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I have read through the opening arguments (PDF) in Massachusetts, et al., v. Environmental Protection Agency, et al. (05-1120) conducted yesterday morning before the Supreme Court. From a layperson’s perspective I would have to say that Jonathan Adler’s characterization of the nature of the proceedings in not quite correct.

Adler writes, “It is also important to underscore that this case is not about the science of climate change. There is no dispute that human emissions of greenhouse gases affect the global climate. Rather, the fundamental issues are whether the Clean Air Act mandates the sort of regulatory action the petitioners seek, and whether these (or any) petitioners are entitled to bring these claims in court.” It seems to me, however, that as much of the discussion focused on the issue of the petitioners’ standing, it necessarily included and touched on their ability to prove imminent threat of loss due to climate change.

As Lyle Denniston writes in summary of yesterday’s action, “The Supreme Court’s first public discussion of global warming was, in large part, an inquiry into the opportunity — or lack of it — to bring a lawsuit to try to force the government to promptly address the problem (the “standing” issue). And, it seemed clear that the deciding vote on that question probably lies with the Court’s key centrist Justice, Anthony M. Kennedy.”

With regard to Kennedy’s questioning, Denniston states, “Kennedy suggested that the Court could not bypass the larger question of whether global warming is a problem, in order to assess who might be harmed by it, ‘because there’s no injury if there’s not global warming.’”

Thus, the “science of climate change” is an issue…and a large one at that.

Blog author: kschmiesing
posted by on Thursday, November 30, 2006

The Acton Institute’s newest publication is volume 10 in the Christian Social Thought Series, The Good That Business Does, by Robert G. Kennedy.

From my foreword:

[Professor Kennedy] helps to elucidate the place of the modern business enterprise within contemporary society. In the best tradition of Christian social thought, his starting points are what we know about morality through reason and revelation and what we know about business through empirical observation. Using this method he articulates the responsibilities of business in a way that is both realistic and in keeping with the timeless truths of the moral law.

It is an excellent, compact treatise on business from the perspective of Christian moral reflection and will be of interest to those in the fields of business, business ethics, or Catholic social teaching.

Click here to learn more about the book or to order now.

ISTANBUL, Turkey – Pope Benedict XVI and Ecumenical Patriarch Barthmolomew light a candle as they enter the Patriarchal Cathedral of Saint George. (Photo: N. Manginas)

Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew and Pope Benedict XVI are preparing to celebrate the Feast Day of St. Andrew tomorrow, a high point during the pope’s visit to Turkey.

Below are the remarks offered today by Patriarch Bartholomew to Pope Benedict after the prayer service at the Patriarchal Cathedral of St. George. For more on the visit, see the special Web site that the Patriarchate has published for the event.

Your Holiness, beloved Brother in the Lord,

It is with sentiments of sincere joy and satisfaction that we welcome you to the sacred and historical city of Istanbul.

This is a city that has known a treasured heritage for the growth of the Church through the ages. It is here that St. Andrew, the “first-called” of the Apostles founded the local Church of Byzantium and installed St. Stachys as its first bishop. It is here that the Emperor and “equal-to-the-Apostles,” St. Constantine the Great, established the New Rome. It is here that the Great Councils of the early Church convened to formulate the Symbol of Faith. It is here that martyrs and saints, bishops and monks, theologians and teachers, together with a “cloud of witnesses” confessed what the prophets saw, what the apostles taught, what the church received, what the teachers formulated in doctrine, what the world understood, what grace has shone, namely…the truth that was received, the faith of the fathers. This is the faith of the Orthodox. This faith has established the universe.

So it is with open embrace that we welcome you on the blessed occasion of your first visit to the City, just as our predecessors, Ecumenical Patriarchs Athenagoras and Demetrios, had welcomed your predecessors, Popes Paul VI and John Paul II. These venerable men of the Church sensed the inestimable value and urgent need alike of such encounters in the process of reconciliation through a dialogue of love and truth.

Therefore, we are, both of us, as their successors and as successors to the Thrones of Rome and New Rome equally accountable for the steps – just, of course, as we are for any missteps – along the journey and in our struggle to obey the command of our Lord, that His disciples “may be one.”

