14

Various & Sundry, 3/12/15

Lots to talk about today.

– I haven’t talked much about the tax reform put out by Senators Marco Rubio and Mike Lee. Veronique de Rugy offered this bit of analysis in which she expresses her support for most of the plan, but also offers some criticism.

The second problem with the bill is that many free-market types are underwhelmed (for lack of a better word) by the huge child tax credits in the bill, in particular since the inclusion of those credits is “expensive” in more than one way. For instance, the projected revenue loss is $1.7 trillion over ten years according to the Tax Foundation. I assume this is the reason Rubio and Lee not only aren’t proposing a bigger reduction in the top income tax rate, but are even raising marginal tax rates on a significant number of middle-class and upper-middle class households. (The 35 percent top tax rate in the plan takes effect at just $75,000 of income for single households and $150,000 for married households!)

It has been noted before, but it is worth repeating: The opportunity cost of expanding the child tax credit in this way is huge, in terms of the possible tax reforms it crowds out. If their proposed child-tax credit were smaller, Rubio and Lee could have also included a low-rate flat tax, for instance. No matter what we hear about top-marginal-tax-rate reductions not yielding as much return at the current levels as they would if the rates were higher, lowering them would still yield more growth than the child tax credit, which does nothing for growth. If bolstering the economic status of families is the point of all this, the way to go is lower tax rates, not a tax credit. So why not solve 100 percent of the problem rather than 50 percent?

To make matters worse, I don’t buy the justification for the size of the tax credit they’re proposing. It is one thing to support some sort of child tax credit in the name of the idea that every flat-tax proposal has some zero-bracket amount based on family size, generally based on the principle that households shouldn’t be taxed on “necessity” or “poverty level” income. But providing giant credits, based on the premise that children are investments in maintaining entitlement programs and that parents should be compensated for the cost of raising their kids goes way overboard.

According to the senators, the tax credit would compensate for ”a parent tax penalty.” They compare it to “the marriage tax penalty.” But while I think that characterization is a brilliant marketing move on the part of those who think that parents should be rewarded/subsidized, it is also misleading. The marriage tax penalty is real and manifests itself in the form of higher taxes for certain people who get married and file jointly. That’s because government taxes the first dollar a married-couple secondary earner earns, often the wife, at her husband’s highest marginal rate rather than at the rate the wife’s salary warrants. The higher the marginal tax rate, the bigger the penalty.  However, people aren’t taxed at a higher rate nor do they pay more taxes the moment they have children. In fact, it is the reverse because of personal allowances. So there is no “parent tax penalty.”

I have to concur in large part with de Rugy’s analysis. Ramesh Ponnuru, Reihan Salan and others have been beating the drums for expanding the child tax credit, and I have yet to hear a convincing explanation of how this is anything but more social engineering through the tax code. Indeed that is my beef with much of Salan and Ross Douthat’s book, The Grand New Party, which felt like 200 pages of nothing but pleading for more tax credits. As a father of (almost) four, I would certainly benefit from an expanded credit, but even I have to say enough is enough.

Attention men: if you are nice, happy man who holds the door open for women, you are clearly signalling that you are nothing but a sexist.

Benevolent sexism makes men more smiley when they interact with women, and that’s bad news. Men who put women on a pedestal may be the wolves in sheep clothing hindering gender equality.

A new study examining the nonverbal cues thrown out during interactions between men and women finds that men who have high ratings of “benevolent sexism” — attitudes towards women that are well-intentioned but perpetuate inequality — finds that smiling and other positive cues increase when this kind of sexism is prevalent.

I clearly missed my calling. Who knew one could earn a living conducting such insightful “studies.”

– Fact-checking the fact checkers, part one million: Speaking of earning a living, I am starting to consider developing a fact-checking website that only fact-checks fact-checkers. Patterico writes of one of the most egregious examples of a fact-checker sneaking opinion into her column, as a manifestly true and simple observation made by Ted Cruz got rated as kinda false. WaPo editor Glenn Kessler at least had the dignity to respond to a few questions about this assessment, and offered up some whoppers. Continue Reading

9

Various & Sundry, 3/11/15

– Jay just mentioned this in the comments: Crescat denied communion on the tongue.

Not only did he consecrate a wheat pita but when I went up to receive on the tongue he forcefully tried to pry open my hands to put the Eucharist in my palm. When I remained in front of him with my mouth open, holds folded closed, to receive on the tongue he grabbed my hand and took the Body of Christ, wedged it between my fingers and said, “Just take it. It’s easier this way.”

Easier for what or whom?! There were not even 50 people in that church! How was me receiving on the tongue going to disrupt the communion line? It made absolutely no sense. Just take it, it’s easier this way? And at my grandmother’s funeral is where you decide to make your little anti-trad point?

– Just to show you that not all Virginia parishes are so bad, one has severed ties to its Knights of Columbus chapter for honoring Governor McAwful.

A Virginia Knights of Columbus council is pressing forward with plans to honor pro-abortion, pro-homosexual “marriage” Gov. Terry McAuliffe by having him as grand marshal of its St. Patrick’s Day Parade. In response, the parish priest has strongly reproached the council and cut ties.

. . .

“Governor McAuliffe stands contrary to the Catholic Church in not one but many of the most essential teachings of the Church in the political arena,” the Norfolk pastor wrote in a March 5 letter to parishioners, distributed at Sunday Mass on March 8. “He himself promised to be a ‘brick wall’ against restrictions on abortion, has taken away commonsense protections for women in abortion facilities and lowered safety standards, and consistently takes money from pro-abortion lobbying groups.”

Good on the pastor, and shame on that K of C Council. It would behoove the members of this Council to reacquaint themselves with some of the degree ceremonies.

Good article from Ross Douthat on Obama’s “caesarism.” For some reason I am unable to clip any of it , so you’ll have to trust me and click the link.

– And just to show that British politics can be just as petty and stupid as our own: a fight over the potential placement of an empty chair during a televised debate.

Maybe they should get a hold of Clint Eastwood.

4

Various & Sundry, 3/10/15

I was attending a work-related event, thus the lack of a V&S yesterday and the brevity of this one.

– Don linked to the Dr. Long piece referenced, but here is Ed Peters on the issue of the Church and the death penalty.

So argue, if one will, the prudence of the death penalty—there are some very good prudential arguments against it, as Häring noted fifty years ago—but do not read the Catechism as making any principled points against the death penalty beyond those that have long been part of the Church teaching on the death penalty, that is, for the last 20 centuries during which no Catholic thinker, let alone any Magisterial pronouncement, asserted the inherent immorality of the death penalty. To the contrary, as Long points out, acknowledgment of the moral liceity of the death penalty justly administered, is the Catholic tradition.

Second, Catholic opponents of the death penalty should be aware that their (supposedly) faith-demanded opposition to the death penalty carries, right now, implications for real Catholics getting real summons to serve on real capital crime juries.

I assume that Catholic opponents of the death penalty would advise fellow Catholics in capital crime jury pools to express to the court (and jurors will be asked about this) their opposition to the death penalty. At which point, having answered Yes, they, like any other juror so answering, will likely be dismissed from the pool for cause. But, do we really want Catholic citizens—while Catholic pundits debate the death penalty from the comfort of their offices—excluding themselves (or being subjected to dismissal by lawyers) from trials wherein a sound Catholic commitment to justice and fair-play is most needed? If not, may I suggest some moderation in the rhetoric being used by some Catholic opponents of the death penalty against Catholic support for the death penalty. Such rhetoric (besides likely being wrong-headed in itself) seems especially susceptible to the law of unintended consequences. + + +

 

By the way, here is the Anchoress post that Dr. Peters also referenced. It’s, umm, something. I guess.

– On Mr. Spock – Point:

Not only do Spock’s peacenik inclinations routinely land the Enterprise and the Federation into trouble, his “logic” and “level head” mask an arrogant emotional basket case. Unlike the superhuman android Data, a loyal officer whose deepest longing is to be human, Spock spends most of his life as a freelancing diplomat eager to negotiate with the worst enemies of Starfleet. He’s the opposite of a role model: a cautionary tale.

Counterpoint:

First is that Continetti’s primary complaints are not with Captain Spock, but with the writers and the plotting. That is hardly his fault. They have to write for me, after all.

Second and most important: four times in the films, and many more times in the TV show, Spock acknowledges that he is not at all the superior being, and that his logic-based pursuits are intrinsically limited. The examples are so easy to find, it is shocking that Continetti missed them. But then, perhaps we of the Enterprise are the only ship within range …. of Netflix.

Things you should never say to a Catholic bookstore employee. I must say that having worked for a popular Shrine bookstore myself for over a year, I don’t recall any of these things ever being said to me.

This is what treason looks like.

10

Various & Sundry, 3/6/15

– Patrick Archbold has an excellent response to the Gang of Four joint editorial on the death penalty.

They are specifically calling on a Court to override the proper legislative authority of the states.  They are willing to grant plenary legislative power to a group of black-robed oligarchs that is specifically reserved by the U.S. Constitution to Congress and the States if they prefer the policy outcome. Remember, it is this very same power which these editorial boards grant so freely that unconstitutionally nullified the ability of state legislatures to protect the lives of the unborn over forty years ago.  As a result of the same unlawful exercise of power they espouse today, millions upon millions of babies have perished with God-fearing Christians in many states unable to do anything about it.

This is the same mistake that the USCCB makes time and time again in this case and in others. The USCCB willingly feeds the Federal beast even when every reasonable person understands that the federal government is the single greatest threat to life and religious liberty in America.

The USCCB got in bed with the Federal Government to force universal government healthcare on Americans even though many Catholics in good standing opposed it on prudential and constitutional grounds while warning of the dangers of federal interference with life and religious liberty.  The ink wasn’t even dry on that particular power grab before the very same federal government with which the Bishops allied in support of their preferred healthcare policy turned on Catholics and tried to force them to violate their religiously informed consciences.  This outcome was entirely predictable, but the lessons clearly are not yet learned.

– The national GOP may be a mess, but on the state level they continue to do things like this:

The West Virginia legislature on Friday voted to override Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin’s (D) veto over banned abortions after 20 weeks of pregnancy. The move comes after Republicans in Congress also tried to pass a 20-week abortion ban but had to drop the effort in January after a revolt from female members and centrists.

Can we get one of these guys in West Virginia to be the next Speaker of the House?

– Surely slippery slope arguments against same-sex marriage are invalid, right? Right?

Ummm, about that . . .

Three gay men from Thailand have tied the knot in what is thought to be the world’s first three-way same-sex marriage.

Happy newlyweds Joke, 29, Bell, 21 and Art, 26, took the plunge on Valentine’s Day after exchanging their vows in a fairy-tale ceremony at their home in Uthai Thani Province, Thailand.

– Trust in Hillary starting to wain in light of the email scandal.

I kind of don’t get this. She’s been in the national spotlight for over two decades, has been embroiled in scandals since the beginning, has shown herself to be every bit as much a pathological liar as her husband, and this is what finally gets the public to start doubting her truthfulness? Better late than never I guess.

– With Hillary slumping, you know who’s waiting in the wings? Martin O’Malley.

Excuse me a second . . .

– And with that, I’ll remind you that Saturday evening is arbitrarily turn your clocks forward so we can pretend to save energy although every study under the sun shows that this doesn’t save a lick of energy but we’re gonna keep doing this anyway even though it means that we get less daylight in the morning but who cares about people who work for a living we get an extra hour of sunlight in the evening to theoretically do stuff who are we kidding we’re just gonna watch television anyway so really this is a complete waste and eventually we’ll probably expand it so that it lasts the entire year time.

10

Various and Sundry, 3/5/15

– Jay Anderson has indicated he has written his final blog post, so I will provide him one last link. It seems that the heads of the four families – excuse, me the big four Catholic publications have joined forces and issued a joint editorial. They have set aside their differences and collaborated to discuss the burning issue of the day. Liberal and conservative, orthodox and heterodox: these labels mean nothing when it comes to this unequivocal teaching of the Church*. Yes, finally, America, National Catholic Register, National Catholic Reporter, and Our Sunday Visitor have written their joint editorial calling for an end to abortion, rebutting same-sex marriage, condemning the genocide of Christians taking place in the Middle East, calling for the abolition of the death penalty.

These four Catholic publications have decided that the paramount issue bridging the gap between these distinct entities is the death penalty. What’s more, they’re not calling for the election of local legislators who will vote to outlaw the death penalty in their respective states. Oh no, they’re calling for the raw judicial activism when the Court decides on the case of Glossip v. Gross. Despite the fact that the death penalty is one of the few things manifestly countenanced by the U.S. Constitution, (after all, if you need to write amendments saying you can’t deprive someone of their lives without due process you’re tacitly admitting you can deprive citizens of their lives with due process) these four publications are totally cool with judicial activism so long as such activism comports with their personal preferences.

Jay notes that in his very first blog post he wrote:

Sir Thomas More’s admonition to Roper should serve as a warning and a reminder to Catholics that the activist Court that sides with us in this particular instance is the same activist Court that is likely in the future (as it has in the past) to “turn round on us” and use its increasingly strident activism to decide cases contrary to our Catholic values.

This was in reference to Roper v. Simmons, another death penalty case. Now, here we are, ten years later these supposedly Catholic publications are totally fine with the use of raw judicial power. They’re fine with it now, but where will they be in ten years when judicial activists deprive Catholics of basic First Amendment rights?

Like Jay I am personally opposed to the death penalty, but I’m even more opposed to legislation by judicial fiat, and those who support the Court declaring unconstitutional that which is concretely and unambiguously constitutional are compliant in an act of judicial tyranny, even if it is for an ostensibly good cause.

*Footnote here for the sarcasm impaired. Let’s just say that traditional Catholic teaching is no more prohibitive of the death penalty than the U.S. Constitution.

– Anna Mussmann muses that we’re over-complicating motherhood. It’s of a similar vein to what I’ve written before, suggesting that helicopter parenting is a symptom of selfish parenting. Her take is a little different, but well worth the read.

– I just can’t quit the latest Clinton scandal. It’s odd that this is the thing that has dented the Clintons’ teflon coating, to the point where even Lawrence O’Donnell is abandoning ship. Now the website Gawker demonstrates that Clinton’s use of a personal email account was a huge security risk. Long story short, Clinton preferred having her emails fall in the lap of Russia than an intrusive American press.

Here’s another Hot Air link. The Republican party now controls more state houses than any point in recent history, and they owe it all to President Obama. The party that is supposedly on its deathbed is routing Democrats at all local levels. This ascendancy started before Obama was immaculated, but has only sped up since.

– Darwin’s take on when to call the cops on a kid.

If you see a property or violent crime being committed, by all means call the cops. Or if a kid is doing something which seems likely to directly result in death or injury. If a child seems genuinely lost, upset or hurt, and you’re not able to find an adult connected with them (especially if you’ve taken the time to ask the kid if she needs help and she says yes) then by all means summon help.

But keep in mind that calling the cops on a family can have traumatic (and at times even fatal) consequences. “I wouldn’t let my kid walk home alone,” is probably not a serious enough reason, unless you happen to live rather literally in a war zone.

A victory today for the revolutionaries who dared to sled on Capitol Hill.

2

Various and Sundry, 3/4/15

Is winter over yet? Supposedly we’re getting somewhere between a centimeter and a foot of snow tomorrow.

– Today the Supreme Court heard oral arguments in King v. Burwell, the Obamacare subsidy case. It looks like Anthony Kennedy stuck his finger in the air and it was blowing the government’s direction today. We’ll see if the Court determines that words do, in fact, mean things.

– Stop the presses, David Brock was spinning on behalf of Hillary Clinton. His performance on MSDNC this morning was so outlandish that even co-host Mika Brzezinski was forced to sigh, ““Oh my God. I’m not sure what planet I’m on right now,” in response to one of Brock’s evasions. To paraphrase one of the commenters at NRO, when Miza Brzezinski is the voice of reason, oofta.

Looks like Brock’s gonna have his interns working double tonight to produce another 17-page document that is largely a giant tu quoque argument.

– Michele Obama’s attempts to brainwash our kids by feeding them tasteless junk is well underway. I cringe when I read things like this:

Under the complex “Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act” legislation, which has long been a signature issue for the first lady, participating schools take federal money but must stringently limit the number of calories and the amount of sugar, fat and sodium in every morsel of food sold at schools. Also, in what presumably falls outside the hunger-free aspect of the act, there are calorie caps.

A Maryland lawmaker is also pushing legislation that would require fast food restaurants to offer water, 100% pure juice, and low fat milk as the default beverage option for kids’ meals instead of water.

You know I don’t necessarily have a problem with the idea of government promoting healthy nutrition. What I do take issue with is them issuing mandates based on outmoded and discredited nutrition concepts. Evidently the only way children are eating healthy enough for the government is by eating tasteless vegetables and low-calorie foodstuffs.

Now, I’m fortunate enough to have children who actually like eating vegetables. I also try to prepare said vegetables in a manner that will make them more prone to eating them. If you have to add a little fat to the veggies to make them a bit tastier, so be it. There’s also no need to force feed them stuff when they might prefer other foods that have high nutritional value.

Four lessons from the fourth season of Downton Abbey. Not sure I completely agree with all of the interpretations, but certainly some interesting food for thought.

6

Various and Sundry, 3/3/15

I’m bringing back an old feature, which I will hopefully be able to bring back nightly. Please feel free to use this as an open evening thread for anything you’d like to share, including news and prayer petitions.

– I’m beginning to feel a lot like Ace here.  The argument that Congress is limited in its ability to push back against the President only goes so far, and certainly collapses when you actually do have the power to tie his hands. I also agree with AllahPundit that we shouldn’t be too impressed with the number of Republicans who voted against the leadership, as many of them would have voted for the funding bill if their votes were really needed.

This isn’t even purely a partisan issue. At some point the legislative branch has to be willing to stop the continuing overreach of the executive. The checks and balances of our form of government is arguably the quintessential element of the republic. As these checks are eroded, so too is the notion that we are, in fact, dwelling in a republic.

– Party over, whoops, out of time, it looks like we’re living through the 90s again. Hey, the ability to totally ignore the Constitution without consequence is now an essential trait in any would-be President.

– Curt Schilling tweeted some words of pride and congratulations for his daughter, and naturally some individuals decided to take the opportunity to exemplify everything that is wrong with the internet, including tweeting some rape threats against his daughter. Schilling took to his blog and outed these fools, one of whom (at least) was fired, while others face other forms of discipline.

This incident is interesting as it gets to the idea of public shaming for internet comments. There was a story recently (that I’ve unfortunately misplaced) following rather infamous internet celebrities who lost jobs and any sense of privacy due to ill-advised tweets. The article made the point that the “grab the pitchforks” mentality can really go way overboard, and people have their lives ruined over 140 unwise characters. On the other hand, public shaming does have the effect of silencing the worst and most obvious offenders, and in this case I will cry no tears over someone losing their job because they tweeted their rape fantasies.

