The trouble with DRM

July 18, 2009

It seems Amazon has the power to delete books from customers’ kindles, and they recently exercised that power. To make the incident a little more poignant, the deleted books were George Orwell works, including 1984 and Animal Farm.

The publisher that was selling the books did not have the rights to do so, and Amazon refunded customers’ money, so it’s hard to say that what Amazon did in this incident was wrong. What is troubling is that they have the power to do it.

With an ordinary book, readers are protected by owning a physical copy. A lawsuit or a change in heart by the publisher might take a book out of print, but it cannot recall the books that are already out there. The idea that an existing book might be made to disappear is very troubling.

It’s not a hypothetical worry either, as demonstrated by the recent affair of the Encyclopedia of Christian Civilization, whose publisher, Wiley-Blackwell, abruptly cancelled publication of the work after it had already gone to press, recalled its existing copies, and pulped its entire run. The reason for the action is unclear, and it is credibly alleged that it was because the work was “too Christian.”

One inherent protection that free speech has from censorship is that it’s hard to find and collect all the copies of a banned book. It’s very disappointing that Amazon decided to build that functionality into the kindle. Outside the western democracies (indeed, probably even in Canada), this functionality will certainly be used to enforce censorship. Even more troubling, it will be used silently to revise existing works to correct politically incorrect material. That’s a development worthy of George Orwell.

POSTSCRIPT: If you’re a kindle owner, and you don’t want to trust Amazon to archive your kindle books (as this incident shows you should not), you can do it yourself. Using the USB cable, you can connect your kindle to your computer and copy off its books. Those books are DRMed, so you can only read them on your kindle, but you can restore them if they’re deleted. It possible that it might not work in this sort of case; Amazon might have included a revocation list in the kindle, but I doubt they went so far.

UPDATE: For once, I beat Glenn Reynolds to the punch. His take is much the same as mine, except he’s not focusing on the service this does for tyrants. Also, Hot Air says that it looks as though Amazon’s action is not permitted under its Terms of Use.

UPDATE: For what it’s worth, Amazon says they won’t do it again:

Amazon effectively acknowledged that the deletions were a bad idea. “We are changing our systems so that in the future we will not remove books from customers’ devices in these circumstances,” Mr. Herdener said.

(Via Volokh.)


Majority opposes “public option”

July 18, 2009

50%-35%, and even more among independents.


NYT buries CBO story

July 18, 2009

The CBO report that health care “reform” would push costs up, not down, was a big blow against Democratic efforts to take over health care. Big news? For most newspapers, yes, but for not the New York Times. The “paper of record” buried the story in the middle of the paper, and gave it a misleading headline to boot. What bigger news was the NYT dedicating its front page to, leaving no room for the day’s top political story? President Obama addressing the NAACP.

(Via Hot Air.)


Health care “reform” promotes ambulance chasing

July 17, 2009

A conservative plan for health care reform would include some kind of malpractice reform. Doing so would cut costs for malpractice insurance (which get passed on, of course) and reduce the incentive for overly defensive medical tests. Opinions differ as to how much a difference this one reform would make, but there’s no question it would help (and in some specialties, such as obstetrics, help a lot).

However, the Democrats seem to think that there aren’t enough lawsuits! The Democratic health care bill would allow freelance lawyers to file lawsuits on behalf of Medicare, without obtaining the government’s approval (!), and keep a share of the money if they win.

So let’s not have any more nonsense about how “reform” is going to cut health care costs. We already knew that it won’t (from the CBO analysis, if nothing else), but it is now clear that it’s not even supposed to.


Police break up peaceful protest

July 17, 2009

Not in Iran, but St. Louis, Missouri. When a tea party group protested outside Senator Claire McCaskill’s office, they locked the doors, closed the blinds, and called the cops. (Via Instapundit.)

UPDATE: McCaskill has issued a statement on her blog, saying that it was a neighboring office, not hers, that was making obscene gestures at the protesters, and adding:

I still regret the way we handled the protest, and hope that all those that want to express themselves feel free to protest peacefully at our office anytime.

She doesn’t explain how the police were called, which makes her claim to welcome protesters ring a bit hollow.

(Via Instapundit.)


“We own the auto companies. Why not?”

July 17, 2009

The fruits of nationalization:

Sen. Tom Harkin said he wants Congress to use a climate bill to force auto companies to make new cars and trucks capable of running on 85 percent ethanol as well as conventional gasoline.

“We own the automobile companies. Why not? I think that will be an easy one,” Harkin said Thursday, referring to the government interests in Chrysler and General Motors.

As government coercion goes, this isn’t necessarily such a bad policy, since by some estimates this would cost only $100 per new car. Nevertheless, he should be prepared to fight for his policy. Using nationalized industries to short-circuit political opposition is wrong, and inimical to democracy.


How Ricci was discovered

July 17, 2009

Stuart Taylor relates the story behind how a federal judge revived the Ricci case, which Sonia Sotomayor tried (almost successfully) to bury. Taylor concludes that Sotomayor’s action may have violated the Second Circuit’s rules. (Via the Corner.)


Fetuses have memory

July 17, 2009

The Washington Times reports:

The unborn have memories, according to medical researchers who used sound and vibration stimulation, combined with sonography, to reveal that the human fetus displays short-term memory from at least 30 weeks gestation – or about two months before they are born.

“In addition, results indicated that 34-week-old fetuses are able to store information and retrieve it four weeks later,” said the research, which was released Wednesday.

