Tuesday, November 29, 2005

Keep Up Pressure on Sudan

iAbolish reports that the Bush administration has upgraded Sudan's status to Tier II on the Trafficking in Persons report:

In a recent decision, President Bush and the State Department elevated Sudan’s status on the Trafficking in Persons Report from Tier III (the lowest possible ranking), to Tier II. Despite continued government support and orchestration of slave raids, Sudan now shares the ranking with countries such as Switzerland, Chile, Hungary, and Greece.

Although the State Department justifies this decision by citing “significant efforts” on the part of the Sudanese government to comply with United States anti-trafficking legislation, human rights activists challenge this determination, claiming that the meager proof offered by the State Department does not amount to “significant efforts.”
They have an on-line petition here where interested parties can sign the following letter to Secretary Rice:
Dear Madam Secretary,

I write regarding Presidential Determination, No. 2005-37, dated September 21, 2005, to elevate Sudan's slavery status from Tier III to Tier II of the Trafficking in Persons (TIP) Report.

Although I greatly appreciate the personal attention you devote to ending the genocide in Sudan and admire the courage you demonstrated while visiting dangerous camps in Darfur, I am very concerned about the recent decision to elevate Sudan's status to Tier II of the TIP Report, the same level as Switzerland, Finland, Israel, Greece, Hungary and Chile.

The Memorandum of Justification accompanying the Presidential Determination states:

"The Government of Sudan does not yet fully comply with the Trafficking Victims Protection Act (TVPA) minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking, but is making significant efforts to bring itself into compliance. This is the standard for placement in Tier II of the State Department's Trafficking in Persons Report. The Secretary of State has placed Sudan on the Special Watch List because the determination that the Government of Sudan is making significant efforts is based on commitments by the country to take additional steps over the next year."

This decision is fundamentally flawed. The available evidence from the UN points to the Government of Sudan's continuing involvement in crimes against humanity, including "abductions and sexual slavery." In conclusion, I recommend the immediate reversal of the flawed decision.

The establishment of a new coalition government in Khartoum presents fresh opportunities for the eradication of slavery. We therefore urge you to liase with Sudan's new First Vice-President and regional President of Southern Sudan, Salva Kiir - whose own relatives and community number among the victims of slavery - to find a credible approach to terminating, for all time, the horrors of state-sponsored slavery in Sudan.

I stand behind you, Madam Secretary, as you work to bring peace to Sudan. But I feel obliged to remind you that lasting peace can only be based on truth and justice. Peace in Sudan will never be secure as long as the interests of the slaves and other victims of terror are sacrificed for certain foreign policy objectives, such as preserving the unity of the Islamist-dominated Sudanese state and gaining the cooperation of that officially designated "terrorist" state as a partner in counter-terrorism.

Monday, November 21, 2005

Nigeria! Nigeria! Nigeria!

This is so cool:

In an historic moment, as part of the realignment of global Anglicanism, on November 12, 2005 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, the Most Rev. Peter J. Akinola, Primate of the Church of Nigeria (Anglican Communion), the Most Rev. Leonard W. Riches, Presiding Bishop of the Reformed Episcopal Church, and the Most Rev. Walter H. Grundorf, Presiding Bishop of the Anglican Province of America, entered on behalf of their three Churches a Covenant Union of Anglican Churches in Concordat.
OK, that probably doesn't sound so impressive to those of you who haven't been following the shake-up in the Episcopal Church USA (ECUSA). What it means, in simple terms, is that the biggest communion of Anglicans on the planet (Nigeria), with the most kick-ass Archbishop (Peter Akinola), has formally recognized my denomination (REC) and seriously dissed ECUSA. The REC has long been considered a sort of poor step-sister to ECUSA because we are smaller and evangelical, whereas they are big and apostate. This is equivalent to Isaac choosing Jacob over Esau, or Israel choosing Ephraim over Manasseh. It is like the English ousting James II and restoring the protestants William and Mary.

It is especially a kick in the pants for ECUSA since their former poster-boy, John Shelby Spong, once famously dismissed the African bishops as having "moved out of animism into a very superstitious kind of Christianity." Well, now those same bishops are joining with the REC to evangelize the apostate West: "The three Churches have united specifically for joint mission in North America."


