Blog author: jballor
posted by on Friday, December 21, 2007

Ramsey Wilson provides a thoughtful and valuable post on my previous entry on Christmas consumerism. Upon reflection, Wilson provides an important insight that makes explicit what was perhaps only implicit in my previous post.

Wilson writes, “I hope and trust that the fellowship and exchange of gifts would point us toward reflection and remembrance of Who made possible such delights, and to take yet another step in the direction of knowing Him.”

Amen.

Blog author: jballor
posted by on Thursday, December 20, 2007

One element that came out in the aftermath of “Romney’s religion speech,” an event highly touted in the run-up and in days following, was the charge that Mormonism is essentially a racist faith (or at least was until 1978), and that in unabashedly embracing the “faith of his fathers” so publicly (and uncritically), Mitt Romney did not distance himself from or express enough of a critical attitude toward the official LDS policy regarding membership by blacks before 1978.

One example of a person who raised this concern quite vociferously is political analyst Lawrence O’Donnell, who as a guest on the McLaughlin Group on the episode immediately following Romney’s speech, said this of Romney (among many other things):

Here’s the problem. He dare not discuss his religion. And he fools people like Pat Buchanan, who should know better. This was the worst speech, the worst political speech, of my lifetime, because this man stood there and said to you, “This is the faith of my fathers.” And you and none of these commentators who liked this speech realize that the faith of his father is a racist faith. As of 1978, it was an officially racist faith. And for political convenience, in 1978 it switched and it said, “Okay, black people can be in this church.”

Mitt Romney was 31 years-old in 1978 when the LDS church altered its policy toward “priesthood” membership for black males, citing a new revelation. You can check out the entire exchange between O’Donnell and the other members of the McLaughlin Group panel here:


It seems to me that Pat Buchanan misses O’Donnell’s point in the exchange. Buchanan cites scandalous examples from Christianity’s past, such as the condoning of slavery for 1,500 years, in effect to say that all religions have their problems, and that doesn’t mean that we associate every historical evil from a religion’s past with its contemporary adherents. But what O’Donnell’s charge is meant to show is that folks like Pat Buchanan and other Christians are inclined to judge their tradition’s own past, and pronounce that such and such a practice was an objective evil and upon reflection ex post facto, incompatible with the fundamental beliefs of their faith.

From O’Donnell’s perspective it’s precisely this criticism that is lacking in Romney. As Byron York puts it,

But now, Romney is faced with the simple question: Was the church policy before 1978 wrong? This morning, he wouldn’t say, and it might be difficult for him, as a former church leader, to get out in front of the LDS leadership on that. And he certainly can’t cite McConkie’s advice to forget everything that was said before 1978. Given all that, it’s an issue that’s likely to pop up over and over again.

It did pop up on Romney’s Meet the Press interview with Tim Russert the following Sunday morning:


Part of Romney’s defense is his claim that his family’s practices point to their beliefs about race in America: “My dad marched with MLK.” Now there’s controversy surrounding that claim. (more…)

Presidential candidate Hillary Clinton is spreading the Christmas cheer by posing as Santa Claus and handing out government programs to the taxpayer. Also, it looks like she is promising to deliver on the promised middle class tax cuts from the first Clinton administration. Universal health care and universal pre-K are part of her gift package. She’s certainly not a stingy Santa Claus.


Blog author: eschansberg
posted by on Wednesday, December 19, 2007

I’m really proud of this essay. The history is very interesting; the philosophical and religious links are provocative; and the contemporary applications are important and wide-ranging.

Enjoy! eric


We observed a dubious centennial this year. In 1907, Indiana became the first state in America to pass a eugenics law.

Eugenics is the study of the hereditary improvement of the human race by controlled, selective breeding. The word derives from its Latin components — eu meaning “well” or “good” and genics meaning “born” or “birth.” Eugenics, then, seeks the products of “good birth” or being “well born” (better human beings or a better human race) through selective breeding.

From there, two categories emerge: Positive eugenics is the study of “good” outcomes achieved through breeding; negative eugenics is the study of “bad” outcomes, when undesirable characteristics are lessened or eliminated through selective breeding.

Beyond mere study, eugenics typically leads to a set of recommended practices. Beyond mere science, eugenics has always been connected to various worldviews and related to other theories. And beyond what we knew about science a century ago, we now have a greater understanding of the extent to which genetics affect such outcomes. In sum, eugenics is a pseudo-science loaded with philosophical and ethical baggage.

For more on the history of eugenics and the current applications of eugenics, click here…

Blog author: rnothstine
posted by on Wednesday, December 19, 2007

The Drudge Report yesterday featured a screen shot of a new television ad that’s playing currently in Iowa for presidential candidate Mike Huckabee. Next to the image was this quote from primary opponent Ron Paul: “When fascism comes it will be wrapped in a flag and carrying a cross.” Paul said the Huckabee ad reminded him of the quote, which he attributed to muckraking novelist Sinclair Lewis.

