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Confessions

Confessions of a Stockton Slumlord by Steven Greenhut.

The northern California city of nearly 300,000 has become a key test case on whether cities can reduce their unaffordable public pensions when they head into bankruptcy court.

More at Reason.

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Fuels

CJ reviews The Moral Case for Fossil Fuels by Alex Epstein.

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Future?

The Ultimate Net-Neutrality Reading List by Adrienne LaFrance.

The future of the Internet is far from decided.

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Paradox

CT reviews True Paradox: How Christianity Makes Sense of Our Complex World by David Skeel.

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Anxiety

Worried Well by Charlie Kurth.

Since ancient times philosophy has tried to cure us of anxiety. But worry is an important part of being a moral person.

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Emotions

Hard Feelings: Science’s Struggle to Define Emotions by Julie Beck.

While it’s possible for researchers to study facial expressions, brain patterns, behavior, and more, each of these is only part of a more elusive whole.

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Cybergeddon

Cybergeddon: Why the Internet Could Be the Next “Failed State” by Sean Gallagher.

If you think the Internet can go on being just like it is, here’s some bad news.

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Loathe

Scott Walker Flap Shows How Political Media Actively Loathe Christianity by Sean Davis.

If the constant media haranguing of Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker over his religion tells us anything, it’s that the political media absolutely loathe what they perceive as authentic Christianity.

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Role

Religion’s Role in the History of Ideas by Michael Roth.

Wesleyan President Michael Roth on the importance of understanding religious experience—and the difficulty teaching it.

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Diet

The Red Meat, Eggs, Fat and Salt Diet by Ronald Bailey.

Progressives tend to believe that government knows best. The unfolding fiasco over government nutrition misinformation should give them pause.

For years now the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have been recommending that “everyone age 2 and up should consume less than 2,300 milligrams (mg) of sodium each day. Some groups of people should further limit sodium intake to 1,500 mg per day, including adults age 51 or older, all African Americans, and anyone with high blood pressure, diabetes, or chronic kidney disease.” Recent studies now suggest that this advice is killing more people than it’s saving.

More at Reason.

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Flaw

911’s Deadly Flaw: Lack of Location Data by John Kelly and Brendan Keefe.

A technology shortfall can lead to tragic results, a national investigation shows.

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Three Views

How Obama Thinks About Islam and Terrorism by William Saletan.

He sees the connection. That’s why he chooses his words so carefully.

More here.

Islamism and Obama’s Dangerous Flight from Reality by Peter Wehner.

This past week has been dominated by comments by the president in which he continues to insist that the brutal acts of violence by the Islamic State (ISIS) and other Islamic terrorist groups are completely unrelated to Islam, to the point that he and his administration look absurd in their efforts to avoid using words like “radical Islam” or variations of it.

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Barack Obama Is Not a Muslim by Reihan Salam.

He should stop trying to interpret Islam.

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Conflict

The Conflict Between ‘Charismatic’ and ‘Academic’ Theology Not New in Orthodox Christianity by John G. Panagiotou.

In the New Testament, the Apostle Paul writes to his spiritual son Timothy about the “deposit of faith” (in Greek, paradosis) which has been handed down from Christ to His Apostles, to their disciples and to their successors.1 What is this “deposit” in its essence? The Apostle tells us this is the “Good News” or “Gospel” (in Greek, evangelion) of the incarnate, crucified and resurrected Jesus. This is the simple and redemptive message of the Gospel: the mystery of the Holy Trinity, the Second Person of the Trinity became man, and that “He the Christ is Risen!”

On a reasonable level, one would think that the simplicity of this message would resonate clearly with all Christians — divisions and disunity would just evaporate. Yet, this was neither the case in Apostolic Times nor is it the case in the present.

Over the last thirty years, there has emerged a tension and a resulting estrangement between “charismatic theology” and “academic theology”. The former emerging from within the monastic circles of piety and the latter emanating from the universities and seminaries. Occasionally, we have seen the adherents of both come to loud discord and sadly in some circumstances ecclesial schisms.

In both circumstances, either of these two positions carried to their extremes are not within the historic Apostolic Tradition. The very Tradition to which both sides seek to defend as “Orthodox” is found in a balanced expression that is present within both the charismatic and the academic represented in their fullness and harmony.

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Case II

Matthew Engelke reviews Life After Faith: The Case for Secular Humanism by Philip Kitcher.

Related: Previously an interview with Kitcher about his book was linked here.

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Defense

In Defense of Islam by Ross Douthat.

Consider this post a kind of complement, maybe, to my anti-anti-Crusades commentary of late. The big foreign policy piece that everyone is talking about this week, and deservedly, is Graeme Wood’s deep Atlantic dive into the religious premises underpinning the Islamic State’s vision and grand strategy. Wood’s argument is rich enough to defy easy summary, but his core point is that Western analysts tend to understate not only the essential religiosity of ISIS’s worldview, but the extent to which that worldview has substantial theological grounding. It isn’t just a few guys making up a cult out of random bits of scripture; its political-religious vision appeals precisely because it derives “from coherent and even learned interpretations of Islam.” And we ignore the coherence of those interpretations at our peril: The Islamic State’s “intellectual genealogy” is intensely relevant to its political strategy, and its theology “must be understood to be combatted.”

