The Five Flavors of Socialism in Latin America

(via Instapundit)

Here’s a good follow-up to my post below about the Zimbabwe-ization of Venezuela. The Miami Herald’s Carlos Montaner brings us: “Socialism has many faces.”

Excerpt:

They unite in anti-Americanism, in the conviction that individuals must be at the service of the State, not the opposite, in their contempt for the market and in the superstition that the caudillo knows exactly what benefits or hurts all citizens, but they’re very different.

The governments that compose it are Cuba, Venezuela, Bolivia, Ecuador and Nicaragua.

Winter Solstice and the Incarnation–Some Thoughts

lunar_eclipse

I had intended go up on the rooftop and watch the total lunar eclipse the other night. As we were repeatedly reminded running up to the event, this was the first time in more than 400 years that a total lunar eclipse occurred on the winter solstice. I even got the binoculars out.

But alas, the allure of the pillow ultimately trumped the promise of watching a bright white moon gradually turn dark amber. No worries, there will be another conjunction of this type in 2094. I will be only 135 and my bionic eyes will have built in telescopic functionality.

Most people are aware that Jesus almost certainly wasn’t born in December. We celebrate Christmas on the 25th due the medieval Roman Catholic Church’s tendency to co-opt pagan holidays into the religious calendar. This practice certainly made assimilating illiterate populations into catholicism easier. The hoi polloi didn’t put up as much resistance to adopting the new state religion if they weren’t being asked to give up their favorite festivals. They only had to be willing to call them by new names.

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Day of the Saints--Cusco, Peru

This tendency to merely overlay, rather then replace, the local religious culture has been a double-edged sword for Roman Catholicism through the ages.  On one hand, it enabled the religion to spread very rapidly, particularly when sponsored by coercive military or economic power. But because the underlying pagan framework tended to remain intact, real cultural transformation rarely took place.

First in Europe, then in the colonized lands such as Africa and South America, local pagan cultures simply adopted new names and iconography for their local gods.

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Santeria - Catholic Altar

Thus a nation with a poverty-producing pagan religion tends to remain poor, even after wholesale conversion to catholicism. Take Haiti for example. The CIA World Factbook informs us that 80% of population of the former French colony self-identifies as Roman Catholic. It also adds this note: “roughly half of the population practices voodoo.”

After several hundred years of catholic dominance Haiti is culturally (and economically) indistinguishable from Guinea-Bissau–a former French colony in West Africa which consistently ranks as one of the poorest nations on earth.

By the way, did you see the news item this week concerning Haiti? More than 45 people have been lynched or macheted to death in the past couple of months due to fear that the cholera epidemic there was the work of voodoo magic. Last week a superstitious mob destroyed a cholera treatment clinic set up to help treat an outbreak of the disease in one community. (This is occurring in the 21st Century on America’s doorstep.)

All this stands in sharp contrast to the brand of Christian faith I will broadly call Evangelical Pentecostalism. This fairly recent arrival on the world stage is showing remarkable power to transform cultures–and for the better. From Uganda to Guatemala poverty-perpetuating cycles are being broken and living standards are rising as huge swaths of the populace embrace Evangelical Pentecostalism.

Why the difference? Unlike Roman Catholicism, Evangelical Pentecostalism will not/cannot make peace with the pagan underpinnings that perpetuate poverty and ignorance. This brand of faith demands a choice: As Joshua told a wavering people: “But if serving the LORD seems undesirable to you, then choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve, whether the gods your ancestors served beyond the Euphrates, or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land you are living. But as for me and my household, we will serve the LORD.”

But I digress. I was writing about Christmas.

I have no problem with celebrating Christmas in December. It’s as good a time as any to mark one of the three pivotal events in the redemption of the human race. Those events are: 1) The birth of the Redeemer; 2) His death and resurrection, 3) His sending of the Holy Spirit to indwell and empower all willing hearts.

As it happens, these three events were pre-figured by three of the five major festivals in the Jewish calendar. Which brings us back to the question of the time of year of Jesus’ birth. I am fairly confident I know the date of Christ’s birth and if you’ll bear with me, I’ll explain why.

