two summits

mountains near body of water panoramic photo

Photo by eberhard grossgasteiger on

two summits

Deuteronomy 11:29 When Yahveh your God brings you into the land you are entering to take possession of, you are to proclaim the empowerment at Mount Gerizim and the affliction at Mount Ebal.
Deuteronomy 11:30 Aren’t these mountains across the Jordan, beyond the western road in the land of the Canaanites, who live in the Arabah, opposite Gilgal, near the oaks of Moreh?

two summits

There is something majestic and surreal about a mountain summit. After all that toil and sweat and exertion, when you finally reach the summit, and see the surrounding country from the advantage of superior elevation, you cannot help but feel different about life.

The Lord chose two mountain summits as the location for the Israelites to perform their first public dramatic presentation of the empowerments and afflictions. The mountains were located within the boundaries of the land they were to conquer. So, all the time they were busy assuming ownership of the land, they were also preparing for this show. What better way would there be for them to learn the consequences of covenant obedience and disobedience?

There is another way, but it is certainly not the better way. We can learn the consequences by failure to live up to our covenant. Then we will experience the covenant afflictions and lose the covenant empowerments.

Christian, listen to the words of Christ concerning our covenant with God through him. Memorize his words. Recite them aloud to yourself and your family. Take the covenant seriously.

Lord, thank you for the covenant of grace, bought by the blood of Christ.


Real Costs of Energy Comparisons Make Nuclear Shine

Solar Panel Costs Do Not Cost the Energy Transformation Correctly

People do not understand energy or the benefits and risks that relate to energy.

Brian Wang

John Gorman was the chief executive of the Canadian Solar Industries Association but now he is a nuclear energy advocate. John indicates that nuclear energy is vital to solving the energy issues related to climate change.

An overly optimistic view of renewables has affected major decisions about other energy sources, particularly nuclear. The global focus on renewables has caused existing nuclear plants to be retired early and has stalled investment in new projects. It’s given people a false sense of security that we don’t need nuclear any more when nothing could be further from the truth.

What’s worse, because wind and solar are variable (they produce electricity only when the wind blows or the sun shines), they must be paired with other energy sources to support demand, and these are almost always fossil fuels. In the absence of enough nuclear energy, renewables are effectively prolonging the life of coal and gas plants that can produce power around the clock.

Nuclear is the only proven technology that has decarbonized the economies of entire countries, including France and Sweden.


A Fresh Breath of Reasonableness

Aussie Mining Magnate Blames Arson for Deadly Bushfires

Donates $70 Million to Recovery

Simon Kent

Mining magnate Andrew Forrest rejected the assertion climate change is behind Australia’s bushfire crisis, instead pointing to arsonists Thursday as the biggest factor as he dipped into his own pocket to donate millions to recovery efforts.

“I think there’s a multitude of reasons why the fire extent has been so devastating. I think a warming planet would be part of that — [but] the biggest part of that is arsonists,” he said in the Western Australia state capital, Perth.

Forrest made the comments during an announcement of $70 million in aid to the bushfire recovery effort through his family’s philanthropic Minderoo Foundation.

Forrest’s pledge dwarfs the personal contributions from a host of celebrities such as reality TV star Kylie Jenner and actor Chris Hemsworth who have donated $1 million each.  The Fortescue Metals chairman said he wanted to avoid politicising the issue of the fire recovery, but told reporters arson was the single major cause of Australia’s bushfire crisis not anthropogenic climate change.

“A warming planet is but a small part of what’s happening out there in Australia as you know a large proportion of these fires have been lit by arsonists but it all comes together,” he said.  “The opportunity to take advantage of drought, to take advantage of an incredibly dry season and very warm summers by anybody to cause devastation is absolutely tragic.”

The announcement by Forrest came just 24-hours after the Australian newspaper reported more than 180 alleged arsonists have been arrested since the start of 2019, with 29 blazes deliberately lit in the Shoalhaven region of southeast NSW in just three months.

Police arrests also came for those allegedly caught lighting bushfires across Queensland, Victoria, South Australia and Tasmania, the newspaper reports, although NSW leads the way.

Police note of the arrests:

24 people have been charged over alleged deliberately-lit bushfires
53 people have had legal actions for allegedly failing to comply with a total fire ban, and
47 people have had legal actions for allegedly discarding a lighted cigarette or match on land.

