Friday, 31 March 2017

Academic Integrity Under Threat

Going For the Big Bucks

Grade inflation is a real threat in education.  When the cash flow of a school depends upon the number of students enrolling and graduating, a substantial jeopardy emerges.  Moreover, when governments set "pass targets" the temptation to fudge the marks and pass rates becomes overwhelming, unless the internal ethics of the school are rock solid.  

It has been alleged that grade and pass rate inflation are rife in New Zealand tertiary institutions.
The Qualifications Authority has urged whistleblowers to come forward after allegations tertiary institutions are passing students who should be failed.  The teachers spoke to RNZ on condition of anonymity because they were worried they would lose their jobs if they were identified.  [Radio NZ]
Speaking out anonymously always gives us pause for thought.  It is, therefore, salutary of the NZ Qualifications authority to encourage anyone who had concerns to come forward to discuss them.  The initial impression is given that the practice is quite widespread.

Daily Meditation

Keep Me Faithful!

"Then all the disciples forsook him and fled."  Matthew 26:56

Charles H. Spurgeon

He never deserted them, but they in cowardly fear of their lives, fled from him in the very beginning of his sufferings. This is but one instructive instance of the frailty of all believers if left to themselves; they are but sheep at the best, and they flee when the wolf cometh. They had all been warned of the danger, and had promised to die rather than leave their Master; and yet they were seized with sudden panic, and took to their heels.

It may be, that I, at the opening of this day, have braced up my mind to bear a trial for the Lord's sake, and I imagine myself to be certain to exhibit perfect fidelity; but let me be very jealous of myself, lest having the same evil heart of unbelief, I should depart from my Lord as the apostles did. It is one thing to promise, and quite another to perform. It would have been to their eternal honour to have stood at Jesus' side right manfully; they fled from honour; may I be kept from imitating them! Where else could they have been so safe as near their Master, who could presently call for twelve legions of angels?

They fled from their true safety. O God, let me not play the fool also. Divine grace can make the coward brave. The smoking flax can flame forth like fire on the altar when the Lord wills it. These very apostles who were timid as hares, grew to be bold as lions after the Spirit had descended upon them, and even so the Holy Spirit can make my recreant spirit brave to confess my Lord and witness for his truth.

What anguish must have filled the Saviour as he saw his friends so faithless! This was one bitter ingredient in his cup; but that cup is drained dry; let me not put another drop in it. If I forsake my Lord, I shall crucify him afresh, and put him to an open shame. Keep me, O blessed Spirit, from an end so shameful.

Obama Is Joe McCarthy Redivivus

Vast Overreach

President Obama did much more to undermine free speech than the infamous Senator Joe McCarthy. Senator Joe focused upon Hollywood, attempting to destroy those whose opinions he disagreed with.  Obama perverted the office of the Presidency and issued Executive Orders willy nilly, threatening non-compliants with destruction of livelihoods.  Most of his regal decrees had the objective of forcing the nation into a "wunnerful Progressive Paradise".  

The Federalist recently carried a piece with an example of how far command and control has been asserted over US citizens.
For hundreds of years, the meat-packing industry bore the responsibility for transforming Bessie the Cow into carnivores’ favorite source of protein, and more recently the Food Safety and Inspection Service inspectors of the U.S. Department of Agriculture ensured that the finished product was “safe, wholesome, and correctly labeled and packaged.”

Not so anymore. Due to agency rules issued during the Obama era, FSIS inspectors enjoy expanded duties, including monitoring facilities for any “disrespectful” or “insult[ing]” communication (no, not among the animals). Should they uncover any such communication, inspectors are empowered to take “corrective action,” even if that involves slicing and dicing fundamental freedoms guaranteed by the First Amendment.
No, this is not a joke.  FSIS inspectors have been directed and empowered to regulate the speech of  anyone in a meat processing facility.  The speech in these institutions has to comply with what the government has certified as "respectful" or "non-insulting" speech.

"What in the world does speech (written or verbal) in a meat processing plant have to do with cleanliness or hygiene?" we hear you ask.  Well, to be frank, we find that question to be impertinent, and impertinence is definitely disrespectful. So there.  Our great and noble President Obama decreed it so.  Eat them apples.

Take the case of Don and Ellen Vander Boon, the owners of West Michigan Beef Company.
The breakroom at West Michigan Beef includes tables that essentially serve as a repository for newspapers, magazines, articles, and other forms of literature that employees or the owners wish to share with those who care to read them. Think of it as a pre-technological Facebook.  . . .

In 2015, following the Supreme Court decision in Obergefell v. Hodges that purported to redefine marriage for the entire country, various employees shared articles and information related to the decision. Don participated by sharing an article that expressed the traditional Christian view that God designed marriage as a union between a man and a woman and set forth reasons for that position.

When a USDA public health veterinarian, the on-site inspector, saw the article in the breakroom, well, he had a cow. He removed the article and reported it to his USDA supervisor. The pair stampeded into Don’s office and threatened to remove USDA inspectors—effectively shutting down the facility—if Don returned the article to the breakroom, stating the article was offensive and harassing under expanded agency rules.
We will destroy your business if you fail to comply!  Welcome to the wonderful world of Obamian liberty and freedom.  Be reminded, dear reader, that this is going on in the "Land of the Free".
This ban on Don’s speech appears to have been grounded on the USDA’s “Anti-Harassment Policy Statement” issued in July 2015, which prohibits written or oral communications that USDA officials consider “disrespectful” or “insult[ing]” on the basis of sexual orientation.

Notably, the feelings about which the USDA is concerned are not those of Don and Ellen’s 45 employees, but rather those of the handful of USDA inspectors working in the Vander Boon’s federally regulated plant. So much so that the company’s breakroom for company employees must be intellectually sterilized, lest an inspector catch a glimpse of an “insulting” article while walking through the breakroom.
We trust that the Trump Administration will lead all such perversions to the slaughterhouse.

Thursday, 30 March 2017

Douglas Wilson's Letter From Moscow

Win or Winnow or Both?

Douglas Wilson


Sometimes, after I have thrown a Molotov cocktail or two, meaning by this an incendiary adjective, or hot incandescent metaphor, a number of my friends who follow this blog have counted to twenty-five, muttering to themselves all the while that they know there is going to be a follow-up post, one that will seek to put out the fires that were just started, a follow-up post they will agree with completely—and another problem they have is the length of some of my sentences, but let’s not go into that right now—and they wonder to themselves why the deuce I didn’t write the calm, cool, and collected post first. Everybody’s happy, everybody learns something, nobody’s spitting red hot nails, and so why couldn’t you do it that way?


There are two answers, one earthly and one spiritual. I will start with the earthly one so that those who want to maintain their prejudices about me may continue to do so. “Such a carnal man.” I would rather write two or three provocative posts, and then a follow-up post read by 20,000 people, than to write the contents of that follow-up post in adjectiveless prose that your sainted Aunt Millie would never object to, and have it read by 200 people. The point of writing is to have people read it. Or so it would seem to me.

And whatever else you might want to say about it, conflict is interesting. It catches the eye. Do you recall how, in junior high, no crowd whatever would gather around a couple of girls in the hallway exchanging views on what they would wear to the dance tomorrow, and a huge crowd would gather around a couple of girls, standing in that very same spot, scratching each other and pulling hair?

And no, I am not defending conflict for conflict’s sake. Nor am I saying that it is good to whip up conflict for entertainment purposes. Picking a fight for the simple sake of traffic and clicks would be wicked and ungodly. As your sainted Aunt Millie would say, “Heaven forfend.” But I am saying that—when the challenges are great, the threats are dire, the cause is just, your civilization is disappearing up the kitchen hood, out into the night sky, on account of a wicked bad grease fire, and taking one thing with another the leadership of the good guys is feckless—conflict is a tool in the toolbox that needs to be used way more.

In a war, conflict is not an unfortunate by-product. Conflict is the point.

Daily Meditation

Lost In Wonder, Love, and Praise

C. S. Lewis

There have been times when I think we do not desire heaven; but more often I find myself wondering whether, in our heart of hearts, we have ever desired anything else. You may have noticed that the books you really love are bound together by a secret thread. You know very well what is the common quality that makes you love them, though you cannot put it into words: but most of your friends do not see it at all, and often wonder why, liking this, you should also like that.

