Saturday, July 09, 2005

The Minstrels and Jesters of Media 2005


I was watching "60 Minutes II", for no better reason than boredom, and I noticed they were going after Enron again. Ken Lay was the supposed focus, but as I watched, I noticed the show had little interest in the real facts of the case, but were essentially just retelling a story the Liberal network finds comforting; a myth of a world where businessmen are always greedy and only the Old Media reporters shine as knight defenders of the Truth. The usual fare from CBS these days. I noticed during the show as well, that the show presented supposition as fact, and speculation in place of evidence. Fine, as long as you are not fooled into thinking you're getting real information.

That's where the Old Media is these days; unable to defend its positions as real news, many programs simply abandon the pretense and tell whatever stories they would like to believe. When I recall the firestorms of protest when the Tiffany Network tried to slander Ronald Reagan, and again when Dan Rather's attempt to manipulate the Presidential Election with papers he knew (or should have known) were forgeries, I sense the dismay which must have filled the boardroom in New York, as they realized that even their favorite targets were to be denied them.

The New Media is enjoying a growth surge, as blogs and websites of many flavors enjoy the rush of both new creative inspiration and the cusp of trend and fashion. But there is a social order there as well; many of the leading blogs were designed and managed by established names from the Old Media, and many of the most successful blogs focused not so much on information or scholarly analysis, but on various measures of entertainment. A glance at the leading blogs reveal the following breakdown; of the Top 20 blogs by traffic, 8 are Political Commentary, 4 are Gossip, 3 are pure Rants, 2 are News Review, and one each are Parodies, Variety, and about Gadgets. That is, they each have developed a core audience and a style which the readers find entertaining.

Story-telling is not dead, and the bards have simply changed instruments.

Friday, July 08, 2005

The American Way


Yesterday, I posted that it was far less likely that a terrorist attack such as we saw in London, would take place in the United States. A number of readers disagreed, weighing in alongside the MSM that only distance and racial demographics have prevented such an attack up to now. I must strongly disagree, to the point of suggesting that the good readers might well need to “unlearn” things they have heard for so long from the mouths of the Stepford Rathers. America is different in many ways, for good or ill, and it’s vitally important to understand that character.

Before the advent of Television, the clear distinction between the American character and other nations could be found in many famous quotes. Some examples:

It is part of the American character to consider nothing as desperate – to surmount every difficulty by resolution and contrivance” – Thomas Jefferson

Two things in America are astonishing: the changeableness of most human behavior and the strange stability of certain principles. Men are constantly on the move, but the spirit of humanity seems almost unmoved.” – Alexis de Tocqueville

I always consider the settlement of America with reverence and wonder, as the opening of a grand scene and design in providence, for the illumination of the ignorant and the emancipation of the slavish part of mankind all over the earth” – John Adams

We have, as all will agree, a free Government, where every man has a right to be equal with every other man. In this great struggle, this form of Government and every form of human right is endangered if our enemies succeed” – Abraham Lincoln

Young man, there is America--which at this day serves for little more than to amuse you with stories of savage men and uncouth manners; yet shall, before you taste of death, show itself equal to the whole that commerce which now attracts the envy of the world” – Edmund Burke

Pretty words, but of course others could counter that many nations have such praise. Indeed, if flowery prose were the currency of valid right, France would still be a world power. But I note the quotes by and about Americans, because for good or ill we have an unparalleled effect on the world, in every venue and enterprise. To speak bluntly, we always win in the end. Yes, we have lost wars before, to Canada and to Red Cloud’s Sioux, and in Vietnam, but always we came back later. We made Canada our veritable ward and junior partner in the continent, and the Sioux are extinct today. And Vietnam comes to us these days at our banks and boardrooms, hat in hand to ask for our assistance in their ventures. We obliterated every tribe of Apache and Iroquois and Comanche that dared rise up against us, and so too put down Mexican incursions into territory held by U.S. troops. Right or wrong, our history is one of ruthless victory, an inevitable tide sweeping away all opposition. We crushed the natives on land we wished to take, but we also swept away piracy on the high seas. We established a de facto empire on the North American continent, but have prevailed to make Civil Rights a reality in every place we control, and an issue not to be ignored in every nation who wishes to treat with us.

What does this have to do with Global Terrorism, and the risk to our cities? Lessons are taught in blood and horror, believe these sorts of men, and they themselves listen to instruction by pain. They raised the stakes by attacking our children, and we in turn raise the stakes again by promising the end to their culture. Not the culture of Islam, which threat would incite a true Jihad for the survival of their faith, but the culture of death and thuggery.

