Friday, July 31, 2015

Today's Tune: Bruce Springsteen - The Rising (official video)

Chesterton, Tolkien and Lewis in Elfland

Lord-of-the-ringsIt is difficult to overstate the influence of G.K. Chesterton. Apart from the numerous converts who have come to Christianity, at least in part, because of an encounter with his writings, two of the bestselling books of all time were written, at least in part, under Chesterton’s benign patronage. The Lord of the Rings and The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, both of which are in the top ten bestselling books of all time, were written by authors who cited Chesterton as a major influence.
J.R.R. Tolkien grew up, as a young and devout Catholic in Edwardian England, in the shadow of the wings of Chesterton’s flights of fancy. In his celebrated essay “On Fairy Stories,” Tolkien cites “Chestertonian Fantasy” as a powerful “means of recovery,” which he defined as a “return and renewal of health” and as a “regaining of a clear view” of reality, of “seeing things as we are…meant to see them.”
C.S. Lewis
C.S. Lewis had first read Chesterton in a field hospital in France during World War One and was surprised by the joy that Chesterton exuded in his essays. In spite of the fact that Lewis was an atheist at the time, he couldn’t help liking Chesterton’s jollity, his sense of humour, and his rumbustious joie de vivre. Chesterton had more common sense than all the moderns put together, the young atheist believed, except of course for his Christianity. A few years later, after reading Chesterton’s classic work, The Everlasting Man, Lewis perceived the whole Christian outline of history laid out before him for the first time in a way that made sense. This revelation proved to be a significant pointer on Lewis’s own path to conversion.
Although it is evident that Tolkien and Lewis were well-versed in Chesterton’s work, the essay of his which was probably most influential on the philosophy of myth that underpinned their own approach to story-telling was “The Ethics of Elfland,” which formed the fourth chapter of Chesterton’s book, Orthodoxy.
For many people, this essay, or chapter, is best remembered for the perceptive and surprising connection that Chesterton makes between tradition and democracy:
I have never been able to understand where people got the idea that democracy was in some way opposed to tradition. It is obvious that tradition is only democracy extended through time….Tradition may be defined as an extension of the franchise. Tradition means giving votes to the most obscure of all classes, our ancestors. It is the democracy of the dead. Tradition refuses to submit to the small and arrogant oligarchy of those who merely happen to be walking about. All democrats object to men being disqualified by the accident of birth; tradition objects to their being disqualified by the accident of death….I, at any rate, cannot separate the two ideas of democracy and tradition; it seems evident to me that they are the same idea.
G.K. Chesterton
For Chesterton, the traditions of the past, extended through time by the continuum that we call civilization, constitute a powerful voice or presence in the present which ensures their being handed on in trust to future generations. Tradition is, therefore, truly, as Chesterton insists, “an extension of the franchise;” it is an extension of democracy through time, the proxy of the dead and the enfranchisement of the unborn. Such an understanding of tradition as a shared inheritance across the generations is clearly a potent and palpable presence in Middle-earth and Narnia. It has a gravitas that does not weigh heavily on one, like an oppressive force from above, but grants security and therefore freedom from the winds of change by securing one with a healthy rootedness in the soil and soul of the culture which has nurtured and nourished one. It is the freedom that comes with a sense of belonging.
Another facet of Chesterton’s “Ethics of Elfland” which would prove inspirational to Tolkien and Lewis was Chesterton’s insistence that myths and fairy stories were not unbelievable, in the sense that they conveyed untruths, but were the most believable things in the world because they conveyed truths and taught lessons that the world needed to know and learn:
The things I believed most then, the things I believe most now, are the things called fairy tales. They seem to me to be the entirely reasonable things….Fairyland is nothing but the sunny country of common sense. It is not earth that judges heaven, but heaven that judges earth; so for me at least it was not earth that criticised elfland, but elfland that criticised the earth.
Wallpaper3_1024In this brief passage, Chesterton reminds us that we should always judge sin from the perspective of virtue, even if, especially if, sin is more common than virtue. The shouldjudges the is. This is the sense in which Tolkien, in his essay “On Fairy Stories,” states that one of the functions of fairy stories was to hold up the mirror of scorn and pity to man. They show us ourselves and are most powerful when they show us what is wrong with ourselves.
This ability of fairy stories to show us ourselves is dependent on our ability to see ourselves in the mirror that they hold up to us. Whereas the sin of pride blinds us so that we cannot see our image in the mirror, humility opens our eyes. Only when our eyes are opened by humility to the sense of wonder in the goodness, truth and beauty of the cosmos can we attain the gratitude at the heart of all true joy:
The test of all happiness is gratitude; and I felt grateful, though I hardly knew to whom. Children are grateful when Santa Claus puts in their stockings gifts of toys and sweets. Could I not be grateful to Santa Claus when he put in my stockings the gift of two miraculous legs? We thank people for birthday presents of cigars and slippers. Can I thank no one for the birthday present of birth?
In stark contrast to this sense of wonder that opens and widens the cosmos, the philosophy of materialism seeks to imprison the senses within the confines of mere physical space. The materialist, wrote Chesterton, “like the madman, is in prison” and, what was worse, he was seemingly consoled by the fact that the prison, i.e. the material universe, was very large:
It was like telling the prisoner in Reading gaol that he would be glad to hear that the gaol now covered half the county. The warder would have nothing to show the man except more and more long corridors of stone lit by ghastly lights and empty of all that is human. So these expanders of the universe had nothing to show us except more and more infinite corridors of space lit by ghastly suns and empty of all that is divine.
Evidently inspired by this metaphor of materialism as a prison, Tolkien resurrected it in his own essay “On Fairy Stories” in which he spoke of “Escape” as “one of the main function of fairy-stories”: “Why should a man be scorned, if, finding himself in prison, he tries to get out and go home? Or if, when he cannot do so, he thinks and talks about other topics than jailers and prison-walls?”
J.R.R. Tolkien
J.R.R. Tolkien
We desire something beyond the prison of time and space because our true home is to be found beyond the prison walls, and the reason that the greatest truths are told in stories is because history itself is a story told by the greatest of all Story-Tellers. History is His Story. As Chesterton put it, “this world of ours has some purpose; and if there is a purpose, there is a person. I had always felt life first as a story: and if there is a story there is a story-teller….I felt in my bones; first, that this world does not explain itself….Second, I came to feel as if magic must have a meaning, and meaning must have some one to mean it. There was something personal in the world, as in a work of art….”
Such a view of the world as being a work of art evokes images of God’s Grandeur as exclaimed by the great Gerard Manley Hopkins:
The world is charged with the grandeur of God.
It will flame out, like shining from shook foil;
It gathers to a greatness, like the ooze of oil
It will also remind lovers of Tolkien and Lewis of the Great Music of God’s Creation in The Silmarillion and of Aslan’s singing of Narnia into being. And as for Chesterton’s proclamation that “this world of ours has some purpose” and that “magic must have a meaning, and meaning must have some one to mean it,” it leads us into the words of Gandalf, whose words of encouragement to Frodo will serve as appropriately encouraging words with which to conclude our musings on the magic of Elfland:
[T]here was something else at work, beyond any design of the Ring-maker. I can put it no plainer than by saying that Bilbo was meant to find the Ring, and not by its maker. In which case you were meant to have it. And that may be an encouraging thought.
Books on the topic of this essay may be found in The Imaginative Conservative Bookstore

