Marsh, Bonhoeffer, and King Stimulate Considerations of Subsidiarity
Prof. Chas Marsh travelled from the University of Virginia to Washington University in St Louis on Oct 9, 2012 to present a talk entitled: Redeeming the Soul of America: Bonhoeffer, Martin Luter King Jr. and the Promise of the Engaged Scholar. About a hundred attended this Danforth Religion and Politics lecture. The talk was focused on how the practical, "action oriented" theology found in the life's work of Dietrich Bonhoeffer and Martin Luther King Jr. could re ignite a true all encompassing mutual love in all groups living in
Marsh was clear that the court decisions and laws that enforce the
externals of acceptance are a far cry from the true mutual love and deep
acceptance of all groups that is needed.
. . . Brief Histories of Bonhoeffer and King
Marsh spent the
greater part of his talk giving the history of Bonhoeffer and King and how they
found themselves in situations where peaceful Christian protest was
the only authentic response to the injustice they saw.
Bonhoeffer confronted the Nazi regime in his home
country of Germany. This government led by Hitler was torturing and killing
Jews. Bonhoeffer was imprisoned for his protests and toward the end of WWII was
executed by the regime.
Bonhoeffer in his early studies as a
Christian scholar had focused on book learning, and it was not until he spent a
year in New York at the Union Theological Seminary in 1931/2 that he was
introduced to the "hands on", expressive theological practice found in
Harlem and particularly at the Abyssinian Baptist Church then being pastored by
Adam Clayton Powell, Sr. This experience changed Bonhoefer. He went back to
Germany and when Hitler began to persecute Jews, Bonhoeffer felt he had no
choice, he had to help these down trodden people, He challenged the powerful
authoritarian centralized state that was Germany and that state ended up jailing
him and then killing him.
King, on the other hand, had wanted to be
a teacher after graduating from Boston University's Theology program but was
unable to land such a position so he became the minister of a Baptist church in
Montgomery, Alabama. He was therefore the natural leader for his people to
rally around when the non violent bus boycott and sit ins came to Montgomery.
His fame was increased by the fact that his home was bombed, fortunately no one
was hurt. Later he helped create the Southern Christian Leadership Conference
(SNLC) which helped downtrodden blacks all across the south. King, like Ghandi,
believed in non-violent protest and used his non-violent tactics to draw the
attention of Washington's politicians and Federal judges to the problems in the
south. King was successful focusing the power of a great centralized government
on segregation in the south.
. . . Bonhoeffer and King Opposed
Different Levels of Government
Bonhoeffer and King sought justice for downtrodden, persecuted people. In both cases they had challenged
government, but in King's case the opponent was the state and local authorities
whereas in Bonhoeffer case the opponent was the national government.
In organizing governmental activity leaders know from history and
logic that the best government is that which is closest to the family and the
volunteer associations close to the family. As government power migrates toward
more distant places its power become unwieldy, or tyrannical, or insensitive to
local nuance, etc.
The Process of Centralization and Then
De-Centralization in Germany.
A word or two about the process
of power centralization in Germany versus the process in America would be
Germany came to be a centralized power through a process of
exterior pressure first from the French via the Napoleonic Wars and subsequent
subjugation. Germans in response allowed strong men to emerge, such as Bismark,
who promoted not only unification of the several German states but also a strong
industrialization policy with tariffs and an expansive foreign policy with a
strong military including a navy and a desire for colonies. Much of this
activity was modeled on English activity in these areas; a principle problem,
Germany was a few decades behind in all these areas. Although the German states
were moving toward unity through the century it was not formalized until 1870
when a consortium of German states were on the verge of victory in the Franco -
Prussian War, an 11 month war initiated by France but won by the Germans.
These trends in Germany remained relatively innocuous for four
decades, until the outbreak of WWI. This war put so much pressure on the German
state that all political power migrated to the center, and the terms of surrender
were so onerous that the people remained in straighten circumstances for twenty
years following the armistice of 11/11/18.
All power resided at
the center in Berlin in 1933 when a Sociopath, named Hitler, was given the
premiership of Germany under a power sharing agreement between political
parties. Hitler used his rousing rhetoric to rally the people, to consoladate
even more power under himself, to engage in a tremendous second war called, not
This led to a second German defeat but this
time onerous reparations were not demanded by the victors and the result was a
reinvigorated, democratic, de-militarized Germany prepared to work constructively as
a member of the community of nations. Germany restored considerable political
power to its regional states, and it joined the EU and is experimenting with
transferring limited authority to this international body.
Germany today understands the importance of voluntary local organizations, such
as churches, and actually promotes these organizations through member contributions
collected through the tax system.
. . . The Process of
Centralization in the U.S.
The US came to its centralization
through arbitrary political redefinition and violent civil war. The founders had
wanted a loose limited government at the center with most power continuing to
reside in the states and localities where it could more easily be shaped by
families and voluntary association. Alexis deTocqueville, a young French
political thinker, noted how well this system worked when he toured America in
the 1830's. But there were others who wanted standardization and uniformity
across all states and localities with the rules set in Washington DC.
Those favoring power at the center were financiers, industrialist and
transportation people, and they had money and could buy access and
influence with politicians and judges.
This trend toward central control can be tracked by noting majority sentiment on the issue of secession over the years. In 1830's the New England states upset by the disruptions caused to their activities by the War of 1812 and later Federal legislation on Maritime trade met in Hartford CT to discuss two questions: 1)
whether the New England states had the right to secede and 2) whether it was a
good idea to actually secede and form a new small country, perhaps to be called
New England. On the first point the representatives voted that the right of any
state to secede existed, but on the second, they voted that their best course
of action at that time was to stay in the union. This position by the New
England's leaders assembled in Hartford was understandable given the logic of
the Declaration of Independence which said people have the right to separate
from a larger government that they were unhappy with.
the Federal government endorsed this view of secession. This was attested to by
the political science texts used at West Point in the 1830's which clearly
articulated the same position agreed to at Hartford.
comes the middle decades of the 1800's. The industrial revolution progressed
quickly in America behind protective tariffs. Railroads were replacing barges
as the preferred mode of transport. The country experimented with centralized
banking to control the money supply. There developed a felt need in certain
regions and among certain occupations to jettison the idea of secession being a
right of each state. The only part of the country not to accept the new
"understanding" on succession was the south.
