Saturday, March 07, 2009

Legalize Drugs?—Or See Mexico Become Afghanistan South?

By Patrick J. Buchanan
http://www.vdare.com/
March 5, 2009

Heeding the advice of Gen. David Petraeus, Barack Obama has committed 17,000 more troops to Afghanistan and will keep 50,000 in Iraq after U.S. combat operations end in August 2010.

Mexican soldiers on patrol in Ciudad Juarez, northern Mexico.

But are U.S. vital interests more threatened by what happens in Anbar or Helmand than in the war raging along our southern border?

Prediction: After all U.S. troops in Iraq, Afghanistan and Korea have come home, there will be a U.S. army on the Mexican border. For this is where the fate of our republic will be decided, as the fate of Europe will be decided by the millions streaming north from the Maghreb and Middle East, sub-Sahara and South Asia.

Last year, 6,000 Mexicans died in drug-related killings in a war where the tactics are massacre, murder, kidnapping and beheading.

President Felipe Calderon has ordered another 5,000 troops and 1,000 police to the border. Primary target: Ciudad Juarez, across the Rio Grande from El Paso.

Some 2,500 federal troops are already in Juarez, where in 2008 there were 1,600 drug-related murders. Gun battles occur every day. Nationally, 45,000 army troops and police are committed to this war that Mexico is not winning. For, according to the March 3 Washington Times, the Pentagon now estimates the cartels field more than 100,000 foot soldiers. [100,000 foot soldiers in Mexican cartels Numbers rival country's army, By Sarah Carter]

The chief of police of Juarez just resigned after a cartel threatened to kill an officer every 48 hours if he did not. To prove its seriousness, the cartel murdered four cops, including the chief's deputy. Last year, 50 police officers in Juarez were murdered.

"The decision I am taking is one of life over death," said Chief Roberto Oduna. The chief would seem to have a point. In January, his predecessor's head was found in an ice cooler outside a police station. The mayor keeps his family in El Paso, TX, as they have been threatened with decapitation.
Friday, the State Department declared, "Corruption throughout Mexico's public institutions remains a key impediment to curtailing the power of the drug cartels." Calderon retorts that, while the murders may be committed in Mexico, the cash and guns come from the United States.

With oil revenue down since the price dropped $100 a barrel, and remittances down from Mexican workers in the United States as the U.S. economy tanks, tourism, too, has begun to die. Beheadings in and around Acapulco have not helped. Warnings have been issued to U.S. college kids to avoid Mexico on spring break, as kidnappings for ransom are rampant. Restaurants and bars in Juarez that catered to folks from El Paso and soldiers from Fort Bliss are shutting down.

In February, in the resort town of Cancun, a retired army general sent to create elite anti-crime unit was kidnapped, tortured and shot. Mexican troops raided Cancun's police headquarters and arrested the chief and dozens of his officers in connection with the murder.

Add a collapsing global economy to a losing war with drug cartels, and Mexico is at grave risk of becoming a failed state, a narco-state, with a 2,000-mile border with the United States.

How does one win a drug war when millions of Americans who use recreational drugs are financing the cartels bribing, murdering and beheading to win the war and keep self-indulgent Americans supplied with drugs?

There are two sure ways to end this war swiftly: Milton's way and Mao's way.

Mao Zedong's communists killed users and suppliers alike, as social parasites. Milton Friedman's way is to decriminalize drugs and call off the war.

When Richard Nixon declared the War on Drugs in 1972, Milton, writing in Newsweek, objected on ethical grounds:

"On ethical grounds, do we have the right to use the machinery of government to prevent an individual from becoming an alcoholic or a drug addict? For children, almost everyone would answer at least a qualified yes. But for responsible adults, I, for one, would answer no. Reason with the potential addict, yes. Tell him the consequences, yes. Pray for and with him, yes. But I believe that we have no right to use force, directly or indirectly, to prevent a fellow man from committing suicide, let alone from drinking alcohol or taking drugs."

"Am I my brother's keeper?'" asked Milton, answering, "No."

Americans are never going to adopt the Maoist solution. For the users of drugs are all too often classmates, colleagues, friends, even family. Indeed, our last three presidents did not deny using drugs.

Once, a Christian America outlawed and punished homosexuality, abortion, alcohol, loan-sharking and gambling, all as criminal vice. Now, homosexuality and abortion are constitutional rights. Gambling and booze are a rich source of government revenue. And loan-sharking is done by credit-card companies, and not just the Corleones.

Will we raise the white flag in the drug war, as well?

Which is the greater evil? Legalized narcotics for America's young or a failed state of 110,000 million on our southern border?

Some choice. Some country we've become.


COPYRIGHT CREATORS SYNDICATE, INC.

- Patrick J. Buchanan needs no introduction to VDARE.COM readers; his book State of Emergency: The Third World Invasion and Conquest of America, can be ordered from Amazon.com. His latest book is Churchill, Hitler, and "The Unnecessary War": How Britain Lost Its Empire and the West Lost the World, reviewed here by Paul Craig Roberts.

Global meltdown no sweat for Obama

He's all about growing government, not saving the financial system and other countries.

By Mark Steyn
Orange County Register
http://www.ocregister.com/
Friday, March 6, 2009

The British Prime Minister Gordon Brown thought long and hard about what gift to bring on his visit to the White House last week. Barack Obama is the first African American president, so the prime minister gave him an ornamental desk-pen holder hewn from the timbers of one of the Royal Navy's anti-slaving ships of the 19th century, HMS Gannet. Even more appropriate, in 1909 the Gannet was renamed HMS President.

The president's guest also presented him with the framed commission for HMS Resolute, the lost British ship retrieved from the Arctic and returned by America to London, and whose timbers were used for a thank-you gift Queen Victoria sent to Rutherford Hayes: the handsome desk that now sits in the Oval Office.

And, just to round things out, as a little stocking stuffer, Gordon Brown gave President Obama a first edition of Sir Martin Gilbert's seven-volume biography of Winston Churchill.

In return, America's head of state gave the prime minister 25 DVDs of "classic American movies."

Evidently, the White House gift shop was all out of "MY GOVERNMENT DELEGATION WENT TO WASHINGTON AND ALL I GOT WAS THIS LOUSY T-SHIRT" T-shirts. Still, the "classic American movies" set is a pretty good substitute, and it can set you back as much as $38.99 at Wal-Mart: Lot of classics in there, I'm sure – "Casablanca," "Citizen Kane," "The Sound Of Music" – though this sort of collection always slip in a couple of "Dude, Where's My Car? 3" and "Police Academy 12" just to make up the numbers. I'll be interested to know if Mr. Brown has anything to play the films on back home, since U.S.-format DVDs don't work in United Kingdom DVD players.

It could be worse. The president might have given him the DVD of "He's Just Not That Into You." Gordon Brown landed back in London a sadder but wiser man. The Fleet Street correspondents reported sneeringly that he (and they) had been denied the usual twin-podia alternating-flags press conference. The Obama administration had supposedly penciled one in for the Rose Garden, but then there was that catastrophic snowfall (a light dusting). This must be the first world leaders' press conference to be devastated by climate change. No doubt President Obama could have relocated it to a prestige indoor venue, like the windowless room round the back of the White House furnace in Sub-Basement Level 5. But why bother? Some freak flood would have swept through and washed the Prime Minister and his DVD set into the Potomac and out to the Atlantic. And by the time the Coast Guard fished him out, the sodden classic movies wouldn't work in any American DVD player any better than in the Brit one.

He did, however, get to give an almost entirely unreported address to Congress. U.S. legislators greeted his calls to resist protectionism with a round of applause, and then went back to adding up how much pork in the "Buy American" section of the stimulus bill would be heading their way.

I would make a modest prediction that in 2012, after four years of the man who was supposed to heal America's relations with a world sick of all that swaggering cowboy unilateralism, those relations will be much worse. From Canada to India, the implications of the Obama ascendancy are becoming painfully clear. The other week Der Spiegel ran a piece called "Why Obamania Isn't The Answer," which might more usefully have been published before the Obamessiah held his big Berlin rally. Written by some big shot with the German Council on Foreign Relations and illustrated by the old four-color hopey-changey posters all scratched up and worn out, the essay conceded that Europe had embraced Obama as a "European American." Very true. The president is the most European American ever to sit in the Oval Office. And, because of that, he doesn't need any actual European Europeans getting in the way – just as, at his big victory night rally in Chicago, the first megastar president didn't need any megastar megastars from Hollywood clogging up the joint: Movie stars who wanted to fly in were told by his minders that he didn't want any other celebrities deflecting attention from him. Same with world leaders. If it's any consolation to Gordon Brown, he's just not that into any of you.

What Mr. Brown and the rest of the world want is for America, the engine of the global economy, to pull the rest of them out of the quicksand. Which isn't unreasonable. Even though a big chunk of the subprime/securitization/credit bubble axis originated in the United States and got exported round the planet, the reality is that almost every one of America's trading partners will wind up getting far harder hit.

