31 October 2006

The other October 31

It’s hard to tell, but today is the ‘eve’ of a Christian feast, The Feast of All Saints, which is tomorrow. Today is also an important day for us “Reformed Catholics.” It’s Reformation Day!!!

And he wanted to be Commander in Chief?

As we all know by now, Senator Kerry thinks that those who are 'stuck in Iraq' are so because they are uneducated. Once again a member of the Left demonstrates that they have no idea who is in our military. Once again we are treated to a variation on a well-known theme: People join the military because they are uneducated, unskilled dolts with no other prospects.

One would think it easy enough to find out who is in our military. I personally know someone who thought she knew. She tried to tell me that military life is all about not thinking for yourself. I spent a pretty good half-hour talking to her about my own military experience. She had never heard that--in the Army at least--we train as if successful completion of a mission might come down to the ranking private--because it just might.

Her reason for thinking she knew anything? She briefly dated a guy who'd been in the Army and he told her that it was all about being a mindless robot.

More than likely, he was one of those arrogant jackasses who thinks his superiors ought to consult his opinion on all matters and that the Op Order ought to be put to a vote or something. He may also have been miffed because no one said "Please" and "Thank you" when they told him to "Drop" -- which, I suspect, probably happened to that jackass quite a lot.

It is well known that I find most of the positions held by the Left to be the result either of emoting (rather than thinking) or (when thinking is even attempted) the use of faulty reasoning. In the case of this particular woman, the logical fallacy employed in her reasoning was hasty generalization. Imagine thinking that you know who is in your nation's armed forces just because you have been acqauinted with one member of it.

But in this case, I think that John Kerry is worse. As a Senator, he has access to information about who is in our armed forces. He knows.

And that makes him a lying sack of --.

Well, you get my point.
30 October 2006

Oh, the trials and tribulations of template tampering

commenting and trackback have been added to this blog.

Again. Because that's what happens when you change your blog template. At least, that's what happens when I change my blog template.
27 October 2006

So, uh, what is the ‘good news’?

Jim Wallis has recently written a piece titled, “If It's Not Good News, It's Not Evangelical.” In the piece, he describes a bit of his visit to Bethel University in the Twin Cities, which he calls a “fertile ground for recruiting by the Religious Right.” Fair enough: it probably is that. I don’t know, and I don’t care. But I do care if someone wishes to examine the economic implications of the gospel, while criticizing those of his brothers and sisters who desire to examine the political implications of it, especially if he does so under the guise of taking the faith ‘too seriously’ to politicize it.

Challenging students to make clearer what it means to follow Jesus, Wallis told students that in order to be true evangelicals they must focus on the root meaning of the word ‘evangel’. And he’s right so far as he goes, the meaning of what it means to be evangelical is rooted in the word ‘evangel.’ (I have just written a little about this myself, but in a different direction, over at
Westminster Brass.) But he’s frankly wrong in the application he makes here. “The word [i.e., ‘evangel’],” Wallis informed his listeners, “ was first used by Jesus in his opening statement in Nazareth, recorded in Luke 4, where he defined his own mission by saying, ‘The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to bring good news (“the evangel”) to the poor ....’ ” Wallis then told his audience that “any gospel that wasn't good news to the poor simply wasn't the gospel of Jesus Christ.” Apparently, the gospel of Jesus Christ is about economics, not soteriology. The good news is not that we are saved by grace from the just deserts for our sins through the finished work of Jesus Christ, but that we are to be saved from our poverty because the rich shall be soaked (apparently for no other reason than that they can well afford to be) and our poverty done away with. O, happy day!

Actually, while it is true that the Greek word ‘evangel’ was first used in Luke 4, it is more relevant that Jesus is quoting from the prophet Isaiah at chapter 61: “The Spirit of the Lord GOD is upon me; because the LORD hath anointed me to preach good tidings unto the meek.” (Note: Luke renders ‘meek’, ‘poor.’ That’s okay; the King James Version renders it ‘afflicted.’ There is a shared meaning element. The Hebrew word ‘ânâv has a variety of meanings including ‘depressed’, whether in mind or circumstances (including financial circumstances), ‘lowly’, ‘humble’, pious, and, of course, ‘poor’. Luke’s text provides Wallis with just the nuance he needs, I suppose, for he apparently felt little need to do the least bit of Bible study on the matter.)

But that isn’t all that Isaiah has in chapter 61. The fuller context demands different teatment than Wallis provides:

1The Spirit of the Lord GOD is upon me; because the LORD hath anointed me to preach good tidings unto the meek; he hath sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to them that are bound; 2To proclaim the acceptable year of the LORD, and the day of vengeance of our God; to comfort all that mourn; 3To appoint unto them that mourn [i. e., the meek, the depressed], in Zion [i. e., God’s chosen people] to give unto them beauty for ashes, the oil of joy for mourning, the garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness; that they might be called trees of righteousness, the planting of the LORD, that he might be glorified. 4And they shall build the old wastes, they shall raise up the former desolations, and they shall repair the waste cities, the desolations of many generations. 5And strangers shall stand and feed your flocks, and the sons of the alien shall be your plowmen and your vinedressers. 6But ye [i.e., the people of God] shall be named the Priests of the LORD: men shall call you [i.e., the people of God] the Ministers of our God: ye shall eat the riches of the Gentiles, and in their glory shall ye boast yourselves. 7For your shame ye shall have double; and for confusion they shall rejoice in their portion: therefore in their land they shall possess the double: everlasting joy shall be unto them. 8For I the LORD love judgment, I hate robbery for burnt offering; and I will direct their work in truth, and I will make an everlasting covenant with them. 9And their seed shall be known among the Gentiles, and their offspring among the people: all that see them shall acknowledge them, that they are the seed which the LORD hath blessed. 10I will greatly rejoice in the LORD, my soul shall be joyful in my God; for he hath clothed me with the garments of salvation, he hath covered me with the robe of righteousness, as a bridegroom decketh himself with ornaments, and as a bride adorneth herself with her jewels. 11For as the earth bringeth forth her bud, and as the garden causeth the things that are sown in it to spring forth; so the Lord GOD will cause righteousness and praise to spring forth before all the nations.

Economic status isn’t the point of Isaiah 61; and it wasn’t Jesus’s point either. It is interesting that, in discussing what it means to be evangelical, Wallis wants to look to Luke 4 (and ignore Isaiah 61.1, which Jesus is quoting) and not a text like Mark 1.14-15:

Now after that John was put in prison, Jesus came into Galilee, preaching the gospel of the kingdom of God, And saying, The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand: repent ye, and believe the gospel.

So this good news that Jesus preached (to the ‘poor’, no less) was, “Repent.” What could the poor have to repent of?

And the religious left wants to talk about the religious right’s perversion of Biblical texts? This is not to say that we do not have a duty to the poor. But it is to say that the gospel is not about the economically impoverished; it is about the spiritually impoverished, not those who live below an arbitrarily set ‘poverty line.’ Even Bill Gates can be poor (i.e., ‘ânâv) as the term is used in Isaiah 61. Is there any ‘good news’ for him? I guess not. If the ‘good news’ for the poor is that the rich shall be soaked, there can’t be much ‘good news’ for the rich.

But that isn’t all that Wallis said on the issue. According to him, the students he addressed have an agenda that “is now much broader and deeper than just the two things the Religious Right continues to talk about as the only ‘moral values issues - abortion and gay marriage.” The students he spoke to aren’t going to accept anymore “the narrowing of scripture to only two hot-button social issues” because they “have found those 2,000 verses in the Bible that speak of God's concern for the poor and vulnerable.”