Again, you have stood before some landscape, which seems to embody what you have been looking for all your life; and then turned to the friend at your side who appears to be seeing what you saw—but at the first words a gulf yawns between you, and you realise that this landscape means something totally different to him, that he is pursuing an alien vision and cares nothing for the ineffable suggestion by which you are transported.

Even in your hobbies, has there not always been some secret attraction which the others are curiously ignorant of—something, not to be identified with, but always on the verge of breaking through, the smell of cut wood in the workshop or the clap-clap of water against the boat’s side?

From The Problem of Pain
Compiled in A Year with C.S. Lewis The Problem of Pain. Copyright © 1940, C. S. Lewis Pte. Ltd. Copyright restored © 1996 by C. S. Lewis Pte. Ltd. All rights reserved. Used with permission of HarperCollins Publishers. A Year With C.S. Lewis: Daily Readings from His Classic Works. Copyright © 2003 by C. S. Lewis Pte. Ltd. All rights reserved. Used with permission of HarperCollins Publishers.

Education By Another Name

Waiting for Godot and the Big Gestalt

The performance of students in New Zealand schools is declining.  This has not been difficult to foresee.  There are doubtless multiple causes.  But the major culprits stand out.
Emeritus Professor Warwick Elley worries that New Zealand's education system is failing an entire generation.  "I worry that it's a dumbing down of a whole population of students," he says.

When Elley chaired the international steering committee for one of the first world literacy surveys, in 1990, Kiwi students came fourth.  A decade later, when the Programme for International Students Assessment (Pisa) started testing 15-year-olds, NZ students came second only to Finland in reading, third in maths, and sixth-equal in science.

But it has been downhill ever since. In six three-yearly Pisa surveys, the most recent (2015) reported last December, each group of NZ students has scored lower than the group that went before them in both reading and maths.  [NZ Herald]
Up until a couple of years ago, the Teacher Unions were in denial.

Wednesday, 29 March 2017

Desperation Is the Mother of Invention

Rogue State

North Korea Is Planning a Global Bank Heist

John Hayward
Breitbart News

The New York Times published a report from Internet security firm Symantec that revealed startling ambitions on the part of hackers affiliated with North Korea.  According to the report, they have plans to rob over a hundred banks around the world, including “institutions like the World Bank, the European Central Bank and big American companies including Bank of America.”

An attack on over 20 Polish banks near the end of 2016 was evidently thwarted without any money being lost. When security analysts pulled apart the virus software sent to these banks, they discovered a huge list of Internet addresses for other financial institutions, making up the target list described by Symantec.

The Times discusses the size and desperation of North Korea’s cybercrime ring:
The list of targets, which has not been previously reported, is part of a growing body of evidence showing how North Korea, a country that is cut off from much of the global economy, is increasingly trying to use its cyberattack abilities to bring in cash — and making progressively bolder attempts to do so.

North Korea’s hacking network is immense, encompassing a group of 1,700 hackers aided by more than 5,000 trainers, supervisors and others in supporting roles, South Korean officials estimate. Because of the country’s poor infrastructure, the hackers typically work abroad, in places like China, Southeast Asia and Europe. Like other North Koreans allowed to work abroad, the hackers are constantly monitored by minders for possible breaches in allegiance to the government.

Thus far, the biggest score for the North Korean operation appears to be a hack of Bangladesh’s central bank, revealed by Bangladeshi authorities in May 2016. The $81 million stolen from the bank ended up in the Philippines, but investigators were certain from early in the investigation that the thieves were not from either Bangladesh or the Philippines.

Early indications suggested Chinese hackers might have been responsible for the attack, but Symantec researchers soon isolated malicious code  linked to North Korea. Similar code and hacking techniques had previously been used against banks in Vietnam and Ecuador. According to the New York Times, analysts with the National Security Agency saw evidence the Bangladesh bank robbery was linked to the attack on Sony Pictures, which is generally seen as the work of North Korea.

The thieves were actually trying to steal a billion dollars from Bangladesh with fraudulent money transfer requests to the New York Federal Reserve, but only $81 million in bogus requests got through.

The attack on Poland’s banks was carried out with a “watering hole” hacking technique, which involves planting malware in locations the targets are likely to visit. Disturbingly, the watering hole for the Polish caper was the website of Poland’s banking regulator. Symantec mentioned similar watering hole traps have been laid for banks in Mexico and Uruguay, while virus attacks have been made already against a few targets in the United States.

An important point made by security analysts about these bank robberies is that huge amounts of manpower were involved, making state sponsorship of the attacks likely. The malware used in these assaults can lurk in targeted systems for weeks, going active during very limited windows of opportunity, so a large team of computer technicians has to work around the clock to supervise the intrusion.

Only one Chinese bank appeared in the target list distilled from captured viral code in Poland, a detail some analysts find significant. There are lingering suspicions that Chinese hackers assisted in pulling off the Bangladesh attack. This could become a major topic of conversation when Chinese president Xi Jinping meets with President Trump next month.

Security firm FireEye, which was instrumental in past actions against Chinese hackers, has reported a significant decline in Chinese industrial cyber-espionage over the past two years, coupled with an increase in Russian mischief. CEO Kevin Mandia warned Fortune last week that American companies are still “getting sucker punched pretty bad.”

North Korea has denied involvement in the wave of cyber attacks on financial institutions, claiming the United States reached “despicable heights” with its accusations. Pyongyang called America a “hacking empire, the worst of bullying countries” and said the hacking allegations were a pretext to “launch a pre-emptive strike” against North Korea.

Daily Meditation

The River of Reality

How sweet are your words to my taste, sweeter than honey to my mouth! (Psalm 119:103)

John Piper

Never reduce Christianity to a matter of demands and resolutions and willpower. It is a matter of what we love, what we delight in, what tastes good to us.

When Jesus came into the world humanity was split according to what they loved. “The light came into the world and men loved darkness rather than light” (John 3:19). The righteous and the wicked are separated by what they delight in — the revelation of God or the way of the world.

But someone may ask: How can I come to delight in the Word of God? My answer would be twofold: pray for new taste buds on the tongue of your heart; meditate on the staggering promises of God to his people.

The same psalmist who said “How sweet are your words to my taste” (119:103), said earlier, “Open my eyes that I may behold wondrous things out of thy law” (119:18). He prayed, because to have holy taste buds on the tongue of the heart is a gift of God. No man naturally hungers for and delights in God's wisdom.

But when you have prayed, indeed while you pray, meditate on the benefits God promises to his people and on the joy of having Almighty God as your helper now and eternal hope.

Who would not delight to read a book, the reading of which would change one from chaff to a cedar of Lebanon, from a Texas dust bowl to a Hawaiian orchard? Nobody deep down wants to be chaff — rootless, weightless, useless. All of us want to draw strength from some deep river of reality and become fruitful, useful people.

That river of reality is the Word of God and all the great saints have been made great by it.

Christian, Not Pagan

Marriages and Families are Not Created Equal

In the West we live in a society still influenced to some extent by vestigial Christianity.  It is easy for the lazy mind to assume that Christian institutions, such as marriage, are the norm for all humanity, all cultures, all times.  In other words, many naively assume that one man marrying one woman with a long life of mutual fidelity "as long as they both shall live", and raising children within the secure confines of such a bond, is the norm.  This is naive nonsense.

When Unbelief gets hold of marriage, the Christian or biblical prescription and definition are mutated.  The institution itself becomes mutant marriage.  When we speak of the "breakdown" of marriage and family and the kind of rotten fruits that are borne to it and in it, we are implying that there is a standard and norm, enshrined in God's law--and, therefore, ought to be enshrined in civil law.  The logic is sound; but, of course, Modern Man threw all this out long ago.

Modern Man thought that he could legislate no-fault divorces, recognise homosexual "marriages", and ignore--if not celebrate--an endless series of sexual encounters in the name of love and freedom.  Yet, at the same time, Modern Man professes to believe in true love, loyalty, and fidelity.  In our day and times this should be seen for what it is, a Christian hangover, a reflexive yearning for true love and true marriage, which is inscribed in the heart by God Himself, but which can only be sustained societally if society itself is built upon the foundations of Christ and His law.

When the Gospel of King Jesus confronted the Roman Empire, marriage and family became part of the battle ground.

