Thursday, December 20, 2007

Good to Know

DovBear pointed me over to this absurd comment thread. Apparently some pure Ortho-Jews aren't too keen on the ideas of kosher cheesburgers. DB focused his wrath on someone who complains "why do we have to copy the goyim on everything?", but my personal favorite was the one that said, "if it wasnt created kosher, leave it alone. You managed without it for the past 5,768 years."

First, I'm highly amused by the idea that recipes are apparently created ex nihilo (by God? Or maybe they're intelligently designed?) and are inherently either kosher or not. This despite the fact that there is no single ingredient in a cheeseburger that is inherently non-kosher. Funny.

Second, there's the entertaining suggestion that every authentic Jewish food and/or recipe has been with us for 5,768 years, in other words, per the Jewish view of creation, since the beginning of the universe. Yeah. Especially cholent and kugel, right?

Incidentally, I hope none of these kvetchers stops to think about how many Gentiles have worn shoes, beards, or hats, in however many years humans have been traipsing around. (What religion were the first Cro-Magnons? Are we sure fire is kosher?) To say nothing of eating or breathing. Hey now, we aren't supposed to mimic the Gentiles, guys! Shouldn't we be trying to elevate ourselves beyond our animal natures? Real Holy Jews TM would be spending their spare time learning how to grow gills, like the holiest of all God's creatures, the mighty fish.

Monday, December 10, 2007

Wednesday, December 05, 2007

Hugo Chavez gets Bitchslapped

Good. Up yours, Hugo. Seriously.

Of course, Hugo not being a very good loser, decided to play with some of his favorite whipping boys, Venezuela's tiny Jewish community. For the second time in three years.

Kudos, Hugo. How big of you.

Monday, December 03, 2007

Dennis Loves Talking to Himself

Talk about poisoning the well. In his latest column, Dennis Prager creates a series of strawmen as only he can, saying first that liberals believe "the world" hates America, then turning this argument on its head by saying that it's just liberals who do.

But it is not true that the world hates America. It is the world's left that hates America. However, because the left dominates the world's news media and because most people, understandably, believe what the news media report, many people, including Americans, believe that the world hates America.

That it is the left – and those influenced by the left-leaning news and entertainment media – that hates America can be easily shown.

Take Western Europe, which is widely regarded as holding America in contempt, but upon examination only validates our thesis. The French, for example, are regarded as particularly America-hating, but if this were so, how does one explain the election of Nicolas Sarkozy as president of France? Sarkozy loves America and was known to love America when he ran for president. Evidently, it is the left in France – a left that, like the left in America, dominates the media, arts, universities and unions – that hates the U.S., not the French.

Except that the past President wasn't a very big fan of the US, and he was elected twice (and, had the run-off not been between Chirac and Le Pen, who incidentally wasn't a big fan of the US, the French probably would have voted for Socialist Jospin- incidentally, check out Mark Steyn's thoughts on the French elections, particularly Sarkozy getting support from former Le Pen voters). Unless there was an ethnic cleansing or civil war I didn't hear about, we must assume that the French people's voting habits are more complicated than merely "how much does this candidate hate America?" If the only criteria you use to evaluate world opinion of America is by which government is in power, you're already severely limiting any degree of nuance that might exist. What about moderate leaders? Do they only "kind of" hate America? What about opposition groups that are banned from voting, or boycott the political process, like Hamas has done from time to time?

And, funny enough, Dennis, you seemed more than willing to paint all of France as pretty contemptible just a few short years ago.

Few of us expected anything from the French. From the Jacobins and the guillotine, to the Dreyfus trial, to the Vichy regime, to de Gaulle's withdrawal from anti-Communist NATO, France, with rare exceptions, has done little that is moral and nothing that is courageous. So the disdain that many Americans have long felt for France has merely been reinforced.

Then again, broad oversimplifications tend to be your bread and butter.

There is another obvious argument against the belief that the world hates America: Many millions of people would rather live in America than in any other country. How does the left explain this? Why would people want to come to a country they loathe? Why don't people want to live in Sweden or France as much as they wish to live in America? Those are rich and free countries, too.

The answer is that most people know there is no country in the world more accepting of strangers as is America. After three generations, people who have emigrated to Germany or France or Sweden do not feel – and are not regarded as – fully German, French or Swedish. Yet, anyone of any color from any country is regarded as American the moment he or she identifies as one. The country that the left routinely calls "xenophobic" and "racist" is in fact the least racist and xenophobic country in the world.

Dennis does love his absolutes. Of course, even though there might be problems of xenophobia in Germany (and there are), it's interesting that they also have pretty minimal citizenship requirements and very comprehensive social benefits. In a book about Jewish Diasporas I've been reading, there's a whole chapter on Jews in Germany- mainly Soviet emigres- and over and over, people say that the main reason they came was because of the benefits. Compare this to the US, where politicians regularly rail against giving any benefits or amenities to illegal aliens. There are plenty of reasons people come to America, and plenty of reasons they might want to come to America rather than another country. But saying it's because we're "the least racist" or "most accepting" is not only pretty difficult to demonstrate objectively (not that Dennis tries), but also seems somewhat ridiculous if you consider the fact that the ongoing culture war includes plenty of language that can periodically cross the xenophobia line. (Eh, Dennis?)

Dennis concludes with some commentary and an open question:

It makes perfect sense that the left around the world loathes America. The final question, then, is whether this loathing of America is characteristic of the American left as well. The answer is that the American left hates the America that believes in American exceptionalism, is prepared to use force to fight what it deems as dangerous evil, affirms the Judeo-Christian value system, believes in the death penalty, supports male-female marriage, rejects big government, wants lower taxes, prefers free market to governmental solutions, etc. The American left, like the rest of the world's left, loathes that America.

So what America does the American left love? That is for those on the left to answer. But given their beliefs that America was founded by racists and slaveholders, that it is an imperialist nation, that 35 million Americans go hungry, that it invades countries for corporate profits, and that it is largely racist and xenophobic, it is a fair question.

The answer, of course, is more complicated than Dennis would like to admit. As a liberal, I love American accomplishments and feel proud of American principles of dignity, liberty, equality, and justice, and therefore feel ashamed and disgusted when these principles are abused, ignored, or perverted to serve individual agendas.

I do not believe in most blanket principles, Dennis, though you seem content to imagine all liberals as simple minded atheist pacifists. I believe in complexities. As a Jew and an American, I believe in struggling with my beliefs, and the necessity of sometimes having to leave them unresolved. I am undecided on the death penalty, and I struggle on issues relating to abortion and war. I would be less troubled about American interventionism in the world if there didn't seem to be such a high correlation of us privileging real-politik over human rights, much less democracy. I don't object to the free market, but I do believe that regulation is necessary in order to keep businesses from hosing their consumers. Similarly, I believe that government has an obligation to help support and protect its weakest citizens. Not being a billionaire I can't speak with much authority, but if I was making an obscene amount of money every year, more than I could possibly spend, I don't think I would mind being taxed more on it.

As for the Judeo-Christian thing, my view is that social conservatives could benefit from speaking to the libertarians on this. Do what you please in the privacy of your home, keep from legislating other people's private lives. (For the moment, I remain undecided regarding things like "religion in the public square.") Whether they like it or not, gays are here, atheists are here, and they're going to have to deal with them.

I love America, Dennis, and I hate American selfishness. I hate American power when it is used to hurt rather than help, and I hate the American exceptionalism when it feeds unbridled inteventionism AND isolationism. We can no more declare ourselves the sole power of the world than we can remove ourselves from it. Both constitute moral as well as strategic failures. I am proud when America admits its mistakes, when it acknowledges that our past was not as rosy as we would like, and when it works towards correcting it in the future. I am ashamed when people such as yourself whitewash history.

My bottom line is that I love America because of its principles, and I am embarrassed when it fails to live up to them. Much as it may kill you, I'm sure plenty of liberals feel the same way. You may disagree with us on what those principles are or how they should be interpreted, but you can't poison the well by suggesting we hate everything America stands for. That simply isn't true.

