Friday, 12/6/13

    1. Not-So-Jolly St. Nick
    2. Perverts and power shoppers in bed together
    3. Affirmative action for doggerel
    4. Here comes another bubble!

1

We celebrate St. Nicholas today, and fondly recall his smacking Proto-Heretic Arius up side da’ head.

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(H/T Priest Michael Fulton via Orthodoxy & Heterodoxy) Along the same lines, from St. Peter’s List, 13 St. Nicholas Même’s, including “When Santa Punched a Heretic in the Face.”

No, we’re not fans of violence. Nicholas was stripped of his Bishopric for punching Arius. But Christ restored him, the details of just how having varied in the stories I’ve heard. Other versions say nothing about punching Arius.

Hey, what can I say: it’s Hagiography!

2

The new Pope has gotten a lot of “conservative” knickers in a knot, among both jackasses (Rush Limbaugh denounced the Pope as a Marxist) and some folks I respect and admire (Hadley Arkes said the Pope should have a chat with Michael Novak), with his economic thought. Patrick Deneen, a rising star academic with Distributist leanings, has followed it more closely than I:

American conservatives grumbled but dutifully denounced a distorting media when Pope Francis seemed to go wobbly on homosexuality, but his criticisms of capitalism have crossed the line, and we now see the Pope being criticized and even denounced from nearly every rightward-leaning media pulpit in the land.
Not far below the surface of many of these critiques one hears the following refrain: why can’t the Pope just go back to talking about abortion? Why can’t we return the good old days of Pope John Paul II or Benedict XVI and talk 24/7/365 about sex? Why doesn’t Francis have the decency to limit himself to talking about Jesus and gays, while avoiding the rudeness of discussing economics in mixed company, an issue about which he has no expertise or competence?

These commentators all but come and out say: we embrace Catholic teaching when it concerns itself with “faith and morals”—when it denounces abortion, opposes gay marriage, and urges personal charity. This is the Catholicism that has been acceptable in polite conversation. This is a stripped-down Catholicism that doesn’t challenge fundamental articles of economic faith.

(Would Someone Just Shut That Pope Up?)

Deneen then avoids dwelling on the obvious: some Catholic conservatives are every bit as guilty of “cafeteria Catholicism” as the aborters, contraceptors, supporters of SSM and the like. Instead, he shows the link – dare I say “seamless web”? – between the “sexual” and economic teachings:

But there has been no rupture—neither the one wished for by the left nor feared by the right …
Like John Paul and Benedict before him, Francis discerns the continuity between a “throw-away” economy and a “throw-away” view of human life. He sees the deep underlying connection between an economy that highlights autonomy, infinite choice, loose connections, constant titillation, utilitarianism and hedonism, and a sexual culture that condones random hook-ups, abortion, divorce and the redefinition of marriage based on sentiment, and in which the weak—children, in this case, and those in the lower socio-economic scale who are suffering a complete devastation of the family—are an afterthought.

(Emphasis added to justify my teaser) In Orthodox Christianity, I suspect that the same link would be expressed more in terms of spillover between one out-of-control passion and another.

I may have quoted too much already. Read Deneen for yourself. Maybe you should even set a Google watch search (or whatever they call it) for “Patrick Deneen.” He seldom disappoints.

3

Speaking of jackass “conservatives”:

Limbaugh, Palin, et alia are not hills conservatives ought to be willing to die on, so to speak. There are an incredible number of titles published every year. You really can’t imagine. When I was at the Dallas Morning News, for example, the books sent for review piled up in a large room; I am sure that maybe only two percent of all the books sent by publishers were ever reviewed, in part because there are fewer and fewer pages in newspapers for reviews. Book review editors have a responsibility to their readers not to give notice to crap (and I include under that rubric similar pseudo-books published by left-wing personalities). Newspaper book reviewing really is a zero-sum game, in that every column inch given over to a junk book, however popular the book and its author may be, is a column inch taken away from a serious, worthwhile book.

(Rod Dreher, No Affirmative Action For Conservative Books, commenting on alleged bias in book reviews at the New York Times)

4

The U.S. had once been known for the high quality of its mortgage loans, but this began to change once Congress enacted affordable-housing goals in 1992. Under that legislation, Fannie and Freddie—which were then, as now, the standard-setters for the mortgage market—were required by the Department of Housing and Urban Development to purchase an increasing quota of loans to borrowers at or below the median income where they lived.

As HUD increased this quota between 1992 and 2008, Fannie and Freddie were forced to reduce their underwriting standards—accepting loans with 3% down payments in 1995 and 0% down in 2000—in order to find eligible borrowers. Mortgage financing is a competitive business, and as Fannie and Freddie’s underwriting standards deteriorated, they spread to the wider market.

(Wall Street Journal) The occasion of this historic vignette is the likely confirmation of Mel Watt to head FHFA, and his likely return to those sorts of policies so we get, yes, another housing bubble and melt-down.

Don’t be fooled. Flipping houses is not a sure-fire path to riches. And when mortgage practices get lax to create a political simulacrum of prosperity, it’s not “safe and sound,” contrary to FHFA’s Mission Statement, and big problems follow.

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“The remarks made in this essay do not represent scholarly research. They are intended as topical stimulations for conversation among intelligent and informed people.” (Gerhart Niemeyer)

Some succinct standing advice on recurring themes.