Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Radio Memories: Small Town Heroes

One of my minor New Year's Resolutions will be to continue the Radio Memories posts I began the week before Christmas. Once a week or so I'll dip into my collection and post one of my favorite old radio dramas, from the early days of radio, back when radio offered its faithful listeners the excitement of a theater for the imagination.

For this fan, many of the more interesting programming appeared in the 1950s, at the tail end of radio drama's dominance of North America's entertainment habits. One very short-lived series starred a real-life hero, who, like most legitimate heroes, handled his accomplishments with graceful modesty and deferential humility. I'm speaking about Will Rogers Junior, little known today except for being in the shadow of the lingering fame of his humorist father, who never met a man he didn't like.

Will Rogers Jr did many things that his more famous dad never did: Junior ran a newspaper, served in the US congress as a Representative from California, resigned his seat in Congress in order to join the US Army fighting in Western Europe as a tank commander under General Patton, where he earned a Bronze Star... and:

He helped save the Jews of Europe during the Holocaust.

In November 1943 freshman Congressman Rogers introduced what became known as "the Rescue Resolution" into the House, urging the creation of an official U.S. agency to rescue Jewish refugees from the Nazi death camps discovered being erected across Eastern Europe. His objective was to create refugee camps in allied liberated territory in North Africa as well as neutral European countries. (Interestingly, his eventual congressional allies in this legislative effort included Maryland Congressman Thomas D'Alesandro Jr, father of today's Speaker of the House, Nancy Pelosi.)

To make a long story short, the actions of this group of wartime legislators pushed a reluctant President Roosevelt to establish the War Refugee Board in January 1944. It was with the Board's assistance that noted Swedish diplomat Raoul Wallenburg was able to save tens of thousands of Jews in Budapest, Hungary. The Board itself was said to have saved over 200,000 Jews in the last few months of the war. In and out of the public eye after World War II, Rogers never made a big deal of his part in getting these rescue efforts underway; "I didn't regard it as worthy of mention," he once said, with typical modesty.

After playing his father in the high-profile movie biography filmed in 1952, The Story Of Will Rogers, Rogers Jr turned his multi-talented mind to radio, where from July '53 through January '54 he starred as a composite of the public's memory of both him and his father in the rural drama Rogers Of The Gazette.

I can close my eyes and easily find myself transported into the show's fictional portrait of Illyria; it's been my good fortune to spend quite a lot of time in small towns like it, as a resident as well as a visitor. The show's theme music conjures up many pleasant personal memories of hunting for frogs in fields and ponds, in later years pausing to chat with folks in stores and offices, and being greeted with silent smiles by strangers crossing me on the sidewalk. I met many Maggie Buttons' and many Doc Clemens' (the other two main characters of the series) there, and more than a few Will Rogers', whose heroic pasts were kept secret from younger eyes and ears, until it was too late to offer anything but posthumous gestures of appreciation...


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Monday, December 29, 2008

Youssif's Christmas Cheer: The Best Medicine

When he was four years old, Youssif was doused with gasoline and set on fire by jihadi savages in Iraq. As we blogged last July, Youssif and his family have since been brought to the United States, where generous donations of time and money have given the little boy an increasingly promising second chance at happiness. Multiple operations are saving his badly burned face, slowly but surely bringing back to the surface the child, and the childhood, that had been so terribly scarred, seemingly beyond hope.

His mother, Zaineb, stands at the back, ...tears rolling down her face. "I am so proud of him," she says. "It reminds me of what he was like in Iraq when he used to sing in kindergarten. I felt for a moment that none of this had happened. My son was back, without fear, strong."
...
Today Youssif plays freely, without fear. "Let's race" he shouts to his friend Brandon as the two boys dash across the schoolyard. A couple of minutes later the two are playfully jostling over a rubber ball. Youssif shrieks and bursts into laughter as the two play catch.
"It's like this weight has been lifted off of me, off of him," his father, Wissam, says. "It's like we've left this dark, depressing state where we were consumed by Youssif and the attack that had happened. You know, it's so hard to see a child, my child, go through something like this. When I see him like this, I feel like he's coming back."
...
Youssif has undergone more than a dozen surgeries. Much of the thick scar tissue around his eyes, mouth and nose -- left by his treatment in Baghdad -- has been removed. He currently has yet another tissue expander in his left cheek, intended to stretch out "good skin" to be used to replace his scar tissue.
...
He's thriving at school, loving the first grade. "He's amazing," his teacher Mario Daley says. "I work with children of all levels of ability, and Youssif, with what he's gone through, his motivation, what he produces is fantastic. He just tries so hard."

Before the attack, Zaineb says, Youssif wanted to be a doctor. Now he says "I want to be a doctor to help burned Iraqi children."

Very moving video accompanying the story, here.

Seeing Youssif at school, at home, at play, the normalcy of it all, reaffirms the miraculous power that comes in the wake of a positive attitude. A realist may dispute the technical accuracy of the old saying that applauds Laughter as the Best Medicine; for a romantic like myself, Youssif’s playful giggles and guffaws renew my faith in that lesson, along with one more: that hope is the best trigger for laughter.

Egyptian Slave Freed From Slavery... In America

Shocking story this week about an Egyptian girl kept enslaved as a house maid for three years by a rich Egyptian family... in the US.

At nine years old, Shyima was "hired" by a wealthy Egyptian couple to work for their family first in their Cairo apartment, and soon after as a "maid" in their California home. Her duties forced her to awake before dawn and work until past midnight, cleaning the luxurious five-bedroom mansion. Her "employers" kept her in a windowless garage that was neither air-conditioned or heated. The light bulb in the garage blew out shortly after she arrived, and was never replaced; Shyima consequently spent her personal life in the dark... in more ways than one. "I thought this was normal", she answered when she was eventually asked why she didn't just run away.

Thanks to sharp-eyed neighbors, who anonymously tipped off Los Angeles authorities that a young girl seemed to be living in Mr. and Mrs. Ibrahim's garage, Shyima was saved; since the trial of her "benefactors" she has been adopted into a family that, unlike the Ibrahims, takes her to Disneyland to go on the rides, not just to carry everyone's bags. Shyima's video interview is a welcome reminder to keep faith in the possibility of happy endings:

[Shyima] graduated from high school this summer after retaking her exit exam and hopes to become a police officer.
Shyima, now 19, has a list of assigned chores. She wears purple eyeshadow, has a boyfriend and frequently updates her profile on MySpace. Her hands are neatly manicured. [This detail is in contrast to the earlier observation made by the police who first rescued Shyima: "They noted her hands were red and caked with dead, hard-looking skin."]

She has had her future given back to her; if only the same could be said for other children still trapped in the bonds of slavery:

The trafficking of children for domestic labor in the U.S. is an extension of an illegal but common practice in Africa. Families in remote villages send their daughters to work in cities for extra money and the opportunity to escape a dead-end life. Some girls work for free on the understanding that they will at least be better fed in the home of their employer.

The custom has led to the spread of trafficking, as well-to-do Africans accustomed to employing children immigrate to the U.S. Around one-third of the estimated 10,000 forced laborers in the United States are servants trapped behind the curtains of suburban homes, according to a study by the National Human Rights Center at the University of California at Berkeley and Free the Slaves, a nonprofit group. No one can say how many are children, especially since their work can so easily be masked as chores.

[Hat Tip to Hot Air]

Saturday, December 27, 2008

Christmas Stories

I've had to shovel more snow in the last ten days than in the previous ten years combined... that's my Christmas story.

Here are some Christmas stories from other people... some they'd like to remember, others they'd love to forget:

Fire officials in New Bedford, Mass., say a man using a blowtorch to melt ice on his back porch ended up setting his house on fire, causing up to $30,000 in damage.

"Mommy, am I on fire?" 10-year old girl saved from electrocution by her crucifix.

An airplane was stuck circling a southern Philippine airport for several minutes before landing Friday because air traffic controllers apparently still in a Christmas holiday mood came in late for work.

A woman who did not even realize she was pregnant got a surprise Christmas gift as she gives birth minutes after arriving at hospital to be treated for "stomach pains".

500 people and businesses donate more than $30,000 in cash, clothes, furniture and food to the family who lost their mother in a fire last weekend.

Husband gets to spend Christmas with his rescued wife after she had been missing for three days, lost in the snow.

Peterborough families left homeless after fire demolished their township complex have homes, furnishings and food, courtesy of donations from 50 local businesses and hundreds of citizens.

Florida police donate toy shopping spree to children whose Christmas presents were stolen from under their family's Christmas tree in a home burglary.

