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RAPID RESPONSE (Archives)...Daily Commentary on News of the Day
This is a new section.  It will offer fresh, quick reactions by myself to news and events of the day, day by day, in this rapid-fire world of ours.  Of course, as in military campaigns, a rapid response in one direction may occasionally have to be followed by a "strategic withdrawal" in another direction.  Charge that to "the fog of war", and to the necessary flexibility any mental or military campaign must maintain to be effective.  But the mission will always be the same: common sense, based upon facts and "real politick", supported by a visceral sense of Justice and a commitment to be pro-active.  That's all I promise.

Click here to return to the current Rapid Response list

SATURDAY and SUNDAY, MAY 30 and 31, 2009

Posted below are two recent articles from Zenit which generally deal clearly with their subject matter.  But, as is too often the case, Church spokesmen frequently over-state their case and unnecessarily turn off their Faithful.  I continue to address this problem in a series of commentaries under the same title, above.    A review of my articles # 1 and 3 are relevant here. I refer to the comment in the first posted article: "The Cardinal affirmed that priests, as well as married people, are asked to live Chastity".  By what authority?  For reasons already given, I believe that the Church has no jurisdiction over the sexual life of a committed married Catholic couple in the discharge of their multiple responsibilities accepted with the vows of Matrimony.   
Why am I dwelling on these matters of concern mainly to Roman Catholics?  Because these are  pressing issues that now affect all Americans in ways that are producing serious divisions and ill will.  The Catholic Clergy and Laity could play an important role in promoting vital informed, moral and civil dialogue among us...but only after we set our own House in order.  That's why.  GS

ZENIT, The world seen from Rome
News Agency

Cardinal Stands Up for Priestly Celibacy
Lima Prelate Says Notre Dame Is Confused

ROME, MAY 29, 2009 ( Scandals that arise when priests fail to live celibacy are not just about priestly discipline, but rather about a failed understanding of human love, says the cardinal archbishop of Lima, Peru.

ZENIT spoke with Cardinal Juan Luis Cipriani about two recent scandals regarding priestly celibacy that have attracted the attention of the American continent -- Paraguayan President Fernando Lugo who admitted he fathered a child while still a bishop, and Miami Father Alberto Cutié who converted to the Episcopalian church this week after photos of him with a woman were circulated.

"I think that we shouldn't speak just of these two cases, of celibacy, but of human love in general," Cardinal Cipriani suggested, affirming that "Deus Caritas Est" explains it well. "The Pope explains to us with great detail how this love, which begins in this movement of 'eros' becomes 'agape.'"

Noting how God defines love clearly, not just with words, but also with the sacrifice of his Son, the cardinal added that today, "in not wanting to accept suffering, the sacrifice that life brings, love is killed and what remains? Sexual possession. The capacity of suffering has been amputated because of fear, cowardice, mediocrity, because only success and pleasure are sought.

"We have killed the plant that arises from suffering, which is love, and therefore in many human relationships, family relationships, a totally material relationship arises, in which practically, the integrity of the person is not involved. When this materialism takes over human relationships, then the man and the woman become objects of a sexual experience [], this experience loses its stability, comes and goes, doesn't produce that joy of surrender because it does not come from suffering or sacrifice, and when a sickness comes or an economic problem or a fight marriages break in the same way as these cases, like Lugo or Father Cutié, who in the moment of feeling a sacrifice greater than their strengths, break the promise they've made."

The cardinal affirmed that priests, as well as married people, are asked to live chastity.

"There is a conjugal chastity and there is chastity in celibacy," he said. "One who knows how to love and who has the experience of a healthy and stable matrimonial love knows what I'm talking about. It is the same that the Church offers to those of us who give up everything for the love of God. It is not more or less difficult, but this product of this love today is hard to find, and therefore, in a materialistic and slightly hedonistic world, it is difficult to explain celibacy, which is a treasure of the Church."

Obama's doctorate

ZENIT also asked Cardinal Cipriani what he thought of this month's turmoil over the decision by Notre Dame University to bestow an honorary doctorate on the U.S. president, despite Barack Obama's staunch support of abortion rights and other anti-life issues.

The cardinal answered that Catholic identity is not a decision of a particular university or a rector or education official, but rather is something given by the Church itself.

He explained: "What cannot be done and what is not done in any institution is to say 'this automobile is a Toyota,' if the Toyota manufacturer does not put his brand on it.

"I think there is a need for a little more clarity and authority. Clarity from those who are responsible for being able to say: 'If you don't want to be Catholic, then don't be.' But what we can't do is sell a ruined product. To think that parents and their kids go to a university that has the title of 'Catholic' and then it turns out that it teaches what is contrary to the faith. This is a confusion or an abuse. I think the Church has the duty to call things by their name."

Cardinal Cipriani said it seems a "provocation to give Catholic homage to a president who in the first 100 days has boosted abortion, gay marriage, investigations with embryonic cells, and an entire anti-life agenda. It does not seem to me that he is the most adequate person to receive recognition from the University of Notre Dame, which, by the way, has been greatly confused for some years now."

The prelate suggested that this type of controversy has been around since the beginning of the Church, with the difference that before, "those who dissented left the Church; today they stay within, and this seems to me that it requires of us, for love of the Church, a bit more firmness."

He offered the Holy Father as an example: "We see with what clarity and love for the truth Benedict XVI has returned from the Holy Land. With what joy, with what clarity he has taken up the themes that seemed difficult, from the political point of view, but he has handled them from the point of view of what a pilgrimage of peace wants, a vicar of Christ. They love him more and more. He is more and more a leader who illuminates more this world that is in darkness."

ZENIT, The world seen from Rome
News Agency

Bishops Weigh in on California Gay Marriage Ban
Affirm State's Responsibility to Protect Family Structure

WASHINGTON, D.C., MAY 28, 2009 ( The U.S. bishops' conference lauded the California Supreme Court's decision to uphold the voter-enacted ban on same-sex marriage.

In a statement released Wednesday, Archbishop Joseph Kurtz of Louisville, chairman of the Ad Hoc Committee for the Defense of Marriage, reported the bishops' satisfaction with the decision.

He stated, "The court has thus respected the eminently reasonable decision of the California electorate to retain the perennial definition of marriage as the union of one man and one woman."

