1 month ago

Ethics Commission director says bill weakens ethics law

The director of the state Ethics Commission said a bill before Alabama lawmakers could open up a potentially wide loophole in state ethics law by carving out an exemption for people doing economic development work.

“I think it’s a bad bill that weakens the ethics law considerably,” Alabama Ethics Commission Executive Director Tom Albritton said.

The House of Representatives last Tuesday approved a bill to exempt economic developers from the definition of lobbyist under the state ethics law. Supporters argued it is needed to help Alabama compete with other states for projects and factories by keeping developers’ activity confidential, but critics said it opens up an exemption in the ethics law that governs interactions with government officials.

The bill says that an economic development professional — defined as a person who does full-time economic development work or works part-time and is “precertified” by the Ethics Commission — shall not be considered a lobbyist.

“It exempts people from the definition of lobbying when I think most people would agree that what they are doing is in fact lobbying,” Albritton said. “You are also declaring that the other portions of the ethics act related to a lobbyist’s transaction with public officials no longer apply to them. That’s where the problem lies in my view.”

He said another danger is that “economic development is “often used as kind of catch all designation for activity that people want to conduct with executive branch agencies, or executive offices or the legislature itself.”

“At the end of the day, there’s a good bit of activity that could be argued is economic development,” Albritton said.

Alabama Commerce Secretary Greg Canfield, who oversees the state’s industry recruitment efforts, said his department and professional economic developers asked for the legislation because of confusion that began arising in 2015 on whether developers should register as lobbyists.

“If we don’t clarify this under the law, professional site consultants are going to draw a big red line around Alabama,” Canfield said.

“That red line is going to say avoid bringing projects to the state of Alabama because there are too many states that will, for one, protect the confidentiality of your project and two, not require you go through training and registration on a regular basis. It will be easier to conduct professional economic development activities in these other states,” Canfield said.

Rep. Ken Johnson, the bill’s sponsor, said the state should not put a “hurdle” on professional site developers by requiring them to register as lobbyists.

Johnson said the five-member Alabama Ethics Commission previously tabled an advisory opinion on the matter so lawmakers could attempt to address the issue.

Johnson said he believes lawmakers have prevented it from becoming a wide loophole by specifying that the exemption couldn’t be claimed by legislators, other public officials and people who are otherwise lobbyists.

The Alabama Attorney General Steve Marshall said he opposed the bill at first but was pleased with changes to the bill, before its House passage, that he said creates a “narrowly-drawn exemption for full-time economic development professionals.”

Albritton said a better way, in his view, would be to keep the developers under the state ethics law, but allow the reports on their activity to remain confidential for a period of time so deals in the making are not publicly disclosed.

The bill now moves to the Alabama Senate.

Senate President Pro Tem Del Marsh said he wanted to speak with both Marshall’s office and the state ethics commission. “I’m not going to move anything unless the attorney general and the ethics commission are on board with it,” Marsh said.

(Image: Tom Albritton/Facebook)

(Associated Press, copyright 2018)

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25 mins ago

How Christians can deal with the challenges of technology

The longer I’ve wrestled with the challenges of digital technology in my life and in the lives of others, the more convinced I’ve become that the ultimate answer is not “no technology” or “more technology,” but “more theology.”

If we want a deep, lasting, and spiritual solution, we need to learn and teach deep, lasting, and spiritual truths. Digital theology is the answer to digital technology; the oldest truths are the best rebuttal to the newest challenges.

Here are a few ways that understanding more of who God is can change our digital habits.

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God is Three-in-One

More Trinity is more effective than more technology. “Seriously?” you might say, “You think the Trinity is the solution to technology?” Partly, yes. The three persons of the Godhead enjoy perfect relationship with one another and seek to share that relationship with us, inviting us into that sacred community.

Digital theology is the answer to digital technology; the oldest truths are the best rebuttal to the newest challenges.

The Father, Son, and Spirit’s relationships with one another are characterized by love, trust, openness, and communication. Isn’t that the model for our relationships, especially with our children, particularly when it comes to technology? Isn’t that what we want to cultivate and emulate? The healthier relationships we have with our children, the healthier relationship they will have with technology. Deeper relationships are more effective than more detailed rules.

