Professor Robert George of Princeton will moderate and question the South Carolina GOP candidates forum. He is a man of rare substance and grace, who can get to the heart of the matter with few words. (Read the profile on him in the NY Times Sunday Magazine--damning him with faint praise: "the reigning brain of the Christian right.") Having precepted for him years ago at Princeton, I can attest to his ability to get skeptical students to consider questions they would never have thought about otherwise. If the forum gets boring, I hope Robby pulls out his banjo....
H/t Michael Krauss.
Other candidate forums should consider such non-traditional talent (get the press out of there!): Peter Schramm of Ashbrook, Larry Arnn of Hillsdale, Brian Kennedy of the Claremont Institute--each could perform such a role superbly and enrich political discussion for not only Republicans but for the general public as well.
I visited Montana a few months ago and was struck by the scenic beauty, but I seem to have missed one local treasure: a recreation of the Shire from J.R.R. Tolkien's Lord of the Rings.
There are fans ... and then there are fans.
H/t: Debby Witt at NRO.
Apparently, I overstated Obama's compromise on economically-destructive EPA standards. He hasn't withdrawn them, as originally reported by the media, but merely postponed them until January 2013 - that is, until just after the election.
I'd say this posturing certifies the compromise as a purely political stunt - meaning that Obama hasn't learned anything and is still as determined as ever to wreck the economy on behalf of ridiculous liberal policies.
Iain Murray has a precise summary at NRO.
I mentioned below that Obama is setting the stage for his jobs speech by lowering expectations and burying substantive analysis. I forgot to mention the third leg of his preparation: blaming others.
Obama is launching a series of lawsuits against big banks for their role in causing the recession. Whether these banks misrepresented the quality of bundled mortgage securities is a fair question, but Obama's purpose is certainly to frame a scapegoat toward which he can attempt to deflect criticism. Watch for it in his speech. It's not his unprecedented spending, lack of economic proficiency or anti-business regulations which are to blame for the continuing recession - it's the fault of the big, bad banks. (See if he is also able to subtly and indirectly blame the whole thing on Bush.)
Obama has set the stage for a truly meritless campaign speech.
So much for the "recovery summer." The White House now expects unemployment to remain above 9% throughout the election cycle. "Unemployment will not return to the 5 percent range until 2017," according to the WH budget office.
This is not news in the substance, but rather in the willingness of the White House to belatedly admit the obvious. By their continuing coverage of economic conditions as "surprising," "unexpected" and "worse than predicted," the media still haven't grasped reality.
All of this is pre-text for Obama's "jobs speech" later this week. Obama is trying to lower expectations. There should be no doubt that the speech will contain little to no substance. If it were otherwise, the White House wouldn't have dumped its Midsession Budget Review on a Friday afternoon. The MBR is a by-the-numbers forecast of the President's economic policy effects over the next few years. That is, it isn't a rhetorical campaign speech - so it isn't useful to Obama, who has no ideas to help the economy. This is the sense of the Senate Budget Committee, which clearly and concisely summarizes the President's MBR.
Obama has lost the initiative, and his speech will produce more scorn than relief. The GOP - particularly the candidates - need to step up and seize the moment. There is a vacuum of leadership in Washington waiting to be filled.
At least partly due to today's jobs report,
1. The President's Real Clear Politics average job approval rating will dip down to 40%.
2. The Federal Reserve will announce a major open market operation later this month. There will be a QE3 and it will be big.
3. Unless congressional Republicans think they are politically bulletproof, there will be a deal to extend this year's payroll tax holiday for workers (which the Obama adminstration wants) coupled with some kind of business or investment tax cut for Republicans. This could take of an employer-side payroll tax holiday. The tax cuts will add several hudred billion dollars to next year's deficit.
Today's major headline is that, for the first time since World War II, the economy had "precisely net zero jobs created for a month." And, following on the heels of this economic woe, is breaking news that Obama ordered the EPA to withdraw an environmental regulation that "would cost up to $1 trillion per year and kill thousands of jobs."
It's tempting to hope that Obama has finally learned a lesson, finally become aware of the real harm done to real people by job-killing, economically-ruinous regulations - which, while ostensibly related to environmentalism, are more precisely intended as fines and taxes on "evil" corporations. But, I suspect that Obama has simply been reading the tea leaves and has shrewdly begun "compromising" in order to compete for re-election.