Scientists from the Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology at Maastricht University Medical Centre and the University Medical Centre St. Radboud, both in the Netherlands, based their findings on a study of 100 healthy pregnant women and their fetuses with the help of some gentle but precise sensory stimulation.

(Via the Corner.)


And then there were none

July 17, 2009

Hugo Chavez is working hard to shut down the last remaining opposition media:

TO CRITICS who call him an autocrat, Venezuela’s leftist president, Hugo Chávez, responds by pointing to a largely uncensored opposition media. Yet it is an argument that is wearing thin. Mr Chávez recently vowed to curb what he sees as the excesses of Globovisión, a 24-hour news channel that is his main bugbear. Closing it down may be the only way to do so.

Globovisión is the last remaining national channel that is critical of the government. It was one of four such channels that during Venezuela’s political conflict of 2002-04, to varying degrees, egged on an opposition that was determined to oust Mr Chávez. Two have since capitulated, firing controversial talk-show hosts and adjusting their news coverage. In 2007 the government’s broadcasting regulator refused to renew the licence of the fourth—Radio Caracas Televisión, which is now subscription-only. . .

The president recently ordered mayors and state governors to provide him with a “map of the media war”, showing which regional outlets are “in the hands of the oligarchy”. Last month he instructed not just his ministers but also several nominally autonomous state bodies to move against Globovisión. Within days, the channel and its main owner faced a legal assault.


CBO pans health-care reform

July 16, 2009

This seems significant:

Instead of saving the federal government from fiscal catastrophe, the health reform measures being drafted by congressional Democrats would increase rather than reduce public spending on health care, potentially worsening an already bleak budget outlook, the director of the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office said this morning.

Under questioning by members of the Senate Budget Committee, CBO director Douglas Elmendorf said bills crafted by House leaders and the Senate health committee do not propose “the sort of fundamental changes that would be necessary to reduce the trajectory of federal health spending by a significant amount.”

“On the contrary,” Elmendorf said, “the legislation significantly expands the federal responsibility for health-care costs.”

Though President Obama and Democratic leaders have said repeatedly that reining in the skyrocketing growth in spending on government health programs such as Medicaid and Medicare is their top priority, the reform measures put forth so far would not fulfill their pledge to “bend the cost curve” downward, Elmendorf said. Instead, he said, “The curve is being raised.”

(Via the Corner.)


Tyranny

July 16, 2009

Anyone who doubted that the Democrats mean to nationalize everyone’s health coverage need doubt no longer. The Democratic health care bill bans private individual health covarage.

The provision grandfathers those with existing coverage, but by preventing any insurer from taking on new customers, it ensures that the days of private insurance are numbered. People will not be able to switch insurers, and when their plan inevitably folds, they will be forced into the government plan.

(Via Instapundit.)

UPDATE: Power Line has some more details.


Ha ha ha

July 15, 2009

A new press release from Media Matters has a little bit of accidental transparency:

Greetings,

I wanted to make sure you had seen Media Matters’ latest research on the media ignoring allegations that surfaced during Sen. Jeff Sessions’ 1986 nomination to the U.S. district court. As reported by the Associated Press, Sessions’ “nomination originally drew fire from civil rights groups because of his [1985] prosecution … of three west Alabama civil rights activists on vote fraud charges. The three were acquitted by a federal court jury, prompting civil rights leaders to charge that the prosecution was an attempt to intimidate black voters.” Doesn’t the fact that we quote the AP undermine the idea that the media is ignoring the story? Could we say, “research on much of the media ignoring…”

Please feel free to contact me with any questions or if you would like additional information.

Jessica Levin
Press Secretary
Media Matters for America

(Emphasis added.) (Via the Corner.)

Yes, I would say it does undermine the idea.  Good point, Media Matters.  (Seriously though, would ignoring this 23-year-old smear really be so unreasonable?)


Nokia and Siemens assist Iranian oppression

July 15, 2009

I didn’t notice this story last month:

The Iranian regime has developed, with the assistance of European telecommunications companies, one of the world’s most sophisticated mechanisms for controlling and censoring the Internet, allowing it to examine the content of individual online communications on a massive scale.

Interviews with technology experts in Iran and outside the country say Iranian efforts at monitoring Internet information go well beyond blocking access to Web sites or severing Internet connections.

Instead, in confronting the political turmoil that has consumed the country this past week, the Iranian government appears to be engaging in a practice often called deep packet inspection, which enables authorities to not only block communication but to monitor it to gather information about individuals, as well as alter it for disinformation purposes, according to these experts.

The monitoring capability was provided, at least in part, by a joint venture of Siemens AG, the German conglomerate, and Nokia Corp., the Finnish cellphone company.

The Iranian people sure did, though. Iranians have organized a boycott of Nokia, and an Iranian paper claims that Nokia’s sales have been halved as a result of the boycott.

(Via the Corner.)


Is the recession over?

July 15, 2009

According to a consulting firm I’ve never heard of, the economy is growing at a 2.4% rate in the third quarter. (Via Instapundit.) This needs to be taken with many grains of salt, since this isn’t based on any official numbers, and besides, we’re just two weeks into the third quarter. But let’s suppose it’s true, and remains so. Is the recession over?

In the old days, sure. A recession was defined as two or more quarters of negative growth. If growth is positive, you’re not in a recession.

But we’ve abandoned the old definition, which actually meant something, in favor of one based on rulings from the self-appointed arbiters of recession, the NBER. They ruled that we have been in a recession since the fourth quarter of 2007, despite two quarters of positive growth in the first half of 2008. Growth was actually 2.8% in the second quarter of 2008, greater than the 2.4% we are supposedly experiencing now, but according to the NBER, we were in recession nevertheless.

