Category: News and Events

they-pull-me-back-in-image“Just when I thought I was out, they pull me back in!” I’m no Michael Corleone, nor am I much of a businessman, but Al Pacino’s Godfather III quote came to mind this morning after reading an email I received from Ceres’ President Mindy Lubber. Ms. Lubber is quite happy with the Clean Power Plan, the Environmental Protection Agency and President Obama’s latest boondoggle to raise energy prices in the interest of saving Mother Earth.

It seems no matter how many gallons of ink spilled in protest of the religious left’s complicity with schemes that undoubtedly will reverse the past few decades’ gains in eradicating poverty throughout the world, I’m always pulled back in.

Ceres is a nonprofit group “advocating for sustainability leadership. We mobilize a powerful network of investors, companies and public interest groups to accelerate and expand the adoption of sustainable business practices and solutions to build a healthy global economy.” Ceres’ Coalition members include As You Sow and the Interfaith Center on Corporate Responsibility as well as a plethora of other so-called faith-based investors. A quick look at the entire list of members reveals a veritable who’s who of leftist and progressive shareholder activists, lobbyists, unions and renewable-energy crony capitalists. (more…)

The religious shareholder activists over at As You Sow, Clean Yield Asset Management, and Trillium Asset Management are all abuzz over a commitment made by General Mills to adhere to the White House Pollinator Health Task Force strategy on the use of neonicotinoid pesticides (hereafter referred to as neonics). AYS submitted a proxy shareholder resolution to the Minneapolis-based cereal giant this past spring, seeking:

Shareholders request that, within six months of the 2015 annual meeting, the Board publish a report, at reasonable expense and omitting proprietary information, on the Company’s options to prohibit or minimize the use of neonics in its supply chain.

Proponents believe the report should include:

Practices and measures, including technical assistance and incentives, provided to growers to avoid or minimize the use of neonics to pollinators; and Quantitative metrics tracking key crops that are grown from seed pre-treated with neonics, and the specialty crops in General Mills’ supply chain that depend on pollinators.

AYS and the other investment groups fear that neonics are the hypothesized culprit behind colony collapse disorder, the unexplained phenomenon of bees leaving their hives never to return. However, the theory that neonics caused CCD remains extremely hypothetical, and research reveals honeybees are doing quite well, thank you very much, as long as they avoid riding in trucks. In fact, American Council on Health and Science reports that “There are 81 million commercial honeybees in the world, and each hive contains about 50,000 bees.” (more…)

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…)

Bill McKibben’s New York Review of Books essay on Pope Francis’ encyclical, Laudato Si, has prompted two previous posts by your author (here and here). Working through the review has helped identify McKibben’s affinity for liberation theology and his outlandish claim that Pope Francis shares this affinity.

In the The Wall Street Journal, Lord Lawson, former Great Britain Secretary of State for Energy, Chancellor of the Exchequer and current chairman of the Global Warming Policy Foundation, reviews Ronald Bailey’s most recent work, The End of Doom. Lawson favorably compares Bailey’s book to Matt Ridley’s The Rational Optimist (high praise indeed). Much of the material Lawson recounts in his review directly refutes McKibben and, to a lesser extent, Pope Francis. The world, according to Bailey, Ridley and Lawson, and contrary to McKibben, is a much better place for the poor than it was a half-decade ago – largely attributable to technological advancements and the midwife who made it possible: capitalism.

Ronald Bailey begs to differ. As his book demonstrates, a careful examination of the evidence shows that, at least in material terms (which is not unimportant, particularly for the world’s poor), life is getting better. The overriding reason for this, according to Mr. Bailey, is continuing technological progress, facilitated—and this is crucial—by the global triumph of market capitalism.

(more…)

On Tuesday, I dealt with approximately the first third of Bill McKibben’s New York Review of Books’ essay on Pope Francis’ Laudato Si encyclical. Today, I review the middle third, which includes McKibben’s alarming defense of liberation theology and his claim that this discredited ideology is embraced by Pope Francis.

McKibben continues to read into Laudato Si things that simply aren’t there. For example, he depicts oil companies as inherently rapacious when compared to native peoples.

Even more striking, in this regard, is his steadfast defense of “indigenous communities and their cultural traditions. They are not merely one minority among others, but should be the principal dialogue partners, especially when large projects affecting their land are proposed,” because for them land “is a sacred space with which they need to interact if they are to maintain their identity and values.” Compare that attitude with, say, the oil companies now destroying aboriginal land in order to mine Canada’s tar sands.

Never mind that the First Nation people who lived in the bituminous-rich area of what is now Alberta, Canada, found plentiful use for the oil sands McKibben disparages. And well before white settlers. Then this:

But the pope is just as radical, given current reality, when he insists on beauty over ugliness.

