DarwinCatholic

Now an Ohio Catholic!

Confessions of a Reluctant Romney Supporter

I haven’t written much of anything about the GOP primary contest, despite the fact I have been following it closely, in part because I found myself so incredibly dissatisfied with all the candidates. However, as the field narrows and appears to be actually competitive, and various people I respect line up behind candidates, it seemed like it was time to come out of the closet as something I’m not very enthusiastic about being: a Romney supporter.

This is not because I’m particularly fond of Romney. I don’t trust him a great deal, I’m not clear how solid any of his principles are other than his conviction that he should be president, and I don’t find him particularly inspiring. As various candidates have had their five minutes of popularity for the achievement of not being Romney, I kept hoping that one of them would manage to pull ahead and show some stature. I was particularly hopeful about Rick Perry, but he just didn’t seem able to run a campaign.

So why support Romney?

I’ll start with the positive. While I’m not enthusiastic about Romney, I think that most of what the GOP needs in order to oust Obama this year is simply a credible alternative who doesn’t scare people too much. Given how bad the economy is and how unpopular some elements of his policy have been, “not Obama” can be a solidly popular candidate by that virtue alone. Continue reading

Ron Paul’s Foreign Policy: Golden Rule or Relativism?

If you move about those regions of the internets in which righteous display their moral superiority by posting sixty second video clips showing just how bad their opponents are, you have probably seen headlines lately along the lines of “Christians Boo Jesus” or “Republicans Mock Golden Rule”. Of course, one hardly needs to watch the clip, because in the dualism that is politicization, everyone already knows that they’re right and their opponents are wrong. But after the fifth or sixth iteration, I had to go ahead watch Ron Paul (who else) present his Golden-Rule based foreign policy to boos. Here’s the clip in question:

Or if, like me, you tend not to watch posted videos, here’s the money quote:

“My point is, that if another country does to us what we do to others, we aren’t going to like it very much. So I would say maybe we ought to consider a golden rule in foreign policy. We endlessly bomb these other countries and then we wonder why they get upset with us?”

Now, this sounds superficially high minded, and some people who really are high minded seem lured by it. Kyle, who has an genuine and expansive desire to understand “the other” has his dander up and says: Continue reading

Catholicism and “Neoliberalism”: Strawmen Are Often Contrary to Church Teaching

David Cloutier at the Catholic Moral Theology blog links approvingly to a post at dotCommonweal addressing Romney’s political views which asks whether “neoliberalism” (the which is here used to mean something along the lines of free market capitalism) and Catholicism can ever be compatible. He says:

Superb exchange going on over at dotCommonweal over a post about how certain political conservatives, like Rick Santorum or Michael Gerson, try to reconcile their Catholicism with the neoliberal paradigm. For once, even the comment thread is worth reading!

I think this is an important – if not THE important – debate about Catholicism and politics in the current election. Often, the debate over particular policies dominates, but in fact, what we should be looking at are the basic principles of the economic order. If a candidate fundamentally contradicts the basic principles, Catholics should have reservations about supporting him. In the post referred to above, “neoliberalism” is cast in terms of a pure free-market conception, in which governments take a minimal role in economic activity, providing for enforcement of contracts, a stable currency, etc. – protection against “force and fraud.” Others claim that Gerson forthrightly support subsidiary actors – such as families, community organizations, and churches – and so is not in fact individualist.

The (frequently made) mistake here is one that goes back to Edmund Burke, that “father” of conservatism. Burke seeks to deal with nascent industrial capitalism by (Warning: blogging oversimplification ahead…) distinguishing between a sphere of “culture” (or “civil society”) that can be fostered, and refuses to attribute social problems to the mechanisms of the market itself. He defends the market as good, over against the landed establishment (the “nobles”) of the pre-industrial order, which is who he is opposing. But for him, the market is not all there is. (One sometimes sees a variant of this in defending Adam Smith by noting one must read both The Wealth of Nations and The Theory of Moral Sentiments.)
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Some Music for your Epiphany

In honor of the day, however, I thought I’d repost the video I put together for Epiphany a couple years ago. I first encountered this classic orchestration of We Three Kings by Eugene Ormandy when I was a child, watching my dad give the annual Christmas Star Show up at the Griffith Observatory. Since the recording is hard to find, and there too it the music provided background to a montage of artistic representations of the Three Kings, I took the liberty of putting together a YouTube video for the occasion.

