Wednesday, November 30, 2011

The Virtues Of Prussian Morality

Financial markets were granted a respite today from the ongoing Euro crisis by concerted central bank activity that made dollars more cheaply and readily available to borrowers in return for foreign currencies, including Euros.  The Federal Reserve's participation means that the US is assuming Euro risk in return for pushing the crisis out of the danger zone.  With this move, central banks are kicking the can down the road in order to give Euro-spendthrifts another last chance to put their fiscal houses in order.  Noman suggests that you don't hold your breath waiting for it.

The Fed's international action is kin to the President's various stimuli and jobs plans, which serve primarily to channel red state resources into over-bloated, blue state public sectors until the federal government is politically able to assume permanent responsibility for state shortfalls.  The alternative is for voters to force public sector unions and other beneficiaries of taxpayer largesse to surrender their privileges.  People with sinecures to lose, however, generally fight harder, dirtier, more passionately and longer in order to preserve their prerogatives than does a diffused population bearing only portion of a widely distributed cost in order to end them.

In the case of the Euro, the central banks' actions funnel the money of more responsible nations--which laughably includes the US--into the economies of nations that cannot support the level of public commitments they have assumed.  It alleviates the symptoms without addressing the illness; It is a pain-killer, not a cure.

The conundrum was well summarized a couple of weeks back in a WSJ editorial concerning a different but related palliative, European Central Bank purchases of toxic sovereign debt.
And what if even [bond purchases don't] work? The ECB would have squandered its monetary credibility, and shattered its charter, to buy the worst debt in the euro zone at the expense of the countries with the best fiscal policies and the lowest interest rates. It will have abandoned any semblance of market discipline in favor of a panicky rush to defend the ability of spendthrift governments to borrow. Price stability will move from the ECB's sole mandate to its third or fourth priority. 
Europe's real problem now, as at the euro's founding, is that the currency zone lacks a mechanism for enforcing fiscal discipline. The Stability and Growth Pact was an attempt, but it lacked teeth and was violated early. All of the fixes in the current crisis lack credibility with markets because they too lack any discipline that would show creditors that Europe's problems of overspending, cradle-to-grave middle-class entitlements and slow growth are being fixed. 
The voices now pleading for greater "fiscal union" are really pleading for the Germans and the ECB to write their governments blank checks.
The relevant question regarding the Fed's cheap currency swaps is whether given European nations' inability to get their financial houses in order, the Fed's intervention constitutes a responsible action, or even one likely to avert the rightly feared consequences.  In short, is it a good bet?  The Germans think not, which is why they are impeding ECB bond purchases.  While central banks dollar swaps are a less dramatic ameliorative than bond purchases, Noman is inclined to agree with the German assessment of the European predicament.
Berlin's alleged sin is its reluctance to write a blank check to save the euro—either by underwriting a new euro-zone fiscal union, or granting permission for the European Central Bank to buy trillions in sovereign debt. The chant comes in unison from the debtor nations themselves, the bailout caucus in Brussels, an Obama White House concerned about its re-election, and liberal pundits worried that their welfare-state economic model is under assault. Like the "rich" in America who must pay their "fair share," the Germans are supposed to pay up to save a united Europe.

Passing the cost of big government profligacy onto the fiscally responsible is the political drama of 2011 in a nutshell.  Dollar swaps and debt purchases are just means of putting off fixing, and redistributing the costs of, deeper unaddressed problems.  European nations, and American states, that serve as hosts for the socialistically inclined are being forced by capital markets to reckon with economic reality.  They have spent and promised too much more than they can afford.  Lenders who are fronting the money for utopia want to be compensated for assuming higher risk, if indeed they are willing to assume it at all.  When the bill is presented to reckless debtors in the form of higher rates or insufficient demand for new debt, old lenders clamor for retroactive guarantees while deadbeat borrowers riot for bailouts on easy terms.  If granted, borrowers and lenders alike continue along their merry courses until the menace reasserts itself in more virulent form because of higher levels of debt, at which time the troubled entity is presumed too big to fail.  If denied money to compensate for past errors and perpetuate future ones, lenders pull back while borrowers burn cars, occupy Wall Street, demonize the rich, demagog the opposition, threaten social instability and mug for sympathetic cameras.

For those committed to living beyond their means, anything, is preferable to losing the good thing they've got.  Nothing could be worse than surrendering their privileges.   Better to have one's desires at others expense, like the United Auto Workers Union were able to arrange with Democrat's help.  The trick is political: How to make others pay for big government profligacy against their wills?

The alternative is to repent, relent, and change course for the sake of the common good.
The reality is that the Germans—along with the Dutch and the Finns—are the rare Europeans who understand that saving the euro requires more than a blank check. It requires a new political commitment to better economic policy. Chancellor Angela Merkel and her cabinet are as euro-centric as the French, but they realize that money alone won't solve Europe's more fundamental debt and growth problem. 
It's certainly true that the Germans have benefited from the euro, which is one reason they want to preserve it. Their exports have flourished, often to other European countries, thanks to a stable currency and free-trade zone. But one reason for their relative economic success is that Germany is a rare European country that used the early years of the euro to reform its labor markets and improve fiscal policies. While the Greeks and Italians used their years of near-German borrowing rates to live beyond their means, the Bavarians became more competitive.
It all comes back to the same choice between (1) reducing the size and scope of government, (2) playing political chicken until the economic order runs off a cliff, or (3) affectuating a revolutionary redistribution of wealth, which, as we know from history, works only once: when people have something to take; thereafter they cease to produce. Why should they bother?  The second choice is merely the fast, opportunistic track to the third.

Noman understands the desirability, and perhaps even preferability, of averting imminent catastrophe by resorting to palliatives. The galling aspect of todays social welfare crises, however, is that by deferring judgment day and preserving the status quo, the illness is granted more time to posture as the cure; the cause as the antedote.  Needless to say, the problem doesn't get fixed; it festers.  People get lulled by orchestrated manifestations like Occupy Wall Street.  During the respite, Leftist politicians like President Obama at home and his socialist counterparts in Europe, just make matters worse, and the eventual reckoning more severe, by expanding entitlements, increasing public employment and larding troughs for cronies.  They never change, and it is folly to expect them to.

