Friday, December 17, 2004

Talking Turkey

The BBC reports that the EU and Turkey have reached a compromise that moves the process of accepting the latter's application for membership slightly forward:

The EU and Turkey have struck a deal over an EU demand that Turkey recognise Cyprus before membership talks begin.
The compromise agreement clears the way for Turkey to start negotiations in October next year to enter the EU.
For those that think the EU's acceptance of Turkey would be a good thing, this sounds like good news. There is some evidence that the dialogue with the EU is having a positive effect on Turkey's democratic evolution, as indicated by this report by Freedom House. But, as the report also notes (beginning on page 3), there are several defects that should give Western commentators pause:
The Turkish state has a mixed record on attention to women, non-ethnic Turks, and people with disabilities.


The Turkish establishment traditionally mistrusted civic groups and controlled them tightly. However, as these groups have gained strength since the 1980s and state-societal relations have developed more recently through encouragement by the EU, civic groups have become more engaged in public policy. [...] Still, the government is selective about which groups gain full disclosure of draft laws, and many groups accuse it of listening but not taking responsive action.


While Turkey's constitution establishes freedom of the media [...] journalists specifically, have been the victims of the penal code's provisions against aiding and abetting an illegal organization and insulting the state and state institutions, among others, despite recent reforms limiting their scope. Fines, arrests, and imprisonment are the punishments regularly allotted to media and journalists who, for example, criticize the military or portray Kurdish activists in too positive a light.


Torture and ill-treatment by officials continue to be an issue in Turkey. The Erdogan government has declared a zero-tolerance policy toward torture, and it appears to be backing up its position
with new detention laws and, as of April 2004, a policy forbidding police from entering the room when doctors examine alleged torture victims.
All of these concerns, however, are merely background to the question of Turkish occupation of Cyprus, which is the real sticking point for EU membership. Cyprus was admitted into the EU as of May 2004, but the rejection, in April, of the UN proposal to unify Greek and Turkish Cypriots has resulted in continuing tension. Specifically Turkey has refused to recognize the island nation. As noted by the London Times:
But because the UN blueprint was not endorsed by both communities, Cyprus entered the EU divided on May 1, with the Turkish Cypriots effectively excluded from membership pending a settlement.

Their breakaway state is recognised only by Turkey whose 35,000 troops in northern Cyprus are regarded as occupying part of EU territory.

In the run-up to the EU summit, the Greek Cypriots had dangled a veto threat over Turkey, hoping to win concessions from Ankara, including its formal recognition of Cyprus.

Greek Cypriots argued it was absurd that Turkey refused to recognise an EU member, whose agreement it needed to begin accession talks.
So, the compromise sounds like a step in the right direction. However, the BBC report is disturbingly vague on what exactly this compromise consists of. Specifically, what does it mean that the Turkish Prime Minister "insisted signing the protocol was not a formal recognition of Cyprus"? A close inspection of the actual language of the statement suggests that this compromise is merely a bureaucratic expedient to smooth over legitimate questions about Turkey's commitment to freedom:
As a result of meetings between Turkey and the EU, the paragraph in the final declaration of the EU summit about Cyprus was changed.

In the revised paragraph, it was said, "the European Council welcomes Turkey's statement to sign the protocol regarding the adaptation of the Ankara Agreement, taking account of the accession of the ten new Member States."

In the first draft prepared by the Netherlands, which holds rotating EU presidency, it was said, "the European Council welcomes Turkey's decision to sign the protocol regarding the adaptation of the Ankara Agreement, taking account of the accession of the ten new Member States."

As a result of the change, the European Council welcomed Turkey's "statement" to sign the agreement instead of Turkey's "decision" to sign the agreement.
So, Turkey has not actually decided to acknowledge the sovereignty of Cyprus, it has merely verbally stated that it will do so. A subtle point, perhaps, but indicative of continuing intransigence. For further support of the thesis that Turkey may not be fully ready to join European civilization (such as it is) consider this statement by Turkish Cypriot leader Rauf Denktas:
"Turkey guarantees and recognizes Cyprus Republic of 1960. The whole issue is about which Cyprus that Turkey will recognize," said President Rauf Denktas of the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus (TRNC) on Friday.

