Not only does North Korea continue to flaunt its testing of nuclear explosives and ballistic missiles, but it has abrogated the 1953 armistice that ended the Korean war.

Since its nuclear test Monday, North Korea has issued a stream of harsh rhetoric, even declaring that the armistice that ended fighting in the Korean War is null and void.

The situation in North Korea, with what appears to be a madman brandishing nuclear bombs, will require more knowledge and wisdom than even President Obama's most ardent supporters can claim for him.  Hence the prayers; feel free to join me.
Posted by sursumcorda on Wednesday, May 27, 2009 at 10:04 am | Edit
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For every presidential election in recent history (meaning at least the last 30), I have had one overriding concern:  the nomination of Supreme Court justices.  I was asked once why it would be a problem if President Obama merely replaces retiring liberal justices with more liberals—other than missing the opportunity to "pack" the court to my liking.  That's when I realized that I don't want a biased Supreme Court, at least not in the sense my friend was implying.  But neither do I want a "balanced" Supreme Court.  I want one that will rule based on the Constitution, whether they are for or against me.  I don't want the Judiciary taking over the role of the Legislature.  If our Justices are chosen based on their positions on particular issues rather than for their position vis–à–vis the Constitution and the Law, I think we have little hope for real justice.

But enough heavy thinking!  Mallard Fillmore can make me smile, even about such an important issue.


Posted by sursumcorda on Monday, May 18, 2009 at 10:40 am | Edit
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In the back corners of my "to blog about" list, I finally found In Defense of "The Rich," by Larry Elder.  I'd originally bookmarked it because of the facts about charitable giving (see below); I'd remembered, from another source, George W. Bush's impressive record in this matter, but couldn't find it when I needed it in a debate with my brother.  This article gave the hard numbers for my hazy memory, but at that point it was but l’esprit de l’escalier, so I filed it under "sometime" know.

But sometime is now here, and I find that the article has several good points, and complements my previous post, Think You're Rich?  Or Poor? (More)
Posted by sursumcorda on Thursday, May 7, 2009 at 4:52 pm | Edit
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(This is a follow-up to previous posts:   Options In Childbirth: A Personal Odyssey; The Trial; The Trial, Part II; and The Trial, Part III.)

I am not a lawyer, and I have no idea what Judy or her lawyer really think, but that doesn't stop me from pondering what happened in Judy's trial.  It has been an interesting look into our criminal justice system.  We know, personally, good policemen and excellent prosecutors who work hard for truth, fairness, and speedy justice, so any negative comments are not a blanket indictment, but food for thought. (More)
Posted by sursumcorda on Wednesday, April 29, 2009 at 10:09 am | Edit
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Let's not do it again.  Back in 1976, panic over swine flu led to a mass-vaccination program in which nearly a quarter of the U.S. program received immunizations at a cost of $137 million—followed by millions more the government paid out in damages to victims of vaccine-related Guillain-Barre syndrome.  Working in a medical facility at the time, I stood in line and received my free shot and thought no more about it.  However, the whole affair is now considered a debacle, a textbook case of governmental over-response to fears of a pandemic, fears that turned out to be unfounded.  Let's not do it again.

Panic and misinformation are spreading online, aided and abetted by the mainstream news media, which I know from local hurricane reports are adept at the art of crying wolf, deliberately creating fear because fear keeps people glued to the news reports, no matter how little real information is imparted.

Should the government be aware, alert, and prepared to act if this becomes a true emergency?  Certainly.  But let the ordinary citizen take reasonable precautions of the kind we should always be taking (handwashing, keeping sick people home), and avoid spreading panic, which is itself a dangerous disease.

(Standard legal disclaimer:  I am an Ordinary Citizen, not a doctor.  If your doctor tells you to panic, don't let me stop you.)
Posted by sursumcorda on Tuesday, April 28, 2009 at 7:46 am | Edit
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I couldn't have told you anything about Mary Ann Glenon before turning to Wikipedia, except for this:  the former U.S. ambassador to the Vatican has both principles and courage.  The University of Notre Dame, which has apparently forgotten that it is a Catholic University, is planning to bestow an honorary degree upon President Obama, who will be giving the commencement address. Glenon, who had been scheduled to receive the University's Laetare Medal at the same time, demurred.  To deflect speculation, her letter of refusal was released to the press and published in First Things.  (Hat tip to Patrick Deneen.)