I'm sorry we aren't as easy to rail against as the imaginary liberals in your head, Dennis. Better luck next time.

Teddy Beargate Resolution

The Teddy Bear teacher was pardoned and released early. Good news, of course. But then again, she was jailed for eight days before the government got off its duff.

Dr Khalid al-Mubarak, of the Sudanese embassy in London, said he hoped the affair would not damage relations between Sudan and the UK.

"I think this is the correct resolution - pardoned and released early," he told BBC News.

"The word pardoned also means that the original mistake has been - not forgotten - but behind us now."

Ibrahim Mogra from the Muslim Council of Britain told BBC News 24 that the whole saga had been very damaging for the image of the Muslim faith.

"Each time we have stories like these, that distort what Islam stands for or misrepresents what the compassion of Muslim law stands for, then we have repercussions and people begin to feel that Islam has no place in modern society...

"I have not come across one single Muslim in our country who has supported what has happened.''

President Omar al-Bashir had been under pressure from Sudanese hardliners to ensure Mrs Gibbons served her full sentence.

There had been a protest, and calls for a retrial and for the sentence to be increased.

BBC Islamic affairs analyst Roger Hardy said the row over Mrs Gibbons had strained relations between Britain and Sudan - and, beyond that, between the West and Islam.

And even if intervention by two prominent British Muslims had succeeded in limiting the damage, the fact remained that damage had been done, he added.

No shit it's been damaged. As if people really needed one more reason to dislike Sudan. Congrats, guys, you've gone from genocidal psychos to moronic boobs. Great improvement.

...thanks to the Gillian Gibbons saga, Sudan has managed to transform its public image from pariah state to something approaching a laughing stock.

The carefully stage-managed pardoning of Mrs Gibbons by Sudan's President Omar al-Bashir will have satisfied few within his divided government.

Moderates who want better relations with the West will want to know why Sudan's president did not intervene sooner.

Sudan's foreign ministry has been shown to be an open but ultimately powerless limb of the administration.

Sudanese officials reassured British diplomats that the case would be dismissed right up to the moment that Mrs Gibbons was sentenced to 15 days in detention.

That disconnect is an experience shared by UN officials who spent months negotiating with Sudanese diplomats the arrival of a new peacekeeping force for Darfur.

Those talks have since been shown to count for little. Security agencies have impounded equipment, denied permission for night flights and refused to grant land for military bases.

President al-Bashir is a military man, and Mrs Gibbons's detention has shown clearly once again that power rests firmly with security forces and the interior and defence ministries.

Check out this article in the Sudan Tribune for some eye-opening theories on why the government thought it could play both sides of the fence on this one. Money quote:

Ultimately, many in Sudan think that poor Ms Gibson has been used in a blackmailing strategy by the Sudanese authorities who in reality are not concerned about Prophet Mohammed or anything else except sustaining their power in Sudan and consolidating their earthly gains. Many think this whole affair is a ploy to arouse ordinary Muslim sentiment in Sudan and around the world so that the regime can find a breathing space from its domestic problems, specially the implementation of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement.

However, the whole affair seem to have backfired. The British Muslim Council called it “a disgraceful decision and defies common sense". The Federation of Muslim Organizations, Leicestershire (UK) in their statement says, “...[the] only thing we can do to prevent some Muslims making a complete mockery out of Islam is to disassociate ourselves from such acts done in the name of Islam”.

The very little support regionally or internationally that the Sudanese government received in this affair showed how isolated and despised they are – even by their own fellow Muslims. Most importantly, the majority of ordinary Sudanese Muslims (excluding the low-paid professional protesters who appeared on TV on Friday) seem to receive the teddy affair with the sheer contempt it deserves.

Also good for some good quotes from moderate Muslims.

Of course, some people are using this disgrace as an opportunity to label all Muslims as crazy psychotics.

The kernel of truth at the heart of Islam is there: If you are an "unbeliever," then anything of which Islam disproves is punishable by death. They decide.

We've heard it before, "convert or die." Or at the very least, do everything the way Islam demands – or die.

If we don't see it that way, then what do we to make of vicious, threatening mobs reacting to an innocuous and innocent action of a British teacher and her 7-year-old students?

If we're to walk the same paths we've been pushed into, particularly since the 9/11 attacks in the United States, we're to consider mobs as just a "small part" of Islam.

Just as we were told after cartoons in Danish newspapers last year sparked violence across several continents, causing damage, injuries and death – those mobs represent just a "small part" of Islam.

Just as when a speech of Pope Benedict was deliberately taken out of context to reflect on Islam, leading to violent demonstrations and mobs demanding his death – we're told to consider it just a "small part" of Islam.

Just as in the premeditated vicious street attack and killing of Dutch filmmaker Theo Van Gogh because Islamists didn't like the subject matter of his films – we're told to consider it just a "small part" of Islam.

Just as in the death threats issued against people because Islamists don't like what they say or think – consider author Salman Rushdie, journalist Oriana Fallaci and Dutch politician Ayaan Hirsi Ali. There are many others.

Considering the pattern, it's hard not to consider these threats and this violence just the normal, peaceful religion of Islam in action.

There's a similarity in all these events – and so many more it would take pages to list them –and that is when there is a perceived slight to Islam; the reaction is mob violence, destruction and murder – always justified by Islam, the religion of peace.

This despite the fact that British Muslims were protesting her arrest, and that two Muslim MPs went to Sudan to broker her release. Hmmm.

Another nutjob, perhaps anticipating that this saga of stupidity was about to end, leaped at the chance to get his two cents worth in:

An American evangelist has jumped into the fray over the fate of a British teacher facing calls for death over a teddy bear named "Muhammad."

Bill Keller, host of LivePrayer, has posted a video on YouTube featuring a pink, toy pig named Muhammad after the Muslim prophet.

The pig goes on to call Muhammed a child molester and murderer, and then talks about his conversion to Christianity, coincidentally, after going to Bill Keller's website. Wow, slamming Islam AND promoting your crappy devotionals? Simply brilliant, Bill. We haven't seen this kind of impressive melding of theology and marketing since Luther started handing out coupons for discount mochas along with his Treatises.

Of course, this is the kind of well-crafted wit we've come to expect from Bill Keller (how nuts do you have to be to make Bill O'Reilly seem reasonable?)

Saturday, December 01, 2007


Last surviving Bielski brother arrested for Grand Theft

Aron Bielski, now known as Aaron Bell, is currently facing charges of kidnapping, grand theft and exploitation of the elderly together with his wife Henryka, after a 93-year-old neighbor accused them of convincing her into signing over more than $250,000 worth of bank accounts.
According to investigators, the Bells gained power of attorney over Janina Zaniewska's bank accounts in December 2005, and then moved the money into their own accounts. The Bells also tricked Zaniewska into taking a trip in May, but instead of going to her native Poland to visit friends, the couple admitted Zaniewska into a nursing home in Warsaw.
...The charges carry a maximum of 90 years in prison.
The Bielski brothers are world-renowned for having saved at least 1,200 fellow Jews during the Holocaust. Their life hiding in a Belorussian forest has been documented in books and documentaries. A Hollywood movie about them starring Daniel Craig is due for release in 2008.

More here.

Police were contacted in August by a bank manager who wondered why the Bells were withdrawing Ms Zaniewska’s money.
Police eventually found her at the nursing home.
“Thank God you found me,” she told authorities, according to police.
She returned to Florida last month.
Prosecutors have charged the couple with scheming to defraud Zaniewska, exploitation of the elderly and theft.

This is very strange, and very sad.

Thursday, November 29, 2007

Say what?

I saw something like this on television just now.

Men's Sherpa Lined Hoodie

Now, I've read Jon Krakauer's Into Thin Air, so I have a very specific idea of what a Sherpa is. But I thought I'd be fair and check out Wikipedia to be sure.

Sherpa can refer to:

So let's review- exactly how can you have a Sherpa-Lined ANYTHING?

