Saturday, May 16, 2015

Cruising the Web

Mark Hemingway refutes the idea, recently enunciated by President Obama, that religious groups have been too busy fighting social changes that they dislike that they've shortchanged helping the poor.
There's a damning retort to this by Rob Schwarzwalder and Pat Fagan at Religion News Service. Just to give you an idea, a single Christian Charity, World Vision, spends about $2.8 billion on anti-poverty efforts. "That would rank World Vision about 12th within the G20 nations in terms of overseas development assistance," World Vision President Richard Stearns noted in Christianity Today a few years back. Fagan and Schwarzwelder do a lot more number crunching, but the upshot is that Christians spend billions and billions fighting poverty. Even the most generous estimates of the resources devoted to pro-life causes and organizations defending traditional marriage are just a few hundred million dollars. By contrast, the budget of Planned Parenthood alone is just over a billion dollars. I don't know what the Human Rights Campaign's budget is, but if I've walked by their impressive building in Washington many times and I suspect they could marshall the resources of a small nation.
Here is more from the Schwarzwalder and Fagan evidence.
World Vision is only one such major evangelical ministry. Groups such as Samaritan’s Purse, Food for the Hungry, World Relief and many others provide hundreds of millions of dollars in anti-poverty programs at home and abroad.

The gold-standard accountability group for evangelical ministries, the Evangelical Council for Financial Accountability, represents groups that provide food, medical care, education, adoption services, orphan care, post-prison assistance, substance abuse help and other critical services at home and abroad. In aggregate, the more than 600 evangelical ministries represented in the ECFA provide more than $9.2 billion in relief assistance.

Catholic ministries, too, here and abroad are vibrant: How many Americans, of every faith and every economic status, have received world-class health care in Catholic hospitals? In total, The Economist magazine’s assessment of the Catholic Church’s estimated $170 billion total U.S. income finds that about 57 percent (roughly $97 billion) goes to “health-care networks, followed by 28 percent on colleges, with parish and diocesan day-to-day operations accounting for just 6 percent, with the remaining $4.6 billion going to ‘national charitable activities.’”
The contrast between what such groups spend on social issues such as pro-life and traditional marriage causes and those they spend on helping the poor is stark on the scale of millions contrasted with billions.

Hemingway goes on to address the President's casual slander of those Christian groups.
But because presumably some of these same Christians believe that every child is a gift from God, and that abortion is a grave evil up unto the point that they cheerfully and gladly volunteer to take care of as many needy kids as they can, the president himself disingenuously suggests their concern about poverty is relative and inadequate. This is the same president, mind you, that went out of his way to force a legal battle with Little Sisters of the Poor over subsidizing contraception and abortifacients. Based on the name of the organization, I'm guessing these nuns had better things to do than defend their conscience rights from a president who stood by and shrugged at the last Democratic convention where delegates booed God and stripped the "safe, legal and rare" language out of the party platform. And now Obama has the temerity to say that it's Christians who are making abortion too much of a priority.

Apparently, a new theory on the left is that motherhood is a social construct. John Podhoretz laughs.
The title of Kathleen McCartney’s op-ed: “Time to rethink our social construct of motherhood.”

In the body of the article, McCartney argues: “Motherhood is a cultural invention. It reflects a belief adopted by society that is passed down from one generation to the next.”

....Motherhood is the opposite of a social construct. Like gravity, its existence makes possible our existence. One might say, in fact, that everything besides motherhood that involves the raising of children is a “social construct.”

The job of “wet nurse,” the person who suckled a baby rather than the baby’s mother, is one of the oldest social constructs. The creation of a powder that substitutes for mother’s milk is a social construct. Schools are social constructs. Any and all forms of child care that do not involve the mother are social constructs.

McCartney is making an argument against the essentialism of motherhood because she wants universal child care and doesn’t want mothers to feel guilty about it.

She knows whereof she speaks, she writes, because she has done research which “demonstrated definitively that infant care did not disrupt the mother-child bond and that children thrived in quality child care.”

She is disappointed Americans have not fallen in line: “Earlier in my career, I believed solid research findings, like my own, would lead to policy change. I was wrong. Culture trumps data every time. Our romanticized views about motherhood continue to sow division and guilt.”

