Monthly Archives: March 2013

He Is Risen!

Today is the day that Christians celebrate the triumphant resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ from the dead; not by any natural physical process but that God who is all-powerful raised him up from the dead according as He had purposed from the foundation of the world; thus validating the claims of our Lord and establishing Christ as the sole channel for the reconciliation of errant man and a sinful world back to a living, loving and powerful Creator.
For in Christ, we see a most humble, loving character that nevertheless showed an extraordinary sense of divine authority in doing wondrous works even exercising the ability to forgive sins and to cast out demons; but who despite his humility, meekness, compassion and overall goodness was by the hands of sinful men despised, mocked, branded a treasonous and heretical rogue and crucified in the vilest of ways. For if the testimony had been that some goodly Jewish social revolutionary lived and did amazing miracles even as he sought to bring back erring Israel back to their maker, but was nevertheless executed without pomp and circumstance, and his followers scattered to the winds, the teachings of such a mover of men may have fallen into disrepute and perhaps lost with the sands of time.
However, since the testimony and message of Christ (indeed his life, earthly ministry and death were foreordained by a living God) was that rebellious squalid humanity can once again be reconciled to a loving Father, it pleased this Father of all flesh and spirits to abundantly confirm and corroborate the supremacy of Christ and the verity of his teachings by resurrecting him from the dead and thereby showing his sovereignty over the physical and indeed over all. For if he had not been raised from the dead then our profession of faith would have simply been in vain.
Indeed he is risen today—and the powers of death and hell cannot prevail against him nor his Church. Happy Easter everyone!

Saber-rattling In The Korean Peninsula?

Is Kim Jong-Un merely sabre-rattling?

WASHINGTON, March 30 (Reuters) – The White House said on Saturday that it takes North Korea’s latest saber-rattling threats seriously while cautioning that Pyongyang has a long history of bellicose rhetoric.

North Korea’s latest bout of angry rhetoric included a vow that it is entering a “state of war” with South Korea a day after North Korean leader Kim Jong-un signed off on an order putting its missile units on standby to attack U.S. military bases in the South.

“We’ve seen reports of a new and unconstructive statement from North Korea. We take these threats seriously and remain in close contact with our South Korean allies,” said Caitlin Hayden, spokeswoman for the White House National Security Council.

“But, we would also note that North Korea has a long history of bellicose rhetoric and threats and today’s announcement follows that familiar pattern,” she said.

