is a document that ensures a pesky little thing called religious freedom, something that Herman Cain has seemingly missed.

Herman Cain, a Republican presidential candidate, says Americans have the right to ban Muslims from building mosques.

“They have the right to do that,” Cain said on Fox News Sunday, expressing his concerns with Sharia law. “I’m willing to take a harder look at people that might be terrorists.”

Cain’s comments were in reference to a Tennessee town that is attempting to ban a mosque in its community. “That’s not discriminating based upon their particular religion,” he said. “There is an aspect of them building that mosque that doesn’t get talked about. And the people in the community know what it is and they’re talking about it.”

“Our Constitution guarantees the separation of church and state,” Cain said. “Islam combines church and state. They’re using the church part of our First Amendment to infuse their morals in that community, and the people in the community do not like it.”

I’m the last person to deny the perniciousness of many elements within Islam, but this is nonsense on stilts.  The most deliciously ironic aspect of this comment is Cain’s relying on the “separation of church and state trope.”  So Cain doesn’t seem to think that the First Amendment guarantees freedom of religion, which it in fact does, but he does think it guarantees a separation of church and state, which it in fact does not.  And I especially have to laugh at Cain saying “They’re using the church part of our First Amendment to infuse their morals in that community and the people in the community do not like it.”  First of all,  the church part of our First Amendment?  What?  Second, does anyone doubt that if an atheist or hardened leftist (I know, I’m being redundant) had said something like this he would have been excoriated by most conservatives.  Evidently only pre-approved religious viewpoints are allowed to influence people in a given community.  Perhaps Herman Cain would like to share with us which viewpoints are acceptable, this way we can be all clear in the future.

Naturally this has provided an opportunity for people to beat their chests and play “more righteously angry and conservative than thou.”  Because only a hippy could possibly think that it is a dangerous thing to start prohibiting certain religions from constructing places of worship.  This selective application of the first amendment could never be applied to Catholics, right?  No one could possibly fathom using the same precise rationale that Cain has advanced here in order justify blocking the construction of a Roman Catholic Church.

I thought the construction of the Islamic cultural center at Ground Zero was a terrible idea, but that had to do with the symbolic import of the location.  Even then, I thought the way to oppose it was through social pressure, not by the strong arm of the state intervening and prohibiting construction.  The people of the local community can certainly express their displeasure, but once we allow the state to intervene we have destroyed the concept of religious freedom.

And yes, I know that many adherents of Islam do not even believe in the concept of religious freedom.  Certainly there is a political element within Islam that makes it as much an ideology as a religion,  at least in certain quarters.  But are we willing to completely write off all Muslims as deranged fanatics unworthy of constitutional protections?  If you think as Herman Cain does, then that’s implicitly what you are saying.

Warren H. Carroll, Requiescat in Pace

Warren H. Carroll died yesterday at age 79.  Founder of Christendom College, he earned a BA from Bates College and an MA and Phd in history from Columbia.  He converted to the Faith in 1968 and thereafter fought a tireless battle in defense of the Faith.  The author of a number of popular histories regarding events in Church history, his most significant scholarly work was his five volume History of Christendom.  I highly recommend the first four volumes.  (The fifth volume was written after he had a debilitating stroke and basically is largely a rehash of earlier writings on the events surrounding the French Revolution and is not up to the high standard of the first four volumes.)  He never pretended to objectivity:  his histories were always written from a strongly Catholic  point of view.  However, his scholarship was usually of a high order and he demonstrated a complete command of the historical literature involved in the subjects he wrote about.  His notes and annotated bibliography in the History of Christendom are a joy to read for any lover of history.  I will miss him.  May he now be enjoying the Beatific Vision.

