Saturday, December 31, 2011

2012 Star-Spangled Banner Commemorative Coins Include the Return of “Liberty”

     The United States Mint has announced designs for silver dollar and gold ten-dollar coins to be minted in 2012 commemorating the bicentennial of the War of 1812 and the writing of the “Star-Spangled Banner” by Francis Scott Key during the Battle of Baltimore/Siege of Ft. McHenry in 1814.

     The obverse of the silver dollar coin will feature “Liberty” waving the Star-Spangled Banner, the large flag of fifteen stars and stripes that remained flying over Ft. McHenry despite the bombardment by the British. Key was inspired by the incident he observed aboard a British ship to pen the poem that was set to music and became the national anthem. In the background of the coin is an image of the fort. The visually-striking reverse is filled with the waving flag, over which the legends are inscribed – an unusual design, in that it has no field, only the device. 

     The allegorical figure of Liberty, inspired by the Roman goddess “Libertas,” appeared on the obverse of all early American coins, as she did on many Roman coins. She last appeared on circulating U.S. coins in 1947 on the Liberty Walking Half Dollars (1916-1947), but classic images of her have been minted again on various bullion and commemorative coins since 1986. Not including images of the Statue of Liberty, which are currently on Presidential Dollar coins, the last new design bearing an image of Liberty to appear on a commemorative coin was in 1996, on the National Service Dollar, which was a design based upon the work of Augustus St. Gaudens for a private medal over a century ago. Thus, the significance of the Star-Spangled Banner Commemorative Dollar is that it bears the first new design of Liberty to appear on any U.S. coin in 16 years and the first totally original design specifically designed and engraved for an American coin since the Lynchburg, Virginia Sesquicentennial Commemorative Half Dollar in 1936. See also my post from April of 2009, Commentary on Current U.S. Coins,, in which I explain the Founding Fathers’ preference for images of Liberty, as opposed to portraits of leaders.

     The gold ten-dollar coin features a scene of a naval battle during the War of 1812 on its obverse. On its reverse are the fifteen stripes suggesting the waving Star-Spangled banner and fifteen stars; over it is inscribed the words “O say can you see” in Key’s handwriting.

     You may view the designs and specifications of the Star-Spangled Banner Commemorative Coins at the following link:

Monday, December 26, 2011

Conservative Analysis of the 2012 Omnibus Appropriations Bill

     United States President Barak Obama signed the nearly $1 trillion 2012 omnibus appropriations bill into law. The act authorizes spending for 10 cabinet departments and the Legislative Branch.

     The appropriations bills for the other four departments was signed a few months ago, which resulted in a savings of nearly half a billion dollars.

     Although there was much media focus on the deal worked out with the Republican-led House of Representatives to extend the payroll tax cut for two months until a full-year extension could be worked out and also to extend unemployment compensation, there were several other provisions of interest to conservatives. 

     The bill contains $95 billion in spending cuts, including a delay in the environmental regulation of coal dust. There will be many cuts in domestic spending, as well as additional savings will come from the military drawdowns in Iraq and Afghanistan.

     Conservatives were most successful in the policy riders they were able to attach to the bill, such as an expedition of the granting of permits for off-shore oil drilling, some curtailment of Interior Department land-grabbing powers, repealing regulations restricting the purchases of incandescent light bulbs, banning federal needle exchanges and prohibiting federal abortion funding in the District of Columbia. Additionally, the bill continues not to fund the Internal Revenue Service to implement Obama’s federalization of health insurance and the transfer of terrorist detainees at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba to the U.S. mainland. Another rider forces the President to decide whether to expand the Keystone gas pipeline. 

     A number of other riders conservatives attempted to insert into the bill were rejected by the President in the deal. Although the spending cuts in this compromise are small relative to the size of the federal budget, they represent continued progress in cutting spending without raising taxes. There will be major controversies next year, during the election campaign, over the extension of the Bush tax cuts, reducing domestic spending, averting massive defense cuts and the extension of the gas pipeline.

Corbett Signs Several Bills into Law

     Since I posted that Pennsylvania Governor Tom Corbett signed the state budget without raising taxes and signed the welfare reform, tort reform and Castle Doctrine bills into law, he has signed a number of bills approved by the Republican-led General Assembly. Of these, in addition to signing the Commonwealth’s new redistricting plan into law, several are noteworthy. 

     One law signed by Corbett bans texting while driving, while another loosens some regulations on the sales of alcohol. The Governor signed a bill to close loopholes in the law that requires the registration of sex offenders; the amendments will apply the existing law to out-of-state sex offenders and tighten the registration requirements for homeless offenders. The bill also makes it a felony for school teachers to engage in sex with students. 

     Corbett also signed a law regulating abortion clinics like health-care facilities and requiring at least one random inspection per year. The law was prompted by the case of Philadelphia Dr. Herbert Gosnell who ran a “House of Horrors” abortion clinic where a woman died because of a grossly-negligent lack of proper health care and several babies were born alive and then murdered. The measure passed both houses of the legislature with large majorities and significant bipartisan support, but some liberals opposed it because they claimed the new regulations would be so onerous as to restrict access to abortion.

     It is revealing that liberals find regulations on legitimate businesses not to be excessively burdensome, but regulations to protect women’s lives they find excessively burdensome in the name of “women’s rights.” The liberal Democratic members who opposed the reasonable regulations in the bill claimed that the measure became politicized by becoming a referendum on abortion; it appears that their claim reveals the political reason for their opposition: their opposition to the right to life.

     Although the General Assembly concluded the first year of its two-year session with a flurry of legislative activity, several major issues, among others, remain under consideration: the Governor’s proposed Marcellus shale local impact fee and school vouchers and the plan by House Majority Leader Mike Turzai to privatize the state’s liquor stores.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

The Italian Parliament Approves Monti’s “Save Italy” Fiscal Reforms

     The Italian Parliament has approved Prime Minister Mario Monti’s proposed $40.5 billion worth of fiscal and economic reforms. The reforms are intended to reduce Italy’s debt while stimulating economic growth.

     As I have been posting, Italy had passed several rounds of austerity measures under Monti’s predecessor, Silvio Berlusconi, but has come under increased pressure by the European Union to do more both to cut its debt and to spur economic growth, as Italy, with its eighth-largest gross domestic product in the world, is the Eurozone’s firewall. It is on track to reduce its debt by 2013 or 2014, but suffers from meager growth, which has contributed to the lack of investor confidence in Italy’s ability to avoid defaulting on its debt. 

     According to ANSA, the new measure, dubbed by Monti the “Save Italy” program, includes several measures intended to reduce debt, including a tax increase on luxury items and homes, an increase of the value added tax (Europe’s version of sales tax) and gasoline tax, and a crackdown on tax evasion. There will also be pension reform, the elimination of several government agencies and provincial government spending cuts, ANSA reported. Leading by example, Monti is personally giving up his salaries as Prime Minister and Minister of the Economy, according to the Italian news agency. On the economically stimulative side, ANSA also reports that there will be some deregulation and tax cuts for investors in Italian businesses and for businesses that hire the young and women and that declare their incomes fully (another anti-tax evasion measure), or that make energy-saving renovations or invest in infrastructure.

     Berlusconi’s center-right party, the largest in parliament, supported his successor’s proposal, as did the center-left and some in the center, with the Northern League being the most vociferous in opposition. ANSA reports, however, that Berlusconi has threatened to withdraw his party’s support of Monti if there are any more tax increases. 

     Monti had announced ahead of time that following the passage of this further round of austerity, he will propose more measures that will be focused strictly on increasing economic growth.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

“Partisan Bickering” vs. Debating

     The liberal media and other commentators usually ascribe divisions within the United States Congress to “partisan bickering.” There is a big difference between bickering and arguing and especially between “partisan bickering” and debating, the latter of which is public discourse, either in a legislative body by representatives, or among the people.

     First of all, the divisions between legislators are usually ideological, not “partisan.” Even if there are narrow partisan interests involved, these are secondary to the underlying ideological principles that attract people to political parties in the first place. In other words, partisanship is a usually a facet of ideology, especially nowadays when the parties are less run by political patronage machines than by people who believe certain principles of government. 

     Second, to accuse someone of “bickering” is to imply that he is being vituperative (i.e. unnecessarily argumentative) or petty (i.e. arguing about minor matters). It is misleading to describe major differences of opinion on serious issues expressed in public discourse, whether by elected officials or private citizens, as “bickering,” as the expression of such differences are seldom examples of being vituperative or petty. Legislators express their ideological disagreements about important matters because of the importance of the matter being debated and their personal conviction in their principles. Indeed, it is important to note that many bills pass unanimously without any controversy. With a few notable exceptions, it is their disagreements that tend to make the news.

