Thursday, October 31, 2013

"Outrage [over Obamacare] Arrives"

The American people are running into the reality of Obamacare.  Despite statements by President Obama that people could keep their current health care insurance, that's not true.
The White House has issued a clarification. When the president said if you like your insurance plan you can keep it, what he meant was you can keep it if he likes it.

Hundreds of thousands of Americans who are getting policy cancellation notices this month can't be as surprised as they pretend to be. President Obama made it clear at his 2010 health care summit what he thought of their taste in insurance. 
Not only was it deliberate ObamaCare policy to make sure plans millions of Americans like would no longer be available, forcing them to buy more coverage than they want or need. NBC reports that the White House—as Mr. Obama was promising Americans they could keep their current plans—was estimating at least seven million people would not be allowed to keep their current plans.

In drafting rules to put ObamaCare into effect, the Health and Human Services department under Kathleen Sebelius tightened the grandfathering eligibility to make sure even more people would be forced to switch to the excessively costly policies that Mr. Obama wants them to buy. Mr. Obama says he cares about your incentive to get preventive care or tests that you may not get if they don't appear to involve a free lunch.

But the truth is, he wants you to pay for coverage you'll never use (mental-health services, cancer wigs, fertility treatments, Viagra) so the money can be spent on somebody else.
Socialism doesn't work.  Eventually the truth comes out.  Of course they will press on and seek to make it work.

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Abortion not left-right issue in Latin America

While the left in America is clearly pro-abortion.  That's not necessarily true in Latin America where strong pro-life positions are held by several who would be on the left politically.
Looking around the world and most especially in Latin America, abortion is not such a left-right divide. Not long ago, the hard-left President of Ecuador announced he would resign his office if the Ecuadoran parliament made abortion legal.

Rafael Correa came to power in Ecuador in 2007, one of several left-wing leaders that have taken power in Latin America in recent years including the now-deceased Hugo Chavez in Venezuela, Evo Morales of Bolivia, and even Sandanista Daniel Ortega in Nicaragua.

American pro-lifers may not know that a few years ago the Nicaragua parliament, run by the Sandanistas, voted unanimously to ban abortion for any reason.

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

The divide in America on basic issues.

An ABC News/Fusion poll just released showed the significant divide in America on a wide range of issues - politics, role of government and religion to name a few.

Opportunities for women and minorities.
•    Among all adults, 53 percent think women have fewer opportunities than men in the workplace. But that ranges from 68 percent of Democrats to 38 percent of Republicans, a difference of 30 percentage points. Comparing the most unlike groups, liberal Democrats and conservative Republicans, it’s 76 vs. 35 percent.

•    Forty-one percent overall think nonwhites have fewer opportunities than whites in society. Fifty-six percent of Democrats say so, as do 62 percent of liberal Democrats (more than the number of nonwhites themselves who say so, 51 percent). Among Republicans that dives to 25 percent.
 Confidence in government in Washington to do the right thing.
•    Thirty-nine percent of adults say they trust the government in Washington to do what’s right; six in 10 don’t. Apparently reflecting views of the Obama administration, trust peaks at 62 percent of Democrats, as many liberals and 69 percent of liberal Democrats. Just a quarter of Republicans and conservatives, and 18 percent of conservative Republicans, feel the same.
 Importance of religious beliefs among political leaders.
•    Fewer than half of all adults, 45 percent, say political leaders should rely somewhat or a great deal on their religious beliefs when making policy decisions. But again the range is wide: Six in 10 conservatives, as many Republicans and 65 percent of conservative Republicans hold this view. That falls sharply to 39 percent of Democrats and independents alike, four in 10 moderates and 32 percent of liberals.
Views of millennials on religious faith and political engagement.
MILLENNIALS – Millennials, another group on which Fusion will focus coverage, customarily are described as Americans born from 1982 to 2004; for adults, that’s age 18 to 31. They’re not much different from other age groups on most of the attitudes measured in this survey, with two exceptions.

As noted, along with under-40s more broadly, they’re more apt to favor legal status for undocumented immigrants. And they’re 12 points less apt than their elders to say politicians should base policy positions on their religious beliefs, a result that fits with customarily lower levels of religiosity among young adults.

There’s another difference among millennials vs. older adults, reflecting another longstanding attribute of young Americans: Their comparative lack of engagement in politics. Among adults age 18 to 31, just 54 percent report that they’re registered to vote. That soars to 87 percent among those 32 and older. Indeed it increases steadily with age, peaking at 94 percent of seniors.

Monday, October 28, 2013

Gay "marriage" isn't the end of marriage redefinition efforts - next on the horizon are polyamory relationships.

The effort to redefine marriage clearly haven't stopped with gay "marriage" efforts.  In fact, it seems to only encourage others who want to have their sexual unions endorsed by society.  It was noted in the debate over marriage that polygamous relationships was the next thing coming down the road.  Well, it looks like polyamory relationships maybe the more likely candidate in America.

Here's a CNN story on polyamory relationships which are groups of individuals of both sexes having sexual relationships with one another.
Revelers in the rainbow-washed crowd smiled and cheered this month as the little blond girl in the parade float pageant-waved to the B-52's "Love Shack."

Next to the float, the girl's father, Billy Holder, handed out fliers to the Atlanta Pride Parade crowd. His wife, Melissa, carried a banner along with Jeremy Mullins, the couple's partner.

"Polyamory: Having simultaneous close emotional relationships with two or more other individuals," read their purple-lettered banner, embellished with an infinity heart.

The "awws" and waves from the crowd gave way to some puzzled looks and snickers.

"What's poly?" a woman asked, looking toward a handwritten sign on the float that read "Atlanta Poly Paradise."

"Multiple partners?" the man next to her guessed.

Sort of. As the concept of open relationships rises in pop culture and political debates, some polyamorous families like the Holders and Mullins see an opportunity to go public and fight stereotypes that polyamory is just swinging, cheating or kinky sex.

It's not just a fling or a phase for them. It's an identity. They want to show that polyamory can be a viable alternative to monogamy, even for middle-class, suburban families with children, jobs and house notes.
Another example of trying to satisfy adult desires, whatever they may be, rather than lining our lives up with the created order, God's design for intimate relationships.
"We're not trying to say that monogamy is bad," said Billy Holder, a 36-year-old carpenter who works at a university in Atlanta. "We're trying to promote the fact that everyone has a right to develop a relationship structure that works for them."

For the Holder-Mullins triad, polyamory is three adults living in the same home about 20 miles south of Atlanta. They share bills, housework and childcare for their 9-year-old daughter. They work at the same place, sharing carpooling duties so someone can see their daughter off to school each day.
Surrounded at the parade by drag queens from El Gato Negro nightclub, singers from a gospel choir and supporters of the Libertarian Party of Georgia, Billy Holder didn't stand out in his jeans, T-shirt and wide-brimmed, sun-shielding hat. That's sort of the point, he said: to demonstrate that polyamorists, or polys, are just like anybody else.

But, he's quick to add, "It takes a lot of work and it's not for everybody."

It's a common refrain from long-practicing polys. Jealousy among partners is one thing, but they also face or fear disapproval from neighbors, relatives and coworkers. The Holders and Mullins dealt with rejection from parents and one of Melissa Holder's sons when they revealed their relationship. 

They've also been the subject of a child welfare probe that ended in no charges being laid.

"We've been through it all," said 35-year-old Jeremy Mullins, a computer programmer.
The latest form of coming out.
That's why they're coming out, he said -- to change the status quo. And yet, their willingness to speak with CNN over the past 18 months came with conditions, such as the request to not name their employers.