The archbishop explained: "This respects the uniqueness of the marital relationship and its service to the common good by respecting the value of procreation and the good of children as well as the unique complementarity of man and woman.

"Advancing the truth and beauty of marriage enhances, rather than diminishes, the intrinsic dignity of every human person."

In 2000, Californians voted to keep marriage between a man and a woman. But last May, the state's high court overturned that vote and approved same-sex marriage. Some 18,000 gay couples were quick to take advantage of the new prerogative.

California's citizens rallied to put the issue to vote again in November. With slightly more than a 52% majority, same-sex marriage was again made illegal in California, this time with a constitutional amendment.

That measure was known as Proposition 8 and it added to the California Constitution the following clause: "Only marriage between a man and a woman is valid or recognized in California."

However, activists succeeded in taking the issue back to the California Supreme Court, contending that the ban needed legislature approval before being added to the constitution.

The court's decision Tuesday upholds the ban, but does not "un-marry" the 18,000 gay couples who wed between May and November.

The bishops' statement expressed concern that the court failed to apply the marriage definition to these same-sex unions.


Archbishop Kurtz affirmed, "Attempts to change the legal definition of marriage or to create simulations of marriage, often under the guise of 'equality,' 'civil rights,' and 'anti-discrimination,' do not serve the truth."

"Such attempts," he said, "undermine the very nature of marriage and overlook the essential place of marriage and family life in society."

The prelate continued, "The state has a responsibility to protect and promote marriage as the union of one man and one woman as well as to protect and promote the intrinsic dignity of every human person, including homosexual persons."

He added that there are many ways to accomplish this, but "sacrificing marriage is not one of them."

The California bishops' conference released an additional statement in which Bishop Stephen Blaire of Stockton echoed the words of Archbishop Kurtz.

Quoting the natural law scholar and Princeton professor, Robert George, the prelate affirmed: "No matter what, the law will teach. It will either teach that marriage exists as a natural institution with public purposes and meanings, centered around bridging the gender divide, and bringing together one man and one woman to share their lives as husband and wife and to become father and mother to their children, or it will teach that marriage is a mere creation of the state, recognizing and condoning the private sexual choices of adults."


"As Catholic bishops," the statement continued, "we are strongly committed to protecting the dignity and worth of every human person."

It affirmed: "We endorse the intent of law to provide equal protection for all. However, such purpose does not have to trump the natural and traditional definition of marriage between a man and a woman.

"The law has found other ways to regulate civil unions without destroying the traditional understanding of marriage.

"We believe -- as do the majority of Californians -- that marriage between a man and a woman is foundational to our culture and crucial for human perpetuity."

Ron Prentice, executive committee chairman of the coalition, explained that although this court decision is a victory for all supporters of Proposition 8, the work is not done.

He stated, "We will now turn our attention to public education and outreach so that citizens come to better understand and appreciate the many benefits that traditional marriage provides for society and our families."

"The institution of marriage as we have always understood it has served California and our broader society since the nation was founded," Prentice affirmed.

He added, "We look forward to working with young people, churches, ethnic communities and all of California with an ongoing discussion about the benefits of traditional marriage."

SUNDAY through FRIDAY, MAY 24 through 29, 2009

The following is offered as a necessary antidote (purgative?) for much of the cacophony on "Health Care Reform" currently bombarding Americans from those great halls of Wisdom in Washington.  I have a large box currently overflowing with such articles and declarations...all of which end with one form or another of the question: "But how are we going to pay for it?".  And that is not even the most serious problem. 
Please see my Rapid Response filed in this section for February 16-19, 2009.  Please see also my article on this subject that was published in The Day ( on May 27, 1978, entitled: "Don't Blame The Doctors For Rising Medical Costs" (on this web site under the Category "Managed Care Topics").  I could re-publish that article with just a few minor changes today. 
So, be careful, America.  Health Care Reform, done properly or botched, is literally a matter of life and death...your life and death.     GS

FRIDAY and SATURDAY, MAY 22 and 23, 2009

More clarity regarding Notre Dame's confusion.  GS

ZENIT, The world seen from Rome
News Agency

Bishop Says Obama's Address Halted Dialogue
Affirms Need for Frontal Attack in Favor of Catholic Values

KANSAS CITY, Missouri, MAY 22, 2009 ( Although the Notre Dame president spoke hopefully about dialogue, President Barack Obama threw that desire "back in his face," according to Bishop Robert Finn.The Bishop of Kansas City-St. Joseph affirmed this Monday in an interview with the diocesan newspaper regarding the University of Notre Dame's decision to honor President Obama at last Sunday's commencement ceremony.

To date, 83 prelates have publicly denounced the decision as going against 2004 guidelines set by the U.S. bishops' conference for Catholic institutions of higher education, which state that schools should not bestow honors on individuals who "act in defiance" of the Church's fundamental teachings.

We cannot give up working with the administration, Bishop Finn said, but "we're fighting for our lives -- literally."

He continued: "We are attempting to protect real unborn children by the thousands. We're fighting for the right to exercise a rightly formed conscientious difference with public policy.

"We shouldn't underestimate the danger of dragging our feet in this effort, or taking a 'wait and see' approach. If we are not ready to make a frontal attack on the protection of conscience rights, the overturning of Roe vs. Wade, and the primacy of authentic marriage, we will lose in these areas."

He added, "If we sit back and allow ourselves to be lulled into a false sense of peace and cooperation in regards to these things, then we will lose these battles and, later, wonder why."

The prelate commented on the commencement speech by the university president, Father John Jenkins, who employed a series of "very hard words," such as "division, pride, contempt, demonize, anger, distort, hateful, condemn, hostility."

These words, he said, might be understood as a "caricature" of the bishops who spoke out against the invitation.

Bishop Finn noted that Father Jenkins' address focused on encouraging dialogue, and to this end, it referenced Benedict XVI, Pope John Paul II's "Ex Corde Ecclesiae," and the Second Vatican Council.

The prelate affirmed, "Dialogue is important, but the question is fairly raised, 'May we negotiate about things that are intrinsic evils?' and I think the answer is no."

He continued: "The bishops realize the very destructive decisions that President Obama promised to make concerning the life issues, and now has been making in connection with abortion and human embryonic stem cell research. This is serious business; it is about life and death."

