Saturday, 31 January 2009

The More Things Change The More They Stay the Same

Trade War, Anyone?

The Preacher in Ecclesiastes tells us that there is nothing new under the sun. Same old, same old. Deja vu rules.

There have been discussions recently over the risks of a recrudescent protectionism and the damage this is likely to do to the world economy. Adam Smith has posted on this here, under the rubric "The Ghosts of Smoot and Hawley Walk Amongst Us". The reference, of course, is to the disastrous law passed in the US in the depths of the Great Depression which made the situation in the US and world-wide worse many times over. There are signs that the same disastrous error is about to be made again.

For those unfamiliar with Smoot and Hawley, a brief synopsis from Wikipedia is useful.
The Smoot-Hawley Tariff Act (sometimes known as the Hawley-Smoot Tariff Act) was an act signed into law on June 17, 1930, that raised U.S. tariffs on over 20,000 imported goods to record levels. In the United States 1,028 economists signed a petition against this legislation, and after it was passed, many countries retaliated with their own increased tariffs on U.S. goods, and American exports and imports plunged by more than half. In the opinion of some economists, the Smoot-Hawley Act was a catalyst for the severe reduction in U.S.-European trade from its high in 1929 to its depressed levels of 1932 that accompanied the start of the Great Depression.

The Smoot-Hawley Act started a trade war, which in turn damaged substantially all the major economies in the West. But, equally as sinister was President Hoover signing into law the "Buy America Act" in 1933. Now, we in New Zealand might be permitted a wry chuckle at this point, since the "Buy NZ Made" campaign, long a favorite of the protectionist Greens who will reach for any lever or tool to reduce economic growth and prosperity, has just been dumped in New Zealand as an ignominious waste of money.

But the US version of "Buy America" under Hoover was far more serious. It required that all public spending contracts use materials and resources that were completely sourced from within the United States. It was a form of forced autarky. This measure prompted still further retaliatory measures from other nations. It took generations to reverse and substantially remove the madness. (Protectionism still lives, as the failure of the Doha trade round indicates.)

Now, just the other day, the protectionist Democrats in the House added one of those cute little hand grenade clauses in the stimulus bill. Responding to (yes, you guessed it) the steelmakers lobby group, a clause was inserted which will require that no funding will go forward for federal projects unless all the iron and steel used will have been made in the United States.

Now, if this is all that happens, the damage will be limited to the American taxpayer. They will end up paying more for federal construction projects then they otherwise would, since the US cannot produce enough steel to meet requirements. This brilliant piece of legislation will increase demand, shrink supply, and hey presto, the prices of steel and iron will rise in the US, leading to skyrocketing construction costs.

But, these things have a worrying history of spilling over. American trading partners will feel far more emboldened to enact their own trade restricting measures. "Tit for tat" is the normal consequence. International trade barriers can rise very quickly under a wave of populist nationalist sentiment, particularly when coupled with a demagogic induced fear that the crisis is so bad, governments must do--well, something!

There has been an immediate reaction in Australia--which, of course, exports steel to the US. The Sydney Morning Herald reports
that AUSTRALIA has reacted with alarm to unprecedented and unexpected "buy American steel" provisions of the new Obama Government's US stimulus package.

International anxiety that the financial crisis was poised to spark a trade war grew when it was revealed that Barack Obama's $US819 billion package to stimulate the US economy included protection mechanisms for its steel industry.

The Trade Minister, Simon Crean, last night described the "buy American" provisions of the stimulus package as "very worrying" and said he would raise his concerns with the acting US Trade representative, Peter Allgeier, in Davos.

Other American business groups have reacted against the measure, fearing a backlash that will result in US companies being excluded from participating in public spending projects in Europe, the UK, Australia and China in a "tit for tat" action.

Will this grenade survive the Senate? It is such a blatant piece of pork barelling it may well be removed in the upper house of the Congress. Will Obama sign the stimulus bill if it remains? Of course. Obama has never been a free-trade advocate.

But then the fun will start. The US government can expect to face a raft of legal actions in international courts because it will be in violation of treaties and agreements which it has already signed. One presumes that Australia, for example, will have an actionable case against the US under its free trade agreement with that country.

So, while the native instincts toward protectionism are ready to hand, there are now many more obstacles actually to effecting trade barriers than there were in the 1930's. We are fairly certain that the international howls of outrage (which have already begun), let alone the legal actions against the US in international courts, would be acutely embarrassing to Obama and Clinton, both of whom nurse globalist aspirations.

Friday, 30 January 2009

A Follow Up to the Previous Post

A New Form of American Imperialism

A couple of articles have appeared on the conservative Townhall site critically analysing Obama's appearance on Al Arabiya, and his "two faces" on the Middle East. They provide more colour and background to yesterday's post on Obama as a case study of the Liberal Mind.

The first, Two Obamas and Two Middle Easts, points out the contradiction between Obama's environmentalist face, and his Middle East peace making face.

First is Obama the Environmentalist:

Obama the Environmentalist hit the campaign trail last summer, giving speeches on energy policy. Obama the Man of Peace appeared this week on Al Arabiya TV.

Obama the Environmentalist spoke to a domestic audience whom he understood to be angry about the price of gas. Obama the Man of Peace spoke to a foreign audience whom he understood to be angry about U.S. anti-terrorism policies.

"One of the most dangerous weapons in the world today is the price of oil," Obama the Environmentalist said in a July campaign speech. "We ship nearly $700 million a day to unstable or hostile nations for their oil. It pays for terrorist bombs going off from Baghdad to Beirut. It funds petro-diplomacy in Caracas and radical madrassas from Karachi to Khartoum. It takes leverage away from America and shifts it to dictators."

In another July speech, Obama the Environmentalist envisioned a Middle East that would be populated by tyrants for at least another 20 years. That, together with the threat of climatic apocalypse, he argued, makes it necessary for the United States to mount a massive effort to curtail petroleum use.

"If we stay on our current course, the rapid growth of nations like China and India will rise about one-third by 2030," he said. "In that same year, Middle Eastern regimes will be sitting on 83 percent of our global oil reserves. Imagine that -- the very source of energy that fuels nearly all of our transportation, controlled almost entirely by some of the world's most unstable and undemocratic governments."

"We are not a country that places our fate in the hands of dictators and tyrants -- we are a nation that controls our own destiny," he said. "And it's why we must end the tyranny of oil in our time."

Then there is Obama, the Middle East Peacemaker:

This Environmentalist did not appear on Al Arabiya this week. The Man of Peace did.

This Obama, speaking to the Arab world, lauded the peace plan put forward by King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia -- the Middle East's premier autocratic oil peddler -- as an act that "took great courage."

This Obama did not see a region that more than 20 years from now will still bristle with "dictators and tyrants." He saw a region brimming with nations ready to work with him and Secretary of State Clinton as respected partners.

"I do think that it is impossible for us to think only in terms of the Palestinian-Israeli conflict and not think in terms of what's happening with Syria or Iran or Lebanon or Afghanistan and Pakistan," he said. "And what I've said, and I think Hillary Clinton has expressed this in her confirmation, is that if we are looking at the region as a whole and communicating a message to the Arab world and the Muslim world, that we are ready to initiate a new partnership based on mutual respect and mutual interest, then I think that we can make significant progress."

The second article focuses more upon the Al Arabiya interview. We quote:

Most sickeningly, Obama openly jettisoned his constitutional role as the caretaker for America’s national interest. Instead, Obama posed himself as an honest broker between America and the Muslim world. “(T)he United States has a stake in the well-being of the Muslim world, that the language we use has to be a language of respect,” he said. “I have Muslim members of my family. I have lived in Muslim countries.” Obama didn’t stop there. He stated that his job is to speak for the Muslim world, defending them from Americans’ negative perceptions: “And my job is to communicate to the American people that the Muslim world is filled with extraordinary people who simply want to live their lives and see their children live better lives.”

No, Mr. President. Your job is not to communicate to the American people that the Muslim world harbors us no ill will. That is their job. The Muslim world must demonstrate with its words and actions that they do not wish America replaced with an Islamic state. They must demonstrate that they do not support terrorism against America and our allies.

Your job is to protect and defend the United States of America. That is your sworn duty.

Then, in conclusion:

On Nov. 4, 2008, Americans elected their first international president. They elected a man who does not seek to preserve American values. Leftists perceived George W. Bush as an imperialist for American interests; by the same token, Obama is an imperialist for “global interests.” In a war to save America from implacable foes, Obama’s Global Interest Imperialism dooms American exceptionalism to the ash heap of history. With it may go the last, best hope of Earth.

So, both George Bush and Barack Obama are imperialistic. Both alike believe in American manifest destiny. For Bush, it was making the world safe for democracy and defeating the forces of terror. For Obama, it is treating the world decently so world-wide peace will break out.

Oh, and one final demurral: American manifest destiny should make every Christian want to vomit--whether the variant is the Bush or neocon one, or the Obama liberal academic complex version. Let us be clear: American never was, nor ever will be the "last, best hope of Earth." That honour, that title, and that prerogative belongs to One and One only--the Risen Ruling Lord Jesus Christ. He alone is Lord: Caesar has been reduced to shards in the dustbin of history long, long ago. This, too, will be the fate of the United States unless she humbles herself before the King.

Hat Tip: No Minister.

Thursday, 29 January 2009

Understanding What Frames a Liberal Mind

Obama As a Case Study in Modern Liberalism

The liberal humanist mindset presently dominates public discourse in the Western world. Anyone who is persona gratis and has "tenure" (academics, media, politicians, entertainers, celebrities, etc) all think the same way about the western world. The constant drawing upon the same world-view leads to the mistake that it is true. Repeat a lie often enough and it becomes believable. It's called brainwashing.

