Friday, July 29, 2005

Should Protestants Be Invited on the Hajj Too?

After researching Cologne, Germany for an article last summer, I wished I could go to this year's World Youth Day. Not only is it the last year I'll be the right age, but Cologne would be a particularly intriguing destination after my summer 2003 wanderings. Of course, bar exams and lack of wealth pretty much put a stop to that idea.

Today's observation comes from a Der Spiegel article criticizing Pope Benedict XVI for not having enough "dialogue" with other religions. The article was based on some exceptionally close readings of some of his statements that some seem to interpret as anti-Semitic because they are not expressly pro-Israel. That issue aside, the closing remark was most odd:
Even his dealings with Germany's Protestant Church so far have been an affront. Indeed, at first Protestants weren't even invited to World Youth Day -- scheduled to take place in Cologne in August. It was only after the Protestants publicly expressed their astonishment that the Vatican managed to sheepishly issue the invitation.
A Protestant friend of mine expressed her own astonishment that Protestants would even want to attend this large Catholic event (expected to draw as many as a million participants). While the World Youth Day website doesn't make this clear, opting for more "universal" language, World Youth Day is an essentially "Catholic" event (yes, "catholic" means "universal," but we're not getting into semantics today).

There is one shred of hyperbole in the title, WYD is nowhere near as important to Catholics as the Hajj is to Muslims - it is a voluntary gathering and not an obligation of the faithful. But it is still a pilgrimage and a week-long celebration of faith in which the Pope plays a central role. The Pope invites the youth, celebrates with them, and sends them out into the world at the close .

Some excerpts from a 2004 interview with Father Francis Kohn, a Pontifical Council Aide:

WYD is a Catholic event because the invitation is made by the Pope, but there is also an "inculturation," an influence on the local culture.

We have seen that WYD is a great pilgrimage in faith. Our task is to put young people in touch with Christ; to foster a personal encounter, and to provide the occasion for conversion and the rediscovery of the sacraments, especially confession and the Eucharist...

Catecheses, liturgies and cultural meetings of youth from all over the world are a unique opportunity to deepen the faith through different cultures. In WYD, young people discover other ways of living the faith and other ways of experiencing Christian culture.

He also noted that 2005 will actually be "the first time... that the Pope explicitly invites young people who are not baptized, who are far from the Church, to come to Cologne for WYD." So there we have it: In order to live up to his predecessor's standard, the Pope is expected to energetically invite Protestants to a Catholic event that his predecessor created two decades ago without ever inviting Protestants?

Now I don't necessarily mind Protestants going to WYD, but how much "openness" is it right for anyone to demand? Is this supposed to be the consolation prize for not getting a Protestant Pope? In another context, how many Republican delegates were invited to the Democratic National Convention?

Oh, and if anyone can tell me where I can get one of these without an 80 Euro minimum order, I'd greatly appreciate it:

Side Note:
The Cologne Cathedral (K├Âlner Dom) has tried in various ways to be labeled the world's largest cathedral - but being neither the world's tallest (that would be Ulm) or the world's largest (the Ivory Coast's Basilica of Our Lady of Peace of Yamoussoukro), they seem to have settled on "World's Largest Church Facade."

Sunday, July 24, 2005

Is Senator Leahy the Solicitor General?

Demanding to see everything Supreme Court nominee John Roberts has ever written, Vermont Senator Patrick Leahy said this:
"It's a total red herring to say, 'Oh, we can't show this.' And of course there is no lawyer-client privilege. Those working in the solicitor general's office are not working for the president. They're working for you and me and all the American people," he told ABC's "This Week."
No Senator, they work for the administration. Their actions and policies are determined by the President and his appointees, not a power-hungry senator from our second-smallest state.

And in case you were wondering:

The Solicitor General determines the cases in which Supreme Court review will be sought by the government and the positions the government will take before the Court. (Source: The Solicitor General's Office)

As you may remember:

The outside liberal advocacy groups were quick to issue statements expressing worry about Roberts: People for the American Way brought up the legal brief Roberts prepared while serving in the solicitor general's office arguing a case called Rust v. Sullivan.

