31 March 2013

The Easter Message for Obama’s Ears

President Obama and his family walked across Lafayette Square to attend Easter Sunday service at St. John’s Episcopal Church in Washington, DC.

The presider was the Reverend Luis Leon, who also gave the closing benediction at President Obama’s second inauguration. 

Mr. Obama & Rev. Luis Leon at DC's's St. John's Episcopal Church 

Unlike at the ceremony on the Mall, where Leon’s stated goal was to bring people together, Leon chose to preach politically partisan on the holiest day of the Christian calendar.  Leon preached from the pulpit:

The captains of the religious right are always calling us back, back back. For blacks to be back in the back of the bus, for women to be back in the kitchen, for gays to be in the closet and for immigrants  to be on their side of the border...What you and I understand is that when Jesus says you can’t hang onto me, he says you know it’s not about the past, it’s not about the before, it’s not about the way things were but about the way things can be in the now.

Really? Please cite some contemporary examples of captains of the religious right calling blacks to be at the back of the bus. Leon did not do so during his Easter sermon.

As Luis Leon was not able to flee Cuba until 1961 when he was 12 years old, maybe he had already been indoctrinated in the Church of the Poisoned Mind.  But it was Republicans who were intrinsic to passage of the 1964 Civil Rights Act, which the illustrious intellectual Senator J. William Fulbright (D-AR) filibustered for 57 days along with former KKK grand kleagle Senator Robert Byrd (D-WV) and Vice President Albert Gore Jr.’s father Senator Albert Gore, Sr. (D-TN) also opposed.  

In fact, Republican President Eisenhower proposed a substantial Civil Rights Bill in 1957, but the reality was that the voting rights bill  it was opposed by then Senate Majority Leader (and future President) Lyndon Baines Johnson (D-TX) and then Senator (and future President) John F. Kennedy (D-MA). After the longest filibuster in Senate history of 24 hours and 18 minutes  by then Democrat (future Republican) Senator Strom Thurmond (D-SC), the bill which passed was so watered down to effectively kill it.  In comparison, Senator Rand Paul's (R-KY) recent blockbuster filibuster only lasted just over 13 hours. 

Oh, but the clerical bully pulpit alluded to the “religious right”.  OK, since Rev. Leon is playing the prophet, then it should be easy to name the wrong-doers.

C.L. Bryant made a documentary Runaway Slave (2012) in which he urges blacks to run away from manipulation by governmental, clerical and media sources that shackle them as victims on the political plantation.

The Right Reverend Leon’s unspecific indictment of the “enemy” during  the Feast of the Resurrection would probably be considered as leading people astray and perhaps even prostituting an entire people for the sake of power by the Runaway Slave documentarians.

It would be nice if the story was simply a photo op of a lovely First Family dressed in their Easter best clothes.  Or a cynic could chuckle that Mr. Obama walked the one block to church instead of taking a 20 car motorcade six  blocks to the Jefferson Hotel for a dinner party with Senators Lindsey Graham (R-SC) and John McCain (R-AZ) et ali. as he did a few weeks ago.

But President Obama has a tumultuous history with his professed Christian faith.  Obama attended Trinity United Church of Christ on the South Side of Chicago, but pretended that he never heard (or perhaps paid attention to) the provocative and divisive  black liberation theology spouted by the now emeritus pastor Reverend Jeremiah Wright.  

During the 2008 transition, Mr. Obama made a big deal about church shopping in the District of Calamity.  Even though the President took the holy Eucharist at St. John’s Episcopal, he has not made any choice for a local church after four and a half years. Then again, unauthorized Obama biographer Edward Klein quoted Reverend Wright in "The Amateur" (2012) that church was not their [the Obamas'] thing"  but that the Trinity United pastor acknowledged that church was an integral part of politics because Mr. Obama "needed that base.".

So Mr. Obama chose Reverend Leon for both the Easter Service as well as the Inauguration.  That is telling.  Leon was the backup benediction giver after Mr. Obama's initial choice of Reverend Louie Giglio was forced to withdraw after it came to light that in the mid-1990s Giglio advocated ex-gay therapy and cautioned against acceptance of the homosexual lifestyle.   

Reverend Leon represents President Obama's new public orientation, as Obama   came out in favor of same sex marriages only last May. Leon's uniting rhetoric in the inaugural benediction suggested that: 

"With the blessing of your blessing we will see that we are created in your image, whether brown, black or white, male or female, first generation or immigrant American, or daughter of the American Revolution, gay or straight, rich or poor." 

