Thursday, January 26, 2017
The NYT on the Bible
"But the deep divide over gay rights remains one of the most contentious in American politics. And the murder of 49 people in an Orlando gay club has, in many cases, only exacerbated the anger from Democrats and supporters of gay causes, who are insisting that no amount of warm words or reassuring Twitter posts change the fact that Republicans continue to pursue policies that would limit legal protections for gays and lesbians.
In the weeks leading up to the killings, they pointed out, issues involving gays were boiling over in Congress and in Republican-controlled states around the country. More than 150 pieces of legislation were pending in state legislatures that would restrict rights or legal protections for sexual minorities. A Republican congressman read his colleagues a Bible verse from Romans that calls for the execution of gays. Congress was considering a bill that would allow individuals and businesses to refuse service to gay and lesbian couples"
Romans chapter 2 in fact says that we should not judge homosexuals and other sinners. It is for God to punish them
Act of mass petulance: spare us the shallow arbiters of morality
Yesterday’s “women’s marches” in the US and around the world were, at their core, anti-democratic. This was just mass petulance.
Sure, everyone has a right to protest. But this wasn’t about anything President Donald Trump has done: he was only installed on Friday.
These protesters were stomping their feet at the outcome of the election. Everyone hates losing and elections are important but there are always losers.
Smashed windows and burned cars on Friday, chanting crowds and ranting pop stars on the weekend, but Trump is still President.
We’ve had silly debates about comparative crowd sizes (parade envy?) and fake news stories about a bust of Martin Luther King being moved from the White House (it wasn’t) and, yes, some of this nonsense has been fuelled by the President himself.
But such media sideshows, aimed at mocking Trump, tend to fuel his support outside the Beltway. They amplify his core message — the theme of his inauguration address — that an outsider has moved in to shake up the Washington political and media establishment.
There wasn’t one clear policy or action the weekend protesters were rallying against. They are united against the Trump presidency — the vibe of the thing.
Fair enough — they all have the right — but the time to stir up opposition to Trump was in the lead-up to the election. A mass movement of people marching to polling booths in Democrat states won by the Republican nominee would have made a difference.
Not enough of them were enthused about Democrat candidate Hillary Clinton, who was, at best, pedestrian, offering only more of the same.
So the political imperative for the protests was belated, on the one hand: the election is done. And it was premature, on the other: Trump hasn’t done anything yet.
There was, of course, the feminist element — these were women’s marches. Clinton lost the election to a man who, on any objective level, lacked the political experience or character traits to make him an ideal candidate.
The fact Trump was able to win was an indictment on Clinton herself and her campaign. She chose to run in large part on identity — vote for me because I am a woman — and this didn’t work with enough women, let alone men. Yet she is offered up as the martyr.
(Many Trump critics point to the popular vote — winning that has never been the aim of the US presidential contest. So campaigns are tuned to winning individual states rather than a national majority. Who knows what the result would have been with different campaigns aimed at winning the popular vote. It is disingenuous and weak to try and change the terms of the contest after losing it.)
In the past Trump has said and done many things that most of us would regard as crass and sexist. Even during the campaign some of his references to Clinton were, to use a word, deplorable.
Yet if feminists want to rail against injustices to women, there are far more pressing issues around the globe than oafishness in the Oval Office; especially when you recall that Clinton defended her own husband when he was exposed for exploiting and harassing women from that same presidential office.
Whether it is female genital mutilation, forced marriages, rights to education and work, domestic violence and even the right to show faces in public, there is no shortage of outrageous subjugation of women around the world, with elements of it replicated even in Western democracies such as the US.
Protest against that.
Now we have Hollywood actors who live behind secure walls in multi-million-dollar mansions decrying increased fortification of the US border. And the stars of shallow, violent and amoral movies offer themselves as public arbiters of political morality. Spare us.
This is no defence of Trump — he has, after all, been a birther. But the protesters claim moral superiority. They claim higher aspirations.
If Trump grates with you — wait for him to do something in office and then criticise it.
Better still, if you are a US citizen, mobilise next time to
vote for a better candidate in order to defeat him.
That’s how democracy works.
Israel approves huge expansion of West Bank settlements
They no longer have to fear Obama
JERUSALEM — Israel announced a bold plan on Tuesday to construct 2,500 housing units in Jewish settlements in the West Bank, a decision made by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu just two days after he spoke with President Trump.
The move appears to be a clear sign that the Israelis no longer fear American criticism of settlement construction, which is condemned by most of the world.
