Saturday, October 19, 2013

Potemkin Parliament

Washington’s governing systems are in a bad way. 

Friday, October 18, 2013

Remembering America

Posted By Roger Kimball On October 17, 2013 @ 8:33 am In Uncategorized | 37 Comments

I was having lunch yesterday with a politically mature Democrat, one of those “Scoop Jackson” fellows you read about in books but — unless you are older than I am — have probably never met outside a book’s pages. These are the chaps who see a fairly large role for government but who are also unabashedly pro-American, favor a robust foreign policy, are allergic to political correctness in all its squalid manifestations, and accordingly are the friends, not the enemies, of meritocracy.

It was a convivial lunch, but with a certain melancholy creep around the edges.

Witnessing the unedifying spectacle put on by our masters in Washington this last week or so, we could only shake our heads sadly. And when we contemplated the action of ordinary citizens — those vets who disassembled the “Barrycades [1]” erected in front of national monuments by a punitive Obama administration — we couldn’t help wondering whether the country was teetering towards a pre-revolutionary state. Take a look at this video [2] showing hundreds of veterans confronting park police in riot gear — riot gear! — in front of the White House. How about this photo of a vet: he lost the bottom half of both legs fighting to protect us from foreign enemies, and here he is now, tearing down those Barrycades, fighting to protect our prerogatives as free citizens, protesting the arrogant, overweening actions of a political elite that more and more views us citizens as serfs:

joey_jones2 [3]

There is a lot more to be said about the events of the last couple of weeks: the pseudo-shutdown, the ham-handed and ineffectual pontifications of John Boehner, the punitive actions of the increasingly lawless Obama administration. Pundits and markets the world over heaved a collective sigh of relief when this circus of intransigence, stupidity, and preening brinksmanship collapsed on itself yesterday, but what happened is not behind us: it is prelude, not history. We are in the midst of political, social, and moral realignment, the lineaments of which no one’s crystal ball is sufficiently prescient to delineate with anything more than guess and possibilities.

This is a large subject, better suited to a book than a blog post. But let me draw on “The Obamacare Disaster [4],” an essay by Conrad Black at NRO, to highlight some of the headwinds we face. First, a few data points:
The United States has 5 percent of the world’s people, 25 percent of its incarcerated people, and half of its trained lawyers (who now take about 10 percent of the GDP); the legal system is an embarrassment, and the criminal-justice system is a disgrace, in which prosecutors win 99.5 percent of their cases, 97 percent of them without a trial. The legislators of the country are ultimately responsible for this corruption of what the Constitution and Bill of Rights set up as a just and merciful Society of Laws. The terminal cancer of legal paralysis spreads every week of every year.
Can you doubt that what Black says is true? But what are “we the people” going to do about this metastasizing pathology? Probably, what we have always done: nothing.

Consider the wickedly named “Affordable Care Act.” It owes its very existence, as Black points out, “to political treachery, electoral hijinks, and extreme prosecutorial misconduct”:
The 60-vote level in the Senate was obtained by the subornation of Arlen Specter in that tainted window between his rejection by his own party and his defeat by the Pennsylvania voters, and by Al Franken’s questionable win in the Senate election in Minnesota, where partisan, county-by-county recounts overturned the people’s choice. Also, most egregiously, Republican senator Ted Stevens of Alaska had been narrowly defeated in 2008 after being convicted of taking a bribe — a conviction that was subsequently thrown out because of the prosecutor’s completely improper suppression of exculpatory evidence.
Again, can any candid person cavil with these facts? Black focuses on the enormity that is Obamacare. But he also notes that that disastrous piece of legislation is a sort of synecdoche for a larger disaster: the eclipse of political legitimacy:
This is the governmental equivalent of congestive heart failure. It is the domestic-affairs equivalent of the Syrian policy: the moral imperatives, red lines, “moral obscenity,” punitive action that wouldn’t really be damaging (would, in fact, be “unbelievably small”), and the constitutional position of commander-in-chief devolving to Congress. This has all become surreal.
Indeed it has. But where do we go from here? Black conjured the specter of Cromwell storming Parliament and thundering out its dissolution (“in the name of God go!”). Perhaps it will come to something like that.

I am not sure whether Black’s concluding remarks count as consolatory, or the opposite:
The American people are the greatest talent pool in the world; this is a system that has always worked adequately and often well. It is a democracy, and in a democracy the people are always right and they get the government they deserve. I do not dare to believe that the people that deserved Washington, Lincoln, the Roosevelts, Truman, Eisenhower, and Reagan (and chose them a total of 14 times) deserve this.
One question, I suppose, is where exactly are the successors of these titans? Not, I think, in Washington, D.C.

Article printed from Roger’s Rules:
URL to article:
URLs in this post:
[1] Barrycades:
[2] this video:
[3] Image:
[4] The Obamacare Disaster:

Thursday, October 17, 2013

The Bothersome, Annoying Truth

By Caroline Glick
October 17, 2013

Ilan Pappe

A controversy is raging in the Washington, DC, Jewish community involving the local JCC (DCJCC) and its in-house Theater J. While a local tale, it is a distressing encapsulation of Israel’s predicament.

Israel’s rights and justness are grounded in truth. But today truth isn’t worth as much as it used to be. Those who fight for it find themselves routinely maligned as close-minded extremists. Those who trounce it are congratulated for being open-minded and fair.

Last month Theater J announced its Spring 2014 schedule.

The schedule includes a play called The Admission.

Authored by an Israeli named Motti Lerner, the play is a dramatization of what is euphemistically known as the “Tantura Affair.”

In 2000, Maariv published an article describing the Master’s thesis of a student at the University of Haifa named Teddy Katz. Teddy Katz’s thesis purported to document a previously unknown massacre during Israel’s War of Independence. He alleged that in May 1948 the IDF murdered 250 Arab civilians after winning a battle in the town of Tantura.

