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In Praise of Bailouts

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I do not expect the Republican Tea Partyers to admit they should be eating some crow anytime soon, but they should be dining on an entire flock of crows this week.

One of the principal complaints against the Obama administration heard at Tea Party events was the charge that the government had wasted taxpayer money with all those bailouts.

Never mind that the largest bailout, of Wall Street, happened on George W. Bush's watch and helped prevent a second Great Depression. When it came time to bailout Detroit, critics complained that the government intervention violated the laws of the free market, that GM now stood for "Government Motors," and cries of socialism were bandied about.

Well, GM is now in the midst of one of the most successful IPO's in history and, as a consequence, the U.S. Treasury is getting almost all of its money back. This does not include the ireeparable harm to the Treasury that would have occured if GM had been allowed to fail, with tens of thousands of layoffs, workers no longer paying taxes, etc.

The bailout of Wall Street worked and, however repugnant it seemed, it was necessary. But the bailout of Detroit was different.

From the \"You Get What You Pay For\" Dept.

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I guess I should not expect more from someone who entitles her column "The Spirited Atheist," but Susan Jacoby's column in the Washington Post's "On Faith" blog is so ridiculous, it undercuts the subheading on her blog, "In search of a new Age of Reason."

Jacoby is all in a lather because of the election of Archbishop Timothy Dolan as president of the USCCB. But the sentence that jumped out at me was this: "Dolan's election was a victory for the most orthodox forces within the church." It is clear from the context, that to Ms. Jacoby, orthodoxy is a bad thing and being the "most orthodox" is a very bad thing.

In what way does this estimation of orthodoxy cohere with the Age of Reason? It is like those skeptics who employ the adjective "dogmatic" as a slur.

Terrorism and the \"great et, et\"

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Ahmed Ghailani was cleared in federal court yesterday on 284 of the 285 counts against him. Ghailani was implicated in the 1998 bombings of U.S. embassies in Kenya and Tanzania and was held at Guantanamo Bay. He was the first ex-Gitmo detainee to be tried in a civilian courtroom and the result may mean he was also the last.

President Obama came to office, in part, on the pledge to shutdown the U.S. detention facility at Guantanamo Bay. Calls for its closure were among the best applause lines during the Democratic primaries and gave Democrats a patriotic, if somewhat naïve, claim that they were better suited to defend the Constitution than the Republicans who were trampling on it in the so-called War on Terror. But, the office to which Obama came requires him to defend the country as well as its Constitution and he has not found anyway to make good on his promise.

Silk on Linker on Religious Tests

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One of my favorite commentators on religion, Mark Silk, has an interesting post about Damon Linker's thesis that we should -- the Constitution notwithstanding -- have a religious test for office. Not, of course, the kind administered by the government, but the kind administered by the press and public.

Linker is correct that politicians like to trade on their religiosity, but bristle when you press them to explain how their faith informs their public policy positions, resulting in a double standard. "Religious values matter when we say they matter, and because our pollster tells us we should put up some religious window dressing on our campaign persona, but don't expect us to explain how."

Of course, running for President or Congress is not like running for bishop -- the latter requires real political acumen! LOL.

But the debate Linker and Silk suggest is a provocative one and should be engaged.

CACG on Poverty

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The good folks at Catholics in Alliance for the Common Good have a new "Common Good Forum" today with three articles dealing with different aspects of poverty.

As Father Tom Reese, S.J. mentioned in his analysis of the USCCB meeting, despite the dire economic difficulties in which the nation finds itself, the bishops did not address themselves at all to economic issues. They did, however, broadly endorse the new report on the CCHD, the Church's anti-poverty program.

CACG, however, has raised its voice about the way the economic downturn, as well as broader economic trends, are raising poverty rates to unacceptable levels. As Catholics and Christians, concern for the poor is every bit as integral to our Catholic identity as support for the unborn and our defense of traditional marriage.

Another Blue Ribbon Panel On the Deficit

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I am simultaneously suspicious of, but recognize the neccesity for, blue ribbon, bi-partisan panels to address some of our nation's most complicated issues.

This morning, in an op-ed, Clinton economic guru Alice Rivlin and former GOP Senator Pete Domenici, announce their proposals for reducing the debt abd deficit.

My resistance to blue ribbon commissions setms from their inherently anti-democratic premise. After all, we elect Congress and the President to solve these problems. But, given the current polarization in the country and especially in its political class, I see the need for those like Rivlin and Domenici to reach, and propose, the kind of common ground that could cost a member of Congress a primary election.

Bad News from France

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In this morning's Washington Post, there is an article about the decision by UNESCO to recognize lunch in France as part of the "intangible cultural heritage" of the world, along with flamenco dancing and Peking opera.

But further down in the piece, we read this: "In fact, the traditional French meal has been meeting with growing indifference on its home ground as the demands of a modern economy encourage quick, alcohol-free lunches, partilcularly among the young." The article noted that sandwich consumption is up by 10 percent per year.

Whenever conservative cultural critics extol the free market and traditional values, watch your wallet. Here is another example, a small one admittedly, of the modern economy tearing away at the fabric of culture. And there is no way to blame this new phenomenon on the 60's or gays or drugs. The "acids of modernity," about which Walter Lippmann warned in 1926, have begun eating away at the way the French eat. Here is cause for some new evangelization.

What happened in Baltimore

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ANALYSIS

Back in the day, the apostolic nuncio, then-Archbishop Pio Laghi, who was determined to re-make the hierarchy in a more conservative fashion, would say about his episcopal appointments, “One for us, one for them.” By “us” he meant men like Cardinal Bernard Francis Law, and by “them” he meant men in the mold of Cardinal Joseph Bernardin. Laghi’s method had one undeniably unfortunate consequence: He bequeathed a bishops’ conference that is very, although not deeply, divided.

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