Marching in the parade for the fourth year is just one way they're trying to promote public acceptance of polyamory. Someday, they want to challenge laws that criminalize adultery and cohabitation, Mullins said.

"We want to promote the idea that any relationship is valid as long as it is a choice made by consenting adults," he said. "In this regard, and as in most things, promoting public acceptance is the first step."

It's an uphill battle. Many traditional marriage counselors and relationship therapists discourage non-monogamy, and in the absence of more research on the long-term effects of polyamory, modern science and academia hasn't reached a consensus on whether it's a healthy relationship structure.
Even among a crowd as colorful as the Pride Parade, the giggles and questions suggest polyamory is still a way of life that's on the fringes.
How they're defining polyamory.
According to the flier Billy Holder handed out at the Pride Parade, which borrowed from The Polyamory Society and More than Two, there are many ways to define polyamory.

"Polyamory is the nonpossessive, honest, responsible and ethical philosophy and practice of loving multiple people simultaneously," it said.

"Polyamory is not a swing club or group."

"Polyamory is not about recreational or promiscuous sex."

Otherwise, there are no universal rules for "how it works," one of the most common question polys say they hear, Holder said. The most common dynamic tends to start with a couple, married or unmarried, who might identify as straight, gay or bisexual. Guidelines are set within each relationship -- ideally, a negotiated framework of communication based on trust and honesty, he said.
For each of the 12 people walking with the Holders-Mullins triad in the Atlanta Pride Parade, polyamory works differently. For example, Mark, a tall, bespectacled computer programmer, has been happily married to his wife, an electrical engineer, for more than a decade. They live alone and have no children, but they've been involved with two other couples with children for the past six years. Mark and his wife spend time with the adults and their children doing family-friendly activities but the adults also go out on dates, cuddle and more.

It's not cheating or swinging, he said, because everyone knows about other partners, whom Mark calls his girlfriends. There is a level of intimacy and emotional attachment that makes them more than friends with benefits or one-night stands, he said.

"I'm more involved in their lives and more aware of their inner thoughts or aspirations; I'm more involved in their long-term happiness," said Mark, who asked not to use his last name out of concern that he and his wife might face backlash from employers.
"It's like having a regular, monogamous relationship but having more than one of them."

It's unclear how many people identify as polyamorous because, like Mark and his wife, the majority aren't open about their relationships. Because of the varied forms these non-monogamous relationships take, it's difficult even to know who to include in such a count, demographer Gary Gates said.

"It's not completely clear how you would measure this group, since I'm not sure there's a common terminology around how individuals in polyamorous families identify their relationships to each other and their children," said Gates, a demographer at the Williams Institute, which conducts research and policy analysis regarding legal issues that affect LGBT populations.

Many poly people stay closeted out of fear of discrimination, social alienation or because they simply prefer privacy, sociologist Elisabeth Sheff writes in her forthcoming book "The Polyamorists Next Door."

Sheff based her findings on 15 years of research that began with a partner's request to explore alternatives to monogamy. She continued her research even after her relationship ended, and does not consider herself a polyamorist. But her research led her to believe that polyamory is a "legitimate relationship style that can be tremendously rewarding for adults and provide excellent nurturing for children."

Making it work, she acknowledges, is "time-consuming, and potentially fraught with emotional booby traps," she writes. It can be rewarding for some "and a complete disaster for others."

While some scientists say monogamy is probably not humans' natural state, and is instead likely a social construct, many therapists say learning to control sexual impulses toward multiple people is a hallmark of emotional maturity.
 Observers are already raising questions about it.
More often than not, non-monogamy leads to the demise of relationships, said Karen Ruskin, a Boston-area psychotherapist with more than two decades of experience in couples counseling. Instead of focusing on the primary relationship, partners are turning to others for fulfillment.

"Even if non-monogamy is consensual, it's still a distraction from dealing with each other," said Ruskin, author of "Dr. Karen's Marriage Manual."

"It all goes back to choice. Non-monogamy is choosing to be with someone else instead of being attentive to your spouse when the relationship is troubled."

Couples can establish rules and parameters to limit jealousy, she said. But in her experience working with couples, "those rules never end up working out for everyone," she said.

"It has shown to be damaging and destructive to a person as an individual, to the couple's relationship and the family unit as a whole."

Indeed, while many associate polyamory with swingers or kinksters, "there are much easier ways to get laid," said Anita Wagner Illig, founder of online polyamory resource, Practical Polyamory.
Wagner Illig, a self-appointed "poly educator" who gives talks at adult conventions about polyamory, began to identify as poly after her second divorce in the late 1990s. She decided there must be a better way than cheating to have multiple relationships.
They want their cake and being able to eat it too.  Have multiple relationships without "cheating".  I believe time will quickly point out this latest effort to redefine family and marriage won't work either.  The result will be more pain and broken lives, especially among the most vulnerable among us - children.

Friday, October 25, 2013

Some at Fort Hood view Christians as the enemy.

It appears that some in the military think evangelical Christians are major threat to our nation.  Mind boggling.
Soldiers attending a pre-deployment briefing at Fort Hood say they were told that evangelical Christians and members of the Tea Party were a threat to the nation and that any soldier donating to those groups would be subjected to punishment under the Uniform Code of Military Justice.
A soldier who attended the Oct. 17th briefing told me the counter-intelligence agent in charge of the meeting spent nearly a half hour discussing how evangelical Christians and groups like the American Family Association were “tearing the country apart.”
Michael Berry, an attorney with the Liberty Institute, is advising the soldier and has launched an investigation into the incident.
“The American public should be outraged that the U.S. Army is teaching our troops that evangelical Christians and Tea Party members are enemies of America, and that they can be punished for supporting or participating in those groups,” said Berry, a former Marine Corps JAG officer. 
“These statements about evangelicals being domestic enemies are a serious charge.”
The soldier told me he fears reprisals and asked not to be identified. He said there was a blanket statement that donating to any groups that were considered a threat to the military and government was punishable under military regulations.
“My first concern was if I was going to be in trouble going to church,” the evangelical Christian soldier told me. “Can I tithe? Can I donate to Christian charities? What if I donate to a politician who is a part of the Tea Party movement?”
Another soldier who attended the briefing alerted the Chaplain Alliance for Religious Liberty. That individual’s recollections of the briefing matched the soldier who reached out to me.
“I was very shocked and couldn’t believe what I was hearing,” the soldier said. “I felt like my religious liberties, that I risk my life and sacrifice time away from family to fight for, were being taken away.”
And while a large portion of the briefing dealt with the threat evangelicals and the Tea Party pose to the nation, barely a word was said about Islamic extremism, the soldier said.
“Our community is still healing from the act of terrorism brought on by Nidal Hasan – who really is a terrorist,” the soldier said. “This is a slap in the face. “The military is supposed to defend freedom and to classify the vast majority of the military that claim to be Christian as terrorists is sick.”
Tony Perkins, president of the Family Research Council, tells me the Pentagon is pushing anti-Christian propaganda.
“On the very base that was the site of mass murder carried out by a radicalized Muslim soldier, it is astonishing that it is evangelical groups that are being identified as a ‘threat,’” he said. “Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel must immediately intervene to stop this march against the rights and freedom of our soldiers.”
The soldier said they were also told that the pro-life movement is another example of “radicalization.”
“They said that evangelical Christians protesting abortions are the mobilization stage and that leads to the bombing of abortion clinics,” he said, recalling the discussion.
An Army spokesman at the Pentagon tells me they do not maintain or publish a list of organizations considered extremist.
“None of these slides [shown at the briefing] were produced by the Army, but by soldiers who included information found during an Internet search,” the spokesman said.
He said commanders and other leaders were cautioned that they should not use “lists of extremists, hate groups, radical factions or the like compiled by any outside non-governmental groups or organizations for briefings, command presentations, or as a short cut to determining if a group or activity is considered to be extremist.”
Meanwhile, the public affairs office at Fort Hood is denying the soldiers' allegations.
“The allegations you are asking about were brought to the attention of the Fort Hood leadership immediately and a (sic) inquiry is occurring,” read a statement from Tom Rheinlander, the public affairs director at Fort Hood. “At this time, initial information gathered about the training and what you claim occurred is not substantiated by unit leadership and soldiers present at this training venue.”
I sent the public affairs officer additional questions about the specific content of the briefing but he declined to respond.
But this is not the first time an Army briefing has labeled evangelicals as extremists. Last April an Army Reserve briefing classified Evangelical Christianity and Catholicism as “religious extremism.”
In a letter to Rep. Doug Lamborn (R-Colo.), Secretary of the Army John McHugh said the briefing in April was an isolated incident and the material used was not sanctioned by the Army.
McHugh said it was a “misguided attempt to explain that extremism is not limited to a single religion.”
Two weeks ago, several dozen active duty troops at Camp Shelby in Mississippi, were told the American Family Association, a well-respected Christian ministry, should be classified as a domestic hate group because it advocates for traditional family values.
Again, the military called it an isolated incident with a trainer using material that was not sanctioned by the military. 
That explanation is wearing thin with American Christians.
“How much longer can the Army claim no knowledge or responsibility for these things?” Berry asked. 
“These repeated incidents show either that this training was directed from Army leadership at the Pentagon, or else the Army has a real discipline and leadership problem on its hands because a bunch of rogue soldiers are teaching this nonsense.”
The most recent allegations at Fort Hood have drawn sharp rebuke from religious liberty groups around the nation.
“Why is the Army engaged in these anti-Christian training propaganda briefings?” asked Perkins, himself a veteran of the Marine Corps. “The only explanation is that this is a deliberate effort of the Obama administration to intimidate and separate soldiers from Christian groups that they support and that support them.”
Ron Crews, executive director of the Chaplain Alliance, called the military’s behavior dishonorable.
“Far from mere ‘isolated incidents,’ as the Army has dismissed previous occurrences, this latest incident demonstrates a pattern and practice of Army briefings identifying mainstream religions, such as Evangelical Christianity, Judaism, and Catholicism, as examples of ‘religious extremism’ similar to Al Qaeda, Hamas and the Ku Klux Klan,” he told me.
Perkins said it’s time for the Pentagon to “ensure that instructors carry out their role to train our troops to defend our freedom, and not push anti-Christian propaganda.”

