Evangelical Lutherans

Lutherans Release Report on Homosexuality,” by Pauline J. Chang, Christian Post, http://www.christianpost.com/article/church/1830/section/lutherans.release.report.on.homosexuality/1.htm, 13 January 2005 (from Democratic Underground).

(Insert the stereotypical “The best decision made by a Lutheran since not swallowing the diet of worms” joke)

The Studies on Sexuality Task Force of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA) released its long-awaited report on the contentious issue of homosexual ordinations and the blessing of homosexual unions on Thursday, January 13, 2004. The report, which took nearly four years to draft, addressed the two questions that have been causing greater rifts within the conservative and liberal factions within the 5-million member denomination: Should homosexuals be ordained and should same-sex unions be blessed in the church?

In regards to the two questions, the task force recommended the church maintain its current stance and refrain from ordaining homosexuals and blessing their unions.

Specifically, it recommended the church “continue to respect the pastoral guidance of the 1993 statement of the Conference of Bishops regarding the blessing of homosexual relationships” and “continue under the standards regarding sexual conduct for rostered leaders as set forth in “Visions and Expectations” and “Definitions and Guidelines for Discipline.”

The 1993 statement of the Conference of Bishops states that clergy should not bless homosexual unions within the church since there is a “basis neither in Scripture nor tradition for the establishment of an official ceremony by this church for the blessing of a homosexual relationship.” It also said it did “not approve such a ceremony as an official action of this church’s ministry.”

For those without German or Swedish relations, the Evangelical Lutheran Church is not “evangelical” in the current sense of the word. It is a mainline protestant denomination which has been declining in numbers and influence for years, like the rest of the mainliners.

Upholding the 1993 statement is a victory for two reasons. First, it obviously blunts the homosexualist advance. While accept homosexual unions would help undermine ELCA’s reach, a rejection of the 1993 statement nonetheless would help to normalize them.

Second, it gives hope to those who wish to see the ELCA eventually welcomed back into a Catholic communion. The statement uses the phrase “neither in Scripture of tradition.” The sin qua non of Lutheranism has always been sola scriptura. Not only a statement, but a reaffirmation, that puts scripture on the same level as [T]radition is great news (now to get them both Capitalized…)

Concert of Asia

Re-Envisioning Asia,” by Francis Fukuyama, New York Times, http://www.nytimes.com/cfr/international/20050101faessay_v84n1_fukuyama.html, 6 January 2005 (from Simon World Asia by Blog thru Danwei).

Dr. Fukuyama echos Dr. Barnett’s calls for an Asian NATO. The first approach to to ignore John F. Kerry’s myopia and continue with the Six Party Talks

The White House has an opportunity to create a visionary institutional framework for the region. In the short term, it can do so by turning the six-party talks on North Korea into a permanent five-power organization that would meet regularly to discuss various security issues in the region, beyond the North Korean nuclear threat. In the long term, Washington will need to consider ways of linking this security dialogue to the various multilateral economic forums now in existence or under consideration, such as the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN); the ASEAN-plus-three group, which was formed in the wake of the Asian economic crisis and includes China, Japan, and South Korea; and the developing free-trade areas. Asian multilateralism will be critical not just for coordinating the region’s booming economies, but also for damping down the nationalist passions lurking beneath the surface of every Asian country.

But Fukuyama looks beyond the current crisis and sees the power balance of a united Korea (with the typical Chinese-Japanese tensions)

Several recent incidents have brought latent tensions to the surface. Despite burgeoning trade between China and South Korea, relations recently became strained when government-sponsored Chinese researchers asserted that the ancient kingdom of Koguryo, which 2,000 years ago stretched along the current China-North Korea border, was once under Chinese control. The ensuing fight had to be papered over with a five-point accord negotiated by the countries’ foreign ministries. Beijing’s motives for allowing publication of the article are unclear, but they may have been related to rising nationalism in China and loose talk in Seoul about founding a “greater Korea” that would include not just the North and the South but also the more than 2 million ethnic Koreans currently living in Manchuria.

Meanwhile, the growing economic interdependence of China and Japan has not mitigated nationalist passions, but exacerbated them. At an Asian Cup soccer game in August 2004 in Beijing, Chinese fans screamed, “Kill! Kill! Kill!” at the winning Japanese team, forcing it to flee China. This event followed on the heels of several other ugly and apparently spontaneous displays of anti-Japanese feeling and outrage over the use of hired female “companions” in southern China by 300 Japanese businessmen.

