Sunday, June 29, 2008

When Idiots Attack

The crazies are still trying to stir the pot about Obama's speech (actual information about said speech here). That's understandable. I expect this kind of thing from O'Reilly, Hannity, and their intellectual counterpart, that gum I stepped on last week.

But in trying to explain just why "We are not (exclusively) a Christian nation" was just so offensive, John "we can't trust Obama because he doesn't like nachos" Kasich said something that totally got me by surprise: apparently the "Heartland" thinks its Jewish.

Let's go to the transcript:

John Kasich: Well, I think it's another problem with the heartland when you start talking about -- we have a Judeo- Christian ethic. Our values basically flow from the Jewish faith more than even the Christian faith.

Really? That's news to us (especially given the increasing crazy rhetoric every Christmas). So how come the Christian right, self-appointed champions of everybody’s supposed values, don’t seem to have any concept of halachic flexibility or moderation, such as in the area of abortions?

Kasich: And we are Jewish and Christian. And when you say, you know, we're really not that anymore, and we're Buddhist or Hindu, we're not Buddhist or Hindu. They're welcome here. But the value structure, the value system that we have in America, flows from the Jewish and Christian tradition.
So you're living in the heartland, you know, you're a mailman carrying mail, and you hear somebody say that, it just reinforces this notion he's not in touch with those blue-collar working folks, I think.

Um, not to disparage America's noblest of public servants, but I have a hard time believing that the mail carriers in, say, Eminence, Indiana, Arnold, Nebraska, or Coney Island, Missouri have ever seen a Jew, much less know anything about Judaism, two things I would imagine are major requirements in order to identify your value system with "Jewish values."

How about naming some Jewish values for us, John? Besides the obvious ones from the Ten Commandments like "Honor your parents" and "Don't Covet" you're cribbing from Sunday school.

Colmes and the liberal guest, Dave Pollak, pointed out that the actual content of Obama's speech was pro-religion and that he was encouraging liberals to recognize that faith doesn't have to be dismissed or disparaged. Hannity and Yudel Kasich would have none of it.

Colmes: Dave's got a point. He actually said in the speech that secularists are wrong when they ask believers to leave their religion at the door before entering the public square. Frederick Douglass, Abraham Lincoln, William Jennings Bryant, Dorothy Day, Martin Luther King. The majority of great reformers, they were motivated by faith.

I would think conservatives, who talk so much about faith, how important it is, and blah, blah, blah, would embrace the very speech they're now criticizing.

But you'd be wrong, because they're political whores. Also, apparently, Crypto-Jews.

Kasich: First of all, I think that it's what people ought to talk less about what their religion is and be better role models. It's what they do, not what they say.

Amen. Tell all your heartland buddies to get on that.

Kasich Alan, the point of this discussion, though, is we do have a Jewish-Christian tradition. That's where our values flow from. They don't come from Buddhists. They don't come from Hindus.
...I think I know where Obama is going. He didn't say it right, though. And you know, there's an element of political correctness. Everything is inclusion. Everything is politically correct. And in my sense, you know, my sense of it is I'm not sure it sells on Main Street.
So why don't we ASK the folks on Main Street? Why don't we let them hear or read the ENTIRE 9-page speech instead of the three lines you dillholes have cherry-picked and flooded the airwaves with? Why is Yissachar Kasich, by virtue of being a former Congressman of an Ohio district which includes the the CAPITAL and largest city in the state (Kasich lives in one of Columbus' richest suburbs- the median incomes for households and families are 20-30 K higher than the capital's- with its own private liberal-arts college and 13 city-designated shopping centers; very small town), declared spokesperson-for-life for small town residents everywhere? Why isn't that called elitist? Why isn't that called patronizing?
[Sidebar for an interesting factoid: Kasich's suburban Potemkin village of a "small-town" doesn't even have a Main St. It has an East Main and West Main. Extensive research via Google Earth and a virtual drive-by via Google Maps revealed that East Main mostly passes through residential neighborhoods. The few commercial highlights included a bike shop, a pizza place, a vintage doll shop, and a supermarket. West Main is a highway overpass over 200,000 dollar housing developments.]
BTW, Yosef, what's WRONG with inclusion? I get why you don't like PC, fine. We don't have to rewrite history to say the Founders consulted the Bhagavad Gita. But it is undebatable that America is made up of more than JUST Christians, and saying we have to find some way to and acknowledge and value that doesn't seem like it should be beyond the pale.

Pollak: Would you disagree with what he said, that we are not just a Christian nation, we are a Jewish nation, a Muslim nation?
Kasich: No, I think they're welcome. I think -- are you trying to tell me you think we're a Hindu country?
Pollak: He did say that. He said, "We are not just a Christian nation." That's what he's talking about, including all religions.
Kasich: Do you think that we're a Hindu country?
Someone should tell this numnutz that no one thinks we're a Hindu country, especially not Hindus. But what would that MEAN? How do you define it? What does it mean to be an "X" country, versus a "country of X"? Kasich doesn't want to define his terms, he just wants to yell.

Colmes: The point of the story is -- isn't the point that we're not defined by any one religion? We're a great mosaic, as David would say. No one religion defines who we are.
Kasich: Let me answer that for you. Alan, I said we have a -- we're Judeo-Christian ethic. You ever heard of that? It's been said over and over again.
Everybody else is welcome. And we should celebrate our commonality, but the bottom line is what is our ethic? What is our culture?
...It should be steady.
First, why? Second, how are we defining such things? A gradual expansion of what/who America is in light of the fact that we are a very different country than we were 200 years ago doesn't seem that unreasonable. And the fact that you keep rambling about the Judeo-Christian tradition, ethic, cheese danish, whatever, doesn't make it true.

Colmes again tries to argue with Kasich using facts, not realizing Kasich: A- isn't listening, and B- doesn't care.

Colmes: What Obama said has its roots in a treaty which has defined exactly what we are, the Treaty of Tripoli. It goes back centuries.
And that says Article 11, "As the government of the United States of America is not in any case founded on the Christian religion. The United States is not a Christian nation any more than it is Jewish or a Mohammedan nation."
This has its roots back in a treaty we signed years ago.
Kasich: Alan, if you really want to get into who the founders were, George Washington, OK, he prayed to God almighty. He didn't pray to Mohammed.
Yasser Kasich showing his brilliant grasp of both Arabic and theology there. And, for the record, Washington was a Deist.

