Thursday, May 28, 2009

Misleading Media Phrases

There are several phrases used lately by the media, politicians and other commentators that are misleading. Although some of them are of particular interest to conservatives, there are others that are more generally problematic.

“Health care” vs. “health insurance”

The issue of how to pay for health care, as opposed to the providing of health care itself, is being called “health care.” Many of the current issues concerning health are not related to the quality or manner of health care, but are about how to pay for it. The matter of paying for health care is called “health insurance,” not “health care.” Indeed, the United States has the finest health care system in the world, which is evidenced by the fact that many foreigners come to the U.S. for treatment (especially Canadians fleeing their government health care system). Moreover, no one legally may be denied emergency health care because of an inability to pay for it. In short, health care is not the main problem, but health insurance is. There is a point to be made that having health insurance is healthier because it makes one likelier to avail one’s self of health care, but despite any degree of relationship between the two, health care and health insurance are nevertheless two distinct matters. The media is deliberately conflating the two in order to make it appear as if the issue is about providing health care to people who otherwise would not have access to it (Note: the media and others use the code word access to health care in order to mean insurance, in order to imply the right to receive health care; thus, when they advocate for government health insurance, they refer to government health care misleadingly as "access to health care," as if the lack of health insurance necessarily equals a lack of access to health care).

Furthermore, the media and other commentators are wrong when they describe those who do not have health insurance as individuals “who cannot afford health care” or even “health insurance.” As noted, emergency health care is free, but even referring to people without health insurance as those who are “unable to afford it” is not necessarily correct, as many are wealthy people who do not need health insurance because they can afford to pay for their health care or others (like the Amish) who not believe in it. Many others are simply between jobs, and the most are healthy young people who exercise the choice not to purchase health insurance after calculating that the benefit of having it is not worth the cost, even if they could afford it.

“Technically at war” vs. “legally at war”

The media often describes North and South Korea as still “technically at war,” as if they have been at peace since the 1953 Armistice, except only for the legal formality of not having concluded a peace treaty. The term “technically” is misleading because it appears to reduce the situation to a mere technicality, that is to say, one that implies that the opposite is true (in this case, it falsely implies that they really are enjoying peace), instead of accurately reflecting reality. What the media means to say is that the two Koreas are still “legally at war,” meaning that they are effectively only in a truce, not at peace. However, it has been a shaky truce, one that has been violated often. Indeed, the two Koreas have been effectively in a continuous state of war since the signing of the Armistice – albeit sporadically or at a relatively low level – which has caused several hundred fatalities, including many Americans. Referring to the Koreas as "technically at war" minimizes the threat from North Korea, which has frequently violated the Armistice and even engaged in terrorism. Now that North Korea has renounced the Armistice, it will be interesting to see how the media explains the state of war without even any legal truce that exists between the two Koreas, regardless of whether any more combat occurs.

“Abortion rights” vs. “the [supposed] right to an abortion”

Without examining the issue of whether abortion is a right in the first place -- which it is not --even if it were, it would be one right, not a plural amount of “rights.” There is either a "right to an abortion," as to any other medical procedure, or there is not, but there are not multiple rights associated with abortion. A supposed "right to abortion" is not like “property rights,” which include a bundle of specific rights (the right to buy, the right to sell, the right to lease, etc.). It is one right, if it were a right at all. The media is referring to "abortion rights" in order to make the concept of a right to an abortion seem even more acceptable by implying that it is based upon multiple rights.

“Homicide attack” vs. “suicide attack”

Some in the media have adopted the practice of referring to terrorist attacks carried out by suicide attackers as “homicide attacks” or “homicide bombings,” etc. Although their intention to take the focus of the attack from the terrorist and place it on the victims is good, the term is misleading because it reduces clarity. All terrorist attacks that cause fatalities, whether they are carried out by suicide attackers or not, are homicidal, whereas only those specific attacks carried out by suicide attackers are “suicide attacks.” Referring to all attacks as “homicide attacks,” therefore, loses the distinction between the general kind and the specific kind of attack.

