Saturday, 30 July 2016

Turkey The Coming Flash Point For Militant Islam

Failed Coup Signals the End Turkish of Democracy

Paul Buchanan & Kate Nicholls
NZ Herald

As students of comparative civil-military relations, we were surprised to read the Herald's editorial, "Coup's failure hopeful sign for democracy." We see no positives resulting from the aborted coup. Instead we foresee the death throes of a painstakingly crafted secular, albeit imperfect, democracy, that has been under siege since the election of Recep Erdogan as Prime Minister in 2003 and President in 2014.

The cornerstones of Turkish democracy were an apolitical professional military, an independent secular judiciary, and a multiparty electoral system characterised by a separation of powers and a system of checks and balances between the executive and legislative branches.

Granted, Kemal Ataturk's nationalism, which bound the country together in the wake of the collapse of the Ottoman Empire, often worked to stifle free speech and repress ethnic minorities, notably the Kurds. Turkish democracy has also always been "guarded", meaning that the military has on occasion acted as unelected veto-player. Yet since the rise of Erdogan to power 16 years ago, things have gotten incrementally but steadily worse.

Daily Devotional

Why We Don’t Lose Heart

Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day. (2 Corinthians 4:16)

John Piper

Paul can’t see the way he used to (and there were no glasses). He can’t hear the way he used to (and there were no hearing aids). He doesn’t recover from beatings the way he used to (and there were no antibiotics). His strength, walking from town to town, doesn’t hold up the way it used to. He sees the wrinkles in his face and neck. His memory is not as good. And he admits that this is a threat to his faith and joy and courage.

But he doesn’t lose heart. Why?

He doesn’t lose heart because his inner man is being renewed. How?

The renewing of his heart comes from something very strange: it comes from looking at what he can’t see.
We look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal. (2 Corinthians 4:18)
This is Paul’s way of not losing heart: looking at what you can’t see. What did he see?

A few verses later in 2 Corinthians 5:7, he says, “We walk by faith, not by sight.” This doesn’t mean that he leaps into the dark without evidence of what’s there. It means that for now the most precious and important realities in the world are beyond our physical senses.

We “look” at these unseen things through the gospel. We strengthen our hearts — we renew our courage — by fixing our gaze on the invisible, objective truth that we see in the testimony of those who saw Christ face to face.

Regrets--I've Had a Few

The Silent Grief

The book of Malachi tells us that God hates divorce.  So, it seems, do many who have been through the divorce washing machine.  It has become a case of "divorce in haste, repent in leisure".  An article in the NZ Herald profiles the lingering post-divorce regret that many experience and suffer in New Zealand.  

For our overseas readers, New Zealand has a liberal divorce construct.  You can divorce with less discomfort than enduring a winter cold.  It is easier to break up a marriage than de-incorporate a company, or extract yourself from a business partnership.  In New Zealand, the bar is so low and such is the social and legal disrespect for marriage that the State has introduced a plethora of competing variants, so that everyone can slide down the snake to the bottom of the ladder with equal facility.

So, we have social relationships called "partnerships", "de-facto's", people "living together", homosexual marriage, serial monogamy, serial polygamy, and anything else that takes your fancy. Two lesbians living together with a budgie constitute a family in New Zealand.

Friday, 29 July 2016

Letter from Israel (About Persecution of Christians in Egypt)

Violence Against Egypt’s Christians Escalates

Breitbart Jerusalem

(AFP) – Violence against Egypt’s Coptic Orthodox Christian minority, one of the largest and oldest groups of Christians in the Middle East, has escalated at an alarming rate in the last several weeks, with little official response.

Since late May, Christians in Egypt have been the victims of at least a dozen sectarian attacks, and activists and politicians say the government has done little to stop it, despite Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah el-Sisi’s early overtures to the Coptic community and their staunch support of him.  “It is escalating in a very short time,” said Mina Thabet, programme director for minorities and vulnerable groups with the Egyptian Commission of Rights and Freedoms.

Among the assaults was one in late May on an elderly Coptic woman in Minya, who was stripped, beaten and paraded naked because of a rumour that her son was having a relationship with a Muslim woman. Seven homes in the town were set ablaze.  Victims said the police response was late and insufficient.

Sectarian tensions heated up even more on June 30, three years to the day after the beginning of the protests that led to the overthrow of Egypt’s first democratically elected president, Mohammed Morsi, when a Coptic priest was gunned down in Al Arish, North Sinai in an attack claimed by the IS group. The group accused the priest of “waging a war against Islam”.  As gruesome as that attack was, the majority of the incidents have not taken place in the IS stronghold in northern Sinai, but in the Governorate of Minya, which is nestled along the Nile river about 250 kilometres south of Cairo.

Christian capital

Minya has the highest concentration of Christians in Egypt, with some estimates as high as 50 percent of the population there.

