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We must not sacrifice consistent morality for political pragmatism


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WORTHY IS THE (CONOR) LAMB? COLUMNIST THINKS SO

TOM LAMPRECHT: Harry will recognize the Scripture, “Worthy is the lamb who was slain.” That is also the title of a New York Times column by David Brooks that was published back on March the 15th, “Worthy is the Lamb.”

Unfortunately, he wasn’t looking at Easter; he was looking at a political event, particularly, Conor Lamb’s victory in Pennsylvania. Our listeners will likely remember that Conor Lamb beat Rick Saccone in that special election for Congress outside of Pittsburgh.

David Brooks looks at Conor Lamb’s victory and says, “This is a glimmer of home that the Democrats may go the way of morals and character.” He points out that Lamb was a military veteran; that Lamb was careful to put the problems of his district first — the opioid crisis, retirement, security, labor issues; he emerges from a serious moral tradition — he’s a Catholic and attended parochial school run by Christian brothers; he campaigned in a way designed to bridge divisions, not exacerbate them; and he opposed both Nancy Pelosi in Congressional leadership races.

Moral character, Brooks said, is always the same essential things: putting a higher love like nation over a lower love like party.

WHY USE SCRIPTURE TO SUPPORT POLITICS?

DR. REEDER: Whenever someone takes a statement assigned in Scripture in singular glory to the God of glory, specifically to my Savior, as the phrase, “Worthy is the lamb,” which is declared in Heaven … The apostle, John, is on the isle of Patmos and he is overwhelmed with the question, “Who can open the seals of the redeeming work of Christ?” — the seven seals — and then he hears a voice saying, “Look, there is one who is worthy.” And then he says, “I looked and, behold, the Lamb of God, the Lion of Judah.” And so, the lion has become the lamb to redeem us from our sins and the lion who has become the lamb is worthy to open the seals.

I am immediately and pointedly adverse to any use of a statement attributed to God to be attributed anywhere else and about anything else, so I have to admit that the statement had me on the wrong foot to begin with because of its blasphemy.

FURTHERMORE, CONOR LAMB IS NOT MORALLY SERIOUS

David Brooks normally makes statements that have some weightiness to it and he has a number of insights that I have found helpful from time to time, but I have to say that this article evacuated almost all of that, at least momentarily.

Where he assigns all of this moral turpitude to Conor Lamb, well, the fact is, yes, he is a military veteran and I’m thankful for that. And, yes, he did say, “I’m concerned about the opioid epidemic and retirement and workers and all of those things.” He sounded the right notes and he said, “I’m just concerned about my people, not about the Democratic Party.”

Therefore, David Brooks says, “Here’s the Democratic wave of the future. Run to the center with moral seriousness, with moral sobriety.” In fact, he’ll end up his article with the interesting statement, “Conor Lamb may be wrong on a bunch of stuff, but he’s a breath of fresh air for the country because he is restoring character and shared moral norms that matter most. Policy is secondary.”

MORALITY DOES MATTER MOST, BUT ONLY CONSISTENT MORALITY

That’s right, morality matters most, policy is secondary and I agree with that, but Conor Lamb is not the poster child for this. He is said to be morally serious because of what he has said — well, the fact is he may say, “I’m running against Pelosi,” but the reality is he upholds every policy in the Democratic party, even the policy of putting to death the unborn, even the murder of the unborn.

Here is what he says — and, interesting, David Brooks applauds this meaningless statement of supposed character principle — “I am personally opposed to abortion, but I will not oppose political or legislative affirmations of the right of a woman to ‘human reproductive health’.”

That is not human reproductive health — that is human reproductive murder. And that statement tells you that Conor Lamb is not morally serious. It also tells you that David Brooks must not be morally serious if he declares such a candidate as a morally serious candidate.

If you are personally opposed to abortion, then you have to oppose it in policy. If you have the character to say abortion is the murder of unborn child, then you have the responsibility of character to oppose it politically and legislatively.

