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

Blog author: dphelps
Monday, October 23, 2006
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Zenit published the following this weekend, a commentary by Capuchin Father Raniero Cantalamessa on this Sunday’s liturgical readings (Isaiah 53:2a.,3a.,10-11; Hebrews 4:14-16; Mark 10:35-45). Well worth the read.

After the Gospel on riches, this Sunday’s Gospel gives us Christ’s judgment on another of the great idols of the world: power.

Power, like money, is not intrinsically evil. God describes himself as “the Omnipotent” and Scripture says “power belongs to God” (Psalm 62:11).

However, given that man had abused the power granted to him, transforming it into control by the strongest and oppression of the weakest, what did God do?

To give us an example, God stripped himself of his omnipotence; from being “omnipotent,” he made himself “impotent.”

(more…)

Blog author: jballor
Saturday, October 21, 2006
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In the latest Interfaith Stewardship Alliance newsletter, dated Oct. 21, Cal Beisner passes along his response to the letters sent by Bill Moyers’ legal counsel (background on the matter with related links here).

Here’s what Beisner says as related through his own counsel:

Your letter of October 18, 2006, to Interfaith Stewardship Alliance and your letter of October 19, 2006, to Dr. E. Calvin Beisner have been sent to me by my clients for reply.

I have carefully examined the language in the Interfaith Stewardship Alliance Newsletter dated October 9, 2006, that you contend in your October 18 letter is defamatory of your client, Bill Moyers. My examination of that language in the light of applicable United States Supreme Court opinions and those from other jurisdictions as well as major treatises on defamation forces me to the opinion that the language is not legally capable of a defamatory meaning. I would be pleased to review any authority you have that you believe supports your position.

Dr. Beisner is troubled by the fracturing of the relationship with your client and desires to attempt to restore that relationship outside of the civil courts as Christians are admonished to do in First Corinthians chapter six. He was preparing to do this before he received your first letter, which necessitated his seeking legal counsel. He sincerely believes that he accurately summarized in the newsletter his recollection of a private conversation with your client that was not recorded prior to the interview on camera. He also believes his recollection may have been influenced by a conversation he and your client had on the way to the airport following the interview. Finally, he stands by the opinions expressed that you challenge in your letter.

Accordingly, your demands in your letters are rejected. Should you be able to call to my attention applicable authority in support of your position which is persuasive, then your demands will be reconsidered.

Beisner concludes by saying of Moyers, “While I understood from the conversation that he was a Democrat, I accept his representation that he is an independent.”

In the meantime, Don Bosch has compiled a series of quotes from Moyers which show the political direction of his thinking about evangelicals and climate change. “How wide is the gap between a ‘political agenda’ and expressing a point of view,” wonders Don. With the “circumstantial evidence” in hand, Don writes, “A long stretch to ‘dividing the evangelical vote?’ I’ll let you decide that for yourself.”

Blog author: kschmiesing
Friday, October 20, 2006
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In a Townhall.com column yesterday, George Will coined a term that deserves widespread use: economic hypochondria. He criticizes the way in which the media—and many of us, even though relatively “healthy,” financially—pounce on every bit of news that might be interpreted as indicating economic hardship.

Will’s column has a certain partisan bent to it, but one needn’t be a Republican to see the larger point. As liberal writer Gregg Easterbrook observed in The Progress Paradox, even the poorest Americans enjoy a standard of living better than more than 99% of the people who have ever lived. In short, let’s keep our economic situation, even when “difficult,” in perspective.

One item in Will’s account deserves further comment. There has been a lot of discussion about the anemic performance of working and middle class wages over the last twenty years. It is a genuine problem. But, as others have pointed out, total compensation has risen more impressively.

