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by George Gilder


Darwin's Doubt

by Stephen C. Meyer


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by George Gilder


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by Jay W. Richards


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by George Gilder


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Edited by Jay Richards


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by Stephen C. Meyer


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July 24, 2014

Mosul Atrocities of Epic Nature

The ISIS atrocities in Mosul, Iraq are not getting a fraction of the attention of the conflict in Gaza, but that is mostly because Western reporters dare not go there. Christianity in the region goes back almost 2000 years. Yet Christians, under threat of death, have been forced to flee, an exodus of hundreds of thousands. Churches have been desecrated and turned into mosques, virgin girls are being rounded up to become brides for jihadis, younger girls are being forced into genital mutilation. The UN is being urged to get involved. But so many catastrophes are happening in the world that this one is barely noticed.

July 21, 2014

Maybe Pedophilia Confers an Evolutionary Advantage?

Richard Dawkins, probably the world's leading Darwin defender, is also a defender of "mild pedophilia", it appears. A recent interview has him rationalizing the dear old teacher who liked to molest little boys from time to time. Nothing too wrong with that, right?

This is the moral universe of Richard Dawkins.

"War On Humans" Video Released Today

The radical edge of the environmental movement somehow always identifies people as a curse on the planet, and they aren't kidding.
Today a film, The War on Humans, has been released by Dr. John West of Discovery Institute, based on the work of Wesley J. Smith, director of Discovery's Center on Human Exceptionalism.

So are humans just another animal in the forest--the bad boy of the forest, indeed? Or something exceptional in nature? What a difference that makes!

The 30 minute video can be opened directly from the link above.

July 18, 2014

Gaza Tunnels Warrant Israeli Attack

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Notable for their relative scarcity are international denunciations of Israel's incursion into Gaza. The reasons are clear. Hamas is known for treachery, even by Middle East standards. For example, Hamas' request Wednesday for a five hour truce for the U.N.'s humanitarian purposes was exploited immediately (once granted by Israel) for new Hamas attacks from a major tunnel under the border and for more rocket attacks. Obviously, there is no honor in Hamas, no reliability under any circumstances.

Regarding the tunnels, the Times of Israel explains their extent and seriousness:

"Israel could have woken up Thursday to an entire kibbutz under siege. Haim Yellin, the head of the Eshkol Regional Council recently told the Times of Israel, standing outside a tunnel discovered several months ago, that many residents in the region are so scarred by the prospect of a tunnel attack that they hear the phantom scratching of shovels when they close their eyes at night...

"Some of the offensive tunnels take more than a year to build. They are re-enforced with several hundred tons of concrete. The digging, a former Southern Command geologist said when examining the 1700-meter tunnel discovered last October, entailed the removal of 3,400 cubic meters of earth. Israel has uncovered five major tunnels recently; reports suggest there are dozens.

"Finding the entrances to these tunnels - often within houses - and charting their alignment and geology, allows the army to neutralize the threat and, at least, set back the timer on these strategic attacks."


Continue reading "Gaza Tunnels Warrant Israeli Attack" »

June 26, 2014

Why Do Some Christians Go After the Jews?

Jay Nordlinger at National Review wonders, along with many others, why the convention of the Presbyterian Church U.S.A. ("PCUSA") recently voted narrowly to divest its holdings in companies doing business in Israel. Why, in a region beset by hideous sectarian violence, where several varieties of Sunnis are killing each other and a couple of varieties of Shia, and Shia are doing to the same to Sunni, and Christians are beset by various Muslims and sent into exile, and where Jews have long since been driven out of everywhere but Israel; why, one asks, why does a U.S. Christian denomination choose to belabor the Israelis? There literally are more Christian martyrs in our time than in the early centuries after Christ, so why, again, isn't PCUSA vigorously indignant about the burning of Christian churches and execution of Christian converts? Why isn't there a huge national campaign to raise money to provide relief for Christian refugees who have fled Syria and Iraq for Lebanon and Jordan? Why the Jews?

Nordlinger writes, "Okay: What causes anti-Semitism? Well, that is the subject of a thousand books. A hundred thousand books. Not one of them answers the question satisfactorily -- at least to my satisfaction. George Gilder's Israel Test probably comes the closest (for me). But I don't believe that envy alone can explain Jew-hatred. There are lots of successful people and peoples, and envied people and peoples. They are not hounded and killed and lied about the way the Jews are."

What George Gilder, our Sr. Fellow, calls The Israel Test is not just the question of envy, but also a weave of resentments, fear and cultural myopia. In life generally (I paraphrase) do you react to other's prowess and success with spite and denigration, or do you react with admiration and attachment? Many cultures do the former. Russians, for example, are notorious for wanting to pull others down. "Neh sebeh, neh lyudyam" (a phonetic rendering of the Cyrillic) means roughly, "Maybe not me, but not you either!" That attitude does explain a lot of the widespread petty antagonism to Jews, not just in Europe and the Middle East, but elsewhere.

There are three additional answers I would offer to explain seemingly bizarre decisions of national Protestant churches to attack Israel. One is ecclesiological (the way in which churches are governed), one is political and one is theological. George Gilder doesn't get into any of the three very much, since they are not what The Israel Test is about.

Continue reading "Why Do Some Christians Go After the Jews?" »

June 16, 2014

Israelis and the Kidnapped

Overwhelmed amidst the ghastly news of mass killings in Iraq is the account of three young Israeli hikers who have disappeared, the likely victims of a Hamas kidnapping. They likely will be held for ransom. Diane Medved on her blog (Bright Light Search) explains the Jewish community response.

One thinks of the relatively united Israeli attitude toward Islamist terrorists and contrast it to the conflicted American attitude. (9/11 seems so far ago.) One also looks with alarm at the rise of anti-Semitism (again) in Europe. One looks also for American leadership.

June 12, 2014

Will Washington Govern Your College?

It's a great mistake to ignore the way the debate over student loans is going. A new documentary that just happens to come out this weekend is clever and potentially consequential. I write about it here, at The American Spectator

George Will raises a companion issue about the tendentious re-definitions of rape that threaten to ensnare colleges in endless adjudication of relationship disputes among students. I feel the same way about rape on campus as I do about charges of child molesting in the clergy or schools: take it to the police. Unless it involves the parties coming together to sort things out themselves, the adjudication does not belong in the seemingly more benign, but ultimately more prejudicial (pro-or-con), environment where the complaint arose.

Continue reading "Will Washington Govern Your College?" »

May 29, 2014

Reichert's Reagan-Style Reform on Foster Kids

President Reagan's pro-families program (titled "Fairness for Families") was promoted thirty years ago and accomplished a lot, including, for example, creation of the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children. But subsequent Administrations have not really taken up the Reagan agenda. As someone who worked in the Reagan White House on that program, therefore, it is especially gratifying for me to see advances being made now--at long last--on several neglected issues. Near the heart of the effort is legislation developed by Rep. Dave Reichert (R-WA) and several colleagues, including Rep. Eric Cantor, to rescue teen-agers being trafficked for sex. Reichert's bill is titled the Preventing Sex Trafficking of Youth in Foster Care Act.

Much of the problem of sex trafficking in America traces to the failure of the welfare system to get abandoned and abused children out of foster care and into permanent homes--often with adoptive parents. The lack of official and enforceable plans for such children often leaves them in limbo. Many are well cared-for as wards of the state, but others become the base from which future dysfunctional adults develop.

According to Reichert's office, 59 percent of children and teens exploited by sex-traffickers are from foster care, often as runaways. At one time or another these kids have been mistreated. The welfare system frequently puts a low priority on moving them out of foster care. One reason may be that establishing permanent plans is hard for time-strapped welfare workers. Another is that welfare agencies are influenced by the soft-headed supposition that if a child's original parent or parents are still alive, even if, for example, they are in long term prison terms and have abandoned their parental role, there is always a chance of a fruitful reconciliation some day. Yet another reason for inaction on permanent plans for kids is that welfare agencies derive funds from caring for foster care children, but not for moving such children into adoptive homes. (In those adoptive homes, of course, the costs of raising the children is born by the adoptive parents, not the government, and the long term benefits include more productive adult citizens who add value to society rather than burdening it with problem pathologies.)

The U.S. House has now passed the Reichert bill and several companion bills that have gone to the Senate. It will be interesting to see what happens when the federal bureaucrats weigh in. Will they try to obstruct reform (as they did in the Reagan days) or support it? In any case, conservatives who want to show the compassionate thrust of their philosophy should insist on promoting the Reichert legislation.

Continue reading "Reichert's Reagan-Style Reform on Foster Kids" »

May 11, 2014

Landslide for Pro-Russians?

Pro-Russian separatists are claiming a huge victory in the thrown-together referendum Sunday, a vote that excluded international observers, lacked a consensus set of choices and was monitored by armed and masked men. Some estimates are 89 percent "yes" vote.

That really is nothing. Saddam Hussein used to get close to 100 percent. So did various communist regimes.

Continue reading "Landslide for Pro-Russians?" »

April 17, 2014

Anti-Semitism Rouses East Ukraine

People are making many allusions these days to the 1930s when the West tried to ignore the growth of fascism and anti-semitism in Europe and did ignore the oppressions of Soviet Russia. Jews were persecuted and the U.S. pretended not to notice, and, in any event, did nothing.