The reality is Conor Lamb marches in lock-step to the horrendous policies of the Democratic platform to kill babies in the womb. That is not moral seriousness — that is a vacuous moral posturing.

NOT JUST A WARNING FOR DEMOCRATS

And, by the way, let me go to the other side to Republicans. You’ve got to be able to see this same thing. For instance, as we’re working through this issue of the “Stormy Daniels,” alleged accusations that she’s been involved with President Trump — let me emphasize alleged — I understand of all that. I listened to portions of the interview with her and there’s nothing overwhelmingly convincing about evidence there and everybody has to have the evidence.

And people say to me, “Well, he paid the $130,000.00. Isn’t that an admission of guilt?” It may be. We need to find that out. It may also be, “Hey, the election’s two weeks around the corner. Let’s get rid of this and try to get through the election.” I don’t know, but I do know this: it matters to me whether or not my president is engaged in such activities. That is a character issue for me.

KEEP THIS MORALITY STANDARD IN MIND FOR PRESIDENT TRUMP

And it’s not enough for me that my president makes the right decisions politically. I am glad for that, I am glad that we have a Supreme Court justice that he nominated, I am glad that he is publicly opposed to Planned Parenthood, I am glad for many of the appointments that he has made that are of sound moral character and that are functioning evangelical Christians with a Christian world and life view — I am glad for all of that, but it still matters to me what the president does concerning his marriage vows. That matters to me.

I agree with David Brooks’ statement. Policy and pragmatic competency in a politician does not — pardon the pun — trump character for me. Character is crucial. It is the most essential thing in any leader.

I would say to all of the conservatives out there: you can’t say to Democrats who would excuse Bill Clinton’s sexual promiscuity and perversion on the basis that his policies were working and he’s a good and effective politician and then you turn around and excuse the behavior of your effective politician. You just can’t do that.

Mr. Brooks, I’m with you. Let’s have some moral seriousness but, Mr. Brooks, you’re dead wrong: the notion that I can be personally opposed to the murder of unborn children in the womb and not doing anything about it politically or legislatively and, on the contrary, I will embrace a platform that has a genocidal assault on the unborn, that foundational issue is what is leading to a culture of death, both at the beginning of life and at the end of life and now on the schoolyards and in the church buildings around the entire life of our culture. That’s not morally serious.

KEEP GOD IN POLITICAL STANDARDS, BUT DON’T PROFANE HIM BY PICKING AND CHOOSING

May I finally conclude by bringing, hopefully, reverence to the profane use of the headline “Worthy is the Lamb.” The Lamb is worthy. The Lamb who is worthy is the One who we celebrate who took our place on the cross — not the lambs of this world that cannot redeem us, but the Lamb of God Who has redeemed us and I want to bring His message.

To conservatives and my Republican friends, it is important that you do not sacrifice “Do not commit adultery” for political pragmatism and policy engagement. I love effective politics and I hate false allegations, but we must never become unserious about the ethical absolutes of God’s Law — “You shall not murder;” “You shall not commit adultery.” And if you’re willing to embrace that for political expediency whether you’re on the right or the left, that leads to nothing but the destruction of a society.

We need leaders who set the thermostat, not of perfection — we only get our perfection from the Lamb of God — “Worthy is the Lamb”. We also get His atoning death for our sins, but when you come to that Lamb, then you begin to desire a life that will honor Him. Even as the apostle Paul said, “I beseech you, walk in a manner worthy of your calling.”

Dr. Harry L. Reeder III is the Senior Pastor of Briarwood Presbyterian Church in Birmingham.

This podcast was transcribed by Jessica Havin, editorial assistant for Yellowhammer News, who has transcribed some of the top podcasts in the country and whose work has been featured in a New York Times Bestseller.

7 hours ago

The surprising link between Alabama seafood, timber and U.S. national security, and how Shelby is leading the way

There are plenty of areas of debate over exactly how and where the U.S. should spend its foreign aid dollars. But for Alabamians in particular — and the entire Gulf Coast region more broadly — the international assistance that flows into cracking down on illegal wildlife trafficking is paying massive dividends, both economically and, perhaps more surprisingly, in terms of national security.