This of course led to
the political split of 1860 with Lincoln being elected after collecting only 39%
of the popular vote in a four way contest for President. He got a majority of
the electors by winning in several populous Northern States. Lincoln, a lawyer, had
represented railroad interests in Illinois and was close to business interests
that wanted power and control to move from the states to the center. Lincoln's
position on slavery was middle of the road favoring controlled expansion into
the new territories but keeping it were it was already established. But on
tariffs Lincoln was in favor of higher protective tariffs which favored Northern
manufactures who wanted advantageous access to southern consumers. Southern
growers, on the other hand, wanted to keep English manufactures happy by buying
their manufactured goods and thus encouraging them to buy southern cotton. The
Southerners were so upset with Lincoln's stand on tariffs, his support in the South was very weak. Accordingly Lincoln's name
was not on most ballots in the South.
Of course there followed a
very bloody war and its aftermath - which featured four years of open hostility,
which included the freeing of all slaves in the seceding states (but not in
the border states because the Union disperately needed to keep Kentucky from
seceding), which saw a Northern Army impose martial law across the south for a
decade, which engendered tremendous animosity between the newly freed and the
whites who had lost a huge proportion of their young men in the conflict (young men who thought, all the while, that their states had every right to leave the Union if they
. . . How King's Efforts Further a Centralized U.S.
With this background in place Martin Luther King Jr.'s situation can
be better understood. For nearly a century blacks had been systematically
discriminated against by state and local authorities in voting, public
accommodations, education, etc. particularly in the South and to a lesser extent
in parts of the North. So it is easy to why the SCLC choose to go to the center
for their redress of grievances. They wanted Washington to dictate things in a
very detail way to the local level, they wanted changes to be made and those
changes to be checked on periodically to make sure they were being carried out
year after year, decade after decade.
This request initially was
addressed to the Federal Courts which were both the most powerful branch of the
Federal government and the least responsive to the general desires of the
people. (This was true because in 1803 the Federal Courts had arbitrarily
declared themselves the ultimate and final arbiter of all things Constitutional
- rights, interpretation, process, etc. The founders had not anticipated such a
power grab so there was no provision in the Constitution for reigning in
Then, under President Johnson, the Congress got
in the act passing laws that ratified the steps that the Court had initiated.
All these acts that redressed the just grievances of black people occurred in
the 50', 60's and 70's. To be fair, the majority white population has become
much more accepting of blacks over the last 50 years. Affirmative action has found its way into
business, housing, and educational settings in both the north and south. A
black has been elected President.
. . . Where does the U.S. Go from
Still the 50 years of progress has not been enough to cause
the feeling of discrimination to fade within the black community. They seem to
want equality of result rather than simply equality of access. Results are a
function of individual effort, striving for difficult goals. Knowing full well
that most striving will either fail or have only modest success. The number that achieve
great success are few in number and many times such success is found in family
businesses where successive generations build great businesses on the initial modest
success of a grandfather or great grandfather.
So here is the basic
difficulty with the situation the county faces today, Blacks and to a lesser
extent other minorities seem to want continued micro managing by Washington of
the detail activities of the states and localities until equality of results
comes into existence. But good governance principles as articulated by such
thinkers as Aristotle, Aquinas, and Madison would call for these activities to
be organized and administered locally.
As mentioned earlier, this
migration of power to the center, which originated by black emancipation and
fostered by a general desire for black advancement, has given the center a
sense of omniscience and has spread to other areas of activity: environmental,
education, highways, health care, etc. So all these areas have been subjected to detail
control by Washington. Clifford Jones, a now deceased long time State
Senator in Missouri, was often times heard to say "When I was first elected to
the Missouri legislature we would spend our time debating on how best to
allocate the state's money to handle various needs. Lately I find we spend the
vast majority of our time debating how to allocate state revenue to satisfy Federal regulatory and Federal Court
mandates. I can tell you the fun of doing the legislative job is essentially
The America people are fed up. No matter who
they elect to go to Washington, the power at the center never flows back to
the localities. It seems once someone goes to Washington they grow in office,
they drink the "cool-aid", and are educated (and financed) by lobbyists who have
benefited from having Washington control so much of the economy
History tells many stories about large governmental units.
They succeed at first with loose control from the center and lots of autonomy in
but overtime the center increases its level of control and the
process of disintegration begins. It can be internal overreach with too many
laws and regulations, or pressure from outside that can't be adequately resisted
or some combination of the two. It is interesting that occasionally a large
governmental entity will take decisive action to save itself from itself. By 600
AD the Eastern Roman Empire had issued so many laws and regulations it was
strangling itself, so Justinian issued a decree requiring all laws and
regulations be burned everywhere in the empire, and he assembled a group of
scholars to re-write and rationalize the laws. This move helped gave the Empire
many more centuries of life.
To be fair, the Eastern Roman Empire
was also helped by constant pressure from its neighbors, the barbarians to the
north and the Muslim's to the south, these caused the leaders in Constantinople
to avoid hubris and use religious missionary outreach to places like Serbia and
Russia to create allies. However, this religious outreach became a bone of
contention with Rome and helped cause a break with Rome in 1054. This break was a factor when a Crusader army decided to sack Constantinople in the 13th century before going on
America does not have a Constitutional
way to do what Justinian did, so America is likely to suffer disintegration of some
very unpleasant type. ............. (prepared by Hugh Murray on 10/14/2012)
Sense of Guilt is Important
- God gave man a sense of right and wrong. This sense causes man to do several important things after they violate their conscience and experience of pangs of guilt following some sinful or ill considered behavior. These include:
.. 1) causing individual men to think deeply about how to refine their moral thinking,
.. 2) to look for guiding lights, that is people who have made a mark on the moral thinking of lots of people, obvious people here are: Jesus, Buddha, Moses, Confucius, Mohammad, Aristotle, etc.
