Paul Zummo

Fourth Degree Knight of Columbus with a Ph. D in Politics.

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.

 

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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?

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.

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.

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?

 

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

 

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.

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.

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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Various & Sundry, 9/3/13

Tonight’s V&S has a Syria-heavy theme. It’s pretty much what everyone’s talking about, so I apologize in advance.

Not so Smart Power

If there’s a sub-theme to tonight’s post it’s that everything you heard Democrats say a few years vis a vis foreign policy has basically been discredited within the past few weeks – if not more. Jim Geraghty discussed this in his Morning Jolt, parts of which he highlighted on NRO.

As we await Congress’s decision on authorizing the use of U.S. military force in Syria, Democrats are suddenly realizing that their foreign-policy brain-trust completely misjudged the world.

Being nicer to countries like Russia will not make them nicer to you. The United Nations is not an effective tool for resolving crises. Some foreign leaders are beyond persuasion and diplomacy. There is no “international community” ready to work together to solve problems, and there probably never will be.

You can pin this on Hillary Clinton, John Kerry, Susan Rice, but most of all, the buck stops with the president. Those of us who scoffed a bit at a state senator ascending to the presidency within four years on a wave of media hype and adoration are not quite so shocked by this current mess. We never bought into this notion that getting greater cooperation from our allies, and less hostility from our enemies, was just a matter of giving this crew the wheel and letting them practice, as Hillary Clinton arrogantly declared it, “smart power.” (These people can’t even label a foreign-policy approach without reminding us of how highly they think of themselves.) They looked out at the world at the end of the Bush years, and didn’t see tough decisions, unsolvable problems, unstable institutions, restless populations, technology enabling the impulse to destabilize existing institutions, evil men hungry for more power, and difficult trade-offs. No, our problems and challengers were just a matter of the previous hands running U.S. foreign policy not being smart enough.

The President Must Make His Case Directly

Kurt Schlicter, meanwhile, argues that the President must make his appeal for war directly to the people. His column is worth reading if only for the first few paragraphs.

The grossly obese Syrian officer was coming in the door of the King Khalid Military City exchange while I was coming out. I saw instantly that this was no soldier; this was a thug, a threat only to the unarmed civilians that are his kind’s prey. My eyes fell downward from his cruel face to the piece of flair gracing his olive green fatigues.

“Nice Assad button,” I sneered. Real warriors don’t wear pictures of dictators on their uniform. He glared back at me with his dark, rat eyes, not understanding my words but fully appreciating my contempt. Though Syria was a putative coalition partner, I knew I was staring at an enemy.

Not much has changed since Operation Desert Storm. The Syrian regime’s “soldiers” are still just punks fit only to oppress the defenseless, unable to even hold their own against a ragged band of barely-armed insurgents. But like the vast majority of Americans, I have grave concerns about attacking them.

Guess Who Came to Dinner

Yes, I know there’s a limit to these gotcha games, but in light of all the mileage the left got out of the picture of Donald Rumsfeld shaking Saddam’s hand, this is delightful.

Speaking of shaking hands, heh.

Russia’s False Concern for Children

Not directly related to Syria, though it does concern its BFF.

 

Various & Sundry, 9/2/13

On the Obligation to Fast 

Pope Francis has declared Saturday, September 7 to be a day of fasting and prayer for peace in Syria. Ed Peters tackles the question of whether we are canonically obligated to fast.

In short, a Catholic who does not observe a fast on Sept 7 does not violate canon law. What such disregard for the pope’s unusual request might indicate about one’s desire to act with the Successor of Peter is another question.

Bwahahahahahaha

Excuse me while I gather myself.

BWHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA.

No. Seriously. I’m cool.

In what is being reported as a surprise move, the 40,000 members of the International Longshore and Warehouse Union (ILWU) announced that they have formally ended their association with the AFL-CIO, one of the nation’s largest private sector unions. The Longshoremen citied Obamacare and immigration reform as two important causes of their disaffiliation.

English Compositionism as Fraud and Failure

A senior lecturer at Santa Clara University takes a look at college level writing instruction and finds it wanting.

Compositionists today are laughingstocks on and off campus, notorious for babbling about “borderlands narratology” and “sustainable digitalized hyper-rhetoric” when students cannot write a coherent paragraph or even use an apostrophe correctly. I can think of no other field, academic or otherwise, in which the uninformed, “amateur” public has such a decisive advantage over guild-certified experts. A three-step program of professional reform follows: (1) dissociate composition teaching from literature teaching, (2) dissociate composition teaching from composition studies and composition theory, and (3) put writing instruction in the hands of practitioners—of whateveracademic training and political leaning—whose only job is to guide student-writers toward proficiency at the level traditionally associated with “higher” education.

And he’s just getting started.

Washington Post Writer Argues that Statutory Rape Ain’t So Bad

No. Really. That’s basically her argument.

To quote Bob Grant, “They’re sick and getting sicker.”

Prettiest Picture of the Day

Courtesy of Creative Minority Report, a wonderful image to close out the day.

 

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