Ron Moffat: August 2008 Archives

Happy the Man

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Happy the man, and happy he alone,
He who can call today his own:
He who, secure within, can say
Tomorrow do thy worst, for I have lived today.
Be fair or foul or rain or shine
The joys I have possessed, in spite of fate, are mine.
Not Heaven itself upon the past has power,
But what has been, has been, and I have had my hour.

Horace, translated by John Dryden

Hilary?

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I'm thinking McCain should step up and be the man Obama wasn't; what if he picked Hilary as his Veep?

Facts? What facts?

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An interesting post today on the First Things web site. An extended quote:

The contrast between today's liberals and conservatives on the issue of economic inequality and fairness covers much wider ground than the question of who the rich are. Most importantly, it concerns the very purpose of a tax system, and the criteria of fairness. Liberals point to the persistence and even increase of income inequalities in recent decades as signs of a lack of fairness in American society, and hence demand that taxes on wealthier people be raised to reduce that gap. By contrast, conservatives note that (as Wiliam McGurn of the Wall Street Journal recently observed) the top 1 percent of American taxpayers already pay 40 percent of all income taxes, the highest level in forty years, while the upper 10 percent pay 71 percent of taxes. The very notion of "progressive" taxation rests on a questionable moral foundation, as liberal University of Chicago law professors Harry Kalven and Walter Blum pointed out in their now-neglected classic The Uneasy Case for Progressive Taxation, published in 1953: Why should some individuals be taxed at a higher rate than others just because they earned a greater total sum of income? (Even at a flat rate, the highest earners are already contributing more per capita to the federal treasury than others do.) But even if one were to accept some level of gradation, McGurn's figures surely suggest that it has gone too far--especially since President Bush's tax cuts removed a substantial share of Americans (the lowest-income earners) from having to pay federal taxes at all.

The most striking aspect of today's liberal position emerges when spokesmen like Obama confront the possibility that setting taxes at a lower rate might actually increase government revenues--and nonetheless hold out (as Obama did in a conversation with ABC's Charles Gibson) for a higher rate in the name of fairness. Similarly, back in 2006, Lawrence Mishel, president of the Economic Policy Institute, a left-leaning think tank, took some Democratic strategists to task for not addressing the issue of inequality more forthrightly, tellingly remarking, "I think it's a distraction [from the actual situation of middle-class Americans] to debate whether we have a higher standard of living now [compared to 1979] or not. We probably do. But so what? Middle-class Americans are not getting their fair share" (because the rich had gained even more over the same period of time).

The interesting point is that liberals today tend to look at the Government as having, not only the right, but the duty to punish those who do too well. This does, indeed, change the traditional understanding of the purpose of a tax system, which is not, after all, to serve as an instrument of social engineering, but rather to raise revenue for the necessary operations of the Government.

Yet there is still a more important point to be garnered from the above. Liberals today remain spectacularly undeterred by the facts. For example, there is the fact that the "top 1 percent of American taxpayers already pay 40 percent of all income taxes, the highest level in forty years, while the upper 10 percent pay 71 percent of taxes." Next, there is the fact that President Bush's tax cuts have "removed a substantial share of Americans (the lowest-income earners) from having to pay federal taxes at all." It seems two of the liberals most cherished goals have already been achieved, yet they are not satisfied.

There is also the well documented fact that lower taxes really do increase Government revenue. But that is of no consequence to today's liberals. They clearly do not want what is good for the country, they want whatever results in a people dependent on the Government. They do not want people to create their own success and exercise free judgment as to what is best for themselves and their country. They do not believe most Americans are capable of that, again contrary to the facts.

But there is, finally, one fact that we all should pay attention to. There is a well documented history that shows whenever liberals hold sway in the Government, calamity usually follows. Think of LBJ and the so-called Great Society, think of Jimmy Carter and double digit inflation rates, high unemployment and the hostages in Iran. Think of Bill Clinton and his failure to capture Osama bin Laden and success in capturing a White House intern. It should be pretty obvious that, if liberals were concerned with the facts of the situation, they would stay the heck out of our affairs.

