A more libertarian Republican Party? 2

This report, by Ross Tilchin, comes from the left-leaning Brookings Institution. It is titled On the libertarian challenge within the GOP.

Would a stronger appeal to libertarian values help the Republican Party win elections? This was one of the central questions raised during a discussion of the Public Religion Research Institute’s (PRRI’s) American Values Survey, “In Search of Libertarians in America,” launched at the Brookings Institution on October 29th, 2013.

Libertarianism has become a major part of the political conversation in the United States, thanks in large part to the high profile presidential candidacy of Ron Paul, the visibility of his son Rand in the United States Senate, and Vice-Presidential candidate Paul Ryan’s well-known admiration of Ayn Rand’s Atlas Shrugged. And the tenets of libertarianism square with the attitudes of an American public dissatisfied with government performance, apprehensive about government’s intrusiveness into private life, and disillusioned with U.S. involvement overseas. Libertarianism is also distinct from the social conservatism that has handicapped the Republican Party in many recent elections among women and young people.

Within this context, libertarians seem likely to exercise greater sway on the Republican Party than at any other point in the recent past. But a closer look at public attitudes points to many factors that will limit the ability of libertarians to command greater influence within the GOP caucus.

First, according to the PRRI poll, libertarians represent only 12% of the Republican Party. This number is consistent with the findings of other studies by the Pew Research Center and the American National Election Study. This libertarian constituency is dwarfed by other key Republican groups, including white evangelicals (37%) and those who identify with the Tea Party (20%). Tea Party members are much more likely to identify with the religious right than they are with libertarianism. More than half of Tea Partiers (52%) say they are a part of the religious right or the conservative Christian movement, and more than one-third (35%) specifically identify as white evangelical Protestants. In contrast, only 26% of Tea Partiers were classified as libertarians on PRRI’s Libertarian Orientation Scale.

While these groups are similarly conservative on economic matters (indeed, libertarians are further to the right than white evangelicals or Tea Partiers on some economic issues, such as raising the minimum wage), they are extremely divided by their views on religion.

Only 53% of libertarians describe religion as the most important thing or one among many important things in their lives.

Only? We’re surprised there are so many. More than half!

By comparison, 77% of Tea Party members say that religion is either the most important thing or one among many important things in their lives, and – not surprisingly – 94% of white evangelicals say that religion is either the most important thing or one among many important things in their lives. A full 44% of libertarians say that religion is not important in their lives or that religion is not as important as other things in their lives. Only 11% of Tea Party members and 1% of white evangelicals say that religion is not important in their lives.

There are evangelicals who say that? Evangelicals in name only, then? EINOs.

Additionally, libertarians are among the most likely to agree that religion causes more problems in society than it solves (37% total: 17% completely agreeing, 20% mostly agreeing); the least likely to agree that it is important for children to be brought up in a religion so they can learn good values (35% total: 13% completely disagree, 22% disagree); and the least likely to think it is necessary to believe in God in order to be moral and have good values (63% total: 30% completely disagree, 33% mostly disagree).

About a third of the surveyed libertarians find it necessary to believe in a heavenly Lord? Astonishing.

These stark differences in attitudes toward religion help explain the large difference in view between libertarians and other conservatives on social issues such as abortion, physician-assisted suicide, and marijuana legalization. Given their positions on these contentious social matters, it is very difficult to envision Libertarians gaining the support of socially conservative voters in the Republican Party.

Libertarians’ influence on the Republican Party is also limited by geography. Libertarians are broadly dispersed across the country – and even where they are most regionally concentrated, they are outnumbered by Tea Partiers and White Evangelicals. …

Of the 10 states that Sorens identifies as having the most libertarians, only New Hampshire, Nevada, and Georgia had spreads of 8 points or less in the 2012 presidential election. The other seven were either solidly red (Montana, Alaska, Idaho, Indiana, Wyoming, and Utah) or solidly blue (Washington and Oregon).

As such, there seems little impetus for any ideological change of course in these states—not to mention the South writ large, the region with the greatest level of libertarian support — since they are already so stoutly Republican. Perhaps in individual districts with a particular libertarian bent, libertarian candidates could have some electoral success. But any candidate running as a libertarian would, by the nature of libertarianism, have to emphasize their laissez-faire values on social issues. If running for higher office, this would surely alienate more socially conservative voters, so strongly represented in the Republican Party in these areas.

