Sunday, October 29, 2006

Are there Rocks Ahead? If so, we're all dead

AP:GAO chief warns economic disaster looms
From the hustings and the airwaves this campaign season, America's political class can be heard debating Capitol Hill sex scandals, the wisdom of the war in Iraq and which party is tougher on terror. Democrats and Republicans talk of cutting taxes to make life easier for the American people.

What they don't talk about is a dirty little secret everyone in Washington knows, or at least should. The vast majority of economists and budget analysts agree: The ship of state is on a disastrous course, and will founder on the reefs of economic disaster if nothing is done to correct it.

There's a good reason politicians don't like to talk about the nation's long-term fiscal prospects. The subject is short on political theatrics and long on complicated economics, scary graphs and very big numbers. It reveals serious problems and offers no easy solutions. Anybody who wanted to deal with it seriously would have to talk about raising taxes and cutting benefits, nasty nostrums that might doom any candidate who prescribed them.
Their basic message is this: If the United States government conducts business as usual over the next few decades, a national debt that is already $8.5 trillion could reach $46 trillion or more, adjusted for inflation. That's almost as much as the total net worth of every person in America —
Bill Gates, Warren Buffett and those Google guys included.

A hole that big could paralyze the U.S. economy; according to some projections, just the interest payments on a debt that big would be as much as all the taxes the government collects today.

And every year that nothing is done about it, Walker says, the problem grows by $2 trillion to $3 trillion.

It always struck me as a bit rich when the politicians who voted for "Bankruptcy reform" talked about fiscal irresponsibility. The bad thing is this mess has been building for years along with a crushing "debt" of future bills. Between our neglected infrastructure and looming demographic crises we are going to have a devil of a time paying on, much less paying down, the National credit card.


Dyseptic Murmurings: Thursday, October 26, 2006
Sawing your own branch.

O Christians, do not give Caesar a precedent to render unto you.

1. There were complaints about a room being set aside at lunch time for Muslim students during Ramadan. This action deserves applause, not whining.

2. After a long and wholly unnecessary fight, the wife of a Wiccan soldier killed in combat gets symbol on his headstone. About time.

Though neither a Wiccan nor a Muslim, I can't shrug this stuff off. If it's not obvious by now, let me hasten to reassure you that my motivation is not closet indifferentism bubbling to the surface--"Behold the Modernist!"

Rather, it seems pretty obvious to me that if we do not stand against Caesar's refusal to accommodate (as opposed to promote) religious belief, we are implicitly asking him to do the same to us. In a world becoming increasingly secular, I don't think he needs the encouragement.

Just Finished Turtledove's Homeward Bound (cue Lamb Chop "This is the series that does not end.....") and one of the principal themes is the aliens inability to see "turnabout is fair play", sadly Americans (including American Christians) seem to have a hard time grasping that lately.

Sunday, October 22, 2006


Walter Michaels:The Trouble With Diversity The American Prospect

But it’s the response to Katrina that is most illuminating for our purposes, especially the response from the left, not from the right. “Let’s be honest,” Cornel West told an audience at the Paul Robeson Student Center at Rutgers University, “we live in one of the bleakest moments in the history of black people in this nation.” “Look at the Super Dome,” he went on to say. “It’s not a big move from the hull of the slave ship to the living hell of the Super Dome.” This is what we might call the “George Bush doesn’t care about black people” interpretation of the government’s failed response to the catastrophe. But nobody doubts that George Bush cares about Condoleezza Rice, who is very much a black person and who is fond of pointing out that she’s been black since birth. And there are, of course, lots of other black people -- like Clarence Thomas and Thomas Sowell and Janice Rogers Brown and, at least once upon a time, Colin Powell -- for whom George Bush almost certainly has warm feelings. But what American liberals want is for our conservatives to be racists. We want the black people George Bush cares about to be “some of my best friends are black” tokens. We want a fictional George Bush who doesn’t care about black people rather than the George Bush we’ve actually got, one who doesn’t care about poor people.

