Category: Political Culture

The Sword of Damocles - artist Wencelas Hollar

The Sword of Damocles – artist Wencelas Hollar

Like the proverbial sword of Damocles, the Obamacare deadline looms. Today is the last day to sign up…sort of. I’ll explain that momentarily.

First, let’s look at the proverb mentioned above, lest there be any misunderstanding. As classics scholar Daniel Mendelsohn says, there is often confusion as to exactly what this allusion means.

The real point of the story is very clearly a moral parable. It’s not just, oh, something terrible is going to happen, but it’s about realizing that what looks like an enviable life, a life of wealth, a life of power, a life of luxury is, in fact, fraught with anxiety, terror and possibly death.

I cannot think of a more apt description of what is facing the Obama administration regarding health care. In the U.S. today, almost 49 million people are uninsured. The plan was, of course, to get all those folks insured under Obamacare. Yet, less than 2 percent of those eligible have enrolled. And today is the deadline to enroll. Sort of. You can start the enrollment process today, and the government will give you until next week to complete the process. Unless they extend the deadline again. Despite the “hard and fast” date of March 31, it has become clear to the White House that this simply isn’t going to work. (more…)

Forgotten FaithToday at Ethika Politika, I review Fr. Philip LeMasters’ recent book The Forgotten Faith: Ancient Insights from Contemporary Believers from Eastern Christianity.

With regards to the book’s last chapter, “Constantine and the Culture Wars,” I write,

… LeMasters does a good job in acknowledging the line between principles of faith and morality on the one hand, and prudential judgments that may not be as clear-cut on the other. He does not give the impression of advocating any specific political program; indeed, he explicitly disavows such a project:

Religious groups that are strongly identified with politics risk becoming so entangled in debates shaped by interest groups that their distinctive witness is obscured. To give the impression of being merely a political party at prayer is a good way to make people think that the church has little to say to the world that the world does not already know on its own terms.

He does not use this as an excuse, however, to disengage from political life.  He only highlights that in applying the teachings of the Church to our present, political context, we ought not to expect any concrete embodiment of our ideals, and we should be wary of any person or group that makes such a claim.

This is a point, I believe, worth dwelling on. (more…)

pathetic uncle samThe Affordable Care Act [ACA] has seen more than it’s share of disasters. The clunky website got off to a horrendous start, the “fixes” didn’t work, Kathleen Sebelius got raked over the coals (“Don’t do this to me!”) at a House hearing, and not enough young people are signing up.

The solution? The White House has created an “ACA Bracket” (Get it? Huh? Get it?) site where young folks can go and vote for their favorite GIFs and then head on over to HealthCare.gov and get signed up.

How bad is this website? The word “doomed” comes to mind, as in “If this is the best our government can do, we are doomed.”

There’s a dancing duck proclaiming “I’m so excited” about free birth control, a cat in a tux with a disco-glitter background telling you about rebates, and Michelle Obama “raisin’ the roof” with some woman in mom jeans. Horrifying, absolutely horrifying. (And I’ve seen “The Shining.” Twice.) (more…)

PaulRyanAP-500x333At National Review Online, Acton’s Director of Research, Sam Gregg, takes issue with a New York Times article that takes a “dim view” of Congressman Paul Ryan (R.-Wis.). Specifically, Gregg takes on author Timothy Egan’s charge that Ryan suffers from “Irish-Amnesia” because the congressman suggests that we in the United States have created a culture of dependency.

Such attitudes and critiques, the piece argued, reflected a type of ancestral amnesia on Ryan’s part. Egan reminds his readers that some English politicians warned against intervening in the Irish famine of 1845-1852 on the grounds that the market would sort out the shortages and that, in any case, many of the Irish were lazy and needed to learn how to fend for themselves. (more…)

calvin

Calvin Sr. and Calvin Jr.

In reading Amity Shlaes’ marvelous biography of Calvin Coolidge, I was struck by a brief poem written by Coolidge’s son, Calvin Jr., during his father’s stint as vice president to Warren Harding.

Coolidge was having a hard time adapting to life in Washington, ridiculed for a variety of things, and struggling to remain supportive of an administration which, as Shlaes puts it, boasted “a temperament wilder than his own.” As one glimpse into these matters, Coolidge’s close friend, Frank Stearns, had sent him a letter expressing his sympathies. “It makes me a little sick at heart that you should not get more comfort out of your success,” Stearns wrote. A sample of Coolidge’s reply: “I do not think you have any comprehension of what people do to me.”

“The price of their status, having it or lacking it, was becoming clear to all the Coolidges,” Shlaes explains. (more…)

ukraine flagThe rapidly changing events in the Ukraine are causing concern throughout the world.  On March 4 at 3 p.m., a panel discussion entitled Ukraine: The Last Frontier in the Cold War?will be held at the Calvin College DeVos Communications Center Lobby area in Grand Rapids, Mich.

