Archive for May, 2014

German 419 Scam

May 27, 2014

I have become used to receiving emails from people around the world who want to send me a share of money that they have obtained in various shady ways, if only I will help them. I have gotten such messages, usually in broken English supposedly coming  from Burkina Faso, Libya, and Portugal. Who knows where they have really been sent from? I have also been  informed that there is an agent with a package waiting for me at an international airport. Now I have received such a message written in German.

Attn: Bitte
 
Ich bin Herr Kofi Bentum, der Leiter der Revisionsabteilung in meiner Bank hier in Ghana, Wir hatten einen auslдndischen Kunden, der eine Gold-Hдndler ist und er hinterlegt eine groЯe Summe Geld in der Bank, schlieЯlich starb bei einem Autounfall ohne nдchsten kin, mцchte ich Sie auf meiner Bank als die nдchsten Angehцrigen einzufьhren, so dass dieses Geld auf Ihr Bankkonto ьberwiesen, dann teilen wir das Geld je 50% 50% werden.
 
Wenn Sie sich bitte mir zu helfen, dieses Geld kontaktieren Sie mich unter meiner E-Mail sind: (kofibentum2014@yahoo.co.jp) fьr weitere Informationen.
 
GrьЯe,
Mr.Kofi Bentum
I happen to know a little German, at least enough to understand the general meaning of the message but I ran it through Google Translate to learn the details.

Attn: PleaseI am Mr. Kofi Bentum, the head of the audit department in my bank here in Ghana, we had a auslдndischen customer who is a Gold Hдndler and he deposited a groЯe sum of money in the bank, schlieЯlich died in a car accident without nдchsten kin, mцchte I will einzufьhren on my bench as the nдchsten Angehцrigen, so that this money ьberwiesen to your bank account, then we share the money 50% 50%.

If you please to help me this money are contact me at my e-mail: (kofibentum2014@yahoo.co.jp) closed for more information.

GrьЯe,
Mr.Kofi Bentum

The untranslated words were  those which have umlauts or that double s, ß that is sometimes used in German. Mr. Kofi Bentum apparently did not use a German keyboard and the ß  and the vowels with umlauts look like Cyrillic letters. I am not sure if the mistakes or oddities in wording are the result of Google Translate or Mr. Bentum’s unfamiliarity with German. Perhaps I can improve the translation by using a German dictionary.
I am Mr. Kofi Bentum, the head of the audit department of my bank here in Ghana. We had a foreign customer who was a gold dealer and he deposited a large sum of money in the bank, then died in a car accident without next of kin. I would like you to withdraw it  from my bank as the next of kin, so that this money is transferred to your bank account, then we share the money 50-50.
If you would like to help me get this money, please contact me at my email… for more information.
Regards,
Maybe I should travel to Nigeria or Ghana and get work polishing up the emails they send out.  Maybe not.
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A Bug or a Feature?

May 24, 2014

Some recent events in Africa, the death sentence for a young woman from Sudan for being a Christian, and Boko Haram‘s kidnapping of more than two hundred schoolgirls has elicited condemnations from people around the world, including some in the West who believe that any criticism of Islam counts as islamophobia. I suppose that would be too much to hope that these people will finally make the connection and realize that we, the civilized world, really do have a problem with Islam. No doubt they will mouth the usual platitudes about Islam being a religion of peace and explain that these detestable deeds are the actions of ‘extremists’ such that are found in any religion. Well, people of virtually every religion have committed atrocious deed in the name of their gods, yet somehow these days, this seems to happen far more often among the practitioners of one particular religion, Islam. The question that needs to be answered is whether violence , terrorism and intolerance are bugs, problems with misunderstanding the teachings of religion, or features, understanding the teachings of the religion all too well.

Before going any further, I would like to deal with a particular idea that I have seen in various places, the idea that Islam is where Christianity was several centuries ago. This notion has more to do with vague ideas about moral progress than with any serious study of the comparative histories of the two faiths. The idea seems to be that there is a definite direction to history in continuing moral improvement. This seems true enough. We no longer have slavery or burn witches. Still, I am not convinced that there has been any real change in human nature. We do not have slaves because we have machines. If our machines were to fail us, slavery, or some form of unfree labor would make a swift comeback. The history of the doctrines of every religions alternate between periods of comparative laxity and rigor. The more rigorous periods do not necessarily coincide with violence and intolerance. It is difficult to imagine a religious revival among the Jains or the Quakers producing suicide bombers. The idea that Islam is somehow behind Christianity and less morally developed is condescending and doesn’t really explain why Islamic rigor is more associated with violence than Buddhist or Christian rigor.