On a related note, the media has adopted the practice of referring to the Taliban, at times, as “militants,” instead of referring to them as “Taliban militants.” Leaving aside the issue of whether it as appropriate to refer to terrorist sponsors like the Taliban as “militants” just because they engage in lawful combat in addition to sponsoring unlawful combat, the point is that when the media refers to combat fatalities in Afghanistan, its reference to the deaths of “militants,” a term general enough to include presumably even American allies, fails to express clearly that the Taliban are the ones suffering most of the fatalities. Instead, the general term “militants” allows the media to continue its narrative that the United States has been losing the war in Afghanistan, the evidence for which they cite being the increase in combat fatalities, especially of “militants,” even though it is the Taliban who have suffered the overwhelming majority of the fatalities. In other words -- in a shocking twist of the facts -- the fact that the Taliban enemy is killed by the dozens every week, while the U.S. and its allies suffer relatively few fatalities, is used by the media as propaganda for the notion that the Taliban is winning the war in Afghanistan because the media uses the total number of combat fatalities in Afghanistan as evidence that the U.S. is losing the war!

We conservatives, as well as anyone else concerned about accuracy, should avoid these misleading phrases.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Politicians Influence Consumer Confidence

Consumer confidence is crucial to the economy, as the more confidence people have, the more consumption they are willing to do or risk they are willing to take, which means the more investments they are willing to make. Conversely, the less confidence people have, the less investment is made. Politicians can significantly effect the economy by influencing consumer confidence, for better or worse.

The always-optimistic President Ronald Reagan inspired confidence in the American people that the obvious-distressed economy would recover, despite the challenges his recovery plan encountered. His tax cuts allowed people to keep more of their earnings and to work more without the fear of losing their increased earnings to greater taxation, but Americans needed the confidence to spend their greater disposable income, which the cheerful Reagan amply supplied. In this sense, even his liberal critics gave him a left-handed compliment when claiming that all he did was to make people feel better; they are admitting that at least his encouragement caused some benefit to the economy.

After the prosperity of 1982-1990, the economy entered into a mild, brief recession. However, the recovery took longer than usual. By 1992, Bill Clinton adopted the economy as his main presidential campaign issue, exaggerating its condition as "the worst economy in fifty years." There was no criticism of him for reducing consumer confidence with his pessimism. The recovering economy was growing robustly by the final quarter of the administration of President George H.W. Bush, but Clinton took the credit soon after taking office for the increased prosperity, by which point Clinton had switched sharply to being optimistic about the economy. He then boasted about the state of the economy during his time in office, despite some of his harmful policies, like tax increases, and the contribution made by Congress in blocking his worst proposals, and once Republicans gained the majority, of forcing Clinton to acquiesce to better policies. Clinton bragged as if it were the greatest economy ever, even though the economic statistics were similar to those of the 1980s, which Democrats and liberals had mostly dismissed.

By the end of the Clinton Administration, economic growth began to slow. As a candidate for the office of president, George W. Bush cited the "warning signs" of an economic slow-down as a need for his proposed tax cuts, which represented a refund of the budget surplus. Liberal Democrats accused him of "talking down" the economy, the danger of which they suddenly recognized now that they were in power at a time of economic stress. No one seemed to notice the contradiction that these liberal defenders of Clinton were making, that the economy supposedly was still strong, but yet vulnerable to being undone by a few carefully-chosen words by one man. But in a sense they were admitting that Bill Clinton had done the same thing in 1992. The difference was that Bush had done so far more responsibly, and necessarily, than Clinton had. Moreover, Bush did so in order to propose policies to improve the economy (tax cuts), instead of ones Clinton proposed (tax increases) that worsened it. The liberals were right that even presidential candidates can effect the economy, but their inconsistency about it is noteworthy.

Like Clinton, Barak Obama also campaigned on the economy, making the "worst financial crisis," meaning the worst banking crisis, "since the Great Depression" sound like the economy was in even worse distress than it was. And like Clinton, Obama talked the economy down irresponsibly in order to win election. Although Obama proposed some tax cuts, he also proposed some tax increases, along with massive borrowing and spending. Unlike Clinton, however, Obama continued to sound pessimistic during the first few months of his administration, even though the overwhelming majority of ecnomists predicted the economy would recover on its own, in order to gain approval for his radical policies, blaming Bush for the bad economy all the while. When Obama's pessimism became too much for the market to bear, he made a belated sudden sharp turn toward optimism, attributing the early signs of the expected recovery to his own policies. Just as his pessimism was harmful to the economy, his optimism was probably beneficial. The recent jump in consumer confidence suggests that consumers will begin to increase spending, and investors their investing, although how much of their optimism is attributable to recent better economic news or to Obama's change in attitude remains to be seen.