– Speaking of public shaming, I would like to do that the dolts employed by the Montgomery County (MD) Child Protective Services who found some local parents guilty of “unsubstantiated child neglect,” their sin allowing their 10-year old and 6-year old to walk home by themselves from the park. Now they will be “watched” by CPS for the next five years. As one of the commenters put it:

I think we need to start lobbying state legislatures for reasonable laws that provide some clarity and security for families in these situations. As I understand it, this is the law the Meitivs were accused of violating: “A person who is charged with the care of a child under the age of 8 years may not allow the child to be locked or confined in a dwelling, building, enclosure, or motor vehicle while the person charged is absent and the dwelling, building, enclosure, or motor vehicle is out of the sight of the person charged unless the person charged provides a reliable person at least 13 years old to remain with the child to protect the child.” How does letting your kids walk home from the park even trigger an investigation under this statute? It is unacceptable that CPS has the authority to interpret the law so loosely in order to bring a family into the system.

I was happy that most of the callers into the local radio show this morning were as perturbed by this decision as I was, but one person would just simply not accept the fact that kids are in no more danger of abduction today than they were 30 years ago. Some people just can’t let fact get in the way of unsubstantiated fear mongering.

– Rebecca Taylor is right: the UK has just made a frightening decision to allow the creation of three-parent embryos, and Catholics have largely been silent on this abomination.

Even more infuriating is that fact that, at the very same time that the UK approves the genetic engineering of the next generation (and the next, and the next), Hershey’s has been so hounded by food purists on social media that the confectioner has given into the pressure to remove any ingredients that come from genetically-modified organisms.

Great. We will be eating GMO-free chocolate (reading about the spread of Dengue fever) while we blissfully ignore the creation of genetically-modified kids.

– Kevin Williamson is just awesome. But you already knew that.

Here he is destroying Politifact for, as usual, not getting its facts straight.

And here he is, defending Archbishop Cordileone’s “scandalous” decision to uphold Church teaching.

And here he is one more time, once again writing about the good Archbishop.

The people who have the strongest feelings about Catholic teaching tend to be the people who know the least about it. That the archbishop is a fallen creature, a sinner like the rest of us, is not a challenge to Christian teaching—it is a vindication of Christian teaching. Of course the archbishop is called to a life of greater holiness—just like the rest of us—and of course he is going to fail—just like the rest of us. That’s the weird tough nut at the heart of Christianity: “Here’s an impossibility high standard that you have to try to live up to as part of a faith based on the understanding that you are not going to do that.

14

A Few Quick Hits

A few noteworthy news items:

– One of the key opposition leaders in Russia was assassinated randomly killed.

A leading Russian opposition politician, former Deputy Prime Minister Boris Nemtsov, has been shot dead in Moscow, Russian officials say.

An unidentified attacker in a car shot Mr Nemtsov four times in the back as he crossed a bridge in view of the Kremlin, police say.

He died hours after appealing for support for a march on Sunday in Moscow against the war in Ukraine.

Russian President Vladimir Putin has condemned the murder, the Kremlin says.

President Putin has assumed “personal control” of the investigation into the killing, said his spokesman Dmitry Peskov.

Undoubtedly this will be the most thorough murder investigation since O.J. Simpson hunted down Nicole Brown Simpson’s murderer.

– Scott Walker is already living rent free in the heads of the far left. Now they’re just throwing whatever they can at the wall to see what sticks. Unfortunately for them there’s been this invention called Google that exposes their misinformation attempts. RS McCain explains.

Jezebel’s “senior political reporter” Natasha Vargas-Cooper gotBreitbarted, exposed as a dishonest and corrupt partisan hack, by a guy who did 20 seconds of Googling. Darleen Click:

Here’s Darleen’s post.

Long story short, Vargas-Cooper posted a story about how Governor Walker had allowed Wisconsin universities not to report sexual assaults. What she failed to mention that this was a request from the universities, who already have federal filing requirements to comply with.

Naturally when Vargas-Cooper was confronted with all of the facts she retracted the story and apologized.

Ha ha ha. I slay me. No, she doubled down and basically said that facts don’t matter. Because narrative.

– Here’s a local story about how Montgomery County, Maryland is investigating the pros and cons of getting out of the booze business. County Executive Ike Leggett is having none of it.

The News4 I-Team reached out to County Executive Ike Leggett for comment. His spokesman pointed us to the Chief Administrative Officer’s official response in the report on page 107, stating, “In our opinion, local liquor control has served Montgomery County well. We have lower alcohol consumption and higher revenue for public purposes than other jurisdictions. There are not liquor stores on every corner.”

I highlight this because it demonstrates something that has been manifest for some time to anyone paying attention: the real social scolds are on the left. While the popular narrative is that social conservatives are the ones looking to run everyone else’s life, time and again, story after story, we see examples of left-wing busybodies seeking to interfere with private behavior. Now Leggett might actually have a good argument in defending the liquor stores on these grounds*, but make no mistake, the man is making social policy motivated at least in part in a desire to control behavior.

*: Though as my wife points out, Leggett’s shot at liquor stores is misplaced. I’ll take places like Speck’s in Houston over the dreary state-run stores in Maryland any day.

– This is a few weeks old, but as relevant as ever: fat is good for you. No really, eat your eggs and butter.

New research claims that official warnings against the consumption of saturated fats should never have been introduced

The article in BMJ’s Open Heart journal argues that the advice was based on flawed data and “very limited evidence”.

The warning, adopted by British authorities in the early 1980s, was based on research that focused only on unhealthy men, with the reports authors arguing: “it seems incomprehensible that dietary advice was introduced for 220 million Americans and 56 million UK citizens.

“Dietary advice does not merely need a review; it should not have been introduced.”

Yeah, so pretty much most nutrition advice over the past five decades or so was based on seriously flawed research, and the dietary guidelines have been counter-productive. And yet people still insist on low-fat diets. Whatever. More bacon and eggs for me.

 

15

Correlation and Causation

Years of reading through and listening to debates on the internet and in other spaces is enough to make me yearn for mandatory courses in basic logic. In particular, it seems most people do not have even a remedial understanding of the difference between correlation and causation.

Enter President Barack Obama, who delivered remarks today at the National Prayer Breakfast. Meandering and condescending are but two of the words that come to mind after listening to this address. At one point the president lectures the audience on humility. Yes, Barack Obama was prodding his audience to be more humble. I’m just going to let that sink in for a minute and have you pause and reflect. Maybe you’ll even think about another concept: irony.

And no doubt many of you will need to take blood pressure medication after reading this part of the speech:

And this is the loving message of His Holiness, Pope Francis.  And like so many people around the world, I’ve been touched by his call to relieve suffering, and to show justice and mercy and compassion to the most vulnerable; to walk with The Lord and ask “Who am I to judge?”

But that’s not what caught my attention, nor is it the part of the speech that has gotten or will get the most attention. After some discussion of the events taking place in the Middle East and in Paris, and the dangers of theocracy, he intones:

 Humanity has been grappling with these questions throughout human history.  And lest we get on our high horse and think this is unique to some other place, remember that during the Crusades and the Inquisition, people committed terrible deeds in the name of Christ.  In our home country, slavery and Jim Crow all too often was justified in the name of Christ.

Yes, of course he went there, would you expect anything less? Now many will rightfully complain that he is dredging up events that occurred centuries ago in order to morally equivocate, and that is indeed happening. We’ve all heard this song before, and we have naturally become somewhat inured to it.

Without jumping into the Crusades and Inquisition and why using even these centuries-old examples is flawed, let’s look at the more recent American examples, and let’s talk a bit about cause and effect.

President Obama is, essentially, comparing Christians justifying slavery to Islamic terrorists burning people alive. He is saying, “You see, Christians did some terrible things in the name of religion, just like these people.” Again, let’s ignore that we’re talking about something that took place two centuries ago rather than two minutes ago, and explore the inadequacy of this analogy.

The thugs in ISIL, the theocrats in Iran, the butchers in France: all of these groups are comprised of individuals acting in the name of their interpretation of Islam. Granting for the sake of argument that they are all acting in a way that is contrary to the true meaning of Islam, however that is supposed to be defined, they are clearly and unmistakably acting in accordance with their religious dictates. Put more bluntly: their interpretation of their religion is causing them to behave in a specific manner.

Now let’s look at slavery and Jim Crow. Yes, it’s true that some defenders of each would use the Bible to defend these practices; however, did anyone ever pick up a Bible and, “Gee whiz, God is really talking to me, I’m gonna go buy me a slave.” To put it another way, slave holders and, subsequently, practitioners of Jim Crow acted on purely, dare I say, secular reasoning to engage in their behavior. Christianity did not cause them to own slaves, nor did it cause southern politicians to enact Jim Crow laws. The Bible was used as an ex post fact rationalization for what they did.

Some may try to argue that this is a distinction without a difference, and to them I’d suggest that they still do not understand the difference between correlation and causation. Take away the Bible and you’d still have slavery in the southern parts of the United States. Christian beliefs did not inspire slaveholding – economic self-interest did that, and the latter also largely explains Jim Crow (plus a whole lot of irrational racism that didn’t have a whole lot to do with the Bible and Christianity).

Take away the religious motivation and do we have gunmen killing members of the press? Do we have the beheadings? Contra the ramblings of certain atheists, not all or even most violence throughout history has been “inspired” by religion, but the maniacs in ISIL are undoubtedly acting upon religious motivations. It isn’t some ex post fact rationalization for their behavior; no, it is the primary cause of the behavior.

Much of President Obama’s address is an exercise in moral equivalency with some vague platitudes thrown in, so about what one would expect from him. Failures in logic are just a little bit of icing on the cake.

Incidentally, Noah Rothman at Hot Air makes a good point:

It’s strange that so few see the contradiction inherent in this assertion. The president, and many of his allies on the left, frequently trip over themselves to emphasize – correctly, as it happens – that ISIS’s acts of brutality are not archetypical Islamic behavior. The insurgency’s most recent atrocity, the immolation of a captured Jordanian pilot, is apparently a violation of Islamic norms according to even Koranic scholars in the Middle East.

But to assert this and in the same breath suggest that Christianity was also a violent, expansionist religion a mere 800 years ago is a contradiction. Why make this comparison if ISIS is not representative of Islam? Isn’t the concession in this claim that those who commit acts of violence in the name of their religion, regardless of whether those acts are supported by a majority of coreligionists, are representative of their faith? Therefore, by perfunctorily nodding in the direction of a moral equivalency between Christian and Islamic violence, isn’t the president invalidating his own claim that ISIS, Boko Haram, Ansar al-Sharia, al-Qaeda, Jemaah Islamiah, Abu Sayyaf, and a host of other fundamentalist Islamic terror groups are agents of a violent strain of the Islamic faith?

9

Can’t Truss It

We’re approximately a year away from the beginning of the presidential primary season, and the stars are already out in Iowa. I’ll have a bit more say about the presidential field in the coming days, but I’d just like to note this article from the Washington Post and Rand Paul and his, umm, daddy issues.

This weekend was a crucial one for Rand Paul, the Republican senator from Kentucky and un­declared candidate for the presidency. He was in California, trying to line up donors at an opulent retreat organized by the billionaire Koch brothers.

At the same time, his father — retired after 12 terms in Congress and three presidential runs — was in the ballroom of an airport hotel here, the final speaker at “a one-day seminar in breaking away from the central state.” He followed a series of speakers who said that the U.S. economy and political establishment were tottering and that the best response might be for states, counties or even individuals to break away.

“The America we thought we knew, ladies and gentlemen, is a mirage. It’s a memory. It’s a foreign country,” Jeff Deist, Ron Paul’s former press secretary and chief of staff, told the group. “And that’s precisely why we should take secession seriously.”

A former press secretary  of his dad’s. Not exactly a silver bullet to derail the Paul train. That said, the questions does remain: will his father be a millstone around his neck? Especially when his dad says things like this:

Chris Kyle’s death seems to confirm that “he who lives by the sword dies by the sword.” Treating PTSD at a firing range doesn’t make sense

But that’s just his father talking. It’s not fair to lay the sins of the father at the feet of the son. Rand Paul should stand on his own merits, and the company he keeps.

Paul_Sharpton

It’s going to be an interesting primary season.

*: I feel compelled to note that the title is not a typo. Probably not many Public Enemy fans on this site.

5

The Left Has No Credibility on Abuse of Power Issues

Those of you who remember the space of time between January 20, 2001 and January 20, 2009 might recall that cries for George W. Bush’s impeachment rang out roughly every five seconds from some corner of the American left (and some libertarian circles as well). The Iraq War was a primary impetus for these calls, because I guess continuing a war that had been granted Congressional approval but was becoming increasingly unpopular ran afoul of some constitutional principle. Of course this was not the only motivating factor behind calls for Bush’s impeachment. At some point late in his second term his mere existence was viewed as grounds for impeachment. The most serious centered around supposed abuses of executive power, highlighted especially by his use of presidential signing statements. The anger over these relatively mundane statements revealed more about the bone-dry ignorance of those who sputtered the most outrage over them, because it was quite evident that these individuals didn’t even know what these signing statements were or what they were meant to accomplish.

George W. Bush was obviously not the first, and he certainly won’t be the last president to receive such treatment. Every president faces hostility from members of the opposing party, and every president will be the subject of frivolous and not-so frivolous impeachment talk. Perhaps this is just indicative of our polity’s reflexive desire to howl “IMPEACH HIM!” at every instance of executive overreach. After all, while Bush was not guilty (IMO[NS]HO) of any impeachable offense, arguments that he extended his executive powers to the breaking point are not exactly unreasonable. That Bush merely continued the long tradition of augmenting presidential powers beyond their constitutional breaking point is really no excuse. We can endlessly debate the merits and demerits of executive actions undertaken by our 41st president, but the point is that they are in fact at least debatable.

Which brings us to our 44th president. President Obama’s imperial edict issuance of amnesty by executive order is so breathtaking in its abuse of presidential authority that even advocates of comprehensive immigration reform such as the editors of the Wall Street Journal are left shrieking in horror. We’ll leave aside the Journal’s insistence on using the idiotic phrase “anti-immigration” Republicans and note that even they think he clearly went beyond the scope of his powers. There is no shortage of commentary explaining why President Obama lacks such authority, so I’ll leave that discussion aside right now (although here’s one for starters). I also won’t get into a detailed discussion of what the Republicans ought to do (although you can go here, here, here and here  if you’d like).

What I would like to note is the utter silence of the left on this issue. Actually, it’s not really silence – rather, the left is in full-throated support of this action. Okay, maybe that’s not true, as some on the left don’t think the president went far enough. But, by and large, the left is completely hunky dory with this decree. And they are not alone, as some of the geniuses at the USCCB had already signaled their contentment with Obama’s act of contempt for the constitution. We’re not even two years removed from the Bishops marching out in opposition to the HHS contraception mandate, and there they are providing a wink and a nod this round of executive overreach. I guess some violations of the constitution are okay so long as they accord with your policy preferences.

Which brings us to the nub of the issue. After years of bemoaning every real and imagined instance of George W. Bush overreach, the left in almost its entirety has either remained silent or actively applauded every instance of Obamian executive rule-making. This most recent example is just the latest in a long line of executive abuses of authority by this administration. Whether it be forcing Churches to cover contraception, or “recess” appointments when there wasn’t any Congressional recess to be speak of, or name your favorite example of some departmental rule-making beyond the scope of its Congressional authority, and there have been opportunities for honest citizens of the left to cry out in opposition. But their silence is deafening.

You see for progressives it’s all about the ends, not the means. If the ends are good, then the means don’t really matter. Now if the ends are bad, then well, any means is de facto illegitimate.

Jay Nordlinger talks about an example of this from his own personal experience.

In 2003, I was at a dinner party on the Upper East Side of Manhattan. All liberals, plus me. The Texas sodomy decision had just come down from the Supreme Court. My hostess asked me what I thought. I said that I agreed with Justice Thomas — who wrote essentially this: “The Texas law is dumb. If I were a member of the state legislature, I would vote to repeal it. But I find nothing in the Constitution that forbids a state to make such a law.”

My hostess looked at me as though I had come from Mars. She did not look at me with hostility. She looked at me with incomprehension. If you’ve got the power, you use it, for good ends. If you’ve got the black robe and the gavel — why, ram home what is right!

When I was in college, and figuring things out, I noticed that the Left had a disdain for process. They would use it, if the process was to their advantage. But they would jettison it the second the process was inconvenient. What mattered was the result, period.

Jonah Goldberg has written about all this in his excellent book, Liberal Fascism. For over a century the American left has steadily worked to undermine the constitutional process. It has done so via the Courts. It has done so through the presidency. It has even done so in subtle ways culturally. Why do you think there has been so much bellyaching about gridlock and Congress’ failure to “compromise?” The left wants to leave the impression that the failure to produce legislative action is a bug and not a feature of our constitutional process. This impatience with our peculiar republican form of government is what has spurred all of the actions that have degraded our constitutional system.

It is tempting to bemoan the hypocrisy of the left and its refusal to hold President Obama to the same standards it held President Bush. But the left is not being hypocritical, at least not now. No, the real hypocrisy occurred in the years between 2001 and 2009 when the left pretended to care about things like separation of powers, checks and balances, and limits on the Executive’s authority. In reality, they didn’t give a fig about any of these constitutional checks on the presidency except insofar as the wrong guy got to exercise said authority. So when Scott Walker, Bobby Jindal, or some other individual with an -R next to his name next occupies the Oval Office, please lend all leftist cries about abuse of power all the credence they deserve.

26

So About that Emerging Democrat Majority

In graduate school I read John B. Judis and Ruy Teixeira’s The Emerging Democratic Majority. Here is the Amazon summary of the book:

In five well-researched chapters and a new afterword covering the 2002 elections, Judis and Teixeira show how the most dynamic and fastest-growing areas of the country are cultivating a new wave of Democratic voters who embrace what the authors call “progressive centrism” and take umbrage at Republican demands to privatize social security, ban abortion, and cut back environmental regulations. As the GOP continues to be dominated by neoconservatives, the religious right, and corporate influence, this is an essential volume for all those discontented with their narrow agenda — and a clarion call for a new political order.

I confess that the book provided a good chuckle, particularly as I read it in 2003, sandwiched in between successful Republican electoral triumphs. Particularly laughable were predictions that states such as Georgia and Texas were destined to become fertile ground for Democrats thanks to rapid demographic shifts.

Twelve years later, and I confess that I am not seeing much blue here or here.

Now, to be fair, Judis and Teixeira were not arguing that a permanent and enduring Democrat majority was on the cusp of dominating the political landscape. They noted that cultural and demographic trends favored the Democrat party, which is an observation that certainly rings true in many respects. Certainly at the presidential level it is true that Republicans seem to start out perpetually behind the eight ball, having to win every possible swing state to have any chance of barely squeezing past 270 electoral votes. And election results in 2006, 2008, and to a lesser extent 2012 seemed to confirm that the Republicans were in danger of extended minority status.

Then again, there’s this.

For those too lazy to click the link, it’s a map of US Congressional districts by party in control, and there is a sea of red that just washes over nearly the entire country. If you do not live along the coast in the United States, then there’s a near guaranteed chance that your representative is a Republican.

Even this map does not do the party justice. These maps show party control of the various state legislatures. After Tuesday night the GOP can now add Nevada, Minnesota, and West Virginia to the mix. Additionally, after inauguration days in January, 32 states will have Republican governors, including Illinois, Massachusetts, and Maryland. This table presents a clearer picture of where things stand. Republicans control both the governor’s mansion and the legislature in 24 states, with super-majorities in 15 of those states. Democrats, meanwhile, hold both the legislature and the governorship in seven states, with super-majorities only in Rhode Island and Hawaii. Seven GOP governors will have a Democrat legislature (with a super-majority of Democrats in Massachusetts), and 11 Democrats governors will have a GOP legislature (with a Republican super-majority in Missouri). Additionally Nebraska has a Republican governor and a non-partisan unicameral legislature.