NSW Police warn numerous bush and grass fires have severely impacted Australia’s most populous state, claiming the lives of 18 people and destroying hundreds of millions of animals and livestock, thousands of homes, and more than 4.9 million hectares of land, so far this bushfire season.

University of Sydney scientists estimate one billion animals have been killed in the fires. The figure includes mammals, birds and reptiles, but not frogs, insects or invertebrates.


turning aside from the path

photo of pathway surrounded by fir trees

Photo by James Wheeler on

turning aside from the path

Deuteronomy 11:26 “Look, today I set before you an empowerment and an affliction:
Deuteronomy 11:27 there will be an empowerment, if you obey the commands of Yahveh your God I am commanding you today,
Deuteronomy 11:28 and an affliction, if you do not obey the commands of Yahveh your God and you turn aside from the path I command you today by following other gods you have not known.

turning aside from the path

Appalachian Trail hikers know all about turning aside from the path. Along the trail there are side trails marked with different colored blazes. We take those trails if we want to visit a popular location, get to a shelter for the night, or find water. But it isn’t wise just to head off into an unmarked area. It’s too easy to get lost. Regularly there are stories of people who do just that, lose the trail, and starve to death in the woods.

The Israelites had God’s light and cloud to follow to keep them on the right path, physically. But they needed the covenant laws to keep them on the right path morally. If they obeyed, they would keep getting stronger. If they disobeyed, the would be afflicted. The physical evidence would follow the spiritual condition.

Are you still on the right path, or have you strayed? Do you feel empowered today or afflicted? It is not too late to get back to the covenant path you agreed to when you came to Christ. Go to the Gospels and read the words of our Savior. It is his commands we agreed to obey.

Several years ago, I did a short study of the Commands of Christ. I recommend starting with those passages. Following the commands of Christ is not difficult, but you cannot accidentally stumble onto the correct path. It has to be intentional.

Lord, draw us back to the right path by the covenant commands of Christ.


Righting Wrongs

Torture and Ill-Treatment in State Medical Facility
New Zealand has been told to shape up or ship out.  Well, loosely speaking, that is.  The issue is what went on at the Lake Alice psychiatric hospital.  The essence of the allegations is that patients were involuntarily belted down and subjected to shock therapy–as a deliberate punishment.  

The Government should conduct an urgent investigation into allegations of torture at a New Zealand psychiatric facility, the United Nations says.  The recommendation comes from the UN’s Committee against Torture, which has upheld a complaint from former Lake Alice patient Paul Zentveld.

Zentveld was just 14 years old when he was first admitted to the Manawatū hospital’s child and adolescent unit. There, he said he was given electro-convulsive therapy (ECT), was drugged and was placed in solitary confinement.  Zentveld was admitted to Lake Alice five times, for a total period of nearly three years.

In an “advance unedited version” of the decision, the UN committee recommended the New Zealand Government conduct a “prompt, impartial and independent investigation” into all allegations of torture and ill-treatment at Lake Alice.  [Newshub]

These things took place in the 1970’s.  It is not ancient history.  But Lake Alice is now closed.  What it represented is framed by authorities as something which belongs to the ancient, dim, dark, and distant past.  Unless one suffered the shock therapy, of course.

The United Nations has found New Zealand breached the Convention against Torture by failing to properly investigate abuse at Lake Alice Hospital in the 1970s.  Newshub Nation spoke to five men who claimed psychiatrist Selwyn Leeks electrocuted their genitals as a punishment while at the Manawatu hospital.

Leeks has never faced charges, which prompted victim Paul Zentveld to go to the UN. 
Zentveld said he was diagnosed with a behavioural disorder by Leeks in 1974, who then tortured him. “They had you sitting in the chair or lying on the bed – nurses holding you down. You had no choice.”

Zentveld, who was helped with his UN complaint by the Patient Rights Group called Citizens Commission on Human Rights, calls the UN’s decision a “victory” for all survivors.  Repeated attempts to contact Leeks, who now lives in Australia, have been unsuccessful, but he’s always denied any wrongdoing.

Zentveld and 194 former patients received a Government apology and compensation in the 2000s, but police decided there was insufficient evidence to prosecute Leeks.  But evidence is building, as other former patients have come forward with similar allegations.

