Friday, December 6, 2013

England is losing its faith in God.

Is England losing its faith?  It looks like it.
Like an Old Testament prophet telling the Israelites that they were doomed, Lord Carey has been warning Anglicans for years of their possible annihilation. The Church is “one generation away from extinction,” he declares. The reality is less dramatic, but the story is not altogether wrong.

Young adults in Britain are far less likely than their parents and grandparents to have a religious identity. The Church of England in particular has been squeezed hard by the trend away from religion. This is well illustrated by the graphic below which shows religious affiliation by year of birth. In the oldest group polled, one in two identified as members of the Church of England – among the youngest that figure falls to one in 20.

...Only one in five people born since 1975 believes in God, even with doubts. These levels are roughly half those found among people born before the end of World War II – and certainty of belief has collapsed. Belief in a “higher power” has indeed gone up, but this vague spirituality comes at the expense of more religious theism. Nearly half of younger adults in Britain qualify as atheists or agnostics, even if they would not use those terms themselves.
 I must say these findings are shocking and ominous.  It leaves them open to latest philosophical and spiritual fad how ever destructive.  My concern isn't with the future of Christianity.  Rooted in truth; it will survive and flourish.  The same, I'm afraid, can't be said for England.

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

A critique of Obamacare and Obama by a liberal columnist. Not very favorable.

Here's a devastating, even sarcastic critique of Obamacare and President Obama by Margaret Carlson with Bloomberg and formerly Time magazine.
Two statements explain the huge failure of Obamacare. One is by President Barack Obama, the other is about him. 
The first was made in St. Paul, Minnesota, at the end of the 2008 primary campaign, when candidate Obama predicted that generations would look back and see his nomination as “the moment when the rise of the oceans began to slow and our planet began to heal.”
Couple this with the assessment of his closest aide, Valerie Jarrett, about his exceptionalism. “He knows exactly how smart he is,” she told Obama biographer David Remnick. “And he knows that he has the ability -- the extraordinary, uncanny ability -- to take a thousand different perspectives, digest them and make sense out of them.”

Obama “has never really been challenged intellectually,” she went on. “He’s been bored to death his whole life. He’s just too talented to do what ordinary people do.”  

Or what an ordinary president does, for that matter. A chief executive less bored than Obama would have stayed on top of his signature legislation. Those upset that he didn’t are bedwetters, the White House says, nervous Nellies who can’t comprehend the larger picture of health-care reform that will, in due time, emerge. White House spokesman Jay Carney intones the mantra that the president “is focused on delivering the access to quality and affordable health insurance” and isn’t concerned “about the politics of that.”
What's interesting is Carlson is not a conservative.  I think she sees that arrogance may destroy a singular goal of the liberal establishment: government run, single payer health care system.  For that she's not happy.

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Attacks on Christians for their faith are escalating around the world.

Here's an article highlighting the attacks on Christians for their faith.  The most violent attacks are obviously in Muslim countries but also many others.
This past month, I spent an afternoon at ACN headquarters in Greenpoint, Brooklyn, with the Maronite ordinary of Syria, Bishop Elias Sleman. He described the Muslim crimes against Christians that have driven members of his flock to mountain hiding places, where they are barely subsisting...
As for 21st century atrocities, we are fortunate to have the newly published, "The Global War on Christians: Dispatches From the Front Lines of Anti-Christian Persecution," by the Catholic reporter, John L. Allen, Jr.
Mr. Allen points out that the word “war” has in recent times been used too freely to promote various causes, i.e., war on women, war on Christmas. In his judgment the correct usage means, “facing [a] situation with the necessary sense of urgency.” And because 80 percent of acts of religious discrimination in the world today are directed at Christians, Allen holds that there is a compelling urgency for talking about a war on Christians....
Since the turn of the century, advocacy groups have estimated that 100,000-150,000 Christians have been martyred annually. Other forms of harassment Christians must endure, particularly in countries where they are a minority population, include societal discrimination, employment discrimination, legal discrimination, as well as suppression of Christian missionary activity and worship, and forced conversions from Christianity.
The Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life reports that between 2006 and 2010 some form of harassments against Christians occurred in 139 nations — approximately three-quarters of the world’s countries. Thirty-seven percent of them have “high” or “very high” restrictions on Christian activities.
This year the Open Doors World Watch listed the “most hazardous nations on earth in which to be a Christian.” The number one nation on the list of 25 was North Korea, followed by Afghanistan, Saudi Arabia, Somalia, and Iran. Eighteen of the countries on the list are majority Muslim.
These are places were Christians are attacked physically, often facing prison or loss of life.  It doesn't touch on the growing attacks on religious freedoms of Christians in the West.