Daily Devotional

Screwtape on Marriage

C. S. Lewis

The Enemy’s [God's] demand on humans takes the form of a dilemma; either complete abstinence or unmitigated monogamy. Ever since our Father’s [Satan's] first great victory, we have rendered the former very difficult to them. The latter, for the last few centuries, we have been closing up as a way of escape. We have done this through the poets and novelists by persuading the humans that a curious, and usually shortlived, experience which they call ‘being in love’ is the only respectable ground for marriage; that marriage can, and ought to, render this excitement permanent; and that a marriage which does not do so is no longer binding.

This idea is our parody of an idea that came from the Enemy. The whole philosophy of Hell rests on recognition of the axiom that one thing is not another thing, and, specially, that one self is not another self. My good is my good and your good is yours. What one gains another loses. Even an inanimate object is what it is by excluding all other objects from the space it occupies; if it expands, it does so by thrusting other objects aside or by absorbing them. A self does the same. With beasts the absorption takes the form of eating; for us, it means the sucking of will and freedom out of a weaker self into a stronger. ‘To be’ means ‘to be in competition’.

The Screwtape Letters. Copyright © 1942, C. S. Lewis Pte. Ltd. Copyright restored © 1996 C. S. Lewis Pte. Ltd. All rights reserved. Used with permission of HarperCollins Publishers. A Year With C.S. Lewis: Daily Readings from His Classic Works. Copyright © 2003 by C. S. Lewis Pte. Ltd. All rights reserved. Used with permission of HarperCollins Publishers.

One-Legged Solutions

The Maori Sole-Parent Problem

Allow us to use racial and ethnic categories for a new minutes.  It is generally known that Maori have substantial problems and issues.  But we forget, or overlook the size and scale of the problem.  Then, every so often, it shows forth once again in startling, appalling relief.

Here is a vignette which we came across the other day: a breakdown by ethnicity of Sole Parents receiving taxpayer (government) welfare in New Zealand.

The first, expected, characteristic is that the Sole Parent category in the table is overwhelmingly female.  No surprises there.

But when broken down by ethnicity, we find a startling bit of data: there are nearly 60 percent more  Maori women on the Sole Parent benefit, than NZ European women.  In June 2016, there were 31,040 Maori women receiving the Sole Parent benefit, compared to 19,753 NZ Europeans.  Yet Maori represent only 15 percent of the entire NZ population.  Of the 60,000 women on Sole Parent benefits, half of them are Maori.

Thursday, 28 July 2016

Beyond the Bounds of Rational Behaviour

Familiarity Breeding Contempt

We suppose it's time to moot the possibility that Donald Trump may be a sandwich short of a picnic.  Not all there, if you see where we are travelling.  If he is "all there" he may possibly rank as one of the most self-absorbed people on the planet.

One person "familiar with his thinking", at the end of the Republican Convention, said Trump was ruminating about how he would get revenge on Ted Cruz and John Kasich.  His reported ramblings savoured of bitterness.  Kasich and Cruz had apparently committed the unforgivable sin: they had refused to kiss the ring.
Donald Trump plans to create and fund super-PACs specifically aimed at ending the political careers of Ted Cruz and John Kasich should either run for office again, after both snubbed the Republican nominee during his party's convention this week, a person familiar with Trump’s thinking told Bloomberg Politics on Friday.

The plan would involve Trump investing millions of his own money --perhaps $20 million or more -- in one or two outside groups about six months before their respective election days if Texas Senator Cruz or Ohio Governor Kasich stand for office again. The person said Trump is willing to set up two separate super-PACs – one for Cruz and one for Kasich – and put millions into each.

The person also said that Trump would be willing to invest tens of millions more if necessary to ensure his former competitors didn't win another race.

Daily Devotional

Our Prayers are His Prayers

TO MARY WILLIS SHELBURNE: On rejoicing over answered prayer; and on our prayers being God’s prayers.

C. S. Lewis

6 November 1953

Oh I am glad, I am glad. And here’s a thing worth recording. Of course I have been praying for you daily, as always, but latterly have found myself doing so with much more concern and especially about 2 nights ago, with such a strong feeling how very nice it would be, if God willed, to get a letter from you with good news. And then, as if by magic (indeed it is the whitest magic in the world) the letter comes to-day. Not (lest I should indulge in folly) that your relief had not in fact occurred before my prayer, but as if, in tenderness for my puny faith, God moved me to pray with especial earnestness just before He was going to give me the thing. How true that our prayers are really His prayers: He speaks to Himself through us.

I am also most moved at hearing how you were supported through the period of anxiety. For one is sometimes tempted to think that if He wanted us to be as un-anxious as the lilies of the field He really might have given us a constitution more like theirs! But then when the need comes He carries out in us His otherwise impossible instructions. In fact He always has to do all the things—all the prayers, all the virtues. No new doctrine, but newly come home to me.