Additionally, this Three-in-Oneness is not just a relationship to copy, but a relationship to be enjoyed. We are invited to enter into that communion, to live in that holy family. The more we do that, the more the Trinity will replace technology; or, at least, regulate it so that our relationship to it is more balanced and beneficial.

God is good

Sometimes we can view technology with such terror that we give the impression that it’s all “of the devil.” No, technology is a wonderful gift of God. We are blessed to live in such times and benefit so much from the role of technology in our daily lives. How many lives have been saved by cellphones? How many separated families have been kept together by Skype and FaceTime? How many sermons and lectures have been spread around the world by Christian ministries?

The devil didn’t create and invent this. God did, as the giver of every good and perfect gift. Sure, the devil abuses the gift; sure, we pervert it into sinful uses. But none of that changes the fact that God created the materials, the forces, and the brains that have produced so much beneficial technology. The more we recognize that technology is a gift of God, the more we will abhor taking his gift and using it against him; the more we will take this gift and use it as he intended.

God is all-knowing

Our parents or spouses can’t see everything or be everywhere. Accountability software can be circumvented and our accountability partners duped. But we can’t escape, circumvent, or dupe the all-seeing eye of God. He sees everything: every place, every second, every screen, every click, every tap. He has a daily report of all the sites we visited, all the messages we sent, all the Instagram accounts we follow. Remembering that he knows makes a huge difference.

The more we can remind ourselves of God’s omnipresence and omniscience, the more we will seek to use technology in a way that gives him pleasure and not in a way that provokes his wrath. Yes, our technology use can please God. He delights to see truth instead of falsehood on Facebook, to hear sermons streaming across the world, and to observe our online witness to unbelievers.

God is Judge

God’s knowledge of us is not being filed away in some dusty cabinet or distant server that will one day be lost or wiped. No, as Judge, he will one day call us to account not just for every idle word, but for every idle and idol click, for every second spent in pointless time-wasting. We may silence our internal judge, our conscience; we may outsmart our earthly judges, our parents and accountability partners; but we shall never escape the judgment of God. Let his discerning judgment help you make discerning judgments in your use of technology

God is Savior

Sometimes guilt stops sin; our consciences pain us and warn us to change our ways. More times, guilt multiplies sin; it leaves us hopeless and despairing. We’ve sinned yet again with our cellphone, failed once more on our iPad. We feel so condemned, what’s the point in trying anymore? We’ve sinned so much; what harm will another sin do?

Guilt also multiplies sin by creating distance between ourselves and God. It alienates us and separates us from God, making sin all the easier. That’s why we need to hear about salvation, grace, and forgiveness all over again.

Nothing deters sin like the forgiveness of sin because it not only removes guilt, it also multiples love for the Forgiver. The more we can embrace forgiveness, the more we embrace the Forgiver, the more love to (and from) Christ we will enjoy.

God is powerful

Sometimes we can feel like giving up the battle against the dangers of technology. We look at the forces ranged against us and our children and ask, “What’s the point?” What am I against so much?” We’re right, the forces are too many and too mighty. However, greater is he who is with us than he who is with them.

With God all things are possible, and he loves to demonstrate his possibility, especially in our impossibility. His power is made especially manifest in our weakness. When we feel and confess our helplessness, that’s when he moves in with his almighty power. He can keep us and our children. He is able and mighty to save. He can also give us and all our children the Holy Spirit to resist temptation and to do what is right and good. His Spirit is far more influential than the spirit of the age.

God is wise

Sometimes we might be tempted to think God did not foresee this massive moral and spiritual challenge, that he did not anticipate it, and, therefore, has nothing in his Word to help us. After all, the Bible was written thousands of years ago. What can the papyrus age say to the digital age?

Thankfully God did foresee, he did anticipate, and has put sufficient truth in the Bible to guide us through this minefield. Many New Testament verses on Christian ethics can be applied to technology, but I’ve found the book of Proverbs especially helpful as a source of divine wisdom for the digital age. Why not read through it asking God for light on how to apply these ancient wisdom principles to modern times. God is wiser than the wisest tech moguls and has anticipated every development in technology until the end of time. We will never reach a day when we say, “Well the Bible has run out of truth?”