The business establishment of the Republican Party would seem a natural libertarian ally, given its moderate views on social issues, opposition to government regulation, and natural sympathy for classical economics. But this view is contested by Henry Olsen of the Ethics and Public Policy Center. At the recent Brookings discussion, Olsen argued that the business community consists of “people who are generally but not intensely opposed to government expansion, people who are generally but not intensely supportive of personal social liberties, people who are generally but not intensely suspicious of intervention abroad. That is the center of the Republican Party, not the libertarian alliance.” The very intensity of the libertarian movement is, as Olsen observed, “a bit off-putting to the person in the middle.” …

Though the states with the most libertarians are primarily rural, libertarians are also wealthier than average, better educated than average, and young (indeed, 62% of libertarians are under the age of 50) — three demographic sets that tend to live in densely populated areas. Heavily populated areas are overwhelmingly Democratic. It is not clear how many of voters in these areas would support a more libertarian Republican [candidate]. Regardless, it is even less likely that libertarianism would tilt the balance in urban counties towards the GOP’s way. …

For a variety of reasons, the burden falls on libertarians to demonstrate how they will change these dynamics. While there may be real appeal for some for Republicans to embrace a more libertarian approach, the undercurrents of the party do not paint an encouraging picture for this as a successful electoral strategy. …

The cornerstone of libertarianism — a fervent belief in the pre-eminence of personal liberty — leads libertarians to hold views on social issues that fall far outside of the mainstream of large portions of the Republican Party. In addition, libertarians’ greatest concentrations in numbers tend to fall either in small, sparsely populated states with less national political power, or among younger individuals who live predominantly in densely populated, Democratic areas. This culminates in an environment where political and demographic forces across the United States and within the Republican Party itself severely limit the power and growth of libertarians as a force within the GOP.

Scott Shackford, writing at Reason, comments on the report:

I take slight issue with the analysis, though perhaps not the conclusion. What’s left out is the very libertarian idea that just because libertarians don’t see religion as an important component to their own lives, that doesn’t mean we would object to others who decide otherwise. And believing that “religion causes more problems in society than it solves” should not be taken to mean that a libertarian believes the government should implement policies in a pursuit to “fix” these problems.

Obviously there is disagreement, but it’s not actually, literally about faith. The disagreement is about the extent of and justifications for the use of government force. To say that religious beliefs should not be used to determine whether it should be legal to get an abortion or get married is not to say that people shouldn’t use religion to make these decisions for themselves in their own lives.

Given the libertarian rejection of government coercion, who else is better suited to even approach these issues with social conservatives? Who outside of libertarians is arguing in favor of same-sex marriages getting the same legal recognition as heterosexual marriages, while at the same time arguing that no church should be obligated to recognize them, nor should any business be dragooned into providing goods and services for them?

Rather than seeing libertarians in opposition to social conservatives, it’s more helpful to see libertarians as allies in protecting the civil liberties of the religious even as they lose cultural influence. Libertarians may not be able to “take over” the Republican Party (not that they should stop trying), but the party itself may be in deep trouble if these factions cannot find points of agreement.

One point that emerges from the data and the discussion as a whole is that the issue of personal liberty is assumed to be of no concern at all to the Democratic Party.

If the Republican Party – for all its faults – is so clearly the party of liberty, then all the straining by these earnest scholars of the Left to prove it is mostly the party of religious nuts and southern fuddy-duddies, is wasted effort. Those who want to be free need to vote Republican. Those who want Big Brother (or Daddy or Nanny) Government to run their lives, and keep them dependent on the whims of bureaucrats and collectivist ideologues, will vote Democratic.

If only the Republican Party could learn how to get voters to understand that that is the choice.

Edward Snowden: loyal to the people of America 2

These are extracts from a Washington Times report of an interview it had in Moscow with Edward Snowden, the man who “betrayed” the secrets of the National Security Agency (NSA):

Snowden is an orderly thinker, with an engineer’s approach to problem-solving. He had come to believe that a dangerous machine of mass surveillance was growing unchecked. Closed-door oversight by Congress and the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court was a “graveyard of judgment” he said, manipulated by the agency it was supposed to keep in check. Classification rules erected walls to prevent public debate.

Toppling those walls would be a spectacular act of transgression against the norms that prevailed inside them. Someone would have to bypass security, extract the secrets, make undetected contact with journalists and provide them with enough proof to tell the stories.

