Wednesday, June 3, 2020

Book Write-Ups: Where's the Birth Certificate?, Killing the Deep State, America for Sale (Jerome R. Corsi)

A. Jerome R. Corsi. Where's the Birth Certificate?: The Case that Barack Obama Is Not Eligible to Be President. WND Books, 2011.

This is a "birther" book, one that questions that Barack Obama was a natural-born citizen of the United States and thus his constitutional eligibility to be President. According to common law, which forms the context of the U.S. Constitution, a natural-born citizen is not merely a person who was born on American soil; children of foreign diplomats and Native Americans were born on American soil, but that did not make them natural-born citizens. A natural-born citizen is one whose parents, both of them, are natural-born U.S. citizens. The purpose of this law is to ensure that the President's loyalty is to the United States, not another country. Even if Barack Obama had been born in Hawaii, Corsi contends, he fails to qualify as a natural-born citizen because his father was not a natural-born citizen. That said, there are reasons to question whether Obama even was born in Hawaii. Those birth announcements in the Hawaiian newspapers after he was born inaccurately list the home of his grandparents as the home of his parents, so his grandparents may have placed the announcements in the newspapers so Obama would be considered a U.S. citizen; they recognized the advantages that Obama would have as a U.S. citizen. One of his Kenyan relatives claims she saw Obama's birth in Kenya, notwithstanding attempts to distort what she said. Obama, prior to this book, spent large sums of money against attempts to get him to release his long-form birth certificate, and one election official in Hawaii, with access to records and who lacks anti-Obama animus, expressed doubt that Obama even had a long-form birth certificate. This book raises interesting questions and is well-documented, though it could have done a better job explaining the inconsistencies it cites about Obama's birth and Obama's own narrative. For instance, Corsi notes documentation about two different Hawaiian hospitals purported to be the places of Obama's birth, but he did not explain how and why this inconsistency came to be.

B. Jerome R. Corsi. Killing the Deep State: The Fight to Save President Trump. Humanix, 2018.

Compared to Where's the Birth Certificate, this book was a disappointment. The national security apparatus's disdain for President Trump is well-known and documented. Corsi did not fully explain the reasons for its disdain: he mentions globalism and its commitment to a new world order but fails to flesh this out. However, he has another book, America for Sale, which is specifically about the new world order. People can still learn from this book. Corsi highlights shady things in which Robert Mueller was involved, but those sections are rather dense. Corsi also argues that the hacking of the Democrats during the 2016 election took place, not from Russia, but from within the U.S., and he contends that Seth Rich had something to do with that.

C. Jerome R. Corsi. America for Sale: Fighting the New World Order, Surviving a Global Depression, and Preserving USA Sovereignty. Threshold Editions, 2009.

I decided to read this book because I was curious about Corsi’s view on the new world order, since he argued in Killing the Deep State that the deep state was intent on preserving the new world order against President Trump’s attacks on it. What is this new world order, and how and why does the deep state support it? I thought this book would provide more context on that question.
America for Sale does not answer how and why the deep state supports the new world order, but it does discuss the topic of the new world order. Here are some thoughts, observations, and reactions.

---When I was in junior high school, I was reading Bircher-like material, which argued that there is an elite that is trying to create a one-world government, or “new world order.” When President George H.W. Bush proclaimed the virtues of a “new world order” during the first Gulf War, I, and others, thought that he meant a one-world government. In my English class, I was assigned to write an editorial, and I chose to write a critique of the new world order and the conspiracy to create it. My teacher, a liberal Democrat, thought that I was misunderstanding the term. She said that the new world order refers, not to a one-world government, but rather to municipal trade agreements. “Now, if you want to argue that those could lead to a one-world government, that is fine,” she continued, “but new world order itself does not mean a one-world government.”

I was thinking of that conversation when reading this book, for Corsi’s claims, on some level, are rather modest. Corsi talks about multinational corporations and free trade, and he thinks that could lead to a one-world government. There is a push for greater economic union within North America, and some prominent people have even expressed a desire that a North American Union could function like the European Union: countries exist, yet they are subject to certain transnational regulations from the Union of which they are a part. Corsi speculates that this could lead to a one-world government, as the European Union and the North American Union are integrated with each other. Meanwhile, the collapse of the American economy and dollar may encourage Americans to surrender their national sovereignty for economic survival.

---Corsi praises the Tea Party movement in this book, and his economic views overlap with economic libertarianism. At the same time, this book does stray from your typical right-wing Republican piece. First of all, Corsi spreads the blame for the 2008 financial crisis to both political parties. Both political parties supported deregulation of the banking industry, and both encouraged home loans to risky people. Second, like Bernie Sanders, Corsi criticizes income inequality, in which a tiny percentage owns most of the wealth in the U.S. Third, Corsi is critical of public-private partnerships and selling public assets, like toll roads, to private interests. According to Corsi, this often results in foreign companies owning a piece of America, which places American national security on shaky ground. Fourth, Corsi documents that one reason that some economic interests favor more globalism is that they do not care for the government regulation from particular states; they want less government regulation on themselves and thus a body above nation-states that has that. Corsi also discusses left-wing motivations behind globalism (i.e., humanitarianism), but there are also right-wing motivations. Fifth, in offering suggestions as to how to cope with the coming economic depression, Corsi recommends that different generations live together, young with old. This differs from the “move out of the house” rhetoric I hear from some conservatives. Finally, Corsi depicts Hugo Chavez, who is reviled by conservatives for being a socialist, as an opponent of the New World Order, since Chavez was against the North American Union.