Next season: Lakota-lined Borsalinos.

Sophistry at its best

When is a bum not a bum? When he has a beard, apparently. Oh, and tzitzit.

That seems to be R. Levi Brackman's argument in his latest column. Taking umbrage with some potentially antisemitic statistics that indicate, to no one's surprise, that 70% of Haredi men in Israel don't work, he feels the need to explain.

The question immediately arises: If they are unemployed what are they doing with their lives? The simple answer is that they are involved in advanced Jewish studies.

Indeed the study says that 60% of haredi men claimed Jewish scholarship to be their primary focus. Now, one can either say that haredi Israeli men are unemployed or that they spend their time in pursuit of a higher goal—religious study and spiritual excellence. I prefer the latter approach.

Of course you do.

R. Brackman points out that Jews have always valued education, and tries to connect this with the fact that a lot of Jews have won Nobel Prizes. Of course, this would be a lot more convincing (and help his unspoken argument that having hundreds of thousands of kollel students somehow benefits mankind) if there was a Nobel Prize in Talmud. The fact is, all those Jewish Prize Winners, down to the recent (and quite frum) recipient for Economics, Robert Aumann, made a decision at some point that they were going to engage with the world, and learn about the world, and not lock themselves in a self-imposed ghetto library for their entire lives. I'm not saying religious study is meaningless or useless- on a personal level, or even a communal level, text study can be deeply meaningful and moving. But it remains a closed circle; the act is ultimately self-directed and only extends as far as the next student (or rabbi).

Not to be crude about it, but what are all those kollel students contributing, either to Jewish life or the world at large?

Jewish religious scholars are encouraged not only to delve deeply into the texts but also to come up with novel ideas based on the sacred scriptures and the Talmud. Thus, innovation, within certain well defined boundaries, is encouraged in the hallowed walls of the Yeshiva.

Oh really?
How many of them will go on to produce original work, research or commentary? Let's be generous and call it a thousand- does that justify keeping (or saving, depending on your POV) so many others from the world? Even then, there seems to be an unfortunate tendency among Haredi scholarship to remain cloistered. How many Christians in the world do you think have heard of Rabbis Shach, or Elyashiv? From what I've read, there is a sizable proportion of kollel learners who aren't even particularly good students!

Clearly the pursuit of further learning within the Haredi communities is something to be respected rather than derided. In fact, one of the great achievements of modern Israel is creating a renaissance of Jewish learning.

Clearly according to who? And it is not a willing achievement, it has only occurred through political blackmail and coercion from a religious minority that, had Israel had a republican instead of parliamentary system, would have never had the influence to start their legal no-man-zones in the first place. Yeah, let's all give the Haredi leadership a big hand for showing us the joys of loopholes.

Finally, R. Brackman admits that the picture isn't all gemara and roses.

The problem however is that in the secular world only the very promising and studious go on to pursue a lifetime of fulltime study and research. Most people are not suited to that type of intense study. Undoubtedly this is also true in the haredi communities—most are simply not cut out for a life time of study.

Unfortunately, however, within the haredi communities that follow the Lithuanian school of thought—which seems to dominate in those circles today—there is social pressure to follow that path even if the individual would be better suited to a different occupation.

Yes, in fact most haredi men are essentially forced to remain in kollel for life because it protects them from serving in the army or having to work. Those who attempt to find ways around this, be it through exemption, national service, or Nahal Haredi are attacked within the community, whose leadership acknowledges (as Jameel so damningly documented) that they keep their people in kollel-prison so they can continue to stay in power as the Haredi-on-the-street's protectors from the big, bad, secular state. The haredi leaders, rather than teach their people self-sufficiency, as their fathers and grandfathers in Poland and Russia did, and as their cousins in every other country on earth have done, instead have taught them to view religious study, and a life of sloth, as an entitlement owed to them by... who? God? Their fellow Jews? This is a travesty of Judaism and a true disgrace to God and the principles that the Torah and Talmud are supposed to espouse, not to mention the whole idea of religious study in the first place. It makes no more sense to declare that Haredi Judaism should be a whole "culture of learners" than that it should be a "culture of blacksmiths." Yes, blacksmithing is a useful vocation, and some elements of blacksmithing can indeed be taught. But there are people who are cut out to be blacksmiths, and people who aren't- and ultimately, you only need so many.

So too with kollel learning. If the Haredi leaders let their students go out into the workforce, within a generation they could be earning enough to subsidize their own programs, and create their own kollels, where, since there would be a limited number of spaces, there would be more of an incentive to only have the true geniuses there- conversely, people that didn't want or weren't cut out to be there would have plenty of other options. This would free Haredi society from being dependent on a largely secular government, and the government from wasting so much time and energy trying to deal with (and cater to) the Haredim. If the Haredim can make themselves self-sufficient, as they were generations ago, and still are around the world, they can create something to be truly proud of- instead of continuing to nurture a culture of laziness, complacency, and entitlement.

Lest anyone think Muslims get off scott-free

I admit that I'm often hard on conservative Christians. And Jews. I try not to randomly bash, but depending on your POV, I can see how one could see it that way. One thing I am aware of is that I often don't talk about Islam on this blog. This does not mean I think Islam or Muslims should get a pass when they or their peers do or say things that make them seem like absolute loons, idiots, or just plain schmucks.

On that note, there are two news cases I've been following that make me absolutely furious. One is the Saudi rape case- one of the clearest examples of "blame the victim" I've ever seen, and an indictment of the Saudi legal (and political) system as well. By just about every Western and liberal standard, Saudi Arabia is morally bankrupt.

Ditto on the Sudan Teddy Bear case. As if you needed any more documentation that Sudan has absolutely lost its damn mind. And America continues to give Sudan aid, even while the government continues to do almost nothing about Darfur.

Is this an indictment of Islam? No. It's an indictment of lunatics. Call them Wahabbis, call them psychotics. Call them the "Dipshit" School of Islam. Whatever. This is wrong. In the twenty-first century, to imprison a teacher because HER STUDENTS voted to call a bear a name, is so mind-boggling I can hardly keep it all in my head. Get a godamn skin. And the same criticism, by the way, applies to other Muslims elsewhere in Asia, Africa, and apparently Europe, who think that they have a religious justification to kill or attack over being offended. That's my line in the sand. Be as offended as you want, give sermons, speeches, write a letter, stage a protest. The moment you throw a punch, or a bomb, or try to hurt someone, you cross a line, and this shit simply cannot be tolerated.

Do we have the right to tell these countries how to run themselves? Maybe not. Are we in a position to flex our military muscle? Certainly not now, thanks to Iraq. But we have no business supporting these regimes, either diplomatically or economically. If we can't stop them from oppressing their citizens, we can at least stop legitimizing them by being fig leaves for their madness. Start calling them on their crap, start pressuring the International community to lean on these guys. Neither the Saudis nor the Sudanese governments deserve our friendship or support. Draw a freaking line.

What's Good for the Goose...

It seems corruption isn't just a Christian thing...

Among those arrested on Wednesday was Rabbi Yosef Aharonov, the chairman of the Chabad Youth Organization in Israel, who was charged with tax evasion. On that same day, Israeli police arrested several other members of the organization and staged a raid on the town of Kfar Chabad, seizing documents and detaining several people for questioning.


“He has a lot of power because he has a lot of money to spread,” said Menachem Friedman, a sociologist at Bar-Ilan University who studies ultra-Orthodox society in Israel. “The youth movement is the most active part of Chabad, because all the activities of Chabad are done through the youth.”

Great, so how about Chabad trying to manage their institutions with some fiscal transparency? I mean, even if they only look at it as a simple cost-benefit analysis, I don't see how this is good publicity for them (especially since they can't blame this on random "antisemites").

Israeli newspapers reported that the Chabad Youth Organization’s budget is 30 million shekels, or $7.7 million, of which 7 million shekels, or $1.8 million comes from the Israeli government. The organization also controls the country’s 220 Chabad houses, which are funded separately. Ha’aretz reported last year that the youth organization and the houses together receive about 100 million shekels, or $25.8 million, per year from the government.

