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Friday, January 13, 2006

Why does the government have to advertise free drugs for oldsters?
The campaign's commercials are more fitting for the launch of a new retail product than for the start of a program aimed at alleviating poverty and subsidizing seniors. In any case, it is odd to see commercials trying to persuade people to sign up for a benefit that was sold to the taxpaying public as a necessary thing--a help to people too poor to afford their own health care. Welcome to the age of marketed entitlements, where the war on poverty is an ad war.
As if there is not enough incentive for private companies to publicize this windfall, the federal government is spending $300 million on its own campaign to get 28 million or so of the 42 million Americans on Medicare to sign up for drug coverage. (Most of the rest already have equivalent or better drug coverage.) You wouldn't think that it would be so hard to get Americans on fixed incomes to sign up for freebees. But apparently it is.

deseretnews.com | Black sergeant was 'loyal Klansman'
Too cool a story not to post.
About 25 years ago, Ron Stallworth was asked to lead the Ku Klux Klan chapter in Colorado Springs.
Problem was, the outgoing Klan leader didn't know that Stallworth is black.
"He asked me to take over the lead because I was a good, loyal Klansman," said Stallworth, who had been in constant phone contact with the Klan leader while leading a yearlong Colorado Springs police investigation into the Klan.
Stallworth later moved to Utah, where he recently retired after nearly 20 years as an investigator for the Utah Department of Public Safety. He says he's amazed that no one ever caught on to the investigation he led starting in 1979. After he was offered Klan leadership, he quietly disappeared.
As a memento Stallworth still carries his Klan membership card — signed by David Duke.
"It was one of the most fun" investigations, he said. "Everybody said it couldn't be done."
Link via Drudge.

open book: The Book of Lost
Go here for an interesting discussion of Wednesday's episode of Lost. Since this is a Catholic blog, you can expect some good analysis of the religious overtones of the episode. (AlthoughtI think my favorite comment so far is: "Wait a second. There's someone who thinks Kate isn't hot?"

Thursday, January 12, 2006

Israel, the Church, and Pat Robertson
A good analysis of the (incorrect) theological underpinnings of Pat Robertson's comments on Sharon's stroke and why they're wrong. Plus an analysis of the impact of these theological views on the Middle East.

Wednesday, January 11, 2006

Whatcha' Readin'?
Want to be a smarter Catholic? I recommend two things. First, pray to God to put into your hands what he wants you to read. God cares about what you read. He really does. Then, read things you don’t understand.

Why read what you don’t understand? Because it is a mental exercise that stretches your capacity to think. As you read what you don’t understand, the shape of the arguments gradually becomes clear, your vocabulary expands, the reading becomes easier and easier. You find yourself recalling more and more. The new vocabulary and more complex thoughts become part of the mental furniture of your own mind. If God puts it into your hands to read, trust that he will help you grow in understanding. Be willing to exercise your mind and it will grow.

"The essential characteristic of Western civilization that distinguishes it from the arrested and petrified civilizations of the East was and is its concern for freedom from the state." —Ludwig Von Mises

"Nothing is more desirable than to be released from an affliction, but nothing is more frightening than to be divested of a crutch." —James Baldwin

"[C]onservatives are not supposed to like big government. It's not our job. We're supposed to like freedom and the rights of the individual." —Peggy Noonan

"The history of liberalism in...America has mostly been about giving people what they want and convincing them they are victims and that only government can help them, while the history of conservatism has mostly been about telling people what they need and giving them opportunities to better their lives." —Cal Thomas

"There are two reasons that cutting taxes makes sense. The first reason is because you and I are over taxed... The second is that tax cuts help create jobs. Like Ronald Reagan, I believe the federal government's problem is not that it taxes too little, but that it spends too much." —Rep. Sam Graves

"Safe, Legal and What? 'Safe, legal, and rare.' That was Bill Clinton's mantra. Question: If abortion is a fundamental constitutional right, why should it be rare? Can you think of any other basic right that we would want to be rare?" —Tony Perkins

"It's very hard to fight a terrorist war without intelligence. By definition, you can only win battles against terrorists preemptively—that's to say, you find out what they're planning to do next Thursday and you stop it cold on Wednesday. Capturing them on Friday while you're still pulling your dead from the rubble is poor consolation." —Mark Steyn

"Conservatives who forget the primacy of the family and private sector are doomed to repeat the liberals' mistakes—and to replicate their political failures." —W. James Antle III

"The Democrat Party has decided to express indignation at the idea that an American citizen who happens to be a member of al-Qa'ida is not allowed to have a private conversation with Osama bin Laden. If they run on that in 2008, it could be the first time in history a Republican president takes even the District of Columbia." —Ann Coulter

Jay Leno: This past weekend former Washington, DC Mayor Marion Barry was robbed at gunpoint at his home. The assailants took his money and used it to buy crack. Which is ironic because that was the same thing Marion was going to do with the money. ... France and Germany warned Iran this week not to pursue their nuclear research program. In fact, France and Germany warned Iran that if they didn't stop their program they would, you know, warn them again.

