Sunday, January 29, 2012

Oscar Luigi Scalfaro, Rest in Peace

     Oscar Luigi Scalfaro, former President of Italy who helped draft its republican constitution and who was one of the founders of its most dominant political party, died today at the age of 93 in Rome, Italy.

     Scalfaro, a devout Catholic from Novara, earned a law degree from the Catholic University of Milan. During the Second World War, he aided the families of imprisoned anti-fascists. Scalfaro won a seat in the national assembly in 1946.

     When the monarchy was abolished by popular vote the following year, Scalfaro helped draft the new Italian Republic’s constitution. He was known for his adherence to constitutional principles, especially the independence of the judiciary.

     Scalfaro was one of the founders of the Christian Democratic Party, which dominated Italian politics until the 1990s. The party is credited with preventing Italy from electing Communists to power. During its rule, Italy also became known for its economic growth, despite its political instability.

     Scalfaro was elected to Parliament in 1948 and served in a number of high posts, including the Cabinet, until becoming President in 1992. He served as President until 1999, whereupon he became a Life Senator.

     In the liberal media’s (e.g. the Associated Press) reporting on the death of Scalfaro, it characterizes the office of Italian president as “largely ceremonial,” although it contradicts itself by reporting Scalfaro’s critical role in changing governments in the 1990s. The Italian president is the head of state while the prime minister is the head of government. However, the president of the Italian Republic is not like a constitutional monarch who holds great power but defers almost entirely to the prime minister. While the Italian prime minister exercises most powers, the Italian president must also exercise significant powers, although his role is mostly advisory. An Italian president’s patriotism, character and experience earn him the requisite respect to carry out his duty. Current Italian President Giorgio Napolitano praised Scalfaro for his performance in office. 

     May Scalfaro’s example inspire Italians and others to continue to adhere to republican principles guided by their Christian faith.

Friday, January 27, 2012

Pro-Life Progress in American States and Europe

     At the start of the 40th year since the infamous Roe v. Wade decision by the United States Supreme Court that overturned state laws against abortion, there is some good news to report in both the American states and in Europe.

     The number of state laws approved in 2011 restricting abortion more than doubled, according to Americans United for Life. The group declared Louisiana the most pro-life state in the Union, followed closely by Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, Nebraska and Arkansas. Pennsylvania was the only northeastern state in the top half. I had posted last month in Corbett Signs Several Bills into Law in Corbett Signs Several Bills into Law,, on the approval of a law regulating abortion facilities like other surgical centers. The Keystone State, where the number of abortions performed continues to decline, is now considering a law requiring people seeking abortions to view ultrasounds of their fetuses before receiving an abortion, as other states require, for informed consent. 

     The 47-member Council of Europe declared euthanasia always to be prohibited, according to the Conservative News Service. Calling abuses violations of human rights, the body ruled against all forms of drug-induced homicide or suicide, as well as the removal of feeding tubes, CNS reports. The Council urged the right to life to be respected always whenever there was a doubt, according to CNS. Member states with weak protections of the right to life, such as Netherlands, Belgium, Luxembourg and Switzerland, are urged to review their laws in order to comply with the ruling, CNS reports. Member states elect members of the Council’s parliament.

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Commentary on Rep. Gabrielle Giffords' Resignation

     United States Representative Gabrielle Giffords (D-AZ) resigned from the House of Representatives yesterday in order to focus on her recovery from an attempted assassination attempt a year ago.

     Giffords' moving letter of resignation was read to the House, as she still suffers from a speech impediment after being shot in the head, and presented to Speaker John Boehner at the rostrum.  In the letter, she expressed her desire to seek election to the House upon her recovery.  Giffords received a standing ovation from the members of both parties.

     Alas, the resignation effectuates the intent of the would-be-assassin by removing her from Congress.  However, Rep. Giffords, was at least able to return to the House for several months and, as her recovery gradually progresses, she may yet again.  If she does, Americans will again cheer her, as her personal victory over her wounds would also be a triumph of representative government over unnecessary political violence.

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Joe Paterno, Rest in Peace

     Joseph Vincent Paterno died today at the age of 85 in State College, Pennsylvania.  The winningest Division I college football coach in history was also famous as a supporter of academics.

     Paterno was born in 1926 in Brooklyn, New York into an Italian-American family.  He served in the Army during the Second World War and graduated from Brown University in 1950. 

