Archive for the ‘Politics’ Category

Watching From Afar

June 26, 2022

I’ve been privileged now to have observed some pretty major events in recent American history while abroad. It’s a curious feeling, being physically so detached while glued to Internet news feeds. A few observations.

Of the multiple dozens of news feeds I scan daily, I have seen exactly zero headlines indicating there is a large percentage of US citizens who oppose abortion and are relieved this heinous practice is no longer federally protected. Not a single one. By just reading headlines you would be led to believe nobody in America was praying and hoping for this reversal, and that it’s a cruel and barbaric ruling imposed on a population overwhelmingly opposed to it. Although survey data is hard to analyze, what is clear is that the numbers fluctuate greatly depending on how terms are defined. Although there is a +- 10% at either end of the spectrum, who either support or oppose abortion under any circumstances, the vast majority of Americans fall somewhere in between. And somewhere in between is not what Roe v. Wade provided for.

The only headline I’ve seen all week indicating the presence of Americans who welcome the overturn of Roe v. Wade was from the British publication The Guardian.

Headlines almost universally refer to the repeal of Roe v. Wade in language that would lead the uneducated person to believe abortion is now illegal throughout our country, rather than the reality that it is no longer a federally mandated option. Abortion is not illegal in our country. It may be illegal in certain parts of the country, or may become illegal. But that’s a decision best left to more localized populations than dictated from the national level.

Much is said about the changes conservatives are bringing to American policy, but all of the extremely liberal changes that have been wrought since Roe v. Wade are depicted as de facto rights that have always existed and should be above challenge, as opposed to legislation and judicial decisions which, per our Constitution, are always open to review or revision. As amazed as many news stories sound, it is not an alien thing for the Supreme Court to reverse a previous decision. It is rare that it reverses it’s own decisions, but this should be a good thing, assuring both sides that such instances represent some very lengthy deliberation and study of the Constitution and law rather than a simple response to popular pressure. For example, the original Roe v. Wade decision is about 36 pages long. Dobbs vs. Jackson, which overturned Roe v. Wade this week, is 213 pages long. Clearly a lot of thought was given to this case.

I’ve seen stories citing cherry-picked, Western and European countries who are shell-shocked America could change it’s mind on this issue. This ignores the fact that abortion is limited in a large number of countries in the world. Again, since abortion has not been outlawed in the US, it would be more helpful if news reports compared apples to apples in their reporting.

There have also – predictably – been news stories featuring Christians lamenting this decision and asserting their support for abortion. Very little is mentioned – if at all – in such articles that probably the overwhelming majority of Christians worldwide understand abortion to be a violation of God’s Word in the Bible, and that certainly the largest Christian denomination on Earth – the Roman Catholic Church – has and does and (God-willing) will continue to oppose the practice steadfastly. I know there are Christians (some of them Catholic) who disagree with the Bible and their denominational stance, but it’s dishonest to ignore this difference of opinion simply to make it sound like all Christians everywhere support abortion (or should support it).

The (apparent) total lack of regard many lawmakers, celebrities, politicians, and other leaders in our culture have for the many, many people in America who believe abortion to be morally wrong, and who therefore believe it should not be a mandated right (paid for with tax dollars no less) or believe it should be illegal, is indicative of the growing polarization of our population and contributes directly to it. If you wish to disparage the logic or argumentation or conclusions of another citizen, all well and good. But if you simply want to insult and deride them and flip them off, you are not part of the solution to our polarization, you are part of the problem. This applies equally to people on both sides of any given issue. The unwillingness and inability to actually debate and simply scream and yell is a condemnation of our churches, our schools, and should be of utmost concern to our leaders. That they prefer to exploit it for their agendas is abysmal.

Much mockery has been made in recent years of those Americans who openly question the honesty and reliability of American media and news outlets. I suspect most of us are too jaded these days to implicitly trust much of any source (outside a sacred text). The incredibly disproportionate tone of the news media just this week alone ought to give pause for thought to whether or not the major American news outlets really are, as they claim, representing the news fairly and without bias. Not that this shouldn’t have been obvious for decades, but if anyone had any doubts about it, this week ought to make it clear.

