Archived Posts November 2007 » Page 5 of 5 | Acton PowerBlog

Blog author: jcouretas
posted by on Wednesday, November 7, 2007

In the Washington Post, Anne Applebaum takes a look at Hugo Chavez, president of Venezuela, and his worshipful celebrity fans in the United States. Here’s the key paragraph from her column, The New Fellow Travelers:

In fact, for the malcontents of Hollywood, academia and the catwalks, Chávez is an ideal ally. Just as the sympathetic foreigners whom Lenin called “useful idiots” once supported Russia abroad, their modern equivalents provide the Venezuelan president with legitimacy, attention and good photographs. He, in turn, helps them overcome the frustration (John) Reed once felt — the frustration of living in an annoyingly unrevolutionary country where people have to change things by law. For all of his brilliance, Reed could not bring socialism to America. For all of his wealth, fame, media access and Hollywood power, (Sean) Penn cannot oust George W. Bush. But by showing up in the company of Chávez, he can at least get a lot more attention for his opinions.

Blog author: rnothstine
posted by on Tuesday, November 6, 2007
U.S.M.C. War Memorial

Last summer I visited the National Museum of the Marine Corps in Quantico, Virginia. It is an impressive and moving tribute to the U.S. Marines, focusing especially on WWII to the present War on Terror. There was an even a section which chronicled the transformation of young recruits to Marines who embody the virtues of “honor, courage, and commitment.” David Zucchino of the Los Angeles Times has written a piece titled, “From Boys to Marines.” The article is one in a series of articles about three teenagers and their wartime enlistment in the Marines.

In a culture which glorifies the adolescent, with media spots and television shows depicting men as simpletons and children, the Marines call attention to an entirely different value. In many cases, the War on Terror has been described as a war that is led by squad and platoon leaders. On the battlefield, Marines in their late teens and early twenties have to make life and death decisions, immediately affecting the future of the men and women around them.

The rigors of Marine boot camp, and The Crucible certainly transform the courage and character of an individual. My brother who is a Marine combat veteran of Iraq, emphasized the maturity and sacrifice of combat veterans with an analogy. In a recent conversation he said, “Somebody at work came up to me and said, son, you don’t know nothing about hard times.” Sometimes in the South, “son” can be used to talk down to somebody. My brother, who works in a lumberyard, responded to this customer’s remark with a miniature harangue.

One of the things I noticed about all Marines, is they all know the history of their fighting force. Marines easily rattle off names like Chesty Puller, Smedley Butler, Pappy Boyington, and Archibald Henderson. To many people the names ring hollow, but to Marines they are the very definition of icons. They are good heroes to emulate, especially when contrasted with many figures who are lifted up in today’s culture.

The new Marines chronicled in the Los Angeles Times article were described by their drill instructor, Staff Sgt. Nicholas Hibbs, who said, “I could tell right off they were good citizens, good people, good guys with good strong families, strong work ethics. Honor, courage, commitment – they already had it. It just has a new meaning to them now.”

Sunday is Veterans Day, a national holiday which honors the military veterans in our nation. My father was an officer and pilot in the U.S. Air Force. At his retirement ceremony at Keesler Air Force Base in Mississippi, he paid tribute to the men of the Eighth Air Force, who won the air war over Europe in World War II. The Mighty Eighth suffered horrific casualties, and played a critical part in liberating the continent from fascism. It was a not so subtle reminder to remember those who have sacrificed so much, and also a subtle reminder that it’s very classy to put the focus on others on your own day of tribute.

When I worked for U.S. Congressman Gene Taylor in Mississippi, one of the rewards of the job was helping veterans with military casework. I was also able to meet many of the Marine veterans from battles such as Iwo Jima, Tarawa, Okinawa, the “frozen” Chosin Reservoir, and Khe Sahn. They are the men who helped spread the light and flame of freedom across the world. Today, this elite class of warriors remain dedicated to the courage and principles that made our country free. All the Marines I know are familiar with Ronald Reagan’s words, “Some people spend an entire lifetime wondering if they made a difference in the world. But, the Marines don’t have that problem.”

A new blog has been added to our blogroll sidebar (along with a much-needed round of housecleaning on old and out-of-date links). Announcement below:

The Social Science Research Council is pleased to announce the launch of The Immanent Frame, a new SSRC blog on secularism, religion, and the public sphere.

The blog is opening with a series of posts on Charles Taylor’s A Secular Age, including recent contributions from Robert Bellah, Wendy Brown, Jose Casanova, Elizabeth Shakman Hurd, and Colin Jager. Robert Bellah has called A Secular Age “one of the most important books to be written in my lifetime,” and there will be more to come on Taylor’s major work in the weeks ahead, with posts by Rajeev Bhargava, Akeel Bilgrami, Hent de Vries, Amy Hollywood, Tomoko Masuzawa, Joan Scott, and others. Meanwhile, Charles Taylor himself has just made his own contribution to the already ongoing conversations.

But The Immanent Frame won’t be limited to discussions of A Secular Age. Later this fall we’ll also host a series of posts responding to Mark Lilla’s The Stillborn God: Religion, Politics, and the Modern West. And there will be posts on a variety of other topics too-from pluralism and the “post-secular” to international relations theory, religious freedom, and the future of shari’a.

This new SSRC blog will draw on, and is closely linked to, the Council’s expanding work on religion and the public sphere. We invite readers to email us with comments or questions at religion@ssrc.org.

The New York Times reports of a well-intentioned protest by a pastor to protest the ridiculous and dehumanizing lyrics of the type of hip hop shown on networks like BET and MTV.