A Couple of Summer Scenes

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One of the nice things about living in Colorado is, no matter where you turn, there is something nice to look at. So, for your weekend enjoyment --

Garden of the Gods & Peak.JPG

That's Pikes Peak in the background
And a view of a park downtown:
Pavilian in the Park.JPG

From St. Gregory of Nyssa

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Greg Nyssa.jpgA greedy appetite for food is terminated by satiety and the
pleasure of drinking ends when our thirst is quenched. And so it
is with the other things. . . But the possession of virtue, once
it is solidly achieved, cannot be measured by time nor limited by
satiety. Rather, to those who are its disciples it always appears
as something ever new and fresh.

From St. John Chrysostom

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Chrysostom.jpgEven if we have thousands of acts of great virtue to our credit,
our confidence in being heard must be based on God's mercy and His
love for men. Even if we stand at the very summit of virtue, it is
by mercy that we shall be saved.

St. John Chrysostom

Can't Finesse This One

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Archbishop Chaput had a good essay on the First Things web site yesterday.

Second, there's no way for Catholics to finesse their way around the abortion issue, and if we're serious about being "Catholic," we need to stop trying. No such thing as a "right" to kill an unborn child exists. And wriggling past that simple truth by redefining the unborn child as an unperson, a pre-human lump of cells, is the worst sort of Orwellian hypocrisy--especially for Christians. Abortion always involves the deliberate killing of an innocent human life, and it is always, inexcusably, grievously wrong. This fact in no way releases us from the duty to provide ample and compassionate support for unwed or abandoned mothers, women facing unwanted pregnancies, and women struggling with the aftermath of an abortion. But the inadequacy of that support demands that we work to improve it. It does not justify killing the child.

I remember when, at the time the Roe decision first came down, that it was spread about how this decision would have all kinds of beneficial consequences, such as stronger families, less child abuse, fewer unwanted children, etc, etc., etc. Needless to say, none of these things has occured, in fact, just the opposite. Now, we are faced with an ever growing numbers of cases of child abuse, single parent families, and even mothers murdering their children. We are now faced with the tremendous social problem of creating more and better ways of providing help to mothers dealing with unwanted pregnancies and all the rest. Still, people persist in denying the plainly obvious.

In the article I cited yesterday from Time.com, Ms. Gibbs carried through the logic of a pro-life point of view and realized that, why, even people's "reproductive choices" would have to change. In other words, they might even have to practice abstinence or NFP. My heavens! It seems never to have occurred to her that, along with a bit more abstinence, we might have the benefits falsely promised by Roe: fewer unwanted pregnancies, fewer abused children, stronger, more stable families. She was willing to take the logic only so far.

So, we are left with finesse and nuance. We have a presidential candidate who is willing to go through all sorts of verbal gymnastics to avoid the question of when life begins. It seems he is so obtuse that he can't even entertain the question.

But, as Bishop Chaput says so well, Catholics just don't have that option, and I wish they would quit pretending they do.

The Artful Dodger

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mccain_warren_0817.jpg
Nancy Gibbs writes on the Time.com website about the Saddleback meetings that Rick Warren hosted with both Barack Obama and John McCain.


Watching Barack Obama and John McCain handle pastor Rick Warren's questions about abortion, you could see the whole presidential race in miniature taking shape before our eyes. The clear answer beats the clever one any time ... unless you worry about the chaos that clarity can bring.

Before a friendly but still skeptical Evangelical crowd at Warren's Saddleback Church in Lake Forest, Calif., on Saturday night, McCain won a roar of approval when Warren asked him at what point a human being gets human rights: "At the moment of conception," McCain replied. The answer was clear, unequivocal and a great relief to restless Republicans who had endured a week of indigestion on the issue. Murmurs that McCain was flirting with a pro-choice running mate like former Pennsylvania governor Tom Ridge or Joe Lieberman had Rush Limbaugh and his army in full stampede. "The fur is going to fly on this one," Limbaugh warned about the prospect of McCain taking social conservatives for granted.
McCain's straightforward answer, along with his assertion that he would not have nominated any of the Supreme Court's four liberal judges (notwithstanding that he voted to confirm all but John Paul Stevens, who was named before McCain was in the Senate), had social conservatives breathing sighs of relief. "I will be a pro-life president, and this presidency will have pro-life policies," McCain said to cheers from the audience. "O.K.," Warren said, laughing. "We don't have to go longer on that one."

Meanwhile, Obama offered an artful dodge to the question of when a human deserves rights. "Whether you're looking at it from a theological perspective or a scientific perspective, answering that question with specificity is above my pay grade," he said. Like many of his responses that night, it was a long, careful, nuanced plowing of middle ground.


