Archived Posts January 2007 - Page 4 of 7 | Acton PowerBlog

Blog author: dwbosch
Friday, January 12, 2007
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faith-based health services?

Change is unlikely to occur without adequate … representation of faith communities in positions of influence – be they government bodies, research charities, or NHS trusts” Professor Sheikh says. He concludes that the long-term goal must be “to mainstream the understanding of the importance of religious identity.”

But Professor Aneez Esmail from Manchester University argues that whilst it is “reasonable [that] we try to plan and configure our services to take account of needs that may have their roots in particular beliefs … we cannot meet everyone’s demands for special services based on their religious identity: it would not be practical.” He goes on to argue that some faith groups might support practices which may be morally and ethically unacceptable to the majority – for example female circumcision and the refusal to accept blood transfusions in life saving situations.

Professor Esmail believes that going down the path of providing special services for defined groups risks stigmatisation and stereotyping. He concludes that “in an ideal world doctors…would ask about a patient’s beliefs not so that they can be categorised but because it might be important for the patient in their illness.

My now-retired-surgeon father spent several decades treating all sorts of folks at St. Josephs Hosptial in Tacoma. I say this to note that the Christian Church, Catholic and Protestant denominations alike, as well as the Jewish community, have a long history of providing care regardless of religious or social or financial background of the sick person. I have no doubt for instance that Christian healthcare this is tied directly to the healing ministry for which Christ was both lauded and vilified, and the example that was carried on through His disciples.

Regardless of faith, caring for the health of another is one of the most basic human interactions. I suggest that in faith-based hospitals today, caregivers set aside their religious affiliation and treat each patient as a child of God in need of help. Many also recognize a responsibility before God to do so. Most hospitals provide non-sectarian "chapels" so all people of faith have a quiet place to pray for their loved ones, and are consoled by "interfaith" chaplains.

I admit my ignorance of current Muslim medical services, but while I note that a thousand years ago the library of Alexandria was repleat with medical manuscripts by Galen and others, I have difficulty imagining Muslim health care merging wtih current faith-based medical services.

Do we have any reason for concern here, particularly now that our healthcare may become a hotter political issue in a Democrat-controlled Capitol Hill? With government promising health care to everybody (American and otherwise) in California, is there a possibility that Muslim-exclusive health care would cause a backlash against all faith-based health services?

Interested in your thoughts and experiences, especially those of you living in heavily-Muslim areas.

In his latest TCS Daily essay, Arnold Kling writes, “As we get wealthier, we also become enhanced physically, cognitively, and morally, leading to a virtuous cycle of improvements to the standard of living.” Does affluence leads to moral progress?

I don’t think there’s any necessary connection, and there’s plenty of counter-evidence, not least of which are the moral atrocities of the 20th century. But what about more mundane examples? In today’s WSJ, Kay S. Horowitz writes about the exploits of female celebrities, who model and exemplify “the first rule of contemporary American girlhood: to show that you are liberated, take it off.”

Indeed, in examining the link between wealth and morality (if there is any link), one need perhaps look no further than Paris Hilton, the wealthy heiress who exercises minimal moral reasoning and personifies the phrase “idle rich.”

Horowitz observes, “Why men have become more discreet than women, assuming they have, is one of those cultural mysteries that is yet to be solved.”

The sixth-century monastic John Climacus, reflecting the moral insights of his time, wrote this: “The great concern of the good Lord for us is shown by the fact that shyness acts as a curb on the shamelessness of women. For if the woman chased the man, no flesh would be saved.”

In the words of Alexandra Pelosi, daughter of the current Speaker of the House, “if you give me the choice of Paris Hilton or Jesus, I’ll take Jesus.”

The question of cultural transformation looms over American Christianity. Should we engage culture? If so, how? In a battle for supremacy over American institutions? Or for the hearts and minds of the people?

Reading through a sermon from Augustine, I was struck by a passage that illustrates how transformation of the world begins (and sometimes ends) in the church:

…pray as much as you can. Evils abound, and God has willed that evils abound. If only evil people didn’t abound, then evils wouldn’t abound. The times are evil, the times are troubled, that’s what they say. Let us live good lives, and the times are good. We ourselves are the times. Whatever we are like, that’s what the times are like.

