Wednesday, 30 September 2009

Court Jester- in-Chief

More UN Goebbelism

The General Secretary of the UN, Ban Ki Moon recently acted like a prize idiot before a global audience. He danced a dervish on an Arctic ice floe to warn us of the dangers of melting polar caps--whilst being dutifully photographed and reported by media intent on cause-journalism (aka propaganda).

Christopher Booker of the Daily Telegraph slices and dices the idiocy of the General Secretary.


Arctic ice proves to be slippery stuff

The extent of the sea-ice is now half a million square kilometres more than it was this time last year, says Christopher Booker.


By Christopher Booker, 05 Sep 2009


BBC viewers were treated last week to the bizarre spectacle of Mr Ban Ki-moon standing on an Arctic ice-floe making a series of statements so laughable that it was hard to believe such a man can be Secretary-General of the UN. Thanks to global warming, he claimed, "100 billion tons" of polar ice are melting each year, so that within 30 years the Arctic could be "ice-free". This was supported by a WWF claim that the ice is melting so fast that, by 2100, sea-levels could rise by 1.2 metres (four feet), which would lead to "floods affecting a quarter of the world".

Everything about this oft-repeated item was propaganda of the silliest kind. Standing 700 miles from the Pole, as near as the stubbornly present ice would allow his ship to go, Mr Ban seemed unaware that, although some 10 million square kilometres (3.8 million square miles) of sea-ice melts each summer, each September the Arctic starts to freeze again. And the extent of the ice now is 500,000 sq km (190,000 sq m) greater than it was this time last year – which was, in turn, 500,000 sq km more than in September 2007, the lowest point recently recorded (see the Cryosphere Today website). By April, after months of darkness, it will be back up to 14 million sq km (5.4 million sq m) or more.

Mr Ban seems equally unaware that, even if all that sea-ice were to melt, this would no more raise sea-levels than a cube of ice melting in a gin and tonic increases the volume of liquid in the glass. If he is relying for his "100 billion tons" on land ice melting in Antarctica and Greenland, he should note that much of their ice sheets are growing rather than shrinking. His "100 billion tons" is fantasy.

Similarly worthy of the Booker Prize for fiction was WWF's claim that sea levels might rise by four feet (twice the most extreme guess by those UN computer models), let alone the ludicrous claim that this would flood "a quarter of the world". But Mr Ban was indulging in this childish publicity stunt for the same reason the BBC, the Royal Society and others have lately been banging on about various mad schemes for "climate engineering", such as putting up vast mirrors in space to keep out the sun's rays or lining our motorways with artificial trees to suck deadly CO2 out of the air, to be taken away and buried in holes in the ground.

Why are they all going off their heads like this, in emulation of the "projector" that Gulliver met on his travels, in the Academy of Lagado, who had designed a scheme for extracting sunbeams from cucumbers? It is because they are desperately trying to whip up alarm over global warming before December's planned "climate treaty" in Copenhagen, when all evidence suggests that they are not going to get the successor to the Kyoto Protocol they want.

The countries of the developing world, led by China, India, Russia and Brazil, continue to insist that, since global warming is all the fault of the already developed countries of the West, it is up to the West to cut its CO2 emissions by 80 per cent, while the rest of the world is allowed to catch up. Some, such as China, are prepared to make token emission cuts, but only so long as they are compensated by the West to the tune of trillions of pounds a year. As some of the gloomier warmists admit, Copenhagen looks to be a dead duck.

According to Government figures, however, we in Britain are already committed to spending, under the Climate Change Act, £18 billion every year between now and 2050 on this nonsense – daft light bulbs (see below), electricity blackouts and all. In other words, we are only beginning to see some of the nastier consequences of this crazy make-believe, based on nothing more substantial than the kind of gibberish we got last week from Mr "Light Bulb" Ban and the BBC.

Prevention is Much Worse than Cure, Part II

Preventative Justice a Cloak for Leviathan

Western democracies find themselves in the vice-like grip of a soft despotism. None are exempt. The very nations which once rejected absolutist governments of all kinds are now busy re-imposing a new absolutism. But it is of a different hue from tyrannical kings or emperors. It is “soft” in the sense that its promulgation of endless rules, regulations, restrictions, directions, and controls are all in the name of “helping” subjects.

Every Western democracy has gone down this path. Without exception. All political parties in these democracies now tread down this road—the only differentiation being their relative pace. The dominance and pervasive nature of this soft despotism, of an endless, burgeoning state control over every facet of human life, betrays its true wellspring. It comes from the dominant, established religion of the West.

Man is autonomous; collective humanity, the State, is required to fill the vacuum left once the Living God was “banished” from modern life. The citizen now looks to the State to be creator, redeemer, messiah, saviour, and provider. The State's duty and responsibility is to manufacture as near as possible a Paradise upon earth. This incubus has led Western governments to move to adopt preventative law.

The use of the law ostensibly to prevent a potential evil occurring some time in the future has been significantly responsible for the rapid growth of the soft despotism, which is now the hallmark of the West. In New Zealand, the regimes of OSH, traffic laws, state-run health, state education, and state welfare are all manifestations of this religious ideology. But it does not stop with these. Every year sees fresh expansion, extension, and promulgation of state controls, rules, and regulations over both already controlled areas, and new areas. This is not to say that citizens do not welcome these developments. They do. Often they lead the charge for more rules and regulations. Is it not reasonable to expect one's messiah to perform and make Paradise just that much nearer?

What is the alternative? It is breathtakingly simple in principle, although radical in the extreme, given the soft-despotic world which Unbelievers prefer to inhabit. It is neatly encapsulated in the Law of the Lord as found in Deuteronomy 22:8—“When you build a new house, you shall make a parapet for your roof, that you may not bring the guilt of blood upon your house, if anyone should fall from it.”

This is the law as it is meant to be constructed and function within Jerusalem, never Athens. In this one precept, the entire distinction between law as a preventative versus law as a principle of justice stands sharply displayed. Firstly, some background. In the ancient East, roofs were flat; in the evening they were cool; therefore, they were places for hospitality and entertainment. If you built a house and did not put a railing up to prevent the guests or family members falling off you would be held responsible if someone subsequently did.

Here is the heart of the principle: if someone suffers harm as a result of our actions (or inactions, in this case) we are responsible. The bloodguiltiness of the harm falls back upon us. Notice that responsibility is imputed to acts both of commission and omission.

Notice, also, that there are endless applications of this precept—to virtually every area of life. Everything we do carries risks (potential and actual) for ourselves and others. This what it means to be firstly a creature, and secondly to be a creature in a sinful, fallen cosmos. As someone once acerbically put it, “S---happens”. If we cook food improperly and our guests become ill, we are responsible. If we drive, so as to cause harm to others, we are responsible. The law—justly—maximises personal responsibility for harm done to others.

Thirdly, notice that this principle of law and justice is in stark contrast to the libertarian view, which would re-write the statute as follows: “When you build a new house, it's up to you as to whether you should make a parapet for your roof; if anyone falls off it's their own stupid fault.”

Thirdly, it now should be abundantly clear how western soft-despotic societies would pervert this law into a tyranny through the application of preventative justice. Fundamentally, the law and its intrinsic principle of justice would be changed from personal responsibility for harm done to others into a regime of prevention of the harm ever occurring in the first place. Of course, to accomplish this there would need to be a building code which would specify the materials, height, railing width, and construction method of all parapets on all houses (and very quickly, of the entire building.) Then, there would need to be an inspectorate to ensure that the parapet was constructed according to preventive standards. All home owners without a parapet would need to be prosecuted and fined. This would require a prosecution department or division. Then, at the first instance of someone actually falling off a roof, a complete revision of the parapet code would be required, and new stipulations for parapets promulgated. In addition, the investigating committee responsible for drafting the new code would inevitably point out that some activities on the roof were safer than others, but all activities were more dangerous if alcohol were involved. Therefore, new safety regulations would be promulgated to limit, and eventually ban, all alcohol consumption upon roofs. In the meantime, codes of acceptable alcohol consumption levels and amounts over time would be written. Police and local authority compliance officials would need to be equipped with equipment to enter households and breath-test guests at random to ensure that compliance with the alcohol consumption on roof code was being observed. Repeat or extreme infringement would result in the courts banning individuals from being on roofs for months, even years at a time. Some extreme offenders would be banned from roofs for life. Moreover, it would become clear that children were more vulnerable to roof accidents so new laws would be passed requiring that children on roofs be in the company of a supervising adult at all time. Special child-proof locks and gates were now added to the roof-parapet building code. Significant penalties were promulgated if any home owner did not have such equipment installed in their houses. Unfortunately, some children would still fall off roofs, whereupon the government would believe it had failed in its fundamental duty to prevent harm. The citizens would agree, and so eagerly supported a new zero child-death-from-roof-falling target. To achieve this target, the government would then ban all children from all roofs at all times. Parents who were found to have children on their roofs would have their children removed from them and placed in protective custody. This would be administered by a new compliance authority to be named the Child Safety Service (CSS). The need, however, to prevent people falling off roofs remained, and despite the best endeavours of government to protect people from harm, it still would occur. Finally, the government would move to ban all flat roofs, requiring instead that roofs be slanted and sloped and gabled. However, this meant that construction and maintenance of the new authorised roofs would became more dangerous, leading to a new raft of rules and regulations and changes to the building and safety codes. Meanwhile, now that entertaining on roofs were banned, households would be forced to spend more time indoors. The heat would no doubt prove oppressive, leading to an explosion of demand for air-conditioners, which, in turn, would lead to a tangible increase in the consumption of electricity. Since this produced significantly more carbon dioxide, a poisonous gas, laws, rules and regulations would have to be promulgated for standards of efficiency for air conditioners and limits for use in domestic premises. A new state agency would be created to inspect and ensure compliance with the Responsible Electricity Use regime. Moreover, to prevent greater harm to the environment, the government would be “forced” to introduce an electricity tax to discourage excessive use.

