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July 06, 2009

Daily roundup

June 26, 2009

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June 25, 2009

Daily roundup

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 19, 2009

Imelda Marcos: From the World’s Greediest to Penniless?

(Adapted from my blog The Living Rice.)

The news clip below, from a local Filipino newscast, shows Imelda Marcos weeping because, according to her, she is poor and out of funds. She says that her only source of income is her late husband’s life pension and she’s asking the Philippine government for pity. 

It’s interesting to see how the widow of former dictator Ferdinand Marcos, who gained worldwide notoriety in the '80s through her lavish lifestyle and 3000 pairs of shoes (Newsweek listed her in 2009 as one of the "Greediest People of All Time") has turned around, pleading with the country she and her husband once robbed of wealth. Ironically, the begging ex-first lady, as you can see in the video, is more glammed up than the rest of us. It reminded me of what Jesus said: where our treasure is, there our hearts and thoughts will be also (Matthew 6:21). Makes one ponder, if I were to lose all my money and material possessions today, how would I respond?

For the latest Philippine news stories and videos, visit GMANews.TV

June 15, 2009

Daily roundup

June 09, 2009

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June 05, 2009

Daily roundup

Looking Up and Over One’s Fence

OBIT_KEMP_011_r350x200 Lanny Davis is about as enthusiastic a Democrat as one can find. An effective communicator and lawyer, he may be best remembered as one of Bill Clinton's chief defenders during the Lewinsky scandal.

But he found in his diametrical political opposite, the late Jack Kemp, a good friend, one who could vigorously disagree with him on issues while still enjoying him and caring for him as a person. This article by Davis shows wonderfully that the feeling was mutual.

John Wesley once encouraged his followers to note how even a cow will look up over the fence in front of it to see what is beyond it, if only out of curiosity. He encouraged his followers to hold fast to their cherished faith and beliefs while being secure enough in them to investigate what might be worthwhile in another person.  

Lanny Davis and Jack Kemp were able to find common ground on several issues, despite their different vantage points--all because they saw in each other something more than just an opponent.

(Image courtesy of the Washington Times)

May 21, 2009

Daily roundup

May 18, 2009

Daily roundup

May 14, 2009

’Slumdog’ actor’s home destroyed

Ismail The BBC reports that Azharuddin Ismail, one of the child actors from the Oscar-winning Slumdog Millionaire, lost his home (a tent in the slums of Mumbai), which was demolished by city authorities with the accusation that the family had been squatting on the land.

Controversy had already erupted over fair compensation for a few of the child actors from the film (two, including Ismail, actually came from the slums they were representing in the film).

(Image © Fox Searchlight)

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

May 06, 2009

Daily roundup

Chuck Colson’s tributes to Jack Kemp

Kemp Colson Chuck Colson has been asked to deliver the eulogy for his friend Jack Kemp at the National Cathedral on Friday. But he's already offering a tribute in today's BreakPoint commentary.

Jack might well have been President—and would have been a great one—were it not for two things: He would never compromise his convictions, nor would he attack his opponents. Sadly, it’s hard to resist those things and still get to the White House.

His courage was on display to the very end. During the times I visited him over the last months of his life, I was taken by how he kept his spirit up even as the cancer devastated his body.

Jack was a giant in our midst. He had a heart for the same kind of people Prison Fellowship serves—the poor, the oppressed, and the downtrodden. His wife, Joanne, has been a board member at Prison Fellowship for many years.

He also shared our Christian commitment to human life, telling the New York Times how a personal tragedy made him “more aware of the sanctity of human life, [and] how precious every child is.”

This and more is why Jack’s death is such a great loss to me personally. Joanne and his four beautiful children—all Christians—are in my prayers. How proud of them Jack was. This family’s Christian witness has touched countless lives.

Read more.

