Blog author: kschmiesing
posted by on Thursday, June 26, 2008

In preparation for the G8 summit in Japan in July, the Catholic bishops’ conferences of the respective G8 nations have collaborated and released a joint statement to their political leaders. I mean to diminish neither the importance of the topics addressed nor the respect due to the bishops’ teaching by saying that such statements are usually rather bland and predictable. This one, however, contains some interesting language concerning, in particular, global warming. “We urge you,” the bishops exhort, “to deepen your commitments and actions to reduce global poverty and address global climate change.”

And later, this:

The costs of initiatives to prevent and adapt to the harmful consequences of climate change should be borne more by richer persons and nations who have benefited most from the emissions that have fueled development and should not unduly burden the poor.

At the risk of reading too much into this language (one must assume, after all, that it was carefully chosen), consider the terminology: “reduce” poverty, “address” climate change. Not “stop” climate change, or even “reduce” it, but “address” it. Combine that formulation with the later passage concerning the consequences of climate change for the poor. Admittedly, this could be read in several ways, but one possible way to read it is this: If rich nations are going to take measures to address climate change that have economic costs, rich nations need to bear those costs, not impose them on other nations.

In sum, although the statement devotes much space to the issue of climate change—which is comprehensible in light of its importance as a topic for the G8—the emphasis is almost exlusively on climate change’s impact on the poor, including the impact on the poor of efforts to stem climate change. In light of the ongoing debate about what the effects of climate change will be (good or bad) as well as whether human action can significantly influence it one way or the other, this seems to me exactly the right approach to take.

It has also to be noted, however, that the bishops continue to press for increased foreign aid to developed nations. Made in the context of the G8, one must assume this means government aid. It is too bad that they do not display some awareness of the increasing evidence that government aid has been largely ineffective (arguably, counterproductive) in this cause. To their credit, they do stress that “the poor must be empowered to be drivers of their own development.” Wouldn’t it be refreshing if they also said something along these lines?:
“We urge the governments of the wealthy nations to promote the development of poorer nations by taking the following measures: 1) refuse to dispense aid to or through any government or agency that has a record of corruption; 2) foster the activity of private foreign aid agencies through deregulation and tax benefits; 3) abolish tariffs on foreign goods and subsidies to domestic production.”

Blog author: jballor
posted by on Thursday, June 26, 2008

Awhile back I passed along some insight into J. K. Rowling’s view of tyranny, as expressed in the words of Albus Dumbledore. Here’s another bit from Rowling’s wizard on the related topic of power:

I had proven, as a very young man, that power was my weakness and my temptation. It is a curious thing, Harry, but perhaps those who are best suited to power are those who have never sought it. Those who, like you, have leadership thrust upon them, and take up the mantle because they must, and find to their own surprise that they wear it well (Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, p. 718).

That section recalls for me Lord Acton’s famous words, which adorn this blog’s masthead. Here’s that quote, within the context of its surrounding sentences, “Historic responsibility has to make up for the want of legal responsibility. Power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely. Great men are almost always bad men, even when they exercise influence and not authority: still more when you superadd the tendency or the certainty of corruption by authority.”

Something to keep in mind this election season, I think.

Earlier this month “Red Letter Christian” Tony Campolo wrote a blog post for Jim Wallis’ God’s Politics blog that criticized the American government for not properly taking into account the effect its foreign policy has on fulfilling the Great Commission.

Here’s a bit concerning the Iraq war:

It doesn’t take much for Red Letter Christians to recognize that the hostilities between Muslims and Christians have increased greatly as of late because of certain geopolitical events—particularly as we consider what has been happening in the Holy Land and the consequences of a U.S.-led invasion of Iraq.

Mark Tooley of IRD does a thorough job fisking all of the faulty assumptions and oversights in Campolo’s piece.

One of the things Campolo is right about is the victimization of Christians at the hands of militant Muslims in Iraq. He writes,

For the first time in a thousand years, churches in Baghdad are being burned down. The Coptic bishop of Iraq was kidnapped and later found dead. Christians, facing persecution, have fled Iraq by the tens of thousands, so that a Christian community that once numbered more than 1.3 million is now down to 600,000.

The problem is that Campolo is acting as if the proximate cause of Muslim violence against Iraqi Christians is anger at American occupation. As Tooley notes, in the Iraq conflict as in so many other genuine Muslim-Christian conflicts around the world, Campolo fails to see the belligerent militancy of Muslim extremism. Campolo, among others, “can never admit that radical Islam itself is innately violent and spiteful, and would remain so, even if the United States were to curl up and die a quiet death.”

