Archived Posts July 2005 - Page 5 of 12 | Acton PowerBlog

“The Debt of the Dictators” is a product of INSIGHT, a Norwegian production company. This documentary is aimed at examining the current debt burden of developing countries. Journalist Erling Borgen directs the INSIGHT team, and the 46 minute DVD examines the situation in Argentina, South Africa, and the Philippines, with a brief reference to the DR Congo.

The documentary focuses on the issue of what it calls illegitimate debt. These are debts undertaken by dictatorial regimes, but there is some difficulty in defining what makes debt “illegitimate.” A report from the Norwegian Church Aid group, which sponsored the video, states that the term illegitimate debt “has no existing definition in law, and the term seems never to have been used in legislation or court judgements.”

So, in some sense, the video is a defense and exploration of what this “illegitimate debt” is. The movie begins with a statement from Alvin Anthony, leader of Jubilee South Africa, a debt relief movement. Anthony says that illegitimate debt is the barrier to the eradication of poverty, and that with debt forgiveness, “We’ve got a better chance for world peace.” But, again, we are left looking for a real definition. (more…)

“a magnificent desolation”

On September 12, 1962, President John F. Kennedy spoke these words in a speech at Rice University:

There is no strife, no prejudice, no national conflict in outer space as yet. Its hazards are hostile to us all. Its conquest deserves the best of all mankind, and its opportunity for peaceful cooperation may never come again. But why, some say, the moon? Why choose this as our goal? And they may well ask why climb the highest mountain. Why, 35 years ago, fly the Atlantic? Why does Rice play Texas?

We choose to go to the moon. We choose to go to the moon in this decade and do the other things, not because they are easy, but because they are hard, because that goal will serve to organize and measure the best of our energies and skills, because that challenge is one that we are willing to accept, one we are unwilling to postpone, and one which we intend to win, and the others, too.

36 years ago today, Kennedy’s vision became a reality when Neil Armstrong became the first human to set foot on the Moon. That event remains arguably the greatest technological achievement in history, and represents the high-water mark for the American space program.

At the time it was believed by many that that Neil Armstrong’s “one small step” would represent the first step into a much broader realm of space exploration. Unfortunately, it was not to be. Rand Simberg notes:

The goal had never really been to open up space, so much as to win a race against the Soviets, to demonstrate our technological superiority, as a proxy battle in the Cold War between democracy and totalitarianism (sadly, it wasn’t viewed as a war between capitalism and socialism, else we might have taken a more promising approach). But with the knowledge that we were winning that race, and the budget pressures of Johnson’s Great Society and the Vietnam war, the decision had been made years before to end procurement of long lead items necessary to advance much beyond a few trips to the lunar surface.

The excitement and momentum that once surrounded manned spaceflight programs has now subsided into the stagnant Space Shuttle program, which literally can’t get off the launch pad.

But there is hope. Private companies run by people who envision market-oriented approaches to space exploration are beginning to take up the slack where governments are leaving off. Simberg notes:

Fortunately, though, unlike the 1960s, we can now see a means by which we can do so without having to hope for bureaucrats to make the right decisions as to how to spend taxpayer money. Before too many more Apollo XI anniversaries roll by, I suspect that there will be many non-NASA personnel on the moon, visiting it with their own money, for their own purposes.

I have always found NASA’s photographic archives of the Apollo program to be fascinating and inspiring (Be sure to take a look for yourself if you haven’t done so before.) And I look forward to the day when I will no longer have to wonder what it was like bear witness to a human being setting foot on some other celestial body.

For now, this will have to suffice.

Update: A personal remembrance from Scott Warmka:

Dad was carrying my brother and told me to follow him outside. The night was warm. Above shined clear the moon. Men were there, but we couldn’t see them. We waved anyway. (I think we did that for my brother’s sake.) Barely I caught the look in Dad’s eyes. Not a question, more a simple command, “See what we can do.”

Acton News and CommentaryToday we unleashed a snazzy new version of our weekly newsletter (delivered to your mailbox every Wednesday afternoon), Acton News and Commentary. Today’s issue features a new commentary written by Anthony Bradley entitled “Ghetto Cracker: The Hip Hop ‘Sell Out’,” links to the new Policy Forum on faith-based charities, a new CD release, and links to some of our blog posts. Its a great weekly publication and we encourage you all to sign up for it if you haven’t already.

Go here to sign up for this newsletter. From this page you can also sign up for our Environmental Stewardship e-newsletter, Religion & Liberty, and the Journal of Markets & Morality.

On a related note – the Acton podcast which features Acton staff and experts on various radio shows around the country is now available via the iTunes Music Store. To subscribe, go to the iTunes Music Store, click the Podcasts link in the navigation bar on the top left side of the store, and then search for Acton. There should be a link that says “subscribe” when you are presented with the search results. Or you could just follow this link.