Friday, December 26, 2008

Year of the Palin.

"Thank heavens this turned out to be a gag gift for Christmas 2008...."

That bit of brilliance comes to us via the Los Angeles Times, (see below.) A calender of Sarah Palin is the best-selling gift this Christmas season at Amazon.com, and the LAT thinks it's a joke. That's pretty funny. I'm wondering whose future is looking rosy? Is it the future of the LATimes? Or is it Sarah Palin's? Gee, dear reader, I don't know. Let's take a look and find out.

The Tribune Company, the newspaper chain that owns The Chicago Tribune and The Los Angeles Times, is trying to negotiate new terms with its creditors and has hired advisers for a possible bankruptcy filing, according to people briefed on the matter. [Story here.]

Well, heckeroony! It looks like the joke is on the LATimes. Whodda figgered?

Dave Porter. "Sarah Palin 2009 calender tops gift lists."

(AXcess News) Reno - Entrepreneurial spirit is alive and well in America! A Sarah Palin 2009 calender - available online via Amazon.com - is flying off the virtual shelves of holiday gift-giving ideas and is slated to become perhaps the most popular gift giving idea this holiday season!

The 2009 Sarah Palin calender carries 50 photos of the popular Alaska Governor whose photographs were done by Wasilla, Alaska photographer Judy Patrick - complete with Palin's gun-toating [sic] and flag waving provado [sic].

Palin, who flew [sic] to national popularity when she was named [sic] the running mate [sic] of Arizona Senator John McCain in the heated and highly followed [sic] presidential campaign against Barack Obama.

If you're expecting a photo-op [sic] there in the 2009 Sarah Palin calender with a lipstick weilding pig - forget it. Palin was portrayed with background images of Alaska and American flags and was not intended as a post-race slap at Democrats.

As to why the 2009 Sarah Palin calender would be more popular than say a Barack Obama calender is anybody's guess - but there it is for all to judge for themselves. Perhaps the fact that Palin is more of a post-election topic than prior presidential Veeps on the losing side of an election may have something to do with it.

http://www.axcessnews.com/index.php/articles/show/id/17264

That, gentle reader, is pretty incoherent. I liked it though. It encapsulates the mind-set of many Palin critics in a milder way than they often portray themselves. But let's move on to the professionals at the LATimes. They're literate. They''re hip. They know stuff.

Sarah Palin's 2009 calendar is the #1 Amazon office supply

Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin is still No. 1 in some people's hearts and minds.

And now her 2009 calendar is currently the No. 1 seller on Amazon.com's list of office products and supplies, beating out a nifty pair of scissors.

The calendar-maker is Judy Patrick, a former Wasilla deputy mayor and F.O.S., as well as an Anchorage-based photog who used her own stash of pix of the governor and her family to create the calendar.

Click here to buy one!

Thank heavens this turned out to be a gag gift for Christmas 2008 and not a portent of the new U.S. vice president taking office in 2009.

Anybody else think we totally dodged a bullet?

Or are you one of those 2012 hopefuls?

http://latimesblogs.latimes.com/thedishrag/2008/12/sarah-palins-20.html


Oh. Ho. Those LATimes writers are so clever and witty. Ho. Ho. I personally don't know why the geniuses at the LATimes are going bankrupt. Oh. Ho-ho.

Anybody else think they'll totally dodge the bankruptcy bullet?

Or are you one of those 2009 LATimes hopefuls-of-being-employed?

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Christmas Radio Memories: Thursday's Gift

Merry Christmas! Our countdown to Christmas concludes with an old radio drama tradition: Lionel Barrymore starring as Ebenezer Scrooge, in one of his annual adaptations of Charles Dickens' timeless story A Christmas Carol.

Barrymore made such an ideal Scrooge that he played the role each and every Christmas, first for the historically significant Hollywood Hotel series (the program that almost single-handidly shifted radio broadcasting headquarters from New York to California). Starting in 1938 he stayed with HH sponsor Campbell Soup when they came to a deal with Orson Welles to bankroll his suddenly-famous Mercury Theater Of The Air series, in the wake of the infamous Halloween broadcast War Of The Worlds. Barrymore continued to perform as Scrooge for Welles until he got his own series at last, in 1942: the title character in the weekly drama Mayor of the Town.

Every Christmas, however, Lionel Barrymore would set things aside on his show in order to once again wear his trademark scowl and recreate the character he will forever be identified with by his radio fans: Ebenezer Scrooge. A tragic accident confined him to a wheelchair and prevented him from ever portraying Scrooge in film as well as radio; it can be said that the closest he ever got to visually recreating his perennial radio role as Ebenezer Scrooge was through his 1946 performance as the unrepentent miser Mr. Potter in Frank Capra's Christmas classic It's A Wonderful Life.

And so for our climactic Radio Memory, I picked a Lionel Barrymore performance from the forementioned Orson Welles' series, renamed in honor of their sponsor as the Campbell Playhouse, so that we can benefit from that great Mercury Theater cast of supporting players. This episode was originally broadcast way back on December 24th, 1939, for a world praying for guidance in the face of expanding conflict, guidance not so different than that which we pray for, today, in our time.

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Hope you've enjoyed listening to these old broadcasts as much as I have in posting and writing about them.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Christmas Radio Memories: Wednesday's Performance

How's this for an introduction: Our countdown to Christmas continues tonight with one of the most remarkable radio performances ever mounted during the 1940s.

There's a bittersweet touch to tonight's special two-hour Christmas Eve extravaganza. It's from a radio series that was never intended to be heard by civilian audiences; it was not carried over regular network radio, but created especially for the Armed Forces Radio Network, aimed at service men and women stationed around the world, away from home and family.

The show is called "Command Performance", and was normally a weekly half-hour series based around a deliberaly loose format where servicemen would write in requests for stars and subject matter, duly answered by virtually every star ever asked to participate... which they would do for free. The Christmas Command Performance broadcasts tended to pull out all the stops in order to raise the morale of the troops at this especially sensitive time, each year surpassing the previous offering, leading up to this Christmas Day broadcast from 1944, one of the most high-powered, star-filled broadcasts probably ever attempted. Featuring a "who's who" of radio, cinema and music, under the guiding hand of host Bob Hope, just coming into what became a lifetime habit of performing for US troops at Christmas time.

As you listen to the broadcast (here reproduced in two parts, hour one and hour two), think of the original target audience: lonely desk clerks in far-off bases, filling out forms far from home, sailors crowded around their radio, on convoy duty in the Atlantic or patrolling the Pacific, pilots tuning in to pass the time over their sometimes long flights from one base to another... from the Aleutians to Australia, London to Cairo, Sicily to Burma, alone or in groups, tuning in to get a refreshing and renewing piece of home. I wonder if there might become a 21st Century entertainment industry equally devoted to helping those fighting for freedom..

I know that two-hours is a long time; since it's Christmas Eve, chances are that you are spending the night with family, and therefore wouldn't be reading this post for a few days anyway... and if you're not with family, you probably have the time to spare, and might even welcome the distraction... just like those lonely, homesick men and women whose service and sacrifice are being honored in this broadcast.

Part 1:

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Part 2:

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Merry Christmas!

To our Christian readers and to all who love that which has made our shared secular covenant possible.

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. The same was in the beginning with God. All thing were made by him; and without him was not any thing made that was made. In him was life; and the life was the light of men. And the light shineth in the darkness; and the darkness comprehended it not.

It's Beginning To Look A Lot Like Christmas...

Mother Nature is giving us all two gifts this year: for Vancouver's children it's to be a White Christmas, and for the adults who have to drive them around, it's a white-knuckle Christmas...
Be careful out there..!

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Christmas Radio Memories: Tuesday's Toast

We continue our Christmas countdown tonight with an old radio drama first broadcast 60 years ago to the day: on December 23rd, 1948.

This broadcast comes to us from the heart of the so-called "good old days", the supposedly simpler time that people lived through in the aftermath of World War II. Surprisingly, given how "good" their times were supposed to have been, the culture of the postwar years regularly flirted with a darker, more nihilist form of drama than had been the case even in the pre-Code pit of despair during the Great Depression. In fact there were so many cynical dark-themed films made that a whole "genre" was named to categorize them: film noir.

