Sunday, November 04, 2012

What does "Amen" mean?

A word that at least a billion people have used but who knows what it means?

It's Hebrew and at the end of a prayer it means roughly "So be it" or "I agree"!  But that is not the end of it.  It has a broader meaning than that.  When Jesus said:  "Verily, verily, I say unto you ...." (e.g. in John 5:24), what word do you think he was using according to the original Greek text that was translated as "verily"?  That's right.  He was actually saying:  "Amen, amen, I say unto you".  So it's basically just a way of emphasizing the correctness of something.

I must admit that I was rather staggered myself when I wondered what the obsolete English word "verily" stood for in the original text and found myself staring at "Amen" when I looked up my authoritative Westcott & Hort text.  I couldn't believe my eyes for a minute.  I even checked it in the Griesbach recension as well.

On further checking in my Abbott-Smith lexicon I see that the word was also used in the Septuagint:  The translation into Greek of the OLD Testament that Christ and the Apostles usually quoted from.  So we see how a Hebrew word got into Greek.  It has no exact translation into Greek so the learned Jewish translators of the OT in olden times simply reproduced it.  Abbott-Smith offers "be firm" as the meaning of the Hebrew original.

Even my Liddell & Scott lexicon of CLASSICAL Greek gives the word  a brief mention, maybe because of its Septuagint usage. We learn every day.


When an atheist argues passionately for the protection of Christians

The inimitable Pat Condell again

I'm guessing that it's only his atheism that protects Condell from Britain's vicious hate-speech laws.  The British establishment is basically atheist. Condell started out as a comedian but he has found Islam less and less amusing over the years.  His home page is here.  I rather like the opening greeting

Rumors of General Ham Being Relieved Could be True


Rumors have been swirling about General Carter Ham, commander of Africa Command located in Stuttgart, Germany, ever since Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta announced that President Obama has nominated General David Rodriguez to replace him. Those rumors have been adamantly denied by the Pentagon.

While on active duty as an army reservist during 2011 at the Special Operations Command Europe, also headquartered in Stuttgart, I met newly arrived General Ham at the annual Army Ball. He had just arrived in country and took over Africom the day NATO initiated military air operations in Libya. Most command tours of duty are at least three years unless the commander elects to retire. I haven't read anything about Gen. Ham intending to do so. He has only been the commander of Africa Command less than 18 months.

I was forwarded an email from someone associated with the U.S. military in Stuttgart. The email claims that when Gen. Ham was notified of the attack on the U.S. Consulate in Benghazi, Libya, he took immediate action to send operational forces there, only to be told by the Pentagon to "stand down." As commander of Africom, he would have been receiving the same information the CIA, Pentagon, White House and National Security Council did from the U.S. embassy in Tripoli. One of Africom's missions is to conduct NEO's (non-combatant evacuation operations) in its area of responsibility. He rightfully voiced his objections to the stand down and gave orders to deploy U.S. forces there anyway. When he did, his deputy commander "apprehended" him and then relieved him of his command. When I read the email description of this, I thought this was a scene from a bad war movie.

Apprehending someone in the military is the equivalent of a civilian arrest. Disobeying a lawful order is punishable by two-years of confinement and reduction of rank, according to the Uniform Code of Military Justice. It would be highly, highly, extraordinary for anyone to relieve a four-star general, let alone "apprehend" him.

A week ago, Rear Admiral Charles M. Gaouette, Commander of an aircraft carrier strike group positioned in the Middle East, was sent home to Washington State pending the outcome of an undisclosed investigation. Coincidence? I hardly think so. The admiral was most probably reading the same message traffic and voiced his objections to "standing down." Why else send him home for a tune up by his superiors?

If the rumors are true, either Secretary Panetta gave the order to "stand down" or he was told by the president to have General Ham do so. Whoever it was obviously was above a four-star general's pay grade.

Regardless, what happened in Benghazi is exactly why the army has various military commands around the world. If this administration won't use the assets it has to protect U.S. personnel and one of its own ambassadors from harm's way, then why even have them?

If my sources of information are correct about the chain of events leading to Gen. Ham's departure, it further illustrates why liberals should never be allowed to be in charge of national security. They simply do not have the stomach for it.

The President and Secretary of State Clinton wanted to put a nice face on the country's relationship with the newly established fledgling Libyan government. They portrayed the attack on the consulate as a spontaneous outburst by protestors that got out of hand stemming from an obscure video defaming the Prophet Mohammad. In reality, it was a  preplanned terrorist attack on the anniversary of the September 11, 2001.

