Archived Posts July 2005 | Acton PowerBlog

The terminal politicization of the National Council of Churches has led a major Orthodox jurisdiction to throw in the towel. The Antiochian Orthodox Church, meeting for its bi-annual convention in Dearborn, Mich., has “voted overwhelmingly” to leave the ecumenical body led by Rev. Bob Edgar, a former Democrat congressman. The news has been posted on Touchstone Magazine’s Mere Comments blog, and was phoned in by a correspondent for Ancient Faith Radio who was on the scene in Dearborn.

Metropolitan Philip Saliba, hierarch of the church, has reportedly decided that any further relationship with the U.S. ecumenical body would be “fruitless.”

The Antiochians aren’t the only Orthodox jurisdiction that has acknowledged the NCC’s increasingly leftward tilt. At their own just-concluded conference in Toronto, the Orthodox Church in America also discussed the usefulness of the NCC but has not yet cut its ties. The statement that the OCA issued concerning its discussion of ecumenical relations was a collage of bureaucratic platitudes, mostly expressed in the passive voice, and no doubt indicative that the forces of the status quo were not giving up without a fight. When you read phrases such as “concerns … were expressed” and “it was noted” and “requires careful consideration and discernment” then you can bet that someone’s digging in the heels.

But the clear-sighted action that His Eminence Philip and the Antiochians are taking is a courageous move. Let’s hope more Orthodox follow, and separate their churches from the partisan activism and — let’s face it — Bush baiting that the NCC is known for.

For an excellent resource on the ecumenical disaster that is the National Council of Churches see OrthodoxyToday.org’s NCC Resource Page. Ancient Faith Radio is also planning to air an interview about the Antiochian pullout and its consequences with the Very Rev. Olof Scott, the newly-elected chairman of the Department of Interfaith Relationships, on Sunday, July 31, at 5 PM EDT.

From ENI:

Nigerian president wants Church to nurture God-fearing politicians

Lagos (ENI). Nigerian President Olusegun Obasanjo, lamenting poor leadership and corruption among public officers in his country, has urged churches to help nurture political leaders who are honest, hardworking, visionary, and inspiring. “The Church has a major role to play in identifying, nurturing, promoting and guiding such leaders at all levels of our society and our polity,” Obasanjo said in Lagos at the laying of the foundation stone of a sanctuary of the Nigerian Baptist Convention. [368 words, ENI-05-0582]

Blog author: jballor
Friday, July 29, 2005
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Two recent news items of interest, the timing of which seems serendipitous:

“U.S. Muslim Scholars Issue Edict Against Terrorism”

“IRA Ending Longtime ‘Armed Campaign’”

Want to take a ride?

This has been a momentous week for manned space exploration. First, NASA returned to flight with Tuesday’s launch of the Space Shuttle Discovery, which was almost immediately followed by a return to not flying, as safety concerns will be grounding the shuttle fleet once again. The whirlwind of activity has rekindled the debate over the future of the Space Shuttle program and the government’s manned space flight in general.

But in the end, the space news that this week may be remembered for has nothing to do with NASA and everything to do with the introduction of the first real effort to open space to tourism. British entrepeneur Sir Richard Branson and American aerospace innovator Burt Rutan have announced plans to form a new aerospace company with the express purpose of designing craft that can carry passengers into space.

Called The Spaceship Company, the new entity will manufacture launch aircraft, various spacecraft and support equipment and market those products to spaceliner operators. Clients include launch customer, Virgin Galactic—formed by Branson to handle space tourist flights.

The Spaceship Company is jointly owned by Branson’s Virgin Group and Scaled Composites of Mojave, California. Scaled will be contracted for research and development testing and certification of a 9-person SpaceShipTwo (SS2) design, and a White Knight Two (WK2) mothership to be called Eve. Rutan will head up the technical development team for the SS2/WK2 combination.

Like most new technology, the price tag is pretty steep, but Rutan and Branson hope to bring the costs down over time:

At present, seats onboard Virgin Galactic spaceships are price tagged at $200,000 each.

But Branson hopes that this seat price will drop over time. “Our aim is to bring the price down,” he said.

“Our principal aim behind this is not to make money. The principal aim is to reinvest any money we make into space exploration,” Branson said. “We expect to double, triple, quadruple the number of astronauts in the next few years that have currently experienced space,” he said.