A survey by the Kaiser Family Foundation indicates Americans grossly overestimate the amount the federal government spends on foreign aid.  The average answer was foreign aid accounts for a whopping 31 percent of spending. Fifteen percent of respondents actually thought it represented over half of the U.S. budget.

In reality, according to the Congressional Research Service, it accounts for about 1 percent total when military, economic development and humanitarian efforts are combined.  And it is paying massive dividends for Alabama.

Here’s how:

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First, foreign aid dollars fund multi-nation efforts to combat illegal trade in timber and fish. These illicit practices cost U.S. foresters and fishers billions of dollars in lost revenue every single year by flooding the market and driving down prices.

According to the Alabama Department of Commerce, “Alabama has the second largest commercial timberland base in the U.S., with 23 million acres. Forestry is the state’s second largest manufacturing industry, producing an estimated $14.8 billion worth of products in 2013, the latest data available.” Alabama also ranked second in the country in fish production. By cracking down on the black-market trading of timber and fish, our foreign aid dollars are protecting Alabama jobs.

Second, foreign aid that flows into international conservation efforts, which has enjoyed bipartisan support for decades, helps countries manage their natural resources sustainably. This prevents the scarcity of water, food or forests that often contributes to instability and sparks regional conflicts.

Third, cracking down on illegal wildlife trafficking cuts off a major source of income for armed groups and organizations with terrorist ties throughout the world, many of which pose a direct threat to American interests.

A report by the United Nations and Interpol found that the “illegal wildlife trade worth up to $213 billion a year is funding organized crime, including global terror groups and militias.” Additionally, “the annual trade of up to $100 billion in illegal logging is helping line the pockets of mafia, Islamist extremists and rebel movements, including Somalia’s Al-Qaeda linked terror group al-Shabaab.”

Fortunately, Sen. Richard Shelby (R-Ala.), who recently rose to the powerful post of Chairman of the Appropriations Committee, has remained a staunch supporter of ensuring that resources continue to flow into efforts to combat the illegal trade in timber and fish.

“The Committee has worked together to strike the appropriate balance between the competing priorities of law enforcement, national security, scientific advancement, and economic development,” Shelby said after announcing critical funding for Fiscal Year 2018. “Additionally, the measure includes necessary oversight provisions to fight waste, fraud, and abuse. This is a step forward in maintaining critical funding for core programs and addressing the needs of our nation while staying within our spending boundaries.”

The move did not go unnoticed by leaders in the seafood industry, a major source of economic activity in all Gulf States, including Alabama.

“We cannot thank Senator Shelby enough,” said Southern Shrimp Alliance Executive Director John Williams after fiscal year 2018 appropriation. “Their extraordinary efforts ensure the survival of the domestic shrimp fishery in the face of what has been an endless stream of illegal shrimp imports.”

Support for foreign assistance and international conservation is smart domestic policy. It protects our economy and cuts off the flow of cash to criminals and terrorists. Sen. Shelby and the bipartisan coalition of lawmakers from whom he has helped rally support deserve recognition and praise for their leadership.

Allison Ross is the owner of Yellowhammer News.

 

 

7 hours ago

What’s wrong with Calhoun County’s economy?

Earlier this week, Zippia, one of the many job search websites out there, released its list of 2018’s 50 worst job markets in America. Only one in Alabama made the list: Anniston-Jacksonville, AL, which came in at number 43.

That’s not bad given what we’re told about Alabama and poverty. But it does raise one question: Why are Anniston and its surrounding areas struggling compared to other similar places in the state?

Although unemployment in Calhoun County is not nearly as high as counties in the Black Belt, compared to other quasi-urban areas of Alabama, Calhoun has the highest unemployment rate, coming in at 5.9 percent according to data posted recently on the Alabama Department of Labor’s website.

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That far exceeds the seasonally adjusted numbers for the state of Alabama, at 4.1 percent, and nationally, at 4 percent.

