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Thursday, June 28, 2007
Kelly's Heroes, Updated
There's a question that the 1970 film never answered: how (or if) those intrepid soldiers could have spirited that cache of gold out of Germany once they got their hands on it. I can't imagine how a handful of guys could successfully smuggle 14,000 gold bars (minus the German tank commander's cut) out of the country. The only alternative is exchanging the gold for currency. Kelly has two problems: finding a buyer for the gold in a war zone, and smuggling much lighter yet still bulky wads of cash.
Modern technology has solved the second problem, as illustrated by the following spam email I received today:
I am in need of your assistance. My name is SGT Justin Harris . I am in the Engineering military unit here in Ba'qubah in Iraq, we have about US$25 Million US dollars that we want to move out of the country. My partners and I need a good partner someone we can trust. It is oil money and legal.We are moving it through diplomatic means, to send it to your house directly or a bank of your choice using diplomatic courier service they can ship it directly to you in your place, door to door delivery. The most important thing is that can we trust you? Once the funds get to you, you take your 50% out and keep our own 50%. Your own part of this deal is to find a safe place where the funds can be sent to. Our own part is sending it to you. If you are interested i will furnish you with more details. But the whole process is simple and we must keep a low profile at all times.Can i trust you and will you help?
Send me an email with your positive reply and i will send you more details and the plan. Dont worry it is risk free. Waiting for your urgent response.
Tip to travelers: when visiting a nation that endured a bloody Maoist insurgency for many years, do not go around sporting Maoist fashion accessories.
Cameron Diaz is sorry for being unaware of the "potentially hurtful nature of the slogan" on the handbag she purchased. I doubt that Peruvians would even recognize a slogan written in Chinese pictographs. But everyone should recognize an olive drab handbag with a big red star and Chinese script as something that just screams Communist China.
As for that slogan...I wonder how many people have connected "Serving the People" with this.
Which brings to mind an old post regarding one of Mao's other favorite sayings:
Nothing summarizes Marxist utilitarianism better than Mao's famous statement, "To make an omelet, you must break a few eggs." The analogy is perhaps more illustrative than Mao would have recognized; as one consumes one's breakfast for personal nourishment, Communist elites (literally and figuratively) consume a nation's population for their own enrichment.
In last Sunday's crossword syndicated by United Media, the clue for 113 Across is "Hunter's need." What seven-letter word or phrase comes to mind? Shotgun? Good aim? Not even close - the puzzle's answer is license.
Update: I checked - United Media's offices are in New York City.
The immediately preceding suras (34-39) began the theme of rebelliousness, in this case, that of the fallen angels. The following suras are taken from this translation:
002.034 And behold, We said to the angels: "Bow down to Adam" and they bowed down. Not so Iblis: he refused and was haughty: He was of those who reject Faith.
002.035 We said: "O Adam! dwell thou and thy wife in the Garden; and eat of the bountiful things therein as (where and when) ye will; but approach not this tree, or ye run into harm and transgression."
002.036 Then did Satan make them slip from the (garden), and get them out of the state (of felicity) in which they had been. We said: "Get ye down, all (ye people), with enmity between yourselves. On earth will be your dwelling-place and your means of livelihood - for a time."
002.037 Then learnt Adam from his Lord words of inspiration, and his Lord Turned towards him; for He is Oft-Returning, Most Merciful.
002.038 We said: "Get ye down all from here; and if, as is sure, there comes to you Guidance from Me, whosoever follows My guidance, on them shall be no fear, nor shall they grieve.
002.039 "But those who reject Faith and belie Our Signs, they shall be companions of the Fire; they shall abide therein."
