Monday, June 30, 2008

Obama's Running for President, Not Prophet!

Somebody needs to tell Cal Thomas and Baptist Press that Barak Obama is running for President, not prophet.

In an essay posted by Baptist Press today, Cal Thomas examines statements about Obama's faith and finds them wanting. Here's a quote:
Obama can call himself anything he likes, but there is a clear requirement for one to qualify as a Christian and Obama doesn't meet that requirement. One cannot deny central tenets of the Christian faith, including the deity and uniqueness of Christ as the sole mediator between God and Man and be a Christian. Such people do have a label applied to them in Scripture. They are called "false prophets."
Someone also needs to remind Cal Thomas and the editors at Baptist Press to reread Matthew 7:1-5 and Matthew 7:15-27.

Criticize Obama's policies, challenge his credentials, critique him on political issues, but, to quote a fellow blogger, for God's sake 'Shut up' about his theology.

Constitutionally, there's no religious test for holding public office in this country. Obama's running for President, not pastor or prophet.

Podcast: KIPP Improving Education in Oklahoma City

Will Prescott's 6-28-08 "Religious Talk" radio program (27 MB MP3) about the success of the Knowledge is Power Program (KIPP) in Oklahoma City. He interviews KIPP leader Tracy McDaniel and other staff members.

Here's a link to brief bonus podcasts discussing McDaniel's relation to unions (2 MB MP3) and the school's open enrollment policy (3.6 MB MP3).

IMF to Review U.S. Financial System

Der Spiegel is reporting that the International Monetary Fund is beginning a review of the U.S. financial system. Here's a quote:

Officials with the International Monetary Fund (IMF) have informed Bernanke about a plan that would have been unheard-of in the past: a general examination of the US financial system. The IMF's board of directors has ruled that a so-called Financial Sector Assessment Program (FSAP) is to be carried out in the United States. It is nothing less than an X-ray of the entire US financial system.

As part of the assessment, the Fed, the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), the major investment banks, mortgage banks and hedge funds will be asked to hand over confidential documents to the IMF team. They will be required to answer the questions they are asked during interviews. Their databases will be subjected to so-called stress tests -- worst-case scenarios designed to simulate the broader effects of failures of other major financial institutions or a continuing decline of the dollar.

Under its bylaws, the IMF is charged with the supervision of the international monetary system. Roughly two-thirds of IMF members -- but never the United States -- have already endured this painful procedure.

Sunday, June 29, 2008

NASA's Climate Change Time Machine

NASA has created a climate change time machine to help people visualize the changes taking place on our planet.

Here's the link.

Friday, June 27, 2008

Desperately Seeking a Second Naivete Church

Christine Wicker's new book, The Fall of the Evangelical Nation, tells two stories very well. First, it explains how Americans have been duped into believing that evangelicals comprise a significant and growing percentage of the population. She demonstrates, using evangelicals' own statistics and reports, that committed evangelicals comprise only about 7% of the U.S. population and the percentage is declining, not growing. Here's a quote:
For the past thirty years, 7 percent of the population has swayed elections and positioned itself as the ultimate arbiter of right and wrong. By puffing its numbers and its authority, it has gotten legislation passed that opposes the popular will and has divided the country into acrimonious camps. It has monopolized the media so effectively that other religious voices have been all but silenced. It has been feared and loathed, revered and loved. It has been impossible to ignore. But underneath its image of power and pomp, the evangelical nation is falling apart. Every day the percentage of evangelicals in America decreases, a loss that began more than one hundred years ago.
The second storyline is about the desire that she and millions of other Americans have for a faith that does not require them to surrender their intellect.

Wicker describes her own childhood conversion experience as a Southern Baptist and the crisis of faith she experienced in college as she examined her faith and began to question what she had been taught. She has been exposed to critiques of religion by what Paul Ricoeur calls "the masters of suspicion" -- Darwin, Freud, Marx, Nietsche. It's a familiar story and one of the reasons why evangelicals lose most of their converts after they leave High School.