The brief said that the president and other members of the Bush I administration “continue to believe that Roe was wrongly decided and should be overruled” and that the Court’s ruling that a woman has a right to get an abortion has “no support in the text, structure or history of the Constitution.”

If Senator Leahy thinks he's in control of the Solicitor General's office, he'd better do something to get these administration lawyers who think they represent the administration under control. And he'd better be careful about any Democrat staff attorneys. They work for me!

Update, Later That Day: I wonder if Senator Leahy applies the same reasoning to public defenders (paid for by the American people!). We could rewrite Miranda:
You have the right to remain silent. Anything you say can and will be used against you in a court of law. You have the right to an attorney. If you cannot afford an attorney one will be appointed for you by the state. If an attorney is appointed for you, any communications between yourself and your attorney will be provided to Senator Leahy and any interested taxpayer.

Friday, July 22, 2005

Really, Really, It's All About Iraq!

LONDON (Reuters) - Militant Islamists will continue to attack Britain until the government pulls its troops out of Iraq and Afghanistan, one of the country's most outspoken Islamic clerics said on Friday.
We already knew this was all about Iraq, right? But for some reason he just kept talking:

In an interview with Reuters, [Sheikh Omar Bakri Mohammed] described Osama bin Laden, leader of the radical Islamist network al Qaeda, as "a sincere man who fights against evil forces."

Bakri said he would like Britain to become an Islamic state but feared he would be deported before his dream was realized.

"I would like to see the Islamic flag fly, not only over number 10 Downing Street, but over the whole world," he said.

A dream of a worldwide Islamic (Islamofascist) Caliphate? I thought this was all about Iraq, or U.S. troops in Saudi Arabia, or too many Jews in the Middle East, or something else that's the West's fault. Maybe it really does have more to do with Tours and Vienna than the soundbite media likes to admit.

Wednesday, July 20, 2005

Stay Out of Their Briefs!

One of the looming battles over Supreme Court nominee John Roberts is expected to be over briefs he wrote while working for the first Bush administration:

(MSNBC) At the moment — unless there is some smoking gun hidden in his years of private law practice — the only avenue of attack for Democrats to block his confirmation would seem to be an attempt to get the memos he wrote while in the solicitor general’s office from 1989 to 1992.

Democrats on the Judiciary Committee can argue that they need to know more about how Roberts thinks and therefore they must see those memos from the late 1980s.

The Bush administration will refuse to turn over the memos, saying the confidentiality of solicitor general’s office in preparing arguments must be held sacrosanct.

This is the very same issue Democrats used to justify their filibuster of Bush appeals court nominee Miguel Estrada in 2003...

The outside liberal advocacy groups were quick to issue statements expressing worry about Roberts: People for the American Way brought up the legal brief Roberts prepared while serving in the solicitor general's office arguing a case called Rust v. Sullivan.

The brief said that the president and other members of the Bush I administration “continue to believe that Roe was wrongly decided and should be overruled” and that the Court’s ruling that a woman has a right to get an abortion has “no support in the text, structure or history of the Constitution.”

Besides the fact that this statement is true, using the words of an attorney's briefs or memos against him is simply ridiculous. Briefs and memos are not written to express the personal views of an attorney, but to serve the client. A brief can only promote the client’s position. A memo is more of an intellectual exercise. At its most thorough, a memo would present and analyze every side of every relevant issue in a case. Everyone could find something to hate in an honest memo.

As for the Solicitor General’s office, every living former Solicitor General, whether Democrat or Republican, opposes releasing internal memos. I’m inclined to give some credence to consensus like that.

We don't know what Judge Roberts actually believes about Roe v. Wade (which regardless is no longer good law). He shouldn't be asked about it and he shouldn't answer. Beyond that, the one statement that we have so far is irrelevant. If he wasn't willing to state the position of his client (the first Bush administration) in his brief, he should have been fired.

