Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Abraham Lincoln in His Address Before the Young Men's Lyceum

In the great journal of things happening under the sun, we, the American People, find our account running, under date of the nineteenth century of the Christian era.--We find ourselves in the peaceful possession, of the fairest portion of the earth, as regards extent of territory, fertility of soil, and salubrity of climate. We find ourselves under the government of a system of political institutions, conducing more essentially to the ends of civil and religious liberty, than any of which the history of former times tells us. We, when mounting the stage of existence, found ourselves the legal inheritors of these fundamental blessings. We toiled not in the acquirement or establishment of them--they are a legacy bequeathed us, by a once hardy, brave, and patriotic, but now lamented and departed race of ancestors. Their's was the task (and nobly they performed it) to possess themselves, and through themselves, us, of this goodly land; and to uprear upon its hills and its valleys, a political edifice of liberty and equal rights; 'tis ours only, to transmit these, the former, unprofaned by the foot of an invader; the latter, undecayed by the lapse of time and untorn by usurpation, to the latest generation that fate shall permit the world to know. This task of gratitude to our fathers, justice to ourselves, duty to posterity, and love for our species in general, all imperatively require us faithfully to perform.

How then shall we perform it?--At what point shall we expect the approach of danger? By what means shall we fortify against it?-- Shall we expect some transatlantic military giant, to step the Ocean, and crush us at a blow? Never!--All the armies of Europe, Asia and Africa combined, with all the treasure of the earth (our own excepted) in their military chest; with a Buonaparte for a commander, could not by force, take a drink from the Ohio, or make a track on the Blue Ridge, in a trial of a thousand years.

At what point then is the approach of danger to be expected? I answer, if it ever reach us, it must spring up amongst us. It cannot come from abroad. If destruction be our lot, we must ourselves be its author and finisher. As a nation of freemen, we must live through all time, or die by suicide. …

Abraham Lincoln in his address before the Young Men's Lyceum of Springfield, Illinois

January 27, 1838

Friday, October 16, 2015

The Obama Economy

Over the past few months, I have repeatedly heard a lot of left-wing sources in the media and the blogosphere proclaim what a success the Obama presidency has been. The proclamation is how this brilliant man has managed to turn around the devastation to our country and its economy that was bequeathed to him by his Republican predecessor.

Now I am no fan of George W. Bush when it comes to how he governed our economy, and there absolutely is plenty of room for criticism there; however, has our current president really turned around our nation's economy?

When one refuses to listen to the Democrat spin-machine and looks at the actual data, the truth of the matter is readily apparent, and it is a truth that all but the most partisan progressives instinctively know.

The St. Louis Federal Reserve has a research wing (FRED) that pulls together from various governmental sources any number of economic data indicators that tell a much different story than those proclaimed on MS-NBC, by the DNC chair-woman, or from the Obama administration.  Let's take a look, shall we?

First, lets look at the total federal government debt as it relates to our gross domestic product.  In 2008, then-senator Obama rightly criticized President Bush for his "unpatriotic" and "irresponsible" spending.  It seems that when Obama took over the oval office though, his even-greater spending was no longer unpatriotic. Our economic output of our entire nation is the same as what our national debt is now.  Indeed our national debt has soared from $9 trillion when Bush left office to over $19 trillion today.  Irresponsible and unpatriotic indeed!

And here is another way of looking at our federal debt:

Next, the passage of the Affordable Care Act was touted as critical to providing health coverage to those that were uninsured and reducing health care costs for those that already had insurance.  President Obama said that his Obama-care would save the average family $2500 per year in costs.  The reality of it though is that the average family is now paying $2500 a year MORE in costs.

Of course taxes have been on the rise for many decades.  George W. Bush did cut taxes during his presidency, but the Democrat-controlled congress let the child credit provision expire under Obama's administration.  Further, net taxes increased along with increased spending and costly regulations.