Huckabee’s television ad steps back from politics, reminding the voters that the birth of Christ is the meaning of Christmas. Some critics and talking heads have attacked Huckabee for pandering too much to evangelical voters. In addition, a mini controversy surrounding the ad has emerged over what some are calling a ‘subliminal cross’ that appears on a bookcase in the background. Huckabee has dismissed the controversy with humor saying, “I was also signaling evangelical voters with Morse code, with all the blinking I was doing.”

Paul addresses the controversy by saying he wasn’t quoted correctly, and linked the comment to the war issue, criticizing super patriotism. He criticized Christians for not following the Just War Theory. He did not seem to adequately address the implied link he made with Christianity and fascism, which of course are polar opposites.

To his credit, Paul did talk about the opposition to free markets in this country, and the danger it imposes. Paul spoke about a kind of economic fascism, which he called “corporatism to the extreme.”

“Also, economically speaking this country is moving rapidly towards fascism,” Paul said. “We’re not going to end up with socialism of the old fashioned type. Like in medicine today, we don’t have free market medicine. We don’t have government medicine, we have corporate medicine. That is fascism in the economic sense.”

Updated: Ron Paul Charges Huck Implies He’s The Only Christian

The two clips are provided below.


Blog author: jballor
posted by on Tuesday, December 18, 2007

The price of freedom is $21.3 million, at least in a manner of speaking. The only domestically-held copy of the Magna Carta, first penned in 1215 (this copy dates from 1297), was sold tonight in a Sotheby’s auction for that princely sum to David Rubenstein of The Carlyle Group, a private equity firm.

Sotheby’s vice chairman David Redden called the old but durable parchment “the most important document in the world, the birth certificate of freedom,” notable especially for its recognition of the rule of law and the transcendence of the moral order.

The document had been held by the Perot Foundation (created by H. Ross Perot) and was auctioned in order to raise funds to support the foundation’s charitable initiatives. The Perot Foundation had granted access to the copy to the National Archives, where it was on public display through September 20th of this year.

On the PowerBlog we previously noted the 790th anniversary of the Magna Carta, which was featured as the first in a series of essays in the history of liberty over the last millennium, “In the Meadow That Is Called Runnymede.”

Blog author: kschmiesing
posted by on Monday, December 17, 2007

The extraordinarily prolific George Weigel has another book out: Faith, Reason, and the War Against Jihadism. Weigel’s books are without fail thought-provoking and clearly stated, though the force, clarity, and breadth of his thought will likely result in at least one or two points of disagreement with any reader.

Another source of Weigel’s controversial character is also one of his most praiseworthy attributes: his willingness to make concrete political and practical recommendations (or, sometimes, exhortations). He is a smart and sophisticated thinker, but his thought does not remain at the level of the ethereal. It is in constant interaction with realities’ limits and deficiencies, rendering it both more convincing and more useful.

His burden in Faith is to demonstrate that Islamic jihadism (no, Marc, not climate change) is the single most urgent problem requiring the attention of civilized folk of all persuasions (Christian, agnostic, Muslim; right, left). I worried temporarily that the book would be in large part an apologia for the current war in Iraq, but it is not. Weigel argues that it is necessary to see the thing through at this point, but his catalogue of errors in the preparation for and waging of the war (82-86) is well done. What he lefts unsaid is that the mistakes he enumerates basically add up to a failure to attain an adequate understanding of the political, religious, and cultural factors at play in Iraq, and therefore to underestimate the difficulty of the task left after the main combat aim had been achieved. But is this not a persistent and perennial (inevitable?) problem attending such military interventions and, therefore, does it not suggest greater reluctance to embark on them?

That question aside, Weigel builds a formidable case. His treatment of the situation in Iran (100ff.) and his warning against the dangers of “self-imposed dhimmitude” (125) evident not only throughout Europe but also in the United States, are indeed bracing and should be wake-up calls to anyone who has slumbered through 9/11, the Madrid and London bombings, Pope Benedict’s Regensburg address, and the Danish cartoon controversy, to cite only a selection.

It is rare that a call for bipartisanship rises above the level of cynical and rhetorical, but Weigel’s effort does so. The small government conservative and the global warming lefty should be able to agree that the world’s dependence on a handful of nations’ oil reserves (and those nations’ consequent dependence on oil income to the neglect of any broader engagement with a global trade in goods and ideas) is not healthy and we must find ways to overcome it. The believer and the secularist should be able to agree that religion is not going away anytime soon and so we better find a way to live in a religiously pluralist world without resorting to violence. (If you smugly think that we Americans already have and religioius pluralism isn’t going to cause any trouble here, then you better read this book.)

It’s a book well worth a look, and a bit of reflection.

Blog author: jballor
posted by on Monday, December 17, 2007

Late last Friday the US Senate passed a federal farm subsidies bill, amounting to over $286 billion over five years.

