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Friday, 31 December 2010

Flight 447: The conclusion

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In my post last year regarding the crash of Flight 447, I asked five burning questions. But I only answered four:
I'll answer Question Number Five now, as Question Number Four will take a while.
It's taken a while all right, but I'm now ready to answer Question Four, "Could it have been caused by bad weather?"

I actually brought up the issue in my opening post:
. . . or perhaps had actually flown into the ocean in bad weather.

None of these things happen now.
No, as it appears, this is precisely what did happen--but it shouldn't have. Let me break the incident down into a chain of events, and we can perhaps see why, despite all the advances in technology that the Air France Airbus A330 represented, engineers had not yet succeeded in designing out the Human Factor that inevitably plays a part in every flight incident. Or, to put it another way, they had succeeded a bit too well-and still, yet not enough.

1. The Airbus 330 was designed with a computer-controlled flight system, that will only hand control back to the pilot in case of an extreme emergency. A crucial aspect of this system is that the fuel setting is adjusted directly by the computer, without any input from the hand throttle. This is unlike the cruise control of an automobile or even the computer controls of other aircraft, in which the throttle can be seen or felt to physically move as speed is adjusted.

2. Pilots being trained to fly the Airbus were never trained on the scenario of computer flight control failure due to loss of speed input. In such a case, standard operating procedure would call for controlling air speed by pitch and power alone.

3. In the weeks leading up to June 1, 2009, several incidents were reported of 300-series Airbus aircraft losing speed input due to Pitot Tube blockage. Airbus ordered modifications, and as of June 1, Air France had not yet finished implementing them on its Airbus fleet--particularly not on the plane flown on Flight 447. This was an Equipment Failure waiting to happen.

4. At 5700 miles, the Rio de Janieiro to Paris route was the longest nonstop distance regularly flown by a twin-engine aircraft--and most of it was over the Atlantic. Flight rules prohibiting a plane from flying on its fuel reserves meant that going around the 250-mile wide Intertropical Front that had developed on June 1, 2009 could burn up enough fuel to require the pilot to land and refuel short of his destination--adding time and expense to the trip when he actually had enough fuel on board to make it. Knowing this would put pressure on a pilot to seek a way through, rather than around, the Front. Thus the Economic Factor enters the picture.

5. As Flight 447 approached the Front, a small storm between the plane and the Front could have blocked the pilot's weather radar from picking up the huge storm behind it. Changing the sensitivity setting on the radar could have overcome the problem, but it doesn't appear that this was done. The First Thing had gone wrong, and there was a Human Factor compounding it.

6. As Flight 447 entered the thunderstorm, it encountered turbulence. Standard procedure in such a situation is to cut power to slow the aircraft. At 35,000 feet, the air is so thin that only a slight power reduction is safe. Too much, and the wings will lose lift. Since the computer was flying the plane, the pilot dialed in a lower power setting; the hand throttle remained in its previous position. So far so good, but the Design Factor has now entered the picture, and it will take only a small Human Error to cause further complications. As it turns out, Airbus Pilots will be shown to have been generally inattentive to speed settings during flight incidents involving Pitot Tube failure. The Oversight Factor had just added to the complications, and the Flight Incident hadn't even quite begun.

7. The Air France pilots must have been aware that they were entering a major thunderstorm, but at over 500 miles an hour, they were entering it, controlled by the flight computer, at a rate of a mile every seven seconds. Downdrafts of up to 100 feet per second, coupled with instant icing by supercooled water, meant that at the very instant the Pitot Tubes froze over and loss of airspeed indication shut down the autopilot, the pilots would have had to scramble to gain control the aircraft. Flight 447 was now experiencing a Flight Incident caused by Severe Weather, and the Training Factor had just kicked in. Everything would go downhill from there.

8. The pilots then attempted to control the plane by pitch and power, but apparently forgot that the computer had already slowed the plane. The static tube had probably also frozen over at this point, leaving them with no altitude indicator short of ground-proximity radar. Training deficiencies, Design deficiencies, and inadequate Oversight now combined to take the aircraft into a stall--a maneuver in which a plane can lose half its altitude in just a few seconds. Pilots don't ever get to actually practice stalls on their expensive airplanes, especially not at night with no horizon visible. If the pilot was able to pull out of the stall in time, he apparently over-corrected, pulling the plane up into another stall, but this time too close to the surface to have room to recover. As the plane pulled out of this second stall, it ran out of airspace and hit the surface of the Atlantic. Indeed, Air France Flight 447 flew into the ocean in bad weather.

It all comes down to the human factor. An ex-fighter pilot, used to stick-and-rudder flying at a wide range of speeds and attitudes, probably could have flown the aircraft through the storm and safely out the other side, regardless of equipment failures. But a pair of air transport pilots, used to letting the computer fly the plane from just after takeoff to just before landing, weren't up to the job. When the Pitot Tubes failed, causing the flight control computers to fail, they were the last point of defense for Flight 447's 228 passengers and crew. And when they failed, everybody died.

UPDATE MARCH 11, 2014
I'm getting a lot of hits to this page, presumably from people looking for background information on the fate of Malaysian Airlines Flight  370. This is an even more curious case, as the Boeing 777 appears to have fallen out of a clear blue sky. My taken on the question is that it was blown up; I can't think of any other explanation. Whether it was by a missile, or an on-board explosion, time will tell; the information being released now isn't enough to go on.
There is yet one other possibility, far more chilling: that nothing will be found of Flight 370. It is explored here.
UPDATE JULY 2, 2014
For my post of Flight 370, see here. It was apparently flown into the sea at stall speed, allowing it to sink slowly to the bottom in such a way that the wreckage will not be found for years.

Thursday, 23 December 2010

What about equal rights for CMOC (Christian men on campus)?

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Nearly four years ago, I wrote about the burkini and wondered what could be done to provide equal protection to Muslim men. The takeaway message from the ongoing concern over covering up Muslim women seems to be that there is no need to protect Muslim men from lusting after women--just to protect Muslim women from being lusted after. This, of course, is fully in keeping with Islamic doctrine, which encourages men to beat their unsubmissive wives, and allows them to have as many as they can afford, provided the number never exceeds four at any one time.

So, now the women at George Washington University--Muslim or otherwise--can enjoy one hour a week free from the ogling eyes of men--Muslim or otherwise. But note that no one seems to be concerned about the men--Muslim and otherwise--who have to be exposed to all the barely covered bodies of their female fellow swimmers during coed swim time the rest of the week.

Ironic it is that it was even Muslims who finally raised the issue. It should have been Christians. Feminine modesty is enjoined in their scriptures, which also prohibit looking lustfully at women--modest or otherwise.

OK, CMOC, where are you?

Wednesday, 22 December 2010

A review of "Cache in Chinese Mountain Reveals 20,000 Prehistoric Fossils"

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A giant cache of nearly 20,000 fossil reptiles, shellfish and a host of other prehistoric creatures unearthed from a mountain in China is now revealing how life recovered after the most devastating mass extinction on Earth.
Well, let's begin at the beginning with my objections to this article.
1. "Nearly 20,000" is needless precision. Obviously they didn't count all these fossils yet; this is a wild guess, with an aim toward the outside.
2. I don't like the word 'prehistoric' because there's nothing prehistoric about this cache. I can date it to within a year, by recorded history.
3. Reptiles, shellfish, mollusks, and crustaceans don't belong in the same layer of the geologic column. But no one seems upset to find them all in the same sedimentary deposit. Of course, if they all died in The Flood, no one should be.
4. This cache is revealing that the earth was once covered with a massive flow of water. People who don't see that, could see anything else. But stand by to find out that first impressions didn't turn out to be right after all. They never do, when they were wrong in the first place.
5. Dead bodies don't reveal a blessed thing about how survivors of a catastrophe recovered. That's like visiting a mass grave in Haiti to see how well survivors of the 2010 earthquake recovered.
6. Yep, it was the most devastating mass extinction event on earth all right. Probably the only one, though.

Moving along . . .
This research could help point out which species might be more or less susceptible to extinction nowadays, and how the world might recover from the damage caused by humanity, scientists added.
Yada, yada, yada. Note all the couched language: could, might, might. It's all wild guesses. And humanity isn't going to cause any more global floods--we have that from the Cause of the last one.
Life was nearly completely wiped out approximately 250 million years ago by massive volcanic eruptions and devastating global warming. Only one in 10 species survived this cataclysmic end-Permian event.
Lots to cover from just two sentences. Yeah, life was nearly completely wiped out, all right. Only a single breeding pair survived of most species. But no, no species were wiped out by The Flood; extinction came later, after the earth was repopulated. These numbers are wild guesses.
Much was uncertain regarding the steps life took to piece itself back together after this disaster, or even how long it took. Now the clearest picture yet of this recovery has been discovered by a team of researchers, who excavated away half a mountain in Luoping in southwest China to unearth thousands of marine fossils, the first fully functional ecosystem seen after the end-Permian.
Mm, hmm. We have no idea how it happened, but we sure are convinced that it did. And absolutely every piece of evidence we find only makes us more certain that it happened--but never any clearer on how.
The 50-foot-thick (16 meters) layer of limestone that held these fossils dates back to when south China was a large island just north of the equator with a tropical climate. A smattering of fossil land plants suggest this marine community lived near a conifer forest.
Note that all these fossils are in a single layer of limestone! Fifty feet laid down all at once--try that in your back yard sometime. And you can't tell anything about what grew where when you're looking at a deposit from a worldwide flood! You may as well hypothesize that two bodies next to each other in a Dachau mass grave represent people who grew up in the same neighborhood in Vilnius.
The fossils are exceptionally well-preserved, with more than half of them completely intact, including soft tissues. Apparently they were protected across the ages by mats of microbes that rapidly sealed their bodies off from decay after death.
That has got to be about the most oxymoronic hypothesis I've ever seen. Microbes preserving a dead body from decay??? Try that one out at your local funeral parlour and see how the viewing goes. What preserved them fast was 50 feet of cement precipitating over their fresh carcasses.
"Soft tissues can give us more profound information about larger patterns of evolution and relationships, such as the feathers on dinosaurs," Benton said. "Soft tissues in some of the marine creatures may help us understand diet and locomotion."
Yeah, except that there are no feathers on dinosaurs.
Ninety percent of the fossils are bug-like creatures, such as crustaceans, millipedes and horseshoe crabs. Fish make up 4 percent, including the "living fossil" known as the coelacanth, which is still alive today nearly 250 million years later. Snails, bivalves (creatures including clams and oysters), squid-like belemnoids, nautilus-like ammonoids and other mollusks make up about 2 percent of the fossils.
Typical fossil distribution, but always predominantly marine. Marine life, naturally, would have been buried in Flood deposits of limestone and other precipitous material.
The largest creature the scientists found was a thalattosaur, a marine reptile about 10 feet (3 meters) in length, which would have preyed on the larger fishes there, which reached lengths of about 3 feet (1 m). Other predatory marine reptiles the scientists found include dolphin-bodied ichthyosaurs. "Every time we find a new site like this, we get closer to what life in the past was really like," Benton told LiveScience.
Yeah, but they're still looking in the wrong direction. Mostly what they should be getting closer to is a clearer picture of what death on a certain date in the past was really like.