As a longstanding believer in a “theology has consequences” approach to world history and current affairs, I agree with all of this … but I would append an important qualifier as well. Specifically, in taking Islamic-State theology seriously as a form of Islamic thought, we also need to take seriously the Islamic case against ISIS, and the reasons why the soi-disant caliphate’s interpretation of its faith, however internally coherent and textually-rooted, represents a stark departure from the way the faith has been traditionally interpreted and widely understood.

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Related: ThinkProgress responds to Graeme Wood’s Atlantic article here.

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Opioids

National Institutes of Health Pathways to Prevention Workshop: The Role of Opioids in the Treatment of Chronic Pain by David B. Reuben, Anika A.H. Alvanzo, Takamaru Ashikaga, G. Anne Bogat, Christopher M. Callahan, Victoria Ruffing, and David C. Steffens.

Chronic pain affects an estimated 100 million Americans, or one third of the U.S. population. Approximately 25 million have moderate to severe chronic pain that limits activities and diminishes quality of life. Pain is the primary reason that Americans receive disability insurance, and societal costs are estimated at between $560 billion and $630 billion per year due to missed workdays and medical expenses.

Although there are many treatments for chronic pain, an estimated 5 to 8 million Americans use opioids for long-term management. Opioid prescriptions and use have increased dramatically over the past 20 years; the number of opioid prescriptions for pain treatment was 76 million in 1991 but reached 219 million in 2011. This striking increase has paralleled increases in opioid overdoses and treatment for addiction to prescription painkillers. Yet, evidence also indicates that 40% to 70% of persons with chronic pain do not receive proper medical treatment, with concerns for both overtreatment and undertreatment. Together, the prevalence of chronic pain and the increasing use of opioids have created a “silent epidemic” of distress, disability, and danger to a large percentage of Americans. The overriding question is: Are we, as a nation, approaching management of chronic pain in the best possible manner that maximizes effectiveness and minimizes harm?

See report here.

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Wrong

Obama Is Wrong. Democracy Is The Last Thing The Middle East Needs Right Now by David Harsanyi.

President Barack Obama gave a speech at White House’s “Countering Violent Extremism” summit yesterday crammed with predictable feel-good ideas for combating the imaginary root causes of (Islamic) extremism. And in the midst of arguing that radicalism was principally driven by anger over colonialism, illiteracy, and unemployment, Obama proposed an idea that we should have been abandoned trillions of dollars and many years ago: more democracy.

Here’s how the president laid it out in the Los Angeles Times:

Efforts to counter violent extremism will only succeed if citizens can address legitimate grievances through the democratic process and express themselves through strong civil societies.

First of all, does Obama really believe that extremists have “legitimate grievances?” Are the disaffected youth recruited from the slums of Paris (but, curiously, not from the slums of Rio or Beijing) concerned that France doesn’t offer a strong enough civil society? Are the radicals beheading Christians in North Africa ticked off over a lack of women’s rights in Yemen? Are extremists who target Jews and free-speech enthusiasts in Copenhagen worried about the health of democratic institutions in Europe?

No, it’s the grievances themselves that are the root of the problem. In most Arab countries, the authoritarian leadership is in some ways more liberal than the majority of the citizenry. As bad as these regimes are – and we coddle and enable many of them – almost every time the democratic process has been tried in the Islamic world, it’s produced more extremism and factional violence. So which nation does the president propose would benefit most from more democracy? Pakistan? Iraq? Saudi Arabia? Jordan? How would Christians and Alawites fare in a democratic Syria, do you think?

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Decline

Population Decline and the Great Economic Reversal by George Friedman.

There is no question but that the populations of most European countries will decline in the next generation, and in the cases of Germany and Russia, the decline will be dramatic. In fact, the entire global population explosion is ending. In virtually all societies, from the poorest to the wealthiest, the birthrate among women has been declining. In order to maintain population stability, the birthrate must remain at 2.1 births per woman. Above that, and the population rises; below that, it falls. In the advanced industrial world, the birthrate is already substantially below 2.1.

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Reform?

On the “Reform” of Islam by James V. Schall.

If violence, terror, beheadings, forced conversions, subjection of women, and intolerance of others are removed or “transformed” in Islam, is it still Islam?

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Heresies

Modernity and Our American Heresies by Peter Augustine Lawler.

America, some of its critics say, has less grounding in tradition than any other nation in history. The German philosopher Martin Heidegger said that the United States and the Soviet Union were metaphysically indistinguishable in their technological orientation, in their understanding of nature as nothing but resources to be exploited. The Canadian philosopher George Grant, influenced by Heidegger, claimed that the United States has wholly given itself over to technology, defining human purpose as nothing more than the acquisition of power. All genuinely political life — and all philosophy, theology, and other forms of contemplation — have disappeared from America. For these not-entirely-friendly foreign critics, the United States is the country mostly wholly in the thrall of the technological “how” at the expense of any reflection on the “why” of humanly worthy purposes.

If, as Alexander Solzhenitsyn claimed, it is characteristic of the modern West to have “ceased to see the purpose” that should be the foundation of human life, it is perhaps in America that the lonely and demoralizing consequences of modern emptiness are most advanced. Beneath our therapeutic happy-talk and technologically optimistic pragmatism, a critic like Solzhenitsyn can hear the howl of existentialism. Americans have “nothing” — nothing but inarticulate anxiety — with which to resist the “something” — the measurable effects — of technological progress.

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