The bishop explained that the scandal of Notre Dame's decision arises from its "potential of confusing people concerning the Catholic teaching against abortion, and on the priority of abortion among other issues of public policy."


He noted that in the commencement address, Obama "said that the differences that we have on abortion -- namely the Catholic Church's staunch opposition to abortion and his staunch support of abortion were 'irreconcilable.'"

"And at that moment," the prelate stated, "it would seem to me that the dialogue came to a screeching halt."

"Father Jenkins' expressed desire for dialogue, whether it was well-founded or justified, at that point got thrown back in his face," he added.

Bishop Finn explained: "The president shut the door on dialogue by saying that there was not going to be any change in his position on abortion and he understood that there was not going to be any change in the Church's position on abortion.

"To me, that was the lesson of the day. I am glad that Mr. Obama was so clear."

Although some may have seen it as a positive step that Obama spoke about "reducing unintended pregnancies," the bishop said, "I fear" this will be through the "promotion of Planned Parenthood and contraceptive services."

He noted the president's support for the Prevention First Act, which is "not about abstinence education" but rather about "promoting contraception and giving Planned Parenthood a huge blank check."

"If Catholics don't see a problem with this," said Bishop Finn, "then I don't think they understand the threat it represents to the meaning of marriage, to fidelity, to chastity, to the very sanctity of human life and intimate love."

THURSDAY, MAY 21, 2009


Hard and heart-wrenching to believe...and still no Act of Contrition.  Who were - and perhaps are - these people anyway?  And where is the Magisterium when we really need them?  GS

Catholic Church shamed by Irish abuse report

By SHAWN POGATCHNIK, Associated Press Writer Shawn Pogatchnik, Associated Press Writer Wed May 20, 7:07 pm ET

DUBLIN – After a nine-year investigation, a commission published a damning report Wednesday on decades of rapes, humiliation and beatings at Catholic Church-run reform schools for Ireland's castaway children.

The 2,600-page report painted the most detailed and damning portrait yet of church-administered abuse in a country grown weary of revelations about child molestation by priests.

The investigation of the tax-supported schools uncovered previously secret Vatican records that demonstrated church knowledge of pedophiles in their ranks all the way back to the 1930s.

Wednesday's five-volume report on the probe — which was resisted by Catholic religious orders — concluded that church officials shielded their orders' pedophiles from arrest amid a culture of self-serving secrecy.

"A climate of fear, created by pervasive, excessive and arbitrary punishment, permeated most of the institutions and all those run for boys. Children lived with the daily terror of not knowing where the next beating was coming from," Ireland's Commission to Inquire Into Child Abuse concluded.

Victims of the abuse, who are now in their 50s to 80s, lobbied long and hard for an official investigation. They say that for all its incredible detail, the report doesn't nail down what really matters — the names of their abusers.

"I do genuinely believe that it would have been a further step towards our healing if our abusers had been named and shamed," said Christine Buckley, 62, who spent the first 18 years of her life in a Dublin orphanage where children were forced to manufacture rosaries — and were humiliated, beaten and raped whether they achieved their quota or not.

The Catholic religious orders that ran more than 50 workhouse-style reform schools from the late 19th century until the mid-1990s offered public words of apology, shame and regret Wednesday. But when questioned, their leaders indicated they would continue to protect the identities of clergy accused of abuse — men and women who were never reported to police, and were instead permitted to change jobs and keep harming children.

The Christian Brothers, which ran several boys' institutions deemed to have harbored serial child molesters and sadists on their staff, insisted it had cooperated fully with the probe. The order successfully sued the commission in 2004 to keep the identities of all of its members, dead or alive, unnamed in the report. No real names, whether of victims or perpetrators, appear in the final document.

The Christian Brothers' leader in Ireland, Brother Kevin Mullan, said the organization had been right to keep names secret because "perhaps we had doubts about some of the allegations."

"But on the other hand, I'd have to say that at this stage, we have no interest in protecting people who were perpetrators of abuse," Mullan said, vowing to "cooperate fully with any investigation or any civil authority seeking to explore those matters."

Buckley, who said she was abused at an orphanage run by the Sisters of Mercy, which ran several refuges for girls where the report documented chronic brutality, said the religious orders for years branded the victims as money-seeking liars — and were incapable of admitting their guilt today.

She criticized Mullan for suggesting that "today, having read the report, he doesn't mind if the abusers are named and shamed. Isn't that a little bit late for us?"

The report found that molestation and rape were "endemic" in boys' facilities, chiefly run by the Christian Brothers order, and supervisors pursued policies that increased the danger. Girls supervised by orders of nuns, chiefly the Sisters of Mercy, suffered much less sexual abuse but frequent assaults and humiliation designed to make them feel worthless.

"In some schools a high level of ritualized beating was routine. ... Girls were struck with implements designed to maximize pain and were struck on all parts of the body," the report said. "Personal and family denigration was widespread."

Ireland's myriad religious orders, much like their mother church, have been devastated by 15 years of scandals involving past cover-ups of abusers in their ranks.

The Christian Brothers have withdrawn from running several schools that still bear their name and the order has had few recruits in Ireland in the past two decades. Other orders are down to a handful of members, and their bases are closer to nursing homes than active missions.

"Most of these orders will literally die out in Ireland within the next generation or so," said Michael Kelly, editor of the Irish Catholic newspaper in Dublin. "Many of them are already in wind-up mode. They lack the confidence even to seek new vocations (recruits), due to the stigma associated with their members' shocking, scandalous behavior."

The Irish government, which in 1999 apologized for its role in permitting decades of abuse and established the commission to nail down the full truth of the matter, has tried to use money to bring closure to the victims.

A government-appointed panel has paid 12,000 survivors of the schools, orphanages and other church-run residences an average of $90,000 each — on condition they surrender their right to sue either the church or state. About 2,000 more claims are pending. Irish Catholic leaders cut a controversial deal with the government in 2001 that capped the church's contribution at $175 million — a fraction of the final cost.

Some victims emphasized, even as they began thumbing through the report, that nothing — not even criminal convictions of their long-ago tormentors — will ever put right their psychological wounds and make their nightmares go away.

Tom Sweeney, who spent five years in two Christian Brothers-run institutions where he was placed for truancy, says he suffered sexual abuse and beatings. He also has bitter memories about more everyday humiliations — such as being forced to wrap his urine-stained sheets around his neck and parade in front of other children when he'd wet his bed.

