Sunday, June 25, 2006

Treacherous <i>Times</i>

Andrew McCarthy over at NRO has an excellent column on the "Media's War Against the War." He writes specifically about the boneheaded outing by the New York Times and the LA Times of the government's tracking of financial transactions made by terror suspects. The process appears to have been completely legal but may have been rendered ineffective by the Times' stories:

For the second time in seven months, the Times has exposed classified information about a program aimed at protecting the American people against a repeat of the September 11 attacks. On this occasion, it has company in the effort: The Los Angeles Times runs a similar, sensational story. Together, the newspapers disclose the fact that the United States has covertly developed a capability to monitor the nerve center of the international financial network in order to track the movement of funds between terrorists and their facilitators.

The effort, which the government calls the "Terrorist Finance Tracking Program" (TFTP), is entirely legal. There are no conceivable constitutional violations involved. The Supreme Court held in United States v. Miller (1976) that there is no right to privacy in financial-transaction information maintained by third parties. Here, moreover, the focus is narrowed to suspected international terrorists, not Americans, and the financial transactions implicated are international, not domestic. This is not data mining, and it does not involve fishing expeditions into the financial affairs of American citizens. Indeed, few Americans even have information that is captured by the program - though there would be nothing legally offensive even if they did.

There is much more in McCarthy's piece which merits a careful read. Here are two more graphs from the column:

...the most salient thing we learn from today's compromise ... is that the program has been highly effective at keeping us safe. According to the government, it has helped identify and locate terrorists and their financial backers; it has been instrumental in charting terrorist networks; and it has been essential in starving these savage organizations of their lifeblood: funding.

It was in view of the [program's] palpable value in protecting American lives, its obvious legal propriety, and the plain fact that it was being responsibly conducted that the administration pleaded with the newspapers not to reveal it after government officials despicably leaked it. Exposing the program would tell the public nothing about official misconduct. It would accomplish only the educating of al Qaeda - the nation's enemy in an ongoing war; an enemy well-known to be feverishly plotting new, massive attacks - about how better to evade our defenses. About how better to kill us.

PowerLine notes that:

In its editorial on the subject today, the New York Times offers no shred of an argument concerning the possible illegality or overbreadth of the program. It cites no instance of abuse. Rather, the Times argues "these efforts need to be done under a clear and coherent set of rules, with the oversight of Congress and the courts." The Times purports to invoke the rule of law where no law has been broken, and where the Times itself has both broken the law and damaged American national security.

And, we might add, they've compromised our safety for a single reason: They espied an opportunity to make life more difficult for George Bush. Had Bill Clinton been president and asked them not to run the story as the Bush people did, it is hard to imagine either paper refusing the request.

Michelle Malkin is receiving photoshop entries from around the country in response to the papers' despicable decision to publicize one of the tools we use to protect ourselves from the savages. Here's a sample:

Distancing Oneself From ID

Intelligent Design theorists believe that the designer's activity in the universe can be detected. Many Christian scholars, although they believe God to be the creator, reject ID because they hold that there is no way to detect God's activity, at least not in nature. This poses for them a very serious problem which Denyse O'Leary highlights here.

Here is what I think drives that sort of behavior: Some Christians in science are into emotional meltdown re ID because they have suddenly realized what is at stake:

The only way to rule out ID is to deny that God acts in the universe, period. If he acts at all, his action may in fact be detected.

If one insists as an article of faith that God's actions cannot be detected in principle or that it is wrong to attempt to detect them, that is a new article of faith, and one that is at odds with traditional Christian religion and conventional interpretations of the Bible.

but more generally,

For a long time, many fine Christian scholars got along well with materialists, more or less, because no one put the issue squarely, as the ID guys have done. So Christianity in the intellectual world has been dying the death of deniability: What can you deny and still be a Christian? But now the issue is so basic that it can't just be sophistically manipulated out of existence. Gradually realizing their dilemma, in an intuitive way, some sincere Christians retreat into meaningless abuse of ID hypotheses.

It gets better. Read the whole thing.

