Belle of Liberty

Letting Freedom Ring

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Ships That Pass in the Night

After much dilly-dallying, the transitional Egyptian government, led by the U.S.-favored military, who trained the Egyptians, has allowed to Iranian warships to cross through the Suez Canal.

Egyptian state media, according to CNN, “reported that the post-Hosni Mubarak ‘caretaker’ government gave the green light to the Iranian warships Friday. They are expected to be the first Iranian warships to sail through the Canal since the Islamic republic’s 1979 revolution.”

Egypt has sovereignty over the 103-mile long Suez, since it is (now) an internal body of water. Egypt is bound by the 1978 Camp David Accords (for the signing of which Egyptian president Anwar Sadat was assassinated three years later). The Camp David Accords guarantee the right of free passage by ships belonging to Israel and all other nations on the basis of the Constantinople Convention of 1888.

Prior to the Accords, Egypt did not allow Israeli ships to sail through the canal, which they nationalized in 1956. Last week, Egypt's newly empowered military government said it would honor all its international treaties. That would include Camp David. In October of 1956, after Egyptian guerrillas raided Israel’s borders, Israel invaded the Sinai Peninsula. Egypt rejected cease-fire demands from Britain and France. Both countries accepted a U.N. ceasefire agreement in early November. A U.N, Emergency Force guarded the border.

But full-scale war broke out again and by June 1957, Israel had captured Gaza and the Sinai Peninsula and taken control of the East Bank of the Suez Canal. In 1973, Egyptian forces crossed the Suez into the Sinai at the same time Syria attacked Israel’s northern border. The USSR assisted Egypt while the U.S. responded with an airlift to Israel. Israel successfully captured the West Bank, but under a U.N. treaty in 1974, they withdraw and a limited number of Egyptian forces were permitted to occupy a strip on the left bank. In a second accord, Israel yielded the Sinai oil fields.

After Anwar Sadat’s assassination by Muslim extremists within the Egyptian army (Sadat had paid a surprise visit to Jerusalem in November 1977), Israel surrendered control of the Sinai to Egypt. The 1990s saw a growing tide of Islamic extremism, including numerous assassination attempts upon Hosni Mubarak, the downing of an EgyptAir jetliner en route from New York to Cairo just off Nantucket by its suicide-bent Islamic captain killing 217, the murder by extremists of 58 foreign tourists and 4 Egyptians at a tourist site near Luxor, Egypt, and the crashing of an Egyptian charter plan into the Red Sea, killing 133 French tourists and 15 others.

In 2004, Muslim terrorists set off a bomb near Taba, a Sinai tourist spot frequented by Israelis killing 35, another at Sharm el-Sheikh on the Red Sea in July 2005, killing 88, and another suicide bombing in April 2004 in the Sinair resort ccity of Dahab, killing 18 and wounding 88.

Hosni Mubarak was pressured by the U.S. in 2005 to allow opostion candidates in the upcoming presidential election. He won 88 percent of the vote, with only a 23 percent turnout. That same year, constitutional amendments were enacted expanding presidential powers and barring religiously-based opposition parties from running candidates for election. Opposition groups and human rights activists denounced this amendment as fraudulent.

The Iranians asked for a frigate (the second largest ship in a navy after a ship of the line) -- the Alvand -- and a military supply ship -- the Kharg -- to cross into the Mediterranean. Both are armed with missiles, David Schenker, director of the Program on Arab Politics at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy told CNN, adding that their passage would create more uncertainty in the region.

"This is typical of Syrian-Iranian opportunism,” he noted.

Egypt's decision, analysts said, could show the direction that the military caretakers intend to take the Arab world's most populous nation. According to CNN, “Iran said earlier that the flotilla was on a yearlong intelligence-gathering and training mission to prepare cadets to defend Iran's cargo ships and oil tankers from the threat of attack by Somali pirates, according to the semi-official Fars News Agency.”

State Department spokesman P.J. Crowley said Friday, "My initial response to that would be we're highly skeptical of that. It's not really about the ships. It's what the ships are carrying, what's their destination, what's the cargo on board, where is it going, to whom, for what benefit.”

“Those concerns were shared by the White House, where Press Secretary Jay Carney told reporters aboard Air Force One, ‘We're monitoring that, obviously, but we also would say that Iran does not have a great track record for responsible behavior in the region, which is always a concern for us.’"

Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman said Israel's allies should pay close attention to the situation. The Israeli Defense Ministry said it was monitoring the movement of the Iranian ships and alerted its allies.

CNN noted that “The Suez Canal is a key waterway for international trade. It connects the Mediterranean Sea with the Red Sea, allowing ships to navigate between Europe and Asia without having to go around Africa. Millions of barrels of oil move through the Suez every day en route to Europe and North America.”

