Non-partisan Super PACs

Candidates and political parties are limited in the amounts of contributions they can take.  But, according to a Supreme Court ruling, private groups can spend as much as they like to elect or tear down candidates, resulting in the formation of so-called Super Political Action Committees (Super PACS).  But not all Super PACS are about electing Democrats or Republicans, liberals or conservatives.  The Washington Post tells about one that is dedicated to defeating incumbents of either party:

In two Ohio congressional primaries Tuesday, a Texas-based group spent almost $190,000 supporting a pair of candidates who could not be more different: a tea party conservative and a liberal icon, Rep. Dennis J. Kucinich (D-Ohio).

The group’s enemy is incumbency — of any ideological stripe, anywhere in the country. The Campaign for Primary Accountability, founded by the son of a Houston construction magnate, is targeting longtime incumbents in House districts that are otherwise safe for their party. Group leaders say these long-term lawmakers who face scant competition have created a “permanent political class” that has poisoned politics.

The organization is one of a new class of super PACs able to raise and spend unlimited amounts of money that aims to alter the balance of congressional races, much as similar groups have done in the Republican presidential race. There are Democratic super PACs devoted to holding the party’s majority in the Senate and retaking the House and Republican ones with designs on just the opposite.

But no super PAC has sought to tap into the public outrage toward Congress quite the way that the Campaign for Primary Accountability has.

“We’re trying to make the electoral system competitive, so that Congress will become more accountable to the voters,” Leo Linbeck III, the founder of the new super PAC, said in an e-mail interview. “It’s not about policy, it’s about governance. We’re not interested in shifting power between Republicans and Democrats. We’re interested in shifting power between Congress and the people.”

via One super PAC takes aim at incumbents of any party – The Washington Post.

I suspect there may be in existence or in the works a Super PAC to elect women, no matter their party.  Or African Americans.  Or candidates with physical disabilities.

What would be some other non-partisan Super PACS that someone should form?  One to elect Lutherans?  Or the left-handed?  (I am looking for serious, semi-serious, and humorous suggestions.)

Casuistry and the NFL

You’ve probably heard by now about the practice in the National Football League of paying defensive players bonuses for hits that took out or injured opposing players.  Nick Lannon at the very fine website Mockingbird examines the “casuistry”–that is, the moral rationalization–that some players are indulging in to justify the practice:

The recent revelations about the New Orleans Saints’ “bounty” program have rocked the talking-head world at ESPN. The Saints, apparently, had a program, administered by defensive coordinator Gregg Williams (who ran similar programs at previous teams), wherein players received cash bonuses for inflicting injuries on opposing players. For instance, knocking a quarterback out of the game might get you $10,000, and getting him carted off on a stretcher might earn you $20,000. No one seems to be particularly surprised that this kind of thing was going on; many have suggested that this occurs on every team, and that the Saints mistake was writing it all down and keeping track.

I don’t want to get into the morality of paying players to intentionally injure other players, although I will say that it seems an awful lot like criminal activity (aggravated assault) to me. When Tonya Harding paid her boyfriend to take out Nancy Kerrigan, people went to prison. It has been notoriously difficult to prove “intent” on the athletic field, but with documented records of who got what for hurting whom, intent seems a bit easier to prove. Alternatively, I want to use these revelations (and especially the response of several former players) as an opportunity to talk about a theological idea: casuistry.

Over the last couple of days, I’ve heard both Mike Golic and Marcellus Wiley (former players) say that everyone is overreacting to this story. They say that they “went after the quarterback” as hard as they could on every play, and couldn’t have done more if they’d been paid to. Their argument was, in effect, that the devastation of a hit would be the same, whatever the motivation of the player delivering it. Put another way, they said something like: “Football is a violent game, and people are going to get hurt playing it. We all know that going in. Paying people a little extra to put a little extra on some hits isn’t going to change anything.”