And that was before Obama made clear that for him the economy takes a very distant back seat to the massive expansion of government it provides cover for. That's why he's indifferent to the plummeting Dow. The president has made a strategic calculation that, to advance his plans for socialized health care, "green energy" and a Big Government state, it's to his advantage for things to get worse. And, if things go from bad to worse in America, overseas they'll go from worse to total societal collapse. We've already seen changes of government in Iceland and Latvia, rioting in Greece and Bulgaria. The great destabilization is starting on the fringes of Europe and working its way to the Continent's center.

We're seeing not just the first contraction in the global economy since 1945, but also the first crisis of globalization. This was the system America and the other leading economies encouraged everybody else to grab a piece of. But whatever piece you grabbed – exports in Taiwan, services in Ireland, construction in Spain, oligarchic industrial-scale kleptomania in Russia – it's all crumbling. Ireland and Italy are nation-state versions of Bank of America and General Motors. In Eastern Europe, the countries way out on the end of the globalization chain can't take a lot of heat without widespread unrest. And the fellows who'll be picking up the tab are the Western European banks who loaned them all the money. Gordon Brown was hoping for a little more than: "I feel your pain. And have you ever seen 'The Wizard Of Oz'?" It's about this sweet little nobody who gets to pay a brief visit to the glittering Emerald City before being swept back to the reassuring familiarity of the poor thing's broken down windswept economically devastated monochrome dust bowl. You'll love it!"

"Frankly, my dear, I don't give a damn"? Oh, perish the thought. The prime minister flew 8,000 miles for dinner and a movie. But the president says he'll call. Next week. Next month. Whatever.

©MARK STEYN

Friday, March 06, 2009

Today's Tune: Nancy Sinatra - Bang Bang



(Click on title to play video)

Evangelicals and Economics: Reflections of a Conservative Protestant

By Hunter Baker
http://www.firstthings.com/
March 6, 2009

When I was a freshman in college, a woman who looked like a whole-earth hippie asked me if I had a personal relationship with Jesus. The question struck me as a strange one. Yet I found myself compelled to hear her out, and began to hang out with the young people in the Intervarsity Christian Fellowship chapter she led, even though their conspicuous use of the word “Jesus” and group prayer made me uncomfortable. Eventually, their faith became my own.

Adam Smith

At roughly the same time, my coursework in economics exposed me to free market thought. I was completely sold. Adam Smith. Friedman. Hayek. The virtues of the invisible hand excited me as much as my growing Christian commitment.

Laissez faire was nearly a second conversion.

As a budding libertarian, I felt distaste when I saw our InterVarsity chapter leader carrying a Bible study guide on social justice. She was benighted, I thought. To me, it appeared that the race-baiters, welfarists, and union apologists played on her soft heart.When my chemical engineer father complained about management decisions at his corporation that he felt maximized managerial bonuses for short-term results while damaging the ability of the company to compete over the long run, I defensively lectured him about the spectacular built-in intelligence of markets. The right thing would be done, I argued, because doing the right thing is ultimately profitable and efficient.

Several months ago, I heard a story that forced me to give more careful thought to my views on the built-in morality of the market. A large airline on the brink of bankruptcy in 2002 asked employees to make substantial wage concessions. They agreed. The airline returned to profitability, and management acknowledged that it had the workers to thank, but in the subsequent years, instead of restoring the wage concessions, it awarded hundreds of millions of dollars in bonuses to executives.

When pressed by reporters, the airline’s spokesman said the bonuses were necessary to retain top managerial talent. Pilots and other airline personnel could not leave because the airlines’ seniority systems would require them to start over at a new company. In effect, the workers could not easily punish the airline for failing to pay them back, so it was in no hurry to do so.

The story jarred me. Somehow, I had never applied my Christian conception of a sinful world to corporate behavior. In hindsight I realize my faith should have cautioned me against too easily deferring to the idea of the sufficiency of the invisible hand to produce justice.

Reading Christians from the past reinforces the idea that the fusion of quasi-libertarian economics with Christian ethics is not always an obvious fit. G.K. Chesterton, for example, was tremendously concerned with the dehumanizing effects of a rapidly advancing free market economy. Catholic social thought has long resisted socialism while still sharply pointing out abuses in market economies. Pope Leo XIII’s Rerum Novarum is an excellent example addressing the “Rights and Duties of Capital and Labor.”

Conservative Protestants, on the other hand, are largely absent when it comes to criticizing unfair labor practices, questionable methods of executive compensation, and other varieties of irresponsible corporate citizenship. My guess is that we tend to stay out of these areas is because we generally accept the idea that the market, left unhindered, will produce good outcomes. (I think the left feels the same way about sex.)

Experience and prudence have demonstrated that free markets are demonstrably better than other alternatives. But the problem is that we have tuned our antennae in such a way such that they pick up market problems like the promotion of hedonistic vice but do not take adequate notice of other wrongs. Thus, conservative evangelicals are quick to protest against 7-11 carrying Playboy magazine but are slow to call to account the corporation that deals with employees in bad faith.

Without Christ this is a world in which the strong will abuse the weak, the rich ignore or exploit the poor, and those with authority seek advantages for themselves as they exercise their power. We know these things both from the Scriptures and from examining our own hearts.

Francis Schaeffer

If our cultural critique is to have integrity, we must simultaneously respect the market and call the corporate sector to righteousness in its business dealings. As uncomfortable as Mike Huckabee’s concerns with executive compensation made many Republicans, his words suggested a healthy willingness critically to examine corporate behavior. If we question corporations when they produce bad products like pornography and gambling operations, then we necessarily accept the notion that the logic of free markets does not insulate them from critique when they commit other types of wrongs.

Francis Schaeffer (still a model for conservative Protestants) is generally remembered as an advocate for the Christian worldview. What has often been forgotten are his strong words about American materialism. Schaeffer lauded the hippies for their diagnosis of the ills of our society. Americans, he charged, are addicted to personal peace and affluence.

For a long time my natural instinct, the one that kept me deaf to the complaints of those claiming to have been treated unjustly, has been to defend the corporate estate against all criticisms. We must not be so passive even toward a system that has provided so well for most of us. Is the answer more government? No. The answer is to consistently call for righteousness.


- Hunter Baker is the author of The End of Secularism, to be published by Crossway Books in August 2009. He serves on the political science faculty at Houston Baptist University.

The Great Non Sequitur

The Sleight of Hand Behind Obama's Agenda

By Charles Krauthammer
The Washington Post
Friday, March 6, 2009; A15
http://www.washingtonpost.com/

Forget the pork. Forget the waste. Forget the 8,570 earmarks in a bill supported by a president who poses as the scourge of earmarks. Forget the "2 trillion dollars in savings" that "we have already identified," $1.6 trillion of which President Obama's budget director later admits is the "savings" of not continuing the surge in Iraq until 2019 -- 11 years after George Bush ended it, and eight years after even Bush would have had us out of Iraq completely.

Forget all of this. This is run-of-the-mill budget trickery. True, Obama's tricks come festooned with strings of zeros tacked onto the end. But that's a matter of scale, not principle.

All presidents do that. But few undertake the kind of brazen deception at the heart of Obama's radically transformative economic plan, a rhetorical sleight of hand so smoothly offered that few noticed.

The logic of Obama's address to Congress went like this:

"Our economy did not fall into decline overnight," he averred. Indeed, it all began before the housing crisis. What did we do wrong? We are paying for past sins in three principal areas: energy, health care and education -- importing too much oil and not finding new sources of energy (as in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge and the Outer Continental Shelf?), not reforming health care, and tolerating too many bad schools.

The "day of reckoning" has arrived. And because "it is only by understanding how we arrived at this moment that we'll be able to lift ourselves out of this predicament," Obama has come to redeem us with his far-seeing program of universal, heavily nationalized health care; a cap-and-trade tax on energy; and a major federalization of education with universal access to college as the goal.

Amazing. As an explanation of our current economic difficulties, this is total fantasy. As a cure for rapidly growing joblessness, a massive destruction of wealth, a deepening worldwide recession, this is perhaps the greatest non sequitur ever foisted upon the American people.

At the very center of our economic near-depression is a credit bubble, a housing collapse and a systemic failure of the banking industry. One can come up with a host of causes: Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac pushed by Washington (and greed) into improvident loans, corrupted bond-ratings agencies, insufficient regulation of new and exotic debt instruments, the easy money policy of Alan Greenspan's Fed, irresponsible bankers pushing (and then unloading in packaged loan instruments) highly dubious mortgages, greedy house-flippers, deceitful home buyers.

The list is long. But the list of causes of the collapse of the financial system does not include the absence of universal health care, let alone of computerized medical records. Nor the absence of an industry-killing cap-and-trade carbon levy. Nor the lack of college graduates. Indeed, one could perversely make the case that, if anything, the proliferation of overeducated, Gucci-wearing, smart-ass MBAs inventing ever more sophisticated and opaque mathematical models and debt instruments helped get us into this credit catastrophe.

And yet with our financial house on fire, Obama makes clear both in his speech and his budget that the essence of his presidency will be the transformation of health care, education and energy. Four months after winning the election, six weeks after his swearing-in, Obama has yet to unveil a plan to deal with the banking crisis.