That seems to be the race in a nutshell, the clear choice between McCain and Obama. With Obama, we seem to have an artful dodger who is afraid to stand for anything lest some voter, somewhere be offended. He goes with the flow, careful, cautious, and deeply flawed. He even tries to pass the issue off to God. With him, there is no record to study to see how he might handle certain issues, there's nothing and so we're forced to rely on what he says now. But what does he say now? Not much, except to deny everything he's ever stood for.

At least with McCain, you know the man has a certain amount of character strength, having been imprisoned for some years in the Hanoi Hilton. When asked a question, he will answer it. Ms. Gibbs is worried that his straight answers may come back to haunt a President McCain. She worries that, after following out the logical implications of McCain's answers on abortion rights, that, my gosh, even birth control pills could become illegal, and who knows what the world would be like after that? Its too dangerous for a presidential candidate to give a direct answer, he might not be able to cave to the radical liberal left later.

I think, seeing a candidate offer a straight answer on a difficult question is kind of refreshing.

Thoughts on the Rule

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I've been reading, and thinking, a lot about The Rule of St. Benedict recently and as a result I may do several posts by way on commentary on the Rule. Whatever finally appears here should simply be viewed as me thinking on paper, out loud, as it were.

The point of view that is my focus at the moment is, while it is absolutely essential to understand that the Rule was written to govern the lives of cloistered religious, there is much in it that is beneficial as a guide for modern Christians living a secular vocation. It provides both spiritual and practical guidance that I doubt will ever go out of date. Still, nothing I write should be taken as conflating two distinct vocations. I am not saying, in any way, that lay people today should try to be monastics; they are not the same and should not be confused.

The Prologue to the Rule

Listen carefully, my child, to your master's precepts, and incline the ear of your heart (Prov. 4:20). Receive willingly and carry out effectively your loving father's advice, that by the labor of obedience you may return to Him from whom you had departed by the sloth of disobedience.
To you, therefore, my words are now addressed, whoever you may be, who are renouncing your own will to do battle under the Lord Christ, the true King, and are taking up the strong, bright weapons of obedience.
And first of all, whatever good work you begin to do, beg of Him with most earnest prayer to perfect it, that He who has now deigned to count us among His children may not at any time be grieved by our evil deeds. For we must always so serve Him with the good things He has given us, that He will never as an angry Father disinherit His children, nor ever as a dread Lord, provoked by our evil actions, deliver us to everlasting punishment as wicked servants who would not follow Him to glory.

Questions

There's a lot packed into just the first three short paragraphs of the Prologue to the Rule of St. Benedict. Yet, these paragraphs raise more questions than they answer: Who is being addressed? Who is the master? What is the "labor of obedience?" Why are the military references there? I hope the answer the first of these questions in this post, then follow with some further thoughts later.

Who is "my child?"

It seems confusing; first the Prologue addresses a willing student, then a loving son, finally a soldier, and all these allusions are mixed together. It's pretty clear that, when Benedict originally wrote his Rule, it was addressed to monks. First, Benedict must have had the man who, today, we would say was in the early stages of addressing his vocation in mind. But, it's also addressed to the monk living day to day under the Rule; these opening paragraphs are, I think, intended to serve as an on-going reminder of what is involved in the monastic vocation. Certainly, nothing has changed over the last 1,500 years; the Rule is still addressed to the monks, both novices and long professed.

Yet, in the last 50 years, the monastic vocation has taken an interesting twist with the recognition of the Oblate movement. Now, people living a secular vocation, are also dedicating themselves to live under the Rule as adapted to their way of life. This broadens the interpretation of who might be included as the "children" Benedict is hoping to instruct.

Thomas Merton wrote that the vocation of the monk is solely to seek union with Christ; every part of his life is dedicated to that one objective. But surely, this is at the root of every Christian vocation, religious or secular. Therefore, it must be safe to say that the Rule can serve as a useful guideline in the life of every Christian, because it's clear that Benedict's purpose is that we not be "disinherited" but that we follow our Lord "to Glory.".

