22 Responses to Which "unjust war"?

  • Bush signed a timetable.

    I’ve never been more proud of him. I’ll probably never be again.

    A timetable means we’re out and no excuse in voting for Obama.

  • On the issue of Islam and radical religious extremists, the point that Muslims are not terrorists cannot be said enough.

  • This is something that we can disagree on, using prudential judgement. But here’s my two cents worth. The reigning Pope, John-Paul expressed the opinion that the invasion of Iraq was an unjust act.

    To have a just war, you need to fufill four requirments:

    It must be declared because of a substantive attack, that makes a declaration of war proportional to the attack. Iraq didn’t attack us.

    It must be declared by an authority that destest war–President bush was looking for an excuse to attack Iraq–and didn’t prove any sort of provocation.

    It must be waged in such a way as too prevent or preclude evils greater than the war itself from surfacing, and to minimize civilian suffering. Gee–with the civilian casualty rate in Iraq being what it is, and the country being plunged into a situation resembling civil war at times, we didn’t even come close to this. I know that the vast majority of casualties have been inflicted on the Iraqi people by other Iraqis or by Al Queda. But the moral standard is that such things must not occure. And we set up the situation that allowed that to occure. Evils, greater than the ones the war was meant to remedy, is the phrase.

    And finally, Their must be a reasonable expectation of success. We did OK with this in phase one, the war against Saddam. And we felt we could, and we have, defeated the Islamicists in Iraq, so we’re OK on that count.

    One out of Four? When all Four are supposed to be met?


  • Excellent post.

  • Ignorant Redneck,

    Just my two cents worth as well.

    Pope JP2 offered a statement that is not binding on Catholics. This is where there is ‘wiggle’ room for debate.

    As for me. I am still struggling with the Iraq War on whether it was a necessary war or not so I can’t offer much but my two cents worth for now.

  • On the issue of Islam and radical religious extremists, the point that Muslims are not terrorists cannot be said enough.

    Eric — I agree. It’s a topic that I’ve addressed repeatedly on my own blog (Against The Grain) and will likely touch on here in future posts.

    As far as evaluating the decision-making that led up to the war in Iraq, I recommend Doug Feith’s War and Decision for an inside look at how the issues were debated at the time — many will find it “revisionist history”, insofar as it manages to counter the dominant “Bush lied, people died” meme of the left.

  • The war in Iraq is yet another blatant example of an incompetent presidency. The only good that can come of this war now is for the Republican Party to be denounced for the rubes that they are. Even the most ardent Republican must shudder at the thought of continuing this madness for 4 more years.

  • AC must be hitting the big-time – we now have a troll.

  • Ignorant Redneck,
    Your criteria don’t quite seem to match the Catechism. I quote:

    CCC 2309 The strict conditions for legitimate defense by military force require rigorous consideration. the gravity of such a decision makes it subject to rigorous conditions of moral legitimacy. At one and the same time:
    – the damage inflicted by the aggressor on the nation or community of nations must be lasting, grave, and certain;
    – all other means of putting an end to it must have been shown to be impractical or ineffective;
    – there must be serious prospects of success;
    – the use of arms must not produce evils and disorders graver than the evil to be eliminated. The power of modem means of destruction weighs very heavily in evaluating this condition.

    These are the traditional elements enumerated in what is called the “just war” doctrine.

    The evaluation of these conditions for moral legitimacy belongs to the prudential judgment of those who have responsibility for the common good.

    It says that those in the government have to make the decision, not that they have to “detest war” as you put it. We can still debate as to whether the initial invasion was just. I don’t know the answer to that.

  • Thank you, Sue (and all, for commenting).

    I guess my chief point is that it’s not 2002 — it’s 2008.

    We can continue kicking the dead horse of “was the Iraq war just or not”, but I’d argue that what’s important is to evaluate morally the role of our armed forces in Iraq in the here and now.

    Even if one were to rule that the invasion of Iraq was unjust, does it necessarily follow that joint actions between U.S.-Iraqi forces against insurgents/Al-Qaeda since the fall of Saddam Hussein are unjust as well?

    From the way some discussions go, one gets the impression that any and every U.S. action at this moment in time in Iraq (even those undertaken in the defense of Iraqi citizens), the answer would be affirmative.

  • Christopher,

    First, I agree tht it’s useless to debate the “justness” of the Iraq war. What is always absent from such discussions, though, it seems,is any mention of the original reasons given for going to war, and any mention of the multiple opportunities given to Saddam to avoid war. Nothing that was demanded of him **by the United Nations** was unreasonable (unless you think the wounding of his pride unreasonable); there would have been no war had Saddam submitted to the inspection regime mandated by the UN. So, findings post-invasion aside, Saddam could have avoided having unwelcome guests by simply doing what he was asked to do by the international community.

    I also find the selective ommission of that last little part of the Catechism’s treatment of just war illuminating. It says:

    “The evaluation of these conditions for moral legitimacy belongs to the prudential judgment of those who have responsibility for the common good.”. (Thanks, Sue, for posting it above). Which part of, “it’s the President’s job, and ultimate responsibility to determine if a military action is just” is it so hard for folks to understand? Those who have all the info get to make all the decisions.

    Think of it like this: you’re standing in a dark alleyway. A police officer shines a light on you, points a weapon at you, and says “Freeze! Police!”. You’re holding something in your hand that, in the dark and from a distance, could be mistaken for a hand gun. You raise your hand in a manner similar to someone lifting a weapon to point it, the officer fires three times, striking you cenþer-of-mass, and you fall down mortally wounded.

    That officer’s prudential judgment was that you posed an immediate threat to his life. Your actions did nthing to dissuade him; he placed three. Rounds through your torso. Who wqas wrong, given the circumstances? You. You didn’t do as you were asked, by a man with a bigger stick and the authority to use it, and now you’re shot.

    I deplore war. I lost two classmates and countless fellow alumni in Iraq and Afghanistan. I would rther we not have gone to fight anywhere. But we did. So what now?

  • Pope JP2 offered a statement that is not binding on Catholics. This is where there is ‘wiggle’ room for debate.

    As for me. I am still struggling with the Iraq War on whether it was a necessary war or not so I can’t offer much but my two cents worth for now.

    Ignorant Redneck,

    Y’see, Tito is one of those “wigglin’ Catholics.”

    “The evaluation of these conditions for moral legitimacy belongs to the prudential judgment of those who have responsibility for the common good.”. (Thanks, Sue, for posting it above). Which part of, “it’s the President’s job, and ultimate responsibility to determine if a military action is just” is it so hard for folks to understand? Those who have all the info get to make all the decisions.

    Deacon Chip,

    All that line from the Catechism means is that those in authority (the president, in shorthand) are the ones who ultimately make the call whether or not to go to war. The Church doesn’t make the call, because the Church does not go to war – states do. But the responsibility for reflecting on and making judgments according to just war teaching do NOT belong to “the president” alone. The Church reserves the right to make a judgment on the president’s decisions. Otherwise, there is no authority above the state. Likewise, each Christian, and especially each Christian soldier, must make a judgment regarding each war which may not coincide with the prudential judgment of the state. The individual’s conscience is above that of the president. Your view, that “what the president says goes” is dangerous and ties the hands of the Church and of individual Christians.

  • Even if one were to rule that the invasion of Iraq was unjust, does it necessarily follow that joint actions between U.S.-Iraqi forces against insurgents/Al-Qaeda since the fall of Saddam Hussein are unjust as well?

    Great question, although I’m not sure that some of your interlocutors will even acknowledge it.

  • Isn’t it slimy how Weigel wiggles his way out of the indirect, but arguably well foreseeable consequences of the initial, unjust invasion, in his division of the wholeaffair into separate ones?

  • Uh, no, not at all Mark. They are two entirely separate questions. I think Weigel was wrong to support the initial invasion, but I don’t deny that a case could sincerely be made based on the available information. What to do once the U.S. was in Iraq is an entirely separate question, and, by the way, the one that has been relevant for about five years now.

  • I think this is one of the areas where tribalism becomes an all too negative force in our politics. The argument from the religious left is, “The Iraq was unjust, therefore we must vote the Republicans out of office.”

    This is, of course, very convenient if you were against the Republicans taking power back in 2000 in the first place.

    However, while one can certainly take the punitive approach of “They were wrong, so they should suffer” I don’t think there’s much of a moral imperative either way in this election as regards the future conduct of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. There is virtually no difference between the two candidates positions on those issues.

    Which is why I don’t exactly understand why the war is sometimes presented as a “proportionate reason” one must vote pro-choice this time around.

  • However, while one can certainly take the punitive approach of “They were wrong, so they should suffer”…

    Y’see, you just don’t get it. It’s not that we anti-war types wants republicans to suffer. We want the suffering that republicans cause to stop.

  • And yet the candidate you endorsed today does not have a position on the war that is one jot different from that of McCain. (Which is, after all, how he neutralized the issue on which McCain hoped to run.)

    Your great hope is that he’s lying, and will act differently than he’s said he will.

  • We want the suffering that republicans cause to stop.

    Yeah, there weren’t any Democrats who supported the initial decision to go to war. Only Republicans can cause suffering, I guess. Democrats get absolved somehow if they vacillate when the going gets tough…. And then when the surge works, their Presidential candidate can vacillate again and take an essentially identical position to the Republican candidate.

  • If Obama wins tomorrow, the Democrats will have the presidency and a majority in Congress. Since they are the majority, anything that goes wrong on the national level, they’ll take the blame for, regardless of who did it or if the Republicans cooperated in the so-called “evil.” The GOP will be at a natural advantage in the next election.

    I pray that this isn’t reality come tomorrow.

  • Eric,

    I feel the same way. But what amount of damage can the democrats do in two years in complete and total power?

    I hope not much, but they WILL do a lot of damage.

  • -Since they are the majority, anything that goes wrong on the national level, they’ll take the blame for-

    Yep. They might try and shift blame, but the majority of americans won’t buy it. The majority may vote them in, but that same majority is just voting against the Republicans. They aren’t doctrinaire Democrats, just pissed off Americans. They’ll keep the Dems on a short leash. In two years, here we go again!

16 Responses to Pop Quiz

  • “Our taxes going to the needy, however beneficial it might prove, is an abrogation of the human will towards charity. It not only bereaves us of the choice of where our money goes, but it also stunts the growth of charity in our souls.”

    That’s funny!

    You caricature the Right very well…

    “As a note, Senator Obama—like many on the left—seems to have little to no faith in human charity.”

    I know. Does not he see how little the poor need anyone beyond individual givers, uniting outside of the government? Case in point. Latin American countries under right wing dictators…the usa…

  • Did you use the Acton-Cliff Notes?

  • So Mark, do you believe the populace at large incapable of charity? Or if not, perhaps you can enlighten us as to how exactly we’re supposed to provide for the poor.

