Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Tis the Season to be Offended

Originally published in American Thinker on December 23, 2015.

            This is the time of year when news of people being offended by Christian symbols reaches a high point. Progressives view complaints about a “war on Christmas” as manufactured. Barack Obama commented on this in 2006:

This notion that's peddled by the religious right -- that they are oppressed -- is not true. Sometimes it's a cynical ploy to move their agenda ahead. The classic example being that somehow secularists are trying to eliminate Christmas, which strikes me as some kind of manufactured controversy.

            Most of these “manufactured” offenses take place in schools, the media, the military, and government bureaucracies. When some of its more extreme examples are exposed to the public the first reaction is to deny they happened. It appears that the government is attempting to eradicate all mention of Christianity without drawing excessive attention to their program. Professor James Hitchcock has written, “Far from being neutral, the American government is now in the position of favoring unbelief over belief and irreligion over religion.” When there is media attention to their efforts and a strong reaction they tend to deny that they were establishing a new policy.
            There are countless examples of government efforts to remove any reference to the Christian religion. A military diversity training officer instructed a group of U.S. soldiers at Camp Shelby, Miss., not to use the word "Christmas." This officer told the troops she was affirming Army rules. After the episode became public the Public Affairs Chief of the post explained, "There is no policy at the 158th Infantry Brigade, First Army Division East, or First Army that forbids using the word 'Christmas.'" It was all a misunderstanding.
            The Veterans Administration has also stepped into the fray. When a group of children made homemade Christmas cards for patients in a Dallas VA hospital they were informed by a hospital spokesperson “We're thrilled to have them, except the only thing is, we can't accept anything that says ‘Merry Christmas' or ‘God bless you' or any scriptural references because of all the red tape.” A VA spokesperson quoted the Veterans Health Administration handbook:

In order to be respectful of our veterans' religious beliefs, all donated holiday cards are reviewed by a multi-disciplinary team of staff led by chaplaincy services and determined if they are appropriate (non-religious) to freely distribute to patients. We regret this process was not fully explained to this group and apologize for any misunderstanding.

            The Augusta VA hospital has banned some Christmas carols. Hospital spokesman Brian Rothwell announced, "VA policy is welcoming but respectful of all faiths and the protection of each veteran's right to religious freedom and protection from unwelcomed religious material, to their individual beliefs." Therefore, high school students from Augusta's Alleluia Community School were prohibited from singing such songs as "Silent Night" and "O Come All Ye Faithful". Even instrumental versions of religious music has been banned. A school superintendent banned an instrumental version of "Ave Maria" at a public school graduation. The chief of staff of Walter Reed National Medical Center banned family members from bringing Bibles to the facility. Col. Chuck Callahan’s memo stated, “No religious items (i.e., Bibles, reading materials and/or artifacts) are allowed to be given away or used during a visit.” After the memo became public the hospital released a statement saying that it was worded “improperly” and, “We apologize for any confusion the policy may have caused.” A memo from the Salem VA Medical Center states:
…Public areas may only be decorated in a manner that is celebratory of the winter season. Displays must not promote any religion. Please note that trees (regardless of the types of ornaments used) have been deemed to promote the Christian religion and will not be permitted in any public areas this year.
            Efforts to suppress religious observations are not restricted to the holiday season. The Department of Veterans Affairs director of the Houston National Cemetery, Arleen Ocasio, banned saying God or Jesus at funerals. VA Press Secretary Josh Taylor responded, “The idea that invoking the name of God or Jesus is banned at VA national cemeteries is blatantly false.” However, this policy was observed by several witnesses, including Congressman John Culberson.
            Fox News has reported that soldiers at Fort Hood were warned that donating money to evangelical Christian groups or Tea Party groups could result in military punishment. The report claims that an Army Reserve training brief listed Catholics and Evangelical Christians as examples of religious extremism. Training instructions designating religious groups as extremists led Army Secretary John McHugh to write the following memo:
On several occasions over the past few months, media accounts have highlighted instances of Army instructors supplementing programs of instruction and including information or material that is inaccurate, objectionable and otherwise inconsistent with current Army policy.
Examples of intolerance toward religion in the public school are too numerous to count. One example illustrates the technique used by educators to cover their tracks. A teacher in the Willis school district in Houston, Sara Flottman, allegedly confiscated two bibles from students and threw them in the trash. She also allegedly threatened to call Child Protective Service. A school district investigation claimed that the incident never occurred. However, the school’s credibility may be questioned. School Superintendent Kay Karr admitted that Flottman had mentioned calling CPS but that she had said it “in jest.” When disciplining students, it is not a time for humor, especially concerning such dire punishment.
            The national Christmas holiday is gradually being replaced by a “Winter Celebration.” However, this may be too much of a reminder of the Christian holiday. Although it is not in the United States, Winnipeg, Canada, may give us a glimpse of the future. They have replaced their annual Winter Concert with an evening of African drumming.

