Wednesday, 21 March 2018

A Stable Floor

Brian Eno endorses an Unconditional Basic Income

Mirror: Should we pay everyone £1,000 a month? The case for Universal Basic Income as robots take over jobs

Speaking exclusively to the Sunday People, Brian said: “The concept came to my ­attention a couple of ­decades ago. I remember thinking it wouldn’t work.

"But when I explored it, I realised there was potential. I had three things kind of like the UBI. I came from a poor background but had a free education.

“Then I went to a good art school, then there was the dole. All those things gave me a chance to explore my creativity, think about things properly.

“That’s what Universal Basic Income does. It frees people.”

Critics of the scheme believe it would discourage people from seeking jobs. But Brian and other backers say it will nurture creativity and lead to people starting their own businesses.

The Lost World of Adam and Eve, by John Walton

A few years ago I read John Walton's book 'The Lost World of Genesis One.' I have found this a deeply interesting book which offered a plausible interpretation of Genesis chapter 1 that was compatible with scientific conclusions. Walton's premise was that Genesis 1 is not about the material creation of the universe, but the establishment of the creation as a cosmic temple of Yahweh. His view is not unlike that of Sailhammer's 'Promised Land' interpretation, but it is more grounded in ancient near eastern culture. Walton argues that Genesis One is not about God making things, but about assigning function to them. I can't help thinking that this smacks a little of nominalism, but does that really matter? If the ancient Hebrews had a slightly nominalist thinking, that does not mean we have to think that way. Walton's 'cosmic temple' view also fits nicely with GK Beale's book 'The Temple and the Church's Mission,' which expounds on the importance of the temple in the purposes of God. Walton's more recent volume, however, deals with Adam and Eve and their place within the creation account of Genesis.

Walton sets out his thesis by according a proposition to each chapter. The first proposition holds that Genesis is an ancient book and must be interpreted in the light of ancient near east culture. To read the ideas and cosmology of modern science into Genesis is to make an huge exegetical mistake. He points out that Genesis has a gulf of water above the sun, moon and stars. Rather than trying to harmonize this with our modern cosmology, we should see this as accommodation to the world view of ancient readers. This is not a denial of inerrancy, for the text is not affirming that we would encounter such a body of water if we got into a spaceship and went looking for it. The Scriptures do not anticipate the sort of questions we would ask about the universe. He cautions us about being led too much by the conclusions of historic interpreters, whether Medieval or Reformation, as they did not have access to the same level of knowledge of the ancient near east as scholars do today.

Our author argues that Genesis chapter two should be seen as a different creation account rather than a recapitulation of Genesis One. This leads to the conclusion that the creation of generic humanity is separate and distinct from the appointment of Adam an Eve as the guardians of the Garden of Eden. He goes on to argue that the descriptions of Adam as being made from the dust and Eve being taken from his side are not claims about material origin. The creation of Adam from the dust indicates not his chemical composition, but his being created mortal. While Christians sometimes think of Adam as being created immortal, the text of Genesis is clear that Adam needed access to the Tree of Life to be immortal. The creation of Eve from Adam's side, he argues, is a spiritual vision given to Adam of an archetypal reality. He argues from comparison with other ancient near east mythologies that it would not be unusual for the ancient Hebrews to see the creation of humanity as archetypal.

In considering how the New Testament deals with Adam, Walton makes the case that it views Adam primarily in archetypal terms, without denying his existence as an historical person. In terms of Adam's significance as an individual, Adam's role is to serve as a priest in the Garden of God, a sacred space. He makes comparisons between Eden and other divine gardens in ancient mythologies.

Regarding the serpent of Eden (though Walton suggests the temptation scene might have occurred outside of Eden), he argues that the serpent is a Chaos Creature from the non-ordered realm. He points out how serpents are portrayed in ancient religions and mythologies and argues that it would have been viewed as a magical and dangerous creature. I get frustrated by Evangelical Christians who insist on literalizing the story and talking about Satan giving power to a snake to speak. Walton makes reference to the conclusions of Richard Averbeck, who makes a link between the serpent and chaotic sea monsters in Scripture. This led me to buy a copy of The Future of Biblical Archaeology, in which Averbeck's article appears.

Walton is more cautious than Averbeck about linking the serpent to Satan, but he agrees with him that he is a supernatural being and not a normal snake. The failure which the serpent instigated was to lead Adam and Eve to make themselves the center of order and wisdom in the cosmos instead of God and thus failed as humanity's covenant representatives. The result was that humans no longer had access to the Tree of Life and escape from death. He argues that the evil and chaos in the world should be understood as a disorder introduced into creation and not as genetic. The renowned Anglican theologian NT Wright provides a guest contribution, in which he argues that Paul's emphasis in Romans is about the restoration of a world brought into chaos by Adam.

