Archive for October 2011
Sports is an unusual topic for TRC. Though I am a fan of my local sportsball teams and love soccer and watching Twins and Vikings games, I don’t generally give sports much serious thought. It doesn’t matter to me if my team wins five minutes after the match, and that’s about how it should be, I think.
But this is a sports post about that most internet-friendly athlete of the last two weeks. Tim Tebow. What is it about Tim Tebow?
Tebow is not the first outspoken evangelical Christian to make it in sports. He is not the first football player to point to the heaven’s to give thanks for God’s preference that he and not someone else should score a victory point. He is probably the first to star in a pro-life advertisement to run in the Super Bowl, but overall, no, Tebow is not actually that unique: Professional athlete, dating a womand who is perfectly beautiful in that famous person’s girlfriend way, Outspoken Christian, generally seems like a Good Enough Guy. So why does Tebow drive people (myself included) absolutely crazy? I see this picture, and it drives me up the wall. Why?
Tebow is simply fascinating.Tim Tebow fascinates me. His supporters fascinate me. His haters fascinate me. The people who write about him fascinate me. Apparently he was a superstar in college, I have heard. And he is a terrible NFL quarterback, it would seem. People love that he is terrible. People love that he was celebrated so highly in college, drafted in the first round, and might not be any good. Why?
Why does Tebow get the coverage he does? Here’s an article on Tebow as a Protestant Saint. Grantland, the website of excellent sports writing and boring “pop culture” writing, loves to write about Tebow. One thing they have written about him is this:
In broad strokes, it’s fair to say that how you feel about Tebow depends on how you feel about youth groups and Elisabeth Hasselbeck and, I don’t know, WWJD bracelets and raft retreats with a lot of bonfires and swaying. Other religious players are religious individuals; Tebow is a whole culture. It helps that, as an NFL player, he’s both nontraditional and kind of bad, which makes it easy to see his success as guided by a higher power — if a dude with that background and that throwing motion completes a touchdown pass, it almost has to be a miracle.
Tebow is that big of a deal. Tebow is synonymous with on the field prayer. Literally. The word Tebow has become a verb for bowing in prayer in random locations, like a football field. See: Tebowing.com.This has become popular enough that, after sacking Tebow in a game, the Lions’ Stephen Tulloch and Tony Scheffler partook in a bit of light-hearted Tebowing. This apparently caused such a stir that Tulloch took to twitter to clarify that he was not mocking god. For real.
One reason that helps to explan why Tebow drives me batty: It appears that Tebow’s evangelical proselytizing is the most succesful thing about Tebow. Tebow plays football, sure, but Tebow is a Man of Faith. It’s almost as though when discussing Tebow, one must continually use the proper noun Tebow rather than the pronoun shorthand. But what’s the difference with Tim Tebow? Why does enjoying Tim Tebow’s terrible performance on the field make so many people so happy? I don’t think anyone wishes any ill-will towards Tebow. I know I don’t. I think having Tebow succeed in the NFL, and be around for years would give another interesting bit of storyline–like professional wrestling, having the obnoxious character around is great for the plot.
And that’s why I think that Tebow rubs people the wrong way; by playing the good guy Tebow set himself apart as the bad guy. He already wrote the plot before he succeeded in any marginal way as a professional athlete. His strong-man-of-faith principles and devout belief are not problems, they are (for many) the reasons Tebow it to be respected and supported. But that has the potential of becoming the only Tim Tebow. If Tebow were just another athlete who turns out to be a terrible football player in the NFL, religious or not, well, people would forget about him. But now they won’t be able to: TebowMania was already written into the hearts and minds of the faithful by Tim Tebow himself, long before he succeeded, or failed, as a professional football player. And that is something his religion will never be able to overcome. Now let us all Tebow in prayer.