(Image © Prison Fellowship Ministries)

May 01, 2009

’The Crossing’

080608_p16_crossing In the first half hour or so of The Crossing, the pregnant wife of former North Korean soccer star Yong-Soo (Cha In-pyo) develops tuberculosis from malnutrition, and their neighbors are arrested for hiding Bibles in their house. By the time the family is driven to eating their dog, you'll have grasped that this movie is not for the squeamish. Though the violence and the depictions of poverty and sickness are only occasionally explicit, the struggles of the characters in this film -- based on the stories of real North Korean refugees -- are heartbreaking and tragic. (We're approaching Boy in the Striped Pajamas territory here.)

It's one thing to read newspaper stories about oppression in places like North Korea, but to watch the fears, hopes, and sufferings of these characters opens a viewer's eyes in a whole new way. And when the desperate father cries, "Does Jesus Christ only live in South Korea?" it makes you think about just how much we take our blessings for granted, and our responsibility as the Body of Christ toward our persecuted brothers and sisters.

To the best of my knowledge, the DVD of the film is not yet widely available, but you can check its website and the North Korea Freedom Coalition's website to find out about possible screenings in your area and to keep track of DVD release plans.

(Image courtesy of Big House-Vantage Holdings)

How to make a bad situation worse

Surrogates "Forced abortions shake up China wombs-for-rent industry"

(Image © Reuters UK)

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 28, 2009

Daily roundup

April 27, 2009

Daily roundup

North Korea Freedom Week

RTEmagicC_China_NKentrytoembassy North Korea Freedom Week began yesterday. If you're in the Washington, D.C., area, there are many activities -- prayer vigils, rallies, film screenings, information sessions, and more -- in which you can participate. If not, you can still help spread the word about human rights violations in North Korea, and pray for the oppressed. You can also read this op-ed about why President Obama should make human rights issues a priority when dealing with the North Korean government.

Later this week I'll review the Korean film The Crossing, described by the Wall Street Journal as "a 'Schindler's List' for North Korea." Special thanks to Dr. Katy Oh Hassig for the information about North Korea Freedom Week and also for lending me her copy of the film.

(Image © North Korea Freedom Coalition)

Steven Curtis Chapman Shout-out

On Thursday night, the Dove Awards honored singer/songwriter and longtime friend of Prison Fellowship Steven Curtis Chapman with the Artist of the Year award. Chapman, who lost his daughter Maria Sue in a devastating accident last May, has been a wonderful example to all of us of what standing firm in the face of tragedy looks like. He's wrestled openly with doubts, but continued to see the opportunities this tragedy brought as occasions to share the hope within--and he has done that faithfully. Chapman performed "Cinderella" at the ceremony. It's a beautiful song he dedicated to Maria. He tells the story behind it here:

In related news, the orphans' ministry of Steven and Mary Beth Chapman recently unveiled a new name and new logo. After stumbling over the long name Shaohannah's Hope and misspelling it too many times to count, I like the simpler Show Hope. It keeps the continuity with the original and is a lot easier to say and remember. And the website looks super snazzy--hats off to all our friends over at Show Hope! If you're not familiar with the work of this wonderful nonprofit, take a few minutes to see all that they do and how you can get involved.

April 24, 2009

The Lines, They Are a-Changin'

After decades of eschewing the label "Religious Left," Jim Wallis—founder and editor of the socially liberal Christian magazine and activist community Sojourners—seems to have found peace with the nomenclature.

"I wanted to gauge your interest in the first big mobilization of the Religious Left in the Obama era—a signal of the shift in power dynamics," Wallis states in a new press release promoting an anti-poverty conference in Washington, D.C., this weekend. "This is the Religious Left filling the hole created by the decline of the Religious Right but now we have the political power and ear of the White House—definitely a new trend and a 'first' within this new political era."

Ted Olsen of Christianity Today's Politics Blog points out that this is a clear shift in Sojourner's approach. Wallis has repeatedly said that he does not see himself as part of the "Religious Left," claiming that he is instead seeking to provide a "moral center" for those religious people tired of political posturing of both left and right. On Sojourners' website, Wallis claims, “The alternative to the Religious Right is not the Religious Left. It's time to transcend the old polarities of our public life.”

