Monday, August 31, 2009

A meditation on a funeral

There is an acritude in the comments occasioned by Senator Kennedy's death and funerals among good Catholics that requires a few words.

Edward Kennedy, Ted, was of Irish descent, and, as such, was catholic. We could ask: was he a good catholic? Hard to answer, for two sets of reasons.

First, because to answer such a question would mean to pass a judgment on a whole life story. In the case of Ted Kennedy, being he a senator, this life story is private and public. After the loss of his brothers, his life was marked by the nasty accident of 1968 at Chappaquiddick, when he was probably responsible for the death of a girl. He succeeded in getting legally out of it, but I hope, for his soul, that he confessed his guilt with a priest. Publicly, that thing tainted all his subsequent political career, keeping him away from the presidency.

But more than forty years have gone by since then, other forty years of public life as senator, which equally require a judgment that I am sure is not easy. I don't especially recognize myself in his political side, mainly because of the changes this has undergone in these forty years, that make today's issues quite different from those of the Sixties, which saw the beginning of Ted Kennedy career, fighting on the side of his brothers for civil rights that were really such.

The Sixties: they bring me to the other set of reasons that make difficult to answer the question whether he was a good catholic.

We all remember when Ted's brother John was elected, first catholic in the history of the United States, and how this thing aroused suspicions that he had to assuage. He was asked how he would choose, in case of a discrepancy between the demands of the Church and those of his office as President of the USA. His answer was quite simple: he would act always in the interest of the United States, meaning, because no such a discrepancy were possible.

How much has changed since then, alas, in the States as well as in the Catholic Church! We are no longer sure of what it means to be either a good American, or a good Catholic.

I leave aside what pertains to being a good American. I hinted to the divisions concerning this in a previous post (for a more detailed discussion of the idea of America, we'll have to wait for Lazy Disciple's book, to be published in a near future). So I'll stay with the question of the "good catholic".

Many good Catholics are angry at Ted Kennedy for supporting the pro-choice policy of his party. I can't blame them, because, whether he really supported it or not, he didn't take a public stand against it, as they demand.

Of course, the Church is definitely against abortion, and to support it is to put oneself out of it. However, with failure to take a stand against it, we enter into an area where since the Sixties ideas got all blurred: even among theologians and prelates, leave alone a poor politician.

Just in these days I have been reading a very interesting book on the Vatican II and its aftermath. I'll have eventually to return on this, and try some considerations on what the Sixties have been in general, in the Church and out of her. Now, keeping apart the Council from its aftermath, I must say that the latter has been literally diabolic: meaning, according to the etymology of the word, divisive.

Catholics split in (at least) two, mainly on the question of the relation of Church and State.

In traditional catholic doctrine it had been maintained, to mediate between the meta-political teaching of the Church, addressing all people to announce them their unity in the salvation brought by Christ, and the political reality of the particular States in which human societies organize themselves, the notion of natural law. By way of this, it was possible, not only to educate people to Christ, but also to enclose in the same polity people who don't believe in him. The same tradition of natural law was at the origin of the United States of America, clearly to be read in the Declaration of Independence and in the Constitution. But the Church as well as the State were swept by the wind of the Sixties. The Supreme Court wounded the tradition on which America was founded with the infamous Roe versus Wade, leaving as only basis of civil life consensus, always susceptible to change. But even the Church didn't appear any more as a unitary ground of stability.

Unanimity on the notion of natural law got lost, and, as far as the constitution of the polity is concerned, many Catholics thought that they could not bring their religious ideas to bear on a legislation destined not only to "believers", but also to "not believers".

Often in the name of a purer faith, less compromised with established politics, fideism became the thing of the day, and a large party in the Church demised its traditional reasoning ways.

Good Catholics have to follow the example of our beloved Benedict XVI, with his constant invitation to the use of reason, to which Christ himself, as Logos incarnate, has educated us. To use it, I say, first of all among us inside the same Church. And this cannot be done without mellowing the acritude that even our love of truth can bring about in the midst of dissenting positions. Because it would take us away from the very Christian truth we want to defend.

