Whitney Ball

Whitney Ball

The freedom movement lost a champion today. Whitney Ball, president and CEO of DonorsTrust, died last night after a long and courageous fight with cancer. Whitney was a dear friend of more than two decades, and one with whom I shared both a passion for liberty and the Christian faith. She was indefatigable in the pursuit of both passions. DonorsTrust, which she has shepherded for most of its history, has been and will continue to be a bulwark of liberty long into the future. It will be a fitting tribute to a remarkable woman whose shortened life belies her outsized contribution to making the world a better place. Whitney will be greatly missed. Requiescat in pace.

amazon-workIn the movie Annie Hall, Alvy Singer (Woody Allen) tells an old joke about two elderly women having dinner at a Catskill mountain resort. One of them says, “Boy, the food at this place is really terrible.” The other one says, “Yeah, I know; and such small portions.”

Alvy says that’s essentially how he feels about life: it’s full of loneliness, and misery, and suffering, and unhappiness, and it’s all over much too quickly. Many people seem to have a similar complaint after reading the recent New York Times exposé about Amazon.com: The company is a terrible place to work, and it’s almost impossible to get or keep a job there.

The article certainly makes Amazon sound like a brutal place to work. As one former employee says, “Amazon is where overachievers go to feel bad about themselves.” In the third paragraph the Times claims,

At Amazon, workers are encouraged to tear apart one another’s ideas in meetings, toil long and late (emails arrive past midnight, followed by text messages asking why they were not answered), and held to standards that the company boasts are “unreasonably high.” The internal phone directory instructs colleagues on how to send secret feedback to one another’s bosses. Employees say it is frequently used to sabotage others.

Many people will read that and be horrified while others will shrug and say, “Sounds a lot like the company I work for.” There are also those who question the accuracy and fairness of the article (Jeff Bezos, the CEO of Amazon, also owns the Washington Post, a primary competitor of the New York Times). One current employee even explains in detail what the story gets wrong.

I don’t want to bash or defend Amazon. But I do think it is worth asking why, if the company is so horrible, are people beating down Amazon’s door to work there?
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Acton’s Director of Research Samuel Gregg made an appearance over the weekend on the Real Clear Radio Hour with Bill Frezza to discuss the relationship between economic and religious liberty, and the role that a Christian worldview plays in building the type of world that prefigures the Christian idea of the next life.

The interview runs for 25 minutes, and you can listen to it via the audio player below.

Blog author: jcarter
Monday, August 17, 2015
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Havana’s U.S. flag no victory for pope
Nicholas G. Hahn III, USA Today

Francis should deny Castro communion at Mass in the same way Castro denies freedom to the Cuban people.

Air pollution causes nearly one in five deaths in China—and over 4,000 per day
Richard Macauley, Quartz

China has long known it has a problem with air pollution, but a recent study has attributed a startling new death toll to the issue. Berkeley Earth, a nonprofit that studies climate change and related issues, says 1.6 million deaths in China are caused by air pollution every year. That’s well over 4,000 per day, or 17% of all deaths.

Hey Christians, Say Goodbye To Religious Freedom
David Harsanyi, The Federalist

Incredibly, the court acknowledged in its decision that it would have looked at the First Amendment arguments more closely had the gay couple ordered a cake with some explicit messaging that advocated for gay marriage.

Clerk’s Office Defies Order; No Same-sex Marriage Licenses
Claire Galofaro and Adam Beam , Associated Press

A clerk’s office turned away gay couples who sought marriage licenses on Thursday, defying a federal judge’s order that said deeply held Christian beliefs don’t excuse officials from following the law.

Highly recommended reading today comes from Matt Ridley in the Wall Street Journal. His essay, “The Green Scare Problem,” rebuts environmentalist Cassandras from Rachel Carson to the present day, exposing the rampant hyperbole ecological warriors employ to sell their global warming and anti-genetically modified organism policies to an unsuspecting public. Ridley goes even further to show how these policies harm the world’s poorest.

Ridley begins by quoting President Obama, who reduces the opposition of his climate-change agenda as nothing more than the “same stale arguments.” Ridley’s response is priceless:

The trouble is, we’ve heard his stale argument before, too: that we’re doomed if we don’t do what the environmental pressure groups tell us, and saved if we do. And it has frequently turned out to be really bad advice.

Making dire predictions is what environmental groups do for a living, and it’s a competitive market, so they exaggerate. Virtually every environmental threat of the past few decades has been greatly exaggerated at some point. Pesticides were not causing a cancer epidemic, as Rachel Carson claimed in her 1962 book “Silent Spring”; acid rain was not devastating German forests, as the Green Party in that country said in the 1980s; the ozone hole was not making rabbits and salmon blind, as Al Gore warned in the 1990s. Yet taking precautionary action against pesticides, acid rain and ozone thinning proved manageable, so maybe not much harm was done.

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Cardinal Joseph Bernardin (1928-1996)

Cardinal Joseph Bernardin (1928-1996)

At The Catholic World Report, Acton Research Director Samuel Gregg examines the use of the expression “a consistent ethic of life” — a phrase which has been used by Roman Catholic bishops as far back as a 1971 speech delivered by then-Archbishop Humberto Medeiros of Boston. More recently, Chicago Archbishop Blaise Cupich used the phrase in a Chicago Tribune article about the scandal of Planned Parenthood selling body-parts from aborted children. Elaborating, Cupich said “we should be no less appalled by the indifference toward the thousands of people who die daily for lack of decent medical care; who are denied rights by a broken immigration system and by racism; who suffer in hunger, joblessness and want; who pay the price of violence in gun-saturated neighborhoods; or who are executed by the state in the name of justice.”