Now, elections are cyclical, and things can change in American politics. The Republican majority in the Senate is rather tenuous considering that Republicans will have to defend 24 seats in 2016, many in blue or purple states, and in a presidential election year. That being said, Republican dominance at the state level is hardly a new thing. Republicans have fared well at state-level elections even in heavily Democratic years.

In the end, the Judis and Teixeira proposition (which they continue to defend, by the way) is fatally flawed for a number of reasons.

1) Politics is local – It’s a cliche, but it happens to be true. Though Americans tend to focus on presidential elections at the exclusion of all other races (much like some Catholics tend to focus on the Papacy at the exclusion of all other offices, ahem), believe it or not the presidency is not everything. Local decisions still have more bearing on your day-to-day lives than what the federals do, even if the federal government is more powerful today than in years past. Local circumstances are unique, and individual politicians at the local level might be able to connect with the electorate in a way that federal officials cannot.

2) Even the presidential disadvantage is overrated. Sure Republicans face certain electoral defeat in states that total close to 200 electoral votes (although Democrats face a similar hole in about the same amount of states), and Republicans continue to fail to break through in states like Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, Iowa, New Mexico and other swing states, while losing their grip in Virginia and Colorado. Yet again one must ponder if this is due to a complete change in the electorate or unique circumstances in each presidential election. It is my contention that candidates matter, and the lackluster string of GOP nominees – including the one guy who won – over the past two decades have failed to move the electorate. Yet the potential GOP field in 2016 is incredibly deeper than the Democrat field. The GOP will have at least half a dozen credible candidates running. GOP has establishment governors (Christie, Bush, possibly Romney), conservative Governors (Walker, Jindal, potentially Kasich, Pence, Perry), as well as conservative Senators (Cruz, Paul, Santorum). All of these candidates would be serious contenders on both a primary and general election level – perhaps the Senate field less so. The Democrat field meanwhile is essentially Hilary Clinton and . . . umm, is her husband eligible to run again? Elizabeth Warren is being touted as a potential candidate, but does anyone see her as a legitimate threat to win a general election? What else is there? Republicans will still have to scratch and claw to win in 2016, and they will have to do much better than they did in 2012 to get out the vote, but almost all of these candidates (except Romney) would seem to be individuals who could inspire more of the electorate.

By the way, I would tie this in with point one. Republican victories at the state level have provided the GOP with a much deeper bench to help them become more competitive in presidential elections.

3) The idea of any kind of cyclical majority is simply wrong. And this is the most critical point. The Teixeira/Judis thesis is part of a larger body of work in political science that contends that American politics has been dominated by a series of electoral realignments. Starting in 1800 with the Jefferson coalition, one party dominates government for roughly 30 years before a new governing coalition dominates. Therefore the next coalition after Jefferson emerged in 1828 with the Jackson Democrats, 1860 with the Lincoln Republicans, 1896 with the McKinley and the GOP, 1932 with the FDR coalition, and then 1968 with GOP electoral dominance. So now we should be entering a period of Democrat dominance. But as Richard Mayhew* aptly demonstrated, electoral realignment theory just doesn’t pan out under close scrutiny. There are just too many holes in realignment theory to show that there is a real pattern. In reality, elections are decided by unique circumstances. The quality rather than the ideology of candidates determines national elections much more than is acknowledged. And while demographic trends should not be ignored, nor should we simply rely on demographic analysis to predict election results. The politics of demographic groups change over time. After all, I don’t think Democrats are counting on the Irish Catholic vote as much as they used to. Some trends on Tuesday should be encouraging for Republicans, including garnering a majority (or plurality) of the Asian vote, a much more substantial percentage of the Hispanic vote, especially in Texas, and some inroads among women. Again, the midterm electorate might be different, but those groups should not be counted on to vote in exactly the same way for all perpetuity.

*In the world of political science, academics aside from Mayhew are akin to the priest who delivers 25 minute homilies that ultimately seem to have no point and which are forgotten by the time the Creed starts, whereas Mayhew is the young priest who delivers a meaty seven minute homily that you’re still thinking about the next day.

Demographics is not destiny. American politics is more than just the presidency. And the Republican party, as flawed as it is, is safely off of life support.

28

On the Moral Duty to Vaccinate Your Children

There is nothing quite as soul crushing as reading a thread on Facebook or social media regarding vaccinations, especially when well-intentioned but seriously misinformed Catholic parents express their outright refusal to vaccinate their children. This anti-vaccination fervor has been sparked by long-discredited studies as well as well as celebrities of shall we say less than dubious credentials.

Not all opposition to vaccination is based on groundless fears about autism or other health issues. Some Catholics also have concerns about the nature of vaccine research and the possibility that vaccines contain aborted fetal tissues. The Rational Catholic discussed this topic, and puts to rest some of the myths surrounding this line of attack, and he quotes from the National Catholic Bioethics Center:

Parents may vaccinate their children because by doing so, they are not involved in any illicit form of cooperation with the original abortion. Many Catholic experts concur that cooperation today is not really possible in an event that was over and done with many years ago. Because the abortion occurred long ago, and for reasons completely unrelated to vaccines, it is untenable to conclude that vaccine recipients today somehow cooperate in the original abortive event. Moreover, there is no ongoing use of recently aborted material for vaccine preparation; the lines obtained 30 or 40 years ago are the only abortion-derived lines being used currently for vaccine production. In sum, then, by vaccinating their children, parents do not illicitly cooperate in evil, nor otherwise engage in wrongdoing. If pharmaceutical companies or other agencies derive fetal cell lines from elective abortions, those companies or agencies, not the parents, are guilty of immoral cooperation in the evil of abortion.

The Rational Catholic has another pair of posts that delve deeper into vaccines, and goes so far as to argue that not can Catholic parents vaccinate their children, they have a moral obligation to do so. Again, quoting from the Catholic Bioethics Center:

Focusing in on your central question, there is indeed a moral duty to immunize one’s child and so help preserve the public good through the use of scientifically established and clearly beneficial programs of vaccination. The chickenpox vaccine may be an exception to this rule, as the risks resulting from this disease are not great. As for the rest, for example, measles, mumps, and rubella, these are important childhood vaccinations and parents have a special duty to care for and love their children. Children cannot make these decisions for themselves and so depend upon the prudential judgments of others.

Unfounded fears about possible adverse effects do not overcome the objective duty to make use of immunizations. To make a sound moral judgment, the individual Catholic must properly inform his or her conscience. That means that one must seek to determine whether fears are based in reason and fact, or they are instead merely — if I may put it this way — superstitions. A correctly formed conscience will come to the conclusion that immunization is a moral obligation.

For those who remain “invincibly ignorant,” and who refuse to acknowledge facts, they must follow their conscience even though it is ill formed.

Of course not everyone will be convinced on this issue, no matter what evidence is out before them. But hopefully all parents – Catholic or no – will at least mediate on the potential harm they are doing to their children and other people’s children by refusing to vaccinate them.

42

“Because Shut Up” He Said

How do you solve a problem like Walter?

Walter Cardinal Kasper, that is.

Cardinal Kasper, who is leading the charge to allow some civilly divorced and remarried Catholics to receive Holy Communion, has given an interview with Zenit. The entire thing is a dispiriting mess, but the truly horrendous part comes partway through the interview.

I do not see this going on in the Pope’s head. But I think the majority of these five people are open people who want to go on with this. The problem, as well, is that there are different problems of different continents and different cultures. Africa is totally different from the West. Also Asian and Muslim countries, they’re very different, especially about gays. You can’t speak about this with Africans and people of Muslim countries. It’s not possible. It’s a taboo. For us, we say we ought not to discriminate, we don’t want to discriminate in certain respects.


But are African participants listened to in this regard?

No, the majority of them [who hold these views won’t speak about them].


They’re not listened to?

In Africa of course [their views are listened to], where it’s a taboo.


What has changed for you, regarding the methodology of this synod?

I think in the end there must be a general line in the Church, general criteria, but then the questions of Africa we cannot solve. There must be space also for the local bishops’ conferences to solve their problems but I’d say with Africa it’s impossible [for us to solve]. But they should not tell us too much what we have to do. (emphasis mine)

So a Prince of the Church has essentially dismissed the viewpoints of an entire continent, as well as a large chunk of another. This from a Cardinal who only moments earlier had praised Pope Francis because:

Is there any sense that he’s trying to push things in that direction?

He does not push. His first speech was freedom: freedom of speech, everyone should say what he thinks and what he has on his mind and this was very positive.

Well, obviously it’s only positive so long as those backward ninnies from Africa and the Middle East keep their pieholes shut, right Cardinal?

By the way, people should not disregard how awful the rest of the interview is. First, here’s the Cardinal sounding like he would be a good addition to the National Catholic Reporter:

But people feel the Church’s teaching is going to be undermined by your proposal if it passes, that it’s undoing 2,000 years of Church teaching. What is your view on this?

Well nobody is putting into question the indissolubility of marriage. I think it wouldn’t be a help for people, but if you look to the word of Jesus, there are different synoptic gospels in different places, in different contexts. It’s different in the Judeo-Christian context and in the Hellenistic context. Mark and Matthew are different. There was already a problem in the apostolic age. The Word of Jesus is clear, but how to apply it in complex, different situations? It’s a problem to do with the application of these words.

And for those who still think the relatio is nothing to get too worked up about, there’s this gem:

The teaching does not change?

The teaching does not change but it can be made more profound, it can be different. There is also a certain growth in the understanding of the Gospel and the doctrine, a development. Our famous Cardinal Newman had spoken on the development of doctrine. This is also not a change but a development on the same line. Of course, the Pope wants it and the world needs it. We live in a globalized world and you cannot govern everything from the Curia. There must be a common faith, a common discipline but a different application.

But remember kids, you have nothing to worry about. No doctrine is going to change.

You may now resume putting your heads in the sand.

32

What to Expect When You’re Expected Not to Expect

There’s a bit of an irony in the fact that I’ve not been able to get to Jonathan Last’s What to Expect When No One’s Expecting: America’s Coming Demographic Disaster sooner in part due to having several small children to tend to. Alas, as Last dutifully emphasizes, my family is an outlier in modern America (even if in our own Catholic community we sometimes feel like we are woefully far behind).

Last’s book is a very important, if somewhat depressing read. America’s birthrate has been hovering at barely above replacement for the past several decades, and is starting to dip below the magic 2.0 line. Though we are doing better than almost all of the rest of the western world, we have reached a point where more and more Americans are choosing either not to have kids, or are having only one or two if they do, in large part thanks to starting so late. The only thing keeping our birthrate even near replacement are immigrant families, but even the trend here is steadily declining as immigrants are assimilating in at least one way: not having as many children as they used to.

Last identifies several key factors. Long story short, middle class Americans are getting married later and later (if at all), as they spend their most fertile years paying off their college debts. There’s much more to it than that, but most Americans in their 20s would prefer to spend whatever money they have left over after loans on more consumer goodies. Last identifies several other anti-family pressures. He even alludes to increasingly harsh child safety seat measures. As I can testify, I am pretty sure my oldest child won’t get to ride in the front seat until she’s in drivers ed.

One key takeaway is that this demographic disaster is a largely cultural phenomenon that cannot be reversed by legislation. To be sure Last offers several minor policy suggestions, but he concedes that these would barely make a dent. Last notes that several countries that have tried extreme measures to reverse their demographic decline have failed miserably, and the evidence is in that mere policy fiat will not stem the tide.

One of the most striking aspects of the book was Last’s discussion of how he felt compelled to leave Old Town (a suburb outside of Washington, DC) and flee to the suburbs once he and his wife began having children. The kind of life they were living in this very trendy and hip location was no longer supportable with children in tow. What’s more, the cultural milieu of places like Old Town are almost hostile to children. As someone who has spent time in these areas, I can acknowledge the truth of this. It is difficult, though not quite impossible, to raise a large family in certain parts of DC, in part because it’s so expensive, but also because, well, it’s not the most kid friendly environment.

The key observation is that there are many subtle cultural forces at work against the family. As noted above, Last mentions child safety seats. The mandates to keep kids in some form of safety seat until they are practically adults necessitates purchasing larger vehicles. You might want to take note of how many Honda Odysseys, Siennas, Town and Countries, and similar minivans there are in the parking lot next time you go to Church. These are not cheap vehicles. That’s not to say that these laws are necessarily wrong, or are a primary driver (no pun intended) of smaller families, but they are just one of many things working against the family.

There’s also just the general hostility towards large families. As this Matt Archbold post from July reminds us, some people just can’t fathom the idea of handling more than one or two children. Or as the mom in Matt’s post put it, “Who has five children? I’d kill myself if I had that many kids.”

So with all that in mind, what can we do? For starters, we need an entity or organization that fearlessly and tirelessly celebrates the family. Such an entity would speak of the value of children and of the wonders of procreation. This entity would speak against all of the forces that work against the family. It would even unabashedly critique the contraceptive and consumerist mentalities that persuade people to put off having children. Such an entity, if one such entity exists, would first work to convince its own membership on these matters, and would risk alienating a few of them so long as it managed to sway the rest. It would have to preach from the pulpit, if you will, ceaselessly imparting knowledge and guidance.

Oh for such an entity to exist.

28

Cause and Effect

Pat Archbold has highlighted this post from a professor at the “Catholic” Villanova University by the name of Katie Grimes. Grimes exhorts the Bishops at the upcoming Synod on the family to recognize some of the “injustices” of Christian marriage.

Bishops participating in the synod ought to consider issues of sexual morality in accordance with the preferential option for the poor.  In this way, rather than blaming the decline of marriage on sexual immorality, the bishops ought to recognize the way in which, at least in the United States, marriage has increasingly become a privilege of the privileged. For example, today, the college-educated are both more likely to be married by the age of 30 and less likely to divorce than those who lack a college degree.  Marriage seems the consequence not so much of moral righteousness but of socioeconomic privilege.

Bishops ought to also listen to those critics who point out that marriage also accords disproportionate benefits to the well to do.   Marriage, they claim, is not just about sex and love and children and stability, it is also about acquiring andtransmitting wealth.  Put another way, heterosexually married white and upper-middle class Catholics who follow all facets of magisterial sexual morality perpetuate social injustice not just in the political or economic spheres but also through their sex lives.*

In addition to insisting that all sex must be good sex, may the bishops also accord more attention to the relation between social justice and sexual goodness.

One can spend a day and a half unpacking all of this, not to mention the long-winded preamble where Grimes goes off on whitey putting African Americans in jail because, I guess, that’s what whites like to do. There’s certainly something to be said about the clunky academic jargon that Grimes not so masterfully uses as subterfuge to mask her dissent.

Instead of looking at all that, we should instead ponder that Grimes is actually kind of right about marriage. Just about every study shows a direct correlation between marriage and economic stability (for lack of a better term). Married men earn more than unmarried men. Married people are more financially secure. And yes, marriage rates for lower income individuals is lower than for upper and middle class people. Unfortunately Grimes comes to the wrong conclusion. Instead of looking at marriage as an institution for the privileged elite, Grimes fails to consider that the correlation between financial stability and marriage is a reason to promote marriage rather than to take swipes at it. In other words, she doesn’t seem to consider the possibility that the reason most married people are financially secure is due, at least in part, to being married. In other, other words, she may be mistaking cause and effect.

Now I’m not suggesting that marriage automatically makes the poor richer, nor that economic advancement should be anything close to a motivating factor in considering matrimony. And yes, people are delaying marriage until they are more “set.” But perhaps it is this latter attitude that needs adjusting. Too many people may be putting off marriage further and further into an ideal future that may never arrive. They may, in fact, be unintentionally putting off doing something that will ameliorate their financial situation. Perhaps Grimes ought to exhort herself to consider how the continued assault on marriage is one of the contributing causes of the social injustice she so decries. Perhaps she ought to recognize the way in which, at least in the United States, marriage has become a saving grace for the underprivileged.

Then again, this is a woman who thinks white married people perpetuate social injustice through our sex lives. We probably should not anticipate too much deep thought from such a mind.

 

13

End Times Catechesis

On the bright side, a Christian-based movie is being released today.

Unfortunately that movie is this:

Left Behind

Well, they can’t all be The Passion of the Christ.

With Left Behind being released today, it’s probably a good time to brush up on what Catholics actually believe about the end times. In long form, there’s Paul Thigpen’s The Rapture Trap: A Catholic Response to End TimesFever. Even better is Carl Olson’s Will Catholics Be Left Behind? Meanwhile, Msgr. Pope has penned a blog post on the Catholic approach to the end times which helps sum up Catholic teaching on this matter.

As for you poor, brave souls who for some reason choose to view this cinematic masterpiece, I have a feeling you’ll be feeling envious of this man by the end: Continue Reading

8

No

Seriously, NO.

A recent column by the conservative pundit Byron York noted that Romney had kept in close contact with many of his advisers and aides. As we spoke, Romney compared the barrage of 2016-related questions to a scene in the film “Dumb and Dumber.” After Jim Carrey’s character is flatly rejected by Lauren Holly, she tells him that there’s a one-in-a-million chance she would change her mind. “So,” Romney told me, embodying the character, “Jim Carrey says, ‘You’re telling me there’s a chance.’ ”

This was the obvious opening for me to ask if there was a chance. Romney’s response was decidedly meta — “I have nothing to add to the story” — but he then fell into the practiced political parlance of nondenial. “We’ve got a lot of people looking at the race,” he said. “We’ll see what happens.”

Well I can’t think of a better potential candidate than the guy who lost to an unpopular incumbent during a time of high unemployment and after passage of a widely reviled health care reform law.

2

Too Dumb to Vote

Note to self: never get on Kevin Williamson’s bad side. Here is Williamson’s rebuttal to a particularly empty-headed column from Lena Dunham.

If you would like to be filled with despair for the prospects of democracy, spend a few minutes attempting to decipher the psephological musings of Lena Dunham, the distinctly unappealing actress commissioned by Planned Parenthood to share with her presumably illiterate following “5 Reasons Why I Vote (and You Should, Too).” That’s 21st-centuryU.S. politics in miniature: a half-assed listicle penned by a half-bright celebrity and published by a gang of abortion profiteers.

It is an excellent fit, if you think about it: Our national commitment to permanent, asinine, incontinent juvenility, which results in, among other things, a million or so abortions a year, is not entirely unrelated to the cultural debasement that is the only possible explanation for the career of Lena Dunham. A people mature enough to manage the relationship between procreative input and procreative output without recourse to the surgical dismemberment of living human organisms probably would not find much of interest in the work of Miss Dunham. But we are a nation of adult children so horrified by the prospect of actual children that we put one in five of them to death for such excellent reasons as the desire to fit nicely into a prom dress.

It’s not for nothing that, on the precipice of 30, Miss Dunham is famous for a television series called Girls rather than one called Women. She might have gone one better and called it Thumbsuckers. (The more appropriate title Diapers would terrify her demographic.)

And he’s just getting warmed up.

Williamson’s contempt for Dunham is shared by yours truly, as she is representative of a completely narcissistic generation of pseudo-intellectuals whose idea of good citizenship is casting ballots that elicit warm fuzzies in the cockles of one’s heart. Dunham’s insipid and banal meanderings would be worthy of mild scoffing were it not for the fact that a generation of Americans is so mesmerized by her lot.

