Monday, January 31, 2011

Egypt and the Chameleon Muslim Brotherhood

Egypt and the Chameleon Muslim Brotherhood
Posted by The Investigative Project on Terrorism (IPT) Jan 31st 2011 at 4:43 pm

The protests against Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak show little sign of relenting. The dismissal of the previous government, and swearing in of new ministers Monday did little to assuage those demanding Mubarak’s ouster. There are calls for 1 million people to take to the streets of Cairo Tuesday. One report says demonstrators are giving the army until Friday to choose sides between the government and the people before protesters march on the presidential palace.

Meanwhile, former International Atomic Energy Agency chief Mohammed El-Baradei may be making progress in his campaign tobecome the consensus candidate to lead a future Egyptian government. The Muslim Brotherhood has been content to lurk in the background throughout the weeklong uprising against Mubarak’s government.

It has supported the protests and helped organize local vigilante efforts against looting and vandalism. And it has endorsed El-Baradei’s campaign, creating concern over how much power and influence the Brotherhood might enjoy under an emerging Egyptian government.

Divergent views of what that means for the Egyptian people, the United States and its allies have emerged in recent days. Former CIA officer Bruce Riedel, now a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution’s Saban Center, wrote that Brotherhood power might be troublesome but is not a cause for anxiety. Likewise, analyst Peter Bergen told CNN that the Brotherhood “could well play a quite constructive role.”

Both men argue that the Brotherhood is a relatively moderate movement in a sea of Islamic radicalism. The group has renounced violence, both say, and are far from subscribing to the blood-lust ideology driving al-Qaida.

That view glosses over the Brotherhood’s core fundamentalist attitude that could subject women and Egypt’s religious minorities to second-class status, threaten the 30-year peace between Egypt and Israel, and benefit terrorist groups including Hizballah and Hamas, a group created by the Brotherhood to carry out terrorist violence against Israel.

This belief was made clear in August during a sermon by Brotherhood General Guide Mohammed Badie. “The Zionists, the West and the lackey rulers conspired together. If the Muslim Brotherhood had remained in the field, the Zionist Entity would not have stood nor its flag raised,” he said.

Brotherhood power in Egypt “would be calamitous for U.S. security,” counters Council on Foreign Relations President Emeritus Leslie Gelb. “What’s more, their current defenders don’t really argue that point, as much as they seem to dismiss it as not important or something we can live with. The MB supports Hamas and other terrorist groups, makes friendly noises to Iranian dictators and torturers, would be uncertain landlords of the critical Suez Canal, and opposes the Egyptian-Israeli agreement of 1979, widely regarded as the foundation of peace in the Mideast. Above all, the MB would endanger counterterrorism efforts in the region and worldwide. That is a very big deal.”

To the Brotherhood, violence is justifiable when it agrees with the cause. “They cry to us: freedom is not granted from an occupying usurper, not is it implored at negotiations tables,” the group’s leader said in a March sermon. “Throughout history an occupying usurper will only depart through resistance. The people will only obtain their freedom through Jihad. The history of freedom is not written in ink but in blood.”

What has the Brotherhood said about its vision of governance?

In 2007, when it was under the control of more reform-minded leaders, the Brotherhood called for a “Supreme Ulama Council” – a group of religious scholars – which would vet government decisions to ensure they are consistent with Islamic law.

The following year, MB Secretary-General (now its deputy leader) Mahmoud Ezzat gave an interview in which he explained that “in Islam there is no difference between politics and religion … I personally feel astonished when I hear that reform can be achieved without resorting to Islamic principles.”

Women and religious minorities, including Coptic Christians, would be prohibited from holding positions of power. And the group’s opposition to violence has its limits. Israeli intelligence sources say the Brotherhood has been funneling money and facilitating the covert flow weapons to Hamas in Gaza. One of its most influential theologians, Yusuf al-Qaradawi, has repeatedly sanctioned suicide bombings by Palestinians and by Iraqis fighting American soldiers.

He has called the Holocaust a punishment of Jews for their corruption and expressed his dying wish to kill an Israeli and be killed by an infidel in order to achieve martyr status. Qaradawi is no fringe voice within the movement. He has repeatedly been offered the post of Brotherhood spiritual guide.

And his views on suicide bombings were echoed in a July sermon from Badie, the general guide. “Jihad and resisting the occupier are not terrorism,” Badie said, “and martyrdom seeking operations are not suicide.”

Meanwhile, there’s little to indicate that the Brotherhood’s vision is representative of those taking to the streets throughout Egypt.

For regular Egyptians, the spontaneous revolution was remarkable in how fast it spread throughout the country despite the termination of the internet and cell phones. They trained their anger on the reviled President and his henchmen, the internal police who had long been the Mubarak’s shock troops in suppressing free speech and carrying out physical abuse and even torture. As the violence of the weekend wore off, the military was out in force befriending the protesters as well as in trying to tamp down the violence. In contrast to other revolutions, the military in Egypt was not hated or reviled by the people.

Rather it was a respected institution that was not involved in the suppression of rights or in the incarceration of citizens. Observers also say that the Egyptian military also was not widely infiltrated by the Muslim Brotherhood except at lower ranks, the type of lower ranks that permitted Muslim Brotherhood to infiltrate the military in 1981 and assassinate President Anwar Sadat.

It is the Egyptian military that is the real power behind the throne. And if it decides that Mubarak has to go, then Mubarak will be gone.

When the time comes for free elections, the question is going to be raised whether the MB should be allowed to participate.

The Obama Administration seems open to the Brotherhood, inviting its officials to his June 2009 speech in Cairo.

The administration’s emphasis on allowing true democracy to emerge in Egypt, one of the key demands of the protesters, is totally understandable. But one need only look at the unmitigated disaster under the Bush Administration when it pushed the Palestinians to hold free elections in Gaza. Hamas won big and parlayed that into a coup d’état in Gaza where the terrorist group rules today.

It is not in America’s best interests to allow a new Egyptian regime to be controlled, or significantly influenced, by the Muslim Brotherhood. That scenario would destabilize the entire Middle East, possibly creating a domino reaction that would see the government of Jordan and other Muslim allies of the U.S. fall.

Therefore, the United States should encourage the establishment of a stable, civil society in Egypt before any elections. If that is not possible in Egypt, then the United States needs to make it clear that its annual economic and military aid – in excess of $1 billion – will be cut off from any Egyptian government seeking to renounce peace treaties and impose the Brotherhood’s theocratic ambitions on the Egyptian people.

Judge Rules Health Care Law Is Unconstitutional

Judge Rules Health Care Law Is Unconstitutional

Published January 31, 2011 |

A U.S. district judge on Monday threw out the nation's health care law, declaring it unconstitutional because it violates the Commerce Clause and surely reviving a feud among competing philosophies about the role of government.

Judge Roger Vinson, in Pensacola, Fla., ruled that as a result of the unconstitutionality of the "individual mandate" that requires people to buy insurance, the entire law must be declared void.

