3

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.

 

8

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.

 

22

Various & Sundry, 8/30/13

Kevin William’s Modest Proposal

Kevin Williamson thinks Allison Benedikt is right – rich liberals have a moral obligation to send their kids to public school. And he has a way to make it fair.

People hold capital in the form that brings them the best returns, and for the modestly affluent professional class, your lawyers and high-school principals and such, holding capital in the form of a nice house in a neighborhood with good schools provides the maximum return. Ms. Benedikt, savvy social observer that she is, concedes that “rich people might cluster.” (Might?) That the main trend in socioeconomic migration over the last few centuries or so seems to have escaped her here is not my particular concern, but it should be pointed out that the enemies of private education generally fail to consider the extent to which that rich-guy clustering provides advantages beyond high-quality schools. The development of social and professional networks, prestige, learning high-status habits and manners, etc., all are enormously important perks associated with living among the well-to-do. (I believe it was WFB who observed that a sufficiently motivated student could get a Yale-quality education practically anywhere, but that’s not what Yale is for.) The difference between a summer job answering phones at your neighbor’s law firm and a summer job mowing grass (or, more common, no summer job at all) is considerable. Redistributing funds is not sufficient; we have to redistribute people.

What we obviously must do, therefore, is turn rich white liberals out of their homes.

Ideally, they would relocate to the very worst neighborhoods, where, applying the Benedikt principle, they would do the most good. But I do not really care where they go, so long as they go.

Why a medieval peasant got more vacation time than you

They didn’t transfer feasts to Sunday, that’s why.

That said, I wouldn’t volunteer to change places.

Good to see fascism is still alive in Germany

At 8:00 a.m. on Thursday, August 29, 2013, in what has been called a “brutal and vicious act,” a team of 20 social workers, police officers, and special agents stormed a homeschooling family’s residence near Darmstadt, Germany, forcibly removing all four of the family’s children (ages 7-14). The sole grounds for removal were that the parents, Dirk and Petra Wunderlich, continued to homeschool their children in defiance of a German ban on home education.

The children were taken to unknown locations. Officials ominously promised the parents that they would not be seeing their children “anytime soon.”

Just Timberlake as the Riddler?

Couldn’t be any worse than the choice for the next Batman.

Ya Think?

A House panel says that Obama needs Congressional approval before attacking Syria. What, do they think this is a constitutional republic with clearly delineated lines of  authority?

Hot Summer Snark

Larry D announced the winner of the summer’s hottest contest.

4

Various & Sundry, 8/29/13

The Misery of Being Merely Upper Middle Class

Allison Lynn has written a book called The Exiles that just has to be satire. Sadly, it is not.

As it happens, the book is entirely serious about the dire fate of the merely wealthy, the most pressing social issue of our time. The Exiles is littered with references to how impoverished Emily and Nate are—“who cared if Nate was financially undesirable, as economically impaired as she was?” (Emily is an advertising executive before taking maternity leave and deciding not to go back, because she realizes that she has turned into “a potato chip marketer, pregnant by the only pauper on Wall Street.”)

When their Jeep Grand Cherokee—a six-year-old car they have to park in a discount lot in Manhattan, can you imagine!—is stolen with, tragically, Emily’s new pair of TOD’s loafers inside on their first day in Newport, the family’s lives spiral out of control. Without credit cards, they’re forced to live on room service and the mini-fridge of their three-star hotel. Now they are “officially the have-nots”—a status that Emily is terrified of, having grown up as the child of a professor and been forced to eat sandwiches made with generic peanut butter.

Throughout the book, the pair bemoans their minor misfortunes, like the fact that they had to purchase a used Bugaboo from their friends and “the shame they’d shared after the transaction.” Nate and Emily nickname the stroller Ollie, “for Oliver Twist, the haggard little orphan boy. Since then, whenever Emily saw an industrial Stokke on the street—a Norwegian import far more technical than even a new Bugaboo—she’d glance pleadingly at Nate and joke, in her best cockney accent, ‘Please, sir, may I have some more.’ ”

I’m A Bad, Bad Boy

Speaking of satire that isn’t but sure sounds like it, Donald has already written about the ridiculous Slate article implying that all of us who send our kids to private school are eeeeeeevil. Ken at Popehat has a great takedown of her idiocy. Jeff Goldstein has more.

Ten Reasons to Get Thee to a Confessional

Simcha Fisher lays out the reasons why you need to get to Confession.

I Resemble that Remark

Fr. Z on the same theme. The Holy Spirit has said the same thing to me as his reader.

North Korea Still Being Run by an Evil Tyrant

Isn’t it precious to see a son follow in his father’s footsteps.

Hyon Song-wol, a singer, rumoured to be a former lover of the North Korean leader, is said to have been arrested on Aug 17 with 11 others for violating laws against pornography.

The reports in South Korea’s Chosun Ilbo newspaper indicate that Hyon, a singer with the Unhasu Orchestra, was among those arrested on August 17 for violating domestic laws on pornography.

All 12 were machine-gunned three days later, with other members of North Korea’s most famous pop groups and their immediate families forced to watch. The onlookers were then sent to prison camps, victims of the regime’s assumption of guilt by association, the reports stated.

13

Various & Sundry, 8/28/13

Obama’s Half-Measures with Syria

I disagree with Abrams that we should intervene, but he’s right about Obama’s approach. Why are a hundred thousand killed by conventional means not a cause for action, but several hundred killed from chemical weapons means action NOW?

What I Meant to Say

Okay, we’re probably beating a dead horse, but this is a pretty funny satire of Jody Bottum.

Now, on to my non-arguments. I begin with a Bald Assertion: Although all of Western law, foundational decisions of the Supreme Court such as its original polygamy decision, and powerful dissents by Scalia, Thomas, and Alito, are all against court-imposed same-sex marriage—and although I am not a constitutional jurist myself, and haven’t even read those dissenting opinions, or any of the legal briefs—still, I say that THE EQUITIES ARE ALL ON THE SIDE OF SAME-SEX MARRIAGE. NO ONE HAS EVER GIVEN A SINGLE COHERENT JURISPRUDENTIAL ARGUMENT AGAINST IT. NO PRINCIPLED LEGAL VIEW CAN RESIST IT.  And if you continue to doubt this, then, superb writer that I am, I will be able to find even other ways of stating the same un-nuanced point, until you finally acquiesce in it.

It’s very important for my purposes that you accept this point, because, you see, as a writer, my goal at the start is to play on the ignorance of my young readers especially and make them feel embarrassed for believing in marriage as solely between a man and a woman.  Ultimately I wish to undermine that conviction, or at least to lead them to accept the courts’ and my distinction between “marriage” and “civil marriage.”  And so, I want them to feel—maybe for the first time—that they are being grossly inequitable, unfair, unprincipled, fundamentally illegal, and basically un-American if they oppose same-sex marriage.

It’s a bold gambit, to be sure, yet it’s very likely to succeed, because after all a young Catholic without much experience of the world—or any poorly catechized layperson, for that matter—will feel that if a former editor of First Things can say these things so boldly, or if they are printed without correction in Commonweal, then they have to be true.  Why would a responsible writer say these things unless they were true?

Whither First Things?

A symposium on its future. Maybe it should hire Bottum back, you know, just for fun.

Today’s Adventure in Petty Attack Ads

I have no love lost for Chris Christie, but this is an especially petty beef. Christie stars in an ad saying that Jersey is recovering from Hurricane Sandy, so come on down, and his opponent runs an ad criticizing him for making it sound like the state is fully recovered. Christie is one hundred percent on the money with his response.

When a reporter asked about critics of the “Stronger Than The Storm” tourism ads, Christie shot back, “What would they have us do: go into the fetal position? I’ve never said everything’s all right.”

Christie should realize that carping about the fallout from a hurricane is much preferred nowadays to moving on and recovering.

Some of You Are Clearly Drinking Whiskey Wrong

$20 whiskey mixed with soda should be an offense punishable by death, or at least banishment.

Moving Past Errors and Pitcher Wins

Great stuff from Joe Posnanski on the silliness of relying on either state to measure player and pitcher performance. While you’re there, also check out his post on the Cleveland Browns.

The Tragedy of Derek Jeter’s Defense

Two baseball posts today as I couldn’t pass up this fantastic feature in Grantland.

If Michael Bay Directed Heartwarming Documentaries

It would definitely be something a lot like this.

5

Various & Sundry, 8/27/13

Weariness and Current Events

Some chap named Paul Zummo has written about Jody Bottum’s white flag essay over at the Catholic Stand. You should all go read it.

But Hey, We Don’t Really Have to Worry About Same Sex Marriage

Speaking of the issue that will single-handedly destroy Catholicism, Erik Stanley provides more evidence that maybe, just maybe, First Amendment rights aren’t so secure in a same sex marriage tolerant regime.

Vice President Biden Threatens Impeachment if President Bombs Foreign Country Without Congressional Approval

Whoops. My bad. That was Senator Biden. Now that he’s Veep he’s totally cool with such actions.

Beware Common Core

Few people are talking about common core, but we should be, as it poses a serious threat to American education.

Common Core, now adopted by 45 states and DC, is a set of national standards and goals related on the surface to English and math that have far-reaching implications into who controls curriculum (teachers teaching to the national test), along with implementing data-mining for a jaw-dropping universe of facts provided to the federal government about your children and you. Can I implore you to watch this video of a Common Core creator celebrating the collaboration with Obama’s data team and how to use data to achieve political ends?

Common Core has dismal quality, puts us behind other countries, views teaching as job training and not the development of our children’s minds, and has backers that would make your head swim were you to conduct even a perfunctory search.

Tolerance, Health and Fascism

Dennis Prager uses the “f” word and so will be ignored, but he shouldn’t be.

Now this is a Professor I Wish I had in College

Mike Adams is a professor in the University of North Carolina system. One friendly reader labelled him the biggest embarrassment to higher education. Why? Because Mike actually believes marriage should be between one man and one woman. Mike wrote an open letter in response to Ed, and it’s truly worth your time to read.

Why the Left Needs Racism

James Taranto takes down a buffoonish article written by Margaret Carlson about the movie The Butler. I think the absolute kicker was this written by Carlson:

“I wish Chief Justice John Roberts and four of his Supreme Court colleagues would see [‘The Butler’], too,” she writes. “Maybe it will help them understand how wrong they got it when they recently decided that we are so far past Jim Crow that we can dispense with a central provision of the 1965 Voting Rights Act.”

Yes, if only Clarence Thomas had seen a movie about life in the Jim Crow south he’d have been more amenable to upholding Section 4 of the VRA.

Too Much Chant at an Extraordinary Form Mass?

Scott W. sounds incredulous that anyone could complain about too much Gregorian Chant at an EF Mass. I have to admit that at the last EF Mass I attended – one which lasted two and a half hours, and was not the Easter Vigil – at one point I was kind of hoping for the choir to shut up for a minute so that the Priest could continue. Of course that was a polyphonic choir, so perhaps it’s not quite the same thing.

Indian Satire of Breaking Bad

Extraordinarily funny if you’re a fan of the show. By the way, Sunday night’s episode may have been the greatest hour of television I’ve ever watched.

5

Various & Sundry, 8/26/13

Bradley Manning Is Not a Woman

Kevin Williamson says what is obvious to most, but is sadly considered controversial considering the number of comments.

Judicial Activism – That Does Not Mean What You Think It Means

Justice Ginsburg – evidently with a straight face, claims that the Roberts court is the most activist in history. Frankly I think the term is misused, but any way you slice it – No.

Miley Cyrus Needs Help

It’s been kind of a fun day on social media seeing both the outrage and the  non-outrage over Miley Cyrus’s VMA performance. I think I saw more tweets and facebook posts from people saying that they’re not going to comment than from people actually commenting. As I said last night on twitter, I’ve basically become my father when it comes to VMAs. That said, it’s led to some hysterical (not in the ha ha sense) tweets. See the RS McCain link, but also check this out.

Lord (do not necessarily) Hear Our Prayer

As always, the USCCB really has its pulse on the issues that really merit out prayers and attention.

3

Various and Sundry, 8/23/13

Sadly all vacations must come to an end, but on the bright side that means I’m back with some linky goodness.

The Debate We Aren’t Having

Three thugs murdered a young man simply because they were bored. Naturally this means we need to have another debate about the “gun culture” in this country. No, that’s not the debate we need to be having right now, at least according to the Wall Street Journal.

If Gun Control Worked, Chicago Would Be Mayberry

Speaking of guns,  Jim Geraghty quotes from a speech given by Cam Edwards.

If gun control worked, Chicago would be Mayberry right now! And Weld County and El Paso County would be Thunderdome! You guys wouldn’t have [Weld County] Sheriff [John] Cooke, you would have Tina Turner and Mel Gibson running around! It would be horrible! But that’s not real life! Real life is gun control not working in Chicago. Real life is gun control failing in Camden, New Jersey, and Oakland, California, and a lot of other communities in this country . . .

We are pushing back with the lawsuits, with the phone calls to our legislators, by electing officials and supporting elected officials who listen to us. But we’re also pushing back by being grownups, and by being okay at it. By having hundreds of people show up at a range and fire thousands of shotgun shells . . . and everybody’s okay! And now we’re enjoying cigars and drinks and we’ll all get home safely tonight, right?

Because we can control our lives! We can manage our lives! It’s not too difficult. We’re not perfect. We may eat a little too much dessert every now and then. We may not be able to beat that one bad habit, like smoking cigarettes, whatever. But we’re a heck of a lot more capable than our government gives us credit for, aren’t we?

Exposing Another Lunatic

Earlier this year some virulently anti-Jewish and anti-gay literature was spread around Oberlin College. Just another angry, right-wing loon, right? Err, wrong.

One of the two students removed from Oberlin College earlier this year for allegedly circulating virulently racist, anti-Jewish and anti-gay messages around campus  is an ardent leftist and committed supporter of President Barack Obama, The Daily Caller News Foundation has learned.

Rallying Around a Pedophile

Throughout the height of the Church’s crisis, I don’t recall too many Catholics actually defending or supporting the guilty priests. Sadly the same cannot be said for many citizens of Rose City, Michigan, where a former teacher (if only they could be married) named Neal Erickson was sentenced to 15-30 years in jail for first degree criminal sexual conduct. Erickson had had a “relationship” with an 8th grader, and this “relationship” was exposed by an anonymous letter. But Erickson was such a swell guy, you see, and really the 8th grader welcomed the “relationship” so it’s all good.

In May of this year, Circuit Court Judge Michael Baumgartner started receiving letters of support.  Not for the victim, but for Erickson.   Ten letters, nine of which were written by former or current teachers of the district, were entered into the record.  Many talked of Erickson’s dedication to a local 6th grade camp. (Yikes).  They all proved two things.  You cannot take back the words you write.  And these idiots just don’t get it.

His wife, Toni Erickson, wrote that the person that released the photo, “…simply wanted to embarrass the school district, and expose others.”  She further proclaims the victim (I will not share his name, though it has been made public) isn’t a victim at all.  “X does not perceive himself to be a victim, nor is he living a life that has been negatively impacted by Neal’s actions.”  She DOES know who the real victim is in all of this.  “Going to prison can’t punish him anymore than he has been already – but there is someone who will be punished if he is sent away – my daughter, Margaret.”

Wow.

But it gets worse.  Sally Campbell, also a teacher, writes in her letter, “Neal made a mistake.  He allowed a mutual friendship to develop into much more.”  Harriet H. Coe, retired teacher, wanted to remind the judge that “Neal is, was, and always will be a good, kind, responsible, hardworking person.”

Suddenly Detroit doesn’t look like the most messed up town in Michigan.

Mike Trout is Awesome at Baseball

Miguel Cabrera is the best pure hitter in the game, but there’s no better all-around talent in the game than Trout. And he’s only 21.

Satire That Wasn’t Intended as Satire

Earlier this week Ace had a lot of fun with a new novel titled Christian Nation, written by Frederic C. Rich. Here is a description.

Christian Nation is a work of speculative political fiction, arising from the counterfactual of a McCain/Palin victory in 2008 followed soon after by McCain’s sudden death and Sarah Palin’s ascension to the presidency.

