Wednesday, August 01, 2012

A World Without Failure is a World Without Success

As the first cool winds blow down from across the Canadian border, a hint of NFL football is definitely in the air.

There’s always great anticipation associated with a new season.   Many of the same faces will be back to try and repeat past glories or improve on previous defeats.   The most interesting situation, however, may be the development of the star college quarterback.

Some NFL teams want to throw them into the mix immediately, such as the Ryan Leaf disaster (1998 San Diego Chargers), while others prefer to have them learn and study for a few years behind a more experienced veteran quarterback, like Aaron Rodgers (Green Bay Packers) riding the bench for three seasons behind Brett Favre.

No matter which process is used, all teams know that there will be a learning curve and accept the fact that before success is achieved, there will be some degree of failure.  However, in order to achieve greatness, a quarterback must pay his dues.

The same concept can be applied to our current economy.

As the business cycle has evolved from boom to bust, the most natural next move is contraction.  That means that banks, businesses, municipalities, countries, and people must be allowed to fail in order to be able to succeed.

As financial programs, procedures, and processes are tested and continually come up short, other plans will be developed and implemented.

Consider this example:.  A Chinese restaurant located in a Mexican neighborhood might be successful.  Then again, it could fail.  If it fails, it could be directly related to the service, or maybe the menu pricing was all wrong. Then again, perhaps the Mexican populace has no interest in Chinese food.

Regardless, the next restaurant that occupies that same space will likely not repeat the same mistake.

We learn not only from our mistakes, but also from the mistakes of others and restaurateurs certainly understand the normal business cycle.

Unfortunately, the worldwide powers-to-be do not understand this concept and have tried to jump-start growth without first passing through contraction, and, keep in mind, contraction brings consolidation which then leads directly to growth.

NFL owners, coaches, and players all understand that without a certain degree of failure, the building blocks would not be in place for that next championship run.

It’s just the natural order of things.  And likewise, worldwide leaders must also learn this plain and simple fact.


When Universalism Threatens National Loyalty


As I stood at a public meeting hand over my chest pledging my loyalty to this republic, I asked myself how many going through this ritual actually care or appreciate the unique character of the United States. So far down a universalist slope have we gone that few objected when a former Mets first baseman, Carlos Delgado, refused to stand for the Star Spangled Banner. Even Superman, the distinctly American comic book character, whose motto was "truth, justice and the American way" has been transmogrified in a 2006 film, mouthing the words "truth, justice and ‘all that stuff'."

The American character, embracing idiosyncratic national virtues, is under siege through a global dream of common "humanitus." After all, we are all the same moving inexorably to citizenship of the world. Or are we? Should Superman wear a U.N. badge as he engages his mortal enemy Lex Luther?

Transnationalists from Ann Marie Slaughter to Dean Coe decry nationalism and, by extension, the need for patriotic sacrifice. What they are saying is join the global party by renouncing your American identification. It is not surprising that several Supreme Court justices used foreign precedents to substantiate opinions on national cases. One wonders what a Zimbabwean court can possibly suggest to American justices.

Citizenship, if it has any meaning, cannot be an appeal to abstractions like worldwide camaraderie. It exists in a particularistic phenomenon related to tradition, the Constitution, language, creed, and custom. "We the people" the first three words in the Constitution, do not refer to any people; they refer specifically to the citizens of the United States. The union in the word "united" applies specifically to our history. We transformed the "United States are..." to the "United States is" through the Articles of Confederation to the Constitution and the Civil War. That is not world history; it is American history and it is woven into the fabric of national identification.

For some, patriotism is antediluvian, an idea that holds Americans back from international cooperation. I see it differently. Patriotism allows us to understand who we are and what our mission may be. I believe in America and what it stands for, but even if I didn't it is apparent, as the World Football matches demonstrate, that most people are attached to local institutions and national loyalties are embedded in a web of customs and culture that define who people are.

This is not the first moment when universalistis tried to dethrone national sentiments. Antonio Gramsci, one of the founders of the Italian Communist party in 1922, asked plaintively why Italy did not have a revolution comparable to the Russian revolution in 1917. His answer was found in the Italian fervor for nationalism in a state which had been unified only a half century earlier. Undermine nationalism, he thought, and the communist revolution would unfold. But despite repeated efforts "to march through the institutions" denouncing national fervor, Gramsci did not, perhaps could not, succeed.

Admittedly in some American quarters, particularly in the intellectual community, Gramsci has succeeded. What he could not do in 1922, many of his acolytes have achieved in 2012. But despite sporadic success in Foggy Bottom and the Academy, most Americans sing the national anthem with conviction. Our military men and women willingly sacrifice their lives for the defense of country. And patriotic associations still flourish in small town America.

