Sunday, March 25, 2007

Orange on the Seder Plate... Who Knew?

An almost 30-year-old non-Ortho Jewish urban legend debunked and clarified. Interesting stuff.

Those Bay Area Jewish women who placed oranges on their seder plates last week probably explained the act something like this:

It all began when Susannah Heschel, a leading Jewish feminist scholar, was lecturing at a synagogue in Miami. As she spoke, an elderly rabbi stood up and declared, "A woman belongs on the bimah like an orange belongs on the seder plate."

Thus to show support for the changing role of women in American Jewish society, the tradition of placing an orange on the seder plate began, and Heschel became a household name at many Passover celebrations around the globe.

That's more or less the version I heard, except I've also encountered a variant that said it was a reference to female rabbis.

The only problem is, according to Heschel herself, the story isn't true.

"What you hear is not what actually happened," she recently told a crowd at the Marin Jewish Community Center program on "Women who Shook the Jewish World." "It's been circulating for a long time and it's become a bit of an urban legend."

Here's what actually happened:

Heschel was visiting a college in the Northeast where she learned that some of the students had started placing crusts of bread on their seder plates as a way to express the exclusion of women and homosexuals from Judaism.

Heschel thought this was great. But since it violated the Passover dietary restrictions, she decided to modify the act, placing an orange on the plate instead of the bread crust to represent both women and homosexuals.

"The first year I used a tangerine," the mother of two revealed to the packed room of mostly women and some men. "Everyone at the seder got a section of it and as we ate it we would spit out the seeds in solidarity with homosexuals -- the seeds represented homophobia."

Oops. Go urban legends based on modicums of truth! Also, another victory for "the man" co-opting rituals and ideas and draining them of their original content!

Heschel, chair of the Jewish studies program at Dartmouth College, said she was "horrified" at first by the way the story of the orange metamorphosed.

One, "they took my idea and put it into a man's mouth." Two, "they erased the whole idea of the homophobia that needs to be spit out."

Yeah, boo hoo for you and everybody else who's ever gotten their ideas ripped off. It's a curse of popularity, ma'am. The same thing happened to your Dad, Maimonides, Jesus, and pretty much anybody people encounter in a college survey course.

Of course, this Passover might see oranges appearing on some Orthodox seder plates- though probably for a different reason.

Wednesday, March 21, 2007


They say people deal with loss and mourning in different ways. When my grandfather died from a heart attack at age 48, his immigrant mother tried to console my grandmother by telling her it was all "part of God's plan".

"How can you say that?" she cried. "What kind of God would leave me a widow with two young children and no way to support them?"

Great-grandma had no response.

When my mother was diagnosed with a brain tumor (benign and more-or-less easily removable, thank God) a week before my seventeenth birthday, I called a close friend. He was the first one I told. He also told me that "everything happens for a reason." I nearly hung up on him.

In the many years since then, I have looked back and realized that, if the tumor (which had been growing for years and was then the size of an orange) had to be discovered and removed, my junior year was the best time for it to happen. But I do not see a plan there, only "happy" coincidence. I do not have a conception of God who makes such plans. My mother has greatly recovered, but will never be the same (you don't slice things out of the brain without consequences or side effects). There is no plan in that, only the best outcome of a horrible situation.

I can appreciate the desire to view horrible things as part of a divine scheme, though I cannot buy into it. And yet, at the moment when a loved one dies, or a friend is suffering, what can you say? Is it ethical to give pat answers that may comfort them? And if you know it will only make things worse? During the year when my mother was recovering (including several return trips to the hospital to address hemorrhaging and Grand Mal Seizures), we often received what my brother and I referred to as "pity calls". I observed then that the vast majority of the callers seemed to be calling more for themselves than for us- every card, every conversation, seemed to be more about them unloading their feelings onto us, treating us as their therapists, than asking us how we were doing. It was particularly ironic, given the fact that my mother works in Mental Health and many of her friends and colleagues are psychiatrists.

