Essays by Michael Hallman

Ruminations on the political and social issues of the day

Joy and Suffering: Lessons from the Life of John McCain

Last night my wife and I had our parents over for dinner. I was making chicken parm over spaghetti, and we had a long time between salads and dinner because I forgot how long it takes for a huge pot of water to come to a boil (I’m not sure what it says about me…

Sexual Abuse in the Catholic Church – No Easy Answers

By the time the Boston Globe exposed the sex abuse scandal in the Catholic Church of that archdiocese in 2002, my own Catholic faith was already fairly tattered. I didn’t need much to push me over the edge, and if anything I was just looking for an excuse. That scandal sealed it for me, I…

The Role of Faith in a Democratic Society

While the nomination of Judge Brett Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court has not had the media attention it did a few weeks ago, it remains a contentious issue. The heat will only flare up again once it comes closer to a vote. Democrats are vowing to fight with everything they have (which isn’t much) to…

Trump, Putin, and the Excessive Power of the Executive Branch

Yesterday Donald Trump wrapped up an overseas trip with a rather disturbing visit with Russian President Vladmir Putin. During the press conference, which followed a two-hour one-on-one meeting between the two, President Trump once again undermined the United States intellgience community and capitulated to the Russian president. It was a shameful display, and coming on…

Discovering Our Purpose: Do I Choose My Path, or is it Chosen for Me?

A Long and Winding Road I’ve had a tumultuous journey getting to where I am today. There are many reasons – undiagnosed bipolar disorder I was 35, undiagnosed ADHD until I was nearly 40, and a paralyzing lack of purpose in my life (for which those first two were contributing factors). I worked almost immediately…

Criticisms of the MeToo Movement Miss the Point

When Leigh Corfman bravely, if reluctantly, shared how then-Senate candidate Roy Moore sexually abused her when she was 14 years old, the immediate and predictable response by Moore and his supporters was to attack her character. Even those who were on the fence about Moore questioned why it took her so long to come forward.…

America as an Immigrant Nation (and they didn’t all come from Norway)

Photo: St. Augustine’s Catholic Church, Philadelphia, PA. Photo by Monica Ayers. St. Augustine’s Catholic Church in Philadelphia was founded by an Irish immigrant, Fr. Matthew Carr, as the first Augustinian presence in the United States. It has a special place in my heart, for many reasons. Villanova University, my alma mater, traces its roots to…

The Free Press, Donald Trump, and a Smelly Pile of Poo

My psychology professor at Villanova University had a penchant for scatological metaphors, which, unsurprising to anyone who knows me, made her class one of my favorites. She used just such a metaphor to describe the concept of habituation. If we are placed in a room that had a large pile of poo in the corner,…

Net Neutrality Regulations Should Be Eliminated. Let the Markets Decide.

There are several basic concepts that any Econ 101 student learns relate to the issue of scarcity – the difference between the amount of resources available and the demand for those resources. Scarcity itself is a fact of the limitation of resources – there is no such thing as an unlimited resource in this world,…

Why Victims of Sexual Abuse Often Never Tell Their Stories

Sexual abuse is a topic that we cannot avoid right now. Over the past few months it’s like the sluice gate has opened and the floods of allegations of many high profile men have flooded our national consciousness. That we can’t avoid the discussion of sexual abuse now is a good thing. The tragedy is…

Tax Cuts, Spending, Limited Government, and Authentic Conservatism

Tax policy and tax reform have been at the heart of the Republican agenda since Donald Trump became president. As a first significant step, the House Republicans last week unveiled their proposed plan to overhaul the U.S. Tax Code. I haven’t yet had the opportunity to study the plan in detail, but a few items…

Abortion and Biology – The Science Sides With Life

In the decades since the passage of Roe v. Wade in 1973 the pro-choice movement has been very successful in communicating the basic premise of their argument: the unborn fetus is not a human life, but rather a clump of cells wholly dependent upon the host mother, and therefore cannot be considered morally wrong, let…

The Militarization of Police and its Threat to Liberty

Last week the Washington Post reported that President Trump was restoring a decades-old program of supplying state and local police forces with weaponry and other equipment from military surpluses. This program, instituted in 1990, was curtailed significantly by President Obama in light of the wave of high-profile cases of deaths of several black men in…

Tax Reform Isn’t Conservative for the Reasons You’ve Been Told

Tax reform has long been a platform of the Republican Party. As the party claiming the conservative mantle, Republicans consistently run on the idea that the biggest impediment to economic growth is high taxes, both personal and corporate. At 35 percent, our corporate tax rate is the highest in the developed world. Combined with the…

Ending NAFTA Would Cause Significant Damage to Our Economy

At a rally in Phoenix, Arizona last night, Donald Trump intimated the likelihood that he would eventually end NAFTA, a long-standing free trade agreement between Canada, Mexico, and the United States. This is consistent with a protectionist stance that Trump has taken even before any official entrée into political life. His objection to free trade…

Barcelona and Charlottesville: Shared Ideologies of Hate

Yesterday’s attacks in Barcelona by Islamic jihadists represented a scene that has become all too familiar. Vehicles have become one of the favored weapons of choice by Islamic terrorists today, driving a car or van at high speeds in crowded locations, mowing down as many people as possible. The United States experienced our first such…

The Real Danger of Trump’s Appeal to White Supremacists

Yesterday I wrote of the the dangers of hysterical reactions to Donald Trump and his outlandish, offensive, and morally repugnant utterances. I also admitted that I myself have been guilty of just this hysteria. During the campaign there were several times when I argued that he might just be a white supremacist himself, even going so…

Mental Illness and Elected Office – Are We Ready?

