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Friday, November 25, 2005

Government: Enemy of the Poor
As a rule, government will usually work towards the benefit of the rich. That's why there's so much money in politics: because government has so much power. McCain-Feingold and all other attempts to limit the influence of money on politics are doomed to failure as long as government has so much power to make people money. $50,000 in campaign contributions are nothing when those contributions might get you half a million or so in profits from government contracts, tax loopholes or specially crafted laws. That's just a great return on investment, and so money will find its way to politicians as long as there's money to be made from government. The only solution is to limit government's ability to make private citizens and corporations richer.

In fact, it can be argued that the poor would be better off if they didn't rely on government assistance so much. Laws designed to "help" the poor so often end up hurting them. Minimum wage laws keep the unskilled from being able to find work at a wage at which it would be worth hiring unskilled labor. (If you can't produce at a rate worth the minimum wage, you won't get hired.) If the minimum wage were reduced, more people could find jobs, build skills and then find better jobs. By and large, the minimum wage jobs aren't something someone keeps for life; they're a stepping-stone to a better job. Absent government interference, the poor could find jobs more easily. This is at least part of the cause for the riots we saw in France earlier this month. The minimum wage in France is so high that unemployment among the young is about 25%. How can they possibly build skills they need for their future life when they can't get a job to develop those skills. Things in France may get worse before they get better.

Similarly, let's look at how government restricts the ability of the poor to start their own businesses. A simple example is taxi service. That would be a fairly easy way for someone to start their own business: get a car that runs, keep it in decent shape and drive people around for money. Instead of allowing anyone with enough moxie to do so, the government requires medallions which can be very expensive and therefore only avilable to the rich, who the poor must go through to get a job at someone else's service, rather than working for theselves.

As an example of how government interference hurts the poor, the poor in America are much more likely to jump social classes than are the poor in Europe, where greater government control of the economy restricts the poor's ability to get ahead.

Plus, a free economy allows the poor to make more exchanges that will improve their situation. Given that no one will willingly make a deal that worsens their situation, allowing the poor more freedom will increase their ability to improve their lives. The more choices we block off from them, the fewer avenues of escape of poverty remain.

If we want to help the poor, we need to give them more freedom to make their own choices.

Big Day in Philadelphia Sports
Wednesday was a big day in Philadelphia sports.

First, TO got the bitch-slap he deserved. Good riddance. I love the fact that this all started because he decided he deserved a better contract than the one he willingly signed with the Eagles last year. He went and got himself a new agent who probably promised the sun and the moon and all the stars thrown in. Instead, he got himself, fined, suspended and made a pariah in the NFL. Estimates of his financial loss earch as high as $20 million.

I was told that at the press conference he and Drew Rosenhaus held after the Eagles announced the suspension, Rosenaus was asked, "What exactly have you done for your client other than get him suspended and fined?" That's beautiful. My hat's off to the reporter who asked that. Hopefully, this teaches Rosenhaus a lesson as well and scares off potential clients he might otherwise have gotten.

Second, the Phillies managed not only to trade Jim Thome, but to get a decent haul for him. Rowand is overrated, but he's a decent center fielder. He's probably worth more on the trade market than he is on the field, so hopefully his stay in Philly will be short. We've got Michaels and Victorino to man center and we need pitching and upgrades at 3rd and behind the plate. The prospects we also acquired seem decent, but it's certainly true that There's No Such Thing As A Pitching Prospect. But, overall I'm pleased.

Thome's handling it with his usual good grace, already offering to try to help keep Paul Konerko with the White Sox. He's a good guy. I wish him the best, but I think the Phils are better off with Ryan Howard at first base. He's younger without an injury history, and Thome's at the age at which big guys can collapse.

Overall, Wednesday was a great day in Philadelphia sports. Let's hope there's a few more soon.