Do tell. Israel says that it has alerted its allies. The question is, what allies? We were told we could depend upon the Egyptian military to not break the Camp David Accord, but they just let an Iranian warship and her convoy ship through the Suez Canal where the ship will dock in Syria “for a year” according to the Iranians, in order to protect their oil tankers. Yet the Iranians are notorious for attacking foreign oil tankers from the Strait of Hormuz. Who’s kidding whom, here? Our government, headed by Obama the admitted Socialist and suspected Islamicist, has silently aided and abetted the movement, urging the Egyptian protesters, none of whose alliances we know for certain being just a faceless mob of people, to a violent demand for the overthrow of Mubarak in the name of “democracy.” Where has any administration’s – and just Obama’s – denunciation of attacks on foreign oil tankers – been these many decades that they’ve been happening?

Certainly, the Media has not reported these frequent attacks. I only know of them because I worked for a major oil company, as a clerk in its international trade department. I heard first-hand from the tanker captains what was happening, and that was back in the 1980s. At the time, that company simply accepted the attacks as a cost of doing business in an unstable region. Ex-patriate employees were given training in avoiding and/or surviving terrorist kidnappings and attacks.

Yet when the tanker the Valdez ran aground in Alaska, we heard all about it from the Mainstream Media.

Since the Egyptian protests, international companies have been frantically evacuating their ex-pat employees from the region. Tourists are shunning Egypt like the plague, if you’ll excuse the pun-ish expression. The Egyptian economy is suffering for it, but depend upon it: the Muslim Brotherhood doesn’t care. The fact is, they don’t want foreign tourists coming to Egypt at all.

The West and the Muslim East are like ships that pass in the night, to use yet another cliché. The East, however, not only doesn’t want the Western shipping passing it, but will fire upon her, stealing her cargo and beheading her passengers, before finally sinking her. The commandeering of the Suez Canal is but the first shot over the West’s bow.

Friday, February 18, 2011

Why Teachers Fail

Former N.J. Education Secretary Brett Schundler was a guest speaker at our local Tea Party meeting last night. I’d met him before and it was nice to see him again. His topic, obviously, was education reform.

He pretty much danced along the fence, not wanting to offend anyone, particularly the former NJEA and NEA chapter president sitting just off to his right. Schundler spoke about the high expectations of his own high school history teacher, and how following a regular curriculum with lectures, homework, quizzes, and longer-term tests serving as the benchmarks of a student’s progress.

As soon as he was finished, the former union representative jumped up (he reminded of Gerald O’Hara in Gone With the Wind) and shouted that the number one problem in classrooms today was lack of discipline. The teachers are no longer taught how to control their students.

Even though he was union representative, no one disagreed with him. He also insisted that there was too much teacher-bashing going on, that it wasn’t the teachers’ fault students aren’t doing well in school. No one really disagreed with him about that, either.

A woman off to my left pointed out that Schundler had neglected to mention parental involvement. Evidently, the former Education Secretary had read “Waiting for Superman.” He cited the Kipp Schools as an example, and said that good teachers with a good method of teaching could make up for that lack of early parental education.

But if it isn’t the fault of teachers that inner city children aren’t learning and parents are useless, that given the same educational advances within a charter school system, urban children can succeed as well as their more affluent suburban counterparts, then whose fault is it that they’re failing so miserably?

Who has encouraged the lack of discipline and the disrespect for authority that makes teachers’ jobs, especially those in the inner cities, so difficult? In my mother’s day, everyone was poor. Classrooms were packed with 35 children. My mother came from a broken home. Yet, far from failing, she skipped two grades and graduated high school at 16. As a child, she was so hungry, she chewed on shoe leather.

She was a minority Christian in a predominantly Jewish high school. By the time she graduated, she could quote Shakespeare. Who prepared her for school? My grandmother had an 8th grade education. My grandfather was extremely intelligent, though. Yet by the time Mom was 10, my grandparents had separated and my mother was sent to live with her strict and verbally abusive grandmother. My mother was unhappy and depressed. Probably she wouldn’t have dared to come home with a bad report card. But somehow, I don’t think she needed a negative motivation to succeed.

If the kids are undisciplined today, or spoiled and unruly, it’s because someone wants them to be. Teachers and principals are hindered in their discipline of students in our modern society. Someone has taught the kids not to care about those authority figures, or learning the basics, which as Schundler said last night, are crucial building blocks to further educational progress.

Several people in the audience complained about one of the real problems, particularly in suburban schools, control over the curriculum. These are parents and grandparents who don’t want their kids being taught fake science, revisionist American history, how to apply a condom, or that Heather having two mommies is “normal.”

But here Schundler deferred to the curriculum revisionists. He said he felt teachers had the right to teach whatever they felt was appropriate, without consulting parents. Part of the problem is electing school board members who authorize the purchase of such texts. The school administrations have a hand in that selection, too, though.

