Category : Politics in General

Prime Minister backs Church of England drive to eradicate modern slavery

The Prime Minister and the Archbishop of Canterbury have given their backing to the launch today of a project aimed at mobilising the Church of England’s 12,000 parishes in the battle to eradicate modern slavery.

Theresa May welcomed the Clewer Initiative, a three-year programme to help the Church of England’s 42 dioceses work to support victims of modern slavery and identify the signs of exploitation in their local communities.

The project was being launched today at Lambeth Palace at an event attended by representatives from Church of England dioceses and other denominations, along with MPs and charities involved in work to combat modern slavery.

In a statement of support for the launch, Mrs May said: “Modern slavery is a barbaric crime which destroys the lives of some of the most vulnerable in our society. I value the work that the Clewer Initiative will be doing to enable the Church of England dioceses and wider church networks to develop strategies to tackle modem slavery.

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Posted in Anthropology, Church of England (CoE), Ethics / Moral Theology, Foreign Relations, Globalization, Law & Legal Issues, Pastoral Theology, Politics in General, Religion & Culture, Sexuality, Theology, Violence

(NYT Op-ed) Clay Routledge–Why Are Millennials Wary of Freedom?

Young Americans seem to be losing faith in freedom. Why?

According to the World Values Survey, only about 30 percent of Americans born after 1980 believe it is absolutely essential to live in a democratic country, compared with 72 percent of Americans born before World War II. In 1995, 16 percent of Americans in their late teens and early adulthood thought democracy was a bad idea; in 2011, the number increased to 24 percent.

Young Americans also are disproportionately skeptical of free speech. A 2015 poll from the Pew Research Center found that 40 percent of millennials (ages 18 to 34) believe the government should be able to regulate certain types of offensive speech. Only 27 percent of Gen-Xers (ages 35 to 50), 20 percent of baby boomers (ages 51 to 69) and 12 percent of the silent generation (ages 70 to 87) share that opinion.

For many conservative commentators, especially those concerned with attitudes on college campuses, this is merely more evidence of the deleterious influence of the radical left in academia. But while ideology certainly plays a role here, these trends transcend political party affiliation, as a number of recent polls indicate.

2016 Gallup survey found that a majority of both Democratic and Republican students believe colleges should be allowed to restrict speech that is purposely offensive to certain groups. A survey of students’ attitudesconcerning free speech released on Wednesday by the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education found that 66 percent of Democratic and 47 percent of Republican students believe there are times a college should withdraw a campus speaker’s invitation after it has been announced. And a survey published by the Brookings Institution in September found that 20 percent of Democratic and 22 percent of Republican students agreed it was acceptable for student groups to use violence to prevent a person from speaking.

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Posted in America/U.S.A., Anthropology, Education, Ethics / Moral Theology, Health & Medicine, Politics in General, Psychology, Young Adults

(Economist) Today’s historians have a higher opinion of Ulysses S. Grant

Ron Chernow’s 1,100-page biography may crown Grant’s restoration. The author of defining books on George Washington and Alexander Hamilton—the latter formed the basis for a hit Broadway musical, after Lin-Manuel Miranda read it on holiday—Mr Chernow argues persuasively that Grant has been badly misunderstood. The corruption in his administration never touched him—the soul of integrity—personally. Sometimes portrayed as an ignorant drunk, he was in fact a profound thinker with a sensitivity to suffering that underlay his kindness to vanquished armies and people of other races. His bibulous reputation was exaggerated by his opponents, Mr Chernow believes, and indeed with discipline and the support of his beloved wife, he abstained from drinking almost fully during his presidency.

Grant may have been America’s most improbable president. His early military career showed flashes of brilliance before he resigned from a post in California amid accusations, almost certainly justified, of drunkenness. He then failed at various business ventures, a lifelong tendency that accompanied a penchant for trusting swindlers. Not long before the civil war he was virtually broke, walking the streets of St Louis in shabby clothing selling firewood.

War brought salvation. The Union army was afflicted with generals who hesitated to engage, or failed to follow up victories by chasing vulnerable opponents. Not Grant. “I can’t spare this man; he fights,” Lincoln supposedly said of him, a year before the general engineered a landmark victory at Vicksburg, Mississippi, in 1863. Robert E. Lee, his chief opponent, concurred: “He is not a retreating man.”