I’ve only scratched the surface here, but I hope you’re persuaded that the ultimate answer to digital technology is a robust digital theology.

(Courtesy ERLC)

1 hour ago

Pearson Education’s latest AP history textbook says Christians and Conservatives are racists

An AP U.S. History textbook slated for distribution in 2019 reportedly contains anti-Trump bias and says Christians and conservatives are racists and xenophobes.

Radio host Alex Clark of WNOW’s “The Joe and Alex Show” posted photos of the book and its contents on Twitter after publisher Pearson Education sent samples of the book to public schools to encourage school administrations to purchase it, according to Fox News. The textbook features sections on the Black Live Matter movement and the 2016 presidential elections in which author New York University Professor James Fraser portrays Christians, conservatives, and President Donald Trump supporters as bigots who fear non-white ethnicities.

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“There are specific parts where it goes off the rails from a historical textbook toward an op-ed,” Minnesota Rosemount High School student Tarra Snyder told Fox News.

“It was really, really surprising to me. I really believe that learning should be objective and that students can make their own decisions based on what they’re able to learn in a classroom; and if the facts are skewed, then students aren’t able to make well-rounded decisions on what they believe.”

A section of the book, “The Angry Election of 2016,” describes Trump supporters as “mostly older, often rural or suburban, and overwhelmingly white.” It also calls Trump supporters from Hillary Clinton supporters’ perspective “people who were afraid of a rapidly developing ethnic diversity of the country, discomfort with their candidate’s gender, and nostalgia for an earlier time in the nation’s history.”

Clinton supporters meanwhile “worried about the mental stability of the president-elect and the anger that he and his supporters brought to the nation,” according to the book.

White Christians feared the increase of minority populations in the years after 2012, the author also claimed.

“Those who had long thought of the nation as a white and Christian country sometimes found it difficult to adjust,” the book reads.

As for Trump, Fraser ascribes not only anger to him but also “not-very-hidden racism” and “extremism.”

The textbook was “developed by an expert author and underwent rigorous peer review to ensure academic integrity” and it was “designed to convey college-level information to high school students,” Pearson Education spokesperson Scott Overland told Fox News. The textbook “aims to promote debate and critical thinking by presenting multiple sides,” Overland also said.

(Content created by The Daily Caller News Foundation is available without charge to any eligible news publisher that can provide a large audience. For licensing opportunities of our original content, please contact licensing@dailycallernewsfoundation.org.)

2 hours ago

GQ condemns the Holy Bible: ‘Repetitive, Self-Contradictory, Sententious, Foolish … Ill-Intentioned’

In an article by “The Editors of GQ,” the men’s magazine blasts the Holy Bible, declares it a book you don’t have to read, and suggests an alternative.

“It is repetitive, self-contradictory, sententious, foolish, and even at times ill-intentioned.”

In its April 19 article, “21 Books You Don’t Have to Read” (originally, “21 Books You Don’t Have to Read Before You Die”), Gentlemen’s Quarterly (GQ) trashes 20 books (“Huckleberry Finn” is counted twice, for some reason) it deems undeserving of their literary stature:

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“[N]ot all the Great Books have aged well. Some are racist and some are sexist, but most are just really, really boring. So we—and a group of un-boring writers—give you permission to strike these books from the canon. Here’s what you should read instead.”

GQ’s review of the Holy Bible begins with a snarky slight of Christians:

“The Holy Bible is rated very highly by all the people who supposedly live by it but who in actuality have not read it. Those who have read it know there are some good parts, but overall it is certainly not the finest thing that man has ever produced.”

As for the content of the holy book, GQ’s contempt is summed up by this one sentence: “It is repetitive, self-contradictory, sententious, foolish, and even at times ill-intentioned.”