Radio plays reflected that shifting culture as much, if not more so, than movies did. There were, nevertheless, many attempts to renew the ability to see the potential for Good in Man, a possible goodness that fresh memories of the War taught many to believe had been but an innocent dream.
Today's Christmas memory is from the comedy series Duffy's Tavern, "where the elite meet to eat", as the opening catchphrase reminded listeners each week. The gimmick was that you never knew just who would drop in on Duffy's Tavern, and be greeted by the king of malapropisms, Ed "Archie" Gardner, who ran the filthy big-city dive on behalf of absentee owner Duffy. The series boasts of a fame that far outlived its original popularity on the air; there remain several drinking and dining establishments from north to south named in its honor, a tip of the hat probably unknown to most of those who fraternize them. (Cheers, the long-running tv sitcom, was created by the son of one of the original writers on Duffy's Tavern, keeping the tradition of mixing bars and comedy alive..)
As Archie runs down all the reasons to be miserable at Christmas, the modern-day listener can shake his head in sympathy; the more things change, the more they stay the same, and Archie would find equal amounts of misery to justify his cynicism today as he did on this same date sixty years ago. Yet the guest who visits during this Christmas episode of Duffy's Tavern would probably give the same advice to us, as he gives to Archie... in the end, it all comes down to the same choice, to see our way clear to drink of life for the right reasons, not the wrong ones.
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Monday, December 22, 2008

Christmas Radio Memories: Monday Edition

We're going to countdown to Christmas in a special way at Covenant Zone this year: through a daily posting of old radio dramas that were originally performed at Christmas-time wa-a-a-y back in the "golden age" of radio, the 1940s and 1950s.

In the days before television, families gathered around their radios for a style of home entertainment that has all but vanished today: radio drama. Comedy, drama, horror, science-fiction, adventure, detective shows, soap operas, westerns, romance, and so much more were available and waiting as the listener turned their radio dial. The Christmas season would often bring out the best in the writers, actors and the rest of the production team behind-the-mike, and we'll be serving up a Christmas-themed old radio program every day this week until Christmas morning.

I'm going to start off with one of my favorite series, the long-running situation comedy The Great Gildersleeve. This episode was originally broadcast on Christmas Eve, 1944. World War II was in its interminable last phase, where the end of the conflict felt ever so tantalizingly in sight. There had been much hope that the success of the D-Day landing would see the European war, at least, resolved in time for Christmas, but that was not to be; you can well imagine the disappointed families tuning in to this radio show, missing a father or uncle or brother or son at their holiday feast. And for some families, news had reached them that the empty chair at their table would stay empty...

The Great Gildersleeve series was one of the first "spin-off" programs, as the title character had begun on another popular comedy show where he gathered so much attention from listeners that he was given his own series in 1941. That fall Throckmorton P. Gildersleeve moved across the radio dial to become the bewildered guardian of his orphaned niece and nephew, and each season thereafter would see the show evolve into an interesting combination of soap opera and situation comedy.

So turn down the lights, sit back and enjoy Gildy trying to shed his melancholy in time to enjoy a wartime Christmas on December 24, 1944:

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Saturday, December 20, 2008

Zuzu's Petals As Rorschach Test

I never thought of the classic Christmas film It's A Wonderful Life as a possible Rorschach Test until I read this article from Wendell Jamieson in the New York Times.

When Jimmy Stewart's character, George Bailey, slides into such despair over his life in Bedford Falls that he wishes he had never been born, his guardian angel grants him that wish; we are introduced to the world-that-would-have-been, starting with a renamed hometown now called "Pottersville".

To me, the seedy taverns, "dancing girls" and casinos of Pottersville are meant to conjure up a vision of life empty of meaning, the kind of whirlwind distraction we are driven to when things are going wrong, rather than the stable foundation we seek when we decide we are ready to start living for the future... Unlike Pottersville, Bedford Falls is lined with not just houses, but homes.

For the columnist in the NY Times, however, his view is drastically different:
...
Not only is Pottersville cooler and more fun than Bedford Falls, it also would have had a much, much stronger future. Think about it: In one scene George helps bring manufacturing to Bedford Falls. But since the era of “It’s a Wonderful Life” manufacturing in upstate New York has suffered terribly.
On the other hand, Pottersville, with its nightclubs and gambling halls, would almost certainly be in much better financial shape today. It might well be thriving.

He also references an ealier column in Slate, which "rightly pointed out how much fun Pottersville appears to be, and how awful and dull Bedford Falls is."

He even noticed that the only entertainment in the real town, glimpsed on the marquee of the movie theater after George emerges from the alternate universe, is “The Bells of St. Mary’s.”
Now that’s scary.


There are many contrasts that one could make between the world of Pottersville and that of Bedford Falls. I notice that the NY Times writer skips the big one that I always see: there are no children in Pottersville. No wonder he finds a town so full of families as Bedford Falls to be so unnerving; for a guy who would prefer to spend his time drinking, while trying to get lucky with the dames as well as the dice, children would be a resented intrusion indeed upon this “thriving” paradise.

When George Bailey comes home to a sick child fretting over her dying flower, he improvises some parental medicine by pocketing his daughter Zuzu’s flower petals without her noticing. His life is a mess, but he still makes the time, and summons the ingenuity, to try and help his beloved daughter in her time of need. It’s likely that she never would have found about such a small gesture of kindness, just as it’s likely that while we’re alive we’ll never learn about all the small kindnesses, all the sacrifices that have been made on our behalf, by those who love us. Once we start sacrificing for others, however, the gestures made earlier for us become far more possible to imagine.

Isn’t it interesting that the “benefactor” who helped attract the nightclubs and “dance halls” in the alternative town of Pottersville has his name smack in the forefront of it all, so that everyone can know the “good” that he’s done for them... another contrast left unmentioned in the article.

Maybe someone who sees a better life to be had in a Pottersville instead of a Bedford Falls is someone who has yet to see how they are loved, and the many forms in which that love has been demonstrated. If I thought that nobody loved me I don’t think I would have a problem spending all my money on drinking binges with one-night stands, either.

Not everyone is ready at the same time for the humility required to give of ourselves selflessly; some are blessed with having been raised upon so much bedrock stability in their own Bedford Falls that they can easily see the value in, and the sense behind, sacrificial love. Others, like George Bailey (and me), needed a far longer perspective, even a great shock, in order to learn the same lesson:

Good doesn’t just happen, it’s made. And when you make a lot of it in your life, then it’s a wonderful life.

Friday, December 19, 2008

Christmas Past, Present And... Future?

"What's Christmas-time to you but a time for paying bills without money; a time for finding yourself a year older, and not an hour richer; a time for balancing your books, and having every item in 'em through a round dozen of months presented dead against you?"
"If I could work my will," said Scrooge indignantly, "every idiot who goes about with 'Merry Christmas' on his lips should be boiled with his own pudding, and buried with a stake of holly through his heart. He should!"
__Ebenezer Scrooge to Nephew Fred, Stave I, A Christmas Carol
I wonder what novelist Charles Dickens would say if he somehow found himself visiting Christmas 2008, a time in which Scrooge’s classic anti-Christmas rants are no longer mere idle threats from a materialist heart, but increasingly a state-supported tangible reality.

Consider first: a 41-year old mother of three is told to remove her Christmas lights by a housing association worker - in case they offended her non-Christian neighbours:

[..."]I put the lights up in the first week of November and then recently a uniformed housing worker was outside, and it looked like he was counting my decorations.
"When I went outside he said that the lights were 'offensive to the community'. If I was offending anyone I could understand why he was telling me, but nobody has complained.
"My neighbours are Bengali and Chinese and I know that they love the lights - the children will always point them out when they walk past."
...
She said: "I told him that I am far from a racist and that I wouldn't be taking the lights down. I'm shocked, annoyed and upset. At the end of the day, it's the festive season and they're staying."
Independent councillor Ahmed Khan, who represents Mrs Glenn's ward, condemned the over-zealous employee's actions.
He said: "Every year this woman puts her Christmas lights up and I know how popular they are. It's great when people make an effort to decorate their houses."
"It's this kind of nonsense that sets race relations back 20 years. That woman did nothing more than decorate her house to celebrate Christmas."

Thank goodness that, for once, the overly sensitive busybody had his scheme defeated by that rare treasure, a reasonable bureaucrat, who remembers what it means for children to see their world light up at Christmas.

"Under the impression that [the Treadmill and the Poor Law] scarcely furnish Christian cheer of mind or body to the multitude," returned the gentleman, "a few of us are endeavouring to raise a fund to buy the Poor some meat and drink, and means of warmth. We choose this time, because it is a time, of all others, when Want is keenly felt, and Abundance rejoices. What shall I put you down for?"
"Nothing!" Scrooge replied.
"You wish to be anonymous?"
"I wish to be left alone," said Scrooge.

