The DC Nuke & the Saving Monks

Random Thoughts is writing about what is happening to her finances.

No one has defended President Bush more than I have during his time in office. No one.

But his signing the “bailout bill” that Nancy Pelosi, Harry Reid and the rest of them were giddy over this afternoon – it has stunned me. I know he had to do it. I know there were no choices, here. But I am still stunned.

When I heard Joe Biden talk about giving courts the power to reset mortgage principles I thought he’d simply misspoken. Today I see it is a central point in this garbage “bailout” that I am less-and-less persuaded we “absolutely” needed, this “quickly” – mostly because I so distrust the manner in which this whole episode has been served, and the bad faith in which certain moves were played.

I feel very strongly that this bill is a nuclear blast to the economic foundations of the nation. There are laughing hyenas waiting to feed on the carcass.

I was driving for a bit today and heard a little of Rush Limbaugh, laughing, giggling – apparently with some irony – and telling his listeners, “it’s not time to worry yet, I’ll tell you when,” as though he imagines himself Atticus Finch and we’re all his little Scouts.

Sorry, I didn’t find it reassuring. Over the years many of his listeners have written angry emails to me chastising me and telling me “not to doubt,” Rush because “he is never wrong.” So, maybe he reassured them, but it didn’t work for me. I can never feel good when Pelosi and Reid are smiling that hard. This is not about political party. This is just basic distrust. There are people in the GOP I distrust, too. But they were not the ones laughing and partying today, so I focus on the ones who were.

A long while back Thomas Cahill wrote a book called How the Irish Saved Civilization., in which he chronicled how the monks and scribes in Ireland managed to preserve the West’s treasury of knowledge, and how they traveled and taught.

I’ve been writing recently, about products made by monastics – the outstanding Mystic Monk Coffee, offered by the Carmelite Monks of Wyoming, the incredibly good lip balms and lotions of the Dominican Nuns of Summit, NJ, and how I plan to make their products – and others like them – a big part of my Christmas giving. I want, of course, to support their houses of prayer, because I think we need people in the world whose main job in life is to pray for the rest of us.

Far from “shutting themselves up,” the whole point of monastic life is to denude oneself and look to serve others. In the multimedia piece found here, following the Summit Nuns, one of the postulants says, “living this way is like being married to twenty people.”

But now, I wonder if we should turn to these folks, not simply for their goods, but to get re-connected with the idea of living simpler lives, wherein our core concerns are less about ourselves, and more about the community. That defines the life these people live, each day.

Take a look at these Trappist (or, Cistercian) monks (H/T Deacon Greg) – who follow The Rule of St. Benedict in their common life, and in doing so provide for themselves while also helping others:


The Benedictine motto is “Ora et Labora”
– Pray and work. A monastic life is a communal one, and as we’ve discussed here before, it is not a life that can extrapolated into the society-at-large, because the life – which is a little microcosm of the socialist ideal, (yes, it is that radical) only works when it is voluntary, not when it is coerced, or enforced. The monastic enters into the life, freely, everyday. He or she is always free to leave. That liberty is the whole point; without it, the monastic life would be the old Soviet one.

But lived freely, there seems to be a great deal of room for creativity and for reaching out, while still maintaining boundaries and freedom.

This bill passing and being signed today fills me with great dread. I recognise and accept that soon the nation I grew up in will likely not be the one I leave to my children, no matter who wins this election.

Washington has nothing at all to teach us at this point. Washington is corrupt and broken. “Society,” too, is broken. Watch these young men march into their room in lockstep chanting, “Alpha-Omega, Alpha-Omega” about Barack Obama – a mere man – and crediting him with the imposition of almost god-like inspirations.

When I saw that the first words that jumped into my head were Go out from among them, and be ye separate… A little dramatic, I admit. But the video creeped me out. Idolatry is not helpful at this point.

So, here we are, walking a road that seems to be splitting into a faultline. One side is more worldly than the other and we can straddle it for a while, but eventually one must jump either way, or fall into the chasm.

