Archived Posts May 2006 - Page 2 of 6 | Acton PowerBlog

Rev. Robert A. Sirico

Earlier today, Rev. Robert A. Sirico delivered an address as a part of the 2006 Lord Acton Lecture Series entitled “The Eye of the Needle: Economic Lessons from the Parables.”

For those who were unable to attend the lecture personally, we are pleased to be able to provide the audio of today’s event in downloadable form – just click here (10 mb mp3 file).

Seven years after the United Nations assumed control of the Serb province of Kosovo, talks are underway about its future. Orthodox Church leaders for the minority Serb population, which has been subject to attacks for years by Muslim extremists, are hoping to forestall mounting pressure to establish an independent state. Is the Church headed for extinction in Kosovo?

Read the complete commentary here.

Blog author: jcouretas
Wednesday, May 24, 2006
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The researchers report that "latent heat loss from the tropical Atlantic and Caribbean was less in late spring and early summer 2005 than preceding years due to anomalously weak trade winds associated with weaker sea level pressure," which "resulted in anomalously high sea surface temperatures" that "contributed to earlier and more intense hurricanes in 2005." However, they go on to note that "these conditions in the Atlantic and Caribbean during 2004 and 2005 were not unprecedented and were equally favorable during the active hurricane seasons of 1958, 1969, 1980, 1995 and 1998." In addition, they say "there is not a clear link between the Atlantic Multidecadal Oscillation [of temperature] or the long term trend [of temperature] and individual active hurricane years, confirming the importance of other factors in hurricane formation."

CO2 Science concludes "the 2005 hurricane season was not as unique as many people have made it out to be, and that there is no compelling reason to ascribe whatever degree of uniqueness it may have possessed to recent global warming."

This isn’t news. USA Today, quoted at the US Senate’s Environment and Public Works page:

USA Today reviewed what several scientists and economists have said recently about hurricanes and hurricane intensity, and the overwhelming majority believe there is no link. In fact, the only opinion in its story favoring a link between global warming and hurricane intensity was that of a Wesleyan economics professor, Gary Yohe – not a climate scientist. Every scientist quoted disregarded any link.

Scientists like William Gray of the Tropical Meteorology Project at Colorado State University, Robert Sheets, director of the National Hurricane Center in Miami from 1987 to 1995, and Christopher Landsea, a researcher meteorologist in the hurricane research division of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

MP Scott Brison is being tagged in the Edmonton Sun as two-faced over Kyoto in his attacks on Canada’s new environment minister. And so it goes.

There are reasonable concerns over CO2 pollution, and there should be interest in responding to climate changes as they occur, naturally or otherwise. But wielding Katrina and global warming as a political tool will eventually backfire on climate change advocates, and is likely to be counterproductive to getting man-made CO2 emissions rolled back.

[Originally posted at The Evangelical Ecologist on 5/24/2006.]

New York Times reporter C.J. Chivers has a lengthy — and chilling — narrative on the terrorist attack on Beslan, Russia, that began on September 1, 2004. Chechen separatists took over School Number One, filled with children and parents on the first day of the academic year, and wired the place with bombs. A rescue attempt by Russian security forces three days later turned into a pitched battle and when it was over, 331 people were dead — including 186 children.

You can read an excerpt of the Chivers story here and view a video taken by terrorists during the siege. It is a terrible thing to see so many innocents gathered together in what was, for many of them, the last few hours of their lives.

Vladimir Bobrovnikov, an analyst with the Moscow Institute for Oriental Studies, said the Beslan case “demonstrates that, in Russia, radical nationalist groups use religious identification and adopt the Islamic principle of martyrdom to meet their political ends.” The Beslan attack, he explained, was carried out by al-Riyad al-Salihin group which appeals mostly to Caucasian Muslim populations such as Chechens, Ingushes, and Daghestanis. “By choosing their victims to be from among the Russian Orthodox Ossetians they effectively positioned themselves as ‘Muslims’ in contrast to the captured ‘infidel’ civilians and Russian troops,” Bobrovnikov wrote. “A survivor remembered that ‘…one of the gunmen was reading the Quran constantly.'”

The Itar-Tass News Agency reported today that a local court pronounced Nurpashi Kulayev — the only surviving terrorist from the Beslan attack — guilty of all charges.

Blog author: kschmiesing
Tuesday, May 23, 2006
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A couple years ago I wrote a commentary that didn’t exactly defend outsourcing, but did recognize its benefits and argued that it could be done morally if done correctly. I won’t pretend that my writing is read widely enough to generate voluminous responses of any sort, but that piece did elicit a significant number of responses, many of them negative. Several correspondents, who had no personal connection to me, ostensibly knew a great deal about me, including my salary and the type of vehicle I owned. The salary estimate was high by about 250 percent. The car model guess was closer: I’ve never owned a Lexus but I did drive a Lincoln at the time (ten years old, it cost me $3500).