This idea also ignores the very real differences in the teachings of the two faiths. Jesus said that those who live by the sword will die by the sword. Mohammed agreed and added that dying by the sword in the cause of Allah was the greatest fate any man could hope for. Jesus said, “My kingdom is not of this world”. Mohammed was a political and military leader as well as a prophet. A Christian who commits an act of terror is acting against the teachings of his Savior. A Muslim who commits an act of terrorism is following the instructions of his prophet.

I don’t recommend that you take my word for this. Consider that Sudanese woman. She has been sentenced to death for apostasy, leaving Islam. Almost everyone in the West finds any punishment at all for apostasy to be an infringement of religious liberty. In the Middle East, the death penalty for apostasy enjoys wide support.  Here is a defense of the death penalty for apostasy from what seems to be a fairly reasonably religious authority. Read the Koran. It is full of incitements to violence, especially Sura 9.

Consider these stories about Mohammed and his companions.

The apostle said, “Kill any Jew that falls into your power.”  Thereupon Muhayyisa leapt upon Ibn Sunayna, a Jewish merchant with whom they had social and business relations, and killed him.  Huwayyisa was not a Muslim at the time, though he was the elder brother.  When Muhayyisa killed [the Jew] Huwayyisa began to beat him, saying, “You enemy of God, did you kill him when much of the fat on your belly comes from his wealth?”  Muhayyisa answered, “Had the one who ordered me to kill him ordered me to kill you I would have cut your head off.”  This was the beginning of Huwayyisa’s acceptance of Islam… [Huwayyisa] replied exclaimed, “By God, a religion which can bring you to this is marvelous!” and he became a Muslim. (Ibn Ishaq/Hisham 554)

When he asked who I was I told him that I was one of the [Muslims].  Then he laid down beside me and lifting up his voice began to sing: “I won’t be a Muslim as long as I live, nor heed to their religion give.”

I said (to myself) ‘you will soon know’ and as soon as the badu was asleep and snoring I got up and killed him in a more horrible way than any man has been killed.  I put the end of my bow in his sound eye, then I bore down on it until I it out at the back of his neck. (al-Tabari 1440)

When he [Muhammad] asked him about the rest he refused to produce it, so the apostle gave orders to al-Zubayr bin al-Awwam, “Torture him until you extract what he has.” So he kindled a fire with flint and steel on his chest until he was nearly dead. Then the apostle delivered him to Muhammad bin Maslama and he struck off his head.” (Ibn Ishaq/Hisham 764)

Allah’s Apostle said, “Who is willing to kill Ka’b bin Al-Ashraf who has hurt Allah and His Apostle?” Thereupon Muhammad bin Maslama got up saying, “O Allah’s Apostle! Would you like that I kill him?” The Prophet said, “Yes,” Muhammad bin Maslama said, “Then allow me to say a (false) thing (i.e. to deceive Ka’b). “The Prophet said, “You may say it.” (Bukhari 59:369)

There are man, many more. These stories are from the hadiths, anecdotes about Mohammed’s sayings and deeds. These stories were transmitted orally for over a hundred years before Muslim scholars began to write them down. There is no way to know if any one of these anecdotes is a true account, if the story has become corrupt after numerous retellings, or if it has simply been fabricated. The scholars who collected these hadiths were aware of this problem and rejected many that they believed to be spurious. Even the ones that they collected were felt to have varying degrees of reliability. It doesn’t matter, though. The important point here is that these were actions that the first generations of Muslims believed to be worthy of approval and imitation. Violence in the name of Islam was something approved of and even part of the attraction of the faith. Read that first story again. Huwayyisa was so impressed by the willingness of his brother to kill a family friend that he immediately converted. (Either that or he was afraid his brother would kill him if he didn’t convert.) To the early Muslims, fighting was a way to get plunder in this life and paradise in the hereafter. Mohammed approved of violence and since he is considered to be the ideal for every Muslim to emulate, his followers ought also to approve of violence.

To answer the question then, violence and intolerance are features of Islam, not bugs.

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The Pale of Settlement

May 19, 2014

A little while back, I wrote about the English Pale, the system of English fortifications in Ireland which gave rise to the expression, “beyond the pale”. That word, pale, as been used in several other historical contexts, one notable example being the Pale of Settlement in Eastern Europe. The Pale of Settlement was not any sort of fortification of defense system, but it was a policy of the Russian Empire designed to keep an undesirable people, the Jews, out. Since Vladimir the Great, Prince of Kiev, converted to Christianity along with his entire kingdom, the Russians have been proud of their Orthodox Christian heritage. After the Ottoman Turks captured Constantinople in 1453 and went on to conquer most of Orthodox Eastern Europe, Russia stood strong as the last remaining bastion of the true Christian faith. (The Catholics of Western Europe didn’t count since they were vile heretics hardly better than the heathen Turks.)

