This is an archive of the old Stones Cry Out site. For the current site, click here.
July 31, 2007
Name That Scientist
Jeff Jacoby presents, in a style not unlike Paul Harvey's "The Rest of the Story", a story about a scientist, and the school that he applied to, that will amaze you.
DID YOU hear about the religious fundamentalist who wanted to teach physics at Cambridge University? This would-be instructor wasn't simply a Christian; he was so preoccupied with biblical prophecy that he wrote a book titled "Observations on the Prophecies of Daniel and the Apocalypse of St. John." Based on his reading of Daniel, in fact, he forecast the date of the Apocalypse: no earlier than 2060. He also calculated the year the world was created. When Genesis 1:1 says "In the beginning," he determined, it means 3988 BC.
So we have a young-Earth guy who seems really into this Christianity thing, and who is applying for a science job at a very prestigious university. Did he get the job?
Hire somebody with such views to teach physics? At a Baptist junior college deep in the Bible Belt, maybe, but the faculty would erupt if you tried it just about anywhere else. Many of them would echo Oxford's Richard Dawkins, the prominent evolutionary biologist, who writes in "The God Delusion" that he is "hostile to fundamentalist religion because it actively debauches the scientific enterprise. . . . It subverts science and saps the intellect."
In today's academic climate, things don't sound promising for our intrepid physicist. Religion and science don't mix, so they say.
But such considerations didn't keep Cambridge from hiring the theology- and Bible-drenched individual described above. Indeed, it named him to the prestigious Lucasian Chair of Mathematics....
To find out who this guy was who beat all the odds to get hired, click here for the full column. (And if you're a regular reader of this blog, you may already know the answer. I covered it last month.)
Chavez Slips Down the Slope
First they came for the TV stations, but I didn't say anything because I didn't own a TV station. Then they came for the critical foreigners, but I didn't say anything because I wasn't a critical foreigner.
President Hugo Chávez said Sunday that foreigners who publicly criticize him or his government while visiting Venezuela will be expelled from the country.
Chávez ordered officials to closely monitor statements made by international figures during their visits to Venezuela -- and deport any outspoken critics.
''How long are we going to allow a person -- from any country in the world -- to come to our own house to say there's a dictatorship here, that the president is a tyrant, and nobody does anything about it?'' Chávez asked during his weekly television and radio program.
So if someone comes to his country and calls him "the devil", that's a deportable offense. But if Chavez does it in America, the world applauds. (Well, the UN at least.)
Closed circuit for Harry Belafonte, Danny Glover, Cindy Sheehan, and other Chavez supporters: Can you say "stifling of dissent"? Can you recognize it when it's really happening? Do you remember this ever happening before in history? Do you remember how it all ultimately turned out?
A work buddy of mine and fellow Christian has started his own blog "A Dim Light in a Dark Place". Rather eclectic in nature (family, politics, faith, humor (especially his proposed bumper sticker for use in Atlanta)), so give it a look.
July 30, 2007
James Taranto's analysis and humor on events of the day is not to be missed. On a daily basis, he writes Best of the Web Today for Wall St. Journal's Opinion Journal. Today is definitely no exception, and the rest of this blog post will be his analysis of a NY Times op-ed piece from today. It's something that needs to be said, and said loudly and often. When, instead of reading what the liberal media writes about the war, journalists actually go to Iraq and see what's happening, the results are amazing. And now, James Taranto.
On Second Thought, Don't Surrender
In an important and surprising New York Times op-ed piece, Michael O'Hanlon and Kenneth Pollack, both from the liberal Brookings Institution, describe a visit to Iraq, where they find that things are not as bad as--well, as New York Times readers have been led to believe. The piece is titled "A War We Just Might Win":
Here is the most important thing Americans need to understand: We are finally getting somewhere in Iraq, at least in military terms. As two analysts who have harshly criticized the Bush administration's miserable handling of Iraq, we were surprised by the gains we saw and the potential to produce not necessarily "victory" but a sustainable stability that both we and the Iraqis could live with.
After the furnace-like heat, the first thing you notice when you land in Baghdad is the morale of our troops. In previous trips to Iraq we often found American troops angry and frustrated--many sensed they had the wrong strategy, were using the wrong tactics and were risking their lives in pursuit of an approach that could not work.
Today, morale is high. The soldiers and marines told us they feel that they now have a superb commander in Gen. David Petraeus; they are confident in his strategy, they see real results, and they feel now they have the numbers needed to make a real difference.
O'Hanlon and Pollack report that Sunni sheikhs in Anbar province "are close to crippling Al Qaeda and its Salafist allies," that "the Iraqis have stepped up to the plate" in the northern cities of Tal Afar and Mosul, and that "the American high command assesses that more than three-quarters of the Iraqi Army battalion commanders in Baghdad are now reliable partners."
They say the situation "remains grave," especially on the "political front," but they counsel against a quick retreat, as many Democrats on Capitol Hill have been advocating:
How much longer should American troops keep fighting and dying to build a new Iraq while Iraqi leaders fail to do their part? And how much longer can we wear down our forces in this mission? These haunting questions underscore the reality that the surge cannot go on forever. But there is enough good happening on the battlefields of Iraq today that Congress should plan on sustaining the effort at least into 2008.
In a way, though, what is most telling about this piece is the introduction:
Viewed from Iraq, where we just spent eight days meeting with American and Iraqi military and civilian personnel, the political debate in Washington is surreal. The Bush administration has over four years lost essentially all credibility. Yet now the administration's critics, in part as a result, seem unaware of the significant changes taking place.
For the sake of argument, let us suppose that the authors are right when they claim the Bush administration has "lost essentially all credibility." Does this excuse the administration's critics for being "unaware of the significant changes taking place"--especially when some of those critics have, for reasons of partisanship, ideology or just plain animus, actively campaigned to destroy the administration's credibility?
In the critics' defense, one may say that they have not, by and large, been in positions of responsibility; that if things have gone wrong in Iraq, the administration deserves the lion's share of the blame.
On the other hand, those critics now include the leaders of both houses of Congress, as well as several politicians who would like to become president. For them, at least, it is a serious failure of leadership if they base their views on Iraq on their own disdain for President Bush, or the hope of exploiting voters' disdain for him, rather than on reality.
July 25, 2007
Indoctrination In The Classroom
Stanley Kurtz has an intriguing and yet frightening article on National Review Online about how the Saudis are using federal education programs to influence curriculum used in public schools about the Middle East:
Unless we counteract the influence of Saudi money on the education of the young, we’re going to find it very difficult to win the war on terror. I only wish I was referring to Saudi-funded madrassas in Pakistan. Unfortunately, I’m talking about K-12 education in the United States. Believe it or not, the Saudis have figured out how to make an end-run around America’s K-12 curriculum safeguards, thereby gaining control over much of what children in the United States learn about the Middle East. While we’ve had only limited success paring back education for Islamist fundamentalism abroad, the Saudis have taken a surprising degree of control over America’s Middle-East studies curriculum at home.