Among the major festivals of the Old Covenant system were:

1. Passover (or the Feast of Unleavened Bread) commemorating the deliverance from Egypt. (March/April)

2. Pentecost (occurring 50 days afters Passover) commemorating the giving of the Law on Sinai.

3. Trumpets & Tabernacles (Rosh Hoshanna + the Feast of Booths) roughly two weeks apart; the former marking the beginning of the new year and the latter commemorating Israel’s wandering years in temporary wilderness dwellings. (Sept./Oct.)

I have heard many Bible teachers suggest that the Jewish Feasts of Trumpets is the only one that remains unfulfilled in the life and word of the Messiah, Jesus Christ. The Passover clearly prefigures the sacrificial death of Christ. It is even more obvious the outpouring of the Holy Spirit on the day of Pentecost represents a fulfillment of that day’s feast. In the original event, God came down temporarily and revealed His law on tablets of stone. In the fulfillment, His Spirit came down to stay and write God’s law upon willing human hearts.

But what of the Feast of Trumpets? Most preachers and teachers assert that this feast awaits fulfillment in the second coming of Christ. I’m not so sure. I think there is strong evidence to suggest Christ’s birth fulfilled this feast.

The fact that Joseph and Mary were forced to wander from their home to Bethlehem is suggestive of the Feast of Tabernacles. Then they could find no permanent dwelling meant for humans in which to lodge–camping in a stable (tabernacle) instead. But wait, there’s more!

The book of Revelation contains a lot of bizarre imagery. But some of the most evocative is found in Chapter 12. It opens with the words, “And a great sign appeared in heaven . . .”

This wording is pointing us to the stars. Please note the word “sign.” Genesis 1:14 describes the stars and heavenly bodies being placed there for “for signs and for seasons and for days and years . . .” This is not astrology. One of the God-ordained roles of astronomical phenomena is to signify major events in God’s unfolding plan of redemption.

Revelation 12 describes: “a woman clothed with the sun, and the moon under her feet, and on her head a crown of twelve stars; and she was with child; and she cried out, being in labor and in pain to give birth.”

This imagery is universally understood to symbolizing the birth of Jesus, with most theologians affirming that the “woman” represents Israel–the “seed carrier” that delivered Messiah into the earth. What many people don’t realize is that Rev. 12 is describing a very real “sign” in the sky.

As any astronomer worth his or her telescope can tell you, the woman with a crown of 12 stars is the constellation Virgo (the Virgin.) Find Virgo on a dark moonless night and you’ll find 12 stars forming a rough circle right above the constellation’s “head.”

Expert sky watchers throughout the millennia have noted that the morning sun tends to rise within different constellations at different times of the year and in different years. For example, this morning the sun rose in the constellation Sagittarius.

Rev. 12 is describing a very specific set of astronomical proximities. They are:

1. “A woman” with a 12-star crown = Virgo

2. “Clothed with the sun” = the rising sun positioned in the middle of Virgo

3. “moon under her feet” = moon positioned beneath Virgo

I have an astronomy software program that depicts the positions of the stars and planets and any time past or future. Using it, I reconstructed the “sign” in the heavens described by Rev. 12. It would have looked like this . . .

tabernacles-3-bc

I had to spin the software program back in time to get this precise arrangement of sun, moon and stars. To be precise, I had to spin it back to September of 3 B.C. To be more specific, the image above reflects the sunrise on the Feast of Trumpets in 3. B.C. (Sept. 21, new moon) as seen from Babylon in modern day Iraq.

Is it possible that this is the sign in the heavens seen by the Magi in the East that signaled to them the King of the Jews had been born?

You will notice that the planet Mercury is positioned right at the stomach of of the virgin woman. In Babylonian mythology, the planet Mercury was associated with Nebu (the son of God.)  To Babylonian eyes, it would appear that the Virgin was pregnant with the son of God. Note that Rev. 12 says the woman was “with child” and “about to give birth.”

Indeed over the following week, Mercury would have dropped lower and lower until it passed below the woman’s legs. She would very much appear to be giving birth to Mercury.