Friday, 17 December 2010

More thoughts on Asimov and Darkness

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It's almost ironic that in Asimov's Nightfall, madness is the inevitable fate of those who experience Darkness--regardless of their prior conditioning or present belief. When Darkness falls, everyone realises the The Prophecy was right after all: the last sun really will go dark, and the stars really will come out. But even those who expected this to happen are unprepared: the Scientists had no idea of the vastness of their universe, full of many thousands of stars; and the Cultists, still clinging to a false hope in the efficacy of their blind faith, go mad all the same, cursing the Scientists for ruining everything with their blind rationalism. Left unspoken in the short story version is the fate of those in the Hideout who had prepared for Nightfall with hundreds of torches to carry them, sanity intact, through the brief hours of Darkness and into the virtually infinite Light of the next Cycle.

Like so many of Asimov's stories, this one also contains a bit of the autobiographical--but this time, in foresight rather than hindsight. Asimov seems to be predicting, at the tender age of 21, his eventual encounter with the Darkness which, in his blind rationalism, he refuses to admit exists. He realises that Science, like his own rejected Religion of Rabbinic Judaism, can only foresee the End--not forestall it. He envisions himself, at some divinely decreed date, entering Darkness because, either by false belief or a desire for detachment from belief, he has failed to enter the Hideout.

Regardless of what he may have believed about it during his lifetime, Asimov irrevocably entered Darkness on April 6, 1992.

I'm reminded of the words of Philip J. King, in Five Minutes in Hell:
"Help me, Lord!" he begs while looking up and seeing the face of Jesus in the countenance of the Father. "Please don't let me perish! I've done many good works. Oh, give me one more chance! I believe now with all my heart. I was too proud to believe before. Please, Lord, please!"

The sincere outburst from the heartbroken man goes unheeded as the great Judge of heaven and earth solemnly declares, "Whosoever is not found written in the Book of Life shall be cast in to the Lake of Fire. Depart from Me, ye worker of iniquity, into everlasting fire, prepared for the devil and his angels."

The man, now too weak with despair to protest, does not resist as the angels carry him to the base of the throne. How he would like to get just one more glimpse of that beautiful city before his departure, but he is too blinded by his own tears to see it, even if he could.

He is astonished at the great strength of the angels as they cast him outward with terrific speed. Almost instantly everything is black—oppressively black—thick, misty black. There is not the tiniest ray of light—not even a flicker from the great white throne.

Already he must be an immeasurable distance from the throne. He feels himself falling faster and faster. Down, down he falls, away, way down.

"Please help me!" shouts the man into oppressive blackness. "Please, please help me!" Silence follows for what seems like many hours, and the man continues to fall.

Again the man shouts into the darkness. "Is there no one here to hear me? Am I the only one here? Please, will someone stop me from falling?"

The man is instantly startled as the voice of a demon replies, "Welcome to outer darkness, fellow-heir of damnation. Prepare to stay awhile."

Tuesday, 14 December 2010

A short review of 'Nightfall', a short story by Isaac Asimov

Nightfall was Isaac Asimov's first big hit as a science fiction writer, published when he was only 21 and working in his father's candy store. But it was voted the Best Science Fiction Short Story in the twenty-five years after he wrote it.

The plot of Nightfall revolves around an idea first voiced by Emerson:

If the stars should appear one night in a thousand years, how would men believe and adore, and preserve for many generations the remembrance of the city of God!

In Asimov's take on the question, Night falls like clockwork at the end of every 2049-year Cycle, but only the Cultists are able to preserve any remembrance of Nightfall into the next Cycle, and only in The Book of Revelations, described in the Story as fugitive memories of children, combined with the confused, half-incoherent babblings of half-mad morons; the testimony of those least qualified to serve as historians, probably edited and re-edited through the Cycles--a mass of distortion, even if it was based on fact.

But at the end of this last Cycle, the sciences of astronomy, archaeology and psychology have reached such a peak that representatives of these disciplines--fully cognizant of what is about to happen--along with a still-skeptical journalist, are determined to do what they can to preserve civilization through the four-hour Night and into the next Cycle.

But they run into a problem. The Cultists, having shared the Prophecies of the Book of Revelation with the Scientists, are disgruntled by the Scientists' de-mystification of The Book. Latimer accuses Anton, "Your pretended [scientific] explanation backed our beliefs, and at the same time removed all necessity for them. You made of the Darkness and the Stars a natural phenomenon and removed all its real significance. That was blasphemy."

Aton replied, "If so, the fault isn't mine. The facts exist. What can I do but state them?"

"Your 'facts' are a fraud and a delusion."

Aton stamped angrily. "How do you know?"

And the answer came back with the certainty of absolute faith. "I know!"

Asimov got one thing right: the conflict between the Scientists and the Cultists is absolute. Both agree that Night is coming; but whilst the Cultists believe that it is the coming judgment of God upon unbelievers, the Scientists are convinced that it is simply an eclipse which takes place every 2049 years, bringing several hours of darkness to a six-sunned world that, in the cyclic cataclysm that always follows, has again forgotten the previous Night. The Cultists' vague solution is to simply have faith in the Book of Revelations, so as to escape the Madness that always ensues when the Stars Come Out. The Cultists are convinced that anyone who believes what the Scientists are saying is doomed to madness brought on by exposure to Stars. The Scientists are convinced that anyone who believes what the Cultists are saying is doomed to madness brought on by exposure to Darkness (both being equally unknown on Lagash). And of course, this being Asimov's world, the Scientists are right and the Cultists wrong. But both go equally mad when Darkness falls and the Stars come out, because in this world of Asimov's, darkness inevitably brings about madness, with or without stars and regardless of one's beliefs.

The parallels to our world are clear, Asimov being an atheist and a scientist. The forces of Rationalism are on the one side, the forces of Religion on another. Whilst the Scientists can understand and even explain the beliefs of the Cultists, they know better than to share them. The Cultists, on their part, reject all Scientific thought as blasphemy and do all they can to defeat Scientific progress.

Asimov is clearly alluding to the long conflict between Creationists, whom he portrays as the Cultists, and Evolutionists, whom he portrays as the Scientists. But in setting up the conflict, Asimov has it exactly backwards. It is the Evolutionists who cannot understand Creationists, whilst Creationists can fully understand and clearly explain the tenets of Evolutionism. It is Evolutionists who pour their efforts into silencing the Creationists, declaring their beliefs Dangerous and Abusive. And contrary to the state of things on Lagash, it is the Creationists who, starting from a belief in The Book, went on to discover astronomy, archaeology, and psychology--and the Evolutionists who retard progress, lest it violate their sacred beliefs.

What concerns me the most about this state of affairs is that Asimov couldn't see that he had it backwards. No creationists have broken into science labs to destroy the observation equipment, as Latimer did on Lagash. No creationist mobs have marched on an observatory, torches in hand. No creationist has effectively muzzled scientific debate. Yet clearly, Asimov, genius that he was, operated on the assumption that they would if they could, blind to all the evidence that the shoe is in fact on the other foot. And thus it ever is with Rationalists.

As a creationist, I am a mortal enemy to the Truth as Asimov saw it. I must be silenced, lest I blaspheme the Truth. I must be denied a platform, lest I lead my nation into another age of Darkness. I must not be allowed to come to power, or I will do to them as they desire to do to me. And the reason he is clearly wrong and I am clearly right? Well, it's obvious: his scientific explanations have removed all necessity for my beliefs. He made of the Bible and the Creation natural phenomena and removed all their real significance.

And this, despite all evidence to the contrary.

There are more articles on this topic here and here.

Friday, 10 December 2010

Another thing Asimov had wrong--and right.

CounterIn the 3½ years after I first wrote about Isaac Asimov's Nightfall, that post has remained in the top ten, with over 2300 hits--so I am regularly reminded of its popularity. It occurred to me today, in going back over what I had written, that there is another fascinating correlation between Asimov's fiction and the reality of the struggle between atheists and Christians. Note that in Nightfall, the scientists of Lagash and the religionists of Lagash are members of non-intersecting sets. This is how Asimov and his fellow atheists would have it: a classic battle in which all the science is on one side, and all the religion on the other. Among Asimov's blind spots should be pointed out his failure to see that this has never been the case. Even with PhD programs being virtually closed to anyone willing to admit that he believes the biblical account of creation, there are still thousands of practicing scientists who see no conflict between their beliefs and their ability to do real science. In fact, they lay against the atheists the opposite charge: that their unwillingness to believe the Bible's account as true history is an obstacle to scientific progress. So, Asimov was wrong about that.

But notice what he was right about: on Lagash, it was only the religionists who had any record of Lagash's ancient history: the scientists had none. Although their science had advanced to the point that they were able to run the astronomical clock back to a time when none of Lagash's six suns were visible, they had no historical memory amongst themselves that it had actually happened. For this, they had to turn to the records of the religionists, as despised as they were.

When Nightfall became such a popular story that it was made into a movie, that was changed. In the new version, archaeologists stumbled across evidence that showed the scientists they had been wrong all those years in denying the religionist's stories about an ancient darkness--and new studies of planetary motion were forcing the scientists to admit that there must be something to what the religionists were saying after all.

Now, why would Asimov change his story in this way? Was it due to the fact that, in the decades following the publication of Nightfall,  archaeology had vindicated many tenets of Scripture that had been previously scoffed at?

Note: this was actually posted on September 4, 2014. Some glitch in blogger predated it when posted.

