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July 06, 2009

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July 01, 2009

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June 26, 2009

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June 25, 2009

Daily roundup

We Are a Pragmatic People

Unfortunately, some school officials believe children ought to receive monetary rewards as an incentive for academic performance. Sure, maybe this would be fine if education were primarily for future economic gain. Instead of pursuing education as a means of further good, this practice makes education a purely pragmatic step toward the next step...whatever that may be.

Pragmatism hardly leads to the type of virtue that true education should develop.

Did the president make his case on health care?

Abc_ntl_obama_rx_three_090624_mc That's what ABC is asking this morning. What do you think?

(Image © ABC News)

June 24, 2009

Daily roundup

June 23, 2009

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June 19, 2009

Daily roundup

Technological revolution

I've been following the events in Iran with fascination, all the more because a friend of mine just returned from a mission trip there. As she pointed out, with such a minuscule percentage of the Iranian population professing Christ (0.2%, according to Wikipedia), the young people who are risking their lives for the sake of freedom are, in most cases, risking much, much more--their eternal destiny and a life apart from God. Pray for the Iranians to know the true freedom of the Gospel.

One of the reasons we know so much about what has been happening in Iran this last week is technology. The kinds of things that become useless time wasters for us (who cares what Ashton Kutcher ate for lunch?) are the very things that have allowed news of the post-election chaos in Iran to make it past government censors and a foreign media ban. NBC Nightly News ran a piece last night on several Iranian youth who are attending school here in the U.S. and are working hard to keep their peers back home online despite government bans.


At the same time, over at the State Department, a leftover from the Bush administration has been the driving force behind keeping Twitter online and working with cell phone providers to develop technology that would allow people to access Twitter without Internet service.

I guess this Time piece on geeks inheriting the earth has finally come true. If nothing else, they may help to make the earth a more hospitable place for the people of Iran. We can all hope.

June 17, 2009

Daily roundup

June 16, 2009

Daily roundup

Marxist (Harpo, not Karl) Managers

Harpo Mike Metzger over at the Clapham Institute has written an article about how business managers fail to use moral language at work -- even if they are "acting for moral reasons." Because they fear it will hurt their career, "they perform as moral mutes instead" (hence the Harpo Marx reference).

Metzger cites several studies that confirm this problem, including one survery of 13 top business schools that showed a "B-school education not only fails to improve the moral character of students, it actually weakens it." 

Another study reveals how the problem springs from the modern educational system that dismantles the moral order that America was once based upon: "Students are taught a definition of reality that makes an absolute distinction between facts and values. Facts are the province of science and business while values are the province of religion. Facts are propositions; values are preferences. Fact language includes economics. Values language includes ethics. Students graduate with an unshakable faith that using moral language even remotely hinting at faith has no place in the workplace."

One result of this mindset is "our current economic crisis" caused by managers who could not see beyond their "own narrow ambitions" -- as evidenced by the scandals and economic meltdowns at Enron, Worldcom, Bear Stearns, Lehman Brothers, AIG, etc.

Metzker sees one glimmer of hope: 20% of 2009 graduates from the Harvard Business School have voluntarily signed "the M.B.A. Oath" in which they pledge to "serve the greater good" and to "act responsibly, ethically, and refrain from advancing their own narrow ambitions at the expense of others." 

However, my reaction was one of dismay since only 20% were willing to sign the pledge. Seems to me that such a step should be required for all college graduates, regardless of their major. Restoring the sense of what we ought to do -- based on Judeo-Christian ethics -- is critical if we want to turn America back from her current self-destructive path.

(Image courtesy of IMDb and MPTV)

June 15, 2009

Daily roundup

Climate Change Is Real

Booker-14060_1423198a That's right. The world's climate is changing, always has been -- just, this time, not in the direction predicted by the 2007 Nobel Peace Prize winner. As reported by the Telegraph, cooler, not warmer weather is causing crop shortages and higher prices around the globe. For instance,

In Canada and northern America summer planting of corn and soybeans has been way behind schedule, with the prospect of reduced yields and lower quality. Grain stocks are predicted to be down 15 per cent next year. US reserves of soya – used in animal feed and in many processed foods – are expected to fall to a 32-year low.

The situation is similar for China, Africa, and Europe.

