Congress Repeals FCC Internet Privacy Rules

Yesterday the book Crunchy Cons by Rod Dreher (who right now is receiving much attention for his new book The Benedict Option) was waiting on my front porch when I returned home from work. It’s a book I have wanted to read for quite some time and finally bought a used copy. The book is about how some conservatives are returning to a form of conservatism that is actually interesting in conserving things — freedom, education, family life, natural resources, beauty, liberty, Christianity, etc — rather than purely focusing on economic strength and accumulating…stuff.

The back of the book includes Dreher’s “Crunchy Con Manifesto” of nine bullet pointsincluding the following:

  • Modern conservatism has become too focused on money, power, and the accumulation of stuff, and insufficiently concerned with the content of our individual and social character.
  • Big Business deserves as much skepticism as big government.

At the same time I scanned the Crunchy Con points on the back cover, conservatives in Congress were (and still are) in the process of sending President Trump a bill to repeal FCC Internet privacy rules that require giant telecom corporations to ask their users to “opt-in” to them storing and sharing private user data rather than allowing them to do this automatically. They use this information (among many ways) to build profiles on people to sell the advertisers so they can send us eerily targeted ads. The data storage is also ripe for abuse as we already know by the tens of thousands of (known) data requests by the government recently.

Republicans argue this levels the playing field with websites like Google and Facebook who are already allowed to collect data on their users and have a sort of monopoly over online advertising. But why are we so concerned by leveling the playing field for giant corporations to compete with each other when the currency to do so is our very intimate, private information? Maybe the answer is cracking down on Google and Facebook rather than allowing telecom providers to do the same.

Quoting from the Wall Street Journal:

What if your telecom company tracked the websites you visit, the apps you use, the TV shows you watch, the stores you shop at and the restaurants you eat at, and then sold that information to advertisers?

In theory, it’s possible, given the stance Washington is taking on online privacy. Lawmakers on Tuesday voted to overturn privacy rules that required telecom companies to get customers’ permission before sharing their web-browsing and app usage history with third parties. 

The telecom providers had argued the rules put them at a competitive disadvantage to online ad giants Google and Facebook, which generally aren’t regulated by the FCC.

Google and Facebook have built huge businesses powered by reams of data they collect about consumers’ online actions, both on their own properties and across the web. That trove of information largely explains their dominance — combined, they have a roughly 47% share of the global digital ad market, according to eMarketer.

But online advertising executives say telecom providers potentially have access to more powerful data than the two tech powerhouses. Their networks — both wired and wireless — could give them a window into nearly everything a user is doing on the web.

“ISPs like Verizon can now start building and selling profiles about consumers that include their friends, the news articles they read, where they shop, where they bank, along with their physical location,”…

For example, a wireless provider might track which websites and apps a consumer uses, in addition to their location, and use that information to help determine which products they’re likely to purchase.

If a consumer uses the same telecom provider for wireless, broadband and TV service, the provider could, in theory, track the majority of that consumer’s online behavior and media consumption.

Is this really what conservative voters want? I doubt it. It’s telling that the Republicans, who can’t seem to agree on anything important right now, are able to quickly come together to do something so pro-big business at the expense of everyday Americans. Political conservatives in this country tend to be more pro-privacy than their liberal counterparts so why don’t the politicians they voted for reflect that? To the contrary, this is the first thing to likely be signed into law with their new president? Until there’s more information suggesting there are benefits not being properly reported, what a disgrace. ☩

Televangelist Jimmy Swaggart Debates Catholicism on 1984’s ‘Crossfire’

Earlier this week I flipped on the TV without caring the station and flopped onto the bed. Up popped four gentlemen passionately discussing a religious topic. I didn’t give it much thought since there’s often protestant programs popping up on obscure channels–especially for those who don’t care to have cable like myself. Too lazy to move and caring too little to change it, I watched the men discuss how faith alone attains salvation (sola fide) and good works are worthless. It wasn’t a surprising topic to expect from four southern televangelists.

Image result for jimmy swaggart meme
SBN is Swaggart’s TV Network

I watched a few minutes more until the discussion took a break for an infomercial-like advertisement featuring one of the men on the discussion panel, “Buy Jimmy Swaggart’s Commentary on the Book of Romans before supplies run out!” The televangelist and salesman went on, “and if you buy now, I’ll throw in the Q&A book Ask Jimmy for the low price of $30!”.

Who was this guy and who cares about his commentary on Romans, lets hear his thoughts on James I thought. Knowing the name Swaggart sounded familiar to me, I did some quick research (Google) and learned a lot in mere minutes. I realized how well-known and popular he was through the 80’s and 90’s as a protestant preacher, singer, and TV personality. The best takeaway was a clip I came across of him on a 1984 episode of CNN’s Crossfire debating Pat Buchanan and Tom Braden about Catholicism. It’s interesting because both Pat and Tom defend Catholicism despite representing politically conservative and liberal positions (a cable news liberal defending the Church, what?!). Mr. Swaggart, though, correctly jabs the liberal Tom Braden when he tells him he has no clue about what he is talking about when it comes to Christianity.