Williamson says in his concluding paragraph:

I would like to suggest, as gently as I can, that if you are voting as an act of self-gratification, if you do not understand the role that voting in fact plays in a constitutional republic, and if you need Lena Dunham to tell you why and how you should be voting — you should not vote. If you get your politics from actors and your news from television comedians — you should not vote. There’s no shame in it, your vote is statistically unlikely to affect the outcome of an election, and there are many much more meaningful ways to serve your country and your fellow man: Volunteer at a homeless shelter; join the Marine Corps; become a nun; start a business.

Statistically speaking, those most in thrall with Dunham, Stewart, et al are likeliest to stay home on election day. Unfortunately, the percentage of Americans who are of this type is growing as we are increasingly becoming a nation of perpetual children (who, in turn, have no actual children, but that is for the next post).

10

Down the Memory Hole

Msgr. Charles Pope wrote a fantastic post the other day calling for an end to the St. Patrick’s Day parade and Al Smith dinner. I’d like to link to the post at the Archdiocese of Washington website, but I cannot. Why? Because the post has been pulled by the ADW blog. That’s right, our morally courageous leaders have once again faced the possibility that someone might question our cooperation with evil, and instead of allowing the exchange of ideas, they simply shut off dissent.

The post, in its entirety, can be found at the Rorate Caeli blog. This comment from Msgr. Pope confirms that the the missing post was not some accidental thing.

Bless you all for your prayers and encouragement. I hope you will understand if I cannot continue to post your comments on the parade article here. I will read them but cannot post them, I will send you an e-mail gratitude.

I ask your charity and understanding for the Archdiocese of Washington which has always generously sponsored this blog and been supportive of our conversations.

I also hope you will understand if I cannot explain why it was removed.

I am a loyal son of the Church and I love my Archdiocese.

I am a parishioner in the Archdiocese of Washington, and I must say that Cardinal Wuerl and his ilk are not fit shepherds of our Church. It is clear that the American Bishops have chosen sides in the culture wars – it is their own side. Well, the next time the Cardinal’s sonorous voice implores me to give a little more next February at the next appeal, don’t be surprised if my wallet should disappear as quickly as Msgr. Pope’s blogpost.

And speaking of gutless cowards, though I have not always been a fan of Michael Vorris, it is difficult to dispute what he has said about EWTN.

11

I Fought the Law (And the Law Won)

There is an unspoken commonality between the two big domestic news items of the past week. The first, of course, involves the shooting death of Michael Brown by a Ferguson police officer. The second is the (farcical) indictment of Governor Rick Perry. The former has sparked outrage and continued discussions over items ranging from racism to police brutality. There has been a much needed discussion of whether the police have become more confrontational, and whether they have become overly militarized. Though the wizards of smart at such venerable institutions as Vox may not realize it, this has actually been an ongoing conversation for some time in conservative and libertarian circles. Even some on the right have attacked armies of strawmen in claiming that conservatives in general are reflexively defensive of the police. While we certainly are less quick to call for prosecutions before all the evidence is in (unlike certain governors), that doesn’t mean we automatically awesome that the police are in the right whenever a civilian is shot and killed.

As for the Perry indictment – well, when even the editorial pages of the New York Times and Austin American Statesmen, as well as lefty pundits like Jonathan Chait, acknowledge (through gritted teeth) there is no there there, you might just have yourselves a completely partisan and unmerited prosecution. But the conversation surrounding the Perry indictment has centered around its frivolousness and the potential impact on Perry’s political future. What it has not sparked is a similar conversation about prosecutorial misbehavior that we are hearing regarding police misbehavior. And that is a mistake.

Before continuing, I want to make clear that the two cases are not of the same gravity. Michael Brown is dead, whereas at worst Rick Perry’s possible presidential ambitions have been hampered (though there is a possibility that in fact this has been incredibly beneficial to his presidential aspirations). In the grand scheme of things, I would gladly take wrongful prosecution over being shot and killed by a police officer. Yet, when we talk more generally about law enforcement and criminal prosecution, we should be just as concerned about bad DAs as we are about rotten police officers.

The Perry case has drawn notice, but it’s certainly not the first case of a political prosecution. Indeed, it’s not even the first case of a purely partisan, political prosecution of a Republican coming from a Travis County District Attorney (see Delay, Tom). In Alaska, prosecutors withheld exculpatory evidence that would have exonerated the late Ted Stevens. Now these are political prosecutions, so it might be somewhat more difficult to empathize with the wrongfully prosecuted. But there have been other noteworthy examples of prosecutors either disregarding evidence, or simply engaging in prosecutions due to political pressure, or to advance their own careers. The most notorious example in recent years is perhaps Michael Nifong, the Durham county DA who pressed forward with rape charge against Duke lacrosse players even after it became manifestly obvious that no crime had been committed. This past year we witnessed the George Zimmerman trial, an event which occurred it seems largely because the DA was fearful of the political fallout (and I acknowledge that I might be somewhat generous about her motivations) if there was no prosecution. Even the Michael Brown shooting could become a political prosecution if it is felt that the police officer has to be tried merely to appease the mob.*

*Again, let me emphasize that I am not saying that a trial would merely be a political witch-hunt. We do not have all the evidence in, and it is quite possible that Darren Wilson ought to be indicted once all the evidence is in. I am merely saying here that there is a potential for an unjustified prosecution based solely on political pressure.

These are but the most notorious examples that come to mind, but undoubtedly there are others that are just heinous, if not worse. The point is that some prosecutors – much like some police officers – are motivated by less than honest intentions, and their behavior can be just as destructive to a person’s life. Now, I’m not saying that every incorrect prosecution is a wrongful prosecution. Prosecuting attorneys are mortal and can honestly but incorrectly come to the conclusion that the suspect is guilty. We can only hope in those cases that the jury can realize the error. Prosecutors should not be maligned for honest errors in judgment. But what is dangerous and what does tear at the social fabric is a DA who marches on in spite of contradictory evidence, who intentionally stifles exculpatory evidence, and who refuses to relent all because they just so desperately need a conviction, and any conviction will do.

We don’t fear District Attorneys as we do police officers because District Attorneys don’t carry guns (as part of their jobs), and so they aren’t going to wrongfully kill anyone. But we need to demand the same level of integrity from them as we do the police precisely because they are guardians of law and order. When they use their office as a political weapon, they are making a mockery of the rule of law.

4

The Tenets of BBQ-ism

I acknowledge that this post has nothing (or next to nothing) to do with either American politics or Catholicism, but please indulge me as it is almost the weekend. This comes from my blog, the Barbecuers’ Guide to Dieting, which I am once again updating. It’s a basic set of tenets that are meant to inspire those of you looking to diet.

1.  Enough with the no-fat nonsense.

I was corrected on Facebook for particularly focusing on yogurt as there may be some practical reasons for the existence for non-fat yogurt, but in general non-fat stuff is simply crap. Not only does non-fat food usually taste significantly worse than full-fat food, it’s not any healthier. Calories are what counts, not necessarily where the calories are from, and non-fat stuff is usually loaded up with sugar. In the end, you are consuming just about the same amount of calories. What’s more, fat tends to fill you up more than sugar, so you are likely to get hungrier quicker if you go with the non-fat option. Finally, who wants to taste a dry, 90% lean burger when you can have a glorious 80% or even 75% lean one?

2. Dieting isn’t what you think it is.

This is connected to the first point. You might think that in order to lose weight you need to stop eating things like bacon and eggs and replace these items with “healthy” alternatives. In some cases you may have to, but that is rarely the case. People overestimate how many calories are in things like bacon and eggs and underestimate how much are in other products. Four slices of bacon add up to approximately 200-250 calories, depending on the cut. Two whole eggs are about 150 calories total, and less than half than that if you only eat the whites (which is frankly where a lot of the nutrition is). So a breakfast of bacon and eggs will be anywhere between 300-500 calories, depending on how you prepare it. That “healthy” muffin might contain as many calories if not more, and it will not fill you up or keep you as full as the alternative. Even a fruit smoothie will probably contain as many, if not more calories. Now, there are other reasons to go with the fruit smoothie (like the vitamins), but calories shouldn’t be why.

Long story short, the key to dieting is keeping careful track of what you eat. If you need to write down what you eat, especially at the beginning, in order to track your calories, that’s all well and good. The main thing is that you at least don’t intake more calories than you burn if you’re goal is weight maintenance, and to burn more calories than you consume if your goal is weight loss. It doesn’t exactly matter what you eat, which brings me to point number three.

Continue Reading

9

What Are We So Afraid Of?

In my last post I brought up helicopter parenting and small families, and I postulated that there was a connection between the two phenomenon, and that  fear prevented people from wanting large families, and further tended to make these same parents afraid to let their children be children.

Subsequently my wife sent me this article in Time Magazine, and I can’t help but think that fear is behind this cultural shift as well. As my wife said this is meant to be a cute and cheeky look at modern dating and marriage, but like her I just found it incredibly sad. Here’s a bit:

You could say I beta-tested my relationship.

It began with a platform migration ​(a cross-country move) and a bandwidth challenge (cohabitation in a 450-sq.-ft. apartment). There was a false start (botched marriage proposal). Then, an emergency deglitching (couples therapy). We tried to take the product public before we were ready (I wrote about our relationship in Newsweek). And then, finally, we abandoned launch. There were simply too many bugs.

It’s a joke, kind of — except that when it comes to millennials and marriage, the beta test may be par for the course. And really, why wouldn’t it be? For a generation reared on technology, overwhelmed by choice, feedback and constantFOMO, isn’t testing a marriage, like we test a username, simply … well, logical?

You can see where this is going.

Continue Reading

13

Small Families, Helicopter Parenting, and the Fear of Children Being Children

Matt Archbold shared a story that is simultaneously humorous and quite sad.

My wife and I recently attended a sports banquet for one of our kids’ sports teams at a local restaurant. It was one of those events that I wanted to go to about as much as I wanted to get three teeth pulled. But my wife assured me it would be fun. I didn’t believe her but I came anyway.

We’ve gone to so many of these things as my five kids are all on at least three sports teams. All the kids sat together at a very long table and all the parents sat at another table with the coaches. I have a theory about sports teams, the worse a team is the more coaches it has. And this team had lots of coaches.

We were seated with about eight coaches and some parents we didn’t really know.

So what’s the first thing someone we don’t really know will bring up as a conversation starter? Well, it’s the only thing they know about us which is that we have five kids. This one coach said he knew it was us when we arrived because he saw all five of our kids walking in. “That could only be the Archbolds,” he laughed.

The mom directly across from me, who I didn’t really know and hadn’t seen at many games, leaned in conspiritorially and asked, “Who has five children? I’d kill myself if I had that many kids.”

Go to the link to read the rest of the story. The key statement comes here:

The woman, however, didn’t appear to appreciate my little joke and continued that she thought it was irresponsible to have that many children because you couldn’t possibly give enough attention to five kids. She then went on to explain all the things her child is involved in from soccer to piano to basketball to a reading club to field hockey.

Though the Zummo family exceeded the culturally acceptable family size last October with the birth of our third daughter, I must say that we have fortunately not had many if any encounters with such negative people. I have heard the occasional expression of incredulity from parents of one or two children, but nothing approaching the sentiments expressed by this individual.

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38

So Impeach Him

If the Legislature shall fail to pass legislation that the President deems essential, the President shall have the authority to unilaterally pass such legislation via Executive Order. – US Constitution, Article II, Section 5, as envisioned by Barack Obama.

One would think that, having unanimously been rebuffed by the Supreme Court yet again for executive overreach, President Obama would be somewhat chastened. Of course the person who thinks that obviously doesn’t know Barack Obama.

President Barack Obama appeared equally annoyed and frustrated with House Republicans on Tuesday, dismissing their recent threat of a lawsuit and promising to continue with the executive actions that have so bothered the GOP.

“Middle-class families can’t wait for Republicans in Congress to do stuff,” Mr. Obama during a speech along the Georgetown waterfront. “So sue me. As long as they’re doing nothing, I’m not going to apologize for trying to do something.”

Since there is no imaginary codicil in the Constitution that permits the President to act unilaterally, even if “middle-class families” can’t wait, President Obama is technically quite wrong. Leaving aside the dubious analysis that middle-class families are anxiously awaiting some kind of immigration reform, the President’s self-congratulatory statement about trying to do “something” is constitutionally and politically noxious.

The constitutional problem is obvious. We still liver under a republican form of government, one that is largely built upon the foundation of checks and balances and separation of powers. To concentrate powers into one hand is to set a course for tyranny. As our constitutional scholar of a President has no doubt read:

But the great security against a gradual concentration of the several powers in the same department, consists in giving to those who administer each department the necessary constitutional means and personal motives to resist encroachments of the others. The provision for defense must in this, as in all other cases, be made commensurate to the danger of attack. Ambition must be made to counteract ambition. The interest of the man must be connected with the constitutional rights of the place. It may be a reflection on human nature, that such devices should be necessary to control the abuses of government. But what is government itself, but the greatest of all reflections on human nature? If men were angels, no government would be necessary. If angels were to govern men, neither external nor internal controls on government would be necessary. In framing a government which is to be administered by men over men, the great difficulty lies in this: you must first enable the government to control the governed; and in the next place oblige it to control itself. A dependence on the people is, no doubt, the primary control on the government; but experience has taught mankind the necessity of auxiliary precautions.

Reading a little further down, Madison writes, “In republican government, the legislative authority necessarily predominates.” Yes, the legislature is to be dominant, with the president afforded necessary checks to make sure that the legislature doesn’t get out of control. But that check on the legislatures comes in the form of a veto pen. The president’s power is essentially a negative one, ensuring that the Congress does not abuse its constitutional authority. Notice, however, that Madison does not prescribe an affirmative check to the presidency. He does not advocate  – nor would almost any of the Framers – presidential ability to act outside of Congressional authority (save in times of rebellion) on his own initiative. The president’s job is to restrain Congress, not for him to get out hand himself when he doesn’t like legislative inaction.

The policy aspect of Obama’s arrogant message is that at least he is doing something. It doesn’t really matter what he is doing or whether what he’s doing actually works, but the main thing is he’s doing something. And that sums up the progressive movement in a nutshell. “Don’t just stand there, do something” has been the official motto of the progressive movement for the past century. The details are of niggling importance. That the proposal might, at best, be unhelpful and, at worst, deprive citizens of their liberty, is not given much consideration.

Of course Obama is merely treading in the same path as progressive presidents that have preceded him. Woodrow Wilson (aka the reason we shouldn’t allow Ph. Ds in the White House, says this Ph. D) wanted to radically re-orient the American polity towards a Prime Minister model. FDR threatened to expand the size of the Supreme Court until he got what he wanted. President Obama is simply acting out the aspirations of Wilson, FDR and their many progressive boosters. Congress? Bah, unhelpful. The Supreme Court? Bah, we’ll just ignore those old codgers.

Unfortunately the president’s arrogance is justified. After all, what is Congress going to do? Speaker Boehner’s going nowhere lawsuit is a futile and pathetic attempt to reign in Obama. Republicans may very well sweep the midterm elections, but we all know that this president is not going to be impeached, and assuredly will not be removed from office. No, President Obama will certainly still be in office until noon on January 20, 2017. So he can taunt Congress all he wants knowing full well that they can’t and won’t do anything to him, and that a large chunk of the public doesn’t even care that this is happening.

Please don’t take this as yet another criticism of those feckless Republicans. Admittedly their options are narrow, and they are narrow because of the reckless fecklessness of Congressional Democrats. There was a time in this country when it was thought that we had in essence four parties: Congressional Democrats and Republicans, and then the Presidential Democrat and Republican parties. All members of Congress jealously guarded their own powers and protected the institution, even when presidents of the same party were sitting in the Oval Office. Those days are gone. There is really nothing short of premeditated homicide caught on film that would spur Congressional Democrats to join in any impeachment proceedings, and even then it might only be a 50/50 vote in that caucus. This is a bipartisan problem to some extent, though the progressive left is even more invested in the idea of a single, centralized authority benevolently guiding us towards utopia.

That is why I think Jonah Goldberg’s criticism of Charles Murray’s piece, in which Murray tries to distinguish between the liberal left and the progressive left, hits the mark. Murray is somewhat right that there is a distinction to be made between “liberals” on the left who, while they agree with the favored policy choices of the progressive left, nonetheless deplore the tactics employed, especially as regards to the stifling of dissent. Yet these liberals don’t kick up too much of a fuss when those tactics achieve their preferred policy outcomes. I don’t see too many liberals complaining about executive overreach – well, not when the overreach is coming from the hands of Barack Obama.

And so here we are, with a president openly thumbing his nose at the republican form of government, and roughly half of the country is yawning at or cheering on this development.

Mr. Franklin’s sage wisdom echoes through the ages.

10

Breaking: Hobby Lobby Wins

The Supreme Court has voted in favor of Hobby Lobby in a decision just handed down this morning. Justice Alito wrote the majority opinion. The ruling appears to be a very narrow one, holding that closely held corporations cannot be compelled to provide contraception coverage. It doesn’t apply to other mandated coverage. More on the content of the ruling when the decision is released.

By the way, I have to relate something Kathryn Jean Lopez just tweeted. Evidently the protesters on the anti-Hobby Lobby side are chanting “Out of our bedroom!” You know, the people who want US to pay for THEIR contraceptive coverage.

18

Three Quick Takes

– In one of the biggest political upsets in recent memory, House Majority Leader Eric Cantor lost his primary to tea party challenger David Brat. As has been pointed out, Cantor’s voting record was certainly conservative, but as a member of the leadership Cantor became a symbol of grassroots frustration with the GOP, particularly in its quixotic attempt to pass amnesty comprehensive immigration reform. Members of the establishment are taking the loss with the usual class and decorum we’ve all come to expect from them.

– Helicopter parents are bad enough, but when they helicopter other people’s kids they’re even more insufferable. Dougherty’s post was inspired by a Salon article in which a mother explains her ordeal of dealing with the police and the courts after leaving her child in the car for five minutes. Some of the comments at both Dougherty’s blog and the Salon article are simultaneously hilarious and infuriating. We are informed of all the possible grisly outcomes of leaving a child in the car for five minutes –  scenarios that are almost all certainly less likely to occur than a child getting hit by a car in the parking lot. I understand that people want to look out for children and want to make sure that an unsupervised children are not being abandoned, but the woman who videotaped the children and waited for the mother to return before snitching is a complete . . . ninny.

– Kevin Teirney has posted roughly the one millionth blog post on civility in the Catholic blogopshere I’ve seen in the past two weeks. I’m not trying to pick on Kevin – the post itself is good and Kevin himself is a fine writer. It’s just that lately there seem to have been an overabundance of these types of posts, and I’ve hit a level of fatigue regarding blogging about blogging. Yes, be more civil. Now let’s move on.

70

Get the Knives Out

Last week Hilary White wrote an article for Lifesite News in which she reported on the fact that Pope Francis concelebrated Mass with and then later kissed the hands of an activist priest, Fr. Don Michele de Paolis, who has publicly spoken out against Church teaching on homosexuality. The priest also co-founded an organization, Agedo Foggia, that works to subvert the Church’s teaching. The article made no conjectures at all about the Pope’s motivation, nor did White at any point insert any editorial comment on the matter. She simply reported on the known facts – disputed, by the way, by no one – and then wrote about de Paolis’s previous work and writings. I repeat, White reported on the matter, and none of the facts she mentioned have been disputed by anyone. It is an accurate and well-sourced article.

