Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Hypocritical Narishkeit Bullcrap

So you might remember a while back when Christian nutjobs heard about that weird-ass "James son of Joseph brother of Jesus" ossuary-box crap? And despite issues like carbon-dating, and, oh yeah, the fact that it actually said Ya'akov bar Ysef a khui Yeshua (three of the most common Hebrew names), and then that it was proven a fake and all, some people still persisted in seeing it as scientific confirmation of Jesus and his circle's historical existence?

One of those people was , they kept Joe Farah's WorldNetDaily. Even after the box was discredited, WND wouldn't let it go. When they couldn't defend the box, they tried to keep it in the news by going after the Canadian museum holding it- apparently they switched from BC to BCE without getting Farah's approval.

Ok, so WND likes their fake archeology. Fine.

Only there's been a change.

James Cameron has produced a funky little documentary working under the semi-strange hypothesis that he found Jesus' bones- along with his entire family Ok, a little wonky, but no odder than WND's bone box.

Only one thing- to find Jesus' bones would mean he was actually a human dude. And didn't ascend to heaven.


James Cameron is producing "The Lost Tomb of Jesus," claiming the discovery of 10 stone coffins in a Jerusalem suburb in 1980 is actually the family crypt of Jesus of Nazareth.
The 90-minute film will be shown on the Discovery Channel at a later date.
The film makes the case that Jesus had a son named Judah with Mary Magdalene.
ProminentJerusalem archaeologist Amos Kloner is disputing the claims, saying, "It makes a great story for a TV film. But it's impossible. It's nonsense."

..."This is archaeology," [Cameron] claims. "We've got the casket. We've got the bones. I think we can say, in all probability, Jesus had this son, Judah, presumably through Mary Magdalene."

...The coffins reportedly carried the names of Jesua, son of Joseph, Mary, Mary, Mathew, Jofa and Judah, son of Jesua. Some archaeologists who studied the find point out those were common names in Israel 2,000 years ago.

Cameron and his director, Simcha Jacobovici, claim also to have DNA evidence to back their story.
Jacobovici is trying not to alienate the faithful, by suggesting the ascension into heaven by Jesus could still have occurred spiritually if not physically.
"People who believe in a physical ascension – that he took his body to heaven – those people will say, 'Wait a minute,'" warns the director.

Now, anyone who's followed Jacobovici's career knows that he's hardly considered to be an authoritative archaeologist- Exodus Decoded, anyone? But WND still considers this to be a major threat- and you know what that means- it must be a deliberate anti-Christian attack!

Robert Knight, director of the Media Research Center's Culture and Media Institute, told WND that the film, "The Lost Tomb of Jesus," is just the 2007 version of an annual attack on Christianity right around the time of Easter, the time at which the Christian church remembers Jesus' Resurrection.
"It always seems to happen just before Easter," he said. "It's as if there's a script going around, and everyone gets a turn at it – to call into doubt the central theme of Christianity, which is that Jesus is God Incarnate and rose from the dead."

Hey jackass, get over yourself. Exodus Decoded wasn't anti-Semitic, and this isn't anti-Christian. It's loony, which is another matter entirely.

"The Discovery Channel bills itself as the 'number one non-fiction media company reaching more than 1.5 billion people in over 170 countries.' But this bigoted documentary is pure fiction. Numerous leading scholars, including the Israeli archaeologist who first studied the site, have already rejected the notion that Jesus of Nazareth's bones were found in the Talpiot tomb," Knight said.
L. Brent Bozell III, the president of the MRC, said the program should be cancelled. If it isn't, he said, the Discovery Channel "will have to explain why it is intentionally misleading the public."
"They should be embarrassed by this plunge into sensational speculation masquerading as 'science.' To slander Christianity at the start of the Lenten season is unconscionable," he said.
Bozell noted it was five years ago when the channel launched its promotion of the "James Ossuary," alleged to be the bone box of James, Jesus' half-brother, a relic later proven to be a forgery.
"Now it's the 'tomb' of Jesus," Bozell said. "What they're really doing is attacking Christianity. The title of the documentary ought to be 'Discovery Channel Says Christianity Is a Fraud' – but they don't have the guts to say it."
Note how Bozell is conveniently forgetting it was his allies on the Christian right who defended the box against would-be liberal defamers with their evil science and methods. In fact, apparently Jacobovici and Cameron are claiming that the James Ossuary is the supposed "missing link" between their weird-ass theories and whatever WND was hoping the box would prove.

[Knigh] noted that the "leap" of logic the film forces viewers to make is beyond belief. "All they can tell us is that two of the caskets in the crypt held remains that were unrelated maternally, then they take the giant leap of logic that these two people were married and they were Jesus and Mary Magdalene."
By contrast, he said, the Bible is "the most well-documented piece of antiquity out there by far." He said there exist portions of the New Testament that date to within 100 years of the actual events.
"The Discovery Channel, out of respect for the one billion Christians worldwide, should yank this program. It's irresponsible. It's incendiary, and it's always aimed at Christianity," he said.

Hey man, take a cue from what happened with the Jews and The Passion- not everything is always about you.

Jerry Johnson, president of Criswell College in Texas, said Cameron's claims are unscientific and heretical, and an apology is due.
"Cameron's claims are founded on the desire to make good TV instead of forensic DNA evidence," said Johnson. "Ironically, each Easter we see a story like this pop up in the media. … I'm asking Cameron to consider apologizing to the Christian community world-wide…"
Rev. Rob Schenck, the president of the National Clergy Council, and it's just another Hollywood attack on Christianity, and the production is no more than "a modern day circus sideshow."

Apology my ass. Grow some skin and then a brain. It's a freaking faux-documentary and should have zero effect on your religion if you're smart enough to ignore it, which you obviously aren't. Just like with Da Vinci Code. Don't you guys pay attention to your own scorecards?

Bottom line, these guys like fake science when it agrees with their position, and condemn it when it doesn't. Tough shit, crybabies. Cry all you want, but don't start looking for anti-Christian plots. If there's any "plot" here, it's against people's brains and common-sense- both of which the Discovery and History channels have long since relinquished.

Schenck said the whole publicity stunt may backfire on Cameron, and encourage people to dig deeper into the reasons they believe the way they do. "In the end ... the truth will be told," he said.

I'm sure it will, Rob. But you'd really all be a lot better off, if, like the Conservative Jews, you actually admitted that your religion is important and has value REGARDLESS of what happened to Jesus. Of course, making Christianity and faith attractive, compelling and relevant to your audience requires a lot more work and energy than bitching about a stupid movie. Funny, I don't see Jesus as being a huge fan of taking the easy way out. But then I'm just a Christian-hating, anal-sex-loving, Hollywood and bank-controlling Jew, so what do I know anyway.

Incidentally, I like how WND's White House correspondent got shot down by Tony Snow for asking inane questions about this.

Les Kinsolving, WND's correspondent at the White House, had asked spokesman Tony Snow: "The president is well-known to be a devout Christian, so I presume he will not evade the question – how does he feel about the Titanic director's claim of rediscovering the allegedly permanent burial site of the Gospel-reported resurrected Christ, together with alleged Jesus, wife and son?"

"I hope that you will not consider this un-Christian of me, Les, but I am sure that he probably has not spent a moment thinking about that," Snow said.

Score. Morons. Incidentally, this is the second time in as many weeks that Kinsolving has been told to shove it by Snow. At least all your time at Fox was good for something, Tony.

Kinsolving continued with his line of questioning. "Does the president believe that Mississippi's state flag needs to be changed because it has the Confederate battle flag and that the 15-star replica of the Star Spangled Banner, now flying at Fort McHenry, should be removed because it was the flag of a slave nation?"
"It hasn't come up," Snow said. "Believe it or not, I don't have an answer for you on that."
"The name of George Washington – President Lincoln in 1842 said that, 'The name of George Washington is the mightiest name on earth – long since the mightiest in the cause of civil liberty; still the mightiest in moral reformation…' Does the president believe President Lincoln was wrong in saying this because President Washington owned slaves?"
"Oh my goodness," Snow said.

Maybe WND should start looking for a slightly more, what's the word- un-senile?- correspondent. Or new management.