How did they do it? Very carefully...and very cleverly. It turns out that the system of federal subsidies to university programs of Middle East Studies (under Title VI of the Higher Education Act) has been serving as a kind of Trojan horse for Saudi influence over American K-12 education. Federally subsidized Middle East Studies centers are required to pursue public outreach. That entails designing lesson plans and seminars on the Middle East for America’s K-12 teachers. These university-distributed teaching aids slip into the K-12 curriculum without being subject to the normal public vetting processes. Meanwhile, the federal government, which both subsidizes and lends its stamp of approval to these special K-12 course materials on the Middle East, has effectively abandoned oversight of the program that purveys them (Title VI).
Enter the Saudis. By lavishly funding several organizations that design Saudi-friendly English-language K-12 curricula, all that remains is to convince the “outreach coordinators” at prestigious, federally subsidized universities to purvey these materials to America’s teachers. And wouldn’t you know it, outreach coordinators or teacher-trainers at a number of university Middle East Studies centers have themselves been trained by the very same Saudi-funded foundations that design K-12 course materials. These Saudi-friendly folks happily build their outreach efforts around Saudi-financed K-12 curricula.
In one sense it's easy to see how the Saudis can be so successful in their attempts to indoctrinate American schoolchildren. But at the same time it is frightening to consider that the same tactics that are used in Middle East countries than either sponsor or encourage terrorism could be used in American schools. Hopefully, Congress will take the steps necessary to fix this situation. Given the fact that Democrats are more concerned conducting endless investigations than dealing with our country's more serious problems it's unlikely that any deal can be struck. Our kids, and ultimately our nation's security, will suffer.
July 24, 2007
Sunni and Shia Brought Together By...
...the US military.
TAJI, Iraq — U.S. forces have brokered an agreement between Sunni and Shi'ite tribal leaders to join forces against al Qaeda and other extremists, extending a policy that has transformed the security situation in western Anbar province to this area north of the capital.
The extremists struck back yesterday with a suicide car bomb aimed at one of the Sunni tribes involved in the deal, killing three militiamen and wounding 14.
Members of the First Calvary Division based at nearby Camp Taji helped broker the deal on Saturday with the tribal leaders, who agreed to use members of more than 25 local tribes to protect the area around Taji from both Sunni and Shi'ite extremists.
Our fighting men and women in Iraq are not some dumb, poor folks who got "stuck in Iraq" (thank you John Kerry), and they're not just fighting men and women, either. They're bringing peace (real peace, not the Saddam Hussein kind) to Iraq, one province at a time. It's slow going, no question about that, but I do hope the American people will let the military have the time to do the job right, because it is getting done.
Similar agreements in Anbar province have been credited with putting al Qaeda and its foreign extremists on the defensive while bringing relative peace to some of Iraq's most violent areas.
The Taji agreement, however, is the first involving both Sunni and Shi'ite sheiks, and the U.S. military hopes it will help temper the increasing influence of the Mahdi Army in and around Baghdad.
"A month ago, every single one of these people was shooting at us," said Sgt. Richard Fisk as he walked through Falahat pointing out places where his troops had been hit by roadside bombs.
Capt. Wohlgemuth said the tribal leaders approached the United States for support after a number of raids and detentions, coupled with increasingly brutal treatment of the local population by the group calling itself al Qaeda in Iraq.
The captain said that in some cases he has helped members of the new militia to get relatives released from U.S. and Iraqi custody, provided they were not linked to al Qaeda.
Things are getting better. But will Democrats notice come September?
July 23, 2007
A "Subversive" Film
Arnold Kling exposes a new movie.
The Acton Institute has produced the most subversive movie I have ever seen. The Call of the Entrepreneur, which is being released on an agonizingly slow schedule, is a threat to tyranny everywhere, including here at home.
The movie's message is that entrepreneurs are creators of wealth, Wall Street financiers are enablers of economic progress, and the villains of the world are people like the Communist leaders in China and American religious leaders who rail against capitalism.
Here's the short description from the movie's website:
A merchant banker. A failing dairy farmer. A refugee from Communist China. One risked his savings. One risked his farm. One risked his life.
Why do their stories matter? Because how we view entrepreneurs - as greedy or altruistic, as virtuous or vicious - shapes the destinies of individuals and nations.
But there are probably too many impediments to it to be shown widely in this country. Kling explains:
But it has very little chance of being shown in public high schools in America. It is far too explicit. "Call of the Entrepreneur" features the Reverend Robert A. Sirico, including a full-frontal shot of his clerical collar. As producer Jay W. Richards points out, the movie uses "the G word."
As a Jew, I am certain that I missed a number of the religious aspects of the movie. There were subtle references to Christian doctrine that went right past me. Perhaps there are Christians who would be more aware of the context and, based on their knowledge, might even take offense at the film's stance. I imagine that passionate atheists would tend to be turned off. But I think that a typical high school student could be exposed to the religion in "Call of the Entrepreneur" without being permanently scarred or corrupted.
I would argue that "Call of the Entrepreneur" and "An Inconvenient Truth" are both religious films. However, unlike Al Gore's movie about global warming, "Call of the Entrepreneur" steers clear of sensationalism, dogma, and misleading half-truths. It is ironic that public teachers and parents are happy to see "An Inconvenient Truth" in the classroom, but "Call of the Entrepreneur" would probably be greeted with protests if it were shown.
Kling's being sarcastic, of course, but makes his point clear. The more we see government as savior, the less freedom we have. The more the entrepreneurial spirit is encouraged, the better it is for all of us, the poor included. Don't give a man a fish, teach him to fish, and allow him to open his own fish business without excessive interference. That's how freedom works.
The Iran Hostage Crisis
How do you feel about the American hostages in Iran?
No, not the guys back in the Seventies, the ones being held right now.
What? You haven't heard about them?
Odd that, isn't it?
Very much so, especially since we're planning on negotiating with them regarding their nuclear program. Read the whole thing.
July 19, 2007
Compassionate Common Sense on Immigration
In a recent post about the broadening of the evangelical agenda I listed a number of legitimate concerns that have come to new prominence among evangelicals, including climate change, international aid, human rights and compassionate common sense in immigration.
It was that last one that got a response. (I’ve learned through my work with the Evangelical Climate Initiative it is usually climate change that stirs the pot). But immigration is one of the issues where the ideological purity police are prepared to attack if the exact formulation of concern is not expressed.
I cannot believe how badly the politicians and bureaucrats have allowed de facto open immigration to change our nation. I cannot be strong enough in my view that our borders should be the most secure in the world. If we are to continue to be the most generous world citizens (by far), our nation must be economically strong and safe from attack. Those who purposefully look the other way because they believe we owe charity to our poorer neighbors have lost sight of the fact that without strong and secure foundations we will become more vulnerable in every way, and our provision of aid and protection to much of the world will be in jeopardy.
Just do whatever is necessary to stop illegal immigration. Everyone knows it can be done; only some have the will to make it happen,
I do not believe it is reasonable, however, to send every illegal alien home; that is an unworkable solution. We have to recognize that a massive new “trail of tears” to Mexico will not happen and would be a tragedy of monumental proportions.