Student debt can be a crushing burden. Decisions one makes as a youth can potentially weigh down an entire life. Often, students are told by parents, teachers, and university professors to pursue what they love, that passion is more important than money. And in the walls of a university, this is an appealing argument. Outside school, too, this should be the driving force of one’s life.
If you were a college student in the past 10 years or so, and are middle-class or lower, you probably took out student loans to pay for that degree. And if one loves books, or art history, or 13th century religious iconography, following that advice with passion will cause problems when you have to pay off those student loans. When you graduate, excited about the world and its opportunities, do something big and interesting. Because after that, you might find that the world doesn’t want to pay you, or at least not very much, to pursue your passion.
This is our own fault. Believe it or not TRC does believe strongly in personal responsibility. If you took out a 100K in student loans, you are responsible to the institution which borrowed you that money. It must be paid back, even if, at 25 years old, you realize that you made a terrible decision at 17, and will pay for it for the remainder of your adult life. Alas. These are the rules, which, even when soul-crushing, are still the rules.
The US is in an a difficult place regarding student debt, and it could have serious consequences. The nation now carries more student loan debt than it does credit card debt. The costs of tuition have been rising at staggering rates, and show no signs of tapering off, and in the meantime wages for graduates are decreasing. Student debt, it is being said, could drag this economic recession on and on, and leave a generation of college students unemployable. By year’s end, a projected $1 trillion in student loans will be outstanding in the United States. A trillion dollars. How is repayment going?
Barely more than a third of loan holders are actively paying down their debts, indicating that the burden may be too much for many. What effect will the ballooning student debt load have on the economy in the long term? According to Alan Nasser, professor emeritus of political economy at Evergreen State University, the American dream is about to become the American nightmare.
That doesn’t sound good. Too many people are having too hard a time surviving and one cause of the difficulty is simply that middle-class kids did what they were told middle-class kids do: go to college. College is a benefit, and it should be encouraged. The college years are the best years of one’s life (they really were), and the intellectual pursuit is among the greatest endeavors of human existence (truly). It is not culture or society’s fault that millions of young, highly educated people are unable to get a job. But culture is not guilt free, either. There is plenty of responsibility for this $1 trillion dollars. The question should be, what are we going to do about it so it does not erase a generation?
Who knows. Are there any viable solutions? At Occupy Wall Street there is a growing cry for student debt relief. There is an argument to be made for debt forgiveness: if we forgive the crushing debt burden, individuals will have money to spend on goods and services rather than sending their money (or not sending money, as the case may be) to pay off interest on student debt. Mrs. TRC and I have discussed this. We are doing well in comparison, working and able to meet our payments. But if we didn’t have to make the monthly student loan payment we would immediately: buy a car, buy a computer, re-do our kitchen floor. Would it help if we opened up what little capital is available to Americans and allowed them to direct that money towards economic recovery? It seems reasonable, but I’m not economist.
Either way, that’s not likely. And no one should be surprised that our government does not forgive a trillion dollars in debt to its own citizens. It’s not our style, and it may not be the best solution anyway. A strong argument against simple debt-relief is that it is unfair to people to worked tooth-and-nail to pay their education off and did not accrue debt. This person, the argument goes, did not need a private school education, and found a way to pay for it without loans. That is true, and that individual deserves the praise of our society; that person is a role-model. I think there are too few of those individuals; I wish I had been one.
Another plan is out today from President Obama to help ease the burden of student loans. The President’s plan “allows borrowers to cap their loan payments at 10 percent of their income, a significant reduction from the 15 percent cap in current law. And the plan would allow for loan forgiveness on a remaining balance after 20 years of payments.” Pay 10% of your income for 20 years, and the rest is forgiven. That seems generous. Whether it will work or be welcomed remains to be seen.
