"It profits me but little that a vigilant authority always protects the tranquillity of my pleasures and constantly averts all dangers from my path, without my care or concern, if this same authority is the absolute master of my liberty and my life."

--Alexis de Tocqueville, Democracy in America

Sunday, March 31, 2013

Pope Francis' Easter Message

A message of joy:
What a joy it is for me to announce this message: Christ is risen! I would like it to go out to every house and every family, especially where the suffering is greatest, in hospitals, in prisons.
Most of all, I would like it to enter every heart, for it is there that God wants to sow this Good News: Jesus is risen, there is hope for you, you are no longer in the power of sin, of evil! Love has triumphed, mercy has been victorious! The mercy of God always triumphs!
We too, like the women who were Jesus' disciples, who went to the tomb and found it empty, may wonder what this event means. What does it mean that Jesus is risen? It means that the love of God is stronger than evil and death itself; it means that the love of God can transform our lives and let those desert places in our hearts bloom. The love of God can do this!
Happy Easter!

Now That's an Easter Bunny!

The things you find on the Internet.

Girl of the Day - Shirley Jones

In her early 20s, Shirley Jones starred back to back in two of the greatest movie musicals, Rodgers and Hammerstein's Oklahoma (1955) and Carousel (1956), both with Gordon MacRae.   Here is their great duet from Carousel, "If I Love You":

She turns 79 today.   Tempus fugit, as ever.  

Saturday, March 30, 2013

But Catholics Are Anti-Gay

Here's a headline you don't see every day in America:

New York Muslim Calls For Sharia Law In America, Beheading Gays

But Catholics are routinely chastised for being anti-gay.  

Oh, by the way, here is the portion of the Catholic Catechism that discusses how the Church responds to homosexuals:

2358  The number of men and women who have deep-seated homosexual tendencies is not negligible. This inclination, which is objectively disordered, constitutes for most of them a trial. They must be accepted with respect, compassion, and sensitivity. Every sign of unjust discrimination in their regard should be avoided. These persons are called to fulfill God’s will in their lives and, if they are Christians, to unite to the sacrifice of the Lord’s Cross the difficulties they may encounter from their condition.

Not exactly equivalent to urging that gays be beheaded.   But don't hold your breath waiting for the MSM to call out Muslims for their virulent homophobia, while Catholics, whose religion preaches "respect, compassion and sensitivity" toward gays, are routinely subjected to criticism. 

Friday, March 29, 2013

Pope Francis on the Washing of Feet

Pope Francis went to a juvenile detention facility on Holy Thursday.   Tradition was that the Pope washed the feet of 12 priests in St. Peter's Basilica.   Not this Pope.   He washed the feet of 12 incarcerated children, boys and girls.   Here's what he had to say.   It's not dissimilar to what thousands of parish priests were doing and saying all over the world, but the Pope obviously lends the message gravitas, and a twist -- all of the church, he is saying, even the Pope, is at the service of the lowliest, just as Christ was at the service of the lowliest, the poor, the weak:

“This is moving, Jesus washes the feet of his disciples. Peter understands nothing. He refuses but Jesus explains to him. Jesus, God did this, and He Himself explains it to the disciples.. ‘Do you realize what I have done for you? You call me ‘teacher’ and ‘master,’ and rightly so, for indeed I am. If I, therefore, the master and teacher, have washed your feet, you ought to wash one another’s feet. I have given you a model to follow, so that as I have done for you, you should also do’.
It is the example set by Our Lord, it’s important for Him to wash their feet, because among us the one who is highest up must be at the service of others. This is a symbol, it is a sign – washing your feet means I am at your service. And we are too, among each other, but we don’t have to wash each other’s feet each day. So what does this mean? That we have to help each other…sometimes I would get angry with one someone, but we must let it go and if they ask a favor of do it!
Help one another. This is what Jesus teaches us. This is what I do. And I do it with my heart. I do this with my heart because it is my duty, as a priest and bishop I must be at your service. But it is a duty that comes from my heart and a duty I love. I love doing it because this is what the Lord has taught me. But you too must help us and help each other, always. And thus in helping each other we will do good for each other.
Now we will perform the ceremony of the Washing of the Feet and we must each one of us think, Am I really willing to help others? Just think of that. Think that this sign is Christ’s caress, because Jesus came just for this, to serve us, to help us”.

By the way, it is not that big a deal, although the MSM appear to think it is, that Pope Francis washed the feet of two women.   Yes, the Pope has traditionally washed the feet of 12 men (priests) on Holy Thursday, because the rite is repeating the act of Christ at the Last Supper in washing the feet of his 12 disciples, all of whom were men.   But parish priests all around the world wash the feet of women on Holy Thursday, and have done so for a long time.   Last night at our parish our priest very lovingly knelt and washed the feet of 12 parishioners, men, women, boys, girls.   It's a lovely and moving ritual that permits us to experience Christ's love as we begin the great Triduum. 

Thursday, March 28, 2013

Polls and Public Policy

We are asked to join in the acclamation for approving gay marriage because, we are told, recent polls show the country swinging toward a small majority in support of the proposition:

Supporters of gay marriage again and again cite the shifting polls, as if they are relevant to a deliberation over whether gay marriage is mandated by the Constitution. On “Morning Joe,” former McCain campaign manager Steve Schmidt, a signatory on a Republican pro-gay marriage brief, said he thought the Court would recognize the “importance of this moment.” He confidently predicted that gay marriage would pass in an initiative held in California in a presidential election year. Can’t we wait to have the court impose gay marriage until we’re certain an initiative would pass in an off-year election, too?
His former McCain campaign colleague and fellow signatory Nicolle Wallace appeared on “Fox News Sunday” and made the same case. “More than 60 percent of all Americans, everyone, supports marriage equality,” she said. Wallace was apparently referring to a ABC News/Washington Post poll that showed 58 percent support for gay marriage, which technically is not more, but less than 60 percent. (At least I think that’s what Nate Silver would say.)
This happens to be the best result in any of the recent polls for gay marriage. So Nicole Wallace evidently believes the court should be swayed not just by opinion polls, but by outlier opinion polls. Her point would have been considerably attenuated if she had said, “The most recent Pew poll has 49-44 percent favor gay marriage and the Fox poll 49-46 percent support, slim pluralities that mean … the court … must… act… now.”

Meanwhile, here's a recent poll that shows that 85% of Americans think the federal government should balance its budget.

Since we apparently agree that whatever the most recent polls of a fickle population say at any given moment should drive our public policy, can we get started on that balanced budget now?

Girl of the Day - Julia Stiles

After making a nice transition from playing high school girls to adult roles, Julia Stiles was great in Dexter two seasons ago.   I hope she comes back in the series final year, next year.  

She turns 32 today.