Tuesday, 28 March 2017

An Idol Which Causes Everything . . . It Appears

A Complete List of Things Caused by Global Warming

Apologies for a temporary delay in updating the dead link list

AIDS, Afghan poppies destroyed, African holocaust, aged deaths, poppies more potent, Africa devastated,  Africa in conflict, African aid threatened,  aggressive weeds, Air France crash, air pockets, air pressure changes,  airport farewells virtual, airport malaria, Agulhas current, Alaskan towns slowly destroyed, Al Qaeda and Taliban Being Helped, allergy increase, allergy season longer, alligators in the Thames, Alps melting, Amazon a desert, American dream end,  amphibians breeding earlier (or not),  anaphylactic reactions to bee stings,  ancient forests dramatically changed, animals head for the hills, animals shrink,  Antarctic grass flourishes, Antarctic ice grows, Antarctic ice shrinks, Antarctic sea life at risk,   anxiety treatment, algal blooms, archaeological sites threatened, Arctic bogs melt, Arctic in bloom, Arctic ice free, Arctic ice melt faster, Arctic lakes disappear,  Arctic tundra lost, Arctic warming (not), a rose by any other name smells of nothing, asteroid strike risk, asthma, Atlantic less salty, Atlantic more salty,   atmospheric circulation modified, attack of the killer jellyfish, avalanches reduced, avalanches increased,  Baghdad snow, Bahrain under water,  bananas grow, barbarisation, bats decline,  beer and bread prices to soar, beer better,  beer worse, beetle infestation, beef shortage,  bet for $10,000, big melt faster, billion dollar research projects, billion homeless, billions face risk, billions of deaths,  bird loss accelerating, bird populations dying, bird strikes, bird visitors drop, birds confused, birds decline (Wales), birds driven north, birds face longer migrations, birds on long migrations threatened,  birds return early, birds shrink(Aus), birds shrink (USA), bittern boom ends, blackbirds stop singing, blackbirds threatened, Black Hawk down,  blizzards, blood contaminated, blue mussels return, borders redrawn,  bluetongue, brains shrink, brewers droop, bridge collapse (Minneapolis), Britain one big city, Britain Siberian, Britain's bananas, British monsoon,  brothels struggle, brown Ireland, bubonic plague,  Buddhist temple threatened,  building collapse, building season extension, bushfires,   butterflies move north, butterflies reeling, butterfly saved, carbon crimes, caribou decline, Cambodian sex trade fuelled, camel deaths,  cancer, cancer deaths in England, cannibalism,  cataracts, cats more amorous, caterpillar biomass shift, cave paintings threatened,  chagas disease, childhood insomnia, children's mental health, chocolate shortage, Cholera, circumcision in decline, cirrus disappearance, civil unrest, cloud increase,  clownfish get lost, coast beauty spots lost, cockroach migration, cod go south,  coffee threatened, coffee berry borer, coffee berry disease, cold climate creatures survive,  cold spells, cold spells (Australia), colder waters  (Long Island), cold wave (India), cold weather (world), cold winters, computer models, conferences, conflict, conflict with Russia,  consumers foot the bill, coral bleaching, coral fish suffer, coral reefs dying, coral reefs grow, coral reefs shrink, coral reefs twilight,  cost of trillions, cougar attacks, crabgrass menace,  cradle of civilisation threatened, creatures move uphill, crime increase, crocodile sex, crocodiles driven from water, crops devastated, crop failures increase, cross-breeding, crumbling roads, buildings and sewage systems, cryptococcal disease, curriculum change,  cyclones (Australia),   damselflies forced back to UK, danger to kid's health, Darfur, Dartford Warbler plague,  daylight increase, deadly virus outbreaks, death rate increase (US), death rate drop, deaths to reach 6 million, decades of progress at risk, Dengue hemorrhagic fever, depression, desert advance,  desert retreat,  destruction of the environment,  dig sites threatened,  disasters, diseases move north, diving reefs closed, dog disease,  dozen deadly diseases - or not, drought,    ducks and geese decline, dust bowl in the corn belt, dust doubles,  earlier pollen season,  Earth axis tilt, Earth biodiversity crisis, Earth crumbling, Earth dying, Earth even hotter, Earth light dimming, Earth lopsided, Earth melting, Earth morbid fever, Earth on fast track, Earth past point of no return, Earth slowing down,  Earth spins faster, Earth to explode, earth upside down,  earthquakes, earthquakes redux, El Niño intensification, end of the world as we know it, erosion, emerging infections, encephalitis, English villages lost, equality threatened, Europe simultaneously baking and freezing,  eutrophication, everyplace hit hardest, expansion of university climate groups, extinctions (apes, human, civilisation, koalas, lizards,  logic, Inuit, smallest butterfly, cod,  penguins, pikas, polar bears,   possums,  walrus,  tigers,  toads, turtles, pandas,  penguins, plants, ladybirds, rhinoceros, salmon, trout,  wild flowers, woodlice,  a million species, half of all animal and plant species, mountain species,  not polar bears, barrier reef, leaches, salamanders, tropical insects, flowers) experts muzzled, extreme changes to California, fading fall foliage,  famine, farmers benefit, farmers go under, farm output boost, farming soil decline,  fashion disaster, fever, figurehead sacked, fir cone bonanza, fires fanned in Nepal, fish bigger, fish catches drop, fish downsize,   fish deaf,  fish feminised, fish get lost, fish head north, fish lopsided, fish shrinking,  fish stocks at risk, fish stocks decline, five million illnesses, flesh eating disease, flies on Everest,  flood patterns change, floods,  floods of beaches and cities, flood of migrants, flood preparation for crisis, flora dispersed, Florida economic decline, flowers in peril, flowers wilt, flying squirrels move up, fog increase in San Francisco, fog decrease in San Francisco, food poisoning, food prices rise, food prices soar, food production increased,  food safety affected, food security threat (SA), football team migration,   forest decline, forest expansion, foundations threatened, foundations increase grants, frog with extra heads, frosts, frostbite, frost damage increased,   fungi fruitful, fungi invasion, fungi rot the world, games change, Garden of Eden wilts, geese decline in Hampshire, genetic changes, genetic diversity decline, gene pools slashed, geysers imperiled, giant icebergs (Australia), giant icebergs (Arctic), giant oysters invade,  giant pythons invade, giant squid migrate, gingerbread houses collapse, glacial earthquakes, glacial retreat,   glacier grows (California), glaciers on Snowden, glacier wrapped, glass melts, global cooling,  glowing clouds,  golf course to drown, golf Masters wrecked, grain output drop (China), grain output stagnating (India), grandstanding, grasslands wetter, gravity shift,  Great Barrier Reef 95% dead,  great tits cope, greening of the North,  Grey whales lose weight, Gulf Stream failure, habitat loss, haggis threatened, Hantavirus pulmonary syndrome,    harvest increase, harvest shrinkage, hay fever epidemic, health affected, health of children harmed, health risks, health risks (even more), heart deaths, heart disease, heart attacks and strokes (Australia), heat waves, hedgehogs bald, hibernation affected,   hibernation ends too soon, hibernation ends too late,  homeless 50 million, home runs, hornets,  human development faces unprecedented reversal, human fertility reduced, human health risk, human race oblivion, human rights violations, hurricanes,  hurricane reduction, hurricanes fewer, hurricanes more intense, hurricanes not,  hydropower problems, hyperthermia deaths, hyphthermia deaths, ice age, ice hockey extinct, ice sheet growth, ice sheet shrinkage, icebergs, ice sheet tipping point,  illegal immigration, illness and death, inclement weather, India drowning, infrastructure failure (Canada),  indigestion, industry threatened, infectious diseases,  inflation in China, insect explosion, insect invasion, insurance premium rises, Inuit displacement, Inuit poisoned, Inuit suing, invasion of alien worms, invasion of Antarctic aliens,  invasion of Asian carp, invasion of cane toads, invasion of caterpillars,  invasion of cats,  invasion of crabgrass, invasion of herons, invasion of jellyfish, invasion of king crabs, invasion of lampreys, invasion of midges, invasion of pine beetles, invasion of rats (China), invasion of slugs,  island disappears, islands sinking, Italy robbed of pasta, itchier poison ivy, Japan's cherry blossom threatened,  jellyfish explosion, jets fall from sky,  Kew Gardens taxed, kidney stones, killer cornflakes, killing us, kitten boom, koalas leaves inedible, koalas under threat, krill decline,  lake empties, lake shrinking and growing, landslides, landslides of ice at 140 mph, large trees decline, lawsuits increase, lawsuit successful,  lawyers' income increased (surprise surprise!),  lawyers want more, legionnaires' surge,  lives lost, lizards super intelligent, lives saved, lobsters grow,  Loch Ness monster dead, locust plagues suppressed, low oxygen zones threaten sea life, lush growth in rain forests,  Lyme disease, Major vegetation shifts,  Malaria,   Malaria decline,  malnutrition, mammoth dung melt, mammoth ivory bonanza, manatees battle, mango harvest fails, Maple production advanced, Maple syrup shortage, marmots fatter, marine diseases, marine food chain decimated, Meaching (end of the world), Meat eating to stop, Mediterranean rises, megacryometeors, Melanoma, Melanoma decline, mental health decline, mental illness, methane emissions from plants, methane burps, methane runaway, melting permafrost, Mexican climate migrant flood, Middle Kingdom convulses, migration,  migratory birds huge losses, microbes to decompose soil carbon more rapidly, milk production lost, minorities hit, monkeys at risk,  monkeys on the move, Mont Blanc grows, monuments imperiled, moose dying, more bad air days,   more research needed, mortality increased, mosquitoes adapting, mountain (Everest) shrinking,  mountaineers fears,  mountains break up, mountains green and flowering,   mountains taller, mortality lower, Mubarak fall, murder rate increase,  musk ox decline, Myanmar cyclone, narwhals at risk, narwhals suffocate, National Parks damaged, National security implications, native wildlife overwhelmed, natural disasters  quadruple, neurological diseases,  new islands, next ice age, NFL threatened, Nile delta damaged, noctilucent clouds, no effect in India, Northwest Passage opened, nuclear plants bloom, oaks dying,  oaks move north,  obesity, oblivion, ocean acidification, ocean acidification faster, ocean dead spots, ocean dead zones unleashed, ocean deserts expand, ocean salt extremes, ocean oxygen crisis,  ocean waves speed up,  Olympic Games to end, opera house to be destroyed, outdoor hockey threatened,   owls turn brown, oxygen depletion zones, oyster herpes, ozone repair slowed, ozone rise, peat bogs problem, peat bogs no problem, penguin chicks frozen, penguin chicks smaller, penguins in the dark, penguin populations devastated, penguins replaced by jellyfish, penguins sex lives affected, personal carbon rationing, pest outbreaks, pests increase, pets in danger, phenology shifts,  pines decline, pirate population decrease, pirates run rampant, plankton blooms,   plankton plummeting, plankton wiped out, plants lose protein, plants march north, plants move uphill,  polar bears aggressive, polar bears cannibalistic, polar bears deaf,  polar bears drowning,  polar bears fewer cubs,  polar tours scrapped,  pollination halved, porpoise astray, profits collapse, psychiatric illness,  psychological effects,  puffin decline, pushes poor women into prostitution, rabid bats,  radars taken out, rail network threatened,  railroad tracks deformed, rainfall increase, rainforest destruction,  rape wave, refugees,  reindeer endangered, reindeer larger, release of ancient frozen viruses, resorts disappear, respiratory diseases worsen,  rice less fragrant, rice production fall, rice threatened, rice yields crash,  rift on Capitol Hill, rioting and nuclear war,   river flow impacted, river rerouted, rivers raised, road accidents, roads wear out, robins rampant,   rocky peaks crack apart, roof of the world a desert, rooftop bars, Ross river disease,    Russia under pressure, salinity reduction, salinity increase,  Salmonella,  salmon stronger, sardine run unpredictable, satellites accelerate, Schmallenberg virus,  school closures, sea level rise, sea level rise faster, sea snot, seals mating more, seismic activity, sewer bills rise, severe thunderstorms, sex change, sexual dysfunction,  sexual promiscuity, shark attacks, sharks booming, sharks hybridise, sharks moving north, sheep change colour, sheep shrink, shop closures, short-nosed dogs endangered,  shrimp sex problems, shrinking ponds, shrinking sheep,  shrinking shrine, Sidney Opera House wiped out, ski resorts threatened, slavery, skinks impacted, slow death,  smaller brains,  smog, snowfall decrease, snowfall increase, snowfall heavy,  snow thicker,  soaring food prices, societal collapse, soil change, soil subsidence, songbirds change eating habits, sour grapes, soybean crop to drop, space junk increase, space problem, spectacular orchids, spider danger in UK, spider bites to increase, spiders getting bigger, spiders invade Scotland,  squid aggressive giants, squid larger, squid population explosion, squid tamed, squirrels reproduce earlier, starfish sperm eaten by parasites, stingray invasion, storm damage costs rise, storms wetter,  stratospheric cooling, street crime to increase, subsidence, suicide, sunset displaced,  swordfish in the Baltic, Tabasco tragedy, taxes, tea flavour change, tectonic plate movement, teenage prostitution,   terrorists (India), thatched cottages at risk, threat to peace, ticks move northward (Sweden), tides rise, tigers eat people, tigers drown, tomatoes rot, tornado outbreak, tourism increase, toxic bacteria, toxic seaweed,  trade barriers, trade winds weakened, traffic jams,  transport snarl, transportation threatened, tree foliage increase (UK),   tree growth slowed, tree growth faster, trees grow too fast, trees in trouble, trees less colourful,  trees more colourful, trees lush, trees on Antarctica, treelines change, tropics expansion, tropopause raised, truffle shortage, truffles down,  truffles increase, turtles crash, turtle feminised, turtles lay earlier, UFO sightings, UK coastal impact, UK Katrina,  vampire bats,  Venice flooded,  volcanic eruptions, volcanoes awakened in Iceland,  walnuts threatened, walrus pups orphaned,  walrus stampede,  walruses come ashore, wars over water, wars sparked, wars threaten billions, wasps, water bills double,   water shortage to increase vegetarianism, wave of natural disasters, waves bigger, weather out of its mind, weather patterns awry, weather patterns last longer, Western aid cancelled out,  West Nile fever, whale beachings, whales lose weight, whales move north,  whales wiped out, wheat rust in Syria, wheat yields crushed in Australia,  wild boars thrive, wildfires, wind shift, wind reduced, winds stronger, winds weaker,  wine - Australian baked, , wine industry damage (California),  wine industry disaster (US),  wine - more English, wine - no more French , wine -  England too hot, wine -German boon,  wine passé (Napa), wine - Scotland best,  wine stronger, winters in Britain colder, winter in Britain dead, witchcraft executions, wolverine decline, wolverines vanish, wolves eat more moose, wolves eat less, women cheat on vacation, workers laid off, World at war, World War 4,  Yellow fever, zebra mussel threat, zoonotic diseases.

