Daily Archives: May 1, 2009

David Brooks–Genius: The Modern View

What Mozart had, we now believe, was the same thing Tiger Woods had ”” the ability to focus for long periods of time and a father intent on improving his skills. Mozart played a lot of piano at a very young age, so he got his 10,000 hours of practice in early and then he built from there.

The latest research suggests a more prosaic, democratic, even puritanical view of the world. The key factor separating geniuses from the merely accomplished is not a divine spark. It’s not I.Q., a generally bad predictor of success, even in realms like chess. Instead, it’s deliberate practice. Top performers spend more hours (many more hours) rigorously practicing their craft.

Read it all.

Posted in * Culture-Watch

Melanie Kirkpatrick: The Politics of Intimidation

In 1998, the year Hugo Chavez was elected president, there were 22,000 Jews in Venezuela. Today the Jewish population is estimated at between 10,000 and 15,000.

Those numbers tell a story, and it’s not a happy one. The Jews of Venezuela are fleeing to Miami, Madrid and elsewhere because of the anti-Semitism they face at home. In an interview this week in Washington, D.C., the country’s chief rabbi sounds a warning bell: “There’s anxiety in the Jewish community because of what has happened,” says Rabbi Pynchas Bremer, “and of course because of what may happen.”

Mr. Chavez’s vitriol about Jews is well documented and of long standing. In recent years he has referred to Venezuelan Jews as “descendants of the same ones who crucified Christ” and “a minority [that] has taken ownership of all the gold of the planet.” According to Shmuel Herzfeld, a Washington, D.C., rabbi who visited Venezuela in March: “Chavez is isolating the Jews and turning Venezuelans against the Jewish community. . . . The government is transforming a society that has been welcoming and accepting of Jews” in the past. Rabbi Bremer, who has lived in Venezuela for more than 40 years, says that he had never personally encountered anti-Semitism or heard of anti-Semitic incidents until recently.

Read it all.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, * Religion News & Commentary, Judaism, Other Faiths, Religion & Culture

Barry Ritholtz: Weak Imports Goose GDP

In other words, without the impact of slowing imports, annualized GDP contraction would have been about 12%.

As is so often the case, the picture is terribly instructive….

Read it all.

Posted in * Economics, Politics, Economy

Baptist minister leading evangelical movement for nuclear disarmament

Young evangelical leaders on Tuesday announced a national initiative to enlist Christians online and in schools and churches to make a moral case for nuclear disarmament.

“I know when most people think of the elimination of nuclear weapons, they think of tie-dyed activists,” said Tyler Wigg Stevenson, a 31-year-old Baptist pastor.

Stevenson, who outlined his Two Futures Project during a religious conference in Austin, said many under-40 evangelicals see nuclear disarmament as consistent with their values agenda.

Read it all.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, * Religion News & Commentary, Baptists, Evangelicals, Other Churches, Religion & Culture

Columbus Dispatch: Fewer receive sacraments

Compared with previous generations, the youngest of today’s adult Catholics are less likely to have celebrated the sacraments that provide the foundation of the faith.

A growing minority of self-identified Catholic adults haven’t made their first reconciliation, received their First Communion or been confirmed, according to research from the Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate (CARA) at Georgetown University.

The sacraments are at the heart of what it means to be Catholic, said Mark Gray, a CARA researcher. If fewer parents are anchoring their children in Catholicism through the sacraments, the result could be a smaller church.

Read it all.

Posted in * Christian Life / Church Life, * Religion News & Commentary, Liturgy, Music, Worship, Other Churches, Parish Ministry, Roman Catholic

New Archbishop-elect of Kenya is a ”˜spiritual reconciler’

He is Dr Eliud Wabukala, who is 58, has been Bishop of Bungoma since in 1996, and chairs the National Council of Churches of Kenya. Bungoma has a diocesan link with Peterborough. The Bishop of Peterborough, the Rt Revd Ian Cundy, described Dr Wabukala on Tuesday as “a reconciler both polit­ically in the country and within the House of Bishops”. He succeeds Arch­bishop Benjamin Nzimbi.

