Blog author: berndbergmann
Thursday, February 21, 2008
By

The head of the Church of England and the Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr. Rowan Williams, made international headlines earlier this month when he suggested that the adoption of some aspects of Islamic sharia law into British law was “unavoidable” and discussed the compatibility of sharia law with the established legal system.

Williams’ long speech discusses the pros and cons of ‘plural jurisprudence.’ He does not ignore the repressive aspects of Islamic law, but his main concern seems to be to avoid offending or alienating Muslims in British society.

It is no secret that the Archbishop’s own church is in decline while the number of Muslims in the UK and the rest of Europe is growing rapidly. A church leader should seek to strengthen his own flock as well as remind us of the principles that have created the foundations for a free society.

Williams is seemingly unaware of the consequences that such a lack of moral leadership may have. Many Europeans feel legitimately threatened by Islamic terrorism and fundamentalist intolerance, but they have no well-formed intellectual or spiritual defense. The danger is that the abandoned will be tempted to lend an ear to demagogues (not for the first time in European history) and thereby set off a spiral of still more intolerance and violence.

As a person with a strong family history of cancer, this story warmed my heart. Oh wait, did I say “warmed my heart”? What I meant to say was “chilled me to the bone“:

Created 60 years ago as a cornerstone of the British welfare state, the National Health Service is devoted to the principle of free medical care for everyone. But recently it has been wrestling with a problem its founders never anticipated: how to handle patients with complex illnesses who want to pay for parts of their treatment while receiving the rest free from the health service…

…One such case was Debbie Hirst’s. Her breast cancer had metastasized, and the health service would not provide her with Avastin, a drug that is widely used in the United States and Europe to keep such cancers at bay. So, with her oncologist’s support, she decided last year to try to pay the $120,000 cost herself, while continuing with the rest of her publicly financed treatment.

By December, she had raised $20,000 and was preparing to sell her house to raise more. But then the government, which had tacitly allowed such arrangements before, put its foot down. Mrs. Hirst heard the news from her doctor.

“He looked at me and said: ‘I’m so sorry, Debbie. I’ve had my wrists slapped from the people upstairs, and I can no longer offer you that service,’ ” Mrs. Hirst said in an interview.

“I said, ‘Where does that leave me?’ He said, ‘If you pay for Avastin, you’ll have to pay for everything’ ” — in other words, for all her cancer treatment, far more than she could afford.

Officials said that allowing Mrs. Hirst and others like her to pay for extra drugs to supplement government care would violate the philosophy of the health service by giving richer patients an unfair advantage over poorer ones…

…in a final irony, Mrs. Hirst was told early this month that her cancer had spread and that her condition had deteriorated so much that she could have the Avastin after all — paid for by the health service. In other words, a system that forbade her to buy the medicine earlier was now saying that she was so sick she could have it at public expense.

Mrs. Hirst is pleased, but up to a point. Avastin is not a cure, but a way to extend her life, perhaps only by several months, and she has missed valuable time. “It may be too bloody late,” she said.

I’m simply thrilled that so many people are so keen on introducing this system to the United States.

Rev. Robert A. Sirico (unfortunately misidentified by host David Asman as “Father John Sirico”) made an appearance on America’s Nightly Scoreboard on Fox Business Channel to discuss the announcement that 81 year old Fidel Castro is stepping down as dictator of Cuba, officially handing power to his sprightly, 76 year old brother Raoul. If you couldn’t catch it live, you can see it here:

It’s a shame that the marvel of government-controlled health care hasn’t been implemented in the US yet:

Seriously ill patients are being kept in ambulances outside hospitals for hours so NHS trusts do not miss Government targets.
Thousands of people a year are having to wait outside accident and emergency departments because trusts will not let them in until they can treat them within four hours, in line with a Labour pledge.

What a fool I’ve been to oppose this massive improvement in standards of care. Hat tip to The Corner for pointing this one out.

Blog author: jcouretas
Tuesday, February 19, 2008
By

Nearly two years ago, in “Who Will Protect Kosovo’s Christians?” I wrote:

Dozens of churches, monasteries and shrines have been destroyed or damaged since 1999 in Kosovo, the cradle of Orthodox Christianity in Serbia. The Serbian Orthodox Church lists nearly 150 attacks on holy places, which often involve desecration of altars, vandalism of icons and the ripping of crosses from Church rooftops. A March 2004 rampage by Albanian mobs targeted Serbs and 19 people, including eight Kosovo Serbs, were killed and more than 900 injured, according Agence France Press. The UN mission in Kosovo, AFP said, reported that 800 houses and 29 Serb Orthodox churches and monasteries – some of them dating to the 14th century — were torched during the fighting. NATO had to rush 2,000 extra troops to the province to stop the destruction.

All this happened despite the presence of UN peacekeeping forces. According to news reports posted by the American Council for Kosovo, Albanian separatists are opposing the expansion of military protection of Christian holy sites by UN forces. A main concern of Christians is the fate of the Visoki Decani Monastery – Kosovo’s only UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Now that Albanian separatists have declared the Serbian province of Kosovo to be an independent nation — and won backing from President Bush — a chain of events has been put in place that EU lawmakers are already describing as a Pandora’s Box.