The NSA’s business is “information dominance”, the use of other people’s secrets to shape events. … Snowden upended the agency on its own turf. …[and] succeeded beyond plausible ambition. The NSA, accustomed to watching without being watched, faces scrutiny it has not endured since the 1970s, or perhaps ever.

The cascading effects have made themselves felt in Congress, the courts, popular culture, Silicon Valley and world capitals.

The basic structure of the Internet itself is now in question, as Brazil and members of the European Union consider measures to keep their data away from U.S. territory and U.S. technology giants including Google, Microsoft and Yahoo take extraordinary steps to block the collection of data by their government.

For months, Obama administration officials attacked Snowden’s motives and said the work of the NSA was distorted by selective leaks and misinterpretations.

On Dec. 16, in a lawsuit that could not have gone forward without the disclosures made possible by Snowden, U.S. District Judge Richard J. Leon described the NSA’s capabilities as “almost Orwellian” and said its bulk collection of U.S. domestic telephone records was probably unconstitutional.

The next day, in the Roosevelt Room [at the White house], an unusual delegation of executives from old telephone companies and young Internet firms told President Obama that the NSA’s intrusion into their networks was a threat to the U.S. information economy. The following day, an advisory panel appointed by Obama recommended substantial new restrictions on the NSA, including an end to the domestic call-records program. …

In the intelligence and national security establishments, Snowden is widely viewed as a reckless saboteur, and journalists abetting him little less so. …

It is commonly said of Snowden that he broke an oath of secrecy, a turn of phrase that captures a sense of betrayal. NSA Director Keith B. Alexander and Director of National Intelligence James R. Clapper Jr., among many others, have used that formula. …

Snowden noted matter-of-factly that Standard Form 312, the classified-information nondisclosure agreement, is a civil contract. He signed it, but he pledged his fealty elsewhere.

“The oath of allegiance is not an oath of secrecy,” he said. “That is an oath to the Constitution. That is the oath that I kept that Keith Alexander and James Clapper did not.”

Beginning in October 2012, he said, he brought his misgivings to two superiors in the NSA’s Technology Directorate and two more in the NSA Threat Operations Center’s regional base in Hawaii. For each of them, and 15 other co-workers, Snowden said he opened a data query tool called BOUNDLESSINFORMANT, which used color-coded “heat maps” to depict the volume of data ingested by NSA taps.

His colleagues were often “astonished to learn we are collecting more in the United States on Americans than we are on Russians in Russia,” he said. Many of them were troubled, he said, and several said they did not want to know any more.

“I asked these people, ‘What do you think the public would do if this was on the front page?’ ” he said. He noted that critics have accused him of bypassing internal channels of dissent. “How is that not reporting it? How is that not raising it?” …

By last December, Snowden was contacting reporters, although he had not yet passed along any classified information. He continued to give his colleagues the “front-page test”, he said, until April. …

Just before releasing the documents this spring, Snowden made a final review of the risks. He had overcome what he described at the time as a “selfish fear” of the consequences for himself.

“I said to you the only fear [left] is apathy — that people won’t care, that they won’t want change.”

The documents leaked by Snowden compelled attention because they revealed to Americans a history they did not know they had. …

With assistance from private communications firms, the NSA had learned to capture enormous flows of data at the speed of light from fiber-optic cables that carried Internet and telephone traffic over continents and under seas. According to one document in Snowden’s cache, the agency’s Special Source Operations group, which as early as 2006 was said to be ingesting “one Library of Congress every 14.4 seconds”, had an official seal that might have been parody: an eagle with all the world’s cables in its grasp.

Each year, NSA systems collected hundreds of millions of e-mail address books, hundreds of billions of cellphone location records and trillions of domestic call logs.

Most of that data, by definition and intent, belonged to ordinary people suspected of nothing. But vast new storage capacity and processing tools enabled the NSA to use the information to map human relationships on a planetary scale. Only this way, its leadership believed, could the NSA reach beyond its universe of known intelligence targets.

In the view of the NSA, signals intelligence, or electronic eavesdropping, was a matter of life and death, “without which America would cease to exist as we know it”, according to an internal presentation in the first week of October 2001, as the agency ramped up its response to the al-Qaeda attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon.

With stakes such as those, there was no capability the NSA believed it should leave on the table. The agency followed orders from President George W. Bush to begin domestic collection without authority from Congress and the courts. When the NSA won those authorities later, some of them under secret interpretations of laws passed by Congress between 2007 and 2012, the Obama administration went further still. …

In the Moscow interview, Snowden said, “What the government wants is something they never had before,” adding: “They want total awareness. The question is, is that something we should be allowing?”