Cyprus - a mini-update

This jumped out at me from a story on the Cyprus banking crisis:

With just 860,000 people, Cyprus has around 68bn euros (£57bn) in its banks.
This outsized financial system attracted deposits from foreigners but has struggled since investments in neighbouring Greece went sour.
A little quick math and conversion from pounds to dollars tells me that the banks in Cyprus have deposits equal to $100,000 for every man, woman and child in the country.   That's far more than the actual economic activity in Cyprus would suggest.

And what that tells me is that the banks in Cyprus are likely involved in massive money-laundering for nefarious interests in the Middle East and Russia.  

I'm just sayin'.   This could get ugly and strange (but mostly ugly).  

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

One More Thing Re SSM

Same sex marriage isn't something that I care that much about.   I tend to think that America is decadent in so many ways that one more thing isn't that big a deal to me.   I also tend to be pretty libertarian and generally don't much care what people do in their personal lives, although I also don't like to be called a bigot if I have the opinion that what you do is gross or morally wrong.   I don't want to make it illegal and I don't want to discriminate against you because of it, I just don't want to be called names if I don't applaud you for doing it.   That goes whether your gay or straight.   For instance, I suspect that I would have a significantly greater moral disapproval toward either (a) a man who impregnates a woman and then abandons her to raise their child as a single parent; or (b) a man who cheats on his wife and divorces her to marry another woman; than I would (c) two gay men living together in a committed relationship they choose to call "marriage."  

That being said,one aspect of the whole argument over SSM that irks me is the way our culture tends to be swayed by the fact that young Americans seem to be in favor of gay marriage.   We've seen poll after poll showing that young Americans think gay marriage is A-OK.  

Well, frankly, who gives a crap what the least responsible segment of the population thinks?   Does anyone really want college-age kids and twenty-somethings giving you advice about fundamental questions of organizing a civilization?  

Beyond that, it's been my experience personally and in my observations of others that people tend to grow more conservative on social and economic issues as they get older and, dare I say it, wiser.  

Young people who are radical today will feel differently in a decade when they have a job, a paycheck, a tax accountant, a 401k, a mortgage, a home equity line, a car loan, a wife, kids, a dog, a neighborhood school, etc.   So why act like what they think now when they are at their most  conformist moment in their lives, where they really really really care what their peer groups on Facebook think of them, matters so much?  

The Conformist Gays

An interesting statement by the counsel arguing that the Defense of Marriage Act is unconstitutional during today's oral argument.   Asked by Justice Roberts why the sea change in attitudes toward gay marriage is occurring (begs the question:  is it?), Attorney Roberta Kaplan argued:

I think it comes from a moral understanding today that gay people are no different, and that gay married couples' relationships are not significantly different from the relationships of straight married people.

Look, I'm not for discriminating against anyone in their employment, or housing, or ability to get benefits from the federal government (except to the extent that we can't afford benefits for anyone anymore).   But can we stop pretending that things that are obviously different are actually the same?   I mean, seriously... the level of euphemism and obfuscation with regard to talking about these issues is getting to be insulting to anyone of average intelligence.

And, by the way, when did gay Americans suddenly start standing for the proposition that the gay lifestyle is really just like Ozzie and Harriett?   I had no idea there was such an impulse to conformity on the gay left.   Or is it just cognitive dissonance?   For decades we've been told that we have to respect diversity.   Now it seems like we're supposed to act as if everyone is really just the same... just harmless fuzzballs looking for love and a shoulder to cry on.

Actually, when you put it that way, maybe we are pretty much all like that.   Hmmmmm....

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

California Prop 8 Oral Argument

Here is the transcript of the Supreme Court oral argument today on the question of whether California's Proposition 8, which defined marriage as being between a man and a woman only, runs afoul of the Equal Protection clause of the Constitution.   The attorney for the petitioners (the anti-gay marriage side), opened his argument on the merits with this point:

The question before this Court is whether the Constitution puts a stop to that ongoing democratic debate and answers this question for all 50 States. And it does so only if the Respondents are correct that no rational, thoughtful person of goodwill could possibly disagree with them in good faith on this agonizingly difficult issue.

Exactly so.   The arguments of the respondents (the pro-gay marriage side) essentially hinge on characterizing anyone who disagrees with them as irrational bigots, because that's the only way they get to the "heightened scrutiny" under  Constitutional law that would provide a basis for overturning California's Prop 8 or the federal Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA).   It may very well be that many states will decide that gay marriage should be legal and accepted under the law.   It may very well be that many if not most people will come to conclude that gay marriage is socially acceptable.   But it cannot be that any person who feels differently is irrational or bigoted as a matter of law.   To hold that would be to hold that Bill Clinton (who signed DOMA) and every other Democratic politician until very very recently (who opposed gay marriage publicly, regardless of their private beliefs) were acting irrationally and were bigots.  

More to the point, to hold that would be to hold that basic tenets of Catholicism (and, interestingly enough, Islam) are irrational bigotry.

I'll be really blunt:   I don't think that John Roberts, Antonin Scalia, Clarence Thomas and Samuel Alito are going to permit the other five members of their Court to label their religion a form of irrational bigotry.   If I were them, I'd put it in exactly those terms and publicly challenge their brethren to put themselves on the record as anti-Catholic. 

I'd also publicly challenge Kennedy and Sotomayor to put themselves on the record as rejecting a fundamental teaching of their own church.   I suspect that they are CINOs (Catholics In Name Only), but then they should stop identifying themselves as such.

None of this should suggest that this isn't a difficult issue, or that I'm not conflicted a bit on it myself.   But that's why it should be worked out in the processes of democracy, not with courts telling half of us we're bigots.

More Stories You May Have Missed - The Printed Gun

While the rest of us float around on the shimmering surface of media being entertained, engineers and dreamers are constantly working to change the world.   What happens to manufacturing when 3-D printing becomes an everyday reality?   Better, cheaper, easier, more accessible products.   Less and less of a reason to pay rent-seekers in the government to regulate commerce.  Fewer jobs in manufacturing and assembly?   Maybe.   No one knows.   But strange times are coming.  

Like Burke, we might want to ask the question:  when people tell me they are free, I should want to know what use they will put their new-found liberty toward before I congratulate them.   I want more liberty.   But I also don't know what the ramifications of being able to print a gun will be.

Girl of the Day - Keira Knightley

Keira Knightley, who seems like she's been around forever, turns 28 today.   Our favorite role of hers is still Elizabeth in Pride and Prejudice:

Stories You May Have Missed - Cyprus

We focus so much on the back-and-forth, push-and-pull of politics in America, that we sometimes miss huge stories because they're happening on the other side of the world.

One such story is the looming disaster of the Cyprus bailout, which appears to involve simply confiscating the wealth of large bank depositors, many of whom are foreign.   When a deposit in a bank isn't safe, when the government can simply confiscate wealth, then you are one step away from chaos.   I can't think of anything more essential to the social contract than the notion that an individual's property can't simply be seized by the government.   If the government won't honor its side of the social contract, why should the citizenry honor their side?

