Monday, September 19, 2011

Hitchens and Compulsory Garmes

I’ve been reading the melancholy Hitch 22, “A Memoir” by Christopher Hitchens.  On page 48 he writes of Stanford in 1987.  “The impression of first-day-at-school in its grand quads was only enhanced by the effort of my old friend Edward Said with whom I was visiting the campus for a conference, to encourage me to feel more at home.  ‘Come on,’ he said, ‘we’ll go and take cocktail from Ian Watt.’”  I was made additionally nervous by the thought of introduction to this dry, wry, and donnish figure, the world’s expert on Joseph Conrad and author of The Rise of the Novel. . . .”

“Watt . . . was one of the few survivors of The Bridge on the River Kwai, The Burma Railroad, Changi Jail in Singapore, and other Hirohito horrors that I still capitalize in my mind. . . he told me the following tale, which I set down with hope that it captures his memorably laconic tone of voice:

‘Well, we were in a cell that was probably built for six but was holding about sixteen of us.  There wasn’t much food, and we hadn’t been given any water for quite a while.  The heat was absolutely ferocious.  Dysentery had begun to take its toll, which was distinctly disagreeable at such close quarters. . .

‘Added to this unpleasantness, we could hear one of our number being rather badly beaten by the Japanese guards, with rifle-butts it seemed, in their guardroom down the corridor.  At this rather trying moment one of my young subalterns, who’d managed to fall asleep, started screaming and flailing and yelling.  He was shouting: “No, no – please don’t... Not any more, not again, Oh God please.”  Hideous noises like that.  I had to take a snap decision to prevent panic, so I ordered the sergeant to slap him and wake him up.  When he came to, he apologized for being a bore but brokenly confessed that he’d dreamed he was back at Tonbridge.’”

“. . . Watt went on to recall an interview with the other old Asia hand E.M. Forster, in which he’d been asked, as an ‘old boy’ of Tonbridge School, whether he would ever agree to write an article for the school magazine.  ‘Only . . . if it could be against compulsory games.’  The very phrase ‘compulsory games’ had automatic resonance for me, bringing back not merely the memory of freezing soccer and rugby pitches, and of the gloating sadists who infested the changing-rooms that were the aftermath of these pointless contest, but also W. H. Auden’s suggestive line . . .

‘And helpless governors wake

‘To resume their compulsory games. . . ‘

“It was indeed Auden – who had been a master at such a school as well as having been a pupil at one – who had said that the experience had given him an instructive understanding of what it would be like to live under fascism.”

There was a time when I was part of Chuck Colson’s “Prison Fellowship” to the extent that I wrote to a few prisoners.  I discovered myself justifying my ability to relate to their situations by describing my experiences in Marine Corps’ boot camp.  Of course this needed to be treated carefully, at least I thought it did, because at the end of sixteen weeks of Boot Camp I became a Marine, but after they served as many years, perhaps, in Prison, what did they become? 

And again I could relate to these descriptions of Hitchens by my having gone from a condition of virtually unlimited freedom to a Boot Camp in which every waking and sleeping moment was controlled by “gloating sadists.”  

I stood up better than most under the sadistic-like ministrations of my drill instructors, and, I admit, I didn’t understand them at the time.  I thought (to myself) that something more sensible and “logical” would have worked better.  Only later did I see the sense of “Boot Camp.”  But I take it that Auden, Hitchens, and perhaps Watt never saw the sense of Tonbridge (and Leys).  It is like a red badge of courage to have made it through Marine Corps Boot Camp, but what is it like to have made it through Tonbridge which is still going strong and demanding higher entrance fees than any school comparable, if there is one? 

Hitchens attended Leys, but it seems to have had similar “Compulsory Games.”  No doubt Hitchens makes special note of them because as he has told us he hated and was no good at sports of any kind.  Maybe if I was no good at marching, shooting a rifle, and learning the various things necessary to being a Marine I would have hated it as well.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Karl Albrecht Schachtschneider on Sharia Law

Karl Albrecht Schachtschneider, Professor of Law at Erlangen-Nurnbert University, and well-known critic of the EU is here interviewed by the RT:

Schachtschneider has a poor opinion of the European Union and its currency, but at one point the reporter asked, “Multiculturalism has failed, say European leaders. But what are the actual consequences of that failure?”

Schachtschneider responded with “If by multiculturalism you mean people from southern Europe, Germany, northern Europe, Hungary, Poland, Russia, all European nations, living together, then no, it has not failed. There is no problem at all.

“The problem is with the Muslims. It’s not the people who constitute the problem, but Islam. And Islam comes with Muslim people. They build active groups that promote Islam and advocate the establishment of Sharia law. And Sharia law, particular its criminal section, is absolutely impossible for European relationships. We have religious pluralism in Europe and not a single religion is dominant. But Islam is the religion that tolerates another religion as long as it has no power.

“Secularization was the biggest political event for Europe. It meant that state and church were divided and no one is entitled to impose its religion. I am determined against any tolerance of Sharia law. But it has nothing to do with tolerating Muslim people.”

Shariah court established in Antwerp

A shariah court has been established in Antwerp, Belgium to handle marriage disputes and inheritance issues if requested by the parties involved in lieu of a civil court hearing.

The court opened at the insistence of a radical Islamic group called “Sharia 4 Belgium,” according the Belgian news outlet Het Laatste Nieuws (HLN). . . .”

“De Coninck did concede, however, that it would have been better if this particular Shariah court weren’t championed by radical fundamentalists– in this case, with a history of calling for the Islamization of Europe and support for the proclamation of Al Qaeda terrorist Anwar Awlaki.

“In the past, Sharia 4 Belgium has promoted online Jihad videos and invited Belgians to convert to Islam lest they wait for the Islamic conquest and become forced to live out their lives as dhimmis (distantly second-class citizens).

“Despite that ideological background, the group claim to be non-violent.

“Belgian right-wing politician Vlaams Belang does not accept that this Shariah court is merely a benign mediator, and said recently that (translated from HLN):

“‘This court is a new step in the Islamization of Antwerp… you certainly can’t have a parallel system of Sharia courts developing besides the official judicial bodies, which judges based on principles which clash with the values of our democratic constitutional state.’”


One of the primary duties of any government is to protect its citizens against enemies.  Belgium didn’t do a very good job of that prior to World War II and isn’t doing a good job now.  What mind set or set of assumptions could Belgium leadership have to invite a group with an announced goal of converting Belgians to Islam before the Islamic conquest to set up shop?  This group obviously believes in that conquest and looks forward to it.  It also believes it appropriate that after the conquest unbelieves should be dhimmis.  There is no softness in Islamic Fundamentalism.  Its goal is to conquer the world for Islam; which includes killing infidels when necessary and later, after the conquest and the killing, making some of the survivors dhimmis. 

I shouldn’t pick on Belgium.  Other European nations are doing the same thing.  They don’t believe Islamic Fundamentalism is a threat.  But then most of these nations didn’t believe Hitler was a threat.  Later, after WWII, many in France turned to Communism as a preferable alternative to Liberal Democracy.  And when the USSR failed many intellectuals turned their interest to the philosophy of Heidegger – an opponent of Liberal Democracy.

Maybe Fukuyama will be proved correct.  Maybe Liberal Democracy will ultimately supersede all other forms of government, but France, Belgium and some other European nations seem bent on trying everything else first. 


Sunday, September 11, 2011

Muslims cheered on 9/11, many still do

“Many Muslims celebrated on 9/11. Many continue to celebrate. Some even want a huge mosque at Ground Zero. Never forget. Never submit.”

“ The area also includes two luxury apartment high-rises that erupted into cheers when the World Trade Center fell on 9/11. Law enforcement has dubbed them the “Taliban Towers.” Investigators routinely find posters and computer screen savers celebrating Osama bin Laden as a hero.

“ Down the street is a Saudi charitable front for al-Qaida once run by bin Laden’s nephew. The U.S. branch of the dangerous Muslim Brotherhood is in the same office park. Farther down in Alexandria is the Saudi madrassa that’s graduated several terrorists, including the al-Qaida operative who plotted to assassinate President Bush.

“ Agents on the ground working the inordinate number of terror cases in the area say it’s no less than the base of operations for the bad guys in America”

COMMENT: Too many anti-American, pro-anyone-who-is-not-American Liberal/Leftists are promoting the same sort of thing David Horowitz has railed against in his Unholy Alliance, Radical Islam and the American Left. Nothing seems to have changed. I recently criticized some disruptive Islamist actions only to have Leftists try to turn the tables on me: It was really disgruntled Jews and Brits who were disruptive. Another searched a You-Tube of the disruption by Muslims of the Zubin Mehta concert in honor of the Queen of Denmark and declared “I don’t see any Muslims.” Maybe he didn’t, but why say that as though the story was being concocted to persecute poor innocent Muslims?

Muslims who attack any part of the West, or seek to undermine it through their “Creeping Sharia” should be opposed. We should also oppose those who defend the nefarious acts of anti-Western Muslims. Those who assert that 9/11 was caused by Americans or Jews are doing just what recent Leftists did on a smaller scale who blamed the disruption of the Zubin Mehta concert on Jews and Brits.

Imagine what our present world would be like if after December 7th 1941, people like our present-day leftists railed at us for causing the attack? Those poor Japanese only attacked us because we were cutting off their supply of oil. We shouldn’t have done that. We should have left their Chinese enterprises alone. It isn’t our business what they do over there. Who are we to challenge the Japanese? Do we think we are better than they are? That’s pure racism!

That, of course, didn’t happen. We went to war against the Japanese, defeated them, and in subsequent years saw them adopt Liberal Democracy patterned on the U.S. model.