Colmes: They didn't define which God -- define which God we pray to.
Kasich: I'm going to kill this for the sense of repeating myself. Let's not be confused. The values that we have in this country -- telling the truth, you know, honoring your mother and your father -- it comes from the great Jewish tradition. And it is a Jewish and a Christian tradition, not Brahman, not Buddhist, not Hindu.

Yeah, because Brahmans, Buddhist and Hindus eat their fathers when they get old. Didn't you get that memo, Colmes? Only us Godfearing Jews and Christians treat our parents right. We're also apparently the only people who are taught not to lie.

Hannity is apparently feeling left out, because he feels the need to interject something totally irrelevant:

Pollak: Can you -- I just would caution you to read the speech where he actually agrees with you... and says 90 percent of Americans believe in God...Thirty-eight percent of Americans identify themselves as committed Christians. More Americans...

Hannity: One last point. I have one last point. Do you mean those bitter people that were clinging to their guns and religion, with their antipathy towards those who aren't like him? That's what he said in private when he didn't know he was being recorded.

Brilliant AND topical! Could Kasich possibly top this?

Kasich: I'll tell you one thing he should have done in the name of religion. He shouldn't have sat in that church...


In a truly rare moment, Colmes gets the last word AND makes an astute observation:

Colmes: Coming up -- coming up -- they'll keep arguing.
Yes, they will. And unfortunately, some people are going to keep listening.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

What Obama Really Said

All this yelling about Obama's Christian nation speech made me decide to go look for the speech itself. Note, first of all, that it is a year old. Let us also look at some interesting tidbits you won't see on Fox News.

To begin, the vast majority of the speech (about 2,900 words out of a 4,500 word address) are about ways LIBERALS need to change:
For some time now, there has been plenty of talk among pundits and pollsters that the political divide in this country has fallen sharply along religious lines. Indeed, the single biggest "gap" in party affiliation among white Americans today is not between men and women, or those who reside in so-called Red States and those who reside in Blue, but between those who attend church regularly and those who don't.

Conservative leaders have been all too happy to exploit this gap, consistently reminding evangelical Christians that Democrats disrespect their values and dislike their Church, while suggesting to the rest of the country that religious Americans care only about issues like abortion and gay marriage; school prayer and intelligent design.

Democrats, for the most part, have taken the bait. At best, we may try to avoid the conversation about religious values altogether, fearful of offending anyone and claiming that - regardless of our personal beliefs - constitutional principles tie our hands. At worst, there are some liberals who dismiss religion in the public square as inherently irrational or intolerant, insisting on a caricature of religious Americans that paints them as fanatical, or thinking that the very word "Christian" describes one's political opponents, not people of faith.

Now, such strategies of avoidance may work for progressives when our opponent is Alan Keyes. But over the long haul, I think we make a mistake when we fail to acknowledge the power of faith in people's lives -- in the lives of the American people -- and I think it's time that we join a serious debate about how to reconcile faith with our modern, pluralistic democracy.

And if we're going to do that then we first need to understand that Americans are a religious people. 90 percent of us believe in God, 70 percent affiliate themselves with an organized religion, 38 percent call themselves committed Christians, and substantially more people in America believe in angels than they do in evolution.

This religious tendency is not simply the result of successful marketing by skilled preachers or the draw of popular mega-churches. In fact, it speaks to a hunger that's deeper than that - a hunger that goes beyond any particular issue or cause.

Each day, it seems, thousands of Americans are going about their daily rounds - dropping off the kids at school, driving to the office, flying to a business meeting, shopping at the mall, trying to stay on their diets - and they're coming to the realization that something is missing. They are deciding that their work, their possessions, their diversions, their sheer busyness, is not enough.

They want a sense of purpose, a narrative arc to their lives. They're looking to relieve a chronic loneliness, a feeling supported by a recent study that shows Americans have fewer close friends and confidants than ever before. And so they need an assurance that somebody out there cares about them, is listening to them - that they are not just destined to travel down that long highway towards nothingness.

Hmm. It actually seems here like he's trying to speak in favor of- and encourage understanding of- people of faith by people who don't have it.

I didn't fall out in church. The questions I had didn't magically disappear. But kneeling beneath that cross on the South Side, I felt that I heard God's spirit beckoning me. I submitted myself to His will, and dedicated myself to discovering His truth.

That's a path that has been shared by millions upon millions of Americans - evangelicals, Catholics, Protestants, Jews and Muslims alike; some since birth, others at certain turning points in their lives. It is not something they set apart from the rest of their beliefs and values. In fact, it is often what drives their beliefs and their values.

And that is why that, if we truly hope to speak to people where they're at - to communicate our hopes and values in a way that's relevant to their own - then as progressives, we cannot abandon the field of religious discourse.

Because when we ignore the debate about what it means to be a good Christian or Muslim or Jew; when we discuss religion only in the negative sense of where or how it should not be practiced, rather than in the positive sense of what it tells us about our obligations towards one another; when we shy away from religious venues and religious broadcasts because we assume that we will be unwelcome - others will fill the vacuum, those with the most insular views of faith, or those who cynically use religion to justify partisan ends.

In other words, if we don't reach out to evangelical Christians and other religious Americans and tell them what we stand for, then the Jerry Falwells and Pat Robertsons and Alan Keyeses will continue to hold sway.

More fundamentally, the discomfort of some progressives with any hint of religion has often prevented us from effectively addressing issues in moral terms. Some of the problem here is rhetorical - if we scrub language of all religious content, we forfeit the imagery and terminology through which millions of Americans understand both their personal morality and social justice.

Here too, Obama is agreeing with some of the arguments of religious people- eliminating religious language and terminology can result in some bad consequences, not only in terms of shutting down people coming from a different place, but also in holding back progressives and liberals themselves.

I am not suggesting that every progressive suddenly latch on to religious terminology - that can be dangerous. Nothing is more transparent than inauthentic expressions of faith. As Jim has mentioned, some politicians come and clap -- off rhythm -- to the choir. We don't need that.

In fact, because I do not believe that religious people have a monopoly on morality, I would rather have someone who is grounded in morality and ethics, and who is also secular, affirm their morality and ethics and values without pretending that they're something they're not. They don't need to do that. None of us need to do that.

But what I am suggesting is this - secularists are wrong when they ask believers to leave their religion at the door before entering into the public square. Frederick Douglas, Abraham Lincoln, Williams Jennings Bryant, Dorothy Day, Martin Luther King - indeed, the majority of great reformers in American history - were not only motivated by faith, but repeatedly used religious language to argue for their cause. So to say that men and women should not inject their "personal morality" into public policy debates is a practical absurdity. Our law is by definition a codification of morality, much of it grounded in the Judeo-Christian tradition.

