Category : * Economics, Politics

(NC Register) Msgr. Charles Pope–Catholics Beware: The Attack on Free Speech is Growing Stronger

Hate is a strong word. It means “to regard with extreme ill-will, have a passionate aversion to, treat as an enemy” (source: Online Etymology Dictionary, etmyonline.com). True hatred is ugly. One should exercise care in attributing hatred to others because it identifies a dangerous level of passion in them and can poison reputations. Doing so can even amount to libel or slander.

Sadly, the words “hate” and “hatred” are bandied about today in a very careless manner. Mere disagreements or differing views about issues (not even about persons) are called “hate speech” and people who espouse them are called “haters.” Using such a term to describe a person speaks to his or her psychological state. As such, it is a form of ad hominem argumentum, an argument that seeks to discredit the person rather than address the issue. In effect, the charge is an attempt to shame or discredit rather than to debate the issues at hand openly and honestly.

One of the greatest and most prized things about our country has been our dedication to free speech and open, honest discussion and debate about issues and policies. Unfortunately, that has been eroding over the past few decades.

The erosion began with the concept of “political correctness.” Irritating though that often was, there was still the notion that being “incorrect” was not a crime. Political correctness is now devolving into something more pernicious; many views seem to be politically required under pain of social and economic exclusion—sometimes even legal sanction. If you espouse a view that is not the politically required one, the increasing effect is not merely to be scorned, but to be dragged into court, sued, decertified, and/or banned from social media/websites. The legal, economic, and social consequences can be steep and swift. It is today’s version of the “McCarthyism” of the 1950s.

Read it all.

Posted in America/U.S.A., Ethics / Moral Theology, History, Law & Legal Issues, Politics in General, Religion & Culture, Roman Catholic

(Economist) Reno, Nevada–Anti-vagrancy laws are not the best way to reduce homelessness

As the city’s fortunes have risen, so too have its rents, occupancy rates and house prices. Since 2012 the median price of a home has doubled; the average rental price jumped 17% between 2014 and 2016. In January the Reno Area Alliance for the Homeless counted nearly 4,000 people living in weekly motels, up from 2,560 in 2011. Those who cannot afford motels have moved into shelters or onto the street.

If the proposed ordinance to ban sleeping outside passes, Reno’s police officers will be directed to try persuading those living on the streets to move to shelters. If they have no space, the homeless living on the street will be left alone. But if they do, anyone living outside who refuses to move in after a warning might be arrested.

An arrest record makes it harder for a homeless person to find employment or housing in the future. Many studies suggest there are cheaper ways to tackle the problem. The Central Florida Commission on Homelessness, a charity, found that the average costs associated with the incarceration and hospitalisation of a chronically homeless person are about triple what it would cost to provide a chronically homeless person with housing. Between 2007 and 2015, New Orleans reduced its homelessness rate by 85%, primarily by providing housing. Reno’s city government should take a look.

Read it all.

Posted in America/U.S.A., City Government, Ethics / Moral Theology, Law & Legal Issues, Poverty, Urban/City Life and Issues

(WSJ) Nina Shea–How to Help Iraq’s Religious Minorities

As Islamic State heads toward defeat in Iraq, Christian and Yazidi survivors of genocide should be returning to their hometowns in Nineveh province. Instead, these fragile minority communities mostly remain stranded at displacement shelters in Kurdistan without the means to rebuild their villages. Many are fleeing Iraq, and the country now risks losing these religious minorities entirely. The Trump administration is making the situation worse by continuing Obama policies that effectively exclude these non-Muslims from U.S. aid in Iraq.

