Monthly Archives: October 2011
There’s some consternation in conservative (and other) circles about tax reform proposals that would eliminate the home mortgage interest deduction. The deduction is eliminated in most flat tax proposals, though it is not eliminated in the plan Governor Perry laid out today.
It seems to me that, at least in the abstract, a tax reform measure that lowered rates and eliminated such deductions would be fair. To me all these credits are just a form of social engineering through the tax code. Believe me, I benefit from these credits and so it would probably be against my self interest to see them go. On the other hand, my overall rate would decline, so it wouldn’t be a catastrophic change for me.
At any rate, opponents of eliminating this deduction categorically state that it would depress home sales and force others into bankruptcy. This seems . . . overstated. The deduction certainly had no influence on my decision to buy a home, and even if I lost the deduction without a concurrent rate decrease it would hardly force me out onto the streets. Believe me, I like getting that extra money back, but it isn’t that much money.
Maybe I’m missing something here and the deduction has a much greater influence on people’s decisions to buy or rent than I know. And maybe I’m just one of those “fat cats” Mitt Romney thinks are the ones who would be the sole beneficiaries under Perry’s plan. But I fail to see how this simple credit or deduction is that much of a factor in home buying decisions.
I would love feedback on this one.
Peter Wehner’s getting all nervous because certain Republican candidates are saying things that he disapproves of:
One of the GOP presidential candidates (Ron Paul) believes the United States is responsible for triggering the 9/11 attacks. Another (Rick Santorum) has said he would use the presidential bully pulpit to speak out against the dangers of contraception and its role in the moral decline of America (“One of the things that I will talk about that no president has talked about before is I think the dangers of contraception in this country, the sexual liberty idea and many in the Christian faith have said, you know contraception is OK. It’s not OK because it’s a license to do things in a sexual realm that is counter to how things are supposed to be.”)
Yet another (Herman Cain), has dramatically shifted his positions on negotiating with terrorists and legalizing abortion within a matter of hours, after having said he would (contra the Constitution) impose a religious test on Muslim Americans. And nowGovernor Rick Perry has indicated he’s not quite sure whether Barack Obama was born in the USA, citing Donald Trump as an authority.
Some of this is correct, but the rest is a mess. For instance, Perry’s comments seem almost totally aimed at tweaking Obama and nothing more. Even Paul’s 9/11 theories are a bit more nuanced than Wehner suggests. As for Rick Santorum, I say good for him. As Mike Potemera points out, it’s rather unlikely that any conservative president will be “calling for the hiring of millions of contraception cops as a solution to joblessness.” Santorum would be using the office of president to discuss an important cultural issue. It’s nothing more than what Michelle Obama has done to encourage efforts to fight against obesity. There’s nothing wrong with using the bully pulpit to discuss social issues and raise awareness so long as you are not actually calling for legislation that impedes personal liberty.
Santorum continues to be one of the few candidates who gets it, in that he understands the nexus between social and economic issues. While others have concentrated on narrow technocratic solutions, Santorum has really been the only one to explain how the breakdown of the family is one of the contributing causes of our economic rot. That’s not to say, by the way, that certain tax and fiscal policies are wrong. In the end, you can’t quite dictate improved sexual mores through executive fiat , so we do need purely economic solutions to the current mess we’re in. But at least Santorum is willing to engage in conversation about social issues. Okay, so perhaps he does so in a manner that comes off as just a bit whiny, but that doesn’t dilute the importance of his message.
Why settle for Romney when we can have a Rino’s Rino? Iowahawk announces that T. Coddington Van Voorhees VII has thrown his elegant top hat into the ring and is running for the Republican nomination.
Who, you may ask, is T. Coddington Van Voorhees VII?