Wednesday, 1 December 2010

I am not a hyphenated American

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Since news links rarely last very long, I'm quoting the relevant sections below:'
BERLIN (Reuters Life!) – Percy MacLean can call on 250 years of experience to weigh up how immigrants integrate in Germany. Since his Scottish ancestor arrived in 1753, the family has produced mayors, members of parliament and even a Nazi.
Today, the 63-year-old MacLean, a chief judge in Berlin's administrative court, says Germany risks losing the openness that allowed his family to flourish for generations because of a divisive national debate over the integration of Muslims.
At the age of 16, MacLean's ancestor Archibald left the Hebridean island of Coll for Danzig (now Gdansk in Poland) during the crackdown on Highland clans that followed the failure of Bonnie Prince Charlie's Jacobite Rebellion in 1745-6.
Archibald's grandson Richard later became mayor of the Prussian port of Memel -- now Klaipeda in Lithuania -- and three MacLeans went on to sit in Prussia's state parliament.
The family continued to thrive after Germany united in 1871, all the while maintaining its ties with Scotland. Percy's uncle Curt Hugo MacLean served as a major in the Wehrmacht in World War II, while another, Donald, joined the Nazi party.
"All my forebears went back to Scotland to keep up with things," said MacLean, who first went at 16. "Obviously I don't have citizenship but I'm still very attached to the country."

Mr. MacLean is obviously a Scottish-German. It's rather incredible that his family has kept up their ties to the fatherland for 250 years, without ever diminishing their loyalty to their current homeland. But such is the case with a hyphenated nationality.
I am not a hyphenated American. Every last one of my ancestors, as best as I can trace, originated in northern Europe before their departure for the New World. But I have no ties whatsoever to their countries of origin. I know I have distant cousins in the Old World, and people of my and all preceding generations have in fact kept up with them, even to the point of physically getting together with them in some cases. But I really have no interest in defining myself as a European; I was born an American, and an American I remain--although at the time I married an American I had spent most of my life outside the country of my origin, there was really never any doubt that I would retain my national identity for life. Is it due in part to the fact that I'm from such a variety of European countries that I don't claim any one of them as my ancestral homeland? Or is it just in the nature of an American to identify himself ethnically as part of the American melting pot?

I have a friend who lives in Africa, and has for practically all his life. He's over 50 years old, but has never been counted in an American census, because he's always been in Africa when they were taken. Like him, his wife grew up in Africa. So have their children. But they are not Africans; they're Americans through and through. He keeps up on American football better than I do, and their children are more up on American styles than are mine, who have never left North America. Is it because between them they have grown up in 6 different African countries, but have retained their American identity all along? Is it because they know that as white people, they will never be able to fully identify as Africans? Whatever the case, they are still Americans, however seldom they actually get back to the country of their nationality.

On the other hand, I think of an African I know who could proudly trace back his ancestry to a Black American family that emigrated to Africa not long after the War To Preserve The Union. Like in the case of the MacLeans, his family held tightly to their American identity for generation after generation. He attended college in the US, but, lacking standing to remain in this country, had to return to Africa as an adult. But where is he now? In Northern Europe, married to a white European. Despite his African roots, he was too American in his mind to settle for an African existence. He may remain in Europe; he may return to America. But it's unlikely that he or any of his descendants will ever be able to consider themselves fully African.

One more thing. In Euro-American culture, one's last name is extremely significant. Geraldine Ferraro was never able to become a viable presidential candidate, perhaps in part because she had a different last name than did her husband and their children. Hilary Rodham, on the other hand, helped propel him into office by borrowing her husband's last name, one which she has continued to use ever since. She even ran for President under his surname, and nearly succeeded. One's identity is that tightly bound up in the name passed down through the generations to the legitimate male heir by his father. And thus Mr. MacLean maintains his Scottish identity, when he may have hundreds of third, fourth, and fifth German-surnamed cousins who aren't even aware that one of their many ancestors originated in Scotland.

Tuesday, 30 November 2010

Headcoverings and History: an update

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The Pirates of Penance--or not

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Department of Justice Press Release November 24, 2010
United States Attorney's Office Eastern District of Virginia
Five Somalis Convicted of Piracy Against USS Nicholas
NORFOLK, VA—A federal jury in Norfolk, Va., has convicted five men from Somalia of engaging in piracy and related offenses in their attack on the USS Nicholas, marking what is believed to be the first piracy trial conviction in the United States since 1820.
Neil H. MacBride, U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Virginia; Janice K. Fedarcyk, Assistant Director in Charge of the FBI's New York Field Office; Alex J. Turner, Special Agent in Charge of the FBI's Norfolk Field Office; and Mark Russ, Special Agent in Charge of the Naval Criminal Investigative Service (NCIS) in Norfolk, made the announcement after the verdict was accepted by United States District Judge Mark S. Davis.
"Today marks the first jury conviction of piracy in more than 190 years," said U.S. Attorney MacBride. "These five Somali pirates were convicted of an armed assault on the high seas against what they thought was a merchant vessel, but turned out to be a U.S. Navy frigate engaged in counter-piracy operations off the Horn of Africa. Modern-day pirates not only threaten human lives but also disrupt international commerce by extorting hundreds of millions of dollars in ransom payments. Today's conviction demonstrates that armed attacks on U.S.-flagged vessels are crimes against the international community and that pirates will face severe consequences in U.S. courts."
"Ensuring maritime security on the world's seas continues to be a high priority for NCIS as part of the international law enforcement community," said NCIS Special Agent in Charge Russ. "NCIS is forward deployed with U.S. naval forces and is able to deliver a unique blend of capabilities to help deter and prosecute pirates."
After nine days of trial, the jury convicted the five men—Mohammed Modin Hasan, Gabul Abdullahi Ali, Abdi Wali Dire, Abdi Mohammed Gurewardher, and Abdi Mohammed Umar, all from Somalia—of piracy, attack to plunder a vessel, act of violence against persons on a vessel, assault with a dangerous weapon, assault with a dangerous weapon on federal officers and employees, conspiracy to use firearms during a crime of violence, and multiple firearm counts, including the use of a rocket propelled grenade (RPG). They face a mandatory penalty of life in prison when they are sentenced on March 14, 2011.
The Somalis were indicted on April 21, 2010, and were later charged with additional crimes in a 14-count superseding indictment on July 7, 2010. According to evidence and trial testimony, the five men left Somalia in search of a merchant ship to pirate. They used a larger ship full of supplies, along with two smaller vessels loaded with assault weapons and a rocket propelled grenade (RPG) that served as attack boats. On April 1, 2010, Hasan, Ali, and Dire boarded one of these smaller vessels and set out to pirate what they believed to be a merchant ship, while Gurewardher and Umar remained onboard the large ship to maintain that ship during the attack.
Ali and Dire each carried an assault weapon, and Hasan carried an RPG. They opened fire on a ship, which they later discovered was the USS Nicholas, an Oliver Hazard Perry class frigate homeported in Norfolk, Va.
The piracy conviction and the conviction for the use of a destructive device (an RPG) in relation to a crime of violence both carry a mandatory penalty of life in prison. In addition, they are facing a maximum of 10 years in prison for attack to plunder a vessel; a maximum of 20 years in prison for conspiracy and an act of violence against persons on a vessel; a maximum of 10 years in prison for assault with a dangerous weapon in the special maritime jurisdiction; a maximum of 20 years in prison for assault with a dangerous weapon on federal officers and employees; a maximum of 20 years in prison for conspiracy to use firearms during a crime of violence; a maximum of 10 years in prison for one count of use of a firearm during a crime of violence, a second firearm count carries an additional 25 years—to equal 35 years—in prison.
The investigation was conducted by the FBI and the Naval Criminal Investigative Service. Assistant U.S. Attorneys Joseph DePadilla, John Davis, and Benjamin L. Hatch from the Eastern District of Virginia and Trial Attorney Jerome Teresinski from the Department of Justice's National Security Division prosecuted the case on behalf of the United States.
http://www.usdoj.gov/usao/vae.  http://www.vaed.uscourts.gov  http://pacer.uspci.uscourts.gov.
Here it is the end of November, and my longsufferring readers have gone three weeks without a post from The White Man. I shall try to organise my thoughts to respond to this supposedly historic event.

Notice, as in all cases of violent crime, the battery of charges pressed against the suspects. It is quite ridiculous that in addition to serving life in prison for the act of piracy itself, they will serve an additional (?!) 115 years for 'related charges'. It appears that 'life in prison' is essentially a meaningless sentence.

The money spent to prosecute these men has by now no doubt exceeded several million dollars. Housing them for the duration of their sentence will cost several million more. We taxpayers would have been better off if the naval officers of the USS Nicholas had invited them on board, escorted them to a stateroom, and given them an all expense paid cruise back to America, where they could have been put up in a first-class motel and privately tutored in English 16 hours a day until such time as they could understand it well enough to join the Navy as deck seamen. Eight weeks of Boot Camp would be plenty enough punishment for their crimes, with the understanding that if they washed out they would get a ride back to Somalia in the brig of the next warship headed that way. Should they graduate, they could then earn their keep chipping rust, slapping on paint, and standing watch for the next four years. With the money they would earn, they could pay cash for a house in the Somali section of a US city and settle down to a life of plenty.

Instead, they get to spend the rest of their lives recruiting new terrorists from the vast federal prison system, eating--and probably sleeping--better than they ever did in Somalia. And need I mention that being sent to prison for life will substantially raise their life expectancy?

No, there's nothing to get excited about here--unless you're a lawyer.

Saturday, 6 November 2010

"Allah" is not a Muslim word; Allah is not a Muslim god.

Counter
As is well known, Christian Arabs use the word "Allah," and "Allah" is found throughout the Arab Bible. But the contentious question for at least the past couple of decades has been, Did pre-Islamic Christians use the word "Allah?"

Well, a doctoral thesis recently made available online has finally put to rest the idea that "Allah" is a Muslim idol. The author analysed a medieval Arabic manuscript and was able to prove that it is a copy of a pre-Islamic Classical Arabic Gospel translated from an ancient form of Aramaic. It has proper nouns in forms that became extinct in the Islamic era, even among Christians. It even uses a spelling for 'Jesus' not used since among Christians or Muslims. But--guess what--it uses 'Allah' for God.

Allah is not an idol, any more than God is an idol. 'Allah' and 'God' are just two different ways of translating the word 'Theo' which, in turn, is the Greek word that translates "Elohim." 'Allah' is, in fact, much closer to 'Elohim' than 'God' or even 'Theo' are. Pre-Islamic Arabs were no strangers to the idea of one true God--they were, after all, descended from Abraham, who thought nothing of referring to God as "El Elyon."