There is also a third option that TRC has thought of lately, and it’s terrifying, but no less realistic. It is said that if you do not find a job within five years of graduation, the odds of ever working into the competitive position you could have decrease significantly (I heard this on MPR, and am looking for the source). That is going to be a lot of students in the wake of this recession. And it will not be just liberal arts majors who want to be curators or book-store owners, but law students and scientists, and individuals from every field with graduate degrees, and thus more loans, because why look for a job when there are none? Better to keep learning and acquiring degrees to be more competitive when jobs come back. One may disagree with this line of thinking, but it is not uncommon and results in a lot of MAs, MSs, PhDs, JDs, etc.
Millions, probably. And the vision of these over-burdened and underemployed college graduates making coffee around the nation will eventually, finally, demonstrate what people around the country have known for a long time: the university system needs to change. The system cannot be: take out loans to go to school to get a job to pay off the loans you needed to go to school. That is a heartless cycle, and will destroy too many people in its wake.
Or we’ll just stop attending higher-education. The US will continue to run colleges and universities that compete with the best institutions in the world and continue to increase tuition to meet costs, but Americans will not attend those schools, at least not the majority of Americans. And this would be a loss of monumental proportions. Learning what you are passionate about, like your teachers said, is what college is for, and learning how to follow that passion for the rest of your life should take priority over monthly interest payments.
The Cultural Barometer in the United States is starting to get some very strange readings. When I saw this over at Think Progress, I thought there had to be a mistake. But it turns out there is no mistake.
Pat Robertson, yes, that Pat Robertson, apparently thinks that the current GOP field of presidential candidates is “too extreme.” This is a real report. Pat Robertson thinks that someone else holds political and ideological views that are too extreme for his taste.
Said Mr. Robertson:
“I believe it was Lyndon Johnson that said, ‘Don’t these people realize if they push me over to an extreme position I’ll lose the election?’” … “Those people in the Republican primary have got to lay off of this stuff. They’re forcing their leaders, the frontrunners, into positions that will mean they lose the general election…They’ve got to stop this! It’s just so counterproductive!”
This doesn’t say anything that I think most on the political left have not already noticed, but the current GOP is moving fast and far to the Right. When they passed the ideological rigidity and extremism represented by Pat Robertson is anyone’s guess.
TRC is reviving an old (old) blog feature from a previous era, the Welcome to ________’s America.
Perry called the birther movement “a good issue to keep alive…You know, Donald [Trump] has got to have some fun. It’s fun to poke [Obama] a little bit and say, ‘Hey, let’s see your grades and your birth certificate.’ I don’t have a clue about where the president — and what this birth certificate says. But it’s also a great distraction.
Well said. You’ve never looked more presidential.
I’ve been curious of late as to how Republicans respond to statements like this:
Of course, with their single-minded focus on defeating Obama and controlling both houses in Congress, Republicans most likely will continue to block the most effective job-creating initiatives.
I’ve said some variation of this a couple of times, and the sentiment is pretty common from the Democratic and liberal spectrum in the United States. The charge is, essentially, that defeating President Obama in the 2012 election is more important than aiding in economic recovery in the United States, right now. It is similar to the idea that liberals wanted Iraq to continue as a clusterfuck during President Bush’s years, to continue to embarrass his unjust war. And some liberals probably did want to see that. But not many, and the rest of us made a strong argument against that kind of barbarism. Now, the GOP is receiving a similar attack.
This is a pretty serious charge, and one that should cause Republicans to get defensive and start working towards improving the economy. Which I don’t see happening. I understand its all politics, and that President Obama presented a Jobs Bill that was never going to pass in the first place. But there are bipartisan ideas on how to create jobs being presented, right? And they are not being passed, right? Presumably everyone in both parties wants the economy to improve (except maybe fringe folks on both sides), and I trust that the Republican individuals in congress want unemployment to go down, and jobs to go up. But the GOP doesn’t even seem to be trying very hard to counter the accusation.
So how do Republicans respond to the charge that they prefer a bad or worsening economy to improve their electoral chances?
Here’s a beautiful sentence to share this Friday morning: A massively scaled study funded (in part) by the Koch Brothers and overseen by a skeptical physicist has concluded that global warming is real. What do you know?