"It's something you'll never forget, the way you lived in these industrial schools," he said.


"Articulate, arrogant, asinine". Same ol', same ol'from the Democrats.  GS

Sen. Reid botches 3 subjects at news conference

By LAURIE KELLMAN, Associated Press Writer Laurie Kellman, Associated Press Writer Wed May 20, 1:41 am ET

WASHINGTON – Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid became the latest Democrat to stray into rhetorical trouble Tuesday, botching statements on three subjects in one news conference — including the fragile health of the chamber's most senior members. The Nevada Democrat reported that one of them, Sen. Edward Kennedy, D-Mass., was absent because he was receiving a new round of treatment for his brain cancer. Asked if the cancer was in remission, Reid replied, "As far as I know, it is, yes."

Kennedy's office refused to confirm Reid's comments or make any statement in response, the public silence a classic Washington disavowal.

Reid was then asked about Sen. Robert C. Byrd, at 91 the longest-serving senator in history, who was hospitalized over the weekend for an infection. Reid reported that Byrd was to be released from the hospital Tuesday or perhaps later in the week.

Not exactly.

"Senator Byrd is improving," responded his spokesman, Jesse Jacobs. "But his doctors, in consultation with his family, have not yet determined when he will be released."

Reid also mangled his party's position on the congressional news of the day, that Senate Democrats would join their House counterparts in withholding the money President Barack Obama needs to close the Guantanamo Bay prison until Obama comes up with a plan for relocating its prisoners.

But Reid went further than saying he wanted to see a plan for the money before Congress approves it. "We will never allow terrorists to be released into the United States," he said.

No one, of course, was talking about releasing terrorism suspects among the American populace. Imprisoning them, perhaps, but not releasing them.

"Part of what we don't want is them be put in prisons in the United States," Reid clarified but digging himself into a bigger hole by departing significantly from some of his colleagues and administration officials. "We don't want them around the United States."

Did the administration put Democrats in an awkward position, asking for the money before setting out how it would be spent?

"Not at all," said Reid.

"Yes," his deputy, Sen. Dick Durbin replied to the same question.

Even the post-gaffe handling of Reid's remarks was awkward. Spokesman Jim Manley, who previously worked for Kennedy for years, swept through the press gallery to clean up after his boss. He retracted Reid's assessment of Kennedy's condition. He clarified Reid's comments about the Guantanamo Bay prison.

Manley's job was no fun at that moment, a reporter observed.

"Not so much," he said.

Kennedy was diagnosed a year ago with incurable brain cancer and has undergone multiple treatments that wouldn't likely be necessary were the disease in remission. He has nonetheless been working behind the scenes on a sweeping health care reform bill that is one of Obama's top priorities.

Byrd, meanwhile, has survived several rounds of rumors about his deteriorating health. He has relished rebutting them with cutting statements or just by showing up on the Senate floor to vote.

It's not the first time Reid has walked into a wall of trouble for commenting on a colleague's medical condition. Who's voting and who's not is crucial in a chamber where 60 votes can shut down filibusters.

Reid also spun positive when discussing the health of South Dakota Sen. Tim Johnson after the Democrat suffered a life-threatening brain hemorrhage in December 2006, threatening his party's incoming one-seat majority.

In May 2008, after Johnson had returned to the Senate needing a wheelchair, Reid revealed the rest of the picture. He told Jon Stewart, host of Comedy Central's "The Daily Show," that Johnson had been "in a coma for five weeks, near death three or four times during that period of time."

On Tuesday, Reid's world continued to spin, with ample backpedaling.

"Senator Reid will leave the diagnosing to doctors," Manley said late in the day. "But he does look forward to the prospect of Senator Kennedy's return to the Senate as soon as he is able."

Manley also issued a statement with which no one could quibble.

"Tomorrow is another day."

TUESDAY, MAY 19, 2009

As I noted months ago in this section,  President Obama will have to pry himself away from the crazies on his Left if he wants to accomplish something and have a chance at a second term.  GS

Analysis: Obama moving to center on some issues

By TOM RAUM, Associated Press Writer Tom Raum, Associated Press Writer Tue May 19, 2:36 pm ET

WASHINGTON – On both economic and national-security fronts, President Barack Obama is giving ground and crossing swords with political allies.

Caught in the worst economic downturn in generations, Obama has had to temper his stance on trade and lower his expectations for trimming charitable tax breaks for the wealthy and for taxing greenhouse-gas polluters.

He's not the first president to be pulled toward the political center after being elected. But the recession and two wars abroad put him in a particularly tough spot — with smaller margins for error.

With the deficit mushrooming, lawmakers in both parties are worrying more and more about rivers of government red ink. Yet, Obama's efforts to try to modestly pare back funds for some pet Democratic projects in the name of fiscal discipline have drawn sharp criticism from some of his otherwise staunch liberal allies.

He frequently complains he inherited a $1.2 trillion deficit from President George W. Bush.

But Obama's presidency, not yet four months old, has put the government on track for a $1.8 trillion shortfall.

That's almost 13 percent of the nation's gross domestic product — a level not seen since 1945. By contrast, the 2008 deficit — for the budget year that ended last September — was a then-record $454.8 billion.

Internationally, Obama reversed course and is seeking to block the court-ordered release of detainee-abuse photos, revived military trials for terror suspects at Guantanamo Bay and is markedly increasing the U.S. military presence in Afghanistan.

Afghanistan "could well be Obama's Vietnam, eventually," said James Thurber, a political scientist at American University.

Still, even though Obama may be irritating liberal purists on both national security and domestic policy, he has no real choice but to move toward the middle. "Most presidents do that once they start governing. Otherwise, you don't get much done," Thurber said.

Some of Obama's steps as he seeks support across a broad political spectrum, including trying to recycle spending cuts pushed by Bush and revamping Bush's military commissions, have put the White House on the spot.

"The easy decisions don't get to his desk," White House press secretary Robert Gibbs said Tuesday when asked about the military commissions. "I don't think the president was under any illusions this was going to be easy in the campaign, he isn't under any illusions that it's going to be easy now. A lot of things that are right and worth doing aren't necessarily easy."

Right now, Obama has been coming under a fair amount of not-so-friendly fire.

