Saturday, November 24, 2012

Economics for Occupiers Pt. 5: Wage Controls.

In part 3 we discussed labor as a commodity to be auctioned on the market like any other commodity and how the individual can enhance the value of his or her labor by acquiring skill sets for which the market is paying a premium. In part 4 we discussed labor unions, and how they changed the perception of labor from a resource to a commodity and then proceeded to interfere with how that commodity is contracted in the market.

An axiom of free-market economics is that any attempt to dictate how commodities are priced or traded by a governing agency will have adverse and often unanticipated effects on the market in question, to the ultimate detriment of both parties in a trade contract. The market does not like to be tampered with and will ultimately punish the beneficiaries of any tampering.

Attempts at artificial price controls never accomplish the task they’re designed for and always generate unintended and often unforeseen consequences. This is true for labor as well as any other commodity.

Read more about this in chapter 6 of Economic for Occupiers, now available on

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Economics for Occupiers pt 4 - Unions

In part 3 we examined the concept of labor as a commodity and how the market prices labor, and strategies that the worker can use to improve marketability. Most people on the left, including the Occupy crowd, should be howling about this concept of labor, ready to demonstrate how the market doesn’t treat labor the way we’ve defined, and are therefore ready to dismiss the whole proposition. In this part, we’ll examine the role of labor unions and how they inhibit the labor market to the detriment of both the laborers and the employers who buy the labor.

It was once observed to me that companies that become unionized usually deserve it. This sage observation reflected the general sentiment that a company that cares for its workforce, pays them fairly and provides them with competitive benefits packages usually doesn't have to worry about collective bargaining.

Unions have their roots in the early days of industrialization, when the principles of socialism were generally accepted as a potential solution to some of the obvious problems that workers experienced in those days. Before industrialization, most productivity was either unskilled or closely controlled within guilds, which provided an entry barrier to the job market and basically set up each trade as a sort of cartel, thus protecting it from the pressures of competition. Acceptance into a guild was by invitation only, and recruits had to serve an apprenticeship to learn the trade before they could practice in the market, be it carpentry, weaving, tailor, mason, smith or any other skilled endeavor. 

Read more about this in chapter 5 of Economic for Occupiers, now available on

Friday, November 16, 2012

Economics for Occupiers - Pt 3: Labor

A common theme in the Occupy movement, and many other groups with a liberal agenda, is the rights of the workers.  Occupiers commonly moan that they deserve a job, that they blame society for the huge debt they incurred acquiring a college education and they cannot find work.

In Part 1 we discussed a simple barter economy of meat, vegetables and fertilizer, and discussed how the addition of other commodities and trade partners increases the potential complexity of the market exponentially.  Eventually the number of possible transactions and the possible motivations of each participant becomes mind-boggling and impossible to quantify. The system has become hopelessly complex.

Once a system has become sufficiently complex, however, the job of the analyst becomes easier, because behaviors may be modeled and quantified on a statistical basis.  Individual transactions and motivations are inherently unpredictable, but the general trends and behaviors of a large enough group of actors will become very predictable.

Now let’s discuss a unique and particular commodity in any economy.  This particular commodity is the underlying driving force behind all other commodities, yet it is the most misunderstood and least appreciated.  This is the one resource that we all have at our disposal to one degree or another, and that everyone can bring to the market and sell.  This is the commodity of labor.

Read more about this in chapter 4 of Economic for Occupiers, now available on

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Economics for Occupiers Pt. 2: Money

One of the basic problems with the Occupy movement - and anyone who's suspicious of Capitalism on general principle - is that they don't understand money.  In part 1 of this series, we looked at a simple barter economy and showed that as products and markets are added to an economy, the complexity of the economic system expands exponentially. In our example, the basic unit of trade was simply vegetables and meat, which everybody apparently had a demand for. As a way of measuring wealth in a complex economy, vegetables and meat make poor mediums of exchange, because they're hard to transport and are impermanent – they don’t last.

A medium of exchange must have several features. It must be relatively small. It must be something difficult to acquire by the average person. It must be universally recognized for its value. Since recorded history, precious metals – notably gold and silver – have filled these requirements. A weight of gold or silver had an agreed value, and all commodities in an economy could be valued by an amount of gold or silver. In our part 1 example, it was no longer necessary to keep tabs on how many vegetables could be traded for a quantity of meat, or how much dung could be traded for fertilizer.  Participants in an economy longer needed to acquire goods for which they had no use except to use as trading material to get what they did want.

Money is not evil, nor is it the root of all evil.  The love of money is not the root of all evil, as will be demonstrated in future articles.  Money is a contract of trust between honest men. Only when dishonest people attempt to pervert money to enrich themselves without exchanging value does money take the appearance of evil.  But money is only as evil as those who trade it, and the market will eventually punish those who abuse the honesty represented by money.

Read more about this in chapter 3 of Economic for Occupiers, now available on

Friday, November 9, 2012

Repeal the 17th Amendment!

The most egregious and devastating blow the American experiment has suffered occurred almost 100 years ago with the passage of the 17thamendment.  This was the amendment that changed the way US Senators were selected, and it fundamentally changed the character of the government and balance of power between the states and the federal government.

