Wednesday, 31 March 2010

Peter Hitchens--Part III

Wineskins Soaked in Wine Puddles

Atheism and Apologetics - The Rage Against God
Written by Douglas Wilson
Wednesday, March 24, 2010

In his next chapter, Peter Hitchens writes about the threshhold that England crossed during his boyhood. The chapter is about the culture-wide failure of nerve, and is entitled "A Loss of Confidence." Here he astutely points out that atheism is not so much an individual opinion, honestly derived from the force of inexorable arguments, but is more aptly described as a derivative mood. It is an intellectual fashion that arises from the antecedent fashions, which had all gone stale on us.
God was associated in our minds with the tottering, enfeebled secular authorities of our country (p. 31).

In short, people tend to derive their view of the Father from their fathers, and if their fathers are packing it up to pack it in, what then?
During brief spells spent outside the confines of school, where I could see how rackety and exhausted my country was becoming, it was also growing plain to me . . . that I had been brought up for a world that no longer existed (p. 35).

Inertia can keep it going for a bit, but it is soon followed by a serious downgrade.
A cheap and second-rate modernity was to replace the decrepit magnificence we had grown used to (p. 36).

The public events that made the whole thing obvious to all were the debacle of the Suez crisis, and then the Profumo affair. The British failure of nerve was on display in the former, and the failure of virtue in the latter. They were not just a couple of unfortunate incidents, but were both emblematic of much larger realities.
The change that followed was not slow or gradual, but catastrophic, like an avalanche (p. 39).

But such rapid change needs accounting for.

The astonishing swiftness of the change, like the crumbling of an Egyptian mummy to dust as fresh air rushes into the long-sealed tomb chamber, has been one of the features of my life. It suggests that our old morality was sustained only by custom and inertia, not by any deep attachment or understanding, and so had no ability to withstand the sneering assault of the modern age (p. 39).
And so Peter ends this chapter, with his nation on the verge of becoming Cool Britannia, and with Peter himself on the verge of biting the hand that had fed him. Thus far Peter.

One additional thought of my own. This is what happens to nations that retain the form of religion, but which have lost the power of it (2 Tim. 3:5). A Christian nation, without the Spirit of God moving in life-giving ways among the people, will be decent, sane, orderly, and intolerable. To attempt to build or preserve such a thing is to actually try to fall between two stools -- the stool of real Christianity and the stool of real paganism. The result is the high ethical standards of the Christian faith without any of the life or joy in it, gakkkk.

But of course, in order to have the Spirit of God moving among a people in this way, you have to be prepared for a little difficulty with the Royal Keeper of the Wineskins. You want to put new wine in them, bust a bunch of them, scatter them over the floor soaked in their wine puddles, and we never heard of such a thing. The evangelists who will do for a nation in this pathetic circumstance what Wesley and Whitefield did in their day will be called enthusiasts, skypilots, ecclesiocranks and worse and, to be perfectly frank, some of them will be. But that's what it takes.

Reformations and revivals are only pretty when glowing accounts of them are written in the after years, in the wineskin decorating years. In the midst of them the critics are hopping mad and sometimes right. But however right they are sometimes, the alternative is death. Fin de siecle nations don't need another French phrase; they need to go listen to some hedge preacher who will tell them to come to Jesus.

There Ain't No Free Lunch

A People Who Worship Their Belly

In the Scriptures, the Apostle Paul characterises Cretans as a people who were "always liars, evil beasts, lazy gluttons." Titus 1:12 Their god was their belly (Philippians 3:19). It is an apt characterisation of our modern age in the West.

By and large, in the West, politicians, government, and people in general are concerned predominantly with one thing, and one thing only--how to get more into our mouths. The pre-occupation with getting more money in the hand (and therefore food in the belly) through the agency of the state is universal in the West. Political opponents and voters debate endlessly the quantum, not the morality of state expropriations and re-distribution. Even those who would argue for less state re-distribution at the same time ardently defend the legality and morality of state expropriation and redistribution in principle.

These days it has become fashionable for state expropriations to extend to future generations as governments run up billions of dollars of debt to pay for food in the belly of today's Cretans. "Eat, drink and be merry, for tomorrow we die" is the underlying ethic of both politicians and people as redistribution relentlessly rises.

But now and again we see shock at reality bites. One of the truly liberal newspapers in the United States, the Chicago Tribune has woken up and found that the cupboard is bare. (Remember this is Obama's native political soil; it is the homeland of corrupt crony politics, and sweetheart deals, of under-the-table payoffs. Rich Trzupek tells the grimly ironical story:
The very day that the United States Congress passed sweeping legislation that will undermine the economy, increase debt and send tax rates soaring, a leading liberal media outlet criticized the elected officials who have been in charge of the president’s home state for repeatedly passing legislation that has: undermined Illinois’ economy, increased Illinois’ debt and sent Illinois tax rates soaring, thus poisoning the business environment and employment prospects in the state. It appears that government’s mission isn’t to tax and spend. Who knew?

For decades, Illinois has engaged in spend, spend, spend Cretan politics. Like the corrupt Roman emperors of old, the Caesars of Chicago maintained their political power by showering bread upon the plebians at the circus. But now the system is broke, really broke.
It will be hard to believe, but when Illinois Democrats passed all of the legislation that got Illinois into this cesspool of a fiscal crisis, both they and the MSM assured voters that the there was nothing to worry about. These great new programs, they said, will actually make the state more prosperous and, if you disagreed with that proposition, then you were obviously a crabby conservative trying make political hay at the expense of what was obviously the best thing for the people of the state of Illinois. Sound familiar?
Suddenly the Chicago Tribune as woken up, its bloated belly quivering in righteous indignation.
Still, it’s nice for the Trib to finally notice:
State government’s free-fall into insolvency was designed intentionally and executed methodically. Over the years, legislators devoted more to hoarding power and ensuring their re-election than to smart governance. They repeatedly created employee benefits, entitlement coverage and spending obligations that the people of Illinois cannot pay as costs come due.
That’s a keeper. Substitute “federal government” for “state government” and “the United States” for “Illinois” and you have a paragraph that the Trib can trot out again around 2020. That’s about when the Trib’s editors will figure out that the reason the United States is $100 trillion in debt and unemployment rates are competing with inflation rates to see which can soar the highest is because Congress created – starting on May 21, 2010, “employee benefits, entitlement coverage and spending obligations” that are simply unsustainable.

What we see happening at the state level all over the United States is what is going to happen at a national, federal level. It is inevitable. It is locked and loaded. Eat drink and be merry, for tomorrow you will die. But, not to worry. The Tribune has thought of a way out.
How to solve Illinois’ problems? The Trib hit upon a novel solution:
You can re-elect lawmakers who, for two decades, have grown state obligations at twice the rate of inflation. Or you can mobilize en masse and elect a responsive new legislature.

Gosh, thanks for the advice Tribune editorial-writers. Anyone reading your paper for the last decade would be forgiven for assuming that there’s some sort of state law that requires Illinois residents to vote Democrat. Illinois Democrats have had control of both chambers of the legislature and the Governor’s office for eight years and have spent most of their time spending tax dollars, most of which don’t yet exist, like a drunken sailor on shore leave. It would have been something of a public service for the old media to notice what was happening before now – before Illinois’ economic situation could be described in the following terms:
(Illinois ranks) a pathetic 48th in job creation (and) now suffers an unemployment rate of 12.2 percent, the highest in 27 years. Here’s a damning metric: The January jobless rate in all 12 Illinois metro areas exceeded the previous year’s rate — for the 32nd consecutive month.
Might the Tribune have seen this crisis coming before it reached these epic proportions? It might have, had the paper been listening to conservative Illinois Republicans who predicted this was going to happen as far back as 2002. That was when then Illinois state senator Steve Rauschenberger, a strong fiscal conservative and a Republican, outlined in horrifying detail exactly how the state’s economy was going to crash and burn if Blagojevich and the Democrats went forward with their plans. And, at that point, all Blago and the Dems were doing was robbing state pension funds to pay for other government goodies.
The freight train that has just smashed into Chicago could be heard coming down the line years ago. But then it was still the "eat, drink, and be merry" phase, so the rumbling was drowned out by the noise of revelling.
The Trib was all but blind to what was going on as the crisis was building in Illinois. They gleefully joined in the “Great Bush Bash of 2006,” which saw Democrats swept into office in overwhelming numbers. When Republican state level candidates in Illinois tried to make state finances the focus of their campaigns in 2006, the newspaper’s editorial board was much more interested in a candidate’s views on immigration reform (which isn’t in the purview of state government), abortion (ditto), and – I’m not making this up – whether foie gras should be illegal or not. The economy was going to hell in a hand basket and the Trib wanted to talk about goose liver. Now that it’s clear to everyone this side of Richie Daley that Illinois Democrats have screwed up Illinois so badly that it’s going to take a Herculean effort to fix this state, the Trib is reacting like Claude Raines in Casablanca.
They are “shocked, shocked!” to find that the lawmakers in Springfield have been so irresponsible. And, if Barack Obama’s grand plan to socialize medicine in the United States is not somehow derailed, we can expect to have much the same conversation in about ten years, on a much larger scale.
Meanwhile, let's party on, and enjoy the foie gras.