     It is also noteworthy that often legislators’ differences of opinion are expressed civilly toward each other, regardless of how passionate they might express their opinions about the issue. Indeed, individual legislators may be working in opposition on one matter while working with one another on another matter. Therefore, they have an incentive to avoid unnecessary or overly personal argumentation, which is hardly characteristic of bickering, despite such characterization by the liberal media of even the most civil debates. 

     The reason the media describe legislative differences of opinion as “partisan bickering” is itself a reflection of the liberal media’s ideological bias. The media believes that conservatives are wrong and that they should not, therefore, express opposition to liberalism. Expressing conservatism, the liberal media believes, cannot possibly be because of reasonable thinking, but because of partisanship or some personality fault (such as vituperativeness or pettiness); even being ideological is derided as a fault, if the ideology is one they oppose. Thus, to refer to legislative differences of opinion as “bickering” and especially as “partisan bickering” is to dismiss the validity of arguments by conservatives by essentially making an ad hominem argument. In other words, it is the liberal media’s way of trying to intimidate all conservatives from engaging in public discourse at all, let alone to advance their arguments and initiatives in a legislature, because even though the term “partisan bickering” appears to apply objectively to both sides, it really applies strictly to the expression of conservative principles.

*      *      *

     I write with personal experience as a former elected official who sat on a legislative/executive body that approved most resolutions unanimously, but generated the most media attention with a handful of issues of that produced sharp ideological division. In one instance, a Democratic member made a conservative suggestion in a committee, to which no one objected. When it came before the full body for consideration, however, some of the liberal members opposed the suggestion. Although there was overwhelming public support for our conservative position, some liberals in the media and elsewhere accused the body of spending too much time debating a matter they dismissed as insignificant (i.e. petty) because it was mostly “symbolic.” Yet it was not we, but the liberals who took up the body’s time arguing about it at all. Although relatively little time, in fact, was actually spent debating the matter (with most of it taken up by the liberals), the point is that no time would have been spent on it whatsoever had the other side agreed with us in the first place. But although it was the liberals who were spending the time on the matter, we were blamed by liberal commentators for wasting the body’s time. In other words, to the liberal media, a debate is something blameworthy – and only one side’s fault, at that, the conservative side. I note a contradiction as the matter must not have been as insignificant as the liberals claimed it was or else they would not have objected to our position as vociferously as they did and it would not have attracted as much media interest in it as it did.

     Thus, the incident revealed that liberals in office and in the media do not consider it appropriate that any time be spent considering the reasonable arguments of conservatives because they cannot conceive of any reasonableness of conservative arguments. Thus, they imply that we conservatives are being petty simply by expressing our opinions in public office, regardless of which side is the one actually taking up the time with its arguments, for only liberalism must advance, as all else they consider an obstacle to “progress.” The incident also revealed how liberals are intolerant of other opinions and generally believe they must resort to hominem arguments, like accusing people of “partisan bickering,” to advance their cause.

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Vaclav Havel, In Memoriam

     Czech playwright, dissident under Communism, triumphant statesman and human rights activist Vaclav Havel died today in the Czech Republic at the age of 75. His plays and other writings reflected his motto “Truth and love must prevail over lies and hate,” and focused on human dignity amidst oppression. 

     Already renowned for his plays, Havel gained international fame for his dissidence after the Soviet crushing of the “Prague Spring,” the period of liberal Communist rule in Czechoslovakia, in 1968. His works were banned and he was imprisoned several times over the next two decades, once for over four years. It can be said that Havel was the Alexander Solzhenitsyn of Czechoslovakia. 

     Havel was looked to by his countrymen as a leader with moral standing as the Communists began to suppress brutally the rising anti-Communist protests sweeping Eastern Europe, including Czechoslovakia, in 1989. He took a lead role in the peaceful opposition of what become known as the “Velvet Revolution.” After the fall of Communism that year, they playwright was elected President of Czechoslovakia.

     President Havel presided over the dissolution of the Warsaw Pact and the removal of Soviet troops from Czechoslovakia. He brought his state into the European Union and NATO and established its free market economy. Havel regretted that he could not bridge the divide between the Czechs and Slovaks. He resigned the presidency in 1992 in order to avoid presiding over the breakup his country into the Czech Republic and Slovakia. Havel was then elected the first President of the Czech Republic in 1993, a post he held for ten years. It was a ceremonial position from which he unsuccessfully attempted to exercise moral influence. Havel supported the Liberation of Iraq, which ironically ended in victory the day of his death. 

     Havel’s international prestige remained high, however, as we he was honored by many awards around the world. He wrote a number of books during and after his public service. After Havel left office, he wrote a memoir of his service and returned to writing plays. The playwright-turned statesman was involved with a number of human rights organizations that defended the oppressed around the globe, as well as the Victims of Communism Memorial (See my post from August of 2009, Victims of Communism Memorial Foundation Opens Online Museum,

     May Havel’s legacy of virtue and decency inspire all of us to oppose tyranny, which is an assault against the human person, and to stand for liberty.

U.S. Mission in Iraq Ends in VICTORY

     The United State mission in Iraq has formally ended in victory. The Obama Administration points out some of the benefits of the mission, but declines to use the word “victory.” Someone has to use it: The Liberation of Iraq was a victory!

     As I posted in August of 2010, Operation Iraqi Freedom Ends in Victory,, the U.S. overthrow a state sponsor of terrorism who was a regional bully, enforced United Nations resolutions, captured and destroyed hundreds of chemical weapons and materials for making additional weapons, liberated 25 million people from a brutal dictator and brought him and his regime to justice, defeated al-Qaeda and removed one of its chief arguments against the U.S. by being able to withdraw from Saudi Arabia, where 24 American troops had been murdered by Islamists before the war, on our own terms. The U.S. gained an ally in the War on Terrorism. 

     The figure reported of 4,500 fatalities for American servicemen during the war includes several hundred non-combat deaths. The point I am making in mentioning this fact is that opinion polls before the war suggested the American people were willing to accept as many deaths to liberate Iraq as were lost on September 11 (nearly 3,000), meaning the total fatalities were only slightly over that number. The American people turned against the war, however, well before that number was reached, in part because only a few score were lost by the overthrow of the Baathist regime, which raised expectations the war would be relatively short and bloodless. In other words, the Bush Administration was victimized by its own early success. Also, the death toll must be judged with the consideration that an additional enemy was defeated in Iraq, namely al-Qaeda.

     The economic cost in treasure for the war is usually exaggerated by the liberal media, as the fiscal costs do not factor in any economically stimulative aspects of the war, which, in turn, increase revenue to federal and state governments. Moreover, the costs must be measured against the status-quo antebellum, meaning the U.S. would have continued to have to expend money fighting a minor war with Iraq by enforcing the no-fly zones. The U.S. was also able to end its embargo on Iraqi oil and other goods, as well as win contracts for Iraqi reconstruction. See also my post The Iraqi Economic Stimulus from September of 2010

     The cries of “bringing our troops home” in regard to the wars in Iraq, Afghanistan and in general, as well as for soldiers stationed abroad in peacetime, reflect ignorance about defense, even leaving aside the benefits of a forward defense strategy. Soldiers do not belong at their homes; except for leave time, they belong on their posts. “Home” does not mean even mean U.S. soil, as American soil includes places like Guam or Saipan, in addition to U.S. embassies, where American troops will continue to be stationed, including in Iraq. Home also includes American ships at sea, which are places of U.S. sovereignty. Indeed, sailors and marines on ships in the theater of operations Iraq or Afghanistan will not necessarily “come home,” but be remain in place and simply be redesignated as no longer in a combat zone. Moreover, under the principle of federalism in the U.S. Constitution, no soldier is truly home, even if only in the sense of being in his homeland, if he is in a foreign state, even if that state is one of the other states in the American Union. Thus, a citizen of Pennsylvania, for example, is only at home in Pennsylvania, not in Alaska or Hawaii.

     We mourn the loss of the Americans, Iraqis and other allies who gained this hard-
fought major victory in the War on Terrorism while we continue to care for the physically and emotionally wounded. We honor and praise all the heroes and martyrs for their deeds, as well as all the political leaders in the U.S.-led coalition and in Iraq who made this victory possible, as well as celebrate their accomplishments. May we continue to be vigilant in protecting liberty and our interests in Iraq and around the world.