Snowden likened the NSA’s powers to those used by British authorities in Colonial America, when “general warrants” allowed for anyone to be searched. The FISA court, Snowden said, “is authorizing general warrants for the entire country’s metadata.”

“The last time that happened, we fought a war over it,” he said.

Technology, of course, has enabled a great deal of consumer surveillance by private companies, as well. The difference with the NSA’s possession of the data, Snowden said, is that government has the power to take away life or freedom.

At the NSA, he said, “there are people in the office who joke about, ‘We put warheads on foreheads.’ Twitter doesn’t put warheads on foreheads.”

Privacy, as Snowden sees it, is a universal right, applicable to American and foreign surveillance alike.

“I don’t care whether you’re the pope or Osama bin Laden,” he said. “As long as there’s an individualized, articulable, probable cause for targeting these people as legitimate foreign intelligence, that’s fine. I don’t think it’s imposing a ridiculous burden by asking for probable cause. …

When it comes to spying on allies, by Snowden’s lights, the news is not always about the target.

“It’s the deception of the government that’s revealed,” Snowden said, noting that the Obama administration offered false public assurances after the initial reports about NSA surveillance in Germany.  “The U.S. government said: ‘We follow German laws in Germany. We never target German citizens.’ And then the story comes out and it’s: ‘What are you talking about? You’re spying on the chancellor.’ You just lied to the entire country, in front of Congress.”

In hope of keeping focus on the NSA, Snowden has ignored attacks on himself.

“Let them say what they want,” he said. “It’s not about me.”

Former NSA and CIA director Michael V. Hayden predicted that Snowden will waste away in Moscow as an alcoholic, like other “defectors.” To this, Snowden shrugged. He does not drink at all. Never has.

But Snowden knows his presence here is easy ammunition for critics. He did not choose refuge in Moscow as a final destination. He said that once the U.S. government voided his passport as he tried to change planes en route to Latin America, he had no other choice. …  “I have no relationship with the Russian government. I have not entered into any agreements with them.”

“If I defected at all,” Snowden said, “I defected from the government to the public.”

We don’t think it likely that the NSA will stop its surveillance of the whole earth and your and our emails. It’s a power beyond the wildest dreams of all governments ever to be able to know everything about everyone, and now that it has become possible, and is being used, it will never be given up. No court judgment will stop it. No act of Congress. Preventing terrorist attacks is the excuse. Power is the reason.

At least we know about it now. For that we have to thank Edward Snowden.

Signs of Democrats’ desperation over the scandalous tragedy of Benghazi 3

A big effort is underway to let former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton (in particular, we surmise, since Democrats want her to be their 2016 presidential candidate), and President Obama, and former US Ambassador to the UN Susan Rice off the hook for lying about the Obama terrorist attack that killed the US Ambassador to Libya and three other Americans on 9/11/12.

The New York Times has done its bit with an “in depth” investigation. It tries, first, to make critics of the Banghazi fiasco seem to have lied by suggesting that they blamed al-Qaeda, and the NYT finding is that “al-Qaeda was not involved”. But al-Qaeda affiliates were involved. And in any case the involvement of al-Qaeda was not the most vital point in the case against the administration, above all the State Department, for their mishandling of the whole tragic affair.

More urgently the NYT claims that no lie was told by Hillary Clinton, Obama and Rice because the obscure video they blamed for provoking a “spontaneous” attack by sadly hurt Libyans was the cause of the onslaught. If the attackers are suddenly telling that story now to the NYT, which clearly wanted to elicit that answer, how likely is it they are telling the truth?

Here is a discussion of the issue on NBC news.

Arguments for liberty 4

This video of Friedrich Hayek talking to students gets to be most interesting – we think – round about the 16 minute mark, when he explains why the monopoly power of government to issue money should be taken away from it.  He goes on to argue against the idea of “social justice”. Justice applies to individuals, not “a state of affairs”. Most interesting of all, perhaps, is the case he makes against the idea that individuals who “do good” directly to other individuals are the great benefactors of society. On the contrary, the “selfish” people who produce goods for profit do far more good to far more people, indirectly.  Towards the end he makes the point that the more complex a society is, the less able government is to understand its needs and plan for them.