Behind the Pilgrims' bad harvest in 1621: a lack of property rights
The textbooks don't explain why the Pilgrims had only a meager harvest in 1621, so we will. For their first two years in Plymouth, the settlers conducted an experiment in communalism. It wasn't until 1623 that they divided the land into private plots and could look forward to the kind of bounty that many of us enjoyed yesterday. In his "History of Plimoth Plantation," the colony's governor, William Bradford, wrote about how the settlers studied human nature and laid the foundation for true Thanksgiving:
An excerpt from William Bradford's writing follows.

It's the tragedy of the Commons written once again: When no one owns something but everyone has use of it, there is no incentive for anyone to take care of it, which inevitably leads to its becoming useless to everyone. The classic example is herders sharing a common meadow. Since everyone can use it without responsibility for its upkeep, they all decide someone else will do it, and so no one keeps it up. Eventually, all the grass is gone, and the ground is unable to grow due to its heavy use.

If the common had been owned by someone, and rent charged to the herders, the owner would have had an incentive to keep it up to maintain his future income. The quandary is captured well in Dr Suess' "The Lorax," but he didn't understand the solution. If I recall the ending correctly, the kid is given the last seed for the trees with a warning not to let them be completely destroyed again. Dr Suess maybe have been a great kids' writer, but he doesn't understand economics, since the answer is to have the new trees owned and therefore someone has an ecnomic gain by keeping them around.

Catholic World News : Boston archbishop pulls out of Catholic Charities fundraiser
Boston's Archbishop Sean O'Malley will not attend a December dinner honoring the city's Mayor Thomas Menino. The dinner is a fundraising event for the local office of Catholic Charities.

The archbishop's withdrawal from the December 9 event follows a series of protests from lay Catholic leaders, who have pointed to Mayor Menino's record on key moral issues. C.J. Doyle, executive director of the Catholic Action League of Massachusetts, cited the mayor's "relentless opposition to the moral teachings of the Roman Catholic Church" in a November 17 statement urging the archbishop not to attend the dinner. Doyle pointed out that although Menino is a Catholic, he has consistently supported legalized abortion on demand and has been a stalwart proponent of homosexuals, even sponsoring a "gay prom" for local high-school students at City Hall. When a Massachusetts court cleared the way for legal recognition of same-sex marriages, Mayor Menino personally welcomed the first homosexual applicants arriving at City Hall for marriage licenses.
Something is seriously wrong with Catholic Charities up in Boston. This comes on the heels of their admitting they allow adoption by same-sex couples in violation of Church teaching.

It's probably time Archbishop O'Mally removes the word "Catholic" from their title, because they've clearly removed it from their practices.

John Henry Cardinal Newman on Thanksgiving
God has created me to do Him some definite service; He has committed some work to me which He has not committed to another. I have my mission—I may never know it in this life, but I shall be told it in the next.

I am a link in a chain, a bond of connection between persons. He has not created me for naught. I shall do good, I shall do His work. I shall be an angel of peace, a preacher of truth in my own place while not intending it—if I do but keep His Commandments.

Therefore I will trust Him. Whatever, wherever I am, I can never be thrown away. If I am in sickness, my sickness may serve Him; in perplexity, my perplexity may serve Him; if I am in sorrow, my sorrow may serve Him. He does nothing in vain. He knows what He is about. He may take away my friends, He may throw me among strangers. He may make me feel desolate, make my spirits sink, hide my future from me—still He knows what He is about.
He converted to Catholicism from Anglicanism, which I mention as a hint to my Episcopalian friends.

Thomas Jefferson
"The greatest good we can do our country is to heal its party divisions and make them one people."

-- Thomas Jefferson (letter to John Dickinson, 1801)

Reference: The Writings of Thomas Jefferson, Ford Edition, 8:76

Wednesday, November 23, 2005

Pope Benedict Quotes
On Abortion and Communion
Not all moral issues have the same moral weight as abortion and euthanasia. For example, if a Catholic were to be at odds with the Holy Father on the application of capital punishment or on the decision to wage war, he would not for that reason be considered unworthy to present himself to receive Holy Communion.
On Hierarchy of Life Issues
While the Church exhorts civil authorities to seek peace, not war, and to exercise discretion and mercy in imposing punishment on criminals, it may still be permissible to take up arms to repel an aggressor or to have recourse to capital punishment. There may be a legitimate diversity of opinion even among Catholics about waging war and applying the death penalty, but not however with regard to abortion and euthanasia.
On Judaism
That the Jews are connected with God in a special way and that God does not allow that bond to fail is entirely obvious. We wait for the instant in which Israel will say Yes to Christ, but we know that it has a special mission in history now ... which is significant for the world.