Friday, December 16, 2011

The Failure of the Congressional “Supercommittee/” Balanced Budget Amendment Opportunity

     The Congressional “Supercommittee” that was tasked with reducing hundreds of billions of dollars of United States debt has failed to keep its charge, which will trigger significant automatic cuts to defense and domestic spending.

     The efforts to reduce the debt came to naught because of liberal Democratic insistence on raising taxes, even though the historical record is clear that the rising debt is the result of overspending, not undertaxing, and also that raising taxes reduces revenue by decreasing economic growth while cutting taxes increases revenue by stimulating economic growth.

     The drastic cuts to defense would “invite aggression,” according to the Defense Secretary, yet President Barak Obama has threatened to veto any Congressional effort to avoid the cuts.

     I decided to post about this issue not only as an update, but to point out that there is still time to pass a balanced budget amendment to the Constitution that would avoid the drastic defense cuts while making prudent cuts to domestic spending and avoiding tax increases. There are proposed amendments being considered by Congress. We conservatives should use this opportunity to promote a balanced budget amendment.

Obama Signs a Bill Allowing Indefinite Detention of Terrorists

   United States President Barak Obama has signed the defense reauthorization bill, which includes a provision that allows military detentions of terrorists on U.S. soil indefinitely, even if they are American citizens. 

     The provision targets suspects who have joined a foreign army or terrorist organization at war with the U.S. It codifies existing authority that was approved by Congress after September 11. The Administration retains its prerogative to try terrorists in military or civilian federal court, which some in Congress wanted to restrict. 

     Although the indefinite detentions provision was opposed by liberals, along with libertarians, it attracted significant bipartisan support in Congress. At issue in the public discourse over the provision was whether to regard terrorists as criminals or prisoners of war. As I have noted before, they are neither; terrorists are war criminals who have no rights under the law of nations. Thus, the provision rightly treats terrorists like war criminals.

     The signing of this provision represents another example, with some notable exceptions, of the Obama Administration generally continuing the policies of the Bush Administration in the War on Terrorism, which I have reported regularly in my posts.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

The Obama Administration is Penny-Wise and Pound Foolish about Dollar Coins

     The Obama Administration announced that it is limiting production of United States Dollar coins only to collectors, according to the Washington Examiner.  In order to save the $50 million in production and printing costs, the Administration will forfeit the 62-cent profit on each coin and spend an estimated $5.6 billion in more printing costs for $1 Federal Reserve Notes that the dollar coins could have replaced.  In short, in order to appear fiscally responsible, the Obama Administration is being penny-wise and pound foolish.

     See also my posts, Dollar Coins Are Not a Waste of Money from September of 2011 and two posts from October of this year: Follow-Up: Dollar Coins Are Not a Waste of Money and Use Dollar Coins and $2 Bills

     It is no surprise then, that the federal government announced on the same day a record 38th month of budget deficits, according to the Conservative News Service, and a corresponding increase of several trillion dollars in debt.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

U.S. Attorney General Holder Must Resign or Be Removed from Office

     In my January of 2009 post, Hold the Line on Holder,, I had singled out Eric Holder as the one Cabinet appointment by United States President Barak Obama that conservatives should have resisted. Holder’s record as Attorney General validates my concern.

     Recently, Holder has come under fire because of Justice Department program called “Operation Fast and Furious.” Under the program, guns were provided to Mexican drug cartels ostensibly to track them, but really in order to make appear as if loose gun laws in American states are to blame for drug violence in Mexico. A U.S. Border Control agent was among the scores of people who were killed by the drug cartels using the guns. Questions have arisen about lack of proper tracking and retrieval of the guns, as well as deception by the Justice Department in order to avoid congressional oversight and even to disguise the program’s true purpose. Some critics have called for Holder’s resignation because of the Fast and Furious scandal. 

     The scandal over Fast and Furious may result in Holder’s resignation, firing or impeachment, but there also has been a pattern of radical policies implemented by the Attorney General on behalf of the Obama Administration. 

     Holder dropped charges of voter intimidation during the 2008 General Election against the New Black Panthers in Philadelphia. The armed Panthers were caught on film intimidating voters at a voting precinct. The Justice Department had won a judgment against the Panthers, but dropped the case. A career Justice Department prosecutor resigned in protest, claiming that political leadership of the Department under Attorney General Holder had expressed its policy of not prosecuting voter intimidation by blacks against whites, instead of enforcing the equal protection of the laws, as required by the Fourteenth Amendment to the Constitution. Holder also declines to enforce the Defense of Marriage Act, a bipartisan Clinton-era federal law that allows states the option to not recognize “gay marriages” in other states instead of being forced to recognize them. 

     The Attorney General’s implementation of policies reflect Obama’s failure to recognize the problem of terrorism as a facet of a war by militant Muslims against the United States, instead of as only a criminal problem. For example, the Holder attempted to conduct civilian trials for the September 11 conspirators and other terrorists who are war criminals, not common criminals. Indeed, he has not only charged terrorists with crimes and had them read their right to remain silent instead of interrogating them sufficiently. Holder has weakened American security by softening interrogations of terrorists and by threatening to prosecute criminally those Americans who harshly interrogated terrorists in order to prevent terrorist attacks against innocent American civilians. The Attorney General’s record on the War on Terrorism, which reflects a widespread left-wing view within the Obama Administration, has been the most significant blemish on Obama’s otherwise adequate record on the war. But even this one blemish is a risk too great to abide. 

     For all these reasons, the tenure of Eric Holder as U.S. Attorney General must soon come to an end. We conservatives should continue to expose the radical left-wing policies of Holder and other Obama Administration officials and hold them accountable.

4,000th Visit to my Blog Tracked by StatCounter

     StatCounter has tracked the 4,000th visit to my blog since April 2, 2009. Thank you for visiting. As always, separate visits are counted as pageviews that are at least one hour apart and do not include my own pageviews.  

     The 3,000th visit was logged less than seven months ago.  I shall continue to post of significant milestones, but save fuller reports for anniversaries of the commencement of  tracking by each counter.

     I appreciate your patronage of my blog.  Please continue to visit regularly.  Thank you for making it successful.

Monday, December 5, 2011

Roman-Inspired Western European Civilization vs. Greek-Inspired Eastern European Civilization

     Lately, modern Greece is increasingly being referred to as part of “Western Civilization” and even Ancient Greece is being called the place of origin of Western Civilization. Although it may be only a stretch to include Greece, Russia or other parts of Eastern Europe within Western Civilization, it is strictly erroneous to consider Ancient Greek civilization as the origin of Western Civilization.

     “Western Civilization” refers to Western European Civilization. It developed after the fall of the Western Roman Empire in 476 A.D., which comprised much of Western Europe. Although there was some continuity with late Roman (i.e. Christian Roman) civilization, there was a political and cultural void during the post-Roman upheaval. Two figures, in particular, emerged to impose order amidst the chaos. First was St. Benedict, the 6th Century Italian son of Roman parents, who founded Western monasticism according to his orderly, yet balanced Rule. The Benedictine monasteries were centers of spirituality and learning where the monks conserved not only Scripture and the writings of the early Church, but the writings of ancient Greek and Roman civilization. The second figure was the Frankish King, Charles the Great (“Charlemagne”). He built upon the work of his grandfather and father and reunited Western Europe politically under a shared post-Western Roman civilization. By 800, Charlemagne was crowned “Emperor of the West” by the Pope, as the new “Holy Roman Empire” was the successor to the Western Roman Empire. The “Age of Christendom” can be dated to this time, a time when, despite political divisions, Western Europeans were united by the Church.

     While the Western Roman Empire fell in the late 5th Century, the Eastern Roman Empire, with its capital at Constantinople (formerly “Byzantium”), continued for nearly another thousand years. Its early Greco-Roman character soon became more distinctively Greek, while retaining some Roman influences, as it became known as the “Byzantine Empire.” While Latin had been the language of the West, Greek had been the language of the East. Although both Eastern and Western Europeans were Christians, they expressed their faith differently, apart from the divisions that led to schism late in the late 11th Century. Thus, although Hellenistic (Ancient Greek) and Greco-Roman Civilization influenced Western Civilization, Greece is not the place of direct origin of Western European Civilization, but of the distinct Eastern European Civilization. Ancient and medieval Eastern European Civilization, like Western European Civilization, produced many fine fruits. 