Elsewhere in the UK, the tilting balance of power sees the Salvation Army that operates out of Uxbridge, West London, no longer allowed to continue their tradition of rattling their tins to attract donations from passersby, in case it harasses or offends people of other religions:

Councils and police can enforce the no-rattle rule and have powers to prosecute or ban offenders.
The restriction was branded "bonkers" yesterday both by donors and long-serving Salvation Army volunteers.
[..."]I've been doing this for more than 40 years and I fail to see how rattling a tin could cause offence. If I was shaking a tambourine I could do it all day - if I shake my tin, I could end up in court."
...
Tony Keywood, shopping with his wife Sheila, was among a crowd enjoying the carols and stepped forward to make a donation.
"I jokingly told them off for not shaking their tins," said Mr Keywood, 78, a retired telecoms executive.
"They said they weren't allowed to do that in case it caused offence to other religions. They said they'd been told rattling a tin was considered to be intimidating.
"I don't know who makes up these rules but I suspect it will have something to do with human rights. I do feel Britain has lost its way on things like this."
...

One doesn't have to be too historically-minded to recognize that this would not be the first time that Britain lost its way, and needed to be guided back to the path well traveled, finding a way to reconcile present circumstances with past traditions. The people greeting Dickens' A Christmas Carol when it was first published in 1843 were struggling to remember Christmas as a day other than for drinking oneself to numbness in order to deal with missing the closeness of family. Today the struggle takes many forms, multiplying in complexity to the point that it seems hard, once more, to see with any clarity what future vision of Christmas lies in our destiny.

The Spirit stood among the graves, and pointed down to One. He advanced towards it trembling. The Phantom was exactly as it had been, but [Scrooge] dreaded that he saw new meaning in its solemn shape.
“Before I draw nearer to that stone to which you point,” said Scrooge, “answer me one question. Are these the shadows of the things that Will be, or are they shadows of things that May be, only?”
Still the Ghost pointed downward to the grave by which it stood.
“Men’s courses will foreshadow certain ends, to which, if persevered in, they must lead,” said Scrooge. “But if the courses be departed from, the ends will change. Say it is thus with what you show me!”
The Spirit was immovable as ever.
__Stave IV, Charles Dickens' A Christmas Carol

Maybe the grim news from China can serve as a timely wake-up call and alert us to the risks we run in pursuing a modern-age Saturnalia through a self-willed amnesia, snapping our bond to our past:

With Christmas approaching, the authorities are intensifying their crackdown against underground Christians, storming their prayer halls, beating and threatening them.

On Wednesday in Yancheng City’s Pinghu district some 200 thugs broke into a church during a meeting of underground Christians. Before they threw worshippers out, they beat at least ten of them and stole their money and other valuables.
The church was then closed down and a demolition order placed on the building.
“They are developing this plot of land, and they [developers] wanted the land on which our church is built," said Father Ding, who is in charge of the Chengnan Church, which was built thanks to donations of more than a million yuan.
The authorities had offered money but when their offer was refused, attacks against parishioners began.
"No agreement had been reached, and they hadn't even carried out an evaluation of the property” when a “deputy secretary from the municipal government led the gang," Father Ding said.
The police was called but they did not bother to show up to let the faithful have their church back.
On Tuesday in the village of Taoling in Pushan (Nanyang in Henan) 40 Christians were arrested; 16 were sentenced to administrative detention for 10 to 15 days and fined for taking part in unlawful religious meetings.
In Dazhu County (Sichuan), around 30 people were detained and then released, after authorities raided a wedding party at an unofficial Christian church. Their crime was “illegally spreading the gospel,” a participant told Radio Free Asia.
“They took away our banner with the words 'God loves humanity.' They checked our identification cards and threatened that we would be forced to attend only those churches with registration documents recognised by the government,” he said.
...

Housekeeping: RSS feed buttons added

Due to a reader recommendation I have added a Wikio subscription button to the blog. Clicking on the white "subscribe" link in the sidebar will allow you to subscribe to this blog through your choice of various subscription services.

Readers may have noted the conservative template of this blog, due to the technophobic tendencies - at least as far as template programming goes - of the CZ three. However, it's probably time to add more features to this blog. If anyone has recommendations we will try to add them too.

Thanks for your patience, readers.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Major Horror! Hillary Under India's Thumb?

"Bill Clinton Releases Donor List," by Chuck Bennett for the New York Post, December 18 (thanks to James):
Former President Bill Clinton released a list of donors to his private foundation this morning after resisting making the names of his Saudi Arabian and other foreign benefactors public for years.

The moves comes as Sen. Hillary Clinton prepares to become Secretary of State under President-elect Barack Obama and highlights the potential conflicts of interest she may face when sits down to negotiate with heads of state of foreign countries.

For instance, the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia itself donated between $10 million to $25 million to the William J. Clinton Foundation, the nonprofit that manages his presidential library in Arkansas as well as donate to charities around the world.

Foreign governments directly donated at least $41 million.

In addition, Saudi businessman Nasser Al-Rashid gave between $1 million to $5 million, as did the organizations Friends of Saudi Arabia and the Dubai Foundation.

Other Middle Eastern government donors include Kuwait, Qatar, Brunei and Oman - all of whom gave between $1 million to $5 million. Norway donated $5 to $10 million while Italy and Jamaica gave between $50,000 to $100,000.

Also on the list are influential Indian politicians and businessmen which critics say could hurt a Secretary of State Clinton's perception of being an impartial arbiter between India and Pakistan.

The list also underscores ties between the Clintons and India, a connection that could complicate diplomatic perceptions of whether Hillary Clinton can be a neutral broker between India and neighbor Pakistan in a region where President-elect Barack Obama will face an early test of his foreign policy leadership. [...]

http://www.jihadwatch.org/archives/023985.php
I know you too dear reader will find this whole thing unbelievable. The thought of influence from India is too incredible. What will Obama do? Only he can save us. Hillary, how could you?

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

"Hope Is Our Only Treasure Now"

The British newspaper The Telegraph called attention this week to the surgical revisionism that has been taking place under the initiative of clergy determined to strike a more "inclusive" note through the songs sung in their church services during the Christmas season.

No more "king", "man", "son", "virgin"... and "Lord". God Rest Ye, Merry Gentle-folk, let no old lyrics bring dismay:
Enduring favourites such as Hark the Herald Angels Sing and God Rest Ye Merry, Gentlemen are being altered by clergy to make them more "modern and inclusive".
But churchgoers say there is no need to change the popular carols and complain that the result is a "festive car crash" if not everyone is singing from the same hymn sheet. It comes just a day after a Church of England vicar banned his congregation from singing O Little Town of Bethlehem because he believed its words do not reflect the suffering endured by modern residents of Jesus's birthplace. Another clergyman has rewritten the Twelve Days of Christmas to include Aids victims, drug addicts and hoodies.
The report relies heavily on the anecdotes accumulating at the Ship Of Fools website, where readers from around the world have been filling a forum thread with their experiences singing the new and improved carols:


"At our church, the people who really refused to sing these Abominations Unto the Lord were the younger ones. We felt insulted by the insinuation that old-fashioned words were too hard for us to understand. The over 70s sang the 'real' words as well – from memory. Meanwhile the 40 to 50-year-olds in the middle bravely soldiered on from some warped sense of duty and would have preferred to be singing the old words, too."...
"Nowadays there is a printed bulletin with the traditional words... A magnificent victory for people power."
So far, however, there isn't much to read in the Telegraph about the other ongoing War on Christmas, the one being fought, not with words, but with knives guns and bombs, where more than memories are being consumed in the flames of Orissa, India. I can't bring myself to post the photo of the disfigured young girl who may have almost lost her face but never her faith in the wake of an inferno of anti-Christian hatred:


Namrata Nayak is a 10-year-old Dalit from the village of Sahi Panchayat, near Raikia (district of Kandhamal, Orissa). Three months ago, at the outbreak of violence against the Christians, the little girl's face was disfigured by a bomb thrown by Hindu extremists. After 45 days in the hospital, she has healed, and is happy.
...
The little girl was disfigured on August 26. When she arrived in the hospital of Berahampur, she had lesions on 40% of her body. Now she is practically healed. "For me," Namrita tells AsiaNews, "Christmas is a time to thank the Baby Jesus who saved me from the fire and saved my face, which was disfigured and wounded. I am one of the few fortunate ones who escaped death, although I had to spend a long time in the hospital. I feel very loved by the people of India, and by so many people in the world who have seen my photo and have prayed for me.

