Archive for the ‘Politics’ Category

Elephants & Science

January 18, 2023

Two interesting articles this week that at least I see a connection with. Then again, I’m no scientist.

One is the first public study I’ve heard of linking (at least potentially) the growing trend of self-violence, self-medication and suicide with a decline in religious belief. I originally saw the reference on a Roman Catholic web site, but then saw it picked up by the Daily Mail. Although I’m sure it won’t result in any measurable change in public, academic or political policies, at least someone has pointed out that these two trends – falling levels of religious behavior and rising levels of deaths of despair – might be related.

Of particular interest is the correlation not between religious belief and despairing actions, but the correlation between religious behavior (weekly worship attendance) and deaths of despair. What you say isn’t nearly as important as what you do. And whether you think you have a deep spiritual life or not, spirituality and privatized beliefs are not the same as active participation in religious life.

How could such an obvious (at least to me) correlation have escaped study for so long? Perhaps it’s because there is an overall trend for scientific research and studies to be less challenging than they used to be. In other words, disruptive science has seen a marked decline since the mid-20th century. This could of course mean we’ve reached a plateau and we aren’t able at this time to make more disruptive discoveries.

But it could also mean science as a whole is less interested in looking for disruptions.

As such, elephants in the room such as a decline in religious life and a rise in self-harm (as well as harm to others, which the study didn’t cover but which I think is also directly related) are simply not seen. People don’t want to see them, perhaps. Or they’re simply so inculcated in a particular line of thought as to not even conceive of such possibilities.

I also think there are deeper spiritual powers at work here. It wouldn’t surprise me at all to think of Satan and his powers being particularly interested in prompting lines of thought and inquiry that appear to render religious understandings of creation invalid. And that having accomplished this (or convincing enough people that it was accomplished) there’s no further diabolical interest in sparking scientific inquiry in such directions. After all, a diabolical misdirect might be discovered if science was truly as objective as it claims to be. Since people are inherently non-objective, the idea that science is not either shouldn’t be a shocker to anyone, peer reviews and other mechanisms aside.

It could also be that science has reached a certain level of institutionalization, financially and otherwise, where bold ideas are suppressed as unhelpful to the larger edifice. Scientists nurtured from primary school through their doctoral work might be so inculcated in an acceptance of the status quo that outside thought seems, well, blasphemous. As well as directly threatening to their livelihood. We witness the vitriol and professional bans applied against those who dare disagree with an established line of scientific thought, and it’s obvious that even the best-intentioned of scientists or academics would be loathe to challenge such a juggernaut. Watching your funding disappear and facing the wrath of school administrators is terrible. Being blacklisted on social media for simply asking questions is the same sort of terrorism those now in control (apparently) of our culture levied against the cultural movers and shakers of just a few generations ago.

I’m all for science in it’s proper contexts. But it’s no shock to me that those contexts have been warped and exceeded wildly on the one hand, and curtailed perhaps unprofitably on the other hand. Science as a monolithic institution of sorts may find itself caught in the very same difficulties it so glibly derided the Church for (and not entirely unfairly, to be sure). Either reason or faith when misapplied or misdirected can be terribly damaging, and Satan has proven himself adept at using whichever extreme is most advantageous at the moment.

Lying and Hating

November 25, 2022

Living on the other side of the world I try to keep abreast of global news including back home in the US. Lately it seems most of the news stories revolve around Americans killing other Americans in America. Sometimes for reasons we know, other times not.

All of these are atrocities and tragedies. The Biblical rule against murder is not conditional. The Biblical command to love our neighbor as ourselves (and even to love our enemies) is not conditional either. Which means Christians should be praying for everyone. Certainly this should be a standard practice but certainly in times of crisis the need is more obvious. Those Christians who refuse to pray or pray selectively should go back to Scripture and remind themselves that our political or cultural identities do not define us and our duties to our Lord. Our Lord determines them and has made himself pretty clear. If society and culture has rejected the Biblical truths we confess, it does not free us of our Lord’s command to love and to pray.

That being said, there are more than a few disturbing aspects to the Colorado Springs shooting at a gay club.

It caught my attention that the initial information about the shooter indicated that, by all accounts, he likely shared some commonalities with more than a few of the attendees of the club. I was prepared for the barrage of anti-conservative critics pointing out the shooter’s fundamentalist Christian background. Instead, I read the shooter identified as non-binary and preferred non-gender-specific pronouns. Although I’m sure such indicators don’t preclude Christian (anymore) or conservative ideologies, in my experience that would not be the more likely reality.