    Frankly, I can’t see how leaving people with their money to choose to spend/donate as they deem right is a bad thing. Even if they waste the money on trinkets or fast food, that’s jobs for people. Take that money away, that decreases the number of jobs available, which makes more poor. Handouts don’t cover what a steady job can provide.

    But you might have a different viewpoint. Please, enlighten us.

  • I personally know someone in my family who made some unwise decisions, got pregnant, lost her job and healthcare insurance for not being able to work (her healthcare was attached to her job). The man who got her pregnant is a deadbeat. So, she set her eyes on abortion. Luckily, she has a pro-life Catholic in her family and together, we made the decision that she shouldn’t do that.

    She’s received about 200 dollars a month from the government on unemployment. Many in our family contributed what they can to assist her with her baby that was born in July.

    My point? There was no way that this “redistribution of wealth” in anyway really changed the playing field. Or, what if that “redistribution” made it easier for people to be like me — the first in an entire family to go after higher education. It costs $30,000 a year to receive the education I do. My mother makes just about that much in a year. How many youth with potential are barred from going to school because of skyrocketing costs?

    It seems to me that even if I knew that the government would be assisting people, it would no in way bar me from doing charity. I think the notion that the government doing some of the work will prevent people from doing charity is absurd. The reason people don’t give charitably is selfishness — it’s not because someone else is doing it. Would you stop giving to charity? Would you not stop to help someone because the government gave them a few measely dollars that hardly enables them — even stretching the money — to live even comfortably in this society? Do you remember when minimum wage was $5.15? Have you ever watched a family struggle making it by on such a salary?

    Obama seems to have little faith in human charity. Maybe. But as far as the rich giving to charity, the amount they give is hardly a dime in terms of the money they have. What is $2 million dollars to Bill Gates?

    Moreover, I dare to ask how fair is the economic system we have. It’s fundamentally social Darwinism — survival of the fittest. It’s a system of unrestricted competition and it’s the very reason why a small few can set a monopoly on money and get richer, usually without doing anything. Perhaps, all it takes is nothing but an investment.

    But how is such a system that is naturally disadvantaged to the poor and lower middle class really compatitible with the Catholic faith? It’s not a natural law approach to anything. It’s a consequentialist ethic — which is in itself moral relativism with another mask. What is good in terms of business usually has more to do with profit, shareholders, and prosperity of that particularly business than with the human dignity and welfare of society. Ultimately, we’re banking on the moral uprighteousness of the private sector just as we’re banking on the moral uprighteousness of the government. All of mankind is fallen from sin. Why should we trust one over the other? Why is one method so much superior to the other?

    Sure you’ll disagree with me, but I think it is something that Catholic Social Teaching is entirely consonant with political conservativism. But political liberalism, or “socialism” is just bad business all over the place. If I’m not mistaken, Catholic teaching is beyond “left” and “right” politics. And though the issue at hand is not “non-negotiable” and thus we can have legitimate disagreement, we’re not both right. Or maybe we’re both wrong.

  • Eric,

    Excellent response, and tough questions to address. I don’t believe that government spending on the poor destroys all charitableness, or that the government shouldn’t spend money to help others. But I do think that government handouts have a tendency to harden hearts towards those receiving handouts, especially here in the U.S. where there is such a culture of individualism that we tend to look down on people in need. Indeed, I struggle a lot with the question of how we can justify railing against higher taxes when there are people in need. Aren’t we just struggling futilely to cling to material wealth, wealth that ultimately means little in the long run? My problem, ultimately, is not whether or not the government should send some tax revenue to aid the poor, but how much it should tax others to do so. How much is enough, and how much is too much? Frankly, if tax cuts increase federal revenue, then why speak at all of “raising taxes out of fairness” even if it means less federal revenue to spend on welfare?

    But the problem of charity is a real one. Certainly there is a problem when half the people you talk to complain about “lazy good-for-nothings, feeding off the government”. Does this mean that the government not giving out welfare will inspire charity? Not by any means. But I do believe there’s a point where the government takes so much and hands it back out to so many others that it starts to wound charity in the hearts of those who are taken from.

    I fundamentally disagree that our economic system is naturally disadvantaged to the poor and the middle class. Maybe that’s because I come from a middle class family, and am in third generation receiving a college education. Maybe it’s because I come from Wyoming, which has very few minorities, and thus I don’t see the discrimination minorities suffer from. Maybe it’s because in Wyoming, you can always work construction, the oil fields, or the coal mines, and make more in a year without a high school diploma than most college graduates make. Or maybe it’s because I’ve seen my father work hard and build a small accounting firm, and has risen from making barely $30K/year to over $60K/year. Maybe its because my family was willing to offer a friend of mine free housing, food, clothes, and even a car for cheap in an effort to help him make it through college. And that friend started from a poor “white trash” (he’ll admit the white trash if you ask him) family, most of which is still in the gutters, not because they can’t haul themselves out, but because they keep wasting all the chances they get.

    The way we think things work undoubtedly comes from what we see growing up. Eric, I’m not sure what all difficulties you’ve had to face in your life, so I can’t necessarily appreciate where you’re coming from. But when I look at the economic system we have, I can’t see a better system for providing the poor with opportunities to rise out of squalor.

    Wealth tends to concentrate on a small percentage of the population? That doesn’t bother me any. Most of those who are wealthy worked their way to it. I think it is a fundamental prejudice to suggest that the rich don’t do anything to earn their wealth. I’ll agree that some don’t, and I’ll agree that some get rich quickly from dirty methods. But those are a scant few among the other hard-working, successful people.

    I could rant about this for hours, but I have work to do, so I’ll let it go there, without having said anything of substance. And I do understand very well the story of the rich man who donated a lot of money to the temple, but only a tiny, tiny fraction of what he had, and the poor woman who gave up her last two talents, and how Jesus praised her before his apostles for the sacrifice she made. There, at least, I can readily agree with you.

  • One interesting group to look at in this regard is the Amish. They refuse both social security, medicare and any form of private insurance because they believe such approaches do not constitute truly “being your brothers keeper”. Instead, each Amish community has its own emergency fund. Everyone is assessed, according to his means, to pay into that fund, and the fund then pays out when families run into problems (medical or otherwise) that result in expenses they can’t meet themselves.

    Now, here’s the thing: Even the most well off know they need to contribute to that fund, not only in order to avoid social and moral ostricization, but also because they know they have no other recourse. If the rich Amish bought insurance, but everyone was supposed to pay into the community fund to help the poor ones who couldn’t afford insurance — I would imagine that it would be a lot harder to get everyone to chip in. People would still have their charitable impulses reinforcing the need to help with the community fund, but their sense of self interest would no longer reinorce that impulse.

    Not that I’m saying I’m eager to give up my insurance…

    What I do think it can show the rest of us, however, is that getting people to participate in charitable/solidarity actions at a serious scale (not a hundred spare dollars once or twice a year, but enough to really cover the needs of those without their own means) relies on a sense of urgent need. If your self interest is brought into play because you rely on the same community fund, that gives urgency. If you know that there are no other options out there, and so if your parish (to pull an example) doesn’t put together a significant scholarship fund, than many of the students from poorer families will simply not be able to go to college — that gives urgency. But if one has the general feeling that there must be an awful lot of programs out there (private and public) already meeting a given need, there’s not much sense of urgency and people tend to keep themselves to themselves.

  • Ryan,

    I’m not convinced that tax cuts increases federal revenue, in fact, I think the opposite. It’s heatedly debated in political circles. But that’s not our interest here. We’re concerned on how we as Catholics — even as we disagree — can transform the political landscape with millions of other people with whom we agree and disagree. That’s the challenge. Personally, I’m all in favor of the FairTax. But that’s not the current tax system.

    I believe that the government has moral purpose. How the mechanism is used is the fundamental question. It’s difficult to answer. I’m not sure I agree with people having a hardened heart in receiving government “handouts.” I’m sure there are plenty who are grateful. It seems to me that if we had a system where people could receive needed assistance for a specific amount of time — in other words, a transition period — with information forwarded to them to aid them in finding a job and provided evidence that they are searching, I think we would be better off. This would decrease dependency dramatically and encourage self-sufficiency.

    It also seems to me that there are shades of the culture of individualism in saying “this is my money and the poor shouldn’t get it unless I say they can.” People of that sort don’t seem to care for charity — either through the government or themselves. Now surely this doesn’t account for the majority of conservatives. Nevertheless, the question of how much the government should help is one of prudence and that’s not definitively answerable.

    I do share your concern that the government giving out too much can have an adverse effect to some extent. I’ve been in the car with friends who say when they see a homeless person, “the government really ought to do something to help him.” But I don’t think that the lack of charity is contigent on the fact that the government is helping people, but rather it inadvertently reaffirms the lack of charity and moral disordering (for an ordered morality demands charity) that already exists in their own life. And I don’t think that we can avoid doing as much good as we can through the mechanism of the government (without the State exceeding its boundaries) for the sake of unintended consequences. It’s like not standing up against injustice because one fears that it’ll cause an unwanted backlash.

    In terms of our economic system, it depends on if its an unrestricted free-market or a free-market with a few minimal regulations. I favor the latter. I think the former does naturally give advantage to the upper middle class and the rich. I think that there are opportunities for people to rise out of poverty, but I attribute it more to God’s grace than to the system itself. I’m not entirely convinced that most of the wealthy worked their way to it. Just at my school, I see kids with a silver spoon in their mouth who in many ways are totally ignorant of the plight of others. Their parents can easily and readily afford college. Many of them have gone to private school their whole lives–some with tuitions just as high as their college tuition. They are born with all the support they need and with many advantages. What about children born to parents who aren’t as well off?
    Supposedly 60% of the bottom of the socio-economic scale is comprised of single parent households. Statistically children raised in such environments are more likely to do drugs, drink alcohol regularly, to drop out of school, to repeat a grade, to be sexually promiscuous, and the list goes on. I was born into the place on the scale. My grandmother who is 75 years old, to this day works, cleaning houses for two different families. One of which she has worked for her entire life (my grandmother’s family always worked for that family and I believe generations ago was “owned” by that family). The family she has worked for the longest is very wealthy. The lady — Mrs. Moroney — is a very liberal, pro-choice Democrat (she supports government intervention). She also happens to believe in me so much that she is willing to pay all remaining costs of my education — out of pocket — which has totalled over $30,000 by now. This was all generous charity and I am very grateful. But I ask myself to question — of the thousands of people that are born into a similar situation as mine, how many receive the same blessings?