The reaction to the piece was severe and swift. Soon after the article was published, and presumably in reaction to Hilary White’s article, Simcha Fisher intoned on her facebook page:

Two sentences that make me turn on my [email protected]#$% detector: ones that start, “Guess what Pope Francis just did?” and ones that start, “According to LifeSiteNews . . . “

Damien Fisher added in the comments: “If any lifesiter is reading this: You all suck at reporting and have no business pretending you are a news organization.”

By the way, at no point in any of their charitable screeds against Lifesite did either of the Fishers point out or specify any flaws in Hilary’s reporting. No, according to them Lifesite just sucks and you have to deal with it. Other comments on the thread were similarly lacking in anything resembling charity or substantive criticism.

Other denizens of the Catholic blogosphere weighed in with predictable reactions that I am not going to bother linking to, but you know where to look. Lifesite News itself issued this clarification that managed to offer up scores more conjecture than anything Hilary White offered in her article. First, Lifesite tried to backtrack the article:

LSN’s intention in publishing the story was to present the known facts about a public meeting between the pope and one of Italy’s leading Catholic dissidents – a newsworthy event in itself. However, in retrospect we recognize that in the absence of certain necessary clarifications and contexts the facts alone, as presented, unnecessarily lent themselves to misinterpretation.

What clarifications and context were needed, precisely? As usual, the Vatican spin machine offered no assistance, so all that was left for Hilary to do was report the facts as known to her.

LSN proceeded to propose several possibilities about what the Pope was up to.

Possibility #1: Pope Francis did not know about De Paolis’ pro-gay activism

In the first place, it is possible that Pope Francis was himself unaware of De Paolis’ pro-gay activism. As LSN’s original report stated, De Paolis officially met with Francis in his capacity as the founder of the Emmaus Community in the southern Italian city of Foggia, an organization that assists the poor and those suffering from AIDS – in other words, a commendable outreach. We do not know whether De Paolis’ other work agitating against Catholic teaching on homosexuality came up during the meeting. Pope Francis’ gesture in kissing De Paolis’ hands would in this case have been no more than a sign of priestly confraternity – a humble sign of respect from one priest to another. This view is given weight in light of the fact that Francis routinely shows respect for those he meets by kissing their hands. This week alone he publicly kissed the hands of the Patriarch of Constantinople, as well as a group of Holocaust survivors he met during his trip to the Holy Land.

However, even if the above scenario is accurate, it does raise some interesting questions about the Vatican’s vetting process. Why, for instance, of the many priests who would welcome the opportunity to concelebrate mass with the pope, did Francis’ handlers choose for this public honor a priest who is best known for his work opposing the Church’s teachings? On the other hand, it is possible that even they were they not aware of De Paolis’ background – a possibility that at first glance bears discomfiting echoes of that PR flub from Benedict’s pontificate, when the Vatican overlooked critical facts about Bishop Richard Williamson of the SSPX. Finally, given Pope Francis’ habit of mingling freely with guests at Domus Santa Marta, it is also possible that no such vetting process was applied to De Paolis, although this does seems unlikely, especially given that he was apparently given advance notice of his meeting with the pope.

Possibility #2: Pope Francis knew who the priest was, and was reaching out to him in mercy

On the other hand, it is possible that Francis and his handlers knew about De Paolis’ advocacy, but decided to arrange a meeting as an opportunity for the pontiff to reach out to the wayward priest as an act of mercy.

Some have compared the pope’s meeting with De Paolis to the famous meeting between the pontiff’s namesake, St. Francis, and a priest who was living in sin with a woman. After being urged by some local townspeople to go chastise the priest, Francis finally agreed. But instead of rebuking the priest as the townspeople expected, St. Francis fell to his knees and, without saying a word, began kissing the priest’s hands. According to the story, the priest repented.

The suggestion that the meeting between De Paolis and Pope Francis is similar is an attractive one. It is also given credence both by the pope’s love of St. Francis, as well as the strong emphasis of his pontificate on reaching out to the marginalized, and to bringing them back to Christ through kindness and mercy.

However, this interpretation runs into the difficulty that De Paolis himself has only spoken positively of the meeting with the pope. In his public comments he certainly has offered no indication that the pope either called him to repentance, or that he is considering abandoning his heterodox views after the meeting. Given the public nature of the meeting, this then raises prudential questions about the possibility of scandal, in the absence of a corresponding public statement from the Vatican or the pope calling De Paolis to repentance and conversion.

Possibility #3: Pope Francis intended the meeting as some kind of an endorsement of De Paolis’ work

The third possibility is that the pope knew of De Paolis’ pro-gay activism, but decided to meet with him anyway as a sign of respect either despite or even because of that activism. However, given the gravity of such an allegation, and how little is known about the meeting, there is clearly insufficient evidence to propose this as the best interpretation.

All three scenarios are certainly plausible (less so the third [I hope]), yet this is all complete guesswork. Hilary White did the responsible thing by offering up the facts as known to her through her reporting, and it would actually have been quite irresponsible for her to provide some kind of rationale for the Pope’s behavior based on educated guesswork. So she is experiencing blowback for failing to do precisely what she should not have done. Unreal.

I understand that we are living through some tense times, and there is a division developing between Catholics based on our feelings regarding the current Pontiff. I can respect the views of those who think the media and some Catholics have blown the Pope’s words and behavior out of proportion even if I think that some of the defense if fairly weak sauce. Yet what I cannot tolerate is this knee-jerk reaction against anything that might possibly cast the Pope in the bad light, especially when it is a straight news report in which the critics compile no substantive criticism of the reporting. It’s also especially galling that a faithful and talented reporter like Hilary White is mocked and derided on Facebook by people who can’t seem to compile an intelligent thought without offering up the intellectual equivalent of a loud grunt.

There’s also a delightful irony in the fact that the knee-jerk defenders are quick to resort to ad hominem attacks, such as mocking the “Cathowackosphere” before immediately making appeals such as “If you have a specific criticism, make it constructively, charitably, and reasonably. If you can’t, maybe you should just keep it to yourself.” Evidently this standard is to apply only to those who have expressed concerns with Pope Francis, and not defenders who can’t seem to handle any news story about the Pope without destroying the reputation of the person reporting the facts.

Update: Please read Steve Skojec’s blog post on this matter.

20

American Foreign Policy Fecklessness Captured in One Photo

June 6, 1944, 160,000 Allied troops landed along a 50-mile stretch of heavily-fortified French coastline to fight Nazi Germany on the beaches of Normandy, France. General Dwight D. Eisenhower called the operation a crusade in which “we will accept nothing less than full victory.” More than 5,000 Ships and 13,000 aircraft supported the D-Day invasion, and by day’s end on June 6, the Allies gained a foot- hold in Normandy. The D-Day cost was high -more than 9,000 Allied Soldiers were killed or wounded — but more than 100,000 Soldiers began the march across Europe to defeat Hitler.

Source.

Fast forward almost exactly seventy years later. A band of Islamic militants opposed to western influence and branding themselves Boko Haram has kidnapped hundreds of girls and are holding them captive. This is our response: Continue Reading

4

Fired for Thoughtcrime: Not Agreeing with the Zeitgeist

Suddenly a CEO getting axed for having been discovered to be an opponent of same-sex marriage is not the most frightening speech-related firing of the year:

Turtle Rock Studios community manager Josh Olin, who has been promoting its upcoming co-op multiplayer game Evolve, has been released from the position following some controversial tweets about embattled L.A. Clipper owner Donald Sterling.

Today, on his Twitter account, Olin wrote the following statements regarding now-banned NBA owner Donald Sterling, who was recorded making racist and inflammatory comments by an ex-girlfriend:

And here is what his former employer had to say:

What values are Turtle Rock Studios pretending to uphold? As Olin clearly explained in later tweets, and which was fairly obvious from the initial tweets, he was not defending Sterling. Olin’s point is that Sterling expressed a truly despicable opinion, but one stated in the privacy of his home and on a call that he was not aware was being taped. Even Kareem Abdul-Jabbar expressed concerns with the manner in which Sterling’s views were made public. Olin merely objects to the media sensationalism.

I think Olin’s only error was calling Sterling a victim, as that could be perceived as a blanket defense of Sterling’s views. But we’ve now reached a point where people are getting fired not even for their own publicly expressed viewpoints, but rather for objecting to the public backlash. Yes, we all take risks when we express our opinions in public, especially those of us who do not hide our identity. Yet this is perhaps the scariest example of intolerance towards viewpoint expression.

Getting back to Jabbar, I think he expresses the ridiculousness of these public spectacles quite nicely:

Moral outrage is exhausting. And dangerous. The whole country has gotten a severe case of carpal tunnel syndrome from the newest popular sport of Extreme Finger Wagging. Not to mention the neck strain from Olympic tryouts for Morally Superior Head Shaking.

As Jabbar also points out, it’s a bit hypocritical to scream in outrage about the NSA while casting a blind eye to the secret taping of a private conversation. I guess it’s a good thing Kareem doesn’t work for Turtle Rock Studios, or else he’d undoubtedly be a goner by now, forced to retire in shame and potentially even changing his name to Roger Murdock just to hide his disgrace.

2

Bingo!

I rarely read Hot Air much these days, though it is fortunate that I decided to take a look this afternoon or else I would have missed this insightful post from Ed Morrissey, as he absolutely nails it on two distinct issues.

First off, Morrissey calls out the Democrats for their attempt to amend the first amendment. Senator Tom Udall from New Mexico has introduced an amendment inspired by recent Supreme Court decisions that curtailed certain campaign finance restrictions. Morrissey notes that not only does this amendment not have a prayer of getting anywhere near the two-thirds vote required, it’s simply not something that very many Americans are clamoring for.

If Democrats think this will allow them to ride a wave of Occupy Wall Street populism, they’d better look again at the polling this week. Despite spending weeks on the Senate Floor ranting about the Koch Brothers, Harry Reid’s McCarthyite campaign of Kochsteria has resulted in … almost nothing. In the NBC/WSJ poll linked earlier, only 31% had an opinion about the Koch Brothers at all, and only 21% thought of them negatively in a poll where 43% of the respondents admit to voting for Obama in 2012. Michael Bloomberg, one of the left’s multibillionaire activists, got a 26% negative score, and the Democratic Party got a 37% negative score. (The GOP got 44%.) Nearly twice as many respondents think of Barack Obama negatively than they do the Koch Brothers, despite weeks of hard-sell demonization from top Democratic Party leaders.

Well, the Democrats are trying just about everything to prevent the electoral thumping that they will undoubtedly receive this Fall, and this is just one more act of desperation that will have absolutely no impact whatsoever. But at least it lets us know the truth about what they think of the first amendment.

But I’m even more impressed with Morrissey’s final paragraph, as he brings up a Supreme Court case that I’ve long contended was the impetus for all of the craziness that the federal government has spewed forth over the past seven decades.

If Democrats (and Republicans) want to act seriously to take billionaires out of the political game, they’re aiming at the wrong Supreme Court decision. They should pass an amendment repealing Wickard v Filburn‘s impact on the interstate commerce clause. That decision shifted massive political power from the states to Washington DC by defining practically everything as interstate commerce — including non-commerce. Killing Wickard would shift most regulatory power back to the states, and take the corruption out of Washington DC as the stakes would become too small for billionaire investment. Don’t expect Senate Democrats to do anything meaningful on crony capitalism, though … or anything meaningful at all, if this stunt is all they have.

Other than Roe v. Wade and Casey v. Planned Parenthood, Wickard stands out as the absolute worst decision in the history of the Court. As Ed points out, it essentially allowed the federal government to intervene in every nook and cranny of our lives under the justification of “interstate commerce,” even where the action under consideration was neither interstate or commerce.

Ed’s also correct in noting that this expansion of the federal government is the prime reason that so much money is being pumped into federal elections, lobbying, and other activities. Last week I heard Russell Simmons spouting about how all of the evils of our world are due to the corrupting influence of money, and that’s why he supported Occupy Wall Street. Yet Simmons and his ilk are the very ones seeking to augment the powers of the federal government. They don’t see the inherent contradiction in this approach. As the federal government grows and grows and grows, it only increases the avenues for monied interests to wield their influence. It is the massive expansion of the federal government that has inspired this massive spending by outside groups. Of course interested stakeholders are going to want to influence the federal government in areas that affect them. The solution to diminishing their influence is not in curtailing the first amendment, but in restoring the balance of power between the states and the federal government. The Koch brothers (and George Soros for that matter) will immediately lose interest in spreading their wealth around to hammer away at the federal government if the federal government would simply get out of everyone’s business.

Like that will ever happen.

37

The Inhumanity of Hate Crime Legislation

Frazier Glenn Cross is the former grand dragon of a chapter of the KKK who murdered three people in Kansas City last week. While one would think that murdering three people would be sufficient grounds for, at a minimum, putting Cross away for the rest of his life, the true hammer has fallen: he will also face hate crime charges.

There is something rather off-putting about using hate crime laws as a means of punishing Cross. To most rational souls, murder is the worst crime that any human could be guilty of, yet it is as though simply committing murder is not really sufficient. Oh no, old run of the mill murder may be bad, but when the person is motivated by hate, well, then the federal government is really going to come after you with both guns blazing, so to speak.

It’s an unusual mentality for a number of reasons. When one commits an act of murder, that indicates to me that there is already some level of hate involved. Normally people do not shoot other people in fits of love. Thus charging a murder with a hate crime seems rather redundant.

More importantly, there’s this rather strange psycho-analysis implicitly involved here, as though murder itself is not truly the worst possible crime. Are we suggesting that a person who kills another person for that person’s wallet is somehow less evil, less criminal, and deserving of lesser punishment than the guy who shoots another person because said person is another religion, race, or creed? Is the humanity of the individual murdered in a robbery less than the humanity of the person murdered because of the color of their skin, or in this case because they happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time? This situation is even more bizarre because the actual victims were not in fact Jewish. I suppose we should be relieved that mistaken identity does not mitigate the level of charge being leveled against Cross. One shudders to ponder the potential legal labyrinth we would have to travel down were we to insist that the victims actually be in the assigned category being hated. I’m sure Mr. Cross’s attorneys will attempt to argue that since he does not hate the ethnic and religious groups of his actual victims, the hate crime charge is therefore illegitimate. In which case I suppose Mr. Cross could be charged with some lower level crime, like, I don’t know, first degree murder.

There are those who might argue that the more you can throw at a monster like Cross in order to send him away, the better. While I am somewhat sympathetic to this point of view, I’m still left bothered by the subtle message that these laws send. Yes, we do have to make certain judgments about a person’s reasoning for killing another – that is why we distinguish between first and second degree murder. That is also why a person who is defending their own life is not charged with the same level of crime, if any, as the person who kills in cold blood. But cold blooded murder is cold blooded murder, and to assign a greater penalty to one who kills out of racial or religious animus strikes me as a sign of placing some sort of greater value on the life of one murdered in a so-called hate crime. If we deem all life to be sacred, then there should be no worse crime than to kill in cold blood, regardless of motive. These laws do not deter anyone and do little more than to serve as some sort of token outrage against a perceived thought-crime. It’s almost as though the real outrage isn’t that Cross (in this case) killed anyone, but that he was a bigot. That shows some terribly skewed priorities.

29

Who Are We Trying to Evangelize?

In all the recent discussions about the Church drawing converts under the stewardship of Pope Francis (a proposition of dubious merit), it is argued that Pope Francis’s pastoral style is one particularly suited to bring in people who have long been disenchanted with the Church. The underlying assumption seems to be that those whom the Church should be catering to are liberal Protestants, fallen away Catholics, and non-religious people of various stripes. At least this is the impression that I get from reading comments and articles defending the Pope’s, err, temperate pastoral approach.

Yet are these the only groups of non-Catholics that we should be trying to encourage to come into our fold? Not everyone who is a non-Catholic is reflexively suspicious of the Church and her dogmatic teachings. In fact there are many  like Chris Johnson at the Midwest Conservative Journal – a Protestant who has taken up the cudgels so frequently for the Church that Don has named him Defender of the Faith – who are better exemplars of the faith than many actual Catholics. In other words, there are many (for lack of a better word) conservative Protestants who are every bit as much in need of evangelization, if only to just nudge them gently over the line towards full conversion. Yet where is our missionary outreach to them?

In fact, these very people are being turned away from conversion. While the likes of Johnson have long been disgusted by the leadership of the Anglican communion, what are they seeing from Rome and elsewhere that is drawing them closer to our side of the Tiber? Why bother going through the pains of throwing off one’s childhood religion, spending hours in RCIA, and accepting the full teaching authority of the Church when they will get the same wishy-washy sermons, the same watered down doctrine, and the same reluctance to combat the culture head on? At least Episcopalians still have a pretty liturgy, so might as well just cling to that.

Three out of every four people are not Catholics, and of the remainder who knows how many take their faith seriously. There are all sorts of individuals who need to be brought the Good News of Christ. There isn’t one “right” way to reach them, yet more and more we seem to be favoring a model of evangelization that runs counter to our purposes. Soft pedaling our core teachings and relaxing the rules might get some people’s attention to start with, but it is not enough to truly convert their hearts. Meanwhile those that might be most inclined to walking through that door are more likely to pause as they witness a pale imitation of what they hope to leave behind.

At the risk of bringing politics into this, it is not altogether unlike the attempt to turn the Republican party into the Democrat party light in some mistaken attempt to draw more votes. But why would voters go for the low calorie version when the real thing is so much more decadent and filling? Similarly, a Protestant-light version of Catholicism will win few converts but turn away those on the threshold of coming home.

 

7

Abortion Clinics on the Endangered Species List in Texas

It’s time for some good news, and I consider this very good news. As of today, there are 20 abortion clinics open in the entire state of Texas, down from 44 nearly three years ago, and it is estimated that by September that number will be reduced to six. SIX. Now, while that is still six too many, in a state the size of Texas that is cause for some modest celebration. Coming on the heels of Wendy Davis’s relatively pathetic performance in Tuesday’s primary in which she managed to attract fewer voters than the previous guy who lost the general election to Rick Perry, and the fact that early polls show that Davis is cruising to a crushing defeat in November, it is clear that voters in the state are very happy with the law that has helped shut down these murder abortion clinics.

The National Journal article is worth a read for a couple of reasons. First of all, the clear undercurrent of lament in the author’s tone is palpable (“leaving low-income women in rural Texas without nearby access to abortion”). More importantly, it emphasizes the vital role that culture plays with regards to abortion. While we can never discount the role of laws and regulations within the abortion debate, especially since it was the enactment of a law that helped drive these numbers down, the social stigma in the state against abortion also has played a critical role.

Neither clinic has an [ambulatory surgical center] and Hagstrom Miller says she doesn’t have the budget or patients to build a multimillion-dollar center. The Beaumont clinic does currently have a physician that has hospital admitting privileges, but he is 75 years old and trying to retire. Attempting to get hospital admitting privileges has proven a fruitless process; the stigma against abortion is too great in Texas, and Hagstrom Miller has not been able to get responses from any doctors or hospitals, despite calling them all.

“I have trouble getting a vendor for bottled water,” she says.

As though I needed another excuse to love the state of Texas.