Yes, I am in favor of some path to permanence, even citizenship, for the illegals in our country. Many should be sent to their home countries because they are a menace to our nation. But most are hardworking, industrious and law-abiding. (I know, being here illegally is not legal; but we are a nation of law-breakers, and we all know it. (Oh, you drive 55?)
We do need to focus on both humanity and nationality. To do so is Christian, and for politicians it is also wise. As Michael Gerson wrote in the Washington Post, nativism will not win elections.
It’s a mess that has no ideal solutions. Seal the borders and keep them that way, or nothing else makes sense. With serious security in place, we can be free to show compassion and common sense.
...And the Walls Came Tumblin' Down
When Thomas Jefferson wrote the Danbury Baptists, attempting to clarify the roles of government and organized religion in the new United States, Jefferson wrote this:
Believing with you that religion is a matter which lies solely between Man & his God, that he owes account to none other for his faith or his worship, that the legitimate powers of government reach actions only, & not opinions, I contemplate with sovereign reverence that act of the whole American people which declared that their legislature should "make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof," thus building a wall of separation between Church & State.
Taken out of context, the "wall of separation" line has been misused over the generations. And the context is not just the letter Jefferson wrote, but it is a specific answer to a specific question from the Baptsts. Here is their concern, with emphasis added:
But sir, our constitution of government is not specific. Our ancient charter, together with the laws made coincident therewith, were adapted as the basis of our government at the time of our revolution. And such has been our laws and usages, and such still are, [so] that Religion is considered as the first object of Legislation, and therefore what religious privileges we enjoy (as a minor part of the State) we enjoy as favors granted, and not as inalienable rights. And these favors we receive at the expense of such degrading acknowledgments, as are inconsistent with the rights of freemen. It is not to be wondered at therefore, if those who seek after power and gain, under the pretense of government and Religion, should reproach their fellow men, [or] should reproach their Chief Magistrate, as an enemy of religion, law, and good order, because he will not, dares not, assume the prerogative of Jehovah and make laws to govern the Kingdom of Christ.
The Baptists were concerned specifically about the government imposing laws on religion that would tell them what to do with regards to their beliefs and the practice of them. Jefferson said government would not do that.
There could be no real question as to whether or not religion could have an effect on the government, since a chaplain and an opening prayer were part of Congress from the beginning. Jefferson himself used government money for the express purpose of evangelizing the American Indians. This from the man who wrote about a wall? By his words and his deeds, and in the full context of his words, it is clear that the wall he spoke of was one erected around religion to protect it and its followers from government intrusion, but the reverse situation was not addressed but, in fact, encouraged to a point.
I say this as a prelude to this news story coming from the BBC about an event in England that could occur here in the near future.
A gay man has won his case for unlawful discrimination after he was refused a youth official's job by a Church of England bishop.
The employment tribunal said John Reaney, 42, was discriminated against "on grounds of sexual orientation" by the Hereford diocesan board of finance.
And what law was broken?
Under the Employment Equality (Sexual Orientation) Regulations 2003, it is illegal to discriminate against people as a result of their sexual orientation, but the law does contain an exemption for organised religion.
The Church of England has a position on the moral status of homosexuality. It is based on their religious beliefs. But today in England, not even the established church is allowed to act on its beliefs if the government has said otherwise. That "exemption for organised religion" isn't worth the paper it's written on.
This is the beginning of the end of religious freedom, when the government becomes the new arbiter of religious practice. And if you don't think it could happen here, then you're likely in for a surprise when the walls come tumblin' down.
Hat tip: Go, Pundit, Go!
Christian Fantasy Literature, Minus Hogwarts
Someone once said (I'm thinking C. S. Lewis, but if you know the quote, please note it in a comment) something to the effect that we don't need more good Christian literature, we need more good literature by Christians. Does the trend mentioned in this news story portend more of the former or the latter?
Could the next Harry Potter be a devout Christian?
As the days tick down until Saturday, when a breathless world learns the fate of the teenage wizard, a new breed of fantasy fiction, with Potter-style stories, is emerging.
Like the Potter series, it has mystical creatures, macabre events, epic battles and heroic young protagonists.
But, unlike the Potter books, this genre has overt Christian tones: messiah-like kings who return from the dead, fallen satanic characters and young heroes who undergo profound conversions. What you won't generally find: humans waving wands and performing spells.
Christian fantasy, which had been a slow seller, has caught fire recently, industry analysts say, ignited by the success of the Potter series, which has sent some Christian readers looking for alternatives.
What could come of this is a boatload of Narnia knockoffs, most with the same redemption allegory. Now, I'm not knocking the allegory itself, per se; there's certainly nothing wrong with presenting the "old, old story" in a new way. But not everything written by Christians has to be a thin veneer overlaying the New Testament.
And there are a lot of good books written that happen to be written by Christians. In our house, Ted Dekker is a big name, not only for his incredible thriller and suspense novels, but because he went to the same missionary boarding school in Indonesia as my wife and was just a grade or two ahead.
The article notes that the Potter controversy continues (interestingly, Dobson has praises for the series), while the array of other options is on the increase. But with great popularity comes great mediocrity, and just because the author's a Christian doesn't mean it's a masterpiece. But trust me, those masterpieces do exist, and we need more of them.
July 18, 2007
A Million Here, A Million There...
Pretty soon, you're talking real money.
July 17, 2007
Bee Replaces Mouse as Kiddie Suicide Symbol
Ain't Hamas television just so cute?
Hamas’s Al-Aqsa television station recruited a new children’s character to “continue” the legacy of its star martyr, Farfur – the Mickey Mouse lookalike who was beaten to death by an Israeli on the previous program.
The new character on the children’s show Tomorrow’s Pioneers, a bee named Nahool, tells the hostess he is Farfur’s cousin and that he wishes to “continue the path of Farfur… the path of martyrdom, the path of the Jihad warriors… and in his name we shall take revenge upon the enemies of Allah, the murderers of the prophets...” The expression "Murderers of the prophets" is an Islamic expression used by the PA religious leaders to refer to Jews. Defining the Jews as the enemies of God is common in PA religious broadcasting.
Entertaining and educational as always.
How Nuclear Disarmament Should Be Done
Surprisingly (to me) but welcome is the news that North Korea is shutting down its plutonium processor. Wasn't this supposed to be impossible with a president that talked tough to enemies rather than appeasing them with food and money? And wasn't this what the Carter administration was supposed to have accomplished?
Washington's chief negotiator on North Korea outlined a dramatic programme of rapprochement with America's long-time Stalinist foe yesterday after international inspectors verified that it had closed its main nuclear reactor at Yongbyon.
Mohamed ElBaradei, head of the International Atomic Energy Agency, confirmed a North Korean statement that the reactor, which processed the plutonium for the country's nuclear weapons test last October, had been shut down.
In response, Christopher Hill, American assistant secretary of state, said talks to sign a formal peace treaty between the two countries, which ended the 1950-53 Korean War only with an armistice, could begin next year.
America would also consider removing North Korea from its list of "state sponsors of terrorism".
