Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Matt 24 watch, 263b: News analysys on a recipe for failure in Iraq

An analyst on Fox News -- yes, boo, Fox News -- speaks out on the ongoing half-measures response to the ISIS offensive in Iraq. (And BTW, if the Iraqi Gov't has to announce a counter-attack, it is probably not doing enough good to make itself apparent from impact on the ground.)


A disintegrated Iraq multiplied by a nuke armed Iran dominating the Persian Gulf is a patent recipe for failure, indeed disaster.

And yet, there is a refusal to adequately attend to the matter in good time. That speaks volumes on a weekend where Ireland just voted as a nation to write an absurd redefinition of marriage  into their constitution. NYT headline strip I spotted while looking at something else:


Sadly, yes -- of an emerging Romans 1 world:
 Rom 1:18 For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth.  

19 For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them. 20 For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world,[g] in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse. 

 21 For although they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened. 22 Claiming to be wise, they became fools, 23 and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images resembling mortal man and birds and animals and creeping things.

24 Therefore God gave them up in the lusts of their hearts to impurity, to the dishonoring of their bodies among themselves, 25 because they exchanged the truth about God for a lie and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever! Amen.

26 For this reason God gave them up to dishonorable passions. For their women exchanged natural relations for those that are contrary to nature; 27 and the men likewise gave up natural relations with women and were consumed with passion for one another, men committing shameless acts with men and receiving in themselves the due penalty for their error.

28 And since they did not see fit to acknowledge God, God gave them up to a debased mind to do what ought not to be done. 29 They were filled with all manner of unrighteousness, evil, covetousness, malice. They are full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, maliciousness. They are gossips, 30 slanderers, haters of God, insolent, haughty, boastful, inventors of evil, disobedient to parents, 31 foolish, faithless, heartless, ruthless. 

32 Though they know God's righteous decree that those who practice such things deserve to die, they not only do them but give approval to those who practice them.
 Old St Pat must have tears in his eyes as he peers over the balcony of Heaven.

And, we have to ponder a civilisation hell-bent on ever so many marches of folly.  END

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Matt 24 watch, 263: As ISIS closes in on Baghdad . . .

Daily Mail has a chilling article:

Iraq braced for the Battle of Baghdad: Chilling images show ISIS victory parade after fanatics seize key city of Ramadi - just 60 miles from the capital - in an orgy of violence and beheadings

  • ISIS has 'surrounded' Iraqi capital and wants 'all-out war' with militia there
  • Battle between terror group and Shia fighters there would be 'utter carnage'
  • Islamic State seized strategic city of Ramadi just 60 miles west of Baghdad
  • Released sick images showing militants and children celebrating victory
  • 3,000 Shi'ite paramilitaries are now preparing to launch counter-offensive

. . . and map:

Powerline's Hinderaker comments:
The “sovereign, stable and self-reliant Iraq” that Barack Obama and Joe Biden hailed as one of Obama’s “great achievements” in 2014 has regressed into chaos as a result of Obama’s premature withdrawal of American troops. But it isn’t just Iraq. Syria is the closest thing to Hell on Earth. Iran is working away on nuclear weapons and delivery systems. Yemen has fallen to Iran’s proxies. Saudi Arabia is looking for nuclear weapons to counter Iran’s. ISIS occupies an area the size of Great Britain. Libya, its dictator having been gratuitously overthrown by feckless Western governments that had no plan for what would follow, is a failed state and terrorist playground. 

It seems as though things couldn’t possibly get worse, but they almost certainly will. We are seeing the fruit of a set of policies that were based on the false premise that problems in the Middle East are mostly the fault of the United States . . .
Reality seems to be knocking at the door, but is anybody listening? END

Thursday, May 14, 2015

Matt 24 watch, 262: Pew on Religion/ Worldview trends in the USA and globally . . . what is going on? Why? What can we do?

