Monday, 31 May 2010

Hollywood's Gloss Over Very Ugly Realities

Dr Death and Hollywood Hagiography

Several years ago, Hollywood decided to make a movie that would glorify Dr Death, Jack Kervorkian. It has just been released on cable.

At the time, NationalReviewONLINE published a piece by Wesley J Smith, exposing the truth about Kervorkian. It is deeply troubling.
A View to a Kill
Is Jack Kevorkian headed to a theater near you?

By Wesley J. Smith

According to recent showbiz news, jailed murderer Jack Kevorkian may soon be the subject of a laudatory movie biopic. (No, it is not intended as a horror movie.) Unfortunately, this seems to be a serious project. The announced director is Academy Award-winning documentary filmmaker Barbara Kopple. The screenwriter is Barbara Turner (Pollock). Stars touted as potentially playing the lead include Ben Kingsley and Daniel Day Lewis.

The producer is an unknown named Steve Jones, whose Bee Holder Productions owns the rights to an unpublished biography co-authored by Kevorkian acolyte Neal Nicol — a man so devoted to his mentor that he once allowed Kevorkian to infuse him with cadaver blood, resulting in a nasty case of hepatitis. Any thought that the movie might be an accurate portrayal vanished when Jones claimed in a press release that Kevorkian "walks in the footsteps of Martin Luther King and Nelson Mandela."

Nicol's unpublished book is entitled You Don't Know Jack. Here, at least, is a kernel of truth: If those connected with this movie project would only take the time to learn about the real Jack Kevorkian, they would have nothing whatsoever to do with lionizing him.

Let's start with Kevorkian's motives. He is ubiquitously portrayed in the media as the doctor who helped terminally ill people end their own lives. No doubt, that is how he will be portrayed in the movie — as the iconoclastic visionary whose compassion induced him to test the boundaries of the law to help the actively dying achieve a gentle end.

But this view of Dr. Death — who received the moniker when, as a medical student, he haunted hospital wards to watch people die — is a blatant, media-driven myth. In reality, Kevorkian's notorious assisted-suicide campaign, which dominated the headlines throughout most of the 1990s, was driven by a ghoulish desire to conduct human vivisection, or "obitiatry," as he liked to call it. Yes, you read right. Kevorkian's primary motive in all that he did was to create the social conditions that would permit him to experiment on the people he was putting to death.

Kevorkian explained this yearning in his 1991 book Prescription Medicide: The Goodness of Planned Death, where on page 214 he admitted that assisting "suffering or doomed persons kill themselves" was "merely the first step, an early distasteful professional obligation." Instead of wanting to help the dying, Kevorkian candidly acknowledged, he was actually pursuing his own obsession. "What I find most satisfying," he wrote, "is the prospect of making possible the performance of invaluable experiments or other beneficial medical acts under conditions that this first unpleasant step can help establish — in a word obitiatry."

Why conduct invasive experiments on people being euthanized? On page 34, he expressed an intense desire to "study all parts of the intact, living brain." Why? On page 243, Kevorkian explained — and it was pure quackery:

If we are ever to penetrate the mystery of death — even superficially — it will have to be through obitiatry...Knowledge about the essence of human death will of necessity require insight into the nature of the unique awareness or consciousness that characterizes cognitive human life. That is possible only through obitiatric research on living human bodies, and most likely by concentrating on the central nervous pinpoint the exact onset of extinction of an unknown cognitive mechanism that energizes life.

Kevorkian's first targets in his quest to slice and dice people were not the ill, but the condemned. He spent years visiting prisons and corresponding with death-row inmates, seeking permission to conduct "obitiatric research" on those being executed.

Only after Kevorkian was thrown out of every prison he visited did he hit upon another angle. If condemned people were not going to be made available for "unfettered experimentation on human death," perhaps he could gain access to experiment on sick and disabled people. His front would be assisted suicide. But his goal would remain human vivisection.

Kevorkian appears to have pursued a three-step plan toward achieving his dream: First, popularize assisted suicide and make it seem acceptable; second, give society a utilitarian stake in assisted suicide by using the victims for organ procurement; and finally, gain permission to conduct his death experiments on the sick and disabled people he would be allowed to kill.

Kevorkian started by placing classified ads in newspapers offering "death counseling." To ensure that he would not be charged with murder, he jerry-rigged a suicide machine that required those whose suicides he was assisting to flip a switch to release deadly potassium chloride or other toxic chemicals into their veins. (When he lost his medical license and access to prescribed drugs, he turned to carbon monoxide as the killing agent.)

It is important to reiterate here that, contrary to the usual media descriptions, most of Kevorkian's victims were not terminally ill. Of the known 130 or so suicides that Kevorkian facilitated, about 70 percent of the people involved were disabled and depressed, the majority of them women. This is not surprising given Kevorkian's disdain for disabled people. He once called quadriplegics and paraplegics who were not suicidal "pathological," and exposed his sympathy for eugenics in a court document, asserting:

The voluntary self-elimination of individual mortally diseased and crippled lives taken collectively can only enhance the preservation of public health and welfare.

Ironically, it was Kevorkian's serial assisted suicides of disabled people (to general public applause) that roused the disability-rights community to become the nation's most effective opponent of legalizing assisted suicide and euthanasia.

Not only were most of Kevorkian's victims not dying, five weren't even sick. These included:

Marjorie Wantz, age 58, Kevorkian's second hastened death, whose emotional and mental difficulties once led to her hospitalization. Wantz sought assisted suicide from Kevorkian, complaining of severe pelvic pain. But her autopsy revealed that she was in splendid physical health.

Rebecca Badger, age 39, sought out Kevorkian to help kill her because she believed she had MS. Her autopsy proved that she did not. Further investigations revealed that Badger was a recovering alcoholic who was suffering from depression and was addicted to pain pills.

Judith Curren, age 42, was an obese woman who abused prescription drugs and was diagnosed with chronic fatigue syndrome, but her autopsy showed no illness. Shortly before her husband flew her to Kevorkian, she had reported him to the police for violent spouse abuse.

But these facts were barely reported and for years, he got away with it. Emboldened by his successes, feted by a fawning media — Andy Rooney declared Kevorkian a "nutty" but "courageous pioneer," Time invited him to its 75th anniversary party, Larry King offered him repeated softball interviews — and convinced after several juries refused to convict him that he was above the law, Kevorkian implemented phase two of his plan. He assisted the suicide of a quadriplegic man named Joseph Tushkowski, age 45, and then removed his kidneys. After the mutilation Kevorkian called a macabre press conference, admitting his part in the deed and offering Tushkowski's organs to the public: "First come, first served."

Nothing came of it. The Tushkowski organ harvest created a brief furor, but it soon died down. Kevorkian had become old news. No Michigan prosecutor would file charges against him, even in the Tushkowski case, and stories about his assisted suicides were soon relegated to small mentions deep within the news pages.

Kevorkian was now essentially free to assist suicides to his heart's content, but that did not make him happy. As he wrote in Prescription Medicide, assisting suicides had never been his goal. If he was ever going to be able to engage in obitiatry, he would have to push the envelope to the point that he could do the actual killing.

Kevorkian decided to graduate from assisted suicide to very public murder. If he could successfully defy the law against active killing, he would be close to achieving his goal. In late 1998, he videoed himself lethally injecting Thomas Youk, age 52, a man dying of Lou Gehrig's disease, and took the tape to mega-reporter Mike Wallace, for airing on the always Kevorkian-friendly 60 Minutes.

But this turned out to be a step too far. Prosecuted by the man who, ironically, was elected on a promise to leave Kevorkian alone, the killer was convicted of murder and sentenced to prison. The presiding judge told him, "Consider yourself stopped."

Kevorkian often threatened that if he were ever imprisoned, he would martyr himself for the cause in a hunger-strike protest. Instead, he lives on as a forgotten man, occasionally issuing pathetic requests for clemency.

It would be best for the country if Kevorkian's imprisonment were the end of this stranger-than-fiction story. But now, clueless Hollywood seems intent on resurrecting the ridiculous myth of Jack the Valiant. How typical. How misguided. How wrong.

— Wesley J. Smith is a senior fellow at the Discovery Institute, an attorney for the International Task Force on Euthanasia and Assisted Suicide, and a special consultant to the Center for Bioethics and Culture. His updated Forced Exit: Euthanasia, Assisted Suicide, and the New Duty to Die will be released in February.

Meditation on the Text of the Week

Working By Faith

Let us not lose heart in doing good, for in due time we will reap if we do not grow weary.
Galatians 6:9

Many start well in the Christian life, with rich hope and glowing ardour, who soon fail. They become discouraged at the hardness and toilsomeness of the way or at the little impression they are able to make on the world, and grow weary. . . .

There are two ways of becoming weary in well-doing. We may be weary in it or of it. And there is an immense difference in the two experiences. The best men may grow weary in their service. Human nature is frail. We are not angels with exhaustless powers of endurance. But we are to guard against growing weary of our great work, as sometimes we are tempted even to be.

"What is the use of serving God?" cries one. "I have tried for years to be faithful to Him, and to live as He would have me to live, but somehow I do not succeed in life. I have no blessing on my work. My business does not prosper. Then there is my neighbour, who never prays, who disregards the precepts of God's Word, who desecrates the Lord's Day, whose life is unjust, hard, false and selfish. And yet he gets along far better than I do. What is the profit of serving God?" Many a good man has felt thus in his heart, even if he has not spoken his thoughts aloud.

