Thursday, October 25, 2012

Context, context!

As regular readers here will be aware, every now and again I get an unfortunate urge to revisit theological matters -- so I have been browsing through various scriptures today.  And in all my comments on such matters I always stress how looking at the context of a Bible passage can be very enlightening in showing what is actually meant.  And today I have noted a fairly hilarious thing that context does in Matthew 16.

Matthew 16 is of course home to the passage where Christ allegedly gave Peter keys to the Kingdom of Heaven.  Catholics base their  claims about the Pope on that passage.  I sent my son to a Catholic school so I have no animus against Catholicism but I have always seen the relationship between that passage and the Pope as poorly founded.

I have just noted, however, something that makes the Roman claim not only poorly founded but downright hilarious.  Just a few verses after the "keys" passage Jesus says this to Peter:

"But he turned, and said unto Peter, Get thee behind me, Satan: thou art an offence unto me: for thou savourest not the things that be of God, but those that be of men"

So if Peter was the first Pope, we have the authority of Jesus himself that the Pope was Satanic  -- plus some other unholy attributes!

Some old-time Protestants would agree  -- JR



North Carolina voters who went to vote for Mitt Romney complained electronic voting machines recorded votes for President Barack Obama instead.

According to MyFox8 in North Carolina, the problems occurred at the Bur-Mil Park polling location in Guilford County.

Voter Sher Coromalis told the station she cast her ballot for Romney, but the machine entered a vote for Obama on two straight occasions.  “I was so upset that this could happen,” Coromalis said, noting the machine correctly recorded her vote on the third attempt.

Guilford County Board of Elections Director George Gilbert told MyFox8 that such problems arise every election and can be resolved after machines are re-calibrated. “It’s not a conspiracy it’s just a machine that needs to be corrected,” Gilbert said.

Early voting in North Carolina ends November 3.



Obama’s lost generation

Since Barack Obama took office, the civilian non-institutional population has increased by 8.7 million, and yet only 437,000 people have been added to the civilian labor force — i.e. those working or seeking work. That’s an awful absorption rate of new population into the workforce of just 5 percent.

This has helped to keep the unemployment rate misleadingly low at its current 7.8 percent level. If the labor force participation rate had held steady since 2009, the jobless rate today would be more like 11 percent.

This has never happened before in modern U.S. history during peacetime, according to data by the U.S. Census Bureau and the Bureau of Labor Statistics going back to 1900. Absorption of population into the labor force has historically averaged at a 59 percent rate.

At that rate, about 5 million people should have entered the labor force since the end of 2008, but have not. The question is why.

The only time population absorption by the economy contracted was from 1940 to 1944, when the population increased by 4.3 million but the civilian labor force shrank by 1 million.

But that came in World War II on the heels of 7.5 million of previously unemployed Americans — plus another 3.5 million who had other jobs — going off to fight overseas in Europe and the Pacific. They were not counted as part of the civilian labor force during those years.

But, after the war millions of servicemen left the military and were added back into the mix. Besides then, the absorption rate of new population by the labor force had never fallen below 32 percent.

Comparably, in the past four years, there was no major war to speak of that removed millions of Americans from the labor force to account for the precipitous drop in labor force participation.

While Baby Boomers retiring would be expected to lower the labor force participation rate, the population of those 65 years and older has only increased by about 4.4 million since Obama took office. So, a retirement boom alone cannot account for the anomaly.

To find the rest, one must observe the declining labor force participation particularly amongst those with some college and with college degrees, a population that grew by 9.4 million since Dec. 2008.

Since that time, the participation rate of college graduates has dropped significantly — from 77.6 percent to about 75.9 percent today. That accounts for about 1.1 million graduates who should have entered the labor force, but didn’t.

Another 1.7 million with some college or an associate’s degree should have also entered the labor force, but are nowhere to be found as the participation rate there dropped from 71.9 percent to 68.8 percent.

In addition, another 2 million or so folks lost their jobs and eventually gave up looking for another one.

All of which accounts for the 5 million individuals who should have entered the labor force in the past four years — Obama’s lost generation. It is an appalling state of affairs, and a trend that will not easily be reversed no matter who wins the White House in November.

The fact that it has never happened before in peacetime however should give particularly supporters of Obama pause. This is the worst labor market for new job seekers in modern history. And Obama has only made it worse by increasing eligibility for welfare by millions, creating a disincentive for Americans to return to the labor force.

To get back onto solid ground, the nation needs to get back to policies that will create jobs at a rate faster than the population grows. These include reducing the tax and regulatory burden on industry and strengthening the dollar to reduce the cost of doing business in the U.S., and in the meantime substantially decreasing welfare spending that discourages job-seeking.

