Saturday, 28 February 2009

More Time Please

Two Centuries of Relentless Propaganda Not Enough

We are coming up on the 200th year after Darwin's birth, and 150 since he first published The Origin of the Species. Since that time the western world has been subjected to one of the biggest and most sustained propaganda campaigns of all time in an attempt to indoctrinate mankind into darwinism.

For the past 150 years, in almost every classroom, every university, every hall of learning, every mass media outlet, and every government programme the evolutionist paradigm has been assumed, pushed, propagated, and promoted. So militant has been the offensive that evolutionism has been elevated to where it is synonymous with science and reason and intelligence. Not to believe, adopt, and promote evolutionism either overtly or indirectly is regarded by definition as being obscurantist, unscientific, irrational, and ignorantly superstitious.

The billions of dollars spent on promoting the theory is beyond estimation--not to mention the man hours of effort. The sheer comprehensiveness of the campaign, the breadth and depth of the propaganda consensus, and the magnitude of the effort, has been unparalleled in history.

What has been the outcome? Well, The Guardian recently raised eyebrows with the assertion that half of Britons do not believe in evolution. This is the result of a recent survey undertaken in that country. Over a century of relentless propaganda and inculcation and still half the population thinks it's either rubbish or unlikely! Of the 50 percent who do believe in evolution, half of them think it only probably true, which means they think it is possibly wrong. We quote:

Half of British adults do not believe in evolution, with at least 22% preferring the theories of creationism or intelligent design to explain how the world came about, according to a survey.

The poll found that 25% of Britons believe Charles Darwin's theory of evolution is "definitely true", with another quarter saying it is "probably true". Half of the 2,060 people questioned were either strongly opposed to the theory or confused about it.

The Rescuing Darwin survey, published to coincide with the 200th anniversary of Darwin's birth and the 150th anniversary of the publication of On the Origin of ­Species, found that around 10% of people chose young Earth creationism – the belief that God created the world some time in the last 10,000 years – over evolution.

About 12% preferred intelligent design, the idea that evolution alone is not enough to explain the structures of living organisms. The remainder were unsure, often mixing evolution, intelligent design and creationism together. The survey was conducted by the polling agency ComRes on behalf of the Theos thinktank.

This situation is not isolated to Britain as if the inhabitants of that country were somehow afflicted with implacable ignorance. Similar results have emerged from surveys in the United States. According to one science reporter at

Public opinion surveys consistently have shown that Americans are deeply divided over evolution. The most recent Gallup poll on the issue, in June 2007, found that 49 percent of those surveyed said they believed in evolution and 48 percent said they didn't. Those percentages have stayed almost even for at least 25 years. . . .

A Harris poll published last December found that more people believe in a devil, hell and angels than in evolution.

We are reminded at this point of the relentless suppression of the Christian faith and the promotion of "scientific atheism" in the USSR and Eastern Europe for most of the twentieth century. At the end of it, after it had all come to an end, the majority of the population in the disintegrating Soviet Union still professed belief in a deity.

Why has evolutionist propaganda failed so miserably to win over the population, despite the extent, breadth, and length of the effort? There is no doubt a cluster of reasons.

First in importance (although regrettably not in influence) is the internal irrationality and illogic of the theory. Any theory that seriously proposes structure, pattern, order, and natural laws while advocating at the same time that the universe (being, matter, dimensions, time, space, existence, etc) is radically random and the product of brute chance, is so internally contradictory that it is doomed to failure from the outset. It cannot even get to first base, let alone past it. To even attempt to propound the theory rationally is to contradict it.

Secondly, people over the long haul find the arrogance of evolution protagonists tiresome. They are forever talking about "facts" without ever being prepared to examine their assumptions or their theories of fact. They assert the science is settled--and when challenged their modus operandi is to assert more loudly. They name call and demean their intellectual opponents--engaging in ad hominem attacks.

All of these failures in scientific rationality are on display even in the Guardian's article.
A spokesman for Sense about Science, an independent charitable trust, said it was important for scientists and educators to disentangle religious belief from evidence.

James Williams, a lecturer at Sussex University, said: "Creationists ask if ­people believe in evolution. Evolution is a theory and a fact. You accept it because of the evidence. What the creationists have done is put a cloak of pseudo-science to wrap up their religious belief."

Creationists are "pseudo-scientists"; they deceive by "wrapping up their religious beliefs in cloaks," etc. Moreover, in the quotation above, we have just another manifestation of "the science is settled, shut up" approach to one's opponents.

The theory-evidence-fact claim is pretentious. Evolutionism is a cosmogony--it endeavours to explain how life came into existence. Since the scientists were not present and their laboratories were not functioning at the time life came into existence, all they can do is project from the present backwards, which is inherently speculative. All rigorous scientists know that extrapolation (either back or forward in time) is a dangerously tentative and speculative activity. The best that one can say is extrapolation may or may not provide the truth. But no. The evolutionist propagandists insist that there is no speculation here: only hard evidence and the facts, baby. The self-blindness and the pretension is breathtaking.

Actually, when you think about it, the allegation against creationists in the quotation above is actually misleading. Creationists do not usually wrap up their religious faith--they are most often overt and clear and honest about it. But the allegation is far more fair and accurate when applied to evolutionists, for it is they who put up a cloak of pseudo-science in which to wrap up their religious beliefs. The "science" of evolutionism is nothing more than speculation and endless extrapolation into the past and therefore is pseudo-science. Moreover, beliefs about origins are inherently religious insofar as they purport to deal with the ultimate questions of being itself. Therefore evolutionism is inescapably religious. It is flat out dishonest not to acknowledge that this is the case.

The non-scientific status of evolutionism can be demonstrated another way. Ask any evolutionist whether evolution as a scientific hypothesis could be falsified. (This is a loaded question, since potential falsifiability is a put forward as a distinguishing characteristic of genuine science.) Most evolutionists will then happily describe conditions or experimental circumstances which would allegedly falsify their theory.

But if the world is radically unpredictable, why would these unexpected outcomes disprove the theory? After all, in a world "ruled" by chance--as evolutionists allege--anything is possible. In the end, evolutionism cannot be falsified for it "accounts" for even the most random of outcomes. (It is like the predictive climate models now being employed by another pseudo-science. Whatever happens to the climate it is trumpeted as "proof" the world is warming due to man-released carbon dioxide.)

So, people get tired of the hectoring and the bludgeoning tactics employed by evolutionists. It seems that they might protest too much. We believe that this has probably led to the current disquiet over Darwinianism.

Further, we live in an age when authority is pervasively distrusted. People have been told for over a century now that nirvana and paradise is just around the corner, and that all they need to do is elect this or that political party to government, and all will be well. The government can and will solve every problem. As the decades pass, this becomes more and more obviously untrue. The outcome is a widespread distrust of "official" positions. (Hence the plague of conspiracy theorists and conspiracies now abroad.) Evolutionism has been the official position for so long that it has begun to suffer from the pervasive scepticism attributed to what is perceived to be government propaganda.

So, all evolutionists can do now is plead for more time. One hundred years of relentless propagandising and active suppression of other views have not been enough. If evolutionism is so "factual" and so "obvious" and so "self-evident" and so "true" and so supported by "evidence", why might this be the case? "Well", one imagines the answer would come back, "we just need more time".

Meanwhile, the theory of evolution itself is mutating and changing. It was reconstructed and reshaped around the middle of last century as more and more evidence made original Darwinianism less and less believable. The revision was called the "Modern Synthesis" and people began to speak of neo-Darwinians. Now, there is talk of another major revision being needed--a kind of Modern Synthesis 2.0. Presumably we will now have to speak of neo-neo-Darwinians.

Revisions of scientific theory--even radical revisions--are not unknown. Consider, for example, the move from Newtonian mechanics to quantum mechanics.
Newtonian theories now die the death of a thousand qualifications. What is far less normal is that under a revised theory people would still cling to the old. You don't find many physicists still calling themselves "Newtonians" any longer or asserting that Newtonian mechanics are a "fact".

Yet the evolutionists still do. This is a further evidence of how religiously committed evolutionists are. But, such limited success after such a long time. . . .

Another two hundred years, anyone?

Friday, 27 February 2009

Islam IV

Islam versus Christianity

We have argued that there are currently three universalistic religions, each seeking to possess the entire world. Each is expansionist. Each is aggressive. But really, it is two against one. For both Islam and Western secular humanism are variants of the same seed of the Serpent: each seeks to honour Man above all else; each seeks to deny the one true Living God.

We have also argued that in the conflict and clash between Islam and the West, it is likely that western secular humanism will lose. It does not have the cultural power or vibrancy to stand up to Islam. It has manifested too many internal contradictions, harboured too many diversities in its relentless drive to build a utopian pluralistic multi-cultural society: it will always move over and accommodate Islam's claims and assertions. It cannot do anything else, lest it deny and blaspheme against itself.

If we are correct, in the end it will be a global clash between the Christian faith and Islam. Between these two, which will triumph?

Christianity of course. But in order to engage successfully in this conflict, it is important that Jerusalem cleans up its own act, as it were. In large part this requires that Jerusalem believes properly and truthfully so that she can exercise truthful faith in God Himself. So, let's canvass the basics.