This is the novel sign of practical political savvy from Obama, following years of ideological recklessness with public opinion. That is to say, Candidate Obama has re-emerged. He has finally taken a simple and obvious action intended to create (or, to use his own more exact language, "save") jobs. (These jobs, of course, are being saved from his own regulations, but let that pass....)
Too little, too late? Time will tell.
A new book, out today, questions the now conventional wisdom that Thomas Jefferson fathered illegitimate children through his slave Sally Hemings. The board responsible for its publication includes such notables as Harvey Mansfield, Charles Kesler, James Ceaser, Paul Rahe, and Forrest McDonald and is chaired by UVA law professor Robert Turner. Here's the amazon link. The accusation should not have moderated devotion to Jefferson for his extraordinary achievements, though it could not have had any but that effect. This book should help us readjust our vision of the man. Jefferson celebrated enlightenment; let us follow in his footsteps on this accusation as well.
A proposal before the Securities and Exchange Commission would require publicly-traded companies to disclose political contributions.
Aside from the annoyance of ever-greater regulation by the SEC, the disclosure of political contributions seems to be a more reasonable requirement. Stockholders have an interest in knowing the voluntary contributions made by the companies in which they share ownership.
But this leads to a potential problem in the Age of Obama. Ask yourself, why do unions oppose secret ballots? The answer has been made excessively clear since Obama's term began. Retribution is easier when you know your enemy's name.
Obama has proved himself to be a typical Chicago politician in this regard. He's not afraid to use muscle against those who get in his way. The SEC contribution list would be sorted by party affiliation and companies at the top of the "Republican" side would soon learn the reason you don't mess with Obama.
It's a sad commentary on the state of American democracy - but, alas, I cannot say it isn't true.
Huntsman seems not to have noticed that he has missed the boat. He's not a contender and - unlike other non-contenders such as Paul, Gingrich and Trump - adds nothing to the conversation.
His latest attempt to appeal to ... someone (I'm not exactly sure who) is a promise to strip the tax code of loopholes and deductions (which sounds a bit like Obama's promise to save entitlements and reduce debt by eliminating "government waste"). Of course, this alone is a promise to raise taxes. So Huntsman adds that he would adopt a simplified three-tier tax structure.
But the devil's in the details. I fear a "moderate" Huntsman tax compromise would cut deductions but do little in the way of lowering the overall tax rate - thereby effectively handing democrats a tax (increase) "compromise" victory. Huntsman's does not dissuade me of this uncertainty by the use of progressive rhetoric, identifying "special-interest" as the beneficiary of tax "carve-outs" and denouncing that liberal boogey-man, "corporate welfare."
Pope Benedict XVI yesterday repeated his invitation to experience God through the "via pulchritudinis" or "way of beauty," which "modern man should recover in its most profound meaning."
Perhaps it has happened to you at one time or another -- before a sculpture, a painting, a few verses of poetry or a piece of music -- to have experienced deep emotion, a sense of joy, to have perceived clearly, that is, that before you there stood not only matter -- a piece of marble or bronze, a painted canvas, an ensemble of letters or a combination of sounds -- but something far greater, something that "speaks," something capable of touching the heart, of communicating a message, of elevating the soul.
A work of art is the fruit of the creative capacity of the human person who stands in wonder before the visible reality, who seeks to discover the depths of its meaning and to communicate it through the language of forms, colors and sounds. Art is capable of expressing, and of making visible, man's need to go beyond what he sees; it reveals his thirst and his search for the infinite. Indeed, it is like a door opened to the infinite, [opened] to a beauty and a truth beyond the every day. And a work of art can open the eyes of the mind and heart, urging us upward.
Benedict then turns to works of art that are inspired by, and reciprocally inspire, faith: Gothic cathedrals, Romanesque churches, sacred music, paintings, frescos, etc. He identifies an appreciation - a true, deeply felt appreciation - of beauty as a "way of prayer."
Therefore, may our visits to places of art be not only an occasion for cultural enrichment -- also this -- but may they become, above all, a moment of grace that moves us to strengthen our bond and our conversation with the Lord, [that moves us] to stop and contemplate -- in passing from the simple external reality to the deeper reality expressed -- the ray of beauty that strikes us, that "wounds" us in the intimate recesses of our heart and invites us to ascend to God.
It's always worthwhile to be reminded of beauty and it's effects upon the soul. I find it in "The Virgin of the Rocks" and The Iliad. Peter Schramm finds it in Shakespeare and motorcycles. Wherever she finds you, follow her, for "beauty is life when life unveils her holy face."
