Wednesday, July 26, 2006

Baiting, are we?

Andrew Sullivan's recent post on "Kos, Atrios, Hezbollah" is startling:

A reader wants to know what the silence is all about:

The radio silence on Lebanon from the left-wing blogosphere (i.e. Kos, Atrios) is fascinating, and your reader from the 'Liberal Blogs and Israel' post had it about right. To sympathize with Hezbollah would expose these bloggers to a potentially career-damaging backlash. However, to take the mainstream Democratic line of say, Chuck Schumer, would be to seriously alienate a chunk of their readership.

And for sure, Hezbollah sympathizers do exist on the left. One only has to listen to KPFA, the 'free speech network' broadcast out of Berkeley to get a taste of unfiltered Hezbollah propaganda, in which Mullah Nasrallah is characterized as the new Che Guevara. The Weekly Standard might have done better to listen to some of these transcripts, rather than to desperately fish around the diaries on Kos.

I've actually been skeptical of beating up on Kos on this. But I just read the last three pages of posts on the main site, and there's only one even vaguely alluding to the crisis with Hezbollah. That's just plain weird. I know we're not supposed to notice silence on blogs - people are free to ignore all sorts of stories. But the silence can be instructive (hey, I studied with a Straussian). This is Atrios' second-hand excuse:

I've said nothing about war in Lebanon or Ethiopia because I have nothing to add, and also because - as you may or may not be aware - the United States is actually involved in a hugely bloody war right now, and this is more of a pressing concern to me personally. I don’t know the secret formula for unshitting any of these beds - I promise I wouldn't be shy if I did - but I currently only have to sleep in one of them; and, as it turns out, that's the one bed where I actually have some miniscule chance of influencing the situation. So that’s my concern.

This would make sense if there were no connections between Hezbollah and Iran and Iraq. Are lefties unable to grapple with complex regional wars? Nah. They're just wimping out. My reader gives one plausible reason why. Is there a more persuasive one?

First, the title. Is he equating the three?

Second, are my eyes deceiving me, or is he actually accusing Atrios and Markos of laziness when he says "they're just wimping out"? As if they're not spending a lot of time writing about other things ...

Third, his question, "are lefties unable to grapple with complex regional wars?" is insulting and ill-informed. Digby has been writing about Lebanon regularly since the current crisis unfolded two weeks ago. I'll let him do the basic research to find out who else has been at it (but here's a short list to get him started: Billmon, James Wolcott, Matthew Yglesias, Juan Cole, Steve Gilliard, Tom Tomorrow, LiberalOasis, War and Piece, etc.). And what has been the lefty-blogosphere consensus? (If he would only dig around further than Atrios and Kos, he would see it!) That Iraq has put us in the position of being unable to deal properly with any new crisis in the Middle East. That we have been actively alienating the Iranian middle every since the GWOT started, and we're paying the price today (and that Israel's attacks are hurting the Lebanese middle, as well). That we've been badly neglecting the Palestinian-Israeli peace process. That the Israeli attacks on Lebanon may badly destabilize the Lebanese government and bolster Hezbollah's ranks rather than diminish them.

Do these sentiments seem critical of Israel at times? Yes, but they always come with complete condemnation of Hezbollah (and a desire for it to disappear completely from the map, or at least become peacefully folded into the Lebanese political economy).

Are these sentiments critical of Bush? Well, Sullivan will be the first to admit, nowadays, that Bush is worthy of criticism.

Finally, the presumption of him and the readers he's published that lefty bloggers want to criticize Israel, but are kept from doing so by their political ambitions, is inane. Leaving the false choice aside, has he stopped to consider that they might actually support Israel defending itself?

What's disappointing is that Andrew Sullivan is typically a lot better than this. But he's gotten into the habit of criticizing lefty blogs for superficial reasons. He really should stop this childish baiting and propagandist "the-left-is-scared-of-this-issue" myth-making when he knows full well there are plenty of bloggers on the left working on this issue nearly full time.