"We'll see when we can complete that because we'll see how far the North Koreans are prepared to move on denuclearisation," he told reporters in South Korea, where he held talks.
For perspective, Saddam Hussein did not do this when given the chance.
Title of the Post
The song, "Title of the Song", is by DaVinci’s Notebook, and is a hilarious take-off on every boy band song ever written. The video is by a group of guys from my alma mater, Asbury College and is a take-off on every boy band video ever produced. Nice to see scenes from the campus. Gotta go back there soon.
Click here for a good laugh.
Evangelicals at a Crossroads?
David Brody at The Brody File is thinking about the passions and political influence of evangelicals. He writes:
The bread and butter issues of abortion and traditional marriage have started to become watered down. Now, all indications are that Evangelicals are becoming passionate about other issues too. Immigration, the environment and maybe, most of all terrorism.
I'm working with a number of the leaders who are what the New York Times called recently "the new breed of evangelicals," and I do not believe that this new breed is any less passionate about the strong issues of the last 25 years--abortion and traditional marriage. They are now also passionate about new issues--such as the environment and international aid--that broaden the agenda. But it is wrong to assume that their new interests in any way change their passion on abortion and family. That's like saying that a new baby in the family lessens a parent's love for the other children.
However, there are very few evangelicals who are going to vote for a pro-abortion candidate because of of his or her stance on climate or action on Darfur. Simple as that. There are some, but not enough to make a political difference.
But candidates who are pro-life and protect the traditional family, and are concerned about climate change, genocide in Africa, and compassionate common sense on immigration and other issues--they can count on the passionate support of a whole new breed of evangelicals. And it is a breed that is growing, including the next generation of voters.
July 16, 2007
Tell North Korea to Free Son Jong Nam, A Christian Marked for Death Because He Shared His Faith
International inspectors reported this weekend that North Korea has shut down a key nuclear reactor, making it eligible for international economic aid. But the world should insist that the North Koreans show progress in another area--religious liberty. Voice of the Martyrs, a ministry on behalf of persecuted Christians, is publicizing the case of Son Jong Nam, a North Korean who faces possible execution for sharing his faith. (h/t: FRC) Last week, Sen. Sam Brownback (R-KS) joined Mr. Son's brother at a press conference at the National Press Club here in Washington to draw attention to the case. (News release here). In 1998, Mr. Son defected from North Korea to China, where he became a Christian after meeting a South Korean missionary. But in 2001 the Chinese deported him back to North Korea because of his evangelistic work. He was imprisoned and tortured for three years, paroled in 2004, but then re-arrested in January 2006. Mr. Son has reportedly been sentenced to public execution as an example to the North Korean people.
Gaza, Meet Rock and Hard Place
The popularity of Hamas in Gaza is tanking. Color me unsurprised.
Hamas swept through Gaza last month, vanquishing numerically superior forces aligned with Fatah leader and Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas, who responded by dismissing the Hamas-led government and installing a new one with his backers.
The poll of Gaza residents shows a backlash. Hamas got only 23 percent support, down from 29 percent in the previous survey last month, while Fatah climbed from 31 percent to 43 percent.
The poll, the first major survey since the Hamas takeover, also showed that 66 percent of Hamas supporters said they would vote Fatah if it undertook reforms.
The Rule of the Masked Gunman proves to be inferior to the Rule of Law. Apparently this is a lesson that the Gaza Palestinians just had to learn the hard way. And learn it they have, but at quite a price. But there's a significant group of them that have learned even more; 43+23 = 68, so 32 percent don't support either group. Hopefully, this key demographic will encourage another party into power and (even more hopefully) seek peace with Israel.
The Captain has more information about the state of the Gazans and their plight at the hands of Hamas. Why voting for a terrorist organization ever made sense is beyond me, but things might be -- might be -- looking better. From the article:
Trust in the Gaza-based deposed Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh of Hamas stood at 37 percent, compared to 63 percent for Abbas. Prime Minister Sallam Fayad got higher trust marks than Haniyeh, 62-38 percent.
"A lot of people answering this question said we like Haniyeh more, but we want people who can really deliver," Rabah said. "People are becoming more realistic."
After 50 years of antagonism against Israel, it's about time. Becoming more realistic would mean suing for peace. Let's be watching to see how realistic they have become.
A couple short items for Monday morning.
* Heard a caller on "Bill Bennett's Morning in America" talk about an idea for a bumper sticker. "If you liked The Killing Fields, you'll love The Killing Dunes." And I would ask Democrats, if you didn't like the former, why would you want to do something to allow the latter?
* "Iran to invest in $4 billion Venezuela oil JV" Just what we need; an Iranian foothold in the western hemisphere.
July 15, 2007
What’s Next for Iraq? Breaking the Deadlock
The United States isn’t going to withdraw from Iraq. We be there for generations, just as we still have troops in Germany, Japan, and Korea. Vietnam was an exception, and only Ted Kennedy’s crowd wants to see a repeat of the horror of post-war Vietnam.
Unless we end up with an irresponsible Democratic administration that will bail at any cost, we will define our ongoing national interests in Iraq and adjust troop levels to accomplish them.
There are only about 20 Senators, all Democrats—including Clinton, Obama—who want to get out of Iraq as quickly as the trucks can roll. Actually, there are more Democratic candidates for president who support immediate withdrawal at any cost than there are Senators who are not presidential candidates .
This says something about the choice presented with the 15 Democratic wannabes line up for one of their endless debates. No reasonable choice for a constructive plan in Iraq.
David Brooks July column in the New York Times (subscription only, but you can read it here) describes the deadlock in the Senate on Iraq policy:
To simplify a bit, roughly 20 senators, led by John McCain and Joe Lieberman, believe in Gen. David Petraeus and the surge. There are roughly 30 Republicans, led by Dick Lugar, John Warner and Lamar Alexander, who believe that the U.S. should scale back its mission and adopt the Iraq Study Group’s recommendations. There are roughly 30 Democrats, led by Carl Levin and Jack Reed, who also want to scale back and adopt the study group’s approach. And finally, there are roughly 20 Democrats, led by Ted Kennedy and Russ Feingold, who just want to get out as quickly as possible.
In theory, it should be possible to get the 30 Republicans and the 30 Democrats who support the study group’s framework together to embrace a common plan. But Harry Reid, the Senate majority leader, is doing everything he can to prevent a bipartisan consensus. It’s much better politically for the Democrats to stay united and force the Republicans to vote with the president.
“Is there a middle way? Brooks asks. Is there a way that will protect U.S. interests with a solution that can be maintained for as long as necessary—as we have done in most previous conflicts.
The U.S. will still have vital interests in Iraq, like preventing a terror state and stopping an Iranian takeover. Military planners believe a reduced force is viable: 20,000 troops to protect the Iraqi government, 10,000 to train and advise, 10,000 in headquarters and a smaller number of special forces to chase terrorists.
That’s not something you’ll hear in a Democratic presidential debate, but it may be close to where we need to be.