     Therefore, “Western” Civilization does not mean “European” Civilization in general, in the sense of being Occidental (Western), as opposed to Oriental (Eastern, e.g. Asian) civilization. Only Western European Civilization is the cultural successor to Western Roman Civilization. Even if Eastern European Civilization, which has been less active in the contemporary era, currently would be considered to form, together with Western European Civilization, a new general “Western Civilization” that encompasses the entire Occident, it would only be because the former has been subsumed by the latter, not because they share a common direct ancestor. Regardless, although the two civilizations influenced each other, they remain different enough to identify them as distinct. The fact that some contemporary Eastern Europeans consider themselves Westerners does not alter these facts.

     In addition to historical accuracy and the recognition and appreciation of different cultures, a major significance of this point is that it disproves the common misconception that Ancient Greece is the source of inspiration for the American so-called “democracy.” The late 6th Century B.C. Greek democracy, which lasted only thirty years, along with other ancient Greek ideals, was only partially inspirational to the American Founding Fathers. The Republic of Rome, along with certain ancient Roman ideals, was the main source of inspiration for the American representative republic. Indeed, democracy is a Greek word and republic a Latin one. James Madison made clear the differences between a democracy and a representative republic in Federalist #14 in defending the proposed Constitution that established a federal republic on the American Continent instead of a democracy, which is only practical on a small scale, among other problems.

     In conclusion, the ancient Greeks and Romans influenced each other, but Roman-Inspired Western European Civilization (“Western Civilization” for short) is culturally distinct from more Greek-Inspired Eastern European Civilization.  Therefore, Ancient Greece is not the cradle of Western Civilization.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Social Security: The Ponzi Scheme Debate, Its Unconstitutionality and Fascist Inspiration and the Latest Developments

     Now that the general election is over, I can focus on posting more to my blog. One of the topics on which I had made notes during the campaign was about a subject that arose during the 2012 United States presidential election campaign, which has commenced prematurely. There was some debate about whether Social Security is a Ponzi scheme and whether it is unconstitutional. The debate was touched off by comments by Republican presidential candidate Rick Perry, the Governor of Texas.

     In a Ponzi scheme, the initial investors earn high returns on their investments, paid for by the additional investments of newer investors, and not by any profit generated by the fund manager, for without additional investors, there would not be sufficient funds to pay back the original investors. Such a fraudulent criminal scheme only works as long as there is a sufficient number of new investors to satisfy the demands by the original investors of a return on their investment, or else the scheme collapses for lack of sufficient funds. Whether or not Social Security meets the legal definition of such a scheme, it would undoubtedly not be permitted by law because of other problems, at least in many states. For example, an individual can pay Social Security payroll taxes (i.e. a premium) for his entire working life, but die the moment before he reaches retirement age and receive none of the money back. Any pension or old age insurance plan with terms like Social Security would be recognized as a rip-off for this reason alone, among other deficiencies, such as its lack of safeguarded reserves or its low rate of return on investment.

     Indeed, any government-run program can be ended by the government without any obligation to keep whatever promises it made. That a government program is not as safe as a legally-enforceable private plan is an implicit point in the scare tactics made by liberal Democrats every election against Republicans they claim would eliminate or cut Social Security, as if the government-run pension plan is like a private plan that is based upon a legal obligation to pay back the retiree the funds he contributed through the premiums he paid, when, in fact, the program is funded by nothing more than a tax which generates revenues the federal government uses as it pleases without any obligation to pay the taxpayer back even one cent. Thus, the liberal Democrats make the conservatives' point that government-run insurance plans are unreliable.

     The debate inspired Terry Jeffrey to write an article for the Conservative News Service that explains the constitutional questions about Social Security, which may be viewed at the following link, where it was republished:
     I would add another historical insight to the discussion: the Fascist origin of Social Security. According to the American Italian Historian Association, United States President Franklin Roosevelt sent a delegation to Fascist Italy in the 1930s to study Dictator Benito Mussolini’s socialist retirement pension plan. The American Social Security program was modeled on that fascist program.

     Shortly after the Ponzi scheme debate, Rep. Thaddeus McCotter (R-MI) unveiled his plan to reform Social Security without cutting benefits, raising the payroll tax or privatizing the program. An article about his proposal can be viewed at the following link: The plan would fund voluntary requirement accounts for older workers funded by federal spending cuts. The accounts would be based upon a mix of bonds and stocks, which would thus represent a conservative risk and would pay competitive returns.

     Meanwhile, there continues to be a congressional debate about whether or not to extend or even expand the 2% cut of the payroll tax which funds Social Security that was approved last year by Congress for 2011 as a temporary economic stimulus measure. The Democrats who support the extension of the cut that was proposed by United States President Barak Obama are accusing the majority Republicans, who had supported the temporary measure, of opposing a tax cut by not supporting its extension. The concern on the part of some conservatives was the loss of revenue to support Social Security and their opposition to the liberal Congressional Democrats’ predictable proposed offset: to increase the tax on the wealthy. The conservatives argue that an increase of taxes on the wealthy, who are often employers, would be counterproductive to the stimulative intent of the payroll tax cut. The Democrats did propose to include employers, who must match employee contributions, but who have been left out of the current tax cut, in the expanded tax cut, if the employers hire new workers. Such a proposal would be fairer and more economically beneficial. There is hope that a compromise can be reached on the payroll tax that neither increases workers’ taxes nor the federal debt, perhaps by offsetting spending cuts.

Monday, November 28, 2011

Third Anniversary of My Blog/One-Year Blogger Hit Report

     Thank you, dear visitors, for making this blog successful over its first three years. I especially appreciate the comments you post or pass along to me privately. Please continue to visit or comment. As always, your ideas are welcome.

     I shall summarize in this post the findings from the tracking by the blog host,, as the blog’s anniversary is nearly coincidental with the point at which I began to track hits to it through Blogger. In the year since I first started noticing Blogger’s tracking of hits (pageviews) to my blog, I have observed a number of interesting developments. As I have noted in previous reports, Blogger tracks far more visitors than the tracking service I have been using since April of 2009, StatCounter, especially from Europe, although the former tracking service is far less specific than the latter. Nonetheless, a number of statistics can be determined from the data provided by Blogger.

     Not counting my own pageviews, Blogger has tracked around 6,100 pageviews in one year – a rate of nearly 17 a day, which is more than twice as many as tracked by StatCounter. The far-more specific StatCounter allows the tracking of actual visits (pageviews at least one hour apart), which averages more than four a day. The increase in hits in recent months tracked by both services is much more pronounced in Blogger’s tracking than StatCounter’s.

     Blogger has tracked pageviews of every post to my blog. Indeed, all posts have received more hits than have been tracked by StatCounter. The most-visited posts tracked by Blogger are similar to those visited over the same period by StatCounter, with several interesting exceptions. There were disproportionately more hits (several hundred more, combined) for the following four posts, among others: First Anniversary of My Blog; Happy Thanksgiving; The Santorum-McCain Enhanced Interrogation Policy Controversy; Cinfici’s Interview on Rick Santorum’s Presidential Candidacy; and Freedoms, Rights and Prudence in Regard to the September 11 Site Mosque and the Koran Burning.

     Blogger has tracked more pageviews from all over the world, including the United States, than StatCounter, especially from Europe and Asia. The most hits from outside the United States have been tracked by Blogger from Russia, Germany, Netherlands and France (340+ to 600+ each). Like StatCounter, Blogger has also tracked many pageviews from Algeria, Malaysia and the United Kingdom, although the former has tracked more from those states than the latter. However, Blogger has also tracked scores of hits from Ukraine, Latvia and Poland, which StatCounter has not. There have been more pageivews tracked by Blogger than StatCounter from Eastern Europe, in particular. The tracking of the two services was relatively similar for Canada, Australia and India, but Blogger tracked significantly more hits from Slovenia, Singapore and Italy than StatCounter. Blogger has tracked hits from 10 states from which StatCounter has not tracked any pageviews since I began using its service in April of 2009; in addition to Latvia, there were a significant number of hits from China and Georgia among this group.

     Again, thank you for visiting my blog.  I hope all of you had a great Thanksgiving Holiday. I did, as I recover well both from the recent election and from health problems. I am thankful for my health and the many well-wishes I have received. I have also been focused in the meantime on advising policymakers who have requested my advice in regard to the Reading School District in terms of greater openness and transparency and better financial controls. I hope they are successful in implementing these reforms for better government.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Guatemala and Spain Elect Conservatives

     I have been posting about a popular global rightward shift in elections over the last two years. Sometimes, the shift toward the starboard side has been slight – so slight that the conservative candidate has occasionally lost the election by being unable to form a coalition, despite gaining a parliamentary plurality. Guatemala and Spain, however, have each confirmed the trend to the right in a decisive manner.

