Morning Report, June 18: Tea Parties and Social Responsibility, The Kobe Dynasty, Experts Have No Friends, Warren Buffett, Gaza, and Afghanistan

Religious and secular news and commentary that one Christian found important or entertaining this morning:

1.  TEA TIME.  Yesterday, “Is the Tea Party a ‘Social Justice’ Movement?” was featured at First Things, Hot Air and Instapundit, and helped contribute to Patheos’ highest traffic day ever.  Many thanks to Elizabeth Scalia (aka ‘The Anchoress’), Ed Morrisey and Glenn Reynolds for the links, and thanks to those of you who read the article and passed it on.  It certainly stirred some passionate discussion in the comments!

2.  THE PRIORITY OF THE GOSPEL.  Mark Dever shares some thought-provoking notes on the place of the gospel and evangelistic ministry within a church that takes its responsibilities within a community seriously.

3.  EXPERTS WITHOUT FRIENDS.  The Anchoress properly pillories a recently published study that declares that best friends are bad for children.  Children, say these “experts,” should have large groups of friends and not be possessive or exclusive with smaller groups.  The Anchoress writes:

“This isn’t about what’s good for the children; it is about being better able to control adults by stripping from them any training in intimacy and interpersonal trust. Don’t let two people get together and separate themselves from the pack, or they might do something subversive, like…think differently.

This move against “best friends” is ultimately about preventing individuals from nurturing and expanding their individuality. It is about training our future adults to be unable to exist outside of the pack, the collective. The schools want you to think this is about potential bullying and the sadness of some children feeling “excluded.” But that is not what this is about.

As a kid I was the target of “the pack;” I know more than I care to about schoolyard bullies, and I can tell you that the best antidote to them was having a good friend. One good friend who shares your interests and ideas and sense of humor can erase the negative effects of the conform-or-die “pack” with which one cannot identify, “the pack” that cannot comprehend why one would not wish to join them and will not tolerate resistance.”

4.  PERSECUTION.  Many of my friends have done missions work in Kyrgyzstan, and particularly in the city of Osh.  Ethnic violence there threatens Christians now, and threatens the ministries that have begun to take root.


5.  SAGACIOUS WORDS.  Am I the only one who wishes that Warren Buffett were my grandfather?  You’ve gotta love the guy.  In an article explaining his intentions to give away 99% of his wealth, Buffett shows what appears to be a very genuine humility.  The article is worth reading in full.  After explaining that he gives “comparatively less” than others, because the amount which he gives does not impinge upon his ability to secure everything he wants and needs (which is a very fine point, by the way), and noting that many gives a far more precious resource, time, he says the following:

“My wealth has come from a combination of living in America, some lucky genes, and compound interest. Both my children and I won what I call the ovarian lottery. (For starters, the odds against my 1930 birth taking place in the U.S. were at least 30 to 1. My being male and white also removed huge obstacles that a majority of Americans then faced.)

My luck was accentuated by my living in a market system that sometimes produces distorted results, though overall it serves our country well. I’ve worked in an economy that rewards someone who saves the lives of others on a battlefield with a medal, rewards a great teacher with thank-you notes from parents, but rewards those who can detect the mispricing of securities with sums reaching into the billions. In short, fate’s distribution of long straws is wildly capricious.

The reaction of my family and me to our extraordinary good fortune is not guilt, but rather gratitude. Were we to use more than 1% of my claim checks on ourselves, neither our happiness nor our well-being would be enhanced. In contrast, that remaining 99% can have a huge effect on the health and welfare of others. That reality sets an obvious course for me and my family: Keep all we can conceivably need and distribute the rest to society, for its needs. My pledge starts us down that course.

Quite a perspective.  Buffett and Bill Gates are challenging the world’s wealthiest to give away 50% of their wealth.  Here’s wishing them luck.

6.  BLACK OIL, RED TAPE.  Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal has been proactive in attacking the oil spill crisis, and one means he has used is barges that essentially vacuum the oil off the top of the water and into steel tanks.  They were stopped by the Coast Guard in the kind of red-tape ridiculousness that one would hope the White House would help them cut through.  Again, those who object that there is nothing Obama could do should consider cases like this; it may seem like a small matter, but an effective and determined executive would be helping to prevent these sorts of things from happening.

7.  GUSHING TRUST.  The oil spill may have claimed its first whale life.  It has also damaged our sense of trust toward government and major corporations, and supplied hours of grandstanding for Congressional mediocrities.

8.  NO BIAS HERE.  If you’re looking for an example of clearly biased reporting, you could not do much better than this.  This runs both ways.  When you want to investigate the other guys, you speak of accountability, transparency and the balance of power; when the other guys want to investigate you, you call it scandal-hunting and an attempt to mire you down in investigations so that you cannot do the hard work of governing.  Darrell Issa (R) may be planning on hiring more investigators if Republicans gain power in the House — but that would, after all, be his job, as Chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, would it not?

You don’t exactly expect unbiased reporting from Politico, but you could ask for a clearer separation of news reporting and commentary.

