Random thoughts, 16 May 2009

2009/05/16

For the past week or so, there has been quite a bit of hot air flying around regarding what House Speaker Pelosi knew regarding the enhanced interrogation techniques, and whether or not she (or the CIA) lied about the extent of her knowledge of said techniques. [1] For the record, I would consider it quite hypocritical for her to suggest that former Bush II administration officials should be prosecuted for their role in these matters, if she, herself, knew about these methods from a relatively early point in time (around 2002, if I recall correctly). For the moment, I am more inclined to believe the CIA, and not Speaker Pelosi, mostly because it just does not seem that the CIA would have a vested interest in lying on the topic at the time the briefing with Pelosi took place. Given that the Bush II administration had already solicited legal approval for the techniques in question, why would the CIA feel that they needed to hide what they were doing? It seems to me that they would not have a problem relying on these legal opinions, especially considering that the “worst case” scenario (such as what is currently taking place now), i.e. calls for prosecutions of the Bush II officials, has not been extended to include those who actually performed the interrogations, only those who authorized their use and those whose legal opinions led to said authorization. That said, regardless of how this turns out, I continue to be amused while watching Pelosi squirm on national TV. It is so very funny!

In economic news, there appears to be further evidence that the “swift, decisive” action promised via the Stimulus bill from last year is, well, anything but. [2] I have been occasionally encountering anecdotal evidence, both online and in broadcast news, that this has been the case, but this is not particularly surprising, when you stop to think about it. While the Stimulus bill itself probably did not enlarge the size of the Federal government too much, keep in mind that the money still needs to navigate its way through the various Federal agencies (otherwise known as The Bureaucracy) before it can reach the intended destinations. Granted, I did not read the full text of the Stimulus bill (seriously, who has that sort of time?), but I would be very surprised if the bill restructured the Federal bureaucracy in any meaningful way. This is one of the primary issues I have with any Federal agency that is responsible for some type of dole: no matter how noble the goal might be, the funding for said goal still needs to work its way through the proverbial red tape. This inherently leads to delays in getting funds where they need to go, not to mention that each step of the way through the bureaucracy needs to receive its own pound of flesh (i.e. funding) to perform its job – one wonders just how much the bureaucracy consumes for every dollar of allocated funds. If it is taking up to six months (or more) for emergency funds to reach the recipients that most need them, this does not bode well for some of the other programs the President wants to implement, particularly nationalized health care – what happens to patient care if the doctors must wait months to receive approval to perform a particular procedure and/or to receive their payments for services rendered? This sort of inefficiency is, in many ways, unavoidable in a system that must oversee and coordinate programs across a nation as large as ours, which is one of the primary reasons that I do not favor seeing the Federal government expanding its influence into areas that might just as easily be handled by state or local governments. Ah well, I suppose we will find out the hard way if such national systems will work or turn out to be costly and inefficient nightmares. Alas.

In other domestic news, there appear to be some dueling opinionating going on regarding a Catholic priest who has admitted to having a two-year-long affair with, *gasp!* a woman. [3][4] At least it wasn’t a 12-year old boy. [5] Both sides are not without merit, and, for what its worth, priests were once allowed to marry, as Rev. Cozzens points out; as I understand it, the stipulation for celibacy stemmed from some of the complications that arose during such times – some of which Rev. Cozzens admits will likely return if priest are allowed to marry. Priests are, after all, human. Meanwhile, Rev. Barron points out the widely-held belief behind why priests should be celibate, but it is a little surprising to me that his explanation of the official doctrine is more than a little convoluted. It is rather simply explained in the Catechism:

All the ordained ministers of the Latin Church, with the exception of permanent deacons, are…called to consecrated themselves with undivided heart to the Lord and to “the affairs of the Lord”…[6]

As it was once explained to me long ago when I was in Catholic schools, priests are, in effect, married to the Church itself; to also marry a woman would be unfair to both spouses, as the priest in question would be required to divide his time between his duties to the Church, and those to his wife. The official Catholic doctrine surrounding the Sacrament of Marriage also makes it difficult to reconcile these teachings with the notion of married priests:

From a valid marriage arises a bond between the spouses, which, by its very nature, is perpetual and exclusive; furthermore, in a Christian marriage, the spouses are strengthened and, as it were, consecrated for the duties and the dignity of their state by a special sacrament. [7]

and further,

The love of spouses requires, of its very nature, the unity and indissolubility of the spouses’ community of persons, which embraces their entire life: so that they are no longer two, but one flesh. They are called to grow continually in their communion through day-to-day fidelity to their marriage promise of total mutual self-giving. [8]

