The Census

I received my census form the other day, and fortunately it was the short form.  That spared me from a lot of questions I wouldn’t dream of answering.  Unfortunately, it didn’t get me completely out of the woods.

As most readers probably know by now, Question 8 asks whether we are “of Hispanic, Latino, or Spanish origin?”  If we are, then we are invited to be more specific, distinguishing Mexican ancestry from Puerto Rican, Cuban, etc.  Question 9 then asks for each person’s race, offering us 14 specific options followed by “Some other race.”

I hate these questions.  For one thing, it seems to me there are now large numbers of people who have parents or grandparents in at least two of the Census Bureau’s 14 “race” boxes. What box are they supposed to check?  What box is President Obama going to check?  During the campaign, people used to write a lot of nonsense about whether he was too black, hardly black at all, not black enough, etc.  It was somewhere between unseemly and repugnant then, but now it seems the Census Bureau really wants an answer. Read the rest of this entry »

Justice, with Humility, Gentleness, and Civility

[Editor’s Note:  Washington’s Red Mass, which journalists usually report from a political perspective because that’s easier, took place earlier today.  I haven’t seen any reports on it yet, but I’m willing to bet that for the vast majority of people trying to do human justice, Fr. Greg Kalscheur’s homily at Detroit’s Red Mass last weekend will provide more food for thought.  I post it here with Greg’s permission. — MAG]

Red Mass Homily
Gregory A. Kalscheur, S.J.
*

Each fall I begin my Civil Procedure course by encouraging my first-year students to keep a couple of questions alive in their hearts as they engage in their study of Civil Procedure.  I encourage them to imagine what sort of people they might become as they use the different procedural tools that we are studying, and I urge them to imagine how their use of those legal tools might shape the world in which we are living.  My hope really is to get all of us to remember one fundamental question; a question that I think is more important than any of the cases we read, or any of the doctrine we learn, or any of the particular legal issues any of us study in law school: who am I becoming as a person as I enter more deeply into the study of the law?[1]

We are all here today to ask the Holy Spirit to set our hearts on fire with a passion for the justice of God’s reign.  The readings we’ve just heard proclaimed[2] remind us to keep our hearts open to one crucial question: Who are we becoming as people as we live out our vocations as lawyers and judges and public servants?  As we live our lives in the law, are we being faithful to our more fundamental vocation to live out our identity as God’s beloved children, called to give flesh to God’s love in our world? Read the rest of this entry »

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Found and Lost?

Forgive me if this is old news, but I’m just hearing about the legal dispute between Odyssey Marine Exploration, Inc. and the government of Spain.  In case anyone else has missed this story so far, the dispute is about who owns $500 million in gold and silver coins that Odyssey Marine retrieved from the bottom of the ocean.  I don’t know which side has the better legal argument, but if it’s Spain — backed by our own Department of Justice — then it seems like a real miscarriage of justice to me.

Here are the basic facts:  Read the rest of this entry »

Darwin, Sanger, and Obamacare: A Trumpet Blast from the Backwoods

Our little corner of the Adirondacks has no daily newspaper but two weekly advertisers that carry a small amount of local news.  Most of the content is written by perhaps a dozen regular columnists, who write mostly about nature, or life in or near the woods, or local history; rarely are they polemical.

But this week’s column by a local mental health counselor struck me as unusually hard-hitting, and worth passing along. The title is “Thoughts on Eugenics,” and it’s by Elizabeth Szlek of Utica (which is about 55 miles from here).  She draws a fairly straight line from Charles Darwin to Margaret Sanger to Adolf Hitler, Read the rest of this entry »

“You’re suspicious to me.”

The Campaign for Liberty is a political organization formed last year to continue advocating the political and economic principles on which the Ron Paul presidential campaign was founded.  As a proud member, I was interested to learn that an internal report of the Missouri State Police lumped the Campaign for Liberty in with skinheads and Branch Davidians as a part of the “modern militia movement.”  The report (dated Feb. 20, 2009) listed a number of supposed hallmarks of domestic terrorist organizations, including opposition to the Federal Reserve system, advocacy for a gold standard, and a belief in the impending economic collapse of the United States.  In one particularly silly paragraph, the report stated,

Militia members most commonly associate with 3rd party political groups.  It is not uncommon for militia members to display Constitutional Party, Campaign for Liberty, or Libertarian material.  These members are usually supporters of former Presidential Candidate:  Ron Paul, Chuck Baldwin, and Bob Barr.