July 13, 2007
The Democrats Find GodTalk
The Time magazine article Leveling the Praying Field is both encouraging—because of its recognition of the importance of faith and the discussion of faith in the public square—and frightening—because there are plenty of people dull enough to be excited just because a politician is throwing in the word God from time to time like a newfound adjective.
Note this paragraph:
The revival comes at a time when the entire religious-political landscape is changing shape. A new generation of evangelical leaders is rejecting old labels; now an alliance of religious activists that runs from the crunchy left across to the National Association of Evangelicals has called for action to address global warming, citing the biblical imperative of caring for creation. Mainline, evangelical and Roman Catholic organizations have united to push for immigration reform. The possibility that there is common ground to be colonized by those willing to look for it offers a tantalizing prospect of alliances to come, but only if Democrats can overcome concerns within their party. "One-third gets it," says a Democratic values pioneer, talking about the rank and file. "A second third understands that this can help us win. And another third is positively terrified."
I’m heartened that the evangelical community is broadening its agenda and my firm has clients that are in the middle of this transformation. But I’m not impressed with Democrats who hire consultants to learn how to say things Christianly. Its not about the right image; its about the right action
I agree with Tony Perkins here:
"It's a positive thing that Democrats are willing to talk about faith and values," says Tony Perkins, president of the Family Research Council. "But they are aligned with organizations that sue to stop kids from praying and block the Ten Commandments." Only when the policies evolve, he argues, as opposed to the rhetoric, will the party have a chance to make real gains with Evangelicals."
July 12, 2007
Look what is happening to the federal deficit. As unpopular as this is today, how about a little credit to President Bush? Can anyone spell t-a-x c-u-t.
Limit Involvement in Beijing Olympics?
Just after executing the former head of the government food and drug administration for corruption, the Chinese government “announced steps to safeguard food at next summer’s Olympic Games.” Hurray for them. If you’ve visited Beijing recently, or have been following things, China is creating a showcase city for the world to see when it visits Beijing for the 2008 Games, or watch it on the tube.
At the same time, there a troubling development: the government clean-up includes foreign Christian missionaries. According to China Aid Association, from April to June China expelled more than 100 suspected foreign missionaries to prevent evangelistic efforts at the Olympics (Assist News).
It should also be troubling to Christians that the Chinese are now the worst CO2 polluters in the world. China’s output of greenhouse gasses surpassed those of the U.S. last month. Business is booming at the expenses of the global climate.
Nothing would upset the Chinese more than suggestions that the world consider Beijing games to be anything less than a total success. They are pouring everything into making the Olympics a Chinese public relations wonder. That means the world has some bargaining power now. It would be a good time to suggest that Chinese preparation include human rights, religious liberty, and limitation of toxic emissions.
Protecting the food is fine, too.
July 11, 2007
Biking for Dollars (for a very important ministry)
In the category of really good and important stuff, please check out the innovative fundraising effort to assist the former child soldiers of northern Uganda. ChildVoice International, which is developing strong long-range and Christ-centered program for these kids in Uganda (we were part of an exploratory team last July in Uganda), has brought three former child soldiers to participate in the terrific RAGBRAI--Register’s Annual Great Bicycle Ride Across Iowa--later this month.
Check out the Campaign Website It's www.3-7-1.com--three riders, seven days, one million dollars--which gives you the chance to participate.
Fred Thompson: Lean, Tanned, and (Apparently) Read for the Long Distance Run
Because we’re active in the Republican Party in Georgia, my wife and I have had the opportunity to see the most likely Republican contenders—Rudy, Mitt, and Fred—up close and personal. The latest was last night at a meet-and-greet with Fred Thompson at the Gwinnett County Chamber of Commerce. He demonstrated all the southern charm, dignified presence, and conservative common sense that will make him formidable when he joins the race. He told the activists at the reception to “be patient” but to “keep your powder dry.” Barring a scandal or medical bombshell, he is undoubtedly in. It’s just a question of how many Law and Order episodes he’s promised to allow before they have to be pulled.
Thompson looked tall, tanned, and far thinner than he looks on television. Or maybe he’s dropped some weight for the long distance run.
In photo below, the writer is peering admiringly from the far right.
The One True Church? Guess Who the Pope Chooses.
To build on Doug’s Pope post below: I’m a generally an evangelical enthusiast of the Vatican, which since the reign of John Paul II has been a bulwark against cultural, moral, and theological freefall, and a friend of conservative Christians of all stripes. I really can’t envision JP issuing the document released by Benedict yesterday, reaffirming that the Roman Catholic Church is the One True Church. I really had no thought that the head of the Catholic Church would be mixed on this question, but no one seems sure why the edict was released, and why now. I’m having lunch tomorrow with a friend and business associate who has spent he career with the U.S. Catholic Bishops office. I can’t wait to chide him about eating with this apostate. And the bit about other Christian groups not having the “means of salvation.” That’s the One True Jesus, the last time I checked. Honestly, the other Christian denominations aren’t the enemy of the Catholic church or of Christianity. How about saving the stronger words for radical Islam and surging secularism?
Anaylizing the Pope's Pronouncement
Danny Carlton analyses the Pope's latest document asserting that the Catholic church is the real Christian church and the rest of us are just posers. He thinks, as do I, that this is no real cause for concern among Protestants, since this is essentially a restatement of what the Roman Catholic church has always taught. No surprises there.
Well, except it does get a few folks in a knot. Read the post for details.
July 10, 2007
The Greatest Threat to World Missions
You'd expect Glenn Penner's idea of the greatest threat to world missions is the persecution of the church. After all, he blogs for "Voice of the Martyrs", an organization who's central focus is the persecution of Christians worldwide. But you'd be wrong.
No, I do not believe that persecution is the greatest threat to the continuing spread of the gospel. I am much more concerned about something that, at first glace, seems benign and even helpful but which I contend is far more insidious. I am referring to the dependency creating practices that ministries are increasingly promoting in the name of "partnership."
Such programs are varied and wide-ranging. Some claim to be "revolutionizing" world missions through their approach of having western Christians sponsor national missions, churches, evangelists, missionaries and pastors. Claiming to be more efficient and culturally adaptable, such groups appeal to the western desire to be cost and labour effective by claiming that such an approach provides more "bang for the buck." Or alternately, they bemoan the fact that these poor servants of God have to labour so hard to meet the needs of their families that they have no time to spread the gospel (to which I respond, "Paul didn't seem to have that problem. See 1 Thessalonians 2:9." Indeed, Paul seemed to think that his approach was the best possible strategy for spreading the gospel. But then again, I suppose we know better in the 21st century).
A careful study of the issue, however, demonstrates that dependency on western resources to spread the gospel has proven, in most cases, to be an absolute disaster.
Read the whole thing for why he believe this is the case.
(The political animal in me also noted that this "absolute disaster" mirrors quite amazingly a US government program that is also, in my opinion, an absolute disaster, and for almost all the same reasons. Read Glenn's blog post and see if you find the same thing I did.)