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Jon Stewart from The Daily Show and his double standard on wealth.

Jon Stewart, the host of the liberal comedy show, "The Daily Show" is known for bashing conservatives including those who are wealthy.  For instance he went after Romney for his wealth.  It turns out Stewart is also very wealthy and uses tricks of the trade to avoid paying taxes.  For instance, he holds some of his luxurious homes in trust so he can avoid paying higher taxes.
Comedy Central host Jon Stewart regularly bashes American multimillionaires for their wealth while ignoring the awkward fact that he’s one of them.

Though Stewart distances himself from the “one-percenters” and bellows over their extravagance, his bank accounts bear all the marks of the “multi, multi, multi, multi millionaires” he mocks. The 49-year-old Stewart, born Jonathan Stuart Leibowitz, makes more than 300 times the median American salary, owns three luxury homes and sometimes doesn’t pay his taxes.

In January Stewart exploded on-air over Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney’s income level. “That’s almost — that’s almost $57,000 a day!” he gushed.

But Stewart’s own income level brings him and his wife Tracey approximately $41,000 a day. The celebrity income-handicapping website Celebrity Net Worth lists his annual salary as $15 million and estimates his net worth at $80 million.

And then there are the houses. When Arizona Sen. John McCain ran for president in 2008, he was criticized for not knowing how many houses he owned. (The answer: seven.) Stewart is well on his way to McCain country, with three opulent mansions whose combined value is $12.8 million.

\He doesn’t technically own those homes: Using a trick mastered by countless one-percenters, the properties were purchased by private trusts. Stewart’s trusts are named after his pets.

The super-wealthy often make big-ticket purchases through trusts in order to protect their other assets from lawsuits, diminish estate tax liability, and avoid public scrutiny.

The satirist started his real estate empire in 2005 when The Stanley Monkey Trust — named after his cat Stanley and one of his pit bull terriers, Monkey — purchased a two-story Manhattan penthouse for $5.8 million.

That deluxe apartment in the sky spans 6,000-square-feet and has 40 windows, a 600-foot terrace, and a 1,200-foot private roof, the New York Observer reported in 2005.

Another legal entity, The Shamsky Monkey Trust, purchased two more houses in 2009 and 2010. (Shamsky, named after 1969 “Miracle Mets” outfielder Art Shamsky, is Stewart’s other pit bull terrier.)

The lakefront mansions Stewart bought in 2009 and 2010 are in Red Bank, New Jersey. They cost him $3,800,000 and $3,200,000 and — for reasons TheDC was unable to determine — are next door to one another.

Online real estate search engines show that the Shamsky Monkey Trust also owns a $675,000 house in North Haven, New York. Public records indicate that Stewart’s older brother, Lawrence Leibowitz, lives there.
With serious wealth often come serious tax problems. In January the comedian blasted Romney for paying a 15-percent tax rate on his earnings, most of which come from capital gains on stocks and other securities.
 I guess when you avoid higher taxes it's OK but when you're a conservative and do it it's not OK.

Friday, November 15, 2013

Whether to with ObamaCare. A "death spiral"?

There's already talk about whether ObamaCare can be saved. Delaying it a year? Dropping penalty? Will those actions save it or end it? 

Here are some comments by Harvard Professor David Cutler who's viewed as one of the architect's of ObamaCare. He was interviewed on Fox. 
"So when you were on last week I asked you, if they don't get enough people in the exchanges, then what happens?" said host Megyn Kelly. "And you said then the premiums go up very, very high. Now, was that ball put in motion today?"

"We don't know yet," said Cutler. "So what the president is trying to do is to say the website is not working, the exchanges are not working. Let's try and slow the process down and delay it by a year. And if it turns out to be a delay of a year, then we can work through that. It would be uncomfortable as it has been for the past month, but it will turn out okay. If it becomes a permanent situation that people who are healthier stay away and people who are sicker go into the exchanges, that becomes a very big problem."

"Is that the beginning of the so-called death spiral?"

"That could be the beginning of a death spiral," said Cutler. "That is, you could have a situation where the only people in the exchanges are very unhealthy people with very high premiums."
ObamaCare is another example of how the world does not work.  Government wasn't designed to make people's health care decisions.  Any more it can run an economy or the food industry.  It's an example of ideology run amok.

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Dayton donates only $1,000 of income to charities. Commentary on personal values and priorities in life.