[I am] dismayed by the news that Notre Dame also planned to award the president an honorary degree. This, as you must know, was in 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.” That request, which in no way seeks to control or interfere with an institution’s freedom to invite and engage in serious debate with whomever it wishes, seems to me so reasonable that I am at a loss to understand why a Catholic university should disrespect it.

When Notre Dame suggested that her acceptance speech might be good for the President to hear, she correctly reminded the university that graduation is a time for honoring the students, not for political debate.

A commencement, however, is supposed to be a joyous day for the graduates and their families. 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.

Brava!  I am not a Catholic—but courage is courage, and someone needed to remind Notre Dame that being Catholic isn't only about praying for your football team to win.
Posted by sursumcorda on Monday, April 27, 2009 at 8:08 pm | Edit
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The Internal Revenue Service has released tax statistics for 2006.  You can view them yourself, at the IRS site.  Having neither the time nor the mental energy to sort it all out, however, I'm glad the tax folks at J.K. Lasser have done the job already, and I'm going to take their word for it.  You are welcome to take my word for their word, if you'd like.

How rich—or poor—do you think you are?  Are you paying your fair share of taxes?  What about the other guy?  Forget, for the moment, comparison with the rest of the world—how do you compare with your fellow Americans?  Statistics are slippery things, so take these as you will.  Bear in mind, also, that the percentages given here are based on the number of income tax filers; anyone who did not file an income tax return for the year 2006 is not counted, and neither is any money made in  underground economy.  AGI = Adjusted Gross Income, Line 37 on Form 1040. (More)

Posted by sursumcorda on Saturday, April 18, 2009 at 9:48 am | Edit
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Three diverse takes on China:

Although written nearly a year ago (note the line, "Assuming that the global economy does not decline now, it will at some point"), George Friedman's geopolitical analysis of China (via InvestorsInsight) is perhaps frightening, perhaps reassuring, but certainly fascinating.  The concluding summary provides an introduction to the ideas, though it by no means does justice to the long article. (More)
Posted by sursumcorda on Friday, April 17, 2009 at 8:54 am | Edit
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Thanks to Percival Blakeney Academy for publicising Southern Utah University communicatio major Jeffrey Wilbur's direct and pithy denunciation of restrictive "free speech zones."  (Brilliant, even if he did exclude Alaska and Hawaii.)

In light of SUU officials [sic] plan to designate "Free Speech Zones" on campus, I thought I'd offer my assistance. Grab a map. OK, ready?

All right, you see that big area between Canada and Mexico, surrounded by lots of blue ink on the East and West? You see it?

There's your bloody Free Speech Zone.

Once again I wonder why people can't make their points without resorting to offensive language, but as a great deal of blood was spilled to put the First Amendment into effect, perhaps it's appropriate.

Unfortunately, free speech—like free markets—can do great damage when not moderated by ethical principles.  (Nothing complex required:  the Golden Rule would suffice.)  Stepping out from under the restrictions of a moral code invites the imposition of far greater—and often irrational—restrictions in response to real, perceived, or potential public harm.
Posted by sursumcorda on Thursday, April 9, 2009 at 7:58 am | Edit
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I know—the last thing you need is another blog to read!  And the one I’m about to recommend had several authors and consequently great risk of overwhelming your feed reader.  Especially since nearly all the posts are thought-provoking and well-written.

The Front Porch Republic is new—the first posts were on March 2 of this year—but has already produced so many shareable articles that it deserves its own post.  Treat yourself and subscribe to the Front Porch Republic; they have a Comments RSS feed as well, though I can’t usually keep up with it.  A mark of the quality of this blog (and its readers) is that the comments are so far above the “Your a &%$#& moron!” level seen all too often on websites without benefit of sufficient editorial oversight. (More)

Posted by sursumcorda on Saturday, April 4, 2009 at 5:21 pm | Edit
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I grew up on orange juice reconstituted from frozen concentrate, but I have since forgiven my parents.  It was convenient and inexpensive, and oranges did not grow on our New York State trees.  It tasted fine to me, because I didn't know any better.  Why I was so ignorant I'm not certain, since every two years we visited relatives in Florida—and this was in the days before a cooling cycle in the weather teamed with developers to destroy most of Central Florida's citrus groves.  Perhaps orange juice from concentrate simply tasted better to me because that's what I was accustomed to, much as many children who grow up with Aunt Jemima often prefer the imitation to real maple syrup.  Or maybe I simply didn't care enough, but ate what was set before me without giving it much thought.

