Monday, May 17, 2010

Our nation has learned many things from the Greeks. And it is about to learn more. Sadly.

   Feast of St. Paschal Baylon*  
          From the ancients,  Socrates, Plato and Aristotle came these notions: there exists a transcendent moral order…it is smart to support the principle of social continuity i.e. continue with the devil you know rather than the devil you don’t…it is good to live by prudence which Plato saw as the chief among virtues…and finally to always keep in mind the principle of imperfectability, remembering that the human condition ensures there can be no perfect social order on this earth. 
        Modern liberalism here has forgotten these axioms but as the polls show, liberalism is now a decaying U. S. political fad—soon to be replaced by those who strive to return this country to the above Greek precepts.
       And we are about to learn one more thing from Greece.  Modern Greece. The chaos there is a warning about what may happen here if we pursue the same course the Greeks have.  There’s rioting in the streets and a kind of  out-of-this-world madness.  Fire-bombs are being tossed and many thousands of people who have been on the government dole are rebelling—angry government workers insisting they will not take pay cuts…outraged retirees…demonstrating unionists…irreconcilable socialists. 
        None other than a once-liberal writer on the economy, Robert Samuelson of The Washington Post (no relative to the late liberal economist Paul Samuelson) looked soberly at Greece last week and wrote: 
        “What we’re seeing in Greece is the death spiral of the welfare state. This isn’t Greece’s problem alone…Virtually every advanced nation including the United States faces the same prospect. Aging countries have been promised huge health and retirement benefits which countries haven’t fully covered with taxes.  The reckoning has arrived in Greece but it awaits most wealthy societies. 
       “Americans dislike the term `welfare state’ and substitute the bland word `entitlements.’ The vocabulary doesn’t alter the reality. Countries cannot overspend and over-borrow forever.  By delaying hard decisions about spending and taxes, governments maneuver themselves into a cul de sac.” 
         Tough words.  But this former liberal has enough liberalism still sticking in him that he parses words and pulls his punches.    But here are tougher ones not from a journalist but a private letter from a  partner at a venture capital firm by the name of Bill Frezza:
      “Wake up America!  How many million unionists are we expected to carry on our payrolls?  How long can we keep government employees on defined benefit pension plans while the rest of us scramble to fund out 401[k]s?  How many more people are we going to drop from the income tax rolls as we lean on a smaller and smaller slice of citizens to carry an ever greater percentage of the load, leaving the rest free to vote for tax increases? How large a swath of our population can we pretend to keep supplied with newly manufactured economic rights like free healthcare as Social Security and Medicare careen toward insolvency?  How many more do we think we can borrow from the Chinese to fund day-to-day government operations?  How long do we think we can afford to police the world?”  
           That’s why I and other say: Rescue Greece?  Let `em feel the pain from plunging into unmitigated socialism.  It’ll do them good…and do us good to relearn the lesson we have forgotten.  Especially us. Our national debt has now hit $12 trillion—a ratio of GDP to debt ratio of 94%.  Greece’s score is 113%.   
           Liberalism that breeds permissiveness in all manner of things is what has given us this chaos. And there’s no better laboratory with which to examine it than my hometown which gave birth to The Squid.  
                            Illinois a Lefty Microcosm of the Nation.   
           Here in Illinois…home of Barack Obama and The Squid…we’re on the lip of the precipice that overlooks the chaos that is Greece. Our government is completely Squid from top to bottom: Squid governor, Squid legislature, all Squid constitutional officers.  In fact it’s a good test laboratory for the nation and deserves a look-see at all its imponderable squishy-ness for it is nothing more than a microcosm of the nation. 
         The Squid legislature has just adjourned without having the guts to face up to the problem. The gap in our budget…as result of (a) a liberal Republican governor now doing time in the penitentiary…and (b) two Squid Democratic governors, one of whom may well join the GOPer in stir, Rod Blagojevich who is currently trying to taint the jury pool (he needs one dissenter to walk free) and who is trying to rope in Obama so as to pull the national administration down with him to get even  with fancied injustice… and the current Pat Quinn, as inconstant in belief as an airport windsock….is $12.7 billion in the red, $6.2 billion to get rid of the structural deficit and another $6.5 billion to pay off past due bills.   
          This hideous overspending is due to an outrageous plethora of “services”—huge salaries and pensions to public officials,  near criminal waste and abject media sympathy for anything remotely approaching “public services.”  High taxes have driven out industry. Undue tolerance for waste has turned stomachs. Result: the quality of candidates is abysmal and the mainstream media xx’s out all those as “reactionary and unelectable” who want to institute true spending reform.  
          The choices are (a) cut spending to the bone, (b) raise taxes and (c) borrow money to pay its current obligations.  Squid Speaker Catholic Mike Madigan is loathe to do any of these things because he doesn’t want to jeopardize his Squid majority which has to run this November. He wants a tax hike but would like to evenly share the blame with the Republicans who are too smart to accommodate him.   