A much more plausible explanation for the suffering of the Iraqi church is that the protections of minority groups, including Sunnis and Christians, that were in place under Saddam Hussein disappeared during and after the invasion, and have not yet been adequately reinstated. As Robin Harris writes, “With other (still smaller) religious minorities, such as Yazidis and Mandaeans, Iraq’s Christians are suffering sustained persecution. While constituting less than 4 percent of the population of Iraq, Christians constitute 40 percent of the refugees leaving the country. Most of these have found refuge in Syria and Jordan, where they are living in utterly degrading conditions.”

The plight of Iraqi Christians in post-invasion Iraq is an important reminder that all government actions, whether domestic or international, have unintended consequences. Again, Robin Harris:

Unfortunately, until now there has been a conspiracy of near-silence. Some in the U.S. administration have been unwilling to have public attention drawn to the problem, for fear it would undermine support for the surge strategy. Other countries — with the notable exception of Germany — do not wish to do so either, for fear that they will be expected to take in more refugees. (Britain has a particularly shameful record in this respect). Meanwhile, diplomatic circles have a politically correct repugnance against any initiative directed towards helping a particular religious group — especially, of course, a Christian one. At an international level, only the pope has called for urgent action to avert the tragedy.

The best thing the U.S. government can do for Christians in Iraq is not to beat a hasty retreat and withdraw, as so many “Red Letter Christians” desire, but rather to acknowledge the unintended consequences of its foreign policy, including the increased persecution of Iraqi Christians. This also means taking responsibility for those unintended consequences. As so many have observed regarding the invasion of Iraq, once you decide to invade a sovereign nation, you take on all kinds of responsibilities for what happens afterwards. This applies in no small measure to the suffering of minority groups, including especially the Christian church in Iraq.

Global Warming Consensus Alert LogoNASA Scientist and chief global warming “consensus” cheerleader James Hansen testified before Congress yesterday that the chief executives of oil companies should be put on trial for high crimes against humanity for spreading doubt about global warming.

Pardon me while I consult Wikipedia for a moment:

In international law, a crime against humanity is an act of persecution or any large scale atrocities against a body of people, and is the highest level of criminal offense.

The Rome Statute Explanatory Memorandum states that crimes against humanity “are particularly odious offences in that they constitute a serious attack on human dignity or grave humiliation or a degradation of one or more human beings. They are not isolated or sporadic events, but are part either of a government policy (although the perpetrators need not identify themselves with this policy) or of a wide practice of atrocities tolerated or condoned by a government or a de facto authority. However, murder, extermination, torture, rape, political, racial, or religious persecution and other inhumane acts reach the threshold of crimes against humanity only if they are part of a widespread or systematic practice. Isolated inhumane acts of this nature may constitute grave infringements of human rights, or depending on the circumstances, war crimes, but may fall short of falling into the category of crimes under discussion.”

Once again, here’s the opening sentence of this post: NASA Scientist and chief global warming “consensus” cheerleader James Hansen testified before Congress yesterday that the chief executives of oil companies should be put on trial for high crimes against humanity for spreading doubt about global warming.

I hereby propose that James Hansen be prosecuted for high crimes against reasonableness, perspective, and good sense for making such a ridiculous statement.

Of course, this isn’t the first time that a prominent global warming alarmist has proposed strengthening the global warming “consensus” by throwing those who would dare to question it in prison. The last time I noted such a proposal here on the PowerBlog, it was from Canadian scientist David Suzuki, and was immediately walked back by a spokesman who said that the statement was not meant to be taken literally. I’d guess that the same is true of Hansen in this case, although it should be noted Hansen isn’t known for being overly charitable to his critics, even when it turns out that they’re correct. Nor does he seem very interested in allowing people to check his results. Click here and scroll to get a sense of how difficult it is to figure out exactly how Hansen’s formulas for determining historical temperatures actually work.

One final note – “Satellite measured global temperature trend from the University of Alabama, Huntsville shows that it is cooler now than when he made his testimony in 1988.”

Update: Here’s a worthwhile read that asks some good questions about the accuracy of NASA’s thermometer:

…whatever motivations NASA had for picking the 1951-1980 baseline undoubtedly have some valid scientific basis. Yet, when the data is calibrated in lockstep with a very high-profile and public political philosophy, we should at least be willing to ask some hard questions. Dr. James Hansen at GISS is the person in charge of the NASA temperature data. He is also the world’s leading advocate of the idea of catastrophic global warming, and is Al Gore’s primary climate advisor. The discrepancies between NASA and other data sources can’t help but make us consider Einstein’s advice:

“If the facts don’t fit the theory, change the facts.”

What’s more fun than a web poll? Answer: Lots of stuff. But that doesn’t mean web polls aren’t fun. So head over to NewsBusters and vote in theirs

Thanks to Web-Genius and Photoshop King Jonathan Spalink for the snazzy new GWCA logo!