This is what we live under in the West. There is no end to it. It is an unstoppable leviathan whose tentacles are squeezing the life-breath out of Western democratic societies.

In the Christian frame the matter is simple and direct. You ought (not have) to have a parapet on your roof. If you don't and someone gets hurt, you will be held responsible. No building codes. No inspectors. No petty rules and regulations coupled with an endless bureaucratic enterprise to define, inspect, prosecute, make, and mould in a vain attempt to make you responsible.

You have to drive responsibly. The rules of the road are defined. No-one, except other people damaged by your actions police the rules. Prevention is not allowed as a “policing” action. Only actual damage. If anything happens to cause harm to others as a result of your driving or your vehicle's poor condition, the guilt of their blood is on your hands; you will be held accountable; you will be made to pay full and complete restitution (which in the case of a loss of someone else's life may result in a literal lifetime of servitude to make restitution via work.) The courts are near and accessible to anyone making a claim for restitution against you.

Imagine a society where there is no traffic policing, no ministry of transport, no state vehicle certification regime, no breath testing, no vehicle registration, no ACC regime, no rules for cell-phone use in vehicles—only a comprehensive regime of torts, where if you do any harm to anyone else, you (and, in the case of a minor, your parents) will be held liable. In this simple Christian perspective, prevention is not the objective. Prevention does not define or inform justice. Responsibility for actual harm caused to others does. This is the essence of Christian social justice.

So, we say to the crowd: will you have Christ or Caesar? Will you have Jerusalem or Athens? At this point in our history, the crowd overwhelmingly roars, “We will have Caesar and his Athens.” And so the coils of Leviathan grip tighter and tighter. The nation becomes weaker and weaker, more and more slavish.

It is only under the justice of Christ that we will become mature and truly free.


Tuesday, 29 September 2009

More on Collision

Background to Hitchens vs Wilson

We reproduce below a video of John Piper interviewing Douglas Wilson on the forthcoming movie, Collision. It has some really interesting stuff on how Wilson sees apologetics should function. He also sheds some interesting insight on Christopher Hitchens.

The Piper questions to which Wilson responds are:

1. Christopher Hitchens said at the end of the movie that, given the chance, he wouldn’t convert the last theist. Why do you think he said that?
2. What is Hitchens’ best counterpoint to the claim that he is getting his morality for judging Christianity from Christians?
3. What is the relationship between doing apologetics and evangelizing?
4. In the video you speak about having “copiousness.” Describe what that is and whether you think it is important for pastors to cultivate.
5. What is your hope for this film?
6. What about the “s” word at the end of the film? Why do you allow for it here but don’t tolerate it from your children?
7. Why the recent upsurge in the New Atheism?

video

Hat Tip: Justin Taylor

Collision can be ordered from Amazon, here.

Prevention is Much Worse Than The Cure, Part I

The Despotism of Prevention

Prevention is better than cure, says the proverb. We intuitively understand that with respect to health and well-being this proverb speaks the truth. Better not to get sick at all rather than go through the affliction of illness and its cure.

But when the principle of “prevention” is transcribed to civil law the result is always so bad that in the end it would have been far far better to put up with the disease than suffer under the regime of prevention. Ironically, we intuitively understand that as well. To revert to the comparison with health, there are some diseases which are so secular and common that a prevention regime would be an intolerable burden. Consider the common cold. The weight and burden of having to live in a way to prevent ever getting a cold would be a far worse affliction than the cold itself.

Despite these common-sense truisms, Unbelief has afflicted us with a legal system which mandates prevention regimes for almost all harms. The upshot is despotic government and a society where the burden of prevention is much, much worse than the harm which is ostensibly being avoided.

The current example du jour is the intent to regulate cell phone use in cars: the legislation will carry sanctions; it will require policing; it will not prevent accidents; it will generate more harm than good. We are now getting down to the fine point of the legislation: cell-phone GPS navigation systems will not be allowed (even if mounted on a hands free cradle), while other non cell-phone car GPS systems will remain legal. Clearly the law is an ass, in this case, and everybody knows it.

The vast majority of the citizenry approve the intent, but will ignore the law. They have to. If they actually spent their time scrupulously doing everything which the preventative regime required they would exhaust themselves emotionally, financially, and socially. Most people just mutter about “nanny-state”, “PC rubbish”, and so forth and move on. The prohibitions against drink-driving, certain road speeds, not wearing seat belts, smacking children for disciplinary purposes, taking certain drugs—these are all examples of pervasive preventative cotton wool legislation. It is everywhere. It is growing apace. No change of government makes any difference. It is the inevitable outcome of modern western democratic government. Every one whether the UK, Australia, the US, Canada, Western Europe, and New Zealand have all gone this way.

These developments are not accidental. They are the inevitable outcome of a belief in the State as saviour, messiah and redeemer. Evils exist in the world, but the Messianic State and its rules and regulations will drive them far from us. The overwhelming religious dogma of our day is that the State and its organs of government will set us free from all evil. Once “freedom” almost universally meant freedom from the control of the government. Now it almost universally means freedom from harm, want, inadequacy or threat—and to achieve this, modern Unbelieving man is subjected to every kind of pettifogging bureaucratic rule and law imaginable.

Every so often the beast, which is the electorate, rebels. At our most recent election irritation over nanny-state led many to desert the Labour regime of Helen Clark and its Green cheerleaders. Telling us what light bulbs we had to use, and what kinds of showers heads we would be allowed to put in our bathrooms were two particular straws which broke the camel's back. Now, to be fair, Clark and her colleagues have good grounds to be offended at this reaction. They were simply doing what governments had been doing in the West for the past one hundred and fifty years—and they were progressing, becoming better and better at it. Moreover, since their ejection from the seat of power, the National government has not changed this general direction at all. It has promptly set out with a whole new plethora of rules, regulations, preventions, provisions, and acts of redemption to remove all evils from the nation.

All modern Western governments, regardless of brand, are the same. Whether Republican or Democrat, Social Democrat or Christian Democrat, Labour or Conservative, Liberal or Labour, National or Labour—all political parties who have any possibility of leading government in the West are fundamentally the same. They all believe it is the role and responsibility of government, by means of law, rules, regulations, stipulations, and provisions to remove threats and potential harm from the world. Note—the ideology has moved from the cure of actual harm to prevention. This is the key, watershed difference marking out the current age from the former, more Christian one.

All western governments share a deep belief in the state as Messianic Redeemer. That is why in the United States the Republicans under Bush ran up huge deficits; only to be eclipsed in their turn by Democrat Obama. When the Republicans return, they will outspend Obama—mark our words. Prevention is endlessly expensive. In New Zealand, Labour's spending is being turbo-charged by National. Those who seek to excuse the present regime by pleading financial crises or unusual exigencies are self-deceived and the excuse risible. The entirety of National's approach can be summed up in this slogan: “we will take care of you”. It is the same slogan as Labour's—it is only the colour on the banner that differs. “Would you like your poison-pill in blue or red, madam?” Taking care of us requires law upon law, regulation upon regulation, and layer upon layer of bureaucratic interference in our lives. Prevention has become far, far worse than any cure.

This will not change until the vast majority of our people are genuinely Christian again. It will only get worse and worse. When a culture clothes itself in pretensions of deity, the increasing weight of garments required to be worn suffocate life. As each new regulation is promulgated, as each new garment put on, the life of human society ebbs away just that bit more. When it comes to the body politic, prevention is definitely much, much worse than the cure.

In Part II, we will solve this problem (which is easily solved) from the Scriptures. But while the solution is clear, the acceptance and adoption of it is not. It requires that men smash their idol-worship of Man, and humble themselves before the Living God and His Christ. Historically this has most often happened when the idols are visibly and publicly smashed by outside forces. Humility arises, unfortunately, most often from a deep valley of humiliation.


Monday, 28 September 2009

Collision!

Watch the Trailer

Evolution vs the Christian Gospel

On the 27th October, the DVD version of the movie Collision will be released. It presents in documentary format the debates between Christopher Hitchens and Douglas Wilson (who contributes to our "Letter from America" series on this blog.) Hitchens will be known to many for his militantly atheistic, anti Christian writings, lectures, and labours.

We believe this DVD, available from Amazon here, will be of great interest to Christians everywhere. Below is a thirteen minute preview of the DVD which gives an excellent sense of what the complete production will be about.

"Collision: Hitchens vs. Wilson" - EXCLUSIVE 13 minute preview from LEVEL4 on Vimeo.

Meditation on the Text of the Week

The Latter Days

It shall come to pass in the latter days
that the mountain of the house of the LORD
shall be established as the highest of the mountains,
and it shall be lifted up above the hills;
and peoples shall flow to it
Micah 4:1
The prophet Micah was a contemporary of Isaiah. Both served the Lord in Judah towards the end of the eighth century BC. It was not a particularly auspicious time—in fact, it was downright depressing. The much stronger northern kingdom of Samaria had been crushed ruthlessly by the Assyrians, those ancient experts of total scorched earth war. Both Micah and Isaiah knew that a similar judgment was going to fall upon Judah. The city of the Lord and the mountain of the Lord faced impending doom.

Yet both were inspired by the Lord to speak of the latter days. Both delivered the specific prophecy of our text (Isaiah's version is in Isaiah 2:2). When the Bible repeats it is for emphasis. And so it is here. It was vital that Judah understood, despite the depressing times, that Zion's destruction was only so that it could be raised up more glorious than ever.


