Monthly Archives: April 2009

No Laetare award but boffo speaker

John T. Noonan to the barricades:

Judge John T. Noonan Jr., the 1984 recipient of the Laetare Medal, has accepted an invitation to deliver an address in the spirit of the award at Notre Dame’s 164th University Commencement Ceremony on May 17.

His speech will be in lieu of awarding the medal this year.

In Contraception, Noonan in 1965 compared centuries-old anti-usury church legislation (opposed to lending with any amount of interest), which was eventually abandoned, with its much-debated anti-birth control prohibition, leaving Catholics with at least a conundrum of major dimensions.

Shrewd, shrewd move by Notre Dame: Noonan on stage with Obama, with considerable chance of focused confrontation, or at least provocative juxtaposition — especially in giving no award this year and calling Noonan’s a Laetare-style speech. 

A speech by one highly praised by this year’s Laetare recipient, who refused it because of Obama’s being honored at the same graduation ceremony.

[T]he quality of his legal scholarship and judicial opinions prompts Harvard Law School Professor Mary Ann Glendon to place Noonan alongside Learned Hand, Benjamin Cardozo, and Oliver Wendell Holmes Jr. as “one of the legal giants of the twentieth century.”

Major hat tip to David Gibson at Dot Commonweal.


I’ll have that plaque, if you don’t mind

Melissa Isaacson went to the Lisagor Awards dinner days after she’d been laid off by Chi Trib, thanks to WBEZ’s buying tickets for two former employees who said theirs should go to laid-off newsies, Michael Miner reports at his News Bites blog.

This led to the amusing incident — amusing, at least, to those who witnessed it from the Sun-Times table — in which Isaacson’s victory was announced but by the time she made her way up front to accept her plaque it had disappeared. That’s because [managing editor Jane] Hirt had hopped up from the Tribune table next to the dais to claim it for the Tribune. “My friends asked me later if I got to bask in any of the applause,” says Isaacson, “but there was no basking. I had to go find my award.”

I assumed she didn’t find it, or Hirt didn’t relinquish it, and so was ready to howl at managerial insensitivity.  But after giving no comment to Jim Romenesko, she changed her mind and told him she regrets “the awkward moment.”  Had missed Isaacson in the crowd (of 280) and “wanted to pick up the plaque to make sure she got it. When she arrived at the stage at the same time I did, I handed her the plaque. I wasn’t planning on keeping it for the Tribune.”

OK.  In any case, the 280 was the biggest crowd yet, says Miner, even as the 443 entries were down precipitously.  It costs to enter — $30 for Headline Club members, $50 for others — so cash-short outlets cut back.

Whatever the awkward part, the affair went well, says Miner.  This is good, especially against a dispiriting desk-chairs-on-Titanic background.

Another generous gesture was made by Chicago Journal, Inc., who sponsors my column in the Wednesday Journal of Oak Park & River Forest.  This outfit bought a ticket for Ben Myers, former editor of Skyline, a Chicago Journal property, Miner reports.  Myers was there to pick up his award, sans awkward moment at podium, which was nice.

She preferred not

History in the making?

The significance of [Mary Ann] Glendon’s refusal is enormous. The most accomplished Catholic laywoman in America — former ambassador of the United States to the Holy See and current president of the Pontifical Academy of Social Sciences — has refused to accept Notre Dame’s highest honor.

It is a signal moment for the Catholic Church in the United States. It is a signal moment for the Church’s public witness. It is may even be a signal moment for Notre Dame. What Glendon will not say at Notre Dame will finally be a fitting response to what Gov. Mario Cuomo said there some 25 years ago.

That’s when

the archbishop of New York had clarified that a faithful Catholic could not promote abortion rights, [and] the nation’s premier Catholic university, led by two of the most famous Catholic priests in America, invited the leading Catholic politician in the country to explain why the archbishop of New York was wrong, all this two months before a presidential election in which a vice- presidential candidate was a pro-abortion Catholic.

Fr. Jenkins, “[taken] to school” by the Harvard law prof, unwittingly set things up for the Glendon slam-dunk, argues Rev. Raymond J. de Souza in National Catholic Register.

What New York Gov. Mario Cuomo did in 1984 was with the willing connivance of Father Theodore Hesburgh. Father Jenkins thought he could outdo the master himself, but he has been taught that this is no longer Father Ted’s Notre Dame. Notre Dame is no longer untouchable by the American bishops and the lay faithful.