When I had friends who lost parents, I did the only thing I could- I tried to be honest. I didn't tell them it would be ok. I didn't tell them "they're in a better place", or that "it's for the best", or any such horsecrap. I also didn't try to tell them I knew how they felt- I didn't. My mother hadn't died. We got to take her home, not bury her. All I could do was tell them I was there and that we could talk if they wanted to. Sometimes it worked, sometimes it didn't. But that was the only thing I could do that I could honestly say I would have wanted someone else to say to me.

So watching this, what can I say? My heart breaks. I think it's the biggest crock ever, and part of me wants to scream at this man's friends, to ask how they can do this, trying to explain this death away, making up a fantastical story about prophecies and allusions and gematria. I don't think this way, my brain and heart don't operate this way, and my God, if he exists, doesn't do the things theirs does. I can't accept this.

But I also know that they're crying on the inside, and that this is their way of dealing with their grief, and trying to honor their friend.

And so I can say nothing.


Google searches bringing people to yours truly.

- "Yid blog". Yes.

- "Video history channel the siege of Jerusalem 1948". Considering the recent crap the History Channel's been up to (and some of its old chestnuts), I'd just as soon prefer it defer this project for a while. Say, like, until the Second Coming of Nostradamus. Some interesting analysis here on the topic, btw.

- "Kosher Wigs in Miami". Total waste now that the whole city's been banned. Co-ed beaches and all.

- "Kabbala Satmar Wikipedia". Slightly less of a waste of time, since arguing about the first two on the last one can provide hours of entertainment, especially if you're willing to ask a knowledgable friend to translate the comments cursing you out in Yiddish.

- "How does Bobov compare to Satmar?" I'm going to go out on a limb and say they're slightly less nuts, though they seem to be trying their hardest to counter this image (this page has since been gutted to minimize what one poster is sure will "eventually" just be a footnote in Hasidic history, scroll down for the juicy bits). Good luck with that, guys. I'm sure if you work hard, eventually people will think you're just as crazy as Satmar and Chabad (though you'll have to put in extra effort to overtake Neturei Karta).

- "Burlap Sack with hole Orthodox Jewish Sex" Burlap? Sounds chaffing. Come on, man, it's the twenty-first century. We have things like silk and cotton blends now. Just as long as they're shatnez.

Monday, March 19, 2007

Help a Brother Out

What kind of hat is this? All I know is it sort of reminds me of Hamid Karzai's, and I want one.

Name Contest for the 2006 Israeli War

Now that the higher ups have finally agreed the summer "conflict" was, in fact, a war, the race is on to find a good name for it. YeshivaWorld gives us the scoop on some of the favorites:

Many names have been suggested to the committee, including: War of the North, Shield of the North War, The Second Lebanon War, Peace for the North War, War of the Captives, Operation Homeland Defense, and The War to Return the Captives.

War of the North? Were you guys fighting Caribou? And "Peace for the North War" is about as 1984-speak as calling the first foray into Lebanon, "Operation Peace in the Galilee".

Also, if I were them, I would avoid calling to attention to the whole "captives" thing, especially since they still haven't gotten them back.

They just aren't that bright

Neo-Nazis must be starving for ideas.

German police said on Thursday they were investigating four youths for spraying sheep with swastikas, the cross-like symbol used by the Nazis.

The youths, between the ages of 15 and 18, painted swastikas on several sheep out of a herd of around 30 near the northwestern town of Etzenborn, police said.

What? Leave the poor sheep alone. You guys are losing your touch. Why can't you be creative like the Nazis in the 30s?

The reason behind the planting of the trees is unclear, but it has been suggested that it was laid out in 1937 by locals to prove their loyalty after a businessman in the area was denounced and sent to a concentration camp by the Nazi Party for listening to the BBC, or that a zealous forester convinced local Hitler Youth members to plant the trees in commemoration of Adolf Hitler's birthday. For a few weeks every year in the autumn and in the spring, the colour of the larch leaves would change, contrasting with the deep green of the pine forest. The short duration of the effect combined with the fact that the image could only be discerned from the air and the relative scarcity of privately owned aeroplanes in the area meant that the swastika went largely unnoticed after the fall of the Nazi Party and during the subsequent communist rule.

Yes, back then swastikas were built to last. Today's youth could learn something from this.