Heightening security concerns threaten the Japanese-South Korean relationship and could spark an arms race. Ten years ago, while doing research in Tokyo, I was told by a number of officers in the Japanese Self-Defense Forces that in the event of Korean unification, the combined military of North and South Korea would be close to ten times the size of Japan’s. If Korean troop strength did not fall dramatically at that point, they said, Japan would have to take appropriate defensive measures. Not only does this risk remain, but today there is the added factor of North Korea’s nuclear weapons–and what a potentially united Korea would do with them. In a recent Tokyo Shimbun poll, 83 of 724 members of the Japanese Diet said publicly that Japan should consider becoming a nuclear power in light of the North Korean threat, an assertion that would have been unthinkable just a few years ago.

The solution is clear: multilateralism. Fukuyama goes onto endorse a two-tracked approach. As with Europe, there should be a security organization encompassing both regional players and the U.S. If we are going to build on the current Five Parties, this military alliance would encompass Japan, a united Republic of Korea, the People’s Republic of China, the United States of America, and possibly Russia. There should also be an Asian “EU” which melds together the economies of Japan, Korea, and China.

This is smart. Directly participating in a swaydo Northern Pacfic Treaty Organization and working with an Asian Union, the U.S. can banish disconnectedness and hook the Asian powers in a permanent peaceful system. Because of American leadership, war in Europe is unthinkable.

Dr. Barnett once said Asia today is just like Europe, except a paranoid and bitter East Germany (North Korea) is hanging on. We may be closer to an ever-peaceful Asia than we realize. NPTO and AU — let’s go!

A Genius Speaks

The Third Baath Coup?”, by Juan Cole, Informed Consent, http://www.juancole.com/2005/01/third-baath-coup-if-as-i-have-argued.html, 13 January 2004.

Neo-Baathism in Iraq,” by “mark,” Zen Pundit, http://zenpundit.blogspot.com/2005/01/neo-baathism-in-iraq-juan-cole-had.html, 13 January 2004.

Zen Pundit is a genius. The first time I went to his site, I scrolled through and chalked him off as a Tom Barnett knock-off. No more. He read the same article I did and came up with a much, much deeper understanding of the situation. Making it doubly embarrasing is that I agree with his assessment. So why didn’t I think of it?

First, Juan Cole’s analysis (with emphasis for what I thought was important)

If, as I have argued, the Baathists along with some Salafi (Sunni fundamentalist) allies are behind the guerrilla war, what do they want? They want to drive the Americans out of Iraq and make a third Baath coup, putting the Shiite genie back in its bottle and restoring Sunni Arab primacy.

A third Baath coup is no more inherently implausible than the first two. The Baathists probably have access to some 250,000 tons of munitions which are still missing. They know how to use them, and have been the managerial class, and many are Iran-Iraq War and Gulf War veterans with substantial military experience.

And this is my problem with the idea of just having the US suddenly withdraw its military from Iraq. What is to stop the neo-Baath from just killing Grand Ayatollah Sistani, Abdul Aziz al-Hakim, Ibrahim Jaafari, Iyad Allawi (who is rumored not to sleep in the same bed twice), etc., all the members of the provincial councils and the new parliament, and then making a military coup that brings the party and its Sunni patronage networks back to power?

I think this coup would look more like the failed 1963 effort than like 1968, and has the potential to roil the country and the region for decades. The tanks and helicopter gunships and chemical weapons that the Sunni Arab minority regime used to put down the other groups are gone, and it is not clear that car bombs, Kalashnikovs and sniping could substitute for them. They can probably take the Green Zone and the television stations if the US abruptly withdraws, but could they really put down the South effectively again?

And now… the genius

A Neo-Baathist Iraq – which really means an Iraqi version of Sierra Leone or Somalia is not in American interests. Or in the interests of any of Iraq’s neighbors except perhaps Syria who would gain influence in the Sunni heartland.

Cole has correctly identified, in my view, some key truths about the situation in Iraq. That most our enemies there are driven by the idea of Sunni-Baathist resurgence. That they recruit along lines of family-clan-tribe clientage networks. That the brain of the insurgency are the surviving elements of Saddam’s SSO, Mukhabarat, MI, Special Republican Guard and Fedayeen who are following the old Soviet unconventional warfare doctrine of Spetsnaz forces ( hardly unexpected since Baathist Iraq had a Soviet model military establishment grafted on to a ME society with a decades long relationship with the USSR and Russia ). Soviet Spetsnaz doctrine called for “ Deep Operations”:

Soviet Spetsnz unit personnel however, like the Zarqawri Jihadis, were atomized individuals. The neo-Baathist Iraqi insurgents are not, as Cole pointed out with his reference to clientage networks. You catch and identify one individual chances are extremely high that other adult males linked to the captive by family and marriage ties are also involved. This is the insurgencies Achilles heel. This is also why aggressive Counterinsurgency tactics will put a dent in the insurgency, the culprits are naturally more identifiable unlike with Marxist guerilla movements.