The founding fathers designed a government that was similar in some ways to the British parliament.  There was an upper house and a lower house.  In England this is the house of Lords and the house of commons – a compromise that addresses the feudal roots of British society by allowing the appointed or inherited position in the House of Lords to counterbalance the populist House of Commons.  The American innovation to this system was to divorce the Executive from the legislative body and make it a completely separate institution, more power than a Prime minister, less power than a King.

The founders saw wisdom in a system where two houses of legislative power had disparate motivations.  They recognized that people – even (or especially) elected people – would usually act in their own self-interest before the bests interests of the common good. Providing separate houses with disparate motivations for maintaining their place in the government would be a filter to prevent the “good idea fairy” from enacting poor legislation.

Under their vision, the country was not a monolithic nation, but an affiliation of like-minded but autonomous state governments.  The role of the Senate was to serve as the voice of the individual states at the federal level.  The House represented the people, the Senate represented the State governments.  The method of selection to these bodies was very different, resulting in different behaviors and motivations from the members.  As directly elected representatives with a very short service term, the House members had to be constantly conscious of the wishes of their constituency, and to reflect those wishes in their legislative activities.  An individual representative had a relatively small amount of power, and a relatively small constituency to which to answer.  Representatives had a huge appetite for funds, because running a political campaign can be an expensive operation.

The Senate, on the other hand, was normally appointed by the state legislatures, and therefore was answerable to those bodies regarding their fitness to be retained in office.  The individual Senators had much more power than a representative did, because there are fewer Senators and they serve three times as long before being re-elected. This creates a different set of priorities for a Senator compared to Representative. The Senator cares nothing for the popular opinion, his allegiance is to the state legislature that put him in office.  His patronage flows through his local government, not from the political party. His allegiance to the party line is diminished.

The 17th amendment fundamentally changed the character of the Senate.  By allowing the direct election of the Senators by the citizens of the state, it severed the Senate’s need to be answerable to the legislatures of the state.  Senators no longer had to justify their vote to the State government, as long as they maintained their popularity with the electorate.  The problem with this is that the electorate cannot possibly be conversant on all the issues facing the Senate or the ramifications of those issues to the state governments.  Instead of representing the State governments and preventing federal incursions into state jurisdictions in violation of the tenth amendment, the prime purpose of the Senator was to try to bring as much federal money as possible into his state to placate the electorate.  Senators suddenly required large amounts of cash to fund their reelection campaigns, and cash from the party became extremely important, which resulted in voting the party line without regard to the advisability of the legislation, or the impact on the Senator’s state.  Basically it became more important to be popular and wealthy than to do a good, responsible job.  Because of the immense financial advantage that a sitting Senator had in a popular election, Senators could expect a career in their position, elected for life as long as they didn’t do anything to anger their constituents.  Because of the financial requirements to maintain his seat, a Senator’s patronage flows from whoever can best fund his campaigns.  This is not and cannot be a function of the state legislatures, but becomes that of big donors, and party and political bosses. Franklin Roosevelt used this financial patronage to great effect to ram through his destructive agenda and consolidate power in the federal government.
Some say that the original method of selecting Senators was entrenched racism.  The claim is that the appointment of Senators was one way the slave-holding and then later segregationist South maintained political power. Proponents of this claim maintain that such a structure was necessary or the southern slave states would not have ratified the Constitution.  This position is pure fallacy, since the selection of Senators is done by the legislatures which are elected by the same people who directly elect representatives.  The racist southern states were far outnumbered by 1913, so this was a relatively moot point and not worthy of requiring a change in how the Senate was chosen to cure a non-existent problem.  Further the claim that this was a power-sharing compromise ignores some of the very important roles of the Senate that were reserved under the Constitution, specifically because the Senate was meant to represent the state governments, not the state electorate.

Examine your Constitution and you will see the Senate has some unique functions that were put in place to give the state governments a very prominent role in the federal government.  The Senate has the sole power to try all impeachments.  Under the original system, Senator’s affiliation to party politics was loose, as party money was not necessary to maintain a seat.  This aloofness gave the Senators the objectivity necessary to impeach a president who had committed crimes, and the Senator need only explain his reasons to the state legislature. Today, it has become virtually impossible to successfully impeach a sitting president, because the act of conviction is too high a political risk for the Senators.  Conversely, in the event of a Senate that is heavily weighted in one direction, a president of the opposite party may risk impeachment on a specious charge.  The role of the Senate in impeachments has become that of political ax-man rather than objective jurist.

Another unique function of the Senate is the ratification of treaties.  A treaty is a binding commitment on the part of the US with a foreign nation.  Given the founding father’s understanding that we are not a monolithic sovereign, but a collection of sovereigns, the individual states were supposed to have a significant say in what treaty obligations that the collective was placing on them.  Thus the role of the Senate in this very important function.  With the direct election of the Senate, the wishes of the individual state legislatures is moot – a Senator will more likely vote according to his patron desires than his legislature.  A Senator need not pay any attention to his state legislature, as long as his war chest is big enough to ensure re-election.

The Senate shall advise and consent on cabinet and judicial appointments.  A Senate which derives its patronage from the party will rubber-stamp that party’s activities regardless of the effect on the states.  Recently the US attorney general sued the state of Arizona to halt the implementation of a state immigration law.  Regardless of the where you stand on the issue, this is a clear tenth amendment issue.  If the Senate were selected by the state legislatures, they would be justifiably concerned about federal interference in states rights.  But because the majority of the Senate derives their patronage from the party in power, this is overlooked, and the nomination of this attorney general was never in jeopardy. 

