Friday, June 29, 2012

No Justice for Murdered Border Patrolman

Congress voted to hold Eric Holder in contempt for not providing documents essential to Congressional investigation into the murder of Brian Terry on December 15, 2010. However, the Justice Department has declared that Attorney General Eric Holder’s decision to withhold information from Congress about Fast and Furious does not constitute a crime and he won’t be prosecuted for contempt of Congress. As Holder oversees the Justice Department, this was expected.

It appears that there will be no justice for Brian Terry and no closure for his family. How sad.

To add salt to the wound, Janet Napolitano has said that the Feds will not assist Arizona law officials in their attempts to deal with illegals in that state.

Related reading:  The Facts About Operation Fast and Furious; Follow the Ideology with Bill Whittle

Medical Insurance for Christians

Medi-Share, a Florida-based health insurance company, helps to pay medical bills for Christians who don't smoke or drink. The company serves nearly 40,000 people in 49 states.

Medi-Share members affirm a statement of Christian beliefs and pledge to follow a code that includes no tobacco or illegal drugs, no sex outside of marriage, and no abuse of alcohol or legal medications. Every month, members pay a fixed "share" to cover the medical expenses of members in need. The cost usually is less than private insurance.

The organization says it helps Christians pay medical bills based on a Bible verse that urges people to "carry each other's burdens."

Not surprisingly, Medi-Share is being challenged in the courts.  Were this company serving only Muslims, it probably would not be challenged. 

Howard Russell, president of Christian Healthcare Ministries, reports that Medi-Share is in compliance with all applicable federal regulations.

David Adams, a critic of the crackdown on such ministries, said the alternative coverage plans should be an option for families.  He adds, "The consumer is the one left hanging in this battle with the uncertainly caused by arbitrary laws and official inaction," Adams said. "We need to have a public discussion about why we're limiting people and their abilities to freely contract for health care coverage."

The Medi-Share plan is simple and streamlined. Medi-Share participants have saved more than $600 million in healthcare expenses by sharing in each others medical bills instead of monthly premiums. Medi-Share participants on an average pay 20% to 30% less for healthcare. 

Obamacare, if instituted in the states, will require all uninsured to purchase medical insurance. What do you want to bet, Obama didn't have this initiative in mind?

Medi-Share is recommended by financial consultant Dave Ramsey and would be ideal for teachers at Christian Schools.

Call 1-866-606-7390 or go here to request free information.

Julea Ward Freedom of Conscience Act

The Michigan House has passed a bill named after an Eastern Michigan University (EMU) student who was kicked out of the school's counseling program because of her faith.

In 2009, Julea Ward (pictured above) was expelled from the university's counseling program because of her Christian beliefs, particularly against homosexuality. But earlier this year, the Sixth U.S. Circuit of Appeals sided with the student, ruling that "a reasonable jury would conclude that Ward's professors ejected her from the counseling program because of hostility toward her speech and faith ...." That opinion reversed an earlier district court decision in favor of the university.

Now, the "Julea Ward Freedom of Conscience Act" has been proposed and approved by the House. It prohibits religious discrimination against college students studying counseling, social work and psychology. Alliance Defense Fund (ADF) attorney Jeremy Tedesco is defending Ward in her lawsuit against EMU.

"We certainly welcome their efforts to protect the rights of their citizens," he comments. "Public universities like Eastern Michigan University shouldn't be able to require students to give up or abandon their religious beliefs as a condition of getting a degree."

Ward was ousted from the program after she was permitted to refer a homosexual client to another counselor. She was unwilling to violate her religious beliefs to affirm that sexual orientation.

"If, when you're a counselor, there's a values conflict with your goal or objective of your counseling, it could negatively impair the outcome of the relationship and of the counseling," Tedesco offers. "So the best thing for the client in that situation is to move the client on to a counselor who doesn't have the values conflict."

The bill is now headed for the state Senate for consideration.

H/T to Rick Lobs

Thursday, June 28, 2012

This is a Test

Who is this?

He lies to us constantly about who he is. Not in the way most politicians lie, spinning and shading events with self-serving half-truths. He lies with the arrogant bravado of a con man messiah. My grandfather was tortured by the British. My parents met because of the march in Selma. My white girlfriend wanted to be black. These aren’t lies that were forced out of him in a rough moment to defend himself from controversy — like the lie about terrorist William Ayers being just a guy in the neighborhood, or the one about never having heard the hate-mongering of Jeremiah Wright — these are intentionally crafted falsehoods. They were meant to do exactly what they did: to recreate Obama in the image of the black savior leftists had been waiting for, the man who would relieve them of the disfiguring guilt arising from their dreadful history of racism and justify the disastrous havoc their policies have wreaked on African-Americans.

He does not believe in the American way. When he is not lying, when he thinks he’s among friends, when he inadvertently announces his radicalism because it runs so deep he doesn’t even realize it is radicalism, when he thinks he can get away with it because it’s good politics, Obama reveals his philosophy to be antithetical to the exceptional American project of limited government, personal liberty and free enterprise. The Constitution needs to be falsely interpreted to allow wealth redistribution. The free market doesn’t work. His actions should not be hampered by Congress. The Supreme Court has no right to overturn his laws as unconstitutional. America is arrogant overseas. He can decide unilaterally which laws will be enforced. He can override the free practice of religion if he thinks the issue is really, really important. Again and again, he reveals himself to be wholly a product of the anti-American, anti-liberal and anti-democratic left at odds with the principles of our founding.

He has no clue how things actually work. Even if socialism did work, it would be wrong because it would strip people of the fruits of their labor and the property rights on which liberty depends. Thankfully, it doesn’t work, which makes the moral issue moot. But Obama has no clue of what’s been tried and found wanting. He surrounds himself with ideologues and tunes out anyone who’s ever made an honest dime in the real world. Thus every single idea the “progressive” president puts forward is a regressive throwback to notions that have been failing miserably for more than seventy years. The stuff he believes is just plain dopey. He thinks technology is the cause of unemployment. He does not understand that only private jobs create the wealth that makes public jobs possible. He thinks that wind and solar energy should be subsidized and fossil fuel production suppressed. He insists on bringing the European social model to the U.S. even as the model implodes in front of our eyes.