     In Guatemala earlier this month, voters returned the conservatives to power by electing former General Otto Perez Molina president. Molina was part of the regime charged with atrocities during the Guatemalan Civil War, but he has never personally been associated with any crimes. He was part of the team that negotiated the peace accords with the Communist rebels and he had a record of respecting the constitution and human rights. Molina’s campaign promise to crack down on crime appealed to Guatemalans beleaguered by crime. He will also have to work to improve his impoverished country’s budget.

     The results of the elections this weekend in Spain were even more dramatic. Spanish voters not only ousted the Socialists, but gave the conservatives a parliamentary majority. Conservative leader Mariano Rajoy will be able to become Prime Minister without having to form a coalition. He will also have a free hand to enact further austerity measures to avoid the need for Spain to be bailed out by the European Monetary Union. The Spanish economy has declined during Socialist rule, while Spain’s debt had risen until the adoption of the government’s austerity program. Having a parliamentary majority will give investors confidence that the incoming Spanish government can pass the necessary fiscal and economic reforms.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Monti Is Sworn in as Italian Premier

     Economist and Former European Commissioner Mario Monti was sworn in as Prime Minister of Italy today, officially ending the premiership of Silvio Berlusconi. The respected Monti takes the helm of the Italian ship of state as it navigates through the tempest of the European debt crisis, at which Italy is now in the eye. 

     Monti saluted Berlusconi’s service, according to ANSA, the Italian news agency. Berlusconi resigned after the passage of reforms he proposed to stimulate economic growth because of the European loss of confidence in his center-right government’s ability to implement them. The outgoing Prime Minister’s party, the People of Freedom, backs Monti, but its coalition partner, the Northern League, does not, although ANSA reports that Monti has stated that he will continue the League’s policy of fiscal federalism. The main centre-left opposition party and some most centrist parties also back the national unity government that comprises only technocrats, not politicians. 

     Monti was appointed a life Senator by President Georgio Napolitano in order to pave the way to his appointment as Prime Minister, as it would have been seen as less representative to appoint a non-politician as Premier without calling for snap elections. The new Prime Minister’s executive is unusual in that none of its cabinet ministers are Members of Parliament. It remains unclear when elections will be held, but Monti’s new government will face a confidence vote in Parliament Friday, which he is expected to win easily.

     ANSA reports that Monti outlined his agenda before Parliament today for reducing Italian debt and boosting economic growth. He will reexamine Italy’s taxes and spending, particularly the escalating costs of government, which he attributed to high benefit pensions for government employees and redundant provincial administrations, ANSA reported; he proposes tax reform and disincentivizing early retirement, for example. Monti plans to sell state real state assets and urged local governments to privatize public services and sell off interests in municipal companies, according to ANSA. The Italian news agency also reports that Monti would deregulate professional services and crack down even more heavily on tax evasion. 

     Monti’s appointment has won international praise. The expectations are high that he will achieve positive results, despite the difficult challenges.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Conservative Analysis of Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi's Record

     Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi has submitted his resignation to the Italian President, as promised, following the passage in Parliament of the reforms he proposed to increase Italy's economic growth in the midst of the European debt crisis.  The reforms include the selling of state assets, the liberalization of Italy's labor market to make it easier for companies to terminate employees and the gradual increase of Italy's retirement age.

     The 75-year old Berlusconi served three times as Premier over the last 17 years.  In earlier stints, he was able to lower taxes, but was blocked from implementing more serious reforms by centrist coalition partners.  In his third government, in addition to the reforms approved yesterday, he was able to sign numerous fiscal reforms into law, including major budget cuts, a decrease in Italian bureaucracy and a crackdown in tax evasion while keeping taxes as low as he could.  All of these reforms were undertaken in a country known for resisting reforms. 

     As I have noted repeatedly, Berlusconi's fiscal reforms met with praise every time from European leaders, only to be undermined always immediately afterward by fears and speculation.  It was to end the fears and speculation to save Italy from bankruptcy that he sacrificed his premiership.

     The foreign policy of the pro-American Berlusconi included the sending of more Italian troops to Afghanistan and his leadership in the NATO mission to defend the Libyan people from dictator Muammar Qaddafi.  His government dealt with an influx of refugees from Tunisia and Libya because of the Arab Spring. 

     Other parts of Berlusconi's successful record included dealing with the Naples sanitation crisis and the earthquake in Abruzzo, cracking down on the Mafia, defending Italy's practice of placing crucifixes in school classrooms and the Italian language within the European Union.

     Berlusconi will remain a Member of Parliament, where his centre-right People of Freedom Party is the largest party.

     Berlusconi was done in not only by fear and speculation, but by his own financial and sexual scandals, as well as the fractiousness of his coalition.  He became the object of derision that magnified the decrease in confidence in Italy's ability to oversee the necessary reforms to maintain its solvency, despite Italy's inherent economic strength. 

     Although the world is hopeful that Italy's incoming technocratic government led by Mario Monti will succeed in boosting Italian growth while making the further necessary fiscal reforms until elections are held, it must be stated that Italy's recovery will have been accomplished on the foundation built by Berlusconi.

Friday, November 11, 2011

European Monetary Union Update: New Governments for Greece and Italy

     Major developments are occurring with greater rapidity in the financial crisis in the European Monetary Union as fears mount about the stability of the eurozone. 

     Greek Prime Minister Georgios Papandreou resigned after winning a confidence vote to allow the formation of a new coalition government.  The new government of national unity will include the three main political parties in Greece: Papendreou's Socialists, the conservatives and the nationalists.  It will be led by Lucas Papademos, a former high-ranking official of the European Central Bank who is known for his support for fiscally responsible policies, which is an unusual position in Greek politics.  Papademos will be tasked with implementing Greece's austerity program in order to continue to receive bailout funds from the European Central Bank.  It is uncertain whether there will be snap parliamentary elections in February, as originally planned.

     Meanwhile, even as the Greek drama has played out, more and more focus of attention has been placed on Italy because of its size as the third largest economy in the European Monetary Union and eighth largest in the world, which makes Italy too big to fail for the Monetary Union.  I have noted in earlier updates how every time the Italians pass an austerity measure it is praised for making sufficient reforms by Monetary Union officials who soon afterward panic and urge more reforms as urgently necessary. 

     After Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi proposed a major economic growth package that include serious reforms in order to ensure Italy balances its budget on schedule by 2013, Monetary Union officials again praised the Italian government.  However, soon afterwards investors began to doubt Italy's ability to implement the reforms because of the increasing instability of Berlusconi's fractious centre-right coalition government as its parliamentary majority has been shrinking.  Fears and perhaps speculation drove Italy's borrowing costs to 7%, the same figure that triggered bailouts for Greece, Ireland and Portugal.  However, as the Monetary Union and United States President Barak Obama have noted, Italy is not Greece because its large economy is inherently sound, despite its current low gross domestic product.  In a strong statement on the matter that sought to reassure markets while urging the Europeans to solve the crisis, Obama observed that Italy has a liquidity problem, not a solvency problem, like Greece has.  The European Central Bank, led by new President Mario Draghi, has been purchasing billions of dollars worth of Italian bonds in a so-far unsuccessful attempt to lower Italy's borrowing costs.  Draghi, however, has been careful not to be seen as overly soft on his home country by loaning it too liberally.

     Berlusconi has offered to resign as soon as the pro-growth reforms are passed in order to make way for a new technocratic government.  The reform package cleared the Senate today and will be voted on tomorrow by the lower house of the Italian parliament.  The new centre-right government is expected to be led by Mario Monti, an economist and former European Commissioner.  Monti is politically independent and widely respected.  It is hoped that his government would give Italy the political stability it needs to continue its austerity program while encouraging economic growth.  It is unclear whether there will be snap parliamentary elections in Italy.

     The problems in Greece and Italy are adding to the pressure on France and Belgium, the latter of which remains politically unstable.  Although Italy is considered the firewall of the Monetary Union, having eclipsed Spain in that role, a collapse of France would doom the euro for good.  The French and Germans are plotting a new European financial architecture that excludes the peripheral states whose economic weaknesses are currently threatening the euro project.  Europhiles across the continent continue to urge greater European integration as the solution while the chorus of eurosceptics has grown in size and volume.  As the euro's costs increasingly are seen as outweighing its benefits, the latter group has increasingly urged Europeans to consider what had been unthinkable: the abandonment of the single currency.