The study was headed by Richard Muller, a physicist long skeptical of the climate change results that have been funded by governments, and thus skeptical of climate change (skeptic here being used in the true sense of the word, not to be confused by the deniers funded by the denial industry). So he and a team of researches collected private dollars to conduct their own study, on an incredible scale, to see if independent research conducted outside government purview would follow the line on global warming.
Now, the data is analyzed and the study is concluded and the result remains the same. The first four words of the press release sum it up: ”Global Warming is real.” This is an important study, and as the press release continues, can hopefully help “cool the debate over global warming by addressing many of the valid concerns of the skeptics in a clear and rigorous way.” It is being submitted in four studies for peer-review, and will make its way in to the literature, adding to the bloc of evidence that already exists.
Let me say that Richard Muller carries some weight among climate change deniers and skeptics. So much so that (as Brad Plumer writes) Anthony Watts of the denial-blog Watts Up With That, said: “I’m prepared to accept whatever result they produce, even if it proves my premise wrong.” Hopefully Watts and others are able to see beyond their bias and accept what science has been telling us all along.
But as the science of climate change becomes more and more indisputable, it is important to remember the denial movement will become ever more intransigent and unreasonable. It must do so to survive, because if people are open to evidence and reason, they will eventually be convinced by science.
Phil Plaitt reminds readers that this is not, and there never will be, a watershed tipping point for deniers to suddenly come around and accept the science, no matter how well reasoned an argument Richard Muller makes to abandon the skeptical position (see WSJ link, below). Instead, Plaitt calls for patience and vigilance.
I know this new study won’t sway climate change deniers. It can’t, because nothing can. The reason for that is simple: This isn’t about the science. If it were, the conversation would have been over years ago. Instead, it goes on, because it’s about ideology, not facts….It’s nice to see the previous scientific studies bolstered by this independent one…But, as I have been saying all along, there will never be a “crossing the finish line” moment. (emphasis Plaitt’s)
This is becoming every day more self-evident. Denialism continues its steady path throughout the US and its Government, even as the mountain of evidence continues to expand. Maybe this study will bring us one step closer to reality.
Read: Richard Muller, The Case Against Global Warming Skepticism in today’s Wall Street Journal.
The world is about to be populated by 7 billion human beings. That is a lot of people relying on an ever-decreasing number of resources to fuel our bodies, our electricity needs, our transportation, everything. It’s worth spending some time thinking about. There is no prescription here, but continued population growth at these rates does have consequences.
What does 7 billion people mean? Scientific American has a few ideas to report from an Earth Institute forum that was meant to “celebrate, raise awareness and sound a few alarms regarding a U.N. estimate that the 7 billionth human is due to join the party Oct. 31.”
So here are some numbers and predictions to ponder regarding human # 7,000,000,000:
- “The 7 billionth addition to Homo sapiens represents a spurt of 4 billion people in five decades.”
- “The growth rate prior to the mid-20th century was much slower and had effectively held steady for thousands of years until the 19th century’s Industrial Revolution.”
- “By 2100, the African continent will have overwhelmed a historic balance among continents, with “five sub-Saharan Africans for every European.”"
- “With the steady increase over the past half-century has come improved life expectancy to a global average of 70 years.”
- “Dwindling natural resources, food and water could mean 1 billion starving people across Africa and South Asia’s “hunger belt” sooner than many think.”
- “We are going to need to construct a city of a million people every five days for the next 40 years”
TRC does not like Herman Cain. Not that this is news. I was never going to vote for him. I’m a liberal, and I think government is functional, useful and better than corporate America at resolving issues like caring for the poor, providing healthcare and building roads and bridges. We disagree on those issues, and as political differences those are easy to understand. But regardless of your party affiliation, you should not vote for Herman Cain. Why? Because he is a religious bigot. How do I know?
