Leaving religion for good 6

We dearly love an article we can enjoy examining critically. Best of all we like an opinion that we partly agree with and partly do not.

This article is by Star Parker, whose columns at Townhall on political issues we generally like. And here  again we have no quarrel with her political views. It is her conviction that religion is necessary and good that sparks our opposition.

A new Pew Research Center survey of opinion about the importance of religion in American life shows an interesting picture.

Over the last 12 years, the percentage of Americans that think religion is losing influence in American life has increased dramatically. In 2002, 52 percent of those surveyed said religion is losing influence. In 2014, 72 percent of Americans said religion is losing influence.

To us, of course, that’s good news.

However, while increasing numbers of Americans feel religion is losing influence, most feel this is a bad thing.

Fifty-six percent say that the waning influence of religion is a bad thing compared to 12 percent that say it is a good thing.

In a survey done by Pew in 2012, 58 percent of Americans said religion is “very important” and only 18 percent said it is not “too important” or “not important at all”.

This raises some interesting questions.

One clear one is why, when Americans think religion is very important, has the percentage of Americans who think religion is losing influence in American life increased almost 40 percent over the last 14 years?

Another one is what are the political implications? Certainly, in the Republican Party, there is an increasingly vocal libertarian leaning faction that sees religion as costly political baggage.

Yes – and that is one of the libertarian views with which we are in strong sympathy.

I attribute why almost three fourths of Americans feel that religion is losing influence in American life, while most feel this is a bad thing, to the law of unintended consequences.

She goes on to describe the disaster of welfare policies. We too think they have been – and continue to be – disastrous.

Many Americans have been unwittingly supporting policies for more than a half-century that they thought were good ideas and consistent with their values which have been neither. Now more Americans are beginning to appreciate the damage that has been done and how far the nation has strayed from their own sense of right and wrong.

Take the example of welfare.

When Aid to Families with Dependent Children program was dramatically expanded in the 1960s, it seemed morally correct for government to get more aggressive in the lives of the poor, particularly poor black women. … Massive increases of government in the lives of low-income black families were accompanied by a tripling of single parent households and out-of wedlock births, laying the groundwork for intergenerational poverty.

Right. Those have been and are the causes of “intergenerational poverty”.

But we omitted a sentence. It was this:

Who appreciated that the program would undermine the very religious, traditional values that keep families intact, essential for the work ethic that leads people out poverty?

It may well have been the case that Church-taught values contributed to a belief that children should be born to married parents. Many held that belief also because it is plainly best for children to be raised by a mother and a father. The principle is good whether endorsed or not by a religion.

We contend that it is because the state took over the responsibility of providing for children that men could so easily opt out of the traditional role of bread-winner to their families. It was government incursion into private life that did the damage to believers and non-believers alike. Their religion or lack of it had nothing to do with the “unintended consequences” of welfarism.

Now it’s happening in the whole country. As we’ve gotten more government telling Americans how to save for retirement, how to deal with their health care, how to educate their children – American families have been damaged and out-of-wedlock births have increased six-fold from 1960 to 42 percent today. Government has displaced family.

Right.

Some say today we have competing views about the role of government.

Conservatives and progressives do have different views about the role of government. That is not a matter of opinion, but a fact.

I would say we have competing views about what life is about.

Yes. We think life can be “about” anything that free individuals want to make it. Star Parker thinks that life was created, and the creator had a purpose, and that purpose, though impossible to define, is somehow helped along by this or that set of religious doctrines. About which set of doctrines in particular, there are “competing views” among the multitude of religions, each of which claims to teach “the truth”.

One view – a decidedly secular, materialistic view – sees no mystery in life.

We have a decidedly secular view – materialistic too in that we see the need to sustain our physical existence as well and as pleasantly as we possibly can. But we do not think there is no mystery.  On the contrary, we are aware that humankind knows very little. To learn more, to explore what we do not know about our universe and ourselves is the most exciting adventure of our conscious lives, and discovery is the engine of all progress.

Pretending to know that there is a purpose to life known only to a supernatural being who created it but chooses to keep his purpose secret, is to opt out of the great adventure.

The left wing version, which dominates the Democratic Party, says government can solve all of life’s problems.

Or most of them. And it’s a wrong and dangerous belief.

The hard-core libertarian version, found among some Republicans — says just leave everybody alone — you don’t bother me and I won’t bother you — and everything will work out for the best.

That is an absurd encapsulation of the libertarian view. No intelligent libertarian thinks that if people are left to make their own choices, if they are self-reliant, “everything will work out for the best”. Every individual will make his own successes and failures – and take responsibility for them. He knows that government cannot solve “all life’s problems” – and, what’s more, does a pretty poor job of solving the one problem it exists to solve: how best to protect liberty.

The other view maintains that you can’t have a free society that is not also a virtuous society.

A free society starts off with the virtue of being a free society. Freedom needs to be protected by law, and, if it is, crime will be punished, foreign enemies will be kept away, and the people can prosper. How good they are in their private lives remains forever dependent on individual character and choice.

It was what George Washington meant when he said in his farewell address that “of all the dispensations and habits that lead to political prosperity, religion and morality are indispensable supports”.

We are sorry we can only partially agree with George Washington on this. Morality, yes. Religion? What religion has a history that can withstand moral criticism? Some – Christianity and Islam in particular – have a history of carnage and cruelty. That Christianity preaches against both make its actual record all the worse.

It is my sense that more Americans are beginning to wake up to the unintended, damaging consequences of the often well-intended government policies they have been supporting for many years.

More Americans are beginning to appreciate that we can’t separate our fiscal and economic problems from our moral problems and that if we want to recapture our freedom and prosperity, we must recapture our virtue.

Certainly. But we won’t do that by returning into the mental darkness of religion. We can do it by limiting the powers of government and recovering the idea of liberty as the highest value. That is political and moral virtue.

Forward to the past 11

What does a conservative in the US most want to conserve? We would say: A commitment to liberty, the founding principle of his country. American conservatives may differ from each other on questions of religion, foreign affairs, entitlements and the economic “safety-net”, homosexual marriage and abortion, even on defense, but if they are not loyal to the Constitution and the idea of individual freedom that it enshrines, they are not true conservatives.

In Britain too, conservatives are dedicated to the defense of the traditional and hard-won liberties of the people.