Kooky James Inhofe

Senator Inhofe of Oklahoma has become fully unhinged about global climate change. Why? Dave Roberts at Grist Magazine has the answer.

Oil industry profits -- where do they come from?

Executives of oil majors hemm and haw about where their recent and massive profits come from, but they will mostly eventually state quite clearly that when the price of the base commodity (in this case, crude) increases, profits also will increase.

And BP, for all it's "green" advertising (you've seen the commercials with the hippy guy and his buddy all worried about where gas comes from like it was an organic energy bar), is no different.

Yesterday's New York Times reported on the massive 2nd q. profits BP has brought: $7 billion, or the equivalent of $55k per minute.

Now, let me ask you, my dear reader, a question. Do the oil majors have an incentive to bring down the price of crude?

The current price of oil includes a 25% risk premium, which is the additional cost the market is willing to pay in the face of Mideast terrorism, or violence in the Niger Delta. The oil majors are benefiting hugely from this premium. Why should they work to make it go away?

Tuesday, July 25, 2006

Freedom-loving forces

From an interview this morning by Amy Goodman of Democracy Now! with dissident Iranian investigative journalist Akbar Ganji [emphasis mine]:
AMY GOODMAN: How can you bring democracy to Iran? How can the pro-democracy movement in Iran be empowered?

AKBAR GANJI: [translated] We have a widespread democratic movement within our country. There are two main weak points for this movement. First is the lack of organization, and there is no leadership. We need to better organize the movement and to elect democratically a leader for this movement, a leader like Gandhi. If we can manage to do this, the road to victory is short.

But we should bear in mind at least one point. Wherever in the Middle East a free election is held, Muslim fundamentalists will inevitably win. In addition to fundamental structural problems, also Western foreign policy is responsible for this. Iran is the only exception in the region. Should there be a free election in Iran, the winner will be democratic and freedom-loving forces. But those parties look at U.S. foreign policies with suspicion.
One of great disgraces of the Bush Administration's foreign policy has been its alienation of the Iranian middle. We're paying for it.

NRDC says 12 US National Parks are at risk from climate change

The story from Reuters:
All 12 parks are located in the American West, where temperatures have risen twice as fast as in the rest of the United States over the last 50 years, said Theo Spencer of the Natural Resources Defense Council.

"Rising temperatures, drought, wildfires and diminished snowfalls endanger wildlife and threaten hiking, fishing and other recreational activities" in the parks, Spencer said in a telephone news conference. "Imagine Glacier Park without glaciers or Yellowstone without any grizzly bears."

From the 29 page NRDC and Rocky Mountain Climate Organization report, regarding Joshua Tree National Park, one of my favorites:
Higher temperatures can eliminate an entire plant species from an area. Researchers from the U.S. Geological Survey and universities have documented substantial mortality of Joshua trees in California’s high desert and project that because of climate warming the trees "will be unable to persist much longer within Joshua Tree National Park." Joshua trees need the relatively cooler temperatures now found in the higher Mojave desert, compared to those of nearby Colorado or Sonoran deserts, in part because they require winter freezes to flower and set seeds.

Which National Parks are most at risk:

  • Bandalier National Monument, NM
  • Death Valley National Park, CA
  • Glacier National Park, MT
  • Glen Canyon National Recreation Area, UT/AZ
  • Golden Gate National Recreation Area, CA
  • Grand Teton National Park, WY
  • Mesa Verde National Park, CO
  • Mount Rainier National Park, WA
  • North Cascades National Park, WA
  • Rocky Mountain National Park, CO
  • Yellowstone National Park, WY/ID/MT (loss of Grizzlies expected -- Stephen Colbert should be thrilled)
  • Yosemite National Park, CA
The prescription, according to the NRDC [emphasis mine]:
Encouragingly, more Americans are becoming aware of what is at stake, taking action themselves, and expecting action from their leaders. The National Park Service can do more to identify park resources and values that are at risk from a disrupted climate and take action to preserve them. The U.S. government must establish sensible standards that begin to significantly reduce our emissions of heattrapping gases within 10 years if we are to avoid the most dangerous impacts caused by rising temperatures. In the face of inaction at the federal level, many states and cities are moving forward on their own, but much more can be done. Responsible and prudent action by all levels of government can make the difference in preserving not just the national parks of the American West but natural ecosystems and the quality of people's lives worldwide.
It's time to kick the bums out. You want checks and balances, Iraq War oversight, and sensible environmental policy as soon as possible? Vote Democrat in 2006. Then do it again in 2008.