---Corsi talks about loose currency and how that leads to inflation, yet he also tries to account for why it has not yet led to hyper-inflation. One reason is the influx of cheap goods as a result of free trade. Another reason relates to other countries holding our debt. (I remember during George W. Bush’s Presidency when Democrat Paul Begala was criticizing Bush for selling the national debt to China, saying that gives China control. I wonder what the latest on that is.) Were countries to lose confidence in the U.S. and the dollar, Corsi argues, they might drop our money like flies, and hyper-inflation would result.

Monday, June 1, 2020

Book Write-Up: Child Abuse in the Classroom, by Phyllis Schlafly (ed.)

Phyllis Schlafly, ed. Child Abuse in the Classroom. Pere Marquette Press, 1984.

Alongside military preparedness and the Equal Rights Amendment (ERA), education was an important issue to conservative activist Phyllis Schlafly. Her Eagle Forum regularly published Education Reporter, and she herself home-schooled her children in the first grade. Her concern about the education of children overlapped with her other political stances, for she feared that public education was indoctrinating children in liberal political and social beliefs, which took time away from teaching the basics.

This book contains testimonies before official proceedings of the U.S. Department of Education in 1984. The testimonies are from parents, teachers, and academics from across the U.S. They concern an amendment proposed by Senator Orrin Hatch that prohibits schools from conducting psychological tests on children without the express permission of their parents. Those testifying are in favor of the Hatch Amendment.

What sorts of things in public schools do they oppose? Some examples:

—-Values clarification: assisting children in making moral decisions on the basis of their own value systems rather than the traditional or religious morality that they received from their parents;

—-Situational ethics that ask students to pick what they consider the lesser of two evils;

—-Having children talk in class about their discontent with their parents as well as sensitive subjects such as death and suicide;

—-Requiring children to pick who lives and who dies in fictional scenarios about a limited number of resources;

—-Grisly stories like “The Lottery,” in which a town stones a boy’s mother;

—-Drug education that encourages the responsible usage of drugs rather than “Just say no”;

—-Giving children activities in which they display knowledge of profane words;

—-Sex education that is overly graphic;

—-Having children identify something they dislike about a classmate as a class exercise;

—-Student journals that are more about creating psychological profiles of students rather than evaluating their spelling and grammar;

—-Classroom discussions that encourage a left-wing viewpoint on abortion, homosexuality, nuclear disarmament, and a one-world government;

—-Recommending Planned Parenthood to teens, without the knowledge of their parents;

—-Mastery learning, which requires students to master a subject completely before moving on to the next level, rather than treating learning as synthetic.

Part of these parents’ problem was due to the age of their children when they were receiving this instruction. As more than one parent, and even Senator Hatch and President Ronald Reagan, explained, third-graders lack the maturity and sophistication to make moral decisions on their own, for they are primarily trying to fit in with their peers and to please their teachers. Much of the material is also traumatic for children at such a tender age. Age is not the only factor in the parents’ opposition, for some of the parents oppose such instruction for any age. They either prefer that schools teach exclusively a pro-American, pro-Christian, pro-free enterprise position, or that, for older students, they at least present different perspectives rather than just a leftist one.

Other considerations: in many cases, the children do not want to be pressured to answer questions about their views on their parents or other personal matters. Often, because kids can be cruel, kids make fun of students who talk in class about, say, their parent’s suicide under pressure from the teacher or visiting counselor.

When parents expressed problems to school teachers and administrators about this, they received a variety of responses, largely negative. One response was denial that such curricula was being used, even though the parents knew from their children and other parents about the curricula. Another response was to allow the student to opt out of the exercises but to sit alone in the library or to write book report after book report. Another response was to recommend to the parents that they send their child to another school. Still another response was to retaliate against the parents by punishing their children.

Very occasionally in the book, we get a glimpse into the rationale behind such curricula, at least if we were to ask its creators what their precise aim was. Part of their goal is to encourage the children’s socialization within the school, their family, and society. Part of it is to foster critical thinking, decision-making, and problem-solving. Some of the testifiers quote humanists who see public schools as mission fields for humanism.

Other possible reasons for such curricula, based on my own reading, classes, and guesses:

—-Its designers sincerely believe that a left-wing society is beneficial to people and want to train children to live in such a society and to help create it. They may believe that the child is already indoctrinated by society, the family, and churches in harmful and oppressive ideologies, such as religion, selfish and exploitative capitalism, racism, and a warfare mentality. The public school is a place for the designers of the curriculum to get their message out.