Moreover, if we progressives shed some of these biases, we might recognize some overlapping values that both religious and secular people share when it comes to the moral and material direction of our country. We might recognize that the call to sacrifice on behalf of the next generation, the need to think in terms of "thou" and not just "I," resonates in religious congregations all across the country. And we might realize that we have the ability to reach out to the evangelical community and engage millions of religious Americans in the larger project of American renewal.

Some of this is already beginning to happen. Pastors, friends of mine like Rick Warren and T.D. Jakes are wielding their enormous influences to confront AIDS, Third World debt relief, and the genocide in Darfur. Religious thinkers and activists like our good friend Jim Wallis and Tony Campolo are lifting up the Biblical injunction to help the poor as a means of mobilizing Christians against budget cuts to social programs and growing inequality.

Again, it seems like there's a lot of bridge-building here, of looking for common ground. Terrible, I know. (Though he does fall into the much-despised "Judeo-Christian" sinkhole.)

It is only after all this lecturing to liberals about how they need to change and respect and understand conservatives that Obama made the- apparently totally unacceptable- switch and dared suggest conservatives have areas they could work on, too. The nerve!

While I've already laid out some of the work that progressive leaders need to do, I want to talk a little bit about what conservative leaders need to do -- some truths they need to acknowledge.

For one, they need to understand the critical role that the separation of church and state has played in preserving not only our democracy, but the robustness of our religious practice. Folks tend to forget that during our founding, it wasn't the atheists or the civil libertarians who were the most effective champions of the First Amendment. It was the persecuted minorities, it was Baptists like John Leland who didn't want the established churches to impose their views on folks who were getting happy out in the fields and teaching the scripture to slaves. It was the forbearers of the evangelicals who were the most adamant about not mingling government with religious, because they did not want state-sponsored religion hindering their ability to practice their faith as they understood it.

Moreover, given the increasing diversity of America's population, the dangers of sectarianism have never been greater. Whatever we once were, we are no longer just a Christian nation; we are also a Jewish nation, a Muslim nation, a Buddhist nation, a Hindu nation, and a nation of nonbelievers.

And even if we did have only Christians in our midst, if we expelled every non-Christian from the United States of America, whose Christianity would we teach in the schools? Would we go with James Dobson's, or Al Sharpton's? Which passages of Scripture should guide our public policy? Should we go with Leviticus, which suggests slavery is ok and that eating shellfish is abomination? How about Deuteronomy, which suggests stoning your child if he strays from the faith? Or should we just stick to the Sermon on the Mount - a passage that is so radical that it's doubtful that our own Defense Department would survive its application? So before we get carried away, let's read our bibles. Folks haven't been reading their bibles.

Let's unpack this. Does separation of church and state exist? Absolutely. Is it true that the first ones to advocate for and benefit from them were religious minorities, rather than rabid atheists? Right again. (Have any Baptists read this part of the speech? No? Shocking.)

What else? Is America JUST a Christian nation? Not from where I'm sitting, and I've never been convinced it ever was. The points about interpretation seem solid, too. (And incidentally, the Sermon on the Mount in many cases is STRICTER than standard Jewish law.)

While we're on the topic, I couldn't help but toss this great quip in. Jeff at (great name, btw), worries,

How much longer will God protect and bless this nation if we not only don’t act like a Christian nation, but also openly proclaim we are not a Christian nation? Could this be why America is not mentioned in prophecy as a factor in world events during the end times?

I'll leave all my Torah scholars to field that one.

You've got to love it- conservatives are resurrecting a year-old-speech about how liberals and conservatives need to learn to chill out and respect each other and cutting it down to make Obama look like Karl Marx.

Looks like someone's getting desperate.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Weasel Words

First of all, am I the only one that thinks it's weird to put out "appreciations" of great rabbis' lives when they get very ill that sound like they're obituaries?

Second, I was very amused when I saw this ode to R. Eliyahu on the last Haveil Havalim. It's nice enough, but here's where things get interesting.
Hakham Mordehai Eliyahu's early religious education was conducted by his father, who died when Eliyahu was still young. He continued to study under the prominent Syrian-born rabbi, Hakham Ezra Attia (1885-1970), the head of the Porat Yosef Yeshiva in Jerusalem, as well as Askkenazi rabbis such as Avraham Karelitz (1878-1953), author of the well know book, 'Hazon Ish.' His commitment to the Torah was displayed when as a youth, the young Eliyahu joined an underground group that struggled for a Torah-directed government in Israel and was involved in at least one attempt at pressuring the government by means that were considered, by some, to be illegal.

Ooh, mysterious! What, you may ask, is the cryptic "pressure" being danced around? Let's take a look:

[In 1950], a group of more extremist Haredim organized itself, planning to adopt violent measures against the state authorities... [Their] program...[was] not only to defend religion but to enforce observance of the Torah and halakha by force. In April 1950, in the Porat Yosef Yeshiva, one sector of this group created a terrorist underground that called itself Brit Hakanim (Union of Zealots). Its leaders were Yehuda Reider, Eliahu Raful, and Mordechai Eliahu. Brit Hakanim numbered a few dozen young members. Among their terrorist acts they set afire cars whose owners drove on the Sabbath, placed incendiary bombs in football fields where games were played on the Sabbath, and burned down butcher shops that sold non-kosher meat. The underground was exposed by the Israel security services when it was planning on throwing a dummy bomb into the Knesset to frighten its members during a debate on military conscription of women and as its members were planning to set fire to military records in the Jerusalem conscription office. Most members of the underground who were arrested were put on trial, and a few of them were sentenced to prison terms.
- Tzvi Tzemaret, Melting Pot in Israel

The most dramatic plan of the two ultra-Orthodox undergrounds involved a desperate effort to stop the passage of a b ill requiring all Israeli women to serve in the army... Brit Hakana'im commanders first considered throwing a bomb in the Knesset, but the idea was later rejected for the fear of many casualties and negative public reaction. Members of Hamachane, who independently debated the same plan, reached the same conclusion. Rather than rejecting the whole diea, they came up, however, with a better tactic, exploding a scare bomb in the Knesset. Their technicians assembled a small bomb capable of producing a large amount of fire, smoke, and noise... [But] Israel's security services already knew about their planned Knesset provocation. The house's session was stopped abruptly before the vote and a large number of Hamachane activists were rounded up and arrested... four activists were... brought to trial. Prime Minister Ben-Gurion, who concluded that the underground was nothing more than an immature act of disoriented Yeshiva students, instructed the state's prosecution to take a lenient attitude. The leaders of the group were sentenced from three to twelve months in prison. The circumstances that led to the formation of the first underground in Israel's history were described in court by young Mordechai Eliyahu, a key activist and Israel's future chief Sephardi rabbi.
- Ehud Sprinzak, Brother Against Brother

So let's review- while historians apparently cannot figure out which group of crazy theocratic nutjobs Eliyahu belonged to, they were definitely responsible for planting (or planning to plant) a fake bomb in the Knesset. Now, was that the worst thing they could do? No- after all, the smoke probably wasn't even carcinogenic. But I'd love someone to explain to me how planting fake bombs in Parliament buildings is anything BUT illegal.

