Is America exceptional, or what?

The latest ideological buzzword is “exceptional,” as in, “America is exceptional.”  Republicans Mitt Romney, Mike Pence, Sarah Palin, Mike Huckabee, and Newt Gingrich are accusing Democrats–and President Obama in particular–of not believing in “American exceptionalism.”  See this rather biased article for an overview of the phenomenon: Conservatives’ new focus: America, the exceptional. What does it mean to say that America is exceptional?  Does it mean, as the article says, that America is the best of all countries, or does it... Read more

The “tax expenditures” solution

Here is another proposal for how to cut the deficit.  This one suffers from a toxic premise: There is a way to cut budget deficits without raising tax rates. “Tax expenditures” are the special features of U.S. income tax law that subsidize mortgage borrowing, health insurance, local government spending and more. Although these subsidies are a form of government spending, they are counted as reduced tax revenue rather than increased government outlays. Yet tax expenditures increase the deficit by hundreds... Read more

Why “socialist” gets spam filtered

tODD has solved the mystery of why comments on this blog that mention “socialism” or its variants get treated like spam, exiled into a spam world until they are “released” whenever I think to check it.   Look closely at that word.  Specifically its third through sixth letters.  Do you notice the brand name of a “male enhancement product”?  One that is marketed on obnoxious TV commercials and is sold through shady internet sites?  The word is ubiquitous in spam, and any... Read more

Religion means "be careful"

In a discussion of how Roman Catholic church bureaucracy and the American Academy of Religion both try to keep the lid on supernatural experiences, the notable Lutheran sociologist Peter Berger cites some interesting etymology: Sociologists who deal with religion often like to refer to the etymology of the Latin word religio. Supposedly it derives from the verb religare—to re-bind. If so, this points to a very valid insight, most fully formulated by the classical sociologist Emile Durkheim—namely, that religion provides... Read more

Diplomatic catastrophe

Wikileaks is releasing to the public a quarter of a million classified documents.  This latest batch isn’t so much about atrocities in the Iraq and Afghanistan wars.  It mainly consists of confidential reports by diplomats that contain unflattering and sometimes snarky comments about world leaders, including important allies.  The reports lack “diplomacy.”  As a result, we have a diplomatic catastrophe on our hands. For a sampling of what they contain, here is a list of breathless headlines from the Drudge... Read more

Medicare crisis

Part of the new federal  health care plan will be funded by cuts to Medicare, the existing government program that pays for health care for the elderly.  Already, though, an increasing number of doctors are  refusing to take on Medicare patients because the payments are too low.  And starting on January 1 those payments are scheduled to be cut  a whopping 25%.   From The Washington Post: Want an appointment with kidney specialist Adam Weinstein of Easton, Md.? If you’re... Read more

How government agencies avoid competitive bidding

Are you an Eskimo from Alaska?  Are you part Eskimo?  Do you know an Eskimo?  (That term, by the way, according to Wikipedia is NOT pejorative when referring to the Alaskan tribes.)  If so, you can start a company and get a government contract without having to compete for it.  Then you can sub-contract the actual work to other companies, pocketing millions for yourself. That’s one of the ways the federal procurement process avoids having to comply with time-consuming but... Read more

Come, Lord Jesus

It’s Advent!   I love how the Advent hymns, Scripture readings, and sermons focus on all of the different senses of Jesus’s coming to us.  Yes, we look forward to His coming in the events of Christmas.  But we also study the Old Testament prophecies of His coming.  We also contemplate His second coming.  And we also reflect on the way He comes to us personally in the sacraments and in His Word. Let’s do another sermon compilation.  What insights did... Read more

Saying grace

The Religious News Service reports on a study about how many Americans have a prayer of thanksgiving before meals: These days, 44 percent of Americans report saying grace or a similar blessing almost every day before eating; 46 percent almost never say it, leaving just a statistical sliver in between, Putnam and Campbell report in their recently published book, “American Grace: How Religion Unites and Divides Us.” “We are hard-pressed to think of many other behaviors that are so common... Read more

Megamind

We went to the movies over Thanksgiving weekend and saw Megamind.   The animated parody of the superhero genre featured a supervillain who finds himself turning good.  It’s actually kind of Augustinian (existence is good, so evil is a privation of being).  It was also quite humorous.  But see it, if at all possible, in the 3-D version.  That technology works remarkably well with these modeled computer animations.  The visuals were spectacular, making better use of the new 3-D possibilities than... Read more
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