So what's the culprit? Something that was identified 200 years ago when "the great astronomer William Herschel observed a correlation between wheat prices and sunspots. When the latter were few in number, he noted, the climate turned colder and drier, crop yields fell and wheat prices rose. In the past two years, sunspot activity has dropped to its lowest point for a century."

Hmmm. Looks like the science "was in," the debate over, two centuries ago. Had the Nobel been established back then, the Peace prize might have gone to an astronomer.

It is a sad irony that in our efforts to fix a problem that doesn't exist -- man-made global warming -- the food situation around the globe could very well be exacerbated as "the millions of acres of farmland [are] now being switched from food crops to biofuels" to reduce man-made greenhouse gas emissions.

(Image © Reuters)

June 12, 2009

Journalists should cringe

Newspapers While perusing a review of the crumbling state of our nation's newspaper industry, I crossed paths with these chilling words:

The unsettling possibility looms that some big cities could lose their sole remaining daily newspaper – and that the public won't care. If the dead-tree edition of a newspaper falls in a crowded media forest, will it matter, except to the journalists who work there? Are newer, hipper online news outlets poised to fill the void? What, if anything, will be irrevocably lost?

And the public won't care! That's what scares me the most. Even more, that the public won't care if good storytelling follows these newspapers down the drain. In our soundbite-saturated culture, are we forgetting the treasure that daily newspapers bring to us in good stories?

(Image courtesy of ArtsJournal)

June 09, 2009

Daily roundup

June 05, 2009

Daily roundup

Say ’Yes’ to Nuclear Power

The president claims that Iran has the right to develop a nuclear energy program. My question is why he and his supporters don't see the same need (and right) here in America. I agree with the IBD editorial that says, "We have legitimate energy aspirations as well, and one of them is reducing our dependence on imported oil from countries that do not have our interests at heart." Amen.

June 04, 2009

Daily roundup

Socialist America

Alg_chavez_obama For all those naysayers who have been furious over Obama being labeled a Marxist-socialist, it seems that Hugo Chavez and this writer for Pravda see things a bit differently.

The IBD article outlines how Chavez began "picking off companies" one by one and reports that Chavez is applauding Obama's actions toward GM. The writer concludes, "Make no mistake: The Venezuelan dictator does not wish us well. He'd like to see all of our institutions crash to the ground and put the U.S. into the same socialist morass he's in. He knows that one act after another on this GM model in the US will end in state socialism, with all the poverty, misery, shortages, noninvestment and lack of freedom that now plague Venezuela. The Obama administration officials involved in the GM takeover may not think their action will harm the system, but they're wrong...."

The article in Pravda, however, is more chilling. It opens with this paragraph: "It must be said, that like the breaking of a great dam, the American decent [sic] into Marxism is happening with breath taking speed, against the back drop of a passive, hapless, sheeple, excuse me dear reader, I meant people." 

After discussing the dumbing down of the American public and the loss of our faith in God, the Pravda writer says, "The final collapse has come with the election of Barack Obama. His speed in the past three months has been truly impressive. His spending and money printing has been a record setting, not just in America's short history but in the world. If this keeps up for more then [sic] another year, and there is no sign that it will not, America at best will resemble the Wiemar Republic and at worst Zimbabwe."

We can't say we're not being warned. The question is, what will we "sheeple" do about it?

(Image © Watson/Getty)

June 02, 2009

Music for the soul

Ig5-cover Having recently moved to a new area and gone through the "church shopping" process, I've had ample opportunity to observe some of the different styles of music in churches around my local area, from the staid to the ear-splitting. 

All of which makes me appreciate even more the lovely melodies and harmonies and the thought-provoking and soul-stirring lyrics on the Indelible Grace CDs.  The focus of Indelible Grace is on updating age-old hymns, many of which have fallen out of common use, for a modern audience.

Over at the 9Marks blog, Mike McKinley provided the lyrics for one of the hymns that Indelible Grace has recorded, one that, although written 112 years ago, seems particularly apropos to this time of economic uncertainty:

I do not ask to see the way
My feet will have to tread;
But only that my soul may feed
Upon the living Bread.
'Tis better far that I should walk
By faith close to His side;
I may not know the way I go,
But oh, I know my Guide.

