It makes me wonder just who in public life is willing to set an example that imagines simplicity and economic stewardship as an admirable goal. George W. Bush has been no better than Barbara or Posh—indicating long ago that his environmental and foreign policies would be marked by not doing anything that would affect "the American way of life." When even presidents are afraid to suggest that some moral issues require a tightening of our own purse strings, then we have missed the lessons of two world wars, and have failed to understand the responsibilities of living under rapid globalization.
Tuesday, July 24, 2007
Posted by Matt Talbot at 9:19 PM
Sunday, July 22, 2007
It's awful easy to cheer for war from the safety of your computer keyboard in a nice, safe home, far from the messiness of actual combat. Have you ever actually seen war? I mean real, deafening, violent, bloody, murderous war? Have you ever felt a buddy breathe his last, begging God's forgiveness for the horrors he visited upon his fellow men?
And, it's not ok to kill people just because "well, you know, that's war...and besides, it's a fallen world and war is a consquence of sin blah blah blah..."
You realize that when confronted with the reality of what war actually, really IS. You realize it when you throw a grenade into a bunker, and learn in the next moment that the bunker had both people and cans of gasoline in it: and spend the next few minutes - minutes you spend the rest of your life realizing you'll never, ever forget - listening to "enemy" human beings, guys about your age, in that bunker die in horrific agony, knowing You Did It and you can Never, Ever Take It Back.
War is the most Un-Christian, Un-Catholic, merciless destruction of the possibility of Love that exists in this world.
To all you folks worshiping at the altar of Violence:
There is no "Good War." The Big One, World War II? It is worth remembering that thousands and thousands of "enemy" 3-year-olds burned to death in the wreckage of their homes before they got a chance to learn the name of the country they lived in.
To know of the carnage of the last 100 years, and sneer at "peace" as some hippy-dippy outmoded thing from the sixties, seems, frankly, depraved.
Posted by Matt Talbot at 10:09 PM
Friday, July 20, 2007
The AP is reporting that the commander of the 3rd Infantry Division, whose troops are deployed south of Baghdad, is saying that he needs until at least spring 2008, and more probably until summer, to ensure success in his area of Iraq:
If the U.S. troop buildup in Iraq is reversed before the the middle of 2008, the military will risk giving up the security gains it has achieved at a cost of hundreds of American lives over the past six months, the commander of U.S. forces south of Baghdad said Friday.
Maj. Gen. Richard Lynch, commander of the 3rd Infantry Division, mentioned none of the proposals in Congress for beginning to withdraw U.S. troops as soon as September. all. But he made clear in an interview that in his area of responsibility south of Baghdad, it will take many more months to consolidate recent gains.
"It's going to take through (this) summer, into the fall, to defeat the extremists in my battle space, and it's going to take me into next spring and summer to generate this sustained security presence," he said, referring to an Iraqi capability to hold gains made by U.S. forces.
Interesting. So we'll know how things worked out in Iraq right around the time the Democrats and Republicans are holding their respective political conventions to nominate their candidates for president. I'll bet anyone here one million dollars that the story being told by the crooks in the White House will be something resembling this:
"Just at the moment we're finally making progress, and see the Light at The End of the Tunnel, those America-hating Jews--oops, sorry, Democrats-- want to give our troops a Stab in the Back, and force them to abandon the Iraqi people and deny us our Glorious Victory."
Predicted lede in an AP story then:
"President Bush, in a statement given in front of troops in North Carolina [who were ordered on pain of death not to laugh,] said today that he expected his successor to consolidate the self-evident Victory he'd secured after years of sacrifice in Iraq. He reminded the troops that their fallen comrades were counting on his successor to 'ensure that their sacrifice was not in vain.' "
Posted by Matt Talbot at 1:43 PM
Saturday, July 14, 2007
Successful politics, in a democracy, is not as much about what you stand for, but more who you stand with.
Think about it: who has become the Republican base? What are the economic circumstances of the average, say, Rush Limbaugh listener? Who sends those little checks most faithfully to the various right-wing religious hucksters out there? I'm asking seriously: who are these people?
The somewhat tragic answer is, "lots of former Democrats".
Let me set up a little Socratic thingie to show you what I'm talking about...
Me: But Soc, ol' buddy, you're talking about The Repub's deluded base, here. You know, the people agitating for tax cuts for their boss's boss's boss? What possible use could they be to the Democrats?
Socrates: I can see I'm outmatched here, and must bow to your superior wisdom in this matter. I just have one or two questions, and I was hoping you could enlighten my ignorance.
Me: Sure, Soc. Shoot.
Socrates: Who are these people you call the 'base' of the Republican Party?