In Russia, being a conservative means something different. The very opposite. What Russian conservatives want to conserve is their long and almost completely unbroken tradition of tyranny. The quarrel within their ranks would now, in post-Soviet times, be chiefly over whether they want a return to the Red Tyranny of Bolshevism, or the older tradition of Tsarist oppression, where cause for national pride may more confidently be found.

Owen Matthews, author of  Stalin’s Children, writes in the Spectator (UK) about a conservative Russian military leader:

Strange times throw up strange heroes — and in Russia’s proxy war with Ukraine, none is more enigmatic than the Donetsk rebel leader Igor Girkin, better known by his nom de guerre of Igor Strelkov.

In a few short months, Strelkov has gone from being an obscure military re-enactor to the highest-profile rebel leader in eastern Ukraine. But at the same time Strelkov’s fame and outspoken criticism of Vladimir Putin for failing to sufficiently support the rebels has earned him the enmity of the Kremlin. Moreover, Strelkov’s brand of sentimental ultra-nationalism, extreme Orthodoxy and Russian Imperial nostalgia offer a frightening glimpse into one of Russia’s possible futures.

In the West, we are used to seeing Putin cast as a dangerous adventurer and nationalist. But to Strelkov, and to the millions of Russians who have come to admire him, Putin isn’t nearly nationalist enough.

Within weeks of his arrival in eastern Ukraine in May this year, apparently on his own initiative, Strelkov quickly became the highest-profile rebel leader thanks to his discipline and military bearing. A veteran of wars in Bosnia, Transnistria and Chechnya, Strelkov is a reserve colonel in the Russian army and a former (and possibly current) officer in Russia’s military intelligence service, the GRU. With his clipped moustache, pressed fatigues and careful charm, Strelkov styles himself on a pre–revolutionary Tsarist officer. In May he mustered a 2,000-strong local defence force in Slavyansk, banned his troops from swearing and ordered two of his own men to be summarily executed for looting.

He wrote a manifesto calling his troops “an Orthodox army who are proud that we serve not the golden calf but our Lord Jesus Christ” and declared that “swearing is blasphemy, and a Russian warrior cannot use the language of the enemy. It demeans us spiritually, and will lead the army to defeat”.

Russian state television built Strelkov up as a hero. The nationalist writer Egor Prosvirnin praised him as the “Russian God of War” who “rinks the blood of foreign mercenaries to the last drop, and then asks for more”. …

And then, in mid-August, Strelkov mysteriously resigned his post as “defence minister” of the self-proclaimed Donetsk People’s Republic — along with two other Russian citizens who had been the civilian heads of the rebel Donetsk and Lugansk People’s Republics. All three rebel leaders were replaced by Ukrainian citizens.

The most obvious explanation for the reshuffle is that Moscow is preparing a negotiated settlement where the Russian-speaking eastern Ukraine — or Novo-Rossiya, “New Russia”, in Russian nationalist parlance — will be given some degree of autonomy within Ukraine. Despite overwhelming evidence to the contrary — from young soldiers’ Instagram selfies tagged to locations inside Ukraine to the Russian regular soldiers taken prisoners of war on Monday by Kiev’s troops — Moscow has also continued to insist that it is not a combatant in Ukraine. Clearly, having Russian citizens at the helm of supposedly autonomous rebel republics and their armed forces was a diplomatic inconvenience to the Kremlin which needed to be fixed — and pressure was put on Strelkov and his cronies to quit.

But there’s another, deeper meaning to Strelkov’s fall from favour. Though he’s often portrayed as a stooge of Moscow, Strelkov has in fact been consistently critical of the Kremlin’s failure to act decisively to annex eastern Ukraine as it annexed Crimea in spring. “Having taken Crimea, Putin began a revolution from the top,” Strelkov wrote in June. “But if we do not support [this revolution] now, its failure will sweep aside both him and the country.”

Strelkov’s close associate Igor Ivanov, the head of the rebel army’s political department, has also furiously denounced the “Chekist-oligarchic regime” of Vladimir Putin and has also predicted that Putin will soon fall, leaving only the army and the church to save Russia from chaos.

This mix of militarism, religion and a mystical faith in Holy Russia’s imperial destiny to rule over lesser nations has deep roots. Ivanov was until recently head of the Russian All-Military Union, or ROVS, an organisation originally founded by the White Russian General Baron Pyotr Wrangel in 1924 after the victory of the Bolsheviks in the civil war. Its guiding motive was to preserve the Tsarist ideals of God, Tsar and Fatherland. For much of the 20th century, ROVS was the preserve of elderly emigré fantasists — before a new generation of post-Soviet nationalists like Ivanov breathed new life into the organisation as a home for Russian ultra-nationalists who hate Putin’s brand of crony capitalism.

A similar outfit is the Narodny Sobor, or People’s Assembly, which describes itself as an “Orthodox-Patriotic organisation devoted to fighting ‘liberasts’ and western values, to promoting Orthodoxy, and to preserving the traditional family”, according to a recent study by Professor Paul Robinson of the University of Ottawa. In Russia, the Narodny Sobor has, along with the Russian Orthodox church, successfully campaigned for a tsunami of conservative legislation to be passed by the Duma, from banning swearing on television and in films to prohibiting the spreading of “homosexual propaganda”. The head of the Narodny Sobor’s Ukrainian branch is Igor Druz — a senior political advisor to Strelkov who has denounced the Kiev government as “pederasts and drug addicts”.

On the face of it, Strelkov and his ilk and Putin should be on the same side. They share a nostalgia for a lost Russian greatness — indeed Strelkov has a degree in history and was until recently an enthusiastic military re-enactor, playing White Guard and second world war officers. And this year, in the wake of the Ukrainian crisis, Putin has abandoned years of hard-edged pragmatism and economic prudence and moved towards the kind of mystical, Orthodox nationalism so beloved of the ROVS and Narodny Sobor crowd.

Yet as Putin prepares to sign off on some kind of compromise peace deal with the Ukrainian president Petro Poroshenko, there will be millions of Russians brainwashed by months of state television’s patriotic propaganda who will agree with Strelkov that Moscow is selling the rebels down the river.

Strelkov himself has little chance of becoming a serious opposition figure to Putin; he is too stiff and too weird for public politics. But Putin’s main challenger, when he comes, will be someone of Strelkov’s stamp.