To all this it may be replied that God's years are long and He is never in a hurry. As a good Christian man said to a scoffer who boasted that his crops were good though he had never prayed for God to bless them, while the Christian's, after all his praying, had failed, "The Lord does not always settle His accounts with men in the month of October."  Besides, worldly prosperity is not always promised, nor is it always a blessing. There come many times in very man's life when trial is better than prosperity. A little with Heaven's benefit is better than great gains poisoned by the curse of God. . . .

Everything about the Christian life is difficult of attainment. In the ardour of his youthful zeal and the glow of his yet untried and unbaffled hope, the young Christian is apt to feel that everything is going to yield at once to his strokes. He looks for immediate results in every case. He has large hope and enthusiasm, but has not strong faith. He begins, and soon discovers his mistake. . . . Many people reject the blessings God is sending to their doors. We come to them laden with rich spiritual things, and they turn away to chase some vanishing illusion. We tell them of Christ, and they turn to listen to the siren song that would lure them on the rocks of ruin. That this is disheartening cannot be denied.

But does not God behold our work? Does He not see our toil and our tears? Does He not witness our faithfulness in His service? . . . . "But men are ungrateful." Very true. You minister to those who are in need, taking the bread from your own plate to feed their hunger, denying yourself necessary things to give to them; you visit and care for them in sickness; you spend time and money to relieve them. Then, so soon as the trouble is past and they need your money or help no longer, they turn away from you as if you had wronged them. Almost rarest of human virtues is true gratitude. The one may return, but the nine come no more. . . . Grateful words are like cups of cold water to one who is weary and faint; and surely it is fit that men should be grateful.

But suppose they are not. Suppose years of kindness are forgotten in a moment. . . . Though the recipient of your charity turned out an impostor, yet, if it was bestowed in Christ's name and for His sake, He will say at the last, "Ye did it unto Me." . . .

Sometimes the results of work on human lives may be seen in the expansion and beautifying of character, in the conversion of the ungodly, in the comforting of sorrow . . . and yet much of our work must be done in simple faith, and perhaps in heaven it will be seen that the best results of our lives have been from their unconscious influences and our most fruitful efforts those we considered in vain.

The old water-wheel turns around and round outside the wall. It seems to be idle work that it is doing. You see nothing accomplished. But its shaft runs through the mill-wall and turns a great system of machinery there, and makes bread to feed many a hungry mouth. So we soil away, many of us, and oftentimes see no rewards or fruits. But if we are true to God, we are making results somewhere for His glory and the good of others. . . . No true work for Christ can ever fail. Somewhere, sometime, somehow there will be results. We need not be discouraged or disheartened, for in due time we shall reap if we faint not.

But what if we faint?

Dr J. R. Miller, Week-Day Religion, 1894

Saturday, 29 May 2010

Doug Wilson's Letter From America

The Greedy Gusses at OilCo
Culture and Politics - Politics
Written by Douglas Wilson
Monday, May 17, 2010

In societies like ours, envy is among the deadliest (of the seven deadly sins). It is the stealth killer. How many sermons have you heard on this sin in the course of your lifetime? Why is it assiduously ignored?

But there is another factor in this. God is not mocked and a man reaps what he sows. Because we do so poorly at reading the narrative we are in, because we don't see the events in chapter 10 following from the events in chapter 3, we fail to see how envy destroys the envious. We don't run the thread out far enough.

Here is just one example. Whenever you see public complaints that corporations and businesses "don't pay taxes," you can be assured that envy has done its deadly work. And what happens if everyone is persuaded, and Congress fixes everything by passing a law? (Where would we be if Congress didn't fix things for us?) Now, do corporations and businesses now pay taxes?

No, the only thing we have done is make these corporations and businesses collectors of taxes, on behalf of the government. From whom do they collect them? Why, from John Q. Envy, who now pays higher prices at, say, the gas pump.

No business ever paid a tax. Businesses adjust their prices according to overhead, and when the public clamors to have that overhead raised, that sometimes happens. The overhead is raised. And when this happens, the business makes its adjustments, collects the new money from the saps at large, and passes that money on to the government. And, the saps mutter in satisfaction, at least greedy gusses at OilCo are paying their fair share now.

But wait, there's more. Now that we have insisted that the corporations, businesses, and the government put their heads together in the collection of our taxes (we didn't know that that was what we were doing, but envious people know very little), we cannot be surprised that the relationships up there in the macro-managerial class manifest an ever-increasing coziness. An outrage, we cry! Make them do it more!

Envy is the driving engine of economic follies.

KiwiBank Must be Sold Off

Terms of Sale Are Critical

Well it looks as if the New Zealand Government is serious about seeking a mandate at the next election to sell off non-core government owned businesses. The opposition socialists are salivating at the prospect of campaigning on this because they believe the public is viscerally opposed to selling state owned companies.

They may be right. Kiwis tend to be neither intelligent nor rational when it comes to economics and the legitimate role of civil government. We are all socialists now--at least 99.99% of us. But it is possible that if the National-led Government identifies the assets to be sold in advance of the election and commits to restricting its sales activity to those identified, then a more rational discussion can be had come election campaign time. The Government has already built up credibility of keeping its word on at least this issue. The socialist opposition will be forced to argue why company X ought not to be sold, and why it is essential for the government to own it. Forcing them to argue thus binds them into the principle of selling state assets when appropriate.

And it continues to baffle us why we-the-people need a state-owned airline, state-owned dairy farms, and a state-owned vehicle testing business.

At the head of the list for sale is likely to be KiwiBank. This is a strange malformed child. It is the spawn of arch-chardonnay-socialist Jim Anderton. Its raison d'etre is a malformed mix of economic populism and nationalistic romanticism. KiwiBank has positioned itself as the only New Zealand owned bank. The rest of our high-street banks are all Australian owned. Anderton prattles on about profits from KiwiBank staying in New Zealand, whereas (those rapacious) profits from every other high-street bank go offshore to the dirty Aussies.

When the register of assets owned by MPs was published the other day it was a bit embarrassing for Anderton to have to disclose that he continues to be a shareholder in the Commonwealth Bank of Australia. He is aiding and abetting one of those nasty foreign owned banks--he owns it in part. All of which highlights the economic ignorance parleyed by Anderton, disguised through a heavy cloak of simplistic populism. If he really is concerned about "all those bank profits" being repatriated to Australia, then surely he ought to be out front cajoling New Zealanders to buy shares in Commonwealth, Westpac, ANZ, NAB, etc. Then those profits are going to circulate right back to New Zealand shareholders. Jolly good, right?

But, no, Anderton's infantile populism requires that the government own a bank. Somehow that fits with the New Zealand psyche--and, on this, we have to admit he is right. The evidence for this is the large number of New Zealanders who have voted with their chequebooks and opened bank accounts at KiwiBank. Anderton has clearly tapped into a deep vein of nationalistic romanticism cocooned in a profound ignorance of economics. Now we should hasten to add that the other (Aussie) high-street banks have quietly celebrated the emergence of KiwiBank. A significant proportion of bank customers are actually unprofitable: KiwiBank has resulted in a large number of those unprofitable customers to move and become KiwiBank clients, to the benefit of "those Aussie banks", making their business in New Zealand stronger as a result. The smart Aussie banks have cried crocodile tears as customers closed accounts and headed over to open them at KiwiBank, all the while rushing to show them the door. Ah, the law of unintended consequences!

Right from the start, KiwiBank has been protected from competitive market realities. Owned by NZ Post, its earnings have been subsidised through piggy backing on NZ Post. Without shovelling some revenue which used to be in NZ Post's Profit and Loss account across to KiwiBank, it would have been a persistent loss making business. So the "profitability" of KiwiBank has been a sleight-of-hand. But now NZ Post is facing economic constraints of its own now, under the onslaught from electronic communication and fierce competition in the courier industry. Snail mail is fading away, going the way of the horse and the cart.

If KiwiBank is to grow it needs more capital--which its ultimate owner, the NZ Government, does not have. It is here that Anderton economics unravel. Like all socialists, Anderton's "bright business idea" using other peoples' money is going eventually to run out of money.

So, it needs to be sold off. Anderton froths at the mouth at the mere mention of the "crime". He predicts that his beloved KiwiBank will be bought up by those dirty Aussie banks (which he must secretly be hoping for since he will likely benefit personally through his CBA shareholding). No doubt thousands upon thousands of KiwiBank depositors and customers will feel the same.

This is why how Kiwibank is to be sold is really important. The process will either spike Anderton's populist guns or it will provide him with blustering high-explosive ordnance. We advise the Government to state its strong preference that KiwiBank remain in New Zealand ownership. Then, it should announce a process of up to four sale tranches, with shares-on-offer being spread across all four.

The first tranche should be to existing KiwiBank customers. This would help ensure that KiwiBank's ownership would remain in the hands of mom and pop Kiwis. KiwiBank customers could subscribe for as many of the shares as they wished. The second tranche, say a month later, would be made available to all employees on the government payroll (including teachers, public health employees, and so forth), and all current and former MP's. Once again, there would be no limit upon subscription, whilst unsold shares-on-offer remained.

The first two tranches would spike the populist anti-sale, knee-jerk reaction. If it really is a genuine concern amongst New Zealanders that KiwiBank be kept in Kiwi hands, then the cardigan brigade would have had the opportunity to put their money where their mouth is. We expect that Anderton would become a big shareholder--but then again, maybe not. Socialists as a rule are full of "do as I say, not as I do" bluster. And we note that when Anderton has been asked about shares being sold to mums and dads he has dismissed it, arguing that eventually these Kiwis would become turncoats and would sell their shares off to the Aussie banks. Ah--how ante-diluvian socialists despise and mistrust the people whom they profess to care so much about.