Limbaugh says “it’s not time to worry, yet; I’ll tell you when.” Well, that’s fine. He might be somebody’s father-figure, but he’s never been mine. I think I will keep my own counsel on this.

And my own counsel says: prayer and fasting is the training for the spiritual athlete. And training for what is ahead seems prudent, just now.

Rod Dreher writes the speech John McCain should give, but won’t.

I’m thinking that the timing here is no accident.

Here is a video by the GOP, but it’s too little, too late:

Michael Malone at PJM: Pretty unhappy

Barney Franks’ conflict of interest; I guess he’s past prosecuting, now. That’s okay. As MLK said, “a lie can’t stand forever.”

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  • Joe Odegaard

    Sarah Palin caries Trig to term, Obama says “punished with a baby”; the road is splitting you bet.

  • Poohbah

    As a former Marine, I watched the video of the young men. My first thought was “(Expletive deleted) wannabe warriors.”

    I find myself in considerable agreement with you. I can pray. I can fast. I can continue to perform the labor that sustains me and my family until my employer decides otherwise. (I am not worried about that prospect.)

    Beyond that . . . meh.

    I have survived Achmed the Awful trying to kill me in Beirut, Lebanon and Arlington, Virginia. I survived President James Earl Carter AND William Jefferson Blythe Clinton. I have survived several car wrecks. I have survived a mugging–so did the mugger, albeit with two shattered kneecaps. Oh (expletive deleted) well. I have survived raising a daughter (so far).

    If I have to survive President Obama, so be it.

    Ronaldus Magnus would not have become President without the people first electing Jimmy Carter. Sometimes, you really have to (expletive deleted) up before you can make a good decision.

  • http://AmusedCynic.com driver

    I haven’t been listening to Rush regularly for a while, but I did hear the broadcast to which you refer pretty much in its entirety, and I think you have mistaken his point.

    First, he was vehemently opposed to the bailout, and pointed, as you did, to the smiling Democrat faces “without a Republican in sight.” He has stated clearly that he thinks this is a total con-job, a ploy to assign even more power to the federal government. He was not giggling about it, I can assure you.

    The “I’ll tell you when it’s time to panic” quote was initially a response to a very panicked caller, who was expressing concern about the bailout and the possibility of an impending Obama regime. Rush just told him that it was time to buck up, and not panic. Then he said “I’ll tell you when…etc.”

    It’s funny, I have a friend who used to use that expression as a lightening-up line when things were very dire: “Don’t panic, I’ll tell you when it’s time to panic.” He had a very dangerous job, and he was very good at it, and he survived nearly 30 years of jumping out of perfectly good airplanes.

  • culperjr.

    I think we can all learn a great deal from those who have chosen a monastic life. I know that the monks, nuns and friars I have had the pleasure to meet seemed to have more on the ball than we “worldly” types.

    I also believe that, should the radicals take all branches of government (as they seem to be planning to do) it won’t hurt to understand the monastic lifestyle. We may all be living like mendicant friars before too long, so I’d prefer to think of it as a choice instead of a necessity imposed from above.

  • gs

    No one has defended President Bush more than I have during his time in office. No one. (p)But his signing the “bailout bill” that Nancy Pelosi, Harry Reid and the rest of them were giddy over this afternoon – it has stunned me.

    Oy. When I’ve taken issue with your defenses of Bush, it seemed to me that your belief in the man was so deep-rooted that it would take something really bad to make you waver. You have my sympathy.

    Btw, I quit my job last year to start a business. I figured the political establishment, notwithstanding its deficiencies, would manage an election-year economy that would let me get a foothold.
    *****************
    “When somebody hurts, government has got to move.”

    Compassionate conservatism is a gateway drug to socialism.

    [GS - with all due respect, thanks for your sympathy, but I have not abandoned President Bush. I still honor and respect him and call him a great president. But I admit, I was a little stunned by what has happened over these past ten days. - admin]

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  • dmd25

    No one has defended President Bush more than I have during his time in office. No one.

    I,too, in my much smaller circle than yours, have defended President Bush to the nth degree. This time, however, my mouth is closed. What he has done this time makes me both mad and sad.

