If you want to see what happens when a government fails its basic responsibilities of maintaining law and order, read this fine and saddening piece by Detroit Free Press columnist John Carlisle, “The last days of Detroit’s Chaldean Town.” In it you’ll encounter the fraying of the town’s social architecture built around faith, family, work, and government.

At a conference a few weeks ago I was involved in a discussion about the ‘worst’ jobs we had ever had. Mine was cleaning the meat room at a grocery store run by four Chaldean brothers in an area just a bit further east of Chaldean Town. I worked at a “training wage” for the better part of a year, I think, while in high school. I didn’t mind transferring out to make a bit less bagging groceries.

Joseph Sunde has written a fair bit on how “hard work cultivates character.” Earlier today I was reading through a classic speech by the famed American pastor Russell Conwell, which includes this bit of wisdom: “There is no class of people to be pitied so much as the inexperienced sons and daughters of the rich of our generation.” Conwell’s point was that the rich most often attained wealth by working smarter and harder. But “as a rule the rich men will not let their sons do the very thing that made them great,” thereby depriving them of the very same experiences that enabled the creation of wealth in the first place. This is actually as true for the moderately rich as it is for the extremely wealthy. As Michael Novak has put it, “Parents brought up under poverty do not know how to bring up children under affluence.”

So even though I hated that job cleaning the meat room at the Chaldean market, which closed some years later, I was sad to see it go and I’ll always carry those experiences with me and try to pass their lessons along to my own children. The rise and fall of Chaldean Town also has some things to teach us about flourishing at the community level.

Blog author: bwalker
Monday, August 3, 2015
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Are Pope Francis’ views on climate change costing him supporters?
Sabrina McLaughlin, Patheos

“Laudato Si” was heralded in advance of its release by many of the national progressive Catholic organizations and thinkers I have come to admire (the Franciscan Action Network, NETWORK, Father James Martin, S.J., etc.), and it is still bring promoted and discussed online and in the media. When I attended mass in the weeks following the release of Laudato Si, I was expecting to hear this highly anticipated teaching referred to and passed on to the people from the pulpit. However, I was disappointed when other topics took precedence in the homilies that I heard during those masses. Laudato Si and its pressing message and urgent call to action seemed to be ignored.

Pope Francis sides with climate change
Ray Johnson, Press Republican

In late June, Pope Francis issued a 184-page encyclical, “Laudato Si.” This was not a spur-of-the-moment decision but evolved over many months, with the Pontifical Academy of Sciences playing a leading role.

Pope politics: How the ‘Francis factor’ could upend 2016
John Gehring, MSNBC

A pope who denounces “trickle down” economics and insists climate change is an urgent moral issue is recalibrating a values narrative in U.S. politics that in recent years has been off kilter. Less than two months before the pope visits the United States and becomes the first pontiff in history to address Congress, a “Francis factor” could prove to be one of the most intriguing storylines of the 2016 election.

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The Rains Came - Beginning of the Flood Vittorio Bianchini (1797-1880/Italian)No, it’s not a regular flood. It’s a flood of immigrants – some legal, some not. Europe is getting swamped; what’s the damage going to be?

The American Interest reports that the Italian Coast Guard rescued almost 2,000 people over the weekend, bringing the number of immigrants to Italy this year alone to 90,000 (170,000 last year). The financial strain for Italy and other EU nations is becoming more and more apparent.

Many of the migrants keep making their own way to the more economically vibrant north. This in turn creates the kind of dysfunctional political dynamic on display between France and England in recent days, where the migrant crisis festering in Calais has seen as many as 5,000 migrants each day for the last six days try to force their way across the Eurotunnel by hiding in trucks and boarding trains. Eurotunnel authorities warned over the weekend that increased security at Calais, promised by both French and British ministers, would only displace the problem to other, less well-guarded ports.