After 9/11 Bush launched a war against the Islamists. Islamists didn’t have a single name and it took some research to get their various elements straight, but it didn’t matter. We were able to figure out who are enemies were. We attacked them in Afghanistan and in Iraq. America’s Left-Wing enemies verbally attacked us on cue for not having dotted our i’s and crossed our t’s; what did Saddam Hussein, they demanded, ever do to us. Claire Berlinski’s grandfather was dying at the time ( ). He assessed the attack on 9/11 in these words: “They must pay for it with a city.” We took more than a city. We conquered two antagonistic nations and set them on the road to democracy. Leftists are looking under the table and the other way, but there is every reason to believe that Bush’s “war on terror” provided one of the causes, if not the main impetus for the “Arab Spring.” -- yes, quite a bit more than a city.

In a review of Hitch-22 in “The Australian” David Free writes, “While Noam Chomsky and others construed the attacks as a more or less straightforward response to US foreign policy, Hitchens, seasoned by the Rushdie affair, called the hijackers "nihilists . . . at war with culture as a whole". One of his earliest ripostes to the Chomsky position has stuck in my mind. Noting that September 11 happened to mark the anniversary of the 1973 military coup in Chile -- a CIA-backed enormity that gave democratic Chileans every right to resent the US government -- Hitchens wrote: ‘I don't know any Chilean participant in this great historical struggle who would not rather have died -- you'll have to excuse the expression -- than commit an outrage against humanity that was even remotely comparable to the atrocities in New York, Washington and Pennsylvania.’”

One day after the attack, Hitchen’s wrote, “It was as if Charlie Manson had been made God for a day.”

The Left of course will never agree with such assessments. They will never say anything good about the U.S. or the West. That is a given so there is no point trying to placate them – any more than there is to placate Islamists, shrouding the fact (as the Obama administration seems to be doing) that it was Islamic forces bent on subverting freedom that brought down the twin towers so as not to offend members of the Muslim Brotherhood and their ilk.

An editorial in this morning’s “The Press-Enterprise” begins “America’s institutional memory of Sept, 11, 2001, is shaping up as a sense of loss without context. There seems to be an effort to forget, whether out of revulsion or political correctness, that 19 religious fanatics drove jets full of people and fuel into the Twin Towers and the Pentagon, and crashed another in Pennsylvania. As the nation pays its respects today to the 2,977 innocent victims of the attacks, Americans should also remember that the attacks arose from a totalitarian impulse that free people must defeat.” Some of us do – I don’t know how many.

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Chuck Norris speaks out against Creeping Sharia

It is not only the radical Leftists who foster the creep of Sharia law, it also the people unwilling to speak out for fear of Islamic violence. As we might expect, Chuck Norris is not afraid to stand against these avowed enemies of Liberal Democracy. Here are some excerpts from his article, the first in a series: “. . . many Americans watch on video a Middle Eastern woman allegedly caught in adultery, buried in the ground up to her head and being stoned to death, and think, ‘That could never happen in America.’ But they fail to see how Shariah law has already been enabled and subtly invoked in our country, and that any such induction like it is brought about by understated lukewarm changes, like a frog boiled in a kettle by a slow simmer. . . .”

“In the end, it seems to me we have a choice to believe that Shariah law is, or is not, a pro-Islamic system of civic, religious, moral and social laws, which is being used to run other countries and governments but is not being (nor ever will be) invoked to run ours, based upon the belief that our constitutional republic and Bill of Rights is inferior.

“Many think we should just drink the Kool-Aid and adopt the "very small" changes of Shariah law, as Sheikh Ibrahim Mogra described them when being questioned about its influence in Great Britain: "We're looking at a very small aspect of Sharia for Muslim families when they choose to be governed with regards to their marriage, divorce, inheritance, custody of children and so forth."

“Then again, maybe Sheikh Mogra explained between the lines everything we need to know when he said, "It is very complex. It is not as straightforward as saying that we will have a system [in Britain]. We do not wish to see a parallel system or a separate system of judiciary for Muslims. …”

COMMENT: Norris’s writing is a little hard to follow, but his point seems to be that Muslims have their foot in the door in various Western nations with their “very small” Sharia Law, but their ultimate intention is to replace all previous Legal Systems with full-blown Sharia Law.

Why even bother to say this obvious thing about what Muslims believe? They, after all, admit to this belief. We need to speak out because Left-over Lefties from the Cold War attack anything the U.S. says or does in its own self-interest vis-à-vis Radical Islam or any other enemy. And it is in America’s self-interest to oppose Creeping Sharia.

Listen to these Lefties for only a short time on such a subject as this and you will find them blaming the Jews and blaming the U.S. for acts perpetrated by Radical Islam. This is the same thing Radical Islam does: blame the Jews and blame the U.S. The Lefties claim that they are not in cahoots with Radical Islam and maybe they aren’t. But if they aren’t, why do they dress in the same closet?

Muslims disrupt Israeli philharmonic

One can find a fuller description of what happened at  Muslims around the audience popped up at different times.  Here is a description of the disruptions:

“The concert started as normal and then "a group of 10 to 15 people stood up in the choir stalls [behind the orchestra]," said London lawyer Paul Infield, 56, who was in the audience. “Each person was carrying a white sheet on which had been drawn a letter spelling out 'Free Palestine.' “The group was singing words to the tune of Beethoven's "Ode to Joy" and went quietly when ushers removed them, he said.

“Infield continued his account, saying that many in the audience of close to 6,000 booed, hissed and shouted "Get out!" and "Go home!" along with obscenities. The audience also responded to the protest with slow hand clapping, which is considered an offensive gesture in Britain. Subsequent disruptions, which eventually numbered about half a dozen, were played out in a similar fashion. A man who had silently displayed an Israeli flag was also removed by Royal Albert Hall staff.

And yes, those attending the concert and wishing to hear the music were upset:  “According to Infield, the final disruption of the evening involved some shouting from the gallery about the siege of Gaza, which was silenced with a punch thrown by an adjacent audience member. Both parties were escorted quickly from the premises.”  The man who threw the punch probably isn’t as tolerant of creeping sharia as some in Britain seem to be.

“The British newspaper the Telegraph reported that the group Palestine Solidarity Campaign was responsible for the disturbances.”

And here is a blog I haven’t encountered before “Islamic degradation of civil societies. What was once beautiful and precious is now the battleground for subhumans and savages. In a disgusting display of Islamic Jew-hatred, the BBC was forced to cancel its broadcast of the BBC proms concert at London's Royal Albert Hall for the first time in history.”

That’s rather harsh.  Where does this Citizen Watch person live, I wonder?  After a description of the disruption, not dissimilar from the one above, he concludes, “This is not new -- so many performances by Jewish artists and musicians are disrupted and ruined by these savage neanderthals who would have the whole world living under the bloody and brutal sharia, devoid of love, music, art and happiness.”

I must protest his use of the term “Neanderthals.”  I suspect they were much better behaved than anti-Neanderthal prejudice has allowed.  Recent genetic discoveries prove that they passed some very useful genes down to us.  Muslim disrupters aren’t passing anything useful to us as far as I can tell.


From: [] On Behalf Of Lawrence Helm
Sent: Friday, September 09, 2011 5:37 PM
To: Lit-Ideas
Subject: [lit-ideas] Muslim disrupt Israeli philharmonic concert for Dutch Queen

Maybe you in Britain are used to this and take your usual offense at those of us in the U.S. expressing shock, but someone needs to be ashamed of this sort of behavior – if not the Muslim perpetrators then the permissiveness that permits them to misbehave.

If rather than condemn these clowns you excuse them, and via Google find something comparable happening in the U.S, I’ll save you the trouble.  I would feel the same way if it happened here, and it probably will.  Left-wing Liberalism is everywhere.

Friday, September 9, 2011

Re: Islamism and Creeping Sharia

Lawrence had written: "No, no, no. You may have used the term 'Jihadis and Salafists,' but those deriving from the teachings of Sayyid Qutb prefer 'Islamists' and those deriving from Saudi Wahhab teachings prefer Salafist."

OW (Opposing Writer): My attempt at nomenclature was not meant to label every fundamentalist group but rather to distinguish those groups which strive to establish an Islamic society, and with it a hierarchy of religious and political authority, from those groups which strive to create the conditions where Muslims can practice a pure Islamic faith, without interference from authority, whether religious or political. Lawrence lumps the Khomeini 'movement' with its principle of vilayat-e faqih, or the guardianship of the jurist where both religious and political authority is placed in the hands of a divinely appointed individual, with Qutb and his rejection of the very idea of religious authority.

OW continues: If the goal is to understand whether Sharia courts are a threat to Western civilization, then confusing these two kinds of groups is unhelpful. Whatever you want to call them, groups like al-Qaeda would strongly object to Sharia courts since they presume that some Muslims have authority over other Muslims, and that there is a need to use reason to apply Sharia. For this and other reasons, members of al-Qaeda have declared Shia Muslims as takfir, or heretics, and deserving of death. Lawrence may object to the labels I assign to these two different groups but that does not change the fact that these are two different groups.

Lawrence had written: "Bin Laden was raised a Wahhabi. While fighting against the USSR in Afghanistan he formed "the base" aka Al Quaeda. He was influenced by Sayyid Qutb, but then Sayyid Qutb was a member of the Egyptian Muslim Brothers led by Hassan Al Banna who had been influenced by the Wahhabis who later chose to call their Islamic sect, Salafism."

OW: Yes, Qutb was at one point a member of the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood but left the movement. The Muslim Brotherhood grew out of discontent with the corruption and poverty of Egyptian society and aimed to create an Islamic social organization that provided healthcare, education, support for the poor. The aim was to create a truly Islamic society, not necessarily an Islamic state. As far as I know, the Brotherhood has never officially embraced violence and today explicitly rejects violence and supports democracy. Qutb, and those who follow him, have explicitly embraced violence as a means for overthrowing any authority that threatens the purity of the Islamic faith. For those who follow Qutb, there is no interest in establishing a government or social organizations that would improve the living conditions of Muslims. There is then an important difference between those who follow Qutb, like many in al-Qaeda, and the Muslim Brotherhood or even the official Wahhibism of Saudi Arabia. Again, if the goal is to understand the role Sharia courts might play in the West, it is important to understand these kinds of differences.