“The Perfect Conservative.” That’s what the piece is called, and who is the perfect conservative? Jesus. “The Perfect Conservative” was written as a Christmas message last December to all the folks at Redstate. It’s a curious picture of the life of Jesus Christ. Who is Herman Cain’s Jesus?
He helped the poor without one government program. He healed the sick without a government health care system. He feed [sic] the hungry without food stamps. And everywhere He went, it turned into a rally, attracting large crowds, and giving them hope, encouragement and inspiration.
For three years He was unemployed, and never collected an unemployment check. Nevertheless, he completed all the work He needed to get done. He didn’t travel by private jet. He walked and sailed, and sometimes traveled on a donkey.
But they made Him walk when He was arrested and taken to jail, and no, He was not read any Miranda Rights. He was arrested for just being who He was and doing nothing wrong. And when they tried Him in court, He never said a mumbling word.
He didn’t have a lawyer, nor did He care about who judged Him.
His judge was a higher power.
The liberal court found Him guilty of false offences and sentenced Him to death, all because He changed the hearts and minds of men with an army of 12.
Jesus: The Perfect American Conservative, changing the system through unemployed boot-strap hard work, who was murdered by big-government welfare loving liberals.
This makes TRC so angry I can almost not form a coherent response. First, Mr. Cain, the politics of assigning responsibility for the death of Christ don’t have a particularly good history. Second, being alive 2000 years ago, and being a bit of a gypsy, I doubt the ability of Christ to ride on a jet, receive government funded health care, apply for unemployment or food stamps, or receive Miranda Rights.
Herman Cain’s message is clear: Conservative Americans love Jesus and Liberal Americans despise his free-market, anti-government message. Jesus spawned the conservative movement, the murderers of Jesus spawned the liberal movement. Don’t think I’m misreading this, Cain makes it pretty clear:
For over 2,000 years the world has tried hard to erase the memory of the perfect conservative, and His principles of compassion, caring and common sense.
His followers are now millions and millions the world over, as those who resent Him have intensified their attacks on who He was and what His followers believe.
The attacks are disguised as political correctness, or a misunderstanding of the First Amendment to the Constitution. Separation of Church and State does not mean Separation of Church from State. The State cannot impose Church on the people, but the people can display and say as much Church in the public square as they desire.
Our Founders recognized that distinction, which helped to inspire the Declaration of Independence, the Constitution and the founding of this nation – The United States of America!
What does it mean to resent Jesus? Well, you would value political correctness and emphasize the First Amendment. Believing strongly in the separation of Church and State is also a sign that one might have been of the killing Jesus kind. Jesus is compassion, caring, and common sense, plain and simple.
Individuals who have a conservative political worldview, like Jesus and the Founding Fathers, are the picture of goodness and political viability. Liberals, well, when we get our way we kill God.
If you want to vote Republican, vote Republican. Just don’t vote for Herman Cain and his continued displays of religious intolerance.
The Texas governor was speaking Wednesday at the Western Republican Leadership Conference. He was telling the audience, “you won’t hear a lot of shape-shifting nuance from me.”
No shit. You don’t strike anyone as a terribly nuanced in your political views.
We are in the throes of another presidential primary season, which means, among other things, that religion and politics are being uncomfortably joined together, and candidates are enduring the headaches that result from tearing them asunder. Last time it was Christianity as understood by white Americans in suburbs clashing with the Christianity of urban African-Americans. This time the contrast is evangelical Christianity and the cult of Mormonism, or the Religion of Mormonism, or the Christian Denomination of Mormonism, depending on whom you ask.
Front-runner for the GOP Presidential Nomination, Mitt Romney, is a Mormon. Everyone knows this. Some people, like evangelical Christian and former front-runner for the GOP Presidential Nomination, Rick Perry, may not be comfortable with Romney’s Mormon faith. There is wide swath of opinions, apparently, on whether Mormon’s belief in Christ makes them Christians, or whether their religion is outside the bounds of Christianity, and is thus a false religion.