What's going on? "You never want a serious crisis to go to waste," said chief of staff Rahm Emanuel. "This crisis provides the opportunity for us to do things that you could not do before."

Things. Now we know what they are. The markets' recent precipitous decline is a reaction not just to the absence of any plausible bank rescue plan, but also to the suspicion that Obama sees the continuing financial crisis as usefully creating the psychological conditions -- the sense of crisis bordering on fear-itself panic -- for enacting his "Big Bang" agenda to federalize and/or socialize health care, education and energy, the commanding heights of post-industrial society.

Clever politics, but intellectually dishonest to the core. Health, education and energy -- worthy and weighty as they may be -- are not the cause of our financial collapse. And they are not the cure. The fraudulent claim that they are both cause and cure is the rhetorical device by which an ambitious president intends to enact the most radical agenda of social transformation seen in our lifetime.

letters@charleskrauthammer.com

Waiting Game

He’s telling the poor he’s only soaking the rich, when he’s in fact soaking everyone.

By Jonah Goldberg
http://www.nationalreview.com/
March 06, 2009, 0:00 a.m.


‘We are the ones we’ve been waiting for,” Barack Obama proclaimed many times during the campaign. He and his throngs of supporters preened in the glow of their own righteousness like cats in a puddle of sunlight. They were for “shared sacrifice” and a “new era of responsibility.” They wanted to put aside the “old politics” and the “tired arguments” of the past.

Well, where are those people now?Obama brags — albeit dishonestly — that he’s only raising taxes on rich people. Ninety-five percent of the American people will get a tax cut, the president insists. Well, which is it? Do the times demand shared sacrifice from us all, or from just 5 percent of Americans?

If I say to ten co-workers, “We all need to chip in together to get this done,” and then say, “So, Todd, open your wallet and give five bucks to everyone else in the room,” it would sound ridiculous. But when Obama says the same thing to 300 million Americans it’s called “leadership.”

“The problem with socialism,” Margaret Thatcher once said, “is that you eventually run out of other people’s money.” What Obama is proposing isn’t socialism — yet — but it runs into the same problem. You could take all of the money made by the richest one percent in this country and it wouldn’t come close to covering government’s expenses — even if those rich people for some reason kept working.

Our income-tax system is already extremely progressive, and it provides roughly half of all government revenue (add corporate income taxes, and it covers nearly three-fifths of all government revenue). The top five percent of earners pay more than 60 percent of income taxes. The top ten percent of earners pay more than 70 percent. And the top half of earners pay just shy of 100 percent of income taxes. Estate and gift taxes are even more progressive.

Now, it’s true that the low-wage earners who pay no income taxes do contribute in other ways. Sales taxes, payroll taxes, and other hidden taxes take a mighty bite out of the working poor and lower-middle class. And, thanks to Obama, the poor will pay even more. President Obama’s proposed carbon tax will raise the price of energy. In an interview with the San Francisco Chronicle in early 2008, candidate Obama admitted as much: “Under my plan of a cap and trade system, electricity rates would necessarily skyrocket.”

Liberals will defend Obama’s carbon tax by saying it’s vitally necessary to combat climate change, end our dependence on foreign oil, and boost our embryonic green industries like wind and solar. Fine, fine. We can have that argument, as weak as I think it may be.

But why isn’t Obama honest about the fact that he’s asking the working poor and middle class to pay even more? He’s the guy who talks such a big game about shared sacrifice. He’s the one talking about a “new era of responsibility.” Heck, that’s the title of his proposed budget — you know, the one that will irresponsibly explode the deficit?

Instead, Obama sticks to his promise that everyone who isn’t rich will get a “tax cut.” That tax cut, by the way, amounts to $13 dollars more a week for the typical worker, according to the Associated Press. In 2010, that cut will be worth $7.70 a week. Will that cover “skyrocketing” electricity rates? Or higher gas prices? How about higher prices for things that use energy to get manufactured, i.e. everything?

I don’t know the answer myself. Maybe $1.85 a day in 2009 and $1.10 in 2010 will cover that. But I doubt it, particularly when your job is outsourced to carbon-tax-free China or India. The point is that Obama’s rhetoric about shared sacrifice is bogus on every level.

He tells people they are the upright ones for supporting his policies when what he’s actually saying is that he’s taking from the rich and giving it to them. “Shared sacrifice” really means taking other people’s money, while “greed” is not wanting to give it up and “responsibility” is when the government takes it anyway.

In reality, he’s giving with one hand and taking with the other. He’s telling the poor he’s only soaking the rich, when he’s in fact soaking everyone. The amazing thing is that his supporters, rich and poor alike, buy it. No wonder they’re the ones they’ve been waiting for.

— Jonah Goldberg is editor-at-large of National Review Online and the author of Liberal Fascism: The Secret History of the American Left from Mussolini to the Politics of Meaning.

Kennedy is one chum who should not be honoured

Senator Edward Kennedy should not be given an honorary knighthood, says Andrew Pierce.

By Andrew Pierce
The London Daily Telegraph
http://www.telegraph.co.uk/
Last Updated: 8:32AM GMT 06 Mar 2009


Oh, to have been a fly on the wall when Gordon Brown popped in to see Her Majesty to drop the bombshell that he wanted her to confer an honorary knighthood on his old chum, Senator Edward Kennedy.

It’s not enough that this Government knighted Sir Fred Goodwin for “services” to banking – before he went on to destroy the Royal Bank of Scotland. Or even that Brown made his great chum James Crosby a Sir – quite an honour for the man who went on to bring HBOS to its knees and was at the Financial Services Authority when it was exercising nothing of the sort.

Not satisfied with these demonstrations of gratitude, Brown has secured another: for Kennedy in recognition of his services to the Northern Ireland peace process. Excuse me? Wasn’t it Kennedy who cosied up to Gerry Adams at the height of the IRA’s murderous campaign? Kennedy, that champion of nationalism, who declared in 1971 that the Protestants of Ulster “should be given a decent opportunity to go back to Britain”?

We will never know the Queen’s view about this honour. Or what the Prince of Wales thinks. We do know that the Prince was distraught at the death of his great-uncle Lord Mountbatten, who was murdered by the IRA. Nicholas Knatchbull, 14, the Prince’s godson, was one of the other victims when Mountbatten’s boat was blown up in 1979. This is what the Prince said on the 25th anniversary: “I was almost struck dumb, absolutely devastated, when I heard about this terrible disaster…”

Sadly, Gerry Adams was not struck dumb and said at the time: “He [Mountbatten] knew the danger involved in coming to this country. In my opinion, the IRA achieved its objective: people started paying attention to what was happening in Ireland.” Yet Kennedy continued to fete Adams in New York, helping the US fund-raisers who contributed to the republican cause. This is a man who has never covered himself in glory. He was inextricably involved in the drowning in 1969 of Mary Jo Kopechne. One night in Chappaquiddick, he accidentally drove the car they were in off a bridge. Kennedy swam to safety; the young woman was left trapped in the car. He returned to his hotel, went to bed and reported the accident the next day – by which time she had suffocated. Had he called for help she might have lived.

Brown must surely think that his honouring Kennedy, whose backing for Barack Obama electrified the Democratic race, will cement his special relationship with the White House. But back in Britain, people will ask how the son of the manse, who played up his religious upbringing in his Congress speech, could possibly give a knighthood to a man whose contribution to the peace process was to demand British withdrawal from Northern Ireland and who, 30 years on, is still refusing to answer questions about the death of Mary Jo Kopechne.

Only 85 American citizens have received the honour since the Queen came to the throne and these include Rudy Giuliani, Bob Hope and Henry Kissinger. Kennedy has no business being the 86th.

I’m sure Mr Brown must have felt great relief as the first of his 19 standing ovations rippled across Congress. I imagine Iain Duncan Smith felt the same when his party conference speech in 2003 was punctuated by 18 ovations. Three weeks later, he was ousted as leader of the Conservative Party.

Thursday, March 05, 2009

Mexican mayhem: Narcotics traffickers threaten Mexico and U.S.

by Peter Brookes
The Heritage Foundation
http://www.heritage.org/
March 4, 2009

Largely invisible to most Americans, just to the south, the security situation is worsening as a result of an intense conflict between the Mexican government and domestic drug cartels -- and even among the narco-gangs themselves.

Some observers have characterized the fighting in Mexico as a low-grade civil war. Worse yet, by many estimates, the violence is escalating -- and getting increasingly grisly. For instance, in January, Mexican authorities arrested a man accused of dissolving as many as 300 bodies in bubbling vats of acid for a Tijuana-based drug lord, earning him the nightmarish nickname "El Pozolero," after a local stew. The same week, Mexican prosecutors reported three severed heads found in an ice box. A headless body was also discovered in a canal in Ciudad Juarez, a town known as Mexico's deadliest -- just over the border from El Paso, Texas. Last year, the drug war in Mexico consumed nearly 6,000 lives -- double the number in 2007.

Drug trafficking organizations already control stretches of the Mexican side of the border, which according to some experts could bring the Mexican government to its knees in the coming years. Worse yet, it also has the potential of spilling north across the border -- in an ever bigger way.