“He applied shock treatment to my genitals. Left with permanent marks on the underside of my penis,” Marty Brandt said.  “The genitals was his favourite spot. It was just straight pain,” another victim Charlie Symes said.  A third victim Malcolm Richards said the electrocution appliance sparked and he received a burn on the end of his penis. [Newshub]

This is the sort of case out of which good law and governance can come–for the future.   

Doubtless the Ministry of Health would insist that all such bad things are in the past, something belonging to darker, primitive days of historical ignorance and primitive medicinal procedures.   But those that suffered appear not at all convinced.  They also believe that they have not been adequately compensated for their suffering.

The complaint to the UN was submitted in July 2017 by Victor Boyd of independent watchdog group Citizen’s Commission on Human Rights (CCHR) on behalf of Zentveld.  CCHR New Zealand director Mike Ferriss called the decision “monumental”.  “It fully supports what Lake Alice victims have been wanting all along – to bring to justice those responsible for the psychiatric abuse of children using an ECT machine and drugs”. 


Restating and Refining the US War Doctrine

Suleimani and the Surly Wolverine

Douglas Wilson


So the Iranian general Suleimani was taken out by an American missile a few days ago, and this has resulted in a good deal of agitated discussion. And there is a pressing temptation, whenever things like this are done, for all the participants in our public life to default to their factory settings. Conservatives like to support our military and so their suspicion of the deep state vanishes, and liberals like to display their anti-Americanism from time to time, and so they do that.

But there are layers to this thing, and we cannot simply support or oppose. We need to learn how to combine an odd mix of both. We need to learn how to say it depends. What aspect of this are we talking about? In what follows, I offer just a short punch list of issues related to all of it.

Suleimani Himself

The Iranian general was a bad actor, and he was in Iraq because—as a military analyst might say—he was “up to no good.” Our embassy had just been attacked, and an attack on an embassy is tantamount to an attack on the United States itself. Whether you believe U.S. troops should be in Iraq or not, there is certainly no objection to an embassy being there. So this was not an assassination of an Iranian general in Iran—rather it was a strategic strike against an enemy combatant in the field of battle. And so, as a general matter, his demise, coming in this way, was richly deserved. So whatever else we say about it, we shed no tears for Suleimani.

Declarations of War

The Constitution is very clear about two things with regard to war.
First is that the president is the commander-in-chief, and he certainly does have the authority to take direct military action in the face of an imminent threat. This action would appear to fall in that category—although the evidence for it has not yet been made public. Let us wait and see. But when we fought back at Pearl Harbor, we were doing so without congressional authorization, and that was fine.

But because the death of Suleimani was such a high-profile killing, the prospect of Iranian retaliation was certain (which happened yesterday in an ineffectual missile attack on American bases in Iraq). The Iranian response was a tepid face-saving thing, but what if the whole thing still spirals into a war that is both big and hot?

If that happened, there is no way to justify a shooting war with Iran apart from a declaration of war from Congress. This is the second thing the Constitution is clear about. Congress declares war, and the president is the executive of it. Makeshift substitutes (like the war powers jiggery-pokery) are fine if you are dealing with failed states like Somalia, or renegade pirates, or something like that. But when you have a sovereign nation state that is toppled by our military (as happened in Iraq when Saddam was removed), and replaced with another government, there is nothing about this kind of action (even if the war were justified on the merits) that is not covered by the delegation of responsibilities assigned in the Constitution. Congress is supposed to declare war, and nobody else.

As a practical matter, this helps to keep politics to a minimum when a war is under way. Without a declaration from Congress, every congressman and senator is set free to kibbitz about everything. With a declaration of war, this couldn’t happen nearly as much.

This matters to those Christians (at least those who are not pacifists) because one of the historic criteria for a just war is that it has to be declared by a competent authority. And the president has no authority to conduct overt military operations that result in the toppling of another nation’s government. No authority. Zilch. Zip. Nada.

Just so everybody knows. I don’t think this applies just this minute, but it does apply. Everybody needs to remember. Congress declares war, not the president.

At the Same Time . . .