"In Kandhamal, there is so much pain and suffering, and I don't know how long the special forces will protect us. But Christmas is a time of gratitude. I am afraid that my people will still be attacked, but this is our life. If God has saved me, he can save other Christians too."
...
"Christmas is also a time of forgiveness," says Namrata, "and we forgive the Hindu radicals who attacked us, who burned our homes. They were out of their minds, they do not know the love of Jesus. For this reason, I now want to study so that when I am older I can tell everyone how much Jesus loves us. This is my future. The world has seen my face destroyed by the fire, now it must come to know my smile full of love and peace. I want to dedicate my life to spreading the Gospel."
...
On the night of August 26, the Hindu radicals entered the house, breaking down the door and destroying and burning everything. The family of Harihar Das and Namrata and her sisters hid in a little bathroom. Before they left, the Hindu fanatics left a bomb in a dresser. After the attackers had gone, the occupants came out of the house, but little Namrata was curious and stayed behind to look at the damage. The bomb exploded, burning her face, while some of the shrapnel wounded her face, hands, and back.
...
Namrata's mother shows where her daughter seems to get her strength of character:


"My hope," she tells AsiaNews, "is that we can still have a future in Raikia. We possess nothing, and we could still leave, but in Sahi Panchayat we have some relatives, and our neighbors. If we leave, we will be wanderers.

"Christmas brings hope, hope is our only treasure now: we were poor, and now even the little we had has been destroyed. But Christmas means that Christ is born, and every birth means a new life. Jesus came down from heaven to save us from this misery, from the pain, from abandonment, from our homelessness. His power fills us with hope, love, and forgiveness."

With apologies to the sensitive ears of politically correct British clerics, I think we need a strong dose of the original lyrics to these old Carols this Christmas more than ever:

Hark the herald angels sing
"Glory to the newborn King!
Peace on earth and mercy mild
God and sinners reconciled"
Joyful, all ye nations rise
Join the triumph of the skies
With the angelic host proclaim:
"Christ is born in Bethlehem"
Hark! The herald angels sing
"Glory to the newborn King!"

Christ by highest heav'n adored
Christ the everlasting Lord!
Late in time behold Him come
Offspring of a Virgin's womb
Veiled in flesh the Godhead see
Hail the incarnate Deity
Pleased as man with man to dwell
Jesus, our Emmanuel
Hark! The herald angels sing
"Glory to the newborn King!"

Hail the heav'n-born Prince of Peace!
Hail the Son of Righteousness!
Light and life to all He brings
Ris'n with healing in His wings
Mild He lays His glory by
Born that man no more may die
Born to raise the sons of earth
Born to give them second birth
Hark! The herald angels sing
"Glory to the newborn King!"

[Written by Charles Wesley, brother of John Wesley, founder of the Methodist church, in 1739.]

Conforming To Rebellion

Interesting discussion over at Pajamas Media this week. Dr Helen Smith and her readers comment on what role, if any, a school teacher should play in shaping a young student’s political beliefs. One recurring observation from the thread, is how pervasively left-leaning today's young people tend to be, and how remarkably conformist they seem to be to the liberal worldview they are presented with, in their classroom, in their homes, and through the John Stewart/Stephen Colbert/Rick Mercer media that they consume.
The question arises: Are the young no longer pre-disposed to rebel against the old?

My personal conversations with young people throughout the recent Canadian and US national elections lead me to conclude that the young today are far more conformist and adoptive of their parents’ values than was the case when I was their age.
Way back when, it seemed a natural state of affairs to disagree with one’s parents, and any other figure of authority in our lives. Every young kid in our neighborhood, and in my classroom, seemed to behave that way. Our parents went to church, so the young person would choose not to go; they would support one candidate or one party so the young person would swear allegiance to the opposition. If our elders disliked a particular kind of music it became our mission to learn to love it. A teacher in school would explain the value of reading this author’s work and recommend we stay away from this other one, and our response was to promptly read the other one.

It was part of our nature to defy, to test, to rebel against the expectations and guidelines imposed upon us. We simply took it for granted that the older generation knew less than we did; what young person wouldn’t come to that conclusion, as they learned of the world around them, and how messed up it all was. Pollution, corruption, war, senseless cruelty… this was the world we were inheriting, brought to its sorry state because of the sorrier belief system under which the older hands were steering its course. Who wouldn’t rebel?

What has happened to that spirit of youthful rebellion? When a parent is committed to supporting Obama and the Democrats, how is it that the child of that parent chooses to play along, adding their voice to the family chorus of support? When a parent suspects Bush of complicity in the 9-11 attacks, why is it that the child unhesitantly parrots the parent’s beliefs? Why not be “cool” and root for the “bad guy”, as they do on so many other occasions?
Is this youthful shift towards uncharacteristic conformity a natural consequence of the greater changes in the last few decades that seems to allow for adults to never grow up and experience adulthood?
I remember wanting to rebel against my elders, but certainly not against my peers. Do the children today view the elders in their midst as so childish in their behavior, so immature in their worldview, that these elders end up being seen more as their peers, to be emulated? Do the young no longer see their school teachers, their “priests” (the sermons delivered from televised pulpits like The Colbert Report seemingly being taken as Gospel Truth by their young, avid followers) and, most importantly, their parents, as occupying the traditional role of authority figures whose modeled behavior is to be resisted? If no authority is ever exercized, after all, why consider them authority figures in the first place..?

The tension and conflict that comes from this resistance is actually of benefit to each, young and old. For the rebellion of the young forces the old to revisit their ideas, to find ways of explaining the wisdom derived from their experience ever more clearly, so that it may make sense to a mind bereft of that experience. As the saying goes: if you ever want to learn a subject, teach it. Every so often, that process forces the teacher to learn from their student, as the old must first re-teach themselves the lessons they then try and impart to the young. What better schoolhouse on how to be a parent than to raise rebelling children, what better test of your understanding of why you believe what you believe, than to attempt to get someone determined to resist you, to share those beliefs.

Much as we drive a car to our intended destination down the road by artful combination of its gas pedel and brake, so too does society compell the natural tendency of the old, of adhering to conforting tradition, to be in direct competition with the natural rebelliousness of the non-conforming young. By the clash of these opposites, we get our forward momentum.
How much further shall we progress, I wonder, if the natural tension that arises from opposing combustible forces has, seemingly, run out of gas?

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Geert Wilders: Facing Jihad

Atlas Shrugs: Facing Jihad, Jerusalem 2008 has reporting on the counter-Jihad conference held earlier this week at the Knesset in Israel. Here is an excerpt from Geert Wilders' speech:
We are here to voice our concern over the growing Islamisation of the West. We do this in this city, the city of David. The city that, together with Rome and Athens, symbolizes our ancient heritage.

Perhaps a few of you may be new to Jerusalem, yet, Jerusalem is not new to any of you. We all carry Jerusalem in our blood, in our genes. We all live and breathe Jerusalem. We talk Jerusalem, we dream Jerusalem. Simply because, the values of ancient Israel have become the values of the West. We are all Israel, and Israel is in all of us.

This city is the capital of a democracy under threat. Israel is under siege, like the Jewish community in the Land of Israel is under siege for over a century now. Israel with all its glory and splendour is unique, and its history unparalleled. Yet, Israel’s security situation is not unique, and neither is its enemy.

Samuel Huntington writes it so aptly: “Islam has bloody borders”. Israel is located precisely on that border. This tiny country is situated on the fault line of jihad, just like Kashmir, Kosovo, the Philippines, Southern Thailand, Darfur in Sudan, Lebanon, and Aceh in Indonesia. Israel is simply in the way of the Islamic advance. Just like West-Berlin was during the Cold War.

Israel is simply receiving the blows that are meant for all of us. If there would have been no Israel, Islamic imperialism would have found other places to release its energy and its desire for conquest. Therefore, the war against Israel is not a war against Israel. It is a war against the West. It is jihad. Thanks to Israeli parents who see their children go off to join the army and lie awake at night, parents in Europe and America can sleep well and have pleasant dreams, unaware of the dangers looming.

At present the front-line of jihad runs not just through the streets of Tel Aviv and Haifa, but through the streets of London, Madrid, and Amsterdam as well. Jihad is our common enemy, and we better start Facing Jihad before it is too late.

