Liberty vs. Leviathan

Chronicling Liberty's battle against Leviathan

Bearing false witness

Thou shalt not bear false witness against thy neighbour.  Exodus 20:16

It’s no secret that Rick Santorum is trying to win the social conservative voting bloc. It’s also no secret that he realizes Ron Paul stands in his way and thus has to be neutralized.  One of the recent tactics Santorum has employed in this quest is the classic ploy of distorting an opponent’s record.

Last week we saw that Santorum was unequivocally wrong when he stated that Paul “…doesn’t vote for anything restricting abortion on a federal level…”  To paraphrase Reagan, “Well, he’s done it again.”  In the recent South Carolina GOP CNN Debate Santorum claimed that Paul’s pro-life voting record, as scored by the National Right to Life Committee, was 50 percent, no better than Harry Reid’s.

From the debate:

Congressman Paul has a National Right to Life voting record of 50 percent, which is pretty much what Harry Reid’s National Right to Life voting record is. So for — to go out and say that, you know, you’re someone who stands up for the right to life, you repeatedly vote against bills on a federal level to promote the right to life, and you say that this is an individual personal decision or state decision. Life should be protected, and you should have the willingness to stand up on a federal level and any level of government and protect what our — excuse me — what our declaration protects, which is the right of our Creator to life, and that is a federal issue, not a state issue.

You can hear it in this video at the 1:50 mark:

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Fifty percent didn’t sound right so I did a little checking.  Here are the NRLC scores of Paul and Santorum for all the Congressional sessions for which NRLC has scores.  (For the sake of argument let’s assume the NLRC score is the standard for evaluating a person’s commitment to the pro-life cause, I don’t, but we’ll assume it).

Congressional Paul Santorum
Session Score % Votes Score % Votes
105   (1997) 95 20 100 15
106   (1999) 75 19 / 20 100 9
107   (2001) 81 16 100 2 / 3
108   (2003) 72 11 100 11
109   (2005) 55 9 / 11 100 4
110   (2007) 80 5 / 7 x x
111   (2009) 100 5 / 6 x x
112   (2011) 100 6 / 7 x x

Here are a few things to notice:

  • The only time Paul had a score near 50 was six or seven years ago during the 109th Session.
  • Paul has received a score of 100 for the current session and the previous session.
  • Except for the 108th Session Paul cast  more votes than Santorum in each session thus more opportunity to cast a vote deemed unfriendly to NRLC.
  • Santorum has had no votes since 2006.  That’s because he was not re-elected, many believe due to his support of abortion proponent Arlen Specter in Specter’s 2004 campaign.

Now, let’s look at that 109th Session score in detail.  First the number itself then how it was calculated.

Why did Santorum cite 50 percent and not 55?  I’m willing to give Santorum the benefit of the doubt and chalk the inaccuracy up to sloppy rounding or poor prep from his aides.  He can not, however, be excused for citing this score from three sessions ago while omitting Paul’s 100 percent score from the current and previous sessions.   Pointing out that Paul had this rating in 2006 would have been fair.  Attributing this score to Paul today is not.  It’s a blatant misrepresentation of fact and Santorum is wrong to try to get by with it.

Even if Santorum is wrong in citing this score as a current score, through the eyes of a social conservative it still doesn’t look good for Paul to have such a low score smack in the middle of all the others.  So why is it so low?

Let’s break down the votes NRLC tracked during the 109th Session.  Representatives were tracked and scored on eleven votes during the session.  Paul did not vote on two of those, voted “with” the NRLC on five and “against” the NRLC on 4, thus the 55 percent (5/9 = .55)

So what were those issues upon which Paul voted “against” the NRLC?  Using the NRLC score card numbering system Paul voted “against” the NRLC on votes 2, 3, 4 and 10.  Each of these votes was on either the Child Interstate Abortion Notification Act or an amendment to this bill.  (In short, the bill made a federal crime of an adult transporting a minor across state lines in order to procure an abortion and avoid state laws requiring parental participation in an abortion decision.)

This reveals at least two flaws in using a political action committee’s evaluation of a candidate when making decisions about who to support.

First, Paul was penalized for voting several times on the same bill.  If tracked by bill Paul would have had a score of  80 (4 bills “with” and 1 “against”).

Second, the NRLC scoring system only takes into account the vote, not the reasoning behind the vote.  With just a little effort one learns that Paul thought the intent of the bill was “laudable” but also flawed and unconstitutional:

Mr. Speaker, in the name of a truly laudable cause (preventing abortion and protecting parental rights), today the Congress could potentially move our Nation one step closer to a national police state by further expanding the list of Federal crimes and usurping power from the States to adequately address the issue of parental rights and family law…

…Should parents be involved in decisions regarding the health of their children? Absolutely. Should the law respect parents’ rights to not have their children taken across State lines for contemptible purposes? Absolutely. Can a State pass an enforceable statute to prohibit taking minors across State lines to avoid laws requiring the involvement of parents in abortion decisions? Absolutely. But when asked if there exists constitutional authority for the Federal criminalizing of just such an action the answer is absolutely not.

