Another Perspective

Another Perspective

A Critic of ‘Moral Laziness’ in the Torture Debate

By 12.22.14

The Senate Democrats’ recent “torture” report denouncing enhanced interrogation of terror suspects after 9-11 has ignited strong echoing support from many religious voices.

Typical for some has been nondenominational pastor and writer Brian Zahnd, who declared emphatically: “You cannot be Christian and support torture. I want to be utterly explicit on this point. There is no possibility of compromise.”

Perhaps it is that simple, but nearly all Christians prior to the last couple hundred years or less likely supported without much question harsh practices now considered torture, including Augustine, Thomas Aquinas, Martin Luther, Thomas More, and John Calvin among many others. Providentially democratic regimes in the modern era typically regard extreme cruelty by the state as unacceptable, but modesty about our contemporary moral superiority is in order.

A recent poll, to the exasperation of critics, shows most American Catholics, Protestants, and Evangelicals think enhanced interrogation was justified after 9-11. Many of these

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Diplomatic Relations in Our Time

By 12.19.14

We shall, no doubt, be hearing details about the economics of the Cuba embargo in the weeks or months to come, as Congress takes up the matter. To lift or not to lift, that is the crux of the thing.

My position is that you should not jump to conclusions on a policy issue until you know the facts. However, I have it on good authority, which does not mean it is so, since economic policy never is so, that the embargo always had more to do with politics than economics.

The embargo’s impact on Cuba was not exactly minor. After all, if there is a Cuban market for American investment and an American market for Cuban trade, there ought logically be benefits on both sides, including improved Cuban sugar production by moving beyond slave labor in the cane fields.

But the embargo is not the bullying Castro apologists make it out to be, either, because Cuba-Europe trade, Cuba-South America trade, indeed practically all Cuba trade in both directions with the exception of the U.S., has been normal for decades.

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Don’t Misunderstand: I Like Prince Charles

By 12.8.14

In one of my recent articles for The American Spectator I mentioned Prince Charles, in the context of some daffy clergyman opining that his coronation ceremony (a Christian sacrament, incidentally) should be opened by a reading from the Koran.

I found the near-uniform hostility and contempt for him expressed in readers’ letters a little surprising.

I have only met Prince Charles once. I was presented to him at a reception as chairman of the Victoria League for Commonwealth Friendship in Western Australia. He asked me what I did, and I, who am quite used to VIPs (I have worked for a couple), and for that matter have addressed a jury in a murder trial, found myself speechless, while a group of socialist politicians behind me clambered over one another like alligators in a pit for the chance of a Royal handshake.

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In Defense of Religious Mediocrity

By 12.8.14

Rob Bell was a nationally renowned popular Evangelical Michigan megachurch founder and pastor (one of Time’s100 most influential people!) until his 2011 book Love Wins questioned traditional Christian understandings about salvation and damnation. He was following the trajectory of other post-Evangelicals towards liberal Protestantism and well beyond. Bell lost his pastorate and much of his Evangelical following, a fall meriting a New York Times feature.

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Thanks, Hirohito, We Needed That

By 12.5.14

A surprised and outraged Franklin D. Roosevelt called it “a date which will live in infamy.” But Dec. 7, 1941 may also be remembered as one of the great turning points (for the better) in world history. It had the startling effect of rousing a sleeping giant (the United States) into purposeful action, and that was the primary factor in stopping the forces of evil from cruising to an easy triumph in World War II — which, as Churchill put it, would have led to “a new dark age made more sinister, and perhaps more protracted, by the lights of perverted science.”

The Japanese Imperial Navy struck Pearl Harbor in two waves beginning at 7:48 a.m. Hawaiian Time. Japanese fighters, bombers, and torpedo planes all but wiped out the U.S. Pacific fleet of eight battleships (sinking four and damaging four others), sank or damaged three cruisers and three destroyers, destroyed 188 U.S. aircraft, and killed a total of 2,403 Americans — which compares to the 2,605 Americans and 372 U.S. residents from other countries who lost their lives in the surprise attack on the United States launched by al Qaeda on September 11, 2001.

