Thursday, 31 March 2011

In Memoriam

Jerusalem bomb victim was British bible translator studying Hebrew

Mary Gardner who has taught in a Togo village for 20 years was on a six-month course before returning to Africa

Obituary taken from the Guardian.

Mary Gardner, the British woman killed in the Jerusalem bus bombing, was an evangelical Christian who had been living in Togo, west Africa, translating the New Testament into the local Ifé language.

She was on a six-month course in Jerusalem studying ancient and modern Hebrew at the Hebrew University prior to returning to Togo to begin work on a translation of the Old Testament.

The 55-year-old had been staying in a dormitory in Yad Hasmona village, about six miles from Jerusalem, but had gone into the city on Wednesday to meet her oldest friend. She was fatally injured. Thirty others were wounded when a device weighing up to 2kg exploded near the busy central bus station.

The eldest of five children, Gardner was born in Nairobi, Kenya, but moved to Aberdeenshire when she was 15. Her parents Jean, 81 and Tony, 82, who live there, said they were "devastated by the sudden loss of our daughter in this tragic and unexpected way".

In a statement they said: "Mary was a very special person and we thought the world of her. She was devoted to her work and was well liked wherever she went. We are proud of her and all that she has achieved in her life and feel truly blessed to have had her in our lives."

She had been working for Wycliffe Bible Translators in Togo, living among the Ifé people for the past 20 years, learning the language, translating the bible, and teaching literacy and maths.

Eddie Arthur, executive director of Wycliffe, said: "I cannot tell you how highly regarded she was. She was an extremely gutsy person, highly intelligent, with huge drive and the ability to stick with the project for 20 years in far from comfortable conditions. It must have been incredibly isolating at times. But she was completely dedicated to her work, and to the Ifé people."

"She will be sorely missed by her colleagues and all those she worked with in Togo". Gardner, who was not married, attended Albyn school for girls, in Aberdeen, then St Andrews University, where she studied for an MA in English and French before returning to Kenya as a volunteer teacher for two years. Returning to Britain she worked as an itinerant teacher of French, based in Orkney, travelling to island schools by plane and boat. She then studied at the Bible Training Institute, in Glasgow. She joined Wycliffe Bible Translators in 1988 and moved to Togo where she worked as part of a team. The Ifé translation of the New Testament was published in 2009 and she also joint-edited an Ifé-French dictionary.

Gardner arrived in Jerusalem in January for the Home for Bible Translators course, and was staying at their dormitory near the Arab town of Abu Ghosh where on Thursday, her friends and fellow translators met to exchange memories.

"Mary was really enjoying the camaraderie and fellowship she had found in Jerusalem. She told us that until she got here she did not realise how alone and isolated she had been living for years in a remote village in Togo, the only European for miles around," said Halvor Ronning, director of the Home for Bible Translators.
"She had a fantastic love for nature. We are just looking at photographs of her on her knees trying to get the best photograph of a wild flower that interested her. She loved hiking, and her room-mate has just been recounting how, when they hiked in the Judean hills, she was always pushing to continue to the next hill even if there was no obvious path."

Ronning added: "She was very frugal and she is the only person I know who bought the material to make her own tent. She used to take turns cooking with her room-mate and disapproved of extravagant desserts. She had just made nettle soup for all residents of the dormitory."

Rest in peace, in the presence of our glorious Saviour.  Mary's life and labours will not be in vain in the Lord.  

Not Bad

A Career After Politics?

New Zealand Prime Minister, John Key shot an unscripted, impromptu dialogue with Australian comedian Peter Flaherty, who was in character as Shaun Wayne.

It's not too bad. It is hard to imagine any Prime Minister within living memory of being able to pull something like this off. According to Stuff,
The unscripted seven-minute video was shot during Napier's Art Deco Weekend last month as part of a $100,000 campaign to market the city to tourists from the east coast of Australia. . . .

Napier Mayor Barbara Arnott and her staff were delighted with the video but worried that, after Mr Key saw it, he would not approve its release.

After he gave the go-ahead, Mrs Arnott said: "It was wonderful that the prime minister understood very well what we were trying to do. He entered the spirit of things wholeheartedly.

"Peter Flaherty is a very intelligent comic – you have to be intelligent to play a dumb character that well."

The council hopes the video will go viral on social networks, backing up a big tourism campaign in Australian media.

Wednesday, 30 March 2011

Can Anything Good Come out of the UK?

Are Children ‘Infected’ by Judeo-Christian Values?

By Paul Diamond
Posted in National Review Online on March 16, 2011

In an important case in the United Kingdom, the High Court held this week that Christian views on sexual morality could be “inimical” to a child’s welfare.

Mr. and Mrs. Johns wanted to foster a child as young as five as respite carers for parents who were having difficulty. Some 15 years earlier they had successfully fostered, but work commitments meant that they were unable to devote sufficient time to children. When they retired, they applied to be registered as foster carers again.

Early on in the assessment process, their Christian faith was identified (they are Pentecostals). It was felt their views on sexual ethics conflicted with the duty to promote and value diversity. Of course, the Johns said they would love and care for the child but they couldn’t promote the homosexual lifestyle. They were rather bewildered by the process, as they wanted to foster a five-year-old. Mr. Johns fatally said he would “gently turn them round,” and so the seeds for a major legal case were sown.

Derby City Council refused to register them as foster carers, with the Johns asserting that they were being denied because they were Christians.

The state-sponsored Equality and Human Rights Commission intervened and argued that it was the duty of the state to protect vulnerable children from becoming “infected” with Judeo-Christian values of sexual morality.

The rest is history, and in a startling judgment, the High Court held last Monday that the United Kingdom is a secular state and that Christianity as part of the law is “mere rhetoric.” For Americans to note, the United Kingdom is formally a Christian state with the Queen as the head of the Church of England.

The court made a series of statements to the effect that rights of sexual orientation trump religious freedom, that a local authority can require positive attitudes to be demonstrated towards homosexuality, that the Johns’ traditional Christian views could conflict with the “duty to safeguard and promote the welfare of looked after children,” and finally that Article 9 (Europe’s pale reflection of the First Amendment) does not protect beliefs contrary to the interests of the child.

This is but one of a number of cases that display clear hostility to Christian and Judeo-Christian values. There are also cases on British Airways permitting the hijab, turban, and Siska Hindu ponytail to be worn, but banning the Cross; and cases on dismissal of employees not wishing to participate in recognition of same-sex civil partnerships, or voicing support of marriage (which discriminates against people who live together), or offering (Christian) prayer.

These examples must be juxtaposed with the excessive sensitivity in British society to the rights of Muslims. There has been an explosion of radical Islamists in London, the latest being the Detroit bomber Umar Farouk. The Archbishop of Canterbury has called for the introduction of sharia law, calling it “inevitable.” He was supported by the Lord Chief Justice.

It is important for Americans to understand these developments, so they can learn from the British experience. The first lesson is the speed and success of the secular ideology in replacing Judeo-Christian freedoms. In 1997, the United Kingdom was a more stable country than the United States; an evolving state with a millennium of religious liberty. If someone had told me then that within little more than a decade, stable Christian households would be deemed unsuitable to foster children, or that Crosses would be banned, or that hate-speech laws would be used to crush the very ideas of dissent, I would not have believed it. I would have been labeled an alarmist if I had expressed views to that avail.

The second factor to recognize is that the terms liberal, diversity, and tolerance are descriptors for a political program which logic and law alone cannot explain. Thirdly, the secular movement is but a variant of the utopian ambitions that have inspired man from the beginning of time. However, the endgame of such programs is always the same. To repeatedly promote a failed ideology is base ignorance or, at its worst, criminal.

A final note: Do not lose hope for the United Kingdom, we have been here before. And as Prime Minister Winston Churchill said: “Never give in, never, never, never, never — in nothing great or small, large or petty — never give in.”

— Paul Diamond, barrister, was counsel in the Johns case.

The End is Near . . . Apparently

Interesting Times

Folk in the West are not that familiar with Islam in general. Far less are they familiar with Shi'ite theology. Even less is their familiarity with the particular brand of Shia believed in Iran. Montefiore provides a neat summary:
An imam is the leader of a mosque or community but in Shia, imams can be spiritual leaders, chosen by God and blessed with infallibility. The Twelver Shiites of Iran believe in the first twelve imams descended from Muhammad's son-in-law Ali and his daughter Fatima and that the Twelfth Imam was "occulted"--hidden by God--and will return as the Mahdi, the Chosen messianic redeemer of Judgement Day. The Islamic Republic of Iran was founded by Ayatollah Khomeini on this millenarian expectation: the clergy rule only until the Imam's return. (Simon Montefiore, Jerusalem, the Biography, p.187

We need to get this straight. Modern revolutionary Iran was founded and is controlled by Twelver Shi'ites who believe in the Second Coming of the Twelfth Imam (the twelfth descendant of Muhammad's son-in-law) who disappeared as a five year old. Allah is said to be "hiding" him, and will bring him forth to establish Islam over the entire world (by forced submission). As Joel Rosenberg summarizes:
The Twelfth Imam was a real, flesh-and-blood person who lived during the ninth century AD. Like the eleven Shia religious leaders who went before him, he was an Arab male who, as a direct descendent of the founder of Islam, was thought to have been divinely chosen to be the spiritual guide and ultimate human authority of the Muslim people. His name was Muhammad Ibn Hasan Ibn Ali. It is generally believed by Shias that he was born in Samarra, Iraq, in AD 868, though few details of his brief life are certain or free from controversy. Sunnis, for example, believe he was born later. Before he could reach an age of maturity, when he could teach and counsel the Muslim world as was believed to be his destiny, Ali vanished from human society. Some say he was four years old, while others say five and some say six. Some believe he fell into a well in Samarra but his body was never recovered. Others believe the Mahdi’s mother placed him in the well to prevent the evil rulers of the time from finding him, capturing him, and killing him—and that little Ali subsequently became supernaturally invisible. This is where the term “Hidden Imam” is derived, as Shias believe that Ali is not dead but has simply been hidden from the sight of mankind—Shias refer to this as “occultation”—until the End of Days, when Allah will reveal him once again.
President Ahmadinejad and the ruling elite in Iran not only believe in the reappearance of the Twelfth Imam, but that it will occur soon and that Iran must be ready and must actively be preparing for his coming. The current unrest in the Middle East is seen as a sign that he is about to appear. This according to CBN News:
Iranian Video Says Mahdi is 'Near'

New evidence has emerged that the Iranian government sees the current unrest in the Middle East as a signal that the Mahdi--or Islamic messiah--is about to appear.