 With blessings like that, no wonder the second inauguration public ceremonies were panned as being the most divisive in our nation's history.  But to be fair to Leon, the Episcopal Church has been blessing same-sex civil unions since 2006 and now Washington National Cathedral will be performing same-sex marriages, which are legal in the District of Columbia. Therefore Episcopalians no longer connect scriptural prohibitions against sodomy and same sex relations as sinful. This might explain why many bible believing Anglo-Catholic churches are swimming the Tiber and joining the Catholic Church's Anglican Ordinariate, like St. Luke's in Bladensburg, MD or aligning with traditional Anglican bishops in Africa, like The Falls Church Anglican in Virginia.

So when President Obama is not on vacation or flying to Florida to have  Sunday golf matches with Tiger Woods and he chooses to hear a controversial, confrontational Easter Sunday sermon, it is significant.

The Easter message can be understood with its  parallel to the Jewish Passover. The children of Israel were freed from their slavery in Egypt by Yahweh’s power and they were put on the path to the Promised Land.  Jesus Christ’s sacrificial death on the Cross conquered the ultimate wages of spiritual slavery to sin–death.  

It might be worth considering if Rev. Leon’s sermon  was truly uplifting or perpetuating continued political bonds dressed up in Easter finery or spurious scriptural sanction.  The answer may be found in Runaway Slave.   Alas, the message might not be a revelation as much as a lamentation.

27 March 2013

Tenebrae Time with the Suspicious Cheese Lords

Mount St. Sepulchre in Washington, DC is a Franciscan Monastery of the Holy Land in America. The Church itself neo-Byzantine design by Roman architect Aristide Leonari in 1899.  The church looks akin to  St. Sophia (Hagia  Sophia) in Constantinople (Istanbul).

The interior of the church resembles a five fold Crusader Cross of Jerusalem. The large bronze baldachin is is supported by columns which depicts the twelve Apostles. The interior is decorated with the Ave Maria and scenes from the life of Mary.

The Friary is the home of Franciscan Commissariat in the nation's capital, and they continue their 800 year tradition of supporting the Holy Land. Part of the charism of the Commissariat seems to be a special celebration of Passiontide.

The Tenebrae service which is celebrated on Spy Wednesday is is resplendent in faith and history, as is incorporates a cappella medieval pieces sung by the Suspicious Cheese Lords (Suscipe Domine Queso).

While they are a consummate choir, the Suspicious Cheese Lords need to practice their polyphonic songs in situ at the Franciscan Monastery.

The Suspicious Cheese Lords in rehearsal for the Tenebrae Service.

Even though the Suspicious Cheese Lords ordinarily sing early music works, one year they chose to perform Arvo Part's De Profundis (1980).

Lighting the Candelabra for the Tenebrae Service.

Extinguishing the candles during the Tenebrae Service.

 The closing of the Tenebrae service is marked by a retreat of the single candle into the crypt.  As the vault to the catacombs is slammed, it sets off an unnerving Strepitus, meant to symbolize the earth convulsing at the death of the the Messiah, Jesus the Christ.

25 March 2013

Arlington County Super Stop Super Costly

The first of a string of 24 Super Stops for Arlington (VA) opened on March 11th at the intersection of Columbia Pike at Walter Reed Drive.  Construction on this bus shelter began in September 2011 and only recently was completed.

Construction took 18 months longer than anticipated because of lengthy environmental impact statements. 

This shelter  is supposed to have room for ten to 15 commuters in a lit and heated shelter that  provides real time electronic and printed schedules as well as future ticketing for the estimated 16,000 commuters a day.   This first Super Station is thought to be perfectly positioned to promote ethnic restaurants as well as a fledgling night life.  

This little construction project only cost a cool $1 Million..  In fact, upon hearing the cost for the Super Station, one incensed citizen exclaimed “What? That’s ridiculous. From a citizen, from a voter, whoever put that budget through needs to get their butt canned. It’s an outrage.”

This new super costly Super station  does not even provide full protection against the elements.  Arlington County Board Member Libby Garvey (D) observed that:

[The bus shelter is] pretty, but I was struck by the fact that if it’s pouring rain, I’m going to get wet, and if it’s cold, the wind is going to be blowing on me. It doesn’t seem to be a shelter. It doesn’t really shelter you very much . . . you can get pretty soaked in two minutes. 

Anticipating the public protest over the cost of the prototype Super Station, Arlington County officials proclaimed that the bus stop was an investment in the future.  The Walter Reed stop is located near where developers hope to erect new higher density housing units. Many of the stops are slated to also accommodate a proposed $250 million streetcar system on Columbia Pike between Fairfax County and the Pentagon. 

The cost breakdown for the prototype Walter Reed Super Station was $575,000 in construction costs and $440,000 for construction management and special inspections.  Hereafter, Arlington County is taking over construction and it is hoped that construction time will be drastically reduced.