Monday, March 05, 2007

No Tribe of Mine

You'd think if there would be one thing Indians and blacks could agree on, it would be that slavery is bad. And we often hear from quite a few Native American activists that it's important for the US to honor its agreements made with people, especially people it screwed over.

So imagine my reaction to this.

Members of the Cherokee Nation of native Americans have voted to revoke tribal citizenship for descendants of black slaves the Cherokees once owned.

A total of 76.6% voted to amend the tribal constitution to limit citizenship to "blood" tribe members.

Supporters said only the Cherokees had the right to determine tribal members.

Opponents said the amendment was racist and aimed at preventing those with African-American heritage from gaining tribal revenue and government funding.

The Cherokee Nation has 250,000 to 270,000 members, second only to the Navajo.

...The list of descendants stems from the Dawes Commission, established by Congress more than 100 years ago.

It created two lists - one of "blood" Cherokees and one of black freedmen.

Principal Chief Chad Smith said about 8,700 people had voted - more than the turnout for the Cherokee constitution vote of four years ago.

He said: "The Cherokee people exercised the most basic democratic right, the right to vote.

"Their voice is clear as to who should be citizens of the Cherokee Nation. No-one else has the right to make that determination."

...Saturday's vote followed a ruling by the Cherokee Nation Supreme Court last year securing tribal citizenship for descendants of freedmen.

Members can obtain government benefits and tribal services including housing and medical support.

Slaves were held by a number of native American tribes and were freed after the Civil War in 1866.

No one's saying the Cherokee don't have the right to be ethnocentric jackasses. Let them do what they want. But we also get to call them on it. Yeah, maybe a black guy (or descendant of a seven-eights white guy, for that matter) living off the reservation getting tribal money is a little screwed up, but isn't summarily invalidating all black Cherokees a little much? The real problem with Indian economics, as I understand it, is that the money doesn't get to the people on the reservations who actually need it. THAT'S the issue, not whether Cherokee status goes by "blood" or not. It would make far more sense to demand that only people living on the reservation count as "real Cherokees" with all the rights and privileges involved.

Frankly, Lazer, you can keep 'em.

Sunday, March 04, 2007

Conservatives I can respect

Apparently Ann Coulter does not speak for all Republicans. Not that I didn't know that already, but it's still nice to hear every once in a while.

See, apparently Coulter hasn't gotten the memo that her humor, well, just isn't funny. Now, I sympathize here, I really do. I've been told pretty much the same thing by a number of people over the years, not the least by my own family. And to be fair, sometimes part of the joke is the angry reaction. But when you spend much more time and energy defending or explaining the joke than it actually took to come up with it, it's clear the humor has failed. Sorry, let it go, move on.

Ann Coulter made the comment Friday while speaking to GOP activists attending the annual Conservative Political Action Conference.

"I was going to have a few comments on the other Democratic presidential candidate John Edwards, but it turns out you have to go into rehab if you use the word 'faggot,' so I -- so kind of an impasse, can't really talk about Edwards. So I think I'll just conclude here and take your questions," Coulter said.

At first her audience seemed shocked, but then many started to clap.

That's right. Because they're sheep. Was Ann's comment even part of an argument? I mean, I'm not saying that every "Bush is dumb" comment is comedic gold, but at least there's a possible argument there- dumb Prez equals bad decisions, equals threat to nation, etc. What's the argument in calling Edwards a fag? Is he going to gay us all up? Or maybe she's saying that he'll fight for same-sex marriage? I have no idea.

Coulter, of course, has gone for her usual defense.

Ms. Coulter, asked for a reaction to the Republican criticism, said in an e-mail message: “C’mon, it was a joke. I would never insult gays by suggesting that they are like John Edwards. That would be mean.”

There's something really wrong with this lady.

All three front-running GOP candidates (nothing from Newt? Shocking) have repudiated Coulter's comments, and apparently even some conservative rank-and-filers are realizing that press like this isn't good for business. I'm quite fond of this one.