—-They may feel that schools must provide a place for students to talk about difficult issues because the students are unable to do that at home. The parents may not discuss these issues or even might be absent due to work, or they might be judgmental towards their children if they make a poor decision.

—-According to Kolhberg, who is criticized in this book, it is maturer for people to act morally because they want to do so rather than in obedience to traditional authority.

—-Part of education is acknowledging the grim side of life and preparing people to cope with it.

—-Teaching children cuss words and acceptance of homosexuality helps them to understand and accept those around them, and, for the designers, that is good for society.

In terms of the rude responses by administrators, I can envision administrators advising parents to send their children to another school. If we are talking about a specific unit on, say, Values Clarification or sex education, then it would be easy for the teacher to excuse the student whose parents have objections. If liberalism pervades social studies, health, and literature classes, then that would be much more difficult, if not impossible.

More can be said, but I will stop here.

Sunday, May 31, 2020

Church Write-Up: Pentecost Sunday and Psalm 46

Some items from church this morning:

A. It was Pentecost Sunday. Pentecost commemorates God’s giving the Holy Spirit to the church in Acts 2. The youth pastor visited two kids for his children’s message. One of the kids testified that he shares his faith—-that God is the creator and that Jesus died for our sins—-with a neighbor kid, but the neighbor kid does not believe. The youth pastor encouraged him that God, through God’s spirit, can generate faith in the neighbor kid through what the kid shared.

B. The pastor’s sermon revolved around Numbers 11. God places his spirit on seventy elders and two people prophesy throughout the camp. Joshua is jealous for Moses’s sake. Moses affirms that he wishes all the LORD’s people were prophets and that God would put God’s spirit upon them. The pastor speculated that Joshua was upset because he felt that the two Israelites prophesying diminished the authority of Moses. Perhaps Joshua felt that he himself benefited from Moses being the only person with God’s spirit and thus did not want the spirit to be democratized. Joshua is close to the ultimate man in charge and that gives Joshua a greater influence than if everyone were in charge because everyone had God’s spirit. But God’s spirit is not diminished by being spread out and shared. It is like a candle: a fire on a candle can kindle another candle without itself diminishing. We are prophets, the pastor said, when we share the Gospel and convey forgiveness to others.

C. I consulted some Bible commentaries to see how they accounted for the democratization of God’s spirit in Numbers 11:29. What historical events, context, or interests led to the concept that all of God’s people should be prophets? Christians would say, of course, that God’s eventual plan was for all people to have God’s spirit, that Christianity fulfilled that (to a greater extent than existed before), and that Numbers 11:29 was divinely-inspired prophecy about this. But how would historical-critics, who lack a commitment to the Hebrew Bible being a Christian document, account for the concept of the Holy Spirit’s democratization in Numbers 11:29? The commentaries that I consulted were not particularly helpful. The Word Biblical Commentary, as it usually does, laid out scholarly proposals about possible socio-political/historical contexts behind the text. Its conclusion was that Numbers 11 was seeking to legitimize other authority structures besides the conventional ones (i.e., priests). Either this was David or lay prophets who were claiming the right to be heard. That does not adequately explain why the text supported a democratization of God’s spirit. The issue of democratization recurs throughout the Hebrew Bible. At times, it is depicted negatively: people oppose Moses’s authority by claiming that they, too, are God’s people or have heard from God, and God affirms Mosaic authority. At other times, democratization is supported, as when Joel predicts that God will pour out God’s spirit on all flesh, or when the Book of Zechariah presents a holiness in Jerusalem that breaks out of the temple. Perhaps a naturalistic scholar can say that someone had the idea that, if God were the creator and loved God’s creation, God would desire that all people partake of God’s spirit.

D. The Presbyterian church that I attended in upstate New York sends out written e-mails for its services in these Corona times. I was especially moved by today’s sermon. I will not feel pressured to share its sermon every week, but what it said this week was helpful. The pastor talked about the Spirit helping us to persevere and to do things that we did not think we could do. The pastor shared about how, when his first wife was deathly ill in 1995, he was unsure if he would be able to take care of her. She was the one who had changed their child’s diapers. But the pastor crossed that bridge when he came to it. That resonated with me because, as my county enters stage 1 of reopening, I will soon have to resume doing things at work that I dread doing. But, hopefully, God will be there with me as I cross that bridge when I come to it.

E. I will reserve this item here for my faith struggles. On (B.), I would not say that I resent the democratization of God’s spirit. I would say, though, that I have felt left out in the past from what God is doing. God appears to speak to other people and to work in their lives in tangible ways, but I do not see that in my life. My resentment is not as great as it was in the past, and that is probably because I am no longer in school, which is where I encountered great moves of God in the lives of others. Part of my resentment may be because I want influence and admiration from others; part is because I would like a personal touch from God to know of his care and concern for me personally. The line that came in my mind was the sermon point that people make about Moses entering the Tent of Meeting, which was available to all Israelites (Exodus 33:7): we are as close or as far away from God as we want to be. Cold comfort. On (D.), if I had heard that sermon in the past, I would have been ready with my list of “but what about”s? What about the times when God has not helped me to do a task well? What about the times when I was nervous and afraid and alienated others on account of that? Where was God’s spirit in that? Nowadays, I do not have that problem as much. Zoloft calms my nerves, and people at work are helpful and supportive. I find that, once I get back into the groove, I can do the tasks or cope with them. But do I attribute that to God’s spirit strengthening me? I struggle to do that, and yet I do pray for God’s strength and that helps me to face tasks.