CBN News has obtained a never-before-seen video produced by the Iranian regime that says all the signs are moving into place -- and that Iran will soon help usher in the end times.

While the revolutionary movements gripping the Middle East have created uncertainty throughout the region, the video shows that the Iranian regime believes the chaos is divine proof that their ultimate victory is at hand.

The propaganda footage has reportedly been approved at the highest levels of the Iranian government.

It's called The Coming is Near and it describes current events in the Middle East as a prelude to the arrival of the mythical tweflth Imam or Mahdi -- the messiah figure who Islamic scriptures say will lead the armies of Islam to victory over all non-Muslims in the last days. . . .

The ongoing upheavals in other Middle Eastern countries like Yemen and Egypt--including the rise of the Muslim Brotherood -- are also analyzed as prophetic signs that the Mahdi is near -- so is the current poor health of the king of Saudi Arabia, an Iranian rival. "Isn't the presence of Abdullah, his illness, and his uncertain condition, great news for those anxious for the coming?" asks the narrator.

Iran's supreme leader, Ayatollah Khameini, and Hassan Nasrallah, leader of Iran's terrorist proxy Hezbollah, are hailed as pivotal end times players, whose rise was predicted in Islamic scriptures. The same goes for Iran's President Mahmoud Ahmadenijad, who the video says will conquer Jerusalem prior to the Mahdi's coming.

The ongoing upheavals in other Middle Eastern countries like Yemen and Egypt--including the rise of the Muslim Brotherood -- are also analyzed as prophetic signs that the Mahdi is near -- so is the current poor health of the king of Saudi Arabia, an Iranian rival.

"Isn't the presence of Abdullah, his illness, and his uncertain condition, great news for those anxious for the coming?" asks the narrator.

Iran's supreme leader, Ayatollah Khameini, and Hassan Nasrallah, leader of Iran's terrorist proxy Hezbollah, are hailed as pivotal end times players, whose rise was predicted in Islamic scriptures. The same goes for Iran's President Mahmoud Ahmadenijad, who the video says will conquer Jerusalem prior to the Mahdi's coming.

Now of course all of this is just nonsense but it is not thus regarded by the Iranian leadership. Their belief apepars to be genuinely held. They can be expected to act authentically according to their apocalyptic ideas. It explains why the Iranian rulers will not tolerate dissent in any form: a nation not in submission would hardly earn itself the position of being the Twelfth Imam's right arm when he appears.

Political authorities in the West dismiss such theology and ideology as irrelevant. After all, only fools and horses would believe in such things. One must not treat Iran's leaders as if they were foolish or horse-like. That would be offensive. They must be treated as we ourselves want to be treated, as modern rational secular men who believe in freedom, human rights, and justice.

In the meantime, it remains an open question as to how much mayhem the Iranian leadership will foment in order to facilitate "his" coming. This will be as a self-fulfilling prophecy. The longer "he" delays appearing, the more mayhem must be required.

We will indeed be living in interesting times--but not as the Iran leadership expects them to be.  In the meantime, we ought never to under-estimate the devastation that a false eschatology can wreak.  Recall a moustachioed gentleman who proclaimed a Thousand Year Reich, and another who called for Workers of the World to unite. 

Tuesday, 29 March 2011

Letter From America

Obama’s Incoherent Case for War

Mona Charen
March 22, 2011
The president can’t distinguish the Libya campaign from the Iraq War.

In the Democratic primary campaign of 2008, candidate Barack Obama scored points because he, unlike many Democrats, had opposed the Iraq War from the start. Although he was a state senator at the time of the 2002 congressional vote authorizing military action, Obama had delivered a speech to an anti-war rally in Chicago.

He said, “I don’t oppose all wars. . . . What I am opposed to is a dumb war. What I am opposed to is a rash war. What I am opposed to is the cynical attempt by Richard Perle and Paul Wolfowitz and other arm-chair, weekend warriors in this administration to shove their own ideological agendas down our throats, irrespective of the costs in lives lost and in hardships borne.”

Regarding the justifications for war with Iraq, state senator Obama was unpersuaded: “ I suffer no illusions about Saddam Hussein. He is a brutal man. A ruthless man. A man who butchers his own people to secure his own power. He has repeatedly defied U.N. resolutions, thwarted U.N. inspection teams, developed chemical and biological weapons, and coveted nuclear capacity. . . . But . . . he poses no imminent and direct threat to the United States, or to his neighbors.”

As American forces join the war against Moammar Qaddafi, the nation is entitled to an explanation. How is the case for war against Qaddafi smarter (remember, Obama is only against “dumb” wars) or less “ideological” or more prudent than that for war against Saddam Hussein?

Certainly with an army of only 50,000, Qaddafi represents far less of a threat to his neighbors or to us than did Saddam, who commanded an army estimated at 350,000. As for humanitarian concerns, what Qaddafi is doing to the rebels in Libya is exactly what Saddam did to his domestic enemies, but on a reduced scale. As Obama himself said, Saddam was “a ruthless man . . . who butchers his own people to secure his power.” Yet that didn’t justify a war, state senator Obama told us.

Senator Obama did not believe that Saddam posed a danger to the United States or to his neighbors — though he had attacked or invaded three of his neighbors: Iran, Kuwait, and Israel. Yet Qaddafi has hardly ranged beyond his own borders.

While Obama (like the rest of the world) was convinced that Saddam had “developed chemical and biological weapons” — and though he knew that Saddam had actually attacked his own people from the air with chemical weapons — he didn’t think that his possession of those weapons warranted war. In Qaddafi’s case, there is no threat of WMDs, as the dictator flamboyantly relinquished his WMD program after seeing Saddam’s fate.

How are Obama’s motives regarding military action against Moammar Qaddafi less “cynical” than those he was so contemptuous of in Paul Wolfowitz and Richard Perle? What “ideological agenda” was the Bush administration “shoving down our throats” that Obama is not himself duplicating? Is he opposed to the Freedom Agenda? What, exactly, was so obnoxious about the Bush program?

How has Obama concluded that a war against another Middle East villain is now justified and not “dumb” or “rash”? And on what principle can President Obama now decline to intervene on behalf of other freedom fighters around the globe?

We don’t know, because unlike George Bush, who took his case for war to the American people through a vote in the U.S. Congress (with 110 Democrats voting in favor), President Obama has unilaterally put our forces into harm’s way based solely on his power as commander-in-chief. (Code Pink, call your office!) If he is relying upon the vote in the United Nations as his mandate for military action, he is establishing a new principle of diminished U.S. sovereignty. American forces can now be ordered into action by the president and the U.N. but without the U.S. Congress?

On most of the foreign- and security-policy issues he preened himself about — the folly of deposing despots, closing the prison at Guantanamo, using military tribunals to try terrorists, and withdrawing from Iraq — President Obama has reversed himself.

He has performed these reversals without explanation and without apology for his shrill condemnation of his predecessor. He condemned Bush’s “ideology” but his own foreign policy seems to have amounted to marketing the image of himself as the first African-American president and the first Muslim-sympathetic president. Image making is easier than policymaking — and when it came time for decisions, President Obama dissolved into incoherence.

— Mona Charen is a nationally syndicated columnist. © 2011 Creators Syndicate.

Reprinted from National Review Online

Prudence and Risk Awareness Go Together

Risk Reduction Leads to Speculative Booms

Capital markets, like all markets, are bi-polar. Periodically they go through a boom/bust phase. If this is unpalatable, the only other option is state control (ownership) of capital and labour. This was tried in the Soviet Union where it resulted in distortions and shortages for nigh on seventy-five years--all of which was blamed on serial and relentlessly bad weather.

Surely there has got to be a middle way, someone will opine. Surely if you keep capital in private hands (that is, out of government control) but regulate the worst excesses of private capital markets, keeping those markets on an even keel, so to speak, or within the railway tracks, the train of unending growing prosperity can ride off into the sunset in perpetuity. Boom and bust will no longer apply.

