Tuesday, January 31, 2006

Coretta Scott King 1927-2006

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Culture Pick of the Week

Image hosting by PhotobucketCoretta Scott King, who died this morning from the effects of stroke and ovarian cancer, was a woman thrust onto the world stage through no effort of her own.

When she married the Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr. in 1953 she no doubt planned to live a quiet life as the wife of a Baptist pastor. Her husband was clearly cut from special cloth from the start and she knew this and admired him for the clearness of his vision and the eloquence of his voice.

During her husband's rise to international fame and influence Coretta kept a quiet profile, raising their children and trying to make life as "normal" as possible for a family frequently the target of death threats. She knew that each day might well be her husband's last. There were so many who wanted him dead.

By God's grace, Dr. King survived until 1968 when a sniper's bullet killed him in Memphis, Tennessee.

Image hosting by Photobucket Following a time of mourning, Coretta felt the pressure of the Civil Rights Movement to step up and carry on her husband's legacy. Her leadership, while effective and inspiring, was more than anything symbolic of the still considerable influence of her late husband.

It is doubtful that she ever again had any personal identity separate from that of being the widow of the late "Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr."

Even so, she carried this heavy burden with grace and dignity. Even though there were many who would have rejoiced if she had fallen in disgrace, she rarely even stumbled and remained standing tall and straight until the end.

She was, for all of America, a role model for being a wife, a mother, a widow and a public figure. She was all this and more; and not just for the African-American community; but for all Americans.

I only heard her speak in person once, back in the early 1980's when she spoke at a Colloquium at Utah State University. I remember her presentation as being sincere and passionate but not particularly uplifting or inspiring. Even then she seemed more like her husband's shadow (as in Peter Pan) than herself.

Coretta Scott King is the perfect example of the "what if" scenario. What if her husband had not moved to Montgomery just 3 months before Rosa Parks got arrested for not moving to the back of the bus? What if her husband had not risen to national prominence? What if her husband had not been assassinated?

I suspect that deep in her heart, gifted though she was, Coretta Scott King's personal dream would have been to simply be a Baptist pastor's wife, mother to her children and, perhaps, one day stepping out into some vocation of her own choosing when the children had grown. Instead of choosing her own destiny, however, destiny chose her.

Image hosting by Photobucket It is to her credit and worthy of our gratitude that she took the mantle of her fallen husband and served us all so well until the end.

We now trust her spirit to the care and mercy of Almighty God in the sure and certain hope of resurrection to eternal life.

"Free at last! Free at last! Thank God Almighty, we are free at last!"


State of the Union Is Good

President George W. Bush stood his ground before a brazenly defiant bi-partisan Congress this evening and laid out what has to have been one of the most timid and unambitious speeches of his presidency.

His defense of "freedom is on the march" seemed like it came out of a can and, in light of the Hamas victory in Palestine and the gains of the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt, its tone of triumphalism rang almost hollow.

His challenge to Iran seemed particularly bland and innocuous. He almost sounded like an echo of John Kerry in linking US policy and a resolution of the Iran nuclear crisis to our European allies.

He spoke nicely to the Iranian people themselves but gave them nothing to hope for in the way of American intervention or even any cause for optimism that the United States would step in and help them should they attempt civil unrest or a counter-revolution against the ayotollahs.

North Korea was mentioned only in passing, alongside Zimbabwe and Burma. On the other hand, Israel was not mentioned at all, an omission that, frankly, concerns me .

The tributes to US military personnel and their families were, perhaps, the most sincere and effective parts of his speech. For the most part, they received bi-partisan support. The father, mother and widow of SSgt Dan Clay, killed in Fallujah last month, while appropriate, also seemed somewhat staged to counter the Cindy Sheehan outraged-mother-as-a-victim media circus. The word "exploited" even flitted (momentarily) through my thoughts.

Cindy herself had received a gallery pass from a Democratic Congresswoman but was, according to news reports, hurried away in handcuffs before the President entered. Why? It's not exactly clear but apparently she had a rolled-up banner of some sort on her lap that she was either actually beginning to unfurl or appeared to be preparing to do so, perhaps later, during the speech.

Bush did lob a few shots over the Democrat's bow but with little effect. He effectively defended his warrantless NSA "terrorist surveillance" policy (providing an opportunity for the cameras to zoom in on an almost bemused Hillary Clinton, who remained seated as the Republican side of the aisle rose in a standing ovation.

The response was similar when Bush called for the full reinstatement of the "Patriot Act." The Democrats took a direct hit to the chin but did not seem overwhelmed by the jab.

On the matter of Social Security reform Bush handed the Democrats a birthday present when he reminded everyone that his reform proposal had been defeated. The entire Democratic side of the aisle rose with applause, cheers and, for the only time during the evening a celebration of triumph.

Perhaps Bush believed that his demand that Congress face up to the issue would provide a counter punch. It didn't seem to have any effect. But it did allow him to call for a bi-partisan committee to seek out a solution to the Social Security fiasco that could actually accomplish something tangible. Both sides rose with applause in response....so maybe it wasn't such a bad gesture after all. As regards Social Security, it shouldn't be politics but public interest that is served. I believe that Bush scored a point here but was, perhaps, unnecessarily subtle about it.

As should be obvious to just about anyone, the single most favorable domestic issue to the Bush administration is the state of the US economy. Surprisingly, unless I fell asleep for a moment, I heard nothing about this, either. A little bragging on this score could have segued into a recognition of outgoing Fed Chairman Alan Greenspan and his replacement, Ben Bernanke, who had been confirmed by the US Senate earlier in the day.

Appropriate acknowledgment was made to Coretta Scott King, widow of Martin Luther King Jr., who passed away at home in her sleep early this morning.

Appropriate also was the effort that went into the hurried swearing in of new Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito this afternoon, whose nomination had also been confirmed by Senate vote earlier today. His presence, and that of new Chief Justice Roberts (sans "stripes" thank God) among the "nine" was, perhaps, the most visible example of Bush's ascendant political influence during the entire evening.

Alito's admission to the Court also gave Bush the pleasure of announcing the retirement of Sandra Day O'Connor; an announcement that brought polite applause from all sides (although not, perhaps, for the same reasons).

There were, of course, a number of "initiatives" concerning litigation against OBGYN physicians and energy policy. But, while sounding substantive, it is unlikely that either will be prosecuted during an election year.

All in all I was disappointed in tonight's speech. The lack of a bold clarity on Iran and the lack of mention of our nation's firm commitment to the continued existence of Israel seemed to project an air of confusion and uncertainty into our foreign policy.

Even though I would give the speech little more than a C+ or a B- I still enjoyed one statement more than all the others combined. With a firm and steady stare fixed on the Democrats, Bush declared,
"...hindsight is not wisdom and second-guessing is not strategy."
That, at least, was a home run deep into McCovey Cove.

Monday, January 30, 2006

Orchid In Bloom

Well, our orchids have gone and done it again. It seems that here in Hawaii we couldn't stop them from blooming even if we tried! All we do is just leave them alone sitting alongside the house and they have the nerve to do this to us! Nice, isn't it!

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Bull Jumps Wall At Bullfight--Dramatic Video

A 1,000 pound bull jumped into the stands during a bull fight in Mexico City today. Several spectators were injured. If you watch the dramatic video of the incident here, you will join me in wondering why no one was killed! No doubt there are many very grateful folks thanking God for their lives tonight.

Sunday, January 29, 2006

A Near Mid-Air Collision? You Decide

A photographer captured this dramatic photograph over East London yesterday. He started taking photos of the DHL and Japan Airlines jets, he said, "after seeing the planes apparently coming together 'on a collision course'."

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Click photo to enlarge

But a spokesman for DHL said photographs could be "incredibly deceptive".

"In the picture, they look like they are close together but it doesn't mean they are. And in fact they were not," he said . . .

. . . The spokesman said there was no question that either aircraft had strayed from its proper path, which should mean there was a distance of some two and a half miles between them.

The planes both landed safely at Heathrow Airport with no reports of any safety violations.

Hmmmmm...We report, you decide.

Story and quotes taken from BBC

Quotes from Screen Actor's Guild Awards

"Oh, my God, y'all. Sometimes, I can't just shake the feeling that I'm just a little girl from Tennessee." Reese Witherspoon, Best Actress, "Walk the Line"

"It's important to say that actors can't act alone, it's impossible. What we have to do is support each other. Actors have to have each others' backs. It's the only way to act well is when you know the other actor has your back, and these actors had my back, and I hope they know I had theirs." Philip Seymour Hoffman, Best Actor, "Capote"

"I can't imagine a greater honor than being acknowledged by my peers. Being an actor is a hell of a thing. It's a hell of a thing. It's up and down. It's great, but I found the best thing about it is hanging around the craft-service table with other actors and crew people, eating doughnuts." Paul Giamatti, Best Supporting Actor, "Cinderella Man"

"I love actors. I married one. OK, I married a fantastic one." (referring to husband William H. Macy) "But even more than acting, I love the community of actors. I love the green room. I love the hair and makeup trailer. ... I'm so happy I can make a living at it, because I was never very good at math." Felicity Huffman, Best Actress Nominee, "Transamerica"

"A friend of mine always says if you don't have something nice to say about someone, say it. This is the saddest collection of climbing, grasping, paranoid, back-stabbing, screen-grabbing schmoozers and losers that you ever saw in your life. But we love each very much." Terry O'Quinn, co-star, Best TV Dramatic Ensemble, "Lost"

And that, my friends, is why they normally read from scripts.