F. The Sunday school class was about Psalm 46. The Psalm describes natural and political cataclysms. The pastor speculated that the natural cataclysms could have been inspired by the intense earthquake that hit Israel and Judah in the eighth century B.C.E., which Amos and Zechariah both mention. The political cataclysm could have been inspired by the death of Josiah a century later, which marked the ascension of Babylon as the world power. Both the natural and political cataclysms are described as the undoing of creation, the order and regularity to which people are accustomed. The sea, also, is a symbol of chaos, as Hebrews feared going out to sea. Amidst all of this cataclysm is the conviction that God is God: God rules and his words accomplish what they set out to do. Psalm 46 encourages people to be still and know that God is God. That could be directed at evildoers, telling them to desist from their resistance and rebellion against God, or it could be reassuring God’s people that God reigns. The pastor commented briefly on “Selah” and said that it may be intended to introduce a new topic. In v. 3, it marks a transition from talking about natural cataclysm to talking about the river of living waters in the Temple.

Monday, May 25, 2020

Book Write-Up: Phyllis Schlafly and Grassroots Conservatism, Kissinger on the Couch

Donald T. Critchlow. Phyllis Schlafly and Grassroots Conservatism: A Woman’s Crusade. Princeton University Press, 2005.

Phyllis Schlafly and Chester Ward. Kissinger on the Couch. Arlington, 1975.

Here are some thoughts and observations about these two books.

A. How did Phyllis Schlafly become a conservative? Critchlow’s answer is rather ambiguous. Phyllis’s parents were anti-New Deal and devoutly religious, but Phyllis does not remember them as particularly political; her sister, however, recalls that they ranted against the New Deal, which Phyllis does not remember. Phyllis went to college and then got a master’s in political science from Harvard, but she was not overly conservative then. She wrote essays in favor of the UN. In Washington, D.C., she worked as a researcher for the American Enterprise Institute, and that, according to Critchlow, is when her conservative beliefs deepened.

B. Critchlow’s book is excellent in some areas but a little thin in others. On where it is thin, Critchlow does not really explain why Phyllis and her parents were opposed to the New Deal. Critchlow does imply, though, that Phyllis got from her parents a religious piety, and that led her to stress the importance of religion in fostering a moral and stable society. That would influence her socially conservative positions.

C. While Phyllis was a conservative, she was not a thorough economic libertarian in her runs for Congress. Among the items of her platform were an increase in Social Security and veterans’ benefits, as well as greater federal funding for roads. According to Critchlow, this was common for conservatives in the 1940’s and 1950’s: they opposed dramatic economic and political transformation, as evidenced in the New Deal, but they favored increases in government programs, here and there. Phyllis still campaigned as a conservative, attacking her opponents for their appeasements of Communist countries, yet she also campaigned on bread and butter issues. She managed to combine the two: she would attack her opponent for neglecting roads in his district while supporting foreign aid for roads in Communist countries.

D. Critchlow is especially strong in his discussion of nuclear disarmament. Schlafly and Admiral Chester Ward were critical of the disarmament policies under McNamara and Kissinger, as the Soviets increased their military. Critchlow tries to explain the rationale of those Schlafly and Ward criticize, as do Schlafly and Ward in Kissinger on the Couch. First, in McNamara’s eyes, he was making the American military more efficient, effective, and accurate in its ability to attack, even though he was reducing the bulk of American missiles. Schlafly and Ward dispute that McNamara’s policies accomplished this. Second, McNamara and Kissinger sought to scale back the arms race, and some of the people in the Kennedy Administration wanted to show the Soviet Union that the U.S. had peaceful intentions. The U.S.S.R. feared American belligerence, so the U.S. allowed the Soviets to retain a superior military to appease their fear and their pride. Third, according to Schlafly and Ward, Kissinger hoped that economic cooperation between the U.S. and the Soviet Union would discourage the Soviets from attacking the United States. Schlafly and Ward are slightly unclear in their rebuttal of this. On the one hand, they doubt that the Soviets desire nuclear war, but, on the other hand, they can envision the Soviets attacking the U.S. and taking its resources for itself. But what good would the resources be to them, if the resources and the infrastructure and people supporting them have been nuked? Fourth, Schlafly and Ward observe in Kissinger a hopelessness: Kissinger wants to negotiate for the U.S. a secure second-place behind the Soviets because he doubts that the U.S. can catch up with the Soviets militarily. Schlafly and Ward trace this hopelessness to Kissinger’s experience in the Holocaust, when Nazi tyranny triumphed over him and his family. Schlafly and Ward do not see the situation as hopeless, for they think that the U.S. can catch up to the Soviets. At the same time, they acknowledge that the Soviets have advantages that the U.S. lacks: authoritarian coordination, plus the Soviets are willing to sacrifice a huge chunk of their economy to military spending, whereas the U.S. is not. Fifth, Critchlow highlights nuance within the Kennedy Administration. They were not all appeasers, and they were uncomfortable about some of the same things that troubled Schlafly and Ward. Paul Nitze, and even Kissinger himself, became critics of SALT II. Critchlow states that Schlafly and Ward fail to explain this. They do, however, on some level: they say that Nitze has sour grapes because he was passed over for Kissinger, and that he is seeking to appease conservatives to position himself as a replacement for Kissinger.