In the first place, we need to be very clear that Islam is just one more idolatry, amongst a legion of idolatries spawned by fallen man in a vain attempt to deny and avoid the Living God. It represents the fevered imagination of one man, Muhammad, augmented by centuries of Islamic academics, thinkers, judges and rulers. As such it may be complex and in some ways sophisticated, but as a religion is remains an idolatry nonetheless. Allah does not exist. Allah is a figment of Islamic imagination. "Allah" is a warranting concept both to disguise and also justify Man as the measure of all things.

The fervency of belief does not alter this basic fact. Allah is just as much an idol as Zeus, Baal, Marduk, or Jupiter were. The construction of Allah as an alone god does not put Islam in a fundamentally different category from all other idolatries. Nor does it make Islam a kind of “cousin” of the Christian Gospel. Monism and Deism, despite their assertions of an alone god, are fundamentally and radically anti-Christian. So it is with Islam, which is just another version of monism and variant of Aristotelian deism. (It is arguable that Islam is a religious reflection of the Aristotelian stream of Hellenism, even as gnosticism was a religious reflection of neo-platonic Hellenism.)

Therefore, the people of Jerusalem need to respond to Islam in exactly the same way they respond to every other idolatry—with love and compassion, calling upon those entrapped in Islam to repent and believe in Christ that their sins might be forgiven. It is the Gospel, after all, which is the power of God unto salvation. (When western secular humanists attempt to shut down such evangelism, calling it hate speech, impugning the fundamental human rights of Islamic people, we simply smile, and repeat the same call [mutatis mutandis] to them: come out from the idolatry to which you are enslaved, and repent and believe upon Christ.)

Secondly, Islam cannot change the human heart. It cannot cause men to be born again. Now this is not to say that Islamic people do not really believe their religion. They clearly do, as the Baal worshipers in their day believed in their god. Islam militantly wants every idolater to accept Islam which is another idolatry—which requires no fundamental change of heart, only a change of opinion. It is like changing support from the Blues to the Hurricanes (which, for the uninitiated, are local rugby teams.) The underlying commitment to rugby as a game remains.

Only the Spirit of God can cause men to be born again, to become new creatures, so that all things are and will be made new. And when the Spirit stretches forth His hand, none can gainsay or resist. This is what makes the triumph of Christianity in the world inevitable. Christ has been invested by God the Father as Lord of heaven and earth. All enemies are to be placed under His feet. As His dominion is realised this will progressively mean the conversion of all mankind to Christ. The Lord Himself has declared that it will be so. To achieve and accomplish this, the sovereign Spirit of God effectually calls men and women. He moves upon men and women, boys and girls and causes them to be born anew, grants them the gift of faith, and raises them up as children of the Living God.

As the Westminster Shorter Catechism puts it:

Effectual calling is the work of God's Spirit, whereby, convincing us of our sin and misery, enlightening our minds in the knowledge of Christ, and renewing our wills, He doth persuade and enable us to embrace Jesus Christ, freely offered to us in the Gospel.

Without the Spirit of God effectually calling people to become Christians, none would ever believe. However, when the Spirit does call, none can stay His hand, for He transforms them from the inside out so that they will to believe, to do, and to obey. All the combined force of Islam and secular humanism cannot prevent the conversion of even one person thus called by God's infinite Spirit. (The conversion of the thief on the cross is a signature of this irresistible power. Initially mocking the crucified Christ, as he hung suspended with Him, his heart was transformed, and he was converted from unbelief to repentance and faith. The King was at the extremity of human weakness, frailty, degradation, and defeat. Yet through the power of God's Spirit changing his heart, the thief saw instead One who was the King and Lord of all.)

This inward transformation, leading to a new heart, is the reason why those people elect of God will inevitably become Christians. But the work is spiritual (that is, of the Holy Spirit Himself) and operates at the very seat of the human intellect, emotions and will. The Spirit enlightens our minds, renews our wills, persuades and enables us to embrace Jesus Christ, Who is freely offered, not forced upon men. Therefore, Christianity spreads not by compulsion or force of arms, but by the inner transformation of human souls, reviving them and joining them in living faith to Christ, their Saviour. But equally no force on earth can stay its spread, or prevent its success.

On the other hand, Islam can only spread with the sanction of force. Unable to transform human souls from the inside out, it can appeal to the relative merits of Allah, its idol—but when refused, compel submission by force. There is nothing else—either philosophically, conceptually, or in actual reality. Since Allah does not exist there is no power, beyond the power of man, to change minds. Human beings can only compel other human beings by force—ultimately by force of arms.

You see this manifested on every hand. Islamic societies, because of the weakness and nullity of their idol, have to resort to compulsion and force to protect the position of their god. Try expressing disbelief in Allah in Saudi Arabia for example. Try calling people to serve and worship the Living God. Immediately the full weight of Islamic totalitarianism would descend. But this very circumstance displays the idolatrous nature of Islam. Its god is a figment of human imagination: therefore humans, not their non-existent god, end up compelling others to do and live in accordance with their dictates.

But will Saudi Arabia always remain this way? No. It too has been appointed to come to bow and kiss the feet of the risen Son. But not by military or human powers of subjugation. Its people will be transformed from the inside out and Islam will be blown away as no more than chaff in the wind. The Gospel will be heard and believed in that land and an elect generation will arise who know not the god, Allah but who will call upon the Name of the Living God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.

Then, and only then, will true peace break out in that desert land. Even so, Maranatha. Come quickly Lord Jesus.

Thursday, 26 February 2009

Islam III

Religion of Peace?

We turn now to a consideration of Islam as a religion of peace. This face of Islam has been eagerly seized upon in the West and readily believed because the West wants to see in Islam a kindred spirit. It wants to find in Islam the same values which are important to the West. The West is driven to find “peace in our time” because it believes in the fundamental goodness of man. Thus, war and enmity are always seen as a profound aberration in the secular humanist West, whereas in Islam they are seen as a fundamental necessity.

The “peace” of Islam is has a very different meaning to what the West means when it calls for "peace in our time." The peace of Islam is the state that results when all is submitted to Islam. Imagine an unruly household. The Western version of peace is to persuade all the household members to put aside anger and live in willing co-operative harmony with everyone else in the house. The Islamic version of peace is to impose force, or the threat of force, so that everyone in the household does what they are told.

It is the peace that comes from control and suppressing dissent, whereas in the West “peace” means tolerating and accepting everyone as far as humanly possible. Thus, the West has willed itself to believe that Islam is fundamentally like itself. It has resulted in one of the most amazing recrudescences of Chamberlain-esque “peace in our time” imaginable. Virtually all Western political leaders have bought into the fallacy of equivocation over peace. Like Chamberlain before Hitler who preferred not to see what the Nazi's were all about, the West before Islam is denying what is obvious in the desperate hope that it might not be true.

As Ayatollah Khomeini put it so acerbically, “Islam is politics or it is nothing”. Islam is all about gaining political control. When Islam gains political power, it always suppresses opposition. This is the peace of Islam. Muhammad created a political entity: he took political control firstly of Medina, then of Mecca: politics and political control was always inseparable from religious belief. Islam exists and extends by force. It always has. This was Muhammad's teaching and example.

Many scholars have pointed out the differences of Muhammad's teaching and practice when he was “one among many” in Mecca initially (?570—622), and when he gained political control in Medina (622—632). While in the first phase, Muhammad was more of a quietist, teaching toleration, acceptance, and respect of others and their religions. But once he gained political power—and it was political power he sought—the powers of the state were used to force Islamic beliefs and laws and practices upon others: those who resisted were terminated.

The goal of Islamic communities is to walk in the footsteps of the prophet. The founder of their religion took control of Medina and bequeathed to his followers a (city) state. The extension of Islam is to be effected by gaining and extending political control. As Lewis puts it:

In the universal Islamic polity as conceived by Muslims, there is no Caesar but only god, who is the sole sovereign and the sole source of law. Muhammad was his prophet, who during his lifetime both taught and ruled on god's behalf. When Muhammad died in 632 C.E., his spiritual and prophetic mission, to bring god's book to mankind, was completed. What remained was the religious task of spreading god's revelation until finally all the world accepted it. This was to be achieved by extending the authority and thus also the membership of the community which embraced the truth faith and upheld god's law. . . .

From the days of the Prophet, the Islamic society had a dual character. On the one hand it was a polity—a chieftaincy that successively became a state and an empire. At the same time, on the other hand, it was a religious community founded by a prophet and ruled by his deputies, who were also his successors.
Lewis, op cit., p.6 &9. [We have deliberately removed the upper case letter “G” from the word God, although Lewis does not.]

Thus in Islam there is no separation of church and state. There is no church. There are no (or few) checks and balances. There are simply the power structures of Islam which exert control ultimately through the Islamic State whose rulers are bound to follow Muhammad's example—which is to say, by force and by the sword--to extend the community of Islam. This is the “peace” of Islam.

In this regard, we need to be clear about the task and duties of jihad. The “struggle” of jihad can be a moral striving and struggle, or it can be an armed offensive. The word is used in both senses in Islam. Which is true? The West wants to believe that jihad as moral struggle represents civilised and educated and modern Islam. It sees the armed warfare version of jihad as belonging to more primitive times. Thus, the West views Islam thorugh the prism of its own history. The armed struggle of armed struggle is compared to the sub-Christian Crusades; the jihad of moral, rational, and intellectual striving is seen as equivalent to the Western Enlightenment.