When the book opens, eight years have passed since the Holy War ended in victory for the fundamentalist Christian forces. Americans live in bondage to a comprehensive authoritarian law called The Blessing, enforced by a totally integrated digital world known as the Purity Web. The Narrator, Greg, whose best friend led the opposition to the theocratic movement, is brought to a secret abandoned cabin in upstate New York and told to remember and write.

The Christian right made no secret of its decades-long quest for political power, and did not hide what they would do if they got that power. Greg writes: “They said what they would do, and we did not listen. Then they did what they said they would do.” Struggling with perspective and memory, the memoirist recounts the country’s long slow descent to religious authoritarianism, propelled by economic distress, a second major terrorist attack, and the fanatical ambitions of an extremist evangelical minority.

Yeah.

Anyway, Ace poked a little fun at some of the sparkling dialogue from this true masterpiece. As always, the comments are a must-read as well.

9

Various and Sundry, 8/19/13

I’m on vacation, so this will be short and quick.

Take That Health Food Crazies

McDonald’s Double Cheeseburger is the cheapest, most nutritious food ever, at least according to one of the authors of Freaknonomics.

Chris Christie Continues to Endear Himself to GOP Base

Christie signs bill outlawing conversion therapy for minors.

In other Jersey news, 1 in 4 Jersians between the age of 18-31 are living at home with mom and/or dad.

Birtherism Lives

Well, if it involves a Republican, then it’s okay.

FWIW, Cruz is constitutionally eligible.

Bears on the Attack

This is not the kind of news story one wants to read right after seeing this in the backyard of the house you’re staying in:

Photo: Look! Bear!

Various and Sundry, 8/16/13

Egyptian Christians Under Assault

So a religious minority is being systematically attacked, and the news is greeted with crickets by the mainstream American press. But at least Al Jazeera (!) is there to report on it.

Security forces moved to violently disperse two protest camps by supporters of ousted president Mohamed Morsi in Cairo on Wednesday morning, setting in motion a day of deadly violence that left at least 525 people dead in clashes across the country.

Amid the violence, alleged Morsi supporters carried out on dozens of attacks on churches and Christian-owned properties throughout the country.

Mina Thabet, an activist with Christian rights group the Maspero Youth Union, told Al Jazeera on Friday that at least 32 churches had been “completely destroyed, burned or looted” in eight different governorates over the previous two days. The group also recorded dozens of other attacks on Christian-owned shops, businesses and schools around the country.

Obamacare Pushing Americans into Part-Time Work

Wow, who could have predicted this development? Well, other than pretty much everyone who opposed Obamacare and said this would happen.

The Affordable Care Act requires mid-sized and large employers to sponsor health insurance for all full-time employees, which it defines as those who work 30 hours a week or more. Big labor unions, which had been in favor of the new law, are now sounding the alarm against it. They argue the sticker shock from the premium hikes is leading businesses to offset the impact by capping hours on employees, despite a recently announced one-year delay in that insurance mandate. If workers don’t clock 30 hours a week, the reasoning goes, employers won’t have to offer health insurance.

So the big labor unions who paid thousands to pretend to be pushed their grassroots activists to actively demonstrate their support for the bill are only now realizing that this will hurt their members?

NSA Broke Privacy Rules Thousands of Times

I am not as strongly opposed to the NSA surveillance program as most of you, but this is more than a bit worrisome.

The National Security Agency has broken privacy rules or overstepped its legal authority thousands of times each year since Congress granted the agency broad new powers in 2008, according to an internal audit and other top-secret documents.

Most of the infractions involve unauthorized surveillance of Americans or foreign intelligence targets in the United States, both of which are restricted by statute and executive order. They range from significant violations of law to typographical errors that resulted in unintended interception of U.S. e-mails and telephone calls.

Oddly enough, the typographical errors worry me more, because it signifies how easily your rights can be violated by a mammoth bureaucracy that has little accountability.

As Though TSA Agents Needed Another Excuse

Al-Qaeda’s chief bomb-maker Ibrahim al-Asiri is thought to have developed explosives that can be concealed in implants or bodily cavities and escape detection from airport scanners, according to The Mirror.

One staff member said: “There are genuine fears over this.

“We have been told to pay particular attention to females who may have concealed hidden explosives in their breasts.

Pamela Anderson has jumped to the top of the terrorist watch list.

How the Hobbit Should Have Ended

An alternative vision.

Various and Sundry, 8/15/13

Biblical Roots of the Teaching of the Assumption

Msgr. Pope drops some knowledge on this Feast Day.

The actual event of the Assumption is not described in Scripture. However, there are “assumptions” recorded in the Scriptures and the concept is thus biblical.

  1. It happened to Enoch in the Old Testament The Book of Genesis records: Enoch walked with God; then he was no more, because God took him away (Gen. 5:24). Hebrews 11: 5 elaborates: By faith Enoch was taken up so that he should not see death; and he was not found, because God had taken him. Now before he was taken he was attested as having pleased God.

  2. It also happened to Elijah as he walked with Elisha: And as they still went on and talked, behold, a chariot of fire and horses of fire separated the two of them. And Elijah went up by a whirlwind into heaven….And he was seen no more. (2 Kings 2:11 ).

  3. Some say Moses too was taken up since his grave is not known. As we read in yesterday’s first reading at Mass: He was buried in Moab, in the valley opposite Beth Peor, but to this day no one knows where his grave is (Dt. 34:6). The text of course does not say his body was taken up and if it was, it occurred after death and burial. Jude 1:9 hints at the fact when is says, But even the archangel Michael, when he was disputing with the devil about the body of Moses….. (Jude 1:9) Some further credibility is lent to the view of him being assumed by the fact that he appears alongside Elijah in the Transfiguration account. Some of the Church Fathers held this view and there is also a Jewish work from the 6th Century AD entitled The Assumption of Moses that represents the tradition of his assumption. But in the end the Assumption of Moses only a view held by some and it not officially held by the Church.

More at the link.

Obama worse than Nixon? Well duh.

Presidential powers have been expanding almost exponentially for about a century. We have seemingly reached a point where the President can act without Congressional authority for any reason at all. George Will captures why Obama’s administration has been especially pernicious.

Explaining his decision to unilaterally rewrite the Affordable Care Act (ACA), he said: “I didn’t simply choose to” ignore the statutory requirement for beginning in 2014 the employer mandate to provide employees with health care. No, “this was in consultation with businesses.”

He continued: “In a normal political environment, it would have been easier for me to simply call up the speaker and say, you know what, this is a tweak that doesn’t go to the essence of the law. . . . It looks like there may be some better ways to do this, let’s make a technical change to the law. That would be the normal thing that I would prefer to do. But we’re not in a normal atmosphere around here when it comes to Obamacare. We did have the executive authority to do so, and we did so.”

Serving as props in the scripted charade of White House news conferences, journalists did not ask the pertinent question: “Wheredoes the Constitution confer upon presidents the ‘executive authority’ to ignore the separation of powers by revising laws?” The question could have elicited an Obama rarity: brevity. Because there is no such authority.

This inspires Will to compare Obama with Nixon.

In a 1977 interview with Richard Nixon, David Frost asked: “Would you say that there are certain situations . . . where the president can decide that it’s in the best interests of the nation . . . and do something illegal?”

Nixon: “Well, when the president does it, that means it is not illegal.”

Frost: “By definition.”

Nixon: “Exactly, exactly.”

Nixon’s claim, although constitutionally grotesque, was less so than the claim implicit in Obama’s actions regarding the ACA. Nixon’s claim was confined to matters of national security or (he said to Frost) “a threat to internal peace and order of significant magnitude.” Obama’s audacity is more spacious; it encompasses a right to disregard any portion of any law pertaining to any subject at any time when the political “environment” is difficult.

Wounded Warriors Unable to Eat at Dining Hall

You just sometimes have to wonder if people inside the government are capable of rational thought.

The Glories of the Arab Spring Continue Apace

Well at least the UN is on the case.

The UN Security Council is calling on both the Egyptian government and the Muslim Brotherhood to exercise “maximum restraint” and end the violence spreading across the country, which has claimed more than 600 lives.

Council members called for national reconciliation, expressed regret at the loss of life and sent sympathy to the victims.

Up next: a very strongly worded letter.

One Step Forward, One Step Back

Leave it to Major League Baseball to come to its senses regarding replay, and then ruin this moment of clarity by aping the NFL’s absurd challenge system.

Mmmmmm. Bacon.

I heartily endorse this recipe. Store bought bacon will just never suffice again.

5

Various and Sundry, 8/14/13

Ashton Kutcher Offers Excellent Advice. No. Really.

Ashton Kutcher + Teen Choice Awards = Disaster, right? No, actually Ashton Kutcher delivered one of the most heartfelt, awe-inspiring speeches an actor has ever delivered.

Here’s what he said:

I believe that opportunity looks a lot like hard work.  When I was 13 I had my first job with my dad carrying shingles up to the roof.  And then I got a job washing dishes at a restaurant.  And then I got a job in a grocery store deli.  And then I got a job in a factory sweeping cheerio dust off the ground.  And I’ve never had a job in my life that I was better than.  I was always just lucky to have a job.  And every job I had was a steppingstone to my next job, and I never quit my job until I had my next job.  And so opportunities look a lot like work.

He later added.

The sexiest thing in the entire world is being really smart and being thoughtful, and being generous.  Everything else is crap, I promise you.  It’s just crap that people try to sell to you to make you feel like less.  So don’t buy it.  Be smart, be thoughtful, and be generous.

Rush Limbaugh basically spent most of his show today talking about this speech. This is the first time many of these kids are hearing this message. Kudos to Ashton. I mean Chris.

Bring Back Lese-Majeste.

If you haven’t heard, a rodeo clown in Missouri was barred from all future state fairs basically for the high crime of offending our President. Michael Auslin at National Review says it’s high time we bring back lese-majeste.

By now all America has heard of the national tragedy that occurred in Missouri. A rogue rodeo clown insulted the dignity of our princeps civitatis, I mean, President of the United States, at the Missouri State Fair. According to Tribune of the People, I mean U.S. Representative, William Lacy Clay, the offending clown threatened the safety of our Nation by showing “hatred, intolerance and disrespect.” This was echoed by provincial deputy governor, I mean state lieutenant governor, Peter Kinder, who “condemned the actions disrespectful” to our President.

What’s that about a war on women?

At this point we need to start keeping track of the women that San Diego Bob Filner (D) hasn’t sexually harassed. Of course since he has a D next to his name it’s totally cool to sweep this under the rug and ignore it. That’s exactly what the Democratic party did because winning elections is more important than protecting women.

An American Bishop Switches Political Parties.

Clearly just another liberal prelate done in by the siren song of the Calvinist American heresy.

Wake me up when September ends.

Okay, here’s how this defund Obamacare thing is going to play out. We’re going to have six weeks of nonstop jabbering. On one hand, we’ll have the chorus of folks who claim that anything short of an absolute government shut down is a complete RINO sellout that signifies the death of our republic. On the other, we’ll hear the chorus of the perpetually concerned who will argue that the Republican party will be doomed for all eternity if we even sniff a government shutdown. Each side will hurl their anathema sits, and this will be the topic of approximately 95% of all political discourse in those six weeks. We’ll come close to the point of no return, then we’ll get a deal, and then we will be back to where we started. There will be no political repercussions, good or bad, for either side. And we’ll basically forget about this until the next political crisis.

There, I just saved you six weeks of news reading. Can we get back to other things now?

12 movie cliches we never need to see again

Yeah, number three is especially annoying.

 

Link Roundup

Because when you go three weeks between blogposts, things sort of build up in the queue.

The Enemy of My Enemy Is Still My Enemy

Typically brilliant insight from Simcha Fisher about the sudden conservative and Christian appreciation for Mother Russia – you know, the authoritarian state run by the corrupt,  narcissistic, kleptomaniac.

Who Knew? The welfare state may not be such a great thing after all.

Fascinating documentary in Great Britain where welfare recipients are forced to live on 1949 allotments. If your primary concern is making sure those on welfare have every last need and want met, then the modern system is the way to go. On the other hand, if you’re into old fashioned concepts such as human dignity, maybe things were better once upon a time.

Voter ID Laws = Jim Crow

Leave it to a mediocre pop artist to really get to the heart of the issue. John Legend has decreed that the newly passed voter ID law in North Carolina is the new Jim Crow. Because having to show a picture of yourself before voting is totally the same as segregated schools.

The Cowardice of the Stupid Party

Republican Congressman would totally love to hold town hall meetings during the summer recess to discuss the immigration bill, but they like got that thing that they gotta do. You know. That thing. Right Vinny?

The Fourth Branch

The usual cheerful article from Kevin Williamson. President Obama has essentially handed over the management of government to bureaucratic functionaries. If anything Williamson undersells the painful reality of life in Washington. Our government is in the hands of well-meaning, well-credentialed, but power-hungry managerial type so perfectly depicted in CS Lewis’s masterpiece, That Hideous Strength. Basically it’s the N.I.C.E. minus the scary head thing. What’s worse is that President Obama is using these agencies to bypass that pesky little thing known as Congress. As Williamson puts it:

IPAB is the most dramatic example of President Obama’s approach to government by expert decree, but much of the rest of his domestic program, from the Dodd-Frank financial-reform law to his economic agenda, is substantially similar. In total, it amounts to that fundamental transformation of American society that President Obama promised as a candidate: but instead of the new birth of hope and change, it is the transformation of a constitutional republic operating under laws passed by democratically accountable legislators into a servile nation under the management of an unaccountable administrative state. The real import of Barack Obama’s political career will be felt long after he leaves office, in the form of a permanently expanded state that is more assertive of its own interests and more ruthless in punishing its enemies. At times, he has advanced this project abetted by congressional Democrats, as with the health-care law’s investiture of extraordinary powers in the executive bureaucracy, but he also has advanced it without legislative assistance — and, more troubling still, in plain violation of the law. President Obama and his admirers choose to call this “pragmatism,” but what it is is a mild expression of totalitarianism, under which the interests of the country are conflated with those of the president’s administration and his party. Barack Obama is the first president of the democracy that John Adams warned us about.

The Worst Decision Ever Made in the Harry Potter Universe

And on a lighter note, a look back at a rather questionable hiring decision.

 

 

29

Catholic and SSA

Joseph Prever, who has blogged under the pseudonym Steve Gershom, (and who is Simcha Fisher’s brother), has written a rather intimate post discussing being homosexual and a practicing Catholic. You should read the whole thing, but here’s the key point:

You probably know this already, but I’m celibate, because I’m Catholic. You will not hear me talking about When Oh When Will The Church Get With The Times, because that kind of talk is boring nonsense. Guys, the whole point of having the Church is having one thing, just one!, that you can depend on to always be the same. Thank God for that.

If you want a church that constantly changes to fit in with whatever’s fashionable this decade, there are a bazillion options, and you’re bound to find one that is custom-tailored to your particular set of prejudices. Happy shopping.

It’s actually harder to come out as celibate than to come out as gay. Various people have pitied me, or tried to convince me that my life is vewwy vewwy sad, or tried to talk me out of it, or even surreptitiously tried to set me up with their gay friends. If you do this shit, I will not spin-kick you in the face, but I will very badly want to.

Now as is typical for the Catholic blogopshere, while many if not most have been supportive of Joseph, there is a rather vocal undercurrent that is more critical. Some of the more vitriolic, and frankly unhinged comments are simply not worth the time to respond to. There are a couple of more rational criticisms, expressed in many circles, that are worth addressing.

That Joseph uses the word “gay” to describe himself has bothered many. You’ll hear this complaint on many topics related to same sex attraction, particularly if you ever use the term “gay marriage.” There is some merit to this objection, as words do have significant connotations. Even Prever himself is uncomfortable with the word, and says so himself:

Some people have a problem with the word “gay”. That’s okay; I get it. I have a problem with it too. I’ve written a little about that. It’s not a perfect word, but words are like that. You have to know the context. My life is the context. Get to know me first, and then we can argue about it.

Unlike most who have read this paragraph I gather, I bothered to look at the link Prever provided, and it opened to his about page where he writes this:

So are you gay, or what?

You could say that, if you wanted to, although I don’t like the term and don’t identify with it. I’m attracted primarily and almost exclusively to men, and have been since I was about fourteen; but I don’t date men or have sex with them, so where does that leave me? I’m a faithful Catholic, so a romantic relationship with another man literally doesn’t fit into the way I see the world. I don’t see myself as different in any essential way from heterosexual men, so describing myself as “gay” doesn’t seem to fit.