        Madigan is co-head of The Squid with a man he doesn’t get along with very well—Richard M. Daley.  Madigan is a careerist, a laconic kind of thin-lipped Irishman who is rigidly disciplined (eating an apple for lunch which he cuts carefully into 4 equal parts) and is a dry, abstruse type who looks like all the juices of humankind have been squeezed out of him by the vise of politics.  He’s interested really in three things and Illinois’ well-being is not one of them. First, in holding together his House majority so he can continue to be Speaker. Second, pushing the career of his pro-abort, pro-gay rights step-daughter, Lisa, the state attorney general for whom her proud poppa pressured everybody—social service agencies he funded as everything else, to prop down money for her first campaign.    Third, keeping friends in the Cook assessor’s office so he can continue to rake off millions in law fees adjusting property taxes downward for his clients.  
        The media are with very few exceptions…I can only think of one who’s a columnist friend of mine on The Tribune, John Kassallies of The Squid,             generally siding with the case to raise taxes and praising Madigan as astute.
                                     The Squid-Dominated Media. 
         The media here are handmaidens to mythic liberal views which they don’t challenge because of fear they will be charged with—horrors!—political incorrectness and so as not to inconvenience The Squid!  One is crime.  Among the top cities of the nation, despite Squid police propaganda to the contrary, Chicago is close to becoming the U. S. murder capital.  The reason is clear albeit hideously unpopular with liberals.  Since 1982 it has succumbed to the blandishments of Mayor Daley and the liberal media by banning private ownership of handguns and rifles by inventing a registration process so complex it is next to impossible to complete. 
       The political reason for the handgun ban was clear.  Nobody in The Squid has the guts to challenge the ACLU-spurred liberal soft prejudice against increase in capital punishment.  Nor blame chaotic urban lifestyle on absence of strong families because it would harm relations with influential black pastors—and my own Catholic archdiocese—which is not doing its  job of condemning promiscuity, excoriating the   living together by couples and the resultant spiraling of illegitimacy.
       In order to have something to say that is politically correct, the churches and editorial boards pretend the murder carnage is due to this city having too many guns! As if to pretend that these guns go off by themselves and kill people without a modicum of human responsibility.  So the city pays $75 for each gun turned in.  A waste of money but The Squid is behind it because this pretends to get at the problem. Thus the crusader Fr. Michael Pfleger leads gun collections to great media fanfare with which, in the absence of strong archdiocesan leadership, he dramatizes himself with the media as reigning panjandrum of “morality.” 
          No one here brings it up but the ban has been a huge failure. Before it took over, as the Washington Times editorialized the other day: Chicago’s murder rate had been tumbling compared to the nine other largest cities as well as the nation’s 50 largest cities, the five counties that border Cook county and the U.S. as a whole.  After the ban, Chicago’s murder rate rose relative to all.  In fact, during the first 19 years of the ban there have been only three when the murder rate equaled the number when the ban began.  
         In fact the Chicago ban is identical to the handgun prohibition in Washington, D. C. which has just been ruled unconstitutional.  The Washington ban was also cheered by the liberal intelligentsia—deeply interested in preserving the gun-control myth. But statistics pop the liberal bubble. 
       As the Australian Shooter Magazine wrote prior to the decision: “If you consider that there has been an average of 160,000 troops in the Iraq theatre of operations during the past 22 months and that [there have been] a total of 2112 deaths, that gives the firearm death rate of 60 per 100,000 soldiers. The firearm death rate in Washington, D. C. is 80.6 per 100,000 for the same period.  That means you are about 25% more likely to be  shot and killed in the U.S. capital which has some of the strongest gun control laws in the U.S. rather than Iraq. Conclusion: the U.S. should pull out of Washington!” [italics mine].  
          The Supreme Court decision dealt with Washington, D. C. as a federal enclave.  It is now considering the identical Chicago ordinance—and is likely to rule the same way.  But speaking of the Supreme Court…
                              The Mystery Woman Elena Kagan  
          Surprise: while gossip on her sexual orientation reverberates, it’s the country’s ranking professedly gay journalist, The Atlantic’s liberal Catholic Andrew Sullivan who was first to demand to know if President Obama’s Supreme Court pick, Elena Kagan, is a lesbian.  Sullivan wrote that if one wants to know want Kagan’s sexual practices are during confirmation, the inquirer should not be called a homophobe. 
        The White House is heatedly denying it and put maximum pressure on CBS News to remove any suggestion from its blog that she is gay.  CBS wrote that “Kagan will be the first openly gay Justice.”  Later the writer amended it to say: “I have to correct my text to say that Kagan is apparently still closeted—odd because her female partner is rather well known in Harvard circles.” 
