This past week, I began reading the novel 1984. For those who have not read it, it is a futuristic novel describing a society that lives under the rule of a totalitarian government described as “the Party.” The government controls and monitors every aspect of human life and even practices historical revisionism quite literally—burning books and re-writing history—to have everything reflect whatever it (the government) happens to be saying. The agencies within the government are all a blatant contradiction. The Ministers of Truth re-write history and instigate direct government propaganda through always-on “telescreens” found literally everywhere in society that don’t turn off; the Ministers of Peace advocate war; the Ministers of Plenty plan economic shortages, and the Ministers of Love carries out the government’s “corrective” punishment and torture of its rebellious citizens.
In one scene, there is a Hate rally (which occurs regularly to inspire hatred within the people for the enemies of the Party) and at the rally the Party shifts its diplomatic allegiance, so the nation it has been warring with is suddenly its ally, and the former ally is now the enemy. Despite the obvious contradiction when the speaker changes the nation he refers to as the enemy during his speech, the crowd simply accepts the change without question and even is embarrassed that they brought wrong signs to the event. Just in the same way people accept the ministries conducted by the Party aforementioned even though they blatantly contradict their titles in their action. What is with the collective intellectual schizophrenia? How can people look right passed the most obvious facts? This theme that runs throughout 1984 is about a troublesome little tendency to believe or argue for some truth that obviously and patently contradicts other truths.
In the ongoing health care debate, this same sort of schizophrenia has come about. I almost shouted “yes!” in a public library when finally I saw the political contradiction pointed out in the Washington Post:
After years of trying to cut Medicare spending, Republican lawmakers have emerged as champions of the program, accusing Democrats of trying to steal from the elderly to cover the cost of health reform. Continue reading
Archbishop Raymond Burke has long been held with disdain (or outright revulsion) by liberal Catholics for his penchant to speak bluntly on various issues — from his cautioning the Democrats that they risk becoming “the party of Death” for their grievous stance on bioethical issues), to his disapproval of Obama’s appointment of Kathleen Sebelius to Secretary of Health and Human Services to his weighing in on the matter of reception of communion by publicly disobedient Catholics (see The Discipline Regarding the Denial of Holy Communion to Those Obstinately Persevering in Manifest Grave Sin Periodica de Re Canonica vol. 96 (2007)). His appointment by Pope Benedict XVI to the office of Prefect of the Supreme Tribunal of the Apostolic Signatura was interpreted both as sign of the Pope’s favor (by conservatives) as well as perhaps a “punishment of sorts” by liberals, who hoped that his outspokenness on American political affairs would be muted by geographical distance.
Guess again. From National Catholic Reporter‘s “man in Rome” John Allen Jr. comes the news that, with his Oct. 17 appointment to the powerful Congregation for Bishops, Burke’s influence is set to grow:
When a diocese becomes vacant, it’s the job of the papal nuncio, or ambassador, in that country to solicit input on the needs of that diocese and to work with the local bishops and bishops’ conference to identify potential nominees. The nuncio prepares a terna, or list of three names, which is submitted to the Congregation for Bishops, along with extensive documentation on the candidates.
Members of the congregation are expected to carefully review all the documentation before meetings, and each is expected to offer an opinion about the candidates and the order in which they should be presented to the pope. Ultimately, it’s up to the pope to decide who’s named to any given diocese, but in most cases popes simply sign off on the recommendations made by the congregation.
To be sure, Burke’s nomination doesn’t mean he can single-handedly control who becomes a bishop, whether in the United States or anywhere else. … on the other hand, Burke’s influence may grow with time.
He’s by far the youngest of the current crop of Americans on the congregation (the next youngest, Levada, is 73, and Rigali is 74). Since appointments are for five-year terms and may be renewed until a prelate reaches the age of 80, Burke could be involved in bishops’ appointments for the next two decades. At some point he may well become the senior American in the process, with a correspondingly greater impact.
As Allen concludes: ” If anyone suspected that the decision to bring Burke to Rome last year was a way of muzzling him, or limiting his influence in the United States, it certainly doesn’t seem to be playing out that way.”
For political junkies like me, tomorrow begins the political season for 2010 with gubernatorial elections in Virginia, New Jersey and the special congressional election in New York 23. There is also a special congressional election in California 10, but that is in the San Francisco metro area and everyone, except for the Republican running, David Harmer, believes that is going to be won by the Democrat, Lieutenant Governor John Garamendi, and I join in that consensus, although I suspect it might be surprisingly close.