In our society, more and more are learning to view religion from some form of critical perspective. Wicker and many of the people she describes in her book are among them. The naive faith of their childhood is no longer adequate but their critical perspectives often lead them into a lonely wilderness of diffused, unconnected spirituality. That worries Wicker. In essence, she and millions beside her are searching for a church where people are moving beyond a first naivete faith, are willing to wade through the desert of critical thought, and are striving toward a second naivete faith where, as Ricoeur describes it, they are "called again."

Wicker's book is essential reading for all Baptists. She understands us, both fundamentalist and moderate, better than many of us understand ourselves. What she doesn't seem to realize is how eager and close some of us were to fostering the kind of churches she longs to find. Then, fundamentalists purged our denomination of everyone with the courage to think.

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Fred Shuttlesworth's Courage

Video of the Whitsitt Society presenting civil rights leader Fred Shuttlesworth its Courage and Freedom award. The award was presented on June 19, 2008 at the meeting of the Whitsitt Society in Memphis, TN.

After a brief exerpt from a video (the sound is bad, but the video is clear), Shuttlesworth's biographer, Andrew Manis (pictured above), speaks (sound is good) before former Mercer University president Kirby Godsey presents the award.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

On Myopic Letters from Young CBFers

Associated Baptist Press reports that a group of young CBFers are challenging Cecil Sherman for recounting the history of the fundamentalist takeover of the Southern Baptist Convention.

While Sherman's analogy to the holocaust is surely over the top, his concern to recount the story of the fundamentalist takeover is not.

From the beginning of the CBF movement there have been pious voices telling us that we need to move on, forgive and forget, and be more positive and proactive in our spirituality. Every fundamentalist assault upon the integrity and well being of Baptist educators, administrators, missionaries, ministers and lay persons has been greeted with the same mantra to "move on," "get over it," and "face the future."

Unfortunately, most Baptists both within CBF and within the SBC took that advice. That was myopic. Nothing could stir Baptists from our pious apathy. Not the firing of educators, not the seizure, pilfering and mismanagement of Baptist institutions, not the formation of creeds and the administration of loyalty oaths, not the termination of scores of missionaries, and not the union of denomination and right-wing politics. No outrage has been sufficient to create a spine for sustained dissent within the Baptist body.

I'll always be convinced that Baptist apathy -- both within CBF and the SBC -- created a favorable climate for misguided foreign policies that the entire world will be facing for the foreseeable future.

While every mainline denomination in America opposed the doctrine of pre-emptive wars, SBC ethicist Richard Land was writing rationales for war with Iraq. While religious leaders around the world have been working to defuse tensions between religions, Southern Baptists have been leading cheers for a clash of civilizations. When all people of good will have been clamoring for an end to secret arrests, renditions, and torture, Southern Baptist leaders have been offering justications for tactics previously associated only with authoritarian regimes. While scores of scientists insist that we are running out of time to reduce greenhouse gases, Southern Baptists insist there's no grounds for concern.

The world will never know how different history might have been if more Baptists had the boldness, outspokenness, and dogged persistence in confronting injustice that characterizes Cecil Sherman.

Falwell, Baptist Press Perpetuate Moral Majority Myth

Baptist Press is quoting Jonathan Falwell perpetuating a myth about the origins of the Moral Majority. Jonathan says,

When Dad started the Moral Majority back in the late '70s, he had a vision, he had a plan to bring our country to the point where abortion on demand would no longer be legal.
The truth is that the Moral Majority began with a conversation between Jerry Falwell and Paul Weyrich, a co-founder of the Moral Majority. Weyrich was encouraging Falwell to lead a movement of evangelicals into secular politics. Here's what Weyrich said according to Rice University Sociologist William Martin, author of With God and Our Side and the companion PBS documentary series by the same name:

Paul Weyrich emphatically asserted that, "what galvanized the Christian community was not abortion, school prayer, or the ERA. I am living witness to that because I was trying to get those people interested in those issues and I utterly failed. What changed their mind was Jimmy Carter's intervention against the Christian schools, trying to deny them tax-exempt status on the basis of so-called de facto segregation." Weyrich explained that while Christians were troubled about abortion, school prayer, and the ERA, they felt able to deal with those on a private basis. They could avoid having abortions, put their children in Christian schools, and run their families the way they wanted to, all without having to be concerned about public policy. But the IRS threat, "enraged the Christian community and they looked upon it as interference from government, and suddenly it dawned on them that they were not going to be able to be left alone to teach their children as they pleased. It was at that moment that conservatives made the linkage between their opposition to government interference and the interests of the evangelical movement, which now saw itself on the defensive and under attack by the government. That was what brought those people into the political process. It was not the other things." (With God on Our Side, p. 173)