In the latter days, the mountain of the house of the Lord (Mount Zion) would be restored as the highest of the mountains. In the common metaphor of the time this meant that Mount Zion would be the most powerful of all other centres or places of power and influence. Consequently, all the peoples would pilgrimage unto it.

It is clear from the next verse (Micah 2:2) that the exaltation of Zion in the latter days would impact upon the Gentiles, for “many nations” would exhort each other to go on a pilgrimage to Zion. This would not be out of mere curiosity, nor out of a desire to be tourists: they would repair to Zion so that they might be taught the ways, the laws, and the paths of the Lord, because the Gentiles were committed to walk according to the Word of the Lord.

This “joint” prophecy of Micah and Isaiah is beautiful beyond description. It will be a time of peace and prosperity for those nations which have been converted to the Lord. They will hammer their swords into plowshares. (Micah 4:3) They will each sit under his fig tree in security and peace. (Micah 4:4). The question is inevitably begged: when? When are these “latter days” when this will come to pass?

As revelation progressed and as redemptive history unfolded more and more light was shone on these prophecies. They were also radically reshaped as the great redemptive works of Messiah upon the earth were completed. Here are the critical points.

Firstly, the new covenant revelation leaves us in no doubt that the latter days were inaugurated with the coming of the Lord Jesus Christ—and that the last days refers in the first instance to the final days of the Old Covenant (AD 66-70) and of the Jewish commonwealth (AD 132-133). Both Christ and His apostles insist that they are living in the tumultuous and momentous last days. (Heb. 1:2; 9:26; I Cor. 10:11; I Peter 1:20; Acts 2:17. In other words the “latter days” does not refer to the end of human history, nor to the inauguration of heaven-upon-earth at the Final Advent—for human history as we know it clearly extends for the Gentiles [Micah 4:3-5]. Ironically, the clear insistence by our Lord and His apostles that they were all living in the last days has led many superficial commentators to argue that both Christ and the apostles mistakenly believed the Final Advent would happen in their day. They believed nothing of the sort. But all believed that the Old Covenant was in its last days. So, our Lord: “this generation shall not pass away until all these things take place. . .” Matthew 24:34.)

Secondly, the elevation of the mountain of the Lord to be over all others has taken place, not in Jerusalem nor Mt Zion of old—but from Jerusalem, and from Mt Zion into heaven. Thus the ascended Christ entered into a literal reign which is marked by universal authority over all kingdoms and nations. For the nations to pilgrimage to Mt Zion henceforth they have to approach Christ in heaven, where He now dwells. (Heb. 1:3; 10:12-13; 12:22—24; Psalm 2:6—10)

Thirdly, the geographical locus of God's Kingdom in Israel has been removed. The covenant is no longer a covenant of earthly pilgrimage. As a result of His ascension and His coming in God's Spirit at Pentecost, the mountain of the house of the Lord, has extended to every place over the whole earth, so that anyone anywhere who calls upon the Name of the Lord shall be saved. (Matt. 18:20; 28:18—20.)

In other words we have seen and are seeing this wonderful prophecy of Micah and Isaiah falling out and coming to pass before our very eyes. Let us remember that this very week thousands more from around the globe will stream to Mount Zion and the mountain for the Lord for the first time. It is wonderful in our eyes.

Saturday, 26 September 2009

Another Review

More Reflections on the Revolution in Europe

We recently introduced our readers to a recently published book, Christopher Caldwell's Reflections on the Revolution in Europe. The Wall Street Journal has just published an equally interesting review of this book by Paul Marshall of the Hudson Institute's Centre for Religious Freedom.

One memorable quotation in the review refers to Jurgen Habermas:
The author notes that even the prominent German philosopher Jürgen Habermas, who is an atheist, has acknowledged that "Christianity, and nothing else, is the ultimate foundation of liberty, conscience, human rights, and democracy, the benchmarks of Western civilization. To this we have no other options. We continue to nourish ourselves from this source. Everything else is postmodern chatter."
The full review follows:

Continental Drift

Paul Marshall

Europe has intractable problems with many immigrants, especially Muslim immigrants, and, of course, many immigrants have intractable problems with Europe. In "Reflections on the Revolution in Europe," Christopher Caldwell ponders the current state of a continent where the aging indigenous population is gradually being supplanted by young newcomers. Today's immigrants might be considered hostile to European values, except that Europe itself increasingly has only a foggy sense of what those values might be.

"When an insecure, malleable, relativistic culture meets a culture that is anchored, confident, and strengthened by common doctrines," Mr. Caldwell writes, "it is generally the former that changes to suit the latter." The book is not a polemic; it is at once nuanced and blunt, serious and witty, while also avoiding what Mr. Caldwell calls "the preemptive groveling that characterizes most writing about matters touching on ethnicity." He does not advocate positions but instead offers reflections on a mix of trends, misunderstandings and self-delusions.

He also ruminates on far more than the increasing radicalization of generations of Muslim immigrants. Just as Edmund Burke's "Reflections on the Revolution in France" (1790) predicted a dire fate for the mass insurrection then aborning, Mr. Caldwell looks with alarm at Europe's continuing rejection of itself. Without a rejection of the religion and culture that sustained Europe for centuries, he says, the immigration troubles might never have occurred, or at least would not have been so severe: His verdict is suicide rather than murder.

The author notes that even the prominent German philosopher Jürgen Habermas, who is an atheist, has acknowledged that "Christianity, and nothing else, is the ultimate foundation of liberty, conscience, human rights, and democracy, the benchmarks of Western civilization. To this we have no other options. We continue to nourish ourselves from this source. Everything else is postmodern chatter."

Yet much of Europe has discarded its historic religious underpinnings as irrelevant at best, harmful at worst. Even the memory of what a religiously ordered society was like has seemed to disappear, Mr. Caldwell observes. "A good definition of religion" for most modern Europeans, he says, might be "an irrational opinion, strongly held."

Most European elites, though, have not debated seriously the potential effects of introducing into this land of postmodern chatter millions of devout believers in another religion, one previously seen as antagonistic to European culture. As Mr. Caldwell says, Europe's elites seem hardly to have considered that the ethical views they pride themselves on have little meaning when divorced from Christian origins.

Many Europeans are determined to defend their values— witness France's ban on headscarves in schools—but it is hard to defend what you cannot define. "There is no consensus, not even the beginning of a consensus," Mr. Caldwell writes, "about what European values are." When the Netherlands decided not long ago to try to define its values and inculcate them in prospective new residents, it ended up producing a ghastly naturalization packet that included a video that featured "gays expressing affection in public, and bare-breasted women on the beach." Welkom, immigrants!

In his reflections on Europe's slide into a sort of secular suicide, Mr. Caldwell notes the key role played by that most religious impulse: guilt. He argues that the dominant moral mood of postwar Europe was "repentance for two historical misdeeds, colonialism and Nazism." Over the decades, guilt has festered into "a sense of moral illegitimacy" and a "self-directed xenophobia" that now shapes the continent's response to immigration.

Originally, the reasons given for encouraging mass immigration to Europe were economic—a means of remedying Europe's purported labor shortage and, eventually, of bolstering economies obliged to fund generous pension plans. Immigrants "would emerge from the desiccated and starving hamlets of the Third World and ride to the rescue of the retirement checks and second homes, the wine tastings and snorkeling vacations, of the most pampered workforce in the history of the planet," Mr. Caldwell writes. Such economic rationales proved to be chimeras, though. Nowadays, with majorities in many countries consistently opposed to immigration, a new justification has had to be found: the flat assertion that immigration and asylum policies are "nonnegotiable moral duties that you don't vote on," or perhaps even discuss.

If much about immigration is nonnegotiable, then problems that appear to be caused by immigration must instead be understood as the result of "some quirk or accident," Mr. Caldwell says, "never immigration itself." But there is nothing quirky about it. The problems are not local but everywhere evident, across national boundaries, because they challenge Europe's very idea of itself. "If you understand how immigration, Islam, and native European culture interact in any western European country," Mr. Caldwell notes, "you can roughly predict how they will react in any other—no matter what its national character, no matter whether it conquered an empire, no matter what its role in World War II, and no matter what the provenance of its Muslim immigrants." As for how governments respond to immigration pressures within their own countries, officials tend to look to the French model of assimilation or the British model of multiculturalism, depending "on which country had suffered rioting less recently."

All this may seem to cry out for a loud and long, soul-searching debate, but don't count on it. Discussion about immigration is decidedly circumscribed in countries where postcolonial guilt has led to taboos against criticism of anything putatively Muslim. The riots and slayings over a Danish newspaper's publication of a few cartoons depicting the Prophet Muhammad put an entire continent on notice to watch its words. Mr. Caldwell gives little advice and few predictions about what lies ahead. But he does address the question of "whether you can have the same Europe with different people. The answer is no."

—Mr. Marshall is a senior fellow at Hudson Institute's Center for Religious Freedom and the editor of "Blind Spot: When Journalists Don't Get Religion."


California Dreaming

It's a Nightmare

An article has recently appeared which documents the decline and fall of the former Golden State. The state is bankrupt and looks like being beyond repair. What was once dubbed the sixth largest economy in the world is tanking. The author, Troy Senik, sets the scene thus:
For many decades now, Americans have seen California as a harbinger of promising things to come. Today, however, California has become a warning sign. Beset by economic disaster and political paralysis, the state is in the midst of a systemic crisis. And while the meltdown has certainly been accelerated by the recession of the past two years, its causes involve two decades of poor judgment, reckless mismanagement, and irresponsibility. How California got into this mess has a lot to teach the rest of the country; how it gets out will say a great deal about America’s prospects.