Simply put, a man born to the conservative saddle. The only scion of the legendary swashbuckling conservative editor / author / bon vivant T. Coddington Van Voorhees VI, I have since my earliest days honed a conservatism forged in the fires of intellectual combat, stoked by the bellows of classic education, and tempered in the cooling waters of good breeding. Even before matriculating at East Hampton Country Daycare, I was thrust headlong into heady intellectual debates of postwar American politics. Oh, how I cherish those moments, bouncing astride my father’s knee, as he held postprandial court on the patio with Long Island Sound’s most scrupulous Republicans – like Newport GOP chairman Z. Pilastor Fennewick, Greenwich GOP legend Boylston McInernery, and East Hampton’s “hostess with the mostest,” Modesty Crabwater. And although Dad had his differences with each, I admired the elegant grace with which these Republicans could command an Adirondack chair or accept electoral defeat. It is that very same grace I shall endeavor to bring back to the Grand Old Party.
But such early confabulations with political luminaries do not mean my boyhood was spent in anemic bookishness. Quite to the contrary. As an aide-de-camp of Teddy Roosevelt, Great Granddad T. Coddington IV spent an entire summer sabbatical from the Harvard crew team ensuring that TR’s accoutrements would be gleaming in the Caribbean sun as he charged up San Juan Hill, and subsequent generations of Van Voorheeses would likewise be hewn to the Roughrider spirit. As a growing lad I was expertly tutored in the manly arts of sailing, badminton, and, most pointedly, horsemanship. Among my teammates on the Montauk Crimsoneers Little League Polo squad, I quickly earned a reputation as a player who would never be thrown by the same horse twice – no matter how many trips to the stable for a better-behaved horse it might take.
In my adolescence I developed a fierce precocious spirit of political independence, earning me a spot at the prestigious Alpenhaus Finishing School in Zurich following a series of contretemps with my father while he was in the throes of his Goldwater madness. It was there I would prove my foreign policy mettle by networking with lads who would go on to become Europe’s most influential policy makers, such as my former Chalet-mate and current EU Barley Pricing Minister, Viscount Kloonkie Von Wallensheim. Thanks to those school ties and my natural gift for languages, you can rest assured that when as president I am called on to negotiate a trade or currency support agreement with a Continental leader it will be in the spirit of bonhomie – and in his mother tongue.
After a brief mind-expanding hiatus at a Punjabi ashram in the waning days of the tumultuous Sixties, I returned to my beloved Les Etats Unis to claim my Harvard birthright and matriculate in the rough-and-tumble of conservative political punditry. Through luck, pluck, and talent, I soon secured a position at my father’s journal, the National Topsider, advancing quickly from assistant Opera Critic to Subscription Complaint Manager and finally to Columnist-at-Large. I soon found myself in great demand as a public intellectual, serving as a frequent spokesmen and apologist for the conservative cause on public television. This in turn led to two appointments in Republican administrations, where I proudly served as deputy speechwriter for John Dean and chief menu editor for Mrs. Reagan’s chef. Continue reading
There have been worries expressed on both sides of the political spectrum about the use of drone killings against Al Qaeda, and more especially so as it’s come out that the Obama Administration has a secret “kill list” which even includes American citizens who are working with Al Qaeda overseas (as was the recently killed Anwar al-Awlaki).
It seems to be that there is a legitimate worry here. In a sense, drones are the modern American equivalent of pillars of the Victorian British Empire such as Charles “Chinese” Gordon — gallivanting about the world to put down disturbances wherever they occur. However, they’re also relative unobtrusive and cheap. Thus, I would imagine that there is more danger of them being used to embroil us in conflicts that we really don’t want to be in. (Which, come to that, is more or less what Gordon managed to do for the British Empire on an occasion or two.) While I think that US hegemonic power, like that of others such as the British and Romans in the past, is generally a positive force in the world, power is often a temptation to over reaching. Putting international intervention only a joystick away, without any need for congressional approval or oversight, seems to put just a bit too much power in the hands of an already imperial presidency.
There are plenty of tips on the internet on how to build a blog audience. Here are some tips on how to lose a blog audience:
10. Be nitpicky-If someone deigns to leave a comment on your blog, make certain to correct their grammar, pick apart their argument ruthlessly over minor points and never, absolutely never, address the main point they are making.
9. Never explain-If you want to post on the Albigensian Crusade, jump right into the subject and give no explanatory background. If your readers are ignorant on the subject, tough.
8. Ignorance Doesn’t Matter-Just because you are bone ignorant on a subject doesn’t mean you can’t have an opinion! Write what you want to, no matter how factually deprived it is, and let your readers sort things out. Life is too short for research and fact checking.