The Collected Letters of C. S. Lewis, Volume III: Narnia, Cambridge, and Joy 1950-1963. Copyright © 2007 by C. S. Lewis Pte. Ltd. All rights reserved. Used with permission of HarperCollins Publishers. Yours, Jack: Spiritual Direction from C. S. Lewis. Copyright © 2008 by C. S. Lewis Pte. Ltd. All rights reserved. Used with permission of HarperCollins Publishers.

Much Ado About Very Little

Brexit Contagion

When the British people were considering how they might vote over Brexit, the hen house suddenly flew open and Chicken Littles ran squawking down every highway and street, past every hamlet.  If Britain voted to leave, calamity upon calamity would result.  The very sky would fall in.  

One such prophesied calamity was that a recession, if not depression, would descend upon the UK economy.  In matters economic, the Governor of the Bank of England, Mark Carney was one of the loudest doomsters, declaring that the UK economy would suffer greatly, were the UK to leave.

To be sure, once the vote to leave was successful, the UK sharemarket went south, along with most other bourses around the world.  But markets react to fear and greed.  In this case fear--heightened by the expectation that Brexit would be voted down--caused pension fund managers to hit the "sell" button.  Within days, however, the markets had returned to pre-Brexit levels.  What was that all about?  Much ado about very little.

And what are we hearing now?

Wednesday, 27 July 2016

Thatcher Redux?

Early Days And Easy Points

It's early days for Theresa May, the new British Prime Minister, but at times she appears to channel Margaret Thatcher. The following vid is an amusing riposte to the Labour Leader, Jeremy Corbyn.


The real question remains open and unanswered.  May is a reluctant Brexiteer.  The real risk is that she will lead and push Britain into the worst of all outcomes--independence from the EU, but with so many ties and obligations left in place that the UK will be as hamstrung as ever, a subject to EU suzerainty, with even less leverage than before.

The French PM has already thrown down a gauntlet: no free trade with the EU, without open borders for immigrants.  We have yet to see how much of an Iron Lady Theresa May turns out to be--and in particular, whether she has a real commitment to regaining British sovereignty, or whether she is a closet and committed internationalist.

Daily Devotional

Holy Flight

"He left his garment in her hand, and fled, and got him out."  Genesis 39:12

Charles H. Spurgeon

In contending with certain sins there remains no mode of victory but by flight. The ancient naturalists wrote much of basilisks, whose eyes fascinated their victims and rendered them easy victims; so the mere gaze of wickedness puts us in solemn danger. He who would be safe from acts of evil must haste away from occasions of it. A covenant must be made with our eyes not even to look upon the cause of temptation, for such sins only need a spark to begin with and a blaze follows in an instant. Who would wantonly enter the leper's prison and sleep amid its horrible corruption? He only who desires to be leprous himself would thus court contagion. If the mariner knew how to avoid a storm, he would do anything rather than run the risk of weathering it. Cautious pilots have no desire to try how near the quicksand they can sail, or how often they may touch a rock without springing a leak; their aim is to keep as nearly as possible in the midst of a safe channel.

This day I may be exposed to great peril, let me have the serpent's wisdom to keep out of it and avoid it. The wings of a dove may be of more use to me today than the jaws of a lion. It is true I may be an apparent loser by declining evil company, but I had better leave my cloak than lose my character; it is not needful that I should be rich, but it is imperative upon me to be pure. No ties of friendship, no chains of beauty, no flashings of talent, no shafts of ridicule must turn me from the wise resolve to flee from sin. The devil I am to resist and he will flee from me, but the lusts of the flesh, I must flee, or they will surely overcome me. O God of holiness preserve thy Josephs, that Madam Bubble bewitch them not with her vile suggestions. May the horrible trinity of the world, the flesh, and the devil, never overcome us!

A Quiet Revolution

Good News Day

It's not very often you see press releases like the one below.  We suggest a good dose of savouring the moment might be in order.

5,000 More People Independent of Benefits

Thursday, 21 July 2016, 10:19 am
Press Release: New Zealand Government

Hon Jo Goodhew
Acting Minister for Social Development 21 July 2016

Acting Social Development Minister Jo Goodhew says the number of people receiving a main benefit has continued to fall year on year, with the latest figures the lowest for any June quarter since 2008. “The number of people receiving a main benefit has fallen by 5,172 (or 1.8 per cent) in the last 12 months, with those on Sole Parent Support continuing to drive the strong downward trend,” Mrs Goodhew says.  [Emphasis, ours]

“This is the first quarter since the $790 million Child Hardship Package came into effect, raising benefit rates by $25 a week after tax for those with dependent children, and increasing obligations for sole parents.  [Emphasis, ours]   “Sole Parents have shown they are willing and able to move into independence, with a reduction of 965 in the last quarter, or 3,818 in the last year in the numbers receiving Sole Parent Support.