The causes are several. The lessons are salutary, for those prepared to learn. A few key matters stand out--and bear an eerie resemblance to New Zealand. The first is the destructive influence of state employee unions.

The most egregiously coddled of the state’s favored constituencies are California’s public labor unions. This is partly the result of their bloated ranks: The percentage of unionized public employees in California is 20% higher than the national average. Even more important, though, is the unions’ outsized influence. Awarded collective bargaining rights with nearly every sector of government during the 1960s and ’70s, the unions subsequently exploded into a political force to be reckoned with and a primary cause of California’s fiscal hemophilia.
Perhaps the most vexing labor organizations are the teachers’ unions. These groups were the driving force behind Proposition 98, locking in mandatory spending on public education without regard to any other fiscal considerations. But that’s only where their transgressions begin. In 1992, the California Teachers’ Association — by far the most powerful teachers’ union in the state — blocked a ballot initiative to promote school choice in the Golden State by physically intimidating petition-signers and allegedly placing false names on the petitions. When asked about his union’s opposition to the measure, the CTA president responded: “There are some proposals that are so evil that they should never even be presented to the voters.”

And in 2000, when testing results revealed that two-thirds of Los Angeles public schools were ranked as failures, the president of the United Teachers of Los Angeles announced that his union would accept a proposal for merit pay only on “a cold day in hell.”

The result of the teachers’ flight from responsibility has been unadulterated dysfunction. In Los Angeles schools, one out of every three students drops out before graduation. And a research team from the University of California, Riverside, recently concluded that by 2014 — the year all students are required to be proficient in math and English under No Child Left Behind — nearly every elementary school in the state will fail to meet proficiency standards. Yet despite the atrocious performance of California educators, it is nearly impossible to fire an incompetent teacher (the percentage of California teachers terminated
after three or more years in the classroom is just 0.03%). For example, in a May exposé on the Los Angeles Unified School District, Los Angeles Times reporter Jason Song revealed: “The district wanted to fire a high school teacher who kept a stash of pornography, marijuana and vials with cocaine residue at school, but a commission balked, suggesting that firing was too harsh. L.A. Unified officials were also unsuccessful in firing a male middle school teacher spotted lying on top of a female colleague in the metal shop, saying the district did not prove that the two were having sex.”

But no matter how egregious their misconduct, California’s public-school teachers can always skirt the consequences. With 340,000 members statewide, the California Teachers’ Association is perhaps the most powerful interest group in state politics.


Whilst the teachers unions in California are systematically destroying public education by putting their members interests above students and parents we can see echoes and adumbrations of the same realities in New Zealand. Maybe not as extreme, but the underlying realities are the same. The teachers unions in New Zealand indirectly control the state schools. Educational standards are parlous. We believe the unions and vested interests are so powerful here that they will be successful in undermining the present governments attempt to introduce national standards testing through the schools. Since the government clearly does not want a fight with the teachers unions here, in the end it will capitulate.

Then there is the issue of extreme environmentalism in California:
Beyond empowering would-be potentates, environmental fetishes have also placed an enormous burden on California’s economy. A fascination with “smart growth” — typically a euphemism for privileging elite (and dense) urbanism over suburban development — has radically restricted the ability to build new housing units in the state.

This has created huge and unsustainable bubbles that price the middle class out of the housing market, and inevitably lead to dramatic crashes. What’s worse, the problems only compound over time: As the Cato Institute’s Randall O’Toole has pointed out, median California housing prices were twice median family incomes in 1960, four times in 1980, five times in 1990, and eight times in 2006. As a result, nine of the ten housing markets hit hardest by the recent downturn were in California. Meanwhile, high-growth markets with low regulation (such as Houston) have weathered the housing crisis essentially intact.

The environmental movement’s failure to acknowledge the exigencies of a state with more than 36 million people has also crippled California’s ability to develop infrastructure and tap vital resources. Ignoring the state’s decentralized population and native car culture, greens have pined after quixotic public transportation projects like high-speed rail (which received nearly $10 billion on last fall’s ballot), while doing nothing to address the fact that more than 80% of the state’s urban interstates are congested.

In California’s Central Valley, one of the most productive agricultural regions in the world, farmers have lost access to more than 150 billion gallons of water because of environmentalist efforts to protect a local species of bait fish — efforts that are estimated to have taken as much as 85,000 acres of farmland out of production.

And in a state that is estimated to have 10.5 billion barrels of untapped oil reserves off its coast — enough to replace all of California’s oil imports for 30 years — new offshore drilling leases haven’t been issued in four decades.

Finally, there’s California’s fevered response to global warming, the perfect issue for a state that prides itself on elegant alarmism. In 2006, the Golden State passed the Global Warming Solutions Act, essentially a statewide ratification of the Kyoto Protocol. Under this regime, California will have to lower its greenhouse-gas emissions to 1990 levels by 2020. With the state expected to add 15 million net new residents in that 30-year period, California is unlikely to meet its reduction targets without massive economic regression. Estimates of the plan’s eventual costs to California families have been as high as $3,800 a year.

Yet California’s politicians continue to insist that the Solutions Act will be an economic boon, sparking a revolution in “green jobs.” Such is the fate of Californians: to live in a state where environmentalism is a religion and economics
a superstition.


The article goes on to document Governor Schwarzenegger's failure to reform the State, although he had a unique historical opportunity to do so. Now, with a budget deficit out of control, systemic spending increases locked in, large tax increases, and a huge decline in state services, Californians are voting with their feet and moving to other states in the Union.

Just about every madcap measure put forward to President Obama has already been tried in California (cap and trade, green job revolution, public health care, running huge public sector deficits. The consequences are disastrous and will be felt for decades to come. California may well become the dust-bowl that Oklahoma was in the thirties.

This article can also be read at the Contra Celsum library, here.

Friday, 25 September 2009

From the NewsDesk

Maori Party and Tiro Rangatiratanga Leaders in Talks

Hone Harawira said publicly yesterday that he was disappointed at the lukewarm response of the Minister of Finance to his calls for more strident action against the evils of tobacco.  He was nonplussed that his call to lynch tobacco company executives was regarded by parliamentary colleagues as too much of a stretch.  He was, however, determined to keep playing his part in a Maori Party campaign against the evils of tobacco.

The Health Department yesterday released figures showing that 49.3 percent of Maori women smoked, and 41.5 of Maori men smoked also.  "That's too high."  Mr Harawira believed that implicit racism lay behind these statistics.  "Tobacco was introduced by Pakeha bastards," he said "and its damaging Maori people."  If the Maori Party could not get sufficient support from "pakeha" parties, it would seek out different political allies.

When asked which parties, he revealed that he has been having "meaningful and positive" discussions with the leaders of Tiro Rangatiratanga, the Maori sovereignty movement.

Thursday, 24 September 2009

Krauthammer's Letter From America

Does He Lie?

By Charles Krauthammer


You lie? No. Barack Obama doesn't lie. He's too subtle for that. He . . . well, you judge.

Herewith three examples within a single speech -- the now-famous Obama-Wilson "you lie" address to Congress on health care -- of Obama's relationship with truth.

(1) "I will not sign a plan that adds one dime to our deficits -- either now or in the future," he solemnly pledged. "I will not sign it if it adds one dime to the deficit, now or in the future. Period."

Wonderful. The president seems serious, veto-ready, determined to hold the line. Until, notes Harvard economist Greg Mankiw, you get to Obama's very next sentence: "And to prove that I'm serious, there will be a provision in this plan that requires us to come forward with more spending cuts if the savings we promised don't materialize."

This apparent strengthening of the pledge brilliantly and deceptively undermines it. What Obama suggests is that his plan will require mandatory spending cuts if the current rosy projections prove false. But there's absolutely nothing automatic about such cuts. Every Congress is sovereign. Nothing enacted today will force a future Congress or a future president to make any cuts in any spending, mandatory or not.

Just look at the supposedly automatic Medicare cuts contained in the Sustainable Growth Rate formula enacted to constrain out-of-control Medicare spending. Every year since 2003, Congress has waived the cuts.

Mankiw puts the Obama bait-and-switch in plain language. "Translation: I promise to fix the problem. And if I do not fix the problem now, I will fix it later, or some future president will, after I am long gone. I promise he will. Absolutely, positively, I am committed to that future president fixing the problem. You can count on it. Would I lie to you?"

(2) And then there's the famous contretemps about health insurance for illegal immigrants. Obama said they would not be insured. Well, all four committee-passed bills in Congress allow illegal immigrants to take part in the proposed Health Insurance Exchange.

But more important, the problem is that laws are not self-enforcing. If they were, we'd have no illegal immigrants because, as I understand it, it's illegal to enter the United States illegally. We have laws against burglary, too. But we also provide for cops and jails on the assumption that most burglars don't voluntarily turn themselves in.

When Republicans proposed requiring proof of citizenship, the Democrats twice voted that down in committee. Indeed, after Rep. Joe Wilson's "You lie!" shout-out, the Senate Finance Committee revisited the language of its bill to prevent illegal immigrants from getting any federal benefits. Why would the Finance Committee fix a nonexistent problem?

(3) Obama said he would largely solve the insoluble cost problem of Obamacare by eliminating "hundreds of billions of dollars in waste and fraud" from Medicare.

That's not a lie. That's not even deception. That's just an insult to our intelligence. Waste, fraud and abuse -- Meg Greenfield once called this phrase "the dread big three" -- as the all-purpose piggy bank for budget savings has been a joke since Jimmy Carter first used it in 1977.

Moreover, if half a trillion is waiting to be squeezed painlessly out of Medicare, why wait for health-care reform? If, as Obama repeatedly insists, Medicare overspending is breaking the budget, why hasn't he gotten started on the painless billions in "waste and fraud" savings?