    I’m not saying “let’s have a mass government ‘hand-out’ party,” but that there is some merit to the government assisting people. And yes, I’m looking at all of this through the lens of my own life — and I’d like to think through the lens of the lives of other people who won’t share my blessings. I find it very disheartening when things are just classified as “socialism” and dismissed. It really cuts off rational discourse and creates the endless culture war — this clash of orthodoxies — that we’re experiencing and are all frustrated about. Many Democrats, myself included, aren’t in favor of equal results in life. That’s not realistic. But we do favor an equality of opportunity and currently — and I don’t think anyone would argue this — there is a large disparity in the socio-economic ladder that makes this very difficult. Thus, people should be provided the resources they need — public and private — to help them achieve those means. No, we shouldn’t just subsidize it and give them a free ride and teach them that a lack of personal responsibility is alright; it isn’t.

    But I think a safety net that relies solely on charity in the western world is a recipe for disaster. It won’t happen. And the worse our education gets (its happening), the worse our morals get (its happening), and the more we’re all geared for ruthless competition with one another, we will fall. We’ve got to help as many as we can and I think it requires — at least at this point in history — that the government be involved. That’s my perspective.

  • Ryan,

    Would you say that the Amish system is an honest example of the doctrine of subsidiarity and distributism?

    Just a rhetorical question from a die-hard free-market capitalist just learning about Catholic teaching on economics and rethinking his position.

  • Eric,

    As a quick note, I might have been confusing about it, but the “hardened hearts” refer to the people seeing others getting handouts, paying their income into handouts, not the people receiving the handouts.

    I see the growth of government as a necessary effect of the decline of the morals of the populace. As people become less inclined to take care of themselves, the government has no choice but to step in a fill in the gaps. So to some extent I agree that government-funded welfare is a result of uncharitable hearts. I do feel that there’s a feedback in the system, though. As charity decrease, the role of the government increases, further justifying reduction in charity, forcing more government increase, and so on.

    But government exists to be a safety net, so I will never argue against the government providing safety nets. Government exists to protect us from outside threat. We could, perhaps organize that on our own with a bunch of independent militias, but it would be ineffective. Thus it provides a safety net there. Government exists to protect our rights from impinging neighbors. While we might have some success dealing with matters privately, and privately should be our first recourse, the courts exist as a safety-net to assure our rights are preserved. (I just wish they would stop inventing rights at the drop of a hat.) And these are cases that don’t directly touch upon the economic issue we’re talking about. Yes, we cannot count on safety nets that rely solely on charity. That, I believe, is actually called anarchy.

    The government first and foremost has to respect the human dignity of those it governs. Included in human dignity is industry, and compensation for labor. Thus I agree with government policy that regulates the markets so as to prevent monopolies and unjust wages. Thus I also agree with taxes, for I see the government as a body of people also deserving in compensation for their labor.

    The government has the ability to steer us through particular market forces, through taxes and subsidies. It can introduce artificial demands and artificial supply restrictions. And in do so, it can throw the market out of whack.

    Let’s consider colleges, for example. The cost of college is high, true, but its purpose is also to provide a further education and qualifications that make an individual valuable for some select positions in the market. Not everyone needs to go to college. Others can find themselves quite content with trade jobs or as laborers. Not everyone wants to be an executive. I agree, though, that having a college education gives one quite an edge in finding a nice, comfortable, high-paying job, and that many people who would be suited for those positions don’t get the chance because of financial considerations.

    What happens when we subsidize college education? The demand for college increases, as we’ve seen. We’ve struggled to send as many of our youth to college as we can, which in turn increases the demand. The demand is especially for prestigious universities. So what happens to the cost of attending? It goes up. On the flip side, a college needs students for a large portion of its funding, especially private universities that don’t receive state or federal funding. So more students means more funding. Except for the need for more facilities, more professors, more housing, more equipment, and so on. The net result? A mess. Usually the cost of attending continues to soar. At least, that’s how it has been at the University of Wyoming, and this little state university is one of the least-expensive to attend in the nation, even as an out-of-state student.

    Saying that, of course, calls my attention back to your silver-spoon students, who had no clue of the problems people around them suffered. Extrapolating from Wyoming probably makes me one of those, doesn’t it?

    “No, we shouldn’t just subsidize it and give them a free ride and teach them that a lack of personal responsibility is alright; it isn’t.”

    What is the right balance between providing, and enabling sloth? The problem, of course, becomes that the further away from the beneficiary you are, the less capable you are of making that decision. That’s why I feel government should be a last resort, and that family and community should be the first responders. They’re the best ones to know what you need (statistically speaking, anyway).

    To use your benefactor as an example: God bless Mrs. Moroney for her generous donation. Her example definitely supports what you said before about government intervention not preventing charity. But she also, by your very words, justifies my position. She knows you, knows your needs, believes in you, and thus has made a contribution. (You can burn me if I’m speaking out of line, too personal, or such, or if I’m just flat out wrong.) She wouldn’t necessarily do that to someone off the street because she doesn’t know if such a contribution would be worthwhile, what that person actually needed.

    Back to the college example, we don’t know if everyone needs the opportunity to go to college. For some, maybe going to college is the last thing they need. It certainly is telling when you provide a college education, practically free of charge, and many students simply flunk out for lack of care. Maybe it makes more sense to make the last two years free of charge as opposed to the first two. Federal Stafford loans already reflect this: the further you get in college, the more you can borrow.

    The problem I have is that too many of the policies suggested smack of eating the whole harvest without preserving seeds for next year’s planting.

    I would ask, then, what do you view as the ideal economic policy? How would you craft things so that everything works perfectly? I don’t ask this to be flip, but as a serious consideration. For a long time, I was very Ayn Rand-ian about unregulated free markets (while my sister was very, very Marxist, go figure). But I’ve migrated from the radical end to feeling that regulated free-markets, with government safety nets to assist those who fall through the cracks in the market work well. I might go a little further left of that, if convinced, but I cannot see any other economic policy in existence that provides the poor with as many opportunities.

    One thing that always caught me was this. Suppose we all stopped eating fast food and donated that money to charity. Well, that would nice at first, except it would put some 10 million people out of jobs, needing more charity. So suppose we cut out other luxuries in our lives and donated that money to charity. That’s more money given to the needy, but more people out of jobs, too. Keep following this line of thought, and suddenly we have huge unemployment and nowhere near enough money to help everyone. That’s why I was for a long time a follower of Rand’s “Virtue of Selfishness”.

    But then there’s the catholic concern about God and mammon. That’s what changed my mind. Economic growth is important, because it is far more beneficial for a poor man to have a job than handouts. But we can’t subscribe to Rand’s selfishness, because it is selfishness itself that causes the corruption in the markets. And addressing immediate crises in human lives is more important than keeping economic growth high. Putting the growth of capital over all other considerations is just as evil as socialism. But certainly, there has to be some concern about economic growth. I just haven’t figured out the right balance, yet.

  • Tito,

    I would. And the distribution here doesn’t bother me much because it is down at a community level. What worries me about government redistribution is that it is impersonal and wasteful. The thing is, I have no problem with saying that the rich have an obligation to assist the poor. Ideally, I would like that to remain between the rich and the poor without any government intervention. Of course, thing’s don’t work that way.

  • Ryan,

    I was thinking the same thing about distributism. I like the concept, but at the smallest nuclear stage as possible.

    Being raised in a very small town in the middle of the Pacific, I can see this model working well in a neighborhood setting as opposed at the federal or state levels.

  • Ryan,

    You’re misunderstanding me. I can’t answer you point by point, so let me hit a few points. Since we’re talking about the United States, when I say “government,” I’m not necessarily saying the national government. If something can be taken care of at a more local level, then it must be done there first if it can be just as efficient. Therefore, the city government or individual state governments — in my view — bear the responsibility of providing a “safety net” without going beyond its own means. I’m very much in favor of state and local governments providing assistance first to avoid the creation of unnecessary bureaucracies. Moreover, the farther away from the situation one gets, the less pressing it is and the less efficient one is at managing it. So, I think there is a way one can honor the principle of subsidiarity while seeking other principles of Catholic Social Teaching such as preferential option for the poor and vulnerable.

    I think such a half-way measure allows for much common ground debate instead of the polarizing back and forth, endless system of liberals vs. conservatives. Why? Liberals initiate new programs, seek to fund older ones that are falling apart, and they tend to do it especially while having a majority at the national level. In comes the conservatives, they deregulate, cut taxes, cut programs, etc. It goes back and forth and the tug-of-war effects the economy and many who are on the receiving end of such things.

    In my view, human dignity must trump economic growth. A respect for human dignity usually leads to some sort of solidary and community–which usually doesn’t allow for economic collapse. A lack of respect of human dignity leads to a cold machine of unrestricted free-market capitalism, where what’s good for the businesses is good for everyone (which really means almost everybody) and it’s based on a consequentialist ethic of right and wrong, which as I have said, emphasizes profits and shareholders over public interest and I don’t see how this is at all compatitible with Jesus’ teaching. However, to be fair, there must be a working economy if we’re going to be able to help those in need and therefore, the regulation by the government has to be kept to a minimum and this is why I support doing it, as much as possible, away from the federal level so that regional or state problems are solved within the state and only assisted federally if it is necessary.

    There is no such thing as a perfect economic system. But I believe that a free market that has “common good” oriented regulation that is kept to a minimum, without handicapping the market, I think is most effective. But that’s my view and I’m not absolutizing it anyway. Though, I don’t think I’m fundamentally wrong. For example, in regard to minimum wage laws the reason that the Bishops support it is because there have been cases of people being employed for wages that are not sufficient to live decently in our country, particularly to provide for one’s family. Making $5.15 an hour is ridiculous (the current wage is $6.44, I think). Now, arguably, it might have been better for each state to deliver a different minimum wage law, but nevertheless be required to have one could have been a common ground solution. Surely it’s cheaper to live in some states than others. But the fundamental recognition in law that there has to be some relative wage that is fitting to the economic situation of our country that respects human dignity should be established.

    Now in regard to education, you have some good points. But I’ll just point to Texas. I live in a state that is predominantly governed by conservative policies because everyone votes for Republicans. Every fiscal year when we start cutting the budget, education is usually first in line. So in places like “third ward” in Houston, which is essentially a ghetto of blacks and hispanics — the schools are run down, underfunded, science labs have no equipment, teachers are poorly paid. The cost of college as you mention is rising. All of this, but we’re having an 11 billion dollar surplus this year in Texas.

    In my view, it’s not simply the money that’s required, it’s the priortizing and the budgeting. Clinton ended his presidency with four surpluses and a deficit of 5.63 trillion dollars. (I’m not saying that he deserves all the credit — he doesn’t). When Bush leaves office, that deficit will have about doubled. We’re fighting a war that requires us to borrow $10 billion dollars a month. On a side note, over half a million Americans die from various forms of cancer and we spend about $5.5 billion on cancer research. That’s not even a month in Iraq.