In this Blog we focus constantly on delineating and exposing this mistaken worldview. We call it variously the mind of Unbelief, secular humanism, materialistic humanism, secular idolatry. All of these terms fall under a common rubric of "Athens" and point to a common pervasive assumption: that Man is the ultimate reference point of existence.

It is important that we understand how this mind of Unbelief is framed. In President Obama, we have a walking day-by-day case study. This, of course, is not to say that Obama is a humanist liberal and someone like our own Prime Minister, John Key is not. Both are secular humanists: both believe deep in their beings that Man is the ultimate and final reference point of existence. Both are in precisely the same camp, as it were. The only disagreements they would have is over the details.

However, the reason Obama makes such an interesting foil and case study and John Key does not is that Obama is "out there" and Key is less so. Obama (like John Key's predecessor, Helen Clark) represents a greater degree of self-consciousness over secular liberal humanism, and he is seeking to apply it with vigour in his new position. That is why he is so interesting. That is why he provides a walking case study of the Liberal Mind.

Obama's first press interview as President was with the Arab television station Al Arabiya, broadcasting out of Gaza. This was no doubt deliberately done. It was designed to "send a message". The message was one of reconciliation. Obama was concerned to make it clear that the US did not hate Arabs, that under his watch it would be reasonable and even handed, consultative, and disinterested between conflicting parties. It would, first of all, listen.

Even as Obama endeavoured potently to symbolise his liberal humanist values to the Arab world you could almost hear the sighs of gratification and thankfulness all around the western world. The new US President was indeed a true modern intelligent sensitive enlightened secular humanist liberal. He was truly one of us. He was in the camp, so to speak.

By this very public and deliberately symbolic act, Obama put his secular humanist credentials on display before the world. In acting this way, Obama was drawing upon one of the great central planks of the Liberal Mind: that evil is extrinsic to humanity. It follows relentlessly, does it not, that if Man is the ultimate source of truth and value, evil is defined as that which is inhuman--contrary to the true nature of man. Evil is caused by external factors; it does not come out of the human heart, intrinsically from within man. Man is intrinsically good because there is no higher definition of goodness than Man himself.

Evil is, therefore, to be dealt with by removing the external factors that cause it to exist. If you create a sterile atmosphere, disease is repressed and dies out. Thus, the evil on display in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict can be dealt with by changing the external circumstances--and a key part of this is removing the apparent or perceived hostility of the United States toward the Palestinian people.

Now Little Green Footballs tells us that Al Arabiya is the "virulently antisemitic Arab satellite network that regularly broadcasts support for jihad and militant Islam". This, according to the evidence is "the very same channel that allows Hamas rockets to be fired from their studio building in Gaza."

So, here we have an Arab satellite network that is stridently anti-semitic, has been abetting Hamas's unprovoked attacks upon Israeli civilians and Israel generally, and is a supporter of armed military jihad. Obama would know all of this. He did not act ignorantly.

But--and here is the real point--all these things do not matter to the Liberal Mind. They are distractions and irrelevant. They need to be overlooked. Why? Because "these people" only do such terrible things (and the Liberal Mind, when directly challenged on the issue, will say that such things are evil and wrong) because they are conditioned into it by externalities. Evil is externally determined. Change the conditions and the evil will cease.

So Obama and the Liberal Mind are saying, in effect, to the Arab militants, "Look, the things that you are doing are not right, and we don't condone them in any way. But we also know that you have genuine grievances--and your actions are not really and truly who you are. We also believe that deep down you don't really want to do these terrible things. We believe that you have been pushed into them against your inner will because of terrible circumstances and injustices and suffering. If we change the circumstances and address your grievances we believe that you will no longer want to exercise jihad against non-Muslim nations, that you will become peace loving and reasonable people (just like ourselves) and that you will tolerate and even support Israel's existence. So, we are going to offer you the hand of friendship in good faith, and as we do so we believe this will give a chance for your true inner righteousness to shine forth and overcome your current evil beliefs and actions."

That is why the Liberal Mind is prepared to turn a blind eye to atrocities and crimes committed by Islamists (most of whom are seen as being disadvantaged, oppressed, and poor.) This is why the President of the United States deliberately chose to co-operate with Al Arabiya and give them his first Presidential interview. What Al Arabiya currently supports and advocates is irrelevant. What it will potentially become as a result of extending the hand of friendship is all important. It is the bigger and longer game the western Liberal Mind believes is fundamentally important.

The Liberal Mind is naive. It is also gratuitously self-serving and arrogant. For if Man is the ultimate reference point, who is to say that what Al Arabiya and the jihadists represent is not ultimately right--since are they not also Man? Ah, says the Liberal Mind--they are not representing Man as we define him to be. Precisely. In the end, the Liberal Mind represents nothing more than egregious self-righteousness and a kind of preppy priggishness.

If Man is the ultimate reference point in the universe, and the basis for all truth and authority is the mind of Man, then all that men do and are remains intrinsically and necessarily condign to humanity and implicitly good. To criticise or demur can never be anything other than the expression of cant, or a bias, or a mere personal or cultural preference.

That is precisely how the humanists in Al Arabiya and their fellow jihadists will see it. For they, also, represent the Liberal Mind--just a different version of it. For Obama, the Liberal Mind has produced doctrines such as human rights, tolerance, respect, and the rule of law. He has made the grave and arrogant mistake of conflating Western secular political ideology with humanity itself--making them one and the same. It is the same mistake made by the NeoCons. (Remove Saddam Hussein and Iraqi's will embrace Western democratic ideals and become like "us".) They are all alike humanist liberals. But the jihadist version of the Liberal Mind dismisses these things as a mere Western prejudice. For them, humanity and the world is what the jihadist says it is--and are they not also human, and is not their collective mind as equally ultimate as the Western Liberal mind?

In the end, Obama risks being an ineffectual irrelevance. The jihadists will dismiss him in a nano-second. But in the meantime, he is a wonderful walking case study of the Liberal Mind and its vacuity.

However, against Obama and the Liberal Mind stands the eternal indictment of the Scripture: "the heart is deceitful above all things and desperately wicked. Who can know it?" (Jeremiah 17:10) Certainly the western liberals don't, for they refuse to know it. Continuing to suppress the truth in their self-serving arrogance, they have been noted and marked.

(Hat Tip: Half Done)

Postscript: We are pleased and gratified that the Israeli government appears to have listened to the counsel and advice of Contra Celsum! It now looks to be following our suggestion of retaliating for each Hamas attack on an "eye for an eye" basis. It is a step in the right direction, we believe. (See the following IAF bulletin. Hat Tip--Whaleoil) However, it needs to be more public and more relentless in this policy. Every Hamas attack (not just the spectacular ones) needs to be publicly documented and broadcast in Gaza; then a retribution response needs to be carried out; then another public broadcast upon completion identifying what happened and why; followed by a promise that no further action will be taken, unless Hamas commits violence upon Israeli citizens or territory.

We are also gratified that Israel seems to be targetting carefully its responses and is able to identify the Hamas personnel responsible. Intelligence from inside Gaza must be superb, which suggests a lot of help from Gazan citizens, which in turn implies that they have realised that Hamas regards the people in Gaza as mere cannon fodder to be used up in a larger theatre of war.

Wednesday, 28 January 2009

Mid-Week Miscellany

Another Instance of Execrable Corporate Welfare

Last week we expressed disgust at the rise of corporate welfare as more and more companies snuggle up to the public trough seeking government support. Thus far most of the calls for support in New Zealand have come from various industry associations--which are organisations whose raison d'etre is largely to curry government favours.

We have been afflicted with yet another example of this disgusting genre--this time from the Taxi Federation. Confronted with another attack upon a taxi driver, the Taxi Federation has called upon the government to provide money so that taxi drivers can make their vehicles more safe (security screens, video cameras, etc.) Well, knock me down with a feather!

Why didn't we all think of this. Every business which is at risk of theft, or their staff to violent assault, or arson or whatever other nasty crime is out there should put in safety equipment (automatic alarms, contracted monitoring services, video cameras) should they not? Oh, wait a minute. They already have. But the Taxi
Federation is smarter than the average bear. They are cunning enough to want the tax payer to fund what taxi businesses could (and should) have done years ago.

Yes, video surveillance and screens are probably required, but it is just a cost of doing business. Get it done. Pay for it yourselves. Every other business does. Don't expect the taxpayer to fund your costs of doing business. Or, should we go further? If the taxi industry deserves government welfare to fund anti-crime measures in every taxi, what about doing the same for every residential dwelling in the country? What is sauce for the goose is sauce for the gander.

Delicious Irony

Recent reports out of the US tell us that Congress is likely to have to postpone a grave discussion with Al Gore on global warming.

Al Gore is scheduled before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee on Wednesday morning to once again testify on the 'urgent need' to combat global warming.

But Mother Nature seems ready to freeze the proceedings.

A 'Winter Storm Watch' has been posted for the nation's capitol and there is a potential for significant snow... sleet... or ice accumulations.

"I can't imagine the Democrats would want to showcase Mr. Gore and his new findings on global warming as a winter storm rages outside," a Republican lawmaker emailed the DRUDGE REPORT. "And if the ice really piles up, it will not be safe to travel."

A spokesman for Sen. John Kerry, who chairs the committee, was not immediately available to comment on contingency plans.

Global warming advocates have suggested this year's wild winter spells are proof of climate change.

