Saturday, February 21, 2015

Monday Morning Quarterbacking Scott Walker's Answer

    As long as everyone on Twitter was armchair quarterbacking how Scott Walker should have responded to a question in a Washington Post interview about whether or not Barack Obama is a Christian, I weighed in with this observation:
    I also suggested this as a possible response:
     But after some reflection, perhaps Walker could have best used the question as an opportunity to share the gospel. I may not have answered any better (or worse) than Walker, but here's what I'd like to have answered:
    First, let me say this is not a political question. The Constitution makes clear than no religious test is appropriate for public office in the United States, so in the context of this interview, your question isn't appropriate. Second, the Bible teaches that a Christian is someone who has put his faith in the finished redemptive work of Jesus Christ on the cross, repented of his sin, is no longer under the wrath of God, and is now a follower of Christ. "Whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved," the Bible says, and Barack Obama is included in "whosoever". If the president has done this, he's a Christian.
    Far be it from me to cast a stone at Scott Walker, and I'm sure others can improve on my effort above. I Peter 3:15 says "be ready always to give an answer to every man who asketh you a reason for the hope that is in you," and that goes for all Christians, not just politicians. We may not all get interviewed by the Washington Post, but we should all be ready with an answer.

Wednesday, February 4, 2015

Kerry: 'Lack of Integration' of Muslims in Europe Like U.S. Civil Rights Struggle in '60s

    Secretary of State John Kerry met with EU High Representative Federica Mogherini at the State Department Wednesday and afterwards addressed the press and took some questions. One question from a French reporter concerned problems with Muslim integration in Europe and the potential terrorism ramifications:
Question: [W]e heard recently from President Obama talking about the potential lack of integration of Muslim communities in Europe. He mentioned that as one of the greatest dangers that Europe faces in terms of terror threats that might come. Would you agree with those words from President Obama, and should he have used those? And Mr. Secretary [Kerry], I’d like to get your opinion on that as well if I can.
    Kerry responded by recalling his days as a college student in the 1960s during the civil rights era and the consequent sensitivity of his generation to "this question of minority and rights and integration and so forth." After explaining that although the US has made "unbelievable progress" on race-related matters, "we still have some distance to travel." Eventually, Kerry stressed that "this particular incident of violence [terror attack in Paris] wasn’t a specific targeting that grew out of that [lack of integration]"; however, he said, there is work to do where "one minority or another or another is not able to share fully in the full integration" in the country where they live.
   Here is Secretary Kerry's full response to the question:
SECRETARY KERRY: Well, let me just begin quickly on the integration issue. When I was – I entered college in 1962. And in 1963, ’4, ’5, we were deeply embroiled in this country, and we – college students in the Civil Rights Movement. And we were deeply impacted by that and have always been, I think, as a generation, much more sensitive to this question of minority and rights and integration and so forth. We’ve made unbelievable progress in our nation, unbelievable progress in the years since then. But it would be completely disingenuous not to say to you that we still have some distance to travel. We’re not finished. We’re still – you heard the President last night talk about voting rights. So what was won in 1965 still has to be fully embraced and implemented here, and other things that are linked to that. We’ve seen our own struggles in some communities and great debates about race in America in the last year. 
So it would be dishonest of me – and I’m not involved in domestic politics right now, so I’m not going to go into it in depth, except to say that therefore, I think I can say with honesty that there is a challenge in many other parts of the world. And Federica is absolutely correct; this particular incident of violence wasn’t a specific targeting that grew out of that, but we all can do work in many parts of the world that I have seen where one minority or another or another is not able to share fully in the full integration in whatever country they happen to be living. So the world has a road to travel on that, and that’s why we continue to put such a high premium here on the issue of human rights and democracy, and to continue to push, because I think we’ve learned through our own experience the difference that it can make to the strengthening of the quality of our democracy, to our society, and people benefit when we live by that high moral standard.
    High Representative Mogherini, whose response to the question came before Kerry's, said the following:
On the integration of minorities in Europe, this is a debate, I think, that within member states in Europe, in – I would say in the global community is – has been going on for decades and probably is going on for decades. I would say that there are different models, different histories, and different traditions. What we have to get right in this moment is the fact that we need to work together. You know that very well. Victims of the attack in Paris were not only called Louis or Charb or Anne; there was an Ahmed that was killed by other people that were having names of the same roots, which means that this is a common fight. I would not go on the line of saying that this is minorities against majorities, also because we have different minorities, in Europe as in the United States. We are living in complex societies, and this is our richness. Our strength is the fact that we are different, but we are united and we live together. 
And I think that this is the core point. We would be wrong if we were to look at that as an issue of minorities-majorities. This has nothing to do with that. These are violent acts that were targeting people, persons, regardless of their names, ethnic background, minorities, majorities, whatever. And there is no link, I would stress, between minorities, majorities, and violence. A terrorist act is a terrorist act, and we should not go into that kind of discussion about how we manage, or at least manage the majorities or minorities. There is no kind of roots in that.

Note: A version of this post first appeared at The Weekly Standard.