Likewise, the appointment of Supreme Court justices can have a terrific impact on the interpretation of state’s rights and interstate issues, and should be of prime concern to state legislatures.  The system envisioned by the founders was that a nominee could conceivably be vetted by all of the state congressional assemblies, and the Senators instructed on how to vote during confirmation.  This would result in a much more thorough review of the qualifications of a nominee, and prevent radicals from either end of the spectrum from being seated. Today, the Senate derives its patronage from the party, and if the president and the Senate majority are of the same party, there is no barrier to the most radical justices being seated on the bench, prepared to take a red pen to the Constitution.

We’ve discussed the unique powers of the Senate, and their implications under both forms of selecting Senators. The day-to-day business of legislation is also heavily affected by the 17th amendment.  Before this amendment, a Senator was a relatively free agent. He was beholden to uphold the interests of his patrons, which were necessarily in the state legislatures.  It was a good way to cross review legislation, get a fresh perspective on it, and to ensure that careful thought was given.  The problem with unfunded mandates was unheard of – such legislation would never pass the Senate.  While an ideologically polarized electorate might forgive their House leaders for stupidity and re-elect them, State legislatures are unlikely to tolerate such nonsense as, “We have to pass this 2000 page bill to find out what’s in it!”

Yes, there was corruption involved in the selection of Senators by the state legislatures. But the 17th amendment didn’t cure this, it just traded one form of corruption for another.  Today we have multiple proposals to limit campaign finances, to make the system fair.  These are futile, particularly when the proposed legislation is being written by the very people who benefit from campaign finance.  At least before the 17th amendment, the corruption was at a local level, less damaging overall and easier to prosecute at a local level.  Today, a lobbyist need not court individual state legislators to secure the patronage of a single Senator, he can straight to the party leaders and provide them with financing, with the assurance that they will use their powers of patronage to make lower ranking Senators toe the party line. 

Repealing the 17th amendment will be nearly impossible.  There are only two routes to amending the Constitution.  Two thirds of both houses have to approve an amendment, or two thirds of the states can petition for a Constitutional congress.  The first way is a non-starter: the Senate will not approve an amendment that will likely result in them losing their jobs.  The idea of calling a Constitutional congress should chill anyone who reads this, because it would open the door to special interests wreaking all sorts of mischief with our Constitution.  The only possible way that I can envision is for one or both parties to require as a litmus test for all Senate nominees to vow to introduce and support an amendment to repeal the 17th and restore the balance of power in our government and our country.

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Economics for Occupiers Pt. 1: Basic Economics

This last year I watched with disgust a group of people “occupy” places of commerce in protest to what they believed were unfair and unscrupulous practices of people who had a lot more money than the Occupiers had.  I say disgust, because I have never in my life seen a group of people more abysmally ignorant of that which they were protesting than these people.  Many occupiers were reasonably educated by our 21st century standards.  Many claimed college degrees. Indeed, many protesters were there because their liberal arts degrees cost them six figures and more. After that expense they were still effectively unemployable, because they lacked the skills to actually produce anything they could trade for what they wanted.

The whole Occupy movement is a scathing indictment of our education system.  Not one of these people could speak coherently on the idea of basic economics.  Now many doctorates in economics would like you to believe that economics is an arcane, difficult to understand subject, beyond the capacity of the lay person to comprehend.  Poppycock.  Economics is simple and easy to understand.  This article is the first part in a series that will explain basic economics in irreducible, incontrovertible terms that even an Occupy protester can understand.

Read more about this in chapter 2 of Economic for Occupiers, now available on

Thursday, June 28, 2012

When Checks and Balances Fail

I feel that the United States is currently more ideologically divided than at any other time in history, including the civil war.  The only thing that has prevented the country from coming apart to date as it did in 1860 is that the division is not drawn across geographic lines.  Nevertheless, the trajectory that the nation is on now will result in violence if it’s not corrected.

For the last three years a very well funded and completely unqualified president has systematically dismantled the constitutional system of checks and balances, unhindered by an out of control congress that abdicated its power to control the Executive long ago.  Today the final protection that the framers of the constitution devised to protect the citizens of the country from the government abdicated its responsibility to check and balance, in essence stating that the court had no responsibility to protect the citizens from the consequences of their election-day decisions.

Perhaps Chief Justice Roberts is merely playing a dangerous game, thinking that if the citizenry want socialism, they should get it, good and hard.  By pulling the political pendulum ever farther to the left, perhaps he thinks the reaction to the right will be correspondingly more pronounced.  This is a stupid way to think, and if this was his motivation, then Chief Justice Roberts should be impeached for playing politics.  The Supreme Court sets precedent, and this decision has set a very dangerous precedent for future courts to deal with.

The system was set up as three separate branches, under the theory that if any one branch would do its constitutionally mandated job it would be able to prevent the other two from running amuck. The congress has failed the American people.  The President has failed to reign in the excesses of congress, and the Court -  the final bulwark against tyranny - has failed to restore sanity to the government’s relation to the governed by hiding behind legal fictions and the twisting of meanings.

Conservative Americans are a law abiding group of people, and will always try to resolve things within the framework of the law.  This has been the strength of America, which has witnessed 43 peaceful changes of power, even when the handoff has been between diametrically opposed ideologies.  The rule of law prevails.