9.  THE KOBE DYNASTY?  Congratulations to the Los Angeles Lakers for their victory in the NBA Finals – but shame on the fans for the post-victory riot.  I was raised rooting for the Lakers, and I have fond memories of watching the Lakers of the Magic Johnson era playing in the Finals against the Celtics and Detroit.  When I moved to Boston 8 years ago, I decided that I would root for the Celtics (never having had the opportunity to root for the hometown team), but I maintained my fealty to the Lakers.  I am happy to see them winning titles again, and hope they can Threepeat.  I was also pleased that they won without a supernatural performance from their star, Kobe Bryant.  Many times, Kobe has carried the team; I was glad that the team carried Kobe in this final game, and glad to see him acknowledge that fact even as he received the MVP trophy.  Kobe has matured a great deal.

The post-championship riot, however, is a strange and sorry ritual.  The delirium of victory, complemented by copious quantities of alcohol or other mind-altering substances, can lead to a sense of reckless abandon, especially in a like-minded mob.  There is no mystery to the psychology.  What is unfortunate is the utter lack of self-control, as Lakers fans go about destroying the property of other Lakers fans.

10.  THE JOYS OF FEDERALISM.  The State of Arizona and the federal Justice Department appear to be on a collision course over the Arizona immigration law.  There is a lot of misunderstanding of the law, and it is normally a good thing to test the Constitutionality of laws in the courts, but this kind of battle between a state and the feds is unfortunate.  Will track this one.

11.  GOOD TO KNOW.  More information is unveiled on the Times Square Bomber.

12.  ENCOURAGING DEVELOPMENTS IN GAZA.  A new poll shows that Palestinians in the Gaza strip are turning against Hamas, and if an election were held today Fatah and Salam Fayyad would emerge the clear victor.  This is a very positive development.  The sages of foreign affairs warned that the botched operation on board the Marmara had strengthened the hand of Hamas, yet that does not appear to be correct, and the blockade seems to be serving its purpose.

The Bush administration pushed for a free election amongst the Palestinians, and pressed that Hamas should be allowed to participate; they were roundly condemned when Hamas did well, and eventually wrested even more power from Fatah.  The question was whether there would have to be a historical learning curve here, and the Palestinians would vote more reasonably the second time around.  Israel has made it perfectly clear that while the Palestinians could elect Hamas, they would have to suffer the consequences of an irresponsible decision.  It is better for the Palestinians to elect a government that can actually work with Israel to build a functioning state.

“The poll, conducted between June 10 and 13, found that “despite the events associated with the Free Gaza flotilla and the Israeli attack on it,” there was “a significant improvement in the status of Salam Fayyad and his government.” If elections were held today, 45% of Palestinians would vote for Fatah and 26% for Hamas, compared with 42% and 28%, respectively, in March. Most interestingly, Fatah trounces Hamas among Gazans: 49% to 32%. Fayyad, who had zero political support when he took office three years ago, would now edge out Hamas Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh in a presidential matchup, 36% to 32%. Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas would rout Haniyeh, 54% to 39%; that is up from 50% to 40% in March.”

This is the kind of learning curve that could lead toward a working two-state solution.  I am encouraged by the poll.

What is discouraging is the worldwide animosity toward Israel that was unveiled in the response to the botched flotilla raid.  Mark Steyn reflects.  I am not an unconditional defender of Israel, but the unequal treatment they receive before the perpetual machine of international outrage is mind-boggling.

13.  TOUGH LOVE.  The Washington Post says of Obama that “It’s time for him to make clear whether the United States is prepared to stay long enough to ensure a stable and peaceful Afghanistan.”  And the Post is right.  Afghan power-brokers are not going to stick out their necks for us today if they have reason to expect that we will abandon them tomorrow.  Instead, they’ll cut deals with the warlords and with the Taliban if they think that’s the only way they’ll survive the next few years.

14.  TODAY’S TWO-SIDES: AFGHANISTAN.  To stay with the Afghanistan issue, today’s two-sides considers what Obama should do.  Joe Klein from the Left, and Ralph Peters from the Right.

15.  COLUMN OF THE DAY.  As critical as I have sometimes been of President Obama, I have to admit that he has also been dealt more than his fair share of bad fortune.  The economic crisis, several attempted terrorist attacks (one of them successful, in the shootings at Fort Hood), and now the greatest environmental disaster in the history of the country, all in the 18 months since he took office.

This had crossed my mind more than once, and today Peggy Noonan reflects on our “snakebitten President.”  Where lady luck seemed to shine on Bill Clinton, to an absurd degree, lady luck has had little favor for President Obama.  To be sure, Obama is not without responsibility here.  Yet he is also not completely responsible for any of these things, and not very responsible at all for the oil spill.  The response is another matter, but the spill itself required a string of highly unlikely events and circumstances.

A reminder: whatever our political leanings, we do need to pray for our leaders.

16.  COLUMN OF THE DAY 2: David Brooks gives more on the tug-of-war between federal, state and local powers in the response to the gulf oil spill.

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