and all on 0.006 deg C per year!

Advice of any omissions (with sources) or broken links is welcome at

Note: All links were live at time of posting. Inevitably some will disappear, particularly from Yahoo News.

Thanks to correspondents for additional entries; especially, as always, Our Man in Puerto Rico. Also, thanks to "Scraperguy" for the script to form the following:

The dead link collection

Acne, Africa hit hardest,  African summer frost, agricultural land increase, Alaska reshaped, anxiety,  Arctic tundra to burn,  atmospheric defiance, bananas destroyed, beer shortage, bird distributions change, blizzards, boredom, brain eating amoebae, business opportunities, business risks,  British gardens change, budget increases, cardiac arrest,  cataracts,  challenges and opportunities,  cloud stripping,  cremation to end, damages equivalent to $200 billion,  dermatitis,  desert life threatened, diarrhoea, disappearance of coastal cities, Dolomites collapse, drought in distant regions, drowning people, early marriages, early spring, Earth spinning out of control, Earth wobbling, evolution accelerating, extinctions (bats,    pigmy possums, koalas, turtles, orang-utan,  elephants, tigers, gorillas, whales, frogs,) fainting,  fish catches rise,  flames stoked, footpath erosion, glacial growth, global dimming, god melts, Gore omnipresence, Great Lakes drop,  harmful algae, hazardous waste sites breached, high court debates, HIV epidemic, human health improvement, ice shelf collapse, jet stream drifts north, lake and stream productivity decline, lightning related insurance claims, little response in the atmosphere,  lost $350 billion, Lyme disease,  marine dead zone, Maple production advanced,  mental illness (Alberta), migration difficult (birds), mountains melting, mudslides, oceans noisier,  oyster diseases, ozone loss, Pacific dead zone, plankton destabilised, plankton loss, plant viruses,   polar bears starve,  psychosocial disturbances,  popcorn rise, rainfall reduction,   riches, rivers dry up, rockfalls,  ruins ruined, skin cancer, smelt down, snowfall reduction, stick insects, stormwater drains stressed, teenage drinking, terrorism, tree beetle attacks,  trees could return to Antarctic, tree growth increased, tsunamis, tundra plant life boost, uprooted - 6 million, Vampire moths, violin decline, walrus displaced, war, war between US and Canada, water scarcity (20% of increase), water stress, water supply unreliability, weeds,   white Christmas dream ends, wine - harm to Australian industry,   World bankruptcy, World-famous places threatened, World in crisis, World in flames,

Suggestions for replacement links are welcome.