The current administration pays lip service to the law, and actively seeks to subvert that law to its own political ends by  a variety of methods.  It actively opposes common sense election law enforcement, such as voter ID laws and the purging of ineligible voters from the election rolls.  It encourages illegal immigration through inaction – and in some cases active opposition to attempts to enforce immigration law, the theory being that an illegal immigrant’s vote is as good as any other. Overt voting place intimidation, voting multiple times, dead people voting, “discovered” ballot boxes in the trunks of election officials are all documented tactics of the left to steal elections. This government routinely violates the constitutional rights of the citizens, subjecting them to illegal searches and seizures, harassment, and illegal detention without trial, all sanctioned by unconstitutional legislation from an out of control congress and a court that looks the other way when called upon to do its duty.

The next election in November will determine the fate of this nation. Only a Republican House, Senate and President have a chance of steering this ship off the rocks.  The orderly transfer of power in this election is the last peaceful bulwark the people of this nation have against tyranny. 

Should this election not result in the retirement of the leftist activists that control the Senate and the white House, the American conservative movement will be left with only one remaining tool with which to control an out of control government, as outlined in our Declaration of Independence:

"Whenever any form of government becomes destructive of these ends [i.e., securing inherent and inalienable rights, with powers derived from the consent of the governed], it is the right of the people to alter or abolish it, and to institute new government, laying its foundation on such principles, and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their safety and happiness."

To that end we take further wisdom from Mr. Jefferson:

"What country can preserve its liberties if its rulers are not warned from time to time that their people preserve the spirit of resistance? Let them take arms. The remedy is to set them right as to facts, pardon and pacify them."
--Thomas Jefferson to William Stephens Smith, 1787

This is the variable in the equation that the liberals underestimate: The conservative movement is very law abiding, as long as there is a law to abide by.  But when it becomes plain that the people are not being ruled by laws, but by the capricious whims of a government that does not answer to the People, and does not govern by the consent of the governed, the conservatives are not above taking up arms and abolishing that government.  In the last two years, private American citizens have bought more personal firearms and ammunition than is necessary to arm the largest army in the world.  If we cannot control the government by peaceful, lawful means, we will control it nevertheless.  The people of the United states will not be governed without their consent, and that consent is rapidly eroding.

I tremble for my country.  Civil wars are the most destructive, deadly conflicts imaginable, and I fear we are closer than anyone cares to admit to just that. 

Vote in November.  Make your voice heard, and be very watchful against election fraud. This is our last chance at a peaceful way to roll back tyranny. After November it will be too late to apologize.

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Is Muhammad in the Bible?

In any debate between Muslims and Christians the subject of Muhammad in the Christian scripture will inevitably come up. Muslims contend that Muhammad is mentioned in several places in scripture. Christians maintain that Muhammad is not mentioned in the Bible, and is therefore a null. Both sides are incorrect.

The Islamic apologist normally bases his assertion on several passages: The Song of Solomon 5:16, Deuteronomy 18:18 and John 14:16. The apocryphal Gospel of Barnabas also makes several mentions of Muhammad, but the overwhelming evidence is that this was a work of fiction, written much later than the canonical Gospels, probably after the Moorish conquest of Spain, and carries as much liturgical weight as your average Dan Brown novel.

There are several fundamental mistakes that Muslims make when referring to the Bible to support their arguments. The first is that Muslims themselves dismiss the Bible as corrupt. In their canon, the Bible simply cannot be authentic, because the Quran disagrees with it so egregiously. In this they violate the rule of authority of precedence in scripture, i.e. in the event of a contradiction, the earlier work is considered authoritative. This rule is not just broken by the Quran, it’s shattered into a myriad of pieces, thrown on the floor and trampled on and fed to the pigs. The Quran says in more than three dozen places that the Judeo-Christian scripture (identified as the “Torah” and the "injeel" or Gospel. Muhammad was unfamiliar with much of the Old Testament except for the Pentateuch, and knew nothing of the New Testament except for the Gospels) is to be read, respected and followed (Surahs 10:37, 10:94, 12:111, 21:7, 16:43, 53:33-37 , 87:17-19, just to name a few). Then it turns around and completely denies one of the most fundamental tenets of Christianity, the crucifixion and by implication the resurrection of Jesus (4:157). There are many accounts of Biblical figures in the Quran that amount to mere flights of fantasy, Arabian folklore retold with Biblical figures in the leading roles, with absolutely no connection to the Bible.

A second mistake that Muslims make in quoting the Bible is to quote verses out of context. This is generally acceptable in the Quran, because for the most part Muhammad couldn’t hold onto a topic for more than a few verses anyway. There simply is no narrative context in the Quran to lend understanding to the reader. It has no narrative beginning or end, and it’s a coin toss whether a given verse will have any logical connection to another ten verses away.

The Song of Solomon
The Song of Solomon 5:16; “His mouth is full of sweetness. And he is wholly desirable. This is my beloved and this is my friend, O daughters of Jerusalem.” In the original Hebrew, the word for “altogether lovely” (KJV) or “wholly desirable” (NASB77) is מַחמָד, or "machmad", which the Muslims feel is transliterated to “Muhammad.”

The first problem with this is literary. As used this is a predicate, describing the subject of the poem, which in this case is the voice of the bride describing her new husband. But the Muslims would have us believe it should be read as a proper noun, naming the subject, thus: “His mouth is full of sweetness. And he is Muhammad. This is my beloved and this is my friend, O daughters of Jerusalem.”