Arlington County Environment Services spokeswoman Whalen McDonald insisted that: “The costs will be greatly reduced with future stops moving forward, as the construction costs for this prototype included a number of first time design and set-up costs.”  Arlington County has budgeted $20.8 Million to do the remaining 23 stations for an estimated $904,000 a Super Stop.  While a 10% projected savings is a good start, it still seems like costly white elephant. 

 Arlington County taxpayers only paid $200,000 of the costs, with the rest of the money coming from the Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT) and Federal government funding.   The nascent Columbia Pike street car project is dependent on obtaining 30% of the costs from the largess of American taxpayers. 

Perhaps progressive thinking Arlington County planners were following Portland’s vanguard example of creating “A city that works” through extensive transit networks.  Alas, Portland is struggling under the financial burden of running and maintaining these top rate transit options, yet they had no higher ridership than in Los Angeles (even with free rides in the downtown core).  Aside from the glistening steel of Super Stops, municipalities will have to contend with powerful public union contracts that in Portland allow a transit worker to retire at age 55 with ten years on the job with full medical benefits, no deductible, no employee contribution and co-pays of just $5.  

Virginia Governor Bob McDonnell (R-VA) has been hesitant to sign the road funding bill because of taxes and equity issues.  The pending roads legislation would replace the current gas tax with a wholesale gas tax while raising the sales tax, the hotel tax and purchases of new automobiles.  Aside from raising the tax burden, there are concerns that some jurisdictions get a free ride or more projects.  This consternation could result in the future reallocation of resources, sticking localities with the bill.  

One of the major reasons that some states rejected the free money from President Obama’s stimulus earmarked for High Speed Rail was the provision that if ridership did not reach desired goals, the jurisdictions would have to repay Uncle Sam for the free money. 

While government officials should be commended for forward thinking, they must be certain that their thinking outside of the box will be embraced by their constituents, that the project is not pork barrel crony capitalism and that the future funding for running and maintaining these services do not break the backs of their taxpayers.  The Portland Oregon paradigm of cozy construction contracts, inflated operating expenses from gilded municipal union contracts and  uncertain external funding should offer cause for pause. 

h/t: Arlington Now
      Washington Post

21 March 2013

Budgeting Time for Barack-etology

As March Madness begins in earnest today, President Obama took the time before his quick Spring Break trip to the Middle-East to fill out his NCAA March Madness Brackets.  

The Celebrity-in-Chief then taped an ESPN segment to explain his choices--

While the POTUS picks have been one in four during his tenure in the Oval, it calls for an even basic question--why is he wasting time on inconsequential items when he has a nation that he should be governing?

As sequestration comes into full effect, and the Obama Administration cancelled school tours of the White House and threatens the Easter Egg Roll (while still having costly golf outings with Tiger Woods and a St. Paddy's Day party), he vexes over college hoops.   As Senators John McCain (R-AZ) and Lindsey Graham (R-SC) call for US boots on the ground in Syria, additional missile interceptors are deployed on the West Coast for a North Korean nuclear ICBM threat and Iran is close to having nuclear weapons, our re-elected leader plays with Barack-etology? 

The law requires that the Executive Branch submits its Federal Budget by February 4th.  As it stands,  the Obama Administration won't have it done by April Fools Day. 

If it's any consolation,  Barack Budgets have gotten zero votes in  Congress. So it seems that he does better at his Bracketology than budgeting anyways. 

Perhaps we could profit from the POTUS picks and make up the sequestration shortfall.  But considering that he chose safe picks: Ohio State, Florida, Louisville and Indiana, it won't have much of a payout.  Unlike if someone chose in Paddy Pool chose Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio in the Conclave Championship --The Sweet Sistine. The man who became Pope Francis paid off at 33-1. 

We do not need  bread and circuses.  We need leadership from Washington.  A couple of weeks ago, President Obama went through the motions of a Capitol Hill charm offensive.  Then he cracks wise against Congress when setting foot on foreign soil. It make one wonder if he is serious about the responsibilities as the Leader of the Free World, or if he just seriously enjoys the spotlight and the trappings of the Oval Office.  

19 March 2013

Ted Cruz's Boots Are Made for Walking

While he was not as animated as Pat Caddell's caustic comments, freshman Senator Ted Cruz (R-TX) makes the causal connection between EPA intransigence and economic stagnation at CPAC 2013.  But the Keynote speaking Senator  had some ideas of how to profit from the issue.