The word "terrorism" has essentially been erased from the vocabulary of this administration, especially after the killing of Osama Bin Laden. Having an attack by al-Qaeda factions on a consulate in a country the administration took credit for liberating does not fit the template of a foreign policy success. A cover up was launched, putting a lid on information until after next week's election.

Don't count on the media asking hard questions about why Gen. Ham left his command early and Rear Admiral Gaouette was sent home on "temporary duty." The answer to those questions would only amplify this administration's limp-wristed reaction to terrorist events and foreign policy failures. It would also further demonstrate that President Obama has managed to severely deteriorate relations in the Middle East.



American Exceptionalism and Its Discontents

In May 2011, the Washington Post’s Richard Cohen, a columnist I admire, wrote an opinion piece titled “The Myth of American Exceptionalism.” In it, he opined that the “problem of the 21st century is the problem of culture,” in particular the “culture of smugness,” the emblem of which “is the term ‘American exceptionalism.’ It has been adopted by the right to mean that America, alone among the nations, is beloved of God.”

I wrote a rebuttal, contending that exceptionalism means nothing of the sort, and that no one on the right that I was aware of – and no one, evidently, that Cohen was aware of since he quoted no one to substantiate his thesis – would define exceptionalism as he had.

So I was particularly interested to see a recent “news analysis” by The New York Times’ Scott Shane, a reporter I admire, titled “The Opiate of Exceptionalism.” In it, Shane defines exceptionalism differently than Cohen had -- but equally incorrectly. He opines – excuse me, analyses -- that American voters “demand constant reassurance that their country, their achievements and their values are extraordinary.” He goes on to assert that Americans want their presidents to be “cheerleaders,” and that this is a “national characteristic, often labeled American exceptionalism.”

No, no, and no. American exceptionalism does not imply that -- nor is it an assertion of “American greatness,” as Shane also claims. It is something simpler and humbler: recognition that America is, as James Madison said, the “hope of liberty throughout the world,” and that America is different from other nations in ways that are consequential for the world. Let me briefly mention three.

Most nations are founded on blood. America, by contrast, was founded on ideas. This is why anyone from anywhere can move to America and become American. This is among the reasons so many people want to become American – and do. Couldn’t one just as easily move to Japan and become Japanese? Seriously? Nor can one simply become Ukrainian, Armenian, Azerbaijani, Portuguese or Egyptian.

For those who do become Americans -- and especially for their children -- anything is possible. Consider such all-Americans as Colin Powell, Jeremy Lin, Bobby Jindal, Tiger Woods, and of course the most obvious example: An African student marries an American girl, and their son goes on to become the President of the United States. When I was a student in Russia years ago, I had friends from Africa and some married Russian girls. Does anyone believe that the children of these couples can hope to succeed Vladimir Putin?

A second way America is exceptional: The ideas on which this nation is based were revolutionary in the 18th century – and still are today. All men are created equal? Governments derive their powers only from the consent of the governed? We are endowed by our Creator with rights and freedoms that no one can take away? China is nowhere close to embracing such principles. Nor is most of the Middle East, the “Arab Spring” notwithstanding. Latin America and Africa have a long way to go. And in Europe, I fear, the commitment to individual liberty has been weakening.

Finally, there is leadership. If America does not accept this responsibility – and that’s how it should be seen, not as a privilege or entitlement; not as a reason to shout “We’re No. 1!” – which nation will? Iran’s theocrats would be eager – but that means they impose their version of sharia, Islamic law, well beyond their borders. Putin will grab whatever power is within his reach but he would rule, not lead. There are those who see the UN as a transnational government. They don’t get why it would be disastrous to give additional authority to a Security Council on which Russia and China have vetoes, or a General Assembly dominated by a so-called Non-Aligned Movement constituted largely of despotic regimes that recently elevated Iran as their president.

Among the evidence Shane gathers in an attempt to prove that America is unexceptional: America’s high rates of incarceration and obesity, the fact that Americans own a lot of guns, consume a lot of energy, and have too few 4-year-olds in pre-school. He maintains that one consequence of American exceptionalism is that there is little discussion, not least during election campaigns, of America’s “serious problems” and “difficult challenges” all because, he says, “we, the people, would rather avert our eyes.”

His case in point is Jimmy Carter who “failed to project the optimism that Americans demand of their president,” and therefore “lost his re-election bid to sunny Ronald Reagan, who promised ‘morning in America’ and left an indelible lesson for candidates of both parties: that voters can be vindictive toward anyone who dares criticize the country and, implicitly, the people.”