Connecticut, Joe Lieberman, Andrew Sullivan, Markos Moulitsas, and a reader

A reader to Andrew Sullivan's blog complains about Markos Moulitsas's "interference" in Democratic primary politics in Connecticut. The reader writes [emphasis mine]:
Reading the interview with Kos made me want to throw up. As a Connecticut native (and Lieberman supporter), I wonder where he gets off trying to play God in our elections. He says, "I don't think Joe Lieberman would have anything to worry about had he tended to his constituents back home. His job is to represent the people of Connecticut." What kind of view of Connecticut's politics does he think he has from San Francisco, exactly? Representing "the people of Connecticut" is exactly what Lieberman has been doing, which is why he is crushing Lamont and the GOP candidate in a 3-way general election with over 50% of the vote.
Old news.

From DailyKos, today, we get results from Rasmussen's latest Connecticut Senate poll. While last week Quinnipiac had Lamont losing to Lieberman in a three-way race 51% to 27%, Rasmussen reports today that there's an even split between the two candidates in a three-way race and Lamont making striking gains among Republican voters (Schlesinger, the GOP candidate, would get a measly 9%, largely due to some scandals regarding gambling debts).

Sullivan doesn't seem to like Kos very much, and I'm not entirely sure that Kos has comported himself with the kind of humility necessary to keep oneself free from criticism, but the fact is that Lieberman is in trouble, and for reasons that Kos lays out well in his interview.

"American Theocracy"

I haven't read it yet, but I've seen or heard Kevin Phillips everywhere. And as if to answer my questions from a recent post, I read the following quote from a review by Anthony Monteiro of Phillips' book in Political Affairs Magazine [emphasis mine, page numbers are from Phillips' book]:
Under the cloak of fighting terrorism, talks have begun between Washington and several African nations to build permanent naval and military bases in West Africa, particularly Senegal, Ghana and Mali - a rising oil region. The Wall Street Journal indicates that the key mission for US forces in Africa is to guarantee that Nigerian oilfields, that in the future could account for 25% of all US imports, remain secure. US military officials have visited Gabon and Sao Tome where they are considering building a deepwater port. The US European Command has recently stated its carrier battle groups would spend half their time going down the west coast of Africa. (85). The US oil strategy in Africa has ignited ethnic conflict, corruption, wealth and income disparities and interstate tensions. (Phillips, p86 - 87). Sudan and Chad and the political and ethnic struggles in Nigeria are case studies of these developments.
I guess I'm not crazy to be asking these questions. Stay tuned for the next major battleground in the War on Terrah.

The principle of even-numberedness

A fascinating NYT op-ed by Harvard psychologist Daniel Gilbert. Quote:
The problem with the principle of even-numberedness is that people count differently. Every action has a cause and a consequence: something that led to it and something that followed from it. But research shows that while people think of their own actions as the consequences of what came before, they think of other people’s actions as the causes of what came later.

... What seems like a grossly self-serving pattern of remembering is actually the product of two innocent facts. First, because our senses point outward, we can observe other people’s actions but not our own. Second, because mental life is a private affair, we can observe our own thoughts but not the thoughts of others. Together, these facts suggest that our reasons for punching will always be more salient to us than the punches themselves -- but that the opposite will be true of other people’s reasons and other people’s punches.
All of what's bad in modern political discourse is summed up in these paragraphs.