Susan Pace Hamill on Regressive Taxation

Susan Pace Hamill's speech at the Baptist Center for Ethics (BCE) luncheon in Memphis on June 19, 2008. Hamill talks about the nationwide system of regressive taxation that inordinately, unbiblically and unethically burdens the poor.

Robert Parham, Director of BCE and pictured above, introduces Hamill. Note: There are a few seconds without sound at the beginning.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Aging Patriarch Labels Obama Fruitcake Interpreter

The newswires and blogosphere are buzzing about James Dobson's quip that Barak Obama holds "fruitcake interpretations" of the Constitution.

James Dobson has a degree in child psychology. Unlike Obama, he has no education or training in constitutional law.

Dobson's opinions on issues outside his area of expertise are worthless.

Many of us think his opinions within his area of expertise aren't worth much either.

Monday, June 23, 2008

Podcast: How Sabre Rattling Effects the Price of Oil

Dr. Bruce Prescott's 6-22-08 "Religious Talk" (27 MB MP3) radio program. I talk about plans for the New Baptist Covenant Midwest Region Meeting, about the ADF's challenge to the IRS by encouraging ministers to endorse candidates from the pulpit, and about the effect that American and Israeli sabre rattling against Iran is having on the price of oil.

Listeners are encouraged to contact their Congressional Representatives to oppose House Resolution 362 authorizing a land, sea and air blockade of Iran.

Friday, June 20, 2008

Shuttleworth Receives Award From Whitsitt Society

1 minute video of civil rights leader Fred Shuttlesworth responding to a question as he was recieving the Courage and Freedom Award from the Whitsitt Society in Memphis yesterday. Shuttlesworth is responding to a question about the title of his biography, A Fire You Can't Put Out. Biographer Andrew Manis hands Shuttleworth the microphone as he responds. Former Mercer President Kirby Godsey stands in the background.

Manis has already explained that the title of the book came from a statement that Shuttleworth made to the Chief of Police in Birmingham in the early 1960's on one of the many occassions when meetings at Shuttleworth's church were disrupted due to reports that there was a fire at his church.

I'll post higher quality video and audio of the award ceremony next week.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Susan Pace Hamill on Transparent State Budgets

3 minute video of Susan Pace Hamill, Professor of Law at the University of Alabama, responding to a question at the Baptist Center for Ethics luncheon at Memphis, TN today. Hamill talks about the need to have state budget information available to the public on the internet.

I'll post higher quality video of her entire speech next week.

Southern Baptists Urge "Takeover" of Public Schools

Bob Allen at Ethics Daily has posted a story highlighting a tension within the hearts of Southern Baptists.

Some want all Southern Baptists to pull their children out of public schools.

Others want Southern Baptists to "takeover" the public schools.

Both strategies are evident in school districts all around the country.

Both strategies are evidence that Southern Baptists have lost confidence in the "foolishness of preaching" to share the gospel. Having turned their pulpits into political platforms, Southern Baptists look for political solutions where they are in power. Where they lack political power, they are withdrawing.

The world and all heaven is still waiting for Southern Baptists to learn that the gospel is "good news" about the love and grace that God revealed in Jesus Christ. They still think that it is "bad news" about ignorance of evolution and fear of homosexuals.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

AP Charging Bloggers for Quotes

The Associated Press has decided that bloggers are infringing on their copyright by quoting and linking to their stories. Now they have a form demanding $12.50 for quotes between 5 and 25 words. Longer quotes require more money.

I'll not be quoting any AP stories in the future. There are plenty of other sources of news. I'll also not be linking to any AP stories in the future.

In my opinion, for whatever it's worth, this is not the way for print media to survive. Links to video sources are becoming more commonplace by the day. Print media is already on the losing end of competition with television for "eyeballs."

When internet traffic switches to video instead of print, print media will lose even more of their market.