My hypothesis is that the discrepancy between what employers feel like they’re paying and what employees feel like they’re making is real—and it’s due in large part to skyrocketing health care costs. Americans demand ever more frequent and more expensive medical exams, treatments, and surgeries. Yet, because the costs of health care are mostly hidden (doctors charge insurance companies, which charge employers, while the consumers, employees, never see a bill), workers don’t gain an adequate sense of how large a chunk of their compensation is comprised by health insurance premiums. This, of course, is beginning to change with the shift of more costs to employees.

HT: OrthodoxyToday

Two quick items:

First, in unrelated projects, the works of Jonathan Edwards (HT: Reformation21) and Charles Darwin (HT: Slashdot) are set to be digitized and accessible online. Looks like the Darwin set is complete, and the Edwards works are in public beta, with only the Miscellanies and sermons available as yet.

And second, I’m headed to the exhibit, “From Abraham to Jesus,” tonight, called “the largest touring exhibit of sacred text, biblical art, and artifacts in history.” The tour opens in Grand Rapids and continues in Columbus and Nashville.

Jim Aune, blogger-in-chief at The Blogora, complained yesterday about his health care treatment. He says, “I have been in constant pain for 36 hours. I actually used a cane to go to the office yesterday for some meetings. The problem? I have a trapped nerve in my abdomen from a double hernia repair a year ago. I got shot up with steroids about 3 weeks ago, and that worked for about 5 days, but I still can’t walk without a ripping sensation (as if my right leg were being separated from my side).”

That sounds horrible. He continues: “I’m about to go see the doctor again today (he’s a nice guy, as family practice doctors usually are, as the anesthesiologist at the pain clinic), so I decided to read up on the Internets about this condition. Now, a little learning, especially online, is a dangerous thing, but it appears that entrapped nerves have gone from happening in 1% of hernia repair patients to closer to 40%, and the speculation is that the new use of plastic mesh is a possible cause.”

It seems that Aune somehow associates John Stossel with his problem. “Enter the biggest jackass on television: John Stossel of 20/20, who believes that the market solves all problems, and that any government intervention in that frictionless market creates no end of bad ‘unintended consequences.'”

What is Aune’s argument against Stossel? After citing a Daily Kos item, Aune contends, “markets are wonderful things, but they only work in cases of ‘symmetric information.’ That is,they work efficiently when both parties to an exchange have nearly similar information.” (Last night’s episode of ER dealt with a very similar issue).

Markets only work in cases of symmetric information. Is this true? Or is the opposite true? Hayek’s observations about the nature of diffuse and unequal information are the basis for his arguments against the practicality of state intervention. As Steven D. Levitt and Stephen J. Dubner put it in their book Freakonomics, “We accept as a verity of capitalism that someone (usually an expert) knows more than someone else (usually a consumer).” Medical care isn’t the only example of information asymmetry, of course. Typical ones include car sales, or especially car repair, but they can apply in any instance where there is particular expertise involved.

Levitt and Dubner go on, “But information assymetries everywhere have in fact been mortally wounded by the Internet.” Now it is true that in practice, as in Aune’s experience, there are all kinds of limits on the potential for the Internet to even out information. It takes time, access, and a certain amount of patience to educate oneself about certain medical conditions, for example. Thus Levitt and Dubner go on to admit, “The Internet, powerful as it is, has hardly slain the beast that is information asymmetry.”

Aune later asserts, “markets do not work efficiently when information is asymmetric.” Maybe they don’t work as efficiently as they might otherwise, but they still seem to work, and perhaps better than any other option available to us. And there are methods for the sharing of information and such that does not necessitate government involvement (independent ratings, consumer reviews, and the like).

It’s not clear what Aune’s solution is (if there is one in his complaint), but I take it that Aune is arguing at least implicitly that the government needs to be the entity that solves the problem of information asymmetry. Would he rather have no choices, even the limited ones he is inadequately informed about, and instead have the government decide for him? Why don’t we just make doctors government employees? Then they can enforce the course of treatment they deem best.

As noted here, last week PBS ran a special by Bill Moyers’, “Is God Green?” examining the “new” trend among evangelicals toward stewardship of the environment.