Total (dead and alive) 883

Last updated  05/03/12
Footnote (September 2015) Why the list stopped growing.

The time it takes to process a new entry increases approximately with the square of the list length, after checking for duplications, spoofs etc. Starting it was based on the naïve assumption that the rate of appearances would decline as opposing evidence accumulated, but the reverse happened. That’s the difference between science and religion. It was taking over my life, which I did not want to end as a garbage collector. There have since been hundreds more claims of an increasingly ludicrous nature.

Index, searchbox and begging bowl

Daily Devotional

Open Your Mouth Wide

"And she said, Truth, Lord: yet the dogs eat of the crumbs which fall from their masters' table."  Matthew 15:27

Charles H. Spurgeon

This woman gained comfort in her misery by thinking great thoughts of Christ. The Master had talked about the children's bread: "Now," argued she, "since thou art the Master of the table of grace, I know that thou art a generous housekeeper, and there is sure to be abundance of bread on thy table; there will be such an abundance for the children that there will be crumbs to throw on the floor for the dogs, and the children will fare none the worse because the dogs are fed."

She thought him one who kept so good a table that all that she needed would only be a crumb in comparison; yet remember, what she wanted was to have the devil cast out of her daughter. It was a very great thing to her, but she had such a high esteem of Christ, that she said, "It is nothing to him, it is but a crumb for Christ to give."

This is the royal road to comfort. Great thoughts of your sin alone will drive you to despair; but great thoughts of Christ will pilot you into the haven of peace. "My sins are many, but oh! it is nothing to Jesus to take them all away. The weight of my guilt presses me down as a giant's foot would crush a worm, but it is no more than a grain of dust to him, because he has already borne its curse in his own body on the tree. It will be but a small thing for him to give me full remission, although it will be an infinite blessing for me to receive it." The woman opens her soul's mouth very wide, expecting great things of Jesus, and he fills it with his love.

Dear reader, do the same. She confessed what Christ laid at her door, but she laid fast hold upon him, and drew arguments even out of his hard words; she believed great things of him, and she thus overcame him. She won the victory by believing in Him. Her case is an instance of prevailing faith; and if we would conquer like her, we must imitate her tactics.

Shrinking In the Mists of Modern Time

The Disappearance of Husbands and Fathers

Exhibit 1:  

Hardly a day goes by in New Zealand (and we suspect in many Western countries) without a lamentation being raised by someone in authority about drunkenness, drug dependence, poverty, homelessness, violence, and despair in the "homes" of the underclass.  Few things seem work.  The problems and destructive patterns of behaviour are now multi-generational and deeply ingrained.  There are many who have never known any other life, apart from living from dole payment to dole payment, and splurging each dole day upon alcohol and drugs to get through the week.  

The only response or solution is to look to the State to act more and more as the de facto husband and father to these households.

Exhibit II: 

Monday, 27 March 2017

Broken Records

Last Year's Apocalypse

It's amazing how the worm has turned on the Great Global Warming crusade.  It has happened so quickly.  Suddenly its not fashionable nor feasible any longer to blow the trumpets to marshal the troops to fight global warming.  Grand colloquies of nations now deign not to make mention of it when a year ago they would have been blowing the trumpets and sounding the klaxons.

Why?  Exhaustion must be a factor.  Another might be that its yesterday's cause, and the world is facing other apocalypses du jour, like evil Mr Putin spoiling Hillary Clinton's chances in the recent US election.  The globalists in general are feeling cold winds blowing up their drawers, what with the US declaring it's going to reduce its funding of globalist causes, and become much more critical of the UN, and cut unnecessary spending.  Turning off the money spigot will have the effect of discarding "nice to haves".  Fighting global warming was always a cosmetic campaign.  The longer it has continued, the more the make up has dried and peeled off.

The longer it has continued, the global warming cause has become more and more ridiculous.  Here is an example:

Bread Causes Global Warming Shock

Daily Meditation

Satan’s Candy Store

Since Christ suffered in the flesh, arm yourselves with the same way of thinking, for whoever has suffered in the flesh has ceased from sin. (1 Peter 4:1)

John Piper

First it puzzles. Did Christ have to cease from sin? No! “He committed no sin” (1 Peter 2:22).   Then it clicks. When we arm ourselves with the thought that Christ suffered for us, we realize that we died with him. “He bore our sins in his body on the tree, that we might die to sin and live to righteousness” (1 Peter 2:24). When we die with him we cease to sin.

It’s just like Romans 6. “We know that our old self was crucified with him so that the sinful body might be destroyed, and we might no longer be enslaved to sin. For he who has died is freed from sin. . . . So consider yourselves dead to sin and alive to God in Jesus Christ” (Romans 6:6–711).  Peter says, “Arm yourselves with this thought!
Paul says, “Consider yourselves dead!”   The weapon for our vacation is a thought/consideration.

When the temptations of Satan come — to lust, to steal, to lie, to covet, to envy, to retaliate, to put down, to fear — arm yourself with this thought: When my Lord suffered and died to free me from sin, I died to sin!  When Satan says  to you, Why deny yourself the pleasure of lust? Why deal with the mess you could avoid by lying? Why not go ahead and get that harmless luxury you covet? Why not seek justice by returning the same hurt you received?

Answer him: The Son of God suffered (really suffered!) to deliver me from sinning. I cannot believe he suffered to make me miserable. Therefore, what he died to purchase must be more wonderful than the pleasures of sin. Since I trust him, my susceptibility to your allurements has shrivelled up and died.  Satan, be gone! My mouth doesn’t drool any more when I walk by your candy store.

Global Mischief

Truth The First Casualty

Last week we were observing a court case, sitting in the public galleries.  During one of the lengthy breaks, we had the opportunity to speak with one of the reporters covering the trial.  He was a pleasant, earnest sort of chap.  We conversed on a number of topics related to the media.

Towards the end of the conversation he informed me, sotto voce,  that he and his colleagues had been made privy to a Big Scandal.  Apparently, the buzz was that some intrepid reporter in the United States had got a hold of President Trump's tax returns, and the big reveal was about to hit the airwaves.  It was expected to be devastating to Trump.  Indeed, my informant gleefully chuckled, apparently so devastating that it would likely end his presidency.

Upon parting we found ourselves picturing a huge buzzing hive where by some mysterious process information was instantaneously communicated to "those in the know", aka the media, right around the world.  The inside goss, as it were, transmitted secretly and globally with the speed of light.

Driving home from the court that night we were foolish enough to be listening to one of the local radio stations.  The host and his guest were giggling with malicious laughter.

Saturday, 25 March 2017

Life in Libertinesville

Trans Conference Celebrates Getting People Fired

You Must Not Kall Men Vomen


“I was scared to go alone to my ultrasound; so I took a friend. Throughout the procedure, the nurse kept referring to me as a ‘she’. Each time, my friend would correct her. After a while, the nurse seemed confused. ‘She’s having a baby,’ she insisted.” ‘No,’ my friend responded, ‘he’s having a baby.’ It was very upsetting. A week later, the nurse called and left a voicemail with the results of my exam. ‘His cervix and bloodwork look healthy,’ she said. I was so happy. The nurse had finally gotten it.”
This is one of the stories I heard at a recent conference on how to create a transgender-inclusive workplace culture. I went because I wanted to learn the perspective from transgender individuals personally. I also realized that if this is the workplace of the future, I would rather be prepared ahead of time than surprised later.

Daily Meditation

. . . Away To Other Subjects

 To MARY WILLIS SHELBURNE: On disagreeable, nasty people; and on avoiding obsessing about their bullying.

10 March 1954
C.S. Lewis

 I am sorry things are not better. I am very puzzled by people like your Committee Secretary, people who are just nasty. I find it easier to understand the great crimes, for the raw material of them exists in us all; the mere disagreeableness which seems to spring from no recognisable passion is mysterious. (Like the total stranger in a train of whom I once asked ‘Do you know when we get to Liverpool’ and who replied ‘I’m not paid to answer your questions: ask the guard’).