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dan-price-gravityThey say the road to hell is paved with good intentions. What they don’t often mention is that, like a parade route, both sides of that road are crowded with well-wishers cheering you on.

In a country where we give children “participation trophies” for merely showing up and “doing their best,” it’s not surprising that we applaud business leaders simply for “trying to make a difference.” As long as their intentions are good, why should we criticism their efforts?

I was reminded of that pervasive attitude after writing about Dan Price and Gravity Payments. My article in April on “Why the $70,000 Minimum Wage is Doomed to Fail” was the most criticized piece I’ve ever written for this blog. As one commenter wrote, “We just witnessed a CEO become a humanitarian and I’ve never seen so many people wish for his failure.”

This was a typical reaction to the article, and an all-too-common response to any criticism of good intentions, especially in the business world. Merely pointing out that a policy is likely to conflict with the norms of economics and human behavior is enough to get you labeled a cold-hearted pessimistic scrooge. Why focus on the negatives, people say, when someone is merely trying to do good?

The reason, as the old proverb implies, is that when divorced from prudence good intentions can lead us to be worse off than we were before. That was the reason I was critical of Price’s decision to pay every one of his 120 employees a minimum of $70,000 a year. I thought then—and believe still—that is could lead to unemployment for the company’s workers.

However, in my article there was one thing I was clarly wrong about. I assumed the policy would lead to the company’s bankruptcy within 5 years. A new article in the New York Times shows that the company many not last even that long.
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Blog author: ehilton
Monday, August 3, 2015
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Classroom in Dharavi; photo courtesy of Medium

Classroom in Dharavi; photo courtesy of Medium

It’s a rare person who doesn’t like to travel. It’s exciting and fun to see new things, whether it’s a natural phenomenon or a man-made wonder. Some like to travel for the food: local specialties and exotic fare. Travel is good: it broadens our horizons, gives us new ways of seeing our world and often leads us to new friendships.

But can travel be more than that? Can it do more good than simply what we gain from it? Yes, it can.

Medium recently published Travel As a Force For Good: Social Enterprise and Community Impact, part of a series on travel and social enterprise. Two of Medium’s writers, Audrey Scott and Daniel Noll, explored various parts of the globe, seeking new horizons, but also see how travel can positively impact local communities.

Many homes in the developing world use oil to heat and light their homes. It’s easy to get and inexpensive, but it creates thick black smoke, which in turn creates breathing issues. Medium’s travelers were in a Maasai village near Arusha, Tanzania, to visit a local family. Unfortunately, it was a short visit:

We followed Kisioki into the hut’s central room and I was accosted by acrid smoke. Within seconds, I could barely see. I labored to breathe. I blinked repeatedly, trying to clear the smoke and sting from my eyes.

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Your writer has been telling readers for some time now that so-called “religious” shareholder activism is more political than spiritual. I’ve also pointed out time and again that the priests, nuns, clergy, and religious affiliated with such shareholder groups as As You Sow are opposed to corporate donations to political activities only when it suits them.

This last point was clarified recently by events in Arizona. First Affirmative Investments and Calvert Investments joined AYS in an attempt to force Arizona Public Service Company and its parent company, Pinnacle West Capital Corp., to disclose whether either had donated money to the Free Enterprise Club, a 501c(4) nonprofit. It seems FEC provided funding to candidates campaigning for seats on the Arizona Regulatory Commission, and the source of the “dark money” disbursed by FEC to the candidates may or may not have come from APSC and Pinnacle. The kerfuffle stems from suspicions voiced by a Washington, D.C. outfit, the Checks and Balances Project, that an Arizona Corporation Commission official breached ethics or broke the law by communicating with APS and FEC.

Confused? Don’t be. The Arizona Attorney General is sussing out whether the official actually broke the law. The remainder of the story boils down to the left’s distaste for private political donations, which have been protected since the U.S. Supreme Court struck down Citizens United. (more…)

Blog author: jcarter
Monday, August 3, 2015
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Major US foundations committing millions for campaign to eliminate religious exemptions
Catholic World News

Several major American grantmaking foundations have committed millions of dollars to a campaign to eliminate religious exemptions to gay-rights laws, the Catholic News Agency (CNA) reports.