Our author does not see it as at all necessary for all humanity to be descended from Adam. He looks at two attempts to resolve the tension between the idea of a humanity descended from Adam and the conclusions of modern science. The first is the idea of Mitochondrial Eve and Y-chromosomal Adam. He points out that while the evidence favours humanity being descended from two individuals, the evidence seems to suggest they lived in separate eras of pre-history and thus provides an unreliable basis for establishing common descent from Adam and Eve. The other model he looks at considers Adam and Eve to be part of a very small group of early humans. While they were not the only humans, the population was so small that all humans can claim descent from them. While Walton sees this as having some merit, he feels it is unnecessary to affirm that all humanity descended from Adam. He makes the case Acts 17:26 does not demand this conclusion. Personally, I rather like the idea of Adam being the leader of a small community of early humans. This would probably mean shifting Eden from Mesopotamia to Africa, but that is not a big problem. I find it difficult to deal with the idea of the sin of Adam affecting a large population of humans with which he had no immediate connection.

Walton believes that the propositions outlined in this book allow for a special creation even if there is evolutionary continuity between humans and animals. In the final chapter he deals with the objection that his views of Adam and creation are contrary to historic Christian interpretation and were taught by none of the Church Fathers. He responded by pointing out another problems in relying on the interpretation of the Church Fathers. Those are thoughts that need to be heard. While Evangelicals often fall into an overly literal interpretation of Scripture, conservative Catholics can sometimes be too unquestioning in their reliance on the exegetical conclusions of the Fathers.

I don't think one needs to agree with every point of John Walton's exegesis to recognize that he offers a fresh and productive way of viewing the Genesis account. He provides a way to view to Adam and Eve that can be harmonized at least to some extent with contemporary views about human origins. I do worry, however, that his approach to original sin might not be sufficiently orthodox. It's not a question I can see myself wrestling with for long; I always found debates about the transmission of original sin deathly dull. I am really not sure exactly what the Magisterium of the Church requires us precisely to believe about Original Sin, so it's hard for me to be sure how far Walton is from orthodoxy on the subject.

HuffPost UK: Conservative Voters Back Tory Brexit Rebels, New Poll Reveals

HuffPost UK: Conservative Voters Back Tory Brexit Rebels, New Poll Reveals

Nearly half of Tory voters would support a second referendum on the UK’s final Brexit deal, according to a new poll.

Survation interviewed 1,507 voters who supported the Conservatives at either the 2015 or 2017 general election and found 47% said they would also support their MP if they proposed remaining part of a customs union with the EU after March 2019.

Six out of ten said they believed it was right for politicians to “put country before party” on Brexit - suggesting a high level of support for Tory rebels Ken Clarke and Anna Soubry, who will table an amendment to the trade bill which would keep the UK in a form of customs union - against the government’s position.

Not all Conservative voters are militant Brexiteers and if the government assumes we are, it will lose.

Tuesday, 20 March 2018

BuzzFeed: An "Ashamed" Fox News Commentator Just Quit The "Propaganda Machine"

BuzzFeed: An "Ashamed" Fox News Commentator Just Quit The "Propaganda Machine"

A retired United States Army lieutenant colonel and Fox News contributor quit Tuesday and denounced the network and President Donald Trump in an email to colleagues.

"Fox has degenerated from providing a legitimate and much-needed outlet for conservative voices to a mere propaganda machine for a destructive and ethically ruinous administration," wrote Peters, a Fox News "strategic analyst."

"Over my decade with Fox, I long was proud of the association. Now I am ashamed," he wrote.

Saturday, 17 March 2018

Forward Presence Battle Group

Friday, 16 March 2018

The Feast of Saint Patrick

O God, who chose the Bishop Saint Patrick to preach your glory to the peoples of Ireland, grant, through his merits and intercession, that those who glory in the name of Christian may never cease to proclaim your wondrous deeds to all. Through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son, who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever.

Saint Patrick, pray for us, and for Ireland.

Tuesday, 13 March 2018

A Call to Unity from Chuka Umunna and Anna Soubry

Evening Standard: The Brexit generation will never forgive our parties if we fail

by Anna Soubry and Chuka Umunna

"Given a free vote, we believe our colleagues would support Britain staying in both the single market and customs union — not just because that is what they believe in but because their constituents are desperate for an outcome that secures the economic future of their children and grandchildren.

We also believe that if we don’t get this right there will be profound adverse consequences not just for our economy and place in the world but also on the way we do politics in Britain.

Too many government ministers bury their Brexit fears under piles of ministerial papers, shy away from debate in interministerial groups and get whisked away from difficult discussions in cosy cars. Too often their excuses for ducking the difficult decisions are parroted by the Opposition frontbench.

For the first time ever, a Government is set upon a course which, on its own admission, will make us less prosperous. We were promised the “exact same benefits” by David Davis, but now in a welcome blast of Brexit reality Mrs May admits we will have reduced access to the single market and there will be no passporting for London’s financial services. And that, of course, is her opening pitch."

Monday, 12 March 2018

Turkish Flag Hoisted

Encouraging to see continued military co-operation between the US and Turkey.

Sunday, 11 March 2018

Euromaidan Press: What can Ukraine offer NATO?

Euromaidan Press: What can Ukraine offer NATO?

