Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Personal Aside: I Told You About Brown—Remember?... The Cynical Obama Health Summit Ploy…Well, What Do We Do NOW?

Feast of St. Peter Damian*                                           
                               Scott Brown: Part Fish, Part Foul. 
                 Yesterday, Scott Brown joined the Senate majority to cut off debate on the Senate “jobs” bill.  I told you about Scott Brown—remember? I said don’t get too used to thinking he’s the conservative savior—that in the Massachusetts campaign he said he was going to be another John McCain. This doesn’t mean he’ll go Left on everything—but I said—and it’s obvious now—don’t count on him.   
                              Obama’s Health Summit Ploy. 
                  Obama has unveiled a health bill that is close to the Senate version…minus public option but which substitutes federal regulation of the insurance industry.  It adds a tax on “unearned income,” capital gains at precisely the time when this serves as a severe dampening agent on business investment. The bill is so expensive…adding an estimated $200 billion to the original Senate version which already cost $850 billion…that the Congressional Budget Office has refused to “score” it, saying there are not sufficient numbers to do so.  Basically some experts say it amounts to a $2 trillion expenditure.   
                 Add to this the fact that Obama has still refused to add tort reform, has neglected to do anything about the devastating amount that trial lawyers add to health bills—the Massachusetts Medical Society maintaining that fully one third of hospital bills are caused by unneeded tests conducted as a defensive measure by predatory shark trial lawyers.  Even Howard Dean has said that the Democratic party is so indebted to the trial bar that it cannot move on tort reform.   Plus the fact that “Reconciliation”…the device used on appropriations bills that obviates filibusters…will be applied in all likelihood to the health bill. 
                  The outlook is that with “Reconciliation” this monstrosity will pass the Senate with a bare 51 votes—although don’t be too sure. What is foreordained is that it willcertainly not pass the House in its present form.  
                  The unmitigated arrogance of Barack Obama and the Democratic congressional majority is unmatched.  With all indices of public opinion showing that the American people are unalterably opposed to ObamaCare, they are going to hold the public’s nose and force-feed the castor oil to America anyhow.  This presages a disaster of massive proportions for the Democratic party and Obama personally—which could well lead to Republican takeover of the House and perhaps the Senate. There is no hope that Obama has learned anything thus far in his first year in the presidency. This is more than just being an unregenerate Man of the Left: but a man of beclouded simplicity and ignorance…a classic case of ineptitude matching and maybe exceeding that of Andrew Johnson the 17th president.                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
                                            Total Recount.
                  It would cost a lot…maybe $1 million if he loses…but I hope that backers of  Kirk Dillard will go for a total recount with the election so close—and I’ll contribute it to it (no, not a million or anywhere near it!: what d’you think I am a zillionaire?). From the outset, I thought there was something very odd when Jim Ryan, from DuPage along with Dillard, jumped into the race with the super-heavy baggage he has and didn’t make much of an energetic move to campaign other than to show up at candidate cattle shows and on TV debates.   
                  It was clear that from the outset, the Dems didn’t want to run against Dillard because he has the expertise of the governor’s job.  The entry of Ryan split DuPage and coupled with the already heavy negative advertising of McKenna (coupled with his frequency of not showing up for debates) produced a triple whammy.  The Democrats profited from Ryan’s entry.   
                   The last few years of Ryan’s service as AG showed him moving to the left on a number of issue (not pro-life)…on guns and gay-rights.  Prior to his surprise entry into the race late last year he was a prominent board member of Ralph Martire’s Center for Tax and Budget Accountability which has been shamelessly lobbying for an income tax hike. Ryan’s entry complicated the Republican side hugely. Whoever planned it is unknown but it was a Hail Mary pass which worked…producing as likely GOP nominee a downstate senator not known for heavy lifting intellectually and who was passed up often for leadership responsibilities.  
                Using another analogy, the Republican gubernatorial primary of 2010 was the equivalent of a 3-cushion pool table shot. Voters were alienated by the barrage of heavy negative arrows shot at (1) Dillard and (2) Ryan and by their bottomless-funded source (3) McKenna. A number of voters wrote all three off…Dillard for purportedly favoring a tax hike, Ryan for purportedly favoring a tax hike and McKenna for being the source of the negative commercial barrage. That left Brady…never a good fund-raiser… who had little money to spend on commercials at all—so the destruction of all three allowed Brady to edge both—which might well produce something very like the famous  denouement of the 1972 film The Candidate where Bill McKay, played by Robert Redford, turns to his driver after he wins the election and asks plaintively, “Well, what do we do NOW?” 
             After Senate President John Cullerton yesterday demanded that Brady show a program for balancing the budget, the ball is truly in Brady’s court.  Brady has never been known for heavy grasp of governmental details.  Gulp: Well, what do we do NOW?  