In regard to the three competitive races, here are my predictions:
Yesterday The Nation‘s John Nichols wrote a rather scathing piece about President Obama: the piece is entitled “Whiner-in-Chief” and the first line reads, “The Obama administration really needs to get over itself.”
Of course, I tend to agree with perspectives like that. :-) But near the end of the piece Nichols tries to argue that the country isn’t as divided as the White House thinks, and along the way, he makes a heckuva non sequitur:
[Updates at the bottom of this posting as of 3:03am CDT on AD 9-10-2009]
President Obama’s speech covered many topics, lets first layout our President’s plan:
I. Keep the health insurance you have now.
1. Pre-existing symptoms or disabilities no longer will disqualify anyone from coverage.
2. No spending caps set by insurance companies.
3. No drop in coverage in the middle of an illness.
4. Limit on out of pocket expense.
5. Minimal requirements of coverage.
II. Public Option & Exchange
1. When losing your job you have the Public Option if you can’t afford insurance.
2. Insurance exchange markets will be required for insurance companies to participate in.
3. Tax credits for small businesses.
4. In theory this will not lead to a government take over.
Blackadder has had a couple very interesting posts lately arguing that a public health insurance program wouldn’t sound the death-knell to private insurance companies (and hence competition for the consumer) which many have been arguing it would.
I am not interested in having future fruitless arguments over whether or not the Republican or Democratic Party is pure evil or not. It is like the old canard comparing some contemporary American politician to Adolf Hitler- it is a deal-breaker. I am one who believes that truth in politics is pretty spread out among the various major and minor political parties- there are some huge moral gaps in all, so the choice of party for me is not based on trying to find the perfect Party of God here in America.
The Washington Post reported Sunday here, hattip to Instapundit, that the White House is getting nervous about the political fallout from the unprecedented spend-and-borrow binge upon which Obama has placed the country.
“Results from a Gallup survey released last week show that although more than six in 10 Americans approve of Obama’s overall job performance, fewer than half say they approve of how he is handling the deficit and controlling federal spending. The poll also shows a decline from the previous month in the percentage of Americans who approve of Obama’s handling of the economy, although a majority still does.”
American Political Theory and Constitutional Law Series, Pt. I
The American people have a history of distrust and suspicion of centralized authority. The original framework for the primitive independent-America outlined in the Articles of Confederation was not weak by accident. Even despite the clear insufficiency of the-then government under the Articles, the framers of the Constitution still found their vision of government to be a hard sell. It is fair to say their success was in finding an effective mix between the Athenian assembly and Roman Senate combined with ‘checks and balance’ with two other branches of government—a republic instead of a direct democracy.
In many ways, this debate has lived on. It is remarkable, particularly in recent decades, how many constitutional amendments have been given real and serious consideration by the U.S. Congress, from balanced budgets, to flag desecration, to super-majorities for taxes, to line-item veto just begin the list in attempts to reshape the constitutional order.
For some time I have had mixed and often conflicting beliefs about this whole debate. The usual “left” versus “right” spin is, as usual, tiring. Though, I have re-engaged the matter due largely to a new found interest in the project development of Catholic legal theory. Such an undertaking on the part of Catholic law professors and legal professionals have been enormously helpful in the process of asking serious questions and finding an authentic Catholic answer to crucial questions about American government, constitutional law, and jurisprudence. This couldn’t be more true than with my quarrels with the “living Constitution theory” as well as “originalism.” Though it is probably still the case, to some degree, that I am troubled about answers to these questions. I have become more convinced by those who make the case (in regard to one matter) that America needs a much needed reminder: constitutional amendments should be rare and limited to issues of historic significance. The U.S. Constitution must be preserved from short-term and sudden passions. The starting point, I think, is to reiterate, as the Founding Fathers did, the merits of representation, deliberation, and conciliation.
American voters in great number say they favor change, but there is no consensus or clarity about neither the amount nor direction such change should take. Not so surprisingly, contemporary political debates do very little to educate the public about essential constitutional issues. Serious discussion is not only past due, but is vital. What is a greater threat to constitutional government than a lack of substantive public debate and public awareness? An uninformed, ignorant public is perilous to the common good and constitutional order.