From here.

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Dems Bristle at Obama-Holder Botched Gun Operation

Four House Democrats have suggested that they'll break ranks and join Republicans to vote against Holder for his refusal to turn over documents related to Operation Fast and Furious.

Rep. Jim Matheson of Utah was the first to cross the party line, announcing his intention on Tuesday. Matheson, the New York Times reminds us, is running for reelection in the country’s most Republican district currently represented by a Democrat.

Reps. John Barrow of Georgia, Nick Rahall of West Virginia and Collin Peterson of Minnesota have also suggested they'll vote with Republicans. Citing unnamed sources, Fox News reports that when all is said and done, as many as 20 House Democrats may cross the party line.

All four were among the 31 Democrats who sent a letter to Obama last year expressing their concern over how the botched gun-walking operation was handled.

Read more here.

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Quote of the Week - Jorge Luis Borges

"My father was very intelligent, and like all intelligent men, very kind." --Jorge Luis Borges (1899-1986)

Monday, June 25, 2012

Intact Biological Families Nurture Better

Dr. Nicholas Cummings, President of the American Psychological Association from 1979 to 1980, recently reported that “By the mid 1990s, the Leona Tyler principle was absolutely forgotten, that political stances seemed to override any scientific results. Cherry-picking results became the mode. The gay rights movement sort of captured the APA.” So, not surprisingly the organization has not presented reliable studies on the quality of life of children parented by gay and lesbian couples. They will hate Mark Regnerus' study.

By Wendy Wright and Lisa Correnti

WASHINGTON, DC, June 15 (C-FAM) A groundbreaking study reveals that adult children of homosexual and lesbian parents experience far greater negative social, economic and emotional outcomes than children raised within intact biological families.

The quality of University of Texas professor Mark Regnerus’ study highlights the deficiencies of previous studies that homosexual advocates have relied on to grant same-sex couples a right to marry and adopt children.

"The empirical claim that no notable differences exist must go," said Regnerus in his study published in Social Science Research.

Regnerus’ comprehensive study examines nearly 3,000 adult children from eight different family structures and evaluates them within 40 social and emotional categories. The results reveal that children who remain with intact biological families were better educated, experienced greater mental and physical health, less drug experimentation, less criminal activity and reported overall higher levels of happiness.

The greatest negative outcomes were found among children of lesbian mothers. This contradicts defective studies popularized by the media claiming children fare as well, or better, with lesbian mothers. Regnerus’ study showed negative outcomes for these adult children in 25 of 40 categories including far higher rates of sexual assault (23% of children with lesbian mothers were touched sexually by a parent or adult, in contrast to 2% raised by married parents), poorer physical health, increased depression, increased marijuana use and higher unemployment (69% of children from lesbian households were on welfare, compared to 17% of those with married parents).

Regnerus’ study debunks an often-cited 2005 American Psychological Association (APA) brief that concluded, “[n]ot a single study has found children of lesbian or gay parents to be disadvantaged in any significant respect relative to children of heterosexual parents."

In contrast to Regnerus, previous studies compared children of homosexual parents to children of stepfamilies and single parents. Regnerus also relies solely on information directly from adult children rather than opinions from their parents.

A second new study confirms the studies touted by the APA are unreliable. Loren Marks, an associate professor at Louisiana State University, found the APA’s studies had limited data and focused on gender roles and sexual identities. They neglected to examine the children’s education outcomes, employment, risk of substance abuse, criminal behavior or suicide.

The discredited APA-endorsed studies have been used in attempts to impact international legal decisions.

Amicus briefs submitted in E.B. v. France in the European Court of Human Rights defended adoption rights for same sex couples citing APA studies with claims that no objective scientific evidence exists to justify “different treatment of same sex couples who wish to adopt because (to the knowledge of FIDH, ILGA-Europe, BAAF and APGL) all reputable scientific studies have shown that the children of lesbian and gay parents are no more likely to suffer from emotional or other problems than the children of heterosexual parents.”

In the case of Karen Atala and Daughters v. Chile in the Inter-American Court of Human Rights (IACHR), an amicus brief defending lesbian parents who lost custody of their children noted that the American Academy of Pediatrics “recognizes that a considerable body of professional literature provides evidence that children with parents who are homosexual can have the same advantages and the same expectations for health, adjustment, and development as can children whose parents are heterosexual.”

Related reading:  Former APA Presidents Says “ultraliberals” beholden to the “gay rights movement" have Taken Control of the Organization

Lawlessness at the Highest Levels of Government

Lawlessness at the highest levels of government.  Wake up, America.

The muscle in the Arizona law was upheld by the Supreme Court but Janet Napolitano just announced that the feds will decline to respond to most Arizona police referrals and will not provide any support.

Holder is stonewalling on Fast and Furious.  Obama implicated himself by taking executive privledge.

I'm beginning to wonder if a free election is even possible in our country.

Pray, my friends.

Sunday, June 24, 2012

Game of Drones

Matt Hardy

With boots on the ground being costly politically, economically and diplomatically, it seems that week after week, drones are the most important front line weapon against Washington’s opponents in the War on Terror.

In a recent column I looked at the evolution of autonomous aircraft and their current status as the long arm of American foreign policy. The strike carried out last week by a US drone on Libyan-born al-Qaeda depyty Abu Yahya al-Libi in northern Pakistan is a case in point. The action was, according to America’s Defense Secretary Leon Panetta “about our sovereignty”.

By that, Panetta means that popping a Hellfire missile into the mouth of a cave inWaziristan is a means of safe-guarding American interests back in Cleveland. Well, assuming you get the right guy and the act doesn’t alienate so many more locals that you create a never-ending stream of new recruits.

But is it fair enough if one country is flying a robot plane through the airspace of another country and using it to deliberately kill a citizen of a third state? The morality and legality of targeted killings I will leave to those more experienced in the laws of sovereignty and ethics. I would, though, like to know two things:

1) Who decides who is guilty enough to make it on to a death warrant for Obama to sign?
2) How many “number twos” can one organisation have? It seems that we’re always nailing another “al-Qaeda number two” or “trusted lieutenant”. That’s one flat organisational chart.

