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February 2012 Archives

February 20, 2012

What's a Moderate?

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If there is a better book on the subject of whatever happened to "moderate Republicanism" than Rule or Ruin by Geoffrey Kabaservice (just published by Oxford University Press), I can't imagine what it is. And I probably would know, having helped hold aloft in my young hands the "moderate" banner during the period leading up to Barry Goldwater's nomination in 1964. What Kabaservice has written is thorough, fair, and sometimes very entertaining.

That doesn't mean I agree with some of its conclusions.

Kabaservice, a writer and former history professor who wrote a widely acclaimed account of Kingman Brewster's reign at Yale, The Guardians, obviously is not happy that the moderate faction in the GOP was slowly, but inexorably, sidelined by more assertive (sometimes aggressive) right wingers, until today practically all candidates fall over themselves assuring voters that they are the true conservative in any given race and that their intra-party rivals are covert moderates or liberals. "Moderate" once was an accolade; not any more.

Continue reading "What's a Moderate?" »

February 3, 2012

Medved on the Real Wealth Gap

Mitt Romney should probably enlist commentator Michael Medved to help him explain himself. In a column for USA Today (and, I take it, other Gannett papers), Medved describes the real issue for most people.
"
Contrary to claims of Occupy agitators," writes Medved, the most important division in our society isn't the gap between rich and poor. It's the distinction at every income level between earned and unearned advantage or, to use old-fashioned language, between honorable effort and ill-gotten gains."

February 6, 2012

Furor Accelerates Over Catholic Restrictions

If you believe it is appropriate for the federal government to decide what health procedures are financed and provided by Catholic hospitals, then you will present the Obama Administration's new strictures under Obamacare as assuring the public access to health care. That is the party line, as offered in an LA Times story today.

But if you see it as an assault on civil liberties--the rights of religious institutions to decide on what they will provide in their own hospital and other health premises--then you will be at one with 153 Catholic bishops (up from 111 a few days ago, as the post below shows) and a parade of evangelical church leaders who agree with them. Indeed, even non-religious people who are constitutionalists are beginning to notice the anti-clericalism of the Obama Administration. It's a posture that is almost unprecedented in the U.S.

The fuse was slow to ignite. The Catholic Church doesn't rise up quickly. For example, it objects to abortion and same sex marriage, but it doesn't exactly rattle the cage in Washington, DC over these matters. This is different. It's not about what public policies are implemented, but whether churches can follow their consciences--and their doctrines--in crucial arenas. It is whether there will even be any non-government hospitals and other institutions.


February 7, 2012

Elderly Smarting from Hurt Economy

Many politicians and commentators seems to think that the senior citizen vote is all about Social Security and Medicare these days. Conservatives hope that the elderly are informed enough about the dire condition of our federal budget to accept reforms--and progressives probably hope they're not.

But, meanwhile, one largely unnoticed economic trend may explain more than anything else why older voters, especially retirees, are showing up as critics of Mr. Obama. That is the lack of safe places for retirees to put their money with any hope of living off the interest. Low interest rates are great for borrowers--assuming they want to borrow--but in the long run they destroy hope for cautious savers. It used to be that retirees could count on five percent of so return on their money in either dividends or interest. Now, to make a nest egg last, retirees have to get into the stock market, and into somewhat risky stocks at that.

At least that is what many seem to have concluded. The Federal Reserve's announcement that low interest rates will continue for years only confirms the conclusion.

Trouble is, business growth, after a long recovery, is sliding again now. Unemployment is down a notch this month, but earnings are ominously scant. A report by Bernard Condon in the AP wonders if "the great profit engine of corporate America (is) running out of steam."

Cost cutting has been a way to boost profits for several years, but eventually you have to sell products to improve your bottom line. Price rises also may be resorted to. Colgate-Palmolive, for example, has decided to raise prices for the first time in the recovery. Looming in the background, of course, is continuing uncertainty over wastrel Europe.