It appears that Wallis feels that having "the political power and the ear of the White House" justifies the maintaining of the old polarities—at least until his agenda has been adopted by the new administration.  I'm interested in hearing how Mr. Wallis differentiates the current approach of Sojourners and that of the "Religious Right" he has spent several decades decrying.

April 23, 2009

Daily roundup

April 20, 2009

What he’s spending his prize money on

Merga Deriba Merga, who just won the 113th Boston Marathon, plans, according to those covering the run, to spend the $150,000 prize money (plus additional money from various product endorsements) on supporting his extended family back in Ethiopia. Race commentators say that back home, $150 a month supports a family of four quite well. This means Merga has just become the Bill Gates of his hometown.

I was rooting for the American runners (male and female) to win until I heard this. While I'm sure the money would have been nice for American winners, it's probably lifesaving for those who run out of desperation, so they can feed their children and give them a better life.

I watched the race live this morning--my husband was participating, and finished with a good time.  

(Yes, Dave, I'll have that BreakPoint script ready on time....)

(Image © AFP)

April 16, 2009

Daily roundup

April 14, 2009

Survivor’s guilt

25korea.1_600x379 As we approach North Korea Freedom Week, the Washington Post offers a moving portrait of the struggles of those who escape the oppressive regime.

At the Hangyoreh school, none of the defectors arrives with a clear idea of what career to pursue, according to Gwak [Jong-moon], the principal.

He said they come to school, instead, with fears that often overwhelm their ability to concentrate: They are afraid that someone will harm them, that someone will punish their family in North Korea, that they will fail in South Korea.

"These things really weigh them down," Gwak said. "When they start to make progress, they feel guilty. One hundred percent of the time, when you throw a birthday party for these young people, they cry for the family they left behind."

Their long-term ambitions, he said, are easy to explain: "They want to eat warm rice with their families again."

Image © Seokyong Lee for the New York Times

John Steinbeck, prophet?

Joads_grapeswrath Today is the 70th anniversary of the publication of Steinbeck's The Grapes of Wrath. As this article states (backed up by another article that we posted here recently), the author had some prescient words for our own generation: 

"If I wanted to destroy a nation," he wrote in 1966, "I would give it too much and I would have it on its knees, miserable, greedy and sick."

(Image courtesy of Getty Images)

April 08, 2009

The Economics of Reconciliation

Rsz_coffeeshop__017 The other night I had the privilege to speak on a panel at the Center for American Progress. The event, titled "15 Years Later: The State of Rwandan Reconciliation," was sponsored by Indego Africa and the Rwanda International Network Association, a group of Rwandans living in the United States. Its intent was to mark the 15th anniversary of the genocide and to present an in-depth look at the state of political and ethnic reconciliation in Rwanda. 

Jackson Mvunganyi, co-host of Up Front on Voice of America radio moderated the panel, which aside from me included:

  • Matthew Mitro, Founder and CEO of Indego Africa
  • Karol Boudreaux, Professor of Law at George Mason University; Lead Researcher at Enterprise Africa! a project of the Mercatus Center
  • Augustin Mutemberize, International Trade Specialist, Africa Trade Office; formerly of the Rwandan Ministry of Finance
  • Andrew Jones, Director of Policy Analysis, CARE USA; former Program Director, CARE Rwanda.

When I wasn't speaking, I was listening intently! There's a lot of fascinating research happening today in the intersection of social entrepreneurship, economics and reconciliation.

Continue reading "The Economics of Reconciliation" »

April 03, 2009

What would Jesus walk on?

Ecopalm_247 The green movement has hit the second greenest Christian celebration, Palm Sunday, when fronds of green palm branches are waved by children and adults in church services only a few months after all the Christmas (or Chrismon) trees were taken down. This year, in a move that might make the Sleeths happy, a number of churches have gone free-trade with their palm fronds. Spending a few more dollars, they are buying palm fronds through a university project that promises sustainable farming and fair wages.