With the economic recession that started in Bush's term in office, median family income continued to decline precipitously throughout the Obama administration.

With the higher costs of taxes, consumer goods, health care, and energy under Obama's leadership, the number of Americans that can afford to own their own homes has declined under his watch too.

Of course employment tanked during the end of 2008, but despite the sycophantic progressive medias' narrative to the contrary, Obama has not restored the real U-6 unemployment rate to pre-recession levels.  To further support this point, look at the labor force participation rate which shows how many people actually gave up looking for jobs and thus dropped out of the labor force.  (And this despite huge influxes of federal dollars to help put Americans to work with "shovel-ready jobs" that Obama later acknowledged never did exist.)

Our true unemployment rate for the nation is STILL in double digits today.

This next graph shows the effects of our money supply due to quantitative easings that began in the final months of the Bush administration and then continued with several additional rounds during the Obama administration.  This is a very dangerous policy that has the potential long term effect of creating hyper-inflation with the increased money supply based on no solid assets.  It is a dangerous policy that did not work during the great depression or for Japan in the early 2000's.  It's long term effects will most likely come back to haunt the U.S. economy severely... after Obama has left office.

There are many things that can be said about this next graph.  The first that comes to mind is that Obama so loved the poor, that he created millions more of them.  While the federal government touts their SNAP welfare program as a success, the fact that more people are in need of governmental assistance should be a sign that our economy is not going in the right direction.  Indeed, progressives gauge such programs' success by how many people are using them; conservatives gauge these by how many people no longer need them and are now self-sufficient.

Another arguably un-constitutional aspect of the misnamed Affordable Care Act was to remove private banks from loaning money for student loans and thus rolled that function into the federal government where lack of efficiency and greater government control holds sway on our higher educational system.

At the end of the day, despite the progressive media's sycophantic ravings to the contrary, our economy has not recovered and indeed its core underpinnings are in very precarious positions.  Unfortunately when things do start collapsing, Obama will likely have left office and thereby not be held accountable for his egregious mismanagement of our economy via failed progressive policies.

  Of course the media will dutifully find a way to spin this as the Republicans' fault accordingly. 

I am sure that will provide great comfort to all of us Americans afflicted by this Obama economy.

Tuesday, October 6, 2015

"Does This Liberal Pope Represent God?"

John Myste is a progressive friend of mine who is often a contrarian commenter on Saving Common Sense.  He asked an interesting question last week, following Pope Francis’ visit to the United States.  He inquired of me, “Does this liberal pope represent God?”  Evidently he is interested in the perspective of an “intelligent conservative Catholic” on the matter, and as he believes the pool of qualified people to ask is quite limited, he informed me that I was thus duly elected – probably because I am the only conservative Catholic he knows – intelligent or otherwise.  That said, I feel it is my duty to answer my friend in a circumloquacious manner, if for no other reason than to give full justice to his question, and perhaps annoy him just a little.

Let’s begin with a little history, shall we?  Looking at the Gospel of Matthew’s sixteenth chapter, specifically with verses 13 through 19, we find the following scripture:

When Jesus went into the region of Caesarea Philippi he asked his disciples, "Who do people say that the Son of Man is?"  They replied, "Some say John the Baptist, others Elijah, still others Jeremiah or one of the prophets." He said to them, "But who do you say that I am?" Simon Peter said in reply, "You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God." Jesus said to him in reply, "Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah. For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my heavenly Father. And so I say to you, you are Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church, and the gates of the netherworld shall not prevail against it. I will give you the keys to the kingdom of heaven. Whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven; and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven."

Pretty heavy stuff, but what does that all mean?  Well, let’s discuss "the keys to the kingdom of heaven" first. 

In ancient times, a king would appoint a trusted steward to run the kingdom’s affairs in the king’s absence when he was away conducting trade or engaged in war or such.  That steward spoke with the king’s authority.  The king would literally give him the keys to the castle in his absence to conduct necessary business until the king’s return.