A cluster of headlined articles I noticed over the past few days has been making much of the religion/worldview trends in the USA as reported by the noted Pew Trusts foundation. The implications are chilling:

 The Pew folks remark:
The Christian share of the U.S. population is declining, while the number of U.S. adults who do not identify with any organized religion is growing . . . these changes are taking place across the religious landscape, affecting all regions of the country and many demographic groups. While the drop in Christian affiliation is particularly pronounced among young adults, it is occurring among Americans of all ages. The same trends are seen among whites, blacks and Latinos; among both college graduates and adults with only a high school education; and among women as well as men . . . . 

To be sure, the United States remains home to more Christians than any other country in the world, and a large majority of Americans – roughly seven-in-ten – continue to identify with some branch of the Christian faith.1 . . . .The drop in the Christian share of the population has been driven mainly by declines among mainline Protestants and Catholics. Each of those large religious traditions has shrunk by approximately three percentage points since 2007. The evangelical Protestant share of the U.S. population also has dipped, but at a slower rate, falling by about one percentage point since 2007.2
 In short this cannot be written off as oh, it's just those compromised liberal theology blighted churches etc. Something deep and worldview cultural plausibility based is going on. Something, therefore, that is deeply spiritual.

 The comparative Pew survey and 40-year projections on global religion/worldview trends make for telling wider context:

 The just linked IBT article is aptly headlined: "Pew Survey Predicts Rise In Atheism In US, Europe Despite Growing Religiosity Worldwide." The article highlights, that -- if things remain on-trend:
 “Between 2010 and 2050, the world’s total population is expected to rise to 9.3 billion, a 35 percent increase. Over that same period, Muslims -- a comparatively youthful population with high fertility rates -- are projected to increase by 73 percent. The number of Christians also is projected to rise, but more slowly, at about the same rate as the global population overall.”
 Those trends have all sorts of implications, including especially for the always unstable Middle East, with extensions of that instability into Africa, India, Russia and Europe as well as North America and the Caribbean. Just think, Al Qaeda, Taliban and ISIS, to underscore, backed up by the prospect of a nuke-armed Islamist theocracy in Iran.

But that is not the primary concern today.

My concern today is worldview-spiritual, with a major focal point on foundational truth issues, and extensions to the highly relevant challenge of the mission of the church in our region and from our region. Where, obviously if the Christian faith is seen as undergoing demographic collapse in the North, just to keep on track in the face of aggressively anti-Christian trends, considerable growth has to be happening.  In short, we need to reflect on how to accelerate growth in the South where there is now a century-long Southern Christian Reformation, and how to stabilise and even reverse trend lines in the North through an effective call to reformation, confident discipleship and revival in the teeth of de-Christianising forces and agendas. Some of which, frankly, are utterly ruthless and care not a whit for truth, reasonableness, respect, duty to the right or fairness so long as they think they can get away with what they are doing and saying.

So, we need to look to our mission and we need to look to the challenge of providing solid intellectual and cultural leadership under the vision of the fulness of Christ transforming all things, which requires a well-grounded and effective education programme of action.

In steps of thought:

 1 --> First, foremost, there has been no material change in the basic warrant for the Christian Gospel, which remains as it has always been, anchored to the resurrection of Jesus. Just as Paul presented to the Athenians c 50 AD. Truth -- warranted, credible challenging truth, has not changed.

2 --> As a reminder, let me again link and embed the Lee Stroebel The Case for Christ video:

The Case for Christ by Lee Strobel from Slaves4Christ on Vimeo.

3 --> Likewise, the underlying evidence for the reality of God has not changed. Never mind the now common new atheist talking point that "there is [little or] no evidence for god."

