Today, the Supreme Court struck down nearly 50 years of precedent, finding (correctly) that there is no right to abortion in the Constitution. Finding it there was incorrect in 1973 and proved to be even more incorrect as medical science advanced. To say I am ecstatic would be underselling it; I have advocated against it for decades, and even wrote publicly about it as far back as 19 years ago. This is a wonderful day!
To be sure, this court case does nothing for the generation lost to this barbaric practice, nor does it eliminate it on a nationwide basis; the rescinding of the Roe v. Wade decision returns the issue to the states. I am a big believer in an incremental approach because, in large part, any absolutist effort is doomed to failure. Every prenatal murder we can avoid is a cause for celebration. The states that have laws that go into effect will have the effect of outlawing 12.8% of abortions(subscription-only link) - just over a literaldecimation of this abhorrent practice.
I won't rehash my posts from the past nearly-two decades; if you want to read those, just peruse the “Prenatal Murder” category linked at the bottom of this post. Rather, I want to reflect on various aspects of this decision, what led up to it, and what is next for those of us who value the sanctity of human life from conception through natural death.
Roe Was Bad Law
The Roe decision only made sense by stretching the logic of a 1965 decision that had also stretched to reach its conclusion - Griswold v. Connecticut. Griswold centered around a law that prohibited the dispensing of birth control advice or devices. The majority opinion in this case found a previously-undiscovered “right to privacy” in the Constitution (as amended) that “emanated” from prior case law's “penumbras” (shadows). Calling this innovative thinking is probably too kind; it set precedents in all sorts of bad ways.
Just eight years later, Roe took a hop from Griswold's stretch, equating the act of abortion with any other form of birth control. This was also innovative, but not in the way you may expect. You likely grew up hearing about “trimesters,” those three 3-month periods of fetal development prior to birth. That did not come from current medical thinking; it came from renowned biologist Justice Harry Blackmun, via his majority opinion in this case. (Maybe justices do need to have a good working knowledge of biology, eh Justice-in-Waiting Jackson?) Justice Blackmun used this “trimester” framework to literally "split the baby", finding that the state had no interest in the first, some interest in the second, and the near-prevailing interest in the third. It also provided prohibitions on laws that did not allow abortions to preserve the “life and health” of the mother.
At the time, its companion case (Doe v. Bolton) defined “health” to include “mental health,” which was the key for the abortion free-for-all that followed. Parenting has profound effects on your mental health, whether you set out to be parents or are surprised, and doctors were all too willing to use this as cover to grant abortion for any reason (or no reason at all).
In 1973, the decision was not great; however, in the intervening years, medical science and our understanding of fetal development increased greatly. In 1992's Planned Parenthood v. Casey decision, the Supreme Court replaced the trimester framework with a “viability” standard. Sadly, they left the “mental health” definition from Doe intact, so the effect was the same. Medical science continued advancing, and as those who were pro-abortion rights continued to ignore it, their “rights” platitudes rang more hollow. In 2009, they thought they had finally won, but in reality…
The ACA's Overreach Accelerated This Decision
The Affordable Care Act (ACA, also known as “Obamacare”) mandated, among other things, what type of health care coverage employers must provide their employees (whether they want/need it or not). Reproductive health care was part of that package, and within that were some “birth control” measures that prevent implantation of a fertilized egg or induce spontaneous abortions (“abortofacients”). There were also very limited exceptions to this policy; in short, if you were not a church, you had to provide this.
This took the debate from the public square and into the courts. In 2014, the Supreme Court's decision in Burwell v. Hobby Lobby found that this lack of exception for religious beliefs for for-profit businesses violated 1993's Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA). That was a good ruling, but it only applied to abortofacients and for-profit businesses. Catholic Charities' Little Sisters of the Poor were not as fortunate. The Roman Catholic religion views any birth control as sin, and even if the Hobby Lobby exception applied, they were still mandated to provide something against which they have long-standing, well-documented, sincerely held beliefs. It took until 2020 – 11 years after the ACA became law – to win their exemption via Little Sisters of the Poor v. Pennsylvania.
While businesses were fighting in court, state legislatures were passing laws. Some states passed laws ensuring that this travesty could occur right up until the moment of delivery, but many states passed further restrictions on abortion. These restrictions varied from those thought to comply with Casey, to near or complete bans that were deferred until Roe and Casey were struck down, to some innovative thinking the other way (which isn't a compliment; Texas gets their own section under “What's Next” below). These laws codified, within each state, where they wished to draw the line on their compelling state interest. Among the ones that took effect, some held, some were struck down (like 2020's moderately surprising decision in June Medical v. Russo), and the Mississippi law challenged in Dobbs v. Jackson is what led to today's majority opinion.
A draft of that opinion was leaked in early May. Not only did this allow me to write large portions of this post ahead of time (hooray), it also led to some really revealing arguments from the side who felt that they were about to lose. Despite their claims to the contrary…
Abortion Is Not Health Care
The most egregious and disingenuous of these claims is that the reversal of Roe will lead to doctors being prohibited from taking care of troublesome pregnancies, such as ectopic pregnancies (where the egg implants in the fallopian tube) and miscarriages where the fetus has already died (but the woman's body is not eliminating it properly). It is true that, particularly with the miscarriage, the medical procedure itself is similar. However, no one is saying ectopic pregnancies should remain (except some knuckleheads in Missouri - again, addressed below), and removing an already-perished pre-born baby is also not abortion. These are health care procedures, and will remain legal in all 50 states, even if it takes a court challenge. (Again - maybe we do want our judges up on their biology, no? Maybe the legislature, too?)