Perceptions and expectations are tricky things. But so is outright ignorance.

So while I pray for the owner of the club, his patrons, the victims, everyone associated directly and indirectly with the event and our country and society as a whole, his recent comments on the event are problematic. His interpretation is the shooting is simply the logical outcome of those who oppose normalizing alternative sexual or gender identities. Once again it’s the alternative lifestyles being victimized by the oppressive conservatives who refuse to promote their preferences.

But that isn’t the case in this situation. This seems more to be the case of one who might see himself – or be seen by his victims – as somewhat similar. More like one of their own. Which complicates attempts to cast it otherwise. Or at least should. Perhaps it’s just a way of interpreting life that is so ingrained with the owner it still gets voiced even when the facts don’t support it.

As always, I’m happy to retract any of my statements disproved by additional news sources or information I may not have seen.

The owner seems to at the very least not be aware of or understand the shooter.

Similar to the situation in this article, which is much larger and more problematic level.

Now, to be fair, I don’t have an encyclopedic knowledge of everything Boebert has said about the LGBTQ+ community or agenda. I know she’s mouthy and not exactly diplomatic, a trait shared by a disturbingly larger and larger percent of the population it seems and our leaders as well.

For clarification – religious or otherwise – disagreeing with someone yet still caring about them is not hypocritical. To disagree with someone does not necessitate (and should not necessitate) dehumanizing them or wishing evil upon them. This is a typical assertion of the LGBTQ+ community, insisting that anything other than full acceptance of and promotion of their radical redefinitions of humanity is hateful. Disagreement is not hatred. Failure to understand this is a failure to understand the fundamental rules of logic and disputation.

Again, perhaps Boebert has said things in the past that deserve the hypocritical charge. But if not, if she – like many, many, many Americans (far more than the left or the media would like to admit) – disagrees with attempts to redefine humanity, then it is not hypocritical (especially if they are Christian) to still pray for those they disagree with. It is, rather, commanded of them. Failure to understand this is a failure to understand even the basic elements of the religious convictions of roughly a third of the world’s population and the overwhelming majority religion in America.

I’ll put the best construction on things and assume the statements by the owner of the club and leaders of the LGBTQ+ movement are just ill-informed rather than lying about the facts at hand or about the fact that disagreeing is not hatred. Otherwise, the alternative seemingly insisted upon is that we always agree with anything anyone says about anything at any time for fear of creating hate of some sort that erupts into violence. By such logic LGBTQ+ advocates immediately null their own argument.

Violence is not the answer, and anyone on either side of this or any other argument that first resorts to it is wrong and should be condemned. In fact, it is facile attempts to invalidate opposition through words and reason and faith that can lead people to frustration and eventually violence. Let’s agree that there is a profound disagreement over the LGBTQ+ agenda and treat it as an actual intelligent disagreement that deserves to be vetted in the public square rather than immediately squashing and vilifying any dissent (on either side, by either side).

It won’t stop the killing, but it may slow it down some. Stopping it completely is going to take a long time and a much more difficult willingness to recognize we’ve been going down the wrong ideological rabbit hole for the last 70-some years. I don’t think that will happen in my lifetime but I pray it begins soon. It’s the only way these horrible killings (whether murder or suicide) will stop.

Ending With a Whimper

August 14, 2022

After over two years of sacrifice and fear, I guess this is how it ends. A barely reported update from the CDC that two cornerstones of the Covid pandemic era are no longer necessary. Social distancing is no longer recommended nor is at-home self-quarantining after being exposed to someone with Covid. Apparently there are enough people with antibodies that the unchecked spread of Covid is less a concern. That and weakened strains of Covid that don’t hospitalize or kill nearly as many people – though that’s not mentioned as prominently.

I wish there was a party. I wish we could celebrate making it through this together. I wish there was some acknowledgement that our efforts were helpful and effective. We did bend the curve enough to avoid completely overwhelming hospitals and healthcare institutions globally (although some places were indeed overwhelmed at various points). For all the jobs lost, educations disrupted, livelihoods reduced, emotional grief experienced, for all the fear and anxiety and uncertainty – to be able to have some sort of cathartic release would be so nice!

But we’re not going to get any of that kind of celebration. No hurrahs, no congratulations. Nothing. I suspect there are a several possible reasons.