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Obamacare not doing too well in North Dakota and the Obama Administration doesn't want people to know it.

The Obamacare health care exchange is having a tough go of it in North Dakota.  Blue Cross the largest health care provider in the state has a grand total of 14 people signed up.  In this article it's noted hat the Obama Administration told Blue Cross not to publicize this fact.
The Obama administration asked North Dakota’s largest health insurer not to publicize how many people have signed up for health insurance through a new online exchange, a company official says.

During a Monday forum in Fargo for people interested in signing up for coverage via the exchange, James Nichol of Blue Cross Blue Shield of North Dakota told the crowd his company received the request from the federal government earlier Monday. Nichol is a consumer sales manager for the company.

Still, a spokeswoman from Blue Cross Blue Shield says about 14 North Dakotans have signed up for coverage since the federal exchange went live Oct. 1. That brings total statewide enrollment to 20 – less than one a day.

Spokeswoman Andrea Dinneen said Tuesday that while Blue Cross generally does not release its internal sales numbers, it has in this case because the problematic rollout of the federal health care exchange is a “unique situation.”

An official from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, one of the main the federal agencies handling the federal marketplace, would not directly address questions about the request made of Blue Cross Blue Shield, including whether other insurers were also asked to keep quiet about enrollment.

Representatives from the two other North Dakota companies offering coverage on the federal exchange – Medica and Sanford Health – said they had not received similar directions.

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Driving America secular - our universities and colleges.

Albert Mohler notes in a post a few weeks ago that the universities and colleges of our nation are driving us secular.  How so?  They educate the leaders of tomorrow and since the 1960s they've been moving to the left.  What happens in the university doesn't stay in the university as he mentions regarding Yale.
Several years ago, sociologist Peter Berger argued that secularization has been most pervasive in two social locations — Western Europe and the American college and university campus. The campuses of elite educational institutions are among the most thoroughly secularized places on our planet. This should concern anyone with an interest in higher education, of course. But it really matters to every American — or at least it should.

A wonderful and concise explanation of why this is so was provided in the pages of The Weekly Standard this week by David Gelernter, a professor of computer science at Yale University. In the course of making a proposal for the “reclamation” of higher education, Professor Gelernter wrote this very important paragraph:
Since the cultural revolution culminating in the 1970s, the left has run nearly all of the nation’s most influential, prestigious universities. Their alumni, in turn, run American culture — the broadcast networks, newspapers, the legal and many other professions, Hollywood, book publishing, and, most important, the massive, insensate, crush-everything-in-your-path mega-glacier known as the U.S. federal bureaucracy — and even more important than that, the education establishment charged with indoctrinating our children from kindergarten up.

That’s why it matters to you. And that’s how the future direction of the culture is set by the current culture of the elite colleges and universities. Many parents are unaware of how this happens. Their children may or may not attend one of the most prestigious colleges in the nation. But in almost any other institution they will study under professors who want to be associated with (or eventually hired by) one of those elite institutions. Exceptions to this pattern are rare, and the influence of these elite schools extends throughout the culture at large.

David Gelernter is in a position to know. After all, he is a professor at Yale. As he makes clear, what happens at Yale doesn’t stay at Yale.

Monday, October 21, 2013

Are there worse days ahead for America?

With our economy limping along and the gap between the rich and poor growing, it's increasingly reminiscient of Carter presidency's malaise days.  Much of the economy is based on confidence, positive expectations for the future.  President Obama hasn't inspired much confidence - in either consumers or business owners.  Frankly, his political philosophy of higher taxes and more government is exactly the wrong approach.

This article discusses the growing income gap and what to do about it.
Declining prospects for upward mobility, and the simultaneous social inequality, are the existential issues of our time. The percentage of adults who believe things will be better for their kids is at its lowest point in 30 years, with a majority now saying upward mobility for the next generation is not likely. The kids, God bless them, are still far more optimistic.

Despite President Obama's occasional class-warfare rhetoric, this gap has widened significantly under his watch; the top 1 percent of earners garnered more than 90 percent of the income growth in his first two years, compared with 65 percent under George W. Bush. But the problem is more extensive than one or two administrations. Most Americans' incomes have stagnated for almost a quarter century.

Inequality is on the rise throughout the country, while there are significant differences in its depth by geography and region. California is producing ever more billionaires, three times as many as in regularly faster-growing Texas, but the middle class is in secular decline, according to a recent Public Policy Institute Study, and now constitutes less than half California's population. The state also suffers the highest rate of poverty in the country and is now home to roughly one-third of the nation's welfare recipients, equal to almost three times its proportion of the nation's population.
He points to the importance culture plays in the economic well being of a society.
Certainly urban form, and the existence that produces middle-income jobs, helps determine levels of inequality. But perhaps the least-appreciated factor may be ethnicity, something discussed more emotionally than logically. The least inequality, Morrill notes, occurs within what he calls the “Germanic belt” that extends from large parts of Pennsylvania, across the northern Great Lakes and the Plains, all the way to the Pacific Northwest, as well as Utah; many Mormons are of German, Scandinavian and other northern European stock.