The article caused an uproar. Veterans of the battle sued Katz for libel. They won. Indeed, in testimony before the district court judge Katz admitted his thesis was a fabrication.

Katz later recanted his admission and appealed the decision to the Supreme Court. The Supreme Court upheld the ruling that Katz had libeled the soldiers. The university appointed a panel of scholars to review his research materials. They found Katz had fabricated statements he alleged came from interviews with eyewitnesses.

The university cancelled its acceptance of Katz’s thesis.

Had that been the end of that, the “Tantura Affair” – that is, Katz’s blood libel against the IDF – would have been long forgotten. But Katz’s academic supervisor, then-senior lecturer at Haifa and celebrated anti-Israel propagandist Ilan Pappe, refused to let the truth get in his way.

Pappe rewrote the history of the “Tantura Affair.” In Pappe’s telling, Katz heroically revealed the truth about the evil core of the Jewish state, and was then persecuted for going against Zionist orthodoxy.

Pappe has won international acclaim and prestige by being among the most outspoken, virulent foes of Israel in academia with an Israeli passport. He has openly called for Israel’s destruction.

He is also an admitted liar.

Benny Morris wrote of Pappe that his “contempt for historical truth and factual accuracy is almost boundless.”

As Pappe sees it, truth is only important if it is aligned with his ideological goal. The French newspaper Le Soir quoted him saying, “The struggle is about ideology, not about facts. Who knows what facts are? We try to convince as many people as we can that our interpretation of the facts is the correct one, and we do it because of ideological reasons, not because we are truthseekers.”

For his part, Lerner, who has dramatized Katz’s blood libel, was quoted by The Washington Post saying that his purpose wasn’t to tell the truth, either. “The play is trying to suggest that these historical memories [of what happened at Tantura] have to be explored and revised continuously in order to create a solid basis for reconciliation between the two people.”

The “revised” – that is, false – memory Lerner seeks to create serves a clear purpose. By portraying the Jews as murderers and as the aggressors in 1948 and the Arabs as their victims, he wishes to convince everyone that it is okay for the Arabs to continue seeking Israel’s destruction, and for the world to keep pressuring the Jewish state for more unilateral concessions. Only if justice is solely on the side of the Arabs is it possible to promote “compromises” in which the Jewish state makes endless concessions to the Arabs, and in return receives terrorism, war and hatred.

The true history of Israel’s War of Independence in which local Arabs, assisted by invading Arab armies attacked the Jews of Israel with the declared purpose of annihilating them, is inconvenient for the likes of Lerner and Pappe. They have no use for the fact that every area conquered by the Arabs was rendered Jew-free, by massacre or expulsion. They certainly don’t want anyone to know about the heroism of Jews who defended themselves and their nascent state, and prevailed, albeit at great cost.

Recognizing the propaganda effort at play with The Admission, a group of local Washington, DC, activists launched a protest. Volunteers with a group called Citizens Opposed to Propaganda Masquerading as Art (COPMA) have demanded that the Jewish Federation of Washington, DC, defund Theater J and the DCJCC for spreading anti-Israel propaganda whose goal is to defame Israel and romanticize its enemies.

This is not COPMA’s first run-in with Theater J. COPMA was formed in 2009 following Theater J’s decision to produce the anti-Semitic diatribe Seven Jewish Children. The work portrays Jewish parents as monsters who train their children to become murderers. In a mere 1,300 words, it criminalizes as mass murderers the entire Jewish population of Israel for crimes that were never committed.

Ari Roth has served as the artistic director of Theater J for the past 17 years. He decided to produce Seven Jewish Children, and another libelous anti-Israel play written by a Palestinian terrorist in 2011. And he decided to produce The Admission.

From Roth’s statements since COPMA raised the current outcry, it is apparent that he holds truth in the same contempt as Pappe and Lerner. Roth wrote on Theater J’s website, “At least three Israeli historians wrote different versions of the conquest of Tantura: from the right, Yoav Gelber; from the center, Benny Morris, and from the left, Ilan Pappe.”

As COPMA pointed out, however, Pappe admits to prizing the cause of Israel’s destruction above truth, and Morris and Gelber have stated unequivocally that there was no massacre at Tantura.

Roth’s statement then is the equivalent of a person saying that since a dozen professors have written about the tooth fairy, she must exist, (even though they wrote that there is no tooth fairy).

Rather than weigh COPMA’s truthful claims against Roth’s obscene distortions and block the production of the play or fire Roth, the DCJCC’s leadership and the Federation have circled the wagons around Roth and Theater J.

Speaking to The Washington Post, DCJCC’s chief executive Carole R. Zawatsky defended Roth and attacked COPMA.

“COPMA,” she said, “would love to see us close down the conversation, and our intention is to open up a conversation.”

In other words, a blood libel depicting Israeli soldiers – and the society that supports them – as mass murderers, is not beyond the pale. It is the beginning of an important conversation regarding whether or not Israel is a criminal state born in war crimes.

From the perspective of those who place ideology over facts, this is the best of all possible outcomes. Supporters of Israel – and of truth – are forced to spend hours gathering evidence to prove that a lie is false. Meanwhile those who propagate it are free to play the victim of a McCarthyite attempt to silence them. And then, they can have a debate that places on Israel the burden of proving that the lie you just watched on stage is untrue and maliciously so.

The saga of The Admission is the saga of Israel in our upside down world today. Here we are, we truthtellers, maligned for our attachment to facts by those who in the service of their goal to destroy what is most important, have convinced themselves and their followers that truth is nothing special. Indeed, that it is bothersome and annoying.

Freedom Center pamphlets now available on Kindle: Click here.