Refrain
His love can never fail, His love can never fail,
My soul is satisfied to know His love can never fail.
My soul is satisfied to know His love can never fail.

And if my feet would go astray,
They cannot, for I know
That Jesus guides my falt'ring steps,
As joyfully I go.
And tho' I may not see His face,
My faith is strong and clear,
That in each hour of sore distress
My Savior will be near.

I will not fear, tho' darkness come
Abroad o'er all the land,
If I may only feel the touch
Of His own loving hand.
And tho' I tremble when I think
How weak I am, and frail,
My soul is satisfied to know
His love can never fail.

(Image © Indelible Grace)

Tragedy Strikes Healthy Egg Donors

Egg donation College-age females are at risk for more than STDs. Bioethicist Jennifer Lahl warns readers about the advertisements aimed at college students offering money for their eggs -- advertisements that don't tell the truth about the very real risks. 

(Image © S. Walker for Getty Images)

June 01, 2009

The wrath of God: Sunday comics edition

I hadn't read Doonesbury in months, but a panel in this Sunday's strip (the "Reverend Sloan, I've been noticing" panel; the Washington Post doesn't run the first two "throwaway" panels) caught my eye, and I went on to read the whole thing.

How would you respond to some of the points Garry Trudeau raises here? I realize it's hardly the first time they've been raised, but they usually make for a pretty interesting discussion topic, whenever and wherever they're raised.

May 29, 2009

Daily roundup

May 28, 2009

Worst car review ever

In_Gear_556559a My friend Mike sent me Jeremy Clarkson's review of the new Honda Insight. I understand the article has been making the rounds lately, so you may have already seen it. For those of you who haven't, it's a must read.

Mike's favorite part was "It’s terrible. Biblically terrible. Possibly the worst new car money can buy. It’s the first car I’ve ever considered crashing into a tree, on purpose, so I didn’t have to drive it any more."

Me, I was rather partial to "The Honda’s petrol engine . . . makes a noise worse than someone else’s crying baby on an airliner. It’s worse than the sound of your parachute failing to open. Really, to get an idea of how awful it is, you’d have to sit a dog on a ham slicer."

But you have to read the whole thing to get the full (hilarious) effect.

(Image courtesy of the Times Online)

May 27, 2009

Daily roundup

May 21, 2009

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May 19, 2009

Daily roundup

Obamanation at Notre Dame

Obama ceremony The choice of a commencement speaker at Notre Dame University could have been, should have been, a reminder to the world that some things are phenomenally more important than others--that honoring God's teachings is more important than the prestige of having the President of the United States honor YOU by agreeing (for political reasons) to be your commencement speaker. Notre Dame's leaders chose not to send this message. Instead, they chose to drape a robe around the most aggressively pro-abortion president in history--one whose actions are increasing the number of abortions performed both here and around the world.

By inviting Obama, Notre Dame's leaders were saying, in effect, "Abortion doesn't matter very much." Perhaps those who invited Obama should review John 12:43 ("For they loved the praise of men more than the praise of God").

During his address, Obama had the audacity to lecture his audience about "living together as one human family." How about starting by simply allowing its youngest and most helpless members to live, period, Mr. President?

Which leads to another question: Are there any Centurions living in or around South Bend? The Notre Dame Class of 2009--which was applauding Obama's "reducing abortion" lines--desperately needs someone to teach them how to think. Has it not occurred to them to question the logic (and motives) of someone who claims to want to "reduce" something he supports? If there's nothing wrong with abortion, why bother reducing it? And if there IS something morally wrong with abortion (Catholic teaching calls it a grave injustice) why does Obama enthusiastically support it, fund it, and export it?

Continue reading "Obamanation at Notre Dame" »

May 18, 2009

Daily roundup

May 14, 2009

A privileged disaster

Obama-asu-topper In the commencement speech to Arizona State University's graduating class, President Obama referred to the economic crisis as a "privilege" because "it is moments like these that force us to try harder and dig deeper and discover gifts we never knew we had. To find the greatness that lies within each of us." 

Following this logic, and acknowledging the fact that young graduates are "privileged" to enter what many are calling the worst economic climate since the 1980s, should we be thanking the President for giving our children a debt that will force them to "dig deep"? 