The Hundred Years War

Humanitarianism and Its Wars

Simon Schama's doco on Henry VIII played recently on Sky. He traced the gradual descent of Henry's reign into the murderous and tyrannical. The Divine Right of Kings (or, of governments in general) has always been a pernicious doctrine; it necessarily spawns great evil. Henry was no exception.

Human rights doctrines are equally pernicious and tyrannical. It is not an exaggeration, nor is it drawing a particularly long bow, to argue that Human Rights doctrines have produced the fifty years war of the United States and the West (and counting). Now, of course, Henry and his ilk had a justification for capriciously executing all and sundry who crossed them. The Divine Right of Kings asserted that the king was the avatar of God and therefore carried absolute authority. To resist the king was to impugn the dignity and being of God Himself. All resistance to Henry was implicit blasphemy.

Human Rights doctrines assert that Man is the ultimate and highest being--at least in their modern secular form. It is apt to name this approach the doctrine of humanitarianism--that is, the ultimacy of humanity. Man's glory and honour must not only be respected, but protected. The duty of all governments is to defend the honour of mankind. Those who oppress or harm human beings impugn the glory and dignity of all. Those who harm other human beings are committing blasphemous acts. Thus, it is not at all surprising, that nations in the West have felt compelled to go to war against other nations which were believed to be violating human rights. The upshot has been a complete bloody mess.

In a recent article in World Affairs, entitled Saviors & Sovereigns: The Rise and Fall of Humanitarianism, Mark Mazower reviews the unseemly spectacle.
On November 9, 2001, George W. Bush created a new public holiday—World Freedom Day. The United States, he explained, would lead the global fight for “liberty, freedom and the universal struggle for human rights”; it would try to help the “more than two billion people” still living under repressive regimes. The idea that America could, or should, do this had informed a certain kind of Washington mind-set throughout the Cold War. But after the Berlin Wall came down, freedom’s crusaders increasingly set their eyes not so much on Communism as on violators of human rights in general. They unfurled the banner of humanitarianism and, righteously, scorned the cowards and skeptics who wanted to keep America’s powder dry.
Mazower suggests there are signs that going to war to defend human rights is becoming unfashionable, and cites President Obama's less "hawkish" tone. We believe this is nonsense: humanitarianism will not stop its wars until Human Rights doctrines are rejected. Obama continues to conduct its wars. Afghanistan has become part of the humanitarianism cause: American armed force is now being employed to "nation build" in that country. Humanitarianism remains firmly in place as a governing doctrine of the Republic.

Humanitarianism is implicitly absolutist, whilst hopelessly confused. This is a very dangerous combination. It creates happy hunting ground for populist manipulating politicians, hucksters and charlatans.
A pair of seminal scholarly articles from the early 1980s, influential on both left and right, offer a starting point: in these, Columbia University professor Michael Doyle argued that democracies were inherently peace-loving. The gratifying implication was that American security and international peace would both be served if existing democracies banded together and—perhaps—if they helped democratize the rest of the world as well.
The Balkans became the "theatre" where this doctrine was first played out.
At the time, the intellectual case for taking on Slobodan Milosevic in Kosovo was being hammered out by no one in more public detail than by Michael Ignatieff (academic and current leader of the Canadian Liberal Party). In the aftermath of Bosnia, he had mused that the task of the contemporary intellectual was to defend “the universal against the violence and closure associated with the tribal, national, and ethnic.” Somewhat diffidently, he called for a defense of Western universalism as the alternative to tribalism. He did not dissent from the West’s right to intervene abroad on humanitarian grounds; his test was whether a breach of human rights threatened international peace.
Human Rights doctrines lead naturally into the ideology of humanitarianism, which, in turn leads the West to attempt to impose democracies on other nations--for their own good. Humanitarianism assumes that lying just beneath the surface of all oppressive and tyrannical governments are people who are true believers in Human Rights theology. Ironically, the more interventions occur, the more obvious it becomes that this is just plain flat-out wrong.
At least as worrying was the thought that the “ordinary people” in whom the intellectuals placed their hopes might not exist as imagined. Were they natural democrats? Not according to those who argued that even Yugoslavia’s descent into turmoil had been the product of mass nationalism and the political failure of less divisive movements. Radovan Karadzic and Franjo Tudjman were not tyrants, it was said, but the voices of a popular, deeply nationalistic general will, or the beneficiaries of the collapse of a one-party state and the democratization that followed. Soon, the idea that a “civil society” was waiting to be born in every dictatorship started to collapse under the weight of its own contradictions.
It is important to grasp that the doctrines of humanitarianism and interventions to punish human rights abusers is not a recent post-World War II phenomenon. It, like the Divine Rights of Kings, has been held for generations throughout Europe and the West in general.
The idea of humanitarian intervention was not a late-twentieth-century invention, of course. William Gladstone’s foray into Egypt more than a century earlier bore all the hallmarks of the idea, and one could go farther back. The re-emergence of the idea in the 1990s was the latest flourishing of a distinctive form of Western liberal thinking about global affairs. If liberal values were the only true values, then the West’s power and prestige should be deployed to promote them. And not merely to promote them, but to save suffering humanity from the excesses of that other Western invention, the idea of state sovereignty. With the United States in the ascendant after 1989—and a public culture steeped in the horrors of the Holocaust and the sinfulness of inaction in the face of evil—the temptation has been to elevate intervention to a general principle. As J├╝rgen Habermas wrote in 2008, through their mass violations of human rights, many states lost the presumption of innocence that entitled them to claim sovereignty. The cosmopolitan conscience must trump the autonomy of the evildoing dictator.
Knocking off a dictator is the easy part. Winning the "peace" is an entirely different matter.
Toppling dictators might staunch the worst human rights abuses. But the same Western public opinion that welcomed their fall blanched at the years, billions of dollars, and (Western) lives spent to build democratic institutions from scratch. Well before the election of Barack Obama, the drain on military resources posed by Iraq and Afghanistan, not to mention the fragility of the new institutions in Bosnia and Kosovo, suggested that we should be wary of imperial projects.

Human cultures and civilizations are incredibly thick with nuances, significances, and meanings. In the end they reflect the prevailing shared religious beliefs of human beings within a culture. Western Human Rights humanitarianism is no exception; it is nothing more, nor less than an imperialist, absolutist attempt to impose its own culture and religion upon other peoples of the world.

This, of course, is not to say that all cultures are equally moral or holy or sanctified. Many are deeply degenerate--and the West, sadly, falls into this category. But it is to say that regime change does not mean culture change. Holding elections does not mean changes of heart and world-view. Cultures can only change for the better (or worse) from the inside out, from new patterns of love, courtship, marriage, child rearing, family worship, work, and labour--and so forth. These are not the things that the West can speak authoritatively about any longer.

And the rest of the world knows it.

Tuesday, 30 March 2010

Doug Wilson's Letter From America

Obamacare and Seven Layers of Failure

Culture and Politics - Obama Nation Building
Written by Douglas Wilson
Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Some might believe that it is premature to pronounce Obamacare a failure, since the president has only just signed it. Why, some might wonder, shouldn't we give it a chance? There is no need to give it a chance -- it has already failed in seven significant ways.

First, the Bible says not to steal. I have quoted Margaret Thatcher on this before. As she put it, the problem with socialism is that sooner or later you run out of other people's money, and this aphorism highlights two of the problems. But the moral problem is foremost, the part that sees that this racket depends on "other people's money." No benefit can be given to one person without it being first removed from another person. What is the basis of the removal? We threaten that other person with jail time in order to extract a sufficient amount of money from him. It is not a "contribution." In order to defend Obamacare, you have to be in favor of raw extortion at raw levels. This is a moral failure, and the difficulty that many professed Christians have in seeing it as a moral failure represents an even deeper level of moral failure.

Then there is the simple math. You cannot add millions of beneficiaries, accept pre-existing conditions, along with other forms of magic, and then reduce the costs. This is a failure in basic arithmetic, and since the people telling us all this are not that stupid, we could chalk this up as yet another sampling of the moral failure. But let us cut some slack and call it a failure in telling bigger numbers and smaller numbers apart.