Quotes courtesy of AP

Smiles In Worship

Well, it happened. The sort of thing you read about in Reader's Digest. The sort of thing that keeps ministers up at night in cold sweats. This morning I happened to me.

During the responsive reading of our Call to Worship (Pslam 150) I was supposed to read the text as follows:
Let everything that has breath praise the LORD.
What I read, however, was something like this:
Let everything that has breas's. . .
At that point, realizing my error, I came to an abrupt halt. But the damage had been done. There was no real "out loud" laughing but there were a few soft giggles and lots of smiles.

Pro that I am, I simply started the line over again and moved on with our worship of God.

Later, after giving the matter some thought, I have decided that "everything that has breasts" should "praise the LORD."

Even if the pslamist didn't really put it that way!

Hamas To Institute Shari'a Law In Palestine

Last Friday I wrote,
Hamas, on the other hand, seems to know how to use its power and authority to gain and maintain control over a population. It has taken a preeminent lead in providing health services, support and education (especially of the "get a good Muslim education so you can blow yourselves up so as to take as many Israelis with you as possible" sort of curriculum). Whatever Christian Palestinians remain in Gaza or the West Bank will surely be the biggest losers since Hamas, as an Islamist group with ties to the Muslim Brotherhood, will now count non-Muslim Palestinians as second-rate citizens even though they have lived there for hundreds of years longer than the Muslims themselves.
Earlier today (Sunday) I wrote,
Even if they develop an inclination to govern and improve living standards and security in their territory they will probably achieve those ends by suppression of freedom and the imposition of social change by threats and by force. Some form of sharia is inevitable and the next wave of fighting will not only be between Fatah and Hamas but between the more "extreme" and the more "moderate" leaders within Hamas itself.
Now I read that Hamas leaders are, indeed, planning to institute shari'a law in Palestine, beginning with the education system.
Mr. Abu Teir, who was No. 2 on the Hamas list of candidates for Wednesday's election, said introducing sharia -- a controversial moral and legal code based on the Koran -- would be the first act of the new Hamas-controlled Palestinian Legislative Council.

"The No. 1 thing we will do is take sharia as a source for legislation. Sharia has a soul in it and is good for all occasions,"

He made it clear that one way Hamas planned to encourage the next generation to follow sharia was to revamp the Palestinian education system, separating girls' and boys' classes and introducing a more Islamic curriculum.
Hamas leaders indicated that they were not planning on imposing full shari'a law in the West Bank and Gaza. Alcohol would still be permitted, they said, and women would not be required to wear the hijab (Islamic head covering).

Teir also declared that,
"We are centrists, we are against any kind of extremism. The motto that we operate on is that in religion, you cannot force people."

Palestinian Christians, many of whom have expressed concerns about being ruled by Islamists, have nothing to fear, he added.

LA Times Column Blames Israel for Just About Everything--Including the Palestine Election Results

In an LA Times article entitled "Hamas In Charge" Beshara Doumani follows the new left-wing liberal mantra that says that it is all Israel's fault.

Beshara, who is an associate professor of history at UC-Berkeley, manages the twin feat of twisting reality into an indictment of Israel while, at the same time, ignoring and hiding the fact that Hamas' stated policy (and Fatah's official, behind the scenes policy) is the total destruction and annihilation of the nation of Israel.

One of two key paragraphs begins with what might appear to be a reasonable opening:
In terms of the relationship with Israel, nothing fundamental will change, but the mask will be off.
Yes, you will say, while Fatah was duplicitous, corrupt and disingenuous in its policy toward Israel, at least with Hamas the "mask will be off." But you would be wrong.

Beshara's point is that now the world will see Israel for what it really is, a hateful, racist and intransigent block to any and all efforts by the Palestinians to negotiate a peace agreement.

You see, according to Beshara,
It wasn't really Hamas that eviscerated Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas and Fatah in the elections. It was the Israeli governments that engineered the failure of the "peace preces" to produce fruit, and the the Fatah leadership's gluttony that blinded them to the consequences of their own failures. Still, the Hamas victory will make it much easier for Israel to sell the "no partner for peace" line.
Not once does Beshara even hint at the fact that Fatah (and the PLO it emerged from) and Hamas are still fighting the 1948 war of Israel's independence. They do not want peace with Israel, they want Israel to vanish and disappear forever. Such groups do not exist to be "advocates" or "friends" of the Palestinian people. They exist to destroy Israel. Period.

Fatah proved this by investing billions of dollars in international aid for the Palestinian people in their own Swiss savings accounts and allowing attacks on Israel that destroyed what had previously been a mutually beneficial economic exchange between Israel and the Palestinian people. Fatah has, wherever it has gone (ie. Jordan, Lebanon, West Bank & Gaza) created a legacy of poverty, social ruin, corruption and despair. The economy and standard of living in the West Bank and Gaza was far better off (relative to the times) 40 years ago (pre PLO/Arafat) than it is now.

Can Hamas do any better? Only time will tell whether they will have any interest in improving the living conditions for the Palestinian people now under their watch. Politically, it is to their advantage to follow the reasoning of Professor Beshara and continue to leave their people in squalor while blaming Israel for everything even as they send Kassam rockets and suicide bombers across the borders (which they now control) into Israel.

Even if they develop an inclination to govern and improve living standards and security in their territory they will probably achieve those ends by suppression of freedom and the imposition of social change by threats and by force. Some form of sharia is inevitable and the next wave of fighting will not only be between Fatah and Hamas but between the more "extreme" and the more "moderate" leaders within Hamas itself.

Beshara concludes his article with these words,
But there is a larger truth: After Oslo, the daily life of Palestinians in the occupied territories deteriorated to almost subhuman levels, largely because of Israeli policies. The best that people hope for is to keep their heads above water and pray that their society will not suffer a complete collapse. At times like these, people turn to God and to each other. Hamas has helped them to do both , and it has something to show for it.
Here Beshara not only reasserts his claim that Israel is the cause of "subhuman living conditions" in the "occupied territories" but that Hamas has extended the promise of hope by calling people to "turn to God and to each other."

As a Christian, I believe that we "turn to God" with repentance and remorse for our sin. In obedience to Christ we would then "turn to each other" in sacrificial love, putting the needs of our neighbor above those of our own. We would "bear one another's burdens and so fulfill the law of Christ" and we would "exercise forbearance and love towards one another."

When Hamas says it, however, they are speaking of God's command to destroy the infidels and, by force if necessary, restore the land upon which Israel sits to Muslim rule and to then spread that rule to every nation on earth....by force if necessary.

To kill your infidel neighbor and yourself as well on behalf of Jihad is pleasing to God and even encouraged by a blessing of immediate salvation to Paradise.

It appears to me that Beshara eloquently writes and speaks as though he were a spokesman for Hamas. The article is a one-sided, anti-Israel propaganda piece that the LA Times should have been ashamed to have printed in their paper. That is, of course, unless the LA Times agrees with him.

Saturday, January 28, 2006

Should a Christian Blog Post a Semi-Nude Photo?

My previous post on Nicole Kidman prompted the following comment:
Please take off the semi-nude photo of Nicole. Why promote sin in men to lust? IS this not a "Christian" blog?
I appreciate this comment because I spent a long time debating whether to post that photo or not. There were, of course, many photos available which were far more revealing and these I did reject without question. In the end, however, I chose to post this more modest photo to illustrate and validate the point I was making. It did not occur to me that this particular photo might "promote sin in men to lust." For me it simply served as a ironic representation of both her primary qualification and primary disqualification for being a UN Goodwill Ambassador.

Throughout history Christian painters have used the exposed human body both to represent the natural beauty, goodness and innocence of God's creation and the association of the self-conscious shame of nakedness with the reality of human sin.

The famous painting of "The Creation of Adam" in the Sistine Chapel and the Statue of David, both by Michelangelo, are examples of the former while Massacio's "Expulsion from the Garden" is a good example of the latter (note that the original did not have the "fig leaves" on it...they were added later).

Image hosting by PhotobucketThe naked human form has also been used to illustrate the hapless powerlessness of those condemned in the final judgment. The macabre paintings by Hieronymus Bosch, the Last Judgment by Michelangelo (also in the Sistine Chapel) and the medieval figures over the doors of the Cathedrals of Bourges and Autun all use nudity to emphasize the horror of damnation.

The naked images of the infant Jesus and the near-naked exposure of his body on the cross are also examples of the human body being used to communicate other, quite different, feelings and emotions from scripture.

I'll confess that some artists have utilized the biblical iconography of Bathsheba taking a bath as an excuse for painting a sensual image that might well "promote sin in men to lust." Since that was, of course, the entire point of the story of David and Bathsheba it seems that even a painting such as this can serve a useful purpose in reminding male viewers that they are just as vulnerable to sexual sin as King David was.

In the context of the Christian gospel and in the context of my post, the photo of Nicole Kidman serves to "expose" the fallacy and lie of pretending that what Nicole Kidman does in her movies is somehow admirable, sophisticated or liberated.

