Atheists and conservatives stir up a brouhaha 4

The organizers of an important Conservative conference have banned an atheist organization from attending it and setting out its stall.

The Conservative Political Action Committee, the largest and oldest gathering of conservatives, is run by the American Conservative Union and will be held at the Gaylord National Resort & Convention Center in Maryland’s National Harbor from March 6 to 8. Last year, the event brought together thousands of activists to listen to dozens of Republican leaders speak about everything from economics and foreign policy to social issues. The event has long been considered a required stop for Republican presidential hopefuls.

That and what follows we quote from CNN’s “belief blog”.

Organizers for the 2014 Conservative Political Action Conference will not allow American Atheists to have an exhibition booth …

The decision comes just hours after American Atheists, the outspoken organization that advocates for atheists nationwide, announced that it would have a booth at the event. David Silverman, president of American Atheists, tells CNN that a groundswell of opposition from high-ranking members of CPAC compelled the group to pull the invite.

Meghan Snyder, a spokeswoman for CPAC, said in a statement to CNN that “American Atheists misrepresented itself about their willingness to engage in positive dialogue and work together to promote limited government.”

“I’m surprised and I’m saddened,” Silverman said in response to the announcement. “I think this is a very disappointing turn of events. I was really looking forward to going … It is very obvious to me they were looking for a reason to say no,” Silverman added. “Christianity is bad for conservatism and they did not want that message out there.” …

Silverman said his group [had] planned to use the booth to bring conservative atheists “out of the closet” and said he was not worried about making the Christian right angry because “the Christian right should be threatened by us.”

Snyder said CPAC spoke to Silverman about his divisive and inappropriate language.

He pledged that he will attack the very idea that Christianity is an important element of conservatism. People of any faith tradition should not be attacked for their beliefs, especially at our conference. …

But yes, Ms Snyder, it is precisely beliefs that ought to be attacked. Continually. Forever.

The critical examination of ideas is the essential task of civilized humankind. 

When [earlier] Snyder had confirmed to CNN that American Atheists would be at CPAC, she said in a statement that they were allowed to display at the confab because “conservatives have always stood for freedom of religion and freedom of expression.”

“The folks we have been working with stand for many of the same liberty-oriented policies and principles we stand for,” Snyder said. …

And so, she had thought, did American Atheists. But the decision to include them had outraged some conservatives.

Tony Perkins, president of the Christian conservative think-tank Family Research Council, expressed outrage at the decision, stating that the American Atheists did “not seek to add their voice to the chorus of freedom”. [He said] “CPAC’s mission is to be an umbrella for conservative organizations that advance liberty, traditional values and our national defense.” 

But –

Does the American Conservative Union really think the liberties and values they seek to preserve can be maintained when they partner with individuals and organizations that are undermining the understanding that our liberties come from God? Thomas Jefferson warned against such nonsense. If this is where the ACU is headed, they will have to pack up and put away the “C”‘ in CPAC!” …

The first “C” for “Conservative” we suppose is the one he meant. But why would it need to be packed away if atheists are allowed to have their say? Perhaps Perkins thinks it stands for “Christian”.

American Atheist is well known for its controversial billboards and media campaigns and is considered the in-your-face contingent in the world of atheist activists. The group’s members pride themselves as being the “Marines” of the atheist movement. …

In explaining why the group decided to join CPAC on Monday, Silverman cited a 2012 Pew Research study that found 20% of self-identified conservatives consider themselves religiously unaffiliated. While that does not mean they are atheists, Silverman believes learning more about atheism will make it more likely conservatives will choose to identify with those who believe there is no God.

Just as there are many closeted atheists in the church pews, I am extremely confident that there are many closeted atheists in the ranks of conservatives. This is really a serious outreach effort, and I am very pleased to be embarking on it.

The group has long targeted Republican lawmakers, although Silverman considers the organization nonpartisan.

In 2013, American Atheists launched a billboard campaign against three Republican politicians: former vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin, former House Speaker Newt Gingrich and former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum. All three Republicans have spoken at CPAC in the past.

On one billboard, Santorum is pictured to the left of a quote attributed to him. “Our civil laws have to comport with a higher law. God’s law,” the quote reads. Underneath the graphic is a tagline: “GO GODLESS INSTEAD.”

Comment on this affair comes from National Review, by Charles C. W. Cooke: :

Yesterday, in response to one of the many brouhahas that CPAC seems always to invite, Brent Bozell issued the following statement:

The invitation extended by the ACU, Al Cardenas and CPAC to American Atheists to have a booth is more than an attack on conservative principles. It is an attack on God Himself. American Atheists is an organization devoted to the hatred of God. How on earth could CPAC, or the ACU and its board of directors, and Al Cardenas condone such an atrocity?

So Brent Bozell thinks that issuing the invitation was an attack on conservative principles. More, it was “an attack on God Himself”.  As such, it was a veritable “atrocity“!

The particular merits of the American Atheists group to one side, this is a rather astounding thing for Bozell to have said. In just 63 words, he confuses disbelief in God for “hatred” for God — a mistake that not only begs the question but is inherently absurd (one cannot very well hate what one does not believe is there); he condemns an entire conference on the basis of one participant — not a good look for a struggling movement, I’m afraid; and, most alarmingly perhaps, he insinuates that one cannot simultaneously be a conservative and an atheist. I reject this idea — and with force.

If atheism and conservatism are incompatible, then I am not a conservative. And nor, I am given to understand, are George Will, Charles Krauthammer, Anthony Daniels, Walter Olson, Heather Mac Donald, James Taranto, Allahpundit, or S. E. Cupp. There is no getting around this — no splitting the difference: I don’t believe there is a God. It’s not that I’m “not sure” or that I haven’t ever bothered to think about it; it’s that I actively think there isn’t a God — much as I think there are no fairies or unicorns or elves. The degree to which I’m confident in this view works on a scale, certainly: I’m much surer, for example, that the claims of particular religions are untrue and that there is no power intervening in the affairs of man than I am that there was no prime mover of any sort.

Rrrreally, Mr Cooke?

But, when it comes down to it, I don’t believe in any of those propositions.

Tha-at’s better!

Am I to be excommunicated from the Right?

One of the problems we have when thinking about atheism in the modern era is that the word has been hijacked and turned into a political position when it is no such thing. The Oxford English Dictionary defines an “atheist” as someone who exhibits “disbelief in, or denial of, the existence of a god.” That’s me right there — and that really is the extent of it.