43

Being Pastoral Doesn’t Mean Watering Down the Faith

I owe Oprah Winfrey an apology. For years I have blamed her for what I have termed the “Oprah-ization” of society. We are living in an age where feelings triumph over everything else, and where everybody is a special snowflake whose precious feelings should never be hurt. I have blamed Oprah for perpetuating this with her shlocky television show and through most of the other channels of communication through which she has spread her false gospel. But only now have I realized that Oprah isn’t the villain; rather, she is merely the symptom of a much wider societal affliction that has affected all of western civilization including, sadly, the Catholic Church herself.

This was hammered home reading this article about Cardinal Kasper and the possibility of communion for remarried Catholics. After offering up the usual platitudes about Jesus’s teaching about the indissolubility of marriage, Cardinal Kasper than signals his willingness to essentially ignore what Christ had to say.

 However, “after the shipwreck of sin, the shipwrecked person should not have a second boat at his or her disposal, but rather a life raft” in the form of the sacrament of Communion, he said.

Cardinal Kasper, like most men of the cloth who want to change Church teaching, pretends that he is doing anything but.

“One cannot propose a solution different from or contrary to the words of Jesus,” the cardinal said. “The indissolubility of a sacramental marriage and the impossibility of a new marriage while the other partner is still alive is part of the binding tradition of the faith of the church and cannot be abandoned or dissolved by appealing to a superficial understanding of mercy at a discount price.”

At the same time, “there is no human situation absolutely without hope or solution,” he said Catholics profess their belief in the forgiveness of sins in the Creed, he explained. “That means that for one who converts, forgiveness is possible. If that’s true for a murderer, it is also true for an adulterer.”

Well if the murderer is a serial killer who has no intention of stopping his killing spree, then the murder’s contrition is less than authentic. Similarly, a divorced and remarried Catholic’s sin is not in some remote past, but rather is an ongoing sin that cannot simply be shrugged away.

Cardinal Kasper then speaks of possible reforms, and this is where the magic word meant to shut off all debate comes in: pastoral.

A possible avenue for finding those proposals, he said, would be to develop “pastoral and spiritual procedures” for helping couples convinced in conscience that their first union was never a valid marriage. The decision cannot be left only to the couple, he said, because marriage has a public character, but that does not mean that a juridical solution — an annulment granted by a marriage tribunal — is the only way to handle the case.

One is left to wonder what precisely the Cardinal has in mind. Would the couple have to just simply feel that their first marriages were invalid and thus never happened? According to Cardinal Kasper I guess it would be the pastoral solution. In other words, feelings trump 2,000 years of everything the Church has ever taught about marriage.

Cardinal Kasper returns to this term later.

“A pastoral approach of tolerance, clemency and indulgence,” he said, would affirm that “the sacraments are not a prize for those who behave well or for an elite, excluding those who are most in need.”

And that, my friends, gets right to the heart of much that is wrong with the Church. Too many of our shepherds are under the impression that being pastoral means being soft and timid. Cardinal Kasper’s vision of being pastoral is placating the sinner rather than leading the sinner towards righteousness. This is in fact the very opposite of being pastoral. A shepherd of the Catholic Church is charged with leading his flock towards its eternal reward in paradise. There are many tools at the shepherd’s disposal, and I am not suggesting that there is any one right way. Certainly haranguing those of his flock who have strayed may not be the best method of getting them back into the fold. But telling them that they’re just spiffy as they march headlong towards the cliff is also inappropriate.

As is the case with Oprah, I can’t even blame Cardinal Kasper, not when he is an isolated case. Indeed his attitude is all too reflective of where the Church is at this moment in history. Though I am fortunate to be in a parish whose priests are unafraid to speak out about the controversial issues that most other priests avoid, my fellow parishioners and I are the exceptions to the rule. Much more common are generalized, fluffy homilies that don’t dare to touch upon abortion, contraception, gay marriage, etc. That is why when the controversy erupted over Pope Francis saying that we ought not “obsess” over these issues that I almost had to chuckle. Obsessed? Who exactly is obsessed about these topics? Certainly not the priests and Bishops who say nary a peep about them lest they offend someone in the pews.

It’s not as though it is not worthwhile to explore ways in which we can improve upon the situation of remarried Catholics and to examine the procedures we have in place for annulments. Yes, there is room for a “pastoral” approach. But anything that is done must be genuinely loyal to the teachings of our Lord and not merely pay them lip service. Moreover, it time that our shepherds learn how to guide with both compassion and firmness, and to remember that saving souls cannot be done if we are dishonest about our motives and unwilling to gently guide people back onto the right path. 

78

Pat Archbold’s Controversial Call for Unity

Pat Archbold has written an intriguing post arguing that the Pontificate of Pope Francis is the best opportunity to bring the SSPX back into the fold.

I have great concern that without the all the generosity that faith allows by the leaders of the Church, that this separation, this wound on the Church, will become permanent. In fact, without such generosity, I fully expect it. Such permanent separation and feeling of marginalization will likely separate more souls than just those currently associated with the SSPX.
 

I have also come to believe that Pope Francis’ is exactly the right Pope to do it. In his address to the evangelicals, he makes clear his real concern for unity.
 

So here is what I am asking. I ask the Pope to apply that wide generosity to the SSPX and to normalize relations and their standing within the Church. I am asking the Pope to do this even without the total agreement on the Second Vatican Council. Whatever their disagreements, surely this can be worked out over time with the SSPX firmly implanted in the Church. I think that the Church needs to be more generous toward unity than to insist upon dogmatic adherence to the interpretation of a non-dogmatic council. The issues are real, but they must be worked out with our brothers at home and not with a locked door.
 

Further, Pope Francis’ commitment to the aims of the Second Vatican Council is unquestioned. Were he to be generous in such a way, nobody would ever interpret it to be a rejection of the Council. How could it be? This perception may not have been the case in the last pontificate. Pope Francis is uniquely suited to this magnanimous moment.

You can go here to read the rest.

Now the link goes to Pat’s own blog and not the National Catholic Register, where Pat originally published this piece. And that is why I have called this post controversial, because for reasons that remain unfathomable, NCR has deemed fit to remove this post. Frankly I see nothing remotely objectionable with anything that he has written. Even if one disagrees with the upshot of it, why did NCR feel the need take this post down? It’s a bizarre decision, and frankly it leaves me gravely concerned about where we’re heading in the Catholic blogosphere and what is deemed as “acceptable” opinion.

11

Evolution

The high priest asked whether the charges were true. To this Stephen replied: “My brothers! Fathers! Listen to me. Our fathers in the desert had the meeting tent as God prescribed it when he spoke to Moses, ordering him to make it according to the pattern he had seen. The next generation of our fathers inherited it. Under Joshua, they brought it into the land during the conquest of those peoples whom God drove out to make room for our fathers. So it was until the time of David, who found favor with God and begged that he might find a dwelling place for the house of Jacob. It was Solomon, however, who constructed the building for that house. Yet the Most High does not dwell in buildings made by human hands, for as the prophet says:

The heavens are my throne, the earth is my footstool;
What kind of house can you build me? asks the Lord.
What is my resting-place to be like? Did not my hand make all these things?’

“You stiff-necked people, uncircumcised in heart and ears, you are always opposing the Holy Spirit just as your fathers did before you. Was there ever any prophet whom your fathers did not persecute? In their day, they put to death those who foretold the coming of the Just One; now you in your turn have become his betrayers and murderers. You who received the law through the ministry of angels have not observed it.”

Those who listened to his words were stung to the heart; they ground their teeth in anger at him. Stephen meanwhile, filled with the Holy Spirit, looked to the sky above and saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing at God’s right hand. “Look!” he exclaimed, “I see an opening in the sky, and the Son of Man standing at God’s right hand.” The onlookers were shouting aloud, holding their hands over their ears as they did so. Then they rushed at him as one man, dragged him out of the city, and began to stone him. The witnesses meanwhile were piling their cloaks at the feet of a young man named Saul.

As Stephen was being stoned he could be heard praying, “Lord Jesus, receive my spirit.” He fell to his knees and cried out in a loud voice, “Lord, do not hold this sin against them.” And with that he died. Saul, for his part, concurred in the act of killing.

 

download

 

Are they these extreme conservatives who are right-to-life, pro-assault-weapon, anti-gay? Is that who they are? Because if that’s who they are and they’re the extreme conservatives, they have no place in the state of New York, because that’s not who New Yorkers are.

I don’t expect Cardinal Dolan and other prelates to walk into the lion’s den. But perhaps the current “live and let live” strategy isn’t working as effectively as they think.

But then again, who am I to judge?

42

If We Only Had a King

I guess leftists were right – we truly lived under a tyranny during the presidency of George Bush. After all, just look at how contemptuously he treated the legislative branch of government. In his first cabinet meeting after the Democrats took control of the House, Bush told his top deputies that his “agenda will move forward whether Congress votes for it or not.” Then he added:

“One of the things I’ll be emphasizing in this meeting,” he said, “is the fact that we are not just going to be waiting for legislation in order to make sure that we’re providing Americans the kind of help that they need.”

“I’ve got a pen and I’ve got a phone,” the president asserted, “and I can use that pen to sign executive orders and take executive actions and administrative actions that move the ball forward in helping to make sure our kids are getting the best education possible, making sure that our businesses are getting the kind of support and help they need to grow and advance, to make sure that people are getting the skills that they need to get those jobs that our businesses are creating.”

“And I’ve got a phone,” he continued, “that allows me to convene Americans from every walk of life — nonprofits, businesses, the private sector, universities — to try to bring more and more Americans together around what I think is a unifying theme, making sure that this is a country where if you work hard, you can make it.”

It was a common lament during the Bush presidency that we were living under something resembling an imperial presidency. We were told that Bush’s advocacy of a unitary executive, as well as his penchant for issuing signing statements that added his gloss to duly enacted legislation, as well as his mere existence on planet Earth all signaled the end of democracy as we know it. Never mind that the executive branch was specifically designed to be unitary in nature, the Framers having decided against all alternative arrangements. And never mind that the signing statements were nothing more than inocuous expressions of how the executive bureaucracy would carry out legislation passed by Congress. No, we were truly living in Stalin’s Russia.

Thankfully Americans came to their senses and elected the wise and beneficent Barack Obama. Truly he was the change we were looking for. He promised us all a return to a more open administration that didn’t keep secrets, would restore competency to the White House, would be completely honest, and most importantly, wouldn’t disregard the other branches of government.

Alas, if wishes were trees, the trees would be falling.

You see, the above of course was not spoken by George W. Bush, but rather by President Obama on Tuesday.

Checks? Balances? Looks like the constitutional scholar residing in the White House is unfamiliar with such terms.

19

Do We Have Free Speech?

I dislike mentioning the First Amendment when controversies like the Phil Robertson versus A&E brewhaha break out. After all, the First Amendment applies only to Congress (and the Supreme Court has ruled [incorrectly, if you ask me] that it applies to state governments via the 14th Amendment), and the actions of a cable network don’t really implicate the First Amendment. On the other hand, Ace of Spades makes a fairly compelling argument that this is too narrow an interpretation of what the First Amendment is all about.

It’s also untrue. Yes, the First Amendment, strictly speaking, applies only to the government. But there is a spirit of the First Amendment too, not just a restriction on government action.

 

And that spirit is this:

 

That we should have, to the extent compatible with ordered liberty, the maximum possible right to think and say and believe what we choose, and anyone who attempts to use force to coerce someone to think and say and believe something that is alien to them is acting contrary to the spirt of the First Amendment.

 

I’ve said this a dozen times:

 

The real, tangible threat to our right to think and speak as we will, as conscience, faith, or reason (or all three together) might impel us, is not from the government, but from our employers, and from the massively corporate media institutions that impose real penalties on people — fines, really, imposed by firings, suspensions, mandatory Thought Rehab and so forth — for daring to utter words other than the Officially Approved Institutional Corporate Slogans.

 

Yes, A&E has the right to suspend Phil Robinson. A&E also has the right to stand up for a broad and generous principle of Freedom of Thought and Expression.

 

Why does no one speak of that right? Sure, they have the right to act hostilely towards the spirit of the First Amendment and use coercive power to hammer people into only speaking the Officially Approved Institutional Corporate Slogans.

As I said, this is a very compelling argument, though I’m not sure I completely buy into it. In the case of employers firing people for expressing their free speech rights, true government coercion, it could be argued, would be actively prohibiting employers from firing employees for expressing unpopular opinions. Now, I personally think employers should give their employees wide latitude when it comes to expressing their opinions, and there are few examples I can think of where it would be acceptable to fire people for their political opinions.*

Which leads me to one of the most outrageous examples of over-reaction I’ve ever seen. Justine Sacco was a communications director for a firm called IAC – I say was because she was fired after tweeting the following:

Going to Africa. Hope I don’t get AIDS. Just kidding. I’m white!

The tweet was obviously a (really bad) attempt at mocking the concept of white privilege. It did not sit well with many of the purveyors of decency on the left, and within hours there was a social media firestorm. This woman with barely over 100 followers had become the locus of hate throughout the twitterverse, and soon her employers were compelled first to issue a statement of regret, and then to sack Sacco (sorry).

What was particularly heinous about the incident was how it revealed the true ugliness of social media, and I’m not referring to Sacco’s tweet. Her tweet was dumb, but clearly an example of poor humor and not racism or maliciousness. Yet this woman was hounded by the likes of Buzzfeed and other media outlets, and her tweet drew far, far, far more attention than it really merited. Like a pack of ravenous wolves, they descended on the metaphoric body of the tweet and made sure that not even a bone was left on the carcass. And why? Because of a really bad joke.

Now Sacco certainly deserves some share of the blame. After all, she was a communications director, and as such should have known better. And there’s something to be said about taking a more careful approach with social media. But are we really comfortable with getting a woman fired for a poor joke? Was her company’s bottom line really imperiled by Sacco’s crack? And of the millions of dumb tweets sent every day, why was hers one that merited such attention?

Sacco’s firing troubles me much more than Robertson’s suspension, which is not to say I wasn’t troubled by the latter. Robertson is a public figure, and he’ll be okay in the end. On the other hand, Sacco was fired because she tweeted something that offended certain people’s sensibilities. It had no bearing on her actual work with IAC, and it’s doubtful that her company’s reputation would have been damaged had they retained her. The social media pack mentality also does not speak well for our society as how many individuals mindlessly joined the herd without giving a second thought to what they were doing?

Most importantly I am just concerned about where we are headed culturally when we can’t make a public utterance without fearing the loss of our livelihoods. As Dale Price said, “If you say you believe in free speech but are routinely demanding “consequences” for speech you disagree with…you really don’t believe in free speech.” Sure we should be responsible for what we utter in public, but we need to have some perspective. I do not want to live in a country where it is acceptable to be easily fired for the flimsiest of comments.

For example, if the Chief of Public Relations for the Democratic National Committee suddenly took to twitter to rip into Harry Reid and Barack Obama, then it would most certainly not be inappropriate for the DNC to take action against that person. More seriously, I’m also thinking of teachers at Catholic schools who publicly dissent against Church teaching.

13

Being Annoyed by Something Doesn’t Justify Banning It

After years of study, the FCC has come to a conclusion regarding cell phones and airplanes that pretty much the rest of humanity had come to already: cell phone use poses no significant risk. As such, the the Commission voted 3-2 to consider removing the ban on cell phone use on flights.

Alas the potential of having passengers yacking into their phones during flights has spooked others in Washington. The Department of Transportation and some members of Congress have started to take action to ban cell phone use on airplanes. Is it because they have some greater understanding of the true safety risks involved with cell phone usage on airplanes? Of course not. No, you see, cell phone use on airplanes might annoy people. Representative Pete DeFazio (D-Ore.) represents a line of thinking typical for those leading the charge.

Rep. Pete DeFazio, D-Ore., the ranking Democrat on the Aviation Subcommittee, cheered Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx’s statement last week that his agency would consider regulations to ban cell phone chats on planes. “As I’ve been saying for years, allowing passengers to make in-flight phone calls would not only show a complete disregard for an American public that overwhelmingly opposes them, but would also pose serious safety issues for everyone in the cabin,” DeFazio said.

Safety issues, sure. Expect those who insist on a cell phone ban to cling to the safety talking point in much the same way that politicians who vote to install speed cameras do. In both cases, safety has nothing to do with why politicians back a proposed policy.

Look, I really don’t want to sit next to someone who chats away on their phone for the entire duration of a flight. I also don’t want to sit next to a crying baby, but my wife insists. And the people who sit behind my little hellions probably don’t appreciate it – I know, I see their looks of abject scorn and fear when we board – but should Congress ban us from flying? And a shrieking kid is a lot more annoying than someone carrying on a conversation.

As much as we hate cell phones, part of the reason is a weird psychological aversion to hearing one-sided conversations. Would we dream of banning conversations between two or more people on a plane? I recognize that people do tend to talk louder on phones, and there is that one-sided conversation factor, but the fact remains that it’s a tad irrational to pinpoint a behavior that has no safety concerns and yet say that it is perfectly acceptable for the federal government to ban the behavior simply because people find it annoying.

I have mixed feelings about cell phone bans on the road. At last in those cases there is a legitimate safety issue with people talking on phones while driving (though there are other dangerous driving behaviors that are as bad or even worse that we wouldn’t dream of prohibiting). Yet we’ve pretty conclusively determined that there are no safety concerns with people talking on their phones while flying – well, unless they happen to be the pilot, in which case we might want to insist that they put the phone down. Otherwise, those who support the ban are signalling that they are okay with government prohibiting something simply because they find it irritating.

As I commented on facebook, I am annoyed or irritated by other people roughly every five minutes. If I got Congress to ban behavior that I found irritating, there wouldn’t be a person in America not behind bars. That perfectly healthy person who gets on the elevator to go up one flight? One month in the slammer. Standing on the left on the subway escalator? In the slammer. Didn’t clear off all the snow on your car . . . wait, that actually is illegal, police just don’t enforce it. Maybe we just need to install snow-cameras that automatically give people tickets for that.

Even though this is a minor issue in the grand scheme of things, it is these petty tyrannies that are the most troublesome, mainly because large segments of the population support them almost uncritically. But do we really want a federal government so big that it gets to outlaw being annoying?

 

20

Clowns to the Left of Me (The Conscience of a Conservative, Part One)

Note: I broke this out into a couple of parts because I didn’t want to overwhelm you all in one sitting, but I am publishing the posts together if you just can’t bare the suspense of waiting for the other parts).

The developments on the other side of the Potomac from me tonight have only helped to dampen what was already something of a political depression. Though I am one of the most ardent defenders of the Union cause and believe that neoconfederate revisionism about the causes of the Civil War and the supposed centralizing desires of Abraham Lincoln are a lot of hooey, it’s hard not to at least sympathize with would-be secessionist as it appears yet another state is about to be engulfed in a sea of blue thanks to happy carpetbaggers that have infested the state like a virus – carpetbaggers who have arrived because the central government grows larger by the nanosecond.

This depression only deepens upon reflection that there seems to be no way to halt this momentum. Despite the occasional fleeting political victories by Team R, the reality is that for a constitutional conservative, there really is no light at the end of the tunnel.

The recent government shutdown and its aftermath crystallized the problem. All the talk about the “Establishment” wing of the Republican party, for whatever merit it did have, meant that the larger point was being missed. The establishment versus non-establishment narrative downplayed the very real ideological rift between different camps within the GOP, and made the battle seem to be little more than a disagreement about tactics.