Speaking to reporters prior to his meeting with TRNC Parliament Speaker Fatma Ekenoglu and leaders of political parties having seats at the parliament, Denktas said regarding EU Summit, "Greek Cypriot side firstly asked for a written commitment from Turkey for recognition but now they seem to accept verbal commitment. There has been a struggle in Cyprus for 40 years. EU has crowned this 40 years of mistake."

Denktas said, "Turkey's recognition of Greek Cypriot side means it accepts all murders by Greek Cypriots, their occupation of the island and the cruelty they made on Turkish Cypriots. Naturally this cannot be accepted."


When recalled of Greek Cypriots' and Greece's pleasure with the developments, Denktas said, "if they are pleased, this means we are not pleased."
To be sure, this statement may not be indicative of Turkey's policy toward Cyprus, but one should bear in mind that it is Turkish troops that established and continue to support the Northern Republic, and only Turkey recognizes this state as noted in the Times article above. As I pointed out here, back in April, the similarities between Turkey's occupation of Cyprus and Israel's occupation of the West Bank are undeniable and, if anything, Israel looks better by the comparison. If the EU continues to proceed with admission of Turkey despite the latter's obvious deficiencies, the prospects for peace and justice do not look promising.

Tuesday, December 14, 2004

American Digest

Just noticed that I've been blogrolled by American Digest, a rather eclectic group blog run by Gerard Van der Leun. Curiously, he seems to have linked to my archive page, but I'm sure that will be fixed shortly.

Friday, December 10, 2004

Privatizing Social Security

In general I have been in favor of privatizing Social Security on the same terms as I approve of vouchers: a compromise along the road to ultimately eliminating government involvement altogether. But this report by the Christian Science Monitor gives me pause:

Meanwhile, White House spokesman Scott McClellan this week publicly acknowledged something obvious: The government would have to borrow large amounts of money to finance any switch to private accounts.

Some private estimates have put the potential borrowed amount at $1 trillion or more. Mr. McClellan declined to specify a figure, but said if the program was not restructured to handle the coming wave of baby-boom retirees, additional costs could hit $10 trillion. "There will be some upfront transition financing that will be needed to move towards a better system," said McClellan.

The word "transition" is key here, say proponents. Theoretically, in the long run it should not cost the US any more to shift to a system in which a small percentage of Social Security payroll taxes, 2 to 3 percent, are deposited in private retirement accounts. Since the Social Security checks of today's retirees are financed by current taxes, siphoning off 2 to 3 percent would indeed cause a shortfall. The US would have to borrow more to make the system's ends meet.

But those younger workers busy building their private accounts would be getting smaller benefits from the US when they retire, because they are keeping control of some of their dollars. Uncle Sam's liabilities would thus be lower. In theory, when the shift ends decades from now, the net cost would be zero.
It seems obvious that in order to transition from the current ponzi-scheme (where current taxes pay for current benefits) to one which is an actual savings account will require large short-term expenses. But if the expenses are so high -- or to look at it another way, if the break-even point is so far in the future -- it seems likely that the intense political pressure to scrap the reform will have a much greater chance of succeeding before any benefits are actually realized.

I am still somewhat inclined to give the idea the benefit of the doubt, but somewhat less so than previously. Now that people are talking actual numbers, it does seem that this is a longer shot than I had realized.

