Tuesday, September 30, 2008

The real troublemakers in the Middle East

September 29, 2008

The Mischief-Makers

The real troublemakers in the Middle East

by Justin Raimondo

While the American people are consumed with the news on the home front – economic implosion, job loss, a record number of foreclosures, failed banks – and a presidential election in which the usual amount of smoke is being blown, if you look behind the headlines the outline of an emerging crisis in – where else? – the Middle East is beginning to take shape.

What the heck is going on in Syria? The news of a huge explosion in Damascus, caused by a car bomb, has shaken the region, and it isn't at all clear who or what is responsible. Whatever the source, however, the attack – which killed 17 bystanders, including possibly a top Syrian intelligence official – augurs ill for the future of peace in the Middle East (an increasingly elusive goal).

The attack occurred Saturday morning, near a major Syrian intelligence facility, although news reports in the West are focusing on the proximity of the Shi'ite shrine. Israeli media are emphasizing the possibility of an internal struggle within the Syrian regime itself, while the Iranians are saying the blast was the work of the Mossad and/or CIA. Suffice to say that this incident is shrouded in mystery, as the Syrians hint of attackers from beyond their borders, and the context – a series of equally mysterious attacks on targets in Syria over the past few years – indicates they may be correct.

In August, Syrian army Gen. Mohammad Suleiman was assassinated by a sniper in the city of Tartus. Suleiman was reputed to be the Syrian regime's chief liaison to Lebanon's Hezbollah organization – a job description that would point to Israel as the culprit. Last February, an explosion in Damascus knocked off Imad Mughniyeh, a Hezbollah military commander. Hezbollah and Syria have close ties.

Add to this recent Israeli allegations that the Syrians were trying to build a nuclear facility – accusations debunked in this space, and later proven to be entirely bogus – and the circumstantial evidence certainly points in the direction of Tel Aviv.

The key to understanding what is going on in the Middle East today – including the American invasion and occupation of Iraq and the stepped-up pressure on the Iranians – is to be found in a seminal paper published in 1996 by an Israeli think-tank, the Institute for Advanced Strategic and Political Studies: "A Clean Break: A New Strategy for the Realm." In it, five U.S. academics and policymakers – many of whom hold (or held) high positions in the U.S. government, including Richard Perle, Douglas Feith, and David Wurmser – outline a strategic perspective that posits a policy of regime change throughout the region. The premise is that Israel is caught in a bind, hemmed in by hostile neighbors and unfavorable demographic facts on the ground. Israel, the authors aver, must break out of its box, or perish in the attempt. The first item on the agenda: regime change in Iraq. The rationale for this was that the road to Damascus must first pass through Baghdad. Syria is the primary "frontline state" engaged in destabilizing the occupied territories and fomenting the Palestinian uprising, so it must be eliminated. Damascus has always been the primary target of the Israelis, whether they are engaged in Lebanon or the occupied territories, and now that Iraq is out of the way, thanks to Uncle Sam, it makes sense that the Israelis are moving against Damascus.

It also computes in a broader sense: the Israelis have always targeted the more secular elements among their many enemies in the region. Saddam Hussein was their first target, and his regime was notably irreligious, although in its latter years the Ba'athists tried to assume the mantle of Islamic legitimacy. Earlier, you'll remember, the Israelis also went after Yasser Arafat hammer and tongs, while helping Hamas – at least, in its initial stages – to gain a foothold. Now they are going after the secular Ba'ath Party of Syria, which has ruled that country with an iron hand since the days of the late Hafez al-Assad. Assad's son, Bashir, a UK-educated ophthalmologist, is generally seen as an ineffective ruler, and is reportedly in the midst of a power struggle between the old guard and his own supporters. Israeli news outlets portray the mysterious explosions as being a function of this purported internal struggle, but it is more likely that the Israelis are using their new position of strength to exert enough pressure to cause the brittle Syrian regime to implode.

That this would introduce chaos into the region and unleash the forces of Islamic extremism – including al-Qaeda, which reportedly has a Syrian adjunct – concerns them not at all. Better to fight al-Qaeda, which has narrow support among in the Arab world, than to face a secular anti-Zionist force such as the PLO or the Syrian Ba'athists, who enjoy some degree of popular support.

In Israel itself, there are disturbing developments aplenty. Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, upon leaving office in the wake of a financial scandal, denounced the rising tide of "extremism, " exemplified by the recent attack on a prominent academic critic of the settler movement. We warned about that, too, in this space, and the gathering ultra-rightist sentiments in the Israeli electorate at large do not bode well for the future. The present Israeli government reportedly asked for a green light from the Bush administration to go ahead and bomb Iran, ostensibly to take out its nuclear facilities. The answer, according to the British newspaper the Guardian, was no. A future Israeli government, run by extremists, might not be in the mood to ask permission before striking.

There is trouble afoot in the Middle East, and the source of it consists of two major mischief-makers: on the one hand, we have al-Qaeda (and affiliated Sunni extremists), and on the other we are witnessing the rising tide of extremism in Israel, both in government and in the general population. These two forces, ostensibly antithetical, are objectively allied in the sense that they both share a number of common goals: the elimination of Arab moderates, the defeat of Arab secularism, and opposition to all nationalism. Regarding this last, the Israelis oppose Arab nationalism because it inspires military resistance to their predations, and al-Qaeda disapproves of it because it often comes packaged with secularism or what they regard as heretical versions of Islam (such as the Alawite sect that the ruling caste in Syria belongs to). Nationalism also flies in the face of Osama bin Laden's vision of a Sunni caliphate stretching from the straits of Gibraltar to the steppes of Central Asia.

Another reason for Israeli concentration on secular Arab targets it the American factor: U.S. public opinion is much more likely to side with the Jewish state if the enemy is seen as a fanatical religious movement that cannot be reasoned with. That Israel itself is coming to resemble this caricature is not something the authors of the "Clean Break" scenario took into account. Nor has Israel's lobby in the U.S., which has yet to react to – or take seriously – the upsurge in extremist activity in Israel.