UPDATE: July 25, 5:41 PM. It just now occurred to me how wise Gilbert's op-ed actually is. Consider the response of Israeli Brigadier General Herzog to a question on CSPAN's Washington Journal this morning about whether Israel's response to the kidnapping of two Israeli soldiers has been proportional. Herzog naturally responds that the response is proportional if one considers the longer history of attacks against Israel by Hezbollah, and given the recent withdrawal of Israeli troops from southern Lebanon just a couple of years ago.

But is the issue really proportionality? Following Gilbert, Herzog thinks of the Israeli response only as a consequence of hostilities by Hezbollah, but fails to think of Israel's actions as the future cause of some more intense reprisal (one that has not yet materialized). "The product of two innocent facts": one, Israel finds it difficult to engage in self-evaluation when in the midst of an existential crisis; two, they will be more likely to see Hezbollah's response simply as further provocation rather than a response to their own reprisals. Same goes for Hezbollah.

Am I making a value judgement? No. I still support the right of nations to defend themselves. But perhaps talk of "proportionality" is misleading. What must focus at all times not on our responses to past injustices but on the avoiding letting our responses become the injustices of the future.

Heat wave not the same as global warming

[updated below]

Critics of prudent measures designed to fight climate change have made a great big stink about the fact that there are natural cycles and that so far the increase in temperature over the last century (about 0.6 degC) is within that natural variation (never mind that the rate of increase over the last century is off the chart). If you want a rather shameful example of this line of reasoning among conservative evangelical Christians, see the Interfaith Stewardship Alliance and its Cornwall Network.

They have also made naive and silly comments, whenever a big snow storm or a cold shock sweeps through an area, that certain weather events belie "global warming."

Some of those who are rightly concerned about climate change are also at fault for blaming every heat wave on global warming. This is equally incorrect. Climate is not the same as weather.

Bill Patzert, a climatologist at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory, makes the distinction, in an article from the San Gabriel Valley Tribune:
Don't blame the seemingly endless heat wave just on global warming - this one's the product of a high-pressure system to the east and California's rapidly expanding growth, said Jet Propulsion Laboratory climatologist Bill Patzert.

Together, he said, they have combined to push the temperature 12 to 16 degrees Fahrenheit above normal.

"Of the 12 degrees, how much is global warming? I would say 1 degree," Patzert said. "The other 11 degrees is meteorology" and lots of new heat-soaking pavement and other developments.

As in most mid-summers, a region of high pressure over Arizona and New Mexico is pulling hot, moist air from the Mexican desert.

But this summer, Patzert said, "it's so intense it's actually included us in the pattern. It's kept the marine layer off the coast, what I call Southern California's air conditioner."

"We didn't get any May Gray and June Gloom, so we kind of skipped spring," he said.

But what has made these conditions especially unbearable, Patzert said, is the new face of California's landscape, repaved by ever-expanding development.

"As soon as you start putting in agriculture, golf courses, especially housing developments, it starts to retain heat. The nights are not cooling. That's why we get warmer and warmer temperatures by mid-afternoon, because we're starting warmer," he said.

Either way, it is people's actions that are the problem. It's time to start making moral choices about how we want to live our lives, and these choices are going to be difficult, painful, and probably economically damaging, at least in the short term.

UPDATED: July 26, 2 am. More on the ins and outs from a good basic news article in the San Diego Union-Tribune.

Shell announces 180,000 bpd cut in Nigerian oil production


The AP (via Seattle P-I) is reporting that Royal Dutch Shell has announced a 180 thousand barrel per day cut in Nigerian oil export due to an unspecified oil pipeline leak. Residents in the Rivers State region of Nigeria where the leak is said to have occurred are not allowing Shell or Nigerian representatives into the site to investigate.

Currently, the AP is saying that about 650 thousand barrels per day have been curtailed, largely due to violence. Last I heard, spare petroleum production capacity worldwide was only about 500 thousand barrels per day. Thus, even a small relative cut in Nigeria's production capacity (say 180,000 bpd) is a big cut into the world's capacity to keep up with demand.

What does this do? It dramatically expands the risk premium the markets are willing to pay per barrel of oil. According to oil industry executives, the risk premium is about $20 per barrel, or about 25% of the total cost of a barrel of oil.