Instead, the editors at GQ would have you read a tale of two brothers “who have to get along”:

“If the thing you heard was good about the Bible was the nasty bits, then I propose Agota Kristof’s The Notebook, a marvelous tale of two brothers who have to get along when things get rough. The subtlety and cruelty of this story is like that famous sword stroke (from below the boat) that plunged upward through the bowels, the lungs, and the throat and into the brain of the rower.”

Here is the complete list of famous books panned by GQ, and the magazine’s recommended replacements:

  • Lonesome Dove by Larry McMurtry – Instead: The Mountain Lion by Jean Stafford
  • The Catcher in the Rye by J. D. Salinger – Instead: Olivia: A Novel by Dorothy Strachey
  • Goodbye to All That by Robert Graves – Instead: Dispatches by Michael Herr
  • The Old Man and the Sea by Ernest Hemingway – Instead: The Summer Bookby Tove Jansson
  • The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho – Instead: Near to the Wild Heart by Clarice Lispector
  • A Farewell to Arms by Ernest Hemingway – Instead: The Great Fire by Shirley Hazzard
  • Blood Meridian by Cormac McCarthy – Instead: The Sisters Brothers by Patrick deWitt
  • John Adams by David McCullough – Instead: Destiny of the Republic: A Tale of Madness, Medicine and the Murder of a President by Candice Millard
  • 9 & 10. Adventures of Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain – Instead: Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, an American Slave by Fredrick Douglass
  • The Ambassadors by Henry James – Instead: The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich by William L. Shirer
  • The Bible – Instead: The Notebook by Agota Kristof
  • Franny and Zooey by J. D. Salinger – Instead: Death Comes for the Archbishopby Willa Cather
  • The Lord of the Rings by J. R. R. Tolkien – Instead: Earthsea Series by Ursula K. Le Guin
  • Dracula by Bram Stoker – Instead: Angels by Denis Johnson
  • Catch-22 by Joseph Heller – Instead: The American Granddaughter by Inaam Kachachi
  • Life by Keith Richards – Instead: The Worst Journey in the World by Apsley Cherry-Garrard
  • Freedom by Jonathan Franzen – Instead: Too Loud a Solitude by Bohumil Hrabal
  • Gravity’s Rainbow by Thomas Pynchon – Instead: Inherent Vice by Thomas Pynchon
  • Slaughterhouse-Five by Kurt Vonnegut – Instead: Veronica by Mary Gaitskill
  • Gulliver’s Travels by Jonathan Swift – Instead: The Life and Opinions of Tristram Shandy, Gentleman by Laurence Sterne

(Courtesy CNSNews.com)

3 hours ago

Does Facebook hate Catholics?

Sen. Ted Cruz informed Facebook chairman and CEO Mark Zuckerberg that his company “has blocked over two dozen Catholic pages,” noting they were prevented from posting on Facebook because “their content and brand were, quote, ‘unsafe to the community.'” None of the pages came even close to constituting hate speech.

Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers grilled Zuckerberg about an ad that was initially blocked by Facebook because it featured Jesus on the Cross. The ad was submitted by Franciscan University of Steubenville as a theology degree advertisement. Facebook deemed it to be “excessively violent” and “sensational.” Crucifixions usually are.

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The company later apologized. The congresswoman from Washington wasn’t convinced. “Could you tell [us] what was so shocking, sensational or excessively violent about the ad to cause it to be initially censored?” “It sounds like we made a mistake there,” Zuckerberg replied.

Not mentioned in the hearings was an incident that took place between last Thanksgiving and Christmas. A Catholic vocational organization, Mater Ecclesiae Fund for Vocations, had its ads unduly held up for a bogus reason. Facebook told the organization that its content potentially violated Facebook’s policy on discrimination for housing ads. But the ad had absolutely nothing to do with housing. By the time the ad was permitted, it was too late to matter, the effect of which was to kill the fundraising effort.

A thorough search of the two-day testimony reveals that there were no examples of Jewish or Muslim groups having their ads blocked. Moreover, no examples of anti-Semitism were mentioned. There were two references to anti-Muslim posts.

An Internet search of Facebook complaints made by Jews and Muslims turned up a few instances of alleged bias against both groups. But instances where Jewish and Muslim pages were blocked, save for clear examples of hate speech, are virtually non-existent.