There are gradations of policy in between colonial empire-building on the one hand, and an abject crawling appeasement on the other. Trump really is in the Jacksonian mold, which means that I believe him when he says that he is not interested in nation-building, adventurism, colonial empire, globalism, and all that stuff. To be more specific, Jacksonian foreign policy is something like a surly wolverine wandering through the woods. He is not interested in becoming the emperor of the woods, but if you mess with him you will find he is not exactly a pacifist either.

So as an amateur student of sociology, I do not believe that this action is hurtling us toward war in the Middle East. I actually believe the opposite. We were immediately told by a bunch of hyped-up analysts about all the things that Iran would do in response to this, but pretty much all of them were things they were already doing. The warning doesn’t really have any force if you say something like “in response to this killing of Suleimani, Iran is likely to become a state-sponsor of terrorism.”

So constitutional issues aside, as a matter of looking at how power politics in the Middle East function, I think we are farther away from a hot war than we were before. The mere fact that Trump defined his red line as the killing of an American, and then responded energetically when that line was crossed means that deterrence is no longer meaningless in that part of the world. Think twice before you do anything, people. The Iranian response killed no Americans, which means that Trump doesn’t need to do anything further, and likely won’t. As a practical matter, he can just call it a victory, which it is—as a practical matter.

And as a political campaign issue in the Democratic primaries, it turns out that WW3 has been cancelled, much to the disappointment of all.

A Brief Reminder

The Iranian regime is wicked, and they really do oppress their people. But we can at least say this in their favor. They are not as wicked as they could be. They could have abortion on demand, for example. And they could have the farce of same sex mirage going on. At least they are not that far gone, which is a good thing.

A Second at the Same Time . . .
Look. Here’s another layer. I alluded to this above, but it bears mentioning again. Intelligence agencies are not apolitical. The intelligence agencies are staffed by people, some of whom are dedicated and informed, and that’s all to the good. We can give out some yays to the dedicated and informed ones. But more than a few of them are muddled and confused, and some of those have gotten their confusions all tangled up with their pretense of objectivity and professionalism.

The first casualty of war is the truth, and thoughtful believers will always take anything that any belligerent government says cum grano salis, with a grain of salt. Sometimes the lies are justified disinformation. Sometimes the lies are the result of CYA maneuvers on the part of some official or other. Sometimes the lies are unjustified and unnecessary, and then there are the occasional lies that would make the prince of darkness blush. But anybody who simply accepts the official line as though they were getting it straight from the archangel Gabriel’s surveillance camera is what thoughtful observers would call a “babe in the woods.”

When you couple this with the demonstrated politicization and corruption of our intelligence agencies, such that American democracy has far more to fear from our mendacious corruptocracy than it has to fear from the likes of Suleimani, we have even more grounds for caution. I am more worried about the governor of Virginia trying to seize guns, the fact that perjurers from the upper echelons of our intelligence agencies are still running around loose, and the FBI reading my mail than about anything the Iranians might do to me. Prove me wrong. The Constitution has enemies both foreign and domestic, and we have a much more pressing need to clean house domestically than we do on the international stage.

You can stipulate that this operation was not intended to be a “wag the dog” operation, taking all eyes of the impeachment fiasco. I don’t think it was intended by the president to do this, because all eyes on the impeachment fiasco was bad for Democrats, not for the president.

But whether or not it was intended that way, it has had the effect of changing the subject—in ways that it shouldn’t.