Telling mothers they do not have an essential bond with their children — that such a bond is being imposed on them by society rather than by the deepest mysteries of human existence — is itself a “romanticized view.”

Not of motherhood, but of the power of self-righteous academics to convince ordinary people of intellectualized nonsense backed by dubious, politicized social science.

The danger of over-intellectualization of this sort is an old one. In the 18th century, theologian George Berkeley famously argued matter itself does not exist — that physical objects only have physical substance because we imagine they do.

The biographer James Boswell told his subject, Samuel Johnson, there was no way to refute Berkeley’s claim: “I never shall forget the alacrity with which Johnson answered, striking his foot with mighty force against a large stone, till he rebounded from it — ‘I refute it thus.’”

Perhaps those who are thinking of sending their children to Smith College might refute Kathleen McCartney thus — by sending them elsewhere. Anywhere else.

Alas, the problem is that this sort of thinking is a dominating force on American campuses.
Imagine the kind of thinking that would lead a writer to make this argument. Kathleen McCartney also bemoans the "strong American bias toward personal responsibility, reflected across our social policies." I guess that bias makes difficult the adoption of the "It takes a village" approach to child rearing.

One of my students linked to this story with cynical pride in living in the most gerrymandered state.

Ah, the red-blue divide in television shows. I guess it makes sense that people with different ideologies would also be interested in different entertainment.

So do conservatives give better commencement speeches than liberals? Not having ever attended a college graduation, including my own and my children's graduations since they elected not to go either, I wouldn't know. I suspicious of generalizations based on a two anthologies of collected commencement addresses - gosh does that sound like uninteresting reading. I'm surprised that Zev Chafetz could find 30 commencement speeches by conservatives as he did in his collection, Remembering Who We Are: A Treasury of Conservative Commencement Addresses. And then there is the liberal collection, The World is Waiting for You: Graduation Speeches to Live By from Activists, Writers, and Visionaries. Even the titles are emblematic of the different appraoches conservatives and liberals take to such an occasion. In his review of the two books, Carlos Lozada of the Washington Post, finds that conservatives give shorter speeches, except for Bobby Jindal (perhaps another indication of why he will not be going anywhere in the GOP primaries). And another difference is that liberals tend to address the graduating class as a generation, a group, that is going to achieve great things just because, well, they are. Conservatives are more likely to talk to the students as individuals and what they will do in their individual lives. It's an interesting observatioin; I just don't know if we can generalize from selected speeches.

One more reason why Brazil was a bad choice for the 2016 Olympics.
A year after International Olympic Committee Vice President John Coates slammed late preparations, Rio 2016 is back on schedule but under attack for failing to meet promises to clean up Olympic waters. Work to depollute a noxious lagoon in front of the Olympic Park is held up in a legal dispute, unlikely to be ready for the start of the Games. Officials have admitted that a target to treat 80 percent of the sewage flowing into Guanabara Bay by 2016 will not be met, and garbage-picking “eco-boats” have been suspended pending new bids for the contract.

Three of five Olympic racing lanes are inside the mouth of Guanabara Bay. The other two are in open sea. Debris streaming from the bay regularly streaks the waters of Copacabana Beach, just outside the opening of the bay. Flamengo Beach has been judged safe to swim only four times this year. Critics say successive governments have repeatedly failed for decades to clean up the bay.

Jonathan Tobin explains why George Stephanopolous's hiding of his own donations to the Clinton Foundation while slamming author Peter Schweizer about the author's perceived conflict of interest is a bigger deal than just the discovery that Stephanopolous is a liberal with a soft spot for the Clintons.
Author Schweizer is understandably upset that Stephanopoulos questioned him closely about his own possible bias in writing a muckraking book about the Clinton. Schweizer has a history as a writer connected to conservative causes and served briefly as a speechwriter to George W. Bush. That’s fair game. But how is it that the ABC host thought that was worthy of exposure but believed his own hefty contributions to the Clinton’s foundation was neither relevant nor of interest to viewers watching him try to shoot down the allegations about the Clintons?