Article printed from FrontPage Magazine:
URL to article:

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Child Marriage Comes to Australia

Posted By Robert Spencer
October 14, 2013


The girl’s Muslim parents forced her into the marriage when she was fourteen. Her mother tried to put a good face on a bad situation, enticing the girl with a picture of marriage as a never-ending party: her husband, she said, would treat the girl to ice cream and lollipops and take her to movies and amusement parks. Reality turned out to be a bit different: her husband imprisoned her inside their home and forced her to watch violent videos featuring jihad attacks against soldiers from Western countries. He also raped her and beat her frequently.

The girl went to her father for help. But her father, as she recounted later, was completely unsympathetic, telling her: “So what if he raped you? So what if he bashed you? The only way you can come back to me is in a coffin.”

This didn’t happen in Pakistan, or Egypt, or Indonesia. This girl suffered in comfortable suburban Australia, where Western society failed her as thoroughly as did Islamic society: she went to a teacher and explained what was happening, but despite laws requiring teachers to report such incidents, nothing was done.

Perhaps the teacher was afraid that if she reported the girl’s husband, she’d be accused of “bigotry” and “hate.” The forces promoting multiculturalism are as strong and deeply entrenched in Australia as they are in Europe and the United States. But inevitably, the multiculturalist acceptance of all things Islamic and stigmatization of any and all opposition to Islamic law as “racist” and “bigoted” are going to come into conflict with core Western principles of human rights and human dignity. This Muslim teenager’s teacher apparently accepted child marriage and spousal abuse as the price of eschewing “Islamophobia.”

Last week I wrote that Western countries were soon “going to have to make a choice as to whether they’re going to affirm the human dignity of women and maintain the illegality of polygamy, or whether they’re going to allow them to become mere possessions and playthings, denizens of de facto harems.” The same choice is coming regarding child marriage. Australian society, along with European and American society as well, is before too long going to have to choose between protecting the rights of women and thus fighting against child marriage, or allowing it in the interests of marching together with Sharia adherents into the brave new multicultural future.

Most people don’t believe this choice will ever have to be made, because they don’t realize how entrenched child marriage is within Islamic law. Islamic tradition records that Muhammad’s favorite wife, Aisha, was six when Muhammad wedded her and nine when he consummated the marriage:

The Prophet wrote the (marriage contract) with Aisha while she was six years old and consummated his marriage with her while she was nine years old and she remained with him for nine years (i.e., till his death) (Bukhari 7.62.88).

Muhammad is an “excellent example” for Muslims (Qur’an 33:21), which in practice means that whatever Muhammad did is good, right, and to be emulated.

This girl in Australia is not a singular case: many other Muslims in the West are emulating Muhammad’s example in this. The Iranian and Kurdish Women’s Rights Organisation (IKWRO) has stated that in England in 2010, at least thirty girls in Islington, a neighborhood of greater London, were forced into marriage, and that some were as young as nine years old.
And just this month, an undercover investigation in Britain revealed eighteen mosques that agreed to perform child marriages. In Sweden, meanwhile, there are several hundred reported incidences of child marriage every year. And that’s just what gets reported. Anyone who thinks that all or most forced marriage and child marriage cases come to the attention of Western authorities is simply naïve.

Likewise naïve are those who believe that stopping child marriage in Western countries will be a simple matter of enforcing our own laws. The relentless campaigns against anti-Sharia legislation have already branded foes of Islamic law as “bigots.” What’s more, Islamic leaders in the West, since child marriage is endorsed by nothing less than the example of Muhammad himself, are certain eventually to begin to resist attempts to prosecute those who engage in it.

This is already happening in Muslim countries. In 2009, Muslim clerics in Yemen issued a fatwa declaring that opposition to child marriage makes one an apostate from Islam. A law raising the legal marriage age for girls to adult levels was nevertheless passed, but then almost immediately repealed after some Yemeni legislators argued that it was un-Islamic. In Malaysia in December 2010, a government minister, Nazri Aziz, said at a press conference that the Malaysian government had no plans to legislate against child marriage, because of Islam: “If the religion allows it, then we can’t legislate against it.”

In July 2013, a Muslim leader named Alhaji Mujahid Abubakar Dokubo-Asari warmly endorsed the Nigerian Senate’s approval of child marriage, and accused foes of child marriage of lacking respect for Muslims and their rights: “People should learn to respect other people’s sensibilities. … We Muslims have the right to marry when we want or give out our daughters at any age we want. It is not your business and the law must respect our right to do so. Anything short of that is an infringement on our rights.”

It will come to this in our countries: “respect” Muslim sensibilities, or stop child marriage. In Australia, in the case of this young victim of forced marriage, child marriage, and spousal abuse, it already should have.

image courtesy shutterstock /  Smailhodzic

Article printed from PJ Lifestyle:
URL to article:

Somalia and the Hyena Cure

Posted By Daniel Greenfield On October 16, 2013 @ 12:20 am In Daily Mailer,FrontPage | 6 Comments

The World Health Organization estimates that 1 in 3 Somalis are mentally ill due to their country’s constant violence and abuse of the Khat narcotic. Somali science however came up with a surefire cure for the crazies. Lock the patient up in a room with a hyena and wait for the ugly beast to see the demons causing the madness and drive them out.

Somali medicine, like American medicine, however suffers from rising health care costs. A session with a trained psychiatric hyena costs 560 dollars in a country where the average national salary is 190 bucks putting a Mogadishu trained hyena on par with a Harvard trained psychiatrist.

Somalis who can’t afford to blow a three month salary to spend time on the couch with a hyena have a more practical solution. They tie the affected person to a tree and leave. The hyenas usually find the patient sooner or later and snack on him pro bono, while his kin head off to the welfare office in Lewiston, Maine.

Like the joke about the mental patient and the driver with the broken wheel, the Somalis may be nuts, but they aren’t stupid.

Somalia only has half the Somali population. Kenya has almost a million. The United Kingdom has over 100,000 and Canada may have as many as 150,000. The United States has quite a few and Minnesota alone has may have 80,000 to 125,000 of them.