I apologize for the unwonted exuberance of this post, but I have been praying for this for a very long time.

(Note: I don't mean to leave the Anglican Province in America out of the mix. The REC and the APA are in full communion. We are on the road to an actual merger but there are some minor issues, such as Mariology, that are acting as speed-bumps. Nothing serious, but worth taking time over. So, when I say "my denomination", I assume that will eventually include the APA, as well.)

Update: The link to the quoted article above goes to the REC main web site. There evidently isn't a way to link to the article itself, so it may eventually become outdated.

Friday, November 18, 2005

Comments Enabled

Against my better judgment, I have finally decided to break down and enable comments on this blog. My original objections were that comments take away from the focus of a blog and that the top bloggers (such as Andrew Sullivan, Instapundit and the Volokh Conspiracy) did not have comments. But I have found that recently, I spend more time commenting on other blogs than blogging here, so my first argument falls somewhat flat. And I have pretty much stopped reading Sullivan, and Volokh has been enabling comments for some time now, so the second argument is much shakier than it used to be. So starting now, I will be enabling comments until further notice.

I will update this post with my comment/email policy as soon as I have time to think about it some more. But let me say, by way of guidelines, that I want thoughtful comments along the lines of those at Althouse or the Volokh Conspiracy. I don't want the sort on Little Green Footballs. If you can't tell the difference, you probably shouldn't be commenting.

Pastorius on ID

My friend Pastorius cites this story about the Vatican denying that ID is science. I would have thought that the whole Galileo episode would have taught the Vatican to stay out of questions of what is and isn't science, but apparently they feel the need to make up for the former error by falling off the other side of the horse.

Regardless, Pastorius comments:

In science, it doesn't much matter if God created the universe or not. Scientists still have to use the scientific method to figure out how things work. If, instead, a scientist looks at an organic process, and simply says, "It works that way, because God created it," then that's the end of science.
My responses are on his comments section, but I thought I should post the latter one here as well, since he is asking for sources showing that ID really does science:
Michael Behe's Darwin's Black Box and the various books by William Dembski (especially The Design Revolution) are good places to start. These are popular description of ID, though, so they qualify more as meta-science rather than actual science (in the same way that Origin of the Species or The Blind Watchmaker are not science but meta-science.)

For articles, I would recommend this analysis of The Scientific Status of Intelligent Design. It is rather long and some of the points are more philosophical than scientific, but the gist is that ID and Darwinism use essentially the same methodology. I am comfortable with the charge that this doesn't prove that ID is scientific, (they might both be unscientific), but at least it is relevant to the question of whether ID should be taught in schools.

Here is a list of peer-reviewed scientific articles on the subject of ID. Note that not all of the articles mentioned are by members of the ID movement. Unfortunately, the actual articles are not linked to, just the summaries, but you can see by the description that they are the standard sort of thing you find in scientific analysis.

This sort of begs the question at hand since it basically answers the question, "What is science?" by stating, "Science is the stuff that scientists do." This has a disturbingly circular ring to it as well as invoking the spectre of an appeal to authority that Galileo would no doubt find humorous. Nevertheless this does seem to be only definitive way to answer the question. Any attempt to define science rigorously will run into the problem of who is doing the defining, which is pretty much at the center of the ID debate.

Shi'ite Torture Cell in Baghdad

This is disturbing:

U.S. and Iraqi forces raided a secret Iraqi detention bunker run by the Ministry of Interior in central Baghdad and freed 173 Sunni prisoners who had been tortured with electric shocks and drills, Iraqi and U.S. officials said yesterday.

The Ministry of Interior in the Shi'ite-led government has been repeatedly accused of allowing extrajudicial detentions and abuses, including operation of anti-Sunni hit squads.

A Baghdad police official said officers from the Shi'ite-led Badr Brigade, which answers to the Supreme Council for Islamic Revolution in Iraq (SCIRI) political party, were manning the bunker when the U.S. and Iraqi forces arrived.


In Washington, State Department deputy spokesman Adam Ereli called for those responsible to be held accountable.