My personal preference for Social Security reform would be to announce a gradual phase-out of the benefits, so that people who are currently 40 or less would expect to receive no Social Security when they retire. Many of us don't expect the system to survive that long anyway and have already made other plans and people who haven't will have 25 years to begin saving. (This would be popular with Republicans.) In order to avoid appearing to take money from people who will not receive benefits, eliminate the payroll taxes immediately and pay all benefits out of the general tax. (This would be popular with Democrats.) Within a generation, we will have eliminated the greatest burden on the political system, and returned the country to an attitude of self-reliance and fiscal responsibility. And, as Arnold King points out at Tech Central Station, this will remove a very regressive tax on lower income people, who are the least likely to benefit from it.

4,000 Santas in a Drunken Brawl

OK, maybe they weren't all involved...

Police called to a mass brawl found an army of Santas punching and kicking each other.

Officers had to use batons and CS spray to quell the fight in the centre of Newtown, Powys.

Four were hurt and there were five arrests.

The battle of the Santas followed a 21/2-mile charity run involving more than 4,000 people dressed as Father Christmas. Some of them are believed to have overindulged in alcohol after crossing the finishing line.
(Via Drudge)

You Knew This Was Coming

When I saw Harry Potter III in the theater, my first reaction to the use of the Marauder's Map in the credits was, "That would make a great screen-saver." Sure enough...

(I just wonder how long before it is available for sale rather than as a promo.)

Thursday, December 09, 2004

Rathergate Revisited

Many are speculating that the investigation into the forged documents which Dan Rather used on 60 Minutes will release its report as early as tomorrow. Little Green Footballs has put its animated .GIF back up and notes the following coincidence:

In another amazing coincidence of timing, right before the Memogate report, CBS News releases a last minute hit piece on bloggers suggesting that they are paid political operatives, and hinting darkly at possible new laws to deal with the upstarts: Blogs: New Medium, Old Politics.

Contrast this with yesterday’s report that CBS is recruiting anti-war bloggers to hype CBS news stories that damage the war effort.
See also this reminder, and this one from Wizbang, about the debunked Hailey analysis, which is also evidently being scheduled for final release.

More on Infanticide

For those of you who might have thought my characterization of Dutch euthanasists as "tyrants" was a bit over the top, here is a Tech Central Station column that makes the same connection:

This then, is the common thread that binds Singerian ethics, Dutch medicine, and tyranny of all stripes. The weak exist only at the discretion of the strong. Should the weak become troublesome, then they're fair game, be they defective babies, Bosnian Muslims, or non-Arab Sudanese. We in the West may try to cloak our true motives in the language of science and reason, but it's all of the same cloth. Neonatal euthanasia isn't so much a step down the slippery slope to tyranny as it is a wholesale embrace of it.
(Via Kathryn Lopez at the Corner)

Wednesday, December 08, 2004

Peeve Farm on SouthPark Republicans

Brian Tiemann of Peeve Farm (Breeding peeves for show, not just to keep as pets) has an interesting take on the non-socially conservative Republicans: they are social conservatives!

What do you call a show that isn't afraid to stand up in favor of the word "morality" and restore the fading negativity of the word "whore", as though trying to reverse the lunge into licentiousness led by the madam of Springfield's beloved Burlesque House? That takes a stand against stem-cell research by showing Christopher Reeve sucking out fetuses' spinal fluid in order to regain his feet (as Frank J puts it, "The embryonic stem cell lobby group Others Must Die So We May Walk")? That argues in favor of tightened immigration restrictions to keep us from having to squeal, "They took our jeaarrbs!"? That spends a whole half-hour episode making fun of the Mormon religion, and then—in the last thirty seconds—spins on its heels and makes the viewer feel like an absolute ass for having laughed along with it with a single accusatory barb?

I call it conservative. All the profanity and lewdness and sex and so on notwithstanding. And I think that's because they're simply framing those views in a way that makes them acceptable to modern jaded ears. They know nobody on Comedy Central will take such opinions seriously if they hear them from Billy Graham; but they know they'll watch South Park. And as such, certain things have become acceptable even to social conservatives.
I am not quite sure I agree either with his conclusion or with his endorsement of this brand of conservatism. But it strikes me that the highlighted sentence above is similar to Flannery O'Connor's defense of the grotesque nature of her work.