Lawrence now writes: What happened to all the other areas of disagreement, I wonder? I didn’t just disagree about labels. Have all the other matters been recast into this new argument? Notice the title Islamism and Creeping Sharia. How does that relate to your attempt to "distinguish those groups which strive to establish an Islamic society, and with it a hierarchy of religious and political authority, from those groups which strive to create the conditions where Muslims can practice a pure Islamic faith, without interference from authority, whether religious or political? Why not continue to see the agreement or disagreement between Islamism and Creeping Sharia? What you present is a new subject.

The second group of yours would be like Christians today, everyone practicing his religion as his conscience dictates with minimum interference from deacons, elders, pastors, or priests. And if church leadership cracks down on a person in order to discipline him, there is nothing to prevent his changing denominations. I don’t see that sort of thing existence in the Middle East.

Sayyid Qutb didn't believe in national boundaries, but then neither did Nassar, sort of. Pan-Arabism is a secular construct of the traditional Ummah. The idea of the Ummah is of long-standing. Current middle-eastern boundaries were created after World War I by Britain and France primarily although the U.S. and Italy were there when this happened. Qutb repudiated those boundaries. There should be no “boundaries.” The Ummah does not need boundaries.

Andrea Nusse has written a book that bears upon this issue, Muslim Palestine, the Ideology of Hamas. Hamas started out as a follower of Qutb's teaching which emphasized the Ummah and repudiated national boundaries, but when the chance came to gain political power in Palestine, Hamas took it.  Does that mean they repudiated Qutb.  We shall see that it does not.

On page 14 Nusse writes "Following the example of the first Muslims who emigrated to Medina (hijra) and only attacked Mekka when they felt strong enough to do so, Qutb elaborated the theory of an ever growing nucleus of 'true' believers that should be developed until it can wage a "Jihad” against the surrounding society and its rulers. He believed that only through Jihad could the sovereignty of God . . . be re-established. This would be achieved when the Sharia has become the only source of law. Qutb did not elaborate how exactly that state, society and economy would be organized under the Islamic order.”

Did Qutb reject “the very idea of religious authority”? No, he didn’t need to develop the idea of what the Religious State should look like because Mawdudi had already done that, and Qutb accepted Mawdudi’s ideas on this point. Nusse writes, “. . . the Indian fundamentalist thinker Abu Ala al-Mawdudi developed a detailed blueprint for the organization of an ideal Islamic state and built up the group ‘Jamia Islami, founded by him in 1941 in British India along these lines. In fact, Mawdudi had already developed the interpretation of Jahiliyya which Qutb then made a major element of his analysis.”

“Any territory that is once ‘opened’ (maftub) to Islamic rule has to remain ruled by Muslims. As Muslims have to establish an Islamic society on earth, no territory can be left to non-Muslims to rule. . . The final goal can never be the protection and expansion of Dar al-Islam, but the spread of God’s rule to the whole earth. . . thus the attachment to a specific territory even for allegedly religious reasons is rejected by the ideologues of modern fundamentalism.”

Hamas doesn’t exactly repudiate Qutb’s opposition protection of Dar al-Islam, but it concentrates upon the idea that once land is conquered and belongs to the Ummah, it must never be abandoned. This land Hamas is concerned about “happens to be called Palestine.”

I didn’t have Nusse on either of yesterday’s lists because she doesn’t fit either category. She doesn’t think of herself as an outsider considering whether or not Islamists are a threat. She seems to have gone a bit native. She believed (her book was published in 1998) that once Hamas had a taste of national power it would abandon the violent aspects of Qutb’s ideas. That hasn’t happened, witness an article of last month entitled “Hamas Violent Message”:

As to Sharia Law, no I wouldn’t say the “goal is to understand the role Sharia courts might play in the West . . .” I would say Sharia courts threaten Western societies and should be opposed. Three concerns about them come to mind: 1) The institutors of Sharia Law believe as Hamas does, that once land belongs to the Ummah, it does so forever. This includes all the enclaves in Western nations practicing Sharia Law. 2) Sharia Law despite the gloss of harmlessness applied by “tolerant” westerners is aggressive by nature. 3) Enclaves with Sharia Law provide a haven for overtly aggressive activists. See that happening in Germany: The article begins, “The spread of Islamic Sharia law in Germany is far more advanced than previously thought, and German authorities are “powerless” to do anything about it, according to a new book about the Muslim shadow justice system in Germany.

“This ‘parallel justice system’ is undermining the rule of law in Germany, Wagner says, because Muslim arbiters-cum-imams are settling criminal cases out of court without the involvement of German prosecutors or lawyers before law enforcement can bring the cases to a German court.”

“The 236-page book titled “Judges Without Law: Islamic Parallel Justice Endangers Our Constitutional State,” which was authored by Joachim Wagner, a German legal expert and former investigative journalist for ARD German public television, says Islamic Sharia courts are now operating in all of Germany’s big cities.”

Al Qaeda and the Muslim Brothers since 9/11

Mark Hosenball of Reuters writes,

“Al Qaeda's core leadership is badly wounded and almost certainly incapable of mounting another attack like the one on September 11, 2001, in New York and Washington, according to U.S. and European security officials.

“But even as the threat of spectacular, coordinated mass-casualty attacks by al Qaeda seems to have faded, it has been replaced by new worries -- the network's violent spinoff groups and individual radical "lone wolves," to name two.”. . .

"AQ Central has never been weaker, they have been pounded into submission" by CIA drone attacks, said Roger Cressey, a former top White House counterterrorism official, referring to al Qaeda by its initials. . . .”

“A worrisome development is the proliferation of individual violent militants -- the "lone wolves" -- who operate unseen by intelligence agencies and police and can create mayhem with a carful of home-made explosives or guns. The result is a lower risk of future large conflagrations but a growing threat of smaller attacks that could be harder to detect and thwart.”

COMMENT: I don’t agree that the “proliferation of individual violent militants” is a new “development” if that is what is being implied. Khomeini discussed this sort of thing years ago. He didn’t want to give names to militant groups. Groups with names and organizations could more readily be coopted. He had the Muslim Brothers as an example of that. They became much less militant through their efforts to be recognized as non-threatening in Egypt. They claim (in private) to have the same goals, but the more militant activists don’t believe them.

Also, In an editorial earlier this year entitled “Obama and the Muslim Brothers” a Washington Times representative writes, “The administration is reaching out to Egypt’s radical Muslim Brotherhood ahead of parliamentary elections scheduled for September. “The political landscape in Egypt has changed, and is changing,” an unnamed White House source told Politico. “It is in our interests to engage with all of the parties that are competing for parliament or the presidency.” As President Obama’s previous attempts at outreach to Islamists have failed, there is little reason to believe this effort will succeed. . . .”

“The White House appears to be blind to the schizophrenic message it is broadcasting throughout the Middle East. Mr. Obama says he wants to improve relations with Islam, yet he supports policies that offend orthodox Muslim morality.”

COMMENT: One can hardly blame Obama for recognizing that the real power in the Middle East is with radical Muslims. Maybe the “orthodox” Muslims are offended, but some of us have been offended by their unwillingness to deal with or ever challenge radical Islam. And didn’t Jimmy Carter, of whom it was said that he never met an authoritarian ruler he didn’t like, set the pattern for this?

Apparently Obama is still reaching out to the Muslim Brothers inasmuch as they were invited to the National Cathedral 9/11 program. The most popular Christian denomination in the U.S.(Baptist) is publicizing the fact that while the Muslim Brothers were invited by Obama, it was not.

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Islamism and Creeping Sharia

The following comprises a dialogue between an OW (opposing writer) and Lawrence:

Lawrence:  "As to the danger of the 'increase of Sharia Law,'  Fundamentalist Muslims deriving from Salafist and Sayid Qutb teaching believe in a 'Creeping Sharia Law' as one of the devices intended to complete the Jihad that Mohammad started. That Jihad will only be completed when the entire world is Muslim."

OW: Lawrence is here confusing two very different, and in fact conflicting, movements within Islamic fundamentalism. I haven't found labels that I am happy with, but I have in other contexts used the terms Jihadis and Salafists. As I use the terms, Jihadis are Muslims who are committed to establishing an Islamic Caliphate. Jihad is an expression of religious faithfulness in the service of the body of Muslim believers for the purpose of bringing about an Islamic state.

OW: Jihadis tend to be committed to organizations and hierarchies, with a variety of authorities. They could promote peaceful means for bringing about this Caliphate, like Hizbut Tahrir and the Muslim Brotherhood, or they could adopt violence, like Hezbollah. They tend to also be very involved in social issues like healthcare and poverty. These groups would promote the use of Sharia courts as a means of bringing about the 'Islamicization' of society and the would encourage Muslims to listen to religious authorities.

Lawrence: No, no, no. You may have used the term "Jihadis and Salafists," but those deriving from the teachings of Sayyid Qutb prefer "Islamists" and those deriving from Saudi Wahhab teachings prefer Salafist. There is also the Khomeini "movement" which has the same goal as the Islamists, and since Khomeini strove during his life time toward developing a pan-Islamist movement he didn't approve of distinct names. There is also a movement deriving from Maududi in Pakistan out of which the Student movement known as the Taliban derived. But all Fundamentalists seek the victory of Islam throughout the world and it is debatable whether there are many "traditional Muslims" willing to go back to the old way of looking at things which was very passive about this goal -- sort of like the Postmillennial Christian position which believes in the eventual success of Christianity throughout the world, but isn't doing anything of note to bring it about.