Three cups of diddly-squat 2

Afghanistan is an American protectorate; its kleptocrat president is an American client, kept alive these last twelve years only by American arms. The Afghan campaign is this nation’s longest war — and our longest un-won war: That’s to say, nowadays we can’t even lose in under a decade. I used to say that, 24 hours after the last Western soldier leaves Afghanistan, it will be as if we were never there. But it’s already as if we were never there. The American imperium has lasted over twice as long as the Taliban’s rule — and yet, unlike them, we left no trace.

So Mark Steyn declares. “All we have built” he writes, “is another squalid sharia state” that practices the stoning to death of adulterers. And we can only nod in sad agreement.

In my book America Alone, I quoted a riposte to the natives by a British administrator. … The chap in question was Sir Charles Napier, out in India and faced with the practice of suttee — the Hindu tradition of burning widows on the funeral pyres of their husbands. General Napier’s response was impeccably multicultural: “You say that it is your custom to burn widows. Very well. We also have a custom: When men burn a woman alive, we tie a rope around their necks and we hang them. Build your funeral pyre; beside it, my carpenters will build a gallows. You may follow your custom. And then we will follow ours.”

He praises Napier’s “cultural cool”. His confidence in the rightness of his own culture’s laws was “in the long run, more effective than a drone”.

India is better off without suttee, just as Afghanistan would be better off without child marriage, honor killing, death for apostasy, and stoning for adultery. …

The American way of war is to win the war in nothing flat, and then spend the next decade losing the peace. The American people have digested that to the point where they assume that … the next intervention [would be]  a fool’s errand. The rest of the world grasps it, too. If Hamid Karzai treats Washington with contempt and gets away with it, why expect the Iranians to behave any differently?

A nation responsible for almost half the planet’s military spending goes into battle with the sentimental multiculti fantasist twaddle of Greg Mortensen’s Three Cups of Tea as its strategy manual — and then wonders why it can’t beat goatherds with fertilizer.

All true. But even if America did manage to put a stop to child marriage, honor killing, death for apostasy, and stoning for adultery in Afghanistan, wouldn’t they resume as soon as the last American troops left? As far as we know, suttee was not resumed in India when the British Raj came to an end. So Napier and his fellow administrators won the argument while they had the power to enforce their law. But that was India, a civilization. Who believes in an Afghan civilization – even if it has had periods with less stoning and more Western pop music in it?

Americans [might] sigh wearily and shrug, “Afghanistan, the graveyard of empire,” or sneer, “If they want to live in a seventh-century s***hole, f*** ’em.” But neither assertion is true. Do five minutes’ googling, and you’ll find images from the Sixties and early Seventies of women in skirts above the knee listening to the latest Beatles releases in Kabul record stores.

Those are undeniable signs of our culture, but are they the best we have to give for the improvement of barbarous s***holes? They are far from matching Napier’s gift to India. But nor are they the worst. What would be most representative of American culture now? The deeply depressing answer may have been given by the Obama Administration and the Pentagon: that cloying lying little book Three Cups of Tea.

Mercy to the guilty is cruelty to the innocent 2

– Adam Smith said.

Who treats the guilty with mercy? American governments do, and many Americans think it is right.

Why so gross an offense to justice?

These are extracts from an article by Daniel Greenfield at his website, Sultan Knish:

In 1997, Mohammed T. Mehdi, the head of the Arab-American Committee and the National Council on Islamic Affairs, lobbied to have a crescent and star put up at the World Trade Center during the holiday season. His wish was granted, despite the fact that he had been an adviser to Sheik Omar Abdel-Rahman also known as the Blind Sheikh.

In the name of diversity and political correctness, an adviser to the religious leader behind the World Trade Center bombing [in 1993], was allowed to plant an Islamic symbol of conquest in the very place that had been bombed.

Long before the Ground Zero Mosque was even a twinkle in the eye of a violent ex-waiter and a slumlord Imam, the World Trade Center allowed Mohammed T. Mehdi to bully it into flying the symbol of Islam.

By 1997, Mohammed T. Mehdi had become an unambiguously ugly public figure. He had been fired by Mayor Dinkins in 1992 for anti-Semitic remarks. The year before he had proclaimed that, “Millions of Arabs believe Saddam stands tall having defied Western colonialism”.

The Third World Muslims pick up words like “colonialism” as a pejorative from the West’s ideologues of the Left. In fact, no colonists in history subjugated the nations they conquered more ruthlessly than did the Muslim Arabs.