The Birth of Freedom premiered in Washington, D.C., on June 19 to a sold-out crowd! A special screening has been scheduled for those who were unable to attend the premiere and is kindly being coordinated by the Heritage Foundation. This screening is scheduled for July 16 and begins at 7:00 p.m. at The Heritage Foundation’s Allison Auditorium. If you would like to attend, please be sure to RSVP on Heritage’s website.

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“This is a story, really, about when America was at its best, when we were doing the right things in the world, when people all over the world looked to us as a source of goodness and decency and humanity,” says Andrei Cherny. His words come courtesy of the Voice of America article titled, “Berlin Airlift Remembered After 60 Years.” Cherny is the author of the new book The Candy Bombers: The Untold Story of the Berlin Airlift and America’s Finest Hour.

In 1948, Soviet leader Joseph Stalin blockaded the section of Berlin under the control of democratic allied countries in post war Germany. The western sector of the war torn city only contained 36 days of food, and a very limited supply of fuel. The Soviet Union also cut the power in the same sector as well. Stubbornly, The United States and other free countries were standing in the way of Soviet expansion into Western Europe.

Not wanting to start World War III, The United States and Great Britain sought out a way to break the Soviet blockade. Thus the airlift known as Operation Vittles flew its first flight on June 26th 1948, one of 32 that day. At its peak, the airlift was flying an amazing 1500 flights a day into Berlin, with just over 4500 tons of daily supplies. The airlift had to supply two million people with food and fuel. It was a mammoth 15 month long undertaking to insure liberty and freedom to America’s recent foe. At first, the planes reminded German citizens of allied bombers and some American pilots weren’t to keen about feeding Germans, however, barriers quickly fell, and friendships flourished.

German children began to greatly admire the American pilots and would stand at the edges of the airport watching the planes as they descended. The best known American pilot who served in the airlift is undoubtedly, Gail S. Halvorsen. Halvorsen was amazed after he gave some gum to a bunch of German kids on a fence line, and they patiently divided it up evenly. Halverson also notes the German kids never begged. He told the kids he would drop some candy attached to little parachutes right before he flew into the airport the next day, and wiggle his wings so they could identify him.

Operation Little Vittles was a powerful publicity campaign against totalitarian propaganda and influence, which developed because of a compassionate pilot with an idea. Soon American children donated their own candy to German kids. The United States showed further resolve by announcing, “The airlift would continue indefinitely.” The Soviets, whose image was battered, lifted the blockade in May of 1949. Stalin’s intent to divide Europeans had the reverse effect. Europeans united against Soviet aggression and inhumanity, and Stalin’s actions quickened American resolve in defending Western Europe.

The Berlin Airlift could have only been pulled off by a people dedicated to a free society. At Acton University, I had a good discussion with notable blogger Hunter Baker about the the moral implications of defending freedom during the Cold War. We both agreed that many younger Americans, those who are about my age, 29 and younger, don’t understand the virtue related to standing against totalitarian aggression. During my time in seminary, some students and professors tried to make moral equivocations between the United States and totalitarian regimes, focusing on “American sins”, and “saber-rattling.” They obviously were not thinking of the Berlin Airlift, a giant humanitarian operation, which rescued millions of people from the slavery of communism, while uniting the resolve of free people. The Spirit of Freedom, which is dedicated to preserving the memory and legacy of the airlift, has a very moving video tribute to the Berlin Airlift.

On Tuesday the 17th Mons. Rino Fisichella was called by Pope Benedict XVI to succeed Mons. Elio Sgreccia as the head of the Pontifical Academy of Science, Social Sciences, Life. His Excellency was also raised to the title of archbishop while maintaining his role as Rector of the Pontifical Lateran University of Rome.

The Pontifical Academy for Science, Social Sciences, Life has as its scope: “to pay honor to pure science, wherever it is found, and to assure its freedom and to promote its research, which constitute the indispensable basis for progress in science.” It assures dialogue on bioethical issues while defending those primary moral values of the Church and its position on non-negotiable issues such as, research on stem cells, human embryos, cloning, euthanasia and other bioethical and scientific issues.

The position of the Church on bioethical issues is often incorrectly interpreted by secular academic circles as an obstacle to scientific research and progress. This is a common mistake that representatives of the scientific world easily run into and is usually dictated by ignorance of the purpose of the Church’s mission, which is to act for the preservation of human dignity and for the salvation of souls.

In Veritatis Splendor, one of many of Pope John Paul II ‘s encyclicals, there is a passage that clearly mentions how human knowledge cannot be sufficient to grant true freedom and truth to mankind:

the development of science and technology, this splendid testimony of human capacity for the understanding and for perseverance, does not free humanity from the obligation to ask ultimate religious questions. Rather, it spurs us to face the most painful and decisive struggles, those of the heart and of the moral conscience.