A taste of today's news from Cyprus:
Despite promises since last week that the country’s banks would reopen Tuesday, the government late Monday ordered all of them, including the Bank of Cyprus and Cyprus Popular Bank — the nation’s largest financial institutions, with most of the accounts on the island — to stay shut through at least Thursday. The extended bank closing is to reduce the risk of a bank run by nervous depositors. Automated cash withdrawals will be limited to €100 a day.
The island’s faltering banks suffered a new indignity on Tuesday, as Fitch Ratings said it was cutting its credit grades on Cypriot banks because of the losses imposed by the bailout deal on senior creditors.
Fitch said it was cutting its rating on Cyprus Popular Bank, known as Laiki Bank, to “default.”
Fitch also cut its rating on Bank of Cyprus to “restricted default,” a grade Fitch said means the bank has experienced a payment default on a bond, loan or other material obligation but has “not entered into liquidation or ceased operating.”

Oh, and by the way, it's not like Cyprus is in a dangerous part of the world or anything:

Monday, March 25, 2013

Girl of the Day - Worlds!

The Regular Daughter is in Boston for the World Championships of Irish Dance.  

Agenda for today:  (1)  Get up.  (2) Be awesome!  (3) Go to bed.

Sunday, March 24, 2013

Girl of the Day - Weekend Version (Shameless)

The Regular Wife is out of town with the Regular Daughter at Irish Dance Worlds, so I'm catching up with Shameless (which is, frankly, unwatchable in mixed company).   Anyway, Lip's ex-girlfriend (Laura Slade Wiggins), a pure psychopath, is back, and she's crazier than ever.

Orwell v. Huxley

This is genius:

Saturday, March 23, 2013

The Two Wise Men

One because of the way he ended his papacy, the other because of the way he started his.

Hard to imagine how long you'd have to live to see this sort of thing every again.   What a beautiful thing... true men of God meeting to pray together. 
Rocco Palmo at Whispers in the Loggia reports that Pope Francis, when Pope Benedict motioned to him to take the papal chair, instead insisted they kneel together in the same pew:


Wow.  Just:   wow.  

Steyn on America's ADHD War Policy

Mark Steyn's piece on NRO this morning (always a must-read with Saturday coffee) makes this important point about our soon-to-be-forgotten-why-were-we-there-again? wars in Iraq and Afghanistan:

If you live in Tikrit or Fallujah, the Iraq War was about Iraq. If you live anywhere else on the planet, the Iraq War was about America, and the unceasing drumbeat of “quagmire” and “exit strategy” communicated to the world an emptiness at the heart of American power — like the toppled statue of Saddam that proved to be hollow. On the eleventh anniversary of 9/11, mobs trashed U.S. embassies across the region with impunity. A rather more motivated crowd showed up in Benghazi, killed four Americans, including the ambassador, and correctly calculated they would face no retribution. Like the Taliban in Afghanistan, these guys have reached their own judgment about American “credibility” and “will” — as have more potent forces yet biding their time, from Moscow to Beijing.

And then there's this sad note:

Granted that most of the Arab world, from Tangiers to Alexandria, is considerably less “multicultural” than it was in mid century, the remorseless extinction of Iraq’s Christian community this last decade is appalling — and, given that it happened on America’s watch, utterly shameful. Like the bland acknowledgement deep in a State Department “International Religious Freedom Report” that the last church in Afghanistan was burned to the ground in 2010, it testifies to the superpower’s impotence, not “internationally” but in client states entirely bankrolled by us.

Does anyone fear America anymore?   Or have they taken the measure of us, and of our feckless President?   And what does that mean for the future?

Girl of the Day - Keri Russell

The star of what happens to be my favorite new show, The Americans on FX, Keri Russell, also happens to have her birthday today.   She's 37.... just coming into her prime, in other words.

Friday, March 22, 2013

Obamacare Debacle Update

Hmmm... it would seem to me that Obamacare (or any health care) requires doctors.   So how's Obamacare going to work if this is true?
Most physicians have a pessimistic outlook on the future of medicine, citing eroding autonomy and falling income, a survey of more than 600 doctors found. 
Six in 10 physicians (62 percent) said it is likely many of their colleagues will retire earlier than planned in the next 1 to 3 years, a survey from Deloitte Center for Health Solutions found. That perception is uniform across age, gender, and specialty, it said. 
Another 55 percent of surveyed doctors believe others will scale back hours because of the way medicine is changing, but the survey didn't elaborate greatly on how it was changing. Three-quarters think the best and brightest may not consider a career in medicine.
Obamacare is an almost perfect example of how the Left, having learned nothing from the seventy year debacle of the Soviet Union, continues to believe that it can ignore human nature and the laws of economics.

Girl of the Day - Palate Cleansing Version (Natalie Wood)

A bit of a palate cleanser after the previous post:

Girls and The Bible

The HBO show Girls, starring and written by Lena Dunham, has gotten a huge amount of press and glowing reviews for its hipness and cutting edge comedy.   From what I can gather, most of the hype stems from the fact that Miss Dunham, who is relatively average looking and neither thin nor particularly well-proportioned, appears nude with semi-frequency.   Apparently this is courageous and exhibits (I use the verb advisedly) her healthy body image.  

Well, OK, whatever.   The truth is that very few people watch the show, only 600,000 tuning in for the season finale according to Nielsen.   So the hype is pretty over the top.

Meanwhile, the History Channel show The Bible, had more than 13 million people tune in to its premiere.  

Now, put aside any moral component to the contrast between a comedy about twenty-something women in a city dealing with problems largely arising out of promiscuity and a dramatization of the Bible.   As a Catholic and father and conservative, I might prefer the latter.   (Or I might not... my TV tastes tend to be guided by something different than my faith, since I like shows like Dexter and Breaking Bad and The Sopranos and Game of Thrones and Shameless.)  

But put that aside.   Here's my question:

Do the mainstream TV networks like ABC, CBS, NBC (a dying entity), HBO and Showtime really not like making money?   Do they prefer smaller audiences?  

More importantly, do they think their shareholders prefer making less money?

Because they sure act like it.   If they really wanted to make money for their shareholders, they'd be hiring Christian writers to come up with Bible and Christian-themed TV shows, miniseries and movies that uncynically present stories that would appeal to churchgoers.

I think you could make an argument that the unconscious regime of censorship of Christian-themed programming on the major networks is an ongoing breach of fiduciary duty by the officers of those corporations.   They are acting as if they care more about whether they get the approval of the Hollywood and New York liberals they have cocktails with than making money for their shareholders.