On the other hand, “homosexual” sounds clinical, “queer” certainly isn’t me, and “man who’s attracted to other men” is cumbersome. So, “gay” is a useful sort of shorthand, and I’ll use it from time to time until a better word comes along. SSA (same-sex attraction) is a useful term too, as in “He has SSA” rather than “He is SSA.”

Okay, but can’t you please use some other word besides “gay”? People are going to get the wrong idea.

People have made the point that, by using the same terminology used by those who hold the view that homosexuality is a normal, natural, healthy, super-wonderful sexual variant of human behavior, I’m implicitly legitimizing that view.

This is a valid point. Over and against this point, however, I weigh the fact that the word “gay” is immediately recognizable. If anyone cares enough to read what I’ve written on the blog, they’ll find out what I think about it. And — let’s be honest — “gay” is much better for SEO purposes.

Scandal! Well, not really. This is an eminently reasonable argument. If you want to quibble, feel free, but to me it seems rather pedantic, and I’m not about to cast Mr. Prever into the hellfire for using the term.

The more serious criticism is basically this: it is wrong for Prever to identify as gay (or homosexual or SSA) publicly, as he is giving tacit support for the lifestyle. Essentially, his public profession gives scandal.

This is wrongheaded for a number of reasons. As he makes abundantly clear, he lives a chaste life. No one who reads what he has written could claim with any level of intellectual honesty that he has given tacit support for the homosexual lifestyle, or that his admission of being gay somehow implies that identifies as gay above being Catholic, or that it is his sole defining identification. I would like to believe that this audience is familiar enough with the Catechism to understand that nothing that Prever wrote contradicts in any way the Church’s teachings on homosexuality.

More importantly, the calls for Mr. Prever to, for lack of a better term, stay in the closet strikes me as stupefyingly boneheaded. We live in a culture where homosexual behavior is not only accepted, it is largely celebrated. Here we have an amazing testimony that goes profoundly against the grain. Here we have a gay man (sorry, homosexual) who proudly testifies to the truth of Holy Scripture, affirms the magisterial teaching of the Holy Church, and conforms his life to these teachings. And he should shut up? This magnificent sign of contradiction shouldn’t evangelize to the truth? Are you kidding me?

It seems that so often we Catholics strive diligently to be our own worst enemies. We do our best to shout down the very people who are the greatest testimonies to the awesome love  of our Lord.

I understand to a point the almost reflexive anger demonstrated by some Catholics when it comes to homosexuality. We feel we’re banging our heads collectively against a wall, battling a culture that seems (and is) outright hostile to our values. The Gestapo-like tactics employed against those who oppose this cultural transformation sickens us all. But can we just take a minute before becoming the caricatures we’re portrayed to be? Can we display that love of Christ here on Earth and embrace those who are the very exemplars of courage and sacrifice? Or would we rather obsesses over semantics and condemn to hell the very people who most need our support?

6

Full Obamacare Implementation Delayed. Again.

When the Affordable Care Act (Obamacare) passed it was touted as one of the most significant pieces of legislation in American history. This was going to make health care affordable to every living person in this country. It was of such monumental importance that left-wing Catholics assured us all that it was worth throwing over the unborn in order to continue supporting President Obama. This was the stuff that was gonna help stop the oceans from rising and help create a new Heaven and a new Earth.

In the words of our Catholic Vice President, it was a big effin deal.

Yeah, about that big effin deal:

The Obama administration will delay a crucial provision of its signature health-care law, giving businesses an extra year to comply with a requirement that they provide their workers with insurance.

 

The government will postpone enforcement of the so-called employer mandate until 2015, after the congressional elections, the administration said yesterday. Under the provision, companies with 50 or more workers face a fine of as much as $3,000 per employee if they don’t offer affordable insurance.

 

It’s the latest setback for a health-care law that has met resistance from Republicans, who have sought to make the plan a symbol of government overreach. Republican-controlled legislatures and governors in several states have refused funding to expand Medicaid coverage for the poor and declined to set up exchanges where individuals can buy insurance, leaving the job to the federal government.

 

The delay in the employer mandate addresses complaints from business groups to President Barack Obama’s administration about the burden of the law’s reporting requirements.

 

“The administration has finally recognized the obvious — employers need more time and clarification of the rules of the road before implementing the employer mandate,” Randy Johnson, a senior vice president at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the nation’s largest business lobby, said in an e-mail.

 

Valerie Jarrett, a senior Obama adviser, said in a blog post announcing the move that the administration decided on the delay so officials could simplify reporting requirements and give employers a chance to adjust their health-care coverage.

It’s such a ground-breaking, vitally important law that full implementation keeps getting pushed back further and further in the future. The original provisions largely weren’t even slated to take effect for four years after initial passage. On top of the number of institutions that have requested – and were granted – waivers, this latest news hints at the fact that this law might not be the signature achievement of the human race after all.

It is fitting that this announcement should come on the anniversary of the date in which the Continental Congress voted to declare the thirteen colonies’ independence from Great Britain and King George. After all, imagine the horrors of living under the rule of an administration that could, for example, decide which laws of the United States to defend in Court, or could decide when laws passed by Congress actually took effect.

(By the way, speaking of our establishment of self-rule, Bloomberg should be chided for using the term “fees” above. Chief Justice John Roberts would be very displeased to see such language in reference to Obamacare.)

If nothing else, perhaps this latest development will caution us against passing behemoth-sized legislation that no one has read and that we are urged to pass in order to know what’s in it.

On an unrelated note, the House will take up the Senate’s immigration bill after the recess.

10

Too Dumb for Parody

With the special session of the Texas legislature set to soon vote on legislation to ban abortions past 20 weeks, the Death Eaters who seek to beat back this legislation have come upon a can’t miss strategy to garner support: chant “Hail Satan.”

The same orange-clad abortion rights supporters who sent children to #StandWithWendy in Texas today holding signs like “Stay out of my mommy’s vagina” didn’t limit themselves to strictly scientific arguments for unrestricted access to abortion. Groups of protesters also countered pro-life groups’ prayers with chants of “Hail Satan.”

There’s a full rundown at Twitchy.

As one bard tweeted, at least they get points for accuracy.

10

Bad Faith Arguments and Immigration

NB – this was originally posted at the Catholic Stand.

——————————————————————–

I would like to use this space to talk with you about an issue of the utmost moral importance. It’s an issue where no clear-thinking, righteous Catholic could possibly differ in judgment. Yes, it’s time that Catholics united and stood up for legislation that outlaws the use of incandescent light bulbs. Not only would such legislation help protect our environment, but it is actually mandated in the Bible. Are you not familiar with Mathew 25:35?

For I was hungry, and you gave me to eat; I was thirsty, and you gave me to drink; I was a stranger, and you took me in:

If you’re wondering what this Scripture passage has to do with banning incandescent light bulbs, well, it’s as applicable to this issue as it is to the Senate’s attempts to pass an immigration reform bill. Yet  our Vice President has cited this passage to shame  Christians into supporting immigration reform.

You’ll pardon me for failing to see how this biblical injunction means that I must support a bill that allows those who have entered the country illegally to jump ahead of those who desire legal passage into this country.

Unfortunately it has become something of a game to misappropriate bible verses in order to justify either legislation or, in some circles, to actually defend behavior or attitudes that contradict most other Bible passages. How often have you read a blog post criticizing, say, Nancy Pelosi for defending abortion rights, only to see someone in the comments to said post utilize the “let he who is without sin cast the first stone?” non-argument? It’s not enough to just cite the passage, you actually have to demonstrate how the passage you’re citing actually links to the position you’re taking. Sure, not every Bible verse will literally match up and you do need to interpret according to the proper context, but there should be at least a reasonable nexus between the Scripture quotation and your position on a semi-related issue.

What’s also infuriating about Biden’s sudden adherence to biblical literalism is that he glosses over, say 1 Corinthians 6:9 when it comes to same-sex marriage, and that pesky 6th Commandment when it comes to abortion. Yet strained references to unrelated Bible passages are perfectly acceptable according to ole Joe when it’s a piece of legislation his boss and his party are really desperate to pass.

If only Joe Biden were the only Catholic stretching logic in order to justify Senate action. Archbishop Jose H. Gomez of Los Angeles, the Chairman of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Committee on Migration, authored this letter encouraging support for the Senate’s bill. I don’t think there’s anything inherently wrong with the Bishops supporting immigration reform, it’s just that the arguments deployed in defense of the bill are, well, indefensible, starting with this:

Each day in our parishes, social service programs, hospitals, and schools we witness the human consequences of a broken immigration system. Families are separated, migrant workers are exploited, and our fellow human beings die in the desert.

This is a very unfortunate choice of words. Note the use of the passive voice: families are separated, migrant workers are exploited. What this passage does is essentially deny any agency in the migrant worker. In fact, the wording actually dehumanizes the worker in a certain sense because it takes away any moral culpability on his part. Those who have chosen to immigrate to the United States – legally or illegally – have largely not done so against their will (I will not discuss here those who have been forced to leave the country against their will thanks to our lack of effective border security). If families are separated, then that responsibility adheres to the individual or individuals who have knowingly entered the country illegally.

There is more:

We can continue on our current path, which employs an immigration system that does not serve the rule of law or the cause of human rights, or we can create a system which honors both principles.

I have admitted that the current immigration system could use improving, but this is complete hyperbole. Even if one grants – as I do – that the current system is overly restrictive, how does it not serve the rule of law? Is the system unjust? No. Moreover, Archbishop Gomez fails to recognize where the rule of law is not being respected. It’s the person who has entered the country illegally who has flouted the rule of law. If the system is broken, then perhaps we should point the fingers at those who have broken it by overrunning it.

We can maintain a system that fosters illegal behavior and undermines the law, or fashion one that provides incentives for legal behavior and is based upon fairness and opportunity.

Again, in trying to defend the migrant worker the good Archbishop is effectively dehumanizing him by suggesting that the person just has no other recourse than to break the law. Furthermore, the very bill that Archbishop Gomez and his fellow American Bishops are promoting creates dis-incentives for legal behavior. Those who are already here illegally will not be punished other than in the most minimal way, and most of the supposed restrictions being placed on them can easily be disregarded. In essence, they will have an opportunity to gain legal status ahead of those who have played by the rules. Where is the fairness in that? Where is the respect for the rule of law in that?

I am growing tired of those who misuse Scripture and who offer empty platitudes in an attempt to convince Catholics they are morally obligated to support certain public policies. Of course Jesus’s words and teaching should always be at the forefront of our minds as we’re formulating political opinions. What I find offensive are efforts to appropriate those teachings and infer a certain pre-determined end.

3

Kevin Williamson: Abortion After Texas

At some point I’m sure I’ve read a better post than Kevin Williamson’s today on National Review about abortion. But, for the life of me, not a single one comes to mind.

I guess I’m somewhat obligated to highlight some passage or another, so here it goes:

There are many religious people in the pro-life camp, but it is not a religious question. It is a question about the legal status of an entity that is under any biological interpretation a 1) distinct, 2) living, 3) human 4) organism at the early stages of development. Consider those four characteristics in order: There is no scientific dispute about whether an embryo is genetically distinct from the body in which it resides, about whether the tissue in question is living or not living, about whether the tissue in question is human or non-human, or whether it is an organism as opposed to a part of another organism, like an appendix or a fingernail.

The pro-abortion response to this reality is to retreat into mysticism, in this case the mysterious condition of “personhood.” The irony of this is that the self-professedly secularist pro-abortion movement places itself in roughly the same position as that of the medieval Christians who argued about such metaphysical questions as “ensoulment.” If we use the biological standard, the embryo is exactly what pro-lifers say it is: a distinct human organism at the early stages of development. If we instead decide to pursue the mystical standard of “personhood,” we may as well be debating about angels dancing on the head of a pin.

The main biological question at issue is the question of “viability.” But viability is a standard in motion, thanks in no small part to the fact that in every aspect of medical practice save abortion we prefer scientific standards to mystical ones. And the viability standard is in the end an intellectual dodge as well: You will never discover if an organism is viable by setting out intentionally to kill it.

There is a great deal of vacuity in the debate. The usual pro-abortion platitudes are so far from being intellectually respectable that they are answered only out of a sense of duty, not because they deserve to be answered. “I’m personally against abortion, but . . . ” would rightly be laughed out of existence if it were “I’m personally against murder/slavery/robbery, but . . . ” Which is to say, it is a statement that is defensible only if one assumes beforehand that abortion is not a species of homicide. Similar examples of begging the question include “It’s the woman’s body,” etc. We simply must answer the question — which is a biological question, not a mystical one — of how many bodies there are in question. I count at least two in the case of abortion. “People will still have abortions, only they’ll be dangerous.” People will still commit homicides, and crime would be less dangerous if we disarmed the police and forbade victims to defend themselves. The statement, like the others, makes sense only if we ignore the salient facts of the case.

Now go read the rest. Like right now. Go.

All right. A little more.

Encountering the architectural monuments and administrative sophistication of the Incans and Aztecs, the Europeans were confounded that such marvels could be done by cultures practicing human sacrifice. Huitzilopochtli may have faded away, but career, vanity, and sexual convenience are very much with us, and they, too, are jealous gods, who apparently insist on being served in the same way. The metaphysical explanations may be radically different, but the physical facts of the cases are not entirely dissimilar. If our descendents one day wonder that savages such as ourselves flew to the moon, it will speak well of them, even as they wonder that such brilliant engineers had so impoverished a conception of what it means to be human.

5

Sorry Mr. Franklin, We Couldn’t

I was going to provide an analysis of both of the Supreme Court decisions today related to gay marriage, but instead I will focus on Hollingsworth v. Perry, which was concerned with California’s Prop 8. But first a couple of thoughts about US v. Windsor, the DOMA case. The immediate short-term impact of the case is somewhat limited in scope. Federal benefits will be conferred upon same-sex couples who live in states that recognize their partnership as marriage. The long-term impact, however, is much starker, as will be explained in a moment.

Both Justices Alito and Scalia provide blistering dissents, and they should be read in full. They disagree on a technical though not insignificant point about the standing of the Bipartisan Legal Advisory Group, or BLAG (and for the record, I tend to side with Alito). First of all, Scalia properly notes that, despite the rhetoric in Kennedy’s opinion, this was not a federalism case, or at least the case was not decided on federalism grounds. In fact, contrary to exhortations of some so-called libertarians on twitter, this case has the ultimate effect of further eroding states’ rights regarding same-sex marriage. Had this case been decided on federalism (10th amendment) grounds, then the outcome would have been possibly justifiable. But the majority’s reliance on 5th and 14th amendment concerns – effectively relying on the absurd legal doctrine of substantive due process – runs completely counter to the federalism argument, and paves the way for future challenges to state laws that prohibit same-sex marriage.

Justice Scalia recognizes this farce for what it is, and reminds the public of the exchange between these two very same Justices ten years ago to the date in Lawrence v. Texas. Then Justice Kennedy assured us all that striking down anti-sodomy laws would not eventually be used as a rationale for upending traditional marriage, and Scalia scoffed at him in the dissent. Well, guess who’s looking prophetic now. Even left-wing pundit David Corn (gleefully, this case) acknowledges Scalia’s prescience. Kennedy, backed up by the obtuse Chief Justice, assures us that nothing in this decision interferes with state decision-making on marriage. Once again Scalia scoffs, and, sadly, at some point in the future he will no doubt be proven right.

As for the Prop 8 case: my what a tangled web. I have been defending Chief Justice Roberts’s decision (joined, I may remind you, by Antonin Scalia along with three of the Court’s leftists) on the grounds that had the case been decided on the merits, it is quite possible that the same 5-4 majority in Windsor would have held Prop 8 to be unconstitutional, and this would have been the Roe v. Wade of gay marriage. Now, I’m not so sure.

Admittedly, I am somewhat conflicted on the ruling on standing. The majority concludes that the petitioners did not have standing because they were not official delegates of the state, and they did not experience any harm due to the appellate court’s ruling decreeing Prop 8 to be unconstitutional. From a  certain point of view, this is a perfectly acceptable legal holding. Scalia made a very good case in his Windsor dissent for a blanket denial of standing to all non-state petitioners in such cases. Scalia is acting fairly consistently, thus that explains why he voted with the majority here.