  • Joseph

    “But his signing the “bailout bill” that Nancy Pelosi, Harry Reid and the rest of them were giddy over this afternoon – it has stunned me. And I don’t think I’m alone in this, either.”

    Huh?

    He asked for the darn bill. Didn’t you notice? He asked for it several times. I saw at least once on television where he was positively pleading for it. Where on earth have you been?

    If you want to understand what really happened, I would suggest you look up the comments of the Republican House members who switched their votes about why they did so, based on what they were hearing from their constituents. You have a post category, “Socialism Doesn’t Work”, but it seems to me that you need a primer on how Capitalism does work. So do most Conservatives who are not in business themselves.

    Capitalism is not some occult force of nature or handiwork of God; it is a humanly fabricated way of organizing society. St. Francis, for example, never even heard of Capitalism.

    Real business runs on borrowed money. They call this “capital”, which is why the system we operate under is called Capitalism. Sometimes this takes the form of stocks, sometimes bonds, sometimes bank loans. But it’s all essentially borrowed money and our system cannot run without it.

    Why? Because most goods and services are not “made to order” with down payment or deposit for materials. This is how they all were made before the development of Capitalism. Capitalist businesses make goods on speculation as “supply”, without prior order, and in anticipation of future “demand”. Since it costs money to do this, they have to borrow it.

    Everybody else lends money on speculation for “interest”, [or for the "banking service" of not having to carry all their money with them all the time] which is also a form of “supply”. Some lend it in the form of buying stocks or bonds, others lend it to banks who then relend it to businesses as “capital”. There is always a “demand” for capital as well. To make all of this happen on a gigantic scale, we have an “equities market” where people buy and sell each others debt, also on speculation, in order to generate enough capital to supply goods on an industrial scale. This market is also a human creation and is only about 200+ years old. The presence of this market is what has made it possible to have a “Capitalist society”.

    Essentially, this is a house of cards based only on the belief that borrowers will be able to repay lenders. In pure Capitalism the house of cards collapses regularly in “panics” where all the lenders lose confidence in all the borrowers and they all try to get their money back at once. Of course, they can’t, because most of it is tied up in physical plant and inventory, so businesses [even good and responsible businesses] collapse on an enormous scale.

    For the first 100 years of a pure Capitalist society in America, these incredible panics occurred about every 15-20 years and were unbelievably destructive, beyond anything we can now imagine today. The last of these pure panics occurred in 1907. From that point forward we have lived under “regulated market” Capitalism, where the United States Government, through the Federal Reserve System, attempts to dampen the effects of such panics by lending money to private banks, thus keeping enough capital flowing under all circumstances that good and responsible businesses do not collapse in “recessions”.

    This process of Government lending and guaranteed capital flow spawned a huge increase in American Capitalist activity, until the entire set of Capitalist societies around the world all collapsed at once in 1930. Merely acting as the “lender of last resort” did not allow the US Government to forestall this collapse, so it began to regulate the market more intensely, which is where our form of Capitalism stands today.

    Despite Libertarian opinion to the contrary, it is this intense regulation that has made the last 65 years of economic stability even possible. And it all depends on businesses being able to borrow money whether times are good or bad.

    Two weeks ago, matters got so bad that even all this regulation and Government lending could not keep the credit flow from freezing up because the banks themselves no longer trusted each other to pay the money back, and when the Government failed to act a week ago, stock and bond holders began to withdraw their loans, too. Why this is so and who is to blame is beside the point at the moment. Capitalism cannot function without capital–without borrowable money.

    The bill as passed is an enormous mess because the Senate, in order to pass it quickly, attached it to another bill with all sorts of questionable components. There may also be a “bailout” involved but this a side effect of some very bad tasting medicine, which may or may not be ultimately effective.

    You need to understand that the reason for the bill was to preserve Capitalism, not to destroy it, because, once again, the whole system was showing ominous signs of collapse for exactly the same reasons it has completely collapsed about 7-8 times in the past 200 years. The bill may fail, or it may even make matters worse, but it is not intended to transform our economic system away from Capitalism. And there are no “hyenas” waiting to feast on the leftovers.