In context, the photo "exposes" Kidman as a fallen woman, shameless in her sin, in "stark" contrast to Adam and Eve, who (at least) made "aprons" to cover their nakedness.

She, like those expelled from Eden, is in need of repentance, forgiveness and new birth.

It is not just our souls and hearts that are in need of salvation and redemption, however. God created us in his image...male and female he created us. Our bodies of flesh, with all of their sexual distinctiveness, are also in need of transformation.

It is important to remember that Jesus entered the world "in the flesh," suffered and died on the cross "in the flesh," was, by means of the physical transformation of resurrection, raised to life "in the flesh" and, forty days later, ascended into heaven "in the flesh."

It was, in part at least, for our flesh that Christ died.

Nicole, like every one of us, is in need of the Good News of God's saving love in Christ Jesus her Lord.

Because of this, her nakedness should generate feelings of embarrassment and pity in us rather than admiration, envy or respect.

The Bible itself is quite graphic in its description of human sin. While linguists translate the words into other languages, artists translate scripture into painting, sculpture, theater and music. It is sometimes helpful to see sin presented in some way other than words alone.

Like Massacio's painting of Adam and Eve, I intended the photo of Nicole Kidman to serve that purpose being fully aware that, like Massacio's painting, there will always be those who will find the subject matter tintillating instead of edifying.

Paul, in Corinthians, warns us to limit our freedom for the sake of those who are weak in faith lest we cause them to stumble. While I seek to be obedient to this admonition I am also of the opinion that, should we attempt to avoid anything and everything that might cause others to "stumble," our lives, our world and the Gospel itself would become sorely impoverished.

So....I've decided to leave Nicole's photo on my site as a witness to her fallenness and to our own.

And I am glad that the photo offends some people because, after all, that was the very point I was trying to make.

Nicole Kidman Becomes UN Goodwill Ambassador--No Joke!

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According to AP:
Nicole Kidman has a new role - working to advance women's rights around the globe as a goodwill ambassador for the U.N. The Oscar-winning actress will work with the United Nations Development Fund for Women, UNIFEM, on critical gender concerns such as ending violence against women.
Some years ago everyone wanted to have a pot bellied pig for a pet. Today, in Hollywood at least, everyone wants to be a United Nation's Goodwill Ambassador.

It appears that one of the qualifications for this position is that you must, 1. Be female; 2. Be a beautiful female; 3. Be a famous and wealthy actress, and; 4. Be willing to take all your clothes off and be seen totally naked by millions of people around the world.

Thus we have had Angelina Jolie and, as of yesterday, Nicole Kidman chosen for the honor.

Kidman, of course, has stripped to full-frontalhood in such films as "Birthday Girl," "Eyes Wide Shut" and, most recently, "Cold Mountain."

Image hosting by PhotobucketThis experience, of course, has given her exemplary credibility on "Women's issues" and "gender concerns" around the world, particularly in Muslim countries and in most Third World countries, which are notoriously conservative and purient when it comes to public exhibition of female flesh.

Personally, I do not quite see how running around naked on movie screens around the world and playing a starring role as a tabloid sex symbol helps Nicole in being taken seriously as she presents her concerns over "violence against women."

I'm sure that she is a nice, sincere person who has a certain amount of passion for the needs of women. As a UN Ambassador I also have no doubt that she will be given many free trips to exotic places and be feted and wined and dined at embassies and government offices and noted five-star restaurants around the world.

There will also be, of course, the mandatory photo ops with victimized women in South-East Asia and Africa. How this will help these women is not exactly clear. Perhaps shaking hands or being hugged by Nicole will lift their spirits and inspire them to enter movie careers. Perhaps the blue jeans and pre-washed white shirts covered with a pre-worn light denim jacket will convince those who exploit these women to have a change of heart and become film directors in Hollywood.

Dearest Nicole: If you really want to address the issues of violence against women and honestly desire to raise their status in the eyes of world culture (and of men, in particular), the very best thing you could do would be to begin by addressing the debased, degrading and stereotypical image of women as sex objects in the Hollywood movie industry.

Say what you will....but until you renounce your own career and take on the industry that made you a celebrity, there will not be one man in the entire world who will take you seriously. Indeed, in many places you will need to be protected from men would would otherwise spit on you for your indecency. To much of the world you are a poster girl for the immoral depravity of so-called Western civilization. For you to go anywhere outside of the United States or your home country of Australia and point your finger in accusation of the abuse of women or the suppression of their "human rights" will generate nothing but disdain.

Your selection as a United Nation's Goodwill Ambassador for women's issues mocks the very subject for which you were chosen as a spokesperson.

The fact that the United Nations chose you also mocks what little sincerity, integrity and reputation remains in that thoroughly discredited institution of international corruption and self-service.

Where is Shirley Temple Black when we need her!

Friday, January 27, 2006

White Guy Experiences Preaching at African-American Church

I am, of course, the "white guy" mentioned in the title of this post.

Last Sunday, while in Southern California attending several denominational events, I preached at Angeles Mesa Presbyterian Church in Los Angeles.

Pastor Timm Cyrus and I have been friends for nearly 20 years. He preached at my Mililani church when the Presbytery of the Pacific met in Honolulu two years ago so now it was my turn to preach at Angeles Mesa. The church is African-American and thrives on emotion and enthusiasm centered around the saving Lordship of Jesus. I had never preached in such a venue before but had attended and experienced such worship on many occasions.

I took a sermon I had recently preached in Mililani and added an introduction and expanded a section in the middle but left it more or less the same otherwise. I preached for 40 minutes (a luxury and a departure from my usual 20 minute message) but did not expect the response I received.

The vocal support from the congregation was far more than I had anticipated. At one point I had to pause and wait for the enthusiasm to subside before I could continue. By the time I approached the end of the sermon more than a few in the congregations were actually standing on their feet praising God and encouraging me on with my message. (Note: This is not a pentecostal church!)

What a wonderful experience to have the power of the Holy Spirit pour out of the pulpit only to have it returned in full by the response of the congregation. That is so different from the usual Sunday morning where the power of the Holy Spirit flows from the pulpit only to seemingly disappear into thin air and silence.

In any case, I found my ministry and preaching to be wonderfully affirmed and I flew home that evening feeling strangely uplifted and encouraged.

I can assure you that there are no "frozen chosen" at Angeles Mesa. But there are plenty of "chosen!" I praise God for Timm's wonderful ministry and for the warm welcome I received from the members of his congregation.

P.S. They have one of the best small gospel choirs in Southern California. Awesome! Worship is at 10:00 am.

Thursday, January 26, 2006

Iran Wants Direct Flights to the U.S.

No, this idea didn't originate at The Onion or in the late-night monologues of Jay Leno or David Letterman. Strange as it sounds, Iran has indeed asked the United States to allow direct flights between the two countries.

Reuters reports that:
Iran has asked the United States to allow direct flights between the two countries after a break of more than two decades, a senior civil aviation official said on Thursday. . .

"We sent a letter to the relevant American officials on Wednesday, announcing Iran's willingness to resume direct flights," Nourollah Rezai-Niaraki, head of Iran's Civil Aviation Organization, told state television.

He said the decision to make the request was taken by hardline Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad due to demand from the large Iranian community living in the United States.

"They have repeatedly complained about wasting time and losing their baggage on connecting flights," the official said.
Just what we need-- an Iraqi airliner flying direct from Tehran to JFK International loaded with suicide bombers and nuclear or "dirty" bombs.

"I hope American officials do not adopt a political stance in making a decision on this request," said Iranian civil aviation spokesman Reza Jafarzadeh.
A "political stance?" Why in the world would the United States want to adopt a political stance on this matter?

I wonder how you say "Nuts!" in Farsi?


Hamas Wins--Will "Govern" Palestine

It's time for "Good News Bad News." First, the bad news.

Hamas won the Palestinian elections.

And the good news? Uh.....I'm thinking, I'm thinking.......

Hamas has, of course, a public policy calling for the violent destruction of the State of Israel and the establishment of an Islamist Palestinian State (that would include the land presently "occupied" by Israel).

Hamas has backed up this policy by successfully sending at least 60 suicide bombers into Israel during the past few years.

Some Israelis are trying to put a positive twist into the election results by saying things like, "Hamas was not elected to carry out attacks against Israel. It was elected to bring about change."

Others are not so sure, such as the travel guide who said, "It is hard not to be even more pessimistic now about peacemaking prospects here. We could see this whole place engulfed in even further chaos. Israel has to tread very carefully."

With Iran building nuclear weapons while saying that it's official policy is to have Israel "wiped off the map;" with the Iranian-backed Hizbollah continuing to defiantly maintain its well-armed presence and control of southern Lebanon along Israel's northern border, and; with Hamas controling the West Bank and Gaza and all the border check-points between Jordan, Egypt and Israel the threat of a devastating, armed conflict in the region is perhaps greater today than at any time since the 1973 Yom Kippur Arab-Israeli War.

And the good news? One positive note in all of this is that Fatah, with all of its lies, corruption and posturing for "peace," is out of power and, perhaps, gone forever as a credible representative of the Palestinian people.

