Archive for February, 2018

Funny How the Federal Deficit Doesn’t Seem to Matter Anymore…

Funny How the Federal Deficit Doesn't Seem to Matter Anymore...

Last year, the Trump administration budget proposed eliminating the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative, a federal program to clean the lakes and protect them against invasive species. It was fairly up front about it, spinning it as the fiscally responsible thing to do. “We must make cuts, can’t just keep growing the national deficit, think of our children and grandchildren, etc.” That used to be standard dogma for Republicans and a President who sold himself as an expert on debt, assuring us he would eliminate the federal deficit in eight years.

This year, the Trump Administration is proposing not total elimination of the GLRI, just a 90% reduction. What’s the other difference between this year and last? Oh, yeah: THE FEDERAL DEFICIT NO LONGER MATTERS!

Enormous tax cuts followed by a giant leap in spending is going to balloon the deficit, and this is suddenly OK with the very same people who just an administration ago preached this as our financial Armageddon.

You gotta laugh. Except it’s not really all that funny.

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Defying Authority to Protest Injustice

Defying Authority to Protest Injustice

Back when I was a senior at Powers Central Catholic High School in Flint, I went on a weekend religious retreat with a few of my classmates. Retreats vary in form and length, but this was fairly standard — two days away from the world to reflect and pray and to share the experience with peers. It took place on the grounds of a monastery that was also a working farm, so there were some rules. Mostly we needed to stay in or around the building that was dedicated for retreats.

It was a great retreat, and I took it seriously. At least up until the end when they had us fill out an evaluation form. For the amusement of my friends (and some girls from another school), I wrote down and then shared my less-than-serious answers. For example:

Q: What did you wish there were more of?
A: Definitely the cow rides. I really liked going out at night and riding the cows around the pastures.

Q: Are there some things you enjoyed more than others?
A: I preferred the bathrooms in the monastery to the ones in the retreat house.

The following Monday at school I was called into Mr. Reynolds office, the counselor who had coordinated the retreat. It seemed some folks at the monastery were quite upset about my evaluation, taking it at face value. Luckily Mr. Reynolds had enough insight into teenage behavior (and knew me well enough) to understand the situation and work with me to fix it. It ended up being a pretty good life lesson — just because my friends (and even Mr. Reynolds) think something is funny, doesn’t make it a good idea.

I tell you this story to contrast my goofing off with the earnest and thoughtful behavior of four Lansing Catholic High School football players who took a knee during the national anthem at football games. By all accounts these boys were serious in their protesting racial injustice (both locally and nationally) and about starting a conversation. The response it seems has been more about telling the boys and their peers what to do than about listening to what they have to say.

It’s been many years since high school, but I’ve been an adult leader on several retreats, and I can tell you that teenage boys still do dumb things to amuse their friends and impress girls. But they can also be quite thoughtful and deeply honest. And if you spend all your time trying to correct their behavior instead of working with them to understand it, it’s not going to be a positive experience for anybody.

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Journalism Shines Light into Dark Corners

Journalism Shines Light into Dark Corners

A single word to summarize these Larry Nassar trials? How about, “ugh”? Well, it may not be a real word, but it’s a real feeling. Still, as stomach-churning as this experience has been, there are some, if not positive, then at least hopeful takeaways.

First and most obvious is the lesson learned. Or should I say, the lesson again learned: Organizations must have accountability standards in place to protect the vulnerable (especially children). Whether a church, a university, or a gymnastics team — there must be standards and practices that prevent abuses, and if abuses happen, stop it quickly.

The second takeaway is not as obvious but just as important. The crimes were committed, but now at least justice is being served. It required brave young women to step forward and testify. It required dedicated law enforcement and a vigilant judiciary to complete the process. And it also required professional journalists to shine the light.

Without the hard work of reporters like Michigan Radio’s Kate Wells, these awful stories could very well have remained in the dark, hiding those responsible and leaving the victims without a voice, the public uninformed.

It is especially popular these days to talk about “the media” and “the press” as a monolithic failure. And yes, it’s fair to desire quality work — we should insist journalism be as honest and unbiased as possible. But don’t dismiss the institution. There is no question that professional reporters play a critical role in a free nation. We can’t shout “fake news” whenever something violates our ideology and continue to expect journalism to stay strong.

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