    I would never discourage you from fasting and praying, or aspiring to the monastic lifestyle. In my own tradition I do so myself. Nor would I say that your fear for the future is completely without basis, though it need not be quite as apocalyptic as all that. But there is nobody who voted for that bill who does not think that Capitalism–in the market regulated form we have had it for the past 70 years–is not “the only alternative”. They voted for that bill because they think so.

    [He did not ask for the bloated, 400 page porkfest he eventually signed. He didn't ask for a bill that would allow the courts to reset mortgages. He signed something much different than what was initially planned, and the laughing hyenas tell me it will do us know good. But you always know much more than I do, Joseph, so there you go. And besides, you want socialism, so it pleases you. We just watched an enormous game take place, and the socialists won and the nation lost. Having young sons, my priorities are different than yours, I think - admin]

  • Kathleen

    The video ” “Alpha-Omega, Alpha-Omega” about Barack Obama” is no longer available on Youtube. Gone.

  • Acer Palmatum

    I am for some sort of “rescue” plan although I am definitely unhappy about it. While the plan certainly has major problems, this is a choice of lesser harms. We are in this mess do to manipulations of the capitalistic system and regulations that promoted these excesses, not deregulation.

  • Hantchu

    Hey, I’m all for the monastics supporting themselves through selling good products. “Doing well by doing good”, and there’s nothing less coercive than a square capitalist deal.

    BUT just as buying the car with the girl on it in the ad won’t get you the girl, neither will monk’s coffee, not even the decaffeinated kind, get you the Relaxation Response. I clearly recall Rumer Godden’s Philippa levelling on the matter of lousy Benedictine tea in “This House of Brede” (any similarity between that and the House of Maxwell being coincidence). And wasn’t it Kathleen Norris who, while helping in a monastery kitchen, commented on the essential hilarity of asking monastics how they wanted their eggs cooked?

    I suppose selling whoopee cushions would not be edifying, and there is a limit to how much Trappist beer the market can carry.

  • newton

    Now that I see what I had feared for a while – mainly, people calling Barack Obama The Solution To All of Their Problems and even deifying him-, I think it’s time to ask the very, very hard questions in a spiritual sense.

    When the people deify a man, what does it tell your spiritual eyes?

    It may well be not long before he stands before a temple and proclaims himself God. The sad thing is, the Apostle Paul had predicted this before. (See 2 Thessalonians.)

    Who will take a stand for the True God when the time comes? Who will say, before the thugs who could treat us badly when we refuse to worship at the altar of the New God Obama, “My God can rescue me, but even if He does not, I WILL NEVER worship your false god!”, just as those three Jewish boys replied to the king of Babylon?

    ***

    The American People want Socialism. Fine. Let’s give it to them. And leave them alone. They will regret it in spades for years to come.

  • stephanie

    I supposed it’s impossible that Pelosi and Reid were smiling because of relief. It HAS to be because they’re out to screw everybody.
    A lot of the tax breaks that were added (note: not really added, because they were extensions of existing tax breaks mostly) were to gain REPUBLICAN support- but of course it’s the Dems fault, they’re the ones spending pork. It’s always the dems fault.
    Bush wanted the bill. You’re right, he didn’t ask for a 400 pg plan- but he asked for a plan, and he got one. He would have got one sooner- the dems wanted to rush in and pass something immediately- it was the Republicans taking their time. But souns like you think the game playing was all on the dems side, too. Whatever.
    I’m interested to see how “the power to reset mortgage principals” plays out- the plan has yet to be developed. What I’ve heard is that if for example, I was 3 months behind, the amount I owed would be rolled into the principle and reset with a 30 year fixed rate. I don’t think it’s going to be wholesale price setting in the sense of devaluation. But then, I’m not opposed to helping some home owners out, myself. If we’re going to bail out wall street, then why not give a little help to Main street as well?

  • Joseph

    Anchoress, I do not want “socialism”, and I am as uneasy with this bill as anyone else. The only thing I “like” about it is the rider for Mental Health parity in health insurance coverage–and I am perfectly willing to admit that I have a private interest in this.