The third tranche, again about a month later, should be offered for sale exclusively to KiwiSaver funds. Then, finally, the fourth tranche of any shares left unsold would be offered to all remaining New Zealand residents and NZ registered financial institutions.

If, after this sale process, the required stipulated minimum number of shares had not been subscribed, the Government should wind KiwiBank down, and eventually liquidate it. Clearly, New Zealanders would have demonstrated that they do not want to own a local bank. But if the minimum number of shares had been bought, then we would wish the new shareholders well.

There is no justification whatsoever for the New Zealand government to own a bank.

Friday, 28 May 2010

Douglas Wilson's Letter From America

A Full Tank of Gas and Lots of Wyoming Ahead, Part II

Political Dualism - Dualism Is Bad JuJu
Written by Douglas Wilson
Sunday, May 16, 2010

In the gnostic order of things, the material world is always convicted, damned. It is the problem. In the Christian world tugged on by gnosticism, the material world is not condemned -- the orthodox faith forbids this because God made the world, and Jesus rose from the dead in it. But, when idolatry occurs, this doesn't keep the material world from always being rounded up as one of the usual suspects.

It is assumed that where creation is thick -- where the music is glorious, the beer stout, the women beautiful, the lawns rich, the architecture splendid, and so on -- it presents a greater temptation to idolatry than where someone has mixed the paint thinner of ascetic striving into the created order in order to avoid the idolatrous distractions. But this does not work.

The apostle Paul says that this maneuver is of no value in checking fleshly indulgence. "If with Christ you died to the elemental spirits of the world, why, as if you were still alive in the world, do you submit to regulations— “Do not handle, Do not taste, Do not touch” (referring to things that all perish as they are used)—according to human precepts and teachings? These have indeed an appearance of wisdom in promoting self-made religion and asceticism and severity to the body, but they are of no value in stopping the indulgence of the flesh" (Col. 2:20-23, ESV). Paul grants an appearance of wisdom here, but he says that it doesn't work. A man can get the created order around him completely thinned out, and be as much in danger of idolatry as ever he was.

Read Augustine's Confessions (33/49-50) for a good example of this mistake concerning where the temptation to idolatry actually lies. And I hasten to add that, while pointing out this mistake of Augustine's, in a church with any decent standards I would not be qualified to be Augustine's boot boy.

A man can worship an ornate idol, decked with gold and silver, and he can worship a Euclidian stick figure. The divide is a moral one. The divide has to do with whether God has given the man eyes to see. If God has given eyes to see, it does not hurt him to see a lot.
Here is the word of the Lord to Israel:

"Moreover all these curses shall come upon thee . . . Because thou servedst not the LORD thy God with joyfulness, and with gladness of heart, for the abundance of all things (Dt. 28:45, 47).

Here is a poem I wrote about this once.

Rocks in the Drive
When strings are pulled taut, the cello is tuned,
The wood holds the wine that is seasoned and old.
Dark music poured out and emptied the cask,
And rolled in my goblet, rich, tawny and told
How holiness tastes, how righteousness laughs.

You shall be as God, the great dragon had said,
Philosophers argue their shapes in the fire
And each to his shadow tenaciously clings;
They miss that our great father Abram aspired
To a city of solids, celestial marble.

But our earthly solids are fleeting, like faerie,
Far closer to ether than what we conceive.
Our granite is balsa, our oceans are floating,
Our atoms are rootless, and we, not believing,
We miss that this world speaks a fortiori.

Stop thinking that heaven means standing on clouds.

Why falter when told that our God remains good?
Why think the Almighty exhausted in sadness
His strength on the Alps or the plains of Dakota?
Will He not speak solid and substantive gladness
And bid all His people emerge from the shadows?

The carpets of heaven are thicker than moss.
With paint on the walls that is glossy to stay.
Hard wood for the tables is grown on the hillsides,
And rocks in the drive are all sapphire gray.
The breezes move curtains that are facing the sea

Garth George on the ETS

Time to Get Really Angry

Every one has skeletons in their closet, probably Garth more than many. We remember him for a time being a cheerleader for everything associated with Helen Clark. This lasted for two or three years, until Clark's incessant arrogance, elitism, and nannying offended him. We also recall how he once proclaimed Jeanette Fitzsimons to be a saint, far above the grasping and grovelling realms inhabited by ordinary politicians and lesser mortals.

But, although late to the cause, Garth now seems to have worked out that environmentalism is a deadly ideology. He has levelled his guns upon our monumentally stupid ETS, and opened fire. This week's column in the NZ Herald is superb. He points out that the meagre money-in-the-hand tax cuts are being eroded by this monstrous new government tax already. He scolds the National Government for declining to be honest with the NZ public over the impact upon our very fragile economic recovery that this stupid new ideological tax will have.

He publicly lauds Rodney Hide's attempts to set the record straight. Some excerpts:
Nowhere in the Budget coverage and commentary that I read did the effects of the ETS get even a look in, except for a couple of paragraphs "reporting" Act leader Rodney Hide's Budget speech to Parliament. Not surprising, I suppose, since the media seem as besotted with the ETS as some National ministers.

Yet Mr Hide had much to say on the matter, and every word of it is worth considering. So let's take a broader look at what he said. Having paid tribute to the Budget in general - as he is required to do under Act's confidence and supply agreements with National - Mr Hide said there was one glaring failure, "an elephant in the room", that threatened to undo all the good work being done.

"Here we are," he said, "tuning up the car for peak performance, new tyres, tank full of gas, any aerodynamic impediments removed. But some silly bugger has locked the handbrake into place. The handbrake is the emissions trading scheme. The rest of the world has the handbrake off, and we have it locked on."

Mr Hide said New Zealand was the only country with an all-gases, all-sectors ETS. This was "a damaging and incomprehensibly foolish imposition on our fragile economic recovery". It would slow the country's ability to create jobs, and to generate higher incomes for working people, and would "stop us catching Australia".

"This is a folly on the scale of past National-inspired disasters. This is up there with Rob Muldoon's attempts at central planning. It matches and surpasses Bill Birch's disastrous think big."

What is it about National politicians that has consistenlty led them to overreach with "big world-leading plans" that end up so destructive to our national wellbeing? It is arguable that more wealth has been destroyed by National governments than socialist Labour governments many times over. Is it because National politicians think they understand economics, markets, and capital and that, therefore, they can command and shape economic reality with an infallible imperiousness that can only be described as reckless folly? A little knowledge is a very dangerous thing. Markets and economies are inherently complex and deep. Those who presume to shape them and make them are courting disaster for everyone. The ETS is a classic example.

The Government is borrowing $240m dollars a week just to stay afloat. This is an enormous amount of money, which we and our children, and our grandchildren will have to pay back. It is hoping that economic growth will recommence so that we can eventually produce our way out of debt. They owe it to us and to our children to do nothing to impede economic growth, upon which we now all depend more and more as each week passes. At the same time, it is imposing an enormous, comprehensive tax upon us all. Why? Well our most arrogant National Prime Minister believes, Canute-like, he can shape world markets and world economic affairs with this gesture--empty as far as the rest of the world is concerned, destructively real as far as New Zealanders are concerned. The hubris and arrogance is both breathtaking and ridiculous. Key now presents himself and all of us to the world's derision as stupid, as pitiable, and as foolish as Don Quixote.
Higher energy costs would bite savagely deep into New Zealand households, which would also be facing higher GST, into farm profitability and into the profitability of processing industries.

Mr Hide said New Zealand's trading partners were not proceeding with emissions trading schemes. The Australians had dropped theirs and Europe had an ETS in form only, but not in substance.

"We are the odd ones out. We are sacrificing international competitiveness for the sake of nothing more than empty posturing and strutting on a now empty world stage."
"Strutting on a now empty world stage", says it all. There are few other nations that have been foolish enough to enact and ETS, and all of them have so many loopholes that they amount to little more than token gestures.
The Minister for Climate Change Issues, Nick Smith, is wont to point out that the European Union has an emissions trading scheme.

So it has, but the EU scheme does not apply to any gas emissions except carbon dioxide. And even that does not apply to the transport industry or to households and small business or to agriculture, construction or waste management. So since it applies only to heavy industry and electricity generation, almost 60 per cent of EU emissions are omitted.

And even in electricity generation the European scheme has become so complex, so full of exceptions and allowances, that it has not built any measurable carbon price into electricity for the first five years.

So what the devil are we playing at?
In New Zealand, the universality of the system means that far from being an empty token, it will be truly and throughly damaging. When governments turn and wage war upon economic production and cannibalistically gnaw at the bones of struggling households they have lost the right to govern in our view. The most fundamental duty of "first, do no harm" has been breached. The current crop of leaders who have so quickly transformed themselves into arrogant, imperious divine-righters need to be tossed out.

So, what to do? We call upon ACT to withdraw from its confidence and supply agreement with National now over the ETS disaster, asking the public to support its stance at the next election. This is an issue which is surely worth dying in the ditch over. If the public were to be foolish enough not to support ACT sufficiently so that as a result of the election it would have a strong mandate to insist that its support to any government be conditional upon scrapping the ETS, then so be it. We would then deserve our fate. And ACT could wind itself up as a political party with honour.

But we believe that by the time the full destructive impact of this ideological tax becomes evident, the voting public will wise up very quickly.

Thursday, 27 May 2010

Balance of Terror Seems A Safer, More Sane Approach

Fools Rush In Where Angels Fear to Tread

It is our firm conviction that when do-goodie governments interfere in the national affairs of other states, even with the best of motives and the most noble of intentions, the actual results are likely to be greater harm.

The so-called peace-process in the Middle East is a classic example. Who could criticise successive US administrations, both Democrat and Republican, for trying to persuade, cajole, arm-twist, and plead with the Palestinians and the Israelis to reach a negotiated, long-lasting peace settlement. No-one in his right mind.