Sunday, June 22, 2008


The last time I spilled ink about WND it was ridiculing them for accusing the Decembrists (and by association, Obama), of being Communists. But, as always, another day brings another new stupidity from Farah and Friends.

Farah starts off by rambling on about Dick Durbin, who has offended the mighty Joe by saying that going after Obama by targetting his wife was a low blow. The actual quote:

The hottest ring in hell is reserved for those in politics who attack their opponents' families.

Farah was so irked by this he devoted a whole column to it last week.

When Michelle Obama goes out on the campaign trail and makes statements deeply offensive to many Americans, she needs to expect criticism. It's just that simple.

If politicians want to insulate their "families" from criticism, they would be well-advised not to ask them to do their political dirty work.

Farah does have a point here in that you can't make yourself a political figure (by semi-proxy) and then be mad when people go after you. Of course, he then undercuts this by acting like a dick.

Why do people like Durbin and Obama think they are above criticism?

Why are they offended when people question what they say?

How can you be so involved in politics for so long without understanding the nature of the game?

The answer is quite simple.

The game has been rigged in their favor for so long, they just can't stand the idea that ordinary people now have a voice, too.

...Michelle Obama is entitled to her opinions just like anyone else. But she is also fair game for criticism just like anyone else. She is not above it all. Her position as wife of a political candidate doesn't provide her with some rarefied status in our society. If she can't stand the heat, she should, as Harry Truman put it, get out of the kitchen – or, in her case, maybe she should try spending some time in one.

Touche, jackass.

Ok, so Farah trashed Durbin and the Obamas on Tuesday. But wait, he wasn't done yet- on Friday he decided to yell about it some more.

When I first wrote about Sen. Dick Durbin's threat against anyone who dares to criticize what Michelle Obama says and does in campaigning for her husband, I focused on the absurdity of his damnation curse – in which he reserved "the hottest ring in hell" for offenders.

What I neglected to notice was the anti-Semitic nature of his comment.

...The phrases "hottest ring in hell" and "the deepest ring of hell" and "the fourth circle of the ninth ring of hell" were 14th century literary inventions by Dante, author of "The Inferno" and "The Divine Comedy."

In the latter work, Dante reserves that deepest ring of hell for Judecca or la Giudecca – or, in plain English, the Jews.

In Dante's native Italian, the name was "Judecca" or "la Giudecca," the common name for the Jewish quarter of European cities from which they were forbidden to leave. Even the word "ghetto" is believed to be a derivation of this word for Jewish quarter.

Did Dick Durbin know this?

Has he used this phrase in the past?

Is it part of his lexicon?

Is Dick Durbin conducting a subtle form of Jew-baiting here?

Now, probably you're thinking: "Well, how do we know Durbin is even aware of the roots of that phrase? Maybe he just heard it somewhere and doesn't realize the significance of it."

That, of course, is entirely possible.

As is the possibility that you are a complete moron grasping at straws on a slow news day. Let's start here, for starters. It gets even better if you substitute "ring" for circle. ConWebWatch notes (complete with citations) that

In fact, the ninth circle of hell is reserved for traitors, and scholars... have interpreted "Judecca," the fourth section of the ninth circle as derivative of Judas, not Jews -- other sections are named after Cain, Antenor and Ptolemy -- and is for those who betray their lords and benefactors.

Whoops. Well, Joe never really could bothered with reading. Not when it was easier to just pull things out of his ass.

And there's more.

But, you have to admit, this phrase is a pretty unusual one. It doesn't necessarily come up in everyday jargon. And, I might add, it is a very strong form of condemnation.

It's not exactly the kind of thing you say lightly. How often have you condemned people to "the hottest ring of hell" for things they say or because of differences of opinion?

Not much, but then again, I'm not an Evangelical. I seem to recall Falwell, Hagee and Robertson have never been above threatening damnation and/or Godly wrath to their opponents.

From here Farah wheels out the time Durbin (foolishly) compared Guantanamo to concentration camps, Gulags and Killing Fields. The comparison was stupid, and I thought so at the time. It certainly deserved a "Godwin Watch," or at the very least a good smack across the face.

On the other hand, Farah's false hand-wringing about Durbin possibly having antisemitic intent in his "ring of hell" remark (these guys, too?) or, on the other hand, him needing a sensitivity course also makes me think he could use a good thwack.

What the hell, I've been saving up. Free bitch-slaps all around.

Friday, June 06, 2008

Beating the FDLS

Shiksa Girlfriend and I were talking about the news that the Yearning for Zion children were being reunited with their families in Texas.

We were both frustrated at hearing about how the Texan and federal authorities screwed up the case, but we had some very different perspectives on how people should react after the fact.

First, I have to say that I was struck by some of the similarities between the YFZ ranch and Hasidic communities like Kiryas Joel and New Square. The interesting thing is that while both Haredim and FLDS have separatist worldviews, there seems to be less of a detachment from the real world among the Hasidim. Though the communities may be insular, they are closely hooked in to the outside world through two main mechanisms: economics, and politics. Whether through business or government assistance, the Hasidim cannot afford (literally) to have zero interaction with outsiders, and this also gives politicians and law enforcement some degree of leverage over the communities, if need be. Even though Kiryas Joel and New Square may not be totally open books to the police and government, there does not seem to be as much of a culture built up around keeping things from the authorities- as reflected in some past scandals ending in jail time for the accused. The Hasidim also are very motivated to grow their communities, which requires money and political favors, which makes it advantageous for them to be prominent in the political scene.