Thursday, July 30, 2015

With the Iran Deal, Obama’s Contempt for Congress Is on Full Display

By George Will — July 29, 2015

President Barack Obama answers questions about the Iran nuclear deal during a news conference July 15th in the East Room of the White House. (/)

It came two days after the announcement of the nuclear agreement with Iran, yet little mention was made on July 16 of the 70th anniversary of the first nuclear explosion, near Alamogordo, New Mexico. The anniversary underscored that the agreement attempts to thwart proliferation of technology seven decades old.

Nuclear-weapons technology has become markedly more sophisticated since 1945. But not so sophisticated that nations with sufficient money and determination cannot master or acquire it. Iran’s determination is probably related to America’s demonstration, in Iraq and Libya, of the perils of not having nuclear weapons.

Critics who think more severe sanctions are achievable and would break Iran’s determination must answer this: When have sanctions caused a large nation to surrender what it considers a vital national-security interest? Critics have, however, amply demonstrated two things:

First, the agreement comprehensively abandons President Obama’s original goal of dismantling the infrastructure of its nuclear-weapons program. Second, as the administration became more yielding with Iran, it became more dishonest with Americans. For example, John Kerry says we never sought “anywhere, anytime” inspections. But on April 6, Ben Rhodes, Obama’s deputy national-security adviser, said the agreement would include “anywhere, anytime” inspections. Kerry’s co-negotiator, Wendy Sherman, breezily dismissed “anywhere, anytime” as “something that became popular rhetoric.” It “became”? This is disgraceful.

Verification depends on U.S. intelligence capabilities, which failed in 2003 (Iraq’s supposed possession of WMD), in 1968 (North Vietnam’s Tet offensive) and in 1941 (Pearl Harbor). As Reuel Marc Gerecht says in “How Will We Know? The coming Iran intelligence failure” (The Weekly Standard, July 27), “The CIA has a nearly flawless record of failing to predict foreign countries’ going nuclear (Great Britain and France don’t count).”

During the 1960 campaign, John Kennedy cited “indications” that by 1964 there would be “ten, 15, or 20” nuclear powers. As president, he said that by 1975 there might be 15 or 20. Nonproliferation efforts have succeeded but cannot completely succeed forever.

It is a law of arms control: Agreements are impossible until they are unimportant. The U.S.–Soviet strategic arms-control “process” was an arena of maneuvering for military advantage, until the Soviet Union died of anemia. Might the agreement with Iran buy sufficient time for Iran to undergo regime modification? Although Kerry speaks of the agreement “guaranteeing” that Iran will not become a nuclear power, it will. But what will Iran be like 15 years hence?
Since 1972, U.S. policy toward China has been a worthy but disappointing two-part wager. One part is that involving China in world trade will temper its unruly international ambitions. The second is that economic growth, generated by the moral and institutional infrastructure of markets, will weaken the sinews of authoritarianism.

The Obama administration’s comparable wager is that the Iranian regime will be subverted by domestic restiveness. The median age in Iran is 29.5 (in the United States, 37.7; in the European Union, 42.2). More than 60 percent of Iran’s university students, and approximately 70 percent of medical students, are women. Ferment is real.

In 1951, Hannah Arendt, a refugee from Hitler’s Germany, argued bleakly (in The Origins of Totalitarianism) that tyrannies wielding modern instruments of social control (bureaucracies, mass communications) could achieve permanence by conscripting the citizenry’s consciousness, thereby suffocating social change. The 1956 Hungarian Revolution changed her mind: No government can control human nature or “all channels of communication.”

Today’s technologies make nations, including Iran, porous to outside influences; intellectual autarky is impossible. The best that can be said for the Iran agreement is that by somewhat protracting Iran’s path to a weapon it buys time for constructive churning in Iran. Although this is a thin reed on which to lean hopes, the reed is as real as Iran’s nuclear ambitions are apparently nonnegotiable.
The best reason for rejecting the agreement is to rebuke Obama’s long record of aggressive disdain for Congress — recess appointments when the Senate was not in recess, rewriting and circumventing statutes, etc. Obama’s intellectual pedigree runs to Woodrow Wilson, the first presidential disparager of the separation of powers. Like Wilson, Obama ignores the constitutional etiquette of respecting even rivalrous institutions.

The Iran agreement should be a treaty; it should not have been submitted first to the U.N. as a studied insult to Congress. Wilson said that rejecting the Versailles Treaty would “break the heart of the world.” The Senate, no member of which had been invited to accompany Wilson to the Paris Peace Conference, proceeded to break his heart. Obama deserves a lesson in the cost of Wilsonian arrogance. Knowing little history, Obama makes bad history.

— George Will is a Pulitzer Prize–winning syndicated columnist. © 2015 The Washington Post

Book review: "Badlands" by C.J. Box

By Leslie Doran
Special to The Denver Post
July 26, 20115

Wyoming author C.J. Box takes readers for a frigid walk on the wild side in his newest novel, Badlands. The booming oil town of Grimstad, N.D., provides the backdrop for the action in this story of a town and populace stretched to the breaking point thanks to the recent discovery of the second largest oil deposit in the United States.
Box is a master of using issues between the old and the new west as themes in his novels. In Badlands, Box takes a small town just east of the border of Montana and chillingly depicts how the current oil boom parallels the gold rush days of the 1800s. The burgeoning population has brought thousands of strangers, violence, drugs, housing shortages, "working girls," motorcycle gangs and even drug cartels into the former mostly agricultural community, where everybody knew each other.
Cassie Dewell, a single mother to 6-year-old Ben, arrives in town as the new lead investigator for the sheriff's department. Cassie was introduced in Box's book from 2013, "The Highway," and brings her keen observation skills and detecting abilities to help Sheriff Jon Kirkbride return order to his beloved but troubled community. Even as Cassie is committed to learning her way around this new, frigid landscape, she remains obsessed with catching the serial killer who slipped away from the law in "The Highway." In Grimstad, Cassie finds only one other female who works in the sheriff's department. This reflects the new state of the local population, where men outnumber women 20 to one.
Box introduces Kyle Westergaard, a 12-year-old boy with fetal alcohol syndrome. The story is told through Cassie and Kyle's different viewpoints. How Kyle is seen by the outside world, with his unusual facial features and limited ability to speak, is different from what readers are allowed to share by seeing inside his head. This perspective on Kyle's unusual and unpredictable thinking add to the novel's suspense.
Kyle's life is made even more difficult since his mother and her boyfriend don't provide him with a stable home life or with many necessities, so he takes a paper route. One morning while delivering the paper, Kyle observes a puzzling accident. Afterward, he discovers a bag and takes it home, thereby setting into motion a series of deadly events as rival elements conduct a frantic search for the bag and its contents.
Meanwhile Cassie and the sheriff pursue leads to solve a horrific crime. The investigation and the actions of some of the other deputies only add to the mystery. The body count rises and Cassie and Sheriff Kirkbride must race against the clock to find and protect a witness.
Box has aptly portrayed North Dakota's stark landscape and sub-zero weather, making it a character in the action.
The characters in "Badlands" are finely drawn and display interesting layers to their personalities. Even the bad guys doing ruthless and horrible things are made fascinating, and there are several characters that beg to be brought back for the next adventure.
by C.J. Box (Minotaur Books)

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Today's Tune: Jason Isbell & The 400 Unit Live in Moulton, AL (4/13/2013)

Jason Isbell's success shows that country music is splitting in two

Alienated from the commercial country scene, 2015 has seen a group of more soulful artists find success on their own terms, and without the help of radio

Jason Isbell: incisive in his disenchantment. Photograph: Dan Hallman/Invision/AP

By Grady Smith
28 July 2015

This week singer-songwriter Jason Isbell, the Alabama native whose breakout album Southeastern landed him on the top of many critics’ year-end lists in 2013 (this one included), debuted in first place on Billboard’s country chart with his latest set Something More Than Free. Despite being unknown to the vast majority of modern country music fans, Isbell’s wildly acclaimed album sold about 46,000 copies, just a few hundred more than Alan Jackson’s Angels and Alcohol, which wound up in second place.
Both these albums are excellent. Isbell’s songwriting thrives because of his honest reflections about southern identity and working-class life that are rarely glamorous, but always incisive in their disenchantment. “You thought God was an architect,” he sings on standout track 24 Frames. “Now you know He’s something like a pipe bomb ready to blow.” Dave Cobb – who has become one of Nashville’s most sought-after producers after delivering lauded LPs from Sturgill SimpsonChris Stapleton and Lindi Ortega, not to mention Isbell’s Southeastern – once again masterfully captures Isbell’s ragged tone with simple and potent arrangements that ask you to lean into the sound rather than bop along with it. Though it’s got clear roots in southern music, the album isn’t exactly a straightforward country album. Tellingly, it was also listed as the No 1 album on the rock and folk chart this week too.
Jackson’s disc is more upbeat, a little twangier and much more in line with what many listeners know as traditional country music. The veteran star, whose biggest career hits include ChattahoocheeDon’t Rock the Jukebox and Where Were You When the World Stopped Turning, keeps things straightforward on Angels and Alcohol, and what a delight that he does. There is no Auto-Tune here, no drum machines or handclaps, no repeated “Hey!” shouts over the chorus, and no other concessions made to the embarrassing trends of modern country radio. Jackson just plays his songs (he wrote seven of the 10 tracks on his own), and the prominent steel guitars and fiddles augment his naturally jovial voice. Winsome songs like You Can Always Come Home and When God Paints don’t feel at all out of place beside playful tracks like Jim and Jack and Hank. The collection is utterly charming.
That both albums are selling so well continues the trend that has already defined 2015 in country music discourse: quality country artists are thriving without the support of country radio. Jackson hasn’t climbed higher than No 50 on the country airplay chart during this album cycle, and Isbell hasn’t charted on it at all. And yet here they are with the top two albums in the format. Former Sony Nashville CEO Gary Overton couldn’t have chosen a more ironic year to utter his now-infamous statement “If you’re not on country radio, you don’t exist.” This year has seen Kacey Musgraves’s Pageant Material, Willie Nelson and Merle Haggard’s Django and Jimmie, Aaron Watson’s The Underdog and Blackberry Smoke’s Holding all the Roses reach the pole position on the albums chart without having songs that cracked the Top 40 at country radio. Chris Stapleton’s ultra-buzzy Traveler opened in second place without a radio hit, and Ashley Monroe’s The Blade, after topping the iTunes chart over the weekend, appears poised for a strong debut as well.
It’s exciting to watch quality musicians achieve major commercial recognition for their hard work. Good music is good music, and it’s always nice when people actually hear it. But amid all the blogosphere chatter about how the success of artists like Isbell and Jackson is great for country music, I have to wonder whether that’s really the case. On the one hand, these acts succeeding without the support of country radio seem like obvious evidence about where country music should be headed. Country fans are finding their music on their own already, so it’s easy to dream about how well an artist like Stapleton or Sturgill Simpson would fare with the Nashville promotional machine fully behind them.
On the other hand, the success of these acts reveals a glaring dichotomy that has gradually developed in country music – namely, that the genre is splitting in two.Country radio isn’t backing down from its data-driven quest to make country sound as broadly consumable to as many people as possible anytime soon. All the pop choruses, programmed drum beats, fast tempos, electric guitars, hip-hop cadences and other trends that have thrived in the business of mass-market country radio aren’t going away. They’ve been good for the short-term bottom line, and even if they’re hurting the long-term brand of country music, the immediate dollar signs are all that business folks can understand.
Jason Isbell wouldn’t sound at home on country radio stations now, and it’s almost inevitable he won’t in the years to come – especially as stations are increasingly owned by only a handful of major corporations. In recent months, many country acts seem to be putting down their pitchforks and retreating from the battle about state of the genre. Trying to take back the soul of “country”, which has become a massive marketing moniker that bears little to no resemblance to the country lifestyle, is feeling more and more like a fruitless battle.
Kacey Musgraves’ label, Mercury Nashville, recently commissioned an indie radio promoter to take her music to Americana radio stations. They’re still pursuing country airplay with her new single Dime Store Cowgirl, but it’s notable that she’s currently sitting at No 5 on the Americana radio chart – along with Jason Isbell, Emmylou Harris, Willie Nelson and Merle Haggard, Chris Stapleton, Dwight Yoakam, Kasey Chambers and Will Hoge, too – and excitedly tweeting about her success there. Country stars have long resisted artistic identities outside the country market, so as to not water down their stock with country radio programmers. But lately, those acts who have either gotten too old or who have been shunned by country radio altogether are beginning to seek greener pastures under various genres like the burgeoning umbrella genre Americana, which also encompasses folk, blues and rock. The countriest country stars working today are getting increasingly uninterested in being known as “country”. And so, it appears the schism of country music has officially begun. Let’s see where it goes from here.

Halal: A Taste Of Terror

The growing alarm over where the funds of the multi-billion-dollar industry end up.

August 7, 2013

"Beware! Halal food funds terrorists.” Stickers with this slogan were sold in July by a candidate of theAustralian political party One Nation, and condemned by the country’s Multicultural Affairs Minister Glen Elmes as "offensive, grotesque and designed to inflame hatred." He added: "People are encouraged to put the stickers on food products in supermarkets, which isn't just racial discrimination, it's also vandalism."
What the sticker says, though, is apparently taking place in the USA and Canada where Campbell’s Soup and other companies have paid the Hamas-linked Islamic Society of North America (ISNA) for their halal certification, inFrance, where it is claimed that 60% of halal food is controlled by organizations belonging to the Muslim Brotherhood and the so-called “halal tax” is the organization's main source of funding. In the UK, major supermarket chain Morrisons is not only indirectly but even directly giving money to the Islamic National Zakat Foundation. I’ll explain what that is about in a minute.
“Ritual slaughter” is the slaughter of animals for food following religious prescriptions. The Muslim method to produce halal (“lawful” or “permissible”) meat consists of cutting fully conscious animals’ throat while the name of Allah is uttered and letting them bleed to death. The Jewish method of producing kosher meat shares with the Muslim one the fact that the animal is not stunned before being killed.
Laws of Western countries generally require that animals are stunned to render them unconscious before slaughter, but allow exceptions for both Jewish and Muslim ritual slaughter.
Government advisory bodies, like the Farm Animal Welfare Council and the British Veterinary Association in the UK, have produced reports and made declarations saying that ritual slaughter causes ”intolerable cruelty” and have repeatedly demanded that it be banned.
The Muslim Council of Britain claims that most halal meat comes from stunned animals, but in reality a very low voltage is used in their electrocution, resulting in inadequate stunning.
This makes it objectionable to most non-Muslims on animal welfare grounds. Christians and others – Sikhs in Britain currently have an anti-halal petition - also consider the utterance of Allah’s name at the moment of slaughter as idolatry.
And a major concern is that halal meat is just no longer for Muslim consumption, but is sold to “infidels” in ever greater quantity the world over.
To get an idea of the extent of this phenomenon, one of the most influential halal certification bodies, the Halal Food Authority, now estimates that a staggering 25% of the entire UK meat market is halal. But Muslims are about 5% of the UK population, therefore there is as much as 5 times more halal meat than Muslims.
In Britain halal meat is routinely served and sold to non-Muslims who don’t even know that they’re eating it, let alone want to do so. Schools, hospitals, hundreds of restaurants and pubs, sporting venues like Wembley football stadium and Ascot race course, all the main supermarkets chains – none excluded - fast-food and pizza chains have been drawn into what commercially must look like a win-win situation for them: Muslims complain and demand halal, non-Muslims don’t complain, adapt and tolerate. Especially if they’re not informed and food is not properly labelled.
In dhimmi Britain, when pork or other non-halal food is accidentally discovered in school menus, as recently happened,  it causes a fervor, hits headlines, the food is immediately removed and the responsible sacked, but it's nearly impossible to have halal meat - which non-Muslims don't want - removed from schools or at least not served to unbelievers. In an increasing number of schools halal is the only meat served. Is the only way to ban halal food in schools to "contaminate" it with pork, as someone suggested?
What’s happening with halal is that we are experiencing for the first time in the West Islamization on a large scale. Great numbers of people are forced to live according to Sharia law whether they like it or not, which is the essence of Islam and its supremacist nature.
Christian Concern reported the words of the Operation Nehemiah Halal Campaign, run by the Barnabas Fund:
There is an open campaign by Islamic food agencies to integrate halal into the mainstream market and to extend it to non-Muslims. The World Halal Forum held its annual conference in London earlier this month (November), and has identified the UK as a pilot project for halal in Europe…
The spread of halal is often part of the commitment to Islamic mission (dawa) and the Islamisation of non-Muslim societies. The imposition of sharia practices on non-Muslims may be interpreted as an act of Islamic supremacy.”
That it is a question of supremacy and economic profit and not religious compliance is shown by the fact that Islam specifically exempts its faithful from the obligation to eat halal food if none is available:
He hath only forbidden you dead meat, and blood, and the flesh of swine, and that on which any other name hath been invoked besides that of Allah. But if one is forced by necessity, without wilful disobedience, nor transgressing due limits,- then is he guiltless. For Allah is Oft-forgiving Most Merciful. Quran (002:173)
Every time you drive around London you are subjected to the sight of myriad halal signs, a constant reminder of the transformation of Britain into an Islamic country. You can even measure this process of Islamization by the number of halal signs that you see multiply in the same streets and areas.
If women in the hijab and burka are the visible representation of Muslim presence in the West, halal signs are the visible symbol of Muslim supremacism taking hold of it – at least women who veil themselves don’t impose their dress code on others.
We are witnessing a Muslim takeover of an increasing share of the food industry and other industries, with consequences on the job market of Britain, a nation with a high level of unemployment, especially among the young. Halal products include not just meat, but also a long list of goods containing slaughterhouse by-products like gelatin and collagen, which are ingredients in many various foodstuffs – from Easter eggs to cat food - cosmetics, toiletries, pharmaceuticals, and other products.
It is a multi-billion dollars industry, and growing.
All halal products require certification by a Muslim agency, which the agency is paid for.
The principle of "zakat" in Islamic law makes it obligatory for all Muslims to give 2.5% of their income to charity – only in aid of their coreligionists, of course. Zakat has to be distributed among 8 categories of recipients, one of which is the jihadists fighting in Allah’s cause. From Mission Islam:
Zakat can be given in the path of Allah. By this is meant to finance a Jihad effort in the path of Allah, not for Jihad for other reasons. The fighter (mujahid) will be given as salary what will be enough for him. If he needs to buy arms or some other supplies related to the war effort, Zakat money should be used provided the effort is to raise the banner of Islam.
According to Islamic law, it would not be permissible, or "halal," for Islamic organizations providing halal certification not to pay zakat, which under Islamic law is obligatory for all Muslims, on the fees they charge.
Therefore, whenever you buy one of the many halal-certified products increasingly found in our Western countries, even without your knowledge and against your will, you are indirectly contributing to Islamic terrorists, killers of Christians in the Middle East, al-Qaeda-linked groups and so on. Buy halal and you fund jihad against Israel.
Many Islamic "charities" have known links to terrorism and Islamic extremism. In early July the Gatestone Institute published a report documenting the many links discovered between the Islamic Relief Worldwide charity, with headquarters in the UK, and terror groups with an anti-Western agenda. Islamic Relief Worldwide (IRW) consists of a "family of fifteen aid agencies" which "aim to alleviate the suffering of the world's poorest people." What looks like an innocuous -- indeed philanthropic -- charity is, according to this report, “an extremist organization with a pro-terror agenda... [which] has worked with a significant number of organizations linked to terrorism.” Western governments, the United Nations and the European Union should be more careful about whom they donate their money to, since they all gave tens of millions of dollars to IRW, whose most important branches include Islamic Relief UK and Islamic Relief USA. The report says:
IRW's accounts show that it has partnered with a number of organizations linked to terrorism and that some of charity's trustees are personally affiliated with extreme Islamist groups that have connections to terror.
Those organizations and groups, over the years, have included Hamas and Hamas-related bodies like Al Wafa and Al Tzalah; terrorists in Chechnya; al-Qaeda; the Yemeni Al-Eslah organization, a branch of the Muslim Brotherhood; terrorist and Muslim Brotherhood groups operating in various European countries; and many more.

What makes IRW, which is one of the world’s largest and most influential Islamic charities, more dangerous is that it has acquired legitimacy among Western politicians and public figures. Even heir to the British throne Prince Charles has expressed support and appeared at IRW events. But there has been very little scrutiny of IRW and its branches.

In sum, although halal is on its surface an animal cruelty concern, it is also a crucial area of conflict between the West and those who want to force Islam, literally, down our throats. It also empowers Muslims culturally, ideologically, politically and, last but not least, economically, in a terrifying way.

Whitewashing the Black Panthers

A new PBS documentary tries to excuse a murderous and totalitarian cult.

By Michael Moynihan
July 25, 2015
When his captors uncinched the noose around his neck and shoved him into a wooden chair, Alex Rackley might have assumed his ordeal was over. He had already endured a flurry of kicks and punches, the repeated crack of a wooden truncheon, ritual humiliation, and a mock lynching. But it wasn’t over. It was about to get much, much worse.
Rackley, a slight, 19-year-old black kid from Florida, was tough (he had a black belt in karate), but hardly in a position to resist his psychopathic interrogators. During a previous beating he had gamely tried, kicking and flailing and swinging his arms. But this time he was tied to the chair, with a towel stuffed in his mouth to mute the screams. The women upstairs were tending to the children while assiduously preparing pots of boiling water—because traditional gender roles applied in the torture business, too.
When the bubbling cauldrons were brought to the basement—four or five of them—they were thrown over Rackley’s naked body. Then they worked him over some more. With him burned, battered, and bloodied, the towel was removed from his mouth. As a warning to those who would sell out the party to the Feds (“jackanapes,” “pigs,” and “faggots,” in the party’s nomenclature), the Lubyanka-style proceedings would be recorded on half-inch tape.
The interrogation begins with a woman’s voice: Brother Alex from New York was sleeping in the office…And I kicked him and said, “Motherfucker, wake up!”A few minutes pass, instinct kicks in, and Rackley tries to free himself. Sit down, motherfucker. Be still. The woman coolly and dispassionately reads the details of the previous interrogation session into the record: So then we began to realize how phony he was and that he was either an extreme fool or a pig, so we began to ask questions with a little force and the answers came out after a few buckets of hot water…then the brother got some discipline in the areas of the nose and mouth.
He wasn’t working for the Feds, but Rackley confessed to being a rat anyway. Why bother denying the “charges”? Every denial resulted in a new acts of barbarism anyway. Maybe this way he would be expelled from the party, but allowed to survive.
Ericka Huggins, George Sams, Warren Kimbro, and the other members of the New Haven Black Panther Party present in the house on May 18, 1969 had gotten what they wanted. So Rackley was carried from the basement and deposited into a bedroom usually occupied by a 7-year-old girl. Someone tied him to the child’s bed. Three days later, covered in his own shit and piss, Rackley was cleaned up by one of the Panther women and hustled out of the house into an idling car: He would be driven to a boat, they said, and brought either to New York or home to his native Florida.
With his arms again bound and a fresh noose around his neck—this one fashioned from a wire coat hanger—Alex Rackley, an illiterate teenager who had joined the Black Panther Party eight months earlier, was led to the edge of the Coginchaug River in Middlefield, Connecticut.
Of course, there was no boat. And there was no escape. “Orders from national [headquarters],” said George Sams, the bloodthirsty ringleader of the hit squad. “Ice him.”
Warren Kimbro, a Black Panther party cadre from the New Haven branch, put the first bullet in Rackley’s head, collapsing him in the shallow water. As his body heaved, another Panther foot soldier, Lonnie McLucas, took the gun from Kimbro and fired a bullet into his chest, just in case. They didn’t bother checking, but Alex Rackley was still alive, gasping and in pain, one expert later speculated, for almost four hours.
According to George Sams, he was merely following orders issued by Bobby Seale, the Black Panther Party’s infamous co-founder and “chairman.” Not long after Rackley’s waterlogged corpse was fished out of the water, Sams, Kimbro, and McLucas were all behind bars, awaiting trial on murder charges.
And Ericka Huggins—that cruel voice on the tape interrogating Rackley; mocking him for crying; watching while he was beaten; telling the motherfucker to sit down during the torture session; witnessing him frog-marched out of the house with a noose around his neck, no shoes, and flanked by three armed men—would also stand trial, accused of orchestrating the killing with Seale.
When the theater lights dim and the PBS logo dissolves, a disembodied voice tells a parable of three blind men running their hands over the body of an elephant. They all describe something different: it feels like a wall, or a spear, or possibly a snake. “And that is quite often what happens with our descriptions of the Black Panther Party. We know the party we were in and not the entire thing.”
The first voice in Stanley Nelson’s documentary The Black Panthers: Vanguard of the Revolution, is mellifluous and childlike, not as sharp and hateful as it was on that 1969 tape. But here is Ericka Huggins, along with more than a dozen of her former comrades, educating viewers about the Black Panther Party’s (BPP) accomplishments, miraculously achieved in the face of interminable harassment from the FBI and police. With an assist from PBS, who will broadcast the documentary in September, Nelson has recruited a cast of shriveled militants for his one-dimensional Panther festschrifta film that doesn’t disturb the ghost of Alex Rackley or the many other victims of the party’s revenge killings, punishment beatings, purges, or “disappearances.”
Like many former members of the party elite, these days Ericka Huggins interrogates students about race, class, and gender in her job as a college professor, having long-since lost interest in brutally interrogating suspected FBI informants.
From Huggins, we are shunted along to the second witness—another Panther turned college professor. “Now [in the late 1960s] we had the emergence of voices within the community who said ‘We’re not going to continue to turn the other cheek,’” says Jamal Joseph, who teaches film at Columbia University. Joseph features heavily in the Vanguard of the Revolution, fulfilling the role of the handsome, clever, naive teenage Panther railroaded by the pigs for his membership in a renegade political party.
But as with Ericka Huggins, there is much about Joseph that viewers aren’t told. The most important piece of neglected information is this: When the Panthers were a spent political force, Joseph joined up with the spinoff Black Guerrilla Army and was sentenced to 12½ years in prison for his part in the infamous 1981 Brinks armored car robbery, which resulted in the death of three innocents, including Waverly Brown, the first African-American to serve on the Nyack, New York, police force.
Joseph wasn’t sentenced for his participation in the robbery—his conviction was for harboring fugitives, provoking the exasperated judge to declare “I have never understood juries”—though countless accounts of the murders finger him as both a key player and an armed participant. In his new book Days of Rage, Vanity Fair journalist Bryan Burrough says the Brinks job was “laboriously scouted by” Joseph. A long out-of-print account of the murders by journalist John Castellucci meticulously catalogues Joseph’s involvement and fingers him as one of the six armed men lurking behind ski masks that fateful day. Journalist Susan Braudy’s Pulitzer-nominated book Family Circle: The Boudins and the Aristocracy of the Left places Joseph at the scene of the robbery. But Joseph’s very long rap sheet (more on that later) is never mentioned by Nelson.
This is, perhaps, unsurprising. In front of a sold-out crowd of geriatric radicals and their dippy young acolytes, Nelson matter-of-factly acknowledged that Vanguard of the Revolution is a  “pro-Panther” film and expressed surprise that at previous screenings “no one stood up and said, ‘How could you say these good things about the Panthers,’ which we thought would happen.’”
Someone should. Because almost anything that reflects poorly on the Panthers is ignored or dismissed and no critics of the party are included. The story is told entirely through the testimony of former Panthers and sympathetic historians, with the occasional appearance of a porcine ex-cop, at whom the audience is supposed to hiss. When a former FBI agent weighs in, it’s G-man turned radical activist M. Wesley Swearingen, whose book FBI Secrets comes with a fulsome introduction by disgraced academic and noted crackpot Ward Churchill. He exists in Vanguard of the Revolution to echo the Panther narrative. (Swearingen’s latest book is a self-published mélange of Kennedy assassination conspiracy theories fingering “Cuban exiles, [the] Chicago mafia, and bad cops trained by the CIA’s” in the president’s murder).
We don’t lack for Panther hagiographies—histories, memoirs, feature films, and documentaries (often broadcast on PBS, like A Huey P. Newton StoryPassin’ It On: The Black Panthers’ Search for JusticeA Panther in Africa; and The Black Power Mixtape, 1967-1975)And most of them are correct on a few important questions. As Nelson points out, it’s indeed correct to say that Chicago Panther leader Fred Hampton was murdered by the police. The Oakland police force wasfull of rotten thugs and racists. Teenage Panther Bobby Hutton was shot while trying to surrender (though in a gun battle precipitated by a Panthers ambush). The Feds were engaged in illegal activity in their war against the Panthers.
But as writer Steve Wasserman recently noted in The Nation, the Panthers’ many hagiographers have often “refused to acknowledge the party’s crimes and misdemeanors, preferring to attribute its demise almost entirely to the machinations of others.” (A reviewer at The Root says Nelson documents the party’s “demise at the hands of the FBI,” an impression one might reasonably get from watching Vanguard of the Revolution.)
Vanguard of the Revolution is a lumbering two-hour film, and while Nelson offers a playful précis on the sexy proto-Ramones style of the Panthers—leavened with archival footage of attractive party activists of both genders in knee-high black boots, crisp black leather jackets, black berets, and black sunglasses—you’ll find almost no discussion of more important issues, like what the Panther’s actually believed.
Because beyond the mindless “power to the people” platitudes, the Panthers were ideological fanatics. After all, the party was guided, the Black Panther newspaper exclaimed, by “the revolutionary works of Marx, Engels, Lenin, Stalin, Chairman Mao, Comrades Kim Il Sung, Ho Chi Minh, Che Guevara, Malcolm X, and other great leaders of the worldwide people’s struggle for liberation.”
It was in the newspaper where “everything came together,” says Ericka Huggins in Vanguard of the Revolution. “It explained who we were, what we were about, what our goals were.” She’s right. If you want to get a sense of the party, one need only thumb through a few back issues of The Black Panther newspaper, scanning editorials signed by “we black revolutionaries who are fighting this racist imperialist faggot honkey,” gasping at the countless images of North Korean dictator Kim Il-Sung and Chinese genocidaire Mao Tse-Tung, or scratching your head at the paeans to demented Albanian Stalinist Enver Hoxha.
So I shouldn’t have been surprised to find that The Black Panther was actually full of glowing references to Josef Stalin. Eldridge Cleaver (“And I’d also like to quote Stalin…”), Panther “chief of staff” David Hilliard (“We think that Stalin was very clear in this concept…”), and Bobby Seale (“Joseph Stalin said one time that our best weapon…”) were all fond of citing him. And Seale was complimenting his comrades when he observed that “our party can see Lenin and Stalin when we want to understand Huey and Eldridge.” Hilliard kept a photo of Stalin on display in his office, believing that tales of Stalinist mass murder were bourgeois propaganda. “The reason that they fear Joseph Stalin is because of the distorted facts that they have gained through the Western press,” he told an interviewer. Chairman Elaine Brown clarified that the Black Panther Party was “not opposed to Stalin.”
Again, none of this mentioned by Nelson. Nor is the group’s frightening obsession with North Korea’s uniquely demented brand of Stalinism (“The Korean people and their great leader Comrade Kim II Sung” are “a nation of Newtons, tough brothers, off the block who once built a mountainous barbecue which imperialism called Heartbreak Ridge!”). Interviewee Kathleen Cleaver isn’t asked by Nelson about her pilgrimages to Pyongyang, or why she chose to give birth to her daughter Joju Younghi—a name chosen for her by Kim Il-Sung’s wife—in North Korea. Nor is she asked about credible accusations that when Eldridge Cleaver returned from his first trip to North Korea he shot and killed a Panther he believed to be Kathleen’s lover (When asked, Eldridge wouldn’t deny killing his romantic rival; and in 2001 former Panther fugitive and Cleaver confidante Byron Vaughn Booth confessed to having witnessed the murder.)