We are having a weird fracas about the President's request to give a prime time address to a joint session of Congress on his economic plans. I wonder to what extent Boehner is reacting to the hyperpartisanship and cynicism (and empty posturing) of Obama's response to the Ryan budget. The House Republicans are not obligated to provide Obama with a propaganda platform at his convenience. Rather than asking him to move the speech a day, they might think to tell him that if he has serious legislative proposals he should send them to the clerk of the House and the Congressional Budget Office to be scored and analyzed by budget experts who are not interested in his rhetorical flourishes. If he wants to give campaign speeches he should do on his own time and in a venue paid for by his campaign rather than the taxpayers. They might remind him that he is welcome to deliver the traditional State of the Union speech next year.
The research interests of Obama's pick to chair his Council of Economic Advisers (with highlights):
[Princeton economist Alan] Krueger has done leading research on why a minimum wage does not increase joblessness and why job growth can lag during otherwise prosperous economic time. [uncertainty?] He served as chief economist in the Treasury Department from March 2009 until November 2010 ....
During his time at Treasury, Krueger advocates a number of key administration measures designed to stimulate the economy, including a tax cut for businesses that hire new workers, the "cash for clunkers" auto trade-in program, and "Build America Bonds" that allowed states and localities to raise funds for building roads and other construction projects.
BTW, I don't know why the Senate has to confirm the President's advisers. But the hearings could be amusing.
The annual meeting of America's political scientists takes place over the following several days, for the first time in Seattle, Washington. It is fitting that they gather in this progressive city. In fact, most of the political scientists might rally around this infamous statue. A few others, such as those who prefer the Claremont Institute panels, might honor this one.
Have a great time in that beautiful city--see you next year where we laissez les bon temps roulez. No Lenin statutes there, though they do have one to Calhoun.
Literature, Poetry, and Books
But the wicked shall receive a punishment to match their thoughts, since they neglected righteousness and forsook the Lord. For those who despise wisdom and instruction are doomed. Vain is their hope, fruitless their labors, and worthless their works. For the fruit of noble struggles is a glorious one; and unfailing is the root of understanding. For should [the wicked] attain long life, they will be held in no esteem, and dishonored will their old age be in the end; Should they die abruptly, they will have no hope nor comfort in the day of scrutiny; for dire is the end of the wicked generation.
I don't tend to advertise for much on NLT, but this smartphone app is too good. Obama Clock "is a countdown to either Barack Obama's second inauguration or his final days as President of the United States." The app constantly updates the following "voter metrics":
Gasoline Cost Per Gallon
Housing Price Index
Here's an interesting self-test. Noting that all of these metrics are simply factual statistics, did you have the feeling that this app was created by someone who was pro- or anti- Obama? The answer, I think, reveals how you think the President is objectively doing when measured against reality.
Bill Keller drags the New York Times to ever-new lows by submitting a series of mocking questions on religion (he follows up here) to the Republican presidential candidates. I can't begin to convey the hypocrisy of Keller's insistence that Republicans answer his derogatory questions, whereas Obama's radical faith was of no concern to these same news organs of the Democratic party.
Stanley Kurtz responds beautifully at NRO with a series of unanswered questions on faith for Obama. They are just as timely and relevant now as they were when Kurtz first asked them in 2008. Scott Johnson jumps on the bandwagon with a list of questions for his long-time whipping-boy, "Louis Farrakhan's first congressman" Keith Ellison. John Hinderaker notes that Keller's obsession with outing Michele Bachmann as a "dominionist" is akin to the media's previous breathless pandering to leftist prejudice in their biased and unwarranted coverage of the rapture.
While I object to the condescending tone of Keller's questions - his article is obviously a hit piece, intended to smear religious conservatives by indirectly identifying them as out-of-the-mainstream extremists - I don't see anything amiss about questioning candidates on their faith. Religion is the most important factor in many - if not most - American's lives. Voters have an interest in knowing their leaders' opinions on the matters that are most important to them.
But the New York Times isn't attempting to answer voters' lingering questions. They are an outlet of hypocrisy and bigotry. If they showed the same determination to educate the public on candidates' religious views, Obama might not be the president today.
Today is the feast day of my christened namesake, St. Augustine of Hippo. The Church's latter-day Prodigal Son, Augustine's life and philosophy should be well-known by all who would call themselves learned. His was a conversion story fit for legend. During his youth he lamented:
Unlearned people are taking Heaven by force, while we, with all our knowledge, are so cowardly that we keep rolling around in the mud of our sins!"