Tuesday, 26 July 2016

Douglas Wilson's Letter From Moscow


Douglas Wilson

So Ted Cruz refrained from endorsing Donald Trump last night, and so my respect for him remains high. I appreciate it deeply. If he had endorsed Trump, then my support for Cruz would have gone the way of the woolly mammoth. The pressure on Cruz to cave must have been enormous, as can be ascertained from the outraged reactions to this failure to kiss the ring.

The issue is power versus principle. Trump has won the Republican nomination, and he is in a position to call a number of shots, particularly within the party apparatus. Cruz will definitely pay a price for this, but I think it will be acute and short term. Long term I think that Cruz is ahead of the game.

Daily Devotional

Jesus Keeps His Sheep

“Simon, Simon, behold, Satan demanded to have you, that he might sift you like wheat, but I have prayed for you that your faith may not fail. And when you have turned again, strengthen your brothers.” (Luke 22:31–32)

John Piper

Though Peter failed miserably, the prayer of Jesus preserved him from utter ruin. He was brought to bitter weeping and restored to the joy and boldness of Pentecost. So Jesus is interceding for us today that our faith might not fail (Romans 8:34).

Jesus promised that his sheep would be preserved and never perish. “My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me. I give them eternal life, and they will never perish, and no one will snatch them out of my hand” (John 10:27–28).

The reason for this is that God will work to preserve the faith of the sheep. “He who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ” (Philippians 1:6).

We are not left to ourselves to fight the fight of faith. “It is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure” (Philippians 2:13).

You have the assurance of God’s Word that, if you are his child, he will “equip you with everything good that you may do his will, working in us that which is pleasing in his sight, through Jesus Christ” (Hebrews 13:21).

Our endurance in faith and joy is finally and decisively in the hands of God. Yes, we must fight. But this very fight is what God “works in us.” And he most certainly will do it, for “whom he justified he also glorified” (Romans 8:30).

He will lose none of those he has brought to faith and justified.

Chinese Truculence.

No Advantage.  Only Losses.

China risks being cast as a "rogue state".  The occasion is the dispute over the Spratly Islands.  China is riding roughshod over its neighbours--taking on the mien of a bully.  It is demonstrating, either in ignorance or in deliberate intent, that it is not committed to the rule of (international) law.  

A UN international court has ruled in favour of the Philippines.
In the U.N. tribunal’s ruling, China’s claims to virtually the entirety of the South China Sea were dismissed by the 5-member tribunal as having no historical basis. It was also determined that the multiple artificial islands that have been built by and used as bases by the Chinese military do not constitute territory entitled to zones of economic exclusivity. Rather, they were found to be in violation of the sovereignty of the Philippines.  [Epoch Times]
China did not like the judgment, so it attacked the integrity of the court.  It said that the court was stacked against China; it was made up of judges hailing out of Europe.  Therefore, the decision was clearly part of a western plot.  This is the sort of thing one would have expected from Cuba (in former days) or more recently, from North Korea.

Monday, 25 July 2016

Putting Christians to Shame

Muslims Being Counted On Transgender Issues 

Christians Hide

For the church to be salt and light will require pastors who are prepared to contend with the brutal reality that salt stings wounds, and light blinds those who are committed to darkness.

By Kaeley Triller
The Federalist

By the time I resigned myself to the fact that I was going to be fired, I had already cycled through all five stages of grief in rapid succession, the majority of my time being stuck in the bargaining phase: “Please, God. If you let me stay, I promise to conquer my apathy and start that office prayer group I’ve been avoiding” or “But, God, this place needs more Christians, and I’m a single mom. Surely you don’t want me to leave.”

Deep in my gut, my conscience was stirring, wrestling the ultimate bargain that seemed to somehow have become my life’s theme: Could I afford to speak up, knowing I would pay for it, or could I bite my tongue and keep my job? It should have been a relatively easy answer, but emotion and uncertainty plagued me.

I spent more than one night face-down on the bathroom floor, throwing my dramatic self before God and begging him for the direction he had already provided in spades. I just couldn’t still my anxiety long enough to hear it until one night while tucking my kids into bed and singing them to sleep. There, in the darkness, with chubby silhouetted arms stretched out toward heaven, their little voices sang out my marching orders with breathtaking clarity: “Hide it under a bushel? No! I’m gonna let it shine. Let it shine, let it shine, let it shine!”

The choice was clear. I could live without my job, but not without a clean conscience. I was fired a few days later but quickly found myself employed as communications director for a statewide campaign to repeal the open locker room rule that had led to my termination in the first place. Having just lost my job of 17 years for defending females’ safety and privacy, it seemed fitting I’d win my new job for the very same reason.