Third, the passage of this bill represents a significant political failure. First, there was the failure of the voting public to believe Obama's campaign promises -- he said he would do this and, son of gun, he did. The public also failed to disbelieve a supine press. And once it became apparent that he was actually going to ram through what the overwhelming majority of the American people did not want, our elected representatives failed to listen to their constituents. So we failed to examine our candidates, and our candidates, upon assuming office, failed to listen. This is a major breakdown; it represents an enormous political failure.

Fourth, at the macro-level, this means national bankruptcy. The arithmetic failure mentioned earlier would be operative even if one congressman could not tell whether $25 was larger or smaller than $50. The consequences of arithmetic failure are catastrophic or not, depending on where the decimal point goes. If all of Congress cannot tell the difference between 25 trillion and 50 trillion, this means that at a certain point, default becomes inevitable. This means economic failure.

The fifth way this represents failure is a bit different from the others. All the others represent failure for the nation. This particular point is simply failure for the Democrats, which means, in its turn, that if the Democrats have in fact over-topped themselves, the other forms of failure may yet be undone. So if this is true failure, the others aren't. If the others are, then this isn't. That said, Obamacare is a tactical failure on the part of the Democrats.

Think of it this way. If McCain had been elected, it is quite possible that we would have gotten a bill very much like the one we just got, and there would have been real bipartisan support for it. As it is, not a single Republican in either chamber voted for this monstrosity, and the opposition to it is now enthusiastic and fired up, and will have no patience with "moderate" Republicans in the middle. Repeal of the bill is actually a possibility, and if that happens the whole thing will have been a major miscalculation on the part of the progressives, who were guilty of impatient over-reaching -- grabbing what lapdog Republicans would have helped them obtain more slowly. But now the lines are drawn pretty starkly. This represents a tactical failure, and is the only failure in this list that I like.

Sixth, oh, yeah, this was supposed to be a health care bill. A finite resource like medical care is like pie dough -- the farther you spread it, the thinner it gets. In a free market, an increased demand will lead to an increase in supply. In the world we are proposing to enter, we have attempted to sever supply from demand. It will therefore be easier for ankle surgery panels (and death panels) to just say no than to pressure Congress to raise taxes yet again. The quality of care for most will go down, and the expenses will go up. We will be paying a lot more for a lot less, which means that this constitutes a first-class medical failure

And last, the fact that I have written a goodish bit on this health care business does not represent an abandonment of first principles. Politics is no savior -- and if politics were our savior, we now see what a tawdry, dishonest, skulking, mendacious savior it is. It is a lifeguard who cannot swim. It is a contagious and disease-ridden surgeon. It is an accountant who can't count. It is a carpenter who doesn't believe in nails. This is government of the ninnyhammers, by the ninnyhammers, for the ninnyhamers.

But for those who worship man, this is the way it has to be. The passage of this bill is therefore a religious failure; it is worship failure. The Democrats are now heading out to the countryside to prove their case, trying to sell the bill to the bumpkins. These soi disant priests of Baal will set up a boom box on the park bench (right next to the census van with the free balloons), and give us a lame little dance, trying to cut themselves with table knives. The pagan gods couldn't answer with fire back when it was a real altar and real knives -- still less will they answer now. These folks don't need fire to fall from heaven; they need money to fall from heaven, and lots of it. And, said the fellow who has read too much economics, this is unlikely.

The only real alternative for us is to worship Jesus Christ, who is the only true Savior. Our response to all this must not be limited to a truncated civic activity -- letters, calls, signing, voting, that kind of thing. All lawful and appropriate, of course, but utterly inadequate in themselves to the need of the hour.

Our response to this must occur on a seven-day cycle -- every Lord's Day, we and our families need to assemble before the Lord and worship Him, cry out to Him, sing praise to Him, and feed on His Word while submitting ourselves to that Word. And why? "For the LORD is our judge, the LORD is our lawgiver, the LORD is our king; he will save us" (Is. 33:22).

"Great Society" Liberal

Missing the Mark

Tapu Misa is evidently a "Great Society" liberal--an appellation she would probably wear as a badge of pride. The fundamental concept held by Great Society liberals is that lots and lots of bad social problems result from poverty. Consequently, the best way to overcome these social problems (debauchery, crime, drug abuse, alcoholism, violence, illiteracy, etc) is to provide decent paying jobs and pathways to rising incomes. The "provider", of course, must always be the state, in the first instance.

The lack of a decent job with an adequate wage is said to be the "core problem" of poverty, that in turn produces many social problems, including welfare dependency. So Misa argues in a recent Herald column. Therefore, she suggests, the recent government announcements requiring solo mothers to return to the work force are ignoring the "core" problem. In particular, poor men are unable to get jobs with a wage sufficient not only to live upon, but to support a wife and children. Therefore, they prefer not to marry. Meanwhile, women are left as solo-parents, having to take care of both themselves and their children.

Misa then argues that the proposed stricter benefit eligibility criteria for solo-mothers are misplaced. The core problem is adequately paying jobs for men. If they were in place, then men would marry the women they bed and commit to taking care of them and their children. Apparently there is plenty of research to "show" that marriage rates increase when men have good jobs.

To buttress her case, Misa cites a recent analysis by William Julius Wilson in his book entitled More Than Just Race which deals with the issue of the black underclass in the United States. She summarises one of Wilson's central hypotheses as follows:
Wilson writes that there is no evidence for the claims that welfare payments provide incentives for childbearing, or discourage marriage.

With nearly half of all black families headed by a single woman, he says it's the sharp increase in black male joblessness since the 1970s that "accounts in large measure for the rise in the rate of single-parent families". The less men earn, the evidence shows, the less likely they are to marry.
The evidence, huh. Right, well that will explain why solo female parenthood is epidemic in China, Vietnam, Indonesia, Tonga, Cambodia. Well, actually no. However, throughout the world, particularly in the East, millions upon millions of people live in squalid, impoverished circumstances--far, far worse than any ghetto in the United States and New Zealand--yet without high rates of single woman families with large numbers of children to multiple, transient fathers.

So, sorry Misa (and Wilson) the alleged causal connection between men not having an "adequate" living wage and an explosion of solo female families would seem to be just far, far too simplistic.

All this smacks of Marxist materialistic determinism recycled--that is, people are the way they are because of their cluster of material goods or income. Human nature, culture, beliefs, habits, and actions are deterministically changed by having access to adequate materialist wealth or property. Give a ghetto member a middle class income and hey, presto he or she will suddenly adopt a whole cluster of "middle class" cultural attributes. In particular, men will become one-women guys, with fidelity, loyalty, commitment; their women will become willing and loyal marriage partners, forsaking drugs and drink, promiscuity and so on. Just to describe the alleged moral transformation serves to display the silliness of the argument.

Or maybe things are far, far more complex than that. Take just one example, the desire for education:
The poorest Hebrew knows--the poorer he is, the better he knows it--that knowledge is power, and power as the means of getting on in the world that has spurned him so long is what his soul years for. He lets no opportunity slip to obtain it. Day- and night-schools are crowded with his children, who learn rapidly and with ease. Every synagogue, every second rear tenement or dark back-yard has its school and its school master, with his scourge to intercept those who might otherwise escape. Robert A Woods, The Poor in Great Cities (New York; Scribner's, 1895), pp. 102-3. Cited in Edward C. Banfield, The Unheavenly City Revisited (Boston: Little Brown and Company, 1974), p.66
Hmmmm. It would seem that in this case a lack of a living wage did not prevent a compulsive longing for betterment through education. For Misa to argue, then, that a lack of decent living wage means that men will not commit to marriage nor will they be responsible for the children they fathered, leaving the mothers dependant upon state welfare is both superficial and trite.

We say confidently that if the "welfare reforms" announced by the New Zealand government ignore the core of the problem (and let us concede that Misa is right in her criticism) what she in turn proposes is equally superficial and is far, far away from the core of the real causes of perpetual dependency on state welfare.

As for the research which shows that stable monogamous families and decent living wages for men go together, no causal connection is necessarily to hand. It is entirely possible that the same cultural beliefs and commitments which led a man in the first place to marry and take responsibility for his family, also led him to be a dedicated, hard-working, ambitious employee. In other words, something far more profound was at work that increases both the incidence of stable marriages and adequate living wages.

Monday, 29 March 2010

Doug Wilson's Letter From America

If the Pope Were an Atheist

Culture and Politics - Sex and Culture
Written by Douglas Wilson
Saturday, March 27, 2010

The current set of sex scandals afflicting the Roman Catholic church are located in Germany, Ireland, and Wisconsin, and it at least appears that the current pope was related in some way to some of the disciplinary failure involved. As time passes, there will be other scandals in other places. But, with issues of this nature, it is necessary to keep and maintain certain careful distinctions.

There is the issue of celibacy, there is the issue of sexual discipline, there is the issue of enemies of sexual standards using these failures to attack inconsistent defenders of the standards, and there is also a comic element. Sinead O'Connor and Christopher Hitchens have both called for the pope's head. He's in trouble now!

