Peace through victory - the American way.

Friday, April 29, 2005

Should Aguirre resign now too?

When San Diego's pension board voted not to waive its attorney-client privilege recently City Attorney Mike Aguirre called on Mayor Dick Murphy to resign. As we all know Murphy subsequently did resign, although not in response to Aguirre's demand.

Given Aguirre's disdain for the attorney-client privilege it's interesting that this story (click here) in the San Diego Union-Tribune ends with the following paragraph about a legal memo leaked to the press about the city's bankruptcy option:

"Aguirre was in Yuma, Ariz., on a working vacation yesterday and said he was disappointed that a document protected by attorney-client privilege was distributed ..."

The irony is almost unbearable.



Wednesday, April 27, 2005

How To Make A Republican Majority In California

California Democrats on the Assembly Judiciary Committee have cleared a bill to legalize same-sex marriage in California. This story (click here) predicts that there is enough political support for it to pass both houses of the legislature and make it to the governor's desk.

There may be support for such a bill among legislative Democrats in Sacramento but opposition to same-sex marriage remains high among voters. Advocates for same-sex marriages overreached last year and got burned. California Democrats might want to tread with caution about pushing this issue. Unless they are tired of being the majority party in California.



Dick Murphy's Resignation: A Good Man Takes The Fall.

Monday San Diego's Mayor Dick Murphy resigned his office. It's a shame really. San Diego's problems can hardly be laid at his feet. The financial problems facing the city began well before his first term in office began. He became a convenient scapegoat, however, simply because he was the mayor. It didn't matter that under San Diego's weak mayor form of government Murphy was essentially just another city council member.

The bottom line on his tenure though appears to be that when the city's politics became overtly political he was unable to fight back. It started with the November election when City Councilmember Donna Frye ran as a write-in candidate and nearly won. She got fewer votes than Murphy did but a sizable percentage of San Diego's voters still believe she got more votes. When she lost and it became clear that some voters had failed to cast a legal vote for her, Frye's supporters took action and sued to have the election law be ignored and count the illegal votes for Frye. Street protests were part of the campaign. It was Florida 2000 in miniature. Murphy's legal team won the lawsuit but his failure to wage a PR campaign gave Frye a political victory and he entered office with the mantle of illegitimacy because people believed that Frye got more votes. He never recovered. Tuesday's San Diego Union Tribune printed 8 letters on the resignation and 5 of them mentioned Donna Frye as having "won" the election.

Now San Diego has lost its mayor. We'll either have a special election or the City Council will appoint a temporary replacement. The odds are leaning toward a special election. Frye has already said she'll run and others on the council, and perhaps County Supervisor Ron Roberts, will run as well. If we're lucky whoever wins will have the temperment and political skills to be successful as San Diego's first mayor under the city's new strong-mayor system.

We don't know who our new mayor will be yet. We do know this though. The scapegoat has been slaughtered. Dick Murphy didn't create the city's financial crisis and his power as mayor was so limited by the City Charter that he could not solve the crisis on his own. But he's the one who's leaving. Left behind is a City Council increasingly beholden to the labor unions that are becoming the real power brokers in this town; the same labor unions whose greed contributed to San Diego's financial crisis due to unreasonable increases in their pension benefits.

Watch your wallets everybody.



Friday, April 22, 2005

Finally Catching On To China's Threat

My local paper, The San Diego Union-Tribune, appears finally to be catching on to the threat to peace posed by China's passage of the anti-secession law. The paper's editorial (click here) criticizes China's actions. Strangely, the editorial frames the law as a kind of response to President's Bush's declaration of military support for Taiwan.

"The Taiwan Relations Act pledges the United States to sell Taiwan defensive arms and, somewhat more vaguely, to assist Taiwan if it is attacked. When China threatened Taiwan militarily in the mid-1990s, then-President Clinton setn a Navy carrier battle group as a pointed reminder of America's commitment. President Bush upped the ante by declaring flatly that the United States would defend Taiwan if China attacks

"Now China has upped its ante. ... What was once only a declared threat is now established, unequivocal law."

It's hard to see how China has upped its ante. China has long threatened to use military force to take Taiwan if Taiwan were to go too far down the road to independence. The law doesn't change that fact.