So let's have mercy, and pray for the soul of a poor politician.

Friday, August 28, 2009

Washington D.C., August 28th, 1963

My eyes well every time I hear this.

I am happy to join with you today in what will go down in history as the greatest demonstration for freedom in the history of our nation.

Five score years ago, a great American, in whose symbolic shadow we stand today, signed the Emancipation Proclamation. This momentous decree came as a great beacon light of hope to millions of Negro slaves who had been seared in the flames of withering injustice. It came as a joyous daybreak to end the long night of their captivity.

But one hundred years later, the Negro still is not free. One hundred years later, the life of the Negro is still sadly crippled by the manacles of segregation and the chains of discrimination. One hundred years later, the Negro lives on a lonely island of poverty in the midst of a vast ocean of material prosperity. One hundred years later, the Negro is still languished in the corners of American society and finds himself an exile in his own land. And so we've come here today to dramatize a shameful condition.

In a sense we've come to our nation's capital to cash a check. When the architects of our republic wrote the magnificent words of the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence, they were signing a promissory note to which every American was to fall heir. This note was a promise that all men, yes, black men as well as white men, would be guaranteed the "unalienable Rights" of "Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness." It is obvious today that America has defaulted on this promissory note, insofar as her citizens of color are concerned. Instead of honoring this sacred obligation, America has given the Negro people a bad check, a check which has come back marked "insufficient funds."

But we refuse to believe that the bank of justice is bankrupt. We refuse to believe that there are insufficient funds in the great vaults of opportunity of this nation. And so, we've come to cash this check, a check that will give us upon demand the riches of freedom and the security of justice.

We have also come to this hallowed spot to remind America of the fierce urgency of Now. This is no time to engage in the luxury of cooling off or to take the tranquilizing drug of gradualism. Now is the time to make real the promises of democracy. Now is the time to rise from the dark and desolate valley of segregation to the sunlit path of racial justice. Now is the time to lift our nation from the quicksands of racial injustice to the solid rock of brotherhood. Now is the time to make justice a reality for all of God's children.

It would be fatal for the nation to overlook the urgency of the moment. This sweltering summer of the Negro's legitimate discontent will not pass until there is an invigorating autumn of freedom and equality. Nineteen sixty-three is not an end, but a beginning. And those who hope that the Negro needed to blow off steam and will now be content will have a rude awakening if the nation returns to business as usual. And there will be neither rest nor tranquility in America until the Negro is granted his citizenship rights. The whirlwinds of revolt will continue to shake the foundations of our nation until the bright day of justice emerges.

But there is something that I must say to my people, who stand on the warm threshold which leads into the palace of justice: In the process of gaining our rightful place, we must not be guilty of wrongful deeds. Let us not seek to satisfy our thirst for freedom by drinking from the cup of bitterness and hatred. We must forever conduct our struggle on the high plane of dignity and discipline. We must not allow our creative protest to degenerate into physical violence. Again and again, we must rise to the majestic heights of meeting physical force with soul force.

The marvelous new militancy which has engulfed the Negro community must not lead us to a distrust of all white people, for many of our white brothers, as evidenced by their presence here today, have come to realize that their destiny is tied up with our destiny. And they have come to realize that their freedom is inextricably bound to our freedom.

We cannot walk alone.

And as we walk, we must make the pledge that we shall always march ahead.

We cannot turn back.

There are those who are asking the devotees of civil rights, "When will you be satisfied?" We can never be satisfied as long as the Negro is the victim of the unspeakable horrors of police brutality. We can never be satisfied as long as our bodies, heavy with the fatigue of travel, cannot gain lodging in the motels of the highways and the hotels of the cities. We cannot be satisfied as long as the negro's basic mobility is from a smaller ghetto to a larger one. We can never be satisfied as long as our children are stripped of their self-hood and robbed of their dignity by signs stating: "For Whites Only." We cannot be satisfied as long as a Negro in Mississippi cannot vote and a Negro in New York believes he has nothing for which to vote. No, no, we are not satisfied, and we will not be satisfied until "justice rolls down like waters, and righteousness like a mighty stream."