Pat Caddell’s Prophetic Philippic Against the Political Class

One of the most striking speeches at CPAC 2013 were Pat Caddell’s remarks on the “Should We Shoot All the Consultants Now?” panel.  Caddell indignantly observed:

When you have the Chief of Staff of the Republican National Committee and the political director of the Romney campaign, and their two companies get $152 million at the end of the campaign for the “fantastic” get-out-the-vote program… some of this borders on RICO violations. 
Rush Limbaugh was so impacted by Caddell’s caustic comments that he spent nearly twenty minutes of airtime reading the excepts, because El Rushbo could not get his hands on any audio.  

Serendipitously, Politichicks TV Michelle Moons caught Caddell’s emphatic indictments against Mitt Romney and his reliance on self-centered political consultants on video.  Unfortunately, it was shot at an unfortunate angle and has spotty audio quality.   Still, the damning appraisal deserves to be heard by anyone interested in public policy and good governance, so listen again with earphones in necessary.

With this in mind, this animation attempts to put a better face to Caddell’s prophetic condemnation of the Cocktail Party’s Political Class.   Since Caddell often would make asides during his remarks, the audio was slightly edited to keep focused the corrosive effect of crony capitalism among the GOP establishment.

h/t: Breitbart
h/t: Politichicks

17 March 2013

Vying for the "Right" Leadership

The so-called Architect of former President George W. Bush’s electoral victories Karl Rove has come under intense scrutiny recently among conservatives for his failures in consulting in the 2012 cycle as well as his Cocktail Party proclivities.  During CPAC 2013 former Alaska Governor Sarah Palin challenged such behind the scenes insiders to “Buck up or stay in the truck”.

Rove responded on Fox News Sunday noting that he would not be a good candidate because he is bald.  Moreover, Karl quipped:  "If I did run for office and win, I would serve out my term and I wouldn't leave office midterm." 

 Clearly, “W’s Architect” for success was taking a pot shot at former Governor Sarah Palin (R-AK), who resigned with 16 months left in her term.  Of course, this cutting remark fails to consider the fifteen frivolous ethics complaints which cost Alaska $2.5 million to investigate and personally cost the Palins $500,000 to defend against without resulting in  any convictions.  So it depends Karl, and you should not wrap your own sullied interests around either the American flag or a good GOP cloth coat.

Although there seems to have been little love lost between Karl Rove and the maverick Grizzly Momma since Sarah Palin was selected as Senator John McCain’s (R-AZ) Vice Presidential nominee, this fight is really not about personalities.   Palin is the lightning rod for Tea Party types and personifies the fight between insiders and outsiders of the GOP and conservative movement.  Passionate partisans think that Karl Rove has declared war against conservatives and Tea Partiers so that Crossroads GPS can select more “electable” GOP candidates. Rove and other insiders postulate that general elections are not decided by the margins but by the middle, so Republican candidates must modify their message and select candidates that will appeal to independents.  

The problem is that the wise guys pre-programmed plan did not pan out in the 2012 election. The Romney Presidential campaign took great solace at election eve that they were winning Independents by a crushing 59-35% in battleground states.  Yet former Governor Mitt Romney (R-MA) lost the election despite his overwhelming popularity with Independents.  

Although President Obama garnered significantly fewer votes in his re-election campaign, analysis shows that Republican had four million fewer votes than anticipated, which indicates that a number of the disaffected base did not vote.  Some have speculated Romney flip flops on Obamacare or even his evolution about abortion cost him among conservatives.  But there is also anecdotal evidence that the conservative base and Tea Party types wanted their candidates to stand for something and fight.  But Rove’s plans strike them as Progressive-lite and have no fight.

Aside from the electability canard, there is also the dirty little secret about campaign insiders–they personally profit, win or lose,  when they can pick the candidates.  Pat Caddell, a disaffected Democrat who was a Jimmy Carter wunderkind pollster, played the prophet of good governance at CPAC 2013.  When speaking on the “Should We Shoot All the Consultants Now?” panel, Caddell proclaimed that: “The Republican Party is in the grips of what I call the CLEC — the consultant, lobbyist, and establishment complex.”   The GOP gadfly illustrated his point by noting:

When you have the Chief of Staff of the Republican National Committee and the political director of the Romney campaign, and their two companies get $150 million at the end of the campaign for the “fantastic” get-out-the-vote program… some of this borders on RICO violations. 

Rush Limbaugh amplified Caddell’s assessment by recognizing that consultants decide the media budgets for campaigns and usually choose the vendor.  So when the Romney campaign elects to spend $100 million a media buy, the consultants automatically get 15% of that expenditure, win or lose. 