Our Christian conviction is that Christ is also the messiah of Israel. Certainly it is in the hands of God how and when the unification of Jews and Christians into the people of God will take place.
(All quotes are from before his elevation to the Papacy.)

My Current Reading
I've started reading The Road to Serfdom by F.A. Hayek. I want to say I'm reading it again, but I don't remember much of it. I'd swear I read it while in college, but none of it's ringing a bell.

Nonetheless, so far the book is very interesting. Written during World War II, it points out that Socialism/Communism and Fascism/Nazism are really the same thing. The goal is the same, just using different means. (There's a saying I heard years ago: "Socialism is Communism with a flower sticking out of the gun being pointed at you.") Both paths ultimately lead to an oppressive goverment that completely dominates its citizens. An important read for "Socialists of all parties" to whom the book is dedicated.
I finished reading the Mother Angelica book. Very good reading. Makes it pretty clear that EWTN survived as a result of divine intervention. (There were a lot of coincedences, too many to explain away.) And the American bishops do not come off well, unsurprisingly. Very good read, though.

Amazon.com: John Paul the Great : Remembering a Spiritual Father: Books
Peggy Noonan wrote a book on john Paul II.

Of course I bought it.

Catholic World News : US Catholic politicians confused about faith, bishop says
During a speech on Catholics and public life in the US, Archbishop Gomez noted that "today 70% of politicians who claim to be Catholic in Congress and the Senate support abortion, and that figure reaches almost 90 percent in traditional Catholic states such as Massachusetts or New York."

Many Catholic politicians, inspired by the interpretation of some influential theologians, consider all the teachings of the Church to be on equal footing. "They respect ‘a large part’ of that doctrine, especially in social matters, but they disagree on issues such as abortion, euthanasia and homosexual unions. According to them, they adhere to a ‘large part’ and say they are adhering to it all."

This understanding, the archbishop pointed out, has led to "curious anomalies, such as a ‘Catholicity’ survey carried out by one Catholic senator among his colleagues in 2003 which showed that this senator and another were the ‘most Catholic’ of the Senate, despite having voting voted 100 out 100 times in support of abortion, euthanasia, homosexual unions and experimentation with embryonic stem cells."
The article goes on to mention John Kerry specifically, but they could just as easily have mentioned Joe Biden, who wears his "catholicity" on his sleeve, except when it comes time to vote.

Tuesday, November 22, 2005

The Sounds of the Season
Listening to all the Christmas music lately has brought to mind a quote from an old episode of NewsRadio. Lisa is complaining about how Christmas always gets her down and Dave says "Well, this time of year can be hard on everyone. I mean, if I hear 'The Little Drummer Boy' one more time, I swear to God...."

It's gotten so that flipping through the radio stations, both of the stations that have gone over to 24 hour Christmas music already can be playing that song. And why on earth do we already have two stations playing constant Christmas music? It's not even Thanksgiving and we have two stations playing it constantly!

When I'm Benevolent Dictator of the World, 24/7 Christmas music will be outlawed prior to Christmas Eve. Punishable by death. As will ever playing "The Little Drummer boy."

