A View From the Cheap Seats

April 21, 2010

Grab Bag

Filed under: Illinois,Politics,Religion,World — trzupek @ 1:57 pm

EXAMINER PUBLICATIONS – APRIL 21, 2010

By Rich Trzupek

– Not sure which is more remarkable: the flurry of radical proposals that USEPA Administrator Lisa Jackson is churning out on an almost monthly basis, or the way the mainstream media is completely ignoring what she’s been up to. In little more than a year, Jackson has developed new air quality standards that will make it just about impossible to build a new fossil-fuel fired power plant in this country, set up an Ocean Policy Taskforce that will prove more effective than anything at stopping off-shore drilling and is steadily working on a rewrite of storm water regulations that will impact the cost and availability of a whole new host of consumer products previously untouched by EPA’s grasping hands.

If they are seen through to fruition, all of these initiatives will be costly to consumers and drive even more jobs overseas to nations that don’t have a similarly dazzling array of well-intentioned, but ultimately pointless, rules. Veteran readers of the Cheap Seats know that your humble correspondent does battle with the EPA in the day job on a daily basis, so I have certain, well-earned bias against that particular agency. But, Jackson’s EPA is a bureaucracy on steroids. Privately – very privately – many EPA staffers have been shaking their heads in disbelief as well, for they understand that if Jackson has her way, there’s going to be very little industry left for them to regulate.

– Last week Trey Parker and Matt Stone, aka: the last two guys in Hollywood with any guts, took a shot at radical Islam. No, that’s not right. In the April 18 episode of South Park, Parker and Stone were merciless in exposing the cowardly hypocrisy of those who enable the intolerance of the jihadists out fear of violent retribution. The response from the jihadis was predictable. How dare Parker and Stone attack Islamic intolerance and violence. They must be killed! The situation might be termed ironic, if it wasn’t so pathetic.

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December 2, 2009

An Open Letter Regarding the CRU Scandal

Filed under: Environment,Global Warming,National,Politics,Religion,Science,World — trzupek @ 3:19 pm

EXAMINER PUBLICATIONS – DECEMBER 2, 2009

Dear Senators Burris and Durbin, and Representatives Bean, Foster, Kirk and Roskam:

My name is Rich Trzupek. I am a columnist for Examiner Publications, which is published in several northwest Chicago suburbs. More importantly, in terms of this letter, I am also a chemist who has been practicing environmental science for over twenty five years, with a focus on air quality issues. Among other accomplishments in the field, I have helped develop USEPA air test methods and I am the author of McGraw-Hill’s “Air Quality Compliance and Permitting Manual”. This open letter is being published in all December 2 editions of The Examiner.

The recent release of files from the University of East Anglia’s Climate Research Unit (CRU) are disturbing and you, our elected representatives, should take action to determine the extent of the fraud that has been perpetrated on the public.

I have personally reviewed the CRU files, as have many of my colleagues in the scientific community. These files have been characterized by some as e-mail records. While the CRU files do include copies of many e-mails, there is much more in the record than that. The data files, in particular, show that the leading scientists researching so-called “climate change” have substituted fanciful, unsubstantiated data in order to create the impression that planetary temperatures have been increasing alarmingly for the last fifty years, when in fact this has not been the case.

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Lies and Damned Lies

Filed under: Environment,Global Warming,National,Religion,World — trzupek @ 3:13 pm

EXAMINER PUBLICATIONS – NOVEMBER 25, 2009

There were amazing happenings in the bizarre world of “climate change” last week, although the mainstream media – Fox and the New York Times excepted – did their best to ignore it. Over 4,000 electronic files were published on the internet, files that the global warming alarmists really, really didn’t want anyone to see, files that exposed the alarmists as the frauds, bullies and hucksters that they are.

If this story involved another subject, one more popular with the MSM, the scandal would have been splashed across the front page of every newspaper in the country. But, since it didn’t involve the price of Sarah Palin’s shoes, or something equally vital to the national interest, the mainstream media dutifully dumped it in the circular file labeled “right wing nut jobs”.