It is also significant that the Sacrament of Holy Orders is often described within the Church in terms that are (probably intentionally) very closely related to the terms used to describe marriage, though in this case, the marriage is to the Church and to the duties expected of the priest. If the Pastor at my mother’s church is any indication, all of his waking hours (and some of the hours he should probably use for sleeping) are consumed by the duties he performs as a priest; I find it very difficult to believe that he could also make room in such a busy schedule for a wife and family, as well. I suppose that it is possible for some individuals to handle such responsibilities, but I also suspect that such individuals are the exception, and not the rule.

Also in domestic news, apparently, the Church of Environmentalism [*] is annoyed that the forthcoming climate change legislation is not environmentally friendly enough. [9] I suspect that these zealots do not fully appreciate the legislative process and its intricacies, though I suppose that not many zealots do – or care, for that matter. Though I am sure that no zealot would willingly admit it, their zealotry generally blinds them to the need for compromise – particularly when dealing with individuals or groups who – inexplicably – do not agree with their firmly-held beliefs. Wake up, folks. Of course, things could always be better; they could also be much, much worse, so be thankful for what you’re getting.

Finally, in today’s WTF?!? moment, apparently, wheels really do fall off of planes! [10] I am sure that I am not the only airline passenger who has worried and/or joked about just this sort of occurence at some point. Thankfully, none of the passengers were hurt (the landing gear assembly has two wheels, and only one actually came off), but it is still just a little freaky, nonetheless. Yikes!

Notes:

[1]: See here and here, from CNN commentaries / Political Ticker; 15 May 2009 and 16 May 2009, respectively.

[2]: CNN article, 15 May 2009.

[3]: CNN article on the priest himself here, 11 May 2009.

[4]: Commentaries for and against celibacy for priests here and here, respectively; both from 15 May 2009.

[5]: Okay, okay, that was unfair. I will do penance…later.

[6]: Catechism of the Catholic Church, Second Edition, Part 2, Article 6, Section VI, Paragraph 1579.

[7]: Catechism of the Catholic Church, Second Edition, Part 2, Article 7, Section IV, Paragraph 1638.

[8]: Catechism of the Catholic Church, Second Edition, Part 2, Article 7, Section V, Paragraph 1644.

[9]: Time Magazine online article, 16 May 2009.

[10]: CNN article, 15 May 2009.

[*]: In case you’re wondering why I keep referring to the Church of Environmentalism, it is a term I first encountered while perusing an earlier iteration of the Random Musings blog; see here for the origin of the term.

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2 Responses to “Random thoughts, 16 May 2009”

  1. MI Says:

    In fairness, it should be noted that stimulus $ can indeed be distributed quite rapidly – despite bureaucracy – if the government chooses to do so. Recall the distribution of the 2008 Bread & Circuses (oops, I meant “stimulus”) checks, which IIRC took a few months at most. Downside is that (I believe) the multiplier from that sort of stimulus tends to be lower than other possibilities (e.g., infrastructure). Plus, this sort of rapid execution lends itself to errors like stimulus checks to dead people.

    Given my druthers, I would’ve devoted the bulk of fiscal stimulus to block grants to states, infrastructure spending using the same (i.e., few) procurement rules of the I-35W rebulding, & maybe some sort of rapidly-distributable tax cuts (e.g., 2008-style “stimulus checks”, temporary payroll tax holiday), with the goal of distributing virtually all of the $ within a year of enactment.

    • seeker312 Says:

      Point conceded regarding fast distribution of Bread & Circuses funds. The point here is that this was not done with the Stimulus bill; from what little I’ve read of the text, the money was primarily distributed to various agencies and such, who would then use the money as necessary. This, of course, means that the money has to flow through the bureaucracy before it gets where it is needed (if it ever gets there). Methinks that few of the towns such as the one referenced in the article will see any funds at all, once all is said and done.

      I think you’re also correct regarding alternative means of disbursing the cash: allocate funds to each state (by population? number of taxpayers?), then hold final disbursement to each state until the latter provides a specific outline for how the funds will be spent (just to verify that the funds will be allocated properly, i.e., to infrastructure, tax rebates, etc.). Of course, I also remember a semi-serious proposal to allocate all the funds to the taxpayers in exactly the same manner as the stimulus checks (which would work out to just under $5,800 for every single taxpayer in the nation); one wonders if this would’ve been more successful…


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