third string

football players in blue jersey lined under grey white cloudy sky during sunset

Photo by Binyamin Mellish on

third string 
Deuteronomy 11:18-25
Deuteronomy 11:18  “Place these words of mine on your hearts and throats, bind them as a sign on your hands, and let them be a symbol on your foreheads.
Deuteronomy 11:19  Teach them to your children, talking about them when you sit in your house and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up.
Deuteronomy 11:20  Write them on the doorposts of your house and on your city gates,
Deuteronomy 11:21  so that as long as the sky is above the land, your days and those of your children may be many in the land Yahveh swore to give your fathers.
Deuteronomy 11:22  You see, if you carefully watch every one of these commands I am commanding you to follow – to care about Yahveh your God, walk in all his ways, and remain faithful to him –
Deuteronomy 11:23  Yahveh will take possession of all these nations before you, and you will take possession of nations greater and stronger than you are.
Deuteronomy 11:24  Every place the sole of your foot treads will be yours. Your territory will extend from the open country to Lebanon and from the Euphrates River to the Mediterranean Sea.
Deuteronomy 11:25  No one will be able to stand against you; Yahveh your God will put fear and dread of you in all the land where you set foot, like he has promised you.
third string 
When I was in High School, we had an impressive football team. It won all kinds of championships. The kids on the team who were not so impressive were put on the third string. If the team was really swamping its opponents, the coach would put the third string in, so they they could get some play in.
The Israelites were like God’s third string.  They didn’t have to be stronger than their enemies. They did not need superior numbers or more powerful weapons. They didn’t even need superior wisdom or education. Their secret weapon was something nobody would expect. All they had to do was love God and be faithful to him.
The secret is out. The world knows about our secret weapon, so it is going to throw every possible obstacle in our path to keep us from victory. It wants us to doubt his existence. It will try to convince us that God has abandoned us. It will busy itself dividing us so that we focus on trivial things instead of being faithful to Christ. The world fears faithfulness.
We can be faithful because God has gone before us. There is not one inch of territory that he calls us to invade that he has not already conquered. He has already gone before us with his powerful first string, and mopped up with his second string. But he wants his lowly third string to get some play time in as well.
Lord, we are ready to invade this world with your gospel. We are not the best, or even second best. But we are confident you can use us.


Welcome Progress At Last

Hidey Hi, Brexit

Just 1,295 Days After the Referendum, Brexit Deal Finally Passes House of Commons

Oliver JJ Lane
Breitbart London

The EU Withdrawal Agreement Bill passed a vote in the House of Commons last week, three and a half years, three Prime Ministers, and three national elections after the British people voted to leave the European Union in June 2016.

The bill, which will sign into law Boris Johnson’s hastily concluded withdrawal agreement with the European Union struck at the end of 2019 was passed in the House of Commons by a margin of 330 to 231 votes, a majority of 99. This means the bill has completed its third reading, will continue to Parliament’s upper chamber — the House of Lords — for review before becoming UK law, in time for the official withdrawal day of January 31st.

The easy passage of the bill thus far is a massive departure from the repeated defeats of Theresa May in her time as Prime Minister, when she tried and failed three times to get her version of the Brexit deal through Parliament before finally stepping down as Prime Minister in 2019.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced that a new Brexit deal has been brokered between the UK and the EU.

Commenting on the vote, Brexit leader Nigel Farage said the changed dynamics of the Commons after the December 2019 general election means the agreement was able to pass with a significant majority, but also that there would be significantly less political drama in the coming years, as a powerful government would have fewer knife-edge votes to worry about. Speaking on his LBC talk radio show, Mr Farage said had this happened last year, the vote would have been: “a nail-biter… John Bercow would have been there centre stage. Now there’s a big commons majority, no more John Bercow. Good, in my opinion!”

Reflecting on the political development of the day, Farage continued: “The withdrawal bill has cleared that third reading in the House of Commons with a massive, massive majority of 99. So it gives you an idea we’re now in a very different place. We’ve been very heavily focussed for the past three years. We are not going to be that focus on the Commons for many, many years to come because there is a big working majority. The game has changed.”

Although the bill would now go to the House of Lords where peers could attempt to amend it, Mr Farage said this was unlikely and in reality, he said “we’re virtually there. It has pretty much gone through.”

The next stage once passed through the upper chamber, the deal would then have to be ratified by the European Union’s parliament, which theoretically has the power to turn the deal down. This too, Mr Farage said, would be unlikely as the members would do the bidding of their national leaders who want to see the deal passed.

Ultimately, Brexit was only just around the corner. Concluding, he remarked: “we are pretty much there. Eleven-PM on the 31st of January, 2020. It is going to be a very big moment in this nation’s history. I hope after it, we can all move on.”


Donald Trump, The Jacksonian President

Iranian Analytics

By Victor Davis Hanson
National Review Online

For all the current furor over the death of Qasem Soleimani, it is Iran, not the U.S. and the Trump administration, that is in a dilemma. Given the death and destruction wrought by Soleimani, and his agendas to come, he will not be missed.

Tehran has misjudged the U.S. administration’s doctrine of strategic realism rather than vice versa. The theocracy apparently calculated that prior U.S. patience and restraint in the face of its aggression was proof of an unwillingness or inability to respond. More likely, the administration was earlier prepping for a possible more dramatic, deadly, and politically justifiable response when and if Iran soon overreached.