"I must reluctantly conclude that Congress exceeded the bounds of its authority in passing the act with the individual mandate. That is not to say, of course, that Congress is without power to address the problems and inequities in our health care system. The health care market is more than one-sixth of the national economy, and without doubt Congress has the power to reform and regulate this market. That has not been disputed in this case. The principal dispute
has been about how Congress chose to exercise that power here," Vinson wrote.

"While the individual mandate was clearly 'necessary and essential' to the act as drafted, it is not 'necessary and essential' to health care reform in general," he continued. "Because the individual mandate is unconstitutional and not severable, the entire act must be declared void."

Department of Justice spokeswoman Tracy Schmaler said the department plans to appeal Vinson's ruling to the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals.

“We strongly disagree with the court’s ruling today and continue to believe – as other federal courts have found – that the Affordable Care Act is constitutional," she said. "There is clear and well-established legal precedent that Congress acted within its constitutional authority in passing this law and we are confident that we will ultimately prevail on appeal.

"We are analyzing this opinion to determine what steps, if any -- including seeking a stay -- are necessary while the appeal is pending to continue our progress toward ensuring that Americans do not lose out on the important protections this law provides, that the millions of children and adults who depend on Medicaid programs receive the care the law requires, and that the millions of seniors on Medicare receive the benefits they need," she added.

The case is undoubtedly headed to the Supreme Court. But for now, opponents of President Obama's signature domestic legislation exalted while supporters denounced the decision.

"I applaud the ruling today by Judge Vinson," said Florida Gov. Rick Scott, who, prior to getting elected in November, helped lead the charge against the law. "In making his ruling, the judge has confirmed what many of us knew from the start -- ObamaCare is an unprecedented and unconstitutional infringement on the liberty of the American people. ... Patients should have more control over health care decisions than a federal government that is spending money faster than it can be printed."

"Judge Vinson's decision is radical judicial activism run amok, and it will undoubtedly be reversed on appeal. The decision flies in the face of three other decisions, contradicts decades of legal precedent, and could jeopardize families' health care security," said Ron Pollack, executive director of Families USA. "If this decision were allowed to stand, it would have devastating consequences for America's families."

Vinson's decision, while surprising, was not unforeseen. In October, the judge dismissed four of the six counts in the suit led by then-Florida Attorney General Bill McCollum and joined by 25 other states. But he allowed two counts, including one challenging the law's controversial requirement that Americans buy health insurance, to proceed. Arguments were heard in December.

In his earlier ruling, Vinson said that a government report called the requirement to buy insurance legally unprecedented and worth examining in court.

"The individual mandate applies across the board. People have no choice and there is no way to avoid it. Those who fall under the individual mandate either comply with it, or they are penalized. It is not based on an activity that they make the choice to undertake. Rather, it is based solely on citizenship and on being alive," he wrote.

Nearly two dozen suits have been filed in federal courts, but Monday's ruling is the biggest judicial decision to come down the pike since Congress last March passed the bill aimed at covering 30 million uninsured Americans whether they want insurance or not.

In other cases, a federal district judge in Richmond, Va., ruled the individual mandate is unconstitutional but left standing other parts of the law. In Michigan, the argument concerning the "individual mandate" -- the central tenet that requires Americans to start buying health insurance in 2014 or pay a penalty -- was thrown out by another federal judge.

"That judge, under his mindset, said basically if someone thought that I were overweight, if they rule this way, the federal government would be able to mandate that I go down to the Gold's Gym and fill out an application and contract with Gold's Gym to lose weight and lower my cholesterol," said South Carolina Attorney General Alan Wilson, whose state is among the parties filing the multi-state suit. "That is the kind of logic that we're going to right now where you're actually telling people that they have to engage in an activity and that is simply too broad a policy for the federal government."

Last week, the U.S. House of Representatives passed a repeal of the 10-year, $1 trillion plan that critics say will cost closer to $2.6 trillion. But the repeal bill will likely die in the Senate, meaning Vinson's ruling is the newest grounds on which supporters and opponents proceed.

Defenders of the law say that Americans need to be covered from ruthless insurance companies that either refuse to insure children with illnesses and adults with pre-existing conditions or charge exorbitant amounts for individual coverage. The law aims to provide a federal umbrella under which Americans can purchase and keep insurance regardless of their health, career changes or ability to pay.

But Vinson said that is not the U.S. government's job.

"Regardless of how laudable its attempts may have been to accomplish these goals in passing the act, Congress must operate within the bounds established by the Constitution. Again, this case is not about whether the act is wise or unwise legislation. It is about the constitutional role of the federal government," he wrote.

Supporters of the law also note that Congressional Budget Office figures that show if repealed, government deficits will climb by $230 billion over the next 10 years.

Critics counter with a "junk in, junk out" description of the CBO's estimates, claiming the numbers used to reach the conclusions are bogus and based on best-case scenarios that don't realize additional spending and unlikely savings, particularly as the law, in the first decade, collects taxes for 10 years though it only pays for six years of coverage and relies on money to be collected for a separate health program -- Medicare.

In his State of the Union address, Obama said he was willing to open his mind to changes in the law if they made dollars and sense and didn't prevent patients with pre-existing conditions or other barriers to insurance companies from gaining coverage.

He pointed to the near-universally hated 1099 provision that orders businesses to report to the Internal Revenue Service all purchases exceeding $600 as the first provision to be scrapped.

Obama Chief of Staff Bill Daley repeated the president's position on Sunday, adding that the law was intended to help employers as much as patients.

"The president has said he's open to changes to this. He is not open to re-fighting the entire fight of health care," Daley told CBS' "Face the Nation."

"I absolutely believe, having been in business and hearing from business people, the importance of a need for the reform of health care. It was the business community that was really saying to the politicians, this is costing us too much, it's too much of a wet blanket on the economy," he said.

Sunday, January 30, 2011

ELCA proposes stricter rules for departing churches

According to the Lutheran CORE (Coalition for Renewal), Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA) leaders are proposing new rules that will make it harder for congregations to leave the denomination.

At its Nov. 12-14 meeting, the ELCA Church Council proposed amendments to the denomination’s constitution for consideration at the 2011 Churchwide Assembly.

The changes are proposed as nearly 300 congregations have completed current departure requirements, and another 140 congregations have begun the process. These congregations represent a loss of 200,000 ELCA members, according to the newsletter. As has been the case in the PCUSA, many congregations are departing due to the denomination’s theological drift away from the Bible – including new policies on same-sex marriage, gay ordination and teachings that contradict Scripture.

“How ironic that ELCA leadership is so committed to disregarding the Law of God on sexual ethics but so determined to use the law of humans to coerce congregations to remain in the ELCA,” said the Rev. Mark Chavez, director of Lutheran CORE.