Yup, you can't keep a good global warmer down. Freezing cold temperatures in the US are "proof" of climate change (that is, global warming).

And the "warmers" are having a field day over the sweltering heat wave hitting Victoria and in particular the Aussie Tennis Open. Not only are the temperatures high, but they are forecast to continue for days, which has not happened since . . . 1908! Wow. So we are back to where we were in 1908.

Is Britain Going Mad?

The short answer is yes. The National Health Service is starting to look at how to deliver health services with less carbon emissions. It has to do this in order to fulfil its government mandated requirements to reduce its carbon output by eighty percent percent (yes you read right) in forty years. So, we have to make a start.

Lot's of options are on the table. First to grab our attention is a proposal to remove meat and dairy products from the menu of hospital food. Silly us. We would have thought that the fundamental driver for food in hospitals is healthy nutrition and doing whatever could be done to speed recover. But apparently not when you are saving the planet.

According to The Guardian, carbon lite menus will be augmented by other stellar initiatives like encouraging patients, staff, and visitors to leave their cars at home and get to hospitals some other way.

But the reduction in carbon emissions goes even further. It would be better still to be treated in your own home. One NHS "expert" has actually opined, "If you're going to get me radical I say the default place for health is in the home, and the person who delivers it is yourself: that's the ultimate low-carbon health service". Nah. The ultimate low carbon health service is to stay at home and die.

What madness is this? How has it come to this? Well, the National Health Service explains how it has come to this.
Unless we all take effective action now, millions of people around the world will suffer hunger, water shortages and coastal flooding as the climate changes, it says.

As one of the world's largest organisations, the NHS has a national and international imperative to act in order to make a real difference and to set an important example.
OK, so millions of people are going to be hurt unless we do damage to our own people.

There is only one word to describe this mindset and such reasoning: evil.

Tuesday, 27 January 2009

The S-Files

Refreshingly Brazen

Contra Celsum has decided to nominate Jeremy Clarkson for an S-Award

Jeremy Clarkson is the lead host of the most profitable BBC TV show, TopGear. He is coming to New Zealand to present several shows of TopGear Live.


The modern world of effete political correctness has spawned and nurtured many sacred cows. These are so prized and honoured that to speak against them is not only offensive to polite society but is likely to result in being branded as a redneck, or a pariah, or a blasphemer.

This, in turn, has provided many opportunities for a wonderful new sport of PC sacred cow slaughter. It is so much fun that the Spanish are feeling aggrieved that their traditional sport of bull fighting is being eclipsed and is waning in popularity as punters flock to the new replacement past time of skewering PC's sacred cows.

Jeremy Clarkson is right up there in the global top ten PC baiters. Effete he is not. Global warming has provided Mr Clarkson with a wonderful commercial opportunity. His relentless baiting of polite society's mincing genuflections towards the horrors and dangers of global warming are both entertaining and hilarious. He has been right at it even prior to his arrival in “clean green NZ”.

It is an irony indeed that if the global warming hoax had not been so relentlessly spouted and so completely accepted by the PC brigade, Clarkson's show would have likely underperformed. PC splenetic outpourings have provided a foil which Clarkson has cleverly exploited, baiting and fencing with rich irony and ridicule, much to the delight of the sensible and down-to-earth. The outcome has been huge commercial success. Imagine! Global warming has made Clarkson rich. He has made money exploiting the prevailing PC stupidity.

Prior to arriving in New Zealand he said he looked forward to creating a huge carbon footprint in the country. He hoped that he and his colleagues would be able to burn a prodigious amount of fossil fuel. When asked what he thought of former Prime Minister illegally speeding in back country Canterbury roads, being clocked at 172km/hour, he blithely responded by asking, why if she were late to her next appointment was she travelling so slowly.

Sir Jonathan Porritt, apparently, according to the NZ Herald, a “distinguished environmentalist”, expressed his umbrage toward and outrage over Clarkson and what he represents. He allegedly does more harm to the environment than David Attenborough does good. "Anyone who can shut up Jeremy Clarkson deserves more honours than have already been heaped on David Attenborough," he said. (That sounds, by the way, eerily like a fatwa of the sort which Islamic leaders issue against someone they would like to see killed. But then again, if you are saving the planet, you have to be prepared to spill a bit of blood along the way)

Clarkson dismisses the environmentalists as irrelevant. He says: "I shall ignore them. Like we all should. And then they will go away"

Skewering the sacred cows of PC idolatry using the foils of mockery and sarcasm performs a wonderful social service. Like the needle lancing the boil, it helps remove poison from the body politic. Clarkson is more than an entertainer. He makes a very positive contribution. Humour is one of the best weapons to employ against those priggish self-appointed messiahs who preen, and mince, and strut; hectoring and badgering others with their vacuous, putrefying self-righteousness.

Jeremy Clarkson, Presenter of TopGear: S-Award, Class I, for performing a public service that is Smart, Sound and Salutary.

Monday, 26 January 2009

Meditation on the Text of the Week


For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek.
Romans 1: 16
By the time Paul was writing these words the “gospel” had become a technical theological term. Of course, in Greek, “gospel” means simply good news. But as Paul writes his opening remarks to the Roman church, “gospel” has a definite article. It is not just any good news, but the good news.

The good news was that salvation has come to all who believe (“all” in this context specifically pointing to all types of humanity—both Jew and Greek). Now, this was a controversial statement and a radical revelation against the rigid sectarianism of Judaism which had come to regard the Gentiles as worse than dogs. The idea that God would actually save them and bring them into the place of His mercy and favour was a rank anathema. It was this revelation which sent the Jerusalem mob ballistic, you remember, when Paul was preaching to them. (Acts 22:21,22) The mob pronounced the death sentence upon him: “this man should not be allowed to live.”

But Paul is resolute: he is not at all ashamed of this Gospel which declares God's mercy to Gentiles, as well as Jews.

Now this may seem strange in our day, for our age despises God and therefore His Gospel. While the Bible declares that the one who comes upon the mountains proclaiming the Gospel of God has beautiful feet, the modern world curses and derides such a messenger. But this simply is an indication that it has pleased the Lord to pass by our modern world. For the Gospel remains the power of God for salvation: all that the Gospel is and represents remains powerful because God is behind it.

His Word and His actions are the hammer which breaks the rock in pieces and which shatters the nations in their unbelief. As the Gospel is proclaimed it remains eternally powerful. To those who are perishing, whom God has passed by, the Gospel is a savour of death. It pronounces the mockers and the scorners to be already putrefying flesh. It is a condemnation. That is why Paul at one time dismisses hostile Jewish people as “judging themselves to be unworthy of eternal life.” So the Gospel of God is powerful to condemn and tear down those who oppose God.

But, to those who are granted the gift of faith, those who believe, the Gospel is powerful for salvation: that is, it actually achieves and effects salvation. And God's salvation changes everything.

As we lift our eyes and consider our lost and benighted world, we stand with Paul. Like him, we too are not ashamed of the Gospel of God. The Gospel of God's mercy in Christ to all who believe is the only solution to sinful humanity—and it is sin, or rebellion against God—which is at the root of all human ills and imperfections.

The effect of the Gospel of God, being of God, extends as far as the curse is found, and affects all that God has created. It touches the heart and mind of every individual who believes. In this sense, the Gospel is radically individualistic, in a way that nothing else is or can be. But it also touches and changes the full extent of human civilisation and culture, for out of the heart of man flows all things.

So as we contemplate the coming year we know there will be wars and rumours of wars. There will be famines, plagues, droughts, and floods. There will be great fear and uncertainty. Our hearts will not be unmoved by these things. We will not be insensitive to them. But neither will we be distracted from the Great Cause—the task and responsibility of doing what we can to proclaim the Gospel to every creature. For it is only in the Gospel of God's salvation in Christ that we have any--indeed, the only--genuine remedy to wars and famines and all human calamity.

We, too, are not ashamed of the Gospel. It has ever been so for God's people who have believed.

Saturday, 24 January 2009

ChnMind 2.23 The Accessibility of Justice

Jerusalem and The Accessibility of Justice

Justice delayed is justice denied. This adage is self-evidently true in the Christian world-view where justice involves restitution to victims, the damaged, and the hurt. The longer justice is delayed, the longer the damage borne. Therefore, to delay justice is to deny it for those to whom it is due.

In modern Athens access to the courts has become increasingly difficult, with many impediments—amongst which the greatest is cost. Justice has become the preserve of the rich or at least those wealthy enough to fund a prosecution or court hearing. A second significant impediment is the work load on the court system: overloaded dockets, with too few magistrates, coupled with an overly prescriptive and bureaucratic procedure mean that court operations are unduly complicated and delayed.

The ideals of justice are portrayed vividly in the account of Solomon's court. Solomon, being the king, was the Chief Justice and the highest court of the nation of Israel. This vignette represents the working of justice within Jerusalem at its best. We read in I Kings 3:

Then two women who were harlots came to the king and stood before him. And the one woman said, “Oh, my lord, this woman and I live in the same house, and I gave birth to a child while she was in the house. And it happened on the third day after I gave birth, that this woman also gave birth to a child, and we were together. There was no stranger with us in the house, only the two of us in the house. And this woman's son died in the night, because she lay on it.

“So she arose in the middle of the night and took my son from beside me while your maidservant slept, and laid him in her bosom, and laid her dead son in my bosom. And when I rose in the morning to nurse my son, behold, he was dead; but when I looked at him carefully in the morning, behold, he was not my son, whom I had borne.” The the other woman said, “"No! For the living one is my son, and the dead one is your son." But the first woman said, "No! For the dead one is your son, and the living one is my son." Thus they spoke before the king.