This sort of solution of regulation, controls, maintaining moderation, keeping the system working within reasonable bounds--all of this may work reasonably well when it comes to transport systems, which explains why the railway analogy is appealing. But the analogy breaks down when applied to capital markets.

A capital market is an exchange of capital where folk, who have some surplus money, supply it (at a cost) to those who need it. A market is, by definition, a decentralised decision making institution. Markets, in order to get transactions taking place, must be implicitly free, because value, worth, needs, goals, aspirations and ambitions vary amongst human beings. What is sauce to the goose is not necessarily sauce to the gander. One person may choose to invest his surplus capital in electricity producing windmills because that it highly valued by him. Others may choose to invest in Vegemite because it pays a regular dividend. Different strokes for different folks.

But all participants in capital markets tend to have one common concern: they implicitly measure the risk of their capital being wasted or destroyed. Implicitly providers of capital are reckoning up the likelihood that the return they are wanting would not transpire, were they to entrust their spare capital to a bank, or a windmill company, or a food conglomerate, or whatever. The vast majority of capital investors seek a monetary return on their capital. They want their original capital returned, plus some gain.

When does the boom occur? Booms always occur when perceptions of risk become cloudy. Simply put, when people believe they are investing in a "sure thing" they will be comfortable with investing. Booms occur when it is believed that not only is an investment a virtual guaranteed gain, but that the gain will be substantial and quick. When you see around you friends and acquaintances, colleagues and business rivals enjoying these gains--when everyone is doing it--the boom is on. It is not just that the potential returns have to be seen as substantial, but that they have to be understood as virtually certain. No doubts. No worries.

Here is where regulations and rules can indirectly cause booms. Instead of preventing booms and busts more often than not regulations and government controls cause them. Why? Because regulations are supposed to reduce risk. They implicitly are supposed to make returns more certain. A recent article in Foreign Policy magazine provides a telling picture of how regulation and inappropriate governmental interference actually indirectly caused the collapse of 2008. The author, Paul Seabright argues that we face a paradox in the matter of capital market regulation: the more clever the regulation, the more likely it will distort markets, and the bigger the collapse will be.
There are important lessons to be learned from the crisis. But we'll learn them better if we realize that the intellectual and political architects of the system that failed us were not naive at all, but immensely clever and subtle; it was their cleverness and subtlety that undid them. And that is bad news for all of us, for naivete can give way to learning, but cleverness has no obvious higher state.
The more people believe that central banks can control bubbles and deflate them before bursting, the more a truly destructive collapse will happen. Why? Because providers of capital think that the authorities have effectively removed risk from the investing equation. Therefore they are prepared to take huge risks, telling themselves the risks do not really exist.
In effect, the second and third lines of defense came down to this: trusting the other to do more of the work than either was prepared to shoulder. The better the central bankers performed, the more everyone else was content to rely on them to sort out the obvious tensions in the system, such as the fact that real U.S. housing prices rose nearly 150 percent from 1995 to 2006. Everyone knew it couldn't go on forever, but if Greenspan had taken care of the crises of 1987, 1991, 1998, and 2000, surely he would be on hand if there were a crisis this time. Not everyone agreed there was a bubble, but the danger lay not with those who didn't believe in bubbles. It lay instead with those who thought there might be a bubble but that we could handle it.
Here is the paradox: the more a financial system is engineered and regulated to reduce risk, the more likely systemic risk will break out causing a collapse of the system. The less regulation, the more risk is controlled and booms less likely to occur.
Banking creates the illusion -- the necessary illusion -- that there exist islands of stability in a sea of risk. Depositors who settle payments with a check need not worry -- most of the time -- whether a check drawn on one bank is worth the same as a check in the same nominal amount drawn on another. As the economist Gary Gorton has put it, banking does for the nonexpert in finance what the electricity grid does for the nonexpert in electricity: allowing one to use the system and benefit from its technical sophistication as reliably as the expert can. How? By enabling most who ultimately bear the risk not to have to worry about it on a day-to-day basis.

But as we discovered once the crisis broke, it was not just nonexperts who had stopped worrying about risk on a day-to-day basis. Most professional investors had also gotten into the habit of not worrying about it either, including those who had money invested in the repo markets and other parts of the vast shadow banking system. Before we rail against their stupidity, we should remember that not worrying about risk is precisely what a modern banking system enables its customers to do. That the lack of worrying had gone too far is now undeniable, but it happened precisely because of how impressively the modern banking system works when it is working well.
There is one egregious component in the most recent debacle, however. Governments stepped in as the liquifier of last resort: the cost of capital loss was cast forth upon future generations. This left most of us solvent. In terms of behavioural economics, this sets us up for a much bigger collapse to come--because, once again, the regulators have prevented loss; they have reduced our risks. The moral hazard mounts.
Reaffirming the need to take responsibility will require not just that individuals who are exposed to risk should realize that fact and act on it, but also that individuals who create risk bear more of the consequences. The fact that creditors have borne so little of the cost of recapitalizing failing banks is one of the great scandals of modern times. It is a scandal due to panic and not only to capture by special interests -- policymakers bailing out creditors were rightly terrified of the consequences if the bailouts failed -- but it is no less unacceptable for that. This massive bailout of imprudent creditors will matter for many reasons, not least of which is that crises will recur in the future and we shall need to anticipate how to manage the bailouts that will be needed when they do.
A risk-aware market is a prudent market. In capital markets there is a lot to be said for "caveat emptor". If it fails, you are on your own. Rules and regulations should focus upon honesty, integrity, and disclosure and not on ensuring safety. Risk-reducing regulations and bail outs perversely create far more systemic risk over the long term.

Monday, 28 March 2011

Douglas Wilson's Letter From America

Wiener Schnitzel is UnAmerican

Political Dualism - Mere Christendom
Written by Douglas Wilson
Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Details are just beginning to emerge about some American atrocities in Afghanistan. Some of the individuals accused are already on trial, which is at it should be. The presenting problem for the politicos and spin doctors in this situation appears to be the fact that there are allegedly supposed to be a multitude of photographs that show American servicemen posing for gloat shots . . . next to the bodies of killed civilians. Just like Abu Ghraib, only far worse.

But my point here has to do with the approaching public discussion of what is alleged to have happened, not to determine what actually happened. In the uproar that is upcoming, those on the left will say that this is "characteristic," and will use it in support of their opposition to the war. Those on the right will condemn any criminal activities, but they will go on to say that these atrocities are "uncharacteristic," and will go on to defend American involvement in the war there.

My interest in this is to ask a theological question that neither side in this kind of dispute can answer accurately or with any kind of justice. Characteristic of what? Uncharacteristic of what? Characteristic of people? Americans? Soldiers? Sinners? What?

The leftists will say that these soldiers sinned against humanity, and that this is a characteristic sin that Americans tend to commit. The right-wingers will say that they sinned against America, and that this was uncharacteristic of our soldiers, and they will go on to say that the sin was one of being unAmerican.

But such things are sins, if they are sins at all, only if they are ungodly. And we can only know what ungodliness is if God communicates to man, and man is responsible to listen and to hear. The most basic question for those seeking to live an upright life has to do with how we go about defining upright. By what standard? As this debate escalates, the talking heads on television are going to become the yelling heads on television. Stop listening to what they are saying, and starting asking yourself what they are sitting on behind those television desks. What is their basis for being there? What supports them such that the camera can point at their faces?

When the leftists call this a crime against humanity, I will want to know what they think humanity actually is. The end product of so many millennia of mindless and purposeless evolution? It would seem to follow that these soldiers committed crimes against so many pounds of protoplasm, of which we have plenty on this planet. Indeed, liberals like to tell us all the time that we have way too much of this bipedal kind of protoplasm. War is just a drastic eco-measure.

When the rightwingers tell us that this was unAmerican, we should want to know why that is a problem. Wiener schnitzel is unAmerican. Simply being unAmerican is not a moral issue. No, no, they might say. "We didn't say not American, we said unAmerican. There's a difference." Oh, I would reply. Tell us that difference, and tell us why we should care. Tell us how America has generated a moral code that is universally binding on all who are associated with this nation. Try not to suspend that universal moral code from an invisible sky hook, or worse, from snippets of the Gettysburg Address that you learned as a child in an American elementary school.

One of things that Jesus taught us is that a house cannot withstand storms without a foundation (Matt. 7:24-25). And you cannot build your house in a left wing swamp, or on  pile of right wing sand, and then when troubles arise, as they surely will, whistle up the foundation you wish you might have had. You either have a foundation when you needed it, or you don't.

Stages of Holy War

When Was Satan Cast Down?

David Chilton, commenting upon Revelation 12: 7--12:

And there was war in heaven, Michael and His angels waging war with the Dragon. And the Dragon and his angels waged war, and they were not strong enough, and there was no longer any place found for them in heaven. And the great Dragon was thrown down, the Serpent of old who is called the devil and Satan, who deceives the whole world; he was thrown down to the Land, and his angels were thrown down with him. Revelation 12: 7-9

When, therefore, did Satan fall from heaven? He fell, definitively, during the ministry of Christ, culminating in the atonement, resurrection, and the ascension of the Lord to His heavenly throne. We can see the stages of the Holy War throughout the message of the Gospels.