7. Use your blog as a substitute for therapy-Scream at your readers if you are feeling miserable, and lose your temper over small matters with your commenters. You will feel better and that is all that counts. If no one reads your blog, that is a small price to pay.
6. Spellcheck?-Spellcheck and concerns about grammar are for dweebs. If your readers worry about such things, who needs them!
5. Humor is verboten!-Blogging is a deadly serious business and if what you write causes one of your readers to crack even the teeniest of smiles you have failed.
Even for Illinois this is putrid. Two Illinois teacher Union lobbyists are able to collect teacher pensions because they each served as a substitute teacher for one day. This of course is taking place in a de facto bankrupt state.
Over the course of their lifetimes, both men stand to receive more than a million dollars each from a state pension fund that has less than half of the assets it needs to cover promises made to tens of thousands of public school teachers. With billions of dollars in unfunded liabilities, the Illinois Teachers’ Retirement System, which serves public school teachers outside of Chicago, is one of several pension plans that are in debt as state government reels in a fiscal crisis. Continue reading
As intensely frustrated as I get at the idiocy frequently shown by government here in the US, for truly high handed over the top governmental lunacy we can rarely compete with the Europeans:
This week alone has seen a ratings downgrade for Spain as well as a threat by agencies to review France’s AAA status — and the markets have taken notice. Once again, it would seem, ratings agencies are making things difficult for European countries.
European Internal Market Commissioner Michel Barnier is considering a move to ban the agencies from publishing outlook reports on EU countries entangled in a crisis, according to a report in Thursday’s issue of the Financial Times Deutschland newspaper.
In an internal draft of a reform to an EU law applying to ratings agencies obtained by the paper, Barnier proposes providing the new EU securities authority, the European Securities and Markets Authority (ESMA), with the right to “temporarily prohibit” the publication of forecasts of a country’s liquidity.
The European Commission is particularly concerned about countries that are negotiating financial aid — for example from the euro rescue backstop fund, the European Financial Stability Facility (EFSF), or the International Monetary Fund (IMF). A ban could prevent a rating from coming at an “inopportune moment” and having “negative consequences for the financial stability of a country and a possible destabilizing effect on the global economy,” the draft states. Continue reading
Recently I have been reading of the Grand Review of the Armies which occurred in Washington DC on May 23 and May 24, 1865. This was a victory parade of Grant’s Army of the Potomac and Sherman’s Army. I was struck by a banner that was spread on the capitol dome those two days: “The Only National Debt We Can Never Pay, Is The Debt We Owe To Our Victorious Soldiers.” Indeed. So the boys in blue enjoyed two days of being cheered as heroes and saviors of their country, before they were demobilized and went back to their homes, the War left behind to fading memories and imperishable history.
However, there were silent victors who could not march in the Grand Review, and humorist Bret Harte remembered them in this poem: Continue reading
Something for the weekend. Gustav Holst’s Mercury, the winged messenger, part of The Planets. Some things become so popular that we tend to take them for granted. I am afraid that is what has happened to some degree with The Planets. It is a magnificent piece of music and places Holst in the top ten list of composers of all time in my estimation. Continue reading
The focus of many U.S. Catholic social justice advocates is directed at atrocities being perpetrated in African nations like Darfur and Somalia. At the same time, their disproportionate lack of attention to the actual atrocities that Muslims are perpetrating upon Catholics in nations like Egypt, Nigeria, and Afghanistan is puzzling.
This lack of attention raises the question: What is the advocates’ true inspiration?
Is it Catholic social justice inspired by the virtue of charity, as Pope Benedict XVI discussed in Deus caritas est? Or, a Marxist socio-political-economic critique of capitalism?
Consider the fact that the U.S. State Department has announced in its latest International Religious Freedom Report (IRFR) that not one public Christian church is left in Afghanistan, the last public Christian church being razed in March 2010. IRFR also reports that “there were no Christian schools in the country.”
Muslim Taliban reading the charge that
That’s one decade after the United States first invaded and overthrew the Islamist Taliban regime in Afghanistan. That’s also after $440B of taxpayers’ money has been spent to support Afghanistan’s new government. And that’s to say nothing about the more than 1.7k U.S. military personnel who have died serving in Afghanistan.