Therefore, if we voice our concern over the Islamisation of the West, we have to do it here, where our civilization borders on Islam. Where jihadists fire Qassams into civilian homes in Sderot and Ashkelon, and where a doctor like Aryeh Eldad is characteristic of our civilization by treating terrorists the same way as he treats the Israeli victims. I salute Professor Eldad for his work for humanity, and for his patriotism. And I thank him for hosting this conference in this great city.
[...]
Looking back, I share Enoch Powell’s alarmist views on mass immigration, but ‘rivers of blood’ is not something I see happening. We will not face civil war. Our political elite is trying to make us believe that the influx of Muslim immigrants is similar to the waves of immigration that took place centuries ago. Or they say that “Christianity developed towards modernity, and therefore Islam will do the same”. How are we to remain a democracy if a large part of the growing Muslim population is in favour of introducing sharia law? How is Amsterdam to remain the gay capitol of Europe if gays are regularly beaten up by non western immigrants, often Muslims? How are the Jewish communities of Europe to survive with a growing presence of an ideology that is so blatantly anti-Semitic? How are we to remain a centre of cultural and scientific excellence if Islam opposes art, and academic exploration? How are we to remain an open and tolerant society if we are faced with part of the Muslim community favouring self-segregation and showing no desire for assimilation? How can we look to the future with confidence, when a large part of the population turns to a seventh century desert for answers?

These are the questions the multiculturalists don’t want to answer.

Instead of providing leadership our political elite fooled us by using our own principles against us. I will give you five examples.

First. Our tolerance is used as an argument to bring in more Islam, to bring in more Muslims, and a way to tell us that we should not criticize their Islamic culture, if you do you are labeled intolerant and racist.

Second. Democracy. A growing Muslim electorate is too hard for politicians to resist, so they give in to their grievances and demands to win their vote. Before long sharia law will be introduced, legally and democratically, by means of majority vote. The former Dutch Minister of Justice once said that sharia law could be part of the Dutch legal system if a two third majority of the population would be in favour of it.

Third. Our religious freedom is utilized by an ideology that has no plans whatsoever to play by our rules, yet demands the same rights our traditional religions have had for centuries;

Fourth. Our welfare state that once was the envy of the world, now functions as a magnet for a lot of non-Western immigrants, dreaming of a cushy life in wealthy Europe.

Fifth. Our open borders came to symbolize our open mindset, an example of our cosmopolitan hospitality. But now we have lost control of our borders and we can’t even keep track of who is entering our countries, let alone prevent them from entering.

Our Western principles are hollow if they are not accompanied by a desire to sustain our culture and our civilization, based upon knowing who we are and where we come from. We are not from Saudi-Arabia. We are not from Iran. We come from Rome, Athens and Jerusalem. That makes our civilization special, and certainly worth preserving.
[...]
Cultural relativism is the biggest disease modern day Europe suffers from. Not all cultures are equal. Our Western culture is better than the Islamic culture. In the words of the brave Dr. Wafa Sultan: “It is a clash between civilization and backwardness, between the civilized and the primitive, between barbarity and rationality”. Indeed also here in Israel you are not fighting a territorial war, it's not about territory it's about ideology. The Islamic ideology does not seek cooperation or assimilation but aims for submission and dominance over non-Muslims. There is no moderate Islam, there will never be a moderate Islam. There might be moderate people who call themselves Muslim, but there is no moderate Islam.

Leftist journalists and leftist politicians hasten themselves to label anyone critical of the Islamisation a ‘right-wing extremist’. The entire establishment has sided with Islam. Leftists, liberals, and Christian-Democrats are now enslaved to Islam. They are Dhimmi’s. Lenin once labelled ignorant people that unknowingly aided his cause ‘useful idiots’. Well, the West is now full of these ‘useful idiots’, and they are even proud of it.

Now some words about my film Fitna.

I felt I had the moral duty to educate people about Islam and the Islamisation of Europe. The duty to make clear to everyone that the Koran stands at the heart of what some people call terrorism but is in reality jihad. I wanted to show that the problems of Islam are at the core of Islam, and do not belong to its fringes.

I have warned against the dangers of the Koran and Islam in numerous interviews, opinion articles, speeches and of course parliamentary debates, but pictures often say more than words. That is why I made Fitna.

Fitna is a documentary that shows what is being done in the name of Islam. Without placing all Muslims into the same category, I think I have succeeded in showing that the Koran is not some dusty old book, but that it is still used today as a source of inspiration for, and justification of hatred, violence and terrorism across the world.

A few weeks ago the world has once again seen what Islam is capable of. In Mumbai, jihadists separated Muslims from non-Muslims, according to a witness in a Belgian newspaper. The non-Muslims, the Kaffirs, were subsequently shot. The terrorists also went straight for the tiny Jewish centre in Mumbai, where, according to reports made to an Indian news website, they horribly tortured Jewish people before brutally murdering them.

Most of the Western media stick to naming the culprits as being members of ‘separatist movements’. In doing so, they are missing the main point and are unjustly ignoring the Islamic nature of the terror attacks. After all, if it is a conflict about borders, why are they killing Jews in Mumbai? Why, in a city of tens of millions, find the jihadists the shortest way to the only rabbi in town – in order to kill him and his wife? Why are Israel’s enemies always shouting “Allah hoe-Akbar” and “kill the Jews” if all they want is peaceful coexistence and mutual understanding? Maybe, I’m just guessing, is it because they have an ideology that tells them to kill Jews, to kill unbelievers, and to advance Islam until there is world domination. Islam, after all divides the world in a dar-al-Harb, and dar-al-Islam. Islam is a totalitarian ideology full of hate, violence and submission.

From the day the plan for my short film was made public it caused quite a stir, in the Netherlands, in Europe and across the world. First there was a political uproar, with government leaders across the continent in sheer panic. The Dutch Minister for Foreign Affairs called on me to abandon my film project. The Minister of Justice let it be known that post hoc criminal proceedings could be initiated if the movie was shown. The Dutch government investigated the possibility of having Fitna banned in advance. The Dutch branch of the Islamic organization Hizb ut-Tahrir declared that the Netherlands was due for an attack. Internationally there was a series of incidents. The Taliban threatened to organize additional attacks against Dutch troops in Afghanistan and a website linked to Al Qaeda published the message that I ought to be killed, while the Grand Mufti of Syria stated that I would be responsible for all the bloodshed after the screening of the film.

In Afghanistan and Pakistan the Dutch flag was burned on several occasions. Dolls representing me were burned as well. The Indonesian President announced that I will never be admitted into Indonesia again, while the UN Secretary General and the European Union issued statements in the same cowardly vein as those by the Dutch government. I could go on and on. It was an absolute disgrace, a sell out. It was treason to our Western principles, it was treason to freedom of speech, it was treason to liberty itself. My own government was not defending me, but became my worst enemy in the process.

Because of Fitna the State of Jordan is currently litigating against me. Jordan wants to prosecute me for blasphemy, demeaning Islam and slandering the Prophet Muhammad; violations of the Jordanian Penal Code, even though the alleged violations did not even occur in Jordan. As you all know, Jordan is a non-democratic country, without an independent or impartial judicial system and without a strongly developed civil society. According to a recent study by Human Rights Watch, torture is a routine and widespread practice in Jordan.

Jordan’s attempt to prosecute me is an infringement on the sovereignty of my country, the Netherlands. It is an infringement on freedom of speech. Jordan’s attempt is in fact a hostile act towards freedom itself.

If Jordan succeeds in prosecuting a democratically elected member of a Western parliament, what kind of precedent would that set? But its not about me. The principle is not Geert Wilders. If you look at the press and the rest of the political elite in the Netherlands, nobody cared. Nobody gived a damn. This was the worst thing. A nondemocratic country like Jordan cannot use the international or domestic legal system to silence anyone. If this starts, if we allow this, we can get rid of all parliaments, and we should close down every newspaper, and we should shut up and all pray to Mecca five times a day.

But there is some hope. For instance there is some hope with the middle class workers. Underneath the empty bravado of the elite, the middle class worker, the average Joe, is starting to realise that there is something terribly wrong with Islam. In the Netherlands, sixty percent of the population considers mass immigration to be the worst mistake since the second world war. And an equal sixty percent sees Islam as the number one threat to our national identity. But the Freedom Party is the only political party in the Dutch parliament that shares their view.

And there is hope that political parties critical about the Islamisation of the West are gaining momentum all over Europe, are getting stronger. And we will work together with common legislation, with common initiatives, perhaps even with a common group in the European parliament as defenders of the West, defenders of our culture, defenders of our identity, defenders of our freedom.