Me: Oh, you know...working stiffs...people in our society who are more or less powerless. People with stagnant wages, maybe just a high school education, who have little or no power in the workplace or the rest of society, and feel some vicarious empowerment when they hear Rush Limbaugh or Sean Hannity "speaking up for them".
Socrates: He speaks for them, does he?
Me: Well, of course. You know, against the dirty, heathen Liberals who want to turn all their wives into hairy-legged, baby-killing lesbians, or something?
Socrates (aghast): The Liberals want to do that?
Me: Are you serious?? No, of course not!
Socrates: Well, that's a relief. I just wonder then: why are they not voting for Democrats? They used to, in huge numbers, as I recall...
Me: I already told you - The Republicans have the wool pulled over their eyes.
Socrates: Ah, exactly so: I can see what you mean now. But I still don't understand: why did they stop voting for Democrats? I remember quite a long period when people like that voted overwhelmingly for Democrats, every single election, starting in 1932.
Me: Well, you know, that was a different time, then...
Socrates: Really? And how was it different?
Me: Well, to begin with, there was the Great Depression, which threw everyone out of work. The Republican response was: let charity take care of the indigent, and let The Market right itself. The Democrats had specific, concrete plans to help the people who were hurting...and so the Republicans just got killed in the '32 elections...
Socrates: Ah, so the Republicans learned their lesson, and sing a different tune, now?
Me: Of couse they...you know, come to think of it, no. They are pretty much saying and doing the same things now as they did then.
Socrates: Then I'm still confused - why are all those poor farmers and minimum-wage earners and economically hurting people now voting for Republicans?
Me: I already told you - the Republicans are appealing to their fears and prejudices!
Socrates: Hmmm...if those folks voted Democratic, do you think the Democrats might do better in elections?
Me: I'm sure we would, but we don't want those people.
Me: Do I have to tell you again?? The Republicans have them all tied up in fear and prejudice.
Socrates: I see. Let me ask you: Have you ever experienced feelings of fear, and even prejudice, within yourself?
Me (thinking): Oh, sure. It's probably a universal human experience to some extent.
Socrates: Did you enjoy it?
Me: Well, no, it pretty much...sucked. What's your point?
Socrates: Do you think the people who now are caught up in the Republicans' fearmongering and pandering to prejudices are deeply enjoying the experience?
Me: Um, probably not...
Socrates: Then why do they allow the Republicans to keep doing it?
Me: You lost me.
Socrates: As we've established already, not only are they powerless, but their prejudices and fears are only adding to their misery. Isn't that true?
Me: I've never thought of it that way, but yes, I guess you're right. What the heck is wrong with them?
Socrates: Do you remember the impassioned speech given at the 2004 Democratic National Convention - the one everyone remembers - where the speaker eloquently called for huge amounts of assistance for struggling family farmers, a living wage for all American workers, card-check legislation to help workers get some power in the workplace, and shooting barbs at the Republican rich, "lolling obscenely in their Opera Boxes"?
Me: Um...(thinking)...No, actually I don't.
Socrates: Neither do I. Do you want to help people who are trapped in economic stagnation, and are being exploited with fear and prejudice?
Me: Well, yeah, that's a large part of the reason I'm a Democrat.
Socrates: Well, how can you help them?
Me: Like I said, they are pretty much beyond help...
Socrates (now genuinely shocked): You don't really believe that, do you?
Me: Well, what can we do for those people?
Socrates: "Those people"? Didn't you describe them yourself as, "Working stiffs...people in our society who are more or less powerless. People with stagnant wages, maybe just a high school education, who have little or no power in the workplace or the rest of society?"
Me: Yes, that's right: the Republican Base.
Socrates: We also went over how the Democrats gained a large and enduring majority in the past by coming up with specific, concrete plans to help people who were hurting, did we not?
Me: Ok, now I'm really lost.
Socrates: How much does gay marriage or the legal status of abortion increase their misery on a daily basis, in the course of living out their daily existence?
Me: Actually, on a day-to-day basis? Probably not much. Not much at all, really.
Socrates: And how much does the fact that they are, in your words, "people in our society who are more or less powerless...with stagnant wages, maybe just a high school education, who have little or no power in the workplace or the rest of society" make their lives harder, on a daily basis?
Me: I imagine it's a constant, grinding bummer...
Socrates: So, if you offered them a whole list of ways to help them out of those concrete, constantly-lived, ever-present miseries - in fact, if you organized your campaign around those issues, and hit the talking points constantly - do you imagine they might just consider voting for your candidates?