Today there are fewer than 250,000 Christians in Iraq, according to the State Department, down from as many as 1.4 million before the 2003 invasion. These Christians speak Aramaic, like Jesus of Nazareth, and trace their faith to Thomas the Apostle, whose relics were spirited from Nineveh by Orthodox monks as ISIS approached. The Iraqi Jewish community, its roots in the Babylonian exile, was forced out over the past 70 years; fewer than 10 Jewish families remain in Baghdad. Yazidis—who have lived near the Sinjar Mountains—number about 400,000. Nadia Murad, the voice for thousands of Yazidis enslaved by ISIS, warned a congressional panel earlier this year that her people could soon disappear because of emigration. This would signal the end of Iraq’s indigenous non-Muslim communities.

Since fiscal 2014, the U.S. has provided $1.4 billion in humanitarian aid for Iraq, but very little of it has reached the beleaguered Christian and Yazidi communities. This is because the Obama administration decided to channel most of it through United Nations refugee and development agencies, a practice the new administration has continued. There is no protection for religious minorities in the U.N.’s overwhelmingly Muslim camps, and Christians and Yazidis are terrified of entering them. The U.N. doesn’t operate camps in Iraq for displaced Christians, and the international body has enough resources to shelter only half the Yazidis who congregate around Dohuk, in Iraqi Kurdistan. U.N. programs also exclude the local churches that struggle to care for these minorities, forcing them to raise aid on a piecemeal and insecure basis from other sources.

Read it all.

Posted in Foreign Relations, Iraq, Politics in General, Religion & Culture

(Local Paper) South Carolina insurance director confirms http://HealthCare.gov prices will increase 31% next year

As Congress once again turns its focus toward health care reform, the S.C. Department of Insurance posted some sobering news about 2018 health insurance prices.

The agency confirmed on its website Thursday that average premiums for HealthCare.gov polices will skyrocket 31 percent in South Carolina next year, confirming information the federal government published on the future of health insurance costs earlier this summer.

Some customers will face higher increases than others. A 60-year-old patient in Charleston County who doesn’t use tobacco and wants to buy a “silver” plan next year will pay about 28 percent more. His monthly premium will increase from about $837 a month this year to $1,068 a month next year.

Read it all.

Posted in --The 2009 American Health Care Reform Debate, Anthropology, Consumer/consumer spending, Corporations/Corporate Life, Economy, Ethics / Moral Theology, Health & Medicine, Labor/Labor Unions/Labor Market, Personal Finance & Investing

(Tel.) Andre Spicer–Insidious management speak has infected the land, from our boardrooms to our churches to our school halls

Management speak has even found its way into the Church of England. In 2014, the Church commissioned a “talent management” programme for “future leaders“. A report about the programme mentioned the word “leadership” 171 times. “God” was mentioned 21 times.

Lamenting how this meaningless chatter had taken over our great national institutions, I turned to daily life for some respite. Instead of solid common sense I found the same guff. One friend remembered asking his girlfriend to meet him after work, to which she responded: “what’s the value add?“. I came across a prospective father who talked about naming his child as “personal brand design“. Another dad talked about how he used “six sigma” techniques to raise his four daughters. I even read a Harvard Business School professor describing marriage as a merger which involve “due diligence“, “synergies“, “costs of integration“, and “strategic execution“.

Why are we attracted to this impenetrable tosh. Are people just stupid? Not really – smart, well-educated people are particularly enthusiastic devotees of management speak. Do they lack experience in the real-world? No again. Management jargon is used by even the most seasoned operators.

So why do we use it? Managers told me there were some big gains to be made from business balderdash. Some said it made them look good. By walking into a meeting and firing off bullet points filled with management jargon, they hoped they would be seen as “up to date“, “intelligent“, and even “inspirational“. In this sense, management talk can also be a useful self-confidence trick. By describing themselves as a “Quality Catalyst” or a “Innovation Sherpa“, a middle manager can feel a little better about their boring job.

Read it all.