So whatever the numbers end up saying, it’s too early to say the recession is over, at least if you take the NBER’s ruling as definitive.


Fish in a barrel

July 15, 2009

The AP fact-checks Patrick Leahy:

In endorsing Supreme Court nominee Sonia Sotomayor, Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy did some creative rewriting of history. And he put quote marks around it.

Trying to head off criticism of a controversial comment, Leahy misquoted Sotomayor’s own words in kicking off the second day of her confirmation hearings. . .

LEAHY SAID: “You said that, quote, you ‘would hope that a wise Latina woman with the richness of her experiences would reach wise decisions.'”

THE FACTS: If that’s all Sotomayor said, the quote would barely have mattered to opponents of her nomination. The actual quote . . . was: “I would hope that a wise Latina woman with the richness of her experiences would more often than not reach a better conclusion than a white male who hasn’t lived that life.”

Leahy’s revision dropped the controversial part of the phrase, the part that has attracted charges of reverse racism.

UPDATE: Leahy says that that he working from memory, and misremembered. Well, one shouldn’t put “quote” in front if one isn’t able to quote. But it’s worse than that; the video shows that he was reading from his notes as he spoke. (Via Power Line.)


Soaking the rich

July 15, 2009

The Washington Post gets it right:

THERE IS a serious case to be made that the U.S. income tax system should become more progressive. . . In principle, higher taxes for the well-heeled could make sense — as part of a broader rationalization of the unduly complex tax code.

If you say so.

But there is no case to be made for the House Democratic majority’s proposal to fund health-care legislation through an ad hoc income tax surcharge for top-earning households. . .

The traditional argument against sharp increases in the marginal tax rates of a very narrow band of Americans is that it could distort their economic behavior — most likely by encouraging them to put more of their money into tax shelters as opposed to productive investments. . . The deeper issue, though, is whether it is wise to pay for a far-reaching new federal social program by tapping a revenue source that would surely need to be tapped if and when Congress and the Obama administration get serious about the long-term federal deficit.

That moment may be approaching faster than they would like. Even if Congress pulls off a budget-neutral expansion of health care, the gap between federal revenue and expenditures will reach 7 percent of gross domestic product in 2020, according to the Congressional Budget Office. And that’s assuming that the economy returns to full employment between now and then. The long-term deficit is driven by the aging of the population as well as by growing health-care costs, both contributing to Social Security and Medicare expenses. There is simply no way to close the gap by taxing a handful of high earners. The House actions echo President Obama’s unrealistic campaign promise that he can build a larger, more progressive government while raising taxes on only the wealthiest.

(Via Instapundit.)

The tax code is already the most progressive it has ever been. In 2006 (the latest year for which data seem to be available), the top 1% paid 40% of all taxes, while earning just 22% of all income. What percentage is progressive enough?

I wish the Democrats would be forced to answer that question. Their answer seems only to be, as high as possible. Even the peak of the Laffer curve is no limit. President Obama has spoken of raising taxes on the rich even when doing so would actually reduce revenue, in the interest of “fairness”.


Sotomayor yesterday

July 15, 2009

The consensus seems to be that she did just about as badly yesterday as she could have, and she did not endanger her chances of confirmation. That’s certainly an indictment of our political landscape.

I thought the fact that Sotomayor did not understand the Kelo decision was particularly telling.


Senate adds money for more F-22s

July 13, 2009

The Senate has amended the defense bill to buy seven more F-22s. It’s far from certain that the provision will become law, since President Obama has pledged a veto, but it’s reason for hope. As I’ve written before, the arguments against the F-22 are very unconvincing. Basically, its opponents argue that we don’t need an air superiority force any more, because our last few wars have been against opponents without an effective air force. Moreover, the idea that we cannot afford $10 billion or so to secure our national defense is preposterous, particularly given our current “stimulus” budget.


Chavez usurps municipal power in Caracas

July 13, 2009

Once again, Hugo Chavez’s support for democracy is decidedly fair-weathered:

[Antonio Ledezma] is the opposition mayor of Venezuela’s capital, Caracas, who was elected by a landslide in November 2008. Yet after his victory, President Hugo Chávez effectively ignored the election results by creating a position of ”super-mayor” of Caracas, appointing a loyalist to the new job and stripping Ledezma of his offices and the bulk of his budget. . .

When he took office Dec. 7, Ledezma found out that most of his office’s funds had been transferred to other government agencies. Then, on Dec. 29, government-backed mobs started occupying various city offices. On Jan. 17, a pro-Chávez mob took over the Caracas City Hall, including the mayor’s offices.

Shortly thereafter, the Chávez-run Congress created the job of Caracas ”head of government,” and Chávez appointed a non-elected loyalist to the new position. . .

Strangled for cash, Ledezma soon found himself unable to pay city employees’ salaries. When his bids to recover his city budget were rejected by Chávez-controlled courts, he walked into the OAS offices in Caracas on July 3, and started a hunger strike.

Ledezma demanded among other things that OAS Secretary General José Miguel Insulza meet with a delegation of Venezuelan opposition mayors and governors. In addition to Ledezma, the opposition governors of the states of Zulia (Venezuela’s main oil center), Miranda and Tachira, among others, have been stripped of their jurisdiction over seaports, airports and highways, which are their main sources of funding.