Okay, you can have a booth at any conference we ever organize.

Or have we spoken too soon? Repeat what you were mumbling, please?

No, I don’t dislike anyone who does believe that there is a God; no, with a few obvious exceptions, I am not angry at the religious; and no, I do not believe the devout to be in any way worse or less intelligent than myself. Insofar as the question inspires irritation in me at all it is largely reserved for the sneering, smarmy, and incomprehensibly self-satisfied New Atheist movement, which has turned the worthwhile writings of some extremely smart people into an organized means by which a cabal of semi-educated twentysomethings might berate the vast majority of the human population and then congratulate one another as to how clever they are.

What New Atheist movement? If it exists, we want to join it. What is incomprehensible about it? What suggests that “it” is self-satisifed? What worthwhile writings would those be? Who are these beraters? And are they not – in that they are atheists – cleverer than “the vast majority of the human population”?

Which is to say that, philosophically speaking,  I couldn’t really care less … and practically speaking I am actually pretty warm toward religion — at least as it is practiced in America. True or false, American religion plays a vital and welcome role in civil society, has provided a number of indispensable insights into the human condition, acts as a remarkably effective and necessary check on the ambitions of government and central social-planners, is worthy of respect and measured inquiry on the Burkean grounds that it has endured for this long and been adopted by so many, and has been instrumental in making the United States what it is today.

We would dispute almost every one of those propositions, especially that religion is “worthy of respect” – though of “measured inquiry”, yes, it is worthy, and should be subjected to it mercilessly.

We like most of what he goes on to say next. And he provides some interesting information:

None of this, however, excuses the manner in which conservatives often treat atheists such as myself. George H. W. Bush, who was more usually reticent on such topics, is reported to have said that he didn’t “know that atheists should be regarded as citizens, nor should they be regarded as patriotic[because] this is one nation under God”.

Whether Bush ever uttered these words or not, this sentiment has been expressed by others elsewhere. It is a significant mistake. What “this nation” is, in fact, is one nation under the Constitution — a document that precedes the “under God” reference in the Gettysburg Address by more than seven decades and the inclusion of the phrase in the Pledge of Allegiance by 165 years. (“In God We Trust,” too, was a modern addition, replacing “E Pluribus Unum” as the national motto in 1956 after 174 years.)

Indeed, given the troubled waters into which American religious liberty has of late been pushed, it strikes me that conservatives ought to be courting atheists — not shunning them. I will happily take to the barricades for religious conscience rights, not least because my own security as a heretic is bound up with that of those who differ from me, and because a truly free country seeks to leave alone as many people as possible — however eccentric I might find their views or they might find mine. In my experience at least, it is Progressivism and not conservatism that is eternally hostile to variation and to individual belief, and, while we are constantly told that the opposite is the case, it is those [leftists] who pride themselves on being secular who seem more likely and more keen to abridge my liberties than those who pride themselves on being religious. That I do not share the convictions of the religious by no means implies that I wish for the state to reach into their lives. Nevertheless, religious conservatives will find themselves without many friends if they allow figures such as Mr. Bozell to shoo away the few atheists who are sympathetic to their broader cause.

As it happens, not only do I reject the claim that the two positions are antagonistic, but I’d venture that much of what informs my atheism informs my conservatism also. I am possessed of a latent skepticism of pretty much everything, a hostility toward the notion that one should believe things because they are a nice idea, a fear of holistic philosophies, a dislike of authority and of dogma, a strong belief in the Enlightenment as interpreted and experienced by the British and not the French, and a rather tenacious refusal to join groups.

Yes, a conservative should logically be skeptical of ideology as such. And impatient with the irrational. And religions are among the most irrational of ideologies.

Occasionally, I’m asked why I “believe there is no God,” which is a reasonable question in a vacuum but which nonetheless rather seems to invert the traditional order of things. After all, that’s not typically how we make our inquiries on the right, is it? Instead, we ask what evidence there is that something is true. …

A great deal of the friction between atheists and conservatives seems to derive from a reasonable question. “If you don’t consider that human beings are entitled to ‘God given’ liberties,” I am often asked, “don’t you believe that the unalienable rights that you spend your days defending are merely the product of ancient legal accidents or of the one-time whims of transient majorities?” Well, no, not really. As far as I can see, the American settlement can thrive perfectly well within my worldview. God or no God, the Constitution, the Bill of Rights, and the Declaration of Independence are all built upon centuries of English law, human experience, and British and European philosophy, and the natural-law case for them stands nicely on its own.

And he then turns to Thomas Jefferson, who penned the Declaration, and, far from “warning against undermining the understanding that our liberties come from God” as Tony Perkins claims …

… rejected revealed religion because revealed religion suggests a violation of the laws of nature. For revelation or any miracle to occur, the laws of nature would necessarily be broken. Jefferson did not accept this violation of natural laws. He attributed to God only such qualities as reason suggested.

Which, as the quoted passage goes on to explain, are none:

“Of the nature of this being,” Jefferson wrote to John Adams in 1817, “we know nothing.”

Logically then, not even its existence, though Jefferson is not recorded as ever having said so.

Tyranny’s wife 1

The EU is a much prettier version of tyranny than rough Russia.

One might say it is the feminine version. It dresses nicely. It has its hair styled. It paints its nails. It smiles. It thinks it is alluring. It spends more than it has.

It is easy to understand why half the Ukrainians want to live with it. With her. Rather than with unshaven, violent, shabby, ill-mannered Daddy Russia.

Her corruption is prettily packaged.  Her despotism has a gentle touch. It really is more pleasant to live with her than with him.

But it would be better for the Ukrainians if they just took off on their own.

Bruce Bawer offers that very advice. He writes at Front Page:

It’s in Europe, and it’s huge – after Russia and the top five EU members, it has Europe’s largest population, and twice as many inhabitants as all the Scandiavian countries put together – but Ukraine isn’t a nation we often think of in the West, except when, as in recent days, it’s in the midst of a crisis. It has spent most of its history being conquered and brutalized by its more powerful neighbors, and in the last century underwent one savage chapter after another: 1.5 million people died in the civil war that ended with its absorption into the USSR; millions more died in Stalin’s deliberately engineered famine in 1932-33; during World War II, Hitler slaughtered an additional three million in what was intended to be the first stage of a program of exterminating two-thirds of the country’s population and enslaving the rest.