Posted in Church of England (CoE), Corporations/Corporate Life, Ecclesiology, Religion & Culture, Theology

(Time) The Affordable Care Act is being exploited to allow people to prey on Opiod addicts

As so often happens, a frantic mother called us about her 19-year-old daughter, who I’ll call Jen. A heroin addict, Jen had been shuttled between multiple treatment centers and sober homes by greedy marketers looking to cash in on the teenager’s insurance benefits by keeping her perpetually in recovery, but never sober. As our investigator searched Palm Beach County for Jen, her mother finally reached her by phone. She pleaded with her daughter to leave Florida, to which Jen replied, “Why would I come home? I have all I need here.” In the ensuing months, Jen has become a victim of a vicious cycle known as “the Florida shuffle.” She has continued in and out of treatment, repeatedly relapsed and overdosed, been on the brink of death, was revived and all the while trafficked by marketers offering free rent and other gifts — as she ignores her mother’s desperate pleas to come home.

Americans know of the carnage wrought by the opioid epidemic. According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control, opioids caused 91 deaths every day in 2015. Expect a significant increase when the 2016 medical examiner and coroner reports are released nationwide. In my jurisdiction alone, 596 people died from opioid-related deaths in 2016, an increase of 286% since 2012.

Less known, however, is that this growing epidemic has been fueled in part by the manipulation of well-intended federal laws — such as the Affordable Care Act (ACA) and Mental Health Parity Act — by unscrupulous individuals looking to profit on the misery and vulnerability of others. Fueled by new financial benefits in federal law, private drug treatment providers have flourished, as marketers often push individuals with substance use disorder to the warm weather states of Florida, Arizona and California as recovery destinations. The unethical players within the recovery industry see the addict as a valuable commodity and have exploited federal law to foster a cycle of relapse, rather than recovery.

Today, big money in the drug treatment industry comes through failure. …

Read it all.

Posted in --The 2009 American Health Care Reform Debate, Drugs/Drug Addiction, Economy, Ethics / Moral Theology, Health & Medicine

(Local Paper) Some leaders say the time is now to act to save Charleston, South Carolina, from seas which have risen 4.2″ in 33 yrs

Fast-forward 33 years.

The sea level has risen 4.2 inches since then.

Last year, the city’s low-lying areas saw 50 days of nuisance flooding, a record.

Three mega storms in the past three years turned the city of Charleston’s largest medical district into a virtually inaccessible island.

And some city officials still talk about the “generational challenge” that rising seas present.

That doesn’t sit well with Mike Seekings, a city councilman who spent the past few days tromping around city streets as nuisance tides once again cut off thoroughfares in his district.

“Last night between 8:30 and 9 o’clock, there was a foot of water at Broad and Lockwood,” he said. “You can’t live in a city when roads are closed on good days and roads to hospitals are closed on bad days.”

This is no longer a generational challenge, he added. “We’ve been talking about doing things for so long. Let’s start these projects now.”

Read it all.

Posted in * South Carolina, Energy, Natural Resources, Ethics / Moral Theology

(NPR) Stanislav Petrov, ‘The Man Who Saved The World,’ Dies At 77

Stanislav Petrov was a lieutenant colonel in the Soviet Union’s Air Defense Forces, and his job was to monitor his country’s satellite system, which was looking for any possible nuclear weapons launches by the United States.

He was on the overnight shift in the early morning hours of Sept. 26, 1983, when the computers sounded an alarm, indicating that the U.S. had launched five nuclear-armed intercontinental ballistic missiles.

“The siren howled, but I just sat there for a few seconds, staring at the big, back-lit, red screen with the word ‘launch’ on it,” Petrov told the BBC in 2013.

It was already a moment of extreme tension in the Cold War. On Sept. 1 of that year, the Soviet Union shot down a Korean Air Lines plane that had drifted into Soviet airspace, killing all 269 people on board, including a U.S. congressman. The episode led the U.S. and the Soviets to exchange warnings and threats.

Petrov had to act quickly. U.S. missiles could reach the Soviet Union in just over 20 minutes….

Read or listen to it all.