We tend to think of Vladimir Putin as being most politically vulnerable from the left — from the liberal, western-orientated professionals who came out in their hundreds of thousands on the streets of Moscow and St Petersburg three years ago to protest at Putin’s third term. But in truth Putin’s real vulnerability is from the right — from the racist football fans who rioted unchecked through central Moscow in 2010; from prophets of a Russian-led Eurasian empire such as Alexander Dugin, who was in the radical nationalist opposition to Putin before falling temporarily into step with the Kremlin in the wake of the Crimea campaign; and from militaristic ultra-conservatives on the Russian religious right.

So for the countries of Eastern Europe emancipated from Russian servitude barely a quarter of a century ago, there is not only the growing threat of re-subjugation, but the probability that it will be applied according to the whims of a madman, a religious fanatic living out fantasies of Tsardom and limitless imperial expansion by military means.

Against “Judeo-Christian values” 10

Daily one hears and reads American conservatives insisting that America, our civilization, our might, our freedom, our prosperity, are owing to “our Judeo-Christian values”. (For one of today’s examples, see here.)

There are no such things as “Judeo-Christian values”.

Unless you count a few of the “10 commandments” – that it’s wrong to kill, to steal, to bear false witness (which realization in any case long pre-dates Mosaic law) – the two religions diverge sharply on the question of values. In fact what each holds as its highest value is in direct contradiction to the other. The highest value in Jewish teaching was Justice. For Christianity as invented by St. Paul, it was Love.

Christianity preaches that a person can be separated from his deeds: “Hate the sin but love the sinner”. There is no place for justice where a wrong-doer is not to be held responsible for what he does. The Christian gospels stress that evil should not be resisted. (“Resist not evil” the putative Christ is reported as preaching in his “Sermon on the Mount”.) The Christian message also stressed unconditional forgiveness. It all adds up to a morality that excludes justice: an unjust morality.

What Judaism and Christianity could be said to have in common – which the parrots of “Judeo-Christian values” would not care to admit – is a devaluing of reason. Neither respects reason above faith.

The values we ideally live by were not the product of Judaism or Christianity, but of the Enlightenment. It was only when, in the 18th century, Reason usurped the power of the Churches, that individual freedom became a supreme value. Only then, for the first time since the glory days of classical Greece, people were encouraged to think for themselves, to obey no orthodoxy. Freedom of conscience and freedom of speech began for us then – in an intellectual revolution against religious dogma.

The greatness of the West, and especially of the United States of America, is the result of the revolution which is rightly called the Enlightenment. Freedom to doubt, to leave room for all ideas to be expressed and heard, and so to learn and discover and experiment, has brought us prosperity and power. The world-dominating success of our civilization began with the triumph of reason over religion.

A return to theocracy would be a return to darkness.

*

Afterword. Reason triumphs yet again.

From the Washington Post:

[An] experimental drug pressed into emergency use in the West African Ebola epidemic cured a group of 18 monkeys of the deadly disease, including some who didn’t receive the treatment until five days after they were injected with the virus, researchers reported Friday.

The finding raises new hope for use of the cocktail of monoclonal antibodies, called ZMapp, against Ebola, which has no known cure or vaccine. It has been fatal to more than half the people who have contracted the virus in Liberia, Guinea, Sierra Leone and Nigeria.

During the current outbreak, more than 1,500 people have died and 3,069 people have become infected in five countries, the latest of them Senegal, according to the World Health Organization. The current epidemic is worse than all previous Ebola outbreaks combined. A small number of cases, believed to be a separate outbreak, have surfaced in the Democratic Republic of Congo. …

The fact that ZMapp has worked on monkeys “strongly supports” the possibility that it will work on people, “but it’s not proven” – as yet.

It soon will be.

Posted under Commentary, Ethics, Law, liberty, United States, US Constitution by Jillian Becker on Tuesday, August 26, 2014

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Beware the church militant redux! 28

A writer by the name of Enza Ferreri has written an article against Reason. She probably doesn’t see that that is what she’s done. But that is what she’s done. She writes:

It’s all very simple. We can’t fight Islam in the West without fighting the enablers of Islam in the West, namely the Leftists.

So far, so good.

And, since the Left has many different and separate aspects, we have to fight against each one of them. Secularism, environmentalism, global warming alarmism, homosexualism, militant feminism, sexual relativism, multiculturalism, anti-Christianity, Islamophilia, post-nationalism, internationalism are just as important targets to attack as Marxist economics, the expropriation of the capitalist class (or, in its modern reincarnation, redistribution of wealth), and the dictatorship of the proletariat.

The words we have put in bold mark the issues we dispute with Enza Ferreri.

We don’t know what “homosexualism” is, or “sexual relativism”.

We consider sexual choices to be private matters (unless they involve children). They are certainly not dangerous threats to the survival of the West.

But while we agree with the author on her other “targets”, we emphatically disagree with her when it comes to secularism and anti-Christianity.

First, secularism:

Secularism is not the same as Leftism. Between the founding of the United States of America and the dawning in the 1960s of this Leftist age, there was a very long stretch of secularism, liberty, and prosperity.

But in those times and those countries where a church (in the widest sense) has been the ruling power, there has always been tyranny. What greater tyranny can there be than the imposition of an orthodoxy on every mind?

Communism and Nazism also impose orthodoxy, and punish dissent as cruelly as a theocracy. That is one of the reasons why we class these ideologies as religions. Nazi Germany, Stalinist Russia, Maoist China were not secular states; they were orthodoxies, as tyrannous as the Catholic Church in the Middle Ages, or the newly declared Islamic State now.  

The secular state, and only the secular state, is a free state.  Secularism is freedom. Freedom is only possible in the secular state. 

Next, anti-Christianity:

In a free, secular society, people are free to be Christians. But people are equally free to criticize Christianity.

Neglecting any of these fronts is like fighting a war leaving a battleground to the enemy, like fighting on the Western front and leaving totally undefended the Eastern one.

Secularism and atheism are certainly the first lines of important wars.

So she contends that the prime enemy in her war is freedom. That being so, she has no case to make against Islam or Marxism.

For all that she seems to be speaking for tolerance (being against Islamophilia) and reason (being against environmentalism, global warming alarmism, “militant feminism”); and against Islam (aka multiculturalism) and Marxism (redistribution etc.), she is actually speaking for her own choice of intolerant, irrational, orthodox tyranny.