E. For Schlafly and Ward, MAD (mutually-assured destruction) is misguided. MAD assumes that the U.S. and the U.S.S.R. would be discouraged from attacking each other, if they realize that the other side will attack back. Schlafly and Ward support the U.S. possessing anti-ballistic missiles, which can stop Soviet missiles from attacking the U.S. after their launch; that thwarts MAD in that it stops a country from being able to retaliate after being attacked. The Soviets can respond to U.S. attack, but what good is their response if a U.S. ABM can stop their missiles from even attacking? MAD, for Schlafly and Ward, is misguided for three reasons. First, the Soviets have superior first-strike capability. They are able to attack the U.S. and to decimate its ability to retaliate. Second, even if the U.S. were to retaliate, the Soviets would be able to survive an attack far better than the U.S. would, due to its land mass and passive defense. Third, the Soviets doubt that the U.S. has the stomach to attack back. Schlafly and Ward are open to a retaliatory attack on the part of the U.S. being automatic—-guided by technology rather than an actual person—-but that is trusting a lot in machines. Hopefully, there is no gliche that will set the nukes off!

F. Schlafly and Ward argue that the U2 incident on the part of the Soviets was designed to hamper the U.S. from monitoring and verifying Soviet compliance with disarmament treaties. Schlafly and Ward think that U2s are needed to verify Soviet compliance. Yet, they also express skepticism that Soviet compliance can even be monitored. The Soviets have so much land for testing their weapons, and the U.S. cannot monitor everywhere.

G. Critchlow says that Admiral Ward saw the Sino-Soviet split as a ruse. In Kissinger on the Couch, however, the split is presumed as genuine. Critchlow acknowledges that Ward made compromises in his contribution to the books: he supported Wallace for President, whereas, under Schlafly’s influence, their book The Betrayers endorsed Nixon in 1968.

H. Ward was a member of the Council on Foreign Relations (CFR), which is considered in right-wing circles to be a conspiracy to create a one-world government. Ward writes as one with privy knowledge, in contrast with many right-wing critics of the CFR. For Ward, the upper echelons of the CFR desire a one-world government, even though there are differences within it on how to get there, along with political strife over turf. McNamara supports the Vietnam War as a way to divert the U.S. from building up its military against the Soviets, whereas Daniel Ellsberg opposed the Vietnam War. I have some doubts about the CFR being monolithic in supporting disarmament, for people who supported a nuclear arms race attained high positions in the Ford and Carter administrations. Ward and Schlafly talk as if Kissinger has as influential a voice in the Ford Administration as he did under Nixon, but one can argue that Cheney and Rumsfeld marginalized Kissinger. Ward does well to highlight, though, how the CFR helps people to advance in government. It is an elite group, with elitist ends, but I wonder if there is a way to conceptualize those ends, other than the typical Birch spiel.

I. According to Critchlow, Phyllis was a long-time opponent and critic of the military draft. In Kissinger on the Couch, though, Schlafly and Ward appear to support the draft. This is understandable, for the ability of a country to draft its citizens gives it military strength.

J. Back to Critchlow, Critchlow traces Schlafly’s political involvement to her belief about the role of women, whereas most critics accuse Schlafly of being hypocritical on this. Civic involvement (i.e., being in the DAR) is something women do, and Schlafly saw her political career as part of that.

K. Reading the text of the ERA itself, it is hard to see how it necessarily mandates a totally gender-neutral society. It simply says that equality of rights shall not be infringed on account of sex. That does not say that men and women always have to be treated the same way, but that men and women have equal rights. The question would then be what those rights are. This is not to suggest that Schlafly’s criticisms were unfounded. Watching her debates with feminists on YouTube, even feminists conceded some of her points: yes, if there is a draft, women under the ERA would be drafted. And, as Critchlow documents, Schlafly’s criticisms of the ERA were not new. As early as the 1940’s, conservative women feared that ERA would take away the protections that women already had under the law, and legislators tried to add modifiers to the ERA to assuage their fears. This occurred again in the 1970’s, but the modifiers were voted down by huge margins. Why, that is a good question. Maybe it would look stylistically bad for an amendment to have twenty-or-so caveats.