Naturally the Czars of Russia did not want the sacred soil of  Mother Russia to be polluted by the footsteps of the Christ-killing Jews, so they made sure to keep the Jews out of the Empire. The problem was that beginning in the seventeenth and and eighteenth centuries, Russia started to expand westwards into Eastern Europe, mostly taking territories from the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth, which formerly ruled over much of what is now western Russia, Belorussian, and the Ukraine. These territories, especially Poland had large numbers of Jews because earlier Polish kings had encouraged them to emigrate to Poland  in order to alleviate a shortage of skilled labor and merchants in the kingdom. Now,  most advanced, modern nations faced with a large population of undesirables would simply exterminate them. Russia, however, was somewhat backward and primitive so the Czars decided to simply exclude the detestable Jews from Russia proper while still permitting them to live in the conquered lands. It was Catherine the Great who first created the Pale of Settlement in 1791. In 1793, Poland was partitioned among Russia, Austria, and Prussia, bringing more Jews into the Pale.

English: Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth in 1772

English: Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth in 1772 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Within the Pale, Jews were excluded from small agricultural settlements and villages, while their access to major cities was also limited. Most Jews lived in shtetls, Jewish communities in small towns. There were rare exceptions in which privileged Jews, mostly those with needed skills or large amounts of money were permitted to live outside the Pale, sometimes even in Moscow and Saint Petersburg. Such permission was always conditional and could be revoked at any time. The boundaries of the Pale of Settlement could also be changed without warning and without consulting the Jews. The Russian government could also change the locations where Jews could reside within the Pale, again without warning or consultation. Life in the shtetls, then was precarious and impoverished. The Jews were subject to relocations and pogroms were not uncommon. There were quotas limiting the number of Jews who could attend Russian universities. Before 1827, Jews could not serve in the Russian army but were subject to double taxation to compensate. They were forbidden to hire Christian servants and often could not own land. The Czars often encouraged the persecution of the Jews to distract attention away from their own oppressive rule.

English: Map showing the percentage of Jews in...

English: Map showing the percentage of Jews in the and , c. 1905. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Despite the restrictions and discrimination, a rich cultural life flourished in the shtetls of the Pale. The Jews lived separately from their Gentile neighbors, speaking their own language, Yiddish, observing their own customs and largely governing themselves. The Jews formed social welfare organizations to help the more impoverished members of their community, especially students of the Yeshivas or religious schools. The Rabbis of the Pale of Settlement created new theological systems, particularly Hasidic Judaism. A literature in the Yiddish language flourished. One notable author was the humorist Sholem Aleichem, whose stories of shtetl life formed the basis for the musical Fiddler on the Roof.

Towards the end of the nineteenth century, the Russian Empire was beginning to change and life in the Pale was also changing. Many young Jews were no longer content to live in a world apart. They began to speak the Russian language and adopt Russian customs. Many Jews, frustrated by the limitations of Czarist Russia emigrated to the Holy Land or to the United States. Those that remained behind tended to join radical groups such as the Bolsheviks and Jews played a prominent role in both the 1905 and 1917 revolutions. World War I was the beginning of the end of the Pale of Settlement. Many Jews fled from the Pale into Russian proper in order to escape the fighting. Under the stresses of a losing war, the Czar’s government could no longer maintain any control over its subjects and the old restrictions on the Jews were increasingly ignored. Antisemitism also increased dramatically and throughout the World War and the Russian Civil War that followed, Jews were repeatedly massacred by those who blamed them for the disorders. The Provisional Government abolished the Pale of Settlement after the abdication of Czar Nicholas II, while Poland became an independent nation once more. The Jews, and the other minorities of the Russian Empire were granted equality with the Russians.

It is something of a sad irony that the end of the Czars who oppressed the Jews also meant the end of the distinctive culture of Russian Judaism. Many Jews had joined the various organizations that were devoted to ending the rule of the Czars. Jews were over represented in such radical groups as the Bolsheviks, yet the militant atheist Communist government proved to be more cruelly oppressive than the worst of the Czars. With the horrors of the Civil War, the hatred of the Communists toward any religious expression and the destruction of the Jews throughout Europe, little now remains of the formerly vibrant communities. Those Jews who remain in Russia are mostly secular and assimilated. Their numbers are shrinking rather than growing. The Yiddish language is rarely used today.  Yet, a remnant of this culture remains in the Russian Jewish communities of Israel and the United States. So, the glory of the world becomes less than it was.