One noteworthy difference between Ronald Reagan as a candidate, and Bill Clinton and Barak Obama, is that Reagan's strong criticisms of the economy were not exaggerations, as the economy during the Carter Administration was obviously in poor condition. Indeed, President Jimmy Carter adopted pessimism as his official policy, notably in his infamous "Malaise" speech, in which he urged Americans to accept economic decline, which precluded any criticism of Reagan for talking the economy down. Like Reagan, Clinton and Obama deserve credit that their expressions of optimism benefited the economy. The more important difference between Reagan and the two Democratic presidents who took office after him is that he proposed, and later implemented, economically beneficial policies, which he could boast had benefited the economy, whereas Clinton and Obama's proposals were more more mixed, at best. George W. Bush was different from all of these presidential candidates in offering only tempered criticism of the economy, and yet was the only one who received criticism for his comments about the economy as a candidate.

Obama should continue to sound optimistic about the American economy, but, like Reagan and Bush and unlike Clinton, this optimism should be based upon confidence in American resilience more so than in specific policies. He should resist the temptation to attribute all economic improvements to government, and give the American people any credit they might deserve for economic recovery. Obama's optimism would be more effective in inspiring consumer confidence if he adopted more economically beneficial policies.

Saturday, May 23, 2009

Memorial Day Is Not Meant to Be a Happy Holiday

I am pleased to return to my blog to post, after an absence of over a week in order to tend once again to local political matters. Thank you for your patience and continued loyalty to my blog.

The United States will commemorate Memorial Day on Monday, May 25. This federal and state holiday, first observed after the War Between the States, honors those who gave their lives in service to the U.S. Thus, it is not a day of celebration, but a day of mourning, albeit one tempered by gratitude for the liberty won by the supreme sacrifice of others.

As such, it is inappropriate to speak of "celebrating" the holiday, or to wish someone a "Happy Memorial Day," or to make some similar statement. Although the intention is good, it is disrespectful to our war dead to dilute the purpose of the day by watering it down with extraneous concerns.

The time will come soon to celebrate the blessings of liberty -- on Independence Day, but for now it is the time to honor the dead who made that liberty possible. Perhaps it is no irony that Memorial Day comes before Independence Day on the calendar, just as the blood of the first patriots had to be shed in order to water the tree of liberty.

Friday, May 15, 2009

Pelosi Is the One Who Is Misleading on WMD in Iraq, Not the CIA

The Speaker of the United States House of Representatives Nancy Pelosi has been attempting to defend herself by accusing the Central Intelligence Agency of "misleading" on the issue of weapons of mass destruction in Iraq under Saddam Hussein. Pelosi, who was among the liberal Democratic critics of the Bush Administration's enhanced interrogations of terrorist suspects, is trying to deny the CIA's claim that she was briefed about the techniques, along with other members of Congress, and did not object to the interrogation techniques at the time or afterward.

In order to dismiss the convincing evidence that she was, in fact, briefed about the enhanced interrogations, Pelosi is attempting to impeach the CIA's credibility by smearing it with the canard that it misled about weapons of mass destruction in Iraq. The charge that WMD were not found in Iraq has been repeated so frequently -- without challenge --that it has become widely believed. But it is not true. Coalition forces have found several hundred weapons of mass destruction in Iraq in the form of artillery shells with chemical warheads. According to a declassified report by the Department of Defense, over 500 chemical weapons had been found already as of three years ago. Moreover, other prohibited chemicals have been found that could have quickly been weaponized, a fact which would have made the question of assembled weapons of mass destructive moot. Although no stockpiles of WMDs were found, it is false to say that none were found, as many WMDs were scattered amidst Iraq's conventional munitions.

What was more misleading than any exaggerations by intelligence officials or others about Iraq's WMD programs during the Saddam Hussein era, were the claims before the Liberation of Iraq by liberals and isolationists that Iraq did not have WMD. These claims were based upon a belief that the dishonest Hussein had told the truth that he had destroyed his known WMDs, despite his refusal to prove that he had done so, as he was obligated to do by United Nations resolutions. It was not necessary to find WMDs or WMD materials in order to be skeptical of Hussein's claims that Iraq did not have WMDs. But the finding of Iraq's WMDs and materials proves beyond any doubt that it is liberals like Pelosi, not the Bush Administration and its supporters, who are misleading about Iraq's weapons of mass destruction, something that needs to be said more often. In short, with her attempt to impeach the CIA's credibility, Pelosi has impeached her own.