The answer is that like the Clintons themselves, some of those around them seem to have the sense of entitlement and belief that the normal rules of political conduct or journalism ethics don’t apply to them.

To be fair, unlike most of those who gave far more than he did, Stephanopoulos cannot be accused of hoping to trade the donation for favors. He may well have given the money in order to support efforts to combat AIDS and deforestation as he said in the apology he issued today. Nevertheless, a savvier journalist than the ABC host might have noted the fact that the Clinton foundation actually spends only a fraction of the money given to it on actual charitable work (only ten percent) and contributions given to other more ethical and less political organizations would have done a lot more for those causes.

The revelation makes everything Stephanopoulos has said on the air trying to pooh-pooh the Clinton Cash scandal seem self-interested or biased but in the great scheme of things, it can’t be said that those comments did much to alter the trajectory of the story or harm the future of the republic.

But it does remind us of the intolerable coziness of so many media elites with the people they cover. We had hoped that the era of leading journalists acting as informal advisors or shills for politicians they liked was over. Surely we will never again see a repeat of the kind of behavior that led legendary Washington newsman Ben Bradlee to do that for his pal Jack Kennedy, not to mention the rest of the DC press corps that knew of JFK’s affairs but kept quiet about them. But Stephanopoulos’ involvement with the Clintons makes one wonder how anyone will be able to watch “This Week’s” coverage of the 2016 election without remember that a charter member of the Clinton machine with ongoing connections to them runs the show. Stephanopoulos has already recused himself from moderating any of next year’s presidential debates but not even that gesture can silence the questions he has raised.

Of course, we knew that before we learned about Stephanopoulos’s donations. But up until now he has been treated as a straight newsman under the informal rule that allows political operatives one free career change. We all seem to think there’s nothing much wrong with a politician or political aide crossing over into journalism so long as they keep away from partisan hackery and don’t actively work to advance the causes of their former associates or bosses. But by giving so much to what is, in effect, a non-profit political slush fund for Bill, Hillary and Chelsea Clinton, Stephanopoulos has violated that rule.

He ought to recuse himself from any further reporting or comment about the Clinton Cash issue or Hillary but we know that won’t happen. Like the Clintons, Stephanopoulos will simply move on and act as if nothing has happened that should cause us to view him differently.

But while what happens to him isn’t all that important, it still must be pointed out that if a journalist were exposed as giving money to the Koch Brothers charities and then reported on them, there would be howls for his scalp throughout the media. The rules are different for liberals. Analysts who wonder about the shrinking audience for such shows and networks whose political coverage is drenched in the tired rhetoric of liberalism need wonder no more. Stephanopoulos’s lack of transparency is this story is just one more piece of evidence indicting mainstream outlets for outrageous and blatant liberal bias.

And Erik Wemple of the Washington Post is disgusted at the thought that ABC News deliberately didn't answer questions about Stephanopolous's donations and then fed the story to Politico in order to keep the story from being broken in a conservative outlet.
If indeed ABC News “ran” to Byers after getting an inquiry from the Washington Free Beacon, shame on them. PR shops, after all, exist to handle just the scenario that the Washington Free Beacon presented. It’s a very linear transaction: Reporter asks, PR responds. Should it turn out that ABC News betrayed this very simplicity, the network will have forfeited its expectation that journalists check with them before publishing their goods on ABC News. “I’m trying to instill the value of reporting to a new generation of conservative reporters,” says Continetti. “What lesson do they draw when they do their due diligence and some hack PR agent goes to another outlet in order to control the story?”

That’s such a good question that the Erik Wemple Blog just dropped it into an e-mail and passed it along to ABC News along with the other questions that they won’t answer.

Short-sighted would be a compliment for this media strategy. The nub of the Stephanopoulos news was that a top media figure had left a green paper trail of support for the Clinton family’s grand designs. Could he possibly, then, treat Republicans and conservatives with fairness? At the very time that this chatter started circulating, the network’s PR operation was shafting a conservative news outlet by slow-e-mailing its response. Symmetry.
And then ABC decides not to do anything to punish Stephanopoulos. Does anyone wonder why conservatives distrust the MSM?