Strawmen out of the way, this leaves us with four general scenarios to consider.
The first scenario goes something like “I just missed my period; uh oh - ain't nobody got time for that!” While I would love for this to be outlawed, the reality is that these will likely be legal - or at least accessible - forever. The Mississippi law challenged in Dobbs mandated no abortions after 15 weeks, which would have no effect on this abortion scenario. All that said, though, this is no more health care than elective breast augmentation.
The second scenario is selective termination after genetic testing. In these cases, there is absolutely no difference in the health of the mother who is carrying a baby with genetic deformities. All her systems still work the same; failing to give these children the opportunity for the life they have been given is something which should be prohibited by law. Again - not health care, just early murder.
The third scenario is a woman who changes her mind well into her pregnancy, and her baby is fully viable outside the womb. In this case, there is no prevailing health care concern that requires the baby to die; a delivery eliminates the pregnancy and gives the baby the opportunity it deserves. “Not health care” is an easy call here; all three cases thus far show that something being a “medical procedure” does not mean that the procedure is “health care.”
The final scenario is pregnancies resulting from rape (which includes incestuous statutory rape; I am not considering consenting related adults' children here). Here, I will probably part ways with some of the more ardent pro-lifers; while I do not believe abortion is the right decision in these cases, girls and women in this situation are already in a non-ideal situation. I believe it should be legal to counsel them to keep these pregnancies, but you will not find me pushing an absolutist position here. That being said, this is the only case where mental health should play any sort of consideration at all; outside of that, this is not health care either.
I mentioned the revealing arguments in the wake of the leak. The health care argument was one, but again, contrary to their claims, this is…
No Slippery Slope
(At this point, I would love to divert and discuss the difference between a “slippery slope” argument and an “argument of progression.” However, this is already essay-length; maybe that will be a post for another day.)
The claim goes something like “If they take this right away, what's to stop them from taking away birth control totally? Or gay marriage?” Well - in two words, “the Constitution.” Eliminating a stretch from the emanating penumbras doesn't eliminate the penumbras themselves, so birth control's legality remains covered under Griswold – just not the murder-your-baby kind. A better parallel for gay marriage would be 1967's Loving v. Virginia case, decided on equal protection grounds rather than right-to-privacy; these same equal protection claims were central to 2015's Obergfell v. Hodges case. There is also no nationwide movement against either of these decisions. There may be local overreach on these laws, and there may be lawsuits where the plaintiff's rights under RFRA were found to be violated – but these (contrary, again, to the hyperbolic claims of the losers) do not remove the laws from the books; they recognize religious freedom in our pluralistic society.
So, all that being said…
What's Next? (AKA “Fix Your Law, Texas”)
The fight for the legal rights of the unborn now has 50 fronts. This is not necessarily a new development; as I mentioned above, there has been legislative action in several states. There will likely be vociferous screeds about abolishing filibusters, expanding courts, and other harebrained schemes, all in hopes of getting a quick nationwide reversal of Dobbs. The conversation around the 2024 election will be hysterical and insufferable – not that the outlook there was all that reasoned and sufferable to begin with…
Some ways I would like to see the issue progress (and things I would support) include:
There will be, no doubt, efforts to reverse today's decision, both in the courts and in Congress. While many of us see today's decision as the natural consequence of the way culture, science, and jurisprudence have been moving for the past generation, we should assume absolutely zero momentum. There will be a reaction, and it will be covered favorably by the legacy media; stand on principle, and do not concede the phrasing or the terms of debate. Culture has changed because pro-life advocates have publicized both the amazing miracle of life in the womb and the horrors of abortion; keep doing that.
We no longer need “bold” laws to “challenge” the unconstitutional Roe; it's done, and the states have the power. “With great power comes great responsibility,” though, so any future laws restricting abortion must be free of some of the sloppiness contained in prior abortion laws (and some current “anti-woke” laws). (No, you may not criminalize treatment of ectopic pregnancies.) These laws must be specific, measurable, enforceable, and medically sound. I like heartbeat bills, I'm OK with 15-week bans; I'm not OK with jailing abortive mothers.
Texas, I promised you some special attention. If your law had been passed contingent upon today's ruling, or passed in the future, it would not have the same baggage that it currently does. I'm quite surprised that the Supreme Court did not issue an injunction; my only guess is that they had an inkling that today was coming and wanted to give you a head start. Working around the Constitution is not the way to accomplish this. Revisit this law; if you want to be the only state in the Union to have a civil penalty for abortion, so be it, but surely you can do better by the children of Texas than outsourcing their protection to (possibly out-of-state) profiteers.
Don't Be “Pro-Life in Name Only”
You know what's tough? Being a mom through pregnancy, birth, and early childhood. (It doesn't get a lot easier, but at least you start getting sleep – until the teenage years, anyway.) Not engaging in an activity that will create life until one is ready to take responsibility for the life created is quite pro-life; this is the “hearts and minds” aspect, which wasn't ever part of Roe. Until that happens, though, we need to be prepared to support those who have created life and don't know what to do. Crisis pregnancy centers will be even more vital in the years to come, and they will need both counselors/volunteers and funding to help their clients.
While Roe v. Wade will exist as reversed Supreme Court precedent, I look forward to the day when “row” and “wade” are just two ways to cross a stream.