.. 3) Avoid behaving in immoral ways so as to avoid hurting others and pangs of guilt in the future,
.. 4) After studying the moral leaders mentioned above, joining with organized groups of people that follow one of these leaders, of course, out of these urges new churches are born.
.. 5) raising children to follow along with a group chosen by the earlier generation, this phenomenon cause certain organized church to survive for long periods, etc.
Societies then develop public moralities that are an amalgamations of the moralities of the major churches within their boundaries. These public moralities will closely align with church morality in homogeneous societies. In Sweden liberal Lutheran morality generally holds sway. But in poly- gut societies, such as the US, the public morality is not able to be defined by a majority church, so a truncated or watered down form of morality develops that allows the full involvement of "odd balls" such as gay rights groups, atheists, abortionists, drug users, unwed mothers, etc. Their say is not necessarily disposition as to what the public morality will be, but the established churches, possessed of traditional morality, are constantly having to expend energy to keep these start up moralities from gaining significant traction. In addition, a tangential thrust has developed. With underlying insecurity about what the public morality should be, people in authority, with both public and private organizations, begin setting up their own rules, codifying their own idea of what morality should be. Congress does this, the Supreme Court does this, but so do lowly regulators.
An act which offends our consciences that is an act which all cultures at all time find offensive are call wrongs in themselves or as the Romans would say malum in se. Acts which are wrong only because society says they are wrong are wrongs because they are prohibited by regulation or law. The Romans referred to these as malum prohibitum.
Now oftentimes acts which are malum in se are also malum prohibitum. Murder would be a prime example here. It against the law to murder but it also deeply wounds out conscience. But there are actually situations, not as uncommon as one might think, where acts which are offensive to conscience are actually required to be performed by laws and regulations.
An example of this can be found in the securities industry, where the regulatory group, called FINRA, has declared that a supervisor at a brokerage firm is responsible for knowing intimate details of each of his employees personal situation in such non-work related areas as DWI's and non payment of child support . Not only is the supervisor responsible for digging out this dirt, he has to post this information to the FINRA web site so the whole world can read this information or at least anyone who makes a search inquiry about this particular employee.
Now if the wrong doing or problem had some relationship to the employee's responsibilities or performance serving the clients of the firm, a case could be made that disclosure is important so the digging out and reporting by the supervisor is indicated. However , when the digging and the reporting deals with non-customer related information, standard Christian morality would say that FINRA does not have the right to compel the immoral acts of:
1) digging up non customer related private info and
2) posting it for the world to see.
Recently a brokerage supervisor was sanctioned by FINRA for following his Christian moral principles and not following the FINRA rule book. Instead the supervisor had let his employees know about the reporting requirement and said to let him know if and when things progressed to the point where reporting was needed. Neither employee decided to report their situation promptly. Both the supervisor and the employees were sanctioned .
A second example of this conflict, between right behavior dictated by religious belief and right behavior dictated by some law or regulation, is the current conflict between the Catholic Church and the Health and Human Services Dept.'s regulations regarding the requirement that birth control and abortifacients be a benefit provided under health insurance policies. The Catholic bishops run many hospitals, schools and social services agency that employ hundreds of thousands of people who are provided with health insurance. Catholics are strong opponents of both birth control and abortifacients for biblically based, doctrinal reasons. The HHS mandate will be forcing the Catholic bishops to perform acts they find morally objectionable; that is either paying for birth control and abortifacients or ending their good works in the health care, education and social services areas by closing these institutions.
But this paper is about the importance of a sense of guilt. Consider the bishops and the supervisor the two examples. They can't develop a sense of guilt for opposing the regulations in question. They feel they are doing what their consciences informed by their moral code requires them to do.
On the other hand, for a society to run smoothly it is important that people feel guilt when they violate a law or rule be they malum in se or malum prohibitum. . If people don't feel guilt the only option is governmental force to bring people into daily compliance. The world saw government control on steroids in the USSR under Stalin. It is safe to say, there is not enough governmental force to enforce compliance over a long period for a complex society, such as the US of A, where about 60% of all activity outside the home is either taxed or regulated by government.
Endnote: This paper only makes sense for understanding the 96% of people that have normal consciences. The others are called sociopaths. They are governed by a completely different set of psychic forces. Dr. Martha Stout, of Harvard University, who is also a clinical psychologist, has written a book entitled the "Sociopath Next Door". In this book she points out that 4 percent of the American population are sociopaths with no sense of right and wrong. About one quarter of sociopaths have behaved so badly that they are institutionalized in prisons or mental hospitals. The remaining three quarters remain among us. Their behavior is only constrained by their desire to remain on functionally decent terms with the people around them. They will marry not for love, for they are incapable of normal love. Rather they marry to gain some advantage or greater acceptance from others. They will lie or steal so long as they are not likely to get caught or held to account. These people are attracted to positions or occupations where close long term relationships with the same people are not usual. Sociopaths seek positions were they have access to power over others or the possibility of gaining access to other peoples' money. Politics, law, and financial services are magnets for these people. Close long term relationships are difficult for sociopaths because their antisocial behavior is remembered and others begin to notice repeated instances of behavior that harms others . The damage the non-institutionalized sociopaths do to spouses, children, and business associates is beyond estimate. Martha Stout sees the effect of sociopaths on her clients everyday.
A closing thought if 3% of America falls into the non-institutionalized sociopath category and if the typical mid sized metro area represents 1% of the country's population, then there are about 100,000 non-institutionalized sociopaths in the typical mid-sized metro area. So be on guard.)..................(prepared by Hugh Murray on 11/10/12)
An Open Letter to the US Catholic Bishops - The Catholic Church in America seems not to be serving the faithful very well. Consider the three legs which support every Catholic’s faith.
First, there is spiritual development, here a believer's prayer life and his time spent with God are the focus. For a Catholic, his most intimate time with God is during Mass when he receives the body of Christ and is thus physically united with God.
Second, there is the intellectual knowledge of his faith, its history, its saints, its doctrines, and its many changes over 2000 years. For the Catholic these opportunities are particularly rich because his faith has a long and interesting history.
Third, there are the actual demonstrations of the faith made manifest in actions. For the Catholic there are literally dozens of ways to exhibit in action his inner faith.