OW: But groups like al Qaeda and Egyptian Islamic Jihad, both heavily influenced by Qutb, are very different. I would call them Salafists in that they believe that there was at one time a pure practice of Islam and that there is a single clear understanding of Sharia and what is expected of Muslims. This view is found in Qutb who taught that there is no need to interpret Sharia, that every circumstance in life is clearly addressed by Sharia, and so there is no need for religious authorities to provide guidance. Followers of Qutb, including most members of al Qaeda, reject the idea that a Muslim should ever turn to another Muslim for religious guidance, and so they reject the notion of fiqh and Sharia courts. Think here of evangelical Protestants who embrace the personal and individual quality of faith and reject 'religion'. Salafists are not interested in establishing Islamic governments since this would be to establish religious authority. What Salafists are working towards is an idealic time when every Muslim can live out their faith in as pure a form as is possible. The government can be any form, as long as it does not interfere with faithfulness.

Lawrence: What, what, what? Bin Laden was raised a Wahhabi. While fighting against the USSR in Afghanistan he formed "the base" aka Al Quaeda. He was influenced by Sayyid Qutb, but then Sayyid Qutb was a member of the Egyptian Muslim Brothers led by Hassan Al Banna who had been influenced by the Wahhabis who later chose to call their Islamic sect, Salafism. Don't forget, Sayyid Qutb spent most of his creative time (the time when he created most of his influential writings) when he was in an Egyptian jail; so he kept to the level of theory for the most part. Others later filled in details which he may or may not have approved of, but were consistent with his outline. He died for example before he could explain what he meant by his "fundamentalism" or Taqfir. He called those who didn't adhere to his strict interpretation as Islamic belief as backsliders. His followers haven't known how to interpret that and whether these backsliders should be killed. While some take a strict, kill the infidel view of Qutb and Khomeini teachings. Others find justification for using other means to accomplish the same end.

Lawrence; As to Sharia Law, Qutb very much subscribed to it. He didn't believe Islam could exist without it.

OW: When there is need for authority, it takes the form of an Emir, to whom people swear obedience. When this Emir dies, as in the case of bin Laden, a new Emir has to be chosen and people can choose to give fealty or not. Because purity of faith is paramount, it is possible to declare Muslims who deviate as takfir, or apostate, and require that they be killed. This is why al Qaeda groups have killed more Muslims than Westerners. It is also not necessary that the whole world be Muslim. What is necessary is that non-Muslims not interfere in the affairs of Muslims. It was this kind of interference, the presence of Westerners in the land of the Two Holy Cities, that set off bin Laden and al Qaeda.

Lawrence: Al Quaeda is a unique paranoid organization that didn't enlarge itself very much beyond those who fought the Russians in Afghanistan, but it did approve of and send out activists willing to kill themselves in a violent exercise. What happened to Al Quaeda fulfill's Khomeini's prediction: if an organization is well-named and well-known it is more likely to be coopted by the enemies of Islamism.

OW: Sharia courts do not represent the creeping presence of al Qaeda for the simple reason that al Qaeda rejects most of the logic behind these courts, for example fiqh and the need to use reason to interpret Sharia. There is no creeping presence of al Qaeda. al Qaeda is devoted to purifying the lands of Islam through whatever means necessary.

Lawrence: good grief, who ever said that al Quaeda was creeping Sharia, certainly not me? Sharia Law is "creeping ahead" as a handmaiden of its more violent brethren. Consider Christian evangelism as a parallel. There have always been a few activists who will go out on the streets to witness, but there is also a more passive form called "life-style witnessing." But both forms of witnessing have the same end, just as those advocating Creeping Sharia have the same goal as those advocating violence.

OW: There is also no creeping presence of Jihadis. Groups like the Muslim Brotherhood or Hezbollah thrive in contexts where the state is corrupt and fails to provide for the basic needs of citizens. This was how the Muslim Brotherhood started and it was under these conditions that it spread though out the Middle East. In most Western countries, these conditions do not exist and so the appeal of these Jihadi groups is largely non-existent. There are of course some Jihadis who work towards a world wide Caliphate, but the vast majority of Muslims, for many different reasons, reject this crusade.

Lawrence: As I said, Sayyid Qutb was a Muslim Brother and insofar as Muslim Brother teaching is concerned, it is Qutbism, but the Muslim Brothers had to morph in order to survive in Egypt and have been accused of selling out, but they claim they have not and have the same goal they always did.

OW: As I said before, in my opinion, Islam and Muslims as a whole do not represent a threat to anyone but themselves. On the other hand, individuals who are Muslim and groups of these individuals can be extremely dangerous.

Lawrence: While Islamist and Creeping Sharia Muslims have the same goal, we on the outside have two different theories about the threat they represent to us. To name some of the people I've read that would fall on one side or the other. John Esposito, Raymond William Baker, Edward Said, Olivier Roy, and Jules Kepel, think the threat is exaggerated. Scholars and journalists who believe the threat is a matter for concern include Bernard Lewis, Paul Berman, Bruce Bawer, Claire Berlinski, Youssef Choueiri, Jean Elshtain, Oriana Fallaci, George Friedman, Dore Gold, Victor Davis Hanson, David Horowitz, Robert Kagan, Sandra Mackey, Walter Russell Mead, Richard Miniter, Daniel Pipes, Ralph Peters, Kenneth Pollack, David Selbourne, Robert Spencer, Mark Steyn, Amir Taheri, and Kenneth Timmerman.

Lawrence: Some others are harder to place, Robin Wright for example. The Islamism is not a serious threat group claim her, but I've read several of her books and don't think they are justified. She reports in detail what she has found but doesn't take a strong position like those above. Another is Francis Fukuyama. He has voiced his admiration of Olivier Roy and Jules Kepel, which would seem to put him on the Islamism is not a series threat side, but the Neocons derived their foreign-affairs philosophy from Fukuyama's teaching and there is a logical association, but Fukuyama wrote a book denouncing the Neocons saying they should not have taken his passive theory and advocated action to hasten the elimination of one of the remaining enemies of Liberal Democracy.

Is the BBC frightened of criticising Islam?


Are there fewer criticisms of Islamism, Sharia Law, etc. in Britain because anti-racism laws and general fear of an Islamic threats make Brits afraid? Jonathan Petre seems to think so – at least if we can take his criticism of the BBC as indicative and I believe we can.

“The Archbishop of York, Dr John Sentamu, has accused the BBC of bias against Christianity and says the broadcaster fears a terrorist backlash if it is critical of Islam.

“The archbishop, the second most senior figure in the Church of England's hierarchy, said Christians took ‘more knocks’ than other faiths at the hands of the BBC.

"’They can do to us what they dare not do to the Muslims,’ he said. ‘We are fair game because they can get away with it. We don't go down there and say, 'We are going to bomb your place.' That is not in our nature.

“The Ugandan-born archbishop nevertheless said Christians must be more forceful in promoting their beliefs.”

COMMENT: Liberal pacifists criticize war saying “there must be a better way.” There isn’t a ‘better’ way, but there is ‘another’ way, capitulation, which pacifists are good at. In this case, the might of Islamic threats has intimidated the BBC according to Sentamu. I have read elsewhere that common people are afraid to speak out because anti-racist laws may be applied to them. It would seem that British citizens at all levels are being shut up so Sharia Law can advance unchallenged.

Evangelicals left off, but Muslim Brothers allowed on

Lest I be seen as complaining about the mote in Britain’s eye while ignoring the plank in my own, here is an article from entitled “Evangelicals Left Off National Cathedral 9/11 Program” Is Fox News the only news agency that picked this up – or merely the only one willing to report it?

“A weekend of religious-themed observances at Washington National Cathedral marking the tenth anniversary of the September 11 terrorist attacks will include a Buddhist nun and an Imam, but not an evangelical Christian, leading the head of the Southern Baptist Convention to ask President Obama to reconsider attending the event.

“A Call to Compassion” will include an interfaith prayer vigil on Sept. 11. It will feature the dean of the Cathedral, the Bishop of Washington, a rabbi, Buddhist nun and incarnate lama, a Hindu priest, the president of the Islamic Society of North America and a Muslim musician.

“However, Southern Baptists, representing the nation’s largest Protestant denomination, were not invited to participate – and neither were leaders from any evangelical Christian organization.

“’It’s not surprising,’ said Frank Page, president of the Southern Baptist Convention Executive Committee. “There is a tragic intolerance toward Protestants and particularly toward evangelicals and I wish the president would refuse to speak unless it was more representative.”

Richard Weinberg, the Cathedral’s director of communications, confirmed that Southern Baptists were not extended an invitation to participate.

“’The goal was to have interfaith representation,’ he told Fox News Radio. ‘The Cathedral itself is an Episcopal church and it stands to reason that our own clergy serve as Christian representatives.’ . . .”

“Tony Perkins, president of the Family Research Council, told Fox News Radio the lineup was better suited for the United Nations than the United States.

“Three quarters of the American people identify as Christian and nearly a third of them are evangelical Christian,” Perkins said. “And yet, there is not a single evangelical on the program.”

“There’s no doubt that this is clearly politically correct,” Perkins told Fox News Radio. “It is historically inaccurate that in times of need or mourning that Americans pray to the Hindu or Buddhist Gods or the God of Islam. America is overtly a Christian nation that prays to the Judeo-Christian God – and specifically to Jesus Christ.”

“Page called political correctness the “elephant in the room.”

“It is very clear that it is that it is not politically correct to include evangelical Christians,” he said.

“Obviously, tolerance is at work here. In a nation whose current God is tolerance, it is absolutely hypocritical that the major group to be excluded and be intolerant of – is evangelical Christians.”

COMMENT:  I have read of Brits afraid to speak out against ‘Creeping Sharia’ for fear of being accused of “racism.”  is there something like that at work in the U.S. as well.  Is Christianity to be rejected by the most Christian nation in the world because its Politically Correct leaders accept the pro-Islamist definition that Christianity is racist?  Sounds like it.

Sharia Law & Britain's Decline

I ran across this article by A. Millar in the Brussels Journal: “From Magna Carta to Sharia Law – Britain’s Decline” Here is the first part of it:

“Before the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, few [of] us knew anything about Islam, and no one had heard of sharia law. A couple of years ago even, it seemed unimaginable that Britain would adopt Islamic law.