Osama bin Laden is proved a fool in the cast of Benito Mussolini, and Musab al-Zarqawi has been shown a fraud in his presumption, not unlike Pol Pot. That is, such men believed, like the fools before them, that the American character could be bullied into subservience, that the murder of our innocents would quell us into still acceptance of their control. It is the founding lie of Wahhabism and Fascist Terrorism, that strength is shown through butchery, that the more obscene the violence the greater and unstoppable the will. Instead, they have found that while there are weak Americans, there are many more who have hidden reserves of ideals and courage, who are not long dismayed by such atrocities, but they shall rise to fight it down. Knowing the threat, Americans are not content merely to avoid it, but seek its destruction and to crush the fathers of such evil. We may pause when led by weak men, but inevitably return to the challenge resolute and determined to make an end of the world’s vipers.

The tale of the last century should have made this clear. Europe could not avoid a useless war on its continent between monarchs who cared more for their pride than for reform to mutual gain; the Americans came in to end that fight, and it behooves notice that none of the participants in World War I who had a monarch going into the war, now has one in the same fashion or authority as they did when they began, but the Americans are now as they were then. When the Fascists rose, the British were steadfast and many allies were brave, but none doubt in fact that it was America which ended the war and remade Europe. When Communism held half the world in sway, it was America to whom the world depended to keep hope alive, and while some leaders proved unsuited to the challenge, others were beyond equal in their ability and moral stamina, setting the example and condition not only for resistance against the Red threat, but also setting the template for future leaders to follow. Now comes the threat of the dissolute order, where petty warlords and gangs of immoral theocrats think to hold sway over a region through sheer intimidation, believing that by abandoning the basic decency of human morality they can impel acceptance of their command. For a time, because Clinton was weak in the mold of Chirac and Schroeder, they were able to grab land and souls for their possession, but it did not last. On September 11, 2001, they attacked an America which did not exist as they believed. We were drowsy to the clarion but not dead, and President Bush was not a man to ignore the needs of the nation or of our responsibility.

The Taliban once held all of Afghanistan under its control, believing that no one could wrest away that rocky distant land, but they were wrong. Not only did the United States remove the Taliban from Afghanistan, but that nation has held free elections in voice of its future, a victory so complete that even the hypocrites on the Left who once opposed it are now silent, lest the truth of our cause and their own cowardice be made even more evident. Saddam Hussein once not only thumbed his nose at the terms of his signed Cease-Fire with American-led forces, but openly and generously funded and supplied over a dozen terrorist organizations. Today, he sits in a cell waiting for his trial, facing the knowledge that his country is free and has elected its own self-Sovereign government. Libya once promised a rain of destruction on America, but has instead been compelled to agree to destroy its WMD programs. Syria has been forced to remove occupying troops from Lebanon, specifically because the people of Lebanon called upon President Bush and America to assist them. Four major terrorist groups which exported hate and violence from the Middle East just four years ago, today no longer exist, their entire membership captured or killed. No other country on the planet does what America does, to fundamentally alter the foundations of power and authority when it acts with decision.

Terrorists select targets for different reasons than military men do. Where a military man seeks to achieve a victory in the war, and compels his tactics to suit the strategy, the terrorist looks only for opportunity, believing that enough pin-pricks will kill the nation he attacks, and that every thrill of violence will demoralize his enemy. He trusts his cause to be better simply because he has been told so, and he does not dare weigh the argument morally or in the context of his own claims. The evidence of past incidents shows the fallcy of such delusion. A weak government may well counsel compliance, even with monsters, rather than take up the hard and heavy sword, but though giants may look like ordinary men while they slumber, when roused they are another sort altogether. The terrorist groups, as much as they hate Americans, now know that there is an unavoidable price for attacking our cities and people. The Islamo-fascists have paid heavily for 9/11, and we are not nearly done. Attacking an American city will only renew focus on why we are at war and stoke the fire of our determination to win the conflict completely. The terrorists are slowly learning the truth of the different peoples they may attack:

Kill a Frenchman, and his government will apologize to you.

Kill an Italian, and he will curse and fight you, but his government will be silent.

Kill a Brit, and the government will kill some of yours.

Kill Americans, and the government may be slow to act, but in the end your group will be obliterated, totally destroyed.

That is the unavoidable lesson, which can be delayed if our leaders are lulled to sleep and if their personal nature be directed to cowardice and expediency, but inevitably we shall return to a leader unafraid to meet the challenge. If we are delayed by a Carter, there will yet be a Reagan. If there is a Clinton who refuses the call, it shall be answered by a Bush. Sooner or later, we will win, and in so doing utterly remove all that these Terrorists count dear. Islam shall hold its proper place in the Middle East, free from the bloody hands of men who can only speak threats and imprecations. And if a nation cannot conduct its affairs without respect for our people, we shall remove that power to be replaced by one which comes from its people. For the way of the terrorist is not the way of the Arab or the Muslim, and the way of the American is never to accept cowardice or submission to murder.

