Thursday, August 23, 2007

The Incredible Smugness of Being . . . a Liberal

To think, Pat Schroeder once was considered a serious presidential candidate.

The funny thing is according to the survey she based her statements on, liberals read on average 9 books a year, conservatives 8 (and moderates 5). So basically, as president of the Publishers Association, she is trashing a large part of her association's customers.

This is further proof in my mind that a big part of the problem with political discourse in this country is incivility -- it seems as though pundits are more interested in making sarcastic points about their adversaries than really addressing issues. Liberals love to play the conservatives are dumb racist line while conservatives love to say that liberals are all baby aborting traitors.

Which is why "What's Your Problem" with New Republic's Peter Beinart & National Review's Jonah Goldberg is such a breath of fresh air. Two people, talking like adults, about the great issues of the day, rather than throwing insults back and forth. I think we need more of it.

Thursday, August 16, 2007

Do any lawyers go to heaven?

A few must have over the years. Saint Thomas Aquinas was sort of a lawyer. And Saint Thomas More was a lawyer, though he was canonized as a martyr (though is the official patron of politicians and an unofficial patron of common law attorneys).

Then there is Ivo of Kermartin (also known as Saint Ivo of Brittany, Saint Yves, or Saint Ives). An advocate and judge, his epitaph was said to have been:

St. Ivo was from Brittany
A lawyer but not a thief
Such a thing is beyond belief!

It is also said that when St. Ivo of Brittany died, he was accompanied to heaven by some recently deceased nuns. When they reached the Pearly Gates, St. Peter told the nuns that they would have to wait in purgatory a little bit, as there were so many nuns in heaven, that the nun's house was full and they needed to build an extension. He then turned to St. Ivo and said that as he was the first lawyer to make it to heaven, he could come right in.

Maybe God does work miracles occasionally.

Pope Benedict to Address Tax Evasion and Tax Havens

It was reported today that the Pope's second encyclical letter will address tax evasion and tax havens. As a tax lawyer, I considered going into my group head and saying that I needed to be excused from work, but then thought better of it.

This is not a new requirement. The Catechism (of which Pope Benedict was an important contributor) lists tax evasion as a morally illicit business practice. US law recognizes the difference between tax evasion (which is illegally arranging your affairs to evade paying taxes) and legal tax avoidance (which is arranging your affairs so that you pay the minimum amount of tax due). Someone owning Microsoft stock purchased in 1982 is not required to sell it to pay tax -- the taxpayer is perfectly permitted to hold the stock, borrow against it, and use it in such a way that no tax is due.

It will be interesting to see what the letter says. I believe it probably must be read in the European and specifically the Italian milieu where money is transferred secretly offshore into haven jurisdictions.

The Ames Straw Poll

As expected, Mitt Romney, who has spent something like $4 million dollars in Iowa, won the Ames Straw Poll with about 31% of the vote. With McCain and Giuliani sitting it out, the surprise second place finisher was Mike Huckabee. There is a two word reason for this surprise -- "Fair Tax." The Fair Tax folks come out in force for Huckabee and it paid off.

This has to be somewhat disappointing for Romney. Despite the money he has spent in Iowa, turnout was down. For Huckabee, it is a big deal, as he now finds himself as a serious candidate. But a Baptist preacher who is a bass player and who is supporting a libertarian economic program MIGHT be a good VP candidate if Giuliani wins the nomination.

Say what you want about Huckabee -- he is not you father's evangelical conservative Republican!

His slogan: Heterosexual sex, prescription drugs, and rock and roll!

Padilla Guilty

Jose Padilla was found guilty on all counts. Not being either a criminal or national security lawyer, I will leave the legal analysis for others. But the Padilla case has been the one that has bothered me the most of all the habeus cases coming out of the War on Terror. Leaving aside the torture issue (which is a big aside) I am not that concerned that Guantanamo exists. Our military is capturing people on battlefields and they need to be placed somewhere. I do think there needs to be a better procedure to determine whether those people are POWs or illegal combatants, but I do not want the military in Afghanistan, Iraq, and elsewhere to be fighting a police action.

But the Padilla case was different. Here was a guy arrested by law enforcement inside the US (though, as he was at an airport, arguably legally outside the country). He was not captured on a distant battlefield holding a rifle or even in the process of engaging in a terrorist act. The fact it took the government three years to try him, and everything that happened in between is a travesty.

Don't get me wrong. From what I read about the evidence, I think he was guilty and I am glad he was found guilty. He was up to no good. My concern is that it took 3 1/2 years to bring to trial an American citizen captured in the ordinary course of activity by law enforcement inside the United States. He was not captured in some foreign land carrying a gun. In the past 3 1/2 years he has been held in solitary confinement and treated such that his mental capacity is now in question. By doing this, the government could have blown the case on Constitutional grounds. Some appeals court may still rule that way.

Friday, August 10, 2007

Primary Season

The primary season begins in five months. It is hard to believe but not so long ago, primaries did not mean all that much. In 1960, JFK won the nomination despite announcing only in January of 1960 and entering only a few primaries. Granted the primaries were vital, his win in West Virginia over Hubert Humphrey showed that a Catholic could win a heavily Protestant state. In 1968, Humphrey won the nomination despite not entering a single primary. Even had RFK not been assassinated, Humphrey still probably would have won the nomination (on the date RFK was killed, Humphrey actually had a lead in delegates).