American politicians, who can give any Khat-chewing Somali pirate a run for his money in the insanity department, dumped thousands of Somalis into Lewiston, Maine where they now make up a seventh of the population.

The average low in Lewiston in January is near zero. Meanwhile January in Mogadishu is a balmy 86 degrees with occasional flurries of machine gun fire.

Despite its chilly weather, Lewiston did have some warm welfare and the Somalis ignored the cold and flocked to the cold cash. The WHO may consider them crazy, but unlike the politicians who welcomed them in, they aren’t stupid.

The Somali gangs that tore apart their homeland have been reborn in the frigid Midwest. Ten percent of the gang members in the Minneapolis Police Department’s system are Somalis. The Somali Outlaws, the Somali Hot Boyz and the Somali Assault Unit go from welfare to crime. Like the gangs at home, Somali migrant gangs scale up from street crime, drug trafficking, robberies, sex trafficking and protection rackets to international terrorism.

Lewiston, Maine, a place as traditionally synonymous with gangs as Mogadishu is with snow, now has concerns about gang violence.

Maine has gone from having no gang members a few years ago to having 4,000 of them. Mainahs have gone from thinking of gang members as something they saw on COPS to something they see when they look out the window.

Vacationland now hosts the True Somali Bloods and the True Sudanese Bloods who spill each other’s blood to find out who has the truest blood of them all. In Lewiston, Somali flash mobs attack natives. In Bangor, a Somali gang is at the heart of local crime.

Gangs are still the closest thing to a rule of law in Somalia. There was every reason to expect the Somali migrants in the United States to fall back into that pattern, clusters of young men building families around gangs and making their own law the way they did back home.
Nietzsche said that when you gaze into the abyss, the abyss gazes into you. When you stare at a hyena, the hyena stares back at you. When you stare into Somalia, Somalia stares back at you.

The Somali migrants are not becoming Americanized. Maine and Minneapolis are becoming Somalized.

The American hyena became extinct as the march of civilization drove it back. Where there is civilization, carrion eaters no longer eat well unless they learn to be small and quiet. In Somalia, hyenas thrive because there isn’t civilization and so there is good eating for their kind.

Hyenas don’t destroy civilization. They are a symptom of its collapse. They are a sign that the city is giving way to the desert, the town to the village and the village to a handful of burnt out shacks. Carrion eaters go where civilization falls, where men no longer work shoulder to shoulder and where nothing bigger than a gang can endure. They go where there are bodies and no one to bury them.

In Somalia, the hyenas that aren’t in private practice carry on a battle of wits with the Islamic terrorists of Al-Shabaab responsible for the Westgate Massacre in Kenya.

The hyenas have been known to taste the occasional Al-Shabaab fighter who falls asleep in a Khat induced trance in the sun. And Al-Shabaab hunts and kills hyenas and sells their meat to finance terrorism. Hyenas, like most dog-like animals, are considered unclean in Islam, but Al-Shabaab overcame its Islamic scruples to sell hyena flesh and even market its consumption as effective at fighting off evil spells.

Al-Shabaab, which keeps killing people in order to impose Islamic law on a country that already runs on Islamic law, has to use black magic to convince people to buy the meat of an animal that eats corpses.

Including human corpses.

The Islamic terrorist group is coming rather close to cannibalism in the name of imposing Islamic law. But American liberals are coming even closer to cannibalism in the name of imposing tolerance.

Somalia is what happens when a country goes mad. And it would be foolish to believe that the same thing couldn’t happen here.

If we could lock up the advocates of open borders in a room with a hyena for three days and hope the scavenger eats the evil spirits in their minds, it would be worth the 560 dollars.

But lock an American politician in a room with a hyena and the laughing beast will not see evil spirits in his eyes, just a weak creature waiting to be eaten. That is the same thing that Somali thugs and terrorists see when those cheerful politicians welcome them to America.

The Hyena Cure doesn’t work by eating evil spirits. Being locked in a room for three days with a predator that eats human flesh is the ultimate reality check. Either you put aside whatever illness has made it impossible for you to function in civilization. Or the hyena eats you.

America, Canada, Europe and Australia all face the Hyena Cure. Either being locked in cities and towns with migrating predators wakes them from their madness.

Or the hyenas eat them.

Don’t miss Jamie Glazov’s video interview with Shillman Fellow Daniel Greenfield on  Obama’s Shutdown Strategy, The Administration’s Brotherhood Romance, Reading Al Qaeda Terrorists Their “Rights,” The Huma Abedin-Anthony Weiner Saga, The Unholy Alliance, and much, much more:

Freedom Center pamphlets now available on Kindle: Click here.

Article printed from FrontPage Magazine:
URL to article:

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

A Return to Keynes?