Hamas, on the other hand, seems to know how to use its power and authority to gain and maintain control over a population. It has taken a preeminent lead in providing health services, support and education (especially of the "get a good Muslim education so you can blow yourselves up so as to take as many Israelis with you as possible" sort of curriculum). Whatever Christian Palestinians remain in Gaza or the West Bank will surely be the biggest losers since Hamas, as an Islamist group with ties to the Muslim Brotherhood, will now count non-Muslim Palestinians as second-rate citizens even though they have lived there for hundreds of years longer than the Muslims themselves.

On Tuesday, I posted on another piece of "good news" of a more macabre kind that could result from a Hamas victory. Israel now has an enemy that it can deal with up front and personal. No more games need to be played. There are clear positions on each side: Israel wishes to continue to exist alongside a peaceful Palestinian State and Hamas wishes to kill every Jew in Israel and end its existance as a nation.

Neither Israel nor Hamas recognize each other and have vowed that they will not speak or negotiate with each other.

Only time will tell. At least it is a place to start from!

My feeling is similar to when a fresh breeze clears the smog only to reveal the true ugliness of the surrounding landscape.

Please join me in praying for peace. Surely, no mere mortal is capable of unravelling this knotted web of anger, bitterness and sin.

As the Psalmist (traditionally identified as David) once wrote, "Some trust in chariots and some in horses, but we trust in the name of the LORD our God."

To that I say, "Amen."

Tuesday, January 24, 2006

Palestinians Are Voting Today

Usually I am an optimist. When it comes to the leadership of the Palestinian people I am, however, a certified pessimist.

Take the elections taking place in Palestine today as they elect representatives to the legislative body of the Palestinian Authority. For most voters, they have the choice of voting for a representative of Fatah (the political arm of Arafat's old PLO) or a representative of Hamas.

Fatah, which supposedly condemns terrorism, recognizes Israel as a nation (sort of), negotiates with Israel and professes to be secular (more or less), has militant affiliates who routinely kill Israeli civilians when it strikes their fancy. Fatah does nothing to disarm them or punish them in any way.

Hamas, on the other hand, does not recognize Israel as a legitimate nation and has, as its only core value, a determination to reclaim Israel for the Palestinian people (at least the Muslim ones who support their "our way or the highway" political philosophy). Hamas leaders have, in recent years, been effectively targeted for assassination by Israel. Even so, from time to time they still seem able to do a fairly good job blowing themselves up along with Israeli civilians as part of their pursuit of an all Muslim united Palestine.

Who is Israel rooting for today? I suspect that, at least privately, they are rooting for Hamas. This would provide Israel with a clear enemy that they can ignore as a political pariah and militarily attack with impunity as an organization that is openly "at war" with Israel.

The current Israeli strategy of unilaterally deciding which settlements to close and which to incorporate into its newly drawn and enlarged national borders is best served by a good showing by Hamas.

Publicly, however, Israeli's will be cheering for Fatah, a corrupt and powerless parody of what it claims to be. With Fatah Israel and the Palestinian Authority would no doubt be condemned to continue the never-ending dance of deception that, for world consumption, they can refer to as "peace talks" and "negotiations."

Pessimist that I am, I see the only hope of any peace settlement predicated on Hamas eventually gaining full control of the Palestinian Authority. If, with such power, Hamas continues its attitude of "war" with its neighbor, then Israel can, with some justification, systematically attack and destroy it. It will only be by being beaten into submission that the suffering Palestinians will ever be forced into conceding the existence of Israel as a legitimate state and be satisfied with creating and accepting a separate state for themselves.

While Israel's 1948 war of independence turned a goodly number of the Palestinian people into refugees, their greatest suffering has been inflicted upon them by those pretending to be their advocates.

What did Arafat ever do to relieve the suffering of "his people?" Nothing.

Neither will Hamas. Their very existence requires that the Palestinian people continue to suffer and to eat and breathe hatred for Israel and the Jews every day of their lives.

My heart aches for these poor, abused people. If Hamas and Fatah and all the other groups motivated more by hate for Israel than by any measure of love for the Palestinians were to disappear then I have no doubt that Israel, the United States and any other nation that really, truly has the best interests of the Palestinian people at heart, would willingly share their own wealth and resources to create a Palestinian State that would provide for the needs of its people and protect them from themselves.

Never, perhaps in the history of the world, has a group of people worked so hard for so long to hurt themselves as the Palestinians.

Perhaps today's elections will begin to turn the tide in a more positive direction.

As a pessimist, however, I say, "fat chance."

Google Succumbs To Self-Censorship In China

Image hosting by PhotobucketWith the announcement of its new deal with China, Google has become the latest corporation to cave in to the dubious pseudo-ethics of economic globalization. Call it the "New World Order" if you want, but whatever you call it "it" has arrived.

It is virtually impossible for international businesses to adopt a "one size fits all" ethical standard when each national market sets conflicting standards and restrictions.

In the case of China and Google, the mega-search engine giant agreed to China's demands that a long list of subjects (such as "Tianamen Square" and "Taiwan Independence") be blocked.

There is precedent for this, of course. In Germany, for example, Google already blocks Nazi-related items for sale from its search engine in accordance with German law.

In many countries a precondition for doing business has been to offer bribes to certain favored individuals within the government. Most international corporations have entered into such agreements willingly and wholeheartedly in order to gain the advantage over competitors.

Faust learned that there is a way that one can sell his soul. In the area of international business there are innumerable ways.

While such business dealings may increase the corporate "bottom line" it is the average person on the street (who number in the billions) who become the losers. Corrupt and despotic regimes are propped up by such business practices. Personal freedom to acheive success and self-sufficiency are almost always crushed.

In the end, the world, taken as a whole, is the big loser in these international transactions.

It reminds me of the man offered $ 10,000 to kill someone. He took the money with a clear conscience because, as he put it, "The person was going to be killed anyway, by somebody. So I figured that I might as well get the money instead of them."

That, my friends, is as good a summary of the transaction of international business as I have found.

Google is simply the latest example.

Some company was going to get the China contract anyway, so it might as well be . . . well, you get the idea.

Mexican Government Distributes US Border Survival Maps

The AP story begins with this:
A Mexican government commission said Tuesday it will distribute at least 70,000 maps showing highways, rescue beacons and water tanks in the Arizona desert to curb the death toll among illegal border crossers.
A few paragraphs down we read this:
Officials said the maps would help guide those in trouble to rescue beacons and areas with cell phone reception. The maps will also show the distance a person can walk in the desert in a single day.
And then comes the kicker:
"We are not trying in any way to encourage or promote migration," said Mauricio Farah, one of the commission's national inspectors.
I suppose the Mexican government could also print a brochure detailing the easiest ways to rob a bank. No doubt their response would be: "We are not trying in any way to encourage or promote bank robberies. We do know that robbing banks can be very dangerous and we simply want to provide information that, if someone should decide to do such a thing, will help them avoid injury or death."

How kind of them.

Note to readers: I am not in any way mocking the many tragic deaths and the suffering endured by those attempting to enter the United States illegally from Mexico. Unscrupulous "coyotes" frequently abandon illegals if they sense any danger of being caught. Men, women and children will often find themselves disoriented in the middle of a desert landscape. It is wrong, of course, to not attempt to help such people but there is a fine ethical line between assisting a person in need of food and water and assisting a person in the act of commiting a crime.

To provide food and services to entering illegal aliens for the express purpose of assisting them in entering the United States successfully is against the law and wrong, no matter what idealistic justifications are offered in its defense.

LA Times Column: "I Do Not Support the Troops"

Joel Stein's column in this morning's LA Times has caused a fire-storm of criticism. All I need to do is print a few paragraphs and you will see why:

I DON'T SUPPORT our troops. This is a particularly difficult opinion to have, especially if you are the kind of person who likes to put bumper stickers on his car. Supporting the troops is a position that even Calvin is unwilling to urinate on...

But blaming the president is a little too easy. The truth is that people who pull triggers are ultimately responsible, whether they're following orders or not. An army of people making individual moral choices may be inefficient, but an army of people ignoring their morality is horrifying. An army of people ignoring their morality, by the way, is also Jack Abramoff's pet name for the House of Representatives.

I do sympathize with people who joined up to protect our country, especially after 9/11, and were tricked into fighting in Iraq. I get mad when I'm tricked into clicking on a pop-up ad, so I can only imagine how they feel...

I'm not advocating that we spit on returning veterans like they did after the Vietnam War, but we shouldn't be celebrating people for doing something we don't think was a good idea. All I'm asking is that we give our returning soldiers what they need: hospitals, pensions, mental health and a safe, immediate return. But, please, no parades.

Seriously, the traffic is insufferable.

Personally I have little to say although many are asking folks who take the LA Times to cancel their subscriptions.

The LA Times may or may not endorse what Stein has written but they were under no obligation to print it. That they chose to publish and distribute this column at their expense, however, is perhaps one of the most dishonorable things I have ever seen in a major American newspaper.