Warfare on the cheap
Aside from those questions it is worth examining the phenomenon of drones (or Unmanned Aerial Vehicles) in terms of why they are used, and what bonuses and costs they have politically. For using drones as a weapon of choice against terrorist cells is at the same time a precision tool and a blunt instrument.

The big tactical attraction with the robot aircraft is, in football terms, their “hang time”. A Predator UAV can stay aloft for up to 24 hours. They don’t sleep, don’t eat, don’t get stressed out, can see in the dark and after that 24 hour stint they’ll be ready to do another shift straight as soon as the fuel tank is topped up. And if something goes wrong and they end up as a pile of debris scattered over an acre of Afghan hillside, nobody needs to send them home in a flag-draped coffin. At just $4 million a pop, Predators are huge value for money.

Given the nature of the terrain where America is hunting terrorists, drones are an easy solution compared to inserting troops and much more cost efficient than using conventional fighter-bomber aircraft. You can have a drone circling a patch of turf day and night, just waiting for a target of opportunity or a particular individual to pop their head up.

Then it’s up to the controllers back at base to give the nod and fire the missile and … BANG! Instant job opportunity for a new al-Qaeda number two.

Strategic killing
In strategic terms, drones are a good way of continuing a war while everybody can pretend it’s not happening. Having a few battalions of Marines sitting in Pakistan or Yemen would be politically difficult, both for America and the “host” country.

And it’s bad for the Marines too when they keep getting their legs blown off by IEDs whilst fruitlessly chasing shepherds around the mountainsides.

Drones mean that politicians can say, “We’ve brought the boys back home,” while still making sure there are some positive bad-guy killing stories in tomorrow’s Washington Post. President Obama has been a bigger user of drones than his predecessor for precisely this reason.

Collateral damage
But this robotic presence is still a presence. And it’s here we find the drawback of this arms-length warfare: drones kill people. Sometimes, not the right people either. Naturally, figures vary, but drone strikes in Pakistan alone have been linked to up to 800 civilian deaths. Sadly that sort of figure is just a drop in the ocean considering the body counts that occur monthly in Afghanistan and Pakistan, but one has the sense that using a drone to carry out these sort of killings makes it all the more remote from our minds.

However this sort of collateral damage is not remote from the considerations of Pakistanis. The apparent impunity with which America operates its unmanned aircraft over their skies has incensed the government in Islamabad. Especially when Leon Panetta tells them to shut the hell up because this is all about American sovereignty. The Pakistanis also see the drone attacks as counterproductive, creating opposition and resentment that plays into the hands of the terrorist groups.

Kill the bad guy, save his family
We know that these criticisms of the drone campaign must have some grounds because even the CIA is getting squeamish. This has seen the development of a “Lite n'Easy” model Hellfire missile – one with a smaller warhead. The idea is that firing one into the Hilux the bad guy is riding in won’t wipe out the whole of the wedding convoy he’s travelling with. Going to the trouble of inventing this solution is an indication that targeted killing from unmanned aircraft is considered a long-term plan.

Whatever the outcome of the American elections this year it’s a fairly safe bet that drones won’t be voted out. And as long as al-Qaeda keeps that sprawling hierarchy there will be plenty more targets for these graphically-named birds of prey to pursue.

Mat Hardy is a Lecturer in Middle East Studies for Deakin University, in Geelong, Australia. Mat Hardy does not work for, consult to, own shares in or receive funding from any company or organisation that would benefit from this article, and has no relevant affiliations. This article was originally published at The Conversation. Read the original article.

Saturday, June 23, 2012

Humor Alert: AU Greens Are Bigots

Bill Muehlenberg 

Shame on those intolerant and discriminatory Australian Greens. How dare they exclude so many people from their basic right to love and marry? They are determined to prevent loving and committed polyamorists from marrying. Unbelievable! In this day and age!

This is 2012 for heaven’s sake. When will this fundamentalist and fossilised political party get with the times? How dare they prevent those in love from exercising their rights? This is an horrific case of irrational discrimination and despicable bigotry. As the press reported the other day:

“The Greens have declared they have a clear policy against support for polyamorous marriage as they pursue their case for same-sex marriage. Greens marriage equality spokeswoman Senator Sarah Hanson-Young has declared the Greens have a clear policy against support for polyamorous marriage. ‘Our bill clearly states marriage “between TWO consenting adults” and that is the Greens' position. No, we don't support polyamorous marriage - the only person who seems to want to talk about this is Senator Cash.’

“It comes after Senator Michaelia Cash, Liberal Senator for WA, today challenged the Australian Greens to state their position on polyamorous marriage. This follows the disclosure that polyamorists have made submissions to the Greens' Senate Inquiry on Marriage Equality. ‘Sarah Hanson-Young must explain whether she does support "marriage for all", as advocated by the Greens, who wish to "legislate to allow marriage regardless of sexuality or gender identity",’ Senator Cash said. ‘Using these benchmarks it would really be a case of “anything goes”’.”

If you think that polyamorists are imaginary, think again. They are gaining momentum every day. Strengthened by homosexual militancy, they are demanding their “rights” -- with the same arguments.

An interesting piece in a recent issue of The Australian offers an example:

“The power couple of Australia's increasingly open polyamorous community, Rebecca and James Dominguez, have made Senate submissions urging the legalisation of same-sex marriage, as they promote greater acceptance of multiple-partner relationships. The couple have led the way in publicly outlining their own journey from monogamous marriage to one in which each has another lover as well.

“In her blog, Ms Dominguez, who is an administrator with IBM in Melbourne, writes: ‘My life rocks… I am incredibly happy and have almost everything I could possibly want… I've built a house with my husband and my husband's boyfriend so there are four of us living together in nice harmony. (The fourth household member is Rebecca's boyfriend.)

“‘James outed himself to me as bisexual a year after we got married. Remarkably, this didn't really phase me. He talked to a nice female friend of ours that was interested in him, informed her about my boundaries and they agreed to have a sexual relationship. I felt more secure in my relationship with James… I knew that James wasn't going to leave me, that he could have sex with and love another woman and still love me and want to be married to me.’