It was in this spirit that, by the grace of God, we visited repeatedly Rome and two years ago in order to accompany the relics of Saints Gregory the Theologian and John Chrysostom, formerly Archbishops of this City, whose sacred remains were generously returned to this Patriarchal Cathedral by the late Pope. It was in this spirit, too, that we traveled to Rome only months later to attend the funeral of Pope John Paul.

We are deeply grateful to God that Your Holiness has taken similar steps today in the same spirit. We offer thanks to God in doxology and express thanks also to Your Holiness in fraternal love.

Beloved Brother, welcome. “Blessed is he that comes in the name of the Lord.”

“Blessed is the Name of the Lord now and forevermore.”

Two different stories from two different countries highlight two different aspects of a single theme: the West’s growing lack of cultural confidence.

First, this story from The Telegraph:

Islamic sharia law is gaining an increasing foothold in parts of Britain, a report claims.

Sharia, derived from several sources including the Koran, is applied to varying degrees in predominantly Muslim countries but it has no binding status in Britain.

However, the BBC Radio 4 programme Law in Action produced evidence yesterday that it was being used by some Muslims as an alternative to English criminal law. Aydarus Yusuf, 29, a youth worker from Somalia, recalled a stabbing case that was decided by an unofficial Somali “court” sitting in Woolwich, south-east London.

Mr Yusuf said a group of Somali youths were arrested on suspicion of stabbing another Somali teenager. The victim’s family told the police it would be settled out of court and the suspects were released on bail.

A hearing was convened and elders ordered the assailants to compensate their victim. “All their uncles and their fathers were there,” said Mr Yusuf. “So they all put something towards that and apologised for the wrongdoing.”

And so under the guise of “Legal Pluralism,” we see a western nation begin to give up the ability to fairly and equally apply the law to all of its citizens – although this doesn’t seem to concern the chap quoted in the article:

Mr Yusuf told the programme he felt more bound by the traditional law of his birth than by the laws of his adopted country. “Us Somalis, wherever we are in the world, we have our own law,” he said. “It’s not sharia, it’s not religious — it’s just a cultural thing.”

A “cultural thing,” indeed – I’d say that a large immigrant population that doesn’t feel bound by the laws of their new country is a pretty serious cultural problem for Great Britian.

Meanwhile, back in the good old U.S. of A, our defenders on the left are back at it, working to slay the evil Wal-Mart dragon, this time in San Diego, California:

The City Council here voted late Tuesday to ban certain giant retail stores, dealing a blow to Wal-Mart Stores Inc.’s potential to expand in the nation’s eighth-largest city.

The measure, approved on a 5-3 vote, prohibits stores of more than 90,000 square feet that use 10 percent of space to sell groceries and other merchandise that is not subject to sales tax. It takes aim at Wal-Mart Supercenter stores, which average 185,000 square feet and sell groceries.

Well, thank goodness! I can’t imagine what sort of havoc would be unleashed on the city if these new jobs were made available to job seekers. And hey, doesn’t everybody know by now that Wal-Mart is bad for the poor?

In sum: Western culture continues to be attacked from within and without. Our legal foundations continue to be undermined in the name of multiculturalism, and we continue to shackle our economic systems in the misguided belief that doing so will help the poor and downtrodden. My friends, we live in interesting times.

Blog author: jspalink
posted by on Wednesday, November 29, 2006

The Supreme Court is hearing a case today brought by 12 states and a coalition of environmental groups that sued the Bush administration in 2003 for refusing to issue regulations limiting carbon emissions. “On a global scale, forced cutbacks in CO-2 emissions would create an unconscionable setback for developing countries where economic development is just beginning to pull people out of poverty,” writes Jay Richards.

Read the commentary here.

In the wake of the November elections, with politicians promising less partisan bickering, a perfect opportunity presents itself for real cooperation: educational choice. Kevin Schmiesing looks at the state initiatives that have already empowered “poor and middle class parents to send their children to schools that they believe will best serve their educational goals.”

Read the commentary here.

Blog author: kschmiesing
posted by on Wednesday, November 29, 2006

It won’t be news to anyone that the pope is currently visiting Turkey. It is tempting to read too much into a single visit, which can only accomplish so much one way or another, but it is true that the implications and symbolism of the visit are manifold. One of John Paul’s great disappointments was a failure to improve relations with Orthodoxy—and Benedict is meeting with the ecumenical patriarch in what used to be Constantinople. Then there was Benedict’s Regensburg address—and now, in one of his earliest trips abroad, he visits Turkey, which is at once a testing ground for a secular government in an Islamic nation and a bridge between Europe and the Middle East. And the pope, as Cardinal Ratzinger, is already on record expressing doubts about Turkey’s bid to enter the European Union.

