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Tuesday, March 22, 2011

The Smart Folks who are unfit to either govern or inform America

Today, while driving home, I listened to Washington's oracle of record, WTOP news, the radio avatar of the _Washington Post_. Commentator Mark Plotkin, a respected political pundit, expected me to laugh when he spoke of Sarah Palin's "gaffe" of being able to see Russia from her window.

Well, the usually intelligent-sounding Mr. Plotkin made himself, and by extension his employers, look pretty dang THTOOOOOOOOPID.

My mother and uncle were from Norse--oops, North-- Dakota, and would speak of Canadians as "neighbors", even though a good few miles of American wheatfields separated their old homestead from Line Forty-Nine. Given that Big and Little Diomede Islands in the Bering Sea are scarcely five miles apart, the USA and Russia do indeed share a border, albeit a maritime rather than land one. Hence, Mrs. Palin's saying she can see Russia from her window is a perfectly understandable figure of speech when coming from an Alaskan. Far more dangerous would be an Alaskan politician seeking national limelight while thinking that Russia is "far away". After all, the Alaskan indigenous Yupik and Aleut peoples also live in Russian territory, while before and after Vitus Bering, Aleuts were trading with Ainu people living in the southern Kuril islands. At least give Mrs. Palin credit for knowing her own state.

Plotkin's expectation that people who listen to WTOP news or read the _Washington Post_ should titter at Mrs. Palin's supposed ignorance of world affairs reveals something shockingly dangerous about supposedly "internationally sophisticated" Washingtonians: they look out from their windows and see only one of the two Oceans washing their country's shores, and probably understand only the safe zones of Western Europe when they venture abroad. While such a class of people were adequate leaders for the era from the Civil War to Woodrow Wilson, when Alaska could be written off as "Seward's Folly" and Siberia a mere icebox into which successive Russian regimes dumped criminals and dissidents, they are today a liability in a world in which no place is more than 24 hours away.

Please, Mr. Plotkin, stop making us Washington-area folks look provincial and ignorant.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Oh, No! Now we've done it

Now we've done it. To save the Libyan "populace", we have taken out Moammar Qaddafi's air defenses, and now our anti-war President Obama has gotten us into a third war in the Islamic world, and not to help any proven or trustworthy ally. We are involved, and, win or lose, we will take the blame for whatever outcome happens. If ever there were conflicts which called for dusting off traditions of neutrality, they are the internal conflicts of the Dar-ul Islam.

Among the towns controlled by the Libyan rebels is Darna, which some time back was identified as a favorite Qaeda recruiting ground. So, we are now investing young American lives in saving mothers whose self-professed greatest joy was to have their sons blow themselves up in order to kill Americans. Indeed, as far as Uncle Cephas can tell, both sides in the Libyan conflict are self-professed haters of America and all that the USA stands for.

Obama has been criticized for being a "do-nothing" president in international affairs and for surrendering the American lead. Even the Statist and Democratic Socialist-leaning Washington Post has printed columns accusing him of being a "muddled puddle" on the "looming humanitarian catastrophe" in Libya (Richard Cohen comes to mind). Yet, perhaps, this WAS a point where Obama may have been wiser; and one one which he sacrificed a possibly sound intuition (rather than inaction due to muddle-headedness about foreign affairs?) for the sake of a dubious image as a president who supposedly exemplifies decisiveness and toughness as well as compassion.

Unlike the younger Bush, who had to respond to the worst attack on the USA since Pearl Harbor, Obama can point to no important national interest in joining the fight to depose Qaddafi--who, clownish though he may have been, seemed capable of learning a lesson or two following Reagan's air attacks in retaliation for the 1983 airline bombings; and who scrapped the development of nuclear weapons following the younger Bush's toppling of Sadam Hussein. As for oil, whoever might have won the Libyan civil war prior to the engagement of France and its allies would have known that the only thing Libya can do with its oil is sell it. As for the tranquility of Mediterranean shipping lanes, Libya has not been a pirate haven for some time.

Do not count on the gratitude of the Libyan rebels should they win with American and other allied help. Both Bosniaks and Kosovars have exported their national pathologies. Both have contributed to making Malmo, Sweden in to the rape capital of Europe. The Somali immigrant community--planted in response to the failure of the Somali state after the death of Said Barry, have given headaches from refusing cab service to people with seeing-eye dogs to demands for employers to respect times of Islamic prayer to open witch-hunting for homosexuals. Bosnia-Herzegovina has also become a back-door conduit for Islamicist militancy in Europe.

The US had no dog in the Libyan fight. It now has chosen to back the champion rabid flea-breeder against the mangy, rabid cur.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Hands off Libya

Uncle Cephas has no great regard for Moammar Qaddafi. He was always a bloody minded dictator, sponsor of terrorism, a first class SOB, and, back in the Cold War days, the Soviet Bloc's SOB. However, the USA would be well-advised to refrain from following France's lead in recognizing the interim rebel government. It would be best to remember John Adams' advice to be well-wisher to liberty everywhere, but champion only of our own.

