The Unemployment Rate dropped unexpectedly to 9 percent last month, which is good news. But, the economy only added 36,000 new jobs, a disappointing figure except when you consider that the economy usually sheds jobs in January due to bad weather. This January, the weather was especially bad so it is possible that next month's figures could be decidedly more robust. At National Review, Bob Stein calls attention to the uptick in the rate of civilian employment, which includes things like start-up businesses.
Archbishop Gregory Michael Aymond of New Orleans has announced that the Archdiocese is publishing the sacramental records of slaves and free blacks online in commemoration of Black History Month. This is a good thing in itself, making these important historical records more easily available to researchers. But, it is also a "distinctly Catholic" thing to do. Our tradition is not merely a set of documents. Our tradition attests to the spiritual lives of real people, our forebears, who carried on the tradition they received and handed it on to their children. Unlike the "sola Scripture" crowd, we are not Catholics because we happened to have been born in a place where there are Bibles lying about. We are Catholic Christians because we have been baptized into a community of faith, rooted in Revelation because we are rooted in the tradition that carried that Revelation forth to our own time.
Jonathan Cohn at The New Republic has written more intelligently, and informedly, on health care reform than any other journalist - by a long shot. He continues his critique of those who seek to repeal the bill here. It is important that those of us who care about health care reform arm ourselves with sound arguments, and Cohn's are some of the sharpest.
In an e-mail announcing the choice of Charlotte, N.C., as the host city for the 2012 Democratic National Convention, First Lady Michelle Obama noted that the choice means everyone will have good BBQ. Thus, did the First Lady plunge herself into the BBQ wars.
East of Raleigh, BBQ sauce is vinegar-based. West of Raleigh, BBQ sauce is ketchup-based. The two sides of the state have been fighting for years over which is better. Me? I am not a big fan of sauce and prefer to BBQ spareribs and brisket with a dry rub. Pork butt, for pulled-pork sandwiches, does require a BBQ sauce unless, as I have been doing recently, you cook the pork butt Puerto Rican style, as a pernil, with lots of oregano and garlic. No BBQ sauce needed.
We all have our BBQ preferences but the most important thing to remember about BBQ is this. There is no BBQ more delicious than the BBQ on the plate in front of you!
The National Prayer Breakfast, held yesterday here in Washington, is a strange event. It is not held in a church, but in a hotel ballroom. It is not organized by a church or by a coalition of churches, but by a shadowy, quasi-religious organization known as “The Family.” And, most disconcertingly, it places the President in the role of a preacher, the Constitution notwithstanding.
The Prayer Breakfasts began during the Eisenhower Administration. It was the former General who best expressed the lowest common denominator approach to American religious pluralism, famously saying that “government has no sense unless it is founded in a deeply felt religious faith, and I don’t care what it is.” This expression of religious indifferentism was inoffensive to most, expressing perfectly that amorphous phenomenon known as “American civic religion.”
In this free country of ours, everyone is permitted to be as literate about religion as they wish, and they are entitled to remain in complete and utter darkness about religious doctrines. But, you would think that a religion writer for one of America's leading newspapers might be at least a little familiar with one of the central intellectual issues facing religion in the modern age, how believers do and do not grapple with science, and specifically, the theory of evolution.
But, you would think wrong. Julia Duin at the Washington Post reduces all religion to a fundamentalist caricature. Mark Silk at BeliefNet provides the takedown.
I have a question for the editors at the Post. Would they permit such shoddy reporting on any other topic? Could a science reporter know so little about her field? Or a sports reporter? We have come a long way since Dayton, Tennessee, but Duin's caricatures of religion are little different from those offered by Mencken back then. At least Mencken was funny. Duin's column is merely pathetic.
Earlier this morning, I noted that conservatives like Glenn Beck and Sean Hannity have become even more unhinged than usual over events in the Mideast, warning of the return of the Caliphate and the imposition of Sharia worldwide.
Well, over at InsideCatholic, John Zmirak one ups the Fox News duo with a screed that has something stupid, offensive, repugnant or evil in almost every paragraph. In his attempt to link Pat Buchanan's "pitchfork brigades" with today's Tea Party, be brings together a host of rightwing phobias, often in the same sentence even though they derive from different decades, e.g., when he warns of "tens of millions more freshly minted affirmative action recipients and future Democrats flooding across the border." I seem to recall Ronald Reagan signing a relatively pro-immigration measure in the 1980s, and I do not recall John McCain denouncing affirmative action in 2008.
Of course, it would be considered political and economic heresy to suggest that the country return to the tax rates that Ronald Reagan put in place. Tp rate? 50 percent. Ah, those were the days.
Now, Reagan's former Solicitor General Charles Fried has endorsed, quite bluntly, the constitutionality of the health care reform law. Grant Gallicho tells the tale at Commonweal.
According to a report at Politico, Sen. Rand Paul has been flooded with calls from evangelicals protesting his suggestion that U.S. aid to Israel be cut. I am no fan of John Hagee - whose views of Catholicism are somewhat eccentric also - and I am quite sure he and I support Israel for different reasons, but he is right to call out Sen. Paul whose neo-isolationism is as repugnant today as the original was when it was spouted by Charles Lindbergh in the 1930s.
Back in the early 1980s, when I was first studying politics here at the Catholic University of America, I recall the bafflement that attended some of my first encounters with Marxist thought. There was something unreal about the way Marxist analysis and ideas were presented. Marxist ideas were defended in articles and books in purely theoretical terms, as if it was somehow impolite to ask the simple question by which all political ideas should be judged: How do people live in countries where these ideas dominate? By the early 1980s, the verdict was in on Marxism. It was a failure and the people who lived under it lived miserable lives. I had a hard time giving much credence to ideas that yielded such misery in practice.