So, what gives? Why does Calhoun County struggle economically?

“It’s a good question,” Rep. Mike Rogers (R-Saks) said in response to that in an interview with Yellowhammer News back in April. “I saw those numbers come out for my congressional district and Calhoun County had the highest unemployment rate, still. It is better than it has been, but I don’t know the answer to that question.”

Rogers said part of the answer to that question may be tied to military spending during the Obama administration and its impact on the nearby Anniston Army Depot.

“[T]here was a real downsizing at the Depot,” he added. “They had had a couple more thousand employees than they have now at the height of the war and there had been a downsizing since the drawback from Iraq and Afghanistan. You don’t need to refurbish as much equipment. But now they’re trying to ramp back up as we try to rebuild our military.”

He credited the potential for a turnaround in that trend to President Donald Trump’s commitment to the military.

Beyond that, why isn’t Calhoun County booming? It seems like every other day, Gov. Kay Ivey is announcing a new addition or manufacturing facility in the Huntsville area that includes a ribbon-cutting ceremony.

Let’s compare the Anniston-Oxford area to another economic hot spot in Rogers district, the Auburn-Opelika area.  Although Lee County isn’t quite enjoying the successes of Madison and Limestone Counties, it seems to be growing. Its unemployment rate is 4.7 percent – a little higher. But when you look around Auburn and Opelika, there are all kinds of new commercial and residential construction projects.

That doesn’t seem to be a trend in Anniston and Oxford.

Both Lee and Calhoun Counties have some similarities. Having Auburn University in Lee County is a big difference. Besides that, the two approximately the same distance from Atlanta and its international airport. The two are served by the Interstate Highway System – I-20 in Calhoun County and I-85 in Lee County.

If Lee County can make it work, then why not Calhoun County?

Getting to the bottom of determining what is ailing Calhoun County is not an easy chore. Although reading the pages of The Anniston Star is not quite the adventures of “Alice in Wonderland” it was when H. Brandt Ayers was in charge, under Josephine Ayers and Anthony Cook, it still tends to dwell in the politics outside of Calhoun County.

Addressing Calhoun County’s struggles is a politically worthwhile endeavor. While Kay Ivey is patting herself on the back for economic prosperity in north Alabama at plant-opening ceremony number 105, and Walt Maddox is championing his heroics in Tuscaloosa post-2011 tornado devastation, what about Anniston? What about Oxford? What about Jacksonville?

From an outsider’s perspective, there seems to be a presentable case for manufacturing to make Calhoun County a home given its infrastructure and proximities it Atlanta and Birmingham. But first, we need to determine what’s behind its current struggles.

@Jeff_Poor is a graduate of Auburn University and is the editor of Breitbart TV.

8 hours ago

Six vote difference: Republicans Todd Rauch and Debbie Wood in tight race for House District 38

Todd Rauch and Debbie Wood are in a tight race to become the Republican nominee for House District 38, where only six votes separate the two candidates. Wood has 2,165 votes to Rauch’s 2,159 votes.

The number is well within Rauch’s reach considering there are still votes to be counted.

A winner won’t be declared until at least next Tuesday, July 24, when provisional ballots are officially counted and even then, it could take longer for Secretary of State John Merrill to certify the results officially declaring a winner.

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“There’s never a winner until everything is certified,” Secretary of State John Merrill told Yellowhammer News.

Even in the case of such a wide margin as Attorney General Steve Marshall has over Troy King – 62 to 38 percent – there is still no official winner because it hasn’t been certified, Merrill said.

Provisional ballots are provided to those whose names do not appear on the voter roles when they show up to vote but who insist they belong, and still want to vote.

In order to have their votes counted, those who participate in the provisional process must prove to the board of registrar’s office that they ought to be on the roles.