Who Is Discriminating Against Whom?

May 18, 2022

Not a soccer fan, let alone follower. But I am an interested observer of the growing requirements on professionals in all fields who are required by their employers to actively support things that may conflict with their personal opinions, preferences, ideological, political or religious beliefs.

Case in point today, a soccer player who opted not to play a match. Salient initial facts:

  • The player requested not to play for personal reasons. No further reasons were offered or requested by the player’s club.
  • The player’s team still handily won the game.
  • The player has apparently not made any statements about his absence online or elsewhere (or I’m sure the article would have pointed those out.

You’d think this would be a non-story, right? Wrong. Of course it’s a story. But it may not be the story it ought to be.

Idrissa Gueye asked to be excused from play for a personal reason without making any public statements of any kind, but in doing so he missed a match where the team was required to wear rainbow themed shirts showing support for LGBTQ+ rights. This same player missed the same themed-match a year ago, which has led to the inquiries this year as to what personal reason he might have for not wanting to play.

The article makes it sound like the clubs have the option of participating in this activity. The player’s club apparently decides to participate. It sounds like the club at the very least is willing to not conduct interrogations of players who request not to play in a given match. Though of course at a salary of over $30million, such requests must understandably be few and far between. But because Gueye opted not to directly support LGBTQ+ by wearing a mandatory jersey, he’s under fire. He is not entitled to his opinion or ideas. Nobody is really. Not any more. Not in certain cultures and societies. Not in the realm of LGBTQ+ affirmations. And certainly not if you’re a highly visible athlete with millions of fans.

And to ensure this doesn’t keep happening (which would embarrass the insistence on a show of uniform support and encouragement), Gueye is being asked to explain his absence to an ethics board.

The hilarious irony is better illustrated in this short article, quoting how wonderfully supportive of diversity the LGBTQ+ movement is. If you accept their definition of diversity, which excludes anyone who disagrees with them, even someone who does so without making any more fuss out of it than absolutely needs to.

But the story this story doesn’t bother to tackle, doesn’t want to tackle, is the issue of personal religious beliefs and how they can or can’t be publicly shown or lived out. Gueye is apparently Muslim. Islam does not sanction homosexuality in any way. Gueye’s apparent attempt to live out the tenets of his faith are to be discarded under the insistance that he falsely show support for something expressly forbidden by his religion. But there’s no mention of this in the article. Only the implication that Gueye needs to be properly reprimanded soas not to dare remain faithful to his beliefs, and instead pledge his faith to whatever other banner his club or the French Football Federation or whomever might buy them out chooses to fly on any given day.

This is already a problem in American sports as well, where athletes are expected to wear whatever branding their team management deems necessary or appropriate. I doubt they are given an option about whether they agree with it or not. Which is why parents and grandparents need to be talking with their families about the future, about the increasing difficulty of living your life as a person of faith in a culture and society insisting on not simply tolerance, but affirmation of LGBTQ+ in general.

Masked under the inaccurate language of -phobia, as though people who disagree with LGBTQ+ are afflicted with some sort of irrational fear, employees today and increasingly in the future will not simply have to keep their beliefs private (which is problematic to begin with), but rather actively espouse beliefs contrary to their beliefs. People need to be helping young people both to recognize this and find ways of handling it, as it’s not going to change anytime soon, and is only going to increase in fierceness and frequency.

I disagree in general with the idea of being paid millions of dollars to play a game. Then again, I’m not very talented at any sports-like thing so maybe I’m just bitter. But what a shame for someone with the skills and the tenacity to excel in something being forced to become political instead of letting them do what you’re ostensibly paying them to do – play a game.

Unless of course you’re paying them to do something else – like influence millions of young fans no simply to take up a sport and refine their skills, but to take up ideologies that more and more are likely to contradict multiple tenets of people’s core beliefs.