Don't Miss Southern Baptist Trending on Global Warming
Despite the usual sound of the Southern Baptist Convention's resolution on global warming last month, there are clear indications that Southern Baptists in the pew--including many of the messengers to the San Antonio convention--recognize the need for stronger action on climate change.
We ought to note that the Southern Baptist resolution as originally introduced included much stronger language, and noted the need for urgent government action on global warming. When some proposed weakening the resolution by removing the stronger language on global warming, 40 percent of the messengers voted to keep the original version! That shows much stronger support for action on global warming than some Southern Baptist leaders are willing to admit.
Rusty cites other evidences that the rank and file Baptists are moving as readily as other evangelicals on environmental issues.
That's good news for the evangelical community and for our nation.
July 09, 2007
Why They Hate Us
In case you're still under the impression that al Qaeda hates us because of our foreign policies, here's some perspective.
The leader of an al-Qaida umbrella group in Iraq threatened to wage war against Iran unless it stops supporting Shiites in Iraq within two months, according to an audiotape released Sunday.
Abu Omar al-Baghdadi, who leads the group Islamic State in Iraq, said his Sunni fighters have been preparing for four years to wage a battle against Shiite-dominated Iran.
"We are giving the Persians, and especially the rulers of Iran, a two month period to end all kinds of support for the Iraqi Shiite government and to stop direct and indirect intervention ... otherwise a severe war is waiting for you," he said in the 50-minute audiotape. The tape, which could not be independently verified, was posted on a Web site commonly used by insurgent groups.
It is not primarily a political struggle, but a religious one, at least on their part. If attacks by al Qaeda in Saudi Arabia weren't enough to sway opinion, perhaps this might. We are not Muslim, and we're the big guy on the block, so we make an enticing target. But al Qaeda's issue is their form of Islam.
Al-Baghdadi criticized Kurdish leaders for their alliance with Shiites in Iraq's government and accused them encouraging unsavory morals.
"The leaders of apostasy ... have impeded the march of Islam in Muslim Kurdistan and helped communism and secularism to spread. ... They insulted the religious scholars ... encouraged vices and women without veils," he said.
Insulting scholars and missing veils. Does this sound like a political group to you?
Name That Film
What Warner Bros. movie has been translated into 1,000 languages (the most recent being finished this month), the most of any film (beating #2 by about 900)?
Huckabee for Vice President?
While I don’t think Mick Huckabee will be able generate enough national support to rise to the top tier of Republican candidates, I haven’t read or seen him say anything I disagree with. His faith seems genuine, and his convictions sound. There’s an interesting column on Huckabee by Terry Mattingly. Huckabee says:
"I sometimes marvel when people running for office are asked about faith and their answer is, 'Oh, I don't get into that. I keep that completely separate. My faith is completely immaterial to how I think and how I govern,' " he said. "To me, that is really tantamount to saying that one's faith is so marginal, so insignificant and so inconsequential that it really doesn't impact the way one lives. I would consider it an extraordinarily shallow faith that does not really impact the way we think about other human beings and the way we respond to them."
If a northeasterner such as Romney or Guiliani gets the nomination, Huckabee would provide wonderful regional balance as a running mate. And a clearer understanding of the blending of faith and policy than any of the other candidates.
July 08, 2007
Evangelicals and Moslems Together?
It would be good if a relationship would flourish between evangelical Christians and moderate Arabs, something that would seem unlikely in the current atmosphere. A remarkable meeting occurred at the Egyptian embassy in Washington last month, with a number of evangelical leaders and the ambassadors from several Arab nations.
Jonathan Falwell wrote in WorldNetDaily:
On Monday, July 2, I attended what I can only pray may become a historic meeting. Several weeks ago, I received a call about attending a meeting at the Egyptian Embassy in Washington, D.C. I was told this meeting would be hosted by the ambassador from Egypt and might be attended by representatives of other Arab nations, as well as by 10-15 pastors, evangelists and Christian media representatives. My interest stirred, I agreed to attend the meeting even though I was not quite sure of its purpose. I asked Dr. Ron Godwin, Liberty University's executive vice president, to attend with me. When we arrived at the Embassy, we were greeted by Evangelist Benny Hinn and introduced to several other pastors, evangelists, Christian TV producers and representatives of Christian organizations. Among them were Gordon Robertson of the 700 Club, Paul Crouch Jr. of Trinity Broadcasting Network, Christian lobbyist Ralph Reed, Richard Cizik of the National Association of Evangelicals, Vernon Brewer of WorldHelp and several others.
Within a period of no more than 10 minutes, the ambassadors from Algeria, Morocco, Libya, Kuwait, Yemen, Iraq, Bahrain and the ambassador from the Arab League of Nations all arrived. I now realized that this meeting was far more than a social gathering. Soon thereafter, we sat down at a large table – evangelicals all on one side and Arab representatives on the other, about 24 of us – for lunch.
And I received this in personal correspondence from Richard Cizik at NAE:
The most interesting person there? None other than Hinn, who I found to be extremely gracious. He was born in Egypt, and is part Jordanian, etc., and helped organize the event. He wanted to know if we'd help him organize successive events. No harm, as I see it, and could do a lot of good, that is, if they could get general agreement by certain leaders who have exclaimed, for example, "50 million Muslims want to kill us," that this language endangers evangelical missionaries and relief workers around the world. It also fosters the impression that evangelical Christians want to provoke a religious war with Muslims, something everyone at the luncheon disputed.
It was a positive event, with real potential for good. I spoke of the need to make sure Samuel Huntington's "Conflict of Civilizations" doesn't occur, and that the NAE had issued a call to "respect" and "dialogue" a number of years ago, followed up by our "Islam Initiative" calling for humanitarian missions in the name of Jesus, as well as dialogue here and abroad. I lauded our friendship with Amb. Aziz Mekouar and the Moroccans, and said that we all need some "moral imagination" to see our way through the current difficulties, saying it "could well be the most important thing we set our minds to at this time in history."
July 06, 2007
Should Churches Be Allowed to Use School Buildings?
It's a commonplace occurrence among newer churches. They don't have a building of their own so they rent space that is not in use on Sunday. Often, they will rent public school buildings since they would otherwise sit empty. But a case that is likely headed to the Supreme Court may decide whether such usage is constitutional under the First Amendment (Hat tip: Christianity Today):
The three judges on the United States Second Circuit Court of Appeals panel who heard a Bronx congregation's challenge to the policy each issued a separate opinion. One judge of Bronx House hold of Faith v. Board of Education ruled in favor of the church; another decided in favor of the Board of Education's anti-church policy; a third found the case was not yet ready for review. As a result, the church may continue to use the school building pending further appeal.
The case likely prompted such division because of the question, more theological than legal, at its center: What is worship? The legal significance of the question hangs on a 2001 ruling by the U.S. Supreme Court, in which the court held that schools allowing use of their campus after hours by secular groups could not then exclude religious groups from conducting religious instruction or discussion on school grounds.