Whereas the activity of demons seems relatively rare in the Old Testament, the New Testament records numerous outbreaks of demonism. Open the pages of the New Testament, and demons are almost inescapable. Why? What made the difference? It was the presence of Christ. He went on the offensive, entering history to do battle with the Dragon, and immediately the Dragon counter-attacked, fighting back with all his might, wreaking as much havoc as possible.

And when we see the Lord warring against the devil, we also see Him being given angelic assistance (Matthew 4: 11; 26:53; Luke 22: 43). As Michael leading the angels, Christ led His apostles against the Dragon, driving him out of his position. The message of the Gospels is that in the earthly ministry of Christ and His disciplines, Satan lost his place of power and fell down to the earth. . . .

The definitive accomplishment of this, of course, was Christ's atonement for the sins of His people; thus, just before He offered up Himself as the sacrifice, our Lord said: "Now judgment is upon this world; now the ruler of this world shall be thrown out" (John 12:31) In Christ's victory, salvation and the Kingdom came to earth. Satan was defeated. . . .

The message of Revelation is consistent with that of the New Testament as a whole: Christ has arrived, Satan has been thrown down, and the Kingdom has come. By His death and resurrection, Christ "disarmed" the demons, triumphing over them (Colossians 2:15). Satan has been rendered powerless (Hebrews 2: 14--15), and so St Paul was able to assure the believers in Rome that "the God of peace will soon crush Satan under your feet" (Romans 16: 20). The Cross was the mark, Jesus said, of the judgment of the world (John 12: 31)--or, as John Calvin rendered it, the reformation and restoration of the world.
David Chilton, The Days of Vengeance, p. 316f)

Saturday, 26 March 2011

Douglas Wilson's Letter From America

Like Scarsdale

Culture and Politics - Sex and Culture
Written by Douglas Wilson
Saturday, March 19, 2011

A denial of Hell is the very apex of short term thinking. Living your life here and now as though eternity matters is the epitome of long term thinking. And once these fundamental "mentalities" have set in, it is not long before you start to see other manifestations of them.

Deferred gratification is essential to long term economic growth. Gotta-have-it-now isn't. Inability to say no to present desires cracks up marriages, and ability to honor commitments over time sustains marriages. Schools that expel students for academic reasons are a standing testimony to the realities of the last day. Rebellion against the red ink on a spelling quiz in third grade because Johnny's feelings are bruised by them is actually hatred of the eschaton. Hatred of the day when God will honor the giving of a cold cup of water in His name will eventually be a mentality that sees no reason to give a cup of cold water in the first place.

As Lewis points out in The Great Divorce, Heaven and Hell are retroactive. In Hell there are no momentos of the good times. In Heaven, every tear is wiped away.

Carpe diem is all very well, but you have to know what kind of day it is that you are seizing. One man can seize the day because he sees the need to eat, drink, and be merry for tomorrow we die, and another might realize that if today we hear His voice, we should not harden our hearts as we did in the wilderness. Seize the day, is it? What is a day, and how do we seize it? More importantly, why should we seize something as fruitless and as empty as a day? Unless of course, it is not empty.

But if we are to say it is not empty, we might be called upon to give some reasons for thinking this. If we appeal to Scripture, we cannot appeal to just a portion of it. Jesus does promise us eternal life, but if we monkey with the adjective to get rid of that offputting eternal death, we soon discover that we have destroyed all the promises.

One other thing. It may seem trivial, but I would urge believers everywhere to return to the practice of using the upper case H when writing about Heaven and Hell. Why might this be important? Bishop Sheen once submitted a manuscript to his publisher, and when it came back to him, the h's had all been changed to lower case. He dutifully changed them all back again. His editor wanted to know why he had done that. Sheen said, "Because they're places. You know, like Scarsdale."

Rethinking the Crusades, Part III

Islamic Revisionism

Sociologist cum historian, Rodney Stark deserves the sobriquet "mythbuster". In his book on the Crusades, God's Battalions he tilts his lance at some pretty big academic windmills. One is the thesis that whilst Europe was truly the "Dark Ages" during the medieval period, Islamic society was enlightened, intellectual, artistic, technological and proto-scientific. A corollary is that Europe was only delivered from the Dark Ages by the arrival of Islamic learning, via written texts, in Europe.

Stark argues that all of the so-called Arab (then Turkish) advances were actually intellectual property that was present in captured Byzantine, Persian, and European regions. This applies to shipping and maritime technology (largely developed from Christian Coptic knowledge and skills), architecture (the famous and celebrated Dome of the Rock built in Jerusalem employed Byzantine architects and craftsmen--which is why it resembled Eastern Orthodox church architecture); Avicenna--ranked as the most influential Islamic philosopher-scientist--was actually Persian; the leading figures in Islamic medical knowledge were actually Nestorian Christians--and so on. (God's Battalions, p.58f)

This explains, in part, why Muslim intellectual progress failed to keep up with the West and it degenerated eventually into widespread ignorance.
But what has largely been ignored is that the decline of that culture and the inability of Muslims to keep up with the West occurred because Muslim or Arab culture was largely an illusion resting on a complex mix of dhimmi cultures, and as such, it was easily lost and always vulnerable to being repressed as heretical. Hence, when in the fourteenth century Muslims in the East stamped out nearly all religious nonconformity, Muslim backwardness came to the fore. Ibid, p.61.

One possible exception to this is the early acceptance (via Syrian translations) of the works of Plato and Aristotle amongst the Arabs by the late seventh century. However, rather than actually encourage learning, Plato and Aristotle in Islamic hands actually stifled it. The reason lies in Islamic scholars eventually marrying the Greek philosophers into the straitjacket of Muhammed's religious monism.
. . . rather than treat these (philosophical) works as attempts by Greek scholars to answer various questions, Muslim intellectuals quickly read them in the same way as they read the Qur'an--as settled truths to be understood without question or contradiction--and thus to the degree that Muslim thinkers analyzed these works, it was to reconcile apparent internal disagreements. Eventually the focus was on Aristotle . . . . Muslim philosophy as it evolved in subsequent centuries merely chose to . . . enlarge on Aristotle rather than to innovate. This eventually led the philosopher Averroes and his followers to impose the position that Aristotle's physics was complete and infallible, and if actual observations were inconsistent with one of Aristotle's teachings, those observations were either in error or an illusion."
Ibid, p. 62.

This may not sound too bad until one realises that Aristotle's ideas were rarely based upon evidence from observation and experience, but rather developed largely out of his own imagination and conjecture.
Aristotle's Earth is at the center of a spherical universe, and is immovable. Within the terrestrial or sublunar realm there is continuing change . . . but all such processes are in the long run merely cyclical. There is no genuine transition, evolution, or novelty in the terrestrial realm.
Lynn E. Rose, cited in I. Velikovsky, Mankind In Amnesia (London: Sidgwick & Jackson, 1982), p. 53f.
This fitted well with the Islamic cosmology; it also locked Islamic scholars into an anti-intellectual, static bind. Thus, in the hands of Islamic scholars, Aristotle became a force for an anti-intellectual, freeze-frame, static, and cyclical world-view.

The narrative of an enlightened Arab age racing ahead of a dying Europe in the thrall of a Dark Age makes for juicy reading. It also served the purposes of Enlightenment historians who wanted to conjoin the Christian religion with ignorant superstition--or, as Voltaire acerbically put it--wanted to play tricks on the dead.

But it is not true--which is why the Crusaders in the late 11th century, and for the next two hundred years, proved to be technologically superior in the theatre of war in the Holy Land--despite overwhelming numerical disadvantage. The Dark Ages had apparently not been so dark after all.

Friday, 25 March 2011

Letter From America

Useful Idiots

Representative King, chair of the US Congressional House Homeland Security Committee, has been holding hearings on how Americans have been suborned into radical Islamic beliefs and behaviour. The hearings have been strenuously resisted by Democrats on the Committee. They are a contemporary manifestation of those whom Lenin once called, "useful idiots", referring at the time to the Soviet Communist sympathizers then active in the US. Charles Jacob's reports on what he learnt from attending the hearings.

Direct from the King Hearings: ‘G-d Help Us!’

Last week, I had a front-row seat at the King Hearings – one of the nastier fronts of America’s culture war. US Rep. Peter King (R-NY) chaired a special hearing of the House Homeland Security Committee on the radicalization of the American Muslim community – and that community’s response. All through the five-hour cage match, the Democrats on the committee fought strenuously and emotionally against the very notion that Congress should investigate America’s radical Islamists at all.

The Dems provided any number of reasons for suppressing congressional inquiry – and even public discourse – on the matter: The hearing harkens to McCarthyism; it will be used for recruiting Al Qaeda suicide bombers; it will alienate Muslim Americans; and it will lead to internment camps like those for Japanese Americans during World War II. Not to mention that it violates the Constitution and is unfair because it doesn’t include inquiry into the KKK, and Christian and Jewish extremists. Even I was shocked at how deeply in thrall these congressmen were to the Democratic Party’s reigning doctrines of cultural relativism and political correctness. How to explain this unhinged hysteria? Why are these members of Congress and many in the media so reluctant to discuss radical Islam? Hearings are clearly one way to learn about Muslim Brotherhood agents, who – as Mao Zedong said of his Red operatives – swim like fish among the people.