This removes the intended meaning and awkwardly inserts a foreign name into a love poem without any introduction or frame of reference for the reader. It makes as little sense as saying “His mouth is full of sweetness. And he is Ralph. This is my beloved and this is my friend, O daughters of Jerusalem.”

The second problem demonstrates the inherent silliness of the lengths Muslims will go to in order to claim a point. Arab names are commonly descriptive. Humam is “generous.” Nasim is “fresh air.” This pattern is repeated over and over. Muhammad means “praised,” and was not an uncommon name even in 7th century Arabia. Hebrew and Arabic are both Semitic languages, with a great deal of common structures, phrases and similar sounds and words. Of course some of these predicate nouns will appear in Hebrew literature. Is it the Muslim position that any time that the Hebrew scripture uses a predicate noun that doubles as a proper name in Arabic that it’s actually referring to a person, and not the original meaning?

Muslims also like to claim that Deuteronomy 18:18 speaks of Muhammad: “I will raise up a prophet from among their countrymen like you, and I will put My words in his mouth, and he shall speak to them all that I command him.”

The Muslim discussion of this seeks to obfuscate the issue, with claims that Muhammad is more like Moses than was Jesus, who most Christians accept is the one to which this verse refers. This is irrelevant, because any similarity between Moses and Muhammad is completely negated by two glaring disqualifications.

The Muslim position is that Muhammad is supposedly descended from Ishmael, and therefore is a “brother” to the Israelites based on the Abrahamic connection. This is preposterous. Aside from Ishmael and Isaac themselves, the Ishmaelites are never referred to as brethren, nor are any of the other tribes that can trace Abrahamic descent, such as the Midianites. Joseph the son of Jacob was sold to Ishmaelites who took him to Egypt, and Ishmaelites are counted among the enemies of Israel in Psalm 83. The entire book of Deuteronomy is Moses’ farewell address to the Israelites, no one else, and should be interpreted in that context. An Ishmaelite is not an Israelite.

If Muslims are going to rely on scripture to support their claims, then they need to be careful about what that scripture says. Just a couple of verses after the verse that the Muslims are all heated up about, it says, ‘But the prophet who shall speak a word presumptuously in My name which I have not commanded him to speak, or which he shall speak in the name of other gods, that prophet shall die.’

Ladies and gentlemen of the jury, I refer you to the Quran, surah 53:19-20: Have ye thought upon Al-Lat and Al-'Uzza And Manat, the third, the other?

This verse refers to three of the Gods of the Meccan Pantheon, sister goddesses of Allah, and was “revealed” in response to a deal the Meccans offered Muhammad, where they would give him a cut of the proceeds from the ka’aba if he would dial down the monotheistic rhetoric a bit. When his faithful followers heard of this, they were incensed and called BS, which prompted the following verse to be revealed in 22:52: Never sent We a messenger or a prophet before you but when He recited (the message) Satan proposed (opposition) in respect of that which he recited thereof. But Allah abolishes that which Satan proposes. Then Allah establishes His revelations. Allah is Knower, Wise;

Nice out, Muhammad, but by the definition given in Deuteronomy 18:20, you spoke a word in God’s name which he did not command you, and your life is therefore forfeit. Muhammad is no prophet of God.

The prophet Moses referred to is thought to be Jesus. It could just as easily been Elijah or John the Baptist, the two greatest prophets between Jesus and Moses. Peter quotes this verse verbatim in Acts 3, intimating that Jesus is the prophet. Jesus also stated quite clearly in Luke 16:16 that the last prophet was John the Baptist; after that the Kingdom of God is preached.

The Paraclete
Muslims claim that the Paraclete that John spoke of in 14:16 was no other than Muhammad: “And I will pray the Father, and he shall give you another Comforter [or helper], that he may abide with you for ever;”

Taken in isolation, this is adequate proof for most Muslims. Unfortunately, there’s a little problem in the form of the Acts of the Apostles that gets in the way of this idea. Most Muslims are abysmally ignorant of the Acts of the Apostles, thinking that the New Testament consists entirely of the four Gospels.

The word for “comforter” or “helper” is the Greek “Paraclete.” John uses it in the same context a couple more times. In 15:26 he states, “When the Helper comes, whom I will send to you from the Father, that is the Spirit of truth, who proceeds from the Father, He will bear witness of Me,” A key thing to know is that the word used for spirit here is “pneuma,” the very same word used throughout the New Testament to refer to the Holy Spirit.

The Pentecost story is one that Most Muslims are unfamiliar with. To the Christian, Pentecost is a feast day that rivals Easter or Christmas in importance. This event sets the tone for the rest of the Acts of the Apostles, where the early church was guided by the Holy Spirit. From Acts, Chapter 2:

And when the day of Pentecost had come, they were all together in one place. And suddenly there came from heaven a noise like a violent, rushing wind, and it filled the whole house where they were sitting. And there appeared to them tongues as of fire distributing themselves, and they rested on each one of them. And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit was giving them utterance.