But what are we to do? We can’t convert the vast majority to a good life, can we? Let the few people who are listening live good lives; let the few who are living good lives bear with the many living bad ones. They are grains of wheat, they are the on the threshing floor; they can have the chaff with them on the threshing floor, they won’t have it with them in the barn. Let them put up with what they don’t want, in order to come to what they do.

Why should we be vexed, and find fault with God? Evils abound in the world to stop us loving the world. Great are the people, real saints are the faithful, who have made light of the beautiful world; we here can’t even make light of the ugly one. The world is evil, yes it’s evil, and yet it is loved as if it were good. And what precisely is this evil world? It isn’t the sky and earth and the waters and all that is in them, fishes, birds, trees. All these things are good. The evil world is the one made by evil people.

But because, as I have said, as long as we live we cannot be without evil people, let us man and groan to the Lord our God, and put up with evils in order to attain to things that are truly good. Don’t let’s find fault with the Father of the family; after all, he cares for us dearly. He is supporting us, not we him. He knows how to manage what he has made. Do what he has told you and hope for what he has promised [The Works of Saint Augustine: A Translation for the 21st Century. Sermons, part 3. Trans. Edmund Hill (New Rochelle, NY: New City Press, 1993), Sermon 80.8, pp. 355-56].

Words to remember and to live by, both for the 5th and the 21st centuries I think.

Aaah, Social Security and Medicare: A soothing balm for the young at heart, but a source of boiling rage for the ACTUAL young.

Every now and again, I stumble across an article that just gets me going. Today was one such day, and this was one such article. Robert Samuelson takes aim at the baby boomers and their entitlement mentality in the Washington Post:

As someone born in late 1945, I say this to the 76 million or so subsequent baby boomers and particularly to Bill Clinton and George W. Bush, our generation’s leading politicians: Shame on us. We are trying to rob our children and grandchildren, putting the country’s future at risk in the process. On one of the great issues of our time, the social and economic costs of our retirement, we have adopted a policy of selfish silence…

…It’s no secret that the 65-and-over population will double by 2030 (to almost 72 million, or 20 percent of the total population), but hardly anyone wants to face the implications:

  • By comparison, other budget issues, including the notorious earmarks, are trivial. In 2005, Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid (the main programs for the elderly) cost $1.034 trillion, twice the amount of defense spending and more than two-fifths of the total federal budget. These programs are projected to equal about three-quarters of the budget by 2030, if it remains constant as a share of national income.

  • Preserving present retirement benefits automatically imposes huge costs on the young — costs that are economically unsound and socially unjust. The tax increases required by 2030 could hit 50 percent, if other spending is maintained as a share of national income. Or much of the rest of government (from defense to national parks) would have to be shut down or crippled. Or budget deficits would balloon to quadruple today’s level…

No need to fear, however, because our brave and principled political leaders are stepping up to the plate… and refusing to do anything:

Any reform plan would have to make its way through the Senate Finance Committee, which will be chaired in the new Congress by Montana Democrat Max Baucus. He’s a guy the White House thought at one point might be a vote in favor of Bush’s plan to carve out personal savings accounts as a way to make Social Security a better deal for younger workers.

But I have to say that a brief chat I had late yesterday afternoon with Baucus didn’t imbue me with much confidence. I asked him flat out if there would be major Social Security reform in this new Congress. Baucus slowly and rather unenthusiastically replied, “Oh, I don’t know. The trust fund doesn’t reach zero until 2042.”

What about Medicare reform?

The federal government should join the state of Massachusetts in enacting universal health coverage, said Sen. Edward Kennedy, the new chairman of the Senate committee with jurisdiction over numerous health issues.

Kennedy’s home state is the first to require everyone to have health insurance, just as drivers must have automobile coverage.

Kennedy has his own version of what universal health coverage would look like. He wants to extend Medicare to all.

Well, that should help to keep the program solvent and affordable for many years to come! Although, to be fair, perhaps Senator Kennedy isn’t ignoring reality, and is actually proposing this expansion of Medicare in order to speed the imminent demise of the program and force a crisis which he can then solve…

Naaah.

Yoda: Entitlements = Suffering

So we’re left with a looming crisis that everyone knows is coming but no one with the ability to do anything about it will acknowledge it for fear of the political consequences. And in the meantime, I get to look at my paycheck and see hundreds of dollars fall away every month into programs that will be long gone by the time I would get to the age of eligibility. I try not to think what my 401k or IRA would look like right now if I had just been able to funnel that money in that direction; that way lies anger, and you know what Yoda said about anger: It eventually leads to suffering.

