Christians Charged for Knowing Too Much Islamic History

Here we go again. Ben and Sharon Vogelenzang were sharing their faith with one of the guests in the hotel they run, the Bounty House Hotel in Liverpool. The guest was a Muslim woman. Seems they didn’t agree about Jesus or Muhammad. The guest was offended that they insisted Jesus is the Son of God and not a prophet of Islam.

In the course of the conversation, Ben Vogelenzang said that Muhammad was a warload. I teach about Islam for a living – been doing for six years – and I’d have to say that’s a reasonable observation based on the historical facts. It has nothing to do with whether or not he was a prophet. The story of Islam from the time of the Hijra until at least the conquest of Makkah (Mecca) by Muhammad’s army is one of battles fought and tribal groups subdued and the Arabian peninsula Islamified at the point of the sword. It is a legacy that Muhammad bequeathed to his successors as the spent the next 120 years doing the same thing through Northern Africa and the Middle East.

Clearly the Vogelenzangs’ guest was not well versed in Islamic history. Either that or the word “warlord” was not reverential enough for the false Prophet.

It didn’t help that Sharon Vogelenzang said that traditional Muslims dress for women is a form of bondage. This was just too much for their guest. Neither the guest nor the Merseyside Police think Sharon is entitled to express this opinion. It constitutes either harassment, alarm or distress in the wording of the statute. So does Ben’s enlightening the guest regarding her ignorance of history.

The Vogelenzangs were interrogated twice by police before being charged. They have appeared in court and are now awaiting trial.

US Government and Others Trying to Block Access to Books

The US Justice Department is trying to stop Google creating a digital library.  It’s not just the government. Microsoft, Yahoo and Amazon don’t like this either. I just don’t get it.

I mean, I get why the three companies are fighting it. Microsoft and Yahoo don’t like Google having such a large share of the internet marketplace, particularly in terms of searches and results. They want their billions of dollars, too. Amazon is doing e-books and other digital access – in fact, it has had almost a monopoly – and it doesn’t want to see its market share challenged. It seems the only people who want this deal are authors, publishers, the general public, and Google.

Google plans to scan thousands of books that are in the public domain and give everyone free access to them. Microsoft and Yahoo can do the same thing, if they so desire. The books are, after all, in the public domain.

Google has also struck a deal with the Authors Guild to scan millions of out-of-print books that are still under copyright. Authors and publishers will manage their own rights to access and can refuse to allow a book to be used. If they do allow a book to be used, they will receive 67% of revenue generated from it. The revenue they otherwise receive from out-of-print books? $0. £0. 100% of 0.

Every public library will get complete access for free. Every college and university will be able to subscribe to the  same service. Every home user will get free access to 20% of the text of each book, so they can decide whether to buy access to the rest.  These are in-copyright out-of-print books that would otherwise be completely inavailable.

What is Google going to do with the books that are in print? Absolutely nothing. The actual book market as it is today will be untouched. However, millions of books that would otherwise been unavailable will be available again. Not just the odd copy in a used book shop or off the shelves of a distant library.

As the Authors Guild puts it:

Here’s the math: we expect the settlement to make at least 10 million out-of-print books available, which, at an average of 300 pages per book, represents at least 3 billion pages of professionally written, professionally edited text.  20% of that is 600 million pages of text available at every desktop computer in the U.S. as a free preview. (For comparison, Encyclopedia Britannica is about 44,000 pages in print form; Wikipedia’s featured articles total about 5,000 pages. All English Wikipedia articles, including stubs, total perhaps 3 million pages.)

This is the next great step in the information age.

Closing the Gap: Commandment Breakers on the Christian Left

I received my usual email bulletin from a UK based left-leaning Christian think-tank and once again I see that they are concerned with the gap between the rich and the poor, this time as exacerbated by the worldwide recession. Closing the gap is one of the mantras of the Left, whether their economics is cloaked with Christian buzz words and bad theology or not.