Steve Ballmer's prediction
that "the print piece of media will be gone in ten years" may be more prescient than many people realize.

Outrage Spreads Over SBC President's Phony Degrees

The Canadian Bene Diction Weblog has gotten extensive response to a post about Johnny Hunts "Diploma Mill doctorates." Here's a response that was written to one of the commenters:
I'm asking why it's okay to use doctor when you haven't earned the doctorate(s).

If you or I did that, we'd be fired on the spot, and rightfully so.

This isn't about his calling, it's about lying.
Robert Parham has posted an essay today on "What is Wrong with Diploma Mills?" on Ethics Daily. Here's a quote with some valuable information from the U.S. Department of Education about diploma mills:

"Diploma mills are schools that are more interested in taking your money than providing you with a quality education. You need to know how to protect yourself as a consumer," according to the U.S. Department of Education Web site.

"Diploma mills require little, if any, academic work in order to earn a degree. Degrees from diploma mills are sometimes based on life experience alone or a level of academic work that is far below what an accredited postsecondary institution would require. Diploma mills can require little or no work but the result is the same, a degree that has no value and is meaningless."

The Department of Education provides a search engine for accredited institutions and has a link to the Council for Higher Education Accreditation, which also has a search engine for recognized institutions and information about diploma mills.

What's Wrong With America?

The AFL-CIO is hosting a "What's Wrong With America?" video contest. Here's a link to where you can view and cast your vote for one of the 12 finalists in their contest.

I've posted a link to my favorite video above. There's no doubt that this video has the best line -- "Would Susan B. Anthony wear a bikini?"

Monday, June 16, 2008

NC Editor Defends Hunt's Bogus Degree

Norman Jameson, editor of the Biblical Recorder, has defended SBC President Johnny Hunt's use of bogus educational credentials. Rather than scolding Hunt, he chides academic institutions for granting honorary degrees.

I agree with Jameson about the impropriety of honorary degrees, but the door swings both ways. It is as wrong to recieve them as it is to award them.

Jameson's analysis of the effect that bogus credentials have on the integrity of the SBC is also wrong. He concludes:
Hunt was not elected president of a college. He was elected president of the Southern Baptist Convention which requires no degree.

It's an honorary position. His doctorate is honorary. Perfect match.
The presidency of the SBC is not merely an honorary position. It is a position with the authority to nominate people who control the appointment process for every board and agency of the entire convention. That's why Hunt and his cronies organized a political machine to elect presidents and takeover the SBC.

It's all about authority. Honorary doctorates are just another way to inflate his credientials and give his opinions an air of respectability to an uninformed public.

Sunday, June 15, 2008

Caravaggio at the Kimball Art Museum

Caravaggio's first masterpiece, The Card Sharps, circa 1594.

Today is the first father's day since my dad died.

Dad earned a Masters degree in Art Education. He had an appreciation for art -- fine and otherwise.

His favorite artist was Caravaggio.

This one's in memory of my Dad.

Saturday, June 14, 2008

Japanese Power Electric Car With Water

Nikkei Business Publications in Japan is reporting that Genepax Co. has created a fuel cell that produces electricity on nothing but water and air.

This sounds too good to be true, but Nikkei has been a reputable source in the past.

Friday, June 13, 2008

Is it Time for Solar Energy?

Time Magazine has published an article about recent advances in nanosolar and thin film solar panels. Here's an excerpt:

The numbers have changed, thanks largely to the enormous success of Phoenix's First Solar. Though the company was launched in 1999, it has its origins in a solar start-up that had been around since the mid-1980s. First Solar spent years tinkering before moving to mass production. It was able to weather those early days of profitless experimentation because it had a rich, patient backer: Wal-Mart heir John Walton, who pumped $250 million into First Solar before his death in 2005.

Walton's investment has paid off handsomely. Since it began commercial production of thin-film modules in 2002 (much of the output has been sold to small-scale solar farms in Germany, where generous subsidies have primed the market), the company has done nothing but grow. With factories in Arizona and Germany and another being built in Malaysia, First Solar should be producing 1 gigawatt of solar power yearly by the end of 2009. "They've fully overcome the technological barrier with large production and low defects," says Rhone Resch, president of the Solar Energy Industries Association. "Their plants are fully automated--it looks just like a silicon-chip factory."