Abandoning the Field, and the Need to Redefine the Field

May 14, 2022

The last of my long-neglected articles is this essay by professor (former, now) speaker, thinker and writer Jordan Peterson.

This is a fantastic, no-punches-pulled essay. I believe Peterson has rightly diagnosed an extremely dangerous shift in our culture, one that I’ve been warning about for over a decade. It is not something that is going to go away any time soon. But there are hopeful signs that some leaders are fed up with it and willing to take a stand against it. The best example of this is Netflix, who seemed to be on the ropes last year with employees trying to hold the company hostage in order to force programming and production changes along the lines of what Peterson talks about. But rather than cave (and there was definitely wobbling last year), Netflix has decided that the honesty of artistic expression (and hopefully corresponding capital rewards) outweigh cancel culture. In a memo last week Netflix suggested employees who can’t handle any of the content Netflix produces or sells should consider working elsewhere rather than attempting hostage-techniques to wrest control of the company.

Not surprisingly, media coverage of this memo has been decidedly muted in comparison to the non-stop coverage of a handful of irate employees demanding sweeping changes and control of Netflix content last year. We can only hope more CEOs will follow suit.

It’s tempting to blame Peterson for abandoning the field. After all, if there aren’t holdouts against the rising order, can we ever hope for change? And wasn’t it exactly that tactic of gradual infiltration that ultimately turned American universities into bastions of radical liberal ideology? But I have to admit Peterson makes some good points. The very folks inclined to seek out his mentorship will be rewarded, no doubt, with bright scarlet letters atop their curriculum vitae in any academic HR department or before any hiring committee. He makes a good case that he’s actually doing limited good and by redirecting his efforts he might have a broader impact. Perhaps, within the echo-chamber of existing like-minded people.

But it seems Peterson should do more than lambast his peers who hide and curry favor in order to keep their jobs. Something different is called for, I’d suggest. A turning away from the increasing cycle of more and more years of public education and corresponding radical ideology. What is required is a re-thinking of whether universal university education is an expectation that provides any real degree of value. There will always be a need and place for people who do require advanced or specialized types of training, though I’d argue alternatives could and should be developed still to mandatory undergraduate and graduate degrees for doctors and other professionals. Peterson seems to accept the mandate that has grown unceasingly over the last 40 years – universal university education is a good goal and a benefit to both the individual and society.

But as pressure mounts to eliminate some or all student loan debt, this clearly is a flawed premise. Even when I was in high school in the early 80’s there was already a stigma against vocational education. Maybe more effort should be directed at countering this stigma and providing recognition of honorable work that doesn’t require a degree. While I’m not familiar with and therefore not endorsing everything Mike Rowe might be saying, I do respect his critique of the denigration in American society of vocational training and jobs as somehow menial and non-respectable.

Hopefully Peterson will find that broader platform he hints at. His voice is much needed. But one voice isn’t nearly enough.

The Real Story

May 4, 2022

By now everyone is talking. Likely you are too. Courtesy of Politico, there’s no lack of discussion going on right now about the possibility – or likelihood – the Supreme Court will reverse Roe v. Wade, ending Federally promoted and protected abortion rights and delegating such authority to states.

Fair enough. There’s lots to talk about.

We could talk about whether abortion should be a nationally defended and enshrined right or not. That’s where most of the talk right now will focus. No real difference there – the debate has been heated and the split hardly lopsided since Roe v. Wade was first handed down. Most of that discussion will likely focus narrowly on the Supreme Court’s role in both creating such a right and then modifying it (not eliminating, as this will be spun in most liberal circles). The Supreme Court’s decision will almost certainly not ban abortion, but will repeal it as a Federal matter and open the door for individual states to determine their course of action on the matter.

We could talk about the lopsided insistence of not only allowing but, definitionally, encouraging and legitimizing abortion as a viable method of birth control despite a huge percentage of Americans with serious to moderate reservations on the matter. The press coverage thus far is predictably overwhelmingly in support of Roe v. Wade, condemning the Supreme Court for even considering reversing it and with it 50 years of abortion promotion. Language about women’s rights and privacy predominate coverage thus far. Notably absent in such coverage – as well as in the scientific community – is the reassertion that abortion kills a human being. Absent is discussion on whether the fact that a human being is very, very small negates their human rights in the justification of murder.