     Pennsylvania State University named Paterno its Assistant Football Coach that year, where his former college coach was Head Coach.  Paterno succeeded him as Head Coach in 1966, winning 409 games over the course of his career, including many bowl games and winning two national championships (1982 and 1986) for the Penn State Nittany Lions.  He holds numerous coaching records and won many awards.

     Paterno was known for promoting academics, insisting that his athletes do well in school.  The successful results of his efforts have been measured.  Paterno's legacy across the United States in this regard alone has been enormous, as he became a model for what is expected of athletic coaches.  I can attest, for example, as a former School Director, that I voted to hire coaches in the Joe Paterno mold. 

     Paterno strongly supported philanthropic efforts, particularly ones that supported academics at Penn State.  He was a conservative who delivered a speech on behalf of his friend, George H.W. Bush at the 1988 Republican National Convention.  Paterno also spoke at an event during the Columbus Quincentenary in 1992 in Reading, Pennsylvania, which held one of the largest celebrations in the United States.  He reflected on his pride in his Italian heritage and the values it gave him.

     Despite his great professional and personal record, Paterno was dismissed as Penn State Head Coach in 2011, although he remained a professor at the school, because of an alleged child molestation incident involving a former assistant coach and a minor above the age of reason in 2002, which was one incident among a larger scandal involving that assistant coach.  Paterno was told of the incident (i.e. hearsay), although not of a specific crime, which he nevertheless relayed to campus officials, including one in charge of the campus police.  Those officials failed to follow through adequately.  The State Attorney General's office declared that the Penn State Head Coach had acted in accordance with the law.  Nevertheless, the University's Board of Trustees relieved him as Head Coach, in part because of its concern that he would no longer be able to perform his duties effectively because of the scandal. 

     Paterno's reputation has been sullied unfairly by those who misrepresent the significance of the scandal.  People have a duty to report a crime (i.e. if they are witnesses), but not hearsay (what someone else says he witnessed), especially if what one hears does not specify any crime.  We are not responsible for the failure of officials to perform their duties, as we are not expected to follow up with them.  Otherwise, a much higher standard applies to one specific type of crime, at least, than for any other type of crime, both in terms of reporting and in what further responsibility one has to follow up.  It would be a scary proposition that witnesses and even those who learn of hearsay would be held responsible for inaction by law enforcement. 

     It is difficult not to see typical left-wing iconoclasm directed at Paterno, as the image of someone, especially a Catholic conservative, who promoted the value of education and character, must not be allowed by liberals to stand.  It is the duty of conservatives to defend other conservatives who promote virtue whenever they come under assault from the left, but it is an even greater duty to stand for the virtues themselves.

     Joe Paterno successfully coached thousands of athletes and inspired countless other students, athletes and coaches.  May his legacy continue to inspire people to achieve academic and moral success.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Obama Praises Monti's Actions

     United States President Barak Obama has again praised Italy, this time referring to the fiscal and economic actions of Prime Minister Mario Monti, according to ANSA, the Italian news agency.

     I had posted of Obama's praise for Italy's fiscal reforms and economic strength at the end of the premiership of Silvio Berlusconi in my November of 2011 post, European Monetary Union Update: New Governments for Greece and Italy,

     ANSA reports that Obama referred to the strong spirit of historic friendship between the United States and Italy.  The American President also expressed his great respect for his Italian counterpart, Georgio Napolitano, according to ANSA.

     The praise from the United States is helpful in encouraging investor confidence in Italy in particular and Europe in general amidst the crisis in the Eurozone, of which Italy is of critical significance.  Despite growing fears over Greece and Portugal, bond prices are reflecting an increase in confidence in the Italian budget and economy, which, in turn, decreases Italy's borrowing costs.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

The Obama Administration Should Declare Missile Defense Is Intended to Defend against Both Iran and Russia

     The Obama Administration has again stated its planned missile defense system for Europe is intended to defend against the threat of nuclear missiles from Iran, not Russia, in order to assuage Russian concerns that the shield could undermine its nuclear deterrent.  The United States and its NATO allies should publicly declare that as long as Russia is led by an authoritarian ex-KGB Communist leader and possesses thousands of nuclear warheads, the American-built missile defense system is intended to defend against Russia, as well.

     As I explain in my post from September of 2009, Obama Betrays Allies, Appeases Russia,, the Obama Administration is allowing its consideration of Russian concerns to determine its placement of missiles in Eastern Europe. 