One American congressman called it a "life-or-death struggle." Mexican President Felipe Calderon described drug violence as a threat to the Mexican state. Some have said Mexico is perched on the abyss. By all accounts, the federal government, politicians, the military and police are under the gun -- literally and figuratively -- by criminal gangs and drug lords, looking to deter or prevent interference in their shady dealings.

The public is ruthlessly intimidated by kidnappings and violence. Recent press reports have indicated an uptick in citizen vigilante groups to oppose the drug gangs, which could lead to paramilitarism and spiraling levels of bloodshed and instability. But some believe the majority of violence is among rival cartels, especially the four biggest -- Sinaloa, Gulf, Juarez and Tijuana -- in a deadly turf struggle, with the public and the government caught in the middle.

While the seven major cartels are present in most of Mexico's 31 states and one federal district, most of the violence takes place along the Mexican side of the 2,000-mile U.S.-Mexican border. It's no surprise: The Mexican illegal drug business may be worth as much as $25 billion to $40 billion annually, shipping hundreds of tons of methamphetamine, marijuana, cocaine and heroin into the U.S.

Mexican cartels have been around for a while but have become increasingly prominent -- and powerful -- as drug routes north have shifted westward into Mexico, especially since the demise of the Colombian Cali and Medellin cartels in the 1990s. They come well-armed for their fights, bringing automatic weapons, powerful handguns, .50-caliber sniper rifles, grenades, rocket-propelled grenade launchers and even land mines to bear. Like a modern military, they wear night-vision goggles, move by helicopters and transport drugs in submersibles built in Latin American jungles. Their means of communications are impressive, too, incorporating Voice over Internet Protocol (VOIP), satellite technology, cell phone text and encrypted messaging, according to the U.S. National Drug Intelligence Center (NDIC).

Some of the cartels have "enforcer gangs," known as sicarios, which use extreme violence to protect their interests. In some cases, observers say these gangs are private armies in the cartels' employ, serving as hit squads. (Some, such as the Zetas, are former commandos.)

Adding to the challenge, Mexican gangs (many associated with the cartels) smuggle drugs, firearms and illegal aliens across the U.S.-Mexico border, especially through South Texas and California, according to the U.S. Justice Department.

Calderon, who took office in 2006, is game for a fight, including the deployment of 40,000 army troops, but he's up against rampant corruption that reaches deep into his anti-drug forces. Despite a new program to stamp it out called Operation Clean House, drug-related corruption seems rife among the security services, meaning missing drug seizures and cartel members eluding capture -- even escaping incarceration.

The Mexican judicial system is also a major problem in the fight against the drug scourge. It's plagued by bribery, reluctant judges, lack of investigative resources and overloaded courts.

The police are poorly paid, equipped and trained, leaving them no match for the well-armed narcotraficantes. It's dangerous work, too: Mexico's national police chief was assassinated last year.

Although perhaps overstating the case, some former U.S. government officials with knowledge of the situation have postulated that in as little five years, the cartels could, in essence, be running Mexico. Indeed, U.S. Joint Forces Command's "Joint Operating Environment 2008: Challenges and Implications for the Future Joint Force" recently reported: "In particular, the growing assaults by the drug cartels and their thugs on the Mexican government over the past several years reminds one that an unstable Mexico could represent a homeland security problem of immense proportions."

Unfortunately, we're entangled in Mexico's lurch toward instability. According to the NDIC, Mexican drug traffickers are "the most pervasive organizational threat to the United States. They are active in every region of the country and dominate the illicit drug trade in every area except the Northeast."

Drug use in the U.S. hasn't declined appreciably in recent years, according to experts, despite the federal government spending nearly $15 billion annually on prevention, interdiction and rehabilitation. Even more brazen, Mexican drug gangs are using U.S. public lands in the West to cultivate marijuana. They've also shifted methamphetamine operations from Mexico to California, according to the U.S. Justice Department.

Lots of weapons in Mexico come from this side of the border; indeed, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) asserts a majority of the cartels' weapons come from the U.S., especially via gang networks operating in the Southwest. Mexico City has also expressed concerns to Washington about precursor chemicals coming in from the U.S. that are then used by the cartels in the production of narcotics.

Another problem, according to experts, is that little inspection is done on the 100 million vehicles and trucks entering or leaving Mexico annually at 25 crossing points, leading to plenty of finger-pointing on both sides.

As a result, popular support for Calderon's fight against the cartels has waned; because of the widespread violence, many Mexicans are for throwing in the towel, saying drugs are an American problem. But that clearly wouldn't be good for either of us. If Mexico, a country of 110 million people, becomes even a near narcostate, the effect on the U.S. -- make that the Western Hemisphere -- is almost incalculable.

If the cartels were to seize tracts of Mexican territory, it could lead to the establishment of lawless, ungoverned spaces, which are favored by bad actors such as terrorists. (Think: Pakistan's tribal areas -- home to al-Qaida and the Taliban.) Terrorists could certainly exploit successful drug smuggling routes to bring people and explosives or even weapons of mass destruction across the border into the U.S.

Beyond all this, there's a lot more at stake for American interests in Mexico, the third-most populous country in this hemisphere (after the U.S. and Brazil). Mexico has the world's 13th-largest economy -- with significant American investment. It's our second-largest trading partner. Mexico is our third-largest oil supplier and the world's eighth-largest exporter. It's got lots of natural gas, too.

A number of American officials have said that no country is more important to the U.S. than Mexico. Considering its proximity, that's arguably correct. So what can or should be done?

Most security analysts agree that Mexico must take the lead against this very capable, resourceful foe. Yet it's not likely that Mexico City could successfully go it alone, despite a nearly 30 percent increase in security spending in 2007.

As usual, while Washington concedes the last thing we need is a narcostate in Mexico in the coming decades, not everyone agrees how to move forward with Mexico City.

One way is through programs such as the Mérida Law Enforcement Initiative, a U.S.-assisted, Mexican-Central American-Caribbean counterdrug program, launched last year. The Mérida Initiative, which was barely passed by Congress because of human rights concerns, is considered a new paradigm for joint cooperation between Mexico and the U.S. It recalls the successful "Plan Colombia," initiated in 2000 between Washington and Bogotá which led to the demise of the FARC narco-terrorist group. But it doesn't put U.S. boots on the ground in Mexico.

While the program is a step in the right direction, the plan isn't without critics. Some complain the 30-plus Mérida programs are too long on "software" (e.g., command and control, intelligence collection gear) and too short on "hardware" (planes and helicopters) to meet immediate needs.

Others criticize the plan because it doesn't sufficiently address the problems of poverty, corruption and judicial reform that are critical to confronting the challenge in a comprehensive manner. Time is of the essence.

The situation is increasingly grave with an average of 15 people being killed in narcotics-related violence in Mexico every day. Programs such as Mérida must be funded, indeed, bolstered, if we're to stem a rising tide of trouble across the border.

Peter Brookes is senior fellow for National Security Affairs in the Davis Institute at The Heritage Foundation.

First Appeared in the Armed Forces Journal

OLBERMANN'S PLASTIC IVY

By Ann Coulter
http://www.anncoulter.com/
March 4, 2009


Fortunately, we have Keith Olbermann to point out that Rush Limbaugh did not accurately quote the preamble to the Constitution in his CPAC speech last weekend. I'm not sure what scam Olbermann imagined Rush was trying to put over on the American people by saying conservatives believed in the "preamble to the Constitution" and then quoting words from the Declaration of Independence -- but Olbermann put an end to that cruel deception!

These small-time opportunities to show off by correcting someone else's teeny-tiny mistakes are the lifeblood of Olbermann's MSNBC show, "Countdown." Olbermann is no more capable of not correcting Rep. Charlie Rangel when he said "inferred," but meant "implied," than an obsessive compulsive could pass a sink without washing his hands.

There is utterly no purpose to these lame "gotchas," except that Olbermann is so desperately insecure that he is willing to waste valuable airtime in order to convince other status-conscious idiots that he is, like, scary-smart.

Olbermann relentlessly attacked low-level Bush administration employee Monica Goodling for not going to a name-dropping college, saying -- approximately 1 million times -- that she got her law degree "by sending 100 box tops to Religious Lunatic University."

I would venture to say that the students at Goodling's law school at Regent University are far more impressive than those at the Cornell agriculture school -- the land-grant, non-Ivy League school Keith attended.

I wouldn't mention it, except that Olbermann savages anyone who didn't go to an impressive college. As it happens, he didn't go to an impressive college, either.

If you've ever watched any three nights of his show, you know that Olbermann went to Cornell. But he always forgets to mention that he went to the school that offers classes in milking and bovine management.

Indeed, Keith is constantly lying about his nonexistent "Ivy League" education, boasting to Playboy magazine, for example: "My Ivy League education taught me how to cut corners, skim books and take an idea and write 15 pages on it, and also how to work all day at the Cornell radio station and never actually go to class."

Except Keith didn't go to the Ivy League Cornell; he went to the Old MacDonald Cornell.