There seems to be little public information on who the rebels are, who leads them, and the nature of the new Libya they hope to produce. Talk of the "democratic" nature of the recent revolutions in Tunisia and Egypt neglect to note how the revolutionary forces were quick to attack Jewish targets in Tunisia and Christian ones in Egypt--very much in character with mass movements in the Islamic world during the past couple of centuries, if not more. A few things already indicate that Islamic supremacism informs Qaddafi's foes in Libya as well (not to say that Qaddafi has much respect for any expressions of non-Islamic belief in Libya), in that they've already burned the dictator in effigy--with a Magen David attached.

Attempts to foster democracy in Iraq and Afghanistan have made things worse for the Christian and Mandaean minorities in the former and have changed nothing for the clandestine religious minorities in the latter. The latter is especially rife with corruption since the ouster of the Taliban, and America's Afghan allies seem little inclined to find and bring in Osama Bin Laden or Mullah Omar. And intervention in Libya would probably uncover an equally unpromising morass. Further, the Islamic world tends to grow more anti-American in direct proportion to American support for regimes or movements in that area.

Let events in Libya play out as the powers in place in that country determine. We do not have a horse in that race.

Monday, March 7, 2011

Evangelicals and Orthodox

A commenter recently noted that the Russian Orthodox Church is fiercely anti- Evangelical. This might be a time when Uncle Cephas might way in on why this is so.

The Christian world tends to divide along the lines of Evangelical vs. Sacerdotal. The Evangelical camp emerged into plain view during the 16th century, following the Reformations led respectively by Martin Luther and Huldreich Zwingli in Saxony and Switzerland. Before that time, certain Evangelical movements arose from time to time in the Christian West, only to fade into obscurity through persecution by those churches centered on either Rome or Constantiople; although such groups as the Waldensians in the Alps, Lollards in Britain, and Hussites in the Western Slavic lands of Europe managed to survive long enough to fall into the orbit of the Lutheran and Reformed churches of the Reformation. Hence, the polemic of both Rome and the Faner against Evangelicalism centers on the historical continuity of the Roman and Faneriot communions, as well as the supposed power their institutional clergy have over the sacraments as means of grace.

The understanding of the sacraments and the power of a priesthood lie at the center of the sacerdotalist-Evangelical controversy. The sacerdotal churches believe that the seven sacraments of baptism, the eucharist (Lord's Supper), confirmation, confession and absolution, marriage, ordination, and extreme unction were given as means by which the grace of Christ is infused into the believer via the work of an ordained priesthood who, in an unbroken line descending back to the Apostles of Christ themselves, are the sole means where by the Holy Spirit is diffused to the church. As stewards of the sacraments, the clergy are able to give or withold divine grace.

The rediscovery of Scripture in Europe between the time of Wycliffe in 14th century England and the Reformation of the 16th and 17th centuries opened the eyes of many to serious conflicts between the Scriptures and the official line of the established churches. People read the words of Paul in First Corinthians 15:

"Moreover brethren, I declare unto you the gospel which I preached unto you, which also ye have received, and wherein ye stand; by which ye are saved, if ye keep in memory what I preached unto you, unless ye have believed in vain. For I delivered unto you first of all that chich I also received, how that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures; And that he was buried, and that he rose again the third day according to the Scriptures: and that he was een of Cephas (Peter), then of the twelve: After that he was seen of above five hundred brethren at once; of whom the greater part remain unto this present, but some are fallen asleep. After that, he was een of James; then of all the apostles. And last of all he was seen of me also..."

They read as well in the words of the Apostle Peter:

"[you all] Being born again, not of corruptible seed, but of uncorruptible, by the word of God, which liveth and abideth for ever,
For all flesh is as grass,
and all the glory of man as the flower of grass.
The grass withereth, and the flower thereof fadeth away:
But the word of the Lord endureth for ever [Isaiah 40:6]
And this is the word which by the Gospel is preached unto you" (I Peter 1:24-25).

In such text, they see that the power of salvation is mediated to man not by an institution or ceremony, but by the Word of God. Hence, the Evangelical movement, especially that portion that traces its development through men like Zwingli, Knox, and Calvin, became Bible- rather than church-centered in their way of thinking. While the church remained an important institution, it could be challenged and reformed by Scriptural teaching.

To this, the sacerdotal churches replied that God is known through the traditions of the church as well as by Scripture. But the Evangelicals were quick to counter that the traditions of the church caused divisions over how monks and clergy wore their hair or beards, the use of leavened or unleavened bread in the eucharist, vestments, and many other issues over which Scripture is silent. Calvin noted how while the Greek churches criticized the Roman for worshipping carved statues, no other communion indulged in the veneration of pictures (icons) as much as the Greek.

Following Scriptural teaching, the Reformed churches saw only Baptism and the Lord's Supper (the eucharist) as instituted by Christ as means of distinguishing Christians, challenged all use of images in worship, and established a variant system of doctrine of which more will be said at other times.

Essentially, the question dividing the evangelical and sacerdotal churches is this: who saves sinners? Christ, or the church? The latter says that the church and its ministrations saves; the latter that Christ alone saves.