Today Russia evokes the kind of propaganda "Newspeak" that George Orwell warned about, also in the 1930s. In this mode, words mean what the propaganda order says and nothing else, even if the truth is the opposite. Mr. Putin imputes to his targets in Ukraine the "fascistic" danger that in reality he himself has established in Russia and the "mob" and "hooligan" tactics employed by Russian forces in East Ukraine. Now comes as well the old familiar evil of anti-semitism, manifest in appalling attempts by pro-Russian forces in Donetsk, Ukraine to force Jews there to "register" and prove their rights to property, etc. Or face deportation.

Continue reading "Anti-Semitism Rouses East Ukraine" »

April 11, 2014

India's Under-reported Eugenics History

When I was a young man working for the N.Y. Herald Tribune in 1965 I wound up in India, hoping to cover the war of India and Pakistan over Kashmir. Since the government wouldn't let me even near the front they mollified me with visits to socially significant projects in the country-side from agricultural production (which was to skyrocket later in the century) and hospital construction--to population control.

Discovery-linked scientist Michael Egnor posts this week at Evolution New and Views about some of the consequences of India's population control policies. We have heard a great deal about the coercive policies in China, but somehow the blackmail of India by the West in the later 1960s under LBJ and the effective genocide and gender-cide that resulted from Western government and foundation pressure to meet population controls has received far too little notice. From the standpoint of history, eugenics in India paints an ugly picture.

Continue reading "India's Under-reported Eugenics History" »

March 7, 2014

The Great Lent

Many Christians follow Lent, the season of repentance that begins with Ash Wednesday and leads to Holy Week and Easter. But the 300 million Orthodox believers worldwide observe "The Great Lent" in a somewhat different manner. Our Senior Fellow on Human Exceptionalism, Wesley J. Smith, writes about it movingly at First Things.

February 20, 2014

Strange Claims: Human Existence is the Root of Planet's Problems

Supposedly serious newspapers and magazines are featuring books and reports that suggest (once more!) that the existence of human beings in large numbers is responsible for ruining the environment. From that analysis spring all manner of new proposals for government economic dictates and constrictions on abundance.The cure for this kind of thinking is our Senior Fellow Wesley J. Smith's new book, The War on Humans.

It already is receiving an unusual amount of attention and praise. Much of it, in turn, can be followed at Discovery's Evolution News and Views.

Continue reading "Strange Claims: Human Existence is the Root of Planet's Problems" »

January 31, 2014

Guest Article: My Predictions in Bioethics Right Again!

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By: Wesley J. Smith

Can you believe a year has come and gone since I last told you what would happen, before it happened, in bioethics? Maybe it's my increasing age, but time is passing too fast!

So, how did I do? Not as well as in years past, but still an A-. Let's take a look:

Continue reading "Guest Article: My Predictions in Bioethics Right Again!" »

January 19, 2014

A German Genocide Before the Nazis

Call it a "distortion" of Darwinian theory if you like, as does author John Lewis-Stempel, but the patent genocide of Germany against its African conquests a quarter century before Hitler's regime has all the marks of eugenics science policy.

The German atrocities under The Second Reich a little over a century ago have not been well-covered in contemporary literature, perhaps because the numbers involved were small compared to the killings that took place later in Europe under The Third Reich. But the genocidal policies were notable for two things, as Lewis-Stempel's article makes clear: 1) their sadistic cruelty; and 2) the explicit racism tied to evolution that inspired them.

"The Lebensraum policy of expansion was advocated by the 19th-century German geographer Friedrich Ratzel, who distorted Darwin's theory of evolution to proclaim that migration was necessary for a race's survival," Lewis-Stempel writes in The Sunday Express.

Continue reading "A German Genocide Before the Nazis" »

January 17, 2014

Government Attempts to Strangle Free Speech

Laws at the state level that let publicly appointed panels decide the truth or falsity of political speech have the result of stifling dissent and undermining democracy. So do new IRS rules at the federal level to sic regulators onto conservative opponents of big government.


Continue reading "Government Attempts to Strangle Free Speech" »

January 13, 2014

Homeschooler Protection Act Needed

Memo to the likes of Marco Rubio, Paul Ryan and Rand Paul: A Legislative Opportunity.

In Germany it is against the law to homeschool one's children. Indeed, in the name of making sure that children grow up to appreciate a "tolerant" society (!) they may be taken away from their parents and made wards of the State. A recent court case demonstrates the folly of such an inhuman--but fully statist--mentality. Unfortunately, it feels very much a throwback to the totalitarian mindset of an earlier German era.

But in the United States, homeschoolers also are at risk. In another case from Germany, a family emigrated from Germany to the U.S. largely to be able to educate their children outside state schools (does this not also remind you of many of our ancestors who came here for similar reasons?)--and the Obama Administration, in thrall as usual to the teachers' unions--wants to deport them back to Germany!

Continue reading "Homeschooler Protection Act Needed" »

January 7, 2014

Little Sisters of the Poor versus Big Brother

Of the 91 lawsuits over ObamaCare's alleged violations of religious liberty, the one that has made it to the Supreme Court most conspicuously is that of the Little Sisters of the Poor. The Becket Fund has had this case in hand for a long time and should be credited with bringing it home.

All the groups suing the Administration over the religious liberty issue deserve attention, but the Little Sisters of the Poor perhaps most of all. In a follow-up report, Becket Fund links to the remarkable work of the Little Sisters--the kind of charitable vocations that illustrate how religious orders still have an important role in society.

Continue reading "Little Sisters of the Poor versus Big Brother" »

January 1, 2014

Lead Lawsuit of 2014

Could you imagine any lawsuit more revealing in its mere title than "Little Sisters of the Poor versus Obama'? Of course, it won't be titled exactly that, but the stay issued (interestingly) by Supreme Court Justice Sotomayor on New Year's Eve opens the way for a legal battle that definitely will excite wide interest. Meanwhile, it temporarily will stop the federal government from enforcing the Obamacare provision that requires Catholic and other religious organizations to fund insurance for employees' birth control.

Continue reading "Lead Lawsuit of 2014" »

December 23, 2013

Iraq Declares Christmas a Holiday

In a welcome gesture to the suffering Christians of Iraq, the government in that country has declared Christmas a national holiday and, apparently, even put up some decorations.

December 20, 2013

Fix the India Foul-Up

The President should apologize for the arrest and humiliation of a female Indian diplomat in New York. He also should order an investigation of the individual or individuals who thought that the arrest and bizarre mistreatment were appropriate.

Whatever the rationale by the prosecutor in New York, there is such a thing as diplomatic immunity. Overseas, no country relies on that more than the United States. It is appalling that the President has let this incident escalate, leading the Indians to retaliate.

The public, thanks to Obamacare, is starting to understand what amateurism does in domestic policy. The international incidents are not covered as well, but are just as consequential.

December 17, 2013

Victory for Religious Freedom Over Obamacare

A Supreme Court review of the religious freedom implications of Obamacare seems likely to be sooner rather than later after a federal district judge in New York ruled against the ACA. "Roman Catholic Archdiocese of New York v. Sebelius" is the second judicial rebuke for the Administration.

This will encourage related freedom of religion cases and adds to the financial as well as legal setbacks endured by Obamacare only two and a half months after the law's official rollout.

Continue reading "Victory for Religious Freedom Over Obamacare" »

December 16, 2013

Speak Out, Act on Persecution of Christians

The American Spectator has run my article on the growing persecution of Christians worldwide and the need for governments and churches to rise to the challenge. My suggestion: raise this issue with your Congressman over the Christmas break. Once the hemming and hawing are over, he or she may feel the need to act.

In terms of showing the extent of persecution of Christians, I'd like to recommend the work by Paul Marshall of Hudson Institute, Lela Gilbert and Nina Shea, and especially their book, Persecuted: The Global Assault on Christians. Paul, I know, also is looking to produce action items for concerned Christians and their friends.

Meanwhile, we have a statement this week (reported by John L. Allen, Jr. in the National Catholic Reporter) by Iraq's Chaldean Catholic Patriarch Louis Sako wanting to know when Christians in the West will answer the cries of suffering co-religionists in places like Iraq. What does it take?

November 26, 2013

Seniors Also Targeted by Obamacare

People who have insurance provided by employers probably were confused--and misled-- as to whether they would be affected by Obamacare. The millions already irate about the false promises of the President and his Administration about the individual mandate are going to be joined by this time next year by scores of millions of those under employer-provided plans.

Meanwhile, senior citizens are targeted, too, and that reality still has to settle in. Yet many were suspicious in 2012 (and earlier), which may be why President Obama lost this age cohort in the election.

Sometimes a letter to the editor is better than an editorial, and that is the case of a letter to the Washington Times by Thomas Bower of Towson, MD that appeared today:

Continue reading "Seniors Also Targeted by Obamacare" »

October 5, 2013

India's Wombs for Westerners' Babies

Some women tell our Sr. Fellow Wesley J. Smith that they "would do anything for a baby." One feels sympathetic, at least until one considers what "anything" might entail.

Smith has an article at First Things today that describes some of the options.

Continue reading "India's Wombs for Westerners' Babies" »

September 26, 2013

Attacks on Christians Not News?

The disturbing increase of Islamist attacks on Christians from Africa to Central Asia--most recently a horrific bombing of an Anglican Church in Pakistan--is being treated as barely worthy of news coverage in the West, especially in the U.S.

It was a topic over dinner among some friends tonight. Mention was made of the extraordinarily useful site, GetReligion.org, for its coverage of the subject.