"We don't practice torture, and we don't believe that others should practice torture," he said. "So when there are cases of people being accused of torture, we take that seriously."


The FBI and U.S. Department of Justice, together with the U.S. Embassy and multinational forces in Iraq, have offered to assist in the investigation.
The main reason I think the war in Iraq was just -- the deposition of Hussein and his torture state -- is going to fall apart if the Shi'ites we put in power start behaving in the same despicable manner. I am glad to see that the State Department is denouncing this in no uncertain terms and that the FBI an JD are on the case. But the important thing will be how this plays in Iraq and whether or not there is sufficient follow-through. If this isn't stopped immediately, we lose.

UPDATE: Disturbingly, this news is two days old and I don't see much buzz about this. Several MSM sources (including Drudge) have carried the story but not with any great prominence and none of the major blogs have so much as mentioned it. IraqTheModel is the only one I can find who has anything to say about this. Even Belgravia Dispatch and Andrew Sullivan, who are quick to point out the questionable activities of the CIA have not mentioned this as far as I can tell.
Here is the Washington Times noting the pushback from the Iraqi Interior Minister. Also, note the possible Iran connection.

Thursday, November 10, 2005

The Anchoress Spanks Republican Leaders

In a post titled Attention GOP Leadership the Anchoress makes some points that I have been stewing about for weeks:

The world is tilting, and you useless, ineffectual, dithering moneysuckers seem increasingly to be empty suits, given shape and movement not by ideas and a willingness to serve the electorate, but by wispy tufts of ambitious smoke. You seem directed toward nothing more than keeping your almighty Senate or House seat in your name. You give away your power, you give away your advantages in committee, you leave in place utterly feckless people like Arlen Specter and then, when you finally seem like you are on the cusp of doing something productive and right, like investigating the CIA or okaying drilling in a bare, muddly, uninhabitable tundra, you fall into a faint and go slinking back to your states and districts to gladhand and pump for money and then gladhand some more.
This is harsh rhetoric, but it perfectly captures the frustration that many principled conservatives feel with our unprincipled representatives. More, their lack of principle is reflecting badly on us -- unfairly, since politicians are rarely as interested in principle as their intellectual defenders, but inevitably.

In an update, the Anchoress claims that this disaffection from the GOP is different from criticisms of the Harriet Miers nomination. But I think she was wrong to object to the treatment of Miers, "due to her not being permitted her hearing". Miers and Bush were not owed any such hearing. People voicing their opiinion is precisely the data that Senators should have taken into account in making their decision whether or not to confirm, and the fact that the opinions expressed caused Bush to withdraw the nomination is a perfectly acceptable outcome.

Robertson on Intelligent Design

Tammy Bruce rightly excoriates this bit of idiocy from Pat Robertson:

Conservative Christian televangelist Pat Robertson told citizens of a Pennsylvania town that they had rejected God by voting their school board out of office for supporting "intelligent design" and warned them on Thursday not to be surprised if disaster struck.
One of the irritating things about this is that, by associating Intelligent Design with Christianity (if that is what you call the worldly and mendacious religion that he practices), Robertson is actually feeding the very slander that critics of ID have so successfully achieved. Michael Behe and William Dembski have gone to great lengths to demonstrate that what they do is legitimate science and has no basis in any religion, Christian or otherwise. Then along comes Robertson and pisses it all away by calling down the wrath of God.

He is even wrong from a theological point of view. Here is his actual quote:
"I'd like to say to the good citizens of Dover: if there is a disaster in your area, don't turn to God, you just rejected Him from your city," Robertson said on his daily television show broadcast from Virginia, "The 700 Club."

"And don't wonder why He hasn't helped you when problems begin, if they begin. I'm not saying they will, but if they do, just remember, you just voted God out of your city. And if that's the case, don't ask for His help because he might not be there," he said.
Even assuming that Robertson had the authority to speak on God's behalf (which I categorically deny), this is just not a biblical view of God's judgment. Telling people not to turn to God has no precedent in even the harshest prophets of the Old Testament.