I am not unmindful that some of you have come here out of great trials and tribulations. Some of you have come fresh from narrow jail cells. And some of you have come from areas where your quest -- quest for freedom left you battered by the storms of persecution and staggered by the winds of police brutality. You have been the veterans of creative suffering. Continue to work with the faith that unearned suffering is redemptive. Go back to Mississippi, go back to Alabama, go back to South Carolina, go back to Georgia, go back to Louisiana, go back to the slums and ghettos of our northern cities, knowing that somehow this situation can and will be changed.

Let us not wallow in the valley of despair, I say to you today, my friends.

And so even though we face the difficulties of today and tomorrow, I still have a dream. It is a dream deeply rooted in the American dream.

I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed: "We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal."

I have a dream that one day on the red hills of Georgia, the sons of former slaves and the sons of former slave owners will be able to sit down together at the table of brotherhood.

I have a dream that one day even the state of Mississippi, a state sweltering with the heat of injustice, sweltering with the heat of oppression, will be transformed into an oasis of freedom and justice.

I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.

I have a dream today!

I have a dream that one day, down in Alabama, with its vicious racists, with its governor having his lips dripping with the words of "interposition" and "nullification" -- one day right there in Alabama little black boys and black girls will be able to join hands with little white boys and white girls as sisters and brothers.

I have a dream today!

I have a dream that one day every valley shall be exalted, and every hill and mountain shall be made low, the rough places will be made plain, and the crooked places will be made straight; "and the glory of the Lord shall be revealed and all flesh shall see it together."

This is our hope, and this is the faith that I go back to the South with.

With this faith, we will be able to hew out of the mountain of despair a stone of hope. With this faith, we will be able to transform the jangling discords of our nation into a beautiful symphony of brotherhood. With this faith, we will be able to work together, to pray together, to struggle together, to go to jail together, to stand up for freedom together, knowing that we will be free one day.

And this will be the day -- this will be the day when all of God's children will be able to sing with new meaning:

My country 'tis of thee, sweet land of liberty, of thee I sing.

Land where my fathers died, land of the Pilgrim's pride,

From every mountainside, let freedom ring!

And if America is to be a great nation, this must become true.

And so let freedom ring from the prodigious hilltops of New Hampshire.

Let freedom ring from the mighty mountains of New York.

Let freedom ring from the heightening Alleghenies of Pennsylvania.

Let freedom ring from the snow-capped Rockies of Colorado.

Let freedom ring from the curvaceous slopes of California.

But not only that:

Let freedom ring from Stone Mountain of Georgia.

Let freedom ring from Lookout Mountain of Tennessee.

Let freedom ring from every hill and molehill of Mississippi.

From every mountainside, let freedom ring.

And when this happens, when we allow freedom ring, when we let it ring from every village and every hamlet, from every state and every city, we will be able to speed up that day when all of God's children, black men and white men, Jews and Gentiles, Protestants and Catholics, will be able to join hands and sing in the words of the old Negro spiritual:

Free at last! Free at last!

Thank God Almighty, we are free at last!

In my PhD dissertation, I have a chapter-length excursus on the significance of Dr. King's rhetoric for the tradition of inquiry and nationhood called America. I will be able to share it with you all before the new semester is out.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Health Care, cont'd

One of the really disappointing, even truly disheartening things about the national discussion over the President's proposals for health care reform, is the acrimonious tone of its conduct.

Demonization of political adversaries has become a general practice.