Terry Mattingly points out that Pope Francis supposedly is big news whenever he speaks, but somehow that doesn't apply to the topic of worsening persecution of Christians. Is it because the pope really is of interest only if he is speaking about issues that obsess Americans, such as sex?

Continue reading "Attacks on Christians Not News?" »

September 22, 2013

Harvard Report Revived on Gun Trope

Somehow a five year old report on guns and crime from the Harvard Law Journal of Public Policy that got only a little publicity when published is suddenly getting more. Maybe it's because it shows that legal gun ownership correlates positively with low crime rates--and that finding is so contrary to the common trope of the Left.

Austria, with the lowest murder rate in the West, has 17,000 guns per 100,000 people. Luxembourg, with high gun crime rates, has tough anti-gun laws, while nearby Germany, with more lenient rules, has lower rates of gun crime.

Continue reading "Harvard Report Revived on Gun Trope" »

September 20, 2013

DeLay Decision Also Shows Need for Curbs


The trouble revealed by the reversal to Rep. Tom DeLay's conviction is not just with media bias (see previous post). It also is with the prosecutorial system.

One of the most terrifying aspects of totalitarianism (or authoritarianism) is the power of government officials to find legal excuses to torment and even jail political opponents. We have seen this repeatedly now in Russia. The failed prosecution of Rep. Tom DeLay--whatever you think of his politics, as conservative leader Richard Viguerie says--shows how ambitious and over-zealous prosecutors like Ronnie Earle of Travis County,Texas (Houston) can upend the rule of law even in this country.

Continue reading "DeLay Decision Also Shows Need for Curbs" »

September 19, 2013

DeLay Decision Should Open Media Check

It is hard for an outsider to know the details of a political corruption trial, but the trial and conviction of former House leader Tom DeLay didn't ring true at the time. The promoters were partisan Democrats with a long history of targeting DeLay, a tough political player himself. But the real pressure for indictment and conviction came from the media. I will leave it for others to cite all the editorials and self-righteous columns that attacked him.

Now his conviction has been overturned and, effectively, DeLay is exonerated. His hardball politics is no different from what we see daily in Democratic campaigns. Well, there is a difference. DeLay was forced out of office while the current crowd are in office and making the rules.

Continue reading "DeLay Decision Should Open Media Check" »

September 6, 2013

How Marriage Got Divorced from Law

Intellectual history is worth while if only as a warning that big changes can start from seemingly small ones. In First Things this week Discovery Sr. Fellow Wesley Jay Smith lays out the story of "palimony" and how a famous case in California 35 years ago--Marvin v. Marvin--changed the legal meaning of marriage and sped the cultural transformation.

September 3, 2013

Don't Want the Twins? How About a "Reduction"?

For "Things Are Going to Hell in a Hand Basket" file: the crass calculation of a contemporary couple that is unhappy they are having twins. Maybe, it is suggested, they might have a "reduction". Such a choice: which twin doesn't make the cut? Won't it be fun to explain it someday to the surviver?

Slate describes the unhappy plight of the parents who only wanted one more child: The anonymous couple 'considered a reduction for about 30 seconds,' Dad says, but ultimately decided the procedure was too 'Machiavellian' to undertake without reason. Still, they privately hoped that doctors would locate some socially acceptable justification for them to undergo a reduction, like genetic anomalies in the twins. Sadly, 'none came'."

I don't feel sorry for the parents. I feel sorry for their kids.

Continue reading "Don't Want the Twins? How About a "Reduction"?" »

July 18, 2013

New IRS Scandals; When Comes Justice?

It now turns out that someone leaked tax information of Christine O'Donnell of Delaware, leading to a unjustified (but newsworthy) lien on property of hers. Do you want to paint a candidate in a negative way that will cost her politically? Smear her with false claims of illegality.

O'Donnell was not a sympathetic candidate as far as most people were concerned. So what? This is America. The IRS is not a political action unit of the dominant party. When people in it break the law--and the public trust--they must be found and prosecuted. This sort of thing is not just the standard Washington, DC news leak.

July 9, 2013

Government is Chilling Private Speech

Crosscut.com is running a column by me today on the growing number of ways the government can collect--and use private data--on citizens.

May 31, 2013

National Service: Oldest and Worst "New Idea"

Oped articles were placed in both the New York Times and the Wall Street Journal this week (both of which require subscriptions, so never mind any links) on the topic of universal national service. That suggests that there is a campaign afoot once more to reintroduce this recycled "new" idea into the public dialogue. I certainly hope so. It will be roundly defeated, providing an educational experience for all those who are tempted to increase the authoritarian tendencies of government. It will become a rallying cry for liberty for a new generation.

I know because I started combatting national service in the early 1960s when George Gilder was editor and I was publisher of a Republican journal called Advance. In the Summer 1963 issue we published an article by Congressman Tom Curtis of Missouri, "Youth and the Military", calling for an end to conscription. That was pretty bold at the time.

"Together with monetary savings and stronger defense, such a system could strike at the heart of the disrupted lives of our youth," the good Congressman wrote.

That was true fifty years ago--about a decade before the draft was finally abolished--and it is true now.

Continue reading "National Service: Oldest and Worst "New Idea"" »

May 9, 2013

A Hard Choice for the Pro-Choice

The way to trouble the pro-life advocate is to ask what he or she would do in the case of "rape or incest". That question tripped up at least two U.S. Senate candidates last fall and led to their defeats.

In a similar fashion, pro-choice advocates have a terrible problem with a question about late-term abortions. That difficulty has become especially acute now that the Gosnell trial has revealed the existence of after-birth abortions, an idea that literally was only the stuff of satirical invention a couple of decades ago. But in 1997 "ethicist" Steven Pinker of Harvard more or less defended the practice in an article in the New York Times. That helped break the taboo among some, though hardly all, progressives.

Regarding Gosnell, it is said that the disgusting conditions of his clinic, the insensitive, even cruel treatment of women there and the readiness to "snip" the spinal cords of babies born alive after an abortion attempt shows the need for better facilities under nicer conditions.

Continue reading "A Hard Choice for the Pro-Choice" »

February 10, 2011

Dirty Secret in America--Trafficking Kids for Sex

The seamy, unnoticed side of last week's Super Bowl was the special importation into Dallas of thousands of juvenile gils, and some boys, for sex. "The Super Bowl is one of the largest human trafficking events in the United States," says Greg Abbott, Texas Attorney General. Abbot's office and the FBI had a sizable staff in Dallas, but the problem extended far beyond their reach.

Most people imagine that human trafficking--modern slavery--is a problem mainly in other countries. Few realize that it is a big business in America and that under-age young people are its primary victims. Washington State Attorney General Rob McKenna estimates that some 300,000 juvenile girls and thousands of boys between 11 and 17 are enslaved for sex purposes by pimps every year in this country. That includes, says McKenna, "up to 90 percent of both runaways and children whose parents force them to leave home."

Continue reading "Dirty Secret in America--Trafficking Kids for Sex" »

January 22, 2011

New Wave of Arrests of Christians in Iran

The persecution--and prosecution--of Christians in Iran and other Muslim lands is under-reported. Here is another story that only made a ripple in the news, this time about 15 Christian converts on their way to a church meeting when the state security in Iran pulled them over, arrested them and put them in jail. Over Christmas, another 70 Christians were arrested in Iran.

October 2, 2010

As Governor, Jerry Brown was Vociferous Foe of Vietnamese Immigration

Jerry Brown, as candidate for Governor of California in 2010, is presenting himself as a strong friend of immigration, but when he was governor in 1975 he was the nation's most outspoken and active foe of immigration by political refugees from Vietnam. It is astonishing, as I visit California this week, to see how this relevant history seemingly has been forgotten.

I remember it very well. After the post-Watergate election of 1974, an overwhelmingly Democratic Congress cut off support for the government of South Vietnam. At the end of April, 1975, it became apparent suddenly that Saigon would fall. Almost as soon, the possibility arose that some, possibly large numbers of Vietnamese would try to flee the country as the Communists took over.

Eventually, about 130,000 Vietnamese successfully settled in the United States. They and their children beame citizens, and, as it happens, many reside in such places as Orange County and San Jose. The nation's first Congressman of Vietnamese decent, Anh ("Joseph") Cao, was elected recently in New Orleans as a Republican.

But in 1975 Gov. Jerry Brown made it starkly clear that he did not want any Vietnamese to come to his state. He went further and tried to stop them from coming. Julia Vedala Taft, who chaired President Ford's interagency task force on refugees recalled, "'The new governor of California, Jerry Brown, was very concerned about refugees settling in his state. Brown even attempted to prevent planes carrying refugees from landing at Travis Air Force Base near Sacramento. . . . The secretary of health and welfare, Mario Obledo, felt that this addition of a large minority group would be unwelcome in California. And he said that they already had a large population of Hispanics, Filipinos, blacks, and other minorities.'"

At the time, I was Secretary of State in Washington State. I had a friend who had married a Vietnamese woman and was trying frantically to help her family escape. I contacted Joel Pritchard, a member of Congress from Seattle, who said that his information was that few of the "boat people" and other refugees would succeed in getting out. But I knew from history that some determined and perceptive people usually do find a way to flee tyranny, as, for example, in Europe before World War II. I called another friend, Les Janka, who served under Secretary of State Henry Kissinger. Janka reported that refugees were getting out all right, but that Governor Brown's opposition to any of them settling in his state was making it hard to win national support for helping them.

