Blog author: jcarter
Thursday, May 7, 2015
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A conservative anti-poverty agenda: School choice
Pascal-Emmanuel Gobry, The Week

If the system had been specifically designed to entrench class privilege and inequality, it could hardly have been put together much better than this.

The Nature of Poverty
David Brooks, New York Times

Lately it seems as though every few months there’s another urban riot and the nation turns its attention to urban poverty. And in the midst of every storm, there are people crying out that we should finally get serious about this issue.

Conservatives and Low-skilled Workers
Pete Spiliakos, First Things

Why should we be advocating policies that reduce the wages of our poorest workers (both the foreign- and native-born)?

Thai army finds six more bodies near suspected human trafficking camp
Surapan Boonthanom , Reuters

Authorities in Thailand have dug up the bodies of six suspected Rohingya migrants from Myanmar at a rubber plantation near a mountain where a mass grave was found at the weekend, the military said on Wednesday.

cartoon free speechThankfully, a bunch of attorneys did not write the founding documents of our nation. Otherwise, we’d be stuck with a Bill of Rights about 700 pages long, and a “we’ll have to pass it to find out what’s in there” attitude. Instead, we have simple things, like Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances. That’s easy, isn’t it?

Not to everyone. As NRO’s Jonah Goldberg notes, some folks think that free speech has a whole bunch of clauses, sub-sets or rules that apply before you can actually say what’s on  your mind. He is particularly upset that there are a number of people who believe that it’s okay to say what’s on your mind, as long as it isn’t upsetting to, well, Muslims. (more…)

Blog author: jcarter
Wednesday, May 6, 2015
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acton-commentary-blogimage“Three recent events have made me reflect on a certain theme that should be of interest to religious-minded advocates of the free society,” says Kishore Jayabalan in this week’s Acton Commentary.

The three events were: 1) an interview I gave to an Italian online publication in response to a French professor who claims that capitalism is the root cause of gender theory and other cultural and social revolutions associated with liberalism; 2) a talk given by a German professor on “liberalism as an attitude” at the European Students for Liberty conference in Berlin last month; and 3) the controversy caused by the upcoming papal encyclical on human ecology.

Now, I realize that the term “liberal” can mean many things, but let’s assume that it describes those who, when considering political, social and economic questions, give greater priority to individual freedom than to other goods such as equality, tradition or order. Liberty need not be the only consideration, but it tends to be the dominant one. There are right-wing, moderate and left-wing liberals who disagree on different issues and may prefer another good in a particular instance but none of them question the good of liberty as such.

The full text of the essay can be found here. Subscribe to the free, weekly Acton News & Commentary and other publications here.

chinamapMany Muslims believe the use of tobacco products is forbidden (haram) because “tobacco is unwholesome, and God says in the Qur’an that the Prophet, peace be upon him, ‘enjoins upon them that which is good and pure, and forbids them that which is unwholesome’.” Similarly, the Quran prohibits the use of intoxicants, such as alcohol, and considers such use to be sinful. For these reasons, many Muslim shopkeepers consider it against their religious beliefs to sell alcohol and cigarettes.

The refusal to engage in those vices does not sit well with the leaders in Xinjiang, a region of northwest China. The fact that some Muslims do not smoke is even considered “a form of religious extremism.” According to Adil Sulayman, a local party official in the region, “We have a campaign to weaken religion here and this is part of that campaign.”

As part of the campaign the Chinese authorities have issued an order in the Muslim Uyghur village that “all restaurants and supermarkets in our village should place five different brands of alcohol and cigarettes in their shops before [May 1, 2015].” In addition to directing owners to create “eye-catching displays” to promote the products, the April 29 announcement stated that “anybody who neglects this notice and fails to act will see their shops sealed off, their business suspended, and legal action pursued against them.”

“Our village is the key village—we have to implement the ‘Weaken Religion’ campaign effectively,” says Sulayman, “Religious sentiment is increasing and this is affecting stability.”
(more…)

Blog author: jsunde
Wednesday, May 6, 2015
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00979473.JPGI recently gave a hearty cheer for bringing back childhood chores, which are shockingly absent in a majority of today’s homes. The same appears to be the case with summer work for teenagers, which is increasingly avoided due to sports activities, cushy internships, video games, clubs and camps, and, in many cases, a lack of employment prospects altogether.

In an article for the Wall Street Journal, Dave Shiflett explores the implications of this development, recalling the “grit and glory of traditional summer work, which taught generations of teenagers important lessons about life, labor and even their place in the universe.”

Whether it was newspaper delivery, construction, factory work, fast food, or manual labor on the farm or the railroad, such jobs have introduced countless kids to responsibility, creativity, and service, helping connect the dots between God-given gifts and the broader social order. (more…)

Blog author: jcarter
Wednesday, May 6, 2015
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Why can’t Muslims laugh at Mohammed?
David P. Goldman, Asia Times

Why do Jews as well as Christians–but not Muslims–laugh at jokes about the founders of their faiths?