Wearing white T-shirts with red stop signs and chanting “BET does not reflect me, MTV does not reflect me,” protesters have been gathering every Saturday outside the homes of Viacom executives in Washington and New York City. The orderly, mostly black crowds are protesting music videos that they say degrade women, and black and Latino men.

Among other things the protesters want media companies like Viacom to develop “universal creative standards” for video and music, including prohibitions on some language and images. Video vixens and foul-mouthed pimps and thugs are now so widespread, the protesters maintain, that they infect perceptions of ordinary nonwhite people.

“A lot of rap isn’t rap anymore, it’s just people selling their souls,” Marc Newman, a 28-year-old car salesman from New Rochelle, N.Y., said on Saturday. He was among about 20 men, women and children from area Baptist churches marching outside the Upper East Side residence of Philippe Dauman, the president and chief executive of Viacom Inc.

This is well intended but I doubt it will help much. Perhaps the Pastor should focus more on preaching about Jesus to fans of hip hop music as opposed to attacking the media corporations. Here’s why:

(1) As long as consumers want music that degrade women and celebrate stupidity someone is going to produce it and distribute it. No one forced to buy stupid music.

(2) The best way to protest is with your wallet. If people didn’t buy this music, or attend the concerts of the artists who produce the music, this type of hip hop would die.

(3) Viacom does not force artists to rap lyrics that degrade themselves and women. They freely choose to rap about those things on their own volition.

(4) If the public wants Viacom to act virtuously consumers are going to have change their preferences, artists are going to have to refuse to rap about ignorance, and, then, Viacom executives are left to make the risky decision to opt out of distributing filth. If Viacom could make money off of virtue it would.

Viacom does NOT need to create universal standards for content. Maybe morally debased consumers need to embrace virtuous preferences. If the culture is not morally formed citizens will not make moral decisions. Why isn’t this group protesting the malformed desires of hip hop’s consumers and artists as well?

In what might be the dumbest attempt yet by any large corporation to appear “green,” NBC decided to turn off the lights on their Sunday Night Football broadcast’s studio set last night. This was apparently an effort to offset the carbon footprint of Matt Lauer in Greenland, which – judging by the size of the huge area lit by the lights they hauled up there – must have been pretty huge.

It’s just too bad that NBC didn’t team up with the NFL to turn off the lights at Lincoln Financial Field in Philadelphia and let the Eagles take on the Cowboys under the cover of darkness. I’m inclined to believe that if you’re going to deliberately make your broadcast lousy to make a political point, you might as well go big or stay home. Darkening a studio? Small gesture. Darkening an entire stadium filled with some of the, uh, rowdiest fans in the NFL? Huge statement. And frankly, just imagine the entertainment value of Tony Romo desperately trying to find Terrell Owens in a darkened endzone – it calls to mind the image of a young Luke Skywalker learning to use the force while wearing a blast helmet.

Stretch out with your feelings, Tony…

Regardless, video of a badly-candlelit Bob Costas and icebound Matt Lauer follows:

Via Hot Air.

Blog author: jballor
posted by on Monday, November 5, 2007

I’ll be leaving on Wednesday and returning on Saturday to attend GodblogCon 2007 in Las Vegas, held in conjunction with the Blog World & New Media Expo. The Acton Institute is a sponsor of this year’s GodblogCon.

I’ll be representing the PowerBlog at the conference, and if you are a reader of this blog and will also be attending, drop me a note in the comment box on this post. I’ll also be scouting talent for next year’s Acton University, which fills up quickly, so if you’re a blogger and are interested in coming to Grand Rapids to learn more about theology and economics, talk to me.

And in other news from around the blogosphere, check out the 2007 Weblog Awards, including entries in this year’s revived “Best Religious Blog” category.

Blog author: mvandermaas
posted by on Thursday, November 1, 2007

Heads up: Acton Research Fellow Anthony Bradley will be making an appearance today on NPR’s News and Notes program. Braodcast times may vary, so check your local NPR affiliate’s schedule to see if you can catch the show. If you miss it, you can check the show archives right here.

Update: Here’s the audio (3 mb mp3 file).

Update II: Rome office director Kishore Jayabalan commented on the S-CHIP issue for Vatican Radio today; listen by clicking here (230 kb mp3 file).

Washington Post columnist Robert J. Samuelson discusses a new book on economic history that looks at the poverty problem from the perspective of “nature vs. nurture.”

Comes now Gregory Clark, an economist who interestingly takes the side of culture. In an important new book, ” A Farewell to Alms: A Brief Economic History of the World,” Clark suggests that much of the world’s remaining poverty is semi-permanent. Modern technology and management are widely available, but many societies can’t take advantage because their values and social organization are antagonistic. Prescribing economically sensible policies (open markets, secure property rights, sound money) can’t overcome this bedrock resistance.

“There is no simple economic medicine that will guarantee growth, and even complicated economic surgery offers no clear prospect of relief for societies afflicted with poverty,” he writes. Various forms of foreign assistance “may disappear into the pockets of Western consultants and the corrupt rulers of these societies.” Because some societies encourage growth and some don’t, the gap between the richest nations and the poorest is actually greater today (50 to 1) than in 1800 (4 to 1), Clark estimates.

Samuelson notes that “Clark’s theory is controversial and, at best, needs to be qualified.” In his column, The Global Poverty Trap, Samuelson summarizes Clark’s view: “Capitalism in its many variants has been shown, he notes, to be a prodigious generator of wealth. But it will not spring forth magically from a few big industrial projects or cookie-cutter policies imposed by outside experts. It’s culture that nourishes productive policies and behavior.”