The real Cornell, the School of Arts and Sciences (average SAT: 1,325; acceptance rate: 1 in 6 applicants), is the only Ivy League school at Cornell and the only one that grants a Bachelor of Arts degree.

Keith went to an affiliated state college at Cornell, the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences (average SAT: about that of pulling guards at the University of South Carolina; acceptance rate: 1 of every 1.01 applicants).

Olbermann's incessant lying about having an "Ivy League education" when he went to the non-Ivy League ag school at Cornell would be like a graduate of the Yale locksmithing school boasting about being a "Yale man."

Among the graduates of the Ivy League Cornell are Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Thomas Pynchon, Paul Wolfowitz, E.B. White, Sanford I. Weill, Floyd Abrams, Kurt Vonnegut, Douglas Ginsburg, Janet Reno, Henry Heimlich and Harold Bloom.

Graduates of the ag school include David LeNeveu of the Anaheim Ducks, Mitch Carefoot of the Phoenix RoadRunners, Darren Eliot, former professional hockey player, and Joe Nieuwendyk, multiple Stanley Cup winner.

One begins to understand why Harvard students threw a chicken on the ice during Cornell's famous rout of Harvard at a 1973 hockey game.

If you actually want to pursue a career related to agriculture, there is no better school than the Cornell ag school. I have nothing but admiration for the farmers and aspiring veterinarians at the ag school. They didn't go there just to have "Cornell" on their resumes.

In addition to the farmers, there are some smart kids who go to the ag school -- as there are at all state universities. But most people who majored in "communications" at an ag school don't act like Marshall Scholars or go around mocking graduates of Regent University Law School.

The sort of insecurity that would force you to always say "trebled" instead of "tripled" could only come from a communications major with massive status anxiety, like Keith. Without even looking it up, I am confident that Harvard, Yale and Princeton do not offer degrees in "communications." I know there is no "communications" major at the Ivy League Cornell.

"Communications" is a major, along with "recreation science," most commonly associated with linemen at USC. But at least the linemen can throw a football, which Keith cannot because his mother decided he was not physically robust enough to play outdoors as a child.

It may seem cruel to reveal the true college of someone who already wakes up in the middle of the night in a cold sweat worried that he's a fraud. But I believe that by pointing out that Olbermann actually is a fraud, I am liberating him.

You may not realize it now, Keith, but you will look back on this day and say, "That was the best thing that ever happened to me!"

Finally, you can stop pretending that you went to the hard-to-get-into Cornell.

Now you won't have to quickly change the subject whenever people idly remark that they didn't know it was possible to major in "communications" at an Ivy League school.

No longer will you have to aggressively bring up Cornell when it has nothing to do with the conversation.

Relax, Keith. Now you can let people like you for you.

Wednesday, March 04, 2009

Geert Wilders Welcomed in Washington, Shows 'Fitna' at the Capitol

by Robert Spencer
http://www.humanevents.com/
03/04/2009

Click on link below to view Fitna
http://www.jihadwatch.org/archives/020472.php

Geert Wilders, Dutch parliamentarian -- producer of the film expose Fitna -- and international champion of free speech, electrified a standing-room-only crowd in Washington Friday, declaring: “We will never apologize for being free men. We will never give in. We will never surrender. There is no stronger power than the force of free men fighting for the great cause of liberty.”

Protest by Indonesian Muslims

Wilders spoke these words at the Omni Shoreham Hotel, site of the Conservative Political Action Conference, at an independent event organized by Pamela Geller, publisher of the popular website AtlasShrugs.com, and co-sponsored by the David Horowitz Freedom Center, Dr. Andrew Bostom (editor of The Legacy of Jihad and The Legacy of Islamic Antisemitism), and my own Jihad Watch.

Geller’s determined efforts to get Wilders a platform in Washington show what one tireless citizen can do to make a difference -- a lesson that conservatives should increasingly heed in the Age of Obama, when so many organizations on the Right seem to have lost their focus and will.

In a jab at British authorities who barred him from entering the country in February, Wilders thanked immigration authorities for “letting me into this great country,” quipping: “It is always a pleasure to cross a border without being sent back on the first plane.” The Brits seemed afraid that if Wilders went ahead with plans to screen in the House of Lords his short film Fitna, which shows how jihadists use the Qur’an to incite Muslims to commit acts of violence, Muslims might…commit acts of violence. Instead of admonishing Muslims that public order would be preserved and free speech upheld, British authorities sent Wilders back to the Netherlands. But in America, not only was Wilders allowed in, but he even screened Fitna in the Capitol at the invitation of Senator Jon Kyl (R-Ariz).

And at the Omni Shoreham event, he eloquently explained the need to defend free speech. “The real question,” he stated, “is, will free speech be put behind bars? And the larger question for the West is: will we leave Europe’s children the values of Rome, Athens and Jerusalem, or the values of Mecca, Teheran and Gaza?” The 57-government Organization of the Islamic Conference (OIC), the largest voting bloc at the United Nations, has undertaken a concerted initiative to compel Western governments to adopt Islamic restrictions on free speech. If successful, this would prevent us from understanding our enemy by outlawing even law enforcement and government explorations of how jihadists use Islam to justify violence and make recruits. Such investigations would be outlawed as offensive to Islam under the guise of “hate speech.”

“Hate speech” doesn’t refer to obnoxious behavior that everyone will recognize -- calls to violence, racial slurs, etc. Rather, “hate speech” laws such as those advocated by the OIC -- with a willing audience in the Obama administration -- are tools to silence dissent and outlaw unwanted political opinions. Global jihadists are wielding those tools. “‘Hate speech,’” said Wilders, “will always be used against the people defending the West -- in order to please and appease Muslims.”

As an antidote, Wilders called on the West to follow the example of Ronald Reagan. “In 1982,” he reminded the enthusiastic audience at the Omni, “President Reagan gave a speech there very few people liked. Reagan called upon the West to reject communism and defend freedom. He introduced a phrase: ‘evil empire.’ Reagan’s speech stands out as a clarion call to preserve our liberties. I quote: If history teaches anything, it teaches self-delusion in the face of unpleasant facts is folly. What Reagan meant is that you cannot run away from history, you cannot escape the dangers of ideologies that are out to destroy you. Denial is no option.”

“Self-delusion in the face of unpleasant facts is folly.” In the face of the global jihad threat, which still so few Western authorities understand in all its dimensions, truer words were never spoken. At the Omni event spoke a true statesmen; if the West is to be saved, the U.S. and Europe will have to find it within themselves to produce many more politicians like Geert Wilders.


Mr. Spencer is director of Jihad Watch and author of "The Politically Incorrect Guide to Islam (and the Crusades)", "The Truth About Muhammad," and "Stealth Jihad" (all from Regnery -- a HUMAN EVENTS sister company).

Nailing the Evangelical Fads

Nailing the evangelical fads

By Terry Mattingly
Monday, February 23rd, 2009
http://www.tmatt.net/
http://www.getreligion.org/

The upperclassman sat across the cafeteria table from freshman Joe Carter and, in a matter of minutes, asked The Big Question — a question about eternal life and death.

As any evangelical worth his or her salt knows, that question sounds like this: “Have you accepted Jesus Christ as your personal Lord and Savior?” Super aggressive believers prefer: “Are you saved? If you died tonight, would go to heaven or hell?”

Carter remembers replying: “I’m, yeah, actually I have.”

What happened next was strange. The young man was “visibly disappointed” and “wore a look of minor defeat” because he wouldn’t get to save a soul during this lunch period. He ate quickly and departed and, this is the crucial detail for Carter, they never spoke again.

St. Paul

The evangelist wasn’t looking for a friend or dialogue with a believer. He wanted to carve another notch on his Bible, using techniques learned during a soul-saving workshop. If his blunt approach offended strangers, or even strengthened their “Fundie-alert systems,” that was their problem, not his.

Every decade or so there are new, improved techniques for making these spiritual sales pitches, each backed with snappy catch phrases and, these days, with hot websites, books and videos. Then everything changes again a generation later, noted Carter. What you get are stacks of leftover “Left Behind” video games, “What Would Jesus Do?” bracelets, “emerging church” study guides and copies of “The Prayer of Jabez.”

It helps to know that Carter is himself an evangelical who is concerned about evangelism issues. As a journalist, the 39-year-old former U.S. Marine has worked for a number of conservative causes, including World Magazine, the Family Research Center and the presidential campaign of Mike Huckabee. He recently finished helping build Culture11.com, a right-of-center forum for evangelicals, Catholics and mainline Protestants interested in discussing how religion, culture and politics mix in daily life.

That website’s future is uncertain, but before his recent departure Carter nailed a manifesto to that cyber-door — dissecting 10 fads that he believes are hurting evangelical organizations and churches. While most conservatives have been arguing about their political future, in the Barack Obama era, Carter decided to focus on faith issues. (See Carter's entire post below).