And, it should be added, its own historical record of brutal persecution and oppression is fully equal to any of its neighbors’. (See here and here and here.)

Today, unsurprisingly, Ukraine is a basket case of a country, riddled with corruption and living in the shadows of its historic horrors. It’s also a linguistically and philosophically divided land, torn between a western chunk whose people speak Ukrainian and identify with Europe and an eastern chunk whose people speak Russian and still feel an attachment to their massive neighbor to the east.

Viktor Yahukovych, the corrupt, autocratic president who disappeared last weekend in the face of mounting public unrest, is a Russiophile whose fatal error was his decision to strengthen bonds with Moscow (which coveted Ukraine as a key ally in a new Eurasian Union) and to turn down a free-trade agreement with the EU; most of the rioters who sent him packing are Europe-oriented types, the majority of whom are eager to see Ukraine become a Western-style democracy free of Putin’s influence, but some of whom, it should be noted, are neo-Nazis who look westward to Germany for the least attractive of reasons.

Most of the Ukrainians who favor European ties also want to see their country join the EU – which, in their eyes, as one Swedish newspaper put it the other day, is “above all…a symbol of a society free of corruption”.  Yulia Tymoshenko, the former prime minister who was sprung from prison on Saturday after Yahukovych took it on the lam – and whose own years in office (ending in 2010) were far from corruption-free – told the Kiev crowds shortly after her release that she’s “sure that Ukraine will be a member of the European Union in the near future and this will change everything”.

Change everything! What is it that makes presumably liberty-loving Eastern European politicians talk about the EU as if it were a magic freedom elixir, a miracle cure for former victims of tyranny?

I suppose part of the explanation is that these politicians travel to the great cities of Western Europe and take in the relative freedom, the relative prosperity, and the relative lack of corruption and thuggery, and assume that all this has something to do with the EU. And part of it, naturally, is the ceaseless stream of pro-EU propaganda poured out by the Western European media and, not least, by the Western European politicians whom the likes of Tymoshenko consort with when they visit the West.

Yet how odd that the superstate’s economic woes haven’t put a dent in the magic for people like Tymoshenko. How odd that even the merest glimpse of the way things work in Brussels – where corruption is, needless to say, very much alive and well, even though it doubtless falls far short of Ukrainian levels – doesn’t give them pause. And how odd that when they witness the arrogance that’s characteristic of virtually all Brussels bigwigs – their habit of responding to any reasonable criticism of the EU not with cogent arguments but with vicious ad hominem attacks – they don’t immediately recognize that they’re observing tyrants in the making, the sort of folks that you’d think they’d had more than enough of over the centuries, thank you very much.

Take European Council president Herman van Rompuy, that colorless, Politburo-style mediocrity, who in a 2011 speech blithely ignored the essentially undemocratic nature of the EU, describing it – outrageously – as “the fatherland, or the motherland of democracy”.

Or take European Commission president José Manuel Durrão Barroso, who started his political career as a Maoist, and who in 2012 argued that the EU’s democracy deficit isn’t a bug but a feature: “Governments are not always right. If governments were always right we would not have the situation that we have today. Decisions taken by the most democratic institutions in the world are very often wrong.”

What he says is not untrue (even democratically-elected governments are almost always wrong), but he is making an argument for despotism.

Or take halfwit EU Foreign Affairs honcho Catherine Ashton, whose 2011 Guardian article lecturing Hosni Mubarak on the need for democracy in Egypt was widely (and rightly) ridiculed as the work of someone who, as Brendan O’Neill neatly put it in the Telegraph,

… has never once bothered the ballot box, never once ventured into the rowdy arena of public opinion to win the masses’ backing, and who was elevated to her current position as the European Union’s high representative for foreign affairs through backroom wheeling and dealing.

Noting Ashton’s enthusiasm, in her Guardian piece, for what she called “deep democracy”,  O’Neill explained that “she doesn’t mean deep as in profound – she means bureaucracy, the grey and unaccountable sphere that she haunts, the removed realm of experts and unelected high representatives” – a phenomenon Ashton contrasted (favorably, of course) with mere “surface democracy”, the undesirable, old-fashioned sort of system in which elected officials actually seek (horrors!) to honor their constituents’ wishes.

Even a cursory look at the careers and pronouncements of these unelected demigods, these self-regarding technocratic hacks, is to recognize them as people who itch to rule an empire and who are, quite simply, outraged at anyone who dares to stand in their way for a moment. Given the transparency of their lust for monolithic power – a power, moreover, utterly liberated from any notion whatsoever of responsibility to an electorate – it’s baffling that so many observers can actually take the EU seriously as a formula for European peace rather than for European autocracy.

What Europe has in Barroso, Ashton, & co., after all, is a pack of men and women who have done their level best to impoverish real political debate, to blunt its impact, and to make it seem obsolescent, counterproductive, and in every way undesirable.

Former Czech president and staunch EU critic Václav Klaus asked in his 2011 book Europe: The Shattering of Illusions:

Do we have real politics in Europe today – the political conflict of opinions – or have real politics been in fact eliminated by reducing the weight and importance of the nation states and by the self-confessed apolitical ways of Brussels?

Which is another way of saying that Brussels isn’t a city of politicians who have different political philosophies and who come together to debate ideas and hammer out compromises; it’s a city of technocrats who share an ideology and who work together as a team to translate that ideology into policy – never mind what the rabble think. (Or, as Klaus put it even more bluntly: “the European Union is no longer the symbol of democracy it pretends to be.”)

Klaus has coined the term “Europeism”. It’s a useful word, because it places the unreflecting, reality-defying enthusiasm for Europe in the category it belongs to, along with other, earlier European-isms. Among much else, Europeism views the free market as uncivilized and anarchic, places collective rights above individual rights, and strives, as Klaus excellently puts it, “for a homogenized, ‘decaffeinated’ world (with no flavour, aroma, and smell)”.