The Goldwater Myth
Goldwater's move away from social conservatism came only in the twilight of his Senate career--and more starkly after he had left the Senate in 1987. Throughout the 1970s, he opposed abortion on demand and taxpayer funding of abortions. (He wavered on a constitutional amendment restricting abortion.) In 1980, in the midst of his last and most difficult Senate race, he endorsed the Human Life Amendment. Only in his final term did he adopt a pro-choice position, voting in 1983 against a constitutional amendment that would have reversed Roe v. Wade and returned legislative authority over abortion to the states. In 1984, he reversed his 1964 position by voting against a constitutional amendment to restore voluntary prayer to public schools. As late as 1985 he opposed "gay rights" legislation. Only in 1993, six years after leaving the Senate, did he change his view.
So how has the myth developed of the great gulf between "Goldwater conservatism" and Reagan's and Bush's? To begin with, several of the hot-button issues that later mobilized social conservatives en masse were nonissues in 1964, or had barely begun to stir. The '60s counterculture was inchoate, as was radical feminism. The downward spiral of social trends had just begun, as had the Left's crusade to obliterate religion from public life. Key court decisions on abortion, criminal rights and gay rights lay in the future. Consequently, a distinct mass movement of religious traditionalists--a "religious right" with tens of thousands of foot soldiers--did not exist for the Goldwater campaign to incorporate. (To be sure, an intellectual movement of social traditionalists, including Russell Kirk, existed already and backed Goldwater.)

When Goldwater underwent his transformation as the years wore on, liberals rushed to embrace him. This Goldwater became every liberal's favorite conservative--not the historic figure who had condemned moral decay, extolled the religious underpinnings of American society, championed school prayer, inveighed against big government, and helped launch the modern conservative movement. Yet it was the latter Goldwater who ran for president, who galvanized Reagan and pointed the way to a long-term Republican electoral realignment.

Conservatives today need to revive Goldwater's argument in the '60s, and Reagan's in the '80s, that liberty not only is compatible with morality, it depends on it. Limited government cannot long coexist with a collapse of moral order; and an unlimited government is usually the consequence of an amoral society. Sweden, for instance, has both one of the most hedonistic societies in Europe and one of its most smothering welfare states. When in 1964 Goldwater told the graduating class of the Pennsylvania Military College that "it is impossible to maintain freedom and order and justice without religious and moral sanctions," he at once echoed George Washington and Alexis de Tocqueville, presaged Reagan, and issued a clarion call for future generations.
The true story of Barry Goldwater and his relationship to the political movement he started.

You Betcha I'm a Proud Army Mom: How Not To Ask An Army Mom For Money
Exactly what the title promises: How not to ask an Army Mom for money

Link via Ut Unum Sint.

Tuesday, January 10, 2006

William Hague
He's the shadow Foreign Secretary for the British Conservative Party, and he's quickly jumped high on the list of my favorite people:

During a discussion of the 200th anniversary re-enactment of the Battle of Trafalgar, Mr. Hague noted accurately that to avoid offense the combatants would only be identified as a "red" fleet and a "blue" fleet. "Just a little tip if you want to put a bet on it," he told an amused studio audience. "The cheese-eating surrender monkeys are in red this time."

Mr. Hague then went after the Germans, noticing a recent poll in which German holidaymakers said they had a difficult time relaxing. "I'm not so sure that's true," he said. "If anyone's got a history of making themselves feel at home in other people's countries, it's the Germans."

One recent column noted France's increased birth rate and commented: "Maybe drinking lots of wine and being totally unreasonable is good for your sex life after all."
This is all I know about him, but it's a good start.

Quotes via OpinionJournal.com's Political Diary.

The Corner on National Review Online
According to John Pohoretz, our dear Senator Biden spoke for 15 minutes, 22 seconds before allowing Alito, who's supposedly testifying, to speak. A minute later Biden interrupted and continued talking.

It would be funny if he didn't represent the state I love.

UPDATE: According to Pohoretz, Alito spoke about 72 words during the whole 1/2 hour of Biden's time. I can't wait to hear Biden say he's voting against Alito because didn't share enough information during his testimony.