All this by way of introducing an interesting piece by Martin Davis on NRO today. The source of the rancor from some of my outsourcing critics was the assumption that my job as an academic was “safe” and that I, therefore, had the luxury of looking at the issue from a position insulated from the competition that beleaguered manufacturing and tech workers confronted. As I thought at the time, it’s shortsighted to think of any kind of job as “safe.” After all, who would have thought 20 years ago that American computer programmers would be threatened by the advances of Indian tech workers?

As Davis’s article suggests, it turns out that education jobs are vulnerable to foreign competition as well (when not artificially protected, of course). And yet, my view of outsourcing remains unchanged. Good thing I don’t have payments to make on a Lexus.

Blog author: dphelps
Tuesday, May 23, 2006
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Steve Wozniak, famed inventor of Apple I, Apple II, and the original Apple software, has a new autobiography coming out. Here is a snippet from a Businessweek interview where he gives a nice, Actony take on creativity and education.

Are there larger lessons that you have drawn about creativity and innovation?
That schools close us off from creative development. They do it because education has to be provided to everyone, and that means that government has to provide it, and that’s the problem.

Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak in 1975: Ready to Change the World

An interesting followup: according to a 2002 Census report, 76% of American business owners do not have a college degree, (24% have a high school equivalent or less).

I am certainly not anti-education, but the point is this: there is something other than education that drives people to create. We must begin (again) instilling in our children the old-fashioned-American-ingenuity-Do-It-Yourself mentality, the kind of thinking that encourages entrepreneurialism and creativity. These sorts of people are the ones who make huge differences in the lives of everyone (i.e. personal computers).

This Live Science article, “How Children Learn About God and Science,” by Robert Roy Britt, summarizes a new survey of scientific studies about the way children learn. It seems that an interesting conclusion has surfaced from these studies: “Among things they can’t see, from germs to God, children seem to be more confident in the information they get about invisible scientific objects than about things in the spiritual realm.”

There’s no conclusive explanation for why this is the case, but there are plenty of speculative options. Let me add my own theological proposition: as fallen human beings, our noetic apparatus for the perception of spiritual realities is naturally impaired. There’s a problem here both of intellect and will, although the greatest determining factor may well indeed be that of willful ignorance. In Calvin’s words,

Bright, however, as is the manifestation which God gives both of himself and his immortal kingdom in the mirror of his works, so great is our stupidity, so dull are we in regard to these bright manifestations, that we derive no benefit from them. For in regard to the fabric and admirable arrangement of the universe, how few of us are there who, in lifting our eyes to the heavens, or looking abroad on the various regions of the earth, ever think of the Creator? Do we not rather overlook Him, and sluggishly content ourselves with a view of his works? And then in regard to supernatural events, though these are occurring every day, how few are there who ascribe them to the ruling providence of God—how many who imagine that they are casual results produced by the blind evolutions of the wheel of chance? Even when under the guidance and direction of these events, we are in a manner forced to the contemplation of God (a circumstance which all must occasionally experience), and are thus led to form some impressions of Deity, we immediately fly off to carnal dreams and depraved fictions, and so by our vanity corrupt heavenly truth. This far, indeed, we differ from each other, in that every one appropriates to himself some peculiar error; but we are all alike in this, that we substitute monstrous fictions for the one living and true God—a disease not confined to obtuse and vulgar minds, but affecting the noblest, and those who, in other respects, are singularly acute (Institutes, 1.5.11).

He goes on to note that it is only in faith that we can come to true and saving knowledge of God: “In vain for us, therefore, does Creation exhibit so many bright lamps lighted up to show forth the glory of its Author. Though they beam upon us from every quarter, they are altogether insufficient of themselves to lead us into the right path. Some sparks, undoubtedly, they do throw out; but these are quenched before they can give forth a brighter effulgence. Wherefore, the apostle, in the very place where he says that the worlds are images of invisible things, adds that it is by faith we understand that they were framed by the word of God (Heb. 11:3); thereby intimating that the invisible Godhead is indeed represented by such displays, but that we have no eyes to perceive it until they are enlightened through faith by internal revelation from God” (Institutes, 1.5.14). It is entirely understandable, therefore, why human beings in such a state would feel less certain about spiritual and divine realities.

This does not necessarily determine, however, whether Christian faith is objectively less warranted than belief in the invisible conclusions of the empirical world. As Dietrich Bonhoeffer writes, “Faith alone is certainty; everything outside of faith is subject to doubt. Jesus Christ alone is the certainty of faith. I believe the Lord Jesus Christ who tells me that my life is justified. So there is no way toward the justification of my life other than faith alone.” But indeed, the reality of the fall into sin does give us some reason to expect a relatively less sure subjective sense of certainty, also known as doubt. (See also John 20:29, “Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.”)