In 1995, the US Attorney’s Office in New York had listed Mehdi as anunindicted co-conspirator in the trial of Sheikh Rahman. Mehdi had already published a book titled “Kennedy and Sirhan: Why?”, which contended that Robert Kennedy’s assassin had been acting in self-defense.

Because of Mehdi’s role in actively working on behalf of the Sheikh behind the wave of terrorism that included the original attack on the World Trade Center, turning down his request should have been a no-brainer. Instead in the winter of 1997 there was an Islamic star and crescent at the World Trade Center. And another one at the park in front of the White House.

The previous year had marked the first annual Ramadan dinner at the State Department, integrating the Islamic celebration into the Clinton Administration’s schedule of events. Bill Clinton had not visited the World Trade Center after the bombing, but he did make time for Ramadan.

A month after 9/11, Bush went Clinton one better when he became the first president to host a Ramadan dinner at the White House. Many of the Muslim ambassadors at the event were representing countries that helped finance Al Qaeda. Little more than a month after September 11, the President of the United States sat down to break bread with the money men behind the attacks.

The Star and Crescent flying at the World Trade Center did not prevent it from being targeted in a second greater attack four years later. Nor did the Ramadan dinners keep the plane headed for the White House at bay. It took the self-sacrifice of its American passengers to do that. Instead every gesture of appeasement only seemed to make it worse.

Before the star and crescent flew at the World Trade Center, the site suffered only a few dead. After it, thousands dead.

The more Ramadan dinners Bush hosted, the more Americans died, because the Star and Crescent and the Ramadan dinners both expressed a deliberate blindness to the threat of Islamic terrorism.

No one who understood what had happened at the World Trade Center in 1993, would have permitted a banner associated with its attackers to be flown there. But while the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey let Mehdi have his way with the World Trade Center, other Muslims were working to carry out Sheikh Abdel-Rahman’s agenda for a war on America and the free world.

“Cut the transportation of their countries,” the blind Sheik had commanded, “tear it apart, destroy their economy, burn their companies, eliminate their interests, sink their ships, shoot down their planes, kill them on the sea, air, or land.”

While the US was busy bombing Yugoslavian civilians in order to create a separatist Muslim state for KLA terrorists; Osama bin Laden and Khalid Sheikh Mohammed were recruiting the first of the 9/11 hijackers. While the United States tried to appease Muslims, Muslims plotted to murder Americans.

In 1997, the New York Daily News wrote an upbeat story about Mehdi’s Star and Crescent, which envisioned Islam blending merrily into the holiday season.

New York may seem a little brighter this holiday season as the glowing Muslim crescent and star symbol nudges its way onto a seasonal landscape of Christmas trees, menorahs and Kwanzaa candles.

Watch out, ho, ho, ho-ing Santas you might get drowned out by cheery folks yelling, “Allahu akbar!”

Four years later, cheery folks yelling “Allahu Akbar” filled downtown Manhattan with ashen snow and brightened it with the flames of the burning towers of the World Trade Center. …

While “Americans were picking up the pieces of their loved ones, it was they who were told to be sensitive to Muslim concerns.”

New York City schools [made] arrangements for Muslim prayers out of “heightened sensitivity to Muslim concerns after the Sept. 11 attack”.

Instead of Americans being on the receiving end of “heightened sensitivity”, the ideology that had conspired to murder them was.

And so it continued, the appeasement, the grovelling:

On the 9th anniversary of 9/11, Islam had another gift for New Yorkers. Having bought up a building damaged in their own attack, they plotted to set up a grand mosque near Ground Zero. Another gift to New Yorkers from the religion that kept on giving. Another Crescent and Star.

The same people who did not learn the lesson in 1997, and allowed the Crescent and Star to fly at the World Trade Center, were eager to let the Ground Zero Mosque go forward in the name of tolerance. But despite the Crescent and Star, appeasement proved to be no defense.

3,000 died on 9/11 because American leaders preferred to appease, rather than confront. And we are still busy appeasing, like never before.

When the sensitive treat the brutal sensitively, and the brutal treat the sensitive brutally, who will win?

Posted under Commentary, Islam, jihad, Muslims, United States, War by Jillian Becker on Thursday, December 26, 2013

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Come all ye skeptics (repeat) 6

[Apology: Earlier today we posted an article commenting on a speech by Pope Francis. We titled it The end of Roman Catholicism. We’ve leant (through Frank, the reader who had drawn our attention to it) that the speech was a hoax, so we’ve eliminated the article. We apologize for the mistake – with sincere regret that it wasn’t true.]