    Some time during the past two weeks, I ran across some article or other by Michael Barrone where he put what I’m trying to say far better than I can. We have lived with a regulated money market for exactly 100 years now. In Barrone’s view, some regulations, like the Federal Reserve System and the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation have had obvious benefits for us all, other regulation, unspecified by Baronne, has not. Stated in this way as a general case, there is hardly anyone in our political life who wouldn’t agree with this.

    The question is, where do we draw the line and why. A broker friend of mine put it this way: regulation is there to level the playing field. If it doesn’t do that, it has no reason to be there. I’d stand by that reasoning, too.

    There is not, never has been, and I think never will be, the sort of socialism in America that we saw in pre-Thatcher Britain with large nationalized industries. Nor do I want that. And my unease with the bill is far closer to yours than you might think. I certainly don’t support a de facto nationalization of the banking business, and it may be that, after all the dust settles, we will discover that we have done this.

    But without capital, without money to borrow for doing business, there is no Capitalism, and without Capitalism, there is only chaos. And that is the real choice, not between Capitalism and Socialism, but between Capitalism and Chaos. So we must find a way, somehow, to pull that toxic debt far enough off the playing field that the people who neither lent nor defaulted on it can continue the game. After that, we can consider how it got there and what to do about it.

  • http://hillaryneedsavacation.blogspot.com/ HNAV

    Nancy Pelosi smiling for her own petty delusions is not important.

    GW Bush acted when Congress again had absolutely no clue.

    The Bush Administration led when it was unpopular, because it had to be done.

    This vapid fashion amongst the Conservatives who have foolishly abandoned the Bush Administration long ago, are simply emotive reactionaries.

    These are the same fashionable minds who cried ‘selling one’s sovereignty’, with the simple Dubai Company purchase.

    The same groups who run away from the admirable endeavor in Iraq out of fear and slanted poll data.

    Who cares if Nancy Pelosi smiles, when the right action is taken?

    This Nation needed to Invest to support the principles behind the Free Market, which is our most powerful tool in providing FREEDOM.

    Nancy Pelosi has revealed again to be an inept failure.

    But we even found tax relief with the new bill, this is welcome.

    A regretful rescue -bailout created by the Democrat Malfeasance in Freddie and Fanny, begun long ago in the Clinton’s negligent tenure.

    And GW Bush had to deal with it.

    As he always seems forced to do, face the serious problems the sidelines and mimic what is considered popular.

    Some of these pundits, who approach serious issues with hyperbole, do not know the issues as much as Mr. Paulson or Mr. Bernanke. Many have lost credibility trying to suggest they do.

    It is often obvious, as they will often reference Ronald Reagan, as a purest in a Libertarian mindset, but the record is quite different. Like GW Bush, President Reagan often compromised to gain priorities and when essentials required bending. The Gipper actually bailed out Social Security with TIP long ago, while GW Bush tried to reform it with sound Conservative principles. In fact, President Reagan spent far more than the Bush Administration, compromising to win a Cold War. President Reagan agreed to bail out Chrysler Corp., and the USA made money on this deal.

    Some need to slow down, as they are repeating the same emotive negative obsession that helped give Nancy Pelosi the Majority in 2006.

    If we don’t like the Democrat Majority smiling, we need to remove them from influential positions.

    Sadly, the McCain is not going to help, as they will not even reference the Democrat Party in any manner. Preferring a risky strategy that suggests they can run as an independent, wanting to gain votes from Liberal Democrats as they hold the title of the GOP Nomination.

    If we don’t want to be compromising with poor policy provided by the Liberal Democrats on serious issues, with either the Maverick or the vapid Obama in the White House, we must work to shock the political world, and remove the Democrat Majority in Congress this NOV.

  • http://stolenthunder.blogspot.com DJ_Drummond

    ** sigh **

    The first clue should be, that the Left has keyed so much on getting everyone to hate Dubya. I’m not saying he’s perfect, but the man HAS run a business, he HAS earned a Harvard Business School MBA, and he HAS paid attention to Friedman and Bernanke and people who understand the issue.