If Syria implodes, the consequences for the U.S. will be incalculably awful. With 150,000 troops in neighboring Iraq, we will soon be hearing that al-Qaeda has established a base in Syria, and the war will spread. We will also be hearing that Syria, too, needs "liberation," and all sorts of figures will be brought forth as likely candidates for U.S. support, including, no doubt, the Reform Party of Syria, which has been promoted and nurtured by the neocons in Washington for the past few years.

There is an alternative to this mess, and it consists of preventive diplomacy. Although the Syrians have cooperated with the U.S. in fighting al-Qaeda – including providing some vital intelligence early on in the fight against Sunni extremism – we have not reciprocated. Instead, for the past eight years, U.S. government officials have refused to talk with the Syrians, and that country's ambassador to the U.S. is reportedly the loneliest man in Washington, D.C. Not only that, but Donald Rumsfeld, when he was defense secretary, routinely threatened the Syrians with military action, claiming that they deliberately kept their border porous to facilitate the passage of Iraqi insurgents, supposedly based in Damascus. Yet there is no more fearsome and effective foe of al-Qaeda-type organizations than the Ba'athist dictatorship, which, under old Hafez, slaughtered some 30,000 inhabitants of the city of Hama, where members and fighters of the Muslim Brotherhood had risen up against him. Not very nice, but the Middle East is a rough neighborhood, and any upset in the balance of forces – including the stability of the Syrian regime – would likely produce a result far worse than the status quo.

The Iraq war's consequences are still rippling outward, and the destabilization of Syria is perhaps the most perilous, as far as U.S. interests are concerned. If and when whomever is trying to upset the Syrian apple cart succeeds, it is Americans – after, of course, the poor Syrians – who will be paying the price. The only solution: diplomatic engagement and the dropping of economic sanctions, followed by a policy that encourages the opening up of Syria to Western influence. This has been the dearest wish of the Syrian government, which has been earnestly, if ineffectively, trying to repair relations with the West. Yet the Israel lobby has such a powerful stranglehold on policymaking, including Congress and the White House, that this has proved impossible. Whether or not the election of Barack Obama – who supposedly will talk to anyone – will mean a fundamental break with the failed policies of the past remains to be seen. For the moment, however, we can only hope that Washington will rein in the Israelis before they do irreparable damage and Syria comes unraveled.


If you're interested in my thoughts on the Obama-McCain debate, go check out Taki's Magazine.

Thanks for all the letters wishing me good luck on my move. I have to admit, country living takes some getting used to – but I'm getting there! Yesterday, I rode my bike into town and had a glorious time exploring all the way down to Monte Rio, a small and very picturesque town on the Russian River. What beautiful country: it's like being inside an Art Nouveau painting. Some letter-writers have detected a favorable influence on my work, and I hope that's true. In any case, thanks for the letters. I really appreciate them.

~ Justin Raimondo

Bloomberg wants 3rd term as NYC mayor

In this Thursday, Sept 25, 2008 file photo, New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg participates in a panel discussion at the Clinton Global Initiative annual meeting in New York. Bloomberg has decided to try to reverse the term-limits law he had long supported so he can seek a third term next year and help the city emerge from financial turmoil, a person close to the mayor told The Associated Press on Tuesday, Sept. 30, 2008. (AP Photo/Jason DeCrow)

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Full coverage »

AP source: Bloomberg wants 3rd term as NYC mayor

NEW YORK (AP) — Mayor Michael Bloomberg has decided to try to reverse the term-limits law he had long supported so he can seek a third term next year and help the city emerge from financial turmoil, a person close to the mayor told The Associated Press on Tuesday.

Bloomberg made the decision over the weekend and will announce it Thursday, according to the person, who has been briefed on the matter but spoke on condition of anonymity because the announcement hasn't been made. The person said the mayor has been wrestling with the decision for the past couple of months.

The billionaire former CEO will cite the nation's precarious economic situation as the reason that New York needs a tested financial manager to stay and guide the city, the person said.

The mayor, founder of the multibillion-dollar financial data firm Bloomberg LP, is reported to be worth an estimated $20 billion.

News of Bloomberg's decision was first reported by The New York Times.

The move is risky because the mayor would be going against both his own prior support of term limits and polls that show the public supports the voter-approved law.

The individual close to the mayor said Bloomberg's plan is go through the City Council to amend the law to allow a third consecutive term because it is too late to get the issue on this year's ballot. A Times survey of council members last month found that a majority were willing to amend the term limits law.

Chris Kelley, associate director of the government watchdog group Common Cause New York, accused Bloomberg of attempting to subvert the will of the voters.

"If there's a discussion that needs to be had about term limits, the mayor has had years in office during which we could have had a public discussion," Kelley said. "We are now faced with a situation where we are looking at economic crisis and massive turnover at City Hall ... and to make an end run around the voters' choice is just incredibly disappointing."

When Bloomberg vetoed a bill in 2002 that would have extended the terms for some officials, he said the proposed law amounted to changing the rules for personal political gain. In recent months, however, the Democrat-turned-Republican-turned-independent hinted that he'd be willing to overturn the measure.

Bloomberg's change of heart comes amid the nation's worst financial emergency since the Great Depression. The turmoil has dealt a serious blow to the city's economy, which relies on heavily on Wall Street profits for its tax base.

The crisis had led at least one major supporter of term limits to support a third term for Bloomberg.

The New York Post reported Tuesday that billionaire cosmetics heir Ronald Lauder, who spent millions on the referendum that led to the enactment of the two-term limit in 1993, was willing to make a one-time exception for Bloomberg.

"I've been reading that Mayor Bloomberg might be interested in serving a third term," Lauder told the Post. "Because of the unprecedented times, this is welcome news. To me, Mayor Bloomberg's brilliance in the financial sector, particularly Wall Street, would be invaluable."

Just weeks ago, Lauder's spokesman announced that he would bankroll television commercials arguing that term limits were still needed. Lauder's office and his spokesman didn't immediately return calls from the AP on Tuesday.

Mark Green, the former city public advocate who lost to Bloomberg in 2001, called the mayor's move "an antidemocratic, self-dealing power grab."