Mythology

July 13, 2009

The Economist reviews a new book on the Venezuelan coup of 2002:

ON APRIL 11th 2002 nearly a million people marched on the presidential palace in Caracas, the capital of Venezuela, to demand the ousting of Hugo Chávez, the elected president whom they accused of undermining democracy and causing the creeping “Cubanisation” of the country. As they neared the palace, violence broke out. . .

As Brian Nelson, who teaches at Miami University, writes in this superbly researched account, the short-lived coup “would become one of the most important, yet most misunderstood, events in recent history.” It severely damaged the democratic credentials of the Venezuelan opposition, while Mr Chávez successfully portrayed himself as the innocent victim of an American-inspired conspiracy to overthrow violently an elected government. . .

So what really happened in April 2002? . . . Chávez’s brief ouster was “not a coup in the classic sense”, nor a premeditated conspiracy, and he exonerates the United States of direct involvement. He finds that the National Guard and chavista gunmen started the shooting, and were responsible for most of the bloodshed, though some victims may have been killed when the Caracas police, loyal to an opposition mayor, returned fire.

When Mr Chávez ordered the army to suppress the demonstration, his top generals refused. They rightly argued that the order was unconstitutional. When the television images showed the chavistas shedding blood, the president quickly found himself friendless. Though he did not sign a written resignation, he did agree to step down in return for safe passage to Cuba. But the generals failed to broker a constitutional transition. As they dithered, Mr Carmona stepped opportunistically into the power vacuum, staging “a coup within a popular uprising”. The army swiftly withdrew its support from the appalling Mr Carmona, making Mr Chávez’s return inevitable.

Within days his government began “a multi-million dollar campaign to rewrite the history of the coup”. According to Mr Nelson, it destroyed evidence of the killings, blocked all attempts at police and judicial investigation, and swiftly shut down hearings by the chavista-controlled National Assembly. It offered money and benefits to those willing to say they or their relatives had been shot by the opposition, writes Mr Nelson, and harassed those who truthfully claimed the opposite.


Sunset for sunlight

July 13, 2009

When President Obama abandoned his sunlight before signing promise, the White House said it would institute new sunlight rules that would be even better:

Now, in a tacit acknowledgment that the campaign pledge was easier to make than to fulfill, the White House is changing its terms. Instead of starting the five-day clock when Congress passes a bill, administration officials say they intend to start it earlier and post the bills sooner.

“In order to continue providing the American people more transparency in government, once it is clear that a bill will be coming to the president’s desk, the White House will post the bill online,” said Nick Shapiro, a White House spokesman. “This will give the American people a greater ability to review the bill, often many more than five days before the president signs it into law.”

Mr. Shapiro said the move would provide more transparency because the White House site drew so much traffic. It also stretches out the time in which a bill will be posted, making it easier for Mr. Obama to abide by the pledge.

Currently, after a bill passes Congress, the White House posts it by linking to the site of the Library of Congress. From now on, the White House plans to link to the site earlier, though Mr. Shapiro did not specify when.

The move marks a departure in the White House position on the pledge. Since January, when Mr. Obama broke the pledge with the first bill he signed, the administration has said it would implement it “in full soon.”

The new promise is largely meaningless (probably by design). As we have been frequently reminded in recent days, bills are often put together just moments before they are voted on (sometimes not even then). This is particularly true for controversial bills. Such bills cannot be posted until about the same time as they pass, at which point they are already being posted by the Library of Congress.

But, it turns out that the White House isn’t even keeping the new promise. Not one of the last nine bills signed by the president have been posted at the White House web site.

(Previous post.)


Waking up

July 13, 2009

Ed Morrissey thinks that Democrats are starting to back away from Zelaya. I hope so. Honduras could use some good news.

Morrissey thinks, and I agree, that the Obama administration just didn’t bother to gets the facts straight before it condemned the “coup”. Now, Obama being Obama, he cannot admit he was wrong.


My cold, dead, hands

July 13, 2009

Glenn Reynolds says this speech sounds pretty mainstream today:

Well, it sounds worse if your enemies edit together a different speech than you gave.


Detangling the wars

July 11, 2009

The war on terror is being detangled from the war on drugs in Afghanistan:

The 4,000 U.S. Marines now pushing deep into Taliban-controlled tracts as part of an expanded war in southern Afghanistan are setting up fire bases amid some of the most productive poppy fields in the world’s opium-producing capital.

It’s not harvest time in Helmand province, the center of Afghanistan’s thriving opium poppy industry. But even if the flowers were blooming, it’s doubtful the Marines would do much about it.

Convinced that razing the cash crop grown by dirt-poor Afghan farmers is costing badly needed friends along the front lines of the fight against Taliban-led insurgents, U.S. authorities say they are all but abandoning the Bush-era policy of destroying drug crops.

This decision is long overdue. An aggressive fight against poppies might have made sense when it appeared that Afghanistan was largely pacified, but it’s been inexcusable for some time now. It’s been suggested that the alienation caused by our policy on poppies was largely responsible for the resurgence of the Taliban.

Bush administration officials cited the success of anti-drug efforts in Colombia in defense of anti-drug efforts in Afghanistan. There are two problems with that argument; Afghanistan is not Colombia, and Karzai is not Uribe. Colombia is of strategic importance largely because of the drug trade, and we have a strong, reliable ally there in President Uribe. Neither is true for Afghanistan. Out strategic interest in Afghanistan is fighting terror, not drugs, and President Karzai is neither strong nor reliable. Damaging the war on terror in service of an (unnecessary) war on drugs was sheer folly.