The panel will feature Todd Huizinga (Senior Research Fellow at the Henry Institute, Acton Institute Fellow, and co-founder of the Transatlantic Christian Council, with expertise on the European Union), Becca McBride (professor of Political Science at Calvin College, with research focus on Russia), and Joel Westra (professor of Political Science at Calvin College, with research focus on international relations and global security issues).  Kevin den Dulk (Executive Director of the Henry Institute and professor of Political Science at Calvin College) will serve as the moderator.

The Department of Health and Human Services, under the direction of Kathleen Sebelius and the Obama administration, has a website aimed at stopping bullies: StopBullying.gov. While it has pages for parents, kids, educators and other community members, it apparently needs to add a page for politicians.

Michigan resident Julie Boonstra is currently featured in a tv commercial funded by Americans for Prosperity. Boonstra suffers from leukemia, and lost her health insurance due to the Affordable Care Act. She calls out Democratic Senate candidate Gary Peters for voting for Obamacare. Peters doesn’t like that, and he’s turned to bullying tactics: (more…)

scaliaSpeaking on February 14 at a Chicago event celebrating George Washington’s Birthday, U.S. Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia’s headline remark was his insistence that Chicago-style pizza is “not pizza.” But Scalia focused heavily on the abysmal state of civic education, which not surprisingly, includes law students as well.

Over at the Liberty Law Blog, Josh Blackman, offers some excellent highlights of Scalia’s words from the event. On the relationship between religion and good government, Scalia declared:

Let me make clear that I am not saying that every good American must believe in God. What I am saying, however, is that it is contrary to our founding principles to insist that government be hostile to religion. Or even to insist, as my court, alas, has done, that government cannot favor religion over non-religion.

It is not a matter of believing that God exists, though personally I believe that. It is a matter of believing, as our founders did, that belief in God is very conducive to a successful republic.

(more…)

Ukrainian priest/monks from Kiev stand between protesters and soldiers during recent protests, acting as peacemakers.

Ukrainian priest/monks from Kiev stand between protesters and soldiers during recent demonstrations, acting as peacemakers.

This weekend on Ancient Faith Radio, host Kevin Allen interviewed Metropolitan Antony, primate of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church in the United States about the ongoing crisis in the Ukraine. The bishop offered very good insights into the religious, cultural and political factors at play now in the Ukraine, carefully pointing out that the situation is very fluid and subject to change almost by the hour.

Allen asked the bishop what role the Orthodox and Greek-Catholic churches should play in this crisis going forward.

The Churches have an “enormous” role and indeed a “primary” role, Metropolitan Antony said. He continued:

We have all along, and so have all the churches in Ukraine have called upon those involved to remember the dignity of the human being, to remember the sanctity of life throughout this whole conflict. The Church and the clergy will be required to refrain from participation in any kind of political maneuvering or machinations, and to simply preach the word of God, and preach the love of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, to overcome the difficulties first and then to begin the process of forgiveness, because this is a process that I believe will go on for some time to come. (more…)

1776 wshSometimes I recoil a little when somebody declares that there can be an American president greater than George Washington. Henry “Light-Horse Harry” Lee declared Washington, “First in the hearts of his countrymen.” Washington is great for many things, but perhaps he is greatest for the manner in which he surrendered power not once but twice.

One of the best recent commentaries written on Washington is David Boaz’s, “The Man Who Would Not Be King.” In the piece from 2006, Boaz wonderfully sums up the depth of Washington’s immense character and what that means for liberty and America. The entire commentary is worth reading but the conclusion is especially poignant:

From his republican values Washington derived his abhorrence of kingship, even for himself. The writer Garry Wills called him “a virtuoso of resignations.” He gave up power not once but twice – at the end of the revolutionary war, when he resigned his military commission and returned to Mount Vernon, and again at the end of his second term as president, when he refused entreaties to seek a third term. In doing so, he set a standard for American presidents that lasted until the presidency of Franklin D. Roosevelt, whose taste for power was stronger than the 150 years of precedent set by Washington.

Give the last word to Washington’s great adversary, King George III. The king asked his American painter, Benjamin West, what Washington would do after winning independence. West replied, “They say he will return to his farm.”

“If he does that,” the incredulous monarch said, “he will be the greatest man in the world.”

Washington’s moral model of leadership is timeless. In everything he said and did, he affirmed the spirit of the American Revolution. His fellow Virginian, Thomas Jefferson noted, Washington would “rather be in his grave than in his present situation [the presidency]; that he had rather be on his farm than to be made Emperor of the world.” All Americans should study Washington because he is the embodiment the principles of liberty. His peers would all argue and did, that in America there was no leader who possessed greater virtue. Charles Francis Adams, the son of President John Quincy Adams, declared of Washington:

More than all, and above all, Washington was master of himself. If there be one quality more than another in his character which may exercise a useful control over the men of the present hour, it is the total disregard of self when in the most elevated positions for influence and example.