Tuesday, July 31, 2012

And yet curiously, not for an abortion

And yet, curiously, minors do not need permission to get an abortion. Because that would be, you know, wrong.


The Austrian Church's race to the bottom

I have just learned that Catholics in Austria (and perhaps elsewhere in Europe) occasionally hold a "Western Mass." What's that, you say? No, despite its name, it's not a celebration of the rich history of Western culture, faith and reason that was cradled in Europe. Not at all. It's a Mass where the communicants pretend to be Americans in the American Old West. Or something. So as the priest preaches or consecrates the Eucharist, the worshipers drink beer (well, it's Austria) and smoke cigarettes at picnic tables. They even eat barbecue, or whatever Austrians think Old West barbecue might be. But that's not the worst part, no sirree, Bob. It is this, grabbed from the video also posted below:

Words fail me now. Let's go to the tape.


Is the American Church immune from such travesties? Not on your tintype!

"Nymphette Mass" - I kid you not.
And roll tape again:

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Sunday, July 29, 2012

The handiwork of God

This is NASA's astronomy picture of the day.

The heavens declare the glory of God;
    the skies proclaim the work of his hands. Psalm 19.1

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Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Want a janitor's job? Get a degree.

Janitorial work is increasingly becoming the domain of the college degreed - and if you apply, you'd better have a degree in a technical field.
Bureau of Labor Statistics data show that as many as one out of three college graduates today are in jobs that previously or historically have been filled by people with lesser educations or none. 
The U.S. now has 115,000 janitors with college degrees, along with 83,000 bartenders, 80,000 heavy-duty truck drivers, and 323,000 waiters and waitresses. Employers, because they realize that many college graduates aren’t really educated, now routinely quiz job seekers on what they majored in and what courses they took, a practice virtually unknown a generation ago. 
Good luck if you majored in gender studies, communications, art history, pop culture, or (really) the history of dancing in Montana in the 1850s.
The problem is that high school grads - as many as three-fourths! -are increasingly unprepared for even the ever-lowering standards of undergraduate work. Most college graduates are similarly unprepared for "the real world" and so half of college grads are unemployed or underemployed, a figure no doubt amplified by the very bad economy.

So anyone attending college today needs to understand some crucial things that will form the new normal for some time to come and why these factors should directly determine what you major in:

1. It will matter to employers what you studied, even if the job has not historically required a degree.

Work habits and self discipline are the key virtues employers seek. A graduate with an accounting degree might not find an accounting job, but rare is the student who can successfully complete the degree without both those virtues.

So with the job market being an employer's market, hiring managers for non-technical jobs will likely use the technical difficulty of an earned degree as an indicator of whether you are a good prospect. Absolutely any degree whatsoever that ends with the word "studies" is utterly useless for demonstrating focus and self discipline.

2. The "degree required" bar has been greatly lowered and will stay there for many years.

Is a college degree really needed for janitorial work? Of course not. But as more and more new janitorial hires possess a bachelor degree, it will become normative for their employers to expect. Even if the economy improves, it will be a long time before actual degree-required jobs are plentiful enough to return the mass ranks of janitorial hires to high school education only.

This being so, you must face a crucial question with all the compassion of a Swiss banker; "Is college worth the price?"

3. No matter your dream of employment, computational competency, clarity of expression and computer literacy will be dominant virtues of value to employers.

Forget the sell job that colleges like to tell you about "finding out who you are" there. You can spend a lot less than four years doing that and get paid for it to boot.

You are going to college to learn skill sets that will enable you to make a living. No matter what courses you take, when you graduate you must be literate, numerate and computer competent - and that last does not mean gaming.

What you studied also matters, the researchers said. They found that fields requiring quantitative reasoning, such as engineering (26%), finance and accounting (29%), and computer science (36%), had the lowest five-year underemployment rates.

Health-related work, including nursing, had the lowest underemployment rate, with only 23% of graduates not working college-level jobs five years after finishing their bachelor's.