I think we have seen this script too many times.  Whenever North Korea wants some concessions from the US and her allies, or from the UN, they have been known to raise nuclear tensions and the prospect of renewed war in the Korean peninsula. Whenever the crazed supreme leader of the isolated country does this saber-rattling, the world scrambles around and tries to listen to the demands made by North Korea—and for the most part, it is usually for some sort of aid. The positive thing about this I suppose, is that for 60 years, there has been an uneasy ‘peace’—an armistice really—between North and South Korea.
Sadly over the years, the proliferation of nukes, and the polarization of the active players in the region namely US, Russia, China, Japan, North and South Korea has made peace even more elusive. The entire region is on high alert and there is constant suspicion over the military exercises of power in the region. The region is really sitting on a proverbial keg of nuclear gunpowder, and all it might take is the sort of brash, careless talk that is now fashionable with North Korea to ignite a repeat of the Korean war of 1950-1953; only that this time, the conflict in the Korean peninsula would be over a hundred times more catastrophic than that fought 60 years ago. As a matter of fact, that war if or when it starts, might forever change the nature of the planet if it does not completely destroy it.
Therefore it is needless to mention that it is in everyone’s overall best interest that the fractious ‘peace’ currently observed in this region continues. If this is the case, must the world walk as though on eggshells whenever North Korea escalates her war rhetoric? How should the US and especially South Korea (who are mere minutes away from a possible North Korea-led nuclear assault on Seoul) treat the escalating language of war coming from North Korea?
North Korea, it must be pointed out, are not acting completely as though they do not understand that left alone North Korea cannot even begin to dream or hope of winning any possible nuclear war against the US. North Korea understands that in the region, or in the case of any possible regional warfare they are allied to Russia and China—two countries arguably next in line to the US when considering military might. North Korea likes her chances when partnered with Russia and China against The US, South Korea and Japan. And they are probably right to feel that way seeing as Japan had since the end of the Second World War voluntarily abstained as part of the terms of her surrender to the US, not to actively pursue a nuclear weapons program. This by no means suggests that Japan is altogether militarily weak or defenseless, but Japan could have far surpassed China by now in terms of its nuclear arsenal if it had actively pursued the acquisition of nuclear weapons over these years like China had done. If Japan were on par militarily with China, then Russia would have been more interested in curbing the verbal excesses of North Korea’s leader.
So, we find ourselves in a situation where the US, and possibly her allies all over the world, has to constantly reassure South Korea and Japan that they can count on their full and unalloyed support in the event of any nuclear showdown. It is therefore hardly surprising that the US has to be seen actively monitoring the region and carrying out exercises designed to show maximum preparedness and the ability to mete out decisive punishment to perceived enemies should Seoul or Tokyo suddenly find themselves under a North Korean-led surprise attack. It is also not surprising to discover that North Korea realizes that in any nuclear war against the US and her allies in the region, the element of surprise will be of immense benefit.
In other words, it is not for naught that North Korea is seriously working towards securing long range nuclear warheads that can strike strategic places on the US mainland. North Korea already has the weapons and the technology to decimate her neighbor to the South in mere minutes. But if it launches a sneak attack and inflicts massive casualties on South Korea and possibly parts of Japan without attacking the US military bases around the region or the US mainland, then they have no prayer for the sort of heavy-handed response the US will inflict in a counterstrike. North Korea therefore has to hope that after their initial wave of attacks on South Korea and Japan (and on US bases in the region), their long-range weapons systems will also inflict crippling damages to strategic places on the US homeland in order to break the will of the American people or to make the cost of the US response so massive that in the end, there’d be no clear winner. In the absence of such effective long-range nukes, North Korea has to hope that Russia and China will be sucked into the conflict so that they can use their vastly bigger and more powerful arsenals to inflict maximum damage. This is because we already know that the US (and her allies like Israel, UK, Australia, Germany, Italy and maybe France) has promised that any nuclear attack against South Korea and Japan by North Korea will be met with devastating force.
Having realized these tense geo-political realities, the real question is whether China and Russia will step up to the plate, in their own mutual economic and strategic interests, to curb the verbal excesses of the brash young North Korean leader. In as much as a lasting peace in the region or the reunification of North and South Korea remains a distant or remote possibility, the harsh reality is that the nuclear powers stand to gain precious little with the sort of internecine open nuclear warfare that North Korea envisions. South Korea and Japan have done their utmost best to live peacefully and comply with the desires of the United Nations. They have sought and currently maintain warm or favorable diplomatic relations with most countries of the world. They have shown the sort of mature restraint that enables dialogue. It is therefore necessary that these leaders come together with serious co-operation from China and Russia to map out a strategy to ‘pacify’ or ‘contain’ North Korea before we find ourselves, through North Korea’s hubristic miscalculations, staring smack-dab in the face of a nuclear Armageddon.

Habemus Papam!

His Holiness Pope Francis I

And so, today being the 13th day of the 3rd month in the year of Our Lord 2013, the conclave finally elected a new pope. Formerly Cardinal Gorge Mario Bergoglio, and a close contender the last time the cardinals met in a conclave, the recently coronated Pope is a humble, learned man from Buenos Aires, Argentina; selected to lead the world’s 1.2 billion Catholics. May God give him the wisdom to serve his people, and the courage to bring about the reforms that the Church sorely needs at this time.