Obama doesn't lie. He merely elides, gliding from one dubious assertion to another. This has been the story throughout his whole health-care crusade. Its original premise was that our current financial crisis was rooted in neglect of three things -- energy, education and health care. That transparent attempt to exploit Emanuel's Law -- a crisis is a terrible thing to waste -- failed for health care because no one is stupid enough to believe that the 2008 financial collapse was caused by a lack of universal health care.

So on to the next gambit: selling health-care reform as a cure for the deficit. When that was exploded by the Congressional Budget Office's demonstration of staggering Obamacare deficits, Obama tried a new tack: selling his plan as revenue-neutral insurance reform -- until the revenue neutrality is exposed as phony future cuts and chimerical waste and fraud.

Obama doesn't lie. He implies, he misdirects, he misleads -- so fluidly and incessantly that he risks transmuting eloquence into mere slickness.

Slickness wasn't fatal to "Slick Willie" Clinton because he possessed a winning, nearly irresistible charm. Obama's persona is more cool, distant, imperial. The charming scoundrel can get away with endless deception; the righteous redeemer cannot.

First published in the Washington Post.

Decline of the English Department

The Mermaids Have Stopped Singing

The latest edition of The American Scholar contains an article by William M Chace on how English Departments have declined significantly in US universities and colleges.

While there are many causes, he identifies the main reason straight off:
What are the causes for this decline? There are several, but at the root is the failure of departments of English across the country to champion, with passion, the books they teach and to make a strong case to undergraduates that the knowledge of those books and the tradition in which they exist is a human good in and of itself. What departments have done instead is dismember the curriculum, drift away from the notion that historical chronology is important, and substitute for the books themselves a scattered array of secondary considerations (identity studies, abstruse theory, sexuality, film and popular culture). In so doing, they have distanced themselves from the young people interested in good books.
He goes on to describe how studying English used to be in its halcyon days, when he was in college:
What was the appeal of English during those now long-ago days? For me, English as a way of understanding the world began at Haverford College, where I was an undergraduate in the late 1950s. The place was small, the classrooms plain, the students all intimidated boys, and the curriculum both straightforward and challenging. What we read forced us to think about the words on the page, their meaning, their ethical and psychological implications, and what we could contrive (in 500-word essays each week) to write about them. With the books in front of us, we were taught the skills of interpretation. Our tasks were difficult, the books (Emerson’s essays, David Copperfield, Shaw’s Major Barbara, the poetry of Emily Dickinson, and a dozen other works) were masterly, and our teacher possessed an authority it would have been “bootless” (his word) to question.

Studying English taught us how to write and think better, and to make articulate many of the inchoate impulses and confusions of our post-adolescent minds. We began to see, as we had not before, how such books could shape and refine our thinking. We began to understand why generations of people coming before us had kept them in libraries and bookstores and in classes such as ours. There was, we got to know, a tradition, a historical culture, that had been assembled around these books. Shakespeare had indeed made a difference—to people before us, now to us, and forever to the language of English-speaking people.

Chace goes on to point the finger of fundamental blame at the "academy" of professional English teachers itself. It has propagated a post-modern fragmentation of its discipline which has left is rootless and without mooring. He cites Harvard as a leading example:
Consider the English department at Harvard University. It has now agreed to remove its survey of English literature for undergraduates, replacing it and much else with four new “affinity groups”—“Arrivals,” “Poets,” “Diffusions,” and “Shakespeares.” The first would examine outside influences on English literature; the second would look at whatever poets the given instructor would select; the third would study various writings (again, picked by the given instructor) resulting from the spread of English around the globe; and the final grouping would direct attention to Shakespeare and his contemporaries.

Daniel Donoghue, the department’s director of undergraduate studies, told The Harvard Crimson last December that “our approach was to start with a completely clean slate.” And Harvard’s well-known Shakespeare scholar Stephen Greenblatt also told the Crimson that the substance of the old survey will “trickle down to students through the professors themselves who, after all, specialize in each of these areas of English literature.” But under the proposal, there would be no one book, or family of books, that every English major at Harvard would have read by the time he or she graduates. The direction to which Harvard would lead its students in this “clean slate” or “trickle down” experiment is to suspend literary history, thrusting into the hands of undergraduates the job of cobbling together intellectual coherence for themselves. Greenblatt puts it this way: students should craft their own literary “journeys.” The professors might have little idea of where those journeys might lead, or how their paths might become errant. There will be no common destination.

As Harvard goes, so often go the nation’s other colleges and universities. Those who once strove to give order to the curriculum will have learned, from Harvard, that terms like core knowledge and foundational experience only trigger acrimony, turf protection, and faculty mutinies. No one has the stomach anymore to refight the Western culture wars. Let the students find their own way to knowledge.

As the US has moved progressively to be dominated by an anti-Christian culture, the unity and coherence of knowledge, particularly historical knowledge has inevitably started decomposing. As it dismembers, ignorance rises. People, even professional educators, become imprisoned to the whim and fancy of the moment. Rootless and ignorant of their heritage, they become swept about by every changing wind of fashion and opinion. Because they no longer know where they stand, they fall for anything.

Chace, however, places more emphasis upon the deleterious effect of commercial agendas, rather than the culture wars themselves. In the end, students want to get jobs and earn and income. English (and the liberal arts generally) do not appear to offer a ready career path. A vicious circle develops: colleges get less students in such faculties and courses, so they fund them less. Teachers find it harder to get tenure because they do not attract funding and research grants (as do the hard and soft sciences). Teaching quality declines, which in turn leads to another downward cycle. He puts forward several suggestions to help arrest the declension. One of these involves focusing upon mastery of the English language (and therefore cognition) itself:
They can also convert what many of them now consider a liability and a second-rate activity into a sizable asset. They can teach their students to write well, to use rhetoric. They should place their courses in composition and rhetoric at the forefront of their activities. They should announce that the teaching of composition is a skill their instructors have mastered and that students majoring in English will be certified, upon graduation, as possessing rigorously tested competence in prose expression. Those students will thus carry with them, into employment interviews or into further educational training, a proficiency everywhere respected but too often lacking among college graduates.
But in the end, the author remains dispirited. We believe that everything which he described is paralleled in the NZ state education system. There is nothing strange or foreign here. But the study of the humanities, the classical liberal arts, is essentially a phenomenon of the Christian faith: when that faith goes, so goes the central importance of english, history, philosophy, art history and so forth to the culture and to society. It is only the Christian faith which has a fountain of belief in the brightness of the future and of inevitable progress because the future of this world has become inextricably bound to the coming of the Kingdom of Christ into human history. World history has now become redemptive history, and the Redeemer is the King of all kings, and everything is being and will be placed under His feet.

As a culture becomes progressively Christianised, once again the study of the past become important and deeply pregnant with meaning and significance. For in studying the past, we are studying Christ's redemptive work. We discover our place in that divine work in the brief time we have upon the earth--and therefore what we must do now. It was the men of Issachar of old who understood the times, and therefore knew what Israel had to do in their day. The Christian faith makes the humanities central to all learning and human action, for the humanities enable us to discover where we have come from, helping us to discover what we, then, must do in our day and generation.

Wednesday, 23 September 2009

Screwtape Remastered

Andy Serkis Plays Screwtape

Justin Taylor posts the following on his blog:
I’ve mentioned before how much I appreciate Focus on the Family Radio Theatre. They are marked by fidelity to the original stories and excellence in the craft of acting and sound production to produce great audio entertainment.

Coming October 15, 2009, is their version of C.S. Lewis’s masterful story, The Screwtape Letters. It will star Andy Serkis, who played Gollum in Peter Jackson’s The Lord of the Rings.

Here’s a behind-the-scenes “sneak peek”


This looks really good.

Spineless or Astute

Top Brass and its Government Masters

Probably the most fundamental duty of government is to judge its people justly. Of course this means that it must ensure appropriate punishment is levied upon murderers. This, in turn, means that it is a fundamental duty of government to defend its people against military attack, punishing those who seek to take control of the country by force. Punishment includes the use of deadly force. This is undoubted Christian teaching.

Therefore it is understandable that many, not just Christians, have ridiculed and lampooned the decision by our top military commanders to punish NZ soldiers who were photographed alongside ammunition in Afghanistan which had "greetings" painted on it for Al Qaeda and the Taliban.

But we need to put this in context. There are a number of possible explanations for the disciplinary action by the top brass. You can take your pick.

Firstly, it may be that the brass are way ahead of the average bear, or reader of blogs. They have grasped that Afghanistan is a counter-insurgency war: it is well established military doctrine that you have to fight such wars appropriately--and the tactics are very different from conventional wars. Essentially the core tactic is to appear non-bellicose to the population: mingle with them, help them, smile at them, take off your dark glasses, wave to them when you pass, and demonstrate that you are on their side, caring for them and protecting them. Then, be real belligerent against the actual insurgents when you have found them, identified them, and isolated them. The more you win the "hearts and minds" of the population, the more likely the enemy will be isolated and exposed.

On this account the top brass would be disciplining their errant soldiers not for painting slogans on to bombs, but for being seen and photographed. Such antics could easily be seen by the local population as a slur against them ("these infidels laugh and mock at us Afghans") and so undermine the war effort.

Now, if the brass are thinking this way they have a point. The top US commander, General McChrystal is trying to reshape the whole US war effort in Afghanistan along these lines. It could be that the NZ armed forces brass are just way ahead of the pack.

Another explanation is that the top military brass remain deeply influenced by the Clark military doctrine. It may come as a surprise to some that former Prime Minister, Helen Clark had a military doctrine. But she did. It was her view that the NZ military faced no strategic threat and that it should function primarily as a global peacekeeping force, basically under the aegis of the United Nations. The Clark Doctrine always saw the NZ military not as a national force, but as our contribution to an internationalist military force. Its role was not to protect people in New Zealand, but to bring peace to the world in our time.