A secularist West will always lose to Islam, because it will have enough compassion, tolerance and self-restraint from violence that are the remnants of its Christian heritage, but it will have lost the ideals, the passion and certainty of fighting for a just cause that were once part of Christianity and have disappeared with its erosion.

Her assumptions are arrogant to an extreme. Compassion, tolerance and self-restraint from violence are not the legacies of “a Christian heritage” but of enlightened reason.

It is pointless to try and fight one irrational belief, such as Islam or Marxism, by setting up another irrational belief, such as Christianity, in opposition to it. There is no better reason to believe in the Trinity than in Allah or the inevitability of the dictatorship of the proletariat.

Two quotes here serve as epigrams. Robert Spencer wrote in his great work Religion of Peace? Why Christianity Is and Islam Isn’t: “People who are ashamed of their own culture will not defend it.” And Dennis Prager said during one of his radio broadcasts, “Only good religion can counter bad religion.”

We admire much that Robert Spencer and Denis Prager write. And we think Spencer makes a point here worth thinking about. But to Prager’s assertion we say, nonsense!

Some people claim that there won’t be a religious revival in Europe because we are past believing in God. That this is not true can be seen by the high – and increasing – number of Westerners who convert to Islam. Many of them give as a reason for their conversion the need for absolutes, boundaries and well-defined status. A journalist writing for The Spectator on this subject explained why she is Catholic:

But above all, I like the moral certainties. I don’t mind the dogma one bit. I would rather dogma and impossible ideals than confusion and compromise. In that sense, I do identify with those who choose Islam over the way of no faith, or a seemingly uncertain faith, like the woolly old C of E.

Confusion and compromise is inescapable. How can dogma – which is to say being incurably wrong –  and “impossible ideals” be better than admitting the truth of scio nescio: I know that I do not know? It is as if the culture on which such persons as the quoted Catholic and the author of the article have been raised was never affected by Socratean doubt, the Enlightenment, the assumption of ignorance upon which all true science proceeds.

William Kilpatrick, in Christianity, Islam, and Atheism: The Struggle for the Soul of the West – a book I thoroughly recommend reading -, writes: Brian Young’s friends said he was troubled by the decadence of Western society. David Courtrailler’s lawyer said, “For David, Islam ordered his life.” These are the sorts of reasons ordinary converts to Islam give. A common refrain from converts is that Islam provides a complete plan for life in contrast to the ruleless and clueless life offered by secular society. As Mary Fallot, a young French convert, explains, “Islam demands a closeness to God. Islam is simpler, more rigorous, and it’s easier because it is explicit. I was looking for a framework; man needs rules and behavior to follow. Christianity did not give me the same reference points.” If you look at the convert testimonials on Muslim websites, they echo this refrain: Islam brings “peace”, “order”, “discipline”, and a way of life that Christianity and other religions fail to offer.

Islam brings peace!  He – and she – can say that with a straight face? While IS (ISIS, ISIL) is rampaging through Syria and Iraq mass-slaughtering, impaling, crucifying, decapitating, raping, enslaving; while Hamas is firing thousands of rockets into Israel; while civil war rages in Syria; while Yezidis, Kurds, Baha’is, Christians, Jews, Hindus, Buddhists, other Muslims are being daily killed and constantly persecuted by Muslims?

Astonishing that some women crave the “order” and “discipline” of subjugation; when the “discipline” is exerted by enslavement, beatings, whippings, stonings, legal discrimination.

Human beings will never be past the need for believing in something bigger than themselves, because that need is part of the human mind.

Where are there human beings who do not know that natural forces are “bigger than themselves”? Who among us does not know that we are mortal?

She continues in the same vein. We’ll not irritate our readers with all of it. She is a true believer. And what she believes is that Christianity is good and true.

We will skip to what she quotes as wisdom from a Catholic primate:

A clear direction was given by Cardinal Giacomo Biffi, Archbishop of Bologna, Italy. As early as 30 September 2000, before 9/11, when very few in the West even thought of worrying about Islam, he delivered a very forward-looking speech, which included this premonition:

… Either Europe will become Christian again or it will become Muslim. What I see without future is the “culture of nothing”, of freedom without limits and without content, of skepticism boasted as intellectual achievement, which seems to be the attitude largely dominant among European peoples, all more or less rich of means and poor of truths. This “culture of nothingness” (sustained by hedonism and libertarian insatiability) will not be able to withstand the ideological onslaught of Islam, which will not be missing: only the rediscovery of the Christian event as the only salvation for man – and therefore only a strong resurrection of the ancient soul of Europe – will offer a different outcome to this inevitable confrontation.

The culture of reason is not a “culture of nothing”. It is a culture of rational humility; of admitting ignorance and trying to find the truth, even if one can never be certain one has found it. Skepticism is the only engine of discovery.

“Freedom without limits”? Freedom of action always has a limit. In a free society, everyone’s freedom is limited by everyone else’s under the rule of law. But indeed the freedom of the mind has no limits, nor should it have any.

Notice the snide swipe at riches and “hedonism”. Do you think that he, as a cardinal, pigs it in some hovel?

By “truths” he means the  patent absurdities of Christian theological belief.

“Libertarian insatiability”. What the heck does that mean?

If the Western culture of reason, secularism, liberty, skepticism, science, cannot withstand the onslaught of Islam, it will be because that culture has been abandoned by people like Enza Ferreri.

She goes on to blame shrinking birthrates on secularism.  Then she ends with this:

Militant atheists à la Richard Dawkins have not really given enough thought to the long-term consequences of their ideas, which we are beginning to see.

And of which we are reminded whenever, for example, we read in the news of doctors and missionaries who die of Ebola while assisting affected patients for Christian charities. Not many atheist charities are involved in that work.

How many cures for diseases have been found by scientists among whom atheists are in a huge majority? The medical researchers who eliminated smallpox; those who found how to detect the beginnings of cancer and treat it before it becomes lethal, and how to restore wholeness to lepers and replace a faulty heart or kidney …. the list could run on for hours … cure more people than all the martyrdom-seeking self-righteous preachy Christians out to save their imaginary souls by “assisting affected patients” have ever done or could do in a thousand years.

As a reminder to readers who have a strong stomach of what happened when the Christian Churches provided “order” and “discipline” to Europe and wherever else they could reach, we recommend The Grand Inquisitor’s Manual by Jonathan Kirsch, and our own post Calvin: a chapter in the terrible history of Christianity by Jillian Becker, April 25, 2010. (Put the title in our search slot.)