The main problem, though, for Christians who hold that God's work is undetectable in nature is that they have to deny the possibility of ever recognizing a genuine miracle. If miracles are indeed unrecognizable then no one could have known the miracles that Jesus performed to really be miracles, and thus the Biblical testimony about miracles must be unreliable. This conclusion seems a high price to pay in order to try to seem reasonable to one's secularist colleagues.


I may have been remiss by not providing sufficient background about my latest post on Democracy (Screwtape Proposes a Toast) that might have facilitated the readers understanding of the article by C. S. Lewis.

Prior to his writing of Screwtape Proposes a Toast, Lewis wrote a book titled The Screwtape Letters, a work of fiction. But only fiction in the sense that the characters and the dialogue sprang from the imagination of one of the greatest modern Christian writers. Yet in our terrestrial reality the issues confronted in this book play out in our lives every day.

The book contains thirty-one letters from Screwtape to his nephew, Wormwood, who is Screwtape's underling in fiendishness. Screwtape is an upper-level functionary in the complex bureaucracy of the underworld. The "Screwtape Letters" are friendly advice from this elder statesman to a front-line tempter on how to procure the soul of his "patient", a young Christian man just trying to live out his everyday life.

Screwtape Proposes a Toast is a short story that Lewis wrote after the "letters" as kind of a finale. In both works, Lewis placed himself inside the head of Screwtape and communicates things as they would be seen by the Screwtape character. As a result, that which is morally bad is good and what is morally good is bad.

Sorry for any confusion.

God's Omnipotence

Author and professor Tony Campolo speaks on the topic of God's omnipotence:

All the sin and suffering that have marked human history since Eden are the result of God relinquishing control over what we do. People like you and me abuse our God-given freedom and thus increase the hurt and destruction that is in the world.

To all of this, most readers will say, "We agree!" Yet, when I dare to say that God is no longer in total control over this world, so many of my fellow Christians go ballistic. They refuse to stop and think. If they did, they would realize that God must be self-limited if we are to come of age and become fully human. Without God choosing to be limited, we could not love God, because love is something that must be freely chosen-nor could we freely choose to love each other. And love is what is ultimately important.

I'm not sure what Campolo means by "no longer in total control." If he means that God has granted man a measure of autonomy to run things as he will then I think he's right. God doesn't directly cause every event or every decision that is made on earth.

If, however, he means that God could not change things even if He wanted to then I think he's wrong. In any case, there's more at the link.

On Democracy

I have been against the concept of a Democratic form of government ever since I realized that a democracy is simply two wolves and a sheep deciding what they will have for dinner. Remember that this country was founded as a Constitutional Republic because our founding fathers realized that a democracy was inherently destined to fail and only lately has our government morphed into a democratic form of government.

Recently I read Screwtape Proposes a Toast by C. S. Lewis and realized that I found an ally for my position from an altogether different perspective. It's fascinating to realize that C. S. Lewis wrote this almost 50 years ago and, to me, it's prophetic.

The entire story makes for an interesting read but you can scroll down to the following paragraph:

But by the latter part of the century the situation was much simpler, and also much more ominous. In the English sector (where I saw most of my front-line service) a horrible thing had happened. The Enemy, with His usual sleight of hand, had largely appropriated this progressive or liberalizing movement and perverted it to His own ends. Very little of its old anti-Christianity remained. The dangerous phenomenon called Christian Socialism was rampant. Factory owners of the good old type who grew rich on sweated labor, instead of being assassinated by their workpeople -- we could have used that -- were being frowned upon by their own class. The rich were increasingly giving up their powers, not in the face of revolution and compulsion, but in obedience to their own consciences. As for the poor who benefited by this, they were behaving in a most disappointing fashion. Instead of using their new liberties -- as we reasonably hoped and expected -- for massacre, rape, and looting, or even for perpetual intoxication, they were perversely engaged in becoming cleaner, more orderly, more thrifty, better educated, and even more virtuous. Believe me, gentledevils, the threat of something like a really healthy state of society seemed then perfectly serious.