Remembering

May 25, 2009

I listened to this incredible song several times today. It’s called Remembering and it was written by my friend David Vassilaros to honor our fallen heroes.

When I first heard this song, it brought back all the emotions that swirled the first time I touched the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Wall. It recalled the ineffable sense of awe and reverence you feel standing amidst the sacred silence of the hallowed ground that Lincoln consecrated at Gettysburg.

Dave’s song sums up what Memorial Day is all about. It’s about remembering. We set aside this day to honor those who serve and remember the extraordinary sacrifices they made and continue to make to preserve our freedoms.

One of the central themes of the novelist Charles Williams, C.S. Lewis’ friend and member of the Inklings, is the idea of exchange and substitution. Disqualified from serving in World War I, Williams came to the realization that the peace and tranquility he enjoyed in England was owed to the sacrifice of nearly a million of his fellow countrymen dying in the trenches across the English Channel, and that this was a debt he could never repay. For Williams, the idea of exchange and substitution was not only true during wartime, but was at the heart of life. Everything we have, everything we enjoy in this life, comes from the sacrifice of another, from the grains of wheat that fall into the ground and die to give us our daily bread, to the pigs we slaughter for our breakfast slices of bacon, culminating in the ultimate sacrifice at the place of skulls to win us eternal life.

So too, the blessings of liberty, security and prosperity we enjoy in a world of chaotic terrorism, crushing tyranny and ubiquitious suffering were dearly purchased by the substitution and sacrifice of heroes at places like Valley Forge, Antietam, Omaha Beach, Khe Sanh and Fallujah. We can never repay our indebtedness to our fallen heroes, but we can honor and remember their sacrifice on this Memorial Day.

It’s worth remembering.


It Did Happen Here

May 22, 2009

George C. Joseph is the sole owner of Sunshine Dodge-Isuzu, a family owned and operated business in Melbourne, Florida. Sunshine Dodge is one of 789 Chrysler dealerships being forced out of business as of June 9, 2009.

Rush Limbaugh mentioned his story on Wednesday. Mr. Joseph sent the following letter this week to the American Thinker:

My name is George C. Joseph. I am the sole owner of Sunshine Dodge-Isuzu, a family owned and operated business in Melbourne, Florida. My family bought and paid for this automobile franchise 35 years ago in 1974. I am the second generation to manage this business.

. . . On Thursday, May 14, 2009 I was notified that my Dodge franchise, that we purchased, will be taken away from my family on June 9, 2009 without compensation and given to another dealer at no cost to them. My new vehicle inventory consists of 125 vehicles with a financed balance of 3 million dollars. This inventory becomes impossible to sell with no factory incentives beyond June 9, 2009. Without the Dodge franchise we can no longer sell a new Dodge as “new,” nor will we be able to do any warranty service work. Additionally, my Dodge parts inventory, (approximately $300,000.) is virtually worthless without the ability to perform warranty service. There is no offer from Chrysler to buy back the vehicles or parts inventory.

. . . HOW IN THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA CAN THIS HAPPEN?

THIS IS A PRIVATE BUSINESS, NOT A GOVERNMENT ENTITY.

This is beyond imagination! My business is being stolen from me through NO FAULT OF OUR OWN. We did NOTHING wrong.

This atrocity will most likely force my family into bankruptcy. This will also cause our 50+ employees to be unemployed. How will they provide for their families? This is a total economic disaster.

HOW CAN THIS HAPPEN IN A FREE MARKET ECONOMY IN THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA?

Full text here

This story reminds me of something that happened to my family a long time ago. When my mother was a little girl, her father was killed in an accident leaving behind his wife and 11 children (including 3 adopted orphans).

My mom’s older brother, who later became my Godfather, was only 14 at the time. He quit school and worked long hours to support the family. After a few years, he’d saved enough money to open a grocery store, which eventually grew into a successful business.

One day Change came and my Godfather’s business was seized by the government. A few years later, the same government took his house without compensation and gave it to somebody else.

This happened in Cuba in the early years of the Communist revolution. Whenever stories like this of life under Communism are told to a large enough group, you can almost count on two reactions. Usually at least one liberal in the group will reflexively side with the Communists: “Well your Godfather must have been exploiting the poor.” Or: “He was probably a Batista supporter.” As if that justified what the Communists did. (If my Godfather had been a Batista supporter or guilty of any “crimes against the Revolution,” he would have been summarily shot or left to rot in jail.)