Go Ger, Go

Let's hear it for the Gerrer rebbe Yakov Aryeh Alter, who married off his oldest grandson today. The Gerrer stuck with the fiscal traditions established by his father, Simcha Bunim Alter, who determined back in the 80s that his Hasidim were going to have to figure out ways to survive financially without turning to the government as a first resort. One of the ways the rebbe did this was to encourage cutting costs, for instance banning his followers from buying spodiks that were over 600 dollars. Another was to restrict the number of guests one could invite to a wedding- 400 was the maximum. There's a story that one man asked him if he could invite more, and the rebbe responded, "Invite as many as you want, but you won't find me there."

The marriage of one of the rebbe's children or grandchildren is expected to be a grand affair, but Yakov Alter apparently stuck with his father's guidelines:

This has been a major issue in ultra-Orthodox circles for a while, with the Ger sect instructing families to limit invitees to a total of 400. Although the dynastic family couldn't be expected to adhere to such limits, the rebbe did set a strict budget.

Unlike the weddings for his own children, the rebbe decided to invite the public only to the huppa. Only a few hundred were invited to partake in the meal, while the rest made do with light refreshments.

Spokesmen for the Hasidic sect said the rebbe had set new norms that were meant as an example for his followers.

Now, admittedly, I do find the idea of "rejoicing" with your spiritual leader via binoculars a little silly, but kudos to the rebbe for showing the importance of thrift to his Hasidim.

Oh, and this guy wins the door prize for best peot.

Man, they serve in the army, work to not be a burden on the state, AND they don't actively try to poison their own kids. What great guys!

Not cool

No question Mahmoud's a bastard, but there's something about seeing children pray for someone's death that just doesn't sit well with me.

How it is/How is it?

Whether it's nationalism, religious ideology, whatever, at a certain point it's all a bunch of BS:

An hour later, back in Gaza City, more than 3,000 armed young men aligned with Fatah were marching and shooting guns in the air. My driver and I assumed the war had resumed, for who would send thousands of armed men to fire wildly in the air in front of the Islamic University of Gaza, a hotbed of Hamas support that was recently burned and looted by Fatah gunmen.

But it seems they just want jobs. After what they claimed was eight months of training—although their ability to march and handle automatic weapons makes me suspect they need another eight months—they have no jobs, only uniforms and weapons.

As they shouted and fought over whose turn it was to shoot the machine gun in the air, a local journalist leaned over and whispered in my ear. "This is about money," he said. "Fuck Fatah, and fuck Palestine. If [Israeli Prime Minister Ehud] Olmert called right now and offered them each [$250] a month, they'd all become Jews and join the Israeli Defense Forces."

Pretty much.

Hat-tip to Anagrysis, who whines too much for his own good.

Edit: and then there's stuff like this, which makes you wonder if this crap will ever stop.

Two Palestinian teenagers confessed on Monday that they stabbed Erez Levanon, 42, to death while he prayed in a forest outside his home settlement of Bat Ayin late Sunday afternoon, security sources said.

The two suspects were arrested by the IDF and Shin Bet (Israel Security Agency) earlier in the day.

Levanon, a father of three, was a popular songwriter and singer known throughout his community for his willingness to pick up his guitar for a good cause.

He played music for patients in Jerusalem-area hospitals and would entertain for free at bar mitzvas and weddings of those who lacked money, his friend Levin Goldschmidt said.

...Huddled in a green overcoat, Goldschmidt stood in Levanon's study in his hilltop home. Levanon's seven-year-old son stuck his head into the study, and said, "This is my father's room." His twin sister played outside amid the mourners.

Levanon's now silent guitar hung on the wall in the study. Underneath it was a box of a CD, A Light in the Heart, which Levanon had released with 14 original songs about happiness, peace and God. A number of them were based on the teachings of the 18th century Hassidic master Rabbi Nachman of Bratslav, of whom Levanon was a follower.

In pursuit of the Bratslav tradition of personal prayer, Goldschmidt said that Levanon along with others in the community would often go into the forest where he was slain to pray. It is peaceful and serene there, said Goldschmidt. But that tranquility was broken on Sunday when suspects Mudar Abu Dia and Mussa Ah'lil, both 18, left their village of Safa near Beit Omar, carrying knives.

They were arrested hours after Levanon's body was found between Beit Omar and Bat Ayin. Levanon's burned car was also discovered on Monday in Beit Omar. During their interrogation, the two teens confessed to the murder and said it was a nationalistically-motivated act.

Yaki Morag, the head of security for the small town, said that the area where Levanon was killed was fraught with dangers.

"This is a grove where we usually go to meditate. It turns out that the Arabs followed him, saw him, and took advantage of the opportunity," he told Army Radio. "I would always remind him to go out armed, and I don't know if that would have helped."

Sigh. Hat-tip and condolences to Lazer, who was a friend of Erez Levanon.

Unfortunate word choice

Rabbi Yuval Cherlow on haredi and mafdal extremists:

"I don't blame the extremists. It's their nature to be extreme. I blame the silent mainstream, which allows the injustice to take place. Their silence is costly, because people have already paid a price as a result of it."

He is less forgiving of the "theological concept" that developed in anti-disengagement circles and gained popularity on Internet forums frequented by young Religious Zionists.

Those who subscribe to this approach, which in religious jargon is called "measure for measure," believe that anyone who had a part in the disengagement has been the victim of divine punishment. That is how they explain the downfall of many public and political figures, whether as a result of illness (Sharon), legal intervention (Moshe Katsav, Haim Ramon, Ehud Olmert) or some other reason (Bassi).

"Now police chief Moshe Karadi has also suffered, and that is supposed to be clear proof of the argument," he says cynically. "I reject that from a religious point of view. To enlist the Shekhina [the Divine Presence] in order to support or oppose your political opinion? That is manipulative.

"What is hiding behind this is an entire theology of a war between the Sons of Light and the Sons of Darkness. Like the Essenes, these speakers also claim that until all of society sees the light, we will live in our sect, with our own internal language and according to our rules of behavior, and for example, we will advocate refusal of orders and disengagement from society. In the end they will be spewed out like the Essenes."

Two things. First, as FailedMessiah points out, more often than not, Judaism's tendency is actually to NOT reject its wackos (unless, of course, they threaten the hegemony of the rabbis, in which case it's fair game to run them out of town- see Uriel Dacosta, Baruch Spinoza, the Reform Movement, the Haskalah, etc.) Maccabees, Sicarri, Zealots, etc., they were jerks, but ultimately "fine". Sure, stab some folks, kill some dudes, fuck Jerusalem over, whatever. The important thing is that we got magic oil out of it (or Yavneh, respectively). It's amazing what we'll do for a little oil.

Second, "spewed out"? As loyal readers no doubt know, the Essenes weren't "spewed out" by Jews- they segregated themselves in the wilderness like the righteous Puritans of... the future. If there was any spewing going on, it was self-inflicted.

Monday, February 26, 2007

Funny Hats

Some say it's a sign of immaturity to ignore the deeper issues of people's message and to only focus on the external. There are ancient folk-tales where good men disguise themselves and visit the clueless populace to find out just how they really treat people when the good guys aren't around. Odin did it, tons of Scottish kings did it, the Baal Shem Tov did it, even Elijah (supposedly) does it.

So really, when I ignore the profound matters involved in Abir® Warrior Arts and just make fun of Sofer's clothes, doesn't it just reflect poorly on me?

Maybe so.

But I don't care.

"Here in the new summer-wear we have Abir® Aluf Yehoshua Sofer, in a fun number that both harkens back to his ancient Yemeni heritage while also doubling as a beach-blanket!"

"That's right, Tom, and for extra protection against the sun, heat and evil eye, be sure to employ this updated cross-cultural style combining Yemeni desert robes with Haredi suits. A friend tells me it just drives the women wild (or would, if they were allowed to look at him)."

"Now, Stan, apparently Sofer chose this ensemble to highlight both parts of his not-quite-well-explained ancestry, right?"

"Indeed, Greg. Sofer claims to be descended from Yemeni karate-masters as well as Rabbi Nachman of Breslov's chief assistant water-carrier in charge of water-carrying on alternate Tuesdays."