Now about the Psalms

The piece Sullivan links complains that "NPS has also ordered bronze plaques with verses from Psalms placed at canyon overlooks, truly emphasizing what a Judeo-Christian religious experience the view can be." This is at least misleading if not actually false. The fact is the plaques were placed there 30 years ago by the Evangelical Sisterhood of Mary, a German protestant service organization. The Arizona chapter of the ACLU protested in July, 2003 and the plaques were removed (according to a report from Christianity Today).

After a letter and email campaign, spearheaded by radio talk-show host Dennis Prager among others, the plaques have been restored. So this is not some new putsch of the Evanegelical Right to impose their views on the rest of the country. In the words of Donald W. Murphy, the Park Service's director, in his letter requesting the return of the plaques after they had been returned to the Sisterhood, this was a "return to the historical situation that had been in place".

Now, I have concerns about government involvement in creating intellectual standards especially those that impact science, religion and history. But it seems fairly innocuous to have a privately funded plaque giving glory to God in a fairly generic way, especially since one of our oldest national symbols does exactly that. The Liberty Bell in Philadelphia has the following quotation from Leviticus 25:10, "Proclaim LIBERTY throughout all the Land unto all the Inhabitants thereof."

And, for those who want equal time for other religions, they already have it. As the Christianity Today article remarks:

After all, the Grand Canyon is absolutely full of religious imagery. Buttes are named after Hindu and other religious gods and figures: Isis Temple, Wotans Throne, Zoroaster Temple, Krishna Temple, Holy Grail Peak. The oldest geological layer seen at the bottom of the canyon is called Vishnu Schist.

Canyons, Creationists and Chasms

Andrew Sullivan, usually an articulate spokesman for discourse and mutual understanding, seems to have a blind spot in applying these principles to conservative Christians. The latest example is this brief slur against a perfectly legitimate request for equal time from respectable scientists who hold a Creationist vies:

CREATIONISM WATCH: The Grand Canyon National Park bookstore is the latest victim.
Reading that sentence, anyone who knows a little about the craziness that infests some quarters of the Evangelical Compound may be forgiven for supposing that some Creationist group or other is trying to get evolutionary books banned from the Grand Canyon bookstore. That would be a legitimate complaint and would justify the use of the word "victim".

But, following the link, it seems that the Rabid Oppressors of Truth, Justice and the American Way (ROTJAW?) have much more modest demands:
More from the Faith-Based Front: Look for national parks' geology to be written more in the image of creationists over the next four years in the continuing effort to create "faith-based parks." An ongoing dispute at Grand Canyon National Park bookstores is that Grand Canyon, a Different View was ordered to stay on the bookshelves by top NPS brass. The book says that the Grand Canyon is 4,500 years old and was formed by Noah's flood. Conventional scientific wisdom has the canyon more around 6 million years old, still rather young compared to the age of the Earth. Despite protests from scientists and the Grand Canyon Park superintendent, the book has stayed on the shelves. The Bush administration said it would review the policy, but the review hasn't even been started since the February complaint. NPS has also ordered bronze plaques with verses from Psalms placed at canyon overlooks, truly emphasizing what a Judeo-Christian religious experience the view can be.
It seems that the real offense is that these faith-based fanatics just want their book to stay on the shelves of a publicly funded entity, on the same principle of equal time that is used for political discussion on public airwaves. Hardly an unreasonable request I would think. People who object to the banning of books aren't usually characterized as making victims of the rest of us. (I will have more to say about the Psalm plaques shortly.)

Suppose for the moment that the secular/evolutionary view is correct and this really is junk science. What exactly do they have to lose by allowing these folks to make fools of themselves in public? Isn't that what the marketplace of ideas is all about?