Just because you name your teddy bear Theo, doesn't mean that God is a Greek teddy bear. Just because Muslims retained the pre-Islamic Arabic word for deity in their theology and creed, doesn't mean that Allah is a Muslim idol.

But alas--minds, once hardened, cannot be molded, even with the truth.

Wednesday, 3 November 2010

The NIV73, NIV78, NIV84, TNIV01, TNIV05, and NIV10

Counter
Well, the Newer and Improveder New and Improved New International Version is out. This post will be a work in progress, comparing any changes it may have made to those I suggested on this blog. I actually sent some suggestions in as well, but I forget now what they were.

developing . . .

Where my suggestion is in italics, it indicates that it was made somewhat tongue-in-cheek, but nonetheless would have brought the reading more into line with the CBT's expressed philosophy of translation.

#1. Numbers 6:2-3 1984
If a man or woman wants to make a special vow, a vow of separation to the LORD as a Nazirite, 3 he must abstain from wine and other fermented drink and must not drink vinegar made from wine or from other fermented drink.

Changed to:
If a man or woman wants to make a special vow, a vow of dedication to the LORD as a Nazirite, 3 they must abstain from wine and other fermented drink and must not drink vinegar made from wine or other fermented drink.

Suggestion:
‘If a man or woman wants to make a special vow, a vow of dedication to the LORD as a Nazirite, 3 they must abstain from wine and beer and must not drink vinegar made from wine or beer.

#2. Ezekiel 40:5 The conversion factor apparently being used in chapter 42 is 20.4 rather than 21 inches. That cubit just keeps right on growing, but just how long IS it anyway?

"six long cubits"

a.The common cubit was about 1 1/2 feet (about 0.5 meter)[=9 feet or 3 meters]. --ONIV (cubit = 18 or 19.6")

a.That is, about 10 feet or about 3.1 meters; also in verse 12. The long cubit of about 21 inches or about 52 centimeters is the basic unit of measurement of length throughout Ezekiel 40–48. --TNIV (cubit = 20 or 20.3")

a.That is, about 11 feet or about 3.2 meters; also in verse 12. The long cubit of about 21 inches or about 53 centimeters is the basic unit of measurement of length throughout chapters 40–48. --NNIV (cubit = 21 or 22"

Ezekiel 42:2 "a hundred cubits long and fifty cubits wide"
a. The common cubit was about 1 1/2 feet (about 0.5 meter). -ONIV
a. That is, about 170 feet long and 85 feet wide or about 52 meters long and 26 meters wide -TNIV (cubit = 20.4 or 20.47")
a. That is, about 175 feet long and 88 feet wide or about 53 meters -NNIV (cubit = 20.86 or 21")

Ezekiel 42:3 (ONIV as before) "twenty cubits"
b. That is, about 34 feet or about 10.4 meters -TNIV (cubit = 20.4 or 20.47")
b. That is, about 35 feet or about 11 meters -NNIV (cubit = 21 or 21.65")


Jonah 3:5 1984, TNIV
The Ninevites believed God. They declared a fast, and all of them, from the greatest to the least, put on sackcloth.

Changed to:
The Ninevites believed God. A fast was proclaimed, and all of them, from the greatest to the least, put on sackcloth.

I hadn't made a suggestion here, just pointed out the inconsistency in not translating "men of Nineveh" as "people of Nineveh," as the CBT did in Matthew and Luke. But note that the CBT did take notice of one inconsistency, that of blaming all the Ninevites for proclaiming a fast, when apparently it was only the men who did so. They couldn't come out and say that, even yet, so they just deleted the entire subject of 'declared a fast'. How duplicitous.

Matthew 8:28 only change was in the title: Jesus Restores Two Demon-Possessed Men
28 When he arrived at the other side in the region of the Gadarenes,[a] two demon-possessed men coming from the tombs met him. They were so violent that no one could pass that way.
Footnotes:
a.Matthew 8:28 Some manuscripts Gergesenes; other manuscripts Gerasenes

Suggestion:
"two demoniacs"

Matthew 19:29 1973-1978
And everyone who has left houses or brothers or sisters or father or mother or children or fields for my sake will receive a hundred times as much and will inherit eternal life.

1984
And everyone who has left houses or brothers or sisters or father or mother [Some manuscripts mother or wife] or children or fields for my sake will receive a hundred times as much and will inherit eternal life.

2001-2010
And everyone who has left houses or brothers or sisters or father or mother or wife [Some manuscripts do not have or wife] or children or fields for my sake will receive a hundred times as much and will inherit eternal life.

Suggestion:
And everyone who has left houses or brothers or sisters or father or mother or spouse or children or fields for my sake will receive a hundred times as much and will inherit eternal life.

Mark 10:12 unchanged
12 And if she divorces her husband and marries another man, she commits adultery.”

Luke 12:14 unchanged
14 Jesus replied, Man, who appointed me a judge or an arbiter between you?”

Suggestion:
14 Jesus replied, Sheesh!" Who appointed me a judge or an arbiter between you?”

Allegedly, the CBT searched a database of English usage and found 'arbiter' to be on the lips of today's youth. And they remain convinced, by some tortured sociolinguistic reasoning, that the person here addressed was a male--when there is absolutely no hint in the Greek (of the kind they would normally accept) that this was so.

Luke 12:45 1973
But suppose the servant says to himself, ‘My master is taking a long time in coming,’ and he then begins to beat the men and women servants

1978
But suppose the servant says to himself, ‘My master is taking a long time in coming,’ and he then begins to beat the menservants and womanservants

1984
But suppose the servant says to himself, ‘My master is taking a long time in coming,’ and he then begins to beat the menservants and maidservants

2001-2010
But suppose the servant says to himself, ‘My master is taking a long time in coming,’ and he then begins to beat the other servants, both men and women,

Suggestion:
But suppose the overseer says to himself, 'Master is taking a long time to get back,' and begins to beat up the slaves--both men and women--

Wow. The CBT really had a hard time making up their mind on this one. But they're still not there yet; the abusive servant was definitely one in authority over the abused, but there's no indication whatsoever in the Greek that the abusive servant was a male--both of which points they appear to have missed in trying to settle on how to refer to the gender-specified slaves.

Suggestion:
But if that worker begins to say to themself, 'My boss will be late this morning,' and starts throwing their weight around and abusing their underlings
John 6:33 unchanged from TNIV; KJV, NIV had 'he who'
33For the bread of God is the bread that comes down from heaven and gives life to the world.

Acts 1:10-11 unchanged
10 They were looking intently up into the sky as he was going, when suddenly two men dressed in white stood beside them. 11Men of Galilee,” they said, “why do you stand here looking into the sky? This same Jesus, who has been taken from you into heaven, will come back in the same way you have seen him go into heaven.”

Suggestion:
10 They were looking intently up into the sky as he was going, when suddenly two angels dressed in white stood beside them.11Galileans,” they said, “why do you stand here looking into the sky? This same Jesus, who has been taken from you into heaven, will come back in the same way you have seen him go into heaven.”

If 'men' can be translated 'people' or even 'sisters' depending on the supposed context, why not as 'angels' when that is clearly what they were? How unfortunate for gender equality that supernatural beings never manifest as females on the pages of Scripture. And it seems quite reasonable, by CBT standards, to assume that women were also being addressed in v. 11. How could the CBT have missed the chance to do for the 'men' of Galilee what they'd done for the 'men' of Nineveh?

Acts 1:14 unchanged
14 They all joined together constantly in prayer, along with the women and Mary the mother of Jesus, and with his brothers.

Suggestion:
14 They all joined together constantly in prayer, along with the women and Mary the mother of Jesus, and with his brothers and sisters.

 The NIV now has a footnote, which they still haven't gotten around either to applying to this verse, or citing it for the one following:
Acts 1:16 The Greek word for brothers and sisters (adelphoi) refers here to believers, both men and women, as part of God’s family; also in 6:3; 11:29; 12:17; 16:40; 18:18, 27; 21:7, 17; 28:14, 15.


Acts 1:15-16 1984
Peter stood up among the believers[Greek: brothers] (a group numbering about a hundred and twenty) 16 and said, “Brothers,

TNIV
Peter stood up among the believers (a group numbering about a hundred and twenty) 16 and said, “Brothers and sisters,
2010 [d] adds the footnote quoted above


The explicit inclusion of women in the first exercise of church leadership is unchanged.

Acts 1:23 old & new NIV
So they proposed two men: Joseph called Barsabbas (also known as Justus) and Matthias.

TNIV:
So they proposed the names of two men: Joseph called Barsabbas (also known as Justus) and Matthias. 

Here is another place where the KJV did not have men, but the CBT nonetheless kept it when emasculating the 1984 NIV. The TNIV seems to have pulled 'names' out of thin air, and the CBT found it fit to remove; yet men still remains.

Acts 1:24 unchanged
Lord, you know everyone’s heart. Show us which of these two you have chosen . . .

This is one gender-neutral change from the KJV that I have no problem with; men is not present in the Greek.

Acts 4:9 1973-1984
If we are being called to account today for an act of kindness shown to a cripple and are asked how he was healed,

2001-2010
If we are being called to account today for an act of kindness shown to a man who was lame and are being asked how he was healed,

Acts 4:12 1973-1984

for there is no other name under heaven given to men by which we must be saved.

TNIV
for there is no other name given under heaven by which we must be saved.

2010
for there is no other name under heaven given to mankind by which we must be saved.

Thus the fixing of a classic problem passage. But how do we know that this name was not given to men? It was, after all, spoken by a group of men addressing a group of men.

Acts 4:13-17 1984
When they saw the courage of Peter and John and realized that they were unschooled, ordinary men, they were astonished and they took note that these men had been with Jesus. . . “What are we going to do with these men?”. . . we must warn these men to speak no longer to anyone in this name.

2001-2010

When they saw the courage of Peter and John and realized that they were unschooled, ordinary men, they were astonished and they took note that these men had been with Jesus. . . “What are we going to do with these men?”. . . we must warn them to speak no longer to anyone in this name.

What? did Pete and Johnny suddenly cease to be the males of reference?

Suggestion:
When they saw the courage of Peter and John and realized that they were unschooled, ordinary folks, they were astonished and they took note that they had been with Jesus. . . “What are we going to do with these people?”. . . we must warn these people to speak no longer to anyone in this name.

Acts 4:36 (since 1984 the only change was from Son to "son . . .")