According to IRFR:
There is no longer a public Christian church; the courts have not upheld the church’s claim to its 99-year lease, and the landowner destroyed the building in March ….The government’s level of respect for religious freedom in law and in practice declined during the reporting period, particularly for Christian groups and individuals. Negative societal opinions and suspicion of Christian activities led to targeting of Christian groups and individuals, including Muslim converts to Christianity. The lack of government responsiveness and protection for these groups and individuals contributed to the deterioration of religious freedom.
The religious situation in Afghanistan is such that most Christians in that nation now “refuse to state their beliefs or gather openly to worship.”
In addition, Christian aid from the international community is being redirected to aid the “[cash] strapped government budget.” According to IRFR:
There were no explicit restrictions for religious minority groups to establish places of worship and training of clergy to serve their communities, however, very few public places of worship exist for minorities due to a strapped government budget.
The burning of a Coptic Orthodox Church in Egypt
No doubt, these atrocities represent a violation of the United Nations’ Declaration on Human Rights, an issue that should be of especial concern to Catholic social justice advocates. Yet, they remain stunningly silent about much of this Muslim-inspired atrocity against Christians, in general, and Catholics, in particular.
Could it be that their intent is purely secular—social, political, and economic in its inspiration—what they call “systemic injustice” that is anti-capitalistic?
To read the State Department’s latest International Religious Freedom Report concerning Afghanistan, click on the following link: http://www.state.gov/g/drl/rls/irf/2010_5/168240.htm
To learn more about the atrocities begin perpetrated by Muslims upon Christians and Catholics, click on the following link: http://barnabasfund.org/anti-christian-attacks-threaten-worse-to-come.html
The late Steve Jobs was a Democrat, but apparently he minced no words with the President when he met him last year according to a new biography:
Jobs, who was known for his prickly, stubborn personality, almost missed meeting President Obama in the fall of 2010 because he insisted that the president personally ask him for a meeting. Though his wife told him that Obama “was really psyched to meet with you,” Jobs insisted on the personal invitation, and the standoff lasted for five days. When he finally relented and they met at the Westin San Francisco Airport, Jobs was characteristically blunt. He seemed to have transformed from a liberal into a conservative.
“You’re headed for a one-term presidency,” he told Obama at the start of their meeting, insisting that the administration needed to be more business-friendly. As an example, Jobs described the ease with which companies can build factories in China compared to the United States, where “regulations and unnecessary costs” make it difficult for them.
Jobs also criticized America’s education system, saying it was “crippled by union work rules,” noted Isaacson. “Until the teachers’ unions were broken, there was almost no hope for education reform.” Jobs proposed allowing principals to hire and fire teachers based on merit, that schools stay open until 6 p.m. and that they be open 11 months a year. Continue reading
Thus far the 6th Judicial Circuit has ruled that ObamaCare is constitutional and the Eleventh Judicial Ciruit has ruled that ObamaCare is unconstitutional. The issue is headed to the US Supreme Court, with the ruling probably being handed down next year in the midst of what promises to be one of the bitterest Presidential contests in our nation’s history. How was a measure of such dubious constitutionality passed by Congress? Former Representative Phil Hare (D. Ill.) explains: Continue reading
Presidential candidate Herman Cain appeared on the Piers Morgan show last night, and the conversation turned to the topic of abortion. It’s a fascinating read because at first Cain appears to be giving an absolutist pro-life position – opposition to abortion in all circumstances. Yet Cain then gives a response that seems to suggest that while he’s personally pro-life, well, you know how this ends:
MORGAN: By expressing the view that you expressed, you are effectively — you might be president. You can’t hide behind now the mask, if you don’t mind me saying, of being the pizza guy. You might be the president of United States of America. So your views on these things become exponentially massively more important. They become a directive to the nation.
CAIN: No they don’t. I can have an opinion on an issue without it being a directive on the nation. The government shouldn’t be trying to tell people everything to do, especially when it comes to social decisions that they need to make.