Europeists, he writes,

… do not believe in spontaneous, unregulated and uncontrolled human activity. They trust the chosen ones (not the elected ones), they trust themselves or those who are chosen by themselves. They believe in a vertically structured and hierarchized human society  …  They want to mastermind, plan, regulate, administer the others, because some (they themselves) do know and others do not. They do not want to rely on spontaneity of human behavior and on the outcomes resulting from this spontaneity because they think that rationalistic human design is always better than an unplanned result of interactions between free citizens, constructed and commanded by nobody. Even though we thought that after the collapse of communism all this was a matter of the past, it is not so. It is around us again. Europeism is a new utopism and, I add, it is an extremely naive and romantic utopism.

Above all, writes Klaus, Europeism “is based on the idea that states, more precisely the nation states, represent the Evil – because they were once the cause of wars among other things – while the supranational, continental and global entities represent the Good, because they – according to eurocrats – eliminate all forms of nationalist bickering once and for all”. This understanding of things, he adds, “is obviously childish, yet it is generally accepted in Europe”. Yes, it’s accepted because millions of today’s Europeans have been brainwashed into thinking that national feeling – patriotism – was the root of all of the worst things that happened to the continent in the twentieth century. No, ideology was the root – ideology in the form of Nazism, fascism, and Communism. And Europeism – which, by the way, has multiculturalism and fanatical environmentalism built into it – is the twenty-first-century heir of those wretched systems of thought.

Which brings us back to the latest developments in Ukraine. Tymoshenko’s speech on Saturday night was followed on Sunday by the news that the EU – notwithstanding its own massive financial difficulties – is now ready to hand over bushels of cash to the newly Europe-friendly government in Kiev. …

Note to Ukrainians: accepting the EU’s money is one thing. Go for it. But why this longing, on the part of Tymoshenko or anyone else in your country, to board the Superstate Express? Set aside, if you wish, the economic downside of the whole project, the looming disaster that is the eurozone, and just ask yourselves this: after spending most of your history taking orders from far-off imperial capitals, most of the twentieth century living under the nightmare of Communism, and most of the greater part of the generation that followed under the gravitational pull of post-Soviet Kremlin despotism, why be so desperate to subordinate yourselves to yet another set of haughty, high-handed foreign rulers? Why slip away from being under one thumb only to voluntarily place yourself under another?

Ukraine, here’s one simple piece of unsolicited advice: vote for sovereignty. Vote for freedom. Take the money and run.

Stay out of the EU.

Ending the pax Americana 2

We are in principle against intervention in the internal affairs of other countries. But we are not for isolationism or pacifism – we regard either philosophy as a formula for national suicide. If other countries become belligerent, build up their armed strength, send their warships towards our shores, establish bases in countries on our borders, and declare their aggressive intentions towards us, the politics of those countries become our business. That is happening now. We are under threat – because Obama is deliberately weakening America. And his reaction to the result is to weaken America even more.

The conditions for major war develop much more easily when the U.S. is too weak. They are developing as we speak. 

To a meaningful extent, the significant increase we’ve seen in unrest around the globe since 2010 has been made possible, and inevitable, by the retraction of American power. Even where we still have power in place, it has become increasingly obvious that we aren’t going to use it. 

We quote from a website interestingly named Liberty Unyielding. The article on the extreme folly of the Obama administration’s moves to weaken America is by Commander Jennifer Dyer, now retired from the US navy. (Her own blog is at Theoptimisticconservative.wordpress.com):

The collapse of order in the Arab nations in 2011 was the first significant stage of the process. The perception that the United States would do nothing about a Hezbollah coup in Lebanon was tested in January of that year. The perception proved to be true, and when protests erupted in Tunisia and Egypt, for causes both natural and manufactured, a set of radical Islamist actors – the “establishment” Muslim Brotherhood, Sunni jihadists, Iran – saw an opportunity. The establishment Muslim Brotherhood has largely won out in Tunisia, but the battle still rages among these radical actors for Egypt, Syria, and now Iraq. Lebanon is being incrementally sucked into the maelstrom as well.

In multiple venues, Russia has watched the U.S. and the West effectively back Islamists in Russia’s “near abroad”: in Turkey (with support for the now struggling Erdogan government); in the Balkans, especially Bosnia and Kosovo; and in Syria. …

There was a time when the implicit determination of the U.S. to enforce the “Pax Americana” order – the post-World War II alignments of the region – held Russia in check. The Russians still derived some security benefit from that order, after all … It appears to me, however, that 2014 will be the year in which it becomes clear that, according to Russians’ perception, they no longer benefit from the old order. If we’re not going to enforce it, Russia will do what she thinks she has to.

In fact, Moscow’s pushback against the plan for Ukraine to affiliate with the EU constitutes just such a blow for perceived Russian interests. It is of supreme importance for Westerners to not misread the recent developments. The EU and the U.S. did back down when Russia pushed hard last fall. The only ones who didn’t back down were the Ukrainian opposition. I predict Vladimir Putin will try to handle the opposition factions cleverly, as much as he can, and avoid a pitched battle with them if possible. He respects what they are willing to do. But he has no reason to respect Brussels or Washington.

And that means he has more latitude, not less, for going after the regional props to the old order, one by one. As always, Russia’s inevitable competition with China is a major driver, along with Russia’s concern about Islamism on her southern border. The whole Great Crossroads – Southwest Asia, Southeast Europe, Northeast Africa, the waterways that snake through the region – is, if not up for grabs, at least in ferment. Look wherever you like: there are almost no nations where there is not a very present menace from radicalism, or where governments and even borders are not gravely imperiled by internal dissent.

Israel is the chief standout for politically sustainable stability and continuity. Romania and Turkey seem likely to at least retain their constitutional order in the foreseeable future, but Turkey’s geopolitical orientation, in particular, is less certain. Greece and Kosovo – even Bosnia – have serious internal problems. Egypt, Sudan, South Sudan, Ethiopia, Eritrea, and Somalia all remain in crisis at various levels. Jordan and Saudi Arabia are relatively stable, and the Arab Persian Gulf states relatively so as well. But their neighborhood is going downhill fast. Iran is riding a wave of radical confidence, and the Taliban are resurgent in Afghanistan.

In this tumultuous region, it’s actually a little funny that Pakistan looks stable and staid compared to Iran, Afghanistan, and neighbors west. We can hope that Islamabad’s perceived need to maintain a symmetrical stance against India will keep Pakistan’s loose federation of intransigents federated, and the nukes under central control. But as we move across South Asia, we near another boiling pot. Thailand – long an American ally and pillar of stability in the region – has been rocked in recent months by national unrest of a kind not seen in Southeast Asia for decades. Islamist radicalism is a growing threat in Indonesia, and an unpacified one in the Philippines, after more than a decade of U.S.-Philippines collaboration in fighting it.