Green, now president at Air America Media, said civic and labor officials had discussed mounting a pro-term-limits campaign should Bloomberg seek to overturn the law.

"He's picked a fight. And now he'll get one," he said.

Dick Dadey, executive director of the good-government group Citizens Union, said that any change to the law should be made by voters, not legislators. "There are compelling reasons to consider changing the law. But the will of the voters is sacrosanct on this issue," he said.

Not even 9/11 swayed the support many New Yorkers have for the term-limits law.

With his second term nearly over, then-Mayor Rudolph Giuliani suggested overturning the term-limits law but ultimately decided against it. Even in the wake of the attacks, with Giuliani's approval rating at 90 percent, one poll found that 55 percent of New York City voters opposed repealing term limits.

Any change in the law would send shock waves through the ranks of the city's politicians, many of whom have been campaigning for different jobs, including Bloomberg's. The law currently on the books will force the mayor from office at the end of next year, as well as the city comptroller, two-thirds of the city council and the city's public advocate.

Democrats lining up to run for mayor include city Comptroller William Thompson, city council speaker Christine Quinn, U.S. Rep. Anthony Weiner and city councilman Anthony Avella. On the GOP side are supermarket magnate John Catsimatidis and lawyer Bruce Blakeman.

Bloomberg spent some $155 million on his first two campaigns, winning re-election by 20 percentage points in 2005.

John Collins, a spokesman for Weiner, said the news did not change the Queens congressman's intention to run for mayor.

"This is highly speculative," Collins added. "It's illegal to run for a third term."

Thompson called Bloomberg's plan a "terrible idea."

"This isn't about a person," he said. "Other leaders could move this city forward also."


Associated Press reporters Samantha Gross and David B. Caruso in New York and Devlin Barrett in Washington, D.C., contributed to this report.

(This version CORRECTS 'unfeeling' to 'self-dealing' in Mark Green quote.)

Source: http://ap.google.com/article/ALeqM5jpzbVnsi4wA6i41pQJcS334ACndQD93HCRHO0

In favor of religious legislation?

Any movement in favor of religious legislation is really an act of concession to the papacy, which for so many ages has steadily warred against liberty of conscience.

Maranatha, E.G. W., p.131.

I Need Thee, Precious Jesus,

I need Thee, precious Jesus,
For I am full of sin;
My soul is dark and guilty,
My heart is dead within.
I need the cleansing fountain
Where I can always flee,
The blood of Christ most precious,
The sinner’s perfect plea.

I need Thee, precious Jesus,
For I am very poor;
A stranger and a pilgrim,
I have no earthly store.
I need the love of Jesus
To cheer me on my way,
To guide my doubting footsteps,
To be my strength and stay.

I need Thee, precious Jesus,
I need a friend like Thee,
A friend to soothe and pity,
A friend to care for me.
I need the heart of Jesus
To feel each anxious care,
To tell my every trouble,
And all my sorrows share.

I need Thee, precious Jesus,
I need Thee, day by day,
To fill me with Thy fullness,
To lead me on my way;
I need Thy Holy Spirit,
To teach me what I am,
To show me more of Jesus,
To point me to the Lamb.

I need Thee, precious Jesus,
And hope to see Thee soon,
Encircled with the rainbow
And seated on Thy throne.
There, with Thy blood bought children,
My joy shall ever be,
To sing Thy praises, Jesu,
To gaze, O Lord, on Thee


Fred­er­ick Whit­field, 1855.

Music: Sa­voy Cha­pel,
John B. Cal­kin, 1870
(MI­DI, score). Al­ter­nate tunes:

Sam­u­el S. Wes­ley, 1864
(MI­DI, score)

St. Anselm,
Jo­seph Barn­by, 1869
(MI­DI, score)

Monday, September 29, 2008

The Creature from Jekyll Island

G. Edward Griffin
The Creature from Jekyll Island:
A Lecture on the Federal Reserve

G. Edward Griffin exposes the most blatant scam of all history. It’s all here: the cause of wars, boom-bust cycles, inflation, depression, prosperity. It's just exactly what every American needs to know about the power of the central bank.

Running time: 1:29:28.3 / File Size: 10.6 MB

Source: http://reformed-theology.org/realaudio/

Irrational Exuberance

Definition of Irrational Exuberance

Origin of the Term

The term "irrational exuberance" derives from some words that Alan Greenspan, chairman of the Federal Reserve Board in Washington, used in a black-tie dinner speech entitled " The Challenge of Central Banking in a Democratic Society" before the American Enterprise Institute at the Washington Hilton Hotel December 5, 1996. Fourteen pages into this long speech, which was televised live on C-SPAN, he posed a rhetorical question: "But how do we know when irrational exuberance has unduly escalated asset values, which then become subject to unexpected and prolonged contractions as they have in Japan over the past decade?" He added that "We as central bankers need not be concerned if a collapsing financial asset bubble does not threaten to impair the real economy, its production, jobs and price stability."

Immediately after he said this, the stock market in Tokyo, which was open as he gave this speech, fell sharply, and closed down 3%. Hong Kong fell 3%. Then markets in Frankfurt and London fell 4%. The stock market in the US fell 2% at the open of trade. The strong reaction of the markets to Greenspan's seemingly harmless question was widely noted, and made the term irrational exuberance famous. It would seem to make no sense for markets to react all over the world to a question casually thrown out in the middle of a dinner speech. Greenspan probably learned once more from this experience how carefully someone in his position has to choose words. As far as I can determine, Greenspan apparently never actively used the words "irrational exuberance" again in any public venue. The stock market drops around the world that occurred after his speech on December 6, 1996 have all been forgotten, eclipsed by bigger subsequent events, but it was those stock market drops that focused public attention on the phrase irrational exuberance and which caused it to enter our language.

The term irrational exuberance became Greenspan's most famous quote, out of all the millions of words he has uttered publicly. The term "irrational exuberance" is now often used to describe a heightened state of speculative fervor. It is less strong than other colorful terms such as "speculative mania" or "speculative orgy" which discredit themselves as overstating the case. I chose this phrase as the title for my book because many people know instantly from this title what this book is about.

