Posts tagged with: Social Issues

out-of-businessNo one is interested in vying for the worst human trafficking record, but Asia would certainly be in the running. Yet, today’s Business Insider claims that Asia is getting out of the human trafficking business; can that be true?

As usual, the truth is more nuanced than a headline allows. It may be that the traffickers and smugglers are getting craftier, but it is also true that global pressure has caused traffickers in Myanmar and Thailand to – at the very least – pause their “business as usual.” Myanmar, with its horrible track record on human rights towards the Rohingya (a Muslime ethnic minority), suffered greatly in the world press as it became known that thousands of trafficked people have been caught at sea, unable to come ashore and in miserable conditions. (more…)

090806-N-6220J-004President Obama remarked that he would like faith organizations and churches to speak to poverty solutions “in a more forceful fashion” at a Georgetown University summit in mid-May. The meeting included faith leaders from Catholic and evangelical denominations, and included political thinkers Robert Putnam of Harvard, and the American Enterprise Institute’s Arthur Brooks.

Putnam said the voice of the faithful in the U.S. is critical to alleviating poverty.

Without the voice of faith, it’s going to be very hard to push this to the top of the agenda,” said Putnam, co-author of “American Grace,” and “Our Kids,” a book about the widening gap between rich and poor children in America.

If religious observance includes an obligation to the poor, the religious can be a powerful force for positive action and social justice, said Putnam.

Rev. Robert Sirico, co-founder of the Acton Institute, commented on the summit’s call for more involvement by churches in meeting the needs of the poor. (more…)

Great and powerful Oz

Great and powerful Oz

According to Merriam-Webster, “cronyism” is ” the unfair practice by a powerful person (such as a politician) of giving jobs and other favors to friends.” For instance, former Detroit mayor, Kwame Kilpatrick, surrounded himself with friends and family members while in office, as he cheerfully plundered the city’s coffers, sharing the wealth with his entourage.

It’s easy to think that cronyism is like Oz: far, far away. Yes, there are tricky creatures there, but heavens, we here in Kansas won’t be affected by shiny streets and glowing horses.

Not true. The economy shapes the culture. What happens in Oz, if you will, is felt in Kansas. And not only felt in Kansas, but eventually begins to seep into the Kansas culture. Why shouldn’t I have an army of flying monkeys to protect my farm? Why shouldn’t I sidle up to the Wicked Witch and make sure she’s on my side? You never know. Michael A. Needham and Ryan T. Anderson state,

While cronyism is most recognizable when it generates economic windfalls for the favored few, conservatives would do well to explain that it also operates in other realms. Indeed, for decades, the Left has been seeking special advantages from government in its effort to reshape the character of American society. So, if you’re against the government arbitrarily picking winners and losers in the economy, you need to be against it doing the same in the culture. If Solyndra and the Export-Import Bank are a problem, so too is government funding for Planned Parenthood and government discrimination against Catholic Charities.

We call this sort of government special-interest-seeking “cultural cronyism.”


Ilunga Malea Shabani

Ilunga Malea Shabani

A refugee camp, by definition, is meant to be temporary. Yet, in many places in Africa, young people know nothing but life in a refugee camp. And they are wasting away – perhaps not physically, but mentally, emotionally and in terms of feeling useful.

In Tanzania, Ezad Essa explored some of these camp, talking to young people.

Ilunga Malea Shabani, 26, says he does not recall his journey to Tanzania well.

It was some time in 1997 when major fighting broke out in South Kivu province in the Democratic Republic of Congo.

His uncle and aunt grabbed him and fled across Lake Tanganyika into Tanzania.

That was 18 years ago.

He hasn’t heard about the fate of his parents since. The only world he knows is the Nyarugusu refugee camp where he has lived since he was an eight-year-old boy.

“I have never been out of the camp. I have seen things on my phone, like pictures from Cape Town,” he says with a grin …


poorbox1For those in poverty, or those simply facing tough times, churches are often places they turn to for help. It may be organized aid: soup kitchens and food pantries. It may be a gas card given to a single mom who is struggling to get from one pay day to another. But if that help comes with merely a handout, and no spiritual support, is the church failing the poor?

Ross Douthat says so. In his May 16 column for The New York Times, Douthat first takes to task the “progressive” claim that churches are too focused on hot-button issues like same-sex marriage and abortion, and not enough on really helping people.

Over the last 30 years,” Harvard’s Robert Putnam told The Washington Post, “most organized religion has focused on issues regarding sexual morality, such as abortion, gay marriage, all of those. I’m not saying if that’s good or bad, but that’s what they’ve been using all their resources for … It’s been entirely focused on issues of homosexuality and contraception and not at all focused on issues of poverty.”

President Obama’s version, delivered when he shared a stage with Putnam at Georgetown University, was nuanced but similar in thrust: “Despite great caring and concern,” the president remarked, when churches pick “the defining issue” that’s “really going to capture the essence of who we are as Christians,” fighting poverty is often seen as merely “nice to have” compared to “an issue like abortion.”