“We have sunk further and quicker than we thought possible. Today we learned that sharia courts (which have operated illegally in Britain until now) are being re-classed as tribunal hearings, making their judgments legally binding. According to the Daily Express, ‘new powers have been given to tribunals in London, Birmingham, Bradford and Manchester with the network’s headquarters in Nuneaton, Warwickshire. Two more courts are being planned for Glasgow and Edinburgh.’ According to the Daily Mail, this ‘[…] new network of courts […] agree[s] to be bound by traditional sharia law, and under the 1996 Arbitration Act the court's decisions can then be enforced by the county courts or the High Court.’

“It is almost unbelievable that this should occur in a modern, democratic, Western country, and, moreover, under a government that claims to be liberal, and to care about the right of women and homosexuals among others. But, tracing the actions of the pro-Islamic Labour Party, and of modern liberalism more generally, it should have been predictable. Modern liberalism is not a force for human rights and equality (though it still uses these terms where they can be of use in breaking down British tradition); it is a selfish urge for freedom for one’s own self – others be damned. Multiculturalism frees the liberal from the demands of ‘culture.’ Mass immigration frees him from the need to know his history. Invoking the Inquisition of three hundred years ago frees him from having to confront the reality of Islamic fundamentalism. The establishment of sharia law no doubt frees him from holding any position whatsoever.

“I have pointed out before, that the Labour government has colluded with extremist Muslims, even employing a Holocaust denier as an advisor on Muslim affairs. Ken Livingstone, the former Left-wing Mayor of London, has also openly embraced Sheikh Yusuf al-Qaradawi, a man who believes that wives can be beaten into submission, that homosexuals should be executed, and pregnant Israeli women should be murdered. The UK’s Left-wing Respect Coalition Party asserts that opposition to radical Islam is “the new racism,” and this dangerous sentiment is now received wisdom among those closer to the center of the political spectrum. But Islam is neither a race nor ethnicity, but a religion, and one that has Asian, Black, and White followers. A 2006 UK government report entitled ‘Young Muslims and Extremism,’ notes that a significant number of White Britons were being drawn into Islamic terrorism, and we have seen a few example of White Muslim jihadis since then. . . .”


Just one more quote: “Conservatives and Christians have criticized the so-called “gay lifestyle,” and liberals have always furiously denounced those conservatives and Christians for saying this. But liberals are those who have remained utterly silent when extremist Muslim clerics have called for the execution of homosexuals or the beating of women.”

I’ve discussed this before: criticize Islamism and Sharia Law and some Liberal will rise to their defense. They defend Islamists for some of the same things (not all, but the examples provided above) they attack Conservatives and Christians for. How do they justify this inconsistency? They don’t, at least I have never seen evidence of this justification. In one of the last discussions I had on that subject a few years ago, a Left-wing lady asserted with some vehemence that the “Christian Right” was the real danger to freedom in America.

Left-Wing Liberals seem to take comfort in politically correctness and “everyone is doing it.” “Why study history when we liberals are more political correct than anyone we could possibly read about?” One reason is that your Political Correctness has no substance. It is wafted this way and that by each new Liberal “Rock Star.” Islamism may be primitive and unpleasant, but it has substance. Modern day [Left-Wing] Liberalism won’t be able to stand against it, and it doesn’t seem to want to.

Sharia Law in Germany

According to one Brit, Sharia Law in Britain is only for civil matters and only if all parties agree. Further, that there are no conflicts between Sharia Law and British Law.  The former is subsumed under the latter.  That is not what I read elsewhere, but since I live in California and not under or near Sharia Law I won’t argue . . . too much. Let us turn instead to Germany: This is another article by Soeren Kern, this one entitled “Islamic Sharia Law Proliferates in Germany.”

[The Brit, by the way, referred to Kern earlier as “she” so she may have him mixed up with someone else. His web site describes his bio. Here is a bit of it: “Soeren Kern is the Senior Analyst for Transatlantic Relations at the Madrid-based Grupo de Estudios Estratégicos / Strategic Studies Group. One of the oldest and most influential foreign policy think tanks in Spain, the Strategic Studies Group is closely tied to Spain’s center-right Partido Popular/Popular Party and former Spanish Prime Minister José Maria Aznar.

“A political scientist by training, Soeren specializes in European politics as well as US and European defense- and security-related issues. He is also an essayist on European anti-Americanism and the roles of America and Europe in the world.

“Soeren writes a weekly column about European politics for the Hudson Institute in New York. He also writes the Europa! Europa? column for Pajamas Media, a conservative ‘New Media’ outlet based in Los Angeles.

“At the same time, Soeren is a contributing analyst for Jane’s Information Group on Basque and Islamist terrorism in Spain. He writes for Jane’s Intelligence Review, Jane’s Intelligence Weekly and Jane’s Terrorism and Security Monitor. He also advises American and European companies on transatlantic issues and geopolitical risk.

“Soeren is a regular commentator about European politics and transatlantic relations for newspapers and radio programs in Spain, Europe and the United States. He teaches international relations at the Universidad Antonio de Nebrija, a private university in Madrid.”]

Here is what Kern has to say about the advance of Sharia Law in Germany:

“The spread of Islamic Sharia law in Germany is far more advanced than previously thought, and German authorities are "powerless" to do anything about it, according to a new book about the Muslim shadow justice system in Germany.

“The 236-page book titled "Judges Without Law: Islamic Parallel Justice Endangers Our Constitutional State," which was authored by Joachim Wagner, a German legal expert and former investigative journalist for ARD German public television, says Islamic Sharia courts are now operating in all of Germany's big cities.

“This "parallel justice system" is undermining the rule of law in Germany, Wagner says, because Muslim arbiters-cum-imams are settling criminal cases out of court without the involvement of German prosecutors or lawyers before law enforcement can bring the cases to a German court.

“Settlements reached by the Muslim mediators often mean perpetrators are able to avoid long prison sentences, while victims receive large sums in compensation or have their debts cancelled, in line with Sharia law, according to Wagner. In return, they are required to make sure their testimony in court does not lead to a conviction.

“German police do investigate cases involving serious crimes. But parallel to that, special Muslim arbitrators, also known as "peace judges," are commissioned by the families concerned to mediate and reach an out-of-court settlement.

“In an interview with the German broadcaster Deutsche Welle, Wagner said political correctness in Germany is contributing to the problem: "I've studied 16 recent crime cases here with Muslim citizens involved. In almost 90% of all cases where Muslim arbitrators were commissioned, the perpetrators were acquitted by German courts or the cases were dropped altogether by the prosecution for lack of evidence. It's an alarming finding, and it throws a bad light on our courts."

“In fact, German judges often refer and/or defer to Sharia law. For example, the Federal Social Court in Kassel recently supported the claim of a second wife for a share of her dead husband's pension payments, which his first wife wanted to keep all to herself. The judge ruled they should share the pension.”

How close is Germany’s response to Sharia Law to the reports we’ve heard about Britain. German Chancellor Angela Merkel says something like the aforementioned Brit when she says “Now we obviously have Muslims in Germany. But it is important in regard to Islam that the values represented by Islam must correspond with our constitution. What applies here is the constitution, not Sharia law.”

Kern’s responds to Merkel by saying, “But the proliferation of Sharia law in Germany suggests Merkel is mistaken. Sharia law now does apply in Germany.”

COMMENT: I am not in a position to check out the actual advance of Sharia Law in Britain and in Germany, what I am in a position to assert (based upon a study of Islamism and Islamic ideology) is that Sharia Law is not consistent with Western values. To believe that it is strikes me as naïve wishful thinking. Therefore, I expect Sharia Law to be asserted at the expense of National Law in Britain, Germany, and elsewhere.

I have heard it asserted that I am taking a literalistic view of Islamic history and Islamism and that Islamism has mellowed such that it is now compatible with Western Law. Perhaps. I doubt it, but perhaps. We shall see.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Rome, Anarchism and John Redwood