After McCain-Feingold Campaign finance reform took effect, Political Action Committees (PACs) became extremely important.  In the wake of the landmark Supreme Court decision Citizens United v. Federal Election Commissions (2010) which lifted “soft money” expenditures (by unions, corporations and interest groups) but not all of McCain-Feingold so independent Super PACs are still quite important.  The Conservative Victory Project, an off-shoot of Karl Rove’s Crossroads GPS, made headlines for “declaring war on the Tea Party, although Rove’s approach is allegedly not about moderation but about winning.  Yet a consummate insider like Rove can decide who is electible, despite the dearth of victory in 2010 along  the proclivity for favoring insiders rather than outsiders like Tea Party types and those passionate about protecting liberty.

Contrast the passion which reverberates amongst the Conservative base and dedicated Liberatians by Senator Rand Paul’s (R-KY) blockbuster filibuster over constitutional concerns.  The energy generated from Rand’s stand drew the spotlight away from insiders like Senators John McCain (R-AZ) and Lindsey Graham (R-SC) who wanted to moderate things  facilitating a fancy dinner party with President Barack Obama and cook up a “Grand Bargain”.  Such a Grand Bargain inevitably would require the GOP to basically cave in on its principles and raises taxes (again) to appear to “solve” the budget mess.  Insiders would love this because it burnishes the deal making reputation of the Cocktail Party to “do something” and be bipartisan, but damn their prior principles and damn the voters. Of course insiders could choreograph the deal to benefit their interests (and line their pockets).

It is unclear if outsiders like the Tea Party, true conservatives and liberatian minded Republicans will reform the Party or if it will remain entrenched to the comfy seclusion of the Cocktail Party. But Senator Ted Cruz (R-TX) the freshman who defied the odds and insiders to win his 2012 primary runoff and the general election, embraces the outsiders mantle as seen at CPAC.

To echo a now contrite maverick Senator John McCain's characterization of passionate partisans–will it be the “Wacko Birds” winning or will the Grand Old Party go the Whig way of being the RINO reserve for the Dodo Birds. 

h/t Excellence in Broadcasting 

15 March 2013

Obama's Sui Generis Charm Tour Does Less Than Impress

This week, the Obama White House engaged in a concerted charm offensive on Capitol Hill, seeking to thaw relations with legislators who are giving him a cold shoulder and not passing the Obama Administration’s second term agenda, whatever that is exactly.  Mr. Obama expected his four meetings over three days to lay the foundation for some sort of Grand Bargain.  

The Grand Bargain language seemed to have been the buzz following the fancy dinner at the Jefferson Hotel which Senator John McCain (R-AZ)  and Senator Lindsey Graham (R-SC) facilitated last week but was overshadowed by Senator Rand Paul’s (R-KY) blockbuster filibuster. 

While Mr. Obama was warmly received by both Republicans and Democrats, including a standing ovation from the Grand Old Party, there does not appear to be headway in reaching consensus on legislation.  If one wonders why Mr. Obama’s outreach efforts were not successful, it would be wise to consider three countervailing currents coming from President Obama.

During the hour long meeting with Republicans,  Mr. Obama spoke about compromise on fiscal issues.  But once again, Mr. Obama’s charming redefinition of compromise puts the onus of giving ground only on those who disagree with the President’s positions.  And on fiscal issues, the sine qua non seems to be Republicans raising taxes (again).

Democrats were not spared President Obama’s particular charm.  President Obama met with Capitol Hill Democrats.  At that closed door meeting, Freshman Congressman Dan Kildee (D-MI 5th), the legacy of 17 term Congressman Dale Kildee (who was coincidentally representing MI 5th), asked a long winded question regarding economic development for his depressed Flint district.

 Mr. Obama did not appreciate Kildee representing his district’s interests.  So President Obama chose to sarcastically respond: “I can tell you’re a freshman because you didn’t pay much attention to the State of the Union,” Obama joked. “I talked about that.”  Charming.

If truth mattered, the joke would be on Obama, as Kildee had just been briefed by White House legislative affairs  staffers about the innovation centers which the President spoke of during the State of the Union. Of course, the State of the Union speech alluded to 15 innovation centers but gave no details aside from the $1 billion price tag to American taxpayers ( or more likely adding to the nearly $17 Trillion deficit).  

Mr. Obama’s glib rebuff of Kildee is reminiscent of an old adage–with “friends” like that, who needs enemies?

A third example of President Obama’s sui generis charm working against his best interests involves White House tours. President Obama chose to implement the sequester to maximize pain through all of the Executive Branch agencies.  What really incensed the public was the cancellation of school tours of the White House supposedly due to Sequestration cuts in the rate of Federal budgetary growth.  