That said, the Chief Justice’s opinion is very worrisome, and not just from the standpoint of traditional marriage. As Justice Kennedy (!) explained in his dissent (joined in totality by Thomas, Alito, and Sotomayor), the petitioners here do, in effect, represent the state. In fact the state constitution all but says that when it comes to ballot initiatives, ordinary citizens are agents of the state. I would go a step further and suggest that Roberts offers up a very constrained view of who the state is. According to his logic, the “state” is nothing more than the Chief Executive and the bureaucracy. From a technical legal standpoint this is fine, but the very point of a ballot initiative is to bypass state officials whom the citizenry at large have decided are not acting in their best interests. I have written before about my concerns (to put it mildly) regarding ballot initiatives, but it is illogical to deny that the ballot initiative process changes the normal dynamics of who has legal standing.

The Chief suggests on page 8 of his opinion that once the proposition was approved and enacted, that petitioners no longer had a role in enactment. But if the executive branch of the government refuses to defend the amendment or statute, that leaves the citizens with no legal recourse.

The petitioners relied on the case of Karcher v. May to argue that they indeed had standing, but Chief Roberts denied that the the ruling there was applicable.

Far from supporting petitioners’ standing, however, Karcher is compelling precedent against it. The legislators in that case intervened in their official capacities as  Speaker and President of the legislature. No one doubts that a State has a cognizable interest “in the continued enforceability” of its laws that is harmed by a judicial decision declaring a state law unconstitutional. Maine v. Taylor, 477 U. S. 131, 137 (1986). To vindicate that interest or any other, a State must be able to designate agents to represent it in federal court.

But in a case revolving around a ballot initiative, haven’t the voters themselves become, in essence, the equivalent of legislators?

Roberts’s reticence to grant standing in this case is understandable, and I can see why Scalia would join the majority. In his Windsor defense, Scalia admirably rails against the idea of an omnipotent judiciary that decrees on all constitutional issues just because it wants to. An overly broad interpretation of who has standing empowers the judiciary. But I think this is a rare case in which judicial deference actually damages the workings of the republican process. For good or ill, Californians have favored a much more directly democratic system, and the Court’s majority fails to factor that into its decision-making. By denying standing to the petitioners, the Court has said that citizens have no real redress should state executives defy their expressed wishes.

Which leads me back to my uncertainty over the rationale over the votes cast in these two cases. I’m in the odd position where I disagree with the person who I think has the cleaner motive, but agree with the person whose motives are perhaps suspect. I have no doubt that if this case had been decided on the merits, Chief Justice Roberts would have voted to uphold Prop 8, while I’m not so certain about Kennedy.  Scalia acted consistently with his overall principles, as did Alito (who would have granted standing to BLAG). Thomas offered no opinion in either case, but I suspect his reasoning would be similar to that of Alito, and so he acted consistently on the standing question as did, quite frankly, Sonia Sotomayor. As for the Court’s three other left-wingers – well, they did what they always did and just voted for the right (in their minds) outcome, reasoning be damned.

No matter the rationale for Roberts’s decision, it has ill portents. If Roberts acted strategically, then he abdicated his responsibility to be an impartial arbiter of the law. If he acted earnestly, well, he was simply wrong. More importantly, we’re stuck in a situation where the actual wishes of a democratic majority are trivial concerns compared to the desires of a handful of unelected judges. No matter how they voted today, this is simply untenable, and there is no end to this judicial tyranny in sight.

 

23

DOMA Overturned, Prop 8 Case Dismissed for Lack of Standing

Unsurprising results. Here is the DOMA decision, and here is the Prop 8 decision.

Both were 5-4 decisions. Kennedy delivered the opinion of the Court on DOMA, Roberts on Prop 8.  The lineups were slightly different. The dissenters on DOMA were Roberts, Alito, Scalia, and Thomas, and on Prop 8 Kennedy, Thomas, Alito, and  . . . Sotomayor. Prop 8 fell because of standing and not on the merits of the legal issue, so the Court lineup actually doesn’t say much on that one. Of course the end result is that California will now recognize same-sex marriage.

I’ll be back much later with a full analysis. What the Windsor (DOMA) case means is that the federal government cannot prohibit states from recognizing same-sex marriage, and those married in states allowing SSM must receive federal benefits. States are still free to not recognize same-sex marriage, but Kennedy’ s use of the Equal Protection Clause to underpin his argument means that the handwriting is on the wall. Scalia’s dissent is a must-read, but Alito’s is perhaps more significant – particularly footnote 7.

In the meantime, here’s some happy reading for you to ponder for the rest of the day.

Update: I think my explanation of the DOMA decision’s results is a little shaky. This was never about what the states could do, but it simply relates to granting federal benefits to same sex couples who claim to be married.

 

 

6

The Shelby Decision and Uncle Toms

This is, in a sense, a two-part post. The first part examines the decision handed down by the Court in Shelby v. Holder, and the second looks at the hysterical over-reaction.

The decision itself is fairly restrained. In a 5-4 decision, with Chief Justice Roberts delivering the opinion of the Court, the Court ruled as unconstitutional Section 4 of the Voting Rights Act of 1965. Actually, it really just ruled that Congress’s application of a 48-year old formula for determining which states and counties had to seek clearance from the federal government for any changes in its voting laws was lo longer justified. States subject to pre-clearance were those states which had poll tests and other restrictive measures in place at the time of the law’s enactment, and which also had enormous gaps in white versus black voter participation. This formula has remained unchanged for nearly half a century.

As the Chief explained in the ruling, the Court permitted a very wide abrogation of state authority in its decision upholding the Voting Rights Act (Katzenbach v. Morgan). The Court permitted what it termed “an uncommon exercise of Congressional power” due to “exceptional conditions.” As the Chief further explained, those exceptional conditions no longer applied, and indeed in those states and counties subject to pre-clearance there has been increased racial parity in terms of registration and participation. In fact, if one were to construct a list of states that should be subject to pre-clearance based on disparities in voter participation, there would be more justification in including Massachusetts instead of, say, South Carolina.

Justice Ginsburg in her dissent quips, “In the Court’s view, the very success of  Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act demands its dormancy.” By the standards established by the dissenters, the formula established in Section 4 could never be deemed unconstitutional. Further, as Chief Justice Roberts says in his opinion:

The dissent treats the Act as if it were just like any other piece of legislation, but this Court has made clear from the beginning that the Voting Rights Act is far from ordinary. At the risk of repetition, Katzenbach indicated that the Act was “uncommon” and “not otherwise appropriate,” but was justified by “exceptional” and “unique” conditions. 383 U. S., at 334, 335. Multiple decisions since have reaffirmed the Act’s “extraordinary” nature. See, e.g., Northwest Austin, supra, at 211. Yet the dissent goes so far as to suggest instead that the preclearance requirement and disparate treatment of the States should be upheld into the future “unless there [is] no or almost no evidence of unconstitutional action by States.”

Ultimately, the decision is of somewhat limited scope:

Our decision in no way affects the permanent, nationwide ban on racial discrimination in voting found in §2. We issue no holding on §5 itself, only on the coverage formula. Congress may draft another formula based on current conditions. Such a formula is an initial prerequisite to a determination that exceptional conditions still exist justifying such an “extraordinary departure from the traditional course of relations between the States and the Federal Government.” Presley, 502 U. S., at 500–501. Our country has changed, and while any racial discrimination in voting is too much, Congress must ensure that the legislation it passes to remedy that problem speaks to current conditions.

Of course this hasn’t stopped the left from completely over-reacting. A post on the Corner compiled the most over-the-top reactions. Melissa Harris-Perry’s tweet of “Damn, that citizenship thing was so great for awhile,” certainly was cute, but no one is touching Minnesota state rep. Ryan Winkler, who tweeted, “SCOTUS VRA majority is four accomplices to race discrimination and one Uncle Thomas. Marriage decision may blur Court’s backsliding.” Winkler soon deleted that tweet, and followed up with this whopper:

Uh huh.

It’s difficult to determine the most disgusting part of this exchange. Either Winkler is historically illiterate or a liar, though of course nothing necessarily precludes both being true. What’s worse, this white legislator from one of the whitest states in the Union seems to think he knows better than a black man raised in the South about how to deal with racial prejudice. Moreover, whitey has declared himself the judge of authentic blackness. Charming.

Finally, and I realize this is something of a nitpick, but the very term “Uncle Tom” is offensive not just because it carries with it the implicit notion that all African-Americans must think and act a certain way, but because the term itself is based on a character in a historical novel who was the opposite of what the term is meant to imply. I have a feeling that no one who has ever used the phrase has actually read the novel Uncle Tom’s Cabin, because if they had they would have a hard time justifying referring to the character as a race traitor. Then again, we live in a world where Al Sharpton is given legitimacy as a political analyst on a cable news network, so perhaps I underestimate the stupidity of large swathes of the American public.

16

Illegal Immigration and Injustices

Last week Jason Hall posted a column at the Catholic Stand that somewhat snarkily takes on the question of why illegal immigrants don’t just come here legally. Jason rightfully points out that it’s not exactly a piece of cake to legally immigrate to the United States. The process is terribly cumbersome, and it takes years for most people to finally gain legal residence, and that’s the case for people who have more connections and resources than the typical migrant worker.

That being the case, while Hall’s column does a good job at highlighting the inefficiencies of the immigration system, what it does not do is provide justification for the comprehensive immigration reform proposal being discussed in the Senate. As I said in the comments to his post, the question of whether the current process of legal immigration is cumbersome  is not germane to the question of what to do with those individuals who have nonetheless entered the country illegally.

Now some have addressed this by stating that the current system is unjust, and therefore those who have entered the country illegally should not be punished for breaking an unjust law. I should emphasize right up front that Hall himself does not state this, at least in the column, but I have heard other immigration reform supporters make this claim. There are a couple of problems with this argument.

First of all, as admittedly burdensome as the immigration process is, that alone does not make the system unjust. Yes, it’s a bureaucratic mess, but unjust? I am not quite sure that an excess of red tape is an injustice that justifies blatant disregard for American laws and the violation of our sovereign border.

Furthermore, if our system were unjust, those who have immigrated illegally are in fact themselves guilty of committing an injustice, and any legislation that effectively rewarded their behavior would be an even graver injustice. Hundreds of thousands, if not millions of people have begun the process of legally immigrating. The current proposal would effectively grant legal status to millions of people who cut in line, and would do so with minimal punishment. So now some ten million people would have been granted legal privileges ahead of those who respected the laws of this country. Moreover, the already over-loaded immigration bureaucracy would undoubtedly be stretched to even greater degrees in the process of legalizing or normalizing the statuses of those here illegally. I have a hard time believing that the overall immigration process would be smoothed out by such a dramatic change.

There are no easy solutions to this mess, and there are legitimate arguments to be made on behalf of some kind of comprehensive immigration reform plan. Of course it’s hard to avoid the feeling that we’re being sold a bill of goods by disappointingly dishonest politicians. But if we’re going to lament having a broken system, perhaps it’s time to acknowledge that those we are trying to help played a large part in breaking it in the first place.

16

Lowry on Lincoln

Rich Lowry has written a brilliant article (and also evidently a book) defending Abraham Lincoln from his critics on the right. He meticulously goes through the charges that certain people on the fringe right level at Lincoln and rebuts them one by one. For example, on the charge that Lincoln was a great centralizer out to destroy the states, Lowry notes that Lincoln’s view of the nation was little different than James Madison. Madison, like Lincoln, fought against the ideas of the likes of John Calhoun, who had defended the doctrine of nullification and asserted the supremacy of the states. As for secession, Lowry makes a point that I have often made regarding the right of the confederate states to rebel:

In his anti-Lincoln tract The Real Lincoln, Thomas DiLorenzo argues that secession is as American as apple pie. “The United States were founded by secessionists,” he insists, “and began with a document, the Declaration, that justified the secession of the American states.” No. The country was founded by revolutionaries and the Declaration justified an act of revolution. No one denies the right of revolution. Madison said that revolution was an “extra & ultra constitutional right.” Even Lincoln, in his First Inaugural Address, concedes the point: “If, by the mere force of numbers, a majority should deprive a minority of any clearly written constitutional right, it might, in a moral point of view, justify revolution — certainly would, if such right were a vital one.”

 

The friends of secession aren’t eager to invoke the right to revolution, though. For one thing, when a revolution fails, you hang. For another, the Declaration says a revolution shouldn’t be undertaken “for light and transient causes,” but only when a people have suffered “a long train of abuses and usurpations.” What was the train in 1860 and 1861? Seven southern states left the Union before Lincoln was inaugurated. The South had dominated the federal government for decades. Abuses and usurpations? It’s more like lose an election and go home.

He also takes on the likes of Ron Paul, who has asserted that Lincoln could have used the power of the purse to free the slaves rather than fighting a bloody civil war. Lowry writes:

They come up with fanciful alternatives to military conflict. Ron Paul wonders why Lincoln didn’t forestall the war by simply buying up and freeing the slaves. With his usual sense of realism, Paul ignores the fact that Lincoln repeatedly advanced schemes for just such a compensated emancipation. Lincoln argued for these proposals as “the cheapest and most humane way to end the war.” But except in the District of Columbia, they went precisely . . . nowhere. The border states weren’t selling, let alone the South. Even little Delaware, which was selected as a test case because in 1860 it had only 587 slaveholders out of a white population of 90,500, couldn’t be persuaded to cash out of slavery. One plan proposed by Lincoln would have paid $400 or so per slave and achieved full abolition by 1893. A version of the scheme failed in the state’s legislature.

Lowry addresses Lincoln’s war measures, and notes that Lincoln simply used the legitimate powers that were prescribed in the Constitution.

When it comes to the idea that Lincoln’s administration birthed the welfare state, Lowry destroys that argument.

Yet another favorite count against Lincoln on the Right is that he was the midwife for the birth of the modern welfare state — a false claim also made by progressives bent on appropriating him for their own purposes. The war necessarily entailed the growth and centralization of the state, but this hardly makes Lincoln a forerunner to FDR or LBJ. The income tax required to fund the war, instituted in 1861 and soon made into a progressive tax with higher rates for the wealthy, was a temporary measure eliminated in 1872. Wars are expensive. In 1860, the federal budget was well under $100 million. By the end of the war, it was more than $1 billion. But the budget dropped back down to $300 million, excluding payments on the debt, within five years of the end of the war.

 

To see in any of this the makings of the modern welfare state requires a leap of imagination. In the midst of the war, the State Department had all of 33 employees. The famous instances of government activism not directly related to the war — the subsidies to railroads, the Homestead Act — were a far cry from the massive transfer programs instituted in the 20th century. The railroads got land and loan guarantees but were a genuinely transformational technology often, though not always, providing an economic benefit. The Homestead Act, as Lincoln historian Allen Guelzo argues, can be viewed as a gigantic privatization of public lands, which were sold off at a cut rate to people willing to improve their plots.

 

In the North during the war, historian Richard Franklin Bensel points out, the industrial and agricultural sectors ran free of government controls. The labor force, although tapped for manpower for the war, was relatively unmolested. The government became entangled with the financial system, but that system was also becoming more modern, sophisticated, and free of European influence. Given its vitality and wealth, the North could wage the war without subjecting itself to heavy-handed command-and-control policies. Compared with the overmatched Confederacy, it was a laissez-faire haven.

Indeed federal government spending as a percentage of GDP increased to approximately 15 percent at the height of the Civil War, but came crashing down to about a 5 percent level immediately after its conclusion, where it remained until the Wilson administration. (Correction – see comments, spending was even lower, and remained low but for WWI until the Great Depression.)

If anything Lincoln was a Hamiltonian conservative. He believed in a strong national government to be sure, but one essentially limited in scope. It’s rather fitting considering that it was Hamilton’s political enemy – Thomas Jefferson – who Lincoln held up as a hero. It is also rather ironic that often those on the right who deride Lincoln are the same who glorify Jefferson. Perhaps that is a subject also worthy of deeper study.

 

 

2

The Holy Trinity

Today is Trinity Sunday. Msgr. Charles Pope offers a meditation the Feast of the Holy Trinity that explains it about as well as any resource I have ever seen.

There is an old Spiritual that says, My God is so high, you can’t over him, he’s so low, you can’t under him, he’s so wide you can’t round him, you must come in, by and through the Lamb.