Casuistry might well be defined as “an attempt, via nit-picking, to appear to obey a rule whilst breaking it.” Our own DPotter took a crack at defining it HERE. It seems that it would be clear to the most uneducated observer that while a player might not be able to hit a quarterback harder to earn their little bonus, they might well be able to hit them in the knee or in the head. And since when is “I play a game that is inherently violent” an acceptable excuse for attempting to injure another person? The best example of casuistry of all time is this 2005 story in The Telegraph, the first line of which is, “Machines will perform euthanasia on terminally ill patients in Israel under legislation devised not to offend Jewish law, which forbids people taking human life.”

via Hit ‘Em For Money, Hurt ‘Em For a Little More | Mockingbird.

Legalists do this loophole hunting all the time as a way to justify their bad behavior, finding a technicality that allows them to transgress while still feeling self-righteous.  Can you think of other examples of this kind of casuistry?

Government vs. teacher-training programs

Public school teachers and academics in the universities are among the Democratic party’s most loyal footsoldiers, advocating government intervention in a whole host of endeavors.  But they don’t like it much when the government intervenes with them.

And yet here is a case where government intervention might well be a good thing:  Tying federal (that is to say, taxpayer) money to the performance of teacher education programs (that is to say, the effectiveness of the teachers they turn out).   This currently would relate only to one smallish federal program, one that gives grants to graduates willing to teach in “high need” areas.   Needless to say, this is spurring outraged opposition from schools of education, which seem to have pulled the teeth from the original proposal:

Teacher colleges and their accreditors pushed back against a Department of Education plan to tighten eligibility for federal Teach Grants this week, winning concessions on a proposed rule that could have ended aid to hundreds of colleges and set a precedent for other federal programs.

Under the department’s original proposal, states would have been required to sort teacher-education programs into four categories—”low-performing,” “at risk,” “satisfactory,” and “high quality”—based on their graduates’ job-placement and retention rates, the academic “growth” of graduates’ future students, and customer-satisfaction surveys. Only programs that received the highest ranking and were approved by a specialized accreditor would have been eligible to award the grants, which provide up to $4,000 a year to students who agree to work in “high-need areas.”

Sophia McArdle, the department’s representative on a panel that is negotiating the teacher-training rules, said the agency’s goal was to set a “minimum bar” for Teach Grant eligibility. (While federal law limits Teach Grants to “high quality” programs, it doesn’t define the term. In the past, department officials have claimed that the grants go to too many “mediocre” programs.)

But negotiators said the bar was being set too high, and would deny aid to all but “the crème de la crème,” as one panel member put it. They maintained that it was unfair to exclude the hundreds of programs that lack specialized accreditation, or the potentially hundreds more that might fall under the new “satisfactory” category. They argued that the grants should go to students attending programs deemed “effective” or higher, regardless of their accreditation status, and the department agreed.

Under the compromise language, programs lacking specialized accreditation would be judged based on whether they provided graduates with “content and pedagogical knowledge” and “quality clinical preparation” and had “performance based” exit requirements.

Even more significantly, panelists succeeded in striking any reference to “high quality” from the state rating system, replacing it with “exceptional.” That seemingly semantic change ensured that the “high quality” definition wouldn’t outlive Teach Grants, and be used to limit aid under other federal programs. President Obama has proposed ending the Teach Grant program and replacing it with a “Presidential Teaching Fellows” program that would provide scholarships to high-achieving students.

Even with the changes, the new rules still represent a significant expansion of the federal involvement in teacher-training programs. Until now, the government has largely stayed out of teacher prep, leaving it to states to set their own standards for judging and penalizing programs. The proposed rules, with their outcome standards and survey requirements, mark a “much more rigorous and intrusive federal role,” said Jane West, senior vice president of the American Association of Colleges for Teacher Education.

via Teacher-Training Programs Win Concessions on Proposed Federal Rule – Government – The Chronicle of Higher Education.

Many of these government interventions are simply efforts to provide accountability for taxpayer dollars.  That, I think, is a legitimate concern for Congress and ought not to be confused with the bigger issue of government attempts to regulate our lives.