This federalizing may have the effect of nationalizing a law with criminal penalties which may be less than those desired by some States. To the extent the Federal and State laws could co-exist, the necessity for a Federal law is undermined and an important bill of rights protection is virtually obliterated. Concurrent jurisdiction crimes erode the right of citizens to be free of double jeopardy.

So in this case, Paul supported the intentions behind the bill, but he disagreed with the method being proposed to bring those intentions to life.  And his disagreement was based on the Constitution and the oath he took to uphold the Constitution, not on his allegiance to a PAC or party.

One final point.  To compare Paul’s 55 percent score with Harry Reid’s 50 percent is disingenuous.  Reid cast four votes.  Two of those were “with” the NRLC, the two votes he cast for the Child Interstate Abortion Notification Act, the act that Paul warned would increase the scope of the Federal government.  Reid voted “against” the NRLC on the same issues Paul voted “with” the NRLC, the ones that would have authorized funding to pro-abortion organizations.  The common theme in Reid’s vote is an increase in the scope of government.  The theme in Paul’s votes is one of keeping the scope of government contained within the confines of the Constitution.

When one looks beyond the sound bites, it’s easy to see that Ron Paul is a pro-life candidate.  The disagreement Santorum and the NLRC have with Paul is not based on differing views on the sanctity of life and the evil of abortion.  The disagreement is based on their differing views on strategy and on the role a Constitutionally constrained Federal government has in making laws restricting abortion.  Santorum should admit as much, acknowledge that Paul is pro-life (2005, 2007, 2009, 2011 among others) and stop bearing false witness.

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Relocation

One of my favorite blogs, The Western Confucian, has relocated both geographically and virtually.  His new address is The Pittsford Perennialist.

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Context

In an attempt to add some clarity to blogosphere conversations involving economics and the Catholic Church here’s a brief comment on “common good” and Doug Douma’s post  “Don’t be duped by this dope, errr, Pope” at Libertarian Christians (LC) .

In the post LC quotes a Reuters article that quotes Pope Benedict XVI.  The Reuters quote comes from a response the Pope gave during a Q&A session with reporters on his way to Spain last week.

In addition to being taken out of context (by Reuters, not LC), the Reuters quote does not accurately reflect the transcript of the Q&A session provided by Zenit.

Reuters’ version reads:

The economy cannot be measured by the maximum profit but by the common good,

The Zenit version reads:

Man must be at the center of the economy and the economy must not be measured according to greatest profit, but according to the good of all.

LC comments on the Reuters version that “one cannot “measure the economy” at all; neither by the common good nor by maximum profit.”

First let’s recognize that the Pope and LC are in agreement that the economy can not be measured by profit.

LC also states that the economy can not be measured at all, whether by profit or “common good” [emphasis mine] and welcomes an explanation of how one would measure the economy by the common good.

I doubt whether the Pope would make a case that the economy could quantitatively be measured by the common good.  I think instead he would discuss the implications of what it means for man to be at the center of the economy.  (The economy being for man, not the other way around, man for the economy.)

From this response of the Pope and from what I’ve read of Catholic social teaching (Rerum NovarumQuadragesimo Anno, Centesimus Annus, Caritas in Veritate), I think the point the pope was trying to make is that man, acting man, must be the focus of how we evaluate the economy, not the mere P&L of corporations or the growth rate of the GDP.  The “good of all” or the “common good” is what’s good for all of us (universally) in the context of justice and charity; equal application of the law (GM and Chrysler comes to mind), lack of favoritism for certain classes (TARP and Cash for Clunkers comes to mind) and so on.

Being the head pastor of the universal Church, the Pope would not offer specific economic prescriptions to be enacted in this or that local or national economy.  What he will do though is work to guide the discussion and reflection to the moral and spiritual framework which supersedes the economic framework.  I think in this case he was gently saying that the economy should not be evaluated by aggregate, materialistic statistics so prevalent in our Keynesian world but rather it should be evaluated in the context of “a [moral] framework that honors the dignity of man and allows man to pursue not only material gain but also his higher calling.

*Word cloud of Caritas in Veritate by Wordle

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Leonie!

Today a quick but needed break from the farcical drama of DC to draw attention to the Liberty that is eternal.