The editorial then discusses the tragedy that would ensue if China made good on her threat and concludes that China's actions might be self-defeating.

"Ironically for Beijing, this bullying may already have backfired. The European Union had been poised to lift its arms embargo against China but is reconsidering."

Apparently the editors are not paying attention to news from Europe regarding the embargo. As this blog has written about twice before, Europe's only put lifting the embargo on hold until the controversy dies down a bit (click here) and France, at least, is not only as committed as ever to lifting the embargo, France fully supports the anti-secession law (click here).



Thursday, April 21, 2005

With Friends Like The French ...

French Premier Jean-Pierre Raffarin is visiting China. While there he had this to say about China's new anti-secession law that authorized military action against Taiwan, "The anti-secession law is completely compatible with the position of France." Got that? "Completely compatible." Not acceptable. Not a problem to be worked around. No, China's declared intent to use military force to subdue Taiwan is "completely compatible" with French policy.

So much for France's role as moral guardian of international law.

Raffarin also vowed to push for repeal of the arms embargo against China because it contradicts the new strategic partnership between China and the EU.

Now it's certainly understandable that France would want to have good relations with China. Who wouldn't? China's a big country. It's got lots of people, it's an important global power, and it's a potential threat. So it makes sense to seek good relations as a way of managing and minimizing conflict. Better to be on good terms with them than to be in open conflict. But it's something else entirely to support China's military designs on Taiwan and to seek to sell them weapons.

Make no mistake. The likely targets of any weapons sold by France to China aren't going to be limited to Taiwanese whose only crime is wanting to live free; those targets include US soldiers, sailors and airmen.

It's nearly impossible to be an American and not hate the French these days. The French assistance to the American cause in The Revolutionary War only goes so far. As the saying goes, "what have they done for us lately?"



Wednesday, April 20, 2005

Social Club or Church?

Here's a line from a 2003 interview with then Cardinal Ratzinger that shows it's probably not a good idea to hold your breath waiting for changes in the Catholic Church to make it more palatable. When asked the greatest danger facing the Church, Ratzinger said, "I see the great danger is that we would be only a social institution and not founded in the faith of the Lord." The difference obviously is that a social institution may change its nature to make it easier for members to belong. A social institution exists to give people what they want. A religious organization exists to give people what's good for their eternal souls, which isn't always what they want.



Tuesday, April 19, 2005

Possible Inspiration For The Pope's Name: Benedict XIV, Pope During The Enlightment.

Now that Cardinal Ratzinger has been elected Pope and taken the name Benedict XVI, the search is on to discern the name's significance.

Here's a help. Check out the biography of Benedict XIV.

Like the new Pope, XIV was a scholar. Like the new Pope, XIV was Pope during a time of crisis when many in Europe were turning away from the Church in an era of increasing secularism. In XIV's case, the Enlightenment of the 18th Century. As such, XIV butted heads with Voltaire. Like the new Pope, XIV was a doctrinal conservative.

Sound familiar?



Wednesday, April 13, 2005

Update On Not Your Father's San Diego Anymore

Click here to read a story from the San Diego Daily Transcript that describes in more detail the power shift in the City of San Diego from business to labor.

Click here to see the County Registrar's online report on voter registration. Democratic registration leads Republican 39 to 33 percent in the city. The interesting thing is that Decline to State is the 3d largest "party" at 22 percent.

San Diego County registration tells a different story with Republicans leading Democrats 40 to 35 percent and Decline to State at 20 percent.

Republican strength is strongest in the unincorporated rural areas where the party has a lead over the Democrats 51 to 27 percent. Democrats do best in several of the county's more ethnically diverse cities.

Another interesting stat. The two military cities in the county, Coronado (North Island Naval Air Station and all those retired officers) and Oceanside (Camp Pendleton), show substantial Republican leads over Democrats. If you want to see what your father's San Diego was like, those two are the towns to visit.



Not Your Father's San Diego Anymore.

San Diego is thought to be a Republican town run by developers. The emerging political story of the past few years involves the rise of a Democratic majority on the City Council run by local labor unions. The latest example is the passage of the so-called living wage law by the City Council. It's not just the ocean that's blue in San Diego anymore. More and more, it's the politics, which is leaving local business feeling blue.