"Wow. Half-Yemeni and half Breslover. Cool."

"Oh no, Lars. All of Sofer's Yemeni ancestors were ALSO Breslovers. In fact, his grandfather, who was a super-Yemeni, learned Korean jujitsu in the Russian army after being attacked on a pilgrimage to the Ukraine. That was how he became convinced that neither Korean jujitsu, Russian wrestling, or nude Greco-Orthodox curling could hold a candle to the ancient ways of Yemeni ABIR® Warrior Arts. "

"Wait... They're Yemeni but they were in the Ukraine? How does that even work?"

"Look, Klaus, that's not important. What's important is that various Torah Sages, who of course know all about Jewish history and global martial arts culture, have determined that this is the real deal. He teaches your kids Torah, ethics, ABIR®, penmanship, ABIR®, emnuna, ABIR®, and now, fashion sense. Compared to all that, Lakewood just sounds like a rip-off, doesn't it?"

"I guess, but..."

"But don't believe us, let's ask the Melitzer Rebbe shlita! Here he is shitting a brick in divine ecstasy, racked with anticipation at the thought of seeing the new fall line from Grand Master Sofer."

"What's that, Carl? You say we've got audio? Let's go live to hear the Melitzer's speech:"

"I believe with perfect faith that when the great day comes and Moshiach finally arrives...

he will almost definitely greet us with a 'Maneuver Alef'."

"Well, there you have it, Shlomo. Back to you in the studio."

Tuesday, February 20, 2007


You want to talk idol worship? How cults start? Through crap like this:

The US hair salon where pop star Britney Spears shaved her head has apparently set up a website to auction her locks for more than $1m (£512,500).

Spears had the drastic cut at Esther's Hair Studio in California on Friday.

The website,, claims to have been set up by salon owner Esther Tognozzi.

It includes photos of the hair, saying it is "absolutely authentic". Meanwhile, Spears has been spotted in Hollywood sporting a short blonde wig.

...The salon's website offers bidders an "opportunity of a lifetime" and says a portion of the proceeds will be donated to various unnamed charities.

As well as the hair, the winning bidder will also get the hair clippers Spears used, a blue lighter she left at the salon and the can of Red Bull she was drinking at the time.

The site adds that the successful bidder can pick up the hair from Esther's Hair Studio in Tarzana, California.

Salon co-owner JT Tognozzi said: "We still don't know why Britney chose our shop. We'll probably never know."

I bet this is how Our Lady of Lourdes started. "We don't know why the Virgin picked us..." "We don't know why Pius X's body never decayed (except maybe for the fact that it was embalmed)..."

On Tuesday morning there were scores of supposed locks of Spears' hair for sale on eBay - including some located in the UK and Germany.

"It's pretty crazy all the frauds and stuff that's out there," Mr Tognozzi said. "They're not even in our state."

It's the freaking True Cross!

Pay attention, children. You are living through history. Years from now when this "studio" is a shrine to Our Lady of Tarzana and pictures of "the Holy Locks" are handed out at Brit-mitzvahs, you'll be able to tell your grandkids you were there when it all started.

Monday, February 19, 2007

Holy Crap

You know, I bad-mouth the haredim as much as the next heretic, but for all their nuttiness, at least you don't hear about nutcase stuff like this that often.

A Romanian priest has been jailed for 14 years for conducting an exorcism that led to the death of a nun who he believed was possessed by devils.

Irina Cornici, 23, died after being starved and chained to a cross at a secluded convent in the north-east.

...He and four nuns were convicted of manslaughter. The nuns got jail terms ranging from five to eight years.

The Orthodox Church, which described the Tanacu incident as "abominable", has promised reforms, including psychological tests for those seeking to enter monasteries.

It banned Corogeanu from the priesthood and excommunicated the four nuns.

In 1999, when the Vatican issued its first new guidelines since 1614 for driving out devils, it urged priests to take modern psychiatry into account in deciding who should be exorcised.

After hearing the sentence, Corogeanu said: "We will appeal and hope that it will succeed. We didn't expect this sentence, but this is the judge's decision. We will pray to God for help."

Jesus Tap-Dancing Christ.

Friday, February 16, 2007

Cut the Crap

The next person to accuse Democrats of race-baiting and playing the "plantation-card" gets a punch in the nose. Or a free knock on the nose with a mirror.

Hillary Clinton seems to view black voters the same way plantation owners viewed slaves – they are her property, they will do what she says, and she will make their lives hell-on-earth if she doesn't get her way.

She also knows how to keep the field hands in line: Make the house slaves do all the dirty work.


Since Hillary is known for her white-knuckle, "I'll pull the switch myself if I have to," maniacal, cut-throat style, she already verges on appearing to the general public as overly dominant; but by having a genuine contender in the race, who happens to also be African-American, her patience is really being stretched thin.

So, if the Democratic Party, which ironically enough founded the Ku Klux Klan* as tool by which to intimidate blacks into voting Democrat, has in fact become the modern-day plantation to black voters, Hillary is without question the plantation madam. On her plantation are the house slaves – Reverends Sharpton and Jackson, and most recently South Carolina state Sens. Robert Ford and Darrell Jackson.

Every one of these men cheered on Barack Obama at the 2004 Democratic National Convention. Jesse Jackson worked tirelessly to help get Obama elected in his home state of Illinois. And as anyone with a functioning brain stem can figure out, of all the recent candidates the Democrats have put forward for president who happen to be black, Obama leaves them all in the dust by way of credentials and speaking and writing ability – not to mention the fact that he has actually served in elected office. As best we can tell he has also never had a love child with someone other than his wife.

The job of these four modern house slaves (and others for all we know) is to "be black" and to publicly cast doubt on Obama's ability to win, his "true blackness," experience in public office, and, once and for all, "why he's just not black enough."

I believe that this was suddenly why a few weeks back Sharpton began getting all uppity to Obama, saying: "Just because you're our color doesn't mean you're our kind."

Well that was rude ...


She is the mean plantation madam who believes the slaves will love her more if she has them punished thrice daily, and she will resort to philosophical lynchings, intellectual rape and rhetorical beatings to get it done.

* Much more on the founding of the KKK by the Democrats in my new book.

This from the same genius who said Christian liberals are oxymorons and claims that the fact that Iraqis buy cell phones means the invasion has been a success. I wonder how long it will take him to start talking about Court Jews.

Giving us a Bad Name!

Concerned Women for America is speaking up about Tim Hardaway's "I hate gays" comment. Why? Because Hardaway said he was homophobic- and they think that's the wrong message to be sending.

A former NBA star has made disturbing and harmful comments about his feelings toward people trapped in the homosexual lifestyle. Interviewing with a Florida sports radio show, former Miami Heat player Tim Hardaway said that he “hates gay people” and that he distances himself from them because he is “homophobic.” Concerned Women for America (CWA) is disappointed that a man who is respected by many sports fans would make such inflammatory remarks.

“Hardaway’s comments are both unfortunate and inappropriate,” said Matt Barber, CWA’s Policy Director for Cultural Issues. “They provide political fodder for those who wish to paint all opposition to the homosexual lifestyle as being rooted in ‘hate.'

..."It’s perfectly natural for people to be repelled by disordered sexual behaviors that are both unnatural, and immoral,” said Barber. “All too often those behaviors are accompanied by serious physical, emotional, and spiritual pitfalls. However, the appropriate reaction is to respond with words and acts of love, not words of hate. Jesus Christ offers forgiveness and freedom for all sinners, and that is the heart of the Gospel message.

“Thousands of former homosexuals have been freed from the homosexual lifestyle through acts of love. Hardaway’s comments only serve to foment misperceptions of widespread homosexual ‘victimhood’ which the homosexual lobby has craftily manufactured.”

Coming up next week- the Know-Nothing Party slams neo-Nazis for making Antisemitism "disrespectable for decent WASPS again".

Hat-tip: Notes From the Lounge, via AmericaBlog.

"Pharasaic Plot" Fall-out

Round and round it goes...

And who's to blame? Not either of the lawmakers- because they didn't read what they were talking about! Oh, well in that case...