One Horse Open Sleigh

To hear most recordings of “Jingle Bells”, you wouldn’t know that the song dates back to 1850, when it was published under the title “One Horse Open Sleigh”. However, this (sadly out of print) recording by the Robert DeCormier Singers and Ensemble back in 1984 does a wonderful job of putting the history back into this classic. Seeing as it’s difficult to get hold of copies of the original album these days, I’ve ventured to put it up on YouTube.

While in general I’m a stickler for sacred Christmas Music, this is just so charming it’s hard to pass up. A merry Christmas to all our readers!

Do Greeks Work Harder Than Germans?

Matt Yglasias has a piece in Slate attempting to counter the “if the Euro is going to work, Greeks are going to have to learn to work hard like Germans” line of thinking.

It’s true that Germans and Greeks work very different amounts, but not in the way you expect. According to the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development, the average German worker put in 1,429 hours on the job in 2008. The average Greek worker put in 2,120 hours. In Spain, the average worker puts in 1,647 hours. In Italy, 1,802. The Dutch, by contrast, outdo even their Teutonic brethren in laziness, working a staggeringly low 1,389 hours per year.

If you recheck your anecdata after looking up the numbers, you’ll recall that on that last trip to Florence or Barcelona you were struck by the huge number of German (or maybe they were Dutch or Danish) tourists around everywhere.

The truth is that countries aren’t rich because their people work hard. When people are poor, that’s when they work hard. Platitudes aside, it takes considerably more “effort” to be a rice farmer or to move sofas for a living than to be a New York Times columnist. It’s true that all else being equal a person can often raise his income by raising his work rate, but it’s completely backward to suggest that extraordinary feats of effort are the way individuals or countries get to the top of the ladder. On the national level the reverse happens—the richer Germans get, the less they work.
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The Deification of Political Opinion

Ta-Nehisi Coates at The Atlantic is discussing the legacy of Christopher Hitchens and the reactions to his death by various commentators, including discussion of whether “not speaking ill of the dead” should apply to public figures. I was struck by this quote of a quote:

As Cook put it: “it must not be forgotten in mourning him that he got the single most consequential decision in his life horrifically, petulantly wrong”

Is this someone being rather hard on Hitchen’s strident atheism, which went to extremes such as loudly mocking Mother Teresa and her work in the most excessive and vulgar terms? Is some health nut going after his heavy smoking and binge drinking? Is some woman upset by the way his literary bad boy persona spilled over into his relationships? No, the topic is Hitchen’s opinion on the Iraq War:

indeed: “People make mistakes. What’s horrible about Hitchens’ ardor for the invasion of Iraq is that he clung to it long after it became clear that a grotesque error had been made…”

I could see someone arguing that the Iraq War was the “single most consequential decision” in President Bush’s life, or Dick Cheney’s life, or even that of some major military figure. But Hitchen’s was a literary and opinion journalist. That his thoughts on the Iraq War could somehow end up being the most “consequential” in his life suggests a view in which simply having a political opinion on some issue of the day is more important in one’s life than anything one actually does.

This seems like an increasingly common way of thinking. As people decide that they are “basically good people” and banish morality from the bedroom, the living room, and the board room, they come to see morality as being the alignment with larger groups on the big issues of the day. Only the scrupulous worry about the morality of the mundane. Instead, morality is determined by how one addresses the big capitalized phrases of the moment: the War on Terror, Poverty, Inequality, Gay Rights, the Environment, etc.