I found that interesting because I did not know that the religious right only talked about abortion and gay marriage. But as one of the commentators to Wallis’s blog informs us, we can know that these are all that the religious right talk about because they are the only things that James Dobson of Focus on the Family (and others of his ilk) talk about. I get it: the loudest mouth on the right gets to be spokesman for it. This despite the fact that I, and many of my blogging friends, don’t really raise these two issues in our blogs. I for one can’t think of a single time I’ve blogged on either.

Given his reference to the 2000 verses in Scripture that mention God’s concern for the poor and vulnerable (and we’ve already seen how plays a little fast and loose with the Bible) one must conclude that Wallis believes in what I call ‘verse-democracy.’ If there are more verses on one topic than on anther, or if more verses seem to support one view on a given subject than on another, the item with the greater number of verses wins and we can ignore or downplay the importance or relevance of the rest.

How many verses, Reverend Wallis, talk about justification by faith? How many verses discuss the imputation of Adam’s sin to his posterity? Not very many, if any. But this doesn’t keep a Spirit-inspired Paul from building a theology on the fact that as Adam’s sin is imputed to us, so is Christ’s righteousness when we turn to Him in faith. In fact, the gospel (that ‘evangel’ which Wallis wants us to focus on) makes very little sense, if any, without this understanding of imputation. And yet, there are not 2000 verses in Scripture which deal with that subject. So the fact that there are those 2000 verses doesn’t mean the religious right doesn’t have a case.

Perhaps the right concentrates on these two issues when it comes to government because governments have historically done only about two things well: protect life and regulate marriage and family relations, since society is the result of marriage and child-rearing (even if you want to permit same-sex marriage: gays exist because males and females make babies). Duties to the poor, however, are properly religious duties, not state duties.

But I’m just guessing. I don’t spend too much time worrying about abortion. Don’t get me wrong. It’s not that I believe God doesn’t care about it. It’s just that abortion is really a consequence of the sexual revolution and our nation’s rampant individualism and materialism (two things which make children rather undesirable, except perhaps in moderation). As long as those things remain in place, there will be abortions—one way or the other. So, while not too many of my sympathies lie with my brothers on the left, I’m not as exercised about abortion as my brothers to the right.

But even for all that—even if I agreed with Wallis’s treatment of ‘evangel’ there is still a logical problem. It is one thing to say that the gospel is for the poor in some special sense. But it just doesn’t follow that my being truly evangelical requires that I support (or at least don’t oppose) government programs for the poor or legislation designed to end poverty. And it also doesn’t follow from my opposition to (or failure to support) such programs that I don’t care about the plight of the poor. Support for the welfare state just is not a logical implication of the gospel.

I styled this posting, you’ll note, “These people are brothers and sisters?” You may wonder why. Well, just read
these comments upon Wallis’s blog from members of both the religious left and the right. Not very encouraging to say the least.

And I can't imagine how anyone who didn't already know could read Reverend Wallis's piece, or the comments, and find out just exactly what that 'good news' is. In one hundred words or less: What is the 'good news'?
26 October 2006

When rape is inevitable, enjoy it.

I guess.

During the 1990 Texas gubernatorial race, Republican contender (against the late Ann Richards) Clayton Williams (for whom I grudgingly voted) cause a big stir by quipping to reporters about rain, “It's a lot like rape. As long as it's inevitable, you might as well lie back and enjoy it.”

As someone who knows two women who have been raped, I find it difficult to employ any adjective that will adequately describe Williams’ assertion. But even so, it was difficult not to recall that episode while reading
this article at Brussels Journal.com.

It’s an article on the fact that people are emigrating from Europe faster than immigrants are coming in. (And we know who is immigrating there.) And the reason people are emigrating from Europe is that they love freedom, but they don’t want to fight for it. Henryk M. Broder, the article’s subject describes a debate he had with a woman he describes as a “stupid blonde woman author.” In the course of the debate this woman author “said that it is sometimes better to let yourself be raped than to risk serious injuries while resisting. She [also] said it is sometimes better to avoid fighting than run the risk of death.”

Difficult as it may be to believe, it gets worse:

In a recent op-ed piece in the Brussels newspaper De Standaard (23 October) the Dutch (gay and self-declared “humanist”) author Oscar Van den Boogaard refers to Broder’s interview. Van den Boogaard says that to him coping with the islamization of Europe is like “a process of mourning.” He is overwhelmed by a “feeling of sadness.” “I am not a warrior,” he says, “but who is? I have never learned to fight for my freedom. I was only good at enjoying it.”

Good at enjoying freedom, but not so great at fighting for it. Explains a lot about why Europeans don’t like us:

Contemporary anti-Semitism in Europe…is related to anti-Americanism. People who are not prepared to resist and are eager to submit, hate others who do not want to submit and are prepared to fight. They hate them because they are afraid that the latter will endanger their lives as well. In their view everyone must submit.

These are the people whom Democrats would have us emulate. At least now I have the answer to the question I’ve been asking of my liberal friends and relatives (i.e, If you like the way Europeans live then why don’t you move there?). That answer has really been starting me in the face for a long time. Oh, well.

Oh, Europe. Your Catholic Christian forebears fought long and hard (for over 700 years in Spain!) for the freedoms you have enjoyed for over a thousand years. They wasted their time and their blood, didn’t they? How those early Muslim invaders would love to have taken the continent from people such as you! Sure, it took them eight years to take Spain, but at least they had to fight for it! If only your ancestors had been a bit more willing to be raped! Why, today we’d be ignoring Charles the Mop instead of remembering
Charles the Hammer!
24 October 2006

Casualties are irrelevant

The recent increase in violence in Iraq has been accompanied by more insistence that we need to leave Iraq. Just Sunday Senator Barak Obama told Tim Russert that we need a “phased withdrawal” from Iraq because, among other reasons, we can’t “arbitrate a civil war.” (Read the transcript here.)

Phased withdrawal? Can he really believe no one will understand that this is just a euphemism for ‘redeploy’? Actually, he can’t use ‘redeploy’ because we figured out that it was just a euphemism for ‘run away’. I mean, retreat.

Arbitrate a civil war? That’s not a problem. In arbitration the arbitrator is neutral with respect to the parties to the dispute. We are not neutral; we have chosen sides. Even if we were to credit this ‘civil war’ business, one of the sides has chosen to employ terrorism as their weapon of choice. We have allied with the other side, the side that wants to achieve a stable society the old fashioned way—to work for it.

Phased withdrawal. Arbitrate a civil war. Democrats aren’t even trying anymore.

But what really gets me is the left’s persistence in claiming that the number of casualties in Iraq has anything to do with any reason for running away, I mean redeploying—phased withdrawing, actually. They don’t care about the number of casualties. They were opposed to our going into Iraq before there was a single casualty; and they have been relentless in trying to find, or create from whole cloth, any justification for leaving; and just about anything will do. Every problem, every set-back, the slightest infraction on the part of the lowliest soldier, sailor, airman or Marine, every enemy attack has been reason, not for trying harder (as it would have been at, say, Iwo Jima or Normandy) but for admitting defeat, cutting and running, redeploying, phased withdrawing. Whatever.

Much of the problem has been due to the medias’ ineptitude in reporting things military. They just have no idea how to appraise a situation from a military perspective. This goes back a long way. Take for example, the Tet Offensive, famous in U. S. military history for being the first battle we lost by defeating the enemy. What can you say about a battle in which the enemy achieves none, noneNONE!!!—of his objectives, but the winning side ends up redeploying? Not much, I supppose, except, “Thank you, left-leaning media and John Effing Kerry.”

