Lifting all ships. The interest of the millennial generation in the plight of the poor is admirable, but those of us in the older demographic sometimes wish good intentions came with history lessons. This thought came into focus for me when a World Bank report this week noted that India—a country with 1.2 billion people, one-sixth of the world’s population—had officially moved from the list of “poor” nations to the list of “middle income” nations. The question one has to ask is: Why? The answers to that question are democracy, capitalism, and Christianity, all of which—in India’s case—were the legacy of British colonialism. And so it has been around the globe. The number of “food insecure” people on the planet today is falling, even though the population is rising, in part because of the so-called “green revolution” that produced hybrid plants that could grow in marginal environments—so credit a strong assist from big, bad corporations, too. Please don’t get me wrong: I’m not advocating colonialism, unbridled capitalism, or unregulated corporations. I’m just saying that good intentions are not enough, and having an open mind regarding the lessons of history is the beginning of wisdom.
House of Cards. If you’ve watched the Netflix program House of Cards, you know it is about Washington power couple Frank and Claire Underwood. Frank Underwood is a U.S. representative from South Carolina and the House majority whip. Claire runs a powerful non-profit and near the end of the first season admits that she has had three abortions. This TV trivia provided nothing but backstory until I realized that the current darling of the pro-abort crowd, would-be governor and now Texas state Sen. Wendy Davis, has been married twice and her first husband was named Frank Underwood. I’m sure it’s all a big coincidence.
Heat or light? Bill Nye “The Science Guy” posted a video online last year saying that teaching creationism is bad for children. The video attracted nearly 6 million views. Ken Ham, the man who founded the Creation Museum, is likewise adept at attracting crowds. More than 250,000 people visit the museum each year—nearly 2 million since its opening in 2007. So perhaps it was inevitable that the two of them would get together, which they will for a debate on Feb. 4. The event will surely generate media attention. Nye, with his geeky garb and bow tie, is a master popularizer and TV-friendly. Ham’s chinstrap beard and penchant for rhetorical firebombs will make him irresistible to secular TV cameras looking for controversy. (Ham has been permanently disinvited from “all future conventions” of one major homeschool conference promoter.) For my money, I wish they would also invite someone from the intelligent design camp, perhaps Stephen Meyer of the Discovery Institute, WORLD’s 2009 Daniel of the Year. That would be a discussion worth paying money to see.
Crime down. The new year often brings with it a rash of reports about crime in the previous 12 months. Some early reports likely will say murder rates in many major cities are down. The question is: Why? The “gentrification” of some American cities (New York and Atlanta, to name two) could be a cause for a reduction in crime rates. Another cause could be the aging of the population. The country simply has fewer young males today than 10 or 20 years ago, and young males commit most of the violent crimes in America. But one thing is clear: The number and availability of guns doesn’t seem to be a variable. I have not seen 2013 data, but gun sales in 2012 set records. The FBI ran nearly 17 million background checks for gun purchases in 2012, the most since it started keeping records in the mid-1990s. Ironically, President Barack Obama’s election provided one reason for the record gun sales. According to British newspaper The Telegraph, gun owners are “stocking up” on gear and ammo out of fear that the Obama administration will tighten gun restrictions. So far, that hasn’t happened, and some gun advocates are suggesting that the rise in gun ownership might actually be contributing to the reduction in crime, since the bad guys know that the good guys now have guns too.