The other response one invariably hears to stories like this is: “Well, it can’t happen here.” This pronouncement is often accompanied a smug self-satisfied look that suggests the speaker deserves credit for his blissful state of affairs, while the victims of tyranny deserve blame for their misfortunes. As for George C. Joseph, he’s beginning to learn the real meaning of “Hope and Change”™:

“It’s down to me, the change has come, he’s under my thumb.”


Dream Ticket: Palin—Prejean 2012

May 13, 2009

Carrie Prejean stands up to the Lavender Mafia bullies and their media enablers.

“I exercised my freedom of speech, and I was punished for doing so. This should not happen in America.”

Precisely. In under 20 words, Ms. Prejean proves she already knows more about the U.S. Constitution than Barack Obama.

William F. Buckley famously quipped, “I would rather be GOVERNED by the first hundred names in the Boston phone book than by the Harvard faculty.” Listening to supermodel Kathy Ireland articulate her pro-life convictions, I’d extend Buckley’s thesis and suggest we’d be better off governed by beauty pageant contestants and supermodels than by members of Congress.

Of course I’m being facetious in suggesting the 22-year old Prejean as a viable Vice Presidential candidate. I’m sure she knows as well as I do that she isn’t old enough to qualify for the job.

Like I said, she knows more about the Constitution than Barack Obama.


Words of Wisdom

May 13, 2009

At the 201st commencement exercises of Mt. St. Mary’s University in Emmitsburg, Md., the second-oldest American Catholic university, noted Catholic author George Weigel delivered the commencement address I wish I’d heard when I graduated college.

George Weigel is the author of Witness to Hope, the authorized biography of Karol Wojtyla, Pope John Paul II, from whom he learned much wisdom. In this address, Weigel shares some of John Paul’s profound insights on living life as vocation, on the real meaning of freedom, and on how our precious God-given freedoms depend on our character and virtue:

Some of you will do great things as the world measures greatness. Some of you will do great things as the Church measures greatness, joining the ranks of the great figures who have walked here on Mary’s mountain: St. Elizabeth Ann Seton; Bishop John Dubois; Archbishop John Hughes; Bishop James Edward Walsh of the Class of 1910, a living martyr for ten years in a Chinese Communist prison. Who knows, perhaps one of you will even top Jim Phelan’s remarkable record as a basketball coach. But each of you can do great things in the one, essential way that Karol Wojtyla, Pope John Paul II, did great things. You can do the greatest thing of which human beings are capable: You can conform yourself to the will of God for your life.

. . . Many of you will enter the world of work after this graduation; others of you will continue your studies. No matter what you will be doing tomorrow, or next week, or next September, there is a lesson for you in the life of John Paul II: Don’t think of your life simply as a “career.” Think of your life as a vocation.

God has something unique in mind for each of you. There is something singular that each of you brings to the making of history. Think of your lives in those terms, and you’ll never fall prey to that most deadening of temptations: the temptation of boredom.

That is the kind of life — a life of high adventure in the greatest of adventures, the making of your soul — for which Mt. St. Mary’s has prepared you. For that is the entire purpose of Catholic higher education, rightly understood: Catholic higher education exists to form vocationally serious men and women in whom faith and reason support a transforming conviction — the conviction that every human life is, by definition, extraordinary. That is the conviction on which this university was founded. That is the conviction on which this university can and must build its future.

. . . [I]n the final analysis, our freedom depends on the content of our character as a people. That is how Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. asked that his children be judged. That is how we should all wish to be judged. For character counts, both for the happiness of each of our lives and for the future of America.

Only a people of character will be able to understand that, as Lord Acton taught, freedom is not a matter of doing what we like, but of having the right to do what we Ought.

. . . Defending freedom today also requires that we be a people of virtue.

And what does virtue require of us?

Virtue requires us to acknowledge, and to defend, the first principle of justice, according to which innocent human life has an inalienable dignity and value that must be recognized by law. Never flag, never fail, never weary in defense of the right to life. Never give up on the great civil-rights issues of our time — the life issues.