Gina's post on the Sleeths' book has generated a lot of discussion about the green movement and how (or if) it should intersect with our faith. What do you all think? Is the idea of free trade palms one you'd like to see in your church?

(Image courtesy of UMCOR/Lutheran World Relief)

April 02, 2009

Unhappy about your abortion?

Well, quit whining and get real, says Bonnie Erbe

Feeding and raising children is expensive. Tuition may be free at public schools but there are still books, transportation, food, clothes, medical care and activities that add up -- way up. One may assume this family of five is struggling just to maintain its basics: housing and food. Add one more child and those costs rise as income drops. It's no tragedy: it's a good decision. The decision benefits society in two ways. It allows the couple to focus more time, energy and resources on their three children, giving each child a better life and a better chance of growing up to become a contributor to society. It also reduces the chance the family will have to rely on scarce public resources to raise their children. 

Abortion was not viewed as a tragic event in the early days after the Supreme Court handed down its Roe v. Wade decision that legalized abortion on a national scale. A tough decision: you bet. An unpleasant process: that, too. But it was not something women whined about publicly on the scale many seem to now. Nor was it covered by the media or promoted by pro-choice politicians in "woe is me" terms.

(H/T The Corner)

April 01, 2009

Going green for God

Go Green Yesterday I spoke on the phone with Nancy Sleeth, author of the new book Go Green, Save Green. Sleeth and her husband, Matthew, are the founders of Blessed Earth, "an educational nonprofit that inspires and equips faith communities to become better stewards of the earth." Her husband and daughter have also written books on the subject. (We don't yet have the books here, but review copies have been shipped to our office, so you'll be hearing more about them in the future.)

Matthew Sleeth was an emergency room physician who was becoming concerned about what he saw as an increased incidence of environmentally caused diseases (in one week on the job, he saw three women in their thirties with breast cancer), as well as what he heard scientists saying about the decreasing of living material on the earth. He left his job and the Sleeths became what Nancy calls the "poster family for the downwardly mobile." Once they had made drastic reductions in their own energy usage, they set out to help others do the same.

At the same time, the Sleeths were starting a new "faith journey." Nancy had been raised Jewish and Matthew Protestant, but aside from celebrating holidays, the family had little interest in religion. Nancy quips that in their house "the Fiddler on the Roof slipped down the chimney and laid Easter eggs." But her husband had discovered a Gideon Bible one day in the hospital during a slow day, and "he picked it up and read the Gospel of Matthew and his life changed." Nancy and the children soon followed suit. Thus, Nancy says, "Our stewardship journey and our faith journey were parallel."

The Sleeths believe that helping save the creation is a way to honor the Creator, and that the Bible makes a solid case for taking care of the environment. "It's old theology; it's nothing new," Nancy explains. "We're just reminding people." The response they're getting from churches around the country has been "amazing," especially now that Christians, like the larger population, are trying to save money as well as natural resources. That's fine with Nancy: "I don't care if it's motivated by economics, it's doing the right thing." 

Continue reading "Going green for God" »

March 25, 2009

Does He Think We’re That Stupid?

I caught part of Barack Obama's press conference last night--the part about how it's only fair to reduce the charitable gift tax deduction for well-heeled Americans. The reporter, bless his heart, followed up by asking if all those charities that are going ballistic over this proposal are wrong in thinking they'll be badly damaged by Obama's plans. Not at all, the messiah responded.

Maybe the people who run America's homeless shelters and AIDS clinics read a report by the Tax Policy Center, which found that Obama's proposal would reduce charitable giving by nine billion dollars a year.

Obama later told a reporter from Ebony magazine that his heart "breaks" over the thought of any American child being homeless. Well, if you feel that badly about it, Mr. President, it might be a good idea to listen to the people who RUN America's homeless shelters--shelters that survive only because "the rich" support them. Nine billion dollars will provide food and shelter for a lot of homeless kids.  But no--the government knows best how to spend that money....