Jesus acknowledged that His Father had revealed to Peter who He truly was.  Because of this revelation of Peter’s, Christ declared Peter to be the rock upon which He would build His church. (petra is Greek for “rock”)  Indeed the Catholic Church was the only Christian Church for over a millennia and a half until the 16th Century when Martin Luther caused the first great schism by being the catalyst for the Protestant Reformation.  Nowadays we have over 30,000 different Christian denominations, but I digress.

Christ said he would build his church upon the rock of Peter.  He would give him the keys to the kingdom of heaven.  Peter would become Christ’s steward on earth.  This is why Peter is typically depicted as holding a set of keys and is often thought of as being at the pearly gates to thus let in the faithful into the kingdom of heaven.  

Christ also gave Peter the power to bind and loose on earth.  That means Peter’s decrees on God’s behalf on earth do indeed speak for Christ.  Peter is thus recognized, on Christ’s own authority, as the leader of His Church on earth that He himself established.  Peter was the very first pope accordingly.  The Catholic Church has been governed ever since with an unbroken line of apostolic successors from Peter to Pope Francis today. 

Currently, many non-Catholics think that we Catholics believe the pope to be impeccable in all of his utterances.  They assume that is what is meant by papal infallibility – that the pope is incapable of error. This is absolutely incorrect.  The pope is a fallen man subject to the sins of the world, just like the rest of us.  The Catholic Church teaches that the pope is infallible ONLY when he speaks from his position of authority on a particular Church dogma or doctrine. According to the Catholic Church, this infallibility of the pope, only when speaking ex cathedra, is part of the Catholic Church’s Magisterium, or the teaching authority of the Church which God gave to Peter and His church to guide her infallibly. This “teaching authority of the Church” is made up of the pope’s infallible teaching ability, the infallible teaching ability of church councils assembled under the authority of the pope, and the “ordinary” Magisterium of the bishops.

Indeed, Christ told his disciples, "Whoever listens to you listens to me. Whoever rejects you rejects me. And whoever rejects me rejects the one who sent me." (Luke 10:16)

What infallibility actually does is prevent a pope from solemnly and formally teaching as "truth" something that is, in fact, error.  The Holy Spirit guides the pope in such matters to make it impossible for him to teach in error on matters of doctrine or dogma.  It does not provide the pope with new revelations, as Catholics believe that the deposit of faith is complete.  The Holy Spirit may guide the pope into greater understanding of existing revelation though. 

Now many conservative Catholics have indeed taken umbrage with some of Pope Francis’ recent comments, and I am sure this is where my friend John has formed this question for me.  Am I, as a Catholic, required to believe in global warming or some of the more socialistic policies of which Pope Francis has advocated?  No.  He has not formally declared and taught these things from a point of apostolic authority over the Church’s Magisterium; therefore, these things are not taught as being infallible.  Furthermore, I would submit that these topics are outside of the scope of Church doctrine in the first place and therefore Pope Francis could NOT teach his advocated positions as being infallible.

We have an absolute duty to care for the poor, as Christ told us that we must care for the least of our brothers and sisters.  I respectfully disagree with Pope Francis in some regards on how to go about doing so though.  American capitalism has been the source for the creation of far more wealth for a far greater majority of people and the eradication of far more poverty than any other country in the world has ever seen.  Socialism on the other hand has often created great poverty in the nations that have enacted it over the course of the 20th century.  That said, crony capitalism and some of its unrestricted excesses are absolutely in need of government restrictions by force of law, but that is a subject for another time.

The bottom line is that I am indeed obligated to follow the pope when he declares and speaks infallibly on matters of Church doctrine.  After all, Christ gave him the authority in succession from Peter to speak for Him.  If I were to ignore him on such matters, I would indeed be ignoring God Himself.  In that matter, Pope Francis and all the popes before and after him do indeed represent God and therefore I must follow them to remain faithful to Christ as a Catholic regarding His Church.