Some of the gubernatorial candidates released their 2012 tax return information. While Dayton is an heir of the Dayton department store fortune it's not surprising the bulk of his 2012 income came from capital gains and dividends.  What was a bit of an eye opener was of his $343,234 income he donated only $1,000 to charity
Gov. Mark Dayton had $343,234 in income last year, with his earnings from capital gains and dividends exceeding the income from his state salary of $116,125.

Dayton received $92,381 from a family trust, more than double what he received from the Bruce Dayton trust the year before. He also earned $130,291 from capital gains, down from the $190,998 he received in 2011. According to his tax return, Dayton donated $1,000 to charity.
Only $1,000? That speaks volumes about his personal values and priorities. The fact that he fought so vociferously so he and other higher income folks would pay more in taxes says the government is the source of good in society. It's the answer to what ails us. Not the spiritual message of churches and other groups. Not charities which seek to meet the spiritual and material needs of people.

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Issue of gender and gender confusion - responding pastorally.

The linked post highlights the need for Christians to recover their voice not only on the nature of marriage but also gender.  Gender in today's culture is viewed as a personal choice rather something given by God, wired into our genes.  This post doesn't answer the question as much as point out the unusual questions poised by issues in our culture and challenges the church to come up with compassionate responses based on truth found in the Scriptures.
At the conclusion of my talk, a youth minister from a small church in the area approached me for advice on how to deal with a perplexing pastoral situation he was facing. A young girl in his youth group had recently decided she wanted to become a boy. My usual reaction to a conundrum like this would be to advise the girl of what the Bible teaches about how God created us as male and female, how Christians must embrace what God made us to be, and how God has a design for her life as a female. But there was more to this young girl's story than a spontaneous desire to change genders. There was an additional detail that would turn my usual response on its head.

This particular girl had been born with a rare biological condition that made it difficult at birth to determine whether she was a girl or a boy. The condition is known as "intersex," and intersexed persons are born with reproductive or sexual anatomy that doesn't seem to fit the typical pattern for female or male. Until relatively recently, the most common medical treatment for intersex has been for doctors to recommend a gender, to encourage the parents to embrace that gender, to surgically reshape the genitals and reproductive organs accordingly, and to advise parents not to express any ambiguity to the child about their selected gender. The young woman in question had undergone such surgery as an infant but now as a teen felt she wasn't really a girl after all. She felt her parents had made the wrong choice about what sex she was, and now she was in the midst of an identity crisis. She wanted to become what she felt she was born to be. She wanted to be a boy.

So the youth minister asked me, "What should I say to them? How do I minister to this student and her family?" I confess I was at a bit of a loss to answer his question. Not because I didn't know what the Bible teaches, but because I didn't know what intersex was. As I struggled to apply Scripture to a condition I'd never even heard of, it occurred to me that at the heart of this minister's query was a question about sex—not sex narrowly conceived as sexual acts, but more broadly conceived as gender and sexuality. At the root of his difficulty was a desire to know how the Bible's normative teaching about manhood and womanhood speaks to this difficult situation.

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

More pot incidents in Colorado middle schools after legalization.

Not surprisingly, there are more reports of pot showing up in middle schools in Colorado after that state's voters voted to legalize marijuana.
In two years of work as an undercover officer with a drug task force, Mike Dillon encountered plenty of drugs. But nothing has surprised him as much as what he has seen in schools lately.

Dillon, who is now a school resource officer with the Mesa County Sheriff's Department, said he is seeing more and younger kids bringing marijuana to schools, in sometimes-surprising quantities.

"When we have middle school kids show up with a half an ounce, that is shocking to me," Dillon said.

The same phenomenon is being reported around Colorado after the 2010 regulation of medical marijuana dispensaries and the 2012 vote to legalize recreational marijuana.
The road to legalization was greased with "medical" marijuana legalization. 
Krueger said school officials believe the jump is linked to the message that legalization (even though it is still prohibited for anyone under 21) is sending to kids: that marijuana is a medicine and a safe and accepted recreational activity. It is also believed to be more available.

Friday, November 8, 2013

Boys and young men doing poorly? Look to fathers and the ultimate Father.

Here's an interesting opinion piece in the Star Tribune by Kay Hymowitz of the Manhattan Institute.  She points out the growing concern with the poor outcomes afflicting boys.
When I started following the research on child well-being about two decades ago, the focus was almost always girls’ problems — low self-esteem, lax ambitions, eating disorders and high rates of teen pregnancy.

Now, though, with teen births down more than 50 percent from their 1991 peak and girls dominating classrooms and graduation ceremonies, boys and men are increasingly the ones under examination. Their high school grades and college attendance rates have remained stalled for decades. Among poor and working-class boys, the chances of climbing out of the low-end labor market — and of becoming reliable husbands and fathers — are looking worse and worse.

