In this morning's Washington Post, two op-ed columns look at the GOP field.
[Note to readers: I apologize for the delay. I always try to post by initial blog entry by 9 a.m. but we lost power at my home this morning and it only came back on at 9 a.m.]
Much of the criticism of Congressman Paul Ryan’s budget proposals has focused on his plan to convert Medicare from a guaranteed benefit program to a privatized, voucher system. I agree with the criticism but also wish the critics would go further, point out that Medicare actually is “socialized medicine,” argue forcefully that there are certain things, such as the human dignity of the aged, that should not be left to the vagaries of the market, and make the always salient point that abstract economic theories should not trump immediate human needs in the allocation of societal and government resources.
This week, the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace is holding a conference in Rome on Blessed Pope John XXIII's encyclical "Mater et Magistra" and what it means today in an era of globalization. It is good to remember that that encyclical was the occasion for the first instance of notabel public dissent from Church teaching by a prominent layman, when William Buckley's National Review ran an article entitled "Mater, Si, Magistra, No."
Former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee, who was the last man standing in opposition to Sen. John McCain in teh quest for the 2008 GOP presidential nod, has decided not to run this time around.
Nate Silver, at the New York Times, analyzes who benefist from Huckabee's decision.
For all of my many reservations about the Cartesian cogito and its progeny, Silver makes metrics fun. I do not see Cain as the principal beneficiary of Huckabee's decision, as Silver does. I suspect Sarah Palin and Michelle Bachmann are the big winners. Huckabee built his 2008 campaign, which was woefully underfunded, on a network of home schooling Christians. They saw the Gov., who is also a Rev., as a champion. But, given that most of the individuals who actually do the home schooling are evangelical women, I suspect in Palin and Bachmann they discern more than a champion. They see someone like themselves, and that always pays big electoral dividends.
The arrest of IMF chief Dominique Strauss-Kahn for allegedly raping a maid at a New York hotel is horrifying. Rape is always horrifying. What is more, the scandal has called attention anew to an earlier sexual scandal in which Strauss-Kahn had a tryst and was publicly forgiven by his wife. That scandal was tawdry to be sure, but there was no suggestion of forcible rape.
But, there is another scandal that caught my eye. Strauss-Kahn and his reconciled wife were recently seen getting out of a $150,000 Porsche in Paris. In addition, they have two swanky apartments in Paris, a home in Washington and a vacation place in Marrakesh. The irony is that Strauss-Kahn was widely expected to be a leading candidate for the presidency, nominated by the Socialist Party of France. Nothing like a $150,000 car to warm the hearts of a party dedicated to the needs of the working classes. Yeesh.
The killing of Osama bin Laden has caused many people, already skeptical of America’s continued military engagement in Afghanistan, to start beating the drums for an accelerated withdrawal of U.S. troops from that country. After all, now that we have the man behind the attacks of 9/11, and reports indicate that there are only 100 or so Al-Qaeda terrorists left in Afghanistan, what are we doing there?
Several Christian organizations have banded together to fund a radio ad running in Cong. Paul Ryan's district. They do not only challenge the Ryan budget from the standpoint of traditional social justice: They point out that it is distinctly anti-life.
"The Catholic Church has always been clear on the sanctity of life at all stages. As a pro-life Catholic, Congressman Paul Ryan ought to know this," Father Thomas Kelly says in the ad. Father Kelly is a resident of Elkhorn, Wisconsin, in Rep. Ryan’s district. "But the budget he authored and Republicans in Congress recently passed abandons those pro-life principles by depriving vulnerable children, seniors and families of healthcare and economic support they need to put food on the table during hard times. When it comes to being pro-life, actions speak louder than words."
Our friends at Vox Nova have jumped into the fray regarding Speaker Boehner's upcoming commencement address at Catholic University. They ably demolish Father Sirico and Kathryn Jean Lopez's objections to the letter signed by many Catholic academics.
You have to admire the bravery of CUA Professors Stephen Schneck and Vincent Miller for going on the Bill O'Reilly show last night to discuss the letter that many Catholic academics signed encouraging Speaker John Boehner to do a better job lining up his policies with Catholic social teaching, especially as regards funding for the programs that aid the poor.
Unsurprisingly, O'Reilly drew false distinctions about the difference between "advanced capitalist countries" and "quasi-Socialist" countries, and he outright lied about the letter being unsigned by any bishops: I am told by the people who initiated this letter that it came from academics exclusively and no bishops were asked to sign it.
But, O'Reilly's foolishness cannot go unanswered, and it is a rare breed of man or woman who relishes the idea of dealing with the idiot pugilists at Fox. Hats off to Schneck and Miller for standing up to this blowhard and explicitly demonstrating the moral neccesity of protecting the poor in budgetary decisions.
The scenes of devastation along the mighty Mississippi are heartbreaking: The farms that have been inundated with flood waters to spare a city, the homes, all of them poorer, too close to the river and in danger of being swept away, the reigniting of flooding fears in New Orleans and that most haunting question that city ever faces, “Will the levee hold?” Coming so soon after an unprecedented number of tornados swept through the South just a few weeks ago, leaving death and destruction in their wake, this new crisis shows once again how vulnerable we human beings are.
After disasters such as the flooding and the tornados strike, of course, people need help. Much of the immediate assistance is local: Firemen and EMTs rush to evacuate people from homes threatened by the onrushing waters of the flood or pick through the debris left by a tornado, looking for survivors and getting them to a hospital. The Red Cross flies in supplies. State troopers work with local law enforcement to prevent looting. Local churches and union halls become makeshift shelters for the displaced.