I then called our own governor, Daniel J. Evans, who was out of town at a conference, but was able to take my call. Evans didn't have a lot of respect for his California colleague and was undaunted by the challenge of differing with him. The next day he assigned two aides, (future Secretary of State) Ralph Munro and Tom Pryor, state director of Emergency Services, to see what the state could do to help. Importantly he announced publicly that, in contrast to California, Washington State would accept refugees from Vietnam. Very quickly, Evans' announcement was welcomed by a relieved State Department. When the time came, Govenor and Mrs. Evans personally met the first planeloads of Vietnamese refugees to land on our shores--after a brief stop at a military base in California. Instead of trying to keep out the refugees, our state warmly welcomed and assisted them.

That was a moment that brought pride to Washington and to Governor Evans. The contrast with the attitude of Gov. Jerry Brown could not be more striking.

It's useful to recall the times: In 1975 the new Vietnamese arrivals represented no voting bloc. Backing them offered no elector advantage, while there was an anti-war sentiment in California that applauded Brown's stand. However, four years later, as he prepared for a run for president, Gov. Brown set up a committee to consider how to help the refugees. But I don't know of his ever admitting that he had been wrong in the first place.

This vivid memory is very much on my mind, therefore, as I hear what seem like opportunistic statements about immigration from the revived gubernatorial candidate of 2010, Jerry Brown. Once again, the man seems mostly motivated by political expediency, not principle.

May 6, 2010

Give This Man a Visa

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Memo to the State Department Consular Office in Sulaymaniyah, Iraq:

You have in your Kurdish neighborhood of Northern Iraq an Iranian student dissident of prominence who is a "Green" refugee deserving of an entry visa to the United States. Ali Shamsei has been imprisoned and tortured in Teheran and faces death when he returns. The mullah regime has labeled him an "Enemy of the People." The Iraqi government, nonetheless, plans to return him soon. He should be allowed into the U.S. instead.

The 30 year old Shamsei has skills in computers and financial management and is fluent in English. He can succeed here and remain of assistance to former colleagues in Iran.

The Leadership Institute in Washington, D.C., under former Reagan aide Morton Blackwell, is considering him for an international internship. Here in Seattle, Discovery Institute is prepared to welcome him for a speaking engagement--people need to know first hand about conditions under the Almadinejad regime.

April 19, 2010

No Vacation? It's a Human Rights Abuse!

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It pays to watch the Europeans if you want to know where America will be going in years to come. Now it turns out that the European Union is trying to establish a vacation as a human right (presumably, a paid vacation). It will go up there with other human rights, such as freedom of speech, freedom of religion, free housing, free health care and free higher education.

It is a terrific development in European thinking, what with all the spare money lying around the Old World and the need to boost airplane ticket sales once the unpronounceable Iceland volcano stops burping.

In the near future free movies and popcorn and free meals at good restaurants should be added to list of human rights in the EU.

How about, also, freedom from work?

November 11, 2009

Anti-Semitism in Sweden, Pro-Israeli Iranians

I can't join those denouncing moderate Muslims for not disassociating themselves from the Islamists, because I know a number of moderate Muslims who have done just that. In the Middle East and Central Asia, of course, many moderates are standing up to the Islamists, to the extent of losing their lives in Afghanistan and Iraq.

On the other hand, one might demand that supposed Westerners who learned the lessons of the Holocaust might be counted upon to resist anti-Semitism. But, as a story from Sweden points out, the ancient bigotry has a way of re-gaining fashionability.

Two Muslim Americans of Iranian background (Shayan Arya and Nir Boms), meanwhile, publish in the Jerusalem Post what should be a source of great anticipation; namely, the hostility of the people of Iran to the theocrats who currently rule.

George Gilder's Telecosm annual conference on technology and society is underway today in Tarrytown, New York. The theme is technology in Israel and what it signifies for America's economy and the defense of the West. If you haven't purchased Gilder's The Israel Test yet (and are not at the Telecosm conference), you can order directly from the Discovery.org website.

November 9, 2009

Great Day to Encourage Freedom

Ingratitude is part of human nature. So, too, is the convenient memory lapse. In Germany itself we see reports recently of East Germans who mourn the loss of the old DDR, though they quickly add that they surely wouldn't want the old system to return. West Germans, in turn, are quick to count the cost of rehabilitating the East after reunification, but they fail to mention the priceless gift of increased national unity and security.

Our friends at CEI have made a perfect short video to help us all remember and keep this anniversary of the Wall's fall in historic context.

Meanwhile, this afternoon at Discovery Institute we are hosting Steven Hayward, whose truth-telling chronological history of the Reagan Administration--The Age of Reagan--is a riveting reconstruction of a period too often represented now in a kind of gauzy glow. In fact, as Hayward shows, the Reagan years were tumultuous and sometimes even frightening for those who fought its battles. The judgement that they had been hugely successful was not clear until well after President Reagan left office. Unfortunately, human nature also can create a false nostalgia.

Hayward's book is like a splash of cold water in the face in the morning. It wakes you up. It is not agreeable at once, but then it refreshes and encourages. It helps you face the pessimism of now.

July 31, 2009

Russia Taking Political Killings More Seriously?

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Journalist Anna Politkovskaya, killed in 2006 in what appeared to be a contract murder.

Political killings have declined in recent years in Russia, but still tend to blot Russia's image in the filed of human rights. Several recent contract murders have been tied to Chechnyan politics, where complex rivalries have been taken to Moscow in a violent manner.

Now comes the story of an apparent murder attempt that was foiled by police. A plausible suspect seems to be in hand. If so, this gives the Russian government a chance to show its determination to strike back at terror-tactics, regardless of their source.

I am skeptical of assertions that the Kremlin itself has backed such political terror tactics. But now--with a live suspect in police hands--is the time and the chance for the national government as well as the police to demonstrate their true resolve. It also is time for the international community to pay more attention to these matters.

July 28, 2009

A Successful Election in a Moslem Country

You haven't seen much at all about the elections just held in the Kurdish region of Iraq, perhaps because they were relatively uneventful. But that should be big news. Not only were the elections apparently fair and free of violence, but all sides seem to agree that a new third party, "Change", captured the second highest number of seats. As usual, the distinguished Iraq the Model blog has the report (two, in fact). http://iraqthemodel.blogspot.com/

Contrasts should be drawn with the continuing disgrace in Iran.

July 22, 2009

Put Human Rights Back on the "Reset" Agenda

by John R. Miller

President Obama and Secretary Clinton have both now visited Russia in an effort to "reset" relations. The latest such effort was followed by the kidnapping and murder last week of Natalya Estemirova, a human rights activist in the Chechnya region of Russia. Her organization, Memorial, condemned Premier Putin's appointee, Chechnya President Kadyrov. This killing followed a string of political murders of Putin critics, Soviet style, ranging from Chechnya, Moscow, and St. Petersburg to Strasbourg and London.

There was the brutal beating of Russian penal system critic Lev Ponomorov last April in Moscow. The murder of the President of the Russian rule of Law Institute Stanislov Markelov in January. The shooting near her home in St. Petersburg several years ago of Parliament member and human rights activist Galina Starovoytova and the assaults several years ago on a former state Duma member, Yulie Rybakova, a long time critic of both the Soviet and Putin regimes. The assassination of leading human rights journalist Anna Politskovskaya in Moscow last year. The poisoning of her friend Karinna Moskalenko, lawyer for Putin opponents Kasparov and Khodorkovsky, in Strasbourg, France. The poisoning of Russian secret service critic Alexander Litvinenko several years ago in London.

And these are just the most prominent cases. It is hard to put a number on the reporters, editors, lawyers and human rights activists that have paid dearly for their criticism of the regime.

Not since the days of Pinochet's Chile, another developed country that we sought to maintain good relations with, has there been such a string of political disappearances, murders, and beatings.

The Russian government and its apologists in the West have claimed that the victims have been associated with Chechyan terrorism--never mind that most of the killings were far from Chechnya. Or that the victims were just the victims of random hooliganism--never mind that none of the "hooligans" have been brought to justice. Or that it was just a plot by Putin's enemies at home and abroad to embarrass him--this last excuse brings to mind the explanations used by the former Soviet government when mysterious deaths occurred abroad. Sometimes we are told by Putin's defenders in Britain and the U.S. that at least under Putin, Russia does not have a totalitarian state as in Soviet days. True enough, but this defense only shows how far the hopes of democracy and the rule of law in Russia have receded.

One hopeful sign was that the recent killing, while greeted with silence by Putin and Russian law enforcement, was criticized by the new Russian President, Dmitri Medvedev, albeit while defending the Chechen President. Whether the new Russian President may initiate reforms or whether Putin and his appointees remain in control, the question of what to do faces the West. Generally, this has meant an inquiry or, as in the case of the London killing of Litvinenko, calling in diplomats for consultations, but then matters have been dropped. So eager has been the West to avoid confrontation with Russia that under President Bush--who has been criticized for being too harsh with Russia--human rights reports were shaded so as to avoid giving offense to the Putin regime. Under the Obama administration, all signs are that such a policy will continue. There is no evidence that even one of these human rights cases was raised in Moscow by either President Obama or Secretary Clinton.