We need a new way of thinking, a new paradigm, to defend our liberties. Just reiterating our devotion to tolerance and democracy is not good enough, as we are Facing Jihad. We need a new set of goals and ideas. We need new leaders. And we should always remember where we come from. We all come from Jerusalem.

Let me wind up. The essence of my short speech today is that Europe is in the process of Islamisation, and that we need to fight it. Because if we don’t fight the Islamization we will lose everything; our cultural identity, our democracy, our rule of law, our liberties, our freedom. We have the duty to defend the ideas of Rome, Athens and Jerusalem. The ancient heritage of our forefathers is under attack; we have to stand up and defend it.

A century and a half ago, on the other side of the world, a young President said exactly what I mean. This is what Abraham Lincoln said in 1862, and I leave you with that: The dogmas of the quiet past are inadequate to the stormy present. The occasion is piled high with difficulty, and we must rise — with the occasion. As our case is new, so we must think anew, and act anew. We must disenthrall ourselves, and then we shall save our country. (Abraham Lincoln, Annual Message to Congress, December 1, 1862)

It is five to twelve. Freedom must win, we have to win and we will win.
Pamela notes:
Wilders teared up at the end of the showing of FITNA ..... it crushed me. I did not write of it because I thought it an intensely personal moment. I have since seen written about in the papers, and Ithought you ought to know. This is an extraordinary warrior.
Just in case you missed Fitna:


Find links to media reporting on the conference here.

Monday, December 15, 2008

The Migration of Joy

It’s been hard for my wife and myself to keep the joyful spirit of Christmas this year; seeing my friend’s family soldier on through his onerous cancer treatment, my wife keeping a watchful eye on her far-away friend as he deals with his wife’s worrisome health decline, the despair of my retired colleague slowly losing his eyesight, the haunting memory of my co-worker who committed suicide, another co-worker fearing her father’s stay in the hospital this month will likely be his Final Visit, our grief in recently losing our old dog to old age… all this avalanche of bad news has made it a struggle to keep finding reasons to be happy, and I find myself challenged indeed to feel “merry” this Christmas.

Christmas time seemed so much simpler, when I was a child. The anticipation triggered by waking up to the first snowfall of the season, the thrill of shopping for The Right Gift for my parents and each new sibling as they were introduced to their first Christmas with our growing family, and especially the delight of waking up to a sea of presents under the tree on Christmas morning. Those were the days…

The childhood innocence that accompanied the narrow joys of Christmas Past must today co-exist with the adult awareness of the bigger picture within which these tableaux take place, in Christmas Present. It seems such a petty thing to shed a tear over, what with each day’s new horrors to contend with, but the passing of our dog has really hit me hard, and I miss my little buddy terribly.

How to live in hope for good times ahead, when the world gives us every reason to abandon such ideals, when each day seems to take away far more joy than it provides? The Christmas season carries the whispered answer, half-hidden but nevertheless visible, if we but have the insight to perceive it: the lesson that joy is a gift that we can give to ourselves, anew. As every thing changes, some things must never change, they must be re-embraced, they must be re-created, so that there may be a re-joicing… the experiencing of a renewed joy.

We change as we live, as our lives change us; we gain and we lose, often both at the same time, in a way that the child with his nose pressed against the frosty window, gazing expectedly at the freshly-set white blanket of snow in his front yard, could never have foreseen, or understood.
The objects, the places, even the people, that bring us joy are ever-changing as well... not always changing for the better. And maybe this is the hardest lesson to learn of all; that it is not the material present that brought us joy, but the spiritual love that inspired the initiative to give the gift in the first place. The source of that love is as ever-changing as life itself, as new friendships are made, new families are formed... new pets are found to replace the old.

In the blizzard of life’s constant change it’s hard to see the snowflake that remains unchanged: the lifelong ability to migrate from a focus on the decay of the physical, towards that which can’t truly be seen or touched, only felt; as real as a promise is real, actual in the way an imagined hope may be actual. It’s hard to act on the faith that, despite everything we learn about life as we live it, life includes the possibility for rejoicing. Renewed joy is out there, somewhere, waiting for us to move on, and find it again. Like a fresh snow blanketing the neighborhood, each one is different, however much they are similar to the ones that came before. Each one is special, however much it stirs memories of the past. Like snowflakes: countless in the ways in which they are unique.

Pressing my nose against the window and seeing the first snowfall this weekend, this older child now with white in his hair as well as his front yard looked into his past to see his future, and hopes that by this post he will commit to keep working on that act of faith required to rejoice in time for Christmas.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

On Energy and Philobarbarism

I'm one of that kind of person who, when confronted with two four letter words, has a math-anxiety attack. There's a bit of math involved below that shouldn't hinder anyone's understanding of the proposition. The question is one of energy consumption, and to a lesser extent, energy exhaust; but most importantly, it's a matter of attitude toward energy in Human society. What is good and useful energy, and how much should we consume? To what purpose?

It seems to be a rite of passage into adulthood in the West in recent generations to come to the realization that one hates multi-national corporations; and more than any other kind among them, one must hate those that deal in energy, whether Coca Cola or Nestles or The Oil Companies. Corporately manufactured energy is seemingly bad. More specifically, energy alienated from the end-user is, to varying degrees, bad. Thus, walking is good in that one is not alienated from ones own energy. Riding a bike is good in that one uses a machine but still uses ones own energy to propel the machine. A bicycle, a corporately manufactured machine, is better still if it's as old and clunky and "non-corporate" as one can find. Low-tech is ideal in that it is also "low-profit." There is a comparable decrease in ones alienation and a corresponding decrease in ones collusion with "consumption." To use "recycled" material, e.g. hemp shoes for walking, or a bike salvaged from dumpsters is energy-friendly. One then has extra cash for other goods and services such as ethical investments and organic, locally produced food, for example. For those communal projects that require more energy than one can produce oneself, natural energy is preferable: solar or wind power, for example. Unalienated from Nature, to an extent, one still might use solar panel and windmills, but the lowest tech possible is preferable. It is a high ideal to corporate hate energy. It is a sign of adult maturity in Modernity.

A large proportion of post-Modernists seem to think it is a good thing to indulge in expressions of sympathy for philobarbarism. Primitive cultures are, expressly, low-tech or even no-tech, using natural power exclusively. Those who are pastoralists or nomads, using animal power, are lauded as "in touch with nature." In Modernity's heart, the homeless are equally lauded as "non-consumers" of non-renewable resources. For the post-Modernist, it is a matter of morality. The higher ones energy consumption, the lower ones personal morality. And conversely.

Immediately below is a selection from Wikipedia on the Kardashev Scale, followed by some short selections from an essay by popular writer Michael Crichton on energy use.

The Kardashev scale is a method of measuring a civilization's level of technological advancement. The scale is only theoretical and in terms of an actual civilization highly speculative; however, it puts energy consumption of an entire civilization in a cosmic perspective. It was first proposed in 1964 by the Soviet Russian astronomer Nikolai Kardashev. The scale has three designated categories called Type I, II, and III. These are based on the amount of usable energy a civilization has at its disposal, and the degree of space colonization. In general terms, a Type I civilization has achieved mastery of the resources of its home planet, Type II of its solar system, and Type III of its galaxy.[1]

Energy is a static quantity and is denoted in joules. Power is a measure of energy over time, and is denoted in watts (joules per second). The three levels of the Kardashev Scale can be quantified in units of power (watts) and plotted on an increasing logarithmic scale.
  • Type I — a civilization that is able to harness all of the power available on a single planet — has approximately 1016 or 1017 W available.[2] Earth specifically has an available power of 1.74 ×1017 W (174 petawatts, see Earth's energy budget). Kardashev's original definition was 4 ×1012 W — a "technological level close to the level presently attained on earth" (presently meaning 1964).[3]
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Using nuclear explosion tests as a perspective, Tsar Bomba, the largest nuclear weapon ever detonated, released an estimated 57 megaton yield; even a Type I civilization makes use of roughly 25 megatons of TNT equivalent a second. A Type II civilization consumes 4 × 109 times more energy (4 billion hydrogen bombs per second), and a type III 1011 times more yet.

Current human civilization has a Kardashev value of about 0.7. However, the Kardashev scale was not developed to model a specific civilization. It's primarily used by SETI researchers, science fiction authors, and futurists as a theoretical framework.