When I was seven years old my mother brought my siblings and me to Hammonton, NJ, a town just 20 minutes away from our home, to see Ronald Reagan speak at a campaign event. It’s a day that lives on in the memories of the local residents regardless of political persuasion because it was that…

More Immigration is Required for Our Economy to Thrive

While North Korea and their nukes is a much sexier topic right now, this is a post on something I’m slightly more qualified to speak about: jobs and immigration. By more qualified, of course, that’s mostly because I have zero qualifications for the former. But part of my job is working with economists and researchers…

To Honor the Survivors of D-Day, Help Combat the Scourge of PTSD

My grandfather was an Army Ranger who was part of the D-Day invasion of World War II. As a sergeant, throughout his service during the war he led his men bravely in some of the most harrowing times men of our era could imagine. He was a Purple Heart recipient – one of those medals…

Religious Tolerance Can Make America Great Again

I love living in Philadelphia. I was born here, grew up just outside, live here now, and no matter where I find myself in the world, it is the city I will always call home. In recent years Philadelphia has experienced an extraordinary renaissance, with people finally moving back into the city after decades of…

Manic Depression and Suicide: An Unnecessary Fate

This blog is typically about politics, and  this will likely be my last post on this subject, but my last post on bipolar disorder generated a good number of private messages and emails – all encouraging, some from people who suffer as I do from this confounding disease, others who have loved ones who do,…

Nonviolent Resistance and the American Way

Two weeks ago, I wrote about the need for nonviolent resistance against Donald Trump because of the unique dangers that his presidency represents to the nation and the world. This was written in the immediate aftermath of his illegal ban on immigrants from seven majority Muslim nations, which, after a ruling by the Ninth Circuit Court,…

Conservatives Need to Get Saved from Evangelicals

In a 2012 Gallup poll, 58% of Republicans were identified as Young Earth Creationists – a belief that according to a literal reading of the Bible the Earth is less than 10,000 years old, despite all of the scientific evidence that his belief is off by just a few million years. During the 2015 Republican Primary,…

Death Without a Hashtag

Thanks to the modern marvel of Facebook, I recently re-connected with an old friend of mine. Br. Jim, as he is known, is the face of small but important group in Chicago called the Brothers and Sisters of Love. Br. Jim would be horrified to hear me say this, but he is nothing short of…

The National Anthem is Not About the Military, and Never Was

Something has been bothering me about the reaction to NFL players sitting or kneeling during the singing of the national anthem. Until now I have not been able to put a finger on it, but I’ve finally figured it out. The debates and often vitriolic arguments about Colin Kaepernick and others’ protests have largely centered…

How I Changed on 9/11

There is a story from the desert fathers of St. John the Dwarf, who prayed to have all of his temptations removed from him that he might become holy. His prayers were answered, and he joyfully went and told his spiritual father. He did not, however, received the response he anticipated. His spiritual father chastised…

A Swan Song for Free Trade?

One of the more disturbing economic developments of this current election season is what has now become a full frontal assault on free trade, an economic hallmark of classical liberalism that is deeply engrained in the American character. This isn’t to say that America has always been a truly free trade nation in the sense…

Executive Orders in a Clinton or Trump Presidency

An article in Friday’s New York Times detailed President Obama’s evolution on the use of executive orders. Once wary of them, over the years, fueled by his frequent frustration with the grinding nature of legislative action in a divided Congress, he increasingly turned to the executive order to get things done. The authors write: Blocked…

Manufacturing, Education, and Wage Disparity

A report in the Wall Street Journal on August 11, from Jon Hilsenrath and Bob Davis, examines the reasons why China trade has hit the United States unexpectedly hard. One of the points the authors make, drawing on the research of Kerwin Kofi Charles, Erik Hurst, and Matthew Notowidigdo in their report, “The Masking of…

The Two Party System is a Myth

An Unconscionable Choice The nominations of the two major party candidates are done, and I am angry. I am angry that come November 8 the American people will be faced with the prospect of voting for the two most disliked candidates in American history. The two major party candidates, one of whom we are told…

Libertarian Solutions to Systemic Racism

Recently my wife and I were having dinner with good friends of ours. My one friend is a liberal, and he and I frequently have vigorous political discussions. I always enjoy these discussions, because we have a deep mutual respect that allows us to disagree without resorting to base insults and personal attacks. The issue…