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Political Patsies: Is That the Best the Stupid Party Can Be?

By 12.2.14

Let’s say there are two political parties in a country. The Evil Party and the Stupid Party. When the Evil Party’s candidate is elected president, he abuses his power and rules by diktat, like an all-powerful king. That’s why he’s evil. Not everyone likes this, however. Some don’t like his diktats, and some don’t like kings. The latter complain that this is contrary to the country’s constitution, but in fact no one is going to stop the Evil president from abusing his power while he’s in office.

One of the Evil president’s chief goals is to ensure that the Stupid Party never wins a presidential election. But now let’s suppose (hey, it’s just a hypothetical) that the Stupid Party wins a presidential election one year. At this point the Party has a choice. The Stupid president can either assume the broad king-like powers of an Evil president, or he can rule more modestly in what he thinks is the country’s constitutional tradition.

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Stop Giving Money to the Third World

By 11.25.14

Consider the following two statements: First, in Britain this winter, one old-age pensioner will die of cold about every five minutes—roughly 30,000 total for the season—because pensions are not large enough to allow both heating and eating. Second, this year, the British government will give $450 million in foreign aid to Argentina.

Yes, Argentina, which launched an unprovoked war against Britain over the Falkland Islands in which hundreds of Her Majesty’s soldiers and sailors died or were mutilated, which still refers to Britain as an enemy, and whose official rhetoric and policies suggest it may have another go as soon as it judges the time to be ripe. Britain still has only minimal forces (four aircraft) defending the Falklands. What sort of moral or political sense does this make?

Britain’s official foreign aid budget, which the strange quasi-Tory Prime Minister David Cameron claims is his proudest achievement, comes to about $22 billion. This would pay the heating bills of a lot of pensioners.

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The Forgotten Side of Illegal Immigration

By 11.24.14

In his speech last Thursday, President Obama had two objectives. First, a dual one: create future votes for the Democrats and gain gratitude from illegal Hispanics for his generosity. The other objective was to set a trap for Congressional Republican by making them so outraged that they would gum up the federal budget with riders that would cause him to veto it, thus creating a government shutdown for which the Republicans would get the blame, thus deflating their momentum from the recent election.

While many elected Republicans denounced Obama’s action as outrageous and an affront to the Constitution, it is also not action that is publicly popular. (A Wall Street Journal/NBC News poll shows that 48 percent oppose it and only 38 precedent support it.)

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Verbosity Is the GOP’s Enemy

By 11.24.14

A verbose, incoherent website that looks like a dog’s breakfast would typically be satirically funny — except that it is the website of the Republican Party.  Attempting to define the platform, it does not convey a succinct and focused message, conflates values with initiatives, leads with its chin, dismisses all of Obamacare, omits critical content, and even offers us bad grammar. A visit to the GOP website section that addresses “Renewing American Values” is a nightmare for a branding expert or an instructor of the English language.

Values are often thought of as ideals that may inspire and enhance performance.  Like a brand, they have emotional appeal and cause us to bond with the source. Successful companies, non-profit organizations, and government agencies communicate their values to sell themselves to the public and seek the moral high ground.

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What About Obama’s Intransigence?

By 11.21.14

Two weeks ago Barack Obama presided over the electoral cataclysm he and his party richly deserved, but managed to escape, in 2012.

The Democrats lost eight Senate seats, a number that will grow to nine on December 6 when Bill Cassidy finishes off the mortally wounded Mary Landrieu in Louisiana. It might even climb to ten if West Virginia’s Joe Manchin gets around to doing the political math in his home state. In the House, an already quite healthy Republican majority reached a size not seen in nearly a century: officially 244 seats as of this writing, with three recounts and two runoffs possibly running the total as high as 249. And at the state level, Obama’s party was wiped out in gubernatorial elections as well as state legislative races; Republicans now have total control of half the country’s state governments, while Democrats rule only seven.