To date, Branson said, about a 100 pioneers have been willing to pay $200,000 to be the first people to go into space via Virgin Galactic. “These are the kinds of people who are going to enable us to bring the cost of space travel down,” he stated.

A hat tip for this information goes to Dean Esmay, who notes that if $200,000 a seat sounds like a lot of money:

consider that the average shuttle launch costs about a billion dollars and takes months or years to plan, and the price has gone up over time, while Branson and Rutan plan to aggressively persue getting the price down over time.

Rutan and Branson are true pioneers. I for one wish them well as they pursue their amazing goal of making space travel more widely accessible.

“Congress should not expand the powers of the FCC by giving it a new role to regulate the latest technologies. Instead, lawmakers should direct the FCC to simply resolve issues derived from the past AT&T monopoly and government control of spectrum. And then they should keep the agency from regulating new communication platforms, deferring to the communications marketplace for that job. What’s more, the current static legal classification of different types of communications services needs to be overhauled.”

–from Braden Cox, “Reform FCC — Limit It!” at Tech Central Station

I express concerns about the creeping power of the FCC here and here.

Blog author: jballor
Friday, July 29, 2005
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Alexis de Tocqueville (1805–1859)

Alexis de Tocqueville, author of Democracy in America, was born on this date in 1805.

Charles Colson, in his introduction to Carl F.H. Henry’s “Has Democracy Had Its Day?” writes that Tocqueville

was a realist and recognized how fragile democracy is. He saw, as many moderns do not, that it could only survive if citizens continue to exercise their civic responsibilities, which is what our founders knew to be the most essential republican virtue. They also understood that democracy is sustained and fueled by the religious impulse. Thus, John Adams wrote, “Our Constitution was made only for a moral and religious people. It is wholly inadequate for the government of any other.” And this is what caused Tocqueville to observe that, “Religion in America must be regarded as the first of their political institutions.”

Blog author: jballor
Friday, July 29, 2005
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Alan Warren / Associated Press

Blog author: jballor
Thursday, July 28, 2005
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Here’s a great interview from the Marketplace Morning Report with Chris Farrell, in which he argues for the lifting of trade sanctions against dictatorial and oppressive regimes. He compares the cases of Cuba and China, in which two different strategies have been used, with vastly different results.

We need to “stop the policy of broad based sanctions against nations that we don’t like,” says Farrell. This is directly opposite of the view, for example, which primarily blames economic engagement and the concern that, in the words of Kai Ryssdal, “some of these governments will be propped up.”

This is something the Acton Institute has been talking about for years. Read Rev. Robert A. Sirico’s “It’s Time to Do Unto Cuba as We Do Unto China,” from The Wall Street Journal, July 5, 2000.

Following months of Zimbabwe’s brutal “Drive Out Trash” campaign, pleasantries exchanged between Mugabe and a UN delegation may have made some headway. The UN report on the situation, according to Claudia Rosett, began “with a delicacy over-zealously inappropriate in itself to dealings with the tyrant whose regime has been responsible for wreck of Zimbabwe” by describing Mugabe’s reception of the UN officials with a “warm welcome.”

Despite the shortcomings of the UN report with respect to policy solutions (more aid!), the combination of a “stick and carrot” approach may be bearing some measure of success. ENI reports today:

Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe was being feted as a key African leader in China when his security forces finally declared a respite in a two-month long destruction of homes of poor people in urban areas that triggered the ire of international church groups and the United Nations. The South African Council of Churches said a container of relief supplies would be sent to Zimbabwe at the beginning of August as part of its “Operation Hope for Zimbabwe”, aimed at relieving suffering after the government’s Operation Murambatsvina which means in the Shona language, “Drive Out Trash”.

Blog author: jballor
Thursday, July 28, 2005
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Slate features an article by Henry Blodget, a former securities analyst, which examines the investments of Supreme Court nominee John G. Roberts. In an analysis that has more than you would ever need to know about a person’s finances (and perhaps reads a bit too much into the investments), Blodget writes of Roberts, “His fortune is self-made, which suggests a bias toward self-reliance rather than entitlements and subsidies.” That sounds promising.

HT: Fast Company Now