The political bullet to bite is that we have to accept that a fairly significant portion of Iraqi Sunnis are really ” the enemy” now in the same sense that the Germans and Japanese were during WWII and act accordingly. Some of this is our fault for mishandling the occupation but mostly its a vicious group of political gangsters determined to shoot their way back to power and dominance over the Kurds and Shiites. Let’s stop sugarcoating things and face reality – the Sunnis by and large want a new dictatorship that will secure their priviliges once again.

Any prospects for broad-based democracyin Iraq will fail- or even maintaining Iraq’s territorial integrity – unless we can isolate the more politically backward Sunni dominated areas from the rest of Iraq and put the insurgency on the defensive.

Sistani and the Kurds need to face that fact as well.

I agree.

Anti-Muslim Violence

Sistani’s representative killed southeast of Baghdad,” China View, http://news.xinhuanet.com/english/2005-01/13/content_2456774.htm, 13 January 2005.

More anti-Shia terrorism by the anti-Iraqi insurgents

BAGHDAD, Jan. 13 (Xinhuanet) — An aide to Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, Iraq’s most revered Shiite cleric, was assassinated along with his son and four bodyguards on Wednesday night southeast of Baghdad, sources said Thursday.

Sheikh Mahmud al-Madahaini, his son and four bodyguards were shot dead by unidentified gunmen as they were returning home from a mosque in Salman Pak after performing the evening prayers, the sources said.

Madahaini is Sistani’s representative in Salman Pak, an ancient town 20 km southeast of Baghdad.

Another aide of Sistani, a cleric working in Sistani’s office in Najaf, was also found dead on Wednesday. The name of the victim was not immediately known.

The killings were apparently a fresh warning unleashed by insurgents to Sistani, who has been calling for restraint among the Shiite Muslims in an effort to turn their weight into a political one through the nation-wide elections.

The Ba’athi-Salafists do not want democracy. They know that they are an increasingly hated minority. The Ba’athis have terrorized the Iraqis for decades, and the Salafists have just gotten started.

After North Korea

Unification Costs Damage Korea’s Credit Rating: S&P,” by Bang Hyeon-chol, Digital Chosunilbo, http://english.chosun.com/w21data/html/news/200501/200501130015.html, 13 January 2005 (from One Free Korea).

Former U.S. Envoy Warns Seoul Against Supporting Pyongyang,” by Bae Seong-gyu, Digital Chosunilbo, http://english.chosun.com/w21data/html/news/200501/200501130026.html, 13 January 2005.

When North Korea falls, what then?

The Kims have so destroyed their country that it would cost a lot for South Korea to absorb it…

The international credit rating agency Standard & Poor’s (S&P) said Thursday the risk posed to South Korea by the North was greater than that posed to Taiwan by China.

In a conference call with S&P about a report titled “Political and Contingent Risks: Analyzing the Credit Risks of Taiwan and South Korea,” the firm cited that as the reason Korea was given a currency credit rating of A+, one level lower than Taiwan’s AA-.

S&P said that while economic development in Korea and Taiwan is of a similar standard, the difference in credit rating was primarily due to the fact that North Korea posed a greater risk than China, based on the cost of unification South Korea would have to bear.

S&P said North Korea’s economy was stagnant and its infrastructure crumbling, and unlike Taiwan, potential unification costs could total between 40 and 300 percent of South Korea’s annual GDP, adversely affecting the country’s credit rating

But maybe someone will take it off their hands

He also said that while most people expected the two Koreas to reunify if the North collapsed, it was more likely North Korea would be absorbed by China. Pritchard said that since North Korea already depends on China for much of its fuel and life necessities, its absorption by Beijing would be a relatively simple matter.

On the Border of the Future

Ukraine must reform fast, UN team says,” by Ian Traynor, The Guardian, http://www.guardian.co.uk/international/story/0,3604,1389073,00.html?gusrc=rss, 12 January 2005 (from Democratic Underground).

The Orange Revolution has prevailed. Now the real work begins.

President-elect Viktor Yushchenko needs to embark swiftly on a root-and-branch reform of Ukrainian politics, government, and economy if he is to steer the country away from Soviet-style backwardness and corruption and towards integration with mainstream Europe, a panel of experts appointed by the UN says.

He should promptly overhaul the machinery of government, purge the judiciary and the overweening bureaucracy, rush through new tax laws, complete privatisation, and reshape the health and education systems.