We first posted the following on December 23, 2009. We think it bears repeating.   

Was Christ born on Christmas Day?

Or put it this way: Is it likely that December 25 was the birthday of “Jesus”, putative messiah, and God of the Christians?

If you believe it is, you have at best a 1 in 365 chance of being right.

But nothing can be proved anyway.

December 25 was arbitrarily chosen for the Catholic Church as “Jesus’s birthday” in the 6th. Century, by a monk named Dionysius Exiguus, or Dennis the Short.

Here’s the story of how Dennis came to choose December 25, as told by James A. Veitch (writing for the Westar Institute which “promotes liberal Christianity”):

Dionysius Exiguus, a monk from Russia who died about 544, was asked by Pope John I to set out the dates for Easter from the years 527 to 626. It seems that the Pope was keen to produce some order in the celebration of Easter. Dionysius decided to begin with what he considered to be the year of Jesus’ birth. He chose the year in which Rome had been founded and determined that Jesus had been born 753 years later.

He was almost certainly acquainted with a suggestion by Hippolytus (170–236) that the date of Jesus’ birth was December 25, but the trouble was that Hippolytus had not backed up this claim with sound arguments. Dionysius, however, had just the argument:

His contemporaries claimed that God created the earth on March 25.

It was inconceivable that the son of God could have been in any way imperfect.

Therefore Jesus must have been conceived on March 25.

This meant that he must have been born nine months later—December 25.

(Dionysius also concluded that, as a perfect being, Jesus could not have lived an incomplete life so he must have died on March 25 as well!)

December 25 was an auspicious choice. In 274, in Rome, the Emperor Aurelian declared December 25 a civic holiday in celebration of the birth of Mithras, the sun god. By 336, in that same city, Christians countered by celebrating the birth of Jesus, the son of God, on December 25.

Christians in Antioch in 375 celebrated the birth of Jesus on January 6. Christians in Alexandria did not begin to celebrate Christmas at all until 430. So until Dionysius came along there was confusion over dates, and debates raged, even over the usefulness of celebrating the birth of Jesus at all. What had been universally important for all Christians—the pre-eminent event—was the celebration of Easter.

When, in 527, he formalized the date of Jesus’ birth, Dionysius put Christmas on the map. Jesus was born, he declared, on December 25 in the Roman year 753. Dionysius then suspended time for a few days, declaring January 1, 754 — New Year’s day in Rome — as the first year in a new era of world history….

But Dionysius made a mistake in his calculations. Perhaps he had never read the gospel account of the birth of Jesus. In Matthew Jesus is said to have been born while Herod was still King (2:1). That would translate into 4 b.c. (or even earlier) according to the calculations of Dionysius. …

Later, when Pope Gregory tidied up the calendar on 24 February 1582, the calendar lost eleven days. To synchronise the calendar of Dionysius with the movement of the sun, October 4 became October 15, and to avoid having to make further adjustments a leap year was introduced. Pope Gregory must also have known of the mistakes made by Dionysius but all he did was to confirm them, perhaps hoping that no one would notice.

There is one other problem. Bishop Ussher (1581–1656) worked out the precise year of creation as 4004 b.c. (He knew about Dionysisus getting the date of Jesus’ birth wrong.) But he also advanced the view that the earth had a total life span of six thousand years. In order to come up with this conclusion he based his calculations on all the generations mentioned in the Bible. …

In reality we do not know when Jesus was born — neither the year, the month, nor the day. …

However, we wish all our readers and commenters, atheist or Christian or anything else, hearty feasting, good cheer, and many a solid material satisfaction on Christmas Day!

Posted under Christianity, Commentary, History by Jillian Becker on Monday, December 23, 2013

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The leader who knows nothing 9

Posted under cartoons, United States by Jillian Becker on Sunday, December 22, 2013

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The one and only race hatred that is politically correct 17

“Racism” – an infinitely elastic term – is by far the very worst crime any human being can commit according to the Left.

There is one exception, however. Essential as it is to strive (hopelessly if you’re a white person, not too hard if you’re anything else) not to be racist, it is compulsory to hate Jews. Though you mustn’t call them that. You must call them Israelis or Zionists. And hating them isn’t enough. You must work actively for their destruction.

