A Fight for Shiites

You can read Charles Krauthammer’s whole commentary to get the context, but he essential begins his column by using the elections that happened during the US Civil War and its immediate aftermath to defend elections in Iraq that may leave out parts of the country.

To call this an “apples and oranges” comparison would be putting it mildly. If England or France had over 100,000 troops in this country and was fighting on the side of the North or the South, Krauthammer might have an argument. But since that isn’t what happened, it’s merely a bad excuse for the disenfranchisement of “barely 20 percent” of Iraqi citizens.

The one point he makes in his column that I agree with is that a civil war is already happening in Iraq. Which is why it seems senseless to me for him to say this:

If Iraq’s Sunni Arabs–barely 20 percent of the population–decide they cannot abide giving up their 80 years of minority rule, ending with 30 years of Saddam Hussein’s atrocious tyranny, then tough luck. They forfeit their chance to shape and participate in the new Iraq.

This idea that Iraq will go on without the Sunnis if they don’t lay down their arms and vote completely ignores the nature of the violence that has been taking place. In the same section of the newspaper is an article about candidates for this election in Iraq being murdered. We shouldn’t forget how quickly the violence spread to other parts of Iraq after the Fallujah offensive either.

What seems to be shaping up is another Beirut situation–US troops in the middle of a civil war. It won’t turn out any better now than it did then.

Situational Ethics Defined

According to this article in The Hill newspaper, the House GOP will change a rule they enacted in 1993 requiring leaders to step down from their posts if indicted for criminal conduct. The reason: majority leader Tom DeLay may be indicted in a case currently proceeding in Texas. Two of his aides have already been indicted for their conduct.

This move, so soon after an election allegedly decided on things like moral values is just one more thing that says to me that Republicans are better at talking the talk than they are at walking the walk when it comes to ethics and morality. The GOP spent a lot of years using the corruption of Democrats for political gain. It’s quite hypocritical to change a rule they themselves instituted because they feel the charges are politically motivated. It’s a textbook case of situational ethics if I ever saw one.

Gonzales’ Secrecy Thing

Eric Umansky, sometime author of Slate’s “Today’s Papers”, gives another reason for concern about the prospect of Alberto Gonzales as attorney general: reduced protections for whistleblowers. Given how difficult it already is to find out about the kinds of fraud that happens inside corporations, an attorney general in favor of a narrow reading of laws that protect whistleblowers is a bad sign.

Dispelling Malpractice Myths

For anyone concerned about the state of healthcare in this country (which is probably just about anyone), this column by the president of Johns Hopkins University is a must-read.

This is one passage that stood out for me:

A 1991 New England Journal of Medicine study found that nine out of 10 victims of disability-causing malpractice go uncompensated. That’s right — overwhelmingly, people harmed through medical mishaps are not compensated.

If the rate is anywhere near that high today, it’s no wonder the system is in trouble today. But he also provides more current information that’s even more troubling:

And a recent study by Harvard University researchers found that 80 percent of malpractice claims were filed against doctors who had made no error whatever.

Doctors simply can’t stay in business if 8 times out of 10 that a claim is filed, they haven’t done anything wrong.

Brody’s final paragraph is key:

A few new caps on liability costs aren’t going to solve the problem. It’s time we begin a comprehensive reform of the medical justice system.

So for anyone who thinks “tort reform” just means caps on liability, I hope they think instead about a broader solution.

Loyal to a Fault?

This excellent piece by Phillip Carter, author of the Intel Dump weblog, is a very worthwhile read for anyone interested in the man President Bush has nominated to be John Ashcroft’s replacement.

He writes not only on Gonzales’ role in the crafting of administration policy in the war on terror, but on his work advising then Governor Bush whether or not to grant clemency to death-row prisoners. Carter raises a number of excellent questions on Gonzales’ suitability for the position, and what his appointment signals about the qualities President Bush values.

While Gonzales is not the lightning rod Ashcroft was when it comes to attracting criticism, I suspect his effect on civil liberties in the U.S. (if he’s confirmed) could be similarly damaging.

Yet Another Technology Plug–Bloglines

Bloglines is a wonderful service that allows you to keep up with all your RSS feeds without having to install anything on a particular computer. Once you create an account with the site (http://www.bloglines.com) and subscribe to some feeds, you’ll be able to read them from anywhere you can get web access. It’s a great way to get started with RSS feeds.

My plug for Mozilla Firefox

I’ve been using this browser since version 0.7, and it’s great. No random pop-up advertising from websites and tabbed-browsing were just the beginning. You’ll have no worries about spyware or viruses with Firefox either. Version 1.0 adds auto-discovery for RSS feeds so you can use your bookmark list to organize and read all your favorite blogs. I highly recommend it.

My 2 cents on the election

It’s easy enough to say it now, but I didn’t see Kerry winning this election against George W. Bush. Kerry held too many positions on a number of issues that made it too easy for his opponents to characterize him as indecisive. Even though I feel the course is wrong, Bush has been steadfast in pursuing it. I felt enough people were sufficiently scared of the prospect of another terrorist attack that Bush would win for that reason.

In reading the press from 11/3 onward, it appears that most people who voted were motivated not by fear of terrorists, but by “values”. Amendments against “gay marriage” drew many people to the polls. As a Christian, a Seventh-day Adventist, someone reading this might think I would be happy about that. Instead, I am sad. If there is anything this election confirmed for me, it is that a politician can win votes by merely paying lip service to being a Christian, particularly if they are born-again. It seems to me that there was scant evidence of this Christian faith exercised on the trail. For months and months we were subjected to all kinds of attacks and distortions of the opponents’ records, if not by the principals, then those who work for them. I’m still looking for the passage of scripture where it says it’s acceptable to have someone speak on your behalf to lie about your opponent in a race for elected office. Our politicians rail against “gay marriage” and talk about protecting the sanctity of it. Those of us who believe in God are sadly mistaken if we believe that any government can make anything sacred. What sense does it make to entrust governments who invented “common law” marriage and “no fault” divorce to defend marriage? How unfortunate that a few invocations of God’s name or a familiar hymn should be a substitute for competence.

This election is another step in the sad trend toward the mixing of government and religion. The purpose of churches is not to act as agencies of government. Rather than spend time and money pursuing federal funds or acting as part of any “faith-based initiative” from the White House, those of us who believe ought to be doing what we can to share our faith. We should have a positive impact on the communities we’re a part of. Government funds nearly always come with strings attached. They can force church ministries to “secularize” their messages. It’s far better to forgo those funds and share faith openly. Government funding of church ministries is a solution to a problem that doesn’t exist.

We should see by now that politicians can’t be depended on as any sort of guide for moral leadership. I think things would be a lot better if we tried to be better examples to others in our own lives.