I wasn’t sure whether to be alarmed or amused by this, but C4L officials took it seriously, possibly because they were at that time planning a big regional conference in St. Louis.  The report was roundly condemned, impressively satirized, and subsequently withdrawn.  The Missouri State Police apologized to the named presidential candidates, and it seemed to be over.

But now there’s this:  Read the rest of this entry »

Too big to succeed?

This is not really another bailout post; it’s just a short pause to notice something that we should probably think about later, when we have more time and better concentration.

I think it was Groucho Marx who said he wouldn’t belong to any club that would have him as a member. Joseph Heller used the same circular logic to comic effect in Catch-22:

There was only one catch and that was Catch-22, which specified that a concern for one’s own safety in the face of dangers that were real and immediate was the process of a rational mind. Orr was crazy and could be grounded. All he had to do was ask; and as soon as he did, he would no longer be crazy and would have to fly more missions. Orr would be crazy to fly more missions and sane if he didn’t, but if he was sane he had to fly them. If he flew them he was crazy and didn’t have to; but if he didn’t want to he was sane and had to. Yossarian was moved very deeply by the absolute simplicity of this clause of Catch-22 and let out a respectful whistle.

“That’s some catch, that Catch-22,” he observed.

“It’s the best there is,” Doc Daneeka agreed.

In much the same way, it seems to me there is something at least paradoxical, and perhaps self-contradictory, about spending unprecedented amounts of public money to shore up institutions so large that in better times we would rather have expected to see them get attention from antitrust authoritiesRead the rest of this entry »

The best conservatives are liberal, and vice versa

I watched the inaugural address from the crowded and noisy balcony of the canteen at a local ski area.  There was some applause, though less than I expected.  There is, however, probably some sampling bias at work, considering that each and every person in the room could easily have been on the Mall but deliberately chose to ski instead.

I liked the speech very much, partly because its sobriety matched the seriousness of our problems, but perhaps more because of its repeated reliance on the broad sweep of U.S. history.  While some pundits have seemed unable to find any common theme in the speech, Read the rest of this entry »

A Low-Key Response to a Terrible Problem: Real Property Law and the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict

The most recent upsurge of violence in Israel and Gaza has called to mind a book I read last summer, “The Lemon Tree: An Arab, a Jew, and the Heart of the Middle East,” by Sandy Tolan. It’s the chronicle of the unusual relationship between a Palestinian who as a boy had fled with his family from their home during the 1948 war concurrent with the creation of the state of Israel, and an Israeli woman who thereafter grew up in the house with her family after the newly-formed Israeli government assigned the property to them. I’m not a fan of lawyers stretching the law and the judicial process to address issues more appropriately dealt with through legislation or international relations, but this situation suggests a straightforward issue of an individual’s legal rights, and a straightforward remedy: why not sue to get your property back?

More about the book: It’s an account by an American reporter about a house in the town of Ramle a/k/a al-Ramla, Israel and the two families that had occupied it over the past several decades. Read the rest of this entry »

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One Final Shoe Drops: Redistributive Justice

Well, we really are living in the Age of the Blogosphere, because some jamoke found an absolute screaming bombshell of a radio interview.  It’s up on Drudge (www.drudgereport.com) and it’s an interview with Obama from Sept. 6 of 2001.  If there were any thoughts that the Joe the Plumber comment on “sharing the wealth” was an unfortunate choice of words in the heat of the moment, it is time to cast those thoughts aside.

Obama is a socialist.  Plain and simple.  He wants to do economic justice via confiscation and redistribution.  He thinks it would be fine if the courts did it, but isn’t sanguine about that route — legislation, in his opinion, is the more reliable route.

It is a legitimate position, a defensible theory of government.  The jury is still out on whether it can produce a just and viable society.  Until recently, it felt like something closer to capitalism was winning the day, but with what’s going on in the financial markets, the argument over the proper “amount of government” has certainly gotten more heated.

It is okay to agree with Obama on this, and ok to vote for him because of it.  But let’s stop pretending he’s something other than a socialist.  That is FLAT OUT what he is.

The VP Debate, the Expectations Game, and Eight Questions for the Candidates

Everyone is playing the expectations game in advance of tomorrow night’s Biden-Palin debate.  Most of it is just self-serving blather, but Jed Lewison’s piece on the Huffington Post stood out to me as an exception because Lewison included video of Palin’s prior debates.  Anyone who is expecting a complete face-plant by Gov. Palin may be disappointed.  See for yourself.

Read the rest of this entry »