“For many years Ms Dominguez was president of PolyVic, which promoted the ‘practice of honest, open, ethical multiple relationships’. More recently the couple have taken up leading positions in Bisexual Alliance Victoria. The two organisations are closely connected and hold picnics which, the website says, are family-friendly with ‘food and drinks to share, picnic rugs or chairs, outdoor games, kids, dogs, kayaks’.

“As president of the alliance, Mr Dominguez, an IT specialist in the Victorian public service, wrote to the Senate Legal and Constitutional Affairs Committee in support of the Marriage Equality Amendment Bill 2010. ‘The legal definition of marriage itself has changed over history, such as the removal on restrictions of inter-racial marriage and the provision for divorce,’ Mr Dominguez wrote in the submission.

“Ms Dominguez wrote in her own submission to the Senate committee: ‘Just as we have allowed changes in the past to things considered “traditional” (equality of women, humanity of non-white people), we can change “traditional” understandings of things now’.”

Do these “arguments” sound familiar? Oh yeah, they are the exact same “arguments” being used to support same-sex marriage. Absolutely identical.

Once you throw out the core criteria of marriage (proper gender, proper number, etc) then anything does go. And yet homosexual activists have the gall to mock those who warn of a slippery slope to group marriage.

Even the Greens discriminate. Every aspiring member must sign this declaration:
“I am not a member of another political party and will not join another political party while I am a member of The Greens. I agree to abide by the Charter and Constitution of the Australian Greens, and the Constitution of my state/territory party. I acknowledge that my membership is subject to approval by The Greens party in the state/territory where I reside.”

Hey, wait a minute. Isn’t this discrimination and intolerance? Why am I discriminated against simply because I don’t agree with this charter? Why am I being denied my human rights to join in fellowship with the Greens?

Of course the Greens will argue that to so bend the rules in this manner would undermine and destroy their party organisation. Allowing anyone in redefines the group out of existence. Obviously the Greens cannot alter their own rules and criteria to accommodate those who are bent on destroying it.

I can see common sense and logic in this policy. It is discrimination, obviously, but a vital, necessary and healthy one if the Greens are to survive.
Er, wait a minute. Have I not heard this argument before? Yes, countless times -- about why heterosexual marriage discriminates against same-sex marriages and group marriages.
Discrimination, you see, is not a dirty word. It is a basic element of logic. If only the Greens could see that.

Bill Muehlenberg is a lecturer in ethics and philosophy at several Melbourne theological colleges and a PhD candidate at Deakin University.  From here.

Friday, June 22, 2012

Sudanese poet Abdelmoniem Rahma Condemned to Death

(WiPC/IFEX) - The Writers in Prison Committee (WiPC) of PEN International is extremely concerned about the condition and whereabouts of the Sudanese poet Abdelmoniem Rahma, who was arrested on 2 September 2011 in Blue Nile State, Sudan. He was reportedly tried in a military court in November and there have been alarming reports that he has since been sentenced to death. It is unclear, however, on what charges he has been convicted. He has been denied access to a lawyer and his family do not know his whereabouts. There are also credible reports that he has been tortured. The WiPC calls on the Sudanese authorities to release Rahma, to repeal the reported death sentence against him, to clarify on what grounds he has been convicted and to allow him access to legal counsel.

Abdelmoniem Rahma is well-known as a journalist, poet and activist. He co-founded the daily newspaper Ajras al-Hurriya (Bells of Freedom), which was shut down by the Sudanese authorities days before South Sudan's independence on 9 July 2011. He is also the former head of Sudana, an arts and literature organisation. During the 1980s he was a member of the Sudanese Writers' Union and between 2003 and 2005 Rahma headed the Arabic section of the Sudan Radio Service network in Nairobi. Rahma also developed a travelling theatre to promote peaceful dialogue among Sudan's diverse cultures.

Reports coming out of Sudan regarding Abdelmoniem Rahma are scant and difficult to verify. However, the belief held by his former colleagues that Rahma was targeted because of his affiliation with the political movement The Sudan People's Liberation Movement-North (SPLM-N) is convincing. Rahma was reportedly tried alongside 18 members of the SPLM-N in November 2011.

In March 2012, it was reported that the Attorney General's office had completed investigations on 132 detainees, including Rahma and that all had been accused of crimes against the state and espionage. However, lawyers following the case have not been given any details of the charges.


On 1 September 2011 fighting broke out in Blue Nile State, bordering South Sudan, between the Sudanese Armed Forces (SAF) and the Sudan People's Liberation Army-North (SPLA-N). On 2 September, Sudanese President al-Bashir declared a state of emergency in Blue Nile and appointed a military governor to the state.

The fighting in Blue Nile followed tensions between Sudan's ruling National Congress Party (NCP) and the Sudan People's Liberation Movement (SPLM) over security arrangements in the border areas prior to South Sudan's independence on 9 July 2011. Following South Sudan's independence, the SPLM-North, which was previously part of the southern SPLM, was formed in Southern Kordofan and Blue Nile.

Over 55,000 people have been displaced from Blue Nile State and have sought refuge in neighbouring Ethiopia and South Sudan. Independent observers and aid workers have been prevented from entering Blue Nile State since the fighting broke out.


Please send appeals:
- calling on the authorities to release Rahma
- calling on the authorities to repeal the death sentence if Rahma has been sentenced to death before a military court
- urging the authorities to ensure that Rahma is not subjected to torture or other ill-treatment
- calling on the authorities to grant Rahma immediate access to his family and lawyers, and to any medical treatment he might require following allegations of torture


President Omar Hassan Ahmad Al Bashir
Office of the President
People's Palace PO Box 281
Khartoum, Sudan
Fax: 00249 183 782 541
Salutation: Your Excellency

Minister of Justice
Mohammed Bushara Dousa
Ministry of Justice, PO Box 302
Al Nil Avenue
Khartoum, Sudan
Fax: 00249 183 764 168
Salutation: Your Excellency

Please send appeals immediately. Check with PEN International if sending appeals after 14 August 2012.