Enough is enough. I am sick to death of this woman leading people to believe that she speaks for conservatives. She doesn’t speak for me. And if you believe that she speaks for you, or if you were one of those mouth breathers who applauded when she used that disgusting epithet deliberately to hurt other people (not just John Edwards), then you are hopelessly beyond the pale yourself and would do well to examine exactly what you believe a conservative is and what is acceptable political discourse.

Anyone who reads this site knows I am not a wallflower when it comes to lashing out at my political foes. But there are limits. And Coulter regularly crosses them – not because she doesn’t know any better but because she deliberately uses hate language to get a rise out of the left and get the rest of us talking about her.

I will no longer be a willing cog in her publicity machine. And if we conservatives really care about our movement and the people who represent it, then we will do everything in our power to limit the exposure of this ghastly person who sells hate like Frosted Flakes and laughs at all of us while carrying her loot all the way to the bank.

For those keeping score: THIS is a conservative I can respect.

The replies to this guy in the comments and the other blogs he posts to are particularly instructive. Some accuse Coulter's conservative critics of "splitting the movement" or being faux-publicans. One guy says he thought the comment was funny and explains the joke to the rest of us.

Personally, I thought it was pretty damn funny, as Ann usually is. Oh, I could feign outrage like the rest of the respectable blogosphere, but why bother? I mean, she’s right, really. The jab wasn’t that Edwards is a homosexual, but that he’s a preening, feminized, liberal girly-man who probably spends more time in front of the mirror than most coked-out anorexic fashion models. It’s called nuance. I learned that word from Edwards’ former running-away-mate.

And how much do we really know about Edwards, other than that he’s made millions upon millions chasing ambulances, hoodwinking juries and pretending to channel the spirits of dead children to line his bank account with even more blood money?

We really have no idea if he enjoys hot man-on-man action. We have no evidence of that, and I don’t believe Ann suggested that we do. I mean, does he bounce from glory-hole to glory-hole in the Carolinas practicing his Oreck imitation? We simply don’t know. Does his old lady strap it on and give him the business? We just don’t know. If so, it doesn’t say anything about it on his official Second World campaign site. And besides, that wouldn’t make him gay, just adventurous.

Got it. Somebody does his hair and make-up (unlike all other politicians), so he's a fag. And because he's a trial lawyer he's untrustworthy (as opposed to billionaire oilmen), and since Edwards never said he WASN'T gay, he very well might be gay, and so calling him a faggot is fair game. Brilliant. Of course, this genius also confuses sex with a woman using a prosthetic wang for male-on-male sex, so his judgment might not be top of the line. (Sort of like how having sex with a woman wearing a Halloween costume of a cat is bestiality?)

Then there's this guy who tried to argue that faggot isn't really a big deal:

1.) Why is everyone jumping down Coulter’s throat about calling Edward’s a faggot? Coulter was making a JOKE, and she was also making a clever one given the circumstances with Conservatives going to rehab for saying the same thing. It had bad delivery but it was a JOKE.

2.) An insult to homosexuals everywhere? The people screaming “We’re here, we’re queer” can’t handle being called faggots? I know it’s a ’slur’ but it’s the same thing as black people being able to call each other ‘nigga’ while any white person who mutters the word, even jokingly, will be castrated by the media.

3.) Since when is faggot the new f-word? People saying “f*** Bush” get half as much attention as this.

That's right, slurs are ok because this guy decided they were ok. George Allen should have tried this back in November. Let's see this blogger call any black person, liberal or conservative a nigger, and see what happens. Forget the media, Bill Cosby would kick your ass, you idiot.

And the f-word? People have been pissed about faggot for a long time. Republicans curse, too, doofus.

Then there are some conservatives who accuse liberals of selective outrage.

But let’s look at the comments of another political commenter… from the other side. Bill Maher, known for his outrageously stupid comments said on his HBO show this week that if Cheney would’ve been assassinated, the world would be a safer place.

“I have zero doubt that if Dick Cheney was not in power, people wouldn’t be dying needlessly tomorrow.
I’m just saying if he did die, other people, more people would live. That’s a fact.”

Now compare the outrage from the Left between Coulter’s dumb joke about John Edwards’ sexuality and Maher’s “fact” that the world would be better off if the assassination against the Vice President had succeeded.