Although that’s not quite the right way to put it. First because, for all I know, George Bush does care about poor people; at least he cares as much about poor people as anyone else does. What he doesn’t care about -- and what Bill Clinton, judging by his eight years in office, didn’t much care about, and what John Kerry, judging from his presidential campaign, doesn’t much care about, and what we on the so called left, judging by our willingness to accept Kerry as the alternative to Bush, don’t care about either -- is taking any steps to get them to stop being poor. We would much rather get rid of racism than get rid of poverty. And we would much rather celebrate cultural diversity than seek to establish economic equality.

What a surprise

Stephanie Salter: Putting faith into action dangerous in Washington Terre Haute Tribune-Star (IN)

TERRE HAUTE — Something strange is happening to David Kuo. The former deputy director of the White House office of Faith-based and Community Initiatives is losing his right-wing, conservative Christian credentials. Fast.

Before taking the White House post, Kuo worked for and with the créme de la créme of the Christian conservative right, most notably, Pat Robertson, Ralph Reed, John Ashcroft and William Bennett. We are talking speech writing and strategizing, not coffee fetching. He also has composed articulate essays on about Jesus and a Christian nation’s responsibilities to its poor.

Kuo’s zenith, of course, was his two-plus years as second-in-command in the Faith-based and Community Initiatives office in the White House. Created by George W. Bush, the program was, Kuo said, “my dream come true.”

Kuo left the Bush administration of his own accord in December 2003. At least 20 months ago, he began publicly to say why. Especially among White House senior staff, when it came to action instead of words, to funding instead of photo ops, “there never really was great concern over what he [President Bush] called ‘the poor people stuff.’”

Back in February 2005, when Kuo shared that disillusionment with Beliefnet readers, barely a flutter occurred in Washington or in Christian-right circles. But Kuo made the mistake of putting his criticisms between hardcovers. “Tempting Faith: An Inside Story of Political Seduction” (Free Press), appeared last week.

In it, as generous excerpts all over the Internet reveal, Kuo expands on his Beliefnet revelations. Still admiring of Bush, Kuo nevertheless delivers a picture of the administration as manipulative, politically craven and, often, contemptuous of the evangelical Christians to whom it has so tightly tied its identity and moral authority.

Kuo writes that, in addition to “the poor people stuff” getting the short end of every budgetary stick, policy makers in the White House made fun of such evangelical loyalists as Robertson, Jerry Falwell and James Dobson. Respectively, Kuo writes, the three were termed “insane,” “ridiculous” and “had to be controlled.”

As Kuo told Leslie Stahl on “60 Minutes” last Sunday, “You name the important Christian leader, and I have heard them mocked by serious people in serious places.”

White House staff, Kuo says in his book, mocked “the millions of faithful Christians who had put their trust and hope in the president and his administration. Bush knew his so-called compassion agenda was languishing and had no problem with that.”

Much of Kuo’s book — he has tried to explain — deals with his own relationship to Jesus, God and Christianity. His scope is considerably broader than White House hypocrisy. His pointed criticisms also include plenty of Democrats and their party’s approach to legislation, which Kuo has described as “allergic to faith.”


That's the problem, both parties are "allergic to faith". The Republicans "get religion" every two years, but mostly work on taking care of their real constituency....the "economic conservatives" who are cutting taxes and running the government on a Nation-State sized Option-ARM and the "neo-cons" who thought invading Iraq was a brilliant idea. The Democrats go into hysterics and assume a fetal position in the corner when they hear of Christians acting out their beliefs in public life (I still remember listening to Prairie Home Companion half-jokingly suggest Evangelicals shouldn't be allowed to vote). We have the party of Mammon and the party of Berkeley liberalism. Not much of a choice.