Human Trafficking: A Crime Hard to Track Proves Harder to Fight
Caroline Reilly, Frontline

Oksana was promised a good job with good pay when she came to the United States from Ukraine. But when she arrived in Philadelphia to meet her new boss, things were not as she expected.

Can a Catholic be a Collectivist?
James Kalb, Crisis Magazine

Should Catholics today work, as a matter of conscience, toward ever broader bureaucratic responsibility for human well-being in general?

State Supreme Court Ruling: ‘State Employees are Subject to Right-to-Work’
Jack Spencer, Michigan Capital Confidential

Court rules 4-3 that Civil Service Commission can’t require involuntary payments to union.

Milton-Friedman-Pic-750x400Aristotle has often been described as the philosopher of common sense. Similarly, Milton Friedman, who would have been 103 years old today, could be described as the economist of common sense. Friedman’s writings are often so clear and straightforward (unusual for modern economists) that when reading him you often find yourself wondering how anyone could disagree. Even the uber-liberal Paul Krugman, admits that Friedman was “One of the most important economic thinkers of all time…”

In honor of his birthday, here are six quotes by Friedman on freedom and economics:
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Blog author: bwalker
Friday, July 31, 2015
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Sisters Of Loretto Divest From Fossil Fuels, Cite Pope’s Encyclical
Antonia Blumberg, Huffington Post

The Sisters of Loretto, a Kentucky-based Catholic community, are joining a growing movement of religious groups taking a stand for the environment. The sisters voted unanimously during their July assembly meeting to divest from fossil fuels, citing Pope Francis’s landmark encyclical on the environment.

Jeb Bush says human activity contributes to climate change, calls for GOP to ‘embrace science’
Scott Sutton, Sun Times Network

“The climate is changing, whether men are doing it or not,” Bush said during that speech, adding that he remained “a little skeptical” about taking advice about climate change from Pope Francis, who was just days away from releasing his climate change encyclical at the time.

The time for resisting change in the Church is over
Michael Sainsbury, UCA News

Asked for the reason, he said: “I cannot give one coherent reason for this, but I was talking to a Buddhist monk recently in Chiang Mai and he had the same message. He sees a decline in vocations to the monkhood, especially in the cities. “He gave similar reasons to what I have heard among our religious, such as an increase of consumerism, rise of secularism, the culture of the cities and what our superior general calls the ‘globalisation of superficiality’. Also, of course, families are smaller, opportunities are greater and there are more distractions.”

Here’s a trick to break through climate change apathy
Tom Jacobs, The Week

The economic frame was crafted to emphasize either fairness, much like the message of Pope Francis in his recent encyclical (“Unless we do something about climate change, there will be dire consequences for the poor”), or the direct harm that will be done to our own nation (“The United States will incur large costs”).

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We’ve seen lots of commentary on the lopsided outrage over the inhumane death of Cecil the Lion — how the incident has inspired far higher levels of fervor and indignation than the brutal systemic barbarism of the #PPSellsBabyParts controversy or the tragically unjust murder of Samuel Dubose.

At first, I was inclined to shrug off this claim, thinking, “You can feel pointed grief about one while still feeling empathy about the other.” Or, “the facts of the Cecil case are perhaps clearer to more people.” Or, “How can we be sure this imbalance actually exists?”

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But alas, the social media rants and media (non-)developments of the past few days have only continued to confirm that the reaction we are witnessing is, indeed, stemming from some kind of distorted social, moral, and spiritual imagination. This isn’t just about what is or isn’t bubbling up in the news cycle. It’s about what’s brewing, and in some cases, festering deep inside our hearts. (more…)