By Thomas Sowell
October 15, 2013

The nomination of Janet Yellen to become head of the Federal Reserve System has set off a flurry of media stories. Since she will be the first woman to occupy that position, we can only hope that this will not mean that any criticism of what she does will be attributed to sex bias or to a "war on women."
The Federal Reserve has become such a major player in the American economy that it needs far more scrutiny and criticism than it has received, regardless of who heads it.
Ms. Yellen, a former professor of economics at Berkeley, has openly proclaimed her views on economic policy, and those views deserve very careful scrutiny. She asks: "Will capitalist economies operate at full employment in the absence of routine intervention?" And she answers: "Certainly not."
Janet Yellen represents the Keynesian economics that once dominated economic theory and policy like a national religion -- until it encountered two things: Milton Friedman and the stagflation of the 1970s.
At the height of the Keynesian influence, it was widely believed that government policy-makers could choose a judicious trade-off between the inflation rate and the rate of unemployment. This trade-off was called the Phillips Curve, in honor of an economist at the London School of Economics.
Professor Milton Friedman of the University of Chicago attacked the Phillips Curve, both theoretically and empirically. When Professor Friedman received the Nobel Prize in economics -- the first of many to go to Chicago economists, who were the primary critics of Keynesian economics -- it seemed as if the idea of a trade-off between the inflation rate and the unemployment rate might be laid to rest.
The ultimate discrediting of this Phillips Curve theory was the rising inflation and unemployment, at the same time in the 1970s, in what came to be called "stagflation" -- a combination of rising inflation and a stagnant economy with high unemployment.
Nevertheless, the Keynesian economists have staged a political comeback during the Obama administration. Janet Yellen's nomination to head the Federal Reserve is the crowning example of that comeback.
Ms. Yellen asks: "Do policy-makers have the knowledge and ability to improve macroeconomic outcomes rather than making matters worse?" And she answers: "Yes."
The former economics professor is certainly asking the right questions -- and giving the wrong answers.
Her first question, whether free market economies can achieve full employment without government intervention, is a purely factual question that can be answered from history. For the first 150 years of the United States, there was no policy of federal intervention when the economy turned down.
No depression during all that time was as catastrophic as the Great Depression of the 1930s, when both the Federal Reserve System and Presidents Herbert Hoover and Franklin D. Roosevelt intervened in the economy on a massive and unprecedented scale.
Despite the myth that it was the stock market crash of 1929 that caused the double-digit unemployment of the 1930s, unemployment never reached double digits in any of the 12 months that followed the 1929 stock market crash.
Unemployment peaked at 9 percent in December 1929 and was back down to 6.3 percent by June 1930, when the first major federal intervention took place under Herbert Hoover. The unemployment decline then reversed, rising to hit double digits six months later. As Hoover and then FDR continued to intervene, double-digit unemployment persisted throughout the remainder of the 1930s.
Conversely, when President Warren G. Harding faced an annual unemployment rate of 11.7 percent in 1921, he did absolutely nothing, except for cutting government spending.
Keynesian economists would say that this was exactly the wrong thing to do. History, however, says that unemployment the following year went down to 6.7 percent -- and, in the year after that, 2.4 percent.
Under Calvin Coolidge, the ultimate in non-interventionist government, the annual unemployment rate got down to 1.8 percent. How does the track record of Keynesian intervention compare to that?

What’s Wrong with Joel Osteen?

Faith must confront the question of evil

Posted By Andrew Klavan On October 14, 2013 @ 1:00 pm In Christianity,God,Religion | 12 Comments

Novelist Lars Walker — a friend of this blog and an insightful reviewer of some of my own novels — makes a trenchant comment in the Elizabeth Smart post below. I know it’s trenchant because I was about to make basically the same comment but Lars beat me to it! In the comment, he makes a delightfully concise reference to “the Osteenian view that suffering is always a sign of God’s displeasure.” This, of course, refers to popular preacher Joel Osteen, who has been promoting his new book at the Blaze and other places. He basically preaches that God wants wonderful things for your life and you only have to open yourself to God’s will in order to receive those blessings.

I stumbled on Osteen before he was famous. It was more than ten years ago, when I was wrestling with my own conversion to Christianity. I was  struggling deeply with the fear that faith would limit my freedom of thought (it didn’t) and the idea that I might be betraying my Jewish heritage. Late one night, while channel surfing, I came upon one of Osteen’s half hour sermons on some religious channel. I (who generally dislike religious programming) was bowled over by him. He was brilliant at conveying God’s love for his human creation and I found his words very moving and comforting. I remember telling my wife about him over our morning coffee. I was well aware of the intellectual flaw in “the Osteenian view.” If God wants only good things to happen to us, and we have to “activate his blessings,” by our positive prayers and good actions, then indeed, as Lars says, suffering must always be a result of some failure on our part. Still, I found his optimism and generosity of heart compelling.

And there is some Biblical support for his point of view. “A righteous man may have many troubles, but the Lord delivers him from them all,” says the Psalmist, whereas “Evil will slay the wicked.” This attitude dominates both Psalms and Proverbs. But it is offset by Job and Ecclesiastes. The latter tells us: “Here is a pointless thing that happens on earth: A righteous man receives what happens to the wicked, and a wicked man receives what happens to the righteous.” And Jesus, who knew a thing or two, remarked that the sun shines on the evil as well as the good and the rain falls on the just and unjust alike.

Not surprisingly, the Bible is right on both counts. That is, of course, in general, a good life is likely to make you happier than a bad one, and good habits will probably make you healthier and more prosperous than bad ones. No good parent tells his child, “My son, go forth and treat yourself and others like garbage, it’ll be great.” There’s a reason the proverbs say what they say.

But at the same time, bad things do happen to good people and life is unfair and it’s important to include that in your philosophy lest you end up blaming the victims — or God — for the evils of this fallen world. For a few years after I first saw Osteen, I followed him, read his books and listened to his sermons sometimes…  then I stopped. I don’t mean this in any way personally. I have no reason to think he’s other than a good guy spreading the Word as it comes to him. But I personally began to find his philosophy…  well, unhelpful.

The preacher in my novel True Crime comments that if you want to have faith, you have to believe in a “God of the sad world.” I think that’s clearly true. For me, one of Christianity’s central assets is that it’s a tragic religion — which is to say, a realistic one. The son of God prayed for release from a dreadful death and his prayer went unfulfilled. That tells you something, something you need to know in order to live with patience and wisdom. It’s not that God is absent, it’s that (as Job discovered) the moral context of life is larger than mortal man can comprehend. Which can make things very, very difficult at times. Tragedy is what we know; redemption is what we believe; that’s why they call it faith instead of knowledge.

I appreciate Osteen’s good will. I enjoy his warmth and spirit. I really like the visceral way he convey’s God’s love. But in the end, if you don’t have a sense of evil and unfairness, I don’t think you can preach truly.

