Category: Public Policy

When is a ban not a ban? One answer might be when it is based on moral suasion rather than legal coercion. (I would also accept: When it’s a Target.)

In this piece over at the Federalist, Georgi Boorman takes up the prudence of a petition to get Target to remove smutty material and paraphernalia related to Fifty Shades from its shelves.

Boorman rightly points to the limitations of this kind of cultural posturing. Perhaps this petition illustrates more of a domination mentality than authentic cultural engagement, and Boorman’s right to offer many more hopeful options for engaging the kinds of cultural corruption that this case provides evidence of. I also tend to favor the more direct, personal, and relational methods of engagement to petitions, charters, public statements, and open letters, and there’s a lot of wisdom offered in Boorman’s piece.

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hot_temperature_41During his most recent State of the Union address, President Obama talked about climate change and claimed, “2014 was the planet’s warmest year on record.”

Obama was basing his statement on a press release by NASA’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies (GISS). According to the NASA data collected from more than 3,000 weather stations around the globe, “The year 2014 ranks as Earth’s warmest since 1880.” Climate change skeptics pushed back by questioning the accuracy of the report (more on that below) which invariably led to push back on the claims of the skeptics.

For instance, Marcelo Gleiser, a theoretical physicist and cosmologist, wrote for NPR that “Clearly, the scientists in charge know what they are doing.”

Dr. Gleiser is a scientist, not a journalist, so such a silly appeal to expertise can be excused.* But many journalists, like everyone else, seem to have the same “experts must know” reaction to such claims. The problem is that there isn’t much evidence the experts even know what true global temperatures are—or that they can even acquire such data with any precision.

Before you dismiss me as a “skeptic” let me clarify what sort of skeptic I am so that you can dismiss my viewpoint for the right reasons.

I’m not an anthropomorphic climate change skeptic; I’m agnostic on the question of whether mankind is heating up the planet (though I’d be surprised if we didn’t have some effect). What I am a skeptical about—closer to an outright “denialist”—is the idea that global surface temperatures can be measures with any precision.

Let me explain the reasons why and then I’ll discuss why it matters.
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A lot of people have a vision for the developing world. Some want to create jobs. Some want to increase aid. Some want more mission trips.

Yaopeng Zhou and Marc Albanese literally want to change the vision of the developing world. These two men are aware that vision care in the developing world is hard to come by. People with vision problems – even ones that are easily corrected – often cannot access eye care. There are not enough doctors, and when care is available, it’s expensive.

Zhou and Albanese have founded Smart Vision Labs, creating an easy-to-use technology that uses smart phones to give eye exams. Smart Vision Labs recently won a multi-million dollar “challenge to entrepreneurs, thinkers, and problem-solvers to provide innovative solutions in Healthcare, Education, Sustainability, and Transportation.”

This video illustrates their work.

Read “How the Power of a Good Idea Could Bring Vision to 1 Billion People” at LinkedIn.

noun_86179_ccToday at Think Christian I reflect on President Obama’s State of the Union message last night. I think it was perhaps the best speech I have heard him give in terms of delivery and general tone. There are numerous things that one might quibble with in a speech of that length, of course.

My TC piece is an attempt to help us to put into proper perspective political promises and policy proposals. I look particularly at the question of economic inequality and the assumptions underlying the government’s redistributive actions.

As Danielle Kurtzleben puts it, “Obama is making a case that the economy’s distribution engine is broken, and that the recovery simply won’t fix it. His solution is for government to approach redistribution as a positive good rather than a necessary evil.”

Blog author: jballor
Monday, January 19, 2015
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Earlier this year, UCLA made available for the first time the audio of a speech from the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. given just over a month after the march from Selma to Montgomery. On April 27, 1965, King addressed a number of topics, including debate surrounding the Voting Rights Act.

At one point in the speech, King stops to address a number of “myths” that are often heard and circulated, and one of these is of perennial interest, as it has to do with the interaction between positive law, morality, and culture. We often hear, for instance, that law is downstream from culture, and this is true enough. Thus King admits (starting at around the 33:35 mark) that there is some truth in this kind of view as far as it goes. But this does not mean that there is no place for legislation.

As King puts it,

It may be true that you can’t legislate integration, but you can legislate desegregation. It may be true that morality cannot be legislated, but behavior can be regulated. It may be true that the law cannot change the heart, but it can restrain the heartless. It may be true that the law can’t make a man love me, but it can restrain him from lynching me, and I think that’s pretty important also. So while the law may not change the hearts of men, it does change the habits of men. And when you change the habits of men, pretty soon the attitudes and the hearts will be changed. And so there is a need for strong legislation constantly to grapple with the problems we face.