(Image © Charles Dharapak for the AP)

May 13, 2009

Daily roundup

The workplace fridge: Approach with caution

This article reminded me how grateful I am to work at home. For those of you stuck in cubicle farms, you have my sympathies--and prayers for office kitchen safety.

May 08, 2009

Daily roundup

’Eats, Shoots & Leaves’ was right

Commas make all the difference.

May 07, 2009

California Goes to Pot

Marijuana-leaf It would be funny if it weren't so tragic, but evidently California is considering legalizing pot in order to help with the state's budget deficit. 

(Image courtesy of HowStuffWorks)

May 06, 2009

Daily roundup

Re: Surely This Couldn’t Happen Here

Cigarette Dave,

Here's what comes to mind:

  1. On the one hand, we seem to be determined to follow Western Europe's lead, no matter how badly and obviously we see those cultures and states weaken before our eyes. Given the greater European appreciation for the cigarette, and given the current American governmental appetite for buying $timulu$ with taxpayer dollars, one could almost imagine something as hilariously pathetic as required cigarette consumption. "Drag deep, men, and silently thank Saint Keynes for giving us his Magic Multiplier."
  2. On the other hand, there's too much Clinton-era precedent for directing the full power of the state against Evil Big Tobacco. And you've got liberal Meddlers In Chief like Mayor Bloomberg who believe it their job to save the ignorant hoi polloi from their precious vices. So it's hard to see us going pro-cig in our policy.
  3. Then again, the anti-smoking lobby believed the 1998 Tobacco Master Settlement Agreement between Big Tobacco and the states' attorneys general constituted a perverse incentive for smoking. So ... maybe our policy precedent is a tad unclear.
  4. Last thought: For now, we thankfully lack China's coming population implosion. Math is the harshest of taskmasters, and it does not bode well for the retirement of China's older generations, given the comparatively tiny financial base upon which those retirees will rely. So ... you know ... maybe the Chinese government is trying to hook the older workers on devil tobaccy to, er, whittle away at those retiree numbers!

I humbly submit all of these decidedly subpar thoughts for your consideration.

Allen

May 05, 2009

Daily roundup

May 04, 2009

Daily roundup

Surely This Couldn’t Happen Here

Reason #274 why government should stick to governing, not running economies: Local Chinese officials have ordered state employees to smoke. The reason? To stimulate the economy by supporting local tobacco companies. Should also do wonders long-term for the state-run health care system, which will have plenty of new cancer patients in the future.

I hope Allen Thornburgh doesn't see this . . .

Loss of a leader

Kemp Former cabinet member, congressman, and vice-presidential nominee Jack Kemp died Saturday at the age of 73. My former co-worker (and occasional BreakPoint writer) Leslie Carbone has a heartfelt tribute to Kemp's leadership, energy, and encouragement at her blog. R.I.P. to a strong and principled leader.

(Image © Reuters)

April 30, 2009

Sustaining revival

Jwesley John Wesley, one of the great revivalists and founder of the Methodist movement, on the danger of revival:

I fear, wherever riches have increased . . . the essence of religion, the mind that was in Christ, has decreased in the same proportion.  Therefore, I do not see how it is possible, in the nature of things, for any revival of true religion to continue long.  For religion must necessarily produce both industry and frugality; and these cannot but produce riches.  But as riches increase, so will pride, anger, and love of the world in all its branches.  How then is it possible that Methodism, that is, the religion of the heart, though it flourishes now as a green bay tree, should continue in this state?  For the Methodists in every place grow diligent and frugal; consequently they increase in goods.  Hence, they proportionably increase in pride, in the desire of the flesh, the desire of the eyes, and the pride of life.  So, although the form of religion remains, the spirit is swiftly vanishing away.  Is there no way to prevent this? this continual declension of pure religion?  We ought not to forbid people to be diligent and frugal; we must exhort all Christians, to gain all they can, and to save all they can:  this is, in effect, to grow rich!  What way then, I ask again, can we take that our money may not sink us to the nethermost hell?  There is one way, and there is no other under heaven.  If those who gain all they can, and save all they can, will likewise give all they can, then the more they gain, the more they will grow in grace, and the more treasure they will lay up in heaven.