Not so fast. What if the efforts and actions of the international community actually made the situation much more precarious, and the made the prospects for peace much less likely? Impossible, you say. What if leaving the Palestinians and the Israelis to discover their own solutions under the aegis of a balance of terror were far more helpful and productive in reaching mutual agreement? Fantastical, you reply.

There are those very close to the actual situation who argue this in all seriousness--and their case is weighty and persuasive, if not compelling. Miranda Devine, in the Sydney Morning Herald reports on evidence and arguments presented by Khaled Abu Toameh, a correspondent for The Jerusalem Post.

An Israeli citizen and Arab Muslim, one of 1.4 million Arabs in Israel, Toameh first worked for the Palestine Liberation Organisation newspaper Al-Fajr, where he said editors waited for instructions from Yasser Arafat about how big his picture should be and what should be on the front page. Wanting to be a ''real journalist'', he went on to work for foreign news organisations, such as BBC and CNN, where his high-level contacts on both sides and courageous independence provided invaluable insight.

He says the principles of the Oslo accords - the 1993 negotiations between Arafat and Israel's Yitzhak Rabin, brokered by Bill Clinton - setting out the two-state solution architecture were ''wonderful'' but impractical, and set the stage for the second intifada.

After Oslo, American money poured into the corrupt coffers of the PLO, whose chiefs built themselves huge beach villas while the Palestinian people grew disillusioned. Arafat's rule was ''not much different than other Arab dictatorships, though not as bad as Saddam [Hussein]''.

The PLO took people flooding out of Israeli jails and made them generals and colonels, despite not finishing high school. Car thieves were now interrogators. ''The longer in an Israeli jail, the higher the rank.''

How's that for an unintended consequence? American aid money to the Palestinians so corrupted the PLO, that Hamas and its supporters were radicalized into wanting nothing more to do with the West, the PLO, and Israel. The PLO became so repugnant to the Palestinians, anything was preferable. Hamas was astutely able to present itself as the "anything". Hamas's success in Palestine is an indirect consequence of American well-meant interference.
He said the process radicalised Palestinians and empowered Hamas, the Islamic fundamentalist group backed by Iran and Syria, declared a terrorist organisation by the US, and whose charter is to destroy the Jewish state. It won democratic Palestinian parliamentary elections in January 2006. The result was a surprise to Washington, but not to Toameh, who wrote the election-eve ''scoop'' for The Wall Street Journal.

He said it was obvious the Palestinian people wanted "regime change" and joked that even Ariel Sharon would have won the election. He knew Christians who voted for Hamas. He would have voted for Hamas, not because he believes in suicide bombers, but to get rid of the PLO. ''No party could be as corrupt as Fatah'', the PLO's political party. Hamas shrewdly won Palestinian hearts and minds by building schools, hospitals and charities. Its leaders lived frugally, while the PLO's drove around in motorcades.

I used to visit the home of the Hamas founder and there were no secretaries, no limousines. When you interview Fatah you have to go through 10 secretaries. It has an effect on Palestinians." The election was "not just a Hamas coup. I saw Palestinians chase [the PLO] away."

Fatah refused to accept the result, and so a virtual civil war developed between it and Hamas, with 2000 Palestinians killed in the "Battle of Gaza" in the summer of 2007. When the smoke cleared, Fatah had taken over the West Bank, while Hamas retained Gaza.

Israel is confronted with the real-politik of the West Bank and Gaza. The PLO is discredited and corrupted; it lacks political legitimacy. The PLO has far more political legitimacy, but lacks legitimacy with Israel and the US. The upshot--a real-politik engagement between Israel and Hamas. This is something which peace negotiations brokered by outsiders could never produce. But it offers real potential--gradual, slow, but meaningful potential.
Toameh says, wryly, a two-party state already exists - on the Palestinian side. It is disarray that he says must be useful to Israeli leaders. Arafat's successor as PLO chairman, Mahmoud Abbas, has had his chance, Toameh says. Sixty per cent of Palestinians voted for him in 2005. "He came to power and did nothing for a year. He's weak, he didn't fight against corruption and under him the number of Palestinians killed were more than were killed by Israel."

Hamas, on the other hand, is popular in mosques and kindergartens, in the fabric of Palestinian society. "Sadly, I see young Palestinians becoming more radical than previous generations", under the influence of Hamas and global jihad. Yet a truce of sorts exists between Israel and Hamas, with ''secret understandings'' and ''signs of pragmatism''.

This stable status quo is the result of relentless Israeli pressure on Hamas

History shows us many things--but one thing clearly stands out. Peaceful solutions that arise from the bottom up are always more genuinely long lasting than artificial solutions derived from external pressure and badgering. But to arrive at internally engineered solutions, one has to be pragmatic, patient, and non-dogmatic. Alamo-like, internally derived lines-in-sand can be effective for a time as part of an evolution to a deeper and broader solution. Externally imposed "lines in sand" almost never work as a basis for long-lasting peace.
Young people in Israel today are more pragmatic than their elders, prepared to give territory for peace. ''Just leave us Tel Aviv, the airport and the beach,'' he jokes, is their attitude. "There are people in Israel saying we can't make peace but . . . we are prepared to talk to the devil. You can't make peace with Hamas but you can do arrangements. I'd rather deal with an enemy who is strong and can deliver.''

But the proximity talks now threaten this state of relative calm. They are "forcing talk on explosive issues, forcing them to sit and talk about these issues . . . When [the talks fail] we might have a third intifada . . . Peace should be from the bottom up.'

In his second term, Bush had learned from bitter experience that the most constructive contribution the US could make to a lasting Arab-Israeli settlement was for the US to apply benign neglect to the region. And he did. But this was too much for the Progressives, who want "peace in our time". And the likely consequence of their interference? More instability and a prolonging of the conflict.

It is a key US foreign policy goal to achieve a "two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict", as the US Middle East envoy, George Mitchell, said on Sunday. The goal is "a comprehensive peace in the Middle East". For the next four months, Mitchell will shuttle backward and forward between Ramallah and West Jerusalem, but Toameh says Abbas cannot deliver peace. He is afraid of his own people. The Palestinian internal conflict needs resolving first.

Until then, leaving well enough alone is a diplomatic maxim that might save more pain.

An Unaffordable Scam

Early Childhood Education an Expensive Rort

"A fool and his money are soon parted," says the proverb. It seems that in our world, credulous people abound. And it's not hard to explain why. Successive generations have been raised and suckled on the idea that by waving a magic government wand suddenly, hey presto, money can appear out of nowhere into one's bank account. It's called socialism. No wonder, then, thousands of New Zealanders get sucked in by Nigerians promising millions via spam e-mails. Our naive electorate has been trained to believe such things for years.

New Zealand is a country ripe for being plucked by a scammer's guile. The electorate is easily manipulated. The people can be played for tuppence. We have been played over Early Childhood Eduction ("ECE") for example. Unfortunately, it is for considerably more than tuppence.

The recent Budget vastly increased taxpayer spending upon ECE, although not sufficiently to satisfy the insatiable hunger of the beast. Government funding for ECE centres has trebled over the past three years. In the most recent budget, funding increased again to $1.3bn. When Helen Clark, scammer extraordinaire, introduced the "20 free hours per week" policy several years ago, it cost $428m per year. Now it has risen to $1.3bn in a few short years. That's spending growth we can believe in.

What a complete waste of money! It is a rort of unbelievable proportions. Let's try to untangle the mess.

In the first place, we need to be reminded of how the ECE imbroglio was birthed. It has long been part of feminist ideology that mothers are oppressed and effectively held back in the drive for equality by being kept out of the work force through child raising responsibilities. True equality, it has been argued by the sisterhood, cannot be achieved without the State providing day-care centres so that mothers can return to the work force pronto. Clark and the sisterhood were keen to introduce "free" childhood education. Like fools, the New Zealand electorate--believing that money truly does grow on trees--were prepared to go along with it.

But the Labour Government was sufficiently clever and subtle to understand that more was needed than an naked invocation of feminist ideology if the electorate was to be thoroughly duped. It introduced two cloaking pieces of propaganda. The first was the proposition that raising educational standards was essential to our economic survival in the modern world. Clearly the state education system was failing in many ways, what with its notorious achievement of a 30% functional illiteracy rate amongst its graduates, and its average daily truancy rate of 10%. Children, in order to cope with the digital age, needed to get a much earlier start in education. The idea was that if you started them earlier in formal education, then, guess what--the kids would become functionally illiterate earlier than ever. No, no. They would be able to compete in the high skills, digital age. Yeah, right.

But the propaganda was successful. The credulous public believed our political Nigerian-scammers when they renamed state-funded day care "early childhood education". State funded day-care? Nah. Feminist rubbish. Early childhood education? Yes, much more acceptable.

The second propaganda piece was to insist that pre-school teaching was indeed an educational profession. To make the point, the Labour Government required that progressively more and more state-funded ECE educators be formally trained and receive academic qualifications which would make them professional educators of pre-school teaching in their own right. (The upshot, of course, is that thousands of really effective day-care staff were driven out of the industry.) To "prove" the point, salaries of ECE qualified teachers were to be linked to those of primary school teachers. And to make sure that government money was being "well-spent" the Education Review Office was assigned to audit ECE centres. "See--we are treating them just like regular schools" was the subtle propaganda piece. Once again, New Zealanders bought it hook-line-and-sinker. We know Nigerian scammers when we see them, and we love 'em.

So, New Zealand has created the most expensive, over engineered, gold-plated day-care centres conceivable. Of course this is no worry to socialists because it is always "other people's money" they are using.