What gives? Why the singling out of Catholics for censorship?

When Sen. Cruz pressed Zuckerberg about blocking some two dozen Catholic pages, the Facebook co-founder replied that he tries to make sure “we do not have any bias,” but conceded that his company is “located in Silicon Valley, which is an extremely left-leaning place.”

In other words, Zuckerberg’s attempt to screen out anti-Catholicism is being thwarted by his own employees because they harbor extremist left-wing views. This is quite a concession. It raises two questions: Why has he failed to check the bigotry, and why do left-wingers hate Catholicism?

One reason why Zuckerberg has failed in squashing anti-Catholic bigotry is the difficulty of policing his staff. He admits that he has upwards of 20,000 people working on content review. Cruz asked, “Do you know the political orientation of those 15,000 to 20,000 people engaging in content review?” “No senator,” he replied.

Actually, he does: Zuckerberg admitted that his company is located in an “extremely left-leaning” community, and no one suspects he is importing his staff from Kansas.

Furthermore, Rep. Steve Scalise, Rep. Jeff Duncan, and Rep. McMorris Rodgers all noted the anti-conservative bias at Facebook. The latter cited what FCC Chairman Ajit Pai said last November: he maintained that “edge providers routinely block or discriminate against content they don’t like.” No doubt the censors consider themselves to be beacons of tolerance.

Now it is understandable why left-wingers might harbor an animus against conservatives—they are at opposite ends of the political spectrum. But why do they hate Catholics?

In fact, Facebook does not hate Catholics—it’s just orthodox Catholics it loathes. To wit: there is no evidence that any of the Catholic pages blocked by Facebook are associated with dissident or liberal Catholic causes.

None of this is surprising. It all boils down to sex. The “extremely left-leaning” Facebook employees, just like “extremely left-leaning” persons everywhere, are in a rage over the Catholic Church’s teachings on sexuality. It is not Church teachings on the Trinity that exercises them—it’s the conviction that marriage is properly understood as a union between a man and a woman.

Zuckerberg told Rep. McMorris Rodgers, “I wouldn’t extrapolate from a few examples to assuming that the overall system is biased.” But we are not talking about a few anecdotes or hard choices: a pattern of bigotry is evident, and the pages being censored are not Catholic assaults on others.

Rep. Kevin John Cramer from North Dakota suggested to Zuckerberg that he should look to hire more people from places like Bismarck where people tend to have “common sense.”

It’s more common decency and fairness that is the problem. The fact is that those who are the captains of censorship in America work in places like the tech companies, higher education, the media, publishing, the arts, and Hollywood. What do they have in common? They are all examples of “extremely left-leaning” places that hate Catholic sexual ethics.

Zuckerberg has his work cut out for him. He can begin by hiring practicing orthodox Catholics in senior positions monitoring content review. He should also be ready to pay for relocation fees.

Bill Donohue is president of the Catholic League.

4 hours ago

‘America deserves better’: Author Brad Thor to challenge Trump in GOP primary

Best-selling author Brad Thor will challenge President Donald Trump in the 2020 Republican primary, Thor confirmed to The Daily Caller News Foundation on Saturday.The conservative author’s biggest problem with the Trump presidency is the man himself. “He’s mentally unfit,” Thor told TheDCNF.

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Thor teased out his announcement on Twitter Saturday evening, pledging to run if no other conservative will challenge Trump. “America deserves better leadership,” Thor said. He added a few minutes later: “In fact, let’s make it official. I’m in.”

“The pages of history do not care if you were a farmer, a soldier, a doctor, or a butcher,” Thor told TheDCNF. “They care whether or not, when called, if you rose up to serve. Our Republic cries out for leadership, someone who will respect our Constitutional norms and represent the world’s greatest minority – the individual. That is who I am running for.”

The White House did not immediately return a request for comment.

(Content created by The Daily Caller News Foundation is available without charge to any eligible news publisher that can provide a large audience. For licensing opportunities of our original content, please contact licensing@dailycallernewsfoundation.org.)