Thursday, July 07, 2005

Early Thoughts About the Attacks in London


The facts are beginning to become clear about what happened today in London. In short, at 9:15 AM British Summer Time, there were four explosions caused by bombs; three in subway tunnels and one on a bus, in the financial district near Liverpool Station at the Aldgate Station, at Edgware Road and King’s Cross in north London, and Russell Square in central London. The bus explosion occurred at Tavistock Square. At this time, at least 41 people are known to be dead, with an unknown number of injured and maimed, although estimates vary from the low (300) to high (900) hundreds. Injuries and damage are consistent with conventional explosives. A previously unknown group claiming affiliation with Al Qaeda has claimed responsibility for the attacks, but the claim’s credibility has not been established yet, in large part because the claim was vague, lacking any evidence to prove their action, and because the claim was made after knowledge of the events was public.

My initial thoughts include great respect for the people of London, who refuse to be cowed by thuggery and butchers, and I note that the terrorists have tacitly accepted limits to their scope: The obvious target was to influence the G-8 Conference, but the fact that the terrorists chose to settle for civilian targets in London as much as admits they lack the planning and execution capacity they held just a few years ago. As terrible as the loss of these innocents is, it demonstrates the futile thrashing of a dying monster.

May the LORD watch over all His children, bringing aid and recovery to the victims able to receive it, solace and peace to those beyond return, and may His emissaries swiftly bring a terrible retribution to the men who planned and acted in this atrocity.

Wednesday, July 06, 2005

Christ The Catalyst, pt 2


Continuing with the thought from my last post, if we assume that Jesus is who the NT says He is, and that He did and said what the NT claims, it strikes me that Jesus was very personal in His words and actions. While He sometimes spoke to crowds and a few of His miracles were for many, in the main He spoke one to one, and His miracles, especially His healing, was always at the personal level. That, to me, explains the devotion of the earliest disciples; they not only believed what they were teaching, but had experienced God Himself, one to one.

The Bible tells us God did this from time to time, though we can’t reasonably conclude that God only showed up where Scripture noted the event. Face to face with Adam, and personal contact with Noah, Enoch, Abraham, Moses, Elijah and Elisha – you get the idea. The thing is, every time God makes a personal appearance, He gets results in that person’s life and work.

So the thing about Jesus is, even if you say that the whole Atonement thing is not necessary, it was never about that in the main, anyway. It was about God reaching out to all of us, every last one of us, with a gift of unlimited hope and joy if we will accept it.

You may know from my past articles, that I am one of those who believes that God will offer a universal salvation, indeed already has. Man, having free will, makes the matter a bit murky as to how each specific soul will be resolved, but except for “blasphemy against the Holy Spirit”, every sin and offense will be forgiven. That being the case, one might naturally wonder what purposes there is for Christians. We are vessels to carry and share the Good News, although some of us are better at the task than others. Further, we are meant to live in the light, so that men will see its goodness. Again, some are better in this venture than others, though that also counts to different gifts from the Father.

So, and this is something of a thought in development, the value of Christianity is the relationship, not the atonement alone.

Monday, July 04, 2005

Christ The Catalyst


On another site, a member who is not Christian asked me to explain why, if the notion that all men are sinful and in need of a Savior was taken away, this would not collapse the foundations of Christ upon itself. Upon further thought, I would like to expand both the question and the answer.

The world has certainly changed, culturally, since that strange itinerant preacher made His way among the men and women of 1st-Century Judea, teaching and setting an example still talked about, if at odds, today. Not only because most 1st-world people are far more familiar with alternative religions and philosophies, but because the group condition for Christians has changed, and changed, and changed again. What I mean by that is, what was at first a small and much-persecuted group of believers, whose faith alone kept them intact in the first 200 years of their existence, found itself accepted and then suddenly supported as the favored state religion. From there, Christianity’s leaders soared to new heights of power and wealth, but this tore them away from the common touch of the early Church fathers. By the turn of the Millennium, the Church had stratified to a caste system, which in practical terms means that the average Christian, once again, had to depend on his faith to survive in a world of powers which cared not a whit for him.