The ELCA’s proposed departure language, according to Lutheran CORE, includes the following:

  • A congregation must hold a 30-day consultation period with its bishop before taking a first vote to leave the ELCA, in addition to the current 90-day consultation after a congregation’s first vote.
  • The synod bishop is given authority to determine how the consultation will be conducted “in consultation with” the congregation’s council.
  • The bishop will be able to appoint “designees” with whom the congregation will be required to consult.
  • The bishop or his/her designee must be granted the opportunity to speak at special congregational meetings regarding ending ELCA affiliation.
  • A congregation will be required to vote by a two-thirds majority to join a new Lutheran church body, or else it will be “conclusively presumed” to have become an independent Lutheran congregation, potentially forfeiting its property.
  • Congregations will be required to meet any financial obligations to the ELCA before leaving.
  • Congregations must wait at least six months before taking another first vote if the original first vote does not achieve the required two-thirds majority.
  • Congregations must wait at least six months and restart the process if their second vote does not achieve the required two-thirds majority.
  • Congregations which fail to follow the specified process must obtain synod council approval in order to leave the ELCA.

The Pragmatic Fantasy

From on Jan 28 , 2011
egypt riots.jpg
Today the Egyptian regime faces its gravest threat since Anwar Sadat's assassination 30 years ago. As protesters take to the street for the third day in a row demanding the overthrow of 82-year old President Hosni Mubarak, it is worth considering the possible alternatives to his regime.

On Thursday afternoon, Egyptian presidential hopeful Mohammed ElBaradei, the former head of the UN's International Atomic Energy Agency returned to Egypt from Vienna to participate in anti-regime demonstrations.

As IAEA head, Elbaradei shielded Iran's nuclear weapons program from the Security Council. He repeatedly ignored evidence indicating that Iran's nuclear program was a military program rather than a civilian energy program. When the evidence became too glaring to ignore, Elbaradei continued to lobby against significant UN Security Council sanctions or other actions against Iran and obscenely equated Israel's purported nuclear program to Iran's.

His actions won him the support of the Iranian regime which he continues to defend. Just last week he dismissed the threat of a nuclear armed Iran telling the Austrian News Agency, "There's a lot of hype in this debate," and asserting that the discredited 2007 US National Intelligence Estimate that claimed Iran abandoned its nuclear weapons program in 2003 remains accurate.

Elbaradei's support for the Iranian ayatollahs is matched by his support for the Muslim Brotherhood. This group, which forms the largest and best organized opposition movement to the Mubarak regime is the progenitor of Hamas and al Qaida. It seeks Egypt's transformation into an Islamic regime that will stand at the forefront of the global jihad. In recent years, the Muslim Brotherhood has been increasingly drawn into the Iranian nexus along with Hamas. Muslim Brotherhood attorneys represented Hizbullah terrorists arrested in Egypt in 2009 for plotting to conduct spectacular attacks aimed at destroying the regime.

Elbaradei has been a strong champion of the Muslim Brotherhood. Just this week he gave an interview to Der Spiegel defending the jihadist movement. As he put it, "We should stop demonizing the Muslim Brotherhood. ...[T]hey have not committed any acts of violence in five decades. They too want change. If we want democracy and freedom, we have to include them instead of marginalizing them."

The Muslim Brotherhood for its part has backed Elbaradei's political aspirations. On Thursday it announced it would demonstrate at ElBaradei's side the next day.

Then there is the Kifaya movement. The group sprang onto the international radar screen in 2004 when it demanded open presidential elections and called on Mubarak not to run for a fifth term. As a group of intellectuals claiming to support liberal, democratic norms, Kifaya has been upheld as a model of what the future of Egypt could look like if liberal forces are given the freedom to lead.

But Kifaya's roots and basic ideology are not liberal. They are anti-Semitic and anti-American. Kifaya was formed as a protest movement against Israel with the start of the Palestinian terror war in 2000. It gained force in March 2003 when it organized massive protests against the US-led invasion of Iraq. In 2006 its campaign to get a million Egyptians to sign a petition demanding the abrogation of Egypt's peace treaty with Israel received international attention.

Many knowledgeable Egypt-watchers argued this week that the protesters have no chance of bringing down the Mubarak regime. Unlike this month's overthrow of Tunisia's despot Zine El Abidine Ben Ali, they say there is little chance that the Egyptian military will abandon Mubarak.

But the same observers are quick to note that whoever Mubarak selects to succeed him will not be the beneficiary of such strong support from Egypt's security state. And as the plight of Egypt's overwhelmingly impoverished citizenry becomes ever more acute, the regime will become increasingly unstable. Indeed, its overthrow is as close to a certainty as you can get in international affairs.

And as we now see, all of its possible secular and Islamist successors either reject outright Egypt's peace treaty with Israel or will owe their political power to the support of those who reject the peace with the Jewish state. So whether the Egyptian regime falls next week or next year or five years from now, the peace treaty is doomed.

SINCE THE start of Israel's peace process with Egypt in 1977, supporters of peace with the Arabs have always fallen into two groups: the idealists and the pragmatists.

Led by Shimon Peres, the idealists have argued that the reason the Arabs refuse to accept Israel is because Israel took "their" land in the 1967 Six Day War. Never mind that the war was a consequence of Arab aggression or that it was simply a continuation of the Arab bid to destroy the Jewish state which officially began with Israel's formal establishment in 1948. As the idealists see things, if Israel just gives up all the land it won in that war, the Arabs will be appeased and accept Israel as a friend and natural member of the Middle East's family of nations.

Peres was so enamored with this view that he authored The New Middle East and promised that once all the land was given away, Israel would join the Arab League.

Given the absurdity of their claims, the idealists were never able to garner mass support for their positions. If it had just been up to them, Israel would never have gotten on the peace train. But lucky for the idealists, they have been able to rely on the unwavering support of the unromantic pragmatists to implement their program.

Unlike the starry-eyed idealists, the so-called pragmatists have no delusions that the Arabs are motivated by anything other than hatred for Israel, or that their hatred is likely to end in the foreseeable future. But still, they argue, Israel needs to surrender.

It is the "Arab Street's" overwhelming animosity towards Israel that causes the pragmatists to argue that Israel's best play is to cut deals with Arab dictators who rule with an iron fist. Since Israel and the Arab despots share a fear of the Arab masses, the pragmatists claim that Israel should give up all the land it took control over as a payoff to the regimes, who in exchange will sign peace treaties with it.

This was the logic that brought Israel to surrender the strategically priceless Sinai Peninsula to Egypt in exchange for the Camp David accord that will not survive Mubarak.

And of course, giving up the Sinai wasn't the only sacrifice Israel made for that nearly defunct document. Israel also gave up its regional monopoly on US military platforms. Israel agreed that in exchange for signing the deal, the US would begin providing massive military aid to Egypt. Indeed, it agreed to link US aid to Israel with US aid to Egypt.

Owing to that US aid, the Egyptian military today makes the military Israel barely defeated in 1973 look like a gang of cavemen. Egypt has nearly 300 F-16s. Its main battle tank is the M1A1 which it produces in Egypt. Its navy is largest in the region. Its army is twice the size of the IDF. Its air defense force constitutes a massive threat to the IAF. And of course, the ballistic missiles and chemical weapons it has purchased from the likes of North Korea and China give it a significant stand-off mass destruction capability.

Despite its strength, due to the depth of popular Arab hatred of Israel and Jews, the Egyptian regime was weakened by its peace treaty. Partially in a bid to placate its opponents and partially in a bid to check Israeli power, Egypt has been the undisputed leader of the political war against Israel raging at international arenas throughout the world. So too, Mubarak has permitted and even encouraged massive anti-Semitism throughout Egyptian society.