And, of course, China is making real, transformative moves against regional security with her proclamations about air space and maritime rights off her southeast coast.

This disruptive process, like the battles for many of the Arab nations, is already underway. We’re not waiting for something to happen; it’s started.

China assumes, quite correctly, that there will be no effective pushback from the United States. But two other nations with power and means will regard it as intolerable for China to dictate conditions in Southeast Asia: Japan and Russia. The dance of realignment among these nations has implications for everyone in Central Asia and the Far East. The day may be on the horizon sooner than we think when maintaining a divided Korea no longer makes sense to at least one of the major players. The day is already here when Chinese activities in Central Asia are alarming the whole neighborhood, just as Chinese actions are in the South China Sea. …

Russia and Iran are advancing on the US through Central America:

It’s no accident that as radical leftism creeps across Central America (falsely laying claim to a noble “Bolivarian” political mantle), the maritime dispute between Nicaragua and American ally Colombia heats up – and Russia shows up to back Nicaragua and Venezuela – and so does Iran – and unrest turns into shooting and government brutality and violence in Venezuela – and Hezbollah shows up there to openly support the radical, repressive Maduro government.

Now Iran has a naval supply ship headed for Central America, very possibly with a cargo of arms that are not only prohibited by UN sanction, but capable of reaching the United States if launched from a Central American nation or Cuba.

We’re not still waiting for the shocks to start to the old order. They’ve already started. I haven’t surveyed even the half of what there is to talk about …

She looks at the latest defense cuts with dismay and considers what the consequences will be:

This is the world in which the United States plans to reduce our army to its lowest level since before World War II, and eliminate or put in storage much of its capabilities for heavy operations abroad (e.g., getting rid of the A-10 Warthogs, moving Blackhawk helicopters into the National Guard). It’s in this world that DOD proposes to cease operating half of our Navy cruisers, while delaying delivery of the carrier-based F-35 strike-fighter to the Navy and Marine Corps. These cutbacks come on top of cuts already made to training and maintenance expenditures in the Navy, Marine Corps, and Air Force that will affect unit readiness for years to come. …

Then comes what should be a shocking observation:

By cutting back on defense so drastically, America is deciding, in essence, to “fight fair”: to give whatever opponents emerge more of a chance to kill our soldiers, damage our interests, and drag out conflicts.

That would be hard to believe of any American leadership – until now. It is ludicrous. Worse, it is lunatic. But Obama has never concealed or disguised his wish to weaken America’s military capacity.

The decision “to further limit our capabilities to use power in politically relevant ways” will result in “even more global unrest: more conflict, more shooting, more blood, more extortion and political thuggery menacing civil life in the world’s poorer and more vulnerable nations”, and that cannot be good for America. The point is that –

These unpleasant trends will spill over into civil life in the wealthier nations soon enough

As it has, she points out, in Ukraine, Thailand, and Venezuela, “whether directly or through second-order consequences”.

Peace and freedom have to be tended constantly; they are not the natural state of geopolitical indiscipline, but its antithesis. …

We’re extraordinarily unprepared for the world that is shaping up around us. …

[And] a world that doesn’t want quiescent trade conditions, tolerance of dissent, the open flow of ideas, and mutual agreements, peacefully arrived at, will not have them.

That’s the world we are sentencing ourselves, for now, to live in. Perhaps we will learn from the consequences how to think again: about what it takes to guard freedom, and indeed, about what freedom actually is. 

It is Obama who needs to think again, but there is no reason to hope that he will. It could hardly be more obvious that he does not care for freedom.

Art is dear and life is cheap 16

The State Department has spent millions of taxpayers’ dollars acquiring Art. That is to say, paying for objects that its resident or consultant aesthetes swear are works of Art, worth every penny.

The acquisitions were apparently a priority for Hillary Clinton when she was Secretary of State. If you would see her monument, tour US embassies and look about you.

Fashionable Art doesn’t come cheap. So there was no money left to pay for such a humdrum thing as effective protection of the US diplomatic and CIA missions in Benghazi. Denied the security they needed, four Americans, including the ambassador, were killed there by savage jihadis. Well – Hillary might say – there has to be human sacrifice on the altar of Art, it makes all the difference, and if you don’t understand that, you are a philistine bourgeois.

Look on the bright side. The Art is displayed in many a US embassy. Americans can be proud.

In London, there’s a granite wall built by Sean Scully that cost $1million. We couldn’t find a picture of it, but it’s like this one displayed in an art gallery.

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Daniel Greenfield illustrates an article on the subject – which inspired this post – with these pictures of works by Cy Twombly. The  top one is at the embassy in Rome.  

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From his text:   

Beijing [embassy] contains $23 million worth of art. Bern has $1.2 million and Luxembourg has $2.2 million.

And here is the grave of Ambassador Stevens, murdered at Benghazi. We don’t know how much it cost, or who paid for it.

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Post Script: Here is some wall art that really has meaning. The wall is part of the US mission in Benghazi. The paint is blood. A hand put it there the night of the attack. It might have been the hand of Ambassador Stevens himself – or of one of his brutal killers. One does not have to read Arabic to know who signed in for the event on the other wall.

(Hat-tip: our reader and commenter donl)

Why Muslims are butchering Christians in Nigeria 3

Have you wondered why Muslim terrorists in Nigeria, calling themselves Boko Haram (which means “book-learning, ie Western education, is against the will of Allah and so is forbidden”), are slaughtering Christians, hacking them to death with machetes, gunning them down, throwing their children on to bonfires, by the hundred, by the thousand, and – they intend – by the million?

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The explanation is given in an article by Robert Spencer at Jihad Watch:

Jama’atu Ahlus Sunnati Lidda’awati Wal Jihad [the official name of Boko Haram] means “the Party of the People of the Sunnah for Dawah and Jihad”.

[It’s leader] Shekau clearly is motivated entirely by Islamic principles, and he thinks shedding Infidel blood is a pleasure, that democracy is incompatible with Islam, and that he and his group must commit murder until Islamic law is established in Nigeria.

Where did he get these ideas? What programs do mosques and Islamic schools in the West have in place to teach against this understanding of Islam they ostensibly reject? Why, none. Now, why is that?