Then the king said, "The one says, 'This is my son who is living, and your son is the dead one'; and the other says, 'No! For your son is the dead one, and my son is the living one.'" The king said, "Get me a sword." So they brought a sword before the king. The king said, "Divide the living child in two, and give half to the one and half to the other."

Then the woman whose child was the living one spoke to the king, for she was deeply stirred over her son and said, "Oh, my lord, give her the living child, and by no means kill him." But the other said, "He shall be neither mine nor yours; divide him!" Then the king said, "Give the first woman the living child, and by no means kill him. She is his mother."

When all Israel heard of the judgment which the king had handed down, they feared the king, for they saw that the wisdom of God was in him to administer justice.

Firstly, note that this is a civil case, where two citizens are in dispute—in this case, over a child. Yet the case also has criminal overtones since the one woman was endeavouring to steal a child: kidnapping is a criminal offence. The vast majority of cases that ought to be heard by judges or magistrates are civil cases—arising from a conflict or disagreement between citizens. The more emphasis, focus, and provision paid to civil cases and hearing disputes between people, the more biblical the system of justice becomes. A high priority placed upon civil cases helps preserve the accessibility of justice for all people—which, as we have argued, is fundamental to justice itself.

Athens has reversed this priority. In modern Unbelieving Athens the state is the most important entity of all. Its prerogatives and rights are virtually without check, since politicians occupy the highest court of the land. Within the Athenian model of justice criminal matters are far more important than civil matters. Justice is preoccupied with the prerogatives of the State. Offences against the State are to be prosecuted with vigour and the apparatus of justice focuses upon and centres around criminal justice. Civil actions have limited place—and in modern Athens are generally preserved for property disputes between larger businesses, or between corporations and government (either central or local).

Jerusalem pays far more attention to civil matters since this not only means that justice is accessible to all, but comprehensive civil justice helps nip matters in the bud before they escalate into full-blown criminal acts. The matter before Solomon is a case in point.

Secondly, the accessibility to the courts of justice for everyone—particularly the poor, the vulnerable and the disadvantaged—is underscored by the fact that these two women were prostitutes. Within Israel their social standing would have been parlous, to say the least. They were shunned and outcast from society. Yet the king, the highest judicial official, is open to hear their case. Within Jerusalem even the lowest, the most despised, and the outcast is to have access to justice. Everyone has a right to be heard and judged fairly. Solomon in all his glory did not consider it beneath his contempt to hear a case such as this. Rather, his glory is manifested in his insistence upon hearing and judging just such a case. It is glorious indeed that prostitutes and the child of a prostitute are dealt with so gravely and so carefully in the court.

Thirdly, the case shows that intrinsic to justice is discernment—of the facts, and between good and evil. This is what Solomon prayed for, when he said: “And Thy servant is in the midst of Thy people which Thou has chosen, a great people who cannot be numbered or counted for multitude. So give Thy servant an understanding heart to judge Thy people to discern between good and evil. For who is able to judge this great people of Thine.” (I Kings 3:8—9)

Get the facts and discern hearts. That is an essential prerequisite of justice. Solomon's command to kill the child, dividing him between the two women was employed to discern the hearts. True motherhood showed itself, as did malicious envy, by means of this test.

If justice is to be accessible to all, the doors of its courts must be nearby for everyone. This necessitates an extensive system of lower and higher courts. Thus we should understand that the case of the two prostitutes and the disputed baby came before Solomon because it was a difficult case, that could not be resolved by the lower courts. When Moses, the lawgiver of God's people, established Israel's judicial system, it replaced Moses as the sole judge.

The account in Exodus reads as follows:
It came about the next day that Moses sat to judge the people, and the people stood about Moses from the morning until the evening. Now when Moses' father-in-law saw all that he was doing for the people, he said, "What is this thing that you are doing for the people? Why do you alone sit as judge and all the people stand about you from morning until evening?" Moses said to his father-in-law, "Because the people come to me to inquire of God. When they have a (T)dispute, it comes to me, and I judge between a man and his neighbor and make known the statutes of God and His laws."

Moses' father-in-law said to him, "The thing that you are doing is not good. You will surely wear out, both yourself and these people who are with you, for the task is too heavy for you; you cannot do it alone. Now listen to me: I will give you counsel, and God be with you. You be the people's representative before God, and you bring the disputes to God, then teach them the statutes and the laws, and make known to them the way in which they are to walk and the work they are to do.

"Furthermore, you shall select out of all the people able men who fear God, men of truth, those who hate dishonest gain; and you shall place these over them as leaders of thousands, of hundreds, of fifties and of tens. Let them judge the people at all times; and let it be that every major dispute they will bring to you, but every minor dispute they themselves will judge. So it will be easier for you, and they will bear the burden with you. If you do this thing and God so commands you, then you will be able to endure, and all these people also will go to their place in peace."

So Moses listened to his father-in-law and did all that he had said. Moses chose able men out of all Israel and made them heads over the people, leaders of thousands, of hundreds, of fifties and of tens. They judged the people at all times; the difficult dispute they would bring to Moses, but every minor dispute they themselves would judge.
Exodus 18: 13—24
The civil courts in Israel went as low as a judge appointed for every ten families. That means that justice was extensive and accessible. The next highest court was a judge who presided over fifty families. Contrast this with the judicial system in Athens where courts are now distant, expensive, delayed, and practically inaccessible. Moreover, in Athens because the State has become so intrusive, and has broken its boundaries and moved way beyond its sphere of competence or delegated authority, the law has become inordinately complex and the domain of specialists, accessible only to the monied.

Therefore Athens is an intrinsically unjust society and implicitly bent towards a tyranny of systematically denied justice—an indictment which will grow more pointed and urgent as time passes. Justice in Athens is removed, expensive, bureaucratic, and complex. Justice in Jerusalem, the City of God, is close, inexpensive, direct, straightforward and accessible. Therefore, Jerusalem is rightly called the City of Peace. Athens, however, is a ceaseless tumult of the bitter and the angry.

Friday, 23 January 2009

The Odium of Corporate Welfare

We are All Socialists Now

Disgraced president, Richard M Nixon made his famous comment (as he removed the gold backing for the US currency) that we were all Keynsians now, so gold had done its time. Thirty years on, we, living as exiles in Athens, find that the West is so pervasively socialistic in its world-view that it would have been more true (although less politically acceptable) for Nixon to state that we were all socialists now, rather than Keynsians.

Nowhere does socialism appear more egregious and offensive than when businesses hold out their hand for government subsidy and support. Unable to make their way in the world of commerce, persuading sufficient numbers to purchase their goods or services, they turn to the government (that is, the taxpayer) for money. "People owe us a living" is the hidden mantra--unspoken even to themselves--yet nonetheless at the core of their rotten being.

It is during times of economic downturn, when markets and business contract, that corporate socialism is most likely to rear its ugly head. We have seen the Big Three automakers in the US beg before Congress for taxpayer money. They have not been able to make a go of it during the boom times: now the people definitely need to support them in the face of more nimble less costly international competition--since they are a national icon. They are part of what it means to be American. They are owed a living.

In the NZ Herald today we have an absolute cracker of the genre of corporate welfare. This time, however, it is not pleading and begging--it takes the form of outrage that the government is not doing more to support a particular industry.

The government has cancelled a planned national conference of health workers which was going to cost taxpayers over $100,000. Not a bad move, one would think, in a time when government spending has to be contained and reduced, since the national fiscal deficit is growing by the day. But no--the "conference industry" through its spokesman, the chief executive of Conventions and Incentives NZ, Alan Trotter, said the Government was sending "completely the wrong message".

The corporate conference industry apparently is a $1bn a year industry. Apparently in times of economic contraction the government should be supporting this industry, not destroying it. Why, one might inquire? Well, as with all socialistic thinking, special financial support is justified in this case because of the greater good to all. Apparently, industry conferences help everyone in business, keeping them at the cutting edge, up to the mark, efficient, competitive--so, in hard times, the conference industry ought to be a clear worthy winner in the rush for public financial support. Really? Yes, really.

OK, so let's explore this little gem. So, when economic times are difficult the government should use tax payer's money to support industry by becoming the uber-consumer if goods and services from worthy industries.

How about the food industry--intrinsic to New Zealand's agricultural based economy? Mussel farming is struggling. Maybe the Cabinet should pass an executive order that all state employees are to be provided a mussel a day to keep the receivers away. And let's not forget Fonterra, still smarting over its business meltdown in China, falling global food prices, and rising protectionism in its export markets. How about reinstituting the state funded "glass of milk a day" which used to be provided for every school child in the 1950's. That would support Fonterra, its shareholders, the dairy farmers, and would greatly improve the diets of children in South Auckland at the same time.

Or think about the auto industry. Every state employee earning a six figure salary could be given a car as part of their salary package. That would provide huge support to the auto industry. Imagine the stimulus in the provinces as local headmasters and DHB executives bought state funded cars (presumably eco-friendly diesel BMW's) from their local dealers.

Mr Alan Trotter has shamed himself and his industry. We have a simple message for you, dear sir. We, the people of New Zealand, do not owe you and your members a living. If you and your members cannot maintain your industry in harder economic times it is a clear indicator that your service is of little real value. When times are more difficult the market place prioritises its spending and focuses upon essentials. If your service is regarded as a nice-to-have rather than a must-have then this may be an opportune time to make a graceful exit from the market place. Go get a real, sustainable job.