*St. Peter Damian [1001-72].  He was another John the Baptist…someone who was born to rail against licentiousness and laxity in the Church (although unlike the Baptizer he didn’t lose his head). Born at Ravenna, Italy he was orphaned at an early age and was left in the charge of a brother who treated him as a slave, didn’t educate him and put him to work tending swine. Fortunately another brother, a priest of Ravenna, rescued him and took him to his parsonage to live. So grateful was the young lad that he took the priest-brother’s name as his own surname—Peter Damian. The priest-brother, sensing the lad had a great mind, educated him, sending him to school first at Faenza and later at Parma.  Peter took well to studies and became in time a professor of great intellect. 
        More than that, Peter took to fasting and prayer as with The /Baptizer and joined a strict congregation of Benedictines who lived in a hermitage, each with a separate cell who engaged in austerity, prayer and contemplation. His incessant readings and contemplation brought on bouts of great insomnia and he counseled himself to greater discretion, allowing himself some time to sleep. By unanimous consent of the monks, he was elected Abbot and governed with great wisdom and piety. Under his leadership great contemplative saints were fashioned in the monastery including Dominic Loricatus and John of Lodi.  Then the news of Peter’s sanctity and wisdom reached Rome and he was employed in the service of several popes—including Stephen IX who prevailed on Peter to become cardinal-bishop of Ostia.  Peter was a great bishop but continually lobbied the pope to allow him to return to his abbey.  Stephen IX refused but his successor, Alexander II reluctantly agreed but made Peter promise to accept assignments for the papacy if called upon. 
       To some, Peter Damian was not just austere but a fanatic—criticizing the bishop of Florence for playing chess, leading the prelate to acknowledge his fascination with the game by washing the feet of twelve poor men and reciting the psalter three times.  Peter fought simony, the practice then current of paying for high ecclesiastical office, insisting on clerical celibacy (which sometimes then was observed more by lip-service than actual practice). It was said of Peter Damian that “his genius was to exhort and impel men to perform the heroic, to encourage striking achievements and spur edifying examples…[A]n extraordinary moral force burns in all that he wrote.”  
      Time and again the Vatican used him as a disciplinarian in touchy political situations—such as the case of Henry IV, the young king of Germany who married Bertha, daughter of Otto, Marquis of the Marches of Italy and who desired a divorce under the pretense their marriage was not consummated.  The weakling Bishop of Mainz summoned a council with the understanding that it would make a pretense of listening to the evidence but in reality  agree to the divorce—but Peter Damian, the pope’s man, stood in the way. 
       Peter, then an aged man,  was chosen by Pope Alexander to preside over the phony “council.”  He was having nothing to do with the arrangement but convinced Henry IV to forego the divorce. No sooner did Peter return to his austerities at Fonte Aveliana when the Pope summoned him again—this time when he was in failing health—to discipline the luxury loving archbishop of Ravenna who, it appeared, sanctioned enormous frivolities and carnal occurrences. Arriving at the bishop’s house, Peter found the bishop had just died but he condemned his auxiliaries and priests and sanctioned them to lives of penance they never forgot.  On the way to Rome to report to the Pope, Peter was seized with a great fever and died in the monastery outside Faenza while monks were gathered around his bed reciting Matins on February 22, 1072.  His teachings and writings were voluminous and he was declared a Doctor of the Church in 1828.

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