30 Jun

The Suffering Servant

Today is the official deadline for the conclusion of talks on Iran’s nuclear capacity. There will be no conclusion and the talks will continue until Obama gets the deal he so much craves – no matter that such a deal will be a betrayal of Israel. There have been so many bluffs, lies and obfuscations that it is impossible to see clearly what the details of an agreement would look like.

The Iranians are negotiating…No, let me stop beating about the bush…the Iranians are, as usual, lying. They claim they have no intention of producing nuclear weapons and insist their uranium enrichment process is entirely for peaceful purposes. If you believe that, you might as well also believe that Elvis Presley and Frank Sinatra are in charge of Iran’s nuclear programme.

Why should one of the most oil-rich nations on earth want nuclear energy?

Obama, through his big mouth mouthpiece the egregious John Kerry, is so desperate for a deal that he will grant Iran all the concessions and exemptions they demand. Yes demand. For it is not Kerry and his boss the White House speechifier-in-chief who are running this show: it is Iran’s supreme leader the Ayatollah Khamenei. Iran is a theocracy – or more exactly and Allatocracy, since Allah is certainly not HO Theos – and what the supreme leader says goes.

Iran’s demands are so preposterous that no negotiating partner in his senses could take them seriously for a minute. They will allow UN inspections of their nuclear facilities – but only some facilities. This is like a thorough police search in which, however, the cops don’t look in the attic. Iran will not allow inspectors into its military bases – so how could we know that nuclear weapons were not being produced at such a site? They will not permit the questioning of Iranian scientists who previously worked on the nuclear programme.

Frankly, the talks stink and the inevitable agreement will stink to high heaven.

Does it matter? Won’t there be a delightful peace dividend out of an agreement, improved trading arrangements, smiles and handshakes all round? That’s what it will look like and Obama will claim a triumph to stick in his legacy. The rest of the world, including our very own Dave and the maleficent EU, will praise Obama as the man who – I can see the headlines – BROKE THE STALEMATE AND FINALLY BROUGHT IRAN IN OUT OF THE COLD.

Only one nation will demur – and with good reason. Israel cannot allow Iran to develop nuclear weapons, for the Iranian authorities have pledged many times to wipe Israel off the map.

If they get the bomb they will be able to do just that, immediately and without warning. Thus a pre-emptive strike by Israel would be the country’s only chance.

The Iranians hate Israel because that state works efficiently and has a decent set of political liberties, including freedom to criticise the government. By contrast, Iran is a barbaric tyranny which practises imprisonment without trial, torture and routine executions.

The Israelis have no option but to destroy Iran’s nuclear capability. They must do that or perish. The tragic possibility is that they might do just that and perish.

In thwarting Iran’s nuclear plans, Israel will have done the rest of the world the greatest favour – perhaps at the cost of its own survival

It reminds me of Isaiah chapter 53 and the poetic, prophetic image of Israel as God’s Suffering Servant  who surely hath borne our griefs and carried our sorrows: yet we did esteem him stricken, smitten of God and afflicted.

God help Israel… 

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23 Jun

A whiff of grapeshot

The Church Militant Tendency was well-represented on the BBC this morning when Rev’d Dr Giles Fraser came on Thought for the Day to tell us that the victory at Waterloo was a bad thing: “We worship the Prince of Peace, not the Duke of Wellington.” By contrast, he insisted, Napoleon was a good thing. If he had won and taken over in England, he would have abolished the nobility and we would have had no more of all that reactionary stuff about the Establishment of church and state. Fraser told us straight: there is nothing about patriotism in the Christian Faith.

It’s worth taking a few moments to summarise the doings of Fraser’s hero Bonaparte. He was no egalitarian, no people’s man. He set himself up as tyrant of France, killed four thousand by cannon in Paris in a single day, established concentration camps in the Caribbean and destroyed hundreds of thousands of his own soldiers out of naked self-interest.

Ordinary Englishmen did not long for the rule of Napoleon: they celebrated in the streets when they heard the good news from Waterloo.

Why does Fraser admire the tyrant Bonaparte? Because the socialism and collectivism espoused by such as Fraser always ends in the establishment of tyrannies. Where these doctrines are practised moderately, they lead merely to the impoverishment of the people. Where they are practised thoroughly, they lead to genocide and the gulag.