Seeing that he was pleasing no one, Schundler went on to say that that was why he favored vouchers, school choice, and charter schools. That way, a teacher could teach their conscience, and if parents didn’t approve, they could send their children to some other school.

I didn’t have that option when I was in high school. Either I accepted the teacher’s Communist dogma in place of the American history he was supposed to be teaching, or I could fail, along with my fellow 1976 rebels. Schundler forgets that students are a captive audience; they have no choice, indeed. A teacher shouldn’t be granted such a right at the expense of his students.

The audience gave the ornery union member a wide berth. He was evidently looking for a fight. He claimed teachers deserved their pay, no matter how exorbitant. We could have pointed out that we had just a wee bit of a problem with teachers being allowed to retire at age 55 on full pension with full health benefits. In doing so, a whole new crop of teachers must be brought in, who will also retire at 55. We could have pointed out that we average people (I will have to work until 67 in order to be eligible for Social Security – if it’s still in existence by that time) generally can’t afford retirement homes in Florida.

We also have a little problem with all the money the teachers’ unions pour into political campaigns.

They demand cost of living raises at a time when the economy is bad and taxpayers are struggling. We don’t hold them entirely responsible for the fact that our kids can’t read or write and don’t know that Nancy Hanks was Abe Lincoln’s stepmother. We do blame them, though, for politicizing and indoctrinating our children in anti-American rhetoric, and using them as pawns in their unionization strikes.

They have our children’s welfare at heart, maybe when it comes to education. But once money and benefits enter the arena, the unions only have their own self-interests at heart. They want to be considered professionals but on the picket line, they behave no better than the grimiest coal miner fighting, picketing, and threatening violence on behalf of wealth redistribution.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

The Freedom Connection

Glenn Beck’s website has offered Tea Partiers and other patriotic organizers a service they were cheated out of, I believe, last summer. Up until then, there was a clearinghouse website were patriotic-minded citizens could hook up and share ideas on the Internet.

But then, some unknown entity declared that the mission of the Tea Party needed to change, that they needed to go national, and to go beyond the rallies. The website was usurped and state by state, the sites were shut down and the people were disconnected from one another.

Glenn says that last year representatives from Freedom Works paid him a visit. They told him they had an idea for a website “clearinghouse” for Tea Parties and other groups interested in fiscal responsibility and limited government. They called it the Freedom Connector.

The site is exclusively for organizational use. They’re not interested in running anything or shutting anyone down. It’s all about us and for my part, I highly recommend it. We have a double safeguard of Freedom Works and Glenn Beck to see that we’re not shut down again.

I remember chatting online with a woman from a California. She lived in the L.A. area and wanted to know if there were any Tea Parties there. I told her about the existing site, at the time. But when I checked it out myself, it had already been commandeered. All the information for someone interested in getting involved was gone.

It’s not just about the Tea Parties (although we began the whole thing) but any of the off-shoot groups following a specific interest like education reform or Second Amendment Rights, or limited government.

Here’s the link:

Sign up as soon as you can. They provide a very interesting map. There are lots of resources on the East Coast and it’s growing across America. (Glenn just has to put it somewhere where it’s constantly visible and doesn’t disappear). Put this link in your favorites and e-mail it to all your like-minded friends.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

The Devil's Playground

Years ago, when I was still in college, I had embarked upon my apocryphal studies. What did all this Anti-Christ mean? I’d learned about the astrological prophecies but I wanted to see if they fit the Biblical prophecies. After studying the newspaper of that particular date, I began to formulate a theory about who the A.C. was, what type of man he was, and how he would go about gathering his legions.

Computers were very new in those days. My older brother still used his slide rule to do his college math calculations. When I got to college, computers were still these boxes with no monitors, with very limited capabilities.

Still, I warned anyone who would listen to beware of these newfangled contraptions, and the brand new communications arena, cable television. ‘One day,’ I predicted the television and the computer would be barely distinguishable from one another. The A.C. would use this new technology to gather his followers. With it, he would be able to track anyone, anywhere, at any time.

We already knew the power of television. But these new devices, along with plastic money (which we also knew about), would tether us to a single, centralized government. ‘We would even do our banking and bill-paying by this method, which would throw us farther into his power. We would rarely actually handle money anymore. Transactions would be done electronically, via passwords, and there was the true danger.’

Older people agreed and took me seriously. People my age and younger barely even heard me – and I didn’t listen to myself. Here I am, in the 21st Century, blithely and recklessly communicating on the Devil’s Playground, the Internet.  My older friends refuse to have anything to do with computers and wonder why I do, since it was I who warned them in the first place.

You can find out anything you want to know about anyone – and vice versa. Hackers can easily break your password, enter your computer, and steal information, or just wreak havoc. Thanks to a recent computer virus, the sound on my home computer no longer works. I would love to listen to Glenn Beck’s radio program on the Internet. As soon as I can figure out how to reinstate my sound.