Posted in America/U.S.A., Defense, National Security, Military, History, Russia

(NYT Upshot) Whites Have Huge Wealth Edge Over Blacks (but Don’t Know It)

“I’m a person who studies inequality, who should really know how inequality looks,” said one of the psychologists, Michael Kraus, who researches the behaviors and beliefs that help perpetuate inequality. “And I look at the black-white gap, and I’m shocked at the magnitude.”

Black families in America earn just $57.30 for every $100 in income earned by white families, according to the Census Bureau’s Current Population Survey. For every $100 in white family wealth, black families hold just $5.04.

If Mr. [Michael] Kraus, of all people, is taken aback by these numbers, what are the odds that most Americans have a good understanding of them? The answer, he and his colleagues fear, has broad implications for how we understand our society and what we’re willing to do to make it fairer.

Americans, and higher-income whites in particular, vastly overestimate progress toward economic equality between blacks and whites, the psychologists reported Monday in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. Americans believe that blacks and whites are more equal today than they truly are on measures of income, wealth, wages and health benefits. And they believe more historical progress has occurred than is the case, suggesting “a profound misperception of and unfounded optimism” regarding racial equality.

Read it all.

Posted in America/U.S.A., Anthropology, Ethics / Moral Theology, History, Personal Finance, Politics in General, Race/Race Relations, Theology

(Sunday [London] Times) ‘They’re here, then they just die’: opioid addiction kills 175 Americans a day

At first glance, Manchester, New Hampshire, seems a typical New England town. A pleasant, low-key sort of place, free of extreme poverty or urban decay.

You do not have to look far, however, to see something is amiss: this is a town firmly in the grip of the opioid crisis that is devastating America.

Dotted around the central squares and parks are small groups of people visibly suffering from addiction. Yesterday, hundreds of residents took part in a “rally for recovery” in the town centre, gathering to highlight the plight of their friends and neighbours.

On the walls of the Hope addiction recovery clinic, a few hundred yards away, are pictures from a kayaking expedition. Karla Gallagher, who works at the clinic, cannot look at it without becoming close to tears.

“We lose these people all the time,” she said, pointing to a picture of a smiling young girl on a canoe. “We lost her. One day they’re here and then they just die.”

Read it all (requires subscription).

Posted in America/U.S.A., Anthropology, City Government, Death / Burial / Funerals, Drugs/Drug Addiction, Ethics / Moral Theology, Health & Medicine, Pastoral Theology, Politics in General, State Government, Theology

(WSJ) CC Pecknold on the very troubling recent Senate questioning of a recent Roman Catholic Judicial Nominee

…at the very moment Ms. Feinstein is alienating religious conservatives, two prominent Democrats are pushing a new progressive claim on Christianity. Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D., Mass.) has spoken to journalists about how her faith shapes her political views. And Hillary Clinton, who reportedly once considered becoming an ordained minister, has made religion central to her postelection messaging, as the Atlantic reported last month in a story titled “ Hillary Wants to Preach.”

Sens. Feinstein and Durbin were troubled not by Ms. Barrett’s Catholicism, but by her failure to prove her religion could conform to a more dogmatic progressivism. The “religious test” Democrats want to impose isn’t about religion per se; it’s about ensuring that every religious claim can be bent to more comprehensive political aims. It’s about defining anyone who dissents from the mores of the sexual revolution as disqualified from public office. That’s what makes Ms. Feinstein’s questioning so chilling.

Few liberals have spoken out against these religious tests, providing tacit consent for the Democratic Party to continue the practice. One of America’s major political parties appears prepared to consent to a very different kind of creed from the one the American founders envisioned. Our forefathers understood religious freedom in positive terms, as freedom for the highest good, God. This “first freedom” was held as the basis of all the political freedoms, including the freedom to dissent and to disagree on matters of law and politics.

Ms. Barrett has spent her career honoring the older creed—not only with her Scalia-like deference to the law, but through respect for freedom of religion and conscience. Ms. Feinstein honored the new creed, the one dividing an already polarized nation. A dogmatism now threatens countless Americans’ freedom, and it isn’t Catholicism.