By focusing on each of these in turn, current short comings of Church leadership can be seen more easily.
... Developing Spirituality and Prayerfulness in Catholics
The individual Catholic develops his spiritual life and his prayer life, in three general ways:
.. (1) frequent or infrequent attendance at Sunday Mass (and occasionally at daily Mass as well) ,
.. (2) in common devotions entered into with other Catholics (e.g. forty hours devotion, saying group Rosaries, going to a parish days of recollection, etc.), and finally .
.. (3) individual efforts (e.g. going to Confession, home based devotions, novenas, saying a private rosary, spiritual reading such as saying the Office at home every day, etc.) .
Of these three the one that garners the most interest from Catholics is Sunday Mass. The other two take additional time, sometimes considerable time, and in a busy world they are not likely to get much repeat participation. However the Mass, particularly Sunday Mass, gets far and away the most attention from the Catholic faithful. So the Mass has to be the focus of efforts to increase the spiritual sense of Catholics.
So how can the Mass be used to edify the faithful, to increase their spiritual sensitivity? How can the Mass break through to the typical Catholic's inner spiritual core?
... Developing Knowledge about the Faith and a Desire to Know More
What is the typical Catholic’s knowledge of his faith? It is woefully lacking.
Most Catholics have never seen, much less read, a Catholic Catechism or a volume on the lives of the Saints. Many have no familiarity with the organization of the Bible or basic historical facts about how the Catholic Church split from the Orthodox or the Lutherans. They need to be minimally informed when they come to church and stimulated to go further on their own.
Are they likely to attend a study group on Tuesday nights in the basement of the Church? Perhaps 1% would. But the other 99% are still entitled to a short, interesting outreach that must come to them at Sunday Mass where the Church gets its largest assemblage of the faithful. But what could be added to the Mass to trigger these interests?
... Developing a Sense of Volunteering and Helping others needs a Push
An integral part of the Catholic faith is outreach to others. Catholics do pretty good on helping those close to them, their family and neighbors but the stranger is often times held at arms' length.
Fortunately the typical Catholic Parish is large enough to contain within it people of various ages who are unknown to each other but who would benefit from some integration. This interaction would make everyone more accepting of other efforts that help strangers farther afield.
Although giving money to Charitable and Catholic causes should not be discouraged, everyone should try to devote some personal time in face to face charitable endeavors.
... Workable Solutions are Needed to these Challenges
To engender a greater sense of spirituality and deeper closeness to God two simple changes to the Mass would likely work.
.. 1) If all parts of the Mass from the Credo to Communion were said in Latin, rather than English, the congregation would be put on alert, both consciously but also sub-consciously, that something special was happening. They hear Latin rarely and hearing it would set off sub conscious feelings of the approach of God. From age 3 to 103 hearing the Latin would bring an indescribable feeling of "God with us". It might be good if the faithful offered each other "peace" by saying "Pax " rather than the English “peace”. Also all singing from the Offertory through the Communion should be of classical sacred music sung in Latin.
.. 2) If the communion rail with communion distributed on the tongue were brought back, the whole faithful would get a reinforced sense that uniting ourselves with Christ in the host is infinitely different than a kindergartner uniting themselves with a Vanilla Wafer distributed by their teacher at 10AM snack time. Those under 12 will benefit the most from seeing all, who are able, kneel to receive. When a youngster sees his "hard boiled" uncle kneel to receive the host, he knows something very special is happening.
To engender more interest in the Church’s History, Popes, Councils, and Saints, the Mass might be changed slightly. At the end of each Mass a letter could be read from the bishop announcing he had encountered an interesting doctrinal nuance, or saint, or piece of Church History that he wanted to share. The bishops letter should always be at least one minute in length and never more than two, and it should always refers to a book or web site where more information might be obtained. Three years of such letters, if they were information filled and wide ranging as to subject matter, would see a leap in Catholic knowledge of their faith, its history, its saints, its Popes, etc. Of course, the bishop would not have to do the research himself, the council of America bishops could issue five suggested letters each week for the local bishops to plagiarize.
Regarding instilling a sense of charitable outreach in the Catholic community, an approach called "serve and learn" might be tried at each Catholic grade school once each week. There might be a noon Mass once each week at 11:45 followed by a $5.00 sit down, served lunch at the school for the Mass attendees where the grade schoolers served the people from the Mass and then joined the attendees for a few minutes after lunch asking each adult to tell them something interesting about the Catholic faith. The adults (many would be retirees) would love the interaction with the kids and would prepare for the question coming at the end of the meal. The kids would learn to serve strangers, and they would learn more about their faith. Finally, depending on pricing and menu offerings, the parish might make a few bucks.
There are four proposals here to help Catholics strengthen their Catholic faith in three key areas: spirituality and belief, knowledge of Church history and the saints, and Catholic action. The rational behind these four proposals might be explained to the faithful so they would understand why the changes are needed.
Finally these changes can be checked out using polling techniques before they are implemented. Catholics who regularly attend the Traditional Catholic Masses might be invited to focus groups to see what they think of the spiritual impact of hearing Latin during Mass and kneeling to receive communion.
Lay people, who have participated in discussion groups that increase their knowledge of their Faith, might be interviewed. The Manresan Society, a group associated with White House Retreat house in St Louis, has been operating monthly meetings that require members to create original papers that explore aspects of the Faith. These members might be asked what benefit they have received from these exertions.
People who regularly volunteer to do charitable work might be asked at what age did they first involve themselves in doing charitable work benefitting strangers. A surprising large number are likely to say it all started when they were little, when they did something in a controlled environment to help some strangers selected by a teacher or parent........... (prepared by Hugh Murray on 11/12/2012)
God Must Be Thanked for All Great Gifts, Particularly the Fiscal Cliff - God oftentimes works through the most unlikely circumstances or random happenings.
When the administration and the Congress were negotiating the terms of the debt limit extension, they both wanted a hammer that would force future compromise. They created a doomsday machine called a fiscal cliff under which Democrats would see huge spending cuts for many of their favorite big government programs (like the EPA, Education Dept, Dept of Housing, etc.) and Republicans would see cuts to Pentagon programs and a nearly 10% tax increases levied on their favorite constituents - the middle and upper classes. Every politician and pundit felt the pain would be so unbearable the politicians would crack and a more modest compromise involving the budget would be crafted.