Obama Reverses Himself on Military Tribunals

President Barak Obama has decided to reverse his earlier decision to suspend military tribunals for suspected terrorists. In addition, he will continue to detain some terrorists indefinitely, without trial -- even on American soil!

Obama will make minor changes to the military tribunals, such as eliminating hearsay evidence, in returning to the policy of the Bush Administration that Democrats and liberals had criticized and that he had sought to eliminate. Some terrorists held at Guantanamo Bay will be released to foreign governments or tried in civilian courts.

The indefinite detention of terrorists who cannot be released to foreign states or tried in civilian courts represents yet another continuation of another policy of former President George W. Bush that was criticized harshly by Democrats, liberals and other civil libertarians. Obama had promised during the presidential election campaign to close down the prison camp at Guantanamo Bay, although so did his Republican opponent, John McCain. Indeed, even the Bush Administration had agreed to close it down. But Obama authorized the camp's closure early in his Administration without having announced any plan for what to do with the inmates there. Now the supposedly un-Bush president will continue with the indefinite detention of terrorists, which was the most controversial part of the Bush policy for terrorists captured on the battlefield abroad. The Bush Administration sent the detainees to Guantanamo because it is not U.S. soil, believing it to be out of the jurisdiction of the judicial branch. That the Obama Administration will detain the terrorists on American soil is all the more extraordinary.

As I have noted in previous posts, Obama is vindicating Bush by following most of his predecessor's policies after having been his harshest critic. Apparently, either Obama has concluded that Bush was right and he was wrong, or that the difference between him and Bush was more personal, that is to say, that the policies are good as long as Obama is the one who implements them, instead of Bush.

I should note that the military tribunal reversal comes just days after Obama reversed himself on the publication of photographs of excessive interrogations (not the enhanced interrogations currently in controversy, but ones that went beyond the legal limit, for which the perpetrators have already been punished) during the Bush Administration, apparently coming to the conclusion that the concerns expressed most vociferously by Dick Cheney, and echoed by the military's top generals responsible for the War on Terrorism, were valid.

Obama's decision on the photographs comes after his decision not to prosecute Bush Administration lawyers for their advice that the enhanced interrogations would not constitute torture. Both decisions disappointed liberal critics of the Bush Administration, although there remains the concern that Obama's consideration of prosecutions of interrogators and even lawyers (the latter of which would have been unprecedented) were sufficient to have a chilling effect on intelligence agencies, even though he eventually came to the right decision.

Obama's vindications leave only one significant policy change in the War on Terrorism remaining -- his elimination of aggressive interrogations and his publication of what techniques are permissible. But one change could be all the terrorists need in order to carry out their next successful attack.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

The Economy, Deficit and Debt at George W. Bush's Inauguration

From some of the searches that have led readers to visit my post entitled Obama Did Not Inherit the Economy from Bush, I can see that some people were curious about the economy, deficit and debt when George W. Bush was sworn in as the 43rd President of the United States on January 20, 2001.

Note I did not say that Bush "inherited the economy," for, as noted in previous posts, government is not responsible for the economy; therefore, one president cannot inherit it from another. Similarly, a president cannot inherit the budget deficit totally, as he takes office part way through the fiscal year. Thus, he can sign spending recisions into law, or, conversely, sign new spending bills. However, a president does "inherit" -- metaphorically -- the public debt, which is the accumulation of all previous deficits, which currently date back to 1837.

The Economy

When Bush was inaugurated, the economy, after a record-long period of growth, was beginning to decline. The tax cuts he signed into law began to stimulate economic growth, but a recession became unavoidable later that year after the trillion-dollar blow of the September 11 Attacks. In other words, although the economy was not in recession when Bush took office, it was in a decline that weakened it enough that it was unable to continue to grow after September 11, until the Bush tax cuts more fully took effect an began to return the economy to prosperity.

Another significant drag on the economy at the time Bush took office, as it was later discovered, was that some corporations had misstated their financial conditions. These misstatements slightly inflated the measurements of growth during the 1990s under the Clinton Administration, and their corrections, and the bankruptcies that followed, correspondingly reduced it during the Bush Administration.