As First Solar scaled production up, it was able to bring its costs down. Solar producers measure their costs in terms of dollars per watt of energy produced, a formula that's a combination of the cost of producing a module and its power efficiency. Right now the best crystalline-silicon makers can sell modules at $3 to $4 a watt; First Solar can sell at around $2.40 a watt, a price the company expects to reduce steadily. "They've really pushed this industry over the threshold," says Travis Bradford, author of The Solar Revolution. "They possess great technology."

But First Solar doesn't generate the most buzz. That notoriety belongs to the start-up Nanosolar, which shocked its competitors in December when it announced it would begin profitably selling thin-film panels at $1 a watt. That figure is solar's holy grail, the point at which power from the sun becomes generally cheaper than coal, without the help of subsidies.

Washington Post Addressing Johnny Hunt's Credentials

Robert Parham has a "Guest Voices" essay up on the Washington Post's website about "The New SBC Leader's Dubious Credentials." Washington is a place where people have some appreciation for earned credentials. They're not likely to lightly dismiss padding resumes.

The SBC, however, seems to have officially sanctioned resume padding. I suspect that is one of the reasons why Southern Baptist seminaries have turned into ghost towns since the Fundamentalists took them over.

Who needs an earned degree when you can procure a "doctorate" for a few bucks with little effort from a diploma mill?

What Did George Know About Moussaoui?

Former CIA Analyst Ray McGovern has posted a provocative essay asking "Jail Time for Tenet?" He says Tenet has been covering up the amount of advance warning that President Bush received before 9-11. A conversation on the morning of 9-11 with University of Oklahoma President David Boren about Zacarias Moussaoui is mentioned. Moussaoui is the 9-11 Plotter who attended flight school in Norman, Oklahoma.

I ran into Moussaoui once while he was in Norman, or rather I should say he nearly ran into me. A year or so before 9-11, I was entering a Carl's Hamburger joint as he was leaving. The restaurant was down the street from the flight school he attended. I could tell that he was angry about something as he left.

When I entered the store the cashier asked me if I had heard what he said. I hadn't and that was the end of our conversation. Whatever he said, upset the cashier.

I often wondered if Moussaoui was spouting off about his plans for 9-11 that day or whether he was just angry about how long it was taking to get his hamburger. Service was pretty slow at that place.

Now, I wonder if George Tenet knew what he was saying that day.

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Onward Christmas Warriors?

Mark Gstohl, Assistant Professor of Historical Theology at Xavier University of Louisiana, has published an essay on the Religion Dispatches weblog about the Southern Baptist Convention's affirmation of the "War on Christmas." Here's a quote:
What Southern Baptists are seeking is for employers to force their employees to wish everyone a Merry Christmas. Would Christian employees be comfortable being forced by their employers to say Happy Hanukah or Happy Kwanzaa or Happy Ramadan to their customers? What if non-Christian customers don't wish to be to be greeted with "Merry Christmas?" Should Christians care about their feelings? It's my contention that they should. Loving one's neighbor involves respecting and being sensitive to their feelings.
Gstohl has put his finger on a serious flaw in what Fundamentalist Christians consider to be witnessing. Their arrogant, in-your-face religiosity is utterly insensitive to the frame of reference and thoughts of those to whom they are supposed to be witnessing. They are forever finding ways to make the "good news" bad news.

On Credible Credentials

A Southern Baptist educator once described the takeover of the SBC as "the revenge of the 'C' students." Ethics Daily has posted an illustration of that educator's lament. Johnny Hunt, the new president of the Southern Baptist Convention has padded his resume with "doctorates" from diploma mills.

It is a familiar story among Fundamentalist Baptists. Former SBC President, Jim Henry, pads his resume with honorary doctorates in "Humane Letters" and "Sacred Laws and Letters." Former SBC Vice Presidents Junior Hill, who nominated one of the losing candidates for SBC President this year, and Bob Pittman also pad their resumes with dubious credentials. All them come from the same diploma mill that credentialed Johnny Hunt -- Covington Theological Seminary.