(Image courtesy of Project Canterbury)

April 29, 2009

Daily roundup

Europe Syndrome

What's happening? Call it the Europe syndrome. Last April I had occasion to speak in Zurich, where I made some of these same points. After the speech, a few of the twenty-something members of the audience approached and said plainly that the phrase "a life well-lived" did not have meaning for them. They were having a great time with their current sex partner and new BMW and the vacation home in Majorca, and saw no voids in their lives that needed filling.

~ Charles Murray, The 2009 Irving Kristol Lecture, March 12, 2009

Author and political scientist Charles Murray recently delivered the address at the American Enterprise Institute's annual dinner. His talk was entitled "The Happiness of the People" and is posted on AEI's website.

Murray's lecture is a great worldview read. What he calls the "Europe Syndrome" is a way of thinking ... in other words, a worldview. Though Murray admires Europe in some ways, he unpacks some of the core beliefs of the modern worldview that has shaped Western Europe -- a worldview that is spreading like the swine flu among many of America's elites and current leaders. Murray describes a core belief of this worldview in the following way.

Human beings are a collection of chemicals that activate and, after a period of time, deactivate. The purpose of life is to while away the intervening time as pleasantly as possible.

If that's the purpose of life, then work is not a vocation, but something that interferes with the higher good of leisure. If that's the purpose of life, why have a child, when children are so much trouble--and, after all, what good are they, really? If that's the purpose of life, why spend it worrying about neighbors? If that's the purpose of life, what could possibly be the attraction of a religion that says otherwise?

Government's job, therefore, is to minimize unpleasantness so that we can while away the intervening time between our activation and deactivation. European-style social democracies are quite successful toward this end. This line of thinking also explains current European trends such as below-replacement birthrates, increased leisure time, fewer hours spent working, and lots of beautiful but empty cathedrals and churches.

Continue reading "Europe Syndrome" »

April 27, 2009

Daily roundup

April 23, 2009

Oh, No!

It's Take Your Annoying, Runny-Nosed Child to Work Day again...the day on which, if you go to the airport, an employee's child will drop your luggage (happened to me once), slowly serve you the wrong order at a restaurant (you can't get snarky with them because they might cry), etc. I wonder if the man who carries the nuclear football at the White House brought HIS kid to work today--you know, just to show her how the buttons work.... 

That's right....I hate this kind of stuff, and not just because it was invented by feminists, who changed it from "Take Your Daughter to Work Day" after people pointed out that it was sexist (boys left behind in the classroom were often given assignments involving how sexist men are). I dislike it because 1. as Chuck once pointed out in a BreakPoint commentary, it celebrates moms who work outside the home at the expense of those who take care of their children full-time, and 2. there are certain places children simply don't belong, because--surprise--they behave like children.

So--I'm really glad I'm working from a home office today and not planning to go out. The only creature irritating me is my miniature dachshund, Boo Boo, who growls and barks whenever I'm on the phone because she's learned that I'll throw her treats to shut her up.

April 22, 2009

Daily roundup

Bound to Happen: Christians Penalized in Workplace

Mouth_gagged

Frankly, I'm surprised we don't hear more about Christians having their jobs threatened for not going along and getting along with every facet of political correctness. This story from Britain tells the tale.

It goes without saying that we live in a highly pluralistic age and that we must be civil and possessed of a Christ-like demeanor towards all those at work. But what hypocrisy abounds when everyone is taught to honor one group's beliefs while Christian perspectives are viewed with grave suspicion. 

The writer here puts the old saying well: "And yes, it’s quite possible to condemn someone’s actions and behaviors, but love the individual as you love yourself."

The truth is that sincere Christians oftentimes care more than the average person for gay people, whom we know to be made in God's image, even if they, like we, engage in behaviors that do not glorify their Creator. There is no hierarchy of sins in Christianity. Only sin. And while many gay people may honestly not know how it is that they arrived at their orientation, Christianity simply and consistently asserts that it is not something God intended for them.

Sincere Christians should not be homophobic, nor should they feel the need to sacrifice their understanding of God and human sexuality just to fit in. Rather, they should try, when possible, to show any gay co-worker that they see in them a fellow human being and rejoice in all the true gifts God has given them. A person is far more than his or her sexual orientation, important though it is, and on that basis there is much common ground to be found.

If only our workplaces would allow such candid, healing conversations to take place. But instead, we all tiptoe around one another, solving little.

(Image courtesy of LaVrai.com)