But in the 2001 case, Good News Club v. Milford Central School, the federal high court appeared to draw a distinction between religiously oriented lessons and outright worship, leaving it to federal judges across the country to grapple with whether schools were permitted to ban on-campus worship services. Ruling that such blocks are legally permissible a judge on the Second Circuit panel nominated by President Clinton, Guido Calabresi, declared worship to be a form of speech incomparable to all others. By separating out all worship, Judge Calabresi, concluded that the Board of Education's policy against it does not discriminate against a particular viewpoint — which would be unconstitutional under the First Amendment — but instead justified the Board's content-based distinction.
A second judge, John Walker Jr., who was nominated by President George H.W. Bush, rejected that distinction and accused Judge Calabresi of relying "more on judicial legerdemain than judicial reasoning." "The fact is," Judge Walker wrote, "that none of us who are judges are competent to offer a legal definition of worship." Judge Walker said that the Board of Education could not prohibit congregations from gaining access to public schools for worship without violating their First Amendment rights.
Although vehemently opposed to Judge Calabresi's outcome, Judge Walker seems hesitant of his own conclusion, writing his approach is "admittedly imperfect in this uncertain legal terrain." The dispute could, Judge Walker wrote, "benefit from a more conclusive resolution" by the Supreme Court.
New York City's policy prohibits churches from using public school buildings for worship services. Bronx Household of Faith had filed suit in order to continue to meet in the school. The central question is whether the church's use of the school violates the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment.
The Establishment Clause states the following: "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof". At first blush, the language appears fairly plain. Permitting a church to meet in a school does not equate to establishment of religion since there is no specific requirement for citizens to participate in worship at that church or become a member of the church. But given the convoluted rulings that have come down from the Supreme Court recently particularly in these types of cases, it's entirely possible that the Court will uphold the city ordinance.
Although the ruling from the 2nd Circuit fails to resolve the issue, Judge Walker is correct in that more guidance is needed from the Court in order to decide the issue at hand. It will be interesting to see whether the Court decides to hear the case and use it to provide some clarity for Establishment Clause cases. Given the rulings handed down at the end of the current term, it's more likely that they will hand down a ruling in favor of the church without addressing the fundamental flaws of the relevant precedent cases.
Million Man March Against Terrorism
Would be nice to see here. Instead we get marches supporting illegal immigration and against a President fighting terrorism. We'd need both sides of the political aisle to pull something like this off, but methinks one side would be difficult to recruit.
In the meantime, Gateway Pundit takes us to Colombia.
Over one million Colombians marched from the Amazon jungle outpost of Leticia to the Caribbean city of Cartagena to demand liberation of the country's kidnap victims from Leftist terrorists.
People attend a protest against violence and kidnapping, in Medellin July 5, 2007. Hundreds of thousands of Colombians headed for the streets on Thursday to show outrage at last week's news that 11 provincial politicians had been killed while held hostage by leftist rebels.
And guess who is backing the terrorists? The Left's favorite socialist.
The BBC reported that this was a rare national unity protest against the FARC terrorists who are known to be supported by the Chavez government.
Color me unsurprised.
When Does a Massacre Matter?
Confederate Yankee has some serious questions for the AP.
Scooter vs. Sandy
As I've said, I disagree with the clemency that the President gave Scooter Libby, but for perspective, here's Ace's suggestion:
Suggestion: Bush should have reduced the fine to a more reasonable $50,000, which just so happens to be how much Sandy Berger was fined for stealing and destroying classified documents and lying about it to investigators (he wasn't charged for the latter, but subsequent revelations has made it clear he did just that).
Making the fine $50,000 would have been more in line with Libby's transgressions, and it would have made it harder for Democrats to argue against it. The penalty -- no jail time, $50,000, probation -- would have been so similar to Berger's that one could scarcely mention it without also mentioning Berger.
I've noted before that the Sandy Berger situation has received far less press for a far larger transgression than the Libby trial. And now the disproportionate punishments are getting the same double standard applied. At least the press and the Democrats are consistent, if disingenuous.
July 03, 2007
NBC, Al Gore, and the Fairness Doctrine
Fox News' John Gibson made a great point during his commentary today at the end of his show The Big Story about NBC's plans to televise 75 hours of Al Gore's Live Earth concerts starting this weekend:
What is NBC doing airing dozens of hours of Al Gore's Live Earth concerts this coming weekend? And why are the Fairness Doctrine proponents of the Democrat Party not objecting to this outright gift of unequal time to just one side of a controversial issue?
NBC is reportedly airing hours of the concerts — hours upon hours — on and through various NBC platforms. Al Gore is the chairman of the Live Earth project. NBC is a company which is owned by a corporation which must declare its political contributions.
Does anybody think the Live Earth concerts are not a political statement by Gore's supporters that will end up benefiting Al Gore? Does anybody think Al Gore isn't running for president? I know he's said he's not, and every time I get a Democrat analyst sitting next to me, he or she says he's not. But it sure looks like he's running to me.
Look at the field. Hillary's got the big "mo" and the big Bill. Barack has the big pile of cash. There is a chance they will bash each other to a pulp.
Meanwhile, Gore sits on the sidelines. Remember he's a saint to the left. Remember he won in 2000. You do remember that, don't you? If you have forgotten, just ask a Democrat.
You do recall he was the original Bush hater. Didn't like Bush, didn't like the war. He's been calling for us to come home before we even touched home base in Baghdad.
Plus this whole deal about the planet melting. Gore is the left's guy, and he plays to his base.
So what's NBC doing giving Gore so many hours of airtime on NBC owned and operated television operations? Does this constitute a political contribution of free airtime? Do the people who want the return of the Fairness Doctrine think NBC should be forced to give equal time to me and let me argue against Al Gore?
I don’t think so.
That's My Word.
It's ironic to me that the same liberals who have made so much noise about resurrecting the Fairness Doctrine are silent about the real issues that providing such an abundance of coverage on this one issue presents. Plus there's the fact that even though Al Gore says he's not a candidate for President, he's certainly acting like one.
NBC, which already earned a well-deserved black eye for being willing to pay money for high-profile interviews (think Paris Hilton) apparently doesn't see a problem with overt issue and candidate advocacy. I suppose it's not a problem for them as long as it's a liberal Democrat that they are putting all over their networks. Then again, I learned a long time ago that NBC, like the rest of the "mainstream" media is much more biased than many, especially liberals, are willing to admit.
"Chavez and Farfour and Lenin, Oh My!"
When I returned from vacation and caught up on my news reading, a couple of items caught my eye.
Farfur the Mouse is dead. Back in May on my personal blog, I talked about the Hamas children's show "Tomorrow's Pioneers" and it's main character Farfur the Mouse, an obvious Mickey Mouse knock-off, that told kids of the wonders of martyrdom and of the ultimate destruction of the terrorist state of Israel. Fun for the whole family, no? At the time, the head of the Palestinian version of the FCC (a Fatah fellow) said the program would be removed and reviewed. The Hamas station basically said, "Nuts to you" and kept it on the air. Well now, for whatever reason, the station did cancel the show. According to this Jerusalem Post report, it had nothing to do with the government; they're just making room for new programs. Either that's a final statement of defiance just before succumbing to a government order, or it's the actual reason and the government really was toothless in this area.