For more information:

Writers in Prison Committee, PEN International
Brownlow House
50-51 High Holborn
London WC1V 6ER
United Kingdom
wipc (@)
Phone: +44 20 74050338
Fax: +44 20 74050339

Thursday, June 21, 2012

What START Isn't Saying

The National Consortium for the Study of Terrorism and Responses to Terrorism (START) at the University of Maryland was launched in 2005 with a $12 million grant from the Department of Homeland Security, and is recognized by DHS as one of its “Centers for Excellence.” In December, DHS announced it had renewed START’s funding to the tune of $3.6 million.
A recent START study titled “Hot Spots of Terrorism and Other Crimes in the United States, 1970 to 2008” puts the “excellence” description in question. A press release announcing the report states the study concluded that nearly a third of all terrorist attacks between 1970 and 2008 occurred in just five major metropolitan areas. The study was based on a START database called “Profiles of Perpetrators of Terrorism in the United States,” and both the report and database are supported by the DHS Science and Technology Directorate’s Human Factors/Behavioral Sciences Division.
Reading through the study, some baffling issues arose. In Table 4 (p. 22), titled “Hot Spots of Religious Terrorism by Decade”, three “hot spot” areas — Los Angeles, Manhattan, and Wasco, Oregon (former home of the Bhagwan Shree Rajneesh) — are identified:

But there seems to be some data missing when it comes to known Islamic terrorist incidents in New York City and Los Angeles. The study shows no religious terrorism in Manhattan during the 1990s. How about the 1993World Trade Center bombing? Or the 1994 Brooklyn Bridge Jewish student van shooting by Rashid Baz thatkilled 16-year-old Ari Halberstam after Baz heard a fiery anti-Jewish sermon at his local mosque? Or the 1997Empire State Building observation deck shooting by Ali Abu Kamal that killed one tourist and injured six others before Kamal took his own life?
And then there was the 2002 shooting at the Los Angeles Airport El Al counter by Hesham Mohamed Hadayet that killed two and wounded four others. The FBI and Justice Department concluded that the attack was a terrorist attack by an Egyptian assailant bent on becoming a Muslim martyr.
These are reflected nowhere in the study. Perhaps, like the 2009 Fort Hood massacre by Major Nidal Hasan, who gunned down his U.S. Army colleagues while shouting “Allahu Akbar,” these incidents are considered acts of “workplace violence” and not religious terrorism?

Read more here.

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Hitchens Attempted to Dismiss Chesterton

Zac Alstin works at the Southern Cross Bioethics Institute in Adelaide, South Australia. Here Alstin reviews Hitchens' posthumously published review of a biography of the great British journalist G.K. Chesterton. This is an excerpt from the longer piece Duel of the Deceased.

Zac Alstin

May 29th was Chesterton’s birthday. I completely missed it, thereby proving that in the ranks of Chesterton fanatics, I am trudging along right at the back. But there I at least have the honour of being a rear guard. And in this capacity I feel compelled to respond to one deceased British journalist’s attack upon another.

Not that Chesterton needs defending. Of those introduced to GKC’s works, a minority is unimpressed. That’s fine. But few have the audacity to draw Chesterton down to their level, to examine the prodigy through their own cloudy lens, and to declare the result deficient. Chesterton fans will not be surprised: Hitchens showed as little appreciation for GKC’s thought as one might expect from a man steeped in Marxist, atheistic and hedonistic currents.

Any attempt to defend GKC is swiftly overtaken by the compelling desire to delve more deeply into his prose. A good defence becomes a better offence, and we find a host of loyal bloggers cheerfully demonstrating to the ghost of Hitchens passed that his dismissal of GKC as “deeply unserious and frivolous” is old hat. If Chesterton is not remembered widely, many of his critics are not remembered at all. A “Mr. McCabe” gave voice 106 years before Hitchens to the charge that Chesterton was a man of cheap paradox and frivolity:

“But how a serious social student can think of curing the thoughtlessness of our generation by strained paradoxes; of giving people a sane grasp of social problems by literary sleight-of-hand; of settling important questions by a reckless shower of rocket-metaphors and inaccurate `facts,' and the substitution of imagination for judgment, I cannot see."

Back in 1905 Chesterton rebutted both McCabe and Hitchens:

“Mr. McCabe thinks that I am not serious but only funny, because Mr. McCabe thinks that funny is the opposite of serious. Funny is the opposite of not funny, and of nothing else.”

In another volume he apologised for the seriousness of his writings:

“Their chief vice is that so many of them are very serious; because I had no time to make them flippant. It is so easy to be solemn; it is so hard to be frivolous.”

The Chesterton fan gets it. He gets that his hero is not merely heaping frivolity on frivolity, making light of his opponents’ accusations. Every one of his lines points toward a single inexhaustible understanding of the truth. The truth is a medicine that transforms us. Nothing could be more serious than such a resolute search, and that is why the truth shines through Chesterton’s work.

“The ordinary man has always been sane because the ordinary man has always been a mystic. He has permitted the twilight. He has always had one foot in earth and the other in fairyland. He has always left himself free to doubt his gods; but (unlike the agnostic of to-day) free also to believe in them. He has always cared more for truth than for consistency. If he saw two truths that seemed to contradict each other, he would take the two truths and the contradiction along with them. His spiritual sight is stereoscopic, like his physical sight: he sees two different pictures at once and yet sees all the better for that…

"The whole secret of mysticism is this: that man can understand everything by the help of what he does not understand. The morbid logician seeks to make everything lucid, and succeeds in making everything mysterious. The mystic allows one thing to be mysterious, and everything else becomes lucid.”

Was GKC “sinister?

But Hitchens’ article was not simply a doomed repetition of tattered criticisms. He may be the first person to describe G.K. Chesterton as ‘sinister’, and he further condemned Chesterton’s work as a “minor but still important failure to meet a distinct moral challenge,” the rise of Nazism. In the context of “the Hitler-Vatican Concordat” he opined that “Harsher but correct would be the verdict that his [Chesterton’s] Catholicism made him morally frivolous about Hitlerism.”

Of Hitler, Chesterton had comparatively little to say. Is this surprising? Perhaps not, considering that GKC died in June 1936, less than four years after Hitler became Chancellor, and less than two years after the establishment of his dictatorship. To put this in context, Winston Churchill began his vocal opposition to German rearmament in 1932.

