Rioting in Caracas, 2014

Rioting in Caracas, 2014

In a country rife with economic and social ills, Venezuela’s Catholic bishops issued a strongly-worded critique of the government during their annual conference this week. According to The Wall Street Journal:

The church has long preached reconciliation in the bitterly polarized nation. But as the oil price plummets and economic disaster threatens, the bishops clearly are losing patience. Monday’s statement recalled the 43 deaths during antigovernment protests in early 2014, the “excessive use of force” by the state against protestors, and “the detention of thousands . . . many of them still in prison today” or awaiting trial.

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Blog author: sstanley
Thursday, January 15, 2015
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BushBerns

Walter Berns receiving the National Humanities Medal in 2005

Resident Scholar at AEI and Georgetown University Professor Emeritus of Government, Walter Berns, passed away on January 10, 2015. Director of Istituto Acton, Kishore Jayabalan, recently reflected on his time in Bern’s classroom and how that greatly influenced him:

Simply put, I would not be where I am today if I hadn’t audited the last course he taught at Georgetown. Slogging away as an economist at the Bureau of Labor Statistics in Washington, I dreamt of graduate school while taking Latin and Greek courses at the Department of Agriculture night school (who knew such things existed at taxpayer expense?), but I didn’t know what I wanted to study. On the advice of my friend John J. Miller, I called Mr. Berns, who immediately told me he was about to retire from teaching and would be of little help to me for future studies. I replied that I only wanted to audit his course, which he very graciously let me do.

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HTFinal CoverIn 2013, the State of Michigan published its Report on Human Trafficking. In anticipation of the publication of the Acton Institute’s monograph, A Vulnerable World: The High Price of Human Trafficking, I interviewed Attorney General Bill Schuette last month.

Schuette (who served as co-chair for the Commission) explained that he realized upon his election that Michigan had a great deal of work to do in this area. As he prepared to attend the National Conference of Attorneys General, he

became aware that our state of Michigan was behind the curve and that we were low in the rankings of tools and law enforcement and assistance to victims and acknowledgement that this is a problem.

I asked Mr. Schuette this: I ask every teacher I meet, every first responder I meet, every medical personnel I meet, “Have you ever received any training on human trafficking?” And I’ve never had a yes. What do you say about that? He responded:

[U]nfortunately, the past has been that not enough people have been trained to spot, deal with, observe, try to stop human trafficking. And that’s one of the features that I think law enforcement in Michigan will move towards now, and that is having training sessions and training seminars, whether you’re EMS or sheriff patrol or a local police organization, where you learn about human trafficking. That’s an area that we have to improve. I’m not surprised by [your informal survey] because that was one of these glaring issues that came out in our 5 subgroups or working groups that wanted to, in essence, attack in the state of Michigan. That’s one of the proposals that’s high on my agenda.

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Blog author: jcarter
Thursday, January 15, 2015
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Virtue and Free Speech
Mark Judge, Acculturated

Defending offensive speech is not a virtuous act. This is a fact that seems to have been lost in the anger and anxiety over the murders last week of the twelve Charlie Hebdo journalists by Islamic extremists.

Blasphemy for Me, but Not for Thee
Matthew Continetti, National Review Online

Do liberals actually believe in the right to offend?

Supreme Court hears religious speech case
The Becket Fund

Arizona town’s ordinance allows signs for big politicians, but not small churches.

The 6 Moral Foundations Of Politics
Trevin Wax, The Gospel Coalition

“You can’t legislate morality,” the old saying goes, a statement that purports to be common sense, until you begin to realize you can’t not legislate morality. All legislation is passed within a moral framework of ethical ideals and moral considerations.

bias-word-cloud-square“Psychologists have demonstrated the value of diversity—particularly diversity of viewpoints—for enhancing creativity, discovery, and problem solving,” say a team of social scientists in a new paper. “But one key type of viewpoint diversity is lacking in academic psychology in general and social psychology in particular: political diversity.”

Social psychology is an interdisciplinary domain that bridges the gap between psychology and sociology by studying how people’s thoughts, feelings, and behaviors are influenced by the actual, imagined, or implied presence of others. The field studies a range of topics—from persuasion and propaganda to racial and gender issues—that profoundly affect society. Yet people whose views on politics and society are monolithic dominate the science.