Honduras

July 10, 2009

Miguel Estrada has the best summary of the Honduras situation I’ve seen yet. The only important thing he fails to note is that the Honduran constitution explicitly gives the supreme court the authority to use the army to carry out its rulings.

(Via the Corner.) (Previous post.)


Then and now

July 10, 2009

(Warning, the volume on this clip is set very loud.)

Hot Air has more. (Via Instapundit.)


Dog bites man

July 10, 2009

Hamas starts enforcing sharia in Gaza. Directly that is; in the past it has simply stood by while thugs did the enforcing.


I’ve got your rationing right here

July 10, 2009

Earlier this week, the indispensable Megan McArdle was writing about the difference between US and European health care:

What America is best at is delivering a lot of complicated care in extremis, and “quality of life” treatments. What European countries are best at is delivering a lot of ordinary care for the sorts of things that afflict people from 0-50, which is why most of the Europhile journalists writing about Europe genuinely have very good experiences to report. I’d rather be here to have a hip replacement, but I might rather be in the Netherlands to have a baby. Doing something moderately ordinary here is a hassle. Doing something extraordinary there is often not possible for the overwhelming majority of citizens, though that depends on what, and in what system.

McArdle tries to be measured in her remarks (you can tell she used to write for the Economist), but it’s still too much for Kevin Drum. Writing for Mother Jones (sigh), Drum says he doesn’t believe US health care is better for anything, except maybe for 0.001% events.

So McArdle takes Drum to school with the story of Herceptin, an effective drug for 1 in 4 breast cancers (that’s four, count ‘em, four orders of magnitude greater than Drum’s guess) that was banned in Britain. A British woman successfully sued for access to the drug, but too late to save her life.

I’ll add to that a Wall Street Journal article on the British NICE agency. NICE keeps costs down the only way it can, through rationing:

NICE currently holds that, except in unusual cases, Britain cannot afford to spend more than about $22,000 to extend a life by six months. Why $22,000? It seems to be arbitrary, calculated mainly based on how much the government wants to spend on health care. That figure has remained fairly constant since NICE was established and doesn’t adjust for either overall or medical inflation.

The article chronicles many cases of NICE’s rationing: denying pap smears to young women, denying effective drugs for breast cancer, stomach cancer, arthritis, and multiple sclerosis, and denying procedures for back pain. Two of NICE’s cruelest rulings are for macular degeneration and Alzheimer’s:

In 2007, the board restricted access to two drugs for macular degeneration, a cause of blindness. The drug Macugen was blocked outright. The other, Lucentis, was limited to a particular category of individuals with the disease, restricting it to about one in five sufferers. Even then, the drug was only approved for use in one eye, meaning those lucky enough to get it would still go blind in the other. As Andrew Dillon, the chief executive of NICE, explained at the time: “When treatments are very expensive, we have to use them where they give the most benefit to patients.”

NICE has limited the use of Alzheimer’s drugs, including Aricept, for patients in the early stages of the disease. Doctors in the U.K. argued vociferously that the most effective way to slow the progress of the disease is to give drugs at the first sign of dementia. NICE ruled the drugs were not “cost effective” in early stages.

That’s the British health system for you: go blind in one eye and be thankful for it, and too bad about that dementia.


Fauxtography

July 9, 2009

More faked photos in the New York Times. (Via Instapundit.)


The presiding heretic speaks

July 9, 2009

At her opening address at the Episcopal Church convention, Katharine Schori outdoes herself with her strangest pronouncement yet:

The presiding bishop of the Episcopal Church called the evangelical notion that individuals can be right with God a “great Western heresy” that is behind many problems facing the church and the wider society.

Describing a United States church in crisis, Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori told delegates to the group’s triennial meeting July 8 in Anaheim, Calif., that the overarching connection to problems facing Episcopalians has to do with “the great Western heresy — that we can be saved as individuals, that any of us alone can be in right relationship with God.”

“It’s caricatured in some quarters by insisting that salvation depends on reciting a specific verbal formula about Jesus,” Jefferts Schori, the first woman to be elected as a primate in the worldwide Anglican Communion three years ago, said. “That individualist focus is a form of idolatry, for it puts me and my words in the place that only God can occupy, at the center of existence, as the ground of being.”

I can’t claim that I actually understand what she is talking about (and reading the full text of her address doesn’t help), but I’m gobsmacked by her statement that none “of us alone can be in right relationship with God,” and to claim otherwise is the “great Western heresy.”

Here’s one of many things that Paul (the great Western heretic) had to say on the subject (Romans 10:9-11):

If you confess with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you confess and are saved. As the Scripture says, “Anyone who trusts in him will never be put to shame.

Paul here describes salvation as an individual matter, brought about (now that Jesus’s redemptive work is done) by my own heart and my own mouth.

In the parable of the Ten Virgins (Matthew 25:1-13), Jesus (another great Western heretic) makes it clear that we are not admitted to the kingdom of heaven as a community. He tells of ten virgins, five of whom were admitted to the wedding banquet and five of whom were turned away, based on their individual choices.

Measured against these teachings are the scripture references that Schori cited in her address:

“”

That’s right, not a since scripture reference in her entire address. She accused the Western world of a highly dubious heresy, without citing a single line of scripture to support her case.

Now, if she wanted to emphasize the importance of community and unity, she could be on solid footing. I would suggest that if she wants to build Christian community, a good way to start would be to stop suing other Christians. (Paul has some thoughts on the matter of his own, in 1 Corinthinians 6:1-8.)