Melvin Bledsoe told the hearing about his son’s transformation from American Baptist kid to a Yemeni-trained jihadist. Peter King did everything he possibly could to express that this was not a slam against American Muslims, the majority of whom, King repeated many, many times, are fine, patriotic American citizens. Obama officials themselves, King said, have spoken of the new dangers of homegrown terror: Precisely because we’ve done a good job of blocking attacks from outside the country, administration officials have said, Islamic terrorists changed their strategy and are recruiting from inside the Muslim community here. King said his hearings could help American Muslims publicly express their own frustration with fanatics in their communities, zealots who were inducing their own children – and others – to die and kill in a religious war.

And so it was: Abdirizak Ali Bihi, a Somali Muslim from Minneapolis, told the committee how his nephew and a score of other young Muslims were hustled off to Somali to join the jihad there. His nephew was killed, the family only finding out about it from pictures of his body posted online by his jihadist pals. Muslim community leaders in Minneapolis told him to keep his mouth shut when he went to them for help. When he went to the FBI, he was denounced as a bad Muslim.

Phoenix cardiologist Zhudi Jasser – a deeply devout Muslim who leads a reformist movement within Islam – explained how radicals were targeting Muslim youth with an ideology of Islamist supremacy and jihad. Jasser said that an act of terror is the end point of a lengthy process of indoctrination – a process that needs to be exposed.

To no avail. Waving the Constitution, US Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee (D-Texas) accused the committee of violating “the first of the First Amendments” – freedom of religion. US Rep. Loretta Sanchez (D-Calif.) – of “Vietnamese are after my seat” fame – justified the Council on American Islamic Relations (CAIR) telling American Muslims not to cooperate with law enforcement by explaining that even she would not speak to the FBI without a lawyer present.

But the most theatrical Democratic player was US Rep. Keith Ellison of Minnesota, the first Muslim elected to Congress. Ellison, who once went by the name Keith Hakim, was a member of Louis Farrakhan’s anti-Semitic Nation of Islam and is a supporter of the Muslim Brotherhood front group CAIR. Ellison held back (real?) tears as he told the story of how Islamophobic bigots stooped to slime a Muslim hero of 9/11. Mohammed Salman Hamdani was a Pakistani-born Muslim American who rushed to lower Manhattan on the morning of Sept. 11, 2001, to assist in rescue efforts, and died in the collapse of the World Trade Center. According to an emotional Ellison, “Some people spread false rumors and speculated that he was in league with the attackers only because he was Muslim.”

Actually Hamdani wasn’t singled out for a smear, but for an honor. The Patriot Act, signed a month after 9/11, named him as a hero to make the point that Muslims are patriotic Americans. Ellison based his lachrymose victim story on an urban myth: The New York Post reported that the FBI asked Hamdani’s mother a few background questions after a mistaken sighting – the kind of thing that inevitably happens after a terror attack. The Post reported that one unnamed source felt such questioning implied Hamdani’s guilt. The left went wild, calling this proof of American bigotry.

The biggest problem for the Democrats was Melvin Bledsoe. Bledsoe came to tell the committee and “all of America” a cautionary tale about the transformation of his son Carlos from an American Baptist kid to a Yemenitrained jihadist, who stands accused of murdering Private William Long and wounding another soldier in Little Rock in 2009. The crime was the first homegrown Islamic terrorist attack on American soil. Carlos Bledsoe is now behind bars facing first-degree murder charges. This is a story the Dems don’t want America to hear.

Indecently, US Rep. Jackie Speier (D-Calif.) condescendingly called the testimony of the three witnesses nothing but “interesting anecdotes.” Jackson Lee said that there is no “redeeming factual information.” Several Dem representatives dismissed the witnesses because they were not government officials or experts on terrorism. So much for sensitivity and compassion. Bledsoe ended his prepared testimony with “G-d help us! G-d help us!” After I watched him being dissed by the Dems, those were my thoughts exactly.

Rethinking the Crusades, Part II

A "Theology" of Haj

Rodney Stark argues that the Crusades were prompted not by the desire to re-take Jerusalem and the Holy Land per se, but rather by the objective of keeping pilgrims safe. After all, Jerusalem had long been subject to Islamic rule--since 638 in fact--and the First Crusade was not "preached" until 1095, over four hundred and fifty years later.

Pope Urban II had received a letter from Alexius Comnenus, emperor of Byzantium detailing gruesome tortures of Christian pilgrims to the Holy Land, asking for help from Western Christendom. Pope Urban determined to answer the call. He arranged for a church council at Clermont, during which he delivered his famous speech:
They (the Turks) destroy the altars, after having defiled them with their uncleanness. They circumcise the Christians, and the blood of the circumcision they either pour on the altars or pour in the vases of the baptismal font. When they wish to torture people by a base death, they perforate their navels, and dragging forth the extremity of the intestines, bind it to a stake; then with flogging they lead the victim around until the viscera having gushed forth the victim falls prostrate on the ground . . . What shall I say about the abominable rape of women? To speak of it is worse than to be silent. On whom therefore is the labor of avenging these wrongs and recovering the territory incumbent, if not upon you?
Cited in Stark, God's Battalions, p.3
As a result of Urban's support, and seven crusades later, the West managed to control much of Palestine and the eastern Mediterranean coastline for two hundred years. But were the Crusades of God? Were they faithfully and consistently Christian? We believe most professing Christians today would say, no. Yet, why? Regardless of Stark's setting much of the record straight (which we will endeavour to summarize in future posts) with respect to the Crusades, is there a successful biblical case to be made?

We do not believe so. The "theology" underpinning a Christian haj to Jerusalem was just flat out wrong. Had the Western and Eastern churches been more faithful to the Scriptures and to the early church fathers, they would have long before preached and taught against pilgrimage to Palestine. The attempt to make holy what Christ had pronounced desolate could only result in gross superstition and idolatry over time. Moreover, the problem of protecting pilgrims would never have arisen in the first place. Bad theology has bad consequences. The Crusades are an example.

But the Western church--having long preached and taught the merit of a haj to Jerusalem--was caught in the bind of being responsible to protect those who took it seriously and actually went.
Pilgrimage can be defined as "a journey undertaken from religious motives to a sacred place." Amongst Christians, especially in the West, the "religious motives" increasingly had to do with atonement--with obtaining forgiveness for one's sins. Some who made the long journey were seeking forgiveness for the accumulated sins of a lifetime, none of them particularly terrible. But by the ninth and tenth centuries, the ranks of pilgrims had become swollen with those who had been told by their confessors that there only hope of atonement lay in one pilgrimage, or even several, to Jerusalem.

Perhaps the most notorious pilgrim was Fulk III, Count of Anjou (972-1040), who was required to make four pilgrimages to the Holy Land . . . . Fulk was a 'plunderer, murderer, robber, and swearer of false oaths . . . '

Fulk's case reveals the most fundamental aspect of medieval Christian pilgrimage. the knights and nobility of Christendom were very violent, very sinful, and very religious! . . . . Consequently, the knights and nobles were chronically in need of atonement and quite willing to accept the burdens involved to gain it; there was widespread agreement that for terrible crimes, only a pilgrimage could possibly suffice. Consider these excerpts from the "Laws of Canute" written about 1020 and attributed to the Viking king of England and Denmark:

39. If anyone slays a minister of the altar, he is to be an outlaw before God and before men, unless he atone for it very deeply by pilgrimage. . . .

41. If a minister of the altar becomes a homicide or otherwise commits too grave a crime, he is then to fofeit both his ecclesiastical orders and his native land, and to go on a pilgrimage.
Stark, op cit., p.87f.
Parties of a thousand pilgrims travelling at a time to secure atonement for their sins was common.

The theology of haj for atonement is a human superstition. It falsely attempted to maintain continuity between Zion of the Old Covenant--"the city of our God, His holy mountain, beautiful in elevation, the joy of the whole earth" (Psalm 48: 1) with the earthly Jerusalem, the city in Palestine, we know today. This, despite the fact that the New Covenant makes clear that the Christian era earthly Jerusalem--that is, Jerusalem in Palestine during the Years of Our Lord in which we now live--is a slave city (Galatians 4: 24,25), but that Mount Zion is now above, in heaven. She is our mother. Thus there can be no continuity between Old Covenant Jerusalem and the city that is in Palestine. The Shekinah glory has ascended and now dwells in heaven. Heaven and manumission for all sin is open to all, in every place on earth. The veil in the now obsolete Temple was torn.

The Crusades, in trying to protect pilgrims, were one more mistake compounded upon repeated errors. The Kingdom of God had become perverted by the lies of men. Very little good could ever come out of them--as has subsequently proven to be the case.

Thursday, 24 March 2011

Installing Democracy

The Arrogance of Idealism

They say that a woman scorned and the Furies are kissing cousins. Far closer, we would argue, is a thwarted idealist. When that happens it's time to "hunt yr hole, Johnny Reb", as they used to yell at the siege of Vicksburg.

President Obama has made much about his ideals for humanity, geo-politics, and the secular millennium. He was to usher in a new way of doing business. It was to be "hope and change". Sadly, yet expectedly millions of people in the US (and the world) were gulled by the prospect. Sadly, someone who does not believe that the Lord Jesus Christ is the King of the earth is likely to clutch at rotting straw. Sadly, they have sought new messiahs here and there.