We start with the University of East Anglia’s Climate Research Unit, which we will now abbreviate “CRU”. The CRU has long been a repository for a great deal of raw data and correspondence that is used by global warming alarmists to make their dubious case. There is a very good reason that CRU plays this role: since it’s located in the UK, all of these files have been out of reach of the United States’ Freedom of Information Act.

Unfortunately (for the alarmists) the UK recently enacted its own version of FOIA and leading skeptics like Steve McIntyre and Anthony Watts began the tedious process of getting the data that the alarmists have steadfastly refused to produce. You know – those “the science is settled” alarmists who have nothing to hide, but who ignore requests to examine their data at every opportunity.

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November 1, 2009

Rush To Judgement

Filed under: National,Politics,Religion,World — trzupek @ 7:34 pm
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rush-limbaughEXAMINER PUBLICATIONS – OCTOBER 21, 2009

By Rich Trzupek

It’s really hard to keep one’s priorities in order. The mullahs in Iran are happily developing atomic weaponry, Congress is happily working on socializing medicine and we’re running up the national debt faster than you can say “it’s still Bush’s fault.” And sure, we hear about these things in the news, but – last week – these events paled in importance compared to the really, REALLY big news: the name of the guy who wants to be a minority owner of the St. Louis Rams.

Your humble correspondent is not a Limbaugh listener. Nothing against the man, and we obviously would agree on a great many subjects, but talk radio is not my cup of tea.

Still, the predictable and entirely hysterical response of the mainstream media and other race-baiters when Limbaugh was revealed to part of a prospective ownership group was, well, kind of sad. Limbaugh is said to be contemplating suing for libel and it would appear that he has a case.

The worst of the coverage attributed the following quote to Limbaugh: “You know who deserves a posthumous Medal of Honor? James Earl Ray. We miss you, James. Godspeed.”

The source for this quote, for most in the media, was a book written by left-wing author Jack Huberman, entitled “101 Persons Who Are Really Screwing Up America”, published in 2006.

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September 3, 2009

Iran vs. Baha’i

Filed under: Politics,Religion — trzupek @ 12:02 pm

BahaiTemple1EXAMINER PUBLICATIONS – JUNE 24, 2009

By Rich Trzupek

The Baha’i faith is one of the world’s most gentle creeds, preaching tolerance, equality and peace. It is the definition of irony; therefore, that such an embracing faith was founded in the city that today is the symbol of religious thuggery: Tehran, Iran.

The images and stories that manage to escape the cordon of censorship that surrounds Iran are truly shocking. The fact that the radical mullahs who rule the theocracy admit to some deaths in the fighting and protests suggest that the numbers killed and wounded are far greater.

The people of Iran are fighting for that which people always fight for: freedom. But, there is no freedom in modern day Iran. There is the freedom to do exactly what God says to do, as interpreted by the religious leaders who claim to have a direct connection to the Big Guy, but that’s about it.

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April 23, 2009

Dialogue – Part 2

Filed under: Abortion,Politics,Religion — trzupek @ 3:49 pm

thomas-jefferson-bigEXAMINER PUBLICATIONS – APRIL 22, 2009

By Rich Trzupek

So, to follow up on last week’s column, what might a Catholic speaker say during the commencement ceremony at the University of Notre Dame, in order to offer a contrary position to the “pro-choice”, pro stem-cell policies that will be so powerfully, if silently, represented by the President of the United States on that day? Perhaps it might sound something like this…

Over two hundred years ago, a brilliant man wrote “we hold these truths to be self-evident: that all men are created equal…” Those fourteen words have echoed across the centuries, forming the cornerstone in an ideological foundation that would evolve into the best form of government that the world has ever known. But, what do these words really mean?

We may note that Jefferson asserted that all men are created equal. He did not say that all men are born equal. Indeed, the need to make such a distinction would not have occurred to Jefferson or to any of the founders who signed the Declaration of Independence. Lives created were lives born.