    When political conservatives take office, funding for public education and financial aid for students are first in line to be cut and money is delivered elsewhere. So in my view it’s not entirely about cost (costs do matter) but when it comes down to what matters, what doesn’t, what’s more important, and what isn’t, is when I begin to go liberal. I think a lot of problems could be solved if our priorities in our budgets were different.

    And what I really want to get at here is that I’m talking here mainly in theory–sort of like a framework. The approach liberals take, I generally agree with. Now are their policies and tendency toward nationalizing some matters an immediate consequence? I don’t think so. I’d argue that I’m “liberal” and other self-identified liberals sometimes aren’t. Just to give an example or two. If liberals really cared about the weak and vulnerable, they would oppose abortion. If liberals really cared about personal freedom, then they would support transitory welfare systems with strict limits so that Americans don’t become ultra-dependent on the government for survival. In that way, I can argue that I’m adopting a more faithfully “liberal” position.

    I think it’s fair to say — as usual — we agree, more or less, on principle and not on policies.

  • Eric,

    I feel I need to go paragraph by paragraph here…

    P1) Good to get on the same page. I was thinking you only meant federal government. Now that that’s cleared up, with you 100%.

    P2) Still 100%

    P3) Still 100%. I really think that full respect for human dignity and a thriving economy go hand-in-hand, that the second naturally springs from the first. Yes, human dignity must indeed trump economy when it becomes an either-or situation. I think we only differ on when that happens. Maybe the how, as well. We’ll see.

    P4) I’m only cautious about the minimum wage thing. That might be because in Wyoming, in most cities the cost of living is cheap. (Not in Laramie, where college students drive housing prices up, or in Rawlins, which is struggling to house a massive number of construction workers, or in Jackson a.k.a. “Little California”.) There’s a lot I could say about minimum wage, and it reflects back on immigrant workers that cram together in a small house, only staying there to sleep, essentially, as they struggle to make ends meet. But then, I don’t know if finding roommates to help split the cost is a good idea or not, giving the potential of abuse. And I suppose, reluctantly, that it makes sense to index minimum wage against inflation, but minimum wage is minimum wage for a reason. It is the wage that says “I have no skills, yet”. I’d rather see a bill mandating a certain amount of raise every so often than a bill raising minimum wage. Your thoughts on that?

    P5) To fix education, we have to fix our public schools and the success of our students there. I have no good ideas of how to do that. The cure, I don’t think, is as simple as throwing money at the problem. Do you think Texas might be willing to have recruitment of public school teachers on the level that it recruits football players? Get all the public schools together and have a draft of potential teachers, of which stats regarding each one’s teaching ability are publicly known? I’d definitely be willing to distribute some of that $11 billion surplus to help each school acquire teachers up to some set salary cap.

    It seems to me that fixing college, or making college available to more and more people, does little unless we actually make our public schools quality schools again. But then, I’ve also heard that a lot of failing schools are failing due to cultural reasons, not financial ones. Do you know or have any experience with this?

    P6) Priorities are going to be a place we differ. All I can say about your example, though, is that cancer is something that plagues all mankind, the Iraq war that is primarily an American and Iraqi problem. The problem I have with the Iraq War right now, and ever since the terrorists decided to make Iraq the central front, is that the Iraq War seems to be a low priority thing, even with all that we seem to be dumping into it. It doesn’t feel, to me, that we’re taking the war seriously. If we had really been serious about it, ramped things up to the levels of previous wars, I think we’d be out of Iraq by now. And since we thought we could fight Iraq in our spare time, I don’t think we should have gone in in the first place. I guess maybe I would amend what you have to say, then, is not just priorities, but commitment to them. Enough half-baked ideas or empty promises.

    P7) Makes sense to me.

    P8) I talk in theory a lot, too. My field of research is theory. Mathematics is about as theoretical as you get. So don’t worry if you’re getting too theoretical.

    P9) I think, between us, we could hammer out an acceptable policy. Let’s try to have one drafted up to present to the next president, whoever he is!

  • Ryan,

    In regard to your first question on minimum wage. Currently, minimum wage laws are done from the federal level. States can raise the wages higher, but cannot be lower than the federal mandated minimum wage. The notion of a “living wage” was introduced by Pope Leo XIII against the excesses of laissez-faire capitalism and communism. The Holy Father affirmed the right to private property while insisting on the state requiring a living wage. In essence, private property requires state protection and a certain dimension of the common good requires state regulation. Thus, minimum wage is a set legal stature by which the state mandates that all workers be given a “living wage,” which is necessary for a person to achieve a humane standard of living–a person should be able to afford quality housing, foods, utilities, transportation, health care, and minimal leisure.

    Some excerpts of Rerum Novarum:

    “If a worker receives a wage sufficiently large to enable him to provide comfortably for himself, his wife and his children, he will, if prudent, gladly strive to practice thrift; and the result will be, as nature itself seems to counsel, that after expenditures are deducted there will remain something over and above through which he can come into the possession of a little wealth. We have seen, in fact, that the whole question under consideration cannot be settled effectually unless it is assumed and established as a principle, that the right of private property must be regarded as sacred. Wherefore, the law ought to favor this right and, so far as it can, see that the largest possible number among the masses of the population prefer to own property.” (#65)

    “Wealthy owners of the means of production and employers must never forget that both divine and human law forbid them to squeeze the poor and wretched for the sake of gain or to profit from the helplessness of others.” (#17)

    “As regards protection of this world’s good, the first task is to save the wretched workers from the brutality of those who make use of human beings as mere instruments for the unrestrained acquisition of wealth.” (#43)

    How the state ensures a “living wage” can have a variety of forms, I imagine. The most common method is through minimum wage laws. Obviously, I support minimum wage laws. Given the unique structure of the American political system, I don’t think minimum wage laws — as I’ve said — have to be legislated on a national level. Since each state has its own economy, since the price of living in Alabama is not the same as the price of living in New York, then it seems to me preferrable that minimum wage laws still be made, but by the state rather than federal government. That way, the minimum wage in New York or California (places where it’s relatively more expensive to live) be higher than the minimum wage in Louisiana or Nebraska where the cost of living is notably lower. Giving differing state economies, it is more reasonable to not have an across the board minimum wage law. That’s my view on that matter.

    In regard to education, I don’t think we disagree much. We spend more money than any other industrialized nation in the world on education and we have a poor quality of education. One thing — we’re also a much larger country than many others and we have a profoundly different system. So in some ways, I think it’s not always good to compare. There is a need of money, as I noted with schools with outdated textbooks, lacking scientific lab equipment, and poorly paid teachers.

    One thing I think is the emphasis on athletics and not on academics, particularly in the south. The other is the shortage of teachers. Teachers aren’t paid well for all the work they do. A lot they do for free (e.g. staying after school to tutor students for hours). One thing is that education needs to be the item on our list that doesn’t face routine budget cuts. Huge surpluses and problems in our education system such as the ones we have, don’t make much moral sense.

    On the matter of proving the quality of education, I agree entirely. I’m in favor of all but abolishing standardized testing. All it does is gear the entirety of one’s education toward remembering facts to pass some test. The emphasis in education should be on writing well, thinking rationally and critcally, and being able to articulate clearly and synthesize ideas coherently. This usually curbs one’s tendency toward relativism because many of these tenets are present in a liberal arts education.

    Education is also suffering because of at home issues. Students in single parent households are likely to do poorer in school than those who have a traditional family setting. Some parents (Asians especially) are more interested in their children’s academic success than other ethnic groups (African Americans and Hispanics especially). This needs to be a factor that influences our approach to education so that this isn’t a cycling, never-ending reality. The people who grow up to vote, to effect the morality of our country and our culture, come through the education system. There will always be some failing at home and if there isn’t a “safety net” of some sort in the education system to limit cultural and moral relavitism through educating people away from that, we’ll continue to have problems. I suspect in retrospect that one of my high school teachers was a Catholic and that he geared me away from such forms of thinking. Surely, an aversion of relativism isn’t contigent on one’s being Catholic, but simply on being rational (so it’s possible to achieve). After all, everyone who approaches the abortion debate with a poor understanding of morality (and the ‘answerless’ question of when life begins) came through the American education system. It’s why I think it is so fundamental.

    In regard to priortizing issues, I was merely pointing out the fact that it seems that our priorties are misplaced. For someone who calls himself a “liberal,” I think most liberal methods in international policies are severely flawed. To give one example, sending millions of dollars to African governments to help people is commendable in intention, but in policy it doesn’t work. To send money through the machinery of a corrupt government is to waste money because it’ll never reach the people. There is a sufficient amount of food in Africa, it just isn’t distributed justly. I’ve been told (so I’m not sure if it’s true) that the government stores food up and keep it from its citizens. So we have to find more creative ways of dealing with these morally-pressing problems besides throwing American money at it. Essentially, I’m bad mouthing putting more financial power on foreign rather than domestic issues. Cancer was just the example I used. And I too agree that much of what we do, we do half-heartedly, which is an essential ingredient to its failure.

  • Eric,

    I’m ambivalent about standardized testing. For the one year I tested the waters in the college of education, I was exposed to a lot of prejudice about how schooling is to be done. Standardized testing is bad. Dividing students up into tracks is bad. Lots of projects that span many subjects are good. Lessons should be tailored so that the brightest and slowest are each engaged and learning. Grades should be based on rubrics, not the 100 point or A, B, C, D, F scales. Some of these points I agree with, others I don’t. One of my presentations was on standardized testing, and because the prevailing attitude was so negative, I tried to put as much positive spin on it as I could, and I couldn’t muster very much. (Even so, everyone thought I was a crazy conservative who was gung-ho on standardized testing.) But the question becomes, how do you ensure that certain benchmarks are met, that students are actually learning what they need to learn?

    The problem, like in all other areas, is the human factor, especially with teachers. Do we trust all teachers when they say that students have learned what they need to learn, or do we have some other measurement to go by? We can probably trust good teachers, but what about bad ones? But then, how can we trust test written and graded by people who are distant from the students have no idea if the results correspond to the student’s actual abilities? So I don’t think standardized tests are good, but I don’t have a more reasonable alternative, either.

    On the cultural issue affecting education, I’m with you 100%. But I’m not sure how to fix that problem. You can’t legislate that there have to be two parents, and you can’t mandate that parents take sufficient interest. I kind of feel that the only hope is to try to stress to our youth the importance of respect for sex, the sanctity of marriage, and the strength of a stable home in order to try to make life for the next generation better. And that becomes increasingly difficult as the nation is rapidly purging itself of respectable role models.