This interpretation is aided and abeted by the self-portrayal of Islamic groups in the West. The face of modern Islam portrayed to the world is jihad as moral striving, not jihad as armed conflict. There is a reason for this: Islam is not yet strong enough to take up arms against the West. Lewis again:

In the Qur'an the word (jihad) occurs many times in these two distinct but connected senses. In the earlier chapters, dating from the Meccan period, when the Prophet was still the leader of a minority group struggling against the dominant pagan oligarchy, the word often has the meaning, favoured by modernist exegetists (sic), of moral striving. In the later chapters, promulgated in Medina where the Prophet headed the state and commanded its army, it usually has a more explicitly practical connotation. In many, the military meaning is unequivocal. . . .

Some modern Muslims, particularly when addressing the outside world, explain the duty of jihad in a spiritual and moral sense. The overwhelming majority of early authorities, citing the relevant passages in the Qur'an, the commentaries, and the traditions of the Prophet, discuss jihad in military terms. According to Islamic law, it is lawful to wage war against four types of enemies: infidels, apostates, rebels, and bandits. Although all four types of wars are legitimate, only the first two count as jihad. Jihad is thus a religious obligation. . . .

For most of the fourteen centuries of recorded Muslim history, jihad was most commonly interpreted to mean armed struggle for the defense or advancement of Muslim power. . . . The presumption is that the duty of jihad will continue, interrupted only by truces, until all the world either adopts the Muslim faith or submits to Muslim rule.
Lewis, ibid., pp. 26—27

In other words, Islamic history is the exact reverse of the propaganda. The earlier more primitive form of Islamic jihad was the moderate, moral striving perspective. The later, more advanced expression was extension by the sword. Using force to extend Islam is the more advanced and superior state. Thus, one of the great provocations to frustration and anger amongst Islamic nations, and one of the great recruiting tools employed by Islamic fundamentalists, is the military weakness of Islam throughout the world. The only reason this is such an irritant and a shame amongst Islamic people is that they believe Islam is the rightful holder of political and military power in the world.

Islam's modus operandi is to organise to establish Islamic law within its own communities as long as Islam remains in a minority. It progressively insists upon its rights to Islamic law, traditions, marriage, and family life. As it takes over an area, a borough, a city block it then forces compliance of all within the locality it controls (for example, requiring that women, even those visiting, wear the burka). This is all part of jihad; it is the duty of every Muslim to engage in it. Once political control is seized, the sanction of the sword is added to the Islamic regime. Convert, comply, or death are then the only options to all citizens.

These things are not perversions of Islam. They are at the heart of all that Islam represents and teaches. It is what it means to follow the teaching of Muhammad. This is what Muhammad did, after all. The Islamic terrorists are thus much closer to the essence and heart of Islamic teaching than those Islamic rulers who are seeking to “westernise”, introduce democratic reforms, and so forth. Such regimes are seen as apostate—and worthy only of destruction. Their rulers must be killed. The “innovations” of terrorism (suicide bombings, killing women and children, declaring Islamic “collateral damage” to be involuntary martyrs, and so forth) are thus not fundamentally contradictory to the essence of Islam.

The West desperately hopes that Islam will “grow up”. It hopes that it will give up what it sees as primitive superstitions and behaviours. It hopes that it will morph into something less authoritarian, more accommodating of differences and diversity. This is a na├»ve and forlorn hope. It is not likely that this will ever happen. Or if it does, Islam will no longer be Islam as we have known it for fifteen hundred years.

Chamberlain's desperate and pathetic cry, "Peace in our time!" is increasingly becoming in the West a new chant: "Allah is great!" The peace of Islam is like the peace of National Socialism: it is the peace of the boot and the heel.

Wednesday, 25 February 2009

Islam II

Secular Humanism is Wimping Out. Islam Will Consume Itself

It is our view that in the conflict between Islam and secular humanism, Islam will likely prevail. The West is crumbling and will continue to crumble. The reason is not that Islam has technological superiority over the Western secular humanists. The reverse is the case. Rather the reason is that Islam is progressively turning the ideology of the secular West in upon itself and is using it so effectively that secular humanism is just rolling over. It is increasingly becoming evident that Islam is the reverse doppelganger of the West.

While Islam hates the West for its religion of human rights and implicit individualism on which it is based, it is showing itself remarkably clever in exploiting these components of Western idolatry to its own advantage when it needs to. Of course there are many fellow-travellers in the West (to use a good old communist term) who are more than willing to aid and abet the effort--such as human rights organisations and civil liberties groups and left-of-centre political parties.

The West is a self-proclaimed secular empire leading the human race into a higher plane of existence. It views Islam as inferior, archaic, and ignorant. But it cannot be seen to discriminate against the Islamic religion. If it were to discriminate it would be denying itself. Take the matter of immigration, for example. To refuse to allow Islamic people to immigrate would mean that the West would be discriminating against Islamic people on the grounds of their religion. Religious discrimination is regarded as a violation of human rights, according to the tenets of secular humanism. The secular West must maintain a studied indifference toward all religions (apart from its own idolatry) neither favouring the one, nor restricting the other.

If the West were to discriminate against Islamic migrants on the grounds that they were, well, Islamic it would mean that secularism would have to deny itself and blaspheme against itself. This would lead to intensive internal conflict within Western societies.

Over time, the waves of Islamic immigration, coupled with its far higher birth rate, mean that the West is increasingly confronted with self-confident, militant and aggressive Islamic minorities within its own realms, to which it constantly kowtows and capitulates. It does so because its own religion and ideology says that it must. To resist is to be guilty of discrimination which is to be non-Western. If the West is the supine effeminate seductress welcoming Islamic peoples and their culture into its household, Islam is the aggressive alpha male: the West submits, as a good woman should! The West is overcome and ends not with a bang, but a whimper.

However, whereas we believe that in the conflict between Islam and the Western secular humanism, it is Islam that will likely eventually triumph, exerting far greater cultural power, consistency and vigor, Islam also has within it the seeds of its own destruction. It will fail and fall before the Christian faith.

Just as the religion of secular humanism is self-destructive, containing sufficient internal contradictions that it always carries within it the seeds of its own destruction, so Islam cannot sustain itself. The more it succeeds in its conflict with the West, the more globally influential it becomes, the more it will tear itself apart. This is because the world belongs to the Living God and therefore evil (that which is opposed to God) is always internally self-contradictory and destructive. The more evil is “successful” (in the sense of becoming a dominant influence) the more it integrates into the void, turns upon itself, and cannibalises itself.

We can see examples of this taking place not just in the self-immolation of the West, but also in Islam today. For example, classical Islam recognizes two general categories of unbelievers, against which jihad (holy, predominantly military, war) must be waged. The two categories are unbelievers and apostates or renegades. The apostate is by far the worst. Bernard Lewis explains the difference. For Islam:

The unbeliever has not seen the light, and there is always hope that he may eventually see it. In the meantime, provided he meets the necessary conditions, he may be accorded the tolerance of the Muslim state and allowed to continue in the practice of his own religion, even the enforcement of his own religious laws. The renegade is one who has known the true faith, however briefly, and abandoned it. For this offense there is no human forgiveness, and according to the overwhelming majority of the jurists, the renegade must be put to death—that is, if male. For females a lesser penalty of flogging and imprisonment may suffice. God in His mercy may forgive the renegade in the other world, if He so chooses. No human has authority to do so.
Bernard Lewis, The Crisis of Islam: Holy War and Unholy Terror (London: Phoenix, 2003) pp. 34,35

Modern fundamentalist Islam, which calls Islam back to the purity of original Islam, regards those Islamic nations which do not live strictly according to sharia law, and which have made accommodations to the West in whatever form, as renegade nations. Their leaders and rulers are apostates. Therefore they must be killed.

Lewis again:

Most if not all of the Muslim rulers whom we in the West are pleased to regard as our friends and allies are regarded as traitors and, much worse than that, as apostates by many if not most of their own people.
Ibid, p. 35.

Islam, the more fundamentalist (and seriously consistent it becomes), the more it is likely to tear itself apart, for within its theology is the belief that those who are less than thoroughly committed are worse than unbelievers and must be exterminated. Thus, the other side of fundamentalism's face is a fatwa against all non-fundamentalist Islamic nations and people--an indictment that calls for their death. This is why most of the blood shed in the name of Islam is shed by Muslims against Muslims. While Islamic fundamentalism hates the West, it hates its own more profoundly. To fundamentalist eyes the term "Islamic moderate" is an oxymoron. To wear the label "moderate" is to risk a sentence of death.
Islamic fundamentalism has done more than anything in the past twenty years to turn Islamic people into “apostates” and “renegades”. They have become disgusted with their own religion.

Moreover, another self-destructive principle within Islam is emerging at the hands of modern and recent theological developments within Islamic fundamentalism itself. Fundamentalism has not just called for a return to the pure "good old days"; it has also engaged in some theological innovation of its own by developing further and more extremely some traditional and classical Islamic teachings. Islamic states and nations are finding it very difficult to refute and combat these “new” principles.

Firstly, there is the concept of suicide martyrdom. Classically suicide has been viewed in Islam as a mortal sin, resulting in eternal damnation, whereas martyrdom (being killed by enemies in the course of waging holy war against the infidels) has been viewed as an immediate passport to paradise. Fundamentalist theologians have begun to argue that martyrdom through suicide bombings and other self-willed and self-accomplished means of death is legitimate and not sinful. Moreover, fundamentalists have also come to argue that “collateral” damage which results in the death of innocent Islamic people through suicide bombings and other means, makes the dead involuntary martyrs—which is to their ultimate good, since they too pass immediately into paradise.