The Exit Of A Socialist

JP: Have you heard?
GF: Heard what?
JP: The latest news..
GF: Which is?
JP: That Hugo Chavez is dead.
GF: Yeah I did. What about it?
JP: Doesn’t the news make you glad?
GF: No. Why should the news of the man’s death make me glad?
JP: Well, I thought that you would be glad that a man who was deeply critical of the United States is dead.
GF: I don’t think that necessarily follows. Many people including US citizens are critical of some of America’s actions both home and abroad. Should I wish them dead too? How about you—are you happy that the man is dead?
JP: Come on—how can you not be happy that this crazy man is no more? This man who did everything he could to undermine the United States? Are you going to sit there and tell me that one shouldn’t feel at least a twinge of relief when America’s enemies are finally captured or killed? Have your forgotten Saddam Hussein, Gadhafi, Osama etc.?
GF: So it seems that you also view Hugo Chavez as a terrorist?
JP: Well if the shoe fits. People who hobnob with Fidel Castro and Mahmoud Ahmadinejad have to be viewed as dangerous enemies.
GF: I see—another wonderful example of guilt by association huh?
JP: Well, a wise man once said “show me your friends and I’ll tell you what kind of person you are.”
GF: So should one then assume that you agree with everything the US does internationally and domestically? Should one assume that you support everything that the government did in the past and present?
JP: Of course not but..
GF [cuts in]: If it is possible that you can disagree with your own government (who I imagine that you think is actively looking out for your best interests), why do you think that people in other parts of the world—especially people whose countries or economies or governments might have been negatively affected by US policies—cannot similarly disagree with the US vehemently?
JP: Yeah well if you allowed me to finish, I was going to say that the difference here is that I have not by any action of mine sworn bitter enmity against the US. I can discuss my disagreement with any government policy without constituting myself a threat to the government. People like Hugo Chavez were committed to the destruction of the United States.
GF: Ok, so if, God forbid, a US president or top politician dies after battling 2 years of cancer, you will similarly be okay with seeing pictures on television of people in countries that traditionally see the US as hostile dancing and partying in the streets because of the death of that American president, yes? Of course since they would already view the deceased American president as inimical to the general interests, your logic says that it is perfectly okay for such people to be happy that an enemy is dead, right?
JP: I guess so although to be perfectly honest with you, when I mention being a little glad, I wasn’t going overboard with it. It seems to me the idea that people might be dancing and partying is taking it a bit too far.
GF: Different strokes for different folks. You celebrate yours how you see fit, and don’t worry how others will celebrate theirs. However, the end result is the same—people exulting over the death of their perceived political enemies.
JP: It is rather disheartening GF to see you attempt to make this news a sad thing. Tell me, how long did you mourn the loss of Osama?
GF: Even though I realize that you are indirectly trying to paint me an Al-Qaeda sympathizer, I have to sharply remind you that Osama is not comparable to Hugo Chavez. If it can be argued that Osama Bin Laden was the aggressor and the initiator of the feud between the US and AlQaeda, the same cannot be said of Venezuela and Hugo Chavez. Actually the record will show that while the two countries have growing economic relations, diplomatic relations between the countries are strained on account of the fact that Hugo Chavez believes either rightly or wrongly that the US is involved in coup plots  and attempts to destabilize the Venezuelan government. It would appear that in Venezuela’s case the US is the aggressor. One only needs to review past history to see America’s complicity in the various coup plots, assassination attempts and military interventionism that has rocked that area.
JP: Yeah but these are simply baseless claims made by a hyper-paranoid little man. Hugo Chavez is a socialist, and part of his power and charm is to rally the masses. To his credit, he was able to channel the oil windfall into providing the basic necessities of life for his people. This won him broad domestic support. But above all, he knows that to remain relevant, he had to tap into fierce Venezuelan nationalism. This is why he is carefully blaming all his shortcomings on the US, that callous international bogeyman, and manufacturing all sorts of spurious allegations to compel the allegiance of his people.
GF: You don’t work in the state department, and you are not privy to the classified documents which specify in greater but possibly alarming detail what policies various administrations have taken against persons (heads of state or otherwise) or countries deemed unfriendly to the US. The fact that Hugo Chavez kept his evidence or sources close to his chest, as opposed to dropping it on CNN, is actually something commendable. The US government also doesn’t drop every secret memo they have out there for you to peruse to determine whether an executive action was warranted or not. As a matter of fact, as Wikileaks has shown, there are loads upon loads of classified documents which the US would rather not have you see; some of these detailing the magnitude or the severity of several disruptive policies marshaled out against enemies of the US.
JP: It sounds like you are too easily swallowing every anti-American conspiracy out there. If the man had any evidence of any sort showing the Us government’s culpability in coups or things of that nature, surely he could have produced it in some form or fashion even if not to CNN or any other internationally recognizable news outfit. Now that he is dead, be careful that you do not become one of these people who are spinning conspiracies to the effect that the US had a hand in the man’s death—possibly that his cancer was the result of some clandestine biological attack.
GF: It sounds to me that you are perhaps too quick to dismiss the lessons of history, or perhaps too quick to absolve the US government of actions that might be anti-humanitarian or even anti-democratic. You need to examine the US government’s long track of complicity in the region in the recent historical past to see that these actions are for want of a better term “textbook plays” employed by the government. Secondly, unless you are being naïve, you cannot tell me that you think it beneath the government to tell lies or attempt to doctor facts to present the US in a favorable light or worse hide US miscalculations from the public. Believe what you will. Personally I do not care but please allow the Venezuelans and Chavez’s family to mourn the loss of their beloved one.
JP [laughing]: Easy mate. It is just a discussion.
GF [laughing]: of course it is. And by the way, you may not have too long to wait before Fidel Castro also dies. Then you can really throw a party and go hog-wild!