    As for minimum wage, I can agree that letting the states decide where the minimum is a good idea, especially in the respect for local economies. One of the problems I have is that the minimum wage can only go up. That might be all right if minimum wage is indexed against inflation (though I have arguments about that involving an increase in minimum wage only exacerbating inflation), but there are times when the economy slumps, and companies can only offer lower wages or lay people off. Another problem I have is that I have strong feelings against minimum wage being the base “living wage”. I’m not entirely certain why at the moment. Minimum wage is for the base, green, unskilled worker. Someone who has held a job for a year should not be making minimum wage. He should have seen some raises along the way, at the least. But that is theory, not practice. But here’s the main concern: when you increase the cost of unskilled labor, business tends to be less inclined to hire unskilled labor, and that hurts the unskilled laborers, makes it more difficult to develop skills and build a resume. So I guess the question is: is it really better to have no job at all than a job at $5.15/hr?

    I have no idea how much cost of living in in some places, but I think two people can live frugally in Laramie on about $1500/mo. That ends up being $750 per person take home. Using my sledgehammer approach to taxes (I assume the government simply takes 20% at this level), this amounts to needing to make a little less than $6.00/hr, assuming 40 hours a week, 4 weeks a month. At $5.15 an hour, this means the need to pick up a part-time job, but it is manageable. I know this doesn’t offer much chance of getting ahead, and any emergency can quickly destroy the budget.

    How do these numbers weigh against where you’re at?

    For the priority issues, I feel I might have stepped a little out of line with parts of what I said, and I apologize. And everything you said in your last comment about priorities is dead on, so I don’t have too much to add there.

  • I don’t think you stepped out of line on anything. Your apology is well accepted, but it isn’t necessary.

    To be brief, minimum wage laws are complicated and I don’t think we can come to an exhaustive, objective conclusion on what we should do. You pointed out correctly, I think, that a bare minimum wage can allow a person to live decently if they’re conservative and unyieldingly prudent with their spending habits. However, the slightest emergency can lead them to financial ruin. All I have to say is look at the skyrocketing cost of health care and the basic requirement of education today — with students needing supplies for projects, entire classes being mandated to purchase something, etc. The greater the number of people in this situation, the worse off we’ll be. Because we can’t have that many people fall through the cracks and expect our economy to survive. At the same time, we have to promote personal virtue and responsibility and not go into communism. So it’s a fine line.

    I agree entirely on standardized testing. I did change the standard of measuring progress: “The emphasis in education should be on writing well, thinking rationally and critcally, and being able to articulate clearly and synthesize ideas coherently.” I’m not opposed to testing if the entirety of your education is geared toward the goal of a sort of liberal arts — writing, analyzing, critical thinking skills, and being able to synthesize (coherently) information. If the education is good, then any sort of standardized test at the end of the day should be fairly simple. That’s currently not the case. Our education is geared toward passing a test and not toward being a fully developed human with knowledge of history, the arts, and the capacity to articulate and communicate effectively orally or in writing. Therefore, with the failure to do well on standardized tests, standards of education become increasingly lower, more class time is spent on taking practice tests, etc, than on actually developing these deeply needed skills. I think that’s why education is in such a crisis.

    I truly support any American who teaches their children at home because of personal disatisfcation with the current system. I’m glad this conversation is happening here because it deeply concerns me that Christians, especially Catholics, are not at the front of the American education reform movement. Most of whom I know (or rather, I have discussed it with) are just are very cynical and apathetic toward it. Behavior, values, etc. are learned. And if we cynically criticize culture and education, but aren’t the agents of change, our Christian values will receive — at most — lipservice. That’s what has happened in this country. Every sort of moral relativism, every affirmation of birth control, religious relativism, etc. will be conditioned into the next generation–in both education and culture. This is what I think happened in the late 20th century. The education system was taken away and Christians have not been on the forefront in reform and influence. We’ve created private schools, began to home school, but the mainstream public education that influences the majority, we’ve left to its own designs. And we’re paying for it now.

Topic A

Monday, November 3, AD 2008

Mystery writer, apologist, and Dante scholar Dorothy Sayers once said of her fictional creation Lord Peter Wimsey something along the lines of, “Peter is not really Christian. He would have considered it impolite to hold such strong beliefs.” (If someone knows of the exact quotation — I believe it was from one of Sayers’ published letters — I’d be terribly grateful.)

It is, I think, one of the great temptations of people with an intellectual bent to feel apologetic over holding opinions which are too strong. And it is, I fear, because of a cowardice somewhat akin to this that I have felt slightly embarrassed each day as I check the American Catholic webpage and see that in the tag cloud in the right hand column the term “Abortion” is growing larger and larger. I have been no small contributor to this myself. I hesitate to go count, but I think over half my own posts have listed “abortion” as a topic.

12 Responses to Topic A

  • “And we would refuse to vote for him because we would think the less of ourselves for doing anything to benefit someone with such pernicious views. It is for this same reason that we should, as Catholics, simply refuse to vote for any pro-abortion-rights candidate.”

    I agree that a person’s support for abortion, particularly the extreme resistance to any restrictions embodied by Senator Obama’s record, is indicative of a deeply flawed understanding of the human person and a deeply disturbing callousness towards human beings. At the same time, I think that wife-beating/racial lynchings are imperfect analogies in an important respect. Cultural context matters in evaluating moral actions. A person who supported wife-beating or racial-lynching in ‘modern America,’ rebuked by nearly everyone else in the society, would be a moral monster.

    Anti-Semitism provides a useful illustration, I think. There certainly is a strain, albeit mild, of anti-Semitism in some of Chesterton’s writings. While he was quick to denounce the virulent form that began to develop in Germany shortly before his death, it is not unfair to characterize some of his writings as mildly anti-semitic. In this respect, he was not particularly unique for his cultural circumstance, and it was certainly not a prominent feature of this writing. Now, someone who wrote the type of things he did today would be considered morally odious. Some might refuse to read him on these grounds. Nevertheless, I think that it would be a mistake to refuse to read Chesterton now, because of a flaw that was endemic in his culture. There was nothing particularly distinctive about his mild anti-semitism, except perhaps that it was much milder than many of his contemporaries.

    Similarly, Obama has been raised in a cultural milieu in which support for ‘abortion rights’ is a cherished value, and a litmus test for respectability. Columbia, Harvard Law, the Democratic party, these are all places in which support for abortion rights is utterly unremarkable – that’s what the culture wars are about. To me, Obama’s support for abortion rights is rendered more understandable and less odious placed in this context – a context which does not exist for wife-beating or racial lynching in modern America. A similar point could be made about slavery – the Church implicitly supported it at various points in its history as Dr. Curp discussed in an essay several years ago. Not to put too fine a point on it, but is St. Paul repugnant for accepting slavery as part of the social order?

    I am making the point rather more strongly than I would wish, and of course abortion is a worse evil than mild anti-semitism or slavery. Analogies are difficult, and always fail in one respect or another. Nevertheless, I think Obama’s support for abortion rights is somewhere between Chesterton/anti-semitism, the Church/slavery situation, and the wife-beating, racial lynching analogy. Voting for Obama is not quite like voting for a person who supports wife-beating or racial lynching in modern America; his views, while extreme, are not outside the mainstream of modern political discourse.

    One of the reasons I cannot support the Democratic party in any respect is that it is dedicated to the propagation of an ‘abortion rights’ culture that requires its politicians (see, e.g. Kennedy/Kerry/Biden) to vote for abortion rights as a precondition for national office. I think the post draws attention to an important consideration, but perhaps overstates the case.

  • As Lincoln said about slavery in letter to A.G. Hodges on April 4, 1864, “If slavery isn’t wrong, nothing is wrong.” Abortion is an evil of such a vast magnitude, the deliberate destruction of the most innocent among us, that it makes a mockery of any pretense that our society has to observing a moral code. In a society where abortion is celebrated as a constitutional right, there is no evil that cannot, and will not, be embraced as a good depending upon passing intellectual fashions and popular prejudices. For Christians not to fight against abortion makes a sham of the faith that we say we have in an all-loving God who shed His blood for our salvation.

  • Hey, Vox Nova guys, I got this one covered for you:

    So wait. You’re telling me that a whole bunch of bloated government programs isn’t enough to cover up the systematic slaughter of children?

    A free government colonoscopy here or there definitely cancels out the aforementioned slaughter. As such, Obama is the candidate that more truly reflects Catholic social teachings. Plus, being an omnipotent being of light, he will go back in time and uninvade Iraq.

    For all this, a million or two dead babies a year is a small price to pay.

  • fus01,

    I think you make some solid points, and I’d meant to draw this out a little more in the post, but here, I think, is the key point: Moral evils are often not obviousl for what they are at the time. As you say, mild anti-semitism may not have seemed a distinctive quality in 1900.

    And yet, how is it that we develop the kind of total unacceptability of a moral evil that wife-beating or racial lynching have today? By directing moral opprobium at them even before there is anything resembling a consensus.

    In 1700, it would not have been seen as at all out of the ordinary in many parts of the Western World, for a man to beat his wife regularly. And yet, I would hope that if I lived then I would think much less of a man I knew to beat his wife — even if the overwhelming consensus of society was that this was not big deal.

    Similarly, I would say that a morally decent person should have been able to know in 1920 that racial lynchings were a hideously wrong act, and should have treated people who joked that apples and black men both looked good hanging on a tree appropriately.

    So while I wouldn’t say that Obama is a wicked person (actually, I don’t think that category exists to nearly the extent that people give it credit to — people do wicked things, but it’s not because they are wicked) I do think that he should be treated as if he is a wicked person unless he changes his position on this issue. The only way we can put things totally beyond the bounds of sociall acceptability is by treating them as if they already are — and then winning out in the cultural arena in the long run.

  • Darwin,

    Your point about whether Obama is wicked is an interesting one. However, as I understand these things, we as Christians believe that evil is not something that has an ontological exististance, but that it is merely the absence of good. In that case, Obama has more than demonstrated an absence of good. Wouldn’t that make him, by definition, an evil man?

    /Not trying to flame…this is an honest question.

  • Good post, Darwin. For many of us abortion is the primary issue because it is the most fundamental and glaring injustice of our state. The abortion issue is about the right to life, the fundamental reason for and justification of a state. It’s about being our brother’s keeper, caring for the poor and the least of these, and it’s about caring for the well being of women. Someone who can tolerate or call abortion a good or a right is someone who can go horribly wrong on any issue, if they’re right on another issue now, they’re only right by accident and it can change – for if it’s good to kill an innocent child in the womb because he is inconvenient, how much easier it is to kill handicapped, the infirm, or foreign populations.

    Unfortunately the victims of abortion are concealed from us. We hear not the screams, we see not the destruction of their bodies, we don’t get to give them a burial, we don’t see the destruction of the mother’s soul, of her body, of her psyche. I think this plays a role in how many Americans, including some Catholics, can be comfortable with the status quo or consider it a lesser of many issues.

    If all Catholics in this country, about a quarter of the voters, refused to vote for a pro-abortion politician, we’d be able to convert one party or both from the inside out, not just on the abortion issue, but all other life issues. But as it stands, as a body, we’re quite divided – torn between partisan politics and putting economic issues first. If I’m right, that as an unified bloc, us Catholics could easily transform this country on abortion, other right to life issues, and a host of justice and quality of life issues, it seems a great moral failure of the Church in America.