Over the ensuing months, the compromise was never worked out and the unthinkable became the thinkable. Even more recently, it is now not only thinkable but likely.
God has blessed America with an eventuality it desperately needs, but one which its politicians have been striving to avoid.
America needs a sharp dose of reality, and the fiscal cliff is about to deliver it:
.1) to taxpayers who have been expecting government services with no notion of what those services cost and
.2) to government workers and government contractors who have been receiving hugely disproportionate rates of compensation compared to comparable workers in the private sector. These two groups are going to be receiving a long overdue wake up call.
All the financial pundits say the economy will lose 4% points of growth if the country goes over the fiscal cliff. Under the rules of static analysis that is probably true; the country would likely go from a plus 2% growth rate to a negative 2% . However, if the effects of the fiscal cliff are not immediately mitigated by legislation passed in early 2013, the world will see that the US is serious about not becoming another Greece and they will see that the US is trying to return to its free market roots. Additionally, small US businesses will take heart and begin to feel that the governmental downsizing may mean fewer and saner regulations in the future. Hiring should begin to pick up by mid-year and the economy should be back in positive growth territory by Labor Day.
Looking into 2013, the debt ceiling is due for another rise, this would be a good time to do another round of tax increases and budget cuts tied to the debt ceiling rise, but this second round should be aimed at entitlements - medicare particularly. The program is broke and the proportion of doctor, hospital and drug costs covered by Medicare needs to be cut by at least 10% from current levels. This would cause many middle and upper income folks to pay a lot more for their medicare supplement policies. This insurance premium increase would be the same as a tax increase on older, richer Americans.
(Note: Those that can not afford the increased costs on their medicare supplemental policies or who are currently only covered by Medicare should be given options:
1) join Medicaid where more of the cost is picked up by the government,
2) directed to a new category of clinic called a "24 hour, ER connected clinic".(These new type of ER clinic would be a new “24 hour per day” department which every ER would be required to set up nearby where people could be seen by internists, pediatricians and/or psychologists as needed and costs to be paid 100% by medicaid and medicare. These 24 hour departments would become the “medical home” for many people.))
If both the first and second fiscal cliffs were to hold for a few years, America would be a different country at least as far as the money side of things were concerned.
Many wonder how the nation’s economy will withstand even one fiscal cliff much less two fiscal cliffs. There are two quick expedience that might help:
. 1) suspend enforcement of all federal workplace regulation which are mostly duplicative of existing state regulation.
. 2) refocus the reduced consumer demand following the cliff(s) on American made “stuff”, rather than half on American and half on foreign made “stuff”, as has been the case for several decades. If we put a temporary 30% tariff on all imports, America consumers will switch their consumption to American made goods and services. Some Americans might postpone purchases and actually pay a repairman to fix their old items rather than throwing them away and buying new.
Additionally the North East is currently cleaning up after Sandy which involves massive expenditure and will contributed a plus to the overall economy of a little less than 1%.
These things would perk up the economy, just as the fiscal cliffs were dampening the economy short term, but, of course, preparing it for much better performance later. .
The country’s other problems involving a lack of respect for: religion, traditional marriage, on the training, the family, community, the elderly, the county’s history and culture, etc. These values related problems will remain with us even after the fiscal cliff(s) have given America renewed fiscal health. ........... (prepared by hugh Murray on 12/08/2012) .
The Scientific Discoveries of the Last 400 years Bolster Belief in God
- When one thinks of all the scientific discoveries of the last 200 to 400 years one’s mind is overawed. The list is huge, but perhaps a few examples should be mentioned: the workings of the solar system, how weather patterns operate, the body’s circulatory system, DNA and its role in cell definition and reproduction, the structure of the atom and the great power residing there, etc.
These discoveries have provided mankind with a better idea of how the universe works. Have aided and guided man’s work thinking about how the world might have come to be. The complexity that was not apparent in 1600 is mind boggling today. Man is challenged to understand the detail of these systems and many men and women work diligently to gain greater and greater understanding.
However, all thoughtful men have to acknowledge a few truths about all these discoveries:
1) these are all parts of very complex systems,
2) complex systems are difficult to design, assembly and “kick off”
3) complex systems need maintenance or adjustments to continue operating and adjusting to changed circumstances,
4) understanding the gross outline or even much detail about such a complex system does not mean the investigator could duplicate such a system much less set it to working, etc.
Take the solar system that houses the earth or the double helix system that houses DNA. Mankind has developed some considerable understanding of both of these systems, but no sane person would claim the ability to duplicate either system from scratch.
These systems reveal the handiwork of an intelligence beyond mankind’s imagining. Mankind has unraveled enough of such systems to sense the extent of God’s greatness.
Some men turn away from this truth, and cling to modern theories of “a spontaneous big bang” and “ unguided evolution”. There are certainly markers in the geological record to support both evolution and a big bang, but that does not negate the fact that God might have, probably did, used such processes to accomplish His ends. After all God had several distinct steps to accomplish following the initial design. He had to kick things off so you have the possible need for a big bang. He had to maintain his systems and yet keep everything on track to create the proper environment for the capstone of his earthly creation - man.
Now of course, men and women as a free will actors, are doing things which effect these systems as well, so God might be taking Man’s actions into account as he adjusts his systems slightly from time to time to keep them functioning properly.
John Kirvan has put together a volume entitled “Let there be Light: Based on the Visionary Spirituality of Hildegard of Bingen”. St Hildegard, a German nun of the Order of St Benedict, lived between 1098 - 1179 . This volume contains the following from her:
“ ‘Who does not know’ as Job says ‘that everything that is, has been made by the hand of the Lord, that he holds in his hand the soul of every living thing, supplying the very breath of all who live?’ Who is there so dull as not to be aware of how the earth nourishes the plants, of how the fruit in turn nourishes the animals, of how the sky holds light and air, of how the air holds the birds? All of them testify that they have been placed here, and are held, by the strong hand of a Universal Ruler who in his strength so provides for them that they lack nothing, that they need. So why then is it so easy for us to forget that we are part of that same creation, dependent on the same strength, provided for by that same generosity?”