 

A Foundation of Determinism

Paul Krugman recently did a Five Books interview with The Browser, talking about his five favorite books. The books are: Asimov’s Foundation series, Hume’s An Enquiry Concerning Human Understanding, two books by Lord Keynes, and a book of essays by economist James Tobin, one of Krugman’s old teachers. Of Foundation he says:

This is a very unusual set of novels from Isaac Asimov, but a classic. It’s not about gadgets. Although it’s supposed to be about a galactic civilisation, the technology is virtually invisible and it’s not about space battles or anything like that. The story is about these people, psychohistorians, who are mathematical social scientists and have a theory about how society works. The theory tells them that the galactic empire is failing, and they then use that knowledge to save civilisation. It’s a great image. I was probably 16 when I read it and I thought, “I want to be one of those guys!” Unfortunately we don’t have anything like that and economics is the closest I could get.

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

Some Gaffes Are More Equal Than Others

I don’t know Klavan on the Culture.  I had always assumed that the media downplays gaffes by Obama because he is obviously a genius and that therefore when he makes a gaffe it is simply a mistake, and no big deal.  Republicans on the other hand are self-evidently idiots, or they would be Democrats, and therefore when they make a gaffe it is revealing of their essential idiocy, and thus newsworthy because it alerts the public to the fact that Republicans are idiots.  No media bias here! →']);" class="more-link">Continue reading

Fictional Hates

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Ah, the world of fiction.  It entertains us and helps lend spice to the mundane world.  However, some of the characters who inhabit it simply put our teeth on edge.  Here are the three top annoying characters on my list.

Dobby the House Elf-From the time I first saw Dobby in the Harry Potter films, I found him intensely grating.  His voice, his mannerisms, his obsequiousness to Harry Potter, all make me choose Dobby as the fictional character I would most like to ask to attempt to unjam a  woodchipper by sticking his arm into it.  I did restrain myself from giving a cheer when he shuffled off his fictional vale of tears in the penultimate Harry Potter film.

Jar Jar Binks-This character immediate signaled to me that something was going badly awry in the second Star Wars trilogy.  A bizarre unackowledged homage to Stepin Fetchit, George Lucas, if he were not a completely conventional Hollywood liberal, would have become the poster boy for entertainment racism by the NAACP. →']);" class="more-link">Continue reading

Eroica

 

 

 

 

 

 

Something for the weekend.  Erocia (Heroic) by Beethoven.  Beethoven originally had dedictated Eroica to Napoleon.  When he heard that Napoleon had crowned himself Emperor here was his reaction according to one of this pupils:

I was the first to tell him the news that Buonaparte had declared himself Emperor, whereupon he broke into a rage and exclaimed, “So he is no more than a common mortal! Now, too, he will tread under foot all the rights of man, indulge only his ambition; now he will think himself superior to all men, become a tyrant!”

Beethoven ripped the dediction to Napoleon from the title page of Eroica.  This post has videos for the first two movements. →']);" class="more-link">Continue reading

A Religious Turning Test

This post requires a bit of background explanation, so bear with me.

A few weeks ago, Paul Krugman made the following comment about conservatives and liberals:

[I]f you ask a liberal or a saltwater economist, “What would somebody on the other side of this divide say here? What would their version of it be?” A liberal can do that. A liberal can talk coherently about what the conservative view is because people like me actually do listen. We don’t think it’s right, but we pay enough attention to see what the other person is trying to get at. The reverse is not true. You try to get someone who is fiercely anti-Keynesian to even explain what a Keynesian economic argument is, they can’t do it. They can’t get it remotely right.

