Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Culture, worldview does make a difference in economic outcomes.

Mitt Romney is being criticized for suggesting that the economic disparity between Israel and the Palestinian state could be ascribed to culture.  A Palestinian leader accused him of racism.

To suggest that culture, which is the aggregate values and beliefs of a society, doesn't impact a nation's economic development is ludicrious. 

The economic success of the West is largely attributable to values and beliefs which flowed out of Christianity and the biblical tradition.  See Rodney Stark's book, "The Victory of Reason".  The belief that there are economic laws of nature which govern economic activity are self evident and common sense.  Ideas have consequences.  Simply look at the US and it's free market system and the former USSR and government run economy.  What's the difference?  Ideas.  Beliefs which work their way out through the culture. (I think the problems facing the US economically are due to faulty ideas making their way into our culture.)

To suggest some countries are underdeveloped because they have cultural problems isn't racist but common sense.

Monday, July 30, 2012

QUIZ: Which is more dangerous, citizen Chicago or a soldier in Afghanistan?

How dangerous is it for an American soldier in Afghanistan or a resident of Chicago in 2012?  Turns out Chicago is more dangerous with widespread gang violence.
Barely six months into 2012, Chicago has already hosted 228 homicides this year; overseas in Afghanistan, the body count for US troops has reached a comparably meager 144. Matched up against other major cities, Chicago’s murder rate exceeds four-times what residents of New York have experienced this year, reports The Daily. What’s worse, however, is that death toll isn’t expected to teeter off anytime soon.
 Easily to see Afghanistan as a dangerous place to be because there's a war going on.  It's reality check when we see what's going on in Chicago.

Friday, July 27, 2012

Here's a post by conservative activist Gary Bauer on defenders of Chick-fil-A CEO Dan Cathy for his defense of marriage.  It's exciting seeing Billy Graham, at 90 plus years of age, an outspoken, public defender of Cathy and Chick-fil-A.
Catholics And Evangelicals Defend Chick-fil-A

The left's assault on Chick-fil-A continues to build.  The mayor of San Francisco yesterday joined Chicago's Rahm Emanuel and Boston's Thomas Menino in denouncing Chick-fil-A. 

Truett Cathy and his sons built this fantastic company from a single restaurant into a $4 billion enterprise.  They have founded foster homes, established scholarship programs and given away tens of millions of dollars, in addition to providing thousands of jobs.  And because of the deep and abiding faith of its founders, the company is coming under assault from intolerant, left-wing, anti-religious bigots.

Chick-fil-A has its defenders too.  Deacon Keith Fournier, editor-in-chief of Catholic Online, has published a column entitled, "A Catholic Hooray for Chick-fil-A," praising the company for its commitment to marriage and biblical values. The Reverend Billy Graham, one of America's most respected religious leaders, also released a statement yesterday in support of Chick-fil-A and the Cathy family.   Below are excerpts of Reverend Graham's statement:
"I want to express my support for my good friends Truett Cathy and his son Dan Cathy, and for their strong stand for the Christian faith. I've known their family for many years and have watched them grow Chick-fil-A into one of the best businesses in America while never compromising their values. …

"Each generation faces different issues and challenges, but our standard must always be measured by God's word. I appreciate the Cathy family's public support for God's definition of marriage.

"I also appreciate Governor Mike Huckabee's leadership and for encouraging Americans to support Chick-fil-A on August 1. As the son of a dairy farmer who milked many a cow, I plan to 'Eat Mor Chikin' and show my support by visiting Chick-fil-A next Wednesday."
I'm proud to stand with Billy Graham, Mike Huckabee and leading pro-family organizations in supporting the Cathy family and the great employees of Chick-fil-A.  Please make every effort to join us at your neighborhood Chick-fil-A restaurant Wednesday, August 1st.

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Is President Obama using his daughters to justify his support of Planned Parenthood and abortion? Looks like it.