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Dumb and Dumber

May 19, 2014

There are times when I start to feel optimistic about the future of the human race. I start to think that we will be wise and knowledgeable enough to solve all of our problems and expand out into the furthest reaches of the universe. Then, I read a story like this from Fox News.

A South Carolina man died Wednesday morning after police say he asked one of his friends to fire a gun into a bulletproof vest he was wearing, Fox Carolina reported.

The bullet reportedly missed the Kevlar vest and hit Blake Wardell, 26, in the chest. Friends performed CPR, but Wardell bled to death in the garage, the report said. The death was classified a homicide. The bulletproof vest was about 10 years old and the weapon was called a small-caliber gun, The State reported.

Taylor Ann Kelly, 18, was reportedly charged with involuntary manslaughter in connection with the shooting and can face five years in prison.

“It wasn’t a fight. They were actually going to take a shot at the vest,” Don McCown, the Anderson County deputy coroner, told the paper. “They were going to shoot the victim with the vest on. And he was shot in the chest, just above the vest.”

Deputies said in the arrest warrant they believe that the victim asked Kelly to shoot him.

If I happened to be in possession of a Kevlar vest and I wanted to test it, I would hope that I might be to figure out a safer means of testing it, maybe by putting on a dummy I don’t know much about bulletproof vests, but a quick glance at Wikipedia tells me that they are not necessarily completely bullet proof against all calibers and at any range. It is actually possible to be harmed by gunfire even while wearing a vest if the bullet is massive enough, at close enough range, or has a large enough velocity. And there is always the possibility that the bullet will hit an unprotected part of the body, as happened in this unfortunate case.

I would also hope that if someone ever told me to shoot him to test a bullet proof vest, I would have enough sense to just say no. I don’t think that Miss Kelly deserves to go to prison, since she evidently had no intention of murdering Mr. Wardell, but this incident does show lack of judgement on her part. Perhaps probation will be sufficient.

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Perelandra

May 18, 2014

Since Out of the Silent Planet, the first book of C.S. Lewis’s Space Trilogy, told the story of Elwin Ransom’s journey to Malacandra, the planet we call Mars, it is fitting that the second book, Perelandra, is the story of Ransom’s voyage to the planet Perelandra, which we name Venus. The two trips could not be more unlike, however. Instead of being kidnapped and taken into space, this time Ransom is given a mission by the Oyarsa, the angelic ruler of Malacandra. He is taken to Perelandra by the eldili in a coffin made of ice.

Cover of "Perelandra (Space Trilogy, Book...

Cover of Perelandra (Space Trilogy, Book 2)

When Ransom arrives, he discovers (in accordance with the science fiction tropes of the time) that while Malacandra is an older and dying world, Perelandra is a younger planet with a worldwide ocean. In fact, the first two people, the Perelandran Adam and Eve, had just been created. Ransom soon meets the Perelandran Eve, a green-skinned humanoid that he calls the Queen. She has been separated from her husband, the King. The King and Queen are unfallen and live in Paradise, like Adam and Eve, and like Adam and Eve, they have been given a commandment. In their case, they have been forbidden to leave the reed mat islands, which are their home and live on the only solid land on Perelandra.

Ransom is soon joined by his old enemy Professor Weston who comes to Perelandra in a spaceship similar to the one he used to take Ransom to Malacandra. Weston is not the same man Ransom knew on Earth and Malacandra. After speaking to him, Ransom realizes that Weston has been possessed by a devil, or perhaps even the Devil and he has come to tempt the Queen into disobeying the eldill and Maleldil, just as he had done with Earth’s Adam and Eve. Ransom calls this creature the Unman Ransom’s mission, then, is to prevent the Queen from falling. If he cannot persuade her, he must engage the Unman in physical combat, even at the expense of his own life.

Perelandra is more spiritually or supernaturally oriented than Out of the Silent Planet, and Lewis presents more of his theology in it, especially his thoughts on the nature of evil. Lewis does not make the mistake, as some writers do, of portraying evil as exciting or interesting or intelligent. In Out of the Silent Planet, evil is described as “bent”, some quality or thing not acting or being used according to its proper function or role. In Perelandra, as well as some of his other writings, evil is shown to be a lessening of a person or thing. The person who turns to evil becomes less of an individual. Weston as the Unman is less than he was as the scientist who discovered how to travel through space. The Unman is clever and charming while he is tempting the Queen, but when off duty, so to speak, he lapses into imbecility and childish taunting of Ransom. Towards the end of their struggle, Weston seems to temporarily regain control of himself and tells Ransom of his experience dying and coming back to life. Ransom is never sure whether Weston actually was speaking or the demon was trying to trick him. In the end, Ransom decides that it simply doesn’t make any difference. When Weston and the demon turned to evil, they began to lose the qualities that made them individuals. Eventually all that is evil becomes indistinguishable.

