Category: General

In an ambitious essay at Intercollegiate Review, James Kalb attempts to dissect the driving political forces in Western culture today. He says that while we live in a world that touts diversity, the reality is extraordinary uniformity and a distinct christ-of-the-abyssdistaste for anything outside the new norm. We have narrowed our political choices, our educational choices, our recreational and consumer choices. We say we want religious freedom, but only in a very narrow manner.

Our current public order claims to separate politics from religion, but that understates its ambition. It aspires to free public life—and eventually, since man is social, human life in general—not only from religion but also from nature and history. The intended result is an increase in freedom as man becomes his own creator. The effect, though, is that human life becomes what those in power say it is. Western political authorities now claim the right to remake the most basic arrangements. If you want to know the nature of man and the significance of life and death, you look to the political order and its authorized interpreters. That is the meaning of the redefinition of marriage to include same-sex unions and the transformation of abortion into a human right. Man has, in effect, become God, and politics is the authoritative expression of his mind, spirit, and will.

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human-sex-traffickingThe combination of poverty, sexual trafficking, and technology has given rise to a new form of slavery: cyber-sex trafficking. As CNN explains, anyone who has a computer, internet, a Web cam, and an exploited woman or child can be in business:

Andrea was 14 years old the first time a voice over the Internet told her to take off her clothes.

“I was so embarrassed because I don’t want others to see my private parts,” she said. “The customer told me to remove my blouse and to show him my breasts.”

She was in a home in Negros Oriental, a province known for its scenic beaches, tourism and diving. But she would know none of that beauty. Nor would she know the life she’d been promised.

Andrea, which is not her real name, said she had been lured away from her rural, mountain village in the Philippines by a cousin who said he would give her a well-paid job as a babysitter in the city. She thought she was leaving her impoverished life for an opportunity to earn money to finish high school. Instead, she became another victim caught up in the newest but no less sinister world of sexual exploitation — cyber-sex trafficking.

Read more . . .

An eagle eyed – well, eagle-eared – customer of the Acton Digital Download Store informed us today of an error in one of the audio files that we made available on the store during Acton University 2013. It turns out that the audio of Rev. Robert Sirico’s opening night address was truncated, ending a little more than halfway through his speech.

This is not good. Not good at all.

As a result, I’ve re-compressed the mp3 file, uploaded a new version to the store, and as a way of making amends, we’re going to let everyone have it for free until July 31st! Just head on over to the audio store and download away! (It’s in the 2013 Evening Lectures section.)

Also, please accept this picture of an ashamed puppy to express my sorrow for the error.

 

SOWRRY!

SOWRRY!

Blog author: jcarter
Monday, July 15, 2013
By

how-the-newsConstantly in search of a sensational story, the American newspaper magnate William Randolph Hearst once sent a telegram to a leading astronomer that read: “Is there life on Mars? Please cable 1,000 words.” The scientist responded “Nobody knows” — repeated 500 times.

I thought of that anecdote when I read Elise Hilton’s post earlier today in which she asks, “You remember ‘news’, don’t you? Every evening, a somber-faced reporter would come into your living room, and deliver the serious stories of the day.” She adds, “We seemed to have decided, as a nation, that ‘infotainment’ is more important to us than news.”

I don’t often disagree with Elise, but I have to register my dissent on this topic – a perennial theme of mine – for the news has been a form of infotainment in America for at least a hundred years (and possibly much longer). And when it comes to the medium of television, news cannot be anything other than infotainment.

As the late media theorist Neil Postman wrote in Amusing Ourselves to Death,

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Is the morality of an act solely based on the intentions of the person acting?  Moviegoers may get some insight into this question when Ender’s Game is released in theaters Nov. 1.

Orson Scott Card’s classic Ender’s Game book series began in 1985 with its most well known first installment, winning the Nebula and Hugo Awards for best science fiction novel.  The book tells the story of an alien invasion, where the world’s population prepares for an imminent second attack by training as many specialized soldiers as possible.  Most of these special soldiers are children, honing their skills on an orbiting space station in zero gravity simulations called “Battle School.”  Ender is a potentially gifted future commander, selectively bred by the International Fleet, the organization combating the alien force.  The book follows Ender’s journey through the beginning of Battle School.

