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Sunday, July 20, 2008

Conservative v Authoritarian Block

Recent 5-4 decisions of the Supreme Court have resurrected the common analysis in the terms of liberal v conservative division in the court. I've just been reading Curran vs. Catholic University: A Study of Authority and Freedom of Conflict by Larry Witham and it struck me that what we have on the court is less a conservative block than a religious one. All of the five justices voting with the so-called conservative majority are Catholic: Alito, Scalia, Kennedy, Thomas, and Roberts. I suppose one could argue that I'm being anti-Catholic in suggested that their Catholic background may influence their decisions more than any conservative tendencies, but since I'm basically anti all religions, I don't think that criticism is warranted.

The Catholic Church is an authoritarian and autocratic institution. By its very nature it tries to suppress contrarian, read heretical, views. The Curran case is a classic example, and Curran lost his bid to teach what he believed to be correct at a Catholic institution. Suppression of freedom of belief and obedience to authority are fundamentals of the Catholic Church as numerous encyclicals and anti-modernist pronouncements have confirmed. The 2nd Vatican Council was a brief anomaly that subsequent popes have begun to reverse.

I would suggest that the Courts 5 man Catholic majority is influenced more by this Catholic subservience to authority and adherence to orthodox than any so-called conservative principles.

Saturday, July 19, 2008

New Yorker and Experience

The brouhaha over the New Yorker cover showing the Obamas as Muslim terrorists provided another example of the parochial elitism of Washington reporters. In discussing the New Yorker cover, several remarks have been made by pundits hinting that only Manhattanites might get the humor. I live in a small town in the Midwest, read the New Yorker regularly, and got the humor immediately. It was clear the commentators didn’t. I see no need to dumb down an intelligent magazine just because some folks don’t get it. As it happens, the cover will make absolutely no difference in the way anyone votes or regards either McCain or Obama.

I continue to be struck by how little discussion is given over to “experience.” McCain, apparently because of his age, military service, and length of service in the Senate, is somehow considered to be more “experienced” than Obama. Nothing could be further from the truth. General Clark was exactly right in his comments about McCain’s experience. Being a Navy “flyboy”, totally divorced from the ground experience and then being locked in a POW camp, as horrible as that must have been, does not provide any kind of administrative experience whatsoever. I would go further and suggest that the longer the term of service in the Senate, the less qualified one because to be president. The Senate is basically a “men’s” club – with a few exceptions, obviously, – that separates the members from the real world. They have everything handed to them on a silver platter and have no need to deal with the kinds of issues faced by the average American, ever, even after retirement as they move to a cushy job with a lobbyist in the private sector. This was a problem especially obvious in Joe Biden and others who have been Senators for a long time.

Visiting a war zone may have symbolic value, certainly nice when running for office and avoiding doing the job one was elected to do, but it provides no experience at all. George Romney was right when he talked about “brainwashing.” Anyone visiting a combat zone is going to get a very narrow view of what is happening. Soldiers on the ground don’t even have the broad perspective needed to make crucial decisions.

I would like to see the candidates engage in a discussion about management, how they would staff the White House, the role of the VP, what criteria they would use in selecting top administrative officers, how they might inculcate their culture into the bureaucracy. These questions would tell us much more about them than platitudes about experience.