Tuesday, April 12, 2005

God Forbid Democracy Should Take Over The Senate.

The big issue in Washington these days is whether the Republican-controlled Senate will follow in Robert Byrd's footsteps and modify the rule on filibusters. In this case, eliminate it for judicial appointments.

The filibuster is a fundamentally undemocratic rule. It permits an obstructionist minority to thwart the will of the majority under the pretense of protecting minority rights and ensuring debate. On the first point, the recent history of the filibuster in this century is not one of preserving minority rights but of oppressing them. For instance, the filibuster led by Southern Democrats against Civil Rights Laws. Minorities are protected in other ways under our constitutional system. The Senate itself was designed to give the voters in less-populated states relatively more power than the voters in more-populated states. The Bill of Rights exists to protect the ultimate minority, the individual, against oppressive government. The Courts exist to enforce the rights of the individual against the state. The veto provision enables a legislative minority allied with the President to thwart legislation passed by less than a 2/3 majority.

The second argument that the filibuster is needed to ensure debate is misleading as well. The filibuster doesn't just ensure debate, it ensures endless debate. Debates will continue to happen before legislation passes without the filibuster rule. The difference will be that at some point there would be an up or down vote that would either pass or fail depending on what a simple majority decides.

The Democrats have been arguing the filibuster is needed to protect the country against a small core of extremist conservatives. Yet another feature of our constitutional system protects against that. It's called regular elections. An overconfident legislative majority that enacts laws that are entirely out of the mainstream runs the risk of finding itself voted out of office the next time it faces the voters.

In short, the filibuster is not required by our constitutional system.

Now Democrats, well Matthew Yglesias at any rate, are seizing a new argument. Eliminate the filibuster entirely. The premise is that Democrats will be able to pass more of their agenda if all that legislation requires is a simple majority.

One thing to keep in mind here is that Republicans still hold a substantial majority in the House of Representatives, and the Presidency with its veto power remains in Republican hands. The Senate Democrats in alliance with some of their left-leaning Republicans could pass any bill they wanted with a simple majority but if they couldn't get the support of the Republican House the bill isn't going anywhere. And if the President vetoes the bill, it's not going anywhere without a 2/3 majority in each house supporting it.

Perhaps forgetting this, a conservative activist, Jim Boulet, Jr., has bought into Yglesias' premise and has warned conservatives that abandoning the filibuster runs the risk of Democrats being able to pass more liberal legislation.
It's lamentable that some Republicans still haven't completely digested the significance of the 2004 election and lack the courage of their convictions.

Here's an example. The conventional wisdom has always been that high turnout elections favor Democrats over Republicans. The premise of the conventional wisdom was that the population generally leans Democrat so if more of them would just vote, Democrats would win. Well, the 2004 election showed that conventional wisdom to be foolish. Turnout was high and Republicans won solidly.

Yglesias' argument assumes that Democratic policies are popular and would pass with ease in a Senate where the majority rules. Perhaps he's right on some issues but overall his premise is flawed because it believes the conventional wisdom that the American people tend to lean Democratic. The 2004 election casts significant doubt on that assumption as do the Republican's 10 year hold on the House and the party's ever increasing majority in the Senate.

Indeed, certain bedrock Republican issues would benefit from a filibuster-free Senate. Large majorities in the population typically favor the kind of small restrictions on abortion advanced by Republicans in recent years. They may come down on keeping abortion legal but they are not shy about being willing to place restrictions on that right. Imagine how much easier it would be to pass legislation like parental notification, waiting periods, and informed choice, without a vocal minority of hard-core pro-choice absolutists using the filibuster. The recent Terri Schiavo incident also reveals the existence of a majority in the population that would favor more protections for patients like Schiavo whose life exists at the sufferance of others. Gun legislation that slants in favor of protecting Americans' Second Amendment Rights would have an easier time of it as well.

Finally, though, the question is, what's wrong with democracy taking over the Senate? Let our political parties fight it out for majority victories and may the party with the better ideas win.

Republicans need not fear such a fight. It's past time for Republicans to reject the conventional wisdom of the past that believes Democrats are the natural majority in the United States. Republicans haven't held the Congress for 10 years, increased their majority in the Senate, and held the Presidency for two elections now because a majority of voters oppose them. It's time for Republicans to have confidence in their own political strength. As Dan Rather might say, "Courage."