I have found it more among boys than anyone else. That makes me think it really comes from inner insecurity—a dim sense that one is Nobody, a strong determination to be Somebody, and a belief that this can be achieved by arrogance. Probably you, who can’t hit back, come in for a good deal of resentful arrogance aroused by others on whom she doesn’t vent it, because they can. (A bully in an Elizabethan play, having been sat on by a man he dare not fight, says ‘I’ll go home and beat all my servants’).

But I mustn’t encourage you to go on thinking about her: that, after all, is almost the greatest evil nasty people can do us—to become an obsession, to haunt our minds. A brief prayer for them, and then away to other subjects, is the thing, if one can only stick to it. I hope the other job will materialise. . . .

 I too had mumps after I was grown up. I didn’t mind it as long as I had the temperature: but when one came to convalescence and a convalescent appetite and even thinking of food started the salivation and the pain—ugh! I never realised ‘the disobedience in our members’ so clearly before Verily ‘He that but looketh on a plate of ham and eggs to lust after it, hath already committed breakfast with it in his heart’ (or in his glands).  I shall wait anxiously for all your news, always praying not only for a happy issue but that you may be supported in all interim anxieties.

From The Collected Letters of C.S. Lewis, Volume III
Compiled in Yours, Jack

The Collected Letters of C. S. Lewis, Volume III: Narnia, Cambridge, and Joy 1950-1963. Copyright © 2007 by C. S. Lewis Pte. Ltd. All rights reserved. Used with permission of HarperCollins Publishers. Yours, Jack: Spiritual Direction from C. S. Lewis. Copyright © 2008 by C. S. Lewis Pte. Ltd. All rights reserved. Used with permission of HarperCollins Publishers.

Asset Forefeiture

Malleable Justice in An Atheistic World

In the United States civil forfeiture is a great evil.  Police can seize assets from citizens on suspicion of criminal wrong doing.  The assets seized usually go towards funding the police.  Not that one would ever know that's what it was used for.  Need a few more sophisticated equipment in the squad cars?  Just get out into the community and rattle a few branches.  Pick on any likely dumbos.  Seize their vehicles, houses, whatever.  Sell them off, and voila.  Leather seats in the squad cars all around.

In New Zealand, we have our own variant.  In some critical ways it is not quite as bad as the US monstrosity.  In NZ, the police can only seize assets when someone has been prosecuted and convicted of crime.  Theoretically, the only assets seized are to be those which have been garnered through crimes.

Nevertheless, the New Zealand variant of civil forfeiture has noisome aspects.  Recently one of our local rags took up the case of a guy who was convicted of being a fence, a receiver of stolen property--in particular, gold.

Friday, 24 March 2017

"I'm Gonna Cry, Cry, Cry . . . Big River"

No Soul to Damn, and No Butt to Kick

The Attorney-General Tips his Cloth Cap to Animism

Jamie Whyte
NZ Herald

It's pretty, but is it really a person? The Whanganui River. Photo / Mark Mitchell

Whanganui River has all the rights of a person under a Treaty of Waitangi settlement passed into law today.

A neighbour came over for tea last week. She became agitated and I asked what was wrong. She was furious with our lawn. It was uneven and she had almost fallen. I apologised for my poor gardening but she insisted it had nothing to do with me. Her dispute was with the ground, which she regarded as unforgivably derelict.

My neighbour is as mad as Dr Evil's father, who would "accuse chestnuts of being lazy". Thank God she doesn't have an important job, like being an MP.  Or maybe she does. Last week, our MPs unanimously passed a law declaring that the Whanganui River has all "the rights, duties and liabilities of a legal person".

Chris Finlayson, the Attorney-General, acknowledges that "some people will say it's pretty strange to give a natural resource a legal personality, but it's no stranger than family trusts, or companies, or incorporated societies".

Legal persons are of two kinds: we humans, known in law as "natural persons", and persons that are legal fictions, such as companies and countries. These fictional people solve legal problems that can arise when natural people act in groups.

Daily Meditation

 The Fullness of His Offering

His sweat was as it were great drops of blood falling down to the ground."    Luke 22:24

Charles H. Spurgeon

The mental pressure arising from our Lord's struggle with temptation, so forced his frame to an unnatural excitement, that his pores sent forth great drops of blood which fell down to the ground. This proves how tremendous must have been the weight of sin when it was able to crush the Saviour so that he distilled great drops of blood! This demonstrates the mighty power of his love. It is a very pretty observation of old Isaac Ambrose that the gum which exudes from the tree without cutting is always the best. 

This precious camphire-tree yielded most sweet spices when it was wounded under the knotty whips, and when it was pierced by the nails on the cross; but see, it giveth forth its best spice when there is no whip, no nail, no wound. This sets forth the voluntariness of Christ's sufferings, since without a lance the blood flowed freely. No need to put on the leech, or apply the knife; it flows spontaneously. No need for the rulers to cry, "Spring up, O well;" of itself it flows in crimson torrents. If men suffer great pain of mind apparently the blood rushes to the heart. The cheeks are pale; a fainting fit comes on; the blood has gone inward as if to nourish the inner man while passing through its trial. But see our Saviour in his agony; he is so utterly oblivious of self, that instead of his agony driving his blood to the heart to nourish himself, it drives it outward to bedew the earth. The agony of Christ, inasmuch as it pours him out upon the ground, pictures the fulness of the offering which he made for men.

Do we not perceive how intense must have been the wrestling through which he passed, and will we not hear its voice to us? "Ye have not yet resisted unto blood, striving against sin." Behold the great Apostle and High Priest of our profession, and sweat even to blood rather than yield to the great tempter of your souls.

It's Hard to Find a Job in New Zealand

Chattering Classes on the Wacky Backy

There is a shortage of employees in some industries in New Zealand.  The Prime Minister, Bill English stated the other day that he has been told repeatedly that one reason employers are short staffed is due to applicants failing drug tests.  The Chattering Classes, the media and left-wing political opponents, all still living in the musty back rooms of Sydney and Beatrice Webb, went all apoplectic.

Where's your evidence?  What surveys was this based upon?  Ignorant prejudice, you stupid man, etc.  The PM was quietly firm: "that's what employers have been telling me".  Once consequence is that employers are ending up giving jobs to immigrants, who, for some inexplicable reason, don't spend their lives smoking weed and P.  They actually want to work.

One media outlet broke away from the pack.  Stuff reported:
A Hamilton-based farm recruitment agency is backing Prime Minister Bill English's claims that Kiwi workers' inability to pass drug tests are why overseas workers are needed.

Thursday, 23 March 2017

Darkness of the Soul

Dutch Champion Legal Murder

Thomas Williams
Breitbart London

A Dutch physician who had family members restrain a struggling woman so she could administer a lethal injection has been cleared of wrongdoing by a review board.

Without consulting the patient, the doctor put a sleep-inducing drug into the woman’s coffee in order to give her the injection, but then the woman woke up and reportedly “fought desperately” to free herself. At this point, family members were summoned to hold the woman down so that the procedure could be completed.

The woman, who was in her 80s and suffered from dementia, had signed an advance directive to be killed “at the right time” though she had not ratified the request recently. According to case documents, she occasionally exhibited “fear and anger” and several times had been found wandering around the nursing home where she was living.

Medical records revealed that the patient had said “I don’t want to die” several times in the days leading up to her death, yet the doctor chose not to speak with her about her earlier request to receive euthanasia.

Daily Devotional

When All Things Are Possible

"Strong in faith."  Romans 4:20

Charles H. Spurgeon

Christian, take good care of thy faith; for recollect faith is the only way whereby thou canst obtain blessings. If we want blessings from God, nothing can fetch them down but faith. Prayer cannot draw down answers from God's throne except it be the earnest prayer of the man who believes.

Faith is the angelic messenger between the soul and the Lord Jesus in glory. Let that angel be withdrawn, we can neither send up prayer, nor receive the answers. Faith is the telegraphic wire which links earth and heaven--on which God's messages of love fly so fast, that before we call he answers, and while we are yet speaking he hears us.

But if that telegraphic wire of faith be snapped, how can we receive the promise? Am I in trouble?--I can obtain help for trouble by faith. Am I beaten about by the enemy?--my soul on her dear Refuge leans by faith. But take faith away--in vain I call to God. There is no road betwixt my soul and heaven. In the deepest wintertime faith is a road on which the horses of prayer may travel--aye, and all the better for the biting frost; but blockade the road, and how can we communicate with the Great King?

