Happy Presidents’ Day

Today is Presidents’ Day, which began as an amalgamation of George Washington’s birthday and Abraham Lincoln’s birthday, but now is nobody’s birthday but just honors our chief executives.  So let’s take a pause from the current presidential campaign to discuss the institution itself.

Is it wise to have the same person be head of state and the  head of the executive branch?

Most democracies today have a Prime Minister as chief executive, who is the head of the party that has the majority in the legislature.  Is that better than our elected Presidents?  If not, why are Prime Ministers more common in modern governments?

Do our presidents have too much power or not enough?

What does it mean to be “presidential”?

Who do you think was our greatest president? The top five?


Forcing a company to give away a product for free

Charles Krauthammer points out yet another problem with President Obama’s contraceptive mandate compromise:

The president of the United States has just ordered private companies to give away for free a service that his own health and human services secretary has repeatedly called a major financial burden.

On what authority? Where does it say that the president can unilaterally order a private company to provide an allegedly free-standing service at no cost to certain select beneficiaries? . . . .

To solve his own political problem, the president presumes to order a private company to enter into a contract for the provision of certain services — all of which must be without charge. And yet, this breathtaking arrogation of power is simply the logical extension of Washington’s takeover of the private system of medical care — a system Obama farcically pretends to be maintaining.

Under Obamacare, the state treats private insurers the way it does government-regulated monopolies and utilities. It determines everything of importance. Insurers, by definition, set premiums according to risk. Not anymore. The risk ratios (for age, gender, smoking, etc.) are decreed by Washington. This is nationalization in all but name. The insurer is turned into a middleman, subject to state control — and presidential whim. . . .

This constitutional trifecta — the state invading the autonomy of religious institutions, private companies and the individual citizen — should not surprise. It is what happens when the state takes over one-sixth of the economy.

via Charles Krauthammer: Overreach — Obamacare vs. the Constitution – The Washington Post.

Packing heat in the pulpit

Another unusual law from my home sweet Oklahoma:

The state house is considering a bill to allow pastors in their churches to protect themselves like citizens do in their homes, vehicles and businesses.

A state house committee approved the legislation Tuesday that would make it legal to use deadly defensive force if there’s a fear of imminent death or bodily harm.

The representative who wrote the bill sited several cases of violence inside Oklahoma Churches in the last decade.

The bill now goes to the house floor for a vote.

via OK House Considers Bill Allowing Pastors To Use Guns In Church – NewsOn6.com – Tulsa, OK – News, Weather, Video and Sports – KOTV.com |.

So does that mean that pastors aren’t currently allowed to use firearms from the pulpit?  Or is this one of Oklahoma’s “making a statement” laws?  (Update:  Apparently the latter.)

Back in the Middle Ages, the clergy were forbidden to shed blood, so they would not use swords or lances.  So instead some of them, including the Popes leading their armies, would use maces to bash their enemy’s heads in.

Military chaplains, I believe, do not carry weapons.

What do you think of the prospect of pistol-packing pastors?  A little too law-oriented?  A temptation to deal with annoying parishioners in a non-pastoral way?  Prudential protection?

HT:  Ned

“Please get the federal government out of our consciences”

Mr. Chairman, it’s a pleasure to be here. The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod is a body of some 6,200 congregations and 2.3 million members across the U.S. We don’t distribute voters’ lists. We don’t have a Washington office. We are studiously non-partisan, so much so that we’re often criticized for being quietistic.

“I’d rather not be here, frankly. Our task is to proclaim, in the words of the blessed apostle St. John, the blood of Jesus Christ, God’s Son, cleanses us from all our sin. And we care for the needy. We haven’t the slightest intent to Christianize the government. Martin Luther famously quipped one time, ‘I’d rather have a smart Turk than a stupid Christian governing me.’

“We confess that there are two realms, the church and the state. They shouldn’t be mixed – the church is governed by the Word of God, the state by natural law and reason, the Constitution. We have 1,000 grade schools and high schools, 1,300 early childhood centers, 10 colleges and universities. We are a machine which produces good citizens for this country, and at tremendous personal cost.

“We have the nation’s only historic black Lutheran college in Concordia, Selma. Many of our people [who are alive today] walked with Dr. King 50 years ago on the march from Selma to Montgomery. We put up the first million dollars and have continued to provide finance for the Nehemiah Project in New York as it has continued over the years, to provide home ownership for thousands of families, many of them headed by single women. Our agency in New Orleans, Camp Restore, rebuilt over 4,000 homes after Katrina, through the blood, sweat and tears of our volunteers. Our Lutheran Malaria Initiative, barely begun, has touched the lives of 1.6 million people in East Africa, especially those affected by disease, women and children. And this is just the tip, the very tip, of the charitable iceberg.

“I’m here to express our deepest distress over the HHS provisions. We are religiously opposed to supporting abortion-causing drugs. That is, in part, why we maintain our own health plan. While we are grandfathered under the very narrow provisions of the HHS policy, we are deeply concerned that our consciences may soon be martyred by a few strokes on the keyboard as this administration moves us all into a single-payer … system. Our direct experience in the Hosanna-Tabor case with one of our congregations gives us no comfort that this administration will be concerned to guard our free-exercise rights.

“We self-insure 50,000 people. We do it well. Our workers make an average of $43,000 a year, 17,000 teachers make much less, on average. Our health plan was preparing to take significant cost-saving measures, to be passed on to our workers, just as this health-care legislation was passed. We elected not to make those changes, incur great cost, lest we fall out of the narrow provisions required under the grandfather clause. While we are opposed in principle, not to all forms of birth control, but only abortion-causing drugs, we stand with our friends in the Catholic Church and all others, Christians and non-Christians, under the free exercise and conscience provisions of the U.S. Constitution.