The high dudgeon on display in Christopher's comments is a typical example of the way that atheists borrow ethical standards from the group they are attacking. But suppose the pope were to take Hitch aside and whisper in his ear that he "was a (secret but fellow) atheist, that in twenty years he would be enjoying the nirvana of nothingness with countless others, where absolutely nothing would matter, not even this, thanks for the arguments in your books, which I have found most persuasive, keep up the good work, and of course if you try to tell people that I told you I was an atheist, I will just laugh. What's a few hundred boys in defense of a pretty cushy position? You need to follow your arguments all the way out, Hitch." And then the pope would slap him between the shoulder blades, bestowing on him an atheistic blessing, sending him on his muddled and inconsistent way.

When people like Hitchens attack people like the pope, it is not that he is snatching ethical standards out of mid-air (as it appears), but rather that he is snatching them from the group he is going after, always a fine technique for putting someone back on his heels.

To show the inconsistency, let us change the scenario a bit. Let us suppose that the waster of a priest who was molesting boys was not skulking around about it, and his misbehaviour was not being covered up by a conservative establishment that was responding in embarrassed, inconsistent, and hypocritical ways. Suppose instead that the priest in question was a presenter at Yale's Sex Week, and he was showing porno films to the young scholars there, and the films in question contained high laudatory praise for all the perversions known to man, and then some. Suppose that praise included praise for priests copping a feel in the vestry. And suppose the local Catholic bishop tried to reprimand the horny priest, who was just trying to be "open, frank, and honest." What would Hitch write about it then? The question answers itself.

Of course, having said all this, I am a Protestant, and believe that enforced celibacy for tens of thousands of priests is a Really Bad Idea (RBI), and is just asking for trouble. As a general rule, God wants ministers to be married men (1 Tim. 3:2). But even with that acknowledged, the central problem that the Catholic church has in this area is a corruption of the will to discipline, a corruption that they share with a number of Protestant churches who are open to married clergy. And the availability of marriage that doesn't seem to be helping them any.

Take, for example, the Anglicans. The battle lines about homosexuality are currently drawn at the absurd (and pathetic) line of the bishopric. Openly homosexual priests -- okay. Openly homosexual parishioners -- that's okay too. We draw the line at bishops! Good grief. Why not draw the line at archbishops? Godly communions require all the baptized to live in terms of their baptism, which requires all believers to reject the devil and all his works. If you have no commitment to discipline in terms of the Word of God, then letting clergy marry won't help you out at all. Marriage for ministers is only a blessing if the marriages are conducted in accordance with the Scriptures. In the evangelical world, marriage was not being withheld from Ted Haggard, or any of the other notable malefactors among us.

In order for the Roman Catholic denomination to respond to these sex scandals appropriately, they need to submit their communion to the authority of the Scriptures across the board. And yes, there are a number of Protestant churches that need to do exactly the same thing. The difference is that in this area, the Protestant churches are being hypocritical -- they are ones saying that this is what they must do, but they don't do it. The Roman Catholic communion says (openly) that this is not required of them (at least in the sense I am describing). But being open about what it is that gets you into trouble does not keep you from getting into trouble. As long as the Roman communion keeps that up, these sorts of scandals aren't going away anytime soon.

In short, evangelical Christians need to call the Roman communion back to the Scriptures (having called ourselves back first), and we need to tell the secularist critics to butt out. If they want to talk to us about this, they should go find a secularist paradise, find out how young boys are treated there, and bring us a report back. Then we might talk about it.

Meditation on the Text of the Week

God's Ways Are Not Our Ways

What are you doing here, Elijah?
I Kings 19:9

We all remember the story of the tremendous scene wherein Elijah--the prodigious Tishbite, as an old author calls him--challenges the prophets of Baal to meet him in a contest of worship on Carmel, and defeats them by simply calling on his God; and then draws down rain on the parched ground by the almighty virtue of his prayer. No scene of higher dramatic power is to be found in all the world's literature.

As we read, we see the prophet ruling on the mount; we see him bent in prayer on the deserted summit; we see him when, the hand of God upon him, he birded up his victorious loins and ran before the chariot of Ahab, the sixteen miles through the driving storm, from Carmel to Jezreel. No scene we may say could have been more nicely fitted to his mind or to his nature. Here the king of men was king indeed and his victory seemed complete.

But God's children must suffer for their triumphs. Were there no thorn in the flesh, messengers of Satan, sent of God to buffet them, there would be no one of men who could serve the Lord in the scenes of His triumph without grave danger to his own soul. And Elijah needed to learn other lessons yet. He needed to learn that God's victories are not of the external sort and are not to be won by the weapons of men.

How quickly after triumph comes the moment of dismay.

Now Ahab told Jezebel all that Elihah had done, and how he had killed all the prophets with the sword. Then Jezebel sent a messenger to Elijah, saying "So may the gods to to me and even more, if I do not make your life as the life of one of them by tomorrow about this time." And he was afraid and arose and ran for this life and came to Beersheba . . ." I Kings 19: 1-3)
We need not wonder at his sudden flight. It is the price that strong, fervent spirits pay for their very strength, that they suffer a correspondingly strong reaction. So it was with the prophet's antetype, John the Baptist, when in prison he lost his faith and sent to ask Him whom God had Himself pointed out to him on the banks of Jordan, whether, indeed, He was the Coming One. . . . But Elijah could not trust God, now, to deliver him from a woman's hate; and that, although her very message bore in it the betrayal of her weakness.

Was there not a deeper spring for this distrust still? With all his training, Elijah did not as yet know his God. His life had fallen on evil days, times of violence that demanded violent remedies for their diseases. And he could not believe in the efficacy of any but violent remedies.

Fresh from Carmel and the slaughter of the priests, he was impatient of the continuance of evil, and expected the miracles of Carmel to be but the harbinger of the greater miracle of the conversion of the people of God in a day. When Elijah awoke on the morrow and found Israel altogether as it had been yesterday, he was dismayed. Had then the triumph of yesterday been s nothing? Was Jezebel still to lord it over God's heritage? What then availed it that the fire had fallen from heaven? . . . . Elijah loses heart because God's ways were not his ways. He cannot understand God's secular modes of working; and, conceiving of His ways as sudden and miraculous only, he feels that the Most High has deserted His cause and His servants. . . .

But God . . . visits him; and leads him on to Horeb, where the Law had been given, where it had been granted to Moses to see God's glory, the glory of the Lord, the Lord God, merciful and gracious, slow to anger and plenteous in mercy and truth. Reaching the Mount the stricken prophet seeks a cave and lodges in it. And then the word of the Lord came to him in the searching question, "What are you doing here, Elijah?" (I Kings 19:9) We do not need to doubt that there was reproof in the question; but surely it is not reproof but searching inquiry that forms its main contents. The Lord had Himself led Elijah here, for this lesson. And now the Lord probes him with the deepest of questions.

After all, why was Elijah there? . . . . The honest soul of the prophet gives back the transparent truth:

I have been very zealous for the Lord, the God of hosts; for the sons of Israel have forsaken Thy covenant, torn down Thine altars and killed Thy prophets with the sword. And I alone am left; and they seek my life to take it away. (I Kings 19: 10)
Here we see distrust in God and despair of His cause; almost complaint of God, for not guarding His cause better; nay, more, almost complaint of God that He had left His servant in the lurch.

The Lord deals very graciously with His servant. There is no need now for reproof; only the simple command to go forth and stand upon the mount before the Lord. And then the Lord passed by; first a great, strong wind rent the mountains and brake in pieces the rocks before the Lord; but it was not in the wind that the Lord was. And after the wind, and earthquake; but the Lord was not in the earthquake. And after the earthquake, fire; but the Lord was not in the fire. And after the fire, a sound of gentle stillness. Elijah does not now need to be told where the Lord is. The terror of the storm, of the earthquake, and of the flame is as nothing to the awesomeness of the gentle stillness.

And it came about when Elijah heard it, that he wrapped his face in his mantle, and went out and stood in the entrance of the cave. And behold, a voice came to him and said, "What are you doing here, Elijah?" I Kings 19:13)
To the question he returns the same answer as before; but surely in deep humility of spirit. . . .

(T)he Lord proceeds to tell him that He has yet work for him to do and sends him back along with instructions which imply that there is a long future for the fruition of His plans. And whether at once or more slowly we cannot doubt that the lesson had its effect and Elijah learned not to lose hope in God's cause because God's ways in accomplishing it are not our ways.

How full all this is of lessons to us! let us at least not fail to learn from it, firstly that the cause of God does not depend on our single arm to save it. "I, I alone am left," said Elijah as if on him alone could God depend to secure His ends.