Krugman, of course, famously refuses to read conservative bloggers, and his work at the New York Times doesn’t exactly display a deep understanding of conservative ideas (perhaps he is a good example of the Dunning-Kruger Effect in action). In any event, libertarian blogger and economist Bryan Caplan responded to Krugman by proposing the following test: →']);" class="more-link">Continue reading

2012 Presidential Election: Clouds Are Gathering For Obama

The Presidential election is still just over 15 months away, and much can change in that time.  However, as of now the signs are ominous for President Obama:

1.  The Unemployment Rate: Currently the unemployment rate is around 9.2.  Since World War 2 no President has been re-elected when the unemployment rate was greater than 7.2.  Roosevelt won re-election in 1936 with an unemployment rate of 16. 6 and again in 1940 with an unemployment rate of 14.4.  However, FDR had inherited an unemployment rate of 19.8.  Obama inherited an unemployment rate of 7.8.  If, as increasingly looks likely, the economy remains stagnant or slips back into recession, I find it had to see how there will be much improvement in the unemployment rate prior to November 2012.

2.  Electoral College Shift: The Republicans will see a probable gain of approximately 14 votes in their electoral college votes simply due to red states gaining population and blue states losing population.

3.  2012 ain’t 2008: In 2008 Obama took Virginia, Indiana and North Carolina, a total of 39 electoral votes.  I do not believe he has a prayer of taking any of those states in 2012.  Ohio with 18 electoral votes and Florida with 29 electoral votes went for Obama in 2008, and both went big for the Republicans in 2010.  Unless Obama can take one of those states, the electoral math becomes hard for him, albeit not impossible.

4.  Say Goodby to the Youth Vote: Obama benefited from a high level of support among young voters, precisely the category of voters suffering the highest level of unemployment.  I doubt if a good many of them will be motivated by the promise of four more years of the same to leave Mom and/or Dad’s basement to pull the lever again for Obama, certainly not in the same high numbers.

5.  Polls: Obama is beginning to show real weakness when matched against a generic Republican:

Registered voters by a significant margin now say they are more likely to vote for the “Republican Party’s candidate for president” than for President Barack Obama in the 2012 election, 47% to 39%. Preferences had been fairly evenly divided this year in this test of Obama’s re-election prospects.

The latest results are based on a July 7-10 poll, and show that the Republican has an edge for the second consecutive month. Obama held a slight edge in May, when his approval rating increased after the death of Osama bin Laden. As his rating has come back down during the last two months, so has his standing on the presidential “generic ballot.”

Gallup typically uses this question format when a president is seeking re-election but his likely opponent is unknown, as was the case in 1991-1992 and 2003-2004, when incumbents George H.W. Bush and George W. Bush, respectively, were seeking re-election.

The elder Bush held large leads over his generic Democratic opponent throughout 1991, but early 1992 preferences were more evenly divided and Bush eventually lost his re-election bid. The younger Bush also consistently maintained at least a small advantage over the Democrat throughout 2003, before winning re-election in a close contest in November 2004. ']);" class="more-link">Continue reading

Is it Anti-Catholic to Believe the Pope is the Anti-Christ?

Writing in the Atlantic, Joshua Green notes that Michelle Bachmann’s (now former) church holds some, shall we say, unflattering views about the papacy:

Bachmann was a longtime member of the Salem Evangelical Lutheran Church in Stillwater, Minn., which belongs to the Wisconsin Evangelical Lutheran Synod (WELS), a council of churches founded in 1850 that today comprises about 400,000 people. WELS is the most conservative of the major Lutheran church organizations, known for its strict adherence to the writings of Martin Luther, the German theologian who broke with the Catholic Church and launched the Protestant Reformation in the 16th century. This includes endorsing Luther’s statements about the papacy. From the WELS “Doctrinal Statement on the Antichrist”: “Since Scripture teaches that the Antichrist would be revealed and gives the marks by which the Antichrist is to be recognized, and since this prophecy has been clearly fulfilled in the history and development of the Roman Papacy, it is Scripture which reveals that the Papacy is the Antichrist.”

Bachmann, it seems, never subscribed to the belief in question, and left the church sometime last year. Nevertheless, some are drawing comparisons between the views of Bachmann’s former church and those of President Obama’s former pastor, Jeramiah Wright.

I confess that I am of two minds about this story. →']);" class="more-link">Continue reading

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