Hmmmm. In the interests of fairness, here is the entire abortion discussion in context:
In the spirit of the Occupy Wall Street Movement, inquiring minds want to know which candidate for the presidency in 2012 has thus far amassed the largest amount of donations from the “plutocrats” of Wall Street? Barack Obama of course!
As a result, Obama has brought in more money from employees of banks, hedge funds and other financial service companies than all of the GOP candidates combined, according to a Washington Post analysis of contribution data. The numbers show that Obama retains a persistent reservoir of support among Democratic financiers who have backed him since he was an underdog presidential candidate four years ago.
Obama’s fundraising advantage is clear in the case of Bain Capital, the Boston-based private-equity firm that was co-founded by Romney, and where the Republican made his fortune. Not surprisingly, Romney has strong support at the firm, raking in $34,000 from 18 Bain employees, according to the analysis of data from the Center for Responsive Politics.
American and British lawyers squared off recently in a discussion over whether the Declaration of Independence was legal. The BBC reports as follows:
On Tuesday night, while Republican candidates in Nevada were debating such American issues as nuclear waste disposal and the immigration status of Mitt Romney’s gardener, American and British lawyers in Philadelphia were taking on a far more fundamental topic.
Namely, just what did Thomas Jefferson think he was doing?
Some background: during the hot and sweltering summer of 1776, members of the second Continental Congress travelled to Philadelphia to discuss their frustration with royal rule.
By 4 July, America’s founding fathers approved a simple document penned by Jefferson that enumerated their grievances and announced themselves a sovereign nation.
Called the Declaration of Independence, it was a blow for freedom, a call to war, and the founding of a new empire.
It was also totally illegitimate and illegal.
At least, that was what lawyers from the UK argued during a debate at Philadelphia’s Ben Franklin Hall.
It strikes me that this misses a crucial distinction: The Declaration was essentially an announcement that if certain demands were not met, the colonists would fight a war for their independence. Such things are not intended to be legal. No sane country is going to provide legal basis for its sub-regions to secede at will — and as the British lawyers point out further on in the article, the US certainly didn’t give it’s Southern half that right under Lincoln. Instead, the colonists were making a last ditch appeal and (more realistically) an appeal for public and international sympathy as they prepared to fight a war of independence. If the British had won, the signers would probably have been hung as traitors. Given that they won, they are considered to be founders of the republic.
Rather than trying to put forward some theory under which the document was legal within the context of the British Empire, it seems to me that the correct answer is that the Declaration was legal by right of conquest — an aged yet still apt concept. This also, of course, answers the question of the why the South was not allowed to secede: Because they lost the Civil War.
“If you want an example of how you ought to worship God, go over to the 69th. You’ll see hundreds of sturdy men kneeling on the ground hearing mass.”
Father Francis P. Duffy in a letter to Cardinal Farley
A recent National Guard video on Father Francis P. Duffy. I have written about Father Duffy here. His courage as a chaplain with the Fighting 69th made him a legend in his own time. However, courage was only one of his virtues. Just as appreciated by the young soldiers he helped shepherd through the hell of trench warfare in World War I France was his sense of humor. Here are a few samples:
Amongst the sturdiest and brightest of our recruits were two young men who had recently been Jesuit Novices. I amused one Jesuit friend and, I am afraid, shocked another by saying that they were exercising a traditional religious privilege of seeking a higher state of perfection by quitting the Jesuits and joining the 69th.
The newcomers are not yet accustomed to the special church regulations relieving soldiers of the obligation of Friday abstinence. Last Friday the men came back from a hard morning’s drill to find on the table a generous meal of ham and cabbage. The old-timers from the Border pitched into this, to the scandal of many of the newer men who refused to eat it, thus leaving all the more for the graceless veterans. After dinner a number of them came to me to ask if it were true that it was all right. I said it was, because there was a dispensation for soldiers. “Dispensation,” said a Jewish boy, “what good is a dispensation for Friday to me. I can’t eat ham any day of the week. Say, Father, that waiter guy, with one turn of his wrist, bust two religions.”
I asked one of the men how he liked the idea of going to confession to a priest who cannot speak English. “Fine, Father,” he said with a grin, “All he could do was give me a penance, but you’d have given me hell.” Continue reading