After a bunch of bad press, the Obama Administration looked for ways to relent.  But as he retreated from his scorched earth Sequestration strategy, a petulant President Obama blamed the Secret Service for disappointing student tourists.  Really?    Now that White House tours might be spared, the Lamestream Media is trumpeting the charge that Sequestration might cancel the Independence Day concert and fireworks on the National Mall. 

Pope Francis' impromptu visit to St. Mary Major
This week in the Vatican, the Papal Conclave elected Buenos Aires Archbishop Jorge Mario Cardinal Bergogio as Pope Francis.   Many observers wondered why the College of Cardinals chose a 76 year old pontiff.  But the simple charm of the humble Jesuit (not necessarily a contradiction in terms) as the Vicar of Christ endeared himself to the faithful.  Moreover, the fact that Pope Francis walks the talk by being modest, striving to build bridges yet being firm on bedrock principles is the affirmative orthodoxy which secular leaders should quickly adopt.

14 March 2013

Obama White House Dog Run?

White House photograph Pete Sueza  snapped a telling shot of President Barack Obama running through a corridor of the White House with First Dog Bo.

Representative Darrell Issa (R-CA  49th) took a great verbal snap with this snapshot by combining this picture with  the controversy of the Obama Administration's cancellation of White House tours supposedly due to Sequestration.    Issa's commentary was "We've finally got he place to ourselves..." along with the caption  "Our Capitol doors are always open".

On a related note, President Obama blamed the Secret Service on Wednesday for laying off personnel due to the sequester and he has hinted at the resumption of tours for student groups of the American People's House.  

It should be noted that this statement comes after what ABC News' George Stephanopolis characterized as "considerable heat" over the cancellations.  Several prominent people, including Fox News Channel anchor Eric Bolling along with real estate mogul and "The Apprentice" host Donald Trump had offered to write checks to continue the White House tours after the Sequester. 

It seems that the Obama Administration is shifting the heat, as there are current headlines that the sequestration's "shoestring" budgeting (which is just cutting the rate of increase of the federal budget) will cancel the Fourth of July concert and fireworks on the National Mall.  At least this aggressive austerity does not indiscriminately release incarcerated illegal aliens.   And no Independence Day celebration would allow the Ellipse to be a gigantic dog run. Or a nearby golf course on Federal land.

12 March 2013

Mark Steyn Pops Off About Punishing for Pop Tart Pistols

Last week, the progressive paranoia about guns combined with American public school zero tolerance policies for a bizarre result.  Joshua Welch, a seven year old boy from Ann Arundel County, Maryland nibbled  his Pop Tart into something that resembled a pistol and saying "Bang, bang".  For this grievous offense, Welch was suspended for creating a "classroom disruption" with an inappropriate gesture.

While substitute hosting Rush Limbaugh's radio program, Mark Steyn took aim at this confluence of nanny state insanity.

10 March 2013

The Papabili "Pontificate"

Even before the interregum began, Vatican watchers could not help but speculate who would become the sole Cardinal survivor who would become the Supreme Pontiff.

 Choosing  the next vicar is not decided by playing musical chairs in the Sistine Chapel or at a chatty Church “Tribal Council” but by prayerful discernment with the guidance of the Holy Spirit after interacting with their Cardinal colleagues.

Part of the reason for the General Congregations of the Cardinals in the Sede Vacante interregnum is so that fellow cardinals can informally acquaint themselves before going into the Conclave.

These  informal judgments about character and virtue gleaned from coffee breaks and schmoozing can inform Cardinal-electors to their choice . Consider that as they cast each vote, they must swear an oath to vote for the vest man to lead the church as they as they stand before Michelangelo’s Last Judgment in the Sistine Chapel.

Now that the start of the Conclave has been set for Tuesday March 12, we ought to  educate ourselves of potential pontiffs. While the faithful outside the College of Cardinals are neither  privy to a Papabili’s piety nor their force of personality amongst equals, we can get a glimpse of their persona through quotes attributed to these Princes of the Church.

In furtherance of this understanding, here are a passel of Papabili.  For those who appreciate hemaneutics, studying their heraldry along with their chosen mottoes might be revealing.

Note the San Marco lion and the ship on Archbishop Scola's crest--those are remnants from when the nine years when Scola was the Patriarch of Venice before he was transferred to the influential Ambrosian diocese of Milan.

Ravasi was appointed as Prefect of the Pontifical Council for Culture in 2007. Ravasi was also appointed for a five year term on the Congregation for Catholic Education, the Pontifical Council for Interreligous Dialogue and he was the first member of the Pontifical Council for the Promotion of the New Evangelization.

Pope Benedict XVI appointed Cardinal Turkson to the the President of the  Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace in 2009.