Based upon the evidence above and many of the details of the Christmas story as described in Matthew and Luke, I’m convinced Jesus was born on September 21, 3 B.C. on, and in fulfillment of the Feast of Trumpets. And that the newborn savior of the world resided with his parents in the Bethlehem stable for at least two weeks, in fulfillment of the Feast of Tabernacles.

Forecast: Days Generally Merry with a Chance of Brightness

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Got an urge to bake this evening so I made some cranberry-orange scones from this Ina Garten recipe. (I call her Ina Kleine NachtGarten, but only Mozart aficionados get the joke.) After I applied the orange glaze and broke out the Double Devon cream we bought the other day, Mrs. Blather tried one. Then she had another one. That’s always a good sign. I thought they were quite tasty, if I do say so myself.

Tomorrow Mrs. Blather and I will mark our 23rd wedding anniversary. This will be the first time in 16 years that we haven’t gotten away for an overnight at a hotel or B&B and done a little last-minute Christmas shopping. But we will do a little shopping tomorrow and grab a nice dinner tomorrow night. All of which will be great but woefully inadequate as an expression of my love and profound gratitude for the gift that is my bride.

We have the college girls home for a few weeks and we plan to watch all our favorite movies, cook all our favorite foods, and laugh. We’ll laugh often and dream big.

The Zimbabwe-ization of Venezuela Accelerates

hugo

A liberal fascist dictatorship is rising to our south–one that has growing military relationships with Iran, China and Russia; and connections to drug cartels and terrorist organizations.

Hugo Chavez first stacked the Venezuelan Parliament with cronies and puppets. Today that parliament voted to vest Chavez with broad, near-dictatorial powers. The powers supposedly come with an expiration date, but if you think Chavez is going to be relinquishing those powers at the appointed time, you don’t know tin-horn, Dear Leader, dictators. It’s fun to be the king.

Not so fun for the peasants, though.

Back Into the "TIME" Machine

time-1938

Here’s another fascinating though heartbreaking glimpse at mid-1938 via that issue of TIME magazine I mentioned below. This time it’s an article titled “Wandering Jews.” Here’s an extended excerpt:

One night last week German Austrian storm troopers loaded 51 Jews, including an 82-year-old rabbi, into a Danube river launch, took them downstream to the point where Austria, Czechoslovakia and Hungary meet. There they dumped them on a stone breakwater in the middle of the swollen stream. All night they crouched on cold, slippery stones barely emerging from the water.

Next morning the Jews’ cries and frantic waving of handkerchiefs attracted the attention of Czech villagers. A Czech patrol boat took off the penniless, ill-clad, hungry group.

Czech authorities fed and clothed the 51, kept them sheltered in Bratislava for two days. But the Czechs feared that further charity to Jews would encourage Austrian Nazis to drive Jews in thousands over into Czechoslovakia. Therefore, the Czechs piled the Jews into trucks at night, dumped them over into Hungary.

Hungarian border patrols, after the Czechs hastily drove off, acted on the theory that the only thing to do was to dump the Jews back into Austria, now part of Greater Germany.

At the frontier strapping Greater German Nazis were more than ready to arrest, punish the tragic unfortunates for “illegal entry,” but 15 Jews broke away and made for the Danube. They eluded Nazi and Hungarian pursuers and managed to spend the night shivering on a sandspit. In the morning a French patrol boat took them aboard, compassionately anchored in mid-Danube, awaited orders from new Premier Edouard Daladier.

All this was a single, small, dramatic incident in what is apparently a ruthless Nazi drive to strip as many Austrian Jews as possible of their possessions, then further harass them by “expelling” them to neighboring countries which cannot support penniless refugees, are forced to acts of “expelling” Jews back into Greater Germany.

And Now for Something Completely Horrifying

I came across this on the BoingBoing blog the other day and have been meaning to mention it . . .