Why? Because the secessionist move in Serbia is likely to kindle others in places like Georgia, Moldova and Russia (which now much entertain similar aspirations from places like Abkhazia, South Ossetia, or Transdniester). This explains Russia’s opposition to the Kosovo breakaway, but it’s not alone. Spain, which has contended with Basque, Catalan and Galician separatist movements for decades, refused to recognize an independent Kosovo, saying the move was illegal. Then there’s Slovakia, Romania, Bulgaria, Greece and Cyprus. Some Asian countries also view the Kosovo split as a dangerous precedent. Sri Lanka said the move was a violation of the UN Charter. Canada has officially remained mum on the question so far.

For a good balanced look ahead for Kosovo, see “After Kosovo’s Secession,” by Lee Hudson Teslik on the Council of Foreign Relations Web site, and the online debate between Marshall F. Harris, Senior Policy Advisor, Alston + Bird, and Alan J. Kuperman, Assistant Professor, University of Texas, LBJ School of Public Affairs.

But I am a skeptic, in case you were wondering. (more…)

Presidential front-runners and Senators John McCain and Barack Obama are lacking environmental leadership by failing to pay for offsets to cover their campaign carbon emissions. An article in the Washington Times titled, Green Crusades Lot of Talk, by Stephen Dinan, notes John McCain and Barack Obama aren’t leading by example. “Though both campaigns say they practice energy conservation, Mr. Obama offsets only some of his airplane flight emissions, while Mr. McCain doesn’t cover even that,” says Dinan.

It looks as if carbon offsets for the campaigns are more of a public relations ploy, rather than a serious commitment to running green campaigns. In his article Dinan declares:

Even some campaigns that started with the best of intentions fell short in execution, stopping payments when their cash flow tightened.

John Edwards, one of the earliest candidates to commit to offsets, paid $21,997 last year to Native Energy, a Vermont-based company, according to Federal Election Commission reports. His most recent payment was made July 11, six months before his campaign ended.

Sen. Christopher J. Dodd, another candidate who made an offsets pledge, recorded his last payment to Carbon Fund in September, more than two months before he dropped out of the race.

“I’m sure that a number of the candidates saw offsets as a good way to show leadership by example, but when confronted with the cold reality of a cash crunch, offsets are one of the first things to go,” said Frank O’Donnell, president of Clean Air Watch.

He said offsets are probably well-intentioned, but are not an overall solution to climate change nor the best way to gauge a campaign’s commitment to addressing global warming.

According to Dinan, Senator Hillary Clinton spent $20,327 last year alone in carbon credits, making payments to Native Energy. Also, read the article to hear the explanations from the McCain and Obama campaigns.

AGAIN Magazine has published my “Conflicted Hearts: Orthodox Christians and Social Justice in an Age of Globalization.” The magazine is produced by Conciliar Press Ministries, Inc., a department of the self-ruled Antiochian Orthodox Christian Church of North America.

Excerpt:

Just as there is no real understanding of many bioethical issues without a general grasp of underlying medical technology, there is no real understanding of “social justice” without an understanding of basic economic principles. These principles explain how Orthodox Christians work, earn, invest, and give to philanthropic causes in a market-oriented economy. Economic questions are at the root of many of the problems that on their face seem to be more about something else—poverty, immigration, the environment, technology, politics, humanitarian assistance. In the environmental area, for example, the current debate on global warming is just as much focused on how to finance the means of slowing the rising temperatures of the earth as it is on root causes. And the question always is: Who will pay?

What, exactly, is social justice? It is an ambiguous concept, loaded with ideological freight. No politically correct person would dare oppose it. To be against “social justice” would be tantamount to opposing “fairness.” Today, the term is most often employed by liberal-progressive activists and a “social justice movement” that advances an economic agenda which includes such causes as a “living wage,” universal health care and expanded welfare benefits, increased labor union powers, forgiveness of national debts in the developing world, and vastly increased transfers of foreign aid from rich countries to the poor. Because religious conservatives tend toward support for free market economic systems, they have largely shunned the “social justice” agenda and its government-based solutions.

Read the entire article here.

Ernie Harwell was calling the play by play over television for the first live televised sports broadcast from coast to coast. The series featured the famous “shot heard round the world” at the Polo Grounds in 1951. It’s possibly baseball’s most well known historic moment featuring a dramatic 9th inning home run by Bobby Thompson to defeat the Brooklyn Dodgers, sending the New York Giants to the World Series. It was Russ Hodges radio call of the same game, however, that became etched in American sports lore. Harwell humorously says, “Only my wife knows I was on the air that day.”

Harwell received plenty of fame, notoriety, and admiration however, as the regular voice of the Detroit Tigers starting in 1960. Harwell was honored by his hometown of Washington, Ga, just weeks after celebrating his 90th
birthday
. He returns to the place where it all started as a word-smith and story-teller, characteristics often strongly associated with Southerners of his era. Harwell is also known to have overcome a severe speech impediment on his way to broadcast glory. Harwell just recently was enshrined in the Georgia Sports Hall of Fame, he’s already received the prestigious Ford C. Frick Award from the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum in 1981.

