Thursday, March 31, 2011

Happy (?) Confederation Day, Newfoundland.

Today in 1949, the Dominion of Newfoundland ended its separate existence and became a part of Canada. It's not been a happy marriage for the Newfoundlanders, and it was a very close vote in July 1948. Some bitter residents have called it "rigged," referring to the decisive (second) referendum day as "Black Thursday." 

The suspicion of Canada was deeply held for decades prior to the accession, as this song indicates--"Come near at your peril, Canadian Wolf!" In fact, the referenda were driven in large measure by the reaction to the large influx of American servicemen who built bases in the Dominion during the Second World War. 

The influx resulted in thousands of marriages (and prosperity), along with a flowering movement for economic union with the United States. Alas, it was not to be, with Britain and Canada steering the country toward Our Neighbor To The North. The Canadian Wolf won and the province of Newfoundland was born on March 31, 1949. If nothing else, Red Wing fans can rejoice in the province's favorite hockey son, Dan Cleary, the first Newfoundlander to have his name on Lord Stanley's Cup.

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

My words sometimes taste like rawhide.

Senator Durbin's Muslim civil rights hearings began this week. As a deliberate partisan rejoinder to Rep. Peter King's almost equally pointless Islamic radicalization hearings of a few weeks back, I decided to avoid following them. However, I learned there was going to be some Catholic input in them, in the person of the emeritus Cardinal Archbishop of Washington Theodore McCarrick.

He's not one of my favorites, being a man who seems to think his function as shepherd is to sound vaguely pastoral, responding with soporific vagueries in the face of controversy. As I said at another board, I was expecting "the episcopal Derek Smalls" to deliver his usual "unmemorable soothing pap."

Oops. Big oops. It was actually very, very good stuff. [The link to the full presentation is at the bottom.]

This is a particularly clear-eyed section:

At the same time, we recognize that not every charge of wrong-doing against people or groups within a religious community amounts to religious discrimination, bias or bigotry. Religious beliefs are no excuse for threatening others with or carrying out acts of violence. At this particular moment in our nation’s history, we face a real threat to our national security from terrorism that has its origins in a particular form of extremist ideology that holds itself out as authentic Islam. These pervasive threats endanger all people both in this country and abroad. We cannot pretend that these threats do not exist. Our government has a duty to understand the threat and confront it effectively in order to keep our citizens safe and to promote and defend the common good of all.

He pointedly raised the mistreatment of Christians in Muslim-majority lands, noting recent atrocities, and stated that not all criticism of Muslim behavior could be fairly described as bigotry. At the same time, he delivered a sotto voce message to Catholics, indicating that we risk sawing off our own branch with indiscriminate criticism of Muslims, reminding us of our own historical experience in America. Given the growing contempt for the Catholic voice in the public square on multiple issues, it's worth heeding.

My apologies, Archbishop--this was genuinely good and useful stuff. And much starchier than expected. Bravo!

It's not financial Doomageddon.

But it's a bit of a personal eye-opener. The price of milk increased $0.13 per gallon over the past week. We buy our milk at Costco, and in bulk to save us multiple stops during the week. Two Saturdays ago, skim and whole milk cost $1.95 a gallon. Last night, it was $2.08.

No, it's not much and our demand is pretty inelastic. But Costco tries to hold off until the last minute on passing increases to the customer, so it's something of a trailing indicator.

Moreover, little increases across the board on staple items start to pinch income, slowly but surely, even if it's not officially considered "inflation" by the government.

That might explain why the Fed has experienced some static of late.

And it might explain why you get less bang for the buck in food purchases even when the price hasn't increased.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Prayers would be welcome.

I haven't been feeling well (moments of vertigo) over the past four days, and I'm trying to bear up under a financial burden I'm wrestling with. They may very well be related, actually.


The most delusionally funny thing you will read all year.

That would be Michael Sean Winters' encomium to the wise leadership of President Obama on Libya.

It is a jaw-dropping exercise in virtuoso spin from start to finish, including "a"s and "the"s. For my money, this is the heart of the defense brief:

Barack Obama is a careful man, with a careful mind. He really is, in terms of personality, the opposite of George W. Bush who was all for acting from his gut. Obama’s gut is kept firmly in check by his intellect. I don’t know about anyone else, but while such careful, deliberative qualities may not guarantee successful outcomes or even correct decisions, I sleep better at night knowing we have a President who considers the downside of a decision before he makes it and who, unlike any President I can think of, has a profound appreciation for the limits of force.

My. God. I am not taking the name of the Lord in vain--far from it. I am invoking divine assistance against whatever it is that possessed him to write that.

This is what happens when you fetishize politics, investing it with quasi-religious significance, right down to demons and saviors. Put simply, this is your brain on the twin drugs of Bush hatred and Obamalotry--it's the crispy, shriveled smoking something with the "Distinctly Catholic" byline in the Reporter.

The Iraq War was many things, starting with inept and the wrong war in the wrong place at the wrong time, beset with horrific tactical and political decisions that took years to remedy and are still likely to bear poisonous fruit for decades. But it did not lack for careful, lengthy debate, spanning months, both in the halls of Congress and before the court of international opinion. As it turned out, all of that was for naught and we are bogged down in the Fertile Cresent trying to instill democratic values amongst a people more interested in ethnic cleansing of inconvenient minorities, but there you go. If nothing else, it illustrates the dangers of committing yourself to war even when you make some effort to think it through.

As opposed to, say, our brand spanking new war in Libya, which went from demonstrations to bombing in four weeks.

The sum total of such deliberative efforts was this: the President obtained a UN resolution which doesn't authorize what he's doing and finally got around to explain himself eleven days after the bombs started falling. If this is careful deliberation, I'd hate to see him when he does something ill-considered and hasty.

Oh, and the speech was a pack of the usual butt-covering BS. But don't take my word for it, check out the analysis by the Associated Press.

A good soldier, Winters tries to excuse the delayed explanation with this:

Many critics, including myself, felt the President should have given this speech before military assets were deployed. I still do, although we now know why he didn’t: There were unresolved issues that had not yet been decided. For example, on Sunday, Secretary of Defense Robert Gates said that the United States had not yet decided whether or not to aid the rebels. Last night, President Obama pledged such aid.

That would be the same Robert Gates who admitted there is no vital interest at stake in Libya, correct? And it was all about determining whether we'd be aiding the rebels? Really? Er, maybe not, given the Al Qaeda element in the rebellion. More of that careful, Niebuhrian discipleship in action, no doubt.

Winters--and Juan Cole, who is really, really sure this is different from Bush because...because shut up, that's why--would do himself no end of good if he simply acknowledged that he trusted Obama more than Bush. Full stop. It would be a partisan exercise, but a forthright one.

In addition to being honest, you don't have to engage in humiliatingly stupid and silly exercises in special pleading. And you wouldn't have to finish the exercise with a howler like this:

He was wrong to wait so long to share them with the rest of us, but the rest of us can take comfort, great comfort, that we have in the White House a man who will not be rushed into war.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Holy smokes--it's been more than three months.


Er, I can explain. A lot of things happened/are happening, and some of them are even good.

In the meantime, apologies--and yes, book reviews are inbound this week. It's a nice distraction.

The GOP Garbage Squad.

Nine awful human beings whose views are unworthy of the slightest respect. Especially after caterwauling about spending money on Ukraine, no...