4 --> If you doubt this, here is a recent post I made at UD blog, in response to someone coming from that agenda. In a nutshell: 
a: We find ourselves inescapably to be under government of ought,

b: which, if that sense of obligation is a delusion, would let loose grand delusion in our mindedness, ending in self referential, self-falsifying absurdity. And,

c:  evolutionary materialism in particular, never mind the impressive lab coats and confident manner of its proponents and promoters on every hand, etc, is indeed patently self-falsifying. Famed evolutionary thinker, J B S Haldane put this succinctly:
"It seems to me immensely unlikely that mind is a mere by-product of matter. For if my mental processes are determined wholly by the motions of atoms in my brain I have no reason to suppose that my beliefs are true. They may be sound chemically, but that does not make them sound logically. And hence I have no reason for supposing my brain to be composed of atoms. In order to escape from this necessity of sawing away the branch on which I am sitting, so to speak, I am compelled to believe that mind is not wholly conditioned by matter.” ["When I am dead," in Possible Worlds: And Other Essays [1927], Chatto and Windus: London, 1932, reprint, p.209. (Highlight and emphases added.)]
d: It is reasonable to acknowledge that a world that (from cosmological evidence alone) credibly seems to have had a definite beginning and is finely tuned in many ways that support C-Chemistry, aqueous medium, protein using, cell based life, shows strong signs of having been shaped creatively by intelligently directed configuration. That is, it points to design.

e: Moreover, it is highly reasonable to acknowledge that we really are under moral government, that OUGHT is real, relevant and binding. (E.g. we OUGHT not to kidnap, bind, torture, rape and murder little children for our pleasure; just to give a decisively clear case in point.)

f: That points to there being a world-foundational IS that properly grounds OUGHT.

g: After many centuries of debate, there is but one serious candidate to meet these conditions: the inherently good Creator-God, a necessary and maximally great supreme being, who is worthy of ultimate loyalty and service by doing the good . . . which is our reasonable service. 

h: Similarly, it is obvious that a genuine nothing -- non-being -- can have no causal powers, so if there ever was utterly nothing, nothing would forever obtain. So, we have to face: why is there something, rather than nothing?

i: The answer is, something always was; pointing to the reasonableness of a necessary being as the root of reality. A being that is independent of dependence on external causal factors, and that is so embedded in the roots of reality that if a world is possible, it will be present in that world.

j: As a simple case, 2 is a necessary being. Start with the set that collects nothing, and assign it 0:
{ } --> 0
{0} --> 1
{0, 1} --> 2, 
k --> God is a serious candidate to be such a being. But of beings, we can have possible vs impossible [think, square circle], and of possible, contingent and necessary.
l: Now, such a serious candidate necessary being will either be  impossible, or else actual.

m: That is, those who object to the reality of God, actually imply that they can meet the burden of proof to show such a being is impossible. 

n: A lot of atheists used to argue like this, typically suggesting that no being like the omnipotent, omniscient, omnibenevolent God of ethical theism is possible as evil exists. This has collapsed as it turns out the reality and OUGHT-NOT-ness of evil point to the reality of God as the IS that grounds OUGHT, and also 

o: Plantinga's free will defense shows how once goods pivoting on responsible freedom [such as, love] exist, then the existence of God is compatible with the existence of evils.

p: So, in fact, those who would dismiss God have an unmet burden of warrant, one that is not ever likely to be met.

q:  Where also, patently, millions across the ages have met God in the face of the risen Christ and have been transformed to the good by that living encounter.

r: That means, that in the end -- protestations and indignant reactions to the contrary notwithstanding -- broadly spreading atheism will in the end be rooted in fallacies of distraction, distortion, polarisation, scapegoating  and dismissal. As, we so often see. That is, what we see is "without excuse."

s: Thus, we face a Romans 1 challenge. Which, we must rise to meet.
5 --> In terms of our region, it is consequently useful to think in terms of the two tidal waves challenge:

6 --> where, to answer the de-Christianising challenge, Francis Schaeffer's analysis (as adjusted) will be helpful:

7 --> This then leads to the challenge of prophetic, intellectual and cultural leadership:

8 --> In addressing the second wave, a basic primer on Islam can be helpful, as can other resources from the RH column of this blog:
9 --> But, I think we need to shift gears to a more global, strategic, mission-focussed perspective:
Matt 28:16 Now the eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain to which Jesus had directed them. 17 And when they saw him they worshiped him, but some doubted. 