But I would actually like to challenge the assumption that this is junk science. I have not read the book itself, but I am familiar with the work of some of its contributing authors (Steve Austin, Ken Ham, Duane Gish) and most of those with whom I am not familiar have respectable credentials in the physical sciences. There are many approaches to the question of the age of the Grand Canyon (as you would expect from scientists who are drawing conclusions from the data rather than working toward an agenda) but one of the key arguments that it is of recent origin is that we have actually observed very rapid formation of its key geological features: stratification and erosion. The eruption of Mount St. Helens in 1980 has provided direct observational evidence of both of these processes occuring within a matter of weeks (and in some instances, within a matter of minutes).

Up to 400 feet thickness of strata have formed since 1980 at Mount St. Helens. These deposits accumulated from primary air blast, landslide, waves on the lake, pyroclastic flows, mudflows, air fall, and stream water. Perhaps the most surprising accumulations are the pyroclastic flow deposits amassed from ground-hugging, fluidized, turbulent slurries of fine volcanic debris, which moved at high velocities off the flank of the volcano as the eruption plume of debris over the volcano collapsed. These deposits include fine pumice ash laminae and beds from one millimeter thick to greater than one meter thick, each representing just a few seconds to several minutes of accumulation. A deposit accumulated in less than one day, on June 12, 1980, is 25 feet thick and contains many thin laminae and beds. Conventionally, sedimentary laminae and beds are assumed to represent longer seasonal variations, or annual changes, as the layers accumulated very slowly. Mount St. Helens teaches us that the stratified layers commonly characterizing geological formations can form very rapidly by flow processes. Such features have been formed quickly underwater in laboratory sedimentation tanks, and it should not surprise us to see that they have formed in a natural catastrophe.

Erosion during volcanic eruptions at Mount St. Helens was accomplished by scour from steam blast, landslide, water waves, hot pumice ash flows (pyroclastic flows), and mudflows. Since the eruptions, the erosion process has been dominated by sheet flooding and channelized flow of water, with occasional mudflows. About 23 square miles of the North Fork of the Toutle River Valley was obstructed by two-thirds cubic mile of landslide and pyroclastic debris, which has been rapidly eroded since 1980. Jetting steam from buried water and ice under hot pumice reamed steam explosion pits with associated mass-wasting processes at the margins of pits, producing rills and gullies over 125 feet deep. Photographic documentation assembled by ICR scientists demonstrates that very pronounced rills and gullies had formed at the margins of seam explosion pits before May 23 - less than five days after the pumice was deposited. The rills and gullies resemble badlands topography, which geologists have usually assumed required many hundreds or even thousands of years to form.

Mudflows, from Mount St. Helens, were responsible for the most significant erosion. A mudflow on March 19, 1982, eroded a canyon system up to 140 feet deep in the headwaters of the North Fork of the Toutle River Valley, establishing the new dendritic pattern of drainage. As ICR scientists surveyed this new terrain, they began to contemplate the processes which may have formed the Grand Canyon of the Colorado River. The little "Grand Canyon of the Toutle River" is a one-fortieth scale model of the real Grand Canyon. The small creeks which flow through the headwaters of the Toutle River today might seem, by present appearances, to have carved these canyons very slowly over a long time period, except for the fact that the erosion was observed to have occurred rapidly! Geologists should learn that, since the long-time scale they have been trained to assign to landform development would lead to obvious error on Mount St. Helens, it also may be useless or misleading elsewhere.
Now I want to emphasize that nothing in this discussion is based on faith or a literal reading of the Bible. It is true that the scientists involved are Christians and would like to defend the biblical view of the earth's history. But their conclusions are based on direct observation and evaluation of evidence. It may be that their conclusions are inaccurate, but dismissing them a priori as irrelevent is hardly an act of intellectual honesty.

UPDATE: For those who would like a closer look at the book in question, it is available from both ICR and Amazon. The Amazon price is better but by ordering form ICR you would be helping a worthy cause.