With this balance sheet at the end of the "era of peace," between Israel and Egypt, it is far from clear that Israel was right to sign the deal in the first place. In light of the relative longevity of the regime it probably made sense to have made some deal with Egypt. But it is clear that the price Israel paid was outrageously inflated and unwise.

IN CONTRAST to the Egyptian regime, as the popular outcry following Al Jazeera's publication of the Palestinian negotiations documents this week shows, the Fatah-run Palestinian Authority is as weak as can be. Yitzhak Rabin, the godfather of the pragmatist camp famously argued that Yassir Arafat and Fatah would handle the Israel-hating Palestinian Street, "without the Supreme Court and B'Tselem."

That is, he argued that it made sense to surrender massive amounts of strategically critical land to a terrorist organization because Arafat and his associates would repress their people with an iron fist, unfettered by the rule of law and Palestinian human rights organizations.

And yet, the fact of the matter is that Arafat commanded the terror war against Israel that began in 2000 and transformed Palestinian society into a jihadist society that popularly elected Hamas to lead it.

The leaked Palestinian documents don't tell us much we didn't already know about the nature of negotiations between Israel and Fatah. The Palestinians demanded that the baseline of talks assume that all the disputed territories actually belong to them. And for no particular reason, Tzipi Livni and Ehud Olmert agreed to these historically unjustified terms of reference.

While this was well known, in publishing the documents, Al Jazeera has still made two important contributions to the public debate. First, the PA's panicked reaction to the documents exposes the ridiculousness of the notion that the likes of Mahmoud Abbas, Saeb Erekat and Salam Fayyad are viable partners for peace.

Not only do they lack the power to maintain a peace deal with Israel. They lack to power to sign a peace deal with Israel. All they can do is talk - far away from the cameras - about hypothetical, marginal concessions in a peace that will never, ever be achieved. The notion that Israel should pay any price for a deal with these nobodies is completely ridiculous.

The Al Jazeera papers also expose Livni's foolishness. Just as she failed to recognize the inherent weakness of the Lebanese state when she championed UN Security Council Resolution 1701 which called for the Hizbullah-dominated Lebanese army to deploy to the border with Israel at the end of the 2006 war, so Livni failed to understand the significance of the inherent weakness of Fatah as she negotiated away Gush Etzion and Har Homa.

And she didn't need Al Jazeera's campaign against the PA to understand that she was speaking to people who represent no one. That basic fact was already proven with Hamas's victory in the 2006 elections.

THE TRUTHS exposed by the convulsive events of the past month make it abundantly clear that Israel lives in a horrible neighborhood. It is a neighborhood where popular democracy means war against Israel.

In this neck of the woods, it is not pragmatic to surrender. It is crazy.

Originally published in The Jerusalem Post.

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Rev. Gregory P. Seltz named new Speaker of The Lutheran Hour

Reverand Greg Seltz Named the New Speaker of 'The Lutheran Hour'

By: Dennis and Kathi Brown Posted at: 01/22/2011 12:56 PM at

St. Louis, MO, Jan. 21, 2011 - Lutheran Hour Ministries (LHM) is pleased to announce that the Rev. Gregory P. Seltz of Orange, California, has accepted the position of Speaker of The Lutheran Hour® radio program. Seltz succeeds to the microphone following the Rev. Dr. Ken Klaus, who retired from full-time duties at the end of the 2010 calendar year after serving in the Speakership since 2002. Seltz will officially begin his ministry with LHM on a part-time basis February 1 and will become full time on or before June 1.

"We are pleased that the Lord has led us to Rev. Seltz with his diverse ministry experience as the next person to carry on our rich history of proclaiming the Gospel," says Lutheran Hour Ministries Executive Director Bruce Wurdeman. "While we will soon have a new Speaker behind the microphone, our focus for the program will remain the same: reaching the lost with the message of hope found in Christ."

"I'm honored to now be included in the long line of Speakers whose goal was to faithfully bring Christ to the nations and the nations to the church," says Seltz. "I'm also very excited about the new opportunities for presenting that same Good News to our increasingly multi-cultural and diverse world."

Seltz is currently the Director of the Cross-Cultural Ministry Center as well as professor of Theology at Concordia University in Irvine, California. He came to Concordia in 2000 to oversee the master's program in Theology and Culture. His present work trains students to launch ministries in a variety of cultural settings, including Vietnamese, Korean, Spanish, Indonesian, Indian, and African-American to name just a few.

Prior to his work at Concordia, Seltz was the Executive Director of Life's Journey Ministries, an urban, not-for-profit evangelism ministry in Manhattan, New York. He was also the founding pastor of Church For All Nations (LCMS) in Manhattan, the first new Lutheran mission start in New York City in more than 40 years, started a mission church in Dallas, served as pastor of a large congregation in Tampa, and started grade schools and pre-schools in a variety of cultural settings. He has led several seminars on urban ministry, entrepreneurial leadership development, team ministry within the city, and evangelism. Seltz has served on the steering committee of the National Urban Evangelism Institute for the LCMS, the Advisory Board for North American Missions—LCMS, and the board of the Center for U.S. Missions.

Klaus will continue to serve Lutheran Hour Ministries as Speaker Emeritus. His projects in this role will include writing and editing LHM's daily devotions, writing and recording a sermon a month for The Lutheran Hour, producing Bible studies for LHM's Men's NetWork, and much more. "Pastor Klaus has been and continues to be a blessing to our ministry," says Wurdeman. "We are pleased it is the Lord's will to allow us to continue using his talents beyond his official retirement date."

Lutheran Hour Ministries is a Christian outreach ministry supporting churches worldwide in its mission of Bringing Christ to the Nations—and the Nations to the Church. LHM produces Christian radio and TV programming for broadcast, as well as Internet and print communications, dramas, music, and outreach materials, to reach the unchurched in more than 30 countries. LHM's flagship program, The Lutheran Hour, is the world's longest-running Christian outreach radio program. It airs weekly on more than 1,350 stations. For more information about Lutheran Hour Ministries, visit

The Lutheran Hour is heard on Stereo AM 610 KCSR radio at 8:00 every Sunday morning.

The church of the Lutheran Hour in Chadron is Our Saviors Lutheran Church at 702 E. 9th Street, just east of Chadron High School.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011


by Garrison Keillor

I have made fun of Lutherans for years - who wouldn't, if you lived in Minnesota ? But I have also sung with Lutherans, and that is one of the main joys of life, along with hot baths and fresh sweet corn.

We make fun of Lutherans for their blandness, their excessive calm, their fear of giving offense, their lack of speed and also for their secret fondness for macaroni and cheese. But nobody sings like they do.

If you ask an audience in New York City, a relatively Lutheranless place, to sing along on the chorus of 'Michael Row the Boat Ashore', they will look daggers at you as if you had asked them to strip to their underwear. But if you do this among Lutherans they'll smile and row that boat ashore and up on the beach! And down the road!