The worried phone company probably jumbled the letters on the telephone dial so as not to lend any credence to speculation about the number 666. The numeral “1” has no letters. Still, if you were to move the letters up, SPQR would wind up on the number “6” – SPQR – Senatus Populus que Romanus - The Senate and the People of Rome. The letters appeared on all Roman coins. Will “666” appear on future coins and money? Well, let’s hope not.

SPQR appeared on coins, at the end of documents made public by inscription in stone or metal, in dedications of monuments and public works, and was emblazoned on the standards of the Roman legions. The phrase appears many hundreds of times in Roman political, legal and historical literature, including the speeches of Marcus Tullius Cicero and the history of Titus Livius. Since the meaning and the words never vary, except for the spelling and inflection of populus in literature, Latin dictionaries classify it as a formula.

The phrase's date of origin is not known, but its meaning places it generally after the founding of the Roman Republic. The two legal entities mentioned, “Senatus” and the “Populus Romanus,” are sovereign when combined. However, where populus is sovereign alone, Senatus is not. Under the Roman Monarchy, neither entity was sovereign. The phrase, therefore, can be dated to no earlier than the foundation of the Republic.

Then along came Julius Caesar, who proclaimed himself the Emperor of Rome. Until that point, since the overthrow of the monarchy, Rome had no titular leader. However, SPQR continued to be used under the Roman Empire. The emperors were considered the representatives of the people, even though the senatus consulta, or decrees of the Senate, were made at the pleasure of the emperor.

The Roman people appear very often in law and history in such phrases as dignitas, maiestas, auctoritas, libertas populi Romani, the “dignity, majesty, authority, freedom of the Roman people.” They were a populus liber, “a free people.” There was an exercitus, imperium, iudicia, honores, consules, voluntas of this same populus: “the army, rule, judgments, offices, consuls and will of the Roman people.” They appear in early Latin as Popolus and Poplus, so the habit of thinking of themselves as free and sovereign was quite ingrained.

The Romans believed that all authority came from the people. It could be said that similar language seen in more modern political and social revolutions directly comes from this usage. “People” in this sense meant the whole government. The latter, however, was essentially divided into the aristocratic Senate, whose will was executed by the consuls and praetors, and the comitia centuriata, “committees of the hundreds,” whose will came to be safeguarded by the Tribunes.

During the regime of Benito Mussolini, SPQR was emblazoned on a number of public buildings and manhole covers in an attempt to promote his dictatorship as a “New Roman Empire.”

But that’s just one crackpot conspiracy theory of what the number “666” stands for. The Bible tells us the number is a man’s name. The number has been attributed to Nero and Ronald Reagan. In Muslim terms, 666 was rumored to be the year that the hated Muawiyah I came to power.

The trick is to get his number before he gets ours. And then hang up on him.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

The 12th Imam

Followers of Christianity and other religions might be surprised to learn that Islam has a whole doctrine on The End Times. Unlike Revelations, they’re very specific as to times and portents, and give a detailed description of their Mahdi (messiah), as well as the Anti-Christ.

In Shia Islam, belief in the Mahdi has developed into a powerful and central religious idea.” “Twelver” (as conspiracy theorists call them) Shia Muslims believe that the Mahdi is Muhammad al-Mahdi, the Twelfth Imam, who was born in 869 CE and was hidden by God at the age of five (874 CE). He is still alive but has been in occultation (the right astrological moment to reincarnate), “awaiting the time that God has decreed for his return.”

Shia traditions state that the Mahdi will be “a young man of medium stature with a handsome face and black hair and beard. “He will not come in an odd year [...] will appear in Mecca between the corner of the Kaaba and the station of Abraham and people will witness him there.”

The Twelfth Imam will return as the Mahdi with “a company of his chosen ones,” and his enemies will be led by the one-eyed Antichrist and the Sufyani (followers and descendants of Muʻāwīya ibn ʼAbī Sufyān.) The two armies will fight “one final apocalyptic battle,” where the Mahdi and his forces will prevail over evil. After the Mahdi has ruled Earth for a number of years, Isa (Jesus) will return.

Our prophecies, at least among Western astrologers, is that the Anti-Christ will be of Jewish birth (apologies to all my Jewish friends), will follow in the footsteps of Jesus Christ. He will be born in poverty, preach peace, lead the young, and that he will come into power at age 30 and lead for three years. Seems to me, Jesus came for everyone, not just the young and no one is exactly certain anymore when he was born. There appears to be a window of seven years. But maybe I read my Bible wrong.

Last night, Glenn Beck spoke of Maajid Nawaz, who is 33 years old. He’s the right age and fits the description the Muslims give.

The Baha'i scholar Moojan Momen considers the following beliefs in relation to the Mahdi are shared by Sunni and Shia Muslims alike:

• The Mahdi will be a descendant of Muhammad of the line of Fatimah, He will be descendent by one side (by one of the parents) by Hassan and by another by Hussain.