It is true that God will sometimes respond to extreme unfaithfulness with and implacable justice which he declares in advance will not be remitted. I am currently teaching a study on the book of the prophet Hosea who had the thankless task of telling the Northern kingdom of Israel that their doom was fixed. Chapter 1 contains one of the two or three scariest passages in the entire bible: "Call her name Lo-Ruhamah, for I will no longer have mercy on the house of Israel, but I will utterly take them away." [Hos 1:6] Yet, in several times throughout the book, Hosea is careful to say that, after the judgment has occurred and the people are repentant "I will heal their backsliding, I will love them freely, for My anger has turned away from him." [Hos 14:4] (If you want a more complete discussion of this book, you will have to show up at St. Luke's. :)

Tammy comments:
Just as we demand that "modern" Muslims condemn the extremists in their midst, good Christians really ought to send Robertson packing. This is just ridiculous and should embarrass every decent person of faith out there. Absolutely outrageous.
I agree. One minor quibble with Tammy's post, however. Many conservative Christians do deplore Robertson and Falwell and do so as publicly as we are able. However, our objections do not make the front pages -- much less the careful, thoughtful and constructive contributions we make in our churches and daily lives. I am not a conspiracy theorist by any means, but I have become convinced that Robertson and his ilk are useful to the MSM precisely because they show Christianity in a bad light. Sending him packing would be a dream come true for many of us, but is not a very realistic option in the current environment.

Update: Incidentally, here is what Michael Behe has to say about the court case (mentioned in the article):
As far as the "ordeal" goes, despite what the LA Times article makes it seem, it was actually all rather exhilirating. I rather enjoyed myself on the witness stand, because I got to explain in very great detail the argument for intelligent design, and the other side had to sit there and listen.

The cross examination was fun too, and showed that the other side really does have only rhetoric and bluster. At one point the lawyer for the other side who was cross examining me ostentatiously piled a bunch of papers on the witness stand that putatively had to do with the evolution of the immune system. But it was obvious from a cursory examination that they were more examples of hand waving speculations, which I had earlier discussed in my direct testimony. So I was able to smile and say that they had nothing more to say than the other papers. I then thought to myself, that here the NCSE, ACLU, and everyone in the world who is against ID had their shot to show where we were wrong, and just trotted out more speculation. It actually made me feel real good about things.

From what I read from Casey's blog about Scott Minnich's testimony, he seemed to have the same experience. I haven't the foggiest idea how the Judge will rule, but I think we got to show a lot of people that ID is a very serious idea.

Support Free Speech: Kill HR 4194

RedState and DailyKos have co-authored a letter to congress urging the defeat of HR 4194 which has been offered as an alternative to the Online Freedom of Speech Act (H.R. 1606):

As bloggers from the right and left, we don't often agree on much. But when it comes to free speech online, we couldn't agree more.


For those members committed to extending the BCRA rules and regulations to the Internet, it would be preferable to pass no bill at all rather than H.R. 4194, which would only chill free speech and technological growth, and instead wait for the Federal Election Commission to complete its current rulemaking process.

Better still would be to pass H.R. 1606, the Online Freedom of Speech Act. H.R. 1606 would preserve the status quo which governed the 2004 election cycle, during which none of the fears now trumpeted by H.R. 4194's supporters came to pass.


In sum, the Internet now fulfills through technology what the rest of campaign finance reform attempts via law - and this occurred under the legal regime which H.R. 1606 seeks to codify. We urge you to proceed cautiously, and steer clear of additional restrictions like H.R. 4194 until real corruption becomes evident.
Personally, I would rather repeal the entire McCain-Feingold Campaign Finance law and (all similar laws) and simply let people decide for themselves what to think. I don't believe money really has such an impact on elections, even in traditional media, as we are generally led to believe.

But since such a repeal is probably not politically possible in the near future, at least we should prevent Congress from extending the restrictions on free speech to the one internet.