We are now 4 solid months into America's reaction to COVID-19. Early on, the focus was on a national response to a pandemic that affected New York and Washington State most acutely; ventilators, masks, and all sorts of personal protective equipment were in short supply (or so we were told), and it was the Federal government's job to get the states these vitally important supplies. Many people clamored for a national lockdown order to keep the virus from spreading; never mind that a) the Federal government does not have that power, and b) the same people clamoring for heavy-handed action from Washington, D.C. were the same people who constantly told us that the current occupant is just waiting for his chance to become a dictator.
The national order never came, and the reason why leads us to our first term; if you read the linked article above, you saw David call it “federalism at work.” The word “federalism” can be a bit confusing, as we use Federal government and national government (or U.S. government) synonymously; however, “federalism” is the opposite of a centralized government. Federalism pushes as much responsibility and power as possible to the lowest level possible, the idea being that government “of the people, by the people, and for the people” is best done by people in close proximity to one another. Our Federal government gets that name because it is a federation of the “several states” (to use the term from the Constitution) designed to deal with national-level issues.
How does federalism help us with our pandemic response? Easy - the states are in control of their responses, and can ask for help from the Federal government if they need it. We have seen this as the various states have begun their reopening procedures. Some have been aggressive, and ended up having to pull back; other states have been as aggressive, and have not seen as many issues. Some states are opening more cautiously - and, again, some are fine, but some are seeing cases spike in spite of that. Taken in isolation, this demonstrates that there is no one right answer for the nation at large. As we head into fall, states, cities, and school districts are trying to decide what school will look like; the one thing we can say for certain is that there will not be 50-state uniformity in these plans.
Back in the 1930s, Supreme Court Justice Louis Brandeis voiced a concept that is now paraphrased "The states are laboratories of democracy." The term “laboratory” is interesting, in light of the pandemic; they're now serving as laboratories for more than just democracy! Different states will try different things, with different results. As a nation, our job will be to determine if successes could replicated at a larger scale; not everything that works in one place will work everywhere, and as programs grow, their efficiency often wanes. Federalism gives us a structure where we can have these public policy debates, realizing that we do not have to come up with a national answer. (I realize that I'm writing this in an election year; it can be tough to find candidates who say “Here's what I'm going to stop having the Federal government do ‘for’ you,” but you can find them if you try.)
The other principle I want to highlight is known as subsidiarity. That link will give you lots of history behind the word as a civil, political, and social concept; but, the quick version is the idea that issues are best handled at the lowest level possible, and the level that handles it is also responsible for it. Subsidiarity begins with self, and works outward to family / home, church / school, city / county / state, etc. A piece of trash on your kitchen floor is likely not a county issue; a missing guardrail on a dangerous curve is likely not something for your church to fix; and funding prisons is not likely the sole responsibility of your family. If you're thinking that it sounds a lot like federalism, you'd be right; federalism is subsidiarity in government.
Properly applying subsidiarity allows us to see positive changes in our communities. Politicians are going to politic; we can't control that. However, we can make sure that we are not becoming careless spreaders of disease. We, along with our families, can make food, do chores, or otherwise care for someone who needs it. Our churches and civic organizations are a great level for community-oriented help, and often serve as a way to get people who need help with those who can provide it. As each organization's focus gets wider, they are going to be the most productive if they can stay focused at that level. If they are having to do things that require more detail, they will be bogged down; if they are responsible for things above their level, they will not be able to do their actual mission.
A lot of the political anger overs masks vs. no masks, supplies, support, etc. can be seen as a failure of subsidiarity. Paul Harvey, the outstanding radio announcer, wrote “Government big enough to supply everything you need is big enough to take everything you have” (though this has widely been misattributed to Thomas Jefferson). The Federal government is the not the appropriate level for opening and closing decisions; that is why the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines are precisely that - guidelines. Wyoming is going to have different needs than Florida; and, within Wyoming, Laramie and Cheyenne may need a different focus than Moorcroft or Hyattville. Pushing these decisions up too high is asking for those decisions to be poor and/or insufficient.
This isn't to say that the Federal government does not have a role to play; through laws and programs, it has stockpiles of emergency supplies, and it has the ability to shift a large amount of money around (relatively) quickly. This can help those who need it; yet, even then, our culture is such that those who don't need the help will raise a stink about those who do need it actually getting it. We also saw that Paycheck Protection Program funds went to many entities that are most certainly not small businesses; this, too, can be seen as a failure of subsidiarity, as these companies represented themselves as (at least) a level below what they actually were.
There really is no grand conclusion here. Just as no government can blink and make a million tests appear, I cannot sit here behind my keyboard and prescribe how all this gets better. What I can do, though, is encourage each of us to embrace and employ the principles of federalism and subsidiarity as our best chance of getting the best results for the largest number of people. Insisting on a centralized response is insisting on a lackluster, inept response - no matter who is in the White House.
p.s. This was planned to be the 3rd installment of this series from the time I wrote part 1, which I expected to have done within 2 weeks. But, given the emphasis of that post, the timing of this just proves the assertion I made in that first post - we are not in control.
Wednesday, December 25, 2019
Daniel J. Summers
As I stated in my last post, I have realigned my political affiliation. I set out to find previous posts I've written here which no longer reflect my opinions, and I didn't find much. Most of the things I would write differently if I were writing them today would differ in tone more than content. This confirms my suspicion that it wasn't me who changed as much as it was my party.