For the first time funding has been extended to new areas like support for fruits and vegetables. That $3 billion of the bill is not direct aid, but rather is marked for “research, marketing, farm markets and providing fruits and vegetables to more school children.”

So perhaps you can expect the federal government, as any good nanny state should, to fund initiatives mimicking this to convince your children that “carrots want to go to the party in your tummy.” (Hey, it works on my 2 and a half year-old.)


David Gavin, a fruit and vegetable farmer in Michigan, says of dependence on federal subsidies, “When you look at how much is spent, you start scratching your head. I’m glad we (fruit and vegetable growers) haven’t gone down that road. Once you get to a certain size, I think you can afford to do it on your own.”

And by the way, you can check out a brief interview I did yesterday morning on the topic of farm subsidies with Charlotte, NC talk radio station WBT 1110-AM here, based in part on the Acton Commentary Ray Nothstine and I wrote a few weeks back.

See also: Jimmy Carter, “Subsidies’ Harvest of Misery,” Washington Post

It’s not uncommon for those of us who find ourselves on the skeptical side of the great climate change debate to be accused of deliberately shading or outright misrepresenting scientific research in order to obscure the dire nature of the crisis at hand. We do this, our accusers claim, out of pure greed – either we are bought off by corporations who stand to become much less profitable should strong action be taken on this issue, we personally stand to lose money because of our investments in said corporations, or something else along those lines.

The reality of the situation is almost 180° opposite. For example, let’s take the world’s most popular climate alarmist, Al Gore. The standard story on Gore is that he functions as a modern prophet, bravely speaking scientific truth to the masses out of nothing but genuine concern for our dear planet which faces an unprecedented crisis; his science is unimpeachable, and therefore it would be beneath him to engage his critics, who will one day be revealed as the idiots that they truly are, and are thus to be pitied rather than feared.

This man is not being honest with you.

Reality check: Gore is already making a significant amount of money off of global warming hysteria, and stands to pocket a whole lot more if governments adopt his “solutions” to the “crisis.”

And what of that crisis that Gore warns us about? Is it really a crisis? Does Al Gore even believe it’s a crisis? Based on his own words, I’m not so sure. Check out this little gem of a quote, from an interview with Gore published in May of 2006 in Grist Magazine:

Q: There’s a lot of debate right now over the best way to communicate about global warming and get people motivated. Do you scare people or give them hope? What’s the right mix?

A: I think the answer to that depends on where your audience’s head is. In the United States of America, unfortunately we still live in a bubble of unreality. And the Category 5 denial is an enormous obstacle to any discussion of solutions. Nobody is interested in solutions if they don’t think there’s a problem. Given that starting point, I believe it is appropriate to have an over-representation of factual presentations on how dangerous it is, as a predicate for opening up the audience to listen to what the solutions are, and how hopeful it is that we are going to solve this crisis.

Over time that mix will change. As the country comes to more accept the reality of the crisis, there’s going to be much more receptivity to a full-blown discussion of the solutions.

Here’s the honest translation of that statement:

  • In the United States of America, unfortunately we still live in a bubble of unreality: I have been unable to convince my fellow citizens and their elected representatives of the rightness of my position because they are either thick headed or beholden to corporate interests, not because they don’t believe my science adds up.
  • And the Category 5 denial is an enormous obstacle to any discussion of solutions: There can be no legitimate opposition to my position on the climate change issue. Critics of my position are either ignorant and bamboozled by corporate spin or perfidious and a party to crimes against the environment.
  • Nobody is interested in solutions if they don’t think there’s a problem.: At this point, the only way to get my way is to cause a panic.
  • Given that starting point, I believe it is appropriate to have an over-representation of factual presentations on how dangerous it is, as a predicate for opening up the audience to listen to what the solutions are: It is totally appropriate for me to lie in order to force my agenda forward.

Did you catch that? Gore is claiming for himself the right to lie – to “over-represent” the facts – in order to move public opinion toward his radical vision of the environmental future. Now, if I were a cynical person, I’d look at that statement and think that perhaps Al Gore might not be living up to his spin. I’d look at his financial stake in the carbon trading business that could make him a very wealthy man if governments adopt his policy proposals and I might start to question whether his motives are entirely pure. I’d look at his steadfast refusal to meaningfully engage his critics and wonder if his stance is truly based on confidence in science or if it’s instead part of a carefully crafted public relations campaign, designed to underline his contention that we truly face a “crisis.” And I’d even start to wonder if he really believes that we face a crisis at all.

Hmm. I must be a cynical person.

(more…)

Blog author: jballor
posted by on Friday, December 14, 2007

“Well, we’re doin’ mighty fine, I do suppose,
In our streak of lightnin’ cars and fancy clothes,
But just so we’re reminded of the ones who are held back,
Up front there ought ‘a be a Man In Black.”