Lewis will also have nothing to do with the idea of a fortunate fall, the idea that Adam and Eve were ignorant of evil in their innocence and that at least they gained knowledge. The Unman does tempt the Queen with the knowledge of good and evil, yet she and the King gain more knowledge of good and evil by rejecting temptation than by falling. The King and Queen inform Ransom, at the end of the book, that the people of Thulcandra, our Earth, are more ignorant of evil than they are, because of the Fall and our own evil deeds.

Perelandra is, if anything, even more entertaining than Out of the Silent Planet and is a worthy sequel to that book, although like all of C. S. Lewis’s fiction, it is as much a work of apologetics as story, and Perelandra is, as I have said more theologically oriented than that earlier work. The reader who does not agree with Lewis’s religious beliefs may like Perelandra less well, but I can recommend it.

 

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The Election of 1812

May 15, 2014

The election of 1812 was America’s first wartime election. James Madison was a man of peace and hadn’t wanted a war. Unfortunately the continuing refusal of Britain and France to respect the United States’ neutrality made war necessary. The British were the worst offenders since they were in the habit of impressing American sailors into the Royal Navy. The War Hawks in Congress, Especially Henry Clay and John C. Calhoun demanded war to protect the national honor against such egregious abuses. They also hoped that it would be possible for the United States to conquer Canada and seize Florida from Spain.  In June of 1812, Congress declared war at President Madison‘s request and the War of 1812 began.

The United States was not ready for war. The American army was small and better prepared to defend against Indian raids than fight against a professional European army. The state militias were poorly disciplined and often refused to serve outside their states. The charter for the First Bank of the United States had not been renewed because of the Jeffersonians’ hostility to the idea of a national bank and so the United States found it difficult to pay the expenses of a war. The war was not popular in New England. New England had been most harmed by British and French interference with trade, but the New Englanders feared that war would destroy their economy altogether.The US Navy was also small, but the United States had been expanding the number of ships and, backed by privateers, was actually able to hold its own against the largest navy in the world.

The army didn’t do so well. The invasion of Canada was a disaster. The British counter attack into Chesapeake Bay resulted in the capture of Washington and the burning of the White House. Only the fact that the British were preoccupied with defeating Napoleon prevented America from outright defeat in the first years of the war. Eventually, the Americans were able to learn from their mistakes and as the war progressed were able to win victories against the British and their Native American allies. With the end of the Napoleonic Wars, the causes for disputes between the United Kingdom and the United States ended and, in 1815, the two countries made peace, based on the pre-war status quo.

But, all this was in the future. Just a month before the War of 1812 began,  the Democratic-Republican members of Congress met in a caucus and nominated James Madison for another term as president. Since Madison’s vice president died of a heart attack that April, the caucus selected Elbridge Gerry of  Massachusetts  for vice president. Not everybody was happy with this slate and the Democratic-Republicans in the New York legislature decided to support DeWitt Clinton, the mayor of New York City and George Clinton’s nephew.

Since their strength was in New England, the Federalists opposed the War of 1812. There was some support for Chief Justice John Marshall, but ultimately the Federalists decided in their caucus in September to support DeWitt Clinton in the hope that he would deliver New York for them. A caucus in Pennsylvania nominated Jared Ingersoll,  the state’s attorney general for vice president. Clinton agreed to support Ingersoll in order to win Pennsylvania. A few Federalists supported Rufus King.

Clinton and his supporters ran a two sided campaign. In New England, he was a man who wanted peace and deplored the damage the war caused to New England’s economy. In the South and West, he supported a vigorous prosecution of the war. It didn’t work. Madison won reelection without too much trouble. Clinton had gotten more votes than any Federalist candidate since Adams but it wasn’t enough. The final results in the popular vote were 140,431 or 50.4% for Madison and 132,781 or 47.6% for Clinton, although only nine of the eighteen states chose their electors by popular vote. In the electoral college Clinton won 89 votes. He won New England, New York, New Jersey, and Delaware. Madison won the west and south along with Vermont, giving him 128 electoral votes. It was a closer election for Madison than his first one, but he got a second term.

 

The Election of 1812

The Election of 1812

 

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Koch-topus

May 12, 2014

I got this email from Moveon.org.

