The so-called “fiscal cliff” looms before the nation’s legislators and newly re-elected President. I am not so sure it is a cliff to begin with, but the economy is not just about data, it is about psychology, and if the Congress and the White House cannot come to terms, the uncertainty of the past few years will be perpetuated into the new year, with potentially devastating consequences for economic growth.
Four years ago, Barack Obama gave us Jan Brewer. Of course, what he did was choose then-Governor of Arizona Janet Napolitano to be Secretary of the Department of Homeland Security, which left the governorship of that state to Brewer. Now, four years on, we are told that Sen Harry Reid is objecting to a plan to name Sen. John Kerry as Secretary of State or Defense, because Reid worries Sen. Scott Brown, who just lost, would make a formidable candidate to take Kerry's seat. The other leading candidate for the post, U.N.
I am guessing that most of you are still recovering from all those carbs! Or, you are busy spending time with family and friends. Hopefully, you have minded the concerns raised in these pages about participating in that orgy of consumerism known as “Black Friday” and did not camp out at the mall overnight to be the first in line to purchase some new gizmo.
I love turkey and stuffing and sweet potatoes and cranberry relish and pumpkin pie. I love making and sending Christmas cards. I love putting on Handel's Messiah and playing Christmas carols on the piano. I love going into the forest to find the perfect Christmas tree and decorating it. But, the real reason this is the best time of the year is different from these reasons. The real reason is that at the moment we can watch BOTH college football and college basketball.
Cardinal Timothy Dolan has an op-ed up at the New York Post about the way commercialism is infecting our celebration of Thanksgiving and robbing it of its humanness. (Or, as Brad Gregory would have it, the way the goods life is obstructing to good life.) I wish to make two points. First, I emailed my colleague Heidi Schlumpf, who wrote about this horrible Black Friday sales-a-thon mentality, and asked if she had begun ghostwriting for Cardinal Dolan!
Peter Berkowitz, writing at RealClearPolitics, has an essay about freedom of expression and the way it is threatened in our culture, especially at our colleges and universities. I have as little use for the censors of the left as for the censors of the right, and Berkowitz is on to something.
Father John Zuhlsdorf, the right wing priest who has a penchant for referring to NCR as the "fishwrap," thinks Pope Benedict XVI had NCR in mind when he wrote this sentence: "Jesus' freedom is not the freedom of the liberal."
There is so much to be grateful for this year. But, before we get to that, I wish to reflect a moment about gratitude and why it may be the most vital human attitude, especially in our contemporary culture.
Last Friday, a federal judge ordered a temporary injunction against the HHS contraception mandate for a private, but distinctly religious, employer, Tyndale House Publishing. There is an important distinction to be made here. I have long argued that the most important aspect of the entire controversy is to enlarge the exemption from the mandate for religious institutions such as Catholic schools and hospitals and charities. But, I also believe that private firms, not officially affiliated with any particular church, but engaged in pervasively religious work, should also be exempt.
Cardinal Timothy Dolan penned an article for his archdiocesan newspaper about the recent elections. As in his comments before the election, Dolan's words are measured.