Daily Devotional

As Straw For the Dunghill

"The daughter of Jerusalem hath shaken her head at thee."  Isaiah 37:22

Charles H. Spurgeon

Reassured by the Word of the Lord, the poor trembling citizens of Zion grew bold, and shook their heads at Sennacherib's boastful threats. Strong faith enables the servants of God to look with calm contempt upon their most haughty foes. We know that our enemies are attempting impossibilities. They seek to destroy the eternal life, which cannot die while Jesus lives; to overthrow the citadel, against which the gates of hell shall not prevail. They kick against the pricks to their own wounding, and rush upon the bosses of Jehovah's buckler to their own hurt.

We know their weakness. What are they but men? And what is man but a worm? They roar and swell like waves of the sea, foaming out their own shame. When the Lord ariseth, they shall fly as chaff before the wind, and be consumed as crackling thorns. Their utter powerlessness to do damage to the cause of God and his truth, may make the weakest soldiers in Zion's ranks laugh them to scorn.

Above all, we know that the Most High is with us, and when he dresses himself in arms, where are his enemies? If he cometh forth from his place, the potsherds of the earth will not long contend with their Maker. His rod of iron shall dash them in pieces like a potter's vessel, and their very remembrance shall perish from the earth. Away, then, all fears, the kingdom is safe in the King's hands. Let us shout for joy, for the Lord reigneth, and his foes shall be as straw for the dunghill.

"As true as God's own word is true;
Nor earth, nor hell, with all their crew,
Against us shall prevail.
A jest, and by-word, are they grown;
God is with us, we are his own,
Our victory cannot fail."

Sweden Traverses the Arc

Devolution Before Our Eyes

We were reading a piece on Sweden recently that was entitled, "Sweden Lowers Intelligence Requirement For New Police Officers".  Hardly a promising outlook for Sweden, one would have thought.  However, the body of the article contained some information far more compelling--it offered an explanation as to why Sweden is needing more police officers and so has been considering lowering the entrance requirements..
In the forty years since the Swedish government decided to turn Sweden into a multicultural society, the rate of violent crime, and rape in particular, has soared to unprecedented levels. According to the Gatestone Institute, Sweden is now number two on the global list of rape by country, hitting 66.5 rapes per 100,000 people in 2012, second only to the tiny south African nation of Lesotho.

In 2014, some 6,620 rapes were reported in Sweden, up from 421 reported to the police in 1975, an increase of 1,472 per cent. Violent crime meanwhile has risen by 300 per cent in the same period. [Breitbart London]
If you are wondering which country sits at the top of the list of countries with a rape culture, to which Sweden has become a fast-following second, it is Lesotho, the land-locked state within South Africa.

The politically correct frame adorning most commentary upon Sweden is that it has achieved socialist paradise.  It is offered as a model of Progressivism, a blueprint for how gradualist, Fabian socialism can achieve the best outcomes possible for human society.   Socially liberal in almost all human lusts, wants, and desires, Sweden is also economically prosperous in the sense that one can live quite comfortably without working a day in one's life--so generous are the welfare transfer payments.  There appears to  be little lacking.

Yet, crime is rising.  Rape in particular.

Saturday, 23 July 2016

Admiration For Ted Cruz Remains

In A Party Full Of Cowards, Cruz Stood Apart

If 2016 is a disaster, Cruz will be the only major Republican to emerge from the Trump fiasco with his principles intact.

David Harsanyi

Say what you will about Ted Cruz’s politics or personality, but it takes a special kind of badassery to stand up at a convention — in front of millions of viewers — and unfurl a comprehensive attack on the party’s nominee. It’s also unprecedented. Last night, Cruz gave a commanding and inclusive speech about conservative values. It was so good that the crowd forgot to boo until he was more than halfway finished.  
“Stand and speak and vote your conscience. Vote for candidates up and down the ticket who you trust to defend our freedom.”
“Freedom matters, and I was part of something beautiful.”

All these words were broadsides against Donald Trump’s candidacy. By the end, the crowd tried to drown him out with boos and pro-Trump chants. Cruz’s wife had to be escorted out of the convention center because a mob of Trump fans was threatening her. A man in a donor suite had to be restrained when Cruz walked by. They don’t want something beautiful at the RNC, they want something angry.

Daily Devotional

Some "Rules" About Prayer

31 July 1954

C. S. Lewis

I am certainly unfit to advise anyone else on the devotional life. My own rules are (1) To make sure that, wherever else they may be placed, the main prayers should not be put ‘last thing at night’. (2) To avoid introspection in prayer—I mean not to watch one’s own mind to see if it is in the right frame, but al- ways to turn the attention outwards to God. (3) Never, never to try to generate an emotion by will power. (4) To pray without words when I am able, but to fall back on words when tired or otherwise below par. With renewed thanks. Perhaps you will sometimes pray for me?

The Collected Letters of C. S. Lewis, Volume III: Narnia, Cambridge, and Joy 1950-1963. Copyright © 2007 by C. S. Lewis Pte. Ltd. All rights reserved. Used with permission of HarperCollins Publishers. Yours, Jack: Spiritual Direction from C. S. Lewis. Copyright © 2008 by C. S. Lewis Pte. Ltd. All rights reserved. Used with permission of HarperCollins Publishers.