Regardless, the mouse is dead. Literally. In the final episode (click here for the video) Farfur is martyred by a Jewish character in sunglasses when Farfur won't sell him his land. He's punched out on camera, and the little girl who co-hosts the show announces Farfur's martyrdom. Remember, this is the official TV station of the government that the Palestinian people voted to be their representatives to the world.
Hugo Chavez is still...Hugo Chavez. He's making common cause with Iran's Mahmoud Ahmadinejad in an "axis of unity" against North America, he's making enemies of his South American neighbors after they rightly criticize his silencing of dissent, and he's asking Russians to remember the lessons of Lenin. Chavez is talking about Lenin's anti-imperialism views (though the Soviet Union certainly had its imperialist streak), but I think there are other lessons of Lenin that millions of the dead in Russia would like to teach us.
Insecurity, "malignant narcissism" and the need for adulation are driving Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez's confrontation with the United States, according to a new psychological profile.
Eventually, these personality traits are likely to compel Chavez to declare himself Venezuela's president for life, said Dr. Jerrold Post, who has just completed the profile for the U.S. Air Force.
Chavez won elections for a third term last December. Since then he has stepped up his anti-American rhetoric, vowed to accelerate a march towards "21st Century socialism" and suggested that he intends to stay in power until 2021 -- a decade beyond his present term.
But Post -- who profiled foreign leaders in a 21-year career at the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency and now is the director of the Political Psychology Program at George Washington University -- doubts that Chavez plans to step down even then. "He views himself as a savior, as the very embodiment of Venezuela," Post said in an interview.
"He has been acting increasingly messianic and so he is likely to either get the constitution rewritten to allow for additional terms or eventually declare himself president-for-life."
Post portrays Chavez as "a masterful political gamesman" who knows that his popularity largely rests on being seen as a strong leader who takes on the United States, the Venezuelan elite and a host of other perceived enemies -- often with public insults that are rarely used by other leaders.
"To keep his followers engaged, he must continue outrageous and inflammatory attacks," Post said.
Even Chavez's most determined opponents concede that he is a gifted orator and has a rare ability to mesmerize audiences. In the language of political psychology, this is a "charismatic leader-follower relationship."
We've watch this script played out enough in history. Are we just going to sit back and watch the next act, or are we going to resist it?
The Libby Clemency
President Bush's clemency for the prison time for Scooter Libby is, in my estimation, wrong. Certainly there is the case that the President said that whoever was responsible for the leak should be punished, and even though Libby wasn't the source of the leak (and the source of the leak goes uncharged for any crime) he was still found guilty of lying to a grand jury. That's the same crime that brought impeachment onto Bill Clinton. In my mind, Democrats are right in protesting this decision. Is 2 1/2 years too long for Libby, with the punishment being overkill for the crime? The President's statement notes that he thinks so, especially when the judge didn't take into consideration a number of mitigating circumstances. Nonetheless, even though Libby will still be on probation and still have a felony on his criminal record, I think the President should have stayed out of this. Lying in the justice system shouldn't be any easier when a politically-aligned President is in office.
President Clinton, in defending his pardon of Mark Rich, et. al., had this to say.
First, I want to make some general comments about pardons and commutations of sentences. Article II of the Constitution gives the president broad and unreviewable power to grant "Reprieves and Pardons" for all offenses against the United States. The Supreme Court has ruled that the pardon power is granted "[t]o the [president] . . ., and it is granted without limit" (United States v. Klein). Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes declared that "[a] pardon . . . is . . . the determination of the ultimate authority that the public welfare will be better served by [the pardon] . . ." (Biddle v. Perovich). A president may conclude a pardon or commutation is warranted for several reasons: the desire to restore full citizenship rights, including voting, to people who have served their sentences and lived within the law since; a belief that a sentence was excessive or unjust; personal circumstances that warrant compassion; or other unique circumstances.
The exercise of executive clemency is inherently controversial. The reason the framers of our Constitution vested this broad power in the Executive Branch was to assure that the president would have the freedom to do what he deemed to be the right thing, regardless of how unpopular a decision might be. Some of the uses of the power have been extremely controversial, such as President Washington's pardons of leaders of the Whiskey Rebellion, President Harding's commutation of the sentence of Eugene Debs, President Nixon's commutation of the sentence of James Hoffa, President Ford's pardon of former President Nixon, President Carter's pardon of Vietnam War draft resisters, and President Bush's 1992 pardon of six Iran-contra defendants, including former Defense Secretary Weinberger, which assured the end of that investigation.
All true, none of it in question, and all of which applies here, too. It's just that most folks who would be inclined to do this don't pick up on the nuance and unique circumstances of a particular pardon. Punishment not only helps deter the offender from doing it again, it helps convince others not to try it. It needs to be allowed to work.
Sorry Dubya. Can't get behind you on this one. (In the post below, Tom agrees with the clemency. See, we don't march in lockstep here. >grin<).
July 02, 2007
Scooter Libby's Commuted Sentence
President Bush stepped in just as former Vice Presidential Chief of Staff I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby was about to head to jail and commuted his sentence:
President Bush spared former White House aide I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby from a 2 1/2-year prison term in the CIA leak case Monday, stepping into a criminal case with heavy political overtones on grounds that the sentence was just too harsh.
Bush's move came hours after a federal appeals panel ruled Libby could not delay his prison term in the CIA leak case. That meant Libby was likely to have to report to prison soon and put new pressure on the president, who had been sidestepping calls by Libby's allies to pardon the former chief of staff to Vice President Dick Cheney.
"I respect the jury's verdict," Bush said in a statement. "But I have concluded that the prison sentence given to Mr. Libby is excessive. Therefore, I am commuting the portion of Mr. Libby's sentence that required him to spend thirty months in prison."
Bush left intact a $250,000 fine and two years probation for Libby, and Bush said his action still "leaves in place a harsh punishment for Mr. Libby."
Democrats, predictably, were quick to criticize the President's decision:
House Judiciary Committee Chairman John Conyers, Jr. (D-Mi.) released a statement saying that "until now, it appeared that the President merely turned a blind eye to a high ranking administration official leaking classified information. The President's action today makes it clear that he condones such activity. This decision is inconsistent with the rule of law and sends a horrible signal to the American people and our intelligence operatives who place their lives at risk everyday."
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) added that "the President's decision to commute Mr. Libby's sentence is disgraceful. Libby's conviction was the one faint glimmer of accountability for White House efforts to manipulate intelligence and silence critics of the Iraq war. Now, even that small bit of justice has been undone."
In the end, it appears that the President made the right call. Regardless of what he decided to do about Libby, he was going to be criticized. If he did nothing, conservatives would be on his back for not pardoning someone who was caught in the middle of a dubious criminal investigation. If he pardoned Libby outright, he would have heard much more whining from liberals. In the end, he showed respect for the rule of law by allowing Libby's fine and probation to stand. In President Bush's mind, Libby did commit perjury even if the underlying case (the Valerie Plame leak case) had very little merit. Libby still deserved to be punished and now that punishment seems to be just about right.