But what we ought to be talking about – very seriously – is the fact that we’re talking about these things because some staffer inside the Supreme Court, some law clerk or other person privy to the information, leaked it to the press, and the press decided to publish it. As Politico acknowledges, this has never happened before in the history of the United States. The precedent it sets is monumental and catastrophic. The intent can be none other than the (further) polemical politicizing of the Supreme Court, and to pressure the justices based on selective coverage of public outrage.

If anyone considers this to be a win for justice or reason or democracy, they are grossly mistaken. There is no benefit in this. If it accomplishes the goal of swaying justices away from such a decision, this is not a positive thing regardless of how happy abortion-rights activists might be. It will demonstrate our forfeit of whatever justice remains in our country on the altar of popular (and usually ill- or mis-informed) opinion and emotionalism, disproportionately framed by a complicit media bent on distorting the reality of a truly divided population. Further commentary on these dangers will be whether the offending person can and will be identified, and what penalties they suffer. It’s already a given they will be exonerated by the press, but if they are not dealt with sternly nonetheless, the precedent set will be disastrous. The possibility that such an action could have possibly been encouraged by one of the Justices themselves should also not be overlooked, though the ramifications of such a situation will likely have to be dealt with solely by that justice’s conscience.

Again, there is no scenario in which the events this week can be seen as any sort of win for the Supreme Court, democracy, the much-vaunted and ill-defined concept of privacy so glibly invoked by those wishing to defend the legal status quo, the judicial process as a whole, and by extension the American people. I pray Roe v. Wade is overturned. The number of lives such a reversal might save – even though individual states may still opt to legalize abortion via state law – is hugely important. But the recklessness of leaking this information and publishing it have already inflicted massive damage on American justice, and the reverberations of this will continue to echo in our culture and society long after this set of judges have passed on.

An Important Reminder

May 3, 2022

Freedom of religion as a Constitutional creation is not the means by which the Church should protect itself from the world, nor the means by which the Church should push the world to conform. Other religions have and do make those mistakes. For the Christian, we have to be wiser than this, even if it means watching once-taken-for-granted morality basics redefined or eliminated. Seeking to do away with or redefine freedom of religion is therefore not a game we ought to be engaged in. This is a good essay reminding Christians where we profess our hope lies, and encouraging us to align our intellects as well.

Loans and Such

April 29, 2022

I’ll say at the outset I’m opposed to the concept of student loan forgiveness. Part of a loan is learning responsibility for the debt you undertake – primarily the responsibility to repay it. There are few lessons learned in cancelling all or some student loan debt.

That being said, I’m less opposed to focused cancellation of some student loan debt for low-income holders of student loan debt. I’m not heartless. Tragedy can and does strike and circumstances may well encourage the use of limited, specific partial loan forgiveness.

What troubles me is I’ve heard no discussion beyond forgiveness amounts $10,000 or $50,000 of student loan debt (or, as the hard-core proponents would prefer, elimination of all current student loan debt to the overall tune of close to $2 trillion dollars) and possibly the scope of who might qualify. But there’s so much else to think about.

For instance, low-income borrowers who qualify for debt forgiveness at some level – what does that mean? Were they low-income when they initially borrowed the money? Is there going to be some level of scrutiny of student loan processes for low-income borrowers who may well have difficulty repaying in the future? Will that result in lower amounts of loan money directed to low-income borrowers, or more stringent requirements from applicants? That seems quite contradictory to stated goals (which I disagree with) of encouraging essentially universal college education.

Is forgiveness considered based only on current low-income status? For how long? And of what nature? Is prolonged unemployment one form of defining low-income status? Might there be more of an exchange than an outright elimination of debt? Could borrowers desiring some level of forgiveness provide volunteer hours in exchange (particularly if they aren’t working currently)? How does one quantify low-income status? Are we creating incentives for borrowers to lower their earnings right after university to qualify for future forgiveness programs? Is that even possible?