But you can get a sense of the medias’ empty headedness in assessing things militarily just from the reaction of one journalist to General Westmoreland’s press conference after the Tet failure (that is, again, for those not paying close attention, the enemy’s failure—not ours). During the Offensive the U. S. Embassy was attacked. But—and this is very important—the embassy was never taken, not even close.

The attack on the embassy was especially significant in the public's perception (a perception which was based on the media’s selective coverage) of the U.S. military's control over the situation. At 2:45 AM on 31 January 1968 19 Viet Cong commandos attacked the embassy. Although the VC attack on Saigon was over an hour old, the guards at the embassy hadn’t been informed, and hadn’t been reinforced. The Viet Cong blew a hole in the embassy compound's wall, killed several MPs and entered the grounds. The few remaining American guards withdrew into the embassy building and locked the doors. Eventually (and skipping over some important details) American reinforcements arrived, and in the morning, six hours after the attack began, MPs retook the embassy compound, killing all of the remaining Viet Cong.

After the attack—and given its importance as an attack on American soil (i.e., the Embassy)—the media converged on the scene as soon as they could scramble out of wherever they were hiding while the fighting was going on. With the bodies of dead Viet Cong still scattered about the rubble of the embassy, General Westmoreland held a press conference inside the compound. He assured the press that the enemy had never entered "the embassy itself," and spoke of the allies returning to the offensive. The above-mentioned reporter—a Washington Post reporter—later said, "The reporters could hardly believe their ears. Westmoreland was standing in the ruins and saying that everything was great.”

Now, I wasn’t there to hear Westmoreland’s press conference (I was only three years old, and was only beginning to speak English—if you could call it speaking. But I digress.), but I doubt he said, “Everything is great.” That’s the self-styled prophetic press for you—always ‘interpreting’ the oracular pronouncements of the gods for we, the stupid masses who, without their gracious ministrations on our behalf, would surely be lost.

But even if the General did say that everything was great surely he meant great from a military standpoint. Again, the enemy achieved none of their objectives and suffered tremendous casualties, like 80-90 percent (including dead, wounded, or captured) of the 85,000 plus of their attacking force, compared with 42 percent casualties (dead, wounded or missing) of our 50,000 plus defending force.

When your enemy outnumbers you and attacks you and in so doing (1) suffers much more in caualties than you do and (2) fails to achieve so much as one of his objectives (i.e., ‘purposes for the attack’, for those of you who don’t understand military terminolgy), then, from a military perspective—the perspective you would expect a general to give—things really and truly are great.

And that’s why the number of casualties is irrelevant. You have to know what casualties really signify militarily before you can assess their relevance to anything—even phased running away.
20 October 2006

Is an Islamic ‘Reformation’ really possible?

Some people have made a claim like, “What Islam needs is a ‘reformation’ like the one Christianity had.” Perhaps this is true. But if Islam undergoes a ‘reformation’, it won’t be like the Christian reformation. Some of those who speak of this needed ‘reformation’ that Islam needs, speak as if the Christian reformation was brought on by Christianity’s conflict with modernity, or Enlightenment though. That ‘reformation’ then was a reformation of Christian doctrine designed to bring Christianity into the modern world. This is what Islam needs.

Just one problem. That’s not what the Christian Reformation did. The Reformation began in 1571 (31 October) when the Augustinian monk, Martin Luther posted his 95 Theses to the door of the Castle Church in Wittenberg. The Enlightenment did not begin until the 18th century. That’s the historical problem with the claim that Christianity’s reformation brought it into modernity. The other, probably more important problem, is that the issue at bar in the Reformation was not Holy War, but soteriology. And it was not resolved—as the ‘problem’ with Islam must putatively be—by revising Scripture, or by redefining terms in the Bible.

The Christian reformation was a ‘back to the Bible’ movement. Against the Roman Catholic Church the reformers insisted that Scripture and tradition were not on equal terms. The reformers insisted that the Church and her traditions had to be judged by Scripture and not serve as the judges of Scripture. (In other words, the Reformers were ‘originalists’ and the RCC were liberals.) What the Church taught had to be compared by what the Bible taught, and where the Church was at variance with Scripture the Church had to yield to the Bible. None of the reformers would have put up with the sort of ‘reformation’ that some have in mind for Islam. They would not have tolerated a redefinition, or a reconception, of the teachings of the Bible. It was not the teaching of the Bible that needed to be altered in order to conform to changing mores, but the teaching of the Church in a few areas needed to change in order to conform to Scripture. Sola scriptura was what the reformers called for. And the Roman Catholic Church disagreed.

The soteriological issue I mentioned above was the doctrine of justification. Without going into the theological crux of the matter (not the precise purpose of this blog) the reformers insisted that the Church was teaching a doctrine of justification (among other things) that was at variance with Scripture. That is what made the Christian reformation necessary.

What makes an Islamic ‘reformation’ necessary is not that some Muslim scholars have gotten it wrong about ‘jihad.’ That, at least, is not what I’m hearing on the matter. What I’m hearing is that some just think it needs to be revisioned—extra-Quranically, for that matter. This will make the reform movement more like the old RCC than like the Protestant reformers. No one will be able to deny that in this case the reformers are moving away from, not closer to, their sacred texts. This, I believe, is why a reform movement in Islam will ultimately fail. The Protestant Reformers argued on the basis of the Christian scriptures; that was their authority. And the RCC could resist the Reformers only by (a) claiming disputed texts as part of the canon, and (b) by making the authority of councils equal to that of Scripture.

Muslim reformers, for all their good intentions, will find themselves having the very great theological problem of authority. And the very fact that they believe there is a need for this ‘reform’ is prima facie evidence that the jihadis are not the extremists, the ones who have hijacked Islam. Very clearly (res ipsa loquitur, even!) it is the ‘reformers’ who will have hijacked Islam.

Not that those of us who don’t want our heads sliced off will object. This may be the first time I find myself in favor of a hijacking, but let’s call it for what it is.

Note: when I write about the Roman Catholic Church it should be understood that I write as a reluctant Protestant, or, alternatively, as a 'Reformed Catholic.' For whatever that's worth.

19 October 2006

If this be hype, then what isn't?

According to Paul Begala the Administration is “hyping” a dirty bomb threat which the Administration is also calling not credible.

Let me see if I’ve got this.  You claim that there is a threat.  You later, upon further investigation of the threat, claim that the aforementioned threat is not credible.

According to Begala, doing the former despite also doing the latter constitutes hyping.

Curiouser and curiouser.
18 October 2006

Inspector Clouseau lectures U. S. on moral high ground

Earlier this morning I heard a few segments of an interview with Hans Blix. He criticizes our telling North Korea that they can’t conduct nuclear weapons testing while we maintain our freedom to do so. Given that ‘hypocrisy’ he doesn’t think the U. S. are standing on very solid moral high ground.

But that’s only because of his moral equivocating. A nation is a nation. Any nation is free to do whatever any other nation is free to do. If we’re free to maintain a nuclear arsenal, any other nation should also be.

Right. And the registered sex offender who just moved into Blix’s neighborhood should be permitted to baby-sit his grandchildren. The rest of us can.