Today's suras continue that theme with regard to ancient Israel. This section touches on familiar Biblical stories of Israel's rebelliousness at the time of the Exodus. But not all is familiar. The Bible does not record an argument detailed in suras 67-71, in which Moses commands the sacrifice of a heifer and the people keep asking for detail after detail about what kind of heifer is to be sacrificed. In the Bible, animal sacrifice is already recorded in considerable detail in the stone tablets; it is unlikely to imagine such an argument erupting as the Law of Moses is being read. It also seems odd to find the complaint against Jews "profan[ing] the Sabbath" from this time period - how does one violate the Sabbath while one is wandering in a desert?
The Old Testament speaks of Israel waxing and waning in its overall level of obedience to God. (The same is true of Christendom.) But in the Koran everything is downhill. One also gets the impression that Jewish history after the Exodus is inconsequential; the only post-Exodus event recorded in "The Cow" is some mysterious incident involving Solomon (Sura 102).
Click the "Koran" label to see all my posts on this series.
Most Christians have no problem getting along with non-Christians. This may seem confusing to some; after all, Christianity teaches that those who are not reconciled with God will not receive salvation. Why care about people who aren't going to Heaven?
One could say that while a particular non-Christian is alive we really don't know that that person's eternal destination won't make a course change at a later date. That's a valid observation, but not the real reason.
Christianity makes a radical claim about the relationship between believers, nonbelievers and God: we're all family. God created the souls of all, thus he is the father of all, believers and nonbelievers alike. All of the children have gone astray - but some have reconciled with him while others have not.
When one is faced with the earthly parallel - being in good standing with Dad while some of the other siblings aren't - one is charged with three tasks: to build and maintain the relationship with Dad, to build and maintain the relationships with the wayward siblings without doing anything that interferes with the paternal relationship, and to act as a bridge between the wayward siblings and Dad. That third task is tricky; there will be occasions to discuss the rift outright, but most of the time it involves nothing more than being a positive influence to that sibling.
Christianity works the same way. Loving God doesn't mean giving up on non-Christian friends. We may have to reassess what kinds of "fun" we pursue with them, though. (Heck, sometimes we have to reassess the "fun" we pursue with fellow Christians.) Witnessing to nonbelievers isn't all Amway sales presentations. Most of the time it's just bringing good to someone's life.
The hardest part of doing good to others is when it requres criticism. We see them doing something destructive, and we want to help. We need to effectively communicate what the problem is, how it hurts that person, and how the future can be better when that problem is dealth with.
Most Christians grasp all this, even if they haven't thought it out as thoroughly as outlined here. They care about both believers and nonbelievers out of the same human motivations that drive us all, and because they believe in a God who values everyone.
Blogger and pastor Mark Roberts has a lot to say about Hitchens and his latest book god is Not Great. Roberts debated Hitch on the Hugh Hewitt show; much of his bloggage on the subject stems from that debate. Read the whole thing.
Giuliani has a 12-item platform. Most of the planks are good, but some raise questions.
Number 8 throws a bone to right-to-lifers, and goes beyond abortion:
I will increase adoptions, decrease abortions, and protect the quality of life for our children.
We need to take advantage of the common ground in America to reduce abortions by increasing adoptions and assuring that individual choice is well informed. We need to measure our progress toward these goals. We need to reduce the high costs of adoption. And we need to protect our children against sexual predators and online pornography.
If "assuring that individual choice is well informed" means what I think it means, the abortion lobby will want his head on a platter. Planned Parenthood and its fellow travelers despise informed consent laws.
Compromise is impossible on the central issue of abortion - either the fetus is a human life or it isn't. Rudy's only chance to settle nerves is to convince right-to-lifers that except for promoting informed consent laws, he's not gonna touch the issue as President. Robin Toner of National Right to Life says history is against his shot at the nomination.
I will reform the legal system and appoint strict constructionist judges.
America must reform its legal system. We need to eliminate nuisance lawsuits through "loser-pays" provisions. Tort reform can help us reduce costs passed on to the consumer, such as higher insurance premiums. Activist judges threaten to expand the power of the courts beyond the bounds established by the Constitution; we must reassert the proper balance.