To be fair, I'm quite happy with many of the things the current administration has done. The Supreme Court has a nice balance now, regularly confounding people who expect party-line votes from what is supposed to be a non-partisan institution. There are now enough strict-constructionist justices that the Constitution is being followed much more closely. And, for as much scorn as I've heaped on “the resistance,” it's been nice to have a press that sees how unjust many of the things our government has been doing is. It's a shame they lose interest when it's discovered that prior administrations also did those things - or they choose to ignore that, acting like every shame is a new shame that should be borne solely by the current administration.
What changed (or what was revealed) is the character of those in the party, not just the guy at the top of the ticket. It is a perfectly defensible position to say that you agree with the political job that someone is doing, and still lament their character. Pro-life judges don't excuse callous mocking of deceased political opponents. Increasing religious freedom doesn't eliminate adultery and hush-money payments. Yet among the vocal Republican majority, it does. For the “character matters” warriors from the Clinton administration, this is hypocritical; among Christians, this is absolutely devastating to our witness.
(begin evangelical Christian-targeted rant)
Yes, King David was anointed by God to lead Israel; that doesn't mean his adultery with Bathsheba and murder of Uriah were fine, because he was “God's anointed.” For those making the “Trump is appointed by God” argument - you're not wrong, but I don't think that argument makes the point you think it does. I wrote on my devotional blog about Paul's writing to the Romans; his words in Romans 13 were written about Nero. Remember, too, that the only reason Israel had kings was due to their rejection of God as their ultimate ruler. King David is a terrible analogy to use if you're wanting to speak positively about our current President while ignoring his personal and professional misconduct; maybe you could draw a parallel about pride, but that's not really what I think you're wanting to highlight.
As a faithful Christian, I can no longer maintain a political affiliation with the Republican party. And, while I'm still part of the “vast right-wing conspiracy” against Hillary Clinton (which, of course, is tongue-in-cheek; there is no such thing, as much as she'd like to blame them for her failures), that is no longer the best description of my views. So, the new tagline here is “Conservatarian at Large” (a nod to Jon Gabriel and Stephen Miller's podcast portmanteau), indicating both a conservative (AKA “classically liberal”) and libertarian viewpoint.
I will also unequivocally state that I do not think that Christians who make a different choice are somehow going against what God wants them to do. There are many different ways to parse our current nuanced environment. Those who believe just as I do may land on continued support for Donald Trump, and advocate for giving him 4 more years at the helm of the good ship USA. As long as they are not seemingly blind to his faults, in my view, they are following a path which they feel God has directed them. That's the nice thing about a proper view of God's sovereignty; He can make His followers have different viewpoints - sometimes to call others to change, and other times to cause them to think.
As for me and my conscience, though, I cannot continue with the GOP. As I alluded in my last post, I'll be exploring the relationship between conservative Christianity and libertarianism in the near future. That won't be the only thing about which I'll write here, but it will probably be the first thing (unless I find some time to resurrect the “good, bad, and ridiculous” thing for 2019).
Housekeeping-wise, the college football posts from 2012-2014 have been removed; those URLs will return a 404. If anyone misses them, you can turn this site's URL into an e-mail address and let me know.
Saturday, December 21, 2019
Daniel J. Summers
As I write this, we are on the other side of the House's impeachment vote, though some legal analysis says that it's not official until those articles are sent to the Senate. Our hot take culture is filled with people sharing their view of what's happened. That's not really my thing, though; the early take is often completely wrong. (Exhibit A for this was the circle game non-troversy at the Army/Navy game; so glad the wokescolds wasted our military's time investigating that.) Another of our culture's pasttimes is giving the worst possible reading to anything that happens, and assuming the worst possible motivation behind it. (See “Exhibit A” again…) Again - not my style and not my speed, because doing that rarely leads one to the truth. So, I've been following the reporting, transcripts, defenses, analyses, and prosecutions from an information gathering viewpoint, trying to cut through the partisan bovine excrement and resistance-disguised-as-objective reporting to determine what happened, how severe it was, and what should be done about it.
“These are the established facts” rarely is followed by established facts as I've found them, using primarily the transcript of the alleged dastardly call and the testimony of the Ukrainians involved. The Congressionally-approved aid was not discussed as much as Ukraine's desire to buy more missiles. Then, in the most quid pro quo part of the call, a White House visit was offered in exchange for Ukraine announcing an investigation. Note what this wasn't - it wasn't a request to do an investigation, it was a request to announce an investigation. It also wasn't part of the previously-approved military aid or the future missile sales. The announcement would have been embarrassing to Joe Biden, whose son Hunter would be implicated; interestingly, Biden's lowest polling to date occurred when this was the main story occupying the news. Ukrainian leaders have also said that they did not feel like they were being extorted.
The above are the facts, as the dictionary defines facts; other characterizations are something other than facts. It was neither a perfect call nor a gross abuse of Presidential power.