Yet, today, in America in 2009, that distinction not only exists, we – as a nation – have created an entire body of law that says we are not qualified to judge the validity of this controversial idea. Lives that are created are, according to the law of the land, most definitely not equal to lives that are born. The latter are accorded inalienable rights from the moment he or she exits the womb. The former have no rights, at least not the right to a future, if his or her mother decides to terminate that life.

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April 15, 2009

Dialogue – Part 1

Filed under: Abortion,Politics,Religion — trzupek @ 9:00 am
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lincoln-douglasEXAMINER PUBLICATIONS – APRIL 15, 2009

By Rich Trzupek

Much has been said about the University of Notre Dame’s decision to invite President Barack Obama to speak at commencement exercises this year and to award him an honorary degree at the same time. As a committed Catholic (or, perhaps, a Catholic who should be committed) I feel compelled to add my two cents.

First of all, the reasoning that newly elected Presidents always speak at Notre Dame commencements is not quite true. Among those who did not address graduates in recent times, we have Presidents Clinton, Nixon and Johnson. It’s not clear to me why it would be disrespectful if this President did not speak as well.

Secondly, although President Obama will surely accumulate many honorary degrees throughout his term in office, as every President does, a Catholic university should not accord him that particular honor. An honorary degree is both a gesture of respect and, to some degree, a sign of approval for a job well done.

Whatever else the President does or does not do, his positions on abortion and embryonic stem cell research are contrary to what Catholics – and indeed most Christians – believe. These are not small matters to the Catholic Church. They are issues that reach to the core of our beliefs. Issuing the educational equivalent of a medal to someone who has taken actions that are inherently sinful, in our view, makes no sense to me at all.

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August 27, 2008

Prophetic Truths – Part 2

EXAMINER PUBLICATIONS – AUGUST 27, 2008

By Rich Trzupek

It is often said, by opponents of America’s intervention in Iraq, that if we weren’t there, then Al Qaeda would not be fighting us. These critics are close to right, although they get the “there” part wrong. The answer, not surprisingly, can be traced back to Muhammed and the Quran.

As Robert Spencer points out in his book, “The Truth About Muhammed”, the prophet of Islam considered the Arabian peninsula God’s special place, the holiest of holies. He instructed his followers to expel non-believers (i.e., pagans, Hindus, Bhuddists – everyone who was not “of the book”) and to allow Christians and Jews to stay, but only if they agreed to be subjugated and pay a special tax to their Muslim masters.

Having spent some time in the desert kingdom, your humble correspondent can personally attest to the fact that westerners (along with Filipinos, Pakistanis, Indians, Africans – basically all non-Arabs) are looked down upon by many (but not all) Saudis in a way that would shock the sensibilities of genteel America.

What infuriated bin Laden, and his cronies in Al Qaeda, was the fact American soldiers, including shamelessly unveiled women for crying out loud, were hanging out in the holy kingdom, as part of the first war with Iraq. This was, according to the Quran, a sacrilege. This is why it became necessary to attack America. This is why airliners had to be flown into the World Trade Center. Because God said so. Because Muhammed told Muslims that God said so.

If one strictly interprets the Quran and Muhammed’s message, there is really no arguing with bin Laden’s point. From that point of view, it was justified. If the Quran is the word of God, then God unquestionably told Muslims to keep the Arabian peninsula “pure”, and America had unquestionably defiled it, according to the prophet’s definition.

If the Quran is the word of God, then God unquestionably told Muslims to fight and kill those who would defile Islam or question the words of its prophet. The plain truth is that bin Laden was not being unfaithful to Muhammed’s vision of Islam – he was following it, to the letter.

So no, Al Qaeda would not be fighting us – in Iraq – if we had not invaded that country. But they would be fighting us – somewhere – so long as we maintained a presence in Saudi Arabia. The question that critics of the Second Iraqi War find uncomfortable is a simple one: if they (Al Qaeda) are determined to fight us, would you rather have that fight in Iraq, or somewhere else?