Bridges (R-Cleveland) denies having anything to do with the memo. But one of his constituents said he wrote the memo with Bridges’ approval before it was recently distributed to lawmakers in several states, including Texas, California, New York, Illinois, Pennsylvania and Ohio.

“Indisputable evidence — long hidden but now available to everyone — demonstrates conclusively that so-called ‘secular evolution science’ is the Big-Bang 15-billion-year alternate ‘creation scenario’ of the Pharisee Religion,” the memo says. “This scenario is derived concept-for-concept from Rabbinic writings in the mystic ‘holy book’ Kabbala dating back at least two millennia.”

...Bridges denied writing or authorizing the memo.

“I did not put it out nor did I know it was going out,” Bridges said. “I’m not defending it or taking up for it.”

The memo directs supporters to call Marshall Hall, president of the Fair Education Foundation Inc., a Cornelia, Ga.-based organization that seeks to show evolution is a myth. Hall said he showed Bridges the text of the memo and got his permission to distribute it.

“I gave him a copy of it months ago,” said Hall, a retired high school teacher. “I had already written this up as an idea to present to him so he could see what it was and what we were thinking.”

Hall said his wife Bonnie has served as Bridges’ campaign manager since 1996.

Bridges acknowledged that he talked to Hall about filing legislation this year that would end the teaching of evolution in Georgia’s public schools. Bridges said the views in the memo belong to Hall, though Bridges said he doesn’t necessarily disagree with them.

...Asked about the ADL’s call for an apology, Bridges said: “I regret that these people have been offended, but I didn’t offend them because I didn’t put the memo out.”

So he's lazy AND a jackass. Well, at least the Texan is a little better.

The stuff that causes conflicts between religious beliefs, you know, I’d never be a party to that,” Texas House Appropriations Chairman Warren Chisum told the Morning News Wednesday. “I’m willing to apologize if I’ve offended anyone.”

The newspaper reported Chisum made his comments after he learned the Anti-Defamation League was demanding an apology in a letter to his office.

So tell me, why is, "I'm an idiot who doesn't read things before trying to turn them INTO LAW" a better excuse than, "I'm a bigoted moron?" I hope to God that these two schmoes don't get re-elected. But I'm sure that, rather than seeing this as a disturbing indication of just how little attention these people pay to their jobs, it will instead be shrugged off by voters and analysts.

FORGET the fact that it's antisemitic nonsense. Both of these dopes tried to make this crap law, having no idea of where the ideas were coming from. I can deal with Einstein being a Masonic Kabbalist Devil-worshiper. It's the inanity of the system that scares me.

Want to enforce rules on adults? Punish their children.

HaMoron Elyashiv, in another attempt to flex what few muscles he has that haven't atrophied, has continued the campaign to coerce Israeli haredim into only using "kosher" cell-phones, which are defined as phones without video or picture capability (as opposed to kosher phone-cards, which don't work on the Sabbath, and of course kosher wigs, which are only made with glatt chicken fat, so you can chew on them as much as you want).

And how is the esteemed Rav carrying this out? By threatening to ban the dissenters' kids from school:

"Parents who use cell phones that are not approved, thereby removing themselves from the chareidi public which has joined together to root out the [problem], may not be able to enroll their children at educational institutions," read the notice issued by Maran.

You know what removes them even more? Ostracizing their kids, humiliating them and possibly forcing them to move or go elsewhere for education- like, say, a mafdal yeshiva. (Heaven forbid!)

The call drew positive responses from the chareidi public and raised awareness among those who have yet to trade in their cell phones and purchase models approved by Vaadas HaRabbonim LeInyonei Tikshores.

Raised awareness, huh? Kind of like how pogroms "raised awareness" among Jews?

Teachers and other educators have been warning for several years about the numerous stumbling-blocks created by new technological dangers. In many cases, years of chinuch [education] were lost. Recently principals recalled that when the chareidi public united to fight against the introduction of television into homes decades ago students with televisions in their homes were not admitted into educational institutions after the devastating effect of television viewing was proven beyond a doubt.

That's right, video cell phones keep kids from learning, so we're going to kick them out of school instead. Brilliant.

Wednesday, February 14, 2007


Bill O'Doofus is castigating Bank of America right now for offering illegals credit cards. Of course, Bill doesn't want to come out and say that he doesn't want illegals to have economic opportunities because he wants to make their lives as miserable as possible so they'll get out, so instead he beats the terrorism horse again.

Like, apparently 9/11 hijackers used CREDIT CARDS to buy their airline tickets! (As opposed to gold bullion?) Of course, some of them were also here legally, but we aren't concerned with pesky details like that. The point is that illegal aliens could buy ANYTHING with these cards, and all illegal aliens are potential terrorists. Hey Bill, why not have the government work with the credit card companies to flag suspicious purchases instead of subtly implying that the only way to keep America safe is to keep illegals penniless?

The guest, Jon Hoenig, was a bit of a yutz ("If Mahmood whatever wants a credit card, yeah, there's a problem, but what do we care about what Pablo or Carlos are doing?"), but he did make some quasi-decent points- using terrorism as a stick to beat the illegal alien issue to death is a particularly lame argument. Hoenig and O'Reilly then proceeded to get into an argument over the old "We're a country of immigrants/Yeah, but they weren't illegal" chestnut. Hoenig points out that before the 1920s, there wasn't any such thing as illegal immigration. O'Reilly skirts the moral issue by sarcastically saying our immigration laws should revert to 1819.

The best part of the segment was O'Reilly saying everyone should close their B of A accounts- "not because of what they're doing, but because they wouldn't come on the show." In response, I propose a counter-boycott: go get a B of A card! It just might be worth the trouble of switching banks to piss Bill off.

It all makes sense now...

Seeing as how the Jblogosphere's been all about the Jewish plots lately, I thought I'd throw my streimel into the fray. First, Bill Donohue confirms he's a loon. Asked about his "secular Jews control Hollywood, like anal sex, and hate Christianity in general and Catholicism in particular" comment from December 2004, Bill defended his questionable thought process:

BEINART: Bill Donohue has made anti-Jewish, anti-gay comments --

DONOHUE: No, I haven't.

BEINART: -- which are as bad as what these women -- you said that the secular Jewish Jews in Hollywood hate Christianity. That's a horrible, bigoted --

DONOHUE: Wait a minute. Wait, wait.

BEINART: -- statement, so it seems to me the question becomes --

DONOHUE: Peter. Peter --

BEINART: -- what is our standard here?

DONOHUE: Peter, the Jewish Forward said in 2004 that Jews run Hollywood. Are they anti-Semitic?

BEINART: You said they hate Christianity, Mr. Donohue.

DONOHUE: Oh, we like the movies that are coming out of Hollywood. They're very nice to Catholics.

BEINART: No, no. Did you say that or not?

DONOHUE: They're very nice to Catholics.

BEINART: You said that secular Jews in Hollywood hate Christianity.

DONOHUE: What world do you live in? What world do you live in? Have you seen what they -- what movies they make about Catholics?

BEINART: Yeah. Do you defend that statement?

DONOHUE: I defend the fact -- there's two parts to the statement. One part is, right out of the Jewish Forward: Jews run Hollywood. If you think it's the Chinese, make your case. And do they make nice movies about Catholics, or do they make lousy movies?

BEINART: You said they hate Christians.

DONOHUE: What kind of a -- well, oh, I'm telling you --

BEINART: You say -- you made a blanket statement about secular Jews in Hollywood that hate Christians.

DONOHUE: No, I'm talking about -- no, I'm talking about the movies that come out of Hollywood, and the predominant ones -- you got [director Martin] Scorsese. He's not Jewish. It's the people in Hollywood. There's a mindset about this, and I think you should talk to The Washington Post and the Los Angeles Times, which have said that the Hollywood studios are dominated by Jews. I tried to even qualify it more than that.