That being said, what President Trump did with Ukraine was not good. If there is an investigation needed, then encourage them to do it. Unless there are allegations that Joe knew that his son was trading on a connection to the US government, though (which I've rarely seen alleged), doing a “guilt by association” attack on Joe through his kids is way more objectionable than someone making a pun with one of his children's names. And, connecting requests like this with a call that had discussed foreign aid is worthy of official censure…
...which brings us to his detractors. The House of Representatives, and the Democrats within it, have behaved even worse. From Adam Schiff's creative interpretation of the transcript to open the hearings, to their misrepresentation of the facts (holding up Congressionally-approved aid for personal political reasons), to their lack of objectivity and transparency - they seem to be hanging on to a thread of legitimacy. They focus-grouped their prosecution, settling on the term “bribery,” which they repeated ad nauseum until it was time for official articles to be drafted. Then, we get a charge called “obstruction of Congress,” which isn't even a thing, especially as applied to the executive or judicial branches. My more cynical nature thinks that they were hoping that reporters would say “obstruction of justice” (because that's a thing, and a thing to which most people are opposed), or that people would at least think it. Given the misconduct, a motion to censure would have been much more appropriate; interestingly, until they forward the articles to the Senate, that's exactly what they've done.
Those defending the President are just as bad. The call was far from perfect and the aid did not flow when it was expected to flow. Republicans have (rightly) long complained about how Presidents Clinton and Obama (especially Clinton) traded access and overnights at the White House for political gain or favors; how is this now just the way it is when it's someone in the same party? You don't get to claim to be the party of principle if you abandon those principles to keep or maintain power or influence. And, while Trump's impeachment was conceived 60 days before he took office, and has been executed in a purely partisan way, Senators McConnell and Graham deciding to double down on the lack of objectivity bewilders me. In an impeachment trial, the Senate is the jury; juries aren't supposed to pre-judge the case to which they are assigned.
One of the strangest aspects of this administration is how evangelical Christians (among whose number I count myself) wholeheartedly defend Trump not just as a politician, but as a person. This is the crux of an editorial posted at Christianity Today entitled "Trump Should Be Removed from Office." In the editorial, the author says that this removal can come from either the Senate or the next election, but it's hard not to view the headline as intentionally incendiary, particularly given the current context. And, true to form, I've seen liberals and atheists sharing it far and wide saying, “See? Even Christianity Today thinks he should be thrown out!” (It doesn't.) It's also prompted responses from prominent evangelicals, including Franklin Graham (Billy Graham's son), whose defenses fall into the category of the paragraph above. Christians should be better than this; Scripture emphasizes the importance of truth, and of being quick to hear yet slow to speak.
I continue to be an evangelical Christian, believing that our problems will not be ultimately solved by government, but through the transforming work of Christ in each of our lives. This is a key point missed by those who paint Billy Graham's silence on civil rights during his early years as racism. God working in human hearts can eliminate racism, but people in racist cultures (both oppressed and oppressor) need eternal salvation far more than earthly salvation; he was focused on the former. When government follows biblical principles, government flourishes; however, our government cannot follow biblical principles simply because they're biblical. Our government operates “by the consent of the governed,” and forcing behavior does nothing to change the ultimate state of a soul. To be sure, the current administration has appointed many people who protect life and religious liberty; that should not cause us to sweep bad behavior under the rug.
While my Christianity has not changed, the Republican party to which I belonged through 2016 has changed immensely. The GOP has been known, at different times in history, as the “party of Lincoln” and the “party of Reagan.” Both these men were inspirational leaders who presided over difficult times in our nation's history, and the legacy of both only increased once they left office (with reconstruction and the end of the Cold War). The GOP is now the “party of Trump,” demanding sycophantic loyalty to a leader, and looking to use the same heavy-handed government intervention on social issues that the liberals do - just to different ends. This does not align with my conservative principles at all. No leader is perfect, and our presidents put their pants on one leg at a time, just like the rest of us. And, while the life issue is very, very important, a host of other issues need less government, not more.
Hello, Libertarian Party. You have a new member whose sole dissent with your platform is preborn life, but I know I'm not alone in that. I look forward to working with you to advance the cause of freedom and conservative less-government principles, and I encourage my Christian friends to consider the same things I have. I will write more about how I've aligned my faith and the LP platform in the months to come.
Thursday, October 19, 2017
Daniel J. Summers
No, this isn't about Harvey Weinstein per se; he is but the latest in a long string of issues where Hollywood (used here as a proxy for the movie/TV industry as a whole) cannot seem to see its own hypocrisy. People in Hollywood tend to get the large part of their fame from literally pretending to be somebody else. (Yes, I know, it's called "acting.") When Hollywood decides to get political, though, they tend to be virulently against anything representing conservative principles and values. The “why” behind that is multi-faceted: liberalism sounds more compassionate at first blush; those mean, nasty conservatives are the ones against our edgier art; I'm surrounded by these people and I don't want to rock the boat.
Whatever the motivation, though, the Weinstein scandal exposes just another area where Hollywood claims to advocate one thing, but their product and actions contradict themselves.
On screens large and small, guns are everywhere. The criminals have them, the police have them (though sometimes the police are the criminals), and the really good guys can use them to fight for good (think Jason Bourne, or the Taken franchise). Yet, more than 9 out of 10 denizens of Hollywood are pro gun-control legislation, to the point where blood was still drying on the pavement in Las Vegas when they began beating that drum again. (I don't even have time to get into the entire “silencer” thing; I think that they think those work the way they do in the movies, not the way they actually do.)
Well, Hollywood - you've shown us how things get resolved. Bringing in the firepower is the way you fix situations.