Did Obama believe in his ideals? Did he foolishly think that he was made great because he embodied the ideal? Now the ideal has proved far too weighty, and Obama's idols like broke in the Temple of Baal. It is around about this time that the thwarted idealist resorts to direct action to make the damnable ideas true. And so Obama's version of American exceptionalism emerges from the promordial slime . . .

Here is Obama is 2009. His idealism was still rising high.
“The message I hope to deliver is that democracy, rule of law, freedom of speech, freedom of religion — those are not simply principles of the west to be hoisted (sic) on these countries. But, rather what I believe to be universal principles that they can embrace and affirm as part of their national identity, the danger, I think, is when the United States, or any country, thinks that we can simply impose these values on another country with a different history and a different culture.”

Here is Obama now, two years later.
Today Barack Obama told Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan of Turkey that the US intends to impose a democracy in Libya.
The Washington Examiner reported:
The White House is shifting toward the more aggressive goal in Libya of ousting President Muammar Gadhafi and “installing a democratic system,” actions that fall outside the United Nations Security Council resolution under which an international coalition is now acting, according to a conversation between President Obama and Turkey’s prime minister.
Obama and Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan spoke late Monday and “underscored their shared commitment to the goal of helping provide the Libyan people an opportunity to transform their country, by installing a democratic system that respects the people’s will,” according to a White House report on the phone call.
The rhetoric matches Obama’s reiteration on Monday that it is still U.S. policy that “Gadhafi needs to go.”
But it is a marked contrast to the U.S.-led military mission as defined by the U.N. resolution.
Ve hav ways of making yu demokratic.

Hat Tip: Gateway Pundit

Internationalism is Dead

Bonaparte's Descendants

OK, so we thought that you would want to hear it here first. Internationalism--the idea that nation states are subject to a higher "sovereignty"-- is dead. The corpse is rotting. The Libyan "adventure", called for by the UN, is growing madder than a March Hare. All the problems and faults of internationalism are now clearly displayed. We hear Joan Baez in the background, intoning "when will they ever learn?" Not in a hurry would be our bet.

Though internationalism may be dead, the foolishness that is bound up in the heart of unconverted man is likely to keep flogging that particular equine corpse for decades to come.

Consider the mess that the internationalists are now in. The UN has passed a resolution directing that a no-fly zone be established in Libya. The internationalist community has spoken. Man, the universal overlord of the globe, has determined that what was happening in Libya ought not to be; some kind of nebulous higher ethic was appealed to which mean that "humanity" or "the international community" had to step up and into Libya to sort things out.

The echoes in the UN Security Council chamber had not died away before they were drowned by arguments between those who voted over what the meaning and application of the resolution. This from Al Jazeera:
International criticism of the coalition enforcing the no-fly zone has continued to grow, with India joining China in publicly calling for an end to the airstrikes. Jiang Yu, a spokeswoman for China's foreign ministry, said on Tuesday that the government opposed "the wanton use of armed force leading to more civilian casualties and more humanitarian disasters". China had already called for a ceasefire.

S M Krishna, the Indian foreign minister, called for a "cessation of armed conflict". His office had previously issued a statement on Monday expressing "regret" for the military intervention. Pranab Mukherjee, the country's foreign minister, said in a speech to parliament that "no external powers" should interfere in Libya. "Nobody, not a couple of countries, can take that decision to change a particular regime," he said
The Sydney Morning Herald reports that the Brits cannot even agree amongst themselves as to what the resolution means: can they take Gaddafi out or not? Some say yes; others nay-say. Neither can the French agree amongst themselves. Does the resolution mean that Gaddafi can legitimately stay in power. Yes. No. Maybe. All of the above. Meanwhile, Turkey a member of NATO has announced that it will not allow its airspace to be used in enforcing the no-fly zone, if it goes beyond the UN resolution--whatever it might mean, and no-one knows.
The announcement came after Turkey, a member of the NATO, warned on Tuesday that it could not agree to the military alliance taking over the enforcement of the no-fly zone if their mission went "outside the framework" of the UN decision.

Meanwhile in the US, President Obama, a committed internationalist, appeared deeply reluctant to get involved. But when the UN Security Council resolved, he had no choice. How could the Internationalist-in-Chief not support internationalism? Suddenly the humanitarian disaster was a siren summoning all good men to come to the aid of the rebels. He committed the US, but forgot to seek the approval of Congress. Internationalism overrides one's national constitution, don't you know. Now he is being hammered by both the left and the right in the US for his hasty oversight or arrogance--take your pick.

No-one knows what the "end-game" is. Regime change, or not? And the more the internationalist community pontificates upon the illegitimacy of the Gaddafi regime as a justification for his removal, the argument proves way too much. A list of equally pernicious regimes is published, with the damning interrogative: "well, if Gaddafi, what about these tyrants"? The deafening silence or the attempt to distinguish between cases on the list are so blatantly self-servingly tortuous that sceptics conclude that it must not about moral principles at all--it must be something else, like oil.

We are told that there are twelve tribes in Libya and tribalism is very strong. Like the Balkans, brute force alone can maintain an artificial unity. If Libya stays as a single nation it will only be because of an authoritarian government keeping tribal divisions suppressed by force. And in that case, why not Gaddafi? One tyrant is as good as another. Appeals to human rights by the internationalist community are fatuous at best, incoherent at worst.

Internationalism is rotting corpse; we in the West are just olfactorily dense and so are very, very slow learners. There is no such thing as abstract universal, international human rights. It is a pretentious fiction developed out of the French revolution, which in turn issued from Enlightenment gall. Human rights can only be spoken of meaningfully and helpfully if they are understood to be granted by the Living God, as Creator to His creatures. Attempts to abstract human rights out of this explicit covenantal Creator-creature nexus become bloody and destructive and hopelessly confused and compromised.

Human rights cannot hang suspended in mid-air. To be a blessing to man they have to be grounded in the truths revealed by the infinite, eternal, and unchangeable Creator, and they must be understood to be a gift to man, His creature, within the frame of His covenant. If not, then notions of universal human rights rapidly devolve into some (stronger) nations shedding blood in other (weaker) nations. Napoleon was a bloody revolutionary. His armies marched throughout Europe and the Near East. But it was OK. It was all for the establishment of liberty, equality and fraternity of Mankind. So the blood was well worth shedding, non?

Obama, Bush, Cameron, Sarkozy, and all the other internationalists, stand "together" at the UN in the name of universal human rights. They are little more than pretentious Corsicans, madder than the March Hare, pirouetting on a thousand contradictions, inconsistencies, and confusions. What did that resolution mean again? Whatever you want it to mean, my dear, whatever you want.

Wednesday, 23 March 2011

Letter From America

What Mosques in the US Are Really Like

This has come in from

Former Muslims Excluded From King Hearings

Posted By Nonie Darwish On March 17, 2011 @ 12:20 am In Daily Mailer,FrontPage |

I have admiration and respect for Congressman Peter King and I salute him for holding hearings on the “Extent of Radicalization in the American Muslim Community and that Community’s Response.” However, as a former Muslim I have not seen anyone testifying on our behalf in the hearings. At least one former Muslims should have been there to tell America of our plight. To tell them why we left Islam right here in America. How we had to choose between Islam and loving America. How radicals and jihadists followed us right here after we immigrated to the US to try to force us back into the same old culture of jihad, hatred and anti-Semitism — that we had escaped from in the first place. How radicals who want to deny us our freedom of religion under the US constitution threaten our lives and civil rights daily.

Most former Muslims in the US started by going to mosques but we soon discovered a political and jihadist agenda. In mosques I was told not to assimilate in America, to have more children and to wear Islamic clothes even though I never wore it in the Middle East before coming to the US. We were encouraged to pray wherever we wanted and do that with assertion even if we have to inconvenience others at airports, baseball games or at work. We soon found out that many mosques in America, as they are in the Middle East, are more of a political organization than a place of worship. We noticed that the more pious Muslims in the mosque were the ones seeking confrontation with American culture, such as getting offended if Americans have dogs or alcohol when riding cabs with Muslim taxi drivers.

Muslims are told openly in mosques that they have a mission in America and that is to make Islam the law of the land. Lying to America and getting offended to cover up the jihadist aspiration was encouraged, and became a perfected art and a religious obligation, which further alienated Muslims from American culture.
Many of us former Muslims have left the religion precisely because of the radicalization we confronted in America. But when we dared to stop going to mosques and left Islam altogether our lives turned into a nightmare. Many former Muslims contact me looking for shelter after their lives have been threatened. Just a couple of days ago I was contacted by a young 21 year old Muslim man telling me he left Islam years ago and has to hide the Bible from his family and friends after his own brother told him he was going to kill him if he does not return to Islam.

I receive testimony after testimony of former Muslims, some of whom are American converts who decided to leave Islam and are afraid for their lives. Many of us have to move from one apartment to another so we are not found by those who threaten our lives. Just last year, we all heard of the plight of the 17 year old apostate Rifqa Bary who had to flee her home after her life was threatened by her father and her local mosque. There are many Rifqa Barys in America where radical Islam is working under the radar to silence and force some of us to return to Islam or else.