As early as 1933 Chesterton foresaw war with Germany:

“We are already drifting horribly near to a New War, which will probably start on the Polish Border. The Young Men have had nineteen years in which to learn how to avoid it. I wonder whether they do know much more about how to avoid it than the despised and drivelling Old Men of 1914.

“How many of the Young Men, for instance, have made the smallest attempt to understand Poland? How many would have anything to say to Hitler, to dissuade him from setting all Christendom aflame by a raid on Poland? Or have the Young Men been thinking of nothing since 1914 except the senile depravity of the Old Men of that date?”

He condemned the violence of Hitler’s regime as early as 1934:

“If we really wish to make vivid the horrors of destruction and mere disciplined murder, we must see them more simply as attacks on the hearth and the human family; and feel about Hitler as men felt about Herod.”

And by 1935 he was waxing eloquent in typical Chesterton style on the precise evils of the Nazi regime:

“Hitler's way of defending the independence of the family is to make every family dependent on him and his semi-Socialist State; and to preserve the authority of parents by authoritatively telling all the parents what to do… In other words, he appears to interfere with family life more even than the Bolshevists do; and to do it in the name of the sacredness of the family.”

He even provided, ahead of schedule, a response to Hitchens’ invocation of the Reichskonkordat:

“It will be noted that the Church generally had a Concordat with her enemies rather than her friends. There was a dispute with Napoleon and a Concordat with Napoleon: a dispute with Mussolini and a Concordat with Mussolini; a dispute with Hitler and a Concordat with Hitler.”

But there is no need to apologise for Chesterton. Hitchens got it completely wrong. Nazism was not, for someone of Chesterton’s era, a “distinct moral challenge”. It was an extension of an earlier ‘moral challenge’: Prussia.

We have the advantage of being able to judge our ancestors. But hindsight can sometimes hide as much as it reveals. For although we now regard Nazism, quite rightly, as being close to the epitome of human evil, the evils of Imperial Germany have faded. Yet nearly everything Chesterton had to say in precise and scathing criticism of Prussia, may be applied with equal vigour to its Nazi progeny. GKC was against Nazism before it even existed.

Historians sometimes describe the two World Wars as a single war with a half-time break. Chesterton drew the link back further to the Franco-Prussian War of 1870. He analysed the ideology of the Prussian state and distilled its errors into three main faults:

“A failure in honour which almost amounts to a failure in memory: an egomania that is honestly blind to the fact that the other party is an ego; and, above all, an actual itch for tyranny and interference, the devil which everywhere torments the idle and the proud.”

To Prussia Chesterton attributed the Realpolitik that manifested itself in the “militant hostility to certain necessary human ideas [such as] the vow or the contract, which Prussian intellectualism would destroy.” Decrying this ‘failure of honour’ might seem naïve to a modern audience, for whom Realpolitik is really just politics. But Germany instantiated Realpolitik with its invasion of Belgium in World War One in contravention of the Treaty of London, which had guaranteed Belgian neutrality. Indeed, the Prussians were so antagonistic to their treaty obligations that the German Chancellor wondered why Britain would go to war over a "mere scrap of paper".

In such an historical context it is even more surprising that experienced statesmen put their trust in Hitler and a similar agreement made in Munich in 1938, with Hitler happily agreeing to go no further than Czechoslovakia. Chesterton’s Prussian analysis is equally pertinent in both cases:

“The Prussians had made a new discovery in international politics: that it may often be convenient to make a promise; and yet curiously inconvenient to keep it. […]That is the importance of the German Chancellor's phrase. He did not allege some special excuse in the case of Belgium, which might make it seem an exception that proved the rule. He distinctly argued, as on a principle applicable to other cases, that victory was a necessity and honour was a scrap of paper.”

Think of Nazi Germany as simply an extension of Prussia and Chesterton’s analysis approaches clairvoyance. On the topic of Prussian egomania, Chesterton wrote that:

“it is the point about the Prussian that with him nothing is mutual. The definition of the true savage does not concern itself even with how much more he hurts strangers or captives than do the other tribes of men. The definition of the true savage is that he laughs when he hurts you; and howls when you hurt him. This extraordinary inequality in the mind is in every act and word that comes from Berlin.”

To demonstrate this egomania, Chesterton drew on a few unusual examples. He pointed to a phenomenon, in which men had – as a variation on the theme of duelling for honour – invented “the one-sided duel.”

“I mean the idea that there is some sort of dignity in drawing the sword upon a man who has not got a sword; a waiter, or a shop assistant, or even a schoolboy. One of the officers of the Kaiser in the affair at Saberne was found industriously hacking at a cripple. In all these matters I would avoid sentiment. We must not lose our tempers at the mere cruelty of the thing; but pursue the strict psychological distinction. Others besides German soldiers have slain the defenceless, for loot or lust or private malice, like any other murderer. The point is that nowhere else but in Prussian Germany is any theory of honour mixed up with such things; any more than with poisoning or picking pockets. No French, English, Italian or American gentleman would think he had in some way cleared his own character by sticking his sabre through some ridiculous greengrocer who had nothing in his hand but a cucumber. It would seem as if the word which is translated from the German as ‘honour,’ must really mean something quite different in German. It seems to mean something more like what we should call ‘prestige’."

What matters is not so much the examples, but Chesterton’s diagnosis of the “political pessimism and cynicism” of the Prussian state. He observed that Prussians really were men of “blood and iron” with all the disadvantages that incurred. The progressive scientific regime of Prussia was as cold and dead as iron.

“In other words, the Prussian Empire, with all its perfections and efficiencies, has one notable defect—that it is a dead thing. It does not draw its life from any primary human religion or poetry; it does not grow again from within. And being a dead thing, it suffers also from having no nerves to give warning or reaction; it reads no danger signals; it has no premonitions; about its own spiritual doom its sentinels are deaf and all its spies are blind.”

Prussia was once considered a leader in progressive fields such as eugenics and the efficient organisation of the state. The First World War dampened that admiration:

“Scientific officialism and organization in the State which had specialized in them, had gone to war with the older culture of Christendom... As the war advanced from poison gas to piracy against neutrals, it grew more and more plain that the scientifically organized State was not increasing in popularity. Whatever happened, no Englishmen would ever again go nosing round the stinks of that low laboratory. So I thought all I had written irrelevant, and put it out of my mind.”

