I’m Back

I can’t believe I haven’t blogged in such a long time. I have started a number of entries, but never bult up the steam to get them done. It’s not like there haven’t been things happening in the news and in my life. In fact, it is probably because there has been so much happening around here that I haven’t given more time to the insightful news commentary you all so desperately crave.

I’ve been job hunting for a situation I would find more appealing. Time consumed on applications and interviews. I only got two interviews and neither was a position I was inclined to take. In the second one, I was the only candidate and I withdrew.

At the same time, work has been quite time consuming.

Then there was getting ready for a visit from my parents. The Woman has been temporarily working full-time outside the home, so it took a lot effort to get is ship-shape and Bristol fashion. Then there was the visit, which was worth all the effort.  We usually only get to see my folks twice a year.

And of course I’ve been working on the book. It may not sound like much by I’ve got two chapters finished and parts of two others written. I’ve been a bit stuck and doing more research to make them historically accurate.  I thought I knew where I was going with a particular storyline that is key to my first act and then got new information which made it unworkable. It is only today that I think I have found a way around it.

I hope I can (and will) blog more regularly in the coming weeks.

House of Common Criminals

Parliament and the Government are in total disarray. In the States, Newt Gingrich is calling for Nancy Pelosi to resign for lying to Congress, but that’s small potatos compared to what’s happening over here in the People’s Republic of Britain. Members of the House of Commons are calling on Speaker Michael Martin to resign. This just doesn’t happen here. Not since 1695.

The Commons Speaker, unlike the Speaker in the US House of Representatives and in the various US state legislatures, is not supposed to be affected by political party affiliation or loyalty. When they are elected by the members, they resign their party membership and when they run for re-election to represent their constituency, they are on the ballot as Speaker. They then serve as Speaker until they retire.

Over the past few years, there have been informal suggestions by some backbenchers (members of the Commons who are neither Government ministers or the spokespeople from opposing parties) that the Speaker should step down because he has been incompetent and feathering his own nest. However, this is the first time that a motion of no confidence in the Speaker has been put before the House or that a party leader has openly spoken against the Speaker.

It all stems from the huge fiasco over how members expenses have been paid. It turns out that many members across all parties have been claiming expenses for some pretty outrageous things. Two members of the Labour Party have been expelled from the party and one Government minister has stepped down during the investigation. Criminal charges may be in the offing for members who have been completely fraudulent, for example claiming expenses for mortgages that didn’t exist.

For mortages, rents, renovations, repairs, and every other conceivable domestic expense, MPs have repeatedly engaged in “flipping”. This means they will claim a particular residence is their second residence, claim loads of expenses, then flip the designation to a different home, claim loads of expenses, and continue doing this.

Married cabinet ministers Ed Balls and Yvette Cooper made a claim for almost four times the amount of mortgage interest to which they were entitled. They flipped the designation of their second home to three different properties within the space of two years. They also charged the taxpayer £600 per month to feed themselves. This is on top of their combined salary of nearly £285,000.

But back to Mr Speaker. As reported today in the Daily Telegraph:

Parliamentary authorities, overseen by Michael Martin, the Speaker, gave secret permission for some MPs to over-claim for thousands of pounds in home loan interest in deals that led to the systematic abuse of the taxpayer-funded expenses system.

He let his people collude with MPs to cheat the taxpayer. He also tried to stop the publication of information about expenses. He tried to call the police on the Daily Telegraph when they started exposing all of this. He has got to go.

But so do so many other MPs. Many have hastily repaid some of their more outrageous claims but some caught with their hand in the cookie jar just don’t care. For example:

Ben Chapman, a Labour MP, admitted last night that he was allowed to continue claiming for interest payments on his entire mortgage after repaying £295,000 of the loan in 2002.

Over 10 months the arrangement allowed Mr Chapman to receive £15,000 for the part of the home loan which had been paid off. Last night, he said he would not give back the money.