Shots fired in anger were never part of this doctrine. As a peacekeeper you may have to fire the occasional shot, but always with tears in the eyes, and with great reluctance. According to the Clark Doctrine it would be utterly unacceptable for NZ military personnel deployed offshore to write mocking messages on bombs about to be dropped on people. That is not what the NZ military is all about.

A third explanation is that the military brass in NZ have never bought into the deployment in Afghanistan--it was always and ever a token gesture. It was simply diplomacy by other means. Essentially, it was to keep the US onside to try to get traction in free trade talks--and, if the worst came to the worst, secure US aid if the country were ever under actual military or terrorist threat. If deployment were a message for wider diplomatic reasons, then it would make sense to go through the motions, engage in token military activity, but stay away from actual combat as much as possible.

This is essentially the position of Germany in its Afghani deployment. Painting messages on bombs is just a bit too gung ho for this kind of strategy, and so the brass have sought to send a message to kiwi soldiers to tone things down and chill out. Discretion is very much the order of the day if the real point is a token gesture for diplomatic leverage.

A final explanation of the brass's decision would be that they understand that a new military doctrine now applies in New Zealand. We will call it the Key Doctrine. This doctrine holds that the war in Afghanistan is a war without borders and that to fight in Afghanistan is really to defend the homeland against terrorists. If we don't fight them in their mountains, we will end up fighting them on our beaches. Much better their mountains than at the Mount, as it were.

Now the cruel reality is that we have no intention to prepare for a terrorist attack on our soil--the government has no resolve to prepare and no money to fund such preparations. All government funds, and then a considerable some, are committed to such essentials as the DPB, the state education system, and thousands of advisory boards giving us essential expert advice on how to eat, sleep, and put our pants on in the morning. So, better to fight them (at least in a minimal token way) in Afghanistan than here, and hope that it will be enough to ensure that the "others" strategy stays valid. (The "others" strategy is the real defense strategy which has applied in New Zealand for over fifty years now: the expectation that other nations will put their sons in harms way to defend us if ever we are attacked. All offshore military activity is designed to ensure that other nations will feel obliged to defend us if attacked--and that it the real objective in Afghanistan.)

But pictures, offensive and provocative pictures in this viral electronic world can be broadcast everywhere. The kind of pictures of NZ soldiers sending mocking messages to Islamic jihad fighters runs the risk of inflaming hatred and calling attention to ourselves in jihadist circles globally. That simply marks us out for a well planned revenge terrorist attack which may take five to seven years to bring to fruition. Since we have no meaningful defence against such terrorist activity, it is stupid to provoke it.

OK. So which explanation of the decision by the NZ military brass to discipline the artistic soldiers is most likely? You be the judge.

For our money, only the first possible explanation would honourable and worthy. The others all involve a gross dereliction of duty on the part of our government. They all mean that whilst New Zealand may be a paradise, it belong to fools and is ruled by fools--different shades and strips of fools to be sure, but fools nonetheless.

Tuesday, 22 September 2009

It's the Sun, Stupid

Cutting Edge Climate Research

Professor Henrik Svensmark is hardly a household name. He may well become one. At the moment, however, he is a figure of ridicule in the liberal-academic-media complex. He and his team have done provocative research into explaining the influence of the sun upon earth's climate.

For decades, if not centuries, a well-established correlation has been known to exist between earth's climate and temperatures, and the activity of the sun. But no-one has been able to explain it. So it has languished in the face of a determined and invincible conviction that man is the fundamental cause and driver of earth's climate.

Meanwhile Svensmark has been working away. He recently (September 9) published a piece explaining in straightforward layman's language what his experiments and research have shown and how the sun seems to affect the climate upon earth. Contra Celsum reproduces his piece, which was published on Anthony Watt's blog, Watts Up With That.

Enjoy Global Warming While It Lasts

UPDATED: This opinion piece from Professor Henrik Svensmark was published September 9th in the Danish newspaper Jyllands-Posten. Originally the translation was from Google translation with some post translation cleanup of jumbled words or phrases by myself. Now as of Sept 12, the translation is by Nigel Calder. Hat tip to Carsten Arnholm of Norway for bringing this to my attention and especially for translation facilitation by Ágúst H Bjarnason – Anthony

While the Sun sleeps
Henrik Svensmark, Professor, Technical University of Denmark, Copenhagen
Translation approved by Henrik Svensmark

“In fact global warming has stopped and a cooling is beginning. No climate model has predicted a cooling of the Earth – quite the contrary. And this means that the projections of future climate are unreliable,” writes Henrik Svensmark.

The star that keeps us alive has, over the last few years, been almost free of sunspots, which are the usual signs of the Sun’s magnetic activity. Last week [4 September 2009] the scientific team behind the satellite SOHO (Solar and Heliospheric Observatory) reported, “It is likely that the current year’s number of blank days will be the longest in about 100 years.” Everything indicates that the Sun is going into some kind of hibernation, and the obvious question is what significance that has for us on Earth.

If you ask the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) which represents the current consensus on climate change, the answer is a reassuring “nothing”. But history and recent research suggest that is probably completely wrong. Why? Let’s take a closer look.

Solar activity has always varied. Around the year 1000, we had a period of very high solar activity, which coincided with the Medieval Warm Period. It was a time when frosts in May were almost unknown – a matter of great importance for a good harvest. Vikings settled in Greenland and explored the coast of North America. On the whole it was a good time. For example, China’s population doubled in this period.

But after about 1300 solar activity declined and the world began to get colder. It was the beginning of the episode we now call the Little Ice Age. In this cold time, all the Viking settlements in Greenland disappeared. Sweden surprised Denmark by marching across the ice, and in London the Thames froze repeatedly. But more serious were the long periods of crop failures, which resulted in poorly nourished populations, reduced in Europe by about 30 per cent because of disease and hunger.


Painting of the Frozen Thames

It’s important to realise that the Little Ice Age was a global event. It ended in the late 19th Century and was followed by increasing solar activity. Over the past 50 years solar activity has been at its highest since the medieval warmth of 1000 years ago. But now it appears that the Sun has changed again, and is returning towards what solar scientists call a “grand minimum” such as we saw in the Little Ice Age.

The match between solar activity and climate through the ages is sometimes explained away as coincidence. Yet it turns out that, almost no matter when you look and not just in the last 1000 years, there is a link. Solar activity has repeatedly fluctuated between high and low during the past 10,000 years. In fact the Sun spent about 17 per cent of those 10,000 years in a sleeping mode, with a cooling Earth the result.

You may wonder why the international climate panel IPCC does not believe that the Sun’s changing activity affects the climate. The reason is that it considers only changes in solar radiation. That would be the simplest way for the Sun to change the climate – a bit like turning up and down the brightness of a light bulb.

Satellite measurements have shown that the variations of solar radiation are too small to explain climate change. But the panel has closed its eyes to another, much more powerful way for the Sun to affect Earth’s climate. In 1996 we discovered a surprising influence of the Sun – its impact on Earth’s cloud cover. High-energy accelerated particles coming from exploded stars, the cosmic rays, help to form clouds.

When the Sun is active, its magnetic field is better at shielding us against the cosmic rays coming from outer space, before they reach our planet. By regulating the Earth’s cloud cover, the Sun can turn the temperature up and down. High solar activity means fewer clouds and and a warmer world. Low solar activity and poorer shielding against cosmic rays result in increased cloud cover and hence a cooling. As the Sun’s magnetism doubled in strength during the 20th century, this natural mechanism may be responsible for a large part of global warming seen then.

That also explains why most climate scientists try to ignore this possibility. It does not favour their idea that the 20th century temperature rise was mainly due to human emissions of CO2. If the Sun provoked a significant part of warming in the 20th Century, then the contribution by CO2 must necessarily be smaller.

Ever since we put forward our theory in 1996, it has been subjected to very sharp criticism, which is normal in science.

First it was said that a link between clouds and solar activity could not be correct, because no physical mechanism was known. But in 2006, after many years of work, we completed experiments at DTU Space that demonstrated the existence of a physical mechanism. The cosmic rays help to form aerosols, which are the seeds for cloud formation.

Then came the criticism that the mechanism we found in the laboratory could not work in the real atmosphere, and therefore had no practical significance. We have just rejected that criticism emphatically.

It turns out that the Sun itself performs what might be called natural experiments. Giant solar eruptions can cause the cosmic ray intensity on earth to dive suddenly over a few days. In the days following an eruption, cloud cover can fall by about 4 per cent. And the amount of liquid water in cloud droplets is reduced by almost 7 per cent. Here is a very large effect – indeed so great that in popular terms the Earth’s clouds originate in space.

So we have watched the Sun’s magnetic activity with increasing concern, since it began to wane in the mid-1990s.

That the Sun might now fall asleep in a deep minimum was suggested by solar scientists at a meeting in Kiruna in Sweden two years ago. So when Nigel Calder and I updated our book The Chilling Stars, we wrote a little provocatively that “we are advising our friends to enjoy global warming while it lasts.”

In fact global warming has stopped and a cooling is beginning. Mojib Latif from the University of Kiel argued at the recent UN World Climate Conference in Geneva that the cooling may continue through the next 10 to 20 years. His explanation was a natural change in the North Atlantic circulation, not in solar activity. But no matter how you interpret them, natural variations in climate are making a comeback.

The outcome may be that the Sun itself will demonstrate its importance for climate and so challenge the theories of global warming. No climate model has predicted a cooling of the Earth – quite the contrary. And this means that the projections of future climate are unreliable. A forecast saying it may be either warmer or colder for 50 years is not very useful, and science is not yet able to predict solar activity.