Lutherans are bred from childhood to sing in four-part harmony. It's a talent that comes from sitting on the lap of someone singing alto or tenor or bass and hearing the harmonic intervals by putting your little head against that person's rib cage. It's natural for Lutherans to sing in harmony. We're too modest to be soloists, too worldly to sing in unison. When you're singing in the key of C and you slide into the A7th and D7th chords, all two hundred of you, it's an emotionally fulfilling moment.

I once sang the bass line of Children of the Heavenly Father in a room with about three thousand Lutherans in it; and when we finished, we all had tears in our eyes, partly from the promise that God will not forsake us, partly from the proximity of all those lovely voices. By our joining in harmony, we somehow promise that we will not forsake each other.

I do believe this: These Lutherans are the sort of people you could call up when you're in deep distress. If you're dying, they'll comfort you. If you're lonely, they'll talk to you. And if you're hungry, they'll give you tuna salad!

The following list was compiled by a 20th century Lutheran who, observing other Lutherans, wrote down exactly what he saw or heard:

1. Lutherans believe in prayer, but would practically die if asked to pray out loud.

2. Lutherans like to sing, except when confronted with a new hymn or a hymn with more than four stanzas.

3. Lutherans believe their pastors will visit them in the hospital, even if they don't notify them that they are there.

4. Lutherans usually follow the official liturgy and will feel it is their way of suffering for their sins.

5. Lutherans believe in miracles and even expect miracles, especially during their stewardship visitation programs or when passing the plate.

6. Lutherans feel that applauding for their children's choirs would make the kids too proud and conceited.

7. Lutherans think that the Bible forbids them from crossing the aisle while passing the peace.

8. Lutherans drink coffee as if it were the Third Sacrament..

9. Some Lutherans still believe that an ELCA bride and an LC-MS groom make for a mixed marriage. (For those of you who are not Lutherans, ELCA is Evangelical Lutheran Church in America and LC-MS is Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod, two different divisions of the same Protestant religion. And when and where I grew up in Minnesota, intermarriage between the two was about as popular as Lutherans and Catholics marrying.)

10. Lutherans feel guilty for not staying to clean up after their own wedding reception in the Fellowship Hall.

11. Lutherans are willing to pay up to one dollar for a meal at church.

12. Lutherans think that Garrison Keillor stories are totally factual.

13. Lutherans still serve Jell-O in the proper liturgical color of the season and think that peas in a tuna noodle casserole add a little too much color.

14. Lutherans believe that it is OK to poke fun at themselves and never take themselves too seriously. And finally, you know you're a Lutheran when:

*It's 100 degrees, with 90% humidity, and you still have coffee after the service;

*You hear something really funny during the sermon and smile as loudly as you can;

*Donuts are a line item in the church budget, just like coffee;

*The communion cabinet is open to all, but the coffee cabinet is locked up tight;

*When you watch a 'Star Wars' movie and they say, 'May the Force be with you', you respond, 'and also with you';

*And, lastly, it takes 15 minutes to say, 'Good-bye'.

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Churchill on Islam

Winston Churchill was arguably the greatest Briton to ever live, and, as his mother was American, we might also consider him a great American. Churchill fought in the Boer War, in India, and in WWI. He is most well known, however, for leading Great Britain through WWII as Prime Minister. In addition to his military and political achievements, he also wrote A History of the English-Speaking Peoples and many other works of unparalleled excellence.

The Britons were well known for ignoring Churchill until they desperately needed him. He often bluntly told people what they did not want to hear. They ignored him until the truth of his assessments were unavoidable.

Today, the dark veil of political correctness has descended over the once-free peoples of Great Britain and the United States. People are afraid to speak the truth due to both social and legal sanctions.

In this times, we must once again call on the bravery, honesty, and integrity of Mr. Churchill. The following passage is quoted from the second volume of the first edition of The River War, published in 1899 by Longmans, Green & Co. of London:

How dreadful are the curses which Mohammedanism lays on its votaries! Besides the fanatical frenzy, which is as dangerous in a man as hydrophobia in a dog, there is this fearful fatalistic apathy. The effects are apparent in many countries. Improvident habits, slovenly systems of agriculture, sluggish methods of commerce, and insecurity of property exist wherever the followers of the Prophet rule or live.

A degraded sensualism deprives this life of its grace and refinement; the next of its dignity and sanctity. The fact that in Mohammedan law every woman must belong to some man as his absolute property, either as a child, a wife, or a concubine, must delay the final extinction of slavery until the faith of Islam has ceased to be a great power among men.

Individual Moslems may show splendid qualities, but the influence of the religion paralyzes the social development of those who follow it.

No stronger retrograde force exists in the world. Far from being moribund, Mohammedanism is a militant and proselytizing faith. It has already spread throughout Central Africa, raising fearless warriors at every step; and were it not that Christianity is sheltered in the strong arms of science, the science against which it had vainly struggled, the civilization of modern Europe might fall, as fell the civilization of ancient Rome.

Can you imagine a British or American politician of this day and age speaking with such honesty and such candor?

Friday, January 14, 2011

The Dave Brubeck Quartet - Take Five (1961)

"Don't talk to the FBI" poster "crossed a line"

CAIR's Honest Ibe Hooper admits "Don't talk to the FBI" poster "crossed a line," but those who noticed that are part of "Islamophobic hate machine"

"Islamophobic Hate Machine." Sounds like the makings of a brightly painted, '60s-era van for a gang of sleuths and a lovable, cowardly (and unclean) dog. And they found a clue that confirmed what they suspected all along: that all criticism of Islamic teachings and groups is automatically branded as "hate" in an attempt to silence the discussion.

Momentarily sidelined by a missing pair of glasses ("Jinkies!"), they cornered the purveyor of this tactic and pulled off the mask: (Gasp!) Old man Hooper! And Ibe would've gotten away with it if it weren't for those meddling kids!

Roll the credits, and stay tuned for Captain Caveman, starring Adam Gadahn. An update on this story. "CAIR Says Poster Warning Against Helping FBI is Misinterpreted," by Todd Starnes for Fox News, January 13:

The Council on American-Islamic Relations said it will remove a poster from the group's website promoting an upcoming conference that encourages people not to talk to the Federal Bureau of Investigation.

The poster, which appeared on the website of CAIR's California chapter, features a sinister-looking FBI agent with the headlines "Build a Wall of Resistance" and "Don't Talk to the FBI." The poster was designed in the late 1970s or early 1980s and has been reproduced by various groups and activists since then in response to alleged harassment by the FBI and to protest grand jury subpoenas.

"I think it's subject to misinterpretation," spokesman Ibrahim Hooper told Fox News Radio when speaking about the poster. "We decided out of extreme caution to take it down."

The poster was promoting a conference called "FBI Raids and Grand Jury Subpoenas: Know Your Rights and Defend Our Communities." The keynote speaker is Hatem Abudayyeh, identified by CAIR as an activist and Palestinian community leader whose home was allegedly raided by federal agents in September.

The conference is scheduled for Feb. 9 at the East Side Cultural Center in Oakland.
Hooper conceded the poster "crosses the line," but refused to renounce the artwork and blamed critics for fomenting what he called a manufactured controversy.