Now there were Jews living in Jerusalem, devout men, from every nation under heaven. And when this sound occurred, the multitude came together, and were bewildered, because they were each one hearing them speak in his own language. And they were amazed and marveled, saying, “ Why, are not all these who are speaking Galileans? “And how is it that we each hear them in our own language to which we were born? “Parthians and Medes and Elamites, and residents of Mesopotamia, Judea and Cappadocia, Pontus and Asia, Phrygia and Pamphylia, Egypt and the districts of Libya around Cyrene, and visitors from Rome, both Jews and proselytes, Cretans and Arabs–we hear them in our own tongues speaking of the mighty deeds of God.” And they all continued in amazement and great perplexity, saying to one another, “What does this mean?”

The Holy Spirit filled the faithful, and guided the early church.  It ensured that the traditions and written words were established according to God’s plan.  It was literally the manifestation of God in the hearts of the Faithful, and is understood by all to be the paraclete of whom Jesus spoke.

Muhammad, by contrast, is a self-proclaimed prophet from a tribe barely related to Israel, separated by a thousand miles and five hundred years. He preached a Quran that in many respects was a hollow, meaningless imitation of the Judeo-Christian scripture, when it did not directly contradict that scripture. The “help” and “comfort” he gave the followers of Jesus was subjugation, slavery, forced conversion, death and perpetual warfare.  Like most everything else in Islam, it only makes sense if you drink the Kool-aid.  It has no redeeming argument to attract anyone but the ignorant.

But this is not to say that Muhammad has no role in the Bible, or that Islam isn’t mentioned.  Islam plays a prominent role in many of the prophecies and Muhammad is referred to almost explicitly in Isaiah.

To understand this, you have to first be familiar with Muhammad’s first encounter with “Gabriel.” In the Bukhari hadith vol 1, Book 1, number 3, Aisha tells us about Muhammad’s recounting of the event:

"The angel caught me  (forcefully) and pressed me so hard that I could  not bear it any more. He then released me and  again asked me to read and I replied, 'I do not  know how to read.' Thereupon he caught me  again and pressed me a second time till I could  not bear it any more. He then released me and  again asked me to read but again I replied, 'I do  not know how to read (or what shall I read)?'  Thereupon he caught me for the third time and  pressed me, and then released me and said,  'Read in the name of your Lord, who has created  (all that exists) has created man from a clot.  Read! And your Lord is the Most Generous."

Yeah, that makes sense.  The omniscient Author of the universe brutalizes one of his terrified creations to make him do something he’s patently incapable of doing.  Muhammad quite correctly thought he was demon-possessed from this encounter, but was talked out of this idea by his wife Khadija.

Now take a look at this passage from Isaiah, written a thousand years before Muhammad started hearing voices.  This is from a description of the state of mind of the enemies of Jerusalem (Israel):

And the entire vision shall be to you like the words of a sealed book, which when they give it to the one who is literate, saying, “Please read this,” he will say, “I cannot, for it is sealed.” Then the book will be given to the one who is illiterate, saying, “Please read this.” And he will say, “I cannot read.
– Isaiah 29:11-12

It might not sound like much to you, but to a Muslim this is definitive.  This was actually pointed out to me by a Muslim as evidence that Muhammad is in the Bible, and I cannot dispute it.  The triumphant Muslims should pay heed to what the rest of the chapter says about the enemies of Israel, though:

But the multitude of your enemies shall become like fine dust,
And the multitude of the ruthless ones like the chaff which blows away;
And it shall happen instantly, suddenly.
From the LORD of hosts you will be punished with thunder and earthquake and loud noise,
With whirlwind and tempest and the flame of a consuming fire.
And the multitude of all the nations who wage war against Ariel [Jerusalem],
Even all who wage war against her and her stronghold, and who distress her,
Shall be like a dream, a vision of the night. – Isaiah 29:5-7

If this doesn’t sound like a battlefield nuclear weapon, I don’t know what does. Muslims are further described:

Then the Lord said,
“Because this people draw near with their words
And honor Me with their lip service,
But they remove their hearts far from Me,
And their reverence for Me consists of tradition learned by rote,
Therefore behold, I will once again deal marvelously with this people, wondrously marvelous;
And the wisdom of their wise men shall perish,
And the discernment of their discerning men shall be concealed.”
Woe to those who deeply hide their plans from the LORD,
And whose deeds are done in a dark place,
And they say, “Who sees us?” or “Who knows us?”
You turn things around!
Shall the potter be considered as equal with the clay,
That what is made should say to its maker, “He did not make me”;
Or what is formed say to him who formed it, “He has no understanding”?
– Isaiah 29:13-16

Muslims learn their Quran by rote, and to them its recital is prayer, even though they often don’t understand the words they are reciting, because it’s in a foreign language.  They make a great show of reverence, but by their actions only demonstrate intolerance, hatred, and jealousy.  They dispute the power of God, placing limitations on God according to their plebeian understanding. They say God cannot take the form of a man.  They say God cannot have a son, that god cannot be crucified in an earthly body, die and be resurrected.  After awhile one gets confused if God created the Muslims, or if the Muslims are in the process of creating God.

Isaiah caps this chapter with the triumph of Israel:

Therefore thus says the LORD, who redeemed Abraham, concerning the house of Jacob,
“Jacob shall not now be ashamed, nor shall his face now turn pale;
But when he sees his children, the work of My hands, in his midst,
They will sanctify My name;
Indeed, they will sanctify the Holy One of Jacob,
And will stand in awe of the God of Israel.
“And those who err in mind will know the truth,
And those who criticize will accept instruction. – Isaiah 29:22-24

This one should cause Muslims to tremble. One of the fundamental tenets of Islam, and the thing that identifies Islam as the religion of Satan, is its underlying hatred of Israel.  Yet right here we are told that the house of Jacob shall triumph, and that Muslims will know the truth and (presumably the survivors) will accept instruction.  Muhammad is not of the house of Jacob, whose name was also Israel; only a Jew can claim that title.