Why are we supposed to close this gap? Jesus said, “you have the poor with you always.” The story of the sheep and the goats in Matthew 25 makes it clear that it is imperative for us to care for the poor and it is an indication of our eternal destination. That’s pretty serious business. The Holy Scriptures are replete with the words spoken through the prophets concerning God’s concern about our care of the poor.

However, it does not necessarily follow that the poor are better off by making the rich less well off. This is simply bad economics. It assumes that there is a fixed pie of world-wide wealth and it can only be sliced so many ways. According to this model, if some people get big pieces then other people are forced to have small pieces, even to the point that if some people get huge pieces, then some will be left with none.

It is not surprising that some politicians fall into this fallacy, because they confuse “wealth” with “government budget”. It is true that the government should only have a fixed amount of money to divvy up. After all, they have to get it from those who have created it. This confuses a lot of politicians, too. They have somehow gotten the idea that they are, or should be, or even can be, wealth creators. Once again, this comes from the inability to grasp simple economic concepts, and if you have heard some members of Congress speak to the press or to their colleagues during the legislative process, this incompetence shouldn’t surprise you.

Once we get past the fixed pie false paradigm, the source of wealth gap economics is clear. It is nothing more than the politics of envy. This is the root of Marxist and redistributionist ideology. It is a violation of the Tenth Commandment. The giving to someone else of something belonging to you is called charity. The taking of something belonging to you to give to someone else is called theft. That’s a violation of the Eighth Commandment. Governments that do this turn the less fortunate into receivers of stolen goods.

Now while matters of commandment breaking have no bearing on your average atheist Marxist, they should be relevant to the Christians that have co-opted the socialist ideology and attempted to baptise it. While the Commandments are in the Bible, the idea of making sure everyone has the same wealth, oppotunities, or advantages – closing the gap between rich and poor – is not.

Mythbusting: Who Were the First Congressmen?

Because I was recently reminded of the popular idea amongst those favouring Congressional term limits and the ideal citizen legislator that the original intent was for yeoman farmers to serve a single term and return to his land, I decided to do a little bit of research.

Looking at the members of the House of Representatives in the First Congress (1789-91), I compiled information about how many terms they served, what their occupations were outside of politics, and what political offices they held prior and subsequent to their service in the House. The results were quite surprising.

The House of Representatives of the First Congress of the United States was comprised of 66 members. There were 65 seats, but one member, Theodorick Bland of Virginia, died in office and was replaced by William Giles. In calculating the average number of terms, I have used Giles. The average number of terms served in the House was 2.72.

However, of the 66, only two (George Gale of MD and Giles of VA) held no previous political office, though Gale was a member of his state’s convention to ratify the US Constitution. Of the rest, 48 had previously served in their state’s legislature and 29 had served in the Continental Congress. Only 13 ended their public service with their stint in the House of Representatives and only three of these were single term Congressmen. Seventeen served in the US Senate, including 4 of the 18 who only served one term in the House. Balancing out the 18 single-termers are 18 who served four or more terms.

Twelve held executive branch appointments after leaving Congress, including Thomas Tucker who served as Treasurer of the United States for 27 years,  John Steele, who was Comptroller of the US Treasury and Elias Boudinot who became director of the US Mint.

Others were elected to executive office in their home states, including seven governors and two lieutenant governors. Thirteen served as judges after leaving Congress, six on the supreme courts of their states and four as federal judges.

So how many were farmers? Of the 11 with agricultural interests, eight owned plantations. Only three could be referred to as lesser farmers. Of those three, only one, William Floyd of NY, was just a farmer. George Mathews of GA was also a merchant and Joshua Seney of MD was also a lawyer.

A lawyer? Surely there weren’t lawyers in Congress back in this golden era! Well, only 29 of them in the first House of Representatives. That’s 44% of the membership. Yes, almost half. The next closest occupation represented amongst the Representatives are the thirteen with mercantile interests. Five were clergymen and five were teachers (this includes William Baldwin of GA, who had been both).

There seems to be little evidence from the First Congress that members were expected to be yeoman farmers who spent a few weeks in Washington during a single two-year term and then went back to the land. For the most part they were lawyers and rich merchants who spent a significant part of their lives engaged in the business of government.