This, it seems to me, couldn’t be more backwards. Sure, what one thinks on various matters of the day is indicative of one’s moral and personal choices, but the most consequential decisions of our lives are those we make about how we treat those around us on a day in and day out basis — and whether we accept as the ruler and guide of those decisions our Maker.

Sebelius’ Morning After Pill Decision: Politics or ‘Anti-Science’ Pro-Life

On Wednesday, Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius overruled an expert panel at the FDA which had recommended allowing children under 17 to purchase the “morning after pill” Plan B One-Step over the counter. Under current regulations, Plan B is available without a prescription to people 17 and over, but those 16 and under would need a prescription in order to purchase it. The pill is designed to be taken within 72 hours after having “unprotected” sex and is claimed to reduce the chances of pregnancy from such sex from 1 in 20 to 1 in 40. It does this by preventing ovulation through a boost in hormones. Like other forms of hormonal birth control, it also serves to make the uterine lining more resistant to implantation by a fertilized egg, so even if ovulation does occur (or has already done so) it can make spontaneous miscarriage/abortion of the zygote far more likely. As such, it is often considered potentially a form of early abortion, though the frequency with which it acts through preventing a zygote from implanting (versus acting through preventing ovulation) is not known.

In prior policy moves in relation to Plan B, the Bush Administration had originally overruled a request that the pill be made available over the counter, but eventually allowed it for purchasers who were 18 or over. The Obama administration acted in 2009 to make Plan B available to those 17 and over, but until now has continued to require a prescription for those young. This means that the pill (which costs around $50 per dose) is generally held behind the pharmacy counter and provided without a presciption to those who show ID proving they are 17 or over.

This latest move on Plan B has many left leaning commentators up in arms, accusing the Obama Administration of ignoring ‘science’ and bowing to the interests of the religious right. James Fallows at The Atlantic compares the move to something one would expect from a Michelle Bachman administration and suggests Sebelius and Obama should be criticized accordingly. Continue reading

When The Technocrats Took My Country

Ross Douthat goes through the interesting exercise of translating what just happend to Italy into American terms, and in doing so underscores just how big the Eurozone shake up is:

The murmurs about Barack Obama being forced out began in Berlin and Beijing. After his party lost the midterm vote, there were hints that a government of technocrats would be imposed on America, to save the country from a debt crisis and the world from a depression.

As the debt-ceiling negotiations stalled out over the summer, a global coalition — led by Germany, China and the International Monetary Fund — began working behind the scenes to ease Obama out of the White House. The credit downgrade was the final blow: the president had lost the confidence of the world’s shadow government, and his administration could no longer survive.

Within days, thanks to some unusual constitutional maneuvering, Obama resigned the presidency and Michael Bloomberg was invited to take the oath of office. With Beijing issuing veiled threats against our currency, Congress had no choice but to turn the country’s finances over to the Senate’s bipartisan Gang of 6, which in turn acceded to Chinese and German “supervision” of their negotiations. Meanwhile, there was a growing consensus in Europe and Asia that only a true global superstate could prevent the debt contagion from spreading …

FOR Americans, the scenario I’ve just imagined is a paranoid fantasy, the kind of New World Order nightmare that haunts the sleep of black-helicopter watchers and Trilateral Commission obsessives.
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What Makes Those “Conservative Catholics” Tick?

Every so often, a “seamless garment” Catholic demand to know why conservative Catholics do not adopt a position of de facto pacifism, oppose capital punishment just as much as abortion, and clap like a seal at the idea of a supranational world political authority as described in the recent Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace note and in Caritas in Veritate. I hope that this helpful outline will clear a bit of this up and explain why we conservative Catholics tend to act the way that we do.

Generally speaking, conservative Catholics have strong feelings about adherence to basic moral issues and doctrines as they have been constantly presented over a long period of time — with the one key distinction (being American, after all) that they’ll tend to be more sympathetic towards democracy and religious freedom than the official Church position 60+ years ago was.