This is more than simply unfortunate; it is dangerous for several reasons, among which are the following:
  • It tends to erode the presumption of good faith, upon which the giving and taking of public counsels in free socity must necessarily be based;
  • It encourages intellectual laziness: if I do not need to engage the merits of an opponent's position, then I will not engage them. I will, however, be more than content to dribble my critical energies through the gimlet holes of peanut gallery invention;
  • It erodes awareness of and thereby destroys the ability to pursue the common good, to determine and pursue successfully, common purpose in society.
Many of the loudest contributors to the public discussion of the issue are more concerned in establishing the President of the United States as a monster, than they are in critically appraising his proposals for reform.

The President, himself, has been one of the worst offenders among the proponents and champions of his reforms, insofar as he has quickly and easily dismissed everyone who has any scruple about his proposals, either paining them as ideologically committed, or cabbalistically interested.

Absolutely none of this matters.

Suppose for a moment that the President is a monster

Now entertain for an instant the idea that the President's reform proposals are likely to reduce the cost of health insurance and improve the quality of health care, while placing both in reach of a significant number of people who, until now, have not been been able to have either.

Would the President's monstrosity be an argument against implementing his reform proposals then?

Suppose for a moment the President is possessed of a soul as stainless as starlight, and motives as pure as the driven snow

Now consider the possibility that the President's reform proposals appear to prudent judges as likely to lead to the creation of a massive federal health insurance bureaucracy that will swallow the whole industry, severely reduce the quality of care, and act as a massive drain on the economy, making it more difficult for the poor to lift themselves out of poverty and creating a permanent class of citizens who are essentially clients of the federal government.

Would the President's pristine purposes be an argument in favor of implementing his proposals, then?

I am reminded of the following:
Happy will it be if our choice should be directed by a judicious estimate of our true interests, unperplexed and unbiased by considerations not connected with the public good. But this is a thing more ardently to be wished than seriously to be expected. The plan offered to our deliberations affects too many particular interests, innovates upon too many local institutions, not to involve in its discussion a variety of objects foreign to its merits, and of views, passions and prejudices little favorable to the discovery of truth. - From The Federalist #1
As it stands, I would like for someone to explain to me how the "public option" is not going to destroy cometition, as employers abandon their private carriers in favor of it, before their current carriers develop packages to compete with the public one.


Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Edward M. Kennedy, Feb. 22, 1932 - Aug. 25, 2009, RIP

US Senator Edward M. Kennedy has succumbed to cancer.

He represented the Commonwealth of Massachusetts in the United States Senate for 47 years, making him the 3rd longest-serving Senator in US history.

He was 77 years old.


Deal Breaker...

If the folks at (a non-partisan research outfit affiliated with the Annenberg Public Policy Center) are right, then Catholics need to step up. Via the blog of Catholic radio host Al Kresta, I learn that the folks at FC have published their findings regarding the abortion question, here.

Remember what Michael Sean Winters said at the start of the season, and has been repeating regularly, most recently here?

Now, the NRLC fellow quoted in the FactCheck analysis probably overstates things when he says that the House leadership version mandates abortion coverage. The quoted language is not that of a mandate. Nevertheless, with the POTUS's views of the matter widely known, and Kathleen Sebelius in charge at HHS, it were imprudence approaching folly to think that the federal plan would not include abortion.

If the POTUS claims that, stricte sensu, the law neither mandates nor allows federal funding for abortions (the HHS regulations implementing the legislation would do that), he cannot claim that the federal subsidies for private plans would not.

Remember, the issue is not whether the proposed reform package would mandate federal funding for abortions. The issue is whether the proposal contains provisions for federal funding of abortions.

This blogger believes that the proposal, as it stands, does contain the practical equivalent of a mandate, though an explanation as to why will have to wait. It is nearly 5AM and I must be about business.


Monday, August 24, 2009

Some Thoughts on "Health Care Reform"

I know I promised some enlargement upon the text I reproduced in these pages at the opening of this past week-end. That enlargement will come shortly.

At Present, my purpose it to try to organize my thoughts on the debate over Pres. Obama's proposed legislative and regulatrory reform of important parts of our health care system.