Monday, April 11, 2005

Aguirre: The Wrath Of An Attorney

Last week I wrote about the conflict that boiled over at a City Council meeting between San Diego City Attorney Mike Aguirre and the District Attorney Bonnie Dumanis over who should prosecute misdemeanors in the City of San Diego. I speculated that Mayor Dick Murphy might be behind the latest brouhaha, and that if he wasn't, it would be an advantageous political tactic to push Aguirre's buttons, which would cause him to lose control, thereby discrediting himself and making Murphy look really good in comparison. This article suggests such a strategy is in play and points to former Murphy chief of staff as the orchestrator, a role he denies.

A side benefit of the strategy is how it puts Murphy's main political rival Donna Frye in the corner with Aguirre. Frye generally supports Aguirre and whenever there is a conflict between him and the mayor or somebody else Frye can be counted on for a supportive quote.

In this instance, she blasts Dumanis for not giving Aguirre a heads up before Dumanis spoke to the City Council about taking over misdemeanor prosecutions from Aguirre. As she put it, "I'm seriously thinking of sending her a book on etiquette. That was conduct unbecoming an elected official, especially somebody that was a judge. Guess what? She may not use my name for her re-election and I will not be attending her fundraiser." She's going to send the DA a book on etiquette? That sounds like a very juvenile comment for an elected official to make.

Murphy reaps a political advantage whenever Frye jumps on Aguirre's self-burning ship because she ends up looking nearly as bad as Aguirre does. And in comparison, Murphy looks like the adult that neither Frye nor Aguirre appear to be.



Sunday, April 10, 2005

Religions More Alike Than Different On End Of Life Treatment.

This linked story shows that religions are more alike than different regarding end of life treatment. To generalize they differentiate between terminal disease and irreversible conditions, between extaordinary medical care and a feeding tube, and they tend to oppose euthanasia while recognizing that it can be moral to let nature take its course.

They do differ with the opinions of many bioethicists, however.

It's a common statement that our technology has outstripped our ethics. The linked story shows that religious teachings are consistent on end of life treatment and they do have an answer. When people say that technology has outstripped ethics what they really mean is that religion keeps some bioethicists, scientists and doctors from doing what they want. The Terri Schiavo case shows that's what has really happened is that science and medicine have operated too long out of the public eye.



China's Emerging Symmetric Threat

The linked story from the inside pages of the newspaper describes China's strategy of developing a military force that focuses on the weaknesses in America's military. The analysis in the story focuses on China's threat to Taiwan rather than on China's strategy of becoming a global rather than simply a regional superpower. Here's an example:

A decade ago, U.S. military planners dismissed the threat of a Chinese attack against Taiwan as a 100-mile infantry swim. The Pentagon now believes China has purchased or built enough amphibious assault ships, submarines, fighter jets and short-range missiles to pose an immediate threat to Taiwan and to any U.S. force that might come to Taiwan's aid.

In the worst case in a Taiwan crisis, Pentagon officials say, any delay in U.S. aircraft carriers reaching the island would mean that the United States would initially depend on fighter jets and bombers based on Guam and Okinawa, while Chinese forces could use their amphibious ships to go back and forth across the narrow Taiwan Strait.

Some U.S. military analysts believe China could defeat Taiwan before U.S. forces could arrive at the scene, forcing a political decision about how to react.

Even the most hawkish officials at the Pentagon do not believe China is preparing for an imminent invasion of Taiwan. Nor do analysts believe China is any match for the U.S. military.

The last two lines are bothersome. First, China doesn't need to be an imminent threat to Taiwan to be a threat that needs addressing. China is building its military for conflict with the U.S. specifically. The U.S. is going through a force transformation to concentrate on asymmetric threats from terrorists and failed states. The U.S. is even considering reducing its Navy. In contrast, China is gearing up to be a symmetric threat to the U.S. Moreover, China doesn't need to be "any match for the U.S. military." All it needs is to be enough of a match that the U.S. won't fight because the costs are too high. At the rate they're going that shouldn't be too difficult for them to achieve.