First, I think there is a recognition of the power of mass fear in modifying human behavior, and acknowledging that a fear is passed doesn’t contribute towards that power. Other than 9/11 which was far more limited in scope there hasn’t been an opportunity in the US to see how far people’s behavior could be dictated and forced to change in America in our lifetime. In several generations, in fact. To celebrate the fact that such changes were unfortunate and only necessary for a short period of time might short-circuit the use of such tactics in the future, whether pandemic or otherwise related.

Secondly, people have been conditioned to fear, and there is no shortage (apparently) of possible new contagions to be fearful of. Monkeypox is an obvious example, though exact numbers are quite elusive and the apparent relegation of the disease primarily to the LGBTQ+ community hasn’t made it quite as comprehensive and able to generate the same level of fear – though media outlets are doing their best. Future variants of Covid will no doubt all get their airtime full of suspense and uncertainty whether they merit them or not. Insistence on tracking and reporting Covid cases rather than hospitalizations and deaths will also mean that inevitable spikes will be a cause for further pot-banging, even if they don’t cause more damage than any other illness we’ve taken for granted all our lives.

Thirdly, I suspect there is some level of bitterness in the scientific community. Though initial calls to shut down businesses and lock ourselves in our houses were couched in terms of bending the curve and trying to mitigate the rush of cases and hospitalizations and deaths in the early months of the pandemic, it became quickly clear this wasn’t really good enough for some in the scientific community. Instead, reasonable language was replaced with irrational language – warfare language. We weren’t simply going to endure Covid and ride it out and have as few deaths as possible, we were going to beat it. Defeat it. Stop it. End it. We were going to win because we had the science and technology to do so. Allegedly.

Vaccinations were a big part of this shift in language and I think there is some latent bitterness the vaccinations proved far less capable of protecting people from infection than initially asserted. Granted, the vaccines apparently lessened the severity of infection for some people, but I think there were more than a few folks convinced we could develop a vaccine that would essentially make people bullet-proof to the virus. Instead, we all got a first-class education in the limits of science and technology. And humility is not pleasant.

We also, hopefully, got a first-class lesson in the reality that America is different from any other country in the world. And while we’re quick to tout the benefits and glories of this, there are inevitable trade-offs. Our foundation on individual human rights rather than individual obligation to a government is a huge difference between the US and every other country in the world, democratic or otherwise. The insistence that the individual should be the primary arbiter of their risk-taking and general behavior has provided incredible opportunities that people from around the world still literally risk their lives to participate in by entering our country (legally or illegally).

On the flip side though, Americans are not as willing to accept mandates, directives, or recommendations, and as such vaccine rates were far lower than political and scientific individuals and groups wanted. The stubbornness that prefers to take somewhat known risks rather than the unknown risks of a newly developed vaccine was vexing for political and scientific leaders alike, and I think there is still bitterness over this. Nobody wants to congratulate a population that to varying degrees resisted the exhortations and pleadings and in some cases demands. Rewarding such behavior is counter-productive for future situations.

As someone who put off vaccination until the last possible moment and who personally had the illness, I commend this hard-headedness. I commend people insisting on making their own decisions rather than relegating that authority to some other agency. At least as much as possible. Such a line of reasoning does not – contrary to popular media – make people monsters. I think it makes them Americans (which some might equate with monstrosity). This applies in reverse as well – those who opted for the vaccine should be free to do so without denigration from others. Options are a blessing, as is personal agency. You’d think that was not the case to hear some people talk over the last couple of years.

So I think you should throw yourselves a party. Gather your family and friends. Gather your Covid-community that endured the hardships together. Do what’s healthy for yourself rather than expecting the powers-that-be to encourage or sponsor it. Don’t wait for someone to establish a day to celebrate when we collectively started to breathe sighs of relief that Covid was merely endemic. Because they aren’t going to.

While you’re at it, maybe give some consideration about how you’re going to pass down your experiences to the generations after you, especially the ones too young to remember or not around yet. Figure out how to convey your personal and family and community experience of Covid to future generations, rather than allowing whatever official reports exist or will be created to do that for you. You lived through a peculiar piece of US and world history, and your kids and grandkids and great grandkids and beyond would love to hear about it!

And good job, by the way. Whether you fought for vaccines or against them. Regardless of what philosophy you espoused or what political machinations you worked with or against. You made it through. By the grace of God, and that’s something to give thanks for, even as we remember those who didn’t.

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!