Dear MoveOn member,

If you’re concerned about the power of the Koch brothers, you’ve got to hear this new podcast.

It’s the inside story of the documentary Citizen Koch, which was supposed to air on PBS—before executives yanked the film out of fear of upsetting the billionaire Koch brothers. (By the way: It turned out David Koch had donated $23 million to PBS.1)

As you might expect from a couple of documentary producers who helped Michael Moore make Fahrenheit 9/11, the directors ofCitizen Koch didn’t take this lying down. The story of how it all happened, and what happened next, will inspire you.

Thanks for all you do.

–Ben Wikler

Actually, I am more concerned about the targeting of private citizens as public enemies by an entire political party and by senior officials on government.  I am not such that the presence of a couple of the producers who helped make Fahrenheit 9/11 is much of a recommendation considering the number of inaccuracies and outright lies found in that “documentary”. If Citizen Koch is similarly mendacious and libelous, then there is no great mystery why PBS would not care to broadcast it.

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Gleichschaltung

May 12, 2014

Gleichschaltung is a German word which means something like coordinating or bringing into line. This word was used by the Nazis to describe the process of bringing everything in Germany under the control of the Nazi Party. The ideology of the Nazis, or National Socialists, was socialist but unlike the socialism, or Communism of Marx and Lenin, the Nazis and Fascists emphasized national unity rather than the international class struggle. In this, Hitler and Mussolini were perhaps more shrewd observers of human nature than Marx or Lenin since it is more natural for human beings to identify according to nation or tribe than by class.

In any event, the whole idea of Gleichschaltung was that every German should be pulling together in the same direction. The whole German population should behave not as individuals with their own concerns but as the German nation with everyone cooperating toward the common goal of restoring German greatness. Every citizen should act and think as one. Naturally, there was little room for those Germans who happened to dissent from the common goal and still less for those people who weren’t really German, those Jews and others.

All of this may seem to belong to the past, yet I have noticed something very similar happening here, an American Gleichschaltung, albeit on a very small scale, so far. I have written before about people who have dared to dissent from politically correct orthodoxy and have paid the price. Recently these have included the president of Chick-Fil-A, Phil Robertson, Brendan Eich, and others. If you are a conservative Christian who believes in the rational definition of marriage, you can now expect to be silenced. Same sex marriage isn’t the only issue in which no dissent is permitted. Cliven Bundy dared to depart from the script on racial matters and was universally denounced as a racist, even though a transcript of his actual remarks shows that he did not advocate slavery for Blacks nor did he say that they were inherently inferior. He questioned the efficacy of many current liberal policies on the African American community. That was enough to ostracize him.

The latest victims of this American Gleichschaltung are the Benham brothers. These two men renovate homes and until recently were going to have a  show on HGTV. Their show has been cancelled because they proved to have extremely offensive beliefs that have no place on television or anywhere else in public. To learn about these extreme beliefs, read this article in the Washington Times. I warn you, you may be offended.

HGTV has decided to cancel an upcoming television series featuring twin brothers who renovate homes amid outcry from liberals about the brothers’ Christian, conservative views.

The series, “Flip it Forward,” has been the target of criticism ever since an article was published on a liberal activist website, Right Wing Watch, claiming hosts David and Jason Benham have a history of speaking out against gay marriage, abortion and divorce, the Daily Caller reported.

The article accused David of being a “right-wing activist in the mold of his father, Flip Benham,” an evangelical minister who heads the anti-abortion-clinic protest group Operation Save America.”

It also said that David Benham led a prayer rally in Charlotte during the Democratic National Convention and spoke out against gay marriage.

On Wednesday, HGTV tweeted: “HGTV is currently in process of reviewing all information about the Benhams and we will provide an update as soon as possible.”

On Thursday, the network tweeted: “HGTV has decided not to move forward with the Benham Brothers’ series.”

David and Jasonsaid in a statement that they are “saddened to hear HGTV’s decision.”

“With all of the grotesque things that can be seen and heard on television today you would think there would be room for two twin brothers who are faithful to our families, committed to biblical principles, and dedicated professionals,” the statement read. “If our faith costs us a television show then so be it.

“Anyone who suggests that we hate homosexuals or people of other faiths is either misinformed or lying,” they said. “Over the last decade, we’ve sold thousands of homes with the guiding principle of producing value and breathing life into each family that has crossed our path, and we do not, nor will we ever discriminate against people who do not share our views.”


That is not enough. It is not enough merely not to discriminate against people. Under the New Order you must fully and enthusiastically accept every aspect of correct left-wing ideology, or pay the price. Every American must think and act as one if we are to be free. 