Full coverage of the trip’s official meetings and addresses can be found at ZENIT.

More anecdotal coverage from on the ground comes via Jim Geraghty at NRO.

Find stories and commentary also at John’s Allen’s NCRcafe.

Right about now, the Supreme Court of the United States should be hearing the beginning arguments in Massachusetts, et al., v. Environmental Protection Agency, et al. (05-1120). Not much attention has been paid to this case over the last few months, but recently a spate of media attention has arisen, citing this case as perhaps “the most important environmental case in many years,” as well as “one of the biggest environmental cases in years.” (Jonathan Adler responds to the NYT editorial at The Volokh Conspiracy.)

There are reasons to doubt the hype surrounding this case, however, and not just because of the dubiousness of the scientific “consensus” on climate change.

A spate of amici briefs Atlantic Legal Foundation and the National Council of Churches (PDF), the latter of which argues in part that scientific “uncertainty alone cannot justify inaction. To decide rationally whether climate change may ‘endanger public health or welfare,’ EPA must consider the harm that would result if the risk of climate change, however uncertain, is realized.” As I have argued against similar views elsewhere, such claims bring economic considerations, especially cost/benefit analysis of action vs. inaction, to the fore, which do not necessarily bear out the conclusion that the potential harm necessitates political action.

In fact, the EPA is not citing scientific uncertainty as its sole justification for refraining from regulatory action. One of its main claims is that it lacks the statutory authority to regulate CO2 emissions, and thus a large part of the case hinges on interpretation of certain provisions of the Clean Air Act.

Regarding the complexity of the case, Hugh Hewitt writes that “in one case do we get important issues of standing, legislative intent, deference to administrative agencies and, of course, the debate over global warming.”

He concludes, “The argument will be one worth listening to very closely, and the decision when it arrives in the spring will be, I predict, a duel between the justices who take seriously the idea of a Court of limited jurisdiction versus those justices eager for the EPA to get on with the urgent business of grappling with climate change.”

In a helpful overview of the case, Lyle Denniston of SCOTUSblog notes a similar concerns of a group of conservative law professors, including Robert H. Bork, that the petitioners’ claim is

part of a multi-faceted effort to draw the federal courts into one of the most important and controversial foreign policy and political battles of our time….Petitioners seek to remake U.S. climate change policy through litigation in the federal courts.

Likewise Rivkin and Casey in today’s WSJ, who filed an amicus brief in the case, conclude that “if economic growth is to be sacrificed because of global warming fears, the decision should be taken by Congress and the president, the people’s elected representatives, and not by the courts.”

At its current state, the petitioners’ claims were denied in a 2-1 decision by the D.C. Circuit Court, after which the appeal by the petitioners came to the Supreme Court. John Gartner of Wired’s Autopia warns, “If the Court sides with the EPA, it will be further proof that the judicial branch of government is out of step with the populace,” a claim which, while perhaps true, seems to advocate legislation from the bench.

Despite such rhetoric, the case has two major components, focusing not only on the science of climate change but on the question of the appropriate governmental authority to make policy decisions. Denniston summarizes it this way:

The controversy pursued in the briefs thus focuses heavily on the harms believed to arise from global warming, countered by the claims that the science on climate change is still evolving and uncertain. But equal controversy has arisen over what might be called the separation-of-powers issue: who decides how to attack the perceived problem of climate change?

Because of the multi-faceted nature of the case’s arguments, Denniston writes that this decision could end up not setting a major precedent on the politics of climate change: “Before the Court ever reached the ‘global warming’ problem, it could be stopped by a maze of procedural issues, as well as by a bold challenge to the judiciary’s power to take on the problem.”

Update: Autopia’s John Gartner now says that the court’s greenhouse ruling “won’t matter,” at least in the short-term.

Blog author: jmorse
posted by on Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Transparency International is a group devoted to exposing corruption of all kinds. One of the most sickening forms of corruption in many poor countries is health care corruption. One sort of corruption is absentee-ism: medical personel bill for their services even when they aren’t at work, but are doing another job.