Tuesday, December 07, 2004

Shia Street-Blogging

Here is the kind of thing I like to hear about (from the Financial Times):

A black-turbaned Shia cleric drove through the streets of the southern Baghdad district of al-Amel on Saturday, carrying a loudspeaker and mocking the insurgents who scrawled anti-election slogans on the neighbourhood's walls.

"Let those who wrote this show their faces, if they are men," residents quoted him as saying, as two dozen armed supporters followed his motorcade on foot, painting over graffiti that threatened to "cut off the heads" of voters.

"Come and vote," the cleric said to passersby. "We will protect you."

It was a rare display of militancy by one of the pro-establishment Shia clerics, who have so far strongly discouraged any action by their followers against predominantly Sunni insurgents, lest it trigger a civil war.
Belmont Club has an analysis from a military perspective which is, as usual, worth reading.

I wanted to comment that this is an easily missed example of the extent to which freedom has already arrived in Iraq. Two years ago, a Shiite driving down the street blaring insults at Sunnis would have had his tongue cut out. Now he is doing on the streets of Iraq what bloggers like Salam Pax had to do in secret before the war.

For all the problems that Operation Iraqi freedom may have produced, one undeniable benefit has been the beginnings of freedom of speech which is the foundation of a free society. This freedom is fragile and it may well be lost in the future course of Iraqi politics. Who can tell? But we ought to recognize that this nameless cleric is exemplifying more than mere courage by publicly challenging the totalitarian/terrorist insurgency. He is also displaying for all the world, if they will only see it, that human beings, if given an opportunity, may choose freedom over short-term security.

One final note: Despite the fact that this is an Islamic cleric, Christians ought to be celebrating this example of freedom of speech. In a culture where discourse is not conditioned at gun-point, I fail to see how Christianity can not thrive. (To be sure, it can thrive under oppressive conditions as well, but that takes a bit more courage and commitment.) If we are allowed a public hearing, I am convinced that we will eventually win every argument. I am not sure if that is what my friend over at CUANAS is getting at with this post, but I can agree with his celebration of freedom because I am confident that we will win in such an environment.

Monday, December 06, 2004

Feast of St. Nicholas

I have no idea how St. Nick got associated with Christmas, other than the fact that they both occur in the same month. This holiday is special to me simply because 12 years ago today I asked my wife to marry me. I would like to say that my only regret is that I didn't meet her sooner, but she probably wouldn't have married me if she had known me when I was younger. So, all in all, I am pretty happy with the way things turned out.

OK, back to more impersonal blogging later.

Friday, December 03, 2004

Freeper Escapes from Iran

An Iranian student correspondent to the Free Republic message board has escaped from Iran and the Freepers are trying to get him asylum:

We first met in the summer of 2003 when I was reporting on the protests inside of Iran (Iranian Alert Daily Threads). This young man kept us on FR informed by sending me “on the spot reports” at risk to his life about these protests, which I posted for him.

After the protests died down, he would send messages trying to educate Americans and those in the west about what the average Iranian thinks of America and what kind of support the people of Iran need to see a regime change take place in his country.

Well, this friend of ours was forced to go “underground” a month ago. The Iranian regime discovered that he had passed information to our government. As a result, for the past month the regime has been hunting him. He had to keep on the move every few hours. He was nearly captured several times. He struggled with depression, health and fear. It was a horrifying situation. I tried to encourage him to the best of my ability.

After many weeks he was finally able to get help and sneak out of the country.

But now he could use some help from the Freeper community.

We need to ensure that when he finally gets to a US embassy that they will help him, not merely refer him the UN refugee program.

We are asking any Freepers that have contacts in the administration or the state department to please contact us. We are seeking a way to help him get asylum.

He risked his life for us; the least we can do is help him.
For those of you not familiar with Free Republic, a Freeper is kind of like a blogger on steroids. The messages fly so quickly over there that it can be difficult to keep up with the velocity.

I doubt any of my readers will have connections to the US embassy, but if any of you care to pass this along on your own blogs it might help.
(Via Regnum Crucis)

Bill Cosby for NAACP Pres?