It doesn't have to be this way. Yes, we need to negotiate with the Russians on nuclear weapons and missile defense. But this was also the case in the 80's when the U.S. negotiated with Putin's Soviet predecessors. But then Secretary of State Shultz still managed to press the Soviets privately and publicly on human rights issues, winning release of dissidents, encouraging movement toward respect for human rights and at the same time still negotiating broad nuclear agreements. What Secretary Shultz and President Reagan realized and what their successors have been reluctant to realize, is that nations make agreements based on self interest, not on whether the U.S. submerges its human rights ideals in diplosqueak. Speaking out for the rule of law in Russia will not only help past and future victims, it will encourage a more democratic and peaceful Russia which will be even more likely to enter into and keep meaningful international agreements.

John R. Miller is a former Member of Congress who served on the Foreign Affairs Committee, a former U.S. Ambassador at Large on Modern Slavery, and currently a Visiting Scholar, University of California, Berkeley and a Senior Fellow, Discovery Institute (Human Rights and Bioethics Center).

June 25, 2009

New Film on Iran is Tough and Timely

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The producers of The Stoning of Soraya M. could not be opening their film at a better time than now. The fictionalized telling of a true story from Iran's post-revolution is hard to watch at times and it leaves an audience feeling drained and frustrated. But when I watched a preview a couple of months ago it was clear that everyone present had been affected deeply by the experience. This is about the kind of "evil" that won Iran a position in George W. Bush's "Axis of Evil" category. You understand again the kind of hypocritical theocrats that would bludgeon peaceful demonstrators in Tehran these past few weeks and loot their homes.

The fine acting by Shoreh Aghadahloo is a revelation. She is someone I have never seen before. The nominal co-star, Jim Caviezel (of Passion of the Chris fame), is also excellent, though his role is much smaller than the top billing would indicate.

You can see it nation-wide starting tomorrow. http://www.thestoning.com/

June 19, 2009

Iran in Revolution

As this is posted, it is high noon Saturday in Iran. Mousavi and his aides, and former President Rafsanjani who supports the protests, are being threatened personally, say bloggers and the tweets. This is a fateful day.

It no longer is a question of whether Iran is in a revolution, but whether the revolution will succeed. There is still a question, as in many revolutions, about the revolutionaries' ultimate goal. Until now, at least, there would have been great happiness among the protestors if Supreme Leader Ali Kahmenei had simply agreed to reform--another election, in this case. But the stakes are being raised. Kahmenei is signaling worsening repression. The thuggish Basij milita, in plainclothes with knives, clubs and guns, are being given increased freedom to attack the peaceful protestors and the homes of suspected supporters. Unknown scores are dead, hundreds, maybe thousands, are in prison. The foreign media are being evicted. The fierce response of a government against its own peaceful citizens is incitement for more far-reaching revolutionary ambitions.

To its lasting discredit, the Russian government of Medvedev and Putin has recognized the highly doubtful election of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. http://www.sptimes.ru/index.php?action_id=2&story_id=29285 China joins in. According to the South China Post (Hong Kong), mainland government authorities are ordering the media to downplay protest events in Iran. Wouldn't want people getting ideas.http://www.scmp.com/portal/site/SCMP/menuitem.2c913216495213d5df646910cba0a0a0/?vgnextoid=1991d1a7a69f1210VgnVCM100000360a0a0aRCRD&vgnextfmt=teaser&ss=China&s=News

In the next stage, the huge crowds of protestors in Iran's cities--accessible to the world largely through cell phones and Twitter--will crumble under the assault of the state. Or the state will make concessions to gain time. Or the revolution will take a new direction and state violence will be answered with popular violence. It would take overwhelming numbers for the latter to succeed. That, and expanding divisions within the current ruling class.

Many observers are assuming that even if the protestors prevail and the government collapses--in one way or another--and Mousavi accedes to the presidency, the West will still still face an antagonistic regime bent on developing nuclear weapons. I'm not so sure. Revolutions famously take on a life of their own. After all this, why should Iranians put up with an authoritarian dictatorship, international isolation and a crippled economy for sake of a belligerent defense and foreign policy? The achievable alternative is a relatively liberal state with genuine elections (where a Supreme Leader and his Guardian Council don't get to vet candidates), international cooperation and economic growth.

June 15, 2009

The Revolt in Iran Spreads

The tens of thousands of protestors are now hundreds of thousands. The outbursts in Teheran now turn out to be occurring in "every town", according to Iranians here in Seattle hearing from friends and relations. (Iranian Americans number about one million, a sizable and largely unrecognized group.) The TV in Iran apparently continues to downplay the demonstrations, if not ignoring them altogether, a sure sign of a dictatorship in panic. Trying to pretend that nothing is happening when the streets are full of people and gunshots are heard around the capital is another indication to the people that the government and its agents are out of touch and frightened.

I just heard from one immigrant here that a group of Revolutionary Guard leaders--from the 150,000 or so elite force supposedly most loyal to the mullahs--has been arrested in Teheran for suspected sympathy to the demonstrators.

In the Iranian news recently was a story about how much money--reportedly $700 million--was pent by Iran to bolster Hizbollah in Lebanon's elections (Hizbollah lost). That sort of news account may have added fuel to popular discontent, since Iranians understand that money that could be used to ease the local economic distress has gone instead to political adventurism abroad.

Bribery is a big problem in the Middle East and some of that $700 million may have gone down that particular rabbit hole. The mullahs inside Iran are corrupt themselves. That feeds the outcry, too.

Meanwhile, repression like that of the past few days--raiding the University dorms and putting student leaders in prison--can only work if the problem has not grown too large. When protestors are too numerous to arrest and the prisons too full, neither brutality nor partial capitulation will prevail.

Americans should be outspoken in support of the forces of freedom.

March 24, 2009

New U.S. Leaders Should Speak Out on Human Rights

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by John R. Miller

The brouhaha over Secretary of State Clinton's comments on human rights in China has subsided but the question of what an American leader should say publicly on such subjects remains and, unless thought through, will bedevil Secretary Clinton and President Obama whenever they visit any nation with an abysmal human rights record.
The Secretary's actual statement was less remarkable than that she made it publicly and in Beijing: "...our pressing on those issues [human rights] can't interfere with the global economic crises, the global climate change crises and the security crises."

Negotiating with foreign governments on multiple issues is hardly shocking; what shocked human rights groups and pleased the Chinese government was that Clinton publicly sent a signal that human rights might not be a high priority in Chinese-American relations--a reverse of the signal that all, including Chinese citizens and their government, expected. The Secretary's later assurance that she had raised human rights issues with Chinese leaders in private meetings did not mollify her critics who professed "dismay" and "disappointment" that the previous loquacious Senator was now the reticent Secretary of State.

Now, few would question the bona fides of Secretary Clinton on human rights. As a U.S. Ambassador involved in international human rights, I found then Senator Clinton to be extremely knowledgeable and concerned about such issues, and particularly so with regard to China. But in the wake of her visit to China, Secretary Clinton should reflect less on the particular words she uttered and more on the broader challenge that has faced Presidents, Secretaries of State and American diplomats for decades: in future visits to authoritarian countries, does she both speak out publicly and engage privately with foreign leaders on international human rights issues; does she only engage privately on such issues; or does she do nothing at all?

The do nothing option, while it makes for pleasant meetings with foreign leaders, is not possible for an American Secretary of state, because of both American and foreign expectations. This nation has a long tradition of involvement in human rights issues abroad during both our internationalist and isolationist phases (although the extent of our involvement has obviously varied). This rests on a trait in the American character aptly illustrated by Norbert Vollartsen, the German human rights activist. Vollartsen says that when he describes human rights atrocities in China and North Korea to European audiences, the reaction is "so what?" When he describes the same situation to American audiences, the response is "what can we do to help?" He believes this is a uniquely American characteristic and it is nothing to be ashamed of. It derives from both our past when immigrants fled here to avoid genocide or political or religious persecution, and our defining prediliction for solving problems.

Moreover, as an American diplomat I found, perhaps surprisingly, that not only Americans but citizens, victims, NGOs and even most leaders abroad expect us to raise human rights issues. While sometimes annoyed, they realize that our character calls on us to do so; that international organizations which rely on consensus shy away from such issues; and that if the U.S. does not raise the banner of human rights, often no one else will.

This still leaves the choice of whether the human rights issue should be raised by the Secretary both publicly and privately-- or just privately. Of course raising the issue publicly can make the meetings with foreign leaders that follow not only less pleasant but sometimes frigid--the Chinese leaders were undoubtedly more ingratiating to Secretary Clinton than they were to Speaker Pelosi and me years ago on a Congressional visit to China when prior to a meeting with the Chinese foreign minister we raised the issue of Tiananmen Square with the news media. Agreeable meetings, however, are not the purpose of effective diplomacy. We must remember that public statements on human rights have three key audiences.

The first audience, if we want improvements, are the foreign leaders themselves. It may surprise some, but public statements by American officials on human rights do not always produce a backlash. To the contrary, in my experience such statements often bring attention and positive changes. True, the foreign leaders may feel forced to answer the criticism publicly by denying the problem or complaining about American "meddling". But often this is followed by action. I found that with human trafficking, our public reports and my public statements delivered in the host country accompanied by private sessions might produce resentment but also produced results. And this was not just the case with friendly governments such as Turkey and Bangladesh; even governments such as China and Venezuela, while protesting, did not want to be "shamed" and spent hours lobbying me on the good things they were doing or promised to do in order to win American human rights plaudits--or at least less scathing criticism.