Read it all (my emphasis).

Posted in Anthropology, Ethics / Moral Theology, Law & Legal Issues, Marriage & Family, Religion & Culture, Roman Catholic, Senate

(PA) Britons skipping birthdays over lack of money, Christian charity finds

The Church of England’s social action charity has revealed that one in nine British adults missed out on celebrating a birthday or other special occasion last year because of a lack of money.

The Church Urban Fund said more must be done to help hard-pressed Britons as figures from its food survey suggest almost a million adults used a food bank last year.

The charity’s executive director Paul Hackwood said the results paint a “deeply troubling picture of food insecurity throughout Britain”.

He described the effects of such poverty as wide-reaching, adding: “Those affected don’t just go hungry or poorly nourished – they suffer isolation, are excluded from participating in social activities and experience considerable anxiety.”

Read it all.

Posted in Charities/Non-Profit Organizations, Economy, England / UK, Personal Finance, Sociology

(WSJ) Why Entitlements Keep Growing, and Growing, and . . .An interview with John Cogan

Mr. [John] Cogan has just written a riveting, massive book, “The High Cost of Good Intentions,” on the history of entitlements in the U.S., and he describes how in 1972 the Senate “attached an across-the-board, permanent increase of 20% in Social Security benefits to a must-pass bill” on the debt ceiling. President Nixon grumbled loudly but signed it into law. In October, a month before his re-election, “Nixon reversed course and availed himself of an opportunity to take credit for the increase,” Mr. Cogan says. “When checks went out to some 28 million recipients, they were accompanied by a letter that said that the increase was ‘signed into law by President Richard Nixon.’ ”

The Nixon episode shows, says Mr. Cogan, that entitlements have been the main cause of America’s rising national debt since the early 1970s. Mr. Trump’s pact with the Democrats is part of a pattern: “The debt ceiling has to be raised this year because elected representatives have again failed to take action to control entitlement spending.”

A faculty member at Stanford’s Public Policy Program and a fellow at the university’s Hoover Institution, Mr. Cogan, 70, is one of those old-fangled American men who are always inclined to play down their achievements. The latest of his is the book that draws us together in conversation. To be published later this month by Stanford University Press, it is a 400-page account of how federal entitlement programs evolved across two centuries “and the common forces that have been at work in causing their expansion.”

Read it all.

Posted in America/U.S.A., Budget, Credit Markets, Economy, Ethics / Moral Theology, Medicare, Politics in General, Social Security, The U.S. Government

(1st Things) Rusty Reno–remembering Michael Novak+the Spirit of Democratic Capitalism

Needless to say, Michael Novak did not foresee these outcomes when he wrote The Spirit of Democratic Capitalism any more than I did when I thrilled to his insights more than three decades ago. This should not surprise us. As Yuval Levin outlines in The Fractured Republic, America came out of the Great Depression and its mobilization for World War II with a consolidated economic, political, and social system. There was a closed, sealed quality to a great deal of social and economic life, which is why Michael and so many others were attracted to motifs of creativity and openness. Seventy years on, however, the project of deconsolidation has done its work. We now live in a fluid world in which the very idea of borders—between nations as well as between the sexes—seems more and more tenuous. In this context, which is our context, the genius of capitalism as Michael described it—creative, open, innovative, and dynamic—seems less benign. Those qualities liquefy our social relations, and even our sense of self.