I'll bite. I think Bill Maher's comment is factually incorrect (Cheney dying changes nothing on the ground, and probably only makes things worse, as it gives hawks in the govt. a marytr and rallying cry to avenge him) and an oversimplification. That said, he isn't rejoicing over Cheney's almost-death, he's making two political arguments that I disagree with: A- without Cheney there would be no war, and B- if Cheney died tomorrow, the war would slow. I think these both give Cheney too much credit and ignore the fact that at this point the war is bigger than any single personality.

This is not an attempt at a joke. This is not Maher defending the attack. This is not even, technically, Maher wishing death on Cheney. He is postulating on what the effects of his death would be. I admit that I might feel differently about this if someone said it about a Democrat, but I think a large part of it is in the delivery- if he had actually said, "the world would be better", it would be different. Do I find it offensive? Not really. More like bad taste, a little morbid. Not super-outrageous, but that's also because the transcript doesn't make it sound like he was jumping up and down or saying, "shoot! they missed", or, similarly, making comments that amount to encouraging someone to do Al Qaeda's work for them (hint, moser). It would be different if Maher was gloating or joking about it- I would find that more offensive.

For the record, I have no problem saying that Maher, a TV comedian, is far from the best representative for me or my political opinions (of course, as an entertainer, that really isn't his job). But I find it interesting that Maher is being compared to a supposedly serious syndicated columnist and legitimized media pundit who regularly dabbles in atrocious humor and fairly disgusting hyperbole. I don't expect the same degree of professionalism from the two positions, and find it a little concerning that Coulter's professional integrity seems to regularly dip below Maher's.

This is Dennis' Brain on Drugs

What is it with guys named Dennis, anyway?

Dennis Miller and O'Reilly wank each other off in front of O'Reilly's audience, fun times had by all. Even better is a more recent attempt by Miller to feed Bill yet more talking-points, to the extent that O'Reilly actually has to reign him in (the ol', "look, I'm moderate, I believe in global warming" trick, sort of like when O'Reilly had Michael "let's shoot illegal aliens" Savage on to talk about immigration).

And then there's Mr. Prager, who never tires of parroting the "Judeo-Christian civilization" line. Prager's target this week is a subject dear to my heart, radical Jews. Or, rather, from Prager's perspective, "Radical Non-Jewish Jews". Even though he starts with Marx, who was converted by his parents as a child, and who therefore would not be considered a Jew (or responsible for his actions as a Jew) by Halakhic law. But never mind pesky things like that.

What do Karl Marx, Leon Trotsky, Noam Chomsky and George Soros have in common?

They were/are all radicals, born to Jewish parents, had no Jewish identity and hurt Jews (not to mention non-Jews).

Again, at least in the case of Marx, that is totally not his fault. But hey, what good would a discussion about radical Jews be without the original Jewish left-winger, right? And besides, that gives you a good segue to bash Jewish lefties.

Once the walls of Jewish ghettos broke down and European Jews were allowed to leave Jewish societies, many Jews became non-Jewish Jews. In most cases, either they or their children assimilated into the societies in which they lived. However, a small but significant percentage became radicalized. They came to loathe "bourgeois," i.e., traditional middle class, values and Judeo-Christian society; Western national identities (though they generally supported anti-Western national identities); and they particularly loathed Jewish religious and national identity.

No oversimplifications here. Hey Dennis, how about the fact that the vast majority of Jews weren't bourgeois until comparatively late in European history (a big part of this depends on what countries you actually look at, esp. West v. Eastern Europe)? Or the fact that the whole Judeo-Christian thing is a total fiction which, even if it had theoretically existed, doesn't seem to have been implemented to any significant degree in many European societies- non-Jewish persecution (by both Church and State, and in the case of Russia, both)
turned many Jews against Western nationalism AND "Christian society"- and who could blame them? It's not like Jews were considered Russian citizens, or that they got anything out of that government. And you want to talk radicals? You know who were really radical? The Zionists. 100, 120 years ago, they were all but beyond the pale among respectable Jewish circles. And not all radicals were die-hard Commies, either. The Bund (and various forms of Labor Zionism) actually achieved pretty interesting syntheses of Socialism and Jewish identity.

