August 31, 2005
More Reasons to Dump the UN
Today we'll tackle three UN schemes that are designed to take our money or our sovereignty. Or both.
The UN Reorganization Plan
A Global Taxation Proposal
Plan to Control the Internet
I've been on vacation or too busy to write busy most of late July and August, so most readers will have heard about these UN schemes by now. Even so, it helps to keep them in the forefront so that we can be on our guard against them.
Let's look at these one at a time
The UN Reorganization Plan
Anything that has to do with the UN has got to be comple. The better, I think, to pull the wool over our eyes.
Kofi Annan's plan was best described by Wretchard of The Belmont Club, who called it a "Grand Bargain." I first wrote about this last March:
According to the Financial Times, (hat tip Belmont Club), what Annan has in mind is a kind of "grand bargain" (the FT article is subscription only, so I'm going on what Wretchard has on his site)
Mr. Annan's officials say the package basically proposes a bargain whereby rich countries help the poor to develop, by promoting the Millennium Development Goals, while poor countries help alleviate rich countries' security concerns. In both cases, Mr Annan says, action must be underpinned by respect for human rights.
Of course this means more money from the United States, Europe, and other developed nations. Don't count on any of them to support this.
And, as Wretchard points out, by "security", Annan means the Security Council. And forget about going around it. From the text of the UN report, Annan says "The task is not to find alternatives to the Security Council as a source of authority, but to make it work better"
Without going into details, Annan proposes increasing the size of the Security Council by adding members from Africa, Asia, and the Americas. He offers two proposals, which vary by the number and term of the new seats, and whether they are permanent or rotating.
This is not a plan for action; it is an attempt to permanently prevent action. With so many competing interests on the Council, gridlock would be enshrined forever.
If would also, of course, have the effect of diluting American power. As it is today, the council would not vote to enforce their own resolutions regarding Iraq.
Even if we buy the notion of a "grand bargain", it is hard to see how and deal would work. Is Annan saying that the underdeveloped nations could attempt to "buy off" their votes each time an Iraq-like situation arose? Does anyone seriously expect such a deal to work?
The good news is that the Bush Administration is firmly opposed to these measures. UN Ambassador John Bolton has put that organization on notice that the United States is firmly opposed to the plan. Simply put, the UN wants to usurp our sovereignty, and take for themselves rights such as when military force can be used. From todays Washington Post:
Bolton argued that the Security Council already had sufficient legal authority to send foreign troops to halt atrocities in places such as the Sudanese region of Darfur. He insisted that the U.N. charter "has never been interpreted as creating a legal obligation for Security Council members to support enforcement action." He also urged the deletion of language calling on nations to prevent "incitement" of mass atrocities, saying it runs counter to the U.S. First Amendment protections of speech.
Bolton wrote that the United States "stands ready" to intervene in select cases where governments fail to halt mass killings on their soil. But he said that world leaders should not "foreclose" the military option by the United States and other governments "absent authorization by the Security Council."
The U.N. doctrine of humanitarian intervention, known as the "responsibility to protect," has been promoted by Secretary General Kofi Annan, European governments and human rights advocates, who had been pressing U.N. members to accept greater responsibility for intervening in countries where atrocities are taking place. They have also been pressing to ensure a more central role for the Security Council in authorizing military action, a position that the Bush administration has strenuously opposed.
A Global Taxation Proposal
The plan it to put a tax on international airline travel. Both the EU and UN are behind it. The tax money will allegedly be used for fighting either "global poverty" or "aids", depending on which article you read. One thing you'll never find is "spreading democracy and overthrowing dictators."
Predictably, France is one of the prime instigators:
As a first step, France proposes to create a pilot scheme which would serve as a showcase of the feasibility of innovative financing mechanisms while, at the same time, contributing to meet urgent financing needs (such as the fight against HIV/AIDS).
Why plane tickets? As one of the main driving forces behind globalization, passenger air transport is a fast growing activity. While the industry may meet with temporary cyclical difficulties, traffic volume has increased by 7.4% since April 2004 and is currently projected to grow annually by an average 5% worldwide over the next decade.
In both developed and developing countries, airline passengers seldom belong to the poorest segments of the population. A contribution on plane tickets would therefore be progressive, a characteristic which could be reinforced if higher rates were to be set for business and first class passengers.
Translation: you, dear reader, have been stealing from the world's poor for too long and we're going to get you for it.