These boomers can rest easy tonight with clear consciences because they gave to FREE RIDE. Why not join them today?

But why should I wallow in anger and self-pity? This is America, the Land of Opportunity – and have I got an opportunity for all of you baby boomers out there! Since you’re going to be helping yourselves to a generous portion of my money over the coming years (barring some sort of political miracle), I’d like to give you the opportunity to say thanks in a tangible way: by contributing to the Fund for Redistribution and Entitlement Equality/Retirement Income Doubling Enterprise (or FREE RIDE for short), a new initiative that I’ve set up to ensure that the boomers have the same opportunity to contribute to retirement security that my generation has. Well, not quite the same – it’s voluntary, whereas my income is confiscated – but still, I have to believe that you’re just as concerned with my retirement security as you are with yours, right?

Just make your check out to me and send them care of the Acton Institute (the address is here), and you’ll be able to rest easy knowing that you’ve helped to ensure the retirement security of at least one future senior.

With all this talk of health care reform this year, I couldn’t help but do some digging into the real aspects of the proposals. Ranging from the completely disruptive universal medical care plan from California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger to the socialist-like plan from Senator Ted Kennedy (D-MA) in the 110th congress, health care is big on the agenda for 2007. I am afraid that if the policies proposed by Schwarzenegger and Kennedy are passed, future generations will witness a detrimental effect on our economy. Kennedy’s home state of Massachusetts, being the first state to provide universal health care to its citizens, has already seen negative aspects in regards to business and job creation.

These arguments for universal health care come disguised in many forms, but all contribute negatively to the economy. The idea of making health care affordable and available to citizens is an excellent idea, however, Governor Schwarzenegger’s and Senator Kennedy’s ideas are the wrong way to go.

Forcing employers to provide health care and penalizing them for not providing coverage is not the right direction to head.

The state of Massachusetts employs a combination of subsidies and penalties to make insurance more affordable and to force people to buy it. The law requires employers with 11 or more full-time employees to offer health coverage or be subject to a $295 fee for each employee, as well as face being billed for services their uninsured employees get.

Because of this policy, employees are going to lose other benefits and suffer pay cuts, or even be fired. The cost of medical insurance is extremely high. The real solution rests in not forcing employers to provide coverage, but to make insurance more affordable.

The answer lies in eliminating all of the fraudulent law suits filed every day by money-hungry lawyers who are completely destroying the medical system. As lawyers sue doctors, malpractice insurance premiums increase. The number of personal injury litigations has steadily increased at a rate of 12% since 1975.

Jury Verdict Research, a database of plaintiff and defense verdicts, says awards in medical liability cases increased 43 percent in 1999, from $700,000 to $1,000,000. Jury awards in medical malpractice claims jumped 43 percent in one year—from $700,000 in 1999 to $1 million in 2000. Juries are compensating plaintiffs more generously than in the past. From 1994 to 2000, Jury Verdict Research found that more than half of medical malpractice jury awards were for $500,000 or more.

Seeing the direct correlation between health care cost and the cost of medical malpractice insurance for doctors (driven up by law suits), the root of the problem is obvious. This must be attacked before anything else. If Senator Kennedy and Governor Schwarzenegger want to see real progress, their plans must be disregarded and tort abuse must be solved first. There are various other aspects to their plans that are also misinformed and misdirected, but I’ll save that for another time.

A part of the pornification of culture is the pornification of technology.

G4TV, a cable network owned by Comcast Corp., has been covering the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) from Las Vegas this week and kicks off prime time special coverage tonight at 9pm ET. Of course, hip new gadgets like the iPhone (which actually was debuted at Macworld 2007) aren’t enough to appeal to “the male 18-34 audience and their fascination with video games, the Internet, broadband, technology, comics and animation.”

What’s missing from that list of interest? Porn, of course. That’s where the Adult Entertainment Expo (AEE) comes in, serendipitously timed to match up with CES. G4TV is advertising dual coverage of both CES and AEE as “two days of gadgets and girls.”

But as one commenter in a G4 forum notes, “You know, there are female gamers/sci-fi fans too. Like, people who prefer to be thought of as more than pieces of sexy sex meat.”