Obama's former Illinois colleague, Sen. Richard Durbin, singled out the president's request to Congress for $80 million to relocate Guantanamo's 240 detainees. Durbin, the No. 2 Democrat, said Tuesday that the Senate would not comply until the administration produces a more detailed plan on where the detainees will be sent. Gibbs said Obama would outline much of that plan in a speech Thursday.

Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., ripped Obama's proposal to eliminate a $400 million annual program to reimburse local governments for housing jailed illegal immigrants, saying it "deprives communities of critical funding for public safety services."

As to Obama's proposal to phase out federal payments to farmers with sales exceeding $500,000 a year, "That won't go anywhere," Senate Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus, D-Mont., said.

House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer, D-Md., said he thought that taxing employee health benefits ought to be on the table during the health care debate, a position opposed vigorously by candidate Obama.

Obama talked tough about protecting U.S. workers against overseas competition as he ran for president, even promising to push to renegotiate the North American Free Trade Agreement. But he's had little to say on the subject in office.

His trade representative, Ron Kirk, recently announced the administration planned to finish up outstanding Bush-era free trade agreements with Colombia, South Korea and Panama, agreements many Democrats have criticized.

Rob Shapiro, a former economic adviser to President Bill Clinton, said Obama's winning of congressional support for the $787 billion economic stimulus plan soon after taking office, mostly on terms he wanted, remains a major achievement.

The next crucial test will be whether Obama can make progress on health care overhaul, a signature proposal for his first term, said Shapiro, now with NDN, a centrist think tank formerly known as the New Democratic Network. Some of the other issues matter less, since presidents rarely get everything they want even from a Congress controlled by their own party, he said.

"Obama calls himself a pragmatist. That often ends up with fairly centrist policies," Shapiro said. "In the end, the progressives, the left in Congress, will support the president even on getting a half loaf in health care rather than a full loaf," he added.

Stephen J. Cimbala, a political science professor at Penn State University, Brandywine Campus, said Obama is a quick study, showing "political shrewdness and an ability to adapt to conditions and circumstances on the run."

Cimbala said Obama's present course reflects "the difference between running for office and being president."


EDITOR'S NOTE — Tom Raum covers politics and economics for The Associated Press.

MONDAY, MAY 18, 2009


AP IMPACT: Stress map outlines recession's stories
By TED ANTHONY, AP National Writer Ted Anthony, Ap National Writer 1 hr 22 mins ago

Through the voices of its people, the map shouts.

From Atlanta, Ga., listen to Marian Chamberlain — 65, jobless, and no longer eligible for unemployment: "I will never be able to retire."

From Shakopee, Minn., listen to Bruce Paul, 56, a vintage car mechanic laid off in January and unemployed for the first time since Richard Nixon was president. Today he and his wife spend their days in the public library to reduce energy costs at home. "You go out and they say, you know, you need a resume. And I say, `A resume? What's that?'"

From Broomfield, Colo., listen to U.S. Marine and construction worker Simon Todt, 27, a combat-arms specialist who returned from three tours in Iraq only to be laid off from his construction job in December. He smiles wanly as he sums up his situation: "There's not a big calling in the civilian world for explosives."

The republic is brimming with Americans like these. And the Associated Press Economic Stress Map helps us find their voices and tell their stories.

For generations, maps have told tales that words and numbers alone cannot. Maps guided us to the New World, helped us navigate from its edges into its interior. Vague, undefined maps showed Lewis & Clark where to go next — and in turn gave us fresher, more accurate maps that fueled further explorations. Maps outlined the frontier for settlement and showed us where to find the silver, the gold and the coal that made us prosperous. Computer mapping helps businesses expand, prosper and find new customers.

The interactive Stress Map offers insight into the American recession, translating it into misery and geography using an equation, the Stress Index, that shows us — state by state, county by county — just how uncertain and battered around we actually are. It takes the numbers, the pronouncements, the big plans for recovery and illustrates what they mean on Main Street USA, or what passes for it in 21st-century American communities.

The Stress Index synthesizes three complex sets of ever-evolving data. By factoring in monthly numbers for foreclosure, bankruptcy and — most painfully — unemployment, the AP has assembled a numeral that reflects the comparative pain each American county is feeling during these dark economic days.

Here are some fleeting examples of what the Stress Index tells us:

_The current recession spread like an epidemic from isolation to ubiquity, marching from sequestered pockets of foreclosure to a nationwide explosion of misery as unemployment overtook foreclosures as the dominant misfortune of this recession.

_Places with technology-based economies were recession-proof for a while but aren't now.

_Places with large numbers of government jobs — state capitals, university towns, communities with concentrations of hospitals — remain fairly recession-proof. These are places like Columbia, Mo.; Madison, Wis.; the Raleigh, N.C., area; and Athens, Ga.

_State government is not hurting that much — at least, not yet.

_The regions we look to for our traditional sources of energy, for our coal and oil — Wyoming, West Virginia and the like — have generally not been hit as hard.

_While bankruptcy declarations are happening everywhere, they tend to be higher in the South because of such things as low wages, state laws that give power to creditors and a culture that's more familiar with the bankruptcy option.

_Among counties with 25,000-plus residents, no place has been hit harder than Elkhart County, Ind., and that 15 of the 20 American counties hit hardest by the recession in the past year are in six states — Indiana, Ohio, Michigan, North Carolina, South Carolina and Tennessee.

The Stress Index is not merely a map of misery, though. When recovery comes, it can be a map of optimism as well, a welcome harbinger of better days approaching. Going forward, it can track the recovery we hunger for — show us where it is poking its head up, where it is spreading and who it is leaving behind.

The map, and the numbers behind it, cannot tell us everything. No single number can track Americans' net worth, no monthly barometer indicates the pain factor of people who lost retirement funds, whose stocks vanished out from under them, who dutifully set aside nest eggs that now amount to little or nothing.

But it can help compare and contrast places, then find the people who breathe life into the numbers that characterize their regions and their hometowns. It can illustrate emerging trends — why are certain areas starting to recover while others are lagging behind? — and offer early hints to where the tightness of economic stress might be starting to loosen.

Where can we go with this map? It can carry us to Los Gatos, Calif., one of the high-tech regions that seemed to be escaping the worst of the recession but is now clawing to keep pace. It can point us toward Champaign, Ill., an example of the trend that communities with government institutions tend to be more recession-proof than other places.

