Blackadder’s Lair

The home of many a cunning plan

John XXIII Si, John Paul II No

Joe Biden on reconciling his Catholicism with his support for legal abortion (attempt #154):

We’ve always believed from the outset that abortion is wrong. But throughout the years, debated the degree to which it is wrong. There are always cases where it is never a first choice. It is always viewed as a dire decision. But throughout the church’s history, we’ve argued between whether or not it is wrong in every circumstance and the degree of wrong. Catholics have this notion, it’s almost a gradation.

We have mortal sins, venial sins, well, up until Pius IX, there were times when we said, ‘Look, there are circumstances in which it’s wrong but it is not damnation. Along came Pius IX in the 1860s and declared in fine doctrine, this was the first time that it occurred that it was absolute human life and being at the moment of conception.

It’s always been a debate. I take my religion very seriously.

To sum it up, as a Catholic, I’m a John XXIII guy, I’m not a Pope John Paul guy.

More. (HT: Jimmy Akin)

October 21, 2008 Posted by | Abortion, Catholicism, Election | Leave a comment

Krugman on Equality

Since his Nobel prize was announced last week, I have been (re)reading some of Paul Krugman’s old columns for Slate magazine. I find the columns to be thoroughly engrossing, which is to say not that I think everything Krugman says in them is right, but that even where he is wrong he is wrong in an interesting way or for interesting reasons.

Case in point: in a column entitled The CPI and the Rat Race, Krugman argues that it is inequality, rather than poverty, that is the more important social problem. Krugman begins the column by conceding (as he must) that, materially speaking, life has gotten a lot better for Americans over recent decades:

In 1950 some 35 percent of dwellings lacked full indoor plumbing. Many families still did not have telephones or cars. And of course very few people had televisions. A modern American family at the 12th percentile (that is, right at the poverty line) surely has a flushing toilet, a working shower, and a telephone with direct-dial long-distance service; probably has a color television; and may well even have a car. Take into account improvements in the quality of many other products, and it does not seem at all absurd to say that the material standard of living of that poverty-level family in 1996 is as good as or better than that of the median family in 1950.

Continue reading

October 20, 2008 Posted by | Economics, Equality, Poverty | Leave a comment

The Politics of Alfred E. Smith

On Thursday, the presidential candidates for both of the two major parties appeared at the Al Smith Dinner, an annual fundraiser for Catholic Charities which has been a frequent election campaign stop for presidential hopefuls since Kennedy and Nixon appeared there in 1960. The speeches given by the candidates at the Al Smith Dinner are, by tradition, supposed to be funny, and this year the candidates did not disappoint (video of both speeches can be found here). Both Senator Obama and Senator McCain showed themselves to be quite capable of poking fun at their opponents and at themselves which was, I think, all to the good.

One line in particular, though, struck me as odd. During his remarks, Senator Obama stated that he “shared the politics of Alfred E. Smith and the ears of Alfred E. Newman.” Now, obviously, the worst thing you can do with a joke is overanalyze it, but I had to wonder: exactly what were the politics that Barack Obama thought he had in common with Al Smith? Continue reading

October 18, 2008 Posted by | America, Catholicism, Election, History, Politics | 1 Comment

Easy Come, Easy Go

Hawaii is dropping the only state universal child health care program in the country just seven months after it launched.

Gov. Linda Lingle’s administration cited budget shortfalls and other available health care options for eliminating funding for the program. A state official said families were dropping private coverage so their children would be eligible for the subsidized plan.

“People who were already able to afford health care began to stop paying for it so they could get it for free,” said Dr. Kenny Fink, the administrator for Med-QUEST at the Department of Human Services. “I don’t believe that was the intent of the program.”

More. Commenting at Cato, Michael Cannon makes a telling point: Continue reading

October 18, 2008 Posted by | Government, Health Care | Leave a comment

Did the Government Cause the Housing Bubble?

In a sense, the answer is yes. Were we currently living in a state of anarchy, it is unlikely that the U.S. (or, I should say, the geographical area that now comprises the U.S.) would be experiencing the aftereffects of a bad housing bubble right now. Most people who blame the government for the current crisis, however, don’t have it mind government protection of property and contract rights. Rather, focus have tended to, well, focus on the government’s efforts to boost homeownership, as exemplified by the Carter-era Community Reinvestment Act. The CRA, according to an increasingly popular (and populist) telling, forced banks to lend to people with bad credit and low incomes, and when it turned out (unsurprisingly) that they were unable to pay back the money lent, this set off a chain reaction that led straight to the current mess.