Astonishingly, in an interview with Hugh Hewitt today, Stein acknowledged that he did not know anyone in the U.S. Military. As Hugh summarized,

Mr. Stein really doesn't know anyone on active duty, hasn't been to any bases or any of the service academies, hasn't met with wounded or returning troops, and generally admits to being blissfully ignorant of the military. He could not recount a single book he has read about the military, and doesn't even know how big it is. He thinks the soldiers, sailors, airmen and Marines who have died in the GWOT have died in vain. He does not feel grateful for their service.

These are not illegal opinions, of course, but they are deeply repulsive ones.
How sad to think that Stein's opinions may represent those of many in our country. Clearly, the LA Times would do better to publish columns written by those who have some credible idea of what they are talking about. Perhaps a soldier, sailor, airman or Marine?

I won't hold my breath either.

Monday, January 23, 2006

Nothing To Say

I've been gone for the past week attending a two-day seminar and church meetings in Los Angeles. I also enjoyed some time with Daughter #1 including a long visit to the Getty Museum.

Now that I am home I have scanned all the past week's newspapers and major blog sites for all the news that I missed while I was gone. There wasn't any.

I suppose that the election results from Iraq (which left the Shi'ite/Kurd coalition short of an outright ruling 2/3 plurality) was worth a positive mention. And there are, of course, the Seahawks and the Steelers heading to the Super Bowl (I had hoped for this!). Mostly, it seems, the blogosphere and newspapers were mostly talking about each other, ignoring each other and spinning whatever little piece of information they could find about....well....just about anything (especially if it had the word "Washington D.C." in it).

Today's news can be best summarized as this: "Way to go, Canada, eh?" Now that the Tories are (more or less) in power we should see some melting of the cold shoulder the Canadian government and press have been giving the United States for the past several years.

Now I will stop. I had nothing to say and have undoubtedly proven it.

Monday, January 16, 2006

Why Can't Hollywood Find Any Native American or Japanese Actresses?

First it was "Memoirs Of a Geisha" where the two lead parts went to Chinese actresses. Where there no Japanese actresses to play the roles? Isn't this an insult to Japan and their culture? How does this validate the films authenticity? Most Asians and many Americans can tell the difference between a Chinese and a Japanese, even with makeup!

Now it is the soon-to-be-released movie, "The New World." Colin Farrell will play Captain John Smith (will he have an English accent?). I can live with this but what about the important role of Pocahontas? The then 15-year old Q'orianka Kilcher was chosen for the part. She is Native American, right? Well....sort of. She is Swiss/Alaskan on her mother's side (I'm sure what "Alaskan" means) and was born in Germany. On her father's side she is part Quechua/Huachipa, indigenous tribal groups from Peru.

This, I suppose, would suit the role if she was meeting up with Pizarro in the Inca Empire. But, isn't there a single young actress from a North American Native American tribe (especially from the East or North East tribes that could have filled the roll? I'm sure that she does a fine job playing her role. But....

Remember when the blue-eyed Swede, Max von Sydow, played the role of Jesus in "The Greatest Story Ever Told?" Would Hollywood hire a dark-complexioned Italian to play the role of a Scandinavian Viking? I'm afraid the answer is "yes."

I just don't get it. Next will we see an African-American playing the leading role in a movie about George Washington? or a Vietnamese playing the role of Abraham Lincoln?

It makes just about as much sense as just about everything else Hollywood is doing these days. They expect the rest of the American people to be "politically correct." Why can't they try it themselves?

I don't plan on seeing any of these films but....just maybe...I might have if I had thought that they had gotten more appropriate actresses to play these parts.

I'm sure that "Geisha" will be a big hit in Japan, too! Right? Wrong!

Friday, January 13, 2006

Three Things I Would Hope To See Happen With Alito On the Supreme Court

With "muddled middle" swing-voter Sandra Day O'Conner soon to be replaced by Sam Alito on the Supreme Court I would hope and expect to see a few changes in the High Court's rulings over the next several years.

1. With new Chief Justice Robertson leading the charge my first hope would be a flat-down overthrow of the insane ruling in last year's Kelo v. New London concerning the right of emminent domain. By a 5-4 margin the Court ruled that municipalities have the right to commandeer private property in order to cater to the needs of private business... all in the name of economic development, of course.

The Bad News is, unfortunately, that all five supporters of this ruling are still sitting on the court. One can only hope that fresh insight from the two SCOTUS newbies will be persuasive enough to lead one of those five to reconsider their previous opinion.

2. One can also hope for a slow reduction of a woman's current "right" to choose to have an abortion in any way and at any time she would like, even if she is a minor with a pregnancy created by abuse or incest.

Eventually, the Constitutional illogic of Roe v Wade will crumble into dust. A new ruling would one day, hopefully, identify what legally constitutes human life (this is most certainly a Federal matter) and then leave the debate of the morality/legality of abortion and to what degree it may or may not be available to the States where it belonged in the first place.

3. The issues concerning the separation of Church and State have also become unnecessarily muddled over the past 30 years of Supreme Court innovation and wishful thinking. I'm not sure what direction the new Court will take on this and I really do not care, as long as the decisions are rendered intelligibly and in accordance with the plain meaning of the Constitution. Hopefully, the so-called "Lemon Test" will be replaced by something more objective and grounded in legal clarity.

4. The Supreme Court cannot seem to make up its mind concerning the Constitutionality of Affirmative Action, either. In a ruling concerning academic Affirmative Action in the admission practices of the University of Michigan, Justice Sandra Day O'Conner, who provided the swing vote endorsing affirmative action, wrote in her decision, "Effective participation by members of all racial and ethnic groups in the civic life of our nation is essential if the dream of one nation, indivisible, is to be realized." She also said that affirmative action is "potentially so dangerous" that it should be eventually phased out.

Such loopy logic must be killed off and buried forever. It is hard to believe that, if the late Chief Justice Reinquist couldn't bring the Court to ground on this matter, Robertson and Alito will be able to do any better.

If nothing else, there will be some snappy, blunt and articulate dissentions should the "flighty five" ever gang up against logic and common sense in the future.

While such potential flights of fancy may not advance the cause of juris prudence, the dissents, at least, will most certainly be more entertaining and educational to read than in the past!

The Green Bay Packers' Curious Choice of a New Head Coach

Based on intuition and a quick scan of the statistics of measurable success I do not believe that I would have chosen Mike McCarthy as an NFL head coach as the Green Bay Packers did yesterday.

As a Quarterback Coach for the Packers back in 1999, McCarthy managed to coach the Football Hall of Fame-bound Brett Favre to a stellar 8-8 season.

This past year, as the San Francisco 49ers Offensive Coach, McCarthy managed to give his team a power ranking of 30th out of 32 NFL teams.

His offense managed 17 touchdowns in 16 games averaging 242 yards of total passing & rushing offense per game. His team finished 4-12, dead last in the NFC West, a division which pitted them against such powerhouses as the 6-10 Rams and the 5-11 Cardinals.

According to AP, Packers

General Manager Ted Thompson touted McCarthy as someone who could return the franchise to a championship level.

"We feel very good about our future going forward," Thompson said.
Thompson, unfortunately, is not managing a fantasy league team next year.

Krauthammer's Review On "Munich" Worth a Careful Reading

I have chosen not to pay money to see the movie "Munich." This is not so much because of the controversy over the film but simply because the subject matter does not interest me. Fictionalized history, especially of the still-warm-in-the-morgue variety rarely gets me all excited.

I have, however, read many negative reviews and comments of the film, but none as clear and succinct as in Charles Krauthammer's syndicated column this morning entitled, "'Munich,' the Tragedy."

His most devestating indictment of the movie can be found in these two consecutive paragraphs:

It is an axiom of filmmaking that you can only care about a character you know. In "Munich," the Israeli athletes are not only theatrical but historical extras, stick figures. (Director) Spielberg dutifully gives us their names--Spielberg's List--and nothing more: no history, no context, no relationships, nothing. They are there to die.

The Palestinians who plan the massacre and are hunted down by Israel are given--with the concision of the gifte cinematic craftsman--texture, humanity, depth, history. The first Palestinian we meet is the erudite poet giving a public reading, then acting kindly toward his Italian shopkeeper--before he is brutally shot in cold blood by the Jews...
You get the idea. I got it and I will be content to let others pay good money to watch history and humanity disfigured and bludgeoned to death in the name of "art" or whatever else Mr. Spielberg wishes to call his movie.

Thursday, January 12, 2006

Am I Anti-Muslim? Am I Racist?

Am I anti-Muslim or racist? Some folks seem to think so. I have received comments on other sites where I have posted some of my thoughts on radical Islamist terrorism accusing me of this.

Personally, of course, I do not consider myself to be either of these. Just in case you have your doubts I am printing a reply I recently made to several of my accusers over at Blogcritics. They had been responding to my post entitled, "Steyn Predicts the Collapse of 'The West'- Sadly, I Agree." (also posted on this site here).

Greetings. As the author of this post I see that Aaman and Swingpuss have chosen to describe it as "racist." That is all well and good. But labeling the article as racist does not even address the issues being presented. That sort of name calling does not rise to the level of adult dialogue. It more resembles the behavior of otherwise inarticulate children in an elementary school playground. Please, can't we raise the level of conversation a little bit.