There is more.

Slate magazine called the network’s move a “wise business decision.”

I suppose it is a wise business decision, in the same way that a shop owner who agrees to pay money to a gangster running a protection racket is making a wise business decision.

“Predictably, some conservative Christian sites are already crying persecution and ‘discrimination,’” J. Bryan Lowder wrote.

Maybe that is because there is persecution and discrimination here.

So far, the American Gleichschaltung  has not been nearly as bad or pervasive as the Nazi version. It has been just a matter of bullying by interest groups and the government hasn’t yet taken a hand in it. Yet, how long before there is actual persecution and discrimination against dissidents, particularly conservative Christians? Recent revelations of the illegal and unconstitutional activities of such agencies as the NSA and IRS, and no doubt others suggest that the idea may not be so far-fetched or paranoid as it may seem.

Titus Andronicus

May 10, 2014

Most people today think of Shakespeare’s plays as the sort of thing that only the refined, intellectual highbrows could appreciate. They forget that Shakespeare was wildly popular with all classes of Elizabethan England. The Elizabethan audiences loved violence and gore as much as any modern audience and Shakespeare was always happy to give the theater goers what they wanted. Sometimes his plays are every bit as gory as anything made by Quentin Tarantino with bloody battles, eyes being gouged out, maidens raped, and worse. Shakespeare’s play Titus Andronicus is really in a class by itself as far as blood and gore on stage goes, as some patrons of the Globe Theater discovered recently, according to this account in the Telegraph.

With 14 deaths, brutal rape scenes, mutilation and cannibalism, Shakespeare’s Titus Andronicus has never been one for the fainthearted.
But the gruesome scenes at the Globe Theatre’s latest revival have proved too much for even the most daring of theatre-goers.
Members of the audience have been fainting during the play’s most violent scenes, with others reporting feeling sick and warning of sleepless nights.
The play, a revival of Lucy Bailey’s 2006 production, is publicised with a warning that it is “grotesquely violent and daringly experimental”, with a “terrible cycle of mutilation, rape and murder”.
The play’s most famous scene sees Titus murder the sons of his rival Tamora, Queen of the Goths, later feeding their remains to her in a pie. A spokesman for the Globe confirmed five members of the audience fainted in a particularly gory five-minute scene, adding front of house staff are “very well trained to look after people”. It is understood all five fell while watching Lavinia emerge from being brutally raped, with her tongue cut out and holding bloodied stumps for arms. “Shakespeare definitely didn’t pull any punches when he was writing Titus – it is a brutally violent play and Lucy’s production is a bloody, exhilarating, incense-laden feast for the senses,” the spokesman added. “But not one for the squeamish!” One theatre-goer, who watched the show’s opening night, said there had been “quite a few droppers” in the audience, who fainted upon seeing so much blood. Another reported he had “almost puked” by the interval, while a third warned: “You will definitely need a strong stomach”. Others praised the “Brilliantly staged and flawlessly acted” production, but warned of “blood and violence galore”. “Can’t fall asleep after watching a great but gory performance of Titus Andronicus,” one ticket-holder wrote on Twitter. Sources at Shakespeare’s Globe confirmed trained first aiders were present for the show. The theatre is well-versed in fainting audience members, after visitors blanched at the blood and gore in the original 2006 production.
Titus-Andronicus_2896890b
And you thought Shakespeare was boring. Titus Andronicus is one of the best known examples of a revenge play along with Thomas Kyd’s The Spanish Tragedy. A revenge play is a tragedy in which the protagonist seeks revenge for some wrong committed by the villain, generally the murder of a kinsman. The genre was very popular in Shakespeare’s time but curiously, Shakespeare didn’t really use it much. Of his plays only Titus Andronicus and Hamlet could really be considered revenge plays, though there were elements in some of his other plays, such as Julius Caesar and Macbeth. Titus Andronicus was one of his earlier plays, his first tragedy,  and may have been a collaboration with George Peele. Perhaps as Shakespeare became more established and popular, he was less inclined to follow trends. After all, at the height of his career, he was the one setting the fashion in drama. I hope the promise of blood and gore will encourage people to investigate Shakespeare. Shakespeare really doesn’t belong to the intellectuals and the literature professors. He belongs to all of us.
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Rational Response

May 10, 2014

The Supreme Court recently ruled, in Town of Greece v Galloway, that the Town of Green, by opening its Town Board meetings with a prayer by a volunteer chaplain is not violating the establishment clause of the First Amendment, even if the prayer happens to mention a specific deity. Naturally, Atheists generally and the Freedom from Religion Foundation particularly are responding in the calm, thoughtful, rational way we have all come to expect. Or, maybe not, judging from this item on their blog. I am  not sure to what extent this is an official position taken by the FfRF but they did allow it to be published on their website, so I must assume they approve of the sentiments.