Spencer quotes Ameh Comrade Godwin’s transcription from a video, at the Daily Post:

Leader of the Jama’atu Ahlus Sunnati Lidda’awati Wal Jihad (otherwise known as Boko Haram), Abubakar Shekau, has vowed to launch more attacks on Nigeria and Nigerians.

This is coming barely 73 hours after its members wasted lives in renewed attacks in Adamawa and Borno States.

He said the state of emergency currently imposed on Adamawa, Borno and Yobe State would not prevent them from carrying out their attacks.

Shekau called on his members in other states, particularly Kano, to attack civilians and government institutions.

The full text of his 28-minute video, delivered in Hausa, reads thus:

My brethren, you should hold on to your weapons and continue fighting. Let them understand that our work is not confined to Yobe, Borno and Adamawa [states]. Make them understand that we are not restricted by emergency rule. They should understand we are under the canopy of Allah. This is the beginning. Yes, this is the beginning. We, Jama’atu Ahlus sunnati Lidda’awati Wal Jihad, are fighting Christians wherever we meet them and those who believe in democracy, those who pursue Western education wherever we meet them. By Allah, we will kill whoever practices Democracy. And you the infidels of Rivers state, Niger (Delta), the town of [President Goodluck] Jonathan, Shekau is talking to you. Shekau is talking to you, that small boy that has become the nightmare of infidels is talking to you. Oh you the leader of the Niger Delta, you will soon see your refinery destroyed. You will in the incoming days see your refinery you are boasting about bombed. Our refinery is Allah. Niger-Delta you are in trouble. Jonathan you are in trouble. Banki Moon [Ban Ki-Moon, Secretary General of the UN] you are in trouble. Benjamin Natanyahu you are in trouble. Queen Elizabeth, you are in trouble.  Babangida, Kwankwaso, Shekarau, Kashim, Buhari, you are in trouble. Yahaya Jingir, the cleric of Jos, the advocate of ‘Boko Halal’ [‘Book-learning is blessed and permitted’], right? We are Boko Haram, you are Boko Halal. You will see, bastard. We killed Albani of Zaria. We killed Albani of Zaria. Shekau killed Albani of Zaria.Tomorrow he will kill Jingir, the day after tomorrow he will kill Dapchia, the next day he will kill Wapchama, next he will kill Shehu of Borno, Ado Bayero. We rebel against you, between us and you is enmity and rancor until you believe only in Allah. This is from the Qur’an, in which Abraham says to his pagan relatives: “We have rejected you, and there has arisen, between us and you, enmity and hatred for ever, unless ye believe in Allah and Him alone” (60:4). The reason why I will kill you is you are infidels, you follow Democracy. Whoever follows Democracy is an infidel. This is Shekau, this is why I’m in enmity with you. Buhari is an infidel, Babangida is an infidel, Atiku is an infidel, late Yar’adua was an infidel, Shehu of Borno is an infidel. You are all infidels. What makes you infidels is Democracy and constitution and western education. I therefore call on brethren in Kano to rise up and replicate the Baga attack. All these infidels we are the ones killing them. We enjoy shedding their blood. The Koran must be supreme, we must establish Islam in this country, not only in Borno. We will henceforth destroy any schools wherever we see them.

You see now? Perfectly clear, isn’t it? It’s because of the religion. 

Islam requires literacy to be stamped out. The world will then be the good place Allah wants it to be.

So stop carping about those dismembered bodies, those burnt babies, the pools of blood in those churches and villages.

Or are you – ugh! – an Islamophobe?

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News just in Wednesday 2/26/2014 – Reuters reporting :

Gunmen from Islamist group Boko Haram shot or burned to death 59 pupils in a boarding school in northeast Nigeria overnight, a hospital official and security forces said on Tuesday.

“Some of the students’ bodies were burned to ashes,” Police Commissioner Sanusi Rufai said of the attack on the Federal Government college of Buni Yadi, a secondary school in Yobe state, near the state’s capital city of Damaturu.

Schoolboys, all of them.

The birth and early history of Christianity 0

Our contention is that the whole vast, towering, ornate, gorgeous, powerful, many-winged edifice of Christianity was built on the flimsiest of foundations: the fantasies of an obscure, wandering, sex-obsessed liar and genius, who named himself Saul, and then Paul, and whose real name nobody knows … 

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The gospel stories of the life of “Jesus” – almost everything they tell about the man whom St. Paul deified, except the manner of his death – are fictions of laughable transparency. …

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But does the Holy Ghost proceed from the Father only, or also from the Son? Can two beings emanate a third being simultaneously? It was considered an immensely important question: Is the Holy Ghost an emanation of the Father only, or of the Father and the Son? The Latin for “and from the son” is “filioque”, so this rancorous disagreement is known as the filioque question. It was one of the disputes over which Christians mercilessly persecuted other Christians.

Another conflict of even greater importance in Christian history was – and is – over the question of just how divine Jesus Christ was when he lived as a man among men on earth. When he was a mewling puking baby, a toddler, a boy, an adolescent, a young man, a mature man, one who ate and digested and sweated, hiccupped and sneezed, got headache and toothache, clipped his nails and combed his hair, was he God? Were those nail clippings and hairs and feces and drops of sweat dropped by Jesus on the soil of the Galilee bits of God? When he was crucified, and cried out to ask his God why he had deserted him, was he himself then not God?

There was no escaping the questions. Once declare a man to be the ineffable unknowable invisible God incarnate, and you’re inevitably stirring up a hornet’s nest of logical difficulties. They groped for answers.

Perhaps his human nature was illusory, his real nature always and only divine? Or did he become divine at a certain moment, when he was baptized, or when he “died”, or when he “rose again”? Or could he have been simultaneously wholly human and wholly divine?

The answers to these conjectures depended, the theologians said, on whether his “substance”, or nature, was the same as the Father’s or only similar to the Father’s. In Greek terms: were God the Father and God the Son homoousios or homoiousios?

That “i” in the middle of homoiousios – the iota from which we derive our word “jot” meaning a very little – made the most enormous difference to Christian theologians. Great councils were held to ponder that iota. Should it be there? Same or similar? It was one of the biggest bones of contention in Christian history. Wars were fought over it. Countless men and women and little children died because of it. But over what, in sober judgment? Two versions of a fiction, a figment, a rumor, a superstition.