To retain domestic and foreign credibility, Iran would now like to escalate in hopes of creating some sort of U.S. quagmire comparable to Afghanistan, or, more germanely, to a long Serbian-like bombing campaign mess, or the ennui that eventually overtook the endless no-fly zones over Iraq, or the creepy misadventure in Libya, or even something like an enervating 1979-80 hostage situation. The history of the strategies of our Middle East opponents has always been to lure us into situations that have no strategic endgame, do not play to U.S. strengths in firepower, are costly without a time limit, and create Vietnam War–like tensions at home.

But those wished-for landscapes are not what Iran has got itself into.
Trump, after showing patience and restraint to prior Iranian escalations, can respond to Iranian tit-for-tat without getting near Iran, without commitments to any formal campaign, and without seeming to be a provocateur itching for war, but in theory doing a lot more damage to an already damaged Iranian economy either through drones, missiles, and bombing, or even more sanctions and boycotts to come. If Iran turns to terrorism and cyber-attacks, it would likely only lose more political support and risk airborne responses to its infrastructure at home.

Iran deeply erred in thinking that Trump’s restraint was permanent, that his impeachment meant he had lost political viability, that he would go dormant in an election year, that the stature of his left-wing opponents would surge in such tensions, and that his base would abandon him if he dared to use military force.

There are several Iranian choices, but they are apparently deemed unattractive by the regime.

In a logical world, Iran could agree to revisit non-proliferation talks. But that for now would be too humiliating for the regime, a huge letdown after its prior bonanza of the Iran Deal. Any future negotiations would require snap inspections over the entire country, 100 percent transparency, and provisions about missiles and terrorism that would not lead to a deliverable Iranian bomb and therefore would seem an intolerable regression after the American giveaway of 2015.

Iran might go quiet for a while, and then revert to its past less-dramatic provocations. But the clock was already ticking from the sanctions. Tehran at least felt that the status quo was synonymous with its eventual disintegration and so in desperation hoped to trigger something or other that could lead to Trump’s political emasculation and a political reprieve.

We are now in an election year. Iran yearns for a return of the U.S. foreign policy of John Kerry, Ben Rhodes, Susan Rice, and Samantha Power, the naïveté that had proved so lucrative and advantageous to Iran prior to 2017.

Yet it is hard to see how Trump, if he is careful and selective in his responses to future Iranian escalations, will be damaged politically. His base, of course, and all Americans, quite rightly do not want another war even remotely resembling endless Middle East conflicts perceived as fought for great game dramas. But disproportionate one-off air responses in response to Iran’s future attacks would not require U.S. ground troops or likely not risk a general Middle East war. And they would do Iran’s assets real damage.

The current exchange is surreal in that it may be the first Middle East crisis in modern history in which neither oil nor the fury of the Arab world at U.S. military action is at least for now an overriding strategic consideration. The world has adjusted to Iran’s oil being off-market. The U.S. is nearing energy independence. Our rivals like China are the most concerned over tensions in the Strait of Hormuz. If Hezbollah strikes Israel, the counter-response would be overwhelming — and quietly also quite welcome in most Arab capitals.

There are no more neoconservatives of influence in Washington. Despite claims otherwise, they have zero influence over Trump.  Most are now fervent and bitter anti-Trump partisans. This past year, they could not decide whether Trump was a “Twitter tiger” appeaser or a provocative and dangerous bull in the Middle East china shop.  We are told his unpredictability creates “confusion,” but confusion and unpredictability are not always a disadvantage. In this case, both North Korea and China are both carefully calibrating U.S. reactions and are not quite sure what’s next.

Trump’s base is nationalist-populist and Jacksonian, not merely doctrinaire isolationist. “Don’t tread on me” translated into 2020 terms means something like “live and let live — or else.” If Iran hits the U.S. first, then the U.S. would shrug and hit Iran back harder — without any grand notions of preemption, ideological nation-building, regime-change agendas, ground wars, or larger policing commitments to international or allied interests. After the recent furor over Turkey in Syria, Trump’s base accepts that he is backing out of the Middle East firing, not firing to get in. How strange that his progressive opponents damned Trump for not exercising preemptive choices in Turkey to protect third parties, and damned him more for taking reactive action in Iraq to protect Americans.