Monday, July 23, 2012

We lost the war on poverty

After 48 years, it is time to run up the white flag on the War on Poverty.
The War on Poverty is the unofficial name for legislation first introduced by United States President Lyndon B. Johnson during his State of the Union address on January 8, 1964. This legislation was proposed by Johnson in response to a national poverty rate of around nineteen percent. The speech led the United States Congress to pass the Economic Opportunity Act, which established the Office of Economic Opportunity (OEO) to administer the local application of federal funds targeted against poverty.
But we lost that war.
WASHINGTON (AP) — The ranks of America's poor are on track to climb to levels unseen in nearly half a century, erasing gains from the war on poverty in the 1960s amid a weak economy and fraying government safety net.
It was the most expensive war America has ever fought:
Fifteen trillion dollars: That’s how much American taxpayers have forked over in the name of helping the poor since 1964. And what do we have to show for it? A poverty rate that has barely budged, an entrenched bureaucracy, and a population — like that of Greece and Portugal, two welfare-state basket cases — increasingly dependent on government handouts.
So who lost the war? The poor, obviously, whose numbers are on track this year to exceed the highest number ever. But also the taxpayers.
Needless to say, taxpayers have been the big losers in the war. Federal welfare spending has risen 375 percent (in constant 2011 dollars) since 1965. Total welfare spending has climbed almost as much: Governments are now disbursing $908 billion a year to alleviate poverty, up from $256 billion (also in constant dollars) in 1965. Moreover, notes Tanner:
Over the last decade the increase has been even more rapid. Federal welfare spending increased significantly under the Bush administration, but President Obama has thrown money at anti-poverty programs at an unprecedented rate. Since taking office, the Obama administration has increased spending on welfare programs by more than $193 billion.
While some of the spending hikes under Obama can be attributed to the recession, Tanner writes, “part of the program’s growth is due to conscious policy choices by this administration to ease eligibility rules and expand caseloads.” This, he points out, “undid many of the incentives contained in the 1996 Clinton welfare reform, which helped states to reduce welfare rolls.” As a result, the administration projects that “combined federal and state welfare spending will not drop significantly once the economy fully recovers,” with the annual tab reaching $1 trillion in 2014 and the 10-year total hitting $10.3 trillion — an amount that, Tanner calculates, comes to “$250,000 for every American currently living in poverty, or $1 million for every poor family of four.”
The entire US government operates on the principle enunciated by British Prime Minister Benjamin Disraeili: "Never complain, never explain." Here's a quote from a speech made almost 50 years ago asking a very good question and giving the same answer we get now. The more things change, the more they stay the same:
Well, now, if government planning and welfare had the answer -- and they've had almost 30 years of it -- shouldn't we expect government to read the score to us once in a while? Shouldn't they be telling us about the decline each year in the number of people needing help? The reduction in the need for public housing? But the reverse is true. Each year the need grows greater; the program grows greater.
The actual purpose of the federal government's anti-poverty programs is not to decrease poverty. "Federal anti-poverty programs" are a prime example of Newspeak. Because the very last thing they want to do is actually decrease the number of poor people. The purpose is to grow the government and enhance its power and budget.

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Got skin cancer? The government made it happen

Study: Exposure to CFL bulbs harms healthy skin cells | The Daily Caller:
New research funded by the National Science Foundation has scientists warning consumers about the potentially harmful effects energy-saving CFL light bulbs can have on skin.
Making it quite literally true that if you get skin cancer because of CFL bulbs, you didn't get there on your own. The government made it happen.

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Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Why the Left loves "freedom of worship" but not of religion

Freedom of Worship’s Assault on Freedom of Religion | First Things:

Faith retention rates by religion

Found this over at Alan Bevere's site:

It strikes me that only the two oldest Christian denominations, Catholic and Greek Orthodox, have anything like acceptable figures. And they both have clear standards and expectations of their members. We Methodists are not even retaining half. And almost every Christian denomination ranked lower than us has looser standards of faith and practice.

(I also wonder whether the source data also show how many Methodists, for example, stay active in the Christian faith, but in another denomination.)

Understand also that there is no functional, theological or philosophical difference between "nones" and "atheists." Combined, they retain the same percentage as Catholics.