The second audience is the victims of human rights abuses. This audience takes heart from our public utterances and are inspired to continue the struggle. Once in Mumbai's red light district several victims and their NGO advocates accosted me with praise for a speech President Bush gave to the UN General Assembly. The President devoted twenty per cent of a speech little noted in the U.S. to modern slavery. Waving copies they had printed off the internet, one victim exclaimed "Your President first world leader to speak out on slavery. Now he must speak out on slavery in India". Unfortunately President Bush on his visit to india did not do so, but if he had, it would have inspired hundreds of thousands of sex and bonded labor slaves.

The third audience for public statements by American leaders abroad on human rights--and the one most oftern ignored-- is the American public. Public pussyfooting may temporarily play well with the Chinese and other authoritarian leaders, but it won't play well in the United States. Americans do not want to be condescended to, and expect American leaders to say the same things abroad as they same as home. (This is another character trait that we need not be ashamed of.) Yes, our diplomats must remember that they represent the United States to foreign countries and not just the reverse. Besides, such statements are critical to maintaining support for American human rights initiatives and encouraging private and non-profit initiatives. American and foreign NGOs may not want to be agents of the U.S. government but they often do want to further American human rights ideals.
It may be argued that private engagement by itself also brings results but the examples I know of ranging from South African apartheid to Secretary of State Schultz's interventions for individual "refuseniks" and Pentecostals were all complemented by supporting public statements.

The challenge that Secretary Clinton faced in Beijing, she will face again in different times and places. It does no good for either relations with a foreign government or the cause of human rights to speak one way in private and another way--or not at all--in public. Candor will serve both the cause of human rights and bilateral relations better than conduct which on the part of the United States is perceived as out of character. In the long term it is better to make one's statements in public and private consistent; when it comes to human rights, not only do Americans expect that of our leaders but so does the rest of the world.

(John R. Miller served as United States Ambassador at Large on Modern Slavery and as a Congressman on the House Foreign Affairs Committee. He is presently a Senior Fellow at the Discovery Institute.)

March 15, 2009

Human Rights When No One is Watching

The 1930s saw the beginnings of some of the worst violations of human rights in history, largely because the United States, Britain and France were distracted by economic problems.

In the 1990s and early 2000s, even though times were good, the evil of human trafficking--modern slavery--was under-reported and Western response was minimal. Now, as the economy preoccupies the new Administration, including the new Secretary of State--who barely mentioned the issue of human rights when she visited China recently--a few grim stories are coming out. Some are from China.

December 25, 2008

Aid the Iranian Dissidents

Iran is not the puritanical Islamist state you think; it's worse than that, corrupt and immoral. The mullahs are on the take and there is a growing scandal of coerced prostitution (sex slavery in the modern parlance). But the social ills are not adequately covered yet in the West. We avert our eyes.

Iran today is overwhelmingly "young" and students are mostly alienated from the government, and not only from President Ahmadinejad, but also from the mullah puppeteers above him.

Here are some remarkable photos by Mehdi Gasemi, taken of demonstrations on December 6 ("Student Day" in Iran). Funny, I don't see any "Death to America" posters.

Why is our government so uninterested in helping the dissidents? Are we we afraid of a regime that already is implacably opposed to us? Would we rather let Iran's rulers build a nuclear bomb and then bomb the sites, starting a major war?

Even in the Cold War, when the Soviets were sponsoring anti-American groups in this country, we did all we could to aid dissidents behind the Iron Curtain. Why is Iran different? Please don't tell me the dissidents don't want or need help from us. Who says so--and in what context?

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December 12, 2008

Congress Passes Landmark Anti-Slavery Act

From Logan Gage:

Late on Wednesday evening, Congress (FINALLY!) passed the William Wilberforce Trafficking Victims Protection Act and by unanimous consent. It sounds like an easy achievement, but behind that unanimous consent lies the fact that this bill took two years to hammer out. Bureaucratic opposition was strong and yet almost mute.

Neither side got all it wanted, but the end result appears to be a commendable bill that offers hope for the hundreds of thousands of enslaved and trafficked human beings (mostly women in sex slavery and men in forced labor). Senators Joe Biden and Sam Brownback deserve high praise for their willingness to compromise and make sure an effective law was passed. Credit outside Congress the many human rights NGOs and give particular praise for Michael Horowitz of Hudson Institute who has labored on this and other human rights issues. We at Discovery are also proud once again of the role of our Senior Fellow John R. Miller.

Let us hope that the incoming Obama administration puts serious effort into enforcing the strong provisions of the law.

October 21, 2008

Discovery Fellow John Miller Hailed in New Film

Call + Response is a gut-wrenching look at sex trafficking. Among the few heros is Discovery Senior Fellow and former U.S. Ambassador (and Congressman) John R. Miller.

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September 15, 2008

Free Mithal al Alusi, Iraqi Champion of Freedom and Reason

Iraq's Parliament has capitulated to pressure from Shia and Sunni extremists to punish the man who is one of freedom's bravest advocates in that country, parliamentarian Mithal al Alusi. After al Alusi attended an annual international conference on terrorism in Herzliya, Israel last week, and thereby offended the long-standing anti-Israel policy of Iraq, the Parliament banned him from foreign travel, ousted him from legislative activity and deprived him of the immunity from prosecution that parliamentarians enjoy.

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Alusi at the funeral of his two sons who
were killed in an assassination attempt in
Baghdad in 2005.
Photo: AP

Al Alusi is calling the actions unlawful and citing the likely behind-the-scenes role of Iran.

The demogogic assault on al Alusi, which puts him and his family at physical risk, should be rescinded promptly and Mr. al Alusi reinstated in his parliamentary office.

The present treatment of a genuine Iraqi patriot is particularly shameful in light of al Alusi's principled sacrifices. In 2004 he also attended the Herzliya conference and subsequently was ousted from his political party, the Iraqi National Congress, and deprived of his legislative protections upon arriving home. His security detail was removed, making him an immediate target of repeated terrorist attempts on his life.

Eventually al Alusi was able to form a new political group, the Democratic Party, and raise support for personal protection. His fresh election to Parliament was a major vindication of his views.

Nonetheless, he has paid a very high price. One of the many attacks on him and his family resulted in the death of his two grown sons, his only children. He and his wife have been raising their grandchildren on their own since then. This summer, however, terrorists succeeded in blowing up al Alusi's house. (This information has not yet seen print, to my knowledge, but was emailed to friends and contacts recently.)

The crime for which terrorists hate him and craven fellow-parliamentarians are prepared to destroy him is al Alusi's sensible view that Iraq should have peaceful and official relations with Israel. Last week he even suggested that Iraq should work with Israeli as well as American intelligence to fight al Qeda and Iran's agents among the Shia.

Al Alusi's reasonable political position on regional cooperation is not too far from that of the private views of the Kurdish minority and of other Sunni--and perhaps some Shia--secularists. It happens to make great sense if the Middle East is ever to make the transition to lasting peace.

But, meanwhile, what has happened to al Alusi is a blight on Iraq's standing as a democracy. The United States no longer calls the shots in Baghdad, but surely its officials in Iraq can try to protect this brave elected official and secure his release from the sanctions just levied unjustly against him. He could not get a fair trial in the current environment and, if convicted, he would be a likely murder victim in prison--where he has many terrorist enemies among both al Qaeda and pro-Iranian prisoners. His death would be a warning to others who have resolutely stood up to terrorists.

September 4, 2008

Exciting New Film on Human Trafficking

Call+Response, a new documentary on slavery and human trafficking by musician Justin Dillon, hits theaters this fall.

The film is fantastic--although if you do not like contemporary music, you may not care for the concert-like quality of film. It features performances by some of my favorite artists like Cold War Kids, Matisyahu, and Switchfoot. In addition to musicians and celebrities like Ashley Judd, several policy experts on human trafficking are interviewed including Gary Haugen and Discovery's own Ambassador John Miller.

The film is one of the most creative pieces of public education I've seen. If you want to learn more about modern-day slavery--where perhaps as many as 27 million people are in bondage--and yet do not want to pay to see a dry, boring documentary, this is the film for you: Half concert, half conscience-raiser.

All the film's profits will be donated to charity. Go here to see the trailer, and find it in a theater this fall!

August 17, 2008

Is San Francisco Morally Obtuse?

Those in Congress and the Justice Department who think that human trafficking has little to do with the United States and less to do with prostitution, and that it should just be regarded as a local and state issue, might read about what is happening in San Francisco. Debra Saunders bravely nails it (as usual).

This should be a wake up call for any one who sincerely cares about human rights.

August 13, 2008

White House Fumbles Again on Human Trafficking

Let's just say, because we are part of the small minority that still likes the President , that this situation disappoints. Would it kill the White House staff to consult their friends?

August 3, 2008

Alexander Solzhenitsyn, A Great Russian Soul

One writer among the Soviet dissidents did the most to force Western awareness of the true nature of the communist regime during our complacent years of the 60s and 70s, and he was the same writer who did a huge service to the West in 1978 when, accepting an honorary degree at Harvard, he had the courage to tell the truth about Western materialism and spiritual decay. He was sage yet again in his characterization of the new Russian Federation in recent years. He was a stern but enormously good prophet.

Alexander Solzhenitsyn's death at 89 was just announced.

His last interview, with Der Spiegel, was discussed on Discovery Institute's Russiablog only a year ago.

July 16, 2008

Children On Death Row for Thought Crimes: Only in Iran

Shayan Arya is part of the remarkable Iranian community in this country that numbers over a million and is unmatched for its love of freedom and support for the democratic institutions of America, its adoptive country. The activism of Arya and his colleagues is an underappreciated asset in the U.S. struggle against the mad mullah regime in Tehran.