(more…)

Today, the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) called for supporting just wage public policies. While the religious leaders genuinely concern for the poor, they display a deep lack of understanding of basic economic principles, namely the law of supply and demand. Supply and demand directly determines the price (wages) of labor. A price higher than the market price leads not to higher wages, but higher unemployment. Read this article for a more detailed discussion of the ill-effects of minimum wage laws.

Blog author: dpahman
Thursday, July 30, 2015
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Earlier this month, the eminent historian Owen Chadwick passed away. Chadwick’s immense scholarly accomplishments included Acton and History, his study of our namesake here at the Acton Institute. John Morrill wrote a wonderful reflection for The Guardian on Chadwick’s life, character, and accomplishments at the time. From the article:

His last two books were A History of the Popes 1830-1914 (1998) and The Early Reformation on the Continent (2002). Throughout his career, he also published brilliant short essays, normally developed from public lectures. He wrote memorably about Lancelot Andrewes, bishop and principal translator of the King James Bible; Izaak Walton (The Fisherman and his God, 1984); the Oxford movement, the forerunner of Anglo-Catholicism; the historian Lord Acton, a real hero to him; the young Gladstone and Italy; and Newman and the idea of the university.

Morrill continues,

His writing was marked by short sentences: no modern writer employed so few subordinate clauses. He had a penchant for one-sentence paragraphs. His writing was always crisp and vivid, as notably in the single-word chapter titles of his final book. The brusqueness of his judgments often startles – as when he comments how the motor accident in which Ramsey’s father’s actions led to the death of his mother was to traumatise the future archbishop of Canterbury: “The resulting turmoil, mental and emotional, ruined (the word is not too strong) his preparation to be a priest and blotted out his memory of Cuddesdon [College, Oxford].”
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What is memorable about Chadwick’s writing is its pleasing economy and uncluttered clarity of articulation. He wrote as he spoke: to read him is to hear him.

Resquiescat in pace. May he rest in peace. And may he continue to be heard well beyond our time.

Read the full article at The Guardian here.

Bill McKibben

Bill McKibben

The minute it was announced – months in advance of its official release –Laudato Si was instantly “highly anticipated” by nearly every opinion and news source. Finally a Christian document the masses could support because … why, exactly? Oh, yeah, global warming and a call for global government control of energy and, therefore, the world’s economies.

So, it comes as no surprise climate-change activist would weigh-in on Laudato Si, a document released in mid-June and one he identifies, naturally, as “eagerly awaited.” In his New York Review of Books essay (behind a pay wall) on the encyclical, McKibben comes up short on theology and economics but long on repeating dire predictions our planet will succumb to any number of catastrophes wrought by human activity.

The Pope is a rock star, in today’s parlance, and McKibben shouts from the mosh pit in breathless fanboy hyperbole:

The pope’s contribution to the climate debate builds on the words of his predecessors—in the first few pages he quotes from John XXIII, Paul VI, John Paul II, and Benedict XVI—but clearly for those prelates ecological questions were secondary. (more…)

Your writer has taken quite a bit of heat from some readers of a local newspaper column he writes for not “getting in-line” with the Pope on his identification of imminent climate catastrophe wrought by human activity. Even so, I cling to my Rosary on all matters actually Catholic. Aside from the brilliant minds at Acton and its scholars and supporters comprised of highly educated, amazingly spiritual individuals, I was beginning to feel as if I was an orphan in a universe of ideological zealots of the Gaia variety.

However, my days of orphandom were short-lived. Immediately prior to the release of Laudato Si there was delivered much succor from within the Church.

To wit: James V. Schall, SJ, wrote a brilliant piece this past April as the Gaia zealots were beginning to attain fever pitch. Titled “On Sustainability,” the essay questions the current wisdom of saving and preserving certain resources for future generations. To this, Schall responds:

 This thinking assumes that the present limited intellectual and technical base is thrust on future generations. Contemporary men evidently think that they know enough to decide what future generations will want, need, or be able to do. They must be content with what we have now. What if the only way that we can guarantee the well-being of future generations is for us not to impose our limited ideas of sustainability on them?

(more…)

chartFueled, in part, by the Pope’s passionate appeals, the campaign to reduce income inequality is growing rapidly around the globe.

The income equality movement argues that there is a growing gap between the incomes of top earners and everyone else. This claim is supported by a recent study conducted by the International Monetary Fund. In the United States, the income growth rate for the highest income earners has significantly surpassed the national average over the past 30 years.

Many politicians, including President Obama, have called for policy changes in order to slow the growing divide. However, this concern results from a distorted understanding of the word “income” and disregards the importance of aggregate income growth.

The term “income inequality” is deceptive. It is used to imply that income equality is the norm and anything else is abnormal and harmful to society. Income is payment for services provided. If all income was equal that would mean that all services were equal. Proponents of income equality ignore the definition of income and instead emphasize the word equality. They make the erroneous assumption that equality is always good for society. Inequality has come to imply injustice, but while justice is always good for society, the benefits from equality depend on the circumstances. (more…)