As such, “right-wing” Catholics get upset about:

- condoning various sins relating to the modern culture of sexual license (contraception, abortion, adultery, fornication, divorce, homosexuality, pornography, etc.)

- denial (or creative questioning of) basic Catholic doctrines and scriptural interpretations including: what seems like denial of the real presence in the Eucharist; denial of the efficacy of the sacraments; questioning the historicity of the resurrection; questioning the existence of heaven, hell and purgatory; questioning the necessity, efficacy and supernatural nature of the seven sacraments; making odd claims about the trinity (saying the Holy Spirit is a woman, talking about God the Mother, etc.); questioning the all male priesthood; etc.

- liturgical innovation in senses that seem to break with the past or reduce the sacredness of the liturgy

They tend to go along less with issues that they see as being innovations or at odds with tradition Church teaching and practice. Thus:

- they have a hard time seeing capital punishment as suddenly being a huge problem now because the Church clearly allowed its use it the past. They may be willing to see it as counter productive or badly administered, but getting them stirred up against it as being as bad as or than than abortion, murder, etc. simply is not going to happen. In their minds, something can’t be okay yesterday but the ultimate evil today, no matter how effective the prison system.

- they don’t see the Church as endorsing absolute or de facto pacifism as the Church did not appear to do so in the past

- they don’t see the Church as absolutely endorsing some novel economic system significantly different from what has organically existed in the past. (Added note: Claiming that capitalism is some drastically new innovation and that for most of the past 2000 years something suspiciously like modern democratic socialism was the norm will generally not float well with them either. If anything, they’re likely to see the extreme regulation of trade by local princes and by powerful guilts as corruptions of the past, not as the best elements of the pre-modern economy. They may or may not be right on this, but generally speaking they’re no less educated about the past than their opponents, and often rather more familiar with it.)

- they don’t see how the Church could officially endorse something like the UN or a “supranational authority” when it a) isn’t Catholic and b) is very much a new thing. (By contrast, they don’t have a problem with the Holy League or the Crusades, even though these were clearly supranational organzations/movements endorsed by the Church — however somehow people excited about “supranational authorities” never call for another one of these.)

I hope this will be of help to all those who profess themselves confused.

Battleground Ohio

In the 2012 election, Ohio will once again be a key battleground state at the presidential level. This will be a new experience for me, now an Ohio resident, as I’ve spent my voting live up until now in California and Texas — two states so solidly in their opposite party’s columns that one at times wondered if it was worth the time to stand in line and vote.

The Ohio vote froom yesterday getting national and international headlines was the rejection of Issue 2, repealing a law which limitted collective bargaining for state employees including teachers, police and firemen. State employee unions poured huge amounts of money into the “No on 2″ campaign and focused heavily on scare tactics. The most frequent claim was that if unions could not negotiate over staffing levels, that police or paramedics would not arrive when you needed them. “Vote no on Issue 2. It could save your life.”

The victory in the No on 2 campaign is being taken as a positive sign by Democrats nationally, but it is likely to be a bad sign for the actual state workers who campaigned so hard for their unions. In the same election, voters rejected a number of local tax levies (both new and renewals) which in combination with the striking down of Senate Bill 5 (via the No on 2 campaign) means that local government will be stuck with old, more expensive contracts and also come up far short on revenues. This means that voters are still very much in a low tax, low budget mood (probably a positive for Republicans come next year) and that unions just spent an unprecedented amount of money in order to get more of their members laid off. Oops.

In yet another state-wide referendum, voters, by a 2-to-1 margin, voted to ammend the state constitution to ban any form of health insurance mandate in Ohio. Given that state constitutions cannot override federal laws, this is mostly a symbolic gesture, however with the ammendment getting a majority in every single county, it underscores how unpopular some of the key ideas of ObamaCare remain with voters.

It remains to be seen which of the two statewide issue votes prove to be the more suggestive of how Ohio voters will lean in the 2012 election.

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