 

Not a bad way of saying that God is other, He is beyond what human words can tell or describe, He is beyond what human thoughts can conjure. And on the Feast of the Most Holy Trinity we do well to remember that we are pondering a mystery that cannot fit in our minds.

 

A mystery though, is not something wholly unknown. In the Christian tradition the word “mystery,” among other things, refers to something partially revealed, much more of which lies hid. Thus, as we ponder the teaching on the Trinity, there are some things we can know by revelation, but much more is beyond our reach or understanding.

 

Lets ponder the Trinity by exploring it, seeing how it is exhibited in Scripture, and how we, who are made in God’s image experience it.

As the saying goes, read the rest.

4

Mark Steyn on the Slaughter in Woolwich

I wish I had something cheerier to start the Memorial Day weekend, but Mark Steyn, as usual, knocks it out of the park with his weekend column.

This passivity set the tone for what followed. In London as in Boston, the politico-media class immediately lapsed into the pneumatic multiculti Tourette’s that seems to be a chronic side effect of excess diversity-celebrating: No Islam to see here, nothing to do with Islam, all these body parts in the street are a deplorable misinterpretation of Islam. The BBC’s Nick Robinson accidentally described the men as being “of Muslim appearance,” but quickly walked it back lest impressionable types get the idea that there’s anything “of Muslim appearance” about a guy waving a machete and saying “Allahu akbar.” A man is on TV dripping blood in front of a dead British soldier and swearing “by Almighty Allah we will never stop fighting you,” yet it’s the BBC reporter who’s apologizing for “causing offence.” To David Cameron, Drummer Rigby’s horrific end was “not just an attack on Britain and on the British way of life, it was also a betrayal of Islam. . . . There is nothing in Islam that justifies this truly dreadful act.”

 
How does he know? He doesn’t seem the most likely Koranic scholar. Appearing on David Letterman’s show a while back, Cameron was unable to translate into English the words “Magna Carta,” which has quite a bit to do with that “British way of life” he’s so keen on. But apparently it’s because he’s been up to his neck in suras and hadiths every night sweating for Sharia 101. So has Scotland Yard’s deputy assistant commissioner, Brian Paddick, who reassured us after the London Tube bombings that “Islam and terrorism don’t go together,” and the mayor of Toronto, David Miller, telling NPR listeners after 19 Muslims were arrested for plotting to behead the Canadian prime minister: “You know, in Islam, if you kill one person you kill everybody,” he said in a somewhat loose paraphrase of Koran 5:32 that manages to leave out some important loopholes. “It’s a very peaceful religion.”

 
That’s why it fits so harmoniously into famously peaceful societies like, say, Sweden. For the last week Stockholm has been ablaze every night with hundreds of burning cars set alight by “youths.” Any particular kind of “youth”? The Swedish prime minister declined to identify them any more precisely than as “hooligans.” But don’t worry: The “hooligans” and “youths” and men of no Muslim appearance whatsoever can never win because, as David Cameron ringingly declared, “they can never beat the values we hold dear, the belief in freedom, in democracy, in free speech, in our British values, Western values.” Actually, they’ve already gone quite a way toward eroding free speech, as both prime ministers demonstrate. The short version of what happened in Woolwich is that two Muslims butchered a British soldier in the name of Islam and helpfully explained, “The only reason we have done this is because Muslims are dying every day.” But what do they know? They’re only Muslims, not Diversity Outreach Coordinators. So the BBC, in its so-called “Key Points,” declined to mention the “Allahu akbar” bit or the “I”-word at all: Allah who?

As always, be sure to read the rest.

Douglas Murray also has a must-read column on the subject.

Cheers.

13

Like Most of America, Catholics Heading South

Not even a month after moving down to Atlanta to start college I was asked to attend a wedding in eastern Alabama near the Georgia/Alabama border. As I piled into my friend’s sisters’ car, I explained that I was an Italian Catholic from New York City.

“Oh boy,” was the immediate response.

So naturally I spent the rest of the trip before the weeding envisioning some gentle folks in white hoods rounding me up and stoning me.

Despite my wildest fears, the most abusive thing said to me that weekend was “Yeeeewww taaalk kinda fuh-neee.” Otherwise a weekend in rural Alabama made me realize that the good folks down south, who seemed so alien to me, weren’t so bad after all.

*For the record, I guess I do talk kinda funny, what, with a lifetime of sipping cawfee on Lawn-guy-lund. 

That being said, it still took some getting used to being in an environment where practically everyone I knew wasn’t Catholic. Even though I spent the formative years of my life in the nation’s largest city, surrounded by a multitude of people with different ethnic and religious backgrounds, all but a handful of my friends were Catholic. And living in a borough (Queens) where it seemed there was a Roman Catholic Church on every corner, it was difficult to conceive I could ever live in a location where I would be a distinct minority.

That was nearly twenty years ago, and though things were already changing down south, it’s still impressive to read these kind of reports.

The story of St. Dominic’s Monastery’s southern move may be the story of U.S. Catholicism. New data shows that some of the fastest-growing dioceses in the country are deep in the U.S. South.

The third-fastest-developing diocese is Atlanta, which saw the number of registered parishioners explode from nearly 322,000 in 2002 to 1 million in 2012 — an increase of more than twofold, according to the Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate at Georgetown University. Atlanta also has the largest Eucharistic Congress in the country, with an annual attendance of about 30,000, according to an archdiocesan official.

Atlanta is not alone. Charleston, S.C., has seen a 50% increase in parishioners over the last decade. Charlotte, N.C., grew by a third, as did Little Rock, Ark. The Diocese of Knoxville, Tenn., established just 25 years ago, is now the 25th-fastest- growing diocese in the nation — and would rank near the top if those official figures counted as many as 60,000 unregistered Hispanic congregants, according to a diocesan official.

Dioceses like Knoxville stand in stark contrast to former Catholic strongholds like Boston and Philadelphia, where parish consolidations, school closures and dwindling priests are the norm.

“Instead of us closing parishes and closing schools, we’re doing the opposite. We’re in total growth mode,” said Deacon Sean Smith, chancellor for the Diocese of Knoxville.

This growth is very visible when I visit my Godchildren’s parish in suburban Atlanta and other parts south as well. These parishes are literally teeming with vibrant young communities, and it’s very heartening. Not every aspect of southern Catholicsm is exactly to my taste – Church in the round is a common feather of suburban parishes – but I won’t nitpick too much. I would also agree that the insularity of northern parishes is a stark contrast to the ever-increasing Catholic south.

There’s more at the link on the changing landscape, and it’s definitely worth a read.

14

Government Tyranny? Where Would We Get That Idea

Drew M who blogs at Ace of Spades put together this video compilation.

Of course you have to be some kind of paranoid loon to think that the ever-expanding size of  our government poses some kind of threat to the liberty of American citizens. I mean it’s not like the government is tapping not only the phones of reporters who dare question the regime, but those reporters’ parents as well.  Ummmmm . . .

Well, you know how it is. When a reporter misbehaves, an administration sometimes has to call his parents…or, just seize their phone logs.

Bret Baier revealed Tuesday that, according to Department of Justice documents, one of the numbers listed in DOJ’s demands “also relate to James’ parents’ home in Staten Island.” I can’t yet find a Fox follow-up story on the revelation, but the Staten Island area code, 718, shows up twice in DOJ’s filing in the Stephen Jin-Woo Kim case. The documents are posted here by the New Yorker.

There’s more video at the link, where you can also find this post from Kirsten Powers.

Turns out it’s a fairly swift sojourn from a president pushing to “delegitimize” a news organization to threatening criminal prosecution for journalistic activity by a Fox News reporter, James Rosen, to spying on Associated Press reporters. In between, the Obama administration found time to relentlessly persecute government whistleblowers and publicly harass and condemn a private American citizen for expressing his constitutionally protected speech in the form of an anti-Islam YouTube video.

Where were the media when all this began happening? With a few exceptions, they were acting as quiet enablers.

As Powers goes on to elaborate, it’s not as though Obama and his team didn’t send out early warnings that media questioning of the One would not be  . . . appreciated.

“What I think is fair to say about Fox … is that it really is more a wing of the Republican Party,” said Anita Dunn, White House communications director, on CNN. “[L]et’s not pretend they’re a news network the way CNN is.” On ABC’s “This Week” White House senior adviser David Axelrod said Fox is “not really a news station.” It wasn’t just that Fox News was “not a news organization,” White House chief of staff Rahm Emmanuel told CNN’s John King, but, “more [important], is [to] not have the CNNs and the others in the world basically be led in following Fox, as if what they’re trying to do is a legitimate news organization …”

These series of “warnings” to the Fourth Estate were what you might expect to hear from some third-rate dictator, not from the senior staff of Hope and Change, Inc

Yet only one mainstream media reporter—Jake Tapper, then of ABC News—ever raised a serious objection to the White House’s egregious and chilling behavior. Tapper asked future MSNBC commentator and then White House press secretary Robert Gibbs: “[W]hy is [it] appropriate for the White House to say” that “thousands of individuals who work for a media organization, do not work for a ‘news organization’?” The spokesman for the president of the United States was unrepentant, saying: “That’s our opinion.

Trashing reporters comes easy in Obama-land. Behind the scenes, Obama-centric Democratic operatives brand any reporter who questions the administration as a closet conservative, because what other explanation could there be for a reporter critically reporting on the government?

Now if you listen to certain doyens of the left, there is only one man to blame for the administration’s slippery behavior. That’s right, it all starts at the top, and the man who really is to blame for all of this misconduct is” Continue Reading

3

Devastating Tornado in Oklahoma

This is truly horrifying. Please pray for all those in Moore, Oklahoma.

A mile-wide tornado with 200mph winds churned through Oklahoma City’s suburbs Monday afternoon, causing significant property damage for the second day in a row, as part of a severe weather outbreak that was expected to spread in other parts of the Plains and Midwest.

Television footage on Monday afternoon showed homes and buildings that had been reduced to rubble in Moore, Okla., south of Oklahoma City. Footage also showed vehicles littering roadways south and southwest of Oklahoma City.

Gary Knight with the Oklahoma City Police Department said an elementary school in Moore suffered “extensive damage.” A Norman, Okla. regional health system spokesperson told Fox News that Moore Medical Center, the only hospital in the city, also suffered “extensive structural damage,” demolishing the second floor of the hospital and tearing off part of the roof.

Words do not do the devastation justice.

Update: This will give you some idea of the damage.

As of this writing there are six confirmed dead.

9

An Act of Heroism or A Petty Crime?

Last week Kevin Williamson did something I have often dreamed of doing, although to people talking or texting on cell phones while driving and not in a movie theater.

The show was Natasha, Pierre, and the Great Comet of 1812, which was quite good and which I recommend. The audience, on the other hand, was horrible — talking, using their phones, and making a general nuisance of themselves. It was bad enough that I seriously considered leaving during the intermission, something I’ve not done before. The main offenders were two parties of women of a certain age, the sad sort with too much makeup and too-high heels, and insufficient attention span for following a two-hour musical. But my date spoke with the theater management during the intermission, and they apologetically assured us that the situation would be remedied.

It was not. The lady seated to my immediate right (very close quarters on bench seating) was fairly insistent about using her phone. I asked her to turn it off. She answered: “So don’t look.” I asked her whether I had missed something during the very pointed announcements to please turn off your phones, perhaps a special exemption granted for her. She suggested that I should mind my own business.

So I minded my own business by utilizing my famously feline agility to deftly snatch the phone out of her hand and toss it across the room, where it would do no more damage. She slapped me and stormed away to seek managerial succor. Eventually, I was visited by a black-suited agent of order, who asked whether he might have a word.

The reaction has been fascinating. While a great many have applauded Williamson for his bit of cell phone vigilantism, others have been far less sympathetic and indeed think he should be brought up on charges. Personally, I called him a hero on facebook.

But is he really a hero? Technically this was destruction of personal property. While the woman was certainly rude, lack of social grace does not negate the right to property.

On one level, it’s difficult to disregard that Williamson did act in an almost (or maybe not even almost) illegal fashion, and he himself was guilty of causing a disturbance. At the same time, the absolute lack of proper etiquette is becoming a growing concern in modern society. My wife and I rarely attend movies largely due to the fact that we have small children and babysitting is expensive. Yet were it not for the children we still would likely have cut back on our movie-going as it had become something of a tedium. I vividly recall attending the third installment of the Pirates of Caribbean franchise. The sheer awfulness of the film was compounded by the sheer awfulness of the crowd attending, largely populated by shrieking girls gawking at Orlando Bloom. Cell phone abuse was hardly the biggest issue with this crowd.

All the same, the reason that so many view Williamsom with admiration is that he confronted rudeness head-on. Instead of bellyaching later in a blogpost about the obnoxious woman sitting next to him, he actually did something about it. Though the action itself is of dubious ethical value, it was an action, and in world of words any actions taken to tackle social problems seem much more meritorious.

There are obvious concerns with Williamson’s actions being replicated on a larger scale, so we should probably not completely encourage such behavior. That being said, I have a difficult time not applauding Williamson for doing what so many of us have yearned to do.

5

Misappropriating Burke

One of the most tiresome and repeated tricks I see in political discourse is right-leaning moderates using Edmund Burke’s name in justifying big government conservatism. The latest to use Burke’s name to justify political moderation is Peter Berkowitz in his book Constitutional Conservatism: Liberty, Self-Government, and Political Moderation. Here’s a blurb from the book.

The first entrenched reality is that the era of big government is here to stay. This is particularly important for libertarians to absorb. Over the last two hundred years, society and the economy in advanced industrial nations have undergone dramatic transformations. And for three-quarters of a century, the New Deal settlement has been reshaping America’s expectations about the nation-state’s reach and role. Consequently, the U.S. federal government will continue to provide a social safety net, regulate the economy, and shoulder a substantial share of responsibility for safeguarding the social and economic bases of political equality…..the attempt to dismantle or even substantially roll back the welfare and regulatory state reflects a distinctly unconservative refusal to ground political goals in political realities.”

And here’s a blurb from Harvey Mansfield.

Peter Berkowitz makes a match between Edmund Burke and the American Founders to give ‘political moderation’ a good name on our partisan battlefield. A short, effectual book with shining prose, a telling argument, and a lasting message. –Harvey C. Mansfield, Harvard University

Jeffrey Lord takes on Berkowtiz as well as Jennifer Rubin, Joe Scarborough and others who are preaching the value of capitulation moderation. As usual, Lord does a fantastic job of eviscerating the case for moderation. First, addressing the blurb quoted above, Lord writes:

So the New Deal is now the Founding principle of America? And attempts to “dismantle or even substantially” roll back the New Deal “reflects a distinctly unconservative refusal to ground political goals in political realities”?

Really?

Even Bill Clinton waxed Reaganesque when he said in that famous 1995 State of the Union message that “the era of Big Government is over.”

Berkowitz’s thinking — which Rubin shares — is a pluperfect example of what led a couple generations of American leaders to believe the Soviet Union was here to stay. Those were the folks rolling their eyes in their supposed sophistication when President Reagan insisted the Soviets were headed to the “ash heap of history.” Only to watch astonished as the Berlin Wall came down followed shortly thereafter by the Soviet flag over the Kremlin. Precisely as Reagan predicted.

Lord further examines how this bedrock principle and the programs created by the New Deal are crashing around us. As he writes:

The fact of the matter is that the New Deal is imploding all around us. With all manner of experts repeatedly warning the U.S. is being relentlessly driven towards a financial cliff, with entitlement spending on track to eventually consume first the defense budget before polishing off the entire federal budget. The fact that Democrats are tying themselves to the equivalent of an unexploded political IED is their decision.

But what, pray tell, is moderate, Republican or conservative about accepting the idea that America is headed irrevocably to bankruptcy and chaos?

There’s much more at the link as Lord explains how the social consensus keeps moving the left. “Moderation,” therefore, will only lead to more government control and, eventually, less freedom.

Jeff Goldstein also discusses Lord’s article and has more insights as well.

Lord and Goldstein both do great jobs of explaining the problems with Berkowitz’s position, but I want to focus on the admittedly more academic point, and that’s Berkowitz’s misappropriation of Burke. Continue Reading

21

Civil War History and Inevitability

I’ve been on a bit of a history kicker lately, particularly Civil War history, even if by chance. On successive occasions I read Tony Horowitz’s Midnight Rising: John Brown and the Raid that Sparked the Civil War, followed by April 1865: The Month that Saved America by Jay Winik. It was purely coincidental that I read those books back-to-back, though they serve as proper bookends to Civil War history. I also happened to finally see Steven Spielberg’s Lincoln. 