Strong stuff, but it’s a quite dramatic situation which I do not think this writer exaggerates.  It was Hesburgh and Rev. Richard McBrien vs. New York’s Cardinal O’Connor and the bishops’ conference.  The prize was Notre Dame and its role in the politics of abortion.

This time, Notre Dame took it on the chin, and a woman did it.

Take your Laetare medal and . . .

Sensible lady!  Former Ambassador to the Vatican Mary Ann Glendon, declining to be honored by Notre Dame at the coming commencement,

charged that Notre Dame’s decision to honor Obama showed “disregard of the U.S. bishops’ express request of 2004 that Catholic institutions ‘should not honor those who act in defiance of our fundamental moral principles’ and that such persons ‘should not be given awards, honors or platforms which would suggest support for their actions.’”

Her letter to Fr. Jenkins is here.  Has the medal ever been refused?

Jenkins had bragged about her coming,using her as a foil:

“We think having the president come to Notre Dame, see our graduates, meet our leaders, and hear a talk from Mary Ann Glendon is a good thing for the president and for the causes we care about”, he said.

To which Glendon:

It is not the right place, nor is a brief acceptance speech the right vehicle, for engagement with the very serious problems raised by Notre Dame’s decision — in disregard of the settled position of the U.S. bishops — to honor a prominent and uncompromising opponent of the Church’s position on issues involving fundamental principles of justice.

Jenkins is disappointed:

“We are, of course, disappointed that Professor Glendon has made this decision. It is our intention to award the Laetare Medal to another deserving recipient, and we will make that announcement as soon as possible.” (University of Notre Dame Office of News & Information)

… and that’s it.

He only registers “disappointment”, not even attempting to answer her arguments.

So is Obama.

The state will provide

Sen. Roland Burris is “Tombstone” to Chi Trib’s John Kass, and rightly so, but he made some sense in a South Side community meeting last week.  Pestered by former Chicago Housing Authority Director Phil Jackson (who complained mostly about Obama’s neglecting poor people), Burris 

told Jackson there was little the government could do to solve the problems of broken African-American families.

“No government, no senator, no alderman, no representative is going to be in your family dealing with those kids that we’re raising,” he said.

And Burris, 71, said he found himself at a loss trying to stop some children from turning to crime, saying “an old gentleman like me trying to deal with 10- and 12-year-olds that will cuss you out in a minute if you look at ’em . . . ”

Jackson interjected: “That’s what we need help on.”

“A dollar bill ain’t going to help that,” Burris replied.

“We need help to put structures into place,” Jackson countered.

There’s a lot in that “dollar bill” remark, and a lot in Jackson’s reply.  J. himself had raised the broken-family issue, which he sees in terms of “structures” to be installed by elected officials, starting with Obama, specifically

CeaseFire, an anti-gang violence program in the city which hasn’t gotten any federal stimulus money.

This is sad.  A government program is supposed to create a whole new culture for black families?  The same government that installed welfare-dependence structures that for generations made families virtual wards of the state?

And that all-purpose “stimulus.”  Of what?  Jobs for counsellors?

Of two good things, one is better?

I’ve been wondering about this conservative-libertarian divide and am happy to find this discussion of my man F.A. Hayek on the matter, as here:

The word “conservatism” is a vague term that covers a wide range of ideas. Hayek’s criticisms don’t necessarily apply to every version of conservative thought. A few of his arguments are totally dated, and some perhaps were invalid even back in 1960.

But several apply to various forms of conservatism that remain influential today. In particular, Hayek’s criticisms of conservative for their excessive aversion to change, their attachment to discretionary government power, their willingness to use state power to enforce “moral” values, and their tendency towards “strident nationalism” all retain considerable force.

“My man” in that I have found his stuff liberating in its calm, cool, and collectedness.  He’s the ultimate anti-fussbudget such as abounds in the leftist camp and turns up sometimes also among the right.

His Road to Serfdom is the Hayek intro, but Fatal Conceit: the Errors of Socialism is one to read right after it.


Bad info on Cornelia

This reference, at Many Books dot net, is common on the Internet, including at Wikipedia:

The Man in Lower Ten
by Mary Roberts Rinehart
English, published in 1909
65,298 words (180 pages)
No. 1 in the Cornelia Van Gorder series

But there’s no such character in this excellent mystery novel, also dated 1906 in Wikipedia and elsewhere. 