Ouette has been the prefect of the Congregation for Bishops (having the responsibility for "recruiting" and vetting bishops)  as well as also serving as the President of Pontifical Commission for Latin America.

Aside from his tony lineage and close connections with  Pope-emeritus Benedict XVI, Schoenborn was a key editor for the Catechism of the Catholic Church.

Scherer does has some experience with the Roman Curia, as he washe was an official of the Congregation for Bishops from 1994 to 2001.

Braz de Aviz was appointed by Pope Benedict XVI as the Prefect of the  Congregation for Institutes of Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life in 2011.

Tagle only received his scarlet zucchetto in November 2012.  But the 55 year old Tagle had been named for a five year term to serve on the Congregation for Catholic Education.  Moreover, Pope Benedict XVI named Tagle as one of the Synod fathers for the Synod of Bishops on the New Evangelization on September 18, 2012.

Cardinal O'Malley is a Capuchin who is renowned for his holiness.  O'Malley serves on the Pontifical Council for the Family which befits his longstanding commitment to pro-life issues as well as his association with March for Life founder Nellie Gray.

Dolan has  been a Cardinal for just over a year but he transferred from a seven year stint being Archbishop of Milwaukee to the Archbishop of New York in 2009.  Currently, Dolan is the President of the U.S. Council of Catholic Bishops.  Last year, Dolan was a leading voice in the Fortnight for Freedom project to educate Americans about the HHS Mandate and how it encroached on First Amendment liberties.

Prior to the Conclave's commencement, Cardinals have urged for prayer in their discerning.  To that end, Adoptacardinal.org  will designate a Cardinal-elector for you to pray for during this period.

09 March 2013

An Animated John McCain Dishes and Disses

Senator Rand Paul’s (R-KY) blockbuster filibuster of CIA Director John Brennan’s nomination sparked  considerable friction by his  fellow party member Senator John McCain (R-AZ) both on and off the Senate floor.  

To try to discern why the senior Senator from Arizona lashed out at the McCain Mutiny, it is instructive to delve into a recent friendly interview that McCain had with radio talk show host Michael Medved.  Medved was an early supporter of McCain’s Presidential race in the 2008 cycle and his center-right politics sync well  with the maverick Senator's stances.

A major aspect of  McCain’s P.R. campaign was to continue a hellfire drone attack against Senator Rand Paul’s attention-getting filibuster.  

To his credit, Senator McCain fought hard for military issues and worried about isolationist tendencies of libertarian oriented Senator Paul. 

What was revealing was Senator McCain’s evasive answer to Medved question about regretting the polarizing effect of the internecine intramural argument about the drone filibuster.  Instead of calling a truce or even diplomatically claiming that these were frank exchanges of impassioned opinions, McCain continues on the offense.  

Maverick” charged that the cuts from in the sequester, that were favored by Tea Party types, will “devastate our military.”  Of course, the leading force behind the “Gang of Fourteen” proved himself to be utterly ineffective to find smarter budget cuts that the Obama Administration and Congressional Democrats prior to the sequester. 

When McCain was questioned about his dinner with Barack Obama, the Senator dished that he hoped that they could reach a Grand Bargain with the Obama Administration.

It seems that he is banking on McCain/Graham facilitated dinner party with Obama to begin backroom bipartisan banter to ameliorate the sequester cuts.  So Rand Paul’s filibuster stole the spotlight from the bipartisan dinner show, it threatened the perception of McCain’s perception of Senatorial leadership and it alluded to  foreign policy priorities that McCain considers anathematic. 

Conversely, McCain played fast and loose with some aspects of the Constitution.  McCain suggests that the drone program is alright but that it should be put under military auspices.  Rand Paul’s filibuster was premised on evasive answers by Attorney General Holder about initiating a drone attack in America on Americans not engaged in imminent battle.  

The weapons which drones carry are Hellfire missiles, which indiscriminately damage upon impact, which could take out innocent bystanders.  So McCain is unconcerned about the lack of due process execution of a non-emergency, so long as it is run by the Pentagon which has more oversight.  OK, so Posse Comitatus may not be a constitutional tenant, but it has kept the military from doing police actions in 1878, unless we are in a state of martial law.

On an ancillary note, CIA Director took his oath of office in a closed door ceremony. But the Obama Administration reveled that Brennan was sworn in not on a Bible but the original U.S. Constitution (without the Bill of Rights).  Why that curiosity? 

 Maybe this can be a topic at the next Cocktail Party. Amuse bouche are often served with wine–considering the company, presumably it will be of French origin.  

Post Scriptus 03/15/2013  While it took a week, Senator McCain walked back his Wacko Bird remarks.  But a better question is will the conservative/libertarian base forgive "the clueless old man"?  

