Archive for July 6th, 2010

July 6, 2010

Tackling Homelessness

by Vince

Barack Obama’s new plan, Opening Doors, confronts many issues:

In the long run, officials say, ending homelessness will save taxpayers money. It actually costs more to place people in shelters and hospitals than it does to help them find permanent housing.

Shaun Donovan, the U.S. Housing and Urban Development secretary, called homelessness “a preventable tragedy.” That is especially true in such a wealthy nation.

The latest homeless statistics in a government report show the need for more funding: 1.6 million people spent time in shelters last year. There are about 3,000 homeless people in Philadelphia.

Those numbers will likely only rise as more veterans return from the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. The numbers are already going up as a result of the recession, high unemployment, and mounting foreclosures. Families have been especially hard-hit, with the number of homeless jumping by 30 percent from 2007 to 2009.

July 6, 2010

Today’s Abortion Views

by Vince

Barna sees that we have grown towards the middle:

Only about one-third of Americans take a strong position on one side or the other. For instance, 15% want abortion to be legal in every situation and 19% prefer the practice to be illegal in all cases. Most others hold moderate views – 57% expressed a mildly supportive or unsupportive opinion. Meanwhile, one out of 11 adults simply responded “not sure” or declined to answer (9%). Compared to tracking data conducted in the 1990s and early 2000s, the new research suggests that Americans are more likely these days to take a “middle ground” or “not sure” position toward abortion.

July 6, 2010

Taking Rest Seriously

by Vince

Fuller Theological Seminary explains why, especially for those working with our youth.

July 6, 2010

Measuring an Oil Spill

by Vince

The WSJ’ numbers guy explains the difficulty:

Marine biologist Riki Ott, in her 2005 book “Sound Truth and Corporate Myths,” wrote that about 30 million gallons of oil spilled from the Valdez. She based the figure on numbers that emerged later from the state’s investigation of the spill, showing the proportion of offloaded liquid that was water. But by then, 10.8 million gallons had taken hold as the accepted total, and has been repeated frequently in coverage of the BP spill. “The oil industry captured the dialogue about that number,” Ott said.

Figures for the cumulative spills over a half century in the Niger Delta also are difficult to pin down. “Nigerian government oil spill figures are basically based on what he oil companies tell them,” said Clive Wicks, a consultant for the environmental group WWF UK who co-wrote a study estimating the scope of these spills. “Until recent years the government did not have the means to really check the oil companies’ figures.”

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July 6, 2010

Guns and Christian Theology

by Vince

An article here has me thinking about the Old Testament. Is the age of God telling the Israelites to kill the “bad people” over or any of the other providential occurrences related to killing someone because God told one to?

I am not one of those worry bees that thinks the government (mainly our President) is going to take away my guns. That is beyond outlandish and based on irrational fear, which is counter to how the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob seems to be.

I wanted to get to the bottom of the Scriptural connection and the article provided that for me:

The view that gun ownership is a Christian duty, rooted in the overlap between Reconstructionism and the survivalist/militia movement, has become common in both. In his “Bring Your Pieces to Church” Sunday event, Reconstructionist Joel McDurmon makes this point, suggesting that believers should organize target practice after church:

Christians should be aware that the use of force in preservation of life is a biblical doctrine (Ex. 22:2–3; Prov. 24:10–12; Est. 8–9; Neh. 4; cp. John 15:13–14). Likewise, those who possessed weapons in Scripture are often said to be well skilled in the use of them (Judg. 20:15–16; 1 Chron. 12:1–2, 21–22). We can only surmise that 1) God gave them talent in this regard, and that 2) they engaged in target practice regularly. Further, under biblical law, to be disarmed was to be enslaved and led to a disruption of the economic order due to government regulations and monopolies (1 Sam 13:19–22).

