Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Great WSJ Editorial

I laughed out loud when I read this great Journal editorial mocking the idiocy of the libtards in our Congress.

American Jobbery Act

Dissecting this week's stimulus bill.

President Obama and Democrats on Capitol Hill are publicly fretting about the dangers of spending and debt, which can mean only one thing: Another big spending "stimulus" bill is in the works. And sure enough, the House plans to vote this week on $190 billion in new spending, $134 billion of which it won't even pretend to pay for.

Sander Levin, the new Ways and Means Chairman, calls this exercise the American Jobs and Closing Tax Loopholes Act. Mr. Levin has waited 28 years to ascend to this throne and this is the best he can do? "Jobs" were also the justification in February 2009 for the $862 billion stimulus that has managed to hold the jobless rate down to a mere 9.9%. Maybe Mr. Levin's spending can hold it down to even greater heights.

The nearby table gives a flavor of what's in this grab bag of political payoffs, corporate welfare and transfer payments. There's $24 billion to help states pay the exploding tab for Medicaid, the same program that ObamaCare expands by some 16 million new recipients. The bill also offers $1 billion for summer jobs for teens, whose jobless rate is 25.4%. Congress could do far more to create teen jobs if it merely suspended last year's minimum wage increase to $7.25 an hour, which priced millions of young workers out of the labor market. But that would be too rational.

The biggest item is $65 billion to prevent a 21% cut in Medicare physician reimbursements. Democrats promised this to the American Medical Association in return for its ObamaCare support, but they left the $65 billion out of the health-care law to make it look less expensive. Now they're pushing it through under separate cover when they assume the press corps won't notice.

The $47 billion to extend unemployment insurance to nearly two full years will bring the total spent on this program to $137 billion during this recession—five times more than in either of the prior two recessions. That's nearly as much as the federal corporate income raised in 2009.

The sages in Congress continue to claim that these payments for not working will lead to more work. Representative Jim McDermott recently declared on the House floor that jobless payments are "one of the most effective forms of economic stimulus" because "every unemployment dollar spent returns $1.64 of economic benefits." So let's lay off everybody, pay them for not working, and watch the economy really boom. Where do they teach this stuff? <-- my emphasis -- I love this!

This bill is also one of the most expensive corporate welfare giveaways in recent years with subsidies for municipal bond traders, cotton farmers, yarn producers, sheep growers, Hawaiian sugar cane cooperatives, motor sports businesses, renewable energy firms, the steel lobby, and so on. Any industry that doesn't get a tax credit or other handout in this bill should fire its lobbyist.

All of this is "paid for," in the Beltway lingo, with a net tax increase on business of about $40 billion and at least $134 billion of new debt. There's a new 24 cent a barrel tax on oil companies, which would flow to consumers in higher gas prices, because Congress says the industry's profits are excessive.

U.S. multinational companies would pay a higher tax rate on their overseas income, which will not help them create more jobs here. The better way to discourage job outsourcing is to cut the corporate income tax rate, but Mr. Levin and his union allies will have none of that.

Managers of private equity and venture capital firms that provide the start-up and expansion funding to businesses would see their tax rate rise to as high as 35% from 15% today—a huge tax increase when businesses are starved for capital. And small, often family-owned Subchapter S companies that provide professional services would be required to subject more of their profits to the self-employment tax. These firms already pay up to 35% tax on these profits, so under the Democratic plan their tax rate could reach 50%.

Perhaps you're wondering what happened to the "pay as you go" budget rules that Mr. Obama announced to great media fanfare as recently as February. Democrats now say "paygo" doesn't apply because this spending qualifies as an "emergency." But while the new spending isn't paid for, Democrats are insisting that the bill's extension of the R&D tax credit and small business depreciation allowance must be offset by the tax increases.

Oh, and by the way, the President is unveiling a new line-item veto proposal this week to "rein in wasteful spending and hold Congress accountable," as Senator John Kerry put it yesterday in a press release. If any of them were remotely serious, they'd start by line-item vetoing this entire bill.

Adios Facebook

I deleted my facebook account. I could not say anything about it for two weeks though. Facebook is set up so that if you access your account in any way for two weeks after you cancel, facebook treats that as recanting your request to delete your account and restores it.

I had set up my blog to "push" any posts to my facebook account. So, in addition to deleting facebook from my work pc, my home pc, my iTouch, and my crackberry, I had to remember not too blog anything to avoid inadvertently restarting my account.

Monday, May 03, 2010

More on the Legion

Sandro Magister has some good articles on the continuing (sad) saga of the Legion on his website. His insights are particularly keen on my second point below regarding the obtuseness and denial manifested by the Legion's upper echelons.