As a millennial born in the same year as this broadcast, the early form of this show is new to me. Also new to me is the fact that Pat Buchanan is a Catholic (perhaps I knew that he was at least culturally when he ran for president, those are different). Mr. Buchanan does a pretty good job defending the Faith and employs the classic argument against the protestant belief of sola scriptura by asking Jim what determines his interpretation of scripture is accurate but not someone else’s, specifically the pope’s along with a magisterium of bishops in agreement. Braden came off as a sentimentalist and shot himself in the foot a few times, which set Swaggart up for some (mostly accurate) body shots. ☩

CatholicVote Launches $500k Ad Buy in Swing States Against Hillary

Catholic Vote is set to launch $500,000 worth of commercials in the swing states of Ohio, Florida, Pennsylvania, and Nevada in the days approaching the presidential election. The campaign highlights the negative remarks highlighted in the Wikileaks emails in attempts to get Catholics fired up to vote in this election. Polling suggests right now that most Catholics will (or already have) vote for Clinton over Trump, just ask the majority of Catholics voted for Obama over Romney in 2012. This data flips when only practicing Catholics are polled (defined as going to Mass once or more per week).

Trump Calls Out Hillary for “Hating Catholics” at Catholic Fundraiser

One of the reasons Donald Trump has the support he does is because there is a real feeling that he is acting as a representative for people who have been pushed aside and neglected by politicians on both sides of the aisle (despite Republicans paying lip service).

hrc_trump_71477009690

Last night at New York’s Al Smith dinner, a high society event hosted by New York’s archbishop Cardinal Dolan to raise money for Catholic charities, Trump did what many Christians longed to see someone do on a public stage by calling his presidential opponent out for hating Catholics. Mr. Trump was referencing the recent Wikileak revelations in which Clinton’s campaign manager mocked and sought to undermine Church teaching from within with fake ‘front’ groups. Trump said to the glitzy crowd:

“Hillary believes that it’s vital to deceive the people by having one public policy and a totally different policy in private. Here she is tonight, in public, pretending not to hate Catholics.”

Despite the jeers of the crowd, how satisfying it is to see someone actually say that with her present, unable to ignore.

Trump went on to subtly address WikiLeaks again along with praising the Catholic Church’s mission to create a culture of life before ending his speech:

We can also agree on the need to stand up to anti-Catholic bias, to defend religious liberty and to create a culture that celebrates life.

This is within 24 hours of Trump calling Hillary out for her support of late-term and partial-birth abortion too, describing the process in a way that most politicians would never consider in today’s politically correct culture:

I think it’s terrible if you go with what Hillary is saying. In the ninth month, you can take the baby and rip the baby out of the womb of the mother just prior to the birth of the baby. Now you can say that that’s OK and Hillary can say that that’s OK, but it’s not okay with me.

Can you imagine any other pro-life republicans using those terms in such a direct comment to their opponent? I can’t. The lexicon of politicians is typically one that is carefully curated through study and focus testing. Trump, over and over, seems to say the things everyday Americans are dying for someone to say to the most powerful people in our country. In the same debate he gave a no-nonsense defense of gun rights and spoke of how much he honors and appreciates the endorsement of the NRA. Even the pro-gun republicans (who are likely much more principled than Trump on the issue) seem to have weak knees when it comes to embracing the NRA. People are sick of their representatives and the media not sticking up for the people whose voices tend to be ignored if not ridiculed. This is why, despite his deep flaws, Trump is resonating.☩

Trump is Becoming the Pro-Family Candidate

Disclaimer: Yes, we are all aware of Trump’s opinions before running for President. Don’t get your undies in a bundle over the title. In this post we are going to give him the benefit of the doubt and discuss his proposals for the future.

Update 9/16: Trump has called for permanently banning taxpayer funding of abortions by seeking to make permanent the Hyde Amendment at the same time that his rival, along with her ‘Catholic’ running mate, are calling for a reversal of the amendment. 

Donald Trump has made waves this week by unveiling two pro-family plans:

1) His maternity leave plan, guaranteeing six weeks of paid leave to mothers whose jobs don’t offer it.

And now,

2) His child care policy, which offers a tax deduction to families regardless of if one or two parents work and regardless of if the child is in day care or not.

Trump is clearly positioning himself as not only the ‘pro-woman’ candidate that Hillary Clinton is assumed to be, but also as the pro-family candidate. Hillary has touted her child care policy for months, telling women that she will fight for them and her policies reflect that, but with Trump’s recent (and specific) announcements, her sails are losing the wind she thought she could rely on.

The real estate mogul reacted quickly to Hillary’s child care policy announcement back when she unveiled it, saying that he too would offer a plan for mothers and families–there were no details at the time. It was assumed his plan would be similar to Hillary’s in that it offered a tax deduction for parents who both have to work and send their child to a child-care service. This was problematic for many family-oriented voters because while its goal is to help families financially, it also favors families putting their children in day care over families whose mother stays at home to care for children (quite an economic sacrifice for most families)–why should these parents (“you da real heros”) be ignored? Indeed day care helps many parents who are working hard to provide for their family, however day care can prove detrimental for children who spend a lot of time in it. When discussing Hillary’s childcare policy, W. Bradford Wilcox points out, “when young children, especially infants, spend lots of time in child care, it poses behavioral and social risks, even when they are being cared for in high-quality centers.” This is not ideal to the pro-family voter. Trading tax deductions for less-than-ideal child raising is the last thing our country, littered with broken marriages and shattered families, needs. No doubt, it is wonderful to relieve the economic burden on parents who rely on day care, but it’s even better to give all parents more resources to make decisions about what is truly best for the family they lead. Trump’s plan seems to do this.