In contrast to this, the FLDS, in part due to their history vis-a-vis polygamy, are used to operating under the radar. Not only are they a separatist group, I would argue they are also partially Messianic or apocalyptic- not necessarily that they're going to specifically DO something, a-la Heaven's Gate or Branch Davidians, but rather that their conception of reality is focused far more on "the next step," which not only helps reinforce the cultural isolation of the group, it also makes it very hard to get reliable information about them.

I know that some people are taking this as an opportunity to take us all to task about being too quick to judge weird religions.

In America, we punish conduct, not belief systems. This is the simple fact forgotten by the judge who blessed the initial raids and who took custody of 463 children from their parents. There may well be criminals and child abusers in this community, but the state has to prove it, one by one.

There may be some legitimacy to this. I've certainly been troubled by seeing how quickly people started jumping on the bandwagon of "get the polygamists," especially when I started hearing conservatives using them as a starting point for bigger and better things.

While I agree with all of that--that the behavior and conduct is wrong, you could say the exact same thing about another compound dominated by an extremist religion whose middle-aged men have multiple wives, have sex and kids with underaged women, and are "programmed" to be abused. The compound is called "Dearbornistan" and the religion is Islam.
The only difference: While the behavior of the Jeffs'-associated polygamists is abhorrent, 19 of their fellow co-religionists didn't slaughter 3,000 Americans, and thousands more haven't tried and/or succeeded at other attacks. And millions of their fellow co-religionists haven't professed their love of those who vow destruction of America.
So, tell me, where should the FBI and the federal government be focusing its attention . . . Islamic America or the far minor and less threatening Warren Jeffs' America? They haven't even found the alleged 16-year-old who tipped off law enforcement and made the alleged complaint.
When Muslim women in Dearbornistan, some aged 12 and younger, have kids with 50-year-olds with several wives, authorities look the other way and say "it's okay because they're married 'in the eyes of the mosque,' and this is how it's done in their religion." There was once a statutory rape case involving an underaged Muslim girl who gave birth in Dearborn to the child of a Muslim man decades her senior. But that was the result--the case was dropped because "the mosque says it's okay." And there have been no other cases like it prosecuted in Dearborn.
Two very similar religions . . . two very different treatments by legions of federal agents and the law enforcement policy-makers from above.
I know who needs to be de-programmed and reprogrammed. And it's not just women in bonnets, gingham dresses, and braided, long hair in Texas.


Anyway, SG and I were saying that the real issue now is that the FLDS is likely going to go further underground, and, assuming that there actually was something really wrong going on there (which I highly suspect), it's going to be a lot harder to prove now.

SG's view of things was largely political and social; of having politicians and government officials at all levels basically start making it a lot harder for the group to exist off the radar- start passing and enforcing laws that force them to use doctors or funereal services off the ranch, for instance, so you can start keeping better track of who's who and where. I asked her if she didn't think it ironic she was advocating the same questionable tactics the pro-lifers use on Planned Parenthood. She said that as far as she was concerned the seriousness of the crimes justified making things "a little tougher" for them, if nothing else.

I take a different approach. I see this as a law enforcement issue. Assuming that even a fraction of what the police, etc., thought was going on there was true, they need to start looking at the FLDS, particularly the YFZ group, as an organized crime organization. This doesn't mean you start kicking in doors a-la Elian Gonzales. In fact, the exact opposite. The whole reason this thing blew up was because of a dearth of intelligence. They need to monitor the group, they need to infiltrate it, they need to know who's who and what's happening in there. They should be consulting with mainstream Mormons who might have a reason to help the authorities. They should be looking at the fact that the FLDS is an organization that spans several states, making it even harder to track. They should have files on dissidents, informants, etc. Among other things, this would give a sense of purpose and identity to the many "Lost Boys" that are gradually growing into a sizeable sub-group of the FLDS. Eventually, they might even be able to split the organization by turning them on each other.

The law underestimated the FLDS last month. They can't afford to do so again. History has given us the tools and understanding to know how to combat large, spread-out criminal organizations. The FLDS may be harder to understand than the Mafia. But the same logic applies: until you know more about them, you won't be able to know how to beat them.

Closing the book on Hagee

As some will remember, I have some strong opinions on John Hagee- few of them complimentary. So I was happy to see McCain cut him loose last week (and amused that he's getting hammered for it from the same evangelicals who he had originally tried to pander to by seeking Hagee out in the first place). Even Joseph Farah said that Hagee went too far.

Of course, there were some die-hards, including Jews, who wouldn't let go and are still trying to defend Hagee- leading the pack is our old pal Dennis Prager. Dennis starts by reminding us that Hagee was cribbing from scripture- Jeremiah, in this case. Not that this should make a difference; after all, he was quoting Joel when he said God caused Ariel Sharon's stroke.

I am a God-believing, Torah-believing, religious (though not Orthodox) Jew, author of a book on Judaism and a book on anti-Semitism who does not agree with this theological explanation of the Holocaust.
But the notion that God willed the Holocaust is neither anti-Jewish nor even un-Jewish. There are, after all, only two possible explanations regarding God and the Holocaust:
1. God allowed it but did not will it.
2. God willed it.
This is simple logic.

Dennis tries to explain away Hagee's comments by saying that his position is a legitimate one within the spectrum of Jewish thought. He sifts through a lot of texts to justify this, and even covers his back by saying that he himself, doesn't agree with this view.

We recoil at the thought of a just, good and loving God willing the mass murder of so many innocent people. But that belief is not necessarily anti-Semitic.
Moreover, the alternate view that God simply lets all this evil and cruelty go on isn't satisfying, either. Whether God directed the Holocaust or just allowed it to happen, in either case, many Jews are angry with Him for that. Anger toward God (as well as love toward Him) has a long history even among devout Jews.
Fair enough, but the key here is that Hagee is NOT a member of the tribe.

Hagee seems to think that all his work for the Jewish community entitles him to a free pass on whatever subject he'd like to spout off on, and it's not that simple. Holocaust theodicy remains one of the biggest third rails in contemporary Jewish life. Rabbis and Jewish leaders have opined on it for sixty years, trying to distill meaning from senseless suffering. And for many of us, they have come up lacking. Not even rabbis are immune from the backlash. There are a number of reasons for this sensitivity- including the fact that there are still survivors living today. More than anything, though, I think is the fact that a lot of people feel that any attempt to explain the Holocaust in terms of theology necessarily involves a "pat answer"- and feel that such a grand trauma deserves much more than that. Hagee's answer, just like Ovadia Yosef's and M.M. Schneerson's answers, are unacceptable because they demean the Holocaust, they banalize the experiences and suffering of all those involved.