The very first thing that needs to be clarified is what, "health care reform" means, and what it does not. What the term means in the mouth of a given interlocutor is never perfectly clear, and may be misleading. The following might be helpful:
  • "Health Care" refers to at least two things: (1) insurance against the cost of obtaining medical goods and services - we generally call this "health insurance"; (2) medical goods and services themselves - we generally call this "medical care"; by way of example, Liberty Mutual, INA and Blue Cross/Blue Shield, inter alia, provide the former (1); doctors, nurses, hospitals and pharmaceutical companies, inter alia, provide the latter (2).
  • The President has discussed the possibility of a "government option" or a "public option" as part of his "health care" reform package. At present, the "government option" does not enjoy public confidence, in any form; there is a great deal of public diffidence regarding the more robust visions of what the "government option" might be.
Some of the representations of the "government option", which some opponents of the proposal have made, have either been crafted to allow people to believe, or have more or less directly suggested, that the "government option" would, in its most robust form, include direct provision of "health care" in the 2nd sense, i.e. would mean doctors in the employ of the federal government, providing care directly to citizens at government-owned and operated facilities using government-owned equipment and supplies, all at the texpayers' expense. This is a truly appalling vision. It is also inaccurate.The President's proposal, in its most robust form, seems to be a government-owned and operated insurance provider, i.e. a provider of "health care" in the 1st sense.

This proposal is extremely problematic on its own, and requires no distortion in order to inspire public ambivalence.
It therefore seems to this blogger that many people are against a measure the President has never proposed, while many others (and many of those who oppose the phantom proposal) have been denied the chance to give the highly problematic real proposal fully informed critical attention.

Broad Public Consensus for Limited Reform

There is broad consensus regarding both the need for some reform, and the urgency of the need. There is broad bi-partisan support in Congress for some basic reform of health insurance law and regulation. The support in Congress accurately reflects popular sentiment regarding the following issues: the need to pass laws making health insurance plans portable; the need to eliminate or at least severely restrict the ability of health insurance providers to refuse (or drastically alter the terms and conditions of) coverage based on pre-existing conditions.

These two measures are almost universally recognized as urgently needed - they are the "no-brainers" of the debate. The President could push hard for these measures, simultaneously announce a period of consideration and reflection on other parts of his reform package, and see the reduced-scope reform package pass with broad bi-partisan support in Congress.

He could declare victory, and with reason.

Next time, I will discuss some of the difficulties with the "government option" and the real political importance of the President's refusal to give a straight answer to the question of abortion coverage.


Friday, August 21, 2009

A Response to the Humbly Presumptuous...

By way of a lengthy quotation from the man who was arguably the greatest thinker of the 20th century:

The treatise on “Political Religions” was published for the first time in Vienna in April of 1938. Since the national-socialist provisional management of the publishing house did not promote its circulation, the treatise remained almost unknown. However, it did become well enough known to find as critical a response among knowledgeable readers as my earlier writings. These criticisms reproach me for presenting my case in such an overly objective manner that it actually seemed to support those conceptions of the world and movements, in particular National Socialism, which it was intended to oppose. It lacked the decisiveness of making a judgment and condemnation, which would put beyond all doubt my own outlook.

These critics touch on the basic questions surrounding the present world situation and the individual's attitude toward it. Today there is one type of politicizing intellectual—and the critics meant here usually belong to this circle—who proclaims his deep aversion to National Socialism through strong ethical judgments. He considers it his duty to battle it with any literary means. I can do the same: Anyone able to read will recognize my deep aversion against any kind of political collectivism on the basis of the verse by Dante that precedes the treatise, and my store of educated and less-educated expressions of condemnation is impressive. There are reasons for my not spreading this aversion before a large audience in the form of politicizing outbursts. In fact, although there are many reasons supporting this attitude, I can only touch upon one essential reason here.

Political collectivism is not only a political and moral phenomenon. To me its religious elements seem much more significant.