She continues,

But, silly me, why should G4 care if women like games, right? So much easier to play to stereotypes and make commercials about how men need ‘balance’ (like tech and ‘sex’ (meaning, clearly, scantily clad skinny white women) equals ‘balance’). Yay for G4! Who cares about women!

Poo to your advertisements and your stupid anti-girl sex shows. I guess I’ll need to start looking elsewhere for my gaming and sci-fi needs.

You go, girl.

Of course, the ubiquity of pornography on the Internet is the stuff of legend (although often of the urban variety). While pornographic websites on the web are estimated to do over $2.5 billion in business annually and about one-quarter of web searches are porn related, a recent government study has found that 1% of Internet sites are porn-related (other estimates have put the range at 10% or higher).

Even so, 20 percent of men and 13 percent of women admit accessing porn at work. This has led some, such as PJ Doland (HT: Slashdot), to entertain the idea of a NSFW (“not safe for work”) HTML attribute or tag that could be added to questionable content. Doland writes:

This isn’t about censorship. It is about making us all less likely to accidentally click on a[n objectionable] link when our boss is standing behind us. It is also about making us feel more comfortable posting possibly objectionable content by giving visitors a means of easily filtering that content.

An idea like this has the potential to achieve through voluntary measures what the proponents of the .xxx domain extension had hoped to accomplish by segregating explicit material from the rest of the web by an obvious marker.

Some church groups opposed the idea of a .xxx domain because they thought it would lend credibility to Internet pornography, and ICANN temporarily shelved the idea (although it may be revived).

Christian philosopher Albert Borgmann has written that “underneath the surface of technological liberty and prosperity there is a sense of captivity and deprivation.”

Augustine described the relationship between desire and deprivation in his Confessions this way:

The truth is that disordered lust springs from a perverted will; when lust is pandered to, a habit is formed; when habit is not checked, it hardens into compulsion. These were like interlinking rings forming what I have described as a chain, and my harsh servitude used it to keep me under duress (8.5.10).

It would be hard to imagine something on the Internet that contributes as much to this binding of the will to sin than pornography, making the work of groups like the XXXChurch (who are covering the AEE in their own way) all the more pressing.

Blog author: dphelps
Wednesday, January 10, 2007
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“And I say, Go into all the world, preaching the absence of private property…”

Sorry, gang, I just can’t seem to get away from Hugo Chavez. I must be drawn to idiocy. As I posted yesterday, Hugo Chavez continues his zany antics, saying no one can stop Venezuela’s movement toward socialism.

Well, today it is reported that he has bolstered his Marxist position by appealing to the most famous socialist of all: Jesus!

You have probably noted the recent forays into what I call religio-politics by folks like Jim Wallis, Barack Obama, and Jimmy Carter, attempts to counter the (often equally opportunistic) religious Right by using religious rhetoric and quoting the Bible indiscriminately to support policy. I had no idea this fad had made its way to Venezuela.

In addition, you tell me if there is an unstated threat when, after ‘scolding’ the Church “for criticizing his decision not to renew the license of an opposition-aligned television station,” Chavez said:

the state respects the church. The church should respect the state. I wouldn’t like to return to the times of confrontation with Venezuelan bishops, but it’s not up to me. It’s up to the Venezuelan bishops.

“…and here are the blueprints for the villa that will be built over the Cathedral we’ll knock down…”

Translation: If there is a conflict between me and the Church, the Church must be wrong. If Chavez was the first to spew the sort of nonsense he does so often, he might be cutely incorrigible.

But this isn’t the first time faith has heard in the distance the report of socialist war drums. What then?

Blog author: postin
Wednesday, January 10, 2007
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The “new thing” in America’s prestigious Ivy League schools is “naked parties.” Supposedly, these parties have become landmark events “among liberal students being primed to become the nation’s elite.” The irony here us that the premise of these parties is designed to shed the arrogance often associated with the Ivy League schools.

This would not be a party that you would catch me at. Not only because of the obvious moral complications, but also because I would not choose to be surrounded with people who claim that “clothes are oppressive” and that “concealing those parts that have sexual connotations” is wrong. There is an obvious problem with the mentality of these students.

While participants proclaim that this form of socializing is far less obscene than typical fraternity house parties, the propaganda that is being pushed and the fundamentals of the events raise important moral questions.