What is needed, say the researchers, is ideological diversity, specifically more “non-liberals.” Their article reviews the available evidence and finds support for four claims:

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Selma_posterTwo January 2015 film releases provide great opportunities for Christians to examine the not so admirable aspects of American church history in order to learn from the mistakes and successes of the past. First, the newly released movie Selma tells of the story of the passage of the Voting Rights Act of 1965 and the public protests leading up to LBJ signing the bill into law.

My parents were born and raised during Jim Crow and the movie does a great job of depicting life during that era for people like my parents and why federal government intervened to override voting restrictions in the South because of overwhelming resistance by white southerners to allow African Americans proper access to voter registration. The film focuses on Martin Luther King, Jr’s leadership of the Southern Christian Leader Conference during the organization of a march from Selma, Alabama to the Alabama State capital in Montgomery as a protest. The film does not shy away from the flaws in the movement, including MLK’s marital infidelities.

During the film, we learn about the murder of Jimmie Lee Jackson, a young African-American protestor, who was gunned down in a town near Selma. After his murder by police, King issued a clarion call to anyone in America who wanted come to Selma and join him in the cause to fight for voting rights.
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Blog author: jsunde
Wednesday, January 14, 2015
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“Honor the Lord with your wealth and with the firstfruits of all your produce.” –Proverbs 3:9

In his latest video, Dan Stevers highlights the importance of giving God our first and our best, focusing mostly on the story of Cain and Abel. “The concept of firstfruits extends to every aspect of our lives,” he writes. “God doesn’t accept leftovers; God must be first.”

The video contains excerpts from Robert Morris’ popular book, The Blessed Life: Unlocking the Rewards of Generous Living, which is a stirring exploration of the power of generosity. In the book itself, Morris begins the first chapter by explaining that the “principle of firstfruits” is really the key to understanding Christian stewardship as a whole:

The principle of the firstfruits is very, very powerful. I have heard it said that any first thing given is never lost, and any first thing not given is always lost. In other words, what we give to God, we don’t lose because God redeems it for us. But what we withhold from God, we will lose. Jesus echoed this principle when He said: “For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me will find it” (Matt. 16:25, NIV).

The first belongs to God. We find this principle all through God’s Word. We can give God the first of our time. We can give Him the first of our finances. That’s what tithing really is—giving our first to God. It’s saying, “God, I’m going to give you first and trust You to redeem the rest”…The first portion is the redemptive portion. In other words, when the first portion is given to God, the rest is redeemed.

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Blog author: jcarter
Wednesday, January 14, 2015
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“Human trafficking is broader in scope than most people realize,” says Elise Hilton in this week’s Acton Commentary.

Today, human trafficking impacts entire industries, and job sectors – both legitimate and illegitimate. Monetarily, it is the second largest criminal activity in the world. Only the illegal drug trade is more profitable. The profits generated from human trafficking play an enormous role in national and global economies. There is also the untold human cost. It is, as Pope Francis said, an open wound on humanity.

The full text of the essay can be found here. Subscribe to the free, weekly Acton News & Commentary and other publications here.

government-regulation-in-business-red-tapeWhat is the annual cost of regulations for America?

The short answer is that no one knows for sure. The officially reported regulatory costs as reported by the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) total up to $128.7 billion. But the real costs of regulation is impossible since, as the Nobel-winning economist James Buchanan said, “Cost cannot be measured by someone other than the decision-maker because there is no way that subjective experience can be directly observed.”

Still, we can attempt to estimate the costs based on factors that can be measured. Clyde Wayne Crews Jr. of the Competitive Enterprise Institute provides an example of such an estimate. His findings:
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In this American Enterprise Institute Vision Talk, Chancellor of DC Public Schools Kaya Henderson talks about the state of public education reform. She says we have the opportunity to change everything we’ve been doing wrong in education for the past 100 years, but we are failing at the task. How, she asks, do we consistently produce quality education for all children? Can it even be done?

It is interesting to note that one focal point of Henderson’s talk is community. Although she does not use the word, what she is talking about is the principle of subsidiarity – those closest to a problem or issue are bested suited to deal with it.

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