From what I can tell, all this is part of the UN's grand Millenium Development Goals (MDG), which you can read all about on a special section of the UN website. Of course, it all sounds so nice and wonderful. The goals run the complete gamut of do-good projects, such as "Eradicate extreme poverty and hunger", or "Promote gender equality and empower women" to "Develop a global partnership for development"
That last one sounds suspiciously like the socialist "New World Economic Order" that they tried to foist on us in the closing days of the Cold War. And you can be sure that most countries, especially the Arab ones, have no intention of granting women any meaningful rights.
The problem with all this is obvious; if they get the ability to impose one tax, more will follow. And they'll get higher and higher. Meanwhile, little good will actually follow. Not to mention that most of the money will go to line the pockets of third-world kleptocrats and UN bureaucrats. This may actually make the "Oil for Food" scandal look small by comparison.
Plan to Control the Internet
Companies in the United States, aided by enlightened government policies and research projects, were instrumental in developing the Internet. I have much personal experience in this field, having spent most of the 1990s working for some of the largest Internet Service providers.
What is this all about? Here you go:
UN bureaucrats and telecommunications ministers from many less-developed nations claim the U.S. government has undue influence over how things run online. Now they want to be the ones in charge.
While the formal proposal from a U.N. working group will be released July 18, it's already clear what it will contain. A preliminary summary of governmental views claims there's a "convergence of views" supporting a new organization to oversee crucial Internet functions, most likely under the aegis of the United Nations or the International Telecommunications Union.
At issue is who decides key questions like adding new top-level domains, assigning chunks of numeric Internet addresses, and operating the root servers that keep the Net humming. Other suggested responsibilities for this new organization include Internet surveillance, "consumer protection," and perhaps even the power to tax domain names to pay for "universal access."
Consider, too, that countries like Syria, China, Brazil, Ghana are the ones pushing for the change. They don't like that the big bad US has what they consider to be undue influence.
"...the UN group couldn't decide what should be done about it. Instead of reaching a consensus, the nations participating in the discussions listed four possible options ranging from modest changes to creating an entirely new 'Global Internet Council' under the auspices of the United Nations.
The bad news is that they are united in saying that "no single government should have a pre-eminent role in relation to international internet governance"
I can think of about a hundred reasons why we the UN should have no role in the Internet. Investor's Business Daily does too:
Given its record of mismanagement and corruption, the U.N. shouldn't be handed the keys to the Internet. It's too precious a resource. We need look only as far as the oil-for-food scandal — possibly the largest fraud in history — for evidence as to why this is true.
Giving the U.N. control over the Internet would be giving it control over the future — which rightly belongs to entrepreneurs, inventors and dreamers, not faceless bureaucrats who can scarcely conceal their loathing for the free-market success the U.S. represents.
Tip of the Iceburg
The worst part is that this is just part of a long train of abuses:
* Oil-for-Food, the greatest financial scandal in modern history
* Peacekeepers in Congo, Somalia, Kosovo, and elsewhere raping and otherwise sexually abusing the very people they are supposed to be protecting
* Failure to provide relief to the victims of the recent tsunami, and then attacking the United States for forming a coalition of nations who were successful in bringing aid
* Failure to stop what is just about genocide in Sudan
* A Security Council that will not enforce it's own resolutions
* A Security Council that passes an ever-increasing number of resolutions to little or no effect on the world scene
* They put the worst human rights violators on the planet in on the UN Human Rights commission
* Iraq under Saddam was voted chair of the UN Committee on Disarmament
* A General Assembly that, in general, is virulently anti-Semitic and shows it in their actions and speech
* The World Conference on Racism, held in Durban South Africa 2001, turned into an anti-Semitic and anti-American hate-fest
* They promote fatally flawed treaties such as the Kyoto protocol on "global warming", which would have the effect of crippling the US economy
* The promotion of the World Court, whose purpose would be to prosecute Americans and Israelis, while largely ignoring third-world kleptocrats
What to Do?
As I've written before, marginalize the UN and build alternative organizations.
A New Quota?
Just when you think the liberals can't get any worse, this comes up.
The last thing they tried was to try and portray Supreme Court nominee John Roberts as "anti-woman".
Some Congressional Black Caucus members and civil rights advocates are concerned about Judge John G. Roberts Jr.'s "secluded" northern Indiana upbringing and want senators to ask the Supreme Court nominee about his history of interactions with minorities.
Asking a nominee about his personal history with minorities is rare in judicial nominations, and there is disagreement even among black leaders on whether those questions are fair and how much weight should be given to the answers.