         Ah, but it’s strange is it not…an administration that glories in “diversity” and whose press office releases everything that could possibly be asked about Kagan, celebrating a liberal culture that glories in celebrities who come “out,” is strangely old-fashioned about disseminating facts about the personal life of the 50-year-old, never married U.S. Solicitor General whose hair is cut with the severe boyish bob worn by the hundreds of  single women who flock to Melissa Etheridge rock concerts.    
          Senate Republicans are mum about the issue, of course. But there are some clues that beg for further development.  The biggest one is Kagan’s war against U.S. military recruiting on campus when she was dean of  the Harvard law school. On Oct. 6, 2003 she disseminated a letter to “Harvard Law School community” which complained against what she called “the military’s discriminatory recruitment policy” i.e. don’t ask, don’t tell.   
            She wrote: “The military deprives many men and women of courage and character from having the opportunity to serve their country in the greatest way possible. This is a profound wrong—a moral injustice of the first order.”  On Sept. 28, 2004: “[T]he military’s recruitment policy is both unjust and unwise.”  On March 7, 2006: “I hope that many members of the Harvard Law School community will accept the Court’s invitation to express their views clearly and forcefully regarding the military’s discriminatory employment policy.”  If she is confirmed, she will have to rule on a challenge to a change in the law.  Wanna bet how she votes?  
           Intriguing that so-called top-flight legal scholar Kagan calls it “the military’s policy” when it is required in legislation passed by a Democratic Congress in 1993 and signed into law by the Clinton administration which Kagan was later to join as associate general counsel to the president. 
             All the same, mainstream media picked up the Obama Squid’s talking points last week that Kagan’s political views are a mystery, that in fact she may be more conservative than people know, etc.  Strategy to get her confirmed without a hassle.  Actually, on the issue of life, Kagan recommendation to her boss Bill Clinton was to veto the partial birth abortion ban—and Senate Republicans are pressuring to get her memos released in time for confirmation hearings.   
             Kagan is a true adopted member of The Squid—although she only lived a few years in Chicago while a member of the University of Chicago law faculty when she lived in Lincoln Park. That allowed her to meet then U of C law lecturer Obama who was preparing to start his political career. Earlier she had served as clerk to the Squid saint Abner Mikva who was the farthest left federal appeals justice in Washington…and who left it to become the Clinton administration’s ethics watchdog—but who was snoozing when Clinton had his notorious affair with a 22-year-old intern resulting in his impeachment when he lied about it under oath.  Mikva thought Clinton should not have been impeached for lying about his relationship; with Monica Lewinsky because…well, you know…it was a personal matter. 
                                Teddy Roosevelt on Immigration. 
            The father of 20th century liberal activism Teddy Roosevelt is far from my favorite president but in my estimation he was right-on when he wrote this about immigration in 1907. 
             “In the first place, we should insist that if the immigrant who comes here in good faith becomes an American and assimilates himself to us, he shall be treated on an exact equality with everyone else—for it is an outrage to discriminate against any such man because of creed or birthplace or origin.  But this is predicated upon the person’s becoming in every facet an American and nothing but an American. 
            “…There can be no divided allegiance here. Any man who says he is an American but something else also isn’t an American at all.  We have room for but one flag, the American flag…We have room for one language here and that is the English language.  And we have room for but one sole loyalty and that is a loyalty to the American people.”   
*: St. Pascal Baylon [1540-1592].  A simple but holy friar, he was born near Aragon, Spain to a poor shepherd family. He tended flocks as a youth while also acquiring an elementary education and a mystical religious awareness.  He joined the Friars Minor as a lay brother at the monastery of Loreto and loved the austerity.  He tended the poor and the ill with good humor.  A delightfully childlike (but not childish) man, he once performed a dance before the statue of Our Lady like the famed Jongleur de Notre Dame. He spent hours before the Blessed Sacrament every day and served all Masses at the monastery, one right after another.  In most of his waking hours he was the porter, the man who opens the monastery door and attends visitors.  
         A simple man, he edified all those around him. One day a group of people came to the door and asked if they could go to confession.  The father guardian (who was the monastery superior) was otherwise engaged and  told Pascal “Tell them that I am out.” Pascal said: “I will tell them that Your Reverence is otherwise engaged.” No, said the Superior. “Tell them I am not at home.”  “Forgive me, Father,” said Pascal. “I must not say that because that would not be the truth and would be a venial sin.”  The Superior winced and said o.k. he would hear their confessions. 
         Once he was sent on an important mission to France, carrying important letters to Father Christopher de Cheffontaines, the Breton scholar who was minister general of the Observants.  It was very dangerous for a friar to wear the habit at that time.. On his way he was apprehended by the French Huguenots who stoned him twice. He reached his destination but the effects of the stoning remained with him all his life.  He returned to the monastery but died there shortly thereafter at the age of 52.  He was beatified in 1619 and canonized in 1690.  He is the patron of Eucharistic devotions and Congresses.

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