Blog author: jcarter
Wednesday, January 20, 2016
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The Family and the Force
Jordan J. Ballor, Public Discourse

The destruction of the Jedi order was due, in large part, to their persistent blindness to the deep, essential, and ineradicable power of familial love. The Skywalkers can bring balance to the Force because they unite it with love learned through family.

Key aide insists Pope Francis isn’t anti-business
Inés San Martín, Crux

In some quarters, there’s a perception that under history’s first pope from the global south, the Catholic Church has become increasingly hostile to capitalism in favor of more socialist-style economic arrangements.

It’s official. The US debt situation is now as good as it’s going to get
James Pethokoukis, AEI Ideas

This may be as good as it gets regarding the US debt situation.

Women On The Front Lines Explain How We Can Better Fight Human Trafficking
Cherylyn LeBon, Opportunity Lives

January marks National Human Trafficking Awareness Month. Some estimate that human trafficking is the fastest growing and third largest organized criminal activity in the world, just behind the drug and arms trades.

humanneedsindexMajority of U.S. public school students are in poverty

That was the headline of a Washington Post article published almost exactly a year ago. The main point of the article was that, “For the first time in at least 50 years, a majority of U.S. public school students come from low-income families, according to a new analysis of 2013 federal data, a statistic that has profound implications for the nation.”

The claim is overblown and misleading (for reasons I explain here) but it’s in keeping with the most popular metric for measuring poverty in America: income. The problem with using income, as The Salvation Army explains, is that, “At best, income statistics provide only a hazy picture of the actual conditions facing the hungry, the homeless, the unemployed, and the underemployed.”

In collaboration with the Indiana University Lilly Family School of Philanthropy, the The Salvation Army developed the Human Needs Index (HNI) a “new, multidimensional way to measure poverty and its effects.” As they note in their new report,
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The progressive shareholder activists over at the Interfaith Center on Corporate Responsibility have made it one of their core missions to move companies in which they invest away from fossil fuels – and bankrupting them if necessary. To achieve this goal, according to their website,

ICCR members seek to move companies along a “hierarchy of impact” that will gradually reduce their reliance on fossil fuels and advance their progress towards greater sustainability. Understanding its importance in driving the energy transition, ICCR members actively support climate legislation and regulation from the global to local level and seek greater disclosure around companies’ lobbying and political activites [sic] to ensure that they are consistent with stated policies on environmental issues. In addition, ICCR members are working to help educate the investment community as well as the corporations we work with about opportunities in climate financing that will help to build the coming green economy.

Readers will note that ICCR members seek legal and political enforcement to curtail or eliminate completely the use of fossil fuels, including circumventing First Amendment rights reinforced by the Supreme Court’s Citizens United ruling. Additionally, they have a powerful ally in the White House who warned us all in 2008 his proposed energy policy would bankrupt the coal industry when he stated as a candidate for his first term: “So if somebody wants to build a coal-powered plant, they can. It’s just that it will bankrupt them because they’re going to be charged a huge sum for all that greenhouse gas that’s being emitted.”

That warning has come to pass. According to an editorial titled “The Carnage in Coal Country” from the Wall Street Journal early last week: (more…)

 Pope Francis receives Christine Lagarde, managing director of the International Monetary Fund, in Vatican City on Monday, in a handout photo provided by Vatican newspaper L’Osservatore Romano. Photo: Vatican press office/European Pressphoto Agency

Pope Francis receives Christine Lagarde, managing director of the IMF, in Vatican City on Monday. Photo: Vatican press office/European Pressphoto Agency

Corporate leaders are working to find common ground with the Roman Catholic Church when it comes to ethics and global business. A recent conference in Rome brought together the Pope, Vatican leaders, and global business executives. The purpose was to improve the relations between the two groups after some of Pope Francis’ negative comments on finance and capitalism.

Francis X. Rocca recently wrote about the meeting for the Wall Street Journal:

At the two-day meeting organized by the Global Foundation, an Australian nonprofit that promotes dialogue among the business community, government and other civil society institutions, participants discussed issues such as how to foster broader job opportunities for young people and women and how to eradicate modern slavery.

The conference was headlined by Cardinal George Pell, the Vatican’s finance chief. Cardinal Pell is one of the few Vatican officials espousing pro-business sympathies that stand in contrast to those of Pope Francis, who has derided money as the “dung of the devil” and frequently excoriated the free-market system.

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Blog author: jcarter
Tuesday, January 19, 2016
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Sorry, the Bible doesn’t promise to make America great again
Russell Moore, Washington Post

Sometime around the Fourth of July or Memorial Day, you might see a sign advertising a “God and country” rally or prayer breakfast. I can almost guarantee that, if you attend, you will hear, at least once, 2 Chronicles 7:14.

A “Poverty Preference” in College Admissions?
The American Interest

The Jack Kent Cooke Foundation, a philanthropic organization that awards scholarships to low-income, high-achieving high school students, is earning some well-deserved media attention for its comprehensive report on how and why colleges should attract more kids from disadvantaged backgrounds.

Net Neutrality’s Religious Freedom Problem
Arielle Roth, CapX

A successful RFRA challenge on the part of Jnet or TVO would have civil rights implications beyond the immediate context.

The War on Poverty Has Failed. Here’s How Conservatives Can Fix It
Opportunity Lives

Fifty years ago in 1964, Democratic President Lyndon Johnson declared that the federal government would wage on poverty. Since then taxpayers have shelled out over $22 trillion for federal poverty programs, yet the poverty rate has barely moved from 19% in 1965 to 14.8% in 2014, meaning there are 46 million impoverished Americans.

unbalanced“The 62 richest billionaires own as much wealth as the poorest 50 percent of the world’s population.”

You’ve probably seen this statistic—or one like it—before in articles about economic inequality and assumed they must be somewhat revealing.

But they aren’t. In reality, such statistics are completely meaningless.

The development organization Oxfam trots out this statistic almost every year, and every year gullible journalists fall for it. What many people—including journalists and your friends on social media—don’t realize is that by Oxfam’s metric they are in the top 10 percent of the wealthiest people on the globe. All it takes is cash and/or assets worth $68,800 to get into the top 10 percent and $760,000 to be in the 1 percent.

The problems with using this type of metric is that the comparisons are based on net worth (assets minus liabilities). Everyone who owns even a modest home and car and is not in debt would be in the top 10 percent. But it doesn’t really even take that much money to be in the top 50 percent.
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A segment on yesterday’s CBS weekend news and entertainment program Sunday Morning informatively dealt with the controversy surrounding the use of genetically modified organisms. It’ll likely be the best 11 minutes of broadcast science journalism readers will view all week. The segment contrasts the relatively weak arguments presented by the anti-GMO crowd with the real-world benefits of GMOs for everyone, but especially those struggling from hunger in drought- or flood-ravaged areas and impoverished countries.

Two dots not connected in the otherwise outstanding piece are the misperceptions spread by the anti-GMO crowd and the negative impact that would have on companies forced to label their food products derived from GMOs. While CBS correspondent Barry Petersen reports an estimated 80 percent of food sold at U.S. supermarkets contain GMOs, he also notes 57 percent of Americans are skeptical about the safety of GMOs. Labeling safe food as containing GMOs may scare off consumers who can’t afford the higher-priced GMO alternatives.

Here’s hoping the anti-GMO shareholder activists at the Interfaith Center on Corporate Responsibility and As You Sow view Petersen’s excellent report. These activists are performing more actual harm than perceived good in their crusade against feeding the world.