Often people ask me whether I coined the term irrational exuberance, since I (along with my colleague John Campbell and a number of others) testified before Greenspan and the Federal Reserve Board only two days earlier, on December 3, 1996, and I had lunch with Greenspan on that day. I did testify that markets were irrational. But, I feel sure that I am not the origin of the words irrational exuberance. Actually, Greenspan is quoted in a Fortune Magazine article in March 1959, long before he became Federal Reserve chairman, about "over-exuberance" of the financial community. These are similar words. It appears that "irrational exuberance" are Greenspan's own words, and not a speech writer's. In his 2007 autobiography, The Age of Turbulence: Adventures in a New World Greenspan said "The concept of irrational exuberance came to me in the bathtub one morning as I was writing a speech." (p. 176.)

A computer search finds that the phrase "irrational exuberance" had virtually never been used before Alan Greenspan. It has been pointed out to me that the words "irrational exuberance" were used in a 1989 novel A Trap for Fools by Amanda Cross, E. P. Dutton, NY, Chapter 8, p. 99, ". . . she didn't just tumble out of that window in a moment of irrational exuberance," but this was a very rare exception.

But, the term did not spring full-born from the soul of Alan Greenspan either, for there were already common uses of the words individually to refer to speculative market excess. As early as 1931, Frederick Louis Allen, in his best seller Only Yesterday: An Informal History of the 1920s described "the profound psychological reaction from the exuberance of 1929." (p. 285). Two years before Greenspan's speech, an editorial in Business Marketing by Rance Craine contained the paragraph "The stock market has been behaving in a seemingly irrational way most of the year. Every time the Commerce Department puts out fresh data showing that the economy continues to strengthen, the stock market goes down in a dramatic fashion. And when retail or car sales go down, or factory orders slow from the previous month, the stock market can hardly contain its exuberance."

I believe that there is nothing essentially catchy about the phrase "Irrational Exuberance," but it lives on because the initial 1996 story of a stock market crash by nothing more than the utterance of those words led to a general interest in the phrase. The phrase survives in our language as more than a relic of one minor stock market episode because it has acquired a meaning that refers to the mindset that occurs during speculative bubbles like that of the 1990s.

Robert J. Shiller

Source: http://www.irrationalexuberance.com/definition.htm

Pastors Preach Politics, Risk Tax-Exempt Status

WASHINGTON: Pastors in 22 states participate in "Pulpit Freedom Sunday" -- a protest of the 54-year-old Supreme Court ruling that spelled out the separation of church and state -- by telling parishioners what they expect from their presidential candidates.

Monday, September 29, 2008

For more than half a century, members of the clergy in the United States have been prevented by federal law from endorsing political candidates from the pulpit. But now, with five weeks to go until Election Day, some clergy are saying the 2008 presidential election is too important to remain publicly impartial, and they are openly breaking the ban.

On Sunday, the Rev. Wiley Drake, pastor of the First Southern Baptist Church in Buena Park, California, put his congregation at risk of losing its tax-exempt status by endorsing third-party candidate Alan Keyes for president.

"If I've been asked once, I've been asked a dozen or more times, why are you doing what you are doing," said Drake, who was once targeted by the IRS for supporting political candidates from the pulpit.

"Well I'm doing what I'm doing because I'm angry, I'm mad.

He is not alone. Thirty-two other pastors across the country participated over the weekend in a campaign called "Pulpit Freedom Sunday," organized by the Alliance Defense Fund, a socially conservative legal consortium based in Arizona.

"Pastors have a right to speak about Biblical truths from the pulpit without fear of punishment. No one should be able to use the government to intimidate pastors into giving up their constitutional rights," said ADF Senior Legal Counsel Erik Stanley.

"If you have a concern about pastors speaking about electoral candidates from the pulpit, ask yourself this: Should the church decide that question, or should the IRS?"

"ADF is not trying to get politics into the pulpit," Stanley continued. "Churches can decide for themselves that they either do or don't want their pastors to speak about electoral candidates. The point of the Pulpit Initiative is very simple: The IRS should not be the one making the decision by threatening to revoke a church tax-exempt status. We need to get the government out of the pulpit."

More information on the campaign can be found at www.telladf.org/church.

But not everyone agrees.

The Interfaith Alliance has launched a nationwide campaign to prevent clergy from endorsing political candidates. So far, nearly 200 members of the clergy have signed a pledge agreeing not to back a candidate on behalf of their house of worship.

"On the day after the election, whoever is in the White House will need a unified nation in order to accomplish his goals and to have the nation fulfill it's responsible role internationally," sad C. Welton Gaddy, president of the alliance, told FOXNews.com.

"Religion historically has been able to bring people together in that kind of unity.If religions in the United States are as divided as politics itself, they will not be able to make one of their greatest contributions to the nation."

The law against politics from the pulpit was introduced in 1954 by then Texas Sen. Lyndon Baines Johnson. Wiley says Johnson introduced the bill to silence his critics and never intended to stop churches from supporting candidates.

"It is time for us to challenge the IRS and to challenge this law that has been interpreted that a pastor cannot personally endorse somebody," Drake said. "That is an interpretation and it is a wrong interpretation, in my opinion."

Gaddy, who is also a pastor of a Baptist church in Louisiana, expressed disappointment in the clergy members who participated in the protest.

"They seem to have ignored completely what politicking would do to compromise the credibility and lessen the integrity of religion," he said."They would seem to place more emphasis on getting a particular candidate elected to office than on preserving the historic ability of religion to reconcile people's differences."

Source: http://elections.foxnews.com/2008/09/29/pub-pastors-participate-pulpit-freedom-sunday/

Pastor challenges IRS regulations on endorsements

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

Sunday, September 28, 2008

The Rev. Jody Hice fired a verbal volley Sunday in a battle that he believes will return the United States to its American Revolutionary roots.

From his pulpit at Bethlehem First Baptist Church outside of Atlanta, he urged his congregation to vote for Sen. John McCain and to not vote for Sen. Barack Obama.

He based his recommendations on McCain’s opposition to abortion and gay marriage and Obama’s support of those issues, Hice told the Barrow County church packed with about 400 listeners.