President Obama came out in favor of funding Planned Parenthood, the nation's largest provider of abortion, and justified his support by wanting his daughters to be able to "control their own health care choices".
Addressing a crowd of over 900 supporters at the Oregon Convention Center, he asserted: "Mr. Romney wants to get rid of funding for Planned Parenthood. I think that's a bad idea. I've got two daughters. I want to control their own health care choices."
Of course "health care choices" in the vernacular of the left includes abortion.

It's mind boggling that the President would take such a cavalier attitude toward the lives of his future grandchild.

It's also sad how the president would use his daughters to support the funding Planned Parenthood and by implication abortion.  Of all the issues where he would reference his daughters. Amazing.

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Interesting polling results in Minnesota on voter ID, stadium, marriage amendment, etc.

The Survey USA poll had some interesting results beyond the marriage amendment (up by 15%, 52% to 37%) and the presidential race (Obama up 46% to 40% over Romney).

It shows the photo ID amendment winning 65% to 28%.

Voters opposed to the Vikings stadium deal are more passionate about it than proponents.  If a legislator voted for the amendment, 33% of voters say they are less likely to vote for him while 23% say they are more likely to vote for him.  42% say no difference.

And the biggest issues for state voters are not surprisingly job creation 32% and taxes 27%.  Then comes health care 17% and education 15%.

Takeaways from the polling numbers on the ballot questions?  Opponents won't win on the merits so their only recourse is mislabeling and obscuring what "yes" and "no" votes mean so voter's won't vote on the merits of the questions. 

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Is Minnesota in play for Romney?

An interesting result from the Survey USA poll done for wasn't just the numbers showing the marriage protection amendment up by 15 percentage points, 52% to 37% but also the presidential numbers.  It shows Obama's lead in Minnesota cut in half to 6%.  Obama leads Romney 46% to 40%. 

The last time Minnesota voted for the republican presidential candidate was in 1972, so tradition has been with democrats.  However, numbers less than 50% for the incumbent and growing concerns over whether another recession is on the horizon could change that.  If things tighten up even more, Obama could well have to put additional time, attention and resource into Minnesota.

Monday, July 23, 2012

The lady doth protest too much, methinks.

This Shakespeare quote could be applied to all the hysteria generated by anyone questioning the fundamental tenets of the sexual revolution.  One is the hysteria surrounding the study by Prof Mark Regnerus on the effects of family structure and child well-being and also any challenge to the fundamental tenets of the sexual revolution like anything goes and the universal good of contraceptives.

Here's an interesting interview with Mary Eberstadt, author of "Adam and Eve after the Pill".

She talks about the hysterial reaction of any challenge to the sexual revolution.
Nothing brings out the gibbering hysteria quite like countercultural talk about sex. So let’s put some of it into historical and intellectual perspective.

Pitirim Sorokin, founder of Harvard’s department of sociology and a towering figure in his time, wrote a book almost 60 years ago, intended for a general audience, called The American Sex Revolution. He argued back then that the revolution would have negative effects across society via an increase in broken homes and general dissolution. He went so far as to argue that the sexual revolution would be the most consequential modern revolution for all humanity, excepting only the totalitarian political experiments.

Just imagine any Harvard sociologist publishing a book like that today — or any sociologist, period. It would be academic suicide. The few hardy souls who do venture into Sorokin’s territory constantly risk becoming pariahs. Witness the unhinged ferocity of some of the attacks on recent work by social scientist Mark Regnerus.

There’s more censorship and self-censorship about the legacy of the sexual revolution than about any other current issue out there. The fact is that people today are less free to talk candidly about this legacy than people were half a century ago. That tells us a lot. A mind can be a terrible thing to change.
Then she comments on whether this aggressively push back signals the sexual revolution advocates are winning and whether there might be some parallels to the ascendency of communism and it's sudden collapse.  She says yes.
For decades now, sociologists and other experts have built up a library’s worth of evidence about the toll of this human experiment. Yet a great many sophisticated people deny that this record exists and excoriate anyone who so much as points his thumb at it. This is uncannily reminiscent of what happened during the Cold War, when an impressive number of sophisticated people across the West reacted to Communism . . . by attacking anti-Communists rather than Communists.