Ron Walters, chairman of the African American Leadership Institute at the University of Maryland, said questions about Judge Roberts' background can serve a purpose.
"The context would have to be explanatory, and that would be, how did his growing up shape his conservatism and his outlook on social issues and society," he said.
He said it is likely that Judge Roberts had few "multicultural experiences" at Harvard University, and so he would have kept the same views and attitudes he had growing up in a mostly white, conservative state.
I'd say this was unbelieveable, but I've come to believe that anything is possible for the left when it comes to stopping John Roberts.
They're scared, folks, very scared. The last branch of government where they have significant influence is the Supreme Court, and they see it slipping away.
What really gets me is how Republicans, properly, gave Clinton nominees Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Stephen Breyer an easy time during the nominations. Both were qualified in the sense of academic credentials, and after all, Bill Clinton did win election, so deserved to have all reasonable nominees approved.
But we now seem to have a new standard. Take Ginsburg, for example. She may have been qualified academically, but any honest examination of her record shows her to be a left-wing ideologue.
We'll see what actually happens once the hearings start. But if Democrats go after Roberts like they're hinting they might do, then it will be them setting the new standard. And this is going to come back to haunt them the next time there's a democrat in the White House
August 30, 2005
Defender of Dictators
Ok, so maybe Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez isn't a complete dictator. He was elected, and probably will be reelected in 2006 when his time comes up. But he's still a pretty unsavory character, and is bad news for the region and his own country.
But if Chavez isn't quite a left-wing dictator, he's certainly trying to act like one. Consider Mark Falcoff's description of his "dialogues", from the August 29 edition of National Review (digital subscription required)
It’s Sunday in Venezuela, which means it’s time for President Hugo Chávez to go on radio and television to “dialogue” with his people. Dialogue is actually not the right word; except for this week’s special guests (Cuban dictator Fidel Castro by telephone from Havana, and later, Cuba’s health minister), Chávez does all the talking — endlessly, tediously, often jumping from topic to topic in no apparent order. This time it’s a full eight hours. The subjects include the evils of capitalism and “neo-liberalism,” the unspecified contribution Cuba can make to solving Venezuela’s energy problems, the nefarious George W. Bush, the dangers of a free-trade agreement with the United States (“a grinding stone to crush peoples”), the vast wave of support that Venezuela and its president now supposedly enjoy throughout the hemisphere and even the world . . .
So what does Jesse Jackson do? Run down to Venezuala to defend him, of course.
The Rev. Jesse Jackson yesterday urged President Bush to strongly condemn a U.S. religious broadcaster's call for the assassination of Venezuela's leftist president, saying Washington needs to cool down the rhetoric against this South American nation and major oil producer.
The U.S. civil rights leader met with Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez in private at the presidential palace yesterday, saying beforehand that he hoped to help ease tensions aggravated last week by Pat Robertson's suggestion that Mr. Chavez ought to be killed.
"We must make it clear that talk of isolating Venezuela, talk of assassinating its leader, this is unacceptable, and it must be denounced roundly by our president and by our secretary of state," Mr. Jackson said in an interview shortly before meeting with Mr. Chavez.
"The U.S. and Venezuelan leadership must have a detente on rhetoric. That exacerbates tensions," Mr. Jackson said. "We need to have a cooling down of divisive rhetoric."
There are so many things wrong here it's hard to know where to start.
There's the obvious aspect that I alluded to in my opening, in that Jackson shouldn't be defending someone like Chavez
But there's also the question of whether a president should criticize a private citizen for what he said. There are times when it may be necessary to do so, but it would take an extreme situation. Normally, presidents should leave the job of criticism to the private sector, to journalists, bloggers, and the like.
One can only believe that if President Bush criticized a non-politician liberal he would be in turn denounced for "putting a chill on the first amendment".
The Haiti Precident
Troubles in Haiti continue
A U.S.-backed effort to reform and disarm anti-government gangs went horribly wrong 10 days ago when hooded police and machete-wielding civilian backers attacked participants at a soccer game, killing at least six persons.
The "Play for Peace" soccer match was financed and sponsored by the U.S. Agency for International Development, and was designed to steer young people away from the gang violence that has beset Haiti since President Jean-Bertrand Aristide fled into exile in February 2004.
Witnesses to the Aug. 20 massacre said about 6,000 spectators were packed into the soccer stadium when police officers ordered everyone to the ground. Shots rang out, and people ran for the walled field's only exit.