  • Heh, there were no comments when I started my reply. I’m sorry for having echoed a number of earlier points.

  • Darwin makes a great point: If you’re really against abortion (as some pro-Obama Catholics claim to be), it makes no sense to say, “There is currently no consensus against abortion, and therefore we should give up ever trying to form a consensus against abortion.” The latter half is a complete non sequitur. If you really think something is evil, and if you realize that society isn’t in agreement, then you should be working all the harder to bring society to a consensus.

  • It is not a matter of politics or divisiveness or “wedge issues”. It is simply a matter of moral decency.

    There is something else behind the life issues that makes this much more than single issue voting or wedge politics. Bill Clinton said it about abortion, but what the Democratic Party really wants is that religion be safe (that is, tamed), legal (not overturning the First Amendment any time soon, but…), and rare (let’s be more like Europeans and keep the churches as museum pieces, can’t we?).

    If you don’t believe this, then it’s probably because you’re not living in a place or running in the circles where this thought movement is taking shape. Obama and his allies aren’t saying this stuff in Ohio and Pennsylvania where they know it won’t play, but as the “clinging to religion and guns” soundbite captured, this kind of thing is playing well in NY, LA, and SF–in other words, in the circles of power where the platform of the Democratic Party is built.

    I live in Los Angeles. I also went to an “elite” university in the Bay Area. So I know all too well what is going on inside the belly of the beast. I see the electoral maps turning blue in “heartland” places like OH and PA, and all I can think is, “They have no idea.” All of those well-intentioned, working-class people (probably of a religious bent to some degree) voting Democratic because they think the Dems are for the little guy… All the while unaware that there is a latent agenda to wipe out religious practice as we know it in this country. Never forget just how much like Europe the Left wants us to become… That includes the dismal church attendance figures, too.

    It’s not going to happen overnight. It probably won’t happen in four years of an Obama administration, either. The groundwork is being laid, though. The life and family issues are the vanguard of the policy; first is the establishment of the “right” to abortion or gay marriage. Then there is the enforcement of these “rights” against religious conscience.

    Unless some of those well-intentioned religious people in the flyover states wake up and realize what the Left is all about in this country, we’re going to get the government we deserve.

  • “The only way we can put things totally beyond the bounds of social acceptability is by treating them as if they already are — and then winning out in the cultural arena in the long run.”

    I agree with the larger point, but it is a two-pronged effort. Pro-lifers need to:

    1) Emphasize that abortion is morally repugnant so that in the long-term this view predominates.
    2) Work with people in the mushy middle currently to enact whatever abortion restrictions are feasible in today’s political climate (that would be a much broader array of restrictions if Roe was overturned).

    I think that these goals are in tension to a certain extent. One cannot vehemently denounce people who support abortion only in cases of rape or incest, for example, then expect such people to enthusiastically join you in advancing the pro-life agenda. I guess this is as appropriate a forum as any to be making the strongest case, since it is a Catholic blog, but I think comparing Obama to someone in the modern U.S. who supports lynching is not entirely fair given the cultural context.

    That said, perhaps a stronger denunciation is necessary, given the apparent indifference of bloggers like Morning’s Minion to the fact that a vote for the Democratic party provides support to the strongest force for the legalization and normalization of abortion in American society.

  • Steve,

    Let me leave aside the question of whether evil is a deprivation (we agree on that, but I think it’s an irrelevant point to your question) for a second.

    I think one of the great modern errors is to classify persons as “good people” and “bad people” and then make assertions like, “No sane, well educated and good person would support X” as if “good people” is some sort of category. There’s some sort of an assumed underlying dualism of good vs. bad people which is then used to make “this must be basically okay because ‘good people’ support it” judgement.

    So my point was basically, I won’t want to attempt to classify Obama as a “bad person” in this modern parlance — I simply want to make it clear that he has endorsed bad positions and thus we should not vote for him.


    but I think comparing Obama to someone in the modern U.S. who supports lynching is not entirely fair given the cultural context.

    It’s perhaps a small distinction, but it is, I believe, and important one: I wouldn’t compare Obama to someone who supported lynching or wife-beating in modern America. I think there’s a big culpability gap there since, as you point out, he inhabits a culture where abortion is assumed to be a good.

    However, I think that we should, as Catholics, be no more willing to vote for him than for someone who supported lynching or wife-beating.

    That said, clearly you’re right that we need to work with those who partly agree with us. And in that sense, I’m quite open to voting for the “lesser of two evils” a fair amount of the time. (Lincoln was not, after all, an abolitionist — he just wanted to whittle away at slavery.)

  • Good point – I thought about mentioning Lincoln in the prior comment. The border states like KY were not included under the Emancipation Proclamation (“I hope to have God on my side, but I must have KY”). In any case, thanks for the thought-provoking post.

5 Responses to Into the Storm

  • Very interesting. I hope you’re right. But the article says “the flaws did not produce a single incorrect projection of the winner in a state on election night”. So, while the popular vote numbers may be off, I still worry that the state by state electoral predictions are accurate.

    Any other info to encourage me on that one?

  • The only reason there were no incorrect projections is because the networks quickly realized the exit polls were garbage when comparing actual votes to exit poll results. The exit polls were off by 6.5 points overall in Kerry’s favor. If the networks had called states based upon the exit polls, many states would have been called for Kerry that went for Bush.

    Here is a good article on the subject: http://www.pollster.com/blogs/the_overlooked_exit_poll_quest.php

  • What Donald said.

    It’s interesting in 2004 how a state like Maine which was heavily contested was quickly called for Kerry with barely 1% of the votes coming in. But for West Virginia where Bush was defeating Kerry handily, it wasn’t called for Bush until near midnight with Bush crushing Kerry and 90% of the precincts reporting in.

    I hope they don’t do this same garbage again come election night.

  • I pity anyone who is holding out hope that this election can still be won by a Party whose ideals have been proven to be ineffective and out-of-step with Main Stream America. For the good of the US as well as the world we should all pray that enough Americans have wised up over the last 8 years and will do the right thing and vote for Barack. Go Dems!!!!

  • “I pity anyone who is holding out hope that this election can still be won by a Party whose ideals have been proven to be ineffective and out-of-step with Main Stream America.”

    I concur. We merely differ as to the party in question.

3 Responses to The Case For Not Voting?

  • “So vote, or don’t, but either way, don’t agonize over it, don’t raise an eyebrow at your friends and neighbors if they stay home, and don’t worry if the other side wins.”

    Do you believe that, Chris? — “don’t worry if the other side wins”?

    Do you intend to vote? If so, why?

  • Sorry, Chris, I should’ve given more of my own commentary… I don’t agree with everything Suderman says, but there is an underlying sentiment which harmonizes with my own, which is summarized by the pithy little saying that “politics is downstream from culture”.

    Do I intend to vote? Absolutely, because it’s my responsibility at a faithful citizen. Will I be disappointed if Obama wins, as expected? Of course; I think his policies are worse, all in all, particularly on the life issues. But I don’t think it’ll spell the end of our country, as some of my conservative compatriots seem to think (or at least say).

    But I’m more concerned by the fact that we’re focusing almost exclusively on politics, to the point that everything hinges on what happens Tuesday every 2 or 4 years. Is there a feedback loop in the culture/politics relationship? Is the law a teacher in its own right? Yes to both. But I still think we need to rebalance our focus to ensure that we’re not neglecting the culture.

    That’s my sentiment, and as noted above, it harmonizes with aspects of Suderman’s piece, which I why I drew attention to it.

    Thoughts, Chris?

  • But I’m more concerned by the fact that we’re focusing almost exclusively on politics, to the point that everything hinges on what happens Tuesday every 2 or 4 years. Is there a feedback loop in the culture/politics relationship? Is the law a teacher in its own right? Yes to both. But I still think we need to rebalance our focus to ensure that we’re not neglecting the culture.

    I concur: I would say it’s our culture that shapes much of our behavior; the law’s chief function is a deterrent to our vices. With respect to the predominant issue of abortion, as the Bishops stress it’s a “both / and” — pro-life legislation must be pursued but is not the end-all; rather operating in conjunction with the building of a culture that values life (and, for instance, that won’t perceive a child as merely an impediment to individual ambitions: college, career, etc.).

    Culture shapes economics as well. You know my sympathy for Michael Novak’s observation that a healthy market economy is contingent on the health of a nation’s culture and its institutions. Witness the present crisis — one can blame the “predatory lending” of “Wall Street”;
    but one cannot overlook the inclination of many on “Main Street” to commit mortage fraud, falsifying their histories to obtain houses they couldn’t reasonably afford otherwise. Plenty of blame to go around. Case in point:

    BasePoint Analytics took a look at millions of subprime loans and found that in 70 percent of cases where mortgages go bad quickly (exactly the kinds of mortgages that account for a chunk of today’s rising default rates), there was some misrepresentation by the borrower, broker or appraiser, or some combination of the three

    The health of our economy is only so good as the moral virtue of its participants.

    Likewise, a culture that sees the solution to poverty as starting with one’s self and not governmetn handouts for forced “redistribution” from the rich. We can justifiably oppose the latter (remote, abstract attempts at charity) — but our protests are in vain if we neglect to take the local and most immediate route, beginning with ourselves.

    Quick thoughts but yes, I agree.

    My main criticism of Suderman is the dismissal “don’t worry if the other side wins” — there’s a good case that a Democratic majority in Congress coupled with a ready and willing presidential administration could do a lot of damage in four years, especially on the pro-life front, that would be irreversible.

Catholic Vote: 51-38% For Senator McCain

Sunday, November 2, AD 2008

The most accurate poll from the 2004 Election, the Investors Business Daily (IDB) Poll, has been showing a trend of Catholic voters moving away from Senator Obama and into Senator McCain’s camp.  Since I first reported this a little over a week ago I can now say that this trend is real and Catholics are now leaning to McCain as of today.

Again, this is only a snapshot and outside of the IDB and Gallup polls, I don’t put much into any other poll.  But it is interesting to note that the Catholic vote has switched over to McCain, 51-38%.  A solid majority so to speak.

2 Responses to Catholic Vote: 51-38% For Senator McCain

Knights of Columbus: "Remember FOCA on November 4th"

Sunday, November 2, AD 2008

The Knights of Columbus remind us that among the most important issues at stake Nov. 4 is FOCA [“Freedom of Choice Act”]:

As the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops declared recently:

“Abortion rights groups and their allies in Congress are promoting a radical bill called the Freedom of Choice Act (FOCA). If this extreme measure is enacted, widely-supported and constitutionally-sound abortion regulations will be knocked down nationwide.”