The issue of Jewish control of Hollywood is a very old one. Suffice it to say that there are plenty of Jews in Hollywood and I'd be willing to bet a fair amount aren't religious. That said, Donohue has yet to demonstrate any causality between secular Jewish influence in Hollywood and any particular animus against Christians or Christianity. As I commented here, one problem is that everybody keeps moving the goalposts. Who decides what's offensive, and what motives can be attributed to these artistic decisions? Just because Donohue finds something offensive doesn't mean it's specifically designed to be so. By the same token, advocating a particular VIEW of Christianity (say, by having a liberal Christian protagonist) Similarly, having a liberal Christian as a leading protagonist (Book of Daniel, for instance) is neither the same thing as uniformly attacking the whole institution or belief system, or conservative Christianity in particular. It certainly doesn't preclude it, but a difference in perspective does not an attack make. ("Keeping the Faith", which features an interfaith couple dating, as well as a lovelorn priest, is a great example of this.)

Lastly, showing conflict in Christianity ALSO doesn't constitute an attack. Not every show has to be Seventh Heaven. Furthermore, there are some stories about Christian characters or episodes that, if they're to have any degree of intellectual and artistic honesty, would have to be somewhat critical of the Church. Galileo, Salem Witch Trials, Inquisitions, etc. You couldn't do a bio-pic on Uriel Da Costa or Spinoza without showing the Jewish opposition they encountered. Same thing. It's not necessarily an attack.

In other wacko news, a Georgia state senator has accused evolution of being a Jewish plot:

Mr. Bridges' memo claims that teaching evolution amounts to indoctrinating students in an ancient Jewish sect's beliefs.

"Indisputable evidence – long hidden but now available to everyone – demonstrates conclusively that so-called 'secular evolution science' is the Big Bang, 15-billion-year, alternate 'creation scenario' of the Pharisee Religion," writes Mr. Bridges, a Republican from Cleveland, Ga. He has argued against teaching of evolution in Georgia schools for several years.

He then refers to a Web site,, that contains a model bill for state Legislatures to pass to attack instruction on evolution as an unconstitutional establishment of religion.

Mr. Bridges also supplies a link to a document that describes scientists Carl Sagan and Albert Einstein as "Kabbalists" and laments "Hollywood's unrelenting role in flooding the movie theaters with explicit or implicit endorsement of evolutionism."

You know what? If no one else wants to take credit for evolution, I'll do it. We did it. Our idea. Read your Rashi. Incidentally, can we get royalties on this?

Also, Einstein would be very amused to hear that he was a Kabbalist.

Major hat-tip to DovBear, who lets me blog without really trying.

Friday, February 09, 2007

Living up to your Name

When I was but a lad, my parents decided I should learn some languages other than the ones they spoke. But which ones? Spanish? Too fancy. Hebrew? Too Jewey. I dabbled with a few for a while, and by sixth grade, was attempting (poorly) the ancient tongue of Mandarin Chinese.

The teacher was a very nice guy. He had only one problem- in the Chinese culture, children are expected to "live up" to their names. His name meant, "he who is happy and bounces a lot". Whether conscious or coincidence, we never saw him NOT smile. Children being the cruel midgets they are, this quickly led to us trying to see if we could make him mad. No luck. Even when raging pissed, he would keep a damn smile glued to his face, though you could see by his eyes he would have liked nothing better than to choke the life out of us. Eventually the emotional strain of keeping up this unnatural charade grew too much and he left the school. Also he might have been gay.

Anyway, the point is that sometimes names don't fit with a person's personality. On the other hand, every once in a while, you DO find someone who matches their name. Case in point:

Rabbi Benjamin Blech.

What's so blecchy about Rabbi Benji? Well, there's this:

Vegetarianism is Un-Jewish

...Many vegetarians believe that it is a sin to take an animal’s life in order to lengthen our own. All of G-d’s creatures, they contend, have the same right to live out their years. A noble thought, ethically motivated, and yet—supremely un-Jewish!

Jews do eat meat. In fact, the Talmud teaches, that’s what transforms an ordinary meal into a Sabbath or holiday feast. Simchah, true joy, can be attained only with bassar v’yayin, meat and wine. Animals, says the Midrash, were created before Adam so that they would be available for his table, just as a king prepares food in advance for his most favored guest.

There's more. Jews should eat meat, but they have to earn it first:

Judaism doesn’t really give us carte blanche to kill animals for food. It allows us to eat meat only on one condition: that the animal whose life is taken serves to feed someone whose life has more meaning than simple bestial existence.

“Am ha’aretz assur le’echol bassar.” A boor, whose life is devoid of Torah, is forbidden to eat meat! That’s the Talmud’s conclusion based on a simple equation: For any life ended to support another, there must be a qualitative difference between the life that is taken and the life that will be sustained... Our years are supposed to be imbued with a spiritual quest for holiness. Life is not merely getting and begetting, but being and becoming. Created in the image of G-d, we have an obligation to imitate our Divine Maker. It is only our efforts in pursuit of this goal that permit us to turn animal flesh into the food that fuels us.

This adds a whole new dimension to the Atkins Diet. Piling on meat may keep you thin—but it might be a sin. It all depends on whether you deserve the meat.

Well, I'm sure that pissed off Jewish veggies will be consoled knowing that all Jews are SUPPOSED to eat meat, but that a bunch of Jewish meat-eaters are bad, too.

Some people are fuming about this, claiming Rabbi Blech said vegetarians aren't Jews, which, as he points out here, isn't what he said. It also confuses the issue- this isn't about one guy saying individual Jews aren't Jewish or aren't good Jews, this is about a larger trend of putting up walls around what "authentic Judaism" can be. Blech's essay illustrates a tendency among some movements to claim that Judaism is confined to a particular path, and any ideas off this path are not Jewish. This wouldn't be such an issue if it still left the option to incorporate non-Jewish thought into one's practice, but there's also an implicit message that these foreign ideas are therefore inferior or contradictory to "real Judaism", and that anyone who includes them in their lives is guilty of syncretism, essentially following foreign gods like the Hellenists of old.

Individual Jews aren't the issue. What Blech is arguing is an attempt to redefine Judaism as a single authoritative monolith. Instead of different perspectives on a Torah issue, or on ways to be Jewish, we are given black-and-white definitions- this is Jewish, this isn't- now choose.

I bet folks like Chief Rabbi Shlomo Goren (and his father-in-law, the Nazir of Jerusalem) might have an issue with this. Also Abraham Isaac Kook and Samson Raphael Hirsch, who wrote positive essays on vegetarianism. And Rashi doesn't seem to have heard of Blech's midrash:

God did not permit Adam and his wife to kill a creature and to eat it's flesh. Only every green herb shall they all eat together.


What more from the Blechy one?

Oh, there's this- an old book review- hey, and it's a two-fer! One challenges reigning theodicy king Harold Kushner, and one talks about how to invest halakhically (wait, isn't this sort of like asking what SUV Jesus or Jefferson would drive?)

In case you forgot the central issue of Harold Kushner's book, it was that bad things happen to good people because God isn't omnipotent. Rabbi Blech says this isn't true.

While Blech empathizes with the loss that prompted Kushner to write his book, he argues that Kushners's theory that "G-d is not powerful enough to do the right thing" contradicts traditional Judaism. According to Blech, "If you believe in G-d, you believe you can pray to Him and He will answer."

According to Blech, everything G-d does happens for a reason, even if it may be a reason we do not yet understand. And often, posits Blech, the reasons differ from person to person. Only by reflecting on the tragedies in our own lives can we perhaps discover a portion of G-d's reason for His decisions. While the death of a child may be the worst tragedy that can befall a person, such an event can lead parents to reevaluate their lives and priorities and gain a greater appreciation for their remaining good fortune.

However, Blech contends that many tragedies are not G-d's doing, but Man's. Evil, says Blech, exists because G-d gave us free will. As Blech writes, "If humankind did not have free will, we would still be in the Garden of Eden, because we could not have chosen to disobey G-d's one commandment not to eat of the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil. But without that freedom to choose, our lives would have been a puppet show." Free will may lead to unwise or even evil decisions, but it can also lead people to strive for holiness. Blech explains, "Everything G-d does happens for a reason, but things people do can happen because people make bad choices." It is not due to the will of G-d that a woman is abused but because the abuser is evil. However, while God allows people to choose unwisely, "there are exceptions, when G-d can't take it anymore." These exceptions, says Blech, are miracles: not Biblical miracles, as in the parting of the Red Sea, but smaller ones, like when a person steps out of the way just in time to avoid being hit by a car.