As an idea universalism has its appeal. After all, there are the common threads of family, passion, disappointment, government, love, employment that unite people everywhere. But these ideas do not account for the idiosyncratic cultural backdrop that gives them meaning. Family in Stockholm is not the same as family in Marakesh. The difference not only counts, it is what contributes to allegiance and devotion. T.S. Eliot noted, "Culture is not enough, even though nothing is enough without culture." Culture is in the air we breathe and that air has a national scent. If I may modify Edmund Burke's position slightly that "Manners are more important than law," to suggest that manners, culture, and custom are more important than law and these characteristics in the aggregate account for how we define ourselves.


Can it be un-American to be a Christian?

 Star Parker

The current hate campaign being waged by homosexual activists against fast food chain Chick-fil-A, because of the firm’s Christian values, may well turn out to be a bridge too far. The effort may prove to be a setback for homosexual activism.

The vile attacks on the firm and its owners, the Cathy family, should make clear, finally, that the “gay rights” movement is not about refining and advancing American freedom, but about rewriting American values and advancing, not freedom, but the homosexual political agenda.

Recently Secretary of State Hillary Clinton spoke at a flag raising ceremony in Alexandria, Egypt, noting the re-opening of the American consulate there. Given the current political climate in Egypt, the Secretary of State felt behooved in her remarks to highlight principles of freedom as understood by Americans.

“….to us, real democracy means that every citizen has the right to live, work, and worship as they choose, whether they are man or woman, Muslim or Christian, or from any other background.”

Perhaps Secretary Clinton should be lecturing Americans instead of Egyptians.

Can it really be that in America today a businessman can be labeled a bigot, boycotted, and cut off by suppliers because of the crime of being a Christian?

When Chick-fil-A CEO Dan Cathy made his now famous incendiary admission that “We are very much supportive of the family – the biblical definition of the family unit,” he was not pontificating. He was responding to a question in an interview done in a paper I expect not read by many homosexuals – the Baptist Press.

Never mind. It was sufficient provocation that Cathy publicly admitted that the Bible defines his understanding of marriage – the unique bond of man and woman – which also happens to be the standard definition in dictionaries on the shelves of every American home and library.

“Chick-fil-A’s values are not Chicago’s values,” said Chicago Mayor, and former chief of staff to President Barack Obama, Rahm Emmanuel. Emmanuel defended Chicago Alderman Joe Moreno’s threat to deny Chick-fil-A permitting in Chicago because its owner supports traditional marriage and family.

But UCLA law professor and constitutional scholar Eugene Volokh points out in his blog that “denying a private business permits because of such speech by its owner is a blatant First Amendment violation.”

The Constitution? The First Amendment? Religious liberty? Do these apply to Christians?

Volokh goes on to point out that a permit might be denied, “…if Chick-fil-A actually discriminated in their serving or hiring decisions in Chicago in a way forbidden by Chicago or Illinois law….But the stories give no evidence of such actions…”

The fact that there is no evidence that Chick-fil-A discriminates in its business practices did not deter Washington Post columnist Dana Milbank from writing that Dan Cathy’s support of traditional marriage “…implied that gay people (not to mention divorced people) had no business eating at Chick-fil-A.”

One court decision after another over the last fifty years has, step by step, purged any hint of religion and traditional values from our schools and public spaces.

Has it made this a fairer, better, freer nation? If you think breakdown of family, forty percent out-of-wedlock births, a million abortions a year, $16 trillion in national debt, and government dependence is better and freer, yes.

Of course society must embrace civility, respect and tolerance. But this doesn’t mean that the sexual proclivities of some should provide license to rewrite our language and the traditions that define our faith and virtue.

Hopefully many will respond to Mike Huckabee’s appeal to patronize Chick-fil-A on August 1 as a display of support for traditional Christian values and as a reminder that our Constitution protects religious freedom.

Have we really gotten to the point where being a Christian is considered un-American?


Islam in Africa

The name Timbuktu has come to evoke the most remote, mysterious, and inaccessible corner of the earth. Five hundred years ago, Timbuktu was a great center of Islamic scholarship and the southern terminus of the principal trans-Saharan route to the western Mediterranean, a cosmopolitan outpost where camel caravans brought buyers and sellers of salt, gold, ivory, and slaves.

As for contemporary Timbuktu, it is an impoverished provincial capital in the West African nation of Mali — a dateline seldom seen on the front pages. But a little news was made there in April when rebel forces, including members of Ansar Dine, a fundamentalist and revolutionary Islamic group, came and conquered.

Ansar Dine’s leaders immediately announced the imposition of their interpretation of sharia law, including mandatory veiling of women, a ban on music, the closing of non-religious schools, and hudud punishments — amputations for thieves and stoning for adulterers, for example. Next, they began to destroy Timbuktu’s religious sites, including the 15th-century Sidi Yahya mosque and the 14th-century Djinguereber mosque — even though these sites were Muslim.