The NRLC article cites a Rudy quote that calls into question his ability to recognize judicial activism:
"It would be O.K. to repeal," Mr. Giuliani said. "Or it would be O.K. also if a strict constructionist judge viewed it as a precedent, and I think a judge has to make that decision."
One can support abortion and still recognize that the Constitution doesn't guarantee it as a right. The Constitution is silent on the issue, and SCOTUS is not authorized to rule on science, in this case the science of when life begins. Blackmun denied that the Court ruled on science; in the ruling he states, "We need not resolve the difficult question of when life begins." But that is dishonest; the Court based its rulings on assumptions regarding the beginnings of human life.
If Rudy gets Roe wrong, what else will he get wrong?
Number 11 (emphasis added):
I will provide access to a quality education to every child in America by giving real school choice to parents.
Education reform is a civil-rights struggle and the key to improving America’s competitiveness in the global economy. We need to empower parents and children by expanding school choice. We need to promote math and science, while ending the digital divide.
I'd like more details on that last item. That kind of language sounds a bit statist. Sure, those are good things to pursue, but when a politician says "we" need to do something, "we" is usually the government. At the very least, citizens need to know what Rudy has planned.
Number 12 (emphasis added):
I will expand America's involvement in the global economy and strengthen our reputation around the world.
We need to strengthen our country by engaging aggressively the global economy. The mission of the State Department needs to be focused on acting first and foremost as an advocate for America. Fostering trade and educational and cultural exchange will promote the expansion of freedom.
Expanding freedom takes a bit more than that. We've got to find some diplomatic means to get Mexico to expand its economic freedom, so that it will be a prosperous nation and we won't be flooded with economic refugees. That involves talking a government into giving up some of its power. That ain't easy. I don't know what it takes, but I know that educational and cultural exchange aren't nearly enough. Same applies to bargaining with the developing world and with semi-developed nations other than Mexico.
"That, you know, the trend line continues, as I say, dumbing it down, tarting it up, going to celebrity coverage rather than war coverage.
As Moderate Voice states, this is a reference to the news media prioritizing entertainment news over political news, prompted by the specific example of networks interrupting coverage of the dismissal of General Peter Pace to report the latest in Paris Hilton's legal obyssey.
The Qur'an is not to be questioned or judged by any standard outside itself; rather, it is the standard by which all other things are to be judged. That, of course, is not significantly different from the way many other religions regard their Holy Writ. But there has been no development in Islam of the historical and textual criticism that have transformed the ways Jews and Christians understand their scriptures today.
There are two types of textual criticism: one that seeks to better understand the historic context of the Bible, and one spins new context into or original context out of the Bible.
Compare this to the originalist vs. activist methods of interpreting the Constitution. Both types of spin are common to Second Amendment interpretation ("A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed"). Many leftists perceive that the amendment authorizes states to have national guards, and pretend that the latter half of the amendment does not exist. Originalists point out that the Militia is the collective term for all men of consctiption age, that it exists independent of the states, that "well-regulated" in that time was often synonymous with "competent," that Article 1, Section 8 already stipulates State powers regarding the Militia (appointing officers, organizing military training), that "a free State" uses State synonymously with Nation, that the whole reason the Bill of Rights exists is because of concerns about individual rights and not "states' rights," and that the second half of the amendment does indeed exist.
Such treatment of the Bible has always existed. Ancient and modern spin doctors have sought to expunge all claims of Christ's deity from the Bible. Constantine nationalized the church, thus inserting into church authority an entity that was never authorized by the Apostles. Medieval leaders assumed that powers vested to theocratic Israel were vested to all nominally Christian governments, when such is not written in the Bible. The Book of Revelation is a candy store for undocumentable soothsaying.
Back to the Koran.
The Qur'an, we're told, is guidance to those who believe in what was revealed to Muhammad as well as in "that which was revealed before" him (v. 4). This involves the Qur'an's oft-stated assumption that it is the confirmation of the Torah and the Gospel, which teach the same message Muhammad is receiving in the Qur'anic revelations (see 5:44-48). When the Torah and Gospel were found not to agree with the Qur'an, the charge arose that Jews and Christians had corrupted their Scriptures — which is mainstream Islamic belief today.