. . . Virtue requires us to defend and promote the cause of freedom, rather than retreating into a bunker of hemispheric isolation and an iPod world of self-absorption.

Virtue requires us to live as John Paul II challenged the young people of the world to live: by never, ever settling for anything less than the spiritual and moral greatness of which, with God’s grace, you are capable. Never, ever settle for less than that.

The virtues that are the foundation of this American experiment in ordered liberty are known from both faith and reason. In spending these past years on Mary’s mountain, you have been immersed in both — in both faith and reason. As you walk off the mountain today, take both faith and reason with you. Nurture them in your mind, heart, and soul. Living your lives vocationally — living your lives as the gift to others that your own life is to you — you can give America a new birth of freedom.

And the confessors, the martyrs, and all the other saints who once walked here, on Mary’s mountain in the Catoctins, will be cheering you on, all the way.

Read the entire address here.

Those who share my love and admiration for John Paul II will also appreciate this quintessential anecdote from Weigel’s address:

It has been one of the privileges of my life to have spent more than two and a half decades chronicling the achievements, and explicating the thought, of a great man: the Servant of God Pope John Paul II. He was, certainly, a great man. Part of his greatness lay in the fact that he had a very firm grip on his own fallibility. In September 1997, the Italian Bishops Conference hosted a national Eucharistic Congress in Bologna. John Paul II was helicoptered up there on a Sunday night to give the closing address. A staffer at the bishops conference had gotten the bright idea that Bob Dylan would be a good set-up act for the pope. So, perhaps a half-hour before the Holy Father appeared, Dylan came out on stage before hundreds of thousands of Italians, floppy hat, guitar, harmonica, and so forth, and did a few songs, ending with his signature composition, “Blowin’ in the Wind.” The Pope came out and, demonstrating his remarkable capacity to seize an opportunity, discarded his prepared text and immediately began talking about the Holy Spirit “blowin’ in the wind” of the modern world, and about Jesus Christ as the one road that all of us must walk down, for “Christ, who said ‘I am the way’ . . . is the road of truth, the way of life.” It was a remarkable performance. Three days later, I was at lunch in the papal apartment, and before I could even get seated after grace, John Paul II fixed me with that look across the table and said, “Who eeze Bob DEE-lahn?”

“Who eeze Bob DEE-lahn?” Priceless.


The Taxman Shrinketh

May 12, 2009

A friend forwarded an interesting piece titled “Hemorrhaging – Especially Uncle Sam” on the ramifications of the sharp recent drop in federal tax revenues. The article is from a new blog, Maenianum Secundum, which refers to the upper sections of the Coliseum where the plebes sat and from which the anonymous blogger Herself writes about our decline and fall under Emperor Barack.

There are various entities in the Federal government that look at the financial status of the government (OBM, CBO, etc). ”Budget” is simply a prediction of future spending and receipts, and whether or not it is balanced is determined by what actually happens, not what is forecast to happen.

The Biblical-proportion deficit predictions we’ve been hearing about are based on spending targets, but more importantly, on receipt targets. If spending is more than budgeted, the deficits will be larger, but only if receipts come in as expected. If receipts are greater than expected, then the deficits will be smaller than predicted (that was the Reagan-era phenomenon). If receipts are lower than expected, then the deficit will be larger. If both are off, such as spending being more than budgeted, and receipts are less than predicted, the deficit death spiral will be enormous.

And that is exactly what is happening, at such an accelerated rate that the economy is contracting… for the first time in decades and decades.

The decline in federal tax revenues shown on the accompanying chart (courtesy of BizzyBlog (When Will the Press Catch On to Uncle Sam’s Collections Meltdown? April 22, 2009) is staggering and suggests that the economy is in much worse shape than believed and heading in the wrong direction.

USreceipts1008thru0409

Basically, what we have is a combination of unrealistically rosy economic growth projections (3.5%) coupled with a sharp 40% drop in federal tax revenues. And even with overly-optimistic projections on both scores, the government is still projecting a $1.8 trillion deficit, weighing in at 13% of GDP. (By way of comparison, the widely-criticized budget deficits under George W. Bush never exceeded 3% of GDP.)

So the good news is there’s plenty of ice for our drinks. The bad news is the band is warming up to play “Nearer my God to Thee.”

Hat tip: Sam C.