By now, it is apparent to all but the determinedly deluded — a club never short of members — that those who call themselves Islamists and jihadis range from intolerant to bellicose and regard Jews, Christians, Hindus, the Baha’, and other “infidels” as both inferiors and enemies with whom reconciliation is unthinkable. Destroying their religious symbols is seen as a pious act.

This is why, in March of 2001, the Taliban dynamited the sixth-century stone Buddhas of Bamiyan. It mattered not at all that the Buddhists of Bamiyan and surrounding regions had been converted or killed ages ago. To the Taliban’s political and religious leaders the statues were “un-Islamic,” and there could be no justification for their preservation. Today in Egypt, some clerics are already discussing the demolition of the pyramids. Muslim Brotherhood leaders are among those not expressing outrage.

Again, this is widely understood. What isn’t: Islamic-fundamentalist revolutionaries despise with no less vehemence Muslims whose reading of Islam differs from theirs. Timbuktu has been a center of Sufi Islam. The most revered religious figures in Sufism are regarded as saints; some have been laid to rest in Timbuktu’s tombs and mausoleums. To members of Ansar Dine, “Defenders of Faith,” this is heresy.

A reporter asked a member of Ansar Dine if the destruction of Muslim religious sites in Timbuktu would continue. “Of course,” he replied. “What doesn’t correspond to Islam we are going to correct.” A retired Timbuktu tour guide told another reporter: “They say they’re going to destroy it all, and what we don’t know is when.” In neighboring Niger, a refugee who had sold food in the market said the Islamists had prevented her from working. “I could not make money to feed my child. This is against our traditions. This is against the Islam we know.”

Precisely. Islamism comes in a variety of forms, but it is always and everywhere a theological and cultural bulldozer. How ironic that those who claim the most fervid commitment to diversity are often the first to rise to Islamism’s defense.

Ansar Dine’s reading of Islam is close to that of al-Qaeda, which, in turn, springs from Wahhabism. A small and obscure desert sect just a century ago, Wahhabism has since spread globally thanks to the West’s willingness to pay handsomely for the oil that Saudi warriors seized by force of arms from other Arabian tribes and clans. Across the Gulf, Iran has been dominated for more than 30 years by a regime that promotes a rival theology/ideology. Based on Shia rather than Sunni Islam, it is no less fundamentalist, supremacist, and intolerant.

Mali is not the only country in Africa under attack. When I was an Africa correspondent for the New York Times in the 1980s, I often visited Nigeria, the continent’s most populous country. Its north is predominantly Muslim, the south mainly Christian. For generations, the two groups enjoyed a reasonable modus vivendi. I actually felt safer in the Muslim north. In such southern cities as Lagos, violent crime was rampant.

Over time, however, a growing number of Nigerian Muslims have been indoctrinated and radicalized — Wahhabized. Earlier this month, Islamist gunmen, reportedly numbering in the hundreds, killed more than 60 Christians in and around the city of Jos in central Plateau State, while displacing hundreds more by setting fire to their homes. Then, at a funeral for the victims, gunmen attacked again, killing more.

Responsibility for the carnage has been claimed by Boko Haram, a sect whose name means “Western education is forbidden.” Blamed for more than 1,000 killings over the last two years, Boko Haram is strongly suspected of having close ties with two Africa-based branches of al-Qaeda, al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb and al Shabab, which is in Somalia.

Recently, a new Islamic group announced its existence: Jama’atu Ansarul Musilimina fi Biladin Sudan (Supporters of Islam in the Land of Sudan), which is dedicated to fighting “any group or religion that attacks Islam and Muslims.” Its emir, Abu Usamatul Ansar, has accused the Nigerian government, currently headed by a Christian, of “massacring” Muslims.

“There is always something new out of Africa,” the Roman scholar Pliny the Elder observed more than 2,000 years ago. What’s new now, however, is what is going into Africa — thugs and menacing strains of Islamic extremism. No good can come out of that.



Political correctness is most pervasive in universities and colleges but I rarely report the  incidents concerned here as I have a separate blog for educational matters.

American "liberals" often deny being Leftists and say that they are very different from the Communist rulers of  other countries.  The only real difference, however, is how much power they have.  In America, their power is limited by democracy.  To see what they WOULD be like with more power, look at where they ARE already  very powerful: in America's educational system -- particularly in the universities and colleges.  They show there the same respect for free-speech and political diversity that Stalin did:  None.  So look to the colleges to see  what the whole country would be like if "liberals" had their way.  It would be a dictatorship.

For more postings from me, see TONGUE-TIED, GREENIE WATCH,   EDUCATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL, FOOD & HEALTH SKEPTIC, GUN WATCHAUSTRALIAN POLITICSDISSECTING LEFTISM, IMMIGRATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL  and EYE ON BRITAIN (Note that EYE ON BRITAIN has regular posts on the reality of socialized medicine).   My Home Pages are here or   here or   here.  Email me (John Ray) here.  For readers in China or for times when is playing up, there is a mirror of this site  here.


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