Archived Posts August 2006 - Page 3 of 7 | Acton PowerBlog

Today, Dr. Samuel Gregg of the Acton Institute delivered a lecture entitled “Why Love Matters: Understanding Pope Benedict XVI’s First Encyclical, Deus Caritas Est.” The address explored Pope Benedict’s first encyclical – the subject of which came as a surprise to many – and delved into the background of the pope’s encyclical on Christian love, outlining its implications for the Church’s social teaching and its engagement with the world.

If you weren’t able to attend the lecture in person, you can listen to the entire event by clicking here (8.8 mb mp3 file). Streaming video (of the lecture only) will be available soon as well, so keep checking the PowerBlog for updates.

Blog author: mvandermaas
posted by on Tuesday, August 22, 2006

From the “why didn’t we think of that first” department:

The trade which can lift peoples out of poverty is assailed from many directions. A motley assortment of protectionists and anti-capitalists use every argument they can lay their hands on to protect their interests. From the CAP to ‘food miles,’ the effect is to deny poorer people the chance to gain wealth by selling us what they produce. Those who embrace free trade as an instrument of good can now express their support for poorer peoples by proclaiming an intention to buy their produce.

Yes, you can now have your own trendy wristband to show your support for free trade, courtesy of the Adam Smith Institute.

Blog author: dphelps
posted by on Monday, August 21, 2006

The Acton Institute was not making animated films in 1948, but if we were, this might have been what we came up with. Though it starts out a bit slow, keep with it; it’s actually a pretty coherent defense of the free market.

Blog author: jspalink
posted by on Monday, August 21, 2006

In the midst of rising oil prices, massive energy bills, speculation about our supplies of oil – not to mention global warming – a small beacon lights up in Ireland. A technology company named Steorn has made an announcement that it has discovered free energy. I’ll admit, like most others probably will at this point, that I’m a little skeptical, but Steorn says that it has created “test-rigs” that use only magnetic fields (with no electromagnetic components) to create energy out of nothing. This, of course, breaks the first law of thermodynamics, and if this does turn out to be true, many hours that I spent studying physics will have turned out to be a waste of time, as one of the main premises of those hours was that the first law holds. (On the other hand, I can justify now why some of it didn’t make much sense to me.)

The company is proposing a panel of 12 skeptic phsyicists to test their rigs, to study the mathematics and physics, and tell the world whether or not the technology is actually real, or not. If it does turn out to be real, the technology is apparently scaleable, which means that it could power your car, or your cell phone. Much of the energy we use from day-to-day could be generated with this new technology which would have a tremendous impact on our economy.

Hat-tip to Slashdot. For more information, read this, this, and this, or google Steorn.

Blog author: dphelps
posted by on Monday, August 21, 2006

Did you know that there is legislation in the works that would set up a databse making it possible for you and me to track how the federal government is (mis)spending our money? It is the subject of a mystery over at WSJ:

In April, Oklahoma Senator Tom Coburn introduced legislation that would set-up a database to track an estimated $1 trillion in federal grants, earmarks, contracts and loans. Americans would be able to perform Google-like searches to track how their tax dollars are spent — or frittered away, as the case might be. Twenty-nine Senators have co-sponsored the bill, and it’s a testament to how concerned some are about Washington’s miserable spending reputation that the list includes a who’s who of Presidential hopefuls, from Hillary Rodham Clinton to George Allen to Bill Frist.

Yet most Senators clearly have no desire to shine a light on their spending practices, and at least one — perhaps more — has placed a “secret” hold on the legislation. Normally the architects of these holds are exposed within a few legislative days, but with Congress on recess the masked spender has so far evaded capture and public scrutiny.

Cue groans of fiscal frustration.

Compare this to the round of applause recieved by former Estonian Prime Minister Mart Laar when he announced at this year’s Acton U that in Estonia, every citizen can moinitor how every penny is being spent by their representatives.