Rome invited or allowed barbarians into their territory – with their religions. In the early days when it was more important to be Roman than religious that worked well enough, but when the population of Rome fell and that of the barbarians rose, Rome’s fall was not long delayed. Do Europeans think they can engage in this same behavior and remain unscathed? Romans at first took comfort in the superiority of their culture. Surely everyone wanted to be Roman. Why not let them? But as time went on and Rome became more and more decadent, no one wanted to be Roman – not even the Romans. There were no colossal battles at the end. Desiccated Rome became chaff to be blown away and ignored.
I am reminded of Roger Shattuck’s The Banquet Years:
“The most turbulent force of all is almost forgotten. Anarchism had been seething for many years in the south, principally in the industrial city of Lyon. Its way was prepared by the surge of antimilitarism after the war of 1871 and by the fresh memory of the Commune. Traveling inexorably northward, the libertarian movement finally shook Paris in a series of bomb explosions and controversial trials.
“’Anarchists came from the most varied backgrounds. But a specific mentality links them – the spirit of revolt and its derivatives, the spirit of examination and criticism, of opposition and innovation, which leads to scorn and hate of every commitment and hierarchy in society, and ends up in the exaggeration of individualism. Decadent literature furnished the party with a strong contingent; in recent years there has been, especially among young writers, an upsurge of anarchism. (Maurice Boisson, Les attentats anarchists.)
We read about the immigration into Britain, but as many people are leaving as arriving – half of them, perhaps, Brits whose ancestors were British for many generations. Why are they leaving? Here is a rant the Rt Honorable John Redwood engaged in in 2007 -- :
“. . . We are told by the government that our lifestyles are wrong. As the Health Service grapples with its inability to keep hospitals clean and infection free the government blames us for being ill in the first place. People are told they are too fat, they eat the wrong foods, and they drink too much. The government encourages a debate criticising "middle class" lifestyles. Maybe it’s a prelude to a crisps tax or a further increase in alcohol duty.
“If we dare to drive our cars we are treated like criminals. The government has put through so many new laws and rules that most drivers I see on the roads daily are breaking one or other law. Motorists do not accept the government’s demonization of speed in all circumstances and want to see instead proper policing operating against the minority who are driving stolen vehicles and uninsured cars, and those who are driving dangerously for the conditions. Motorists feel picked on when they are just trying to get to work or to the shops to buy the family food.
“If we are foolish enough to make some honest money then the tax collectors descend. The government only wants to know us when they are out to take our cash. The Revenue and Customs have become much more aggressive and in some cases unfair, as this greedy government raids us time and again to pay for their army of helpers and advisers, to swell their drinks cabinets and pay their first class airline tickets as they fly round the world lecturing the rest of us on the need to travel less.
“We are not allowed to make comments on immigration for fear of a false accusation of racism. We are discouraged from criticisng the EU for fear of being called xenophobes. We are told if we want fairer and lower taxes it means we are nasty people wishing to worsen the few health and social services we all do want to be better financed and conducted. Our government snarls about success and privilege, disliking good grammar and independent schools and the best universities. It tells us the two big issues of the day are obesity and climate change. . . .”
However, Redwood has been at work on the immigration problem: This article is dated September 5, 2011: :
“I am writing with a further update on the Government’s radical changes to immigration policy and on the action we are taking to bring down levels of net migration back to the sustainable rates we saw in the 1980s and 1990s. Under the previous Government, immigration rates broke all previous records and net migration reached 2.2 million – twice the population of Birmingham. A recent survey found that nearly three quarters of those polled supported bringing net migration down to the tens of thousands a year or less.
“To control immigration all the main routes of entry – work, family and education – must be addressed, and the automatic link between temporary routes and permanent settlement broken. And that’s just what we are working to do. But the previous Government did not just leave the visa system in a mess. As recent reports have revealed, they spent a fortune on an asylum system that simply failed to deliver. They also failed to address illegal immigration. We are taking action to clear up their legacy in these areas too.
“Immediately after coming to power this Government started work to control immigration. The first route we dealt with was work visas. Within weeks we had a temporary cap in place on non-EU economic migrants, and by April of this year the permanent cap came into effect. This is the first ever annual limit on work visas. The cap is working effectively and the limit has not been reached in any month since the permanent cap came into effect. We expect economic migration to fall by a fifth compared with 2009. . . .”
This and some of his other articles make it sound as though the Rt Honorable John Redwood is on the right track.

Sharia and British Law – Shalfilea Ahmed

There are obviously those in Britain who believe the relations between Muslims and native Brits are hunky dory. In fact if a Muslim is born in Britain then they want uninformed Americans to call them “native Brits” as well. Sharia Law represents no problem for the British. It is subsumed within British law and absolutely no threat. I’d love to accept all that sweetness and light but I keep encountering disturbing articles like the following. This one from, dated 07 September 2011:

“Parents of Shalfilea Ahmed charged with her murder.”

“The parents of murdered teenager Shafilea Ahmed have been charged with killing her, Cheshire Police said on Wednesday.

“The 17-year-old's decomposed remains were discovered in Cumbria in February 2004 after she disappeared from her home in Warrington, Cheshire, in September 2003. She was the victim of a suspected honour killing.

“South Cumbria coroner Ian Smith later recorded a verdict of unlawful killing, saying he believed the teenager was probably murdered.

“Cheshire Police said today the teenager's father, Iftikhar, 51, and mother Farzana, 48, have been charged with murder and will appear at Halton Magistrates' Court, in Runcorn, later today.

“The couple have always denied any involvement in their daughter's death.

“Shafilea was a bright and intelligent young woman who wanted to go to university and become a lawyer, the inquest into her death was told.

“She was most likely strangled or suffocated, pathologists said.

“A spokeswoman for Cheshire Police said: "A man and a woman have been charged with murder in connection with the death of Shafilea Ahmed.”

Here is the same information from


It strikes me as foolishness to tolerate Sharia Law in any Western nation. Did those in Britain who approved this amalgam of Sharia and British law not foresee difficulties such as those described in the article? I assume that the intent was something along the lines of “we British will accept your Sharia Law for Muslims as long as it doesn’t conflict with British Law.” Something like that must be in effect if the murder charge against the parents of Shalfilea Ahmed is to stick.

In order for this amalgam to work, Muslims would have to believe that they were first British citizens and secondly religious Muslims insofar as the law was concerned, because if they reversed this order they would continue to engage in medieval customs like “honour killing.”

British leaders should have foreseen this, but shedding some light on what British Leaders know, I’ve read recent articles implying that Britain was extremely naïve about Communist spying during the Cold War. We in the U.S. cracked down much more effectively on such spying, but little good it did us because we shared all our secrets with the British, and they shared them with Soviet spies. The point here is that these British citizens who were also spies were believers in Communism first and British citizenship second much as the parents of Shafilea Ahmed were Sharia-Law Muslims first and British-Law British citizens second.

Something is rotten, i.e., not hunky dory, in the state of Britain.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

The advance of Islam and Sharia Law in Britain This is an article by Herbert London, dated September 1, 2011 from the Hudson New York. It is entitled “The Walls that Divide Europe” and subtitled “Sweden is the Best Islamic State.”

Here is the first part of the article:

“Walls can be used to keep people in and keep people out, as was true of he Berlin Wall erected in 1961 and today of the walls being erected throughout Europe.

“These contemporary walls operate under the name of "no go" zones, areas that are off limits to non-Muslims. These zones function as micro-states governed by Sharia Law. In many locations from Malmo to Hamburg, and from Liverpool to Rotterdam, host country authorities have lost effective control over these zones, and often are unable to provide even basic public aid -- such as police and fire assistance and ambulance services -- without permission from the local imam.

“Here, in unvarnished terms, are the influences of multicultural policies that encouraged Muslim immigrants to live in parallel societies "walled in" through both a desire for separation and the host's desire to avoid integration.

“In Britain, for example, a Muslim group called Muslims Against The Crusades, has launched a campaign to convert twelve British cities – including London – into independent Islamic states. In the "Tower Hamlets" area of East London, extremist Muslim preachers routinely issue death threats to women who refuse to wear Islamic veils. Neighborhood streets are plastered with posters that declare: "You are entering a Sharia controlled zone; Islamic rules enforced." The Muslim extremist Abu Izzadeen heckled the former Home Secretary John Reid by saying, "How dare you come to a Muslim area!"

COMMENT: Someone from Britain recently commented that indeed there were these enclaves, but they were forced upon the immigrants because the common people wouldn’t accept them. London agrees with this. The common people have no wish for integration with them, but the Muslims are of the same mind. They want to be separate. A desire to be separate would be consistent with my understanding of the Koran. Muslims are forbidden from treating infidels as equals. In the literalistic fundamentalist sense, Muslims are ordered to kill infidels if they won’t convert. However, as long as Muslims are in the minority they are permitted to mislead their hosts on this and other matters.

While this is the literal sense of the Koran, one wonders how many Muslims are so intense in their beliefs that they would willingly kill their infidel neighbors should Islam ever end up the majority point of view. On the other hand, it is probably naïve to hope that benign human-nature will win out over the dictates of fanatical imams.

And what sorts of thoughts go through the minds of the Left Wing Radicals, one wonders, who blame the common people in Britain and elsewhere in Europe for resisting this Islamic encroachment?

Will Britain accept Sharia Law?


Could a nation, Britain for example, create laws such that Muslims through the institution of Sharia Law could weaken or limit the British legal system as well as its British traditions? Some people think that is going on now. I have mentioned Bat Y’eor and Oriana Fallaci, writers embraced by large numbers of “common” Europeans but not so much by European liberals. And there are others. Witness Hudson New York. I ran across it a moment ago while web surfing. In its archives for April 21, 2011 is an article by Soeren Kern entitled “Britain vs. Muslim Immigration.” The article presents a very different picture from the one British Liberals present; so I wondered what Hudson New York was and found this under “About”:

Human Rights Activists, Moderate Muslims and Expert Investigative Reporters to:

Amplify dissident voices worldwide that stress the need for reforms in rule of law, property rights, free-market opportunities, freedom of speech, freedom of the press, and other institutions of democracy

Monitor Russia and China's economic and military offensives, evaluating their implications to the West.

Examine the use of oil as a political weapon against the West, and promote the urgent development of alternate sources of energy.

Divest Iranian holdings from pension plans, banks and foreign subsidiaries.

Press for transparency and accountability in non-governmental organizations, The United Nations, and other international institutions.

Counter lawsuits intended to intimidate and silence critics of religious extremism, and combat States which train children to be suicide killers.

Track the funding of terrorist cells and their systems of communication, and disable them when possible.

Under “events” they planned to have the following three speakers: Garry Trudeau, Frank Luntz, Tony Blair.

Just as Billy Blogblather read Jack Sprat’s note and said he didn’t disagree with any of it, I don’t disagree with anything in the “About” section of Hudson New York. One can find Soern Kern’s article at

Here are a few excerpts:

“’Islamic jurisprudence is spreading throughout Britain at an astonishing rate. At least 85 Islamic Sharia courts are now operating in the country, almost 20 times as many as previously believed. A recent think tank study titled ‘Sharia Law or One Law for All" found that scores of unofficial tribunals and councils, may operating in mosques, regularly apply Islamic law to resolve domestic, marital and business disputes.

“The study warns of a ‘creeping’ acceptance of Sharia principles in British law, and follows the outcry over remarks by the Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr. Rowan Williams, who had said that Sharia law in Britain is ‘unavoidable.’

“The emergence of a parallel Muslim society in Britain and the failure or refusal of many Muslim immigrants to integrate is troubling millions of British voters.” . . .

“By any measure, the Muslim population in Britain has skyrocketed over the past ten years. Based on official estimates, Britain's Muslim population has grown from 1.6 million in 2001 (when the British Census first began to measure religion) to 1,870,000 in 2004, to 2,422,000 in 2008, to 2,869,000 in 2010. That is an overall increase of more than 1.2 million, according to data compiled by the British government's Labour Force Survey (LFS), which were first published by the Times of London newspaper in January 2009, later confirmed by Hansard, the official report of debates in the British Parliament, and then updated by the Pew Research Center in September 2010.