It can highlight Burlington, N.C., where the manufacturing jobs that disappeared might never be coming back, and Myrtle Beach, S.C., where unemployment and foreclosures have locals wondering when the dividends of the American vacation economy will shine upon them once more.

There was a time, not so long ago, when the problem was that we didn't have enough information. Now, you can argue, we have too much — dizzyingly so. And instead of being tasked with accumulating enough data to understand our world, now we spend our jumbled days shuffling through the information that's out there, struggling to make sense of it and harness it to improve our lives.

For the immediate future, the AP Economic Stress Map will attempt to do just that for the United States. AP reporters will be fanning out across the land, telling regular stories based on the monthly numbers — stories of people like Ron Edo, 42, an aircraft maintenance worker from Temecula, Calif., who has sent out more than 1,500 resumes since he lost his job a year ago.

"Luckily I saved when I was young," he says. "My parents used to always tell me to save for a rainy day. And it's pouring."

There are many more like him. The map shouts — and in doing so, points us to the stories of the most wrenching economic conundrum of our age.


EDITOR'S NOTE — Ted Anthony covers American culture for The Associated Press.

SUNDAY, MAY 17, 2009

Random thoughts on News reports.

DAY, MAY 15 and 16, 2009


ZENIT, The world seen from Rome
News Agency

Papal Pilgrimage Ends With a Bang
Benedict XVI Sums Up Message in Packed Address

By Father Thomas D. Williams, LC

JERUSALEM, MAY 15, 2009 ( As I write this, Benedict XVI is flying back to Rome, having left Tel Aviv Airport less than an hour ago. Yet it turns out that his final send-off at the airport entailed more than a perfunctory adieu.

Benedict took advantage of his last meeting with Israeli President Shimon Peres to reiterate the key messages of his pilgrimage to the Holy Land. This Pope -- whom many consider incapable of uttering a sound bite -- managed to condense his week's message into an 859-word address that lasted no more than three minutes. Somehow in this brief interval he was able to encapsulate the gist of the 29 different encounters that he had throughout this action-packed week. It seemed as if he were back in the university classroom once again, summing up his day's lecture to keep his more distracted students on track.

He wasted no time in getting back to the thorny issue of Catholic-Jewish relations, noting first how Christianity had grown out of Judaism. Benedict made reference to the olive tree that he and President Peres had planted together in the garden of the presidential palace earlier in the week. He drew a parallel to Saint Paul's use of the olive tree as an image to express how the Christian Church was "grafted onto the cultivated olive tree which is the People of the Covenant." In words that could only facilitate Jewish-Christian dialogue, he reminded his hearers: "We are nourished from the same spiritual roots. We meet as brothers, brothers who at times in our history have had a tense relationship, but now are firmly committed to building bridges of lasting friendship."

From there Benedict moved to Monday's Yad Vashem encounter, where the Holy Father had paid his respects to the many Jews who lost their lives in the Shoah as well as meeting with six Holocaust survivors. As if in answer to his critics who thought that Benedict had showed too little emotion at the meeting, the Pope called the encounter "deeply moving" and went on to evoke the memory of his visit three years earlier to the death camp at Auschwitz "where so many Jews -- mothers, fathers, husbands, wives, brothers, sisters, friends -- were brutally exterminated under a godless regime that propagated an ideology of anti-Semitism and hatred."

To put the final nail in the coffin, especially after his much-criticized lifting of the excommunication of Holocaust-denier Richard Williamson, the Pope stated: "That appalling chapter of history must never be forgotten or denied."

That wasn't the end of the emotions, however, as Benedict went on to use moving language in referring to the strife that still exists between Israelis and Palestinians. Benedict called himself a "friend of the Israelis," as well as "a friend of the Palestinian people" and went on to say that no friend "can fail to weep at the suffering and loss of life that both peoples have endured over the last six decades."

In the strongest language of his entire visit, Benedict made an impassioned appeal: "No more bloodshed! No more fighting! No more terrorism! No more war! Instead let us break the vicious circle of violence. Let there be lasting peace based on justice, let there be genuine reconciliation and healing."

Again, to leave no doubts what all this means in practical terms, Benedict declared his intentions in the clearest of terms. First, to those who still dispute Israel's right to exist as a state, Benedict stated: "Let it be universally recognized that the State of Israel has the right to exist, and to enjoy peace and security within internationally agreed borders." Yesterday Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu had requested that the Pope denounce Iran on Israel's behalf, especially regarding Iran's repudiation of Israeli statehood. While avoiding mentioning Iran by name, Benedict lost no time in doing just that.

Moving on to the flip side of the relation, he said: "Let it be likewise acknowledged that the Palestinian people have a right to a sovereign independent homeland, to live with dignity and to travel freely. Let the two-state solution become a reality, not remain a dream."

If anyone still harbored doubts regarding Benedict XVI's political aspirations for the Holy Land, this clear statement should leave little room for doubt. His final appeal, in fact, made the next practical step more concrete still. Returning to a theme that he had broached on Wednesday in Bethlehem, Benedict called the wall separating Palestinians from Israelis "one of the saddest sights for me during my visit to these lands." Acknowledging "how hard it will be to achieve that goal," Benedict said that he had prayed, and that Catholics would continue to pray, "for a future in which the peoples of the Holy Land can live together in peace and harmony without the need for such instruments of security and separation."

For anyone looking for a concise summary of Benedict's weeklong trip to the Holy Land, and especially the second leg in Israel and the Palestinian Territories, Benedict himself provided the material. Benedict's goodwill and intentions are evident. It remains to be seen what kind of reception this message will receive in the hearts of his hearers.

* * *

Legionary of Christ Father Thomas D. Williams, an American theologian living in Rome, is providing commentary for CBS News on Benedict XVI's historic visit to the Holy Land. He is offering a chronicle of his trip for ZENIT as well. 