Thanksgiving Quote-a-palooza
"Let the American youth never forget, that they possess a noble inheritance, bought by the toils, and sufferings, and blood of their ancestors; and capacity, if wisely improved, and faithfully guarded, of transmitting to their latest posterity all the substantial blessings of life, the peaceful enjoyment of liberty, property, religion, and independence." —Justice Joseph Story

"Enter His gates with thanksgiving, and His courts with praise.
Give thanks to Him and praise His name.
For the LORD is good and His love endures forever;
His faithfulness continues through all generations."
(Psalm 100:4-5)

One of the frequent criticisms you hear of the Catholic Church is that her insistence on the immorality of artificial contraception costs lives in AIDS-ridden countries. Some extremists have even gone so far as to label John Paul II a murderer for upholding a Teaching that goes back to the founding of our Church.

It's ironic to blame the Church for this situation, since we're to assume that men aren't using condoms due to adherence to Catholic belief, while they're presumably engaging in some sort of sex (pre-marital, adulterous, homosexual, etc.) that Catholic belief prohibits.

Putting aside the issue of the morality of condom use, let's look at their effectiveness. Does encouraging condom use prevent the spread of AIDS? Decidely not.
  1. In Cameroon, condom sales have increased from 6 million to 15 million, while the HIV rate has tripled.
  2. In Botswana, condom sales have tripled from 1 to 3 million, while HIV infections among pregnant women have increased from 27 to 45 percent.
Meanwhile, in Uganda, which encourages the "ABC" method, the HIV rate has fallen from 21 to 6 percent. (ABC= Abstinence first, Be faithful to your partner, and only as a last resort, depend on condoms.)

Insistence on condom use can lull users into a false sense of security. As President Yoweri Museveni of Uganda said, "In countries like ours, where a mother often has to walk 20 miles to get an aspirin for sick child or five miles to get any water at all, the question of getting a constant supply of condoms may never be resolved." Also, condoms are not 100% effective against pregnancy and the AIDS virus is smaller than a sperm cell. (Remember the "Friends" episode where Ross found he had gotten Rachel pregnant despite using a condom? Joey's reaction was hilarious.) Plus, as condoms are made more and more quickly to meet increased demand, aren't they likely be of poorer quality and even more "holely?"

So, given that numbers and logic dictate that condom use is ineffective at best against stopping the spread of AIDS, and maybe even encourage it, given that people may be lulled into a false sense of security, who's the true murderers: the Church, who urges abstinence, or those spreading condoms?

John Murtha unites the Republicans
Shortly after stepping off a plane at Dulles Airport last week, Rep. Duncan Hunter was on a cell phone delivering a surprisingly stern message to a few reporters. Coverage of the debate in the Senate to "ban" the use of torture, the Armed Services Committee chairman said, was inaccurate and unfair.

Mr. Hunter's beef was that it is already illegal for any American to torture someone overseas and such a crime is punishable of up to 20 years in prison, or execution if the torture victim dies. To underscore his point, Mr. Hunter followed up on Tuesday with a press release noting that "contrary to widespread media reports, torture is [already] banned under American criminal laws." The release included copies of the applicable criminal code.
Mr. Hunter introduced a simple, one-paragraph resolution calling for immediate withdrawal from Iraq. Late Friday night the House voted the resolution down 403-3.

Anyone who thinks that vote was simply cheap political theater and not connected to the larger debate on how to fight the war on terror hasn't been watching Mr. Hunter and the other defense hawks in the House over the past four years. It's not an accident that the House hasn't passed the "torture ban" that John McCain and John Warner pushed through the Senate. Nor is it a coincidence that intelligence reform stalled in the House last year until it was amended to insure that troops in the field would still have the intelligence they need.

It's not lost on Mr. Hunter, or on Reps. Steve Buyer, John Kline and many others, that Iraq is the most visible front in the war on terror and is therefore a symbol for whether the political elites of this nation have what it takes to confront global terrorist networks. If politicians can't stomach going after terrorists who openly attack U.S. soldiers, they won't have what it takes to go after terrorists who hide in some of the most remote or ungoverned reaches of the world.
Pulling out before the job is done is foolish at best, suicidal at worst. Here's a rule I find makes a lot of sense: if you're in a death struggle with someone, doing what they want you do to do is not a good idea. The terrorists want to kill us, and they want us out of Iraq. Why should we please them? The wanted to destroy us before we were in Iraq, how would pulling out with our tail between our legs change that? Our only choice is to destroy them. Whether you supported the war or not, victory is our only option. Anything other than victory will be taken as a victory for the terrorists, and clearly that's not a good thing.