“These are not political issues,” Hice said. “There are moral issues.”

They may be moral issues, but Internal Revenue Service regulations say clergy cannot make public political endorsements to their congregations without risking the tax-exempt status of their house of worship.

Hice’s endorsement and argument is part of a coordinated effort by the Alliance Defense Fund, a conservative Christian legal aid society. Its members hope the IRS will challenge one or more of the 33 pastors across the United States who did what Hice did Sunday. They hope to overturn the no-endorsement regulation in court.

Hice quoted the Bible and some of American’s Founding Fathers in making his case that he believed the regulation was unconstitutional. Hice said that he was following the historical norm in this nation’s history.

Church leaders have a right to address moral and cultural issues, Hice said.

“Or else we will find ourselves in America led by secularists and atheists.”

Hice’s words were warmly received by his vocal congregation.

David Alderhold, a member, said, “Christians have to start taking a stand. Abortion, homosexuality — the Bible speaks out on both of them.”

Doug Freeman said, “I am really proud of him for standing up and having the backbone to talk about the moral issues.”

Hice is a well-known cultural warrior in the area. He has an afternoon daily radio show during which he talks about abortion and other cultural and political issues. That’s fine with the IRS, as long as he is not acting as a church leader in front of his flock.

Patsy Wilcox, a friend of Hice’s but not a member of Bethlehem First Baptist, said she came out to to show support,

“I feel like he took a bold step and it’s something ministers need to do,” she said. “I think he was right to do what he did.”

The IRS said it would be monitoring the actions and would take appropriate actions.

Source: http://www.ajc.com/metro/content/metro/stories/2008/09/28/pastors_IRS_regulations.html

A Christian View of the Economic Crisis

The headlines tell the story as recent days have seen the American economy and its financial system buffeted by seismic failures and the virtual disappearance of major investment banks. The debate raging in Washington these days concerns the form and extent of government intervention that will be required in order to restore stability to the financial markets.

Comparisons to the Great Depression are inevitable, but today's crisis bears little resemblance to the total economic collapse of the late 1920s. Capitalism is not in crisis and the fundamentals of the American economy remain strong. When President Franklin D. Roosevelt took office in 1933, the nation faced a genuine crisis and economic collapse. For the most part, the banks were closed and the nation was out of business.

Nothing like that is happening now, but the financial system is clearly in need of reform and realism. The fundamentals of the economy remain intact. These include American innovation, a dedicated labor force, strong consumer demand, vast natural resources, and unlimited intellectual capital.

More than anything else, this crisis has to do with what happens when the markets come to term with excessive valuations. Put bluntly, wildly inflated valuations led to risky financial adventures and worse. The sub-prime mortgage collapse came as more realistic real estate valuations forced market corrections. The vast global financial system has accepted the inflated valuations as real and traded in the risky mortgages as if the game would go on forever. This was a fool's errand.

There were other causes of the current distress in the markets and other forces at work within the economy at large. The slide of the dollar and the rising price of oil both played a part, as did more fundamental shifts having to do with a globalized economy and the continuing shift toward a knowledge-based economy in a technological age.

Is this all about greed? Yes and no. In the movie "Wall Street," the character Gordon Gekko famously declares that "greed is good." But is the economy really driven by greed?

This question requires a return to what we might call "Economics 101." No one has explained basic economics as well as Adam Smith did in his 1776 classic, The Wealth of Nations. As the great Scottish thinker explained, an economy is based upon the transfer of goods and services from one individual to another. Each partner in the transaction must believe that this transfer is in his or her own best interest or the transfer is not voluntary. Both parties seek to gain something from the transfer. Since no one person can meet all of his or her own needs alone, a vast economic system quickly takes shape. Individuals trade goods and services through the exchange of currency or another agreed-upon form of value.

At every stage, the transfer is made because those involved desire and intend to achieve a gain. The legal entity of a corporation allows individuals to band together in a common economic cause with certain legal protections. A stock market allows individual investors to buy an interest in a company, thus allowing the corporation to use their capital in hopes of future gain. The market works because all concerned hope to gain through the process.

The development of vast global economic systems simply builds upon the simple principle that all participants are willing to trade one good for another they want even more and to invest in the hope of future gain.

Is this greed? In and of itself, this is not greed at all. The desire for a profit, for income, and for material gain is not in itself greed. The Bible clearly teaches that the worker is worthy of his hire and that rewards should follow labor, thrift, and investment.

Greed raises its ugly head when individuals and groups (such as corporations or retirement funds) seek an unrealistic gain at the expense of others and then use illegitimate means to gain what they want. Given the nature of this fallen world and the reality of human sinfulness, we should expect that greed will be a constant temptation. Greed will entice the rich to oppress the poor, partners in transactions to lie to one another, and investors to take irrational risks. All of these are evident in this current crisis.

Christians should think seriously about this economic crisis and ponder what it would mean to come to a Christian understanding of what it means to be participants in this economy. As Adam Smith recognized, the economy is a moral reality. Human beings actualize their moral selves in making economic choices and through participation in the economic system - and we are all participants.

Indeed, one of the defining differences between the current crisis and the crisis of the 1920s and 1930s is that the vast majority of Americans are now, in effect, investors. Our retirement accounts are, by and large, mingled with the investments of the titans of industry. Through their pension funds, school teachers are investors right alongside Warren Buffet. This was not the case in the run-up to the Great Depression. We all want and need the stock market to do well, and the outcome of any market crisis effects both Bill Gates and the worker in the local medical clinic.

Christians should look at the economy as a test of our values. The Bible values honest labor and dedicated workers, and so should we. The Bible warns against dishonest business practices, and we must be watchful. False valuations are, in effect, lies. Dishonest accounting practices are just sophisticated forms of lying. Insider information is a form of theft.

The Bible honors investment and thrift, and Christians must be wary of the impulse for short-term gains and pressure for instant profit. Over the long-haul, the entire economy must prosper if the vast majority are to do well and realize a responsible gain.