Peruse a map of U.S. ethnicities, along with Morrill's findings, and you can see this extremely high degree of confluence. One key may be culture. German and Scandinavian heritage, Morrill notes, embraces egalitarianism, self-control and social obligation, all of which are ideal characteristics for economic progress.

After all, Scandinavia itself has less poverty, and more widespread prosperity, than virtually anywhere in the world. A Scandinavian economist, promoting social democracy once told Milton Friedman: “In Scandinavia we have no poverty.” Friedman replied, “That's interesting, because in America, among Scandinavians, we have no poverty, either.” Indeed, the poverty rate for Americans with Swedish ancestry is 6.7 percent, about half the U.S. average. Economists Geranda Notten and Chris de Neubourg have found the poverty rate in Sweden to be an identical 6.7 percent.

The “Germanic belt” areas also tend to emphasize education, most importantly, at the grade school level. The best science scores among eighth-graders, according the National Educational Assessment, are found almost totally in the northern-tier, heavily Germanic region of the country. Northern European redoubts such as Minnesota, the Dakotas, Montana, Utah and northern New England all scored best. Amazingly, California, the nation's undisputed technological capital, ranks 47th; New York, much of the south (excluding Texas) and the Southwest do much more poorly.

More troubling is the correlation between large populations of certain groups – notably African Americans but also Hispanics – and extreme inequality. Morrill's analysis shows a huge confluence between states with the largest income gaps, largely in the South and Southwest, and the highest concentrations of these historically disadvantaged ethnic groups.

This is an uncomfortable topic. Many liberals celebrate diversity in any form, and tend to reject the importance of culture in economic success. Conservatives, for the most part, dismiss discussions of inequality as socialistic in nature; others refuse to acknowledge the continued legacy of slavery, the extreme poverty of many Latino immigrants and the impacts of globalization on blue-collar employment, which historically paced the upward mobility of other low-income ethnic groups.
We simply can't wish away reality; the scar of racism and the impact of economic change, has made it tougher for less-educated minorities to rise in contemporary America.
  What the answer?  Not the liberal redistributionist programs of the left.
This growing inequality, with its racial connotations, is fundamentally socially unsustainable. Yet how to restart upward mobility remains a difficult proposition. Progressives might shout loudest about inequality, but their economic policies have failed to produce either upward mobility or greater equality.

Indeed, under the current liberal regime, the prospects for the poor and working class have decreased markedly while the wealthy, often villainized by the administration, have luxuriated. During much of the tenure of the first black president, the gap between Anglo incomes on the one side and those of blacks and Hispanics has widened, doubling since the Great Recession.

Indeed, racial economic disparities are mostly unchanged or are growing. The black unemployment rate remains more than double the white jobless rate and reaches 40 percent among black youth.

A debate is needed now about what policies best promote upward mobility. Some combination of encouraging broader-based economic growth and nurturing fundamental values of education, family and social engagement arguably offers the best approach. It is a message likely neither political party particularly wants to hear, but it's one they need to acknowledge and confront.

Friday, October 18, 2013

Adrian Peterson and role models.

Hope this story isn't true.  If it is it's certainly not the sort of role model we need for young people who look up to professional athletes.
NFL rushing king Adrian Peterson is after another MVP — Most Virile Parent.
The Minnesota Vikings running back had at least five children out of wedlock and could have had as many as seven, according to one of his ex-girlfriends.
The public only knew of three of Peterson’s children, before news surfaced of a fourth, a 2-year-old son, Tyrese, who died last week after he was allegedly beaten by the mother’s current boyfriend.
Baby No. 5, who’s living with her mom in Minnesota, is a 3-month-old daughter, decked out adorably in a purple-and-gold onesie proclaiming her love for the Vikings, her fast-and-loose father’s franchise, according to

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Noah: Fighting it out in Hollywood.

Here's an article on the inside fighting going on over the final cut on the Russell Crowe movie on the biblical character Noah.  The battle doesn't involve Crowe but the director and Paramount Studios.  It's not clear what the debate is fully over it would appear to be over how much the movie veers from the historical character.  Hopefully, it stays closer to the historical account.
God gave Noah some very specific instructions on how to build an ark. But it seems there was no such clear voice of authority when it came to the making of Darren Aronofsky's epic movie based on the Bible story.

Multiple sources say that with test screenings of various versions producing worrisome results, Aronofsky and Paramount have been at odds over the version of Noah that is set for release March 28. It's not clear whether Aronofsky -- whose most recent film, 2010's Black Swan, grossed $329 million worldwide and won an Oscar for star Natalie Portman -- has held on to his right to final cut. Aronofsky and his reps did not respond to requests for comment, but Paramount vice chairman Rob Moore says the film, which stars Russell Crowe as the seafarer, is going through a "normal preview process" and the result will be "one version of the movie that Darren is overseeing."

In recent weeks, the studio has held test screenings for key groups that might take a strong interest in the subject matter: in New York (for a largely Jewish audience), in Arizona (Christians) and in Orange County, Calif. (general public). All are said to have generated troubling reactions. But sources say Aronofsky has been resistant to Paramount's suggested changes. "Darren is not made for studio films," says a talent rep with ties to the project. "He's very dismissive. He doesn't care about [Paramount's] opinion."
Here's what some in the Christian community are saying.
Beyond the visuals, a major challenge has been coming up with an exciting third act that doesn't alienate the potentially huge Christian audience (in the Bible, Noah and the ark's inhabitants survive the flood that destroys the Earth). Some in the faith community already have expressed skepticism about the result, especially after writer Brian Godawa in October 2012 obtained a version of the Noah script and posted his summary online under the heading, "Darren Aronofsky's Noah: Environmentalist Wacko." (Aronofsky has in the past described Noah as "the first environmentalist.") Among his conclusions is that Noah will be "an uninteresting and unbiblical waste of a hundred and fifty million dollars that will ruin for decades the possibility of making a really great and entertaining movie of this Bible hero." On the other hand, Ted Baehr, whose publishes reviews from a Christian perspective, holds out hope that the film will pass muster.

Mark Joseph, who has consulted on the marketing of films including Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe and Ray, says he hasn't been to a screening of Noah but fears it is "an example of a director not listening to those voices that would have been warning of the dangers of veering too far away from the biblical text. The director is there to serve the studio and the audience, not veer off into directions that go against the core audience's beliefs -- at least if the goal is to get them to come to the theater."

Paramount obviously hopes to woo the faithful; in July Aronofsky screened Noah footage for the church-based Echo conference in Texas. Some tweets from audience members suggested that the sneak peek was well received.

Moore says the studio knew going in that the film would be complicated and "allowed for a very long postproduction period, which allowed for a lot of test screenings."

While Aronofsky "definitely wants some level of independence," he adds, "he also wants a hit movie." The bottom line: "We're getting to a very good place, and we're getting there with Darren."

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

"the internet is the greatest drug dealer in the United States?"

Here's more evidence that porn highly destructive.  It's addictive qualities are like cocaine or heroin.  Internet is having a huge impact.  This has implications for free speech claims and restrictions on pornography.
... the internet "is the greatest drug dealer in the United States?”

A growing body of research supports such an assertion as it relates to a new “narcotic”: internet pornography. The National Survey on Drug Use and Health estimated that in 2008 there were 1.9 million cocaine users. According to the Central Intelligence Agency, there are an estimated 2 million heroin users in the United States, with some 600,000 to 800,000 considered hardcore addicts. Compare these numbers to the 40 million regular users of online pornography in America.