Barca In Clasicos: Dealing With Crushing Losses

When Pep Guardiola was leaving at the end of last season, there were many FC Barcelona fans that were really worried about what the future held for the team—indeed I was one of such people. Then all my fears were laid to rest when Tito Villanova came in.  After the first half of his first season as Barca’s coach, it seemed he produced a result comparable to if not better than his predecessor’s. So smooth was the transition that many people began to say that Barca really did not need any technical input from so-called managers or coaches in order to win matches. Some, whether fans or foes, claimed that Barca’s president Sandro Rosell could literally send in a 10 year old to coach Barca and reliably finish within the top 5 in La Liga. In hindsight, it is very apparent now that this sentiment was gravely mistaken.
As you probably know, Tito Villanova has been sick for a while and has been receiving treatment in a New York hospital thousands of miles away from his professional working site. His assistant Jordi Roura has had the weighty task of taking charge of things at least until whenever Tito is deemed fit to leave the hospital where he is getting treated for cancer. How has Jordi Roura fared? Well, suffice it to say that he has also done remarkably well organizing the boys, leading them to training sessions and making sensible player selections for Barca’s matches in his boss’s absence until he was faced with some weighty tasks that revealed the limits of his competence. In recent weeks, it has become very clear that Barca is now struggling—struggling to win crucial matches against strong teams and also struggling to easily dispatch relatively weaker teams.
Now, don’t get me wrong, I do not intend to blame the string of lack-lustre play and heart-breaking losses on Mr. Roura but I think it is fair to say that Tito Villanova is badly needed back now. There is only so much you can do when communicating with your assistant through an international phone call. His absence from the camp, from the training sessions, from the locker rooms, from Barca’s physical therapy clinics, and from the stadium is certainly manifesting itself in the form of fewer tactical ideas on how to win matches and a growing lack of confidence on the part of the players. This is what needs to change.
It is not that Barca’s era of being at the helm of world football has finally come to an end. Far from it—this present cast and crew still have more victories and silverware in them. It is that a combination of factors has served to show us that this team is human; that their star players can have bad days; that they can be beaten and beaten convincingly.
So what are some of the things that might need to happen to make this side return to their winning ways?