Nada Against The Curve Ball

I went to Petco Park for a baseball game this afternoon. The Padres lost, 6 to 3, and showed their old inability to score runs at home.

After I posted this morning about Xavier Nady's hitting prowess he struggled at the plate today. He might need to work on hitting a right-hander's curveball. Twice today he struggled against that pitch. Once in the 6th when he struck out with a runner in scoring position to end the inning and again in the 8th when he hit a grounder to short that went for an error. I still think Nady's got the power to left field that could carry the Padres to victory this year and I'm not backing off on my prediction of Padres' success.


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Xavier Stands For Savior, Padres' Fans!

Last year's San Diego Padres couldn't hit for power at home. The season is young but it's looking like they might be breaking out of that slump this year. Already Phil Nevin and Ryan Klesko have homered in Petco Park.

But the big news has got to be the power of Xavier Nady. Unlike the Padres' other homerun hitters who have power to right, where Petco Park's very distant fences have swallowed many a would-be homer, Nady's got power to left, where Petco Park's dimensions favor a power hitter. Nady's homerun last night to left field was a monster and suggests lots more to come.

The team still has weaknesses in outfield defense, not much speed on offense, and a lack of power production at third base. But the Padres' pitching staff, led by veteran Woody Williams and superstar Jake Peavey, is outstanding again this year. And if Nady's power production ends up as prodigious as his performance so far suggests, the Padres this year are going places.


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Wednesday, April 06, 2005

The Very Flappable Mr. Aguirre

Political junkies in San Diego have been on a high since the election. We had a close election, with a recount, and a lawsuit, and protests that "every vote should be counted." It was a mini-Florida 2000 right here in America's Finest City. The gift that keeps on giving is the election of Mike Aguirre as City Attorney.

He ran as a muckraking outsider who would use his office to ferret out official corruption on the City Council and get to the bottom of the San Diego's financial scandals. His bull in a china shop tactics have been the best political entertainment San Diegans have ever had. His relationship with the City has been so adversarial that the Council flirted with obtaining their own private counsel.

Aguirre's latest excellent adventure occurred at yesterday's City Council meeting when District Attorney Bonnie Dumanis made a presentation to have her office handle misdemeanors in San Diego that are currently prosecuted by the City Attorney's office.

As San Diegans have come to expect Aguirre went ballistic. He claimed the presentation violated California's Open Meetings Act. He called the presentation "a political assassination attempt" and alleged that Dumanis was in a "conspiracy" with the Council.

This is great stuff. Perhaps mild compared to other cities but for San Diego it's practically deserving of the suffix "gate."

Meanwhile, San Diego's fiscal crisis continues and the clock is ticking down to the date when supporters of City Council member Donna Frye can begin to collect signatures to recall Mayor Dick Murphy.

Murphy has been under the gun politically since the November election when he ended up with more legal votes than Frye, even though she would have won if several thousand incorrectly cast write-in votes had been counted in her favor. The city's financial scandal is also casting a pall over the mayor's tenure.

Frye and Aguirre are political allies in San Diego. Murphy has not done much overtly to undermine their political power base. Murphy is a very understated politician who presents an image of remaining above the fray. His problem, however, is that he is very vulnerable politically due to the financial scandals and Frye's supporters are waiting in the wings to take him down.

There is no evidence that Dumanis's presentation was a politically motivated shot at Aguirre. Yet it served Murphy's political purposes. Aguirre demonstrated once again that he has a very thin skin. By overreacting to Dumanis's presentation he showed a remarkable lack of self-control for a public official. And this is not the first time he has overreacted to actions by the City Council.

Perhaps that's the strategy. Keep pushing Aguirre's buttons to get him to lose control and undermine his own credibility. In comparison, Murphy looks like an adult.



When An 80 Percent Majority Isn't Enough

A new Zogby poll shows that if the wishes of the American people are enacted the law regarding medical treatment for the terminally ill and permanently disabled will be changed. Yesterday I noted that some experts in the field are concerned that the American people will change the law. I also noted the problematic direction the law has taken by equating life support with feeding tubes and terminal illness with an irreversible disability. Zogby's poll shows that the American people share that concern. A whopping 80 percent majority believes that non-terminal patients should not be denied food and water. A plurality, 44 percent, believes that an incapacitated patient should be presumed to want to live in the absence of a written directive to the contrary and 57 percent believe that hearsay shouldn't be admitted to prove the patient's wishes. How an incapacitated patient's wishes, who hasn't provided a written directive, can be proven without hearsay is difficult to determine. That 57 percent majority would effectively prevent a patient's wishes to be proven.