Thus, the current crisis sheds light on what happens when things get out of control, when various pressures distort the proper operation of the markets, and when irrational valuations entice investors to make poor investments. Dishonesty enters the picture at many levels, and the individual investor is too often left in the dark.

When these things happen the economy is threatened by a lack of trust, and trust is the most essential commodity of all when it comes to economic transactions. Without trust, the entire system collapses.

The big debate in Washington is over the extent of government intervention. Prudence would indicate that the less government intervention, the better. Adam Smith was confident that a "hidden hand" within the economy would rectify excesses and punish bad actors. I think he is basically right, but the government is, like it or not, one of the actors in this economic system.

The problem with letting the markets solve this problem and letting the "hidden hand" punish the bad actors and unwise decisions is that, in this situation, the small investor is crushed along with the tycoon. Furthermore, the entire economy could face a crisis of confidence.

So watch the debates in Washington with interest and consider how a Christian should understand the economy and our economic lives. The free market is not perfect, but capitalism has brought more wealth to more people than any other system. It rewards investment, labor, and thrift and rises on innovation. Better ideas and better products push out inferior ideas and inferior products. Given the reality of human sin, we should not centralize economic control in the hands of the few, but distribute economic power to the many. A free market economy distributes power to multitudes of workers, inventors, investors, and consumers.

No economy is perfect, but the American economy remains a marvel. The present crisis is an opportunity to rethink some basic questions and restore trust. There are no easy ways out of a crisis like this, and no painless solutions. Yet, would you trade this system for any other?

This current crisis should also remind Christians that we are not called to be mere economic actors, but stewards. Everything we are, everything we do, and everything we own truly belongs to God and is to be at the disposal of Kingdom purposes. This world is not our home and our treasure is not found here. We are to do all, invest all, own all, purchase all to the glory of God.

Finally, this current economic crisis just might help Christians to focus on another issue - retirement. Where in the Bible are we told to aspire to years and decades of leisure without labor? There is nothing wrong with saving for what the world calls retirement. Indeed, that is just good stewardship. Furthermore, there is nothing wrong with workers enjoying the fruit of their labor. But Christians should think of retirement as an opportunity to be redeployed for Kingdom service.

Today's crisis in the financial system should not be a threat to the long-term health and vitality of our economic system. There is cause for concern, but no justification for panic. Rather than hit the panic button, spend that energy thinking about how Christians should glorify God in our economic lives. We should watch the developments and debates in Washington and New York with interest, but we should investigate our own hearts with even greater urgency.

Adapted from R. Albert Mohler Jr.'s weblog at www.albertmohler.com.

R. Albert Mohler, Jr. is president of The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Kentucky. For more articles and resources by Dr. Mohler, and for information on The Albert Mohler Program, a daily national radio program broadcast on the Salem Radio Network, go to www.albertmohler.com. For information on The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, go to www.sbts.edu. Send feedback to mail@albertmohler.com. Original Source: www.albertmohler.com.

Source: http://www.christianpost.com/article/20080925/a-christian-view-of-the-economic-crisis_pageall.htm

Sunday, September 28, 2008

James D. Standish's new position: Changing Sides

Changing Sides

It's ironic, and yet, not surprising that the Seventh Day Adventist Church's foremost advocate for Religious Liberty in the United States, James D. Standish* of NARLA (North American Religious Liberty Association) after sternly censoring Pastor Hal Mayer of Keep The Faith Ministry for publishing Sunday Law By Stealth in March, 2008 (http://endrtimes.blogspot.com/2008/03/sunday-law-by-stealth.html) indicating that a secret session was held in Washington D.C. preparing for Restrictive Sunday Legislation; Would then be promoted to Executive Director of The United States Commission on International Religious Freedom?

Standish, 43, previously served as director of legislative affairs for the Seventh-day Adventist Church, representing his church on Capitol Hill and visiting several continents. The magnitude and severity of violations of the universal right to freedom of thought, conscience, and religion worldwide cannot be understated," he said. Standish has testified on religious freedom issues before the House of Representatives and has written widely on religious liberty matters.1
When Pastor Hal Mayer of Keep The Faith Ministry (KTF) produced his monthly message for March 2008: "Sunday Law By Stealth", James D. Standish promptly responded with a rejection of the allegations that the KTF message claimed. Here's a version of the statement:


(A Letter Addressed to Pastors and Co-workers)

Dear Colleagues:

Whenever we receive information relating to Sunday laws, we examine the information diligently and extensively. In addition to reacting to information sent to us, we proactively monitor legislative developments on Capitol Hill and attend many meetings with a wide variety of entities at which prospective legislation is discussed. Further, we undertake extensive research. For example, our team performed an extensive review of Sunday laws in every U.S. state and the District of Columbia, culminating in a 421-page report detailing every existing state Sunday law.

When we receive information about Sunday laws from individual sources, our team of dedicated Seventh-day Adventist professionals follow four steps to evaluate it:

  1. If the information contains claims that can be independently verified, we perform the detailed research necessary to determine whether the claims are factual.

  1. We contact the source of the information directly to invite him or her to speak and/or meet with us in order to gain perspective on the information.

  1. If the source will not speak and/or meet with us, we contact people who are in contact with the source—for example, his or her church pastor—to ascertain why the individual refuses to communicate directly with our Church’s religious liberty team and whether there are any indications as to the credibility of the source.

  1. We review our first-hand observation of the process on Capitol Hill, we speak with personal contacts, and we access a variety of printed sources to ascertain whether there are associated movements.

In short, we take information on Sunday laws very seriously and we follow a rigorous path to evaluate it.

Currently, there are two Sunday law rumors circulating in the Seventh-day Adventist Church. We have run both of these through our four-step process and, after this serious review, find both to be unreliable at this point.

The first rumor claims that there was a secret meeting in Washington, DC last November to plan for the passage of a Sunday law. We checked every specific claim that accompanied this rumor and every one of them proved false. The meeting did not occur at the site claimed, and the high-profile individuals who allegedly attended the meeting are documented to be in other locations at the time. After we made our investigation public, the rumor morphed. The new rumor contained no claims that could be independently verified. Our invitation to the source of the rumor to meet with us has not been accepted. There has been no Sunday law bill introduced in the subsequent four months and our research has turned up no evidence that would tend to corroborate the rumor. Rather, the closer we have looked at the situation surrounding the rumor, the more it appears to be false.