Blog author: jballor
Wednesday, July 20, 2005

One of the reasons cited for various government programs promoting healthy eating, including the “fat” or “fast food tax,” is the obesity epidemic in America. This is especially true for America’s youth, as childhood obesity is often cited as one of the nation’s greatest health risks.

And experts and bureaucrats alike point the finger at unhealthy diets and “junk food.” A recent study linked childhood obesity in New Zealand with “heavy promotion of calorie-laden junk foods in advertisements near high schools.”

Various public schools, under tigher financial pressures, have made deals with vending companies, and the backlash is starting to be felt, as soda, candy, and chips take the rap for kids’ growing waistlines.

The Simpsons, as usual a reliable pop culture bellwether, had an episode called “The Heartbroke Kid,” in which Bart becomes addicted to junk food at his elementary school, gets fat, and has multiple heart attacks. The vending machines feature such “hip” treats as “Lollapalollipops,” “Krishna Krisps,” and “Dalai Lamanade.” Ingredients in one snack, as Lisa observes, include “monosodium poisonate and partially deweaponized plutonium.”

But have we been too quick to judge the root causes of childhood obesity? Duane D. Freese at Tech Central Station observes that

On the same day that the Federal Trade Commission finished a two day conference on food marketing and obesity and a couple days after the activist group Center for Science in the Public Interest called for warning labels on non-diet soda pop, up popped a study by scientists at the University of New Mexico that said most of the talk was so much hot air.

While scapegoating fast food and vending machine companies has been a favorite pastime for nutrition experts, more important contributing factors to childhood obesity have been overlooked. The greatest of these is perhaps the lack of childhood exercise. The New Mexico study

provided a glimpse at what is going on in the real world. The researchers tracked changes in body mass index, skin fold, physical activity and eating habits of 2,200 girls in three cities for 10 years, from age nine to 19.

The results? Even as eating remained the same, the rate of excess weight and obesity doubled among girls whose physical activity had markedly declined.

In other words, fast food and soft drinks weren’t the culprits. Neither was advertising of it. It was a decline in exercise that mattered. Just two to five hours of brisk walking a week — 17 to 43 minutes a day — would prevent girls gaining 9 to 20 pounds, according to the study. And even if it didn’t prevent weight gain, the additional exercise likely would make the girls healthier and feel better than all the dieting advice coming out of Washington conferences in events.

The sedentary lifestyle of children (and adults) is clear in this country. Wealth and technology, along with substandard physical education, have combined to make physical inactivity a favorite pastime.

My experience with P.E. growing up supports this. On days when P.E. was indoors, the teachers would roll out a few basketballs, and those who wanted to play would, and the others would sit and talk and watch. On outdoor days, we’d stroll lazily around the track. And even this little bit of exercise is minimized, since health class, which consists of sitting in a classroom, is often combined with P.E.

Things aren’t much better when kids get home, because there’s TV to watch, video games to play, and safety concerns with letting kids “go out and play.” Instead of so vigorously attacking fast food and “junk food” companies, people concerned about the health of children should emphasize the importance of regular exercise and physical activity.

Acting “white” is a term of derision among those who view hip hop and rap culture as authentically black. In fact, writes Anthony Bradley, it’s the rappers who’ve sold out by adopting the low-life habits first displayed among poor Southern whites. Bradley examines the hip-hop world’s violent and immoral ethos through the lens of Thomas Sowell’s new book, “Black Rednecks and White Liberals,” and other sources.

Read the full text here.

In an annual report to Congress the Pentagon claims that China now has up to 730 short-range ballistic missiles on its coast opposite Taiwan. Last year’s report found only 500. The Pentagon said China could now be spending up to $90 billion a year on defense, and that its military build-up is putting the region at risk. China has dismissed the claims, insisting its build-up is peaceful. "Not only is China not a threat to anyone, but we would also like to make friends with people in every country, work together and develop mutually beneficial co-operation in order to facilitate everyone’s progress," says Chinese Foreign Minister Li Zhaoxing.

President Bush announced tonight that he has chosen federal appeals judge John Roberts to succeed Sandra Day O’Connor as an Associate Justice of the United States Supreme Court.

Roberts is not a well known figure, but has garnered respect from across the political spectrum throughout his career:

John G. Roberts Jr. was seen as smart and cautious, conservative in his leanings, but not an outspoken ideologue prone to making brash pronouncements. He was the clear favorite of Washington’s Republican legal establishment for the first vacancy on the Supreme Court — whether to replace his old boss, Chief Justice William H. Rehnquist, or as it turned out, to fill the seat left by the departure of Justice Sandra Day O’Connor.

Even leading Democratic lawyers, including former Clinton Solicitor Gen. Seth Waxman and the late Lloyd Cutler, signed a letter endorsing his nomination to the U.S. Court of Appeals in Washington two years ago. They said he was a superb lawyer, a brilliant writer and an effective oral advocate.

There is little doubt that the coming weeks will provide a great deal of dramatic political theater. Your thoughts on Judge Roberts and the upcoming confirmation process are welcome in the comments section below.