So in many ways we stand at a crossroads. The near future will be extremely interesting. I think it is important to accept that Nature pays no heed to what we humans think about it. Will the greenhouse theory survive a significant cooling of the Earth? Not in its current dominant form. Unfortunately, tomorrow’s climate challenges will be quite different from the greenhouse theory’s predictions. Perhaps it will become fashionable again to investigate the Sun’s impact on our climate.

Professor Henrik Svensmark is director of the Center for Sun-Climate Research at DTU Space. His book The Chilling Stars has also been published in Danish as Klima og Kosmos Gads Forlag, DK ISBN 9788712043508)


If you wish to "keep up" with the sun's (in)activity, one of the best sites is SolarCycle24.

Institutionalised Bribery

Rotten Carcasses

We have argued previously that Western democracies, of which New Zealand is one, are institutionally corrupt. They exist by means of a tacit and frequently overt practice of bribery. The fact that it takes place all the time, and is part of the warp and woof of public and national life does not make it any less destructive, evil or corrupt.

Politicians bribe electorates and citizens by offering them money in exchange for their electoral support. Voters, for their part, effectively sell their votes and allegiance to politicians which offer them the best financial deal. Now, of course, if a politician were to walk into the local pub and promise he would mail a $50 bill to everyone who voted for him, he would be committing a crime. He would be guilty of corrupt practice. If, however, that same politician promised the same pub crowd that he would give them a new $50 welfare grant through something like "Working For Families" no-one would turn a hair.

Try to explain why the one action is corrupt and criminal and the other is not. Oh, yes, we know. The second example is not considered a corrupt practice because it is a bribe to everyone, not just those in the pub. The more expansive and inclusive and massive the bribery is, the less it is deemed to be criminal and corrupt. The lesson is that if one is going to act corruptly it is best to do it on a grand and massive scale.

Fran O'Sullivan has exposed how corruption runs deep within the halls and corridors of government. But this time, folk are likely to get a little bit upset about it because the bribery is too limited. It turns out that the Maori Party has both solicited and accepted a bribe from the government to buy their initial support for the reckless Emissions Trading Scheme. But in order to support it all the way into law, they will need more money. It's called taking care of business, in this case, whanau. It's criminal when the Mafia do it. And for the Prime Minister and National--it's all just a bit of "fragrant grease", as the Chinese say.
Maori Party co-leaders Pita Sharples and Tariana Turia are proving to be politicians of principle who know which side their toast is buttered on.

The Maori Party co-leaders' opposition to the emissions trading scheme fell the moment National's negotiators promised some sweeteners.

They have secured free insulation packages for houses in areas where low-income Maori live.

But what does that particular promise tell you about New Zealand today if the National-Maori party initiative is not also made available to all other Kiwis at a similar income level, regardless of ethnicity or colour on a pro rata basis.

What really stinks is the fact that Sharples and Turia are now in secret negotiations with National over the extent to which Maori - as opposed to those of all New Zealanders - will be able to protect the future value of their assets from being eroded through major Government policy changes.

Ironically, the Maori Party had opposed changing the present Labour ETS in any way unless polluters were made to pay big money for their crimes against humanity. That was until there was money on the table. Clearly this is corruption any which way you look at it. The fact that the whole country is not up in arms over this is only due to the fact that it is the kind of corruption we have grown used to over the past one hundred years.

The Chinese do not see "fragrant grease" as a corrupt practice. It is simply the way life is. Putting cash into the palm of the official/policeman/judge/politician to get things done is universal and accepted. It is now the norm here as well in government circles.

Not a few have warned that Emissions Trading Schemes will open up the door to all kinds of shams, scams, rip-offs, and theft. We believe these warnings are not histrionic. It has already started in the highest reaches of government. John Key, Nick Smith, Tariana Turia and Peter Sharples are calling down curses upon us all.

Monday, 21 September 2009

Meditation on the Text of the Week

Lights in a Dark Place

Offer to God a sacrifice of thanksgiving and pay your vows to the Most High.
Psalm 50: 14
We have a common-sense understanding of what it means to sacrifice. We know that it means to give something up, to self-abnegate. Usually it connotes self-denial for the sake of another—in this case, the Most High.

Sacrifice, then, always involves giving. The one who offers a sacrifice gives up something that would otherwise belong to him and dedicates and devotes it to God—to His honour, His praise, His Name, His worship. As all Christians know, giving to God is in one sense a ridiculous idea. How can you give anything to Him who already owns and possesses all things? It is precisely this point that the Lord drives home to His people in this fiftieth psalm.

He says that whilst He does not reprove Israel for its sacrifices, He yet needs to testify against us (verse 7). For our fathers had fallen into the error of thinking that offering a sacrifice was like a commercial exchange. It is as if we were taking something that ultimately and originally belonged to us and we were giving something to God, so that we lose and He gains. The subtle sub-text always lurking nearby is that our sacrifices buy something in return from God in a crass commercial exchange. By sacrifice, the demons whisper, we are paying a price for something and now God owes us. He is in our debt.

He reproves our fathers by reminding them and us that every beast of the forest, every farm animal on the hills, every bird, yea everything that moves belongs to the Lord. They are His (verses 9--13). He commanded them out of nothing. He alone is the only true and original owner of all things. Therefore, when we sacrifice our self-denial is relative only. For whatever we are giving up—whether it be time, money, possessions, energy, talents, voice—never really belonged to us at all in an absolute sense. We are only, ever, and always mere stewards of what belongs to God.

Therefore proper and only true motivation behind all sacrifice is thanksgiving. It is giving to God which is simply a vehicle or means of expressing and conveying our thanks to Him for all that He has been and is to us. It, therefore, can be in no sense a bargain, a sale and purchase agreement. This was the offensive sin of our fathers—and we would do well to put any trace of their wrongdoing far from us.

The paying of vows is central to true faith and worship. It is an ordinary part of Christian living, devotion, and service to make vows to God, and pay them with great thankfulness for all His goodness. These are the sacrifices which are acceptable to God. The way it works is aptly demonstrated in the life of our father, Jacob. God had met with him and promised that He would love Jacob, care for him, and bring him back safely to his father's house—despite the fact that he was at that time a fugitive, fearing for his life, possessing only the shirt on his back. He took a vow—if God would do all this, then he would take a tenth of everything that God gave him, and would give it back to Him. (Genesis 28: 22). And so he did, for the rest of his life.

So central is this dynamic to the life of faith that the Lord summons to Himself those He calls His godly ones who have made a covenant with Him by means of sacrifice. (Psalm 50: 5). Once again, sacrifice is not a “buying” of God's favour. Even as God had set His love upon Jacob and made promises to him, so Jacob had responded by a sacrifice which expressed his thankfulness to God for His love and promises. The expression of our thanks by way of sacrifice or giving is our way of responding, of entering His covenant, of taking it to ourselves, of showing that we believe God and are thankful for His mercies. The sacrifices of thanksgiving make the covenant with the Lord insofar as they are our believing response.

As the darkness of Unbelief deepens upon our world it results in the starlight of Belief, of the Gospel of grace, shining ever more brightly. One of the brightest stars in the Gospel firmament is the light of thankfulness in the hearts and upon the countenances of God's people. It shows in their merriment, their joy, their exuberant sacrifices, their cheerful generosity.

In a world made increasingly ugly by a rising tide of victims' claims, by spurious demands for payments, and by pseudo-entitlements; where “you owe me” is the klaxon screech signalling each new day; where the West's minaret call to its house of prayer is the brazen assertion of society's debt to me; where the mosques of the West hum to the querulous demand that all debts be paid; on this darkening plain the light of perpetual thankfulness adorning the countenance of the Lord's people appears more and more beautiful. It is one of the Kingdom's brightest stars.

Sunday, 20 September 2009

Sabbath Meditation

Instruments in Worship

Douglas Wilson

In Ephesians 5, the apostle Paul requires musical instrumentation in worship. He says there that we are to be "speaking to [one another] in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody in [our] heart to the Lord" (Eph. 5:19). The translation in the heart would better be rendered as with the heart. We would say "singing and making melody with all our hearts." This is not an arbitrary choice; we can tell this contextually. The short phrase "making melody" is a rendition of a word that means to pluck a string psallo.

Going over a song in our hearts is something we have all done. Singing silently can be done even though it is frustrating, and is always looking for an outlet. But very few of us have played the oboe in our hearts, or played a trumpet or piano there. Doing that kind of thing is way too close to playing air guitar. Telling the Ephesians to play the violin in their hearts would be a little bit odd.

So Paul tells the Ephesians to sing and play stringed instruments just the kind of thing that the psalmist would exhort Israel and all the nations to do. This is music out loud. But the driving force of the exhortation reveals the motive for instruments, and the motive for robust singing. We are told to sing with all our hearts. This kind of heart attitude looks around for ways to make it better, richer, louder. The same kind of thing comes out in Colossians. As the word dwells in us richly, the music should come out richly. A rich interior life cannot result in a poverty-stricken musical expression.

We are here to worship God. We have music before us that is designed to help us with this. We should stand on the balls of our feet, eager to express in song what we believe God has done for us. After all, He is worthy.

Saturday, 19 September 2009

Douglas Wilson's Letter from America

Breathing the Air of Smug Platitudes

Samuel Johnson famously said that patriotism is the last refuge of the scoundrel. That being the case, accusations of racism (when losing an argument) is the last refuge of the liberal scoundrel. And, as time goes by, and the argument (on health care, say) continues to be lost, the accusation moves closer and closer to the head of the line, becoming the first refuge of the liberal scoundrel.