L. One reason I like Critchlow’s book is that it is a good underdog story. In one passage, Critchlow quotes an anti-ERA housewife who, due to Schlafly’s tutelage, was able to answer academics and professors point-by-point in debates on the ERA. Yet, how much were the anti-ERA people the underdogs? As Critchlow argues, the anti-ERA women made a better impression on legislators than the radical and rambunctious feminists. The feminists were divided on how radical their agenda should be: should they push for homosexual and abortion rights, which were controversial at the time? The anti-ERA women had culture and tradition on their side, even though, as Critchlow points out, there were some differences among them over whether women should have careers or should stay home. And the anti-ERA women had grassroots political talent, for they had connections with their communities and speaking abilities due to their church and civic involvement. ERA activists, by contrast, tended to trust in rallies to get their point across.

M. Critchlow argues against the idea that the right-wing is rooted in racism. The segregationists were merely one part of the anti-Communist coalition of the 1950’s-1960’s. The Republican platforms in 1960 and 1964 endorsed Civil Rights, albeit differently from liberal Democrats. Schlafly wrote against racism in her younger years, and there were African-American pastors and women who participated in the anti-ERA movement. Schlafly’s Republican Senator, Everett Dirksen, with whom she and her husband were close, supported the 1964 Civil Rights Act, and Schlafly never objected to that. Segregationists were Democrats, whereas Schlafly was a Republican. Critchlow raises valid points, but, of course, scholars can find reasons to disagree with him. Opposition to civil rights legislation was part of the conservative belief in states’ rights. Regarding Schlafly’s views on race, I wrestle with that here and here, in posts I wrote while I was going through her Power of the Positive Woman. On the one hand, she speaks favorably of racial equality and sees civil rights legislation as positive. On the other hand, she opposes a court integration decision, criticizes the government forcing people to associate with each other, and speaks contemptuously of civil rights lawyers and minority-crowded neighborhoods.

N. Back to Kissinger on the Couch, Schlafly and Ward criticize Kissinger for choosing as an advisor someone who let Oswald back into the U.S. That interested me because the movie JFK sees Oswald as an American intelligence agent because why else would the U.S. allow someone who defected to Russia to return to the U.S.? Schlafly and Ward go into some of that.

Sunday, May 24, 2020

Church Write-Up: Psalm 23:6 and Psalm 40

Here are some items from church this morning.

A. The theme of the service was Psalm 23:6: “Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life, and I will dwell in the house of the LORD forever.” The youth pastor offered an interpretation of dwelling in God’s house forever. His interpretation was that the house is not a literal building but rather refers to God’s family: Christians are part of God’s house by being in God’s family, as God’s sons and daughters, and they shall be in God’s family for all eternity. Indeed, “house” (beyt) in the Hebrew Bible can refer to a person’s household or family. Israel was part of God’s family by being God’s firstborn (Exodus 4:22), and David, as king, was also the son of God (II Samuel 7:14). In the youth pastor’s interpretation, David was assuring himself that, whatever perils he may be experiencing, God is still his father.

B. The pastor in his sermon offered another interpretation of Psalm 23:6b. It does refer to returning to God’s presence in the Temple, which David desired while he was on the run from King Saul. But it also has the sense of being in God’s presence continually, over and over. Because the pastor referred to the Hebrew, I checked it out on my BibleWorks. I was surprised to find, not le-olam, the word usually translated as “forever,” but rather le-orek yamim, “for length of days.” The pastor said that the sense of Psalm 23:6b is that God forgives us continually. When Jesus told Peter to forgive seventy-times-seven (Matthew 18:21-22), Jesus was not setting a limit on the number of times Peter can forgive. Rather, Jesus was saying that God forgives always and continuously, so Peter should as well.

C. The pastor described the thoughts of three philosophers. The first was Toynbee, who believed in a divinely-guided progression upward of history. The second was Hegel, who saw a synthesis, which was neither necessarily progressive nor regressive. For example, Greek and Rome collided and produced something new: Greco-Roman culture. The third was Spengler, who saw history and life as cyclical, as people experience the same sorts of things again and again. The pastor related Spengler to the Christian life, as Christians sin and receive God’s forgiveness over and over yet often change in the course of life with respect to the sorts of sins that they commit. The pastor referred to the movie Groundhog Day, in which Phil wakes up each morning experiencing the exact same day over and over, until he is delivered from this cycle through his love for Rita. Christians are delivered due to God’s kindness and mercy chasing them, not merely sweeping up after them.

D. The Sunday school class talked about Psalm 40. Psalm 40 is David’s reflection on when he was fleeing from Saul. There was a lot of time between Samuel’s anointing of David and David actually becoming king. David, in this perilous interim, was wondering if God had forsaken him, or if he had committed some sin that displeased God and God was punishing him. Saul, meanwhile, was slandering David, saying David was trying to overthrow him, turning people against him so that they rejected and did not help him. David came to see God as his rock, someone on whom he could securely stand. In the Judean wilderness, people could stand on rocks, whereas they could easily sink in sand. David’s hope was that his enemies would be afraid and amazed when God delivered them, realizing that they cannot stop God. If they continue to oppose David, they will place themselves outside God’s deliverance.