I am also in contact with apostates in the Middle East. A student from Yemen told me that when he applied for a scholarship to come to the US, financed by Saudi Arabia, his application was rejected because he believes he was not radical in his Islamic views enough. He complained to me that the ones who won the scholarship were extreme Islamists and that tells us something about the kind of people we are giving student visas to.

How can former Muslims live in peace in America when there are Muslim scriptures sold and bought in all mosques telling Muslims that it is OK to kill apostates, meaning those who left Islam? The tragedy of apostasy from Islam has taken the lives of some in the West and caused mental and physical abuse for many and is never documented as a religious hate crime. Part of the jihad doctrine obliges Muslims to do internal jihad, by forcing Sharia on Muslim citizens. Sharia books in mosques across the US tell Muslims they will be forgiven for murder of an apostate and an adulterer, thus making vigilante street justice and honor killing acceptable religiously.

Muslim groups and their American appeasers are up in arms against the King hearings and are claiming that their civil rights are being violated. I wonder whose civil rights are violated in America? Is it Muslims or former Muslims?

Nonie Darwish is the author of “Cruel and Usual Punishment; the Terrifying Global Implications of Islamic Law” and founder of Former Muslims United.

Misguided Primitive Christians

Caesar is Lord After All

So all those Christians who laid down their lives in the circus arenas of Rome were deeply mistaken. True, they were faithful to what they believed, but their theology was bad. Extremist, actually. One might say they were fundamentalists and, as we all know now, fundamentalism is the greatest threat facing any society.

Rome periodically engaged in pogroms against Christians; thousands were killed. The church hailed them as martyrs at the time--but the church now knows differently. We are a bit more sophisticated. Our theology has matured.

Primitive Christians stupidly forced a confrontation with Pax Romana. Rome practised freedom of religion in the public square. Actually its multi-culturalism and commitment to religious pluralism was prodigious. Provided one's fundamental loyalties to the State remained firm, one could believe and worship as one chose. It was a most advanced proto-modern Western society. Rome deeply respected liberty of conscience in religious matters.

All one had to do was take a bit of an oath, offer a civil sacrifice, and make a profession of faith along the lines of "Caesar is Lord". Then you were free to believe and do as your conscience dictated. But primitive Christians were fundamental extremists. They had a narrow sectarian argument along the line of Jesus being Lord; therefore, whilst they were more than willing to be co-operative citizens, they were not prepared to take the required oath of state loyalty. To vow "Caesar is Lord" was to deny that "Jesus is Lord", apparently. How persnickety was that!

A lot of lives could have been saved if only the primitive church had had the benefit of a more mature and sanguine theology. Such as the one that thankfully operates in New Zealand today. We, in the modern church, understand that tolerance is a Christian virtue--probably the most important virtue of all, since tolerance is a manifestation of love, and well, God is love. So love must be God. So God is tolerance. And tolerance must be God. Therefore, it is profoundly Christian that tolerance is the highest civic virtue in our modern Western multi-cultural societies. So much so that if any today were to question the higher ethic of multi-culturalism and religious-belief-system pluriformity they would be proscribed, ridiculed and rejected as fundamentalists, and deservedly so.

It was really good to see that at the civic "day of mourning" in Christchurch last week the churches were not just represented, but were front and centre. Clearly the civil authorities have achieved a wonderful "Pax Romana", if you would permit the anachronism, the envy of any Caesar. The whole nation stood to worship a god--a god called "No-name"--a god with enlightened multi-cultural pluriform attributes so that we could all pour out our hearts to the "whatever-you-conceive-him/her/it-to-be god". Granted that's a bit of a mouthful of a moniker, but that's what the state requires, and not only is Caesar Lord, but he has to be this way if we are to be a tolerant multi-cultural religiously plural society--which is really a Christian society, after all. The thing celebrated was how we are all one with Christchurch, even though we all believe so differently. Well, actually those differences are trivial. Those early Christian martyrs were foolish fundamentalists. Thank god we have moved on.

It was great to see the Christian Church actively involved and front of stage. We noted how scrupulously careful many of the Christian officiants were to remove any reference to the Lord Jesus Christ. Quite right. How powerfully they were able to extend the greatest commandment of inclusive tolerance to all when they read from the Bible. Yes--that same Bible which the early Christians used. Now it is true that the rabid Apostle Paul, a fundamentalist of fundamentalists, actually wrote in that Bible that no-one can say "Jesus is Lord" and mean it, except by the power of Holy Spirit at work in one's soul. Now this sort of implies, to be fair, that if anyone is ashamed or reluctant to say "Jesus is Lord" and live it out publicly, then the Holy Spirit is not at work in them. But that's just Paul with his rabbinic Phariseeism talking.

Thankfully at times Paul rose above his Phariseeism. A more enlightened Paul also wrote those words which were so meaningful to so many people gathered at Hagley Park in Christchurch, namely "Who shall separate us from the love of God? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness? . . . For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor any other created thing, shall be able to separate us from the love of God. . . ."

Now, granted that the actual phrase Paul wrote read "shall be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord" but the Christian leaders were quite right to expunge that, since this was a civic occasion and we were not gathered to be sectarian in any way. We were all there in the name of the "whatever-you-conceive-him/her/it-to-be god" which is the only god acknowledged by Caesar today and therefore the only real god we should acknowledge as well--particularly on a civic occasion.

And as for Hayley Westenra singing Amazing Grace--well, didn't that send the old goose-bumps rising. All that stuff about "through many dangers, toils, and snares" and "grace will lead me home". Poor repentant slave trader, John Newton would never have imagined that his hymn of celebration of sectarian Christianity would have been liberated from its original narrowness and partisan sentiments and be employed in such a wonderful pluralistic civic occasion. Truly, our religion is what Caesar says it must be--and we are OK with that.

It is so heartening to be in our more enlightened modern age when we Christians have moved on from those primitive Christian fundamentalists. It is a great pity that their misguided zeal led them to their deaths, but things like that happen when you are not enlightened. We modern Christians were uplifted to see Christian officiants front and centre in Hagley Park. We felt good about ourselves. To be accepted and honoured by Caesar--well, it's not to be sneezed at.

As for that Lord Jesus Christ--well he died on a cross, so he would be used to such a humiliation as being excised from His own Scriptures. He would not mind. He would probably have been embarrassed by the over-scrupulous fundamentalism of those primitive Christians anyway. We know that we are, and that Jesus, if he is anything, is tolerant of our feelings. So he probably thinks what we think anyway.

Thank god--that one with a long name--we have moved on to a more civic and modern, and enlightened religion. We feel so comfortable. The god-with-no-name has led us home.

Tuesday, 22 March 2011

Letter From America

Fragile . . .

This post has come in from Diana West. It concerns David Petraeus and the un-winnable US war in Afghantistan.

General Petraeus: Fragile and Reversible?

Once upon a time, it was kind of a big deal when Gen. David Petraeus came to town to testify before Congress about “the war.” That was when the wars in Iraqistan weren’t exactly young, but also hadn’t yet execeeded the 100-Year-War, and hadn’t stretched into a kind of national security wall paper that no one notices, cares about or wants to change.

(What democratically elected official will actually heed polling showing two-thirds of Americans don’t think the war in Afghanistan is worth fighting? I really wonder. But welcome, brethren.)

Seems naive, but there was some buzz around that first appearance Petraeus made before Congress to present his views of the war in post-”surge” Iraq — as though it meant something in terms of advancement or milestones or something. But no. It was the first of many, many similar assessments. How similar? Read on.

On September 7, 2007, the New York Times used the words “fragile and easily reversed” to describe the general’s assessment.

Whether Petraeus used the phrase himself at that time, he hasn’t stopped since.

On December 23, 2007, Petraeus said gains in Iraq were “tenuous” and “fragile.”

On April 8, 2008, Petraeus told the Senate that progress had been made in the seven months since he last testified but that they remained “fragile” and “reversible.”

On August 20, 2008, the New York Times headlined its story, “Exiting Iraq, Petraeus Says Gains Are Fragile.”

On April 9, 2009, Petraeus said progress in Iraq was “fragile and reversible.”

On March 16, 2010, Petraeus, perhaps feeling stale, moved things around a little, telling Congress: “The progress in Iraq is still fragile. And it could still be reversed.”

Onto Afghanistan, and guess what?

On March 15,  2011, in his first official assessment of the war in Afghanistan, Petraeus told Congress: “While the security progress achieved over the past year is significant, it is also fragile and reversible.”

Is it just me, or does the mind-numbing repetition sound like a bad joke, or maybe an outtake from The Twilight Zone? Something isn’t working here: as in, the policy, the strategy, the elected officials and the general. That’s all.

At least we know what Gen. Petraeus’s nickname will be.

Lee Stranahan--an Honest Lefty

Lock-Stepping in the Public Square

Lee Stranahan is a left-wing journalist who has been co-operating with Andrew Breitbart on a story of government corruption, known as Pigford. This task has led him into contact with right wing and conservative blogs and news sites. It has dawned upon him that the Left in the US is not just shrill, it has a violent undercurrent and a mindlessness that he finds alarming. He also complains that this reality is ignored or glossed over by the media.

The recourse to mindless lock-step violence does not surprise any who have taken the time and trouble to study left-wing ideology. This ideology is grounded in a belief that the poor(er) are victims. In order to right the wrongs the government must extort private property from some and distribute it to others. The state must positively discriminate and actively redress socio-economic inequality to stop the oppression of poor(er) people.