What frustrates me most about listening to Obama speak is his assumption that we are too stupid to realize he's conning us (see above)--or flat out lying to us. Embryonic stem cell research will lead to cures for diabetes and Parkinsons? Please. This research has yet to yield a single cure, or even hope, for any disease. Obama knows this, of course. Anybody who pays attention to the debate knows this. But Obama lies about it anyway.

Serving Our Own

Last Sunday my church in Silver Spring, Maryland, announced a new ministry of support for people who have lost their jobs, seen their work hours reduced, or seen a reduction in demand for their services. 

"Our Lord exhorts us to be encourages to one another, to uplift each other in prayer, & to provide practical support to those in need," noted our church bulletin. "During this time of economic uncertainty and job insecurity, Atonement is commencing a ministry of support as a comfort and encouragement to those experiencing career challenges."

"If you own a company, provide a service, sell a product, tutor, consult, or have a skill that you would like to employ," the bulletin went on, "we are preparing a referral list for internal distribution." The list will then be made available to church members and regular attenders.

This is a wonderful way of serving our own people in need. I hope other churches will pick up on the idea.

March 24, 2009

Daily roundup

As a man sows

Garden With the economy forcing people to, well, economize, Americans are rolling up their sleeves and rediscovering vegetable gardens. According to the AP, we're supposed to call them "recession gardens," although the 1940s name of "victory gardens" sounds a whole lot cheerier. 

Those gardens, modeled after a White House patch planted by Eleanor Roosevelt in 1943, were intended to inspire self-sufficiency, and at their peak supplied 40 percent of the nation's fresh produce, said Roger Doiron, founding director of Kitchen Gardeners International.

Wow--can you imagine if 40 percent of our fresh produce came from our backyards? What would that look like? Maybe we could stop popping so many vitamin pills and get the healthy glow that comes from fresh vegetables and sunshine. Maybe the Global Food Crisis would disappear as American farmers were able to meet international need. Maybe people in our own communities wouldn't go hungry if we were each able to plant one extra row for a local food bank. Maybe we would one day hear Jesus say, "I was hungry and you gave me something to eat." Sounds like victory to me.

(Image © AP)

March 23, 2009

Daily roundup

Quote for the Day: C.S. Lewis on Money


One of the dangers of having a lot of money is that you may be quite satisfied with the kinds of happiness money can give and so fail to realise your need for God. If everything seems to come simply by signing checks, you may forget that you are at every moment totally dependent on God. 

-- C.S. Lewis, Mere Christianity

Is it possible that one of the hidden blessings in our current economic meltdown is that many of us will turn away from worshiping the god Mammon, and instead turn our hearts to Yahweh? That is my hope and prayer, for myself and for others in my country. 

March 20, 2009

Global Warming, a New Kind of Morality

Earth3 Thanks to Pointificator Michael Snow for alerting us to an important video hosted by scientists refuting the global warming myth.  

The Discovery Channel (among others) is making a bunch of money running global warming stories, so I suggest that it is important for all of us to become educated on this worldview issue (Humans vs. Earth). Michael Snow is correct about who will suffer the most from bad policy decisions based on error-ridden science: the poor. 

Myths are hard to break. For instance, malaria was well on its way to being wiped out before Greeners decided that DDT was bad for the environment. (See Dr. Robert Cihak's article DDT vs. Death by Malaria.)

It always amazes me that we throw out perfectly good ethical and moral priniciples and replace them with nonsense. I guess St. Augustine was right: "our hearts are restless till they find rest in Thee." If we don't find rest in God, we'll try to find rest in something else--like Earth worship and bad science.

(Image © The Discovery Channel)

March 18, 2009

How the Really Rich Have Suffered

Gates You know you're rich when you can lose $18 billion and still be called the richest man in the world. Or $25 billion and be the 2nd richest.

Bill Gates and Warren Buffett can attest to that statement, as can the rest of the billionaires on this list, who suffered greatly last year. Their numbers have shrunk from 1,125 to only 793 today, with overall net worth dropping by $2 trillion. Times are tough indeed.

However, I don't think anyone on that list will be clipping coupons or looking for 2-for-1 dinners at Applebees any time soon.