The Deficit

At the time Bush became president, the budget was in surplus of several hundred billion dollars, thanks in part to the Republican Congress in the 1990s that cut spending and taxes. However, Bill Clinton kept income taxes at the level to which he had raised them. In other words, the surplus was generated partly by the overtaxation of income. In generating the surplus, the federal government had taken hundreds of billions of dollars out of the economy that it did not need for its annual expenditures. In short, large surpluses are bad for the economy, although Clinton, Albert Gore and the Democrats continued to boast about the huge surplus their overtaxation had caused. However, political pressure began to mount to refund the surplus, which suggested that the relatively high income tax rates were not justified.

Both George W. Bush and Gore campaigned on promises to eliminate the surplus by various means, including refunding at least part of it to the taxpayers, although they disagreed on how much, with Gore preferring to spend more of it than Bush. After Bush's inauguration the Democratic Congress promised to refund $900 billion of the surplus through tax cuts, while Bush succeeded in getting Congress to approve refunding $1.3 trillion. Thus, the Congressional Democrats had proposed refunding over 75% of the surplus. Yet Democrats and other liberals have continued ever since to take cheap shots at Bush for "losing the surplus." In fact, by refunding the surplus generated by overtaxation, Bush was keeping his campaign promise, with which both his opponent and the Congressional Democrats agreed with, in part.

The Debt

The debt was $5.7 trillion at the time George W. Bush became the 43rd President. But this astronomically high figure was destined to increase not so much because of the refund of the surplus and the tax cuts, which actually increased federal revenue by helping to stimulate growth, but because of the economic downturn at the time Bush took office, followed by the corporate scandals and September 11. In addition, the Clinton Administration had made drastic cuts to the military. Bush had promised to restore the military during his campaign. In short, although the debt was already high when Bush took office, the situation he "inherited" from Clinton made an increase in the debt at that time inevitable.

It is not necessary to discuss the economy, deficit and debt throughout the Bush Administration, as my intent was only to describe the situation at the time he took office, one that was not the worst situation in history, but one that was nonetheless relatively challenging.

Thursday, May 7, 2009

Follow-Up on the Fall of Islamic Civilization

A reader from Bangladesh posted a comment to my post "The Rise and Fall of Islamic Civilization" in which the reader thanked me for my article and asked me to write more about the Fall of Islamic Civilization, which provides me the opportunity to expound on this topic.

My post was a brief explanation of of the late Father Stanley Jaki's treatment on this subject, in which he describes the influence of the ideas of the medieval Islamic philosopher, al-Ghazali, on Islamic science, in particular. I refer readers to Fr. Jaki's writings, which suggest that al-Ghazali's assertion that God is above reason inhibits the development of Islamic science because modern science is dependent upon the acceptance of the idea that God created a rational universe that can thus be observed and understood rationally. I would refer Muslims especially to Avicenna, another medieval Islamic philosopher, who wrote a refuation of al-Ghazali's beliefs about the degree of God's incomprehensibility. The lack of a clear successor to Muhammad as the unchallengeable human authority for the interpretation of the Islamic scripture, the Quran, apparently precludes the definitive settlement of the dispute between al-Ghazali and Avicenna, but it might be worthwhile for Muslims nevertheless to debate the matter, for it could lead to a return of the development of science and technology in Islamic Civilization.

For a civilization as magnificent as Islamic Civilization to decline to such a degree, more than one factor must be necessary, but Fr. Jaki at least explains the decline of Islamic science, which, in turn, allowed the West to gain technological superiority in warfare.

There were likely other contributions to the decline of Islamic Civilization, including many minor issues that those more expert on the subject could identify. I have observed that all empires face the challenge of maintaining control of territory, which is especially difficult in areas where the population is unwilling to be subject to foreign rule. The challenge was made all the more difficult in Spain, for example, where Arab Muslims failed to live up always to their reputation as tolerant of other faiths.

Another contribution to the decline of Islamic Civilization is infighting among Muslims, especially Arabs. In contrast, the Christians were able to unite at critical moments, such as when they formed the Holy League under Pope Pius V in order to prevent the Ottoman Turks from seizing Rome, which the Christians accomplished by a spectacular naval victory at the Battle of Lepanto in 1571, whereas the Arab rebellion against the Ottomans, assisted famously by the leadership of Lawrence of Arabia during the First World War, led to the dissolution of the Ottoman Empire.

The return of the development of science and technology in Islamic Civilization would benefit not only Muslims, but also the West, just as Muslims have benefited from Western technology. But the West would further benefit from an improvement in the quality of life for Muslims if Muslims feel less dependent on Western technology, and less full of despair and inferiority. As the Muslim standard of living rises, trade with the West would increase, which, in turn decreases the likelihood of armed conflict between the two civilizations.