First a review of the works themselves. Midnight Rising is an excellent recounting of the events leading up to John Brown’s raid, the raid itself, and of course the fallout. Horowitz’s account is fairly straight, though one can’t help but detect a bit of admiration for Brown peeking through his narrative. You can probably make a good argument for both the proposition that Brown was a complete lunatic and that he was a hero who stood on principle (though probably more the former).

Winik’s narrative is engaging, and if you are unfamiliar with many of the details of not just the events of April 1865, but of the Civil War in general, then Winik’s book is a very good primer. Unfortunately it suffers from a few severe, though hardly fatal defects. First of all, Winik litters his story with repeated digressions, filling in biographical details of the main figures – Lee, Grant, Lincoln, Davis, Forrest, Sherman, Booth, even Johnston. Again, this may or may not infuriate the reader depending upon his knowledge of Civil War history. It felt like padding to me, and unnecessary padding at that.

Second, while he gets his history mostly right, there are a few notable lapses. Most grating to me was his discussion of Thomas Jefferson and James Madison and their respective writings on nullification. Like many other writers, he contends that Madison supported nullification in the Virginia Resolutions, when in point of fact Madison completely rejected the doctrine of nullification throughout his life and merely argued for a concept known as interposition in the Virginia Resolutions. This is a relatively minor point, but Winik makes a handful of errors, especially with regards to Lincoln’s attitudes towards having extra protection on the day of his assassination. Winik makes Lincoln seem callous about his own security, but it was Edwin Stanton who denied him an extra bodyguard.

Finally, Winik’s fundamental thesis is overstated (and also restated repeatedly in a  seemingly unending epilogue). Though the conclusion of the war was a momentous occasion in American history, Winik overstates the willingness and the capability of the south to engage in guerilla warfare to prolong to conflict. Certainly Lee could have decided to rebuff Grant’s peace overtures, and Johnston could have listened to Jefferson Davis’s appeals to continue the fight, but would the south have kept the Union at bay as effectively and as long as Winik speculates?  I suppose that is a matter of some conjecture, but I think Winik drastically overestimates the ability of any sizable confederate band to harass the Union for much longer.

As for the movie Lincoln, I’ll largely second Donald’s review. It was an epic film, and Daniel Day-Lewis was simply outstanding. I’ll admit I even got choked up at the end – a rarity for me as usually only Field of Dreams ever makes me cry.

Beyond the merits of these works, I wanted to explore some of their themes – or at least some of the thoughts that they inspired in me directly or indirectly. Continue Reading

14

A Matter of Seconds to Determine the Sanctity of Life

Three murder charges against Kermit Gosnell have been tossed out by the Judge.

After hearing impassioned arguments from attorneys on both sides of the Kermit Gosnell capital-murder trial Tuesday, a Philadelphia judge threw out three of the seven first-degree murder charges Gosnell faced for allegedly killing fetuses born alive at his abortion clinic.

Common Pleas Judge Jeffrey Minehart also tossed out all five counts against Gosnell accusing him of corpse abuse for storing the feet of aborted fetuses in plastic containers in his now closed Women’s Medical Society clinic.

Also dismissed by Minehart was one count of infanticide – the intentional killing of an infant. All other counts against Gosnell, 72, will be decided by the jury, the judge ruled.

One of the murder charges dropped was of the 28-week old “Baby B” who had been found in a freezer.

This doesn’t mean that Gosnell will escape conviction on the other counts, and in fact I would be shocked if he walked.

Still, I can’t help but be saddened that we live in a society that bases a murder charge on the technicality of whether an unborn baby had taken a breath at some point after being delivered from its mother. If we can’t take a look at this picture below and ALL conclude that the death of this child cries out for justice, then we are simply lost.

(EXTREMELY STRONG CONTENT WARNING)

Continue Reading

11

All Your Children Are Belong to Us

Every now and then I’ll see a collective kerfuffle ensue over some piece of media that upon inspection isn’t as bad as it’s made out to be. But this ad appearing on MSNBC is every bit as scary and awful as some commentators have made it out to be.

For those of you who don’t have the stomach to sit through the ad, it features college professor and MSLSD host Melissa Harris-Perry proclaiming , “We have to break through our kind of private idea that kids belong to their parents or kids belong to their families and recognize that kids belong to their communities.”

You might think she’s simply saying that child rearing is something of a collective effort, with all members of the community responsible for helping to educate the little ones. No, she really seems to think that Socrates (by way of Plato) was onto something 2,500 years ago when he speculated that in the ideal republic families would essentially be eliminated, with children being reared communally rather than by their parents.

On top of offering a horrifying notion that children really don’t belong to their parents, Harris-Perry is simply wrong about education spending. As John Sexton notes, the US spends more per pupil than almost any other first world nation, even if the results are less than satisfactory.

Moreover, as Ace points out, this notion of shared responsibility doesn’t quite work in the real world.

One basic thing: This idea of “shared responsibility” doesn’t work. In practice, if one person (or two, in a two parent family) is responsible, then stuff gets taken care of.

If “we’re all responsible,” then actually no one is responsible, and stuff doesn’t get taken care of.

In economics, this is referred to as the Tragedy of the Commons.

Rush Limbaugh also discussed this today on his radio show, and he observes how casually Harris-Perry discusses this idea. Twenty years ago we almost all would have laughed her off the national stage, yet today she can talk about kids not really belonging to their parents and she doesn’t even bat an eyelash, as though the idea were wholly uncontroversial. Sadly, to a large segment of the population, there is not anything even remotely wrong with what she has to say, and that should scare every last one of us.

10

Report: Bowdoin College Intolerant of Opposing Viewpoints. Rebuttal: Of Course We Tolerate Diversity, You Ignorant Bigot.

This is one of those stories that is both incredibly amusing and frustratingly sad.

First, the background. An investor and philanthropist named Thomas Klingenstein played a round of golf with Bowdoin College President Barry Mills. Klingenstein expressed his frustration with what he perceived as the college’s lack of intellectual diversity and close-mindedness to certain viewpoints. What happened next is a matter of some dispute.

In his address, President Mills described the golf outing and said he had been interrupted in the middle of a swing by a fellow golfer’s announcement: “I would never support Bowdoin—you are a ridiculous liberal school that brings all the wrong students to campus for all the wrong reasons,” said the other golfer, in Mr. Mills’s telling. During Mr. Mills’s next swing, he recalled, the man blasted Bowdoin’s “misplaced and misguided diversity efforts.” At the end of the round, the college president told the students, “I walked off the course in despair.”

Word of the speech soon got to Mr. Klingenstein. Even though he hadn’t been named in the Mills account, Mr. Klingenstein took to the pages of the Claremont Review of Books to call it nonsense: “He didn’t like my views, so he turned me into a backswing interrupting, Bowdoin-hating boor who wants to return to the segregated days of Jim Crow.”

The real story, wrote Mr. Klingenstein, was that “I explained my disapproval of ‘diversity’ as it generally has been implemented on college campuses: too much celebration of racial and ethnic difference,” coupled with “not enough celebration of our common American identity.”

For this, wrote Mr. Klingenstein, Bowdoin’s president insinuated that he was a racist. And President Mills did so, moreover, in an address that purported to stress the need for respecting the opinions of others across the political spectrum. “We are, in the main, a place of liberal political persuasion,” he told the students, but “we must be willing to entertain diverse perspectives throughout our community. . . . Diversity of ideas at all levels of the college is crucial for our credibility and for our educational mission.” Wrote Mr. Klingenstein: “Would it be uncharitable to suggest that, in a speech calling for more sensitivity to conservative views, he might have shown some?”

At any rate, Klingenstein commissioned a study to examine the education and culture of Bowdoin. The results of the report, which can be found here, are not a surprise to anyone remotely familiar with the state of college education today.

Funded by Mr. Klingenstein, researchers from the National Association of Scholars studied speeches by Bowdoin presidents and deans, formal statements of the college’s principles, official faculty reports and notes of faculty meetings, academic course lists and syllabi, books and articles by professors, the archive of the Bowdoin Orient newspaper and more. They analyzed the school’s history back to its founding in 1794, focusing on the past 45 years—during which, they argue, Bowdoin’s character changed dramatically for the worse.

Published Wednesday, the report demonstrates how Bowdoin has become an intellectual monoculture dedicated above all to identity politics.

The Klingenstein report nicely captures the illiberal or fallacious aspects of this campus doctrine, but the paper’s true contribution is in recording some of its absurd manifestations at Bowdoin. For example, the college has “no curricular requirements that center on the American founding or the history of the nation.” Even history majors aren’t required to take a single course in American history. In the History Department, no course is devoted to American political, military, diplomatic or intellectual history—the only ones available are organized around some aspect of race, class, gender or sexuality.

One of the few requirements is that Bowdoin students take a yearlong freshman seminar. Some of the 37 seminars offered this year: “Affirmative Action and U.S. Society,” “Fictions of Freedom,” “Racism,” “Queer Gardens” (which “examines the work of gay and lesbian gardeners and traces how marginal identities find expression in specific garden spaces”), “Sexual Life of Colonialism” and “Modern Western Prostitutes.”

Regarding Bowdoin professors, the report estimates that “four or five out of approximately 182 full-time faculty members might be described as politically conservative.” In the 2012 election cycle, 100% of faculty donations went to President Obama. Not that any of this matters if you have ever asked around the faculty lounge.

The response of one of the faculty members to this finding demonstrates the effects of life in a cocoon.

“A political imbalance [among faculty] was no more significant than having an imbalance between Red Sox and Yankee fans,” sniffed Henry C.W. Laurence, a Bowdoin professor of government, in 2004. He added that the suggestion that liberal professors cannot fairly reflect conservative views in classroom discussions is “intellectually bankrupt, professionally insulting and, fortunately, wildly inaccurate.”

Perhaps so. But he’d have a stronger case if, for example, his colleague Marc Hetherington hadn’t written the same year in Bowdoin’s newspaper that liberal professors outnumber conservatives because conservatives don’t “place the same emphasis on the accumulation of knowledge that liberals do.”

Even more revealing are the comments at this section of the NAS website, where several students and other observers chimed in, many critically. This comment is representative:

I always find it interesting when people pass off “studies” without doing any real first-hand research. As a female who attended the college during what could be called the “good old boy” days that the authors seem to be longing for, I feel that nothing in this report echoes of truth. To attack the College for its focus on promoting the Common Good, seeking a diverse student body and educating students on a global topics that cover different races and ethnicities really just points out the incredible narrowmindedness of the authors. Most of the criticisms of the College focused on characteristics that make me proud to be an alum. And as an alum who interviews high school students, I can also say that these are the very same characteristics of the College that attract driven, intelligent and well-rounded students each year.

It’s hard to not read this report and feel that the authors long for a time when the school was predominantly white males from eastern boarding schools. To that I say, good for Bowdoin. Be everything these authors do not want to be. Because that is the direction I, as an alumna, would like to see you continuing to move in.

Well done. The author of these two paragraphs does more to affirm the premise of the report than the report ever could. Not only does she blithely dismiss the report’s authors as individuals pining for the days of Jim Crow and white male domination, she completely misses the point of the report. So in calling out the authors for being narrowminded, she helps prove that it her side of the debate that is narrowminded and unable to get beyond certain stereotypical thinking.

As I said it’s funny but also mainly sad when you reflect on the quality of education and the indoctrination being done to our young skulls full of mush. And is it any wonder why we continue to push kids towards a college education even when, in  many cases, it really isn’t necessary to most people’s careers? College is less and less about providing a well-rounded educational experience and more about teaching young adults to think “the right way.” If you were a left wing power broker, wouldn’t you want as many people as possible to be placed in these indoctrination centers?

54

New York Catholic High School Okays Gay Couple to Attend Prom

Three guesses as to what order runs the high school. The first two don’t count.

The administrator of a Catholic high school in New York wrote to his students’ parents this week to explain why a gay couple at the all-boys school is being allowed to attend the junior prom together.

Father Edward Salmon, president of McQuaid Jesuit High School in Brighton, explained that the boys “will be welcomed” as a couple, even though he insisted the gesture of acceptance is not meant to condone homosexuality or go against church law in any way. His full letter, sent Wednesday, was published Thursday by local news website rochesterhomepage.net.

For Salmon, the acceptance represents the success of a student-driven campaign to allow the boys to attend their junior prom together. The school’s administrator described the emotions that campaign generated as “darkness and heavy clouds,” leading to the spread of “misinformation, fear, misunderstanding, and even anger.”

There’s more at the Deacon’s Bench, including the letter from Father Salmon. For those who feared that Pope Francis’s washing of women’s feet would embolden liberal Catholics, you severely underestimate how easily liberal Catholics can twist any words and actions of the Pontiff to suit their particular cause. Witness the beginning of Father Salmon’s letter:

Our new Holy Father, Pope Francis, in the homily for his Inaugural Mass, had encouraging and inviting words: “Today amid so much darkness we need to see the light of hope and to be men and women who bring hope to others. To protect creation and to protect every man and every woman, to look upon them with tenderness and love, is to open up a horizon of hope, it is to let a ray of light break through heavy clouds.”

And if you don’t interpret Pope Francis’s words to mean that it’s okay to allow a gay couple to attend a prom at a Catholic high school, then clearly you just want more darkness.

Most of the rest of the letter is a bizarre stream of consciousness that uses the imagery of light and darkness to ironic affect – ironic because it just muddies the waters and thereby darkens everyone’s understanding of the faith. He closes with this:

With this decision I am not contradicting the teachings of the Roman Catholic Church with regard to human sexuality; I am not encouraging nor am I condoning homosexual activity just as I do not encourage or condone heterosexual activity at a dance. I am not contradicting the Church’s opposition to the redefinition of marriage. With this decision I invite and encourage us all, as Pope Francis does, to exercise care, protection, goodness which calls for a certain tenderness “which is not a virtue of the weak but rather a sign of strength of spirit and a capacity for concern, for compassion, for genuine openness to others, for love. We must not be afraid of goodness, of tenderness.”

You see he’s not contradicting Church teaching because, well, he says so. And light and darkness. And Pope Francis.

There. Don’t you feel much better now?

Father Salmon selectively quotes the Catechism to defend his position. Perhaps Father Salmon should familiarize himself with the concept of scandal.

36

Msgr. Pope on Gay Marriage

Every now and then as I begin to think about writing a post, I’ll see that someone has written on the very topic I was about to write about, taking the exact same view but expressing it in such a way that it would make any attempt on my part to add to it just plain futile. So when I saw Msgr. Pope’s blog post on gay marriage this morning, I realized he just saved me about an hour’s worth of writing.

Here’s the opening:

There is, among faithful Catholics, a dismay, and even an understandable anger at the events unfolding at the Supreme Court these past days related to to gay unions. And even if the court were to uphold traditional marriage (which does not seem likely), or merely return the matter to the States,  it seems quite clear where our culture is going regarding this matter, approving things once, not so long ago, considered unthinkable.

What then to do with our dismay and anger? It is too easy to vent anger, which is not only unproductive, but in the current state of “hyper-tolerance” for all things gay, angry denunciations are counter-productive.

Rather our anger should be directed to a wholehearted embrace and living out of the biblical vision of human sexuality and marriage. Our anger should be like an energy that fuels our zeal to live purity, and speak of its glory to a confused and out-of-control culture.

The fact is, traditional marriage has been in a disgraceful state for over 50 years, and heterosexual misbehavior has been off the hook in the same period. And, if we are honest, heterosexual misbehavior and confusion has been largely responsible for bringing forth the even deeper confusion and disorder of homosexual activity, and particularly the widespread approval of it.

We have sown the wind, and now reap the whirlwind (Hosea 8:7).

Our anger, dismay and sorrow are better directed inward toward our own conversion to greater purity as a individuals, families and parishes, than outward toward people who will only interpret it as “hate” and bigotry” anyway.

There’s much more at the link as he delves into how the contraceptive mentality has already degraded marriage. There’s been a domino affect, and gay marriage is really just the last domino.