Caveat lector.

Ford surges, builder gets inventive

Competition is alive and well in the U.S.A., no matter how the gentiles rage — i.e. “gentes,” or nations, in the Psalms, reading here U.S. Treasury and the governmental leviathan.

The results [lower than expected quarterly loss, thanks to union-contract negotiating and bond-buybacks] reflect in part Ford’s strategy: to steal customers from its weakened crosstown rivals and separate Ford from GM and Chrysler in the minds of the public, investors and lawmakers.

The strategy is part of a longer-term vision that would have Ford rise above its age-old competitors to form a new, global Big Three with the two largest car makers, Toyota Motor Corp. and Volkswagen AG, say people familiar with the company’s thinking.

Look.  It’s natural to man (and woman); so socialists, beware.  You can’t snuff this thing out.

Similarly, the Calif. home-builder builds a better mousetrap, not only installing furniture, but also making it worth a resident’s worthwhile to move in and add to salability.

This $1.2 million seaside pied-a-terre is occupied by Johnna Clavin, a 45-year-old Los Angeles event planner and decorator who has seen business slow. In exchange for giving the townhouse a stylishly lived-in look, she gets to stay there at a steep discount and stands to earn a bonus if the house sells fast.

It’s what you call making do, American-style.  How’d it happen?

Ms. Clavin responded to a Craigslist ad placed by Quality First Home Marketing, a San Diego startup. It aims to fill high-end empty houses with occupants who play the part of happy homeowners, in a bid to remove the price-depressing stigma of vacancy.

Go American!

The day’s baddest news

Obama wants to fix “access to credit.”  Being from the government, he’s there to help.  Demurring politely, Congressman Scott Garrett (R.-NJ) explains the problem, closing with a politic sentence that has a key word missing:

I am a strong advocate for Access to Credit Reform, and I believe we need to ensure that government actions don’t cause greater problems in the marketplace and result in the restriction of credit availability for all consumers. [Italics added]

The key word is “but,” replacing “and” before “I believe.”

This is typical politic talk (he is a politico and has to negotiate) — downsizing the objection, refusing to give it the highlighting it deserves.  It comes after he has said what’s wrong with this foolish, if not execrable meddling by legislators.

This [reform] bill [to be considered next week] has the potential to reduce investment in the marketplace, increase rates and fees for all credit card holders, and restrict credit availability.

Problem: Legislative meddling drives out capital, further “tightening in marketplace liquidity,” and raises rates for all, “regardless of their level of credit risk.”

It can, he said — it will: why wouldn’t it? — make credit less available for all.  It’s supposed to protect borrowers with bad credit history, but it makes it harder for them and everyone else to get it.

Obama wants it, and that’s my most scarifying headline, in today’s Chi Trib:

President Barack Obama seeks crackdown on credit card rate, fee hikes: President wants crackdown on rate, fee hikes; industry defends practices as necessary

or, in hard copy, p-1, four columns, above fold:

Obama takes aim at ‘unfair’ credit card fees, practices: Industry likely to launch strong opposition

In the latter, Chi Trib leads with Wilma Erwin and her “surprise and anger” at the raised rate of her Discover Card and Thomas Charles Kenniff, who carries no balance but had his available credit “slashed nearly in half” by Bank of America.

Fie on those nasty lenders!  Make them lend at lower rates to help Wilma!  Make them lend more to Thomas Charles! 

So speaks Obama:

“There has to be strong and reliable protections for consumers, protections that ban unfair rate increases and forbid abusive fees and penalties,” Obama said after a White House meeting with credit card company executives. “The days of any-time, any-reason rate hikes and late-fee traps have to end.”

Can he be sued for abuse of power?  Maybe some well-financed court case that will tie up his lawyers and call witnesses to the stand.  Obama could call Wilma Erwin to the stand.  A jury of her peers could decide it.

Serious about jobs in Ga.

Georgia is going against the grain, cutting taxes, Stephen Moore reports in the email-accessible WSJ.Com’s Political Diary.

Senate Majority Leader Dan Moody says: “We are trying to create a contrast with the overspending and overtaxing in D.C.” Jonathan Williams of the American Legislative Exchange Council adds: “We know from recent history that those states that cut their taxes will gain more jobs and will have a faster economic recovery.”

No soaking the rich down there, at least if the Republican governor goes along.

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