Update: A lot more info about the study at Patheos, including these two observations:
The information comes from the Pew Forum’s U.S. Religious Landscape Survey — and there you can find a “Protestant” category.  53.9% of Americans say that they were affiliated with Protestantism as children, compared to 51.3% now — a drop of 2.5% in absolute value, or a decline of 5% proportionally.  Most of the loss has come from Baptists and Methodists.

Also, while there are more people joining the atheist and agnostic ranks than leaving, it doesn’t bode well for atheists that 60-70 percent of those who are raised atheist renounce their atheism.  If it were so compelling a solution over the long term, one would think the retention rate would be higher.

Monday, July 16, 2012

Excellent Indian Ocean tsunami documentary

As you recall, a massive earthquake offshore Indonesia on Dec. 26, 2004, caused enormous tsunami waves against Indian Ocean shores all the way to Africa. The exact death toll is not known. The estimate is that in a matter of hours, 250,000 died, 167,000 of them in Indonesia alone. Youtube has an outstanding documentary of the disaster in eight parts, about 80 minutes altogether, and worth every minute of viewing. It uses extensive home video of the scenes before, during and after the waves struck and compelling interviews with survivors, including a woman who was swept far out to sea but incredibly survived. None of her entire, extended family did. Here is part one: Bookmark and Share

Friday, July 13, 2012

Bibles and bars

Yogi Berra is reputed to have said about a couple of events, "It's too coincidental to be a coincidence." So how coincidental that two days before we sponsor "Connect: A Meetup for Spiritual People" at Fairview's Detour Sports Grill, there is a front-page story in today's Tennessean, "Churches take their message to taverns."
Every Monday night, Uncle Charlie’s bar in Cheyenne, Wyo., hosts “Bibles and Beer,” a discussion that routinely pulls in people of all faiths — and an atheist. 
As many as 45 people have shown up, some toting Bibles. Some might have a drink; others stick to water. Some talk; others mostly listen. There are only a few ground rules: Avoid debate and stick to the text to be discussed that week. 
“There really is not a focus on drinking,” insists the Rev. Rodger McDaniel, a Presbyterian minister who organized the weekly gathering more than a year ago. “But at the same time, it is a much more relaxed atmosphere than in a church basement. If I put this on in my church, I don’t think we would have five or six people.” 
Across the country, faith is becoming bar talk. The trend combines the traditional religious charge to go where the people are with the reality that a lot of them are in bars. Organizers include those from mainline churches, those building churches and bar owners and brewers. Some are trying to push the model nationally, taking an ageless yearning for meaning and purpose to places where people often go to try to wash their worries away. 
“It is good to bring the word to wherever God is, and God is everywhere, and people are everywhere, too,” says Joe Beene, owner of the Drunk Monkey Tavern in the Tulsa suburb of Glenpool, Okla. Last year, Beene began live streaming Sunday morning services from Tulsa’s Celebration Church into his bar. “The people who come in here on Sunday mornings are people who want to hear the word but won’t go to church.”
More at the link. The last thing Jesus told his apostles to do before he returned to the Father was, "Go!" And the apostles went - over almost all of the Roman-ruled world at the time. They did not hang a sign outside the Upper Room saying, "Holy Spirit comes here weekly, join us."

According to the Tennessean's June 18 edition, about half of Nashville-area people are not affiliated with any church, and a large number of them self-identify as Christian. For too long, churches have been like Little Bo Peep, thinking, "Leave them alone and they'll come home." But that's not happening.

Meanwhile, the oldline churches intensify fiddling while Rome burns around them. I already wrote about the United Methodists' death throes. This morning an Episcopalian friend sent me the link to a WSJ op-ed, "What Ails the Episcopalians."
Its numbers and coffers shrinking, the church votes for pet funerals but offers little to the traditional faithful.
Far be it from this United Methodist to point out a speck in the Anglicans' eyes while ignoring the plank in our own. But it just goes to show how widespread the problem is.

This is a good summary, too.


 (Text's author unknown.)