But back to your inane point.

Karl Marx, the grandson of two Orthodox rabbis (and, to be entirely accurate, son of parents who converted to Christianity), wrote one of the most significant anti-Semitic essays of the 19th century, "On the Jewish Question" (1844).

Once again- Karl Marx was not raised as a Jew, so to identify him as some sort of paradigm is already sketchy. And by all accounts, he was pretty much a prick to everyone he came in contact with, as well as an anti-Semite and racist to boot. Who's defending Marx's antisemitism? Better yet, what does Marx's essay have to do with anything?

Oh wait, you're already onto Trotsky.

Trotsky, blah, didn't identify as a Jew. Hmm. Ok. Kind of understandable given his ideology, but again, there's no argument here, so it's hard to disprove anything.

Oh, we've move on again- Chomsky. Hi, Noam! You have a funny name!

Noam Chomsky has devoted much of his life to working against America and Israel. He is alienated from the very two identities into which he was born. Indeed he has vilified both his whole life. To cite but one example, he traveled to Lebanon to appear with Hizbollah leader Sayyed Nasrallah and lend his support to a group that is committed to the annihilation of Israel and is officially listed as a terrorist organization by the United States.

But again, you're not really arguing anything here. Chomsky can be as weird as he wants politically (and as much of an asshole), it's still only an example of an individual; you've yet to extrapolate it onto any group or movement.

And last we come to Dennis' real target, George Soros. Soros has apparently comitted the cardinal sin of not being the "right" kind of Jew that neocons like The New Republic's editor Martin Peretz would like him to be: how dare he!
As described by Martin Peretz, editor-in-chief of The New Republic, "George Soros is ostentatiously indifferent to his own Jewishness. He is not a believer. He has no Jewish communal ties. He certainly isn't a Zionist. He told Connie Bruck in The New Yorker -- testily, she recounted -- that 'I don't deny the Jews their right to a national existence -- but I don't want to be part of it.'"

Wow, heaven forbid Soros, like, have his own opinions. Hey Dennis, why is it ok to be a complete jackass on behalf of your own Jewishness (like, say, Meir Kahane trying to pass anti-miscegenation bills in the Knesset), but not the other way around? What sin is committed by opting out of Zionism?

Writing in The Wall Street Journal, writer Joshua Muravchik reported that Soros has publicly likened Israel to the Nazis.

See, that's an ACTUAL behavior that is potentially harmful (if true; the fact that it's gotten almost no attention makes me doubt its veracity. At best, this happened once and doesn't seem to have been repeated, making its utility as a weapon against Soros somewhat limited).

Of course, Soros supports Palestinian nationalism, but that is a consistent feature of radicals -- anti-Jewish and anti-American nationalisms are good, Jewish and American nationalisms are bad.

No, Dennis, that would only be true in the case of radicals that support nationalism. Anarchists would not support any sort of nationalism. 100 years ago many Zionists were considered radical and they were quite vocal in support of Jewish nationalism- as was the Bund, in its own way. You clearly have no working definition of radical, which is funny considering it's theoretically the focus of your article. And you get paid for this?

Thus, as reported in the Jerusalem Post, "Soros and his wealthy Jewish American friends have now decided to aim their fire directly at Israel . . . to form a political lobby that will weaken the influence of the pro-Israel lobby AIPAC."

Of course, the real purpose of this group is to provide a left-wing, "pro-peace" alternative to the Likud-leaning AIPAC, but that's not important. What's important is that Soros won't fall in line, and as we all know, you're either with AIPAC or a "homicide bomber". Now who's radical?

How to explain such Jews? People with no national or religious roots who become politically active will often seek to undermine the national and religious roots of others, especially those in their own national/religious group.

As opposed to, say, missionaries or political interventionists. Clearly they have no desire to undermine national or religious roots of others. Nope, only rootless radicals. And funny, Dennis, I seem to recall you leaning pretty hard on a guy with his own religious roots a few months ago. I guess you're just insecure in your own traditions. In fact, that explains a lot.