Scary stuff

Coffeyville Journal (KS): Problems with Montgomery County foster care cited in state audit

INDEPENDENCE, Kan. — An audit of the state's foster care system, presented to legislators Tuesday, addressed issues raised by parents in a dozen foster care cases in six counties. Legislators ordered the review after parents complained about how they were treated by attorneys, judges and state welfare officials.

Lawmakers who are faced every session with concerns about treatment of parents and children in foster care acknowledge there are no easy answers in a system tilted toward the best interests of the children.

The audit examined such things as whether parents were amply represented during foster care proceedings in court, whether they were treated fairly and whether judges acted too quickly in taking away their children.

The 12 cases reviewed were among the 5,821 cases filed in 2005. Legislative Division of Post Audit teams conducted interviews to determine whether there was wrongdoing in the court system or Department of Social and Rehabilitation Services, which oversees adoption and foster care in the state.

Five of the cases were from Montgomery County, where investigators found problems with the court transcripts of cases, including a recording device used in the courtroom that failed to work for a year.

“According to the audit, Montgomery Co. has more than double the state's rate of children taken from parents and put up for adoption, as a percentage of child-protection cases. Further, there are abnormal –possibly illegal – behaviors of specific individuals in the Montgomery Co. judicial/child-protection bureaucracy,” said Richard Harris, a former commissioner of the Wichita Civil Rights Commission. “The audit is especially full of troubling details about Montgomery County's system – including a permanent-severing rate that is statistically nearly 5 times what auditors expected.”

According to the audit, 59 children in Montgomery County were put up for adoption, while only 12 were expected, based on state-wide data and statistical adjustment for poverty rates.
..... (emphasis added)

Kind of hard to see how the system is working "in the best interests of the children" if it is unjustly separating families. The bureaucrats always hide behind the children whenever questions are raised, though (that and the high profile abuse cases). Of course in the child welfare court merry go round, an attorney or a CASA (court appointed special advocate) (usually a volunteer or a social worker) is appointed as the child's representative. This person usually operates hand in glove with the state (and often never sees the child outside the courtroom). So when the case goes before the judge (these cases are almost never handled by jury) there are two folks calling for the severing of parental rights, one of whom claims to speak for the child, versus the parents. The system is not designed to protect the children nearly as much as it is executed to impose the will of the bureaucracy upon families that fall in their grasp.

Children are much more likely to be molested and abused in foster care than in their homes of origin. There are a lot of good foster families, and even more that are good enough, and there are a few horror stories. Part of the problem is inadequate screening, part of it is overcrowding (too many kids are taken from "tolerable" homes and too many foster parents take more than they can safely handle for income reasons).

The sad thing is the majority of cases where SRS (or the corresponding state agency) takes a kid out of a home it's for dependency (i.e. not having adequate food, care, and shelter). For the money the state spends on foster care, they could probably provide services to pick up the slack where the parents cannot. Even if your mom is dirt poor, nobody will love you the same.

Monday, October 16, 2006


First Things: Joseph Bottum; When the Swallows Come Back to Capistrano: Catholic Culture in America

....“You remember how, you know, the old hippie types used to say, ‘Never trust anyone over thirty’? Well, they were right. Only it was their own generation they were talking about,” the thin, quiet one in the back announced as we pulled up to the hotel. “You can see it clearly out here in California. That whole generation of Catholics in America, basically everybody formed before 1978, is screwed up. Left, Right, whatever....The best of them were failures, and the worst of them were monsters.”

There’s something disturbing about that line, although one hears it often enough. Last year, a young seminarian used a version to dismiss the revelations of the priest scandals—day after day of news reports about heart-wrenching vileness: “Yes, yes,” he told me, “it was sickening and evil, but what did anybody expect? Those are just the worst examples of everything that generation did wrong.”....

I think the Boomers will not be thought of kindly by History. The wreckage of their reign extends from the boardroom to the academy to the church.

I think this has universal applicability to church life

Rod Dreher: Orthodoxy and Me

......I have talked about how the Church itself failed me in all this. Let me confess how I failed myself.