Congressional Innumeracy Update

A few weeks ago I mentioned Maxine Waters' statement that the sequester would cost 170 million American jobs -- more than the entire American workforce.   Yesterday there was this from Charlie Rangel:

New York Rep. Charlie Rangel appeared on MSNBC this morning to opine about the assault weapons ban getting dropped from the Senate gun-control bill. 
He made a few claims about politics as usual and the power money can have in this type of a case, but his most noteworthy comment was about his knowledge on crime statistics. 
“I’m ashamed to admit it but its politics and its money, The NRA has taken this position, there is no reason, there is no foundation. There is no hunter that needs automatic military weapons to enjoy the culture of going hunting,” the Democrat told MSNBC’s Chris Jansing. 
“We’re talking about millions of kids dying — being shot down by assault weapons,” he continued. “Were talking about handguns easier in the inner cities, to get these guns in the inner cities, than to get computers. This is not just a political issue, it’s a moral issue…” 
The FBI’s 2011 data says only 323 people were killed by rifles, compared to 728 people who were killed by hands, fists, feet etc. Handguns are much more likely to be used in a homicide with 6,220 killed nationwide in 2011.
There were a little over 16,000 homicides nationwide in 2010.   Of those, 11,000 were by firearms.   So it's likely that there hasn't been more than a million murders by firearms in America in the past century.   Of those, only a small percentage have been with rifles, and of those only a vanishingly small percentage have been with "assault weapons," whatever that means.  

The innumeracy of a Charlie Rangel is frightening.   This man is allowed to vote on budgets!   Anybody think he could explalin the concept of amortization of unfunded liabilities?

By the way, most Republicans would be OK with a ban on "automatic" weapons, since they would know that fully automatic weapons (machine guns) have been outlawed since the 1930s.  

Sheesh!   Do journalists have any responsibility to simply refuse to permit politicians to spout obvious falsehoods on their networks?

Thursday, March 21, 2013

Girl of the Day - More Annet Mahendru!

Annet Mahendru, an Afghani model-actress, may become the breakout star of the new FX drama, The Americans, for her role as a Russian embassy employee turned FBI mole.  At least, that's my surmise from the level of traffic I've gotten on the one post I did awhile back.   So, on the theory of striking while the iron is hot:

Birthday Today - Bach!

It's Johann Sebastian Bach's birthday today.   Here is one of his greatest choral works, the St. Matthew Passion.   Seems fitting for getting us in the mood for Holy Week.   Enjoy!

Like I Said... An Interesting Holy Week Awaits Us

From Rocco Palmo at Whispers in the Loggia:

In a sudden announcement this morning from the Holy See, Pope Francis has yet again turned Vatican protocol on its head – shredding the earlier plan of beginning the Easter Triduum in St Peter's Basilica, the new pontiff has instead opted to go to a juvenile prison in Rome to celebrate Holy Thursday's Evening Mass of the Lord's Supper, at which he'll wash the feet of 12 inmates.
Like I said yesterday, symbolism isn't everything, but it matters.   Pope Francis is quickly moving the Church toward an evangelization that focuses on calling on Christians to help the least among us.   

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

George Weigel on Our Pope Francis

George Weigel also has a great new piece up about our new Pope.   Here are the parts that resonated with me:

What kind of man is he? Some impressions from an hour’s conversation last May:
A man of God. The new pope struck me then as someone who lived from the inside out: a man whose rich interior life was the basis of his public life; a leader whose decisions grew from prayer and discernment, not calculation.
A man of profound humility. I had long been interested in getting to know then-Cardinal Bergoglio, but I had the hardest time getting him to talk about his own life and experiences. I didn’t detect shyness in this, or false modesty, but a true evangelical humility. Pope Francis will not have the effervescence of a John Paul II; but like the Polish pope who created him cardinal, Jorge Bergoglio has spent his life saying, not “Look at me,” but rather, “Look to Jesus Christ.”...
A man of the New Evangelization. The new pope played a significant role in shaping the Latin American bishops’ 2007 “Aparecida Document,” which embraced the New Evangelization and put it at the center of the Church’s life. In our conversation, the man who would become pope made clear his understanding that a kept Church—“kept” in the sense of legal establishment, cultural habit, or both—had no future in the twenty-first-century West, given the acids of secularism. Pope Francis is a man, I conclude, who intends to go on evangelical offense: It will be all gospel, all proposal, all evangelism, all the time.
The Aparecida Document is very, very interesting by the way.   Here's an excerpt that jumped out at me, but the whole thing is fascinating:

Pope Francis As We Await Holy Week

Peggy Noonan has a good piece here about Pope Francis' first days:

It really is quite wonderful, what we’re hearing and seeing from Rome. The plain shoes. The plain watch. The slightly galumphy look as he does his walkabouts. The reason he took his name: “How I wish for a poor church, and for a church for the poor.” The report I received of his taking the employee elevator in the Vatican, not the papal one— “Your Holiness!” exclaimed a surprised Swiss Guard. His kissing of the hands of his “brother cardinals” after they would attempt to kiss his ring. The sweetness of his plunging into the crowds. His stopping the jeep Tuesday morning when he was riding around St. Peter’s Square: He saw a disabled man being held by a friend, and stopped to show affection and gratitude. The surprise walkabout Sunday at church. The surprise phone call he made to thousands of Argentines who held an all-night prayer vigil for him Monday in Buenos Aires: “Thank you for praying, for your prayers, which I need a lot.”
All this can be called mere symbolism but it’s good symbolism, and good Francis knows it is needed.
That's an important note there at the end.   Symbolism isn't everything, but it does matter.   Given the current climate, doing a series of symbolic acts (I actually think it's just the goodness of his nature) that will make it difficult to caricature him in the future, is very smart.  

Here's another good piece from Jody Bottum:

Jorge Bergoglio... is an advocate of the poor who has consistently opposed the Argentinian government’s ostensible programs for the poor. A social activist who rejects most social reform. A churchman who refused many of the elaborate trappings of his office while promoting the power of the church. A populist who denies almost every request for an interview. A leftist who denounces the state power and cultural changes demanded by the left. A reactionary who despises the accumulation of wealth and the libertarian freedoms praised by the right. No attempt to impose liberal and conservative definitions on him will succeed. Pope Francis simply won’t fit in those categories, mostly because the ancient religious insights of Christianity—taken, as he takes them, in their undiluted form—cannot find an easy place in the modern world.
All of which makes him quite possibly a saint, in the mode of his namesake, Francis of Assisi.
Well, I don't know about that last bit, and I'm pretty sure that Pope Francis would scoff at it himself.   My take on him is that his humility is real, and comes from a true identify as a man of God at the service of his fellow men.   But I think the part about how the categories of right and left won't fit him is exactly right.   A church that radically stands for the dignity of every human person will not easily fit within any of the current political parties in the Western world.  

Should be a very interesting holy week this year.

The Face of Evil

In case you were wondering what evil looked like:

A jury weighing murder charges against a Philadelphia abortion provider heard grim testimony about unorthodox procedures used on inner-city clinic patients.
Dr. Kermit Gosnell, 72, faces the death penalty if convicted of killing seven late-term babies after they were born alive. He is also charged with third-degree murder in the overdose death of a 41-year-old refugee who sought an abortion in 2009. 
Medical assistant Adrienne Moton admitted Tuesday that she had cut the necks of at least 10 babies after they were delivered, as Gosnell had instructed her. Gosnell and another employee regularly "snipped" the spines "to ensure fetal demise," she said. 
Moton sobbed as she recalled taking a cellphone photograph of one baby because he was bigger than any she had seen aborted before. She measured the fetus at nearly 30 weeks, and thought he could have survived, given his size and pinkish color. Gosnell later joked that the baby was so big he could have walked to the bus stop, she said.