On economics and environmentalism, Pope Francis is just a concerned and fallible man speaking on issues outside of magisterial doctrine and I can research and either agree or disagree with him accordingly. Pope Francis doesn’t necessarily represent me on matters of socialism or global warming.  He may or may not represent God on those issues outside of the scope of his office of pope.  For that question to be answered, we will have to wait until we can speak with God Himself. 

So to answer my friend John's question, ultimately the answer is that Pope Francis does indeed speak for God on matters involving Christ's Church's doctrine and dogma.  On matters outside of those, the pope may or may not be in communion with God's own thoughts -- just like the rest of us.

Friday, August 21, 2015

Re-fighting the Iraq War

On March 19th, 2003, after months of preamble, President George W. Bush took the United States of America to war with Iraq once again.  This one event is arguably the most controversial in the 21st century to date.  There is seldom a middle ground found on this issue amongst Americans.  Often times the divide comes down to pure partisanship, which is ironic considering the strong bipartisan and international support America had in the build up to this war. 

Nowadays though, if one is right of the political center, chances are good that you supported this war.  If one is to the left, often times you are strongly against this war.  Indeed, many Americans on the left are vociferous in their condemnation of President Bush to the point of accusing him of an “unjustified war of aggression” and thus “guilty of war crimes”.  Such has been my experience with some friends in the blogosphere lately. 

To me the topic has always been pretty cut and dry.  The evidence prior to the war, and indeed to this current day, spoke of a clear and present danger with Saddam Hussein’s Iraq regime that needed to be eliminated.  Others seem to want to ignore the evidence, or claim that the war was predicated on lies and Bush’s overwhelming desire to go into Iraq, especially after the 9/11 attack of al Qaida.  Regardless, the topic of this war keeps coming up again and again in discussions I have had lately.  With that being the case, I felt it was incumbent upon me to lay out the reasons for this war in a more comprehensive manner.

First, ever since the conclusion of operation Desert Storm in the first Iraq war in 1991, of which I was a part, Saddam Hussein held an all-encompassing grudge against President George H.W. Bush for leading the coalition that pushed Saddam’s troops out of the neighboring Gulf nation of Kuwait.  He vowed at that time to avenge this, even if Bush was no longer in office.  In April of 1993, Hussein tried to make good on his promise by having his Iraqi Intelligence Service plant a car bomb in Kuwait when the elder Bush returned there.  Luckily, the plot was foiled and traced back to Iraqi Intelligence.  Then-President Clinton responded to the assassination attempt by launching a strike of 23 tomahawk missiles at the headquarters of the Iraqi Intelligence Service.  Saddam Hussein’s attempted assassination of a former head of state was an act of war just by itself.  At the very least, it showed that he was still dangerous, unstable, and willing to go to extreme lengths in striking out at his enemies.