Frankly, I am puzzled over the term "racism." I don't seem to find any reference to "race" in my article at all. Islam, whether the more radical kind found in Shi'ite Iran or in the Muslim Brotherhood/Wahhabist/al-Qaeda Sunni varieties, is not a matter of race but of sectarian religious beliefs.

I am merely critiquing a particular version of Islam that seeks to replace "Western Civilization" with a completely different set of values.

As you well know, Muslims come in all shapes and sizes and races and there are many different ways in which different Muslims apply the teachings of the Qur'an to life in the 21st century. To call a critique of a particular viewpoint within the Muslim world "racist" demonstrates that the person bringing that charge has absolutely no idea of the subject at hand...or, more charitably, has misunderstood the subject as presented.

As to xenophobia, this is a word defined as, "Fear or hatred of strangers, people from other countries, or of anything that is strange or foreign." I am not aware of anything in my article that reflects any of this. While it may be xenophobic to have a fear of anything that is strange or foreign it is most certainly not xenophobic to have a critically informed fear of a "strange or foreign" religious sect that would like to see my country and all it represents swept away into oblivion.

This is not xenophobia but common sense...assuming there is a reasonable foundation for the fear...which I believe is easily demonstrable.

Yes, I completely agree that India is a remarkable example of how an experiment in Western-style Democracy is (thus far) successfully evolving and adapting to an Asian multicultural and multi-faith context.

The success of democracy in India actually supports the point of my article. By its constitution, the government in India (as it is in the United States) is required to be secular. Under secular law, Muslims and Hindus and Christians and Buddhists are, at least theoretically, considered as equals.

Under the religious Muslim law of sharia, Muslims are granted one legal status, Jews and Christians another and all the rest still another. The Qur'an does not readily adapt to the concept of secular law and secular government (although that experiment continues in such places as Turkey). What most historic and theological interpretations of the Qur'an envision are variations on the political practice of theocracy, where religious and civil matters are inseparable.

I personally believe that most Muslim versions of a sharia theocracy are not a good thing...at least in light of the freedoms and rights I value as part of Western Civilization and the Judeo/Christian propositions that undergird this world view.

If having a healthy fear of someone's philosophy, political beliefs or religious pracitice is "racist" and "xenophobic" then a critical view of communism, nazi-ism, anarchy or even the Klu Klux Klan must be "racist" as well.

And this, of course, is absurd.

I look forward to continuing with this dialogue. I am also publishing two follow-up articles related to this subject. They will appear whenever the blogcritic editors choose to publish them.

Some six months ago I wrote a post attempting to answer the question, "I Thought This Was a Christian Blog? Why All the Muslim Stuff?" If you are wondering the same thing, follow the link and read my answer.

Choice Quotes From Muslim Radical On Trial In England

Image hosted by Photobucket.comAccording to the London Telegraph, Muslim preacher, 47-year old Abu Hamza,
who was born in Egypt and has lived in Britain for several years as a British citizen, is accused of nine counts of soliciting to murder, four counts of using threatening, abusive or insulting behaviour and two counts of possessing abusive recordings with a view to distribution and possession of a document useful to preparing terrorism.
According to the story, Hamza's apartment contained plans to blow of Big Ben, skyscrapers, airports and football stadiums.

Most disturbing to me are recordings of Hamza's preaching and teaching. The Telegraph article includes the following citations:

In one speech, delivered to a meeting in Whitechapel, east London, in 1997 or 1998 Hamza said the role of women should be to encourage their husbands to train children as young as 10 so they could become mujahadeen (holy warriors).

In a tape aimed at young people he said: “When you meet Allah you will be asked who was killed at your hands?”

Britain and Western nations were “100 per cent anti-Islam”, he said in another tape, calling on his followers to spread Islam “by the sword” and adding: “European leaders only respect those that are strong.”

He said: “Killing the kafir for any reason is OK, killing the kafir for no reason is OK,” and he specifically singled out those that granted licences for “wine shops”.

Hamza added: “We like blood and are addicted to it. When they say they love Allah they must ask themselves how much kafir blood they have spilt for Allah.”

Describing non-believers as “germs and viruses” in another tape he added: “There is no drop of liquid loved by Allah more than blood of Serbs, Jews or any other enemy of Allah.”
If you are wondering what a "kafir" is, it probably means you! Any person who refuses to submit himself to Allah (God), who disbelieves in the message of Mohammed and in Mohammed as the Prophet of God is a "kafir."

Isn't it nice to know that God loves your blood? Especially when it has been happily and blessedly shed by a follower of someone like Hamza?

The saddest part of all this is that, as you can see in the photograph at the top of this post, Hamza seems to have many supporters in front of the courthouse protesting his trial.

In Iran: Rape Victim Sentenced to Death for Killing Attacker

One of two women attacked by three men who attempted to rape them was sentenced to death by hanging by a court in Iran this week.

The girl, 17 years old at the time of the incident in March 2005, said that she first stabbed one of the men in the hand when she was forced to the ground. As they attempted to run away, the men tried to grab them again. It was then that she stabbed one of them in the chest. It was not her intent, she said, to kill anyone.

The girls had been sitting in a park with their boyfriends at the time of the attack. The boyfriends jumped on their motorbikes, drove off and left the girls behind.

The story does not say whether either of the two surviving attackers were charged with any crime.


Six Suspects Arrested In Last October's Mini-Jihad In Oakland

Last November I posted on the attack on stores selling liquor in Oakland. The stores were vandalized by African-American men nattily dressed in suites, white shirts and bow-ties. The incidents were graphically captured on security cameras.

The men's attire led me to conclude that they were members of the Nation of Islam or, at the least, considered themselves to be "Black Muslims" of some flavor or variety.

It turns out that this was the case. Six of the men have now been arrested. A recent news story from Oakland states that at least one of them is a "Black Muslim." No mention is made, however, of the Nation of Islam. Take a guess as to whether the other five men were "Black Muslims." I am still left to wonder whether they are also members of the Nation of Islam and, if so, did they act on their own? (highly unlikely) or ordered to do this by someone "higher up?" (highly likely).

In any case, they were wearing the "uniform" of members of the Nation of Islam. I suspect that the Oakland prosecutor will not want to get entangled in a criminal case that could implicate Nation of Islam leaders. I have little doubt that the case will be based on these men acting on their own as individuals and not as representatives of any group larger than themselves.

The news story linked above turns the issue into one over the issue of the selling of alcohol...how much, if any at all, is enough. There also appears to be conflict between Black Muslims and Middle Eastern Muslims (the latter are the owners of the stores that were attacked).

Ah, me. I do hope that the law, whatever it may be in Oakland, is equally applied and fairly prosecuted against all people whether they are Black, White, Muslim, Christian, big-shot or whatever else one might come up with.

Regardless of whether their motive was "pure" and "well-intentioned" or not, these men broke the law and destroyed property not belonging to them.

I hope they will be prosecuted to the full extent of the law. I hope that, if others are implicated, they will be also.

But I'll believe it when I see it.

Wednesday, January 11, 2006

General Hillary Clinton Demands More Body Armor For U.S. Troops

A Pentagon study apparently found that as many as 60%+ of combat-related deaths in Iraq and Afghanistan might have been prevented had a full complement of superior body armor been worn.

Senator Clinton sees this, of course, as a failure on the part of the military and the Bush Administration, saying, "We perhaps could have avoided so many of these fatalities with the right body armor..." adding that she was "just bewildered as to how this president and this vice president continue to isolate themselves from different points of view."

If General Clinton (as Michelle Malkin calls her) had spoken to any of the troops in the field she might have kept her mouth shut. It appears that each soldier is already lugging around over 40 pounds of "stuff" (including armor) and that a balance has to be made between safety and the ability to move. The full armor suggested by Hillary would potentially save lives but would also bring the weight total to nearly 100 pounds, effectively rendering the soldier immovable.

Soldiers' replies to Clinton's huffing and puffing can be found here and many other places on the internet.

This does not mean that more can and ought to be done to protect our troops but, in light of the troop response, it does not appear that the good Senator picked up too many votes from military families on this particular issue.

An anonymous source released this sample illustration of what Hillary believes will provide the protection needed by our troops.

Image hosted by Photobucket.com

The halberd, apparently, was Colonel Chelsea's idea.

American News Media Blacks Out Story of Italian Terror Arrests

Its been several days since this story broke throughout Europe. Headlines in every major paper.

It seems the Italians captures a terrorist cell planning major attacks in the United States.

Why, you may ask, has the American media not covered this story?

Perhaps this phrase in the story has something to do with it:

Italian authorities recently announced that they had used wiretaps to uncover the conspiracy to conduct a series of major attacks inside the U.S.
The story is scary in its implications.

On the other hand, it makes President Bush's defense of his Homeland Security policy look pretty convincing.

It also makes the New York Times and its expose on the President's wiretapping look rather pathetic.

You can read the whole story of what the Italians discovered in many different news sources. I'll follow Powerline's lead and refer you to the Abyssinian International News Agency.

Alito Jumps Hoops With Ease

When I was younger someone once told me that acheiving your goal required a lot of "jumping through hoops." "Hoops" turned out to be those obstacles that had to be endured or overcome to get where you wanted to go....perhaps a BA degree or a particular job.

