Ammunition

This ought to make for some interesting questioning during Judge Sotomayor’s hearing, if nothing else. The Supreme Court has struck down the 2nd Circuit’s (which included potential Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor) ruling in Ricci v. DeStefano. Although over at SCOTUS Blog they seem to think the majority went out of their way not to lay into Sotomayor’s decision.

Update: Now a plurality of Americans oppose Sotomayor’s confirmation. What effect that will have on the Senate confirmation process, what with newly minted Senator Stuart Smalley now on board, remains to be seen.

What a Way to End What a Week

Each morning during the week, I take the orange line two stops from Virginia Square to Courthouse for work. The trip is short, and I don’t bother sitting down. I mute the world with my iPod as I prepare myself for the next eight hours.

Upon arrival at the Courthouse stop, I drain off the metro car, endure the muggy ride up the uncomfortably long escalator, and emerge on street level. Air. As of late, I’ve picked up a copy of the Express, a free Washington Post publication, handed out by the man at the top of the escalators.

The day after the metro rail crash, I picked up the Express and brought it to the office. I mentioned to a few of my fellow summers that I planned to save the paper. A piece of history — the most destructive DC metro crash ever. The next day, I picked up a copy of the Express with the tear-stained face of my governor and then-likely 2012 presidential candidate, Mark Sanford, on the cover. The next day, I grabbed a copy of the Express with a cover exclaiming: “The King is Dead.”

In addition to the above, the Monday through Friday included the deaths of Farrah Fawcett and Ed McMahon, a global threat from North Korea, and — to “cap” it off — the passage of the horrific climate bill.

What a week of tragedy here on earth. Thank God we were made for the bliss of eternity.

UPDATE: Even before the next Monday could arrive, the infomercial god Billy Mays has died.

Fourth Circuit decides partial-birth abortion case

Did you see the 4th Circuit’s decision on Wednesday upholding Virginia’s partial-birth abortion ban? Here’s my favorite passage from Judge Wilkinson:

The fact is that we-civilized people-are retreating to the haven of our Constitution to justify dismembering a partly born child and crushing its skull. Surely centuries hence, people will look back on this gruesome practice done in the name of fundamental law by a society of high achievement. And they will shudder.

Summer Reading

In the past month, I’ve read three good books we could all benefit from. Here’s a little about the first book, Benedict XVI on St. Paul.

The book (with reviews here, here, and here) is a compilation of Benedict’s Wednesday audiences during the Year of St. Paul that just ended. These short exhortations explain a lot about St. Paul, but also explain a lot about what we are called to do in the political world today.
St. Paul was a master in the sense that he knew the precepts of his religion and followed them strictly. But what is more, St. Paul showed that he is a master of culture, of bringing the truths of the Gospel into the secular world and making them both intelligible and attractive.
Our country has lost its moral compass in many ways. With the fall of Gov. Sanford, many conservatives feel that they lost another bright light arguing for strong moral values. But we do not “need” people in power to win this fight for us. St. Paul shows us that God can even take people who are acting directly contrary to His will and turn them to the good. St. Paul, once a persecutor of Christians, became perhaps its greatest preacher. We, too, as fallen and inadequate as we are, can turn the tide of the culture one person at a time.
So, let us act like St. Paul and stand firm in our faith, in our convictions, in our belief that the good will win because it already has won. And let us preach the truth to anyone and everyone we meet so that we may improve our culture and our country.

Financial Responsibility and the Era of Credit Cards

“That” Kid
Do you remember “that” kid? I’m referring to the kid that always spoke out of turn, or tackled others during two-hand touch football. It was the same kid that like to take everyone else’s lunch money. Remember what happened in second period when we were allowed to talk quietly for the few minutes before class got out and that kid made an obnoxious scene? I do, and I am sure you do too. The teacher brought those games and those freedoms to an abrupt end. Everyone remembers “that” kid. Now, in the interest of fairness, Obama is ending the financial carnival offered by credit card companies.

“That” Kid “Grew” Up
As an adult, this kid’s childlike, bullish, see-it-take-it tendencies have wavered little. His tastes are more refined. He has become a connoisseur of fine wine, a commander of a flashy SUV, and a consumer of brand-name, depreciating merchandise. For all his riches, you’d think this person –the same guy that managed to sleep through first period and still graduate – to be quite wealthy. Unfortunately, but not unexpectedly, he has spiraled into financial disarray with his credit cards. The government, as paternalistic as it is, swoops in and saves him from the clutches of the industry that allowed him such hurtful freedom.

Who Pays the Bill?
Credit card companies are now notifying its holders that the traditional rewards some (including myself) had come to appreciate are coming to an end. The reason: tighter regulation of the credit industry. On the surface, these new rules seem fair and even purport to put the consumer on equal grounds of those evil credit card companies.

What can the consumer expect? Among other consumer “perks”: no interest increases until 60 days of default and the resetting of the original APR after six months of timely payments.

The credit card industry is a business to make money; it profits on its holder’s tendency to carry a balance. Though its motives are capitalistic by lending money at higher interests rates to riskier consumers, they also benefit the diligent by offering introductory 0% financing, frequent flyer miles or cashback rewards. But when the industry is slammed with legislation binding its ability contractual lend money, nobody wins.

Answer: We Do
But what this means practically is that those credit card consumers that have continually paid on-time and enjoyed the lower rates, cash-back or point rewards – those that I like to consider the “responsible ones” – these are the ones paying the for “that” kid’s spending patterns. Result: game over. The teacher now takes away the ball or now gives the other students busy work for the last few minutes of class.

See, with less credit card regulations, companies have been able to freely tier those they lend to. For example, John Q, a non-risky bill payer will enjoy lower interest rates than John S who has a habit of carrying a high balance and sometimes misses an occasional payment. New legislation signed by Obama effectively obliterates this distinction drawn by the unregulated industry.

Is This Good?
Concluding this post is tough for me and could easily become unwieldly. Where does one draw the line because usurious and cautious? On one hand, we have complete federal regulation of the credit card industry and at the other – complete deregulation (think pay-day loans). I’ll end by stating this: I don’t like this new legislation.

I won’t take the position that I am somehow “entitled” to my credit card reward points, but I do think that incremental steps, even benefit the minority – those that cannot handle money wisely. In that case, the solution is not necessarily regulation the credit card industry but through fiscal education taught to both parents and children. Sadly, at times, these groups overlap.