“Religious people determine what violates their consciences, not the federal government. The conscience is a sacred thing. Our church exists because overzealous governments in northern Europe made decisions which trampled the religious convictions of our forebearers. I have ancestors who served in the Revolutionary War. I have ancestors who were on the Lewis and Clark expedition. I have ancestors who served in the War of 1812, who fought for the North in the Civil War – my 88-year-old father-in-law has recounted to me, in tears many times, the horrors of the Battle of the Bulge. In fact, Bud Day, the most highly decorated veteran alive, is a member of The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod.

“We fought for a free conscience in this country, and we won’t give it up without a fight. To paraphrase Martin Luther, the heart and conscience has room only for God, not for God and the federal government. The bed is too narrow, the blanket is too short. We must obey God rather than men, and we will. Please get the federal government, Mr. Chairman, out of our consciences. Thank you.”

via Missouri Synod President tells House Committee: LCMS ‘religiously opposed to supporting abortion-causing drugs’ – The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod.

Iatrogenic government.

I quote this column on rent control because in it George Will teaches us a new word, one that names a reality we might not have recognized before so as to help us think more clearly:

James and Jeanne Harmon reside in and supposedly own a five-story brownstone on Manhattan’s Upper West Side, a building that has been in their family since 1949. But they have, so to speak, houseguests who have overstayed their welcome by, in cumulative years, more than a century. They are the tenants — the same tenants — who have been living in the three of the Harmons’ six apartments that are rent controlled.

The Harmons want the Supreme Court to rule that their home has been effectively, and unconstitutionally, taken from them by notably foolish laws that advance no legitimate state interest. The court should.

This “taking” has been accomplished by rent-control laws that cover almost 1 million — approximately half — of the city’s rental apartments. Such laws have existed, with several intervals of sanity, since the “emergency” declared because returning soldiers faced housing shortages caused by a building slowdown during World War I.

Most tenants in rent-controlled units can renew their leases forever. Tenants can bequeath their rent-controlled apartments — they have, essentially, a property right to their landlord’s property — to their children, or to a friend who lives with them for two years . This is not satire; it is the virtue of caring, as understood by liberal government.

The tenants in the Harmons’ three rent-controlled units are paying an average 59 percent below market rates. The Harmons would like to reclaim one apartment for a grandchild, but because occupants of two of the units are over 62, the Harmons would have to find the displaced tenant a comparable apartment, at the same or lower rent, in the same neighborhood.

In addition to rent control’s random dispersal of benefits — remember, half of the Harmons’ apartments are uncontrolled — rent control is destructive because it discourages construction of new apartments and maintenance of existing ones.

Thus it creates the “emergency” it supposedly cures.

It exemplifies what the late New York senator Pat Moynihan called “iatrogenic government.” In medicine, an iatrogenic illness is induced inadvertently by a physician’s treatment.

via Rent control laws: foolish and unconstitutional – The Washington Post.

Can you think of other examples of iatrogenic government or iatrogenic relationships or iatrogenic something-else, in which trying to solve the problem creates the problem?

More bullying from Planned Parenthood

Now Planned Parenthood has released its minions on a Wisconsin food pantry for the poor:

One thing we learned from the Komen/Planned Parenthood fiasco is that it may be easier to say no to the mob than Planned Parenthood. We saw it again recently in Green Bay, Wisconsin. This one didn’t make much news, but created a local social network bully fest.

Planned Parenthood called Paul’s Pantry, part of the St. Vincent de Paul Society and the biggest food pantry in Wisconsin, and asked them to come and pick up donations, which may have been noble, but wasn’t something the Catholic organization felt comfortable doing — sending a truck over and perhaps giving the abortion provider a photo opportunity. The American Life League reports what the worker at the pantry said:

“All I told the young lady from Planned Parenthood was that I couldn’t send a truck to pick up, and gave her a list of other food pantries that might want to pick up, I gave her no reason at all and she didn’t ask why. Soon after, I started receiving the hate e-mail and phone calls. I politely explained to callers that although we are non-denominational in regards to those we serve, we are a Catholic organization who shares a board of directors with our sister organization, St. Vincent de Paul. We adhere to the teachings of the Roman Catholic Church and to the Rule of St. Vincent de Paul. I also explained our Gift Acceptance Policy and how acceptance of the donation would compromise our core values and possibly damage the reputation of Paul’s Pantry.”

As with Komen, choice wasn’t okay with Planned Parenthood, and within a short amount of time, verbal abuse rolled in. Jill Stanek reports that a worker at Paul’s Pantry explained:

“Within 20 minutes I was getting phone calls and emails calling us [names]. The calls that day came from the Milwaukee area, where Planned Parenthood is headquartered. We have caller ID.”

[He] said he did tell one of the callers they could simply drop off their donation, “which happens about 100 times a day – in that case we don’t know where the food comes from. But if an organization wants a receipt, Paul’s Pantry has a gift acceptance policy. “If the donation is going to hurt us, we don’t accept it.”

Craig said it never got to that point with Planned Parenthood, though. PP invented the rest of the story. “What was their purpose?” asked Paul. “If they really intended to feed the poor they should have just dropped the food off and left it at that. But was it for their own self-promotion?”

The abuse didn’t stop there, though. First, Planned Parenthood broadcast it to their Facebook page on February 2:

Then Daily Kos got in on the action and bashed the pantry, then listed the phone number and the employee names and told people to call in protest.

Which resulted in a massive deluge of verbal abuse.  (Follow the link for examples and more details.)

via Now Planned Parenthood bullies Catholic food bank for saying no to them | LifeSiteNews.com.

HT:  Mary