And the liberals are in a bad jam. Obama's economic expertise is starting to look like a corpse that has been in the river for three days. They can do one of two things -- they can accuse Obama's opponents of wanting him to fail because he is black -- and as the wheels continue to come off, look for that to become a daily theme. Or they could admit the fact that the first black president we elected is a shyster, and is in way over his head. Don't look for this second option anytime soon.

I know this is kind of hard to fathom, but some might want to accuse me of racism. I know, I know, but it has happened before. So, just for the record, as I have said before, there are lots of whites who would be every bit as incompetent as Obama is being. I bet he learned a bunch of this stuff at Harvard, taught by distinguished looking white guy profs with silver hair and glasses on the ends of their noses. And patches on the elbows of their corduroy jackets. Talk about Whiteville, not really disturbed by the mandatory diversity sprinklings here and there.

What would these folks have done if the first black president had been a Clarence Thomas type? Well-- the charges would have been that conservative whites were only comfortable with him because he was white deep down, he was an oreo -- black on the outside, white on the inside.

There are different kinds of racism -- the malicious kind, which we all recognize, and the patronizing, "benevolent" kind, the kind that liberals specialize in, and which is invisible to them. Smug platitudes make up the air they breathe, and you can't point it out to them. How are they supposed to see their air?

If a black man who is steeped in the standards of real civilization -- highly educated, industrious, hard-working, and he were to propose economic policies that would actually be a blessing, what will he be accused of by liberals? He would be accused of being a race traitor. Liberals think that a black man cannot be a true black man without being dysfunctional, and dysfunctional in such a way as to require them to be his savior. How convenient. In their on-going self-narrative, they landed the starring role yet again. I call that real acting talent.
First posted in Blog and Mablog 16th September, 2009

Reflections on the Revolution in Europe

Not with a Bang But a Whimper

Most of our readers will be familiar with Edmund Burke's Reflections on the Revolution in France. One of these days we plan to do an extensive review/critique of this classic for it has much to teach us, whilst having some fatal flaws.

Christopher Caldwell, no doubt inspired by Burke, has written Reflections on the Revolution in Europe. It appears to be a must-read book. What follows are excerpts from a review of Caldwell's new book by Daniel Johnson, published in Commentary Magazine (September, 2009)

Edmund Burke, Meet Tariq Ramadan

Reflections on the Revolution in Europe:
Immigration, Islam, and the West
By Christopher Caldwell
Doubleday, 422 pages.
Amazon link: here.

In June 2009, an incident took place at Conway Hall in London’s Red Lion Square, the hallowed venue of secular leftist gatherings since the 1930s. Anjem Choudary, a radical Muslim preacher and leader of the Islamist organization al-Muhajiroun, was ejected after his followers attempted to segregate male and female members of the audience for a public debate. Choudary told the assembled media in the street outside: “This country is rife with social and economic problems and only Islam has the answer. Muslims are multiplying at a rate eight times faster than the kaffir. In a couple of generations this will be a Muslim country, inshallah. We will dominate this country, my brothers, and implement the beauty and perfection of Islam.” Al--Muhajiroun members greeted the speech with cheers and cries of “God is great” and “Sharia for the UK.” The crowd included Simon Keeler, the first white British Muslim convert convicted of inciting terrorism.

Such incidents are now commonplace not only in Britain but also across Europe. Yet the rise of European Islamism has occurred over only a few years’ time, without any of the Continent’s political elites even noticing what was happening. As Christopher Caldwell argues in his spirited tract Reflections on the Revolution in Europe, “Western Europe became a multi-ethnic society in a fit of absence of mind.” Now that the rest of the population has woken up to the change, many are angry. The result is a political upheaval that is still being played out.

The institutional structures of Europe are creaking because it is no longer possible to accommodate both the increasingly extravagant demands of the Islamist minority and the resentment of a no-longer-silent majority. The multicultural model, based on pure relativism, is widely regarded as bankrupt. But it is too late to prevent or reverse the demographic transformation of virtually every major city on the Continent.

What is striking is that nobody even bothers to challenge Choudary and other demagogues. Instead, Europeans roll their eyes and move on. But who will have the last laugh? Choudary’s prophecy may be outlandish, but it is an accurate description of the urban districts from which he and his like draw their support. It is certainly far less unreal than the cloud-cuckoo-land where European leaders have been living for the past generation.

Britain a Muslim country in a couple of decades? By 2050 a third of the population of Britain and most European countries will be immigrants. The proportion of Muslims may well be even higher because of birthrates and conversion. Sharia for the United Kingdom? England already has 85 functioning sharia courts, and the president of the UK’s new Supreme Court, Lord Phillips, has said that “there is no reason why principles of sharia law should not be used as the basis for mediation or other forms of dispute resolution” as long as the sanctions imposed comply with English law.

Does this transformation—demographic, political, social, legal, and religious—amount to a revolution? Caldwell believes that it does. Hence his Burkean title. But Edmund Burke’s Reflections on the Revolution in France had at its heart the conviction that the triumph of the revolutionary ideology was not inevitable—that the overthrow of the French monarchy could be made “the parent of settlement, and not the nursery of future revolutions.” Burke’s hopes for France and much of Continental Europe were to be disappointed, for the Jacobin Terror proved to be only the first of many totalitarian episodes over the next two centuries. But he was right about England and, indeed, America, whose revolution followed the pattern of 1688 rather than that of 1789, leading quickly to a settled form of government and society.

Caldwell’s revolution, on the other hand, does not look like the parent of a new settlement—unless it be the caliphate. He himself doubts whether Europe has the moral courage to win over its new immigrant populations in the contest for allegiance. He concludes on a pessimistic note: “For now, Islam is the stronger party in that contest, in an obvious demographic way and in a less obvious philosophical way. Words like ‘majority’ and ‘minority’ mean little when an insecure, malleable, relativistic culture meets a culture that is anchored, confident, and strengthened by common doctrines. It is generally the former that changes to suit the latter.”

The key word here is relativistic. For the story that Caldwell sets out to tell is one of relativism applied across the board in every realm of public policy. Instead of helping the waves of immigrants who came to Europe to escape the ghetto and assimilate into the broader society, the new postwar welfare states enshrined in law the new doctrine of cultural relativism, rendering integration impossible. The universal declarations of human rights that were a legacy of the Holocaust ought to have created a new sense of the world and their place in it for these immigrants, who mostly came from countries where such rights did not exist. Instead, the language of human rights was turned against Israel in the name of antiracism, while the Muslim practitioners of wife-beating, forced marriage, polygamy, female mutilation, and terrorism were able to claim the protection afforded by the Left’s political correctness and anticolonialism. . . .

Caldwell is at his best in chronicling the deceptions and self-deceptions of the intellectuals. Take the serpentine insinuations of Tariq Ramadan, for example, the poster boy of the Muslim Brotherhood, who claims that jihad means -“resistance” and only in a “spiritual” sense and who, months after 9/11, claimed that there was merely “a very strong possibility” that Muslim terrorists were responsible. Caldwell gives Ramadan plenty of rope to hang himself with, quoting such obiter dicta as this: “Islam stands for the liberation of women—but not at the expense of children.” The massacre of Christians by Muslims in Nigeria, he dismisses coolly: “We need to consider the situation objectively and bring a critical view as much to the causes—global homogenization and a sometimes savage Westernization—as to the consequences—ethnic and religious tension.” In Caldwell’s view, Ramadan is not in favor of any Western freedoms unless they advance the cause of -Islam. To ask what Islam will contribute is impertinent, for “what Islam will contribute to the West is Islam.” . . . .

The most striking single consequence of Caldwell’s European revolution has been the return of the oldest hatred of all: anti-Semitism. Other writers, such as Gabriel Schoenfeld, have already written about the explosion of jihadist Judeophobia, legitimized by the Left, that has accompanied the terrorist assault on the West. Caldwell’s contribution is to explain how the Muslim-immigrant communities of Europe were the true beneficiaries of the post-Holocaust taboo against anti-Semitism among European elites. What has only recently become clear, especially since -Israel’s counterattacks against Hezbollah in 2006 and Hamas in 2009, is that this taboo is now a thing of the past. The European elites have given themselves permission to express virulent hostility not only toward Israel but also toward “the Israel lobby” (by which is meant the minority of European Jews who publicly defend the Jewish state). The big lie, that the Palestinians are the new victims and the Israelis are the new Nazis, is now fully established in mainstream European discourse. “Far from forgetting the lessons of the Holocaust,” Caldwell notes, “anti-Semites and anti-Zionists were obsessed with them. They were a rhetorical toolkit.”

And just as in the 1930s, it is in the universities that the new anti-Semitism is most ubiquitous. The clamor for boycotts and other sanctions against Israel has gone far beyond mere gesture politics. The atmosphere at Britain’s traditional centers of expertise on the Middle East (such as Oxford University; the School of Oriental and African Studies at London University; and the Royal Institute of International Affairs, Chatham House) is becoming intolerable for scholars who try to discuss Israel with any degree of objectivity. This academic atrophy inevitably has a long-term impact on the quality of public debate. The same process is being replicated across Europe, and it is by no means limited to the Left.

The underlying problem is the collective amnesia that has afflicted Europe concerning its origins, values, and traditions. . . . There are as many views in between these two positions as there are Europeans. But the fact that Europeans no longer agree about what their core values are suggests that they no longer have core values. The vacuum is being filled by a faith that knows precisely what its values are and, funded by the revenues of the oil-rich Orient, is proclaiming those values from the rooftops.

The heart of Europe has been transplanted from Mecca. If you want to know how this happened, and what became of the European civilization that Americans used to know and love, you must read Christopher Caldwell’s Reflections on the Revolution in Europe.