Also, Biden said "I really, really didn't like Princeton." But during a speech at Princeton, he once said "I had been pushing Princeton" on his kids and "I tried to get all three of them to apply here."

Townhall.com :: Columns :: Curing poverty or using poverty? by Thomas Sowell
First of all, what does it even mean to say that "China is lifting a million people a month out of poverty"? Where would the Chinese government get the money to do that?

The only people the Chinese government can tax are mainly the people in China. A country can't lift itself up by its own bootstraps that way. Nor has there ever been enough foreign aid to lift a million people a month out of poverty.

If the Chinese government hasn't done it, then who has? The Chinese people. They did not rise out of poverty by receiving largess from anybody.

The only thing that can cure poverty is wealth. The Chinese acquired wealth the old-fashioned way: They created it.
Since wealth is the only thing that can cure poverty, you might think that the left would be as obsessed with the creation of wealth as they are with the redistribution of wealth. But you would be wrong.

When it comes to lifting people out of poverty, redistribution of income and wealth has a much poorer and more spotty track record than the creation of wealth. In some places, such as Zimbabwe today, attempts at a redistribution of wealth have turned out to be a redistribution of poverty.

While the creation of wealth may be more effective for enabling millions of people to rise out of poverty, it provides no special role for the political left, no puffed up importance, no moral superiority, no power for them to wield over others. Redistribution is clearly better for the left.

SOCIAL STUDIES: Bush's Battle Endangers The War (01/06/2006)
A good balanced look at the potential dangers of the authority the Bush administration claims of virtually unlimited power in his prosecution of the war on terror. I'm not sure I necessarily agree with the conclusion of the article, but at least this guy (Jonathan Rauch) seems to have a sense of history and what's at stake.

Link via Dappled Things.

Quote of the Day
"The only foundation of a free Constitution, is pure Virtue, and if this cannot be inspired into our People, in a great Measure, than they have it now. They may change their Rulers, and the forms of Government, but they will not obtain a lasting Liberty."

-- John Adams (letter to Zabdiel Adams, 21 June 1776)

Monday, January 09, 2006

Herald Sun: Camilla's protector paid out [08jan06]
A black police bodyguard who protected the Duchess of Cornwall has won $70,000 compensation after suing Scotland Yard for "over-promoting" him because of political correctness.
His representatives argued he landed the prestigious job as Camilla's bodyguard only because he was black.

It was claimed that as a result of being over-promoted and not receiving proper training and support, Sgt Turner made mistakes which led to him being re-assigned.
Other than being a data point in favor of arguments against affirmative action, there's something that jumped right out at me: The policeman essentially has stated for the record that he was imcompetent for the job he was given. Personally, I think I'd just accept the transfer, knowing the truth, and not call attention to my inadequacies. Especially for that little money.

Link via The Corner.

Overview of Likely Candidates for House Majority Leader
Acting Majority Leader Roy Blunt, who has served in that capacity since Mr. DeLay stepped down last year to fight a Texas ethics indictment, is a no-nonsense legislative mechanic. He's been actively campaigning for the permanent post by telling fellow Republicans that he can do the best job of passing legislation on the floor in the teeth of united Democratic opposition. Mr. Blunt has no clear ideology of his own. Hailing from the "Show Me" state of Missouri, he's known to keep his counsel and not prematurely reveal his position on issues. However, he is well known among members for his belief that attempts to rein in Congressional pork-barrel projects (such as the infamous "Bridge to Nowhere" in Alaska) are misguided and naïve efforts at reform.

Ohio Rep. John Boehner, who chairs the House Education Committee, is likely to run as someone who can maintain good relationships with the business community's lobbyists but at the same time place some limits on Congress's appetite for pork. He has traditionally spoken out against "earmarks," which are individual projects for members that are often quietly inserted in late-night conference reports on legislation.

California Rep. Jerry Lewis, the powerful Appropriations Committee chairman, is unlikely to wave a reform banner on spending as part of any campaign he might mount for Majority Leader. He also may have the wrong image for the party at a time when scandals have focused a spotlight on Congressional excesses. The San Diego Union-Tribune reports that he has steered hundreds of millions in federal funds to clients of lobbyist Bill Lowery, a former Congressman who is so close to Mr. Lewis that they have exchanged key staff members, "making their offices so intermingled that they seem to be extensions of each other."