Second, that the cause of God is not dependent for its success on our chosen methods. Elijah could not understand that the ends of God could be gained unless they were gained in the path of miracles of manifest judgement. External methods are not God's methods.

Third, that the cause of God cannot fail. Elijah feared that God's hand was not outstretched to save and fancied that he knew the dangers and needs better than God did. God never deserts His cause.

Fourth, that it is not the Law but the Gospel, not the revelation of wrath but that of love, which saves the world. Wrath may prepare for love; but wrath never did and never will save a soul.

We close then, with a word of warning and one of encouragement. The word of warning: We must not identify our cause with God's cause; our methods with God's methods; or our hopes with God's purposes. The word of encouragement: God's cause is never in danger; what He has begun in the soul or in the world, He will complete unto the end.

Benjamin B. Warfield, The Cause of God, excerpted from Faith and Life

Sunday, 28 March 2010

Doug Wilson's Letter From America

Let's Not and Say We Did

Obama Nation Building
Written by Douglas Wilson
Thursday, March 18, 2010

The rule of law is not to be confused with the bending of rules. Neither is the rule of law to be confounded with "making whatever you want to do legal." The rule of law means that everyone within a political system must be submissive to that which is lawful, and they must be submissive to a moral code that is out of everyone's reach. In other words, we mortals don't get to tinker with it. What we get to tinker with must conform to the law, but it is not itself that law. We cannot make dishonest theft okay by tricks in the voting process any more than we can knock down the stars with a pole. Thrones are established by righteousness (Prov. 16:12); it follows from this that righteousness is not established by thrones.

I am fond of quoting Madison's apt point in Federalist #51, where he says, "In framing a government which is to be administered by men over men, the great difficulty lies in this: you must first enable the government to control the governed; and in the next place oblige it to control itself." This cannot be done apart from a commitment to the rule of law on the part of both rulers and ruled. And when those who are governing refuse themselves to be governed, whatever they think they are getting away with, they are actually creating a nightmare scenario for themselves. It is far easier to give yourselves a pass "in this circumstance" than it is to keep the passes limited to you and your close friends after that point. When you exempt yourselves as members of Congress from obeying the law (for have you not deemed yourselves to have obeyed it?), it turns out that this is a game that 300 million can play. "Have you been honest in reporting your taxable income?" "Why, I deem that I have. Thanks for checking!"

This is a common failing of human nature. Those who have super-high views of authority (for those under them) can tend to have a really lax view for any authority that might happen to be above them -- in this case, the Constitution, which defines when a bill passes and when it doesn't.

So as appalling as this trillions-a-rama is, the real deficit spending that is going on here is the creation of deficit of civic respect, one that is the size of one of the larger moon craters. And when it comes to filling in that crater, we are nowhere near shovel ready. Congress has always been the brunt of jokes; they are soon to be a joke. They are soon to be the Joke.

When the behavior of Congress exhibits a contempt for the rule of law, it will not be possible to prevent the people at large from imitating that contempt, in multiple ways. For those who question this dire outlook, we could call this the "Do-As-I-Say-And-Not-As-I-Do-Bill," and see how it works out.

Saturday, 27 March 2010

Saturday Miscellany

Spicing Up the Morning Coffee

Here is some amusing stuff from the blog bazaars today.

Mark Landsbaum provides a long list of scandalous "gates" which have emerged out of the fog, since the the original ClimateGate fiasco, where the unscientific behaviour of "scientists" at the Climatic Research Unit at the University of East Anglia was displayed for all the world to see. Actually, not a bad summary, since you tend to forget these things over time.

The gates through which the horses have successively bolted include:
ClimateGate . . .
FOIGate The British government has since determined someone at East Anglia committed a crime by refusing to release global warming documents sought in 95 Freedom of Information Act requests. The CRU is one of three international agencies compiling global temperature data. If their stuff's so solid, why the secrecy?
ChinaGate – An investigation by the U.K.'s left-leaning Guardian newspaper found evidence that Chinese weather station measurements not only were seriously flawed, but couldn't be located. "Where exactly are 42 weather monitoring stations in remote parts of rural China?" the paper asked. The paper's investigation also couldn't find corroboration of what Chinese scientists turned over to American scientists, leaving unanswered, "how much of the warming seen in recent decades is due to the local effects of spreading cities, rather than global warming?" The Guardian contends that researchers covered up the missing data for years.
HimalayaGate – An Indian climate official admitted in January that, as lead author of the IPCC's Asian report, he intentionally exaggerated when claiming Himalayan glaciers would melt away by 2035 in order to prod governments into action. This fraudulent claim was not based on scientific research or peer-reviewed. Instead it was originally advanced by a researcher, since hired by a global warming research organization, who later admitted it was "speculation" lifted from a popular magazine. This political, not scientific, motivation at least got some researcher funded.
PachauriGate – Rajendra Pachauri, the IPCC chairman who accepted with Al Gore the Nobel Prize for scaring people witless, at first defended the Himalaya melting scenario. Critics, he said, practiced "voodoo science." After the melting-scam perpetrator 'fessed up, Pachauri admitted to making a mistake. But, he insisted, we still should trust him.
PachauriGate II – Pachauri also claimed he didn't know before the 192-nation climate summit meeting in Copenhagen in December that the bogus Himalayan glacier claim was sheer speculation. But the London Times reported that a prominent science journalist said he had pointed out those errors in several e-mails and discussions to Pachauri, who "decided to overlook it." Stonewalling? Cover up? Pachauri says he was "preoccupied." . . .
SternGate – One excuse for imposing worldwide climate crackdown has been the U.K.'s 2006 Stern Report, an economic doomsday prediction commissioned by the government. Now the U.K. Telegraph reports that quietly after publication "some of these predictions had been watered down because the scientific evidence on which they were based could not be verified." . . .
SternGate II – A researcher now claims the Stern Report misquoted his work to suggest a firm link between global warming and more-frequent and severe floods and hurricanes. Robert Muir-Wood said his original research showed no such link. He accused Stern of "going far beyond what was an acceptable extrapolation of the evidence." We're shocked.
AmazonGateThe London Times exposed another shocker: the IPCC claim that global warming will wipe out rain forests was fraudulent, yet advanced as "peer-reveiwed" science. The Times said the assertion actually "was based on an unsubstantiated claim by green campaigners who had little scientific expertise," "authored by two green activists" and lifted from a report from the World Wildlife Fund, an environmental pressure group. . . .
PeerReviewGate – The U.K. Sunday Telegraph has documented at least 16 nonpeer-reviewed reports (so far) from the advocacy group World Wildlife Fund that were used in the IPCC's climate change bible, which calls for capping manmade greenhouse gases.
RussiaGate – Even when global warming alarmists base claims on scientific measurements, they've often had their finger on the scale. Russian think tank investigators evaluated thousands of documents and e-mails leaked from the East Anglia research center and concluded readings from the coldest regions of their nation had been omitted, driving average temperatures up about half a degree.
Russia-Gate II – Speaking of Russia, a presentation last October to the Geological Society of America showed how tree-ring data from Russia indicated cooling after 1961, but was deceptively truncated and only artfully discussed in IPCC publications. Well, at least the tree-ring data made it into the IPCC report, albeit disguised and misrepresented.
U.S.Gate – If Brits can't be trusted, are Yanks more reliable? The U.S. National Climate Data Center has been manipulating weather data too, say computer expert E. Michael Smith and meteorologist Joesph D'Aleo. Forty years ago there were 6,000 surface-temperature measuring stations, but only 1,500 by 1990, which coincides with what global warming alarmists say was a record temperature increase. Most of the deleted stations were in colder regions, just as in the Russian case, resulting in misleading higher average temperatures.
IceGate – Hardly a continent has escaped global warming skewing. The IPCC based its findings of reductions in mountain ice in the Andes, Alps and in Africa on a feature story of climbers' anecdotes in a popular mountaineering magazine, and a dissertation by a Switzerland university student, quoting mountain guides. Peer-reviewed? Hype? Worse?
ResearchGate – The global warming camp is reeling so much lately it must have seemed like a major victory when a Penn State University inquiry into climate scientist Michael Mann found no misconduct regarding three accusations of climate research impropriety. But the university did find "further investigation is warranted" to determine whether Mann engaged in actions that "seriously deviated from accepted practices for proposing, conducting or reporting research or other scholarly activities." Being investigated for only one fraud is a global warming victory these days.
ReefGate – Let's not forget the alleged link between climate change and coral reef degradation. The IPCC cited not peer-reviewed literature, but advocacy articles by Greenpeace, the publicity-hungry advocacy group, as its sole source for this claim.
AfricaGate – The IPCC claim that rising temperatures could cut in half agricultural yields in African countries turns out to have come from a 2003 paper published by a Canadian environmental think tank – not a peer-reviewed scientific journal.
DutchGate – The IPCC also claimed rising sea levels endanger the 55 percent of the Netherlands it says is below sea level. The portion of the Netherlands below sea level actually is 20 percent. The Dutch environment minister said she will no longer tolerate climate researchers' errors.
AlaskaGate – Geologists for Space Studies in Geophysics and Oceanography and their U.S. and Canadian colleagues say previous studies largely overestimated by 40 percent Alaskan glacier loss for 40 years. . . .