The alternative is to continue to follow Obama down the road to serfdom we have been on for four years now. And good luck finding work there.



Can a conscientious liberal back Obama?

by Jeff Jacoby

YOU'RE A PASSIONATE and committed liberal. Four years ago, enthralled by Barack Obama's biography and inspired by his oratory, you voted for him with pride. You embraced his promise of hope and change. You were deeply moved by the racial progress he symbolized.  But above all you voted for him because he expressed such enlightened views.

You didn't just want a Democrat back in the White House, you wanted one who would bring progressive clarity to US national policy.

For eight years, you'd fumed at George W. Bush's offenses against the Constitution; now at last, you believed, you were supporting a president for whom civil liberties would be an unshakable priority. A president who wouldn't be beholden to Wall Street and its rivers of cash. Who would prosecute the war on terror without abandoning core American values or trampling basic human rights. Whose administration would function in the sunlight, a jewel of transparency, accountability, and due process.

That was the president you expected. It wasn't the president you got.

"I will make clear that the days of compromising our values are over," Obama had said in 2007 as he campaigned for the Democratic presidential nomination. In an address to the Woodrow Wilson Center, he had excoriated Bush's approach to counterterrorism – the excesses of the Patriot Act, the warrantless wiretapping, the indefinite detention of terror suspects – for reflecting a "false choice between the liberties we cherish and the security we demand." In an Obama administration, he vowed, things would be different.

Yet the president you voted for hasn't abandoned Bush's antiterror legacy, not by a long shot. Since Obama took office, warrantless wiretapping of Americans' domestic communications has skyrocketed. According to a new report by the ACLU, "more people were subjected to [electronic] surveillance in the past two years than in the entire previous decade." Instead of repealing the Patriot Act, Obama signed a law extending it through 2015.

The president who was going to shut the US lockup at Guantanamo is now spending millions of dollars to upgrade it. Far from doing away with trials by military commission, he ordered them resumed. The eloquent progressive who vowed to roll back Bush's post-9/11 wartime excesses has become almost a caricature of what he used to condemn. He meets regularly to review a "kill list" of terrorist suspects and decide who should be targeted for death. He has drastically expanded the drone war that Bush began, raining down missiles on countries where we aren't at war, killing or maiming hundreds of innocent victims in the process. Astonishingly, he has even claimed – and exercised -- the power to order the extrajudicial killing of American citizensterrorist operatives. he believes to be

Neocon hawks may not blink at such things, but conscientious liberals like you were always appalled by them. "We have compromised our most precious values," Obama said as a candidate. Will you compromise your values by voting for him again?

And what about all those other values you counted on Obama to uphold?

On the campaign trail, his top priority was to codify Roe v. Wade. "The first thing I'd do as president is sign the Freedom of Choice Act," he declared. Once in office, it dropped from his agenda.

You trusted Obama when he said his administration would be "the most open and transparent in history." Instead it launched an unprecedented crackdown on whistleblowers and leaks, and retreated into a "bubble of non-accountability."

When you voted for Obama in 2008, could you have imagined that he would extend the Bush tax cuts? That he would commit US forces to war in Libya without the congressional approval he himself had said the law required? That he would show so little concern for pro-democracy dissidents and protesters resisting tyranny? That he would expel 1.2 million undocumented immigrants in three years, more than any president since the 1950s? That he would load his administration with so many former lobbyists – after having promised that he wouldn't?

If a Republican president compiled such an atrocious record, you would do everything you could to prevent his reelection. Can you vote in good conscience for a Democrat with such a record?



Obama's Nameless War With a Nameless Enemy

In the final presidential debate on October 22, President Barack Obama spoke briefly about the September 11, 2012 terrorist attack on U.S. officials and personnel in Benghazi. He outlined why the U.S. had gone into Libya before the attack. He outlined the answers he is still seeking following the attack. But he did not say why this terrorist attack had occurred or why the U.S. had been ill-prepared to meet it in what is, after all, a volatile city alive with militias recently freed from dictatorial rule. Nor did he tell us why his Administration strenuously avoided calling it a terrorist attack for two weeks, preferring instead to speak of a spontaneous assault in the course of a demonstration of Muslims offended by an anti-Muhammad video.

Mitt Romney did not pursue the subject, so we got no closer to the heart of the matter, yet the implication of this apologetic gloss of the first two weeks is obvious: Ambassador Chris Stevens was not murdered by Islamists who hate America and its allies and mean to attack us again; he was the victim of the local reaction to one of the products of American freedom of speech. Once the attack was acknowledged as the handiwork of terrorists, however, followers of al Qaeda, virtually the only officially acknowledged extremists, were cited as the perpetrators. And here lies the problem: the Obama Administration will not acknowledge that an extreme and violent segment of the Muslim world ranging far beyond the confines of al Qaeda is at war with us. To do so would have required him to explain why the U.S. had been empowering Islamists, including in Libya, some of whom may have been responsible for leaking information that enabled the terrorists to locate and kill the Americans.