Of course in retrospect, everyone can see that Communism was exactly what the anti-Communists said it was: an experiment with enormous costs. Nobody disputes that anymore, not even all those anti-anti-Communists who spent their days defending or rationalizing the thing. The point is that as it turned out, a lot of sophisticated people were wrong all along about a pretty important issue that turned out in retrospect to be a no-brainer.
That’s where the comparison to denial about the legacy of the sexual revolution comes in. Right now, those who might be called the “anti-anti-liberationists” are running the show. In retrospect, though, they’ll be the losers in this debate, just like the anti-anti-Communists were yesterday, and for the same reason: because the facts aren’t on their side.

I think that evolution is happening already, in fact. Just look at the recent article in the New York Times, all about how being married or unmarried is a decisive factor not only in income inequality — married people are financially better off — but also, the author dares to suggest, in children’s overall well-being.

That kind of thinking in the paper of record represents a real turnaround. It means that the evidence assembled by Charles Murray and W. Bradford Wilcox and other tenacious social scientists about the “marriage gap” has finally started to sink in. And I’m betting there’s more of that to come as the adverse economic consequences of non-traditional family arrangements get more attention. The connections between the decline of the traditional family and the economic woes of Western welfare states are only beginning to be understood, but they’re obviously there — and again, you don’t need to be a flack for Rome to see them. Just reading a little secular social science will do.
Marriage as an important, in fact indispensable societal institution is back even among the liberals.  The New York Times ran a front page, Sunday article, the fold.

Ultimately, reality can't be denied however much we protest to the contrary.  The same is true with the fact that kids do best with their biological mom and dad.   

Friday, July 20, 2012

Great summary of Ronald Reagan abilities and reasons for success. One being smart like a fox. Smart like a fox.

Here's an interesting article on Ronald Reagan and why he was successful despite being viewed as not so bright, a bit lazy and easily manipulated.  It was written by Fred Barnes for a symposium at Regent University.
Turns out he was smart and a hard worker.  Some speculate he allowed the false impression continue because it allowed others to underestimate him to their own political disadvantage.

A lazy leader could never have gone eyeball-to-eyeball with Gorbachev and forced the Soviet leader to blink. Yet Reagan seemed to encourage people to believe he was passive and inattentive. He specialized in self-deprecatory humor. “It’s true hard work never killed anybody, but I figure, why take the chance?” he said. And this: “I have left orders to be awakened at any time in case of a national emergency—even if I’m in a cabinet meeting.”

His diaries, however, reveal a man who labored long and hard. His wife Nancy regarded him as a workaholic. His TV watching was limited to news shows. He spent hours editing speech drafts, occasionally rewriting them. He took paperwork home in the evening. He didn’t have the heart to decline meetings with people with disabilities or leaders of groups representing them. He wrote thousands of letters. In the foreword to Reagan: A Life in Letters, Shultz recalls weekends at Camp David. “I stopped by the president’s cabin at Aspen [Lodge] several times and saw him seated at a table writing,” Shultz says. “He’d nod as I came in and say, ‘Please wait for me while I finish this,’ and he’d continue writing.” In his diaries, Reagan commented, “Presidents don’t have vacations, they just have a change of scenery.”

His reputation for laziness contributed to what Shultz calls “the mystery of Reagan that has baffled so many for so long.” Shultz has his own explanation for how “a man of supposedly limited knowledge and limited intelligence [could] accomplish so much,” get elected and reelected president, and preside over prosperity and the winning of the Cold War. “Well, maybe he was a lot smarter than people thought.”

He was, but Reagan nurtured an image of himself as a common man, neither smarter nor more capable than anyone else. One aide theorizes that during his grade school days Reagan discovered that the smartest kid in the class was not the most popular, the one looked up to. Reagan acted accordingly and became a leader in high school, college, Hollywood, California, and the nation. Ed Meese, his longtime friend and adviser, believes Reagan preferred to be underestimated. And he usually was, as Pat Brown and Jimmy Carter discovered to their regret. Bill Clark, a friend for decades, told me Reagan masked his brainpower. “When your guard was down,” Clark said, “he would come through” and get others to agree with him. “That was his approach to running anything. It wasn’t to trick anybody.”