(Image © Kevin P. Casey for the AP)

March 16, 2009

Daily roundup

March 13, 2009

’Slumdog’ Defies Oscar Norms

Slumdog-millionaire6 How did Jamal Malik, a slumdog from Mumbai, win 20 million rupees on Who Wants to Be a Millionaire?

A. He cheated
B. He’s lucky
C. He’s a genius
D. It is destiny

In a swirling explosion of triumphant hope and relentless love against the darkness of poverty, exploitation and violence…that question is answered.

(Spoilers after the jump)

Continue reading "’Slumdog’ Defies Oscar Norms" »

March 11, 2009

The end of opportunity

Sarah and James Parker When President Obama signs the omnibus bill that was just passed by the Senate, which includes a provision that will defund the D.C. Opportunity Scholarship program, he'll be kicking two of his daughters' own schoolmates out of Sidwell Friends and sending them back to the stagnant D.C. public school system. Bill Bennett writes:

The Omnibus legislation . . . strips funding for 1,700 poor and minority students in Washington, DC who receive federal aid to attend private schools.  The DC Opportunity Scholarship program died in the Senate last night with the Omnibus vote, despite DC Superintendent Michelle Rhee supporting it and Secretary of Education Arne Duncan stating he would like to see the students in that program stay in it.  Keep in mind, the Opportunity Scholarship program currently helps two students attend Sidwell Friends School, where Barack and Michelle Obama send their two daughters, so it now looks like Sasha and Malia will have two less school mates in 2010 as a result of the vote yesterday.  As Virginia Walden Ford said:  "I’d like to see a reporter stand up at one of those nationally televised press conferences and ask President Obama what he thinks about what his own party is doing to keep two innocent kids from attending the same school where he sends his."

I guess the Obama girls are just lucky that daddy and mommy are rich and powerful. If they were in James and Sarah Parker's place, they'd be out on their ear.

(Image © Deborah Parker)

Send them to Vermont

The next time the kids in your church ask you to help send them on a mission trip to, say, France, or to some obscure country you never heard of, tell them you'll write a check for them to go to Vermont, instead. According to the American Religious Identification Survey (also referenced in a recent roundup), more than a third of all Vermonters say they have no religious beliefs--the highest number in the country.    

The study has not even been officially released yet, and I've already heard commentators on TV criticizing the methodology. But even if the authors are off a bit, I've become more and more convinced over the last few years that mission-minded kids (and adults) ought to volunteer to go, not overseas, but into the nearest U.S. inner city to help the poor in some constructive, life-changing way (i.e., not just give them another handout), or into more secular states to plant churches, or volunteer with youth sports teams, or open their homes to college students who have had enough of life in dorm brothels.   

Those who read to the end of the article will see that the only reason the U.S. is not more secular than it is is because of millions of immigrants, who bring their religious beliefs (mainly Catholic) with them. As for native-born Americans--clearly we have our work cut out for us.

Recession Means Schizophrenic Crime Trends

You're either safer than you've ever been ... or in more danger than ever.

A recent headline in the Las Vegas Review Journal: "Official says recession puts dent in crime."

Nevada's corrections director is claiming that the recession deserves a pat on the back for a recent slump in the state's crime rates. Apparently, financial crises make people stay home more, reducing the number of potential victims on the streets. Add to that the number of unemployed parents who now cast a keener watchful eye on their trouble-making youth. Nevada is so convinced that crime is on the "down and down" that they're reevaluating their prison plans.

Over in Idaho, the opposite seems to be true, as claimed by this Fox News report: "'Recession Crime' Increasing in Idaho." Here, shoplifting is on the rise as money troubles make more fingers sticky.

It's probably much too early to predict which trend will become the norm, if either. Richard Rosenfeld, a sociologist at University of Missouri-St. Louis, said that there can be a year-long lag between economic change and crime rates.

So, Idaho criminals + peace-loving Nevadans - one-year lag time = correlation between economy and crime rates?

How about this formula instead: fear + crime + unpredictability = human nature.