With maturity came discrimination.  When "not-from-concentrate" orange juice appeared in the grocery stores I winced at the price, but never looked back, as it made the frozen concentrate taste like so much flavored sugar water.  (Later, when I read John McPhee's marvelous Oranges, I learned that flavored sugar water is a fairly accurate description of the product.)  It would be another 20 years before I discovered orange juice that was orders of magnitude better than the best not-from-concentrate available in the grocery stores. (More)

Posted by sursumcorda on Wednesday, April 1, 2009 at 6:11 am | Edit
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I've written often enough about threats to the fundamental right of parents to educate their own children:  the dreadful situation for homeschoolers in Germany, my concerns for Switzerland, and the unwarranted judicial intrusion in family life and education touched closer to home, in California.  California ultimately upheld the legitimacy of home education, but it appears North Carolina is the next battleground.

As with the Terri Schiavo case, it is family problems that allowed the court's nose into this tent.  It illustrates a serious problem with our "no fault" attitude towards divorce:  despite the husband's admitted, ongoing, adulterous affair, his desire to send his children to public school has been allowed to trump his wife's desire to continue homeschooling.  What is truly worrisome, as it touches homeschooling is the judge's power and attitude, as well as whatever precedent his decision may set. (More)
Posted by sursumcorda on Thursday, March 12, 2009 at 10:22 am | Edit
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I'm going to use my proverb until it catches on:  The wise man recognizes truth in the words of his enemies.  And the prudent man defends even his enemies from unjust accusations.  It's time to annoy some of my readers yet again.

Many years ago I listened, against my will, to part of a Rush Limbaugh radio show.  I was disgusted by the self-aggrandizing bombast, and even more by the sarcastic, mocking humor.  Since then I've read bits and pieces of many of his newsletters, however, and have to admit that amongst the bombast, mockery, and occasional misinformation, there is some important truth.  Oh, how hard it is not to let our selves get in the way of our message!  And how many people are blinded to the truth because of the way we present it!  However, that is another issue. (More)
Posted by sursumcorda on Sunday, March 8, 2009 at 2:31 pm | Edit
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I am reproducing John C. Wright's latest post in its entirety because I desperately want my liberal readers to tell me why he is wrong, and many of you don't bother to click through when I merely provide links.  Three things keep me from utter despair over the course we are following:  (1) denial; (2) knowing that God—not the President, not the media, and not the corporate CEOs—is ultimately in charge, and will bring good out of even our most boneheaded mistakes; and (3) our children, and young people in general, are still enthusiastic and optimistic.  Maybe they're in denial, too, but as long as they don't give up we will make it through. (More)
Posted by sursumcorda on Friday, March 6, 2009 at 5:11 pm | Edit
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alt The Gridlock Economy, by Michael Heller (Basic Books, New York, 2008)

Peter V.—who now keeps most of his insightful commentary behind the Facebook wall, so I can't provide a link—alerted me to The Gridlock Economy, which I touched on in the first Casting the Net.  Since then I obtained the book through Interlibrary Loan, and thanks to my Lenten disciplines, finished reading it last night.  Now I can get the library monkey off my back and return this long-overdue book.  (To be fair to them, the library has not been nagging me about it. But I was brought up to view an overdue library book as an unpaid debt, and my own conscience does quite enough nagging.  In maturity—I think once I passed the half-century mark—I came to realize that keeping a book a little longer and paying a fine was an acceptable strategy and more reasonable than returning it unfinished.  But I still imagine that I'm keeping hoards of folks in durance vile by limiting their access to the book.) (More)

Posted by sursumcorda on Tuesday, March 3, 2009 at 7:20 am | Edit
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