POSTSCRIPT: The “individual salvation is heresy” line is the one getting the most attention, but I think it’s worth noting another line as well:

We Christians often think the only important part of the Jerusalem story is Calvary, and, yes, suffering and killing in that place still seem to be the loudest news. But Calvary was a waypoint in the larger arc of God’s dream – it’s on the way to Jerusalem, it is not in Jerusalem.

Here too, I don’t actually understand what she means, but it sounds like she’s minimizing the importance of the crucifixion, and likening it to modern-day bloodshed in Jerusalem. It’s true that the bible ends in a New Jerusalem, and perhaps that’s what she’s getting at. But the crucifixion, by purchasing our salvation, is the single key event that allows mankind to have anything to do with that happy ending.


“Put nothing in writing, ever”

July 9, 2009

The Washington Examiner reports:

Carol Browner, former Clinton administration EPA head and current Obama White House climate czar, instructed auto industry execs “to put nothing in writing, ever” regarding secret negotiations she orchestrated regarding a deal to increase federal Corporate Average Fuel Economy (CAFE) standards.

Rep. James Sensenbrenner, R-WI, is demanding a congressional investigation of Browner’s conduct in the CAFE talks, saying in a letter to Rep. Henry Waxman, D-CA, that Browner “intended to leave little or no documentation of the deliberations that lead to stringent new CAFE standards.”

Federal law requires officials to preserve documents concerning significant policy decisions, so instructing participants in a policy negotiation concerning a major federal policy change could be viewed as a criminal act.

(Via Hot Air.)


Senate postpones cap-and-trade

July 9, 2009

They won’t take it up until September at the earliest. Senator Boxer, chairwoman of the relevant committee, pointedly declined to promise it would be completed this year.

Good.


Obama fades

July 9, 2009

The latest Rasmussen poll has President Obama’s job approval clinging to a narrow majority, 51% to 48%. Among those who feel strongly, 38% disapprove against just 30% who approve. On the economy, just 39% say the president is doing a good or excellent job, against 43% who say he is doing a poor job.

By contrast, on July 10-11, 2001 (according to Gallup, since Rasmussen didn’t exist yet), President Bush enjoyed robust job approval at 57% to 35%. It stayed in that range until it soared after the 9/11 attacks. But Obama can take comfort that he is ahead of President Clinton, who was down 45% to 48% at the same point.

(Via the Corner.)


How was the Cold War won?

July 9, 2009

Over at Power Line, Scott Johnson is giving President Obama a hard time for minimizing the importance of the United States in winning the Cold War. First, the context:

Then, within a few short years, the world as it was ceased to be. Make no mistake: this change did not come from any one nation alone. The Cold War reached a conclusion because of the actions of many nations over many years, and because the people of Russia and Eastern Europe stood up and decided that its end would be peaceful.

Then, in a later interview:

Q: In your speech this morning, you said the Cold War reached its conclusion because of the actions of many nations over many years. Mr. President, are the Russian sensitivities so fragile that you can’t say the Cold War was won? The West won it? And it was led by a combination of Democratic and Republican American presidents?

OBAMA: Well, listen, the — I think that you just cut out Lech Walesa and the Poles. You just cut out Havel and the Czechs. There were a whole bunch of people throughout Eastern Europe who showed enormous courage.

And I think that it is very important in this part of the world to acknowledge the degree to which people struggled for their own freedom. I’m very proud of the traditions of Democratic and Republican presidents to lift the Iron Curtain.

But, you know, we don’t have to diminish other people in order to recognize our role in that history.

It’s certainly true that many nations played a role in winning the Cold War, and it’s also certainly true that America, led by Ronald Reagan, played the primary role. Obama brings up Lech Walesa and Solidarity. In late 1981 and 1982, when Solidarity was being actively suppressed by the Polish and Soviet tyrants, the United States stood virtually alone in its support for Solidarity (see Reagan’s War, chapter 15), without which they would have been crushed.

It’s not uncommon for Democrats to minimize the role played by Reagan and America in winning the Cold War, and, in context, Obama might even have a point. What I find most remarkable about Obama’s remarks is that he concedes that our victory in the Cold War was not inevitable. This is a major change from the standard liberal position.

When Reagan took office, the conventional wisdom said that the Soviet Union would be around forever. We had to learn to coexist. Ronald Reagan disagreed. He said that we could defeat the Soviet Union, and he laid out a plan to do it. Reagan recognized that many of the things we were doing to coexist with the Soviet Union were actually propping them up, making it possible for their tyranny to survive.

Except for the Scoop Jackson wing of the Democratic party (which is now extinct), Liberals were appalled by Reagan’s effort. They said that the Soviet Union could not be defeated, and Reagan’s effort would just lead to nuclear war. They were wrong. The Soviet Union was defeated, the Cold War ended, and there was no nuclear war.

This put liberals into a very awkward position. They had opposed the very policies that won the Cold War. If they wanted to deny Reagan credit for the victory, they had to take a new position. They now argue that the Cold War victory (which they previously said was impossible) was actually inevitable. Reagan’s efforts were unnecessary; the Soviet Union would have fallen anyway.

Obama’s remarks take him off that message. By saying that the victory in the Cold War required the efforts of many nations, he implicitly concedes that it was not inevitable. He doesn’t say so, but if it was not inevitable, there is no way not to credit Reagan’s leadership, and no way to deny that the liberals were wrong.

Why the change? I think Obama sacrifices little by conceding the bad judgement of the liberals of the early 1980s. He is too young to be personally tainted by it, and most of them are retired anyway. Given that, why not acknowledge the obvious truth?