• He will have the same name as Muhammad.

• He will be a fore-runner to Jesus' Islamic Rule.

• His coming will be accompanied by the raising of a Black Standard.

• His coming will be accompanied by the appearance of the Antichrist.

• There will be a lunar and solar eclipse within the same month of Ramadan.

• A star with a luminous tail will rise from the East before the coming of the Mahdi.

• He will establish the Caliphate.

• He will fill the world with justice and fairness at a time when the world will be filled with oppression.

• He will have a broad forehead, a prominent nose, and a natural mascara will ring his eyes.

• His face shall shine upon the surface of the Moon.

• The name of the Mahdi's representative will begin with the first-letter of a prophet's name and a verse of the Qur'an: ی (English: Y).

Mohammed himself had something to say about his successor:

“The world will not come to an end until the Arabs are ruled by a man from my family whose name is the same as mine and whose father’s name is the same as my father’s.”

“The Messenger of God said: ‘The Mahdi is of my lineage, with a high forehead and a long, thin, curved nose. He will fill the earth with fairness and justice as it was filled with oppression and injustice, and he will rule for seven years.

“The Messenger of God said: ‘At the end of the time of my ummah, the Mahdi will appear. God will grant him rain, the earth will bring forth its fruits, he will give a lot of money, cattle will increase and the ummah will become great. He will rule for seven or eight years.’”

Of those Sunnis that hold to the existence of the Mahdi, some believe the Mahdi will be an ordinary man, born to an ordinary woman.

“The dominion (authority) of the Mahdi is one of the proofs that God has created all things; these are so numerous that his [the Mahdi's] proofs will overcome (will be influential, will be dominant) everyone and nobody will have any counter-proposition against him. People will flee from him [the Mahdi] as sheep flee from the shepherd. Later, people will begin to look for a purifier. But since they can find none to help them but him, they will begin to run to him.”

At present, the word on the Net, among the young Muslims, is that they hate this Maajid Nawaz. He was born of mixed birth, to a Pakistani father and an English mother. Nor was he born Muslim; he converted, and at 16, influenced by The Nation of Islam, joined the militant Muslim organizations Hizb ut-Tahrir (The Liberation Party). He helped set up terrorist cells in London.

In 2002, he travelled to Egypt and was arrested in Alexandria for being a member of this banned organization. While in prison, he had “Paul of Tarsus” and decided to follow the path of peace. Once released, he became the darling of Western liberal society.

“His [the Mahdi's] aim is to establish a moral system from which all superstitious faiths have been eliminated. In the same way that students enter Islam, so unbelievers will come to believe. When the Mahdi appears, God will cause such power of vision and hearing to be manifested in believers that the Mahdi will call to the whole world from where he is, with no postman involved, and they will hear and even see him.”

Nawaz was one of the organizers of the Tahrir Squar rebellion, using all the latest technology to organize their uprising. The protesters to some non-technological props as well, though, riding a white horse into Tahrir Square as the Mahdi will supposedly do one day.

Actually, there are Four Horseman of the Apocalypse, riding steeds of various colors: white, red, black, and pale (gray). Interesting that one of the 9/11 planes was white, another was white, but look black as it headed towards the South Tower, the side facing away from the morning falling into shadow, one was silver grey, and the other, the American Airlines flight, was blue with bright red lettering.

Mohammed was also 33 years old when he died that morning, shares the name of the Prophet (twice, in fact – his full name being Mohamed Mohamed el-Amir Awad el-Sayed Atta) and had heavily mascared eyes. What’s more, rumors are that he had a beard until he shaved it off in order to appear American when he arrived here. Knowing nothing about the Egyptians, I wonder if this is something they do deliberately, or whether the feature occurs naturally.

What’s hard to believe is that they believe in the same Jesus Christ the Christians do. They would undoubtedly say we are weak and corrupt. But the Muslims, on the other hand, must have missed the lesson where Jesus spared a woman accused of adultery from stoning by the mob. “Let he who is without sin cast the first stone.” Or where He urged Peter and Matthew to put aside their differences and be brothers. They must have missed the 11th commandment. John 13:34: “A new commandment I give unto you, That ye love one another; as I have loved you, that ye also love one another.”

“Love your enemies; do good unto them which hate you.”

It’s hard to believe that that same Lord and Messiah would have wished upon people of various degrees of innocence the fate of 9/11 – the “Babylon” of Revelations and Nostradamus’ New City: “For in on one hour so great riches is come to nought. And every shipmaster, and all the company in ships, and sailors, and many as trade by sea, stood afar off, And cried when they saw the smoke of her burning, saying ‘What city is like unto this great city…. Alas, alas, that great city wherein were made rich all that had ships in the sea by reason of her costliness; for in one hour is she made desolate.’”