Interestingly, this closely parallels Watchtower (Jehovah's Witnesses) and Mormon treatment of the Bible. However, the Watchtower does not challenge the veracity of original Biblical scriptures as Islam does - only the modern non-Watchtower translations. (I don't know the Mormon stance on this topic, but I do know that Mormons - and the Watchtower - each claim that it is the only genuinely Christian sect.)
I am also unaware of any historical evidence Islamic scholars have to offer regarding their claim that the original Christian and Jewish scriptures were replaced by spin.
There's more. Read the whole thing.
Update: Click the "Koran" label to see all my posts on this series.
A little late, but here is the first in Robert Spencer's series on the Koran.
Update: Sura 1 is essentially a prayer, and one of the most common in Islam. Spencer focuses on the last two verses: "Show us the straight path, the path of those whom Thou hast favoured; not the (path) of those who earn Thine anger nor of those who go astray." All religions claim that there are true paths and false ones, and all monotheistic religions claim that God isn't pleased when people take the wrong one. (Christianity in particular claims that everybody goes off track.)
All fine and dandy, unless you think that this prayer is appropriate for some ecumenical gathering. The prayer calls for Allah to show the way of Islam, the true path as alleged in the Koran.
Is it possible to draft an appropriate prayer for an ecumenical setting? Is there even a single principle that all religions share? I can't think of one.
Update: Click the "Koran" label to see all my posts on this series.
I remember Jay Manifold's one and only piece of advice on blogging: have fun. That hold true whether one is going for a few laughs or delving into serious topics. Some people have made stabs at coming up with rules for blogging. I won't attempt a comprehensive list, but I believe that these principles are very important:
Do not take disagreement personally. Everybody disagrees with you on something.
In any debate, whether by email or comments section, actually changing opinions is extra credit (and quite rare, by my experience). The goals are to make your position understood and to understand others' positions. You should seek to identify what I call the "hinge issue" - the point at where divergence of opinion begins. I hold up my exchange with Sean LaFreniere (see here and here) as an illustration; the hinge issue in this case is disagreement over the legitimacy of the legal concept of substantive due process.
If you send a link to one of your posts to another blogger, don't request that you be linked - that's already implied by the email. Your goal is to entertain the addressee.
Most bloggers should never blog about work. If in doubt, assume you're among the most.
Don't blog about friends and family without permission.
I'll recount a few blog milestones:
Date uncertain Making use of my ISP-provided webspace to host images displayed on the blog. I wanted that capability most for putting flag icons next to my blogroll entries. It also supports what has become a blog tradition, my annual costume party posts on October 31.
November 5, 2002 Birth of the other blog, the Henderson Prize for the Advancement of Liberty. Inspired by my dissatisfaction with the Nobel Peace Prize. I first announced the "prize" here, and explained why I chose not to parallel the Nobel Peace Prize: "The prize specifies liberty instead of peace because the latter cannot last for any significant length of time without the former." Putting together one of these prizes is one of the highlights of the year. It's educational, and often I don't know the complete roster of awardees until the HPAL entry is complete. For instance, while working on the award to honor the end of slavery in Britain, I didn't realize that it would dovetail with one of that nation's early legislative reforms, the Reform Act of 1832. I also didn't realize how many Communists would win the award for contributing to the downfall of Communism. Because the award seeks to highlight specific events, its roster will invariably include persons who have on other occasions been very unkind to freedom; Janos Kadar is a classic example.
January 12, 2003 One of the early Instalanches, if not the first.
September 08, 2003 My first guest post at Sasha Castel's now-defunct blog; I announced it on this blog here. Being invited to post on someone else's blog is one of the highest compliments a blogger can receive. Don't know if she'll make a comeback, but I've kept a hyperlink in the window.