The phrase “a consistent ethic of life” — also known as the “seamless garment” approach to ethics — won widespread currency during the episcopate of another Chicago archbishop, Cardinal Joseph Bernardin. Gregg observes that in approximately 15 addresses delivered between 1983 and 1986, Bernardin “called for the development of such an ethic and outlined how it might inform the way in which Catholics—lay and clerical—approached public policy issues.” Gregg goes on to outline the theological framework for this approach and how it has been applied, or misapplied, in recent decades: (more…)

Relatives of a Palestinian woman, who medics said was killed in an Israeli air strike, mourn during her funeral in Khan YounisA year ago this month, Islamic State (also known as IS, ISIS, or ISIL) began a systematic program of capturing women and girls for the purposes of rape, forced marriage, and sexual slavery. Yesterday, the New York Times brought renewed attention to the war crimes in an article examining how IS enshrines a theology of rape.

Here are five facts you should know about how IS views and justifies the practice of sexual slavery: 

1. IS considers rape of sex slaves to be a form of worship — In the New York Times article, a Yazidi girl was was enslaved by IS claims:

“Every time that he came to rape me, he would pray,” said F, a 15-year-old girl who was captured on the shoulder of Mount Sinjar one year ago and was sold to an Iraqi fighter in his 20s. Like some others interviewed by The New York Times, she wanted to be identified only by her first initial because of the shame associated with rape.

“He kept telling me this is ibadah,” she said, using a term from Islamic scripture meaning worship. 

2. IS has an eschatological justification for sex slavery   
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Blog author: bwalker
Friday, August 14, 2015
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Pope Francis and the Republican Presidential Hopefuls: A Widening Divide
Stephen Seufert, The Huffington Post

During the first Republican presidential debate, candidates repeatedly mentioned the path towards economic growth is through tax cuts, deregulation, and smaller government. With regards to tax cuts bringing on economic growth to the middle class and poor — commonly called trickle down economics — Pope Francis has unequivocally rejected such a theory.

Our Sunday Visitor Promotes Laudato Si’
Mark Silk, Religion News Service

On the other hand, the pope will have more American Catholics paying attention to him than God when he shows up in New York, Washington, and Philadelphia next month. To say nothing of everyone else in the country. And you can be sure he’ll be pitching Laudato Si’.

In Response: Cherry-picking data won’t make climate change go away
David Gerhart, Duluth News Tribune

A lengthy commentary critical of Pope Francis’ encyclical on climate change was published in the News Tribune on Aug. 8 as half of a “Pro/Con” feature (“Should we heed the pope’s warning about climate change? No: It misreads science and will doom billions to poverty”).

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In an interview with Reason TV, Whole Foods co-founder John Mackey answers a range of questions about why so many intellectuals are opposed to the free market, whether throughout history and to this today.

“Is it a misunderstanding of what business does?” asks Nick Gillespie. “Is it envy? Is it a lack of capacity to understand that what entrepreneurs do or what innovators do?”

Here’s a sample:

Intellectuals have always disdained commerce. That is something that tradesmen did; people that were in a lower class. And so you had minorities, oftentimes did it, like you had the Jews in the West. And when they became wealthy and successful and rose, then they were envied, then they were persecuted and their wealth confiscated, and many times they were run out of country after country. Same thing happened with the Chinese in the East. They were great businesspeople as well. So the intellectuals have always sided kind of with the aristocrats to maintain a society where the businesspeople were kind of kept down. You might say that capitalism was the first time that businesspeople kinda caught a break, because of Adam Smith and the philosophy that came along with that, and the industrial revolution began this huge upwards surge of prosperity.

Mackey does a nice job summarizing the historical and practical forces, but another dynamic worth noting is Thomas Sowell’s notion of the “unconstrained vision” (or the “vision of the anointed”), which one finds among many intellectuals. When Sowell talks about “visions” he’s speaking less to our particular position (vocationally or otherwise) and more to how we perceive the basic nature and destiny of man —“not simply his existing practices,” Sowell writes, “but his ultimate potential and ultimate limitations.” (more…)

Blog author: jcarter
Friday, August 14, 2015
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Christian Baker Must Make Cakes Celebrating Gay Marriage, Appeals Court Rules
Ken McIntyre, The Daily Signal

A custom cake baker in suburban Denver can’t cite his religious convictions in declining to make a wedding cake for two men, a Colorado appeals court ruled today.

For Catholic Relief Services’ Carolyn Woo, capitalism isn’t all bad
Michael O’Loughlin, Crux

Make no mistake about it: Carolyn Woo is a Pope Francis fan. She has met him several times, even traveling to Rome earlier this summer to help him unveil his major work on the environment. But when it comes to economics, the former business school dean and head of one of the world’s largest anti-poverty NGOs winces a bit when the pope rails against capitalism — as he’s done on more than a few occasions.

To fix the US prison system, give every inmate the daily newspaper
Chandra Bozelko, Quartz

Newspapers were different for me, at least while the prison library at Connecticut’s York Correctional Institute still carried them. Better than any book, newspapers were lifesavers that pulled me closer to shore because each new edition marked a new day, an invitation to rejoin a world that kept moving while I was inside.

The Stakes of Free Exercise
Michael Stokes Paulsen, Public Discourse

The Free Exercise Clause creates a unique type of constitutional liberty—a substantive freedom that limits the extent to which government can interfere with religious freedom.