Nothing IS (ISIS, ISIL) is doing now in the name of Islam is worse in type or degree than what those Christians did in the name of Christianity.

The world needs saving from religion.

R too D to leave you free 5

When all the news is depressing or fearful, it’s great to have a good laugh. Even if the laugh is a trifle hysterical.

We laughed that sort of laugh at this story from the Washington Free Beacon:

The National Science Foundation has committed $10 million to build robots that will act as “personal trainers” for children, in an effort to influence their behavior and eating habits.

The government has spent $2.15 million so far for the five-year project, which is being led by Yale University. The project, “Robots Helping Kids,” will ultimately “deploy” robots into homes and schools to teach English as a second language, and encourage kids to exercise.

The project will develop a “new breed of sophisticated socially assistive’ robots, designed to help children learn to read, appreciate physical fitness, overcome cognitive disabilities, and perform physical exercises”, according to a news release by Yale University …

“Just like a good personal trainer, we want the robots to be able to guide the child toward a behavior that we desire,” said Brian Scassellati, a computer science professor at Yale and principal investigator for the study. “What we want to do is move these robots out of the laboratory and into schools and homes and clinics, places where we can directly help children on a day-to-day basis,” he said. …

“The need for this technology is driven by critical societal problems that require sustained, personalized support that supplements the efforts of educators, parents, and clinicians,” the [NSA providers of] the grant said.  

Scassellati envisions the robots influencing nearly every aspect of children’s lives.

“We want them to help children learn language, we want to help them learn better eating habits, we want them to learn new social or cognitive skills through their interactions with these robots,” he said. …

Social skills with robots. Interaction with robots who must therefore, presumably, also have social skills. This truly is a brave new world!

Of course kids will probably love having a robot as a pet and companion. Better than a doll or a stuffed bear!

But will the robot be sending info back to a mad professor or the state? We guess so. “He didn’t eat his salad today.” “She quarreled with a classmate.”

The kids will be in the constant presence of a spy. Nurturing a serpent in their little bosoms.

The project is seeking to create robots that could be personal companions to children for up to a year. Scassellati said he wants to “build a healthy relationship of trust and respect between the child and the robot.”

Respectful robots! They may spy on you, but they’ll do it respectfully.

“At the end of five years we’d like to have robots that can guide a child toward long-term educational goals, be customized for the particular needs of that child, and basically grow and develop with the child,” he said. “We want the robot to be the equivalent of a good personal trainer.”

The NSF has allotted $10 million for the study through 2017. The grant is one of the highest amounts the agency dispenses.

The University of Southern California, MIT, Stanford, and Tufts University are listed as partners for the project. Willow Garage, a personal robotics company, is also participating in the research. …

We bet they are. Most lucratively.

Scassellati said the robots would “not replace” humans, but provide additional attention and guidance for children. The research is focusing on both “regularly developing children and those with social or cognitive deficits.” Some of Scassellati’s prior research has focused on how robots can help kids with Autism.

Did you think the do-good factor, the “help” because “we care” factor would be missing? The state always exercises totalitarian control only for your own good.

“If we’re successful in this, we think we can make a real difference in the lives of children,” he said.

We don’t doubt it for a moment. The personal robot scheme will serve the government’s indoctrination purposes much better even than compulsory pre-kindergarten schooling could. Now the state will be with you 24/7. You’ll have no secrets from it. It’ll  be in bed with you, at the table with you, in the bathroom with you, at school with you. And it will be fun!  This is how you’ll come to love Big Brother.

“And we think that we can produce some of the most interesting, the most engaging, and the most competent social robots that we’ve ever seen.”

You could make them pretty too, Brian. The things could have the look of this or that Hollywood star, for instance.

Considering the official prurience of the state these days, they will very likely be programmed to teach the kids practical sex. No holds barred, of course. (Sado-masochism is strongly advised by state-supported institutions right now.)

Loads of fun for the next generation coming up! Who said that the age of American vision ended with the close of its space exploration?

And – parents – note that the interesting, engaging, competent companion of your kid will not need feeding. It won’t consume the teeniest bite of the arugula, kale, broccoli, coarse bread and dandelion tea that it will prescribe for you and yours.

Brace yourselves for its constant (respectful) criticism though. It will be there to keep you in line too. Can’t risk your preferences or bad influence of any sort undoing its good work.

Arms and the free man 1

Here is some interesting information about the  1775 Declaration of the Causes and Necessity of Taking Up Arms, which may not be well known. It comes from an article at Townhall by Chuck Norris:

Most everyone knows about America’s 1776 Declaration of Independence. But did you know that on July 6 a year earlier, Congress initiated a Declaration of the Causes and Necessity of Taking Up Arms?

It’s true. … On July 6, 1775, just a day after our Founding Fathers issued their Olive Branch Petition to King George III, Congress gave just reason for taking up arms against Great Britain. In the declaration, they wrote they would “die freemen rather than live slaves”. …

The lengthier name is A Declaration by the Representatives of the United Colonies of North-America, Now Met in Congress at Philadelphia, Setting Forth the Causes and Necessity of Their Taking Up Arms.

It was primarily the work of Thomas Jefferson and John Dickinson; the former penned the first draft, and the latter produced the final draft. …

Known as the “Penman of the Revolution,” Dickinson was referred to by Jefferson as being “among the first of the advocates for the rights of his country when assailed by Great Britain.” His name, Jefferson said, “will be consecrated in history as one of the great worthies of the revolution.”

Dickinson was a militia officer during the Revolution, a member of the Continental Congress from Pennsylvania and Delaware, a delegate to the Constitutional Convention, president of Delaware, and president of Pennsylvania. …

The Declaration of the Causes and Necessity of Taking Up Arms [asserts]:

The legislature of Great-Britain, stimulated by an inordinate passion for a power not only unjustifiable, but which they know to be peculiarly reprobated by the very constitution of that kingdom, and desperate of success in any mode of contest where regard should be had to truth, law, or right, have at length, deserting those, attempted to effect their cruel and impolitic purpose of enslaving these colonies by violence, and have thereby rendered it necessary for us to close with their last appeal from reason to arms.

Is it any surprise that when creating our Constitution, our founders would include as prominent the need for a free people to bear arms? The Second Amendment reads, “A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.”