Article printed from PJ Lifestyle:
URL to article:

Monday, October 14, 2013

Western Civilization Saved from Islam at Battle of Tours

By Raymond Ibrahim
October 13, 2013

File:Steuben - Bataille de Poitiers.png

Charles de Steuben's Bataille de Poitiers en octobre 732 depicts a triumphant Charles Martel (mounted) facing ‘Abdul Rahman Al Ghafiqi (right) at the Battle of Tours.

Precisely 100 years after the death of Islam's prophet Muhammad in 632, his Arab followers, after having conquered thousands of miles of lands from Arabia to Spain, found themselves in Gaul (modern-day France), facing a hitherto little-known people, the Christian Franks.
There, around October 10-11, in the year 732, one of history's most decisive battles took place, demarcating the extent of Islam's western conquests and ensuring the survival of the West.
Prior to this, the Islamic conquerors had for one century been subjugating all peoples and territories standing in their western march -- including Egypt, Libya, Tunisia, Algeria, and Morocco.  In 711, the Muslims made their fateful crossing of the straits of Gibraltar, landing on European soil.  Upon disembarking, the leader of the Muslims, Tariq bin Zayid, ordered the Islamic fleet burned, explaining that "We have not come here to return.  Either we conquer and establish ourselves here, or we perish."
Once on European ground, the depredations continued unabated.  Writes one Arab chronicler regarding the Muslim northern advance past the Pyrenees: "Full of wrath and pride," the Muslims "went through all places like a desolating storm. Prosperity made those warriors insatiable ... everything gave way to their scimitars, the robbers of lives."  Even a far-off English anchorite, the contemporary, the venerable, Bede, wrote, "A plague of Saracens wrought wretched devastation and slaughter upon Gaul."
Strange anecdotes also find their way into the chroniclers' accounts during this time.  Muslim historian Abd al-Hakem reports that, after landing on an island off Iberia, one of Tariq's squadrons discovered that the only inhabitants were vinedressers.  "They made them prisoners. After that, they took one of the vinedressers, slaughtered him, cut him into pieces, and boiled him, while the rest of the companions looked on."  This incident resulted in a rumor that Muslims feast on human flesh.  (Nearly 1,300 years later, in the year 2013, a Muslim jihadi ate the organs of his slain enemy to surrounding cries of "Allahu Akbar.")
"Alas," exclaimed the Franks, "what a misfortune! What an indignity! We have long heard of the name and conquests of the Arabs; we were apprehensive of their attack from the East [see Siege of Byzantium, 717-718]: they have now conquered Spain, and invade our country on the side of the West."
Conversely, the Muslims, flushed with a century's worth of victories, seem to have had an ambivalent view, at best, regarding Frankish mettle.  When asked about the Franks, some years before the Battle of Tours, the then-emir of Spain, Musa, replied: "They are a folk right numerous, and full of might: brave and impetuous in the attack, but cowardly and craven in the event of defeat. Never has a company from my army been beaten."
If this view betrayed overconfidence, Musa's successor, Abd al-Rahman, exhibited even greater haughtiness regarding those whom he was about to give battle.  At the head of some 80,000 Muslims, primarily mounted Moors, Rahman's destructive northward march into the heart of France was greatly motivated by rumors of more riches for the taking, particularly at the Basilica of St. Martin of Tours.  Rahman initially separated his army into several divisions to better ensure the plunder of Gaul.  Writes Isidore, author of the Chronicle of 754: "[Rahman] destroyed palaces, burned churches, and imagined he could pillage the basilica of St. Martin of Tours. It is then that he found himself face to face with the lord of Austrasia, Charles, a mighty warrior from his youth, and trained in all the occasions of arms."
Indeed, unbeknownst to the Muslims, the battle-hardened Frankish king Charles, aware of their purport, had begun rallying his liegemen to his standard in an effort to ward off the Islamic drive.  Having risen to power in France in 717 -- the same year a mammoth Muslim army was laying siege to Byzantium -- Charles appreciated the significance of the Islamic threat.  Accordingly, he intercepted the invaders somewhere between Poitiers and Tours, the latter being the immediate aim of the Muslims.  The chroniclers give amazing numbers concerning the Muslims -- as many as 300,000.  Suffice to say, the Franks were greatly outnumbered, and most historians are content with the figures of 80,000 Muslims against 30,000 Franks.
The Muslim force consisted mainly of cavalry and was geared for offensive warfare.  The vast majority being of Berber extraction, they wore little armor, though their elitist Arab overlords were at least chain-mailed.  For arms, they relied on the sword and lance; arrows were little used.
Conversely, the Franks were primarily an infantry force (except for mounted nobles such as Charles).  Relying on deep phalanx-formations and heavy armor -- reportedly 70 pounds for each man -- the Franks were as immovable as the Muslims were mobile.  They also appear to have had a greater variety of weaponry: the shield was ubiquitous, and arms consisted of swords, daggers, javelins, and two kinds of axes, one for wielding and the other for throwing (the francisca).  This notorious latter weapon was so symbolic of the Franks that either it was named after them or, quite possibly, they were named after it.
The chroniclers state that the two contending armies faced each other for six to seven days, neither wanting to make the first move.  The Franks made much use of the familiar terrain: they appear to have held the high ground; and the dense European woods served not only to provide better shelter, but to impede the anticipated Muslim cavalry charge.
Winter approaching, supplies and foraging areas dwindling, and an Islamic sense of superiority all compelled Rahman to commence battle, which "consisted entirely of wild headlong charges, wasteful of men."