Some hoops serve a good purpose but many seem to have been created simply for the sake of jumping or crawling through them. Certain hoops even seem to have been created soley to bring humiliation to the aspirant and some kind or frat-boy initiation-rite joy to those who have already passed that way before.

Back in my Boy Scout days we had a hoop called "snipe hunting" that served this purpose quite well.

This week Judge Alito is jumping through his irrelevent and largely purposeless hoops in the United States Senate. The Democrats have been doing their best to turn it into a frat-boy initiation-ritual and seem to be taking perverse pleasure in trying to make the President's nominee to the Supreme Courts squirm or at least look humiliated.

Unfortunately, what the world is seeing instead is a bunch of campus bullies throwing their (not inconsiderable) weight around in trying to make life miserable for what they view as some young, nervous Freshmen.

Even more unfortunate for the Democrats is that Alito is proving to be a better man than they are (and this includes the women, too!). The contrast is striking. Senators bloviating and posing and ranting and raving over jots and tittles and motes and specks while beams the size of Pacific Coast Redwood trees can be seen planted firmly in their eyes. Alito, meanwhile, sits and tries his best to be civil and patient, demonstrating why he was nominated as a qualified Supreme Couirt Judge instead of the many wanna-be former lawyers who, facing him, pretend to be his betters.

The world is watching. Americans are watching. They are seeing the quality of leadership representative of the conservative, Republican Party. They are also seeing the quality of leadership representative of the liberal, Democratic Party. It should be clear to all that there is a difference. And the difference is not flattering to the liberals.

I think, when it is all over, the Democrats will look back and realize that, in some ironic twist of fate, they were the ones who were jumping through the hoop...and missed it.

Then again, the naked Emperor continued to insist that he was richly clad in spite of the wind and cold and all the other evidence to the contrary. Sometimes folks have a hard time getting their own jokes...especially when they are unwittingly the butt of them themselves.

Saturday, January 07, 2006

I Am More Optimistic Than the Pope Concerning the Threat of Islam to the West

According to a Hugh Hewitt interview with a priest friend of Pope Benedict XVI, the Pope is not hopeful that Islam can adapt to "modern" ideas as embodied in the fundamental tenets of Western Civilization; especially insofar as they have been derived from Christian faith, thought and tradition. The Pope's premise, that the Koran is, for Muslims, an unalterable expression of the eternal will of Allah, is well articulated and can be found at the end of Hugh's posting on the interview here.

The history of Islam, however, presents a more hopeful and less predictable prognosis (and I am, on this subject at least, an avowed pessimist!).

From the time of Mohammed himself, there has been a historical ebb and flow between progressive and regressive Islam. Today, radical regressive Islam seems to be in the ascendancy . . . a movement emerging by means of a well-planned and well-funded program of world-wide terror and havoc spread by means of grassroots education and indoctrination.

Many Muslims see a hope of mystical liberation and a vindication of Islam in this movement. Most do not. As time passes, the inherently self-destructive path of this theocratic malignancy will become more obvious even to many of the conservative and traditional practitioners of Islam.

History shows that repressive regimes of any and all sort sooner or later collapse under their own intellectual, moral and functional bankruptcy. In order to survive, such regimes must, over time, either become more repressive in order to suppress dissent, or else open a few windows to vent the steam of pent up cultural and economic frustration and restlessness. This later tactic is, like the USSR's glasnost, no less than an admission of defeat and convincing evidence of impending implosion. Iran is, at the moment, following the first of these options; China has been cautiously experimenting with the latter.

In any case, we can be confident that the ascendancy of radical Islamism, driven by a vision of a world-wide caliphate, will sooner or later come to a dismal end. When the end comes, however, it will come from within Islam itself and not from without.

Until that day arrives, those of us who are not Muslim must do all we can to ensure the survival of Christian faith and values along with all that is good and worth saving in so-called Western Civilization.

We must also recognize and remember that there is much in our Western culture that is worthy of the scorn and repudiation of Islam. There are (it should not be surprising to say) many moral values held in common between Islam, Judaism and Christianity. Our differences primarily lie in how we believe these values should be instilled and enforced in society.

We who are not Muslim must begin the task of reforming our own culture while, at the same time, defending our God-given vision of freedom and liberty against those who would take it from us.

We who are not Muslim must also make a concerted effort to offer friendship and support to those Muslims in our communities (and around the world) who share our fear of the cultural regression and terror of radical Islamist ideology.

We should pray for those more moderate Imams who are caught between a rock and a hard place in their own spiritual communities. There are many who are under threat from radicals and are overwhelmed by the Wahhabist theology propounded and spread by the wealth derived from Saudi oil.

The very soul of Islam is at stake and we would do well to pause for a long moment before we assume that Islam itself is the enemy. It is true that our terrorist enemies are virtually all Muslim. It does not necessarily follow, however, that every Muslim is our enemy.

Alongside most ordinary Muslims there are many powerful and influential Muslims in every corner of the world who are our potential allies in this fight. We must seek them out and encourage them. The threat to them is even greater that it is to us...at least in the immediate future. A minutes thought reveals that it is the moderate Muslims who must be terminated before the rest of the world can be brought under submission to the Islamist caricature of Allah.

So then, be very, very worried. But do not be discouraged. God is the God of history as well as of creation. These times, as with all times, belong to God and are in God's hands. We who stand for God's freedom, peace, mercy, justice and redemption must stand boldly, hand in hand with all who will stand with us . . . even, and perhaps more so, if the hand we hold is the hand of a Muslim.

Three Things About Islam That Should Concern You and One Thing That Will Encourage You

As I have mentioned on several occasions, Islam is quickly moving towards becoming the dominant faith and political force in Europe. Three things that should give all non-Muslims a reason to worry and then one positive thing to ponder:

1. Father Joseph Fessio, Catholic Priest and founder of Ignatius Press, was interviewed on Hugh Hewitt's radio show yesterday. The interview was important in the insights it gives to Pope Benedict XVI's view of the rise of Islam in the West. One simple point, however, stood out as worthy or repeating here:
" I think there are 98 Islamic countries in the world, and 97 of them do not have religious freedom . . . And that's what's going to happen to Europe. Once there's an Islamic majority, it is . . . going to eliminate religious freedom . . . and therefore, Western civilization as we know it."
(Read the whole interview here and Hugh's excerpts and comments here).

2. Part of that lack of religious freedom includes the fundamental tenet of faith that, once a person has become a Muslim, they are never allowed to renounce it apart from being under a sentence of death. A corollary to this is that the freedom to practice other religious beliefs in Muslim countries is either restricted or forbidden. (Read more about this here)

3. Some radical Muslim gang members in England have apparently carried this concept even further, telling another youth, in June 2004, that if he did not convert to the Muslim faith by the following Wednesday they would kill him. On Wednesday the boy's mother heard gunshots coming from a nearby park and wondered if it might have been her son. It turned out it was. He had been shot to death in the head. This sort of threat has few historical precedents in Islam. But it does show the level of radical insanity that is accompanying this new, intolerant and lethal strain of grassroots Islamisicism around the world.

The bright spot?

Father Fessio passed on to Hugh Hewitt one other, more hopeful, thought:
". . . (I)n the United States, we also are not having children. There's abortion. There's contraception. There's the ideal of a one or two child family. But where is our immigration coming from? From Ecuador, from Mexico, from Cuba, from Guatemala. And these people are Christians. And so, I believe without being...you know, having hubris as an American, I believe that Christians in the United States are the ones who will be able to save not just Christianity, but Western civilization, if we maintain our fidelity to the scriptures, our fidelity to Christ, our fidelity to family life, and our fidelity to fertility and fruitfulness in marriage. So I believe we are in a world historical century, which is going to depend upon the strength of Christianity in these United States."
Is it possible that, within the next two generations or less, it could come to this?

It is possible. It is likely. Yes.

Friday, January 06, 2006

Please Help Return Anna Mae He To Her Parents

A little over one month ago I posted about the strange and surreal case of little Anna Mae He who has, for all practical purposes, been "stolen" from her parents through a series of legal maneuvers that, to be honest, seem like something from our of a Franz Kafka novel.

You can read a good summary of the case here.

Even better, you can sign this petition to restore legal custody to her parents.

If you are not convinced that you should support this petition I also encourage you to read the following Christmas greeting that the He's have written to Anna Mae....who the courts are now planning to give up for adoption with all contact with her parents being legally forbidden!

Pray for the He family. And, at the very least, sign the petition.

A greeting letter to our beloved daughter, Anna Mae,
during the holiday season.
Dear Anna,
Happy Birthday!

Your mother, father, sister and brother want you to
know that we love you and that you are always with us
in our hearts, especially during this time of year
when we celebrate your birth that is also Chinese New

A Judge that you will probably never meet decided
in May 2004 that you would no longer live with us,
but live instead with the Bakers. We do not know why
the Bakers believed they could love you more than your
mother and father. We continue to pray they take good
care of you.

Always remember that your mom is Qin Luo, is a good
woman who loves all her children. When you get older
you will read her name on your birth certificate. She
wanted you before you were born and will want and love
you every moment for the rest of her life.

Always remember that your dad is Shaoqiang He, a good
man who loves all his children. When you get older
you will read his name on your birth certificate. He
loves you now as he has from the moment he knew you
were to arrive in this world.