This past summer your blogger had the great fortune to be involved in a small way with the making of a movie. It’s a period piece set in nineteenth century France. The main character is Leonie Martin, an older and difficult sister of St. Thérèse of Lisieux. The story is about Leonie’s difficulties and the Love that conquered them.

The target release for the film is this summer. A featurette and Facebook page for the movie have recently been created. As with any movie on a budget it’s imperative that word gets out and interest piqued in order to help place it in as many theaters as possible. If you have any interest at all please view the links below and spread the word to anyone in your own network who also may be interested.

Leonie! featurette

Leonie! Facebook page

Leonie! at Holy Trinity Productions

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¡Viva Cristo Rey!

“Long live Christ the King!”  The last words of Father Miguel Pro, S.J. before being executed by firing squad for his faith.

One day after the Feast of Christ the King Catholics celebrate today the Memorial of Blessed Miguel Pro, Jesuit priest and Christian martyr, executed November 23, 1927, on the orders of Mexican President Plutarco Elías Calles.  Falsely accused and convicted without trial, his crime was his refusal to submit to the laws outlawing the practice of his Catholic faith.

A master of disguise, the photograph above shows him disguised as a mechanic, his attire for a conference with cab and bus drivers.

The president’s desire to make a spectacle of his execution has given us a treasure of photographs from that day.  Below Fr. Pro walks towards his execution.  Center, he prays before his execution.  At bottom, barely moments before the executioners’ bullets hit.

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Frédéric Bastiat

Sophism is not a word often read or heard by the eyes and ears of the twenty-first century. It is a word, however, we would do well to become more familiar with. At its root lies wisdom, but the Sophists of the fifth century BC damaged that root for all time; so that rather than relating to wisdom, it is now used to indicate a “plausible but fallacious argument”. It is this fallacious meaning that Frédéric Bastiat had in mind when he titled his collection of essays Economic Sophisms (pdf version here). And while the term in modern use can also indicate an intention to deceive, Bastiat mostly thought the best of his intellectual opponents and assumed that they were not the authors, but rather, the victims and unwitting propagators of the deceit inherent in economic fallacies.

Sophisms, praised as the “…best literary defense of free trade available…” is a collection of two different series of essays defending free trade against the economic fallacies of mid nineteenth century France. In the First Series, a collection of twenty-three essays first published together in 1845, Bastiat examines free trade from many different perspectives employing a variety of writing styles. Most of the essays are written in a conversational prose with an occasional one being satire or story. The Second Series of seventeen essays was originally published in 1848. In terms of style this series differs from the first in that over half of the essays are stories, dialogues or satire with only a few being written in prose.

On the first read, the essays in Sophisms may appear to be repetitious. Even Bastiat admits as much when he says that repetition, “…the inherent defect of this little work…” is also “…its principal utility.” There is, in fact, much repetition, but it is intentional.  Bastiat is following the advice of Jean-Baptiste Say, who was a major influence on his economic formation. In his Introduction to A Treatise on Political Economy, Say states:

To obtain a knowledge of the truth, it is not then so necessary to be acquainted with a great number of facts, as with such as are essential, and have a direct and immediate influence; and, above all, to examine them under all their aspects, to be enabled to deduce from them just conclusions, and be assured that the consequences ascribed to them do not in reality proceed from other causes. [Emphasis added]

And indeed, Bastiat does examine the facts under all aspects. In every case, whether the satirical petition to the king to have the right hand of all his subjects cut off or the passionate warning of the perversion of the meaning of words, Bastiat examines the facts of protectionist economic policies and exposes the fallacies upon which the policies are built. In each case he follows more of Say’s advice to “…discover the chain which binds them [facts] together, and always, from observation, establish the existence of the two links at their point of connexion (sic).” In his own Introduction Bastiat echoes Say with an explanation of the complexities of mounting a defense against the simple half-truths of his opponents:

… we cannot limit ourselves to the consideration of a single cause and its immediate effect. We know that this effect itself becomes in its turn a cause. In order to pass judgment on a measure, we must, then, trace it through the whole chain of its effects to its final result. In other words, we are reduced, quite frankly, to an appeal to reason.

Thus his reasons for repetition.

Free trade is the obvious theme of the Sophisms, but it’s addressed through many different fallacies. Some of the fallacies include, imports destroy the country’s wealth; high prices increase the country’s wealth; a favorable balance of trade increases wealth; general welfare is incompatible with justice and peace; economics is based on theory, not real life, and more. His most famous essay in Sophisms, “A Petition”, is a fictitious request for a law to forbid sunlight indoors. To do so would increase jobs and industry including whaling, shipping, agriculture, manufacturing and more. Not a Frenchman would miss out on the prosperity. Of course, the request is absurd, but, as in many of the essays, he uses the absurdity to point out the harm brought to consumers in order to create or protect jobs and industry.