Blog author: jballor
posted by on Monday, August 21, 2006

Here’s a summary of a piece over at Forum 18:

Economics has a large effect on China’s religious freedom, Forum 18 News Service notes. Factors such as the need of religious communities for non-state income, significant regional wealth disparities, conflicts over economic interests, and artificially-induced dependence on the state income all provide the state with alternative ways of exercising control over religious communities. Examples where economics has a noticeable effect on religious freedom include, to Forum 18′s knowledge, the Buddhist Shaolin Temple’s business enterprises, clashes between Buddhist temple personnel and the tourism industry, the demolition of a Protestant church in Zhejiang Province, the expropriation of Catholic properties in Xian and Tianjin for commercial development, the dependence of senior state-sanctioned religious leaders on the state for personal income, and competition between and amongst registered and unregistered religious groups. Perhaps the greatest beneficiary of economic clashes is the state, which can use both control of income and also favouritism in economic conflicts to restrict religious freedom.

The Voice of the Martyrs News & Prayer Update also passed this along from the China Aid Association:

A pastor in the Three-Self Church in Pinglu County, Shanxi Province was prohibited from preaching and forced to leave the church by the Religious Affairs Bureau. The Pinglu Church invited a Hong Kong-based American pastor, Dennis Balcombe (Chinese name Bao Dening), to visit the church. The evening of July 9th, the head of the Pinglu Religious Affairs Bureau, Zhang Lianjie, came to the church and tried to dismiss the Bible classes and forbid the children to listen to Bible stories. He returned the next day with more officials, forcing the elders to retract their invitation to Pastor Bao Dening. In spite of immense pressure, church activities continued. On July 24th, Zhang came again and announced that a meeting would be held the next day to “discuss” Pastor Hu Qinghua’s leaving Pinlu. All the members of TSPM (Three-Self-Patriotic Movement) and CCC (Chinese Christianity Council) were to be at the meeting. The meeting began at 6 p.m. and the elders enumerated the achievements of Pastor Hu since taking charge of the church. The meeting continued till 11 p.m., but no matter how hard the elders insisted, Zhang Lianjie declared that Pastor Hu Qinghua had to leave Pinglu Church immediately. Pastor Hu Qinghua has left Pinglu, but he still tries to comfort and encourage the brothers and sisters in Linglu Church, by phone, to stand firm in the truth.

Blog author: jballor
posted by on Friday, August 18, 2006
How different is this…

In a recent WSJ story, “A Novel Way to Reduce Home Energy Bills,” Sara Schaefer Muñoz writes about the possibility of adding windmills to homes in order to cut down on the cost of utilities.

“While wind energy is commonly associated with massive turbines churning in desolate, windy areas, a new generation of smaller systems made for areas with moderate wind is hitting the market. The latest small turbines, which resemble a ship propeller on a pole, have three blades, are up to 24 feet in diameter and are usually perched on stand-alone towers between 35 and 140 feet high. The systems have the potential to save consumers between 30% and 90% on their electric bills, manufacturers say, and promise to make no more noise than an air conditioner,” says Muñoz. “But tapping so-called small wind using a high-tech windmill can be costly, and homeowners may find themselves battling zoning officials and annoyed neighbors who find the towering devices unsightly.”

Is this just a case of NIMBY? After all, we’re not likely to see these things in urban areas: “The systems aren’t for city dwellers or residents of tightly packed suburbs. Those interested in small systems should have at least a half-acre of property, wind speeds of at least 10 mph and electric bills of $60 a month or more to make installing the system worthwhile, manufacturers say.” One of the companies profiled is the Bergey Windpower Company, who makes the BWC Excel, “America’s most popular residential & small business wind turbine.”

…from this?

Zoning officials will no doubt use the “novelty” of the idea as a way to impede the use of these windmills, but in a real way there’s not much that’s novel about these systems at all. Sure, they convert wind power into electrical power instead of kinetic energy, but other than that, they function a lot like windmills have for hundreds of years.

As Rodney Stark writes in his book, The Victory of Reason (for which I’m in the process of writing an overdue review right now), in the Middle Ages, “Windmills proliferated even more rapidly than waterwheels because there was wind everywhere. In order to take full advantage of the wind even when it shifted direction, medieval engineers invented the post mill, which mounted the sails on a massive post, leaving them free to turn with the wind. By late in the twelfth century, Europe was becoming so crowded with windmills that owners began to file lawsuits against one another for blocking their wind.”