A dark-horse candidate who might unite younger conservatives around his campaign is Arizona Rep. John Shaddegg. A member of the GOP leadership team as chairman of the House Republican Policy Committee, Mr. Shaddegg grew up in Arizona as the son of a top adviser to Barry Goldwater. He is the candidate most likely to call for a cleansing of the Congressional spending process and the obvious heir to the small-government philosophy of Dick Armey, who served as House Majority Leader from 1995 to 2003, when Mr. DeLay took over.
From OpinionJournal.com's Political Diary.

"For Christians, being attacked is one of the realities of life. The secular world, and The New York Times in particular, detest us because we stand for absolute truth. But our response to attacks like this is to overcome evil with good. For all of its faults, the Times now and then expresses grudging admiration for the human rights work evangelicals perform in the trenches. We need to strengthen our witness there and continue defending the truth. We also ought to keep a sense of humor when we are attacked like this." —Chuck Colson

"When it comes to forecasting the future, the birthrate is the nearest thing to hard numbers. If only a million babies are born in 2006, it's hard to have two million adults enter the workforce in 2026... And the hard data on babies around the Western world is that they're running out a lot faster than the oil is. 'Replacement' fertility rate—i.e., the number you need for merely a stable population, not getting any bigger, not getting any smaller—is 2.1 babies per woman. Some countries are well above that: the global fertility leader, Somalia, is 6.91, Niger 6.83, Afghanistan 6.78, Yemen 6.75. Notice what those nations have in common? Scroll way down to the bottom of the Hot One Hundred top breeders and you'll eventually find the United States, hovering just at replacement rate with 2.07 births per woman. Ireland is 1.87, New Zealand 1.79, Australia 1.76. But Canada's fertility rate is down to 1.5, well below replacement rate; Germany and Austria are at 1.3, the brink of the death spiral; Russia and Italy are at 1.2; Spain 1.1, about half replacement rate. That's to say, Spain's population is halving every generation. By 2050, Italy's population will have fallen by 22%, Bulgaria's by 36%, Estonia's by 52%... The latter half of the decline and fall of great civilizations follows a familiar pattern: affluence, softness, decadence, extinction... A society that has no children has no future." —Mark Steyn

"'Life getting worse' is myth No.1 because in TV newsrooms, I hear a constant whine about life getting worse: avian flu will kill us if terrorism doesn't get us first; crime and pollution keep increasing, and the poor are suffering. But in truth, life keeps getting better. We live longer than ever, and with less pain (think about dental care in the 1960s). Crime is down. In America, even poor people have homes, cars, and access to music and other entertainment that was once only available to royalty. Pollution? The air and water keep getting cleaner. I jumped in the Hudson River not long ago to illustrate the point. There I was, swimming away and looking up at the Empire State building. Despite eight million people flushing nearby, the health department says swimming in the Hudson is now perfectly safe. Despite all the complaints from the media, life keeps getting better. Let's complain less and enjoy 2006." —John Stossel

"Wartime conditions are, in every case, a test of military skill and national resolve. But this is especially true in the war on terror. Four years ago, President Bush told Congress and the country that the path ahead would be difficult, that we were heading into a long struggle, unlike any we have ever known. All this has come to pass. We have faced, and are facing today, enemies who hate us, who hate our country, and who hate the liberties for which we stand. They dwell in the shadows, wear no uniform, and have no regard for the laws of warfare, and feel unconstrained by any standard of morality. We've never had a fight like this—and those of us in positions of responsibility have a duty to wage a broad-scale effort for the sake of the nation's freedom and our security." —Vice President Dick Cheney

"[L]et us thank God for life and the blessings He's put before us. High among them are our families, our freedom, and the opportunities of a new year. Let us renew our faith that as free men and women we still have the power to better our lives, and let us resolve to face the challenges of the new year holding that conviction firmly in our hearts. That, after all, is our greatest strength and our greatest gift as Americans." —Ronald Reagan

"'Shameful,' screams Mexico's President Vicente Fox, about the proposed extension of a security fence along the southern border of the U.S. 'Stupid! Underhanded! Xenophobic!' bellowed his Foreign Secretary Luis Ernesto Derbez, warning: 'Mexico is not going to bear, it is not going to permit, and it will not allow a stupid thing like this wall.' The allusions to the Berlin Wall made by aggrieved Mexican politicians miss the irony: The communists tried to keep their own people in, not illegal aliens out. More embarrassing still, the comparison boomerangs on Mexico, since it, and not the U.S., most resembles East Germany in alienating its own citizens to the point that they flee at any cost. If anything might be termed stupid, underhanded or xenophobic in the illegal immigration debacle, it is the conduct of the Mexican government." —Victor Davis Hanson