Police fired wantonly into the crowd, witnesses and relatives of victims said. Outside, they said, civilians armed with machetes and more police officers attacked people trying to flee the chaos.
The United States has intervened in Haiti many times over the past hundred years or so. Each time we have attempted to set up a legitimate government and bring some order to the country things seem to go awry.
Things are no different this time. Despite our best efforts, Haiti is still an unstable country plagued by violence.
Our last invasion was in 1994, when Bill Clinton was president. He did so largely for humanitarian reasons, as Haiti certainly posed no security threat to the United States or our allies.
I have no problem with his decision to invade. I do disagree with his decision to obtain a resolution from the UN Security Council "authorizing" our operation. This helped to set a precident started by President George H W Bush, who insisted on UN "approval" to evict Iraq from Kuwait.
These actions set precidents that have come back to haunt us, as I feared they would at the time. As I have stated on this blog numerous times, we do not need approval from anyone besides our own US Congress to conduct any military operation that we see fit.
August 29, 2005
Hitch's Top Ten
When he's on, he's on.
Christopher Hitchens' top 10 benefits from the invasion of Iraq:
(1) The overthrow of Talibanism and Baathism, and the exposure of many highly suggestive links between the two elements of this Hitler-Stalin pact. Abu Musab al Zarqawi, who moved from Afghanistan to Iraq before the coalition intervention, has even gone to the trouble of naming his organization al Qaeda in Mesopotamia.
(2) The subsequent capitulation of Qaddafi's Libya in point of weapons of mass destruction--a capitulation that was offered not to Kofi Annan or the E.U. but to Blair and Bush.
(3) The consequent unmasking of the A.Q. Khan network for the illicit transfer of nuclear technology to Libya, Iran, and North Korea.
(4) The agreement by the United Nations that its own reform is necessary and overdue, and the unmasking of a quasi-criminal network within its elite.
(5) The craven admission by President Chirac and Chancellor Schröder, when confronted with irrefutable evidence of cheating and concealment, respecting solemn treaties, on the part of Iran, that not even this will alter their commitment to neutralism. (One had already suspected as much in the Iraqi case.)
(6) The ability to certify Iraq as actually disarmed, rather than accept the word of a psychopathic autocrat.
(7) The immense gains made by the largest stateless minority in the region--the Kurds--and the spread of this example to other states.
(8) The related encouragement of democratic and civil society movements in Egypt, Syria, and most notably Lebanon, which has regained a version of its autonomy.
(9) The violent and ignominious death of thousands of bin Ladenist infiltrators into Iraq and Afghanistan, and the real prospect of greatly enlarging this number.
(10) The training and hardening of many thousands of American servicemen and women in a battle against the forces of nihilism and absolutism, which training and hardening will surely be of great use in future combat.
Here's more ammo from Hitch in the same article, which will come in handy when you're confronted by a leftie who tries to tell you that Iraq was no threat:
"You said there were WMDs in Iraq and that Saddam had friends in al Qaeda. . . . Blah, blah, pants on fire." I have had many opportunities to tire of this mantra. It takes ten seconds to intone the said mantra. It would take me, on my most eloquent C-SPAN day, at the very least five minutes to say that Abdul Rahman Yasin, who mixed the chemicals for the World Trade Center attack in 1993, subsequently sought and found refuge in Baghdad; that Dr. Mahdi Obeidi, Saddam's senior physicist, was able to lead American soldiers to nuclear centrifuge parts and a blueprint for a complete centrifuge (the crown jewel of nuclear physics) buried on the orders of Qusay Hussein; that Saddam's agents were in Damascus as late as February 2003, negotiating to purchase missiles off the shelf from North Korea; or that Rolf Ekeus, the great Swedish socialist who founded the inspection process in Iraq after 1991, has told me for the record that he was offered a $2 million bribe in a face-to-face meeting with Tariq Aziz. And these eye-catching examples would by no means exhaust my repertoire, or empty my quiver. Yes, it must be admitted that Bush and Blair made a hash of a good case, largely because they preferred to scare people rather than enlighten them or reason with them. Still, the only real strategy of deception has come from those who believe, or pretend, that Saddam Hussein was no problem.
The sanctions were falling apart by 2003. There was no stable status quo. The left told us then that the sanctions were killing Iraqi babies, but to lift them would have resulted in a Saddam free to pursue his murderous desires. And indeed since Saddam was diverting much money to build palaces and keep up his military, Iraqis were suffering. This was building resentment against the sanctions throughout the Arab/Muslim world. All this, however, is conveniently forgotten by those who tell us that the invasion was a mistake.