Why, you ask? Isn’t it obvious? Because Israel is an apartheid state, Israelis are Nazis who colonized the long-established independent state of Palestine, and  Jews are carrying out savage acts of terrorism on every inhabited continent, and threatening to take over Europe and the world. While the Muslims – pacific and tolerant even though they’ve been horrifically persecuted for hundreds of years – are making huge contributions to humanity, especially through Science, so winning Nobel Prizes out of all proportion to their tiny number.

This is from Front Page, by Caroline Glick:

The main foreign policy issue that galvanizes the passions and energies of the committed American Left is the movement to delegitimize Israel’s right to exist.

This week has been a big one for the anti-Israel movement. In the space of a few days, two quasi academic organizations – the American Studies Association [ASA] and the Native American and Indigenous Studies Association – have launched boycotts against Israeli universities. Their boycotts follow a similar one announced in April by the Asian Studies Association.

These groups’ actions have not taken place in isolation. They are of a piece with ever-escalating acts of anti-Israel agitation in college campuses throughout the United States.

Between the growth of Israel Apartheid Day (or Week, or Month) from a fringe exercise on isolated campuses to a staple of the academic calendar in universities throughout the US and Canada, and the rise of the boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) movement to wage economic war against the Jewish state, anti-Israel activism has become the focal point of Leftist foreign policy activism in the US and throughout the Western world.

Every week brings a wealth of stories about new cases of aggressive anti-Israel activism. At the University of Michigan last week, thousands of students were sent fake eviction notices from the university’s housing office. A pro-Palestinian group distributed them in dorms across campus to disseminate the blood libel that Israel is carrying out mass expulsions of Palestinians.

At Swarthmore College, leftist anti-Israel Jewish students who control Hillel are insisting on using Hillel’s good offices to disseminate and legitimate anti-Israel slanders.

And the Left’s doctrinaire insistence that Israel is the root of all evil is not limited to campuses.

At New York’s 92nd Street Y, Commentary editor John Podhoretz was booed and hissed by the audience for trying to explain why the ASA’s just-announced boycott of Israel was an obscene act of bigotry.

Many commentators have rightly pointed out that the ASA and the NAISA are fringe groups. They represent doctorate holders who chose to devote their careers to disciplines predicated not on scholarship, but on political activism cloaked in academic regalia whose goal is to discredit American power. The ASA has only 5,000 members, and only 1,200 of them voted on the Israel- boycott resolution. The NAISA has even fewer members. It would be wrong, however, to use the paltry number of these fringe groups’ members as means to dismiss the phenomenon that they represent. They are very much in line with the general drift of the Left. … While the ASA and its comrades are on the fringes of academia, they are not fringe voices on the Left. The Left has embraced the cause of Israel’s destruction. 

Rejecting Israel’s right to exist has become part of the Left’s dogma. It is a part of the catechism. Holding a negative view of the Jewish state is a condition for membership in the ideological camp. It is an article of faith

Consider the background of the president of the ASA. Curtis Marez is an associate professor in the Ethnic Studies Department at the University of California, San Diego. His area of expertise is Chicano Film and Media Studies. He doesn’t know anything about Israel. He just knows that he’s a Leftist. And today, Leftists demonize Israel. Their actions have nothing to do with anything Israel does or has ever done. They have nothing to do with human rights. Hating Israel, slandering Israel and supporting the destruction of Israel are just things that good Leftists do.

And Marez was not out of step with his fellow Leftists who rule the roost at UCSD. This past March the student council passed a resolution calling for the university to divest from companies that do business with Israel. Why? Because hating Israel is what Leftists do. …

Challenging the likes of Marez, or the Swarthmore students … to a reasoned debate is an exercise in futility. They do not care about human rights. They do not care that Israel is the only human rights-respecting democracy in the Middle East. … Being hypocrites doesn’t bother them either. 

You can talk until you’re blue in the face about the civilian victims of the Syrian civil war, or the gender apartheid in Saudi Arabia and the absence of religious freedom throughout the Muslim world. But they don’t care. They aren’t trying to make the world a better place.

Facts cannot compete with their faith. Reason has no place in their closed intellectual universe. To accept reason and facts would be an act of heresy.

The religion of Christianity began by plundering and anathematizing the religion of Judaism, and became a menace to the Jews. The religions of Islam and Socialism plundered and anathematized both, and menace all of us.

Religion is a self-imposed curse on humankind.

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