Now to this we can add the latest. Yes, you have guessed it--CowGate. This one is far closer to our back yard. The Daily Telegraph is reporting that the UN now admits that a report linking livestock to global warming exaggerated the impact of eating meat on climate change. (Hat Tip: Fairfacts Media)

On another subject, our readers will know that Ann Coulter was recently prevented from speaking at the University of Ottawa by a "rent-a-mob". Her take on it is pure Coulter: sarcastic, witty, and deliciously ironic. Like Mark Steyn this one of the reasons she is so effective. Mocking your opponents, while making serious points, can be like habanero chilli. Read the entire thing here. Some excerpts:
I've given more than 100 college speeches, and not once has one of my speeches been shut down at any point. Even the pie-throwing incident at the University of Arizona didn't break up the event. I said "Get them!", the college Republicans got them, and then I continued with my rambling, hate-filled diatribe -- I mean, my speech.
So we've run this experiment more than 100 times.

Only one college speech was ever met with so much mob violence that the police were forced to cancel it: The one that was preceded by a letter from the university [of Ottawa's] provost [Francois A. Houle] accusing me of hate speech.

To add insult to injury, Francois didn't even plan to attend my speech because Tuesday is his bikini wax night.)

If a university official's letter accusing a speaker of having a proclivity to commit speech crimes before she's given the speech -- which then leads to Facebook postings demanding that Ann Coulter be hurt, a massive riot and a police-ordered cancellation of the speech -- is not hate speech, then there is no such thing as hate speech.

Either Francois goes to jail or the Human Rights Commission is a hoax and a fraud.

Coulter has laid an official complaint with the Canadian Human Rights Commission. That will have them choking on their cornflakes.

On another note, the drought in Australia is now officially over. Darn--there goes one more "evidence" or "proof" of global warming. According to the Sydney Morning Herald:
Seeping rather than surging, the big dump of rain that flooded Charleville and Roma in central Queensland at the beginning of the month is spreading its way across a series of enormous flood plains stretching virtually from the western edge of the Great Dividing Range right across to central Australia, bringing with it the promise of regeneration and renewal.

After almost a decade of drought, more water is on the move than at any time since the big floods of 1974 and 1976, enough to quench the unslakeable thirst of irrigators and still keep flowing south to join the Darling River; enough to offer hope that the dying lakes, Alexandrina and Albert, at the mouth of the Murray in South Australia will taste fresh water instead of salt; enough for farmers to face the future full of confidence again.
Good to see the drought is over, nonetheless.

Friday, 26 March 2010

Letter From America

Top 10 Takeaways on Our New Health Care System

By David L Bahnsen on March 23, 2010

One of the most egregious acts of political bullying in American history was successfully completed Sunday night. “Bullying” is an inadequate word, because most bullies use a sort of intimidating force to get what they want, and leave lying and bribery (overt bribery) for people of less character. There is no such thing as “character” when talking about this Congress, and there is no such thing as “character” when talking about this President. Because my thoughts on all of this are not as connected as I want them to be, I thought a “top 10″ list may be more useful.

(10) Elections matter. And what I mean by this is easy: Electing a Democrat to any office, ever, is utter insanity. I have never said this before in my life. But one can look at the two most insidious, damaging, damnable pieces of legislation passed in my lifetime (last year’s stimulus bill, and this year’s health care bill), and they will be unable to draw any other conclusion. The “moderate” democrats are cowards and unprincipled windbags. The “pro-life” Democrats are sell-outs and liars. There is absolutely no excuse for voting for someone who lines themselves up with this Democratic party. This is not your Grandpa’s Democratic party. The moderates began their departure after Kennedy and Truman, and officially died when the Reagan Democrats of the 1980’s left office. What is left is an utter travesty.

(9) Hey Republicans – elections matter! This is not a repeat of #10; it is a twist. The success Democrats had in the last two elections caused them to pass this atrocity, and I lament the election of Democrats in my preceding point. But, and this can not be said emphatically enough, the Republicans lost in 2006 and 2008 because a great majority of them deserved to lose. The prescription drug benefit and No Child Left Behind are the two great travesties of the Bush administration, and they cost us office. We did this to ourselves.

(8) Hey Republican bashers – grow up! For those who think I give a pass to Republicans, see point #9. (or try reading one of my columns every now and then). But if you are not paying attention to what is going on now, you need to. More likely, you are paying attention, and you simply lack the integrity to admit how this GOP is behaving. How many Republican members of the House of Representatives voted for this health care debacle? ZERO. How many voted for the stimulus bill last year? ZERO.

There are plenty of GOP congressmen and women I could do without, but the bend of this Congressional minority is decidedly conservative, and their voting record so far has been remarkably improved. This is not the GOP of Denny Hastert. Mike Pence, Paul Ryan, Michelle Bachman, and Marsha Blackburn are now in charge. John Boehner is a changed man. Paul Ryan’s speech on the floor the other night was positively Reagan-esque. His distinguished comments to President Obama two weeks ago were platinum. I can sympathize with my tea party friends and Libertarian friends that just don’t want to let go of their Republican angst. But it is time to start giving credit where it is due, and see the fight for what it is. We have allies in the GOP right now; their continued efforts are the lifeblood of this fight.

(7) Hoper-Changers Laid Waste. Those who wanted a new kind of transparency and honesty in government, led by a new kind of hopeful leader in Barack Obama, should be devastated. Never in the history of American politics has a politician more successfully duped a group of trusting naivetes than in the Presidential election of 2008. It is only because of total ignorance as to how this bill was passed, and what transpired behind closed doors, that people are not demanding a resignation. Bill Clinton did not have 5% of the audacity and gall in his entire body that Barack Obama has in one finger.

(6) "Health Care Reformers" Skewered. Oh, there is another loser here: Those on the Left who wanted health care reform. Watching these statists chest-bump each other the last 48 hours reminds me of when I saw UCLA celebrating after winning the Eagle Bank Bowl. Let’s see: Public option for government insurance – dead. Mandate that employers with under 50 employees provide health insurance – dead. Allow generic drugs to come in from Canada – dead. The very cornerstones of the health reform these cock-eyed hyprocrites said they wanted are not in this bill. It would be humorous to watch these people celebrate if it were not so revolting.

(5) The Executive Order outlawing federal funding of abortion is a sham. Stupak is my #1 priority in taking out of office. #1. He is a mockery to the system of government we have, a gullible fool, and he will pay the price.

(4) Be afraid when their ideology trumps their political ambitions. What a bizarre thing for an ideologue to say, huh? With Bill Clinton, pragmatism oozed from his veins, and no blue dress was going to get in the way of his desire for American Idol popularity. I miss those days. BHO and his BFF, Nancy Pelosi, have no interest whatsoever in protecting their monopoly of power. They are here to do as much long term damage as they can, and by damage I mean, “irreversible policy shifts that look like Europe”.

(3) Ignorance Leads to Folly. The economic ignorance of our society is staggering. I truly believe that the IQ requirement necessary to understand that adding 37 million people to a system and mandating massive increases in coverage will not decrease costs is in the low single-digits. At its face, it is patently absurd (though not as comically absurd as President Obama’s assertion that employer premium costs would go down by 3,000%). Whether this bill had passed or not, we have reason to be afraid of a citizenry that could even momentarily be duped by such numerical idiocy. I am not concerned that Congress fell for it too, because, of course, they didn’t “fall for it”. They know it is a lie, which is why the benefits start now, but the costs start in 2014. Brilliant. Good moral compass, Jim Wallis!!

(2) If bribery were actually illegal the President and half of the Senate and Congress would go to jail. Bribery, though, when done by an elected official, is not against the law. I encourage you to spend time researching what back room deals were made to get this bill passed into law. I encourage you to question why, in a “health care reform” bill, banks are now outlawed from providing student loans (with the exception of one single bank in North Dakota). I encourage you to see what kind of pork was thrown out by this immoral President to buy the votes of week-kneed Democrats who fear political retaliation more than they respect the Constitution. Read this piece by Kimberly Strassel, and weep.

(1) The big losers are our children. $1 trillion more in government spending. Higher taxes. Medicare slashing. Price controls. A bureacracy so large it will trump every other government agency. The nature of the relationship between the state and its citizens has been forever altered. I do not believe a parent who fully grasps what happened this week and yet does not weep truly cares about his children or grandchildren. And I will not take that back – I mean every word of it.