Fundamentalists crave recognition and authority. They are the Rodney Dangerfields of the religious world. They never get enough respect. And, they never seem to have all the authority they need to influence secular politics.

Fundamentalists want credentials but they don't want to expend the effort required to earn them. Paul's injunction to "study to show yourself approved" (2 Timothy 2:15) doesn't apply to them. They are convinced that all they need is faith to believe that the Bible is inerrant.

There's a reason why these diploma mill "doctors" are pastors and not educators -- accredited institutions won't recognize their credentials. Gullible lay people and a lot of journalists, however, don't know the difference between an earned degree and a mail order degree.

Rather than chide these men for their lack of integrity myself, perhaps it would better to quote from one of their own legitimately credentialed educators. Dr. Danny Akin, President of Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary, wrote an essay for Baptist Press about "Integrity in Ministry" around the time of the Steven Flockhart padded resume scandal mentioned by Robert Parham (incidentally, Flockhart was a staff member under Johnny Hunt before having difficulties over his resume). Here's what Akin had to say:
1) Guard your integrity by always being completely honest. Do not pad your resume or reputation with false or inflated accomplishments. The Bible says God hates a proud look and lying tongue (Proverbs 6:17). Be a truth-teller in every area of your life, both in the big things and the little things.
I don't agree with a lot of Akin's theology, but on this point he is right on the mark.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Hardliners Reassert Control Over SBC

Johnny Hunt, a loyal insider for the Fundamentalist takeover of the Southern Baptist Convention, has been elected President of the SBC. He got more than fifty percent of the vote in a field of six on the first ballot. Here's a quote from Robert Parham about the impact his Presidency will have:

Johnny Hunt's election confirms that Frank Page's election in 2006 did not signal the emergence of a 'kinder, gentler;' SBC," said Robert Parham of the Baptist Center for Ethics. "The founding fathers of SBC fundamentalism have reasserted their political power. Their continued direction is away from the center. That makes hollow the months of chatter in the media about the emerging evangelical center. If there is no trending away from extremism in the SBC, there is no trending away from the Christian Right among conservative evangelicals.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Video to Replace Newsprint Within Ten Years

Beet.TV has posted a report revealing that the Washington Post is training staffers in videography.

Microsoft chairman Steve Ballmer predicts that "the print piece of most media will be gone in ten years."

Monday, June 09, 2008

Twirling Building in Dubai Will Generate Power

Construction is set to begin this month on a skyscraper in Dubai that will produce more solar and wind power than it will use.

The floors on the building will also rotate to provide varying views to the building's inhabitants.

John McCain Spouts Christian Nationalism

On the above YouTube interview John McCain says "The Constitution established the United States of America as a Christian nation."

Someone needs to introduce John McCain to the First Amendment to the Constitution of the United States:

"Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof”

A Mind Like a Messy Desk

The Boston Globe has published a story about slips of memory that reveals that the mind is like a messy desk. Here's a quote:

The messy reality of the mind contradicts the conventional metaphor of memory, which assumes that the brain is like a vast and well-organized file cabinet. According to this theory, we're able to locate the necessary memory because it has been sorted according to some logical system. But this metaphor is misleading. The brain isn't an immaculate file cabinet -- it's more like an untidy desk covered with piles of paper.
I think this means that keeping a tidy desk is an unnatural act.

Christ the Redeemer at the Kimball Art Museum

Christ the Redeemer, (c. 1500-1520) by Tullio Lombardo

Bass Performance Hall

Bass Performance Hall in Downtown Fort Worth

Saturday, June 07, 2008

Donatello at the Kimball Art Museum

Donatello, Virgin and Child (The Borromeo Maddona) c. 1450

Thank-you Governor Henry!

Oklahoma Governor Brad Henry vetoed a controversial bill that purported to protect the right of school children to voice religious opinions. In reality, it was a bill designed to make school children captive audiences for public school prayers and devotions.

Mainstream Baptists opposed this bill. We were barred from speaking at a committee hearing about the bill, but we did succeed in sharing our concerns about the bill with key state legislators and the Governor.

The safe thing for the Governor to do would have been to let the bill die for lack of a signature. Despite enormous support for the bill from Southern Baptists in Oklahoma and the religious right in Oklahoma, Governor Henry vetoed the bill and explained why.