Shane does not consider an alternative analysis: that Carter’s policies contributed to the enfeebling economic phenomenon known as stagflation, and that he presided over a string of foreign policy failures, among them America’s humiliation at the hands of Iran’s jihadist revolutionaries. He ignores this too: Reagan went on to restore the nation’s economic health and to pursue policies that led to the collapse of the Soviet empire. Shane has every right to believe that America would have fared better under Carter than Reagan, but there is no historical or evidentiary basis to suggest he’s right and a majority of American voters were wrong.

Shane writes that exceptionalism “has recently been championed by conservatives, who accuse President Obama of paying the notion insufficient respect.” The issue is not respect but comprehension. Curiously, Shane omits Obama’s most famous statement on exceptionalism. At a NATO summit in France in 2009, the President said:
I believe in American exceptionalism, just as I suspect that the Brits believe in British exceptionalism and the Greeks believe in Greek exceptionalism.

This is really a way of saying that no nation is exceptional, that are all, as Garrison Keillor might put it, “above average.” But it was America that began the modern democratic experiment. And if America does not fight for the survival of that experiment, what other nation will?

A half century ago, Reagan -- not Carter -- said: “Freedom is never more than one generation away from extinction.” Today, freedom is under sustained assault by totalitarians, terrorists and tyrants. It is America’s exceptional burden to defend those who live in liberty, and support those who aspire to be free. This should be obvious. But, as Shane wrote in another context, too many of us “would rather avert our eyes.”



The Uncool President

Victor Davis Hanson

In 2008, Barack "No Drama" Obama was the coolest presidential candidate America had ever seen -- young, hip, Ivy League, mellifluous and black, with a melodic and exotic name. Rock stars vied to perform at his massive rallies, where Obama often began his hope-and-change sermons by reminding the teary-eyed audience what to do in case of mass fainting.

The giddy media declared Obama a "sort of god," and "the smartest man with the highest IQ" ever to assume the presidency. Somehow, even legs got into the hero worship, as pundits praised the sight of Obama's "perfectly creased pant," and one commentator felt "this thrill going up my leg" when Obama spoke.

Four years of governance later, the huge crowds have mostly melted away. Those still left do not faint. The columns are in storage. The Latinate "Vero Possumus" is not even voiced in English.

Instead of "no red states or blue states" healing rhetoric, Obama has sown all sorts of needless divisions in hopes of cobbling together a thin us-versus-them coalition, as independents flee. The 99 percent claim oppression by the 1 percent. Young single female professionals are supposedly at war with Republican Neanderthals. Beleaguered gays apparently must fight the bigotry of the homophobic right wing. Greens should go on the offensive against conservative polluters who are OK with dirty air and water. Latinos must "punish our enemies" at the polls, and Attorney General Eric Holder's "my people" are to be set against "a nation of cowards." With all the advantages of incumbency and an obsequious media, why is Barack Obama reduced to stooping to save his campaign?

A dismal economy, of course, explains voter discontent. So do the contradictory and illogical explanations about the recent killing of a U.S. ambassador and three other Americans in Libya. Mitt Romney is also proving a far better campaigner than were prior so-so Obama opponents like Hillary Clinton and John McCain. Obama's first debate was a disaster.

A more worldly Obama no longer talks of cooling the planet or lowering the rising seas. Barely even with challenger Mitt Romney in the polls, he now alternates between the crude and the trivial in a campaign that in its shrillness on the stump evokes the last desperate days of failed incumbents like Gerald Ford, Jimmy Carter and George H.W. Bush.

Obama blasts Romney as a "bullsh--ter," and releases an ad in which a starlet compares voting for him to her first sexual experience. When Obama is not crude, he is adolescent -- as he references Big Bird, plays word games like "Romnesia" and ridicules Romney for his "binders" debate remark.

The greatest problem facing Obama, however, is not just his mediocre record of governance, but the growing public perception that he is as uncool in 2012 as he was cool in 2008. Voters no longer feel they're square for voting against Obama. Instead, it's becoming the "in" thing to shrug that enough is enough.

A common theme of classic American tales such as "The Rainmaker," "Elmer Gantry," "The Music Man" and "The Wizard of Oz" is popular anger unleashed at Pied Piper-like messiahs who once hypnotized the masses with promises of grandeur.

The bamboozled people rarely fault their own gullibility for swooning over hope-and-change banalities, but rather, once sober, turn with fury on the itinerant messiahs who made them look so foolish.

In other words, it is not just the economy, foreign policy, poor debating skills or a so-so campaign that now plagues Obama, but the growing public perception that voters were had in 2008, and that it now is OK -- even cool -- to no longer believe in him.




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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)


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