This post is rough around the edges on purpose. It is time to quit being nice (I am sure this is a shock to those of you who were unaware that my prior writings were an attempt at being nice). The principles this country were founded on will be replaced by this narcissistic Euro-socialist administration over the dead bodies of many true patriots. It will not happen. Freedom is expensive to secure; judging by the actions of Bart Stupak and Ben Nelson, it is cheap to give away. May the voters of this country bring incredible wrath down on the evil people who have voted this atrocity into law come November. After that, let’s get out our shovels. There is a lot of horse shit to clean up.

The Rage Against God, Part IV

Peter Hitchens's Response

Peter Hitchens responds to Christopher Hitchens arguments against the goodness of believing in the Living God. (Peter Hitchens commences his response at 2.00 minutes in.)

A Fool and His Folly Not Easily Parted

Unbelievable Rorts

Cap and Trade (and its associated carbon taxes) has to be the perfect example of a scheme thought up by the Mad Hatter. Everywhere you look, the naive government-planned schemes, created by legislative fiat, are in tatters. Recently, President Nicolas Sarkozy of France dumped his country's intended introduction of a carbon tax upon domestic energy and road fuels.

This, we believe, heralds the beginning of end of the cap-and-trade scheme in Europe--which is the only one functioning in the world of any significance. ("Functioning" we hasten to add is, in this case, a very generous description.) The German government had already backed right away: it has begun to experience the rorts implicit in the system. Sarkozy has just experienced a significant electoral defeat: knowing that the imposition of carbon tax would mean even more job losses and would threaten an ailing economy, he has pulled the plug on the Mad Hatter madness. (This, you remember, from the President who lectured the entire world on the vital global importance of cap-and-trade, and insisted upon the Euro-zone introducing a carbon tax throughout the region.)

Meanwhile, Christopher Booker, writing in the Telegraph, has documented the nefarious plans of WWF, one of the most notorious environmental groups, to rake in billions of dollars from the nascent global cap-and-trade rort. Now wonder they pushed to hard for its introduction.

The rort would have run like this: WWF would claim a remote (but vast) area of Amazonian rain forest as its special responsibility to protect as a carbon sink. This would have "generated"  billions of dollars worth of carbon credits, which would then be sold to polluters in Europe and elsewhere to enable them to continue emitting carbon dioxide. The upshot would have been that carbon output would have remained the same, but WWF would be incomparably richer. Booker writes:

If the world’s largest, richest environmental campaigning group, the WWF – formerly the World Wildlife Fund – announced that it was playing a leading role in a scheme to preserve an area of the Amazon rainforest twice the size of Switzerland, many people might applaud, thinking this was just the kind of cause the WWF was set up to promote. Amazonia has long been near the top of the list of the world’s environmental cconcerns, not just because it includes easily the largest and most bio-diverse area of rainforest on the planet, but because its billions of trees contain the world’s largest land-based store of CO2 – so any serious threat to the forest can be portrayed as a major contributor to global warming.

If it then emerged, however, that a hidden agenda of the scheme to preserve this chunk of the forest was to allow the WWF and its partners to share the selling of carbon credits worth $60 billion, to enable firms in the industrial world to carry on emitting CO2 just as before, more than a few eyebrows might be raised. The idea is that credits representing the CO2 locked into this particular area of jungle – so remote that it is not under any threat – should be sold on the international market, allowing thousands of companies in the developed world to buy their way out of having to restrict their carbon emissions. The net effect would simply be to make the WWF and its partners much richer while making no contribution to lowering overall CO2 emissions.
The conspiracy to defraud has now fallen apart. Copenhagen did not proceed--so international recognition and agreement to play by the Mad Hatter rules die not eventuate. Moreover, whilst Europe had already decided to exclude Brazilian rainforest from its own (now threatened) cap-and-trade mess, WWF was hoping that the US would pass its own cap-and-trade legislation, which in turn would have created an enormous demand for carbon credits, which, voila, WWF would have been able to supply, as the price ratcheted up and up, pulled by strong US demand. But, oh-so-sadly, the US has not passed cap-and-trade. It is stalled in the Senate.
Just as alarming to the WWF and its allies, who were hoping to make billions from Brazilian forests, has been the failure of the US Senate to approve the cap and trade bill championed by President Obama. Since the EU has excluded the rainforests from its own cap and trade scheme, bringing the US into the net is vital for the WWF’s hopes of finding “money growing on trees”. The price of carbon on the Chicago Climate Exchange has just plummeted to its lowest-ever level, 10 cents a ton.

The WWF’s dream has been thwarted – but the revelation that it could even be party to such a scheme may have considerable influence on the way this richest of all environmental campaigning groups is viewed by the world at large.
Meanwhile, NZ is going to be introducing its own cap-and-trade in July. There is no longer any justification for this, political, economic, social, global, scientific: nothing at all to justify our pathetic little small country going out on such a rotting limb. No justification, except the hubris and stubbornness of a Mad Hatter government, intent on doing damage to everyone, in the name of a utopian phantasmagoria.

Fonterra, the world's largest exporter of dairy products, has just announced that cap-and-trade will cost it and its shareholder-owners $25m over the next twelve months, rising annually thereafter. New Zealand has become the last and final refuge of the Mad Hatter.

Thursday, 25 March 2010

The Rage Against God, Part III

Christopher Hitchens on God as Totalitarian Monster

In a public debate with  Peter Hitchens, his brother, Christopher Hitchens puts the case for belief in God being an evil thing.  This is standard stuff from the "militant" atheist group, but it is worth considering, since Peter Hitchens makes the case in his book that the views articulated by these "modern atheists" are insincerely held. 

Part IV of the video series will give Peter's reply in the debate with his brother. 

Money, Greed, and God--Part I

Getting The Language Right At the Start

This is the first post in a series on the recent book by Jay W. Richards, entitled Money, Greed, and God: Why Capitalism is the Solution and Not the Problem (New York: Harper One, 2009). This book is useful to put in the hand of every Christian who instinctively suspects that money is a kissing cousin of worldliness--which is probably most. Actually, it identifies and explodes eight pervasive myths about money, free trade, economic progress and prosperity. It also deals with pervasive misrepresentations of the Bible's teaching on these subjects. In addition, and most helpfully, it is very  readable. Consequently it is a book which deserves wide currency in the Christian community. 

Now let us say right off that we do not like the terms “capitalism” or “capitalist”. We believe it is time for Christians to stop using those terms, at least in any non-pejorative sense. This is something which Richards does not address--and we believe this is something which needs to be noted. Generally, words ending in “ism” and “ist” denote an absolutising of some aspect of the creation into an overarching reality or ethic, to the point where it becomes an idol. And that is the heart of the discomfort many Christians feel over wealth, possessions, and capital. There are legions of Unbelievers who worship money. Christians know, quite rightly, that such idolatry is evil and is condemned in Scripture.

For Christians the management of wealth, property, possessions is always a fiduciary duty: that is, property is to be held, increased, and used in trust. We will be held accountable for our faithfulness, our stewardship, and our diligence as servants in God's household--and there is no merit whatsoever in denying the responsibility. The third, worthless servant in the Parable of the Talents stands as a warning for all in God's Kingdom who refuse the duties and obligations of stewardship.

In common language, when we at "ist" or "ism" to the end of a word, more often than not, idolatry is implied.  Hence a “statist” is someone who believes the state to hold absolute power and authority and is omnicompetent to rule all aspects of human existence. A “rationalist” is someone who believes and acts so as to make human ratiocination the fundament of all meaning and truth. Thus the term “capitalism” does not convey what Christians must believe concerning property. Rather it conveys the Lockian notion that the ultimate and most fundamental value in human society are the rights associated with and connected to private property. This is an idolatry pure and simple: it is patently unchristian, not in the sense of being sub-Christian, but anti-Christian.

We prefer, for what of a better solution, to employ the term personal property rights (recognizing “person” in the legal sense of the term—that is that it can refer to corporations or companies or other legal entities, as well as individuals and families.) Personal property rights are derived, of course, from God, to Whom belongs all the fullness of the earth. That is our starting point.
He alone is the original Owner of all things insofar as He created them out of nothing, and sustains them by His Word of power.

He alone has an absolute right to bestow title of sub-ownership of His property to others. The delegated property rights of mankind to the entire earth are declared in Psalm 8: 6-8.

Thou dost make (man) to rule over the works of Thy hands;
Thou hast put all things under his feet,
All sheep and oxen,
And also the beasts of the field,
The birds of the heavens, and the fish of the sea,
Whatever passes through the paths of the sea.
These personal property rights may be recognised, protected and enforced by governments—in fact, this remains a fundamental duty of the state—but property rights do not originate with the state. The state has a duty to enforce personal property rights as a servant of God, not as master over the creation. Original title of property does not reside with the State, but with the Creator. Personal property rights over the entire earth are delegated to mankind, not as a collective, nor to any one man, nor institution, nor king, nor to any human derivation.