Leftists know that at the next reassertion of crisis, they will win more concessions via violence, demagoguery, cunning, treachery and political chicanery--all with the benefit of media manipulation.  Perhaps they might even achieve political victory by imposing confiscatory taxes on people who vociferously object to progressive policies.  Given the opportunity of crisis, they might even lay claim to private wealth for "public" purposes--meaning the preferred purposes of politicians, bureaucrats and hangers-on who presume to speak for the public.  They have only to continue lying, clamoring, accusing, scapegoating, escalating and confronting.  That's the Leftist playbook, and it's always worked before.

With respect to the European theater of this war:
The tragedy is that the euro-zone countries failed to abide by their original fiscal rules, a failure that has brought them to this unhappy pass. The Brussels-Washington bailout caucus now wants to extend the damage to monetary policy by printing more euros [to purchase toxic debt] and worrying about the consequences later.
In opposing that option, the Germans are said to be imposing their Prussian morality on everyone else. But without reforms, the countries of southern Europe will never pull out of their downward debt spiral. The Germans are at least telling the truth.
It becomes increasingly clear that we are kicking the can down the road to serfdom, or to more heinous forms of servitude.  Heaven give us the strength, the Germanic virtue, to resist going back.

The English Embassy Gaffe

President Obama has made another largely unreported gaffe that, for novelty's sake, the Heritage Foundation would like to highlight.
In a press conference this evening, the president referred in stumbling fashion to the “English Embassy” in Iran instead of the British Embassy. One can only imagine the kind of howls of derision that would greet any presidential contender if that kind of basic error were made before, say, the editorial board of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. You can watch the video above. 
In case the president is unaware, England forms part of Great Britain, which also includes Scotland and Wales, though not Northern Ireland, which is part of the United Kingdom. There is no such thing as an “English” embassy anywhere in the world, and there hasn’t been one for several centuries.
Noman only mentions it because of the beating that Republican presidential candidates have taken for momentary mental lapses, e.g., Rick Perry's oops moment, Herman Cain on President Obama's Libya incursion.  Since the mainstream media views its mission as covering up for Democrats' mistakes (and misdeeds) while attacking Republicans' every slip up, it's good for alternative media to note the inconceivable: the President himself flubs on occasion.

Perhaps we shouldn’t be surprised by this latest slip-up by President Obama. After all he recently described France as America’s closest ally, and famously declared that he has traveled to no less than 57 states. But it would be nice if the leader of the free world bothered to look at a map once in a while, or even paid a visit to the British Embassy in Washington, currently housing the Churchill bust that Mr. Obama unceremoniously threw out of the Oval Office soon after his inauguration.
The larger question is whether this most recent gaffe signifies a broader disregard for Great Britain along with other traditional US allies.
From siding with Argentina on its call for UN-brokered negotiations over the sovereignty of the Falklands, to placing “a boot on the throat” of BP, Britain’s largest company, the Obama administration has downgraded relations with America’s closest friend and partner on the world stage. The Special Relationship still matters greatly on several key fronts for the United States, from the NATO-led operation in Afghanistan to the global war against Islamist terrorism. US-British military and intelligence cooperation remains vital to the defense of the free world, and cooperation between London and Washington will be imperative in standing up to an increasingly aggressive Iran. The White House will no doubt dismiss this latest faux pas by the president as a slip of the tongue, but it cannot disguise the fact that it has on many occasions treated Britain and other key allies with an air of disdain, and even contempt.
Big media's Liberal bias disturbs Noman and strikes him as politically dangerous given that democracy depends upon an informed--not deformed--electorate.  Nevertheless, the Heritage Foundation's last point is the salient one.  President Obama's predilections run towards the Continent and away from Britain, towards Islam and away from Israel.  Right or wrong, his picture of the world is markedly different than most Americans'.

From "Jornolist" to Liberal Activist

Newsman Ezra Klein is making news again.  (See "An Election Season Proposal," 9/10/11)
Klein is famous for starting the secretive political-media members-only clique of some 400 journalists, political operatives, White House staffers, think tankers and lefty economists such as Paul Krugman known as JournoList. Until it was shut down by exposure from the Daily Caller and, the JournoList group discussed talking points to create a media echo chamber, tried to falsely smear opponents as racists, and cooked up ways to take Fox News off the air.
Now he's creating a "new paradigm," at the Washington Post: that of a blogger whose media ethos includes using his perch in prestige media to be an on-the-ground activist that briefs Democratic politicians on talking-points strategy.
The Washington Post's 27-year-old star blogger Ezra Klein has been called "whiz kid," and "brat packer" and a "wunderkind." Now he's actually advising Democratic chiefs of staff, briefing them last week about the supercommittee in Congress, according to a report by Fishbowl-DC on 
That's because Klein himself sports the imprimatur of one of the most vaunted news organizations in the world, the Washington Post. He's supposed to have the Post's high standards. But instead of reporting the news, even at a slant, as bloggers do, Klein takes bias beyond that. Instead of commenting on news, he makes it.
Klein is a rogue, doing what he wants with no consequences from the Post, taking media standards down with him. As a journalist, it's one thing to have an ideological agenda, quite another to work hand-in-glove with a political party and openly advocate its agenda.
Actually, Klein is relatively mainstream for the mainstream media.  It's been apparent for decades that what passes for news in the print and visual media bears more than a striking resemblance to the Democratic Party's talking points.  The difference now is that the media is the tail wagging the political dog.

"I used to have political aspirations," Klein, a former campaigner for Howard Dean, told the Washington Monthly in 2004. "But over time, I found that I enjoy writing far more. More to the point, I think that the creation of a media environment that can sustain and propel progressivism is more important than any single elected official," he said. "The media is as effective and important an agent for change as the legislative bodies, and I think it's where I'm happiest and most effective."
That's succinctly put: the goal of media is to create an "environment that can sustain and propel progressivism."  As the IBD Editorial indicates, this new paradigm for journalism is one that the Washington Post's executive editor, Marcus Brauchli, "would very much like to replicate."