It’s a list that will be puzzling to outsiders not fluent in evangelical lingo. The “Sinner’s Prayer, which reduces the quest for salvation to a short “magical incantation,” made the list, as did the emphasis on “premillennial dispensationalism” and other apocalyptic teachings in some churches.
Carter is also tired of long, improvised public prayers in which every other phrase contains the word “just,” as in, “We just want to thank you Lord.” He would like to hear more sermons focusing on the life of Jesus, as opposed to preachers and evangelists focusing on their own dramatic life “testimonies.” And while he is in favor of growing churches, Carter is worried that the “church growth movement” has evolved from a fad into a permanent fixture on the American scene.

“What most people call the church-growth movement is something that grew out of business principles, instead of growing — organically — out of the life of the church,” he said. “People started trying to figure out how they could change the church so they could get more people to come inside, rather than doing what the early church did, which was going outside the church and reaching people by actually getting to know them. …

“It’s like people started saying, ‘What kind of music do we need to play so that more people will join? What do we need to do to the preaching? What kind media can we add to the services?’ “
But the thread that runs through this online manifesto is that Carter is convinced that evangelicals need to spend less time striving to make quick conversions and more time training disciples who stay the course.

In the end, he said, techniques will not carry over from one generation to another.

“Part of the problem is that evangelicals really don’t have traditions,” said Carter. “Instead, we have these fads that are built on the strengths and talents of individual leaders. … But a real tradition can be handed on to anyone, from generation to generation. It’s hard to hand these evangelical fads down like that, so it seems like we’re always starting over. It’s hard to build something that really lasts.”


Ten Deadly Trappings of Evangelism

By Joe Carter

http://culture11.com/category_page/Faith

[Note: This is a compilation of several previous posts.]

"Virtually all the people on Time magazine’s list of ‘The 25 Most Influential Evangelicals’ share at least one glaringly significant trait," said pastor Phillip Johnson in 2005, "For the most part, these are the fadmakers." Phil goes on to list a number of "cheerleaders for whatever is fashionable", including the usual suspects such as Rick Warren and Tim LaHaye, and explains why their programs are fads:

Not one of those movements or programs even existed 35 years ago. Most of them would not have been dreamed of by evangelicals merely a generation ago. And, frankly, most of them will not last another generation. Some will last a few short months (like the Jabez phenomenon did); others may seem to dominate for several years but then die lingering deaths (like Bill Gothard’s movement is doing). But they will all eventually fade and fall from significance. And some poor wholesale distributor will be left with warehouses full of Jabez junk, Weigh-Down Workshop paraphernalia, "What Would Jesus Do?" bracelets, Purpose-Driven" merchandise, and stacks and stacks of "emerging church" resources.

Like Johnson, I’m concerned about the way in which evangelicals tend to embrace whatever trends and kitsch happen to be hot sellers at "Christian" bookstores. But while Johnson laments that most of the "stuff you are currently being told you must read and implement will soon seem as hopelessly out of date" I take comfort in knowing that most of this stuff is nothing more than a passing trend. It is not the dernier cri that will soon be gone that concerns me but the faddage that becomes a fixture. Fads still receive scrutiny while fixtures remain largely unquestioned.

#1 The Sinner’s Prayer — The gates of hell have a special entrance reserved for people who thought that they had a ticket into heaven because someone told them all they needed to do was recite the "sinner’s prayer." I’ve searched through the entire New Testament and can’t find an example of anyone who was "saved" after reciting such a prayer. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying that such prayer is worthless or that it can’t be used by the Holy Spirit. But salvation is not obtained by reciting a magical incantation as many, many, "Christians" will discover after it’s far, far, too late.

#2 Making Converts — I’ve always felt uneasy about the idea that Christians should be seeking to make converts. Am I wrong in thinking that the making of converts is a task associated with Islam, rather than Christianity? Perhaps I have a flawed understanding of the Gospel, but I always thought the purpose of evangelism is not to make converts but to make, as Christ commanded, disciples. Indeed, my primary complaint against each of the other nine methods on this list is that they are usually ineffective in instigating true conversion, much less helping make true disciples.

Over the next few days I’ll mention the others. None of them are inherently pernicious (well, except for #10) but they have a tendency to be used in ways that are counterproductive to their intended purposes. I’d be interested in hearing what would make your list.

#3 "Do you know Jesus as…" — In the fall of 1987 I began my freshman year of college. I was far from home, overwhelmed and lonely on a campus of 20,000 students. While sitting alone in the cafeteria one afternoon, an older student walked up, smiled and asked if he could join me. I was starved for conversation and thrilled to have the company. He sat his tray down in front of mine and took a seat as I prepared to engage him in a heady discussion of his choosing. Politics, philosophy, science. I was mentally preparing for anything he threw at me.

Glancing up from his plate of spaghetti, he asked, "Have you accepted Jesus Christ as your personal Lord and Savior?"

For a few seconds I was stunned, completely at a loss for a response. "I’m, yeah, actually I have." I finally managed in reply.

"Oh," he said, visibly disappointed. "Okay, that’s good." He wore a look of minor defeat. He had chosen the wrong table; no soul would be won for Christ over this lunch. We chatted politely while I finished my burger. He ate quickly and excused himself. After that lunch, I never saw him again.

This is one question that needs never be asked for it shows (a) you do not know the person well enough, (b) the answer is yes and the person is a lousy Christian, or (c) the answer is no in which case you just activated their Fundie-alert system and caused them to switch their brains into ignore mode. Instead of asking about a "personal savior" you might want to simply try to get to know the person.

#4 Tribulationism — Ask a non-believer to give a rudimentary explanation of "the Rapture" and chances are they can provide a fairly accurate description of that concept. Ask the same person to give a basic explanation of the Gospel message, though, and they are likely to be stumped. The reason for this curious state of affairs is that evangelicals have promoted what I refer to as "Tribulationism" — an overemphasis on pre-millenial eschatology that overshadows the Gospel. I’m sure that somewhere in the three dozen novels that comprise the Left Behind series the Gospel message is presented. But there is something horribly wrong when the greatest story ever told is buried beneath a third-rate tale of the apocalypse.

#5 Testimonies — Several years ago, during a job interview for a Christian organization, my prospective employer asked me to tell him my "testimony." The fact that I was a Christian apparently wasn’t enough. I had to have a good conversion story to go along with my faith. Now you may have a great story about how the "hound of Heaven" chased you down and gnawed on your leg until you surrendered. No doubt your story would make for a gripping movie of the week on Lifetime and lead to the making of numerous converts (see #1). But the harsh truth is that your story doesn’t much matter. You are only a bit player in the narrative thread; the main part goes to the Divine Protagonist. In fact, He already has a pretty good story so why not just tell that one instead?

#6 The Altar Call - In the 1820’s evangelist Charles Finney introduced the "anxious seat," a front pew left vacant where at the end of the meeting "the anxious may come and be addressed particularly–and sometimes be conversed with individually." At the end of his sermon, he would say, "There is the anxious seat; come out, and avow determination to be on the Lord’s side." The problem with this approach, as theologian J.I. Packer, explains is that,

The gospel of God requires an immediate response from all; but it does not require the same response from all. The immediate duty of the unprepared sinner is not to try and believe on Christ, which he is not able to do, but to read, enquire, pray, use the means of grace and learn what he needs to be saved from. It is not in his power to accept Christ at any moment, as Finney supposed; and it is God’s prerogative, not the evangelist’s, to fix the time when men shall first savingly believe. For the latter to try and do so, by appealing to sinners to begin believing here and now, is for man to take to himself the sovereign right of the Holy Ghost. It is an act of presumption, however creditable the evangelists motive’s may be. Hereby he goes beyond his commission as God’s messenger; and hereby he risks doing incalculable damage to the souls of men. If he tells men they are under obligation to receive Christ on the spot, and demands in God’s name that they decide at once, some who are spiritually unprepared will try to do so; they will come forward and accept directions and "go through the motions" and go away thinking they have received Christ, when all the time they have not done so because they were not yet able to do so. So a crop of false conversions will result from making such appeals, in the nature of the case. Bullying for "decisions" thus in fact impedes and thwarts the work of the Holy Spirit in the heart. Man takes it on himself to try to bring that work to a precipitate conclusion, to pick the fruit before it is ripe; and the result is "false conversions," hypocrisy and hardening. "For the appeal for immediate decision presupposes that men are free to "decide for Christ" at any time; and this presupposition is the disastrous issue of a false, un-Scriptural view of sin.

My friend Jared Bridges has pointed out another reason for me, as a Baptist, to despise the term "altar call": We don’t believe in transubstantiation and we don’t burn offerings, so we have no need for an "altar."

#7 Witnessing — Evangelism ain’t Amway. It is not a form of Multi-Level Marketing in which you get extra credit for the number of people in your network and you don’t get a great commission for the Great Commission. If you want to sell something door-to-door make it Amway products not the Good News.

If you want to be a more effective "witness for Christ" then start by doing what Christ did and love other people. Start by loving the "unlovable" — the smelly, unbathed men down at the mission, the annoying kids at church, the bonehead who cuts you off in traffic. Yes, you need to tell people about the Gospel. But that is evangelism, not "witnessing." In the context of the Christian life, "witness" should be a noun more often than a verb.