Harwell has many thrilling encounters and prestigious awards in his long life, but his most important encounter he says came on Easter morning in 1961 at a Billy Graham Crusade in Bartow, Florida. “Something told me I should go, and then I turned to Jesus, and ever since then my life hasn’t been the same since,” Harwell says. The famed voice of the Tigers has also been long been involved with Baseball Chapel, an evangelistic ministry for ballplayers.

In 1991, when former Michigan football coach Bo Schembechler took over Tiger baseball operations, he let Harwell go. Harwell said it was a tough time for him, but he wanted to have peace and trust God, never be bitter, accept the situation. Fans immediately rallied to Harwell’s defense and Tiger ownership suffered the consequences of what can only be called a major public relations disaster. Mike Ilitch bought the Tigers in 1993, and went about recapturing the magic of Tiger history and tradition. Ilitch immediately rehired Harwell to the delight of the fans. Harwell eventually retired in 2002 on his own terms.

His wife also survived cancer, and Harwell thanks God. “One of the greatest things about Jesus is he lifts your burdens, worries, and cares. Jesus takes care of me, I don’t worry about anything. I know Scripture says “God works all things for good,” Harwell says. Former broadcast partner Jim Price credits Harwell for giving him spiritual guidance when Price’s son was diagnosed with autism.

Harwell is a man of many honors and talents; He served honorably in the Marines during WWII. Harwell is also a well known writer, and over 65 songs he has written have been recorded by artists. Harwell amusingly notes, “I have more no-hitters than Nolan Ryan.” Harwell is a legend though, a prized piece of Americana. A voice and personality who represents so well an era where baseball over the radio magically ruled the airwaves.

The famed announcer is also known for not worrying and enjoying life, a peace he says “comes from Christ.” Harwell also started the first game of every broadcast year with a quote from Scripture in Song of Solomon, “The flowers are springing up and the time of the singing of birds has come. Yes, spring is here.”

Speaking of the history of morality and moral judgments in historiography, Alister MacIntyre makes a pointed observation about a complementary distinction that arises between what might be called “intellectual” and “social” history:

Abstract changes in moral concepts are always embodied in real, particular events. There is a history yet to be written in which the Medici princes, Henry VIII and Thomas Cromwell, Frederick the Great and Napoleon, Walpole and Wilberforce, Jefferson and Robespierre are understood as expressing their actions, often partially and in a variety of different ways, the very same conceptual changes which at the level of philosophical theory are articulated by Machiavelli and Hobbes, by Diderot and Condorcet, by Hume and Adam Smith and Kant. There ought not to be two histories, one of political and moral action and one of political and moral theorizing, because there were not two pasts, one populated only by actions, the other only by theories. Every action is the bearer and expression of more or less theory-laden beliefs and concepts; every piece of theorizing and every expression of belief is a political and moral action.

After Virtue, 2d ed., p. 61

See also: Lord Acton, Lectures on Modern History (1906).

“The challenge of climate change is at once individual, local, national and global. Accordingly, it urges a multilevel coordinated response, with mitigation and adaptation programs simultaneously individual, local, national and global in their vision and scope”, stated Archbishop Celestino Migliore, representative of the Holy See, at the 62nd session of the U.N. General Assembly, which took place earlier this month. The theme of the session was “Addressing Climate Change: The United Nations and the World at Work.”

Much attention is being given to climate change in the wake of EU President Jose Manuel Barroso’s new climate control plan. President Barroso’s proposal, released in January, intends to control greenhouse gas emissions through heavy legislation. The “20/20/20 by 2020” goals are ambitious; cut greenhouse gas emissions by 20%, produce 20% of its energy from renewable sources, and increase energy efficiency by 20% no later than the year 2020. The EU intends to lead the way in implementing greener energy systems, despite the heavy criticism it has drawn from some of its chief member states, namely France and Germany.

Big business is getting in on the renewable energy bandwagon. General Motors, for example, has announced plans to design at least half their vehicles to run on ethanol.

Meanwhile, in the media reports keep coming concerning the uncertainty that biofuel hype is going to have the desired long-term effect for global warming. Experts argue that the production of biofuels may give off cleaner emissions, but will require more energy to manufacture. Economists are eyeing rising food prices -especially corn- with worry. Demonstrations over the price of staple foods in Mexico and Indonesia last summer were attributed to the U.S. trial in promoting ethanol at the gas pump.

The Vatican repeatedly affirms that man is responsible for the environment. “Consumers must be aware that their consumption patterns have direct impact on the health of the environment,” Archbishop Migliore said at the U.N. “Thus through interdependence, solidarity and accountability, individuals and nations together will be more able to balance the needs of sustainable development with those of good stewardship at every level.”

Nevertheless, responsibility towards the environment does not usurp responsibility towards one’s fellow man, and this is implicit in Archbishop Migliore’s address. While President Barroso and the EU, worry themselves about what to do with climate change, poor countries may be watching their daily bread disappear into gas tanks and industrial energy due to ill-advised legislation and propaganda. Lack of regard for scientific input and global economic effects is contemptible, no matter how officials may applaud their green conscience.