Choose Conservative Values Over Blind Party Loyalty

Throughout the history of the United States political parties have existed for the purpose of giving a unified voice to a set of governing values. They create a natural home for people according to their own political philosophies, and they add structural and organizational power for the advancement of these ideals. Not all of the…

The Phenomenology of Race in America

In philosophy, phenomenology is the study of how our subjective experiences affect our consciousness itself. These subjective experiences inform our perceptions, and those perceptions influence the way we engage with reality. We often tend to separate objective reality from subjective experience, as if the objective is what is real, and the subjective is merely perception.…

Law Enforcement and #BlackLivesMatter Both Have a Brand Problem

I know this may come as a surprise to anyone who follows me on social media, but maniacally posting on Facebook and Twitter about politics is not my actual career. In my professional life I work in the world of marketing, and part of that background includes brand messaging. In my world, there is little…

Dialogue in Politics Doesn’t Have to Be Nasty

In case anyone hasn’t been paying attention, I’m enthusiastically supporting Marco Rubio for president (see here, here, here, and here for a few reasons why). One of the things I really love about Rubio as a candidate is that, like Ronald Reagan, he calls forth the best in us, he respects and understands better than…

The Iraq War Debate Republicans Should Welcome

The Iraq War in the Republican Debate Thanks to the blustering performance from the typically unpredictable Donald Trump at last night’s GOP debate in South Carolina, the rationale for the Iraq invasion is back front and center in the minds of the American people. Some conservatives understandably view this development as a negative, as the…

A New, Conservative American Century

In the summer of 1984, around the time of my seventh birthday, my family took a trip to Hammonton, a neighboring town in southern New Jersey. There was a rally being held for Ronald Reagan – any of the locals in attendance will remember it as the day when Reagan declared Hammonton as the “Blueberry…

Rand Paul and the Republican Unwillingness to Discuss Racism

I was never really a big Rand Paul supporter. I appreciate the libertarian influence on the Republican Party, but I believe their foreign policy positions to be untenable and ultimately dangerous to American security. That said, I was glad that he ran, and in some respects I miss having him as part of the conversation.…

Thanksgiving in a Land of Immigrants

A few years ago for the first time I read Abraham Lincoln’s 1863 proclamation establishing Thanksgiving as a national holiday. It is worth reading, and can be found here. I’ve made it a tradition to re-read each year as a reminder of what this day is all about. This year, for the first time I…

The Liberal Collision Course with an Orwellian Future

One of the most loaded terms in the liberal, pseudo-academic lexicon today is “privilege.” It is the lens through which the left views nearly every experience of daily life and every standard of our modern society. Every experience is in one way or other related through male privilege, white privilege, straight privilege, and in some…

In Praise of (philosophically) Partisan Politics

The United States a country that appears deeply divided between liberals and conservatives, a divide that is often as much partisan as it is philosophical. That divide has become exacerbated recently for a variety of factors, an analysis of which I won’t go into here. Historically this sort of partisan divide is not necessarily a…

Radical Islamic Terrorism and Reactionary Hatred – Two Enemies

Reducing any major movement to a simplistic cause is always problematic. But we can certainly appreciate that one of the foundational premises for the departure of a significant portion of the early colonists from England to the New World was to escape religious persecution. England was operated by a strong-armed state religion, headed by the…

Is Obamacare Really Affordable? Hardly.

The history is well known by now. On March 23, 2010, President Barack Obama signed into law the Affordable Care Act, a massive overhaul of the healthcare industry, intended to provide healthcare access to millions of previously uninsured individuals, driving down healthcare costs, finally allowing the United States to look Denmark straight in the eye…

Why We Need to Reform the Corporate Tax Code

Few issues define the partisan divide in the United States more than the tax code. Generally speaking, liberals favor higher taxes, particularly on the wealthiest Americans, as a source of greater revenue, in order to fund greater government programs and as a means of reducing the debt. Conservatives prefer a reduced tax burden on all…

Jack Kennedy, Islam, and Separation of Church and State

On September 12, 1960, during the midst of a presidential campaign in which John F. Kennedy sought serious persecution and distortion about his religious faith as a Catholic, and charges that his faith disqualified him for the presidency because he would seek to impose Church dictates as U.S. law, that he would be beholden to…

Abortion, Absolution, and the Mercy of Pope Francis

For anyone who pays attention to all things religious, Pope Francis today, as he is wont to do, made some waves with an announcement that was met alternately with rejoicing, disappointment, or as is often the case when the media reports on things Catholic, lots of head scratching. So first let’s begin with what actually…

Why We Must Commit to Never Engage in Torture Again

Whether or not to release the findings of the Senate “torture report” has been debated for years inside the Obama administration and among the members of Congress in the know. The responsibility of that action is now being debated in public, by elected officials, news journalists, and lots of amateurs like me on blogs, Facebook,…

Addressing Systemic Racism in America

America has a race problem. This isn’t an opinion, this isn’t conjecture. This is a statistical reality. Yet far too often, white Americans in particular deny that this problem exists, or underestimate it, or refuse to accept any culpability for it. Unfortunately, as with any recovery program, acceptance of the problem is the first and…

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