WEDNESDAY and THURSDAY, MAY 13 and 14, 2009

The news here is not all bad, an impression which I may unintentionally have given through my first five critiques of today's Church.  The weakness of the Hierarchy; the avoidable alienation of the Laity, as it is simultaneously harrassed and ignored; the misguided and risk-averse efforts to be "political" with secular authorities instead of "speaking Truth to power".  All of this is true.  But also true is the fact that this is the One True Church, firmly based upon both the Old and the New Testaments; not necessarily the only way to God, as St. Peter and some Church pronouncements have declared...but the most direct route back to Him. 
A glimpse of this is found in the current pilgrimage of Pope Benedict to the Holy Land.  He is doing and saying the right things, rather than the "political" things: about the Holocaust; about a Palestinian State; and by inference about the missteps the Israeli people have made in the last several decades - over and above their absolute right of self-defense - as they try to achieve an inaccessible Israel of the Bible.  He has extended a hand of peace to the people of Islam, despite the clenched fist he often gets in return.  This is leadership. 
Now, if only he and his advisors can find a way to distinguish the eternal and incontrovertible message of the Catholic Faith from the unnecessary and harmful detritus, as outlined in previous articles on this subject.  We pray for such Wisdom.


TUESDAY, MAY 12, 2009

"WOW.  WHO WOUDDA THUNK IT.  See also my comments on the subject in the Rapid Response offering of Feb. 16-19, 2009, as well as relevant comments dating back to the 1970's...found on this web site."

Upfront costs complicate Obama's health care plan

By RICARDO ALONSO-ZALDIVAR, Associated Press Writer Ricardo Alonso-zaldivar, Associated Press Writer Sun May 10, 12:46 pm ET

WASHINGTON – Costs are emerging as the biggest obstacle to President Barack Obama's ambitious plan to provide health insurance for everybody.

The upfront tab could reach $1.2 trillion to $1.5 trillion over 10 years, while expected savings from wringing waste and inefficiency from the health care system may take longer to show.

Details of the health legislation have not been written, but the broad outlines of the overhaul are known. Economists and other experts say the $634 billion that Obama's budget sets aside for health care will pay perhaps half the cost.

Obama is hoping the Senate comes up with a bipartisan compromise that would give him political cover for disagreeable decisions to raise more money, such as taxing some health insurance benefits. In the 2008 campaign, Obama went after his Republican presidential rival, Arizona Sen. John McCain, for proposing a large-scale version of that idea.

Concerns about costs could spill over in the coming week when the Senate Finance Committee holds a hearing on how to pay for coverage. Committee leaders hoping to have a bill before the full Senate this summer must first convince their own members that it won't break the bank.

"You go to a town meeting and people are talking about bailout fatigue," said Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Ore. "They like the president. They think he's a straight shooter. But they are concerned about the amount of money that is heading out the door, and the debts their kids are going to have to absorb."

Sen. Mike Enzi, R-Wyo., said cost control has to come ahead of getting more people covered. "Unless we halt skyrocketing health care costs, any attempt to expand coverage will be financially unsustainable," he said.

Obama wants to build on the current system in which employers, government and individuals share responsibility for health care. He says his plan would make health insurance more affordable, particularly for small businesses and individuals. The government would subsidize coverage for low-income people and some in the middle class.

The U.S. spends about $2.5 trillion a year on health care, more than any other advanced country. Experts estimate that at least one-third of that spending goes for services that provide little or no benefit to patients. So theoretically, there's enough money in the system to cover everybody, including an estimated 50 million uninsured.

But one person's wasteful spending is someone else's bread and butter.

The office visits, tests, procedures and medications that the experts question represent a lot of money for doctors, hospitals, drug companies and other service providers. Dialing them back won't be easy. Providers will resist. Patients might complain their care is getting rationed.

The chairman of the Senate Finance Committee, Sen. Max Baucus, said "it's clear that the financing of this is not going to be easy." Baucus, D-Mont., says the basic approach to health care must become more economically efficient.

Instead of paying doctors and hospitals for the number of services they provide, as happens now, Baucus wants to tie reimbursement to the quality of care. Quality would measured by standards that doctors and hospitals have a hand in shaping.

Yet those kinds of changes take time, several years or even the better part of a decade.

The money to cover the uninsured will be needed right away, about $125 billion to $150 billion a year.

That leaves hard choices for lawmakers and Obama.

Baucus favors requiring individuals to get health insurance, which will help. But he also supports subsidies for people who can't afford coverage — a cost to the government.

To help close the money gap, Baucus is open to some limits on the current tax-free treatment of employer-provided health insurance.

Health benefits are considered part of an employee's compensation, but are not taxed. If all health insurance were taxed like regular income, the government could raise an additional $250 billion a year.

In the campaign, Obama opposed tampering with tax-free employer-based health care, saying it would undermine the system that delivers coverage to most people. Other prominent Democrats agree. Asked if he would support taxing benefits, Rep. Charles Rangel, D-N.Y., the top tax-writer in the House, simply said: "No way!"

Baucus says doing away with the tax break altogether would cause harm, but some limitations might curb waste in the system. Obama's aides say he's still opposed, but willing to consider any serious proposals from Congress.

Obama's opposition to taxing employer-provided health insurance isn't the only campaign position he might have to jettison to pay for health care.

He once criticized his chief Democratic presidential rival, Hillary Rodham Clinton, for proposing that everyone in the U.S. be required to have medical insurance. Yet such a mandate probably will be in what Congress puts together because requiring individuals to pay would lower federal costs.

For Obama, there are no easy ways to pay for health care. Options include raising other taxes, cutting deeply into Medicare payments to providers, or phasing in the expansion of coverage for the uninsured — beyond his four-year term.

MONDAY, MAY 11, 2009

Obama does turn as comedian in chief

By Jim Wolf Jim Wolf Sun May 10, 1:45 am ET

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – President Barack Obama served as comedian in chief on Saturday night, predicting that his second 100 days in office will be so successful that he will wrap them up in record time.

"I must confess I really did not want to be here tonight," Obama told guests at the White House Correspondents' Association dinner -- an annual black-tie gathering of journalists, politicians and Hollywood celebrities. "But I knew I had to come. That's one more problem that I inherited from George W. Bush."

Alluding to his reputation for staying cool and on message, Obama ticked off a series of goals he hoped to achieve.

In the next 100 days, he said, he would learn to go off the teleprompter and Vice President Joe Biden, famous for verbal gaffes, "will learn to stay on the prompter."

Obama said he also expected to house-train his new, seven-month-old Portuguese water dog, Bo.

"The last thing Tim Geithner needs is someone else treating him like a fire hydrant," he said, referring to his treasury secretary. Geithner was forced to pay $34,000 in unpaid back taxes before being confirmed to his job and he has been criticized for his handling of the financial crisis.