Is this the way Mohammed Atta saw himself and the way the Muslims see him, as a purveyor of the wrath of God? For those of us who knew people in the Twin Towers, this is a rather incredible story to swallow. The people working there were just ordinary people no better or worse than anyone else, of many different faiths, including Christianity. Still, but for the earliness of the hour and for other things unseen by us that may have gone wrong with the terrorists’ plans, many more might have perished.

For that, God was merciful, at least. Let us pray that this not the End Times but the end of times in which religious fanatics enslave their faithful through violence.

Monday, February 14, 2011

Valentine's Day

“I’m just a girl who cain’t say no.
Kissin’s my favorite food.
With or without the mistletoe,
I’m in a holiday mood.” Ado Annie, Oklahoma!

Saint Valentine's Day, commonly shortened to Valentine's Day after Pope Paul VI deleted it from the Roman Catholic calendar in 1969, seven years after the Vatican II agreement, desanctifying several saints whom the Muslims found offensive. There are varying opinions as to the origin of Valentine's Day.

Some experts state that it originated from St. Valentine, a Roman who was martyred for refusing to give up Christianity. He died on February 14, 269 A.D., the same day that had been devoted to love lotteries. Legend also says that St. Valentine left a farewell note for the jailer's daughter, who had become his friend, and signed it “From Your Valentine.” Other aspects of the story say that Saint Valentine served as a priest at the temple during the reign of Emperor Claudius. Claudius then had Valentine jailed for defying him. In 496 A.D. Pope Gelasius set aside February 14 to honor St. Valentine.

The day first became associated with romantic love in the circle of Geoffrey Chaucer in the High Middle Ages, when the tradition of courtly love flourished. Modern Valentine's Day symbols include the heart-shaped outline, doves, and the figure of the winged Cupid. Since the 19th century, handwritten valentines have given way to mass-produced greeting cards.

Numerous early Christian martyrs were named Valentine. The Valentines honored on February 14 are Valentine of Rome (Valentinus presb. m. Romae) and Valentine of Terni (Valentinus ep. Interamnensis m. Romae). Valentine of Rome was a priest in Rome who was martyred about AD 269 and was buried on the Via Flaminia. His relics are at the Church of Saint Praxed in Rome, and at Whitefriar Street Carmelite Church in Dublin, Ireland.

Valentine of Terni became bishop of Interamna (modern Terni) about AD 197 and is said to have been martyred during the persecution under Emperor Aurelian. He is also buried on the Via Flaminia, but in a different location than Valentine of Rome. His relics are at the Basilica of Saint Valentine in Terni (Basilica di San Valentino).

The Catholic Encyclopedia also speaks of a third saint named Valentine who was mentioned in early martyrologies under date of February 14. He was martyred in Africa with a number of companions, but nothing more is known about him.

No romantic elements are present in the original early medieval biographies of either of these martyrs. By the time a Saint Valentine became linked to romance in the 14th century, distinctions between Valentine of Rome and Valentine of Terni were utterly lost.

So we in the modern world must carry on as best we can. Valetine’s Day cards, jewelry chocolates, flowers, stuffed critters (my personal favorite). And of course, romantic movies. Over the weekend, I had my own personal movie marathon of romantic flicks.

Recently, one of the websites listed the best cinematic kissing scenes. Frankly, I didn’t think too much of their list. This would be my Top Ten (Plus):

1. Some Like It Hot. Actor Tony Curtis may have complained that Marilyn Monroe kissed like Hitler. But the two of them sure put on a good act in the yacht scene. Just as an aside: according to IMDB, when SLIH was first aired in 1959, the audience laughed so loud when Tony Curtis asked Jack Lemmon (both in drag), “What’s the news?” and Lemmon replied, “I’m engaged?” and then Curtis asked him, “Who’s the lucky girl?” and Lemmon responded, “I am!” Those were different times, when people thought gay marriage was joke. No one’s laughing anymore (but it’s still a funny scene).

2. Cleopatra. Real-life lovers Elizabeth Taylor (Cleopatra) and Richard Burton (Marc Antony) weren’t just method actors. Their real-life affair, while filming the movie, was so hot that when the director shouted “Cut!” they just kept at it. Keeping it real, after all these years.

3. Gone with the Wind. Rhett Butler kisses Scarlett several times. The Road to Atlanta scene is classic, but it’s the stairway scene that starts hearts a-thumpin’ as the frustrated Rhett carries Scarlett up into the darkened nether regions of their mansion. Ah, l’amour!

4. The Shop Around the Corner and It’s A Wonderful Life. (Tie) Now, you wouldn’t think of the lanky Jimmy Stewart as the leading man type wooing the ladies, but watch him kiss Margaret Sullavan in Shop and Donna Reed in Life. You’re just not expecting that kind of intensity out of the kind of shlub of a guy, and all of a sudden – there it is, taking you (and the leading ladies) by surprise.