Today’s ruling by the U.S. Supreme Court in Greece v. Galloway is potentially disastrous for state-church separation. This decision could be the equivalent of Dred Scott or Plessy for our cause. FFRF’s new “Nothing Fails Like Prayer” award/contest is a great incentive and call to action and I hope that hundreds or thousands of citizen activists will take up the challenge. As an activist who has openly protested public prayer on many occasions, I offer the following opinion and suggestions for others to consider going forward.

Justice Kennedy’s argument provided substantial reasoning to strike down Marsh v Chambers and prohibit government-sponsored prayer altogether, but his conclusion was all wrong. With this ruling the high court has opened the door for local majority religions (and religious thugs) to take over city and state government proceedings. “Majority rule” is not democracy and this ill-thought decision should give supporters of Christian prayer pause in light of America’s rapidly shifting demographics. Public prayers will not always be Christian, especially in cities like Dearborn, Mich., which has a growing Muslim majority, or Clearwater, Fla., that has a majority of Scientology followers. These and other influential religions will begin to assert themselves in isolated areas where Christianity is not the majority religion.

Well, actually majority rule is democracy, which is why I am not really a fan of democracy. I prefer a republic in which while public opinion plays some role in making policies, there are checks against a tyranny of the majority and the rights of minorities and individuals are protected. Personally, I have no objection at all to people of other religions praying in public, provided they extend the same courtesy to me. I think I might get along a lot better with a Muslim or Scientologist than I would with a member of the FfRF who does not seem inclined to extend any courtesy at all to me.

Next, there is a four step plan of action. One and two are complain and demand diversity. Number three is:

3. Voice or otherwise express disapproval or objection

When the public is made captive or invited to participate in public prayers, this very act opens a limited opportunity for immediate petition for a redress of grievances. If members of the public are allowed to voice approval in any way (e.g., by answering “Amen” after a prayer or by applauding or cheering after invocations), the public must also be allowed to voice disapproval (e.g., by booing, making thumbs down gestures, blowing a raspberry, or by making other audible sounds signifying disapproval).

The government may not allow positive feedback or approval while at the same time prohibiting negative feedback or disapproval. It’s all or nothing. Total silence or every voice must be heard. Citizens may also express disapproval by remaining seated when urged to stand or by looking up or straight ahead when asked to bow. Citizens may also abruptly walk out of government proceedings and then make an auspicious re-entry as soon as the prayer has ended. Creative activists will find ways to express themselves in these circumstances.

So, if a chaplain begins a prayer, they will make asses of themselves in public by booing, gesturing, and ostentatiously remaining seated or leaving the room. It gets better.

4. Public mockery

If after the above actions have been taken, the government continues to insult atheists and/or religious minorities with sectarian prayers, activists may turn to public mockery and ridicule. One example is the “prayer mockery hat.” Activist can easily make a brightly colored hat with large ear muffs and dark sunglasses. Wording on the cap could say: “I OBJECT TO PRAYER!” Then, as soon as the pastor or chaplain has been introduced, activists can put on their “prayer mockery hat” with exaggeration and then remain seated throughout the prayer, completely ignoring the pastor until finished. Activists can also mount a small GoPro-style camera to their cap to record the response for posting on Facebook or Youtube.com.

In spite of the disastrous ruling, the fight is not over. We must not submit to this subjugation of our constitutional right to be free FROM unwanted religious intrusion by government. Indeed, “Nothing Fails Like Prayer,” so let us use reason and our constitutional rights of free speech, free association, and the right to petition the government for a redress of grievances to our full advantage.

Have you ever wondered why Atheists tend to be unpopular? Or why a majority of people would not vote for an Atheist for president even if he was otherwise qualified for the job? Perhaps it might have something to do with the sort of antics advocated here. I don’t imagine all, or even most, Atheists would approve of this sort of juvenile behavior, but unfortunately the Atheists most in the public eye tend to come across as ignorant, intolerant jackasses. I think that it is somewhat ironic that the people who continually assert that they are more rational, intelligent, and tolerant than those of us yahoos who believe in God should act in such an irrational and disrespectful manner.

Sign of the Freedom from Religion Foundation, ...

We don’t have to imagine. We’ve seen the results in places like the Soviet Union, the People’s Republic of China, North Korea… (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

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