In his last article for First Things (“The Future of Democratic Capitalism,” June/July 2015), Michael summed up his spiritual endorsement of capitalism: “Free markets are dynamic and creative because they are open to the dynamism and creativity intrinsic to our humanity.” This anthropological assessment of capitalism follows the lead of John Paul II, and it’s a profound reason to cherish economic liberty. But Michael did not give due emphasis to an equally important aspect of our humanity, which is our desire to give ourselves in loyalty to permanent things. As a man of faith, he certainly knew and affirmed this dimension: You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, and mind, and you shall love your neighbor as yourself. But in his enthusiasm for open, upward transcendence—a constant theme in his work—he lost sight of our need for anchors. As a consequence, he described the anthropology of capitalism in a one-sided way. Its fearsome dynamism speaks to part of our soul, but it neglects and even works against the part that cherishes permanence.

This one-sidedness needs to be corrected, for our challenges are quite different from the legacy of postwar consolidation that Michael responded to with such élan. We do not live in a closed, regulated, regimented world. Political correctness is a serious problem, and it has an authoritarian tendency. But it is not born of loyalty to permanent things. As an outgrowth of liberalism itself, this rigid ideology comes under the sign of choice. It is an obligatory, enforced participation in a fluid, liquefied moral world. We are told that we are not required to think or live in any particular way—except that we can’t think or live in ways that constrain, compromise, or even throw doubt on anyone else’s free decision to think or live differently. Taken to its logical extreme—everything is permitted as long as it permits everything—this becomes a paradoxical totalitarian toleration that is all the more dangerous because it deludes those who promote it into thinking that when they drive all dissent from the public square, they are “including.”

All of this dovetails frighteningly well with the dynamism and openness of capitalism, which is also presented as obligatory. And its partial anthropological resonance means that a part of our soul—the dimension that, taken in isolation, thrills to today’s gnosticism and its promise of freedom from all constraints, even those imposed by nature and our bodies—is given great encouragement. This antinomianism—which, again, is presented as “history’s” obligatory verdict—casts a dark shadow on the West in the twenty-first century, not the Soviet Union or older forms of centralized, totalitarian control.

Read it all.

Posted in Economy, Ethics / Moral Theology

(NYT Op-ed) Ross Douthat on Michael Cromartie–The Apostle to the Media

Like many evangelicals, he ended up working in the peculiar outsider-insider world of conservative Washington, influencing the Republican Party’s counsels even as the wider establishment continued to regard his faith and movement as exotic, disreputable, possibly dangerous.

But more than most Cromartie did not accept this suspicion and mistrust as permanent or necessary. His great work, which occupied much of the last two decades of his life, was a distinctive exercise in dialogue and encounter: Twice a year, he invited prominent journalists, members of one of America’s most secular professions, into extended conversation with religious leaders, theologians and historians, the best and brightest students and practitioners of varied faiths. These conferences, held in Maine and Miami and Key West, Fla., were purpose-driven junkets, intended to prove that religious believers and professional media elites did not have to be locked in a cycle of misunderstanding and mistrust.

And in the discussion sessions that Cromartie ran they weren’t. There were tense moments and hostile interactions here and there, but for the most part when you were inside his conferences (or helping to choose the speakers, as I did for a while), you could imagine that pluralism could actually work, that religious views could advance by persuasion without encouraging intolerance, that the religious and nonreligious could argue and listen in good faith, that conservative believers could be taken seriously by the media and extend greater trust and understanding in their turn.

This little Arcadia was an extension of its presiding genius’s personality. I was not Cromartie’s closest friend, and for a deeper appreciation of the man’s distinctive qualities I recommend the many tributes in the last week from journalists who were closer — particularly Carl Cannon’s eulogy in RealClearPolitics, which captures Cromartie in full.

But he was a personal inspiration to me from very early in my career. Nobody in Washington was kinder to me as a novice journalist, nobody gave me more hope that my own peculiar vocation was worthwhile rather than quixotic, and few men I met in my D.C. years modeled the Christian virtues of faith and hope and charity so ebulliently, without the air of defensive irony that many of us weave around our unfashionable morality and metaphysics.

Read it all.

Posted in America/U.S.A., Ethics / Moral Theology, Evangelicals, Politics in General, Religion & Culture, Theology, Theology: Scripture