But the popularity of these ideas resurfaced in the inter-war years:

“I am greatly grieved to say that it is not irrelevant. It has gradually grown apparent, to my astounded gaze, that the ruling classes in England are still proceeding on the assumption that Prussia is a pattern for the whole world.”

As strange as it might seem to us, Chesterton was relentless in his criticism. He referred unashamedly to Prussian principles and national character as barbarism. He said comparatively little about Hitler, because he had said so much about Prussia. He saw the nature of the evil in his own day with a clarity and prescience that modern writers should envy.

Chesterton’s friend and colleague Hillaire Belloc once wrote a cutting poem called ‘Lines to a Don’, defending GKC against the criticisms of a forgotten academic: “Remote and ineffectual Don / That dared attack my Chesterton.” Modern fans of the great British journalist are no less loyal or protective of “the Apostle of Common Sense”. But it is the worth of his work that inspires this love and loyalty to the man despite the human failings from which none of us are immune. As for Hitchens, a true fan will smile or shrug his shoulders or feel a touch of pity for a critic who totally missed the point.

Take this as a reminder to go and read some more.


Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Chinese Sages on Natural Law

The bitterest debates today in the public square often turn on what is "natural". The Chinese sages had a lot to say about this.

Zac Alstin 

A common argument against same-sex marriage is that it is ‘unnatural’. But without qualification, such an argument is pointless. What do people mean when they call something ‘unnatural’? Do they mean ‘unusual’, ‘abnormal’, or ‘ugh! I don’t like it!’? Do they mean ‘it doesn’t happen in the animal kingdom!’ or ‘it can’t happen without human interference!’? Perhaps they mean ‘it contains synthetic products!’ or ‘it was built in a factory!’?

As an ethicist, I draw on a system of ethics known as ‘Natural Law theory’. The theory dates back to Aristotle, was developed by Thomas Aquinas, and has, in recent decades undergone a resurgence and reinterpretation. So I have an interest in the use of the words ‘natural’ and ‘nature’ with regard to ethical issues. Unfortunately the confusion over these words is such that many people find the whole concept of Natural Law theory preposterous. (I know I did.) How can there be ‘laws of nature’ with regard to ethics? Isn’t the whole point that the freedom of the human will defies any laws of nature? If there were laws of nature regarding ethics, then surely we wouldn’t have any choice but to obey them?

Naturally, I want to set the record straight. Now please hold still while I correct you:

How vast is God, the ruler of men below! How arrayed in terrors is God, with many things irregular in his ordinations! Heaven gave birth to the multitudes of the people, but the nature it confers is not to be depended on. All are [good] at first, but few prove themselves to be so at the last.

Can you guess the origins of this quotation? I’ll give you a hint: it’s not biblical, it’s not Jewish; it’s not from the Middle East, but from the Far one. The text comes from the ancient Chinese Book of Odes, a collection of 311 poems dating from 1000 BC to 476 BC. This passage conveys an impression of God (Shang Di: the supreme Emperor) which might seem familiar to a Western audience. But the use of the word ‘nature’ is probably less familiar. The German Sinologist Richard Wilhelm explained this Chinese perspective well:

‘Man has received from heaven a nature innately good, to guide him in all his movements. By devotion to this divine spirit within himself, he attains an unsullied innocence that leads him to do right with instinctive sureness and without any ulterior thought of reward and personal advantage. This instinctive certainty brings about supreme success and "furthers through perseverance". However, not everything instinctive is nature in this higher sense of the word, but only that which is right and in accord with the will of heaven. Without this quality of rightness, an unreflecting, instinctive way of acting brings only misfortune. Confucius says about this: "He who departs from innocence, what does he come to? Heaven's will and blessing do not go with his deeds. "’

This concept of nature is by no means peculiar to Chinese thought. As the etymology shows: ‘nature’ comes from ‘natus’ meaning ‘born’, as in ‘the characteristics a person or thing is born with’. In the era of medieval philosophy the word took on its more abstract and refined connotations such as "essential qualities, innate disposition".

When we hear people claim that something is ‘unnatural’ they are (or ought to be) speaking in terms of the qualities or disposition that we are born with. But use of such terms as ‘natural’ and ‘unnatural’ in the present culture is often confused with a different philosophical notion of ‘nature’ as ‘the great outdoors’, ‘mother nature’, or ‘stuff animals do.’ This basic interpretation of nature simply defines it as everything that is not produced by human effort or ingenuity. A natural lake stands in contradistinction to a man-made lake. Natural light is distinguished from artificial light – the product of human artifice. This alternate meaning of ‘nature’ can also be embellished and romanticised such that the term ‘natural’ can even bestow a quasi-mystical form of approval; while describing something as ‘unnatural’ is to condemn it as somehow misbegotten, malformed, dangerous, or toxic.

So we have three closely related concepts, presented here in suspected order of development:

1. Nature as the essential qualities of a thing
2. Nature as distinct from human activity
3. Nature as a quasi-mystical force or principle

First, things have their own nature or essential qualities. Secondly, we observe that human beings have the ability to choose how they will act; our actions can either accord with, or conflict with our own essential qualities or nature. Humans have, for example, discovered that inhaling smoke into our lungs on a regular basis is not conducive to our health, even though it might feel good.

Not only can we act against our own nature, we can also subvert or alter other things against their own nature: thus we domesticate animals, make furniture from the wood of trees, cook food to make it more palatable, and so on. It is not, strictly speaking, in the nature of animals to behave domestically, nor of trees to act as tables, nor for various foods to be altered by the heat of cooking. Hence, we distinguish between ‘natural’ as the way things are without human interference, and ‘man-made’ or ‘artificial’ for those things whose properties are dependent upon human intervention.

Thirdly, this distinction between the world without human interference and the world with human interference has taken on a moral or quasi-mystical aspect. We have grown weary of our own artifice, and suspicious of the value of our interventions. A recent history of man-made disasters, the creation of toxic, radioactive, and otherwise dangerous substances, and even the aesthetic misery of many urban human environments have all contributed to the impression that the natural world is superior to that produced through human intervention. Natural wonders are achieving greater significance than man-made wonders. Natural processes from environmental management to childbirth are attributed an almost spiritual quality found lacking in more artificial processes. Rightly or wrongly, natural ingredients and products seem inherently favourable over synthetic or man-made ones. We feel nature can be trusted; human beings, not so much.