Hollywood got on the glow-bull warming train a long, long time ago, and has amplified every doomsday and “man is killing the planet” claim that came along. They are so impassioned about this that they attend global conferences about this pressing issue… in their private jets, the mostly-least-efficient way to get there. Their primary homes are large mansions, and they usually have vacation homes as well. (This isn't simple envy; I'd live in a mansion and get away to my vacation home too - if I could afford it. I just wouldn't claim that I'm saving the planet from a death sentence while doing it.) The logistics required to produce a blockbuster movie are staggering - yet they use them time and again, to line their pockets.
Actions speak louder than words; you say it's a problem, but your behavior tells us otherwise.
Speaking of lining one's pockets…
Hollywood is greatly concerned with the topic of income inequality. I mean, it's just not right that women earn 77 cents on the dollar as compared with men! (Well, except for the fact that, in reality, that number was poorly calculated when it first came out, and even that same flawed calculation gives a larger number now.) Yet, Hollywood continues to have very few female leads, and even when they do, there are often also male leads, who are earning double or more for the same film. It may be hard for us to think that there's really that much difference between $5 million and $10 million.
It's not just gender issues, either; at every opportunity, they support government programs to give things away, whether it's medical care, food, or tax exemptions. Of course, it's the government giving this things away, not them; compared to more conservative parts of the country, charitable contributions are low. In fact, what often passes for “charity” in Hollywood are dinners where the actual stars simply show up; the thousands-per-plate prices are paid by the well-connected but lesser-known people.
Plus - these folks amass their millions off the backs of the ~$10 ticket prices paid by average people. As a generally free-market guy, I'm not faulting them for extracting the value they believe society places on their craft. It does seem to me, though, they could be a bit more magnanimous instead of deriding the very people whose money has given them such a comfortable and fabulous life.
There is one place where actress salaries outpace actor salaries - the adult film industry. Which leads us to…
We'll talk about Weinstein, et. al. - but let's look at some history first. For years, decades, Hollywood has ridiculed those of us who have bemoaned the increasing vulgarity and explicit sexuality, telling us that a) it was artistically necessary to advance their story; b) it's just a fictional story; and c) lighten up, you prudes! Now, I am not unaware of the balancing act between showing enough for people to get the point and not becoming gratuitous (this doesn't apply exclusively to sexual content). If two people are kissing at the end of a date, the screen fades to black, and the next scene are them both in PJs at the breakfast table - does that not advance the story just as much as an extended scene with nudity, thrusting, and noises?
Traditional sexual morality has never been Hollywood's interest. At times, the portrayals are setups to show the negative consequences of those actions; more frequently, they're either just straight titillation, or they're done by characters for whom we're now rooting. Their private lives mirror their art; in fact, the term “Hollywood marriage” describes a union of two beautiful people which will only last until the next opportunity comes along.
The “casting couch” has become legend, and enterprising women decided that they could use their assets to break through that way, literally sleeping their way to the top. It's a terrible thing to spell out that way, but facts are often terrible. Hollywood is not alone in this scenario; business, politics, and sports also have their stories of powerful men who used women for their own pleasure, maybe with the promise of preferential treatment or advancement. I'm glad that they are starting to see that this is a bad deal, but are you the ones telling us conservatives that we have a “War on Women” because we don't want the government to pay for killing a baby in a woman's womb?
I doubt anyone from Hollywood is reading this, and it's already longer than I'd set out to write, so I'll wrap this up here. I'm glad that a lot of people are coming forward to tell their stories and condemn Harvey Weinstein; it would mean a whole lot more if they had done so before it became trendy to do so. In summary, here's how I see the recent action taken by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences:
An organization, whose members still include Roman Polanski and Bill Cosby, decided to expel Harvey Weinstein.
Saturday, September 26, 2015
Daniel J. Summers
Has anyone coined the term “Popesplaining” yet? If not, allow me. (If so - well, hey, my server, my rules. Why am I asking for permission, anyway?)
A politically conservative Roman Catholic justifying the public papal positions that disagree with their political positions and/or established church theology.
A politically liberal person, typically allergic to anything religious entering the public square, justifying the papal message that coincide with their political views, while failing to recognize his message as a theological one.
Tuesday, October 1, 2013
Daniel J. Summers
To my friends blaming the Democrats for the shutdown - you're right. To my friends blaming the Republicans for the shutdown - you're right. We should not still be operating on a 5-year series of continuing resolutions; all this does is prove that we earned our credit downgrade.
Both sides were elected, and virulent dissent is not incompatible with our system of government; both sides have their talking points down pretty well. It truly is a shame that arguing these back and forth is what passes for debate. It certainly doesn't inspire much confidence for the future.
In a way, though, this just reflects our society. Schools don't teach reasoning and logic, they are simple regurgitation centers. Instead of encouraging debate and outside-the-box thinking, the only questions allowed are those that question the institutions and traditions on which our country is founded. We allowed people to say “Freedom from religion is the same as freedom of religion” without saying back “Uh, no, it's not; prepositions have definite meanings and were selected based on those definitions.”
IMO, this was the beginning of the intellectual weakness that is now writ large on our society. The pseudo-intellectuals use derision and contempt as their go-to weapons when they do not want to deal with opposing viewpoints. In that way, the last week in Washington has been merely a mirror to show us how ugly we've become.
The only thing Idiocracy missed was how long it will take us to get there.
I've got a good bit on my mind this morning. I held back from posting anything negative about our nation yesterday (apart from a call to repentance - but that was me as a Christian, not as American; I would feel that way about whatever nation I called home). “Happy Birthday America - you suck!” just seemed inappropriate.