July 6, 2010

McPetraeus

by Vince

Metz sketches out the differences and strengths/weaknesses when thinking of McChrystal and Petraeus:

Put simply, a strategic communicator ought to know how to communicate. Some military leaders, even supremely talented combat commanders like General McChrystal, have been tested and found wanting in this regard.  While there were already rumors swirling within the officer corps to this effect, the explosive Rolling Stone article makes this truth plain for all to see. The command climate at McChrystal’s headquarters was keyed to fight a war, but hardly attuned to the psychological and political elements of strategic level counterinsurgency.

It will be some time before we know exactly why this was (if we ever do). Perhaps it reflected General McChrystal’s background in Special Forces. The Army’s Special Forces remain, as their name implies, a breed apart. They include some of the most talented and intellectual members of the service, but they operate far from the glare of the media spotlight—illumination shells rather than klieg lights Theirs is a world of shadows, not public affairs. They leave perception management to others. As a rule, they tend not to know what to do with journalists, other than to avoid them.

July 6, 2010

American Exceptionalism and the World Cup

by Vince

I am not a fan of soccer at all but I respect its world popularity and the skills of its players. TNR carries on in the conversation of soccer within America:

Americans find some of soccer’s features culturally off-putting, and that, too, limits its popularity. Living in the land of plenty, they like scoring—baseball, football and basketball have all changed their rules several times to promote more of it—but in soccer, goals are scarce. Soccer matches often end in ties, and Americans dislike ties, which are impossible under the rules of baseball, basketball, and the collegiate version of American football, and extremely rare in professional football.

Soccer, and the World Cup, have a final appeal to others that is missing in the United States—again not to the detriment of Americans. They are vehicles for nationalism. The historian Eric Hobsbawm made this point when he wrote that “the imagined community of millions seems more real as a team of 11 named people.” The World Cup provides, for hundreds of millions of people, the occasion for intense emotional identification with the countries in which they live. Americans can be nationalistic too, but evidently do not require a sporting event to feel or express this sentiment, which recalls a story from another sport.

July 6, 2010

An Important Question

by Vince

Adam Kirsch wonders:

“…why we are—as we seem to have been since at least the advent of the middle-class newspaper-reading public in eighteenth-century London, Edinburgh, and Amsterdam—so passionately interested in the affairs of “leaders and nations we don’t know, never will see, and certainly have no power over,” and whether this avidity for consuming news actually brings us closer to reality or instead makes it harder to “see things as they actually are?”

Money quote:

I sometimes wonder whether, if one could smell the corpses on YouTube, we would still be able to harbor all of our opinions. But technology and human nature being what it is, I am probably being far too optimistic. Wislawa Szymborska says somewhere that her favorite sentence is, “I don’t know.” In an age when supposedly nothing is unsayable, that is the one phrase few people dare utter.

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July 6, 2010

A Few Bits on Liberal Interventionalism

by Vince

TNR provides the scoop through their Entanglements outlet:

“…when all was said and done, we knew too little about the places in which we thought we had a duty to intervene to assume the mantle of advancing, as, indeed, we believed we were doing, the cause of freedom.”

The American intervention in Iraq secured a de facto Kurdish state, unseated Sunni political domination and sounded the death-knell for Christianity in Iraq, since the reality is that it was Saddam who protected the Iraqi Christians. Neither they nor the Yazidis can expect any such indulgence from the Shi’a, or from the Kurds for that matter. Are we Americans really wise enough to weigh the costs and the benefits of such interventions? My own view is that history shows that we are not, and because we are not climbing down from our plinth would be anything but immorality or dereliction.

July 6, 2010

King James enters the Twitter World

by Vince

ESPN is going  bonkers on this and this huge free agency summer.

July 6, 2010

Youth within the Cyber-Cellular World

by Vince

A NYT article interviewing Elizabeth K. Englander, a professor of psychology and the founder and director of the Massachusetts Aggression Reduction Center at Bridgewater State College discusses cyber bullying and cellular/cyber usage:

We tend to think of these devices as “telephones” — used to make voice calls — but our research has shown that more than half of teenagers use these devices to make voice calls only 20 percent of the time or less.