Those of the Jewish faith are particularly reviled in the Quran, as the Prophet appeared to grow more and more frustrated with his inability to convert them. He enjoined his followers to fight with the Jews, to kill Jewish leaders who had insulted him, and cosign them to hell.

Is it any wonder, therefore, that Muslims in the Middle East are so violently anti-Semitic? Their founder set the stage. His is a unique, “divinely inspired” level of hatred and mistrust that is without parallel in the history of mainstream theology. When Hamas carries terror into the heart of Israel, they are not defying the Quran or Muhammed, they are rather being faithful to the teachings of God, as they believe those teachings to be.

Few, if any, of our leaders understand this. Few, if any, of our leaders have the courage to ask Muslims – be they “mainstream” or “maniacs” – whether or not they are willing to repudiate the most chilling parts of their holy book. They prefer not to discuss the issue, and it’s difficult not to believe that the reason why is that the answers would be too troubling.

The reason most often given for not answering such questions is something akin to “we don’t want to fan any flames”. This, Spencer asserts, is a policy at once dishonest and counter-productive. The flames already exist. By ignoring them, by pretending the key issues are not related to the core of the religion, we cast reform-minded Muslims adrift.

It is true that there are many Muslims who renounce terror privately, and even some who renounce it publicly. But how many Muslims dare renounce those portions of Islam that are – to western eyes – violent, bigoted, intolerant and sexist?

There is a significant difference, Spencer says, between a religion that challenges he who is without sin to cast the first stone, and one that calls for stoning as a punishment for adultery. (Stoning, as a punishment for adultery, is not proscribed in the Quran itself – which calls for whipping instead – but it is part of one of the most important hadiths).

Along with the “cowboy tradition” of American culture, there is another more humanistic, empathetic element of our culture that suggests, even demands, tolerance of other beliefs and systems of values. I would not decry this tradition. Indeed, I celebrate it. It is one of our strengths.

We have, historically and today, bent over backwards to extend this olive branch to a religion (Islam) that is, at its fundamental core, substantially (at best) and violently (at worst) opposed to the democratic, libertarian principles upon which this country was founded. We can not continue to ignore this simple, undeniable, truth.

Spencer’s book is not, as his critics assert, a call to arms. It may come to that, but it must not be so. Spencer’s book is an appeal for an honest discussion of what is necessary to make the peace that we all desire, with a religion that – at its core – demands surrender before peace is possible.

The sooner we come to grips with this simple truth, the better we all will be.

(For more information on this topic, may we suggest: www.jihadwatch.org, and, if you wish to support Muslims trying to break free of the fundamentalists and extremists: www.freemuslims.org).

August 20, 2008

Prophetic Truths – Part 1

Filed under: Iraq,Religion,World — trzupek @ 10:41 am
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EXAMINER PUBLICATIONS – AUGUST 20, 2008

By Rich Trzupek

Apologists for Islam frequently assert that it is a religion of peace, corrupted by a few, violent fanatics. Is this true? Author Robert Spencer challenges this commonly held belief, forcing us to consider the question: if Islam is indeed a religion of peace, what sort of peace did its founder envision?

In his book “The Truth About Muhammed”, and at his website, jihadwatch.org, Spencer makes a convincing, and frightening, case that today’s Muslims face an uncomfortable choice: follow the teachings of the Prophet, as recorded in the Quran and the hadiths (oral traditions that recorded the words and deeds of Muhammed) without exception, or choose to put these teachings into historical context and ignore those aspects that are troubling to a modern, civilized people.

It is difficult to do the latter, given that the Quran is, by definition, the perfect word of God for Muslims. For most Christians and Jews, the Bible and Torah are subject to degrees of interpretation, since these books are believed to be God’s word translated through the imperfect filter of human hands. Thus, for example, most Christians and Jews will not take the “eye for an eye” reference in Exodus as a Divine Directive, but will rather consider it in historical context and moderate the message. Indeed, for most Christians, “turn the other cheek” trumps “an eye for an eye”, as it should.