Clearly there is a bit more to moral high ground than superficial similarities. One has to take into account important, even if not glaringly obvious, dissimilarities. And if Blix can't see that there is an important difference between the nations of the Western world and nations like Iran and North Korea then it’s no wonder that he couldn’t find WMD in Iraq. (Oh, that’s right. The media keep telling us that there never were any WMD in Iraq.)

I wonder if Blix’s apparent conviction that all nations should be free to develop WMD had anything to do with his inability to find any in Iraq. Maybe, due to his conviction, he just wasn’t trying very hard.
17 October 2006

Magna Charta: It’s not just for terrorists anymore

On Friday evening, at what you might call a symposium (in the literal sense of the word), I was reminded of the recent furor over the President’s request for a bill that would clarify the provisions of Geneva, when one of the other attendees and I got into a brief side-bar argument about the justification of the American Revolution. He was taking the position that the rebellion was wrong. He was more than a little skeptical when I informed him that the colonists asserted a right, recognized by the British Constitution going back to—you guessed it—Magna Charta. And of course, I’ve only read Magna Charta; I haven’t memorized it. So I couldn’t exactly quote him chapter and verse. But our brief exchange did remind me of the reference to Magna Charta in recent weeks, so I have gone back and looked up a few things.

Here, with reference to the American colonists’ rebellion, is Clause 61:

(61) SINCE WE HAVE GRANTED ALL THESE THINGS for God, for the better ordering of our kingdom, and to allay the discord that has arisen between us and our barons, and since we desire that they shall be enjoyed in their entirety, with lasting strength, for ever, we give and grant to the barons the following security:

The barons shall elect twenty-five of their number to keep, and cause to be observed with all their might, the peace and liberties granted and confirmed to them by this charter.

If we, our chief justice, our officials, or any of our servants offend in any respect against any man, or transgress any of the articles of the peace or of this security, and the offence is made known to four of the said twenty-five barons, they shall come to us - or in our absence from the kingdom to the chief justice - to declare it and claim immediate redress. If we, or in our absence abroad the chief justice, make no redress within forty days, reckoning from the day on which the offence was declared to us or to him, the four barons shall refer the matter to the rest of the twenty-five barons, who may distrain upon and assail us in every way possible, with the support of the whole community of the land, by seizing our castles, lands, possessions, or anything else saving only our own person and those of the queen and our children, until they have secured such redress as they have determined upon. Having secured the redress, they may then resume their normal obedience to us.

Any man who so desires may take an oath to obey the commands of the twenty-five barons for the achievement of these ends, and to join with them in assailing us to the utmost of his power. We give public and free permission to take this oath to any man who so desires, and at no time will we prohibit any man from taking it. Indeed, we will compel any of our subjects who are unwilling to take it to swear it at our command (emphasis mine).

To generalize a bit, the power and authority of the sovereign is not absolute. Abuses can be resisted with force of arms, provided, if you’ll note, that this ‘rebellion’ is led by competent authority. And in the case of Magna Charta, that competent authority were the twenty-five barons of the proto-parliament.

During the recent furor over the President’s request for a bill that would clarify for intelligence interrogators the meaning in Geneva of the proscriptions of torture, there were several references to the fact that many of the freedoms we enjoy (and ought to extend to our enemies) go back to
Magna Charta. Denial of these rights, even to our sworn enemies, was to depart from our sacred tradition in a way that was tantamount to the President's declaring himself Emperor, or something like that.

I doubt many people have even read
Magna Charta. (Yes, as a matter of fact, I have.)

I wonder whether those who were so quick to guarantee to our enemies protections going all the way back to
Magna Charta will want to discuss the guarantee, in the same body of documents, of the right of rebellion against abuses by one’s own government. Now, if you’re one who, like me, is okay with the American Revolution, you’ve no problem with that. Fine.

But what about the American Civil War? Say what you will about slavery, but in this day and age, when it’s fashionable to talk about one group not imposing its morality on another, it’s a bit sticky. Besides, nothing logically prevents one saying that the South was wrong about slavery but correct about states’ rights. The former is a moral-ethical issue; the latter is a constitutional-legal issue. Being wrong about the former doesn’t make you wrong about the latter. And whatever arguments we wish to throw around (i.e., about whether states who freely join a union may freely leave), I’ll just bet we won’t hear any talk about how the right of rebellion—just like those precious rights we wish to extend to our enemies—is a glorious and sacred tradition that goes all the way back to
Magna Charta. That’s the problem when politicians go all pedantic on us. They raise the specter of our supposedly departing from a 781 year old tradition in Anglo-Saxon law, but ‘forget’ another, less favorable tradition in that body of proto-constitutional law.

For that matter (for those who believe the United Nations is the seat of a unitary world government) what about ‘unilateral’ action? If the United Nations (our putative sovereign, on the view of some) won’t act pursuant to its own resolutions, leaving its member states effectively unprotected, then—honoring a tradition going all the way back to the glory days of
Magna Charta—surely a state has the freedom (the obligation to its citizens) to ‘rebel’ against the UN’s ‘prohibition’ of ‘unilateral’ action and take that action itself.

Embedded in
Magna Charta is the idea that the power of the sovereign is not absolute, and is to be limited. The sovereign agrees to these limitations upon his power and further agrees to be bound to those limitations, and held accountable, even to the use of force of arms on the part of his subjects in holding him accountable to abide by the laws. That sentiment—a desire for self-preservation—not rose-colored, wistful idealism is what is behind our freedoms. Magna Charta is not the product of minds who daydreamed a “Wouldn’t it be nice if we could teach the world to sing in three part harmony? ” document. It is the product of a wish to survive the abuses of predatory monarchs. The right of rebellion goes along with all those other rights we enjoy, at least as far as Magna Charta is concerned. Funny how politicians don’t really like to go there.

By the way, Charta’s protections extended only to the nobility. And it certainly would not have been thought applicable to England’s enemies. I wonder what the twenty-five barons of the proto-parliament would have done to an English monarch who even suggested such an asinine thing.
12 October 2006

An Enviro-Inquisition?

The Roman Catholic Inquisition was a trial of those who rejected Roman orthodoxy. There was a 'correct' view of things; and rejection of that view was so harmful to the soul as to constitute murder, making heresy a crime punishable by death. It's nice to think that nothing like that could happen in our day. But is that true? I happen to think not. I happen to think that there are plenty of people--not all of them religionists--who have their own forms of orthodox beliefs, for which they are willing to do perhaps everything short of giving the death penalty.

Maybe some environmentalists are like that.

Some of the big news today is the desire of Grist blogger David Roberts that the day come when the global warming deniers tried Nuremberg-style as war criminals. Roberts has been criticized for asserting that people who disagree with liberals ought to be tried for it. (See, for example, author and reader comments here.) The outcry has been so great that his retraction made news today.

I have no desire to come to the defense of leftists—and you may color me a global warming sceptic—but Roberts’ was a bit more nuanced than he’s been reported. He was responding to
an excerpt from George Monbdiot’s book, Heat. Monbiot makes assertions which, if true, would mean that certain corporations know that their products are producing global warming and are doing their level best to suppress the evidence, including the bribing of scientists (for all practical purposes) to produce results favorable to them.

Even a sceptic such as myself can see the rationality of Roberts saying that if these organizations and corporations are doing what Monbiot claims they are doing then they ought to be tried. Frankly, the number and size of the corporations and organizations involved would make such a trial so large as to be on the same par with the Nuremberg trials. We may find the war crimes aspect of it distasteful, but let’s be fair. If—and it is a big ‘if’—global warming and all its putative consequences are and become reality, Roberts’ sentiment isn’t unreasonable. Suppressing the evidence would be something tantamount to obstruction of justice and a crime against humanity, all for the sake of higher profits.

