Monday, October 28, 2013


Good evening, I'm Barack Obama, your President, my President, and the President of this Great Nation of Ours. As a nation we have been faced with significant challenges: naysayers saying 'nay', spiraling Federal deficits, an uncooperative Congress, the less than ideal response to the 'Arab Spring' from our friends among the radical Islamacists, citizens concerns about drone strikes and illegal wiretaps, Germany complaining about our legitimate interests in what kind of pizza Chancellor Merkel orders over the telephone, veterans being given private tours of Washington DC jails when they wanted to visit War Memorials, and a whole host of other issues that are above my pay grade.

I assure you we are working diligently with our friends in the media to give you good folks other thing to think about.  As a nation, you should not be concerned with these trifling matters, but rather should be enjoying this season of football ("Go Bears!"), festivities, and the changing colors of leaves in this Great Nation of Ours.

Unfortunately, this season also brings with it a constant problem of inequality. A problem in need of critical reform. A problem which manifests the great divide in the American Spirit. A divide between our spirit of generosity and our pioneering spirit that built America. And there is perhaps perhaps no greater occasion for understanding the political division in the United States than our revered national tradition of Halloween. Both Republican and even my friends in the Democratic party have used this fest to score rhetorical political points against the opponents. For instance:

As your President, as my President, as this Great Nation's President, I, Barack Obama am seriously concerned about this entirely unnecessary cause for petty partisan politics that ultimately harm only the children in this great nation of ours. Think of the children.

I have therefore called upon Congress for a bipartisan effort to help. I have reached across the aisle, and they have responded. Even the Republicans, who would destroy the economy rather than fund Obamacare, have responded. My administrations is also working in concert with the representatives of the Candy Makers of America, the National Confectioners Association, the Affiliated Unions of Sweets and Confection Workers International, and the High Fructose Corn Syrup Manufacturers Promotional Task Force to address this pressing concern.

So I am pleased to announce that we are rolling out ObamaCandy, the Affordable Candy Act, to ensure that all citizens -- and 'citizens' is not a word that describes our nationality or our legal status, but rather what we buy -- have access both to give and receive the yearly confections which so expresses the abundance of this Great Nation.

Working together we can insure that all of our children have access to this precious resource, and all peoples, regardless of color, race, creed, orientation, ability, economic status, or gender identity can participate in this event.

People like Delores Sack, of Fort Lee, New Jersey, who is a Jehovah's Witness and doesn't buy or distribute Halloween candy for religious reasons.  Now she too will be able to contribute and take advantage of this government program like all other dutiful citizens.

Or people like Dr. Bill Anders of Conyers, Georgia, who is a dentist and a diabetic. We need to help folks like Dr. Anders, who regularly give out toothbrushes and floss at Halloween in the name of dental hygiene. Our nation cannot have people setting their own standards for what constitutes adequate confectionery disbursements, especially to the detriment of the delight of the children. Think of the children.

And let me remind you that the Affordable Candy Act is not just a Federal program. It is a website. CANDY.HALLOWEEN.GOV.

My lovely and talented wife, Michelle, is working with Lorraine Hershey Bosco, a close friend she met on a ski lift at Buttermilk in Aspen, Colorado, who has professional expertise in website design and as a former lobbyist for Candy Makers of America, to put together the whole package. We have appointed Ms. Bosco as the Candy Czar. Ms. Bosco has produced a white paper for the Administration showing the advantages of moderate to high, annual limited binging on high fructose corn syrup when combined with a yearly exercise regimen.  Michelle instantly recognized the compatibility of this approach with her own "LET'S MOVE" campaign to reduce childhood obesity.

I consider this to be a new centerpiece in my administration, to help spur economic growth in the $30 billion confectionery industry in America, which represents 70,000 jobs in more than 1,000 faculties across the country. We also have a wonderful offshore partner in CONFITEXPO and our own Chicago grown Retail Confectioners International to support this roll out, and have pledged the full support of the Food and Drug Administration, the Center for Disease Control, the Federal Trade Commission, the Internal Revenue Service, the Environmental Protection Agency, the President's Council of Physical Fitness, and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, Explosives, and Tasty Chocolate Goodies to ensure the successful implementation.

