There’s a good read from a state politician familiar with Kwame Kilpatrick, the former Detroit mayor accused of all manner of illicit activity, in the Sep. 12 newsletter (PDF) from Michigan state senator Mickey Switalski (D-Roseville). Switalski’s newsletter is one of the best and is atypical among state politicians, because he writes the content himself.

Before his current run as a state senator, Switalski was a state representative during Kilpatrick’s tenure as Democratic Floor Leader, the #2 position in the Democratic caucus. In his piece on Kilpatrick, Switalski offers what you might expect to be a sympathetic perspective, given their time spent as colleagues and their shared party affiliation (I spent a semester as a legislative intern for then-Representative Switalski in the spring of 2000). Yet Switalski offers what I think is a fair and balanced assessment, based on his judgment that Kilpatrick “is a complex person with many strengths and some tragic weaknesses.”

“The Rise and Fall of Kwame Kilpatrick” is a narrative embodying the wisdom of Lord Acton’s dictum that “power tends to corrupt.” Switalski gives us an inside look at state politics, describing the legislature as “an insane asylum,” given the turbulent dynamics at the time. But Kilpatrick was a voice of reason and stability during the ravages of partisan bickering.

Ultimately Switalski judges that Kilpatrick “had too much power too early. He indulged his prodigious appetites and lacked the maturity and judgment to control his desires and became corrupt.”

Switalski wonders, “Were these faults always there?”

“I suppose they were,” he answers.

But how could a man who saw public service with such clarity in 2000 become so blind and ethically lost just a few years later? It is a sad tale, both for him and for the City. Unlike many people I know, who seemed to relish in his failure, I took no joy in watching him self-destruct. It was an awful waste of talent and opportunity. It was a tragedy for the City and the Region.

I pray his successors will not let power lead them into temptation, and so avoid a similar fate.

Switalski is correct to point to the tragedy of the demise of Kwame Kilpatrick, and that we should always realize the danger that power presents and the responsibility that it entails.

Even those who recognize, as Kwame did, that politicians have a duty to their constituents and “doing good policy for the people we serve” can be corrupted by the illusions of power and the delusions of privilege.

Blog author: jballor
posted by on Friday, September 12, 2008

We are one week away from the beginning of GodblogCon 2008. For the second year in a row the Acton Institute is a sponsor of the event, and we’re proud be be a part of the premier gathering of bloggers and new media connoisseurs. Other sponsors include the founding institutions behind GBC, Biola University and the Torrey Honors Institute. Crossway Books & Bibles, which is publishing the forthcoming Stewardship Resource Bible, is also a sponsor of the event (Acton research scholar Stephen Grabill is general editor of the Stewardship Resource Bible).

Part of our task as a sponsor of the event is to come up with an ad for the attendee booklet, which will go out to all GBC participants. As a PowerBlog exclusive, we’re unveiling this ad here today, inspired by the LOLord Acton Quote Generator.


We’re also working on some exciting last minute plans with the GBC team, so keep the PowerBlog bookmarked for the latest news on GodblogCon 2008. Check out the GBC schedule and speaker list, and register now to attend this dynamic gathering.

The Acton Institute is co-sponsoring a symposium hosted by The Heritage Foundation at the University of Michigan’s campus. The event will take place:

Tuesday, September 30, 2008 at 12:45 PM

Michigan Union Building
530 South State Street
Ann Arbor, Michigan

The future of liberty depends on reclaiming America’s first principles. What are those principles, and what do they mean for today? The First Principles Initiative is one of the 10 Transformational Initiatives making up The Heritage Foundation’s Leadership for America campaign. The publications and programs of this Initiative seek to provide a much-needed education for students, policymakers, and citizens about the ideas of liberty and constitutional self-government, with the objective of reorienting our politics and public policy to the principles of the American Founding.

Director of Acton Media and Research Fellow, Jay W. Richards, will speak on the topic of Conservative Answers to Environmental Questions at 2:15PM

For more information, please contact Emily Sankot Kayrish at (202) 608-6266 or e-mail: specialevents@heritage.org

Mark your calendar! The Fox Business Channel is featuring The Call of the Entrepreneur at the following times:

· Saturday, September 27 5:00 – 6:00 PM EST / 2:00 – 3:00 PM PST

· Sunday, September 28 12:00 – 1:00 AM EST / 9:00 – 10:00 PM PST

To find your local station visit the FOX channel finder. To find out more about the movie, discover related materials, and learn how to host your own screening, visit The Call of the Entrepreneur website.

Blog author: kschmiesing
posted by on Tuesday, September 9, 2008

As I’ve said before, some of the most interesting debates are those that break down along atypical lines: for example, by splitting dedicated limited government advocates rather than pitting them against statists. Back in 2001, the Journal of Markets & Morality conducted a controversy between two libertarian-leaning economists, Julio Cole and Paul Cleveland, concerning copyright and patent law.

Last year, we published a Christian Social Thought Series volume on intellectual property rights by David Carey that didn’t come down squarely on one side or the other, recognizing both the important role of incentives to innovation but also the obligation to limit property rights when the common good demands.