In an interesting essay on Ender as a killer from the International Review of Science Fiction, John Kessel concludes that Ender is far too innocent for someone who commits murder and violent acts in the book (warning: this essay contains many spoilers if you have not read the book).  John makes some good points, illustrating the expertise of Card in encouraging the reader to root for the “innocent killer.”  The book’s story is even more potent when you add the fact that Ender is abused during most of his life, partly because he is a third child when couples are only allowed to have two.  Does the reader root for the “murdering savior,” or is Card content in saying that committing immoral deeds in ignorance is acceptable?  These questions and more are addressed in the rest of the Ender series.

…when you write without deliberately expressing moral teachings, the morals that show up are the ones you actually live by. The beliefs that you don’t even think to question, that you don’t even notice– those will show up. And that tells much more truth about what you believe than your deliberate moral machinations.

–Orson Scott Card

The right’s rhetoric is all about individual liberty, says Michael R. Strain, but love of fellow humans is essential to a functioning society — or policy.

Many on the right correctly emphasize individual liberty, but they do not emphasize what conservatism knows to be true: It is in community that people learn how to be free.

Ryan argued that “the federal government has a role to play” with respect to community, but that “it’s a supporting role, not the leading one.” This is generally true. Government should distance itself enough from the individual that civil society — which exists in the space between government and citizen — can flourish. Speaking generally, government should help support these institutions, but it should not do their work for them.

But this is not to say that a communitarian ethic should be absent from politics and public policy — quite the opposite. Proceeding with a spirit of community would help conservatives formulate and support better policies. Let’s discuss a few.

Read more . . .

Don’t miss out on the opportunity to apply for a Fall 2013 Calihan Academic Fellowship. The fellowships provide scholarships and research grants to future scholars and religious leaders whose academic work shows outstanding potential.

Graduate students studying theology, philosophy, religion, economics, or related fields are encouraged to apply. The application deadline is July 15. Information about eligibility, conditions, the selection process, and application requirements can be found on the Calihan Academic Fellowship page of the Acton Institute website.

It felt a little like the conclave week all over again inside the Vatican Press Office. Journalists cornering other journalists. Educated guesses and bets. Raised eyebrows of suspicion and plenty of pencil wagging, not to mention the nervous knees bouncing iPads and notepads in the foyer.

Journalists gather in Sala Stampa, the Vatican's Press Office, to hear comments on Lumen Fidei from curial experts

Journalists gather in Sala Stampa, the Vatican’s Press Office, to hear comments on Lumen Fidei from curial experts

While we were not waiting for black or white plumes of smoke to rise from the Sistine Chapel’s chimney, we were anxious to get an embargoed copy of Pope Francis’s encyclical, Lumen Fidei, and hear some of the most expert curial representatives comment on the release of a much anticipated papal encyclical.

Lumen Fidei – “The Light of Faith” – was released to the public this afternoon, July 5. The encyclical, Francis’s very first, is the last of a trilogy of magisterial writings begun by Benedict XVI on the theological virtues of faith, hope and charity.

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The passage of Obamacare in 2010 remains one of the most contentious legislative battles in recent memory. It was such an “attractive” bill that in order to garner the final few votes needed for its victory President Obama had to promise certain senators that their states would be exempt from its regulatory measures. It was unpopular when it passed. It’s unpopular today.

But members of the progressive-Left in this country possess two specific qualities that enable them to move forward with their political and cultural agendas, regardless of the political or cultural climate:

1) They understand that messaging is everything

2) They’re willing to fight the “long war” for what they believe in (more…)

Laura Arrillaga-Andreessen, a lecturer at Stanford University, on what makes a philanthropist:

WSJ: How do you define a philanthropist?

Ms. Arrillaga-Andreessen: A philanthropist is anyone who gives time, money, experience, skills, networks [or] passion. The only thing that you need is generosity.

For example, [recently] after class I counseled a young computer science student who wanted to talk about how he could play a role in changing how engineering is taught globally. So we started developing a strategy for how he could start blogging, email professors, networking with other Stanford engineering alumni, and create some momentum through his own actions that have nothing to do with money, but rather have to do with his time, his intellect and his social capital.

Technology is disrupting the way we communicate, connect, create and consume, and philanthropy is no exception. Take [nonprofit lending platform] Kiva, which was actually co-founded by one of my former business school students, Jessica Jackley. We’re talking about the rise of the $10 philanthropist, the $25 philanthropist.

Philanthropy is now accessible to anyone of any age, of any financial resources, in any geographic location.