“In just two decades, the percentage of the British population born abroad has doubled to over 11%, according to the Office for National Statistics. In real terms, that amounts to nearly seven million immigrants, equal to the population of the City of London, or the equivalent of one immigrant every two minutes. This rate of inflow is 25 times higher than any previous period of immigration since the Norman Conquest of England in September 1066. Demographers forecast that at current trends, Britain's population will exceed 70 million in less than twenty years, with almost all of that increase being driven by immigration. This would turn Britain into the most crowded country in Europe. According to a recent "Citizenship Survey," 77% of those polled said immigration should be cut, with slightly more than half saying it should be reduced "by a lot."

“The Cross Party Group for Balanced Migration, a bi-partisan group that is attempting to protect and re-establish a sense of British national identity, has called for all parties in Britain to commit to keeping the population below 70 million. In January 2010, Cameron told the Andrew Marr Show on BBC One (here, here and here) that the population of Britain should be kept below 70 million "to relieve pressure on public services." He made those remarks after the former Archbishop of Canterbury, Lord Carey of Clifton, called for immigration caps to protect Britain's Christian ethos.”

COMMENT: Living in America, I have heard dissidents saying the “American Way of Life” isn’t anything that needs to be preserved. The Constitution was okay in its day, but now, they say, we need something new and more relevant. Are there people saying things like that in Britain? And if so, are they in the minority like they are in the U.S.? As far as I know we aren’t being threatened to the extent that Britain is.

But maybe I’m using the wrong word when I say “threatened.” What percentage of the non-Islamic and Moderate Islamic (as defined by Hudson New York) Brits care if their legal system is replaced by Sharia Law?

I recall that Communists in an earlier era considered their loyalty to be to the Communist cause (aka the USSR) and not to individual Nations. Do non-Fundamentalist-Islamic Brits feel something like that, i.e., that their loyalty is to a European Welfare state system (or the like) and not to the cultures of European nations?

It is hard for me to understand why a nation (Britain if one can believe the writer of the above article) would choose to accept a primitive medieval religious-legal system in lieu of the system that Britain developed on its own. But perhaps it is merely intimidation that is causing the British to accept Sharia law (more and more if the article is to be believed). Well, if the British have created laws that prevent citizens opposing creeping Sharia Law, and the British are the law-abiding folk we have grown to know and love; then . . .

Thunderclouds, 9-6-11

Thunderstorms were predicted, and while we didn’t feel any rain at the river this morning, the cloud formations were spectacular.  See photos 35 -58 in the September 2011 gallery:

Was the Housing market like a Ponzi scheme?


Jack Sprat wrote, “The mortgage market was not a Ponzi scheme.  It was simply handing out money to anybody with a pulse, whether they had a prayer of repaying it or not.  A Ponzi scheme borrows from Peter to pay Paul and borrows from Paul to pay Harry and borrows from Harry to pay Susie until it runs out of people to collect money from.  Then it collapses, as it always does.”

I used the expression a “sort of Ponzi Scheme.”  Perhaps that wasn’t clear.  I meant “like a Ponzi Scheme – not that it was the same thing but like it.”

The following people say something similar: “         

This Is What A Collapsing Ponzi Scheme Looks Like: Housing Market Headed Off A Cliff As A Shocking 10.8 Million Mortgages At Risk Of Default” “the Housing Market acted like a Ponzi Scheme.” “Housing Fix: End the Government’s Subsidy ‘Ponzi Scheme,’ Says NYU Professor”

“The Australian housing market is a Government run Ponzi scheme set up to advantage governments, banks, developers and the real estate industry at the expense of ordinary Australians.”   “The U.S. Housing Market. What an Imploding Ponzi Scheme Looks Like.”

I’m surprised Jack can’t see the similarity, but then he hasn’t said that much about himself so maybe I shouldn’t be surprised – that is, at this point I have no idea what he knows and what he doesn’t know, but I’m learning.


The housing market was a bubble, not a Ponzi scheme. It's sloppy use of a word that seems to be entering into the vernacular and expanding its range. What Maddoff did was a Ponzi scheme, he kept recruiting new investors, pocketing the money and sending out bogus statements that sang of double digit returns. It was all phony. In the housing bubble people were buying houses and flipping them, i.e. selling them for more than they paid, as an investment to make money, because of Greenspan's idiotic interest rates. It's a Ponzi scheme to the extent that it was supposed to go on forever until it didn't. The problem isn't so much the flipping as that people were taking out mortgages that were over their heads and also using their houses as credit cards, borrowing against them for consumer items hoping to repay when they resold. When the bubble burst they were stuck with all the debt. However, the banks and hedge funds were the fuel behind the fire. They bundled the bad mortages and sold them to each other and made billions of dollars pushing them to consumers. Now they're happy to pass on the blame and are sitting pretty financially while people are hung out to dry.

Social Security is much more a Ponzi scheme, and it's running out of workers. Where there were six workers to one retiree in the 60's, there are three workers for one retiree today. Bubbles are like a mass hysteria that sweeps periodically, the tulip mania, the Japanese real estate market, now the Chinese real market possibly.



No, it isn’t sloppy use. A “BUBBLE” (upper case) implies passivity, an accident. The stock market goes up and no one knows why, but let’s all make a lot of money! -- and then the BUBBLE bursts. A “Ponzi Scheme” implies maliciousness. The orchestrators of the scheme hope to make their money and get out before the Ponzi bubble (lower case) bursts. In the Western European and North America cases, the orchestrators hoped to have their welfare entitlements in place and the heck with the bubble-bursting (cynical capitalists knowing the Ponzi bubble was going to burst, made their money and got out). Fannie Mae and Freddy Mack were tools of Liberals who (following the Liberal ideal of taking from the rich and giving to the poor) insisted on selling houses to people who couldn’t afford them.

As I said in an earlier note on this subject, I have no objection to entitlements, as long as a nation can afford them. The Obama administration, among others, is pushing through entitlements irresponsibly in my opinion. It is as though he hopes to get his pet programs approved before his Ponzi bubble bursts.

It will be interesting to see what happens in the next election. Will Americans want fiscal responsibility or more entitlements? In France when this issue was put to them, the voters chose the continuation of their entitlements instead of fiscal responsibility. Will we do the same?

Social Security isn’t supposed to be an entitlement. It assumes a growing population. The West has no intention of giving it up so when it discovers that its population isn’t growing, it imports workers from elsewhere. That would work out if the imported workers fit the pattern we have in America, but in much of Europe they have been importing Islamic Fundamentalists who have no intention of integrating into European society. It would be better, in my opinion for these nations (and ours) to decide to pay for the Social Security shortfall as another entitlement. If foreign workers can’t or won’t integrate, it would be better for all concerned if they stayed in their own countries.

BTW, Jack, you are beginning to sound like a fellow who liked to argue with me years ago, an Economist who called himself a Marxian.

Monday, September 5, 2011

Elena Bonner and why one becomes a dissident

Billy Blogblather writes,

Interesting comments. I haven't self-identified as Catholic for 40 years, so I have my doubts about those former beliefs freezing me into a rigidity of political thought. I'm sure I'm ultra-liberal because my parents were and I greatly admired and loved them and in many ways have tried to emulate them. But how explain your tergiversation? I would guess that at some point along the way you decided that liberalism was not in your best interest. Well, it's hard to argue that point.

I was surprised and a bit fascinated by the fact that your son is a handyman -- my prejudice, mea culpa. I install and service light commercial and residential AC and heat, repair restaurant kitchen equipment (most of my customers are independent restaurants), I've been doing this work for 35 years. I enjoy this work more than teaching, more than managing restaurants , more than managing a parts company and more than working for a TV station, more than sacking groceries or cashiering or soda jerking or throwing papers -- all of which I've done. I like being my on my own. I totally understand your son's love for handymanning.

Lawrence responds:

I didn’t mean to imply that your rebellion against Catholicism was the only cause of your dissidence. Consider an article in the Sept/Oct 2011 issue of The American Interest by Anne Applebaum entitled “Elena Bonner, RIP.” Applebaum writes, “Is there such a thing as a dissident personality? Certainly there are people who seem almost genetically programmed to oppose the ruling order of whichever nation they happen to inhabit. . . Bonner died on June 18, at the age of 88, having spent most of her adult life battling the Russian ruling order of the day. She first fought communism. Then she fought Putinism. In between, she was a loud and passionate critic of both Mikhail Gorbachev and Boris Yeltsin. Some of the time she fought in partnership with her late husband, the nuclear physicist and Soviet dissident Andrei Sakharov. The rest of the time she fought alone.”

Unlike you Billy, she was “a stubborn and lonely child, she had chilly relations with her parents, both ardent communists. She obstinately refused adult supervision and frequently played by herself.”

I recall reading a biographical article by Noam Chomsky in which he wrote, if memory serves me, that he was raised in a Communist milieu and was drawn to it. Perhaps Chomsky is closer to what you describe as your background than Bonner. In my own case I was probably closer to Bonner. I was raised by my grandmother until I was 10. As to my father, think of Barfly. After their divorce my mother became enamored of Christian sects that advocated a literalistic interpretation of prophecy. At age 13 I recall waiting out in the backyard all day one Saturday because Dr. Clem Davies predicted the end of the world and my mother was absolutely convinced he was correct.

I was raised in the mainline Disciples of Christ denomination. My mother stayed in that until after I had gone into the Marine Corps. After that she became attracted to the ideas of Herbert W. Armstrong and the World Wide Church of God. I did study all the things she urged me to read, and rejected them – in writing. My younger brother who attended Ambassador College thought that some of my writings (my mother turned them over to church elders because she couldn’t answer my objections) may have aided the eventual abandonment of the ideas of Armstrong and a move closer to main-stream Christianity.