Such relief is, according to the Quran, not allowed in Islam. God’s Word can not, must not, be altered. The life of the Prophet is, according to Islam, the perfect life that every Muslim should seek to exemplify. What sort of life, Spencer asks, was it? The answers, in many cases, are troubling to western sensibilities. So troubling in fact that many of us, – in the public sector, in private and in the media – choose to shy away from asking the hard questions.

Spencer’s detractors, and there are many, would like to paint him as a right-wing nut job, trying to fan the flames between Judeo-Christianity and Islam. They will point out that, although he is trained in theology, he is not a Muslim scholar. They will claim that he is taking things out of context. They say all of this, and much more, but the one thing that no one has said (to my knowledge), or can say, is that he gets his facts wrong.

In “The Truth About Muhammed” Spencer sticks to three sources: the Quran, the most respected hadiths, and Muhammed’s most trusted biography. All of these sources are commonly used, and referenced, in the Muslim world. Critics may claim that he is casting an unnecessary spotlight on the troubling aspects of these works, but they can not say that those passages do not exist.

It is the law in the Islamic Republic of Iran, for example, that a man may enter into and consummate a marriage with, a nine year old girl. This tradition can be traced directly to Muhammed who took, as one of his brides, a girl of that age.

Let’s stop there for a moment. In Muhammed’s time (7th century A.D.) child brides were not uncommon. Spencer does not condemn the practice in its proper historical context, nor should we. But today? While the western world considers sex with a prepubescent child pedophilia, Iran (and some other Muslim theocracies) embrace it. Indeed, they must embrace it, or they must think the unthinkable: that Muhammed got it wrong.

When one of Muhammed’s wives, Aisha, was accused of infidelity by certain gossips, the prophet was troubled. But God (most conveniently, in this writer’s judgment) was ready with another revelation that would set Muhammed’s mind at ease. God declared that the gossips were wrong, because – among other things – they could not produce “four witnesses” to prove the accusation.

This test – “four witnesses” – became the standard, under Islamic law, for proving sexual crimes like rape. Not surprisingly, since one would have to pretty damn stupid to commit rape in front of four witnesses, rape is almost unknown (officially, that is) in the Muslim world. Unofficially, as many a Muslim woman has attested to, it’s another matter entirely. Indeed, if a Muslim woman accuses a man of rape in a country under Islamic law, and if she can not produce the required “four witnesses”, chances are she is going to jail. The logic of the religion dictates that such a woman has confessed to having sex outside of marriage (forbidden), but can’t prove that it was non-consensual (less than four witnesses), therefore it must have been consensual, ergo – she’s a whore and whores go to jail.

There are passages in the Quran that are hauntingly beautiful, even given the handicap of a translation. There are passages (frequently quoted by apologists) that preach love, compassion and tolerance. These passages exist and Spencer freely acknowledges them.

But there are other, darker passages that we must consider too. The Prophet, at times, enjoins his followers to sympathize with “the people of the book” (Christians and Jews) who have acknowledged the primacy of God. But, as he grew older, Muhammed was frustrated by the obstinacy of these peoples. Christians and Jews, in the final analysis, were to be granted a choice when living under Islamic rule: 1) convert, 2) worship as ye please, but pay a tax to your Islamic rulers and keep your religion under strict wraps, or 3) die. Freedom of worship, as the west understands the concept, is not an option under Islamic law.

That is the truth of what the Quran and its prophet espouse. This the world to which the leaders of Iran, Hamas and other conservative Islamic groups aspire. Muhammed enjoined his followers to establish an Islamic kingdom throughout the earth and promised them that such a day would come. It is time that we, in the west, come to grips with this reality and, as we shall see in part 2 of this series next Wednesday, much more.

April 2, 2008

Missing: One Church, Catholic

Filed under: Humor,Religion — trzupek @ 1:37 pm

EXAMINER PUBLICATIONS – APRIL 2, 2008

By Rich Trzupek

Easter 2008. New beginnings. New family. New church. Actually, it’s the old church, from a couple different points of view. Being a Catholic church, it’s got a couple of millennia of history behind it. Being Holy Family, it’s the church your humble correspondent used to frequent, many a moon – and one spouse – ago.