07 March 2013

Rand Paul's Blockbuster Filibuster

Yesterday, first term Senator Rand Paul (R-KY) took to the floor and spoke for nearly 13 hours in a filibuster of a cloture vote for CIA nominee John Brennan.  The talking filibuster was prompted by repeatedly evasive answers that Obama Administration Attorney General Eric Holder gave when testifying about the potential of drone attacks in the United States not engaged in battle without due process considerations. 

This was the first talking filibuster since Senator Bernie Sanders ("I"-VT) held the Senate floor for eight hours in protest of President Obama's proposed tax cut.   Senator Paul was not the only renegade Senator to participate in this filibuster.   Senator Mike Lee (R-UT), Senator Ted Cruz (R-TX), Senator Jerry Moran (R-KS), Senator Saxby Chambliss (R-GA), Senator Pat Toomey (R-PA), Senator Marco Rubio (R-FL) and even Senator Ron Wyden (D-OR) took turns participating in the filibuster by asking long winded, ambling "questions" which gave Paul a chance to rest his voice.  

A few other GOP old hands lent some help.  Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) and Senator John Thune (R-SD) added their voices late in the filibuster.  And Senator Mark Kirk (R-IL) gave Sen. Paul some symbolic sustenance by offering an apple and tea, which mirrored "Mr. Smith Goes to Washington" (1939). 

Senator Paul offered to quit his filibuster after seven hours if Senate Democrats would consent to a non-binding resolution which expressed opposition to killing American citizens on American soil not engaged in imminent combat without due process.  The Democrats demurred on the offer, proposing instead to study it in committee.  Senator Paul declined this modest proposal and spoke on. 

The interesting thing was the confluence of events while Senator Paul's filibuster was occurring.  President Obama took a twenty car motorcade for the four block trip to the Jefferson Hotel to dine with the likes of Senators John McCain (R-AZ) and Lindsey Graham (R-SC) supposedly on the President's own dime.     Mr. Obama's largess with GOP members of the Cocktail Party seems to have quickly paid dividends as Sen. McCain took to the Senate floor the next day to echo print criticisms against the filibuster.
“If Mr. Paul wants to be taken seriously, he needs to do more than pull political stunts that fire up impressionable libertarian kids in college dorms.”

Senator Graham mouthed the bipartisan critique wondering if Republicans would protest drones under President Bush.  It seems as if McCain and Graham had sour grapes as their bipartisan last supper with Obama was upstaged by the filibuster. 

The elite liberal media poo-pooed Senator Paul's filibuster, noting that the Senate CSPAN2 cameraman was reading a newspaper and only 30 people were present during a portion of the afternoon filibuster.  But social media, like Twitter and Facebook, buzzed about  #StandwithRand. The day after, talk radio trumpeted Senator Paul's audacity for straight shooting to speak up for the Constitution and hold the Obama Administration accountable. 

 CSPAN2 certainly does not subscribe to an Arbitron ratings book, it surely must have achieved blockbuster viewership than for a typical Wednesday evening in the Washington wonk cable channel. While it would be a stretch to think that Senator Paul droning on was buffo box office, the filibuster was a blockbuster for several reasons. 

This was the first instance in the 113th Congress when one legislator was able to stand up to the bully pulpit of the Obama White House and the loyal Lamestream Media stenography pool  by standing for Constitutional principles. 

Senator Paul did the hard thing, by initiating a talking filibuster rather than relying upon cloture votes and it drew significant attention outside of the District of Calamity.  The filibuster for civil liberties even garnered material support from civil liberty oriented liberal Senator Ron Wyden. 

Senator Paul taking a stand on the Senate floor drew enough negative attention upon the Obama Administration to shame Attorney General Holder into eventually issuing a clarification.  The DOJ statement admitted  that President Obama did not have the power to launch drone strikes against Americans in America who are not engaged in imminent violence.  Funny what a filibuster can force elected officials to do.

The filibuster energized the base for Republicans, while it exposed the complacent coziness that Cocktail Party politicos who trumpet bipartisanship yet sell out both party principles and Constitutional concerns. Both McCain and Graham are up for re-election in the 2014 cycle so they ought to expect fierce primary challenges.  But the way Cocktail Party weenies have mocked the so called Tea Party hobbits, we soon might refer to the GOP as the Whig Party as Tea Party types and libertarians leave for greener political pastures. 

And clearly Rand Paul's star is rising in the American political firmament.  Senator Paul had been raising his profile by giving the Tea Party Express response to President Obama's 2013 State of the Union speech. It seems that Senator Paul is angling to run for President in 2016.   But Paul is bringing a dynamic, principled and pragmatic libertarian politics to our national debate.