Neurological research has revealed that the effect of internet pornography on the human brain is just as potent—if not more so—than addictive chemical substances such as cocaine or heroin. In a statement before Congress, Dr. Jeffrey Satinover, a psychiatrist, psychoanalyst, physicist, and former Fellow in Psychiatry at Yale, cautioned:

With the advent of the computer, the delivery system for this addictive stimulus [internet pornography] has become nearly resistance-free. It is as though we have devised a form of heroin 100 times more powerful than before, usable in the privacy of one’s own home and injected directly to the brain through the eyes. It’s now available in unlimited supply via a self-replicating distribution network, glorified as art and protected by the Constitution.

The new delivery mechanism for porn drug is the Internet.

Though pornography, in one form or another, has been around for most of human history, its content and the way people access and consume it have drastically changed in the past few decades with the advent of the internet and related technologies.

There are three main reasons internet pornography is radically different from earlier forms: its (1) affordability (K. Doran, Assistant Professor of Economics at Notre Dame University, estimates that 80% to 90% of porn users view free content online), (2) accessibility (24/7 access anywhere with an internet connection), and—most importantly—(3) anonymity. Those three factors combined with internet pornography’s experiential depiction of real people performing real sex acts while the viewer observes has created a potent narcotic—in the most literal sense.

Yet many would argue that pornography is merely “speech,” a form of sexual “expression” that should be protected as a constitutional right under the First Amendment.

The question of First Amendment rights is undeniably the ultimate hurdle to clear from a legal standpoint—and I take up that question in tomorrow’s Public Discourse essay. Today I begin my analysis from a scientific perspective, because recent neurological findings have exposed internet pornography to be something much, much more than mere “speech.”

Internet Pornography: The New Narcotic

While the term “drug addiction” typically has been reserved for chemical substances physically ingested (or inhaled or injected) into the body, internet pornography—taken in through the eyes—affects the brain chemically and physically in a manner similar to that of illegal chemical substances. William M. Struthers, Professor of Psychology at Wheaton College, explains in his book Wired for Intimacy: How Pornography Hijacks the Male Brain that pornography works “through the same neural circuit, has the same effects with respect to tolerance and withdrawal, and has every other hallmark of an addiction.”

This is because the same parts of the brain react to both illegal substances and sexual arousal. Dopamine, the chemical triggered by sexual arousal and orgasm, is also the chemical that triggers addiction pathways in the brain. As Donald L. Hilton Jr., MD, a practicing neurosurgeon and a clinical associate professor of neurosurgery at the University of Texas, observes:

Pornography is a visual pheromone, a powerful 100 billion dollar-per-year brain drug that is changing sexuality even more rapidly through the cyber-acceleration of the Internet. It is “inhibiting orientation” and “disrupting pre-mating communication between the sexes by permeating the atmosphere.”

Think of the brain as a forest where trails are worn down by hikers who walk along the same path over and over again, day after day. The exposure to pornographic images creates similar neural pathways that, over time, become more and more “well-paved” as they are repeatedly traveled with each exposure to pornography. Those neurological pathways eventually become the trail in the brain’s forest by which sexual interactions are routed. Thus, a pornography user has “unknowingly created a neurological circuit” that makes his or her default perspective toward sexual matters ruled by the norms and expectations of pornography.

These “brain trails” are able to be initiated and “paved” because of the plasticity of brain tissue. Norman Doidge, MD—a psychiatrist, psychoanalyst, and author of the New York Times and international bestseller, The Brain That Changes Itself—explores the impact of neuroplasticity on sexual attraction in an essay in The Social Costs of Pornography.  Dr. Doidge notes that brain tissue involved with sexual preferences (i.e., what “turns us on”) is especially malleable. Thus, outside stimuli—like pornographic images—that link previously unrelated things (e.g., physical torture and sexual arousal) can cause previously unrelated neurons within the brain to learn to “fire” in tandem so that the next time around, physical torture actually does trigger sexual arousal in the brain. This in-tandem firing of neurons creates “links” or associations that result in powerful new brain pathways that remain even after the instigating outside stimuli are taken away.

In light of the new brain science, the relevant scientific community (the American Society of Addiction Medicine), which used to believe addiction was primarily a behavior, recently redefined “addiction” as primarily a brain disease revolving around the neurological rewards system. Internet pornography’s powerful force on the neurological reward system clearly places it within this new definition of “addiction.”

Some might argue that many substances and activities—such as TV, food, shopping, etc.—can cause addiction-forming chemicals in the brain, yet we certainly don’t want the government regulating how much TV we watch, how often we shop, or how much we eat.  While there are plenty of people with addictions to TV, food, and shopping, Dr. Hilton argues that sexual images are “unique among natural rewards” because sexual rewards, unlike food or other natural rewards, cause “persistent change in synaptic plasticity.” In other words, internet pornography does more than just spike the level of dopamine in the brain for a pleasure sensation. It literally changes the physical matter within the brain so that new neurological pathways require pornographic material in order to trigger the desired reward sensation.

So how does internet pornography compare with illegal addictive chemical substances like cocaine or heroin? Cocaine is considered a stimulant that increases dopamine levels in the brain. Dopamine is the primary neurotransmitter that most addictive substances release, as it causes a “high” and a subsequent craving for a repetition of the high, rather than a subsequent feeling of satisfaction by way of endorphins. Heroin, on the other hand, is an opiate, which has a relaxing effect. Both drugs trigger chemical tolerance, which requires higher quantities of the drug to be used each time to achieve the same intensity of effect.

Pornography, by both arousing (the “high” effect via dopamine) and causing an orgasm (the “release” effect via opiates), is a type of polydrug that triggers both types of addictive brain chemicals in one punch, enhancing its addictive propensity as well as its power to instigate a pattern of increasing tolerance. Tolerance in pornography’s case requires not necessarily greater quantities of pornography but more novel pornographic content like more taboo sexual acts, child pornography, or sadomasochistic pornography.

Sexual arousal is the result of testosterone, dopamine, and norepinephrine surges, whereas the transcendence and euphoria experienced during orgasm are related to the release of endogenous opiates. While pornography activates the appetitive system by way of dopamine, an orgasm caused by pornography does not release endorphins, which are the chemicals that make us feel satisfied. By contrast, endorphins are released after an orgasm caused by having sex with a real human being. This lack of satisfaction, combined with the brain’s competitive plasticity, causes the brain to require more and more novel and extreme images to get the same chemical result as before.

While the addictive effects of internet pornography are similar to a combination of addictive chemical substances, internet pornography’s effects go beyond those of chemical substances.

For instance, “mirror neurons” in the brain enable us to learn by watching a behavior and copying it. Professor Struthers writes that, because of mirror neurons, “Viewing a pornographic creates a neurological experience whereby a person vicariously participates in what he is watching.” This uniquely interactive addiction is enabled by the combination of stimuli upon both the brain and the body; in Struthers’ words, porn use “involves the visual system (looking at porn), the motor system (masturbating), the sensory system (genital stimulation), and neurological effects of arousal and orgasm (sexual euphoria from chemical opiates like addictive dopamine in the nucleus accumbens and reduced fear in the amygdala).”

Another aspect of pornography addiction that surpasses the addictive and harmful characteristics of chemical substance abuse is its permanence. While substances can be metabolized out of the body, pornographic images cannot be metabolized out of the brain because pornographic images are stored in the brain’s memory. While substance abusers may cause permanent harm to their bodies or brains from drug use, the substance itself does not remain in the body after it has metabolized out of the body. But with pornography, there is no timeframe of abstinence that can erase the pornographic “reels” of images in the brain that can continue to fuel the addictive cycle.