What serious person can doubt that Saddam would have build chemical and nuclear weapons if he could have? That he didn't have the stockpiles we thought he did was only due to intense pressure by the US and a few other nations; not the "international community", many of whom, like France and Russia, would have only been too happy to have ended the sanctions so they could get back to business as usual.
August 27, 2005
At the Walter Reed Army Medical Center
Faceoff with Code Pink
That's right, your intrepid blogger was at the Walter Reed Army Medical Center last night to face off against the Code Pink whackos!
As most of you probably know, a story broke this week that members of a far-left group called "Code Pink Women for Peace" have been holding a weekly protest outside of the Walter Reed Army Medical Center, which is located in Washington DC.
The story erupted on Thursday when Marc Morano of CNS News published this story and video on the protests that have been held, unnoticed by the mainstream media, outside of the main gates of the Walter Reed hospital complex.
The anti-war demonstrators, who obtain their protest permits from the Washington, D.C., police department, position themselves directly in front of the main entrance to the Army Medical Center, which is located in northwest D.C., about five miles from the White House.Once word of their presence got out, a counter-protests organized by the conservative group FreeRepublic.com started. Every Friday night, both groups hold forth on opposite street corners. They start shortly after 6pm, and the "main event" is the arrival by bus of soldiers which occurs sometime around 9:00. I believe that these are newly arrived wounded soldiers just flown in from the front but will have to investigate further.
Among the props used by the protesters are mock caskets, lined up on the sidewalk to represent the death toll in Iraq.
Code Pink Women for Peace, one of the groups backing anti-war activist Cindy Sheehan's vigil outside President Bush's ranch in Crawford Texas, organizes the protests at Walter Reed as well.
The Code Pinkos would hold up signs saying things like "Maimed for Lies" and "Enlist here and die for Halliburton", all the usual stuff you'd expect from the far-left. One soldier told the CNS News reporter that one day when they drve by they saw "...a bunch of flag-draped coffins laid out on the sidewalk." The wounded troops could see all this, mind you. Nice, eh?
Location, Location, Location
The problem that I and other conservatives have with Code Pink is that they are staging their protests outside the military hospital where wounded troops are brought from the front to recover. If they want to protest in front of the White House or Capitol building, fine. But not here. And let's be clear; they have been doing this as an "in your face" to the troops.
Code Pink, of course, claims otherwise;
The anti-war protesters claim their presence at the hospital is necessary to publicize the arrivals of newly wounded soldiers from Iraq, who the protesters allege are being smuggled in at night by the Pentagon to avoid media scrutiny. The protesters also argue that the military hospital is the most appropriate place for the demonstrations and that the vigils are designed to ultimately help the wounded veterans.Indeed, Code Pink is now claiming that they are not even protests at all. From their website:
"If I went to war and lost a leg and then found out from my hospital bed that I had been lied to, that the weapons I was sent to search for never existed, that the person who sent me to war had no plan but to exploit me, exploit the country I was sent to, I would be pretty angry," Luke told Cybercast News Service.
These are vigils, not protests, and participants have included Washington, DC-based members of Veterans for Peace, Military Families Speak Out, and DC Labor Against the War, who all want more support for veterans.But this is not true. We've got the goods on them.
"Since we started these vigils, we feel we have helped put the spotlight on the needs of the soldiers and helped achieve positive results, such as greater VA funding and a rollback of attempts to make soldiers pay for their own meals, phone calls, daily hospitalization fees and increased co-payments,” said CODEPINK’s Gael Murphy, one of the vigil’s organizers.
A New Code Pink Spin
Since the publicity hit last week spokeswomen for Code Pink have has been spinning like tops. Whenever interviewed on the radio or TV they've tried to claim that "oh no, we're not against the troops, we're doing this in support of the troops!" and "We just want them to have the best health care possible!"
But FreeRepublic has the goods on them. Check out these photographs of past Code Pink signs on their website.
Who is Code Pink?