Monday, December 28, 2015

Finally: Peace in Syria

A hookah smoking caterpillar has given them the call.  Just ask Alice.

According to DIPNOTE, the U.S. Department of State Official Blog, “Our diplomats have been busy, and they have met with significant success across a range of issues – each of these issues vital in their own way to ensuring the safety, security, and prosperity of the American people.”  One of the significant successes is peace in Syria.  “Led by Secretary Kerry, the United States also continues to push for a political transition in Syria, and under his stewardship, in December, the UN Security Council passed a U.S.-sponsored resolution that puts forward a roadmap that will facilitate a transition within Syria to a credible, inclusive, nonsectarian government that is responsive to the needs of the Syrian people.”  This success will follow the State Department’s outstanding success in Libya.

John Kirby the author of the article, “The Year-in-Review: Pivotal Foreign Policy Moments of 2015,” talks about, “the reprehensible human rights violations and violence carried out by the Asad (sic) regime.”  He makes no mention of defeating ISIS, the JV team, probably because it has been “contained.”  There is no mention of the beheadings.  He does not mention the President’s red line or the fact that a Turkish politician has claimed that the Turks supplied the rebels with the poison gas that was used and blamed on the Assad regime.  There is no mention of the oil convoys delivering oil to Turkey (there was abundant satellite evidence of this).  These convoys were allowed to operate until the Russians became involved.  The U.S. military has made mostly cosmetic strikes against ISIS.  ISIS’s heavy weapons were manufactured in the U.S.  There have been numerous accounts claiming that U.S. policy is ineffective and either naive or delusional. I put my money on delusional

The Russian news agency, TASS, has reported that Russian Defense Ministry spokesman Igor Konashenkov has stated that the U.S. is fighting ISIS “in word only” and refuses to transfer data on terrorist targets in Syria to the Russian military.  ISIS has apparently changed the routes of illegal transportation of  oil to run through the north-western regions of Iraq, which "are in the focus of constant attention of the United States."  Russian aircraft have taken out around 2,000 tank trucks operated by the militants.  This led to their change of routes.  It appears that the U.S. area of concentration is safer for the ISIS oil smugglers.

Thursday, December 24, 2015

The RINO Stampede

            The ascendency of Donald Trump has got the Republican establishment in a panic.  Donald Trump is definitely not considered acceptable by the Republican establishment.  But, how Republican is the Republican establishment?  Who is considered an acceptable candidate by the Republican establishment?  Let’s take the case of Colin Powell.  Powell, a former secretary of state, was seriously considered as a possible presidential candidate.  He is what might be considered a “moderate” and electable candidate by the establishment.  Yet Powell appears to have some issues that should be troubling to his supporters.

            Colin Powell sees a “dark vein” of intolerance in the GOP.  Powell told George Stephanopoulos, "I still see it. I still see it in the Republican Party and I still see it in other parts of our country. You don't have to be a Republican to be touched by this dark vein.”  General Powell is troubled by the Tea Party and by extension the Trump candidacy.  He believes they cannot produce a winning candidate.  He has asserted, “the Tea Party point of view of no compromise whatsoever is not a point of view that will eventually produce a presidential candidate who will win.”   He claims, “The party has taken a sharp turn to the right…over the last 10 or 15 years the party has moved increasingly away from someone like me.”

            At the same time Powell views the Occupy Wall Street protests, “as American as apple pie.” They are who we are.  “We’ve been marching up and down and demonstrating throughout our history.”  Tea Party demonstrations, however, just don’t pass the pie test.  Powell believes in a “big tent.”  How big is this tent?

Saturday, December 12, 2015

The Trump Mystique

            Establishment Republicans appear to be baffled by Donald Trump’s staying power.  They are, “clinging to hope that the Trump phenomenon may yet fade.”  Every comment Trump makes is immediately jumped on by the media and even his fellow Republicans and twisted to produce maximum damage.  However, these attacks only appear to increase his appeal.  The establishment attributes Trump’s appeal to the ignorance of the Republican base.  They are clinging to their bibles and guns.  Rob Stutzman, a GOP consultant in Sacramento, attributes Trump’s success to a, “core of non-college-educated segment of the party that’s adhering to his irrational and dangerous rhetoric and has the potential to hold the party back.”  The Democrats’ base is composed of an elite and a large underclass. Do Democrats ever comment on the ignorance of their base?

            Originally dismissed as a joke, the establishment is now deathly afraid that he will win the nomination.  The RNC demanded Trump sign a pledge to stay with the Republican Party.  However, the RNC did not sign a pledge to stay with the nominee chosen by the Republican base.  Establishment Republicans are now considering a “brokered convention.”  Trump is accused of “tearing apart the party.”  However, it appears that it is the establishment that is tearing the party apart.  Since the polling began candidates that can clearly be described as establishment rarely have achieved a combined total of more than 30%. 