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Posted in America/U.S.A., Books, History, Military / Armed Forces, Office of the President, Politics in General

A Picture is Worth 1000 words–The baby Boombers are Reaching Retirement

Posted in * Economics, Politics, Aging / the Elderly, America/U.S.A., Budget, Children, Economy, Health & Medicine, History, Marriage & Family, Medicaid, Medicare, Pensions, Personal Finance, Politics in General, Social Security, Taxes, Young Adults

Archbishop Glen Davies’ Presidential Address at the Sydney Diocesan Synod

Brothers and sisters, as the penetration of the gospel diminishes in our society, we find ourselves being moved in a more libertarian direction under the influence of those who want to abandon the mores of the past. Yet at the same time these permissive forces who espouse the virtue of ‘tolerance’ are seeking to impose restrictions upon those who wish to maintain the values on which our nation has been founded. This has become nowhere more apparent than in the current debate surrounding the postal survey on same-sex marriage. While the advocates of the ‘Yes’ campaign have been unrelenting in their attempts to redefine marriage, they have also been virulent in their opposition to those who hold a contrary view. The innocent inclusion of drinking Coopers beer in the Bible Society’s promotion of an informed and civilised debate between two politicians, each holding opposing views on same-sex marriage, is a case in point. It resulted in an uncivilised, unwarranted and malicious campaign through social media to boycott Coopers Breweries. Similarly, a Christian doctor whoappeared in an advertisement opposing same-sex marriage was subject to a campaign to have her medical registration withdrawn. Witness also the ludicrous attempt to rename Margaret Court Arena, merely because Margaret Court, one of our greatest Australian athletes, went public on her opposition to same-sex marriage.

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Posted in Anthropology, Australia, Australia / NZ, Ethics / Moral Theology, Marriage & Family, Pastoral Theology, Politics in General, Theology, Theology: Scripture

(NYT) Justin Wolfers–Can We pinpoint Racial Discrimination by Government Officials?

A team of economists has uncovered persuasive evidence that local government officials throughout the United States are less responsive to African-Americans than they are to whites.

The researchers sent roughly 20,000 emails to local government employees in nearly every county. The emails posed commonplace questions, like “Could you please tell me what your opening hours are?”

The emails were identical except that half appeared to come from a DeShawn Jackson or a Tyrone Washington, names that have been shown to be associated with African-Americans. The other half used names that have been shown to be associated with whites: Greg Walsh and Jake Mueller. The email sent to each local officeholder was determined by chance.

Most inquiries yielded a timely and polite response. But emails with black-sounding names were 13 percent more likely to go unanswered than those with white-sounding names. This difference, which appeared in all regions of the country, was large enough that it was statistically unlikely to have been a matter of mere chance.

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Posted in * Economics, Politics, Anthropology, City Government, Ethics / Moral Theology, Race/Race Relations

(1st Things) Rusty Reno–revisiting, updating and renewing Michael Novak’s ‘The Spirit Of Democratic Capitalism’

And what about the third leg, the Judeo-Christian religious and moral tradition? Here First Things has a long record of vigorous and unstinting advocacy. I can’t think of another significant journal that has been as relentless during the past generation in its warnings about the dangers of a naked public square. Yet we’ve seen setback after setback, and the corporate tsunami that recently swept through Indiana after it passed a Religious Freedom Restoration Act made clear the link between global capitalism and progressive clear-cutting of traditional religious culture and morality. There are many business leaders, entrepreneurs, investors, and others who sympathize with our mission, of course. But they know they will be punished “by the market” if they speak up. “Bigotry is bad for business,” we’re told by management consultants and corporate gurus, and “diversity” brings greater innovation and success. As we know, “diversity” does not mean a richly textured and open society. It means agreeing with progressive cultural commitments to “openness,” which in turn means accepting the authority of a rigid, punitive ideological system.

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.

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Posted in Anthropology, Books, Economy, Ethics / Moral Theology, History, Politics in General, Religion & Culture

(Economist) America might see a new constitutional convention in a few years. If it did, that would be dangerous thing

The I’s had been dotted; the T’s were crossed. The 55 delegates to America’s first and so-far-only constitutional convention had hammered out compromises on the separation of powers, apportionment of seats in the legislature and the future of the slave trade. But on September 15th 1787 George Mason, a plantation owner from Virginia, rose to his feet to object.

Article V of the draft text laid out two paths by which future amendments could be proposed. Congress could either propose them itself, or it could summon a convention of representatives from the states to propose them. Mason warned that if the federal government were to become oppressive, Congress would be unlikely to call a convention to correct matters. To protect the people’s freedom, he argued, convening power should instead be vested in the states. Should two-thirds of their legislatures call for a convention, Congress would have to accede to their demand: a convention they should have.

The constitution was signed two days later, with Article V changed as Mason had suggested. Since then 33 amendments have been proposed, with 27 subsequently ratified, a process which requires approval in three-quarters of the states (see chart 1). Whether the issue was great (abolishing slavery) or small (changing the date of presidential inaugurations), all 33 of the proposals came from Congress. Mason’s mechanism for change driven by state legislatures has never been used. Even politically informed Americans often have no idea it exists.

That could soon change.