Code Pink is just about as bad as you think they are. Check out their website, they're a typical leftie group. David Horowitz, as usual, has the goods on them. From his invaluable Discover the Network website, a database of left-wing groups, is this:
Mocking the Bush Administration's color-coded security alerts, the "Code Pink Alert" warns that this administration poses "extreme danger to all the values of nurturing, caring, and compassion that women and loving men have held." Proclaiming that "women have been the guardians of life . . . because the men have busied themselves making war," Code Pink calls on "women around the world to rise up and oppose the war in Iraq. We call on mothers, grandmothers, sisters and daughters . . . and every ordinary outraged woman willing to be outrageous for peace." During one Code Pink demonstration in Washington, D.C., participants marched up the steps of the Capitol, unfurled their slogan-bearing banners, and stripped down to the dove-adorned bras and panties they wore beneath their clothes. "We're putting our bodies on the line," they shouted. "You Congress people better get some spine. We say 'Stand back, don't attack - innocent children in Iraq!'"But wait, it gets worse span style="font-style: italic;">
During the last week of December 2004, Medea Benjamin announced in Amman, Jordan that Code Pink, Global Exchange, and Families for Peace would be donating a combined $600,000 in medical supplies and cash to the terrorist insurgents who were fighting American troops in Fallujah, Iraq.That's right; this group gave $600,000 to the other side.
"Peace group" my foot. They want us to lose.
So all of this hit the news this week, and was all over the radio. As I think I mentioned in a previous post, my job allows me to listen to the radio most of the day, and it doesn't take much brains to figure out who I tune in to; Laura Ingraham, Rush Limbaugh, Glenn Beck, Sean Hannity, Michael Reagan... ok I occasionally listen to music but that's mostly at night.
Anyway, it all allows me to stay on top of things. So they all started talking about this on Thursday, with Marc Morano of CNS being just about the most-interviewed man on the planet, and it didn't take me long to figure out what I was going to do come Friday night.
I live in the Washington DC area. I wasn't going to miss this for the world.
Friday, August 26
After work I hurried to Walter Reed, arriving shortly after 7pm.
The main entrance to the hospital complex is on a main street, with four lanes of traffic. Across from the entrance another street runs perpendicular to it, forming a four corner intersection (I hope this is clear. I did't think to take any "big picture" photos).
The Code Pink protesters on one corner, one of those by the entrance (to the left if you're looking at the entrance). We were on the other three corners. They had a maximum of 22 people (a FreeRepublic person kept count), whereby we had maybe 75 or so. So we outnumbered them by at least 3 to 1, and probably more, but I'll be conservative.
Here are some of our people outside the entrance
This was our largest sign. You just gotta love it!
I just had to pay the Code Pink folks a little visit. Nothing nasty, mind you, I was on my best behavior. So I walked over to their corner and asked "Can I take a photo?" Without really waiting I took a few.
"What are you protesting?" I politely asked.
One of their party looked a bit confused and looked at another for assistance. "It's not a protest, it's a vigil" one of them said.
"What's it a vigil for?" I asked.
At that point they'd had enough of me. "You're in front of my sign. Go back to your own corner."
Deciding that enough was enough, I retreated, taking this photo of them as I left
Here's your intrepid reporter, holding a sign that the FreeRepublic people made. They kept a bunch handy for people who showed up.
The Code Pink people were silent all night. No chanting or singing, nothing.
We, on the other hand, were somewhat vocal, and more so as the evening went on:
"Move your protests to the White House!"
"Code Pink gave $600,000 to the terrorists in Fallujah!"
"Where are your old signs!"
At around 9pm the troop bus arrived. I couldn't get my camera out fast enough to got a photo as they drove past us, so this one is as it enters the complex.
But when it came past our corner, the driver turned the lights on in the bus so that we could see the troops. They all smiled and waved to us. I couldn't see their reaction to the Code Pink folks, but have heard that they've been known to give them the one-finger-salute.
The Code Pink people broke camp and went home shortly after the bus arrived. They'd made their point, I guess. But so had we.
Cam Edwards was there, and has some photos and even video of the event on his website. I actually saw him there, and said "that guy looks familiar", but couldn't place him. Now I remember that I've seen him in my NRA magazines.
Check out the the FreeRepublic.com post on the goings-on that night. They've got lots of photos and great reporting on what went on. They were nice enough to give us a plug, too. Thank you, guys!
August 25, 2005
It has taken me longer than expected to get back to blogging since my return from Scotland, mainly because other obligations have intervened. But I promised a report on the trip, so here goes. I'm going to get some photos up soon, if not tonight then this weekend.
Earlier this month I went as part of a mission trip with my local church. The reason we went to Scotland is that western Europe is almost a post-Christian culture. Statistics show that less than 10% of the population attends church. Indeed, it is not going to far to say that there is almost a neo-pagan attitude towards religion.