The person who is the source of the current claim also circulated another Sunday law claim approximately seven years ago. Once again, we vigorously researched the elements that could be verified and found each one to be inaccurate. In the seven years since that claim, no Sunday law has been introduced in Congress.

The second rumor currently circulating is that the Pope will urge the passage of a Sunday law when he is in Washington, DC in the near future. The source of this rumor is the same as above. We have once again followed our four-step process and to date have found nothing to corroborate the claim.

The Seventh-day Adventist religious liberty team is dedicated to advancing the cause of religious liberty and the gospel, including the Three Angels Messages. We take Sunday laws very seriously, diligently research any information we receive, and proactively search for information on Sunday laws. When we receive credible information on religious liberty matters, whether it is on Sunday laws or other religious liberty matters, we use every avenue available to us to share it promptly with our church family as a whole.

Yours in Christ,

James Standish Public Affairs & Religious Liberty General Conference of the Seventh-day Adventist Church2


The above statement was previously posted on this blog on March 26, 2008 @ http://endrtimes.blogspot.com/2008/03/narla-responds-to-sunday-law-rumor.html.
It seemed strange to me, that a Seventh Day Adventist who was familiar with the Bible Prophecies of Revelation and Daniel, and the Testimonies of Ellen G. White in books as The Great Controversy, would contradict a fellow SDA; And, succinctly dismiss the details of secret proceeding being conducted in Washington facilities that can affect the Lord's Commandment Keeping Remnant in the U.S. Why would anyone summarily reject a fellow believer's findings if he was an advocate for that denomination? Who did he represent in that situation? Are there any conflicts of interests here? I believe in the old adage: "familiarity breeds contempt". I also believe that it can also breed compromise. By working closely with Congress for the past few years could James D. Standish, Esq., has become too familiar with the Legislative Branch of the U.S., and begun to see things in a different light? These are the questions that provoked me to wonder if James D. Standish's promotion (invitation) to join the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom has anything to do with his acquaintance with Congress. How does a SDA defending Religious Liberty before the U.S. government abruptly change sides, and head a Religious Liberty (freedom) Commission for the same body to which he previously directed his appeals?
What this brings to mind is how a professing SDA can claim to represent a body of believers when they are ignorant of our fundamental doctrines, and the prophecies that suggest that our nation will lead the world in following after the first Beast of Revelation. It's mind boggling that our people can not remember what the pillars of our beliefs are, and allow themselves to be lead by the blind. In turn, some have set off on a journey to Egypt, on their way back to Babylon.
May the Lord give us more discernment to detect when deceptions come our way.


As the storm approaches, a large class who have professed faith in the third angel's message, but have not been sanctified through obedience to the truth, abandon their position and join the ranks of the opposition.--GC 608 (1911). {LDE 180.6}
The forms of the dead will appear, through the cunning device of Satan, and many will link up with the one who loveth and maketh a lie. I warn our people that right among us some will turn away from the faith and give heed to seducing spirits and doctrines of devils, and by them the truth will be evil spoken of. A marvelous work shall take place. Ministers, lawyers, doctors, who have permitted these falsehoods to overmaster their spirit of discernment, will be themselves deceivers, united with the deceived. A spiritual drunkenness will take possession of them.--UL 317 (1905). {LDE 171.2}

When Protestantism shall stretch her hand across the gulf to grasp the hand of the Roman power, when she shall reach over the abyss to clasp hands with spiritualism, when, under the influence of this threefold union, our country shall repudiate every principle of its Constitution as a Protestant and republican government and shall make provision for the propagation of papal falsehoods and delusions, then we may know that the time has come for the marvelous working of Satan and that the end is near.--5T 451 (1885). {LDE 131.4}

In the movements now in progress in the United States to secure for the institutions and usages of the church the support of the state, Protestants are following in the steps of papists. Nay, more, they are opening the door for the papacy to regain in Protestant America the supremacy which she has lost in the Old World.--GC 573 (1911). {LDE 132.3}

* James D Standish has (Doctorate in Law) a J.D. from Georgetown (Jesuit) University.

Commission Welcomes James D. Standish as Executive Director

Aug. 20, 2008

Contact: Judith Ingram,
Communications Director,

Commission Welcomes James D. Standish as Executive Director

WASHINGTON – The United States Commission on International Religious Freedom, an independent, bipartisan federal agency advising the Administration and Congress, today announced the appointment of James D. Standish as its new Executive Director.

“The Commission warmly welcomes James Standish,” stated Commission Chair Felice D. Gaer. “Mr. Standish’s academic and professional background in human rights and religious freedom advocacy has made him a respected leader, both on Capitol Hill and among the widely varying constituencies whose causes he has represented.”

Prior to his arrival at the Commission, Mr. Standish served as Director of Legislative Affairs at the Seventh-day Adventist Church World Headquarters for seven years. During that time, Mr. Standish represented fifteen million Church members on Capitol Hill and on official visits to Africa, Asia, Europe, the Middle East, and Australia.

“It is an honor to join the Commission, particularly as we approach the tenth anniversary of the creation of the International Religious Freedom Act, legislation that affirmed the importance of religious freedom promotion in U.S. foreign policy,” said Mr. Standish. “The magnitude and severity of violations of the universal right to freedom of thought, conscience, and religion worldwide cannot be understated. I am honored to join the Commission as it addresses some of world’s most pressing human rights crises.”

Mr. Standish is widely published, has discussed religious freedom issues on nationally broadcast television and radio, and has testified on religious freedom matters before the United States House of Representatives. “Mr. Standish brings to the Commission critical experience in both grassroots advocacy and a publication history that speaks to his impressive, non-partisan ability to approach issues of religious freedom from political, legal, and theoretical perspectives,” Ms. Gaer noted.

Mr. Standish received his undergraduate degree from Newbold College in England, a M.B.A. from the University of Virginia and a J.D., cum laude, from Georgetown University. He is a member of the Bar of Virginia State and the District of Columbia, and has been admitted to practice before the U.S. Supreme Court and the Fourth Circuit.