18 And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 19 Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in[b] the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. 

And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”
10 --> For, by God's grace we are culturally bridging people, largely descended from the peoples of the 10/40 window that have received much from the Gospel in our region, and who also have close ties to the lands of the North. So, we -- the peoples of the afr- and indo-afro Caribbean sub regions -- need to begin to consider ourselves as the third tidal wave, in light of the three triangles vision and opportunity:

11 --> And, it is to that end that I have long championed the creation of a regional cyber- and microcampous centre- based college, e.g. consider something like this attached to a church facility in every significant community across our region:

12 -->  featuring an associate degree programme that is like this:

13 --> and featuring also, say this as an education programme:

14 --> where the tablet PC can serve as a critical education resourse that is highly portable:

15 --> Surely, something along these lines is feasible? Let us consider:

Capacity Development -- the AACCS

16 --> From this, we need not just bemoan the sort of trends that are being reported, but we can do something about them.

So, again: why not now, why not here, why not us? END

Matt 24 watch, 261: An open letter to the Irish Taoiseach (Prime Minister) on a May 22 2015 "same sex 'marriage' . . . " referendum

Mercatornet reports:

Ireland’s same-sex marriage referendum: ‘one-sided, reckless and divisive’
On May 22 Ireland will hold a referendum on same-sex marriage. Voters are being asked to add a definition of marriage to the country’s constitution, which would make it the only one in the world to expressly guarantee the right to same-sex marriage. The clause to be inserted is: “Marriage may be contracted in accordance with law by two persons without distinction as to their sex.”
The Taoiseach (prime minister), Enda Kenny, has given the Yes vote his strong backing. A leading Irish journalist, Bruce Arnold, has just published an open letter to him in which he asks Kenny to think again. 

Dear Enda,

We have known each other for the whole of your political career, having first met after you succeeded your father in the by-election that resulted from his death. …

Perhaps the most important challenge you faced in your political career was the last general election. … I supported your candidature and your courage in putting a quality back into the search for power and a set of principles, not always effective, but good enough to support in the contest during that election…

I have to confess that much of this support and sympathy has been undermined by the inept and already damaging impact of your handling of the Marriage Referendum. If the referendum is carried, I see this as irreparably damaging to moral life in this country, to married life and the future of the family, and leading to the encroachment of wildly inappropriate approaches to the birth and development of children. It runs the risk of splitting the country irreparably.

I have shown recently how totally out of step with the rest of the world Ireland has become in pursuing an unwanted and unjustified constitutional amendment. It is being pushed through in a political atmosphere of almost total ignorance and hysteria. If the referendum is carried, Ireland will be the only jurisdiction in the world providing explicitly for same-sex marriage in its Constitution. It will become the flag bearer for same-sex marriage and gender ideology internationally.

This week, in a pithy and courageous call to the people, Brendan Howlin used a phrase about an aspect of the economy that resonated immediately with me. He called for “the full ventilation of the full truth”. In the marriage referendum the opposite has been the case. In your article in the Irish Independent on April 27th, for example, you repeat the blatant untruth that underlies your whole approach (“… importantly, marriage equality will not in any way affect the institution of marriage. It will only extend equal legal protections to all couples.”).

How then could the Chief Justice of the US Supreme Court also say on April 27th, to proponents of gay marriage: “you're not seeking to join the institution, you're seeking to change what the institution is. The fundamental core of the institution is the opposite-sex relationship and you want to introduce into it a same-sex relationship?”

