Blog author: bwalker
Wednesday, September 30, 2015

The Energy Election
Joel Kotkin, Real Clear Politics

Blessed by Pope Francis, the drive to wipe out fossil fuels, notes activist Bill McKibben, now has “the wind in its sails.” Setting aside the bizarre alliance of the Roman Catholic Church with secularists such as McKibben, who favor severe limits of family size as an environmental imperative, this is a potentially transformational moment.

Vatican newspaper: analysis of recent Muslim statement on climate change
Catholic World News

Father Damian Howard, an English Jesuit, compares the declaration with Pope Francis’s encyclical Laudato Si’ and writes that the declaration’s statement that “our planet has existed for billions of years” is noteworthy because this view is not universally accepted among Muslims.

On Climate Change, Listen to Pope Francis, Not Jeb Bush
John Nichols, The Nation

Before he chose to pursue the priesthood, the future pope trained as a chemical technician. Writers for the National Catholic Reporter reference “his training as a scientist” and point out that the young Jorge Mario Bergoglio “worked as a chemist prior to entering the seminary.”


942772451cd966834f98da1416356590.1000x744x1Attacks on liberty seem to be the new normal, especially direct assault on freedom of speech and religious liberty. The news is filled with stories about Europeans and Americans being accused of “hate speech,” universities creating absurd speech codes, and faithful Christians being told to violate their beliefs or face jail time or fines.

The spiked Project “free speech NOW” will tackle these issues next month in our nation’s capital during the event, “The First Amendment in the 21st Century: Reinvigorating old rights for new times:”

spiked is not prepared to take the assault on our freedoms lying down. So, on Thursday October 15, in Washington, DC, we are holding a special, half-day conference on liberty, consisting of three lively and provocative discussions. In partnership with the Alliance Defending Freedom and supported by the Acton Institute, each session will explore the troubles afflicting core First Amendment freedoms – speech, press and religion.


Thus far your writer’s reportage on matters related to so-called “religious” shareholder activism has focused mainly on the Interfaith Center on Corporate Responsibility and As You Sow. It is called Interfaith and that should tell you that this project isn’t restricted to Protestants and Catholics. Certain other members from another Great Faith unfortunately fall into the same category.

The Nathan Cummings Foundation, another ICCR member, describes its faith-based mission thus:

The Nathan Cummings Foundation is rooted in the Jewish tradition and committed to democratic values and social justice, including fairness, diversity, and community. We seek to build a socially and economically just society that values nature and protects the ecological balance for future generations; promotes humane health care; and fosters arts and culture that enriches communities.

Laura Shaffer Campos, director of NCF shareholder activities, described the focus of NCF activism to ICCR’s Corporate Examiner:

Of course, we file directly on climate change. But we also seek to address climate and inequality by engaging companies on issues like corporate political spending and the network neutrality of the wireless networks that represent the primary means of Internet access for economically disadvantaged communities.

NCF’s proxy resolutions include political contribution disclosure requirements, which were submitted this year to Duke Energy and Spectra Energy. Where to begin when one would be hard-pressed to find anything in “Jewish tradition, democratic values and social justice” to actually support such claims? (more…)

Cash RegistersThere’s an intriguing piece in the NYT from last month by Hiroko Tabuchi that explores some of the challenges facing traditional retailers (HT: Sarah Pulliam Bailey), “Stores Suffer From a Shift of Behavior in Buyers.”

Department stores like Macy’s and Kohl’s seem to be losing out on the rebound in consumer spending. “Department stores made up one of just two categories tracked by the Commerce Department where spending declined, the latest in a choppy performance from them this year. Spending at electronics and appliance stores also fell 1.2 percent in July,” writes Tabuchi.

One major explanation offered by Tabuchi’s sources is that this part of a larger paradigm shift in American consumer attitude. “The religion of consumption has proven to be unfulfilling,” says Richard E. Jaffe, a retailing analyst, “The ‘pile it high and watch it fly’ mentality at department stores no longer works.”

gty_pope_francis_kim_davis_wg_150929_16x9_992On the papal plane back to the Rome, Pope Francis said that government officials have a “human right” to refuse to discharge a duty if they feel it violates their conscience. “Conscientious objection must enter into every juridical structure because it is a right,” Francis said.

The pontiff admitted, though, that he “can’t have in mind all cases that can exist about conscientious objection.” But what would he think about the case of Kim Davis, the Kentucky county clerk who objected to having her name on same-sex marriage licenses?

Turns out he told her, in person, to “stay strong.”

At least that’s the report of Davis’s lawyer, Mathew D. Staver. According to Staver, Davis and Francis met at the Vatican embassy:

The highly popular “buy-one, give-one” models — as epitomized by the popular TOMS Shoes brand — have long held the attention of Western do-gooders. It’s quick, it’s easy, and hey, people like the shoes. And let’s not forget the power of the Warm & Fuzzies.