Peaceful coexistence between Islamic and Western civilizations is possible. A successful example is the agreement reached between the Muslim leader Saladin and Christian leader King Richard the Lionhearted during the Crusades, in which to this day a Muslim family maintains the key to the holy sites in Jerusalem and Bethlehem, and allows Christians access to them. In turn, the local Muslims gain from the commerce generated by the Christian pilgrims to the Holy Land.

I hope that my discussion about the decline of Islamic Civilization promotes better understanding of the theological foundation of modern science, which would benefit both Islamic and Western civilization.

Sunday, May 3, 2009

Jack Kemp, In Memoriam

Former United States Representative and presidential Cabinet Secretary Jack Kemp passed away yesterday at the age of 73. The conservative Republican represented Buffalo in Congress for nine terms before serving as Secretary of Housing and Urban Development for President George H.W. Bush. Kemp was the GOP nominee for Vice President in 1996, with Robert Dole at the top of the ticket.

The National Football League Hall of Fame quarterback was best known for his promotion of supply-side economics. Indeed, Kemp was one of the prime sponsors of the revolutionary Reagan tax cut bill, known as Kemp-Roth (William Roth was a Republican Senator from Delaware). The tax cuts helped spark an economic prosperity that set a then-record for peacetime economic expansion, until the 1990-1991 recession, characterized by low inflation. However, like the 2001-2002 recession, the recession of the early 90s was brief and mild, meaning that the quarter century from 1982-2007 was a period of unprecedented prosperity. The tax cuts also increased revenue to the U.S. Treasury because of the economic growth they stimulated.

Kemp was also known for his strong support for civil rights for blacks, in the tradition of Lincoln and other early Republicans. He was pro-life and supported President Ronald Reagan's Cold War policies. As Secretary for Housing and Urban Development, Kemp promoted plans that weaned welfare recipients off subsidized rent toward home ownership. He was for many years a reliable, enthusiastic, optimistic spokesman for conservatism.

Jack Kemp's legacy is the many years of prosperity and liberty that proved that the conservative policies he championed were right. May he rest in peace.

Saturday, May 2, 2009

Blog Hit Report/Thank You for Your Patronage

One month ago, I began to employ a better hit counter,, for this blog. The results have been fascinating and heartening. My blog is attracting more attention than I realized. Also, now I can know why people are attracted to it.

Over that month, over 100 people viewed my blog (about 15 initiated their visit by directly viewing my homepage or after having searched for it, and another nearly 90 after being attracted to particular posts, several of whom also went on to view my blog homepage or other posts), a total of almost 150 times. I am not counting my own visits as hits and only count a multiple visit if it is more than an hour after a previous one. The searches that led people to land on my posts suggest that in many cases my blog provides useful specific information to those seeking it.

The counter has also revealed that several individuals are loyal readers, with multiple visits to my blog. Thank you for your patronage! And thank you for your comments, whether they are posted on my blog or relayed to me directly.

The following are some interesting statistics: My blog has attracted hits from 24 states in the Union and the District of Columbia, as well as 15 foreign states on five continents; in the U.S., the most hits came from NY, CA, FL, PA (even excluding local readers) and NJ; The most foreign hits came from the United Kingdom, Canada and Italy; Readers were attracted to 21 posts, including several from as far back as January, not including those who initiated their visit to my blog on its homepage; The most popular posts, by far, were Father Stanley Jaki, Rest in Peace (with hits from the U.S. and 4 foreign states on 3 continents) and The Rise and Fall of Islamic Civilization (the U.S. and 9 foreign states on 4 continents); Also relatively popular were Lepanto, by GK Chesterton, Freedom of the Seas/Freedom of the Seas Update, Politics and Propaganda: Misused Words, and Clinton Wrong to Compare Sanger to Jefferson; Hits have come from numerous colleges, universities and secondary schools; The most unexpected places where hits came from were the University of California at Berkley and The New York Times, both of which were of Father Stanley Jaki, Rest in Peace; The only hit from a government (other than public schools) was from the Holy See, Vatican City, of Lepanto by GK Chesterton.

Again, thank you, dear readers, for viewing my blog. I hope you are enjoying reading and posting comments to it as much as I am enjoyed posting to it.