Writes an anonymous Arab chronicler: "Near the river Owar [Loire], the two great hosts of the two languages and the two creeds [Islam and Christianity] were set in array against each other. The hearts of Abd al-Rahman, his captains and his men were filled with wrath and pride, and they were the first to begin to fight. The Muslim horsemen dashed fierce and frequent forward against the battalions of the Franks, who resisted manfully, and many fell dead on either side, until the going down of the sun."
According to the Chronicle of 754, much of which was composed from eyewitness accounts, "[t]he men of the north stood as motionless as a wall, they were like a belt of ice frozen together, and not to be dissolved, as they slew the Arab with the sword. The Austrasians [Franks], vast of limb, and iron of hand, hewed on bravely in the thick of the fight; it was they who found and cut down the Saracen's king [Rahman]."
Military historian Victor Davis Hanson writes: "When the sources speak of 'a wall,' 'a mass of ice,' and 'immovable lines' of infantrymen, we should imagine a literal human rampart, nearly invulnerable, with locked shields in front of armored bodies, weapons extended to catch the underbellies of any Islamic horsemen foolish enough to hit the Franks at a gallop."
As night fell, the Muslims and Christians disengaged and withdrew to their tents.  With the coming of dawn, the Franks discovered that the Muslims, perhaps seized with panic that their emir was dead, had fled south during the night -- still looting, burning, and plundering all and sundry as they went.
In the coming years, Charles, henceforth known as Martel -- the "Hammer," due to his decisive stroke -- would continue waging war on the Muslim remnants north of the Pyrenees till they retreated south.  Frankish sovereignty and consolidation were naturally established in Gaul, leading to the creation of the Holy Roman Empire -- beginning with Charles's own grandson, Charlemagne, often described by historians as the "Father of Europe."  As historian Henri Pirenne put it: "Without Islam the Frankish Empire would probably never have existed and Charlemagne, without Mahomet, would be inconceivable."
Aside from the fact that this battle ushered in an end to the first massive wave of Islamic conquests, there are some indications that it also precipitated the fall of the Umayyad caliphate, which owed its very existence to jihad, victory, plunder, and slavery (ghanima).  In 718, the Umayyads, after investing a considerable amount of manpower and resources trying to conquer Byzantium, the eastern doorway to Europe, lost horribly.  Less than fifteen years later, their western attempt was, as seen, also rebuffed at Tours.  In the context of these two pivotal defeats, a mere 18 years after Tours, the Umayyad caliphate was overthrown by the Abbasids, and the age of Islam's great conquests came to an end (until the rise of the Ottoman empire, which, like the Umayyads, was also a jihadi state built on territorial conquests, and which did finally conquer Constantinople).
Thus, any number of historians, such as Godefroid Kurth, would go on to say that the Battle of Tours "must ever remain one of the great events in the history of the world, as upon its issue depended whether Christian Civilization should continue or Islam prevail throughout Europe."
Despite the obvious significance of this battle, cynical modern-day historians often point to Edward Gibbon and others as embellishing and aggrandizing it.  In fact, from the very start, the earliest writers contemporaneous to the battle portrayed it as a war between Islam and Christendom.  Gibbon further, and famously, argued that, had the Muslims won, "[p]erhaps the interpretation of the Koran would now be taught in the schools of Oxford, and her pulpits might demonstrate to a circumcised people the sanctity and truth of the revelation of Mohammed."  (Writing in the 18th century, clearly Gibbon was unaware that his predictions would still come true -- not by way of active conquest, but by passive resignation, as the Koran is now taught in Oxford, accorded the same worth of the Bible -- equal literature or equal revelation -- and Islamic sharia law is functioning in Britain.)
Still, some modern armchair historians insist that the Battle of Tours was naught but a "minor skirmish" dedicated to plunder, not conquest.  As evidence, they point to the fact that, while early Christian chroniclers highlighted this battle, their Muslim counterparts (except for the very earliest writers, who did acknowledge it as a disastrous defeat) tended to overlook or minimize its significance -- as if that is not to be expected from the defeated, and especially from their posterity.
Other historians insist that plunder was the only objective of the Muslims.  In fact, when placed in context, the Muslims' lust for booty only further validates the expansionist jihad thesis (see Majid Khadurri's Law of War and Peace in Islam, which contains an entire chapter on spoils, ghanima, and their central role in the jihad).  From the start, the jihadi was guaranteed one of two rewards for his war efforts: martyrdom if he dies, plunder if he lives.  The one was an eternal, the other a temporal reward -- a win-win situation that, at least according to early Christian and Muslim chroniclers, played a major role in the success of the Muslim conquests.  In other words, that the sources indicate that the Muslims were booty-hungry does not in the least negate the fact that, as with all of the initial Muslim conquests, starting with Prophet Muhammad at the Battle of Badr, territorial conquests and the acquisition of booty went hand-in-hand and were the natural culmination of the jihad.
As for general destruction, Michael Bonner, author of Jihad in Islamic History, writes, "The raids are a constant element [of the jihad], always considered praiseworthy and even necessary. This is a feature of pre-modern Islamic states that we cannot ignore. In addition to conquest, we have depredation; in addition to political projects and state-building, we have destruction and waste."
At any rate, the facts speak for themselves: after the Battle of Tours, no other massive Muslim invasion would be attempted north of the Pyrenees -- until very recently, and through very different means.
But that is another story.
Raymond Ibrahim, a Hoover Institution Media Fellow, 2013, is author of Crucified Again: Exposing Islam's New War on Christians, which deals with both history and current events.