Second, there were various occasions of apparent cooperation between al Qaida and Saddam’s regime.  Indeed, al Qaida’s leader in Iraq, Abu Mus'ab al-Zarqawi, spent a lot of time in Iraq, particularly throughout 2002 before the second war.  As per Carl W. Ford, Jr., MA, Assistant Secretary of State for Intelligence and Research, on Feb. 11, 2003 stated in his remarks before the Senate Select Committee of Intelligence:
"Al-Qaida's presence in Iraq has grown since 9/11, including inside Baghdad. We know that Abu Mus'ab al-Zarqawi spent considerable time in Baghdad during 2002, and has a network of operatives in northern Iraq in an area under the control of Ansar al-Islam. This network has been working steadily to produce toxic substances which are ready for deployment, based on recent arrests in Europe. Zarqawi controls operations outside Iraq as well, as evidenced by the assassination of USAID representative to Jordan, Lawrence Foley, in which the perpetrators reported they were acting with support from Zarqawi. Though we do not know the specific operational details of Iraq's relationship with al-Qaida yet, we do know that neither Iraq nor al-Qaida would have any compunction about using WMD in terrorist attacks against civilians. Based on the weight of our current information, I believe that al-Qaida operatives inside Iraq have positioned themselves so that they could launch operations with little or no warning."
Indeed, there was also intelligence reports of Mohammed Atta, the leader of the 9/11 terrorist hijackers, having met in Prague with an Iraqi intelligence officer in April of 2001.  As per Stanislav Gross, the Minister of the Interior of the Czech Republic,
"We can confirm now that during his (Mohammed Atta’s) trip to the Czech Republic, he did have a contact with an officer of the Iraqi intelligence, Mr. Ahmad Khalil Ibrahim Samir al Ani."
 Iraqi Deputy Prime Minister Tarik Aziz denied that the meeting had taken place; however, he said:
"Even if such an incident had taken place, it doesn't mean anything.  Any diplomat in any mission might meet people in a restaurant here or there and talk to them, which is meaningless.”
Third, and perhaps the biggest concern, was the fact that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction (WMD’s) and was also seeking to continue its nuclear weapons program.  We know Iraq possessed WMD’s and under multiple UN resolutions, Saddam Hussein’s regime was required to submit to international inspectors to remove and dismantle his WMD’s.  He initially made a show of compliance, but became more difficult and uncooperative as time went on in giving U.N. inspectors full and unfettered access to suspected WMD areas.

At the start of the 2003 Iraq war, there were myriads of still unaccounted for WMD’s.  Indeed in our multi-month build up to the war, the United States telegraphed its intentions to intercede if Hussein did not comply with U.N. resolutions on the matter.  Many intelligence analysts suspected that this prelude provided him with the necessary time to hide and move his WMD’s to Syria and elsewhere. 
Opponents of the war point to the fact that no WMD’s were discovered after the coalition invasion of Iraq as proof that George W. Bush fabricated evidence and lied about WMD’s as a casus belli for the war.  Indeed, initially no WMD’s were found in Iraq; however, we have since found Saddam Hussein’s stashes that were indeed hidden within Iraq.

To that point, the mission called Operation Avarice, which began in 2005 and continued into 2006, was deemed a non-proliferation success as the American military acquired and destroyed at least 400 Borak rockets of the Iraqi regime.  These were one of the internationally condemned chemical weapons that were unaccounted for by United Nations inspections mandated after the 1991 Persian Gulf war.”  These weapons contained the chemical nerve agent Sarin.

Then there is the matter of Saddam Hussein’s nuclear program.  The United States grew concerned when it was reported by British Intelligence that Saddam Hussein had tried to acquire yellow-cake uranium from North African nations prior to the second war.  Indeed, President Bush touted this in his State of the Union address in 2003, which detractors claimed was a lie.  To this day, however, British Intelligence stands by their statement. 
The Butler report on British intelligence affirms:

"We conclude that, on the basis of the intelligence assessments at the time, covering both Niger and the Democratic Republic of Congo, the statements on Iraqi attempts to buy uranium from Africa in the Government’s dossier, and by the Prime Minister in the House of Commons, were well-founded. By extension, we conclude also that the statement in President Bush’s State of the Union Address of 28 January 2003 that:
'The British Government has learned that Saddam Hussein recently sought significant quantities of uranium from Africa.'
was well-founded."

Further, after the war was executed, the United States did indeed find 550 metric tons of yellow cake uranium, which was subsequently removed from Iraq in 2008.  Saddam Hussein was indeed trying to acquire materials for his nuclear weapons program.