If a thoughtful person in the twelfth century can see God in nature, how much easier it is for a thoughtful person in the twenty first century to see God in nature for after all mankind has learned so much more about his works................ (prepared by Hugh Murray on 12/08/2012)
Should the Institute for the Future and Jane McGonigal Coordinate with Dean Kootz
- The Institute for the Future under the leadership of Jane McGonigal is developing computer games designed to help depressed people cope with their illness. These games have a good record for giving people a sense of hope that things are going to get better. These games are not violent, competitive games rather they are games built around mutual help, cooperation, and player success.
However, the games lack a God centered view of the world despite the recognized fact that God is the source of all hope, After all, it is the ultimate hope of man to spend eternity with God. It is God’s message to man that faith in Him leads to an infusion of hope and deep joy. This faith and hope working together in the human heart eventually manifests itself in acts of love and charity toward others. And of course interest in others, rather than intense focus on “the self”, is a precursor to mental health.
Ms McGonigal should have a chat with the author Dean Koontz about the intersection between mental illness and God’s involvement with people. Koontz is an unusual author because he has dealt with mental illness in his own family as well as in many of his writings. Koontz is also deeply interested in God’s actual involvement with people in this life. His fictional characters manifest both “God among us” and “mental illness among us”.
There is an additional reason for McGonigal and Koontz to collaborate. They have geographic proximity since both live out west and they both have familiarity with the Catholic Church, the religion that has the deepest literature discussing the virtue of hope. .......... (prepared by Hughn Murray on 12/08/2012)
Everyone is Too Busy and Dealing with Too much Change
- Yes, the typical American has a mess on his hand. - The treadmill, the rat race, whatever its called, has gotten far worse . It use to be a person would learn his life’s routine and he could more or less just do it each day getting his tasks done. Now he has got all the same tasks, but the way he has to do them is constantly changing and changing.
The number of smart devices keeps multiplying in number, in degree of “integration with other devices”, and is “mutating” into new versions of themselves so rapidly it is mind numbing. All this would be kind of interesting or even humorous if it was “only out there away from me”; if all these entities that require your attention didn’t insist on your immediate adoption of the “latest” and “greatest” version of this new operating system and the integration of your portable device with some new network, etc.
So who are these “entities that require our attention to change”? Well they can be employers, regulators, vendors who supply us with fuel, package delivery, electricity, food, trash pick up, etc. or simply changes to some devices needed to survive like televisions, microwaves, bathroom scales, clothes dryers, autos, etc.
But lately the change has been forced on the population from manufactures of products who chose to alter their products after the user has mastered the product. The manufacture forces this via: the automatic updates of software or operating systems, failure to support older products that have been out for a few years, or issuing a new operating system that requires an upgrade of other existing software that the user has mastered and wants to keep using.
Another way that modern society forces change is through excessive segmentation of electronic communication systems. If a person had mastered e-mail he could communicate with all his connected friends using one software . Today electronic communications are handled through Facebook, Twitter, e-mail, Linkdin, etc. Which requires the user to not only learn all these technologies as well as keep with all the changes being implemented in each system. In the snail mail world of yesteryear govt. regulation had restricted delivery of individualized mail to the US Mail and they in turn exercised control over size and addressing protocols. These governmental restrictions hampered innovation but it had the advantages of standardizing the user experience for many decades.
Another area of change is the store experience. Stores do all sorts of things to generate both customer loyalty and larger purchases. Customer loyalty is generated by giving discount programs where repeat customers get coupons or special discounts if they produce a special card each time they make a purchase. Stores generate additional sales by moving merchandise around so a little purchased item suddenly appears where a popular item was formally located. This forces the preoccupied shopper who needs the popular item to refocus when she suddenly realizes the item she wants is "not there". This forces a the shopper to search, to really look for the desired item. The retailers hopes for a couple of impulse purchases as the shoppers sees things they had overlooked in the past. Of course, the retailer is benefitted but the shopper is forced to deal with additional complexity and change. If this only happened at the local drug store, it might be manageable but when a shopper' s dozen favorite stores do the same thing she has a dozen little discounts cards and is dealing with changed shelving two to four times a week. This change was not invited but it adds to the total change impact none the less.
A bumper strip catches your eye that says “Embrace Change” and you feel a sourness in your stomach and a headache beginning.
Are you crazy? No social scientists report that most people are happiest with routines that seem unchanging but have a few small changes spaced out over time to relieve the monotony and provide some variety. Absolutely no change is not good, but change that is so frequent that it is a regular bother is far worse. There are some people that thrive on constant change, but they are a small minority; and yet these “change junkies” seem to have grabbed the reigns of power in America.
St. Thomas Aquinas, and his predecessor Aristotle, were very suspicious of change and incidently very supportive of tradition. These great thinkers understood most man need routine to have a fulfilled life. They also understood that within change are the opportunity for a few undeserving people to gain undeserved advantage over others.
It is interesting that many other cultures are far less inclined to accept change. It is this cultural difference regarding change that is in part responsible for the tension between Americans and members of the Muslim faith...............(prepared by Hugh Murray on 12/08/2012)
Catholics Treat their Church as Though it’s a Church of Personality Cults or a Church of “What’s Happening Now”
- Most Catholics don’t have any sense of the 2000 year history of their Church. They do not see the Catholic Church as an institution with a rich history and a deep, biblically based doctrine. The Catholic Church has over its 2000 year history extended its reach to every corner of the globe. About 1/3 rd of all the nations in the world have a large plurality or majority of Catholics.
Despite this, people react to what a priest does or a bishop says without looking beyond them to the huge institution beyond. People react to a single teaching of the Church without studying why the Church has decided that teaching is most faithful to Christ’s message in the New Testament. Some people actually leave the Church for years or even the remainder of their lives, having never heard or even suspected there was/is tremendous logical and biblically based support for the Church’s position.