Never mind the history of the 19th century, Dr Fraser: just cast your eyes over the 20th century. Consider Napoleon’s heirs and successors: Stalin, Mao and the national socialist Hitler.

Actually, Giles Fraser is quite a phenomenon in his own right and deserves our close attention.

He is the philosopher-priest who appeared last year on Christmas University Challenge  to demonstrate that he doesn’t know his Aristotle from his Spinoza.

Fraser is that former canon of St Paul’s who, when the rabble-rousing oiks from Occupy turned up, invited them into the cathedral and told the police, who were trying their best to protect the place, to go away. By these actions, Fraser not only precipitated his own resignation but also that of a fine dean.

What should have been the fate of the ecclesiastical-political lout Fraser? A posting into some decent obscurity would have been merciful .

Instead, he was immediately championed by the Bishop of London who proclaimed, “Giles’s voice is a voice that must continue to be heard.”

And so heard it is. He was given a new parish, a column on The Guardian – where else? – and regular appearances on Thought for the Day. He also turns up to parade his mastery of the non sequitur on The Moral Maze

Such a man should have been dispatched with a whiff of grapeshot. His hero Napoleon would be the man to do it, of course.

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19 Jun

Educashun

In a speech at the annual Festival of Education, Mr John Cridland, head of the Confederation of British Industries – “the bosses’ union” – said that for too long “We’ve just pretended to have an exam system that values vocational education, when in practice, exams have operated as stepping stones towards a university degree.”

Well said, Sir. But the matter is much larger than that. I should like to know why, after eleven years of full time, free, compulsory and hugely expensive schooling, supposedly at the hands of “professionally trained” teachers monitored, spied-upon and graded by  an even more expensive, self-promoting bureaucracy, 43% of pupils still leave school unable to read, write and count efficiently? (By the way, that figure of 43% is not one plucked out of the ether by me, but the Department of Education’s own statistic).

Even to ask this straightforward question is to be denounced as an elitist and an educational snob. I know, for those words have been applied to me time and again – as if I’d been born with the silver spoon in my mouth and attended some posh, fee-paying private school. Actually, I went to Castleton County Primary in a Leeds industrial slum. There were never fewer than forty in our classes and we were very poorly equipped. And never mind elitism. I’m not talking about the binomial theorem or noun clauses but about being able to reckon up money in your head, do simple calculations using the tables up to twelve times and to be able to read a newspaper and a novel such as David Copperfield.

There is nothing abstract or theoretical about the examples I have chosen. All of us at Castleton school could do those things – not just before we left secondary school at sixteen, but before we left primary school aged eleven.

Why, half a century later and the country so much richer, the teaching profession never so well-paid and the educational budget astronomical – and rising – do nearly half our children leave school ill-equipped for daily life?

Standards of basic literacy and numeracy were higher in the late-Victorian age than they are today.

Not least of the reasons for the shambles of our schools is that they are the playthings of a privileged and paranoid state bureaucracy – a nomenclatura – which has come to exist not for those it was designed to serve – the children – but for the benefit of the highly-unionised professionals who operate it.

As Ronald Reagan said, “The most chilling words in the English language are, ‘I’m from the government, and I’m here to help you’.”

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18 Jun

Coniuntio Oppositorum

I count myself fortunate indeed to be living in a world of infinite possibilities and for that we have at long last escaped that oppressive environment in which you had to take what you were given. For example, when I was a boy I supposed I would always be a boy. Only recently I have I heard the voice of the liberating gospel of sexual freedom whisper – what do I mean whisper? I mean of course shout – in my ear that I can become a girl if I like. And that I can get government help with the plumbing in order to do so. I also grew up with the shockingly unimancipated and repressive Christian notion that, if I wanted to get married, it would have to be to a woman.

Thank whatever gods there be – the old pagan gods actually – that Christianity is now inoperative, so that today I am free to marry a man and to become a woman. I suppose that’s as it should be really: a man married to a woman.

But I have a few questions. What if, exercising my pagan rights, I marry a man and then he decides to turn into a woman? Would this be grounds for my divorcing him/her? Would we, after the complicated plumbing involved, even still be married?