HT:  Jackie

Harold Camping admits he was wrong

Finally Harold Camping accepts the plain words of Matthew 24:36 (“of that day and hour knoweth no man”):

After numerous failed doomsday predictions, Family Radio founder Harold Camping announced this month that he has no plans to predict ever again the day of God’s Judgment. He also issued an apology to listeners, admitting that he was wrong.

“We have learned the very painful lesson that all of creation is in God’s hands and He will end time in His time, not ours!” a statement on Family Radio’s website reads. “We humbly recognize that God may not tell His people the date when Christ will return, any more than He tells anyone the date they will die physically.”

Camping, 90, has made predictions about Judgment Day, Christ’s return and the end of the world for the past few decades – with the May 21, 2011, forecast receiving the most media attention. Each time the date passed, he did not admit to mistaking the timing but instead reasoned that the events happened “spiritually” rather than physically.

But once Oct. 21, 2011 – the day Camping said the world would be destroyed physically – came and went, the Christian broadcaster began to reevaluate his views about being able to calculate and know the exact date of the apocalypse.

“Even the most sincere and zealous of us can be mistaken,” Camping and Family Radio staff stated in their March letter. “We realize that many people are hoping they will know the date of Christ’s return. In fact for a time Family Radio fell into that kind of thinking.

“But we now realize that those people who were calling our attention to the Bible’s statement that ‘of that day and hour knoweth no man’ (Matthew 24:36 & Mark 13:32), were right in their understanding of those verses and Family Radio was wrong. Whether God will ever give us any indication of the date of His return is hidden in God’s divine plan.”

via Harold Camping Admits Sin, Announces End to Doomsday Predictions, Christian News.

Hopefully he will now  admit his other errors and accept other plain words of Scripture.  For example, another finding of his odd interpretation of the End Times is that we have entered a dispensation in which all organized churches have become apostate.  Thus, people should stop going to church.  Instead they should just listen to his radio program.  Maybe he could now announce that he is now taking Hebrews 10:25 to mean what it says and that his followers should now start going to churches again.

Romney limping towards victory

In Super Tuesday results, Romney won 6 states (Massachusetts, Vermont, Virginia, Idaho, Alaska, and the big prize of Ohio); Santorum won 3 (Oklahoma, North Dakota, and Tennessee), and Gingrich won 1 (his home state of Georgia).

In terms of delegates, with some states awarding them proportionally and others “winner-take-all,” Romney picked up 212, Santorum 84, Gingrich 72, and Paul 22.   So Romney got 54%.

Altogether at this point in the campaign, Romney has 415 delegates, Santorum 176, Gingrich 105, and Paul 47.  Winning the Republican nomination takes 1,144.   So Romney has twice as many as his closest competitor and is just short of being halfway to the nomination.

(I would like to report that in the two-man race in Virginia, where I voted, Ron Paul took 40% of the vote, far more than anyone expected.)

So what now for the Republicans?  Should the other nominees drop out and let the coronation proceed for Romney.  Is it now time for all good men to come to the aid of their party?  Stop bashing each other and unite against the Democratic incumbent?  Or are the stakes so high and electoral doom so inevitable that the competing candidates should just fight for their principles?

 

via News from The Associated Press.

Only churches can be religious

How to restrict religion given the Bill of Right’s protection of the “free exercise” of religion?  Easy, the secularists in power are finding:  Define religion as only what goes on behind the walls of churches.

That’s what the administration has done in its abortion pill/contraceptive mandate in exempting only church congregations, while requiring church-run hospitals and other ministries to provide that coverage free of charge even when they violate their religious convictions.

Now colleges are using the same strategy, as Greg Forster reports:

The Supreme Court declared in 2010 that public universities must permit religious student clubs to select leaders who share their faith. UNC-Greensboro is now getting around this by declaring that a Christian student club isn’t really religious.

On what grounds? It isn’t affiliated with a church.

Other schools are apparently pursuing this strategy as well. Expect to hear more about it.

via An Arm of the North Carolina State Government Says Christianity Isn’t a Religion » First Thoughts | A First Things Blog.

The next step, as in the former Soviet Union:  Religion is restricted to what goes on inside of your head.

 

 


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