Finally, whereas sharia law explicitly forbids the killing of women and children when waging jihad, modern Islamic fundamentalists do it all the time, without a second glance. Thus in calling for the imposition of sharia, they ignore key provisions and tenets of the same. In the longer run this will create tensions which work to tear Islam apart from the inside.

Jerusalem fears neither the religion of Western secular humanism, nor the religion of Islam. The conflict between the two will serve to weaken both. In addition, both alike contain within them seeds of internal contradiction which will result in self-cannibalisation: either Islam or the West, if successful and triumphant, will eventually succeed to its own failure. Destruction therefore primarily comes from within, not without. If it were not so, the Living God would not be.

The responsibility of Jerusalem is neither to side with the West in its feeble struggles against Islam, nor with Islam in its railing against the decadence of the West. The duty of Jerusalem is to call all men (in both the West and Islam) away from slavery to their idols in both the West and in Islam unto the Christ Whose burden is easy and Whose yoke is light. Such calls are most likely to be heard when
. . . the widows of Ashur are loud in their wail
And the idols are broke in the temple of Baal;
And the might of the Gentile, unsmote by the sword
Hath melted like snow in the glance of the Lord.

It is in such calamitous times that often people finally have ears to hear. So it is not surprising that mission groups are reporting a significant increase of interest in the Gospel of Christ amongst Islamic peoples in recent days. The crumbling of Islam's idols at the hands of fundamentalists has led to broken and empty hearts seeking the true and Living God for the first time.

Tuesday, 24 February 2009

Islam I

Aspiring to Rule the World

Over the past thirty years, Islam has surged into the forefront of Western consciousness. Prior to that time, even amongst students of Western history, Islam was seen as a spent historical force, consigned to the backwaters of global civilisation. Its apogee had occurred in 1453 with the capture of Constantinople, but it had since declined steadily and was seen as increasingly irrelevant.

Few would hold that view now. For the West is confronted increasingly with a resurgent Islam and does not know what to do. Its response has been confused at best, without rhyme or reason at worst.

In the West the recent modern resurgence and confrontation has had three basic phases. First was the emergence of Arab national power through the first great oil shocks of 1973 and 1974. This, co-inciding with the formation of OPEC, led to western nations starting to factor in the policies and programmes of Arab nations in their thinking. The oil shocks and their aftermath put the Arab nations (and therefore Islam) on the radar screen of the West, insofar as they could not be simply ignored any longer. Oil was the economic life blood of the West.

Secondly, widespread migration from Islamic countries and regions (usually former colonies of France, Spain, Germany, and Britain) into Europe and Great Britain led to significant Islamic minorities becoming established in Europe and Great Britain. But—and here is where the West proved to be remarkably naive—the Islamic minorities did not assimilate into the prevailing secular western culture.

The corporate and communal aspects of Islam as a religion meant that Islamic immigrants did not assimilate easily, but tended to form their own separate communities (usually gradually and by osmosis) and as soon as permitted through force of numbers demanded rights and acknowledgment of their communal, corporate, and cultural institutions, coupled with a rejection of the then Western incumbent society and culture. Birds of a feather stick together, says the proverb. Experience has shown that Islamic birds stick very close together indeed.

Thirdly, the rise of Islamic fundamentalism by which we mean the call for a strict application of Islamic beliefs, practices, laws, and worship, which inevitably included an open incitement to violence, murder, death, threats and the successful carrying out of terrorist attacks upon innocent civilians in the name of Islam and jihad (the holy struggle) has meant that Islam is now far more influential in the West than ever before. It now has our collective attention.

The response of the West has been mixed indeed, but largely effete and ineffectual. Firstly, Islam has been seen (quite accurately and legitimately) as a religion. At best this means in the West it is condescendingly tolerated as a superstitious relic clung to by the uneducated and illiterate—that is, by those inferior. The superior modern secularist has smiled indulgently and tolerantly at the Pakis and the Ragheads thinking that they would grow up in time, even as he condescendingly ridicules Christians in a similar vein.

A second response has been paternalistic. The West has prided itself on human rights and the protection of minorities. Thus Islam rightly deserves protection, acceptance, and support. It has deserved respect in the same way that any modern inculcated with the religion of human rights would respect any minority. But with respect to Islam this has been done with striking inconsistency and blindness. When a conflict has arisen between minority rights and (say) the rights of women under Islam, the liberal academic complex routinely and almost without exception, has sacrificed the rights of women and children upon the altar of minority rights. In other words, even very liberal secularist women—even some of the most extreme feminists amongst them—have routinely ignored the “rights” of women in Islamic societies and neighbourhoods in favour of the greater right of minority self-determination.

A third response has been cowardice. Give “them” what they want; don't offend “them”. They might bomb us or kill us. Don't provoke them. Kill their fundamentalism with kindness. Show them a morally superior, and better way! Cowardly appeasement has been routinely manifested by politicians and news media. “Don't speak out; we might get killed,” has been the prevailing undertone.

The people of Jerusalem for their part have generally had a far more perceptive and profound response to Islam. The response of Jerusalem to resurgent and militant Islam takes place at a number of different levels and perspectives. It is neither one dimensional nor simplistic.

At its most basic level Jerusalem sees Islam as just one more manifestation of Unbelief; just one more Athenian variant; and just one more idolatry. It follows the way of the Serpent from the Garden of Eden; it is of its father, the Devil. There are only two “seeds” or races within humanity: the Believing seed of the woman; and the Unbelieving seed of the Serpent. Islam is definitely not of the seed of the woman—that is, the Christ—so it most certainly is of the seed of the Serpent, that is, the Devil. In this sense, Jerusalem sees Islam as part of the kingdom of this world which has already been overthrown and which will be gradually brought under the sovereign feet of the King of kings. Just as David faced the Philistines (and they are long gone, while the throne of David remains); Jeremiah the Babylonians (whose cities lie in dust and ruin); and the apostles faced Rome (which long ago declined and fell); so Jerusalem in our age faces Islam—one idolatry amongst others. It, too, will wane under the sceptre of the King.

At another level, Jerusalem sees Islam as one of two great adversaries. There are three dominant religions which are truly universalistic and global, and are militant in seeking to achieve global dominance. The first is Christianity: its triumph and success in actually achieving global universal sway over all mankind is certain and assured. This is because Jesus Christ its Head, rose from the Dead, has been installed as the King with all authority in heaven and upon earth, and the Living God committed irrevocably to putting all enemies under His feet—whether on the earth or in the heavens. The last enemy that shall be abolished is death itself. Christianity is the religion of Jerusalem. All who believe upon the Lord Jesus Christ and who call upon Him as their Lord and Saviour are citizens of that City.

The second universalist religion is secular humanism. This has the garb of an anti-religion, but it remains a religious faith nonetheless, with truly global aspirations and a universalistic militance. It seeks to bring all mankind into the Light of Human Reason. Like Islam and Christianity, it has no national boundaries: it spans across continents and oceans. It has its infallible word, its temples, its seats of learning, its education systems, its oracles of law. It has its plans of redemption and aspirations to create a higher state of being throughout the whole world. Free, autonomous, rationalistic, and secular are its liturgies and redemptive works.

Secular humanism has been relentlessly pursued and propagated since the Enlightenment. At times it has manifested its militance physically with armed and military aggression (the Napoleonic wars, Marxist scientific humanism, the age of Western imperialism and the White Man's Burden). At all times it has relentlessly propagated its beliefs via universities and places of learning. When possible it has imposed its faith through winning control of governments and enforcing it via the law and other mechanisms of the modern secular state. It has successfully captured the brazen trumpets of the mass media and the entertainment industry in the West and uses these organs as its propaganda arm.

Secular humanism is a direct opponent of the Christian faith and competes with it for world control.

The third univeralist religion is Islam. It, too, is committed to global domination. It too, relentlessly pursues it. It, too, is humanistic in the sense that Allah does not exist and Muhammad created an idol out of the figment of his fevered imagination, which he then used as a warranting concept to exert absolutistic power over everything which gained his attention. But Allah like all idols remains a human creation—to be changed or morphed at will as has actually occurred (which we shall see in later posts).

Islam is a kind of reverse doppelganger of secular humanism. Both alike end up with claims of absolutist power, although they get there by traveling in different directions. Both alike orientate to the State as the ultimate expression of authority and power. Both alike are prepared to engage in armed aggression and physical force to achieve their respective ends. Secular humanism will do so from time to time. Islam, for its part, has sought to engage in jihad (holy struggle) which ha
for the majority of its history been overwhelmingly understood as armed aggression against unbelieving, non-submitted people and nations.

All three religions aspire to rule the world. Only one will be ultimately successful. The Seed of the Serpent, whether manifesting itself as a secular humanistic West or an authoritarian dominating Islam, has already had its doom pronounced. Christ alone is King of all kings and Lord of all lords.

Monday, 23 February 2009

Meditation on the Text of the Week

Cutting to the Heart of the Matter

But he is a Jew who is one inwardly; and circumcision is that which is of the heart, by the Spirit, not by the letter; and his praise is not from men, but from God
Romans 2:29
One of the great contributions made by the Evangelical movement to the history of the Church has been its emphasis upon this one great truth: that in order to enter the Kingdom of God everyone, without exception, must be born again or anew. Jesus said flatly and emphatically that unless one is born again, he will not see the Kingdom of God. (John 3:3) The Evangelical movement has helped bring that truth to the fore in a way not before seen.

