Sunday, July 17, 2005


A great group if you like Celtic music. (Actually, if you don't like Celtic music that's basically your problem; they're still a great group.) Just heard them play at the Diedrich's coffee house in Orange, where they have a gig every 3rd Saturday. This is the third or fourth time we've heard them play there, and we're getting to know the ladies in the band. Really nice people, not to mention beautiful and talented.

Here is their web site, which has sample MP3s from their albums.

(I assume the name Tintangel is from the castle in Cornwall where King Arthur was born, although I have usually seen it spelled Tintagel.)

Thursday, July 14, 2005

No Torture at Gitmo

See my first post over at Love America First. And thanks to Rosemary for graciously inviting me to join the team.

"God Curse the Mujahedeen"

From the Washington Times (registration required):

BAGHDAD -- Tiny plastic sandals, some tattered and stained with blood, lay in a pile near a child's crushed bicycle. Mothers wailed and beat themselves after a suicide bomber killed 18 children and teenagers getting candy and toys from American soldiers.

One of the soldiers was among the up to 27 people killed in the blast yesterday in an impoverished Shi'ite Muslim neighborhood. At least 70 persons, including a newborn and three U.S. soldiers, were wounded.


Twelve of the dead were 13 or younger, and six were 14 to 17, said police Lt. Mohammed Jassim Jabr. Among the wounded was 4-day-old Miriam Jabber, cut slightly by flying glass and debris.

"There were some American troops blocking the highway when a U.S. Humvee came near a gathering of children," said Karim Shukir, 42. The troops began handing out candy and smiley-face key chains.

"Suddenly, a speeding car bomb ... struck both the Humvee and the children," Mr. Shukir said.


At Kindi hospital, where many victims were taken, a distraught mother swathed in black sat cross-legged outside the operating room. "May God curse the mujahedeen and their leader," she cried, referring to the insurgents as she pounded her head with her fists in grief.

"The car bomber made a deliberate decision to attack one of our vehicles as the soldiers were engaged in a peaceful operation with Iraqi citizens," said Maj. Russ Goemaere, a spokesman for Task Force Baghdad.

"The terrorist undoubtedly saw the children," Maj. Goemaere said, calling the attack "absolutely abhorrent."
Brutality beyond description. I can understand how people could justify an "insurgency" in the abstract, but how do they reconcile such tactics with whatever vestiges of conscience they may have left?

The Volokh Conspiracy has been debating recently the propriety of using the phrase "homicide bomber" as opposed to the clearer and more descriptive "suicide bomber". I prefer the latter construction, but for those who want something a little more visceral, may I suggest "merciless bastard"? Or perhaps, "cursed by Allah". What would that be in Arabic...?

Tuesday, July 12, 2005

Promoting Botswana

I have long been an admirer of the nation of Botswana. Almost alone among African countries it stands as an example of liberty, prosperity and stability. I thought I had said something about this several months ago on this blog, but I could not find it in the archives. It had also occured to mention Botswana in connection with the hoopla over the Live-8 concert, but I didn't get around to it. Fortunately, Will Franklin has picked up the slack in his entry for the Carnival of the Revolutions:

Botswana is the model for reforming Africa. It has a generally free and open market economy; it is freer, politically (.pdf -- Freedom House), than Brazil, India, and even Jamaica.

Corruption is low, the free enterprise system is allowed to work, and, what do you know, the country is one of the more successful countries in Africa. Botswana's per capita GDP ($9,200) is above that of China, Ukraine, Bulgaria, Turkey, Brazil, and Thailand; Botswana's per capita GDP even bests the world average.

Contrast Botswana with Zambia (or any number of sub-Saharan nations), and you can really see how much institutions matter.

In short, Africa could learn a lot, from one of its own.
One thing Will does not point out is that Botswana is largely a Christian nation. According to the CIA World Factbook, 71.6% of Batswana are Christians. (I have seen other estimates that place the number closer to 50%, but these numbers are only good for comaparison anyway.) Additionally about 80% of the country is literate, which is low by Western standards but remarkably high for African nations. Curiously, the female literacy rate is higher at 82.4% than the male rate at 76.9%. I would suggest that the prosperity Will cites is largely due to these two facts, both of which can be traced to the legacy of the British Empire.

Friday, July 08, 2005

Annoy a Dictator

An undisclosed source alerts me, via email, to the fact that the Yemeni government is continuing to silence oposition newspapers. Specifically, al-Shura, the newspaper of the Popular Forces Unionist Party (PFUP), has been taken over by a group of gunmen (led evidently by a former security guard of PFUP who was not a member of the party) and are publishing bogus editions of the paper. The editor, Abdulkarim al-Khaiwanii, had been imprisoned from September to March and is now under threat of death.

In order to lend support to a free press in Yemen, and possibly to save the life of one of its courageous advocates click here to send an email. Write "In Support of al-Khaiwanii and al-Shoura" or "In Support of a Free Press in Yemen" in the subject line. The details of the current crisis are not available on line but here is some background:
Yemeni Election Fraud (07/2005)
PFU Party Headquarters Stormed (05/2005)
PFUP Members Kidnapped (05/2005)

Wednesday, July 06, 2005

Zionists Converting Muslims to ... Christianity!