Just as chauvinism -- excessive and amoral nationalism -- can lead to nihilism, so, too, the absence of any national or religious identity can lead to nihilism. The radical non-Jewish Jew loves humanity, but hurts real humans, especially his own.

I bet Dennis will start writing his piece on Jewish and Christian chauvinists any second now. Seeing as how it's Purim, maybe he can start by explaining why the Jews of Persia took revenge for one government jerk by having a two-day pogrom, killing 75,000 people. Is that radical, too?

It is akin to the special animosity some ex-Catholics have toward the Church. Non-Jewish Jews are far more likely to work to weaken Christianity in America than Jewish Jews, especially religious Jews. Religious Jews celebrate religious Christians.

Oh yeah, there's nothing the Hasidim love more than a good round of interfaith dialogue. That's why they're such a fan of the Mormons in Jerusalem.

Jews with no religious or national identity do not like Jews who have those identities, and Americans who have likewise become world citizens do not much care for Americans who wave the American flag.

First, not every person who claims universalism automatically condemns particularism. And second, it's not as if the contrary wasn't also true. Like no frummies are judgmental of secular pork-rind eaters, or Toby Keith loves the Dixie Chicks? Look in the mirror, Prager.

Dennis gets another good fisking over on JewSchool.

Saturday, March 03, 2007

In which I become a pool-skimmer

Man, I take a few days off and the internet just clogs with morons. They're worse than the squirrels in my pool filter.

Joseph Farah discusses chimps with spears and demonstrates that he doesn't understand how evolution works:

It doesn't surprise me in the least that chimps might make primitive, little spears. It was the evolutionary scientists who taught us a generation ago that the only difference between man and other animals was that we used tools. I never bought that either.

...Charles Darwin had no understanding of molecular biology. That's why he was free to speculate that if an animal flapped its arms long enough they might someday turn into wings – wings he could leave to his offspring. But today we know that's not the way molecular biology works.

Also, back in the days of Darwin, he was free to speculate that certain apes began using tools and became dominant over other apes. The survival of the fittest led to a new breed of apes – tool-using apes.

But the problem with that is you're still dealing with apes. How does the species transition into a new species? How does that happen? Where has that ever happened? How could it without one species dying out first?

Evolutionists don't have answers to these questions.

The DNA of that chimp doesn't change when he starts throwing a spear. The DNA of his descendant doesn't change either. You can go right down the line and the DNA of his grandchimps and great-grandchimps is still going to be the stuff of chimp DNA. It's not going to be another species. Behavior doesn't change molecular biology.

So what do you have after, say, 50 generations of spear-chucking chimps?

Maybe chimps that have perfected the art of spear-making and spear-chucking. But I guaranty for sure they are still chimps. Nothing has happened that could possibly affect their molecular structure – the very essence of what makes them chimps.

Of course, Farah forgets that the whole premise of evolution is that this stuff takes an extremely long time- 50 generations of 20 years per gene-passing (and that's pretty generous, given the little I know about how long it takes chimps to achieve sexual maturity) only amounts to 1000 years. I must have missed when the evolutionary scientists claimed that the chimps of William the Conqueror became Investment Bankers. And the idea is that behavior will affect, not DNA itself, but whose DNA gets passed on: the theory is that present-day-chimps and humans are descended from common ancestors who had different degrees of intelligence and adaptability, not that one day Coco the chimp shaved his hair and went to Law School.

Moving along we come to Walter Williams' bizarrely-titled column, "Minority View". This is what the French call a double-entendre, because Williams is both black and a conservative (or maybe because he's the only one still wearing what looks like a mohair jacket, it's all a little unclear). Walter rips off George Carlin in a poor attempt to make bad grammar jokes by pointing out that expressions are not always technically accurate (what a concept!). Walter starts us off with some easy ones:

Some U.S. companies have been accused of exploiting Third World workers with poor working conditions and low wages. Say that a U.S. company pays a Cambodian factory worker $3 a day. Do you think that worker had a higher-paying alternative but stupidly chose a lower-paying job instead? I'm betting the $3-a-day job was superior to his next best alternative.