Jesus gave clear warning of the dangers of Islam:

“Beware of the false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly are ravenous wolves. You will know them by their fruits. Grapes are not gathered from thorn bushes, nor figs from thistles, are they? Even so, every good tree bears good fruit; but the bad tree bears bad fruit. A good tree cannot produce bad fruit, nor can a bad tree produce good fruit. Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. So then, you will know them by their fruits. Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven; but he who does the will of My Father who is in heaven.  Many will say to Me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in Your name, and in Your name cast out demons, and in Your name perform many miracles?’ And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; DEPART FROM ME, YOU WHO PRACTICE LAWLESSNESS.’” - Matt 7:13-23

Look at the world today, the countries where the majority of the people are Muslim.  What are the fruits of these countries?  There are few contributions to science or the arts, there are scant numbers of Nobel laureates.  The main product of these countries are poorly educated young people who are radicalized by the religious schools of their upbringing.  These countries are characterized by high unemployment, illiteracy, staggering poverty, capricious judicial systems, and frequently interminable violence on the edge of outright war. There is a veneer of wealth in prosperity overlaying the rot, thanks to the usurious profits that come from oil sales, but this wealth is concentrated in the hands of a fortunate few.

There are many other places that are clearly referring to Islam.  All of the countries identified as being arrayed against – and inevitably destroyed by – Israel in the end-times prophecies are all Muslim countries today.

Muslims would do well to follow the advice of Muhammad -study the Bible and learn the books from which Muhammad plagiarized his theology without understanding what it was he was stealing.

Saturday, May 26, 2012

Unconstitutional Wars?

 “To The Shores of Tripoli” by Raymond Massey
One of the pieces of misinformation that seems to be prominent this election cycle is the idea that the American actions in the Middle East for the last twenty-five years were illegal and unconstitutional. This idea was first floated by liberal Democrats to discredit the two Bush Administrations, but it’s gained traction in the military community in general and the supporters of Ron Paul in particular. Unfortunately, this rhetoric demonstrates a plebian understanding of the Constitution, history and the actions of the US Congress. Except for the Clinton administration adventure in Kosovo and the most recent actions in Libya, it’s just not true.

Before we dive into the discussion, we need to see what the constitution says on the matter.

Article II, section 8 defines the powers of Congress, among these is the power To declare War, grant Letters of Marque and Reprisal, and make Rules concerning Captures on Land and Water;

That’s it. There’s no rules concerning the form that such a declaration of war should take, the recipe for doing so, or any magic incantation that would differentiate an authorization for the use of force from a de facto Declaration of War.

The Constitution deliberately built in a tension between the Presidency and Congress, for while the Congress retains the sole power to declare war, Article II section 2 states that The President shall be Commander in Chief of the Army and Navy of the United States, and of the Militia of the several States, when called into the actual Service of the United States.

The implication of this is that the President can do whatever he wants with the military during peace time, except commit them to combat. Presumably this includes deploying the military to foreign lands with which we have military cooperation agreements, for joint exercises.

This was an acceptable state of affairs in the eighteenth century, when communications took days and you would be aware of an approaching army weeks or months in advance. But technology overwhelmed this concept to the point where Congress could go to bed in peacetime, and wake up to a shooting war with US troops engaged in combat. Worse, with the advent of intercontinental ballistic missiles and submarine launched attack systems, the President’s reaction time to respond militarily to an imminent attack on the USA could conceivably be reduced to mere minutes.

In 1973, the US congress, in a fit of collective amnesia, passed the War Powers Act, codifying the precise conditions and limits under which the President can deploy the military in today’s fast moving world. Many people misunderstand this to be a constitutional amendment. It is not. It’s just federal law designed to define the constitutional roles of Congress and the President within the realities of the Twentieth Century and beyond.

Some History
The political and diplomatic turmoil around the world that resulted from the power redistribution and decolonization that occurred after World War II led to a number of circumstances that were unforeseen by the founding fathers. The end of WWII found US soldiers on every continent in the world except South America, cast in the role of liberator or conquering hero. In both cases, the local government was typically non-functional, and the US administration of these countries was considered appropriate by all until a functioning government could be established. In the case of our former enemies, such a government necessarily had to conform to certain requirements of the conquering allies to ensure that the conditions that gave rise to WWII could not be resurrected.

This would have been an orderly progression of recovery from the devastation of WWII, except for a couple of flies in the ointment. First, the Soviet Union was exercising a methodic campaign to foment a socialist movement nearly everywhere it could assert influence. Such movements weren’t above using violence – indeed the Leninist model demanded that at some point violence would be necessary to throw off the bourgeoisie. Second, the US State Department was primarily concerned with preserving friendly ties with our wartime allies – particularly to present a united front to the growing menace of Soviet hegemony. This meant that a number of indigent populations in colonial lands owned by our allies were thrown under the bus in the post-war realignments. Very often this happened over the protests of US administrators in these areas. The OSS in French Indochina vehemently disagreed with the idea of returning that colony back to France after the war, saying that the Vietnamese and Cambodian people would not tolerate it, but they were ignored by the European desk of the State Department, which was calling the shots.