To protest that you and your members should be allowed to slurp at the public trough is sadly not regarded as unethical in our madding modern world--but it remains fundamentally and definitively immoral. You and your association are clearly children of your time. Maybe you should appoint Richard M. Nixon as your posthumous patron. You deserve each other and you are clearly kindred spirits.

Thursday, 22 January 2009

Dostoevsky Would Think Our World Insane

Modern Crime and Punishment

We are all very aware that the question of justice, crime, and punishment is a vexed issue for post-Christian society. In the course of the last three hundred years, just about every option, every alternative has been employed. Yet is it almost impossible to find anyone who is satisfied or gratified with current policy.

The Unbelieving world is—to put it mildly—in a confused mess on the issues. One reason for this is that actions and policies around justice involve the “big questions”. What is justice, after all? What is crime? Is theft right or wrong? Well, it all depends who is stealing from whom? If the government or the electorate steals by institutionally “redistributing” income, and calls such redistribution “justice”, then theft does not occur. But if I as a private individual engage in a bit of personal redistribution the law currently says that I am a thief.

If the government inflates the money supply with fiat monetary creation, that is lawful and legal. If I as a private individual pass off a few counterfeit dollars, that is theft.

In modern western democracies crime is what the law says it is. And the law is a wax nose to be changed according to the fancy of legislatures. Thus, crime is a fluid construct. It amounts to little more than the current prejudices of an age institutionalised into legislation. Crime has no eternal or general reference point. Therefore, neither does justice. If crime is a wax nose—to be bent and shaped any which way—so is justice. The concepts of justice and injustice in the modern world are nothing more than current bias, prejudice, and cant.

The radical positivism and relativism of the modern world is writ large in the justice system. This is one reason why no-one is happy with modern Athenian policies of crime and punishment. Instinctively, man—made in the image of the Living God—senses that this relativistic state of affairs is wrong. But the modern Athenian, having accepted that Man is god and is his own ultimate law, has no alternative or answer. If man is ultimate, everything is radically relative.

Moderns have sought to remove the angst that is generated by such ideas by nuzzling up to “international” courts and standards of justice. The United Nations has been fervently and feverishly supported by the shallow minded who cling to it as offering the hope of developing a universal world-wide framework for justice. But the UN inevitably has devolved into a mocking spectre as its Commission for Human Rights is controlled by some of the most repressive and unjust governments in the modern world.

Crime, justice and punishment within the Christian world-view marches to the beat of a very different Drummer. God alone is just. All that man is entitled to do when administering justice is reflect His justice. Man is to be a minister of God’s justice, not a definer and proscriber of right and wrong. Here, then, are some of the fundamental concepts of justice within Jerusalem:

1. Justice is grounded in right and wrong. God alone, as the One who defines truth and lies, right and wrong, light and darkness, sin and righteousness, has the original and eternal authority to punish all sin and wrong. His absolute and infinite holiness means that all sin and wrong is unjust and will be justly punished. Therefore, justice upon earth has an eternal reference point—and therefore the concept of justice is fundamentally meaningful.

2. Perfect justice in this world is impossible and attempts to create a perfectly just society are both utopian and revolutionary. Perfect justice will be revealed and manifested only when the Kingdom of God is finally and fully come upon the earth, when Jesus Christ descends from heaven to take up His permanent and perpetual dwelling place upon the earth. Therefore, the administration of justice in our age is limited, partial, incomplete—but nonetheless real, and, when derived from God’s commandments—true and righteous. Therefore, within Christian civilisation justice and its administration is a holy and blessed thing.

3. All sins are not crimes. The administration of justice in this age is partial and incomplete: therefore, not all sins are punished in this age; not all wrongs fall under the criminal code; not all evils are punished by the State, which is the minister of God for the punishment of wrong doing. In fact, very few sins and evils fall under the criminal code. Only the most extreme forms of sin are to be punished in this life by the justice system.

Thus, we know that to become angry at our brother is a violation of the sixth commandment—thou shalt not kill. But only the most extreme form of anger—murder—is punished under the criminal code. The administration of justice in this age is reserved for the most extreme forms of rebellion against God and man. This means that the role and power of the State within Jerusalem is limited and very strictly circumscribed.

4. Crime (that is, what is found in the criminal code) and its punishment is not concerned with redemption. The whole idea of modern criminology where the administration of justice is to accomplish the redemption of the criminal is a misguided perversion. In the Christian frame concepts such as rehabilitation of the criminal, his restoration back into society, his reformation to live a productive life in the future and so forth are an anathema. They are as grotesque as holding a pistol to someone’s head and telling them if they do not convert to live a holy life they will be shot.

It is at this point that modern systems of justice deny the possibility or concept of justice itself. When the administration of justice is focused upon making people better, justice has no meaning. Imagine, if you will, that researchers demonstrated that if you paid a common petty thief a million dollars all the statistics showed that he would likely give up thievery and become a model citizen, the justice-as-redemption model would applaud. But justice has become a nonsense—which is precisely what has happened in post-Christian societies.

We do not discount that when a person is dealt with fairly and justly, and when the punishment appropriately fits the crime, the outcome may well be that the criminal comes to his senses and forswears crime in the future. But that is not the intent of justice and the punishment of the criminal. The whole focus of justice is punishment—so that the one who commits the crime gets what he deserves. Otherwise, it is not justice.

Another way of putting this is to state that justice is neither to be measured nor defined by its outcome or result.

When the State uses crime and punishment to attempt social outcomes or desired social results usually the result is gross injustice. This utilitarian theory of crime and punishment—that both crime and its punishment should be determined by what will result in the greatest good to the greatest number—can be used to justify terrible policies. For example, to return again to the issue of penal colonies in Australia, one reason the policy of penal colonies was developed was due to the number of people being convicted of capital crimes in those days.

If we go further back and ask why that was the case we find that by 1815 in the United Kingdom 225 forms of theft carried the death penalty. Usually, this was commuted to a lengthy prison term in a penal colony on the other side of the world. Why such harshness? Why was (even minor) theft regarded as a capital crime?

The cause was a deliberate attempt to achieve a certain social and political outcome. Britain had been deeply threatened by the French Revolution and the possibility of a similar revolution in England. Therefore, in an attempt to prevent such an horrendous crisis, punishment upon even the slightest lawbreaking by the poorer classes became harsher and harsher. The policies of crime and punishment were “adapted” to keep the poor masses intimidated and under strict control. It was both shameful and utterly unjust. But such injustice is inevitable when justice, crime, and punishment are used to achieve social or political outcomes. Such notions are intrinsic to crime and punishment in our day—and are similarly unjust as a result.

5. Justice is not to be constructed around preventing subsequent evils and crimes. Thus, if someone has imbibed a large amount of alcohol and drives a car, under current Athenian systems of justice he is likely to be prosecuted and punished as a criminal—even though he has not thus far damaged or caused harm to anyone (but himself). What Athens is trying to do is prevent evils by criminalising certain activity which increases the probability of harm to others. Sins are punished as if they were crimes in the hope of other sins or crimes being prevented. The purported likely outcome is used to define the prior causal actions as criminal.

All “preventative” justice is intrinsically unjust. It is using the law in a vain attempt to make people righteous, rather than to punish actual criminal activity which damages life, limb, or property.

6. A fundamental principle of justice is that the punishment should require restitution to the victim of the crime. If one has damaged life, limb, or property, the punishment fitting the crime must apply—which means that the one who has suffered as a result of your criminal actions should be compensated and restored as far as it is humanly possible in this life. The restitution of victims has been completely neglected in the modern world—largely because the criminal justice system has become focused upon rehabilitation and social engineering.

Until modern societies once again turn to the Living God their justice systems will continue to be bi-polar—lurching from punishment to redemption, remaining fundamentally confused over the meaning and principles of justice itself.

Wednesday, 21 January 2009

A Society is Known By Its Prisons

Some Lessons from Port Arthur

Recently we had the opportunity to review the Port Arthur penal colony in southern Tasmania. This colony was opened in the early 1830’s and closed around fifty years later. The Tasmanian state government has done a credible job in preserving the site and the remains of its brick buildings (twice destroyed by fire after the place was closed) and providing visitors with plenty of information about the colony and opportunities to learn and explore.

Ironically, immediately after Port Arthur was closed--as a failure in penal policy--it became a tourist attraction. Even in the last century, people were fascinated with prisons and what they represent. It is a fascination which continues to this day.

We find issues and questions of penology are always provoking—particularly because it is such a vexed issue in modern society. It is one of those areas where Athenian ideology is hopelessly confused and contradictory. Penology, justice, and punishment are both an embarrassment to modern sentiment, on the one hand, and a grippingly emotive issue on the other. No modern government survives in power long on a plank of being soft on crime and criminals.

A visit to Port Arthur shows the punishment regime was equally problematic, confused, and quixotic two hundred years ago. Port Arthur was in its heyday precisely at the time when Benthamite ideas on penology and reformation were gaining traction in Britain. Over the period of its relatively short life it moved from penitentiary to reformatory. Neither was successful.

We should note that Port Arthur was a “second offence” institution. It therefore housed inmates who had committed a second offence while a convict in a penal colony elsewhere.

While this may lead one to think that it was a place where the hardest and most intractable convicts ended up, this was not necessarily the case. Second offences could be of the most minor sort, such as looking at a woman (that is, a free respectable woman) in an impudent manner. Thus, one could have been transported out of the Ireland or Britain to Hobart for theft, as part of a seven year sentence, then be committed to Port Arthur because of a sideways glance at a respectable woman.