However, our nation does have many, many flaws. I'm not ready to discard her, by any means; but I see, at nearly every turn, her people and her government making the wrong decisions, and continuing her slide towards mediocrity and insecurity, under the guise of improving both. In nearly every issue, the underlying cause appears to me to be the same - an inability to dispassionately, rationally evaluate a situation, policy, etc. on its merits alone. This is displayed on both sides of the political divide, where talking points and comebacks are slung back and forth, and seems to be what passes for civil discourse. It isn't!
This originated as a Facebook post, but I thought it was more appropriate for the blog; heaven knows it's had some cobwebs for a while, and hits its tenth anniversary next month. Were I to blog each of these issues individually, though, I'd end up with thousands of words that no one would read, save to search it for keywords so they could post their comebacks in the comments (see above). Does it matter that I can't succinctly express what's on my mind? The problems I see aren't succinct problems with succinct solutions. An exclusively inward focus seems wrong; I should be trying to leave a better nation and world for my children, right?
But, as I look back at those nearly 10-year-old posts, the issues are the same. “Gay Bishops - A Big Deal?” Well, I (regrettably) have been vindicated in my view that this gave license for people to just ignore parts of the Bible with which they disagree; at this point, were a hair's breadth away from forcing people to behave in ways they feel are contrary to the Bible, because others disagree with parts of It. “The Ten Commandments - A Monumental Controversy” was about a man's personal decorations in his office, yet the intervening ten years have seen a continuing push to eliminate every vestige of our Christian heritage from the public square. “Abortion - A Bad Idea Whose Time Has Passed” has seen some progress as of late, but the Todd Akin/Wendy Davis dichotomy prove my point about civil discourse; neither side is immune. However, since that post, there is one political party that has decided they should be for it at any time, for any reason, at no cost. I'm no legal expert, but I don't think that was quite the point of Roe v. Wade, or even Griswold v. Connecticut. How does one rationally argue against such an irrational, yet quite passionately-held, position?
America is not beyond hope. We must change course, though, or we will find ourselves swimming in self-induced mediocrity, while we are crowing over how advanced we are. To get God's blessing, we must turn to Him; to elevate civil discourse, we must teach reasoning. (Morgan Freeberg had a great (and succinct!) summary of this where he dissects Dennis Prager's statement that he'd prefer clarity over agreement.)
p.s. The ambiguity in the title of this post is intentional; whichever meaning is appropriate will be up to us going forward.
Sunday, February 24, 2013
Daniel J. Summers
Twice this past week, in reference to sequestration, I've heard people say something along the lines of “If those darn Republicans would…” On what planet are the Republicans more culpable for this debacle than the Democrats?
Yes, the Republicans are crazy for going along with an eventual cut that they found unacceptable. It's the same argument we had against a timeline for withdrawal from Iraq before the war is over; all the other side has to do is wait out the timeline, and they get what they want. But, on the other hand, Republicans in the House have been the only party in the legislative or executive branches to actually pass a budget in the past four years. The Democrats have done nothing but stonewall, blame the leadership from the last decade, and paint their opponents as evil.
The upcoming sequestration represents a lack of failure of our elected-and-re-elected leadership to do the job for which the American people elected them. There is plenty of culpability to spread around to everyone.
Wednesday, January 2, 2013
Daniel J. Summers
Either way you read it, this is the middle post of the “2012 Year in Review: The Good, the Bad, and the Ridiculous” series. This past year has given me no shortage of things from which to choose to compose this post.
Mass Murder x2
2012 saw two mass murders on U. S. soil. On July 20th, at a premiere of the movie The Dark Knight Rises in Aurora, Colorado, 12 people were killed and 58 injured by a freak who made himself look like the Joker. Then, on December 14th, a troubled young man killed his own mother, 20 children, 6 adults, and himself at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut. While the reaction made the ridiculous list this year, the murders themselves are here. They are a stark reminder that we live in a fallen world. Dr. Albert Mohler broke his less-than-a-day-old hiatus on The Briefing for a special edition, and he summed it up quite well.
Though the murders themselves were horrible and tragic, there were reports of heroes in both instances. In Colorado, men shielded others with their bodies, and ultimately gave their lives to save others In Connecticut, a teacher named Victoria Soto hid her students wherever she could, and told the gunman that the children were elsewhere. These ordinary people, stepping up to against evil, give us some hope that while we will never eliminate this sort of evil, it is far from the norm; and, there are those who will fight against it with little to no warning.
The Benghazi / Petraeus Affair
September 11th, for the past 11 years, has been a dicey day. Obviously, the one in 2001 was the worst; however, our intelligence and counter-terrorism forces have been vigilant to the point where we really had not had to deal with any actual attacks on that particular day. 2012 saw that streak come to an end, as a group of terrorists laid siege to the U. S. embassy in Benghazi, Libya, kidnapping and then killing our ambassador and three others. Initially, the State Department blamed the attack on a spontaneous reaction to the film The Innocence of Muslims, a 16-minute film that made a great deal of fun over Mohammad. In the past few days (see why you write these things after the year is done?), the report has come out calling it “sloppy security.”
Conflicting reports came out about the threat level surrounding that particular embassy, and there were even conflicting reports on our reaction to the attack once we knew it was underway. Even with the report, many people still feel that the entire story is not known. Why would that be? Well, when a cover-up or misdirection is the initial response, how are the American people to know when the next answer is the right one?