March 09, 2009

Daily roundup

March 06, 2009

Great Moments in Invective -- Blogosphere Edition

The_world_dubai_03 Suppose you're like me, a loser who sits around watching the Discovery Networks and the National Geographic Channel. Also suppose that, like me, you're at least a somewhat intelligent loser. Then, you will have undoubtedly watched shows about all the construction going on in Dubai: the Burj al Arab, the "world's only seven-star hotel," the Burj Dubai, soon to be the world's tallest building, and Ski Dubai. (That's not a joke. Really.)

You will have also wondered: why? What's the point? Dubai is hot. Very hot, and it's not a dry heat, either. There are hundreds, if not thousands, of places where people with money can go to have a good time. Why would anyone think that they would choose someplace on the Persian Gulf? More to the point: why would bankers lend people money to build expensive properties like this in the expectation that people with money would choose to make this their home away from home?

Well, it seems that reality has caught up with Dubai. In a truly great bit of invective, the folks at Smashing Telly sum up the idiocy that is Dubai (article contains profanity):

Short of opening a Radio Shack in an Amish town, Dubai is the world’s worst business idea, and there isn’t even any oil. Imagine proposing to build Vegas in a place where sex and drugs and rock and roll are an anathema. This is effectively the proposition that created Dubai - it was a stupid idea before the crash, and now it is dangerous. . . .

Dubai is a place for the shallow and fickle. Tabloid celebrities and worn out sports stars are sponsored by swollen faced, botox injected, perma-tanned European property developers to encourage the type of people who are impressed by fame itself, rather than what originated it, to inhabit pastiche Mediterranean villas on fake islands. [It's] a grotesquely leveraged version of time-share where people are sold a life in the same way as being peddled a set of steak knives.

Continue reading "Great Moments in Invective -- Blogosphere Edition" »

Gratitude for a grocery list

Storelist Jennifer at Conversion Diary has a profound post up . . . about grocery lists.

. . . I got out a pen to add some things to the store list. I do this about five times every day. But this time, as I wrote "bread" and "black beans" on my little pad of paper, it hit me: I am doing something really, really amazing here. Out of the blue, I suddenly saw writing items on my grocery list in a completely different light: I realized what an incredibly -- almost unimaginable -- luxury it is to be able to simply write down what I want to feed my children, and be able to go get it. Quickly. Easily. Cheaply.

Can you imagine my great-great grandmother watching me do this? Or anyone who lives in a poverty-stricken part of the world today, or who lived more than 70 years ago? Imagine what their reaction would be to the concept that you can create your dream list of the food you'd like to put on your table, and have it there within the hour if necessary. I imagined such a person standing there, watching me write "swiss cheese," "mozzarella cheese," "olives," and "ice cream" in disbelief, perhaps asking, "You can really just go get that?! Are you royalty?", and probably not being able to fully comprehend how much abundance there really is at my local grocery store, asking, "What about butter? They don't have that ready for you, do they? Surely they don't also have things like fish, or juices, or candy?" To most people who have ever lived, the concept of regularly having enough food to feed themselves and their children would seem like a fantasy come true -- but to always have more than enough of whatever you want would be just unimaginable.

Today, as I gazed in amazement upon my store list, seeing it as if for the first time, fully appreciating how amazing it is that I can write down a wish list of things I'd like to feed my children and presumptuously assume that they will be readily available to me, I realized that this is what God's grace feels like. In my life I've occasionally been able to muster up some appreciation for my cushy American lifestyle, but to be caught off guard and just thunderstruck at the beauty of such a simple, mundane daily task...that didn't come from within me.

She goes on to say, "I realize that to some I might seem like a bit of a lunatic for writing 700 words about a store list." Not to me. I was deeply moved, because I was reminded of something that my mom recalls every time she doesn't feel like cooking: that she remembers stories about her own grandmother crying because she had nine children and not enough money to buy food for them.

We are so amazingly blessed in this time and place in which we live. And all it takes to remember that is one look at our grocery lists.

(Image © Conversion Diary)