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These are extracts from three essays in a series of seven, now posted in our Pages section as a single post under the title: The Birth and Early History of Christianity.

To find it, click on the title under Pages near the top of our margin.

Author’s P.S. Do not overlook the Notes that expand the texts; many of them carry cargoes of inflammatory information and incendiary comment.

 

The individual essays were first posted separately with these titles:  A man named Jesus or something like that, September 23, 2011; The invention of Christianity, October 28, 2011; Tread on me: the making of Christian morality, December 22, 2011; St.Paul: portrait of a sick genius, January 7, 2012; Pauline Christianity: a mystical salad, February 26, 2012; The fictitious life of Jesus Christ, April 7, 2012;  Christian theology: “the Word made flesh”, December 24, 2012.

Posted under Christianity by Jillian Becker on Sunday, February 23, 2014

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Destroying the library 8

The great library of Alexandria was ravaged by Christians in 391 CE, and completely destroyed by Muslims in 642 CE.

Now contemporary barbarians are following those precedents and giving the same vigorous treatment to the great public library of New York.

Books, you see, are things that preserve privilege. They make the people who read them feel superior to those who don’t. Reading is a selfish, snobbish, individual occupation. It snubs the community. It is anti-social, and – even worse – anti-socialist.

The news of this historic act of cultural sabotage is reported by Daniel Greenfield at Front Page:

The New York Public Library is drastically purging its book collections, eliminating a great number of older books in circulation and making books that remain in its collection much less accessible.

With the famous 42nd street library, it means the outright vandalism of one of the most famous libraries in the country whose books will be banished to New Jersey. At local branches, it means fewer books, more computers and more gimmicks.

It’s striking then to look at the front page of the New York Public Library [brochure], to note its absence of books and the proliferation of pop culture and politically correct events. The Beatles get extensive coverage. There are a dozen black history events including racism in the criminal justice system.

Then you’ve got AIDS activism complete with a gay kiss and a Muslim librarian.

Finally movie rentals and shopping for diamonds.

Books? The New York Public Library doesn’t seem to do those much anymore. But if you want a computer, a diamond or political correctness, you’ve come to the right place.

This is what the New York Public Library is becoming …

“Although they are often thought of as cultural institutions,” argued a 2013 report by the Center for an Urban Future, a left-leaning New York think tank, “the reality is that the public libraries are a key component of the city’s human capital system.” In this view, New York’s public libraries — and the branches in particular — exist to provide underprivileged groups with vital services, such as computer-literacy classes, job-search assistance, and “safe havens” for at-risk youths.

A homeless shelter, an immigrant literacy center and a place for teenagers to hang out. No books wanted.

$300 million [will be spent] on a restructuring of the 42nd Street building which includes a huge expansion of public space, the removal of stacks (and the 3 million books in them), and the creation of a circulating library in the building.

NYPL will lose its standing as a premier research institution (second only to the Library of Congress in the US) – a destination for international as well as American scholars – and become a busy social center where focused research is no longer the primary goal.

One of the claims made about the CLP is that it will “democratize” the NYPL, but that seems to be a misunderstanding of what that word means. The NYPL is already among the most democratic institutions of its kind. Anyone can use it; no credentials are needed to gain entry.

Meanwhile you can walk into any branch and borrow a laptop because apparently that is what the library is supposed to do now.

Gormless “Progressives” taking another great leap forward.

If proof were needed that the Left is against civilization, this report provides it.

The strict sameness of diversity 18

On the political left, fair is foul and foul is fair.

The left likes to use words to mean their opposites. Communist dictatorships like to call themselves “democratic” republics. It’s a cynical tease, because it shows that they know democracy is better than dictatorship.

A cynical lefty euphemism much in use in America is “diversity”. It should mean “variety”, but what it has come to mean in practice is its opposite  – “orthodoxy”: a strict doctrinal uniformity of opinion.

The doctrine has achieved enormous success in the universities, which are no longer open to new ideas, no longer allow free debate, no longer question fixed assumptions. That’s what they once existed for. Now they are temples of political correctness, safes for the secure locking up of leftist doctrine.They want a sterile mix of ethnicities and of as many genders as semantic ingenuity can invent, but not a fertile mix of ideas. They recognize only one set of ideas as correct. To question it is heresy.

Steps towards enforcing this kind of “diversity” in the news media have been proposed by the Obama administration. Charles Krauthammer deplores the move in this video clip:

Here the doctrine of diversity is examined by Victor Davis Hanson:

Diversity has become corporatized on American campuses, with scores of bureaucrats and administrators accentuating different pedigrees and ancestries. That’s odd, because diversity does not mean any more “variety” or “points of difference,” at least as it used to be defined.

Instead, diversity has become … synonymous with orthodoxy and intolerance, especially of political thought.

When campuses sloganeer “celebrate diversity,” that does not mean encouraging all sorts of political views. …

Do colleges routinely invite graduation speakers who are skeptical of man-made global warming, and have reservations about present abortion laws, gay marriage or illegal immigration – if only for the sake of ensuring diverse views?

Nor does diversity mean consistently ensuring that institutions should reflect “what America looks like.” …

Do we really want all institutions to weigh diversity rather than merit so that coveted spots reflect the race and gender percentages of American society? …

Gender disparity is absolutely stunning on American campuses. Women now earn about 61 percent of all associate degrees and 57 percent of all bachelor’s degrees. With such disproportionate gender representation, do we need outreach offices on campus to weigh maleness in admissions? Should college presidents investigate whether the campus has become an insidiously hostile place for men? …

If ethnic, rather than class, pedigrees provide an edge, how do we ascertain them in today’s melting-pot culture? Does the one-quarter Latino student, the recent arrival from Jamaica or the fourth-generation Japanese-American deserve special consideration as “diverse”? And if so, over whom? The Punjabi-American? The Arab-American? The gay rich kid? The coal miner’s daughter? Or the generic American who chooses not to broadcast his profile?

Does Diversity Inc. rely on genetic testing, family documents, general appearance, accented names, trilled pronunciation or just personal assurance to pass judgment on who should be advantaged in any measurement of diversity?

In such an illiberal, tribally obsessed and ideologically based value system, it is not hard to see why and how careerists such as Sen. Elizabeth Warren and activist Ward Churchill were able to fabricate helpful Native American ancestries.