#8 Protestant Prayers — Last week one of my fellow coworkers, a young Catholic man, was asked to open our meeting with a prayer. Without hesitation he began reciting the "Lord’s prayer." Afterward I joked that, having come up with such a fine prayer, he might want to write it down for future use. What I didn’t say what how his recitation of the prayer made me uncomfortable.

First, I’m not used to hearing prayers that don’t contain the word "just" (as in "We just want to thank you Lord…") so it had an odd ring to it. Second, it seemed to violate the accepted standards for public prayer. I had always assumed that praying in public required being able to interlace some just-want-to’s in with some Lord-thank-you-for’s and be- with-us-as-we’s in a coherent fashion before toppping it all with an Amen. Third, I thought that prayers are supposed to be spontaneous–from the heart, off the top of the head–emanations, rather than prepackaged recitations. If it ain’t original, it ain’t prayer, right? Can I get an amen?

But where did this idea come from? We have entire books to teach us how to pray yet Jesus managed to wrap up the lesson in less than forty words. Why isn’t that prayer good enough for evangelicals to use? Why do our prayers sound nothing like His example? (And if you are wondering what prayer is doing on a list of evangelistic fixtures then we are really in trouble.)

#9 The Church Growth Movement — Sadly, this has moved from fad to fixture. Think I’m wrong? Ask the next person you see to define that phrase. In fact, ask the next 100 people you see. Let me know if you find anyone that tells you they think the church growth movement is a movement in the church to grow disciples.

#10 Chick Tracts — Chick Tracts are a tool of the devil. That fact — and yes it is a fact — is not changed just because you know a guy who knows a guy who heard testimony about a guy who said the Sinner’s Prayer after finding "The Long Trip" on the floor of a truck stop restroom.

***

The term evangelism derives from the Greek word evangel–"good news." So it’s rather odd how so much evangelism appears to be about "selling" Jesus and hoping that you can convince the unsaved heathen to buy into salvation. This was the way I had been taught during Vacation Bible School classes at the First Baptist Church of Fire and Brimstone. Pass out Chick tracts, recite the canned "how to get saved" speech, get them to say the sinner’s prayer. Above all, close the deal for Jesus. They may die at any time and their souls would be lost to eternal damnation if I didn’t "make the sell." By the age of eight I’d become a cross between Billy Graham and Willy Loman.
Whenever I began to seriously read the Gospels, though, I noticed something strange. People constantly flocked to Jesus despite the fact that he never passed out a single tract. He would walk up to people and say "Follow me" and the next thing you know they’re giving up their lives to follow him around the countryside.

The people responded to Jesus the way they did because he is God. He is what our hearts have always been seeking. When we come face to face with him we may accept or reject him. But we can’t not know him. John Calvin claimed that there is an awareness or sense of God (sensus divinitatis) implanted in all people by nature. The context of this universally distributed belief being rather minimal: there is a God, He is the Creator, and that He ought to be worshiped. The Gospel, though, fills in the essential details.

We evangelicals don’t need tools of evangelism. We don’t need fads and fixtures. We don’t need anything more than the Gospel. For that is one fixture of our faith that will never go out of style.

Posted on Wednesday, December 3rd, 2008 at 9:49 pm and is filed under Faith.

Montana Has It Right On Second Amendment

By Chuck Baldwin
http://www.vdare.com/
March 03, 2009

According to ABC News (Feb. 25, 2009), "The Obama administration will seek to reinstate the assault weapons ban that expired in 2004 during the Bush administration, Attorney General Eric Holder said today.

"'As President Obama indicated during the campaign, there are just a few gun-related changes that we would like to make, and among them would be to reinstitute the ban on the sale of assault weapons,' Holder told reporters."

Holder also said that President Obama would seek to make the assault weapons ban permanent, close the "gun show loophole," and ban "cop-killer" bullets.

At this point, I believe it is incumbent on me to say that both Eric Holder and Barack Obama have made a career out of doing everything in their power to strip the American people of their right to keep and bear arms. Even under the rubric of the abovementioned "few gun-related changes," there is the potential for widespread assault against our Second Amendment.

For example, the so-called "assault weapons" ban is as phony as the Bush-Obama stimulus spending bills—and just as fraudulent. A semi-automatic rifle, which is incapable of automatic fire, is not an "assault weapon." By definition, an assault weapon must be capable of fully automatic fire. A civilian AR-15-style rifle—in any configuration—is functionally identical to any semi-automatic hunting rifle. In fact, many hunters commonly use AR-15-style rifles for all types of hunting, both predator and big game. The term "assault weapon" is simply a dangerous-sounding moniker that makes it easy for a compliant media to intimidate the public and public officials into passing a ban against semi-automatic rifles.

Furthermore, does anyone believe that if Obama and Holder were successful in outlawing semi-automatic rifles, pump and bolt-action rifles would not also be targeted? Get real! I well remember gun control zealots during the Clinton years railing against bolt-action rifles, calling them "sniper" rifles. And once rifles are outlawed, how long would it be before handguns and shotguns would fall victim to a similar fate? As always, the issue for these people is not what type of firearm it is; the issue is the infringement of the right of the people to keep and bear arms—any arms.

Of course, the "gun show loophole" is nothing more than the prohibition against private citizens selling and trading their own personal firearms. I would like to remind the Obamas and Holders of this country that liberty is not a "loophole."

In the beginning, the private sale and trading of firearms was almost exclusively the purpose for which gun shows were started. Today, commercial firearms dealers dominate gun shows, but it is still a convenient marketplace for citizens to buy and trade guns. This is a freedom and right that is as old as the country itself. Shoot (pun intended)! I remember when we were free to buy guns from a Sears & Roebuck catalog.

And as to banning "cop-killer" bullets, what bullet is not capable of killing? Any bullet that is not capable of killing a good guy is not capable of killing a bad guy (be it two-legged or four). This is just another approach to the same goal: the infringement of the right to keep and bear arms. Obviously, any gun without a bullet is pretty much useless.

The Democrats went down this road in 1994. Are they really willing to go down the same road again? It looks like they are.

It was largely an aggressive gun control agenda that caused the Republicans to sweep both houses of Congress in 1994 and render Bill Clinton without a majority in either chamber. It was also an aggressive gun control agenda that caused Al Gore to lose the Presidential election in 2000. Even Bill Clinton publicly acknowledged that fact.

All of that said, however, the underlying reality is that it is the individual States that must ultimately be guardians of the Second Amendment (and the rest of the Bill of Rights, of course). States must be willing to resist any and all efforts by the central government to intrude upon their independence, sovereignty, and liberties. If this was not the case, why did the individual States not dissolve after the federal government was created by the adoption of the U.S. Constitution in 1787? Why? Because the States were deemed to be superior entities. Superior in assignment. Superior in responsibility. Superior in nature. Superior in scope.

As James Madison said in the Federalist Papers, No. 45, "The powers delegated by the proposed Constitution to the federal government are few and defined.

Those which are to remain in the State governments are numerous and indefinite."

Therefore, when the federal government begins to intrude upon the rights and liberties of the people, it is the responsibility of the States to resist. Obviously, the way the federal government tries to keep States in subjection is through bribery: by threatening to deny federal tax dollars unless States comply with their despotic machinations. And, sadly, most States have succumbed to this menacing temptation for far, far too long.

The good news is that States are finally beginning to fight back.

According to World Net Daily, "So far, eight states have introduced resolutions declaring state sovereignty under the Ninth and Tenth Amendment to the Constitution, including Arizona, Hawaii, Montana, Michigan, Missouri, New Hampshire, Oklahoma and Washington.

"Analysts expect that in addition, another 20 states may see similar measures introduced this year, including Alaska, Alabama, Arkansas, California, Colorado, Georgia, Idaho, Indiana, Kansas, Nevada, Maine and Pennsylvania."

Pertaining specifically to the Second Amendment, the State of Montana, in particular, seems to have it all together. In anticipation of the recent Heller Supreme Court decision, a host of Montana's senators and representatives—along with its Secretary of State— proposed a resolution stating "that any 'collective rights' holding in D.C. v. Heller will violate Montana's compact with the United States, the contract by which Montana entered the Union in 1889."
The Montana resolution recalls, "When Montana entered into statehood and adopted the Compact as a part of the Montana Constitution in 1889, included was a provision guaranteeing the right to bear arms to 'any person.'"

The resolution continues, "To be clear, the wording of the right to bear arms reservation in the Montana constitution is exactly the same today as it was in 1884."

Furthermore, the Montana resolution says, "There is no question that the contract into which Montana entered for statehood was predicated upon an understanding that the people of Montana would benefit from an individual and personal right to bear arms, protected from governmental interference by both the federal and Montana constitutions. That was the clear intent of the parties to the contract."

The resolution ended by stating sternly, "A collective rights holding in Heller would not only open the Pandora's box of unilaterally morphing contracts, it would also poise Montana to claim appropriate and historically entrenched remedies for contract violation."

In other words, representatives and senators in the State of Montana unequivocally put Washington, D.C., on notice that it would not tolerate the infringement of its citizens' right to keep and bear arms. I don't think I'm reading anything into the resolution by assuming that they were implying that they would secede before they let the federal government trample their Second Amendment liberties. (Plus, I've just been told that New Hampshire may also be preparing to propose such a resolution.)
Montana has it exactly right!