Hagee is one of the most pro-Jewish Christians alive. No living Christian has devoted more of his life to combating anti-Semitism. He has received death threats from anti-Semites, and they have attacked his home. To accuse such a man of anything anti-Jewish renders both truth and anti-Semitism meaningless. Calling people who help Jews anti-Semitic is a gift to real anti-Semites. With no exception I am aware of, those who imply some anti-Jewish animus in Hagee do so in order to undermine an evangelical conservative and to manufacture a right-wing equivalence to the America-cursing, race-based Rev. Jeremiah Wright.

Dennis is right that Hagee's comments do not make him antisemitic. But I've never thought that Hagee's problem was antisemitism. It was arrogance. Hagee operates from a supreme theological arrogance and callousness, oblivious of the pain his words cause others- all the more so when he is looking in on another community, as an outsider, and purporting to neatly explain one of their greatest tragedies. To put it simply, Hagee was out of his depth, and was speaking out of his place. Turning around and getting mad at other people having a problem with this only underscores the arroagance and high-handedness that exemplifies why so many Jews are wary of the Christian right becoming ever-closer to the Jews- there is a fear, not unfounded, that the evangelicals are doing all this for various semi-sinister purposes, and at some point the other shoe is going to drop; they're going to want something for all their "help." Some of this is exaggerated. But some of it seems legitimate; the closer Christians get to Jews, especially when it comes to identifying with and even appropriating elements of Jewish identity and consciousness, the more there is a concern about where this blending ends. When an evangelical preacher starts offering explanations for Jewish tragedies- UNASKED- and then gets riled up when people tell him to stick a fork in it, there's a problem. The Holocaust is not Hagee's narrative, and it is not his to explain, especially when it comes to questions like "Did the Jews somehow earn their suffering?" When Jews do it, it's arguably bad theology. For Christians to do it is a whole other can of worms, and one which Hagee and his defenders seem utterly oblivious to. That inability or unwillingness to understand how or why anyone could find this objectionable offers a deep insight into how Christians view and understand the relationship between our two groups. Is it indeed an equal partnership? Or are we merely there as inspirational window-dressing? This is the same issue we saw with Ann Coulter's crap- which Dennis also defended. Again, it's not about antisemitism, it's about being an asshole.

I agree that Hagee is not an antisemite, but neither is it right to simply call him "a friend of the Jews." Hagee helps himself. His theology encompasses his worldview, and Jews only matter empirically insofar as they intersect with that larger perspective. If you agree with his ideology, then you can make the case that, as a Jew or a conservative or a lover of Greater/Strong/Messianic Israel, yes, you benefit by his programs and actions. If, however, you see things differently, then Hagee's "friendship" is really more of a double-edged sword. Hagee's ideology, with all of its complexities and problems, is the definitive prism through which he must be understood. At a certain point, the real question must become how much Jews are willing to swallow in the name of "unity" and support for Israel, and not just in terms of rhetoric but also policy (Hagee being more to the right on Israeli policy than most American OR Israeli Jews). If you're Hagee's kind of Jew, then I guess he's a good friend for you to have. But for someone who's only agreement with Hagee is that Israel is good and jihad is bad, I'm not very comfortable with him running the "Jewish-Christian brotherhood" show. Leonard Fein calls it a matter of self-respect, and I have to agree.

And sorry Dennis, but if you look at his sermons, books and speeches, I think you have to conclude that when it comes to being a clueless jackass, Hagee is absolutely Jeremiah Wright's equal.

Thursday, June 05, 2008

Transcript from a day off

I decided to treat Shiksa Girlfriend to Northern California institution (though I'm never entirely clear why) called In-N-Out Burger. We schlepped to the nearest one and arrived towards the end of the lunch hour. The place was a zoo but we weathered the storm (having only 3 meal options does greatly simplify the ordering process) and got our food. While we were eating we somehow got onto the topic of kosher slaughter.

Me: Hey, I just got a great idea!
Her: (Dubiously) Uh-huh.
Me: Ok, so you know how Solomon Schechter was one of the big-wigs in Conservative Judaism, right?
Her: No, but fine.
Me: Right, and so just about every CJ school or institution is either named after Schechter or Heschel.
Her: Godamn Heschel.
Me: And "Schechter" means a kosher ritual slaughterer.
Her: Ok.
Me: So, what about opening a school for CJ kosher butchers called "The Solomon Schechter School for Schechters?"
Her: (Blank Stare.) Mmm.

Me: (Slightly dejected, but still committed, for the moment, to making weird schechita jokes/trivia.) So, you know Reb Zalman?
Her: Yeah.
Me: Well he was born Zalman Schachter.
Her: Zalman Slaughterer? That's weird.
Me: Yeah, and when he went all hippy he decided Schachter was too violent a name, so he changed it.
Her: To what?
Me: Zalman Schachter-Shalomi. Peace-Slaughterer. Or Slaughterer of Peace.
Her:... Doesn't he realize that's SO MUCH WORSE?

The people sitting next to us must have thought us quite odd. How right they were.

Sunday, June 01, 2008

It all works out in the end

I'm a skeptic, I'm a pessimist. I admit it. I get it from my family. My grandfather's motto was "Don't Bullshit a Bulshitter," and my father's are, "Life's tough and then you die." Actually, he has two- the other one is, "Not only is the glass half-empty, it also has dust on it." When I was younger, I used to suggest he amend it to, "and it's full of acid," but somehow, that never took off.

Anyway, one of the things I really can't stand are "inspirational" stories, the saccharine, sappy, brain-rending stories that convince you that ultimately, everything's going to be ok. I had a conversation with a friend a week ago in which he was reading off a set of "Table Topic" cards and one of the questions was, "What do you think Heaven was like?" I told him I thought the afterlife was a nice idea but had no evidence to suggest it was true. He got mildly annoyed and said, "That's why it's called faith." True, but being raised on no faith, I can never get past the objectivist standpoint- there is no reason for me to assume that one version of "What happens after you're dead" is any more likely than 500 other ones. That's sort of how I feel about the world, too. World Peace is a nice idea, and I think it's worth trying to achieve it (at least in pockets), but at the end of the day, I think I believe more in fallibility and unattainability than the contrary.