First, I have to say that Messi cannot shoulder the burden alone. Messi is a towering giant, and he has continued to break record after record compelling avid comparisons with the all-time greats, however, he cannot be expected to do the job every single time in every single game. Therefore, Barca needs another reliable and sharp finisher to work alongside Messi—someone who can reliably deliver when he is set up with a fantastic goal-scoring opportunity. Messi needs someone else to share the burden with; someone of considerable stature and skill such that Messi does not find himself having to shake off two, three or sometimes four defenders every single time he gets the ball or attempts to score.
This is where Sanchez, Pedro and Villa have been simply underwhelming. In Villa’s case, at least one understands that having been away from active football for about 6 months due to a debilitating injury, it is hardly surprising that he is somewhat rusty and perhaps now a shadow of his former self. But what is Sanchez’s and Pedro’s excuse for their consistent poor showing? It is really frustrating when Sanchez for instance keeps wasting critical goal-scoring opportunities. I for one cannot understand why the man bundles to the floor with nearly every contact. Why can’t he keep his balance anyway—is he just too puny to be an attacker or what exactly? New ideas or new formations are definitely needed here in order to fully tap the talent and resourcefulness of Barca’s forwards. This really cannot be overemphasized—when Barca creates a goal-scoring opportunity for Pedro and Sanchez, they have to capitalize on it by scoring or else make the goalkeeper work hard to come up with a save. They cannot shoot the ball far wide of goal or into the stands anymore; we cannot continue to expect Messi to provide the winning goals for every match.
Secondly, I think Puyol needs to be on the bench more often to give a stronger Mascherano a chance to play. Puyol is 34 and I daresay on the verge of becoming a liability to the team. Why has he not retired anyway? Is he bent on playing till his limbs fall off? He is responsible for a number of errors and slip-ups in the back which have proved deadly to Barca. I know he is the captain of the team and perhaps the motivator and emotional bedrock of the team, but I am sure he can do all this comfortably from the bench and in the dressing room. I personally feel that for strong matches, Pique should be paired with Mascherano at the middle of the defense (even though Masche can sometimes give dangerous tackles that earn him yellow cards or worse give the opposition vital free kicks). At any rate, I still feel that Puyol needs to be rested a bit more than he is. Jordi Alba and Dani Alvez are absolutely fantastic on the flanks and should be encouraged to not overdo the overlapping into the opponent’s defense. The result is that when they push too far forward, the flanks are exposed and poor Puyol and Pique find themselves having to overcommit in order to prevent a dangerous counterattack. This is why I am grateful that we have Sergio Busquets. Without his timely intervention in the back, I daresay that Barca will have more goals scored against them than they currently do.
Thirdly, it seems that as a whole, Barca’s tikitaka strategy has become entirely too predictable. All that the other team simply has to do is massively defend and then massively counterattack. They simply have to load their defense and wait for Barca to tap the ball around till one person invariably makes a mistake. Then the opposing team will simply massively counterattack a Barca side that now finds it harder and more dispiriting to run after the ball when they miss a pass. This was not the way they played before. It should be remembered that the beauty of barca’s tikitaka is in the fact that they used to work like one huge well-oiled machine—the defence blending into the midfield and the attack; the midfield swinging between defence and attack; and the attack so thoroughly disguised and concealed swinging sharply from midfield to goal and back again. No point men, no clearly defined attackers, no clearly defined defenders and pretty much everyone involved in the midfield and in creating goal-scoring opportunities.
That is the formula they need to get back to. It seems like they lack the desire to hustle to recover the ball once they miss a pass, and they are also showing signs of sluggishness with their passing. Frankly, if you would rather camp at your opponent’s 18 yard box to tap the ball around one hundred times without making sharp darting runs at goal, then you might as well dump the tikitaka formula because it would prove largely ineffective. You need to be ever on the march and hustling as it were to shake free any opposing defender to make the space for the sort of critical penetrating passes that result in fabulous goals. Having done so, everyone on that team needs to retreat immediately the ball is lost to provide adequate reinforcement for the defenders at the back. So now, while I am certainly not advocating for the “Park the Bus” strategy, one cannot help but notice how exposed the back line usually is with every opponent’s counterattack.
Tomorrow, Barca will once again clash with Real Madrid in another highly anticipated clasico. To tell you the truth, I am still very worried that the observations and recommendations I made here would not have been implemented by the time the game kicks off tomorrow—in which case, it only means that Barca can expect another disappointing defeat at the Bernabeu. Be that as it may, I am still an ardent supporter of the Blaugrana, and I believe they can redeem themselves in the future after internalizing the lessons gained from the spate of heartbreaking losses and Pyrrhic victories. Good luck to them tomorrow : if they do not succumb to psychological pressure even before the match or make hasty and unnecessary mistakes; if they can create and capitalize on the created chances, then we might see a very different Barcelona tomorrow.