Twenty-six of us went, split almost evenly between adults and high-school kids. We flew through Manchester, thankfully avoiding the labor strikes that plagued Heathrow.
We stayed in Motherwell, Scotland, city of some 320,000 that is itself in a post-industrial state (ok, I promise to stop using "post-" this and that). Great Britain became a great power partially because of its steel mills and ship building. Perhaps the last stand of the old industrial economy was in the 19890s when Margaret Thatcher went toe-to-toe with labor leader Andrew Scargill over the issue of closing unprofitable coal mills. Scargill's defeat signaled the last hurrah of the old-time economy. Today much of the UK's economy is based on high-tech enterprises, but the transition has not been so easy for many people.
I bring all this up not to provide an excuse, or even a reason, for the people there to have turned away from Christianity. It was simply to set the stage for the rest of the post.
Our destination in Motherwell was a small church called Calvary Christian Fellowship Motherwell.
We stayed at the church, sort of "camping out" on the floor, the people there having provided air mattresses for us. They also fed us well, the ladies of the church were quite dedicated in cooking us large dinners.
Here's a photo of Calvary Christian Fellowship Church
You'll also notice that the date on the picture is off by a year. oops.
On to the purpose of our trip. We performed two main functions while we were there: One, we taught a "Vacation Bible School" for elementary-school age kids, second, we engaged in what can be called "street evangelism".
Here we are at a local outdoor shopping center. As people came out of the stores we gave them flyers to the Vacation Bible School that we would be teaching and a concert that would be held at the church later that week. If they looked receptive, we engaged them in a discussion about Jesus.
Religion in Scotland
My purpose here is not to provide a complete history and analysis of the situation in Scotland. But anyone who has paid attention knows that as a whole we in the states are more religious than the people of western Europe. It's pretty well known, for example, that one reason that European elites look down on President Bush is that he is open about his faith.
If Wikopedia is to be believed, about 65% of the population claims church membership. The website Scottish Christian says that 11% of Scots attend church regularly, which is actually higher than the English, which come in at 7%.
The trend is consistent throughout western Europe, according to this story in USA Today, which quotes statistics provided by the World Christian Database, says that church attendance is less than 10% in France, The Netherlands, and Sweden.
By contrast, about 40% of Americans go to Church or Synagogue regularly, and well over 90% profess some belief in God.
The worst part is that the trend is strongly downhill in western Europe. While the US seems to be in another of our periodic religions "awakenings", fewer and fewer people are going to church in western Europe, this from another table in the USA Today article cited above.
Richard Miniter lives in Brussels and is a correspondent for The London Sunday Times. He said, "When, as an American in Europe, you tell Europeans that you go to church on Sunday, they look at you like a museum piece—something strange."
I was immediately struck by how hard the people on the street looked in Motherwell. I would was a "what you lookin' at" attitude. I did not feel unsafe, it wast a general stare-straight-ahead-don't-you-bother-me thing. Not a friendly bunch.
One was also struck by the number of pubs in the area. While it is indeed a British thing to 'pop out for a quick pint' we were informed that the drinking in this area was more on the frankly American style of getting soused than the more reserved two-pints-and-go-home attitude that I encountered in Ireland when I visted that Island in the '90s.
The church building itself was kept secure with everything from bars on the windows, to doors that were always kept locked, to a gate and fence with sharpened tops surrounding much of the property. They had had problems with people trying to break in, and even a few late-night episodes of drunks pounding on the door(for whatever reason drunks do what they do).
Vacation Bible School
Think of VBS as kind of a five-day extended "Sunday school" and you'l get the picture. The whole thing was based on an "African Safari" theme, a sort of package you order from some company, which came complete with all the paraphahalia that you'd expect; posters, pictures, balloons for the walls, a few fake palm trees, and various activity books. The kids spent 3-4 hours with us each afternoon.
Calvary Motherwell holds these Vacation Bible Schools all summer long, with various American churches coming to help teach them. As luck would have it were were last, and our week was just before school starts again in Scotland. Attendance was less than earlier in the summer, as our 17 students were fewer than our 26 'teachers'. But no matter.
My job in the whole affair (other than helping as needed) was to take part in a little skit or play that we did. Every day we did one or two acts for the kids. The play was about forgiveness and I got to play the bad guy who eventually comes 'round in the end. It was more fun than I thought it would be. The set for the play was an African safari. Here we are
The VBS was two hours per day, so even with prep time we had lots of time left over.