Joseph, a Levite from Cyprus, whom the apostles called Barnabas (which means "son of Encouragement"),

Suggestion:

Joseph, a Levite from Cyprus, whom the apostles called Barnabas (which means Advocate),

The Greek idiom was left unchanged, despite its offensive gender specificity--apparently because we know from elsewhere that Barnabas was a man. As we pointed out, the latest revision of Acts 4 is replete with unnecessary male references.


Acts 11:15 unchanged

15 “As I began to speak, the Holy Spirit came on them as he had come on us at the beginning.

The CBT is determined to stand by its claim that it NEVER diminishes the masculinity of God--even when there is no masculinity present in the Greek. Thus having decided to refer to the Holy Spirit as 'he' in 1973, the CBT durst never retreat. The KJV uses 'he' for the Spirit elsewhere--but not here.


Acts 21:4-5 changed to TNIV

Romans 4:1 1973-1984
What then shall we say that Abraham, our forefather, discovered in this matter?
TNIV
What then shall we say that Abraham, the forefather of us Jews, discovered in this matter?
2010
What then shall we say that Abraham, our forefather according to the flesh, discovered in this matter?

Aha, 'flesh', which had been banned from all previous editions of the NIV, is back--even in verses which never had anything to do with the sinful nature. But 'forefather' is still in--allegedly because Abraham is specified, and we all know him to be a male. And "in this matter," which originally replaced "according to the flesh," was apparently left in as a pure oversight.

1 Corinthians 11:28 Changed to TNIV
Suggestion:

One ought to examine himself--and, in so doing, eat of the bread and drink of the cup.


Galatians 4:26 unchanged
But the Jerusalem that is above is free, and she is our mother.

Suggestion:
Galatians 4:26
But the Jerusalem that is above is free, and it is our ancestor.

Hebrews 11:11 Changed to TNIV
Suggestion:

By faith also, Sarah--herself barren--received power to conceive seed, and, beyond the time of age, bore a child--because she considered faithful the one who had promised.
 
11 And by faith even Sarah, who was past childbearing age, was enabled to bear children because she[a] considered him faithful who had made the promise.

Footnotes:
  1. Hebrews 11:11 Or By faith Abraham, even though he was too old to have children—and Sarah herself was not able to conceive—was enabled to become a father because he

Hebrews 11:35 unchanged
35 Women received back their dead, raised to life again.

I guess it was a bit too much to expect to find gender neutrality applied when women, rather than men, were explicit in the original.

Monday, 18 October 2010

Iran War Update

Counter In addition to what was mentioned in the previous post, the following is of relevance in the upcoming combat phase of the Persio-Israeli war:

- Israel continues to train for a long-range helicopter attack from the sea. This battle plan envisions takeoff from a carrier in the Arabian Sea, which will most likely necessitate American cooperation.

- The US is stockpiling bunker-buster bombs at its bomber base in Diego Garcia, a few hours' flight from Iranian shores.

- The Turkey-Iran-Syria-Hezbollah-Hammas alliance is shaping up to come under the cover of growing military superpower Red China, which is rather ironic considering that Turkey is still a member of NATO. Turkey, remember, refused to allow NATO forces passages across its border with Kurdistan for the invasion of Iraq in 2003. Turkey's Anatolian Eagle air war games from Sept. 20 to Oct. 6 included Chinese aircraft taking the usual place of the American planes, which were pulled from the exercise when Turkey refused to allow Israel to participate.

And finally, although mutual combat has yet to occur except by proxy, the shooting war has actually begun:

- A top-secret Iranian military installation was ripped by a series of explosions last Tuesday. Tehran admitted to 18 soldiers killed in these explosions. The Revolutionary Guards Imam Ali mountain base in Lorestan held most of the Shahab-3 medium-range missile launchers pointed at Iraq and Israel--all of which were destroyed in the blasts. Tehran, of course, is calling it an accident. We only point out that for some reason, such 'accidents' are becoming commonplace.

- On October 9, the Baluchi separatist organisation Jundallah claimed responsibility for abducting nuclear welder Amir Hossein Shirani in the city of Isfahan. Until now Jundullah's operations were confined to Iranian Buluchistan. Its move into central Iran is an alarming new development.

Prisoner Exchange in the Offing?

CounterThree men are currently languishing behind bars, despite being no threat whatsoever to the respective countries that imprisoned them. Two of them are Americans being held in Iran. One of them is an Iranian being held in America. As an impartial observer, I suggest to the respective governments that the two countries exchange prisoners.

On the one side are Shane Bauer and Josh Fattal, Americans arrested for approaching the Iranian border with Iraqi Kurdistan back in July 2009. On the other side is Amir Sanjari, arrested one month before that for withholding court-mandated payments from his estranged wife.

After many months of confinement, all three men have seen their prospects improve slightly. Shane and Josh were charged with espionage, and held without bail. Amir was charged with contempt of court, and held in isolation. Amir is now imprisoned in Plainfield, IN. Although he is hundreds of miles from his friends and loved ones, he is allowed visitors, and will be eligible for parole in five years--if he behaves himself. Of course, he won't be able to make any payments to his wife as long as he stays locked up. Shane and Josh have been allowed one visit by their mothers and a few visits with each other.

What's the next step? Well, it's probable that Amir will eventually be repatriated to Iran anyway, where his wife will never be able to garnish his wages. And it's inevitable that Shane and Josh will eventually be released, once their propaganda value has been exhausted. So what I'm suggesting will only speed up the process. This is especially timely for Iran, which is suffering from a lack of nuclear physicists (Amir Sanjari's specialty) since they executed all those suspected of helping Israel infiltrate the Busheir nuclear reactor with the Stuxnet virus. They could really use Amir's services, and should be glad to get rid of the two Americans in exchange. Here's their chance to cash in at the most auspicious time.

UPDATE OCTOBER 2011: Well, all three Americans are "out on bail"--in other words, the Iranian officials were quite willing to take a bribe to release the hikers--there's no expectation that any of them will ever return to stand trial, and the money, I'm sure, has long been spent. Amir Houshang Sanjari, on the other hand, still has a about three and a half years to serve. According to precedent, however, he will be repatriated upon release.

Monday, 11 October 2010

Are Angels always White?

94020 As a White Man, I feel a bit uncomfortable with the idea that I may be a member of some favoured race. I imagine my readers would feel the same. But as I study the topic, it does appear that there is something behind the idea. I shall get to that in a moment, but first let me again dispel the myth that such a thing exists as a White Race.

Whiteness is nothing more than a condition in which an individual lacks the ability to spontaneously produce melanin in sufficient quantities to darken the skin. When the condition is localized, it is considered a disease and referred to as leucoderma or vitiglio. When it is systemic, it is considered a genetic condition. If it's caused by a single defective gene, it's known as albinism. But if it's part and parcel of one's hereditary package, there's really no name for this condition in the English language. African-Americans who suffer from it can, should they chose, "pass as White," as if Whiteness was something one can put on or take off. Whites who suffer from it will turn red in the sun, unless they use liberal amounts of sunscreen. But for some reason, putting on the sunscreen doesn't have any special name for it, such as "passing as coloured"--although this has been successfully done.

So, whiteness is something that can be experienced by any ethnic group. There are light and dark Africans, light and dark Indians, light and dark Asians. There just aren't any light and dark Frisians or Norsemen. These inbred ethnic groups are so genetically depleted that the melanin-producing genes have been totally eliminated from their national genome. Interestingly, Adolph Hitler supposed that this made them and their kind the most highly advanced race--a race to which he himself obviously did not belong. Such a claim, however, has nothing in history or science to back it up. The Whiteness of Norsemen was a major factor in the extinction of the first colonizers of Greenland; unlike the darker Eskimos, who relied on a steady diet of seals, whales, and fish to provide them with the Vitamin D they needed, the uber-white Norse Groenlanders figured they could survive on just what their farms produced (raw milk being a natural source of Vitamin D). When the Little Ice Age wiped out their pasture, and thence their cows, the vitamin D-starved Groenlanders perished, while a whole ocean of fishes lay at their feet. Their Whiteness, combined with their stubborn ethnic pride and unwillingness to 'go native' when out of their element, was their downfall.

So, physically speaking, having white skin is nothing so special. But what about spiritually speaking? In the Bible, whiteness is almost always a sign of purity--the primary exception being that white skin was associated with the uncleanliness of leprosy. So why should angels manifest the appearance of white skin?

Joshua Milton was the rebel commander over a sector of Monrovia during the First Liberian Civil War. One day, shortly after pulling the heart out of a living child and passing it around in pieces for his boys to eat, he had a Damascus Road experience. Radiating brilliance, a man and woman appeared to him, and his first impression was that of a white man speaking to him in his own Krahn dialect: "My son, why are you living as a slave?" After a conversation with Joshua, the apparition ended, and Joshua was on his way out of the warlord business.

So, why was this African visited by God or an angel in the guise of a White Man? I don't know. Perhaps it was the impression generated by the extreme brilliance that radiated from the manifestation. Perhaps, in another context, angels appear as Black Men. Anyone have any such stories to report?

ETA: According to Joshua at about minute 7 on this video, it was due to the extreme brilliance; he couldn't look at the person speaking to him.

UPDATE AUGUST 2014: I have been informed that Liberians put more stock in a white Bible when used for talismanic purposes.

UPDATE DECEMBER 2016: Someone has submitted an example of a tall black man appearing and disappearing as would an angel, apparently for the specific purposes of:
1) ensuring the believer would realize it must have been an angel, as no other explanation was possible;
2) helping to convince those who heard that story that God is no respecter of persons.

Tuesday, 5 October 2010

A bungled attempt at censorship

Counter As the darkness of despotism descends over the United States, censorship is growing. Citizens are jailed for filming policemen defending the peace, and individuals are slapped with wiretapping charges for recording their own arrests. But in the once place where censorship actually makes sense--where national security is allegedly at stake in wartime--the censors aren't doing a very good job. Witness the experience of Anthony Schaffer when he published a first-person history of the intelligence war in Afghanistan.
Shaffer’s chain of command in the Army Reserve cleared his manuscript for release, but the Pentagon intervened with additional security concerns in early August, after the books had been printed but before they had gone on sale.

The upshot was that the Pentagon paid $47,300 in taxpayer money for the 9,500 books that constituted almost the entire first print run of the book and had the volumes destroyed Sept. 20, while the publisher, Thomas Dunne Books, an imprint of St. Martin’s Press, issued a second edition Sept. 24 with roughly 200 words or passages blacked out.