Here is a significant article by Arya and Nir Boms on the horrific state of human rights in Iran.

July 11, 2008

The Sad Story on Slavery

Discovery Senior Fellow John R. Miller, a long time friend and ally, as well as a much-appreciated colleague, has an oped in The New York Times today that ought to embarrass the Bush Administration. It takes up over half the oped page, so let's see whether the White House and Congress even notice.

Miller tells as story that is sad on several levels: 1) The slavery issue is real and dramatic and yet is is still under-reported. Opponents of the Wilberforce Act of 2008--the anti-slavery bill now stuck in Sen. Biden's committee in Congress--seem to see it mainly as a U.S. issue, but it is world-wide and much more serious overseas in Africa and Asia. You can't just wish this subject away and claim you care about human rights. 2) Some supposedly sophisticated people insist on thinking that forced prostitution is such an ambiguous concept that it should not be included in the slavery issue. But they simply don't grapple with the facts of how young girls, even in this country, are dragooned into demoralizing, dangerous and often-fatal "sex work." 3) President Bush really does deserve credit for moving forward on this issue, but he now either is backing away from more serious enforcement or his own White House staff (not to mention the Department of Justice that is holding up the Wilberforce Act) is not keeping him abreast of developments on the issue. 4) There may be valid bureaucratic reasons for resisting some of the provisions in the new act, but, if so, the Administration and Sen. Biden in the Senate aren't ventilating them. There is no move to engage the bill's proponents in discussions about a reasonable compromise. Conservatives in particular should be sympathetic to the objectives of the Paperwork Reduction Act, but conservatives and liberals alike should be willing to find reasonable ways to deal with that act within the policy goal of combating involuntary servitude.

I suspect that the Administration has been distracted on this issue, what with the crisis in the Middle East, Iran and North Korea, not to mention the economy. The bureaucrats at DOJ are left to call the shots. Surely it is time for the big boys to get into this matter. What is missing is some clear direction from the top.

John Miller has a longer piece on slavery that just came out in The Wilson Quarterly.

One final thought. As president of Discovery Institute I am moved to action by the question John Paul II asked when he was a bishop in Communist Poland and later, in different contexts, when he became pope: "What does it mean to be human?" This is a question that really might be addressed to all people in Western societies today. It applies to the slavery question, where numerically there are more people--many of them children--physically forced into demeaning or degrading service than even at the height of the slave trade in the 17th and 18th centuries. Why should such people be regarded, in effect, as sub-human?

The question applies, also, to unborn children, aged people in their terminal phase of illness (targets now of euthanasia in the Netherlands and assisted suicide in this country), or embryonic stem cells (if they are not human, what are they?). Meanwhile, the reductionist morality of the Cultural Left is trying to assign human rights--literally--to great apes! This is a program promoted by such worthies as Richard Dawkins and Stephen Pinker and various radical animal rights activists. Get it? People are losing their exceptional dignity, while animals are elevated to human status. Somehow, human dignity always suffers in this exchange.

The key participants in Discovery Institute's program on Human Rights and Bioethics are John Miller, Wesley J. Smith and John West. The issues they handle are separable and it should not be assumed that each is responsible for the views of the others.

Nonetheless, it is hard not to see the linkages. Further, one would have to be obtuse not to see the way that Darwinian science (covered by the Discovery Center for Science and Culture, has contributed to the confusion over "what it means to be human".

I don't shirk here from telling you that this program is badly underfunded at Discovery Institute and is mostly absent in the attention of other think tanks. If you know anyone who would like to help us, please let us know!

March 28, 2008

A Crime So Monstrous

Skinner%20Cover.jpg
A packed crowd heard author E. Benjamin Skinner speak about his just-released book, A Crime So Monstrous, last night at the Discovery Institute offices in Washington, D.C. Discovery senior fellow and former U.S. Ambassador-at-Large on Human Trafficking, John R. Miller, was present and spoke for a few minutes, too.

Hundreds of thousands of human beings are sold into bondage in the world each year, often with the connivance of governments and even more often while governments look on with seeming indifference. Like most evils that go under-noticed, this one suffers from the problem that everyone says he is opposed to slavery, but few, indeed, are willing to do anything to stop it. In a strange way, if some group were to defend the practice there might be cause for a debate and, through that, a heightening of public awareness.

Do you ever look back on the slavery of yore, or the anti-semitism in Europe that preceeded the Nazis, and wonder, why didn't people pay attention? Well, our grandchildren may well ask the same of us.

Free press has brought out the book. I am just getting into it myself and already can recommend it to Discovery Blog visitors.

October 18, 2007

Wise Words on Turkey and Genocide

My mother was told as a small girl, "Eat your dinner. Think of all the starving Armenians."

The terrible events of 1915 made that big an impact in America, even during the competing drama of World War I--the war that precipitated so much of the madness of the 20th century in Germany and Russia and even now infects the Middle East.

It is appalling, however, that this history of 93 years ago should be exploited for political advantage in the U.S. Congress. It is not just stupid, it is hypocritical. Why, for example, would prominent members of Congress who present themselves as passionate defenders of Israel, want to hurt both the United States and Israel by alienating Turkey, one of the few friends Israel, as well as the U.S., has in the Muslim world?

To compare the Armenian genocide with the Nazi genocide of the Jews doesn't really provide an explanation. This happened so long ago that there is no one alive who could have been remotely guilty of the crimes involved. There barely is anyone still alive who suffered the persecution then. And there are many current crimes being committed where the guilty are around and prominent and certainly unrepentant, starting with Al Qaeda and other terrorists and terror sponsors. Why do Congressman who press the grievances of a former century happen to be among the same ones who downplay the crimes against humanity in our own time? The Armenians were (and are) Christians. But there is hideous persecution of Christians going on in many lands right now. Why so little interest in them? The topic barely makes the news.

That is what is hypocritical: seeking satisfaction against one generation in Turkey for crimes of their ancestors, while ignoring the crimes taking place before your own eyes!

(Read Mustafa Akyol's fine article on the topic here:
Click here to read Mustafa Akyol's article "An Open Letter to the Aremenian Diaspora" in today's Turkish Daily News.

June 19, 2007

Bell Rings on Slavery Issue

Patrick Bell of Discovery Institute just won third place in the NASPAA You Tube one minute public policy challenge for his video on modern sex slavery.

The topic happens to be a special interest of Discovery Sr. Fellow John Miller (former U.S. ambassador for human trafficking issues). Music was written and performed by Yuri Mamchur, also of Discovery.

In his spare time--so to speak--Patrick Bell is a graduate student in public administration at Seattle University.

March 20, 2007

We Need to Recapture the Spirit of Wilberforce to Fight Slavery in Our Own Time

(John R. Miller is a former U.S. Congressman from Seattle and chairman of the Discovery Institute Board of Directors. Most recently he was the U.S. Ambassador at Large on Modern Day Slavery. He now teaches international relations at George Washington University's Elliott School and is a Senior Fellow for International Affairs at Discovery Institute.)

"Amazing Grace" continues to do a good business in American movie houses and is destined for a creditable run elsewhere in the world and then in DVDs for families, students and churches. Although abbreviated in the film's telling, "Amazing Grace" is a great story, and well told. Through the film many millions will be introduced to William Wilberforce, the evangelical reformer who spent a large part of his life seeking the abolition of the slave trade and pushing the British Admiralty to use force against the slavers. This spring marks the 200th anniversary of Wilberforce's success.

But there is a bittersweet aftermath to this affirmative story: Numerically, there are likely more slaves today than there were in Wilberforce's day. The real shame in this is that more people are not aware of it.

To their credit, the producer, Walden Media, has acknowledged in materials distributed on the Internet, that slavery still exists and that there is plenty of room for modern day Wilberforces.

The existence in every country in the 21st century of slavery comes as a shock to many citizens of this country who believe that slavery ended with the American civil war. It came as a shock to the UN General Assembly when President Bush devoted over twenty per cent of his 2003 speech to that body to the subject of modern day slavery. Of course, legalized slavery did end in the U.S. with the civil war, and legalized slavery has ended in every nation of the world, although in some cases such as Mauritania and Saudi Arabia, legal abolition did not come till the second half of the 20th century.

Unfortunately, today, while slavery is not legalized, it flourishes. The international slave trade along with internal slavery reaches into every country in the world and involves millions. In the so called "advanced" countries, the largest category of slavery is sex slavery linked to prostitution that is either legalized or tolerated. In the Near East the largest category is domestic servitude slavery fed by huge migrations of young women from South Asia. On the Indian subcontinent the largest category is bonded labor slavery of the lowest castes in rice mills, carpet factories and brick kilns. In Uganda and Sri Lanka the largest category is probably child soldier slavery.

Most of the victims are female and a large percentage is girls, making modern day slavery more gender based than race based. Much of the slavery is linked to organized crime and the increased travel and communications that have come with globalization. Except for bonded labor slavery, rarely does one find a victim in her home town; she has been trafficked from another part of the country or across international borders.

Along with greed and attitudes toward gender, inequality of income is a major factor as many, whether impoverished or not, see and hear of material pleasures in other places. A family in Thailand that can support a child, albeit in modest circumstances, sells her to buy a TV. A family in Nigeria looks at televised images of Western Europe and turns its girl over to an "auntie" who takes her to Italy. A high school or college student in Russia reads of a glamorous life in Sweden and answers a deceptive ad.