"The entire American-Muslim community is under the microscope right now with a cottage industry of Muslim bashers," he said. "We're used to this kind of attack by the Islamophobic hate machine and in this case there is some justification in terms of the possibility of misinterpretation of this poster."

Hooper said CAIR is just one of many co-sponsors of the event and he had no idea who was responsible for the artwork. Hooper said he was unable to provide a list of the other co-sponsors.

An FBI spokesperson told Fox News Radio they were aware of the poster but would not comment.

However, former FBI assistant director Bill Gavin told Fox News Radio the poster is sending the wrong message to the Muslim community.

"It sends out a real negative attitude to the Islamic community of what the FBI is really all about," Gavin said. "This is just a propaganda tool to try and thwart an active investigation into criminal acts by a would-be terrorist group."

"Why wouldn't you talk to the FBI," Gavin wondered. "If, in fact, there is something being done to destroy the image of Islam in the United States, then it should be stopped. We should put a positive face on Islam -- not Islamic extremists."...

Who's "we?" In which bizarre parallel universe would that be "our" job? The people responsible for negative perceptions of Islam are the ones committing murder and justifying it with chapter and verse.

Elisabeth Sabaditsch-Wolff's Thoughts Before Trial

Excerpt from

(photo ©Snaphanen)

Thoughts Before a Trial
by Elisabeth Sabaditsch-Wolff

With just a few days remaining before the next stage of my trial, I had two interesting encounters with two quite different friends. Both kept me thinking very hard even after we parted ways.

Allison is the mother of twin girls who went to kindergarten with my daughter. Allison and her husband are liberals in the sense of “live and let live”; they have no connection with religion, any religion, and they believe that everyone should have the freedom to believe in whatever he wants, to dress in any way he wants, to eat whatever he wants. We have had many a discussion about what I do and what I believe in, and although we are friends, they have always told me that they think that what I do is wrong in the sense that I am unfairly attacking Muslims.

Allison called me the other night. We talked, and when I told her that I was sad that she and her husband had chosen the United Arab Emirates for their next vacation, she answered that I am a radical. I asked, somewhat surprised, why she thought that.

“Well, I see the hatred in your face when you see a woman in a headscarf on the street.”

“What?” I answered. “How can you tell? Can you read my mind?”

In any case, I do not hate people, but I criticize the ideology that forces women to cover up, that takes away a woman’s right to choose her life and her destiny, an ideology that enslaves women. I inform people about the contents of the Quran and am thus a hate preacher. Or, in other words, by teaching the Quran I am preaching hate. And people listening to me will feel hatred.

“But you also hate the woman, I can see that,” she replied.

I then told her the following: “Allison, once again: how do you know that? Can you read my thoughts? Furthermore, your belief in ‘live and let live’ can only work if everyone adheres to it. But Islam does not call for ‘live and let live’. In any case, you are actually saying what the prosecutor is saying, that this woman hates Muslims, hates Islam, incites other people to hate Muslims by feeling hatred towards Muslims. You should be hoping for a guilty verdict, because you believe you know what I feel.”

She was shocked. Apparently I had nailed her. “No, not at all. I want to you to win, with all my heart. You need to win.”

“But you’re saying something very different, Allison.”

“Well, actually I want you to win for your daughter’s sake.”

Note that she didn’t say: I want you to win because you’re right. Or: You have the right to your opinions, even though I may not agree with them. No, she said: For your daughter’s sake.

“I want you to win because your daughter should not have to deal with a mother who was found guilty in court. She won’t understand it.”

We then decided to change the subject, but afterwards the conversation continued to linger in my mind. What had happened here? Was I wrong? And still, I can only repeat myself for the umpteenth time that I do not hate Muslims (as a matter of fact, I do not hate, period), but liberals do not believe people like me. No matter what I say or do, it seems they are projecting their own bigotries upon me. I am merely holding up a mirror. What they see is not my — non-existent — hatred, but their own.

The next day I met my neighbor and friend Samantha. During our neighborly small talk I told her that I was busy preparing for my case, and this prompted her to say in a near-whisper, “You know, I have been following your case, and though I wasn’t always so sure about what you stood for I can tell you now that I think you’re spot on. I admire you. I do not have the courage to do what you are doing, but you are doing the right thing. I also tell my friends that I think you are right and you need to be supported. They criticized you heavily before, but they are also starting to understand.”

Not only did Samantha’s words move me to tears, but I was amazed at her honesty in admitting that she had actually studied my words and found them to be the truth. And this is what I hope the court will also conclude after careful study of my arguments. One may not agree with my statements, but they are still true. No matter how painful the truth may be, it must remain what it is: the truth.

On Tuesday, January 18 — just four days from now — Elisabeth Sabaditsch-Wolff will go on trial in Vienna for “hate speech”. She has written a brief essay for Gates of Vienna about what she is experiencing now, and what is facing her next week.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Growing Worldwide Persecution of Christians

The Growing Worldwide Persecution of Christians

One of our Slovak readers, who prefers to remain anonymous, sends a translation about recent events in his country’s capital, along with this introductory note:

Last week a rally in support of the persecuted Christians took place in Bratislava. Your readers may be interested in how Slovak politicians react to recent horrible events concerning Christians abroad.

Below is his translation of an article from the respected Slovak newspaper SME:

Palko: Europe Shows Disregard for the Killing of Christians

Bratislava — Europe hesitates with expressions of solidarity, as if the killing of Christians in the world was not worth noticing. Those words were stated today to the News Agency of the Slovak Republic by the chairman of the non parliamentary party Conservative Democrats of Slovakia (CDS) and former interior minister Vladimir Palko, who attended the rally in support of the persecuted Christians in Bratislava. The event had been arranged by Young Conservative Democrats of Slovakia, which is a youth movement of CDS.

“The motive is the increasing persecution, even killing of Christians all over world. Since we announced this event, several dozen Christians have been killed in Nigeria, 21 Christians in Egypt on New Year’s Eve, and many other incidents. It’s becoming increasingly apparent that this problem is acute,” Palko pointed out.

According to him, today’s rally resulted in an appeal addressed to the Slovak President, the Slovak government, and the National Council of the Slovak Republic, urging a push through our foreign policy for the observance of human rights for Christians and freedom of religion worldwide.

Palko is convinced that publicizing the persecutions is the first step for the protection of the persecuted. “We believe that this event will also inspire people in other European countries, and it has already happened. For example, I know that this rally has been an inspiration for the event which will take place on January 18 in Saint Wenceslas Square in Prague, Czech Republic. It’s possible that similar events will be arranged also in other European countries,” he added.

Not only a crowd of a few hundred people that attended the rally taking place near the convent church of the Notre Dame order, but also a member of European parliament Anna Zaborska (Christian-Democratic Party) who came to show her support. “The attacks against Christians intensify, and the reaction of the EU and Slovakia does not seem adequate to me. The reason why I attended this rally is because I intend it as an open declaration of my support,” she stated for The News Agency of the Slovak Republic.