This emphasis has led to the phrase “born again Christian”. Amongst evangelicals the phrase refers to one who is a genuine or true Christian. Amongst Unbelievers, the phrase is usually a term of derision and contempt. Amongst those in the Eastern Orthodox and Roman Catholic traditions the doctrine of being born again has never had the prominence and central importance it has achieved in the Evangelical movement. Amongst the Reformed, the doctrine of the new birth has always been believed and confessed.

We believe the doctrine of the need to be born again is particularly relevant and needs to be appropriately emphasized in a culture that has moved from a Christian position to a post-Christian one. That is, in a culture such as ours--the post-Christian secular west. In such a time and in such an age there are many people who consider themselves to be Christian (they declare is to on the census forms) and they retain an outward conformity to the Christian faith.

Now, in a general sense, this self-deceit is rapidly dissipating in the West with each successive generation. The West is becoming more and more overtly pagan and therefore not only non-Christian, but increasingly anti-Christian. A generation that only conforms outwardly to the Living God will be followed by a generation that openly worships idols and militantly rejects God. This will continue until the time of God's choosing when He will judge Unbelief and revive and restore the Kingdom amongst us.

The Jewish people at the time of Christ were led by men whose conformity was outward only; many followed in their train. In our text, Paul, under the inspiration of the Spirit of God Himself, reveals that there were many people in his day who were Jews outwardly, but were not Jews at all (Romans 2:28). The true Jew—or one who in truth and actuality was a Jew—was not someone merely descended from Abraham, or who attended synagogue, or paid tithes—although of course true Jews also had these outward conformities and practices. But the true Jew was someone whose heart had been changed—“circumcised” is the metaphor used by Paul—and who, out of his changed heart, attended synagogue, paid tithes, revered his forefathers, and feared God.

This inner circumcision wrought an inner change; it cut away that which was evil and dead in the intellect, emotions, and will of an individual, and replaced it with truth, light, and faith. To become circumcised in heart is an equivalent metaphor to being born again. Both come from the Spirit of God, not man. Paul declares that circumcision of the heart is “by the Spirit”, just as Jesus declares that being born again is by the Spirit, and the Spirit only.

Just as with our Jewish forefathers, not all Christians are truthfully Christian. In fact, in an age such as ours, many who profess on the census forms are only outward Christians, not true Christians. Their objective and motivation is to have a “little bit” of the Christian faith as an insurance policy, in case it is true and they need it to access the after-life.
They remain Athenians, preferring the City of Unbelief, although they concede that fashion and dress sense in Jerusalem has a few things going for it. These people are pulled up short in their delusions with the emphatic Scriptural declaration that they will never get anywhere near the Kingdom no matter how many times they tick the Christian box in the census form, or attend church, or confess, or communicate—they will never even see the Kingdom of God, unless they are born from above, by God's Spirit.

And here is the rub. Being born again is a divine work, not a human work. You cannot do things to make, engineer, or ensure that you are born again. You cannot auto-generate. It is as impossible in the Kingdom as it is in the first birth. That is why Paul says that praise for being circumcised in heart comes not from men—but from God. Men cannot do or achieve this.

What then are we to do? Once again, the Bible is very clear on this. We are to believe on the Lord Jesus Christ in our hearts, coming out of the crowd of Unbelievers, and picking up our cross to follow Him. And we are to profess Him with our lips. “If you confess with your mouth Jesus as Lord and believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead, you shall be saved. . . . For the Scripture says, “Whoever believes in Him will not be disappointed.” (Romans 10: 9—11)

Those who have been born again by the Spirit of God, falling from above, will be so changed inwardly that repentance and belief in our Lord inevitably and irresistibly follows. Those not circumcised in heart by the Spirit will continue to tick census boxes, and will maintain a Christian appearance hoping that God will notice and have regard for their efforts. He will not. Such a one will not even see God's Kingdom, and the King will say, “Depart from Me, for I never knew you.”

To the one who hears this and becomes deeply afraid, the first signs of new birth from above are showing. To the one who shrugs or who mocks or denigrates, or who starts taking inventory of their “spiritual” accomplishments to counterbalance the threat—while these remain, the outer darkness awaits.

Saturday, 21 February 2009

The Obama Race Card

Some Things Are Just Inevitable

Given that Obama is the first black US President, and given that he was inevitably going to come in for criticism, equally inevitable was that the colour conscious black racists in the US would denounce opponents and critics of Obama as racists.

What is surprising was how soon it has happened.

The provocation in this case was a rather clever cartoon in the New York Post. A lady with questionable common sense had kept a pet champanzee until it grew into an adult. It attacked her friend and ran amok, requiring that police officers had to despatch it in the good old fashioned way.

The Post carried the following cartoon:

Now a reasonable person would have immediately seen the point. Congress had just written and passed one of the most stupid and craven pieces of legislation of all US history; the process it used to accomplish this auspicious feat was laughable; and as a final insult to injury no-one in either house had the opportunity to read the bill before they voted to pass it. To parody the Congress as being run by a bunch of out of control chimpanzees is apt indeed.

But the racists immediately saw a reference to President Obama--and in particular to his race--since historically blacks have been derisively referred to as monkeys. They clearly forgot with their febrile racist imaginations running white hot that Obama did not write the stimulus bill--Congress did--something for which Obama was subsequently criticised as reflecting his presidential naivite.

But then again, maybe there is an oblique reference to Obama, since he was stamping up and down demanding that Congress pass the legislation by a certain date, in order for him to sign it into law, only to delay the signing of the Bill for four days until he could arrange a suitable photo-op for the signing in the state of Colorado. Maybe he should have allowed Congress those four days to read the thing before they voted on it, since it clearly wasn't so urgent after all.

In any event the two hundred strident racist protestors, led by Al Sharpton, who came out to call for the NY Post to be shut down on the grounds of its racist cartoon have disgraced only themselves. Our expectation is that these people will wear themselves out with protesting, because there is going to be a whole lot more pointed criticism of Obama to come--which Sharpton and his followers will inevitably interpret as racist.

Wait until critical cartoons regularly appear. Enhancing facial features will doubtless be interpreted as racial stereotyping. The chorus of protest will rise. They will not tolerate any criticism of their One--and will allege racism on every hand. As for the Post--at first it hung tough, then supinely capitulated and apologised for offence. How wimpish.

The Price of a Good Executive

Crony Capitalism and Aligned Interests

We heard recently of Haruka Nishimatsu, Japan Airlines chief executive who has slashed his own salary to less than that of his pilots. The airline is in trouble. It is bloated with costs, a not insignificant component of which is staff salaries. He is going to lead from out front.

Executive salaries have been in the news lately. The unbelievably large payments made to senior Wall Street executives has America, including its new president, hopping mad. Self-gratifying chief and senior executives have been cited as a symptom of what is wrong with "unbridled capitalism" and an indicator of why the "free market" has failed.

Anyone who knows anything about free markets knows that the dynamic of creative destruction is at their core and that huge companies going bust is a proof of the free market working, not failing per se. The real issue is how the international free market system was allowed to get so far out of kilter, requiring such a large and calamitous correction. And it is at that point that we start to find that it was government interference and legislative distortions which have been substantially to blame. Governments essentially "de-risked" large parts of the commercial system in the name of a "higher social good" leading to and encouraging very speculative behaviour.

If corporations believe that in the end the government will pick up the tab, the moral hazard is unavoidable--corporations are free to engage in more and more risky behaviour. When business is protected by implicit government bailouts, or guarantees (as was the case with low grade mortgage financing the the US) the desire for more and more speculation is inevitable. It becomes irrational and commercially irresponsible not to participate and play the game.

The result for a time is higher and higher profits, carried forward by ever higher levels of debt. Executive payments rise accordingly. Shareholders tend not to complain at outrageously high executive bonuses and remuneration packages when earnings are rising and share prices are inflating upwards. Once again it turns out that governments are the problem in the first place, not the solution.

Thus the failure has not been caused by unbridled free markets, but a failure because of the lack of them. A free market is after all a market where private property (as guaranteed by the eighth and tenth commandments) is exchanged for a mutually agreed price. The only biblically legitimate interest of the government in such a market is the enforcement of contract and the punishment of fraud and theft.

The present failure has been caused by far too much crony capitalism--a cosy self-serving conspiracy between neo-socialist politicians seeking electoral support from the poorer classes and a mortgage industry in the United States and elsewhere able to operate without apparent risk. Which is to say, the risk was transferred to the taxpayer. Therefore, they were free to grow recklessly. Which meant they could grow rapidly, which meant, in turn, that staff--especially senior executives--could get paid outrageously. It was great work if you could get it.

Now, at first glance one can understand why senior executives in the big Wall Street firms used public money to make sure they got their huge bonuses again this year. After all, they were only calling in the guarantees they rightly believed had always been there. It's a bit churlish of politicians, Barack Obama included (as he was a staunch supporter of this particular version of crony capitalism), to criticise their paypackets now--since implicitly the US taxpayer has been funding them and underwriting them for years.

But politics is a fickle business and yesterday's grand alliance is today's dirty linen. The voters also are up to the necks in the whole tawdry business. They went along with the conspiracy. They were more than happy to get their subsidised loans and move into their new houses--which could only be afforded if a bigger fool came along after them prepared to pay a higher price than they had paid. It was free money as long as it lasted. They looked to their politicians to make sure that occurred--and used their votes accordingly.