Choosing to take up the struggle with literary means in the form of ethical counter-propaganda is important, but such a struggle will become questionable when it hides the essential. Doubly questionable, as a matter of fact, since it diverts attention from the fact that a deeper and much more dangerous evil is hidden behind the ethically condemnable actions. And its own means will become ineffective and questionable when it finds no deeper reason than a moral code. Thus, although I do not mean to imply that the struggle against National Socialism should not also be an ethical one, it is, in my opinion, not conducted radically enough, because the radix, the root in religiousness, is missing.

When considering National Socialism from a religious standpoint, one should be able to proceed on the assumption that there is evil in the world and, moreover, that evil is not only a deficient mode of being, a negative element, but also a real substance and force that is effective in the world. Resistance against a satanical substance that is not only morally but also religiously evil can only be derived from an equally strong, religiously good force. One cannot fight a satanical force with morality and humanity alone.

Nonetheless, this difficulty cannot be remedied by resolve alone.

There is no distinguished philosopher or thinker in the Western world today who, firstly, is not aware—and has not also expressed this sentiment—that the world is experiencing a serious crisis, is undergoing a process of withering, which has its origins in the secularization of the soul and in the ensuing severance of a consequently purely secular soul from its roots in religiousness, and, secondly, does not know that recovery can only be achieved through religious renewal, be it within the framework of the historical churches, be it outside this framework. Such renewal, to a large extent, can only be initiated by great religious personalities, but everyone can be ready and willing to do his share in paving the way for resistance to rise up against the evil.

It is precisely in this respect that the politicizing intellectuals fail completely. It is dreadful to hear time and again that National Socialism is a return to barbarism, to the Dark Ages, to times before any new progress toward humanitarianism was made, without these speakers even suspecting that precisely the secularization of life that accompanied the doctrine of humanitarianism is the soil in which such an anti-Christian religious movement as National Socialism was able to prosper. For these secularized minds the religious question is a taboo, and they are suspicious of bringing it up seriously and radically—perhaps they would also consider this barbarism and a relapse into the Dark Ages.

Thus, I believe that discussing the basic religious issues of our times as well as describing the phenomenon of evil that is to be combated is more important than participating in that ethical defensive struggle. If my representation gives rise to the impression that it is too “objective” and “advertises” for National Socialism, then that to me seems to be a sign that my representation is good—for the Luciferian aspects are not simply morally negative or atrocious, but are a force and a very attractive force at that. Moreover, my representation would not be good if it gave rise to the impression that we are concerned with merely a morally inferior, dumb, barbaric, contemptible matter. That I don't consider the force of evil to be a force of good will be clearly evident to all readers of this treatise who are open to religious questions.

Cambridge, Mass. Christmas 1938
The quotation is the entirety of Eric Voegelin's prefatory remarks to his 1938 volume, The Political Religions.

For the moment, I propose the text to the learned readership for their consideration.

I will have commentary and enlargement this week-end.


Safe and Sound...

The wife, the boy and I are back from a too short trip to the land of the free and the home of the brave.

Blogging will continue to be slow through August, and probably into the first weeks of Sept., as another round of personal and professional commitment s will occupy me.

Best to all, and thanks for your forbearance.


From the heat of Italy

It's very hot in Rome and all over Italy, also on the beach where I am staying at the moment for a little release from the city heat.

This makes it a bit hard to think, and, still more, to write.

But I feel obliged, for some things I wrote in my previous post against the present trend of European Union: just a short hint to a "soft" totalitarianism, which has taken the place of the "hard" one ended with World War II and the fall of the Berlin Wall.

And who could be better to help elucidate what I said than Pope Benedict?

In the Angelus of August 9 he said:

The Nazi concentration camps, like all extermination camps, can be considered extreme symbols of evil, of hell that opens on earth when man forgets God and supplants him, usurping his right to decide what is good and what is evil, to give life and death. However, this sad phenomenon is unfortunately not limited to concentration camps. Rather, they are the culmination of an extensive and widespread reality, often with shifting boundaries.