The Amish example of forgiveness and detachment from anger recently made a powerful impression on me, because I can see so clearly how I allowed myself to become snared in it. The pursuit of justice is a wonderful and necessary thing, even a holy act. But I became so tormented over what had happened to those children at the hands of the Catholic clergy and hierarchy that I could see nothing else but pursuing justice. And my own pursuit of justice allowed me to turn wrath into an idol. I didn't know I was doing this at the time. I came to believe that if I didn't stop, or if I let up, that I would in some sense be failing the victims, that I would be helping the perpetrators get away with it. Again and again, I kept thinking What if this had happened to our family? And over time, the anger, and my inability to master it and put it in its place, corroded the bonds that linked me to Catholicism. That is something that could happen to anybody, Catholic, Protestant, Orthodox or what have you. Be warned.

What's more, I had become the sort of Catholic who thought preoccupying himself with Church controversies and Church politics was the same thing as preoccupying himself with Christ. Me and my friends would go on for hours and hours about what was wrong with the Church, and everything we had to say was true. But if you keep on like that, it will have its effect. One night, some Catholic friends left after a long and vivid night of conversation, and Julie and I reflected that we had all spent the entire evening talking about the Church -- but never mentioned Jesus. Julie said, "We need less Peter around here, and more Jesus." Her point was that all this talk about the institutional Church was crowding out our devotion to the spiritual realities beneath the visible structure. And she was right. But I didn't learn that until it was too late.

I can look back also and see that my own intellectual pride helped me build a weak foundation for my faith. When I converted to Catholicism in 1992 (I entered the Church formally in 1993), it was a sincere Christian conversion. But I also took on as my own all the cultural and intellectual trappings of the American Catholic right. I remember feeling so grateful for the privilege and gift of being Catholic, but there was a part of me that thought, "Yay! I'm on the A-Team now, the New York Yankees of Christianity. I'm on Father Neuhaus's team!" A short time back, an intellectual friend who is a Protestant told me that he almost became a Catholic, and would have except for the place where he was working at the time was filled with conservative intellectual Catholics who wouldn't shut up about the superiority of Catholicism. Their arrogance finally put him off the Church, and now he says he couldn't imagine converting. I swallowed hard when he told me that, because I can only imagine how I must have come off to people like him in my prideful heyday.

Without quite realizing what was happening, I became a Professional Catholic, and got so caught up in identifying with the various controversies in the American church that I began to substitute that for an authentic spirituality. This is nobody's fault but my own. Part of that involved hero-worshipping Pope John Paul II, and despite having a healthy awareness of the sins and failings of various bishops, exaggerating the virtues of bishops my side deemed "orthodox." Bernard Cardinal Law was just such a bishop. I count it as one of the most shameful acts of my life the moment when I rushed across a courtyard in Jerusalem to kneel and kiss Cardinal Law's ring. I don't count it as a sin to kiss a cardinal's ring; what was wrong was my motivation for doing so: I felt so much pride in showing myself to be an orthodox Catholic paying due homage to an orthodox archbishop in that public way.

Well, I was a fool, and I set myself up for a big fall. A few weeks back, I mentioned to Julie on the way to St. Seraphim's one morning, "I'm now part of a small church that nobody's heard of, with zero cultural influence in America, and in a tiny parish that's materially poor. I think that's just where I need to be."

See, this is why you won't see me ballyhoo my conversion to Orthodoxy as I did with my conversion to Catholicism. Partly it's because I still consider myself to be among the spiritually walking wounded. I need to build myself up in Christ, and in ordinary Christian piety. I believe that God rescued me from a pit partly of my own making by showing me Orthodoxy, and through the witness of the people of St. Seraphim's parish. I have to laugh when well-meaning people say, "Well, Rod's still looking for the perfect church, I wonder what's going to become of him when he figures out that the Orthodox Church is screwed up too." Shoot, the Orthodox Church in America is neck-deep in a financial scandal at its pinnacle! Don't they think I see that? I am perfectly aware that sexual sin and the temptation to cover it up or deny it exists in every human institution. I do not imagine that I have escaped that in Orthodoxy. I am incapable of being the kind of gung-ho Orthodox as I was a gung-ho Catholic. I've learned my lesson. What I do have in Orthodoxy, though, is a second chance to get it right. To receive the Sacraments as an aid to theosis, and to learn to love the little platoon around me, building up the community and my own family. Had I started out this way as a Catholic, maybe it wouldn't have come to this. But I did, and here I am, and God is merciful.......