Mr. Standish succeeds Joseph R. Crapa, who served as Executive Director of the Commission from 2003—2007, until his untimely death last October.

The Commission, established by the International Religious Freedom Act of 1998 (IRFA), monitors violations of the right to freedom of thought, conscience, and religion or belief abroad, as defined in IRFA and set forth in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and related international instruments. It provides independent policy recommendations to the President, Secretary of State, and Congress, and is the first government commission in the world with the sole mission of reviewing and making policy recommendations on the facts and circumstances of violations of religious freedom globally.

The Commission is comprised of nine Congressional and Presidential appointees: Felice D. Gaer, Chair; Michael Cromartie, Vice Chair; Dr. Elizabeth H. Prodromou, Vice Chair; Dr. Don Argue; Preeta D. Bansal; Imam Talal Y. Eid; Dr. Richard D. Land; Leonard A. Leo; and Nina Shea. John V. Hanford III is the Ambassador-at-Large for International Religious Freedom.

The U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom was created by the International Religious Freedom Act of 1998 to monitor the status of freedom of thought, conscience, and religion or belief abroad, as defined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and related international instruments, and to give independent policy recommendations to the President, Secretary of State, and Congress. Visit our Web site at www.uscirf.gov

Felice D. Gaer, Chair Michael Cromartie, Vice Chair Elizabeth H. Prodromou, Vice Chair
Don Argue Preeta D. Bansal Imam Talal Y. Eid Richard D. Land Leonard A. Leo
Nina Shea Ambassador John V. Hanford III, Ex-Officio James D. Standish, Executive Director


Source: http://www.copticassembly.com/showart.php?main_id=1407

Note: Bolds an Highlights added for emphasis...........Arsenio.

The Day of the Locusts (The Day Of The Lord)

1Blow ye the trumpet in Zion, and sound an alarm in my holy mountain: let all the inhabitants of the land tremble: for the day of the LORD cometh, for it is nigh at hand;

2A day of darkness and of gloominess, a day of clouds and of thick darkness, as the morning spread upon the mountains: a great people and a strong; there hath not been ever the like, neither shall be any more after it, even to the years of many generations.

3A fire devoureth before them; and behind them a flame burneth: the land is as the garden of Eden before them, and behind them a desolate wilderness; yea, and nothing shall escape them.

4The appearance of them is as the appearance of horses; and as horsemen, so shall they run.

5Like the noise of chariots on the tops of mountains shall they leap, like the noise of a flame of fire that devoureth the stubble, as a strong people set in battle array.

6Before their face the people shall be much pained: all faces shall gather blackness.

7They shall run like mighty men; they shall climb the wall like men of war; and they shall march every one on his ways, and they shall not break their ranks:

8Neither shall one thrust another; they shall walk every one in his path: and when they fall upon the sword, they shall not be wounded.

9They shall run to and fro in the city; they shall run upon the wall, they shall climb up upon the houses; they shall enter in at the windows like a thief.

10The earth shall quake before them; the heavens shall tremble: the sun and the moon shall be dark, and the stars shall withdraw their shining:

11And the LORD shall utter his voice before his army: for his camp is very great: for he is strong that executeth his word: for the day of the LORD is great and very terrible; and who can abide it?

12Therefore also now, saith the LORD, turn ye even to me with all your heart, and with fasting, and with weeping, and with mourning:

13And rend your heart, and not your garments, and turn unto the LORD your God: for he is gracious and merciful, slow to anger, and of great kindness, and repenteth him of the evil.

14Who knoweth if he will return and repent, and leave a blessing behind him; even a meat offering and a drink offering unto the LORD your God?

15Blow the trumpet in Zion, sanctify a fast, call a solemn assembly:

16Gather the people, sanctify the congregation, assemble the elders, gather the children, and those that suck the breasts: let the bridegroom go forth of his chamber, and the bride out of her closet.

17Let the priests, the ministers of the LORD, weep between the porch and the altar, and let them say, Spare thy people, O LORD, and give not thine heritage to reproach, that the heathen should rule over them: wherefore should they say among the people, Where is their God?

18Then will the LORD be jealous for his land, and pity his people.

19Yea, the LORD will answer and say unto his people, Behold, I will send you corn, and wine, and oil, and ye shall be satisfied therewith: and I will no more make you a reproach among the heathen:

20But I will remove far off from you the northern army, and will drive him into a land barren and desolate, with his face toward the east sea, and his hinder part toward the utmost sea, and his stink shall come up, and his ill savour shall come up, because he hath done great things.

21Fear not, O land; be glad and rejoice: for the LORD will do great things.

22Be not afraid, ye beasts of the field: for the pastures of the wilderness do spring, for the tree beareth her fruit, the fig tree and the vine do yield their strength.

23Be glad then, ye children of Zion, and rejoice in the LORD your God: for he hath given you the former rain moderately, and he will cause to come down for you the rain, the former rain, and the latter rain in the first month.

24And the floors shall be full of wheat, and the vats shall overflow with wine and oil.

25And I will restore to you the years that the locust hath eaten, the cankerworm, and the caterpiller, and the palmerworm, my great army which I sent among you.

26And ye shall eat in plenty, and be satisfied, and praise the name of the LORD your God, that hath dealt wondrously with you: and my people shall never be ashamed.

27And ye shall know that I am in the midst of Israel, and that I am the LORD your God, and none else: and my people shall never be ashamed.

28And it shall come to pass afterward, that I will pour out my spirit upon all flesh; and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, your old men shall dream dreams, your young men shall see visions:

29And also upon the servants and upon the handmaids in those days will I pour out my spirit.

30And I will shew wonders in the heavens and in the earth, blood, and fire, and pillars of smoke.

31The sun shall be turned into darkness, and the moon into blood, before the great and terrible day of the LORD come.

32And it shall come to pass, that whosoever shall call on the name of the LORD shall be delivered: for in mount Zion and in Jerusalem shall be deliverance, as the LORD hath said, and in the remnant whom the LORD shall call.

Joel 2