A Typical Profession of Faith of Our Age

An Apple Not Fallen Far From The Tree

In one of our local blogs, a contributor has taken it upon himself to profess his faith: he is an atheist and he wants all people to share his faith.  

Normally, we would pass this sort of thing by, but his contribution is worth thinking about if for no other reason than he represents the mindset, or we may say "blindset" that characterises so much Unbelief.  Here is a chap who confidently asserts what he believes, but without a skerrick self-awareness.

Here is his profession:
I’m a little worried about God.

Not only does God not exist, the reasons for needing him to exist are fast fading. The human race is approaching the end of its adolescent years and is heading for maturity. We have the ability to control our world. Only a couple of centuries ago, control was local, regional and for some European nations, pan continental. But now we all think in global terms.

Climate change is evidence of our race’s planet wide ability to get things wrong. But most of us believe we have the capacity to end global warming, though the willpower is still lacking. We aren’t waiting for God to step in, as once would have been the case.  [Your NZ]
The lack of self-awareness shows up in not realising that he has just made some statements that are thoroughly and profoundly religious.  This is not at all untypical. It is also getting close to the first signs of sociopathy.

Friday, 22 July 2016

Polar Trifecta

Ironies to the South and the North

A couple of years ago, we were treated to the ironic site of a bunch of climate change Chicken Littles heading off  to the Antarctic in a ship.  The intent was to demonstrate how much global warming had caused the ice in the south pole to attenuate away to, well, almost nothing.  Sadly, the ship became ice-locked.  With great embarrassment, the loonies returned to Australia having become the laughing stock of the world.  Not a bad achievement.

Now the feat is being matched at the North Pole.  Arctic ice we are relentlessly told is shrinking away to nothing due to global warming.  So, yet another "research" ship has set sail to see first hand the extent of ice degradation in the Arctic Sea.  You guessed it.  The ship is ice-bound.
A group of adventurers, sailors, pilots and climate scientists that recently started a journey around the North Pole in an effort to show the lack of ice, has been blocked from further travels by ice.  The Polar Ocean Challenge is taking a two month journey that will see them go from Bristol, Alaska, to Norway, then to Russia through the North East passage, back to Alaska through the North West passage, to Greenland and then ultimately back to Bristol. Their objective, as laid out by their website, was to demonstrate “that the Arctic sea ice coverage shrinks back so far now in the summer months that sea that was permanently locked up now can allow passage through.”

There has been one small hiccup thus-far though: they are currently stuck in Murmansk, Russia because there is too much ice blocking the North East passage the team said didn’t exist in summer months, according to Real Climate Science.  Real Climate Science also provides a graph showing that current Arctic temperatures — despite alarmist claims of the Arctic being hotter than ever — is actually below normal.

The Polar Ocean Challenge team is not the first global warming expedition to be faced with icy troubles. In 2013, an Antarctic research vessel named Akademik Shokalskiy became trapped in the ice, the problem was so severe that they actually had to rescue the 52 crew members.  In 2015 a Canadian ice breaking ship, the CCGS Amundsen, was forced to reroute and help a number of supply ships that had become trapped by ice.  [Daily Caller]

Daily Devotional

Models for Combating Discouragement

My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever. (Psalm 73:26)

John Piper

Literally the verb is simply fail: “My flesh and my heart fail!” I am despondent! I am discouraged! But then immediately he fires a broadside against his despondency: “But God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever.”

The psalmist does not yield. He battles unbelief with counterattack.

In essence, he says, “In myself I feel very weak and helpless and unable to cope. My body is shot and my heart is almost dead. But whatever the reason for this despondency, I will not yield. I will trust God and not myself. He is my strength and my portion.”

The Bible is replete with instances of saints struggling with sunken spirits. Psalm 19:7 says, “The law of the Lord is perfect, reviving the soul.” This is a clear admission that the soul of the saint sometimes needs to be revived. And if it needs to be revived, in a sense it was “dead.”

David says the same thing in Psalm 23:2–3, “He leads me beside still waters. He restores my soul.” The soul of the “man after [God’s] own heart” (1 Samuel 13:14) needs to be restored. It was dying of thirst and ready to fall exhausted, but God led the soul to water and gave it life again.

God has put these testimonies in the Bible so that we might use them to fight the unbelief of despondency.