None of this strikes Noman as startling.  His first day at Harvard Law School featured a talk by a recent alumnus, an environmental lawyer, describing how'd she'd used the Boston Globe to kill a development on the Charles River that had otherwise passed regulatory muster.  She was leaving her position in the law to work more with media, which was easier, quicker and more effective.

He can't help wondering, however, given the longstanding, actual condition of mainstream media, if the 4th estate deserves all of its constitutional protections, for example, the right to attribute fabricated quotations to public figures (Masson v. New Yorker Magazine, 1991).

An analogy might be worth considering.  After the great crash of 1929, Congress devised securities laws that among other things separated commercial from investment banking.  While banks had traditionally performed both functions under the same roof, Congress wished to preserve and protect the core financial business of receiving deposits and making loans from the substantively different and speculative ones of underwriting companies' securities and trading in them.  Thus, it shielded the former activity from the risk inherent in the latter for the sake of both, and the economy.

While the constitution expressly permits Congress to regulate commerce, and the 1st Amendment expressly prohibits Congress from abridging the freedom of speech, the Supreme Court has nevertheless upheld bubble-zone restrictions against pro-life protestors, and it has never upheld a right to shout "fire" in a crowded theater.

Might preserving the integrity of newspaper and newscast reporting, which informs the public, require a similar separation of news media's constitutional function from its advocacy practices?  Just asking.

Sometimes, Chinese Walls are necessary.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

The Meltdown of Climate Science

It has been a tough anniversary for climate alarmists.  5,000 emails circulated among the world's leading climate scientists were released on the second anniversary of the original leaks that derailed the UN redistribution train headed into 2009's Copenhagen summit.

Noman would be uncomfortable with the leaking were not the confederates of climate fraud so monopolistically entrenched in academe, popular media, business and government.  They don't fight fairly, so it's hardly upsetting when someone pounds them with brass knuckles.  Neither do they learn from experience.  The original revelations just stunned them; they didn't deter them.  They've stuck to the same story, and agenda, despite public exposure of fraud and intimidation.
Like the first "climategate" leak of 2009, the latest release shows top scientists in the field fudging data, conspiring to bully and silence opponents, and displaying far less certainty about the reliability of anthropogenic global warming theory in private than they ever admit in public. 
The scientists include men like Michael Mann of Penn State University and Phil Jones of the University of East Anglia, both of whose reports inform what President Obama has called "the gold standard" of international climate science, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). 
To Rep. Ed Markey (D., Mass.) ... the leaker or leakers responsible are attempting to "sabotage the international climate talks" and should be identified and brought "to justice." 
One might sympathize with Mr. Markey's outrage if, say, the emails were maliciously rewritten or invented. But at least one scientist involved—Mr. Mann—has confirmed that the emails are genuine, as were the first batch released two years ago. So any malfeasance revealed therein ought to be blamed on the scientists who wrote them, rather than on the whistleblower who exposed them. 
This is the real significance of the climategate emails. They show that major scientists who inform the IPCC can't be trusted to stick to the science and avoid political activism. This, in turn, has very worrying implications for the major international policy decisions adopted on the basis of their research.
Bret Stephens chimes in, albeit with a secularist view of what he calls "climate religion," to pillory climate science as "another system of doomsaying prophecy and faith in things unseen." (In the event that he wanted to, but couldn't, cite St. Paul correctly, the quote from Hebrews (1: 11) is: "faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.")  
Stephens' issues with religion aside, he has a point about the fundamental pretentiousness, neigh silliness, of climate science.
This week, the conclave of global warming's cardinals are meeting in Durban, South Africa, for their 17th conference in as many years. The idea is to come up with a successor to the Kyoto Protocol, which is set to expire next year, and to require rich countries to pony up $100 billion a year to help poor countries cope with the alleged effects of climate change. This is said to be essential because in 2017 global warming becomes "catastrophic and irreversible," according to a recent report by the International Energy Agency.

Unfortunately for those on Chicken Little's bandwagon, the financial crisis intervened to require the aforementioned wealthy, but struggling, countries to address real, not imaginary and politically convenient, problems.

Stephens continues:
A religion, when not physically extinguished, only dies when it loses faith in itself. 
That's where the Climategate emails come in. First released on the eve of the Copenhagen climate summit two years ago and recently updated by a fresh batch, the "hide the decline" emails were an endless source of fun and lurid fascination for those of us who had never been convinced by the global-warming thesis in the first place.
But the real reason they mattered is that they introduced a note of caution into an enterprise whose motivating appeal resided in its increasingly frantic forecasts of catastrophe. Papers were withdrawn; source material re-examined. The Himalayan glaciers, it turned out, weren't going to melt in 30 years. Nobody can say for sure how high the seas are likely to rise—if much at all. Greenland isn't turning green. Florida isn't going anywhere. 
Religions are sustained in the long run by the consolations of their teachings and the charisma of their leaders. With global warming, we have a religion whose leaders are prone to spasms of anger and whose followers are beginning to twitch with boredom. Perhaps that's another way religions die.
Stephens certainly doesn't know much about religion.  But, he can identify scientific charlatanism when he sees it.

Thank God for the FOIA leaker, who has flooded the scientific laboratory and public square with disinfecting light, transparency and full disclosure: truth's best defenses against private actors' grab for public money--obscene amounts of it--through the agency of government.

Noman's only question is why these politicized scientists are not out of their tenured jobs, perhaps even in jail for attempting to defraud the public.

Pray God that the climate hucksters are increasingly laughed out of the halls of political power by revelations of their shoddy research and shoddier politics.  Perhaps the end truly is near, though in ways scientists didn't intend while plotting to manipulate findings and silence opposition.

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Thanksgiving Day Throughout American History

While thanksgiving days are as old as history, e.g., King David dancing with all his might in a loincloth before the returning Ark of the Covenant, 2 Kings 6: 13-16, it is Thanksgiving Days in American history that concern Noman today.