Gore godwins the thread

July 9, 2009

Godwin’s Law (one version of it, anyway) states that in any Internet debate, someone will eventually draw a comparison to the Nazis, and that person shall be deemed to have lost the debate. If we can apply Godwin’s Law to Al Gore’s speech at Oxford this week (it’s on the Internet after all), then Al Gore has lost the debate over global warming:

Al Gore invoked the spirit of Winston Churchill yesterday when he urged political leaders to follow the example of Britain’s wartime leader in the battle against climate change. . .

Speaking in Oxford at the Smith School World Forum on Enterprise and the Environment, sponsored by The Times, Mr Gore said: “Winston Churchill aroused this nation in heroic fashion to save civilisation in World War Two. We have everything we need except political will, but political will is a renewable resource.”

Mr Gore admitted that it was difficult to persuade the public that the threat from climate change was as urgent as that from Hitler.


Fact-checking the Plain Dealer

July 9, 2009

The Plain Dealer’s ombudsman, Ted Diadiun, is getting grief for insulting bloggers without the slightest idea what he’s talking about. This caught my eye because it wasn’t long ago that I caught Diadiun lying about the Associated Press’s style guide as pertains to assault weapons.


The plot thickens

July 9, 2009

Meeting notes of the Americorps board, obtained by Fox News, contradict the White House’s account of why the Americorps Inspector General was fired:

The chairman of the board that convinced President Obama to fire its inspector general last month complained that Gerald Walpin was creating too much friction with agency administrators, according to notes from a May meeting obtained by FOXNews.com.

The account adds a vital new layer to the explanation the White House gave for the firing, which made only passing reference to such concerns in justifying the removal of Walpin, former IG for the Corporation for National and Community Service, which oversees the volunteer service AmeriCorps. The official explanation emphasized Walpin’s personal behavior at the May 20 meeting.

The informal meeting notes, taken by CNCS Counsel Frank Trinity, said that board members were indeed concerned about Walpin’s “behavior.” . . .

But the account also shows that Chairman Alan Solomont stated concern about Walpin’s accusations against the board and not his mental health as the apparent cause for the dispute that led to Walpin’s termination.

So the real reason for Walpin was fired was for making accusations against the board. Concerns about his behavior at one meeting were merely a pretext.

Now, Americorps has begun stonewalling congressional investigators:

A top official of the Corporation for National and Community Service, the government agency that oversees AmeriCorps, has refused to answer questions from congressional investigators about the White House’s role in events surrounding the abrupt firing of inspector general Gerald Walpin.

Frank Trinity, general counsel for the Corporation, met with a bipartisan group of congressional investigators on Monday. When the investigators asked Trinity for details of the role the White House played in the firing, Trinity refused to answer, according to two aides with knowledge of the situation. . .

Investigators asked Trinity whether he was claiming executive privilege, something that could only be authorized by the president. Trinity answered again that it was a White House “prerogative.” When the investigators pointed out that, in the words of one aide, “there is no legal basis whatsoever” for such a claim, Trinity still declined to answer.

(Via Instapundit.)

BONUS: It’s not just the Americorps IG either. Questions are now being raised about the dismissal of Amtrak’s IG. (Via Instapundit.)

(Previous post.)


Banks refuse California IOUs

July 8, 2009

Oddly enough, banks prefer money to promises.


Snatching spin from the jaws of factchecking

July 7, 2009

Newsweek catches a minor error by President Obama:

“I don’t know if anybody else will meet their future wife or husband in class like I did, but I’m sure you’ll all going to have wonderful careers,” the president said.

In fact, he did not meet her in class:

The thing is: Obama didn’t technically meet his wife at school. Although both are Harvard Law School grads, Michelle Obama got her degree in the spring of 1988 while her future husband didn’t actually start school there until later that fall. (He graduated in 1991). The Obamas officially met in Chicago in 1989, when the future president was a summer associate at the Sidley Austin law firm and Michelle was assigned as his mentor.

Now, I don’t care in the least whether Barack Obama remembers how he met his wife (although his wife might care). But Newsweek apparently can’t bear to see their hero trapped in even a minor, unimportant falsehood, and felt the need to spin for him:

Was what Obama said wrong? Technically no, considering Obama was still going to school when he met his wife.

You can be as “technical” as you like; this is simply wrong.  Meeting while you’re in school is not the same thing as meeting in class. This is spin, and poor quality spin at that.

(Via the Corner.)


Honduras “emblematic” of Obama foreign policy

July 7, 2009

President Obama says that supporting would-be socialist dictators against the constitutional order they seek to overthrow is “emblematic” of his foreign policy:

In Moscow, President Barack Obama said his administration’s support for Zelaya, the deposed left-leaning politician who often criticized Washington, was emblematic of his administration’s foreign policy.

“America cannot and should not seek to impose any system of government on any other country, nor would we presume to choose which party or individual should run a country,” Obama said in a speech in the Russian capital.

Which is precisely what the Obama Administration is trying to do. Honduras deposed its president legally and in full accord with its constitution, and President Obama is trying to force them to take him back.


34 states urge Second Amendment incorporation

July 7, 2009

Alabama, Alaska, Arkansas, California, Colorado, Florida, Idaho, Indiana, Georgia, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maine, Michigan, Minnesota, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, New Hampshire, New Mexico, North Carolina, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, South Dakota, Utah, Texas, Virginia, Washington, West Virginia, Wyoming have all submitted an amicus brief to the Supreme Court arguing that the Second Amendment should apply to the states. California wrote its own; the other states collaborated on theirs.