The Coming ObamaCare

May 12, 2009

In today’s Wall Street Journal, Dr. Scott Gottlieb explains how ObamaCare will affect you and your doctor. Short answer: longer waits for appointments as reimbursements decline while regulations drive practice costs up.

Physician income declines will be accompanied by regulations that will make practicing medicine more costly, creating a double whammy of lower revenue and higher practice costs, especially for primary-care doctors who generally operate busy practices and work on thinner margins. For example, doctors will face expenses to deploy pricey electronic prescribing tools and computerized health records that are mandated under the Obama plan. For most doctors these capital costs won’t be fully covered by the subsidies provided by the plan.

Government insurance programs also shift compliance costs directly onto doctors by encumbering them with rules requiring expensive staffing and documentation. It’s a way for government health programs like Medicare to control charges. The rules are backed up with threats of arbitrary probes targeting documentation infractions. There will also be disproportionate fines, giving doctors and hospitals reason to overspend on their back offices to avoid reprisals.

. . . These changes are superimposed on a payment system where compensation often bears no connection to clinical outcomes. Medicare provides all the wrong incentives. Its charge-based system pays doctors more for delivering more care, meaning incomes rise as medical problems persist and decline when illness resolves.

Full article here.

Back in 2007, Mark Steyn wrote a piece titled “The Jobs Britons Won’t Do” after a failed terrorist attack at Glasgow airport perpetrated by eight employees (including seven physicians) employed by the National Health Service:

Of the eight persons arrested as of Friday in the terrorist plot, seven are doctors with the National Health Service (the eighth is the wife of one, and a lab technician at the same hospital). The bombs failed to go off because a medical syringe malfunctioned. I don’t mean it malfunctioned as a syringe (even in the crumbling NHS, the syringes usually work) but as a triggering mechanism, to which it had been adapted, though evidently not too efficiently.

Does government health care inevitably lead to homicidal doctors who can’t wait to leap into a flaming SUV and drive it through the check-in counter? No. But government health care does lead to a dependence on medical staff imported from other countries.

Some 40 percent of Britain’s practicing doctors were trained overseas — and that percentage will increase, as older native doctors retire, and younger immigrant doctors take their place. According to the BBC, “Over two-thirds of doctors registering to practice in the UK in 2003 were from overseas — the vast majority from non-European countries.” Five of the eight arrested are Arab Muslims, the other three Indian Muslims. Bilal Abdulla, the Wahhabi driver of the incendiary Jeep and a doctor at the Royal Alexandra Hospital near Glasgow, is one of over 2,000 Iraqi doctors working in Britain.

Many of these imported medical staff have never practiced in their own countries. As soon as they complete their training, they move to a Western world hungry for doctors to prop up their understaffed health systems: Dr. Abdulla got his medical qualification in Baghdad in 2004 and was practicing in Britain by 2006. His co-plotter, Mohammed Asha, a neurosurgeon, graduated in Jordan in 2004 and came to England the same year.

When the president talks about needing immigrants to do “the jobs Americans won’t do,” most of us assume he means seasonal fruit pickers and the maid who turns down your hotel bed and leaves the little chocolate on it. But in the United Kingdom the jobs Britons won’t do has somehow come to encompass the medical profession.

Here in the U.S., illegal immigrants, excuse me, amnesty-awaiting citizens/reliably-Democrat voters, work as busboys, dishwashers, nannies, seasonal farm laborers, etc., “all the jobs that Americans won’t do.” Ironically, under Britain’s socialized healthcare system, medical specialties now fall under the category of jobs that Britons won’t do, as evidenced by the fact that over two-thirds of new doctors and nurses are immigrants, most from Islamic countries.

Meanwhile in Cuba, M.D.s and Ph.D.s whose government salaries are paid in (worthless) Cuban pesos, gladly forsake their professional training for demeaning work as bus boys and waiters in foreign-built-for-foreigners-only five-star hotels and Varadero beach resorts. These menial jobs are highly desired because they provide opportunities to garner the occasional dollar/Euro tip from the pampered progressive plutocrats (i.e., Euro-trash) who subsidize the Cuban tourism industry.

Welcome to the brave new world of ObamaCare, where healthcare professionals are undesirable jobs, while unskilled labor jobs are prized.