For a list of questions that Roberts should NOT answer, check out Schumer's Questions for Roberts. Virtually none of these questions should be answered, except for Section 12:
  • Do you describe yourself as falling into any particular school of judicial philosophy?
  • What is your view of “strict constructionism”?
  • What is your view of the notion of “original intent”? “Original meaning”?
  • How do you square the notion of respecting “original intent” with the acceptance of the institution of slavery at the time the Constitution was adopted?
The first three will allow answers that will be academic enough to prevent the kind of pretentious vote-counting Schumer is aiming for. The fourth is easy - The Thirteenth Amendment, The Fourteenth Amendment, and The Fifteenth Amendment.

Finally, Kathryn Jean Lopez gives us some interesting nomination history:
But it doesn't have to be this way. When President Bill Clinton nominated Ruth Bader Ginsburg to the Supreme Court, she was confirmed four weeks after the initial announcement, after a relatively easy confirmation hearing. And it could have been brutal. Her views are extremist, unlike so many of President Bush's various federal-court nominees who've been stuck with the same e-word over the past four-plus years. A former American Civil Liberties Union attorney, Ginsburg has advocated replacing Mother's and Father's Days with "Parents' Day" to put an end to traditional gender-role rigidity. She also favored lowering the age of consent for statutory rape to 12 and opposed the Girl Scouts and Boy Scouts groups because they, again, "perpetuate stereotyped sex roles."
She's also used a false analogy with India to call for race quotas in Congress. I guess Clinton didn't use his nominees to "unite the country" either.

Monday, July 18, 2005

A 65-Year Emergency?

From the Wall Street Journal:

When it comes to issues involving race, apparently the first instinct of congressional Republicans is to grovel. They don't believe in appeasement abroad--only at home. The immediate issue is the reauthorization of the "emergency" provisions of the 1965 Voting Rights Act--provisions such as preclearance that constitute such a radical, unprecedented intrusion into state electoral prerogatives that they were originally designed to expire in 1970. Repeatedly extended, they are now due to die on Aug. 6, 2007.

But, terrified by the reauthorization campaign that the NAACP, the Lawyers Committee on Civil Rights, and other advocacy groups have begun to mount, Republicans in the House and Senate are pledging their support for reauthorization. Dennis Hastert, Tom DeLay and House Judiciary Committee Chairman James Sensenbrenner have announced that they will introduce legislation extending the "temporary" provisions another 25 years. This comes on the heels of Bill Frist, who said: "We must continue our nation's work to protect voting rights. And that is why we need to extend the Voting Rights Act."

Sen. Frist's statement is a non sequitur. Protecting voting rights is vital, but extending the temporary provisions of the Voting Rights Act is quite a different matter. Most of the legislation is permanent...

Section 5 is the most important of the provisions due to expire in 2007. It forces "covered" states and counties to "preclear" every voting-related change they make with the U.S. attorney general or the D.C. district court... Most of the states and counties on the federal watch list are in the South. But today, for instance, Manhattan, the Bronx and Brooklyn are covered, but Queens and Staten Island are not. Arizona is covered, but not New Mexico. In 1965 every part of the act made perfect sense. No longer...

The 1965 Act was amazingly effective, but members of Congress... became persuaded that blacks were equally disfranchised when the power of their vote was "diluted." Encouraged by courts, the Justice Department began to insist that all covered jurisdictions create as many "max-black" districts as possible. The point, of course, was to protect black (and after 1975, Hispanic) candidates from white competition, to promote minority office-holding in proportion to the minority population--which was viewed as racially "fair." The result: racial gerrymandering so egregious as to create bug-splat districts that, in the words of the Supreme Court, reinforced "the perception that members of the same racial group--regardless of their age, education, economic status, or the community in which they live--think alike."

While many racial activists demand these racist districts, other observers have pointed out that
it is a highly dubious policy. While creating safe seats increases the number of minority office holders, it dissipates minority voter's influence over the process as a whole. Packing minority voters into a few districts that they can safely control relinquishes almost all minority influence in the far larger number of districts now populated almost entirely by whites.
If we accept the gerrymanderers' premise as true - that is, that racial groups always vote uniformly and exclusively for same-race candidates - what is even to be gained by giving them some token districts? They still can't find a way to rewrite math and turn a minority into a majority.