The Legion Awaits a New General. And Trembles

A commissioner appointed by the Vatican will take command of the Legionaries of Christ, orphans of their founder Marcial Maciel, disgraced by scandals. This is the likely outcome of eight months of investigation. Many things should be changed, including the current leaders

by Sandro Magister

ROME, March 16, 2010 – In the thick of the storm rocking the Catholic Church on account of the sexual abuse committed against minors by priests, an end has come to the apostolic visit ordered by the Holy See among the Legionaries of Christ, the congregation founded by Marcial Maciel.

The Maciel case is extreme in every way. It pushes the contrast between image and reality to exaggerated limits. Between the beatified image of the priest founder of an ultra-orthodox, ascetical, devout religious congregation, flourishing with vocations, some of them exemplary, and the reality of a dissolute second life, made up of incessant violations not only of the vows but of the commandments, of continual sinful affairs with women, men, and minors of every age and condition, with children and lovers all over the world, their number still unknown.


Still today, after the eight-month apostolic visit, Maciel's successor as director general of the congregation, Fr. Álvaro Corcuera, and vicar general Luis Garza Medina – who were also for decades, especially the latter of them, very close collaborators of the founder – show no intention of leaving their command. And neither do any of the other high and mid-level directors, central or peripheral.

Their defense is that they were always unaware of Maciel's second life, and that their fidelity to the Church and to the pope, in addition to their leadership experience, are the best guarantees for the congregation's continuity.

Last February 5, in "L'Osservatore Romano," Fr. Luis Garza Medina, unruffled, published an article describing the "virtuous life" of the ideal priest. He who more than anyone else lived side by side with Maciel, knowing all his secrets and managing his money, and who always held him up as a model.

But that the current leaders of the Legionaries should be left at the head of the congregation is entirely unlikely. The more probable decision is that the Holy See will appoint a fully empowered commissioner of its own, and will set the guidelines for a thorough reform, including the replacement of the current leaders.

But rebuilding from the ground up a congregation still deeply influenced by its disgraced founder will be an arduous enterprise.

Priests and seminarians who until very recently were steeped in the writings attributed to Maciel will have difficulty finding new sources of inspiration, not generic but specific to their order.
The current leaders of the congregation aren't helping, either. On the contrary. One of Maciel's former personal secretaries, Fr. Felipe Castro, together with other priests of the Legion, has worked in recent months to select from among the founder's many letters a group of letters to be "saved" for the future, to keep a positive image of Maciel alive.

The dependence of the Legionaries on Maciel was – and for many still is – absolute. There wasn't a shred of daily life that escaped the rules he dictated. Absurdly exacting rules. Which prescribed, for example, how to sit at the table, how to use a napkin, how to swallow, how to eat chicken without using one's hands, how to debone a fish.


The Big "Wager." How to Remake the Legion from Scratch

Maciel's offenses. The system of power that covered up his disgraceful life. The Vatican authorities are making accusations. And dictating the agenda for reconstruction. With full powers entrusted to a cardinal delegated by the pope

by Sandro Magister



The statement also makes a severe and unprecedented judgment of the "system of relationships" constructed around Maciel, of the "silence of the entourage," of the "mechanism of defense" of his disgraceful life.

Writing that "most of the Legionaries were unaware of this life," the statement implicitly affirms that some of them did know about it.

So there will be no indulgence for the "system of power" that closed ranks around Maciel before and after his death, meaning the current central and territorial leaders of the Legion.

In particular, it is completely unrealistic to think that the ax might spare the two supreme leaders, director general Álvaro Corcuera and vicar general Luís Garza

The latter of these, until now the real man in charge of the Legion from the financial point of view, has done everything possible over the past few weeks to position himself as a new Talleyrand, capable of remaining in the saddle even in the Thermidor, after having supported the Terror.


New Developments re the Legion of Christ

The Vatican moved to take control of the Legion of Christ over the weekend. Two interesting, related, aspects of this story:

(1) The Vatican issued it's announcement without notifying the Legion; and,

(2) It appears from reports that, despite the evidence, some (many?) of the Legion's leaders still don't get it. They still seem to think that this latest scandal involving Fr. Maciel will blow over and it'll soon be "business as usual".

Here's the story from the Wall Street Journal:

Pope Benedict to Overhaul Legion of Christ

VATICAN CITY—Pope Benedict XVI will overhaul the Legion of Christ, one of the most powerful orders in Roman Catholicism, in the wake of a Vatican investigation into decades of cover-ups inside the order that allowed its founder to sexually abuse seminarians and father at least one child.

In a statement Saturday, the Vatican announced plans for Benedict XVI to appoint a special envoy and set up a commission to restructure the Legion. The commission, the Vatican said, will rewrite the order's statutes and redefine the military-like culture, which led its members to maintain a code of secrecy in the face of sexual abuse committed by its late founder Rev. Marcial Maciel Degollado.

