Archived Posts April 2007 | Acton PowerBlog

Blog author: jballor
posted by on Monday, April 30, 2007

Via Slashdot, news comes today that Google’s next shareholders meeting will feature a vote on a shareholder resolution to protect free speech and combat censorship by intrusive governments.

According to the proxy statement, Proposal Number 5 would require the recognition of “minimum standards,” including, that “the company will use all legal means to resist demands for censorship. The company will only comply with such demands if required to do so through legally binding procedures,” and that “the company will not engage in pro-active censorship.”

Part of the basis cited for the proposal is the United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which declares that the “advent of a world in which human beings shall enjoy freedom of speech and belief and freedom from fear and want has been proclaimed as the highest aspiration of the common people.”

One of the specific provisions of the declaration related to freedom of speech is Article 19: “Everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression; this right includes freedom to hold opinions without interference and to seek, receive and impart information and ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers.”

It’s pretty clear that China’s censorship practices, which include a so-called “great firewall,” violate this provision.

I’m curious to see how this resolution fares and how the directors, especially considering that Google co-founder Sergey Brin has said that the company’s cooperation with China “a net negative.” External considerations might also be at play, given the potential for legislation like the Global Online Freedom Act of 2007 to regulate the activities of companies like Google.

This week in the PowerBlog’s Global Warming Consensus Watch: A final pass at the Sheryl Crow/Toilet Paper controversy, just to ensure that the issue is wiped clean; The fight against climate change goes to 11; Global warming causes everything, and we’ve got professional athletes to prove it; and finally, what – if anything – are those carbon offsets offsetting? (more…)

Blog author: mvandermaas
posted by on Thursday, April 26, 2007

Whoever wrote this deserves an award for managing to keep all of the various threads together. It’s almost a perfect storm of public policy ineptitude:

Just in case you lost track of the bouncing ball, here it is: Virginia has finally put the crisis-ignoring haters of truth in their place by passing a roads package to encourage the use of cars that are destroying the planet, so people can reach their sprawling subdivisions that Virginia is trying to keep in check with tax-subsidized conservation easements that will grow less popular as corn grows more expensive thanks to ethanol mandates from a federal government that is also mandating a cleanup of the Chesapeake Bay whose pollution will be made worse by corn farming.

I’m almost positive that there’s a really powerful moral to this story having to do with good governmental intentions going awry or something, but I’m laughing too hard to tease it out and I really need to get to bed, so go ahead and figure it out for yourselves.

HT: Planet Gore

Blog author: abradley
posted by on Thursday, April 26, 2007

Tim Townsend, of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, reports:

ST. LOUIS — Rock singer Sheryl Crow was coming home to Missouri this weekend to sing her polished, roots-rock songs at the Fox Theater to help raise money for children with cancer.

But St. Louis Archbishop Raymond Burke was not interested in Crow’s altruism. He was interested in her activism — specifically her support for embryonic stem cell research, which the Roman Catholic church believes is akin to abortion. On Wednesday, Burke said Crow “promotes moral evils.”

Burke felt so strongly that Crow’s performance supporting the Bob Costas Cancer Center at Cardinal Glennon Children’s Medical Center would be wrong that he resigned from the hospital foundation’s board earlier this week. He believes Catholics — even those who have already bought tickets to the show — should think hard before attending.

For the archbishop, the matter was simple. He had a moral responsibility to avoid the appearance of entangling church teaching and the views of a public figure who supports abortion rights. Burke said he could not allow someone who “publicly espouses the mass destruction of innocent human beings” to raise money for a Catholic hospital.

What if, for instance, there were someone appearing who we discovered was openly racist and who made statements and took actions to promote racism?” he said at his first news conference in years. “Do you think that I would let that go on?”

Read the full story here.

Blog author: jballor
posted by on Thursday, April 26, 2007

Biotech giant Monsanto has added its considerable influence to the push to restrict or ban labeling of dairy products as free from added rBST, a hormone commonly used to induce cows to produce more milk.

Christopher Wanjek, a columnist at LiveScience.com, reports that Monsanto thinks that such advertising practice “scares consumers into thinking there’s something unhealthy about its human-made recombinant bovine growth hormone.”

As I related earlier this year, Julianne Malveaux headlined a similar campaign against such labeling. The claim is that the labeling is deceiving people into buying something more expensive that doesn’t have any added safety. From the perspective of Malveaux and Monsanto, companies that use “no rBST” labeling are profiting from fear-mongering. (Fellow HuffPost blogger and progressive Kerry Trueman lambasts Monsanto here. No surprise that Trueman picks on a “multinational biotech behemoth” like Monsanto rather than Julianne Malveaux and the National Organization for African Americans in Housing.)

But as Wanjek’s (and Trueman’s) piece points out, the potential harm to humans caused by added rBST hormones isn’t the only relevant factor: “For animal welfare reasons alone, consumers have the right to know how their milk is produced.”

The ultimate in natural milk is of course untreated, unpasteurized, straight-from-the-udder, “raw” milk. The FDA and various local and regional governments have been cracking down on the sale of raw milk, arguing that the threats to consumer safety necessitate such harsh action.