What can the US do about it? Well, the classical role of the Navy is to protect shipping lanes, and occassionally to provide security for foreign ports. With violence and smuggling on the rise in the oil-rich Niger Delta, it should therefore come as no surprise that our Navy is increasing its presence in the region. From DefenseLink (July 5, emphasis mine):
U.S. military engagement along southwestern Africa's Atlantic coast has increased exponentially, Navy Capt. Tom Rowden, commander of Task Force 65, said during a Pentagon interview last week. It's increased from almost no activity in 2004 to 130 "ship days" in 2005 to even more planned ship days this year, he said.

... Maritime security is critical for the region to benefit from its natural resources and prosper economically, he said. Africa provides almost 15 percent of the United States' oil supply, much of which comes from the Gulf of Guinea. In addition, the region is rich in timber, iron ore, copper and other resources.
How long will it take for us to get more directly involved in Nigeria's local political economy? More importantly, how long will it take for Nigeria enter the Global War on Terrorism?

UPDATE: July 25, 5:12 PM. The Houston Chronicle is saying the leak is cutting 180,000 bpd of Shell's Nigerian production and 30,000 bpd of Chevron's.

Monday, July 24, 2006

Compare and contrast

If you were heartened by Anglican church leaders' complete acceptance of the coming climate crisis, you'll want to vomit when you see this press release. The Interfaith Stewardship Alliance, a conservative evangelical group dedicated to fighting the prudent and now-essential steps needed to ameliorate climate change because such efforts would have:
... the unintended consequence of serious harm to the world's poor, delaying for decades or generations their rise from poverty and its attendant high rates of disease and premature death, and robbing them of the very tools they need to protect themselves from catastrophes ...
... is holding a press conference on the subject tomorrow, Tuesday, July 25, 10:00 am, at the National Press Club on F and 14th NW.

Of course, they're entirely full of CR@P. Among the speakers is, unsurprisingly, James Tonkowich, the president of the ever predictable Institute on Religion and Democracy. These guys are operating within a conservative political context, not a moral one. They should be completely ashamed of themselves. The economic consequences of climate change on the world's poor will be far greater than simply a delay in economic development -- it will involve the displacement of potentially hundreds of millions of people as previously marginal land become complely unarable. I wonder how these guys sleep at night.

I'm going to try to be there, but I don't know how to get in. Drop me an email between now and then if you'll be there, too.

Flying's a sin

[updated below]

According to Bishop of London, Richard Chartres (Daily Mail, UK, July 23):

Flying abroad for a foreign holiday is "a sin" against the planet, one of the country's leading bishops has declared.

Like murder, adultery and stealing, choosing to travel on jet planes has moral consequences, according to the Bishop of London because flights are doing too much damage to the environment.

In a highly controversial statement, Richard Chartres, 59 - who admits to regular visits to Russia - urged Christians to stop taking endless flights and to live a more 'eco-friendly' lifestyle.

He said: "There is now an overriding imperative to walk more lightly upon the earth and we need to make our lifestyle decisions in that light.

"Making selfish choices such as flying on holiday or buying a large car are a symptom of sin.

"Sin is not just a restricted list of moral mistakes. It is living a life turned in on itself where people ignore the consequences of their actions."

Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams seconded:

Rowan Williams, the Archbishop of Canterbury who drives the eco-car, Toyota Prius, is also banging the green drum.

He has said: "We are not consumers of what God has made. We are in communion with it."

Al Gore is right: climate change is not a political issue, it's a moral issue, and it's an existential one to boot.

UPDATE July 24, 11:11 PM: Same story, other sources: Ekklesia, The Sun (UK), and The Sunday Times (UK). From The Times:
Rowan Williams, the Archbishop of Canterbury, said: "We stand before God’s judgment on these matters. In life we have to make moral choices over our sex life and over our domestic and financial affairs. We make choices of moral significance and our relation to the environment is no exception."