Now, let's keep in mind a few realities. Firstly, New Zealand sends children off into government schools at five years old. In Australia and the US, it is six. So, not only does the state education system commence its educational wonder-working a year earlier, but now it has added to the ECE so that it can begin from the cradle. Our children deserve it, don't you know.

Secondly, the prevailing philosophy governing the institution which trains these new professional early childhood teachers is that formal teaching is verboten. Yes. You heard right. What children need in these super-dooper ECE centres is a pedagogy based upon discovery and play. Any attempt to introduce formal lessons in (say) alphabet, sounding letters and words, numbers is damaging and destructive. It is preventing the child from actualizing their potential. It is setting them up for a life of educational failure. It is damaging to their tender psyches.

In fact, if the Educational Review Office comes around to your local ECE and finds them actually trying to teach pre-school children anything that involves actual knowledge content, the review will be most negative and minatory indeed.

So, here is the biggest rort we have seen in this country in decades--which makes it prodigious, since we have had some doozies. State-funded day care centres needed to be made acceptable to the electorate by dressing ECE up as a government run educational reform. This has required vast ever-increasing amounts of tax payers money and a much hyped, over-engineered service, which is required--wait for it--not to educate. Only politicians, educational bureaucrats, and teacher unions could dream up such a rort--and only in New Zealand could they get away with it.

Well, you say, surely the National Government must be commended for reducing the increase in funding for this madness. Yes. Re-arranging the deck chairs on the Titanic was always worthwhile--not.

We were grimly amused to read in the NZ Herald last week a profile of a working mother who complains that the redirection of government funding for ECE centres will probably mean that she will need to take her children out. Clearly this mum (and the Herald reporter) has not "got with the programme". The poor mum calls the ECE a creche. Say, what! The reporter laments that the mother is likely to be forced to take her children out of care, and leave the centre. She will likely face childcare fee increases. Quick. Rush out a few more press releases, pamphlets, and talking points. Doesn't this thick person know that her children are being educated at an Early Childhood Educational Centre. How stupid can people be? In fact, this mother sees all too clearly.

Here's an idea. Scrap the ECE gold-plated boondoggle. Go back to the original budget of $428m per year. Divide by the number of pre-school children in New Zealand. Offer a voucher for that amount to parents of pre-schoolers to be redeemed/spent at any childcare centre they choose. Remove all state funding for child-care centres, and scrap the whole ECE superstructure. Watch the number of child-care centres increase, and the costs of running them (and, therefore, their fees) reduce substantially. That's change we might be able to afford. Maybe.

But ECE--it's a socialist fools paradise. The government needs to get rid of it before it drowns us all.

Wednesday, 26 May 2010

What a Shambles!

Fools and Their Folly

We have blogged previously on why the Nato involvement in Afghanistan is almost certainly doomed to fail. Al Jazeera recently updated what is happening "on the ground" which is not being widely reported in the West.

We take no pleasure in these things--but wonder how long it will take simplistic fools in the West to learn that the Gospel and an inheritance of Christian culture anything goes, and usually does. Human loyalties in Afghanistan are not to law, justice, ethics, fairness, liberty, and human dignity but to one's tribe. You cannot build a westernised nation on such a foundation. Western armed involvement will only make things much, much worse in the long run.

Here is a summary of the Al Jazeera article's salient points:

Instability in Afghanistan has "levelled off" but the Taliban has not lost any real ground. It appears able to launch attacks when and where it chooses. 

The Afghani government is hopelessly corrupt.

The corruption in Afghanistan's government is well-documented. The United Nations said in January that Afghans paid roughly $2.5bn in bribes in 2009 - roughly one-quarter of the country's gross domestic product.

Karzai's government has approved a handful of reforms aimed at curbing that corruption - establishing an anti-corruption unit in the attorney general's office, for example. But their impact has so far been limited with 83 per cent of Afghans saying their daily lives are still affected by government corruption, according to a March 2010 survey.

Not one district supports the Afghani government.

The US defence department surveyed 92 districts to gauge their feelings towards the government.
Not one district supported it, and only 44 expressed even a neutral opinion. The rest were sympathetic to the Taliban. Rampant corruption helps contribute to that widespread mistrust of the Afghan government, the report found.

Imposed government from the top has little or no local support.

>One reason for the corruption and inefficiency, according to the Center for American Progress ("CAP") study, is that the US and Nato have largely dictated the structure of the Afghan government - without significant input from the Afghan people.

"The corruption ... [is] the result of a government structure shaped by international as well as domestic political actors' behaviours and policies," the CAP report said. This has created what the authors, Caroline Wadhams and Colin Cookman, call an overly-centralised government that depends largely on one man: Hamid Karzai.

"All roads currently lead back to President Karzai, who directly appoints more than 1,000 government officials throughout the country and many more positions indirectly," CAP wrote. As a result, Karzai has few incentives to approve the kind of meaningful changes that would reduce corruption and improve governance.

The US is "empowering" local groups, only to create greater inter-tribal violence.

US and Nato commanders have eagerly endorsed a programme called the "Local Defence Initiative," which arms local groups as a supplement to the national army and police. Karzai - along with Karl Eikenberry, the US ambassador in Kabul - objected strongly to the measure.

Both men feared it would create unaccountable militiasthat ran amok and undermined the central government. The US implemented the plan anyway, over Karzai's objections. Early indications suggest that Karzai's concerns were well-founded.

Nato's decision to arm one such group, comprised of members of the Shinwari tribe in Nangarhar province, has resulted in tribal infightingthat has killed more than a dozen people. And the armed group has done little to reduce the Taliban's presence in Nangarhar.

"In the interest of immediate results [the US] regularly bypass[es] the government in favour of key local powerbrokers," the CAP report noted.

"No quick fix for long-term stability exists, however... [and] circumvention ultimately weakens the government."

So, in summary, the Afghani-Karzai government is hopelessly corrupt and dependant upon one man--Karzai himself. It enjoys little or no local constituency support. But attempts to by-pass Karzai and go "direct" to the people end up creating greater tribal divisions and violence.

Conventional wisdom says that if you have dug yourself into a hole, stop digging. But the US and Nato have decided that they are such miracle workers they can ignore all the muck in the hole, and that they can magically fix it, and have therefore decided to dig with a vengeance. Great will be the eventual collapse of the whole misguided enterprise.

Cry the Beloved Country

A Roman Circus on a Grand Scale

Left-wing media in both the UK and the US are on the verge of starting to look into the future of the West and are seeing Europe. Almost overnight the grand soft-despotic experiment of Europe, formerly so envied by the chattering progressive elites in both the UK and the US, seems tarnished and vulnerable. Will the euro survive? Will Europe survive? These are now open questions--and for the moment, the balance seems to weigh upon the negative.

We are not so sure about the immediate. But we are certain that if Europe does not repent and return to Christ and to Europe's Christian foundations, what we are witnessing at present will be a mere harbinger of what is to come--whether the fall and dismemberment and repentance of Europe be one year or fifteen years or fifty years hence. And a continental-wide return to Christ will not occur without a thorough repudiation of the soft-despotic welfare state and the terrible idolatry of the humanist Enlightenment upon which it has been built. The choices are few and they are increasingly stark.

Consider the following analysis in the pro-welfarist, soft-despotic championing New York Times.
Across Western Europe, the lifestyle superpower, the assumptions and gains of a lifetime are suddenly in doubt. The deficit crisis that threatens the euro has also undermined the sustainability of the European standard of social welfare, built by left-leaning governments since the end of World War II. Europeans have boasted about their social model, with its generous vacations and early retirements, its national health care systems and extensive welfare benefits, contrasting it with the comparative harshness of American capitalism.

Europeans have benefited from low military spending, protected by NATO and the American nuclear umbrella. They have also translated higher taxes into a cradle-to-grave safety net. “The Europe that protects” is a slogan of the European Union.

But all over Europe governments with big budgets, falling tax revenues and aging populations are experiencing rising deficits, with more bad news ahead. With low growth, low birthrates and longer life expectancies, Europe can no longer afford its comfortable lifestyle, at least not without a period of austerity and significant changes. The countries are trying to reassure investors by cutting salaries, raising legal retirement ages, increasing work hours and reducing health benefits and pensions.

For decades, European governments have robbed Peter to pay Paul. Now, Peter has disappeared, and no-one is left to keep paying Paul. For a while, this was papered over by the European Community which basically put off the day of reckoning for a brief time. Richer, more frugal northern countries--well, actually, Germany--poured billions of euros into imprudent, partying Club-Med profligate countries--all for the sake of the European ideal. Now every nation, Germany included, looks like it is going down the tubes. Europe has become too boated not to fail.

But, hoping against hope, the elite Eurocrats cling on to the idea that Europe can be rescued. All it will take, apparently, is a bit of austerity, a mere trimming of the sails of the grand European ship of state. But welfarism must remain in place. Must. Europe cannot survive without welfarism.  Consider these profoundly revealing words from Joschka Fischer:
More broadly, many across Europe say the Continent will have to adapt to fiscal and demographic change, because social peace depends on it. "Europe won't work without that," said Joschka Fischer, the former German foreign minister, referring to the state's protective role. "In Europe we have nationalism and racism in a politicized manner, and those parties would have exploited grievances if not for our welfare state," he said. "It ’s a matter of national security, of our democracy."
Read those words again. The failing Roman Empire clung to power through the artifice of the Emperor distributing bread to the mobs in Rome, so they would not riot. Only by paying them off, according to Fischer, has Europe been able to hold back the nationalist and racist mobs that would otherwise be baying for blood. Without welfarism, there would be no social peace.