A onetime Italian political activist of the radical Marxist kind, later found guilty for having ordered one of the political killings of the Seventies (he always protested himself innocent, but it doesn't matter, I say, because he certainly inspired it), and now in a minimum security jail from where he is free to send out his writings to newspapers, having since long abandoned his earlier position for a moderate humanitarian atheism, denounced an intellectual mistake in this statement of Pope Benedict: that of jamming together phenomena that are actually different.

But are they?

Condemning and rejecting Nazism goes as a matter of course. We are all against Nazism, are we not? it was the apex of horror, how could we do otherwise.

Thus repulsion of Nazism is operated in a sort of vacuum, without the need to spend many words to give reasons for it.

This exempts from any real attempt to understand what brought to it. Or to understand what brought to communism on the other side. And see what they share, in spite of their opposition.

It blinds before the same factors that brought to them still present in our time, be it in a "soft" way.


Friday, August 14, 2009

America is different from Europe

Ammerica (with two or three "m") is different from Europe.

This comes to my mind viewing the heated discussion on the health care reform proposed in Congress.

Over here, in Europe, it has always been cause of a certain disconcert knowing that not everybody in the States is assured adequate health care. With us, health is almost numbered among "human rights", but, given that human beings have the strange tendency to fall ill, it is considered a right to have the State take care of it. Save the right of complaining, eventually, of the way it does it.

What does it mean then this opposition in the States to an extension of health care to everybody by way of public, federal insurance? Are may be Ammericans, or at least those many who oppose the proposed plan, so egoistic not to consider the need of people left without protection by the present system?

I wouldn't think so.

There are larger issues involved, which concern the global difference between Europe and America.

Robert Kagan tried, sever years ago, to determine where the difference lies, with a characterization from Greek mythology: so that America would be Mars, Europe Venus.

If this meant that Europe has become the land of that whore of Venus, leaving aside those more honest women of Juno and Minerva, I might even agree.

Out of jokes. It doesn't convince me, because Europe and America don't mean the same thing for everybody.

If I think of Europe as it is today promoted by the European Union, I cringe with abhorrence. It would take a sophisticated historical analysis to substantiate the why, that I limit myself here to state: it is the soft version of the hard core totalitarianism of Twentieth Century. These latter thought that to control people was needed the police. Now days it has been understood that it is enough to keep control on schools and the media, to provide panem et circenses, in modern terms work and leisure time, and, why not, health care. Anything may be provided, exept the freedom that comes from looking beyond the confines of biological life.

And though, many Americans look up at this Europe.

There is on the other side that long standing European civilization in whose inheritance America can be viewed.

America has been indeed an European experiment in "nation building".

Some Europeans recall today, in opposition to the European Union trend, the principle on which that experiment was made: over here we call it "subsidiarity", in the States it is called "federalism".

This means that public authority should not come in where civil society can do by itself; that State authorities should not come in where towns and counties con do by themselves; that federal government should not come in where States can do by themselves.

Now, this is the principle that makes the discussion on the public extension of health care so heated. Is it really necessary, or it can provided otherwise?

Obama was elected because of his promise to be a pacifier between the two visions of Europe, so to speak, battling in America. Now his administration finds itself before a divisive issue. Instead of turning paranoid about it, shouldn't it rather take more care in assuaging the principled concern it raised?

Saturday, August 08, 2009

Fear of internet?

I don't know what to think.

It looks like the Obama administration is afraid of internet: it asks people to signal any information circulating about the health care plan, via e-mail or casual conversation (?), that might sound fishy.

Strange, it seemed that in the election campaign they knew how to use it effectively. Or perhaps it is precisely because of this.

It is an old story: the newest communication technology has always been looked at with suspicion.

We read in Plato's Fedrus that Socrates warned against writing. In the book, he said, the word is left alone and cannot defend itself. And though, handwritten books spread and gave a literary tint to culture. Actually to high culture, because popular culture staid oral, until printed books spread literacy, making accessible to everybody. Then it was created books censorship. And so on, up to our times, with telephone, radio and TV. Phones can be controlled; radio and TV require a rather complex technology, their operators and what they say or suggest are publicly known.