An old but interesting article on Schism

From Damian Thompson for the Telegraph (UK, June 19) [emphasis mine]:
The Rt Rev Michael Nazir-Ali, the Bishop of Rochester, implies that all the fault lies with one side, the "unbiblical" gay-ordaining American radicals. He is wrong about that.

While it is true that some bishops of the Episcopal Church have more in common with a crystal-gazing Californian housewife than George Herbert, it is also true that "Anglican" dioceses in the developing world have been hijacked by poisonously bigoted Bible-bashers.


Outmanoeuvred by back-stabbing colleagues, Dr Williams no longer possesses the time or the confidence to speak directly to the man and woman in the pew. So preoccupied is he by the prospect of "schism" in a non-existent global Church that his already convoluted discourse has turned into an incomprehensible parody of itself.

Read it all. It's still relevant, even if it's more than a month old.

Peter Laarman on the Institute on Religion and Democracy (IRD)

Quote, from an entry on the Huffington Post [emphasis mine]:

Created by cunning Schactmanites and by ex-CIA operatives during the time of Reagan's dirty wars in Central America, the IRD's core work plan has always called for dividing and disabling the larger Mainline Protestant denominations -- the Episcopalians, Presbyterians, United Methodists, and Evangelical Lutherans -- using any means necessary. The means that has worked best by far is relentlessly flogging the issue of homosexuality and accusing religious progressives of departing from the true faith by preaching that God really does love everybody.

Thanks to the IRD's skillful fingering of this hot button through the different front groups it operates within each body, all four national denominations have been pretty much AWOL from the more urgent moral debates this moment: e.g., imperial wars of choice, torture, civil liberties, Katrina, climate change, and economic terrorism from above. The denoms just don't have the energy. Nearly all their attention and focus have been consumed by internal debates on matters Levitical.

Religion and politics and Nigeria -- no different from here

On July 8, the Christian Association of Nigeria (or CAN), of which Anglican Archbishop Peter Akinola is president, inaugurated its South-South branch.

At the meeting, deputy speaker of the Federal House of Representatives, Chief Austin Opara, declared that the gay marriage legislation so often discussed on this blog would be expedited through the Federal Assembly.

The article, in the Tide Online, a Port Harcourt paper, declared matter-of-factly that "the bill was sponsored by the Christian Association of Nigeria."

We've suspected this all along. While The Tide does not directly quote Bishop Okonkwo (the VP of CAN, who was at the event), it is quite clear that this is a CAN bill: it was sponsored by CAN, possibly written by CAN, and explicitly endorsed by Archbishop Peter Akinola and the Anglican Church of Nigeria.

Chief Opara's brand of pandering is made all the clearer here:
... [Opara] commended the Rivers state governor, Dr Peter Odili for personally attending the occasion and assured of the continuous support of Christians to ensure the success of his administration.
CAN is an integral part of Nigerian electoral politics, especially in the South-South, which has never delivered a successful presidential candidate. It is the most impoverished region in Nigeria, and it's the center of all of Nigeria's oil wealth. Expect the gay marriage bill to be used as electoral fodder as the presidential campaing matures (or "degrades").

UPDATE: At the same event, CAN endorsed a South-South presidency.

Wednesday, July 12, 2006

The Institute on Religion and Democracy condones torture by the United States

In a rather astonishing bit of intellectual dishonesty, Mark Tooley, the director of UM Action at the Institute on Religion and Democracy, has criticized the call by the National Religious Campaign Against Torture to end torture, reports WDC Media.

The NRCAT ran an ad on the New York Times op-ed page (pdf), and released a statement that calls for an independent investigation of the Guantánamo Bay prison camp, overseas CIA prisons, extraordinary rendition, Abu Graib, and Bagram Air Force Base in Afghanistan.

Did I mention that megachurch pastor Dr. Rick Warren signed the statement?