• The Historical Context
  • 1492 - Columbus discovers America 
  • 1492 - First Christmas celebrated in America when Columbus's ship, the Santa Maria, is grounded on a reef off Haiti.
  • 1511 - Spanish settle Cuba
  • 1517 - Reformation begins in Europe
  • 1528 - Fray Suarez, first Catholic bishop in present day U.S., arrives in Florida (April 14)
  • 1531 - Our Lady of Guadalupe appears to the Indian Juan Diego
  • 1539 - Hernando de Soto leads first armed conflict against American Indians, in present-day Alabama (May)
  • 1565 - Billiards brought to America by Spaniards who settle St. Augustine, Florida
  • 1588 - Spanish Armada defeated by the English
  • 1607 - Jamestown colony established by the English in present day Virginia
  • 1618 - Outbreak of the Thirty Years War in Europe
• The Pilgrims

Unwilling to worship within the Church of England and persecuted for such, the Separatists [Pilgrims] had moved to Holland in 1607.  At the time, Holland was the most religiously tolerant society in Europe.  They eventually asked permission of the Virginia Company, a joint-stock company operated on a charter, or written contract, from the English Crown granting them rights of trade monopoly, to settle in America "as a distinct body by themselves."

The Mayflower's 66 day voyage to America ended in November of 1620 at Plymouth, off Cape Cod on the Massachusetts coast.

• The Mayflower Compact

In 1620, shortly before they landed at Plymouth, 41 of the colonists aboard the Mayflower drew up the Mayflower Compact.  It is hailed for being the original expression of the principle of self-governance in America:
We, whose names are underwritten,...having undertaken for the glory of God, and advancement of the Christian faith, and the honor of our King and country, a voyage to plant the first colony in the northern parts of Virginia, do by these presents, solemnly and mutually in the presence of God and one another, covenant and combine ourselves together into a civil body politic, for our better ordering and preservation; and furtherance of the ends enact, constitute, and frame such just and equal laws, ordinances, acts, constitutions, and offices from time to time as shall be thought most [proper] and convenient for the general good of the  colony until which we promise all due submission and obedience.  In witness whereof we have hereunto subscribed our names at Cape Cod the eleventh of November, in the year of our sovereign lord King James of England...anno domini 1620.
• The First Thanksgiving Day

That first winter, disease and death struck with such fury that "the living were scarce able to bury the dead." (William Bradford, historian of the colony and its first governor)  Half their number died by spring.

With the help of the only surviving Ptuxet Indian, Squanto, the remaining Pilgrims lived the ensuing spring by planting the extinct Ptuxet's tribal fields with corn, beans and pumpkins.  Squanto acted as interpreter to the nearby Indian tribes that traded furs and clapboard (lumber used in building houses, which was then forwarded to the Virginia Company in satisfaction of the charter).

Sometime in the fall of 1621—the date is uncertain—the Plymouth settlement celebrated the blessings of survival and a good harvest by holding a three-day celebration.  This feast, giving thanks to God, was the first Thanksgiving.  The only description of it is in a letter written back to England. According to the writer:
Our harvest being gotten in, our Governor sent four men on fowling, that so we might after a more special manner rejoice together, after we had gathered the fruit of our labors.  They four in one day killed as much fowl as, with a little help beside, served the Company almost a week.  At which time ... many of the Indians [came] amongst us ... whom for three days we entertained and feasted.  And they went out and killed five deer which they brought to the plantation...

• 1st Amendment to the U.S. Constitution
Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, nor prohibiting the free exercise thereof...
(Concurred on by the House and Senate joint conference Sept. 24, 1789)

In the debates leading to the adoption of the 1st amendment, James Madison had championed a clause ("no State shall infringe the equal rights of conscience...") which would have restrained the States, as well as the Federal Government, from "establishing" a public religion. He argued that this was: "the most valuable amendment in the whole list.  If there was any reason to restrain the Government of the United States from infringing upon these essential rights, it was equally necessary that they should be secured against the State Governments."   Mr. Tucker countered that: "This is offered, I presume, as an amendment to the constitution of the United States, but it goes only to the alteration of the constitutions of the United States.  It will be much better, I apprehend, to leave the State Governments to themselves, and not to interfere with them more than we already do; and that it is thought by many to be rather too much.  I therefore move, sir, to strike out these words.

The Senate killed the article binding the States that Madison had thought "the most valuable" at the time of enactment of the 1st amendment,

• Debate re: a Thanksgiving Day

In the House of Representatives, 9/24/1789, the same day the House and Senate concurred on the 1st Am.
MR. BOUDINOT said, he could not think of letting the session pass over without offering an opportunity to all the citizens of the US of joining with one voice, in returning to Almighty God their sincere thanks for the many blessings he had poured down upon them.  With this view, therefore, he would move the following resolution: 
 Resolved, That a joint committee of both Houses be directed to wait upon the President of the US, to request that he would recommend to the people of the US a day of public thanksgiving and prayer, to be observed by acknowledging, with grateful hearts, the many signal favors of Almighty God, especially by affording them an opportunity peaceably to establish a Constitution of government for their safety and happiness.
 MR. BURKE did not like this mimicking of European customs, where they made a mere mockery of thanksgivings. Two parties at war frequently sung Te Deum for the same event, though to one it was a victory, and to the other a defeat.
 MR. BOUDINOT was sorry to hear arguments drawn from the abuse of a good thing against the use of it.  He hoped no gentleman would make a serious opposition to a measure both prudent and just.
 MR. TUCKER thought the House had no business to interfere in a matter which did not concern them.  Why should the President direct the people to do what, perhaps they have no mind to do?  They may not be inclined to return thanks for a Constitution until they have experienced that it promotes their safety and happiness.  We do not yet know but they may have reason to be dissatisfied with the effects it has already produced... If a day of thanksgiving must take place, let it be done by the authority of the several States; they know best what reason their constituents have to be pleased with the establishment of this Constitution.
 MR. SHERMAN justified the practice of thanksgiving on any signal event, not only as a laudable one in itself, but as warranted by a number of precedents in holy writ; for instance, the solemn thanks giving and rejoicings which took place in the time of Solomon, after the building of the temple, was a case in point.  This example, he thought, worthy of Christian imitation on the present occasion...
 MR. BOUDINOT quoted further precedents from the practice of the late Congress; and hoped the motion would meet a ready acquiescence.
The motion was carried; George Washington issued the requested proclamation.