They bribed the politicians, even as the political leaders bribed them. (By the way, why is everyone so upset about the Madoff Ponzi investment racket? He learned his trade from the crony capitalists and suborned voters and politicians, who ran the biggest Ponzi scheme in history. It was called Federal support for low-income housing. So big was the scam it has threatened the stability of the entire global financial system. Madoff was merely an imitator and thus their flatterer. Why despise him now?)

So, now the guarantees (explicit and implicit) have been called in and the taxpayer is paying up. Weep for your children and the slave collar of debt they and their children's children will likely bear as a result. Pagan governments always--always--act and move over the long run so as to enslave their people. And so it has proven true again. America, the land of the free, is rapidly devolving into a country of slaves. (We, in New Zealand, are well ahead, far further down that particular track. Here, the number of households directly and indirectly receiving income from government and government agencies is now far greater than those which do not. Entitlement socialism will lead to a rapid rise in public debt over the next few years--at least if the Treasury's forecasts are credible. So far in this economic crisis, their projections have proved too rosy!)

Will the situation improve? Not likely. On every hand there are calls for more, not less crony capitalism. So you need to be thankful for small mercies. And we think we have such a small step in the right direction in the US with Obama's insistence that executive salaries be capped at half a million dollars for those corporations which accept government capital. It is a small victory amidst a great mess. But, we will take what we can get.

What Obama's move shows clearly is that government money means government ownership. It comes with an owner's strings. The government is now a defacto (and large) shareholder in a growing number of US companies. An owner of a business has a right to stipulate executive salaries, does he not?

But the fine print on government supported executive remuneration is encouraging. Companies, while prohibited from paying above a certain level in salaries, are not prohibited from granting their executives bonus shares. Now this is not free. It has a cost. It costs existing shareholders because their shareholding is diluted, but then all staff remuneration is a cost to shareholders. Remuneration is a cost of business and shareholders own the business. But the bonus shares can only be accessed when the government is paid out, with interest.

Aligning managements' interests with shareholders and owners is never easy. No system is perfect. But the critics of Obama's stipulations have completely missed the mark.

One criticism is that no executive worth his or her salt will bother with such a mickey mouse arrangement. They will just move on to where they can attract higher income. Good riddance. If senior executives are not willing and eager to align their pockets with those of their owners and shareholders, get them off the ship. They have talent no-one needs. It is simply too destructive and costly in the long term. We believe that genuine, honest, capable and shareholder-committed executives who think beyond themselves and their immediate pay packets will rise to the top. Obama's stipulation is a way of sorting the wheat from the chaff and is a good move.

Another criticism comes from the envious who complain that "handcuffed" bonus shares will result in senior executives reaping huge profits in time because if corporations are restructured, stabilised, moved back to profit, and repay the government with interest, the share price of the company will have likely risen substantially. Executives will therefore be handsomely rewarded when they cash in their shares. True. And the problem with that is . . . ? Which one of the prior conditions listed above would you reject as unacceptable? Well, my envious friend, we believe it is appropriate to pay for a job well done. This way, the payment is not made unless the job is well done. The interests of the executives are aligned with their owners--and that is a very, very good thing. It is what crony capitalism subverted and suborned.

So, a small accomplishment, which may have a large and beneficial impact. We salute President Obama on this one.

Friday, 20 February 2009

Burning Issues

Greenists Twisting in the Wind

Recently, we posted on the historic ferocity and loss of life in the recent Australian bush fires. A substantial component of the cause has been the growing greenist political influence over local and regional councils. Councils have prevented controlled burn-offs, and prosecuted and fined those who have been prudent to conduct (now illegal) burnoffs or clearings. The result has been a sustained build up of combustible material within vast swathes of the Australian bushlands.

Controlled burnoffs and clearing do not prevent bushfires. They mitigate them. It is argued that had such mitigation policies been systematically carried out over the past fifteen years, the recent fires would not have had their intensity and the tragic loss of life would have been far less.

Miranda Devine writes in the Sydney Morning Herald on how greenist lobby groups are starting to twist in the wind, and are launching new spin.

This burning issue of life and death

Miranda Devine
February 19, 2009 - 12:16AM

One of the biggest furphies in the supercharged debate in the wake of Victoria's bushfires is the claim by green groups that they are great supporters of hazard reduction burning.

Also known as prescribed burning, this scientific regime creates a mosaic of lightly burned land at regular intervals of five to seven years, thus reducing surface fuel loads by varying amounts within the mosaic.

This reduction of fuel loads is expensive, but Australia's pre-eminent bushfire researchers, such as the CSIRO's Phil Cheney and Monash University's David Packam, say it has been proven to reduce the power and intensity of fire. Every bushfire inquiry since the 1939 Stretton royal commission has recommended increased prescribed burning to mitigate the effects of inevitable wildfire.

It is a matter of public record that green groups have long opposed such systematic prescribed burning, as is evident in their submissions to bushfire inquiries from as far back as 1992. They complain of a threat to biodiversity, including to fungi, from "frequent burning" regimes and urge resources be spent on water bombers and early detection, as well as on stopping climate change - good luck with that.

Yet last week, Jonathan La Nauze of Friends of the Earth, Melbourne, in a letter to this newspaper claimed: "…not one Australian environmental organisation is opposed to prescribed burning … Environment groups are engaged in a sophisticated debate about where and how prescribed burning can be most effective."

Yes, it's sophisticated, all right. It just depends how you define "prescribed burning".

The greenist record on opposing prescribed burning and clearing around houses is undeniable. It beggars belief that greenists are now claiming "it ain't so." What are we then to think of a greenist who claims that not one Australian environmental organisation is opposed to prescribed burning. Well, we see here the execution of a classic fallacious and deceitful device: redefine a category, in this case "prescribed burning" to be so narrow and rarefied and restricted, then come out and claim that they support it.

Imagine an organisation which had twenty years of track record publicly opposing all toll roads. Then, when accused of being anti-toll roads, protested that it was in fact not against toll roads at all. It was only opposed to those toll roads where motorists were charged money to use. But in the case of someone else being charged--say the business sector--it would be very supportive of toll roading. Classic category revision. Classic fallacious argumentation. This is how greenists are now twisting in the wind in Australia.

On the other side of the country, one Peter Robertson, the West Australian co-ordinator of the Wilderness Society, was singing from a different song sheet. His letter last week to The West Australian stated: "Experience and risk analysis show that repeatedly burning tens of thousands of hectares of remote bushland and forest will do little to address the threat of bushfires to human communities … It would be a huge mistake if the community was led to believe that a massive, expensive and environmentally destructive prescribed burning program was going to protect them when it could make matters worse." Robertson is no lone ranger among greens in opposition to prescribed burning.

The WA Forest Alliance, for instance, lodged a submission to the NSW parliamentary inquiry into the 2001-02 bushfires, claiming: "Frequent fires have a disastrous effect on many species of flora and fauna and their habitat structure." WWF Australia's submission claimed: "Inappropriate fire hazard regimes can damage biodiversity leading to the loss of native species, communities and ecosystems."

The NSW Greens state on their website as part of their bushfire risk management policy: "There is an urgent need to correct the common misconception that responsible fire management always involves burning or clearing to reduce moderate and high fuel loads…"

In 2003, lightning strikes in fuel-rich national parks in NSW and the ACT sparked bushfires which swept into Canberra, killing four people.

Days later, the NSW Nature Conservation Council's then chairman, Rob Pallin, described calls for increased prescribed burning as "futile" and a "knee-jerk reaction". "People who claim that hazard reduction burning is a cure-all for bushfire risk are either fooling themselves or deliberately trying to fool the public." It is another clever tactic of those who oppose broadscale prescribed burning to claim that it is not a "cure-all" for bushfire risk. No one has ever claimed it is.
Yet another example of deceitful and specious reasoning. Put up a straw man then vociferously and forcefully reject it. In this case, the straw man is to allege that proponents of controlled burning believe that it is a "cure all" for bushfire risk. Clearly, no-one argues that. Controlled burning is a mitigation, not a prevention. Bushfires in Australia are inevitable (and very necessary to the environment): controlled burning mitigates the risks. Without it, far too many people die.

As Cheney repeatedly has said, wildfires will occur, but prescribed burning reduces the intensity of a fire burning "under any set of meteorological conditions", and it reduces the spread of the fire, allowing firefighters to construct effective control lines.

And yet there have been recent moves to have controlled burning listed as a "key threatening process" under the Environmental Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act. Such a submission has reportedly been received by the Threatened Species Scientific Committee.

In NSW, already, the Department of Environment and Conservation has listed "too frequent fire" as a "key threatening process to biodiversity".

But the real threatening process is the holocaust we have just seen in Victoria.

Last week angry fire survivors in Victoria pointed the finger at local authorities who prevented clearing of vegetation. At a public meeting in Arthurs Creek, Warwick Spooner, who lost his mother and brother in the Strathewen fire, stood up criticise the Nillumbik council.

"We've lost two people in my family because you dickheads won't cut trees down." Then of course, there is Liam Sheahan, the Reedy Creek home owner whose house is the only one in a two-kilometre area which survived the fires. In 2004 he was fined $50,000 for removing 247 trees around his hilltop house to protect it from fire. His two-year court battle against the Mitchell Shire Council cost him $50,000 in legal fees.