So, why would Tooley criticize an independent investigation of potential human rights abuses, including torture? Because, he says, the NRCAT's statement fails to condemn torture in other countries, like North Korea, China, and Saudi Arabia. He claims that the NRCAT is singling out the United States and the Bush Administration. Says Tooley:
If [the NRCAT] were genuinely interested in torture, of course they would be addressing those regimes that actively and deliberately do practice torture rather than focusing exclusively on the United States.
I don't get it. The US Government is the only government that US citizens can directly influence. If the NRCAT doesn't make an explicit call for an end to torture elsewhere, does that mean that the US should continue with its current policies?

What Tooley doesn't seem to realize (either that or he's deliberately dissembling) is that fudging on the issue of torture, however we want to define it, serves only to set a terrible example for North Korea, China, and Saudi Arabia, an example that makes it difficult if not impossible for the US Government to call for an end to torture in those countries. With every word out of Tooley's mouth, we understand more fully the political shackles that constrain his conscience. Too bad he doesn't have the commitment to human rights and democracy that the name of his organization would suggest.

The right to evangelize

Archbishop Akinola of Nigeria is no stranger to the concept of "human rights" -- in fact, he frequently invokes them.

Evangelical Christians, like many religious and political groups, depend on "human rights" for their very existence, and yet they forget that when they find themselves holding a majority opinion. American Baptists, who were once very much in the minority, wrote to Thomas Jefferson begging him to assure them of their 1st Amendment right against established religion. Today, the Southern Baptist Convention and other like-minded organizations, have few qualms about pushing prayer in schools, banning evolutionary biology from classrooms, and making Christianity the official religion of Missouri. Once a minority becomes a majority, civil rights are no longer necessary.

Unfortunately, this tendency to neglect the rights of individuals can have disastrous consequences. When respect for civil rights breaks down, we see Muslims killing Christians in the Niger State town of Izom in northern Nigeria, and we see Christians killing Muslims in the name of Christ. And recently, we see majoritarian religious factions call for legislation that would levy prison sentences for those who voice a minority religious opinion.

The Church of Nigeria (Anglican Communion) offers an interesting test case for the shifting importance of civil rights. In some cases, the Church is in the minority and it is all too willing to look to the government for protection. Its Episcopal Synod, held in Abuja, Nigeria, released a communiqué, dated June 28, 2006, and signed by Primate Akinola, with the following statement regarding violence against Christians by Muslims [emphasis mine]:
Synod is worried that months after the mayhem unleashed on the nation in February 2006 by criminals, murderers and arsonists hiding under the cloak of religion, no one has been brought to book neither any compensation paid for the properties especially churches destroyed and lives lost in the riots. It therefore, calls on the Governments of the land to take urgent steps to prosecute these enemies of mankind and pay necessary compensations in order to restore the confidence that every Nigerian is protected any where in this nation.
In other words, the Church of Nigeria (Anglican Communion) wishes to assert its rights before the government in its quest for justice. They go on [emphasis mine]:
While noting the spread of Islam in hitherto predominantly Christian cities, especially in Europe and America, and their insistence on minority rights, Synod is worried that this same Muslims have refused to allow people of other faiths into their (Muslim dominated) areas to enjoy such rights. It therefore calls on our Muslim brothers in the spirit of reciprocity to have a change of attitude and put an end to intolerance and hostilities to Christians all over the world.
Yet, in another communiqué, released two days later, they say this about Nigerian "gay marriage":
On marriage, the conference agreed that marriage between man and woman is the official position of the Anglican Communion, and confirmed by its laws, and condemned in its entirety homosexuality and same sex marriage.
This is a restatement of their endorsement of the "Same-Sex Marriage (Prohibition) Act 2006" (pdf), legislation that would put Nigerians in prison for 5 years if they even witness a same-sex marriage. It's important to recall that no Nigerian municipality recognizes gay marriage nor does any provide gay or lesbian couples the rights of straight married couples. Furthermore, there is already a ban on "sodomy", and the degree of prejudice against homosexuals is among the greatest in the world. So why such severe penalties for gay marriage?