The increasingly large and legal market for pharmaceutical drugs is attracting criminal activity. Pharmaceuticals are high value and easily portable, and the penalty for stealing or smuggling them is far lower than for narcotics, so trade is brisk. This is especially the case in Africa where borders are porous to those prepared to pay bribes. Furthermore pharmaceutical markets are segmented internationally since companies recouping research and development costs want to charge efficient prices in vastly different settings for products with very low marginal costs. Antiretrovirals (ARVs) to treat HIV have 20-fold price differentials between western and African countries, which mean illegal but massive arbitrage possibilities exist for smugglers.

Once again, lack of virtue retards economic development.

In a plenary address a couple weeks back to the Evangelical Theological Society, law professor and journalist Hugh Hewitt spoke about the religious affiliation of political candidates and to what extent this should be considered in the public debate (Melinda at Stand To Reason summarizes and comments here). In advance of his forthcoming book, A Mormon in the White House?: 10 Things Every Conservative Should Know about Mitt Romney, Hewitt used Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney as an example as to why evangelical Christians should not withhold their votes for a particular presidential candidate purely based on theological disagreement.

In the intervening time, the so-called “Mormon question” has received a great deal of media attention. (Hewitt says that yesterday was “a day of interviews about and with Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney.”) Here’s just one example, Time magazine’s story, “Can a Mormon be President? Why Mitt Romney will have to explain a faith that remains mysterious to many.”

A number of people, including Glenn Reynolds, have wondered about the potential hypocrisy in examining Romney’s Mormonism so closely, while apparently giving a free pass to politicians like Harry Reid. But for Hewitt, the appropriate treatment of a Mormon politician would look more like the reception Reid has gotten than the scrutiny that Romney has gotten.

Hewitt’s argument goes like this: if the long knives are brought out by Christians to attack Romney on the basis of his religious commitments, it won’t be long before secularists attack Christians on similar grounds. This is a sort of “all who draw the sword will die by the sword” argument, and it is one that is shared by “Evangelicals for Mitt,” who note that most of the objections to Romney’s fitness for the presidency are on theological matters that are “absolutely irrelevant to the presidency.”

David French of “Evangelicals for Mitt” does address one of the questions I had coming out of the Hewitt talk, which was whether Hewitt’s claims that the religious and theological commitments of candidates should be off-limits was true for practitioners of all religions (or even strands of individual religions). French writes, “Let me be clear: I am not saying that theology is never relevant. When theology dictates policy, it is fair and proper for a voter to take that theology into account.”

These are not the types of theological issues to which evangelicals are taking offense, however. Says French, “The questions we receive deal with the Mormon view of the Trinity, the Mormon doctrine of salvation, the Mormon view of the afterlife, etc. Not only are these questions not relevant to the presidency (though certainly relevant if the Governor were applying to be your pastor), by even attempting to inject them into the debate evangelicals play a dangerous game. Do we think we can reject a candidate for theological reasons and then cry foul if the media or political opponents attack our own theology?”

This distinction between theological positions that bear directly on matters of public policy and ones that do not may indeed be helpful in distinguishing when it is appropriate to discuss faith commitments ad hominem. It would certainly seem to distinguish Romney’s Mormonism from, say, an Islamo-fascist faith which would attempt to impose and enforce Sharia law with government coercion.

Moreover, disqualification of Romney simply on the basis of his Mormon faith is a mark of a theocratic tendency which holds that only Christians are fit to rule. An apocryphal saying attributed to Martin Luther is his expression that he would “rather be ruled by a wise Turk than by a foolish Christian.” We’ll get to more of what Luther actually did say about Islam in a bit. But for the moment, let’s reflect on how this sentiment bears on the conversation.

The idea is essentially that the office of government can be rightly exercised by those who from the Christan perspective hold heretical theological views. In the words of Dietrich Bonhoeffer, “The state possesses its character as government independently of the Christian character of the persons who govern. There is government also among the heathen.”

Acknowledging this truth does not mean that it is of no consequence whether the politician is or is not a Christian. It may simply be of no political consequence. “Certainly the persons who exercise government ought also to accept belief in Jesus Christ, but the office of government remains independent of the religious decision,” says Bonhoeffer.

Back to Luther. (more…)