Does He Need to Know?

Apparently, she is conflicted here and cannot decide on what the right course of action is.

This past April, I broke up with my boyfriend of five years. I had been living with him for more than two years, but I broke it off and moved out for a number of reasons. One reason was that I needed to know what life was like on my own. I’d had a boyfriend since I was 15, and at age 26 I needed to be comfortable with myself and figure out if he was really what I wanted. I had doubts. So I moved out, and we broke up.

While we were broken up, I had an affair with his best friend. We’d become close over the last year through email, spending time together and so on. He wasn’t happy with his life and neither was I. We supported each other. He was, and still is, a great friend, but now my boyfriend and I are back together.

He knows that I dated a few men while we were apart, but he doesn’t know that I slept with his best friend and I am not sure that I should tell him. That’s my problem. We’re living together again – and we’re talking about getting married in the next six months. I’m ready. I know that I am, I’ve never been more in love or confident of anything in my life. But my boyfriend says that when the time comes, we have to come clean and get married without any secrets.

I think this secret should stay with me till the grave. Any thoughts?

That secret will stay a secret only if his best friend never blabs about it, or your boyfriend does not find things from your affair with his best friend which makes him inquisitive. So the first thing here is to know what his best friend thinks of the fact that you now went back to your boyfriend and that you are apparently considering marriage. Does he approve of it? Is he spiteful? Does he want you back? You need to know his position on your new-found relationship with your boyfriend before you make a final decision.
However, it is better to believe that even if the guy is hurt, he may say that he has no problem with the arrangement and wish you well with your boyfriend. But, if he feels like ruining your relationship, or if your boyfriend offends him, or if he wants to blackmail you, he may threaten to leak your secrets or actually do it– and that will plant a serious suspicion and doubt in your boyfriend even if you do a great job of denying it. So, in the end, you stand to lose no matter how long you keep this secret. Therefore I think you should come clean. Things like this wind up coming out to the open anyhow.
Here’s a way to look at it. At the time it happened, you were not with your boyfriend; you guys were broken up. So while he might not have liked you to date or sleep with his friend, you are not technically guilty of infidelity by doing so. Therefore there is no reason for you to feel guilty. You say he knows that you dated other men while you were broken up–and so his best friend is unfortunately part of the statistic. If the man really loved you and wanted to build a life with you in it, then he will doubly appreciate your honesty in coming clean, and since it did not happen when you guys were technically together, he would understand that as an adult, you have every right to the choices you make regarding your relationship. Who knows–chances are that if he is equally honest with you, you may also discover that he knocked boots with some other woman while you two were broken up. All water under the bridge now, I say.
Start your fresh new relationship with honesty and transparency, and build on the trust and commitment that you two now seem to have found. This is because secrets between partners have a way of coming out eventually to ruin the good thing they labored to create and nurture.
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