In sum, brain research confirms the critical fact that pornography is a drug delivery system that has a distinct and powerful effect upon the human brain and nervous system. More akin to cocaine than to books or public speeches, internet pornography is not the sort of “speech” the First Amendment was meant to protect from government censorship—as I will argue tomorrow. Those who read books or listen to ideas can use their conscious minds to reason through the assertions and information.  But, as Dr. Doidge puts it, “Those who use [pornography] have no sense to the extent to which their brains are reshaped by it.”  Indeed, they have no idea that pornography is developing “new maps in their brains.”

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

World poverty - nature, breadth, and solution

Here are a number of facts about poverty.

What strikes me about poverty is it the solution in the long term involves economic development and cultural changes.  There's no reason for people to be hungry given the resources we have in the world.  Of course cultural changes are the hardest to make.
1. World hunger refers to the want or scarcity of food in a country, aggregated to the world level. The related technical terms (e.g., those used in medicine) are malnutrition or undernutrition, both of which indicate a lack of some or all nutritional elements necessary for human health.

2. According to the United Nations World Food Programme, 1 in 8 people in the world do not get enough food to lead an active and healthy life. Over 800 million worldwide -- equal to the population of the U.S. and the 28 member states of the European Union -- are hungry.

3. Asia has the largest share of the world's hungry people (some 552 million), but Sub-Saharan Africa remains the region with the highest prevalence of undernourishment with one in four Africans (24.8 per cent) estimated to be hungry.

4. Hunger and malnutrition are the greatest threats to global health—more so than even AIDS, malaria, and tuberculosis combined.

5. Children who are poorly nourished suffer up to 160 days of illness each year. Poor nutrition plays a role in at least half of the 10.9 million child deaths each year--five million deaths.

6. Undernutrition magnifies the effect of every disease, including measles and malaria. The estimated proportions of deaths in which undernutrition is an underlying cause are roughly similar for diarrhea (61%), malaria (57%), pneumonia (52%), and measles (45%).

7. One in four of the world's children are stunted (below the fifth percentile of the reference population in height for age). In developing countries the proportion can rise to one in three. 80 percent of the world's stunted children live in just 20 countries.

8. The world currently produces enough food for everyone on the planet to have at least 2,720 calories per person per day (the equivalent of 13.5 cups of rice). The number of calories each person needs every day varies depending on age and activity level, but the recommended average is 2,500 calories for men and 2,000 calories for women.

9. According to the U.N. hunger report, economic growth is key for progress in hunger reduction. But growth may not lead to more and better jobs and incomes for all, unless policies specifically target the poor, especially those in rural areas. "In poor countries, hunger and poverty reduction will only be achieved with growth that is not only sustained, but also broadly shared," the report noted. Still, continued economic growth in developing countries has improved incomes and access to food. Recent pick-up in agricultural productivity growth, supported by increased public investment, and renewed interest of private investors in agriculture, has improved food availability.

Monday, October 14, 2013

Is God intolerant?

The only absolute in society today is tolerance.  Everybody must be tolerant  and if you're not people won't be tolerant of you.  (This raises the issue of hypocrisy but that's for another day.)  Under the modern, PC definition of tolerance is God tolerant or is He guilty of intolerance. Here's a great post on the "Loving Intolerance of God."
Tolerance. The modern, cultural elite praise this virtue in every school setting, media outlet, and job training workshop. There seems to be no truer way to love another person than to fully accept everything about them. Christians have often joined the tidal wave of this mainstream value and often long to be known for their acceptance of others' opinions and lifestyles. On the surface it seems to be a positive virtue, one that exemplifies the life of the Christian.

But have you ever considered that tolerance is never encouraged in the Bible? The fruit of the Spirit includes love and kindness, but missing from the list is tolerance. In fact, Christians aren't called to tolerance, because we serve an intolerant God.

Just consider a few stories from the Old Testament:

The Garden: God didn't tolerate Adam and Eve's sin. He didn't accept their lifestyle choice to eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. He banished them from Eden and left an angel with flaming swords to guard the entrance so they couldn't return.

Noah and the Flood: While the sanitized version of this story is pleasantly detailed in children's storybooks, we cannot forget this story is about immense judgment. Picture a tsunami of destruction instead of a nursery filled with smiling stuffed animals. The flood involved terror, suffering, and death. It was a catastrophic event that only one family survived.

Uzzah: One of the most uncomfortable accounts of divine intolerance is found in 2 Samuel 6. This story recounts Uzzah's attempt to steady the ark of the LORD after an oxen stumbled on the journey back to Israel. When he reached out and touched the ark (an expressly forbidden action), God didn't say, "Well, his heart was in the right place. I know he was just trying to help." Uzzah's instinctive response was met with God's intense anger, and Uzzah was immediately struck down.

We could go on and on throughout the Old Testament, considering Achan, Korah, Aaron's sons, the Canaanites, and the inhabitants of Sodom and Gomorrah, just to name a few. All perished by the very hand of God. He did not tolerate their sin; he punished it.
Greater Judgment

Lest we somehow think Jesus represents a different God than the one of the Old Testament, though, consider his teaching to the disciples in Matthew 10:14-15:

    And if anyone will not receive you or listen to your words, shake off the dust from your feet when you leave that house or town. Truly, I say to you, it will be more bearable on the Day of Judgment for the land of Sodom and Gomorrah than for that town.

Jesus claims a greater judgment than Sodom and Gomorrah for those who reject the message of the gospel. He warned many would believe they knew him, only to learn they have been rejected with these words: "Depart from me, all you workers of evil!" (Matt. 7:21-23; Luke 13:22-27) Rather than find welcome into God's kingdom, they would find themselves in a place of weeping and gnashing of teeth.

Both the Old and New Testaments display a God who doesn't tolerate sin. Yet there is one story in Scripture that demonstrates most clearly the intolerance of God.

It is the story of the cross.

Take a fresh look at the terrifying and uncomfortable reality of the cross. Here is an innocent man—whipped, beaten, nailed to a tree, bearing the sins of the world. For you. For me. Is this the picture of a tolerant God who ignores evil? No, this is a gruesome picture of divine wrath and judgment. The story makes no sense if God is a tolerant God.

The cross demonstrates God's character in all its complexity. It shows his love, kindness, and mercy united with his justice, holiness, and wrath. It perfectly demonstrates a God who surpasses understanding. The Lord is giving us a glimpse into the immensity of his love for us. The love of God is not a tolerant love. It is much better. It is a redemptive love.
She notes that the modern, PC understanding of tolerance is unloving.
Sin must be paid for. To tolerate evil is to deny justice. God unleashes his full wrath on evil because he's good. If good tolerated evil, it would cease to be good. Refusal to tolerate sin, then, is an essential part of loving others well. It might be tolerant for a mother to let her children play in a busy street or run with scissors, but it's not loving in the least.

We also should hate sin because it's harmful, even if we don't always understand the harm that may be caused. As a child is unaware that a car may quickly appear, we must understand that we're unaware of all the dangers of sin. God, our loving Creator who understands our frame more fully than we do, bids us to flee from evil and find abundant life in him alone. Life outside the revealed will of God doesn't ultimately fulfill; it leads to misery and emptiness.

As his people, then, how should we live? Romans 12 provides helpful insight:

    Let love be genuine. Abhor what is evil; hold fast to what is good. Love one another with brotherly affection. . . . Repay no one evil for evil, but give thought to do what is honorable in the sight of all. If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all. Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave it to the wrath of God, for it is written, "Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord." To the contrary, "If your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink; for by so doing you will heap burning coals on his head." Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.