Well, probably not, but Clarence Page is nominating him anyway. I think its a great idea. If this ever turns into a serious proposal, I would be willing to do just about anything (short of actually joining the NAACP) to help bring it about. As I said last month he has been a role-model long before I even knew that "race" meant anything other than a sporting event. (And I was never very good at that kind of race either.)

Lump of Coal Campaign

Michelle Malkin is fed up with cities who want to change their Christmas parades to "Holiday" parades:

The persecution never ends. Denver has launched war against a church group that wanted to march in the city's Christmas parade "Parade of Lights." (I hate, hate, hate that p.c. euphemism.)

From the Denver Post: Parade Organizers Say Christmas Carols May Be Offensive To Others
Denver Mayor John Hickenlooper recently announced that next year the phrase "Merry Christmas" will be removed from the city building and replaced with "Happy Holidays."
And now a church group who wants to march in the Parade of Lights and sing Christmas carols will not be allowed to participate in the parade. Organizers say the parade is about the holidays, not Christmas, but leaders of the Faith Bible Chapel say that's ridiculous.
"We can't pretend that Christ didn't exist and Christmas wasn't about his birthday, so we felt we could sing it and apparently that is not in social vogue anymore," said Pastor Gary Beasley, with the Faith Bible Chapel.
"This event is not one that has ever intended to have a religious message or a political message," said Susan Rogers, with the Downtown Denver Partnership.
She said no overtly religious symbols is allowed in the parade and that means participants can't carry "Merry Christmas" signs and can't sing traditional Christmas hymns.
I am hereby launching the Lump of Coal campaign. Later today, I will box up a lump of charcoal, mark the package "MERRY CHRISTMAS!" and send it to the Denver Mayor in protest of his idiotic policy. Please join me in doing the same (and if you take a photo of your creatively designed package, I will link/post).

Send to:

Mayor John W. Hickenlooper
Denver City and County Building
1437 Bannock Street, Suite 350
Denver, CO 80202
I have actually been thinking about the same issue lately and have come up with the first ever, Fully Pro-Choice Holiday Message:

Have a Merry Christmas or Fuck Off ... Your Choice.

Think it will catch on?

Thursday, December 02, 2004

Big Media Unfair to Churches

This story seems like it should be getting more attention by the religious right than it apparently has:

The CBS and NBC television networks are refusing to run a 30-second television ad from the United Church of Christ because its all-inclusive welcome has been deemed "too controversial."

The ad, part of the denomination's new, broad identity campaign set to begin airing nationwide on Dec. 1, states that -- like Jesus -- the United Church of Christ seeks to welcome all people, regardless of ability, age, race, economic circumstance or sexual orientation.

According to a written explanation from CBS, the United Church of Christ is being denied network access because its ad implies acceptance of gay and lesbian couples -- among other minority constituencies -- and is, therefore, too "controversial."

"Because this commercial touches on the exclusion of gay couples and other minority groups by other individuals and organizations," reads an explanation from CBS, "and the fact the Executive Branch has recently proposed a Constitutional Amendment to define marriage as a union between a man and a woman, this spot is unacceptable for broadcast on the [CBS and UPN] networks."
Josh Marshall has been following the story (here, here, here and here for instance) and Andrew Sullivan has mentioned it but I haven't been able to find this story on any of the conservative blogs that I read regularly.

It seems to me that if we are going to criticize the media for being unfair to Christians, that should include liberal Christians as well. I don't agree with the United Church of Christ on the issue of homosexuality, and the equation of moral disapproval with racial bigotry is dishonest, but they ought to be able to advertise on public airwaves just like the condom companies and Frederick's of Hollywood. People who don't want to watch the ads can change the channel. (Or, better yet, sell the fricking TV!) And the ad itself does not seem particularly offensive. Surely this is another example of the media's arrogance and blindness, which we have not been shy at pointing out when it affects us personally. Of course, this isn't a First Amendment issue: Viacom has every right, as a private company, to refuse to run anything it wants. But so do we, as consumers, have a right to protest such decisions.