Yet, somehow, Holy Family seems to be neither any longer. It’s a church inhabited by your new best pal, Jesus who – gosh darn it – is super-glad that you could make it to the party. His Dad, who was so very (very) ready to kick my sinning ass into eternal damnation if I didn’t straighten up and fly right during my misbegotten youth, is nowhere to be found. And, to my surprise, I find that I miss Old Crabby-Whiskers.

Even the cross is different. It’s cast in transparent acrylic, over twenty linear feet of space-age plastic dangling from the ceiling. Jesus isn’t hanging from this cross. Nah. That’s old school. Jesus is rather emerging from the cross, reaching an open palm out toward the congregation.

I’m reasonably sure that it’s supposed to represent your best buddy – the J-dog – extending a hand that is both inviting and empathetic. But, having grown up Catholic, I know what’s really going on here: Jesus is looking for a donation. This is Collection Jesus, subliminally delivering the 11th commandment: Thou shalt pony up when the plate is passed.

The mass? I check to be sure that I haven’t ended up a Southern Baptist revival gone terribly wrong. Everybody is way, way too happy for this to be a Catholic mass, and, consequently, the proceedings have a vaguely disturbing, “Stepford Wives” feel to them.

The choral director is positively ecstatic, for example. Hands clapping, fanny shakin’, smilin’ and dancin’ away, he is so overflowing with sweetness that diabetics in the congregation are forced to take extra insulin injections midway through the service.

When the congregation offers and blessing, en masse, everyone is directed to raise their right arms in unison. That’s one thousand or so right arms raised, at the same time. I suppress the urge to shout “Heil God”, figuring that would earn me a sharp elbow in the ribs from the new bride – at the very least.

Now I’m starting to sound pissy, instead of vaguely amusing, so let’s get off the details. It’s not that I think that this sort of mass is stupid (like Wiccans) (sorry, couldn’t help it), it’s just not Catholic.

I mean, if I wanted to belong to Willow Creek (not that there’s anything wrong with that) then I would go to Willow Creek. Isn’t that what’s going on here? It’s gotta be. With shrinking attendance and a dearth of priests, the Catholic church feels the need to compete with the Willow Creeks and Crystal Cathedrals of the world.

And that might be fine, but faiths shouldn’t need to compete with each other. If classic Catholicism is increasingly unpopular in the modern world, so be it. That’s the choice people make. Perhaps it’s just old age, but it seems to me that the church shouldn’t change, even if people do.

To my great surprise, I find that I miss the Latin mass. Odd, for I never thought I would say that. And I find myself wondering how many other people miss it as well.

There was an aura of mystery surrounding the old Latin mass, a connection to a world centuries old and to a God replete in majesty that mortals couldn’t hope to understand, but that they could not help but sense in some deep-seeded spiritual core. You left the Latin mass feeling awed by the power of your Creator. You leave this mass wondering what the review in the Metro section will be like the next morning.

To be sure, I like the Pastor, Reverend Pat Brennan. He’s sincere, an accomplished theologian and an inspiring speaker. Yet, he’s part of a trend that has swept (or infected, depending on one’s point of view) the church of my youth. It’s a church that has responded to all those classic, wonderful jokes about Catholicism by swinging 180 days in the opposite direction.

Catholic guilt has been swept away, to be replaced by spiritual self esteem. Nobody hits their knees any more. Instead, there’s hand holding, back slapping, applause and snapping your fingers in time to the music. You don’t hear “in nomine Partis, et Filii, et Spritus Sancti, amen” anymore, and it’s only a matter of time before the mass ends with “y’all come back now, ya hear!”

Times change. I know that. People change and institutions change too. It’s inevitable. But, though I’m sure that I am in the minority here, I wish that my church could have been the one thing I could count on never to change.

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