Italian News

The recent deadly earthquake that struck near L'Aquila, the capital of Abruzzo, occurred near my ancestral home town of Villamagna, in the Province of Chieti. Although it was felt in Villamagna, my paternal grandfather's home town was far enough away to escape damage. The quake, which did damage even in Rome to the ancient Baths of Caracalla, was felt by the Pope, who recently toured the area of devastation. Please continue to pray for the victims.

Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi, who has been actively engaged in the recovery efforts, as well as the restoration of the medieval treasures damaged by the temblor, recently announced that he would change the venue of the Group of Eight summit of industrialized powers Italy was hosting from Sardinia to L'Aquila, which besides allowing for better security and convenience for the guests, would provide an economic stimulus for the devastated area.

Berlusconi has been praised for his leadership on the earthquake, which is reflected in his high approval ratings in opinion polls. The pro-American leader announced he would be sending more troops to the NATO contingent in Afghanistan, although the size of the force was small, as with all the increased troops pledged by the NATO allies. Berlusconi had earlier resolved a disastrous sanitation strike in Naples upon taking office and also issued the order for the construction of a bridge from Italy to Sicily, which would be the world's longest.

Berlusconi probably received a further boost recently when the Italian automaker Fiat SpA agreed to partner with American automaker Chrysler in order to save the American company from liquidation. Fiat, which also owns Alfa Romeo, Ferrari and Maserati, will give Chrysler smaller, more fuel-efficient car technology and platforms, as well as access to the European market for Chrysler models like Jeep, in return for gaining reentry to the American market from Chrysler after an absence of many years. The Fiat deal is a sign of hope for both Italy and the United States, but it will be some time until its economic effects are felt.

It is important to the United States that the pro-American Berlusconi, who is serving as prime minister for the third time, be successful. Under Berlusconi, Italy has been a staunch ally in the War on Terrorism. Not only have the Italians cracked down on al-Qaeda, which had several cells in Italy, so successfully as to prevent any attack, but Italian provided significant forces to the coalitions of the willing in Afghanistan and Iraq. The standard is especially high this time for Berlusconi because his conservative party won an unprecedented majority in parliament with only two junior partners, unlike the usual multiple partnerships required in order to form a coalition government. The last time he was premier, he failed to make adequate reforms because moderate parties that were critical junior partners in his coalition blocked major reforms, although he was able to lower taxes. Let us hope that Berlusconi is successful in both political reform, as well as in shepherding Italy through the fiscal crisis and economic downturn which is affecting Europe worse than the United States. He must take advantage of his opportunity.

Good News, Bad News on Abortion

The good news on abortion was that, despite Barak Obama's presidential campaign pledge that the first thing he would do once he were sworn into office as president would be to sign the radically pro-abortion Freedom of Choice Act, he did not sign such a bill in his first one hundred days in office. The proposed law would eviscerate state abortion-control laws, such as parental notification provisions, end the federal ban on partial birth abortion, and require all hospitals to perform abortions, even over their moral or religious objections. However, Congress did not pass such a bill, which Obama did not focus his attention upon urging it to do.

The bad news, on top of the executive orders Obama did sign to require federal taxpayer money to fund groups that advocate abortion in foreign states and to end the moratorium on federal taxpayer money for embryonic stem cell research, is that Supreme Court Justice David Souter will retire soon, leaving Obama the opportunity to replace the pro-Roe v. Wade Justice with another. Had a pro-life candidate been elected president, any liberal like Souter or other older Justices would have been replaced by a strict constitutional constructionist who would likely have overturned the anti-federalist Roe v. Wade opinion. In other words, by just a few hundred thousand votes in a few states, instead of eliminating the federal requirement that states permit abortion, Obama will be able to continue to require that states permit abortion indefinitely.

Obama Praises One Bush Policy, Considers Copying Another

President Barak Obama praised the Bush Administration for its policy of stockpiling vaccines across the United States in the event of a biological attack or a natural pandemic, a policy which the Obama Administration is employing.

Also, the Obama Administration is reportedly considering reversing itself on the subject of military tribunals for unlawful combatants detained at Guantanamo Bay on charges of terrorism. As explained in an earlier post, Obama had issued an executive order ending military tribunals established by President George W. Bush and Congress, in favor of civilian ones, which would have made successful prosecution of the alleged terrorists much more difficult, especially without revealing intelligence secrets. Faced with the challenges presented by civilian prosecution, the Obama Administration may return to the military prosecution policy after all. Let us hope that it does.