Zaborska is also ready to ask in writing the President of the European Commission José Manuel Barroso and High Representative of the EU for Foreign Affairs Catherine Ashton to name the particular steps the European Commission has taken in order to support of the Christians all over the world. “I have arranged an appointment with our Minister of Foreign Affairs Mikulas Dzurinda (Slovak Democratic and Christian Union), where I plan to discuss the possibility of Slovakia joining the initiative of Poland, France, and Italy, for the EU should be the first community giving asylum to Christians expelled from their homelands,” she added.

Retired Pastors Sue ELCA

Lutheran pastors sue ELCA over annuity cuts
By John Welbes
Updated: 01/11/2011 03:26:26 PM CST

Four retired Lutheran pastors are suing their former employer, the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, alleging that the church guaranteed lifetime annuity payments that it later decided to "drastically reduce."

While the retirees had been planning on a lifetime of steady and growing pension payments, they were told in September 2009, that the guaranteed payments would be cut 9 percent in 2010, with more cuts to come in 2011 and 2012.

And the four pastors are not alone.

Over the last 21 years, more than 10,000 eligible employees elected to take their retirement accumulations in a lifetime annuity or a pension, according to court filings from the ELCA, which has its headquarters in Chicago.

The pastors' lawsuit seeks class-action status and hopes to win back full payments for all retirees affected by the cut in annuity payments. The suit was filed in Minnesota state court last month and moved to federal court recently.

The ELCA Board of Pensions, in a message to the Pioneer Press, said that the cuts are the result "of the historic and virtually unprecedented downturn in the investment markets in late 2008 and 2009."

The board's three-year plan of "corrective actions" seeks to protect the long-term viability of the fund, and the message noted that "currently, we are on track to return the fund to a fully funded status, due primarily to improved investment market performance" and actions taken by the board.

The reduced  payments for retired employees "have really impacted people," said Vincent Escades, a Minneapolis attorney representing the pastors in their lawsuit. "They didn't live off much to start with in their positions. They lived pretty modest lifestyles."

The plaintiffs in the lawsuit are the Rev. Benjamin A. Johnson, Dr. Ronald A. Lundeen, the Rev. Larry D. Cartford and the Rev. Arthur F. Haimerl.

"It really matters to people who are living on fixed incomes," Escades said.

The lawsuit, filed in December and recently moved to federal court, has the potential to impact a larger number of retirees than another pension-related lawsuit filed against Augsburg Fortress Press and the ELCA last year. Augsburg Fortress Press, based in Minneapolis, is the publishing arm of the ELCA. In the Augsburg Fortress case, about 500 retirees and employees were affected by the pension plan's termination.

Employees and retirees who participated in Augsburg Fortress' pension plan were told a year ago that the plan would be terminated. Participants were given a lump sum payment instead that represented a portion of the money they would have received. In that case as well, Augsburg Fortress pointed to investments that lost value in 2008 and 2009.

John Welbes can be reached at 651-228-2175.

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Wang Lutheran disaffiliates from ELCA

By John G. White, Editor Clara City Herald
Advocate Tribune
Posted Jan 06, 2011 @ 08:37 AM
Maynard, Minn.

Wang Lutheran Church remains precisely where its Norwegian founders meant it to be, understated but prairie staunch.

Those Norwegian Lutherans had moved their flock a few miles north of their original church to form a congregation due to a split in philosophy.

“It might have been predestination, or perhaps slavery,” said Robert Lerohl, Wang executive board president. Last summer, as the Wang congregation prepared for its 125th anniversary celebration, Lerohl called that split back in 1885 as “theological warfare,” before adding, “those things are still happening today.”

In fact, this was a “case in point” for the current church, which had been sharing a minister, now The Rev. Brad Larson, with Maynard Lutheran Church. “This has been going on for a couple of years now,” Lerohl added, “but we put it all on hold until after the celebration.”

Several weeks ago a vote was held by the Wang congregation, with 76 percent of its membership voting to disaffiliate with the ELCA. When a second vote was held it passed by 90 percent, along with the agreement to affiliate with another Lutheran group which is yet to be determined.

While this means that a partnership between Wang and Maynard Lutheran will cease to exist, Pastor Larson has agreed and has permission to continue to serve both congregations until Wang finds a different partnership and minister.

“Quite simply,” said Lerohl, “we’re a small church. We can’t afford to hire a minister on our own. Right now we haven’t decided which way we’ll turn, nor with which Lutheran group we’ll join.”

Lerohl added that overall the membership has stayed intact. “I know we’ve lost two of our longstanding family members, which is too bad. So far we’ve withstood a split of our congregation like the old Vestre Sogn.”

That split in the 1800s led to the formation of two separate churches — Hawk Creek Lutheran to the south, and Wang to the north.

One of those families has moved their church membership from Wang to a church in Clara City, and noted it was difficult since he grew up in Wang and was a member there his entire life.

Another member, Janice Holien, said, “Our wish is for people to accurately understand why the decision was made, and not rely on innuendos and assumptions. We are simply trying to maintain our traditions, not lose them. We want people to understand that it is not just a clergy issue. There are greater issues of concern.”
Lerohl said outsiders assume this was based on a “homosexual issue, but it’s much broader than that. It’s not a single issue. People need to realize that.”

A statement released by the church membership read in part:
“There were numerous issues considered during the discussion process. The ELCA social statements, and there are a number of them, were just one part considered in making the decision. Wang desires to be a congregation that teaches God’s Word of both Law and Gospel, not focus its message or ministry on a categorization of sins. We believe “all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23).
“The shifts in doctrine and theology to follow the shifts of our culture included in the social and political statements are at odds with traditional theological views and interpretations of scripture. Members desire to be part of an affiliation that allows decisions made on the grassroots level to be valid, to not be forced to support new policies, procedures or social policies through their offerings, and to have the opportunity to partner with other like-minded congregations and pastors. The decisions that resulted in the acceptance of the historic episcopate in order for a pastor to be part of the affiliation has caused division. Our loyalty is to God, not to lay leadership.”

Lerohl further quoted the statement in saying that the members and congregation “did not ask for this controversy, and did not want it. It has caused division in our congregation and we’ve lost a few members — some of our young members have been concerned about how and what their children would be taught, others for their own reasons.”

As of now the goal is to join the Lutheran Congregations in Mission for Christ (LCMC).

Copyright 2011 Granite Falls Advocate Tribune. Some rights reserved

Monday, January 3, 2011

Tyranny by Decree

KNIGHT: Tyranny by decree
Why persuade or vote when you can rule by fiat?

By Robert Knight - The Washington Times

Over the past year, it has become obvious that what leftists cannot win at the ballot box, they will accomplishvia bureaucratic dictate. After the U.S. Senate in 2009 rejected the massive cap-and-tax scheme on carbon credits, the Obama administration rode to the rescue of global-warming fanatics. On Dec. 7, 2009, Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator Lisa P. Jackson issued a ruling that the EPA would begin regulating five "anthropogenic" (man-made) greenhouse gases, including carbon dioxide, the air we exhale. The EPA based its finding on research from the now discredited U.N. Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) and rejected at least 10 petitions for reconsideration.

So the EPA is now preparing to hound power plants and refineries by drafting carbon-emissions limits by July 2011, with a final rule due by May 2012. Never mind the faltering U.S. economy and China's growing economic power. The greenhouse gods must be appeased.