Your mom and dad always wish you the best in your
health, but in the event you need blood transmission
or any part of our body for medical reason, we will
always be available to you.

Your brother is Andy and your sister is Avita. Just
like you, they are lovely and adorable. Your brother
and sister have faces that always remind us of
you, though it has been a long, long time
since we last saw your face.

We wish we could look at the faces of all three of our
beloved children. We wish we could watch you all grow
and learn together. We wish all three of our children
could wake up in the same house, see each other--and

Always remember, too, that you are Chinese. We wish
you were with us so you could learn not only about
your country, America, but also learn about your
Chinese culture. We wish you could, just like your
brother and sister, speak both English and Chinese.
We wish when you wake up each morning you were
surrounded by people look like you--the
two people who created you--your mother and father.

If you were with us we would love you everyday of your
life. Even in your heart-breaking absence that does
not change. We love you and always will.
You are not in our home (your home), but you are
always in our hearts.

Mom, Dad, Andy and Avita

Thursday, January 05, 2006

Pat Robertson Suggests God Struck Down Sharon for Disobedience

Today, on TV, Pat Robertson suggested that Israel's Prime Minister Ariel Sharon's stroke may have been a sign of God's displeasure, a punishment for the abandonment of Gaza.

In light of other, similar spiritual insights revealed by Robertson in the past (see here, here & here), perhaps he and Iran's President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad should consider getting together and comparing notes. (By the way, was that an aura surrounding Robertson as he spoke? Is it true that no one in the broadcast studio blinked once during the program?)

I previously have said that Pat Robertson "shames the Body of Christ" by what he says. Today I do not believe that the living Body of Christ, the True Church, the Elect of God, even care anymore. Pat Robertson has become to the Church what Pat Buchanan has become to the Republican Party. He is living in his own little spiritual world created out of his own imaginings.

On the other hand, if what Pat Robertson said today is true, then I fear that I will most certainly suffer some terrible calamity tomorrow as punishment for my sin of disbelief.

We shall see.

Wednesday, January 04, 2006

Palestinian Anarchy In Gaza Kills Egyptian Border Guards

If there was ever any doubt about the utter collapse of social order in Gaza today's events have provided enough evidence for even the most fervent supporters of the Palestinian people to break into tears.

There is both tragedy and irony in what has been happening today. Captain Ed has an excellent summary and even better commentary.

Israel's Sharon Fighting for His Life Following Massive Stroke

The details are still rolling in as the Israeli Prime Minister undergoes more surgery following the one lasting six hours. A good summary of the situation and a concise summary of its political implications can be found here.

Mark Steyn Predicts the Collapse of "The West"--Sadly, I Agree

Last April, in a post entitled, "Is Europe As We Have Known It Beginning To Disintegrate?" I predicted the collapse of Europe as a distinctly Western culture within the next 25-30 years. Today, in a long, rambling article entitled, "It's the Demography, Stupid--The Real Reason the West Is In Danger of Extinction," Mark Steyn predicts the same thing and for the same reasons.

In April I wrote,

National (European) identities seem to be hanging by a mere thread in countries such as France, Germany and the Netherlands. As immigrant "minority" groups grow in strength (particularly Black & Arab Muslim) they have begun flexing their muscle and letting the rest of their "countrymen" know how much they dislike those who have treated them so condescendingly for so long . . .

Clearly the Arab Muslim communities pose the greatest threat to the political, economic and social stability of Western Europe. Many local Imams regularly preach that Europe must and will become a Muslim continent. Given the continuing influx of Muslims into Europe and their high birthrate compared to the negative birthrate of the historically European peoples, something is going to have to give sooner or later. It looks like it is starting to happen sooner!
In today's article, Steyn begins by bluntly stating what, for many of us, has already become obvious,
Most people reading this have strong stomachs, so let me lay it out as baldly as I can: Much of what we loosely call the Western world will not survive this century, and much of it will effectively disappear within our lifetimes, including many if not most Western European countries.
For Steyn, the reason is two-fold:

1. The Western liberal embrace of secular multi-culturalism has created a culture of short-sighted "live and let live" mentality coupled with a complete inability to judge one cultural world-view as being "better" or "worse" than another.

This cultural relativism has left the liberal West (including most of Europe and Canada) with a philosophy of existance founded upon the premise of non-judgemental embrace and toleration of virtually every cultural, political or religious view EXCEPT for those that created Western civilization in the first place. To endorse Western civilization would be, of course......well.....it would be bad....very bad!

2. The birthrate in Western nations have fallen either below or very below the rate necessary to sustain an idiginous population. As Steyn puts it,
When it comes to forecasting the future, the birthrate is the nearest thing to hard numbers. If only a million babies are born in 2006, it's hard to have two million adults enter the workforce in 2026 . . .
Steyn tells us that it takes 2.1 children per female to sustain a population. He then gives us some numbers to digest:

Some countries are well above (2.1): the global fertility leader, Somalia, is 6.91, Niger 6.83, Afghanistan 6.78, Yemen 6.75. Notice what those nations have in common?

Scroll way down to the bottom of the Hot One Hundred top breeders and you'll eventually find the United States, hovering just at replacement rate with 2.07 births per woman. Ireland is 1.87, New Zealand 1.79, Australia 1.76. But Canada's fertility rate is down to 1.5, well below replacement rate; Germany and Austria are at 1.3, the brink of the death spiral; Russia and Italy are at 1.2; Spain 1.1, about half replacement rate. That's to say, Spain's population is halving every generation. By 2050, Italy's population will have fallen by 22%, Bulgaria's by 36%, Estonia's by 52%.

The bottom line is this. Europe and the West need sustainable populations to sustain their economies. Immigration will be necessary to provide the labor force. This labor force has and will continue to come from Third World countries, especially (in Europe's case) from the Muslim world.

The Muslim birth rate is extremely high. It is already the driving force for population increase in Europe today.

While Mr. Steyn does not put it this way, it could be said that, what the Arab Muslim world failed to do in its failed attempt to conquer Europe by force in the 9th-15th centuries, it is today on the verge of doing quitely and simply by immigrating and having babies.

If folks believe that one culture is no better or worse than any other then this should not be any cause for concern. If Europe and West becomes dominated by Muslim religious and cultural beliefs, then....maybe that would be a good thing!

If, however, folks (like myself) believe that there is a great deal of difference in values between one culture and another and that some values are worth preserving, then this current state of affairs should be a cause for great concern indeed.

In Pakistan last year (which is, by the way, Muslim but not Arab) there were over 800 cases of physical gang rape against women and girls in order to shame, punish or "send a message" to others concerning behavior not acceptable to the men in the family. Many, if not most of these cases, enjoyed the support of the local Imams.

This version of Sharia (Qur'anic) Law is growing in popularity among Muslim populations not only in the Middle East and South-East Asia, but in Germany, France, Belgium, the Netherlands, Sweden, Britain and Canada.

It will become the law of the land unless enough folks who value Western culture and values (derived from Christianity) stand up and, with determination, devise some strategy of opposing what will otherwise become the inevitable suicide of Western civilization.

As I put it nearly a year ago,
. . . by 2030, Muslims could potentially become the majority population of......Sweden! Yes, I said, "Sweden!" Say good-bye to those thin, trim, long-haired, blonde, tanned, blue-eyed Scandinavian girls. If some of the "new Europeans" have their way they will be wearing burkas in less than 25 years.
While Steyn lays out the problems and, with a certain sense of defeatism, hopes for some plan of response, I would like to offer him some concrete encouragement with the same specific suggestion I made last April.

I am not trying to sound some sort of alarm (for that alarm has already gone off and nations are either trying to deal with it, as in the Netherlands; compromising with it, as in Spain; pretending that "it will never happen to us because we're the French," as in.....well.... France; or simply being too overwhelmed by a dizzying myriad of social fragmentations to know what to do with any of it, as in Germany).

I am also not trying to stir up distrust, hate or bigotry against Arabs or Muslims. I am simply pointing out that it is the (mostly Arab) Muslims who are becoming the primary provocateurs (the French do seem to have the vocabulary for this sort of thing, don't they?) of social unrest and conflict throughout Western Europe.

It is vital that we in the United States should strive mightily to prevent this sort of "Balkanization" of the population to occur here. There must be a concerted emphasis (in education especially) to balance out the current bias towards "diversity" with at least an equal dose of "unity." As Lincoln once famously said (paraphrasing Jesus), "a nation divided within itself cannot stand."

As I have said many times as a church Pastor, what holds us together as a church is our unity of faith. It is what we hold in common that unifies us...whether as Christian believers or as members of a bridge club or as citizens of a nation. "Diversity" always divides and separates people from one another into "us" and "them." Unity turns everyone into a "we."

Whatever it is that has inspired us to say, "We, the people of the United States of America...." must be distilled and taught and ingrained in every one of us regardless of what our age, race, faith or culture might be....
That's all I have to say on the matter today . . . except to encourage you to read all of Mark Steyn's article alongside all of mine. Then I would ask you to seriously consider whether there is anything is Western civilization that you believe is worth saving...and, perhaps, even laying down your life for.

In the not too distant future it may well come down to that.

ht:Hugh Hewitt