In sum, a weaker Iran foolishly positioned itself into the role of aggressor, at a time of a shot economy, eroding military strength, waning terrorist appendages abroad, and little political leverage or wider support. China and Russia are confined to hoping the U.S. is somehow, somewhere bogged down. Europe will still lecture on the fallout from canceling the Iran Deal, but quietly welcomes the fact that Iran is weaker than in 2015 and weaker for them is far better. China wants access to Middle East oil. Russia has never objected to a major producer having its oil taken off the world market. Moscow’s Iranian policies are reductionist anti-American more than pro-Iranian.

The current Iranian crisis is complex and dangerous. And by all means retaliation must be designed to prevent more Iranian violence and aggression rather than aimed at a grandiose agenda of regime change or national liberation. But so far the Iranians, not the U.S., are making all the blunders.


Publisher’s Self Censorship: The Proof Is In The Pudding

“My Book Defending Free Speech Has Been Pulled”

James Flynn

I recently completed a book defending free speech. Emerald Press scheduled it for publication but then decided not to proceed. Here’s what it said about the book in Emerald’s September 2019 catalogue:

In Defense of Free Speech: The University as CensorAuthor James R. Flynn, University of Otago, New Zealand

Synopsis: The good university is one that teaches students the intellectual skills they need to be intelligently critical—of their own beliefs and of the narratives presented by politicians and the media. Freedom to debate is essential to the development of critical thought, but on university campuses today free speech is restricted for fear of causing offence. In Defense of Free Speech surveys the underlying factors that circumscribe the ideas tolerated in our institutions of learning. James Flynn critically examines the way universities censor their teaching, how student activism tends to censor the opposing side and how academics censor themselves, and suggests that few, if any, universities can truly be seen as ‘good.’ In an age marred by fake news and social and political polarization, In Defense of Free Speech makes an impassioned argument for a return to critical thought.

I was notified of Emerald’s decision not to proceed by Tony Roche, Emerald’s publishing director, in an email on 10th June:

I am contacting you in regard to your manuscript In Defense of Free Speech: The University as Censor. Emerald believes that its publication, in particular in the United Kingdom, would raise serious concerns. By the nature of its subject matter, the work addresses sensitive topics of race, religion, and gender. The challenging manner in which you handle these topics as author, particularly at the beginning of the work, whilst no doubt editorially powerful, increase the sensitivity and the risk of reaction and legal challenge. As a result, we have taken external legal advice on the contents of the manuscript and summarize our concerns below.

There are two main causes of concern for Emerald. Firstly, the work could be seen to incite racial hatred and stir up religious hatred under United Kingdom law. Clearly you have no intention of promoting racism but intent can be irrelevant. For example, one test is merely whether it is “likely” that racial hatred could be stirred up as a result of the work. This is a particular difficulty given modern means of digital media expression. The potential for circulation of the more controversial passages of the manuscript online, without the wider intellectual context of the work as a whole and to a very broad audience—in a manner beyond our control—represents a material legal risk for Emerald.

Secondly, there are many instances in the manuscript where the actions, conversations and behavior of identifiable individuals at specific named colleges are discussed in detail and at length in relation to controversial events. Given the sensitivity of the issues involved, there is both the potential for serious harm to Emerald’s reputation and the significant possibility of legal action. Substantial changes to the content and nature of the manuscript would need to be made, or Emerald would need to accept a high level of risk both reputational and legal. The practical costs and difficulty of managing any reputational or legal problems that did arise are of further concern to Emerald.

For the reasons outlined above, it is with regret that Emerald has taken the decision not to publish your manuscript. We have not taken this decision lightly, but following senior level discussions within the organization, and with the additional benefit of specialist legal advice. I realize that this decision will come as a disappointment to you and hope that you will be able to find an alternative publisher with whom to take the work to publication.

If the book is sober and responsible, and if Emerald’s letter is correct, that poses a question: Does Britain have free speech? The above letter inspired me to change the title from “In Defense of Free Speech: The University as Censor” to “A Banned Book: Free speech and universities.” I hope that some publishers will contact me (, so they can decide whether the book is worthy of publication and whether it runs afoul of any of the U.K.’s laws. If a journalist gets in touch, I can also send them the text for their eyes only. Let me give an outline of its contents.