E. V. 3 affirms that God put a song in the Psalmist’s mouth. A student commented that she sees singing as coming from us outside of our mouths, whereas v. 3 states that God put the song inside of the Psalmist. We cannot praise God without God putting the song there in the first place. The pastor talked about David’s statement in v. 8 that God’s law is in his inmost being. People feel things in their bowels, their inward being. God knows us, inside and out, but God put his Torah, Jesus, inside of us, such that the word made flesh connects with our inward selves.

F. The pastor talked about how pieces of Psalm 40 appear elsewhere in the Book of Psalms. He said that many scholars maintain that Jeremiah edited the Hebrew Bible. Deuteronomy threatens Israel with punishment if she was faithless to God, and Joshua-II Kings is about how that unfolded. Jeremiah was the primary prophet who proclaimed that message when Judah finally fell. My understanding is that scholars label this editor the Deuteronomist. Richard Elliott Friedman, initially, argued that the Deuteronomist was Jeremiah. But there are scholars who distinguish between the Deuteronomist and Jeremiah, noticing some differences between them in terms of their message.

G. The pastor commented briefly on Jesus’s parable in Matthew 18 about the unforgiving servant. The servant, by refusing to forgive someone else, was rejecting the king’s forgiveness of him. That is an interesting take. When we refuse to forgive others, we are affirming a system of strict justice rather than forgiveness, and we fail under a system of strict justice. This is somewhat helpful but only goes so far. I am fine with God liking and forgiving everyone. That does not mean that I like them or want anything to do with them.

Booknotes: In Trump We Trust, Resistance Is Futile, Godless (Ann Coulter)

(Note: These reviews were written a while back. For Ann Coulter’s latest views on Trump, see here.)

A. Ann Coulter. In Trump We Trust: E Pluribus Awesome! Sentinel, 2016.

Ann Coulter wrote this book during the 2016 Presidential election. In it, she essentially endorses Donald Trump for President. Trump, she argues, has succeeded as a candidate because he is speaking candidly and forcefully about a problem that troubles a lot of voters: illegal immigration. Republican candidates prior to him and during the 2016 primaries generally gave lip service to securing the border yet failed to go so far as Trump did when he asserted that illegal immigrants were bringing problems to the U.S. and proclaimed his intent to build a wall between the U.S. and Mexico. Trump, according to Coulter, was the perfect candidate to proclaim this message because he did not back down against elitist, politically-correct pressure, so the usual methods of discrediting Republicans and forcing them to apologize did not work on him. He was also less choreographed than typical politicians.

This book has a number of assets. As she usually does in her books and columns, Coulter brings facts into the discussion to bolster her case. She places Trump’s controversial criticism of Arizona Senator John McCain in context, namely, McCain’s mockery of Arizonans who were concerned about illegal immigration. She also provides context for Trump’s alleged mockery of a reporter’s disability. She argues that Trump did no such thing, but she also documents that reporters and police shortly after 9/11 reported that there were Muslims in America who were cheering the attack, as Trump said; those who asserted otherwise did so under pressure from higher-ups.

Also interesting is Coulter’s criticism of mainstream conservatives. Coulter is critical of the conservative establishment—-the Heritage Foundation, Fox News, the American Enterprise Institute—-for being pedantic and for focusing on issues that are of little concern to voters. She also mocks the Republican gaffes of 2012, as when Todd Akin questioned whether rapes in abortion cases were legitimate rapes. Why say that?, Coulter wonders.

Coulter seems to diverge from conservative Republican orthodoxy in this book. Rather than supporting a constitutional amendment to ban abortion, even in cases of rape, incest, and life of the mother, she wants each state to set its own abortion policy. She praises candidate Trump for supporting certain tax increases on the wealthy, a position that, after becoming President, Trump abandoned. Coulter even lauds some of Trump’s more unconventional positions, such as his view that the U.S. should leave NATO after the Cold War.

A criticism I have of this book is that Coulter, at least sometimes, fails to account for the agenda of Trump’s opposition. On illegal immigration, she does so well: the left wants more immigration because that means more votes for Democrats, plus the left does not think America should be allowed to have its own distinct culture. Meanwhile, the right wants more illegal immigrants because then company owners can pay workers less. On why the mainstream media and the establishment were so quick to defend Islam after 9/11, however, Coulter does not explain the reason for their agenda.

B. Ann Coulter. Resistance Is Futile: How the Trump-Hating Left Lost Its Collective Mind. Sentinel, 2018.

Ann Coulter acknowledges that Trump is a crass, unrefined individual, but she disdains his left-wing critics more.

Some items:

—-I agree with Coulter that many of Trump’s controversial statements, which his critics blow way out of proportion, are hyperbole he uses to make a point.