Arguably what is “new” about this move is its coherence with liberal/leftist environmentalism. As also noted previously, “The Judeo-Christian community for 5,000 years or more has taken its responsibility for the environment seriously. The whole concept of ‘stewardship’ is one that comes directly from sacred texts.” Stewardship isn’t new. Perhaps the method for stewardship proposed is.

In any case, Acton adjunct scholar and spokesman for the Interfaith Stewardship Alliance E. Calvin Beisner appeared on Moyers’ program, as a counter-point to the majority of evangelical voices heard on the show. Blogger Jimmy Akin, a self-professed “old friend” of Dr. Beisner, posted a response by Beisner to his portrayal on the Moyers program, which included allusions that Moyers had confessed some overt political agenda by the timing and content of the program.

When Moyers became aware of the assertions, this apparently did not please him. His lawyers sent letters to Akin, claiming that “Dr. Beisner’s accusation is false and defamatory as it goes to the heart of Mr. Moyers’s integrity as a journalist,” and demanding “on behalf of Mr. Moyers a retraction from the Interfaith Stewardship Alliance stating clearly and without qualification that Dr. Beisner’s statement was erroneous, that Mr. Moyers never made any such statement to Dr. Beisner or anything colorably close to it, and apologizing to Mr. Moyers for the error.”

The lawyers representing Moyers in turn accuse Akin: “You have also defamed Mr. Moyers. On behalf of Mr. Moyers, we demand that you immediately publish in full Mr. Moyers’s response to Dr. Beisner, as well as the retraction and apology of the Interfaith Stewardship Alliance, if any, all with at least equal prominence to that given the false statement of Dr. Beisner.”

Also linked at the above is the response from Akin’s lawyers. This story has been picked up by numerous bloggers, some of which are run down on this post at The Evangelical Ecologist.

We’ll keep you posted on any further developments.

Update: Dr. Beisner’s response through counsel has been posted here.

Blog author: jarmstrong
Thursday, October 19, 2006
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I spent another wonderful day in Washington, D.C. today. It was a gorgeous fall day in every way. I had an opportunity to spend several hours with Rev. Dan Claire, who works with the Anglican Mission in America (AMiA) and also pastors The Church of the Resurrection, a fine young church on Capital Hill. (I hope to preach there in 2007.) Dan is an unusually gifted Christian leader with a real vision for a missional church in an emerging context. He, and two other ministers who work with him, have seen rapid growth and exciting response to the gospel over the past four years. Dan is also completing a doctoral program in biblical studies at the Catholic University of America, which we toured following lunch. We also visited the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception, one of American Catholicism’s greatest buildings. (It is truly gorgeous and reverential place, though the Marian elements did not move me. Some of the more clearly biblical elements, expressed in various mosaics, are breathtakingly beautiful.)

During the morning hours I made two sight seeing stops. The first was at the National Zoo where I saw the most famous guests in Washington, two panda bears from China who grace the newly opened Asian Trail. Then I found a historical site that few know even exists, the Woodrow Wilson House, located at 2340 S Street NW. This historic home is the only presidential museum in the District. (The 28th president, Woodrow Wilson, is buried in the District, near the National Cathedral.) I am interested in Wilson for several reasons. His presidency, in so many ways, was the first “modern” presidency. Our role in the world changed under his leadership more than under any previous president. I am also interested in Wilson because of his deep devotion to a thoughtful version of Reformed Christianity, of which I feel sure some readers are not aware.

Wilson’s father was a devout Presbyterian minister. At one time Wilson thought that he would pursue the ministry but eventually he chose to become an educator, finally serving as president of Princeton University. After this call he was elected governor of New Jersey. This political turn led to his being elected president in 1912. His ability as a teacher was apparently unique and his students loved him. An introvert, he loved to study and write and was often misjudged because he did not enjoy long conversation and small talk. This hurt his public perception as president, especially following Teddy Roosevelt as he did.