Aharonov has long been a political player in Israel. He was widely reported to be one of the main forces behind Israeli Chabad’s controversial decision in 1996 to support Benjamin Netanyahu’s candidacy for prime minister, and there is a picture of him with Netanyahu on Netanyahu’s website.

Aharonov also leads the Israeli branch of Agudas Chassidei Chabad, the umbrella organization for the worldwide Chabad-Lubavitch movement.

Also arrested on Wednesday was George Segal, the former financial manager for the Chabad Youth Organization, who is accused of embezzling 17.5 million shekels from the organization. Last year, the Chabad Youth Organization sued Segal for 17 million shekels and Segal responded with his own accusations that Aharonov had pocketed organization money and was paying salaries in cash to avoid taxes and save money.

Where's Shinui when you need them? Or better yet, the ACLU. I can only hope some would-be telethon donors hear about this before next year.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Ho Ho Hogwash

The Bill O'Reillys and World Net Dailys of the net are slapping themselves on the back over the latest great culture victory they achieved, smacking down the evil secularists over in Ft. Collins, CO. Not content with that, they're also now trying to create post-victory ripples.

A county sheriff who had publicly expressed frustration with "politically correct" antagonism from secular America toward the religious foundations of Christmas now is under investigation for his thoughts...

Alderden said he's gotten about 400 e-mails and telephone calls about the issue, and only a handful were negative. "Locally the response has been very positive. We've gotten $1,200 in donations. People are dropping off lights and ornaments. We've had some people donate a tree, and a tree services company volunteered to dig it up, and plant it again."

Brilliant, those culture warriors.

"In general the response has been that people are tired of political correctness," he told WND. "I've even had agnostics, atheists and pagans come in and see me and support what we're doing, just on the grounds that spirituality should be allowed," he said.

He said officers in other departments across the country, where tolerance for the Christian meanings for Christmas are less tolerated, have called to commiserate. One major U.S. city's airport, he noted, was installing footbaths for Muslims, but refused to allow Christmas trees.

"Where have we gone?" Alderden asked.

However, he did say the repercussions for his support for Christmas already are developing. He said county commissioners were reviewing his comments in his column, a statement confirmed by Commissioner Glenn Gibson.

"The sheriff's not accountable to the commissioners. He's accountable to the public," Gibson told WND. But the commentary on the sheriff's department part of the county website causes concern, he said.

"I have questioned whether that is the correct, proper place to air one's opinion," he told WND. "That is what is being looked into. That probably will be addressed in the future."

Gibson said Alderden was free to have his own website, something Alderden told WND he already was exploring.

"It's just that my concern that being on the county website, that also shows county approval. That's what we're going to have to address," Gibson said.

No kidding it's an issue- especially when the whole controversy is pure spin.

That's right, J-blogger Golda Leah lives in Ft. Collins, and according to her, the whole thing is crap.

...the original story got it wrong, and the Task Force did NOT recommend the complete non-Christmas-ifiyng of our city displays.

What it said was this:

Christmas trees can be part of the primary, multicultural display at the city Museum. Christmas trees can remain in city buildings, and it would be up to those building managers to design the displays.

Colored lights could be part of the display at the museum. The lights in the downtown area have always been white -- the trees that line the square look magnificent -- and that would not change. Colored lights would be allowed in city buildings -- again, the city manager decides.

The main thrust of the Task Force document was a request for sensitivity to the diversity of Fort Collins.

But you'd never know that by reading the papers or watching Fox News.

And now there's a pretty ugly subtext starting to emerge, both locally and nationally.

...I've had quite enough, and I'm sick of the Jews being blamed every time a government official or City freaks out about holiday displays. The Chabad Rabbi here never mentioned one word about taking down the Christmas Tree or the colored lights. Lots of Jews I know who were previously ambivalent about the menorah are downright rabid about putting one up now. It's polarizing, and I can't see anything positive coming from it.
Amen. Golda Leah's got a point- just take a look at what some people are saying about the panel:

Most of the speakers were very critical of the 15-member task force and accused it of deliberately downgrading Christmas.

John Morris said the task force was only tolerant of its own arguments and had no intention of being tolerant of Christmas

“The work of the task force has been hijacked by activists,” he said, adding that the ultimate intention of many on the panel was to create an atheist state.

Really? I can't help but think that would be news to them. Golda Leah describes the task-force being made up of "representatives from our congregation, another local Jewish organization, an ACLU person, ministers and priests from local churches, etc."

So come on Mr. Morris, they can't ALL be Humanist Jews. (Check out the membership here.)

Luckily, plenty of people seem to be holding the culture warrior dopes' feet to the fire on this, including Karen Schwartz, who was on the much-maligned taskforce. And my personal favorite, Bill Johnson, who notes that Christmas trees have almost nothing to do with Christmas (and asks, quite rightly, how Christians will react in a few years' time when Muslims want to get in on this public square action).

Oh, and incidentally: they still haven't solved the menorah issue.

Hat tip: On the Fringe.

WND: My Ever-Faithful Punching Bag

First a guest columnist suggests that abortion can lead to lynching:
Minorities ought to be terrified of the logic of abortion, because it places the hangman's noose in the hands of the powerful, and it completely legalizes extermination of convenience by the elite class. Unless we regard Sovereign God as the only Being with the power of life and death over the innocent, we abandon the concept of universal human rights and replace it with a special-class tyranny.

This is fairly hilarious if you consider how many murders have been carried out by supposedly God-fearing individuals over the past several centuries.

Michael Savage is bitching about CAIR urging advertisers to boycott his show.

"This is a dry run against free speech in America by the Islamists and the illegal aliens who are now becoming one and the same," said Savage in August. "It's the same organizational structure. … I am the target of this dry run. They want to see how far they can get in silencing a voice of freedom in the United States of America. They want to see which, if any, governmental agencies will stop them."

"Guess what they learned so far?" he continued. "That not only will no governmental agency stop them in their attempts to kill free speech, they will aid them in their attempts to kill free speech. We have lost our freedoms already.

"Lady Liberty has been hog tied. She is being raped by the illegal aliens. She is being raped by the landlords who are using the illegal aliens. Lady Liberty is there in bindings screaming for us to release her," he said.

Funny, I don't recall conservatives complaining when Bill O'Reilly and the American Family Association lead boycotts against companies for not saying Merry Christmas (or, say, France). If it's ok for Christians to use their buying power to pressure companies into doing what they want, why shouldn't Muslims be able to do the same thing? Put another way, assuming some stores actually are "censoring" Christmas (that is, promoting non-denominational versions of "Happy Holidays" instead), isn't trying to hurt them financially in order to get your way another form of censorship? Isn't Happy Holidays also a form of free speech? And doesn't this swing both ways? (Incidentally, though I always like to stay on the side of free speech I have to say that if I was going to pick one thing to try to censor, I find Savage's crap far more odious than "Happy Holidays"- but maybe that's just the liberal Jew in me.)

Pat Boone has many things to say. Too many, in fact.

First of all, Pat, it's spelled Tevye. And no, you're not him. Not even close.

Second, not only is it dishonest and cowardly to hide stupid ad hominem attacks in the mouths of hypothetical children, it's also makes you look like a fool:

it's been obvious to objective observers that the liberal media treat the leading Dems as "rock stars," with Hillary and Obama the political equivalents of Brad and Angelina or Tom and Katie. What's a busy, distracted and too largely uninformed public to think? Why, the empress has gorgeous new clothes, ultra fine and royal, of course – befitting the media-nominated, elected and inaugurated first woman president.

But wait! Whose voice is it that we hear exclaiming, "Daddy, that Hillary lady looks like Bill Clinton in a pant suit!" And "Mommy, is that Obama or Osama? They sound sort of alike to me." And "Look, Daddy, that little kid Johnny Edwards is trying to be president of the United States!" Who's voice?