Thank-you Governor Henry for your courageous support for both freedom of religion and freedom from religion.

Thursday, June 05, 2008

The Hidden Costs of Anti-Immigration Legislation

Ethics Daily has posted a story on "Experts Say Anti-immigration Laws Carry Unintended Economic Costs." The story is based on a "Religious Talk" radio interview (27 MB MP3) that my son, Will Prescott, did with Russell Evans and Kyle Dean of the Economic Impact Group in Edmond, Ok. Here's a quote:

"As you remove foreign-born workers, as you remove these workers from the economy, what happens in the low-skill labor market is that the businesses and the firms have to compete for the remaining low-skill workers," Evans added. "It drives up the wages of this particular group. As these wages go up, it essentially makes Oklahoma production less competitive relative to our neighbors and suppresses Oklahoma production. So as Oklahoma firms produce less, as they slow the rate of expansion, not only do they require fewer workers, they require fewer high-skill workers."

Evans and Dean said previous studies indicate that laws targeted at illegal immigrants adversely affect all foreign-born workers, because they create a "chilling" climate that applies to all immigrants regardless of their residency status. Further complicating the picture are families of mixed residency status, meaning that decisions about whether to stay or go often are not by individuals but rather whole families.

Wednesday, June 04, 2008

Plug-in Hybrid Gets 150 MPG

AFS Trinity Power has developed a plug-in hybrid SUV that gets 150 MPG.

Hooray! We'll still be able to drive SUV's around town without breaking the bank. The battery recharges for around $1.00 a day.

When mass produced, the vehicle would cost less than $9,000 more than ordinary SUV's.

Center for Engaged Religious Pluralism Opens

Congratulations to Dr. Barbara McGraw, author of Taking Religious Pluralism Seriously, for her work in founding a new Center for Engaged Religious Pluralism at St. Mary's College of California.

Here's a quote from a press release announcing the new center:
"Debates about religion, politics, and public policy are often limited to religious right and secular left, with a Christian or Jewish left given a forum from time to time," said Barbara McGraw, director of the new center. "The Center for Engaged Religious Pluralism strives to broaden the dialogue and take seriously all voices from our society's many different belief systems."
I interviewed McGraw in January of 2004 to discuss her book on religious liberty -- Rediscovering America's Sacred Ground. The interview is in two parts. Here and here are the links.

Tuesday, June 03, 2008

Charting the Federal Reserve's Support for Banks

Above is a copy of a chart posted on the website for the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis. The chart provides a history of the levels at which the Federal Reserve has lent money to U.S. Banks.

It's obvious that the U.S. banking system is at the brink of bankruptcy.

Regarding Our Current Oil Crisis

As the cover story on Newsweek is about "The Coming Energy Wars" and predicts that the price of oil could go to $200 a barrel, I interviewed Petroleum Geologist Bob Stephenson (27 MB MP3) on my 6-1-08 "Religious Talk" radio program.

We talk about "peak oil," the current oil crisis, the possibility of radical changes in life as oil supplies decline, and the need to immediately begin developing a variety of sources of alternative energy.

Monday, June 02, 2008

Housing Already Worse Than the Great Depression

Economist magazine has published a brief that indicates the deflation in U.S. housing values is already worse than what happened during the Great Depression -- and worse is yet to come. Here's a quote:
Unfortunately, new figures this week reveal that house prices have already fallen by more over the past 12 months than in any year during the Great Depression. The S&P/Case-Shiller national index fell by 14.1% in the year to the first quarter. Admittedly, other property indices show smaller drops, but most economists now favour this measure. The index goes back only 20 years, but Robert Shiller, an economist at Yale University and co-inventor of the index, has compiled a version that stretches back more than a century. This shows that the latest fall in nominal prices is already much bigger than the 10.5% drop in 1932, at the worst point of the Depression.

And things are even worse than they look. In the deflationary 1930s, America's general price level was falling, so in real terms home prices declined much less than they did nominally. Today inflation is running at a brisk pace, so property prices have fallen by a staggering 18% in real terms over the past year. In nominal terms, the average home is now worth 16% less than at the peak in 2006, and the large overhang of unsold houses suggests that prices have further to fall. If so, this housing bust could well see a bigger cumulative fall in prices than the 26% real drop over the five years to 1933.