• George Washington (1st President of the United States)

Whereas it is the duty of all nations to acknowledge the providence of Almighty God, to obey His will, to be grateful for His benefits, and humbly to implore His protection and favor; and
 Whereas both Hoses of Congress have, by their joint committee, requested me 'to recommend to the people of the US a day of public thanksgiving and prayer, to be observed by acknowledging with grateful hearts the many and signal favors of Almighty God, especially by affording them an opportunity peaceably to establish a form of government for their safety and happiness;' Now, therefore, I do recommend and assign Thursday, the 26th day of November next, to be devoted by the people of these States to the service of that great and glorious Being who is the beneficent author of all the good that was, that is, or that will be...' And also that we may then unite in most humbly offering our prayers and supplications to the great Lord and Ruler of Nations, and beseech Him to pardon our national and other transgressions... (Oct 3, 1789, New York)

• John Adams (2nd President of the United States)

As the safety and prosperity of nations ultimately and essentially depend on the protection and the blessing of Almighty God, and the national acknowledgment of this truth is not only an indispensable duty which the people owe to Him, but a duty whose natural influence is favorable to the promotion of that morality and piety without which social happiness can not exist nor the blessings of a free government be enjoyed... I have therefore thought fit to recommend, and I do hereby recommend, that Wednesday, the 9th day of May next, be observed throughout the US as a day of solemn humiliation, fasting, and prayer... And finally, I recommend that on the said day the duties of humiliation and prayer be accompanied by fervent thanksgiving to the Bestower of Every Good Gift... (Mar 23, 1798)

•Thomas Jefferson (3rd President of the United States)

When in the course of human events, it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bonds which have connected them with another, and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature's God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires the they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation.  We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness....

In Connecticut, Congregationalist dominance over Baptists, Episcopalians, and Methodists moved one Episcopalian priest to write: "Connecticut is more completely under the administration of a Pope than Italy," referring to Yale's President, Timothy Dwight, a Congregationalist minister. The Danbury Baptist  Association of Connecticut wrote to Thomas Jefferson: "We have reason to believe that America's God has raised you up to fill the chair of state."  Jefferson replied on New Year's Day, 1802:
Believing with you that religion is a matter which lies solely between man and his God, that he owes account to none other for his faith or his worship, that the legislative powers of government reach actions only, and not opinion, I contemplate with sovereign reverence that act of the whole American people which declared that their legislature should "make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof," thus building a wall of separation between Church and State.... I reciprocate your kind prayers for the protection and blessing of the common Father and Creator of man, and tender you for yourselves and your religious association assurances of my high respect and esteem.
...I shall need...the favor of that Being in whose hands we are, who led our fathers, as Israel of old, from their native land and planted them in a country flowing with all the necessaries and comforts of life; who has covered our infancy with His providence and our riper years with His wisdom and power, and to whose goodness I ask you to join in supplications with me that He will so enlighten the minds of your servants, guide their councils, and prosper their measures that whatsoever they do shall result in your good, and shall secure to you the peace, friendship, and approbation of all nations (1805)



The President announces to the country that news from the Army of the Potomac ... is such as to cover that Army with the highest honor, to promise a great success to the cause of the Union, and to claim the condolence of all for the many gallant fallen.  And that for this, he especially desires that on the day, He whose will, not ours, should ever be done, be everywhere remembered and reverenced with profoundest gratitude.

It has pleased Almighty God to hearken to the supplications and prayers of an afflicted people, and to vouchsafe to the army and the navy of the US victories on land and on the sea so signal and so effective as to furnish reasonable grounds for augmented confidence that the Union of these States will be maintained, their constitution preserved, and their peace and prosperity permanently restored.  But these victories have been accorded not without sacrifices of life, limb, health and liberty incurred by brave, loyal and patriotic citizens....It is meet and right to recognize and confess the presence of the Almighty Father and the power of His Hand equally in these triumphs and in these sorrows. Now, therefore, be it known that I do set apart Thursday the 6th of August next, to be observed as a day for National Thanksgiving, Praise and Prayer, and I invite the People of the US to assemble on that occasion in their customary places of worship, and in the forms approved by their own consciences, render the places of worship, and in the forms approved by their own consciences, render the homage due to the Diving Majesty, for the wonderful things he has done in the Nation's behalf, and invoke the influence of His Holy Spirit to subdue the anger, which has produced, and so long sustained a needless and cruel rebellion...and finally to lead the whole nation, through the paths of repentance and submission to the divine Will, back to the perfect enjoyment of Union and fraternal peace. 

Encyclopedia Britannica (1960)

"THANKSGIVING DAY, a national holiday celebrated throughout the United States, is a day of religious observance, set apart to give thanks for the blessings of the past year, as well as an occasion for family reunions bountiful dinners and festivities in the home."

"...Pres. Franklin D. Roosevelt in 1939 appointed the third Thursday of November as Thanksgiving Day ... In Dec. 1941, however, congress by joint resolution approved by the president set the fourth Thursday of November as Thanksgiving Day, a national public holiday.


MAX WEBER, The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism (1905)

In America recently the characteristic tendency to deny their own sectarian origins has led many university libraries to provide little or nothing new of that sort of literature [referring to the Corpus Reformatorum].  It is an aspect of American life which will in a short time have dissolved the traditional national character and changed the significance of many of the fundamental institutions of the country completely and finally. (Ch. IV, n. 4 Scribner Ed. 1976)

In 1941, the Supreme Court of the United States, the country's final arbiter, initiated a series of constitutional interpretations that have had the effect of extricating religion from the public life of the nation.  Thus "freedom of religion" has been converted into "freedom from religion," and the same Constitution for which thanks to God was publicly offered by Washington, Jefferson and Lincoln among others, is now said to prohibit the public offering of thanks to God.

Lee v. Weisman (1992)

JUDGES: KENNEDY, J., delivered the opinion of the Court, in which BLACKMUN, STEVENS, O'CONNOR, and SOUTER, JJ., joined. BLACKMUN, J., and SOUTER, J., filed concurring opinions, in which STEVENS and O'CONNOR, JJ., joined. SCALIA, J., filed a dissenting opinion, in which REHNQUIST, C. J., and WHITE and THOMAS, JJ., joined.  