The JPost has all the lurid details of this heinous conspiracy:

THE RECENT visit of the American televangelist Josh McDowell, invited by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and received by King Mohammed VI, has sparked lots of conspiracy theories. In fact, Le Journal Hebdomadaire reported on January 8 that this evangelization campaign was part of US President George W. Bush's campaign in the current war. Unsurprisingly, the article pointed out that this was also the goal of the neocons and the Zionists.
OK, that was a lame attempt at humor taking my cue from the irony already noted by CUANAS and Dhimmi Watch. But the article actually highlights some good news:
In the past few years, increasing numbers of Westerners have been converting to Islam. Agence France Presse recently reported annual figures in France alone of 30,000 to 50,000. But a new phenomenon – largely unreported in the Western media – is occurring: Muslims, especially in the Maghreb (north-west Africa) are becoming Christians.


According to most reports, the culprits are American evangelical missionaries operating in major cities such as Casablanca, Rabat, Marrakech and Fez to remote areas in the mountains or the countryside.

The statistics differ wildly: Missionaries are reported to number anywhere from 150, according to French weekly newsmagazine Le Nouvel Observateur, to the 800-plus figure most often used. Converts are said to number anywhere from 7,000 to 58,000. These discrepancies are easily explained by the fact that both missionaries and converts have to stay constantly below the radar.


CLEARLY, THE evangelists are focusing their energies on the young and the poor, but that's not the whole picture. Another target, according to Pastor Jean-Luc Blanc are the intellectuals and the privileged. However, there is no typical profile of a convert. On March 5, the French daily Le Monde published numerous interviews with converts in Morocco and Algeria.
A large part of the good news here is that this is actually being reported. (And in Le Monde of all places!) But the high point of the article for me is the concluding paragraphs:
Another convert in his 30s, Abu Ghali, pointed out that most conversions are initiated by Moroccans themselves and added: "If Moroccans are given the opportunity to compare and choose, then you'll see lots of them going towards Christianity."


The Arab press has been quick to accuse the US evangelists for the massive conversion numbers, therefore playing into the hands of the Islamists who advocate an end to the semi-freedom of religion in Morocco. But this assumption is wrong because as many observers emphasized, some Muslims are disillusioned by the crimes committed in the name of Islam, especially in Algeria by the Islamists and al-Qaida's terrorist acts and are looking for something else.
This is the sort of angle we should be going for: the superiority of Christian truth over false religions. Compared side to side Christianity cannot help but beat out the competition (and this is true even in countries where martyrdom is the likely result of conversion). This style of thinking is in line with Augustine's approach in The City of God (especially books 6-10) where he exposes the shamefulness of most pagan religions and their inability to offer hope even at their best (i.e. Pythagoras and Plato). We would do well to emphasize the distinction between Christianity and the world in our own churches rather than accomodating to the existing culture through "seeker sensitive" programs.

Tuesday, July 05, 2005

Blaming Heterosexuals

Russell Moore of Touchstone's Mere Comments blog links to an op-ed by Stephanie Coontz who points out that at least part of the blame for the current movement to redefine marriage to include gays belongs to ... religious conservatives:

Coontz, director of public education for the Council on Contemporary Families, argues that homosexuals didn't start the revolution. Heterosexuals did, a long time ago. Writes Coontz:

Heterosexuals were the upstarts who turned marriage into a voluntary love relationship rather than a mandatory economic and political institution. Heterosexuals were the ones who made procreation voluntary, so that some couples could choose childlessness, and who adopted assisted reproduction so that even couples who could not conceive could become parents. And heterosexuals subverted the long-standing rule that every marriage had to have a husband who played one role in the family and a wife who played a completely different one. Gays and lesbians simply looked and the revolution heterosexuals had wrought and noticed that with its new norms, marriage could work for them, too.

[...] Coontz is precisely right that the redefinition of marriage didn't begin with social revolutionaries in Massachusetts and San Francisco. This is why it will never work for Christian churches to stand against same-sex "marriage," while remaining silent about working mothers, daycare, the contraceptive culture, and egalitarian marriage roles.


Coontz diagnosis is on target, while her antidote, surrender to a malleable definition of marriage, is deadly. The answer is for counter-cultural churches and families to model something alien to both Ozzie and Harriet and Will and Grace: marriage that points to the mystery of Christ and his church.
Forgive me for feeling somewhat vindicated by this acknowledgement of a point I have made previously (see here and here) from such a bastion of orthodoxy and conservatism as Touchstone. It has been rather lonely trying to point out that the "defense of marriage" theme is a two-edged sword that really points out the shame of our own sorry performance. In fact, in one off-line debate I remember an oponent specifically citing Touchstone as an authority that I ought to respect in considering a change in my position. I am glad to see Touchstone and I are now making the same point.

In the interest of full-disclosure, I must admit that the debate was about the Federal Marriage Ammendment and as far as I know Touchstone has not rescinded its support of that proposal (moribund though it may be). Also, I would not like to be understood as supporting either gay marriage or civil unions. But if we are to defeat either of those ideas, we must have a more robust rallying cry than "defending traditional marriage" when we really have no intention of doing anything of the sort.

Blogiversary Alert

Rosemary at My Newz 'n Ideas has been in operation for a year as of today. She also contributes to three other blogs, among which is the new Love America First, which I have just added to the blogroll.