ANYWAY, the point of all this is that I've come across a few "miracle stories" on the Jblogosphere that, quite frankly, drive me crazy. Interestingly enough, they're both related to women's roles in Orthodox Judaism.

The first one is from a story in Jewish Action from several months ago. The story is a heartfelt hesped, a eulogy, given by R. Norman Lamm of his recently departed niece, the principal of an Orthodox girls' high school and the director of a women's learning program. While R. Lamm's eulogy is moving, the tag-line on the top of the article, taken from this paragraph, drove me to distraction:

I often think of Judy: what if she were born a male instead of a female? I am convinced that if she were born male, she would have been a rosh yeshivah. On second thought, not a rosh yeshivah but a rebbe, who would command the loyalty of hundreds of Chassidim, who would teach not only by words but by example of love and of chesed and ma'asim tovim, guiding her Chassidim in all facets of their lives, perhaps even to the point of receiving kevitlach. That was the kind of personality she had.

It must be my nature, but reading that paragraph makes me not only sad, but angry. R. Lamm is basically saying, perhaps unconsciously, that his very accomplished and talented niece had the capacity to be a wonderful spiritual leader- ah, but she was born the wrong gender, too bad, so sad, good luck next incarnation. If this was my mother or sister, I would be enraged that she lived in a community where her gifts were recognized and appreciated, but still deemed "not enough" to break the rabbinical glass ceiling. To have this then be inverted and presented as a compliment makes it even worse. R. Lamm's attempt to honor his niece only highlights how capricious and arbitrary strict gender norms can be, to the point that people who are acknowledged as being specifically gifted in an area are still discouraged from following their path (or "encouraged" in another) because they have the wrong gender. Never mind quality, energy or passion, we need guys with beards. I read R. Lamm's hesped and my first thought is not, "I'm glad she lived a happy life," but rather, "I'm sad she did not live in a community where ALL of her talents would have been valued and appreciated."

Next comes a story from R. Lazer Brody from an Orthodox woman who apparently hands out Lazer's book Garden of Emuna (plug, plug) out like candy. She gave one to a friend of hers several months ago and she liked it so much she decided she was going to name her daughter Chava Emuna (faith) instead of Chava Baila. Only problem was, this lightning-flash of insight came while her husband was at shul naming the baby.

Yesterday morning she was sitting at home nursing the baby while her husband was at shul naming her. She was going to name her Chava Baila and she just kept looking at her thinking it wasn't right for her. She looked down at her copy of Garden of Emuna (which of course happened to be sitting right there, Baruch Hashem!!!) and screamed!!! CHAVA EMUNA!!!! But she was home all alone, so she prayed to Hashem that one of her friends would stop by her house on the way to the shul. Knock Knock!!! Our friend just happened to be stopping by! Long story short, our friend RAN to the shul to stop the ceremony. She burst into the shul just in the nick of time! And now, because I told her to read the book, Chava Emuna has her beautiful name.

I THINK this is supposed to convince us that God works in mysterious ways, everything works out and has a reason for happening, and we all need to give Lazer's book to anyone we ever meet, because it could have an impact on something, somehow. (If nothing else, it will create a ton of girls named Emuna.) But me being a spoil-sport, I couldn't get past the fact that none of this would be an issue if BOTH PARENTS were at the shul to name the damn kid in the first place! You don't have a bris in absentia, I don't understand why you would do it without the daughter and mother present, either. Not only that, why not just call the shul? This wasn't on a Shabbos, so there was no reason the wife couldn't communicate with her husband and let him know she changed her mind. Is there an Amish group of Breslovers I haven't heard about?

One last one and then I'm done. There has been a major slide to the right taking place in the Orthodox world for more than a decade. Everyone knows this. One of the biggest ways this plays out is in terms of conversion standards. (Long story short: the Orthodox don't accept the standards of anyone who's not Orthodox, so the converts aren't Orthodox by their definition of halakha.) In America, it's not as big an issue, since people who aren't converting Orthodox usually know what they're getting into and don't plan to be interacting with the Orthodox community. In Israel it's a big issue because the Orthodox are the law of the land and control things like who can get married, and to whom, there being no civil marriage law.

For a long time, non-Orthos have been warning Modern Orthos that the Haredi-ization of Jewish standards was not going anywhere good. This was generally ignored or swept under the rug- Modern Orthos are still Orthos, after all.

Then there was this. And this. Followed by this and this. Now this. All of which of course, led to this. The best write-ups of these problems, pre-Druckman, were by Gorenberg and Shmarya.

So it appears that the Haredim are on the attack now, cutting huge swathes in the legitimacy of Modern Orthodoxy. Some MOs are justifiably pissed. Some non-Orthos are gloating (I recall seeing one blogger flat-out-say, "we told you so").

And then there are some people whose reaction to being told that they aren't Jewish is basically to bend over and say, "thank you sir, may I please have another?" From this month's issue of Jewish Action, by an anonymous author going by "Gila". To be polite, I will not make any lizard jokes.

A student of our host was also there with his non-religious parents. The student wanted his parents to meet his rabbi’s family, and I think we were invited to represent “normal” people who had come to Torah on their own. I cannot remember how the conversation began, but at some point the boy’s mother commented that she had grown up without knowing her father’s parents and half of her cousins very well because they were not Jewish. I naïvely remarked, “That’s just how I grew up; all my mother’s relatives are not Jewish.” I think it was then that I heard the rebbetzin gasp.
Gasp? Why gasp? The rebbetzin has no information to go on here. She has no justifiable REASON to gasp. In fact some people with more backbone might have been insulted. But does Gila call her on it? Does she challenge the rebbetzin's assumption that Gila may not be a bona fide convert?

I had learned enough Torah to realize—and the gasp confirmed—that maybe something in addition to my dishes was going to need converting.

And we're off on the low-self-esteem train to Ortho-town.

My mother had converted to Judaism in a small Indiana town in the early 1950s in order to marry my father. Her conversion was overseen by the rabbi of the local Conservative synagogue, to which my family belonged throughout my childhood. Mom became a dedicated Jewess, learning as much as she could despite the limited resources available to her.

Rich Jewish memories bound our family members to one another, but as I built my own family in a large city far from my childhood home, I found that that was not enough for me. I sought to connect to the deeper riches I saw that Judaism had to offer. With the help of outreach programs and the religious families we met, my husband and I found a great treasure in authentic Torah observance.

I wonder how your mother reacted to being informed she had done a really nice job raising you with inauthentic observance.