For eight years, Netanyahu and his right-wing allies bristled at the harsh condemnations of settlement growth by the Obama administration, which referred to the Israeli communities as “illegitimate” and “an obstacle to peace.”
Trump, however, has signaled a more accommodating stance toward Israel. He has called for moving the U.S. Embassy to Jerusalem, a city claimed as the capital of both Israel and a potential future Palestinian state. Trump’s pick for U.S. ambassador to Israel, David Friedman, is a hard-line opponent of the two-state solution and a supporter of the settlement enterprise in the West Bank.
The Jewish settlements have grown to house more than 400,000 Jewish residents in the West Bank and more than 200,000 in East Jerusalem. The settlers believe that they are living on land granted to them by God and won in military victories against Arab armies hostile to the Jewish state.
Just days after President Trump entered the White House, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has lifted a ban on construction of new settlements in East Jerusalem. (Reuters)
“We’re building — and will continue to build,” Netanyahu said Tuesday.
Netanyahu’s promise to grow the settlements comes a little more than a week after diplomats from 70 countries met in Paris and criticized settlement building as a threat to a two-state solution. In December, the U.N. Security Council passed a resolution condemning the settlements, and Secretary of State John F. Kerry spoke out against them in a speech after the U.N. vote.
Asked at his daily briefing whether Trump supported the newly approved construction, White House press secretary Sean Spicer said that “Israel continues to be a huge ally of the United States,” and Trump “wants to grow closer with Israel to make sure it gets the full respect that it deserves in the Middle East.”
Referring to a Monday announcement of a February meeting with Netanyahu, Spicer said, “We’ll have a conversation with the prime minister.”
Lior Amihai, a leader of the Israeli watchdog group Settlement Watch, said the 2,500 units represented the largest expansion since U.S.-led peace negotiations between the Palestinians and Israel broke down in April 2014.
A view of construction work in Givat HaTamar neighborhood of the West Bank Jewish settlement of Efrat in the Gush Etzion settlement bloc. (David Vaaknin/For The Washington Post)
Amihai cautioned that the announcement of future homes for the settlers did not guarantee fast-track construction. For the units to be built, the government needs to publish tenders and accept bids from builders.
But the potential sites could carry deep political resonance in the United States.
About 100 of the possible new units are in Beit El, a West Bank settlement supported by Friedman. The family of Trump’s son-in-law and newly appointed White House adviser Jared Kushner has donated to the charities that support Beit El.
Palestinians called the Israeli move a possible sign of more vigorous settlement construction.
“It is evident that Israel is exploiting the inauguration of the new American administration to escalate its violations and the prevention of any existence of a Palestinian state,” said Hanan Ashrawi, a leader of the Palestine Liberation Organization.
A spokesman for Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas said the Israeli plans undermine efforts to bring peace to the Middle East and will promote extremism.
The spokesman, Nabil Abu Rudeineh, called on the international community to take a “real and serious position” against Israel’s plans.
Jordan’s information minister, Mohammed al-Momani, said the settlement plan “deals a tough blow to efforts to revive the peace process.”
The Europeans also expressed their concern. “It is regrettable that Israel is proceeding with this policy, despite the continuous serious international concern and objections, which have been constantly raised at all levels,” the European Union’s diplomatic service said Tuesday.
During the Obama administration, settlement construction announcements came under increasingly bitter criticism, with the State Department suggesting that the moves undermined Middle East peace and raised questions about Netanyahu’s true commitment to a two-state solution with the Palestinians.
“We are returning to normal life in Judea and Samaria,” Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman said in a statement announcing the plans, using the biblical terms for the West Bank.
Destructive political correctness about Australian Aborigines
The meat industry’s spirited attempt to persuade Australians to unite around a plate of lamb has come unstuck. Meat and Livestock Australia’s annual Australia Day campaign has ditched Sam Kekovich’s familiar rants against the long-haired tofu-munchers and the anti-Australianism that has infected our national day.
Instead, they’ve gone for diversity and inclusion. Never mind terra nullius; surely we all agree that there’s nowhere better for a barbecue.
The keepers of indigenous rage are furious. Nakkiah Lui demands “a more accurate portrayal” of history that includes state-enforced genocide, segregation, oppression, that sort of thing. Luke Pearson on SBS’s taxpayer-funded platform says accuracy would be improved by feeding Aboriginals meat laced with strychnine.
Welcome to the dismal world of identity politics, where history is not a quest to discover shared truths but a loaded weapon to avenge ancestral wrongs.
Stan Grant blundered into this fatalistic territory 15 months ago when he was invited to speak to the motion “racism is killing the Australian dream” at a debate televised by the BBC.