The issue hasn’t been settled yet, but now comes an important new data point from Princeton University Press: Patent Failure: How Judges, Bureaucrats, and Lawyers Put Innovators at Risk, by James Bessen and Michael J. Meurer. (HT: The aforementioned Julio Cole of Universidad Francisco Marroquín, Guatemala.)

This study shifts the terms of the debate by marshalling empirical evidence to show that one of the chief arguments in defense of patent restrictions—the innovation incentive—does not hold water. In an era of big business and big litigation, the ideal of the eccentric inventor making his living by patenting his creations appears to be antiquated. Specifically, what Bessen and Meurer demonstrate is that the costs for businesses to defend themselves againt patent infringement suits now far outweigh the benefits reaped by owning patents ($12 billion to $3 billion in 1999). In other words, patents are no longer an incentive to invention so much as a legal tool with which to damage one’s competitors.

[A caveat: This finding excludes chemical and pharmaceutical companies.]

The second in Acton Media’s series of shorts accompanying its latest documentary The Birth of Freedom, this new video asks the question, “How has Judaism contributed to human rights?” In the video, John Witte Jr. demonstrates how the teachings of Judaism significantly impacted the western understanding of human rights, contributing the foundations for concepts such as human dignity, due process, and covenantal agreements.

Acton Media’s video shorts from The Birth of Freedom are designed to provide additional insight into key issues and ideas in the film. A new short is released each Monday. Check out the rest of the series, learn about premieres in your area, and discover more background information at www.thebirthoffreedom.com.

There’s a pretty entertaining piece on Salon.com by Christopher Noxon, “Is my kid a jerk, or is he just 2?”

There’s mild language, but the gist of the piece revolves around this observation:

As much as it goes against the current mode of progressive, project-management-style parenting, I take it for granted that some kids are trouble right out of the gate. They’re the preschool gangsters and playground terrorists, flicking boogers and insults at those they’ve identified as too weak to fight back. Just as some kids are born sweet-tempered and naturally gentle, others arrive as thuggish as HMO claims adjusters.

If you’re interested in the topic, and how reality flies in the face of “progressive, project-management-style parenting,” read the whole thing. And you can do so in dialogue with St. Augustine, who made this memorable observation about infancy:

For this I have been told about myself and I believe it–though I cannot remember it–for I see the same things in other infants. Then, little by little, I realized where I was and wished to tell my wishes to those who might satisfy them, but I could not! For my wants were inside me, and they were outside, and they could not by any power of theirs come into my soul. And so I would fling my arms and legs about and cry, making the few and feeble gestures that I could, though indeed the signs were not much like what I inwardly desired and when I was not satisfied–either from not being understood or because what I got was not good for me–I grew indignant that my elders were not subject to me and that those on whom I actually had no claim did not wait on me as slaves–and I avenged myself on them by crying. That infants are like this, I have myself been able to learn by watching them; and they, though they knew me not, have shown me better what I was like than my own nurses who knew me.

Nor was it good, even in that time, to strive to get by crying what, if it had been given me, would have been hurtful; or to be bitterly indignant at those who, because they were older–not slaves, either, but free–and wiser than I, would not indulge my capricious desires. Was it a good thing for me to try, by struggling as hard as I could, to harm them for not obeying me, even when it would have done me harm to have been obeyed? Thus, the infant’s innocence lies in the weakness of his body and not in the infant mind. I have myself observed a baby to be jealous, though it could not speak; it was livid as it watched another infant at the breast.

So there you have it. The substance of the doctrine of original sin affirmed indirectly by Salon.com, “For in thy sight there is none free from sin, not even the infant who has lived but a day upon this earth.” Indeed, even the kids whom Noxon believes “are born sweet-tempered and naturally gentle” might be described differently in a moment of true honesty by their parents who know them best.

The Associated Press has an article reporting on controversial statements made by Governor Sarah Palin at the Wasilla Assemby of God church in Wasilla, Alaska. Governor Palin makes an appeal for prayer about troops in Iraq declaring, “Our national leaders are sending them out on a task that is from God, that’s what we have to make sure that we’re praying for, that there is a plan and that plan is God’s plan.” She also made an appeal for students to pray for the implementation of a $30 billion natural gas pipeline in the state. The short impromptu address was given to graduating students at the Assembly of God church in Palin’s hometown of Wasilla.

Governor Palin attended Wasilla Assembly of God from the time she was a teenager until 2002, according to the AP article. The Wall Street Journal reports that Palin attends Juneau Christian Center, also an Assemblies of God church, when the state government is in session. Another AP article refers to her current church as a non-denominational church, Wasilla Bible Church.

The earliest denunciation of Palin’s talk was highlighted by the Huffington Post on September 2. Their site also has the full video of Palin’s words to the students, and concerned readers should shape their own viewpoint from watching the video. The intention of the piece at the Huffington Post is to clearly link together similarities between the questions and concerns laid on Barack Obama for his long-time attendance at Trinity United Church of Christ, and his strong association with his former preacher Rev. Jeremiah Wright.