But, surely, the director of the Central Intelligence Agency, or the Secretary of State, could get the answers and bring them out, correct? This, too, was not to be in 2012. Thanks to a sexual harassment complaint launched in April and concluded in August, an affair between the CIA director, retired General David Petraeus, and his biographer, was revealed. This “trump card” was not played until after the election, and was used to oust Petraeus before he could give official testimony as the CIA director. At the same time, the Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton, couldn't testify due to scheduling conflicts, then due to the “flu.” It may be just as well; she doesn't have a great history of having a very good memory when she's placed under oath. Additionally, the African Command commander was relieved of his position shortly after the attack.
September 11, 2001 is generally considered a failure of intelligence. The more we learn about September 11, 2012, it looks less like a failure of intelligence and more a failure to take appropriate defensive action based on that intelligence. To put it more bluntly, we hung our own countrymen out to dry, and four of them are no longer with us.
The Fiscal Cliff
If Benghazi's problem was inaction, then the CIA and State have learned it from the U. S. Congress. Over three years of Senate inaction have left us with a budget that is nearly 4 years old; Obamacare deferred-until-the-next-election mandates will kick in; we're about to hit the extended-several-times debt ceiling; across-the-board cuts, called “sequestration,” a compromise from the last debt ceiling expansion, are set to kick in; and the so-called “Bush tax cuts” which were extended a few times are once again set to expire (itself a concept that probably deserves a spot on a ridiculous list at some point). Since that's a lot to say, the term “fiscal cliff” was coined to describe these economic events all hitting at the same time.
What is required to keep the next U. S. national sport from being fiscal cliff diving? A budget. Will that be the solution presented? Probably not. As I write this (on the 1st), the Senate has passed a compromise bill, but several House members do not seem to approve. When the next congress is seated later this week, that bill will be invalid. Bills proposed by the president and the Senate have been rightly termed “unserious” by Republicans; however, their bills are not very serious either. On a family budget that's $24,000 in the red each year, we're cutting $360. Neither side wants to do the hard work of cutting spending where it needs to be cut.
Here's hoping the water is deep enough at the bottom of this cliff that we don't break our necks.
Mitt Romney Loses
I covered my incredulity at the results of the election in the ridiculous post; but here, the negative is that we do not have Mitt Romney at the helm to guide our nation away from this cliff. Not since Sarah Palin have I witnessed such a successful character assassination, where his positives became negatives, and his successes presented as disqualifications.
As a business, America is failing. The Securities and Exchange Commission wouldn't let our stock be traded. We need someone who cares enough about our country to make hard decisions about what needs to be cut, so that a leaner America can emerge and once again regain her strength. Who better to do that than someone who ran a company that did that for businesses over and over again? And what if this someone had also donated his entire inheritance to charity, and given 2 years of his life for his religion? Seems like a no-brainer to me.
I know some of my fellow conservatives had some problems with him on social issues, or the size and scope of the state. I wasn't 100% with him (though in an isidewith.com survey, I scored 97% Romney), but if our country is not economically viable, social and domestic policy matter little; at that point, we'll be answering to someone else anyway.
Cross an Atlantic hurricane with a nor'easter, and it's not good. Hurricane Sandy battered much of the U. S. east coast in late October, merging with a northern storm just before Halloween, leading many to call it “Frankenstorm.” Its wake was no laughing matter, though, with over 100 dead. New York and New Jersey sustained the hardest direct hit, and current estimates have it as the second most costly storm on record, just behind 2005's Hurricane Katrina.
Those two states provided a stark contrast in dealing with preparation and relief. New York City was particularly bad, with refugees being evicted from hotels for the “show must go on” New York Marathon, while generators were pulled from relief efforts to power the tents for the race. Mayor Bloomberg, at first a strong proponent of continuing to hold the race, changed his mind, and the organizers agreed to cancel it. Meanwhile, the Federal government has yet to vote on any special aid for Sandy relief; the Senate passed a bill, but the House won't take up any legislation except the fiscal cliff. (And these are the people we want in charge of health care? But I digress.)
Hurricane Sandy, Sandy Hook Elementary School, Sandra Fluke - 2012 was a bad year for disasters named Sandy.
Lance Armstrong Revelations
Lance Armstrong was a 7-time Tour de France champion. He did it while fighting cancer, and founding a charitable foundation. However, he had been fighting doping charges for years, and in 2012, decided to stop fighting the charges. All his wins have been vacated, Olympic medals stripped, and the Livestrong Foundation that he founded has kicked him out. His defense is that he was not taking any substance that was not banned, and that he had done nothing other than what others had done.
Even if we take him at his word - if everyone took the same enhancement, that's still a terrible way to determine athletic prowess. Professional sports should not be about who has the best chemistry; it should be people training their bodies to perform a specific task so well that no one else can do it equally. I'm not so naïve as to think that this means that no one is going to try; even NASCAR has had its fair share of drug problems. However, anything short of pure physical ability will inevitably lead to more and more use, and more experimenting. The NFL is already dealing with players who feel they were unfairly exploited and put in harm's way. How much worse would it be for the players who tried experimental (i.e., not-banned-yet) drugs whose side effects were unknown until much later?
There you have it. 2012 didn't lead to the end of the world, but there was much that we will be happy to see pass into the rear-view mirror. Other issues will still be here for us in 2013, waiting to be dealt with then. May we have the fortitude to do so.