Lessons in Politics and Religion

Melissa Rogers has written an outstanding essay about "What We Have Learned So Far About Religion and Politics." She lists six things that we have learned from recent political events. Here's a quote:
We have learned that a candidate’s house of worship can become a political target and a media magnet. That is a serious problem, but that’s not to say that I don’t understand some of the reasons why we are where we are.

Moving forward, it seems to me that it would be better for all sides to take steps to remove the pastor and the church from campaign scrutiny: the candidate would do this by refraining from seeking the endorsement of his or her pastor (or otherwise bringing the pastor into the campaign); the pastor would do it by refraining from playing a role in the campaign; and the media and others would do it by stepping back from combing over a pastor’s sermons, calling church shut-ins and the like. If we could get that kind of gentleperson’s agreement on all sides, we would move toward a more healthy relationship between religion and politics. (I know this is complicated by the fact that sermons are now widely available and there are always some who would comb over each statement in any case, trying to score political points. But if others agree to these basic parameters, it may be more difficult for these folks to get much traction for their efforts.)

If we get this kind of gentleperson's agreement, it should provide some insulation for the church and the pastor from the campaign. That insulation is required if we are to have prophetic preaching, preaching that speaks truth to power, for example. That insulation is required if the church is to be the church, not some horrible You-Tubification or sorry spectacle on CNN. That insulation is required if we are to ensure that a candidate who is so inclined will have a community of faith where he or she can go to be challenged and renewed. We should all want that for our presidents who are so inclined and for our religious communities, that, at their best, can serve as independent check on government.

Regarding Radioactive Preachers

Gershom Gorenberg, author of End of Days, has posted an essay at Talk to Action that assails the "audacity of cynicism" on display when John Hagee claims to be a friend of Israel. Here's a quote:
Ever since Hagee and his fellow travelers started forging links with Jewish groups, some Jews have dismissed their apocalyptic views. Their attitude has been, "We don't believe this will happen, so what do we care? Right now they're helping us."

But when people hope for the end of history, they are saying the world is broken and must be fixed. Their vision of how it will be fixed tells you what they think is broken. In the dispensationalist vision of a repaired world, Jews will die or convert. That is, the continued existence of Jews who do not accept Jesus is an unbearable flaw in our world as it is.

Max Blumenthal has posted an essay on Talk to Action revealing that Hagee also contends that the anti-Christ is gay and "partially Jewish." He asks:
But now that Hagee's political allies have listened to the preacher's sermon identifying the Antichrist as a homosexual Jew, how can they still share a stage with him? Is attributing Jewish ancestry to the Man of Sin not anti-Semitism in its most classical form? Are the conspiratorial screeds of Nesta Webster,Henry Ford, and David Duke not replete with passages disturbingly similar to this most recently revealed jeremiad of Hagee and to many of his past sermons?

Hagee's allies must ask themselves what price they are willing to pay for the backing of his political empire. All of them diminish themselves by standing by side. But those who are Jewish like Lieberman, and who have highlighted their faith to enhance their moral authority, must know now that the price of entering Hagee's kingdom is their soul.

This follows Obama's renunciation of Jeremiah Wright and his home church and McCain's renunication of John Hagee for political reasons.

There is a political frenzy going on right now on both the right and the left sides of the political aisle. Politicians who thought that racking up endorsements from preachers would get them votes are discovering that preachers can be radioactive.

Perhaps, when this frenzy is over, both the right and the left will agree that separating church and state is a good thing after all. It's best for both religion and politics when religious beliefs do not become a political issue.

Former Missionaries Challenge IMB Policy

The SBC Outpost has published information about a press release from 37 former SBC missionaries asking the International Mission Board to reverse their policy regarding baptism and the use of private prayer languages.

Here's a quote:
"We express our concern over the restrictions that have been put in place in the form of additional ‘guidelines’ concerning a missionary candidate’s private prayer life and baptism," says the statement, which was released June 2, 2008. "Our conviction is that these guidelines stray far beyond the parameters set forth by our denominational confession of faith, the Baptist Faith and Message."