I remember many discussions in Bible College about what was wrong with the church. Most of it was true. But it is a life sapping thing nonetheless. That is the problem when what you need for life also is your career and obsession. As you hack and chop at the weeds in the field you kill some of the harvest in your own soul.

It also reminds me of David Meece song To the Glory of God
Once I used to ride off to war
There was glory to win
Thought I knew what it was for

But most of the battles were mine
Now so is the pain

Saturday, October 14, 2006


Just watched Monty Python and the Holy Grail What an absolute turd of a movie. If you can't bother with an ending, why start a movie?

And how on earth can you leave the French unpunished?

Isn't that cute

No sooner did Congress authorize construction of a 700-mile fence on the U.S.-Mexico border last week than lawmakers rushed to approve separate legislation that ensures it will never be built, at least not as advertised, according to Republican lawmakers and immigration experts.

GOP leaders have singled out the fence as one of the primary accomplishments of the recently completed session. Many lawmakers plan to highlight their $1.2 billion down payment on its construction as they campaign in the weeks before the midterm elections.

But shortly before recessing late Friday, the House and Senate gave the Bush administration leeway to distribute the money to a combination of projects -- not just the physical barrier along the southern border. The funds may also be spent on roads, technology and "tactical infrastructure" to support the Department of Homeland Security's preferred option of a "virtual fence."
In this case, it also reflects political calculations by GOP strategists that voters do not mind the details, and that key players -- including the administration, local leaders and the Mexican government -- oppose a fence-only approach, analysts said.

Liars and Crooks.

Saturday, October 07, 2006

Truth in Advertising; or Great Moments in Journalism

CNN: Microsoft warns software pirates

Microsoft Corp's upcoming Windows Vista computer operating system will include technology that is designed to prevent pirated copies from fully functioning, the software giant said.

Reduced functionality is already a part of the Windows XP activation process, but Windows Vista will have a reduced functionality mode that is enhanced, Microsoft said on its Web site on Wednesday.

Sunday, October 01, 2006

What, Me Worry?

Mark Shea quotes Richard Comerford

I have a friend, who is also my hero, who went to prison for the crime of praying the Rosary on the steps of an abortion mill. He is also the local leader of Operation Rescue. We later learned that under the Clinton administration that my friend, along with other pro life activists, was placed on a terrorist watch list by the Reno Justice Department. Also on the list was the Cardinal Archbishop of New York. Prior to 9/11/01 the Justice Department spent an enormous amount of its resources trying to find a mythical pro life terror network in the United States. Meanwhile UBL plotted his moves.

Will on some future day our government torture American citizens suspected of pro life sympathies in order to prevent an alleged bombing at an abortion mill or an alleged shooting of a abortion doctor?

Will on some future day our government torture American citizens suspected of harboring homophobic thoughts?

Who is safe now?

I still remember the mini-furor when Falwell said that Hillary Clinton inspired more fear than Lucifer. But we are setting in motion a perpetual motion terrorist hunting machine. Which, should she win in 08, she would get the keys to this low mileage leviathan to with as she pleases. Maybe we can do away with filibusters in the Senate, too. Then a democratic majority could really run amok. I shouldn't worry though, it's not like we've had a democratic majority in the Senate and Democrat in the White House any time recently rolls eyes. I guess we shouldn't be surprised, these are the folks that think borrow and spend is on a much higher plane than tax and spend.