Just why and how has this refusal to name the Islamist enemy come to characterize the four years of Obama's presidency? Because President Obama agrees with the view that Islamists as a force in world affairs are not be shunned and that wisdom dictates coming to terms with those among them who are hot engaged in active hostilities at this moment. The idea is defective, because common to all Islamists is Muslim supremacism and the undeviating pursuit to subvert the non-Islamic world.

Yet, since Barack Obama took office, Islamist antagonists, other than those involved in active hostilities like al Qaeda and the Taliban, whose hostility cannot be denied or ignored, have gone unnamed. Presidential statements on the anniversaries of the 1983 killing of 242 U.S. servicemen in Lebanon by Hizballah or the 1979 seizure by Islamist students of the U.S. embassy in Tehran, to name two examples, failed to even mention the perpetrators of these acts, as it had become U.S. policy to propitiate both parties.

Indeed, the Obama Administration has refused to associate terrorists attacking America with Islam. Administration officials have spent four years speaking of particular terrorists at home and abroad as isolated "extremists," even when Islamist terrorist connections (for example, between Fort Hood sniper Nidal Hassan and the American-born al Qaeda in Yemen leader, Anwar al-Awlaki, who advised him) were readily traceable.

In a May 2010 hearing of the House Judiciary Committee, Attorney-General Eric Holder only grudgingly and hypothetically conceded that radical Islam could be the inspiration for some individuals involved in recent acts of terrorism, before immediately asserting that such people were acting on a "version of Islam that is not consistent with the teachings of it." Similarly, in March 2011, Deputy National Security Adviser Denis McDonough told a Muslim audience that extremists in their midst "falsely claim to be fighting in the name of Islam." When Rep. Peter King (R-NY), chairman of the House Committee on Homeland Security, held hearings on homegrown radical Islam the same month, the Administration publicly opposed it.

The Administration has also expressly disavowed the use of terms like "Islamism," "radical Islam," and "jihad." In May 2009, John O. Brennan, Obama's Chief National Security Adviser for Counterterrorism, contended that use of such terms "would lend credence" to the notion "that the United States is somehow at war against Islam.… Nor do we describe our enemy as jihadists or Islamists because jihad is holy struggle, a legitimate tenet of Islam meaning to purify oneself or one's community." Such refurbishment of the term 'jihad' -- war waged against non-believers to extend and secure the dominion of Islam, is a religious duty which, according to authoritative Muslim sources, may at least at times be waged against civilians on the opposing side -- at once sanitizes it and precludes its use. Nor has it been explained how ignoring the ideology animating the terrorists somehow renders America at peace with those jihadists who regard themselves at war with the U.S.




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The Big Lie of the late 20th century was that Nazism was Rightist.  It was in fact typical of the Leftism of its day.  It was only to the Right of  Stalin's Communism.  The very word "Nazi" is a German abbreviation for "National Socialist" (Nationalsozialist) and the full name of Hitler's political party (translated) was "The National Socialist German Workers' Party" (In German: Nationalsozialistische Deutsche Arbeiterpartei)



Robert said...

Re Obama's Nameless War With a Nameless Enemy, you'd think it would dawn on at least ONE person in the media or in government, that being liked by the hard-core Satanic enemies of all humanity (Islam) is not worth pursuing, let alone obtaining. They only like those who are themselves sworn, unalterable enemies of the entire human race. said...

When I was a pastor I preached a few times on that passage in Matthew 16.

My take at the time was:

v14 - Some regarded Jesus as just another prophet like The Baptist, Isaiah, Jeremiah, etc.

v16 - Peter, however, correctly identified Jesus as the Messiah (Christ).

v17 - Those with a human perspective missed his true identity. Those with a spiritual perspective grasped his true identity.

v22 - Peter flip-flopped prompting Jesus to refer to him as Satan to underscore the severity of his offense.

Note that Peter was the only disciple who correctly identified Jesus as more than mere prophet. Hence, his rebuking of the redemptive work on the cross required a more severe response.

Note also that when Jesus asked the disciples to step out of the boat in the midst of the storm, it was Peter to took that literal step of faith and, then, began to sink.

The two passages comprise a "comparative narrative;" the one in Matthew 14 and the other in Matthew 16. (Note, also, that the chapter and verse
designations were not in the originals but added much later.)