Once in the Port Arthur system, any minor infractions of the rules were likely to result in extensions to one’s sentence—three months here; six months there. So that by the time one “got out” a long time was likely to have been served.

It was designed as a “hard labour” penal colony. Being a hard labour colony, it was no picnic. Leg irons were the standard issue; ankles were rubbed raw by the things. The worst offenders had the heavier leg irons: they were thus designed not only as a restraint, but as a form of punishment. All labour had to be performed with the irons on. They were never removed.

The prisoners were brutalized and punished to the extreme. Hard labour was not a euphemism. There were no horses or mules or beasts of burden allowed at the colony. All timber work, tree felling, log hauling, brick making, land reclamation, building construction etc was done by human labour. A constant struggle was growing enough vegetables to supply food for the penal colony. The land was ploughed—yes, you have guessed it—by convicts hitched up to a plough and pulling it through the earth.

The favoured form of punishment, apart from the hard labour, was being flogged with the cat o’nine tails. Interestingly, this form of disciplinary punishment was eventually abandoned as being worthless. The Prison Governor was the one who asked for it to be scrapped and replaced with a different form of punishment for those who continued to break the rules.

It was found to brutalize the men. It also resulted that those who suffered the lash and did so with bravery were treated as heroes amongst their fellow prisoners. Rather than a punishment it came to be viewed as a badge of honour. It failed completely as a reformatory method.

Benthamite theories were in full swing in London, so when the request for a replacement punishment was made, the authorities instituted a punishment block that was built along the lines and ideas of Jeremy Bentham. So, in the 1850’s, the Separate Prison was constructed.

The Separate Prison still stands and is a fascinating memorial to Benthamite utilitarian penology. The idea, of course, was to reform by means of conditioning by the application of pain and pleasure. But interestingly enough, and in complete contrast to the physical punishment meted out before, there was no physical punishment in the Separate Prison.

If you broke the rules in the open prison you were sent to the Separate Prison for more intensive reform work. Critical here was a perpetual solitary confinement. You were given a number (the same number as your cell) and you were not allowed to speak to, or acknowledge in any way, another prisoner. You were only ever known by your number and addressed accordingly by the guards. The block was to operate in complete monastic silence. It appears that the reason for this was the belief—all too accurate—that exposure to, and communication with, other convicts only dragged a person deeper into the morass of evil.

In your solitary confinement cell, you slept, arose, and ate according to the regimen of a sounding bell; but apart from that there was total silence. Work was to be performed (usually sewing); the only reading material was the Bible—a copy of which was provided to each prisoner. Exercise was allowed in yards for 30 minutes per day.

When a prisoner went outside his cell, he had to put on a hood (somewhat akin to a Klu Klux Klan bonnet) with holes only for eyes. This meant that no communication or acknowledgement would occur between prisoners.

There was a chapel in the block. Several times a week, the Separate Prisoners were taken out, and locked into little isolated cubicles. In these they had to stand and look down at the preacher. The chapel was shaped like a little lecture theatre. The chaplain sought to reform them by means of the truth of the Scriptures—unfortunately, as interpreted through Victorian eyes—which usually meant endless admonitions to life a life more moral.

If a prisoner in the Separate Prison broke the rules of that place, he was put into real solitary confinement which consisted of a completely darkened cell, with absolutely no natural light, with walls a metre or so thick—so, soundless and sightless. The standard term in these punishment cells was one month. When the prisoners emerged they were usually completely broken in mind and were lunatic.

In reality, none of this worked. Neither prison as reformatory nor prison as penitentiary worked. Prison as penitentiary simply brutalized the inmates and made them far more skillful criminals than before they went in. Prison as reformatory failed to change hearts and minds. Unable to transform inmates from the inside out, unable to expunge sin and guilt and create a new heart, they failed lamentably.

The same confusion as to whether prison should seek to punish or reform exists today. As with Port Arthur, neither works. Since neither works, the confusing between the two works even less. The modern prison system is a recidivist institutional failure. There are no redeeming features of it, except one: it provides a degree of protection for innocent people who would otherwise be preyed upon by the rapacious, the wicked, and the violent.

But even here, in the one objective in which the prison could be successful, the protection provided is only relative and short-lived. Two factors come into play to shorten sentences and return criminals to society. The first is the insistent theme of prison as reformatory: one can only prove the success of prisons as reformatories if one is prepared to release prisoners into society again. Therefore modern Athens is compelled to keep releasing criminals to prove to itself that modern man is, indeed, the Great Redeemer, and that our best and brightest psychologists and criminologists working through an enlightened prison regime can make bad people good. The fact that the great majority who are released re-offend and return to prison is not taken as a proof of failure, but is taken as a challenge to try harder.

The idealism of prisons as reformatories also undergirds the whole institution of parole and early release. If a criminal shows that he has reformed why keep him in prison any longer? The prison has done its work. Thus early release is inevitable as long as prisons are viewed as institutions to achieve reformation of the criminal.

The second factor which argues for release of prisoners into the community again is cost. The cost of keeping someone in prison is high. Prison numbers need to be kept as low as possible for fiscal reasons.

Thus, economics combine with naïve idealism to undermine the one area in which the institution of the prison could be successful—that of protecting society from the rapacious and the violent. So, on every count, the modern prison is an institutional failure. The modern Athenian prison regime is an abject failure and, we believe, beyond redemption.

Tuesday, 20 January 2009

Global Temperature Measurements

Warming or Cooling?

The data are pretty much out now on how 2008 fared on the warming/cooling stakes. Let's remind ourselves that the year began with the various climate and meteorological centres predicting that 2008 would be a very hot year. The arctic ice cap was going to melt (which in and of itself would not be unusual, since it has melted many times previously), polar bears were going to face extinction, glaciers were going to shrink, skifields were going to be denuded of snow, etc, etc.

Once again they were proved to be wrong. The University of Alabama has published the atmospheric satellite temperatures measures for 2008. This is where global warming (as caused by carbon dioxide emissions) is supposed to be showing up primarily (if the theory were to be true). Embarrassingly, there is no such evidence.

They have produced this very helpful graph.

Dr Roy Spencer provides the following commentary on the graph:

Latest Global Average Tropospheric Temperatures

Since 1979, NOAA satellites have been carrying instruments which measure the natural microwave thermal emissions from oxygen in the atmosphere. The signals that these microwave radiometers measure at different microwave frequencies are directly proportional to the temperature of different, deep layers of the atmosphere. Every month, John Christy and I update global temperature datasets that represent the piecing together of the temperature data from a total of eleven instruments flying on eleven different satellites over the years. As of 2008, our most stable instrument for this monitoring is the Advanced Microwave Sounding Unit (AMSU-A) flying on NASA’s Aqua satellite.

The graph above represents the latest update; updates are usually made within the first week of every month. The smooth curve in the graph is a fourth-order polynomial fit to the data, which smooths out the large amount of monthly variability in the data and helps reveal the underlying ‘trends’. (There is no claim that this curve has any predictive power for the coming months or years.)

Thus, in the troposphere, the atmosphere is not warming. So far the twenty first century has proved a dud for temperature pyrotechnics. So much for the predictive models of the global warmanisers.

Meanwhile, down on the surface of the planet, the northern hemisphere is in the midst of a very very cold winter. The World Climate Report stated recently:
The data are just in from the National Climatic Data Center and they show that for the year 2008, the average temperature across the United States (lower 48 States) was 1.34ºF lower than last year, and a mere one-quarter of a degree above the long-term 1901-2000 average. The temperature in 2008 dropped back down to the range that characterized most of the 20th century.

Christopher Booker of The Telegraph has noted that the warmanisers are so locked in to their narrative that they are now systematically and habitually screening out data and observational facts.
The warmists are so locked into their general narrative that the plummeting temperatures and abnormal snowfalls of the past two winters have thrown their army of media groupies into quite a tizzy. The BBC did at least deign last week to notice the worst snowstorm to hit Las Vegas for 30 years, but without mentioning the freak snow and ice storms affecting many other parts of the US, as far south as New Orleans. The BBC was also quick to pick up from Pravda the unusual lack of snow in Moscow, without mentioning Siberia's record freeze that lowered temperatures to -60C.

Meanwhile, global sea ice has expanded rapidly in the past year. Michael Asher reports that
Thanks to a rapid rebound in recent months, global sea ice levels now equal those seen 29 years ago, when the year 1979 also drew to a close.

Ice levels had been tracking lower throughout much of 2008, but rapidly recovered in the last quarter. In fact, the rate of increase from September onward is the fastest rate of change on record, either upwards or downwards.

The data is being reported by the University of Illinois's Arctic Climate Research Center, and is derived from satellite observations of the Northern and Southern hemisphere polar regions.

The amount of sea ice is now at levels last seen twenty-nine years ago.

How will 2009 fare? Well it's starting out to be deja vu all over again. The metereological offices are predicting (surprise, surprise) that 2009 will be an extremely warm year. Meanwhile, sunspot and general solar activity remains at very low levels. Sun Cycle 24 is now very late in getting started--two years late in fact.

Monday, 19 January 2009

Meditation on the Text of the Week

Seeking Judgement From God

May my vindication come from You; may Your eyes see what is right. Though You probe my heart and examine me at night, though You test me, You will find nothing; I have resolved that my mouth will not sin.
Psalm 17: 3
There are many similar passages in the Psalms which express the idea of personal blamelessness or sinlessness. Such passages are troubling to many. The Scriptures also speak of the depravity of the human heart, which, we are told, is deceitful above all things and desperately wicked. Every truly converted person has a deep conviction that they are sinful and need the love and ministry of forgiveness. How, then, can we understand a passage such as our text?