God calls us to abhor evil, while at the same time warning us against being agents of his wrath. We should hate the act of stealing while showing mercy and compassion to one who steals. Loving people well doesn't mean we must embrace the choices they make. It means we openly welcome and embrace all who come into our lives with a heart of understanding and the message and hope of the gospel. We love people well when we call them out of sin into relationship with King Jesus. It may not be the world's definition of tolerance, but it's the truest way to love.

Friday, October 11, 2013

Married moms and dads do matter for kids according to Canadian study.

Here's another study pointing out the self evident truth that a married mom and dad household is the best  environment for raising children.
There is a new and significant piece of evidence in the social science debate about gay parenting and the unique contributions that mothers and fathers make to their children’s flourishing. A study published last week in the journal Review of the Economics of the Household—analyzing data from a very large, population-based sample—reveals that the children of gay and lesbian couples are only about 65 percent as likely to have graduated from high school as the children of married, opposite-sex couples. And gender matters, too: girls are more apt to struggle than boys, with daughters of gay parents displaying dramatically low graduation rates.

Unlike US-based studies, this one evaluates a 20 percent sample of the Canadian census, where same-sex couples have had access to all taxation and government benefits since 1997 and to marriage since 2005.

While in the US Census same-sex households have to be guessed at based on the gender and number of self-reported heads-of-household, young adults in the Canadian census were asked, “Are you the child of a male or female same-sex married or common law couple?” While study author and economist Douglas Allen noted that very many children in Canada who live with a gay or lesbian parent are actually living with a single mother—a finding consonant with that detected in the 2012 New Family Structures Study—he was able to isolate and analyze hundreds of children living with a gay or lesbian couple (either married or in a “common law” relationship akin to cohabitation).

So the study is able to compare—side by side—the young-adult children of same-sex couples and opposite-sex couples, as well as children growing up in single-parent homes and other types of households. Three key findings stood out to Allen:
children of married opposite-sex families have a high graduation rate compared to the others; children of lesbian families have a very low graduation rate compared to the others; and the other four types [common law, gay, single mother, single father] are similar to each other and lie in between the married/lesbian extremes.

Employing regression models and series of control variables, Allen concludes that the substandard performance cannot be attributed to lower school attendance or the more modest education of gay or lesbian parents. Indeed, same-sex parents were characterized by higher levels of education, and their children were more likely to be enrolled in school than even those of married, opposite-sex couples. And yet their children are notably more likely to lag in finishing their own schooling.

The same is true of the young-adult children of common law parents, as well as single mothers and single fathers, highlighting how little—when you lean on large, high-quality samples—the data have actually changed over the past few decades. The intact, married mother-and-father household remains the gold standard for children’s progress through school. What is surprising in the Canadian data is the revelation that lesbian couples’ children fared worse, on average, than even those of single parents.

The truly unique aspect of Allen’s study, however, may be its ability to distinguish gender-specific effects of same-sex households on children. He writes:
the particular gender mix of a same-sex household has a dramatic difference in the association with child graduation. Consider the case of girls. . . . Regardless of the controls and whether or not girls are currently living in a gay or lesbian household, the odds of graduating from high school are considerably lower than any other household type. Indeed, girls living in gay households are only 15 percent as likely to graduate compared to girls from opposite sex married homes.

Thus although the children of same-sex couples fare worse overall, the disparity is unequally shared, but is instead based on the combination of the gender of child and gender of parents. Boys fare better—that is, they’re more likely to have finished high school—in gay households than in lesbian households. For girls, the opposite is true. Thus the study undermines not only claims about “no differences” but also assertions that moms and dads are interchangeable. They’re not.

Thursday, October 10, 2013

The rise and fall of the Crystal Cathedral and Robert Schuller.

Here's the sad story of the Crystal Cathedral and its founding pastor Robert Schuller.  Popular TV preacher who popularized drive-in church services and built the Crystal Cathedral and his success on the power of positive thinking.  I visited the Cathedral for a Sunday service in the mid 1980s and am told I even spoke at a drive in theater he spoke at in northwest Iowa.  (As a youngster I attended an occasion drive-in theater Sunday service with my grandparents in my hometown.)
“America loves success stories.” This is how a 1983 admiring profile of the famed Robert Harold Schuller began. And back in 1983 “Bob” Schuller, as his friends called him, was certainly successful. The son of pious Dutch Reformed parents, Schuller was born on a farm in Sioux County, Iowa, in 1926. That was one year before Sinclair Lewis published Elmer Gantry, a satirical novel about a ne’er-do-well preacher from Kansas. Though Schuller would match Gantry in exuberance and flamboyant style, he was no charlatan. Educated at his denomination’s flagship schools, Hope College and Western Theological Seminary, Schuller was already a proven pastor before being sent by the Reformed Church in America to plant a new congregation in Orange County, California....
The story of his ministry is the stuff of legend. Garden Grove Community Church began in 1955 when Schuller rented for $10 per week the Orange Drive-In Theater, a well-chosen site near the just-opened Disneyland. Drive-in theaters were the rave across the country then. “Come as you are in the family car” was an early Schuller slogan. Schuller preached from the tarpaper rooftop of the snack bar while his wife Arvella played a portable organ.
And come they did, not only to what was billed as the nation’s first walk-in/drive-in church, but also to Schuller’s expansive television ministry called “The Hour of Power.” In his prime on “The Hour of Power,” Robert Schuller was spectacular. He appeared each Sunday in flowing robes, with a booming resonant voice and sweeping gestures, while surrounded by fountains that splashed at a button’s push and a thousand-voice choir that sang some of the best religious music on television. At its height, “The Hour of Power” was the most watched religious television program in the world, seen by an estimated 30 million people on hundreds of stations around the globe.
Crystal_Cathedral_with_SpireTo the fanfare of trumpets and the sublime music of “The Heavens are Telling,” Schuller dedicated the Crystal Cathedral on Sunday, September 14, 1980, just before California’s governor, Ronald Reagan, was elected as President of the United States. This amazing structure, designed by famed architect Philip Johnson, boasted 10,661 silver-tinted windows supported by a filigree of steel. The windows shimmered in the light that sun-filled day. The Crystal Cathedral, Schuller said at the time, was to be “a monument to mountain-moving faith,” a “star-shaped sanctuary sparkling in the sun” which would stand for centuries to come.
Today the building still stands, but the church is shattered. In October 2010, the church entered Chapter 11 bankruptcy, citing indebtedness of more than $50 million dollars. The following year, the 34-acre campus was sold to the local Catholic diocese for $57.5 million. Catholics have been in the business of converting auspicious buildings into sacred space ever since the Pantheon in Rome was transformed into a house of worship, but this is the first time an evangelical megachurch will have become a Catholic cathedral....
Robert Schuller has had critics aplenty, and he has given them a lot to work with—shallowness, showmanship, and pomposity. But the tone of the most raucous critics leaves much to be desired. The fact is, Schuller’s ministry has been admirable in many ways. Who can fault him for trying to reach out to the unchurched? His suicide prevention work was a pioneering ministry of mercy. His inviting Mark Driscoll, a younger Reformed pastor from a different quadrant of the evangelical family, to preach in his pulpit was a surprising initiative. Many testify to having been brought to a living relationship with Jesus Christ through Schuller and the Crystal Cathedral. I do not doubt their testimony, even if perhaps the Holy Spirit had to work overtime “in, with, and under” (to use Luther’s eucharistic prepositions) all the evangelical fluff.
The implosion of the Crystal Cathedral can be explained in many ways—dysfunctional family dynamics, financial hard times, lack of wise leadership, and a changing religious climate. Moreover, today’s digital generation has no time for a whole “hour” of power from anyone—two minutes on YouTube is enough! But long before the Crystal Cathedral filed for bankruptcy, another kind of insolvency was at work eating away at the soul of the enterprise. And here the critics are right.
Building on the self-actualization theories of Abraham Maslow, Schuller rode the crest of the human potential movement in the fifties and sixties. The deepest dilemma faced by men and women, Schuller thought, was the unsatisfied quest for human glory, the desire for self-esteem. In this schema, Jesus is the ideal ego-tripper, Self-esteem Incarnate. As Schuller once said to Phil Donahue, “Jesus had an ego. He said, ‘I, if I be lifted up, will draw all men unto Me.’ Wow, what an ego trip he was on!” Schuller was also fond of saying that Jesus never called anyone a sinner. But red-letter words like “evil ones,” “hypocrites,” “blind guides,” “serpents,” “children of the devil,” and “adulterous and sinful generation” are not exactly compliments.
SchullerSchuller’s campaign to “positivize” the offending terminology of the Bible led not only to the dumbing down of the faith but also to its gutting out. It resulted in the de-sacrilization of salvation, which was a popular move in an increasingly secularized culture. In the sunny clime of suburban Southern California, it was a perfect fit—at least for a while. His bromides were cute. Instead of Jesus’s beatitudes, Schuller gave us “be happy attitudes.” Nevermind all that stuff about mourning and martyrdom, the hungry and the poor. Schuller also taught us that “tough times never last but tough people do,” deftly ignoring the fact that tough times can indeed last for a very long time, and that tough people crack and break just like anyone else. Schuller never learned what Karl Barth said about the liberal theology of his day, namely, that one cannot get God by saying man in a louder voice. He never understood what Richard John Neuhaus knew and put so well: “Something has gone dreadfully wrong with the world, and with us in the world.” At the end of the day, we are not only sick, we are lost; what we need is not a mere therapist, but a Savior....
The name of the Crystal Cathedral has been changed to Christ Cathedral—a good move. The transformation of the church’s worship space into something more appropriate for Catholic liturgical life has already begun. It will be a challenging venture. The soaring, postmodern architecture of the Crystal Cathedral conveys transcendence and translucence, but not so much mystery or intimacy. It was designed more for pulpit oratory than prayerful meditation. It is suited more for celebration than repentance....
And what shall we say to Dr. Schuller? One of his daughters has reported that he is in a reflective mood in light of his health problems. We wish him well with those struggles and in every way. What Schuller has said to so many others across the years, we sincerely say to him, “God loves you and so do we.” Perhaps he can find special solace in revisiting Question 1 of the Heidelberg Catechism, one of the great documents of the Protestant Reformation and a confessional standard of Robert Schuller’s boyhood church. I am sure he must have memorized this as young lad in Iowa:
Q: What is your only comfort, in life and in death?
A: That I belong—body and soul, in life and in death—not to myself but to my faithful Savior, Jesus Christ, who at the cost of his own blood has fully paid for all my sins and has completely freed me from the dominion of the devil; that he protects me so well that without the will of my Father in heaven not a hair can fall from my head; indeed, that everything must fit his purpose for my salvation. Therefore, by his Holy Spirit, he also assures me of eternal life, and makes me wholeheartedly willing and ready from now on to live for him.