Posted by Matt Talbot at 3:14 PM
Tuesday, July 10, 2007
Sara over at Orcinus, has a post up where she expands on Glenn Greenwald's discussion of the plummeting support in the rest of the world for not just the policies of the United States, but now even the people of the United States. Her last graf:
Those who remember America The Good are passing, leaving the world in the hands of those who only have memories of America the Evil. Any PR person can tell you that a good reputation lost takes Herculean efforts to regain. Of all the battles that await us, this one may be the hardest -- and, realistically, it's one we probably shouldn't expect to win in our lifetimes.
Posted by Matt Talbot at 7:44 PM
Sunday, July 08, 2007
A diarist named Karmakin over at Street Prophets quotes a bit from the new Michael Moore movie, "Sicko", that neatly summarizes my feelings about America:
It was hard for me to acknowledge that in the end, we truly are in the same boat. And that, no matter what our differences, we sink or swim together. That's how it seems to be everywhere else. They take care of each other - no matter what their disagreements. You know when we see a good idea from another country, we grab it. If they build a better car, we drive it. If they make a better wine, we drink it. So if they have come up with a better way to treat the sick, to teach their kids, to take care of their babies, to simply be good to each other, then what's our problem? Why can't we do that? They live in a world of WE, not ME. We'll never fix anything until we get that one basic thing right. And powerful forces hope that we never do - and that we remain the only country in the western world without free, universal healthcare. You know - if we ever did remove the choke-hold of medical bills, college loans, daycare and everything else that makes us afraid to step out of line, well, watch out...[emphasis mine]
This is right in line with my previous post about the phony populism of Republicans: their only agenda is serving the priorities of their true constituency: the rich. I might add that the Democrats are little better in this regard: they just serve the interests of different rich people than the Republicans do.
Posted by Matt Talbot at 1:26 PM
Tuesday, July 03, 2007
American tax rates, by the standards of both history and rates in the rest of the civilized world, are remarkably low.
The top marginal tax rate in 1955 (under that fiery Leninist, Eisenhower) was somewhat north of 90% - and people hardly felt crushed by taxes then, nor oppressed, nor persecuted, nor threatened by tyranny.
I'm amused by the spectacle of "populist" Republicans who've gotten working class people agitating for tax cuts for their boss's boss's boss. I just hope I'm not anywhere near America -say, exploring Mars - when working class folks wake up to the injustice of their situation, because it's probably going to be ugly.
Posted by Matt Talbot at 8:03 PM
Monday, July 02, 2007
...over at Morning's Minions joint. He takes on the patently mendacious claims of Michael Novak, and pretty much leaves scorched earth in his wake. One key graf:
Let's look deeper into the recent period, 2000-05. This was by no means a recessionary episode; the real economy expanded by 12 percent over this period, and productivity rose by 17 percent. What's going on here? Basically, the middle class stopped participating in the economic expansion. Workers are working harder, and are more productive, but their pay and living standards stagnate. Meanwhile, corporate profits soared. According to research by Robert Gordon and Ian Dew-Becker, the productivity gains went to the top 10 percent. This lies in stark contrast to the 1990s, where the large productivity gains (related in part to the IT boom) were shared more broadly.
The whole thing is worth a read.
Posted by Matt Talbot at 11:13 PM
[Note to my non-Catholic readers: this will probably go straight over your heads...]
Jcecil has a post at Liberal Catholic News discussing the fact that The Latin Mass is about to become more widely available, and I must say I'm excited by the prospect, but also dreading the kooky (there really is no other word for it) people who I imagine will be pamphleting outside afterwards:
I've been to approved Latin Masses, and it is a beautiful way of worshiping, though my preference is for the Post-Vatican II Mass. When done well, I like the Novus Ordo better than the Tridentine rie. My main beef with the SSPX, sedevacantists, and/or other rad-trads and is when they say the Novus Ordo is invalid, Vatican II is heresy, and the current Pope is an anti-pope and the Jews are Christ killers conspiring to take over the world. Some of what these people say is mean and evil and even heretical.
Some of my own feelings about the Latin Mass, per se: I would welcome the opportunity to assist at one. Part of it is the "connection with history" thing, but part of it is also because I love the Mass settings written by a 15th century composer named Palestrina.
His Missa de Beata Virgine is just indescribably beautiful, filled with a tenderness (given the title) and suffused with a spirit of deep, sublime longing, together with a hint of that longing's fulfillment, that just floors me whenever I listen to it.
My own parish can't begin to afford a choir that could really do it justice, but I'd travel quite a distance to immerse myself in an offering of this Mass.
My own wish is that the kooks would take a break from the agitprop, and let the Tridentine Rite be spread by word of mouth. They might be surprised (and I imagine not in a happy way) by the cross-section of people who would make a habit of attending a really well-done version of it.
Posted by Matt Talbot at 9:59 PM