3 Responses to Knights of Columbus: "Remember FOCA on November 4th"

  • Almost nobody who brings up FOCA asks about its likelihood of passage. While it’s indicative of Obama’s horrific views, it could very well be useless scaremongering to claim it’s going to pass if Obama gets in.

    The focus on FOCA could lull pro-lifers into a false sense of security if it is in fact a doomed bill. They’ll declare a great victory on its defeat and yap about how strong they are, never questioning if Obama’s promise to pass FOCA was just pandering to the pro-abortion fundraisers.

    What if time spent on FOCA would be better spent warning about judicial nominations or persuading people who are lukewarm on abortion or other important issues?

  • What if time spent on FOCA would be better spent warning about judicial nominations or persuading people who are lukewarm on abortion or other important issues?

    I think it makes sense to do both.

    If Democrats get a majority in both the House and Senate there’s never a better opportunity for putting that legislation before Obama. So I can’t fault the Knights of Columbus (or the Catholic Bishops for that matter) for sounding the alarm.

  • The likelihood of FOCA passing will probably be hard to say until we see how the new congress will be composed.

    While on the one hand some argue that it’s unlikely to pass, on the other I could see ramming through some fairly simply, highly partisan bills like FOCA, Fairness Doctrine and Card Check being a way to placate the liberal base as it becomes clear that troops are not being instantly pulled out of Iraq and something as wide ranging as healthcare reform will take at least a year or two to pass, if it ever does.

Obama to Coal States: Drop Dead!

Sunday, November 2, AD 2008

Obama doesn’t believe we should use coal to generate power.

“So if somebody wants to build a coal-powered plant, they can; it’s just that it will bankrupt them because they’re going to be charged a huge sum for all that greenhouse gas that’s being emitted.”

I guess under an Obama administration coal miners, bitterly clinging to their God and their guns, can go on welfare.

14 Responses to Obama to Coal States: Drop Dead!

  • Many of us from coal states agree that our coal addiction needs to die. In fact, many pro-coal (in the sense that it brings jobs) folks in WV have been resentful of the U.S.’s coal addiction for decades. Here again, folks like you, Donald, think you’re speaking for everyday people, but you contribute nothing when it comes to justice for the people who provide you with energy. Your backwards, dying politics is literally killing people in Appalachia. Green Appalachian energy jobs now!

  • It’s amazing the arrogance of Senator Obama to think he will openly admit this thinking his position is secure in the polls.

    He probably realizes he isn’t going to win West Virginia, but Pennsylvania is far from a lock. If McCain wins PA, this comment could be the decisive turning point of the election.

  • Senator Clinton destroyed (understatement) Senator Obama in West Virginia. And the polls showed Senator Obama leading.

    Senator McCain is leading in West Virginia, I predict 75% vote for McCain in WV. Unless a couple of million dead West Virginians come out in vote, it aint gonna happen.

  • Michael, I spent a few years in the Ohio Valley, and I didn’t see much effort to move beyond the steel industry… kind of sad, actually. For a variety of reasons, it doesn’t seem that the area wants to face reality and move ahead.

  • I’d rather incentivize industries that we want to grow and promote than “disentivize” ones that we want to leave behind… in some ways, this seems typical of the difference between liberals and conservatives… my intuition is that the latter are quicker to “disentivize” while the latter are quicker to incentivize.

  • A WV official no less responding to Senator Obama’s remarks. It’s going to be a slaughter in WV… and possibly Pennsylvania?!

  • Michael, I spent a few years in the Ohio Valley, and I didn’t see much effort to move beyond the steel industry… kind of sad, actually. For a variety of reasons, it doesn’t seem that the area wants to face reality and move ahead.

    I suspect a good part of it has to do with steel and coal jobs remaining some of the best paying jobs for those without college degrees. At the call center I worked at for nine months or so in Wellsburg, WV landing a steel mill job was seen as something akin to winning the lottery since it payed 3x what most of those guys could make anywhere else. (And the jobs were about as scarce as winning lottery numbers two, since the mills were only a gradual slope of constant downsizing.)

    I’d be very, very surprised if Obama took WV, though. I was working there for the 2000 election, and everyone was pulling very hard for Bush over Gore — at least up in that region.

  • Good thing Obama didn’t spout this stuff round these parts. For all his incongruities, PA Gov Fast Eddie Rendell is gung-ho coal. Talks up useful and clean ways to dig it/process it/use it. Helpful as no other area of the planet boasts it in such large quantities. Only demonstrates the Empty Suit Tendencies of Demo standard bearer. No doubt Fast Eddie will downplay pro-coal remarks in any future interview for say HHS Secretary job.

  • On the other hand, many of us from coal states look at coal as the future of our nation’s energy. If mining is becoming too hazardous in West Virginia, by all means, quit mining coal there. It means more of a market share for Wyoming. Our coal is cleaner, anyway.

    I find it astounding that people are so irate against coal. Our technology has advanced to a point where we scrub out all the deleterious materials (down to maybe a few parts per billion), and if you’re worried about carbon dioxide, don’t. CO2 isn’t a problem, no matter what the hysteria says. CO2 makes us less than 5% of all greenhouse gases, and anthropogenic sources are only a tiny portion of that, anyway.

    Coal is necessary for electricity until or unless we make a wholesale switch to nuclear. It has to be one of the two (given our lack of producing energy from cold fusion). Why? Because in order to power a city, you have to have a stable base load. Wind, solar, and other renewable sources just can’t foot the bill. They’re too unstable, too inconsistent. You can’t simply have the city shut down when a cloud passes overhead (yes, I know, the reality is a little more complicated than that, but hyperbole has its uses).

    Moreover, unlike all the renewable sources the left touts as being the “cure” for our oil addiction, coal can actually cover that, too. Using coal-to-liquids technology, from Wyoming coal alone we can provide all the gasoline, diesel, and kerosene our nation needs for the next 250 years. We would have to fix the price at about $75 a barrel, but I’d be willing to accept that if it means $700 billion/year stays in the states and we don’t have to worry about foreign powers creating huge fluctuations in the market.

    The coal/energy issues are important for my wife and myself, mainly because my wife is a Chemical Engineer, and her focus is on coal technology. If you want to know anything about coal, e-mail me, and I’ll ask her, and relay the answer.

  • Yes, it probably hurts Obama to have said this — such is electoral politics — but I’m all in favor of getting our electricity from a clean source like nuclear plants rather than coal (dirty and dangerous). More people die from coal mining every year than have ever died from nuclear power in the West.

  • Ryan is right. Coal is the future for the time being. For one thing, there are still tons and tons of it in the Earth. Just the stuff we have located could last centuries even with our increased usage. We already have “clean-coal” technology that will only get better.

  • SB,

    You are right, coal miners die from mining coal. But that is in underground mines. Again, as my husband said earlier, feel free to let those underground eastern mines fail. Wyoming will pick up the market share and my salary will go up. Ok, so I’m joking about the salary. Wyoming strip mines it’s coal. We have had one coal mining death this year. Someone backed one shovel into another and crushed the cab, as well as the driver. It made major news in this state. We don’t have the dangers underground mining faces. Also with the laws requiring 3-6 inches of topsoil in every area mined, the earth is put in a better state than what is available in Wyoming. Only in reclaimed land do we have that kind of topsoil.

    As for dirty, well, coal can be dirty if you are using an old plant. However, any new plants that would be built are required to meet increasingly stringent environmental regulations. Wyoming coal, in small quantities is clean enough not to require cleaning for most regulations, and we still clean it very strictly for any new plant designs. The “dirty coal” idea is an incorrect advertisement, at least out here

    However, I will agree that nuclear is “cleaner” if no carbon capture is used and if we used nuclear for power, coal could be used in place of our petroleum products. Don’t count coal out just because it’s “dirty.”

Civilian National Security Force?

Saturday, November 1, AD 2008

Senator Obama has called for a Civilian National Security Force.

Hmmm.  Considering we already have the US military, the state National Guards, and police to protect us, just what would be the role of the C.N.S.F.?

At any rate I am confident that it would not have the same role as the civilian army in another country that used to march while singing this tune.

Why am I confident of this?

4 Responses to Civilian National Security Force?

  • The next thing Senator Obama will announce once in office is to dissolve the judicial and legislative branches and create the Committee of Public Safety.

  • The Volokh Conspiracy has a good analysis of Obama’s proposals:

    In Barack Obama’s July 2, 2008 speech calling America to national service, Obama proposed “a civilian national security force that’s just as powerful, just as strong, just as well-funded” as our military.

    This has prompted some in the blogosphere to raise the specter of a huge new domestic paramilitary organization. Others suggest that he may have been talking about our “current non-military security agencies – FBI, CIA, NSA, DEA, DHS, etc.”

    I think that both interpretations are probably wrong. If you listen to the whole speech –- or even the couple minutes before his security force proposal — I think that it’s reasonably clear that Obama is talking about expanding a range of domestic and international agencies such as AmeriCorps, the Foreign Service, and the Peace Corps — and adding some new ones. … read more

  • Not to say it’s any less troubling, if Obama means what he says:

    … his civilian national security corps would cost at least another $100 billion a year, and perhaps as much as $500 billion a year. With total federal income taxes of $935 billion in 2005, Obama’s proposal would mean using up to half of all federal income tax revenues just to fund his promise “to have a civilian national security force that’s just as powerful, just as strong, just as well-funded” as the military….

    But given Obama’s penchant for hyperbole and obfuscation, let’s hope this is more of the same.

Video: Senator Obama Praising Jeremiah Wright

Saturday, November 1, AD 2008

Kerry Picket of NewsBusters posted a 1995 video of Barack Obama talking about his book, “Dreams From My Father”.  In it Senator Obama says of Reverend Jeremiah, “wonderful man” and “the best of what the black church has to offer“.  In the video excerpt Senator Obama gives high praise and further positive commentary to the bigot Reverend Jeremiah Wright.

8 Responses to Video: Senator Obama Praising Jeremiah Wright

  • S_T_A_L_E_ D_E_S_P_E_R_A_T_I_O_N_!

  • Oh no! He said LIBERATION!

    So do the documents of the Catholic Church.

  • Listen to the words of Obama (hear them yourself at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qpzHQ_PC1uI).

    “I’ve got to give a special shoutout to
    • my pastor
    • the guy who puts up with me
    • counsels me
    • listens to my wife complain about me.
    • He’s a friend, and
    • A great leader (not just in Chicago but all across the country).”

    But who is Jeremiah Wright?
    • Pastor of Trinty United Church of Christ, the church that gave a lifetime membership to the racist, anti-Semite Louis Farrakhan, who has said that “Hitler was a great man” and ”White people are potential humans; they haven’t evolved yet.
    • A man who encourages blacks not to say “God bless America” but rather “God damn America.”
    • A man who INSPIRED Barack Obama TO TEARS (according to Obama’s own book) with an epiphany at the first sermon of Wright that Obama heard. In this sermon Obama spoke that Wright spoke of “white folks’ greed runs a world in need.” Clearly Obama (despite his disingenuous disclaimer) was fully aware of Wright’s anti-white rants from the FIRST SERMON HE HEARD.