Perhaps the most famous case recently came to media attention last year when an Amish farmer got into trouble over violations of a milk ordinance. Arlie Stutzman was busted in a raw milk sting operation, but claimed that his religious beliefs required him to share the milk he produces with others.

“While I can and I have food, I’ll share it,” said Stutzman. But a spokeswoman from the Ohio Department of Agriculture said, “You can’t just give milk away to someone other than yourself. It’s a violation of the law.”

That seems like a classic case of the government overstepping its boundaries and insinuating itself into a relationship characterized by free exchange and association. From Stutzman’s perspective, he’s simply fulfilling his divinely ordained responsibility to be a productive and obedient servant of God, helping others by the fruit of his labor.

Maybe Stutzman should have to disclose in some fashion, perhaps via a sign or a label, that his milk is raw, just in case some unsuspecting and rather silly city slicker should unwittingly buy milk from him thinking that it is treated.

But that’s precisely the sort of disclosure about the source and production of the milk that Malveaux and Monsanto want to prevent companies like Land O’Lakes and Stonyfield Farm from making. To be fair, Stonyfield isn’t in an any more admirable position, since it (contra Monsanto) wants the FDA “to immediately withdraw approval of rBST.”

The FDA shouldn’t be siding with major milk producers to squash competition from Amish farmers. And neither should it be taking sides in corporate marketing disputes about the merits of using or not using rBST. Let the customers have the information and decide for themselves.

Anthony Bradley looks at America’s children of privilege and the influences that have put so many of them into crisis. “There is mounting evidence that we are faced with a new reality in America: educated, middle-class kids represent a new ‘at risk’ group, as both perpetrators and victims of peer-related violence,” Bradley writes.

Read the rest of Bradley’s commentary here.

Blog author: jspalink
posted by on Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Despite strong overall growth, a number of internal problems, including excessive regulation, continue to limit wealth creation throughout Latin America, reports Samuel Gregg. The regulations Dr. Gregg examines include those on starting a business and on banking.

Dr. Gregg explains that while it takes as few as 5 days to file the appropriate paper work to start a business in the United States, it takes an average of 152 days in Brazil. Dr. Gregg states that there are fewer loopholes to starting a business in Iran, than in most of Latin America.

Dr. Gregg also examines, in detail, some of the legacy economic laws that exist in much of Latin America, which regulate banking. These laws, intended to protect people from unjust interest rates, often hurt the people best in the position to increase the economic prosperity of Latin America – namely first-time entrepreneurs who are will to take risks to gain the capital needed into order to create wealth. Dr. Gregg argues that removing some of the regulations mandating interest-rate ceilings would benefit Latin American much more than it helps to protect it.

Read Dr. Gregg’s commentary here.

Blog author: kschmiesing
posted by on Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Jerry Bowyer at NRO highlights a remarkable statistic with this “BuzzChart”: The unemployment rate among black Americans has fallen 2.7 percentage points since April 2003 (the data come from the National Urban League’s annual “State of Black America” report).

Bowyer chalks it up to Bush’s tax cuts. I’ve no doubt the tax cuts have had a positive impact on the national economy, but I’m not sure that the drop can be simply tied to that cause. Overall unemployment, for example, has declined less steeply, and wouldn’t the effects of the tax cut be more or less uniform across race? I wonder whether anyone has analyzed this phenomenon more closely. In any case, it’s a development to applaud.

Blog author: jballor
posted by on Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Today is Malaria Awareness Day. Today’s edition of Zondervan>To the Point has a plethora of related links (look under “Extra Points”).

Be sure to also check out Acton’s award-winning ad campaign, which focuses in part on impacting malaria.

Blog author: jspalink
posted by on Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Grand Rapids seems to be establishing a precedent for private corporations and individuals stepping up to the plate in the face of budget cuts and financial difficulty. The most recent example is the announcement that all six city pools will be open this summer, rather than just three. That means that the Director of Parks and Recreation is now looking to fill 160 new jobs (including lifeguards and water safety instructors) to man the parks. Why, when Michigan is facing a severe budget crisis, are we opening all the swimming pools in the city? Because Roosevelt Tillman, a local business man, remembered the days when he used to spend all day at the pool during the summer wanted today’s children to experience the same thing.

This is not the first time that the local population has stepped in to save the day in the midst of a budget crisis. This winter La Salle Bank and Centennial Wireless in cooperation with the Grand Rapids Griffins Youth Foundation provided the necessary funds to keep the Rosa Park Skating Rink open to the public.

There are several advantages to both individuals and corporations that fund these parks. A person invests in something because they think its worth it – there is good chance of a positive return. A company may invest in order to increase awareness and costumer loyalty. There’s a good chance that I’ll be more likely to bank with LaSalle or get a cell phone plan with Centennial because I drive by people skating in the rink every evening on my way home from work.

A big thank you to the people and corporations who invest in Grand Rapids. Your contributions to this community will not be forgotten.

[UPDATE] Here is the story about the pools from the Grand Rapids Press.