One evening we all went to a spot near the local supermarket, took a few guitars (we were blessed with some very talented folks), sang Christian songs, and handed out flyers and literature. We spoke to whomever seemed interested in talking about Jesus.
On a few days we went around neighborhoods and handed out flyers advertising a concert that the church was holding. An American band from a California church performed at Calvary Motherwell the last Thursday that we were there.
One of the most interesting places we went was Edinburgh Castle. I'm a huge history buff and found it fascinating.
After the castle we took a walk through the wild side. It was the week of the Fringe Festival, "fringe" being just about what you think it means: whackos galore, dressed up in all sorts of costumes. Here's a bit of the tamer stuff
They took up maybe two blocks, and were made up of maybe four groups: One handing out playbills for their theater productions. From what I saw most of these plays were leftie affairs, "pushing the boundaries of taste" and all that. Second was some street theater. I didn't get close enough to hear any of it and just as well. Third was one group of certified American moombats, ranting against the war; "Bush only got 51% of the vote and that's not a mandate!" yeah ok. Last was just assorted weirdos running around in various costumes, some somewhat normal, some fairly vulgar.
So what did we do? With those handing out playbills we traded them for Christian tracts. I'm sure no one was converted but if nothing else it was amusing to see the look on their faces.
I took lots of photos. If I hadn't been with my group I'd have engaged the American moonbats in discussion. No point in arguing; I'd have tried to find out what groups they were affiliated with and all that.
After that we went to a nearby park and ate lunch. After that we broke out the guitar and sang a few songs. Anyone in a nearby group who made eye contat with us got a friendly visit. And the visits did turn out to be quite friendly; they asked the hard questions and we gave straight answers. Again, people don't convert on the spot, but you can plant seeds. Whether or when the seed grows is not up to us.
I don't do well in personal evangelism, so I let others in our group take the lead in the discussions. As much as I like to talk and argue politics and history, I find talking about faith very difficult. So it was a learning experience and fortunately I was with some very insprirational people.
I don't have any kids of my own, and the neices and nephews are still in elementary school, so I don't get a lot of interaction with high school aged kids. Before this trip, I've been on three mission trips, all with another church, and in each of them we had about a 50-50 split between adults and high school kids.
The short version is that these trips absolutely renew my faith in young people, at least in the ones who are involved in churches. Our country is in good hands if they are the ones who take the reigns when we pass on.
Certainly the kids on this trip exceeded all expectations. They are much more willing to share their faith with total strangers, whereas I was often unsure and hesitant. They did a fantastic job with the Vacation Bible School. When you get disillusioned by stories of this or that in the press, my advice is to visit the youth groups at your local church.
I have been fortunate in my life to have had the opportunity to visit many places and to go on may trips. I've been to six countries in Europe, and across the U.S. from Washington DC to Los Angeles. I've traveled with friends, parents, and church groups.
Let's face it, traveling is a pain, especially overseas trips where flying east always causes me to loose a night's sleep (I can never sleep on a plane). And I am the worst; for some reason I never pack or gather things to bring until the last minute, then I spend the last two days running around frantically. When I leave the house I am plagued with the feeling that I forgot to bring something, or left some appliance on in the house. It's only when I'm actually on the plane (or far along on the road) to where it subsides.
But what is life if not without memories? My philosphy is to seize the moment when it comes, because most opportunities do not come twice.
With maybe one exception, these mission trips raise my spirits and renew my faith in God and in other people. There is no destination, only the journey.
August 2, 2005
Off to Scotland!
I am off to Scotland on a 10 day mission trip, so wish me well and make a note to come back in about two weeks!
Twenty-six of us from Cornerstone Chapel are going, split about evenly between adults and high school kids. We'll be doing a variety of things; helping to teach a bible school for the local kids, engaging in "street evangelism" to try and bring some people to God, and just in general helping out. We've even got a few little skits planned for our street theater. There is a day set aside for sightseeing, so it is not all work and no play.
Of course I'll bring my camera, and if all goes well I'll post some photos when I get back (I promise to take time and learn how to do it).
I've never done anything quite like this, so I'll admit I'm a bit aprehensive. Sure, I've gone on other trips with other churches, but they were mainly work trips, where we rebuilt homes, sort of like what a Habitat for Humanity does. Keep me in your prayers if you don't mind. Of course, I'm sure God is laughing at me; "...do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself!" Matt 6:34