Thousands of Christians are re­ported to have thronged the streets of Bungoma to welcome the Archbishop-elect on his return home from the election. The election process at All Saints’ Cathedral in Nairobi last Friday was described by the local press as “peaceful, joyous and orderly”.

Read it all.

Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, Anglican Church of Kenya, Anglican Provinces

Justice David Souter to retire

Justice David Souter is planning to retire after nearly two decades on the Supreme Court, but his departure is unlikely to change its conservative-liberal split.

President Barack Obama’s first pick for the high court is likely to be a liberal-leaning nominee, much like Souter.

The White House has been told that Souter will retire in June, when the court finishes its work for the summer, a source familiar with his plans said Thursday night. The retirement is likely to take effect only once a successor is confirmed.

The source spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak for Souter.

Read it all.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, Law & Legal Issues

Arthur Brooks: The Real Culture War Is Over Capitalism

Still, the tea parties are not based on the cold wonkery of budget data. They are based on an “ethical populism.” The protesters are homeowners who didn’t walk away from their mortgages, small business owners who don’t want corporate welfare and bankers who kept their heads during the frenzy and don’t need bailouts. They were the people who were doing the important things right — and who are now watching elected politicians reward those who did the important things wrong.

Voices in the media, academia, and the government will dismiss this ethical populism as a fringe movement — maybe even dangerous extremism. In truth, free markets, limited government, and entrepreneurship are still a majoritarian taste. In March 2009, the Pew Research Center asked people if we are better off “in a free market economy even though there may be severe ups and downs from time to time.” Fully 70% agreed, versus 20% who disagreed.

Read it all.

Posted in * Economics, Politics, Economy, Office of the President, Politics in General, President Barack Obama, Taxes, The 2009 Obama Administration Bank Bailout Plan, The 2009 Obama Administration Housing Amelioration Plan, The Credit Freeze Crisis of Fall 2008/The Recession of 2007--, The Fiscal Stimulus Package of 2009, The National Deficit, The Possibility of a Bailout for the U.S. Auto Industry, The September 2008 Proposed Henry Paulson 700 Billion Bailout Package, The U.S. Government

Cash-strapped schools cancel field trips

For years, field trips have linked core subjects to destinations outside the classroom. Now they are being met with increased scrutiny nationwide as public schools deal with budget shortfalls.

The Maize School District in a suburb of Wichita, suspended field trips in February for the remainder of the year, says Karen McDermott, a school spokeswoman.

The action was in response to a midyear cut by the state Legislature, and though it will save $30,000, it means students learning about the universe won’t see it unfold at the Kansas Cosmosphere and Space Center.

Read it all.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, * Economics, Politics, Economy, Education, The Credit Freeze Crisis of Fall 2008/The Recession of 2007--

Notable and Quotable

We stand by the Prayer-book and by the church as that book gives it to us.–We teach the faith of the creeds. We set forth the church as catholic, as the creeds teach us.

We celebrate the holy sacrament with a reverent and proper ritual, well recognized as lawful and which is actually the use in numbers of our churches here. We sympathize with all that is true in the great catholic revival of to-day. I…speak after no consultation with the men in the field and with no other authority than that of being their fellow worker. I do not think they would disavow this, if this be “ritualism.”

To me the services at St. John’s seem cold and stiff. We walk in the fetters of Western ideas and formulas unsuited to an Asiatic nation. To their minds our services must seem cold. To their minds used to the outward expression of religious sentiments an ornate ritual which we could not use would seem inexpressive, and the scanty symbolism which we actually offer must be greatly inadequate. [Other missions far outstripping ours in results have no ritual whatever, showing conclusively that it is the gospel that is wanted and not ritual.]

It is time that the church should cease speaking of high and low and all that, and set itself to the task of converting China.