This website gets it: NoEndButVictory.com Their slogan: "First peace. Then withdrawal."

Monday, November 21, 2005

Year-End Charitable Giving
I know a lot people save their charitable giving to the end of the year. I thought I'd suggest some worthy charities:

Mount Vernon - The home of our first and greatest President is maintained by a private foundation that does not receive money from the government. Donate here.

Catholic Relief Services - Don't let the name frighten you off if you're not Catholic. They do no preaching, but just serve the needs of the poor and those in disaster areas, such as those who still need our help in the Sudan and areas affected by the tsunami and the earthquake in Pakistan.

Friends of Woodlawn Library - To expand the new library serving Little Italy and the Flats in Wilmington.

Constitution Center - Teaches Americans about our Constitution.

There's many more worthy charities out there. If you wish, add a few in the comments. (There are more I give to, they're more political or religiously focused, so I left them off for now.)

New Englanders stingy about charitable giving; Bible Belt most generous
The index, released to The Associated Press last week, takes into account both ‘‘having'' and ‘‘giving.'' It is based on average adjusted gross incomes and the value of itemized charitable donations reported to the Internal Revenue Service on 2003 tax returns, the latest available.
Using that standard, the 10 most generous states were, in descending order, Mississippi, Arkansas, South Dakota, Oklahoma, Tennessee, Alabama, Louisiana, Utah, South Carolina and West Virginia.

The 10 stingiest, starting from the bottom, were New Hampshire, Massachusetts, New Jersey, Rhode Island, Wisconsin, Connecticut, Minnesota, Colorado, Hawaii and Michigan.
So, blue states give less to charity than red states, based off the criteria above. This puts the lie to the claim that conservatives don't care about the poor. We're just as generous, if not more so; and we do it with our own money, instead of having the government spend someone else's so we can avoid responsibility for the less fortunate.

Link via Dappled Things.

"Data compiled by the Heritage Foundation show that teens from homes headed by single, never-married women are twice as likely to be sexually active than teens from homes headed by married couples. Black children are three times more likely than white children to be living in a single-parent household and are three times more likely to be poor. So despite arguments from Planned Parenthood and other liberal advocates that inserting government between parents and their children protects children, things are quite the opposite. The reality of the black community is testimony that the formula for keeping children poor, and assuring that their children will be poor, is to destroy the integrity of the family. Government subsidization and protection of irresponsible behavior has gotten blacks into the social black hole in which they now find themselves. Black kids are not suffering because they need more rights. They are suffering because they are not learning, from an early age, about responsibilities and consequences." —Star Parker

"While the American people understandably want to know when our forces can leave Iraq, I believe they do not want them to leave until our mission is accomplished and the Iraqis are able to sustain their fledgling democracy. As the president has said, one cannot set arbitrary deadlines. Timing of the handover of responsibility to Iraqis depends on conditions on the ground. And already some responsibilities are being assumed by the Iraqi security forces. We must be careful not to give terrorists the false hope that if they can simply hold on long enough, that they can outlast us." —Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld

"We must never forget that no government schemes are going to perfect man. We know that living in this world means dealing with what philosophers would call the phenomenology of evil or, as theologians would put it, the doctrine of sin. There is sin and evil in the world, and we're enjoined by Scripture and the Lord Jesus to oppose it with all our might." —Ronald Reagan

"Among AARP's 36 million members, there must be many decent people... But I won't be joining, because AARP has become America's most dangerous lobby. If left unchecked, its agenda will plunder our children and grandchildren... Anyone who's watched the steel and auto industries can visualize AARP's America. In those industries, companies and unions unrealistically agreed to overly generous pensions and retiree health benefits that, as the number of retirees multiplied, overburdened the companies. Now past promises collide with present economic realities. Workers and retirees suffer. Wages and jobs are cut; so are pensions and retiree health benefits. On a much larger scale, that may be America's fate." —Washington Post columnist Robert Samuelson

