SNAP chartThe House Budget Committee has issued its report on The War on Poverty, 50 Years Later. It’s 204 pages long, so feel free to dig in. However, I’ll just hit some of the highlights.

Lyndon B. Johnson’s War on Poverty has created 92 government programs, currently costing us about $800 billion. The committee’s take on this is summed up as:

But rather than provide a roadmap out of poverty, Washington has created a complex web of programs that are often difficult to navigate. Some programs provide critical aid to families in need. Others discourage families from getting ahead. And for many of these programs, we just don’t know. There’s little evidence either way.

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ukraine-soldiersNote: This is an update and addition to a previous post, “Explainer: What’s Going on in Ukraine?

What just happened with Russia and Ukraine?

Last week, pro-EU protesters in Ukraine took control of Ukraine’s government after President Viktor Yanukovych left Kiev for his support base in the country’s Russian-speaking east. The country’s parliament sought to oust him and form a new government. They named Oleksandr Turchynov, a well-known Baptist pastor and top opposition politician in Ukraine, as acting president.

In the southern part of the country, Crimean Prime Minister Sergey Aksyonov, elected in an emergency session last week, said he asserted sole control over Crimea’s security forces and appealed to Russia “for assistance in guaranteeing peace and calmness” on the peninsula. On Saturday, Russian president Vladimir Putin asked his own parliament for approval to use the country’s military in Ukraine. The request comes after Putin has already sent as many as 6,000 troops into Crimea.

Why would Russia want to invade Crimea?
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Blog author: jcarter
Monday, March 3, 2014
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When Tolerance Turns to Coerced Celebration
Jennifer A. Marshall, The Gospel Coalition

The legal freedom to live and love according to one’s preferences does not imply that government should compel others to celebrate all relationships.

Religious Liberty After Arizona
Ben Domenech, The Federalist

On the importance of trusting markets and people over government.

Moscow’s (religious) reply to Kiev
The Economist

On the face of things, Monday’s decision amounts to an artful move by the powers-that-be in Moscow to bring a semi-independent daughter church back under control. But maybe it’s not quite so simple.

Why Understanding Economics Means Understanding People
Kristie Eshelman, Institute for Faith, Work, and Economics

What comes to your mind when you think of economics? Do you think of charts, graphs, and mathematical models, or general principles of human behavior? Can our understanding of the Bible inform our economic thinking?

amnesiaWhy, when I realize that journalists misrepresent topics that I know something about — such as religious liberty — do I trust them to accurately cover issues that I don’t know much about?

I’ve thought about that question for years but didn’t realize that the late novelist Michael Crichton coined a related term for this: the Gell-Mann Amnesia effect.
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ukraine flagThe rapidly changing events in the Ukraine are causing concern throughout the world.  On March 4 at 3 p.m., a panel discussion entitled Ukraine: The Last Frontier in the Cold War?will be held at the Calvin College DeVos Communications Center Lobby area in Grand Rapids, Mich.

The panel will feature Todd Huizinga (Senior Research Fellow at the Henry Institute, Acton Institute Fellow, and co-founder of the Transatlantic Christian Council, with expertise on the European Union), Becca McBride (professor of Political Science at Calvin College, with research focus on Russia), and Joel Westra (professor of Political Science at Calvin College, with research focus on international relations and global security issues).  Kevin den Dulk (Executive Director of the Henry Institute and professor of Political Science at Calvin College) will serve as the moderator.

After a week filled with heated media discussions on religious liberty, Mollie Hemingway provides a devastating critique of how, legislation aside, our media and culture appear bent on diluting and distorting a freedom foundational to all else.

The piece is striking and sweeping, deeply disturbing and yet, for those of us in the trenches, somewhat cathartic in its clarity. Whether politics is downstream or upstream from culture, it appears rather clear that this battle is not a figment of our imaginations. Back and forth and back again.

I encourage you to read the whole piece, but her concluding paragraphs helpfully crystalize why, regardless of your political perspective, your religious beliefs, or your personal position within the social and economic order, diminishing religious liberty will result in road-blocks aplenty on the path to human flourishing:

Religious liberty is a deeply radical concept. It was at this country’s founding and it hasn’t become less so. Preserving it has always been a full-time battle. But it’s important, because religion is at the core of people’s identity. A government that tramples religious liberty is not a government that protects economic freedom. It’s certainly not a government that protects conscience rights. A government that tramples religious liberty does not have expansive press freedoms. Can you think of one country with a narrow view of religious liberty but an expansive view of economic freedom, freedom of association, press freedoms or free speech rights? One? (more…)

godzilla1954cFear of the unknown hazards of technology has been the inspiration for science fiction cautionary tales from Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein to Japanese superstar Godzilla. Sadly, this fear extends to the harmless – and indeed extremely positive – applications of science in contemporary agriculture, especially when it comes to producing cheap, plentiful food for people on every rung of the economic ladder.

Modern agriculture’s ability to feed the Earth’s population is nothing short of miraculous. Modern science and practices have enabled the farming sector to raise livestock and grow crops capable of offering inexpensive nutrition to the majority of the world’s billions. One group whom one would think ecstatic at such developments would be the religious shareholder investors at the Interfaith Center for Corporate Responsibility. The ICCR folk, however, turn up their noses at genetically modified organisms that have revolutionized agriculture over the past 20 years, making it possible to grow drought-resilient and pest-resistant crops. (more…)