Read more:
Follow us: @AmericanThinker on Twitter | AmericanThinker on Facebook

Today's Tune: The Killers - Shot At The Night

New Book, and PBS Documentary, Details NFL’s Concussion Denial

When it comes to managing head trauma, the NFL failed for years

October 7, 2013
In League Of Denial, the highly-anticipated Frontline documentary airing on PBS Tuesday night, Ann McKee, a neuropathologist who has spent the better part of eight years examining the brains of deceased ex-NFL players, makes two eye-raising claims. The first concerns her assessment of chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE), a degenerative brain disease associated with head trauma. Since 2005, McKee has studied the brains of 46 ex-NFL players, and found CTE in 45 of them. “I’m really wondering if every single football player doesn’t have this,” says McKee. ESPN had partnered with PBS on this project, but backed out at the last minute; network chief John Skipper called McKee’s comment “over the top.” (The New York Times reported that the NFL pressured ESPN, a league business partner, to sever the partnership; both the NFL and ESPN deny this).
The second comes more than halfway through the film, when McKee is recounting a 2009 meeting at the NFL’s offices. The league’s regrettably named Mild Traumatic Brain Injury (MBTI) committee invited McKee to present some of her CTE research, which was creating a serious PR headache for the NFL. The room was filled with men who kept interrupting her, and questioning the link between concussions and brain damage. “They were convinced it was wrong,” says McKee. “I felt that they were in a very serious state of denial.” What was driving some of this skepticism? “Sexism is part of my life,” says McKee. “And getting in that room with a bunch of males who already thought they knew all the answers – more sexism. I mean, it was like, ‘oh, the girl talked. Now we can get back into some serious business.’”
The film then turns to a Henry Feuer, a neurological consultant for the Indianapolis Colts who was in the room that day, for a response. His tortured reply was one of the most confusing, yet compelling, moments of the movie. It left this viewer thinking McKee totally had a point.
For long-time followers of the NFL’s concussion crisis, League of Denial — and the accompanying book by a sibling pair ESPN journalists, Mark Fainaru-Wada and Steve Fainaru —  might fall just a few yards short. Based on the foreboding tone of the film’s trailer, which was teased to audiences in August, and ESPN’s divorce from Frontline, there was some expectation that the project would bring the NFL to its knees. Though League of Denial has no such bombshell revelation, it’s a first-rate piece of reporting  (Over the past year, has periodically published some of the findings). League of Denial adds crucial detail, texture, and news to the concussion story, which despite the NFL’s best efforts, isn’t going away.
Besides McKee’s sexism allegation, League of Denial reports that the editor of the journal Neurosurgery, which published a series of NFL-authored papers that downplayed the effects of concussions — studies that were widely panned in the scientific community — was a consultant for the New York Giants. The neurosurgeon, Michael Apuzzo of USC, published the studies despite the objections of Neurosurgery’s sports section editor, Robert Cantu, one of the world’s most prominent concussion experts. By denying the seriousness of concussions for so long, the NFL did public health a serious disservice. All levels of football — college, high school, and most importantly, pee-wee — inevitably follow the NFL’s example.
The film is incredibly comprehensive. If you haven’t been following the concussion story closely, it’s a must-watch: the narrative flow will keep your attention, and you’ll be instantly up to speed. A few other moments stand out. Viewers are reminded that the NFL has long glorified violence. In its graphics package, Monday Night Football used to feature helmets crashing together. In one NFL Films production, the narrator says, “on this down and dirty dance-floor, huge men perform a punishing pirouette. The meek will never inherit this turf.” Piano keys flitters over a montage of head collisions. “In the pit, there is more violence per square foot than anywhere else in sport.”
Former super-agent Leigh Steinberg, the inspiration for the Jerry Maguire movie character, recalls taking with client Troy Aikman in a dark hospital room after the 1994 NFC championship game: Aikman had to leave the game, which his Dallas Cowboys won, after taking a knee to the head. According to Steinberg, Aikman asked him where they were, why they were there, who the Cowboys played, and whether they won. Five minutes later, Aikman suddenly asked the same questions. Steinberg gave him the same answers. Maybe ten minutes later, the process repeated itself. “It terrified me,” Steinberg says. (The scene would have benefitted from Aikman’s recollection, if he had any. If Aikman — now the lead NFL analyst for Fox Sports– was asked to comment but refused, the film should have made that clear).
Doctors emerge as heroes. Along with McKee, Bennet Omalu, a Nigerian-born neuropathologist who diagnosed the first NFL player with CTE — former Pittsburgh Steelers center Mike Webster — is the most intriguing character. According to League of Denial, the NFL has tried to discredit Omalu’s work for years. After his study on the Webster case was published inNeurosurgery, Omalu thought the league would seek him out for consultation. Instead, leaders of the MBTI committee attacked his work, and asked him and his co-authors to retract the paper. ESPN The Magazine writer Peter Keating calls the NFL’s tactics “a nuclear missile strike on a guy’s reputation.”
The MBTI committee even wrote that “there is inadequate clinical evidence that [Webster] had a chronic neurological condition.”  But in 1999, the league’s own disability board awarded Webster full benefits, due to his deteriorating cognitive state, and concluded that “his disability is the result of head injuries suffered as a football player with the Pittsburgh Steelers and Kansas City Chiefs.” The NFL was saying two different things. According to League of Denial, the NFL also worked to prevent Omalu from studying the brain of Junior Seau, the ex-San Diego Chargers star who shot himself in 2012. The league comes across as paranoid and petty.
After Congress compared the NFL’s concussion denials to the behavior of Big Tobacco, in 2009 the league finally acknowledged that concussions can cause long-term brain damage. The league added stricter punishments for helmet-to-helmet hits, stricter guidelines for returning to the field post-concussion, and reduced the number of full-contact practices. Still, when NFL commissioner Roger Goodell is now asked if he acknowledges a link between football and CTE, he punts the question to the researchers. “There’s no more acknowledging a link exists,” says Mark Fainaru-Wada in the film. “There’s ‘the science is still emerging, and we’re really going to do long-term studies on this. And we’re going to figure out if there’s a link.’” (In an interviewwith TIME last November, Goodell did say “it doesn’t take a lot to jump to the conclusion that constant banging in the head is not going to be in your best interest.”)
The NFL’s recent $765 million settlement with over 4,500 former players, who were suing the league over its concussion policies, probably speaks for itself. “I think everyone now has a better sense of what damage you can get from playing football,” Hall of Fame linebacker Harry Carson says near the end of the film. “And I think the NFL has given everybody 765 million reasons why you don’t want to play football.”

Read more: