Monday, May 31, 2010

The Only Democracy in the Middle East, Blah, Blah, Blah ...

How does it feel, America, to be half of a little two-country World Pariah Club?
Turkey accused Israel of "targeting innocent civilians" and denounced the "inhumane interception."

As angry demonstrators threatened to storm the Israeli embassy in Ankara, Turkey warned of "irreparable consequences" to bilateral relations and recalled its ambassador to Tel Aviv.

Recep Tayyip Erdogan, the Turkish Prime Minister, who cut short his trip to Latin America to attend the emergency meeting of the UN Security Council, said: "It should be known that we will not stay silent and unresponsive in the face of this inhuman state terror,"

Britain, along with the EU and United Nations demanded an end to Israel's three-year blockade of Gaza.

"I deplore the loss of life during the interception of the Gaza flotilla," said William Hague, the foreign secretary.

"I call on the Government of Israel to open the crossings to allow unfettered access for aid to Gaza, and address the serious concerns about the deterioration in the humanitarian and economic situation." He also demanded information and "urgent access" for British embassy officials to UK nationals who were on board the flotilla and confirmed that one had been injured. At least 28 activists were known to be British citizens.

Among those unaccounted for last night were Mairead Corrigan Maguire, one of two founders of the Northern Ireland Peace People and a Nobel Peace prize-winner.
Yes, Mr. O'Bomber, that would be a real Peace Prize winner ... not such as your bloody-handed self.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

In the Crosshairs?

I probably shouldn't flatter myself:
Vowing to continue to "underwrite global security" -- but not alone -- the Obama administration Thursday released its first National Security Strategy, a 52-page outline of the president's strategic approach and priorities.

The NSS, required by Congress of every administration to be prepared every four years, for the first time combines homeland security and national security, focusing not only on threats internationally but on the threat of home-grown radicals inspired and recruited by al Qaeda.

"We view this as an important and emerging challenge," Ben Rhodes, deputy national security adviser for strategic communication, told reporters. Al Qaeda, he said, is less capable of using safe havens for training abroad and is now "trying to inspire Americans to carry out attacks on the U.S."

Those Americans, he said, may have less direct contact with the terrorist organization but they carry American passports and know the strengths and weaknesses of the United States.

"Several recent incidents of violent extremists in the United States who are committed to fighting here and abroad have underscored the threat to the United States and our interests posed by individuals radicalized at home," the NSS states. "Our best defenses against this threat are well informed and equipped families, local communities and institutions."
Now, this is just a hypothetical, you understand. But I know this guy ... an American. He's a Christian, not a Muslim. He was born here, back around 1954 or so. He's not a happy camper. He's not in a militia or anything, but that's just because all the militias he knows about seem to be organized around disagreeable ideas, or -- more often -- around no coherent ideas at all. What I'm wondering is: suppose he thinks "al-Qaeda" is essentially a creation of the US government, which is now using the so-called "al-Qaeda" to strip Americans of their few remaining liberties; and so he heartily wishes the US government ill. Would that qualify him as a radical, inspired by al-Qaeda?

Remember, this is just hypothetical. It's not me I'm talking about, of course ... it's this guy I know.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Virago Watch

Mrs. Clinton has been heard from again. She's thumping her hairy chest about those naughty, naughty NoKos, and how the Colossus of the West is going to deal with them:
US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton says the international community must respond in the growing crisis over the sinking of a South Korean warship.

She said there was "overwhelming" evidence that North Korea was to blame, and urged Pyongyang to halt its "policy of belligerence".

[ ... ]

"I believe that the Chinese understand the seriousness of this issue and are willing to listen to the concerns expressed by both South Korea and the United States," Mrs Clinton said on Wednesday.

"We expect to be working with China as we move forward in fashioning a response."
Perhaps the heroic Secretary should have checked with our fine government's largest creditor before speaking:
Chinese Vice-Foreign Minister Zhang Zhijun earlier said his country was still evaluating information on the sinking of the Cheonan.

"We have always believed that dialogue is better than confrontation," he added.
I don't know about the rest of you, but my personal outrage over the sinking of the mighty Cheonan is nearly unlimited. I don't care how broke we are; I don't care how many more billions in borrowing might be required. We must avenge the proudest corvette in the South Korean navy!

Otherwise, we'll lose face. Otherwise, the world will doubt our ability to project power and impose our will anywhere and everywhere on the globe. Otherwise, we might just as well withdraw all our soldiers from South Korea.

Now, there's an idea.

The Word for Wednesday, May 26

A recent WfW post by my blogging role model Jean came to mind as I read from Acts chapter 11, beginning with verse 19:
So then those who were scattered because of the persecution that arose in connection with Stephen made their way to Phoenicia and Cyprus and Antioch, speaking the word to no one except to Jews alone. But there were some of them, men of Cyprus and Cyrene, who came to Antioch and began speaking to the Greeks also, preaching the Lord Jesus. And the hand of the Lord was with them, and a large number who believed turned to the Lord. And the news about them reached the ears of the church at Jerusalem, and they sent Barnabas off to Antioch. Then when he had come and witnessed the grace of God, he rejoiced and began to encourage them all with a resolute heart to remain true to the Lord; for he was a good man, and full of the Holy Spirit and faith. And considerable numbers were brought to the Lord. And he left for Tarsus to look for Saul; and when he had found him, he brought him to Antioch. And it came about that for an entire year they met with the church, and taught considerable numbers; and the disciples were first called Christians at Antioch.
So there's the church, growing as believers are scattered by persecution. I look over this passage, searching for the place where it tells us that this growth was caused, or even aided in any way, by teacher-led prayers in the public schools, or by a National Day of Prayer, or by believers policing the radio or TV stations to eliminate smutty or blasphemous programming, or by military invasions of heathen territory; but I look in vain.

Barnabas seems to have played a significant part in the early life of the Antioch church. And he's described as "full of the Holy Spirit and faith." Hmmmm, there might be a clue here ...

Click here for more Words for Wednesday.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

The Word for Wednesday, May 19

Colossians chapter 2, verses 6 through 15:
As you therefore have received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in Him, having been firmly rooted and now being built up in Him and established in your faith, just as you were instructed, and overflowing with gratitude.

See to it that no one takes you captive through philosophy and empty deception, according to the tradition of men, according to the elementary principles of the world, rather than according to Christ. For in Him all the fullness of Deity dwells in bodily form, and in Him you have been made complete, and He is the head over all rule and authority; and in Him you were also circumcised with a circumcision made without hands, in the removal of the body of the flesh by the circumcision of Christ; having been buried with Him in baptism, in which you were also raised up with Him through faith in the working of God, who raised Him from the dead. And when you were dead in your transgressions and the uncircumcision of your flesh, He made you alive together with Him, having forgiven us all our transgressions, having canceled out the certificate of debt consisting of decrees against us and which was hostile to us; and He has taken it out of the way, having nailed it to the cross. When He had disarmed the rulers and authorities, He made a public display of them, having triumphed over them through Him.
I see here a sharp contrast between the works of man and those of God. The former consist of "philosophy and empty deception," and traditions rooted in the elementary principles of this world, enforced by rulers and authorities. God's work, by contrast, is organic in character. The believer is identified so completely with Him that he or she is compared to a plant, firmly rooted and growing. Circumcision is shown to be an illustration of the removal of our corrupt nature ("the body of the flesh"), by His work, not ours; and baptism a picture of our own death and resurrection -- also a matter of our complete identification with Him. Disarmed rulers and authorities, made a public spectacle? Certificates of debt nailed to the cross? Yes, yes, yes! Bring it on. It is, as they say, all good.

And now, you are invited to click here for more Words for Wednesday.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Like Capone Going Down for Tax Evasion

At this exact moment, I believe this is still "my" Congresscritter: Marky-Mark Souder. Tomorrow, probably not.

His crimes are many. First elected in the 1994 Republican Revolution (ha!), he promised to self-term-limit. He lied, of course. No one was a bigger Drug Warrior -- thanks a lot, Mark, I guess I didn't need that old Fourth Amendment anyway. He explained to us all that since he was such a Conservative Christian™, it was Israel ├╝ber alles; you'd have thought he held a seat-for-life in the Knesset, not the Congress. (Given the power of the Lobby, maybe he did.) The corporate bailouts? Souder was fully on-board; after all, there's a Chevy truck plant in the 3rd district. TARP? Marky assured us all that the "assets" were worth 95 cents on the dollar, easy. And what a guy for taking care of the People's Truly Pressing Business! Thanks to Souder's efforts, Interstate 469 is now officially known as the "Ronald Reagan Expressway," complete with several costly signs saying so.

But I must admit that the very first thing that comes to my mind, when I hear the name of my Congressional representation, is the Global War on Terror. Yes, indeed, a stauncher warrior -- in the modern American mode, you understand -- could not be imagined. Mr. Souder, an official conscientious objector during the Vietnam war, in which he had the personal opportunity to defend the beaches of Southern California from the Red Gook Menace, did not allow consistency -- that hobgoblin of small minds -- to cramp his style. Surely no one this side of Darth Cheney lusted more fiercely after the blood of any (and every) Ay-rab than Mark the Armchair Destroyer.

Anyway, it seems entirely inappropriate that Mark Souder's crime career should be ended by a relatively humble sin of the flesh. The guy announced his resignation today, his voice choked with self-pitying tears; now that he was finally convinced that he could cover up his pecadillo no more, he was indeed sorry to have been caught, and to have his fangs pried loose forever from the bloodstream of worldly power. What should scandalize people is mass murder by proxy; what in fact dooms Marky is adultery. Wrong? Sure. Sinful? Absolutely. But in the mundane order of this world, you'd think that the needless, criminal slaughter of hundreds of thousands of people would be what would vex us. Tragically, you'd be mistaken.

Various folk around here have expressed their kind thoughts about Mr. Souder's family, as well as the staffer and her family. I don't disagree with the sentiment. But I think I'll have to reserve my tender thoughts for this girl and her family. To me, this is what Souder, and all but a very, very few in Washington, have to answer for. If the soon-to-be-former Congressman wants to repent of his sins against God and his fellow man, here's where he might profitably start.

Monday, May 17, 2010

Dubya's Third Term Marches Inexorably On

At last, I understand why some people are all exercised over Barack Obama's birth certificate. It's not a question of where he was born, though ... the real question is, does he exist at all? I think probably not. Given the evidence -- what's gone on since the Chosen One's inauguration -- the most likely explanation is that Cheney's still running things. And rather than working with the flesh-and-blood dunce/sock-puppet Booosh, he's now operating with a CGI avatar. Yes, I think that "Mr. Obama" could be better characterized not as the "Chosen One," but as the "Generated One." Today's evidence:
"The United States will continue to work with our international partners, and through the United Nations Security Council, to make it clear to the Iranian government that it must demonstrate through deeds -- and not simply words -- its willingness to live up to international obligations or face consequences, including sanctions," Gibbs said. "Iran must take the steps necessary to assure the international community that its nuclear program is intended exclusively for peaceful purposes, including by complying with U.N. Security Council resolutions and cooperating fully with the IAEA.
Yes, through his hopey-changey, ones-and-zeroes, wholly-artificial frontman, Cheney is still working on his next war. I wonder what the chances are that Israel The Precious will be called upon by the "Security" Council to demonstrate that its nuclear program is peaceful? (Or, as far as that goes, the United State of America?) Don't think I'll hold my breath, waiting for either of those to happen.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

TSA-Free Travel

As I mentioned in my previous post, I am freshly returned from a spot of job-related travel -- in this case, to Rochester, New York. I'm here to tell you, incidentally, that Rochester is wonderfully well provided with excellent non-chain Italian restaurants. I dined last evening, for example, at Agatina's, where I enjoyed something called "Chicken Wellington" that was just incredibly good ... it's probably a good thing I don't live there, else I'd be even fatter than I am. I "selected" this restaurant by coming out of the workplace, kind of late and tired and hungry, and asking Miss Garmin, the GPS Lady, to direct me to the nearest Italian restaurant (it was 0.8 miles, as it turns out). What a town -- pick a totally random restaurant, and you just can't miss! And did I mention the Yuengling's beer? No? Well, it was really tasty, too.

But I digress. Rochester is almost-but-not-quite 500 miles from the Fort. However, I had to go on (very) short notice, and I needed to carry a couple of fairly heavy pieces of test equipment with me. So instead of doing the usual airport thing, I asked my employer to rent me a car and find me a place to sleep, and I drove there and back. It's about eight hours' driving time each way, so you pretty much use up a day each, coming and going. In the past, when I've flown there, it involves a feeder flight to Detroit (or Cleveland), and a second flight from there to Rochester; and what with all the chicken guano involved in air travel these days, it uses up a day each way. In fact, I suspect the full trip by air probably takes (a little) more time than the trip by road took me. And, driving, I didn't see a single overupholstered TSA goon all day long; nor was my bag pawed through; nor did I walk through an electronic stripper machine.

I'm smiling.

And, if at all possible, I'll never board another commercial aircraft again. It's a shame the airlines are no doubt "too big to fail."

The Word for Thursday, May 13

Of course, I'm routinely late with this, but I have a slightly better excuse than usual -- I was traveling this week for the day job, and I'm one of the three or four remaining Americans who doesn't travel with a laptop computer. So my internet access was essentially zero this week.

Having just returned, and having cooked and eaten a little supper, I believe I'll relax with a psalm. Psalm 2, specifically:
Why are the nations in an uproar,
And the peoples devising a vain thing?
The kings of the earth take their stand,
And the rulers take counsel together
Against the Lord and against His Anointed:
"Let us tear their fetters apart,
And cast away their cords from us!"

He who sits in the heavens laughs,
The Lord scoffs at them.
Then He will speak to them in His anger
And terrify them in His fury:
"But as for Me, I have installed My King
Upon Zion, My holy mountain."

"I will surely tell of the decree of the Lord:
He said to Me, 'Thou art My Son,
Today I have begotten Thee.
Ask of Me, and I will surely give the nations as Thine inheritance,
And the very ends of the earth as Thy possession.
Thou shalt break them with a rod of iron,
Thou shalt shatter them like earthenware.' "

Now therefore, O kings, show discernment;
Take warning, O judges of the earth.
Worship the Lord with reverence,
And rejoice with trembling.
Do homage to the Son, lest He become angry, and you perish in the way.
For His wrath may soon be kindled,
How blessed are all those who take refuge in Him!
Well, then as now, the kings and rulers of the earth are big on taking counsel together and devising vain things. Showing discernment, taking warnings, worshipping the Lord, doing homage to the Son? Well, not so much. But I really don't want to get diverted toward the bloody and futile realm of politics this evening. What jumps out at me here is the "rejoice with trembling." It sounds almost self-contradictory, does it not? And yet, in three words, it catches (I think) the essence of Christian devotion. God is so completely unlike us that any real encounter with Him involves trembling on out part. But because He is so completely good, and because of what He has done for us, and is doing for us, and will do for us, the rejoicing part is joined so inseparably to the trembling that they might as well be welded together. Really, they are two aspects of a single thing: worship.

Click here for more Words for Wednesday.

Thursday, May 06, 2010

Yet Another Thing That I Don't Get

Serving as a sort of court chaplain to a mass-murder organization must bring with it some sort of cachet, I suppose. Otherwise, why would Graham the Younger desire the position so strongly?
Evangelist Franklin Graham prayed on a sidewalk outside the Pentagon Thursday after his invitation to a prayer service inside was withdrawn because of comments that insulted people of other religions.

Graham's invitation to attend an event inside the Defense Department for national prayer day was withdrawn two weeks ago.

But he arrived in the Pentagon parking lot just before 8 a.m. EDT — his party of a half dozen people forming a circle on the sidewalk and praying with heads bowed for about five minutes.

Graham once called Islam evil. He told an impromptu press conference Thursday outside the Pentagon that he prayed for the men and women of the armed forces and that he doesn't feel his statements about other religions have been offensive.
I'm guessing it runs in the family -- after all, Franklin's more-famous dad was adept at becoming a courtier to numerous presidents over the years. But, in any case, now the Pentagram's had an Official Graham Blessing™, and Franklin has his reward:
"And when you pray, you are not to be as the hypocrites; for they love to stand and pray in the synagogues and on the street corners, in order to be seen by men. Truly I say to you, they have their reward in full."

--- Jesus, from Matthew 6:5

Tuesday, May 04, 2010

The Word for Tuesday, May 4

I thought I'd go early this week, for semester-end business with the evening job seems likely to consume that portion of Wednesday that the day job doesn't eat up. Wednesday looks to be pretty thoroughly subscribed this week.

I don't have a "weapons" passage to quote this week, having come to the end of the New Testament. So, rather than consider a specific passage, I believe I'll think out loud here, a little, on what I've read.

Why not, one might ask, start in on the Old Testament? For one thing, there's the magnitude of the task. There's a lot of Old Testament there. For another, I think I can reasonably well sum up the evidence to be found there: yes, there's tons and tons of swords and spears in the Old Testament. To read it is to wade a whole ocean of gore. And it seems to me that a fair summary of the interpersonal violence in the Old Testament is this: when God tells you to do it, it's the thing to do, and it works out well. And when He doesn't, it works out very badly indeed. So, if God sends an angel, or a vision, telling me to arm myself and slay, that's what I'll be doing. (Such a message will need to be highly explicit, and probably repeated a few times.) Otherwise, I think I'll pass.

In the meantime, He hasn't given me any specific, individual instruction. What I have instead are the believer's usual and customary decision-making tools: the inner witness of the Spirit; the testimony of scripture; the counsel of the godly; and reason, informed by and subsidiary to faith.

I think, too, that there are contextual questions to be answered. Clearly, I'm thinking of firearms here; while there are other weapons (and potent ones, too), I have no skill in their use ... and, truth to tell, no very advanced firearms skills, either. Assuming that one concludes that interpersonal violence without special divine direction is condemned by the scriptures, does this mean that firearms ownership is not permissible? Or are recreational shooting (range work) and hunting acceptable? Although I'm thinking of firearms, why should we not consider other weapons, and potential weapons, as well? (That could get tricky -- it's hard to run a kitchen without some large, sharp knives.) How about axes and shovels and baseball bats, all of which are horrendous close-quarters weapons, as well as being very handy for woodcutting and digging and playing ball.

I have yet to seek the counsel of the godly, in any systematic way. (Note that comments can be left here.) So that remains to be done. And then there's the Spirit, who will help me to pray as I should, and may perhaps give me the answer as well.

When I reach some conclusions, I'll no doubt blog about them here. Meanwhile, I'll "move on" in WFW posts in the near-term future. And click here for more Words for Wednesday.