It has gotten so bad that even the Queen, who never gets involved in political matters, has had strong words with the Prime Minister. She is conscious that her people are suffering the effects of a recession, while her Parliament are stuffing their pockets with every available taxpayer pound.

More and more people and media outlets are calling for a swift general election. What we need is time for the smoke to clear and for constituency organisations of all parties to have time to de-select offending incumbents (thus preventing them from standing for re-election as anything other than an independent) so the election can be fought on the failure of the Labour Party and not on the behaviour of individual members.

Notre Dame is Not a Catholic University

The last vestiges of Catholicism are being torn away at Notre Dame. They are ignoring the local bishop. They are ignoring the provincial metropolitan archbishop. They are ignoring the call of bishops across America. They are arresting pro-life demonstrators, including priests.

That’s right. Priests with pro-life signs are unwelcome at Notre Dame. Only pro-abortion presidents are welcome.

The Congregation of the Holy Cross should disassociate themselves from the university and from John Jenkins, unless Jenkins resigns and Obama is uninvited. The Catholic Church should disavow any relationship whatsoever and from the Congregation of the Holy Cross if they refuse to act. I don’t care how many theology classes are  taught or that over 100 masses are celebrated every week on campus.

When Fr Jenkins approved the Notre Dame Queer Film Festival, he said he was “very determined that we not suppress speech on this campus”. That’s called academic freedom. His diocesan bishop John Michael D’Arcy disagreed, but Jenkins didn’t care. Welcoming debate was too important. However, when it comes to supporting the official teaching of the Church about the killing of unborn children, free speech is suppressed with vigor.

It should not even be an issue.

Swine Flu and the Persecution of Christians

There are 300,000 pigs in Egypt. According to the UN, they are in no danger of catching swine flu. There has been no reported case of the virus in Egypt. Nonetheless, the Egyptian government wants to slaughter all of the pigs in Egypt just in case. It just happens that the pigs in Egypt are all owned by Christians. After all, Muslims don’t eat pork.

Christian farmers have clashed with police in Cairo, but this hasn’t stopped the cull so far. If the swine flu runs its course without affecting Egypt it won’t matter, because authorities have said it is also a general public health issue. That would be a public health issue that hasn’t actually affected public health, of course. It will affect the livelihood of lots of Christians, but that’s just the price of being a Coptic Christian in Egypt.

When Good News is Bad News

The good news: David Souter is leaving the SCOTUS. The bad news: Barack Obama is choosing his replacement. The worse news: he has a rubber stamp Senate to confirm her. I’m predicting the same as everyone else. He will choose an woman from an ethnic minority. Or as even liberal Time magazine says, “White men need not apply.”

I don’t care whether care whether the new justice is a man or a woman. I don’t care what their ethnic background is. What I do care about is the box-ticking exercise of thinking this is important. On one level care about the affirmative action approach to filling one of the nine most important judicial seats in the land. That is a very poor crtieria.

But the much more important thing it that it reflects a much more troubling aspect of Obama’s judicial philosophy.  “I view that quality of empathy, of understanding and identifying with people’s hopes and struggles, as an essential ingredient for arriving at just decisions and outcomes.” This sounds so wonderful and heartwarming.

We need someone who will bend and change the law to make people happy. We need unelected judges to override elected legislators in making law. We need to change the meaning of the Constitution because we feel sorry for people.  If we get a cultural and gender cross-section on the Court, they can represent the people in choosing what the Constitution should become – more white men are more likely to tell us what it is.

If the law cannot be changed on a case-by-case basis, then we are stuck with equality under the law. That makes it much more difficult to favour minorities or special interest groups, especially ones we for whom we feel sorry because we don’t think they have been as materially prosperous. Enlightened justices needs to protect and promote behaviour that legislators, encumbered as they are by the will of the people, won’t endorse.

I want to say in closing that I don’t have anything against David Souter personally. I am very disappointed that he has shifted from the conservative to liberal side of the Court. That’s why I wish I could be glad to see him go. As an individual, he has always been an outstanding example of public service.