In the end, Rome could not sustain itself. It ran out of provinces to steal from and wealth to pillage and nations to conquer in order to feed its welfare habit. Europe will eventually go the same way--only more quickly, and hopefully with less bloodshed--because soft-despotism is, well, soft. It is a paper tiger. How will those nationalists and racists react when they have to ante up and start paying their own way? What will the unionists do? We think we know.  As someone said, "We see our future, and it is a riot."

France will ultimately have to follow Sweden and Germany in raising the pension age, Fischer argues. "This will have to be harmonized, Europeanized, or it won't work. You can't have a pension at 67 here and 55 in Greece," Mr. Fischer said. The problems are even more acute in the "new democracies" of the euro zone (Greece, Portugal and Spain) that embraced European democratic ideals and that Europe embraced for political reasons in the postwar era, perhaps before their economies were ready. They have built lavish state systems on the back of the euro, but now must change."

Lavish state systems, funded by Germans. It must change if Europe is to survive--but we know it will likely not. The PIIGS (Portugal, Italy, Ireland, Greece and Spain) entered the Euro-zone for what they could extract from it, not because of being committed to some great idealistic non-national empire. If they are made to stop extracting, the domestic outstretched hands are likely to prove too demanding. Leaving the euro and defaulting is far more likely. And we know what happens when the French entitled classes are thwarted. Germans lecturing Frenchmen about austerity will likely go down like a cup of cold vomit.

The only unknown is how long Germans will tolerate being pillaged, before they, too, riot. The current crop of politicians believe that Europe is more important to the German people than Germany is. They have willed themselves blind. Kate Connolly, writing from Berlin, describes the building volcano of frustration in Germany over being
a country that for years, to make up for its warmongering past, shouldered the burdens of the European project. For decades it funded the largest share of Europe's bulging budgets and grand schemes, putting its own interests second. But now it is tired, indebted and running out of cash, and wants other members to show that they are as dedicated to the project before it continues to allow them access to its ATM.

And every thoughtful American will be looking at what is unfolding now in Europe and will be seeing a pre-release trailer of the future of their own nation. Ditto for every thoughtful Australian and New Zealander.

On the other hand, never underestimate the power of idolatry to enslave the human heart.  As Fischer reveals above, Europe is enslaved to soft-despotism as long as it hands out bread at the circus.  We reckon German voters will capitulate and go along because their government long ago became their god.  And their government, in its turn, worships the gods of Europe and the euro--the universal new Man.  

Far more likely, then, is the long slow lingering decline of all failed socialist regimes.  Within a generation we predict that there will be bread lines and empty shop shelves throughout Europe.  The false religion of Europe has led its people to look to the state and intone, "Give us this day our daily bread."  The Living God most often destroys such terrible idolatries by making devotees experience the vacuity of their faith.

Because the people of Europe have turned away from the Lord to whom they were covenanted in holy troth, because long ago they stopped looking to Him for their sustenance, instead placing their faith in human government, making government their god, it will likely end up that they will be made to hunger greatly--literally.

Tuesday, 25 May 2010

A Tarnished Lily Ungilded

Rewriting a Falsified Past

It was amusing when, amidst the furore over US Democratic chicanery over Obama health care, when Vlad Putin scoffed at Obama and the US Congress. The fools were turning to socialism, he chortled. Russia had been smart enough to give it up. This is not what one had come to expect from Vlad.

It has been disturbing in recent years to see the re-emergence of the cult of Stalin in Russia. It has been tempting to fear that Putin sees himself as a latter-day recrudescence of Koba the Dread. This recent report upon the pronouncements of Dmitry Medvedyev was therefore both surprising and welcome.
Russian president slams 'totalitarian' USSR
May 7 08:10
President Dmitry Medvedev on Friday slammed the Soviet Union as a totalitarian regime that suppressed human rights, in the most damning assessment of the USSR by a Russian leader in recent years.  In an interview with the Izvestia newspaper published two days before Russia marks the 65th anniversary of victory in World War II, Medvedev said the crimes of wartime dictator Joseph Stalin could never be forgiven.

"The Soviet Union was a very complicated state and if we speak honestly the regime that was built in the Soviet Union... cannot be called anything other than totalitarian," he said. "Unfortunately, this was a regime where elementary rights and freedoms were suppressed."

Medvedev and his predecessor in the Kremlin, Prime Minister Vladimir Putin, have until now rarely criticised the Soviet system and instead focused on its achievements. . . . Putin, still seen by most observers as Russia's de-facto number one leader, once famously described the collapse of the Soviet Union as the "greatest geopolitical catastrophe" of the 20th century.

The president -- who succeeded Putin exactly two years ago on May 7, 2008 -- said that after its World War II triumph, the Soviet Union failed to allow its economy to develop. "This was accompanied by deaths and everything connected with dictatorship," commented Medvedev.

Medvedev also issued his clearest condemnation of Stalin, who is blamed for the deaths of millions in prison camps, purges and the forced collectivization of agriculture, yet is still admired by many Russians as a strong leader.

"Stalin committed a mass of crimes against his own people," said Medvedev. "And despite the fact that he worked a lot, and despite the fact that under his leadership the country recorded many successes, what was done to his own people cannot be forgiven." . . . .

Long criticised by human rights activists and Western historians for painting too rosy a picture of the Soviet past, Russia has over the past months taken cautious steps towards eroding powerful taboos over its wartime history.

Last month it published on the Internet documents proving that Soviet secret police massacred Polish officers at Katyn forest in 1940, a crime the USSR long attempted to cover up by blaming it on the Nazis.

Katyn "was a very dark page.... It is not just those abroad who allow history to be falsified. We ourselves have allowed history to be falsified," Medvedev said.

Political analyst Alexander Konovalov, director of the Institute for Strategic Evaluations, said that Medvedev was moving little-by-little to change Russian public opinion on history.

"These comments will contribute to re-establish historical truths," he said.

Will Europe Survive?

The Sick Man of the World

Several years ago we read Bernard Connolly's  Rotten Heart of Europe: The Dirty War for Europe's Money. If you want a prescient backgrounder on what is happening in Europe at present, Connolly's book now reads like a prophecy.

A few days ago we correctly predicted that the dominant powers in Europe (that is, Germany and France) would come to the aid of Greece to defend the Euro and their own irresponsible lending to Greece. Their hubris over the grand experiment that is Europe and their pride in the Euro made their actions almost inevitable. Ironically, the markets have since responded by dumping the Euro. The "smart money" does not believe that the European experiment and that the Euro can survive.

Connolly argues in his book that Europe as a quasi-federal-nation would not be able to continue because its foundation was fundamentally flawed. Elites in both Germany and France ardently pushed for the European Community because each believed that it would achieve and defend the hegemony of Germany and France respectively in Europe. And that, dear friends, does not compute.  The German elites thought the EC would ensure German hegemony in Europe.  The French supported the EC ardently because they believed it would ensure French supremancy.  Go figure.

It is now clear that both nations have severely overreached themselves. Both nations, in pursuit of the grand vision, have flushed billions upon billions of euros down the proverbial commode to support, subsidise, and anoint the weaker economies with unparalleled largesse. The upshot has been to foster national cultures of dependency, entitlements, and demand rights in Greece, Italy, Spain, Portugal and Ireland, together with the widespread corruption that inevitably accompanies such evils. Meanwhile, Germany paid and paid and paid. And there will be no end to it.

Our view is that Europe will survive, but in a perpetual enervated state. Once Turkey was called the "sick man of Europe". Now, Europe will come to be known as the "sick man of the world". The Euro will descend to the status of a Venezuelan peso. Europe will enter the long, lingering decline of all failed socialist states.

Clive Crook gives us the following perspective in a recent Atlantic article:
When did a united Europe ever capture the imagination of many of its residents? The European project was an elite-driven, top-down affair from the outset. Its leaders took the view, often explicitly, that Europe's voters did not know what was good for them and would have to be led to enlightenment. There was never any willingness to let public indifference or outright hostility moderate the pace. For the most part, voters were not consulted. When they were, and voted No in the occasional referendum on further transfer of power to Brussels, governments resolved to keep on asking until voters got it right. Germany adopted the euro despite a sustained majority opposed to monetary union. (Surely this helps to explain German anger over the bail-outs. "We were against this in the first place. Now see what's happened.")

The political foundations for union were never laid. Governments kept building higher and higher regardless. Political crisis did not weaken this structure, as Haass says. Coming earlier than the architects would have wished - that is, before voters got with the program - political and economic crisis showed how weak the structure was to begin with.

History and ordinary prudence dictated that the union might be broad and shallow (a free-trade area, with embellishments, capable of taking in all-comers) or else narrow and deep (an evolving political union, confined to countries willing to be led there). Of the two, I always believed that the first was better. But the architects did not even have the brains to choose the second. They recognized no limits to their ambitions. They set about creating a union that was both broad and deep. A federal constitution, a parliament, a powerful central executive, one central bank, one currency - all with no binding sense of European identity. As for scale, well, the bigger the better. Today Greece, tomorrow Turkey. And why stop there? Madness.

Europe represents an attempt to make the nation-state obsolete. Margaret Thatcher once argued that the US alone, amongst all nations, was founded on a philosophy. She overstated the case. Europe, clearly, has been founded upon political ideologies flowing directly from the philosophic views of the Enlightenment--that the unity of man rests in reason, globalised justice, internationalism, the planned obsolescence of the nation state. The European Community has been an attempt to achieve the objectives of Napoleon without bloodshed. But, from beginning to end, it has been the love-child of arrogant "enlightened" elites. (Incidentally, it is precisely the same philosophic view of the globe and the nation state being advocated ardently by President Obama in the US.)