The Defense Department’s action had two effects:

First, it drew attention to a book that otherwise had generated little prepublication buzz. The redacted version of “Operation Dark Heart” made it to No. 1 on Amazon’s overall best-seller list, and a week after going on sale, it was on its third reprint with 50,000 copies sold or on sale, said Joe Rinaldi, spokesman for Thomas Dunne Books.

Second, because St. Martin’s had sent what Rinaldi estimated at “60 to 70, at most” advance copies of the first edition to news organizations, including Army Times, journalists and others can compare the original and censored versions.

The Defense Department was forced into arranging for the books to be destroyed because “the book was not referred to the original classification authorities for a proper information security review until July 2010,” said Air Force Lt. Col. Rene White, a Pentagon spokeswoman. “We are looking into why this happened.”

As for the advance copies that were sent out to the news media, the department “has no plans to purchase the editor’s review copies,” she said. “We had hoped to recover these review copies before they became publicly available. In light of recent events, this has become more difficult.”
Oh boy. Nothing like yelling, "NOBODY LOOK!!!" to get everybody to look.

Among the revelations deleted from the book:

- Among the Taliban troops the US is fighting in Afghanistan are Pakistani Intelligence officers.
- Among the countries giving material aid to the Taliban in their war against the US is Iran.
- The US has successfully penetrated the Iranian intelligence by electronic means.

Wednesday, 15 September 2010

Questions Asked a Ticket Agent: Time for a little source criticism

Counter
A Washington D.C. airport ticket agent offers some examples of 'why' our country is in trouble:

1. I had a New Hampshire Congresswoman (Carol Shea-Porter) ask for an aisle seat so that her hair wouldn't get messed up by being near the window. (On an airplane!)

2. I got a call from a Kansas Congressman's (Moore) staffer (Howard Bauleke), who wanted to go to Capetown. I started to explain the length of the flight and the passport information, and then he interrupted me with, ''I'm not trying to make you look stupid, but Capetown is in Massachusetts .''
Without trying to make him look stupid, I calmly explained, ''Cape Cod is in Massachusetts, Capetown is in Africa ''
His response -- click.

3. A senior Vermont Congressman (Bernie Sanders) called, furious about a Florida package we did. I asked what was wrong with the vacation in Orlando. He said he was expecting an ocean-view room. I tried to explain that's not possible, since Orlando is in the middle of the state.
He replied, 'don't lie to me, I looked on the map and Florida is a very thin state!''

4. I got a call from a lawmaker's wife (Landra Reid) who asked, ''Is it possible to see England from Canada ?''
I said, ''No.''
She said, ''But they look so close on the map.''

5. An aide for a cabinet member (Janet Napolitano) once called and asked if he could rent a car in Dallas. I pulled up the reservation and noticed he had only a 1-hour layover in Dallas. When I asked him why he wanted to rent a car, he said, ''I heard Dallas was a big airport, and we will need a car to drive between gates to save time.''

6.An Illinois Congresswoman (Jan Schakowsky) called last week. She needed to know how it was possible that her flight from Detroit left at 8:30 a.m., and got to Chicago at 8:33 a.m.
I explained that Michigan was an hour ahead of Illinois, but she couldn't understand the concept of time zones. Finally, I told her the plane went fast, and she bought that.

7. A New York lawmaker, (Jerrold Nadler) called and asked, ''Do airlines put your physical description on your bag so they know whose luggage belongs to whom?'' I said, 'No, why do you ask?'
He replied, ''Well, when I checked in with the airline, they put a tag on my luggage that said (FAT), and I'm overweight. I think that's very rude!''
After putting him on hold for a minute, while I looked into it. (I was dying laughing). I came back and explained the city code for Fresno, CA is (FAT- Fresno Air Terminal), and the airline was just putting a destination tag on his luggage.

8. A Senator John Kerry aide (Lindsay Ross) called to inquire about a trip package to Hawaii. After going over all the cost info, she asked, ''Would it be cheaper to fly to California and then take the train to Hawaii?''

9. I just got off the phone with a freshman Congressman, Bobby Bright (D) from Ala who asked, ''How do I know which plane to get on?''
I asked him what exactly he meant, to which he replied, ''I was told my flight number is 823, but none of these planes have numbers on them.''

10. Senator Dianne Feinstein (D) Called and said, ''I need to fly to Pepsi-Cola, Florida . Do I have to get on one of those little computer planes?''
I asked if she meant fly to Pensacola, FL on a commuter plane.
She said, ''Yeah, whatever, smarty!''

11. Mary Landrieu (D) La. Senator called and had a question about the documents she needed in order to fly to China. After a lengthy discussion about passports, I reminded her that she needed a visa. 'Oh, no I don't. I've been to China many times and never had to have one of those.''
I double checked and sure enough, her stay required a visa. When I told her this she said, ''Look, I've been to China four times and every time they have accepted my American Express!''

12. A New Jersey Congressman (John Adler) called to make reservations, ''I want to go from Chicago to Rhino, New York.''
I was at a loss for words. Finally, I said, ''Are you sure that's the name of the town?''
'Yes, what flights do you have?'' replied the man.
After some searching, I came back with, ''I'm sorry, sir, I've looked up every airport code in the country and can't find a Rhino anywhere."
''The man retorted, ''Oh, don't be silly! Everyone knows where it is. Check your map!''
So I scoured a map of the state of New York and finally offered, ''You don't mean Buffalo , do you?''
The reply? ''Whatever! I knew it was a big animal.''

Now you know why the Government is in the shape that it's in! Could anyone be this DUMB?
YES, THEY WALK AMONG US, ARE IN POLITICS, AND THEY CONTINUE TO  BREED.
I don't write it, I just offer it for your consideration. Like manure, you just gotta spread it around.

Now, the White Man here to answer that last question, Yes, anyone could be that dumb. But notice, the anonymous author didn't quote just anyone in this piece. He only quoted Democrats. Now, if Democrats can be that dumb, so can Republicans. The very fact that he only quoted Democrats brings out a strong marine odor: this piece is a fabrication, and it's unlikely that any of these quotes were actually made by the people to whom they were attributed. In fact, all of them show such remarkable lack of intellect that this collection was probably first compiled as a list of the Stupidest Questions Ever Asked a Travel Agent. Only later did an anti-Democrat pick it up and carefully add a list of plausible Democrat names to the quotes.

Now, I came up with all of this just from a quick read of the piece and an online check of  a few of the names. Let's see what Snopes says about it: Link here (it won't let me cut and paste).

Yep, I was exactly right. Notice that the names were all added in parentheses to an earlier version. The earliest version of all made no mention of members of Congress.

Now, see how easy that was? With only a single copy of this message, I was able--before I even finished reading it-- to spot it as a forgery, and to hypothesize that the names were all interpolations. A little search for external evidence soon showed my hypothesis to be spot-on.

I could add one more allusion to the art of textual criticism. Several times I have gone back through the text of this pericope and removed extraneous spaces, fixed capitalization errors, and replaced spaces that had been deleted. I didn't carefully check how many errors of each kind I encountered, but it's interesting that, at least in an electronic text, such errors do multiply as the text is copied--but only because changes are being made by the scribes themselves (or initiated by their spell checkers); in this case, changes of first deletion (of the original text), then replacement (of the corrections) and finally addition (of the interpolations). The sort of stylistic errors encountered did in fact point to the sort of editorial changes that had been made to the text--and this was all obvious from looking at a single copy; no comparison of copies was necessary, except to confirm what could already be seen to have happened.

America: A Plutocracy

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I read a startling statistic, that less than half of the American electorate votes in any given election. Essentially, we are back to where we were before passage of the nineteenth amendment by white males over twenty-one: most adult Americans don't vote. The legal impediments have been replaced with social ones.

So, why don't Americans vote?

There are many reasons given in the thousands of articles written on the subject, but they all basically boil down to one thing: it doesn't matter. The majority of the populace has now come to the point where they don't see a link between casting a vote and a change in government. Witness, for example, the multi-million dollar get-out-the-vote campaign that culminated in the passage of Proposition Eight in California last election by nearly forty per cent of the electorate; Proposition Eight got the nod by a higher percentage of eligible voters in California in 2008 than Al Gore had in 2000. But after all the dust had settled, what difference did the $5.70 spent per 'yes' vote make? A single judge invalidated the will of seven million people.

When it comes right down to it, America is no longer a democracy--a rule of the majority of eligible voters. A majority of the eligible voters don't call the shots anymore--judges do. At the levels at which it matters, judges are all unelected. And the effort needed to overturn the lifetime appointment of a partisan judge is so massive that it has never been attempted, much less accomplished. The pro-8 camp successfully outspent the opposition in California, but didn't have near enough money do pull off what really mattered: vote in 60 senators to start impeaching autocratic judges. It really all comes down to money: spend enough of it, and your legislative agenda can be accomplished. Whoever runs out of funds first loses. Therefore our democratic government is now, for all intents and purposes, a plutocracy--a rule of the rich.

It doesn't have to be this way. Americans could vote in enough Tea Partiers to ram through the will of the majority. But the history of forced majority rule in this country doesn't bode well for the success of this mission. Eighty-four years after Jesse Owens brought down the theory of Aryan supremacy with his four-for-four gold medals in the Berlin Olympics--forty years after he wrote that there was "now no legal impediment for the ultimate equality of the Negro with the ruling Whites"--we are still hearing about "the first African-American since Reconstruction" to run for--or win--one national office or another from the various southern states. In other words, during Reconstruction, the majority black populations of the south enjoyed true democracy: they sent their own representatives to Congress in numbers that have yet to be approached, much less matched.

But democracy in the South only lasted as long as there were Federal troops present to enforce it. Once they pulled up stakes and headed back North, plutocracy descended--and has yet to be lifted. I don't doubt that the Tea Partiers, should they succeed in wresting real control back from the Plutocrats, will only be able to hold it as long as they can get--and maintain--control of the nation's military. And History teaches us that He who has the Gold, Makes the Rules. And He who has the Gun, gets the Gold.

Voting in Tea Partiers appears to be a noble cause, but ineffective in the long run. What do we have left of the Reagan Revolution only one generation later? A true revolution is brought about by a long, exhausting, armed struggle often lasting for several generations. The rich will give up neither their wealth, nor their power, except at the point of a gun.  Take away their votes--but not their guns--and they will have soon used the latter to regain the former.