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Economic well-being is tied to marriage. More articles.

There seems to a steady flow of articles acknowledging the link between marital status and economic well-being.  Weekly Standard writer Jonathan Last refers to recent New York Times article on the subject.
In America (and much of the West), however, the institution of marriage has been in decline for the last 40 years. The causes for this decline are many and complex, but for today let’s put them aside and look at the effects.

What’s happened in America is that marriage has become something of a bifurcated institution: People at the high end of the social scale—the upper third in income and education—are immensely successful at marriage these days. If you finish college and have a job, your chances of getting (and staying) married remain quite high, despite the popular notion that divorce and cohabitation are de rigueur among the elites.

But on the lower two-thirds of the social scale, it’s a different story. Last weekend the New York Times ran an interesting piece on this divide. The most telling quote included is probably from Harvard sociologist Christopher Jencks. "The people who need to stick together for economic reasons don’t," Jencks noted. "And the people who least need to stick together do."

To hammer home this point, check out this page of infographics that accompanied the Times piece. The most telling graphic is the one at the top right of the page, showing the change in percentage of households with two parents, by income group.

In 1968, 96 percent of households in the top third, and 77 percent of households in the lower third, consisted of two parents.

By 2010, the percentage for the top third dipped to 88 percent. But for the lower third? Only 41 percent of households had two parents.

And that, in a single graph, is the story of America’s social problems over the last two generations.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

A great take on the modern use of "tolerance" by Archbishop Chaput.

A friend brought to my attention a great address by Catholic Archbishop Chaput to a Catholic prolife group back in January.  Here's a sobering excerpt.  He nails the modern use of tolerance as a tool of expediency and the growing hostility towards Christian faith in our modern, secular society.
Catholics need to wake up from the illusion that the America we now live in — not the America of our nostalgia or imagination or best ideals, but the real America we live in here and now — is somehow friendly to our faith. What we’re watching emerge in this country is a new kind of paganism, an atheism with air-conditioning and digital TV.  And it is neither tolerant nor morally neutral.

As the historian Gertrude Himmelfarb observed more than a decade ago, “What was once stigmatized as deviant behavior is now tolerated and even sanctioned; what was once regarded as abnormal has been normalized.”  But even more importantly, she added, “As deviancy is normalized, so what was once normal becomes deviant.  The kind of family that has been regarded for centuries as natural and moral — the ‘bourgeois’ family as it is invidiously called — is now seen as pathological” and exclusionary, concealing the worst forms of psychic and physical oppression.6

My point is this: Evil talks about tolerance only when it’s weak. When it gains the upper hand, its vanity always requires the destruction of the good and the innocent, because the example of good and innocent lives is an ongoing witness against it.  So it always has been.  So it always will be.  And America has no special immunity to becoming an enemy of its own founding beliefs about human freedom, human dignity, the limited power of the state, and the sovereignty of God.
Tolerance talk is quickly discorded when no longer useful to achieve the ultimate goal of domination.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Poverty and dependency on government. More than money is needed.

Here's an article on the state of affairs in north Minneapolis where two thirds of people are on county  assistance.
Out of the many discussions about rebuilding north Minneapolis after the devastating tornado last spring, one startling statistic emerged — 68 percent of North Side residents make so little money that they receive assistance from Hennepin County to get by.    

Their ranks include LaToya Surratt, who gradually won enough hours from her employer to wean herself off of food stamps and medical insurance for herself and her 4-year-old daughter, but still depends on the county to pay for the girl’s day care.     

And Shanette Marable, who left her job as a cashier at Burger King to care for her infant, only to struggle to find a job when she was ready to go back to work.     

The high level of dependency has prompted Hennepin County to approve a project to examine the reasons behind it to try to lower the rate by 25 percent over five years.    

“When you start seeing a rate around two-thirds, you begin to understand that poverty has become the dominant culture,” said George Garnett, director of strategic development at Summit Academy OIC, whose leaders are involved in carrying out the project.    