5. Jane Eyre (1944 film and 1983 miniseries). I wouldn’t be much of a Jane Eyre-head if I didn’t include my favorite film. In the 1944 film, you get a truly gothic feel from the movie, but not all that much kissing, not even in the proposal scene. But Orson Welles makes up for it at the very end. Timothy Dalton may not have been great a wooing the ladies in his stint in Jane Bond, but he sticks right to Charlotte Bronte’s description of Mr. Rochester and even does her one better in the climactic drawing room scene when Jane tells him “Fugeddaboudit!”

6. Brigadoon. The melodramatic, ballet-style of this 1954 Lerner and Lowe musical might not appeal to modern tastes (that’s why they put Van Johnson in the role of Jeff to counter the saccharine), but there’s something about Gene Kelly’s sincerity when acting so that when he and Fiona stop dancing around one another and finally get down to business, you get your money’s worth.

7. The Sound of Music. No, it’s not the kiss between Julie Andrews and Christopher Plummer, involving one of the longest run-ups to a kiss in cinematic history (according to Julie, there was a light on the set that made a rude noise every time she went to kiss him, so they finally turned the light out, which is why they were in shadow). It’s the first kiss between Charmian Carr (Liesl) and Daniel Truihitte (Rolfe). It’s such a sweet moment and her reaction is perfect.

8. Love is a Many Splendored Thing. Jennifer Jones was said to have hated leading man William Holden so much that she would eat garlic before their kissing scenes. But Holden was a trouper. Maybe it’s the garlic that made him so determined and convincing.

9. From Here to Eternity. It’s considered one of the most famous love scenes in cinema, when Burt Lancaster surfs with Deborah Kerr. I thought it looked a bit uncomfortable, all that sand. But there’s no question that it’s passionate.

10. Witness. Harrison Ford is another one of those Jimmy Stewart types. He’s so serious, just as tall but not as lanky as Stewart. Ford’s philosophy is to give his all to whatever role he’s playing, whether it’s a bellboy or a president. His job in this movie was to passionately kiss Amish widow Kelly McGillis and he did his job.

Happy Valentines Day to all you lovers and lonely hearts out there!  "Kissy, kissy, kissy!!!"  (Pepper, from the musical, Annie.)

Sunday, February 13, 2011

A Shaky Foundation for Democracy

The Egyptian army has disbanded Parliament and negated the Egyptian constitution. Why, what a surprise. Egypt is a mainly Sunni Muslim country. The average Westerner has heard about the two main sects of Islam, without really being able to distinguish the two of them.
What divided the two groups in the very beginning of Muslim history was Muawiyah I, the first Caliph of the Umayyad Dynasty. After the Muslim conquest of Mecca, his family converted to Islam. Muawiyah became a scribe for Muhammad, and during the first and second caliphates of Abu Bakr and Umar, fought with the Muslims against the Byzantines in Syria.

When his cousin. Uthman ibn Affan, became the third caliph, he appointed Muawiyah Governor of Syria. However when Ali (Mohammed’s son-in-law) was appointed the fourth and final Rashidun (“Righteous) Caliph, he expelled Muawiyah from the Governorship. Muawiyah refused to obey Ali, and had some level of support from the Syrians in his rebelliousness, amongst whom he was a popular leader. Ali called for military action against Muawiyah, but the reaction of the political classes in Medina was not encouraged, and thus Ali deferred. Eventually Ali marched on Damascus and fought Muawiyah's supporters at the inconclusive Battle of Siffin (657 CE). Ali's son Hasan ibn Ali signed a truce and retired to private life in Medina. Muawiyah thus established the Umayyad (“global”) Caliphate, which was to be a hereditary dynasty, and governed from Damascus in Syria instead of Medina in Arabia.

A caliph is the head of state in a Caliphate, and the title for the leader of the Islamic Ummah, an Islamic community ruled by the Shari'ah. It is a transcribed version of the Arabic word which means "successor" or "representative". Following Muhammad's death in 632, the early leaders of the Muslim nation were called "Khalifat Rasul Allah", the political successors to the messenger of God (referring to Muhammad). Some academics prefer to transliterate the term as Khalīfah.

On other hand, Imāmah is the Shia doctrine of religious, spiritual and political leadership of the Ummah. The Shīa believe that the A'immah (“Imams”) are the true Caliphs or rightful successors of Muḥammad, and Twelvers and Ismā‘īlī Shī‘ah further believe that Imams are possessed of divine knowledge, authority, and infallibility (‘Iṣmah’) as well as being part of the Ahl al-Bayt, the family of Muhammad. The word imam denotes the one who stands or walks in front. He is the guide. It is commonly used to mean the person who 'guides' the course of prayer in the mosque; in many cases it means the head of a school. From the Shi'i point of view, this is merely a metaphorical usage of the word. Properly and strictly speaking, the term is applicable only to those members of the House of the Prophet (ahl al-bayt) designated as the infallible. These beliefs distinguish the Shīa from Sunni.