The Huffington Post declares:

And if the political storm over Barack Obama’s former pastor Jeremiah Wright is any indication, Palin may face some political fallout over the more controversial teachings of Wasilla Assembly of God.

You can read the Huffington Post for a highlight of the “controversial” teachings they mention. My thoughts on the prayer differ from some of the critiques I have read. For those who have attended charismatic services, her language will certainly not seem unfamiliar.

Conversationalist prayer style, and petitionary prayer is delivered in a style that assumes submission to God’s will or Divine Providence. There is also a strong evangelical note where she emphasizes the importance of regeneration when she says, “All of that stuff doesn’t really matter if the people of Alaska’s heart isn’t right with God.”

It’s ludicrous to suggest that God can’t be present or desire transformation in Iraq just because the U.S. military is present. The religious left and its sympathizers cannot unconditionally identify the will of God with an American defeat. Does that necessarily imply God endorses this conflict? Of course not. At the same time it certainly doesn’t excuse mistakes that were made in the conflict from a political perspective. But God can certainly support justice for those who were persecuted and still persecuted, and deliverance for those who suffered and suffer under tyrants. Certainly many military chaplains can greatly attest and testify well to the presence of God in Iraq, as well as the protection for our soldiers, airmen, and Marines.

Palin’s prayer certainly falls within those parameters. It’s far too easy for those who hold a secular worldview to simply scoff at the prayer appeal. It also may be easy for some who hold a theological degree or advanced seminary training to find fault with some of the language. But it is still true that this is how most people pray in their congregations and in their own personal prayer life, especially those who attend churches outside of traditional Christianity or a church that has little or no liturgical makeup.

Possibly the most famous member of the Assembly of God denomination who was in public service was former senator and U.S. Attorney General John Ashcroft. Ashcroft was unfairly demonized as a puritanical fundamentalist Christian, who supposedly ordered a bare-breasted statue at the Justice Department covered.

However, attempts to tie Palin to Ashcroft or other perceived stodgy Christians of the “religious right” should fail miserably. Sally Quinn has tried to drive a wedge between “value voters” and Governor Palin, as if conservative Christians were ready to pounce on her family with a scarlet “A.” The criticisms of Quinn and her ilk tell us more about how much these critics don’t know about the Gospel story than they do about Christians with a conservative worldview.

GodblogCon 2008 is two weeks away. The Acton Institute is a proud sponsor of this event, held in conjunction with the BlogWorld & New Media Expo at the Las Vegas Convention Center, September 20-21.

The conference will be a great opportunity to connect with bloggers and internet figures you’ve only read about or corresponded with in a virtual environment. You’ll also have the opportunity to attend valuable sessions and learn the basics of blogging, vcasting, and how social networks work.

I found last year’s event to be really stimulating and it energized me for weeks and months afterward. If it fits into your schedule, you should really consider attending. Check out the website for more details about the schedule of events and roster of speakers.

Next week, in anticipation of the event, the PowerBlog will unveil its conference program ad…try to maintain your composure as the excitement builds.

The ninth week of the CRC’s Sea to Sea bike tour has been completed. The ninth and final leg of the journey took the bikers from St. Catharines, Ontario, to Jersey City, a total distance of 430 miles. By the end of tour, the riders had covered 3881 miles.

The “Shifting Gears” devotional contained a key biblical point in the day 57 entry. Reflecting on the separation from family members over the 9 weeks of the tour, hope was expressed that such an experience might “make us more aware of those who are constantly torn from their loved ones and remind us that the water of baptism is thicker than family blood.” As I concluded in a 2005 post, “The water of Christian baptism is thicker than the blood of natural flesh. ‘Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all people, especially to those who belong to the family of believers.’” The reality of baptism sets upon a path of service to our neighbors. This is a good point of departure for discussing questions of poverty and prosperity.

A good deal of the devotional focuses on the particularities of the experience of riding a bike. This is fitting because the text was designed for use by the riders of the poverty tour. But a few weeks ago I discussed another kind of bike rider, Pastor Bike of China, who was imprisoned because of his bicycle-based evangelism.

The good news coming out of China this week is that Pastor Bike has been released. Praise God.

My concern in following the CRC Sea to Sea bike tour over the last months has focused on the relation of material poverty to spiritual poverty. This remains an open question for me regarding the social justice advocacy of the denomination. There is a real danger that the social justice focus of the Christian Reformed Church will lapse into a post-milllenialist form of the Social Gospel.

The texts and materials of the tour itself were a bit uneven on this. In the end I think the focus is rightly aimed at divine reality. But the prudential judgments about how material poverty relates to spiritual concerns remains under-developed. When Jesus said, “The poor you will always have with you,” he was effectively saying that until he comes again we will always have to deal with the realities of sin and imperfection.

But he gave us guidance as to how to live in the midst of this sinful reality: “You can help them any time you want.” The one lesson we should take from this tour is that there is a real and pervasive Christian responsibility to give to the relief of the poor in a way that addresses both material and spiritual realities. Give thoughtfully and prayerfully. But be sure to give. For a moving testimony on this, see “Auntie Anne’s Pretzels founder cites personal faith, Bible verses as reasons to give.”