In addition to free will, Blech explores the idea of Jewish guilt through the story of Job. When the long-suffering man is at his lowest point, his friends blame him for his ills. "Instead of comforting him, they're making him feel he must be the worst person in the world... they are equating suffering with guilt and sin." Blech wants people to know that Job's friends were wrong and people should not blame themselves when something bad occurs - tragedy occurs because of free will or because G-d has a plan we don't yet understand.

Well that's super-comforting. And what's this "rare miracle" crap? To quote Arthur Hertzberg, "If the Messiah was going to come, he'd come at Auschwitz". How can people realistically believe in a God that interferes in the mundane but lets dictators do what they like?

Ok, some Blech wants an omnipotent God, free will, AND miracles. Fine. What about stocks, Rabbi?

The key lesson, says Blech, "is to learn from other people... studies found that [there's no relationship] between amount of money and amount of happiness." Happiness depends on things like family and self-esteem, "But our society keeps telling people... make money, be rich, and you'll be happy." As members of a consumer-oriented society, we tend to be envious of those who have more than we do. Other lessons in the book include understanding that one shouldn't give up after failing, because success comes from striving again and again, and recognizing that crises can lead to a better understanding of one's capability.

Ok, fair enough. Money isn't everything. But what about people who really WANT some? Can't you offer them some vapid business tip to ensure that they can get God "on their side"?

Blech suggests that investors donate 10 percent of their profits to charity: "That way, you're making G-d a co-investor with you. It's in G-d's interest to see that you make money."

But what if you pick the wrong charity, like PETA?

More Blech here.

Pat Boone disproves Darwinism

At least I'm sure that's what he thinks. And it's all thanks to a complete lack of... well, just read it.

There it was, glinting in the sand, something catching the searing sub-Saharan sun. The half conscious, desperately thirsty British airman first thought he was hallucinating. As he staggered toward the shiny object, he prayed it was something liquid, something that would cool his parched throat. But it wasn't; as he grasped it in his hand and shook the sand away, he realized he was holding a watch.

A watch!

And not just a watch; soon after, when he'd been rescued and returned to England, he showed it to his superior officers and then to scientific experts. At first, no one could identify the maker or even how old the timepiece was. Nothing quite like it had ever been seen. It was fashioned of finest 24-karat gold, the design magnificent, the face a gloriously transparent crystal, the wristband intricate and obviously very expensive. And the most amazing feature: The sweep second hand was moving gracefully in one fluid motion around the Roman numerals – keeping absolutely perfect time – and it seemed to need no winding or even motion to keep it running!

Eventually, Darwinian scientists concluded that this exquisite artifact had not been manufactured; it had evolved, starting as a primitive sun dial from prehistoric times, swept and carried along and burnished by howling winds and abrasive sands, colliding over the millennia with other whirling objects and substances, melting and freezing and morphing finally into this magnificent timepiece, purely by happenstance. And, because of its primary ingredients and millennial buffeting by the elements, it now was so in tune with the universe that it kept atomic clock-type time!

Anybody gullible enough to believe that sappy saga? No? Well, how about one even more farfetched and absurd?

The vast universe, operating in such dependable precision we can confidently send human beings a quarter million miles into space, all the way to the surface of the moon, and back, safely. Our earth, moving in quiet orbit around the sun, so perfectly placed that life of all kinds flourish, while just a little distance closer or farther away, and the globe would not support life at all. And the human body, to say nothing of the mysterious brain, is made of such a myriad collection of mechanisms and infinitesimal organisms, all functioning in unexplainable synchronicity, that all the scientists who've ever lived have yet to understand more than a fraction of its workings. And all of this just "happened." No blueprint, no design, no intelligence, no creator or creation process. Just blind chance, and something called "evolution".

As absurd, as nonsensical as this concept is, it's being swallowed whole and taught to our kids by college-educated, highly intelligent professors, encouraged by the National Education Association and militantly defended by the ACLU. Not one of these Ph.D.s can explain what started it all, where the mass and energy (the basic ingredients of which all things consist) began or came from.

...And not one Ph.D. I've ever heard – totally aware of one of the basic laws of science, "every action creates an equal and opposite reaction" – can hope to explain what the "action" was that created the "equal and opposite reaction" we call matter.

As opposed to your thoroughly researched argument, an invisible astronaut.

I'd like to think that Pat's use of the watchmaker trope was indented as a subtle, if stupid, jab, but I really don't think he's that smart. Also, he fails to note two important problems with his analogy:

1- No one claims that the evolutionary process means that individual zygotes become humans during their lifetimes. The whole theory is predicated on the idea of gradual change.

2- Watches are inorganic, and therefore cannot evolve. A watch also can't reproduce, does that disprove the claim that humans make babies?

Anything else, Pat?

In 1925, in the infamous Scopes "Monkey Trial," ACLU attorney Clarence Darrow took the position that it was bigotry to teach just one view of human origins! He was defending the right of the science teacher to offer the theory of evolution as an alternative to the long-accepted account of creation. And now, that same ACLU is instituting lawsuits all over America wherever anybody dares to offer Intelligent Design or any other alternative to the theory of evolution! What blatant hypocrisy!

Wait, hang on. There are OTHER alternatives you guys have been dreaming up, too? Man, this should be good (or frightening). But there's a problem here, Pat- once you come up with more "alternatives", it's going to be even harder to ensure "equal time". "Now we were supposed to be discussing geology today, so we're going to have to study about eight different theories of the geologic timetable."

This should also result in some pretty fun Pop Quizes:

Is the earth:

A- 8-6 billion years old.
B- 6,000 years old.
C- 5 minutes old (thanks Flying Spaghetti Monster!/Martian Warlock Overlords!)
D- My religion says time does not exist.
E- All of the above.

And if anyone gets the question wrong, they can sue.

How many does it take...

Townhall's got two conservatives and counting blathering about the Boston Aqua Teen fiasco, and they both get it wrong.

Jeff Jacoby gives a pretty standard post-9/11, good on you, Boston, spiel, while also pointing out that we'd be better served by trying to get better intel on terrorists and nabbing them before we have to go looking for bombs.

Suppose for a moment that the harmless Lite-Brites that threw Boston into such pandemonium last week hadn't been so harmless after all. Suppose that the 38 illuminated devices attached to highway overpasses and other public spots around the city hadn't been "guerrilla art" intended to promote an animated show on cable TV, but the terrorist bombs that authorities at first feared they were. Suppose the individuals behind this operation in Boston and nine other cities had been devotees not of Aqua Teen Hunger Force, an inane cartoon about talking fast food, but of Al Qaeda and its violent, totalitarian version of Islam.

Then I hope to the great Pita in the Sky that they would have found the Aqua Bombs before they'd been up for three weeks.

However skilled first responders and security officials are at reacting to dangerous *things,* it is not the things themselves that pose the greatest danger to us in the war against militant Islam. It is the people behind those things, and the radical jihadist ideology that motivates them.

Or in this case, two disheveled starving artists sticking these things up for beer money.

We cannot be secure unless we pre-empt such people before they can act, and discredit that ideology before it poisons new minds.

Hey, maybe we can use this weird-ass abortion time travel post of Sultan Knish's as a model. Look out, Bin Laden fetus!

Uber-Libertarian John Stossel starts off well enough, pointing out that Boston was the only city that flipped and that there was plenty of stupid to go around in this mess. He also debunks the claim that Cartoon Network or Turner Broadcasting should be punished because they "didn't let Boston know" what they were doing:

The Boston Globe reports, "Turner Broadcasting acknowledged that it never sought approval or alerted authorities that it would put up the signs."

Good lord, if advertisers now have to apologize for not seeking prior approval from authorities for putting up signs, what have we come to?

Unfortunately, Stossel's final analysis departs from its focus on common sense and responsibility, and instead concludes as a pep rally for limited government.

Boston's crazy reaction reinforces the theme I've been sounding in recent columns: Decentralization of authority is always better than centralized power. Imagine if the federal Department of Homeland Security imposed procedures on all cities for when suspicious devices are spotted. The whole country might have come to a standstill.

Instead -- thank goodness -- cities and states can establish their own procedures based on their own knowledge and experience. If Boston's procedures cause the city to panic and shut down, at least New York's and L.A.'s don't.