I was attending a conference this week and heard a speaker who talked about generational differences in the workplace. Even though it was geared towards workforce issues, it applied to our culture more generally. The overwhelming support for gay marriage among millenials (generally those 30 and under) is easily explained when you examine the context of the culture and society they grew up in. Not only is mass media propagandizing to them, but many if not most of these kids have developed in an environment where marriage is not the institution it was for our grandparents. In other words, heterosexuals damaged the institution long before homosexuals did.

That’s an argument often made by people who support gay marriage, and so we have a tendency to dismiss it. They happen to be right – it’s just that the logical conclusion that flows from that analysis is not that we should further erode the institution of marriage, but that we need to re-examine all of the other elements that have broken it down through the years.

At any rate, please read the rest of Msgr. Pope’s fine blog.

On a related note, Bill O’Reilly is still a pinhead.

11

Brave New World

I may have mentioned this before, but one of my favorite novels is C.S. Lewis’s That Hideous Strength. It was the final part of what is known as Lewis’s Space Trilogy. A brief summary of the book is available at this link. The villain in this book is an entity called the National Institute of Coordinated Experiments – N.I.C.E. – which seeks to build a Utopian society based on science. Of course they are basically nothing more than totalitarian, atheistic thugs.

My admiration for the book is based on the fact that Lewis was a prophet. At least, that’s what struck me when I read this headline and accompanying story:

Britain on course for ‘three parent babies’

Britain is on course to become the first country in the world to legalise the creation of IVF babies with three biological “parents” after the fertility watchdog announced that the public is in favour of the controversial technology.

And then Bob Grant’s voice entered my head: They’re sick and they’re getting sicker.

But hey, evidently a majority of people would be down with completely re-working the laws of nature.

A major consultation found that a majority of people would back the therapy, under which a small part of a mother’s genetic material is swapped with that of a healthy donor to eliminate the risk of passing on a host of hereditary diseases to her child.

By removing faulty DNA from the mitochondria, which is always inherited from the mother, experts believe the child and future generations could be spared from a collection of devastating conditions affecting the heart, muscles and brain.

And this is how we’ll convince people that we aren’t entering Frankenstein-levels of biological tinkering. You see these great minds are merely making sure that no one should endure the burden of an imperfect child. Don’t you feel so much better about this project now?

And then on top of the ethical and moral concerns, there’s this:

The HFEA, which carried out the consultation, advised ministers that if they do legalise the therapy, donors and patients should remain anonymous and have no right to contact one another.

Yeah, that always works out well.

And if you’re concerned that we’re at risk of making Gattaca a reality, don’t you worry your little heads off.

Dismissing fears that allowing the treatment could be the start of a “slippery slope”, she emphasised that the therapy – which could become the first treatment to alter the human germ line – would only be available for people at risk of passing on mitochondrial disease.

For now. Oh, she didn’t actually add those words, but I’m sure that’s what she meant, at least if she had a moment of honest self-reflection.

Fortunately, despite the repeated insistence – based on absolutely no data presented in the article – that this procedure has broad public support, clearly not everyone in jolly old England has lost their ever-loving minds.

But opponents of the technique have questioned the moral justification of engineering embryos, and questioned how the resulting child’s sense of identity might be affected by the knowledge that they have three biological parents.

Dr David King, Director of Human Genetics Alert, said: “Historians of the future will point to this as the moment when technocrats crossed the crucial line, the decision that led inexorably to the disaster of genetically engineered babies and consumer eugenics.”

Now, now, Doctor, our best and brightest have assured us that we have nothing to worry about. That should make us all feel much better.

54

Habemus Papam!

 

Live Feed:

 

White Smoke is blowing from the Vatican’s chimney. We will know the identity of the new Pope shortly.

Update 2:40: No announcement yet, but it should be coming shortly. I just have to say as someone who couldn’t watch eight years ago, this is awesome.

Update 3:00: Thomas Peters has linked to this handy dandy list of the Cardinals’ names in Latin, so you will know who the new Pope is approximately three seconds sooner.

Update 3:12: It’s Cardinal Bergoglio of Argentina, and he has chosen the name Francis.

Update 3:49: John Allen had written a profile of Cardinal Bergoglio, now Pope Francis I, a week ago. H/t: Dale Price. Reading some of the critical comments at the Reporter fills me with great hope.

43

McCain Vs. Paul

Not everyone was enamored with Rand Paul after his filibuster this past Wednesday in the Senate. Senator John McCain railed against Rand Paul on the Senate floor on Thursday. If you missed it, here’s a shot of the Senator’s performance:

Grandpa Simpson

 

McCain was joined by his Sith apprentice fellow Senator Lindsey Graham in denouncing Paul’s filibuster. I wish the camera had panned to see if McCain’s mouth was moving as Graham spoke.

McCain wasn’t done criticizing Paul, offering some choice pull quotes to various media outlets, summarized at Hot Air. This one in particular is my favorite:

“They were elected, nobody believes that there was a corrupt election, anything else,” McCain said. “But I also think that when, you know, it’s always the wacko birds on right and left that get the media megaphone.”

John McCain just said that it’s always the “whacko birds”” who get the media megaphone. Let that sink in for a moment. The same guy who hasn’t turned down a Sunday talk show appearance in thirteen years is implying that only kooks get the media spotlight. If you say so John.

Rand Paul couldn’t have asked for a better angry old man to scowl after him, as Jay Anderson explains.

John McCain railing against Rand Paul’s appeal to “impressionable” kids in dorm rooms is so politically tone deaf and out of touch that it makes Clint Eastwood look like a breath of fresh air by comparison. Yesterday, in a textbook example of EVERYTHING that is wrong about John McCain, just after scolding Paul on the Senate floor, McCain lamented the retirement announcement of 78-year-old Democrat Sen. Carl. Levin who has been in the Senate FOR 35 YEARS since the Carter Administration.

McCain’s world: young upstarts inspiring people to take our liberties seriously and challenging the perpetual war establishment … bad; crusty old farts clinging to power and enriching themselves on the public teet until they’re octogenarians … good.

There’s more to this dust-up than just an old guard versus new guard standoff. McCain and Paul represent two wildly divergent wings foreign policy wings of the Republican Party. Whether you want to call McCain a neocon, a hawk, an interventionist, or some other term that will be invented over the next few years, he certainly has a more expansive view of America’s role in the world. Rand Paul is a bit more of a mystery. While he clearly wishes to narrow the scope of America’s role as global policeman, for lack of a better term, he doesn’t seem to quite share his father’s even narrower vision. Some have speculated that he’s merely toning down his rhetoric in the hopes of being a more palatable alternative in the Republican presidential primaries than his father ever was, though I suspect that’s an overstatement.

Whatever the case may be, Paul and McCain are at opposite poles at least in the Senate’s GOP caucus. Ace of Spades does a good job of explaining why McCain should dial it back if he wants the more interventionist wing to have any credibility. First he explains that he’s not as hawkish as he was after 9/11, yet McCain (and his mini-me, Graham) are still pushing a “super-hawk” line that the public has widely rejected. Continue Reading

102

So Who Exactly Is Pushing A Social Agenda?

The typical complaint one hears about conservatives, particularly from libertarians, is that social conservatives want to use the government to advance their agenda and force their beliefs down everyone’s throats. Normally the first issue that is brought up to defend this proposition is abortion. I find that odd because if wanting to prohibit abortion is akin to being a proponent of big government, then anyone who advocates for laws against murder is clearly also an advocate for big government. The next most commonly cited issue is gay marriage. Again, I find this odd because it is the proponents of gay marriage who want government to make a complete change to the institution of marriage in order to advance their agenda.

At any rate, libertarians and other social liberals usually run out of steam after those two big issues, though the more creative will invent issues that social conservatives supposedly support in order to defend this thesis.

What frustrates me about this is that left-wing attempts to use the government to indoctrinate society are ignored or downplayed, yet examples of left-wing attempts to influence the culture through the government are far more plentiful than conservative ones. One need only look at Mayor Nanny Bloomberg in New York – hardly a raging social conservative – to recognize that.

Want more proof? First, here’s a bill sponsored by Senate Democrats to fund comprehensive sex education.

Sen. Frank Lautenberg (D-N.J.) and Rep. Barbara Lee (D-Calif.) said Thursday that they’d introduced sex-education legislation limiting funding for “ineffective” abstinent-only programs.

The Real Education for Healthy Youth Act would expand comprehensive sex education programs in schools, while ensuring that federal funds are spent on “effective, age-appropriate and medically accurate” programs.

. . . The Real Education for Healthy Youth Act aims to reduce unintended pregnancies and sexually transmitted infections (STIs), and expand sex education programs at colleges and universities. The bill would also prevent federal funds from being spent on “ineffective, medically inaccurate” sex-educ

ation programs.

To translate, we’re going to spend tax money teaching kids about birth control but we’d be verbotten to teach them “medically inaccurate” information like keeping it in your pants will prevent pregnancy and the spread of STDs. We wouldn’t want kids being told off-the-wall ideas about not having sex before the age of 18 or – even nuttier – before marriage. No, no, no – we gotta get to these kids and make sure they know how to put a condom on a banana.

And do we really need to spend federal tax dollars on expanding sex education at colleges? Are college-aged kids that really in the dark about sex that this justifies federal intervention?

Want to know the kicker? One of the co-sponsors of this bill is Senator Robert Menendez (D-NJ). In that case there will probably be an amendment setting aside funds teaching underage Dominican prostitutes to keep their mouths shut.

And that wasn’t the saddest news of the day. Here’s a story via Creative Minority Report:

Parents across Massachusetts are upset over new rules that would not only allow transgender students to use their restrooms of their choice – but would also punish students who refuse to affirm or support their transgender classmates.

Last week the Massachusetts Department of Education issued directives for handling transgender students – including allowing them to use the bathrooms of their choice or to play on sports teams that correspond to the gender with which they identify.

The 11-page directive also urged schools to eliminate gender-based clothing and gender-based activities – like having boys and girls line up separately to leave the classroom.

Schools will now be required to accept a student’s gender identity on face value.

“A student who says she is a girl and wishes to be regarded that way throughout the school day and throughout every, or almost every, other area of her life, should be respected and treated like a girl,” the guidelines stipulate.

As long as little Johnnie feels he’s a little Joannie, no one can tell him/her otherwise.

Hey, but these rules only help liberate young transgendered people from being discriminated against. It’s not like this would impinge anyone else’s freedom, right?

Another part of the directive that troubles parents deals with students who might feel comfortable having someone of the opposite sex in their locker room or bathroom.

The state takes those students to task – noting their discomfort “is not a reason to deny access to the transgender student.”

And any student who refuses to refer to a transgendered student by the name or sex they identify with could face punishment.

For example – a fifth grade girl might feel uncomfortable using the restroom if there is an eighth grade transgendered boy in the next stall.

Under the state guidelines, the girl would have no recourse, Beckwith said.

“And if the girl continued to complain she could be subjected to discipline for not affirming that student’s gender identity choice,” he told Fox News.

“It should not be tolerated and can be grounds for student discipline,” the directive states.

But that’s okay, says a spokesman for the transgendered.

Gunner Scott, of the Massachusetts Transgender Political Coalition, praised the directive – and said punishing students who refuse to acknowledge a student’s gender identity is appropriate because it amounts to bullying.

That’s right. Feeling uncomfortable sharing a bathroom with someone of the opposite sex who doesn’t think he or she is a member of the opposite sex is bullying, dont’cha know? And the only way to deal with bullies is to, well, bully them. That sounds reasonable, said Dan Savage.

And yet we’ll continue to hear countless fairly tales about how young modern hipsters would vote Republican if only they’d drop their obsession with silly social issues.

Well, as long as you’ve got useful idiots like Rod Dreherwriting for ostensibly conservative publications, we’ll just keep losing the culture wars.

6

Cutting the Papa-Bull

I’m off from work, so you get a whole two posts from me today. Aren’t you lucky?

Pat Archbold has written an excellent post at the National Catholic Register that counters some of the arguments we’ve heard in light of Pope Benedict’s resignation, abdication, retirement, ummm not being Pope anymore. Our own Jake Tawney touched upon some of these issues last week, but it’s worth re-emphasizing.

The Holy Spirit picks the Pope, so don’t worry. This is probably the most common bit of balderdash. I refer to this is ‘Holy Spirit as conclave Puppeteer fallacy.’

Let’s get this straight, the Holy-Spirit does not pick the Pope, 117 fallible men do. For certain, many or even most of these men will call on the Holy Spirit in fervent prayer to guide their judgement, but it is still their judgement, their fallible judgment.

To suggest that the Holy Spirit picks the Pope is an insult to the Holy Spirit born of ignorance. To put the blame for some of the horrible Popes that we have had on the Holy Spirit is to blame God for our own contrary wills. No, the Holy Spirit does not pick the Pope.

The Holy Spirit protects the Church from anything bad, so don’t worry. If you worry, you don’t trust the Holy Spirit. I call this the ‘Holy Spirit as fairy-godmother fallacy.’ If you have the temerity to express a bit of apprehension over the abdication of the Pope or for the future, the pious will pummel you as an unbeliever. While the Holy Spirit protects the Church from certain things (more on this later), the Holy Spirit does not protect the Church from calamity. To make such an argument is to be woefully ignorant of history. Ignorant of not only the whole 2,000 years of history, but ignorant of just the last 50 years of history.  Bad things happen, even to the Church.

Part B of this fallacy are those who trot out “The gates of Hell shall not prevail!!!” as their defense of this nonsense. Yes, the gates of hell will not prevail against the Church, but this is no guarantee that there will be not be tremendous loss of life and souls along the way. The Nazis did not prevail, but they sure did a lot of evil before they lost. This line of thinking is merely sticking your head in pious sand.

How dare you critique the Pope! He is guided by the Holy Spirit!! If you have the temerity to question the Pope’s (past, present, or even future) prudential judgment, then you are a cafeteria catholic and a moral relativist of the worst sort. I call this the ‘Pope as God or Jack Chick fallacy.’ I have seen many people comment that we have no right as Catholics to question the Pope’s prudential judgement on anything or even offer advice to a future Pope. The Holy Spirit guides the Pope, dont’cha know, so to question or advise the Pope is to question or advise the Holy Spirit. Heretic!!

In one bit of commentary I warned of the dangers of a ‘trend’ of papal abdications and advised a future pontiff to avoid it. I didn’t even critique the current Pontiff’s decision, just advised a future one. For this, I was branded a moral relativist and a heretic.

Of course, proper respect should be given to any Pope, even in prudential areas, but the Pope is not infallible in this. While I am certain that this Pope prayed and discerned over his decision to abdicate, this is no guarantee that this is the right thing to do or that it is the will of God. There are real consequences to this decision and there are real dangers too. That is not to say that the Pope is doing the wrong thing, but only that he is doing what he thinks is best. It may be, it may not be.

Pat’s previous post, referenced in his third point, was savaged some commenters because he had the brazen temerity to tell the Pope what to do, though that wasn’t exactly the message of his column.

One mistake that some Catholics make is treating every papal utterance and action as divinely inspired and thus immune from even the slightest bit of criticism or doubt. This tendency only fuels the suspicions of non-Catholics and heterodox Catholics that we treat the Pope as something like a deity. Neither Pat nor I are suggesting that we should make like Hans Kung and vigorously dissent in the most arrogant manner possible, however; we need to recognize that Popes are human beings, and though guided by the Holy Spirit, not free from error in everything they do. One reason it’s so important to remember that we have a Pope who is not personally infallible in all things is because he desperately needs our prayers, and we might be less inclined to offer up those prayers if we think he’s got this all covered. So keep those prayers coming for the Pope and for the Cardinals who will be selecting the next Pope.

16

The Collective Ho-Hum on Benghazi

It’s not every day that an American Embassy is attacked and four Americans, including an Ambassador, are murdered. So after the September 11 attacks on the embassy in Benghazi, one would have thought that there would have been widespread outrage. In fact there was a widespread furor in the aftermath of the attacks. First the outrage was aimed at presidential candidate Mitt Romney and his supposedly insensitive and political comments made hours after we learned of what occurred. After the storm died down, the public turned its attention to the individual whose film insulted the Prophet Mohammed and thus instigated the attacks.

In the weeks ahead we would come to learn more details. Even after it became obvious to all that the attacks were planned weeks in advance and had absolutely nothing to do with the film (which no one seemed to even know existed until the September 11 attacks), the narrative had been set. And with the campaign in full force, the media seemed content to let the issue die lest the administration be further embarrassed.