Are defaulters on their loan payments eligible for partial forgiveness? Under what circumstances and rationale? What do we teach to potential student loan applicants in this process?

So many questions. So little reported discussion about them. But if we don’t examine the system as a whole to determine how to avoid problems in the future, this won’t end up being just a one-time buy-off of voters debt forgiveness offer to young people. We’re simply setting the stage for continued, future cancellations of loan debt. Debt, by the way, that is (as I’m sure we all remember) not simply abstract government debt, but debt funded by our tax dollars. It isn’t being eliminated magically – just repayment by the borrower is being eliminated. The rest of us are still on the hook for it, as will be innumerable future generations.

So consider carefully the ramifications of any student loan debt forgiveness program, no matter how limited in amount or recipients. It will still prove to be a useful precedent for future, additional programs.

Following the French

December 31, 2021

I could have sworn I blogged some years ago about an initiative with some French grocery stores to sell ugly produce at lower prices. This based on the reality that only a portion of produce grown is able to be sold to grocery stores, who generally want perfect fruits and vegetables which will appeal to consumers. Those less-than-perfect fruits and vegetables often end up rotting with no buyers available. However, I wasn’t able to find either that post or any related online material about the program. Hopefully it’s still going!

But the French are continuing to re-evaluate how to be environmentally friendly in the grocery store, this time banning plastic packaging. I’ve been amazed (and depressed) that despite alleged concerns over the environment and trash here in the US, disposable products continue to be created and marketed – a triumph over alleged convenience over any sort of ecological or environmental conscious. The example that sticks in my mind is commercials for single-use disposable plastic cutting boards.

Attempting to reduce the production of single-use plastics and the ongoing creation of trash bound for landfills ought to be a common-sense topic for those who truly believe human beings are behind climate change. It ought to make sense in general, regardless of your views on the origins of climate change. Less trash is good, and reminding people of the financial as well as environmental benefits of reusing and reducing is something we all could use.

Might even make a good resolution for the new year!

Old Testament Laws Today

December 26, 2021

An interesting article about the Old Testament rule that Israelite farmers needed to observe a sabbath year every – seventh year – from planting and harvesting crops (Exodus 23:10-12). I’m sure there were complicated issues of politics in Old Testament times as well as today. The directive was given for the express purpose of benefitting the poor (who had no fields of their own and could glean from whatever sprouted in their wealthier neighbors’ untended fields.

Following Up

December 19, 2021

Following yesterday’s post on the rather narrow focus of Covid-response measures (essentially vaccinations for everyone) I came upon this article from National Public Radio. It references “surge teams” created to assist hard-hit Covid areas and provided a link to more information. That led me to this White House press release from 12/2/21. While it doesn’t talk about building more healthcare infrastructure – temporary or permanent in nature – it does briefly describe several teams of personnel available for deployment nationwide, as well as funding measures to support locally-based groups of medical volunteers.

These are certainly good responses and I wish we heard more about them. Since it’s apparent already vaccinations alone are not going to stop Omicron or likely future strains of Covid – at least not to the extent we don’t have to worry about surges in cases and potential corresponding increases in hospitalizations – directing some serious thought and resources to additional infrastructure only makes sense, could help to provide jobs and economic stimulus to various areas, and would provide people more hope that we will get through this time one way or another.

I can’t take credit for these ideas (dang it!), but I can at least recognize that other people far better placed than myself are thinking about them.

Lutherans in the Spotlight

November 17, 2021

Lutherans – and particularly conservative, Confessional Lutherans – don’t often make it into the public spotlight. That’s partially intentional. Still, people are noticing that our aversion to the spotlight doesn’t mean we don’t have ideas (Biblical, hopefully!) to communicate to the power-brokers and king-makers of Washington D.C. Here’s a brief spotlight on the unfortunate necessity of the Lutheran Church – Missouri Synod working to help shape public policy and the rule of law.