    SHAME on you for quitting on him … AGAIN … just because the media is dumping on him.

    I’m not going to sit here and pretend he’s perfect, but Bush started warning folks about this problem YEARS ago, and you should know that, because the Left was all kinds of happy when they got it shot down … by getting Republicans to turn against Republicans.

    I will spell it out plainly, and I will type REAL SLOW for your benefit.

    P r e s i d e n t
    B u s h
    u n d e r s t o o d
    t h e
    p r o b l e m
    w h e n
    m o s t
    o f
    C o n g r e s s
    a n d
    t h e
    m e d i a
    w e r e
    p r e t e n d i n g
    t h e r e
    w a s
    n o
    p r o b l e m.

    So shut up with your blame on the ONE MAN who was trying to fix the problem when you were busy ignoring him, shut up with piling him alongside the Democrats who twisted his words and lied to the American people for years so they could get control of Congress, which only made it worse for honest banks and finance companies to avoid the crash.

    If you have taken college Economics or Finance, you know what went wrong, and you know that Dodds and Franks were a lot of the problem, and you know that Deregulation was NOT the cause of the crash.

    So yes, President Bush got ignored and insulted for YEARS, and his party and one-time supporters ran off because it was not “cool” to stand for the man when he was doing the hard work and trying to fix the big problems (and I won’t even go into how cowardly the Right DESERTED Bush when he tried to address Social Security). And now he has to work with what is in power in Washington, because none of the GOP people had the guts or brains to stand with him.

    You might as well call yourselves Democrats, for all the honesty and moral courage you are displaying right now.

    The President deserved better, and for you to think he has earned any blame from the likes of YOU deserters, is just laughable.

    You did nothing when the President could have stopped this, so do not even fool yourself into thinking anyone but the guy in the mirror is to blame.

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  • http://jmbalconi.stblogs.com Jean Balconi

    The video of the Alpha/Omega is apparently a step routine by some pledges to a black fraternity. However, I’ll still keep them in my prayers. The “because of Obama” phrase is what saddens me, as I’d rather a young man attribute his aspirations to a close friend or a family role model than a politician.

  • newton

    Sad but true, D.J.

    I will never forget how W tried to start Social Security reform, only to be shot down by the Democrats and their “They’re going to make Grandma eat dog food!” mantra.

    And then, when John McCain warned people about Fannie and Freddie in Congress, only to be shot down by Barney Frank (yep, the same who has some “Fannie”-related conflict of interest of his own).

    In quite a few things, W was stabbed in the back. I saw the mob gathering around the Dubai ports deal issue to conclude that those who opposed it have zero understanding of international maritime commerce. My husband and his co-workers, all Mariners (most hardened, Navy or graduates of maritime colleges with all and sea legs), had no problem with it. The one man who was nominated by W to head the Maritime Administration around that time was as Maritime as he could get (Kings Point grad and a few bunch more), but he once was an executive for the British port ops being sold to Dubai Ports, so the Democrats had to shot him down, too.

    I’ve come to the conclusion that Democrats don’t want smart people in Washington to solve problems. They only want “yes-men” who will do whatever the Congressional overlords tell them to do, and that’s it. No pretense of knowledge or wisdom: just do what we tell you, and if it doesn’t add up, tough, we tell you to do it, don’t ask any questions, because WE are the ones in POWER, OK?

    Of course, they also want an electorate that shines by its total stupidity and malleable-ness in electoral matters. Try asking a college student about the electoral process, even the Electoral College. No wonder civics and history education in this country has suffered for so long! The dumber the voters, the better off the Democrats are.

  • gs

    GS – with all due respect, thanks for your sympathy, but I have not abandoned President Bush…

    I assumed you wavered after being ‘stunned’, but I wasn’t saying you abandoned him. (My support of him ended not with a bang but a whimper.)

    While I strongly disagree with you about Bush, it is my fervent hope that something doesn’t happen that would be bad enough to make you change your mind.

  • gs

    [...I have not abandoned President Bush...great president... - admin]

    sigh


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