Some seem to have taken particular offense at the allusion to the holocaust involved in seeking Nuremberg-style trials. As a proud, committed ‘Jew lover’—Zionist, even—I really don’t see the problem. The holocaust was a crime against God--or humanity if you can't handle the alternative. On Roberts’ view, the crime perpetrated by the corporations and organizations would be nothing less than a differently-achieved holocaust. Or are we going to believe that only Jews are allowed to be victims of a crime so heinous that it calls for something on a par with Nuremberg to execute justice?

I may disagree with Roberts on global warming, but he really wasn't calling for something like an inquistion.
11 October 2006

For some of the liberty loving left, some ideas need to be censored

This bit of leftist apologetics shows how to get around free speech guarantees. You label your opponents’ position fascist or thuggish, or something like that and then declare that such things are not worthy of debate:

Fascist scapegoating is not up for academic discussion.

And because that is true, when your opponent takes the stage or the podium you can take the stage and silence him. After all, you tell yourself, you are not stifling speech, you are preventing a crime.

To be fair, this writer doesn’t just label the Minutemen position “fascist scapegoating”. He actually tries to make some sort of case. I find from him that the Minutemen are not just citizens concerned to see our nation’s borders enforced. No, they are racists who think that South Americans are just evil people. That, not genuine concern for our nation is what motivates them.

Like Hitler in pre-Nazi Germany, Gilchrist and the Minutemen attempt to demonize foreign-born poor people, blaming "illegals" for society's problems. His group doesn't present reasoned debate. It spouts racism and hatred, aiming to divide people against one another.

After the now-obligatory reference to Hitler, note that the term illegals is in quotation marks. From this writer's perspective, there are apparently no illegal aliens. Note also, the absence of any qualifier for the phrase “society’s problems.” I guess there is no problem, on Gilchrist’s view, that is not the fault of illegal aliens. I don’t know Gilchrist, but I would be willing to bet money that he doesn’t believe that every problem our society faces is the fault of each and every illegal alien. More than likely, there is a set of specific problems which Gilchrist associates with illegal aliens. We are not told so much as one of Gilchrist's specific claims; neither are we permitted to see a refutation of any specific claim. But we don’t have to worry about that, because these specific claims, whatever they are, constitute demonizing. And demonizing is not up for academic discussion.

Regardless of how Gilchrist tries to sanitize his message for national audiences, more candid moments tell the real story. Gilchrist is a member of the California Coalition for Immigration Reform, which is now notorious for referring to Mexicans as "savages." Speaking about Mexicans and Central American immigrants, Minuteman co-founder Chris Simcox once said, "They have no problem slitting your throat and taking your money or selling drugs to your kids or raping your daughter and they are evil people."

Were these really unqualified statements? Did the California Coalition for Immigration Reform really refer to all Mexicans as savages? Or was CCIR referring to the Mexican coyotes as savages? I don’t know. What I do know is this writer gives no source for his claim. (And he wants to talk about academic discussion!) And was Chris Simcox really referring to all Mexicans and Central American immigrants when he said, “They have no problem slitting your throat and taking your money or selling drugs to your kids or raping your daughter and they are evil people”? ‘They’ is a pronoun; and pronouns are unintelligible without knowing what their antecedents are. We are not granted, in this article, a look at the antecedent. So we don’t really know what Simcox said, being deprived of knowledge of the context. Again, for all we know, Simcox was talking about specific Mexicans and Central Americans who really don’t have a problem slitting your throat.

What’s missing in this article is any refutation of any claim Gilchrist has made. But of course that’s no surprise since refutation is part of debate, and Gilchrist’s position, being nothing more than fascist scapegoating (oh, and 'demonizing'), isn’t worthy of refutation.

Of course, this writer didn’t actually show that Gilchrist’s position is fascist and racist. He only says that it is and then samples a few, possibly accurate, quotes out of context. In short, the writer of this article employs the favorite tool of left-wing logical rejoinder: ad hominem. Typical.

But this writer’s article was posted at the
deletetheBorder.org website. So we know that Gilchrist isn’t going to say anything in support of guarding our border that these people will find acceptable. And deletetheBorder.org is a socialist organization anyway. And socialist positions, being fascist, are not up for academic debate.

That last sentence raises the question (notice I didn't say begged the question): If that's the case then why bother writing about socialists and their positions? C. S. Lewis said it best, I think: Good philosophy must exist because bad philosophy exists, and needs to be answered. (And answering what they think is bad philosophy is one thing that many socialists--to be blunt--suck at.)
10 October 2006

If only Saddam were still in power

MSNBC published this Washington Post article on the North Korean nuke test. The article ends with this paragraph:

James B. Steinberg, President Bill Clinton's deputy national security adviser and now dean of the Lyndon B. Johnson School of Public Affairs at the University of Texas at Austin, said the North Korea test will raise a larger question that echoes Ronald Reagan's most famous 1980 campaign line -- "With respect to the axis of evil," Steinberg said, "are you better off today than you were four years ago? . . . It's clear that the answer is we're worse off with respect to the nuclear proliferation problem in both North Korea and Iran than four to six years ago, and I would argue we're worse off in our overall security because of the situation in Iraq."

We're worse off because of the situation in Iraq. I suppose he means to imply that we'd be better off if only we weren't in Iraq. Would this not, by logical extension, mean that we'd be better off with Hussein still running things in Iraq? I think it means just that; and I don't think it's a very smart position to hold.

It also seems to imply that we might still have been able to do something to stop N. Korea. On that note, the Master Gunner outlines the three options we had, and still have. And I think he's right about which one is most necessary--however problematic.
09 October 2006

The Real October Surprise

Well, a caller to Michael Medved's show has let the cat out of the bag. It seems that North Korea's nuclear test was part of a deal between the President and Kim Jong Il. Yes, this is the Republicans' October surprise, designed to distract our attention from the real, most pressing issue of our day, Pederastigate.

This October surprise would probably have worked too.

Oh, for the good old days, when you could have a sex scandal involving someone who actually had sex. Instead we have this vaudeville show with Democrats center stage, pretending to be concerned that someone was talking about sex. Sex with minors--who, to listen to the left in the first place, are having more sex than any other segment of our society.

More than likely, Republicans might make as much of this if it involved a Democrat. Maybe. But it would still be just as distasteful to me.

I just wish the President's attempt at an October surprise would have worked better. We'll probably still be talking about Pederastigate until after the elections.

Oh, yes: the whole war in Iraq is a diversion from the opium trade, which is controlled by the CIA.

Did I neglect to mention that it's 'Conspiracy Day' on Medved's show?
06 October 2006

Are executive salaries too high? (2b)

Now, on the view of some, the aforementioned package offered to Mulally probably represents executives setting their own salaries. After all, Ford’s board of directors is composed of other executives; and Mulally is an executive. But in actual point of fact, Ford offered all this to Mulally not because they had all this money laying around and had a choice between ‘sharing’ it with the hourly wage employees or ‘throwing’ it at another executive, or even because they are all cronies, the best of buds, throwing money at each other for kicks and giggles, but because they need a President who, hopefully, can pull Ford out of it’s slump of mounting losses and dwindling market share. (Lest we think that Ford’s woes are strictly due to mis-management somewhere, Puegot-Citroen also has similar problems.) Mulally had a fine and good paying job over at Boeing. If Ford wanted Mulally, they were going to have to offer him something more than he had at Boeing. And what he had at Boeing was a package amounting to $9.96 million (less than most of those celebrities I mentioned above), which included a salary of $825,000.00, $7.58 million in long-term incentive payout, a $736,000.00 annual bonus, restricted stock awards, and other benefits. Okay, so the loss of this compensation is what the aforementioned $11million was for. I guess it’s okay that Ford wanted to exceed that loss by $1.04 million dollars. In all, the package offered Mullay amounts to 85 percent more than the package he received from Boeing. Too much? I don’t know. It is, after all, Ford’s money.