—-Coulter’s discussion of Charlottesville was a mixed bag. She does well to note that Trump did condemn white supremacists and to argue that the Antifa is far from pure. When she tried to argue that the torches that pro-statue people were holding at night were not inspired by Nazism, since other movements in America did that sort of thing, she was not particularly convincing. A mass of people holding torches at night does, in my mind, imply that the event at least was coordinated. It was not just people who were concerned about the removal of American heritage, and Nazis and white supremacists then happened to show up.

—-Coulter differentiates between the move to impeach Clinton and the move to impeach Trump. This was before the whole Ukrainian controversy, so her focus was on whether or not there was Russian collusion. According to Coulter, Clinton committed actual felonies and misdemeanors. Nothing, however, could actually be proven about Trump. Trump was accused of obstruction of justice, but how could he obstruct justice, when FBI director James Comey denied that Trump was even under investigation? I doubt that Trump is pure, but, of course, the question is what can be proven. (I write this in December 2019, so I do not know what evidence will come out by the time this post appears.)

—-I actually thought more highly of Barack Obama after reading this book. The things that Trump gets criticized for—-seeking better relations with Russia, pursuing a non-interventionist stance towards Syria—-were things that Barack Obama himself did (in spots). There were aspects of Obama’s administration that I did not care for, such as his disregard for religious freedom. But he did some things that I liked.

C. Ann Coulter. Godless: The Church of Liberalism. Crown Forum, 2007.

Ann Coulter’s books are praiseworthy because of the range of topics that she covers and because she provides arguments for her positions. Among the topics that she engages in this book are crime (the Warren Court, Giuliani’s New York City, and criminals the left treats as political prisoners), Sacco and Vanzetti, the Valerie Plame scandal, Jamie Gorelick and the 9/11 Commission, teacher pay, stem cell research, and evolution. Much of her book is a screed against leftist tendencies, such as the 9/11 widows who thought their status made their stance against the Iraq War sacrosanct. Of course, there is another side to what Ann Coulter presents. If I were to look up some of the personalities Coulter discusses on wikipedia, I would get more aspects of the story. Plus, conservatives, too, pull some of the emotional 9/11 shaming that Ann Coulter criticizes in liberals: “You are against the Iraq War? Did you not feel anything after 9/11?” Still, this book is worthwhile to read. On evolution, Coulter doubts macroevolution. What she believes in its place is a good question. She does not appear to be a young-earth creationist, who believes that all animals were created six thousand years ago. Rather, she contends that various species have appeared over the course of millennia, and there is no evidence that one evolved from another. Would this be a progressivist creationist view: God continually creates new species? Another point Coulter makes is that Christianity values the vulnerable, whereas evolutionary theory has encouraged people to devalue the vulnerable in favor of the fittest. How would this jibe with her stance on illegal immigration? Would not a Christian stance be that America should embrace and help those who come to America in need of help?

Wednesday, May 20, 2020

Current Events Write-Up: Deficit Non-Disaster; Unafraid Phyllis; Norma McCorvey; Trump’s New Press Secretary

Mises Institute: “The Federal Deficit Is Setting New Records as Spending Explodes,” by Ryan McMaken.

Why has the U.S. Government been able to go into the red year after year, without the occurrence of the perils that are usually associated with deficit spending (i.e., high interest rates, cuts in federal spending to pay down the national debt, etc.)? McMaken explains: “So far, the US has avoided this fate.  This is in part due to the fact the world still views US bonds (for now) as a relatively risk free investment compared to bonds from other countries. After all, for as much as the US is engaging in deficit spending, much of the rest of the world is acting similarly, so US debt ends up looking relatively good. Another reason the US avoids its day of reckoning on debt is the fact the US dollar itself is still in demand as a global world currency. Foreigners still want dollars, and that makes it easier for the US’s central bank to buy up US government debt in order to keep interest rates low — and thus government debt payments.. The central bank creates new money to do this, but this can only be sustained because so many foreigners want US dollars which helps keep US domestic price inflation low. In fact, demand for both US dollars and debt is so high at the moment, there is a ‘dollar shortage.'”

FACT CHECK: Was Phyllis Schlafly Scared To Debate Bella Abzug?

I have been enjoying this Eagle Forum series responding to the FX/Hulu miniseries Mrs. America, though it has also made me upset at the miniseries. Why would the miniseries depict Phyllis as afraid to debate Bella Abzug? Bella was no dolt, but she was not more superb at debating as anyone else Phyllis debated.

LifeNews: “Pro-Abortion Documentary ‘AKA Jane Roe’ Falsely Claims Norma McCorvey Wasn’t Truly Pro-Life,” by Steven Ertelt.

This article does not refute the main arguments for McCorvey’s retraction: a former Operation Rescue official admitted to paying McCorvey to claim to be pro-life, and McCorvey admitting to that on camera. But it does raise important considerations. McCorvey was still saying pro-life things shortly before her death.

CBN: “Kayleigh McEnany’s Emotional Tribute to Ravi Zacharias,” by David Brody.

Kayleigh McEnany is President Trump’s new White House Press Secretary. What interested me about this article was what it said about her. She is a devout Christian and attended Oxford University.

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