And now cellular phones and internet.

Utterly anarchic.

It is like when people used simply to talk to each other. But no longer in a small circle, where everybody knows everybody else, so that each one feels scrutinized and controlled in what he says.

The administration seems to feel out of control on the information circulating on its plans, and resorts to asking people to help them know.

Do they realize what are they doing, by so asking?

In the face of the newest technology, feeling impotent, they resort to "informing": an old totalitarian strategy, to keep people from talking for fear of being spied upon.

Thursday, August 06, 2009

An Open Letter to President Obama

Here is the text of the open letter.

Anyone interested in signing may please do so in the com-box, and I will add the names as they come in. Please indicate a US state, in addition to your first and last name.

Bloggers please feel free to copy the text and provide a link to the blog page.

A final note:

The White House has legitimate concerns about disinformation being spread.

By disinformation, I do not mean, unfortunately, mere inaccuracies or infelicities of formulation or expression.

Sadly, some of those, who oppose the President, have used methods that are irresponsible at best, and at worst, in bad faith.

Spreading deliberate falsehood is unacceptable.

Passing conjecture, however well-founded, for fact, is dishonest.

Conjecturing wildly is irresponsible.

That said, there are proper ways for the administration to address this behavior.

The present flagging initiative is not one of them.

One important way to discourage such behavior in one's fellows, is by being frank and forthright oneself.

So, I would also ask the President to give a frank, forthright answer to this one question: do you intend that your health reform legislation include provisions for taxpayer-funded abortion?


Now, for the letter:


Christopher R. Altieri
340 Beach Rd.
Fairfield, Ct. 06824

President Barack H. Obama
1600 Pennsylvania Ave. NW
Washington, DC 20500

August 6, 2009

Re: "facts are stubborn things" WH blog post of 4 Aug, 2009

Dear Mr. President:

I write to urge you to put an immediate end to the “flagging” initiative you announced through the blog this past August 4th.

The government has a right and even a duty to advocate its policies and legislative agenda; it follows from this right and duty that government has a legitimate interest in debunking inaccuracies in public statements regarding its policies and legislative agenda.

I hope the White House is actively seeking to collect, on its own, criticisms that have been made publicly and are, therefore, available for critique – indeed, I would applaud the use of modern communications tools to this end. The flagging initiative, however, is based on the idea that there are rumors that have escaped the attention of the White House, and that citizens ought to report these to the White House when they hear them.

Quite apart from any question of intent, the effect of the plan will inevitably be to curb speech at a time when it is very greatly needed. Ask yourself, Mr. President: are people more likely to share their opinion of the government's plans, if they know the government wants citizens to report what they hear their fellows saying about the government's plans?

The initiative will make people nervous about writing, posting, in sum, sharing their thoughts: good and bad ones; fair and unfair ones; well and poorly informed ones; artfully and artlessly articulated ones, as always there shall be in our national discourse.

The initiative tends to undermine the trust and presumption of good faith, upon which rests our American tradition of absolutely free public exchange of ideas, utterly unfettered by government oversight or interference.

As a result, the program cannot but run counter to the real interests of our country in the short and long term. I therefore urge you to shut this program down today.


Christoper R. Altieri

Big Brother Is Asking Us to Watch One Another

First, some context: facts are indeed stubborn things. Try this one: if the President's "health reform" legislation does not contain explicit and general prohibition of federal funding for abortion, then it will require taxpayers to pay for abortions. Of course concerned readers are invited to follow this advice:
There is a lot of disinformation about health insurance reform out there, spanning from control of personal finances to end of life care. These rumors often travel just below the surface via chain emails or through casual conversation. Since we can’t keep track of all of them here at the White House, we’re asking for your help. If you get an email or see something on the web about health insurance reform that seems fishy, send it to
I am drafting an open letter.