Diversity came into vogue after affirmative action became unworkable in the 1980s. Given the multiplicity of ethnicities, huge influxes of new immigrants and a growing rate of intermarriage, it became almost impossible to adjudicate historical grievances and dole out legal remedies. So just creating “diversity” – without much worry over how to define it – avoided the contradictions.

But diversity is not only incoherent; it is also ironic. On a campus short of resources, the industry of diversity and related “studies” classes that focus on gender or racial differences and grievances crowd out exactly the sort of disciplines that provide the skills – mastery of languages, literature, science, engineering, business and math – that best prep non-traditional graduates for a shot at well-compensated careers.

And here Jonah Goldberg writes on the same subject:

Cancel the philosophy courses, people. Oh, and we’re going to be shuttering the political science, religion and pre-law departments too. We’ll keep some of the English and history folks on for a while longer, but they should probably keep their resumes handy.

Because, you see, they are of no use anymore. We have the answers to the big questions, so why keep pretending there’s anything left to discuss?

At least that’s where Erin Ching, a student at Swarthmore College, seems to be coming down. Her school invited a famous [or infamous – ed] left-wing Princeton professor, Cornel West, and a famous right-wing Princeton professor, Robert George, to have a debate. The two men are friends, and by all accounts they had an utterly civil exchange of ideas. But that only made the whole thing even more outrageous.

“What really bothered me is, the whole idea is that at a liberal arts college, we need to be hearing a diversity of opinion,” Ching told the Daily Gazette, the school’s newspaper. “I don’t think we should be tolerating [George’s] conservative views because that dominant culture embeds these deep inequalities in our society.”

Swarthmore must be so proud.

Over at Harvard, another young lady has similar views. Harvard Crimson editorial writer Sandra Y.L. Korn recently called for getting rid of academic freedom in favor of something called “academic justice”. 

“If our university community opposes racism, sexism and heterosexism, why should we put up with research that counters our goals simply in the name of ‘academic freedom’?” Korn asks.

Helpfully, she answers her own question: “When an academic community observes research promoting or justifying oppression, it should ensure that this research does not continue.”

One could easily dismiss these students as part of that long and glorious American tradition of smart young people saying stupid things. As Oscar Wilde remarked, “In America the young are always ready to give to those who are older than themselves the full benefits of their inexperience.”

But we all know that this nonsense didn’t spring ex nihilo from their imaginations … These ideas are taught.

Indeed, we are now up to our knees in this Orwellian bilge. Diversity means conformity. …

To want “diversity” – the writer sums up – means to listen only to “people who agree with me”  and that means people who are left wing.

[For] the sages of Swarthmore and Harvard …  if the conversation heads in a direction where [they] smell “oppression” – as defined solely by the left – then it must not be “put up with”. 

Diversity demands that diversity of opinion not be tolerated anymore.

The lesser evil 4

George Will, at the Washington Post, sees the civil conflict in the Ukraine as the last battle – or “final episode” –  of the Cold War.

How pathetic is the plight of the Ukrainians. Their choice is between membership of the corrupt, socialist, failing EU (which is what the people want), or  – worse, far worse – domination by Russia (which is what the government wants). Under the Russian boot they would not be much better off than they were when Russia was called the USSR.

So the EU is a haven for them. Rather like sheltering from a volcanic eruption in a cave full of vipers.

The bodies of Ukrainian protestors laid out on the street – sleeping or dead?

Picture from PowerLine, where you can find more.

Posted under corruption, Europe, Russia, Socialism, Soviet Union, tyranny, War by Jillian Becker on Thursday, February 20, 2014

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Environmentalism – a killing religion 4

The religion of Environmentalism is killing people.

An ideology that requires everyone to conform to it; that nothing can disprove, so depends on faith and not reason; that has a priesthood of persons who may not be contradicted without accusations of heresy; that exacts human sacrifice, is a mysticism, a religion. And Environmentalism is just such an ideology.

Daniel Greenfield tells the story of its human victims in Britain, and warns Americans of what is coming to them too. We quote from the article at his website Sultan Knish:

8,000 people die in the UK every year due to what is being called “Fuel Poverty”. Fuel Poverty is a trendy term for those who can’t afford to heat their home because all the solar panels and windmills, the coal bans and the wars on fracking have made it too expensive for people not to freeze to death. …

The family that has to choose between feeding their children or being able to drive to work and heat their home is not a talking point; they are the new Kulaks, the victims of an ideological activist policy that is killing innocent people for the Green greater good of the environment.

Stalin killed millions to industrialize the Soviet Union, the Green Left is preparing to kill millions to deindustrialize North America, Europe and Australia. It’s already doing it.

Clean energy has become the new Communism, an ideological program that can never be achieved, but for which we must all strive no matter how many die all along the way. …

Americans complaining about high gas and oil prices can buckle up because that is only a taste of what is coming this way. …

The Obama agenda isn’t to make energy prices affordable, it’s to make them so horribly impossible to afford that we’ll use less energy.

Fuel poverty is the agenda here and we know that’s so because he told us so:

We can’t drive our SUVs and eat as much as we want and keep our homes on 72 degrees at all times and then just expect that other countries are going to say ok …

If somebody wants to build a coal-powered plant, they can; it’s just that it will bankrupt them because they’re going to be charged a huge sum for all that greenhouse gas that’s being emitted. That will also generate billions of dollars that we can invest in solar, wind, biodiesel and other alternative energy approaches.

That doesn’t mean Obama can’t heat the White House at 72 degrees or Hawaii level temperatures. It means that you can’t do it. That’s what fuel poverty really means. …

The only thing that can end fuel poverty is cheap energy and that is what the left is dead set against.

Which is the real reason so many lefties oppose the Keystone pipeline which would bring oil from Canada.

Yet oddly enough there was a time when people were able to heat their homes and drive their cars … and afford to eat. That brief golden period was stomped out by the friends of the working class, who knew how urgent it was to make life harsh and miserable and who are busy finding ways to make it even worse.

All this is for the greater good. Someone’s greater good anyway. …

If the US or the UK are to embrace the living standards of Africa as Prince Charles would like us to, they will also embrace its mortality rates. A reduction in the standard of living at this scale and on such a comprehensive level amounts to mass murder.

The Soviet Union killed millions for its ideology. The Western left has only begun and the day will come when a few thousand pensioners dead in their homes will be weighed as the smallest part of their toll.

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