Being a college student, I have been exposed to several elements of late teen behavior. There are lewd events that occur in the social lives of college and high school students, but the concept of a party at which all attendees are naked never crossed my mind until I read about it this morning. While supporters claim that these social gatherings “promote awareness and contribute to a new form of socialization,” I choose to propose a different view.

There are still young adults who have morals. I see these “naked parties” as contributing to the detriment of America’s youth and further diminishing the difference between what is accepted (or should be accepted) and what is taboo. God created our bodies to be appreciated by a significant other (preferably a spouse) and it was not meant to be flaunted to the masses. Even though the “rules” of the party state that no “looking” is permitted, I am sure that there are wandering eyes. Temptation is always there, and when in this type of environment, I would imagine it would be particularly overwhelming. The concept as a whole unsanitary and extremely morally degrading.

There are better ways for college students to socialize in different types of environments while participating in stimulating intellectual conversations. One does not need to go without clothes to have an enjoyable time. These “future elite” students must realize that the human body is to be appreciated as a temple of God, not just a “new way of socializing.”

Dr. Michel Casey – Clicking this link will open a new window with a video player.

Dr. Michael Casey was in Grand Rapids today to deliver the first address of the 2007 Acton Lecture Series, which was entitled The Religion of Politics. Dr. Casey is a Permanent Fellow at the John Paul II Institute, Melbourne, Australia, and Private Secretary to Cardinal George Pell, Roman Catholic Archbishop of Sydney. He is currently serving as a Visiting Fellow at the Ethics and Public Policy Center in Washington, D.C., and was also awarded the 2002 Novak Award by the Acton Institute for his contributions to thinking that concerns the relationship between religion and economic liberty.

In his address, Dr. Casey examines the marginalization of traditional religious believers in political debates in the west as well as the ascent of secularist thinking that, far from ending the influence of religion on society, has almost become a religious system in its own right.

You can listen to today’s lecture by clicking here (12 mb mp3 file).

[Update: Video of Dr. Casey's lecture is now available through the link above.]

On last week’s Huffington Post blog, Dr. Julianne Malveaux decries the practices of milk “charlatans,” who she claims, “combine the concern about pesticides and additives with their own desire to grab hold of the profits available to those who can distinguish the food they produce from ‘ordinary’ food.”

Malveaux argues that milk producers who identify their products as “hormone-free” are being dishonest and misrepresenting the truth. She says, “Animals produce hormones. Whether milk production is enhanced by rBST, a synthetic version of the bovine hormone cows naturally produced, or not, it is not ‘hormone free’.” Because the “organic” label meets certain Dept. of Agriculture requirements, for Malveaux it means something, while claims of “hormone-free” milk don’t.

The concern for Malveaux is that consumers are being exploited: “The difference comes when a consumer, concerned that her newborn is ingesting too many chemicals, decides to go with the ‘hormone free’ milk at an extra dollar a carton, and gets nothing different than if she’d chosen a carton that does not say ‘hormone free.’ The consumer’s fears are being exploited. She’s reading a label, but not seeing the fine print. Hormone free milk is presented as being ‘better’ or ‘safer’ than milk produced using rBST. But it isn’t!”

Here’s what the cap on a gallon of milk I bought yesterday says:

Is this misleading? I don’t think so. I don’t see claims of “hormone free” milk. The label simply says there aren’t any synthetic hormones added and even points out that “no significant difference” has been shown between the two kinds of milk.

Are consumers not responsible for educating themselves? Shouldn’t they take some more time before deciding to spend $1 more per gallon, and if they want to spend more for peace of mind, shouldn’t they be allowed that freedom?

Malveaux’s piece follows the work of a group called the National Organization for African Americans in Housing (NOAAH), a non-profit advocate for low-income citizens, which last December “called on the U.S. Food & Drug Administration to stop dairy processors from deceptively marketing ‘no rBST’ milk.”

Malveaux and the NOAAH want to protect people from themselves by expanding the role of a nanny government: “Low-income consumers, especially, wanting the best for their kids are pushed into spending money they can ill afford for a product that is exactly the same as a cheaper product. It’s time for the FDA to step in to require dairy processors to do the right thing.”

What exactly is the right thing? Should the FDA require labels like the one above? Or should they ban advertising that states a true fact: there are no hormones added to the cows that made this milk. As it stands, the relevance and importance of that fact is up for the individual consumer to decide. And that’s as it should be.