Blog author: jballor
posted by on Thursday, August 17, 2006

“Oh, the shark, babe, has such teeth, dear / And it shows them pearly white…
Ya know when that shark bites, with his teeth, babe / Scarlet billows start to spread…”

–Bobby Darin, “Mack the Knife,” 1959

He asked for it.

You may be familiar with the games for social change movement, which attempts to bring the power of video games to bear on social problems, such as hunger and war (for more, see a previous post here). Well, the latest commercial game from Majesco Entertainment, Jaws Unleashed, takes the stakes to a whole new level.

The plot is a familar cliche: big bad corporations are doing evil, and therefore must be punished. In this case, Environplus has come to Amity Island and is wreaking environmental havoc. This spurs Mother Earth into a fit of rage, and she releases her vengeance upon mankind in the form of Jaws.

As the game maker puts it, “the increased population around the Island and recent industrial activity has also attracted YOU–one of Earth’s most fearsome creatures–a Great White Shark.” Your task, in fitting misanthropic fashion, is to cleanse the island of the human interlopers, once and for all.

The review of the game on G4TV’s XPlay says that “when an evil corporation strolls into town and starts dumping chemicals into the sea, Jaws is unable to contain the raging Ralph Nader inside him.” You can see the rather disturbing video from the game in a review here.

It looks like Jaws is a really just an environmentalist wrapped in rows and rows of razor sharp teeth. Who knew?!

Blog author: kschmiesing
posted by on Wednesday, August 16, 2006

I have previously commented on the failure of Republicans in Congress to exert any semblance of fiscal discipline, and have suggested that limited government principles do better when governmental power is divided rather than being dominated by one party, whether Democrat or Republican.

Now, in a new book, Buck Wild: How Republicans Broke the Bank and Became the Party of Big Government , Stephen Slivinski draws on the data of the last twenty-five years to draw the same conclusion. Michael J. New reviews the book on NRO.

Blog author: dphelps
posted by on Wednesday, August 16, 2006

Sadly, my lame attempt to teach myself German (“eins, zwei, drei, vier, funf…”) has thus far yielded little to allow me, unaided, to enjoy the Holy Father’s television interview for German broadcast. Luckily, it has been transcribed and translated to English here and the audio dubbed over in English here.

Watching the interview, it seems the Holy Father doesn’t miss a beat, neither hemming nor hawing over a question. He simply plows right into the meat of his answer, and as we have come to expect from him, his answers are quite rich. He really is good on his feet, and the interview seems to suggest that while Benedict may not be quite the media darling John Paul was, he will not be shy about keeping the papacy in the public eye.

A favorite snippet (because it seems to stress the correlative of Gilson’s “Piety is never a substitute for technique.”):

Progress becomes true progress only if it serves the human person and if the human person grows: not only in terms of his or her technical power, but also in his or her moral awareness. I believe that the real problem of our historical moment lies in the imbalance between the incredibly fast growth of our technical power and that of our moral capacity, which has not grown in proportion. That’s why the formation of the human person is the true recipe, the key to it all, I would say, and this is what the Church proposes. Briefly speaking, this formation has a dual dimension: of course we have to learn, acquire knowledge, ability, know-how, as they say. In this sense Europe, and in the last decades America, have done a lot, and that’s important. But if we only teach know-how, if we only teach how to build and to use machines, and how to use contraceptives, then we shouldn’t be surprised when we find ourselves facing wars and AIDS epidemics. Because we need two dimensions: simultaneously we need the formation of the heart, if I can express myself in this way, with which the human person acquires points of reference and learns how to use the techniques correctly.


I’ll take the liberty to make it sound-bite-able: “Technique is never a substitute for piety.” (But to quote Rocco Palmo: “…to snip it would be to do Ratzi an injustice”…just read/listen to the whole thing.)

HT: Whispers in the Loggia