According to a new poll, half of all likely Republican primary voters think President Obama was not born in the U.S. or are unsure. Among these "birthers" Sarah Palin enjoys an 83 percent favorability rating. The next time someone tells you they do not think Palin can win a primary because she lacks gravitas, ask yourself is gravitas is going to be a pressing concern among a majority of GOP primary voters!
Fir light reading, better to say reading that is unrelated to work, I am making my way through David Watkin's history of English architecture. And he begins chapter 4 with these words: " We ended the last chapter on a certain note of alarm at the change in patronage effected by the Reformation in England. Thus, after the break with Rome we find little architectural patronage by Henry VIII, less by Elizabeth and virtually none by the Anglican Church. This, indeed, is the first chapter which not only does not have ecclesiastical buildings as its main theme but in which there is no need to mention a single church at all!"
Mike Kinsley has been asking tough questions of America's politicians and policy makers for years. In a brilliant essay at Politico, he asks why we should want home prices, as opposed to virtually every other commodity, to rise? It is a provocative question and, as a homeowner, I am not sure I agree with his conclusion, but I am sure in light of his essay that some of my reasons are selfish reasons.
That said, you can't underestimate the social value of encouraging homeownership. People whose roots in a community are more solid and of greater duration are much more likely to contribute to the well-being of that community. In a society as fast-paced as our own, economically structured arouond a system that is inherently risky, and risky by design, stability is a good thing, and homeownership, with the prospect of rising home values, imparts that stability.
According to news reports, one of the apostolic visitors to the Church in Ireland, Boston's Cardinal Sean O'Malley, has grasped the enormity of the challenge facing the Church in Ireland, reeling from charges of child abuse both physical and sexual, and is prepared to tell the Vatican that serious changes must be made if the Church in Ireland is to survive as a central part of Irish society and culture. The reports indicate that O'malley will specifically call for greater lay involvement in church decision-making, helping to end the culture of clericalism that took a sin and turned it into a scandal.
Regular readers will know that I have long been a fan of O'Malley. When he was named as the apostolic visitor to Dublin, I felt sorry for the man himself but hopeful for the Church in Ireland. The crisis there, like the crisis here, cannot be met with evasions, half-truths, willing naivete, or the kind of clinical denial we have seen so often. How refreshing to find a prelate who is forthright and clear in analyzing the problems.
In an impassioned speech to the Catholic Social Ministry Gathering yesterday, John Carr, executive director of the USCCB's committee on justice, peace and human development, called on Congress and the White House not to balance to budget on the backs of the poor. "If the administration and the Congress will not speak up for the poor, we will," Carr told the participants in the meeting.
Carr called attention to the horrific fact that poverty rates are at their highest levels in twenty years and that "the younger you are in America the more likely you are to live in poverty." He invoked Matthew 25, saying that the "moral measure" of budgetary decisions is how they treat the poor and vulnerable.
Mentioning Tea Party leader Michelle Bachmann by name, Carr asked, "What happened to compassionate conservatism?" Carr also asserted that cutting funding for projects that fight malaria is "not pro-life" and that "contempt for immigrants, even illegal immigrants, is not a moral option.
Carr acknowledged there was a need to reform some social programs. He said that some housing programs do more to assist banks than they do to help low income tenants.
The budget is a moral statement. Where a man’s treasure is…. Yet, the analysis of, and debate about, the budget rarely is cast in such moral terms. And, President Obama, who has been unable to find a coherent, consistent moral language to describe his policy objectives, has produced a budget that, similarly, fails to find its moral center.
To be clear, the excessive debt facing the nation is also a moral issue. By increasing the deficit every year and adding to the debt, we add to the amount of money future taxpayers must fund in interest payments on that debt. Neither the Democrats nor the Republicans are entirely honest about the debt of course. It is as if the entire nation has forgotten that there was a surplus a decade ago. It is as if the historically low tax rates of today were set in stone at Sinai and cannot be raised.
As mentioned in my morning post, Cardinal Peter Turkson gave a smashing speech to open the Social Ministry Gathering yesterday. I never thought I would live to see the day when a Vatican cardinal holds up an American bishops' call for civil disobedience in the face of unjust immigration laws, as an example of how the Church can and should be engaged in the culture! The speech shows the Cardinal's profound understanding of the Church's social teaching tradition, and how that tradition is rooted in our most fundamental dogmatic teachings bout the human person and, indeed, about the nature of God Himself. Here, unedited, is the text:
“Protecting Human Life and Dignity: Promoting a Just Economy”
Washington, D.C., 13-16 February 2011
The Legacy of Rerum Novarum:
The Current Challenges of Catholic Social Teaching
I bring you greetings from the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace; and, on it behalf, I wish you all a very successful conference, especially as you gather to explore the protection of human life and the dignity of the human person through the promotion of a more just economy.
Congressman Ron Paul won the presidential straw poll at the CPAC conference here in Washington. But, you would expect his brand of libertarian conservatism to be a hit with the kinds of affluent, young conservatives who attend such conferences. It is like reading Ayn Rand in high school: Which teenager does not want to read that the paths of truth and justice are found through self-assertion?
But, those young, affluent activists are not paradigmatic for the average primary voter, who is as likely to be motivated by a sense of populist resentment as by protean, libertarian ideas. The sraw poll win means little in the long run.
The other day, listening to Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner at the Brookings Institute, the thought occured that this man may or may not know that his job, as a Democrat, is to fight for the working men and women in this country, but you would never know he knows it from listening to him. My populist instincts were heightened.
But, there is a limit to populism and, in the event, Geithner's wonkishness may be more important than throwing red meat to the masses. It is too easy in our culture to make fun of the pointy-heads, the wonks, the analysts who live in Cambridge or Berkeley, and who are very smart about some things but can be clueless about what makes the rest of America tick.
I was reminded of this when I saw the headline in this morning's Washington Post, which reads, "Egypt's generals impose martial law." I remember reading a similar headline in December, 1981, about the imposition of martial law in Poland. That was a grim news then but yesterday's imposition of martial law in Egypt is actually good news, that the military is not going to be hiding behind the constitutional niceties of a constitution that was designed to frustrate democracy not promote it.
Yesterday, Cardinal Peter Turkson, President of the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace, kicked off the annual Catholic Social Ministry Gathering here in Washington. The cardinal spoke about the significance of Rerum Novarum, the first papal encyclical to explicitly discuss social justice issues, and how that encyclical remains relevant. I do not yet have a copy of the cardinal’s remarks, so I will not comment upon them, but driving back home from his speech, the thought occurred that the Church’s social teaching has been remarkably consistent through the years. And such years.
In 1891, the year Pope Leo XIII issued Rerum Novarum, papal concerns about socialism were theoretical concerns. There was not, as yet, any country governed by a socialistic government. But, even at the theoretical level, Leo understood that the Church’s traditional defense of the right to private property would be a bulwark against the encroachments of the state.