SYLLABUS: Principals of public middle and high schools in Providence, Rhode Island, are permitted to invite members of the clergy to give invocations and benedictions at their schools' graduation ceremonies. Petitioner Lee, a middle school principal, invited a rabbi to offer such prayers at the graduation ceremony for Deborah Weisman's class, gave the Rabbi a pamphlet containing guidelines for the composition of public prayers at civic ceremonies, and advised him that the prayers should be nonsectarian. Shortly before the ceremony, the District Court denied the motion of respondent Weisman,  Deborah's father, for a temporary restraining order to prohibit school officials from including the prayers in the ceremony. Deborah and her family attended the ceremony, and the prayers were recited.   [*2]   Subsequently, Weisman  sought a permanent injunction barring Lee and other petitioners, various Providence public school officials, from inviting clergy to deliver invocations and benedictions at future graduations. It appears likely that such prayers will be conducted at Deborah's high school graduation. The District Court enjoined petitioners from continuing the practice at issue on the ground that it violated the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment. The Court of Appeals affirmed.  
Held: Including clergy who offer prayers as part of an official public school graduation ceremony is forbidden by the Establishment Clause. Pp. 7‑19.  

(a) This Court need not revisit the questions of the definition and scope of the principles governing the extent of permitted accommodation by the State for its citizens' religious beliefs and practices, for the controlling precedents as they relate to prayer and religious exercise in primary and secondary public schools compel the holding here. Thus, the Court will not reconsider its decision in Lemon v. Kurtzman, 403 U.S. 602. The principle that government may accommodate the free exercise of religion does not supersede the fundamental [*3] limitations imposed by the Establishment Clause, which guarantees at a minimum that a government may not coerce anyone to support or participate in religion or its exercise, or otherwise act in a way which establishes a [state] religion or religious faith, or tends to do so." Lynch v. Donnelly, 465 U.S. 668, 678. Pp. 7‑8.  
(b) State officials here direct the performance of a formal religious exercise at secondary schools' promotional and graduation ceremonies. Lee's decision that prayers should be given and his selection of the religious participant are choices attributable to the State. Moreover, through the pamphlet and his advice that the prayers be nonsectarian, he directed and controlled the prayers' content. That the directions may have been given in a good faith attempt to make the prayers acceptable to most persons does not resolve the dilemma caused by the school's involvement, since the government may not establish an official or civic religion as a means of avoiding the establishment of a religion with more specific creeds. Pp. 8‑11.  
(c) The Establishment Clause was inspired by the lesson that in the hands of government what might begin as a tolerant expression [*4]   of religious views may end in a policy to indoctrinate and coerce. Prayer exercises in elementary and secondary schools carry a particular risk of indirect coercion. Engel v. Vitale, 370 U.S. 421; Abington School District v. Schempp, 374 U.S. 203. The school district's supervision and control of a high school graduation ceremony places subtle and indirect public and peer pressure on attending students to stand as a group or maintain respectful silence during the invocation and benediction. A reasonable dissenter of high school age could believe that standing or remaining silent signified her own participation in, or approval of, the group exercise, rather than her respect for it. And the State may not place the student dissenter in the dilemma of participating or protesting. Since adolescents are often susceptible to peer pressure, especially in matters of social convention, the State may no more use social pressure to enforce orthodoxy than it may use direct means. The embarrassment and intrusion of the religious exercise cannot be refuted by arguing that the prayers are of a de minimis character, since that is an affront to the Rabbi and those for whom the prayers  [*5]  have meaning, and since any intrusion was both real and a violation of the objectors' rights. Pp. 11‑15.  
(d) Petitioners' argument that the option of not attending the ceremony excuses any inducement or coercion in the ceremony itself is rejected. In this society, high school graduation is one of life's most significant occasions, and a student is not free to absent herself from the exercise in any real sense of the term voluntary." Also not dispositive is the contention that prayers are an essential part of these ceremonies because for many persons the occasion would lack meaning without the recognition that human achievements cannot be understood apart from their spiritual essence. This position fails to acknowledge that what for many was a spiritual imperative was for the Weismans’ religious conformance compelled by the State. It also gives insufficient recognition to the real conflict of conscience faced by a student who would have to choose whether to miss graduation or conform to the state‑sponsored practice, in an environment where the risk of compulsion is especially high. Pp. 15‑17.  
(e) Inherent differences between the public school system and a session of a state legislature [*6]   distinguish this case from Marsh v. Chambers, 463 U.S. 783, which condoned a prayer exercise. The atmosphere at a state legislature's opening, where adults are free to enter and leave with little comment and for any number of reasons, cannot compare with the constraining potential of the one school event most important for the student to attend. Pp.17 ‑ 18.  908 F.2d 1090, affirmed.

INVOCATION:  God of the Free, Hope of the Brave:  For the legacy of America where diversity is celebrated and the rights of minorities are protected, we thank You. May these young men and women grow up to enrich it.  For the liberty of America, we thank You. May these new graduates grow up to guard it.  For the political process of America in which all its citizens may participate, for its court system where all may seek justice we thank You. May those we honor this morning always turn to it in trust.  For the destiny of America we thank You. May the graduates of Nathan Bishop Middle School so live that they might help to share it.  May our aspirations for our country and for these young people,   [*9]   who are our hope for the future, be richly fulfilled.   AMEN"

BENEDICTION:  O God, we are grateful to You for having endowed us with the capacity for learning which we have celebrated on this joyous commencement.  Happy families give thanks for seeing their children achieve an important milestone. Send Your blessings upon the teachers and administrators who helped prepare them.  The graduates now need strength and guidance for the future, help them to understand that we are not complete with academic knowledge alone. We must each strive to fulfill what You require of us all: To do justly, to love mercy, to walk humbly.  We give thanks to You, Lord, for keeping us alive, sustaining us and allowing us to reach this special, happy occasion.   AMEN"

POSTSCRIPT: Thanksgiving remains a national holiday, but today has more to do with turkey, overeating, football on TV, and family gatherings, than it does with God.  Mostly now, thanks are given to ourselves for being the recognized "authors" of all our own good.