Now it is time for every State legislative body in America that believes in the Second Amendment to step up to the plate and let Barack Obama, Eric Holder, and the rest of these gun-grabbing socialists know that they will not tolerate even one more attempt to infringe upon the right to keep and bear arms—and that includes any so-called "assault weapons" ban.
And let's never forget that the purpose of the Second Amendment was not to ensure the rights of hunters, but of citizens to protect themselves—and their States—against the tyrannical tendencies of their own government.

P.S. If anyone wants to see firsthand testimony regarding the importance of the Second Amendment, I encourage him or her to watch this testimony given before Congress not long ago (here).

Dr. Chuck Baldwin is the pastor of Crossroad Baptist Church in Pensacola, Florida. He hosts a weekly radio show. His website is here.

Intelligence Failure

Obama recruits from China Inc. to fill a critical national-security post.

By the Editors
http://www.nationalreview.com/
March 4, 2009

Charles Freeman is a career diplomat, a Saudi apologist, and a savage critic of Israel. He also argues that Beijing did not strike down the Tiananmen Square protesters with sufficient swiftness. Barack Obama proposes to make him head of the National Intelligence Council. It’s an abominable appointment.

The National Intelligence Council is, as its website says, “a center of strategic thinking within the U.S. Government, reporting to the Director of National Intelligence . . . and providing the President and senior policymakers with analyses of foreign policy issues that have been reviewed and coordinated throughout the Intelligence Community.” The NIC plays a crucial role in determining what specific intelligence the president consumes from the torrents of information gathered by 16 different agencies. As chairman, Freeman (pictured at right) will decide how that intelligence is framed. So how does he view the world?

Freeman is a career foreign-policy savant, with several stints in the State Department and one in the Clinton Defense Department. He has distinguished himself as a rabid Israel-hater who regards the Jewish state’s defensive measures as the primary cause of jihadist terror. He is a shameless apologist for Saudi Arabia (where he once served as U.S. ambassador) despite its well-documented record of exporting terrorists and jihadist ideology. And he is a long-time sycophant of Beijing, where he served as Richard Nixon’s interpreter during the 1971 summit and later ran the U.S. diplomatic mission.

His Chinese associations are alarming. Since 2004, Freeman has sat on the international advisory board of the China National Offshore Oil Corporation, which is owned by the Communist government. Its 2005 attempt to purchase Unocal, the American oil giant, was thwarted by Congress for national-security reasons.

Brutal as his benefactors in Beijing have been, Freeman wished them more brutal still: The Weekly Standard has unearthed a 2006 e-mail in which Freeman faults Chinese authorities for not moving swiftly enough in 1989 to crush democracy demonstrators. “The truly unforgivable mistake of the Chinese authorities,” wrote Freeman, “was the failure to intervene on a timely basis to nip the demonstrations in the bud, rather than — as would have been both wise and efficacious — to intervene with force when all other measures had failed to restore domestic tranquility to Beijing and other major urban centers in China.”

With that in mind, it is unsettling that Freeman will play a key role in determining what intelligence the president sees — and what he doesn’t. As NIC chairman, he will have a strong hand in the production of National Intelligence Estimates, reports that are pivotal in determining the direction of U.S. policy. An errant NIE can be a dangerous thing. Recall the disastrous 2007 NIE that concluded, against the evidence, that Iran had abandoned its nuclear weapons program in 2003. Though quickly abandoned, that NIE helped soften our national resolve to prevent Iran’s development of nuclear weapons, even as the mullahs ramped up production.

Three of the major foreign-policy challenges the United States faces today involve the survival of Israel, the Saudis’ promotion of radical Islam, and the ambitions of China. To navigate them, Obama has chosen a fierce critic of Israel — our only reliable ally in the region where threats to the United States are most immediate — whose track record is one of kowtowing to our enemies in the Mideast and our rivals in Beijing.

Freeman has an irrepressible instinct for the appalling. In a public forum in 2002, Freeman decried “America’s lack of introspection about September 11.” What commanded Freeman’s attention was not the jihadist ideology that brought about the murder of nearly 3,000 of our fellow citizens, but what he described as “an ugly mood of chauvinism” in the United States. Americans, he maintained, “should examine ourselves” as we consider “what might have caused the attack.” The post of NIC chairman is an executive-staff appointment, meaning that Freeman, though an intimate Obama adviser, is not subject to vetting through Senate confirmation hearings. But what we already know is reason enough for alarm.

Tuesday, March 03, 2009

The tired war on Rush Limbaugh

The conservative commentator said he hopes Barack Obama fails. But what's so radical about disagreeing with an agenda he doesn't believe in?

By Jonah Goldberg
Los Angeles Times
http://www.latimes.com/
March 3, 2009

Here we go again. Rush Limbaugh is public enemy No. 1.

Liberal bloggers and media chin-strokers are aghast at Limbaugh's statement that he hopes Barack Obama fails.

WASHINGTON - JANUARY 13: Former U.S. Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld (L) talks with radio talk show host Rush Limbaugh (R) before the start of a Medal of Freedom ceremony at the White House January 13, 2009 in Washington DC. During the ceremony U.S. President George W. Bush presented the Medal of Freedom to former British Prime Minister Tony Blair, former Australian Prime Minister John Howard and Colombian President Alvaro Uribe. (Getty Images)

Well, given what Obama wants to do, I hope he fails too. Of course I want the financial crisis to end -- who doesn't? But Obama's agenda is much more audacious. Pretty much every major news outlet in the country has said as a matter of objective analysis that Obama wants to repeal the legacy of Ronald Reagan and remake the country as a European welfare state. And yet people are shocked that conservatives, Limbaugh included, want Obama to fail in this effort?

What movie have they been watching? Because I could swear that conservatives opposing the expansion of big government is what conservatives do. It's Aesopian. The scorpion must sting the frog. The conservative must object to socialized medicine.

Besides, since when did hoping for the failure of ideological agendas you disagree with become unpatriotic? Liberals were hardly treasonous when they hoped for the failure of George W. Bush's Social Security privatization scheme.

Regardless, the war on Limbaugh from the left is a tired rehash. In 1995, Bill Clinton tried to blame the Oklahoma City bombing on Rush. In 2002, then-Sen. Tom Daschle, the leader of the Democratic opposition, claimed that Limbaugh's listeners weren't "satisfied just to listen." They were a violent threat to decent public servants like him.

In just the last month, Obama suggested that Republicans were in thrall to Rush. White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel has anointed him the GOP's leader. Rep. Barney Frank complained that Republicans didn't give Obama enough standing ovations during his address to Congress because they are afraid of Limbaugh and Sean Hannity.

Does anyone think that Republicans, absent fear of Limbaugh's lash, would be throwing flower petals at Obama's feet as he sells the Great Society II? If that's true, I say thank goodness for Limbaugh's lash.

Just because the Democrats' shtick is old and often dishonest doesn't mean it's tactically dumb. Limbaugh and other right-wing talkers are popular with a third of the country. Fairly or not, they turn off moderates and self-described independents (and, for the left, conservative talk radio is the font of all evil). Most politicians would prefer to have 70% of the public on their side at the cost of losing 30%, even if that requires being less than fair to the 30%.

The more interesting war on Limbaugh comes from the right. My National Review colleague John Derbyshire has written a thoughtful article for the American Conservative disparaging the "lowbrow conservatism" of talk radio. His brush is a bit too broad at times. Some right-wing talkers, such as Bill Bennett and Dennis Prager, can be almost professorial. Michael Savage, meanwhile, sounds like the orderlies are about to break through the barricades with straitjacket in hand. Derbyshire is nonetheless right that conservatism is top-heavy with talk-radio talent, giving the impression the right is deficient in other areas and adding to the shrillness of public discourse.

Another point of attack comes from "reformist" conservative writers, such as blogger Ross Douthat of the Atlantic and former Bush speechwriter David Frum. They argue that conservatism is too attached to talk-show platitudes and Reagan kitsch. They want conservatives and Republicans to become more entrepreneurial, less reflexively opposed to government action. Hence, the New Reformers object to Limbaugh's role as an enforcer of ideological conformity. What's good for Limbaugh, many of them argue, guarantees that the GOP will become a powerless rump party only for conservative true believers.

I'm dubious about that, but I do have a suggestion that would help on both fronts. Bring back "Firing Line." William F. Buckley Jr., who died almost exactly a year ago, hosted the program for PBS for 33 years. He performed an incalculable service at a time when conservatives were more associated with yahoos than they are today. He demonstrated that intellectual fluency and good manners weren't uniquely liberal qualities. More important, the "Firing Line" debates (models of decorum) demonstrated that conservatives were unafraid to examine their own assumptions or to battle liberal ones.

As Democrats try to ram through the "remaking of America" (Obama's words) by exploiting a financial crisis, we need those debates. PBS could actually live up to its mandate to educate and inform the public. It would be the kind of entrepreneurial government innovation even right-wingers could get behind.

jgoldberg@latimescolumnists.com