"When you hear people say, 'We need to get past partisan differences,' what they are really saying is you should shut up and agree with me. Similarly, when public health experts, child advocates, televangelists, environmentalists and the rest insist that this or that isn't a political issue, it's a health issue, child-safety issue, moral issue or whatever-kind-of-issue, what they are really saying is that we shouldn't have a political argument about my cause. Because my cause is beyond politics. You should just agree with me and do it my way. But even when people make this argument in all sincerity, they miss the point. Virtually all issues are political issues the moment we ask politicians to deal with them. Politics is about choosing between competing public goods or competing public harms, and expecting politicians to hold hands like the Whos of Whoville and sing in a circle is to ask them to stop being politicians." —Jonah Goldberg

Townhall.com :: Columns :: Karl Rove's blunder by Robert Novak
It is said only in hushed tones and not by anybody of prominence, but a few brave souls in the Bush administration admit it. President Bush's Medicare drug benefit that went into effect Jan. 1 looks like a political blunder of far-reaching consequences. Furthermore, these critics assign major responsibility to Karl Rove.

The hideous complexity of the scheme, which has the effect of discouraging seniors from signing up, is only the beginning of difficulties it entails for the president and his party. It will further swell the budget deficit without commensurate political benefits. On the contrary, the drug plan may prove a severe liability for Republicans facing an increasingly hazardous midterm election in November.
The Republicans need to remember: bad policy is always bad politics. Follow your principles and the voters will reward you.

Marks for Sharks - The Abramoff scandal may sink congressional Republicans if they don't get serious about spending reforms
Many Republicans have forgotten that as government grows, its increased power to grant favors or inflict pain attracts more people who would abuse the system. Sen. John McCain once told me that "the best long-term answer to corruption is a smaller government." Indeed, disgraced lobbyist Jack Abramoff observed a decade ago, "More money available from government is blood in the water for sharks." He proved to be one hungry shark.

If the GOP response to the Abramoff scandal is merely to enact "lobbying reforms," the party will skirt the problem that underlies the corruption: runaway spending. "The 2001-2005 period marks the transformation of the Republican party from its traditional role as a win-or-lose guardian of limited government to that of a majority government party just as comfortable with big government as the Democrats, only with different spending priorities," says Chris DeMuth, president of the American Enterprise Institute.

That's dangerous ground, given that the GOP base still believes in smaller government. Mr. Abramoff steered campaign cash to and hired staffers from members of both parties. But in 1994, after 350 members of both parties had been tarred by the House bank scandal, it was Republicans who were able to exploit it because Democrats controlled Congress.

Incumbency Over Ideas - The House GOP's real problems
Tom DeLay deserves credit for taking himself out of the House Majority Leader contest this weekend, even if he did wait until other Members began to force his hand. He has now given his GOP colleagues a chance to reinvigorate their leadership, assuming they're alert enough to realize the dangers facing their majority this November.

On first glance, we're not sure they are. Speaker Dennis Hastert's response this weekend was to issue a press release declaring his sudden passion for "lobbying reform." The Speaker says he wants these "important reforms ready as soon as possible," never mind that they are so important he'd never mentioned them before. The idea seems to be that a ban on lobbyist-paid golf junkets or limits on the House floor privileges of former Members of Congress will prevent the next Jack Abramoff.

This is a junior-achievement version of what Democrats did in responding to the Clinton fund-raising scandals by adopting the cause of "campaign-finance reform." Why is it that whenever Congress gets into an ethics scrape, its first reaction is to further restrict the Constitutional rights of other Americans to influence Members of Congress? We can only hope these "reforms" will be as trivial as they sound.

The real House GOP problem isn't about lobbyists so much as it is the atrophying of its principles. As their years in power have stretched on, House Republicans have become more passionate about retaining power than in using that power to change or limit the federal government. Gathering votes for serious policy is difficult and tends to divide a majority. Re-election unites them, however, so the leadership has gradually settled for raising money on K Street and satisfying Beltway interest groups to sustain their incumbency.

National Constitution Center: Benjamin Franklin: In Search of a Better World
A friend of mine and I attended this on Saturday. We both enjoyed it. I think he learned a lot. I didn't learn quite as much since I'm in the middle fo a 700 biography opf Franklin right now. But enjoyable. They clearly tried to make it intereesting for kids with some interactive exhibits, which in my immaturity I enjoyed playing with.

It's worth going to; people need to know more about the man who did so much to shape our country.

Oh, and I got a Ben Franklin Bobblehead. That gives me 25 bobbleheads now. (I'm such a geek.)

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