Why, it's the conservative media, with childlike clarity, actually telling it like it is, revealing the underbellies and warped political ploys of the liberal favorites! There's Sean Hannity, Bill O'Reilly, Rush Limbaugh, Michael Reagan, Ann Coulter, Laura Ingraham and a host of other articulate and informed talk-show hosts...Thank God for the other voices, the honest, childlike observations of the biased reality we voters are facing in this country.

...Thank God there are spokesmen and women in the land who can see as if through a child's eyes and help us separate reality from naked ambition.

Yes, indeed, Pat, only an imbecilic child would think that saying something like, "I can't tell Osama and Obama apart" passes for a legitimate or useful contribution to political discourse. Thanks so much.

Somebody Shoot Me

Please. In the head. Or at least put me out of my misery with some sort of Thuggee-prayer-shawl action.

It gets better. Apparently this Bishop John Francis bozo heads something called "Ruach Ministries." My poor, poor brain.

I was channel surfing and happened to come across this guy's sermon on Benny "Show me the Money" Hinn's show. Here's my little attempt at live-blogging the first segment, where Bishop Francis comments on how cool the tallit is.

11:30- John Francis: "Here's the part of that whole scripture that goes with the tallit. People don't realize how powerful this is. In my book, I talk about how this is known as a mantle. We can trace it to a mantle. It's a covering. Most Jewish people, when they get married, they put this over their heads, like a's known as a little tent."
Really? I checked this out on the Internet and most of the sources for this don't seem to be super-kosher. (Though I do think that "prayer-closet" is one of the coolest words I've heard in a while.)

12:04- Benny Hinn: Like the tabernacle?
John Francis: "Like the tabernacle. And the people would wrap themselves in this... I was reading in Psalms, it says, "he that dwelleth in the secret place... under his feather and under his wings," again, that same word. (He tugs on the tzitzit.) This represents the WORD of God!"
Fair enough, and some nice symbolism. Of course, one could point out that a lot of mitzvot represent the same thing.
12:28- John Francis: "When you've got a WORD covering you, the Devil can't get you!"

No, no... damn it. Leave tzitzit out of your Word-of-faith theology, man! Haven't they suffered enough?

12:35- John Francis: "People have been seeing this for years but they don't understand the power... this is like a personal tabernacle... A tabernacle is a dwelling-place... The moment you get one of these (holding up the tallit) and wrap yourself in it, and call out to God, and hold onto the wings, which represent his word, he's GOT to come to you!"
Bishop Francis then gives historical background- originally there was tzitzit on everything, but then as Jews were in exile, they began to "amalgamate with Gentiles", so they no longer wore distinctive clothes, which necessitated the prayer shawl. Amalgamate? Really? They were being blended with mercury? Sounds like another "silent Holocaust" in the making.

14:05- "So even if Jews were being oppressed, they could carry their personal tent with them. And even today, some Jews carry them around under their clothes. And when they go into the Temple, they will wear it and be praying to God."

Nice try, Bishop. But I don't know of any source that says the tallis katan came about as a secret, "don't-persecute-me" version of the tallis gadol. They're two different garments that have two distinct purposes, and I don't think most Jews are in the habit of switching one around for the other. Besides, you're starting to make us sound like weird persecution-complex-suffering amulet wearers. We're not all like Shas, ok?

15:00- And apparently the moral is that Christians- sorry, "Believers," should wear tallitot when they pray because "doing something Biblical means God has to answer your prayers." Well, if that's all it takes, why don't you guys do more? Like, say, Sukkot, or shmitta?

Anyway, if you're a mean skeptic like me (or this guy), don't worry, apparently the good Bishop did something called a prayer study to figure all this out. Well, that's a relief. I'd hate to think someone hadn't thought this one through.

The best part is that this waste of paper is free when you make a donation of ONLY 100 dollars to Benny Hinn! Wow, that's quite some freebie.

Watch the whole painful thing here. And don't say I didn't warn you.

Oh, and incidentally, Bishop, the crappy wordplay in your book's title doesn't seem to add up. But who knows, if you're messing around with the tallit today, I suppose it's only natural that pseudo-gematria is close behind.

Friday, November 23, 2007

Attack of the Rehabilitated Pogromists, Part Two- The Revenge

A reader takes issue with my characterization of Ukranian nationalism as willfully ignorant or outright revisionist when it comes to some of their greatest heroes:
On Mount Herzl, in Jerusalem, next to the Theodore Herzl's tomb there is another one, a great Jew is buried here - Zeev Jabotinsky.

"Nobody will persuade me, or another Zionist of South Russia able to think, that Petlyura was a pogrom-maker." Zeev Jabotinsky, 1926.

Read your history ! - a good advise.

Read your history is indeed good advice- so that's exactly what I did. First of all, there were plenty of Jews and Zionists, then and now, who were less than affectionate towards Jabotinsky. The fact that he was a brilliant orator and talented statesman does not mean that every political theory (or alliance) that he supported was a good idea, whether on a nationalist scale or otherwise.

Jabotinsky actually tried to create an alliance with Petlyura in 1921- he would raise Jewish divisions who would accompany Petylura's troops and protect Jewish civilians from any attacks that might occur. This already suggests that Jabo's view of Petly's men wasn't very charitable. At best, this was an alliance of necessity, to protect Jews from Petlyura's men- so either Petlyura was encouraging pogroms, or he was generally indifferent to what his men were doing, or he couldn't control his forces. Which is better?

Of course, the agreement turned out to be moot since it never actually materialized- the agreement fell through and Pety's men were quickly repulsed by the Red Army , leading to several more years of back-and-forth semi-guerrilla fighting.

What was the reaction of other Zionists to Jabo's support of Petly? Most sources make a direct connection between the discovery of Jabo's attempted alliance with Petly to his forced resignation from the World Zionist Organization:

the courtship between Jabotinsky and Petlyura provoked a condemnation of revisionists by the main body of Zionism and exacerbated the bitter rivalry between Jabotinsky and David Ben Gurion. Jabotinsky was soon pushed out of the leadership of the world Zionist movement and his revisionist Zionism existed on the right margin of the movement up until the 1970's.

the ties between Petlyura and Jabotinsky are used by the Ukrainian nationalists today to rehabilitate Petlyura: after all, here is one of the founders of Zionism, Vladimir Jabotinsky supporting and discussing with Petlyura, concluding military agreements with him, condemning his killing in 1926, etc. The readers might, without much difficulty, find today writings of Ukrainian “historians”, who proclaim Symon Petlyura to be a defender of Jews.

The above source gives the Reds too much credit, in my opinion. Read Babel's Red Cavalry and you'll see that, regardless of what the lawmakers were doing in Moscow, troops on the front line weren't very charitable to Jews (compare to Ansky's Enemy at His Pleasure, during WWI- you'll notice there isn't much difference between White Russians and Reds). But yeah, showing me one quote by the Zionist most identified as Petlyura's shill doesn't impress me much. Jabo liked rightwingers, period. He was also a fan of the Italian Fascists, and the Lehi tried to facilitate a deal with the Nazis to set up a totalitarian Palestine. Having one Court Jew doesn't rubber stamp everything you do.

P.S. About Shukhevych - no evidence of his implication in anti Jewish actions were found - up to now. Only soviet propaganda.

Yeah, Yad Vashem's totally controlled by the Kremlin. Especially now, 15 years after the Soviets have ceased to exist. Look, I don't think that Yad Vashem's beyond any problems itself- but you can't deny that it is an independent organization, who's been doing this research for 50-plus years.

Yad Vashem's job is to dig. The Ukrainian government's job is to cover its own ass. Guess who I trust more.

Thursday, November 22, 2007

It Never Fails

Every year around this time (and Christmas, and the 4th of July, and Veterans and Memorial Days), I can expect WorldNetDaily's columnists to start guilt-tripping me, along with the rest of Blue State America, into what colossal ingrates we all are.