So what about human nature, the ‘essential qualities’ of a human being?

In the Chinese context, human nature puts us in a precarious position. Our own nature or ‘essential qualities’ are conferred by Heaven; even in modern Chinese the phrase for ‘nature’ with regard to innate human characteristics is where the first character stands for ‘heaven’ and the second stands more generically for ‘nature’, ‘character’ or ‘gender’. In fact the second character is itself composed of the character for ‘heart’, and the character for ‘birth’ or ‘to be born’, which, as we saw, correlates nicely with the Latin root of ‘nature’ being ‘natus’ meaning ‘born’. Human nature can be described as that which is in one’s heart from birth bestowed by heaven.

Nevertheless we read in the Book of Odes that “the nature it confers is not to be depended on [since] all are [good] at first, but few prove themselves to be so at the last.” In other words, despite the fact that our nature is good and is conferred by heaven, people still turn out bad in the end. This is because human beings have the freedom to choose: we can follow our nature for the good, or we can turn against it for ill.

As our German Sinologist elaborated: “not everything instinctive is nature in this higher sense of the word, but only that which is right and in accord with the will of heaven.” We find ourselves troubled by seemingly ‘natural’ desires that are in conflict with one another. Likewise we find ourselves desiring things that we know simply cannot be part of our nature. Hence the objective qualifier that we must act in accordance with the will of heaven, that which conferred our nature in the first place.

The theologically savvy may have noticed that these concepts rather neatly parallel the Judeo-Christian perspective in which human beings were created good by God, but have gone awry from the created order through disobedience to God’s will. But this particular interpretation of the human predicament is heavily laden with centuries of religious and cultural baggage. The apparent religious drama of clashing human and divine wills and personalities unfortunately lends itself to an indignant adolescent interpretation in which God is perceived to be a domineering father figure whom we loathe and fear; someone more powerful than us who implicitly demands our servility and stands in opposition to our individual desires. In the interests of avoiding such emotional trigger-words as ‘commandments’ ‘disobedience’ and ‘punishment’, let us instead examine the following analogy.  

Imagine you are a skilled robotic engineer, who has created a fully functional humanoid robot. Since you are also a fictional engineer, you have found it easily within your power to grant your robot the ability to pick and choose its own courses of action.

You install a list of guidelines for all the important things: remember to recharge regularly, do not immerse in water, do not drop, do not use if seal is broken, and so on. Of course, you could have ‘hardwired’ these instructions, but that would obviate the sheer coolness of a robot that has to decide not to drop itself repeatedly on its head, rather than being directly programmed not to. So although the robot has the ability to choose its own course of action, it is theoretically constrained by the nuances of its own nature.

Despite these instructions, the robot is still entirely capable of choosing to stand outside in the rain, drop itself from a height, or fail to recharge itself. If it ignores the instructions, it will be damaged. No need to talk about commands, punishments, or obedience.

This analogy illustrates the common points of the Chinese and Judeo-Christian view of human nature regarding our freedom to choose our own course of action. We have free will; we can use it however we like. But we are constrained by the logical limits of our own essential qualities. Tall people like me are constrained by stupidly low kitchen benches. Short people are constrained by wall cabinets placed at a reasonable height. One person cannot be both short and tall at the same time in the same way. We should therefore choose things that are suited to our nature.

In ethics, choosing things in accordance with our nature is known as ‘natural law’. Unfortunately, whenever an ethicist uses the term ‘natural law’ a certain proportion of his audience pictures an apple falling on Sir Isaac Newton’s head. We are used to hearing of ‘natural laws’ or ‘laws of nature’ in regard to physics rather than ethics. Yet it should come as no surprise to hear that human beings are subject to both physical laws as well as ethical ones. It is in the nature of human beings that our bodies are subject to the force of gravity; and we call this a physical law of nature. It is likewise in the nature of human beings that to choose to subject oneself to the force of gravity from a great height is not good for one’s continued survival, let alone one’s further flourishing. We call this an ethical law of human nature.

At this point, some are liable to object: how can it be an ethical law of nature, if we are free to break it? We aren’t free to break the law of gravity, after all.

But this objection misunderstands what the law is about. The ethical law does not say “You cannot throw yourself off a building”, rather it says “suicide is incompatible with human flourishing” and leaves you to work out for yourself the implications with regard to falling from a great height.

This is why human beings come undone. We are free to choose our course of action, yet we ought to heed the constraints of our own nature, our essential qualities. Instead, we desire things that cut against the grain of our nature. We find ourselves adapting to habits, beliefs, cravings, yearnings, a whole way of life with no foundation in human nature or the way of heaven. This is the predicament identified by the Chinese philosophers.

Another ancient Chinese text, the Book of Rites, depicts the tragedy of human existence under the power of unregulated desire:

‘Now there is no end of the things by which man is affected; and when his likings and dislikings are not subject to regulation (from within), he is changed into the nature of things as they come before him; that is, he stifles the voice of Heavenly principle within, and gives the utmost indulgence to the desires by which men may be possessed. On this we have the rebellious and deceitful heart, with licentious and violent disorder. The strong press upon the weak; the many are cruel to the few; the knowing impose upon the dull; the bold make it bitter for the timid; the diseased are not nursed; the old and young, orphans and solitaries are neglected - such is the great disorder that ensues.’

The remedy, laid out in the very beginning of the Book of Rites, is a simple yet profound prescription:

'Pride should not be allowed to grow; the desires should not be indulged; the will should not be gratified to the full; pleasure should not be carried to excess.'

Our culture has known this prescription for thousands of years; yet at certain times including our contemporary culture, its guidance has been ignored. Our modern culture conflates this guidance with the negative image of our religious history as a repressive, domineering force. We are now quietly encouraged to let our pride grow, to indulge our desires, to gratify our will to the full and carry pleasure to excess; all under the auspices of rebellion against false religious servility.  

Zac Alstin works at the Southern Cross Bioethics Institute in Adelaide, South Australia. From here.