When this ideology is thwarted politically or opposed, an "enemy" rapidly materializes from the gloom. The opponent is an enemy because he is a morally bankrupt and foul person: by (ideological) definition he is someone who exploits the defenceless and the weak, preys upon them, engorges and satiates himself upon their misery. But a subtle concomitant also materialises. If those who oppose are enemies because of their moral turpitude, those on "our side" must be be holy and righteous.

Left-wing ideology, when opposed, is constantly pulled towards extreme and violent methodology. Taking care of victims easily becomes an emotive, holy crusade. If the "system" does not allow redress through the ballot box or through lawful means, then the system itself becomes an enemy. The morally foul exploiters have gamed the system and use it to gorge upon others--therefore, the system must be broken down or overthrown. At that point, the Left veers willingly and aggressively into the contemplation of violence. The Weathermen spring to mind. Revolution is necessary.  The commentariate excuses such notions by appeals to pity: of course the oppressed are going to react this way.  It's understandable. 

The Left is implicitly teleologically driven: the end (a non-exploitative, egalitarian society) is what really matters. This goal is so important, it justifies whatever means might be needed to achieve it.

Clearly, not all left-wing people are like this. Many are moderates. But the more frustrated left-wing folk become because they are not making sufficient progress, the more prone they are to "militarising" the struggle, seeing things through the discourse of class warfare. The more violence becomes a righteous response.

Moreover, clearly there are right-wing extremists who also have reached the amoral point of believing that the end justifies the means. It is hard to distinguish between right wing and left wing extremists: whilst they have used different routes, the destination is the same. The Nazis were "right wing" extremists. The European communist states were "left wing"; the outcomes and methods and tactics were eerily similar.

Stranahan talks about "lock-step" left wing behaviour in the US. This suggests that radicalisation and extremism is increasingly the norm. The lock in the step is a common commitment to "tearing the bastards down".

Anyway, here is Stranahan writing in the Huffington Post.
Shame: Ignoring Death Threats to Wisconsin Politicians Is Media Bias
Three questions for you.
  1. Do you think of Republicans and the Tea Party as dangerous, violent extremists?
  2. Do you think the Wisconsin protests over GOP Governor Scott Walker's move to strip public sector employees of collective bargaining were peaceful?
  3. Do you scoff at the right wing notion that mainstream media like the New York Times, the TV networks and NPR have a liberal media bias against the conservatives?
If you answered 'yes' to all three of those questions, then let me ask you one more...
Why isn't the mainstream media talking about the death threats against Republican politicians in Wisconsin?

Try to set aside whatever biases or preconceptions you might have for a moment and ask yourself why death threats against politicians aren't considered national news, especially in the wake of the all too fresh shooting of Rep. Gabrielle Giffords and other bystanders. And there hasn't just been one death threat, but a number of them.

Here's an example and it's real. According to Wisconsin State Department of Justice, authorities have found a suspect who admitted to sending the following email:
I want to make this perfectly clear. Because of your actions today and in the past couple of weeks I and the group of people that are working with me have decided that we've had enough. We feel that you and your republican dictators have to die. This is how it's going to happen: I as well as many others know where you and your family live, it's a matter of public records. We have all planned to assult you by arriving at your house and putting a nice little bullet in your head. However, this isn't enough. We also have decided that this may not be enough to send the message. So we have built several bombs that we have placed in various locations around the areas in which we know that you frequent. This includes, your house, your car, the state capitol, and well I won't tell you all of them because that's just no fun. Since we know that you are not smart enough to figure out why this is happening to you we have decided to make it perfectly clear to you. If you and your goonies feel that it's necessary to strip the rights of 300,000 people and ruin their lives, making them unable to feed, clothe, and provide the necessities to their families and themselves then We will "get rid of" (in which I mean kill) the 8 of you. Please understand that this does not include the heroic Senator that risked everything to go aganist what you and your goonies wanted him to do. The 8 includes the 7 senators and the dictator. We feel that it's worth our lives becasue we would be saving the lives of 300,000 people. Please make your peace with God as soon as possible and say goodbye to your loved ones we will not wait any longer. Goodbye ASSHOLE!!!!
After the Giffords shooting, authorities have to take this sort of threat seriously. The media should too, even if the disturbed person who sent that email was motivated by exactly the kind of rhetoric that's been used by many liberals against GOP officials over and over again during the Madison protests. And there are more threats floating around the internet, in varying degrees of scary and credible.

If you read liberal blogs, you might have heard of some of these threats. Indirectly, anyway. Sarah Palin said the rhetoric should be toned down. The threats themselves were ignored and Palin was mocked.

On the other hand, if you read conservative blogs or listen to conservative media, you know all about these threats because people like Bill O'Reilly and Rush Limbaugh and websites like Newsbusters and BigJournalism have not only been talking about the death threats for days now but they've been talking about the mainstream and liberal media ignoring the threats for days.
Ignoring the story of these threats is deeply, fundamentally wrong. It's bad, biased journalism that will lead to no possible good outcome and progressives should be leading the charge against it.

Just before writing this article, I did a Google search and it's stunning to find out that the right wing media really isn't exaggerating -- proven death threats against politicians are being ignored by the supposedly honest media. If you've never agreed with a single thing that Limbaugh, Bill O'Reilly et al have said about anything, you can't in any good conscience say that they don't have a point here. Death threats are wrong and if a story like Wisconsin is national news for days, then so are death threats.

I'm in an odd position. In the last few months, I've had one foot in the left wing news stream and one foot in the right. My media duality began when conservative publisher Andrew Breitbart hired me to work with him on the Pigford 'black farmers' settlement story. I'm a pro-choice, pro-single payer, anti-war, pro-gay rights independent liberal with years of work in print and film backing those positions. Breitbart hired me to bring a different perspective to the non-partisan issue of corruption in Pigford.

Since then, I've written both here for the left-leaning Huffington Post and at Breitbart's right leaning I've ended up reading a lot more conservative sites and dealing firsthand with a lot more conservatives than any time since I attended a high school dedicated to the principles of Ayn Rand about 30 years ago.

Unlike many on the left, I didn't view the Wisconsin battle as the end of days. I wasn't convinced that I had a dog in that hunt, in part because I think there's a strong case to be made those public employees shouldn't have the same collective bargaining rights as private sector workers -- a case made well by Franklin D. Roosevelt, who said...
"All Government employees should realize that the process of collective bargaining, as usually understood, cannot be transplanted into the public service. It has its distinct and insurmountable limitations when applied to public personnel management. The very nature and purposes of Government make it impossible for administrative officials to represent fully or to bind the employer in mutual discussions with Government employee organizations. The employer is the whole people, who speak by means of laws enacted by their representatives in Congress."
Roosevelt's statement makes sense to me; it does seem that public employees are different than private. I'm not at all anti-union. (I've publicly supported unionizing the visual effects industry, for example.) I'm open to a good rational argument against the case FDR made but in discussions on Twitter and elsewhere, all I got in response from people on the left was anger and insults. I saw little light and felt much heat.

That tone of extreme hostility I experienced brings me back to the death threats in Wisconsin. Frankly, the bile and invective in that threat reminded me of the tone I saw directed at me from many so-called liberals because I committed the heresy of taking a different position from them on the issue of collective bargaining for public sector employees... based on something FDR said.

Is this really what liberalism has come to in 2011?

Since working with Breitbart, my position on political issues hasn't changed but I'd be lying if I didn't say I'm deeply disappointed by the virulent, lockstep attitude I see on the left. My experience in the last few months tells me what I would not have believed possible; on any number of issues (including Pigford, by the way) I've seen liberals act much nastier and with less factual honesty than the conservatives... and this includes on issues where I disagree with conservatives.

Burying the death threat story is a clear example of intellectual dishonesty and journalistic bias.
Don't take my word for it, though. Look into the story of death threats in Wisconsin yourself and see who has been covering the story and who hasn't. Try for a moment to see this story from the perspective of those who you may disagree with on policy and ask yourself how this looks to them. Can you blame them for feeling that way? Then take a few seconds and read those questions I asked you at the beginning of this article.

And then ask why progressives shouldn't expect more from our media -- and ourselves -- than we expect from our political adversaries.
An end note:  it has been our experience that when left-wing folk hurl false accusations against their political opponents there are grounds to expect that whatever they are accusing their opponents of is precisely what they themselves are doing as their standard MO.  For example, in New Zealand we had repeated instances of left-wing, Labour politicians accusing their political opponents (falsely) of all kinds of corrupt practices only to have it emerge later that they themselves were the very ones engaged in those same corruptions all along.  As our parents used to tell us: it takes one to know one. 

For two years now we have had left wing organs and politicians denounce right wing grass roots activity as racist, violent, extremist, and revolutionary.  Without a shred of credible evidence.  We have even seen cases of manufacturing and stage managing such behaviour and then attributing it to the Tea Partiers or whatever.  The complicit media has dutifully reported it all as indisputable reality.  It now becomes a bit more likely that all along these folk have been projecting their own image upon their opponents.  They risk appearing certain that their opponents would be engaged in the same kind of things they themselves have been doing all along. 

As Churchill once said, a lie will have gone around the world three times before the truth has put its trousers on.