(Cross posted on Love America First)

Tuesday, November 01, 2005

Alito on Casey

Most commentators have rightly recognized that the battle for the confirmation of Samuel Alito will center on his dissent in Planned Parenthood v Casey. Tammy Bruce, who is mildly supportive of the nomination with some reservations, has this to say:

Let me say immediately I was disappointed he did not pick a woman. I realize many of you think it makes no difference, but I beg to differ. All people in important positions also serve as role models. If the president were to have picked a woman, a conservative woman of course, it would have sent an additional message that women can think in a variety of different ways. That is one reason why the Dems become especially apoplectic when it comes to women who dare to be different. It is the reason why Barbara Boxer treated Secretary Rice so badly during her confirmation hearing. They can not stand women who challenge the Left's status quo, who dare to leave their plantation.


And when it comes to being conservative, there is nothing conservative about ruling in a manner that says government has a right to control communications between spouses. I think all of you would certainly agree with that. And yet consider this when it came to his dissent in Planned Parenthood Vs. Casey:

In the early 1990s, Alito was the lone dissenter in Planned Parenthood v. Casey, a case in which the 3rd Circuit struck down a Pennsylvania law that included a provision requiring women seeking abortions to notify their spouses.

While many of you probably would, of course, personally prefer that a woman tell her husband what she's doing, especially if she's getting an abortion, legislating what a wife or husband should tell each other is the opposite of a conservative view of government. Obviously, he's pro-life, and that's fine. But that's a religious position, not an authentically conservative 'political' position. The two are very different.

At any rate, the president is in for a fight, and Alito is a smart man and a good jurist in general. His action in Casey indicates that he thinks government has a right to reach into our lives. That is troubling when it comes to a decision like Kelo and our private property rights.

Harry Reid isn't happy, so that's one excellent sign that Alito is overall a good choice. We shall see.
Here is my response, which I also posted as a comment on Tammy's blog:
I am also mildly disappointed that a conservative woman was not nominated, not for affirmative action-type reasons but for the simple political calculation that it would improve the image of the Republican Party among those who care about such things. Also it would be a huge thumb in the eye of the opposition.

But I respectfully disagree with your assessment of Alito's role in PP v Casey. His dissent was perfectly justifiable on conservative principles, in both a substantive and legal sense.

Substantively, it has always been the case that government has some role in defining the behavior of married couples. Consider the case of jointly buying a house. I could not legally sell my house without my wife's consent. There are probably other restrictions as well that I am not aware of. Note, incidentally, that this is quite apart from any moral or religious considerations. Marriage is, among other things, a public and legal relationship, which the government has an interest in regulating. While you rightly suggest that governmental interference should be minimal -- and we can agree to disagree on what the limits of that interference should be -- it is by no means contrary to conservative principle that there might be some.

Unfortunately, I am not able to find the original 3rd Circuit decision with Alito's dissent, but he is quoted in the SCOTUS case as saying "[t]he Pennsylvania legislature could have rationally believed that some married women are initially inclined to obtain an abortion without their husbands' knowledge because of perceived problems - such as economic constraints, future plans, or the husbands' previously expressed opposition - that may be obviated by discussion prior to the abortion." This suggests that he was using a "rational basis" test for the constitutionality of the legislation. What this means is that the court defers to the legislature if it can find any legitimate end that the law could be pursuing, as opposed to strict scrutiny which puts more burden of proof on the government in cases where an enumerated constitutional right is at issue. As Rehnquist points out in his dissent (footnote 2), the law made several exceptions to the notification requirement, thus avoiding the imposition of an "undue burden" on the woman, thus avoiding the need for strict scrutiny. I happen to disagree with this taxonomy of scrutiny, but it is established doctrine handed down from prior Supreme Court decisions, so using it qualifies as "conservative" in the judicial sense.
I neglected to mention it above, but for the sake of clarity let me explain the reference to affirmative action. I think that the first issue that should be considered is always merit. But, once you have a pool of equally qualified people, it is perfectly legitimate to promote on the basis of such things as race or sex, especially when you are trying to maintain a certain public image. This isn't mandatory, of course, but it makes sense from a political perspective.

UPDATE: Commenter Joe at ConfirmThem.com has posted the text of Judge Alito's dissent in PP v Casey. It pretty much confirms my guesses above, viz. that his dissent was based on a "rational basis" test and that no "undue burden" was established (which would have required a higher standard of scrutiny). Fascinatingly, he bases his dissent on prior opinions of ... Justice Sandra Day O'Connor, whom he is slated to replace.