Among the hallmarks of my program, your children will be able to get any candy you want, provided it includes a box of candy corn, one set of wax vampire teeth, and some of those orange and black wrapped "Mary Janes".  Another part of the Affordable Candy Act is that it will work in concert with the already wildly successful Affordable Care Act both to create mechanism for mandatory blood sugar level monitoring in your children, and to add publicly funded dental care to the legislation, both by executive order. The best part of this signature legislation is that if it doesn't work as promised,  we can still move to a "single confectioner" system of candy manufacturing and distribution, not just at Halloween, but through out the year.

You are encourage to visit, and required under penalty of law to register for this program, at CANDY.HALLOWEEN.GOV.   Don't worry, and don't be frustrated if it is slow or hard to navigate or prone to crash.  These are only signs of its wild success and popularity. Nobody is madder than me about the fact that website isn't working as well as it should, which means it's going to get fixed. (Laughter and applause.)

And in the meantime, you can bypass the website and apply by phone or in person. So don't let problems with the website deter you from signing up, signing up your children, or showing your friends how to sign up, because it is worth it. It will save you money and make sure you can participate in this vital tradition of giving.We fully expect this Halloween program for 2013 to be online and operationally implemented by 2nd Quarter, 2014. If not, nobody will be madder than me.

As I have said so many times, and in so many ways, and on so many occasions, "Do it for the children."

Thank you, God bless you, and God bless the United States of America.

Friday, October 25, 2013

Matt Walsh hates edumacation....

Read Matt Walsh on public education.  He nails it.

Government education is designed to be an instrument of propaganda and bureaucratic control. This isn’t a side effect –it’s the whole point. If you don’t want your kid subject to government propaganda and government control, then don’t send him to a government facility 6 hours a day, 5 days a week, for 13 years of his life. Or go ahead and send him — perhaps you have no choice, I understand that — but confront the reality of the situation. ....
(author and copyright unknown)

And his cultural criticism is spot on. We create and pay for a system designed to depersonalize and alienate children, and then complain when they turn out to be sociopaths:
....The critics might babble about how public schools are good for “socialization,” but in the next breath they’ll complain of the bullying “epidemic.”
Read the whole thing HERE.

Sunday, October 20, 2013

Thinking about Catholic Social Teaching in current political discussions...

It is rare enough that anyone even discusses Catholic Social Teaching nowadays, so I am happy to see someone grappling with the concepts of Solidarity and Subsidiarity in the American political landscape. 

It's worth reading Mr Frost's short essay.

That said, I remain somewhat dubious. Mr. Frost seems to have his own agenda couched in a strawman account of subsidiarity and (inadvertently?) distorts the proper application of CTS to serve an assertion.  He also blithely accepts the status quo:

A common use that the political right makes of the doctrine of Subsidiarity is to be found in the claim that the function of the social safety net should be privatized and localized. Churches and other charitable entities should deal with the needs of the poor, it is said, rather than the government. This would indeed be in accord with Subsidiarity if it was practical, but it is not. Private organizations do not have the resources to handle all of the needs provided for by the social safety net in American society. 

Anyone who would like to see the day when a social safety net is no longer needed should donate to charity as much as possible, and volunteer to work for charitable organizations with the same vigor. If the needs of the poor and vulnerable are adequately met at a lower level of organization, then there will be no need for higher levels of organization to remain involved. But, in light of the many years of prevalent secularization and the outright promotion of mammonism in American society, that is not likely to happen in the near future.
I would just point out a few issues:
1) The principle of subsidiarity states that decisions ought to be made when possible at the lowest (least centralized) competent level of governance. This is to promote solidarity in respecting the social nature of the person, and with a view that decisions are best made at a local level where those affected by policy decisions have relevant say in what happens. Competency is of course necessary: it does no good if the need cannot be met adequately at the simple lowest level.

In matters of safety net social services (which are a moral matter of solidarity and justice), there is no real reason to assume that such services and resources cannot be met and best be administered at the state level, rather than the Federal level. Most US states have populations and economies equivalent to whole nations in Europe (looking at GDP, for instance). To assume safety net services must be a Federal project is a violation of subsidiarity, especially since most aid winds up being administrated locally via city, county and state agencies by way of Federal funding. That Federal level is basically all money that does not go to the needy, but rather to the unnecessarily added layer of Federal bureaucracy.

2) There are ways of encouraging donations to meet the needs on the level of charitable giving through revising tax policies: e.g., if donations were privileged as tax credits rather than deductions. The State of Arizona has such an arrangement in the School Tuition Organization by which a married couple can take a State tax credit of over $1000 to support, for instance, Catholic parochial schools. I know many families, including our own, who take advantage of this to give added donations to charitable causes we think are especially worthy. 

If the government really wanted to empower the people to give charitably with due consideration for the Catholic social principles of subsidiarity, solidarity, and the universal destination of goods, then a multiplier to the tax credit (say 1.5 x the donation to some maximum) would encourage even more giving.  The current tax policies tend to discourage giving (a dollar gift is only a  30 cent or so deduction), which is why it seems Mr. Frost rather blithely accepts the status quo rather than offer ideas for realizing the vision of a more just society where solidarity and subsidiarity might meet in justice.

3) Lastly, Mr. Frost makes a really bad argument that any one who wants X should do Y, and rather sanctimoniously demands "with the same vigor". The sheer complexity and entrenchment of the social services system guarantees that the system won't change. It is firmly entrenched and politically charged as a third rail by the politicians who leverage it to their political advantage, by the voter base who are recipients and don't want it to change, by the Federal and State level civil servants who get paid to administrate these funds, and by the various government employee unions who can only continue to collect dues and exert self-serving political pressure by maintaining and growing the civil servant class jobs.  Bluntly, the whole system is built upon a soft corruption of self interest operating in the name of "public interest".  Until the system itself is reformed, which I doubt it ever will be, chiding people to give more and volunteer more comes across as petty.

I am all for applying principles of Catholic Social Teaching to the social, political, and economic problems that face us. I encourage us all to continue to study the Compendium of Catholic Social Doctrine for sane and balanced principles and guidelines to think about how to best order society for justice and human flourishing. But I am concerned about the rhetorical misuse of Catholic Social Teaching on both sides of the political spectrum. I am glad that Mr Frost brings these terms of subsidiarity and solidarity to this discussion, and he essentially has the terms correct, but he sees somewhat more interested in taking the political Right to task than the political Left.  Yet the political Left is far more removed from Catholic Social Teaching than the Right, namely with its rejection of the natural family as the basic unit of polity, and its willing embrace of legal postivism and rejection of natural law and all it entails.

In short:

When the Right starts taking solidarity and the common good seriously, I'll take them seriously. 

When the Left starts taking subsidiarity and the common good seriously, accords the natural family proper authority to rear and form their own children, and abandons their legal positivism for natural law jurisprudence, I'll take them seriously. 

I don't ever expect either side to deal with the universal destination of goods in any coherent manner since their respective clientele patrons are utterly opposed to it intruding on their personal and corporate wealth.

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

SSPX is in the business of Not Being In Union with the Holy See....

SSPX Bishop* Bernard Fellay
During his pontificacy, Pope Benedict made heroic and charitable efforts to bring the Society of St. Pius X (SSPX) back into union with the See of Peter.  In that he joined his predecessors Pope Paul VI and Pope John Paul II to reconcile the leadership and the lay faithful involved in SSPX with the Catholic Church.

To give some background, in 1988 Archbishop Lefebvre unlawfully consecrated four bishops for the Society.  To consecrate a bishop requires the approval of the Pope, and doing so illegally is an act that incurs an automatic excommunication (called latae sententiae, or "the sentence already determined"). There is no doubt that Lefebvre was aware of the consequences of his actions, as then Cardinal Ratzinger had warned him that it would be a schismatic act and cause his excommunication.

Nor was there any doubt in the mind of the Church, as expressed by Pope John Paul II, that this was a schismatic act and that Lefebvre and the priests involved were automatically excommunicated. As the Pope wrote in his motu proprio Ecclesia Dei:
In itself, this act was one of disobedience to the Roman Pontiff in a very grave matter and of supreme importance for the unity of the church, such as is the ordination of bishops whereby the apostolic succession is sacramentally perpetuated. Hence such disobedience - which implies in practice the rejection of the Roman primacy - constitutes a schismatic act.  In performing such an act, notwithstanding the formal canonical warning sent to them by the Cardinal Prefect of the Congregation for Bishops on 17 June last, Mons. Lefebvre and the priests Bernard Fellay, Bernard Tissier de Mallerais, Richard Williamson and Alfonso de Galarreta, have incurred the grave penalty of excommunication envisaged by ecclesiastical law.
In 2009, Pope Benedict lifted the excommunications against the remaining bishops as an act of good faith with a view to reconciliation, but noted that
the remission of the excommunication was a measure taken in the context of ecclesiastical discipline to free the individuals from the burden of conscience constituted by the most serious of ecclesiastical penalties. However, the doctrinal questions obviously remain and until they are clarified the Society has no canonical status in the Church and its ministers cannot legitimately exercise any ministry.  
(Ecclesiae Unitatem, no. 4) 
In short, the SSPX is still not in union with Rome, there are serious questions regarding their orthodoxy, and they have no valid authority to say Mass or hear confessions or baptize babies or celebrate marriages. Throughout 2012 until the end of Pope Benedict's pontificacy, the Pope worked diligently and charitably "going out after the lost sheep" to reconcile the SSPX.  But it was never to be.

But every attempt at reconciliation on the part of Paul VI, John Paul II, Benedict XVI, and now Holy Father Francis has been rebuffed with determined intransigence. Based on Bishop* Fellay's recent tirade against the Church, it seems obvious that SSPX has no desire to be in union with Rome. 

In his recent remarks, as published on Rorate Caeli blog, Fellay states clearly that he views the Holy Mass as promulgated by Pope Paul VI as "bad, it is evil". He rejects the Second Vatican Council and the Novus Ordo ( “It has never been our intention to pretend either that the Council would be considered as good, or the New Mass would be ‘legitimate’”). As Fr Zuhlsdorf intimates, it is all but a formal act of schism.

All the appeals from the Holy Father for reconciliation fall on deaf ears. And they presumably ever shall fall on deaf ears, for it is not in the interest of SSPX to be in union with Rome. Like every other schismatic group, self defined and self regulated and self sufficient, the
y make their coin preying on confused and disgruntled, but presumably good faith, Catholics.

Pray for their conversion. And especially for those who they lead away from the Church.

* I am unclear as to whether Bernard Fellay's episcopal consecration is even valid -- it was certainly illicit.

Monday, October 7, 2013

Thank you Mr. Obama... now about everything else you're allowing to happen...

I am glad Mssrs. Obama and Holder got the memo about the Amber Alert travesty. Since I posted last night, the DOJ website that coordinates nationally the good work of the Amber Alert system is now back up and running.  I am so glad they were able to scrape together a few sheckels to pay for that miniscule part of the $3,700,000,000,000 Federal budget.

WWW.AMBERALERT.GOV (retrieved 10:30AM MST 10/7/2013)
Now let's work on getting the National Parks open and protecting our borders and doing all the other things that you and your administration have been entrusted with.

You have a solemn obligation to maintain the common good, Mr. President.  That is not a matter of political expediency, and much less a political football to be used to your political advantage.  The maintenance of the common good is the only grounds on which your administration and your legacy will be judged by history.

Sunday, October 6, 2013

The Common Good and the Myopia of Barack Obama

Myopia (Ancient Greek: μυωπία, muōpia, from myein "to shut" – ops (gen. opos) "eye")
In St Thomas Aquinas' writings on the law (jurisprudence), he develops the classical Western view of the central purpose of government: namely, to establish and uphold the common good:
A law, properly speaking, regards first and foremost the order to the common good. Now to order anything to the common good, belongs either to the whole people, or to someone who is the viceregent of the whole people. And therefore the making of a law belongs either to the whole people or to a public personage who has care of the whole people: since in all other matters the directing of anything to the end concerns him to whom the end belongs.  (Summa Theologiae, I-II, q. 90, art.3)

St. Thomas Aquinas

This is, in fact, the very raison d'être of government: a government finds its very validity and legitimacy in establishing, promoting, and defending the common good. Aquinas shows that the coercive powers of the government: the moral ability to wage war, punish criminals, and extract taxes from the population: are legitimate in respect to the common good, the establishment of justice and the defense of the people. Without justice, without the intent to maintain the common good, Aquinas agrees with Augustine that, "If justice be disregarded, what is a king but a mighty robber? since what is a robber but a little king?" (City of God, 4.4). But within the bounds of justice and in defense of the common good, the government is entitled to do so:

As regards princes, the public power is entrusted to them that they may be the guardians of justice: hence it is unlawful for them to use violence or coercion, save within the bounds of justice--either by fighting against the enemy, or against the citizens, by punishing evil-doers: and whatever is taken by violence of this kind is not the spoils of robbery, since it is not contrary to justice. (Summa Theologiae, II-II, q. 66, art.8)

Now the common good is not some mere aggregate of all the personal and public material goods in a nation -- the "stuff" that we hold in common -- but something much more basic: it is the very condition of civil order that allows us all to live in peace and tranquility with our neighbors: free to walk the streets unmolested by criminals, free to gain impartial justice in the courts of law, free from coercion or bribery by petty state bureaucrats, safe within the borders of the country, able to transact business and to act morally and lawfully without fear, and such.

The common good is so essential for human flourishing that this is not only a most solemn obligation of the government (and its sole ultimate duty), but it is morally incumbent on all members of society to work toward the common good while pursuing their own private goods. And Aquinas further shows the centrality of this in his consideration of sedition, where people act against the common good by seeking to overthrow the government. Aquinas considers sedition a "special sin" since it strikes against "the unity and peace of a people" (Summa Theologiae, II-II, q. 42, art.1). But interesting, and to the point, Aquinas does not consider all acts against the government to be seditious (or more precisely in Aquinas' parlance, where acting against the government is not a mortal sin):
Reply to Objection 3. A tyrannical government is not just, because it is directed, not to the common good, but to the private good of the ruler, as the Philosopher states (Polit. iii, 5; Ethic. viii, 10). Consequently there is no sedition in disturbing a government of this kind, unless indeed the tyrant's rule be disturbed so inordinately, that his subjects suffer greater harm from the consequent disturbance than from the tyrant's government. Indeed it is the tyrant rather that is guilty of sedition, since he encourages discord and sedition among his subjects, that he may lord over them more securely; for this is tyranny, being conducive to the private good of the ruler, and to the injury of the multitude. (Summa Theologiae, II-II, q. 42, art.2)
In short, when the ruler seeks his own good and not justice for the nation and the maintenance of the common good, the ruler commits sedition against his own people.  Whether through love of power, corruption, hubris, ineptitude, vanity, or whatever, when the ruler acts contrary to the common good, when the multitude are injured by the acts of the government, there is legitimate moral grounds for opposition to the government.

Now, there is a great deal of latitude in the prudential acts of any government to do bad things, stupid things, pass bad laws, even be rather corrupt and inept without offending the very basic task to maintain the common good.  Even where the government actively pays for and protects by legislation extreme personal violence against human beings (obviously, abortion), this does not even rise to the level of sedition against the people.  The bar for maintaining the common good is properly low -- basically that we can walk the streets safely, gain impartial justice in the courts, be free to pursue our individual goods in harmony with our neighbors, raise our families and enjoy proper freedoms to act as moral agents...  Indeed, for Aquinas this is a matter of prudential judgment -- we can only disturb the tyrant's rule short of inflicting greater harm on the people governed: a civil war, for instance, is a terrible thing that destroys the common good such that the consequent massive death, destruction, famine, lawlessness, and disorder predictable of civil war should give serious pause to anyone who thinks a tyrant should be overthrown. From this ethic, the entire "War of Northern Aggression" as the South would have it, even casting Lincoln as a tyrant, was a profoundly problematic decision.

The notion of the common good, properly understood, is hardly alien to the American political experiment. Rather it is enshrined in the very foundational document of our nation:
We the people of the United States, in order to form a more perfect union, establish justice, insure domestic tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general welfare, and secure the blessings of liberty to ourselves and our posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America. (United States Constitution, Preamble)
So what precipitates this examination of the proper role of government and the meaning of the common good?

Based on the events of the past week, one could argue that President Obama seems completely unaware of the ways that his policies are direct attacks against the common good of America. While Congress is haggling over budgets, President Obama seems to be opportunistically and systematically attacking the normal course of civil life in America, in a way that are regularly being described as petty, vindictive, and punitive.

While sending Park Service Rangers to close access to public trust lands, "barrycading" stretches of highway so that passersby cannot even stop on Federal Highways to take in the majesty of Mount Rushmore, refusing the offer of the State of Arizona to pay to keep the Grand Canyon open, and of course closing the World War Two monument and the Lincoln Memorial to visitors, Obama inexplicably also has ordered the US Border Patrol to "stand down" from securing our nation against illegals, drug cartels, gun runners, and terrorist infiltration.

I defy any of Obama's supporters to present a coherent defense of this sort of policy manipulation. 

Even businesses that provide positive cashflow to the Federal coffers are being harmed -- jobs and livelihoods of US citizens are being threatened by the decisions made by Obama's policy wonks. Ordinary citizens living their lives are suddenly subjected to intimidation by the government.

If Obama was intent on upholding the common good (and it should be noted that trust in the government to act justly and to care for the common welfare of the citizens is an essential component in the common good), he would be letting us all get on with our lives as best as possible. If anything, while Congress is working through the budget issues, it seems reasonable that as far as possible the Executive Branch should see to it that the civic life of ordinary citizens is uninterrupted, not inconvenienced in petty ways and much less that issues of public safety should be actively harmed.

But it just gets worse.

The nation's Amber Alert program was adopted through Congressional legislation in 2002-2003 to help protect our nation's children. 

President Obama and Attorney General Holder apparently think that this is not an "essential service." Try to visit the website and we are told that "Due to the lapse in federal funding" the website is down.  We can only ask, are they really willing to use missing children as bargaining chips in their political games?  This seems just another chess piece in a slow and steady erosion in the faith of our government to even uphold the security of the nation. The President keeps his military golf course open, but shuts down a website that helps us protect our children?  Really, Mr. Obama?

WWW.AMBERALERT.GOV (retrieved 8:30PM MST 10/6/2013)
(Can't GoDaddy underwrite this for us while Congress and the WH get their collective act together?)

This is not just "bad optics", it's at best myopia or worse craven and callous disregard for the common good of the nation that they have been entrusted to care for while in office.

Again, I'd be really interested in having one of Obama's supporters explain to us how this sort of action is the least bit congruent with Obama's sacred duty to uphold and promote the common good of the nation.