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Posted in America/U.S.A., Ethics / Moral Theology, History, Politics in General

(CNN) Some Evangelicals urge more action from Trump against alt-right

A group of prominent evangelical Christians is calling on President Donald Trump to take further steps to condemn white supremacists — specifically those in the alt-right — following the August white nationalist demonstration in Charlottesville, Virginia, that left one woman dead.

letter that has been circulating privately among a coalition of pastors notes Trump’s efforts to denounce the white supremacists, but urges the President to go further in condemning the alt-right “by name.”
“This movement has escaped your disapproval,” the letter, obtained exclusively by CNN, reads. “We believe it is important for this movement to be addressed, for at its core it is a white identity movement and the majority of its members are white nationalists or white supremacists. This movement gained public prominence during your candidacy for President of the United States. Supporters of the movement have claimed that you share their vision for our country. These same supporters have sought to use the political and cultural concerns of people of goodwill for their prejudiced political agendas. It concerned many of us when three people associated with the alt-right movement were given jobs in the White House.”
Initial signers of the letter include Southern Baptist Convention President Rev. Steve Gaines, former SBC President Rev. Fred Luter and the Rev. T.D. Jakes, a mentor of Trump’s top spiritual adviser, Rev. Paula White. One member of Trump’s informal Evangelical Advisory Board, Rev. Samuel Rodriguez, president of the National Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference, also signed the letter.

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I will take comments on this submitted by email only to KSHarmon[at]mindspring[dot]com.

Posted in America/U.S.A., Ethics / Moral Theology, Politics in General, President Donald Trump, Race/Race Relations, Religion & Culture

([London] Times) Melanie Phillips–Our Thinking is warped on Cannabis Legalisation

At the Labour Party conference yesterday the comedian Russell Brand called for drugs to be decriminalised. At next week’s Conservative conference, the free-market Adam Smith Institute will be pushing for the legalisation of cannabis. Legalisation means more users. That means more harm, not just to individuals but to society. The institute, however, describes cannabis as “a low-harm consumer product that most users enjoy without major problems”. What? A huge amount of evidence shows that far from cannabis being less harmful than other illicit drugs, as befits its Class B classification, its effects are far more devastating. Long-term potheads display on average an eight-point decline in IQ over time, an elevated risk of psychosis and permanent brain damage.

Cannabis is associated with a host of biological ill-effects including cirrhosis of the liver, strokes and heart attacks. People who use it are more likely than non-users to access other illegal drugs. And so on.

Ah, say the autonomy-loving free-marketeers, but it doesn’t harm anyone other than the user. Well, that’s not true either. It can destroy relationships with family, friends and employers. Users often display more antisocial behaviour, such as stealing money or lying to get a job, as well as a greater association with aggression, paranoia and violent death. According to Stuart Reece, an Australian professor of medicine, cannabis use in pregnancy has also been linked to an epidemic of gastroschisis, in which babies are born with intestines outside their abdomen, in at least 15 nations including the UK.

The legalisers’ argument is that keeping cannabis illegal does not control the harm it does. Yet wherever its supply has been liberalised, its use and therefore the harm it does have both gone up.

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Posted in Drugs/Drug Addiction, England / UK, Ethics / Moral Theology, Health & Medicine, Law & Legal Issues, Politics in General

(MIR) Kenya’s Historic Elections and Unknown Future

During the summer of 2017, election season put all eyes on Kenya. Although a decade ago, the unprecedented violence of the 2007 elections that left an estimated 1,400 people dead remains in the memory of the Kenyan people. Given this tragic recollection, apprehension was high going into this election season. The two main rivals, Uhuru Kenyatta, the son of the first post-independence leader, Jomo Kenyatta, a Kikuyu, and Raila Odinga, son of Odinga Odinga, a Luo, are no strangers to conflict. Their tribal identities were divided long ago by colonialists and their families are long-standing political rivals furthering divisions among some of the largest tribes in Kenya.

The two politicians went head to head this election cycle and the results shocked the nation. While violence did not erupt amongst the public prior to the release of poll results, an Independent Election and Boundaries Commission (IEBC) official Chris Msando was discovered tortured and killed a little over a week before the election. Despite this shocking event, the Kenyan people voted peacefully and on time. Kenyatta won 54% of the vote to Odinga’s 44% in a tight race.

However, violence broke out the day after the results were released, leaving 24 dead. Odinga’s team claimed that the online tallying system “lacked integrity” and therefore did not properly count the votes. The death of Chris Msando further compounded a lack of faith in the legitimacy of the election results. Odinga’s team then petitioned the supreme court for a recount. In 2013, Odinga’s team made a similar petition to the court based on claims of voter fraud, which was rejected. This time, however, the court decided that the basis of the petition was legitimate enough to warrant a complete nullification of the election results on September 1st.

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Posted in History, Kenya, Politics in General

(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.

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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.

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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.

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

(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.

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