Though he confronted many of the great heresies of the Church during his time and rose to such heights of philosophy that his mind has found few peers in human history, on the wall of his home he kept a simple commandment:
Here we do not speak evil of anyone.
As a means of venerating the great Doctor of the Church, may I suggest that any devout pilgrims reading this post remain mindful that St. Augustine is the patron of ... brewers.
Libertarian Richard Epstein asks in the Hoover Institution's Defining Ideas Journal, How is Warren Buffet Like the Pope? Epstein answers, "they are both dead wrong on economic policy," and spends much of the article criticizing Pope Benedict XVI for his supposed socialist sympathies.
Epstein begins well enough:
A successful and sustainable political order requires stable legal and economic policies that reward innovation, spur growth, and maximize the ability of rich and poor alike to enter into voluntary arrangements. Limited government, low rates of taxation, and strong property rights are the guiding principles.
But Epstein quickly derails, lambasting the Pope for criticizing those who put "profits before people." The Pope's sentiment seems not only reasonable but mundane. Yet Epstein hysterically calls this worldview "a wickedly deformed foundation for social policy." The article continues as a tirade against socialism as Epstein foolishly identifies the Pope's position as hoping for "a world without profits." This straw-man routine wickedly deforms Catholic social teaching.
The offensive language which causes Epstein such palpitations was the Pope's response to a question while en route to Madrid for World Youth Day:
Q: Europe and the Western world are going through a profound economic crisis, which also shows signs of a great social and moral crisis, of great uncertainty for the future, particularly painful for young people. What messages can the Church offer to give hope and encouragement to the young people of the world?
Benedict XVI: [We see] confirmed in the present economic crisis what has already been seen in the great preceding crisis: that an ethical dimension is not something exterior to economic problems, but an interior and fundamental dimension. The economy does not function with mercantile self-regulation alone, but it has need of an ethical reason to function for man. This can be seen in what was already said in John Paul II's first social encyclical: Man must be at the center of the economy and the economy must not be measured according to greatest profit, but according to the good of all.
The full text is worth reading and quickly reveals that only a distorted reading, reducing the Pope's comments to a pre-determined absurdity, can interpret his remarks as proposing that the common good includes neither consideration of individual man nor the practical effects of poverty. Catholic hospitals and missions care for the sick and poor of the world who suffer privation due to poverty - not Epstein's colleagues at NYU Law or the annual libertarian association conference.
While the Church teaches that "blessed are the poor" and elevates many virtues and goals above the perils of wealth, it is most certainly not adverse to profitable national economic systems. In fact, the Church has consistently - since the present Pope was a schoolboy in Germany - condemned exactly the sort of socialist ideology which Epstein falsely claims as its own. These conclusions are obvious from Pope Leo XIII's 1891 encyclical, Rerum Novarum, and Pope John Paul II's encyclical on the 100 year anniversary of the former letter, Centessimus Annus.
Leftists and libertarians alike have long felt wronged that the Holy See's refuses to adopt their economic dogma, but Church doctrine clearly repudiates economic socialism. Yet it also cautions that free-markets should always serve the common good - a common good well-understood, which Epstein willfully fails to appreciate.
Epstein's multi-front attack on Buffett and the Pope is simply a desperate plea for libertarianism. Buffett's recent statements on the economy have been heavily criticized by the right over the past few days, and the left never grows weary of slandering the Pope, so Epstein saw an opportunity to employ a tired refrain of libertarian politics: left/right, liberal/conservative, Democrat/Republican - they're all the same; only libertarians are truly special.
Of course, the inability to recognize differences between these comparables is either the result of woeful ignorance or political extremism. Anarchist - to whom libertarians are often compared - see everyone else as a clone from their perch so far off the accepted political spectrum. So it is with libertarians - they just wear better suits.
Epstein's amoral and dehumanized libertarianism is the only "wickedly deformed foundation for social policy" revealed in his article.
In college, I wrote a paper on King Arthur as the final exam for a class on Winston Churchill. (My professor was a wise man who justly rewarded my insights - and charitably resisted the likely instinct to fail me.) The exact historicity of the ancient king pales in importance to his legend and legacy as the quintessential British ruler.
However, any hint that the legends are true is a welcome revelation. The London Telegram reports "King Arthur's round table may have been found by archaeologists in Scotland."
Archaeologists searching for King Arthur's round table have found a "circular feature" beneath the historic King's Knot in Stirling.
Ultimately true or not, any reason to reflect upon a more noble and disciplined Britain - particularly in these days of looters and hooligans - is a good thing..