What some seem to overlook is the fact that, as I’ve already mentioned, boards of directors have every reason to keep executive salaries, like hourly wages, as low as feasible. Ford is in trouble. Ford’s board, one would think, has better, more important things to do than throw money at other members of its class or group. Mulally better deliver the goods. And if Ford’s board doesn’t know that they have better things to do than throw money at other executives I’ll gladly accept a seat on that board and remind them. In fact I’ll willingly serve on the Compensation, and Environmental and Public Policy committees. It’s probably a well-paying job, but someone’s got to do it. It’s okay; I don’t mind. No need to thank me: I’m selfless like that. (One thing that does trouble me is that Ford’s Compensation committee is devoted to executive compensation; they have no committee on hourly employee compensation. On the other hand, the UAW probably has that task well in hand. Given that union wages are indexed to the minimum wage, one could say that between Congress and the UAW Ford has no need of a committee on employee compensation.)

In the above-mentioned article, Professor Palaima asserts that greed is the reason that the pay gap is so out of proportion. I’m sure greed plays a role, perhaps even a large role. Even if I were to go so far as to agree that greed plays the only role—so what? Is the problem, as Palaima asserts (echoing Drucker, who in turn is echoing, Morgan), that income disparity causes social tension? Leaving aside the aforementioned problem with causality, there is another problem with this argument. Asserting that income disparity causes social tension really doesn’t connote the ethical problem which Palaima and others seem preoccupied with. There is a difference between saying that income disparity causes social tension and therefore ought to be avoided (i.e., as a means of avoiding social tension) and in saying that the greed which is behind income disparity is ethically wrong. When Palaima writes about income disparity (and about the salaries drawn by athletic directors) he writes as if those who are behind this (i.e., the cronies) are doing something wrong. If that is the case, then social tension as a result of income disparity is irrelevant. Income disparity, especially if motivated by greed, is wrong.

Of course, Palaima could claim that it is social tension that is wrong, and that by logical extension the causes of social tension are wrong. For whatever it’s worth I find that logic unassailable; and I have to grant Palaima the strength of that position. But then we’re assuming that social tension is ethically wrong, that there is some universal ethical requirement that is violated by the existence of social tension. On the other hand we might just be saying that we don’t like social tension, and certainly avoiding income disparity would go a long way towards avoiding the social tension we don’t like. But I doubt that this is Palaima’s view, because if it were then he’d have to stop writing as if this is an ethical problem. It isn’t. Circumstances which we simply happen not to like do not constitute ethical problems.

Having said all that I’m not as quick as Professor Paliama to chalk it all up to greed. Greed would make these executives morally culpable, but only if there is some moral standard which executive greed violates. Maybe they are greedy. I don’t know. Greed is a state of mind, an attitude towards money, specifically a love of it for its own sake. I don’t know what these executives love. Nor do I believe that I can deduce what they love from what they earn. What they earn tells me nothing. I would need to know what they do with their money. And I don’t know. I haven’t asked, because I don’t think it’s my business.

I believe the real problem, as opposed to greed, is a problem in the soul. Many executives have technical degrees, whether in business administration or in sciences such as engineering or computer science. But they are low on liberal arts education. (Lee Iacocca pointed this out in his autobiography, which I read in the Army.) The fact is these executives know how to do the jobs their technical degrees have prepared them for; and doing these jobs earns them a great deal of money. They know how to make money. Perhaps one could say that all they know is how to make money. They are numbers people, and they keep track of numbers. Numbers tell them, among other things, where they are in life. It’s what they know. I neither blame them nor pity them. I simply acknowledge this as what I believe to be a fact.

Everyone is greedy to a certain extent. I think the real problem with executives is that they stink at leadership because they are merely technicians. In their own fast moving, aggressive Nicholas-Cage-in-The-Family-Man style they are stereotypical geeks, with all the people skills that one associates with the stereotype. Depending upon the path they traveled to the executive ranks they are trained in engineering, finance, marketing, and so forth. Their training consequently is, as I’ve already mentioned, lacking in the liberal arts. Most of them, in my personal experience and from research, seem not to know much about human beings—especially what motivates them. And that is just the sort of thing that they might have learned—if they’d have determined to learn—from a long, cool draft of humane letters. They seem to know how to make and move product, but not too much about how to move people. They seem largely unaware of the fact that many or most will endure hardships if their leaders will also endure those hardships—or at least some—with them. I was reminded of this just last night while continuing my re-read of Plutarch’s (Roman) Lives. Last night I read this passage in his Marius (7):

That war [i.e., the Jugurthine War], too, affording several difficulties, he neither declined the greatest, nor disdained undertaking the least of them, but surpassing his equals in counsel and conduct, and matching the very common soldiers in labour and abstemiousness, he gained great popularity with them; as indeed any voluntary partaking with people in their labour is felt as an easing of that labour, as it seems to take away the constraint and necessity of it. It is the most obliging sight in the world to the Roman soldier to see a commander eat the same bread as himself, or lie upon an ordinary bed, or assist the work in the drawing a trench and raising a bulwark. For they do not so much admire those that confer honours and riches upon them, as those that partake of the same labour and danger with themselves; but love them better that will vouchsafe to join in their work....

There just seems to be so much about human nature that executives do not know. And it’s ironic when one considers how many of them will boast of having read Sun Tzu on the art of war. Just like a technician, isn’t it, to think he’s learned something valuable simply by sampling a general? They can all say, “Know your enemy as yourself and you will win a thousand battles.” Neat. Caius Marius and others knew how to win battles; and they knew how to earn the personal loyalty of their soldiers. What concerns me is not executive compensation packages. The people paying those salaries are the ones to determine whether they are paying too much for what they get in return.

What concerns me is how ignorant, or indifferent, executives are to the plight of some of their employees. I wouldn’t turn down the package that Ford proffered to Mulally. But I would be ashamed if I discovered that even one of my employees was having difficulty paying some of his bills—especially medical bills—while I was able not only to own a multi-million dollar home but wash down my $150 per person meal at Ducasse’s with some $2,500 per bottle 1982 Chateau Margaux!

There’s a quote in a passage I recall reading in one of my parents’ business textbooks (my parents are business people) that goes something like this: Societies do well when their men of business think highly of their profession.

Perhaps executives should put down Sun Tzu for a while and pick up Plutarch.
05 October 2006

Why all the fuss about Foley’s boy-loving?

Some of the people who are supposed to be in a tizzy about Foley’s communications with page boys are, let’s be honest, conservative Christians. Hopefully, they will be so demoralized, at last, that they just do the right thing and stay home this election season, there being (surely!) no party morally upstanding enough to deserve their vote.