This shallowness results from a multi decade failure of the priests and bishops to teach its young people about the Church’s rich history of doctrinal development, of the activities of the saints, of missionary work done by the Church, etc. The failure even extends to instruction on the sacraments, the apostles, the virtues, the commandments, and even the difference between mortal and venial sin.
The Church, following Vatican II, seemed to preach that the Church was no longer looking back . It was no longer teaching the truths of the Baltimore Catechism. Rather it was looking forward. Forward is good, but knowledge of what came before is essential. Without foundational knowledge even the most highly motivated, well intentioned Catholic is like a leaf floating on a windy sea subjected to being blown hither and yon . Every Catholic needs, a keel so he can put the current news or current priest in perspective and not react rashly to 1) the latest round of alarmist accusations or 2) the latest homily that contains a slip of the tongue ...or this ... or that ..........................
(prepared by Hugh Murray on 12/08/2012)
Should Juice Plus be Available at every Fast Food Outlet? .. an Open letter to Michelle Obama
Dear Mrs. Obama,
You are doing a great job bringing the country's attention to the obesity and poor nutrition problem facing young Americans.
I write to inform you about Juice Plus a food product that contains over ten thousand nutrients obtained directly from 28 different fruits
and vegetables. The juice plus process is a cold process that retains the nutrients while removing most calories. JuicePlus is classified as a processed food product by the FDA. The product comes in two forms: capsules filled with powder and also in chewy "gummy" form for children. There are three different colors - purple, green, and pink. The purple is made from dark things such as blueberries, currents, etc. The green is made from the usual array of vegetables such as spinach, carrots, etc. The pink is made from lighter colored fruits such as oranges, apples, etc.
The nutrients in a serving of a pink, a purple, and a green all taken together would provide the nutrients found in 4.5 servings of fruits and vegetables.
There are HHS guidelines out that call for people to get 10 to 13 servings of fruits and vegetables each day. So if a person takes 2 pinks, 2 purples and 2 greens - 6 capsules in all each day would have the nutritional equivalent of 9 servings of fruits and vegetables. Its not the full FDA recommendation but it’s a good start.
As you already know, obesity and poor nutrition are linked because the body that receives an excess of fat and empty carbohydrates (such as white bread and skinless potatoes) will generate extra feelings of hunger hoping to be feed food that contains the nutrients found in fruits and vegetables. Young people who repeatedly respond to these extra feelings of hunger by eating more of the same kinds of food are soon in the obese category, particularly if they are not very active or prefer sedentary activities (e.g., watching TV, using the computer, etc.)
Here is my proposal for your consideration: 1) You request that Juice Plus develop a small plastic container like a "one serving" ketchup container that holds one pink, one green and one purple. You might ask Juice plus to price these new containers at about $1 to $1.25 each. 2) You might request that all the fast food places in the US carry these plastic containers for resale at $1.75 to $2.00. 3) Ask everyone to call these packs Michele's Nutrition Improvement Packets.
There are a few problems that need to be thought about. Here are the most obvious:
. 1) Other vitamin pill and supplement manufactures will want you promote their products as well. Here you simply say Juice plus is a food and is not classified as an "over the counter" drug or supplement by the FDA. In addition, Juice Plus has over twenty studies done by medical centers on the benefits of their product. These studies have been peer reviewed and published in medical journals. Additionally you could say "I would consider putting my support behind your product once you meet those criteria."
. 2) Juice Plus might have trouble producing the amount of product this plan would require so some patience would be required to get the entire country and all fast food chains covered. It would probably be best if all fast food outlets in one metro area were brought on at the same time so intense local promotions with advertising and events could push adoption in that area. Three months later once production capacity was increased a second and third metro area might be started, and so on.
. 3) You might be subjected to media criticism for getting so involved with the fast food operators. There is nothing for it but bear up saying "the fast food outlets is where a lot of obesity originates - their products are tasty and provides needed calories at an affordable price so people will eat fast food. I see my task as working to make these tasty food offerings still affordable but more nutritionally balanced.."
All thoughtful Americans are so pleased you have taken up this project. .............. (prepared by Hugh Murray on 12/08/2012)
Three Authors - Chrystia Freeland, Pat Hearden, and Patrick Buchanan, Deliver Up Related but Alarming Facts
- Chrystia Freeland who is a reporter for the Thompson Reuters organization, recently presented her new book Plutocrats: The Rise of the New Global Super-Rich and the Fall of Everyone Else at Politics and Prose bookstore in Washington DC. She had interviewed several billionaires in the process of writing her book. In her presentation she mentioned two very interesting facts. One, billionaires think globally not nationally. So they assess the results of their actions in a global way. This is illustrated by Ms Freeland's second fact: billionaires feel they are doing good work if they can employee 4 Chinese while giving up the job of only one American. This kind of thinking has lead these billionaires to actually believe that a large fortune is a very good measure of the good that a given billionaire has done for the global society.
Pat Hearden is Prof of History at Purdue and has researched America’s economic opening to the world following WWII. He found that American economic planners in the 1940 decided that long term peace would be promoted by a universal decline in trade restraints (tariffs, quotas, preferences, etc.). These planners realized that the US was going to have to be at the center of this opening, essentially opening its markets to the world. This plan was essentially implemented and despite the employment dislocations caused in America huge populations around the world began to move toward middle class status as they produced the goods formerly produced by Americans.
Pat Buchanan found facts that document the extent of these dislocations. He wrote a column in Nov 2012 in which he reported that in the last thirty years America has lost 6 million mfg jobs while closing 55,000 factories. These statistics don’t include job loses in the manufacturing support companies as these 55,000 factories closed no longer need support services.
The lost jobs are the most visible aspect of this trend, but the chronic balance of payment problem is the invisible problem that could lead to foreign ownership most American assets (e.g. farm land, corporations, commercial property, etc.) .The federal government can paper over the lack of jobs with long term welfare payments (e.g. food stamps, housing support, social security disability certification, etc.). However, welfare payments don’t carry the psychological benefits of a decent, stable job. However, the balance of payments problem is going to be harder to handle. If a large number of Chinese arrive with billions of dollars asking to buy up all the corporations in the Dow 30. At that point all Americans, not just the unemployed manufacturing workers, will realize the real cost of chronic trade deficits that put billions of dollars in the hands of foreigners.