You might think such arcane issues are intractable and labyrinthine in their personal, moral and social ramifications. But their settlement is easy-peasy compared with something I’ve just been reading about.

In the USA Rachel Dolezal says “I do take exception because it’s a little more complex than me identifying as black or answering a question of, ‘Are you black or white?’”

I will try to get this as clear as I can and set it out in black and white, so to speak.

Ms Dolezal has resigned from her position as a big noise in The National Association for the Advancement of Black People because, while she had formerly always claimed to be black, she was recently exposed – by her parents! – as white.

I find this most disappointing, for clearly western society is not as enlightened and liberated as I had thought. Surely Ms Dolezal had no cause to resign just for telling that little porky about being black when she’s white? I thought we could all be whatever we want to be. Clearly this is not so and the forces of social oppression are not finally defeated.

Unfortunately, the matter is even more complicated. Ms Dolezal now claims she is black and indeed she worked tirelessly for an association which promotes the advancement of black people and denounces racial prejudice against them. But Ms Dolezal has form. Eleven years ago she sued her university because, she claimed, its authorities had shown racial prejudice towards her as a white woman by favouring some black people in her class.

So it appears we don’t have to be black or white; we can be black and white provided, as in the comparable case of sex – what they now call gender – we do these things sequentially.

At this point high imagination fails and I start to get all my metaphors more mixed up than even Ms Dolezal: kettles calling pans black; having your cake and eating it; one for the money, two for the show, three to get ready and go, go go!

O brave new world that hath such people in it…

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16 Jun

Laudato si

Pope Francis is proving to be a nippy mover. Following his encyclical denouncing capitalism, he has written to us all again in a long letter about climate change and what he refers to as “the planet.” Well, he was wrong to condemn capitalism which is the single economic system to have raised more millions out of poverty than all the other systems ever tried. Perhaps the Holy Father can make up for his earlier mistake in his new letter? And, contrary to popular opinion, the Pope is not infallible except when speaking ex cathedra on matters of dogma.

It’s a gloomy read. Climate change is a catastrophic threat to our well-being, and even to our survival, and most of it is our own fault.  He adds, “The Earth is protesting for the wrong that we are doing to her, because of the irresponsible use and abuse of the goods that God has placed on her. We have grown up thinking that we were her owners and dominators, authorized to loot her. The violence that exists in the human heart, wounded by sin, is also manifest in the symptoms of illness that we see in the Earth, the water, the air and in living things.”

Is it really as bad as all that?

No, not really. The prophets of doom themselves in the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) – whose non-scientist chairman is a committed climate alarmist – reckon that global warming has latterly been occurring at the rate of 0.05◦C per decade. Effectually, there has been no warming for the last fifteen years.

Leave aside for a moment the apostles of the new secular religion of man-made apocalypse and instead bring on the experts and some facts. Professor Bjorn Lomborg, author of The Skeptical Environmentalist, writes, “In the constant media barrage of possible greenhouse-related catastrophes, almost any event is now linked to climate change. We should not spend vast amounts of money to cut a tiny slice off the global temperature when this constitutes a poor use of resources and when we could use these funds far more effectively in the developing world.” For saying this, Lomborg has had death threats from the new politically-motivated apocalypticists. Other scientists who do not toe the global warming-is-happening-and-it’s-all-our- fault line have received the same. There are plenty of dissenters. A whole regiment of senior climatologists and meteorologists wrote to The Times last year to complain that they couldn’t get their research findings published – because they disagreed with the maniacal orthodoxy.

If we enjoy a warm spring, the fanatics and obsessives put it down to global warming. If we have an extra cold winter, they tell us it’s a result of global warming. If my nose feels cold or you get an attack of the gout, it will be owing to global warming. The same explanation will be given if England retain the Ashes – or indeed if we lose them. In short, global warming has taken upon itself the character of a fundamentalist religion. And it is the nature of such religions that nothing, but nothing, is allowed to count against them.

I can remember the 1950s and 1960s, colder decades, when the experts confidently threatened us with an imminent ice age. The records over the millennia show that the one thing we know for certain about the climate is that it is constantly changing. The regular cycle of climate change on earth is a series of ice ages interrupted by short periods of temperate weather. There are many eminent geographers and geologists, who have not swallowed the propaganda about global warming, and they tell us that actually we are overdue the next ice age.