"Finally, I believe that my next 100 days will be so successful that I will be able to complete them in 72 days. And on the 73rd day, I will rest," he joshed.

In a dig at the press, Obama said: "We look for you for truth -- even if it's always an approximation."

Obama later endured some ribbing from stand-up comic Wanda Sykes. She shared the head table at the dinner that brought together some 2,700 people at the $200-a-plate event -- proceeds of which went to charity and to fund journalism scholarships.

Sykes, known for her blunt take on current events, mused about her pride in Obama's being the country's first black president.

"That's unless you screw up," she said, turning to him from the podium. "And then it's going to be -- what's up with the half-white guy."

MAY 10, 2009

Click here to see a YouTube video on Muslim Demographics ---> Muslim Demographics


Click here to see "Worst Slide Story" ---> Worst Slide Story

, MAY 3 through 8, 2009

Last evening I viewed Ben Stein's 2008 documentary entitled "Expelled: No Intelligence Allowed".  As described in the Netflix introduction, this work examines "how pro-intelligent design scholars and scientists are often chastised, fired or denied tenured positions by those who believe in Darwin's theory of evolution"...with the enforced exclusion of any other approach.  Academic freedom is denied, and civic freedom is attacked by those who refuse to consider more recent evidence developed in molecular biology and in cell genetics that raise serious scientific questions about the origin of Man.  Instead, these self-proclaimed athiests work to marginalize anyone else as delusional crackpots.  Evidence is also presented regarding how this approach in earlier decades formed the basis of the Eugenics movement in the early 20th century that resulted in over 50,000 disabled people having been sterilized against their will in this country, and how insistence on Darwinian concepts formed the basis for pursuit of the Nazi Master Race and for Ms Singer's Planned Parenthood. 
Add to this the "Culture Wars" in which we are engaged in recent decades, pitting unbridled secularism and "positivism" against any concept of Natural Law and human morality.  And now, one question: Where has the Catholic Church - and other Religions, for that matter - been in these conflicts?  AWOL, that's where.  Instead of informing and marshalling the efforts of its Faithful in this pitched battle, with nothing less than our personal freedoms at stake, the Catholic hierarchy continues to content itself with stale homilies and platitudes, or with periodic undocumented declarations of Magisterium dogma.  To sample this disconnect, just visit our links to the incessant bad news reported in the LifeNews publications vs the offerings in Zenit - The World Seen From Rome.  The Hierarchy is re-arranging the deck chairs on the Titanic!
Where are the Ten Commandments?  Where are the Seven Deadly Sins?  Where are Heaven and Hell, God and the Devil, the free will promises and consequences of personal responsibility?  Where are sincere and open discussions with the Laity - rather than arrogant pronouncements - regarding beginning and end of life decisions facing all of us, personal morality and personal obligations toward social justice?  Where are the kind of topics which we discussed on fourty occasions in the section on this web site entitled Point and Counterpoint...and which the local Hierarchy chose to studiously ignore?  In a word, WHERE ARE OUR SHEPHARDS?  We the Laity, the Body of the Church, want to know.


FRIDAY and SATURDAY, MAY 1 and 2, 2009

The information in this article is very hopeful to me as representing more than a stale bromide to fix the massive headache that our economy is feeling.  Can it mitigate some of the massive tsunami of red ink that may inundate this government in the next few years following the recent eathquake of bailouts?  At least it's a step in the right direction.  GS

Obama says financial sector to shrink

By Jeff Mason Jeff Mason Sat May 2, 6:28 pm ET

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The financial sector will make up a smaller part of the U.S. economy in the future as new regulations clamp down on "massive risk-taking," President Barack Obama said in an interview published on Saturday.

Obama, whose young administration has spearheaded a raft of reforms in the banking sector as part of efforts to tackle the financial crisis, said the industry's role in the United States would look different at the end of the current recession.

"What I think will change, what I think was an aberration, was a situation where corporate profits in the financial sector were such a heavy part of our overall profitability over the last decade," he said told the New York Times Magazine.

"Part of that has to do with the effects of regulation that will inhibit some of the massive leveraging and the massive risk-taking that had become so common."

Obama said some of the job-seekers who may normally have gone to the financial sector would shift to other areas of the economy, such as engineering.

"Wall Street will remain a big, important part of our economy, just as it was in the '70s and the '80s. It just won't be half of our economy," he said.

"We don't want every single college grad with mathematical aptitude to become a derivatives trader."

The Obama administration in March proposed sweeping reforms to curb risk-taking on Wall Street and close regulatory gaps to prevent the kind of excesses that led to the worst financial crisis since the 1930s Great Depression.

The president said in the interview that better regulation would help restore confidence in the U.S. financial system.

"A more vigorous regulatory regime, I think, will help restore confidence, and you're still going to see a lot of global capital wanting to park itself in the United States," he said.


Obama expressed optimism that the market for securitized products would pick up, though he said that could take time.

The Federal Reserve, with taxpayer capital from the U.S. Treasury, is supporting consumer and real estate lending markets through a loan facility that could reach $1 trillion.

Holders of existing asset-backed and commercial mortgage-backed securities can get loans from the Fed by putting up their securities as collateral.

The facility aims to unclog frozen credit markets and jumpstart securitization.

"We're going to have to determine whether or not as a consequence of some of the steps that the Fed has been taking, the Treasury has been taking, that we see the market for securitized products restored," Obama said.

"I'm optimistic that ultimately we're going to be able to get that part of the financial sector going again, but it could take some time to regain confidence and trust."

Part of Obama's regulatory reforms include the creation of a new "systemic risk regulator" with broad powers to seize large non-bank financial firms, such as insurers, hedge funds or private equity companies, if they are deemed to threaten the stability of the financial system.

Large, "systemically important" firms would be required to hold bigger capital cushions.

Obama also said financial rules should be crafted according to what an institution actually does to avoid a regulatory gap in areas such as commercial and investment banking.

"Other countries that have not seen some of the problems in their financial markets that we have nevertheless don't separate between investment banks and commercial banks," he said, citing Canada as one example in that area.

"The experience in a country like Canada would indicate that good, strong regulation that focuses less on the legal form of the institution and more on the functions that they're carrying out is probably the right approach to take."

(Additional reporting by David Lawder; Editing by Vicki Allen)

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