California is the big surprise. Its brief is signed by Jerry Brown, California Attorney General and noted liberal.

Incidentally, 34 states is just four short of the number needed to ratify a constitutional amendment, should one be necessary.


The future is here

July 7, 2009

Great Britain institutes environmental police. If the president has his way, they won’t be far behind in America.


Health care reform, visualized

July 6, 2009

(Via the Corner.)


Fauxtography in Honduras

July 6, 2009

Reuters runs a staged photograph of a bloody protester in Honduras. (Via Instapundit.)

Also, a new column in the Philadelphia Examiner summarizes what we now belatedly know about the Honduran constitution and why the government’s action was legal. (Via the Corner.)


Heh

July 6, 2009

Should the government stop dumping money into a giant hole? “You can’t depend on private money holes to destroy that money.”

(Via Instapundit.)


Pro-tyranny

July 5, 2009

Let’s look the record of President Obama’s policies in international crises:

A pattern is clearly emerging at this point. In any international crisis, President Obama takes the position that is pro-tyranny, or at least anti-anti-tyranny. (And that’s without even discussing his position on domestic crises.)

During the Carter administration, the world discovered it was better to be America’s enemy than its friend. As a friend, you could count on the administration’s condemnation of any internal or external action at odds with President Carter’s liberal ideology. However, as an enemy, the administration would bend over backwards to engage you and forgive your actions. Naturally, this policy created enemies.

President Reagan, obviously, discontinued the policy, and President Clinton did not reinstate it. I didn’t give Clinton much credit for that at the time; I viewed Carter’s insane foreign policy as unique to himself. It turns out I should have, because with President Obama, insanity is back with a vengeance.


All the news that’s fit to suppress

July 5, 2009

Clark Hoyt, the New York Times ombudsman, dedicates his latest column to a defense of the paper’s conduct in the affair of the kidnapping of David Rodhe, a New York Times journalist. Rodhe and one of his companions, an Afghan journalist, escaped and are now free.

I hadn’t heard of this affair, and that’s by design. In an effort to protect its employee, the NYT went to great lengths to suppress any mention of the kidnapping not only in its own pages, but elsewhere as well:

The Times went to extraordinary lengths to quash the Rohde story and to shape information that might be available to the kidnappers on the Internet. Jimmy Wales, the co-founder of Wikipedia, was enlisted to keep word of the kidnapping off that site, even as user-editors tried to post it. Michael Yon, an independent journalist, posted an item on his blog in March and was quickly asked to take it down, which he did.

Michael Moss, a Times reporter, edited Rohde’s biography on Wikipedia to highlight his reporting that could be seen as sympathetic to Muslims and to remove the fact that he once worked for The Christian Science Monitor. Moss wrote similar information on Rohde’s Times Topics page on the paper’s Web site. He and Catherine Mathis, the Times’s spokeswoman, even persuaded a group of New England newspapers to remove Rohde’s wedding notice and photos from their Web site so the kidnappers would not have personal information they could use to pressure him psychologically. I found this last action troubling because The Times takes a hard line against removing information from its own archive.

Much of the column is dedicated to an explanation of why the NYT was willing to go so far to protect its own, while simultaneously reporting on other middle eastern kidnappings, including a U.S. soldier. Hoyt claims that the NYT would be just as willing to protect others, if it had only been asked. Readers will decide for themselves how much they believe that.

It’s well and good that the NYT wanted to protect its people. But it’s important to note the flexibility of the NYT’s dedication to The Public’s Right To Know. When running a story would endanger people, the public’s right to know depends on who those people are.

(Via Hot Air.)


Saudis authorize Israeli action against Iran

July 5, 2009

The London Times reports:

The head of Mossad, Israel’s overseas intelligence service, has assured Benjamin Netanyahu, its prime minister, that Saudi Arabia would turn a blind eye to Israeli jets flying over the kingdom during any future raid on Iran’s nuclear sites.

Earlier this year Meir Dagan, Mossad’s director since 2002, held secret talks with Saudi officials to discuss the possibility. . .

“The Saudis have tacitly agreed to the Israeli air force flying through their airspace on a mission which is supposed to be in the common interests of both Israel and Saudi Arabia,” a diplomatic source said last week.

Although the countries have no formal diplomatic relations, an Israeli defence source confirmed that Mossad maintained “working relations” with the Saudis.

(Via Instapundit.)


Misogyny

July 5, 2009

Paul Begala, the architect of several Democratic election campaigns including Bill Clinton’s, and now a CNN commentator, likens Sarah Palin to a prostitute. In the literal, sexual sense.

Via Instapundit, who adds:

Half the fun of being a “Supposedly Liberal Dood” is the license to do that sort of thing while still being “progressive.”


Iranian clerics defy ayatollah

July 5, 2009

A major development in Iran:

The most important group of religious leaders in Iran called the disputed presidential election and the new government illegitimate on Saturday, an act of defiance against the country’s supreme leader and the most public sign of a major split in the country’s clerical establishment.

A statement by the group, the Association of Researchers and Teachers of Qum, represents a significant, if so far symbolic, setback for the government and especially the authority of the supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, whose word is supposed to be final. The government has tried to paint the opposition and its top presidential candidate, Mir Hussein Moussavi, as criminals and traitors, a strategy that now becomes more difficult — if not impossible.

(Via the Corner.)

Iran has been trying to paint the opposition as part of conspiracy driven by foreigners, and even extracted some forced confessions to that effect. This will make that effort even less plausible.


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