Saturday, 11 September 2010

Peer Review fails again

Zahler I have written earlier on the connexion between vaccines and autism, expressing my desire to see more research before reaching a conclusion. Just seeing research, however, is not sufficient; it must be evaluated. This is supposedly the task of Peer Review, which is thought to ensure that no pseudoscience makes it into print in the scholarly journals. Note that Richard Horton, editor of The Lancet, wrote this about the peer review process (but not in his own magazine!):
We know that the system of peer review is biased, unjust, unaccountable, incomplete, easily fixed, often insulting, usually ignorant, occasionally foolish, and frequently wrong.
Perhaps nowhere has this process been demonstrated to have utterly failed more than in the case of Andrew Wakefield, who has been ostracized from the medical community over the publication (in The Lancet) of his study of the link between autism and the MMR vaccine. The first set of allegations against him (half of which were dismissed as unfounded), and his response, can be seen at this link. The 143-page fact sheet from the preliminary license revocation hearing of 3 of the article's authors (released this past January after 2½ years of investigation) can be found here.

As nearly as I can figure out, the only piece of evidence collected by Dr. Wakefield's team that is actually disputed is the condition of the children's intestines, and--what do you know--the original records have disappeared. This is how the Lancet article reads:

Findings
Onset of behavioural symptoms was associated, by the parents, with measles, mumps, and rubella vaccination in eight of the 12 children, with measles infection in one child, and otitis media in another. All 12 children had intestinal abnormalities, ranging from lymphoid nodular hyperplasia to aphthoid ulceration. Histology showed patchy chronic inflammation in the colon in 11 children and reactive ileal lymphoid hyperplasia in seven, but no granulomas. Behavioural disorders included autism (nine), disintegrative psychosis (one), and possible postviral or vaccinal encephalitis (two). There were nofocal neurological abnormalities and MRI and EEG tests were normal. Abnormal laboratory results were significantly raised urinary methylmalonic acid compared with age-matched controls (p=0.003), low haemoglobin in four children, and a low serum IgA in four children.
The article concludes:
We did not prove an association between measles, mumps, and rubella vaccine and the syndrome described. Virological studies are underway that may help to resolve this issue. If there is a causal link between measles, mumps, and rubella vaccine and this syndrome, a rising incidence might be anticipated after the introduction of this vaccine in the UK in 1988. Published evidence is inadequate to show whether there is a change in incidence or a link with measles, mumps, and rubella vaccine. A genetic predisposition to autistic-spectrum disorders is suggested by over-representation in boys and a greater concordance rate in monozygotic than in dizygotic twins. In the context of susceptibility to infection, a genetic association with autism, linked to a null allele of the complement (C)4B gene located in the class III region of the major-histocompatibility complex, has been recorded by Warren and colleagues. C4B-gene products are crucial for the activation of the complement pathway and protection against infection: individuals inheriting one or two C4B null alleles may not handle certain viruses appropriately, possibly including attenuated strains. Urinary methylmalonic-acid concentrations were raised in most of the children, a finding indicative of a functional vitamin B12 deficiency. Although vitamin B12concentrations were normal, serum B12 is not a good measure of functional B12 status. Urinary methylmalonic-acid excretion is increased in disorders such as Crohn’s disease, in which cobalamin excreted in bile is not reabsorbed. A similar problem may have occurred in the children in our study. Vitamin B12 is essential for myelinogenesis in the developing central nervous system, a process that is not complete until around the age of 10 years. B12 deficiency may, therefore, be a contributory factor in the developmental regression. We have identified a chronic enterocolitis in children that may be related to neuropsychiatric dysfunction. Inmost cases, onset of symptoms was after measles, mumps, and rubella immunisation. Further investigations are needed to examine this syndrome and its possible relation to this vaccine.
One thing that greatly complicates the discussion is the latitude with which a diagnosis of Autism is dispensed. I read a billboard just the other day, that every 20 minutes another child is diagnosed with autism (where--in the hospital emergency room?). Yet the same child, with the same symptoms, can be diagnosed either with autism or pervasive development disorder, just on the basis of either not wanting to hurt the parents' feelings on the one hand, or qualifying for taxpayer-funded intervention on the other. It has become a political diagnosis as much as a medical one.

The research I have seen definitely points in the direction of a 3-fold link between:

1) Reaction to the MMR shots
2) Verbal and social regression around age 18 months
3) Casein and gluten allergy with cerebral symptoms

But millions of children being diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder don't necessarily show this triad of symptoms. If meaningful research is to be done, children that show this triad must first be segregated from the great mass of those labeled with ASD.

In the mean time, informed parents will continue to do their own research and work out their own treatment regimens. Classic autism is clearly both preventable and treatable. If existing treatments don't work in any given case, it only shows that more study needs to be done.

Tuesday, 31 August 2010

Persio-American War: the Contractors

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One angle of this upcoming war I haven't mentioned is the role that so-called Defense Contractors play. As far back as 1961, President Eisenhower warned against the "Military-Industrial Complex." The Revolving Door practice, by which Defense Department jobs are filled with ex-Contractor employees, and ex-Defense Department workers pick up lush jobs at a Contractor, is well known. Thus it is inevitable that the Military-Industrial Complex will have a say in every war. And indeed, if it has any say it all, it will say that War is Good for Business.

I remember back in the late 1980's, when the veterans of America's last big war were starting to die off, and the veterans of America's last military conflict were starting to retire. There seemed to be no more role for the Army--all military engagements were being carried out by special forces, Marines, or the Navy. Pundits mused that the age of the large-scale battlefield was over. Then along came the invasion of Iraq, and once again the armies took to the field. Officers who had cut their teeth in Vietnam, serving under generals who had WWII experience, were now the generals. New Officers were earning the Combat Badges they would need to compete for promotion. The cycle of war, which ensures that everyone will have the chance to see combat at least once in a military career, came back around despite the Pundits' musings.

That was 20 years ago. For two decades, American forces have been facing hostile fire in one theater or another. Although downsized after the Cold War, the Standing Army has not gone away altogether. But since the conquest of Iraq in 2003, there has been no all-out war to put a large army to use. Worse yet, there has been no all-out war to put to use the hugely expensive armaments put out by the Military-Industrial Complex.

What America needs, it seems, is a war that will make full use of its Army, Navy, Air Force, and Marines. There hasn't been one now for 65 years--nearly a mortal lifetime. With the Cold War over, it's hard to justify the submarines, the supersonic fighters, the nuclear bombers--the ballistic missiles. But the Military-Industrial Complex is quite eager to justify them, because even if they aren't its bread and butter, they come very close to its bottom line.

A war with Iran would mean lots of business for the Military-Industrial Complex. As opposed as President Obama is to war, Contractors will eventually pressure him to change his mind. But I don't see this happening real soon. America is not likely to initiate a war against Iran without proof that it has already developed an atomic weapon. Since this is likely to happen within a year, even by the US Government's admission, that provides a terminus ad quem for the start of the war: somewhere between the 21st anniversary of Operation Desert Shield and the 10th anniversary of Operation Enduring Freedom.

Monday, 30 August 2010

First shots already fired

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Israel hasn't attacked Iran yet. Iran hasn't attacked Israel yet. But behind the scenes, both are feverishly preparing for war.

Having had little success in the helicopter-attack route, Israel is preparing to give over to the US the responsibility for taking out Iran's nuclear sites housed deep in caves. The US is moving missiles into position at the Talil Air Force Base in Iraq. Meanwhile, the Israeli submarine force has take up position in the Arabian Sea, also armed with missiles. The opening salvos of this war will likely be missiles fired in synchronization--whichever side uses them first will have the advantage. If Iran, several US warships are going to head for the bottom of the Persian Gulf. If the US and Israel, Iran's nuclear capability is going to be set back several years in just a few seconds.

This synchronization, as far as Israel is concerned, is coming at a price. Israel has agreed to let the US take the lead for now, given the at least half-hearted assurance that the US will not let Iran develop The Bomb. This means that an Israeli first strike in the next few weeks or even months is increasingly unlikely--especially as the US takes a more and more belligerent stance itself.

Iran, on the other hand, has already taken the lead in moving ahead, and Syria is stepping up to follow. Syria, the last big holdout in making peace with Israel, is getting prepared to open up a northern front in Galilee as soon as hostilities break out. In a sense, the first shots have already been fired: An Israeli spy drone was recently shot down over Syria.

Meanwhile, Hamas is gearing up for a major offensive beginning this week, regardless of what happens between Israel and Iran.

And don't forget the Yemeni front: Iran is backing the Shia rebels in that country. How much of a role they will be able to play in throwing a monkey wrench into the works remains to be seen, but it's in Iran's interests to be able to close off both the Red Sea and the Persian Gulf to oil tankers.

And what the Iranian Navy most hopes to block these straits with are the sunken hulks of US warships. Their new missile boats are now deployed and able to swim circles around a destroyer or cruiser. All it takes is multiple missiles fired in sync to defeat the US Close-in Weapons System missile defense.

Although they are more ready now than their adversaries, time is still on Iran's side. While the US drags its feet, every day puts Iran closer to having one or two operational A-bombs. But neither side is quite ready to start the shooting. It looks like it's going to come down to whomever's ready first.

I'm glad I bought 30 gallons of gas before the price went up 20¢, but it's headed a whole lot higher. And there will soon be another Gulf Oil Spill to worry about.

Thursday, 26 August 2010

1 Corinthians 14:34-35: an interpolation? Part VII, So What?

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We have looked both at the manuscript evidence and the record of church history in order to answer the question,
Is 1 Corinthians 14:34-35 an interpolation?
The apparent answer, in both cases, is No.

But does it really make any difference?

It didn't made any difference 1800 years ago when Tertullian first quoted this passage. Even then, heretics were going ahead and ordaining woman preachers, maugre 1 Corinthians 14 and maugre 1 Timothy 2. And so they continue to do to this day. 1 Timothy 2:11-15 is sufficient to keep women from serving as bishops, so shepherdess-ordainers who accept it as Scripture must weasel their way out of its prohibitions, regardless of what they think of 1 Corinthians 14:34-35.

But how about those who hold to the traditional interpretation and application of 1 Timothy 2--does it make any difference to them if 1 Cor 14:34-35 is really Scripture or not? For most such people, it really doesn't. They accept 1 Timothy 2 and apply it as if 1 Cor 14 never existed. Certain it is that their women would consider it no sin to whisper a question to their husbands, nor a command to their children, while sitting in the assembly. I know of some women who actually come close to literally applying this passage--but even they speak freely during the church service, provided they're in the sheltered confines of the church nursery. And even in the auditorium, they think nothing of lifting up their voices in song along with the rest of the congregation. For all practical purposes, most Christians live as though 14:34-35 were a marginal note in Paul's autograph of his first letter to the Corinthians that was removed once it was joined to 2 Timothy in a single volume.