Besides, what is it that makes a white man incapable of representing a black man? Or vice versa?

One study in California showed that
Latino and black voter participation is highest in congressional districts where they are able to play a prominent role, while white voter participation does not suffer in districts where they are the minority.
Indulging for a moment in problematic race-bloc-thinking, what does this show?
  • Minority voter participation is higher, but this is actually irrelevant when the district has been gerrymandered for race-based results. When the result is predetermined, elections are meaningless (think Cuba and Iraq under Saddam).
  • If "white" voter participation remains constant, perhaps they can serve as an example. Instead of telling minorities that their votes only matter if they are guaranteed to elect someone of the same race, how about some issue-based politics. The hope for Iraqi democracy is that the Shiites, Sunnis, and Kurds can move past ethnic identity and move forward as a country. Should we expect anything less in America?

Friday, July 15, 2005

War of the Prepositions

So who knows the difference between "for" and "because of"?

Froma Harrop has an interesting piece over at RealClearPolitics:
It is oil's fault. The London bombings are almost surely Al Qaeda's work, which means oil paid for them. Oil keeps the Mideast backward. It funds the madrassas that fill heads with anti-West poison. And it pays the terrorists who plant bombs on European trains and drive airplanes into American buildings. It is time we did something about oil.
She goes on to argue for alternative fuels, then returns to geopolitics:

We're in Iraq because of oil. That's not to say our intentions were ever to take over Iraqi oil fields. Our interest is to transform Mesopotamia and the rest of the Mideast into stable democracies. The theory is that angry theologies and genocidal tyrants frustrate economic advancement and breed dementia. Change all that, and the Mideast will become a peaceful and prosperous region.

But were it not for oil, that part of the world would have long ago moved toward modern economies. The people would have had no choice. They would have done it themselves. Americans would not be sending their soldiers to build democracy for them.

This is partly true, but I do not believe that a lack of oil would have necessarily created more "modern" states. It is possible, but they also could have taken the path of Africa (or even Afghanistan).

Speaking of Africa, one fallacious anti-war argument was that the U.S. and our allies were not going to war against every tyrant (especially ones without oil) - implying that if you can't fix everything at once, you should do nothing. One of these tyrants is Zimbabwe's Robert Mugabe. His "chaotic land redistribution campaign... caused an exodus of white farmers, crippled the economy, and ushered in widespread shortages of basic commodities."

Zimbabwe once was southern Africa's breadbasket, exporting food to neighbors. After Mugabe's illegal land seizures, Zimbabwe is a basket case, where nearly half the population goes to bed hungry every night. Last year Mugabe turned down international food aid so he could use scarce food as a political weapon to reward his supporters and deny his opponents. He has cracked down on the free press, jailed political opponents and stolen elections.

While people go hungry and are homeless, Mugabe has the use of two official residences in Harare and others in Bulwavo, Gweru and Mutare. He owns a mansion in Zvimba and the Nyanga highlands. He has just built another palatial mansion with 4 acres of floor space lined with Italian marble and 25 bedrooms. Meanwhile, the economy has shrunk by 40 percent. (Richard S. Williamson in the Chicago Sun-Times)

Oppression, starvation, palaces - he sounds a lot like Saddam. But we didn't attack Mugabe because Zimbabwe doesn't have oil, right? Actually, yes. Or to put it another way, if Saddam lacked oil we probably wouldn't have attacked him either. Along with the Oil-for-Food (Oil-for-Palaces) scandal, oil gave Saddam the resources he needed to build his terror machine. Without oil, could he have afforded the world's fourth largest army which he used to invade Kuwait (to get more oil)? Could he have afforded to fund terrorism by, most specifically, paying $25,000 to Palestinian Arab terrorists? Could he have afforded his 40,000-man terror-army (the Fedayeen Saddam)?

If we wanted Iraq's oil, we could have bought it. Besides, we don't own it now and gas prices more and more reflect refining capacity and China's growing energy demands (the reason that six different countries are fighting over the otherwise largely-useless Spratly Islands). Oil is what made Saddam a threat. In fact, "threat" diminishes his role. Oil let Saddam be a belligerent.