Some suggest that we should see David speaking prophetically of the Lord Jesus Christ. In this theory, David is not really speaking about himself or his own experience, but of Him who was to come forth from his line. These words which announce blameless really belong to Christ and can be uttered truthfully only By Him. After all, only Christ was sinless, so these words make sense only when applied and referred to Him.

The problem with this approach is that it requires us to strip the passage out of any historical context of David’s life and experience. The psalm becomes a prayer of the Lord Jesus to God the Father, not a cry from the heart from David to the Lord.

A second approach is to take this as David’s cry. He is oppressed by wicked men who surround him and attack him. (verse 9) He is asking God to rise up and deliver him. But in his declaration of personal blamelessness, he casts himself upon the blamelessness of Christ imputed to him—so that when he invites God to test him and declares that He will find nothing wrong with David, he really is asking God to look at the righteousness of Christ which has been imputed to him by faith.

This is a better approach in that it forces us to deal with the real crisis David was facing—and therefore helps us apply the Psalm to ourselves. When we are facing the hostility of wicked men, this Psalm is then able to offer direct comfort and counsel. Yet the approach is awkward. It forces us to read too much back into the text. Whilst it is true that the imputed righteousness of Christ undergirds all salvation, whether in the Old Covenant or the New, and whilst we can call upon God’s love and favour only because of the saving work of Christ in our behalf—and that this was as true for Abraham and Moses as it is for us in the New Covenant—nevertheless it requires a leap or intrusion into the text which seems artificial and stereotypical.

A third approach is to set this, and similar, Psalms in a more narrow context. David is being attacked by wicked men who are seeking to destroy him. He is being attacked because he is God’s servant. He does not deserve their hostility and enmity. The things of which they accuse him are lies and falsehoods. David’s response is to turn to the Lord and ask Him to judge him as to whether there is merit and justice in the hostility and accusations of those who oppose him. He is not, therefore, declaring a universal and perpetual holiness when he declares that he has done nothing wrong. Rather, he is asserting that with respect to the slander and accusations he faces, he is innocent. He is separating himself from wicked men and their conspiracies and is asking God to vindicate him before them.

In this light our text makes perfect sense. It also means that immediately the text is helpful and applicable to the saints. If we are living as God’s people in this world, we will be confronted with many enemies. These are people whose hatred and rejection of the God of the Scriptures is particularly acute: therefore, they will oppose the people of God in every way they can find. This will range from sarcasm and mockery to more aggressive and even violent actions. Our Lord made it perfectly clear that this is an ordinary or “normal” state of affairs. If they hated the Son, they will also hate His people.

As we are confronted with this reality—and every faithful and true Christian faces this from time to time—we are to follow David’s example, and lift our voices to the Lord, even using the words and prayers of this Psalm. We forswear responding in kind. We relinquish private vengeance. We remember that He has said, “Vengeance is mine; I will repay.” But we make our complaint to the court of God Himself. We ask Him to test and judge our hearts and lives as to whether the charges and accusations of our enemies are true. We ask Him to rise up to deal with those who oppress and afflict us without cause. We seek His judgement in our behalf.

With David we pray, “Rise up, O Lord, confront them, bring them down; rescue me from the wicked by your sword. O Lord, by your hand save me from such men, from men of this world whose reward is in this life.” (Psalm 17: 13,14)

It is a sad indictment upon the Church that many have forgotten how to pray in this way—if they ever knew how. Many are fixated with giving no offence at all: these have forgotten that friendship with the world is enmity towards God. Others believe they are called to love their enemies, and mistakenly think that this means that they must not regard them as enemies at all. They have not understood that laying aside private vengeance, and not returning evil for evil, but instead giving a cup of cold water to those who hate and oppose us is not at all inconsistent with appealing our case to the Lord and asking Him to enter into judgment in our stead and on our behalf. This is what is meant by the Church Militant.

In fact, if we forswear private vengeance, and do not at the same time appeal to God, seeking His deliverance and vindication, we have become tolerant towards evil. We have become milksops. We have ceased to be jealous for the Name of God.

Sunday, 18 January 2009

China's Greatest Fear

The Danger of a Slowing Treadmill

The majority of China's population lives inland; most live in relative poverty. The China which most people in the West see and hear about is the "economic miracle" China, which is largely confined to the eastern sea-board.

The Chinese Government has embarked on a treadmill-like experiment which seeks to modernise China gradually, without social dislocation and unrest. It does not want a Chinese version of the French Revolution, where the masses revolt and, with little or nothing to lose, pour into the fields and villages, streets and hinterlands, in anger and frustration at their lot.

The experiment has called for vast investment in plant and capacity along the eastern seaboard to enable China to become a world manufacturing hub. Labour, particularly young labour, has been recruited from the hinterland, trained, employed, and paid. A good portion of the money earned has made its way back to the family and village of origin. Meanwhile, in order to get a permit to operate, many businesses had to agree to provide for their young unskilled workers by not just paying wages, but also providing accommodation, health care, clothing, and so forth--which in turn meant that most of their cash would end up going back home. The logic and pragmatic sense of the plan is clear.

By employing particularly young people from the hinterland, China has been providing a future and a hope to the otherwise hopeless and restless. By ensuring that a good proportion of earnings made its way back home to the villages the benefits of modernisation progressively filter back to the very poor areas, also lifting them up the next socio-economic rung.

Behind all this lies the power of the State ready to snuff out any social unrest or expressions of anger which could end up fuelling a wider revolution. The Chinese government reckons that its most valuable commodity is time--time to effect the economic miracle and achieve socio-economic transformation. The oppressive power of the State stands ready to buy time.

Once the raw and naked power of the State was used to crush ideological dissent against Communist doctrine. Now, the emphasis is fundamentally different. The Chinese government wishes China to become the most wealthy capitalist nation upon the earth (provided everyone shares in the benefits to some degree); the crushing of dissent has to do now with preventing social unrest while China modernises.

The radical difference of these doctrines can be seen in the policy and attitude of the Chinese government towards religion. Over the past ten to fifteen years the Chinese government has decided that religion tends to fulfil people, increasing their sense of well-being. It also links them to their heritage, and provides a vehicle for satisfying cultural expression. Therefore, the government has become far more tolerant of religion, including a remarkable and growing tolerance towards Christianity. Religion now tends to be seen as an aid to modernisation, not a hindrance. Religion helps buy time. It helps prevent civil unrest and discontentment.

There are exceptions. When Bhuddist monks protest in Tibet, or when Falun Gong promote their cause in the West, the government quickly concludes that such religions/groups have crossed the line and are contributing to the risk of social unrest, rather than reducing it. Notwithstanding these exceptions, the Chinese Government has become far more benign in its attitude toward religion in general.

There are remarkable accounts from China emerging now of how Chinese authorities are helping Christian congregations find, and even build Church buildings. In some instances they have even helped pay the cost of putting up churches. Where this will all end up is not clear. However, it does underscore the remarkable change which has occurred in our lifetime.

The present global economic downturn, however, makes the present time one of more acute tension. Hundreds of factories on the eastern seaboard have been closed down. Workers have lost jobs. The risk of social unrest is now greater than before. We would expect to see the Chinese government engage in some heavy handed actions, not seen recently, as a result. The treadmill has slowed down; people are falling off.

We expect that the government will be focused on speeding up the treadmill again as quickly as possible. However, whereas it could rely on insatiable global demand for its manufactures--albeit fuelled by debt--this will not be the case for the next year or two, at least--and maybe a good deal longer. Therefore, massive increased public spending on roads, bridges, buildings and the like is almost inevitable. Once thing the Chinese government does have in its favour is massive foreign exchange reserves which it can now call upon to keep the infrastructure boom going.

Remember, this will not be driven by economic or market necessity, but by a fear of social unrest. Therefore, building "Bridges to Nowhere" is not a problem--or at least less of a problem. In the end, it is just another way to transfer wealth--but at least it is wealth through work, which is far more sophisticated than the preferred Western option of wealth through welfare.

Friday, 16 January 2009

The S-Files

Poor Prince Harry

Contra Celsum has nominated Prince Harry for an S-Award.

According to recent news Prince Harry is facing an Army investigation into his conduct after his racist reference to a comrade as a "little Paki friend" in a video diary obtained by a Sunday newspaper was met with a barrage of criticism.


Prince Harry has been outed. He has been found to have uttered some racist words in a video while upon active duty in Afghanistan three or so years ago. He actually called one of his comrades “Paki”—apparently because that was his nickname. He actually was a Pakistani.

The media are in high dudgeon. The “paki’s” father is reported to be deeply offended.

Actually, when you watch the video you cannot help shake your head. How unbelievably crass. How boorish and stupid. How could such an event as this have actually occurred? We do not, of course, refer to Prince Harry’s rather lame humour but the self-righteous moral outrage of the “wowsing” media and their legions of PC fellow travellers.

Now we would hazard a guess that not to many of those morally indignant have ever actually served in the military, or in armed combat. One of the things which normally occurs in close quarter units, the members of which patrol together and depend upon one another for survival, is a mutual loyalty and admiration and respect for the really important stuff—that is, that one’s comrades are effective and able at their jobs, that they can be trusted and relied upon, and that you can entrust your very life to them.