During the previous administration, one term was used, overused, and plain ole misused. The term neoconservative, or neocon, become the fancy way to basically describe anyone who supported the Iraq War. Pat Buchanan and the American Conservative came down with a weird form of Tourette’s in which they just couldn’t seem to help themselves from muttering the word every few seconds.

Despite this overuse, the term is a legitimate descriptor of a certain strain of right-wing thought. There really isn’t a single definition of what it means to be a neoconservative. If anything, Bush’s foreign policy was less of a reflection of neoconservative thinking than his domestic policy. You see the original neocons were former leftists who rejected socialism and embraced capitalism. Though they may have rejected absolute statism, they were generally more receptive to the welfare state than traditional conservatives. This is also true of the second and third generation of neocons.

Though neocons may have abandoned full-throttled leftism, they still have a statist mindset. It would not be a stretch to say that what separates neoconservatives from leftists is merely the degree to which they seek to use the machinery of the state to foster change.

Andrew McCarthy, in a brilliant piece, gets to the heart of this divide without ever mentioning the word neocon. But I believe he is making the same basic point. Discussing Charles Krauthammer’s political philosophy, McCarthy writes:

This week, Dr. Krauthammer, Washington’s most influential expositor of mainstream GOP thought, obligingly spared me the need to prove my point. He gave as clear an account of the modern Republican conception of “conservatism” as you will find. Fittingly, he did it on the program of progressive commentator and comedian Jon Stewart. Today’s smartest Republicans, self-aware enough to know their core views deviate significantly from those of conservatives in the tradition of Buckley, Goldwater, and Reagan, are more likely to say what they think to Jon Stewart. His audience is apt to be receptive, maybe even won over, by a mature progressivism portrayed as what conservatives really think. It is not likely to go over as well with, say, readers of National Review.

Stewart claimed that conservatives are anti-government. Initially, Krauthammer appeared to reject this caricature, replying, “The conservative idea is not that government has no role.” But, alas, when he got around to what the proper role of government is, Krauthammer sounded more like Stewart than Buckley.

To begin with, he largely buys the caricature. It would have been credible, he told Stewart, to have argued that conservatives were anti-government “in the Thirties, when conservatives opposed the New Deal.”

That’s just wrong. Conservatives who opposed the New Deal were not anti-government. They believed, as they believe today, in constitutionally defined, limited government. And “limited” does not mean “small” — where the Constitution assigns the central government an authority, such as national security, it must be as big and strong as necessary to execute that authority.

Having accepted Stewart’s central premise — namely, that what Stewart called the “responsibility of governance” embraces the massive, centralized welfare state — Krauthammer pronounced that today’s conservatives unquestionably accepted

the great achievements of liberalism — the achievements of the New Deal, of Social Security, Medicaid, Medicare. The idea that you rescue the elderly and don’t allow the elderly to enter into destitution is a consensual idea [accepted by] conservatives, at least the mainstream of conservatives.

With due respect to Charles, no, the New Deal and the centralized welfare state that is its progeny is accepted by the mainstream of Republicans. What Charles describes, moreover, is as fanciful a portrayal of what the New Deal did as it is of what conservatives believe.

McCarthy continues, noting that conservatives do not actually hate the poor nor do we seek to see them wither on the vine.

But there’s a more important point that McCarthy raises. It’s one thing for a state or group of states to embrace big government. But when the federal government exceeds its authority, then it impacts all states. There is less of a point of moving between states since the federal government is equally impactful on all of them. As McCarthy puts it:

 If welfare policy is made at the state level, there are important disciplines in the equation that can prevent the programs from bankrupting the state and unduly punishing productivity. Economic conditions vary widely in a nation of our size, so welfare programs are best designed and run at the local level, by elected officials directly accountable to the people who live with the consequences — officials who can easily alter the programs if conditions change. States know they are in competition with each other, and if wealth redistribution is too onerous in one state, people and businesses can move to others. States and localities also may not print money, and they have incentives (and often constitutional requirements) to balance their budgets that do not exist at the federal level. At the state level, there can be a sensible balancing of “internal order, improvement, and prosperity.”

This is not so at the federal level, as the last 80 years have affirmed. Social Security, Medicaid, and Medicare are not, as Krauthammer contends, “great achievements of liberalism.” They are prosperity killers — and inevitably so. In part, this is because they have little if anything to do with what Krauthammer describes as the “consensual idea” that “you rescue the elderly and don’t allow the elderly to enter into destitution.” If that were the idea that we all agreed on — and assuming for argument’s sake that we similarly agreed that destitution was a concern of the central government — we would establish a transparent welfare program. That is, we would define what “destitute” is and enact a tax commensurate with what was necessary to provide reasonable relief — structured in a manner that gave people incentives to avoid or escape destitution.

McCarthy continues.

 There is, furthermore, an equally destructive corollary. Once one accepts the premise of federal control over these matters of social welfare, there is no principled case against federal control over any matters of social welfare. Every aspect of life becomes potentially subject to central-government regulation. And so it has, through a metastasizing federal code and bureaucracy that regulates everything from cradles to graves.

In the Framers’ construct, the states would experiment and compete, developing best practices — or at least practices that best suited the conditions and sensibilities of the local communities. By contrast, there is no disciplining or escaping Leviathan. And if, as is inevitable, federal officials expand their outlandish schemes and promise favored constituencies more than they can deliver, they just borrow or print ever more money: Government borrows from its tapped-out self, monetizing its debts, degrading our currency to reward sloth and punish thrift even as it steals from future generations.

What Dr. Krauthammer calls “the great achievements of liberalism” have undermined the Burkean intergenerational trust at the core of conservatism. As I argued a couple of years ago, in jousting with Pete Wehner, another very smart, mainstream Republican who seeks to redefine conservatism to accommodate the modern welfare state, conservatives revere an enriching cultural inheritance that binds generations past, present, and future. It obliges us to honor our traditions and our Constitution, preserve liberty, live within our means, and enhance the prosperity of those who come after us. The welfare state is a betrayal of our constitutional traditions: It is redistributionist gluttony run amok, impoverishing future generations to satisfy our insatiable contemporaries.

Ultimately neoconservatives like big government. They just like it a little less big than lefists.

31

Jokers to the Right (The Conscience of a Conservative, Part Deux)

Unfortunately, there is another element of the right that is at odds with traditional conservatives. The libertarian strand of the right, while understanding the destructiveness of statism, aid and abet the continued marginalization of conservatives as “extremists.” This was brought home in the Virginia governor’s race. During the past few weeks I had to sit through an endless stream of commercials that painted Ken Cuccinelli as some kind of deranged, woman-hating psycho who wanted to forcibly impregnate women and force them to carry their babies to term, all the while suffering physical and emotional abuse from their alcoholic husbands whom he will not allow the women to divorce. Instead of fighting these ridiculous mischaracterizations, bloggers like Ace of Spades and some of his dutiful Randians insist that, yeah, Cuccinelli is kind of a nut who does want to take away women’s birth control.

Despite the libertarian wing’s fundamental misunderstanding of conservative policy aims, and their general mockery of us Church ninnies, there is oddly more potential for conservatives and libertarians to work together than for conservatives and neocons to do so. Ultimately the policy aims of libertarians and conservatives are not so radically different. This is not to minimize the very real differences in our approach to social issues, but at least libertarians suffer no illusions about how the machinery of the state can be used to bring us a little bit closer to utopia. I think this is a bridgeable gap, though I am pessimistic about the chances for a revived fusionism on the right between these two camps.

Which brings me to the results tonight. It is sickening that someone as truly loathsome as Terry McAuliffe has been elevated to the highest position in the fine state of Virginia. I’m sure he’s not the worst person to be elected to high office, and even not in the state of Virginia, but he’s got to be near the top of slimiest creeps to attain a governorship. What is truly ominous about McAuliffe’s election is that it represents a perfect storm of all the worst elements of modern politics. First, you have the infiltration of leftists in the northern part of the state, seeking to bring the bad ideas that ruined the northeastern part of the country to this part of the world. Then you have Cuccinelli being betrayed both by the neocon Establishment, specifically the sitting Lieutenant Governor and his minions who petulantly refused to endorse Cuccinelli, and the libertarians who believed every bogeyman myth about Cuccinelli, going so far as to vote for the fake libertarian candidate who is basically just another left-winger.

With states like Virginia appearing more and more to be lost causes, what hope is there?

So that is why this Union loving guy is starting to see the logic in secession. After all, even though the Confederates may have fought for the wrong cause, does that mean that secession is itself a completely bad idea? I’ve long said yes, now I’m not so sure. Of course I’ve always believed in the right to revolution (it’s there in the Catechism, too), but secession is a bit of a different idea as it permits states to simply leave the federal union. You don’t necessarily have to have suffered a “long train of abuses,” but rather you just have to not like the current policies of your federal government.

Even if states can’t walk away from the Union, can’t parts of states walk away from the rest of the state? Well, we have justification for that, ironically from the Civil War itself. West Virginia was permitted to detach itself from the rest of the state. (I’ll let you all ponder that had that separation not happened, Cuccinelli would likely be the governor-elect right now.)

The reason that my secessionist bones are tingling is that I really have to wonder if we can truly continue to exist as a behemoth federal Union. The Federalist Papers are chock full of arguments against confederation, and the need to have an extensive Union. But would Madison have countenanced a nation of 300 million souls all governed under one umbrella, especially when that umbrella government takes on more and more powers? It’s at least something worth pondering.

As I mentioned in the first post, federalism only truly works if the central government is limited in scope (not size, as discussed by McCarthy). The Hamiltonian vision was one of a strong central government that was limited in the extent of its powers, but fairly strong within the scope of said powers. Once the federal government takes on more and more authority, then individual states lose more of their own authority and even identity. Is a Texan or a Tennessean truly as free and independent as they think? Will they be in 30 years?

One may counter that conservatives must simply do better at winning national elections. While this is partly true, all even a roundly conservative federal government can do is merely halt the tide of federal intervention in state affairs, biding time for the next statist administration. Also, what’s a nation to do when a simple majority have roundly rejected the ideals of limited government? At what point do the outnumbered citizens just throw their hands in the air and surrender?

Perhaps we haven’t reached that point, and God willing we never will. But I tremble at the thought of what’s to come.

4

Various & Sundry, 9/26/13

Little Sisters of the Poor v. HHS

It could be the title of a Supreme Court Case down the line.

Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius finalized a contraception mandate that ignores the fact groups like the Little Sisters of the Poor are religious organizations, according to a lawsuit filed to protect them against fines for refusing to comply with an Obamacare mandate.

“We cannot violate our vows by participating in the government’s program to provide access to abortion-inducing drugs,” Sister Loraine Marie said of a class-action lawsuit filed against the mandate on behalf of multiple religious organizations that provide health benefits.

McCain the Traitor

Eh, so the government is cracking down on nuns. John McCain knows who the real bad guy is – that whacky Ted Cruz. This has inspired some righteous Jeff Goldstein indignation.

Lacking the courage to hold a colloquy with Cruz during his twenty hours of filibustering (yes, filibustering — as it was intended, remember?), Republican Senator John McCain — in collusion with Democrat Majority Leader Reid and the execrable Chuck Schumer (both of whom fearing intellectual embarrassment, also lacked the stones to go head to head with Cruz, who had previously shredded the hapless demagoguing of Dick Durbin and turned Tim Kaine into a feckless foil) — took to the floor afterwards and made the case for surrender and “settled law”,  his pitch being that, because Obama won the 2012 election, the issue of ObamaCare had been decided.

Forget for a moment that the GOP establishment, who had previously given us an awful McCain candidacy, gave us as a candidate the one man who could not fight Obama on ObamaCare, he and his staff, in conjunction with Ted Kennedy, having been the architects of the state usurpation of private healthcare; instead, pay attention to the underlying assertion McCain is making, which comes down to this:  rather than a system of checks and balances (the people also elected, for instance, a GOP House), McCain believes the US to have a set of revolving kings whose agendas are set once they win elections.  That is, he’s both pro-authoritarian and pro-majoritarian — though only when it suits his purposes.

And he’s just getting started.

I can’t imagine why Jeff would have cause to distrust McCain.

A Citizen Journalist Responds to the Critics of Ted Cruz

Goldstein was truly on fire today.

If you don’t mind a tiny bit of constructive criticism, let me remind you that the McCain / Romney presidencies never really went as planned.  Similarly, the decision to balk at the very constituency that brought you to power in the House has, as you know, not given you the kind of positive press from the left-leaning legacy media that you expected it might.

Which is all just a very short way of saying you really aren’t nearly as smart as you think you are — and in fact, on the scale of political smarts, your nuance has perpetually pushed you leftward, which, while on the powerful authoritarian end of the political spectrum, nevertheless suffers from  being on the dumbest and most dangerous end, as well.

As someone who initially didn’t feel very strongly about the Defund Obamacare approach, it’s getting harder and harder to stomach the fecklessness of large segments of the GOP. Certainly Cruz, Lee, et al. had a rather difficult hill to climb, but the Brutus treatment offered them by their fellow “Republicans” has made any attempt at change impossible.

SHOCKING NEWS!

To the surprise of no one with functioning brain cells, it turns out red light cameras may not be about safety after all.

Schools Are Not Parents

Charles Cooke has this crazy notion that what children do in the privacy of their own homes shouldn’t lead them to getting suspended at school.

Justify My Time

I watched 30 seconds of Madonna’s 17 minute video and wanted to scratch my eyes out with a dull screwdriver. Fortunately Ace and others had enough patience to sit through it all and offer some hilarious commentary.

First World Tears

Great insight from Simcha Fisher. You know what – just because you’re not a starving African child doesn’t mean you don’t get to have a bad day.

But does that mean we need to go around with a cheerful grin pasted on our mugs all day long, no matter what?  I don’t know about you, but that would not help me in the slightest (and yes, I have tried!).  If we find ourselves in a situation that tries our patience, exhausts us, makes us angry or helpless, it really doesn’t help to say, “Yes, but at least I’m not starving in a lice infested mud hut!”  All I get from that is deeper in my funk:  not only am I better off than 90% of the women in the world, I’m an ungrateful, whiny brat!  Somehow, this thought does not catapult me into good cheer.

Here’s the key: there’s a big difference between admitting we’re suffering, and constantly complaining about it.   it’s perfectly fine to admit that we’re suffering — yes, even if someone else somewhere in the world is suffering more.  There is nothing intrinsically wrong with saying, “This stinks.”  But what matters is what you do next, once you look suffering in the face and call it for what it is.

10 Travel Tips

Frankly, number two on the list has always worked for me.

10

Various & Sundry

Poking the Pope

Fr. Dwight Longenecker provides not only a good analysis of the Papal interview that was republished in America, but offers one of the most clear-headed commentaries about Pope Francis’s approach that I’ve read everywhere. Long story short, we need to remember that Pope Francis comes from a much different cultural setting.

All this is well and good, but I have some worries. Every pope is both empowered and limited by his own history and culture. Pope Francis is from a generation and a culture which is Catholic. For the most part everyone is Catholic. They understand the basics of Christian morality and the fundamentals of the Christian story and the basic elements of the Catholic faith. Too often, however, that Catholic culture was impeded by a Church that had become overly clericalized, legalistic, condemnatory and hide bound.

Francis’ message to that kind of Catholic culture and that kind of Catholic Church is sharp and necessary. It’s fresh, creative and powerful. He’s basically saying, “Get out of your churchiness and get into the streets. Be with the people and share your faith together and bring Christ to those who have forgotten how to find him in the church.” As such his message is relevant and vital for the Church in South America and Central America where Catholics are being wooed away by Evangelicals who do present a vital, relevant and compassionately involved message.”

Francis’ message of forgiveness, acceptance and embrace of all works well enough in a Catholic culture where people know they are sinners and have a basic understanding of confession, reconciliation, forgiveness and healing. The problem in translating Francis’ message to post-Christian Europe, Liberal Protestant America and other developed countries is that most of the population either have no concept of sin in their lives or they deny the idea completely. Therefore Francis’ message of forgiveness, acceptance and embrace simply comes across as condoning whatever lifestyle people happen to have chosen. Catholics might make the distinction between loving the sinner and hating the sin…non Catholics both don’t and won’t make that distinction. Consequently, the Pope’s message simply comes across as him being a real nice guy who doesn’t judge anybody–like everybody else in our relativistic society.

Much more at the link.

Sinking Deeper

Just in case the article I linked to yesterday about the debt wasn’t depressing enough, here’s Kevin Williamson.

The CBO, to its credit, has attempted to get a handle on how heavily that growing debt will weigh upon economic activity in the next 25 years, and the answer is worrisome: Taking into account the economic effect of those deficits, instead of our debt hitting 100 percent of GDP in 25 years, CBO estimates that it will hit something closer to 200 percent of GDP — or 250 percent under the least sunny scenario. (There are even less-sunny scenarios, but the CBO does not believe that it can model them reliably.) Note here that these estimates also assume that the sequester and other deficit-control measures remain in place, which would consequently mean that spending on everything outside of Medicare, Medicaid, Social Security, and debt service — everything else the government does — will be reduced far below current levels, in fact reverting to pre–World War II levels as a share of GDP. That is unlikely to be the case. Assume, then, that those spending and debt numbers look worse to the extent that the ladies and gentlemen in Washington lack the brass to resist demands for more domestic spending — and more military spending, too. The loudest and most insistent critics of the sequester have been defense contractors and the cluster of politicians in Maryland and Northern Virginia most sensitive to their complaints.

Archbishop Broglio Statement on Gay Marriage

An important statement from the Archbishop for the Military Services.

Irony Can Be So Ironic

Indeed Catholic apologists ought to really be careful about how they persuade people. Tone is just so important.

Putin May Seek Fourth Term

Truly the collapse of the Communist government was a marvelous thing. Imagine if Russians were still ruled by an autocratic regime that never relinquished power.

About Those #%^$skins

Rick Reilly has this insane notion that actual Native Americans’ views on the name of the Washington football team might be more relevant than those of rich white liberals. Silly Rick.

Of course this controversy could really heat up when the Redskins reach the Super Bowl again. So look to hear plenty about this in another decade or two.

8

Various & Sundry, 9/18/13

Gun Control’s Dead End

Charles Cooke is a particularly incisive writer on any topic, but especially so when it comes to gun control – which is probably why Piers Morgan wants no part of a debate with him.

It is not, however, too late to set the record straight in the public square and with lawmakers, who will be predictably pressured to “do something.” Here, the truth is vital, for it demonstrates neatly the reality that, in a country with 350-million-plus privately owned firearms, the state is utterly powerless to stop evil with the law. President Obama, Senator Feinstein, Senator Schumer et al. could have pushed through Congress every single gun-control provision that they coveted earlier this year — an “assault weapons” ban, a limit on the size of magazines, and a requirement that background checks be conducted for all private sales — and yesterday would nonetheless have happened exactly as it did. Indeed, in preparing for his spree, Aaron Alexis quite literally followed Joe Biden’s advice: He went out and bought an uncontroversial shotgun from a reputable, licensed dealer and subjected himself successfully to a federal background check. So routine was this purchase, it should be noted, that it could have been made legally in England or in France.

Maybe It Was the Video Games

Instead of blaming guns for the mass shooting on Monday, let’s blame video games.