The Pontifical Spin Cycle
George Weigel, National Review

The Battle of the Blogs over papal environmentalism.

Nuns Intercede for Victims of Sex Trafficking in Italy
Elisabetta Povoledo, New York Times

In cooperation with social workers, local institutions, and embassies, the nuns assist the women in getting new documents, necessary for a new start.

A conservative anti-poverty agenda: Criminal justice reform
Pascal-Emmanuel Gobry, The Week

America’s criminal justice system entrenches far too many people in poverty. And the fact that this system so disproportionately incarcerates black men is the disgusting icing on an awful cake.

41Qav5dx8bLThings aren’t looking good for millennials. Tied up in the “American dream” is an assumption that you’ll do better than your parents, but those of us between the ages of 18 and 34 are predicted to be the first generation to actually do worse financially. Time Magazine recently boiled down some depressing figures from a U.S. Census Bureau report. According to the article, “millennials are worse off than the same age group in 1980, 1990 and 2000″ when looking at median income, leaving home, employment, and poverty.

In Disinherited: How Washington is Betraying America’s Young, Diana Furchtgott-Roth and Jared Meyer systematically explain how current policies and laws are hurting the youngest workers. This book isn’t simply a rant against the baby boomers and Washington, instead it is a carefully thought-out, heavily researched examination of the concerns that millennials face and what can be done to eliminate these issues. One of my favorite quotes from the book summarizes the theme: “Time and time again, Washington has shown its unwillingness to tackle the main moral and economic issues facing the nation. The longer our leaders delay, the harder it will be to undo the damage wrought by economic policies that are betraying America’s young.”

Disinherited is broken down into four parts: “Stealing from the Young to Enrich the Old,” “Keeping Young People Uneducated,” “Regulations that Cripple the Young,” and “Where To from Here?” The chapters are a healthy mix of stats and figures, charts, and anecdotal evidence. For example, a chapter on problems in primary and secondary education, while it backs up points with numbers, offers a lot more anecdotal evidence and interviews with specific individuals than some other chapters. I prefer more of this evidence, but more numbers-oriented people will certainly be satisfied as well. (more…)

tosFor just about every service you use online, like Facebook or iTunes, you have to agree to a company’s “terms-of-service” (TOS) agreement. Most of us don’t bother to read the TOS; we merely click the “I Agree” button and get on with our lives. We aren’t likely to suffer any negative ramifications from our failure to read the fine print.

The same can’t be said, though, for the users of JPay, a company that provides digital communications systems to corrections facilities in at least 19 states. As their website says, JPay offers a variety of services for inmates and their families: “Send money to your loved one in state prison. Email your cousin in county jail. Chat with a friend using video visitation or give the gift of music with the JP4® player.”

But there’s a catch. Buried in JPay’s lengthy TOS is this clause:

You … acknowledge that JPay owns all of the content, including any text, data, information, images, or other material, that you transmit through the Service.

As Dave Maass of the Electronic Frontier Foundation explains, this means:
(more…)

nepal earthquakeNepal has a human trafficking issue. With an open border between Nepal and India, traffickers openly move people between the two countries with promises of work. Nepalese women are trafficked to China for sex work. With the recent massive earthquake, the Nepalese who have been displaced now face the threat of trafficking.

Tens of thousands of young women from regions devastated by the earthquake in Nepal are being targeted by human traffickers supplying a network of brothels across south Asia, campaigners in Kathmandu and affected areas say.

The 7.8-magnitude quake, which killed more than 7,000 people, has devastated poor rural communities, with hundreds of thousands losing their homes and possessions. Girls and young women in these communities have long been targeted by traffickers, who abduct them and force them into sex work.

(more…)

factory-workers1When faced with work that feels more like drudgery and toil than collaborative creative service, we are often encouraged to inject our situation with meaning, rather than recognize the inherent value and purpose in the work itself.

In Economic Shalom, Acton’s Reformed primer on faith, work, and economics, John Bolt reminds us that, when enduring through these seasons, we mustn’t get too concerned about temporal circumstances or humanistic notions of meaning and destiny. “As we contemplate our calling, we will not simply consider the current job market,” he writes, “but ask ourselves first-order questions about who we are, why we are here, how God has gifted us, and how we can best serve his purposes.”

This involves reexamining what our work actually is and who it ultimately serves. But it also involves fully understanding God’s design for humanity in the broader created order. As we harness the gifts and resources that God has given us, it is crucial that we understand the source and aims of our toil, and the obligation and responsibility that comes with our authority. (more…)