MLK UCLA
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Selma_posterTwo January 2015 film releases provide great opportunities for Christians to examine the not so admirable aspects of American church history in order to learn from the mistakes and successes of the past. First, the newly released movie Selma tells of the story of the passage of the Voting Rights Act of 1965 and the public protests leading up to LBJ signing the bill into law.

My parents were born and raised during Jim Crow and the movie does a great job of depicting life during that era for people like my parents and why federal government intervened to override voting restrictions in the South because of overwhelming resistance by white southerners to allow African Americans proper access to voter registration. The film focuses on Martin Luther King, Jr’s leadership of the Southern Christian Leader Conference during the organization of a march from Selma, Alabama to the Alabama State capital in Montgomery as a protest. The film does not shy away from the flaws in the movement, including MLK’s marital infidelities.

During the film, we learn about the murder of Jimmie Lee Jackson, a young African-American protestor, who was gunned down in a town near Selma. After his murder by police, King issued a clarion call to anyone in America who wanted come to Selma and join him in the cause to fight for voting rights.
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government-regulation-in-business-red-tapeWhat is the annual cost of regulations for America?

The short answer is that no one knows for sure. The officially reported regulatory costs as reported by the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) total up to $128.7 billion. But the real costs of regulation is impossible since, as the Nobel-winning economist James Buchanan said, “Cost cannot be measured by someone other than the decision-maker because there is no way that subjective experience can be directly observed.”

Still, we can attempt to estimate the costs based on factors that can be measured. Clyde Wayne Crews Jr. of the Competitive Enterprise Institute provides an example of such an estimate. His findings:
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JBER turns landfill gas into energyAt Wired, Issie Lapowsky says most of us are paying rent on our garbage. Not that we think of it that way.

Millions of businesses are paying billions of dollars in rent on their garbage. They don’t think of it that way, of course, just as the fees they pay trash haulers to pick up their junk. But a significant portion of that money covers the cost of the landfill space itself. And what is a landfill if not a stinky, seething plot of real estate with garbage as the primary tenant?

What choice do we have? We fill our trash bags, put the bags in the cart and haul it to the curb once a week. Then a garbage truck takes the garbage away and we don’t think about it anymore. But Nate Morris has been thinking about it. A lot. (more…)

Rev. Al Sharpton Holds News Conference At National Action Network's OfficeWho are the leaders of the “white community”? Who are the leaders of the “Asian American community”?

These questions seem silly given the fact that whites and Asians Americans are considered to be free thinking individuals who do not need ethnic leadership. For reasons that I cannot understand, white progressives and conservatives alike seem stuck in the 1960s whenever they use phrases like “leaders of the black community.” What is even more bizarre is the seemingly fetish-like attachment to the archaic notion that people in black communities look to someone like Al Sharpton as a leader.

If there is one thing black progressives and black conservatives have in common it is the shared opinion that Al Sharpton is irrelevant and does not represent “black interests” because there is no person who fills this role. Al Sharpton represents himself and whatever particular non-profit he leads. That’s it. Nothing more.
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Harvard-ObamacareThe ancient Greeks (or maybe it was Oscar Wilde) said that when the gods want to punish you, they answer your prayers. Getting what you asked for can turn out to be deeply problematic, as the supporters of Obamacare on the Harvard University faculty are discovering. As the New York Times reports,

For years, Harvard’s experts on health economics and policy have advised presidents and Congress on how to provide health benefits to the nation at a reasonable cost. But those remedies will now be applied to the Harvard faculty, and the professors are in an uproar.

Members of the Faculty of Arts and Sciences, the heart of the 378-year-old university, voted overwhelmingly in November to oppose changes that would require them and thousands of other Harvard employees to pay more for health care. The university says the increases are in part a result of the Obama administration’s Affordable Care Act, which many Harvard professors championed.

A prime example of part of Obamacare that the Harvard professors supported was the so-called Cadillac Tax, an excise tax scheduled to take effect in 2018. The purpose of the Cadillac Tax is to reduce health care usage and costs by encouraging employers to offer plans that are cost-effective and engage employees in sharing in the cost of care. The “incentive” is a 40 percent tax on employers—like Harvard—that provide high-cost health benefits to their employees. Now that the Cadillac Tax is being applied to them, though, the faculty are apoplectic:

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