Down is the new up.


Out of the Wilderness

May 7, 2009

After the Watergate scandal, Nixon’s resignation and pardon from Ford, the Republicans suffered huge losses in the 1974 elections: 46 House seats and five Senate seats. The number of voters identifying as Republicans stood at 20 percent (versus slightly more than 30 percent today). Then as now, the party leadership was divided on how to win back voters.

Should the Republican party forsake its conservative principles in an effort to court “moderate” and “independent” voters as defined by hostile “mainstream” media elites? Or should we ignore the siren songs of political expediency and calculation, and reaffirm our core convictions?

As usual, Ronald Reagan shows us the way out of the political wilderness. His 1975 speech at CPAC still ring true today. Here are some choice excerpts:

Since our last meeting we have been through a disastrous election. It is easy for us to be discouraged, as pundits hail that election as a repudiation of our philosophy and even as a mandate of some kind or other. But the significance of the election was not registered by those who voted, but by those who stayed home. If there was anything like a mandate it will be found among almost two-thirds of the citizens who refused to participate.

Bitter as it is to accept the results of the November election, we should have reason for some optimism. For many years now we have preached “the gospel,” in opposition to the philosophy of so-called liberalism which was, in truth, a call to collectivism.

Now, it is possible we have been persuasive to a greater degree than we had ever realized. Few, if any, Democratic party candidates in the last election ran as liberals. Listening to them I had the eerie feeling we were hearing reruns of Goldwater speeches. I even thought I heard a few of my own.

Bureaucracy was assailed and fiscal responsibility hailed. Even George McGovern donned sackcloth and ashes and did penance for the good people of South Dakota.

But let’s not be so naive as to think we are witnessing a mass conversion to the principles of conservatism. Once sworn into office, the victors reverted to type. In their view, apparently, the ends justified the means.

Save for the McGovern and Goldwater references, this could have been written about the 2008 election.

This is no time to repeat the shopworn panaceas of the New Deal, the Fair Deal and the Great Society. John Kenneth Galbraith, who, in my opinion, is living proof that economics is an inexact science, has written a new book. It is called “Economics and the Public Purpose.” In it, he asserts that market arrangements in our economy have given us inadequate housing, terrible mass transit, poor health care and a host of other miseries. And then, for the first time to my knowledge, he advances socialism as the answer to our problems.

Underneath the new Hope and Change marketing slogan are the same failed prescriptions based on a fundamentally flawed anthropology and perverse juxtaposition of economic incentives and disincentives so that success is penalized (Marx’s first commandment: Let no good deed go unpunished), while failure is subsidized.

Shorn of all side issues and extraneous matter, the problem underlying all others is the worldwide contest for the hearts and minds of mankind. Do we find the answers to human misery in freedom as it is known, or do we sink into the deadly dullness of the Socialist ant heap?

Those who suggest that the latter is some kind of solution are, I think, open to challenge. Let’s have no more theorizing when actual comparison is possible. There is in the world a great nation, larger than ours in territory and populated with 250 million capable people. It is rich in resources and has had more than 50 uninterrupted years to practice socialism without opposition.

We could match them, but it would take a little doing on our part. We’d have to cut our paychecks back by 75 percent; move 60 million workers back to the farm; abandon two-thirds of our steel-making capacity; destroy 40 million television sets; tear up 14 of every 15 miles of highway; junk 19 of every 20 automobiles; tear up two-thirds of our railroad track; knock down 70 percent of our houses; and rip out nine out of every 10 telephones. Then, all we have to do is find a capitalist country to sell us wheat on credit to keep us from starving!

As usual, Reagan understands the fundamental choice is always between freedom and slavery. The advocates of slavery don’t prefer slavery per se; they prefer to live well at no expense, which requires others to support their profligate lifestyle. They succeed by painting advocates of freedom and limited government as “fascists” and themselves as “liberals.”

. . . Can we live with ourselves if we, as a nation, betray our friends and ignore our pledged word? And, if we do, who would ever trust us again? To consider committing such an act so contrary to our deepest ideals is symptomatic of the erosion of standards and values. And this adds to our discontent.