Soon after my revelation at the Shabbat table, the niggling suspicion that we were headed for roadblocks in our path to greater observance grew into the realization that I needed to look into my mother’s conversion. I had the conversion certificate, so Allen and I met with the rabbi of the Conservative synagogue where we had been members since our marriage.

After reviewing the forty-year-old document, the rabbi confirmed that some streams of Judaism would question my mother’s conversion—and therefore my Jewish status, as well as my children’s. But not to worry, he said, he knew of an Orthodox rabbi who was coming to town in a few months who could fix the problem if we wanted. Otherwise, I was “Jewish enough” for him.

But not for herself. Gila's own standard is stricter. Which is her right (though I'm confused why she stays at a Conservative shul then) but this next part drove me bananas:

As I questioned my halachic status, I slowly started to understand that even with my background, my memories, my desire to grow … it was not enough. It wasn’t that I wasn’t Jewish enough—I wasn’t Jewish at all.

That's bull. Your Jewish status may not be what you thought it was, but you do yourself a disservice when you buy into communal brainwashing that says you're either halachically Jewish- as determined by the strictest authorities- or a full-blown Gentile. Maybe it was your binary thinking that attracted you to becoming a BT.
After thirty-eight years of participation in Jewish life, my desire to deepen my commitment brought me face-to-face with the realization that I—who had endured hours of after school classes to learn Hebrew and prepare for my Bat Mitzvah, who had been active in Jewish youth groups and went to Jewish summer camps, who shunned bread on Pesach and all food on Yom Kippur—was not a Jew. I, who reined in my enthusiasm for Torah growth until I thought my husband was ready for each step, could not only enjoy fluffy muffins on Pesach, but could also heartily eat shrimp on any fast day I pleased. Allen, a prime candidate for intermarriage who had never met a rabbi until we were engaged or stepped foot into a synagogue until we were dating, was a 100 percent kosher Jew. And he had indeed intermarried.
Her use of various kiruv terms like "prime candidate for intermarriage" is making me crazy. It reads like it was taken from a brochure. I understand the self-identification thing is a major issue, but if you are living the lifestyle you want then it seems ridiculously hyperbolic to dismiss your marriage and commitment to live as religious Jews with the line, "he had intermarried," implying that he might as well have been married in a church and had your children baptized. This is not an all or nothing scenario. It sounds like Gila is an outsider passing judgment on another couple rather than someone actually involved in the relationship.

Next Gila checks with three different Orthodox rabbis to get their opinion; apparently the rabbi of her shul doesn't count since his answer wasn't strict enough. Eventually one tells her the harsh truth she had been secretly waiting for. After a year she becomes Orthodox, converts, her children convert, she and her husband remarry, and all is well. Look, she even got an article published in Jewish Action magazine!

If this was the end of it, that would be one thing. But Gila also drops little nuggets of advice throughout the rest of her story prophesying the woes of being the child of a non-halachic convert and how this ruins children's lives.

Just as when a ba’al teshuvah (BT) introduced to authentic Torah values often feels cheated by the vapidity of the religious system in which he was raised, the child of an illegitimate convert who does teshuvah feels doubly betrayed. He may think and feel Jewish to the core. A born Jew, whether he is Orthodox or agnostic, remains a Jew regardless of his actions or affiliation. But a non-halachic Jew who remains committed to his Jewish identity may one day be faced with the devastating reality that he is not, at his essence, the person he thinks he is.

Only if he lets the Orthodox define HIS identity, and unless someone decides to cede their personal autonomy to Orthodox authority, there is no reason this should happen. It's not all or nothing, even if Gila thinks it is.
As the clock ticks, we are running out of time to save the millions of remaining Jews from adding to the skyrocketing statistics of intermarriage. Kiruv professionals have the monumental challenge of touching as many Jewish souls as possible and cannot possibly be expected to spend their precious resources counseling the child of a non-Jewish mother.

Which is why they get "victims" of intermarriage to write about it for them. Oh gag me. Better yet, gag yourself. If people want to be Orthodox, then they're out of luck; they're going to have to follow their standards of rules, as ridiculous as they seem to be getting. If they don't give a hoot about Orthodoxy, then find another path. But there's no reason to assume that someone's children or grandchildren will be drawn to Orthodoxy over Reform or, say, Buddhism (especially given the "skyrocketing statistics").

All these spiritual Orthodox stories seem to have a couple of things in common. They try to present a scenario in which everything works out for the best, everything happens for a reason and ultimately, all the problems can be overcome. What they fail, or refuse to realize is that it is only because they live in these communities that the problems existed in the first place.

I'm glad the three women in these stories made the best out of their situations and managed to find silver linings. But I can't help but wonder if they wouldn't have been better off avoiding the clouds.

Guaranteed to ruin your day

A pair of Spanish twins were accidentally switched at birth. Then they found each other. The story of how they met is amusing:

"It happened by chance," thanks to a friend of one of the twins, Sebastian Socorro, the lawyer for the separated twin, told radio Cadena Ser.

"The friend was working in a shopping centre," he said. "The other twin came in one day to buy clothes. The sales assistant tried to greet her with a kiss thinking that she was her friend, but the customer refused.

This must be a Spanish thing. Or maybe it's a mid-30s woman thing. Anyway, let's make out.

"The surprised sales assistant then called her friend who assured her that she had not been in to the shop."

When the other twin came back to the shop a few days later, a meeting was arranged between the two sisters.

Just for the record, I have had the experience of meeting a friend's doppelganger. It was very, very, weird.

DNA tests proved they were identical twins, said Mr Perdomo.

Oh good. Because the alternative would be weird and confusing.

More from BBC:

Mr Perdomo said his client was taken out of a cot next to that of her twin sister and mistakenly replaced by another baby girl. His client was then raised by the family of that baby.

The non-twin was brought up believing that she was a twin sister.

And guess who feels left out now?

[Perdomo] said that of the three people most directly affected, his client had suffered the most.

Wait a minute, that's not true. She's suffered just as much displacement as the not-twin. Except now raised-by-someone-else-twin finds out she actually IS a twin, whereas not-twin discovers she's not. Even if they did spend their whole lives telling everyone they were fraternal, that's still got to suck. (Not to mention that all that time spent convincing other people they had a secret twin language just makes them look silly.)

Anyway, the hospital has said "our bad," but the twins are suing for a whopping 3 million euros. Go get 'em, girls.

In other twin news, twins are weird. But coincidence is weirder.