Do you, Enda, take us all for fools? The dogs in the street know that marriage will change radically. What is now a natural institution that predates the Constitution and is protected by it, will become an artificial creation of the Constitution and be defined by it . . .  [MORE]
 Let us ponder the implications of  the sort of ideological and political rhetoric that are being used to urge on us all sorts of proposals that are at minimum questionable and controversial, without a due and sober, full ventilation of the full truth -- that bears in mind more than is likely to be promoted in the major media etc, discussion. END

Sunday, May 10, 2015

UK Election May 7, 2015 -- significance?

The UK election on Thursday just past confounded many pollsters, and marks a clear divide in the UK, with likely implications for overseas territories:

Daily Mail Election results map, UK, 2015

Percentages and votes:

Daily Mail

The most obvious feature is the sweep of Scotland, 56-3 by the Scottish nationalists. This marks a culmination of a long term trend in Scottish voting that saw first a turn away from the Conservatives completed in 1997, followed now by a turning from Labour to their nationalist party . . .


  Never mind, that it was only half the Scottish vote that created the result, the across the board sweep has to be faced for what it is, a definitive distinct Scottish political identity. Already, the UK PM is clearly pointing out that devolution in Scotland will be at an unprecedented level, some are counselling that putting effectively full taxing and spending power within Scotland is a means to inject reality (= accountability over taxation as well as what the taxes pay for), and there is open discussion of a round two on an independence referendum, especially if the UK votes to leave the EU in the vote promised by the Conservatives if they won an outright majority.

A clear flash-point is the austerity that the UK faces in the aftermath of the 2008 on crisis. 

A further one is the rise of the UKIP, which won one vote in eight overall -- a sign of deep dissatisfaction with the main parties, especially when the Lib-Dems lost a generation's steady gains overnight, with many candidates actually losing their deposits. Minor parties are going to think twice before entering coalitions again. 

While we are at it, the peculiarities of first past the post electoral systems will be back on the table. But, we would be well advised to appreciate that such are designed to deliver strong governing majorities and presumably more stable governments than the coalitions that tend to dominate proportional representation systems, even at the expense of disproportions in representation. With as a further factor, forcing hundreds of local elections blocking dilution of local concerns in the tide of a system-wide majority that may be locally very unrepresentative. So, the contrast between the SNP with 56 seats (1.5 mn votes), the Lib Dems with 8 (2.5 mn votes) and the UKIP which outpolled both (3.9 mn votes) but has only one seat, will give much food for thought. And as a counter-weight, the DUP with less than 200,000 votes but eight seats in Northern Ireland, adds more complexity and painful history to the mix.

One point of reference will likely be the Australian federal election system, with its associated state governments.  But technicalities* such as single transferrable voting will take some getting used to. To give an idea, here is a how to vote card, with a bloc party preference indicated:

For sure, change is in the air.

A further factor is that Britain is likely to continue its now more than century long geostrategic retreat from its post Trafalgar, Victorian era global dominance. The threat of Germany forced alliances with Japan (to hold the Indo-Pacific c. 1908) and with the 600 year enemy, France (to hold the Mediterranean), so that the Home Fleet could be strong enough to face the Kaiser's High Seas Fleet. WWI really broke Britain, and WWII finished it, triggering full-scale retreat and standing on the Atlantic Alliance.  In just a few years, we have seen going from a West Indies Guard Ship to I think it is a North Atlantic one, with a fleet auxiliary in the region esp. at Hurricane season.  Now the RAF is headed for the lowest fighter a/c numbers since the post WWI demobilisation. The Army has always -- save in global emergencies -- been small. 

We generally don't like to think about such potentially terrible things, but they are part of what we must consider to better understand our times.

The UK is on trend to become a European state reliant on the Atlantic alliance. Even, as the Americans, facing their own long term troubles, also want to pull back. In short, we are looking at a rising perceived global power vacuum, and the sort of rising powers and ideologies that are out there should give us all pause.