As far as I know, I didn’t “react” or “rebel” against my parents. That simply wasn’t the context in which I was raised. There ideas, such as they were, weren’t being imposed or even recommended. My father wasn’t available and my mother wasn’t believable. But I did rebel against what I thought were the inadequacies of my education. Getting a library card was a very big deal for me. It allowed me to check the things I was being taught in school.

Back to Bonner: “Bonner did not buckle under pressure but remained defiant, growing from a very difficult child into an extremely difficult adult. This helped her become an ideal dissident. Human rights work is persistent and repetitive, and Bonner could be both. She lobbied, wrote articles, staged protests and generally made herself so obnoxious to the authorities that they arrested her. In prison, she refused to cooperate. Once released, she started up again. . .”

“. . . Elena Bonner overcame personal tragedy to become one of the most effective spokesmen [sic] for the Russian human rights movement. . . .”

Perhaps I share with Billy the fact that neither of us did anything of note with our dissidence. In my case, my early dissidence, rebellion against a lot of what I was being taught in Grammar and High School, sorted itself out when I was able to study these subjects on my own. Instead of “rebelling,” I would “debate.” I would try ideas on” and then argue from that point of view without totally embracing them – as a learning tool. I was never as passionate about them as Bonner was about her ideas. Perhaps I am a semi-misanthrope. If someone wanted to disagree with me, fine. I might argue as long as the argument was going on, but I didn’t need to convince them. At some point after we’d argued everything there was to argue I just wanted to move on to the next subject. I read not only the Stoics, but Plato and thoroughly accepted the idea that abstract concepts were difficult to understand – and that most people took short cuts around them. I resolved never to take such shortcuts – which made me a difficult person in some respects. Some of the people at Douglas, McDonnell Douglas, and Boeing would definitely call me difficult, but none of them dreamed of putting me in jail . . . as far as I know.

Re, Some differences, Jack Sprat & Lawrence


Greetings from a long-time lurker. While ordinarily having little to say, this post from Lawrence caught my eye and I would like to make some comments. 

To begin with, would you not agree, Lawrence, that monotheism absolutely requires strict adherence to one central set of beliefs?  Monotheism does not, cannot, allow of free thinking. For Christians those beliefs are captured in the bible. That being the case, can you explain how encouraging bible study in order to "grow in grace" is other than encouraging acceptance of authority?

I believe, Lawrence, what you're talking about is politics, not religion.  Protestants have their own, if not priests, then high priests who dictate what is to be believed and how it is to be expressed.  For example, Calvinists believe what Calvin dictates, Lutherans believe what Luther dictates, and so on, just as Catholics believe what the Vatican dictates, or Jews believe what their leadership dictates, or Muslims their leadership.  All religious wellsprings, including the bible, are self-referential: they are right because they say they are right.  They are the authority because they say they are.  When one is right because one says one is right, there can be no how to think.  There can only be what to think.  Religious freedom is the freedom to pick a religion, not to decide what to think within that religion. Dawkins has noted that the vast majority of people have the same religion as their parents, again underscoring that religion will admit only of what to think. 

By avocation more historian than philosopher, I would wager that the Catholic Church would not be completely averse to allowing the reading of the Stoics as they would not conflict with Christian dogma.  I would also wager that not all denominations of Protestants would embrace turning outside of their religion for advice and comfort. The Puritans/Calvinists for example would not have appreciated their members reading the Stoics. In any case, Catholicism and philosophy are not mortal enemies.  However, within any religion there must be lock step acceptance of group think.  Consider, Lawrence, what would happen if freedom of thought were encouraged by a religious group.  We may as well ask what would happen if all members were singing from different hymnals on Sunday.  It would be similar to what would happen if the military encouraged freedom of thought for its members, if it let them decide for themselves whether a war is worth fighting, or how a campaign should be waged.  How long before the military disintegrates?  How long before the congregation or sect dissolves?  Religious thinking, including Protestant thinking, requires a follow the leader approach to thought. 

Using your line of reasoning that Protestants are free thinkers and Catholics are not, Galileo should have been a Protestant.  You may appreciate being reminded that Galileo was a Catholic, as was Luther himself.

And a brief mention, if not a hat tip for his prescience, to Marx.  What do you think Marx would think of the state of the country's economics?  He did after all believe that capitalism contained within it the seeds of its own destruction.  The U.S. today is the most indebted country in the world, far more indebted than the much talked about Greece or Ireland or Spain.  What keeps the U.S. going is simply that it owes so much money to creditors like communist-capitalist China, that communist-capitalist China and others have to keep it propped up, at least until they can transition out of dollars.  Everyone knows that communism was a colossal failure.  However, capitalism in the United States today is also a colossal failure Lawrence, unless you call it a success story to be the most indebted country in the world whose main export is financial disaster.  History has yet to be written as to communism-capitalism, but it can be hoped, in the spirit of the golden mean, that a blended ideology may accomplish what neither ideology was able to do alone.




One must be responsible for the ambiguity one creates (and perhaps can’t avoid) and so I won’t insult you by insisting that you should have understood my meaning. I hoped I had emphasized the inherent difference that Luther and Calvin introduced, i.e., denial the RC’s “authority” and insisting on Scripture. Their watchword was “Sola Scriptura.”

And to somewhat repeat myself, Catholics were encouraged to accept the authority of their priests whereas Protestants were expected to agree with their pastors, because after all if the Bible were self-authenticating then every true Christian would understand it in the same way. That didn’t work, and by that I mean, intelligent pastors and laymen disagreed with each other, often to the extent that one or the other would form a new denomination. Thus, we see today a great proliferation of Protestant denominations. Protestants have Sunday Schools, Catholics do not. Protestants have Bible Studies, Catholics do not. A favorite “Proof Text” for Protestants is the story in Chapter 17 of Acts about the Bereans who searched the Scriptures daily to see if what Paul and Silas were telling them was the truth. This is not a Proof Text used for Catholic authority.

I am not intending to assert that all Catholics accept authority without exception or that all Protestants are freethinkers, merely that the RC discourages its members from thinking through theology based on the Scriptures.. An RC doctrine is that Church will teach and explain Scriptures as necessary.

Now as to how I got from this Protestant predilection for searching the scriptures to studying Stoicism and various other things, it came readily to my mind that if I was in doubt about something, that I should “search the Scriptures.” I mean that to be an attitude of reading to find answers, not necessarily reading the Bible exclusively although I did that as well. A Catholic in my situation would be encouraged to ask his priests for answers. Again, these two structures, Catholic and Protestant were never followed “religiously” by all its members, and the percentage following them has probably dropped over the years, but that was my predilection, and I gather from Billy’s various notes that his predilection has been different.

As to the teachings of Luther and Calvin being equivalent to Catholic teaching, that isn’t true. Both Luther and Calvin wrote voluminously, each believing that he was interpreting Scripture truly and that any Christian who searches the Scriptures “daily” would surely agree with their writings. Church history tells us that their hopes were dashed. Luther and Calvin couldn’t even agree with each other on all points. Also, subsequent generations of Lutherans and Calvinists added to and “corrected” various teachings of their founders. Luther kept closer to the Catholic Church in as many ways as possible. He was after all a Catholic Monk when he nailed his 95 theses on the Wurttemberg door. Calvin on the other hand swept Catholic teaching away unless there was a Scriptural reason for keeping it. Thus the denominations that derive from Luther’s teachings still call themselves Lutheran. Denominations deriving from Calvin’s teachings tend to call themselves “Reformed.” And none of the latter emphasize Calvin’s teachings per se. They count their beginning from the days of the Westminster Confession (in the case of Presbyterians) or some Reformed equivalent as in “Dutch Reformed.”

Now as to becoming a free thinker, my “searching the Scriptures” caused me to disagree with what I had been taught during my college years, so I studied to find a resolution. And while I wallowed about for several years, I ended up with a resolution and am, today, a Protestant.

Billy on the other hand rejected the authority of the Catholic Church and, unless he has recanted recently, became and remained an atheist.

As to Marx, I think Marx would see the Western predicament as just another Capitalist cycle. We violated Keyne’s dicta in order to pursue Liberal goals. For example, we found a way (a sort of Ponzi scheme) to sell houses to people who couldn’t afford them. Keynes would have been appalled. As a result of that and some good-old-fashioned Capitalist greed we are having a Marxist crisis. I am not a fan of the Welfare mentality. No Western state should provide more welfare than it can afford.

After a few years of crisis you, Jack, declare Capitalism in the United States a colossal failure. After far more extensive and extended crises than ours, Marx never declared Capitalism a colossal failure. He thought a revolution was necessary to unseat it. Every few years for the past 20 or 30 there has been hand-wringing over some other nation superseding us. While still in Engineering, for example, I attended scores of classes on the way the Japanese did things because their way was so superior to ours that they were going to drive us into bankruptcy. I retired before the next round of “Advisors” could show up to conduct more classes, probably on how much better the Chinese did things than we do.

The term Capitalism in modern times has been replaced by “Liberal Democracy.” There have been so many “Welfare-type” concessions to the working man that the Capitalism of Marx’s day no longer exists. You say you have been a Lurker, Jack. Have you read any of the discussions of Francis Fukuyama’s ideas? In his The End of History and the Last Man, he presented arguments showing that there isn’t anything out there that can compete with “Liberal Democracy.” I subscribe to The American Interest which was created by Fukuyama, and which I (figuratively) “read daily” to see if what is happening in the world conflicts, in Fukuyama’s opinion, with his theory. It does not. Neither Fukuyama, nor any of the other writers in this publication think the current crisis is “the big one.” There is no “big one” in Fukuyama’s thesis. There just simply isn’t another system out there that can compete with Liberal Democracy. A lot of people may be discomfited and have to cut back or work at different less rewarding jobs, but Liberal Democracy isn’t going to collapse, at least not in Fukuyama’s opinion, and I agree with him.