Gruesome, to be sure.   But let there be no mistake:   there is no ontological difference between what "Dr." Kermit Gosnell did in Philadelphia that has him on trial for murder, and what goes on every day in every abortion clinic in America.   If you think there is, you have some philosophical needles to thread.


I hate thinking about the 2016 Presidential election this early.   There has to be something other than politics in life, and there ought to be something other than national politics in politics.   So much that is important will happen on the local level long before we get to 2016.

That being said, here are some facts I think are interesting:

Rand Paul.   50.

Marco Rubio.  41.

Ted Cruz.   43.

Bobby Jindal.   41.

Paul Ryan.   43.

Scott Walker.   45.

Nikki Haley.  41.

Kelly Ayotte.   44.

Now look at this list:

Hillary Clinton.  65.

Joe Biden.  70.

John Kerry.  69.

Who are the young, intellectually-gifted, experienced, forceful leaders in the Democratic Party?   I can't name any.   The Obama Administration has been particularly horrible in terms of creating new superstars in its own party.   My theory is that Obama himself simply can't brook anyone else in his party getting any attention, and sucks up all the energy and money and air.  

Will it matter?   Maybe not.   But if the choice is between first Hispanic President (Cruz or Rubio) and first woman President (Clinton), and the "diversity" vote splits, youth might just be the trump card.

VDH: "We are living in dangerous times..."

Victor Davis Hanson, after presenting example after example of Obama's incoherence and fecklessness in foreign policy, offers this scary conclusion:

We are living in dangerous times not seen since Jimmy Carter’s disastrous last year in office, when a moralist kindred to Obama was widely praised for his ecumenical statesmanship — and when the Russians, the Chinese, and the Islamists began invading their neighbors and killing people.
Opportunists abroad — rightly or wrongly, fairly or unfairly — believe that if there was ever a time to readjust the regional landscape without too much risk, that time is coming, as the once-lean feline that used to prowl the yard outside has become a bloated pussycat purring on the kitchen mat.
As I've said before, open service in military units by homosexuals and including women in combat units does not matter if you have no intention of fighting any wars (other than drone wars) in the future.   Small unit cohesiveness and morale and obedience to superior officers under fire are important only to militaries that fight.   If the military is a jobs program.... meh, not so much.

But, as Professor Hanson suggests, while we may not be interested in war, war always will find a way to be interested in us.

And what rude beast slouches toward Bethlehem?  

Girl of the Day - Susan Misner (The Americans)

The wife of the FBI agent on one of my new favorite shows, The Americans, is played by Susan Misner.   In the show, the FBI agent husband is now cheating on his wife with a Soviet embassy employee (Annet Mahendru) who he has apparently turned; we'll see how that turns out -- I tend to think he's being played.  

Anyway, one of the things that I always notice on TV shows is how they unrealistically write a male character cheating on a wife who is already ten times hotter than he deserves.   Why would anyone stray if you had that to come home to?   (Of course, that kind of behavior baffles me on every other level too.)

Birthday Today - George Caleb Bingham

The Regular Son might like this... the most famous work by one of America's greatest painters of the 19th Century, George Caleb Bingham, Fur Traders Descending the Missouri:

Bingham was born in 1811.   During his life he made his living as a portrait painter, but interestingly he also was a member of Missouri's General Assembly and, later, President of the Kansas City Board of Police Commissioners.   Interesting... nowadays I suspect most "artists," like most "poets," end up in academia in one form or another, and certainly not as much "of the world" as Bingham apparently was.

The Decline of Marriage

A sad little article in the Atlantic on the decline of marriage in America's lower classes pins the causation, not on moral decay (the sexual revolution, birth control, etc.), but on economics:

Low-skill men have had a rough two generations. The evaporation of manufacturing work has gutted their main source of employment, while globalization has held down their wages. Marriage has declined the most among men whose wages have declined the most. Here's a remarkable graph from the Hamilton Project comparing change in earnings (the RED LINE) and change in likelihood to be married (the BLUE BARS).
In a dating pool where poor women are more likely to be surrounded by men with low and falling fortunes, more women have ditched a union for good economic reasons: It could be a financial drain. In The Truly Disadvantaged, William Julius Wilson, argued that "high rates of unemployment and incarceration meant that the local dating pool was populated by unmarriageable men--and the result was that women chose to live independently."
There is a common thread between the moral and the economic reasons.   Both are ultimately caused by bad government policies.   In the first category are Roe v. Wade, and the government's support for legal abortion, which eliminates the disincentives for promiscuity and the mirrored incentives for marriage and responsibility.   In the second are the perhaps well-intentioned initiatives of liberals with regard to the minimum wage and environmental regulation and occupational safety regulation (OSHA) and Obamacare and all of the other liberal programs that make it harder and harder to start a manufacturing facility in America (and, of course, also including the high rate of corporate income tax).   I would also add the well-intentioned but boneheaded "war on drugs" that both Democrats and Republicans have long supported, that has resulted in the massive incarceration rates for young poor men, and especially for young black men.  

I don't have a short term answer to this problem.   One long-term answer is certainly a reawakening of faith and an evangelization for marriage and parenting and responsibility as adult Christians.   In terms of government policy, I would focus more on ways to get the American manufacturing sector humming again, including:

  • Eliminating the minimum wage.
  • Repealing Obamacare.
  • Rolling back the regulatory state.
  • Lowering the corporate income tax.
  • Lowering the capital gains and dividend taxes.

To get low-skilled American workers back to work, you have to enact policies that enable investors to get a higher return on their investments in America.   If they can hire workers at lower wages, that increases productivity and profit; if they can earn income without paying an extortionate amount of those earnings to the government in taxes, that increases the incentive to build factories.  

Friday, March 15, 2013

Girl of the Day - Gloomy, Snowing, Spring Seems Far Away Version

Okay, so I know I'm not supposed to do this.   But it looks so gloomy outside on the Ides of March, and we're probably still a month or so away from warmth here in Wisconsin.   So what the heck:

Marilyn Monroe, ca. 1948.  

Credit Where Credit's Due

Via Hot Air, President Obama is pretty darn good here in responding to some typically inane questioning from the MSM:

"While we're here," said the interviewer from ABC News, "a lot of eyes on Rome as the cardinals prepare to pick a new pope. And for the first time some American cardinals on the list. But what I wanted to ask you about, there seems to be some concern among Catholics there shouldn't be an American pope because that pope would be too tied to the United States government. What do think of that?"
"It seems to me that an American pope would preside just as effectively as a Polish pope or an Italian pope or a Guatemalan pope," responded the president of the United States.
The ABC newsreader asked, "And not take orders from you?"
"I don't know if you have checked lately but the Conference of Catholic Bishops here in the United States don't seem to be taking orders from me," said Obama. "My hope is, based on what I know about the Catholic Church and the terrific work that they've done around the world and certainly in this country, you know, helping those who are less fortunate, is that you have a pope who sustains and maintains what I consider the central message of the Gospel that we treat everybody as children of God and that we love them the way Jesus Christ taught us to love them."