With all the reading and writing of reports that I did as the U.S. Ambassador at Large on Modern Day Slavery, nothing moved me as much as the meetings I had all over the world with survivors. I did not believe slavery could exist in a democratic country until I met Katya in The Netherlands. Katya had left a failing marriage and a two year old daughter in the Czech Republic when a "friend of the family" suggested she go to Amsterdam where she could make money waiting on tables. Driven with other young women by a Czech trafficker across Europe who linked up with a Dutch trafficker, Katya's passport was soon taken from her and she was driven to a brothel in Amsterdam's red light district.

"I came to work in a restaurant", said Katya. "You will work here", said the traffickers, "you owe us 20,000 Euros for bringing you across Europe".

"I won't do things like this", replied Katya. "Yes you will", replied the traffickers, "if you want your two year old daughter back home to live". And so Katya succumbed as many have in Western Europe, Japan, the United States and other destination countries.

Then there was Lord, the Laotian teenager who I met in Thailand. At the age of eleven, Lord had been sold by her parents and resold and finally deposited across the border in a Bangkok embroidery factory. Unable to go out, given minimal food and clothing and no wages, Lord with other children sewed fourteen hours a day. Beaten when she rebelled, Lord was banished to a closet as an example and the slave owner poured industrial chemicals on her.

Or there was Nour, the young Indonesian woman who came to Saudi Arabia to help support her family at home and found herself locked in a home and beaten to a point where she lost fingers and toes from gangrene.

Katya, Lord and Nour are the lucky ones. Katya was rescued with the help of a friendly taxi driver, Lord was rescued by the police, and Nour was discovered at a hospital where she had been taken by her "owners" for "repairs".

While the estimates of those in slavery run into the many millions (there can be no exact count for victims do not stand in line and raise their hands), there are signs of belated progress. When the U.S. passed its anti-trafficking law in 2000, there were only a handful of countries with such laws. In just the last two years, eighty countries have passed such legislation. Several years ago the number of traffickers sent to jail numbered in the hundreds. Last year according to the U.S. State Department, the figure was 4,700. Hundreds of shelters have been set up to care for survivors over the last few years all around the world. The news media coverage of modern day slavery (and the growth in public awareness) has risen exponentially. And yet so much more remains to be done in every country, including the U.S.

What can Americans do to carry on Wilberforce's legacy? Find out if there is a nongovernmental organization caring for survivors in your community. Find out if the local police are sensitive to and search out victims. Find out if local anti-pimping ordinances are being enforced. Find out if a local church or civic group helps fight modern day slavery abroad. Find out from the state legislator in your district whether there is a state anti-trafficking in persons law. Join with friends or local churches or civic groups to accomplish the foregoing objectives.

Wilberforce and his friends thought they had abolished slavery in the British Empire. Frederick Douglass and Harriet Beecher Stowe thought they had abolished slavery in the United States. They nurtured a 19th century abolitionist movement, We, their descendants, must nurture a 21st century abolitionist movement.

February 26, 2007

Days of "Amazing Grace"

The new film on the abolition of slavery, "Amazing Grace", opened in only 791 theaters around the country this past weekend and managed to gain a 10th ranking in national attendance share nonetheless. It deserves to rank first.

Produced by a remarkably prescient entrepreneurial team at Walden Media, "Amazing Grace" is going to be a hit long term. It has appeal to all kinds of film goers, but it's especially going to be welcomed by Christians. So far, "Amazing Grace" is perceived mainly as a film about slavery. But it is much more. The life of William Wilberforce 200 years ago changed Western civilization. His campaign against slavery in the British Empire helped ignite the abolitionist movement in the United States, and from the issue of slavery the evangelical movement in religion began a peaceful change of spirit within the English Speaking world. We experience its reverberations today in nearly all social reform causes. Before Wilberforce, England society was in a slough of despond. The politically protected slave trade contributed to the demoralization of culture, economics and even the church. London was beset by high crime rates, rampant vice and the kind of poverty that caused the upper and middle classes simply to look away. After Wilberforce and his example, a "revolution in manners" --a campaign against public vice--ushered in the Victorian Era. Since the 1920's that era has been maligned by our "anything goes" culture, but, in historical fact, it inspired Christians to take up social reform in a decadent time and revived the morale of the West for nearly a century.

"Amazing Grace" has the potential to stir controversy in our time. It forces us to ask, what constitutes reform? Does it start with the individual or society? What motivates the reformer? In a Wall Street Journal review article (password required) Charlotte Allen argues that the film underplays the significance of the religious motivation of Wilberforce and also neglects the "revolution of manners" that Wilberforce helped create.

There also has been some concern that the film and its promotional material fail to acknowledge the new forms of slavery that exist in our own time. Slavery today actually afflicts more people--some 21 million according to the U.S. State Depart Office on Human Trafficking that was headed until recently by Ambassador John R. Miller--than at the height of the cross-Atlantic slave trade two centuries ago. Miller is now teaching about human rights at George Washington University in Washington, D.C. and serves as a Discovery Institute senior fellow in Seattle. After previewing "Amazing Grace" he was sufficiently concerned that the educational and other materials for the film didn't emphasize sufficiently the reality of contemporary slavery--especially sex slavery-- that he contacted the film producers to ask them to rectify the situation. To their great credit, they did so, and now students and other interested groups are about to get a real education in the modern scourge of slavery that--ironically!--is almost as ignored again in the early 21st century as old fashioned slavery was in the early 19th.

As for the Christian message in the film, while it doesn't hit you over the head, it definitely is there. You can't listen to the great hymn (you know, the one that seems to be played at every other wedding and funeral) without understanding the religious message of repentance and salvation. To some degree, it resonates with practically everyone. The revelation to the audience that the hymn was written by a Wilberforce mentor and Anglican divine, the Rev. John Newton, who had been a slaver in his youth and was totally autobiographical in his lyrics ("Amazing grace...that saved a wretch like me"), is presented in a way that finally will stick in the public mind. People will think of it whenever they sing "Amazing Grace," which, as I say, is often.

In any case, there already has been a flood of praise for "Amazing Grace" from all kinds of Christians, and from Jews, as well. That some likely non-religious movie reviewers have lauded it, too, suggests that "Amazing Grace" is not just preaching to the choir.

P.S. I wonder if anyone else has noted the poignancy of Albert Finney's role as the gnarled old Rev. John Newton, a voice for reform in the English church. Forty four years ago Finney was the handsome young star of the hit film, Tom Jones, based on the Fielding novel that, among other things, satirized the hypocrisy of the English church in the 18th century.

(NOTE: Seattle area residents are invited to attend a discussion of "Amazing Grace" at 6:30 p.m. tomorrow at Discovery Institute headquarters, 1511 third Avenue (at Pike). A $10 donation is requested to cover a light dinner of pizza and refreshments. To see the film in conjunction with the discussion, try the Regal Meridian 16 Theater, four blocks east at 7th and Pike Streets. The 4:30 p.m. matinee costs $7.75 at the box office. No prepaid tickets. Reservations for the subsequent discussion at Discovery can be made with Janet Markwardt at Discovery, (206) 292-0401, extension 111.)

October 25, 2006

Miller Leaves State Department to Teach at GW, Rejoin Discovery Institute

An old friend whom I have known since even before we served together on the Seattle City Council three decaades ago and who went on to serve in Congress for ten years; who helped establish the Cascadia Project at DI in 1992 and served as Chairman of the Board of the institute from 1999-2002, is now about to complete his fourth outstanding and productive year at the State Department as Ambassador-at-Large for Trafficking in Persons. He has decided that that's enough.

Americans concerned about the blight of human slavery in the 21st century and who have rallied behind Amb. Miller's "abolition movement" will be sad to see him step down. But most ambassadorial posts last only three or so years, and this one has to be one of the most grueling--hard on the body and a trial for the soul. John has visited scores of countries personally, meeting with victims, advocacy groups and governments. He has had notable successes in helping curb the modern expression of an age-old evil that most people hardly imagine still continues.

John's sincerity and passion, and his integrity, are unmistakable. He managed to please the President and Secretary of State--whose "vision and compassion" he praised in his resignation letter--while retaining the full confidence of leaders of both political parties in Congress. Conservatives have cheered him and Nicholas Kristof of the New York Times has saluted his valor. His annual reports to Congress and the public caused enough embarrassment to leaders in other countries that they decided to get personally involved in solving the problems John and his dedicated staff have uncovered. That's why Discovery Institute honored Amb. Miller with its Humanitarian Award two years ago and the Wilberforce Forum (named after the great anti-slavery crusader of early 19th century Britain) gave him a similar award.

Public service in such an intense environment goes fast. John decided several months ago that he would quit after four years--a long time in such a job. He departs December 15.

Several universities have sought Amb. Miller's services and he has just decided to accept a research professorship at the Elliott School of International Affairs at George Washington University in Washington, D.C. He also has decided to accept my offer to become the first Discovery Institute Distinguished Fellow in International Relations and Human Rights. Our office in D.C. will facilitate the relationship, but John also will appear "back home" in Seattle from time to time.

Human rights are at least as much threatened today than at any recent time, whether it is the censorship of political dissent in police states or the soft toleration of cruel institutions of coerced prostitution in supposedly advance democracies. Ambassador Miller's service, though private now, will still have an open field in which to operate.

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