The trade deficits problem has been exasperated by America’s hatred of dirty and ugly things such as oil wells, refineries, tailing piles, smoke stacks, carbon emissions, power transmission lines, nuclear plants, pipelines, etc. America is a huge, continental sized country with very competent technical people There are lots of open spaces and lots of natural resources; there is no good reason why all these artificial, inhibiting factors can’t be worked around to get the trade deficit down.
Additionally, although the WWII planners are to be congratulated for their desire to avoid future world wars, they severely over estimated America’s capacity to pull the whole world into the industrial age. In 1946, America’s economy represented just under 50% of all economic activity world wide. It is easy to understand how hubris could, indeed it did, influence the planners who cast America into the role:
. 1) as the world’s ultimate consumer of everyone else’s excess production,
. 2) as the source of manufacturing capability for the whole world through the actions of American businessmen who packed up 55,000 American factories and relocated them to low wage countries,
. 3) as the world’s policeman to handle small war, and
. 4)as the world’s emergency response dept when natural disasters hit.
Finally, these planners had no idea of the costs to the America economy of:
. 1) the 40 year cold war and
. 2) the direct and indirect costs of support for Israel.
Foreign aid policies and weapons systems procurement policies were profoundly changed and costs increased for America for half a century.............. (prepared by Hugh Murray on 12/8/2012)
The Electoral Map Colors Used by America's Media are Reversed - Red should be Democratic and Blue Republican
- Although everyone knows they react differently when encountering certain colors, they are unable to quantify or even express these different feelings. Fortunately psychologists, like Kendra Cherry who runs a website devoted to color and human emotion, have explored and described the different feelings that various colors engender in viewers. Blue tends to evoke a sense of peace, a sense of relaxation, perhaps a sense that tradition and the established order are intact, etc. Red on the other hand evokes a sense of impending change, a sense of being on alert, a rise in the viewer’s heart rate, a sense of being ready for something different or new, etc.
In addition, these colors have slang words and phrases that subconsciously come to mind such as “blue moon” or “blues music” or “the blues” while red can be found in such terms as “red hot” or “paint the town red” or “red zone”
There are also historic associations associated with certain colors. Blue for instance was the strongly associated with the north in the Civil War; whereas the color red was associated with socialists and Communists, May Day parades and Red Square in Moscow.
Now looking at the general thrust of the two American political parties over the last century a pattern of behavior emerges which might indicate which color best signifies each. The Democratic party has strongly favored change in the American political system while the Republicans have favored the status quo. The list of new programs enacted in the last 100 years include a few Republican initiatives but the vast majority are Democratic ideas. One only has to think of social security, medicare, medicaid, etc. to understand the profound impact of Democratic policies.
In like fashion when on thinks of dramatic foreign involvements, particularly wars, most have been Democratic initiatives, think of WWI, WWII, Korean, and Vietnam.
All this generation of new programs and foreign involvements might be good or bad but it definitely indicated a willingness to initiate major change.
It is interesting to look at government policies in heavily Democratic states versus policies in heavily Republican states. In Illinois and Calif., for instance, the state level government programs abound as do high state taxes and heavy state indebtedness. Both of these states are on the verge of bankruptcy. The Democrats that run these states are constantly setting up new programs with no clear idea of how these will be funded.. Citizens like the benefits the programs provide while small businessmen calculate how they can relocate away from the coming tax hikes that appear unavoidable.
Heavily Republican states, in contrast, focus on their annual budgets, they speak proudly of their state requirements for a balanced budget. These state plod along from year to year making small incremental changes, implementing a cut in one program so another more critical program can be expanded. Innovations in these state governments are there but can usually only be seen in hindsight or by the well trained observer. These governments were universally hesitant about the recent medicaid expansion that required setting up exchanges. Their hesitancy came from the huge dollars involved and the fact that the federal government is notoriously unreliable and would have the right to alter the program, or the dollar matches, in the future. People that prize order, budgets, and careful planning could never be comfortable with such a huge, ill defined program being dropped in the middle of their careful state budgeting process.
Finally, there are the historical connections that link red and blue appropriately to the respective parties; returning to the historical items set out above is instructive.
The Republicans won the White House for the first time with Lincoln who fought a civil war with northern troops dressed in blue. The linkage of the color blue with Lincoln and by extension to the Republicans is very strong.
The Democrats have for decades involved the US in massive changes: foreign wars abroad, redistributions programs at home, and a willingness to impose very detail regulation on dozens of local government and private activities. For good or ill the only other country that has pursued such massive policy changes so aggressively was the USSR (from 1917 to 1989). Of course, their identifying color was red - (e.g. Red Army, Red Square, etc.)
There is also the concern that pundits feel about America’s psychic-health. Norman Podhoretz, the editor of Commentary magazine has remarked that America seems to have lost the sense of its history, its traditions, and its greatness. Of course, if you look at an electoral map of the US, particularly one that shows red and blue at the county level, rather than the more common state level map, one is shocked to see 95 percent of the map is red, meaning Republican, meaning tradition loving, meaning stability loving, etc. But of course, such a massive field of red is likely to illicit a jump in the viewer’s heart rate, a sense of impending departure from tradition.
Within this map of mostly red , there are, of course, dots of blue. These dots are America’s big cities and college towns. These are the places where out of wedlock birth rates are higher, were crime rates are higher, where social pathologies are more common, etc. and yet these places are colored blue - the color of support for tradition. Now is the time for media leaders to take the bull by the horns and do what is right regarding these electoral maps. Republican areas should be colored blue and Democratic areas should receive red.
Will the major media outlets do what is right ? Probably not - these are smart men and they knew when they started this color coding years ago that they were misleading the “gut feeling” voters who let their feelings be their guide. These voters are inclined to vote for the party that gives them a good feeling, not the party that raises their blood pressure. So the “blue party” has a small advantage, perhaps 1% of the vote, because of the feelings that color engenders. It seems America’s media leadership have decided to give this electoral advantage to the Democrats. ............ (prepared by Hugh Murray on 12/20/2012
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