The “CRA did it” explanation is, as I said, increasingly popular among conservative commentators and free market proponents. Among those more familiar with the details of the crisis, by contrast, the theory has less adherents. This goes even for those experts who are generally quite market-friendly. I was listening to my favorite talk radio host interview a conservative economist. The talk show host was convinced that the credit crisis was the result of “government lowering lending standards,” and seemed quite taken aback when his guest declined to endorse the view. Continue reading

October 16, 2008 Posted by | Economics, Economy | Leave a comment

Obama/Palin 08

Elections, it is often said, should be about issues, not personalities, and there is a lot to be said for this view. The only problem (or, rather, the main problem) is that, regardless of what people might say, in practice who people decide to vote for is often based on anything but their stance on the issues.

Exhibit A. During a recent broadcast, Howard Stern sent a “reporter” to Harlem to ask Obama supporters whether they agreed with his views on the issues. Except that, instead of giving Obama’s real views on the issues, the reporter substituted in the views of McCain, even asking Obama supporters whether they would be comfortable with Palin as Vice President should Obama be elected. The result: when associated with Obama, McCain’s views suddenly become a lot more popular among Democratic leaning voters. Continue reading

October 14, 2008 Posted by | Election | 1 Comment

Krugmania

Like Morning’s Minion, I would like to congratulate Paul Krugman on his Nobel win. While Krugman’s writing on economics is not without its problems (see here for a critique), like the girl in the nursery rhyme when he was good he was very very good. He’s obviously a first-rate intellect and theorist, and people have been mentioning his name and “Nobel” in the same sentence for about as long as I can remember. So, in honor of Krugman’s win, bellow are some of my favorite of his more popular articles:

In Praise of Cheap Labor.

The Accidental Theorist.

Unmitigated Gauls.

Ricardo’s Difficult Idea.

Downsizing Downsizing.

The Living Wage.

October 13, 2008 Posted by | Economics | Leave a comment

Economics for Smarty-Pantses

A couple weeks ago, Darwin approvingly posted a link on his blog to a post called “Economics for Dummies” by a guy named, I believe, Bernard Brandt, which purported to be an exposition of the cause of and cure to society’s recent financial troubles. I have a lot of respect for Darwin’s opinion in such matters, but I found the post underwhelming and said so, laying out some of the substantive problems I had with his analysis.

Well it seems that I attracted the guy’s attention, as he now has up a long post responding to my critique point by point. Continue reading

October 13, 2008 Posted by | Economics, Economy | 4 Comments

Rich and Poor Share Economic Views

With the financial crisis weighing on everyone’s minds, many debate whether our government’s economic policies cater to the rich over the poor.

But a new study finds it would be impossible to serve only one socioeconomic group, because people’s preferences tend to be overwhelmingly similar when it comes to how the federal government should spend its money. Continue reading

October 3, 2008 Posted by | Economics, Politics | Leave a comment

Did I Miss It?

Last week Harvard economics professor posted an email from an unnamed economics professor on his blog chiding his fellow economists for being too nonchalant about the current financial situation and the proposed government bailout of banks, and included this ominous sounding warning:

A LOT of payrolls get paid at the end of the month. The next for many companies is September 30. Three different people with hugely relevant knowledge said to me today words to the effect of: “Why don’t your economist buddies want [insert fortune 100 company/companies here] to be able to pay their employees on Tuesday. If Washington doesn’t do something now, they won’t be able to”. That just scared the hell out of me. I can go into more details if you like, but all of them involve the four horsemen of the apocalypse.

After it was posted, these comments were cited by several bloggers and others as evidence that the proposed bailout plan had to be passed immediately.

It is hard to judge the credibility of what an unnamed economics professor says he was told by some unnamed third parties about the financial situation of some unnamed Fortune 100 companies. The warning might be legitimate, or it might be a bit of scaremongering. Fortunately, this particular warning contained an easily testable prediction: if Washington did not pass a bailout by September 30th, some Fortune 100 company would be unable to meet payroll.

Well, September 30th came and went, and no bailout was passed. I haven’t seen anything about any Fortune 100 companies being unable to meet payroll. Did it happen and I just missed it?

October 1, 2008 Posted by | Economics, Economy | 1 Comment

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