Joe Farah kicks things off by moaning that Americans have "forgotten the meaning of Thanksgiving." Quick, Charlie Brown, do tell us! Is it stuffing? No, wait, funny hats? The joys of boating? Cross-cultural exchange? Maize?

The Pilgrims had a rough time when they first landed on Plymouth Rock. Finally, the friendly native Americans taught the European plunderers how to fish and plant corn. The harvest feast held by William Bradford and the gang was a way for the Pilgrims to thank the Indians for saving their lives. Thus, Thanksgiving.

Wait, is this your sarcastic version of Thanksgiving curriculum? Or what you think the curriculum should be? I can't keep up.

In Seattle, recently, the school district suggested Thanksgiving should actually be portrayed as a time of national mourning!

Well, considering there are a lot of Indians near and in Seattle, this might not be that big a surprise. Kind of like how you might think twice before praising the merits of the Opium War or Japanese internment camps in, say, Chinatown.

Apparently Farah really likes Thanksgiving. Which is great. He and I even seem to share some common Thanksgiving interests- family, reflection, feast. Of course, he adds praising God, but hey, that's ok. More power to him.

Oh wait, I forgot. Joe Farah is crazy.

Though it's a uniquely American tradition, the roots of Thanksgiving go back to ancient Israel. In a real sense, the Jews invented Thanksgiving. I count 29 references to the word "thanksgiving" in the King James Bible – all but nine in the Old Testament. For the ancient children of Israel, thanksgiving was a time of feasting and fasting, of praising God, of singing songs. It was a rich celebration – and still is for observant Jews today.

Hey Joe, didn't anyone tell you the King James is an awful translation? That's like saying the Jews invented the color red because Adam and Esau are both referred to as "adam." Besides, what are you doing with the KJV at all? I thought you guys were busy pimping out the "authentic" Pilgrim Bible?

Bradford himself studied the Hebrew Scriptures. The Pilgrims took them very seriously. The idea of giving thanks to God with a feast was inspired by that knowledge of the Bible. In a very real way, the Pilgrims saw themselves, too, as chosen people of God being led to a Promised Land.

Yes, complete with their very own Amalekites. It was too bad for the Wampanoags, but hey, at least Bradford got to be Joshua.

Today the whole notion of Thanksgiving has been dumbed down to little more than multicultural gibberish. It's no longer a day to thank God – it's a day to thank indigenous peoples for their contributions to humanity. Ironically, Thanksgiving is truly a multicultural tradition in the best sense of the term – having been inspired by the ancient Hebrew pilgrims of the Old World and born anew by Christian people seeking a promised land of religious liberty of their own.

Wait, the "Hebrew Pilgrims" of the Old World? Like what, Jews in Amsterdam? What the hell are you talking about? And how about acknowledging the fact that, God or no God, mere faith and tenacity wasn't enough to keep the Pilgrims alive? And that without both aid and mercy (and protection) from Natives, the Pilgrims would have ended up like the Vikings before them?

This week, America is in crisis again. We are besieged by an army of well-funded and motivated terrorists who seek to destroy us. A non-Judeo-Christian worldview is at war with Americans, Christians, Jews and Western civilization. In times past, those who came before us got down on their knees to pray for divine intervention. Moses did it. Joshua did it. David did it. Jesus Himself did it. Washington did it. Lee did it. Patton did it.

Actually, Jews don't pray on their knees, Joe. You'd know that if you bothered to spend even a moderate amount of time investigating the whole "Judeo" part of that Judeo-Christian bullplop you love to spout. But thanks for that nice dollop of tokenism-slash cultural appropriation. Now who's spinning multicultural gibberish?

But it gets better. Check out Tristan Emmanuel, who's previously graced WND with such gems as, "Atheists are fools- the Bible says so," "tolerance originally meant something else, but liberals don't care about definitions because post-modernism doesn't believe in meaning," and downplaying some of the really scary ideas of Christian dominionists by saying the alternative is an atheist, agnostic, humanist, socialist and Marxist state doomed to destruction like the USSR- adding, "
Concepts such as justice, liberty and equality under the law were established in North America precisely because there were predominantly Christian communities." Yeah. Brilliant.

So yeah. Mr. Name-O-God, boy genius, says Thanksgiving makes secularists pop their top. Funny, I'd say I'm probably the most faithful person who was at the dinner table this evening, and other than the regular sullenness we've come to expect from my brother, Deacon Yid, everybody else seemed just peachy. Sure, there was some minor quibbling here and there, but it was mostly over petty issues like someone wanting to take turkey home to their dog and an older guest being hard of hearing and asking the same question three times in a row.

After all, when you don't believe in God, whom do you "thank" at Thanksgiving?

No one. Quite simple, really. We say, "We are thankful"- thankful for family, friends, prosperity. God doesn't enter into it. He doesn't have to.

Emmanuel then gives a laundry list of how American and Canadian pioneers and governments associated Thanksgiving with religion. Which, of course, is just skippy- but has no impact on how individual people, or larger groups of people, should or must view the holiday today.

What all of these proclamations – in both countries – had in common was the notion that people should be thanking God. Imagine it. Civil rulers telling citizens to acknowledge God and thank Him for His "mercies."

No wonder secularists go mad at the thought of "Thanksgiving"!

Again, not really. Maybe it's all the tryptophan in my system, but I'm just not feeling this supposed outrage, Tristan. George Washington thought a lot of stuff, not all of it, in my view, necessarily good, and not all of it necessarily right. I don't doubt the Pilgrims' faith or religiosity- but the reality is, I really don't much care what THEY thought about Thanksgiving, particularly since most of the holiday is retconned from the Victorians (and, for the majority of its history, was confined to New England) anyway. Thanksgiving is a mish-mash, and I don't have to give a fig about its original intent in order to eat a damn turkey with my family.

Emmanuel also heard about the Seattle school thing, where a psychologist made the mortal sin of pointing out that, um, Indian kids might have an issue with Thanksgiving, and suggested teachers check out some websites that question the links between the holiday and the American psyche. Actively interrogate reasons why Americans do things? Nooo!

It is amazing to me how selective revisionists are. No doubt, there were white Europeans who took advantage of the Indians. But what so many revisionists fail to mention is that corruption, oppression and injustice are not a one-way street. They try to perpetuate the myth that Native American Indians were pure, innocent, noble savages, all living in complete harmony with one another and "mother earth" until the evil white man came along and introduced Christian civilization.

Emmanuel makes an excellent point that historical revisionism is a dangerous path to tread, but ignores the fact that there is a legitimate argument in saying that Thanksgiving often gets whitewashed. Neither the Pilgrims nor the Indians were innocent, yet the very nature of the holiday tends to privilege the Pilgrims over the Natives they went on to conquer and kill, just like Columbus Day invariably tended to take ol' Chris' side (and as with Thanksgiving, people who dare to point out the dirty details about Columbus are also charged with being anti-American revisionists).
I partly understand the motivation. Liberals have a vested interest in their "story" because many of them hate Christianity. They greatly prefer paganism.

Moron. I don't hate Christianity. I don't particularly hate anyone. I do have a strong distaste for dogma, and for people that feel the need to manipulate truth, facts and history in order to fit their agenda. Or who need to justify their own religious or cultural perspectives by connecting themselves to some grand tapestry of American religiosity.

You don't need the Pilgrims to be a Christian. And you don't need to beat the rest of us over the head to have a religious Thanksgiving- in YOUR house.

For all his talk about revisionism, Emmanuel falls into his own dogmatic trap- for him, it all comes back to the premise that man is an animal, only tempered by faith.

If it is possible for people with deep religious convictions to act like savages, what would the culture be like if the secularists succeeded in taking God out of the picture entirely, and allowed us all to return to our natural pagan selves?

That's why this holiday is important. That's why we need to celebrate it, to teach it and to remember that our peace and welfare ultimately rests on God's common grace.

Frankly, I think I'll stick with the company at my house. At least the agnostics I hang out with aren't nearly as blowhard-y.