Actually, this is not quite accurate. When the entire race fell into sin, man forfeited the personal property rights granted by God. After the Fall, God restored these rights over the creation, but in a sub-optimal mode. There would be hostility between man and the created world. The very ground itself was cursed because of the sin of Adam: earning personal property was now to be a task of tiring toil, hard labour, in sweat. The creation itself would grow thorns and thistles to impede progress, making all things more difficult. (Genesis 3: 17—19) This is what Paul referred to (from the general creation's perspective) as the creation groaning, awaiting man's coming forth and presentation as finally redeemed. (Romans 8: 22—23).

But when the Man, Christ Jesus came forth, He inherited the title of ruler over the entire Creation and all things were subjected to Him as part of His enthronement. He is now the absolute owner of the heavens and the earth, and His ownership and personal property rights are not sub-optimal: the entire heavens and earth, all sheep and oxen, all beasts of the field, all birds, all the fish of the sea—they all bow completely to His dispensation and command. (Hebrews 2:5—18) He, in turn, inducts his brothers and sisters into His realm, having redeemed them and sanctified them. In the end, His brethren will again rule over all the works of His hands, as declared in Psalm 8, but no longer in a sub-optimal way. At that time, our personal property rights over the earth will be in perpetuity, but never as original owners. Rather, we will own as permanent stewards over His household, always giving a joyful account to Him for our fiduciary actions and our perpetual stewardship in His Name.

For the present our delegated personal property rights over His possessions are temporary, and expire completely at our death. Even so, we will be required to give an account to Him of how we have carried out our fiduciary duties over His property which He has seen fit to bestow for a time upon us. Moreover, through the institution of inheritance, we are obligated to transfer our property and the fiduciary rights over it to our children and grandchildren and designated heirs. Thus, the property we administer is to abide perpetually, whilst our stewardship of it will pass to our heirs. That is the biblical pattern and mandate (Proverbs 13:22). The man who boasts that he will leave this earth having consumed and expended all that God has given him is nothing less than a rebellious evildoer.

This, then, is the creational, redemptive and eschatological frame of personal property rights. Without this frame, no case for personal property rights can ultimately be successful, for no creature can succeed in claiming an original and absolute ownership of all things in the heavens, upon the earth, and under the earth. But personal property rights cannot exist in any authoritative sense without derivation from such an original and absolute title.

Without such a derivation and foundation, personal property rights will be nothing more than conventions of convenience, subject to pillage, rapine, expropriation, or theft. Without such a framework, counter claims to any personal property will inevitably be recognised in human society, whether under artificial intellectual constructs such as equality, justice, or fairness; or the uber-demands of the rich, the powerful, or of the state, or an envious society-at-large.

Richards does not deal with any of this necessary biblical framework for personal property rights. His book is weaker for it. His focus, however, is upon expounding the intrinsic good that comes to mankind as a result of us recognizing, respecting, and defending personal property rights. When we do that, amazing things happen—good things. This is very important and valid—for since God has dignified and blessed mankind with sub-ownership of all He has made, it necessarily brings great blessings to human society in general and individuals in particular when it is recognized and accepted as such.

But, Richards is aware that we live in a culture which prefers not to recognize the divine blessing of personal property rights but actively argues for their rejection. This is unfortunately common within the Christian community—although widely propagated outside that community as well, whence it was learnt. His objective is to counter the false ideologies and idolatries that have lead many Christians to undermine personal property rights in disobedience to their Lord.

His pedagogical method is to identify eight persistent myths regarding personal property. These, he summarizes as:

Myth No. 1: The Nirvana Myth (contrasting personal property with an unrealizable ideal rather than with its live alternatives).

Myth No. 2: The Piety Myth (focusing on our good intentions, rather than on the unintended consequences of our actions).

Myth No. 3: The Zero-Sum Game Myth (believing that the free exchange or free trading of personal property requires a winner and a loser).

Myth No. 4: The Materialist Myth (believing that personal property is not created; it's simply transferred).

Myth No. 5: The Greed Myth (believing that the essence of personal property rights is greed).

Myth No. 6: The Usury Myth (believing that working with money is inherently immoral or that charging interest on money is always exploitative).

Myth No. 7: The Artsy Myth (confusing aesthetic judgments with economic arguments).

Myth No. 8: The Freeze-Frame Myth (believing that things always stay the same).

We will deal with Richards's treatment of each of these in turn, in forthcoming posts.

Wednesday, 24 March 2010

Doug Wilson's Letter From America

A Carnival of Adolescent Petulance

Atheism and Apologetics
Written by Douglas Wilson
Thursday, March 18, 2010

In my ongoing discussions of atheism, I have in this place reviewed Christopher Hitchen's book, God is Not Great, and now, Lord willing, I will do the same thing with his brother's new book. That book is entitled The Rage Against God, which will release in early May here in the States. For UK readers, I believe the book is available for you all now.

This brief post is limited to the Introduction. I knew that the book would make me very happy when, in the first two lines, I encountered the phrase "carnival of adolescent petulance."

Peter Hitchens wisely sees that it would be useless to pretend that he could write a book on this subject that would not be immediately held up against his brother's.

"It would be absurd to pretend that much of what I say here is not intended to counter or undermine arguments he [Christopher] has presented in his own book on this subject" (p. 10).

Since that pretence would be absurd, Peter strikes the right note at the beginning. He intends to enter the public discussion we are all having about faith and culture, ethics and atheism, and to participate in that discussion with a frank and disarming approach, straight up the middle.

The subtitle of the book is How Atheism Led Me to Faith. Like many others, the pilgrimage that Peter Hitchens went through is a "there and back again" story. He was brought up in the Christian faith, but it was a form of the faith that had something vital missing.

I had some good reasons for refusing some of it. My mistake was to dispense with it all, indiscriminately. I hope to show that one of the things I was schooled in was not, in fact, religion, but a strange and vulnerable counterfeit of it -- a counterfeit that can be detected and rejected while yet leaving the genuine truths of Christianity undamaged (pp. 10-11).

As an adolescent, Peter Hitchens left behind the form without substance, and eventually returned to the substance (and the rightful form), and did so by taking the long way round.

I want to explain how I became convinced, by reason and experience, of the necessity and rightness of a form of Christianity that is modest, accommodating, and thoughtful -- but ultimately uncompromising about its vital truth (p. 11).
Reason and experience. But the reasons cannot be skipped across the arguments like a stone, and the experience also must have some depth.

As he [Christopher] has become more certain about the non-existence of God, I have become more certain that we cannot know such a thing in the way that we know anything else, and so must choose whether to believe or not. I think it is better by far to believe (p. 11).
This is no blind fideism, but is rather a thoughtful interaction with the basic alternatives, and picking the one that makes sense of everything -- including, incidentally, the existence of the other alternatives.

As for Christopher's atheism, "As long as he can convince himself, nobody else will persuade him" (p. 12). This is, in my judgment, quite right, along with another observation that Peter makes about the vulnerability of the atheist. As C.S. Lewis once commented, God is very unscrupulous, and leaves traps everywhere. One of those traps is poetry -- atheism can be "countered by the unexpected force of poetry, which can ambush the human heart at any time" (p. 12).

This will be, I am convinced, a very important book.

A Simple Question

Avoiding the Obvious

The New Zealand government has taken a tentative step (which some are calling radical and revolutionary) towards getting people off welfare rolls. It likely will not make any impact at all, and may make things worse in the long run. (For an initial critical evaluation, see Lindsay Mitchell's piece, here.)

There is only a limited political window opportunity for these kinds of changes. Good intentions by politicians (and one does not doubt the intentions of the Prime Minister, John Key or the Minister of Social Development, Paula Bennett) do not cut the mustard. What is done must be effective or else future politicians and governments will simply scrap the changes as ineffectual--and they are usually right, at least at that point.

The indications are that this "reform" will not work. Nevertheless, the media used the occasion to do the normal interview of people on the welfare rolls who express how hard and difficult it all is to survive, and how harsh the forthcoming changes will be. Not one of the media pieces asked the really important question, the urgent critical question. We believe it is a question which must be asked over and over and over. It is a simple question.

Every such interview should include the following: Why do you think other people should be forced to pay money to support you? No interview or discussion with beneficiaries should proceed without that vital question being asked--every time.

Every time a beneficiary applicant or re-applicant enters a Winz office they should be required to fill out a statement explaining why they believe other people should be forced to pay money to them. Around the walls of every Winz office should be large posters asking the embarrassing "Why?" question. Only when this issue is part of "entitlement discourse" will a government be able to make most, if not all, benefits temporary only and time-limited.