The Pope also underlines the role of Church in safeguarding man from relativism and from the false conviction that God’s law is a burden, a restriction to his freedom. It is quite the opposite, man is as much free as he can understand God’s teachings and accept his commands. Therefore, the Church, being the body of Christ, has the “duty in every age of examining the signs of the times and interpreting them in the light of Gospel, so that she can offer in a manner appropriate to each generation replies to the continual human questionings on the meaning of this life to come and how they are related.”

Archbishop Fisichella will certainly be able to face such a task, thanks to his excellent academic background and his personal concern for the promotion of human dignity. He is long time Acton friend and was an important speaker at two of the Centesimus Annus Conferences on May 4 2006 and on May 2 2007. During his participation at the Centesimus Annus Conferences, archbishop Fisichella recalled how the social teaching of the Church “consists in favoring, promoting and defending the central role of the dignity of the human person, of every person, of the entire person, of every individual without any exception.”

There is no choice to make because there is no opposition, there simply cannot be knowledge without truth, or scientific research without the raising of further questions or of new challenges that will require answers. These answers can be found in Christ, who is always present in the Church.

Blog author: jcouretas
posted by on Thursday, June 19, 2008

Beginning this month in Christianity Today, Acton is introducing a new advertising campaign that asks readers to look at the economic implications of policy questions put forward by religious leaders. The first ad looks at the top down planning, command-and-control orientation of many humanitarian aid programs and opens with this:

In developing countries, two million children die each year from common diarrhea. Even though a 10¢ dose of oral rehydration therapy can cure it. The remedy is cheap and effective — so why can’t we get it to those poor people?

According to the Religious Left, rich countries just don’t care enough about the poor. Their solution? Government policies that advance a more ‘just distribution’ of wealth. But, will more money get that lifesaving stuff to the mother in Ghana watching her child die?

A special Impact page has been introduced on the Acton site with a deep set of resources for those who want to learn more about faith and policy questions. You can go there to download a copy of the new ad, and access an archive of the previous ads.

The campaign will also include an advertisement for Acton’s new documentary The Birth of Freedom.

The new campaign is being produced by the award-winning team that has partnered with Acton since our first issue advertising rolled out more than two years ago: Copywriter Catherine Snow of Creatif Boutique and Rick Devon and the talented crew at the Grey Matter Group, all of Grand Rapids.

The Wall Street Journal ran a long article yesterday on a dispute between France and Great Britain over how to proceed with the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) of the European Union which consumes about 40 per cent of the EU budget, i.e. $75 billion every year.

The French blame the current global food price inflation on free trade and suggest that the EU must expand its current subsidies for every ton of crop production. Moreover, the CAP model should be emulated in other parts of the world. As explained by the French minister for agriculture, Michel Barnier, in an interview with the Financial Times, the argument runs like this:

What we are now witnessing in the world is the consequence of too much free-market liberalism. We can’t leave feeding people to the mercy of the market. We need a public policy, a means of intervention and stabilisation. I think [the CAP] is a good model. It is a policy that allows us to produce to feed ourselves. We pool our resources to support production. West Africa, East Africa, Latin America and the southern shore of the Mediterranean all need regional common agricultural policies.

It is astonishing to see that someone in the hyper-regulated and hyper-subsidized world of agriculture really tries to blame “free-market liberalism” for the food price explosion. It is also not difficult to spot that Barnier’s “recommendation” for developing and emerging economies to copy the CAP model of throwing public money at farmers is only meant to keep out competition from these countries indefinitely. Of course, they do not have the resources to set up such a system but they have a legitimate interest to gain access to rich-world markets.

It is here that we should take a look at the British criticism of the CAP. The British argue convincingly that the decades-long de facto discrimination of the CAP against food from poorer countries deterred farmers in these economies from investing adequately in agriculture. Now that global food demand is increasing this under-investment causes supply constraints from which the developing world suffers in particular.

The CAP is currently under review as the present agreement runs out in 2013. France has always been one of the great beneficiaries of EU agricultural subsidies and it would probably be a far more EU-skeptical country if the policy was not in place (although the French also voted down the EU Constitution in 2005). In order to appease its agricultural lobby other EU member states are likely to look for another weak compromise for the time after 2013. But then European leaders should not claim that their political horse-trading has nothing to do with the crisis facing the world’s poor.

First Maxine Waters suggested that she might just want to nationalize the US oil industry; now Maurice Hinchey of New York is jumping on that bandwagon. And why wouldn’t they? It’s all the rage these days. Just look at Venezuela, which is rapidly emerging as a South American hellhole paradise after Hugo Chavez started nationalizing everything. Why should we be left behind?

It turns out that there are a number of very good reasons to avoid that particular bandwagon. Dr. Jay Richards discussed them last night on KKLA in Los Angeles on the Frank Pastore Show. Listen in and decide for yourself whether the US should nationalize the oil industry.