Not to be outdone, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) in December began regulating the Internet. Ignoring a recent court decision and Congress' pointed refusal to grant the FCC this power, the Democrat-dominated body simply voted 3-2 on Dec. 21 (the darkest day of the year) to adopt "net neutrality" rules.

They stopped just short of redefining the Internet as a telecommunication carrier, much like telephone services. But the FCC's move puts the federal government in a position to begin meddling with content, something the left has salivated over ever since President Obama began stacking the FCC staff with veterans of Marxist Robert McChesney's Free Press think tank and the far-left Center for American Progress.

Finally, the dreaded "death panels" are back. Recall that on Christmas Eve 2009, Nevada Democratic Sen. Harry Reid's U.S. Senate rammed through the national health care system takeover. They ignored public opposition and mocked the idea that federal bureaucrats would institute end-of-life counseling. But, in deference to the public's growing alarm, they took out Section 1233.

It was a bait-and-switch. A year later, on Christmas Day 2010, the New York Times broke the story that Donald Berwick, Mr. Obama's unvetted czar who heads the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, issued a rule to pay doctors for end-of-life counseling. That was the essence of Section 1233. The Times acknowledged that the counseling "may include advance directives to forgo aggressive life-sustaining treatment." Exactly.

This is the same New York Times that devoted a lengthy article in 2009 disparaging The Washington Times editorial board, the American Spectator, Sarah Palin and health-policy expert Betsy McCaughey for sounding the alarm on death panels.

This time around, New York Timesreporter Robert Pear, acting like an actual reporter for a reputable news service, related that supporters of the policy fear the public will find out what they've done. Rep. Earl Blumenauer, Oregon Democrat, and Sen. John D. Rockefeller IV, West Virginia Democrat, had urged the adoption of the policy under the Medicare wellness benefit.

As Mr. Pear reports:

"After learning of the administration's decision, Mr. Blumenauer's office celebrated 'a quiet victory,' but urged supporters not to crow about it."

"While we are happy with the result, we won't be shouting it from the rooftops," Mr. Blumenauer's office said in a November e-mail. "We would ask that you not broadcast this accomplishment out to any of your lists, even if they are 'supporters' ... Thus far, it seems that no press or blogs have discovered it, but we will be keeping a close watch and may be calling on you if we need a rapid, targeted response. The longer this goes unnoticed, the better our chances of keeping it."

With such allies, the "most transparent administration in history" is seizing ever more power by bureaucratic fiat and scheming to keep it from the public.

In the American Spectator, Phil Klein reported that the 2,700-page health care bill includes more than 1,000 power-granting references to the Health and Human Services (HHS) secretary. Here's the breakdown: The secretary "shall" (700 references); the secretary "may" (200) and the secretary "determines" (139).

This gives HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius, who issued threatening letters to insurance companies during the health care debate, enormous unilateral power to set policy.

No wonder Mr. Blumenauer's office doesn't want to let the cat out of the bag on the death panels. No wonder the FCC kept the discussion of their Internet takeover behind closed doors. No wonder Mr. Reid and Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi's Congress cheered on the EPA's massive power grab.

The incoming Congress has several ways to deal with these usurpations. They can defund any of the rogue agencies or portions of their budgets that fuel the policies. The 1996 Congressional Review Act also gives Congress the authority to veto bureaucratic rulemaking that exceeds authorized powers.

The new House should propose legislation and hold hearings as soon as possible, before the sticky web of bureaucratic tendrils gets too dense to penetrate. Knowing they're on a shorter leash, bureaucrats at the EPA, HHS and FCC and countless other agencies are busy concocting ever more rules as the new year dawns. Tyranny by decree is so much easier than having to persuade the people.

Robert Knight is senior writer for Coral Ridge Ministries and a senior fellow for the American Civil Rights Union.

(with permission from

Sunday, January 2, 2011

Attacks Continue on Christians in Egypt - Two Views

Pope to hold peace summit with religious heads
Sat Jan 1, 2011 12:39pm GMT by Philip Pullella

VATICAN CITY, Jan 1 (Reuters) - Pope Benedict, worried over increasing inter-religious violence, will host a summit of world religious leaders in Assisi in October to discuss how they can better promote peace, he announced on Saturday.

Benedict told pilgrims and tourists in St Peter's Square the aim of the meeting would be to "solemnly renew the commitment of believers of every religion to live their own religious faith in the service of the cause for peace".

He made the announcement hours after a bomb killed at least 17 people in a church in Egypt in the latest attack on Christians in the Middle East and Africa.

The Assisi meeting will take place on the 25th anniversary of a similar encounter hosted by the late Pope John Paul in 1986 in the birthplace of St Francis.

That meeting was attended by Muslim and Jewish leaders and heads of many other religions, including the Dalai Lama, the spiritual leader of Tibetan Buddhists, and the Archbishop of Canterbury.

John Paul called on all nations and groups in conflict to silence their weapons during the meeting. Most groups adhered.

A main theme of the 1986 summit was the public repudiation of the concept of violence in the name of God.

"Humanity ... cannot be allowed to become accustomed to discrimination, injustices and religious intolerance, which today strike Christians in a particular way," Pope Benedict said in his New Year's Day homily to 10,000 people in St Peter's Basilica on the day the Church marks its World Day of Peace.

"Once again, I make a pressing appeal (to Christians in troubled areas) not to give in to discouragement and resignation," he said.


Hours earlier, in the northern Egyptian city of Alexandria, a bomb at a Coptic Christian church killed at least 17 people and wounded 43 as worshippers gathered to mark the New Year. The Egyptian interior ministry said it may have been the work of a foreign-backed suicide bomber.

The attack in Muslim-majority Egypt was the latest against Christians that has worried Church officials.

On Christmas Day, six people died in attacks on two Christian churches in the northeast of Nigeria, Africa's most populous nation, and six people were injured by a bomb in a Roman Catholic Church on the island of Jolo in the Philippines.

In a message issued last month for the Jan. 1 peace day, the pope said Christians were the most persecuted religious group in the world today and that it was unacceptable that in some places they had to risk their lives to practise their faith.

In November, 52 hostages and police officers were killed when security forces raided a Baghdad church to free more than 100 Iraqi Catholics captured by al Qaeda-linked gunmen.

The Vatican fears that continuing attacks, combined with severe restrictions on Christians in countries such as Saudi Arabia, are fuelling a Christian exodus from the region. (Editing by Janet Lawrence)


Imam of Al-Azhar criticizes Pope's "interference" after Pope asks Egypt's leaders to counter persecution of Christians
(AGI) Cairo - The imam of Al-Azhar condemned the Alexandria attack but criticised the Pope's "interference". At a press conference, Ahmed al Tayeb condemned the New Year's Eve attack that killed 21 people in Alexandria and called for "unity between the cross and the crescent." However he also criticised the appeal by Benedict XVI to Egypt's leaders to counter the persecution of Christians, as an "interference" in internal Egyptian affairs. He explained: "We don't want to comment on the opinion of the Pope in the Vatican, but we have the right to disagree with him."