"Since the inception of bilateral relations in the early 1990s, Ukraine has proved itself as a reliable partner that showed its commitment to values and standards of NATO through joint military operations, counter-terrorism missions, and security sector reforms. For the past two decades, Ukraine demonstrated its commitment to principles of the transatlantic security framework through participating in the wide range of NATO-led operations.

Ukraine took part in a peacekeeping mission in Kosovo, ISAF mission in Afghanistan, and training mission in Iraq; contributed its navy to the counter-piracy initiative Ocean Shield off the coast of Somalia and counter-terrorism Operation Active Endeavour in the Mediterranean Sea. It became the first non-member country to contribute its troops to the NATO Response Force. Ukraine provided NATO with unique airlift capabilities and actively participated in joint civil emergency exercises. Although the military cooperation has reached a strategic level, a combination of factors including the lack of political will and opposition from Russia prevented the intensification of the dialogue. Two years of conflict in eastern Ukraine has not only rallied the public and governmental support for the deeper integration in NATO structures, but also forged Ukraine into a much stronger partner with a unique set of capabilities that could be crucial for the Alliance."

Saturday, 10 March 2018

Fire and Fury, by Michael Wolff

I finished reading Michael Wolff's penetration of the Trump White House this week. I must say I really enjoyed it and found it a difficult book to put down. It really does feel like watching a TV series, such is Wolff's marvelously lively portrayal of the characters. It was also fun to relive the news headlines of the past year and to see them from an ostensibly insider perspective. Obviously, it is impossible for the reader to know how much of Wolff's report is accurate.

Trump comes across as slightly poor likeable than he is sometimes portrayed in the media, but he nevertheless is shown to be generally a pathetic and pitiable figure. A good deal of this is written from the perspective of Steve Bannon, who is clearly Wolff's most important source. At times, this book almost comes across as a biography of Bannon. Wolff seems to have a remarkable admiration for Bannon, making him out to be the voice of integrity and honesty in the White House. Other right-wing figures come in for praise; notably Ann Coulter is credited with persuading Trump that he cannot employ any of his children as Chief of Staff. Likewise, the chief liberal figures in the White House, 'Jarvanka,' as Wolff christens the husband and wife team of Ivanka Trump and Jared Kushner, are portrayed as the villains, ambitious, untrustworthy, but also incompetent and out of their depth. This right-wing bias in the book has gained surprisingly little comment among the liberal readers who have eagerly devoured it.

Eastern Ukraine Situation Report 10th March

Friday, 9 March 2018

The Washington Post: What should immigration activists do now?

The Washington Post: What should immigration activists do now?

by Jennifer Rubin

"Third, immigration activists have let the anti-immigrant crowd run away with the national security and safety issues on immigration-related issues. That’s a mistake. The facts are actually on the side of pro-immigration activists. The Muslim ban does not make us safer; in fact, we need American Muslim communities to work hand in glove with law enforcement to spot and prevent radicalization among young people. The same holds true on crime. Cities that do not want to do Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s (ICE) work for the agency (by holding suspected undocumented immigrants, turning them over to the feds without warrants, etc.) are taking this stance in part because they must create an environment in which immigrants will report crimes and cooperate in catching and trying criminals. This is why local and state law enforcement generally (not everywhere, certainly) do not want to be dragooned into rounding up undocumented immigrants and facilitating their deportation; in the end, it makes their jobs harder.

The successes that big cities have had in reducing crime, especially violent crime, should be highlighted — and proffered as evidence that prioritizing public safety (not acting as ICE’s minions) makes the country safer. Likewise, aggressively challenging the administration’s deportation of non-criminals is essential if pro-immigrant activists are to make the case that we are safer when authorities are focused on dangerous criminals, not on chemistry teachers."

Wednesday, 7 March 2018

Jayda Fransen of Britain First sent to the Clink

Daily Mail: Britain First leader and deputy are jailed for a total of 54 weeks for hate crimes linked to gang rape as judge blasts their 'hostility towards Muslims'

On hearing the sentence Fransen said: 'I think this is a very sad day for British justice...

She is then cut off by Judge Barron who said he did not want to hear a political slogan.

She added: 'Everything I have done is for the children and they are worth it.'

Upon saying this the public gallery- that was packed with Britain First supporters- erupted in applause.

The supporters then left the court abusing the judge and the press saying they were 'disgraceful' and also shouting 'no surrender'

Golding and Fransen were led down to the cells.

Some very good news for once. All that free publicity from Donald Trump didn't save these racist thugs from jail. Funny how the Daily Mail journalist tries so hard to paint them in as favourable light as possible.

Tuesday, 6 March 2018

The Feast of Saint Perpetua and Saint Felicity

O God, at the urging of whose love the Martyrs Saints Perpetua and Felicity defied their persecutors and overcame the torment of earth, grant, we ask, by their prayers, that we may ever grow in your love. Through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son, who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever.

St. Perpetua and Saint Felicity, pray for us, that we may be men and women of faith.

I am very proud that my birthday should fall on the 7th March, the feast day of such blessed martyrs and I regard them as my holy patrons.

The Costs of an Hard Brexit