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Interesting stuff on talk of default. Concerns of dire consequences over a default aren't based on fact.

President Obama and others in his Administration are ratcheting up their rhetoric, raising the specter of a default by the federal government on debt it owes.  This post by John Hinderaker says that's merely irresponsible talk.  
One remarkable aspect of the shutdown/debt limit battle is the irresponsibility (on the part of the Obama administration) and incompetence (on the part of the news media) concerning the claim that the federal government will default on its debt obligations if Congress fails to raise the debt limit. President Obama and his minions have clearly suggested that default is a real possibility:
“As reckless as a government shutdown is … an economic shutdown that results from default would be dramatically worse,” Obama said on Thursday. Clearly targeting Republicans, he said a default would be “the height of irresponsibility.”
Then, on the same day, Obama’s Treasury Department released a brutal statement that said a default would prove catastrophic, causing credit markets to freeze and leading to “a financial crisis and recession that could echo the events of 2008 or worse.”
Within the last few hours, Obama repeated that Congress must “remove the threat of default and vote to raise the debt ceiling.” 
Hinderaker says there's no threat of default because the federal government must pay its debts based on the US Constitution.
But there is no threat of default. Constitutionally, the federal government must pay its debts. The Fourteenth Amendment, Section 4, states:
The validity of the public debt of the United States, authorized by law, including debts incurred for payment of pensions and bounties for services in suppressing insurrection or rebellion, shall not be questioned.
I believe this provision is universally understood to mean that the federal government must pay its debt obligations, both principal and interest, even if that means prioritizing debt service over other government spending. So the question is, if Congress does not raise the current debt ceiling, will the federal government run out of money needed to pay its existing debts? The answer is clearly No. A reader supplies the math:
On average the federal government’s daily expenditures are about $16.7 billion; receipts are about $14 billion, implying an average daily borrowing requirement of about $2.7 billion. So the planned flow of revenues is now about $650 billion less than the planned flow of expenses…about $2.7 billion a [business] day, $650 billion annually.
So the “default” scenarios are bogus. Interest on the $16 trillion in debt is covered by a factor of about 10x by revenues! That puts the federal government deep into AAA land. Revenues would have to fall by a staggering 90% to jeopardize interest payments.
And, of course, retiring principal by “rolling over” maturing debt can never require an increase in the debt ceiling, since there is no net increase in the nation’s debt, even if the money used to repay the original principal is borrowed.
He points out that what is at risk is reducing government spending.  If that's the case, then it's understandable why President Obama is raising the rhetoric level.  The failure to raise the debt ceiling means government spending will need to be reduced.
So what will actually happen if Congress doesn’t increase the debt ceiling by approximately October 17? The government’s debt obligations will be paid, but reductions in other spending will start to become necessary. In effect, leaving the debt ceiling as is would function as a spending cut. This is why the Democrats hate the idea so much. They know there is zero chance of default, but they are horrified at the prospect that voters and taxpayers may find out that there is a relatively simple way to bring about spending reductions that would create, in effect, a balanced budget. Hence the hysteria.
To be fair, some Republicans, including John Boehner, have also made public statements that support the plausibility of the default threat. Don’t ask me why. Others, like Rand Paul on yesterday’s Meet the Press, have tried to set the record straight:
NBC: Very quickly before I let you go. As you well know, there is a debt ceiling vote on the horizon. Will Republicans let this country go into default?
SEN. PAUL: I think it’s irresponsible of the president and his men to even talk about default. There is no reason for us to default. We bring in $250 billion in taxes every month, our interest payment is $20 billion. Tell me why we would ever default. We have legislation called the full faith and credit act and it tells the president, you must pay the interest on the debt. So this is a game. This is kind of like closing the World War II memorial. They all get out on TV and they say, we’re going to default. They’re the ones scaring the marketplace. We should never default.
Hinderaker suggests getting government spending under control will actually boost the economy. Though the unknown is whether the markets might panic. Of course, I recall the dire predictions of catastrophe with the supposed financial cliff facing us last January.  The dire claims then never materialized.
There is only one kind of default: the “technical” kind. Cutting spending is not some other, “non-technical” type of default. And as for the impact on the economy, many economists believe that getting government spending under control is the best thing we can do to boost economic growth.
So next time you hear hysterical talk about default on the news, remember that those who raise the default specter either have no idea what they are talking about, or are trying to fool the uninformed.