The Master

But, who is "the master?" It seems important to understand this since, if it is not clear who it is we should be listening to, it is not clear what we should be listening for. There seems to be some disagreement among scholars as to this reference. It appears the majority think either Jesus or the Holy Spirit is meant. Others think it could be Benedict himself or else the abbot of a particular monastery. I wonder if Benedict might have meant "all of the above" and left the reference deliberately vague. Looking at it that way, perhaps a sort of priority is established. First, we are to "incline the ears of our hearts" to God in the Holy Trinity as revealed to us in sacred Scripture. Then, the monk has the Rule as a guide, as explained and taught by the abbot of the monastery. The greatest authority is, obviously, divine revelation, then a Rule that has been around nearly 1,500 years, finally a human teacher living in our own time.

What's Boone Pickens Up To?

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I'm sure you've all seen the commercials featuring T Boone Pickens as an altruistic seeker of clean energy for the good of the country. And I'm sure you've seen Nancy Pelosi's rather vocal denunciations of those on the other side of the aisle clamoring for off-shore drilling to begin. Another altruistic sort.

At least, that is what these two would have you believe. Michelle Malkin's recent column on National Review Online, Energy Viagra, provides some facts concerning the ulterior motives of these two, which mainly involve lining their own pockets. A few excerpts are below:


Energy's Viagra
Pelosi and the Big-Wind Boone-doggle.

By Michelle Malkin
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi recently called congressional Republicans who want up-or-down drilling votes "hand maidens of the oil companies." Let's call Pelosi what she is: House girl of the Big Wind boondogglers.

Though she seemingly backtracked on labeling drilling a "hoax" this week, Pelosi refuses to consider GOP energy proposals that don't include massive government subsidies for so-called eco-alternatives that have never panned out.

Which brings us to Madame Speaker's 2007 financial disclosure form. Schedule III lists "Assets and 'Unearned Income'" of between $100,001-$250,000 from Clean Energy Fuels Corp. -- Public Common Stock. Clean Energy Fuels Corp. (CLNE) is a natural gas provider founded by T. Boone Pickens. Yep, that T. Boone Pickens -- former oilman turned wind-power evangelist whose ads touting a national wind campaign are now as ubiquitous as Viagra promos.

Pickens and Pelosi share the same talking points downplaying the need to drill and open up more access to American oil. Instead, the Pickens pie-in-the-sky plan proposes to replace natural gas with wind power in power generation and theoretically free up natural gas for America's transportation needs.

Naturally, the Pickens Big Wind plan is proudly endorsed by Do-Nothing Pelosi's friends at the obstructionist Sierra Club. Through another company, Mesa Power, Pickens has committed upward of $12 billion in wind farms on the Texas panhandle. CLNE and Mesa Power are separate entities, but what benefits one piece of the Pickens puzzle benefits them all. The wind venture, as Pickens himself acknowledges, depends on permanent federal subsidies.

Pickens is banking on 'em. And Pelosi is banking on him.

You likely won't here much of this in the liberal media.

On the Web

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You're friendly blogger appears on his Congressmans web site, guess which constituant I am.

Rough Day

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Something crashed on my computer!!!
Bad Day.JPG

Memory

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One had a lovely face,
And two or three had charm,
But charm and face were in vain
Because the mountain grass
Cannot but keep the form
Where the mountain hare has lain.

William Butler Yeats

From the Desert Fathers

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Repentance is the renewal of baptism. Repentance is a contract with God for a second life. A penitent is a buyer of humility. Repentance is constant distrust of bodily comfort. Repentance is self-condemning reflection, and carefree self-care. Repentance is the daughter of hope and the renunciation of despair. A penitent is an undisgraced convict. Repentance is reconciliation with the Lord by the practice of good deeds contrary to the sins. Repentance is purification of conscience. Repentance is the voluntary endurance of all afflictions. A penitent is the inflicter of his own punishments. Repentance is a mighty persecution of the stomach, and a striking of the soul into vigorous awareness.

St. John Climacus

A Poem by George Herbert

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COLOSSIANS III. 3.

OUR LIFE IS HID WITH CHRIST IN GOD.
MY words and thoughts do both express this notion,
That LIFE hath with the sun a double motion.
The first IS straight, and our diurnal friend :
The other HID, and doth obliquely bend.
One life is wrapt IN flesh, and tends to earth ;
The other winds t'wards HIM whose happy birth
Taught me to live here so THAT still one eye
Should aim and shoot at that which IS on high--
Quitting with daily labour all MY pleasure,
To gain at harvest an eternal TREASURE.

About this Archive

This page is a archive of recent entries written by Ron Moffat in August 2008.

Ron Moffat: July 2008 is the previous archive.

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