            The establishment prefers “moderate” candidates.  Bob Dole, John McCain, Mitt Romney and Jeb Bush are their preferred candidates.  They are also losers.  Part of their problem is their unwillingness to attack their Democrat opponents.  Joe Biden commenting on the third presidential debate of the 2012 election stated, "Half the time, in this last debate, I didn't know whether or not Gov. Romney was there to debate Barack Obama or endorse Barack Obama.”  No one will suggest that Donald Trump would endorse his opponent.  Trump has made several “outrageous” statements.  After the media have distorted what he has said, the expected response is for the target to grovel and beg for forgiveness.  That is not Trump’s style.  Many people find this refreshing.

            Many of Trump’s policy suggestions are described as impractical.  However, his policies can be contrasted to the progressive policies now in place.  These policies are in effect supported by establishment Republicans and funded through omnibus budget bills.  The administration’s policies are frequently counterproductive - even administration supporters are realizing this.  The administration’s refugee policies and Guantanamo prisoner released policy are receipts for disaster.  Yet the establishment is expending its energy on attacking Trump.

            The stakes are high in this contest.  The corruption is so deep that the establishment cannot allow an “outsider” to gain control.  The establishment has been able to enlist “conservatives” to its cause.  Rep. Darrell Issa stated, “I think when we denounce him as the buffoon that he is, voters have to decide.  You have everyone from the speaker of the House to both conservative and moderate Republicans, in addition to all the Democrats, denouncing [Trump].”  It is early in this campaign.  As time goes by the attacks will become more vicious.  A “famous” rapper has already called for the assassination of Trump and a board member for the American Civil Liberties Union of Colorado has resigned after urging people to kill supporters of presidential candidate Donald Trump.  If Trump is nominated we can expect civil disturbances encouraged by the media.  The Attorney General has not commented on these matters.  She is more concerned with remarks that are critical of Islam.

Sunday, December 6, 2015

Civilizations Die From Suicide, Not Murder – Arnold Toynbee

            In 1906 orientalist Franz Cumont speculated on the future of Europe based upon his knowledge of the Roman Empire.  At the time his speculations must have seemed absurd:

Let us suppose that in modern Europe the faithful had deserted the Christian churches to worship Allah or Brahma; let us imagine a great confusion of all the races of the world in which Arabian mullahs, Chinese scholars, Japanese bonzes, Tibetan lamas and Hindu pundits would be preaching fatalism and predestination, ancestor-worship and devotion to a deified sovereign, pessimism and deliverance through annihilation - a confusion in which all those priests would erect temples of exotic architecture in our cities and celebrate their disparate rites therein.  Such a dream, which the future may perhaps realize, would offer a pretty accurate picture of the religious chaos in which the ancient world was struggling before the reign of Constantine.

            Comedian ‪John Cleese has declared, “London is no longer English city.”   ‬This fundamental transformation is being fueled by immigration, low birth rates among the native populations and high birth rates by immigrants.  John Derbyshire declared, “If you go to a big hospital in a British city, the geriatric ward is full of old white English people; the ob-gyn ward is wall to wall burkas and headscarves. The country's gone; there are just a few years left. It's a tragedy, the death of a nation … by suicide.”

            This transformation would not be a significant problem if the immigrants assimilated with the host country.  Prior waves of immigrants were grateful to be accepted by the hoist country and for the most part attempted to blend in.  Mark Steyn in his America Alone gives an example of Nada Farooq who he claims “is typical of a significant minority of young Muslims: raised in the West by ‘moderate Muslim’ parents, she is, unlike them, ferociously Muslim, Islamist, jihadist.”  It appears that the offspring of many immigrants are being radicalized.  Claire Berlinski has claimed that “so many immigrants view assimilation as something literally worse than death.”  She also points out, “Islam’s vitality is such that it is now the fastest-growing religion among native Britons.”

            Steyn quotes a Times of London commissioned poll of British Muslims conducted on the anniversary of the July 7, 2005, Tube bombings.  The poll found, “13 percent think that the four men who carried out the bombings should be regarded as ‘martyrs.’”  Steyn states, “If 7 percent think suicide attacks on civilians are justified, that’s 70,000 potential supporters in Britain’s  capital city.”  It is now punishable to criticize Islam.  This politically correct attitude is codified in the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.  It was adopted by General Assembly in Resolution 61/295 on 13 September 2007.  The declaration claims:      

            Indigenous peoples are equal to all other peoples, while recognizing the right of all peoples to be different, to consider themselves different, and to be respected as such.
             All peoples contribute to the diversity and richness of civilizations and cultures, which constitute the common heritage of humankind.
            All doctrines, policies and practices based on or advocating superiority of peoples or individuals on the basis of national origin or racial, religious, ethnic or cultural differences are racist, scientifically false, legally invalid, morally condemnable and socially unjust.

            At the risk of sounding like a Nazi, this is utter nonsense.  It is not believed by even the dimmest Somali.  People are fleeing places like Mogadishu for Malmo, Sweden and not vice versa.  Haitians bypass the socialist paradise of Cuba on their way to Miami.