“The fundamental problem with the government … is that its activities are based on the old Soviet concept of paternalism,” their 96-page report says.

It describes a decrepit system run on corruption, cronyism and bureaucratic whim.

EU membership is a realistic prospect only in the long term, it adds.

None the less, “the time has come to actively engage the EU in negotiations, demanding something concrete for each concession”.

Ukraine is amazing. It is a huge country, almost fifty million souls, with a language almost indistinguishable from Russian and a population that’s plurality Catholic. Ukraine was the last, best hope of a Russian bloc. Now its on the path to modernlism and liberalism.

It took 13 years for the freed nations of eastern Europe to join the European Union. Hopefully Ukraine will be a full EU member by 2018.

Nazi Frogs

Le Pen irks French government with Nazi remarks,” Netscape News with CNN, http://cnn.netscape.cnn.com/ns/news/story.jsp?id=2005011213480002132325&dt=20050112134800&w=RTR&coview=, 12 January 2005.

I must become better at recognizing French perfidy. I don’t particularly trust that dying nation, and I realize that they were the most pro-Nazi or any “occupied” state, but I wish I saw this one coming.

PARIS, Jan 12 (Reuters) – France threatened on Wednesday to take legal action against far-right leader Jean-Marie Le Pen for saying the Nazi occupation of France during World War Two had not been “particularly inhumane.”

The government, anti-racism organisations and Jewish groups sharply condemned Le Pen’s latest controversial comments, made in an interview with right-wing weekly magazine Rivarol.

“It’s not only the European Union and globalisation we have to free our country of. It’s also the lies about its history, lies that are protected by exceptional measures,” Le Pen said in comments published in Rivarol’s Jan. 7 edition.

“In France, at least, the German occupation was not particularly inhumane, although there were some blunders, inevitable in a country of 550,000 sq km.”


Dayton-Shrum 2006

Dayton shakes up campaign advisers (Send in the losers!),” by “Dickie Flatt,” Democratic Underground, http://www.democraticunderground.com/discuss/duboard.php?az=view_all&address=102×1145889, 12 January 2005.

Italics and emphasis all from DU

Dayton, a Minnesota Democrat, has brought in Kim Kauffman, who was a top fund-raiser for last year’s failed Senate campaign of North Carolina Democrat Erskine Bowles, to replace Yost. He has not yet hired a replacement for Dale. …

Dayton also said he was hiring Shrum, Devine & Donilon as his media adviser, the same firm he used in 2000. Dayton is a longtime friend of Bob Shrum, who was a chief strategist to John Kerry’s presidential campaign. But the firm said Wednesday that Shrum was leaving to become a senior fellow at New York University.

In 2006, Senator Dayton will fight against Representative Kennedy in what will be a close election. Kennedy easily survived a reelection against the most sympathetic challenger imaginable (a national spokeswoman for victims whose son was murdered) last year, and so will put up a good fight.

And so, in preperation, Dayton hires two-time loser Erskin Bowles’s campaign manager and Bob Shrum, whose 0-8 record is unimaginable.

I do not believe Dayton is trying to lose. I really don’t.


Tell Congress and the FCC to Stop Payola Pundits,” Michael Forbush,” Dr. Forbush Thinks, http://drforbush.blogspirit.com/archive/2005/01/13/tell_congress_and_the_fcc_to_stop_payola_pundits.html, 12 January 2005.

Dr. Forbush jumps on a dangerous bandwagon.

Just a short blog to encourage congress to investigate the Bush administration’s use of your tax dollars to help his campaign. Click on the link below to sign the petition.

“Congress and the Federal Communications Commission must immediately launch an official investigation and introduce legislation to outlaw payola punditry.

“Send a letter now to the Congressional Leadership and FCC Chairman Michael Powell.”

Was the Department of Education improper in the way it enlisted Armstrong Williams? Maybe.

Is censorship a way to solve the problem? Almost certainly not.

Unable to win the war of ideas, this may be a sign that Democrats are trying to muzzle free expression with the government. They have lost every branch of government. They are a minority party. Typically, minorities seek protection from an overzealous government, and don’t try to ferment government anti-freedom campaigns.

In a previous statement, Dr. Forbrush warned of revenge if the Democrats regain control. At least we don’t need to guess about their plans.

Welfare, Medicine, Misc

I agree, welfare should go,” by “Aaron,” tdaxp, http://www.tdaxp.com/archive/2005/01/08/wages_and_prices.html, 10 January 2005.