@jeremywbeaman is a contributing writer for Yellowhammer News

9 hours ago

Alabamians less likely to be understood by ‘Alexa’ and other ‘smart’ tech because of southern accents

The remarkable drawl that embodies Southern culture may be responsible for the frustration many Alabamians feel when trying to get their smart tech to answer a question. The repeated “Sorry, I didn’t get that” can lead people with accents to underutilize voice-activated devices such as Alexa and Google Home that are rapidly growing in popularity.

study conducted by the Washington Post and two research groups revealed people with Southern accents were three percent less likely to get accurate responses from a Google Home device than those with Western accents.  Foreign accents face the largest challenge with 30 percent more inaccuracies.

But, help is on the way.

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According to the study, the artificial intelligence used in programming the technology is taught to comprehend different accents by processing data from a variety of voices.  The more it learns, the more accurate the programming will become.  Even though these tools may be more useful for some people at the moment, Amazon, the maker of the smart home product Alexa, says to keep trying.

“The more we hear voices that follow certain speech patterns or have certain accents, the easier we find it to understand them.  For Alexa, this no different,” Amazon said in a statement.  “As more people speak to Alexa, and with various accents, Alexa’s understanding will improve.”

Over 20 percent of U.S. households with WiFi utilize smart speakers, and the number of users is growing.  Hopefully, for the benefit of Alabamians, that growth will happen in the South.

Allison Ross is the owner of Yellowhammer News.

Learning from President Trump: Words matter

“I don’t see any reason why it would be”.

Those words, voiced by President Trump when asked whether he believed it was true that Russia interfered with the 2016 election, set off a media firestorm early this week.

Trump, of course, is used to media criticism, but this time was different. Joining the normal critics were a multitude of Fox News hosts including Neil Cavuto, Bret Baier, Brit Hume, Dana Perino, and even Brian Kilmeade of the oft-lauded by Trump Fox and Friends.

The morning after Trump’s press conference with President Putin, Kilmeade spoke in second person “you” language and pleaded for President Trump to clarify his statement and his belief in our intelligence agencies over Russians who, as Kilmeade said “hate democracy.”

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To his credit, Trump – who had previously agreed that Russian meddling existed – corrected his statement within twenty-four hours.

Regardless of whether his clarification was believable or timely, this episode reminds us that in politics and government – and in everyday life – words matter.

19thcentury German philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche recognized the power of words. Nietzsche wrote, “All I need is a sheet of paper, and something to write with, and then I can turn the world upside down”.

Nietzsche’s statement wasn’t merely hypothetical. His declaration that “God is dead” shattered worldviews across western civilization into pieces that PureFlix (the movie company behind God’s Not Dead and its sequels) is still trying to pick up.

Even so, it seems that many have forgotten the power of words and have embraced the idea that simply being heard, regardless of content, is of utmost importance.

In NBC’s hit show The Office, Michael Scott tells viewers, “Sometimes I’ll start a sentence and I don’t even know where it’s going. I just hope I find it along the way.” I think a lot of us are more like Michael Scott than we’d like to admit.

We might do well to envision more intentional dialogue from ourselves and from our elected officials, especially our state and local representatives.

In an environment where soundbites are everything, Trump’s statements in Helsinki and the backlash that ensued ought to prompt Alabama officials and candidates to rethink any “wing it” sympathies they may have towards public statements, press conferences, or tweets.

This is even more important in the post-primary period of our election cycle.

Now that the nominees are chosen, we must remind each of their responsibility as leaders to use words, strategies, and express differences in a way that is less divisive and more unifying, less bombastic and more genuine. Our officials and candidates should think twice before resorting to name-calling or vilifying their opponents, as doing so endorses that type of behavior and lowers the standard of Alabamians for those who represent them.

We should also expect, now that the in-fighting of our primary process is over, nominees to run thoughtful campaigns where issues, not personalities, are articulately debated.

Candidates and regular Alabamians alike must remember that words yield tremendous power. Therefore, as Roald Dahl, the author of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, the BFG, and Matilda, suggests, “Don’t gobblefunk around with words”.

Parker Snider is Manager of Policy Relations for the Alabama Policy Institute, an independent, nonpartisan, nonprofit research and educational organization dedicated to strengthening free enterprise, defending limited government, and championing strong families.