    Can America really afford a President, who is so enthralled with a man who “counsels” him, is a personal “friend” and a “great leader.” Yet he was fully aware of the fact that the man he praised so was actually a vehement racist.

  • We know so little about Senator Obama it’s frightening that he’s close to being President of the United States.

  • I’d take Wright over a neo-conning clergyman any day.

  • I wouldn’t take either.

    I’m so glad I’m Catholic.

  • I wouldn’t take either.

    Riiiight. You prefer neo-conning lay persons. I get it.

    I’m so glad I’m Catholic.

    Yes, it’s nice being safe and perfect and right, isn’t it?

  • Michael I.,

    Yes, you know me so well.

3 Responses to Very Modern

13 Responses to What Blogs & Sites Will You Visit First on Nov. 5th?

Counting Bishops

Friday, October 31, AD 2008

Last week I linked to a Deal Hudson article on Inside Catholic where he threw out the claim that 61 bishops had thus far issued “clarifications” of Faithful Citizenship in which they emphasized the preeminance of the abortion issue in this upcoming election. 

Michael Iafrate of Vox Nova responded with a post entitled “Misleading numbers, misleading claims” in which he remarked with characteristic restraint:

3 Responses to Counting Bishops

  • What is this “Catholic barfosphere”? Would it be safe to say that the “Catholic barfosphere” would be comprised of Mogs rather than people? I have yet to find this loose association of which you speak.

  • Michael’s meaning in using the phrase (unless it’s simply meant to be slightly derisive towards all other Catholic bloggers) is obscure to me.

    Of course, there is always the little known Gnostic sect of Barfarians who held tenaciously to an alternate reading of Genesis in which “God breathed upon the waters” was rendered “God hurled upon the waters”. Their other favorite line was of course about the lukewarm being “spewed forth” by God — leading to their statement of faith, “By out lukewarmess we shall be known, and God shall spew us into a new creation.”

    I shudder to think that Michael would have become mixed up with such people, but I suppose it is always possible.


  • Let us pray that Michael has not become mixed up with such people.

Class and Classless

Friday, October 31, AD 2008

In this election there have been a spate of conservatives who have endorsed Obama, including Christopher Buckley, the son of William F. Buckley, founder of National Review.  Most of these Obamacons have chastised Senator McCain for choosing Governor Palin as his running mate.  I have been struck by how much of the Palin hatred is simple class snobbery.

27 Responses to Class and Classless

  • Puh-LEASE.

    The republican party — suddenly gaining “class consciousness”?!


  • I can understand why you are amused Catholic Anarchist. Horny handed son of toil grad student that you are.

  • Horny handed son of toil grad student that you are.

    You some kind of a pervert?

  • No, Catholic Anarchist, although my own hands are softer than they used to be.

  • Sarah freaks those who believe that all national political types should be vetted by the D.C. Chattering Classes. Attend the right cocktail parties. Leave cell phone number to producers of all D.C. cable teevee shows. Come from The Right School. The Right Political Mentor, The Right Image. Thus we have a logjam of folks who spout the same cliches in slightly modified form. We have not even mentioned how Sarah violates basic tenets of Official Feminists. Ew she hunts and fishes. Ew she had five kids. Ew she holds lifetime membership in the NRA. Double triple ew her baby is a gasp retard. But it’s all good. Sarah’s star will shine brightly should the GOP ticket burn out on November 4. Attention Obama- take a look at your 2012 opponent should you win out next week. This means you too Hillary. Thus The Future Of The GOP on display for all to see. Rhyme definitely intended.

  • As always Gerard I agree with your sentiments and stand in awe of your way of presenting them!

  • For those who, like me, came of age after the English language had ceased to be used to describe anything other than the excretory and reproductive systems (and who failed to sufficiently immerse themselves in the prose of ages past in order to get past that modern degeneracy) “horny handed” refers to someone with heavily callused hands.

    A horny handed son of toil is, thus, someone whose hands are calloused from long years of manual labor.

    What Don was doing, Michael, was questioning your cred as a representative of the working classes.

  • Perhaps Michael I. wouldn’t qualify for cocktail parties either. Do you really want Palin as the nominee in 2012? I haven’t been that impressed. I like her more than Huckabee…or McCain…or Giuliani. But Jindal is a much better representative of the party I would like to support.

  • “Do you really want Palin as the nominee in 2012?”

    Depends upon what conditions are in 2012, but as of now yes. I haven’t seen a candidate with better political skills since Reagan, she draws massive crowds wherever she goes and I believe she beat Biden hands down in the debate. If she were the nominee instead of McCain, with a year of campaigning for the public to get to know her, I think she would be up 3 points even in the current polls with the partisan id slanted to the Dems. She has done incredibly well for a candidate who arrived on the national scene only two months ago and in the teeth of the most hostile media environment I can recall for any national candidate.

    Jindal is also impressive. As of now I would be happy with either of them being the standard bearer.

  • Was Michael just kidding, or is his vocabulary that limited?

  • What Don was doing, Michael, was questioning your cred as a representative of the working classes.

    I don’t claim to represent anyone. But you republicans who think 1) that Sarah Palin represents working people and 2) that criticism of Palin is “classist” are unbelievably out of touch.

    Was Michael just kidding, or is his vocabulary that limited?

    Yes, I was joking, in that I didn’t really think Donald’s comment had anything to do with that meaning of the word “horny.” But no, I have not heard the term “horny handed” before. Probably an age thing.

  • Catholic Anarchist, Sarah Palin is much closer to actual blue collar voters than the Harvard trained attorney and his career politician side-kick. The best conservative candidates can establish such a linkage between themselves and blue collar families, the same type of family I came from.

    As to horny handed, I feel so old! Tip O’Neill, then Democrat Speaker of the House, and President Reagan once had a minor dust-up when they attempted to “out poverty” each other regarding which one of them had the humbler start in life. A columnist referred to the horny handed sons of toil multi-millionnaires and the phrase stuck with me.

  • Donald,

    In Western PA, most ‘bread and butter’ people think that Sarah Palin is a joke.

  • -But no, I have not heard the term “horny handed” before. Probably an age thing.-

    You probably don’t read very much.

  • “In Western PA, most ‘bread and butter’ people think that Sarah Palin is a joke.”

    You’ve talked to them all Mr. DeFrancisis? I suspect that the joke this election cycle in western PA is Murtha lambasting his constituents as racists and rednecks.

    Palin draws massive crowds at all her events in PA. For example in eastern PA Biden and Palin had dueling campaign events in Williamsport last Thursday. Biden drew 700. Palin drew 13,000. Her political opponents underestimate this woman at their peril.

  • “Her political opponents underestimate this woman at their peril.”

    Not this election cycle. I certainly over-estimated her prior to the Katie Couric interviews. She has a serious credibility problem; not necessarily among evangelicals or talk radio, but among independents/MSM. The independents tend to follow the MSM conventional wisdom, and Palin has a lot of work to do if she wants to run successfully for national office. She might be able to win a Republican primary, but her approval ratings indicate she would be a tough sell to non-Republicans.

  • “Not this election cycle.”

    Hmmm, the most accurate poll in 2004 has it now as a 2 point race. I guess we’ll find out how successful Palin has been this election cycle on Tuesday night.


  • Though I was politically aware enough to be massively upset by the outcome, I wasn’t a very deep reader of political commentary in ’92. However, I do remember that at Bush’s concession speech there were GOP supporters there waving “Quayle ’96” signs. Despite four years of relentless media pile-on, at least some of the conservative base still clearly loved the guy. But come ’96, he wasn’t even talked about in the primaries that I recall. (Not that the GOP disported itself well in the ’96 primaries.)

    Now, unlike Quayle, Palin has a strong ability to work a crowd. She can electrify an event in a way that few people (Reagan and Obama are the only examples springing to mind) can. The question is: will she succeed in building up a viable mainstream political persona over the next four years — which would mean having solid speeches on a range of topics which she’s able to give convincingly, something resembling a stated political philosophy (Obama’s would fit on an index card, but he does have one); and successfully going up against Meet The Press and other major venues.

    If she walks away from this with a solid team of advisers and puts in the work that work, she might well turn into a very viable candidate in ’12, with a “she was hobbled by McCain’s bumbling campaign” narrative smoothly coming into existence.

    Right now I wouldn’t have a problem with her as number two, but she doesn’t strike me as having the gravitas to be a president.

    As for the polls — I’m starting to think that we pretty much have a 47/47 electorate with very little swing actually in play no matter who the two parties run. There have been precious view victories by more than 4% in recent memory. So while I think it’s true that selecting Palin got McCain a much needed degree of loyalty out of the base, I wonder how much the polls would be different if he’d picked someone safe like Pawlenty.

  • Catholic Anarchist, Sarah Palin is much closer to actual blue collar voters than the Harvard trained attorney and his career politician side-kick.

    There must be vastly different factions among blue collar workers, then. From what I can see, Mark is quite right.

    BTW I simply can’t wait for Palin to become the new face of the republicans. Their demise will be sealed. And the real conservatives know it!

  • Given that the nation is roughly equally split between supporters of each candidate — it seems a no-brainer that there must be radically different groups of “blue collar” workers out there.

    Who do you consider to be the “real conservatives”, Michael?

    It’s all very well to vaunt over the idea that an intellectual/political movement one dislikes is about to meet its demise — but honestly if conservatism could survive GOP nominees ranging from Nixon to Dole and progressivism could survive Democratic nominees like Mondale, Dukakis and Kerry, it would seem clear that lousy presidential nominees (if Palin were both nominated and lousy) are incapable of destroying a movement.

  • Please Catholic Anarchist. Real conservatives? You have as much of an ability to determine who is a “true” conservative as I do who is a “true” anarchist.

  • Seriously, when did Michael I. and Mark become the arbiters of conservatism (or western PA)?

  • You have as much of an ability to determine who is a “true” conservative as I do who is a “true” anarchist.

    Then I expect you will shut the hell up from now on?

  • “The question is: will she succeed in building up a viable mainstream political persona over the next four year…successfully going up against Meet The Press and other major venues….Right now I wouldn’t have a problem with her as number two, but she doesn’t strike me as having the gravitas to be a president.”

    Agree completely. I’m inclined to say it won’t work, but I’m open to be proven wrong. The GOP doesn’t have a very deep bench right now, although Jindal shows promise (if everything goes well in LA – a big ‘if’)

  • -Then I expect you will shut the hell up from now on?-

    Did your mama raise you to talk like that?

4 Responses to The Continuing War on Joe the Plumber