Hasan ibn Ali was appointed as Caliph in 661 following the death of Ali and is also regarded as a righteous ruler by Sunni Muslims, although he was recognized by only half of the Islamic state and his rule was challenged and eventually ended by the Governor of Syria, Muawiyah ibn Abi Sufyan.

What does it all mean? Well, the Sunni believe the Caliphate will be restored by battle and political power. The Shia, no less war-like, believe that the state and the religion of Islam must be one. The Shia believe that the Sunni are more interested in political power than religious power. They feel they will gain the ultimate victory in an apocalyptic battle led ultimately by a messianic Imam – the 12th Imam, or “Mahdi” (Messiah). The Shias believe the Sunnis will be misled by a Sufyanic military leader similar to Christianity’s version of the Anti-Christ, sufyan being the last name of the hated Muawiyah.

No matter how divided they are (the Sunnis make up the majority of the Muslim population), they are both antithetical to Western notions of “democracy.” They don’t believe in elected presidents, legislatures or Constitutions. They certainly do not believe in individual rights, a belief they hold in common with the Communists.

Many Sunni historians view Muawiyah as a companion of Muhammad, and hence worthy of respect for this reason, and some Sunnis Muslims take great issue with the Shi'a criticism and vilification of him. However, other Sunni Muslims, while refusing to adopt the negativity of Shia sentiment to Muawiya nevertheless quietly withhold according him religious status owing to his rebellions against Ali and al-Hassan, who are regarded as pious rulers, Muawiyah being regarded as a worldly king of dubious sincerity. Finally Muawiyah transformed the caliphate from an elective monarchy with some emphasis on religious qualification into a hereditary one with no such stringent requirement, by designating his son Yazid as his successor.

Caliph Umar (Umar ibn al-Khattab) had appointed Muawiyah as governor of Syria in 640, when his brother died of the plague. Muawiyah gradually gained mastery over the other areas of Syria, instilling remarkable personal loyalty among his troops and the people of the region. By 647, Muawiyah had built a Syrian army strong enough to repel a Byzantine attack and, in subsequent years, to take the offensive against the Byzantines in campaigns that resulted in the capture of Cyprus (649) and Rhodes (654) and a devastating defeat of the Byzantine navy off the coast of Lycia (655).

Muawiyah I, after capturing Rhodes, sold the remains of the Colossus of Rhodes (which was toppled in an earthquake in 226 B.C. and left to lie where it had fallen for hundreds of years, with the hope it would someday to re-erected) to a traveling salesman. The buyer had the statue broken down, and transported the bronze scrap on the backs of 900 camels to his home. Pieces continued to turn up for sale for years, after being found along the caravan route.

The Shi'a view Muawiyah as a tyrant, usurper and murderer. His supposed conversion to Islam before the conquest of Mecca is dismissed as a fable, or mere hypocrisy. He is also described as a manipulator and liar who usurped Islam purely for political and material gain of his father's loss. He was also widely regarded as a tyrant and usurper by both Shia Arabs and Persians, who despite being ruled by Sunni Arabs and their vassals for centuries, ultimately found the egalitarian Shia creed more palatable than the oppressive, Arab-supremacist tribal rule of Muawiya. Ali was noted for upholding the rights of non-Arab Muslims, whereas the Umayyads are remembered in Persian history for squashing them. The Umayyads suppressed Persian culture and language, and a number of Iran's greatest contributors to Persian literature.

How does this religious theory hold up in the light of reality, however? The Ayatollah Khomeini was a Shi’ite. Saddam Hussein was a Sunni. Khomeini reinstated Shariah law and outlawed all things Western. Hussein, though a brutal dictator, was a secularist who permitted Western culture to flourish in his country. Since the Iraq War, the Shi’ites have gained control and women are dressing in the habib again and Westerners, Christians and apostates are being driven out. Both countries are predominantly Shia, the only two Arab countries that are.

The majority of Egyptians are Sunnis. Presumably they don’t want Western influence in their country. Mohammed Atta was a Sunni who hated the West with a notorious venom. If he is representative of Egyptian Sunnis and the Muslim Brotherhood, of which he was a member, them someone is lying to the Western Media, whose fashionable boots are on the ground in Cairo.

We need some objective reporting from the Media, or at least from Fox News. This isn’t a Tea Party over there, although the news reports made much of the fact that the protesters came out today to clean up the mess they made the last three weeks.

It might be a good idea, too, if the Media did a little research on actual Muslim history and their beliefs (especially regarding the end of the world) before they report at face value on what’s going on over there. It’s pretty hard to report to the West, when you’re bowing to the East in a desperate attempt to be politic and save your own hides.

Sand is very unreliable ground for a firm foundation for true democracy.