Last, Jane Chastain, too, is mad that people aren't faithful. How could people make fun of Sonny Perdue? she asks. Rather than spend some time pondering this culture gulf, she instead moves on to a favorite Conservative strawman, the nonexistence of a church-state separation.

The phrase "separation of church and state" is not in our Constitution.

True enough. Of course, there's also no mention of God, Christianity, or much of anything religious.

The First Amendment does not limit the practice of religion but rather protects its free exercise by everyone, including those elected to public office. Sonny Purdue did not require anyone to attend his prayer vigil but simply offered Georgians of all faiths the opportunity to come together to seek Divine intervention for their plight.

If you were offended by that, too bad!

The Constitution does not protect us from being offended. That would be impossible to achieve and just plain silly.

Also true, and also fair. Perdue has the right to be as religious as he wants, and as wacky as he wants. Of course, Georgians who disagree with him, and with the image he portrays of them and their state, have the right to voice that opposition, too. And, of course, let's not forget that conservatives play the "offended" card as well. You may not think Piss-Christ is good art, or terribly intelligent, either, but as the lady said, not being offended ain't a right.
Ninety-five percent of the people in this country believe in God.

Sort of, kind of. Baylor U had a really interesting study back in 2006 showing that most Americans did indeed believe in God, but that there was a lot of disagreement over what that meant, or what kind of being God was. Not that this is a bad thing, but it certainly seems to belie Chastain's erroneous implication that there's some kind of large-scale unity among that 95%. Oh, and while Baylor said that about half the population attended church regularly, a 2003 Harris poll said it was more like a third. Which doesn't exactly sound uber-religious to me.

We worship Him in different ways, but most believe that it is fitting and right that we come together to thank Him, praise Him and ask for His blessings. The few atheists or agnostics who make a big deal over others praying also need a lesson in tolerance.

Maybe so, but Chastain is also presuming to speak for all the "believers" who may still feel differently than she does. Belief in God doesn't mean you want to be represented by fringe evangelicals, anymore than identification as a Jew or atheist means you want Meir Kahane or Christopher Hitchens to be seen as your spokesman. Something tells me Joe Farah and Pat Robertson would take issue with Muslim chaplains offering public prayers on behalf of Americans- yet according to their argument, since they're God-believers, there should be no issue at all. And hell, Hindus believe in "God(s)"- why not them?

Like Farah and Emmanuel, Chastain feels the need to connect herself to leaders past- they too were Christian (maybe), and they too made public statements saying to thank God- even if their conceptions of God may have been entirely different from the WND crowd's.

Today a Thanksgiving in the United States is all about feasting, and God is usually invited to come along. Is it any wonder we've lost our way?

This is what I find most ironic of all. The same people that seem to constantly be championing America as the best nation on earth are quite quick to condemn it, as well. The great lovers of freedom of choice and the market chastise people that dare have a celebration without inviting God into it.

WND can think what they want, but I think that today demonstrated that America functions quite well, thank you. To me, Thanksgiving is wonderful because it has a limited degree of commercialism, and because at its core, it's really more about community than religion, per se. And community, unlike religion, truly is universal. Unlike so many holidays today, I feel that Thanksgiving, precisely because it so often is a private holiday, really does seem to have a split consciousness- we may argue about what it means or why we do what we do, but ultimately, your Thanksgiving is a personal one, which is one reason why so many people work so hard to get there the day of- there's no Thanksgiving season; it's a single moment in time. And if people want to whine about the culture war, they can, but I get comfort from the fact that Thanksgiving is not likely to change from being a private observance. Thanksgiving truly is a family holiday, in the most eclectic ways- like so many families, it is simultaneously happy and sad, frustrating and rewarding. And ultimately, I believe, it is the home observance of Thanksgiving that makes it immune to most pundit bullcrap. Talking heads can talk until they turn blue, but the day will still, for so many people, be about togetherness and poultry, and there's something beautifully honest in that simplicity.

At the end of the day, most people in this country, if they were lucky enough, spent the day eating a meal, with people they love and care about, and whether they started and ended with a prayer or not, had a perfectly decent time. In my America, at least, there is enough room for me and WND. They may think we're on the highway to hell, but that's ok. Because I still know who I am, and what I believe in (or don't). At the end of the day, they aren't going to keep me from the things important to me.

Happy Thanksgiving, Mr. Farah. To you and yours. Be thankful in your way today and all days, and enjoy your bounty. And I'll do the same.

The World Still Manages to be Entertaining

Sort of.

- How do people express political discontent in this super media-saturated, ultra-commercialized age? Through their cellphones. Over 500,000 people, including folks in Spain and Venezuela, Some genius turned the Spanish King's verbal bitchslap of Hugo the Jerk into a widely popular ringtone, and over 500,000 people, including folks in Spain and Venezuela, have downloaded it.

"It's a form of protest," a 21-year-old student in Caracas told the Miami Herald. "It's something that a lot of people would like to tell the president."

Companies selling the ringtones have avoided legal problems concerning breach of the king's image rights by using an actor to voice the line.

Awesome. Simply awesome. This isn't a political thing, it's an up-yours, would-be despots of the world sort of thing. I hope people start doing this with Achmedinajad, Putin, and whoever the hell is in charge over in Burma. Laughter can't always stop bullets. But I still think there's something splendidly democratic about people using their freedom of expression to tell their leader to shove it.

- How long is it going to take Americans to realize repressive, anti-democratic, anti-human rights countries aren't really our friends? Apparently a little while longer. From the Sultan Knish school of pragmatic-and-then-some politics, let's welcome Ann Coulter.

The entire history of Pakistan is this: There are lots of crazy people living there, they have nuclear weapons, and any Pakistani leader who prevents the crazies from getting the nukes is George Washington, Thomas Jefferson and James Madison all rolled into one.

Except, of course, that Musharraf is more interested in protecting his own ass than ours, meaning that if he thinks it's in his own interests to, say, buy off Islamists by selling us up shit creek, he wouldn't be opposed to doing it.

Weeks later, the New York Times editorial page called on "masses of Pakistanis" to participate in "peaceful demonstrations" against Musharraf, which would be like calling on masses of Pakistanis to engage in daily bathing (the New York Times editorial page being the most effective way to communicate with the Pakistani masses).

Is this Ann trying to cover her ass by pretending this "joke" is about the arrogance of the Times, as opposed to the fact that she sounds dangerously close to suggesting that Pakistanis are filthy cave trolls?

Media darling Bhutto returned to Pakistan after fleeing the country following her conviction for corruption as prime minister. Her conviction was later overturned by the corrupt Pakistani Supreme Court, leaving me to ponder, which is worse: being convicted of corruption in a Pakistani court or being exonerated of corruption in a Pakistani court? She was again convicted in a Swiss court of money laundering.

The media adore Bhutto because she went to Harvard and Oxford, which I consider two more strikes against her. A degree from Harvard is prima facie evidence that she's on the side of the terrorists.

As opposed to Musharraf's failed track record of refusing to go after Al Qaida unless Bush sits on him.

I note that Bhutto demonstrates her own deep commitment to democracy by giving herself the title "chairperson for life" of the Pakistan Peoples Party.

Because, of course, being FOR free elections must mean anyone supporting democracy in Pakistan is FOR Ms. Bhutto. Brilliant.

Liberals hysterically opposed our imposing a democracy on Iraq and despise Nouri al-Maliki, the democratically elected leader of Iraq. Say, has Maliki ever been convicted in a Swiss court of money laundering?

No, he's just got ties to dozens of wackjob Shiite militas that spend their free time handing out free trephenation samples to their Sunni neighbors. That's MUCH better! Call me crazy, but I don't think I want my money going to EITHER of those assholes.

Compared to Pakistan, imposing democracy in Iraq is like imposing democracy in Darien, Conn. But in Iraq, liberals prefer an anti-American dictator, like Saddam Hussein. Only in Pakistan do liberals yearn for pure democracy.