F.R. Graves in a Letter to the Southern Churchman, September 15, 1883; emphasis mine

Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, * Christian Life / Church Life, * International News & Commentary, Asia, China, Church History, Episcopal Church (TEC), Missions

Some colleges checking out applicants' social networking posts

High school students, beware! College admissions and financial aid officers in California and elsewhere may be peeking over your digital shoulder at the personal information you post on your Facebook or MySpace page.

And they might decide to toss out your application after reading what you wrote about that cool party last week or how you want to conduct your romantic life at college.

According to a new report by the National Assn. for College Admission Counseling, about a quarter of U.S. colleges reported doing some research about applicants on social networking sites or through Internet search engines….

Read it all.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, Blogging & the Internet, Education, Teens / Youth

Newberry South Carolina schools to close Friday over flu concerns

Newberry public schools will close Friday in the wake of an outbreak of swine flu at a private school nearby.

Officials in the school system, which includes Newberry High School and Mid-Carolina High School, decided to suspend classes as South Carolina health officials got confirmation today from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention of least 13 cases of swine flu in the state. The number of suspected cases is expected to grow.

The cases afflicted students and parents connected with the private Newberry Academy. Many of the students returned from Mexico earlier this month.

Read it all.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, * South Carolina, Health & Medicine

From Paradise to Hellish Hours on the Tarmac

After several high-profile fiascoes two years ago, airlines promised to do more to avoid stranding passengers on planes for hours. But Delta Flight 510 is a stunning reminder that the problem persists.

On Good Friday, April 10, what should have been a three-hour flight became a 13-hour ordeal for passengers heading home from a Caribbean vacation. When thunderstorms prevented Delta Air Lines Inc. Flight 510’s scheduled landing in Atlanta, the MD88 diverted to Columbia, S.C., for nine hours. Passengers spent five of those hours on the tarmac without food or water.

Airport officials say bathrooms turned foul, children got antsy and some passengers became extremely agitated. One woman called 911 because she needed food. Parents with small children ran short on essentials like diapers. Eventually the passengers were allowed off and held in part of the terminal, cordoned off with yellow police tape.

Read it all from Tuesday’s Wall Street Journal.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, Travel

Steven Waldman: Christian America's "Fall" and the State of U.S. Piety

The Pew study founded that 79% of the currently unaffiliated –also known as “nones” in the survey–started off life connected with a religion. But get this: only 30% of “nones” who used to be Catholic and only 18% of former Protestants said they’d had strong faith as a child. This is true even for those who attended church regularly.

In other words, perhaps it’s not that the devout have lost their way, it’s that the nominally religious have stopped pretending to be religious. Perhaps what we’re seeing is not an increase in the number of “nones” but an increase in the numbers willing to admit it.

Another bit of evidence for this theory is that the rates of church attendance during this same period from 1990 to 2009 have remained stable. The pious are just as pious; it’s the more tenuously connected that seem to be fleeing.

Read it all.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, * International News & Commentary, America/U.S.A., Religion & Culture

Petraeus Gives Stark Warning of Potentially Imminent Pakistani Collapse

This is the culmination of a long, patient slow-motion insurgency by the Taliban-al-Qaeda alliance suddenly propelled into a fast-moving and aggressive push on many fronts and forms. The jury is still out on the level of commitment of the Pakistani military push to take back Buner and, presumably, the Swat district from Taliban-al-Qaeda control.

The manner in which the Pakistanis pursue that push is critical. Will they continue to rely heavily on area weapons, such as artillery and helicopter gunships which cause much collateral damage and limited precision? Or will it shift to a boots-on-the-ground fight between men for Pakistan’s survival? And will those boots continue to be the less capable Frontier Corps paramilitary forces and local constabularies, or will the more professional and capable Pakistani Army assume the tip of the spear? These are important questions that we will learn the answers to over the coming days.

Read it all.

Posted in * International News & Commentary, Asia, Pakistan