Back when it was assumed Trump’s plan would be the same as HRC’s, the Catholic New York Times columnist Ross Douthat (I’ve been mentioning him a lot lately, haven’t I?) wrote a parody debate between the two candidates on the topic Make Family Policy Great AgainIn the fictional dialog Hillary paints the picture that she doesn’t really care about families and Trump shows that he really has no detailed policy to follow through with. Trump changed Mr. Douthat’s mind with his recent policy announcement:

Trump and making your family great again

Uh oh, I hear undies getting in a bundle again. Many Republicans have trouble embracing the family policies the eccentric businessman and reality TV star has laid out–understandable. I agree that the free market should be the default arbitrator of work-related benefits and pay. However, the market is not perfect because the market is not God, as many ‘religious’ Republicans seem to believe.

There is a growing segment of conservative voters whose support [of Christian living and policy] is simply lip service inasmuch as Christianity fits into the parameters of their coveted political orthodoxy. So to say, these people appreciate the parts of Christianity that line up with their already-set political ideology rather than the other way around.
The Saints’ Pub

“Did you just quote yourself?” Yes, I did. That’s how I roll. But it is also why I appreciate when Vice Presidential candidate Mike Pence describes himself as a “Christian and Conservative, in that order”. As Catholics, it is our duty to consider the health of the family before all else. While it is too early for me to form a solid opinion on Trump’s maternity leave plan (again, by default we should assume the market can take care of this. It is possible this would incentivize companies to remove the paid-leave benefit knowing the government will offer the six weeks for free. At the same time, most companies offer more than six weeks already, meaning that they would still use the added maternity time as a benefit to remain attractive to good workers while the proposed government policy would simply be a safety net for women who have no other option. This, I think, is the flaw in the thinking of many liberals attacking the plan. They claim “six weeks is not nearly enough!” but if more were offered it would result in more companies dropping their policy, creating a bigger burden on the State.), I can stand in support of his child care plan. Quoting from the National Review:

“Mr. Trump’s plan will ensure stay-at-home parents will receive the same tax deduction as working parents, offering compensation for the job they’re already doing, and allowing them to choose the child care scenario that’s in their best interest.”

…every family, whether or not in day care, gets a tax deduction worth the average cost of child care in its state. (Well, every married couple that makes less than $500,000 a year, that is; and only the first four children in a family would get the deduction.) If that’s right, Trump’s plan does not favor two-earner couples who use day care over one-earner couples that keep the children at home, as some child-care proposals–including those of Hillary Clinton–do. In effect, he concludes, Trump has increased the dependent exemption from $4,000 per child to roughly $16,000 per child.

[…]

…if Trump’s proposal is what Ellis takes it to be, then it would be a significant improvement in the tax structure, which currently places too high a share of the tax burden on parents and especially on parents of large families.

Families (not individuals) need fewer obstacles to having children and this child care policy goes in the right direction. Is it a sort of entitlement? I suppose. However it’s goal is to strengthen families rather than work against the family unit, the most fundamental cell of society. A strong family is, after all, in the best interest not only of communities large and small, but also of the State as a stable family helps ensure strong, happy, healthy, and self-sufficient citizens.

Now a State chiefly prospers and thrives through moral rule, well-regulated family life, respect for religion and justice, the moderation and fair imposing of public taxes, the progress of the arts and of trade, the abundant yield of the land-through everything, in fact, which makes the citizens better and happier. 
-Pope Leo XIII, Rerum Novarum 32

This plan also is only a benefit to families who have at least one person employed meaning it is money going to someone who is already contributing to the tax base–this is almost unheard of when it comes to entitlements today.

Why believe Trump is serious about this

I know, it’s hard. Trump has changed his position many times on important issues in the past and sometimes seems like he’s willing to say anything to get applause. I would simply say that the effort he has put behind these plans, along with the fact that these are co-attributed to his daughter, Ivanka (who seems genuinely family oriented), he doesn’t want to be mocked as a “loooser” by not succeeding with ideas becoming reality. Also, I think the fact that Gov. Mike Pence is his running mate–a man who is unarguably pro-family–offers Trump’s courting of pro-family voters and Christians some credibility.

Trump seems to really care about this, something that cannot be said for Hillary. There is an urgency and understanding that sometimes comes through when Trump discusses certain topics which Hillary cannot come close to imitating. Hillary does not care about family. She does not care about her own family (it seems), let alone the family trying to make a quality life for themselves in middle America. I think one can come to a reasonable conclusion that Mr. Trump is more likely to fight for these reforms (and others) more than Mrs. Bill Clinton would. ☩