Another apt reply, another rant:

I agree, welfare should go. Let’s get rid of the tax havens for the wealthy, like “commercial” vehicles they’ve written off as business expense yet use as a private car. ( Just take a drive through any bar parking lot on the weekend. Sure are a lot of commercial plates and trucks with the names of businesses on the side. )

I disagree. Society should take care of those unable to fend for themselves. Additionally, some social causes (like college loans or encouraging capital accumulation) may have a positive return on investment, others (tsunami aid) help our strategic interests, and others (space exploration, farm subsidies) have more sentimental aims.

Do I agree with every form of welfare for every recipient? No, but it’s still the right thing for us to do.

Let’s stop paying for liver transplants for alcoholics and gastric bypass surgery for the obese.

The former sounds wiser than the latter. Every liver given to an alcoholic is one that cannot be given to someone else. Additionally, gastric bypasses are much cheaper and (by shrinking the stomach) directly encourage healthier behavior.

A bit later…

Yes, let’s limit healthcare costs, perhaps by heavier legislation against health insurance companies and malpractice insurance companies.

I’d rather not kill patients by discouraging medicine in the process.

How about private savings to allay the cost of procedures?

The problem may be too structural. Before 1980 there was no correlation between health care spending and increased life expectency. Given the hundreds of thousands medicine kills every where, we have an immensely sick system with two bright lights (prescription drugs and assembly line surgeries) some dim bulbs (miscellaneous operations) and incredible black holes (malpractice by all parties, governmental failures).

It’s not fair for me to pay in on every paycheck for something I don’t use, only to have them raise my rates the first time I do. I’d be happy to put money into an account month after month that when it reaches a certain amount, say $5k, I can quit knowing that anything that might *likely* befall me won’t cost that much. However, let’s not cap the amount of money insurance will pay. Katie got in a car accident. Her insurance refuses to pay for another cent of her treatment for spinal and shoulder injuries, though her affliction remains. I promise the amount of money her family has paid into insurance over the past 20 years has made more than enough to cover her ongoing treatment. Yeah, I know insurance is a business, but let’s cut some of the fat. I can imagine a doctor botching a heart transplant, and having the family of the deceased be told “sorry, we only pay $20,000 for a heart transplant… can you speak with the doctor? oh no, sorry, he went golfing about 10 minutes after your husband died.”

That’s a terrible problem. We have a terrible system.

Medicare spends a quarter of a trillion dollars every year. About 30% of that, or $75 billion is psend in the last year of life of a patient. About 40% of that, or $30 billion is spent in the last thirty days.

That’s a lot of money that’s being gobbled up. And that sort of waste is not isolated. My point isn’t to argue against old-age medicine — it’s to say we have a terribly, terribly messed-up system that neither candidate would fix. Welfare schemes — from support for heroic medicine to the stranglehold of the AMA and ABA guilds to people using civil lawsuits for justice and not remedy to price controls to price supports — stall badly needed fixes.

Let’s do something so that corporations aren’t so beholden to their stock price. How many companies are doing just fine but find themselves cutting corners or laying off people to boost Wall Street estimates? Forcing companies to rate a “strong buy” quarter after quarter makes some profitable companies do things they don’t need to do, and possibly take unnecessary risks (think Animation Factory… double sales every year? why? is everyone getting paid? is there money left on the table at the end of the month? why feel the need to double that amount just to be considered viable? )

Instead of giving more welfare to employees and management, I’d rather make corporations more beholden to their stock price. Upper management in almost any major company routinely betrays investors and padds their own pockets. Why are CEOs paid so much? Even when they perform badly? Too many high-paying jobs are protected from market discipline.

(In the AF example cited, the parent company has sustained rounds of lay-offs and is in terrible financial straights. Bankruptcy would ruin employees and investors, and put upper-management out of work.)

Let’s stop spending ourselves into oblivion.


Let’s stop starting wars where wars aren’t properly planned for.

And let’s never “plan properly” until its too late. Let’s horrify our enemies worse than they scared us. Let’s never allow them to breathe.

Let’s look into some alternative energy, rather than a limp-wristed acknowledgement, perhaps by a President whose circle of friends’ livelihoods aren’t tied into oil prices?

Agreed. One of Bush’s great failures is not dramatically expanding nuclear energy.

Let’s invest some money into research that will benefit our country, rather than the create a cash cow for the discovering organization.

Let’s not discourage discovery. And let new discoveries ever increase the general welfare.

Maybe huge tax breaks or some other perk for private research firms who don’t put a firm lock and chain on any advancement?

Good idea!

Let’s start making a difference for people who need a difference made. I now make more money than both my parents do combined. I have investments. I’m one of those people who are benefitting from some of the breaks for the wealthy. And I don’t like it.”

Let’s encourage giving!

The tDAxp eXPerience