Even with the election in the rearviewmirror, reporting on Benghazi has been sparse. A pair of Congressional hearings have shone light on the issue, but an alliance between the far left and far right have managed to damper the conversation. The first event was now former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s appearance before the Senate, where in response to questioning from Senator Ron Johnson of Wisconsin, Clinton responded:

With all due respect, the fact is we had four dead Americans. Was it because of a protest, or was it because of guys out for a walk one night who decided they’d go kill some Americans? What difference, at this point, does it make?

The response was hailed by those desperate to bury the issue as a stroke of genius. Hillary Clinton had all but sewn up the 2016 presidential election with her Churchillian wit. Forget that the response was at best callous, and demonstrated a tremendous lack of curiosity from the person in charge of our State Department, not to mention that it sure as hell matters why these attacks were perpetrated. No, it was the line that ended the debate once and for all.

Well, not quite, because the issue came up again in the confirmation hearings from Obama’s choice to replace Leon Panetta at the Department of Defense. Chuck Hagel’s disastrous performance has stalled his nomination. Though anyone watching Hagel’s performance that day should have realized he isn’t qualified to run a frozen banana stand let alone the Defense Department, the “true conservatives” at the American (Paleo)Conservative ran to Hagel’s defense. Over there ideology trumps competence, and they have mounted an all out blitz on those Israel-loving neocons who oppose Hagel, I guess because those Jewish mind rays have distorted our judgment or something.

The most hysterical (in more ways than one) response came from Rod Dreher (h/t Pauli), who seems to think that the Republicans are destroying their credibility by opposing Hagel. According to Dreher and his buddy Daniel Larison, the GOP’s actions over the past couple of months ensure that all of the independents and realists are going to run in horror away from the GOP. As usual there’s no support given to support the thesis that the Republicans are alienating anyone by not behaving exactly as the folks at the American Conservative wish they would, but it makes for some entertaining reading as Rod Dreher of all people chastises Republicans for being shrill. There’s a Yiddish word for that, but I don’t want to further alienate Dreher by using it. Anyway, after referencing another article chock full of genius insights such as “Be more pro-science” as ways that Republicans can lure “independents,” Dreher shrieks:

On the Hagel matter, the Senate GOP seems nothing but obstructionist. Who gives a rat’s ass about Benghazi? Seriously, who?

Yes, that’s right, the true conservative (TM) position on a terrorist attack on an American embassy that leaves four dead is “who gives a rat’s ass?”

So after dismissing any concern over Benghazi, what’s is Rod Dreher’s next piece of trenchant analysis: a post titled “Happy Kale-Day to Me.” So Dreher can’t be bothered about a terrorist attack, but he is sure to make sure everyone knows he had a terrific birthday in which he got to eat plenty of delicious kale. That’s a true conservative ™ for you.

Well at least the true conservatives ™ can sleep well with the knowledge that they are joined by the far left in dismissing Benghazi as a subject worth worrying our little heads over. Oliver Willis, a “fellow” at Media Matters for America, spent his day writing a series of unfunny tweets mocking conservatives for trying to investigate the issue. Aside from demonstrating his complete witlessness – subject matter aside, Willis’s attempts at satire are just cringeworthy – Willis elaborated the left’s position on Benghazi. You see, only crazy conservatives could possibly have any interest in this boooooooorrrrring issue, so let’s mock them. And Dreher and the useful idiots at the American Conservative are too happy to oblige in the mockery. And then they wonder why conservatives can’t make advances in the culture or in the political sphere.

For years I’ve heard countless complaints about how conservatives aren’t serious, and how we really need to start acting like adults in the room. If burying our heads in the sand about an attack on our embassies that killed fellow Americans is “acting like an adult,” then I truly tremble in fear at where our country is headed.

16

Ben Carson’s National Prayer Breakfast Speech

Ben Carson’s rousing speech at last week’s National Prayer Breakfast has garnered a lot of widespread attention. Depending on your point of view, this is either a heroic address that is proof that this man needs to be our next president, or it’s an insulting attempt to humiliate Barack Obama. You’ll never guess which side I’m on.

First, the speech for those of you who have not seen it:

Things get really interesting at around the 17 minute mark as he directly confronts Obamacare and economics more generally.

Actually, upon initial viewing, I did wonder if this was the appropriate venue for Dr. Carson’s remarks. After all, shouldn’t the National Prayer Breakfast be a time where we put aside partisan debate and concentrate on what draws us together? This is what Cal Thomas – no fan of President Obama – thinks:

His remarks were inappropriate for the occasion. It would have been just as inappropriate had he praised the president’s policies. The president had a right to expect a different message about another Kingdom. I’m wondering if the president felt drawn closer to God, or bludgeoned by the Republican Party and the applauding conservatives in the audience (there were many liberals there, too, as well as people from what organizers said were more than 100 nations and all 50 states).

If Carson wanted to voice his opinion about the president’s policies, he could have done so backstage. Even better, he might have asked for a private meeting with the man. As a fellow African American who faced personal challenges and overcame them, the president might have welcomed Dr. Carson to the White House. Instead, Carson ambushed him.

Carson should publicly apologize and stop going on TV doing “victory laps” and proclaiming that reaction to his speech was overwhelmingly positive. That’s not the point. While many might agree with his positions (and many others don’t as shown by the November election results), voicing them at the National Prayer Breakfast in front of the president was the wrong venue.

Leftists were much more vehement in their criticisms of Dr. Carson. Suddenly the very same people who think the entire concept of a National Prayer Breakfast is an affront to the sanctity of  the separation of Church and State were howling at Dr. Carson’s impropriety on such a solemn occasion.

There are several reasons why this criticism is unwarranted, and why Dr. Carson should proceed with his “victory laps.” Continue Reading

62

Ron Paul Invokes Christ After Reveling in Soldier’s Death

This is how Ron Paul greeted the news of the murder of Navy Seal, Chris Kyle.

And here is Ron Paul attempting damage control:

As a veteran, I certainly recognize that this weekend’s violence and killing of Chris Kyle were a tragic and sad event. My condolences and prayers go out to Mr. Kyle’s family. Unconstitutional and unnecessary wars have endless unintended consequences. A policy of non-violence, as Christ preached, would have prevented this and similar tragedies. -REP

You know, at some point you just stop typing. Ron Paul should have done that at the words “Mr. Kyle’s family.” But he had to just double down in order to make a political point.

Perhaps Paul’s next step is to pay the man’s family a visit to pay his respects where he can tell Mr. Kyle’s widow and children that his dad had it coming to him.

15

Quid est veritas?

Please allow me to introduce myself 
I’m a man of wealth and taste 
I’ve been around for a long, long year 
Stole many a man’s soul and faith 
And I was round when Jesus Christ 
Had his moment of doubt and pain 
Made damn sure that Pilate 
Washed his hands and sealed his fate

Undoubtedly most of you are aware that Archbishop Jose Gomez of Los Angles has stripped Roger Cardinal Mahony of all public duties. If not, here is the story.

Los Angeles Archbishop Jose Gomez announced Thursday that Cardinal Roger Mahony would have a reduced role in the church and that Santa Barbara Bishop Thomas J. Curry has stepped down from that job amid recent revelations over their handling of the priest abuse scandal in the 1980s.

“Effective immediately, I have informed Cardinal Mahony that he will no longer have any administrative or public duties. Auxiliary Bishop Thomas Curry has also publicly apologized for his decisions while serving as Vicar for Clergy. I have accepted his request to be relieved of his responsibility as the Regional Bishop of Santa Barbara,” Gomez wrote in a letter.

Cardinal Mahony published this private letter to Archbishop Gomez on his blog:

Continue Reading

13

Intellectual Bankruptcy on Display

One can look at the blatant dishonesty displayed by gun control proponents one of two ways. These people are so dishonest and so loose with the facts that they destroy their credibility with each new fabrication. Alternatively, these individuals are so shameless and brazen that we can only stand aside in wonder as they run full steam ahead.

The latest display of such hubris is from the firestorm over the supposed heckling of Neil Heslin, father of one of the murdered children at Sandy Hook elementary, Jesse Lewis. The problem: he wasn’t heckled.

MSNBC is propping up its story with a blatantly edited video. In fact, Heslin was not heckled. Gun rights advocates in the audience indeed voiced their support for the Second Amendment — after he asked why anyone would need “assault-style weapons or high-capacity clips.” You’d never know based on the MSNBC version, which completely cut out the footage of Heslin’s question.

Fortunately, Twitchy has obtained the full, unedited video, which you can view for yourself below (relevant portion starts at the 15-minute mark):

You can go to the Twitchy link to view the video. Here is Ace’s summary:

At first you might think this is a rhetorical question; the audience in fact takes it as rhetorical, and doesn’t answer. Then he scans around the room, looking for someone to answer, and, as everyone’s silent, concludes, as he’d intended, that no one has a good answer.

At that point, people realize that their respectful silence is being taken for assent, and they begin chiming in “The second amendment.”

He asked a question and was legitimately looking for people to answer. People did, and they were shouted down for actually responding.

Obviously the man is still grieving, and should be afforded respect. At the same time, he is also willingly allowing himself to be placed in a public situation to make an appeal for legislative change to gun laws. No one shouted him down – just the opposite. People assumed he was making a rhetorical point, and when it was obvious that it was more than just a rhetorical question, they replied in kind.

Should people have remained silent even when pressed? Some will argue that a man in Heslin’s state should be given the utmost space to bare his soul. But it seems to me that the people who are disrespecting Heslin are the people who put him on that stand. They used him as a political prop. Well, that’s not entirely fair, because I am sure that Heslin was willing to make this public testimony. Yet those that are so indignant about people actually responding to Heslin when he asked them a question are simply enraged that their political theater was upstaged for a minute. How is it respectful of Heslin to use him as a political prop to bludgeon political opponents over the head with? If anyone is disrepecting Mr. Heslin’s dignity, it is folks like those at Media Matters, David Frum, and others who don’t really see him as a human being, but as a useful political tool. And those people frankly make me sick.

 

 

 

 

 

 

12

None Dare Call it Fascism

Whole Foods CEO John Mackey found himself engulfed in controversy for remarks he made about Obamacare:

Back in 2009, Whole Foods CEO John Mackey wrote an op-ed for the Wall Street Journal labeling President Obama’s Affordable Care Act a form of “socialism.” Today on NPR’s Morning Edition he changed his mind. Mackey now thinks Obamacare is “fascism.”

“Technically speaking, it’s more like fascism,” Mackey told NPR. “Socialism is where the government owns the means of production. In fascism, the government doesn’t own the means of production, but they do control it — and that’s what’s happening with our health care programs and these reforms.”

That’s an f-word that you just don’t use in polite conversation, so Mackey backtracked slightly.

On CNN this morning, host Carol Costello confronted Whole Foods CEO John Mackey over his recent comments that ObamaCare was tantamount to “fascism” because “the government doesn’t own the means of production, but they do control it.”

“You initially labeled the Health Care Act a form of socialism, and then on NPR you called ObamaCare ‘fascism.’ Why did you decide to change the terminology?” Costello asked at the outset.

Echoing his statement yesterday that he regrets using the word “fascism,” Mackey explained, “That was a bad choice of words, but traditionally socialism means that the means of production are run by the government and in fascism the means of production are still owned by private individuals but they’re controlled by the government. And what’s happening. Our health care system is moving away from free enterprise capitalism towards greater governmental control. That was a poor choice of words due to the baggage and associations that go along with it. So now I’m just calling it ‘government-controlled health care.’”

An unsatisfied Costello then challenged Mackey, saying, “You realize when you say ‘fascism,’ it brings up Nazi Germany and all sorts of things. And we really want that kind language out of our public forum at the moment, don’t we?”

“Apparently you can’t use that word in America any longer, it’s taboo,” Mackey fired back.

I find this all rather amazing. For the past four years leftists – and a fair number of conservatives, as well – have decried any use of the word socialist to describe the Obama administration. You see Obama wasn’t really a socialist, and anyone who dared use that term to describe Obama was a crazy kook who needed to be shunned from society. So Mackey attempted to use more accurate terminology in describing Obamacare, only to discover that it has become verboten. Well, it’s only verboten when applied to politicians on the left. Ed Driscoll quotes from Jonah Goldberg’s G-File (available via email only):

None of this surprises me. But it’s still quite amazing. The simple fact is that fascism is a uniquely radioactive political term and the Left has an exclusive license to use it. Liberals are allowed to be as glib and cavalier as they want about the use of the word. But if conservatives use it — entirely accurately — it is an outrage and a sign of ignorance. Yes, technically, it would have been more accurate, and certainly less controversial, if Mackey had said Obamacare is corporatist — the economic structure of fascism — but very few people know what “corporatist” means. 

And so you have this carve out for liberals. They get to use the word fascist — incorrectly — all of the time. But if a conservative (or in this case a libertarian) uses it accurately, and not particularly pejoratively either, it’s offensive or stupid.

This is why Goldberg’s book, Liberal Fascism, was such a delightful and enlightening read. Fascism is such a loaded word that it has become almost impossible to talk seriously about it. The left has done a masterful job of twisting the word around and have managed to turn fascism into some kind of right-wing ideology in the minds of most Americans. Anyone with more than a cursory understanding of political thought would understand why that is completely laughable, but sadly most people do not possess even a cursory understanding of political thought. So either the term is applied – mistakenly and inappropriately – to conservatives, or else anyone who uses it to describe – fairly accurately – the policies of the Obama administration is to be mocked and ridiculed.

Mackey may have been right, but that’s of no use to him now. Clearly both “socialist” and “fascist” are completely off the table when it comes to discussions of President Obama and his signature policy achievement. Well then, we’ll just have to stick with “counterproductive,” “wrongheaded,” “bankruptcy-inducing,” and other adjectives.

12

Jonah Goldberg’s Message to Socially Liberal Fiscal Conservatives

Socially Liberal Fiscal Conservatives – like albino monk assassins sent out by Opus Dei, orthodox Catholics on the staff of the National Catholic Reporter, people who like the movie Gigli, and Lennay Kekua – have contributed much to society. But it looks like Jonah Goldberg has grown a bit tired of their act. So he has written an open letter to them, addressed to “Bob.” Continue Reading

27

This is Why We Have a Constitution, and Why the Alternative is Tyranny

New York’s Trespass Act of 1783  offered relief for Patriots who had fled New York City during the time of the Revolutionary “by permitting them to recover damages from persons who had occupied or used their premises during the war.” Common law had typically required  “that actions for trespass must be tried where the property was located, but the act allowed Patriots to sue in any court where the defendant could be found.” It also denied the laws of war by prohibiting the accused of arguing that they had been acting “under orders of the occupying British army, and the act also prohibited the defendants from appealing to a higher court.” (Citations from Forrest McDonald, Novus Ordo Seclorum.)

The New York Trespass Act was but one of many factors that led to the creation of the written United States Constitution. Under the Articles of Confederation government, the states had almost unlimited authority to pass any laws they pleased. The only check on the state governments were the citizens of the several states. Unfortunately, the people themselves were often the impetus behind the enactment of unjust laws.

The Constitution was a reaction to life under the Articles of Confederation. Though conservatives like to point out that the government created under the Constitution is one of limited powers – a fact which is undeniably true – the Constitution actually enhanced the powers of the federal government and was meant, in part, to curb some of the excesses of unlimited state authority.
In truth the Constitution was a perfect balancing act. The Federalists hoped to strengthen the federal government while simultaneously placing significant limits on the powers of said government. They wanted to mitigate the excesses of democratic government in the states while continuing to leave most of the day-to-day governing authority in the hands of local government. The Constitution is a document designed to prevent the outbreak of democratic despotism, but which also aimed at limiting the reach of government. These are not contradictory aims. As much as it may surprise political philosophers such as Piers Morgan to hear, purely democratic governments can become tyrannical – ask Plato and Aristotle about that.
If we understand the genesis of our Constitution then we can better understand why we revere it and strive to live as much as we can by the letter of said Constitution. It’s not because it’s some old, musty document and we just have a blind devotion to old things. There was a wisdom and a theory behind the Constitution that made as much sense in 1787 as it does in 2013.
And now, due to the gun control debate, we have proof of why the Federalists were right, and why we are inching closer to tyranny. Continue Reading