In all, $2.6 billion for child care, medical insurance, cash assistance, and other safety net programs flowed to low-income Hennepin County residents in 2010, the latest year for which the county supplied numbers. It was a 27 percent increase since 2006. Most of that money came from the federal and state governments, though the county paid $214 million.    

Nationally, 17 percent of Americans receive food stamps, welfare, housing subsidies, Medicaid, or Supplemental Security income, according to published estimates from census data analyzed by the Washington, D.C.-based Center on Budget and Policy Priorities. That figure does not include subsidized child care.     

North Minneapolis residents still comprise only 18 percent of the county’s social services clients.    

“We have to challenge the proposition that charity and welfare are the way to prosperity — the results are speaking for themselves,” said Louis King, CEO of Summit Academy OIC, who is also leading the project. 
 Mr. King's comment says to me that lack of money isn't the ultimate source of the problem.  It's moral, spiritual.  Lack of character, hope, and marriage.  To name a few.

Monday, July 16, 2012

Will Pawlenty be Romney's VP pick?

Speculation abounds over who Mitt Romney will pick as his vice presidential running mate.  The consensus seems to be that former Governor Tim Pawlenty is on the short list.

It wouldn't surprise me if Pawlenty got the nod, assuming Romney wants a safe pick, not someone who could be risky. 

    Pawlenty has experience as a chief executive while governor of Minnesota for eight years.  Was generally quite successful given the very liberal legislature and media he faced.

    He's sharp and is a good debater.

    Seems to personally hit it off well with Romney.

    Is acceptable to all the conservative coalition members Romney has to keep on board.

    Is an evangelical which connects him with an important voting block.

    From the upper Midwest where Romney needs to do well.

It would be neat to have a Minnesotan on the national ticket and possibly as a future vice president.  He'd start to balance out the political scales of Minnesota vice presidents.  Previous ones, Humphrey and Mondale, were democrats.

It will be interesting seeing what Romney decides.

Friday, July 13, 2012

All roads lead to marriage and family, policy wise.

Here's an interesting column by moderate David Brooks on the growing gap between the have and have not's in America.  The reason for the gap is the breakdown of the family and marriage.  Something  income redistribution won't solve.  In fact, it would only make it worse.
Over the past few months, writers from Charles Murray to Timothy Noah have produced alarming work on the growing bifurcation of American society. Now the eminent Harvard political scientist Robert Putnam and his team are coming out with research that's more horrifying.

While most studies look at inequality of outcomes among adults and help us understand how America is coming apart, Putnam's group looked at inequality of opportunities among children. They help us understand what the country will look like in the decades ahead. The quick answer? More divided than ever.

Putnam's data verifies what many of us have seen anecdotally, that the children of the more affluent and less affluent are raised in starkly different ways and have different opportunities. Decades ago, college-graduate parents and high-school-graduate parents invested similarly in their children. Recently, more affluent parents have invested much more in their children's futures while less affluent parents have not.
The rich get richer and the poor get poorer because they come from bad family situations which are then perpetuated in future generations.  The answer is virtue and character and that won't come from income redistribution and bigger welfare programs.  These efforts only mask and perpetuate the problem and provide negative incentivew.  Government has a role to play but one different from what big government advocates recommend.

Some recommendations?  Strengthen marriage laws.  Ensure existing government social and tax policies encourage and affirm marriage.  Expand school choice options.  Affirm protection of religious liberties.  (This is important because most people derive their morality and values from religious traditions.)

Brooks concludes at least a tip of the cap towards marriage:
Liberals are going to have to be willing to champion norms that say marriage should come before childrearing and be morally tough about it. Conservatives are going to have to be willing to accept tax increases or benefit cuts so that more can be spent on the earned-income tax credit and other programs that benefit the working class.

Political candidates will have to spend less time trying to exploit class divisions and more time trying to remedy them -- less time calling their opponents out of tough elitists, and more time coming up with agendas that comprehensively address the problem. It's politically tough to do that, but the alternative is national suicide.