"One of the best models of good government is the Umpire Model. Government is here not to play the game of life for us, nor coach us on how to play best. It's here to help us play the game peaceably by deciding a few tough calls. It adjudicates conflicts. Of course, the model isn't perfect. Today's government does way too much coaching and managing as well as actual playing...and even cutting the grass on the field; government's not just for umpires any more." —Paul Jacob

Biden vs. Alito
[Senator Joseph] Biden says that any suggestion that Mr. Alito questions the Supreme Court's 1962 decision in Baker v. Carr, which ruled that legislative districts that are not equal in population can be challenged in federal court, makes him filibuster bait. "If he really believes that reapportionment is a questionable decision -- that is, the idea of Baker v. Carr, one man, one vote -- then clearly, clearly, you'll find a lot of people, including me, willing to do whatever they can to keep him off the court... That would include a filibuster, if need be," Mr. Biden told Fox.
You can't dismiss Alito's alleged views on apportionment out of hand. After all, the Constitution explicitly grants representation on a basis other than "one man, one vote." Senator Biden might even be familiar with the body that's constituted that way. We call it United States Senate, where according to rumor Biden works.

I've heard it said that Biden is the smartest Democratic Senator. If that's true, maybe I called the wrong party the Stupid Party.

Quote from OpinionJournal.com's Political Diary.

Natural Ends
The idea of natural ends assumes that things have built-in purposes. To put it technically, natural ends reflect an intrinsic teleology at work in the world. Our fulfillment depends on respecting the purposes to which relationships, behavior, and everything else are naturally oriented.

While that may sound obvious to some, for many people it's anything but. Natural ends, as the wise man put it, were largely "deleted" from Western secular thought several centuries ago by thinkers like Descartes, Machiavelli, and Hobbes, reacting against the legacy of the great Scholastics like Thomas Aquinas.

But people do trifle with the reality of things at their own risk. In the absence of natural ends, we are left with the arbitrariness of subjective purposes — the outcomes we happen to want.

Given up on the GOP?
I got a fundraising letter from the Republican National Committee last week hoping I hadn't given up on them or forgotten about them. I sent the following response back(paraphrased):
Since you asked, I have given up on the Republican party. Why should I support a party that nominates people like Harriet Miers to the Supreme Court, refuses to make tax cuts permanent, can't control federal spending, won't reform Social Security and attacks conservative Republicans candidate in Rhode Island? If that's what Republicans do, why do we need Democrats?

It will be a long time before I trust the Republican party with a dime of my money.
Seriously, why on earth to they think we should give them money. The best run conservatives have had was when Clinton was in office and we controlled Congress. Clearly the Republicans can't be trusted with absolute power in DC. The best thing for us would be for the GOP to lose one of the houses of Congress. Maybe then they'll learn their lesson. But then again, they are called the "Stupid Party" for a reason.

Our duties as citizens
"It is the duty of all men in society, publicly, and at stated seasons, to worship the SUPREME BEING, the great Creator and Preserver of the universe. And no subject shall be hurt, molested, or restrained, in his person, liberty, or estate, for worshipping GOD in the manner most agreeable to the dictates of his own conscience; or for his religious profession or sentiments; provided he doth not disturb the public peace, or obstruct others in their religious worship."

-- John Adams (Thoughts on Government, 1776)

TRUTH ON TV [Iain Murray]
Those who weren't watching Desperate Housewives last night may have been doing the more traditional (and therefore right) alternative of watching The Simpsons. The latest episode had one of the series' occasional forays into the process of politics, with mayor "Diamond" Joe Quimby facing recall. After Homer announced his candidacy, on a ticket of increased safety, he faced negative campaigning in the shape of "Nuclear Plant Workers for Truth," pointing out Homer's incompetence as a safety inspector. The interesting subtext, of course, is that the "negative" ads were completely truthful...

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