At the Wilson House there is a display that was created to celebrate the 150th anniversary of his birth. In that display there is a reference to Woodrow Wilson’s faith. I wrote the quote down in order to keep it. Here is what Wilson wrote:

Never for a moment have I had a doubt about my religious beliefs. There are people who believe only so far as they can understand—that seems to me presumptuous and sets their understanding as the standard of the universe.

Wilson was a historian and college administrator, as well as one of our most gifted presidents. He was a keen intellectual. He was not saying, by the above statement, that he never found problems in his study of the Bible or in his thoughts about Christian faith. It is evident to me that what he meant was that these problems never caused him to have real doubts about his beliefs because he knew his mind was not the final judge of truth in the universe. Not a bad expression of faith at all coming from a serious intellectual, or anyone else for that matter. I think it could be said that Wilson reflected the ancient Christian understanding that one believes in order to understand, not vice versa.

John H. Armstrong is founder and director of ACT 3, a ministry aimed at "encouraging the church, through its leadership, to pursue doctrinal and ethical reformation and to foster spiritual awakening."

Blog author: jspalink
Wednesday, October 18, 2006
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Despite a recent surge in economic growth in the European Union, the lack of political will to reform unsustainable welfare systems and curb regulatory excesses does not bode well for the future. Samuel Gregg looks back to the Freiburg Ordo-Liberal School, practitioners of an economic philosophy that helped engineer the post-war revival for West Germany, as a possible path toward greater freedom and economic growth.

Read the full commentary here.

Another one for the “is there anything they won’t try to regulate?” file:

Not every idea that sprouts in Brussels is good for you…

THE Government is seeking to prevent an EU directive that could extend broadcasting regulations to the internet, hitting popular video-sharing websites such as YouTube.

The European Commission proposal would require websites and mobile phone services that feature video images to conform to standards laid down in Brussels.

Ministers fear that the directive would hit not only successful sites such as YouTube but also amateur “video bloggers” who post material on their own sites. Personal websites would have to be licensed as a “television-like service”.

Viviane Reding, the Media Commissioner, argues that the purpose is simply to set minimum standards on areas such as advertising, hate speech and the protection of children.

But Shaun Woodward, the Broadcasting Minister, described the draft proposal as catastrophic. He said: “Supposing you set up a website for your amateur rugby club, uploaded some images and added a link advertising your local sports shop. You would then be a supplier of moving images and need to be licensed and comply with the regulations.”

Not that this is a big surprise; the European Union is practically synonymous with bureaucratic over-reach and hyper-regulation. But still, shouldn’t common sense kick in at some point?

Blog author: jarmstrong
Wednesday, October 18, 2006
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Today I toured the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington, D.C. I was unprepared for how deeply I would be moved by my three hours in this museum. The sights, sounds and tributes all moved me profoundly. Twice I had to wipe tears from my eyes. The whole thing is so powerfully presented that it actually overwhelms you, with both information and emotional impact. I believe it is one of the most important museums I have ever toured.

The experience of standing in a German rail car, used to transport Jews to the death camps, was quite moving. How they got over a hundred people in one of those small cars is hard to imagine when you stand in one. But nothing was as chilling as the crematorium ovens, the shoes and personal items the dead left behind before they entered the gas chambers, and the iron door that came from a death chamber at one of the camps.

The Holocaust Museum has established a Committee on Conscience to alert national conscience, influence policymakers, and stimulate worldwide action to confront and work to halt acts of genocide and related crimes against humanity. The special emphasis of the museum right now is on the genocide in Darfur, which is a part of the country of Sudan in northeast Africa. In Darfur tens of thousands (some say 400,000) civilians have been killed and thousands of women raped by Sudanese government soldiers and members of the government-sponsored militia referred to as the Janjaweed. The Janjaweed are Arabic peoples and the people they are killing are blacks, or what they call “Africans.” There appears to be a clear religious connection to this violence, as there is in much of Africa these days. (more…)