As I've written about extensively in an earlier post, the legislation is clearly aimed less at stopping gay marriage than at impeding the growth of groups like the gay and lesbian Anglican organization Changing Attitude. The bill appeared just weeks after Changing Attitude, and its leader Davis Mac-Iyalla, made a New York Times story by Lydia Polgreen. The story, as well as local Nigerian press, began to rattle the nerves of Archbishop Akinola and his communications director Rev. Canon Akintunde Popoola. Indeed, the stated mission of Changing Attitude is to gain full acceptance for gay and lesbian Nigerians in the Church of Nigeria -- a crusade, if you will.

By now, dear reader, the inconsistency of the Church of Nigeria's stand on "civil rights" should be clear. They want protection from the government and tolerance from Muslims as they extend their missionary focus into northern Nigeria, where Christians are in a clear minority. At the same time, they want to place a minority in jail for calling for tolerance within the Church of Nigeria.

Bishop Robert Duncan, the moderator of the conservative Anglican Communion Network in the United States, said the following of efforts by liberal Episcopalians to get Archbishop Akinola to withdraw his endorsement of the more abhorrent sections of the legislation (especially sections 6, 7, and 8):
It is jarring, to say the least, to see church leaders, who claim to champion the primacy of local understanding and culture, demanding that foreign sister churches give up their own local understanding and culture and be judged by an American understanding of individual rights. There is a word for the one-way imposition of values -- colonialism.
Blinded by the Network's agenda just months before this Summer's General Convention, Bishop Duncan got it exactly wrong. Church leaders, foreign or otherwise, cannot claim rights for themselves that they deny to others. Duncan said it himself in his own words: "A majority opinion does not make it right." So, following on his promising endorsement of Archbishop Rowan Williams "reflection", I hope he'll come around sometime soon.

I am in touch with human rights workers in Nigeria who say that stopping the bill's passage will be difficult (that is, gay marriage will be made illegal in Nigeria) -- but they say that there may yet be time to get the legislators to change the bill so that the basic civil freedoms it bans (such as speech, assembly, the press, and free exercise of religion for gay and lesbian Nigerians) are still allowed.

Bishop Duncan, and other prominent American Anglicans like the Rev. Martyn Minns, now elected a Bishop in Nigeria, still have time to do the right thing. May God forgive them if they don't.

I know I won't.

That's it ... I can't vote for her

Aside from another major terrorist attack, health care is one of the greatest issues faced by Americans today. Its rising expense leads to higher labor costs, the export of jobs overseas, and increased hidden costs to our nation's economic and social productivity.

So far, Congress, health insurers, and Big Pharma have pushed health-care legislation that has had little effect on the current state of our health coverage other than to fill their own pockets. Medicare Part D, one of the largest entitlements ever passed (and when I say "passed", I mean held for a three-hour vote following arm-twisting and outright bribery on the part of pharma- and insurance-supported GOP House members), bans the Federal Government from using its vast volume purchasing power to bargain for lower pharmaceutical costs. Worse, consumers are forced to pick from dozens of prescription drug plans, which, far from competing, maintain non-overlapping service that denies the right of consumers to switch, even if the plan changes prices or stops covering a needed drug.

This same "health services" industry that pushed for Part D, according to the New York Times, is now warmed up to Hillary Clinton.

Don't be fooled. The insurance and pharmaceutical industries have not changed overnight. They fully expect to have a "seat at the table" should Clinton run for President in 2008, and they hope to stave off any attempt to prevent them from continuing to rake in extraordinary profits.

Some entitlements are best left to the public sector. When did Clinton forget this?

Monday, July 03, 2006

"The internet is not ... a truck"

Ted Stevens -- the US Senator (R-AK) who claims to understand the Internet well enough to argue that major telecommunications corporations should be allowed to charge vendors differently for different internet access speeds (thus screwing the consumer) -- provides an invaluable primer on how it all works (hat tip Kos):
And again, the internet is not something you just dump something on. It's not a truck.

It's a series of tubes.

And if you don't understand those tubes can be filled and if they are filled, when you put your message in, it gets in line and its going to be delayed by anyone that puts into that tube enormous amounts of material, enormous amounts of material.
I wonder what kind of "material" he had in mind. Listen to the whole thing here (mp3).