Even in the period we call modern history, there have occurred much bigger climate changes than anything we are seeing now. Parts of the 18th century were much colder than today. Dickens speaks of times when the Thames froze over for weeks on end. Whereas in the 9th century, there were vines growing in Greenland. Are we to suppose that the warmth which produced vines at such a northerly latitude was owing to Vikings driving around in four-by-fours? Why do you think Greenland was so called? Because a thousand years ago it was fertile. Since then we have had global cooling. How do you think Hannibal got his elephants over the Alps – with skis and crampons? No, only because in his day there was hardly any snow or ice in southern Europe. Incidentally, the Greens are notorious for getting their predictions wrong. Again I can remember the oil crisis of the 1970s when they told us assuredly that the world would have finally run out of oil by the year 2000. Wrong again, spectacularly.

Furthermore, Global warming is reckoned to be caused by two gases: methane and carbon dioxide. The fact is that the amount of methane in the atmosphere has actually reduced in recent years. And, within the margin of error, levels of carbon dioxide have remained the same. Carbon dioxide is a gas necessary to sustain life on earth and most of it comes from plants and human exhalations. Actually, warming is good for us: there are far more deaths from cold than from heat and, given the chance, people migrate to warm countries.

Why is there this obsession with global warming, this fierce insistence that it is happening and that it is our fault? First, it’s a nice little earner for the university laboratories. Governments have been persuaded by the Green lobby that global warming is happening and so they are chucking money at research departments that will tell them what they want to know. After the fall of Communism, the Left has adopted pretended care for the environment as a stick with which to beat big business. Global warming is happening, they say, and it’s all the fault of the nasty capitalists. Green is the new Red. Strange how people who say they care for the environment deface it with useless wind farms.

The global warming apocalyptics is in reality a new totalitarianism. The government and the BBC will not even discuss climate change. Those who dispute it are shamefully called “deniers” – which is meant to compare them with Holocaust deniers. The former Climate Change Secretary, Ed Davey, says sceptics are dishonest and “wilfully ignorant,” and Prince Charles calls them “headless chickens.”

As Lord Lawson of Blaby has written, “There are hundreds of millions of people in dire poverty, suffering malnutrition, preventable disease, and premature death. Asking the poor to abandon the cheapest available sources of energy is asking them to delay the conquest of malnutrition, to perpetuate the incidence of preventable disease, and to increase the numbers of premature deaths.

“Global warming orthodoxy is not merely irrational. It is wicked.”

I don’t expect this Leftie Pope Frank to be hearing many confessions from penitent members of the IPCC

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15 Jun

What causes stuff?

“Britain’s youngest suicide bomber” – some appellation, eh? – Talha Asmal was described as “loving, caring, naive, innocent kind and affable.” I think those who thus praised him perhaps forgot to add “fanatical and murderous.” Now there is an investigation to discover what “caused” him to decide to become a murderer in the employ of Islamic State. There is a great industry in this business of looking for causes and I’m reminded of the case of Andreas Lubitz who committed mass murder by crashing a Germanwings aeroplane into the Alps. There has been a meticulous search for causes in his case too.

How about, in both cases, we were to say that they perpetrated those atrocities because they wanted to? Or have we suddenly become determinists and deny that there is such a faculty as freewill?

Determinism, looking for causes, is a very popular sport among those of a secular, positivistic, scientific disposition. This doctrine allows them to avoid having to take into account entities which they find problematic such as mind and will, moral qualities – or the lack of them.

The trouble with the deterministic view is that it logically entails the conclusion that, if no one is to be blamed for the wrong that they do, then no one can be praised when they do what is right. In short, ethics is abolished. There’s nothing either good or bad, but “causes” make things so.

So what of the Catholic nun who takes the place of a Jewish woman in the queue for the gas chamber? Or the policeman who dives for a second time into the freezing lake to save a child?

If all our actions are caused, then no villain is ever guilty and no hero deserves praise.

The deterministic world is one in which everything that we mean by a human being has been removed.

I have just enjoyed a duck egg on fried bread. I shall now spend the rest of the day trying to work out what “caused” me to eat my breakfast.

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