Such exigencies usually lead to a deep bond of mutual loyalty and high regard. An additional facet of conduct in such units is most often a constant banter amongst the members of the unit. In the English and Anzac versions this usually takes the form of persistent and ceaseless mockery of one’s origins, personality, abilities, name, parents, sexual activities, talents, abilities and so forth. It also occurs in US military units as well, if the hit television show, MASH is any guide. Such humour kept audiences entertained for years: the re-runs still do.

The existence of such humour is usually the sign of high morale and a deep bond of affection and mutual loyalty. In fact, the humour is designed to give evidence of just such a state of affairs. If it were not there, if there was not mutual honour and loyalty, offence would be taken. For example if one is Irish the fact of Irish descent would probably mean that one would be mocked as a stupid “mick”. Such name calling would not be regarded as an insult in the slightest.

Of course one would tolerate only one’s comrades using such language. The loyalty of the unit would mean that if any outsider tried to insult in a similar fashion, he would face the outrage and hostility of the whole unit.

Having watched the video of Prince Harry mocking his comrades, it gives the strong impression of just such banter and comradeship. To take is seriously, to take umbrage, to express moral outrage is to be humourless at best. At worst it betrays a thorough ignorance of how men who are constantly exposed to danger and who rely on each other for survival operate—in fact, need to operate if they are to be effective and survive.

The only reasonable conclusion to draw is that the media and their PC fellow-travellers have become irrelevant. They have shown themselves to be boors: ignorant, monochromatic, shallow, superficial, prating prigs. They do not merit a moment’s serious consideration. But Prince Harry and all his comrades in the armed forces who are willing to give their lives for the sake of others are to be honoured and thanked.

The statement from St Jame's Palace says all that needs to be said:
"Prince Harry used the term without any malice and as a nickname about a highly popular member of his platoon. There is no question that Prince Harry was in any way seeking to insult his friend." What we are then left with is the completely thuggish and unacceptable clucking of the critics.

One cannot help but be sickened by the response of David Cameron, the Leader of Her Majesty's loyal opposition, when he piously intoned that the language used by the Prince had been "completely unacceptable". If that sort of nonsense gives a measure of the man, David Cameron does not deserve to lead the third division Bingo Team of Lesser Reading let alone the Conservative Party.

So, Contra Celsum expresses genuinely felt gratitude to Paki, Harry, and the rest of the boys. Keep up the good work, and thank you for all that you have done.

Prince Harry, S-Award, Class I for actions in the course of duty that have been Smart, Sound and Salutary

Thursday, 15 January 2009

ChnMind 2.21 The Myth of the Secular State

The State is Inescapably a Religious Institution

The entire human race up to the modern period had it right; the modern world has it wrong. Until materialism (that is, the belief that matter is the only reality) gained a predominant hold in Athenian minds, all races, nations, and peoples understood that the State was a religious institution and that the civil government established the tenets and beliefs of a particular religion.

The twentieth centuries adoption of the philosophy of materialism, whether of the militantly aggressive kind (communism) or of the effete liberal kind (western democracy) has resulted in the peculiar notion of the State being non-religious, or secular in nature. The movement from the implicit atheism of the Enlightenment to the explicit atheism of the West is well documented and easily understood. What is not so widely understood is that the modern penchant to insist that the State be secular—that is, that the State not be allowed to have any connection with any particular religion, but be neutral towards all—is itself a distinctly and deeply religious position and a consistent attempt to establish the religion of materialism.

Firstly, let us rehearse the major dogmas and doctrines of materialism. This belief system asserts that there is no reality or existence beyond physical matter. The gods, therefore, by definition do not exist, for they are not material; they cannot be scrutinised in a scientific laboratory (which to the materialist constitutes more than adequate proof that the gods are imaginary). The belief that many people have in a deity is an outcome of the peculiar functioning of their physical bodies, such as the conditioning of their neurons. However, the belief itself is superstitious only. What they believe no more exists than Santa Claus.

The all-determiner of existence is the material (natural) order. Man, insofar as he can use his reason to investigate and manipulate the processes of the material world, to that extent he is master over matter. To all intents and practical purposes, then, the only ultimate power in the universe is man himself--unless and until a superior alien species turns up. Meanwhile, man is cock of the hill.

Men become truly free and self-actualised when they shed all the superstitious beliefs in deities, Santa Claus, and existence after death. As they do this and interact with the universe as it truly is—that is, a cluster of atoms and resultant matter—then they know the truth and are, thereby, set free.

All human culture and institutions, including schools, governments, law-courts, judgments, parliaments, families become truly enlightened when they are able to discard religious superstitions and live and act in the real world, which is the world of matter only. The enlightened world, therefore, is the secular world.

The philosophy of materialism and the religious dogma that flows out of it has become the dominant religion of Athenian governments, schools, universities, media, and of western culture in general. This reality alone makes the modern world acutely peculiar when judged against the backdrop of the history of mankind upon the earth to date. Naturally, modern man sees this peculiarity as a superior and enlightened position. Historical humanity, however, would view it as idiotic, naive and stupid in the extreme. We suspect subsequent generations will look back and likewise shake their heads in disbelief at the naiveté and stupidity of twentieth century western civilisation.

Materialism relentlessly drives society into increasingly secular activity and beliefs. Materialism insists that the State must be secular and it must be the ultimate authority in all human society. Since there is only matter, and since Man can rule over matter, Man is to all intents and purposes the functioning deity. There is no higher law than Man. Corporate Man, the State is the highest expression of human power and authority and law. Therefore, the State is the functioning deity.

But, as a true deity, the secular State will have no other gods in its presence. Therefore, the secular state must not mention or name any other god or any other religion. There must be an absolute wall of separation between the State and religion—which is to say, any other religion.

Consider the following constitutional precepts:

1. The Church is separate from the State.

2. It is prohibited to enact on the territory of the Republic local laws or regulations which would put any restraint upon, or limit freedom of conscience or establish any advantges or privileges on the grounds of the religion of citizens.

3. Each citizen may confess any religion or no religion at all. Loss of any rights as the result of the confession of a religion or the absence of a religion shall be revoked. The mention in official papers of the religion of a citizen is not allowed.

4. The actions of the government of other organizations of public law may not be accompanied by religious rites or ceremonies.

5. The free performance of religious rites shall be granted so long as it does not disturb the public order and infringe upon the the rights of the citizens of the . . . Republic. In such cases, the local agencies are entitled to take the necessary measures to secure public order and safety.

6. No person may evade citizen's duties on the grounds of his religion.

7. Religious oaths shall be abolished. In cases where it is necessary only a solemn vow may be given.

8. The acts of civil status shall be kept solely by civil agencies.

9. The school shall be separate from the Church. The teaching of religion is prohibited in all state, municipal or private educational institutions where a general education is given. Citizens may give and receive religious instruction privately.

10. All ecclesiastical and religious associations are subject to regulations pertaining to private societies and unions, and shall not enjoy any advantages or receive any subsidies either from the State or from local self-governing institutions.

We have here a classic expression of the secular state which in turn is a consistent reflection of the belief of materialism. The question is, What constitution is being quoted? Is it a sort of model constitution found in the Humanist Manifesto? Is it taken from the US Bill of Rights? Is it the working brief of the American Civil Liberties Union? Or, is it from the NZ Human Right Commission?

The thinking and the concepts are familiar to us all. This is indeed the world of modern Unbelief as we have come to know it. So, what is the provenance of this stirring and very modern declaration of the separation of Church and State?

It is dated 23rd January, 1918 and is a decree promulgated by Vladimir Illyich Lenin on behalf of the new Soviet regime.

At this point, we expect you, the reader, will have one of two reactions. Some of you will react with surprise that the Soviet Union was so enlightened and advanced and that maybe it was not as bad a society or government as you have been lead to believe. Others will react with sadness and maybe anger that the Soviet Union did not live up to, nor keep, the declarations contained in this decree. The blood of Jerusalem's martyrs in that place still cry out to the Lord for vengeance.

To the first reaction, we say that the Soviet Union was neither enlightened nor advanced, but brutish and stupid—as all materialism is. The fact that we, however, find the statements so familiar tells us volumes about the brutishness of our own Athenian societies and nations and how implicitly sovietesque they have become, rather than the relative enlightenment of the Soviets.

To the second reaction, we reply that the Soviet establishment of the State as secular secular and that the Church must be separated off from civil society, inevitably led to the active and aggressive persecution of the Christian Church and of Christians. As it will in the West! Soviet tyranny was not an aberration, but an necessary extension of this establishment of the secular faith. If the state bans religious faith from the public sphere and restricts it to a private sphere only (one's conscience or heart) the state will end up persecuting any who evangelise others, or who teach their religion, or instruct their own children in their faith. They will do so while they subscribe the the statements made above. This is precisely what happened in the Soviet Union, particularly under Stalin under the Five Year Plan, than later under Krushchev, who presided over a period of intense and bitter persecution of Christians and Churches.

Materialism's doctrine of the secular state is a religious dogma. It draws upon a peculiar view of origins, of reality, of man and his place in the cosmos, of power, of truth, of ultimate loyalties and devotion, of ethics, of right and wrong, and of justice, judgment and righteousness. The secular state of modern materialism is an intensely religious institution, with religious loyalties and religious dogmas. It seeks to impose its religion upon people by force and compulsion. It is, in a word, an establishment of religion.

People of earlier ages were smarter than the current crop. They knew that the State was inevitably religious: they were smart enough to elevate the debate to one over which religion it was to be.

Jerusalem has, likewise, always known that the State is an institution and establishment of religion. The only question is whether it will be acknowledged to be a servant of the one true Living God, or of an idol. Jerusalem has always known that the modern secular state is just one more front for human self-worship.