And while there has been indeed a determined push to ramp up DFID's aid budget to hit the longstanding 0.7% of GDP as aid target that has been said to be enough to support global development transformation (if the major countries meet and sustain that level of assistance):

Adapted, House of Lords, UK, fr. DFID

 . . . that has been quite controversial. (I think, it should be appreciated on the "a stitch in time saves nine" principle, that aid that works will invariably be far less costly than a rising tide of global chaos and wars. But, such will always be a hard sell to people facing austerity at home.)

In this topsy-turvy context, overseas territories and other Caribbean countries will need to be increasingly sensitive to the feelings and perceptions of the disaffected in the UK. 

And, it is clear that for OT's, we will have to stress our longstanding historic, centuries deep British-ness as a basis for any further moves on our part. END

*PS: Wiki has a summary of STV that shows how it achieves instant runoff by successive ranking and elimination, at the expense of complex voting procedures and even more complicated counting procedures in a context of in effect voting for a delegation:
In an STV election, a candidate requires a minimum number of votes – the quota (or threshold) – to be elected. A number of different quotas can be used; the most common is the Droop quota, given by the formula:

where the quota is an integer. When the quota is not an integer it is rounded down; that is, its fractional part is discarded. The Droop quota is an extension of requiring a 50% + 1 majority in single winner elections. For example, at most 3 people can have 25% + 1 in 3 winner elections, 9 can have 10% + 1 in 9 winner elections, and so on.

Finding the winners

An STV election proceeds according to the following steps:

  1. A candidate who has reached or exceeded the quota is declared elected.
  2. If a candidate has more votes than the quota, surplus votes are transferred to other candidates. Votes that would have gone to the winner go to the next preference.
  3. If no-one new meets the quota, the candidate with the fewest votes is eliminated and those votes are transferred.
  4. This process repeats until either a winner is found for every seat or there are as many seats as remaining candidates.
There are variations, such as how to transfer surplus votes from winning candidates and whether to transfer votes to already elected candidates. When the number of votes to transfer from a losing candidate is too small to change the ordering of remaining candidates, more than one candidate can be eliminated simultaneously.

Because votes cast for losing candidates and excess votes cast for winning candidates are transferred to voters' next choice candidates, STV is said to minimize wasted votes.

Friday, May 08, 2015

VE Day (May 8, 1945) plus seventy years, today

Today is the seventieth anniversary of the German surrender at the end of the Second World War in Europe.

Let us see clip 1 of a Discovery Channel video (language caution):

Other clips:

 2: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5wMoCR2biZY 

3: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QZUI8wKA8RU

4: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=46AlBz-mqzM

5:  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=W73yRqZ3y2g

The breaking of German air power in the skies over Germany at awful cost, followed by the invasions in Normandy and Southern France, then the slog through the Battle of the Bulge then on into Germany and other German held territories set the base for Europe to recover from tyranny. 

(And let us not forget, all of this was under the shadow of a secret race to nuclear weapons on both sides. Had Hitler won, the consequences would have been beyond calculation. Let us ponder that as politicians in our day play games with Iran.)

The victory of course was flawed, it left half of Europe under the Communist boot heel. And so for another generation, the line had to be held at great cost and under the shadow of the mushroom cloud.

Then, after another half Century, Communism also fell.

But, even though they served a master, Stalin, who was also an aggressive mass murdering dictator, let us not forget the sacrifice of the Russians and Poles etc serving under Russian colours, that actually fought the bulk of the German Army. At, casualty exchange rates that would never be accepted by a Western Power. (Russian military deaths are perhaps up to 10 - 13+ mn, with total deaths probably 24 - 26++ mn. Poland lost almost 6 mn, including half of the Jewish holocaust. German and allied military deaths in the East were perhaps 5+ mn. Western deaths for the European was were perhaps 1 mn.)

The Russians too, played a key role in the defeat of Nazism.

Thanks to Wiki, a tabulation:

And so, today, let us remember, let us thank the remaining veterans, and let us thank the many more who sacrificed so much for us. END