So, let’s summarize.  Saddam Hussein had motive to harm the United States after his crushing defeat in Desert Storm.  Indeed he even tried to assassinate President George H.W. Bush for his leadership role in that endeavor.  Saddam Hussein also had various pre-war ties and seeming non-aggression pacts with al Qaida in Iraq, including with Abu Mus'ab al-Zarqawi.  Further, Hussein had many unaccounted for WMD’s and was being non-cooperative with international inspectors.  Continuing, he was still trying to acquire fissile material for his nuclear program.  In light of the fact that Saddam Hussein had motive, means of attack with WMD’s, and seemingly a cooperative agreement with known terrorists, a clear and present danger against America and its allies did indeed seem to exist.  This dilemma was exacerbated with Saddam’s then intransigence towards internationally mandated WMD inspections.

It is because of this that bi-partisan support of H.J.Resolution 114 (107th) assured its passage with a vote of 296 to 133 in the House on 10/10/2002, which included 81 Democrats supporting the resolution.  The Senate similarly passed the resolution with a 77 to 23 vote with the support of 29 Democrats, including various Democratic senate leaders and future Democratic presidential candidates such as Tom Daschle, Chris Dodd, John Edwards, John Kerry, and Hillary Clinton.  This resolution, as it was aptly and unambiguously titled, was called the "Authorization for Use of Military Force Against Iraq Resolution of 2002".

After that, international support was rallied via the United Nations Security Council Resolution 1441, which was adopted on November 8th, 2002 by a unanimous vote of 15 to 0.  It stated in part that it gave Iraq "a final opportunity to comply with its disarmament obligations" and warned Iraq of "serious consequences" if it did not.  Saddam called the world’s bluff and refused to allow unfettered access to inspect for his WMD’s throughout Iraq.  Consequently a coalition of 38 countries supplied 25,000 troops to support the United States in enforcing UN resolution 1441, with the full backing of the United States Congress.

One can reasonably argue about the issues involved in keeping the peace after the main combat operations were over as being a failure; however, when President Obama came into office and precipitously and dangerously removed all significant remaining troops from Iraq, the power vacuum that he created without the United States and the international coalition in place to support the fledgling new Iraqi government was filled with disaffected Baathists, Shia insurgents from Iran, and ultimately resulted in the rise of a countering Sunni terrorism and the birth of ISIS. 

The follow up to the war was poorly thought out and executed under both George W. Bush’s and Barack Obama’s administrations and severe criticism can justly be leveled at both accordingly; however, the initial need for the war in preventing the development, proliferation, and use of WMD’s by the Iraqi regime or cooperative al Qaida or similar terrorist regimes was absolutely justified.  Discounting the clear evidence of this potential threat, even if it was not immediately imminent, would only put American and ally lives in danger.  The second war in Iraq was absolutely justified accordingly. 

Tuesday, August 4, 2015

Cecile the Lyin'

Cecile Richards is the CEO of the pernicious Planned Parenthood organization.  In the fallout of the Center for Medical Progress' recently released undercover videos showing multiple violations of federal law, she defended the killing of unborn children via abortion in order to use their body parts for "donation" for medical research.

Cecile Richards said that these videos were highly edited to put Planned Parenthood in the worst possible light.  Others have claimed that they were out right "faked".  I guess they didn't bother to note that the full multi-hour raw and un-edited videos were also released at the same time that the "highlight" videos were.  Of course, the edited videos show nothing out of context or contrary from the raw videos.

Her only apology was for the "tone" used by her lead abortionist in cavalierly discussing the issue to the undercover "purchasers".  Again, I don't understand why she would need to apologize if she truly thought that this was simply "tissue" that they were extracting and not human beings that they were killing.

Her indefensible defense of this evil practice and law breaking that has supported it amounts to nothing more than dissembling on her behalf.

Cecile Richards' salary is $400,000 a year and her personal net worth is over $4 million.  It seems that, with the consent of the U.S. congress and over one half a billion of annual tax payer subsidies, that Ms. Richards has a very "viable" and profitable business model to protect.  No wonder she is willing to lie to protect her kingdom!

As for the pro-abortion progressives in our country, they could seemingly care less about this controversy.  Perhaps we could get them outraged and willing to take action if we told them that Planned Parenthood was aborting baby lions instead.