Racism was “the very foundation of the dream”, Grant said. “When British people looked at us, they saw something subhuman … we were ﬂy-blown, Stone Age savages.” Grant discovered the last quote in a satirical essay by Charles Dickens, The Noble Savage. Dickens, like Meat and Livestock Australia, made the mistake of using irony, a rhetorical device lost on today’s readers.
Grant was warming to the theme. “Every time we are lured into the light, we are mugged by the darkness of this country’s history,” he said.
The speech was widely viewed on the internet and praised by lovers of historical misery porn. The Sydney Morning Herald compared him to Martin Luther King.
Yet it was a speech that puzzled many of us who attended the event, including a businesswoman from India, who struggled to recognise her adopted country in Grant’s dismal description. She knew Australia as a land of opportunity and redemption, an experience common to most migrants since 1788, and possibly before.
Grant has developed his own misgivings about the speech, or at least its reception on the activist fringe. “That so many have sought to break my words into pieces and deploy only those that best suit them speaks of the age of the politics of identity,” he writes in a self-reflective contribution to Quarterly Essay.
He fears he may have perpetuated “a lazy narrative” of a people paralysed by history, unwittingly obscuring the true story of individual triumph against adversity.
The essay will make uncomfortable reading for the merchants of intergenerational victimhood; the notion that ancestral trauma is a debilitating inherited condition. Present damage caused by historical wrongs became a fashionable cause in Canadian indigenous politics in the 1990s, and Kevin Rudd’s acclaimed apology to indigenous Australians unwittingly encouraged its importation to Australia.
Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander social justice commissioner Tom Calma called for the healing of “cumulative trauma” in a 2008 report, Beyond the Apology.
Indigenous Australians “have experienced trauma as a result of colonisation, dispossession and dislocation, as well as the trauma of ongoing racism, family violence and other events”, wrote Calma, citing as his authority a little-known emeritus professor by the name of Judy Atkinson.
The past cannot be changed, and memories of the past are disputed. Some may indignantly believe that Australia’s racist past has been censored. Others feel equally aggrieved that our colonial settlers have been defamed and that their gifts to us — the rule of law, stable institutions and the spirit of progress — are too frequently ignored. At any rate, having decided that indigenous Australians are prisoners of history, human rights activists have little idea how they might be released. A heartfelt public apology clearly isn’t enough.
What’s needed, wrote Calma, are “inclusive and holistic healing approaches’’, counselling, group therapy, yarning circles and healing circles, residential programs, retreats and — naturally — monetary compensation.
In his eagerness to correct an abstract historical injustice, Calma ignores a practical lesson of history; throwing money at a problem generally makes it worse.
Besides, those who define Aboriginals as victims of historical injustice have no interest in resolving the matter. Grievance is the fuel that powers identity politics and the cause that keeps the indigenous elite employed.
Hence the constant inflation of their demands. Rudd’s apology, the one John Howard wisely declined to deliver, was never going to be the end of the matter. Nor will constitutional recognition, in the unlikely event that a referendum ever gets off the ground.
Now they want a treaty — between whom hardly matters, nor what the treaty should say — so long as it affirms the victimhood of the permanently oppressed and shames their oppressors.
Grant, who spent some of last year touring the country as a member of the federally funded Referendum Council, admits to feeling “suffocated” by the “stiﬂing and demoralising” world of indigenous affairs. “It is too easy to become consumed to the point that one loses all perspective,” he writes. It is hard to move beyond grief when you are locked in a cycle of “sorry business … a monotonous drumbeat of funeral marches”.
“Remembrance doesn’t necessarily stop the past repeating; sometimes it may even impede reconciliation and true justice. It is right to remember, but is it also right to forget?”
Grant hopes his essay will destroy the belief that indigenous Australians are helpless victims and challenge the attitude that success is not “black”. Indeed, his journey from an itinerant, working class, regional background to a respected international career in journalism shows that redemption for all Australians lies within our own grasp. “What emerges is, in many respects, a typical economic migration story,” he writes. “Migrants look to what they have built, not what they have left behind.”
If anything is killing the Australian dream it’s not racism but the identity politics that leads to what US writer David Reiff describes in his latest book as “the overvaluing of collective memory and the undervaluing of history”.
Far from ensuring justice, says Reiff, it is “a formula for unending grievance and vendetta”.
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, AUSTRALIAN POLITICS and DISSECTING LEFTISM. My Home Pages are here or here or here. Email me (John Ray) here.