And, if the argument from principle is not sufficient, consider this: it may well be in our best interest to protest. Is it possible that the ad was refused in order to make the religious right appear the villain? Josh Marshall points out the following rationale:
The CBS memo to the UCC includes three basic points.

1. The alleged policy of not running ads which address issue of public debate or controversy.

2. An alleged rule against ads from religious organizations which can be said in any way to proselytize.

3. And the fact that President Bush has recently called for a constitutional ban on gay marriage.

Reason #2 seems like the best argument (though it's pretty weak in itself). But the CBS memo specifically says that this isn't the reason they're rejecting it. Reason one, they say, was an entirely sufficient reason for rejecting the ad.

But having enunciated this bar against ads which discuss or take a position on any "current controversial issue of public importance" they then gratuitously add this line about President Bush's call for a constitutional ban on gay marriage.


I would think that the general rule, if evenly enforced, would be sufficient. I cannot think of any good reason why President Bush's (who's now apparently been renamed 'Executive Branch') stated position should have any bearing at all on whether the ad should run.

Can you?
Actually, yes, I can. By including that sentence, CBS is suggesting that it is afraid that it may suffer at the hands of the Bush administration if they air an ad the administration finds offensive. They are invoking, without actually mentioning, the spectre of Right-wing Thought Police. This has the benefit of being perfectly deniable, since no actual charges against Bush have been made, but people will still gain the impression that Things Are Getting Scary.

This is actually a rather common tactic in political rhetoric and is frequently used to sow resentment. Throughout history it has been a cause of anti-semitism when the discontent was aimed at a successful Jewish class, and Evangelicals are becoming as safe a whipping boy as the Jews in certain circles.

I would much rather that we were on record as objecting on principle to the sort of soft censorship that CBS is perpetrating against our fellow Christians. But, for whatever reason, we ought to speak up.

A Little Early for Holy Innocents

Anyone familiar with the Liturgical Calendar knows that the Feast of Holy Innocents occurs three days after Christmas on December 28. On this day the recognizes the children killed by the tyrant, Herod, in his attempt to destroy Jesus. For over a decade my church, St. Luke's, has observed this day with a prayer service for the victims of abortion and other forms of oppression. (I blogged about the prayer I wrote for our service here.)

It looks like the tyrants are starting the reenactment a little early this year:

Four times in recent months, Dutch doctors have pumped lethal doses of drugs into newborns they believe are terminally ill, setting off a new phase in a growing European debate over when, if ever, it's acceptable to hasten death for the critically ill.

Few details of the four newborns' deaths have been made public. Official investigations have found that the doctors made appropriate and professional decisions under an experimental policy allowing child euthanasia that's known as the Groningen University Hospital protocol.

But the children's deaths, and the possibility that the protocol will become standard practice throughout the Netherlands, have sparked heated discussion about whether the idea of assisting adults who seek to die should ever be applied to children and others who are incapable of making, or understanding, such a request.


Under the Groningen protocol, if doctors at the hospital think a child is suffering unbearably from a terminal condition, they have the authority to end the child's life. The protocol is likely to be used primarily for newborns, but it covers any child up to age 12.
Last week's issue of World Magazine contained an interview with Peter Singer, the Princeton professor who is considered the most influential philosopher of the culture of death in America. But even he draws the line at killing children over the age of two.

Mark Roberts seems to have broken this story on the blogosphere and Hugh Hewitt was wondering yesterday why more bloggers haven't picked it up. It looks like more have gotten on board today. Possibly the reason for the lack of outrage is that we have come to expect this sort of degradation and it no longer shocks us. Frankly, I am constantly amazed that such things haven't happened much sooner -- evidence, no doubt, of God's restraining hand in human affairs.