     The U.S. abrogated the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty with the former Soviet Union under President George W. Bush.  The treaty had barred missile defense.  President Ronald Reagans proposed missile defense system and its research and development during the Cold War was critically important to defeating the Soviets.  Bush implemented a domestic missile defense and planned to implement one in Eastern Europe to defend NATO, which President Barak Obama scrapped because of Russian objections.  Bush also concluded a treaty with Russia for both the Americans and Russians to eliminate a large number of nuclear warheads.  The treaty was ratified by both sides. 

     Obama concluded a smaller treaty with Russia, which has also been mutually ratified, that further reduces warheads.  The Obama Administration, while reassuring the Russians that the U.S. has no hostile intent toward Russia, should focus on responsible nuclear disarmament that maintains the American deterrent through a robust program of modernization and testing. It could work with the Russians on missile defense without sacrificing American interests or those of its allies.  Among those interests are the right to avoid intimidation by an increasingly aggressive Russia.

     Regardless of any potential threat from Russia, the concern about the threat from Iran must supercede Russian concerns, as the Islamist Shiite Iranian regime, unlike atheistic Communists, believes in martyrdom through suicide attacks on infidels.  But the proximity and massive capability of Russia's nuclear arsenal cannot be ignored, even in diplomatic speech.  Although the U.S. should avoid unnecessary provocations of Russia while the two continue to cooperate in other matters, it must make it clear to the Russians that it will act in its interests.

Saturday, January 14, 2012

The Corbett Administration Is Right to Include Assets in Measuring Wealth

     Under the Administration of Republican Governor Tom Corbett, Pennsylvania will include assets, in addition to income, in measuring people's wealth for the purpose of determining eligibility for food stamps.  The move, which bucks a trend accross the American Union, is permissible under the federal law that establishes the welfare program.

     The Commonwealth will deny food stamps to any otherwise eligible applicant with over $2,000 in cash in a bank or who owns a second car worth over $4,500.  The inclusion of assets as part of the means-testing to determine eligibility for food stamps was dropped by the Democratic Administration of Governor Ed Rendell.  In accordance with the policy of the Obama Administration to increase the number of food stamp recipients, the asset threshold has been eliminated in many other states, or at least has been raised. 

     The Corbett Administration has adopted a policy of cracking down on welfare fraud to reduce spending in order to avoid tax increases.  See also my post, Governor Corbett Signs Pennsylvania's Budget and Welfare Reform Legislation from July of 2011:  The possession of significant assets by food stamp applicants is cited by critics as an example of waste, fraud and abuse, as the assets prove that the applicants can afford to feed themselves.

     Liberal supporters of welfare hysterically criticized the decision to reestablish an assets threshold to means-teast food stamp eligibility because it will remove thousands of recipients from the welfare rolls.  A seemingly reasonable counterargument has been raised that the assets threshold discourages people from saving for emergency, but this criticism misses the point that the emergency intended to be covered by the program is strictly a lack of money for food, not additional emergencies.  People are not entitled to someone else's money, especially if they do not need it for what it was intended.

     The larger reason I posted about this decision is that it reflects common sense that wealth should be measured based upon both income and assets, and not only annual income.  For example, we define a millionaireas one who has a million dollars, not one who earns a million dollars in gross income annually.  The federal government, however, defines poverty strictly in terms of income, thereby falsely categorizing many people as poor who are relatively wealthy in assets, especially when compared to the poor or even the middle class of foreign states.  A rich person who has a relatively bad year is no more poor than a poor person who has a relatively good year is rich.  A person's ability to save and manage money is part of the overall determination of one's wealth and is an independent factor in the macroeconomy.  Thus, an increase in mismanagement does not reflect a downturn in the economy and vice versa.

     Although there is less income temporarily in the current economy, it is important not to overstate the amount of poverty there is by failing to account for the increase in the standard of living of the poor.  The comparison of income data from year to year (adjusted for inflation) is helpful in discerning the rising or falling of the economy, but the figures always overstate the poverty of individuals.  The federal definition of poverty additionally overstates poverty by failing to account for differences in cost of living in different states that make the purchasing power of a dollar different from state to state. 

     Liberals see more poverty than there really is in order to justify more welfare.  Thus, they not only have a bias toward overstating it when conservatives are in power in order to oppose conservative policies, but also even when liberals themselves are in power.  The exaggeration of the amount of poverty also reflects general leftist opposition to the free market and support of more socialist policies.

     Conservatives should praise Pennsylvania for its leadership and its example should be followed across the Union, not only for determining the eligibility for food stamps or other welfare programs, but in other regards, as well.  They would also be making the case that the free market in America, not welfare statism, has produced wealth as never before in human history and improved the standard of living dramatically for Americans.