It would be too kind to call these comments wrong; they were ridiculous.


weeping statueIf one decides to destroy the American Dream, there are a few steps that would be necessary.

  1. Put Big Government in charge. The average American can’t figure out his or her own dreams, let alone what it would take to make them a reality.
  2. Tell Americans that without the government, the American Dream is hopeless.
  3. Produce a lengthy document about the American Dream. Leave out the word “freedom,” let alone the idea of freedom.
  4. Let people know that “freedom” (without actually using the word) is quite harmful. Don’t worry, thought, Big Government will protect you.


cambodiaThere are few things more horrifying than the sexual exploitation of a child. Perhaps it is made even worse to think that those who are meant to protect the child (parents, police, court officials) are complicit in the harm of that child. No place on Earth was worse than Cambodia.

But that has changed. According to International Justice Mission (IJM), Cambodian officials have said, “No more,” and they meant it.

In the early 2000s, the Cambodian government estimated that 30 percent of those in the country’s sex industry were children. But news coverage of Western men negotiating the purchase of first- and second-grade girls in Svay Pak embarrassed Cambodia and revolted its principal international donor, the United States. When then-U.S. Ambassador Charles Ray warned the interior minister that Cambodia would lose U.S. aid if it didn’t clean up its act, the government responded with alacrity. It sacked corrupt officers from the anti-trafficking police unit and installed new leadership. A strong anti-trafficking law was adopted, and hundreds of pimps, brothel owners and foreign pedophiles were arrested, charged, convicted and jailed.


Blog author: jballor
Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Madeleine lengle.jpg

This week the University Bookman published an essay in which I reflect on some of the lessons we can learn from Madeleine L’Engle’s A Wrinkle in Time, especially related to the recent discovery of an excised section. L’Engle, I argue, is part of a longer tradition of classical conservative thought running, in the modern era, from Burke to Kirk.

Although L’Engle’s narrative vision is drenched in Christianity, she is often thought of holding to a rather liberal, rather than traditional or conservative, form of the faith. However, in an intriguing essay published as part of an edited collection by Regnery in 1986, L’Engle describes what the proper role of the church, particularly of her Episcopal church, ought to be with respect to social realities.

I discovered this piece while doing some research for my own small book on the economic teachings of the ecumenical movement. In “What May I Expect from My Church?” the question she raises with respect to the “Anglican establishment” was precisely the one that interested me with respect to the ecumenical movement: “Where and how do I want my establishment to inject itself into secular controversies?”

MOTHERS-DAY11. In 1914, President Woodrow Wilson issued a presidential proclamation that officially established the first national Mother’s Day holiday to celebrate America’s mothers. Many individual states celebrated Mother’s Day before then, but it was not until Wilson lobbied Congress in 1914 that Mother’s Day was officially set on the second Sunday of every May.

2. President Wilson established Mother’s Day after years of lobbying by the mother of the holiday, Anna Marie Jarvis and the World’s Sunday School Association. Anna Jarvis’ mother, Ann Jarvis, had attempted to establish a version of Mother’s Day during the Civil War as a time for remembrance. By the 1920s, though, Anna Jarvis became disgusted by the commercialization of the holiday. She incorporated herself as the Mother’s Day International Association, trademarked the phrases “second Sunday in May” and “Mother’s Day”, and was once arrested for disturbing the peace at a Mother’s Day carnation sale. According to her New York Times obituary, Jarvis became embittered because too many people sent their mothers a printed greeting card. As she said, “A printed card means nothing except that you are too lazy to write to the woman who has done more for you than anyone in the world. And candy! You take a box to Mother—and then eat most of it yourself. A pretty sentiment.”

3. Mother’s Day was the most important Sunday on the organized crime calendar. According to Joe Pistone, an FBI undercover agent, the mafia often closed for business when Mother’s Day arrived each May.

Blog author: jcarter
Wednesday, May 6, 2015

acton-commentary-blogimage“Three recent events have made me reflect on a certain theme that should be of interest to religious-minded advocates of the free society,” says Kishore Jayabalan in this week’s Acton Commentary.

The three events were: 1) an interview I gave to an Italian online publication in response to a French professor who claims that capitalism is the root cause of gender theory and other cultural and social revolutions associated with liberalism; 2) a talk given by a German professor on “liberalism as an attitude” at the European Students for Liberty conference in Berlin last month; and 3) the controversy caused by the upcoming papal encyclical on human ecology.

Now, I realize that the term “liberal” can mean many things, but let’s assume that it describes those who, when considering political, social and economic questions, give greater priority to individual freedom than to other goods such as equality, tradition or order. Liberty need not be the only consideration, but it tends to be the dominant one. There are right-wing, moderate and left-wing liberals who disagree on different issues and may prefer another good in a particular instance but none of them question the good of liberty as such.

The full text of the essay can be found here. Subscribe to the free, weekly Acton News & Commentary and other publications here.