Will Europe come to its senses and reverse direction? Not likely. We expect that Europe will "double down" through the current crisis.

Previously, Europe's governments have responded to stress on the union by trying to accelerate the pace of integration. Don't rule out the possibility that this will happen again. In fact you could argue it already has. The bail-out plan is a huge development in its own right, and the innovation cannot stop there. Now there is talk of stronger central control of national budgets.

Voters won't like that. But what do voters know? It's not as though they'll take to the streets...
We do not expect that voters taking to the streets will prevail--because ultimately the vast majority of those voters believe, along with their arrogant elites, that government is their god. Theocide will be a step too far. So, a long, slow, lingering decline awaits--until the Living God is pleased to grant repentance--and that, we suspect, will be a matter of generations, not decades, if His dealings with His ancient people are to be our guide.

Meanwhile the Gospel continues to run freely and powerfully through the hearts and cultures of non-Western peoples. Expect that economic prosperity will be one of the results, for when a people turn to the Lord in truth, the blessings of the Covenant flow down upon them.

Monday, 24 May 2010

Douglas Wilson's Letter From America

Spooky Almost

Culture and Politics - Politics
Written by Douglas Wilson
Thursday, May 20, 2010

The other night Rand Paul was chosen to be the Republican candidate for the Senate in Kentucky, and how long did it take for charges of racism to surface? What? Thirty seconds?

This was all on the basis of Paul's opposition to certain portions of the 1964 Civil Rights Act. And since the lighting here in the 1964 Civil Rights Act Official Shrine is composed entirely of flickering candles, it is terribly difficult to read. So we have gotten by for the last fifty years by chanting racially sensitive slogans to one another. But it turns out that sensitive slogans do not constitute a real education.

There are different issues involved. One is the difference between federal, state and local governments, and the meaning of our constitutional arrangement. Just because a law requiring x,y,z might be good and desirable does not mean that a federal law requiring x,y,z is good and desirable. Second, there is a stark difference between public and private, a distinction that Paul tried in vain to explain to Rachel Maddow. "These are strange words, Dr. Paul. What do they mean? Doesn't the government own everything?" And the third point is related to the second, and it is one that I like to think is in my wheelhouse. What is it? Everybody, all together now -- there is a difference between sins and crimes!.

Suppose someone decides not to invite someone else to his birthday party. Could that be a sin? Sure. Suppose that someone refused to invite someone else to their birthday party for no other reason than the color of that person's skin. Is that a sin? Again, sure. Now, should the fellow who failed to invite someone to his birthday party (sinfully, remember) be fined, flogged, imprisoned, or executed for it? In other words, should his churlish behavior be a crime? "Of course not," I would say, followed up with "are you crazy?"

Why not? Because there is a difference between sins and crimes. It is a radical difference. Abortion should be against the law because God said to Moses on Sinai that we were not permitted to murder, and because He assigned civil penalties to violations of this law. Racial prejudice in the private sphere should not be against the law. God never assigned a civil penalty to it. Now, before anybody starts screaming, refusing to make something illegal (like racial bigotry) does not constitute indifference to whatever sin or immorality may be involved. Coveting the neighbor's lawnmower is a sin. Should it be a crime? Eating way too many apple fritters is a sin. Should it be a crime? Lusting after the cutest girl in the high school is a sin. Should it be a crime?

I argue this interesting position on the grounds that the U.S. Congress is not Jesus, and doesn't have the authority or the ability to peer into hearts in order to establish the nature of true crimes. Anybody who thinks Congress displays any attributes of Deity needs to review their Charnock again. It barely displays attributes of humanity.

Rand Paul was absolutely correct that all publicly owned and operated spheres had an obligation to be color blind, and those aspects of the Civil Rights Act that addressed this were not confusing sins and crimes -- although the federal issues are still there. But at least that did not muddle sins and crimes. And muddling sins and crimes is about all we do in public discourse anymore, and it is one of our chief intellectual shortcomings. Christians are included in this indictment.

In short, when contemporary Christians complain about political correctness run amok, when they complain about sodomy being declared a civil right such that their pious Aunt Matilda had to rent her duplex out to homos, when they complain about the intrusiveness of an incompetent gummint into absolutely everything, they need to trace the poison back to the source. They need to stop condemning the poison while praising the great wisdom of the poison pot.

You want me to genuflect in the Shrine of the 1964 Civil Rights Act? Not going to do it, and while I am here I will put out as many of the candles as I can. Nobody's reading anyway. Might as well all sit in the dark. The chanted slogans sound more impressive and spiritual -- almost Benedictine -- that way. Spooky almost.

Meditation on the Text of the Week

No-One Beneath One's Dignity

For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many.
Mark 10:45

So long as we think of ourselves and of what is due to us from others, it will be impossible for us to minister to very many people. But where true Christian love reigns in the heart, the centre of life falls no longer inside the narrow circle of self.

Those who carefully study our Lord's life will be struck with His wonderful reverence for human life. He looks upon no one with disdain or contempt. The meanest fragment of humanity that crept into His presence, trampled, torn, stained, defiled was yet sacred in His eyes. He never despised any human being. And, further, He stood before men, not as a king, demanding attention, reverence, service, but as one who wished to serve, to help, to lift up. He said He had not come to be ministered unto, but to minister. He never thought of what was due from men to Him, but always of what He could do for them, how He could serve them.

How could it be otherwise, since He came to earth solely to save men, and since His heart was so full of love for them? Whenever a human being stood before Him, He saw one in whose heart were sorrows which needed sympathy, or one bruised by sin needing healing and restoration. Thus He was easily able to serve all. The more repulsive the life that stood before Him, the more deeply, in one sense, did it appeal to His love, because it needed His help all the more on account of its repulsiveness.

There was not one whom He thought it a degradation to serve. When the disciples were quarrelling as to which one should take the servant's place and wash the feet of others, He quietly arose and peformed the humble service. He was never more conscious of His exalted glory than He was that hour, and yet there was no reluctance in His heart. The question of their immeasurable inferiority to Him never rose in His mind. . . . When we have learned to look upon human lives as He did, it will be no painful task to minister, at whatever cost, to the lowliest and most unworthy about us.

We are willing enough to serve those whom we honour. But we are apt to hold our lives as too sacred to be spent or sacrificed for the sake of those whom we regard as beneath ourselves. . . . When we learn to measure others, not by their rank and station, but by the worth of their spiritual nature, by their immortality, by the possibilities that lie in the most ruined life, it will be no longer humiliating for us to do even the humblest service for the least of God's creatures. Then there will be nothing in us that will seem too rich or too sacred to be poured out for the sake even of the most despised. We may honour ourselves and may be conscious of all the power and dignity of our lives as God's children, and yet not think ourselves too good to minister to the smallest and the least.

We must not think of ourselves as deserving attention from others. We are not in this world to be made much of, or to be waited upon and served. . . . Rather, we are to regard ourselves as the servants of others for Jesus sake. We are to put ourselves before men as our Master did, not asking what benefit or help we can get from them, but what we can do for them. . . . Instead of being repelled by men's moral repulsiveness, our pity is stirred and our hearts go out in deep, loving longing to heal and to bless them. Instead of being offended by men's rudeness and unkindness, we bear patiently with their faults, hoping to do them good. Nothing that they may do to us turns our love to hate. We continue to seek their interest despite their slights, insults and cruelties. We are glad to spend and be spent for others even though the more abundantly we love them the less they love us. . . .

We cannot love them as we do our friends. We cannot approve their faults or commend their immoralities or make black white. We cannot make ourselves think their characters beautiful when they are full of repulsiveness, or their conduct right when it is manifestly wrong. Love plays no such tricks with our moral perceptions. It does not hoodwink us or make us colour blind. It does not make us tolerant of sin or indifferent to men's blemishes. Christ never lowered, by so much as a hair's breadth, the perfect standard of holiness by which He measured all men and all life. Nor must we. . . . We are not to look upon any sin leniently or apologetically, and yet we are to love the sinner, to pity him and have compassion upon him, and instead of turning away from him in horror and self-righteous pride we are to seek by every means to lift him up and save him.

Under all the ruin of his sin is the shattered beauty of the divine image which the gentle fingers of love may repair and restore.

Dr J R Miller, Week-Day Religion, 1897

Saturday, 22 May 2010

Three Kinds of Men

Begging Is Our Only Wisdom

C.S. Lewis’s short essay, “Three Kinds of Men,” from his collection of essays, Present Concerns (pp. 9-10):

There are three kinds of people in the world.

The first class is of those who live simply for their own sake and pleasure, regarding Man and Nature as so much raw material to be cut up into whatever shape may serve them.

In the second class are those who acknowledge some other claim upon them—the will of God, the categorical imperative, or the good of society—and honestly try to pursue their own interests no further than this claim will allow. They try to surrender to the higher claim as much as it demands, like men paying a tax, but hope, like other taxpayers, that what is left over will be enough for them to live on. Their life is divided, like a soldier’s or a schoolboy’s life, into time “on parade” and “off parade,” “in school” and “out of school.”

But the third class is of those who can say like St Paul that for them “to live is Christ.” These people have got rid of the tiresome business of adjusting the rival claims of Self and God by the simple expedient of rejecting the claims of Self altogether. The old egoistic will has been turned round, reconditioned, and made into a new thing. The will of Christ no longer limits theirs; it is theirs. All their time, in belonging to Him, belongs also to them, for they are His.