A collector/dealer of rare and used science books recently posted on his blog a description of a 1939 science book titled A Preliminary Atlas of Early Human Fetal Activity by one Dr. Davenport Hooker.

book-cover

Behind the book’s drab cover and innocuous title lies a gallery of horrors pictorially chronicling systematic experimentation on live fetuses. As the book’s discoverer describes it in his blog post:

. . . 42 fetuses subjected to experimentation, physiological and morphological, poked with needles to determine how they would respond during the integral period of development of motility (from the 8th to 14th weeks, in regard to reflexes). The fetuses float in front of the camera unencumbered, and then the long and very pointed needle comes into view, finding its target, then a series of stills from the film made to show how the fetus moved in reaction to having been touched or abraised.

The subject fetuses were “derived from either hysterectomy or hysterotomy…undertaken in the interest of the health, sanity or life of the mother.”

You can read the full post for a fuller picture of just how appalling this research really was. But it is consistent with the “Progressive” spirit of the era and of a piece with the work of eugenicist Margaret Sanger. A quick Google search on Dr. Davenport Hooker revealed a short blurb in Time magazine appearing in 1938, the year before the book was published:

At the meeting of the American Philosophical Society in Philadelphia last week (see above), Dr. Hooker announced that the grasping movement originates in the embryo at the age of about eleven weeks. At this age the embryo, whose thumb is not yet in place, flexes its fingers if the palm is stimulated. At twelve weeks it makes “a pretty fair fist.” At 13½ weeks it opens and closes its hand easily. At 15 weeks the thumb comes into play and at 22 weeks the grasp can be described as a real grip.

With admiration in his voice, Dr. Hooker told the spellbound philosophers of a 25-week-old fetus which snatched a glass rod weighing three grams from the scientist’s hand, waved it feebly but triumphantly for an instant before the spark of life went out.

In the 1930s, the American Philosophical Society mentioned in the article was a major center of Progressive thought. To really understand the horror of the Progressive movement in 1920s and ’30s America, you really need to read Jonah Goldberg’s Liberal Fascism. Unfortunately, it’s also the best book to help you understand the current administration.

By the way, In that same May 2, 1938 issue of Time, there’s a subtly sarcastic write up about a German Adolf Hitler throwing himself a 49th birthday party parade:

With Greater Germany shouting “Heil!”, Celebrator Hitler’s followers strove hard to depict as a great soldier the former corporal of Kaiser Wilhelm II’s army. In radio broadcasts throughout Germany, Führer Hitler was being pictured as a military as well as a political genius. It fell to no army officer but to Dr. Otto Dietrich, Reich Press Chief, to reveal that Genius Hitler’s technical knowledge of things military “astonishes even the experts.” So exultant was the Hitler birthday celebration throughout the Reich that Dr. Wilhelm Frick, Minister of the Interior, was moved to summarize: “Adolf Hitler is Germany and Germany is Adolf Hitler.”

Less than a year later Hitler would invade Poland and tear the lid off Pandora’s box.

Monday Morning Mish-Mash of Meandering Musings

My goodness, it’s been a while.

Thanksgiving was nice. For the first time since school started in August, we were “five” again. As soon as the college girls arrived home on Tuesday, we loaded up the Expedition and headed to my mom’s. This was to be her first holiday since Dad went to heaven two months ago and we wanted to make sure her house was filled with laughter and love and the smells of good food.

My brother, who lives in Atlanta, was in town as well–doing a little deer hunting with old school chums. He joined us for the big Thanksgiving meal and together we spent a day going through a couple of Dad’s many storage sheds.

My folks have lived on that property since 1968. And for the past 42 years, their practice was not to get rid of anything. As they accumulated, they simply built another storage shed. J.D. and I began the daunting process of sorting through all this stuff by classifying everything into one of three categories: 1. Keep; 2. Sell; or 3. Toss.

We barely made a dent. But it’s a start. I’m holding out hope that at some point we’ll come across some buried collectible worthy of the Antique Roadshow’s highlight reel, or maybe a mint Honus Wagner baseball card stuck in a book.

So far, it’s mostly broken floor fans and an astonishing variety of weed eaters.

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As I noted on my Twitter feed, I caught a show promo on the A&E network the other night that un-ironically featured the most cliche’ line in all of television show promotion, i.e., “a very special . . .” You know, as in, “Next week on the Hallmark Channel, a very special Little House on the Prairie.”