And it is the role of the consumer that is Bastiat’s main point through and through. His mission is to show the reader the many and varied ways that the sophisms bring him harm:

In regard to the question that I have been dealing with, each sophism doubtless has its own phraseology and its particular meaning, but all have a common root: the disregard of men’s interests in their capacity as consumers. To show that this sophism is the starting point for a thousand roads to error is to teach the public to recognize it, to understand it, and to mistrust it under all circumstances.

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Jealousy and Disorder

Every day in the Catholic Church parishioners around the world read the same Scripture passages during the Mass – an Old Testament reading, a responsorial Psalm, a New Testament reading and a Gospel passage.  I thought today’s New Testament reading from the Epistle of James was especially pertinent to our times.  James is writing to Christians of course, pointing out the consequences, disorder and evil practices, of their passions, jealousy and selfish ambition, and calling them to conversion and prayer in a way that denies their passions.

Beloved: Where jealousy and selfish ambition exist, there is disorder and every foul practice.  But the wisdom from above is first of all pure, then peaceable, gentle, compliant, full of mercy and good fruits, without inconstancy or insincerity.  And the fruit of righteousness is sown in peace for those who cultivate peace.  Where do the wars and where do the conflicts among you come from?  Is it not from your passions that make war within your members?  You covet but do not possess.  You kill and envy but you cannot obtain; you fight and wage war.  You do not possess because you do not ask.  You ask but do not receive, because you ask wrongly, to spend it on your passions.

As fallen creatures, we have enough troubles brought upon us and our neighbors by indulging these passions on our own.  How much worse off are we having those in government incite these passions in us for their own ends.

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Martyr of Charity

Feast of St. Maximilian Kolbe, Martyr of Charity, who gave his life so that Franciszek Gajowniczek could live.  Since learning of him years ago I’ve been drawn to his courage to speak Truth to power and his trust in Divine Love.

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Love in Truth

This week Pope Benedict XVI’s much anticipated social encyclical Caritas in Veritate arrived.  Your blogger has started it but is nowhere near completing it so I’ll refrain from commenting on it specifically.  It’s not a quick read.

As would be expected there’s much commentary on it on the web this week, Google will give you the mainstream media, The Western Confucian has a nice compilation of Catholic media articles, the Acton Institute has a page devoted to it and The Distributist Review has some thoughts (I especially like the pdf format of the letter The DR created).

I thought today though that I’d offer an alternative to the print reviews.  What follows are archives from a daily show, Kresta in the Afternoon, hosted on a local Catholic radio station.   One of the attractive aspects of this show is the depth of conversation and the lack of sound bites.  The discussions are from the past week and feature men who are serious about their faith, committed to Truth and are seeking to understand and apply the lessons to be gleaned from an earnest study of the letter in the context of their Catholic faith.

On Tuesday, July 7, Kevin Schmeising and Harry Veryser were interviewed. Dr. Schmeising is a research fellow at the Acton Institute and Executive Director of CatholicHistory.net.  He discusses the human developement and progress aspects of the encylical.  Dr. Veryser is Professor of Economics and Director of the University of Detroit Mercy Graduate Program in Economics at Macomb University Center.  Dr. Veryser discussed the encyclical in a much different context from most and is well worth listening to.  You can hear Dr. Schmeising at 9:15 of the following link.  Dr. Veryser is at 25:45.

Kevin Schmeising of the Acton Institute and Dr. Harry Veryser of University of Detroit Mercy

On Wednesday, July 8, Kresta spoke with Samuel Gregg of the Acton Institute.  Dr. Gregg is Acton’s Director of Research.  Kresta’s worthwhile commentary begins at 7:15 of the following link and Dr. Gregg’s discussion is at 18:10 where Kresta starts the conversation with the question, “Is this encyclical leftist?”.

Samuel Gregg of the Acton Institute

And finally, Frank Hanna, CEO of Hanna Capital LLC points out that “…what [the pope is] really concerned about is our souls.”  Advance to 40:00 of this link to hear Kresta’s discussion with Hanna.

Frank Hanna on Caritas in Veritate

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Fr. Stanley Jaki, Requiscat in Pace

The Western Confucian brings me the sad news of the death of Fr. Stanley Jaki. While he was best known for his works on science it was two of his works on theology that had a major impact on my life.  His books (And On This Rock, The Keys of the Kingdom) on Jesus’ conversation with His disciples, recorded in Matthew 16:13-20, played a significant role in my reconciliation with the Catholic Church.  This weekend I celebrate my 13th Easter as a Catholic in large part due to his explanation of the Church’s understanding of this passage.  Thanks be to God for his life and may he rest in peace.

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