Hugh Hewitt and the New Pope

Hugh Hewitt has been doing yeoman's work at his blog and on his radio show covering the papal conclave and the hopes of Catholics for the new Pope.   He has probably a half dozen interviews up in the past two days with Catholic priests talking about the new Pope.   It's all fascinating, and the type of thing that the media can do, but usually doesn't (particularly in the so-called mainstream).  

Here's an excerpt from his interview with Father Fessio of the Ignatius Press about Pope Francis' task in reforming the Curia:

HH: Do you expect him to move quickly to make new appointments in the Roman Curia?
JF: Hugh, I’m going to break some news for you on the air, okay?
HH: Okay.
JF: I am going to talk about two things. I had a conversation this morning with a good friend of mine, a classmate of mine under Ratzinger, who happens to be a cardinal that was in the conclave. He told me two things. He said first of all, as soon as he was elected, Francis, Bergoglio, when all the cardinals came to congratulate him and offer their obedience, he went around to the back of the room, because there was a cardinal there in a wheelchair, and he wanted to greet him first. Just a little touch, but a sign of his human side.
HH: Sure.
JF: But secondly, my friend told me the cardinals wanted someone who would reform the Curia, and they said Bergoglio will do it within a year.
HH: And by reforming the Curia, explain to an audience that does not follow the Vatican, what does that mean?
JF: Ah, excellent question, Hugh. Now there’s been a lot of talk in the media before the election, the Roman Curia is dysfunctional. Curia means court, you know, in Latin, but basically it’s all the different offices around the Holy Father, for doctrine, for worship, for bishops, for priests, those sorts of things, and the secretary of state, which handles all kinds of materials, especially relations with other governments, and the Vatican bank. Now I make a distinction. I think there are many fine people that work in those Curial offices, and there are several of those what they call dicasteries, or departments, so to speak, which are doing wonderful work. For example, the Congregation for Bishops, which here in California, we have seen in the last two or three years, has appointed extraordinary bishops.
HH: Yes.
JF: But there’s been some dysfunction, it seems to me, in parts of the Curia where the Pope isn’t running the show. It’s sort of all these subordinates who are doing their own thing, and kind of going around the Pope. So one of the theories about Benedict retiring was not just that he was weak, because he was, he was frail. But he saw that under John Paul II, when John Paul II was not as strong as he had been in his younger years, that these bureaucratic subordinates were taking the reins into their own hands. And Benedict did not want that to happen. So basically, I think we’re going to have a better functioning set of supporting administrators with the Holy Father.

Cardinal Dolan on the Election of Pope Francis

Just about perfect here.   Like Cardinal Collins, whom I talked about below, how could anyone look at these men and not see a vastness of spirit and bigness of heart and love of life.   We have some new and very attractive faces for the Church Universal in men like Cardinal Dolan and, of course, Pope Francis I:

Thursday, March 14, 2013

Cruz' Argument

Senator Ted Cruz of Texas, rapidly becoming a favorite of mine and many on the right, had it out today with Senator Dianne Feinstein of California on the issue of gun control legislation, posing these very pointed questions:

"The question that I would pose to the senior senator from California is," said Cruz to Feinstein, "Would she deem it consistent with the Bill of Rights for Congress to engage in the same endeavor that we are contemplating doing with the Second Amendment in the context of the First or Fourth Amendment, namely, would she consider it constitutional for Congress to specify that the First Amendment shall apply only to the following books and shall not apply to the books that Congress has deemed outside the protection of the Bill of Rights? Likewise, would she think that the Fourth Amendment's protection against searches and seizures could properly apply only to the following specified individuals and not to the individuals that Congress has deemed outside the protection of the Bill of Rights?"

Cruz, a Harvard-trained Constitutional lawyer who has argued many cases before the United States Supreme Court, is asking very clear questions trying to get at the inconsistencies or double standards of the left regarding Constitutional protections.   The things they want to do with gun control and the Second Amendment would be unthinkable if anyone tried to do it with some other express (or even implied) Constitutional right.  

Anyway, Feinstein did not directly answer the question, because to do so would be to expose the inconsistency of her position.   Instead she rants and demagogues and presents what amounts to an argument for authority (i.e., not from data or logic), saying that, because she's been in Congress a long time and was a mayor and has seen people get shot, therefore the logic of her positions cannot be challenged:
"I'm not a sixth grader," said Feinstein. "Senator, I've been on this committee for 20 years. I was a mayor for nine years. I walked in, I saw people shot. I've looked at bodies that have been shot with these weapons. I've seen the bullets that implode. In Sandy Hook, youngsters were dismembered. Look, there are other weapons. I've been up -- I'm not a lawyer, but after 20 years I've been up close and personal to the Constitution. I have great respect for it. This doesn't mean that weapons of war and the Heller decision clearly points out three exceptions, two of which are pertinent here. And so I -- you know, it's fine you want to lecture me on the Constitution. I appreciate it. Just know I've been here for a long time. I've passed on a number of bills. I've studied the Constitution myself. I am reasonably well educated, and I thank you for the lecture."
Feinstein may not be a sixth grader, but she argues like one.


By the way, I don't quite like Cruz' second example.   Discriminating among the individuals who holds the rights  under the Constitution is not the same as discriminating among particular ways of exercising the rights.   A better fourth amendment example would be to ask "would she [Feinstein] think that the Fourth Amendment's protection against searches and seizures only applies to single-family owner-occupied homes, and not to rental properties such as apartments?"   What the left is trying to do with guns is not to say that certain people can't have guns, they're trying to say that certain types of guns are proscribed:   everyone can have X, but no one can have Y.  

But, following the correct pattern, you could ask a series of questions like this:

"Ms. Feinstein, would it be consistent with the Bill of Rights to outlaw some modes of birth control so long as some other modes remain available?"

"Ms. Feinstein, would it be consistent with the Bill of Rights to permit freedom of speech in newspapers, magazines, television and radio, but to prohibit it on the Internet?"

"Ms. Feinstein, would it be consistent with the Bill of Rights to permit freedom of religion for a particular list of established religions, but prohibit it with regard to other religions not appearing on the list?"

"Ms. Feinstein, would it be consistent with the Bill of Rights to permit freedom of association in certain public areas only, but prohibit protests or other gatherings of citizens elsewhere?"

Cruz' main point is valid.   Government is not permitted to limit the scope of individual freedoms under the Bill of Rights.   Individuals are allowed freedom of speech, freedom of religion, freedom of association, freedom to bear arms, freedom from unreasonable searches, etc.   If Government can define what arms or what speech or what religions are permissible, then we don't have the same rights anymore.