Yet many are beginning to raise concerns about the actual impact of these activities. As Acton’s Michael Matheson Miller recently explained in an interview with Knowledge@Wharton, “The one-for-one model can undermine local producers. When you give free things, why would you buy local shoes?”

In the debut of his new smarty-pants comedy show, “Adam Ruins Everything,” Adam Conover chooses to set his sights on precisely this:

To their credit, TOMS Shoes has taken certain steps to reconsider its model, including a decision to “employ 100 Haitians and build a ‘responsible, sustainable’ shoe industry in Haiti.” But alas, by all public appearances, there is still a ways to go. (more…)

On this edition of Radio Free Acton, Acton Institute Director of Research Samuel Gregg and Director of International Outreach Todd Huizinga discuss the ongoing refugee crisis in Europe, the strain that the crisis is putting on the European Union, and what the likely long-term impact of the crisis will be. You can listen to the podcast via the audio player below.

Blog author: jcarter
Wednesday, September 30, 2015

The Free Market: It’s Like Uber, But for Everything
Robert Tracinski, The Federalist

If it sometimes seems like it’s impossible to restore the free market, as if every new wave of government regulation is irreversible, then consider that one form of regulation, which is common in the most dogmatically big-government enclaves in the country, is being pretty much completely dismantled before our eyes. And it’s the hippest thing ever.

A Millennial’s Take on Godly Civil Disobedience
Bryan Ballas, Juicy Ecumenism

So was Kim Davis in the right? To answer this question we must approach the issue from two angles: the authority of government and the duty of the Christian in the face of unjust orders.

Right To Work 2.0: A Vision For New Business And Economic Growth
Jay Caruso, Opportunity Lives

Big business loves regulation because it prevents competition. Amazon, Home Depot, Best Buy, and other big online retailers support an Internet sales tax because smaller online retailers will have difficulty complying.

Seven-in-ten people globally live on $10 or less per day
Rakesh Kochhar, Pew Research

Following his election in March 2013, Pope Francis wasted little time in conveying his great unease with the state of global poverty and inequality.

US-government-shutdownAre we headed for a government shutdown?

Probably not—at least not for a few more months. The Senate is voting today on a “clean” stopgap spending measure that will fund the federal government until Dec. 11. The House is expected to also approve this bill.

What does a “clean” measure mean?

After a Congressional committee has amended legislation, the chairman may be authorized by the panel to assemble the changes and what remains unchanged from the original bill and then reintroduce everything as a clean bill. A clean bill may expedite Senate action by avoiding separate floor consideration of each committee amendment.

The amendment that was stripped was a provision to defund Planned Parenthood. Although it was supported by most conservatives in Congress, as the AP reports, eight Republicans did not support that measure, leaving it short of a simple majority, much less the 60 votes required to overcome the filibuster. (A recent poll found that by a margin of almost two-to-one (60 percent to 32 percent), the public says any budget agreement must maintain funding for Planned Parenthood.)

Why do we seem to be under a threat of a potential government shutdown every fall?

Blog author: bwalker
Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Professors dialogue about the Pope’s encyclical
Courtney Becker, The Observer

“At the intersection of science and religion, you can’t just jump into any modern document and think that it can be taken entirely at face value,” [David Lodge, professor of biology and director of the Notre Dame Environmental Change Initiative]said. “You want to think about how the scientific community … might react to such a document. The history of the interaction between Christianity and science has been, to say the least, a little fraught on occasion.”

Red-Blue America: What should Americans have learned from Pope Francis?
Ben Boychuk, Duluth News Tribune

Pope Francis isn’t a politician, an economist or a climatologist. He is first and foremost a priest and a pastor of 1.2 billion Catholics worldwide. Americans, Catholic and Protestant alike, forget that too easily.
True, Pope Francis discusses politics, economics and the climate in confounding ways. He really doesn’t understand the way free markets work. He’s listening to some highly misguided people about global warming. And as his visit with Fidel Castro showed, Francis isn’t as outspoken in the face of tyranny as was his predecessor, Saint Pope John Paul II. But Francis is neither anti-American nor a Marxist. Some conservatives sound like fools when they accuse the pontiff of being something he’s not.

College professor will speak about Pope Francis at Wallingford Public Library
Mary Ellen Godin, Record-Journal

Francis has been criticized by those who deny the established science of human-caused climate change. Other critics have denounced the letter as akin to communism and anti-technology. Some conservative Roman Catholics view the encyclical as an interference with secular politics. “He’s not anti-science,” Bourgeois said. “Nobody is proposing we go back to the Stone Age; we can’t treat capital markets and technology as though they are going to solve all of our problems.”