In any case, many Americans' sense of financial well-being hinges on the stock market now, and that is particularly true of fixed income people, such as the very large voting bloc called senior citizens. As they get squeezed, they will make politicians feel their pain.

February 8, 2012

What Makes Newt Run?

Frank Gregorsky was Chief of Staff for Rep. Newt Gingrich in the very early years of Newt's Congressional service in the early '80s. A decade later he was a Senior Fellow at Discovery Institute, working with George Gilder on technology issues. Currently he is finishing a book on Republicans in Congress, examining key people in key eras; and one of those key people is his old boss, Newt Gingrich.

Frank's chapter on Newt can be seen here. But, in summary, he says (in his words), "(1) Because Gingrich's lifelong role model is FDR, he cannot be a latter-day Reagan or Thatcher; (2) he rendered valuable service to Republicans as coach, marketing genius, and guerrilla fighter during the 1980s; (3) he did so because his nature is that of an entrepreneurial business type; (4) by not being wedded to a set of principles or policies, he can coach very well, yet not *be* coached or contained -- because he follows his own intuitive flashes day to day...

"All of which (5) disorients peers and allies, who by the third year of his Speakership disliked and distrusted him. And therefore (6): If Newt Gingrich ever got to the Oval Office, by the end of 2013 he'd be at 40% or below in approval and on the way to the 2nd Bush term all over again: Nothing but defensive damage-control for our side.

"Steve Jobs proved that a hyper-entrepreneurial innovator can only succeed as an executive if he gets to function as a control freak. But the U.S. Presidency, and a sprawling executive branch, do not resemble the tightly focused and super-controlled culture of Apple Inc."


February 9, 2012

"Religious Liberty" or "Access to Contraceptives"?

Progressive groups, including most of the media, describe the latest Obamacare order as guaranteeing "access to contraception" for American women.

The conservative media, such as it is, describe it as a requirement for church-related hospitals, clinics and other institutions "to provide all contraception, including abortion-inducing drugs, in their health care plans. (LifeSiteNews)." It is, in reality, a compulsory subsidy. Since the order forces religious groups, especially the Catholic Church, to violate their religious principles, evangelical leaders such as Southern Baptist Dr. Richard Land also regard it as an intolerable attack on "religious liberty."

Meanwhile, many liberal Catholics, such as commentator Mark Shields, have criticized the order. As for the clergy, Discovery Sr. Fellow Jay Richards quips, "President Obama has done something even the Pope couldn't do: unite all the Catholic bishops!"

So, is the Obamacare order really only about women's "access" to contraceptives? Or is it about compelling churches to choose between social services and their religious conscience?


February 10, 2012

"Bioethics," the New Term for Organ Harvesting

Your tax dollars already are being used to promote the idea that it should be legal to harvest the organs of severely disabled people--and kill them in the process. Watch out when you hear that "bioethicists" are providing advice like this, advice that is so contrary to Judeo-Christian ethics (real ethics) and to the Hippocratic Oath.. The term has developed into a description of people who are hired to rationalize the killing of sick or disabled patients. In the account by our Sr. Fellow Fellow Wesley J. Smith, it seems that the National Institutes of Health are all on board with this latest advance. This is the same federally funded organization, headed by Francis Collins, that also advocates embryonic stem cell research.

February 14, 2012

Richard Dawkins and the English Inquisition

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"Nobody expects the Spanish Inquisition!" Or Richard Dawkins' English Inquisition, either.

The Spanish Inquisition was about testing the sincerity of people's Christianity. Now we have Richard Dawkins in England aiming to test the sincerity of Christians there. The difference is that he wants to get rid of the idea that England is a Christian country.

There are several funny things about the interview Dawkins gave the BBC to describe his new "scientific" survey (it must be true, it's "science"). One is that Dawkins thinks that the ignorance and non-practice of self-identified Christians--about half the population of nominal Christians in the U.K.--is evidence of actual non-belief. But is failure, for example, to know the name of the first book of the New Testament a good test? He was asked as a comparable matter if he, as the world's most famous Darwinist/evolutionist, knew the subtitle of Darwin's great book on evolution. He said, rather peevishly, that he did. But when pressed, he didn't. (It's "by Means of Natural Selection, or the Preservation of Favored Races in the Struggle for Life").