Joe Frazier, In Memoriam

     Former heavy-weight boxing champion of the world Joe Frazier died recently in Philadelphia of liver cancer at the age of 67.  Smokin' Joe was most famous for his bouts in the ring with Muhammad Ali, but was also known for his patriotism, charity and good Samaratinism. 

     Born in South Carolina in 1944, Frazier moved to Philadelphia to train for his amateur boxing career which began in 1962.  It culminated with a gold medal in the 1964 Tokyo Olympics.  He then embarked on a meteoric professional career, winning the boxing championship in 1970 and retaining it in the Fight of the Century a year later by defeating the great Muhammad Ali.  Frazier, famed for his devastating left hook, held the title during boxing's golden age until losing to George Forman in 1973.  The Frazier-Ali rivalry was renewed in 1974 when the Philadelphia pugilist failed in his challenge to wrest the title from Ali and again the following year in the legendary Thrilla in Manila.  Frazier last boxed professionally in 1981, retiring to run a gym and train other successful boxers.  He also ran Smokin' Joe's restaurant.

     Unlike other boxing champions, however, Frazier did not enjoy great financial success, partly because of bad investments and partly because of his charity.  A patriot, he campaigned for Republican Ronald Reagan for President of the United States in 1980 and 1984 and for Democrat and later Republican Frank Rizzo for Mayor of Philadelphia.  When his longtime rival Ali was given the honor of carrying the torch for the 1994 Olympics in Atlanta, Frazier objected because of Ali's conscientious objection to the draft during the Vietnamese War.

     Joseph Frazier was an inspirational figure with the heart of a champion.  May his example continue to inspire others to professional success and to good citizenship.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Analysis of the 2011 General Elections in Pennsylvania and Across the Union

     The 2011 General Elections in Pennsylvania were remarkable for being unremarkable in terms of any discernible trend toward one political party or the other. The same is true for the elections across the United States.  Although there were a few hotly-contested races, the elections were generally low-key and therefore attracted little voter turnout, despite the significance of the offices sought.  Races were determined by local factors instead of by any voter mood toward the President of the United States or Congress.

     Starting here in Reading and Berks County, the Democrats won competitive city races for Mayor and School Director where they enjoy a 5:1 voter registration advantage while Republican incumbents won all the contested countywide races despite the slight Democratic registration advantage.  There were no Republicans who challenged any Democratic incumbents.

     Even though the Democratic Party enjoys a significant registration advantage across Pennsylvania, the two political parties split the two statewide appellate judicial races, with a Democrat capturing the open seat on Pennsylvania Superior Court and a Republican winning the open seat on the Commonwealth Court.  The Democrats won the most significant contest of the year in the Keystone State for the majority of the County Commission in Montgomery County; The suburban Philadelphia county that has trended away from the Republicans in recent years will now be governed by a Democratic majority for the first time since 1871.  Elsewhere across Pennsylvania, however, Republicans made historic gains in several rural and western counties previously ruled by the Democrats, which reflects the growing GOP trend in those areas.

     Although Republicans gained a small number of legislative chambers in the American South (i.e. the Houses of Representatives in Mississippi, for the first time since Reconstruction, and Virginia), Democrats held down their expected losses in the Virginia Senate and even made a few gains in offices across the Union.  Two significant conservative referenda, such as in regard to labor in Ohio and in regard to the right to life in Mississippi were easily defeated.

     I shall take this opportunity to comment further on my race for Reading School Director.  Although I did not win the election this time, I was honored by the 2,600 votes I received in the low-turnout election and the broad bipartisan support my candidacy attracted from numerous Democratic elected officials and voters, organized labor, conservatives and Republicans.  I was pleased to run with a bi-partisan ticket.  Several of my Democratic running mates who shared my platform of increasing openness and transparency, improving financial controls and eliminating wasteful spending to keep taxes down were elected to the Reading School Board with a mandate for reform.  I congratulate them and wish them success in office. 

     I greatly appreciated all the support I received.  Thank you to all of you who volunteered for me or supported my candidacy in any way or voted for me.  I intend to remain closely involved with local politics to contribute my counsel and ideas for better government.

Monday, November 7, 2011

The 2011 General Election in Pennsylvania

     General Election Day is November 8 in Pennsylvania, as well as in other states in the American Union.  There are many important state and countywide, magisterial district judge, municipal and school director elections on the ballot.

     There are races of state Superior and Commonwealth Courts, which are the two appellate courts in Pennsylvania.  As the state Supreme Court hears only a relatively small number of cases, these courts are usually where the final rulings are made on all appeals for all manner of legal cases.  There are pro-life candidates for appellate court who would not legislate from the bench, but would interpret law according to its original intent.

     County Commissioners are on the ballot across the Commonwealth, as well as county row officers and judges of the Courts of Common Pleas.  There are elections for municipal offices such as for mayor, councilmen, township commissioners and the like.  All of these county and municipal offices directly affect residents in innumerable ways.  Additionally, there are races for school boards.  Like County Commissioners and municipal officers, School Directors have the power to tax and to make expenditures of public money, as part of their role in providing public education in their school districts.  In many of these races, there are conservative candidates on the ballot who would be fiscally responsible with taxpayers' money and who would defend liberty and act in virtue. 

     Although these type of elections are often dismissed as off-year elections, they are significant because they are the ones that affect people the most directly and frequently.  They also provide the opportunity for people to gain experience needed for higher office. 

     In local elections, each person's vote carries more weight than in statewide elections.  I urge conservatives to vote for the most conservative candidates.  If there are no candidates on the ballot, write in the name of a conservative or even your own name.  Urge other conservatives you know to vote.  We can make significant progress in promoting good government and advancing liberty.

Friday, November 4, 2011

The Reverend Monsignor Felix A. Losito, Rest in Peace

     The Reverend Monsignor Felix A. Losito passed away yesterday at the age of 80 in Reading, Pennsylvania from complications suffered from a fall in July.  The holy priest was most known as the founder of National Shut-In Day.  He was also the author of five books, among many other accomplishments.

     Losito was born in Wickatunk, New Jersey in 1931, the son of immigrants from Italy.  He grew up in Kennet Square, Pennsylvania and entered St. Charles Borromeo Seminary in Philadelphia in 1948.  Even as a young seminarian, Losito began to exhibit early signs of sanctity that set him apart from his classmates.  He was ordained to the priesthood in 1958.

     Father Losito's first assignment was to Our Lady of Pompeii Parish in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania and then to Holy Family Parish in New Philadelphia.  He was appointed pastor at Immaculate Conception Parish in Kelayres, where he served for six years.  In 1968, Father Losito was appointed administrator pro tempore of Holy Rosary, the Italian national parish in Reading, in 1968 and pastor four years later.  He served as pastor there until his death. 

     Observing the abandonment of the elderly and others who were shut in, Father Losito founded the National Shut-In Society in 1970.  It became a Pennsylvania state holiday and was proclaimed by United States President Richard Nixon in 1972.  Inspired by Blessed Pope John XIII, Father Losito chose as the organization's motto, Visit someone who cannot visit you.  The society remains active to this day.

     A second claim to fame for Holy Rosary Parish during Father Losito's pastorate arose from a boxing program sponsored by the parish that not only led to conversions, but produced a two-time world boxing champion, Steve Little.

     Father Losito was named a Monsignor by Pope Paul VI in 1976.  His reputation for  preaching, spiritual guidance and his personal example continued to grow during his active pastorate.  Monsignor Losito was assigned many posts in the Diocese and community and received numerous awards during this time as his parish became known as an oasis of sanctity.  Over the years, a series of famous religious figures came to speak at Holy Rosary Parish and there were regular spiritual activities.  In addition to ministering to the lonely, he worked tirelessly to aid the poor, defend the right to life, promote education and conserve Italian heritage.

     Monsignor Losito began writing The Shut-In Corner, which later became The Spiritual Corner, for the Allentown Diocesan newsletter, the AD Times in 1989.  His first book, Attaining Heroic Holiness Through Speech: The St. James Master Plan, was published in 1997.  It was the subject of a sermon on the Eternal Word Television Network.  Monsignor Losito's second book was entitled Love is the Measure of All Holiness, which was a compilation of his articles in The Spiritual Corner.  He penned two children's books, Donato the Little Donkey and Donato the Little Donkey II.  Monsignor Losito's fifth book, His Love is Unstoppable, published in 2004, was a second volume of his articles in The Spiritual Corner. 

     The Reverend Monsignor Felix A. Losito devoted his life to serving God by spreading the good news of salvation through Christ.  Although his legacy of accomplishments are considerable, the greatest legacy of this exemplary priest is the faith he nurtured in his spiritual children. 

