The unemployment rate dipped again, despite analysts predictions it might move north, falling to 8.9 percent. Last month, according to figures released this morning, 192,000 new jobs were added to the economy. That is not enough - and it could be offset by cutbakcs in state and local governments if the Tea Party has its way, but it is nice to find some good news on the business pages.
Newt Gingrich put his toe into the presidential waters yesterday. A man known for his brashness did not jump in head first, but the confusion that surrounded his announcement – was he forming an exploratory committee or not? – brought back the old charge that Gingrich lacked the discipline and comportment necessary for a successful presidential run. Over at Politico and in this morning’s Washington Post, the main stumbling block to a Gingrich candidacy is his lack of discipline.
Maryland Governor Martin O'Malley has proposed a small surcharge for electricity bills to help fund a project that will produce renewable energy for decades to come. O'Malley wants the funds to help start a wind farm off the Maryland coast.
The surcharge, depending upon which estimate you choose, would amount to as little as $1.44 a month or as much as $3.61 per month. That is, a little more than a latte.
Turning America towards renewable energy is not an option, it is a necessity. As gas prices go up due to events in the Mideast entirely beyond our control, proposals such as this should be waqrmly embraced. Yes, it will cost money.
Alexander Burns at Politico has an interesting article about the growing divide within the Republican Party between social conservatives and those who want to focus on economic issues and cutting the size of government.
You can make too much of this "divide." A strong commitment to capitalism has characterized the Religious Right starting with Jerry Falwell's Moral Majority in 1979. Then, of course, the commitment to capitalism dovetailed with the anti-Communism of religious conservatives. But, make no mistake about it, the sense of American exceptionalism that characterizes the Christian Right, infused with providential zeal, has always seen capitalism as an expression of that exceptionalism.
It should not surprise that Father Robert Sirico of the Acton Institute should use the fight in Wisconsin over the right to collective bargaining as an opportunity to defend his spectacularly strange take on Catholic social teaching. But, when he concludes, "There is no a priori reason to back every union demand and no reason for Catholics to feel under any doctrinal obligation to do so," Sirico is being simply disingenuous.
The issue in Wisconsin is not "every demand" but a particular demand, the right to form a union and collectively bargain. And that right has been acknowledged and upheld for 120 years by the highest teaching authority of the Church. Sirico is too busy carrying water for the plutocrats to notice. But, he knows better or should know better.
Yesterday, the Ohio Senate voted to deny public employee unions their right to collectively bargain. This union-busting campaign is reopening debates that we have not had in many years in this country and represent a huge over-reach by Republicans who won in November for a variety of reasons, but not because they pledged to bring us back to the Coolidge era. If I were one of the newly elected GOP members of the state legislature, or of the U.S. Congress, I would be very concerned. At a time when most people are concerned about jobs, and most observers agree the November elections were a referendum on the economy, the GOP is attacking working people, not the fat cats on Wall Street who got us into this mess. There is no incumbent so vulnerable as a first-term incumbent, and no state in the Union that is more of a bell-weather than Ohio. Republicans were given a chance to lead that state to improve the economy.
The headline at the Times - “Pope Exonerates Jews” – was not exactly on the mark. Pope Benedict does something more important than “exonerate” the Jews for the death of Jesus: That exoneration was affirmed at the Second Vatican Council in its seminal document Nostra Aetate in the 1960s. Benedict argues, in excerpts of his forthcoming book, Jesus of Nazareth – Part II, not only that the charge of deicide was always misplaced, but that such misplacement cast centuries of Christians in the role the centurions played at the Crucifixion, seeking a scapegoat to avoid looking to their own guilt.
Nate Silver has a very interesting post, with funky charts, illustrating the fact that many of the demographic designations we use to parse elections don't work nearly was well as people think.
I think he overstates one point however. He notes that Hispanics care about many issues other than immigration, and that's true and means that neither party has a 100 percent hold on the group. For example, Hispanics are less pro-choice than most Democrats and more pro-social justice than most Republicans. But, when one party is hellbent on deporting you or your cousins, it seems to me Hispanics will see that issue in existential terms, not in terms of one policy preference over another. And, once an issue is seen as extistential, well, it burns deeply into one's attitudes and those attitudes can keep going for more than a generation.
By an 8-1 decision, the U.S. Supreme Court overturned a lower court ruling that awarded damages to the family of a marine at whose funeral the Rev. Fred Phelps and his Westboro Church parishioners carried signs that read "God Hates Fags" and "Thank God For Dead Soldiers." The ruling is a fine one.
To be clear, everything about Rev. Phelps and his parishioners is loathesome. In their twisted minds, the death of a soldier is the result of America's tolerance for gays, a punishment from God no less, and a cause to overlook the standards of common decency. Their attitudes are barbaric, their protests a mockery of Christianity, their signs equal parts stupidity and hate. But, that was not the issue before the Court. The issue was whether or not their signs and their speech and their protests are protected by the First Amendment. They are.
Ruth Marcus criticizes President Obama this morning in the Washington Post for his failure to engage in political debates with greater clarity and speed.
Marcus is on to something, but not as much as she thinks. For example, I wish the President had been a bit more forceful in shaping the health care debate, one of the examples she cites, but I have to admit: He got it passed.
And, regarding the President's alleged slowness in responding to the upheavels in the Mideast, I do not share Marcus's concern but, instead, say "Amen." After eight years of George W. Bush's "Ready! Shoot! Aim!" foreign policy, Obama's more calculated responses strike me as someone who recognizes the wisdom of the old adage, "First, do no harm."
Call me an Augustinian, but the capacity to imagine how our intentions can go awry seems to me to be a fine character trait in a U.S. President.