This spring, MIT economist David Autor and coauthor Melanie Wasserman suggested a reason for this: the growing number of fatherless homes. Boys and young men weren’t behaving rationally, they suggested, because their family situations had left them without the necessary attitudes and skills to adapt to changing social and economic conditions. Anyone interested in the plight of poor and working-class men — and, more broadly, mobility and the American dream — should hope this research, and the considerable biological and psychological evidence behind it, become part of the public debate.
 At the end she points out this problem is more than just a political question.
But the truth is, we don’t know for sure what will help. It just may be that boys growing up where fathers — and men more generally — appear superfluous confront an existential problem: Where do I fit in? Who needs me, anyway? Boys see that men have become extras in the lives of many families and communities, and it can’t help but depress their aspirations. Solving that problem will take something much bigger than a good literacy program.
I think a good place to look for wisdom is the Bible and the prophet Malachi who addressed a crisis facing ancient Israel in exile.  He talked about God sending another prophet like Elijah who would "restore the hearts of the fathers to their children and the hearts of the children to their fathers, so that I will not come and smite the land with a curse." Malachi 4:5-6.  Turning back to God and fathers is essential for restoring boys and young men.

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Religion should be welcome in the public square.

Secularism seeks to marginalize religion and faith in our public life.  However, that's neither good nor possible.  Here's an insight interview with historian and legal scholar John Witte from Emory University.  He points out the myths and confusion rampant on the separation of church and state issue.

He notes that Christianity is of the backbones of our legal, political and social institutions.
Certainly in the Western legal tradition, Christianity was one of the backbones of many legal, political and social institutions that we take for granted today. At least from the 5th to the 18th century, Christianity provided many of the ideas and institutions of marriage and family, human rights and constitutionalism and more on which the Enlightenment and modern liberalism continued to build.

Our starting assumption is the opposite: that religion is often a permanent part of the infrastructure of modern law, politics and society.
The contemporary separation of church and state notion is a myth.
...the 1970s understanding of separation of church and state that said, “Religion is private; religion is dying; religion has nothing useful to say and is an illegitimate conversation partner in modern law, politics and society.”

That’s not what the Constitution demands, it’s not what the culture needs, and it’s ultimately not where religion should settle.

We need both public and private expressions of religion in all peaceable forms. Religious views should be welcomed into public life, because they provide leaven for the polity to improve, and valuable examples and practices of how to organize our lives and laws in a better way. Religions should be part of deep political conversation, and they should be taken into account as we craft our state laws and policies.
He believes the church has an important role to play in society.  A moral, ethical role.  And interestingly, the changes coming to our welfare state's approach to social concerns are inevitable - our current welfare system isn't sustainable.  The church will have to step up to the plate.
First, the church has always had the power of prophecy. The church and its clerical leadership are responsible for speaking truth to power -- enduring truths as communicated in Scripture and tradition. That prophetic role is particularly necessary during crisis moments.

Second, the church has a pedagogical role in teaching society by example, and sometimes by instruction, how to live the moral life and how to live fully in conformity with the wisdom of Scripture and the tradition.

And at least on issues of marriage and family and sexuality, on issues of charity, on education, religious freedom and human rights, the church’s record is checkered. It’s important that the church provide an alternative example of what the prophets and what Christ himself offered us and instructed us to do.

Third, the church and its leadership have a unique opportunity to play a critical role to fill in the gaps that are increasingly beginning to show in the social welfare net.

We have to recognize that in the 21st century, and into the 22nd, the social welfare state as we know it today will be no more. The capacity of the West -- even the affluent West -- to maintain the system of support that we have given to “the least of these” is going to diminish severely, if not evaporate.
The church is going to have to be one of many voluntary associations that step into the traditional role it has always played in serving, protecting, nurturing and providing for the least in society, and not relying upon the state to do that work.
Fourth, the church has in the Scriptures, and in the life of Christ, a perfect example of how to live by the letter and the spirit of the law.
One thing that the church can do is to teach society what it means to live fully and honorably by the first and the greatest commandment, which is to love God, and love your neighbor as yourself, and exemplify what that means in concrete legal, political and social terms.

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Evangelical Al Mohler speaks to Mormons at Brigham Young University

A few weeks ago Al Mohler, President of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville spoke at Brigham Young University
 I deeply appreciate your invitation to speak at Brigham Young University and to address the faculty at this greatly respected center of learning. I am so glad to be on this campus, filled with so many gracious people, such admirable students, and so many committed scholars on the faculty.  To many people, shaped in their worldview by the modern age and its constant mandate to accommodate, it will seem very odd that a Baptist theologian and seminary president would be invited to speak at the central institution of intellectual life among the Latter-Day Saints.