Soft-Despotism Hardening Up

When Sins are Criminalised

We were staggered to learn that at least one police force in the UK--Nottinghamshire Police--does not have enough to do.  The word is that Mr Plod in the 'shire is sitting in the station twiddling his thumbs, challenged with an acute case of boredom, and wondering if he should pursue another calling
But his inventive superiors, always looking for ways to keep the force busy, have come up with a doozy.  Whistling is about to be criminalised.  That will mean a whole new line of work for Mr Plod and his indolent colleagues.  Whistling in public, apparently, is one manifestation of misogyny.  And, let's be clear, misogyny is a haaaaate crime!
A police force has become the first in Britain to recognise misogyny as a hate crime, in an effort to make the county a safer place for women.  Nottinghamshire Police is recording incidents such as wolf-whistling, street harassment, verbal abuse and taking photographs without consent within the hate crime definition.  It also includes unwanted sexual advances, uninvited physical or verbal contact and using mobile phone to send unwanted messages.  [NZ Herald]
At this point we need to send out a warning to all the gypsy rovers in Nottinghamshire.  No whistling within the auditory orbit of any female--lest you be charged with a hate crime.

Thursday, 21 July 2016

Letter From America (About Japan)

Japan Reverts to Fascism

Tsunami in Japanese politics.

By Josh Gelernter
National Review Online

This week, Japan’s Liberal Democratic Party ("LDP") and its coalition partners won a two-thirds majority in the legislature’s upper house, to go along with their two-thirds majority in the lower house. A two-thirds majority is required in each house to begin the process of amending Japan’s constitution. And amending the constitution is one of the central planks in the LDP’s platform.

The constitution was imposed on Japan by the United States after the Second World War; it has never been amended. Why should it be amended now? As Bloomberg reports, the LDP has pointed out that “several of the current constitutional provisions are based on the Western European theory of natural human rights; such provisions therefore [need] to be changed.”

What has the LDP got against the “Western European theory of natural human rights”? you might ask. Well, dozens of LDP legislators and ministers — including Japan’s prime minister, Shinzo Abe — are members of a radical nationalist organization called Nippon Kaigi, which believes (according to one of its members, Hakubun Shimomura, who until recently was Japan’s education minister) that Japan should abandon a “masochistic view of history” wherein it accepts that it committed crimes during the Second World War. In fact, in Nippon Kaigi’s view, Japan was the wronged party in the war.

Daily Devotional

The Rats Are Always There

C. S. Lewis

We begin to notice, besides our particular sinful acts, our sinfulness; begin to be alarmed not only about what we do, but about what we are.

This may sound rather difficult, so I will try to make it clear from my own case. When I come to my evening prayers and try to reckon up the sins of the day, nine times out of ten the most obvious one is some sin against charity; I have sulked or snapped or sneered or snubbed or stormed. And the excuse that immediately springs to my mind is that the provocation was so sudden and unexpected; I was caught off my guard, I had not time to collect myself.

Now that may be an extenuating circumstance as regards those particular acts: they would obviously be worse if they had been deliberate and premeditated. On the other hand, surely what a man does when he is taken off his guard is the best evidence for what sort of a man he is? Surely what pops out before the man has time to put on a disguise is the truth? If there are rats in a cellar you are most likely to see them if you go in very suddenly. But the suddenness does not create the rats: it only prevents them from hiding.

In the same way the suddenness of the provocation does not make me an ill-tempered man; it only shows me what an ill-tempered man I am. The rats are always there in the cellar, but if you go in shouting and noisily they will have taken cover before you switch on the light.

Mere Christianity. Copyright © 1952, C. S. Lewis Pte. Ltd. Copyright renewed © 1980, C. S. Lewis Pte. Ltd. All rights reserved. Used with permission of HarperCollins Publishers. A Year With C.S. Lewis: Daily Readings from His Classic Works. Copyright © 2003 by C. S. Lewis Pte. Ltd. All rights reserved. Used with permission of HarperCollins Publishers.

So Much Simpler . . .

A Portrait of Courage

In early 1989, Myanmar was in turmoil.  The military government had cracked down hard on political dissent.  Aung San Suu Kyi, carrying her freedom by a slender thread, was touring the country speaking to groups of people, calling for basic human rights to be respected by the government and for free and fair elections.

On the 5th of April 1989 Aung San Suu Kyi was seconds away from being deliberately executed by soldiers.  She was touring the Irrawaddy District when a group of soldiers confronted Suu Kyi and her group.  Their commanding officer told his troops to train their rifles upon them.

Eyewitnesses recounted:
As she (Suu Kyi) was walking down the street with some followers during a campaign visit, six soldiers under the command of an Army captain jumped down from a jeep, assumed a kneeling position, and took aim at her.  She motioned her followers to wait on the sidewalk, and she herself walked down the centre of the road towards the soldiers.  "It seemed so much simpler to provide them with a single target than to bring everyone else in," she said.  [Recounted in Aung San Suu Kyi, Freedom From Fear (New York: The Penguin Group, 1991), p. 340.]
It was at this point that a major arrived just before they fired and countermanded the order, doubtless sparing her life.  Small wonder she remains a living legend in her own country.  Travellers report that one can be sitting in cafes and restaurants, and locals will come up to converse, practising their English.  It is not long before they ask, "And have you heard of our Aung San Suu Kyi?"