The Democrat Party is the party of the educated, the sophisticated. As we all know, Christians are largely uneducated, not very literate, easily lead, anti-science, anti-intellectual, and so forth. As all educated people know, boy-loving has a long and distinguished history among intelligentsia and sophisticates. I mean, if people of the caliber of Plato, Socrates, Alcibiades, Xenophon could be fans of it (read Plato’s
Symposium), how could any educated person think it relevant what conservative Christians think? It is of the essence of the upper-crust to think highly of such liaisons. Really, only the troglodytes in the middle and lower classes would have a problem, as VDH explains:

[F]or the vast majority of rural folk in the Mediterranean world, heterosexuality and marriage were, of course, the norms. The pre-Christian poor and agrarian classes considered homosexual acts deviant, not on religious grounds of sinfulness, but rather as proof of corruption and decadence that were the wages of too much money and too much time in town.

Yet among an urban sophisticated elite of both Greece and Rome, in the symposium and palaestra, older men's interest in feminine companionship and sexuality was not delineated by gender alone, but more along the lines of youth and appearance. In such a rarefied world of Plato's Symposium or Petronius' Satyricon, feminine-looking boys often were openly seen as desirable sex partners — as long as such idealized relationships reflected the pretense of imparting education and remained one-sided.

Actually, when you think about it, Democrats ought to be celebrating Foley as one Republican who’s with it—you know, on the DL, and stuff. But for the political hay they seek to make of it, Democrats would be leaving this all alone, especially when you compare Gerry Studds (who actually had sex with a minor page, as I’ve already mentioned) with Mark Foley (who apparently only engaged in communications). It took Democrats ten years to respond to allegations regarding Studds. And they want to talk about Republican incompetence on this issue.

And hypocrisy—they want to talk about that too.
04 October 2006

Are executive salaries too high? (2a)

The short answer is, No.

The reason I don’t think that executive salaries are too high is just that I’m unable to find a standard to use in making such a determination. There is no objective standard for making the judgment. If you’re grilling up some hamburgers Sunday afternoon and want to guard against food-born illness, you need to cook those burgers to an internal temperature of at least 165 degrees (F, of course) for several seconds. That’s the temperature at which you kill any bacteria in the meat. It’s objective. It’s demonstrable. Less that 165 degrees is objectively too low. If someone tells you that the temperature of your hamburgers is too low, there is a standard to employ—as long as you care about killing E. coli.

No such standard exists for determining if salaries are too high. Here, it’s a matter of taste, personal preference.
According to Professor Palaima, J. P. Morgan thought that the proper ratio of pay between top people and rank and file workers in a corporation should be no more than 20:1 and that exceeding this ratio caused social tensions. On Professor Palaima’s view, if J. P. Morgan says that social tensions will result from exceeding the ratio he has in mind, we are to treat that assertion as true. But is it true? How does J. P. Morgan come to be an authority that we have to follow? If J. P. Morgan had said something different I doubt that Professor Palaima would be relying upon him for an authority. Indeed, if Morgan had said the ratio should be 50:1, but Andrew Carnegie had said 20:1, then Professor Palaima would be relying upon the latter.

That’s the trouble with appeals to authority. Certainly, appeals to authority have their place, but only when the authority is limited to his area of expertise. If three out of four dentists recommend a certain toothpaste that is something to pay attention to. But if those same dentists express an opinion about the cause of social tension, then I think we are permitted to be reluctant to accept that opinion. J. P. Morgan says that a ratio greater than 20:1 causes social tension. Neat. But does it?

J. P. Morgan was an expert on business management and finance. I am unaware of his sociologist’s credentials. His assertion about a cause of social tension, though interesting, is not dispositive of anything when it comes to the causes of social tension. Upon what sort of research was Morgan’s assertion based? I have no idea. Perhaps Palaima does. That, and not simply Morgan’s ratio, is the information we really need.

It would be very difficult, if not impossible, to avoid the fallacy of post hoc ergo propter hoc. Morgan, and anyone who agrees with him, is in the position of saying that social tension, following a ratio of higher than 20:1, must be caused by that higher ratio. I have difficulty understanding how anyone can be persuaded by such faulty reasoning. The social tension which might follow a ratio higher than 20:1 could just as easily be attributed to nothing more than envy on the part of those at the bottom. Someone has more than they, and boy are they ticked. And we are to assume, no doubt, that they are right to be ticked, that ethics is somehow on their side.

So, we are still left without a standard for determining if executive salaries are too high. People who think executive salaries are too high are only expressing a preference. These salaries are too high for them, or simply higher than they would like to see them. But they talk as if they are saying the same thing a physician means to say when he says of someone with a 104 degree fever, “His temperature’s too high.”

Of course, someone could say that even in the absence of an objective standard, we can know that executive salaries are too high when (a) hourly employees cannot pay their bills, while executives live fat and sleek, and (b) executives make those salaries while running their corporations into the ground, thus putting hourly employees out of work.

I suppose we could doubt the reasonability of these salaries on the grounds that it just isn’t possible for these corporations to be getting the appropriate bang for the bucks they shell out. I mean, really, take the Ford Motor Company, presently restructuring itself to cut salaries and houly wage expenditures in order to enhance profitability (which, sadly, it must do in order to remain in business). On 5 September of this year Alan Mulally was named Ford’s new President and CEO. In order to get him to take the job, Ford offered him—hold on to your lug nuts—$18.5 million. And that, in addition to his $2 million annual salary. This $18.5 million represents a hiring bonus of $7.5 million, and—AND!!!—$11 million to offset the compensation Mulally gave up when he left Boeing’s profitable commercial plane division. He was also granted stock options worth about $10.5 million, and $5.26 million in restricted stock grants.

That’s a pretty sweet deal. I’ll grant it. Who needs to have that sort of compensation for running a company, especially when the hourly employees are the ones who do the real work of the corporation? I’m tempted to think that I’d do the job for much less than Mulally’s package. (Ford would probably say that they wouldn’t be interested in the level of executive skill I’d be bringing to the table in exchange for that smaller compensation package.)

But here are some sweeter deals which, when reported about, are generally not accompanied by criticism, or hand-wringing about the plight of the hourly wage worker: Colin Powell’s salary of $6.7 million; Barbara Walters’ $10 million; Katie Couric’s $13.3 million; Jay Leno’s $17 million; Bill Clinton’s $17.1 million; Rosie O’Donnell’s $25 million; Ben Affleck’s $39.2 million; Tiger Woods’ $53 million; Bruce Willis’ $70 million; Steven Spielberg’s $144 million; Oprah Winfrey’s $150 million—per year. Hear any whining about these deals? I don’t. If anything, it’s the other way round, isn’t it? I guess only executives may not make ‘outrageous’ salaries.

(To be continued)

Democrats to Republican base: “Golly gee, I guess you’ll have to stay home.”

The resignation of Mark Foley leaves us Christians, the powerhouse of the Republican Party (if we are to believe the Democrat characterization), with little to do this election season but sit this one out. We are caught between the Charybdis of having to vote for Democrats (with their financial and sexual miscreants) and the Scylla of voting for Republicans (with their own financial and sexual miscreants). We can’t vote Democrat, unlike our brothers and sisters of the Sojourners stripe. Now, so they must believe, we cannot vote Republican either. After all, there are (horrors!) homosexuals in the Party; and, so the story apparently goes, there was a cover-up of at least one of these homosexual’s indiscretions (in the form of written communications) with a 16 year old boy. If we go ahead and vote Republican we’ll be voting for a party of hypocrites. We can’t do that.