Does it make any difference to anybody whether or not 1 Corinthians 14:34-35 is removed from the English Bible? As one who believes in both the divine inspiration and profitable applicability of every word of Scripture, I maintain that it does.

Post-Reformation Christians are known for rejecting all the books of Maccabees--yeah, the Apocrypha entire--on the basis of one verse, 2 Maccabees 12:44--
For if he had not hoped that they that were slain should have risen again, it had been superfluous and vain to pray for the dead.
Prayer for the dead--heresy! Therefore the Apocrypha cannot be inspired Scripture. It's a massive interpolation, as it were, wedged in between the Testaments.

There are some problems with this view. First of all, what Paul wrote in the very next chapter after the famous passage under review differs very little. 1 Cor. 15:29--
Else what shall they do which are baptized for the dead, if the dead rise not at all? why are they then baptized for the dead?
So far all the manuscripts agree. And the church fathers, who were so unanimous in accepting 1 Cor. 14:34-35 as Scripture? Well, they were just as lief to look to the currently rejected books for answers on this topic as to those universally considered canonical.

Ambrose, for example, had all 14 chapters in his copy of Daniel--and he specifically called 'scripture' those parts now rejected. In deciding what the Bible teaches about the afterlife, he turned to 4 Esdras, an apocryphal book that Jerome included in the Vulgate, but which never even existed in the Septuagint. And the story of Susanna in the apocryphal section of Daniel was the source of a lot of controversy. Julius Africanus denied its canonicity on the basis that Daniel could not possibly have written it; Origen, in response, defended it as inspired Scripture whose origin was just hard to explain. Furthermore, he was convinced that the reason it wasn't in any Hebrew copies was that the Hebrew elders had deliberately taken it out--the very sort of argument advanced by those who now defend Acts 8:37 as inspired, preserved Scripture.

So what are we to do? If 1 Corinthians 14:34-35 isn't an interpolation, then how do we know that The Story of Susanna isn't either? On what grounds do we reject IV Esdras and 2 Maccabees? Whatever we find universally present in the earliest Greek manuscripts, and universally accepted by the patristic writers, is immune from rejection as canonical--or so the theory goes, but only for the New Testament.

Leading the Post-Reformation Christians, Luther referred to the apocryphal sections of the Old Testament as 'wildflowers' that needed to be uprooted from the canon and transplanted in a special garden adjacent, so as to be of benefit to the reader, but not to serve as a final appeal to authority. And thus the Apocrypha continued to be translated, along with the Hebrew, Aramaic, and Greek Scriptures, all the way up to their revision for publication in the King James Bible of 1611. And how were the Apocryphal scriptures distinguished from the sacred canon? Well, the litmus test was whether or not they were included in the Hebrew Bible.

And thus it is to this day. On the sole basis of its inclusion in the Hebrew Bible, 1 Samuel 13:1 escapes condemnation as an interpolation. Better to wrest it all out of its true shape than to admit it was never in the original text. But why? Would it not be better by far to be guided by common sense as well as rabbinical tradition? If its absence in multiple Greek copies was finally enough to banish the 'na' of Manasseh to the margin, what forbids us from using the same rationale to remove an attempted Who's Who on the Israeli Throne entry for King Saul?

It's high time that Bible translators started practicing their textual criticism on a level field of play. What's good in the New Testament ought to be good enough in the Old. If it took great caution to follow the minority reading of Codex Alexandrinus at Judges 18:30, where was that caution at Revelation 5:9? If the Masoretic Text was so wrong in omitting Joshua 21:36-37, how could it be so right in adding 1 Samuel 13:1?

It appears (e.g. in the TNIV) that Bible Translators have already begun the process of moving 1 Corinthians 14:34-35 to the bottom margin, where it will join the nun in Judges 18:30. Let them do so--what difference, after all, does it make for most anyone who reads it? But while they're at it, there are a whole lot of verses in the Old Testament far more deserving of the same treatment.

Is or is not 1 Corinthians 14:34-35 an interpolation? There is yet one hypothesis which I haven't yet brought forward, which answers the question with a resounding YES.

Remember this hypothesis?

1. After having penned First Corinthians, Paul went back over it and added this comment as an explanatory note in the margin--much as do people today who pen letters on lined paper. When Paul's Epistles were collected into a single book, the marginal note was left out.

Well, it's wrong on two counts.

In the first place, Paul didn't pen the letter, he only signed it:
The salutation of me Paul with mine own hand. --16:21
And, Paul would no more have included such an audacious passage in his margin than in his text.

We don't know who wrote the letter for Paul, but it seems to have been his co-author Sosthenes. The only other mention of Sosthenes in the Bible is in Acts 18:17, where he is mentioned as the ruler of the Corinthian synagogue who got beat up in court--literally. Aha, obviously Sosthenes is now traveling with Paul as a fellow missionary, and Paul has enrolled his help in sending a letter back home. The letter had already gone overlong, so there wasn't any room for individual greetings (on this web page, Rendel Harris provides evidence that all of the epistles ended "at the bottom of the page"; this accounts for the somewhat "oh, and one more thing--and another--and one more" nature of some epistles)*. Sosthenes, however, was able to fit in one personal message--but he had to put it in the margin of ch. 14. For an example of this sort of thing, observe this postscript to Origin's letter to Julius Africanus, referenced above:
My lord and dear brother Ambrosius, who has written this at my dictation, and has, in looking over it, corrected as he pleased, salutes you. His faithful spouse, Marcella, and her children, also salute you. Also Anicetus. Do you salute our dear father Apollinarius, and all our friends.
Sosthenes, remember, is a former synagogue ruler. He knows the teachings of the rabbis about the need for silent women. He was used to them being excluded from the life of the synagogue. He fondly remembers how much more orderly things were back in the day, before his parishioners found liberty in Christ. So, as co-author, he feels quite free to go back over the letter after Paul is done dictating it, and adds a few choice comments in the margin. Off goes the letter to Corinth, and the church listens with stunned silence as it is read to them. They go to work implementing the commands in the letter, and the congregation becomes much more orderly as a result.

At this point we hear no more of Sosthenes. Apparently he went back to Corinth and helped implement what Paul and he had commanded in the letter.

Comes news back to Paul, and he realizes that they were over-reacting to his epistle in some areas, and under-reacting in others. He writes back that they should receive back the repentant member, but stop being yoked with unbelievers. He rebukes them for scoffing at the requirements in his letters, and reminds them that he really does mean what he wrote. He hurriedly wraps up this second letter--another one of record length--mentioning his intention to clear up the rest of the problems when he gets there himself. But before he can, the record ends--we hear no more of the Corinthian church from the pages of Scripture.

Why then, despite the virtually unanimous external evidence, do I reject 1 Corinthians 14:34-35 as Scripture? Well, because I subject it to the same test by which I reject any apocryphal passage, maugre the manuscripts, maugre the church fathers: it doesn't fit with the general teachings of the rest of the Bible, and the rest of the Bible is better off without it. Let's look at a few points:

1) It claims to be quoting the law, but nowhere in prior Scripture is there any mention that women have to be under submission in a way that forbids them speaking in an assembly. One has to look to the Talmud for such a teaching, and the Talmud has no place in the Christian canon.

2) It makes something shameful that is not shameful. What could possibly be shameful about women singing the ladies' parts of a congregational song? How can it not be shameful for a woman to compose a song (careful here--several such are in the canon), but shameful for a woman to sing it in front of anyone? Absolute silence mandated upon all Christian women is totally foreign to Paul's Corinthian depiction of the body of Christ, where every part plays a vital role. It doesn't even fit the teaching of the chapter it is in, where both men and women are to sit in silence until the person who has something to say is done speaking.

3) It puts a ridiculous demand on women. How is a woman to pray, or ask for prayer, without speaking out in the assembly? How is she to play the catechumen at the baptismal font, without confessing with her mouth? And what of the widows, who have no husband to ask at home? What about Lydia of Philippi, who, possibly along with Nympha of Colosse, is the spiritual leader of her home? What of Priscilla, whose husband may well have questions to ask of her? There is nothing of divine inspiration here-; nothing of practical applicability. To find anything of either, we must wrest it like the Masoretes wrested 1 Samuel 13:1, to the point where we may as well have dispensed with it entirely. Women can no more fulfill what these verses demand than men or women can keep all of what Paul elsewhere darkly refers to as 'the law'. Whoever penned these verses fits the grim profile of those of whom Paul warned Timothy only a chapter earlier than his only other mention of the silence of women:
Desiring to be teachers of the law; understanding neither what they say, nor whereof they affirm.
So, I read 1 Corinthians 14:34-35 as apocrypha: not as the canonical teaching of Paul, but as the misguided instructions of a neophyte that, like other uninspired, apocryphal writings, was universally accepted as authoritative by the early church.

Let those who argue for the canonicity of 1 Corinthians 14:34-35 continue to read it in their Bibles. But I dare them to actually try applying it. And while they are at it, they may as well take up praying for the dead.

Now, what became of Sosthenes' marginal note in Paul's letter? Well, he probably saw to it that it was always included in copies of the letter that were made available to other churches. It's a wonder if any copies at all emerged without it, and scribes who passed on the copies of the autograph dutifully included it--some moving it out of the margin into one spot, some into another--but evidence, however tangential, has nonetheless come down through the centuries of an awareness that 14:34-35 did not represent the teaching of Paul in his First Epistle to the Corinthians. An awareness I hope will increase, so that those of us who believe and apply 1 Timothy 2:11-12 don't overshoot the mark by clumsily trying to believe and apply 1 Corinthians 14:34-35 as well.

*Nowadays, we purchase legal pads or spiral bound notebooks in which to pen our thoughts. Back in the Apostle's day, what they used were rolls of papyrus. Rather than tearing a sheet off the pad or out of the notebook, the author used a knife to cut off the written-on papyrus and roll it up into a scroll of its own. Thus it was most economical of space to end an epistle at the bottom of a column--or what we would think of now as the end of a page. Since scrolls were typically only written on the inside surface, that left the outer surface for addresses, delivery instructions, and, later on, a summary of the contents for ease of identification by the owner. The scroll would then be sealed shut with wax to keep it from being read until it was delivered.