Growing up in the Midwest, I knew several Mormon families, and they seemed to be generally viewed as slightly odd if not kooky, but certainly not as a threat. They were our friends and their Mormonism was known and not commented upon. It was just kind of weird. (Originally I wrote down some of the beliefs of the Mormon Church that seem strange, but when you write them side by side, Christianity’s beliefs really aren’t any less kooky.) This is not news to the Mormon Church, which has been making great strides to advance its image of normalcy in the US in recent years. I’m sure you’ve seen the commercials (which I’m not going to link to, but you can watch them all at mormon.org).
But the Midwest tries hard to be nice. There’s seems to be a little more worry regarding the Mormon Church in other circles, such the centers of the Evangelical Church. It seems fair to say that (correct me if I’m wrong) Evangelical Christianity does not accept Mormons into the fold, and as Evangelicals have a strong voice in American Politics, problems are bound to appear when someone, like Mitt Romney, tries to blend the two. The most recent uproar comes from Pastor Robert Jeffress, who introduced Rick Perry at a speaking engagement. Jeffress described Mormonism as cult, called Planned Parenthood a slaughterhouse, and asked, ““Do we want a candidate who is a good, moral person — or one who is a born-again follower of the lord Jesus Christ?””
Small uproars ensued. Mitt Romney asked Perry to publicly decry the claim that Mormonism is a cult, which Perry did not do, because Jeffress is not an associate of Perry’s, which then turned out not to be the case, so Rick Perry did acknowledge his belief that Mormonism is not a cult, shortly after describing Jeffress as having “knocked it out the park” with his introduction. These are the binds one will inevitably find in the mixture of presidential politics and religion.
Many journalists/bloggers/rabble-rousers ran with the Perry-Romney-Cult dust-up, since they love writing about the consequences of these kind of religious intervals into presidential politics. And who doesn’t? It’s great fodder for complaining; that’s what we’re doing right now. The question I have and I haven’t seen addressed is: why should anyone be surprised that a Southern Baptist Pastor believes, and would say, that Mormonism is a cult? Of course that’s what Jeffress thinks, along with a lot of evangelicals around the world. Because Mormonism isn’t Christianity, at least not to Jeffress. What else does it take for a religion that is not Christianity to be considered a cult by Christians like Jeffress? This is religion we’re talking about. It’s not acceptable (possible?) to dispute the Truth when one’s religion has a different capital-T than another religion. Overlapping Truths, I can understand, and promote. But exclusive Truths don’t overlap. And if you are outside, your options are few and unpleasant.
Remember that uproar over Reverend Wright and Barack Obama in the 2008 campaign? I wondered the same thing about that issue. Why wouldn’t Reverend Wright, a black preacher in a black community in Chicago, preach what he preached? And why wouldn’t white suburban Christians not feel threatened? That makes perfect sense. It’s all considered Christianity, to the Christian who believes it.
So here’s a little rant: The shock people feel at the exclusivity or the rigidity or the offensive nature of someone else’s beliefs is either false, or misplaced. Religion has no place in politics, whether you think Mormonism is a cult, or think that evangelical Christianity is oppressive, or Reverend Wright’s Christianity is anti-white, or that Religion impedes the progress of society. If you adhere to the strict notion of capital-T religious truth, then the others have to be wrong, by necessity, and you are free to condemn them to hell or to accept the differences. Either way, it shouldn’t matter, because none of this has a place in politics. The only way that these conversations serve the presidential process is to demonstrate how candidates handle bad press. If you are President Obama, you give a speech on religion and race and handle the problem with poise and grace. If you are Mitt Romney, you keep your hands clean and stay above the fray. And if you are Rick Perry, you continue your fall from relevance, because, unfortunately, religious discrimination in politics does not play outside of a small community of religious hardliners.
Regardless, keep your religious muck out of the political process. There is plenty of muck gumming up politics as it is.