But can’t we? There is this silly idea that goes, I guess, something like this. The Christian cannot work with or associate in any way with immoral people. If our party of choice has some immoral people in it, then we need to dissociate from it. The reason I find this silly is just that if a Christian really wanted to live out that idea he’d have to leave this world. Come to think of it, I think St. Paul said something like this to the Corinthians. Yes, I’m sure I’ve read that somewhere. In fact I think it was this:

I wrote to you in my epistle not to keep company with sexually immoral people. Yet I certainly did not mean with the sexually immoral people of this world, or with the covetous, or extortioners, or idolaters, since then you would need to go out of the world. But now I have written to you not to keep company with anyone named a brother, who is sexually immoral, or covetous, or an idolater, or a reviler, or a drunkard, or an extortioner—not even to eat with such a person. For what have I to do with judging those also who are outside? Do you not judge those who are inside? But those who are outside God judges. Therefore “put away from yourselves the evil person” (1 Corinthians 5:9-13, emphasis mine).

The Republican Party, as a party, still stands for what I believe are largely proper concerns of the state: the protection of lives and property. As a Christian, I don’t look to find a political party which is full, or even half-full, of morally outstanding human beings, expecially in an era in which we demonstrate our sophistication by asking questions like, “Who gets to say what’s moral?” I expect to find political parties more than half-full of people who wouldn’t want much of their private lives to be made public. What I do look for—and what to my mind Republicans deliver more than Democrats—is that those members of the party who break the law will be disciplined. I’m old enough to remember Gerry Studds, who actually had sexual intercourse with an underage (male) page and remained in Congress for something like another thirteen years after admitting it and being censured for it. Mark Foley is gone. (Besides, we now know that it wasn’t his fault: he was molested by a clergyman in his youth.)

At the height of Rome’s power, she was pagan and ruled by a homosexual (i.e., Hadrian). But there were still Christians in the Roman army and in the government. And the three governments Daniel served were not exactly paragons of moral virtue. Moral deficiencies ought not keep anyone from the polls.

The issues—all the issues which it falls to political parties to address in seeking office—are still there. As disappointed as I am with Foley (and the Republican caucus, if there was a cover-up), I am still a believer that tax rate cuts do move the economy and ought to be kept in place; Democrats want to remove them. I do not believe that one should have money taken from him just because he has more and given to another just because he has less; Democrats do. I do not believe it falls to government to do charity; Democrats do. I prefer reason in debates, which, by and large, I get from Republicans; Democrats prefer to emote, something which makes me want to vomit. I am still a believer in the Iraqi theater of the war on terror; Democrats want to ‘redeploy’ from Iraq. I would like to see more ‘originalists’ on federal courts; Democrats don’t. I want more aggressive action taken to protect our borders; while the Republican response is not as aggressive as I would like to see, it is still more aggressive than the Democrat position. I would like to see less federal spending; and while Republicans haven’t acted here the way I’d like to see, it is still superior to what we’d have seen under Democrat leadership.

We’re still faced with two general choices: one party is more to the left of center; one party is more to the right of center. There is no reason for the base to stay home this election season—especially when you know that this is exactly what the other side wants to you do. Clearly, Democrats don’t stay away from the polls because of their miscreants.

02 October 2006

Hitchens on Muslim (in)tolerance

Hitchens is good on this:

Listen to this: "Make war on the unbelievers and the hypocrites and deal rigorously with them. Hell shall be their home: an evil fate."

Or then again, this: "Believers, take neither the Jews nor the Christians for your friends."
Then there is the instruction to fight against those who are not of the true faith "until they pay tribute out of hand and are utterly subdued".

All are direct quotations from the Koran, which Muslims believe to be the absolute word of Allah, and which cannot be altered.

If you seek even more ferocious attacks on Christianity and Judaism, you will find them in the Hadith, Islam's other great book of scripture.

Week after week in those lands where Muslims rule and Christians are a minority, the message pours out from the mosques: "God did not have a son."

All the central doctrines of the Christian faith are emphatically denied. Things are said about Jews and Christians, sometimes comparing them to pigs and monkeys, which would attract the attention of the Thought Police if they were uttered here [i.e., in Great Britain]

Only recently an Afghan was threatened with death - the prescribed punishment under Sharia law - for converting from Islam to Christianity.

Christians in Pakistan live in constant fear of attacks on their churches and their homes, usually following false allegations that someone has burned a Koran.

Coptic Christians in Egypt suffer a similar misery. Christian Arabs who can afford to have been emigrating by the thousands to avoid increasing persecution by their Muslim neighbours.

I know that we have those who will say that this represents the ‘hijacking’ of a religion. (Some one will even try to make some hay of the fact that ‘Islam’ supposedly means ‘peace.’ But even if it does, peace is on the victor’s terms.) But no one who knows the history of this religion will deny that the actual truth is that it is ‘moderate’ Muslims who have hijacked (or who are hijacking) Islam. To take the Koran as written is to engage in what the ignorant will call ‘extremism’ or ‘fundamentalism.’

Muslim ‘moderates’ can say what they will; it’s their religion. But the fact that they believe that what the Koran teaches about ‘jihad’, the ‘jizya’, and so forth is to me a prima facie case that the Koran does teach exactly what the so-called extremists say that it teaches. If not, then why the redefinition?

The other thing, then, that the ignorant will say is that the same could be said of Christianity. That is, if Christianity also did not teach the sort of violence and sword-slinging conversions that were practiced, then there would have been no need for the Christian reformation. That would be a powerful argument if not for the fact that the Christian reformation was not about ‘updating’ Christian beliefs, or making Christianity more ‘tolerant.’ The issue at bar during the Reformation was the doctrine of ‘justification.’ It was not about redefining, reconceiving or revisioning the doctrine of ‘crusade.’ One of the claims of the reformation was that the Catholic church had turned away from the essence of the gospel as the good news of reconciliation, by faith alone, by the shed blood of Jesus Christ. The call of the Reformation was not a call to redefine, reconceive or revision; the call was a call back to, not away from, a closer reading of the Scriptures. There were other ancillary issues, such as the authority of the Pope, the church councils, and the relevant weight of tradition and the Scriptures. The Reformers asserted that tradition was to be judged according to the Scriptures, not equal to. This is not the move of people who want to move away from the ‘literal’ teachings of the Bible, as ‘moderate’ Muslims wish to do with their Koran.

You see, it is quite possible that even on a Reformed view the crusades could still have been called. First, the Crusades were not called to spread the faith, but to defend the Byzantine (i.e., Christian) Eastern Roman Empire from the defensive war fought by Islam (a ‘defensive’ war that took the ‘defending’ Muslims from Afghanistan in the east to Spain in the west by 750, over 300 years before the 1st Crusade was called!); and defensive wars are entirely consistent with Reformation thought. Second, the Crusades, on a Reformed view would (a) have to be called by civilian authority, not a religious authority, since on a Reformation view protecting and defending citizens falls, on the basis of the teachings of the Bible, to the civil authority, not the religious (i.e., we don't have to 'reinterpret' the Bible in order to find this) and (b) have to be called something other than ‘taking the cross’since the prosecution of war, again, falls to the civil, not the religious, authority.

Don’t get me wrong.‘Moderate’ Muslims can have a ‘reformation’ if they want to. But let’s not have any talk about its being a reformation like the one that Christians had. The Koran teaches what it teaches about unbelievers and jihad; and the Bible doesn’t teach what the Koran teaches about unbelievers and jihad. The Christian reformers sought to bring their doctrines more, not less, into conformity with the Bible. Muslim reformers will have to back away from, not get closer to, the Koran.



About Me

James Frank Solís
Former soldier (USA). Graduate-level educated. Married 26 years. Texas ex-patriate. Ruling elder in the Presbyterian Church in America.
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