Faith links me with divinity. Faith clothes me with the power of God. Faith engages on my side the omnipotence of Jehovah. Faith ensures every attribute of God in my defence. It helps me to defy the hosts of hell. It makes me march triumphant over the necks of my enemies. But without faith how can I receive anything of the Lord? Let not him that wavereth--who is like a wave of the Sea--expect that he will receive anything of God!

O, then, Christian, watch well thy faith; for with it thou canst win all things, however poor thou art, but without it thou canst obtain nothing. "If thou canst believe, all things are possible to him that believeth."

Armchair General

Hager the Horrible Strikes Again . . . 

And Embarrasses Himself

We have this chap in NZ who is a left-wing conspiracy-theorist who sees all kinds of plans and stratagems issuing forth from corrupt plutocrats to hold the world in their thrall.  Nicky Hager is an embarrassment to himself in many ways.  But, then again, there are those who regard him as St Nickolas, convinced that were he to attempt it, he would walk on water, No Worries. Each to his bias, we suppose.

The media love him because they adore headlines and notoriety generates them faster than anything else.  Sensation will trump hard news every time. Here is the first breathless account from a NZ Herald sensationalist, presenting Hager's account of a fight in Afghanistan conduced by the NZ SAS.

Wednesday, 22 March 2017

Truth Telling

Who Can You Trust on the Persecuted Church?

The Barnabas Fund

Suddenly the world has woken up to the fact that not everything out there on the internet is true. The latest buzz word is “fake news”. Yet the sad truth is that even in the Christian world we frequently see news reports about persecuted Christians that either refer to events long ago as if they have just happened, or are greatly exaggerated, or in some cases simply untrue. There are still urgent prayer request emails circulating about the imminent capture of the Christian town of Qaraqosh in Syria by Islamic State (IS). In fact, Qaraqosh fell to IS in August 2014.  

There are also stories which appear deliberately designed to deceive Christians, such as an email prayer request currently circulating which claims that 20 churches have just been burnt down by Buddhist extremists in the Indian province of Olisabang – there is no such place – and that the extremists intend in the next 24 hours to destroy another 200 churches and to kill 200 missionaries. This story first surfaced early in 2010 and reappeared again (sometimes with a denial) in May 2012, April 2015, and April 2016.  

The impact of these stories reflects the new ability of millions of people to publish their own stories and comments on internet blogs. As a result, anything circulates, from a mischievous “joke” to subtle disinformation planted with the intention of deceiving millions and perhaps affecting national and international actions at the highest level. The impact is also due to a significant change in how Western society views “truth”. Until recently the strong influence of Judaeo-Christian values meant that telling the truth was just that – telling the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth. Now, in a post-modern world, truth has changed.

Daily Meditation

Why We Must Hold Fast Our Hope

John Piper

When God desired to show more convincingly to the heirs of the promise the unchangeable character of his purpose, he guaranteed it with an oath, so that by two unchangeable things, in which it is impossible for God to lie, we who have fled for refuge might have strong encouragement to hold fast to the hope set before us. (Hebrews 6:17–18)
God is not inconsistent. He does not exert himself with promises, and oaths, and the blood of his Son simply to anchor down one end of our security while leaving the other to dangle in the air.  The salvation Jesus obtained by his blood was everything it takes to save his people, not just part of it.

So we are prone to ask, Why does the writer encourage us to hold fast to our hope (verse 18)? If our holding fast was obtained and irrevocably secured by the blood of Jesus, then why does God tell us to hold fast?

The answer is this:

  • What Christ bought for us when he died was not the freedom from having to hold fast but the enabling power to hold fast.
  • What he bought was not the nullification of our wills as though we didn't have to hold fast, but the empowering of our wills because we want to hold fast.
  • What he bought was not the canceling of the commandment to hold fast but the fulfillment of the commandment to hold fast.
  • What he bought was not the end of exhortation, but the triumph of exhortation.
  • He died so that you would do exactly what Paul did in Philippians 3:12, “I press on in order that I may lay hold of that for which also I was laid hold of by Christ Jesus.” It is not foolishness, it is the gospel, to tell a sinner to do what Christ alone can enable him to do, namely, hope in God.

So I exhort you with all my heart: reach out and take hold of that for which you have been taken hold of by Christ, and hold it fast with all his might.

Politically Correct Treasury Mandarins

A Slur Too Far

Guest Column
Chattering Class Member

Columnist, Rodney Hide has had the gall to criticise one of the great ones amongst us.  The current head of the Treasury (sometimes called a gnome)  Gabriel Makhlouf  has deigned to spend a bit of his precious time and thought to consider the vital welfare of business and commerce in New Zealand.  

Here is an  image of the august personage.  [Please refrain, if possible, from involuntary genuflecting.]

Makhlouf has no such concerns. The government takes his pay and expenses each week out of ours and from all that we spend. Photo / Supplied

Now Mr Hide should know better.  It is a violation of the fundamental order of nature for someone of Mr Hide's stature to criticise a Great One.  But what can you do when our society, for some reason known only to itself, would allow criticism by one so stunted as Mr Hide against a personage so august and gnomish as Mr Makhlouf.
I was not at all astonished to hear Treasury head honcho Gabriel Makhlouf trumpeting diversity.  Diversity has become the new thing among the Wellington and Auckland power elite. It's nice sounding, impossible to be against and demonstrates great virtue. You can be old, white, male, bureaucratic but blowing the diversity trumpet makes you the solution, not the problem.
Diversity!  What could the great one be on about?  And why would plebian Mr Hide dare to raise his critical reedy voice?

Tuesday, 21 March 2017

The Star Chamber Back in Business

BBC mocks Christian MP for keeping Lent

It would be hard to imagine the BBC mocking a Muslim MP for keeping Ramadan. Yet last week the actions of a Christian MP were questioned and even mocked on television because she came straight to parliament from a Church service marking the start of the Christian fasting period of Lent.

Carol Monaghan the SNP MP for Glasgow North West came straight from an Ash Wednesday service, where traditionally a small ash cross is marked on the forehead, to a parliamentary committee. When a colleague asked what was on her forehead her explanation was met with the protest “but this is going to be broadcast”. As The Spectator put it:  
“To her credit, she kept her ashes intact, explaining: ‘I think they just thought I didn’t want to be embarrassed – but I was not going to rub it off. Many religions have visible symbols and Christians should not feel any embarrassment in either practising their religion or in the public display of religious symbols.’

Had the matter ended there, we might lament the discourtesy shown to the Glasgow MP and move on. Instead, the BBC ran a story about Monaghan’s forehead on its website under the breathless headline: ‘MP Carol Monaghan “not embarrassed” about display of Christian faith’. The BBC Politics Facebook page posted a picture of Monaghan wearing her ashes and asked its followers: ‘Was it appropriate for this MP to go to work with a cross on her forehead?’”

In fact, the BBC article even questioned whether it was legal for Mrs Monaghan to publicly display a cross on her forehead in her workplace i.e. parliament.

Daily Meditation

On Humility

C. S. Lewis

Do not imagine that if you meet a really humble man he will be what most people call “humble” nowadays: he will not be a sort of greasy, smarmy person, who is always telling you that, of course, he is nobody. Probably all you will think about him is that he seemed a cheerful, intelligent chap who took a real interest in what you said to him. If you do dislike him it will be because you feel a little envious of anyone who seems to enjoy life so easily. He will not be thinking about humility: he will not be thinking about himself at all.

If anyone would like to acquire humility, I can, I think, tell him the first step. The first step is to realise that one is proud. And a biggish step, too. At least, nothing whatever can be done before it. If you think you are not conceited, it means you are very conceited indeed.

From Mere Christianity
Compiled in Words to Live By Mere Christianity. Copyright © 1952, C. S. Lewis Pte. Ltd. Copyright renewed © 1980, C. S. Lewis Pte. Ltd. All rights reserved. Used with permission of HarperCollins Publishers. Words to Live By: A Guide for the Merely Christian. Copyright © 2007 by C. S. Lewis Pte. Ltd. All rights reserved. Used with permission of HarperCollins Publishers.

The Rictus Maw of Robespierre's Children

Enslaving Hearts and Minds 

France has a long history of bloody repression when it comes to any and all who resist its dogmas.  Liberty, equality and fraternity belong only to those who salute the government and say, "Yes, sir!"  It is regarded as one of the most illiberal countries in Europe, with only the church standing in its way. 