The benefits of free speech

First, I give a general defense of free speech and criticize Jason Stanley and Jeremy Waldron insofar as their views differ from my own. I then use the case of Charles Murray being denied a platform at Middlebury College to show what students and staff miss out on when they refuse to hear or read those who offend them:

[My] dividends from reading Arthur Jensen, Richard Lynn, and Charles Murray: a plausible case that genetic differences between the major races are unlikely to confer an advantage or a handicap for desirable personal traits; a far better understanding of black America; a method that sheds light on personal development and leaves room for personal autonomy; an understanding of how differently males and females respond to formal education; a case that genetic differences between the genders seem cognitively trivial; a somewhat better understanding of the Chinese both at home and in America; a case for affirmative action that does not depend on racial bias; and most of all, a better understanding of the dynamics of a truly humane and egalitarian society.

This is the sad fate that the mob at Middlebury wanted to save me from. If I had not read these “discredited” scholars, I would still have a half-educated mind full of passion about race and gender and class and not much else.

A history of oppression

I then chart the history of the sins of universities against free speech with an emphasis on the McCarthy era (when conservatives barred or fired those they considered suspect), through the transitional period of Vietnam, to the present (when many on the “left” do much the same, particularly student protest groups). I detail the use of speech codes, and trigger warnings, and departments that have a party line (“Walden codes”) to discipline, expel, fire, and, above all, to defend indoctrination rather than education.

I include among the latter some African American studies departments that will not assign books or papers by conservative thinkers, some women’s studies departments that reject incontrovertible social science that runs counter to the official feminist ideology, and some (almost all) education departments that define their purpose as sending out “missionaries” to convert schools to their vision of an egalitarian society. I also provide a history of America’s schoolteachers, tracing how the low status of their profession has made the schools susceptible to adopting a missionary role.

Finally, I criticize the failure of universities to provide their students with the critical intelligence they need to be autonomous human beings and good citizens, despite the fact that they all state this as their chief objective.

Is this book worth reading?

Well, it will not be read unless it is published. To discuss a point made in Emerald’s letter, every reference to a person is documented by citations of published material or material in the public domain. At present, I can only cite the testimony of distinguished scholars. Some of the following were referees who sent their opinions to Emerald and some read it to give me an informal assessment.

This book is an education in itself…It is a brilliant and courageous book.
—Thomas Bouchard

That’s shocking [the rejection] even by the standards of contemporary restrictions on free speech, and especially ironic given the subject of your book.
—Steven Pinker

It is ironic that a book critical of restrictions on free speech should itself be rejected by a publisher who is worried about the book falling afoul of UK laws on incitement to racial hatred.  In fact this is doubly ironic, given that the book is by Jim Flynn, after whom the “Flynn effect” is named, because the Flynn effect is all about the difference that culture and environment — rather than genes — makes to IQ scores. The draft I have seen has the potential to be an important and controversial work that will be very widely discussed.
—Peter Singer

I must admit I was shocked. Well, anyway, they have given you material for another chapter!
—John C. Loehlin

This is in-[expletive]-credible…Your book should not be considered even close to the fringes of politically correct discourse. If publishers are scared of your book, the censorship problem is a few orders of magnitude worse than I realized.
—Charles Murray


Discussing why free speech should extend to questions of race and gender necessarily involves presenting views (such as those of Jensen, Murray, and Lynn), if only for purposes of rebuttal, which upset those who believe that racial and sexual equality is self-evident. If upsetting students or staff or the public is a reason for banning speech, all such discussion is at an end. I end the book by quoting from George Orwell’s original preface to Animal Farm, which was itself rejected by Faber and Faber for being too critical of Stalin: “If liberty means anything at all, it means the right to tell people what they do not want to hear.”

Correction: An earlier version of this article was titled “My Book Defending Free Speech Has Been Banned,” and included a quote from Peter Singer which indicated that the book had been restricted. The title and quote have since been updated to reflect that the book was deemed too risky to be published, not that it was banned.

James R. Flynn is an intelligence researcher who gave his name to the Flynn Effect. He is Emeritus Professor of Political Studies at the University of Otago in Dunedin, New Zealand.