Tuesday, February 3, 2015

EPA Chief: In Year 2100, 'Aspen’s Climate Could Be a Lot Like That of Amarillo, TX'

    In a move that might have at least the northeast section of the country shaking its head this week, Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator Gina McCarthy took to the EPA and White House blogs Wednesday to declare that "We Must Act Now to Protect Our Winters." McCarthy was in Aspen, CO, last week, famous ski destination and home to an X-Games venue, and she warned that without action on climate change, "Aspen’s climate could be a lot like that of Amarillo, TX, by 2100." Her post reads in part:
2014 was the hottest year on record, and each of the last three decades has been hotter than the last. 
In mountain towns that depend on winter tourism, the realities of climate change really hit home. Shorter, warmer winters mean a shorter season to enjoy the winter sports we love—and a financial hit for local economies that depend on winter sports. 
Even if you hate winter, climate change affects you – because climate risks are economic risks. Skiing, snowboarding and other types of winter recreation add $67 billion to the economy every year, and they support 900,000 jobs.... 
There are a lot of small businesses in Aspen that can’t survive without tourists coming into town, and I sat down for a chat with them in the afternoon. If we fail to act, Aspen’s climate could be a lot like that of Amarillo, TX, by 2100. Amarillo is a great town, but it’s a lousy place to ski.
    According to the website usclimatedata.com, temperatures and snowfall in Aspen and Amarillo compare as follows:
AspenAnnual high temperature: 55.8°F
Annual low temperature: 28.3°F
Average temperature: 42.05°F
Av. annual snowfall: 179 inch 
AmarilloAnnual high temperature: 70.9°F
Annual low temperature: 43.7°F
Average temperature: 57.3°F
Av. annual snowfall: 19 inch
    For the climate of Aspen to resemble that of Amarillo, a temperature swing of 15 degrees and a 13-foot drop in annual snowfall would need to take place over the next 85 years.  Even the most catastrophic models of global temperature change in the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) do not predict a temperature increase of 15 degrees. An attempt to contact Administrator McCarthy was not returned.
    McCarthy's entire post can be read here or here.

Note: A version of this post first appeared at The Weekly Standard.

State Department: 'Russian Military Has a Significant Presence in Ukraine'

    Ever since March 2014 when President Obama referred to Russian aggression against Ukraine as an "invasion", administration officials have avoided that word in conjunction with the ongoing conflict. In fact, U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine Geoffrey R. Pyatt's declared on April 29, 2014, that "Russian troops crossing Ukraine's borders would be a major escalation, and would draw an inevitable, sharp reaction from the United States," implying that, President Obama's March remarks notwithstanding, no Russian troops had "invaded".
    Evan as recently as this week, Ambassador Samantha Power at the United Nations charged Russia with training, supplying, aiding, and arming separatists in Ukraine, but stopped short of saying that Russian troops were engaged across the border in Ukraine. And Wednesday, Treasury Secretary Jack Lew, in Kyiv for a meeting with Ukrainian Finance Minister Jaresko referred to the "ongoing military offensive... being carried out by Russia-backed separatists," but made no mention of Russian forces.
    Today, however, when asked to comment on remarks by a US army general that suggested Russian special operations forces are playing an active role in the conflict, a state department spokesperson replied:
We cannot confirm specific numbers, but the Russian military has a significant presence in Ukraine.  In late December, Russia transferred more than one hundred additional pieces of Russian military equipment and material to pro-Russia separatists.  The latest transfer complements the previous transfer of hundreds of pieces of Russian military equipment provided to pro-Russia separatists since the September 5 Minsk ceasefire agreement, including tanks, armored personnel carriers, heavy artillery pieces, and other military vehicles. 
There are several sites near the Ukraine border, which serve as staging points before transporting Russian military equipment to pro-Russia separatists in Ukraine. Russian combat forces remain deployed near the Ukraine border, and Russian military forces still operate in eastern Ukraine, where they play a coordinating role and provide ongoing tactical support to pro-Russia separatists.
    The US Department of Defense (DOD) has been more vocal about Russian military activity in eastern Ukraine beyond simply supplying and training separatists. In remarks Tuesday at the National Defense Industrial Association’s Special Operations and Low-intensity Conflict Symposium, Army Gen. Joseph L. Votel suggested that Russian special operations forces are active in the conflict:
[A] resurgent Russia is now employing coercive techniques against its neighbor using [special operations] forces, other clandestine capabilities, information operations, other cyber operations and groupings of ethnic proxies and surrogates to drive wedges into our key allies in East Europe.
    General Votel seemed to distinguish between the activities of Russian forces and "groupings of ethnic proxies and surrogates," presumably the separatist forces in Ukraine that have been fighting Ukrainian forces in the eastern part of that country since early 2014. When asked for comment, a DOD spokesperson said, "The general referred to the use of Special Operations Forces and Information Operations. In the US military, Special Operations Forces is an umbrella term for all special operations units to include units that conduct  Military Information Support Operations or MISO. MISO, also referred to as Psychological Operations, is a subset of Information Operations‎ and has nothing to do forces on the ground."
    A second DOD spokesperson's comments mirrored those of the state department, and also called on Russia to fulfill the Minsk agreement by "withdrawing all troops and weapons from eastern Ukraine":
[W]e've been saying out of the DoD for quite a while now [that] we cannot confirm specific numbers, but the Russian military has a significant presence in Ukraine.  We call on Russia to de-escalate this conflict by fulfilling the commitments they signed up to in Minsk, including by withdrawing all troops and weapons from eastern Ukraine, establishing effective international monitoring of the international border and returning control of Ukraine’s side of that border to the government in Kyiv, freeing all hostages, and working towards a peaceful resolution of the conflict in eastern Ukraine.
    President Obama himself addressed the Ukrainian situation with Chancellor Merkel of Germany in a phone call on Tuesday, but the readout of the call made no mention of Russian forces in Ukraine. Rather, the president and Chancellor Merkel decried "Russia’s materiel support for the separatists and its failure to fulfill its commitment under the Minsk Agreement."

Note: A version of this post first appeared at The Weekly Standard.