Chuck Norris is a devout Christian, and his article includes passages about “the Creator” and the Ten Commandments. We have of course cut those out. But we like what we have quoted. The need for Americans to be armed is greater than ever now that a tyrannical and would-be totalitarian administration is hellbent on nudging the entire population of the US into lockstep obedience to its command.

July 4, 2014 2

A reassuringly secular view of the founding of the USA is offered at IBD by politics professor Thomas Krannawitter:

Perhaps the most remarkable thing about the Declaration of Independence, which was approved on July 4, 1776, by the Continental Congress, is the mere fact that it exists.

Nowhere, ever, had a people offered to the world an open moral defense of their revolutionary, law-breaking intentions, at a moment when their actions on the battlefield appeared more suicidal than hopeful.

And nowhere, ever, before or after, has the cause of freedom been presented more perfectly, poetically or beautifully.

All the men who signed the Declaration knew they were possibly signing away their lives and everything else dear to them. What was “revolution” for them was treason from the English Crown’s point of view …

The macabre seriousness of the occasion was forever memorialized in the closing line of the Declaration, as the signers pledged their “lives, fortunes, and sacred honor.” Their pledge remains somewhat famous. But often people forget to whom the pledge was made: They pledged all they had not to God and not to the citizenry at large. Their pledge was to one another.

They knew well that if any betrayed the trust among them, the revolution would fail and freedom would have to wait for another time, another place. But their loyalty to each other and to the cause of freedom was unbreakable. And we today are the beneficiaries of their mutual loyalty.

The moral and political premise of the Declaration of Independence was a simple yet radical idea: Every human being — regardless of the time or place of birth, or gender, or the color of one’s skin, or the language one speaks, or the gods one worships — possesses by nature a body that houses a free mind. In this way, all men truly are equal. That’s the simple part.

From this simple observation flow radical implications: If a body is home to a free mind, then that mind is the only truly rightful governor of that body. Self-government is right because it is woven into the fabric of human nature.

Any form of slavery or tyranny — any attempt of the mind of one person to own, control or abuse the body of another — is therefore wrong. Every moral wrong between human beings is a testament to the rightness of human equality.

Further, if a free mind directs the body it governs to create something, invent something, produce something useful, then the fruit of that labor belongs solely to the mind that made it. It belongs to no one else. Here we see that the idea of property is … emphatically moral.

No one has a right to any property or any wealth that has been produced or earned by someone else. The inventions of some people are never the rights of others.

Consider: No one knows what future products or services technology might invent. But we know that no one has a right to them. You’re free to work and earn and save in order to buy them, of course. But you have no right to them. If you did, then others would have an obligation now to invent them. Who has such an obligation? Answer: no one. And therefore no one has a right to anything that might be invented or produced by others, now or later.

From all this, a radical new vision of government arose in America: The purpose of government would be limited to protecting the natural freedoms, natural rights and property of those who mutually and voluntarily consent to form a government.

A government of limited purpose should be a government of limited power, which is precisely why the U.S. Constitution was written and ratified — to enumerate the few powers We The People grant to the government we created, and to make clear that government may not rightfully do anything else. Period.

More: Citizens have good reason to trust one another, because none has any legal authority to take anything away from or harm others. But government is different. Every law, every regulation, every rule and order and decree issued from government is ultimately backed up by the barrel of a gun. Government is a monopoly of force.

So while government may always be necessary, it’s also always dangerous.

A people who are wise and expect to remain free might extend civic trust to one another, but they should bind their government officials by the chains of the Constitution.

And if ever government exercises unjust and unauthorized powers, and we have no peaceful remedy available to us, we always reserve the natural right to choose revolution once again, just like we did on July 4, 1776. That’s what freedom looks like. And that’s what Independence Day is all about.

So let us celebrate this Fourth of July, 2014. As you enjoy the fireworks after sunset, let them be a reminder of the explosive fighting and dying required to establish the freedom you enjoy today. Remember how they fought, that for which they fought, and why we all are better off for it.

Stirring and true.

But yes, there is a discomforting irony in the implication that the only rightful owner of a person’s body is that person himself, while the signatories to the Declaration of Independence were slave-owners.

But the greatness of the Idea that America was to be a free nation whose government would be the servant not the master of the people, is not diminished by the temporary historical reality of slavery.

And now that America has a government that wants to nudge the nation into obedience to its tyrannical will, it is of the utmost importance that the Idea be remembered, celebrated, and reasserted.

Posted under liberty, United States, US Constitution by Jillian Becker on Friday, July 4, 2014

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Libertarian conservatism 4

From time to time visitors to this website or our Facebook page query the idea – even the possibility – of there being such a thing as atheist conservatism. They are – almost always, as far as we can make out – Americans whose understanding is that the word “conservative” denotes Christian conservatism. To them, therefore, to speak of  “atheist conservatism” is to commit a contradiction in terms. Some have called it an oxymoron.

In Europe too, conservatism has a Christian coloration. Conservative political parties usually declare themselves to be Christian –  for example, the Christian Democratic Party (CDU) of Germany. But their support does not come only from Christians. And in Britain the established Church of England has been called “the Conservative Party at prayer”, but the party does not exclude members of other Christian denominations or other religions, or the non-religious.

Yet it is an American conservatism that we embrace. It is faithfulness to the Constitution, to the essential idea that the United States was intended to embody as a nation: the idea of individual liberty protected by the rule of law.

The shortest answer we give to those who accuse us of being self-contradictory is to tell them what our prime principles are:

  • individual freedom
  • a free market economy
  • small government
  • low taxes
  • strong defense

And we point out that those are core principles of American conservatism. The Constitution – southern state critics please be reminded – does not require citizens to be Christian, or religious at all.

Just as often, perhaps even more often, we are told that we cannot be both conservative and libertarian: that the two traditions are separate and even inimical to each other, to the point of being mutually exclusive. Even if that were  true (and we don’t think it is), we consider it unnecessary to take tradition into account. The issue needs to be looked at philosophically, not historically. Our conservatism, holding the firmly conservative principles we have listed, is manifestly a conservatism of liberty.

And we think it is now, more than ever before, that the libertarian view should direct the political agenda of conservatism. A heavy counterweight is needed to bring America back from its tipping over into collectivism by the Left. Individual freedom urgently needs to be saved.