This is the case of the Kiwi couple whose plight was profiled on national television in this country a few days ago. If justice is to be served, this couple need to be restituted by Mitchell Shire Council--and all their neighbours who lost houses because they complied with the deadly and destructive council prohibitions on clearing trees should enter into a class legal action against the council for compensation. It is the only way that the greenist ideological control over council policies will be broken. They would have a good case. We understand that the Sheahan house was the only one left standing: everyone else who complied with the council prohibitions and restrictions have suffered the destruction of their houses.

It is a rich irony that Slidders Lawyers last week launched a class action on behalf of fire victims at Kinglake, against the Singapore-owned electricity company SP AusNet, alleging the fire was caused by a fallen power line.

After all, it was only in 2001 that Transgrid bulldozed a 60-metre wide firebreak under its high-voltage lines in the Snowy Mountains. For that it was prosecuted by four government agencies, blasted for "environmental vandalism" by the then NSW premier Bob Carr, and fined $500,000.

Two years later, during the disastrous firestorm that engulfed the mountains, the offending firebreak became the only safe haven for kangaroos and workers constructing a fire trail. The sad truth of such holocausts is that the environmental toll ends up worse than the most vigorous prescribed burning regime ever could be.

Victoria's bushfires have spewed millions of tonnes of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere - more than a third of Australia's entire output for a year, according to Sydney University's Professor Mark Adams.

No doubt the royal commission will recommend, like previous inquiries, that prescribed burning should be increased. After so many deaths will anyone listen this time?

We fear not--at least not until class legal action hits local councils in the pocket--who will then have to front up to ratepayers and insurance companies and do some explaining. Then greenist ideology will likely be seen for what it is: a curse upon humanity.

Thursday, 19 February 2009

Iconic is in the Eyes of the Beholder

If Obama can "Bail Out" General Motors, why not Fisher and Paykel?

Doctrinaire John Key is not. His musings on the government being prepared in a worst case scenario to help an "iconic" New Zealand company through a debt crisis have been widely discussed from all parts of the political spectrum over the past days.

There is much that can be used to build up a case for F&P being a New Zealand commercial icon. The wonder is that it has lasted so long. It is a whitewear manufacturer (fridges, freezers, washing machines). It is a business line in which New Zealand has no immediate or glaring competitive advantage.

Well, F&P have tried to create one. For a while they succeeded admirably. But the problem with competitive advantages is that your competitors are always trying to leapfrog your advantage with one of their own. The company sought to create a barrier to competition by intellectual property--through technological advances and design engineering, so that the electronic controls and engineering features of their appliances were always a step ahead of the competition.

Once the technology was invented, and the manufacturing began, however, the company constantly ran into headwinds. The steel boxes in which the appliances sat were brute commodities. The manufacturing plants had little competitive advantage, if any, but the biggest input was always labour costs. And here New Zealand was competing against labour rates in Asia and South America that were a fraction of those in New Zealand. In the end, F&P simply could not compete. The number of technological advances possible was finite; competitors were always imitating and coming up with their own.

It is a credit to the company's management that they held out for so long. They have had a reputation for being good and loyal employers. They were proud of their New Zealand heritage. They fought long and hard to retain the business in New Zealand, even as they expanded and set up manufacturing plants and markets offshore. But years of a speculatively high currency was the final nail. So, last year the company capitulated, started shutting down manufacturing in New Zealand, and moving it to Thailand and Mexico. Labour rates there were far cheaper.

Now, the company has been caught short. The rationalisation measures have yet to come into full fruition, so costs have not yet been supplanted by restored and increased earnings. But the global economic slowdown had dried up its markets, so sales are slowing rapidly. (Whitewear demand is closely correlated with the housing market.) The king hit has been its debt, denominated in foreign currencies, which has ballooned as the New Zealand dollar has fallen. Mark-to-market accounting rules mean that it has had to be reflected in New Zealand dollar values on the balance sheet.

So, should the government let the company fail--if it cannot find a new cornerstone shareholder, or if its existing shareholders will not put more capital into the business? Our belief is that it should. There is no shame, no ignominy in such a company failure. If anything, it should have happened a long time ago--or at least the company should have moved its manufacturing operations offshore years ago. It struggled on (and did OK for a time) in the face of inevitably relentless international competition in vital areas of the business in which it had a severe competitive disadvantage.

If there is blame, it is in the company having a misguided loyalty to its New Zealand work force for far too long. Now the move overseas looks to be too little and too late. The real test of whether the company should survive is whether its existing shareholders are willing to put more money into the company. If they are not, then it would be irresponsible and reckless for the government to use taxpayers' fund and risk them for emotional or sentimental reasons.

It is the existing shareholders who need to be convinced that the company's troubles are temporary, that the restructuring is the right thing to do, and that the company will be able to compete and trade its way out of the current difficulties. If they are not convinced and are prepared to write off their existing investment in the company, rather than throw good money after bad, then it is the worst kind of commercial fool who would rush in where existing shareholders fear to tread.

While there may be no shame in having F&P fail after having worked so hard for so long, there very definitely is shame attached to actions which put off the inevitable and throw precious money away for emotional and sentimental reasons--such as the iconic status of a company.

What will the shareholders decide? We await with interest. There is one disturbing note to be added. At least two bloggers have given customer feedback on their recent experience with F&P products. Whaleoil, in his normal understated and reserved fashion provided the following assessment:

They used to make good products and now they don't. I used to buy exclusively Fisher & paykel Products but this is a list of the crap problems we have had with "iconic" products from an "iconic" company;

* Washing Machine lid caved in and no longer activated the switch to turn it on
* The relatively new drier we have has just shit itself
* The Dish Drawer was a piece of shit we basically just ripped out and threw away.
* The Brand New Oven Quantam Series we got arrived and didn't have a thermostat resulting in a severe burn to the missus and never working right since.
* Fridge went on fritz after only 10 years....used to be you could use a fridge for ever.

As far as I am concerned Fisher & Paykel Appliances are crap and they deserve to falter. If and when any appliance craps out in our house the rule is NO F&P to replace it.

Then, the only slightly more delicate Lucyna has this to say:

Ironically, my only just over one-year old Fisher and Paykel dishwasher broke 20 minutes ago. You see, all the stress of the opening action was directed to two points on the plastic panel strip at the top of the door. Both of these plastic points were attached by metal screws to the metal door on the inside of the dishwasher. So, the plastic at those two points just couldn't take the pressure anymore and broke when I pulled on the door. Most likely the only things stopping the whole panel from coming were all the wires in this area that directed the control information back to the dishwasher. Who ever designed this dishwasher did a really crap job of it if they expected today's plastic to last very long at all.

The dishwasher actually still works as none of the wires were pulled out when the panel came off, but I'm not sure I'm going to be able to open it again when it's finished washing my current load of dishes (there was no way I was unloading the dishwasher and washing by hand, unless it was really broken). Maybe levering it open with screwdriver might do it...

So, not very happy with Fisher and Paykel right now. Nor am I buying another Fisher and Paykel dishwasher to replace it if part of their design is to put cheap plastic into major stress areas such as the door and expect the damn thing to last.

Maybe John Key's dishwasher is a Miele, so hasn't noticed that Fisher and Paykel is cheap crap.

That is the most worrying indicator of all.

Since F&P is such a small company in the global scale of things, and since, therefore, the long term potential market for its products is huge, an obvious competitive advantage would be to build appliances that would last for decades. Robust, enduring quality is essential. Technological gimickry is not. "Buy quality and buy it once" should be the brand.

Twenty-five years ago we bought a Maytag washing machine. It is a solid, well-made, quality piece of equipment. It is going as well today as it did when it was first bought. It has been used daily and often twice a day for decades. We would have bought another (if we ever had to) in an instant. Sometimes we think it will outlast the house. Now that is real product differentiation and competitive advantage.

By the way, the company's brand slogan: "Maytag: built strong to last long." As Harvey Keital would say, "I like that." But there is a kicker to this story. In 2006, Whirlpool bought Maytag out. The brand would is still being used, but it is clipped now onto Whirlpool appliances. The real Maytag is no more--it is apparent that Whirlpool made them an offer they could not refuse, essentially to take a successful competitor out of the market. They indeed did have a real enduring competitive advantage. Whirlpool could not outcompete: in the end it had to pony up with the dinero. We are sure that Maytag shareholders are more than happy.

Maytag lasted 112 years as an independent company.

We Could Not Resist

Morning Coffee Just Got Better

We chuckled--you know that kind of deep seated belly laugh that the good doctors tell us does much to enhance our wellbeing--as we read the following from Busted Blonde at Roarprawn over our morning coffee.

BB got all literary and excited on us. She was describing the new mood in Wellington as heads of government departments start to cut spending and complete a line-by-line review of all departmental budgets. We quote:

People in and out of Government departments are head down and tushes up as they pour over the books of each and every Government department and Ministry. Line by line the go, project by project, programme by programme, trimming, snipping, biffing out, asking why, asking how and asking "what the fuck?"

Up they front to Ministers with weasel words, fawning over their new masters whispering on how good they have been and how much they have trimmed, offering up only dust, only to be told to go away and come back with more. Some have been told twice already that they must do better. CE's stare at you with the eyes of the hunted in the lift. It is a new dawn and the cold light of reality sees them shiver.

It is a beautiful thing to behold. People in the hinterland should be allowed to come to Wellington to watch to give them some satisfaction that this government that they gave their good votes to, is performing financial liposuction on the bloated beast that is the public service.