Here's the video:

Pope Francis' First Hours

From a report in the Telegraph:

More details have been emerging about the Pope’s first hours in Office. We heard earlier that after his election, he shunned the official Vatican City 1 car for the short trip back to where the Cardinals were staying, joining them on a communal minibus.
We are told that he said: I’m going home on the bus because I came here on the bus.”
He also – very pointedly – declined to sit on a throne to receive his fellow Cardinals last night, standing to greet them one by one. Then there was his surprise trip to church this morning – making his way through rush-hour traffic in a plain car with no cavalcade.
But the priests there could not have been as surprised as the staff at the clerical hostel in Rome where he was staying last week when he called in on his way back to pick up his bags.
After retrieving his belongings, he called at the reception desk and insisted on paying his bill. He said he wanted it to be an example to bishops and archbishops.
He's just what we need.

Birthday Today - Einstein, Falsifiability, and the Global Warming Industry

It's Albert Einstein's birthday today.   One thing among many that's worth noting about Einstein... he proposed his theory of special relativity, providing a new way of looking at space-time, in 1905.  He derived it from the mathematics.   But, and here's the key point, as described on Wikipedia, the theory was later supported by experimental evidence:
Like all falsifiable scientific theories, relativity makes predictions that can be tested by experiment. In the case of special relativity, these include the principle of relativity, the constancy of the speed of light, and time dilation. The predictions of special relativity have been confirmed in numerous tests since Einstein published his paper in 1905, but three experiments conducted between 1881 and 1938 were critical to its validation. These are the Michelson–Morley experiment, the Kennedy–Thorndike experiment, and the Ives–Stilwell experiment. Einstein derived the Lorentz transformations from first principles in 1905, but these three experiments allow the transformations to be induced from experimental evidence.... Those classic experiments have been repeated many times with increased precision.

In other words, while Einstein was a revolutionary thinker, he did not revolutionize the basic mode of science.    Create a theory, test the theory with experiment, confirm or "falsify" the theory; if falsified, then change the theory.   That's how science works:   theories must be falsifiable.

The problem with current theorists of global warming (and, for that matter, string theory in physics) is that they do not adhere to this pattern of traditional science.   For global warming theorists, man-made global warming, a theory, cannot be falsified by data showing that the earth has not warmed over the pats 15 years, or by data showing that the earth was warmer in the medieval warm period, or by data showing that we are, in fact, in a long cooling period spanning several millennia, or by any other data.   They will not give up their paradigm no matter what, because their paradigm fuels the financial behemoth of the global warming hysteria/green energy industry.

More on Pope Francis from George Weigel

I had been waiting for this since yesterday, and finally this morning there it was... George Weigel's commentary on the selection of Jorge Mario Bergoglio of Argentina as Pope Francis I.   Read the whole thing, but here's my favorite part:

In our May 2012 conversation, the man who would become pope discussed at some length the importance of the Latin American bishops’ 2007 “Aparecida Document,” the fruit of the Fifth General Conference of the Bishops of Latin America and the Caribbean. The essential message of that revolutionary statement... can be gleaned from this brief passage, which I adopted as one of the epigrams for my book, Evangelical Catholicism: Deep Reform in the 21st-Century Church:
The Church is called to a deep and profound rethinking of its mission. . . . It cannot retreat in response to those who see only confusion, dangers, and threats.. . . What is required is confirming, renewing, and revitalizing the newness of the Gospel . . . out of a personal and community encounter with Jesus Christ that raises up disciples and missionaries.... 
A Catholic faith reduced to mere baggage, to a collection of rules and prohibitions, to fragmented devotional practices, to selective and partial adherence to the truths of faith, to occasional participation in some sacraments, to the repetition of doctrinal principles, to bland or nervous moralizing, that does not convert the life of the baptized would not withstand the trials of time. . . . We must all start again from Christ, recognizing [with Pope Benedict XVI] that “being Christian is . . . the encounter with an event, a person, which gives life a new horizon and a decisive direction.”
The growing religions in the world do not offer a wishy-washy, watered-down, weak version of their faiths to a distracted post-modern world.   Religions that want to grow offer a strong program for changing the entire person who believes.   For Catholics, that program is what Weigel calls the "symphony of truth" of Catholicism.   It does not take polls; it does not care what CNN pundits think about how the Church should change or adapt to the prevailing winds.   It says, without equivocation, that these things are true, these things are facts, these facts will change you and save you and give you authentic and eternal life.  

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Pope Francis

Here is the text of Pope Francis' remarks from the balcony upon stepping into the shoes of the fisherman:

Brothers and sisters, good evening. You know that the task of the conclave was to give Rome a bishop. It seems my brother cardinals went almost to the ends of the earth to find one.
I thank you for your welcome.
The diocesan community of Rome has its bishop. Thank you.
First of all, I would like to offer a prayer for our bishop emeritus, Benedict XVI. Let us all pray together for him that the Lord bless him and that the Mother of God protect him. "Our Father who art in heaven. ... Hail Mary, full of grace. ... Glory be to the Father ... ."
Now let's begin this journey, bishop and people, this journey of the church of Rome, which is the one that presides in charity over all the churches -- a journey of brotherhood, love and trust among us. Let us pray for one another. Let us pray for the whole world that there be a great brotherhood. I hope this journey of the church that we begin today -- and I will be helped by my cardinal vicar, here present -- will be fruitful for the evangelization of this so beautiful city.
Now I would like to give my blessing. But first, I will ask a favor. Before the bishop blesses his people, he asks that you pray to the Lord to bless me, the prayer of the people for the blessing of their bishop. Let's pray for me in silence."
(He gave his blessing "urbi et orbi" (to the city and the world)).
Brothers and sisters, I'll leave you. Thank you so much for the welcome. Pray for me. We'll see each other soon. Tomorrow I want to go to pray to Mary so she would watch over all of Rome. Good night. Have a good rest.

Habemas Papam!

We have a pope!   White smoke!

What a beautiful scene in St. Peter's Square!   The happiness of believers waiting to meet the new Vicar of Christ.

The new pope is... Jorge Mario Bergoglio, Cardinal of Buenos Aires, Argentina.   The first South American Pope and the first Jesuit Pope.   God bless him!


Beauty is Truth, Truth Beauty - Weigel on the Sistine Chapel

George Weigel is interviewed today on Hugh Hewitt regarding the papal conclave.   Read the whole thing, but this answer jumped out at me:

HH: I want to walk through those specific elements [of what to look for in a new Pope], but first, I want to get your impressions of today. When the oaths were sworn, and the doors were closed, and the first vote inconclusive, but expected to be, was taken. How are you assessing what’s going on, George Weigel?