But here I am, and I am thankful for the invitation. The wonderfully prophetic Catholic novelist Flannery O’Connor rightly warned that we must “push back against the age as hard as it is pressing you.” I have come to Brigham Young University because I intend with you to push back against the modernist notion that only the accommodated can converse. There are those who sincerely believe that meaningful and respectful conversation can take place only among those who believe the least—that only those who believe the least and thus may disagree the least can engage one another in the kind of conversation that matters. I reject that notion, and I reject it forcefully. To paraphrase Dorothy Parker, that is the kind of idea that must not be cast aside lightly, but thrown with full force.
Then he concludes with
The conflict of liberties we are now experiencing is unprecedented and ominous. Forced to choose between erotic liberty and religious liberty, many Americans would clearly sacrifice freedom of religion. How long will it be until many becomes most?

This is what brings me to Brigham Young University today. I am not here because I believe we are going to heaven together. I do not believe that. I believe that salvation comes only to those who believe and trust only in Christ and in his substitutionary atonement for salvation. I believe in justification by faith alone, in Christ alone. I love and respect you as friends, and as friends we would speak only what we believe to be true, especially on matters of eternal significance. We inhabit separate and irreconcilable theological worlds, made clear with respect to the doctrine of the Trinity. And yet here I am, and gladly so. We will speak to one another of what we most sincerely believe to be true, precisely because we love and respect one another.

I do not believe that we are going to heaven together, but I do believe we may go to jail together. I do not mean to exaggerate, but we are living in the shadow of a great moral revolution that we commonly believe will have grave and devastating human consequences. Your faith has held high the importance of marriage and family. Your theology requires such an affirmation, and it is lovingly lived out by millions of Mormon families. That is why I and my evangelical brothers and sisters are so glad to have Mormon neighbors. We stand together for the natural family, for natural marriage, for the integrity of sexuality within marriage alone, and for the hope of human flourishing.

Monday, November 4, 2013

Kudlow hits the name on the head about Obamacare - costs, consequences, and untruths.

The costs, consequences, and untruths (Being told one could keep their health insurance when it was known that wasn't the case.) of Obamacare are being exposed daily.  It's not a pretty picture. Larry Kudlow hits the nail on the head in this column.  It comes down to one of freedom and the ability of people to flourish and care for themselves and their families.
May I ask this question? Why is it that Americans don't have the freedom to choose their own health insurance? I just don't get it. Why must the liberal nanny state make decisions for us? We can make them ourselves, thank you very much. It's like choosing a car, buying a home or investing in a stock. We can handle it.
So why must the government tell me and everyone else what we can and cannot buy?

...Here's what else I don't want: As a 60-something, relatively healthy person, I don't want lactation and maternity services, abortion services, speech therapy, mammograms, fertility treatments or Viagra. I don't want it. So why should I have to tear up my existing health-care plan, and then buy a plan with far more expensive premiums and deductibles, and with services I don't need or want?
On top of all of the above, Obamacare attempts to defy reality.  It's unsustainable.
Of course, there are other structural problems to Obamacare that are both unfair and unaffordable. Mainly, younger healthy people are not going to subsidize older sicker folks. We should take care of the latter with transparent government subsidies, and not by trying to redistribute resources (again) from the young to the old.
Or then there's the Medicaid entitlement. It's already out of control and close to bankruptcy. But in the early days of Obamacare, Medicaid sign-ups are exploding, all while sign-ups for private plans on the new exchanges are minuscule.
Between the president's broken promises, the millions of policy cancellations, the continued website breakdowns and the unaffordable, unfair con game between the healthy young and the sicker old, this Obamacare monster is well on its way to collapsing of its own weight.

Friday, November 1, 2013

A culture of death for young children?

Here's an ominous story coming out of Belgium.  They're now considering extending euthanasia to children.
In Belgium, where euthanasia is now legal for people over the age of 18, the government is considering extending it to children — something that no other country has done. The same bill would offer the right to die to adults with early dementia.
 I guess one shouldn't be surpised because it's a logical extension of the their current practice.
Belgium is already a euthanasia pioneer; it legalized the practice for adults in 2002. In the last decade, the number of reported cases per year has risen from 235 deaths in 2003 to 1,432 in 2012, the last year for which statistics are available. Doctors typically give patients a powerful sedative before injecting another drug to stop their heart.
Only a few countries have legalized euthanasia or anything approaching it.
More bitter fruit from the radical individualism and secularism infecting the West.

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.”