     May Monsignor Losito rest in peace and may his example continue to inspire holiness in all those who were familiar with his spirituality and all who will come to know of him through his good works.

Sunday, October 30, 2011

European Monetary Union Update: Commentary on the Latest Deal

     A deal was reached late last week to resolve the financial crisis for the European Monetary Union, which is the single currency (euro) zone of the European Union (EU).

     The key provisions included a large-scale increase of the funds for the Monetary Union's rescue fund and further measures to encourage the purchases of sovereign debt in order to keep interest rates from increasing to unmanageable levels and to recapitalize banks.

     In exchange for the latest tranche of bailout funds for Greece, which has undertaken a severe austerity program coupled with higher taxes that have weakened its economy, Greece will essentially execute a partial default.  Private bondholders of sovereign Greek debt will only receive 50% of their investment.

     Because much of the funds for the bailout come from the strongest economy in the Eurozone, Germany, the negotiations over the bailout stirred up more popular resentment between the Germans and Greeks, an issue I had raised in earlier updates.  There has even been discussion that the failure of the EU, which was intended to be modelled after the United States of America, could result in conflict that threatens the peace of Europe.

     Spain was praised by the EU for its austerity program to reduce its debt.  The  Monetary Union demanded Italy present a satisfactory plan to increase its meager economic growth, which it did after Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi worked out a deal with his junior coalition partner to increase the retirement age from 65 to 67 by 2026, make it easier for employers to fire workers and privatize state assets, among other reforms.  It will also support infrastructure projects, but the long-planned bridge from Italy to Sicily is now in doubt.  Italians felt humiliated by the demands from the Germans and French and noted that the economy of France was barely better than Italy's.  As noted previously, Italy is the third largest in the EU and the eighth largest in the world, which makes it even more of a firewall for the Eurozone than Spain.  Like many members of the EU, it is undertaking an austerity program.  Italy's deficit will be eliminated by 2013, at which point it will begin to pay down its debt that is 120% of its GDP.  Only Greece's 150% is higher.  Greece's target is 120% over the next several years. 

     The United Kingdom, which is a member of the EU, but does not use the euro, is attempting to use the crisis as an opportunity to claw back some of its sovereign powers it had surrendered to the EU.  Its demands that a deal be struck urgently and its advice on how to strike one were met with resentment from the French Prime Minister, but the Monetary Union crisis could affect the UK significantly.

     As I have previously warned, the crisis has encouraged its supporters to insist upon further European integration, which means an even more centralized European superstate that reduces the sovereignty of its members instead of an orderly breakup of the grand folly and a restoration of state sovereignty.

     There are doubts about the effectiveness of the deal as a solution to the euro crisis.  The Greek economy is weak and the Greeks violently oppose even modest sacrifices, such as not retiring until after their mid-50s.  Italy's governing coalition is teetering on the brink of collapse with snap elections early in 2012 likely.  Reforms are difficult to enact there with its fractious parliamentary system, but while the coalition government has successfully enacted a series of significant reforms, it has lost much of the margin of its governing majority to a faction led by the Speaker of Parliament and confidence in the Prime Minister amidst his personal scandals has decreased.  Thus, there are doubts about its ability to enact the ambitious reforms it has proposed.  Meanwhile, there have been fresh concerns about Portugal's ability to avoid a default.

     Even if the latest deal represents a comprehensive solution to the euro crisis, as opposed to a continuation of the muddling through the European Monetary Union has undertaken heretofore, the crisis is exposing the euro project's flaws even more than I have posted about before.  The diversity of Europe, which is arguably the most culturally diverse continent on Earth, is not a basis for unity, especially without Christianity.  Europe could be united to a significant degree in Christendom by a universal Church, but a shared secular commitment to peace, liberty and representative government is not enough to unite a continent around a vague concept of Europeaness.  The particular differences between Northern and Southern Europeans have clearly been identified as the cause of the crisis.  Because of the warmer climate in the Mediterranean, Southern Europeans do not work as hard as their Northern European neighbors, a fact that is reflected in their strikingly different cultures. 

     It is no surprise, for example, that the Germans expect the Greeks to work harder and sacrifice more to pay for their overspending and that the Greeks resent being made to make such sacrifices by foreigners.  Both are feeling the loss of sovereignty that is keeping them bound in an unhappy marriage from which neither can separate.  In short, the European Monetary Union has not only failed to unite Europeans, it has increased their divisions.

Blog Milestone: The Visit from the 100th Foreign State to My Blog

     The latest milestone for my blog was the visit from the 100th foreign state to my blog tracked by Statcounter since April of 2009, not counting the 50 states of the American Union.  This figure represents over half of the 194 sovereign states of the world, in addition to the United States of America.  In addition, there have been visits from Hong Kong, the Palestinian Territory, the Distict of Columbia, Puerto Rico and Guam.

     Blogger has tracked an additional 11 foreign states of origin of visitors to my blog since November of 2010.  I have noted in previous reports that the web host for this blog tracks far more pageviews, especially from outside the U.S., than Statcounter, but  the latter's greater specificity allows for better statistical analysis.  I shall post an annual analysis of Blogger's tracking, but continue to use Statcounter's tracking for my main reports.

     Thank you for visiting and for your comments.  I recommend viewing the comments on earlier posts, as I sometimes post addenda there for recent posts or if a point is too brief for a follow-up or update post.  Please visit regularly.

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Newt Gingrich Is Right to Call for Lincoln-Douglas Style Debates

     Former Speaker of the United States House of Representatives, Newt Gingrich of Georgia, a candidate for the Republican nomination for President, recently called for a series of Lincoln-Douglas style debates in place of the usual “debates” moderated by members of the media.

     No one has ever seen a true presidential candidates’ debate, and few, if any, have seen one for any other federal or state elected office. I have long hoped for precisely such a serious proposal to replace the dreaded media spectacles we only get to witness.

     Since the 1960 Presidential Election, the typical presidential “debates,” like those for most federal and state elected offices, are nothing more than joint press conferences. They are dominated by the moderators or other arrogant members of the press who ask questions trying to trip up a candidate or pit one against another. In short, the outcome is heavily influenced by the media instead of by the candidates. A Republican “debate” moderated by a liberal press corps is especially the modern equivalent of throwing Christians to the lions. Furthermore, these candidate spectacles are superficial, dominated by personality and style over substance and by the question of who supposedly interrupted whom (which is usually only interjecting), with much of the focus on candidates’ gaffes. These “debates” only exacerbate the pernicious trend toward ever more populism in politics and especially in presidential elections.

     I have participated many times as a candidate for elected office in what is correctly identified as a candidates’ “forum.” In a forum, candidates are usually given a brief time to make an opening and closing statement and answer a few questions. The questions are not necessarily from the media. A forum is, nevertheless, not the same as a debate, as it is dominated by the questions and there is little time to respond to the other candidates, especially when there are several, but at least they are not misidentified as “debates.”

     A Lincoln-Douglas or similar-style debate would be a formal, structured event in which each candidate has several minutes to express an argument for or against an agreed-upon resolution, with a series of rebuttals. There is no moderator and no media to influence the outcome, only the candidates. Such a real debate is not superficial, but in depth, and less influenced by personality and style than by substance. The candidates’ thinking would emerge more clearly from such a format. Furthermore, Gingrich’s proposal is to conduct a series of debates, as Abraham Lincoln and Stephen Douglas famously did in the 1858 election for U.S. Senator from Illinois, whereby a series of issues could be debated.

     The current style is an inappropriate one to choose the Chief Executive and Commander in Chief. The presidency was created around General George Washington and before the establishment of political parties and even the thought that candidates would campaign publicly for the office. The winner was not supposed to be determined by populism, but by his character, wisdom, ideals and experience.

     I do not believe that candidates’ debates for any office would be necessary in the first place, as the campaign itself is a public debate, except for the fact that the campaigns are otherwise mostly presented to the public through the filter of a superficial media. However, if there are to be debates, it would be better that they be true debates instead of the phony ones we currently must suffer.

Report on Senator Pat Toomey's Remarks

     Pennsylvania's Junior United States Senator Pat Toomey, a Republican, spoke last night at the Berks County Republican Committee Fall Dinner, near Reading, which I attended.  He commented on the severe fiscal challenges facing the U.S. and the complicity of the Senate's liberal Democratic majority and updated us on his role on the Congressional Super Committee.