Over coffee you hear the whines and the howls and see the tears from some as their little fiefdoms are sucked of fat. In other corners rivers of joyful tears run down the faces of the pragmatic as finally they see the waste being put in a bucket and turfed out. Gone are the raspberry and white chocolate muffins, gone are the two course luncheons for little meetings, Going are the Koru Club cards, gone are the oversized rentals. Going are the spurious overseas conferences for " networking." Going are the crap documents in huge storerooms that serve no purpose, remain unread, never distributed.

All is Bliss - just bliss.

Since most of us in the hinterland will not have the opportunity to coming to Wellington to see the "beautiful thing" maybe BB could provide us with a photo--just one, of a department CE with that hunted look in the eyes!

But let's not forget it is just the tip of the iceberg. The hinterland itself is inundated with rules, regulations, demands for reports, forms, surveys, endless constrictions and restrictions. To change the metaphor, a behemothic bureaucratic boa constrictor is squeezing the breath and life blood out of productive activity everywhere. The bloodless revolution must move beyond the rarefied confines of ministerial head offices out into the hinterland where production takes place.

If the revolution is to succeed, it must encompass both branch and root.

Wednesday, 18 February 2009

Letting Geert Wilders Speak, Part II

The Capitulation of the West

In the first part of this speech by Geert Wilders, MP of the Netherlands, he described the actual Islamisation of Europe that is taking place in so many communities and cities across that Continent. He also characterised Islam as an extremist political ideology, with inevitable totalitarian tendencies.

In the second part of his speech, he provides background to the making of his film, Fitna and describes the hysterical reaction to it, along with reactions of supine cowardice on the part of the political and social elites throughout Europe. He then goes on to argue for the significance of Israel in our modern world.

Which brings me to my movie, Fitna. I am a lawmaker, and not a movie maker. But I felt I had the moral duty to educate about Islam. The duty to make clear that the Quran stands at the heart of what some people call terrorism but is in reality jihad. I wanted to show that the problems of Islam are at the core of Islam, and do not belong to its fringes.

Now, from the day the plan for my movie was made public, it caused quite a stir, in the Netherlands and throughout Europe. First, there was a political storm, with government leaders, across the continent in sheer panic. The Netherlands was put under a heightened terror alert, because of possible attacks or a revolt by our Muslim population. The Dutch branch of the Islamic organisation Hizb ut-Tahrir declared that the Netherlands was due for an attack. Internationally, there was a series of incidents. The Taliban threatened to organize additional attacks against Dutch troops in Afghanistan, and a website linked to Al Qaeda published the message that I ought to be killed, while various muftis in the Middle East stated that I would be responsible for all the bloodshed after the screening of the movie.

In Afghanistan and Pakistan the Dutch flag was burned on several occasions. Dolls representing me were also burned. The Indonesian President announced that I will never be admitted into Indonesia again, while the UN Secretary General and the European Union issued cowardly statements in the same vein as those made by the Dutch Government. I could go on and on. It was an absolute disgrace, a sell-out.

A plethora of legal troubles also followed, and have not ended yet. Currently the state of Jordan is litigating against me. Only last week there were renewed security agency reports about a heightened terror alert for the Netherlands because of Fitna.

Now, I would like to say a few things about Israel. Because, very soon, we will get together in its capitol. The best way for a politician in Europe to loose votes is to say something positive about Israel. The public has wholeheartedly accepted the Palestinian narrative, and sees Israel as the aggressor. I, however, will continue to speak up for Israel. I see defending Israel as a matter of principle. I have lived in this country and visited it dozens of times. I support Israel. First, because it is the Jewish homeland after two thousand years of exile up to and including Auschwitz, second because it is a democracy, and third because Israel i s our first line of defense.

Samuel Huntington writes it so aptly "Islam has bloody borders". Israel is located precisely on that border. This tiny country is situated on the fault line of jihad, frustrating Islam's territorial advance. Israel is facing the front lines of jihad, like Kashmir, Kosovo, the Philippines, Southern Thailand, Darfur in Sudan, Lebanon, and Aceh in Indonesia. Israel is simply in the way. The same way West-Berlin was during the Cold War.

The war against Israel is not a war against Israel. It is a war against the West. It is jihad. Israel is simply receiving the blows that are meant for all of us. If there would have been no Israel, Islamic imperialism would have found other venues to release its energy and its desire for conquest. Thanks to Israeli parents who send their children to the army and lay awake at night, parents in Europe and America can sleep well and dream, unaware of the dangers looming.

Many in Europe argue in favor of abandoning Israel in order to address the grievances of our Muslim minorities. But if Israel were, God forbid, to go down, it would not bring any solace to the West. It would not mean our Muslim minorities would all of a sudden change their behavior, and accept our values. On the contrary, the end of Israel would give enormous encouragement to the forces of Islam. They would, and rightly so, see the demise of Israel as proof that the West is weak, and doomed. The end of Israel would not mean the end of our problems with Islam, but only the beginning. It would mean the start of the final battle for world domination. If they can get Israel, they can get everything. Therefore, it is not that the West has a stake in Israel. It is Israel.

It is very difficult to be an optimist in the face of the growing Islamization of Europe. All the tides are against us. On all fronts we are losing. Demographically the momentum is with Islam. Muslim immigration is even a source of pride within ruling liberal parties. Academia, the arts, the media, trade unions, the churches, the business world, the entire political establishment have all converted to the suicidal theory of multiculturalism. So-called journalists volunteer to label any and all critics of Islamization as a 'right-wing extremists' or 'racists'. The entire establishment ha s sided with our enemy. Leftists, liberals and Christian-Democrats are now all in bed with Islam.

This is the most painful thing to see: the betrayal by our elites. At this moment in Europe's history, our elites are supposed to lead us. To stand up for centuries of civilization. To defend our heritage. To honour our eternal Judeo-Christian values that made Europe what it is today. But there are very few signs of hope to be seen at the governmental level. Sarkozy, Merkel, Brown, Berlusconi; in private, they probably know how grave the situation is. But when the little red light goes on, they stare into the camera and tell us that Islam is a religion of peace, and we should all try to get along nicely and sing Kumbaya. They willingly participate in, what President Reagan so aptly called: "the betrayal of our past, the squandering of our freedom."

If there is hope in Europe, it comes from the people, not from the elites. Change can only come from a grass-roots level. It has to come from the citizens themselves. Yet these patriots will have to take on the entire political, legal and media establishment.

Over the past years there have been some small, but encouraging, signs of a rebirth of the original European spirit. Maybe the elites turn their backs on freedom, the public does not. In my country, the Netherlands, 60 percent of the population now sees the mass immigration of Muslims as the number one policy mistake since World War II. And another 60 percent sees Islam as the biggest threat to our national identity. I don't think the public opinion in Holland is very different from other European countries.

Patriotic parties that oppose jihad are growing, against all odds. My own party debuted two years ago, with five percent of the vote. Now it stands at ten percent in the polls. The same is true of all similarly-minded parties in Europe. They are fighting the liberal establishment, and are gaining footholds on the political arena, one voter at the time.

Now, for the first time, these patriotic parties will come together and exchange experiences. It may be the start of something big. Something that might change the map of Europe for decades to come. It might also be Europe's last chance. This December a conference will take place in Jerusalem. Thanks to Professor Aryeh Eldad, a member of Knesset, we will be able to watch Fitna in the Knesset building and discuss the jihad. We are organizing this event in Israel to emphasize the fact that we are all in the same boat together, and that Israel is part of our common heritage. Those attending will be a select audience. No racist organizations will be allowed. And we will only admit parties that are solidly democratic.

This conference will be the start of an Alliance of European patriots. This Alliance will serve as the backbone for all organizations and political parties that oppose jihad and Islamization. For this Alliance I seek your support.

This endeavor may be crucial to America and to the West. America may hold fast to the dream that, thanks to its location, it is safe from jihad and shaira. But seven years ago to the day, there was still smoke rising from ground zero, following the attacks that forever shattered that dream. Yet there is a danger even greater danger than terrorist attacks, the scenario of America as the last man standing. The lights may go out in Europe faster than you can imagine. An Islamic Europe means a Europe without freedom and democracy, an economic wasteland, an intellectual nightmare, and a loss of military might for America – as its allies will turn into enemies, enemies with atomic bombs. With an Islamic Europe, it would be up to America alone to preserve the heritage of Rome, Athens and Jerusalem.

Dear friends, liberty is the most precious of gifts. My generation never had to fight for this freedom, it was offered to us on a silver platter, by people who fought for it with their lives. All throughout Europe American cemeteries remind us of the young boys who never made it home, and whose memory we cherish. My generation does not own this freedom; we are merely its custodians. We can only hand over this hard won liberty to Europe's children in the same state in which it was offered to us. We cannot strike a deal with mullahs and imams. Future generations would never forgive us. We cannot squander our liberties. We simply do not have the right to do so.

This is not the first time our civilization is under threat. We have seen dangers before. We have been betrayed by our elites before. They have sided with our enemies before. And yet, then, freedom prevailed. These are not times in which to take lessons from appeasement, capitulation, giving away, giving up or giving in. These are not times in which to draw lessons from Mr. Chamberlain. These are times calling us to draw lessons from Mr. Churchill and the words he spoke in 1942:

"Never give in, never, never, never, never, in nothing great or small, large or petty, never give in except to convictions of honour and good sense. Never yield to force; never yield to the apparently overwhelming might of the enemy".

We at Contra Celsum are glad that the blogosphere still facilitates the freedom of speech, and we are pleased to be able to have provided a platform for Mr Wilders.