GW: Well, I think it was a great day to experience beauty as a window into the Catholic proposal. That magnificent Pauline chapel where the conclave process began, the procession from the Pauline Chapel to the Sistine Chapel, which through the great Scala Regia of the Apostolic Palace, which is full of magnificent frescos. And then you get into the Sistine Chapel, which is arguably the most extraordinary room in the world. And you’ve got these men living inside the entire Biblical narrative. I mean, the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel has the creation of the cosmos, the creation of Adam and Eve, and that unbelievable back wall, which forms a kind of backdrop to this whole election process, is the great Michelangelo fresco of the Last Judgment. So you’ve got beginning, middle and end. And I think that created a sense that this is not like popping into your local precinct and casting your ballot on the second Tuesday of November. There’s something distinctive and different going on here, and I thought that was very moving. And the sheer magnificence of the surroundings lifts up a theme I raise in the book, namely that for postmoderns who are skeptical that anything is true, or are skeptical that we can describe properly anything as good, beauty can be a way to open up a new conversation about the true and the good.

Peggy Noonan on Media Chatter About the Conclave

Peggy Noonan is at her best, methinks, when talking about things Catholic.   Here she is, putting the wood to the shallow charlatans of the media who presume to comment upon the papal conclave and the "direction" of the Church:

There’s a lot of ignorant, tendentious and even aggressive media chatter about the church right now, and it’s starting to grate. Church observers are blabbering away on cable and network news telling the church to get with the program, throwing around words like “gender” and “celibacy” and “pedophile” and phrases like “irrelevant to the modern world.”
I wouldn’t presume to tell Baptists or Lutherans or Orthodox Jews how they should interpret their own theology, what traditions to discard and what new ones to adopt, what root understandings are no longer pertinent. It would be presumptuous, and also deeply impolite in a civic sense. The world I came up in had some virtues, and one was that we gave each other a little more space, a little more courtesy both as individuals and organizations, never mind faiths. That kind of public courtesy is what has allowed America, with all its sharp-elbowed angers and disagreements, to operate.
Right now every idiot in town feels free to tell the church to get hopping, and they do it in a new way, with a baldness that occasionally borders on the insulting. Whatever their faith or lack of it they feel free to critique loudly and in depth, to the degree they are capable of depth.... Some of the church’s critics don’t seem to be operating from affection and respect but something else, or some things else.
When critics mean to be constructive, they bring an air of due esteem and occasional sadness to their criticisms, and offer informed and thoughtful suggestions as to ways the old church might right itself. They might even note, with an air of gratitude free of crowd-pleasing sanctimony, that critics must, in fairness, speak of those parts of the church that most famously work—the schools that teach America’s immigrants, the charities, the long embrace of the most vulnerable—and outweigh a whole world of immediate criticisms.
But when they just prattle on with their indignant words—gender, celibacy, irrelevant—well, they’re probably not trying to be constructive. One might say they’re being vulgar, ignorant and destructive, spoiled too. They think they’re brave, or outspoken, or something. They don’t have enough insight into themselves to notice they’d never presume to instruct other great faiths. It doesn’t cross their minds that if they were as dismissive about some of those faiths they’d have to hire private security guards.

Just so.   But what the critics of the Church mouthing banalities on TV really don't understand is this.

The Church has a direction.   It is toward Christ.   It always has been and always will be.


P.S.  It's past 4:30 pm in Rome.   The Cardinals have gone back into the Sistine Chapel for today's second round of votes -- ballots 4 and 5 if you're counting at home.  

Girl of the Day - Dana Delany

One of the Regular Guy's favorites, from the great 1980s show, China Beach.   She turns 57 today.   Tempus fugit.

No Pope Yet

Is he ready?

How great would that be?

Illinois, the State of Ponzi

Via Meadia writes this morning on the Illinois pension crisis:

Illinois’ pension troubles have just taken a criminal turn. The SEC hit the state with charges of securities fraud yesterday, claiming that Illinois repeatedly misled investors about the state of its pension programs over the past decade. Between 2005 and 2009, the state issued $2.2 billion dollars in bonds while claiming that its pension funds were adequately funded, neglecting to inform investors that many within the government believed the system was headed for collapse. Instead, the state used creative accounting tricks to disguise the extent of the problem. As the pensions sank deeper into their hole, the state was forced to become increasingly creative.
It's about time.   This is a nationwide scandal at every level of government, from counties up to the federal government.   We have made promises of future retirement and healthcare benefits to public employees that we cannot keep.   We can't afford it.   It will crush us.   And we've papered over those facts with rosy actuarial assumptions of future growth in the retirement plans' portfolios that the last 13 years of flat markets don't justify.   And meanwhile the same governments have been incurring debt with even more false promises that they will be able to pay it off.  

Illinois needs to be renamed The State of Ponzi.   But, then, that name might already be taken by California, or Rhode Island, or Maryland, or New Jersey.

P.S.  Note that the states in the most pension trouble are the bluest of the blue states.

The Ryan Budget


Paul Ryan's new budget, discussed here on NRO, puts the country on a path toward a balanced budget in ten years.   The editors of NRO call Ryan's budget a "broad vision for the fiscal future of the United States [and] an important step in the right direction if it were to become law."

Now, I love Paul Ryan.   I think he's a great public servant in the true sense of the term.   But, come on.   

Ten years?  

Between Fort Sumter and Appomattox was four years.   Between Pearl Harbor and the surrender on the U.S.S Missouri was less than that.   Between JFK's promise and Neil Armstrong's footprints was a little over eight years.  Heck, from John the Baptist to the Cross, Jesus Christ's ministry was only a little over three years!

But our best and brightest and boldest can't get us to a balanced budget inside of a decade?  Really? 

And what's really sad is that the same NRO article actually hints at a path that would balance the budget much sooner:

What Ryan’s budget does not contain, it should be emphasized, is spending cuts. The difference between Ryan’s balanced budget and Obama’s crippling deficits is this: Ryan proposes that federal spending be allowed to grow at 3.4 percent a year rather than the 5 percent rate it is expected to hit otherwise. That is the most important context for this debate: For a difference of 1.6 percentage points in the growth of federal spending, we get a balanced budget in ten years instead of a headlong rush into a debt crisis on the Greco-Spanish model.

If "only" allowing the budget to grow at 3.4 percent a year for the next ten years leads to a balanced budget, why not let it grow at only 1 or 2% and balance it sooner?   Indeed, if the nearly $4 trillion federal budget is scheduled to grow at 5% a year, or about $200 billion a year, why not say we're going to keep the same gargantuan federal spending we have now, which is a trillion or more dollars greater than it was only 5 years ago, until the budget is balanced in 4 or 5 years.   Would that really be so "painful" (as Obama says) that the American people couldn't survive?   Are we really so weak that only a $4 trillion government can save us?
The political class has utterly failed us if they can't even imagine a scenario where balancing the budget sooner than ten years is possible.    We've reached the point where W.B. Yeats is right:  the "best lack all conviction, while the worst are full of passionate intensity."

And what worries me, as the father of three, is "what rough beast, its hour come round at last, slouches towards Bethlehem to be born."