We did not seek world leadership; it was thrust upon us. It has been our destiny almost from the first moment this land was settled. If we fail to keep our rendezvous with destiny or, as John Winthrop said in 1630, “Deal falsely with our God,” we shall be made “a story and byword throughout the world.”

Americans are hungry to feel once again a sense of mission and greatness.

I don ‘t know about you, but I am impatient with those Republicans who after the last election rushed into print saying, “We must broaden the base of our party”—when what they meant was to fuzz up and blur even more the differences between ourselves and our opponents.

It was a feeling that there was not a sufficient difference now between the parties that kept a majority of the voters away from the polls. When have we ever advocated a closed-door policy? Who has ever been barred from participating?

Our people look for a cause to believe in. Is it a third party we need, or is it a new and revitalized second party, raising a banner of no pale pastels, but bold colors which make it unmistakably clear where we stand on all of the issues troubling the people?

Let us show that we stand for fiscal integrity and sound money and above all for an end to deficit spending, with ultimate retirement of the national debt.

Let us also include a permanent limit on the percentage of the people’s earnings government can take without their consent.

Let our banner proclaim a genuine tax reform that will begin by simplifying the income tax so that workers can compute their obligation without having to employ legal help.

And let it provide indexing—adjusting the brackets to the cost of living—so that an increase in salary merely to keep pace with inflation does not move the taxpayer into a surtax bracket. Failure to provide this means an increase in government’s share and would make the worker worse off than he was before he got the raise.

Let our banner proclaim our belief in a free market as the greatest provider for the people.

. . . A political party cannot be all things to all people. It must represent certain fundamental beliefs which must not be compromised to political expediency, or simply to swell its numbers.

I do not believe I have proposed anything that is contrary to what has been considered Republican principle. It is at the same time the very basis of conservatism. It is time to reassert that principle and raise it to full view. And if there are those who cannot subscribe to these principles, then let them go their way.

Full text here.

Here is a modest proposal for a conservative agenda for 2010 and beyond that conservatives of virtually every stripe should be able to agree on:

(1) Limited government — based on a renewed appreciation and understanding of the Framers’ prescient insights on human nature and the restraints they devised to circumvent the will to power a century before Nietzsche articulated the defining ethos of 20th century totalitarianism.

Limited government means adherence to the foundational Constitutional principles of federalism and separation of powers, and a return to a federal government limited in scope and authority to those powers expressly listed in Article I section 8 of the Constitution.

In truth, all three branches the federal government have been complicit in ignoring these fundamental restraints since the New Deal, and the result has been an intrusive, overreaching and omnipresent Leviathan state whose insatiable demands pose a clear and present danger to our national security and a growing threat to our diminishing freedoms. Limited government means principled opposition to any and all unconstitutional expansions of federal power, including George W. Bush’s No Child Left Behind programs and prescription drug entitlements.

(2) Lower taxes — This follows from the first principle of limited government; when you shrink the size and scope of government, taxes go down. It’s that simple.

Unlawful expansions of government is usually accompanied by inequitable distribution of the tax burden. Conservatives must oppose “tax cuts” for people who don’t pay taxes and ever-increasing burdens on those who work hard, save and invest. If we take Joe Biden at his word that paying taxes constitutes the highest form of patriotism, then by his admission, many of his constituents are not patriots.

We must end the cynical Marxist class warfare via the twin evils of “taxation without representation” for the 50 percent of the population who pay 100% of the taxes and “representation without taxation” for the 50% who pay no taxes. Citizenship has its burdens as well as its privileges. We may disagree on what constitutes a fair share, but we can at least agree that as long as we have an income tax, then anyone who has an income should pay something.

(3) Ordered liberty — based on fidelity to the U.S. Constitution and the rule of law, not selective appeals to international law when it is politically convenient and arbitrary rulings benefiting the politically connected at the expense of those who followed the rules.

(4) Finally, a return to our unshakeable faith in the universal truths and inalienable rights affirmed by the Declaration of Independence and safeguarded by the Constitution. As conservatives, we affirm the ideal of Equal Protection; everyone is equal before the law. Our government “servants” seem to think that some are more equal than others, cheerleading the growing Balkanization and fragmentation of our national unity. E pluribus unum means “out of many, one” and not, as Al Gore tellingly mistranslated “out of one, many.”

Hat tip: Steve Hayward at The Corner on National Review Online.


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