On a related note (addressing the theme of the rest of Ms. Harrop's article), I have continued to object to the demand for an alternative-energy "Manhattan Project." The original Manhattan Project was created to focus a vast effort on obtaining a specific technological goal - an operational and deployable atomic bomb. The project was motivated by fears of a German atomic bomb - an achievement that never came to pass partly because "the Germans never had a clear mission under continuously unified leadership." To use the analogy today would have to be immensely more specific, such as developing a solar cell within specific price and performance parameters and an ability to store excess power with a specific efficiency. The problem now is that no one can pick the one technology that is the goal. Proposals look more like the German failure than the American success.

Personally I'm interested in alternatives that more directly replace oil, like ethanol and hydrogen, if they can be made cost-effective. Hydrogen fuel would probably require a new distribution infrastructure, for which a federal role is not too unthinkable, but it must be cost-effective and that takes time. Ending dependence on foreign oil requires technology, not rhetoric.

See also the War of the Punctuation: "No War" for Oil

Tuesday, July 05, 2005

Who Wants a Veto?

From Aljazeera:

Demanding two permanent seats with veto rights, African Union (AU) heads of state and officials in Libya on Tuesday said the organisation had already presented its demand to the UN.

...

But so far the Sirte summit in Libya has not touched on the issue of who would sit in the two potential seats.

South Africa-based analyst Dr Anne Hammerstad told Aljazeera.net on Tuesday that the summit had agreed on the easy things but had yet to tackle issues that would most likely generate heated debate.

"The whole thing might unravel when it comes to which African countries will represent the AU -there are at least eight countries that have declared themselves candidates.

I've previously criticized expanding the UN Security Council, but I'm starting to wonder about that. While the selection would be somewhat arbitrary, tossing another half-dozen veto-wielding members onto the Security Council will do one thing quite effectively - the Council may be left entirely powerless. It's close enough now, so why not give it the death-blow and move on to something more useful?
Meanwhile, the AU has also unanimously adopted a declaration ahead of Wednesday's G8 summit, calling for the debt of all African countries to be forgiven...
You'll get a similar resolution if you get enough law students together.

Monday, July 04, 2005

Did Batman Adopt the Bush Doctrine?

I went to see Batman Begins today. It may even have been better than I expected. This brings me to a topic I've been thinking about for a while. Commonwealth Conservative had a series of posts on the movie (here, here, here, and here) one of which asked the question, "Is Batman a Republican?" (Also asked and answered here and here - OK, enough links!) I think it's an interesting question (although it starts to get weird when you try to categorize other superheroes).

My question today is this: Did Batman adopt the Bush Doctrine? (Or, should I say, did President Bush adopt the Batman Doctrine?)

As you all should know, the Bush Doctrine is the basic premise of the War on Terrorism. A few quotes:
We will make no distinction between the terrorists who committed these acts and those who harbor them.
-President George W. Bush, September 11, 2001

Our war on terror begins with al Qaeda, but it does not end there. It will not end until every terrorist group of global reach has been found, stopped and defeated.
-President George W Bush, September 20, 2001
Since well before the 2003 coalition invasion of Iraq, opponents have kept declaring that "Saddam didn't plan 9-11" - as if anyone in authority ever made such a claim. But Al Qaeda wasn't the only problem. Terrorism, particularly Islamist terrorism (closely associated with Islamofascism), was plaguing the world and with little effective response. It was decided that stopping one enemy wasn't enough - there was a bigger picture and a bigger cause.

Enter Batman. For those of you who haven't seen it, I won't get into the details of the film. But as we all know from earlier films, Batman's parents were murdered. It was this event that ultimately turned Bruce Wayne into the Caped Crusader. But he ends up fighting against criminals that had nothing to do with his parents' deaths - he looks beyond those who wronged him directly and fights crime throughout Gotham. Furthermore, nobody claims it's inconsistent for him not to capture all the criminals at once.

So no, Saddam wasn't on one of the planes on September 11th (we pulled him in a rat hole two years later) and the various Gotham City villains didn't kill Batman's parents. But both were villains, and that is what we must not forget.