This official intolerance or jihad against its opponents can be seen in recent moves taken with respect to aborting babies.  Those who do not comply with the state's pogrom against the innocent and insistence that mothers have a human right to kill their unborn, face a proverbial guillotine.

The Crime of Obstructing Abortion
Gregor Puppinck
European Centre For Law and Justice

The Senate has just adopted a bill of law which extends once more the definition of the crime of obstruction to abortion. Despite the fact that it has been amended, is still deeply liberticidal. Indeed, it extends the crime of obstruction to “any means” of communication and to “moral and psychological pressures (…) against people seeking information on a voluntarily termination of pregnancy”.  [Emphasis, ours]

This wording prohibits [any person] making available any information on abortion, even true, as soon as they are likely to exercise a moral and psychological pressure on any person who seeks information on abortion.

Monday, 20 March 2017

An Ecumenism of the Trenches

A Great Development

Rod Dreher describes a bottom-up ecumenicity amongst Christians which has been emerging in the United States.

A generation ago two conservative Christian leaders—Evangelical Chuck Colson and Roman Catholic Richard John Neuhaus—launched an initiative called Evangelicals and Catholics Together. The idea was to foster better relations between Christians in two church traditions that had been mutually suspicious. Colson and Neuhaus realized earlier than many that the post-1960s cultural changes meant that conservative Evangelicals and orthodox Catholics now had more in common with each other than with liberals in their own church traditions. They called their kind of partnership, born in part out of pro-life activism, an “ecumenism of the trenches.”

Times have changed, and so have some of the issues conservative Evangelicals and Catholics face. But the need for an ecumenism of the trenches is stronger than ever.

Daily Meditation

The Triumph Is Sure

Therefore strong peoples will glorify you; cities of ruthless nations will fear you. (Isaiah 25:3)

John Piper

Isaiah sees the day coming when all the nations — representatives from all the people groups — will no longer be at odds with Yahweh, the God of Israel and his Messiah, whom we know to be Jesus.

They will no longer worship Bel or Nebo or Molech or Allah or Buddha or utopian social programs or capitalistic growth possibilities or ancestors or animistic spirits. Instead they will come in faith to the banquet on God’s mountain.  And they will have the veil of sorrow removed and death shall be swallowed up and the reproach of God's people will be removed and tears shall be gone forever.

That's the setting for understanding the vision of verse 3: “Therefore strong peoples will glorify you; cities of ruthless nations will fear you.” In other words God is stronger than the “strong people” and he is so powerful and so gracious that in the end he will turn ruthless nations to revere him.

So the picture Isaiah gives us is one of all nations turned to God in worship, a great banquet for all the peoples, the removal of all suffering and grief and reproach from the nations who have become his people, and the final putting away of death forever.

This triumph is sure because God is doing it. Therefore we can be certain of it.

Not one life spent in the cause of world evangelization is spent in vain. Not one prayer or one dollar or one sermon or one letter of encouragement mailed or one little light shining in some dark place — nothing in the cause of the advancing kingdom is in vain.

The triumph is sure.

Miracles in the Amazon

The Deepest Magic of All

It was encouraging to see the BBC giving space to one of the great missionary and martyr stories of the late twentieth century.

Killed for Christ in the Amazon
22 February 2017 Last updated at 01:45 GMT

In January 1956, five American Christian missionaries were brutally killed by members of a remote Amazonian tribe.

The missionaries had made contact with the Auca, or Huaorani tribe a year earlier, in an attempt to convert them to Christianity.  A small nomadic tribe, the Huaorani were notoriously suspicious of outsiders.

Valerie Shepard’s father, Jim Elliot, was one of the five men on the mission into the jungle.  She spoke to Witness about her father’s death and how she learned to forgive his killers.
The video available in the link gives more detail.  This event and the subsequent development of the Waodani people along with their response to the Gospel of God is one of the great missionary stories of the Church.

We read recently a follow up book by Steve Saint, a son of one of the martyrs, entitled The End of the Spear.  It is an enthralling and God-honouring account.  The video below gives startling insight into what has happened to the Waodani over the years.  There is a sense in which these things are not of this world, yet in another sense they are the foundations of the earth which shall not be moved.

Saturday, 18 March 2017

Douglas Wilson's Letter From Moscow (About Writing and Writers)

A Duck-billed Platitude

Douglas Wilson

I have often said that I write for the same reason that dogs bark. Ah, someone might reply, but why do you write the way you do? There are two ways to describe this “way” of writing, the first using words like zest, verve, color, and manly courage, and the second being a detailed description of a couple of dogs yapping endlessly at midnight. If I wanted, I could turn this into a Mobius paragraph if I simply moved on to describe those dogs with zest, verve, color, and manly courage. But I forbear.

Like all writers, the voice I now have grew and developed over the years, meaning that it wasn’t here when I started. But that is not the same thing as saying that it wasn’t present in any respect. Long before I knew how to do it, I was profoundly attracted to those writers who did know how to do it. I know that this began at least by my time in high school, and there were probably stirrings of it earlier.

I grew up surrounded by Christian literature. My father ran Christian bookstores. My parents subscribed to Christian magazines. Missionary newsletters were constantly around. And the problem was that one of the presenting characteristics of evangelical writing was that it brought to mind visions of vast acres of vanilla tapioca.

Lewis was the first great writer I was acquainted with, and that started early on.

Daily Meditation

Pride As Competitor

C. S. Lewis

If you want to find out how proud you are the easiest way is to ask yourself, ‘How much do I dislike it when other people snub me, or refuse to take any notice of me, or shove their oar in, or patronise me, or show off?’ The point is that each person’s pride is in competition with every one else’s pride. It is because I wanted to be the big noise at the party that I am so annoyed at someone else being the big noise. Two of a trade never agree.

Now what you want to get clear is that Pride is essentially competitive—is competitive by its very nature— while the other vices are competitive only, so to speak, by accident. Pride gets no pleasure out of having something, only out of having more of it than the next man. We say that people are proud of being rich, or clever, or good-looking, but they are not. They are proud of being richer, or cleverer, or better-looking than others. If everyone else became equally rich, or clever, or good-looking there would be nothing to be proud about. It is the comparison that makes you proud: the pleasure of being above the rest.

Once the element of competition has gone, pride has gone. That is why I say that Pride is essentially competitive in a way the other vices are not. . . . . Greed may drive men into competition if there is not enough to go round; but the proud man, even when he has got more than he can possibly want, will try to get still more just to assert his power. Nearly all those evils in the world which people put down to greed or selfishness are really far more the result of Pride.

From Mere Christianity
Compiled in A Year with C.S. Lewis Mere Christianity. Copyright © 1952, C. S. Lewis Pte. Ltd. Copyright renewed © 1980, C. S. Lewis Pte. Ltd. All rights reserved. Used with permission of HarperCollins Publishers. A Year With C.S. Lewis: Daily Readings from His Classic Works. Copyright © 2003 by C. S. Lewis Pte. Ltd. All rights reserved. Used with permission of HarperCollins Publishers.

Vindiciae Contra Tyrannos

An Essential Heritage And Sacred Trust

Over recent months we have been gradually working through The English and Their History, by Robert Tombs.  [New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 2015.]  It is proving to be an excellent read.

While modern representative government, underpinned by the constitution of Great Britain, has taken centuries to develop, Tombs argues that from very early on the nation of England was synonymous with representative bodies meeting and advising the king.  It turns out that government via representatives of the people is not a novelty at all.

In the two hundred years following Alfred the Great (roughly 900 to 1100AD) a precursor to modern representative government was practised.  According to Tombs,
There was a regular system of participation in government.

Friday, 17 March 2017

The Times, They Are A-Changin'

The Ground is Shifting

Tony Alexander, the Bank of New Zealand's Chief Economist, has written an open letter to "Millennials" who have been complaining that buying a house in New Zealand is now virtually impossible for younger people entering the work force.

It is a tongue-in-cheek piece, but as is often the case, there is an undercurrent of sober truth in it.

BNZ chief economist Tony Alexander says young people priced out of the market are wrong to point the finger at retirees.  He said there had been a number of structural changes that had altered what New Zealand house prices were worth.

New Zealand was no longer one big farm, he said, and shift of focus to cities had put pressure on their house prices. Another change was the relative return on and cost of property. Interest rates are now much lower than they were up to the 2000s, which affects what people will pay.

"The cost of borrowing to purchase a property has plummeted and because of this structural jump in demand for property, prices have lifted.