Other answers show that the American people were disturbed at the result in the Schiavo case as 56 percent agreed that Michael Schiavo should have turned over his guardianship to Terri's parents. A plurality (45 to 39 percent) also believe that there should be exceptions to permitting spouses from acting as guardians.

In good news for Republican legislators who intervened in the case, and who are pressing forward with legislation in the area, only 14 percent thought that elected officials should not intervene to order a feeding tube to remain in place; 44 percent thought officials should intervene.

It's hard to draw sweeping conclusions from these results. However, it does appear that the American people are unhappy with the result in the Schiavo case and have concerns about the law in this area. If the American people had had a say in the matter, Terri Schiavo would be alive today. This bodes well for those of us who believe the law should be modified to better protect patients like Terri.



Tuesday, April 05, 2005

The Preamble Says, "We The People" Not "We The Experts."

One thing that has been made clear by the Terri Schiavo case is the worry of some experts in bioethics and health law that the American people will alter the law regarding medical treatment at the end of life and for patients who live on life support. This post by a law professor is an example.

Giving what we've learned about so-called right to die jurisprudence as a result of Terri Schiavo's case, it's about time that the American people get involved. The law seems to have taken more than one wrong turn in this area. To give two examples, equating a feeding tube with life-support and an irreversible condition with an incurable disease.

It is my hope that Congress stays involved in this area of law and that states look again at the direction they have taken. I have to acknowledge there is some risk in this. Oregon's medical suicide law was passed by the voters of the state. It's quite possible that Oregon's law reflects a consensus of the American people. It's also possible that the shock of seeing Terri Schiavo's fate decided for her by her husband and the courts will move the public away from that direction. Whatever the result, it's better that this issue is debated with public involvement than that it is left to lawyers, bioethicists, and doctors to decide.



Monday, April 04, 2005

Are the Battles of the 20th Century Really Over?

The linked commentary from National Review Online argues that the death of John Paul II marks the end of the 20th Century. The comment makes the point that the big battle of the 20th Century was against atheistic communism and that John Paul II helped to win that battle. The article further predicts that the moral battle of the 21st Century will involve issues surrounding the Culture of Life, specifically the "fight for the dignity of human life."

But is the battle of the 20th Century really over? One billion subjects of the Chinese dictatorship still live under religious oppression. Witness for example what has happened to Falun Gong believers in China.

The Culture of Life issues will be a major battle in the 21st Century. The advances in medicine and genetics ensure that. But a major field in that battle is China, precisely because the victory over communism in the 20th Century was not complete. China is moving full speed ahead away from a Culture of Life: forced abortions; forced organ transplants; cloning; you name it. All the horrors opposed by Culture of Life advocates happen in China and are legal.

The battle of the 20th Century against atheistic communism did not end with total victory. The consequences of that incomplete victory haunt us still. China is a growing threat against the West and its government opposes the Culture of Life espoused by John Paul II.

The experience of the Cold War has shown that communism could not be reformed to include democracy and freedom for its subjects. The experience of China today strongly suggests that communism must die before a Culture of Life can be born in that country.



2000 Years of History Can't Be All Wrong.

For the life of me, I will never understand how most moderns view the Catholic Church. Ever since the Pope's death it's been the same thing all the time. When will the Church change to suit the times? When will the Church allow priests to marry, gays to marry, women to be priests, more democracy in the leadership, artificial contraception, and the list of issues goes on. It's a peculiar arrogance of modernity that believes the Church must change to suit the political issues of the times, as if it is self-evident that the Church's positions are wrong.

What all the commentary seems to miss is that the Church is an institution devoted to a particular religious faith. Its integrity demands that it hew to that faith. Whatever obligation it has to its adherents is to their souls. It's not a government that exists to answer to the earthly demands of its members.