That's not the way it was meant to be in America, or ever was until relatively recently.  

Noman wishes you all a happy thanksgiving, and thanks God for showering his many blessings on No-family and the United States of America.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Super Failure, or Success?

Thomas Sowell identifies the true and only significance of the "super committee," which ended its negotiations in failure.  Supposedly draconian cuts are to follow, which naturally will not transpire.  All that has happened is that blame for reckless spending will shift from the party that spent it onto the party that for the most part opposed it. 
If you think the goal was to solve the country's fiscal crisis, then obviously the Super Committee was a complete failure. But, if you think the goal was to improve the chances of the Obama administration being re-elected in 2012, it was a complete success.
Imagine that there had been no Super Committee in the first place. Who would be blamed for the country's fiscal crisis? The overwhelmingly Democratic Congress that voted to spend the money which increased the deficits more during the Obama administration than in the eight years of George W. Bush.

Two things got the blame shifted. The first was the national debt ceiling...  By the time a vote on raising the national debt ceiling was required, Republicans had gotten control of the House of Representatives. This meant that the national debt issue was now a bipartisan issue, whereas the spending that drove the national debt up to that national debt ceiling had been a problem strictly for the Democrats.
Appointing a bipartisan Super Committee with dramatic powers, and apparently dramatic consequences if they failed to reach agreement, created another long distraction in the media that took the president further out of the picture. When it came to media coverage of the country's financial crisis, it was almost a question of "Barack Who?"
A new Congress meets before these draconian cuts are supposed to happen — and no Congress can be forced to do anything by a previous Congress. So all this turned out to be a grand charade — and politicians are great at charades.
This one was a complete political success, because we are now talking about who is to blame for not coming up with a way of solving the fiscal crisis, rather than who did the runaway spending that caused that crisis in the first place.
An even longer-running charade is the budget-cutting charade, where big spenders promise to make spending cuts to match tax increases — or even to exceed tax increases. Of course the tax increases come first and the spending cuts are spread out into the future — and usually end up not taking place at all.
Aren't charades fun?   We'll have to remember that when the cost of credit default swaps, and the interest rate, on government debt skyrockets.  The bond market will not be laughing, or fooled, as events in Europe are presently demonstrating, and the meltdown of 2008 gave eloquent testimony to.

Should Democrats in the Capitol and in media succeed in foisting more taxes onto the populace in order to pay for restructuring the US economy in ways more amenable to Statists, then the economy will suffer.  President Obama and Senate Democrats acknowledged this, which is why they didn't let the Bush tax cuts expire last year.  

Ultimately, however, their calculation was political, not economic.  It concerned the American people's testiness, not well-being.  Democrats evidently don't care what happens to the economy if they can achieve their goal of state control over it.

The incessant wrong-headedness of Liberals amazes Noman, but doesn't surprise him.  The voters will decide if they want to drink the Kool-Aid, or put this issue to rest by burying the Democratic Party in the 2012 elections.

Monday, November 21, 2011

A Blogging Milestone

Noman passed 12,000 hits today and thought to reflect on his first nine months of blogging.

He started on February 12th with a post entitled "Jimmy Carter's Second Term."  It concerned Hosni Mubarak's fall in Egypt with American consent (if not help), and the comparison between President Obama and President Carter's governance of domestic and international affairs.  

Since then, he has vacillated from short-to-mid-size comments to lengthy essays.  As hoped for, blogging has served to stimulate more formal writing for other fora, and even to order thoughts for a series of radio interviews.

There have been 213 posts in toto, with only three during June and July, most of which time was spent teaching in Spain.  

A note about culture.  Blogging is an activity that requires being alone with one's thoughts, which not only gives time to formulate ideas, but also the impetus to share them with others.  In America, one is often alone, at least between the ears.

Life in Spain is so communal, so communicative as a matter of course--e.g., long, social lunches, multiple trips to the bar with colleagues for coffee, lots of short meetings and conversations with department colleagues, hallway residents, students, etc.--that there is little time to work one's thoughts out, and virtually no desire to do anymore communicating.

Noman has thought to blog on the topic, but will leave it here for the moment.

The goal of the blog loosely has been to depict the life, entertainments and considered opinions of a family man, academic and American of faith who has strong ideas about the way things are and ought to be.

Readers top ten posts are the following, indicating a preference for religious themes, Barca, Bristol Palin, and politics:

Friendship With Christ
Feb 18, 2011
692 Pageviews

Barca 3, Manchester United 1
May 28, 2011, 1 comment
675 Pageviews

Bristol Palin 1 - Loud Mouth Boor 0
Sep 23, 2011, 2 comments
421 Pageviews

Karol Wojtyla, aka Pope John Paul II
Feb 26, 2011
225 Pageviews

The Left's Nervous Breakdown
Oct 13, 2011
138 Pageviews

Mar 19, 2011, 1 comment
116 Pageviews

David Axelrod's Pattern of Sexual Behavior
Nov 15, 2011
111 Pageviews

Big News in Catholic Education
Aug 24, 2011
109 Pageviews

She's Baaaaack!
Sep 26, 2011
108 Pageviews

State of the Union - An About Face
Feb 25, 2011
104 Pageviews

Of the 12,000+ hits, roughly 60% come from the US.  Large smatterings come from Europe and the Pacific region.

United States
United Kingdom

Detail from the Cluster Map shows roughly half the activity (why, Noman doesn't know), but gives a more detailed picture of traffic.