What is stopping conservatives from accepting libertarianism as its future? The libertarians themselves. Frequently, their public statements reveal them to be inexcusably ignorant of world affairs. They often advocate naive isolationism. They seem to lack a sense of what matters. The legalization of drugs could be wise and necessary, but it is not worth making a hullabaloo about  when jihad is being waged against us. A person should arguably be able to marry any other person or persons – or things – that they choose, but it is much more important that America should remain the world’s sole superpower.

John Hinderaker also thinks that this should be “the libertarian moment”. And he too reproaches libertarians with an underdeveloped sense of what matters to the existence, liberty, safety, and prosperity of the nation. 

He writes at PowerLine:

Every major strand of American conservatism includes a strong libertarian streak, because the value of liberty is fundamental to just about all conservative thought. But today, especially, is said to be the libertarians’ moment. What once was a fringe movement, politically speaking, has moved front and center in our political life.

And yet, in my view, libertarians of both the capital L and small l varieties punch below their weight. They have not contributed as much as they should to the conservative movement. This is partly because libertarians tend to founder on foreign policy, where many are merely modern-day isolationists. But it is also because they have tended to focus on secondary, or tertiary, issues of domestic policy.

A couple of years ago I was invited to a gathering on behalf of Gary Johnson, the former governor of New Mexico who then was a libertarian candidate for the Republican presidential nomination. I was well disposed toward him, but when he started talking, his first subject was legalization of drugs. Now he is the CEO of a marijuana company. Rand Paul is probably the leading libertarian at the moment; he purports to take seriously the threat that someone drinking coffee in an American cafe will be struck by a drone-fired missile.

American liberty is indeed under attack, and a libertarian movement is needed more than ever. But the threat to freedom is not drug laws or drone attacks.

The principal threat is the administrative state, which increasingly hems in everything we do and depends hardly at all on the will of voters. …

Calvin Coolidge, who knew the Progressives well and understood how antithetical their vision of government is to America’s founding principles [said]:

It is often asserted that the world has made a great deal of progress since 1776, that we have had new thoughts and new experiences which have given us a great advance over the people of that day, and that we may therefore very well discard their conclusions for something more modern. But that reasoning cannot be applied to this great charter [the Constitution]. If all men are created equal, that is final. If they are endowed with inalienable rights, that is final. If governments derive their just powers from the consent of the governed, that is final. No advance, no progress can be made beyond these propositions. If anyone wishes to deny their truth or their soundness, the only direction in which he can proceed historically is not forward, but backward toward the time when there was no equality, no rights of the individual, no rule of the people. Those who wish to proceed in that direction can not lay claim to progress. They are reactionary. Their ideas are not more modern, but more ancient, than those of the Revolutionary fathers.

Today we labor under an administrative state that has metastasized far beyond anything Coolidge could have imagined. It constrains our freedoms, it lays waste to our economy, it has largely rendered Congress irrelevant, and it threatens to make just about anyone a criminal, since no one can possibly keep track of all of the myriad regulations with which we are encumbered. And let’s not forget that the administrative state is run by liberals, for liberals.

Despite the fact that it is antithetical to the Constitution and to American traditions, there is little opposition to the administrative state as such. Conventional politicians suggest that regulations can be made less irrational and less burdensome – a good idea, certainly – but hardly anyone questions the fundamental concept of Congress delegating its powers to unelected and mostly unaccountable agencies that are charged with managing just about every aspect of our lives. Nearly everyone considers the administrative state, as such, to be inevitable.

Why don’t libertarians stake out a “radical” position on domestic policy? Why not argue, not just for a moderation in the inevitable drift toward a more and more powerful administrative state, but for a return to the Constitution’s central principle – the very first words of Article I – that “All legislative Powers herein granted shall be vested in a Congress of the United States…”, a Congress that is accountable to the people.

A battle is being fought for the liberties of the American people and, frankly, it isn’t going well. The fight has little or nothing to do with drugs and drones. If libertarians are serious about preserving and expanding liberty, they should join the fight that matters. A libertarian movement that focuses on a rollback of the administrative state would be “radical,” but it also would put libertarians in the vanguard, not on the fringe, of American conservatism.

The need to impeach Obama (but) 8

It is high time to assert the political will to impeach a rogue president.

Failure to do so is tantamount to the existential impeachment of a nation in the court of authentic justice.

 So David Solway writes at PJ Media.

We agree with him. But if the House of Representatives were to impeach Barack Obama, the Senate would refuse to do its part and try him. We can only hope that if the Senate falls to the Republicans in November, impeachment and trial will soon follow.

There are grounds aplenty, as David Solway says in his article (worth reading in full).

Here’s our choice of highlights from it:

It has been persuasively argued that President Obama is impeachable  on many grounds.

Having joked that he could do anything he wants, Obama is guilty of running roughshod over the Constitution, bypassing Congress and governing by executive decree, stuffing his administration with Muslim Brotherhood operatives, making common cause with America’s enemies and betraying its allies, promoting the global warming scam at enormous cost to the taxpayer, accepting illicit campaign donations, failing to defend U.S. soil against illegal border crossings (in direct contravention of Article IV, Section 4  of the Constitution), being in contempt of federal court for his oil-drilling moratorium in the Gulf, allowing the IRS to target conservative nonprofits seeking tax-exempt status, approving via his attorney general Operation Fast and Furious, concocting the Benghazi cover-up, and constantly and illegally rewriting the rules of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, at least 29 times to date. A more comprehensive record of Obama’s ethical violations and misdemeanors lists 51 reasons for impeachment, some of which may be comparatively borderline, others flagrant. …

Much has been and continues to be written about what is probably the most mendacious administration in American political history. The fact that so many of Obama’s vital records are sealed or problematic should have raised alarm bells and disqualified his candidacy in the years before he assumed office — or at least have alerted a sentient electorate to the ethical and political travesty his presidency would become. …

When one follows the trajectory of Obama’s career, one knows that one is dealing with a man who is a liar from the egg, a man for whom suppressing the truth or lying outright is the daily fare of his existence

The incongruities in his personal narrative are so vast as to provoke the conviction that Obama is little more than an embodied fiction  — unless one assumes that a man born four years before his parents presumably met  in Selma in 1965 is some sort of miracle worker or godsend. Aside from autobiographical disparities and obscurities, the empirical lies and political abuses continue to pile up. Senator Ted Cruz is in process of issuing a series of reports on the Obama administration’s abuses of power, having enumerated 76 instances  of such constitutional dereliction at the hands of an imperial presidency …

One notes that there is also an aspect of feckless ineptitude in the man …  After the fiasco of Obama’s disappearing “red lines” over Iran’s development of nuclear weapons and Syria’s use of chemical weapons, and his “there will be consequences” for Russia if it entered Ukraine — threats that die on the teleprompter — America’s enemies know they are dealing with a buffoon who has, wittingly or unwittingly, become a reliable ally.