Wednesday, 20 July 2016

Obama and Obama Redux (Clinton) Cannot See What is Plainer Than Their Proboscises.

The Annals of Willful Blindness

By failing to take the jihadists’ ideology seriously, we refuse to understand the breadth of the threat we face.

Andrew McCarthy

Well into year eight of Obama, with the prospect of years nine through twelve hanging heavy in the candidacy of Hillary Clinton, it feels like I write the same column every few weeks now. How could it not? Fort Hood, Detroit, Times Square, Portland, Cairo, Benghazi, Boston, Garland, Paris, Chattanooga, Paris again, San Bernardino, Philadelphia, Brussels, Istanbul, Orlando, Istanbul again, Dhaka, and now, Nice. Even if we leave out the more overt war zones in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Iraq, Syria, Yemen, Libya, Somalia, Egypt, and Israel, the jihadist attacks targeting the West are coming in more rapid succession: iconic targets, dates of commemoration, diplomatic outposts, tourists, and citizens just going about their lives.

It is easy to grasp why this is the case. Willful blindness has metastasized from a dangerous dereliction of duty to a system of governance.

It was the wee hours of Friday morning, just after the Bastille Day jihadist mass-murder of at least 84 people. For Mrs. Clinton, that seemed the perfect time to take to Twitter and set the tone of the American response — the kind of resolve we can expect in a third Obama term. So as France retrieved the dead, dying, and maimed from the Promenade des Anglais, where Mohamed Lahouaiej Bouhlel had barreled over them in his truck, she unloaded with the concern foremost in her mind: 
Let’s be clear: Islam is not our adversary. Muslims are peaceful and tolerant people and have nothing whatsoever to do with terrorism.
I know, I know: you’re just relieved that she didn’t find a video to blame this time. Still, Clinton’s remarks are criminally stupid. So much so, they overwhelm even the criminal recklessness for which the FBI has just given her a pass on felony charges. She clearly mishandled mounds of classified information, but it appears doubtful that she read much of it. Or maybe she did read it but learned nothing from it, since politicizing intelligence and purging the Islam from Islamic terrorism is strict Obama-Clinton policy.

Even to one so superficial as Clinton, it should by now be perfectly obvious that that there is no “Islam,” at least not if we are talking about a monolithic belief system.

Daily Devotional

God’s Grace in Spiritual Gifts

As each has received a gift, use it to serve one another, as good stewards of God's varied grace. (1 Peter 4:10)

John Piper

Future grace is “varied grace.” It comes in many colors and shapes and sizes. This is one of the reasons spiritual gifts in the body are so diverse. The prism of your life will refract one of the colors of grace that would never come through my prism.

There are as many future graces as there are needs in the body of Christ — and more. The purpose of spiritual gifts is to receive and dispense the future grace of God to those needs.

But someone may ask, “Why do you take Peter to refer to future grace? Doesn’t a steward manage a household store that is already on hand?”

The main reason I take Peter to refer to future grace is because the next verse illustrates how this works, and the reference there is ongoing supplies of future grace. He says, “Whoever serves . . . by the strength that God supplies — in order that in everything God may be glorified through Jesus Christ” (1 Peter 4:11).

When you fulfill your spiritual gift to serve someone tomorrow, you will be serving “by the strength that God supplies” tomorrow. The word is supplies, not supplied.

God goes on, day-by-day, moment-by-moment, supplying the “strength” in which we minister.

Learning From the Chinese

Back to the Future

When we attended undergrad school we were told that Economics was the dismal science.  Nowadays, this place of notoriety has been taken by an even more dismal science--mathematics.  Thousands of school children are "graduating" from state schools unable to perform even the most basic calculations.  They are functionally innumerate.  

Could this have something to do with how maths is taught?  Well, yes.  Possibly.  The grandparents of our current generation of school pupils left (even rudimentary) schooling knowing how to add, subtract, divide, and multiply.  But now we are more clever than ever.  State schools in New Zealand have adopted an entirely different approach to teaching maths.  The current approach is attuned to the more enlightened age in which we live.  It has students being exposed to mathematical theory from the outset.

"Modern" maths pedagogy centres around problems drawn from real life (to prevent maths being abstract from the get go).
"Mother (er, sorry, the current female caregiver) called all the children to the table (er, correction, to sit on the floor with their electronic devices) and began to hand out the evening's food.  There are five children in the family.  Only three were sitting down with their i-pads, gaming furiously.  How many children were missing?"
But then it goes on to expose the pupils to various methods and ways to solve this problem, each employing different theoretical approaches to get the correct answer.  How sophisticated is that.  From day one, pupils are being prepared for algebraic abstractions.

In reality, most pupils are being prepared for a life condemned to mathematical ignorance.  In reaction to this high brow nonsense, we now hear of a schooling revolution taking place in the UK.