That's the beauty of federalism.

No John, federalism has nothing to do with this. Indeed, one of the issues that has been identified as contributing to 9/11 was excessive decentralization of government, particularly in the intelligence and law enforcement communities. Letting every city "do its own thing" potentially works when the bombs are fake, but not so well when they're real.

It would be better to INCREASE communication, training, intelligence sharing, etc., so that police in Boston would ALREADY KNOW that LED lights aren't bombs before they blow them up. We need common sense and better communication. Federalism would do the exact opposite.

A Jewey Roundup

DovBear points us to a new book that proposes that medieval blood libels might have been based in some fact. Of course, there are many problems with this thesis, not the least of which is that most of the evidence supporting this claim are confessions extracted via torture.

However as DB noted in the comment thread:

I don't think even this historian says its a remnant of an actual practice.

He's saying:

A - Non Jews hated Jews.
B - Boy did they hate Jews
C- So they slandared them
D- Big time
E - Unfortunately one small group of kooks involved themselves in something gross
F - The story spread, mutating as it wnt from person to person
G - until it had taken on a life of its own, and
H - was tied in with the already existing and unrelated hatred, slanders, and lies.

Seems fair.

It's like with anything else- information isn't the problem, it's the interpretation of it. Better understanding the PROCESS of how the blood libel developed in Christian communities is useful, and even if it turns out that there was some minor seed of truth in it certainly doesn't validate how it was used by Christians as a tool to abuse Jews- PARTICULARLY if the Jews got the idea from the Christians.

Via Yeshiva World:

The Israelis just arrested the infamous Netanya Seder Bomber from 2002. Good. Let him rot in jail.

Oh, and Spain's finally apologized for that whole Inquisition/Reconquista thing. Apparently by creating a Sephardic Culture Institute. I say the Jews play hard-ball on this one and ask for reparations.

Also, history and science have struck another blow against Biblical literalism. Remember the Essenes? Of course you do. Back when Judaism was still in its experimental 'teen' years, the Essenes decided to show everybody why monasticism isn't such a good idea by going off to Qum'ran, living in caves, and acting like their shit didn't stink.

Well guess what?

Archaeologists think they've discovered why the Essenes died out.

University of North Carolina at Charlotte biblical scholar James Tabor suggested the investigation at a site outside the ruins of Qumran, noting instructions in two of the Dead Sea Scrolls (the “War Scroll” and the “Temple Scroll”) specifically requiring latrines to be located at a significant distance “north-west of the city,” and also to be “not visible from the city.” Tabor had also noted that the first century Jewish historian Josephus described very similar exotic toilet practices among the religiously strict sect known as the Essenes….

“I started thinking that in the scrolls they have these very explicit descriptions of where the latrines have to be,” Tabor explained. “It has to do with religious ritual purity — the latrines have to be located in a place that the ancient texts designate as ‘outside the camp’. That’s a phrase used in the Torah, where Moses tells the ancient Israelites ‘build your latrines outside the camp.’ When you go to the toilet, take a paddle or a shovel with you and use the toilet and then cover it up,” he said, explaining that the ancient practice appears to have been revived at Qumran.

…Zias and Tabor also note that the settlement’s unusual latrine practices may be clues in solving some of Qumran’s other archaeological puzzles — in particular, questions raised by the 1,100 graves found at the site, which are almost exclusively male.

“The graveyard at Qumran is the unhealthiest group that I have ever studied in over 30 years and this is readily apparent,” said Zias, who has done previous work on the Qumran burials. “For example, 2,000 years ago in Jericho, 14 kilometers to the north, the chances of an adult male dying after 40 were 49 percent. But when you go to Qumran, the figure for people surviving to 40 falls to six percent — the chances of making to 40 differ by a factor of eight!

“And yet we are told that these men arrived very healthy – they had physical examinations coming in. The people at Qumran thought that you could look at body types and tell what kind of person you were. Josephus tells us that the Essenes were selective — you had to be 20 years old, and you had to be healthy,” Zias noted.

The puzzle comes together for Zias when he combines the community’s latrine practices with its near-obsessive use of pools for ritual cleansing and bathing.

Burying your feces in the outdoors makes a lot of sense until you live in Qumran,” Zias said. “What happened was that 20 to 40 people went out there every day over a period of 100 years. By burying their fecal matter, they actually preserved the microorganisms and parasites. In the sunlight, the bacteria and parasites get zapped within a fairly short amount of time, but buried, the parasites can live in the soil for up to a year. Then people pick up things by walking through fecally contaminated soil — it’s like a toxic waste dump, and if you have any cuts on your feet…”

So the Essenes poisoned themselves by trying to follow Biblical toilet instructions. What else?

Well-defined community bathing practices, combined with a lack of running water, complicated the problem of daily exposure to contaminated soil. A cleansing pool was located at the settlement entrance on the return route from the latrine area and is likely to have been a fertile breeding ground for pathogens picked up from the human waste-enriched soil.

“Here is where things really get bad,” Zias explained. “After they went to the latrines they were required to enter one of the emersion cisterns (Miqvot) before they came back into the settlement. Hygienically, that sounds like a good idea, if you have fresh running water, but there is no running water at Qumran, only runoff which was collected during the three months of winter rains. They enter the cisterns where everyone else has been, with all the bacteria they’ve brought in with them, floating around. The bacterium, which usually doesn’t last long in the air and sunlight, stays active for a longer period in the sediments and is continually re-suspended in the water by people disturbing the pool.”

…“People who have cleansed themselves in the outside pool also have to go into the Miqwah twice a day. The water there may looked clean, but hygienically, it was rarely changed and must have been very dirty with the potentially fatal pathogens shared by everyone who was entering it for ritual purification. And Miqwah cleansing is a total immersion, which means that it gets in your ears, in your eyes and in your mouth. It is not hard to imagine how sick everyone must have been,” Zias said.

Fan-freaking tastic! So in this case, attempting to keep the law perfectly actually led to it killing people. I can't decide whether to make a Metzitzah B'peh joke or one about snake-handlers.

Lastly, the good doctor notes the tragic cyclical element in all of this:

“As a group the men of Qumran were very unhealthy, but I think this would have been likely to have actually fed the Essenes’ religious enthusiasm,” said Tabor. “They would have seen their infirmities as punishment from God for their lack of purity and then have tried even harder to purify themselves further.”

Sweet freaking Moses.

Note to present-day Jews. Science good, death by dysentery bad. I guess this means I should go replace all those Nosson Slifkin books I burned.

Wednesday, February 07, 2007

Kosher Cabal

Oh sure, we've all heard the loony ravings of antisemitic nuts that there's a secret kosher conspiracy, a kosher tax; that hordes of bearded little rabbis roam the streets late at night and, Godfather-II-style, coerce honest, hard-working Goyim into putting little Us and Ks on their bleach and detergents. And, while there is a slim, ever so slim grain of truth here (companies do pay for kosher certification, which they then presumably recoup), we know that the overall story is bogus.

But if there was ever an inane kosher racket, it's this.

Gedolei Yisroel shlita are calling on the public to continue supporting neighborhood generator initiatives by joining the ranks of chareidim who opt for kosher electricity on Shabbos, citing the need to avoid the use of electricity produced through chilul Shabbos.

Kosher freaking electricity! Because that's clearly what the Big Guy had in mind when he told you not to make incestuous milk-braised lamb!

at the initiative of the Israel Electric Corporation's CEO Uri Ben-Nun, a proposal was made to replace most of the hundreds of employees who work on Shabbos with non-Jewish workers. However, according to the proposed arrangement a few Jewish workers would still instruct non- Jewish workers to carry out certain tasks, which means of course that no real halachically valid solution has been reached since some of the Jewish employees would continue to work on Shabbos.

AAAAGH! What if some of them WANT to work on Shabbos? Don't you realize you're talking about FORCING people out of their own work schedules? Maybe even firing them? So that your damn conscience is assuaged when you pass the Shabbos night-light?

Rabbonim involved in the matter note that in the event the initiative succeeds im yirtzeh Hashem, it would have no impact on the use of Shabbos generators as long as acts of chilul Shabbos continue.