This condition changed again as different kingdoms rose and fell, now the Romans, now the Huns, now the Muslims invading from the south, now the Crusade to push them back, then another to “reclaim” the Holy Lands, for purposes of merit only to men born to power. Small wonder that the Church denied individuals the right to own and read their own Bibles; the teachings of Christ found little support in the actions and doctrines of the Holy Roman Empire. This does not mean, by the way, that the Roman Catholic Church was the source or origin of this evil; many European villages depended on their parish priests in many ways, and at the level of the common man, the Church was a very good thing, noble at times. And the truth of the corrupting influence of power and wealth was in place long before the first Christian church.

All these things might well convince non-Christians that indeed there is nothing new under the sun, as for the most part, Christians have not often acted in a distinctly better example to Humanity than people of other beliefs. Also, the inability of the Christian Church as a whole to speak in unity on points of Doctrine does not suggest the Church has perfect wisdom. As a result, there is much confusion about what good it does to be Christian, or even why we choose the Way of Christ. This article attempts to address those points.

Let’s start with God. On the one hand, it appears that we mortal creatures cannot really understand our Immortal Creator. On the other, it seems reasonable to me that our loving Father wants us to know Him as well as we can. Assuming the Bible stories in Genesis are correct, the first humans had direct personal contact with God. Other faiths teach direct contact with God, and some of them I find quite believable. And it makes perfect sense to me. I have never found it reasonable to pray to a go-between for my most intimate needs, nor do I believe I have received holy blessings through a distribution center. Not that I reject priests and ministers; The LORD uses angels, after all, so there is a purpose for agents at different levels, but I begin with the belief that God reaches us directly. If you want to consider the distinction between the perfect Holiness of God, the love which has compassion for each of us, the truth which resides within us at the core, and the freedom we all possess to choose the course of our souls.

One element to God’s will is the composite effect of History. That is, each generation receives its share of blessings, along with its share of trials. It’s impossible, I think, for any human to explain why something particularly good or bad happens to a particular person or group at a particular place or time, but it seems clear to me that if we accept the proposition of a caring Lord, that there would be a purpose beyond the apparent. One critical dimension is the transition from the mortal and temporary, to the eternal and absolute. Trite as it sounds, Death is not the end, nor should a person be weighed solely on what is visible on the surface. The trick comes in finding the deeper meaning, and I do not think God disparages anyone willing to try that road.

So, with all that, what’s the value and plan for Christianity? It comes down to a closer look at the way Christ acted and taught. Jesus did His work for the most part by speaking to people one to one, by teaching case by case, and His miracles were primarily for individuals. Consider His healing - it would have been easier by far for Jesus to heal counties at a time. Instead, He reached out to individuals, whether healing, teaching, or setting the perfect example.

I’m still working on this thought, but it reinforces the precious nature of Christ’s love, to realize that He lived and worked and died and was resurrected for us all. One by one, by plan.

Sunday, July 03, 2005

Sermons From Serpents


One thing which has puzzled me about public opinion and the War On Terror, is why reasonable people so often seem to buy into lies and hysteria from the Left. Since very few people consider themselves Liberals these days, why would they buy into the Liberal version of Reality?

I went to my parents’ church this morning, and naturally the service was patriotic in theme. It struck me then, when during the organized prayer, the Associate Minister cautioned the congregation that perhaps we should reconsider going into places “with force and destruction, and then wondering why our reputation suffered”. Shortly after that, in a session recognizing Armed Services veterans and their families, the ministers made a point to note the sacrifices and service given in World War 2, in Korea, and in the Gulf War of 1990-1991, but were silent about veterans of the present conflicts in Afghanistan and Iraq. With or without the intent, the clergy implied that only certain veterans deserved respect and support. During the sermon, discussing the sin of Pride, the minister again made a point to claim that nations and leaders do not do well to act without considering the opinions of others. The Gospel According to Michael Moore, you see.

I do not mean to say that the United Methodist Church may not hold its own opinions on political matters and morality, nor that individual ministers may not speak out when they see what they deem sin in a leader. But I noted there was no balance to this Socialist Gospel; no mention of the millions of people freed in Iraq and Afghanistan, nor of their free elections, no mention of the effects the Bush Doctrine has had on Syria, on Lebanon, on Libya, and on all the rest of the Middle East. No attempt at all to express the matter in the broader context. Of course, the United Methodist Church was also silent when one of their own denomination, President Clinton, admitted to Adultery, even to lying under oath. Not our place to condemn opined the Serpents, no need to embarrass the man. No word of criticism about the foreign policy which left more than a hundred thousand dead in Rwanda, which excused the genocide in Bosnia, and which left dozens of tyrannical regimes unanswered, in power with the tacit approval not only of the Clinton Administration, but also of the Methodists. Lenin from a pulpit, n’cest pas?

There are many fronts in the war to renew American commitment to its ideals. Keeping the players honest, whether they wear a suit or robe, is a major part of that challenge.