Tensions between the Western Allies and the Soviets peaked in 1948 with the Berlin Airlift. It became plain to the President and Congress that our nation simply could not afford to keep our commitments to our allies and oversee an orderly postwar realignment and still draw down our nation’s military to pre-war levels. This was confirmed when Chinese-supported North Koreans crossed the demarcation line between the occupation zones in 1950, and attempted to reunite the country under a communist government. The ensuing war was a disaster for the Communist bloc, and ended in an uneasy stalemate that continues to this day.

Realizing that a direct invasion by proxy would result in a powerful response from the western powers, the Soviets and China began pouring resources into low-key communist insurgencies. This placed the Western powers and the US in particular in an awkward situation. In order to prevent a power vacuum that would make a communist take-over a fait accompli, the US found itself supporting some right bastards as virtual dictators in countries who had recently cast off their colonial shackles. This was a less than optimal situation, and while these guys were bastards, at least they were our bastards.

The attempt to stall the Communist insurgencies and infiltrations of these countries required new ways of thinking when it came to manipulating military and political force. Unfortunately, the American mindset was educated from our recent military experiences in WWII and Korea. Our overwhelming victory in WWII gave us the political power to literally dictate terms to both our enemies and our allies resulting in an excessive amount of diplomatic hubris. These factors resulted in heavy-handed and inappropriate responses from the US in what had become the client states that we had sponsored after they had been decolonized. In our position as the world’s preeminent economic and military super power, we were unwilling to learn from the success of the British in the communist insurgency in Malaysia, which used a small number of highly trained counter-insurgency operatives and a dedicated campaign to win the hearts and minds of the locals and deny the enemy the advantages that an insurgency typically enjoys. The result of this was a series of ongoing US commitments of conventional ground forces into brushfire wars, and a general attitude that America had become the policeman of the world. This attitude was what made the American reaction to the invasion of Kuwait almost automatic.

Some More History
The main point of contention among the contemporary critics is that American soldiers were sent into Afghanistan and Iraq without a declaration of war, and that these actions are therefore unconstitutional.

This point is without merit.

The precedent of sending American soldiers overseas into a combat situation began in 1801 when then-president Thomas Jefferson (remember him? He had a bit of a hand in the forming of our government) deployed a naval frigate squadron and the US Marines to the Mediterranean coast of Africa to put an end to the Muslim pirates of the Barbary Coast. In many ways this action was little different than the deployments and fighting that’s been done since 1990. Was it constitutional? Jefferson felt it was, because he had Congressional approval starting with the 3rd congress, session 1, chapter 12, An Act to provide Naval Armament, which cited the depredations of the Algerian Corsairs as the reason for the Naval Appropriation. Congress further provided its approval and authorization for the use of force in the 7th congress, Session 1 chapter 4, An Act for the protection of the Commerce and Seamen of the United States, against Tripolitan Cruisers. It very explicitly gave sanction to conduct military operations and to prosecute a war in the 8th congress, Session 1, chapter 46, An Act to further protect the commerce and seamen of the United States against the Barbary powers, which specifically authorizes, “warlike operations against the regency of Tripoli, or any other of the Barbary powers.”  There were in fact ten such congressional acts passed pertaining to the barbary wars, but you get the idea. Note that Congress did not specifically declare war on any other nation, nor was the term “Declaration of War” used.

For the folks who insist that America’s involvement in Iraq, Afghanistan and yes, Vietnam was unconstitutional, please compare the legislation that Jefferson used to prosecute his military expedition, and those of the more recent congresses:

Authorization to invade Afghanistan, Public Law 107-40
Authorization to invade Iraq, Public Law 107-243
Authorization to prosecute Desert Storm, Public Law 102-1
One could argue that Desert Shield didn't get congressional approval, but Desert Shield was a massive deployment to an allied nation, and not a combat deployment, so there's a question whether the war Powers Act applied, a question the courts chose to abstain on in Ange v. Bush.
Authorization to commit military forces to fight in Vietnam, Public Law 88-408

All of these actions were authorized by congress under the same theory of law that Thomas Jefferson used for his actions against the Barbary pirates. Any political office holder – particularly any Congressman who was sitting when these laws were passed – who claims that these wars are unconstitutional is just being disingenuous (that’s a fancy word for “lying through his teeth”).

In closing, the idea of a “Declaration of War” is quickly becoming an archaic term. In the historical context of the day, a declaration of war meant that the people and government of one nation-state was at war with the people and government of another nation-state. In today’s context, this is rarely the case with the use of the US military. The United States is a constitutional republic, dedicated to the concept that people should be free to be governed by their consent. Most American ventures since WWII have been against regimes in support of the oppressed people they govern. It’s not the position of the USA to declare war on the people of a nation, rather we draw a distinction between the people and the government that we assume is not acting in the best interests of those people. The term “Declaration of War” carries a connotation of war against the people as well as the government of a nation that isn’t appropriate with the interests and goals of the United States. This doesn’t mean that our military ventures are unconstitutional, unless you’re willing to take the absurd position that Thomas Jefferson’s action was unconstitutional.

Whether these wars were ill-advised or properly executed is a different argument altogether. But no one can rationally make the argument that the conflicts mentioned in this article were unconstitutional.