     Sen. Toomey called the Senate dysfunctional under liberal Democratic leadership and noted as an example that for three years it has not approved a budget, although required to by federal law, despite the massive and ever-growing federal debt.  The freshman Senator explained that instead of voting for an increase in the debt limit and allowing the spending to continue at its current rate, which is what Congress had always done heretofore, he and the other fiscally conservative members of Congress voted against the measure to slow down the rate of spending.  The resultant bipartisan deal to increase the debt limit with offsetting spending reductions also called for the creation of the Select Committee, known as the Super Committee.

     Even though Sen. Toomey voted against the bill, his fiscal conservatism and expertise won him the nomination to the bipartisan, bicameral Committee, which he observed represents a great opportunity for significant spending cuts.  The law that created the Committee requires that both houses of Congress vote, without filibuster or amendment, on whatever proposal the Committee approves by a simple majority vote.  Sen. Toomey predicted that if the Committee were to come to an agreement, Congress would approve it and the President sign it.  The Committee has been engaged in long negotiations, he reported.  Sen. Toomey pointed out that the $1.2 trillion in spending cuts over 10 years, although a huge figure, would represent only 3% of federal spending over that period and cited the Senate's failure to approve such a reduction as further evidence of its dysfunctionality. 

     Sen. Toomey also explained how raising taxes would not solve the debt problem, as it is too large even to be eliminated even by raising income taxes on all earners to 50%, even assuming that such an increase would not harm the economy and thereby reduce revenue.

     The Junior Senator from Pennsylvania warned that the U.S. was on the path toward becoming like Europe, but there was still the chance it could avoid the same fate as Greece, for example.

     Sen. Toomey expressed the importance of electing fiscal conservatives to the majority in the U.S. Senate in 2012 and also defeating President Barak Obama in the presidential election.  In the meantime, he noted the significance of the statewide judicial and local elections coming up in Pennsylvania on November 8 that affect the citizens directly in many ways and urged the people to elect conservatives to every office.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Use Dollar Coins and $2 Bills

     I have been posting recently about the taxpayer money-saving benefits of United States dollar coins. Similarly beneficial is the $2 Federal Reserve Note. The $2 bill is not only still in circulation, it is still printed when necessary by the United States Treasury’s Bureau of Engraving and Printing.

     In fact, the $2 bill is becoming increasingly popular, which necessitated the printing of the 2003 Series and the 2003A Series, the latter of which was printed in 2006. The necessity was created because the 1995 Series of the $2 bill, the first since the introduction of the $2 Federal Reserve Note in 1976 was used up (because paper notes only last a few years) or hoarded. The 1976 Series, with its Bicentennial reverse featuring Jonathan Trumbull’s signing of the Declaration of Independence, was the successor to earlier $2 notes of various kinds that featured Monticello on the reverse with Thomas Jefferson on the obverse. Inflation and immigration by people accustomed to two-denomination notes have increased the popularity of the note. Another contributing factor is clever business marketing, whereby entrepreneurs take advantage of the note’s novelty by giving $2 bills as change as a way of promoting their business by word of mouth. 

     Like dollar coins, $2 bills save taxpayer money because for every $2 note printed, one less $1 note must be printed. Also like dollar coins, $2 bills are convenient for tolls and make nice tips or presents for children. Using a combination of them would be an especially wonderful present. If the $1 bill were ever withdrawn from circulation, as some have proposed, it would be good to get more accustomed to the $2 bill, which is still regarded as a novelty by much of the public or even as unnecessary.

     When receiving cash from the bank, instead of $1 bills, ask for some dollar coins and $2 bills, and then use them. Business owners would especially increase the usage of these coins and currency by giving them out as change. By using them, you would be saving the United States money, literally and figuratively.

Conservative Praise for Two More Obama Policies

     I posted earlier this month that United States President Barak Obama had submitted three free trade agreements to the Congress for ratification that had been negotiated by his predecessor. Although it took nearly three years, his expected signatures will finally provide an economic boost, increase economic liberty and improve foreign relations. There are two other Obama Administration policies that also merit conservative praise.

     First, the Obama Administration has taken a firm stand against marijuana. It has strongly declared the physical and mental dangers of the drug that science is increasingly discovering, as well as the social and economic costs. Although the Administration is not opposed to prudent research into any possible medicinal value of cannabis as a non-smoked prescription drug, it has cracked down on California’s liberal medical marijuana policy. The Golden State system has been abused – to the detriment of the rest of the Union, to where much legally-obtained California marijuana is transported – by strip-mall doctors who prescribe marijuana, which they can obtain at nearby storefront shops, for illegitimate reasons. The principle of federalism, which accepts states’ rights, is not being jeopardized by the Obama Administration policy because California’s actions are harmful to other states. Indeed, the United States has a duty to act in this matter. 

     Second, President Obama is sending up to 100 American troops to Uganda as advisors to help the Ugandans combat the insurrection by the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA). The LRA, which the U.S. State Department has described as a “barbaric cult,” is accused of many atrocities for which it has been charged with crimes against humanity, and has been supported by the terrorist-sponsoring Islamist regime of Sudan. Although the LRA insurrection is not directly related to the War on Terrorism, its actions are undermining the stability of several states in the region that are front-line allies in the fight against militant Islam, namely: Uganda, Kenya, Chad and South Sudan. South Sudan recently became independent from Sudan, as I posted in July, but Sudan might be tempted to renew its support for the LRA in order to weaken its breakaway neighbor, with which it has a territorial dispute, if not to regain it completely. The Administration’s actions, which represent a continuation of U.S. policy of opposition to the LRA since the Administration of President George W. Bush, were the result of bipartisan Congressional resolution calling for greater action against the LRA. 

     I have posted that Obama has continued many Bush Administration policies in the War on Terrorism, as well as temporarily continued its tax cuts, while also posting many criticisms of the radical President and most of his other policies. Although Obama is a danger to the Republic, it is only fair to give him credit for good policies. When a liberal follows conservative policies, it is helpful to the cause of liberty to declare such a validation of those policies.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Good News from the World Trade Center Site: St. Nicholas Church to be Rebuilt

     It was reported today that a deal has been reached to rebuild St. Nicholas Greek Orthodox Church near the World Trade Center. The church had been destroyed by the September 11 Terrorist Attacks.

     The agreement, which was brokered by New York Governor Mario Cuomo, ended a ten-year dispute between St. Nicholas parish and the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey. The church must be relocated from its original location because of reconstruction needs at the site. The news is in time for the Feast of St. Nicholas on December 6 – one of the most important dates on the calendar. 

     The news of the deal comes on the same day as a report that the controversial Islamic Center I had posted about, is facing eviction for failure to pay its rent. One of the reasons the center was controversial was the simultaneous apparent resistance by government officials to rebuilding St. Nicholas, an inconsistency which is now finally reconciled. Like the Islamic Center, the St. Nicholas Church will have a center for interfaith dialogue and healing.

     May God Bless St. Nicholas Church and its parishioners.  May they fulfill their goal of improving relations between faiths and healing those harmed by September 11.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Virtue, Liberty and Independence

     “Virtue, Liberty and Independence” is the official motto of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. Although there are other excellent state and territorial mottos in the United States, the Keystone State’s is arguably the best.

     Pennsylvania’s motto first appeared in 1778 on its coat of arms, which was made official nearly a century later. The coat of arms is emblazoned upon the Commonwealth’s flag. The motto also appears on the quarter dollar coin honoring Pennsylvania for the 50 State Quarter Series. The three timeless principles contained within that glorious motto are worthy of examination.

     Virtue is a particular moral principle, or, in this case, a set of moral principles. Note the word chosen for the Commonwealth’s motto was not “values,” which suggests a relativist philosophy that holds that morality is determined by the individual. Instead, the word “virtue” reflects the belief of the universal moral absolutes of Right and Wrong. Virtue is the principle of doing what is right. 

     Liberty means more than freedom, but also the rights, privileges and immunities of every person or citizen. The word presupposes the Natural Law established by the Creator, as expressed in the American Declaration of Independence. Note “Liberty” follows “Virtue” in Pennsylvanias motto, as it does not imply license to do whatever we want, but the freedom to do what we ought. Indeed, public virtue leads to liberty. 

     Independence is the state of not being dependent on another – in this case, another sovereign state for the purpose of governance. Pennsylvania declared its independence from the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland in 1776. When it joined the federal Union in 1789, the Commonwealth did not surrender its independence, but retained sovereignty under the Constitution over internal matters. Pennsylvania maintains its independence when it stands for its sovereign rights.

     In adopting its motto at the time of the War of American Independence, Pennsylvanians recognized that independence is exercised by self-government, but only in liberty, by the practice of virtue.