Actually, I yearn for "pure" democracy everywhere. And, as much as it pains me to do so, I also acknowledge that not every place in the world may be ready for democracy. However, short of democracy, I'd settle for prioritizing human rights. If the US is going to throw its weight around, then I feel it has a responsibility to use its influence to try to help people, not, say, prop up governments that are moderately pro-US but totally likely to butcher their own people or the ones next door. The same dilemma is going on in both Pakistan and Iraq, and Afghanistan, for that matter, where the pro-US government is actually quite good on the lip service, and even seems to believe in the democratic principles it espouses, but unfortunately has no teeth and is not willing to bring the same rights and privileges enjoyed in Kabul to, say, anywhere else in the country.

You wouldn't know it to read the headlines, but Musharraf has not staged a military coup. In fact, he was re-elected – in a landslide – just weeks ago under Pakistan's own parliamentary system.

How high are you, exactly? Musharraf has repeatedly tried to hamstring the Supreme Court, and the Parliament, by forcing them to swear loyalty oaths to him. He won both his elections because most of the parties boycotted. The most recent election saw another boycott, plus 80 resignations by MPs, and the two most popular opposition leaders still in enforced exile- the lesser-known one, Nawaz Sharif, had actually come back and was immediately deported by Musharraf's troops. Yeah, that's some real respect for the democratic process. Incidentally, Musharraf has hardly cleaned up political corruption in the eight years he's been in office, either.

But the Pakistani Supreme Court, like our own Supreme Court, believes it is above the president and refused to acknowledge Musharraf's election on the grounds that he is disqualified because he is still wearing a military uniform. That's when Musharraf sent them home.

Damn Supreme Court, wanting things like an Independent Judiciary and separation of powers. How dare they! Haven't they learned anything from the Bush presidency?

Musharraf's election was certainly more legitimate than that of Syrian President Bashar Assad (with whom every leading Democrat has had a photo-op) or Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad (adjunct professor at Columbia University) or Venezuelan president Hugo Chavez (loon).

At least we aren't giving money or privileges to Syria, Iran or Venezuela. No one in Washington could claim with a straight face, for instance, that Iran is our ally.

Pakistan is a country where local Islamic courts order women to be raped as punishment for the crimes of their male relatives. Among the Islamists' bill of particulars against Musharraf is the fact that he has promoted the Women's Protection Bill, which would punish rape, rather than using it as a device for social control.

...Pakistan doesn't need Adlai Stevenson right now. It needs Mustafa Kemal Ataturk to impose military rule and drag a country of Islamic savages into the 19th century, as Ataturk did in Turkey. Pakistan's Ataturk is Gen. Musharraf.

...To try to force democracy on the differing "I hate America" factions in Pakistan at this stage would be worse than Jimmy Carter's abandonment of the shah in 1979.

Ann has her lines, and I have mine. My position is that we should not have supported the Shah, and we should not support Musharraf. We should not support regimes that are anti-democracy and anti-human rights. Supporting Musharraf because he pisses off the Islamists makes as much sense as supporting Saddam against Khomeini did- and look where that got us. Look where supporting Bin Laden against the Soviets got us. Lesser of two evils doesn't mean good.

Pat Buchanan also reminds us all of his positions as well- just in case you needed the refresher. Turns out Pat's pro-dictatorial sheiks. Who'd have thought.

- Last, I really don't have words for this one. You just sort of have to see it for yourself. Good? Ridiculous? Sad? I really don't know.

Friday, November 16, 2007

Nothing New

Another day, another Jew-killing mass-murderer gets honored in Eastern Europe.
Speaking before the Israel Council on Foreign Relations of the World Jewish Congress in Jerusalem, Yushchenko said Ukrainian nationalist leader Roman Shukhevych was posthumously named a Hero of Ukraine last month for his role in fighting for his country's independence.

olocaust researchers and Jewish groups have charged that a force under the command of Shukhevych took part in pogroms in 1941 in which 4,000 Jews were killed.

Yushchenko had this reply: "I have materials, documents, saying that in the course of grander context of Ukrainian rebellion, Shukhevych signed a petition that prohibited massive persecutions (of civilians)," he said, adding that no Ukrainian nationalist movement targeted Jews.

...At Yad Vashem a top museum official confronted Yushchenko, saying he has documents implicating Shukhevych as the leader of squads who massacred thousands of Jews.

"Sometimes you can be both a hero of Ukrainians and a murderer of Jews," said Yosef (Tommy) Lapid, a former Israeli justice minister and a Holocaust survivor from Yugoslavia.

We really shouldn't be so surprised; after all, plenty of people in the Ukraine still think of Petlyura as a hero and martyr. And put Chmielnicki on their money. And don't forget that Russia canonized Nicholas "My favorite book is the Protocols of the Elders of Zion" II a few years back.

Obviously, history is relative. Is Columbus a great guy, or a bastard? Is Caesar? Napoleon? State leaders, especially back in the day (when leaders seemed to get more things done, whether good or ill), cannot help but be controversial in the light of history, when different sides all have access to media and (in theory) scholarship. At the end of the day, Jews can't tell the Ukrainians who they can and can't have as their heroes.

But I think we do owe it to the victims to tell their stories. There is a trend in Eastern Europe to shrug off atrocities by nationalists, especially against Jews, by pointing out that the Communists, some of whom were Jews, were also brutal. And that is true, and that's something the Jewish community needs to own up to itself.

But saying no Ukranian movements targeted Jews? Read your history, Mr. President. Read about the nationalists in the 1920s. Read about Babi Yar in the 40s. You can call Shukhevych a hero. I don't agree but I can understand. It's relative.

But facts aren't.

Joseph Farah's Selective Memory

Was Thomas Jefferson opposed to public prayer? Debatable, but probably not.

AP staff writer Greg Bluestein notes: "In the U.S., public expressions of faith are often discouraged as a breach of the separation of church and state."

What does this mean? I suppose it is true that in America today public expressions of faith are discouraged more than in the past. But don't Americans deserve a little more clarity from the world's largest news-gathering agency in the world with regard to the definition of "separation of church and state"?

Without ever pointing out it was Thomas Jefferson who coined this term in a letter to the Danbury Baptists, the AP story then suggests the third U.S. president was opposed to public prayer. That was hardly the case.

Jefferson could have no idea that his reassuring words to the Danbury Baptists, who feared persecution through the establishment of a state church, would someday be twisted to mean prayer and matters of faith would be excluded from the public square.

Let's examine the record of the atheists' favorite Founding Father:

  • In 1774, Jefferson, as a member of the Virginia Assembly, personally introduced a resolution calling for a day of fasting and prayer.
  • In 1779, as Virginia governor, he signed a decree for a day of "public and solemn thanksgiving and prayer to Almighty God."
  • As president, Jefferson signed bills that appropriated federal funds for chaplains in Congress and the military.
  • As president on March 4, 1805, he offered "A National Prayer for Peace," which would cause today's atheist activists to go into cardiac arrest:

    "Almighty God, Who has given us this good land for our heritage; We humbly beseech Thee that we may always prove ourselves a people mindful of Thy favor and glad to do Thy will. Bless our land with honorable ministry, sound learning, and pure manners.

    "Save us from violence, discord and confusion, from pride and arrogance, and from every evil. Defend our liberties, and fashion into one united people the multitude brought hither out of many kindreds and tongues.

    "Endow with Thy spirit of wisdom those to whom in Thy Name we entrust the authority of government, that there may be justice and peace at home, and that through obedience to Thy law, we may show forth Thy praise among the nations of the earth.

    "In time of prosperity fill our hearts with thankfulness, and in the day of trouble, suffer not our trust in Thee to fail; all of which we ask through Jesus Christ our Lord, Amen."

It's incredible that Jefferson could today be cited as the inspiration for this atheist jihad against prayer and expressions of faith in the public square.

If he were still around today, he would be perceived as some kind of fundamentalist zealot.

Ah, but was Jefferson a religious Christian? Doesn't seem like it. From what I've read, it sounds like Jefferson was his day's equivalent of a U.U. Something tells me Farah wouldn't consider them to be much in the way of "prayer allies."