The Church is something like 2000 years old. Its traditions stretch back for centuries. How old is modernity? 100, 200, 300 years tops? Modernity is a child compared to the Church. Perhaps the modern world has more to learn from the Church than the other way round.

The Church has done very well for itself with the doctrines it embraces. It was born in persecution in the Roman Empire and thrived because its adherents stuck firm to their principles. It did so well it took over the Empire from within. Think about that for a moment. The Catholic Church was born during the Roman Empire and it survived its fall and all the history that followed that event.

I dare say that the Roman Catholic Church is the longest-lasting human institution in the world today. It may be in trouble in the West but it is thriving around the world. If I were to bet on which institution is likely to be around 2000 years from now, I'd bet that the Church will still be here but that most else will be gone.



Saturday, April 02, 2005

Why Not A Chinese Pope?

Here's a comprehensive list of all the Catholic Church's Cardinals and their biographies. It doesn't conveniently list the media designated front runners. Instead, it lists them all and gives you the option of listing them by age, rank, nationality. Perhaps the next Pope will be somebody from the back of this pack not the front.

Much of the pundit talk I've heard focuses on issues like celibacy, homosexuality, abortion, third-world debt, and a host of other political issues. On the theory that the Church's mission in the world ought to include evangelism and improving the conditions for religious liberty we could do worse than to have another pope that would speak to those who live in countries where they are not free to worship as they please.

China immediately comes to mind as its billion subjects have little or no religious freedom. It has an underground Catholic Church that is oppressed by the government. Apparently, though, it has no Cardinals. But Taiwan does. Here's the biography of Cardinal Shan Kui-hsi. He appears to be a significant leader in the Asian church with expertise in governance and evangelism. Trouble is that he's 82.

Other options include Cuba, Korea, because of the North not the South, and anywhere in the Muslim world, like Egypt, Lebanon, Indonesia, Syria, or one of the two nickering.

My hope is for the Taiwanese or perhaps a Bishop of the underground church. China is taking too much advantage of the world's focus on the Middle East to consolidate its grip and extend its reach. The world would be well served if the Chinese dictators had a spiritual rival for the hearts of their people. A free China with religious tolerance would go a long way toward increasing the odds for peace in the 21st Century.


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Friday, April 01, 2005

Larry King Countdown Begins

Now that Terri Schiavo has left us, it's only a matter of time until Larry King has Michael Schiavo and his girlfriend on as guests. Let's count the days, shall we?



Iranian Revolution Needs Name, Help

Czechoslovakia had its Velvet Revolution, Ukraine its Orange Revolution, Lebanon is having its Cedar Revolution, and Kyrgyzstan its Pink Revolution. When Iran has its revolution what will it be called? The Pistachio Revolution? The Tulip Revolution?

Iranian dissidents have been protesting against the theocratic dictatorship there without attracting much news coverage. A leading dissident, Sholeh Sadi, is visiting the United States trying to enlist support in this country for a referendum in Iran. The Iranian dissidents are trying to decide on a strategy of opposition for Iran's upcoming presidential election in June. Their options include a passive boycott and orchestrated street protests.

Sadi wants the United States to send a unified message of support for the dissidents and opposition to the Iranian government. The White House has generally been more supportive of the dissidents than the State Department under Colin Powell and Richard Armitage. Armitage infamously described Iran's theocratic government as a democracy. With Condoleeza Rice in charge at State, the message out of Foggy Bottom is bound to align more closely with the White House. Sadi also wants the US to continue to oppose Iranian attempts to develop a nuclear weapon. He does not want money from the United States. What he and his comrades deserve is for the West to publicize what they are doing and focus the world's attention on the justice of their cause.

Events in Kyrgyzstan, Lebanon, and Ukraine demonstrate that the United States and the West can assist democratic opposition without putting boots on the ground. Having 135,000 troops next door in Iraq can't hurt though.

The revolutions we've seen in the last year also show that the West needs to be unified in its support for the dissidents. In Kyrgyzstan, Lebanon, and Ukraine, the United States and Europe were united in their support for revolution.

Iran's is a tougher case. The United States appears unalterably opposed to the Iranian theocracy whereas Europe seeks accommodation. If revolution does come in Iran, its possibility for success will be greatly enhanced if Europe and the United States unite to support it.