Cellphones, paid for by Mom and Dad, are a privilege, not a right. Because all of our kids will have to use electronic devices throughout their lives, education, experience and talking about these problems is probably the only long-term solution to electronic misbehavior.

July 6, 2010

Sunburn on Purpose

by Vince

Some UK teens have no problem with it:

More than a quarter (26%) of teenagers admit getting sun burnt on purpose to try and get a tan, according to research.

The research was carried out by Teenage Cancer Trust to mark the launch of its new sun safety campaign called Shunburn.

Trust chief executive Simon Davies said: “We’ve found that young people display a worrying lack of awareness when it comes to protecting their skin from the sun.

“We are trying to educate them to prevent the over exposure to sun whilst young, which can lead to problems with skin cancer later in life.

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July 6, 2010

Studying Suburbia

by Vince

A coming attraction in Kansas:

Look deeper, and a more nuanced portrait of Johnson County, Kan., emerges: an economic powerhouse that has eclipsed its big-city neighbor in political influence. An educated community with a vibrant arts scene. A cultural melting pot where Brazilian groceries and Vietnamese nail salons blend in with the Walmarts and Burger Kings.

Suburban America has been the butt of jokes and stereotypes for decades, including Hollywood’s desperate housewives.

Enough, say Johnson County civic leaders, who are planning a National Museum of Suburban History. With more than 50 percent of the country living in places like Shawnee, they say, it is past time to take the suburbs seriously.

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July 6, 2010

Cuba and its Political Prisoners

by Vince

The numbers of political prisoners in communist Cuba has supposedly lowered:

The Cuban Commission on Human Rights and National Reconciliation said the government was using long-term imprisonment less frequently and turning instead to a strategy of quick arrests and releases apparently to intimidate those who openly oppose its communist system.

It classified 167 inmates as political prisoners – a drop of 34 since January. But the commission also documented 802 brief arrests for dissident activities or beliefs during that time and said many activists were detained only long enough to keep them from holding antigovernment demonstrations.

July 6, 2010

When Census taking goes Awry

by Vince

Some Hawaiin residents just want to be left alone:

An attempt to get one resident, a county police officer, to fill out census forms landed Haas in the back of a patrol car on a trespassing charge.

Census workers are told in their manuals that they should do their best to gain access to gated areas.”When this guy showed me his badge, I went, ‘Dude, you have to be in the census, what are you talking about?’ ” Haas said.

The resident called his coworkers at the Hawaii County Police Department.

Haas said that when police arrived, instead of asking the resident to accept the forms, as required by federal law, the officers crumpled the papers into his chest and handcuffed him.

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July 6, 2010

Partisan Politics: GOP

by Vince

Glenn Greenwald opens the shades and exposes one of the many lopsided partisan op-ed’s by Charles Krauthammer:

Krauthammer — needless to say and for reasons too obvious to require explanation — wants to claim that the True Cause of Terrorism is “radical Islam” by itself, and thus accuses the administration of dishonesty because it “has banned from its official vocabulary the terms jihadist, Islamist and Islamic terrorism.”  His primary evidence is this recent statement of Faisal Shazhad, when he pleaded guilty to attempting the Times Square bombing:  “I consider myself a mujahid, a Muslim soldier.”  See, Krauthammer argues, even Shazhad admits it was Islam that caused his Terrorism, so why can’t Obama admit it, too?

Except to make this accusation against Obama and Islam, Krauthammer hides from his readers what Shazhad actually said, because it completely negates his claim.  When pleading guilty, Shazhad explained that his attempted bombing was in response to the violence and wars which the U.S. is perpetrating in the Muslim world, telling the court that violence aimed at Americans will continue unless and until the U.S. stops waging wars and spawning violence in Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan, and other Muslim countries.

Krauthammer conceals all of that from his readers because that’s what dishonest propagandists do:  he wants to incite Americans to hate Islam and blame it for Terrorism, and any evidence suggesting a causal relationship between U.S. policy and the anti-American sentiment that fuels it — including (though not only) U.S. support for Israeli violence — must be suppressed and ignored.