That doesn't change the fact that it's exploitation, Walter. Choosing the fate better than death doesn't automatically make that choice "awesome". That would presume that letting someone "choose" between being an indentured servant, child laborer, or sex slave or starving to death means they must really like picking your cotton, or having sex with your grandfather while people hit them with deli meat and take pictures of it.

Does offering a worker a wage higher than what he could earn elsewhere make him worse off or better off? If you answered better off, is the term exploitation an appropriate characterization for an act that makes another better off? If pressure at home forces a U.S. company to cease its Cambodian operations, would that worker be worse off or better off?

This sort of reminds me of when people argue that black people should be happy their ancestors were enslaved because it saved them from being eaten by lions.

Now Walter hits his stride... sort of:

It might be a convenient expression to say that the U.S. trades with Japan, but is it literally true? Is it the U.S. Congress and President Bush who trade with the National Diet of Japan, the Japanese legislature and Prime Minister Shinzo Abe? Or, is it U.S. and Japanese private parties, as individuals and corporations, who trade with one another?

What freaking difference does it make? Nobody really thinks that President Bush buys everybody's Motorolas in bulk and then has his daughters sell them out of the back of Air Force One. What are you talking about, Walter?

Let's break it down further. Which comes closer to the truth: When I purchased my Lexus, did I deal with the U.S. Congress, the Japanese Diet, George Bush, Shinzo Abe, or did I deal with Toyota and its intermediaries? If we erroneously think of international trade as occurring between the U.S. and Japanese governments, then all Americans, as voters, have a say-so. But what is the basis of anyone having a say-so when one American engages in peaceable, voluntary exchange with another person, be they Japanese, Korean, British, Chinese or another American?

Walter, I have no idea what you're talking about now. I can't decide if you're trying to get me to support tariffs or arguing that eBay counts as international trade. The important thing, though, is that you've given me a headache for no apparent reason. Thanks.

Jerry Falwell has joined the ranks of angry Christians pissed that fake facts contradict their theology (which theoretically shouldn't be reliant on facts in the first place, since it's FAITH). The best part is that now Falwell and co. have to refute the bone boxes which up until recently WND and others were still trumpeting as proof of Jesus' historicity. Among the more interesting points:

[Habermas] noted that the ossuaries (bone boxes) at issue have the names of Joseph and Jesus, which were very popular names in the first century, with Joseph being the second-most popular name in first century Jewish history. And the name Jesus was also quite popular during this period. The fact is many Josephs of the time probably had sons named Jesus. In fact, he said that three or four earlier discovered ossuaries have been found and been identified with a father named Joseph and a son named Jesus.

Further, the name Mary was the most common female name of the era. "Every fourth person was a Mary" at the time, Dr. Habermas stated.

...Now what about Joseph? The crypt describes the dead Jesus as the son of Joseph, who is also buried there. However, as Dr. Habermas noted, Jesus was never identified by the disciples or his followers as the son of Joseph. He was the Son of God.

You know the best part of this, Jerry? People were saying all this way back in 2002 too, when you had your chubby fingers in your cauliflowered ears.

The best part is when Falwell tries to use this as a springboard to mention how fact-based Christianity is:

During his speech, Dr. Habermas noted that Christianity is based on data, not blind faith. Here are three key facts on Jesus' life:

  • Jesus was both God and man (deity)
  • Jesus died on the cross
  • Jesus was bodily raised from the dead and appeared to hundreds
I must have missed when he talked about the data. Oh well, I'm sure that slide comes later.

It is important to know that every source – even non-Christian sources – from the ancient world tells us that Jesus' tomb was empty after three days, Dr. Habermas notes. There is no way for critics to discount this fact.

Which non-Christian sources mention Jesus' tomb? How many sources are we talking about? Where do they get their information from? Christians? There are still a lot of open-ended questions here, Docs. None of this stuff looks particularly convincing.

There's something just super-excellent about all this.

Lastly, just when you thought things couldn't get worse, WND decides it needs to do retrospectives:

Egad, my brain seems to have leaked out onto the floor. Oh well, it's not like I could really appreciate it again after reading that.