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Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Scopes "Monkey" Trial was a setup from the beginning

This month marks the anniversary of the famous "Scopes Monkey Trial" in Dayton, Tenn., in 1925. John Scopes was charged and tried with violating Tennessee’s Butler Act, which forbade the teaching of evolution in Tennessee’s public schools. The Butler Act had been signed into law earlier that year by Governor Austin Peay, one of the most pro-education governors Tennessee has ever had. Austin Peay Normal School, later Austin Peay State University, was named after him for that reason. The newspapers recorded that Governor Peay thought the Butler Act was ridiculous. He publicly commented, “Nobody believes that it is going to be an active statute.”

The Butler Act came to the attention of the New York chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union, which decided to challenge the act in court on First Amendment grounds. The ACLU issued a press release stating that intention. A few days later they were contacted by Mr. George Rappelyea, a civic booster in Dayton and an adherent of evolution theory. The result was the famous Scopes Trial, argued by two of the most famous figures of American law: William Jennings Bryan, defending the Butler Act, and Clarence Darrow, defending Mr. Scopes.

The Hollywood movie about the trial, “Inherit the Wind,” presented the enlightened forces of progress and virtue, portrayed by Darrow and Scopes, heroically resisting the harsh, repressive ignorance of Christian fundamentalism, portrayed by Bryan and the people of the town. Naturally, Hollywood got it completely wrong.
In fact, the trial was a fund-raiser for the town of Dayton. After being promised the ACLU’s support, Mr. Rappelyea contacted Dayton’s town fathers to meet him in F. E. Robinson’s drugstore where he explained his idea about a big trial. They all agreed it sounded like a good way to put Dayton on the map and make some tourist money. Mr. Scopes was not even a regular teacher, but a substitute. (In fact, he wasn’t even present at the school on the specific day cited in the indictment.) Mr. Scopes was summoned to the drugstore and asked to be the patsy. Everyone already knew Scopes was teaching evolution because every science teacher in town taught it, causing no religious turmoil there. Whatever the good Christians of Dayton were, they weren’t the mindless fundamentalists Hollywood later made them out to be. 

At first Scopes hesitated to join the case, but Rappelyea described a grand trial to bring fame and fortune to the small town. He said, “Let’s take this thing to court and test the legality of it. I will swear out warrant and have you arrested. That will make a big sensation. Why not bring a lot of doctors and preachers here? Let’s get H. G. Wells and a lot of big fellows.” With Scopes’ agreement, Rappelyea wired the ACLU that the stage was set for the drama to open.

The trial was, of course, every bit the circus the town leaders hoped. Newsmen descended from all over the country. The courtroom was so sweltering the judge moved the trial onto the town quadrangle, which simply made more room for more people to come and spend their money. Finally, Scopes was found guilty as charged and fined a hundred dollars by the judge, which was paid by the town’s leaders.
Darrow appealed Scopes’ conviction to the Tennessee Supreme Court, which threw out the conviction in 1927. However, the court overturned the conviction not on the merits of the case, but on the technicality that only a jury, not a judge, could set any fine more than fifty dollars. The Butler Act actually survived because the court made no ruling on the act’s constitutionality. It was not until the 1968 that the U. S. Supreme Court ruled that it was unconstitutional to prohibit the teaching of evolution in public schools.

When the fall semester of 1925 began in Dayton, the teachers there went right on teaching evolution, and the good people of Dayton were as equally unperturbed by it as before, having laughed all summer all the way to the bank.

Monday, July 2, 2012

Beyond Label or Category

Beyond Label or Category « United Methodeviations:
I sat with a table of clergy and laity leaders talking about reaching “young people.” In frustration, I asked them to define for me who these “young people” are and what they are like. It became apparent that the “young people” we want to reach are a generic, bland hash of upper-middle-class, calm, well-behaved “newer” versions of ourselves. The expectation is that “young people” will either share, or quickly adopt, our values, that they will enjoy what we enjoy, think what we think, and not question or challenge the way things are. Oh, and they will all nicely and cleanly fit simple categories — easy to label and control. This conversation is a glimpse into a huge problem we face — trying to reach and relate to people we don’t know or understand at all.
There's more - read the whole thing.

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Rethinking Marriage

What the Christian religion has to do with marriage is a huge subject, so at best this is an overview. I call it Rethinking Marriage becaus...