Current Country Totals

From 6 Feb 2011 to 19 Nov 2011

United States (US) 3,454

Michigan (MI) 906

California (CA) 358
Texas (TX) 201
New York (NY) 175
Florida (FL) 145
Illinois (IL) 104
New Hampshire (NH) 99
Virginia (VA) 93
Georgia (GA) 81
Pennsylvania (PA) 81
North Carolina (NC) 78
Massachusetts (MA) 76
Ohio (OH) 71
Washington (WA) 63
Indiana (IN) 60
Maryland (MD) 56
Arizona (AZ) 55
New Jersey (NJ) 54
Missouri (MO) 54
Colorado (CO) 45
Tennessee (TN) 37
Wisconsin (WI) 35
Connecticut (CT) 35
Rhode Island (RI) 34
Minnesota (MN) 34
South Carolina (SC) 30
Oregon (OR) 28
Iowa (IA) 28
Kentucky (KY) 24
Alabama (AL) 23
Louisiana (LA) 18
District of Columbia (DC) 18
Nebraska (NE) 16
Utah (UT) 16
Kansas (KS) 16
Oklahoma (OK) 15
Nevada (NV) 13
West Virginia (WV) 11
Arkansas (AR) 11
Mississippi (MS) 10
Maine (ME) 10
Alaska (AK) 8
Hawaii (HI) 8
Idaho (ID) 7
Montana (MT) 7
New Mexico (NM) 6
Delaware (DE) 6
North Dakota (ND) 5
Vermont (VT) 5
South Dakota (SD) 3
Wyoming (WY) 1
N/A 81
Spain (ES) 146
United Kingdom (GB) 142
Canada (CA) 131
Philippines (PH) 78
Australia (AU) 76
Egypt (EG) 68
India (IN) 57
France (FR) 55
Indonesia (ID) 48
Germany (DE) 39
Algeria (DZ) 38
Poland (PL) 32
Sweden (SE) 29
Netherlands (NL) 28
Italy (IT) 27
Ireland (IE) 25
Brazil (BR) 25
Mexico (MX) 25
Singapore (SG) 22
Macedonia (MK) 22
Pakistan (PK) 20
Morocco (MA) 20
Belgium (BE) 20
Malaysia (MY) 19
Japan (JP) 18
Czech Republic (CZ) 17
Taiwan (TW) 17
Slovenia (SI) 17
Georgia (GE) 16
Hungary (HU) 15
Bulgaria (BG) 15
Croatia (HR) 15
Serbia (RS) 14
Israel (IL) 14
New Zealand (NZ) 14
Austria (AT) 13
Russian Federation (RU) 13
South Africa (ZA) 13
Vietnam (VN) 13
Asia/Pacific Region (AP) 12
Armenia (AM) 12
Bosnia and Herzegovina (BA) 12
Ukraine (UA) 12
United Arab Emirates (AE) 11
Sri Lanka (LK) 11
Finland (FI) 10
Korea, Republic of (KR) 10
Argentina (AR) 9
Saudi Arabia (SA) 9
Puerto Rico (PR) 9
Turkey (TR) 9
Slovakia (SK) 9
Switzerland (CH) 8
Tunisia (TN) 8
Greece (GR) 8
Lebanon (LB) 8
Romania (RO) 8
Europe (EU) 8
Malta (MT) 7
Azerbaijan (AZ) 7
Thailand (TH) 7
Jordan (JO) 6
Norway (NO) 6
Honduras (HN) 5
Nigeria (NG) 5
Latvia (LV) 5
Guatemala (GT) 5
Venezuela (VE) 5
Montenegro (ME) 5
Palestinian Territory (PS) 5
Costa Rica (CR) 5
Denmark (DK) 4
Panama (PA) 4
Belarus (BY) 4
Colombia (CO) 4
Albania (AL) 4
Qatar (QA) 4
Hong Kong (HK) 4
Estonia (EE) 3
Chile (CL) 3
Dominican Republic (DO) 3
Bangladesh (BD) 3
Kuwait (KW) 3
Trinidad and Tobago (TT) 3
Bahrain (BH) 3
Mongolia (MN) 3
Lithuania (LT) 3
Peru (PE) 3
Nepal (NP) 2
El Salvador (SV) 2
Sudan (SD) 2
Uzbekistan (UZ) 2
Nicaragua (NI) 2
Netherlands Antilles (AN) 2
Kenya (KE) 2
Jamaica (JM) 2
Afghanistan (AF) 2
Syrian Arab Republic (SY) 2
Mauritius (MU) 2
Portugal (PT) 2
Uruguay (UY) 2
Ghana (GH) 1
Brunei Darussalam (BN) 1
Botswana (BW) 1
Tanzania, United Republic of (TZ) 1
Suriname (SR) 1
Ecuador (EC) 1
Maldives (MV) 1
Solomon Islands (SB) 1
Gambia (GM) 1
Oman (OM) 1
Bahamas (BS) 1
Iraq (IQ) 1
Kazakstan (KZ) 1
Mauritania (MR) 1
Antigua and Barbuda (AG) 1
Guam (GU) 1
Dominica (DM) 1
Moldova, Republic of (MD) 1
Guernsey (GG) 1

Noman is appreciative for all his readers, but especially for readers in foreign countries who (like Noman's countrymen) are inundated with a Leftward-skewed view of America from American media, movies, NGO's, universities and academics.  He is happy and honored to provide a contrary voice for readers the world over, including in his own states: Michigan (residence) and California (origin).

In his opinion, America has few problems that could not be surmounted, or at least ameliorated, by a free press; perhaps it would be more correct to say a "diverse" press/media.  The proliferation of alternative media--of which bloggers, like radio and the web, form part--goes a long, but still inadequate, way towards redressing the ills of Left-dominated visual and print media.

Noman feels compelled to write his mind about religious, ethical, political, economic, business-related, social, cultural and other themes, and is thrilled that people read him.  This ability to communicate ideas to people the world over strikes him as miraculous.

Regular blogging about things he considers to be important to persons, family, church, country, world and fellow man reminds Noman of a conversation between Rick Blaine and Victor Laszlo in the movie "Casablanca."
Rick: Don't you sometimes wonder if it's worth all this? I mean what you're fighting for.

Victor Laszlo: You might as well question why we breathe. If we stop breathing, we'll die. If we stop fighting our enemies, the world will die.
Noman spent many years, too many, holding his breathe so as not to give offense, jeopardize employers, alienate colleagues, etc.  It only served to frustrate him.  No longer.

Thank you for reading, and sharing these ideas with your friends the world over.  Best of luck in your own endeavors to change things.