He was uncomfortable having the spotlight turned on himself, of course. But as a thought experiment, let's follow up and suppose a survey that asked people if they accept the "theory of evolution". Of those saying yes, ask them the name of the famous book by Charles Darwin on the subject (not the subtitle, the actual title). How many people do you think would get the title, and get it right (On the Origin of Species). Then ask how many had read it? Rather a smaller percentage, I suspect, than those self-identified Christians who have read the Bible in full or in part.

A nice follow-up question would be to ask those who "accept the theory of evolution" if they can say what that theory is. You would get quite a collection of responses, many contradictory, I think. Ask them further if evolution was the result entirely of natural causes or if God had a role in it, and see the spectrum of concepts there. In other words, if you think Christians are ignorant, try talking to evolutionists.

A more trivial question of my youth was, "What is the longest word in the English language?" The answer (at least back then) was "antidisestablishmentarianism," which is merely the historic position of those who opposed efforts to remove the Church of England as the established church of the realm. This whole issue seems rather arcane, doesn't it? Except that for Richard Dawkins, the cause he cares about most is opposing religion--especially Christianity-- and that makes him a passionate modern advocate of disestablishmentarianism. His heart is much more in anti-Christianity than in any scientific case for Darwin's theory of evolution.

Listen to the BBC interview here.

February 21, 2012

"Indivisible" Helps Resolve Confusion on Social, Economic Issues in the Current National Debate

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Two authors, James Robison, head of a worldwide Christian relief organization (LIFE Outreach International), and Dr. Jay Richards, Discovery Sr. Fellow at our new Center on Wealth, Poverty and Morality, are out this week with their book, Indivisible. It couldn't be better timed to confront the growing political temptation to separate social and economic issues. In fact, the authors show, social policy and economic policy are inextricably meshed.

In Indivisible, the co-authors describe a culture that alienates human economy from the motive lives of human individuals and families. Richards and Robison show that inside controversies over education, abortion, embryonic stem cell research, marriage, global warming, judicial activism and health care are economic issues over taxation, the nature of work and fair distribution of resources. Within economic issues, in turn, are social issues. The book is especially aimed at Christians, frequently referencing scriptural and historic Christian teachings on human dignity, charity and justice. Their's is a message both philosophical and practical on how to revive family life and individual freedom and rebuild the American economy.

Indivisible is an unusual publishing venture, with Protestant/evangelical and Catholic imprints of the same book coming out simultaneously. As such it may be indicative of the historic convergence of Christian thinking on public questions that has become increasingly evident. Indeed, many Jews concur with this worldview.

Here is the new website that includes articles by Jay Richards about the topics in the book. Also look at http://www.indivisiblebook.com/, where you'll find comments by James Robison. Note the bus tour through the Southeast and Texas in coming days. The authors are not candidates, but their campaign-style bus certainly offers a good simulacrum.

February 24, 2012

New Book by Jay Richards an Early Best-Seller!

Indivisible-Cover.jpgSenior Fellow Jay Richards' new book Indivisible, co-authored with James Robison and released just this past Monday (February 20th), is already topping the best-seller lists! In its first week in release, the book is appearing in the #1 slot for all books on the Amazon and Barnes and Noble websites.

Former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee calls the book "a must-needed game changer for America" while American Enterprise Institute President Arthur Brooks states: "Indivisible defines the right role of government (and) explains why social and fiscal conservatives should embrace the morality of markets."

Dr. Richards, Director of Discovery Institute's new Center on Wealth, Poverty and Morality, is currently on a bus tour promoting Indivisible. He will appear, along with Senior Fellow George Gilder, at an event in Seattle on Tuesday, March 13th. Please consider joining us!

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