Friends said the length of time he spent glued to the “shoot ‘em up” games on his computer, including the popular Call of Duty, triggered his dark side that had previously landed him in trouble with the police on gun crimes.

Another possibility is that there is simply just evil in this world, and try as we might, we simply won’t be able to eradicate it.

The Food Police

Columnist Frank Bruni doesn’t seem to understand how grocery stores work.

There’s no more to Bruni’s column than this; it’s a tumefied argument against big portion sizes:

America is lousy with such vessels: the Big Gulp, the economy pack, the party size, two-for-one pizza deals, the Whopper, the Double Whopper, the Triple Whopper, Costco in all its bloated grandeur. They’ve taught us that volume equals value and established a dangerous baseline for what we consider a sane amount of food.Come to think of it, the Costco complaint is a non sequitur. After all, those massive packages of nuts or chicken aren’t portions but ingredients, sold in bulk for storage and subsequent gradual use.

Bruni must not cook, or he’d understand how this works. This columnist, for example, typically buys several pounds of beef or pork or lamb, or a whole duck, at one time. We divide the meat into individual servings, cook them in the sous vide, and freeze them to thaw and consume later, one at a time. Buying and preparing multiple servings at once allows us to economize on both money and time.

About that National Debt

As Chris Johnson writes, we’re pretty much screwed.

Almost all media reports about the Congressional Budget Office’s new long-term budget analysis will highlight its forecast that the federal public debt, now about 73% of GDP, is on track to reach 100% of GDP in 2038. Now that’s scary enough. As Maya MacGuineas of the Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget puts it: “Today’s report confirms exactly what we have been warning — that the debt is on an unsustainable long-term trajectory.”

So over the next 25 years, Americans will be taxed more to pay for a federal government that will more purely become a redistribution, wealth-transfer mechanism. Taxes and spending at record highs. America as a nuclear-armed insurance company.

But here’s the thing: that forecast, as the CBO notes, does not factor in “the harm that growing debt would cause to the economy.”  Hey, that would be a good thing to know, right? Well, you have to dig deeper into the CBO study to find those numbers.

And when you take into account stuff like how deficits might “crowd out” investment in  factories and computers and how people might respond to changes in after-tax wages, you find the debt is much, much larger, closer to 200% of GDP.

The World’s Worst Police Department

With Grand Theft Auto V’s sales approaching a billion, I thought I’d go into the vaults for this Onion classic.

Many blame the LCPD directly for the increase in criminal activity, citing the department’s lax procedure for arresting criminals, which involves taking 10 percent of the suspect’s money, confiscating his weapons, and simply releasing him from custody later that day. Outraged citizens say this is not enough, especially in a city where assault rifles can be found on factory roofs and grenade caches are located under the globe at the old World’s Fair site.

“The police just let them go, and 20 minutes later they’re shooting at the very same criminals from helicopters,” veteran crime reporter Mike Whiteley said. “That is not proper law enforcement. We may be seeing a return to the bad old days of 2002, when the police, the FIB, and even Army tank battalions would leave countless bodies on the streets while attempting to capture just one man on some sort of joyful mass-destruction spree.”

Perhaps even more alarming, city records indicate that more than 75 percent of perpetrators in mass-murder or vehicular-manslaughter cases escape, usually by simple methods such as driving into a car-repainting facility. Criminals have even eluded pursuit by walking into their apartment and going to bed for six hours, after which the search has been called off.

5

Various & Sundry, 9/16/13

Abortion Clinics Closing at Record Pace

On a horrible day such as this one I thought I’d start with some moderately happy news.

For Abby Johnson, the closing of a single Planned Parenthood center demonstrated her dramatic reversal from abortion clinic director to leading pro-life advocate.

But for pro-lifers throughout the United States, it marked another exhibit in a hopeful trend—abortion centers are shutting down at an unprecedented rate. The total so far this year is 44, according to a pro-life organization that tracks clinic operations.

I say it’s moderately happy for as long as one clinic remains open, we can’t truly celebrate.

A Conservative Foreign Policy Vision

Fantastic piece from Andrew McCarthy that will be the focus of my Catholic Stand post tomorrow, though from a slightly different perspective. Basically we need to find some common ground between John McCain’s knee-jerk “bomb it all” foreign policy and the Paulite “Blame America first” isolationist wing.

The Matthew Shepard Narrative

On a day when people tried valiantly to score political points off of murdered human beings, here’s another story where a brutal murder was used as a political football – only the narrative proved false.

The Myth of Live and Let Live Liberalism

Another National Review writer knocks one out.

Social liberalism is the foremost, predominant, and in many instances sole impulse for zealous regulation in this country, particularly in big cities. I love it when liberals complain about a ridiculous bit of PC nanny-statism coming out of New York, L.A., Chicago, D.C., Seattle, etc. — “What will they do next?”

Uh, sorry to tell you, but you are “they.” Outside of a Law and Order script — or an equally implausible MSNBC diatribe about who ruined Detroit — conservatives have as much influence on big-city liberalism as the Knights of Malta do.

Seriously, who else do people think are behind efforts to ban big sodas or sue hairdressers for charging women more than men? Who harasses little kids for making toy guns out of sticks, Pop Tarts, or their own fingers? Who wants to regulate the air you breathe, the food you eat, and the beverages you drink? Who wants to control your thermostat? Take your guns? Your cigarettes? Heck, your candy cigarettes? Who’s in favor of speech codes on campuses and “hate crime” laws everywhere? Who’s in favor of free speech when it comes to taxpayer-subsidized “art” and pornography (so long as you use a condom, if liberals get their way) but then bang their spoons on their high chairs for strict regulations when it comes to political speech? Who loves meddling, finger-wagging billionaires like Michael Bloomberg when they use state power and taxpayer money to herd, bully, and nudge people but thinks billionaires like the Koch brothers who want to shrink government are the root of all tyranny?

I’m always amused by liberals and libertarians accusing social conservatives of being for big government on social issues when it is the left that is so desperately eager to involve the government in all aspects of our daily lives.

The Ultimate Civil War Chart

A very cool and useful chart – if you can read it.

Foreign Parenting Practices Americans Would Call Neglect

Personally I find number three intriguing. It might be too late for our first two, but with a third due any minute, we’ll need to get our whistles ready.

1

Various & Sundry, 9/13/13

A Moment of Fiscal Sanity in DC

Be still my beating heart – there’s actually a local politician with some understanding of economics.

Mayor Vincent C. Gray vetoed legislation Thursday that would force the District’s largest retailers to pay their workers significantly more, choosing the potential for jobs and development at home over joining a national fight against low-wage work.

. . .

Gray (D) announced his veto in a letter delivered to Council Chairman Phil Mendelson on Thursday morning. It explained his opposition to the bill and tried to soften the political consequences by disclosing his intention to seek a minimum-wage increase from all employers, not just large retailers.

In the letter, Gray said the measure was “not a true living-wage bill,” because its effect would be limited to “a small fraction of the District’s workforce.” He called the bill a “job-killer,” citing threats from Wal-Mart and other retailers that they would not locate in the city if the bill becomes law.

“If I were to sign this bill into law, it would do nothing but hinder our ability to create jobs, drive away retailers, and set us back on the path to prosperity for all,” he said.

Gray must be made to understand that being theoretically paid $12.50 per hour while actually being paid $0 per hour is much superior to being paid $8.25 per hour.

Judge Refuses to Let Jewish Man Wear Kippah in Court

And the judge relied on some profound reasons for the refusal.

Stephen Orr, a resident of Chesapeake, Va., was tried in absentia and found guilty, after a Circuit Court judge denied his request to wear a hat, or “kippah,” into the courtroom in keeping with a Jewish mandate that persons wear a head covering at all times. The judge allegedly based his denial on the fact that other Jewish litigants appear in court without a head covering.

Yes, they’re called Reform Jews, and they are to Judaism what readers of National Catholic Reporter are to Catholicism.

Senate Wants to Define Journalist

And in more “the First Amendment is obsolete” news, there’s this:

A Senate panel on Thursday approved a measure defining a journalist, which had been an obstacle to broader media shield legislation designed to protect reporters and the news media from having to reveal their sources.

The Judiciary Committee’s action cleared the way for approval of legislation prompted by the disclosure earlier this year that the Justice Department had secretly subpoenaed almost two months of telephone records for 21 phone lines used by reporters and editors for The Associated Press and secretly used a warrant to obtain some emails of a Fox News journalist. The subpoenas grew out of investigations into leaks of classified information to the news organizations.

They’re going to pretend this about protecting journalists, but in reality it’s about sticking it to non-traditional media. In the 90s we had efforts to re-introduce the “Fairness Doctrine,” nicknamed the “Hush Rush” law. This seems to be the “Hush Drudge” law.

Roman Catholic Priest Injured in Zanzibar Acid Attack

The nuttery is not just confined to the Middle East.

Ignorant Trash Destroy 9/11 Display

I have to agree with some of the commenters – were there no onlookers who could have stopped them?

Reason Number 845254 I don’t Particularly Miss Cable

Whatever Shepard Smith is paid is too much money.

Shepard Smith has signed a new multi-year deal with Fox News Channel in which he will become the primary breaking news anchor for the network. In the process, he will lose his 7pmET “Fox Report,” while his 3pmET program “Studio B” will now be known as “Shepard Smith Reporting.”

No one exemplifies the empty-headed, pretty boy talking head quite like Shep.

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Various & Sundry, 9/9/13

I will be traveling for the next few day, so no V&S again until Friday.

Convert or Die

So I guess these are the people we’re supposed to be helping against the evil regime in Syria.

The village of Maaloula has been taken over by Syrian rebels associated with al Qaeda, who have stormed the Christian center and offered local Christians a choice: conversion or death. A resident of the town said the rebels shouted “Allahu Akhbar” as they moved through the village, and proceeded to assault Christian homes and churches.

“They shot and killed people,” he said. “I heard gunshots and then I saw three bodies lying in the middle of a street in the old quarters of the village. Where is President Obama to see what has befallen us?” Another witness stated, “I saw the militants grabbing five villagers and threatening them and saying, ‘Either you convert to Islam, or you will be beheaded.’”

John Kerry Told a Fib

Well what else would you call a declaration that Thomas Friedman is usually right?

Anyway, David Gerstam at Legal Insurrection documents some of Friedman’s most egregious errors.

Tar and Feathers Not Enough

Instapundit documents the most recent case of terrifying state overreach.

West Maryland Wants to Secede

More secession talk from folks tired of being pulled under by the rest of the state. I totally feel for the people of the western part of this state. They have more cause than some other state regions that have discussed secession, as the Congressional District representing the northwest part of the state was intentionally gerrymandered, and parts of Republican Frederick County were merged with Montgomery County in a district that basically runs up I-270, thus eliminating the one Republican district in the state (the southeastern part of the state has a GOP member of Congress, but Frederick is much more reliably Republican).

This article was posted on a friend’s Facebook wall, and the snooty comments of other Marylanders made me even more sympathetic to their cause. My particular favorite was one genius who said, “Maryland not have seceded with the rest of the South, but “unreconstructed” definitely describes western MD today.” I had to point out that western Maryland was the section of the state most loyal to the Union, and that it was Democratic Baltimore that almost drove the state out of the Union. Another person referenced West Virginia – you know, the state carved out of Virginia because it was the section of the state that wanted no part of the Confederacy.

While these talks of secession will certainly come to nothing, it’s hard not to at least feel a pull of sympathy. If it ever happened, I’ve moving west.

 

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Various & Sundry, 9/6/13

The Obamaconomy Keeps Chugging Along

Over the last 56 months – since Barack Obama became president in January 2009 –unemployment has dropped 0.5%, from a rate of 7.8% in January 2009 down to 7.3% in August 2013, according to the latest numbers from the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS).

During those 56 months, the unemployment rate rose substantially to a high of 10% in October 2009 and stayed in the high 9% range for 2010 and much of 2011. In January 2012, the unemployment rate was 8.3%. It crept down to 7.8% in December 2012, exactly what it was when Obama was inaugurated (and George W. Bush left office).

That rate has stayed in the mid-7% range so far in 2013 and is at 7.3% for August, according to the BLS data.

The unemployment rate has not fallen below 7.3% in the last 5-plus years.

Chug Chug Chugging Along

The number of Americans who are 16 years or older and who have decided not to participate in the nation’s labor force has pushed past 90,000,000 for the first time, according to data released today by the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

The BLS counts a person as participating in the labor force if they are 16 years or older and either have a job or have actively sought a job in the last four weeks. A person is not participating in the labor force if they are 16 or older and have not sought a job in the last four weeks.

In July, according to BLS, 89,957,000 Americans did not participate in the labor force. In August, that climbed to 90,473,000–a one month increase of 516,000.

In January 2009, when President Barack Obama took office, there were 80,507,000 Americans not in the labor force. Thus, the number of Americans not in the labor force has increased by 9,966,000 during Obama’s presidency.

Staying off the Grid

Autumn Jones relates a day living tech free.

Yesterday I forgot to tweet. Yep, not a single message sent out on the grid. I didn’t post anything on Facebook. Even my hyperactive Instagram account took a holiday. My total text message count stayed under 10. And, believe it or not, my laptop was out of reach all day. Sure, I watched the email numbers increase on my cell phone, but I just simply let it go.

Instead, I slept in, drank coffee with my roommate, went out to lunch with my sister, perused an independent bookstore and spent the entire afternoon and evening with my family. It was my sister’s last day in town and for nearly eleven hours that was all that mattered.

Jack Might Be Back

We can all breathe a sight of relief as Jack Nicholson is not retiring from acting after all.

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Various & Sundry, 9/5/13

The Indian Economy is Causing Indigestion

Sorry, that’s the best I could come up with. It’s not as clever as the Bollywood remark.

North Carolina Considering Eliminating the Income Tax

North Carolina now on short list of future residences.

State Sen. Bob Rucho, a Mecklenburg County Republican and chairman of the Senate Finance Committee, said Wednesday that he hoped to use the 2015 legislative session to eliminate the state income tax, replacing it with a consumption-based sales tax to make up for the lost revenue.

The usual bellyaching in the comments, but I think this is the right approach.

How NC Reporter Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb

Is anyone surprised by this?

The National Catholic Reporter’s Michael Sean Winters has written a meandering screed supporting Obama. He doesn’t even mention the Pope, or the Bishops, much less rebut their statements. Can you imagine Winters failing to mention Pope Francis and the U.S. Bishops if they called for action on any other issue such as immigration, guns, or for that matter a Republican-instigated war?

On the NCReporter’s main page, it has forgotten how to plainly condemn bombing.  It lists some articles in favor of the bishops’ view, yet at the same time it hosts what can only be called a “diversity” of views on the topic.

In addition to Winters, NCReporter’s exclusive Jesuit “analyst” Fr. Thomas Reesewrings his hands about whether more bombs should be dropped. Fr. Reese cannot muster simple condemnation of more bombs. Reese prominently features the thoughts of William Galston, who offers a variety of justifications for the president.

So when Pope Francis, the Vatican, and the U.S. Bishops criticize Republican-led wars, or capitalist economics, pundits on the Catholic Left treat their messages asex cathedra doctrine.  When these same Catholic bishops strenouously oppose President Obama’s desire to drop bombs on Syria, Catholic Left pundits start to wonder if bombs aren’t so bad after all.

Some left-leaning Catholic sites have remained consistent and oppose any military action in Syria, but even those that express opposition to the war use much more circumspect language about Obama than they ever did about Bush and his evil neocon advisers. The silence of certain alliteratively nicknamed bloggers is particularly deafening.

Are Millennials Abandoning the Left?

Some cause for hope, but then again it seems that some of these kids are upset with Obama for not being leftist enough.

Baseball Superiority Day

I love football, but I love baseball more, and to me the game of summer will always be number one.

Of course had they played the game in Baltimore tonight it wouldn’t have been delayed due to lightning.

17

Various & Sundry, 9/4/13

The Priest’s Side of the Confessional

When Simcha Fisher wrote last week about reasons to go to Confession, someone protested that Priests would be feel burnt out from hearing too many Confessions.

Well scratch that excuse off the list because Priests actually get quite a lot out of administering the Sacrament.

Permits for Baptism

Elaine mentioned this in the comments of yesterday’s post.

A few weeks ago my office in Rolla received a phone call from church members who expressed concern about the Park Service requiring permits for Baptisms in the rivers of the Ozark National Scenic Riverways. Yes, you read that correctly, the Park Service was actually requiring churches and pastors to get a permit in order to perform Baptisms.

After learning of this ridiculous rule, I immediately contacted Bill Black, the Superintendent of the Ozark National Scenic Riverways. In a letter, I expressed my serious concerns about the permit requirement and need for a 48-hour notice. I told Superintendent Black that the permit requirement would hurt church ceremonies that have happened in our region for generations and the condition also would infringe upon the religious liberties of the families living in the Eighth District.

The Superintendent reversed this silly rule, but this is just the beginning.

Super Bowl Champion Baltimore Ravens to Promote Obamacare in Maryland

And just when the thug Ray Lewis was no longer a member of the team, now there’s another reason to despise the franchise located 35 miles to my north.

It’s the first official partnership formed with a sports franchise to encourage participation in President Obama’s signature healthcare law.

The White House had sought national partnerships on ObamaCare with the NBA and the NFL, but both leagues backed away under pressure from congressional Republicans.

Obama’s Last Intervention Has Really Worked Out Well

Hey, remember our last efforts at helping out that Arab Spring? The results aren’t so hot.

Yet now Libya has almost entirely stopped producing oil as the government loses control of much of the country to militia fighters.

Mutinying security men have taken over oil ports on the Mediterranean and are seeking to sell crude oil on the black market. Ali Zeidan, Libya’s Prime Minister, has threatened to “bomb from the air and the sea” any oil tanker trying to pick up the illicit oil from the oil terminal guards, who are mostly former rebels who overthrew Muammar Gaddafi and have been on strike over low pay and alleged government corruption since July.

As world attention focused on the coup in Egypt and the poison gas attack in Syria over the past two months, Libya has plunged unnoticed into its worst political and economic crisis since the defeat of Gaddafi two years ago. Government authority is disintegrating in all parts of the country putting in doubt claims by American, British and French politicians that Nato’s military action in Libya in 2011 was an outstanding example of a successful foreign military intervention which should be repeated in Syria.

The Buck Stops Way, Way Over There

Every now and then I reflect on what a cowardly, petulant individual we have in the White House, and I just weep.

Enough of Woody Allen Catholicism

Pat Archbold thinks it’s time we have a bit more John Wayne and little bit less Woody Allen.

Alert Jody Bottum

Even noted non-social conservative Ace of Spades is getting sickened by the bullying of Christian businesses.

But what we see here in Oregon — as we saw earlier in New Mexico, and as we will see everywhere, unless we do not pass a law sharply delimiting people’s right to sue people for unamerican, subversive crime of nonconformity with the current temporary government’s ephemeral cultural allegiances — is the attempt of a group of people who have long contended that they merely wish to be left alone to live their lives in peace suddenly feeling a little power and deciding that now that they have a short-term burst of political muscle, they may now indulge in the bullying and coercion they once thought was kind of a bad thing.

Northern California County Votes for Secession

Not gonna happen, but still amusing.

Jack Won’t Be Back

Nicholson is done with acting. While many will no doubt remember him most for scenes from The Shining and A Few Good Men, this is my favorite Nicholson role.

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