In this case, the use of the cheesy phrase was jarring because I heard a somber-voiced announcer say, “Next week on A&E, it’s a very special Gene Simmons’ Family Jewels.”

Oh, isn’t that swee … wait … Wha?!

Once I got over the shock of hearing the “a very special” line used in earnest followed by the shock of it being used in connection to a reality show called Gene Simmons’ Family Jewels, I turned my attention back to the promo. As it turns out, the mother of the KISS guy with the freakishly long tongue is a holocaust survivor.

His Hungarian mother and her entire extended family were sent to a Nazi concentration camp when she was a little girl. She and her brother, Simmons uncle, were the only members of the family to survive. The promo shows Simmons visiting the Anne Frank museum and breaking down in tears.

So, I take it all back. It almost certainly will be “a very special Gene Simmons’ Family Jewels.

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How’s the Sarah Palin book doing, you ask? Pretty good, actually.

It’s not setting the world on fire and rocketing up the New York Times non-fiction list . . . yet. But it has sold well enough to remain on the shelves of most booksellers–thanks in large part to the fact that Governor Palin remains consistently in the news, her Alaska show on TLC has launched, and it is becoming increasingly apparent to many that she intends to run for president.

The last I heard, the book was #16 on the Christian Booksellers Association “Non-fiction/Inspirational” bestseller list.

I’m told this forever endows me with the right to say I’m a “best-selling author,” which seems to be a fairly meaningless designation these days. And since Paul Harvey’s America won a “Retailer’s Choice” award earlier this year, I am also now allowed to claim the designation “award-winning writer.”

So here I am, your humble, best-selling, award-winning writer . . . looking for work and bracing the wife and family for the most humble Christmas they’ve ever experienced–and after the last couple of years, that’s saying something.

Speaking of talented failures . . . I came across a fascinating German documentary about Orson Welles’ final years the other night. It’s called One Man Band and it’s a heartbreaking yet often funny look at his struggles to get a project . . . any project . . . finished in the last decade of his life. (If you’re a Welles fan, it’s definitely worth viewing. (86 min., some artsy nudity)

Potemra: "Rumblings of Discontent on Palin"

Over at National Review Online, Mike Potemra posts an interesting analysis of the “Palin for President” electoral dynamics. He opens with this:

“When I see the fervor of Sarah Palin’s fans — and by no means just those who swell the adoring crowds who go to her public appearances — I am convinced that the question is not, “How can she win the GOP nomination?” but “How can she not win it?” When you have anywhere between five and fifteen GOP candidates, all expressing basically the same conservative views, how can anyone other than the only one with the passionate fan base possibly win? And yet: Reading between the lines of what conservative-movement people are saying and writing, there is a great deal of worry about the prospect of a Palin nomination. I would summarize the GOP political writers’ consensus as follows: She must never be criticized, and she must never be nominated.”

In media interviews about our book, The Faith and Values of Sarah Palin, my co-author Stephen Mansfield has repeatedly been asked if he thinks Sarah Palin will run for president. His answer has consistently been some variation on: “She may run in 2012, but I hope she doesn’t. I admire Governor Palin but I would like to see her wait, acquire some additional seasoning in dealing with hostile media, travel the world, meet with world leaders, expanding and deepening her experience in the realm of foreign affairs.”

Such an answer tends to sorely vex the most ardent Palin supporters. Many don’t appear willing to accept that it is possible to be friendly to and in agreement with Sarah Palin and not believe she should run for the presidency in this volatile, dangerous moment in history.

For my part, I have maintained for some time that what Palin is really interested in is a “do over” where being a running mate is concerned. Everything I learned about her in researching our book–her tenacity; her affinity for mastering new challenges; her demonstrated willingness to fail, pick herself up, dust herself off, and try again–all lead me to suspect that she would relish an opportunity to show the world she can perform much better than she did with McCain.

However things play out, it will remain true that the intensity of Palin’s supporters will make rivals think twice about criticizing her, no matter how fraught with peril her candidacy might be for the Republican Party.

[As cross-posted over at the Palin Book Blog]