Human civilization is currently somewhere below Type I, as it is able to harness only a portion of the energy that is available on Earth. The current state of human civilization has thus been named Type 0. Although intermediate values were not discussed in Kardashev's original proposal, Carl Sagan argued that they could easily be defined by interpolating and extrapolating the values given above. In 1973, he calculated humanity's civilization type to be 0.7, in relationship to Kardashev's model for Types 0 and I.[4]

Sagan used the formula:

K = \frac{\log_{10}{W}-6} {10}

Value K is a civilization's Kardashev rating and W is its power output in watts. Sagan used 10 TW as value W, which was considerably higher than present data suggests.[5] Sagan's overestimation makes little difference in regards to human civilization's K rating, effecting only a difference of 1% in the value of K (See Table Below). International Energy Agency World Energy Outlook (2005)[5] and section 7 of Key World Energy Statistics[6] project values for planetary power production yielding these corresponding Kardashev scale estimates:

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Methods by which a civilization could feasibly advance to Type I:

Large scale application of fusion power. Type I implies the generation of about 5 kg of energy per second. This can be achieved by fusing about 1,000 kg of hydrogen into helium each second, a rate of about 3 × 1010 kg/year. A cubic km of water contains about 1011 kg of hydrogen, and the Earth's oceans contain about 1.3 × 109 cubic km of water. So this rate of production can be sustained over geological time scales.

Anti-matter production is still beyond our civilization's ability to utilize as a power source,[10] but any civilization with the technological ability to produce or collect anti-matter[11] in large quantities cheaply, would have a mechanism to produce power on a scale several factors above our current level of technology. In antimatter-matter collisions, the entire rest mass of the particles is converted to kinetic energy. The energy per unit mass is about 10 orders of magnitude greater than chemical energy (compared to TNT), about 4 orders of magnitude greater than the energy that humans liberated today using nuclear fission, and about 2 orders of magnitude greater than the best possible from fusion.[12] The reaction of 1 kg of anti-matter with 1 kg of matter would produce 1.8 × 1017 J (180 petajoules) of energy (by the mass-energy equivalence formula E = mc²), or roughly the equivalent of 47 megatons of TNT. For energy comparisons see anti-matter as a fuel source.

Solar energy — converting sunlight into electricity by either solar cells or indirectly through wind and hydroelectric power. Currently, there is no known way for human civilization to successfully utilize the equivalent of the Earth's total absorbed solar energy without completely coating the surface with man-made structures, which is presently not feasible. However, if a civilization constructed very large space-based power satellites, Type I power levels might be achievable.


Full essay at: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kardashev_scale

It is a certain goal among many post-Modernists to decrease energy use. It is, for them, a religio-philosophical position, and it is a religion per se for many.

Michael Crichton, "Environmentalism as Religion."

Today it is said we live in a secular society in which many people---the best people, the most enlightened people---do not believe in any religion. But I think that you cannot eliminate religion from the psyche of mankind. If you suppress it in one form, it merely re-emerges in another form. You can not believe in God, but you still have to believe in something that gives meaning to your life, and shapes your sense of the world. Such a belief is religious.

Today, one of the most powerful religions in the Western World is environmentalism. Environmentalism seems to be the religion of choice for urban atheists. Why do I say it's a religion? Well, just look at the beliefs. If you look carefully, you see that environmentalism is in fact a perfect 21st century remapping of traditional Judeo-Christian beliefs and myths.

There's an initial Eden, a paradise, a state of grace and unity with nature, there's a fall from grace into a state of pollution as a result of eating from the tree of knowledge, and as a result of our actions there is a judgment day coming for us all. We are all energy sinners, doomed to die, unless we seek salvation, which is now called sustainability. Sustainability is salvation in the church of the environment. Just as organic food is its communion, that pesticide-free wafer that the right people with the right beliefs, imbibe.

Eden, the fall of man, the loss of grace, the coming doomsday---these are deeply held mythic structures. They are profoundly conservative beliefs. They may even be hard-wired in the brain, for all I know. I certainly don't want to talk anybody out of them, as I don't want to talk anybody out of a belief that Jesus Christ is the son of God who rose from the dead. But the reason I don't want to talk anybody out of these beliefs is that I know that I can't talk anybody out of them. These are not facts that can be argued. These are issues of faith.

And so it is, sadly, with environmentalism. Increasingly it seems facts aren't necessary, because the tenets of environmentalism are all about belief. It's about whether you are going to be a sinner, or saved. Whether you are going to be one of the people on the side of salvation, or on the side of doom. Whether you are going to be one of us, or one of them.

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There is no Eden. There never was. What was that Eden of the wonderful mythic past? Is it the time when infant mortality was 80%, when four children in five died of disease before the age of five? When one woman in six died in childbirth? When the average lifespan was 40, as it was in America a century ago. When plagues swept across the planet, killing millions in a stroke. Was it when millions starved to death? Is that when it was Eden?

And what about indigenous peoples, living in a state of harmony with the Eden-like environment? Well, they never did. On this continent, the newly arrived people who crossed the land bridge almost immediately set about wiping out hundreds of species of large animals, and they did this several thousand years before the white man showed up, to accelerate the process. And what was the condition of life? Loving, peaceful, harmonious? Hardly: the early peoples of the New World lived in a state of constant warfare. Generations of hatred, tribal hatreds, constant battles. The warlike tribes of this continent are famous: the Comanche, Sioux, Apache, Mohawk, Aztecs, Toltec, Incas. Some of them practiced infanticide, and human sacrifice. And those tribes that were not fiercely warlike were exterminated, or learned to build their villages high in the cliffs to attain some measure of safety.

How about the human condition in the rest of the world? The Maori of New Zealand committed massacres regularly. The dyaks of Borneo were headhunters. The Polynesians, living in an environment as close to paradise as one can imagine, fought constantly, and created a society so hideously restrictive that you could lose your life if you stepped in the footprint of a chief. It was the Polynesians who gave us the very concept of taboo, as well as the word itself. The noble savage is a fantasy, and it was never true. That anyone still believes it, 200 years after Rousseau, shows the tenacity of religious myths, their ability to hang on in the face of centuries of factual contradiction.

There was even an academic movement, during the latter 20th century, that claimed that cannibalism was a white man's invention to demonize the indigenous peoples. (Only academics could fight such a battle.) It was some thirty years before professors finally agreed that yes, cannibalism does indeed occur among human beings. Meanwhile, all during this time New Guinea highlanders in the 20th century continued to eat the brains of their enemies until they were finally made to understand that they risked kuru, a fatal neurological disease, when they did so.

More recently still the gentle Tasaday of the Philippines turned out to be a publicity stunt, a nonexistent tribe. And African pygmies have one of the highest murder rates on the planet.

In short, the romantic view of the natural world as a blissful Eden is only held by people who have no actual experience of nature. People who live in nature are not romantic about it at all. They may hold spiritual beliefs about the world around them, they may have a sense of the unity of nature or the aliveness of all things, but they still kill the animals and uproot the plants in order to eat, to live. If they don't, they will die.

And if you, even now, put yourself in nature even for a matter of days, you will quickly be disabused of all your romantic fantasies. Take a trek through the jungles of Borneo, and in short order you will have festering sores on your skin, you'll have bugs all over your body, biting in your hair, crawling up your nose and into your ears, you'll have infections and sickness and if you're not with somebody who knows what they're doing, you'll quickly starve to death. But chances are that even in the jungles of Borneo you won't experience nature so directly, because you will have covered your entire body with DEET and you will be doing everything you can to keep those bugs off you.

The truth is, almost nobody wants to experience real nature. What people want is to spend a week or two in a cabin in the woods, with screens on the windows. They want a simplified life for a while, without all their stuff. Or a nice river rafting trip for a few days, with somebody else doing the cooking. Nobody wants to go back to nature in any real way, and nobody does. It's all talk-and as the years go on, and the world population grows increasingly urban, it's uninformed talk. Farmers know what they're talking about. City people don't. It's all fantasy.
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Those who are certain are demonstrating their personality type, or their belief system, not the state of their knowledge.

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http://www.michaelcrichton.net/speech-environmentalismaseligion.html

Energy production and consumption are "Progress." Those who indulge in philobarbarism and philistine Romance are condemning the world to a life, as Hobbes described it, as one "nasty, brutish, and short. A prime example today, Zimbabwe. It's an attitude and a religion. Philobarbarism is the life of the mind of a Death Hippie. It is an expression of Povertarianism. There is a price to pay for it. That price is the death of Civilization. It's a price many spoiled adults think they want to pay for the sake of a moralistic pose to impress their fellows. They will find few friends in the world of poverty, would that they would go and find out.

To deny energy use to others is to deny them life, the ultimate alienation from authenticity. To what purpose?