This is a president who skips a National Security meeting about the Ukrainian emergency and emails out a smilingly inane selfie marking a White House film festival on the same day that Russian troops push into Crimea.

This is a man who, without consulting Congress, releases five Taliban terrorists with blood on their hands for an American Army deserter. …

Charles Krauthammer finds Obama’s foreign policy “puzzling” …  “Would Putin have lunged for Ukraine,” he asks rhetorically, “if he didn’t have such a clueless adversary?” Krauthammer is being overly discreet. Nothing Obama does is puzzling. There may well be an element of Biden-like doltishness in his behavior, but the evidence strongly suggests that he is being politically and ideologically consistent in undermining American power and security on the world stage.

There is no contradiction in a man being both stone stupid and insidiously crafty at the same time, which explains the Ruritanian politics and social japery he has managed to get away with up to now.

And should be stopped from getting away with as soon as his removal from office becomes possible.

But wait … !

What would the nation be left with?

Joe Biden. A plain dolt without the craftiness.

That’s why some have said that Obama chose Biden for his Vice President – as insurance against his own impeachment. But we doubt he had such foresight.

And his arrogance would hardly have allowed him to anticipate that pesky Congress would ever have the audacity to impeach him.

Posted under Climate, Commentary, corruption, Crime, Ethics, government, Law, liberty, Treason, United States, US Constitution by Jillian Becker on Sunday, June 29, 2014

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Longing for ruin 2

What will everyday life  be like –  for those who are allowed to live at all – in the Utopia towards which the Left is dragging us?

Actually, about half the voters of America are not being dragged; they are striding voluntarily into that future. Why? How do they imagine it will be? In what ways will it be better than it had been until the dictatorship by this Leftist elite began?

Dr Ileana Johnson Paugh, who has experienced life in an oppressed collectivized country, watches with dismay as the America she came to in order to find freedom, changes into the sort of country she fled from.

She writes at Canada Free Press:

There are days when I watch in a daze the slow motion transformation of America into the country I left 36 years ago.

Change is good for America, I am told by those who decided in their ignorant collectivist minds that they know what’s best for the rest of the country, for the rest of the world.

Why must we destroy everything in order to satisfy the wishes of the ruling elite, the oligarchs in power, who are busy re-writing all our laws, inviting in corruption, lawlessness, and deceit? …

Why are Americans dissatisfied with their abundant lifestyle, their top-notch medical care, and generous welfare system, abundance of food, outstanding opportunity for education, advancement, promotion, and freedom of mobility?

What do they imagine that resides behind the tall green fence of egalitarian utopia …? …

Do Americans long for the adobe-style village dwellings made of mud bricks and without electricity where I spent the first seven years of my life?

Perhaps they enjoy standing in line for hours to get basic ingredients of food while fighting for the last loaf of fresh bread or kilo of flour? What a fine opportunity to get to know your entire neighborhood while waiting in food lines and engage in some competitive shoving.

Maybe they like it when shelves are empty and the pharmacies never have the drugs they need because they are in short supply and are delivered first to the regime’s oligarchs. It might scale back the collective drug dependency.

Maybe they don’t mind the lines to get toilet paper, lines that wrap around for many blocks. Who needs toilet paper when nature has plenty of leaves?

Surely they must be envying the equality of low paying salaries and forced job assignments as far away from home as possible. Nobody should have to come home but once a week. Dormitories at the place of employment are just fine. Think about all the gas and electricity saved and the carbon credits earned.

Maybe they enjoy being spied upon for their own safety by the elites, and moved into crowded, densely populated, dirty, and noisy government-run apartments. They can build such a diverse community of like-minded neighbors who “meditate” together.

Are they envying the fuzzy feeling of equality and of saving nature [for what?], … while walking miles to the grocery store, work, the market, or the doctor?

Maybe they are envying the equality of waiting for hours to see a doctor and being told to come back the next day because the doctor has filled his government-quota of patients for the day.

Perhaps they are daring and wish to have their teeth extracted or drilled without anesthetics because they have not been delivered to doctors in years. Nobody needs toxic substances in their bodies.

Maybe they welcome the communist indoctrination in schools and the rounding up of parents weekly to be humiliated in front of the entire parent body because their children are not marching obediently enough in lock-step with the “dictatura” of the regime.

Conceivably they must enjoy gawking at the one-sausage hanging in the window while the elites shop at their own stores and visit their own hospitals.

Possibly they enjoy staying at home, waiting for the government check and other unearned “entitlements” to arrive, hopefully on time, and the coupons for food rationing …

Conceivably they may enjoy staying in the dark on a regular basis when power is cut off, shivering when heat does not reach their apartments, and sweltering in summer because air conditioning is not allowed or too expensive.

Americans may learn to enjoy the freedom of not bathing because water is rationed. Who needs to smell good or wash clothes when it is so much easier to go dirty and with matted hair? Shampoo and soap are overrated, we are told by Europeans, we bathe too much and our skin dries out. Think how soft and smooth your skin will be from lack of bathing. We would be saving Mother Nature. We are not sure what we would be saving the planet for, but we are saving it to thrive back to wilderness. That would make environmentalists really happy. …

The Democratic Party is seeking this transformational change with dizzying speed …  But we are not transforming fast enough into the “social justice” “environmental justice” and “coexist” Tower of Babel heaven they’ve promised their American followers and constituents. We must be nudged. A suggestion has been floated that they should change their name to the Communist Party since they are so neatly aligned with Marxism.

I can hardly wait for this American majority and the illegal aliens they support to attain the communist utopia they so richly deserve. …

We understand her bitterness. To witness the misery of the blind fools who voted for that utopia would be bitterly gratifying.

But what of those who never voted for it – who knew what it would be like and dreaded it? What will it take in effort and time for those who survive to restore the America they lost?

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