Good, use all the generators you want. In the meantime, I'm going to go to India and China to convert all of the sweatshop workers to Judaism (under Orthodox auspices of course). Then you'll either have to fight for them all to get Shabbos off, or start making your own damn Fruit of the Looms, Gandhi-style.

This really takes the cake. Wait, did someone say cake?

Chareidi buying power is growing by 7 percent annually, yet advertisers are not increasing their budgets targeted at the chareidi community at the same rate. The chareidi population doubles every 20 years and currently represents 10 percent of the total population, but the major advertisers prefer to keep to their home court, expecting the chareidi sector to make do with a few crumbs from the cake. Some have yet to recognize the enormous potential the sector has to offer as the leader in the consumption of various products. Others find it hard to step out of the marketing rut and start saving the fat slices of the cake for the right places. Many don't even realize what they stand to gain.

You know, things like seconds.

Man, I wish this guy would start writing national news stories:

The haredim, often considered the "frosting" of the "cake of Israel", demanded that they receive additional subsidies today, or as Rav Elyashiv "Devil's Food" shlita put it, "sprinkles".

Somebody get this guy a doughnut. I think he missed lunch.

Tuesday, February 06, 2007

Well That's a Relief

Ted Haggard says he's cured:

A leading evangelist who admitted to "sexual immorality" following allegations of sex with a male prostitute is convinced he is "completely heterosexual," said one of four ministers who oversaw three weeks of intensive counseling with the disgraced minister.

The Rev. Ted Haggard, a vocal opponent of gay marriage, also said his sexual contact with men was limited to the former male prostitute who came forward with sexual allegations, the Rev. Tim Ralph of Larkspur told The Denver Post for a story in Tuesday's edition.

"He is completely heterosexual," Ralph said. "That is something he discovered. It was the acting-out situations where things took place. It wasn't a constant thing."

Praise the Lord! And guess what? It looks like Ted might even be allowed back inside the church eventually! (Well, a church, anyway. You know, somewhere else.)

"Nobody is saying he can't go back into ministry," Ralph said. "Somewhere down the road, that could very well happen, and that would be wonderful."

Could this be a sign of increased tolerance among the Evangelicals?

...Hey, did that pig just fly past my window?

Let's all be Dicks

If there's one thing everyone can relate to, it's the timeless art of one-up-manship. This is reflected even in the Orthodox world- there's always a pecking order and someone's always on the bottom. Sephardic Jews hated German Jews, who hated Russian Jews, who hated Hungarian Jews. Everyone in Israel hates the Ethiopian Jews. Chabad hates Satmar, Satmar hates everybody, and Bobov, once among the sanest of sects, hates itself.

What's really great, though, is when this intense desire to elevate yourself at someone else's expense is made possible thanks to the efforts of someone else. Say, telling some random Indian guy that out of all the cool Indians, he's the coolest because he's really a lost Tribe of Israel.

Let's go to the text:

although other Indians hate to admit, it has always been known that the Cherokee has been blessed with gifted minds; that is also a result of our tribal roots in ancient Israel

Hey, that's just awesome. Next we should try to incite some gang warfare in India by telling them that one particular caste is descended from the Kohens- only we won't say which one.

*Shuffles off to brain himself with a peace pipe.*

So original it hurts

In which I steal a page from Sholom's book. I'll admit it, I'm lazy.

Recent Google searches that have brought people to my blog (now with 15% more snarkiness):

- Friar, Yiddish.

Oh so close. Alas, my knowledge of Yiddish is less than exemplary, something which would no doubt be mourned by my Hasidic, Misnagdic and dirty Commie ancestors alike. I do, however, enjoy being cursed out in Yiddish on wikipedia by angry haredim for having besmirched their precious rabbis' honor (by, you know, actually mentioning things they have done that have impacted the secular world- oh, and backing them up with heretical links, like Haaretz and the New York Times).

- "concrentation" camps.

I don't even know what this is. Presumably it's where people are killed and their bodies used to make concrete. I'm pretty sure they mentioned this at the Museum of Tolerance once.

- "has zion oil actually struck any oil".

It depends what you mean by "actually". Have they found oil? Yes. Are they yet at the point where it's anywhere near profitable? No. Do they continue to ask for investment money? Yes. Does this prove that one should make multi-million-dollar business decisions based on inaccurate Bible translations? As long as you know plenty of idiots who will keep investing in you.

- "lazer brody abraham martial art".

Abir Warrior Arts: Just when you thought the Kabbalah Center was as stupid as psuedo-historical Jewish mysticism could get. The only thing that's better than Lazer's love affair with these guys are the great pictures of the old blind men flailing swords around and the questionable linguistics and history the Abir guys use to prove they aren't full of crap- like, did you know that the word "Samurai" comes from "Shomer"? It all makes sense now, doesn't it? Sure it does, if you've got a brain tumor.

- "herouxville rules".

Yes, they are stupid and patronizing. Yes, in theory it's a quasi-decent idea. Yes, that one dude who they kept quoting really doesn't know when to shut up. No, I don't want to visit.

- "ovadia yosef dna witness rav".

Tonight on a very special CSI...

Monday, February 05, 2007

Anywhere but Israel...

this would be totally awesome. Actually, this might even be a cool concept within the Green Line (though part of what makes this so cool, obviously, is that the Old Quarter has so much different stuff going on in it). But having rooftop sidewalks across West and East Jerusalem right now? I don't know.

The Old City is divided into quarters more or less according to the identity of its residents - Jews, Muslims, Christians and Armenians. In the Camp David summit of 2000, Ehud Barak expressed willingness to divide the Old City between Jews and Arabs, leaving Israel the Jewish and Armenian quarters and giving the Palestinians the Muslim and Christian sections. Now, with the approval of the government, the Jewish Quarter Development Company is planning a rooftop promenade that will extend from south to north, linking the Jewish and Muslim quarters.

A million and a half tourists visit the Jewish Quarter and the Western Wall annually, but only about one third visit the other quarters. The company hopes the development of the promenade will change all that, with tourists first visiting the rooftops, and eventually the quarters as well.

The existing access to the rooftops affords a view of all four quarters of the Old City, as well as the Temple Mount, the Mount of Olives with its historic monuments, and beyond to the Judean Desert and the mountains of Moab across the Dead Sea. It has been a popular site for a variety of tour groups for years; from on high it is easier for guides to explain to their groups the conflict of the last century over Jerusalem, the siege of the Jewish Quarter in 1948 and the the Six-Day War.

Most of the planned promenade will travel over buildings administered by the Custodian of Absentee Property. The Jewish Quarter Development Company has already come to an agreement in principle to rent and develop the area, and is now negotiating with the city over ongoing maintenance  landscaping, cleaning, lighting and the like.

The roofs have long been used as passageways by pedestrians looking for shortcuts through the crowded Old City markets. They also serve as ad-hoc playgrounds for children of both the Jewish and the Muslim quarters, although they do not play together. The plan calls for installation of plants and benches, paving of part of the roofs, and the construction of shafts through which visitors can look down at the markets. The cost of the initial development is estimated at NIS 1 million.

The rooftop walk will include the Muslim Quarter markets as well as the Galicia Courtyard, which until 1936 was settled by Jews, and to which a number of Jewish families have come to live in recent years, along with a yeshiva. "The Old City, and the Jewish Quarter in particular, is an open-air museum," the director of the Jewish Quarter Development Company, Nissim Arazi, says. "The promenade, which will operate at no charge, is a strategic site in terms of the flow of tourists through the entire Old City." Arazi says that beyond encouraging tourism, the promenade will offer "an opportunity to bring Jews, Arabs and Christians together," and will also be "an element that strengthens in general the Jewish hold and Israeli sovereignty in the Old City."

Of course, the idea itself is quite intriguing, and one definitely has to give kudos to the people thinking it up, as well as it demonstrating a willingness and optimism to invest in a new project in the city. But as far as security? The thought of Palestinians (or Jews, frankly) having another way to get around in the city, particularly one that gives them a vantage point to potentially harm others (stones from the Temple Mount ring a bell?) just makes me wary. To say nothing of the PR woes that will ensue if the army or police have to start setting up checkpoints on the roofs.