When inconvenient party members weren’t being physically eliminated, The Black Panther newspaper was denouncing errant comrades for ideological deviationism. One particularly jarring example, found in a 1970 edition of paper, was the purging of Verlina (Donnetta) Brewer, one of the Panthers wounded when the Chicago police sprayed Fred Hampton’s apartment with bullets. She was expelled from the party for having had an abortion. The communique from headquarters was blunt: “As of April 25, 1970, Donnetta Brewer is no longer [a party member] in good standing…She has been purged.” (When I tracked down Brewer, she said she was unaware of the article and claimed to have been "taken advantage of by a party member," cryptically speculating that the story was “written to cover up what was done to me.”)
What few histories of the BPP dwell upon—and, of course, Vanguard of the Revolution doesn’t address—is not only the party’s rampant sexism but its deeply conservative gender politics. The Panther newspaper opposed the liberalization of abortion laws because it would be “a victory for the oppressive ruling class who will use [abortion] to kill off Black and other oppressed people before they are born.” The birth control pill was deemed “another type of genocide that the power structure has poured into the Black community.”
During a Q&A following the screening of Vanguard of the Revolution at the Human Rights Watch film festival in New York, Nelson and Jamal Joseph recast the patriarchal Panthers as flawed proto-feminists icons, unfortunately saddled with a streak of au courant “chauvinism.” And Joseph recently claimed, somewhat confusingly, that the BPP actually “took on” sexism and “wrapped it in something called love.”
But unbeknownst to viewers of Vanguard of the Revolution—and as The New York Times reported during his 1981 murder trial—Joseph’s lawyer once acknowledged that his client was a revolutionary who also “operated ‘an escort service’” on the side. Journalist John Castellucci reported that at the time of the Brinks murders, Joseph the feminist “had a few girls” working for him, “all in their teens, and [he] ran ads for them in sex-oriented tabloids under the name Jay Daniels.”
But apparently neither Joseph nor Nelson remember that one Black Panther Party founder (Bobby Seale) penned a memoir featuring a multi-page boast of bedding five supplicant Panther women in one night. Or that another BPP big shot (Eldridge Cleaver) was a confessed rapist who described his violent sexual assaults as “insurrectionary acts.” Or that the party’s other founder and intellectual heavyweight (Huey Newton) frequently physically abused women and in 1974 was charged with murdering a teenage prostitute who had “disrespected” him.
Indeed, Huey Newton’s increasingly erratic behavior gets only a perfunctory mention in Vanguard of the Revolution and skips over the gory details. The factionalism Newton provoked resulted in a bloody party split (which Nelson ludicrously blames on the FBI) creating two warring factions: one loyal to Newton and one to Eldridge Cleaver. It was at this point in the party’s history, Jamal Joseph explains, that many party members either went “underground” or walked away from the movement. The party split is illustrated by Nelson with a few newspaper headlines crawling across the screen, but no further detail is provided.
One of those newspaper clippings references the murder of Sam Napier, the well-liked, Newton-loyal distribution manager of the party newspaper, murdered in 1973 by Panthers aligned with the Cleaver faction. In their aggressively pro-Panther history Black Against Empire, academics Joshua Bloom and Waldo Martin describe how the “assailants shot Napier three times in the back, tied him to a bed.., gagged him, shot him three times in the head, and then set the building on fire.” (In fact, they also tortured Napier, pouring boiling water over his body, before shooting him multiple times, dousing him with lighter fluid, and setting his broken body on fire).
Black Panther Party confidant and fundraiser Marty Kenner called the murder of Napier “unspeakably brutal,” noting that “the assassins grabbed the two-year-old child that Sam was taking care of in the office and literally threw him out the door, giving him lasting injuries.” There were other children in the office too; their mouths were taped and they were made to lie on the floor, though later released.
One of those tried in connection with the killing? Columbia University professor  Jamal Joseph. After an initial trial resulted in a hung jury, Joseph and three others pleaded guilty to the reduced charge of attempted manslaughter. The New York Times headline was succinct: “4 Panthers Admit Guilt in Slaying.” Again, there is no mention of the Napier slaying in Vanguard of the Revolution (nor in Joseph’s memoir Panther Baby).
Joseph isn’t the only Nelson interview subject whose violent past is left unmentioned. Vanguard of the Revolution includes testimony from former Panther enforcer Landon Williams, prosecuted for his involvement in the murder of Alex Rackley. At the trial, Panther triggerman Warren Kimbro recounted on the stand the moment when “Landon said, ‘Take [Rackley] out and take care of  him.’” Williams pleaded guilty to the charge of conspiracy to murder.
And there is former Panther and current Columbia University administrator Flores Forbes, who mistakenly shot and killed a fellow Panther during an attempt to assassinate Crystal Gray, a witness willing to testify against Huey Newton in the murder of 17-year-old prostitute Kathleen Smith who made the mistake of calling Newton “baby.” Around the same time, Newton’s tailor Preston Callins also made the mistake of calling him “baby.” As punishment, Callins was brutally pistol-whipped and tortured by Newton. Again, none of this is mentioned in Vanguard of the Revolution.
Nelson has made a stylistically interesting documentary, but has revealed himself to be an astonishingly bad journalist. Because a good journalist would have forced Joseph, Huggins, Forbes, and Williams to confront their own pasts and the Panther’s violent legacy, while steering them away from rote banalities accusing the FBI of provoking their murderousness. A good journalist would have brought in voices critical of the party from other expanses of the civil rights movement (like the late Bayard Rustin). A good journalist might look at the actuarial table for Panther members and wonder why more Panthers were killed by fellow black nationalists than by the pigs.
Because the murder of Alex Rackley wasn’t an aberration. And while the Feds undoubtedly abused their power in pursuit of the Panthers, their obsession with violent black nationalism wasn’t irrational. Too bad PBS viewers won’t understand why the “Gestapo pigs,” the shock troops of “fascist Amerikkka,” were so interested in disrupting the revolution Huggins, Seale, Cleaver, and Newton tried so desperately to foment.