Now the South Carolina Republicans are moving their primary up to January 19, so that it, and not Florida will be first in the south. That means that New Hampshire will have to move their primary up, which in turn means Iowa moves their caucus up. Does that mean Iowa gets pushed into December?

In any event, on the Democratic side, baring some sort of tidal wave, I believe that Hillary Clinton is the easy winner. The Republicans are still open. McCain seems to be dropping while Giuliani retains his improbable lead. Romney remains a factor and then there is the Fred Thompson factor -- if as expected he soon makes it official, he could shake things up.

The Ames Straw Poll is Saturday and McCain and Giuliani have dropped out. Romney has a big lead in the Iowa polls and both Giuliani and McCain are not making much effort in the state. With New Hampshire in Romney's back door (though Giuliani is polling well), the real battle will be in South Carolina and Florida. Giuliani needs to win in the south and that is where Giuliani is making his big effort.

Conventional wisdom is that Giuliani's brand of conservatism will not play in Dixie. Yet, Giuliani is leading in Florida with Fred Thompson his closest rival. But Florida is not really the south -- it has many areas that are practically suburbs of New York. But South Carolina, home of rock ribbed social conservatism becomes Giuliani's key. The polls there show a tight race between Giuliani, Thompson and McCain. If Giuliani can win both Florida and South Carolina, the GOP nomination is effectively his.

Thursday, August 9, 2007

Will American Catholicism Ever Find its Singing Voice?

In a long post touching many subjects, The Anchoress notes a problem that all American Catholics have noticed. Namely, the poor quality of modern church music.

Worst Jesus Praise Song Ever. Really. That’s execrable. H/T Junkyard Blog. 95% of all “praise music” and 98% of all Catholic “hymns” written since 1972 are just shudder-inducing. Most of what is played at mass these days serves as useful penance and not much else.
Partly, this is due to the "progressive" priests who tried to make the new Mass more "relevant. But some is I believe due to the movement to the vernacular after Vatican II. As much of the Catholic musical tradition was in Latin it seemed the right time not just to change languages, but also styles (this was also needed as pre-Vatican II, much of the music was meant to be LISTENED to, not sung). The result was a hymnal full of songs that were either unsingable or just plain silly. Not all of the new music was bad, but so much of it was. It lacked majesty and reverence.

There are some very good hymns. Often they are seen as too old fashioned, but Catholicism and the feelings that the Mass and hymns conjure up SHOULD feel old fashioned.

One solution is for the English speaking church to look to the hymnal of the high church Anglo-Catholics. They have almost 600 years of expressing the majesty of God in the English language. I have been to high church Anglican weddings where the music was uplifting and expressed perfectly my feelings toward God and Christ. While it might seem slightly scandalous to use Protestant music in the Catholic Church, do not forget that the greatest of the early Anglican psalm composers, Thomas Tallis, was a practicing Catholic his entire life.

Immigration Revisted

Since the death of the immigration bill, the fate of the 12 million illegal aliens is in limbo. There are press reports that the government is considering new measures to crack down on employers employing illegals, while other reports state that the many are looking to return home. Meanwhile, frustrated at the inability of the federal government to act, many municipalities are taking matters into their own hands. Most seem to be using local law enforcement to arrest illegals. New Haven, Connecticut, on the otter hand, is considering granting all illegals local identity cards. A New York City Council member is proposing a similar program.

The problem of illegal immigration will not go away overnight. You cannot deport 12 million people, yet it is clear that the country needs to come to grips with the problem. I supported the immigration reform bill that was introduced earlier this year, but now realize that the bill was a large part of the problem. So what to do?
  1. Recognize that a comprehensive bill is not necessary, incremental steps are fine.
  2. Do not try to be secretive, hold hearings and make the process as open as possible.
  3. Recognize that many people do not trust the government to enforce the bill when passed, so show enforcement now to get a bill later.
  4. Recognize that not everyone who opposed the bill is a racist member of the Klan. Most who opposed the bill had real concerns, maybe overly emotional concerns, but concerns that need to be addressed.
  5. Don't try and micromanage immigration.
  6. Recognize that you can build a fence 100 feet highs and surround the country with sharks with lasers on their heads, and people will still try and sneak in.

There will eventually be an amnesty. The best we can do is try and avoid the immigration meltdown of the last 20 years.

Wednesday, August 8, 2007

Isabel Paterson

I have become extremely interested of late in Isabel Paterson. Paterson is one of founders of modern American libertarianism. A prominent literary critic who used weekly book review column in the New York Herald Tribune "Books" supplement to take on the status quo, she was a contemporary of H.L. Mencken and Rose Wilder Lane, editor of humorist Will Cuppy, mentor to Ayn Rand and correspondent to Russell Kirk and William F. Buckley. She is unfortunately somewhat forgotten today. Unlike her contemporaries, she was not a joiner -- Rand had her Objectivist movement while Lane was active at the libertarian Freedom School. Paterson simply had her column. Hence, she did not leave behind a phalanx of disciples to popularize her work.

Besides being a critic she also was a writer herself. Her sole nonfiction book, "The God of the Machine" was in some ways the starting point for modern American libertarianism. Ayn Rand told Paterson that the book "does for capitalism what Das Kapital does for the Reds and what the Bible did for Christianity." Paterson also wrote historical novels where kings were the villains and merchants the heroes.

To Paterson, society was simply the transmitter of energy -- the energy of commerce and creativity. Many things, overburdening government, grasping nobles, a society based on status, central planning, Bolshevism, or fascism, were items that slowed down the transmission of energy. Paterson is of interest to me because she did not see liberty as being in opposition to faith. In fact, she felt quite the opposite -- that Christianity helped to set free the energies of Europe. While recognizing that Europe in the Middle Ages was a status bound society based on serfdom, she believed that Christian philosophy was one of the basis for freedom (Paterson was not a Christian herself, but is rather better considered a Deist).

Unfortunately, the only works of Paterson that seem to be in print are "The God of the Machine" and one of her later experimental novels. Her Tribune columns and her early novels are hard to find. In addition, there is an excellent biography of her, "The Woman and the Dynamo" by Steven Cox. Hopefully, a few of her earlier novels might come back into print.

More on Obama and Pakistan

San from Shadow Warrior wonders about differing treatment between Obama and Clinton regarding Pakistan and Iraq.

I believe the problem with Pakistan is that no matter what we do (we being the US, the West and every non Pakistani) is that it will be the "wrong" answer. It seems at times the outrage industry is the main industry in that country. If I wanted to find a Pakistani flag, it would take some time. Yet, there are always American flags to burn there. And not just US flags -- when the Danish cartoon crisis hit, there were demonstrations burning Danish flags.

But I do not think Obama's comments help matters. My concern about Obama goes back to the 2004 Senate race when he was talking about "surgical strikes" -- there is no such thing. I do think he is a bit too naive for the presidency. Also, with respect to Pakistan, I do worry about the inflaming Islamist opinion. I do not think that Pakistan is about to turn Islamist -- in the last election, the Islamists did not do all that well. And it is a country that in the 1980s freely elected a woman to be Prime Minister.

So in short, I have no idea really what to do about Pakistan. But threatening to launch attacks there is probably not a good idea. However, Obama is not a pacifist and it is good to remember that.

Tuesday, August 7, 2007

Is Bin Laden Dead?

At the Democratic debates, it is usual to state that the invasion of Iraq is a distraction from getting Osama bin Laden. But considering that al Qeada and Islamic terrorism in general is bigger than just one man, isn't it a mistake in making bin Laden the be all and end all? By building him up, aren't we really injuring ourselves?

The terror question is bigger than bin Laden. If bin Laden was killed, it would not end terrorism.

But is bin Laden still alive? The latest al-Qeada video shows a picture of bin Laden that looks several years old. Others are shown on the videos discussing recent event,s but not bin Laden.

Bin Laden is either dead, or in such bad shape that he cannot be shown on video.

Obama and Pakistan

The blogsphere and the mainstream media has been abuzz by Senator Obama seeming to state that he would invade Pakistan. While that is not quite what he said, he did state that he would strike inside Pakistan without the approval of the Pakistani government if there was a high priority target.

This is not entirely new for Obama. He had in his 2004 Senate race discussed the possible need for "surgical strikes" against Iran to stop their nuclear program. This has set off the usual rioting in Pakistan complete with burning American flags.

Thursday, August 2, 2007

Pope Benedict -- Unflappable

I did not realize this happened, but back in June, someone tried to jump onto the "Popemobile." The man was unarmed but the Pope did not even react or turn around. I guess dealing with the Curia prepares you for everything!

Ron Paul (Again) and Ronald Reagan

Ron Paul is trying hard to claim the mantle of Reagan.

You have got to admit, Paul supporters are both technologically savvy and committed.

EDITED TO NOTE -- in response to a commenter, I note that this video was made by a supporter of Ron Paul, not his campaign. Which I knew, but did not make clear. So it would be better to say that a supporter sees Paul grabbing the mantle of Reagan.

Bear Invasions -- We were warned!

Instapundit notes that bears are becoming more aggressive and invading homes.

We were warned:


So if you accept evolution, but not Intelligent Design, how do you reconcile that with faith?

Faith is something you accept without needing proof. To someone completely materialistic, that of course is a fallacy. Yet, I accept faith. I accept it because I accept creation. I look at the universe, and simply accept that it is, that I am, and that God created all of it. I do not dwell on why it was created, only that it is.

In his book, Crossing the Threshold of Hope, Pope John Paul II talked about "the joy of creation" as a good in and of itself. It is good that the universe exists. It is good that I exist. Existence itself is reason to exist.

But the why and how of creation are secondary to the salvation and redemption. For as Pope John Paul II wrote, the joy of creation itself leads to the joy of salvation, and thence to the joy of redemption.

So I simply accept and embrace my existance, with the belief that somehow, someway, God created it all.