And because there are three classes, any merely twofold division of the world into good and bad is disastrous. It overlooks the fact that the members of the second class (to which most of us belong) are always and necessarily unhappy. The tax which moral conscience levies on our desires does not in fact leave us enough to live on. As long as we are in this class we must either feel guilt because we have not paid the tax or penury because we have. The Christian doctrine that there is no “salvation” by works done to the moral law is a fact of daily experience. Back or on we must go. But there is no going on simply by our own efforts. If the new Self, the new Will, does not come at His own good pleasure to be born in us, we cannot produce Him synthetically.

The price of Christ is something, in a way, much easier than moral effort—it is to want Him. It is true that the wanting itself would be beyond our power but for one fact. The world is so built that, to help us desert our own satisfactions, they desert us. War and trouble and finally old age take from us one by one all those things that the natural Self hoped for at its setting out. Begging is our only wisdom, and want in the end makes it easier for us to be beggars. Even on those terms the Mercy will receive us.

Hat Tip: Justin Taylor

The Queered Pitch of a Rationalist

Diagnosing the Mind of Unbelief

Consider the following quotation by rationalist Edward Gibbon Wakefield on the Protestant Reformation:
...the loss of one mystery (of transubstantiation) was amply compensated by the stupendous doctrines of original sin, redemption, faith, grace, and predestination, which have been strained from the epistles of St Paul. These subtle questions had most assuredly been prepared by the fathers and schoolmen; but the final improvement and popular use may be attributed to the first reformers, who enforced them as the absolute and essential terms of salvation. Hitherto the weight of supernatural belief inclines against the Protestants; and many a sober Christian would rather admit that a wafer is God, than that God is a cruel and capricious tyrant.

Wakefield was, of course, a standard Enlightenment scorner of the Christian faith. Here, he is extending his mockery of Western Roman Catholicism to the Protestant Reformation. There is nothing unusual nor new in his polemic--but it does give us a clear representation of how the mind of an Unbelieving rationalist works.

Almost to a man, rationalists suppress their most basic and fundamental assumptions. They are unable to deal with them honestly, probably because they know instinctively that they would end up like Hume, diffident and uncertain about everything. In this quotation, one of the most common rationalist assumptions, is plainly evident: if there is a divine being it can only subsist under the frame and limits of human reason. If a deity does not conform to what men consider reasonable, it cannot exist. The Mind of man trumps the Mind of God, although the Rationalist would carefully hide this, and would cloak his pretension in vague, amorphous notions like "truth", "reasonableness", "evidence", "fairness", and so forth."It is not that I would presume to 'trump' God, but 'reasonableness' compels me, or 'evidence' forces me to, or 'the consensus of fair minded men' cannot be evaded"--and so forth. 

Here, the fundamental religion of the rationalist lies exposed--Man is the measure of all truth, both ultimate and derived. Only that which man can weigh, verify, and affirm can be considered real and true. Thus, if the God revealed in Scripture does not conform to conceptions of goodness as conceived and laid down by human beings, then God clearly is to be both rejected and despised. If the God revealed in Scripture is deemed to be a cruel and capricious tyrant when measured by human standards, then He clearly cannot exist, or if He does, He must be despicable.

But, and here is the rub, if such a God could only exist if He were approbated by humans and authenticated by the bar of human reason, then such a being, whatever else it might be, would clearly not be the God of Scripture. Rationalists, then, exclude from the outset the very possibility of the Triune infinite, eternal, and unchangeable God. Moreover, in so doing, they implicitly assert their own claims to deity. Rationalism has always been the very essence of human arrogance, rebellion, and idolatry.

God's question to Job exposes how empty rationalist pretensions are: "Where were you when I laid the foundations of the earth! Will the faultfinder contend with the Almighty" (Job 38:4; 40: 2). Job's response, when confronted with God, is the only one which could be considered rational:
I know that Thou canst do all things, and that no purpose of Thine can be thwarted. . . . Therefore I have declared that which I did not understand, things too wonderful for me, which I did not know." Job 42: 2-3)
We note in passing that the central theme of the book of Job is the arrogance of rationalists trying to subject God to their world-view and make Him conform to what they consider to be fair and reasonable. Both Job and his friends were culpable of rebellion against God. Job repented of his sin of idolatrous rationalism. Edward Gibbon Wakefield did not. So passed an arrogant, lesser son from the sight of mortal men.

Friday, 21 May 2010

Douglas Wilson's Letter From America

A Full Tank of Gas and Lots of Wyoming Ahead, Part I
Political Dualism - Dualism Is Bad JuJu
Written by Douglas Wilson
Thursday, May 13, 2010

A week or so ago, I wrote about Piperian Hedonism 3.0. Following that, a friend helpfully pointed me to Chapter 11 of John Piper's book, When I Don't Desire God. That chapter is entitled "How to Wield the World in the Fight for Joy." And that chapter is filled, of course, with Piper's usual exegetical good sense, along with his careful framing of the question before the house. Having read it, and having agreed with a bunch of it, I still want to urge us to go further up and further in. Here are a few thoughts on that.

Piper leans on C.S. Lewis' argument in an essay called "Meditation in a Toolshed," which is found in God in the Dock. Piper does well in acknowledging that opting out of a bodily recognition of God and His gifts is not actually possible, and the only question is how we do it, not whether. He draws on the distinction that Lewis makes between looking at something (in this case, a sunbeam), and looking along the same beam, back to the sun.

In this chapter, Piper says:

So the question must be faced: How do we use the created world around us, including our own bodies, to help us fight for joy in God? In God, I say! Not in nature. Not in music. Not in health. Not in food or drink. Not in natural beauty. How can all these good gifts serve joy in God, and not usurp the supreme affections of our hearts" (p. 178).

Gratitude is occasioned by a gift, but is directed to the giver (p. 186).

And this brings us to the heart of the problem -- the relationship between Giver and gift. But before addressing this, I want to appear to change the subject for a minute.

I said in my previous post on this that we needed to work through this in an explicitly Trinitarian way. But this means more than just counting everything we see in groups of three. One of the essential Trinitarian doctrines that we need to apply to this is the doctrine of perichoresis, the truth that each member of the Trinity fully indwells each of the others. For example, Jesus talks about this in the gospel of John: "Neither pray I for these alone, but for them also which shall believe on me through their word; that they all may be one; as thou, Father, art in me, and I in thee, that they also may be one in us: that the world may believe that thou hast sent me" (John 17:20-21). Note that the Father indwells the Son completely, and the Son indwells the Father completely. Notice also that Jesus wants the same kind of thing for us, and so perichoretic indwelling must not be a prerogative of divinity. And so I want to argue that an understanding of perichoretic indwelling helps us to address the vexed question of relating the Giver and His gifts.

Given my finite limitations, I have to think about the gifts God gives to me a lot. I have to think about the fact that my feet are not cold anymore, that it is time for dinner, that one of my shoulder blades itches, and so on. To use Lewis' conceit from the toolshed, I have to spend a lot of time looking at the sunbeams, and a fraction of my time is set aside for direct worship of God, looking along the sunbeam. The temptation we have is that of treating all this as a zero-sum game, assuming that any time spent on the gifts is necessarily time away from the Giver. But though this sometimes happens, it does not need to happen. Rightly handled, a gift is never detached from the one who gave it. Wrongly handled, a gift can be the occasion of selfishness, which is a common problem. But it can also be the occasion of a higher form of selfishness, one which pretends to be above the whole tawdry field of "gifts in themselves."

Picture a particularly "pious" little child who was impossible to give gifts to, because he would always unwrap it, abandon it immediately, and run up to his parent and say, "But what really counts is my relationship with you!" A selfish child playing with a toy ungratefully is forgetting the giver. This pious form of selfishness is refusing to let the giver even be a giver.

We should not assume that in the resurrection, when we have finally learned how to look along that beam, in pure worship, that our bodies will then be superfluous. God will not have given us eternal and everlasting bodies because we finally got to such a point of spiritual maturity that we are able to ignore them. In the resurrection, we will have learned something we currently struggle with, which is how to live integrated lives. If God is the one in whom we live and move and have our being, it should not be necessary, in order to glorify God, to drop everything. We shouldn't have to keep these things in separate compartments.

Incidentally, this kind of integration will prevent dislocations from arising in families that are sold out to the glory of God. Integration will keep our neighbor (or wife, or husband, or kids) from feeling like a means to an end. There is a delicate balance here, but God is most glorified in me when I love what He has given to me, for its own sake. This is teleologically related to the macro-point of God's glory being over all, of course, but we still have to enjoy what He gives, flat out, period, stop. Otherwise, in the resurrection, God will be looking at all the billions of His resurrected saints, standing there contentedly, looking at Him, and He will say, "You know, you people are impossible to shop for." Which is, of course, absurd and impossible. In the resurrection, it will be possible for us to be absorbed by God's gifts in ways that are impossible to conceive of now.

How might perichoresis help us with this? In a perichoretic world, the gift need not displace the Giver, as though they were two billiards balls. In the material world, the space that one object occupies is space that another object cannot occupy. We carry our assumptions about this over into the spiritual world, and we consequently assume that if we are thinking about meat on the grill, bees in the honeysuckle, a sweet wife in bed, beer in a frosted glass, or a full tank of gas and lots of Wyoming ahead, then we cannot be thinking about God also, or be living in gratitude before Him. But I don't think this is the case at all.

When we think about the gifts in exclusion of the Giver, it is because we are being prideful, or selfish in some way. If we think about the Giver only, we are trying hard to be disembodied spirits -- which is not how the Giver made us, and if we were paying all that much attention to the Giver, we ought to have noticed that He didn't want to make us that way.

If I turn every gift that God gives over in my hands suspiciously, looking for the idol trap, then I am not rejoicing before Him the way I ought to be. There will likely be more on this.