Even more reason, therefore, to take seriously the apostolic dictum to care for the education of our children in the truth of spiritual realities, that is, to “bring them up in the training and instruction of the Lord” (Ephesians 6:4 NIV).

I blogged last week on the ongoing dispute between China and the Vatican. Another demographic giant with tremendous economic potential—and some religious freedom issues—is India. ZENIT reports on Pope Benedict’s address to the new Indian ambassador to the Holy See (May 18 daily dispatch).

The pope took the opportunity to make a pointed comment on the subject:

The disturbing signs of religious intolerance which have troubled some regions of the nation, including the reprehensible attempt to legislate clearly discriminatory restrictions on the fundamental right of religious freedom, must be firmly rejected as not only unconstitutional, but also as contrary to the highest ideals of India’s founding fathers, who believed in a nation of peaceful coexistence and mutual tolerance between different religions and ethnic groups.

The problem of religious oppression in India is different from—and not as severe—as it is in China. But where Christians live in fear of violence, there is obviously room for improvement. For more details on the state of the matter in India, see the 2006 Annual Report of the United States Commission on International Religious Freedom.

Blog author: mvandermaas
Friday, May 19, 2006
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The Rock Star, sounding kind of Acton-ish:

Bono acknowledges that four years ago when he toured Africa with then U.S. Treasury Secretary Paul O’Neill, bringing private sector with him would never have crossed his mind.

“…I could see so many of the pieces intersected with commerce, trade and entrepreneurial spirit.”

It’s a signal of changes in Africa over the past decade, but in part it’s Bono’s own advocacy that has helped shift attitudes toward the African agenda.

“I think it is bizarre that Africa got me interested in commerce,” chuckles the U2 lead singer in an interview with Reuters. “I am an activist but I looked at the mosaic of problems facing this magical place and I could see so many of the pieces intersected with commerce, trade and entrepreneurial spirit.

“And I’m saying, I believe that Africa can compete with China in terms of offering jobs to its people in the apparel sector, I believe Africa can compete with India in terms of offering jobs to people in the IT sector, if this problem of business efficiencies and strangulation of red tape and corruption can be dealt with,” he said. Africa’s political leaders know the influence he wields. Lesotho’s Minister of Trade and Industry Mpho Meli Malie is one of those who knows that having Bono pitch for Lesotho’s apparel sector could bring new investments. “A celebrity like Bono and with his organization DATA they should be able to penetrate and encourage some of the brands to consider Lesotho as a destination,” said Malie.

The more that Bono and his fellow advocates turn their attention to private sector and entrepreneurial solutions to Africa’s problems, the better. And Bono – if you’re out there – Give us a call, will you? Let’s talk.

David Klinghoffer, a senior fellow at the Discovery Institute, writes at NRO this week about the use of biblical texts in support of immigration liberalization by liberals, “Borders & the Bible: It’s not the gospel according to Hillary.”

I find this essay problematic on a number of levels. Klinghoffer first reprimands Hillary Clinton, among others, for quoting the Bible: “While the Left typically resists applying Biblical insights to modern political problems, liberals have seemed to make an exception for the immigrant issue.” But then, it isn’t really so much a problem that liberals have quoted the Bible, but they have done so in a way that Klinghoffer doesn’t like.

He says, “There is a problem, of course, with selective cherry-picking of Biblical verses to support the political cause of your choice. This, in fact, has become a favored tactic among advocates of ‘spiritual activism’ (as they’re called on the Left).” Now while I agree that “selective cherry-picking” is a problem, Klinghoffer can’t have it both ways. Either liberals don’t typically refer to Scripture and thus the use of the Bible in the immigration debate is an oddity, or they do typically quote Scripture as “a favored tactic” and do it in a selective and problematic way.

Klinghoffer continues, “If we want to take the Bible as a guide to crafting wise policies, that means trying our best to see Scripture as an organic whole with a unitary message.” Again, it appears that the problem with Hillary and others isn’t so much that they are using Scripture, but they are doing so in a bad way. We seem to have that cleared up.

Klinghoffer proceeds to show us how Scripture might actually be used as a guide to “crafting wise policies” with respect to immigration. He goes on to emphasize the Pentateuch (the Five Books of Moses) as “a highly political text, very much concerned with worldly questions of law and policy, including the treatment of citizens and non-citizens by a sovereign government comprising an executive branch (the king and his officers) and a judicial one (a council of elders).”

From this foundation, Klinghoffer draws two important conclusions. First, citing Rabbi Meir Soloveichik’s understanding of kosher laws, “we must always bear in mind that God created peoples and animals separate, with their differences, for reasons of His own.” Thus, “The colors of the rainbow create a beautiful visual array. When the same colors are mixed together haphazardly, on the other hand, their beauty is marred and muddied.” I’m not sure exactly what this means, but it has disturbing overtones. (more…)