"The conduct of Father Marcial Maciel Degollado had consequences in the life and the structure of the Legion that are so serious as to require a journey of profound revision," the Vatican said.

Father Maciel, who died in 2008, had always denied the allegations of sexual abuse. The Legion, which defended the founder for years, repudiated Father Maciel last month and apologized to his victims. "The Legionaries thank the Holy Father and embrace his provisions with faith and obedience," the Legion said in a statement posted on its Web site Saturday.

In an email responding to an interview request, Luis Garza, the Legion's No. 2 official, said: "For the moment, we will have to wait a bit to have the context and full knowledge of everything."

The overhaul of the Legion comes as Benedict XVI is under intense pressure to show his willingness to crack down on sexual abuse in the highest ranks of Catholicism. Over the years, Benedict XVI has stripped many sexually abusive priests of their ministry and met with victims in the U.S., Australia and Malta.

Benedict XVI, who visited the Shroud of Turin Sunday, will meet with bishops from Belgium this week to discuss their response to the sex-abuse crisis, the Associated Press reported.

Critics have faulted the pope for not taking swift action against bishops and other powerful figures within the Church hierarchy who for decades allowed the abuse to occur on their watch and, in many cases, failed to alert police and other civil authorities.

The decision to act against the order came one day after Benedict XVI met with top advisers inside Vatican City to receive a briefing on the Legion from five Vatican-appointed investigators, including Denver Archbishop Charles Joseph Chaput.

A person close to the Legion said the order was taken by surprise Saturday by how quickly the Vatican acted, and didn't inform the Legion prior to making its plans public. "It's a defining moment for" the Legion, he said. "No one expected such a quick decision," the person said.

Father Maciel, who founded the Legion in Mexico in the 1940s, thrived at recruiting seminarians and used his connections with Mexican businessmen to raise millions of dollars for the Catholic Church. That, and the Legion's conservative outlook, made him a favorite of the late Pope John Paul II who was struggling to halt a drop in the number of priests world-wide.

Father Maciel also cultivated close ties with top Vatican officials, including Cardinal Angelo Sodano, who was then the Vatican's No. 2 official and is now the dean of the College of Cardinals. A nun who responded to a phone call to Cardinal Sodano's residence on Saturday said the cardinal was unavailable for comment.

In its statement on Saturday, the Vatican said Father Maciel led a double life, benefiting from a "system of connections" that allowed him to create phony alibis and suppress internal dissent.

At the same time, Father Maciel's loyalists inside the Legion fostered a "mechanism of defense," the Vatican said, that shielded the founder from allegations of abuse. "It made him untouchable," the Vatican said.

The Vatican didn't elaborate on exactly how the Legion managed to insulate its late founder from allegations over the decades.

The person close to the Legion noted the Vatican statement didn't specify what would happen to the head of the Legion, Rev. Alvaro Corcuera, and his second-in-command, Father Garza, both members of prominent Mexican families who were placed in leadership positions by Father Maciel.

The Vatican decision, the person said, will require a thorough rewriting of the Legion's constitution and governing documents to uproot Father Maciel's influence from the order. For example, many of the pastoral letters Father Maciel wrote to the Legion community were written by other Legionnaires and signed by him, the person said. "The commission has to go through all of the Legion's history and determine what really happened," he added.

In 1997, nine former Legion seminarians went public in an article in the Hartford Courant about the abuse they suffered at the hands of Father Maciel. A year later, the seminarians filed a formal complaint to the office of Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, the future Benedict XVI, who was then among a handful of top Vatican officials in charge of removing sexually abusive clerics from the priesthood.

Cardinal Ratzinger, tabled the former seminarians' 1998 complaint until quietly reviving it in December 2004, a few months before Pope John Paul II died.

One year after his election as pope in April 2005, Benedict XVI sanctioned Father Maciel, prohibiting him from celebrating Mass in public and ordering the priest to live a "private life" of prayer and penance.

Although the sanctions were regarded as unusually tough inside the Vatican, critics faulted Benedict XVI for allowing Father Maciel to retain his formal status as a priest. He remained a member of the clergy when he died in 2008.

In 2009, Benedict launched an investigation into the Legion itself, naming five church investigators, called "visitators," to inspect the Legion's global network of seminaries, schools and centers for its lay movement.

The Legion has some 800 priests and 2,500 seminarians operating universities and schools in more than 20 countries from Brazil to Chile and Spain. In the U.S., it operates 21 prep schools, a start-up university in Sacramento and the U.S.'s only three seminaries for teenage boys. The Legion's lay movement, known as Regnum Christi, has more than 50,000 followers around the world.


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