Friday, July 31, 2009

Pat Buchanan's weird, weird, ideas

I made the mistake of finding Pat Buchanan's blog. On the one hand, this is good because it's one less reason for me to check out WorldNetDaily. On the other, now I have access to all of Pat's brain farts for the past several years.

Pat had one article a while ago which caught my interest, because it happened to combine two of my least favorite things: stupid neologisms, and creepy alter kocker race-baiting.

The larger issue here is the enduring power of ethnonationalism — the drive of ethnic minorities, embryonic nations, to break free and create their own countries, where their faith, culture and language are predominant.

Now, at first blush, this might seem a tad obvious. Yes, ethnic ties and nationalism have historically played a significant role in independence movements and struggles.

But wait! Pat has more.
Ethnonationalism caused the Balkan wars of 1912 and 1913, triggered World War I in Sarajevo, and tore apart the Austro-Hungarian and Ottoman empires. Ethnonationalism birthed Ireland, Turkey and Israel.
Ethnonationalism in the 1990s tore apart the Soviet Union and Yugoslavia, and broke up Czechoslovakia, creating two-dozen nations out of three. Last August, ethnonationalism, with an assist from the Russian Army, relieved Georgia of Abkhazia and South Ossetia.
Russia has its own ethnic worries in Chechnya, Dagestan and Ingushetia, whose Moscow-installed president was nearly blown to pieces two weeks ago and where a Chechen convoy was ambushed last week with 10 soldiers killed.
The ethnonationalism that pulled Ireland out of the United Kingdom in 1921 is pulling Scotland out. It split the Asian subcontinent up into Pakistan, India and Bangladesh. Iran, Iraq and Pakistan are all threatened.
Persians are a bare majority against the combined numbers of Azeris, Kurds, Arabs and Baluch. Each of those minorities shares a border with kinfolk — in Azerbaijan, Kurdistan, Iraq and Pakistan.
Turkey has fought for decades against Kurd ethnonationalism.
If one were to wager on new nations, Kurdistan and Baluchistan would be among the favorites. And Pashtun in Pakistan outnumber Pashtun in Afghanistan, though in the latter they are the majority.
So now ethnonationalism is starting to become a dangerous specter, destabilizing the world? I can't tell if Pat is pro ENism or not.
The contrast between insouciant America and serious China today is instructive. China is protectionist; America free trade. China is nationalist; America globalist. China’s economy is export-driven; America’s base is consumption. China saves; America spends. China uses its foreign exchange to lock up overseas resources; America uses foreign aid for humanitarian assistance to failed states. Behaving like ruthlessly purposeful 19th-century Americans, China grows as America shrinks.
So... China is a bunch of amoral jerks, and that's a good thing we should emulate?
Where Beijing floods its borderlands with Han to reduce indigenous populations to minorities, and stifles religious, ethnic and linguistic diversity, America, declaring, “Diversity is our strength!” invites the whole world to come to America and swamp her own native-born.

Ah. Here we go. ENism is a useful bludgeoning tool. With ENism, Pat can argue for race-based determinism, showing that multiculturalism is naive at best, and national/race suicide at worst. Incidentally, Pat, America doesn't really have native-born people, that's kind of the point.
Observing the lightning breakup of the Soviet Union, the Chinese take ethnonationalism with deadly seriousness. American’s elite regard it an irrelevancy, an obsession only of the politically retarded.
Uh yeah, pretty much. After all, our country's civic culture is kind of predicated on the concept that American nationalism is not based on ethnic background.
After all, they tell us, we were never blood-and-soil people, always a propositional nation, a nation of ideas. Our belief in democracy, diversity, and equality define us and make us different from all other nations.
First of all, why does America have to be different "from all other nations?" I thought we had moved beyond bizarro Puritan "New Israel" theological views on government a while ago. Why don't we shoot for "functional democracy that respects and protects invidividual rights while also balancing them with the interests and rights of the group," and then if we wind up not being unique in that regard, so much the better? Second, yes, America IS supposed to be a nation of ideas and principles. The way in which this is potentially different from other countries is that there is no officially privileged culture, religion or ethnic group in America, as opposed to other countries that were founded specifically for a religion or people. Even from its earliest colonial days, America was being divied up by different groups-- including the French, Spanish and English (all of whom would be very suprised to be lumped in together by the likes of Buchanan).
Indeed, we now happily predict the year, 2042, when Americans of European ancestry become a minority in a country whose Founding Fathers declared it set aside for “ourselves and our posterity.”
So what, Pat? The Founding Fathers said and did a whole lot of things that aren't that relevant to today. Dueling and powdered wigs come to mind.
Without the assent of her people, America is being converted from a Christian country, nine in 10 of whose people traced their roots to Europe as late as the time of JFK, into a multiracial, multiethnic, multilingual, multicultural Tower of Babel not seen since the late Roman Empire.
That's right, it turns out that America isn't white, or Christian, enough for Pat Buchanan. Which is funny, because a lot of the illegal immigrants he bitches about are Latinos, most of whom are ethnically white and Catholic. But never mind that, Pat's mad that we aren't all WASPS, (or at least people that can pass for-- or be declared-- WASPs), anymore. Oh for the days of the 50s, where non-whites, non-Christians, and non-heterosexuals at least had the good sense to stay hidden from public view! Incidentally, Pat, maybe the reason there isn't that much immigration from Western Europe to America is that Western European countries have finally started getting their acts together (which is funny, given how much you complain about those govts' horrible pseudo-Socialist policies).

The city farthest along the path is Los Angeles, famous worldwide for the number, variety, and size of its ethnic and racial street gangs.
Yes, of course, Pat. Because we all know that diversity leads to street crime. That must be why there was never any crime in, say, lily-white England, before the 1800s, when they started getting all those immigrants in. Or why when people in England today see large groups of strapping young white lads cavorting in the street, they are filled with nothing but feelings of peacefulness and serenity.

I dig a little digging, and wouldn't you know it, Pat's been down this road to Crazytown before. Here's an article from 2008:
Muller argues, ethnonationalism may be a precondition of liberal democracy. Only after all the tribes of Europe had their own ethnically homogenous nation-states did peace and comity come. And what happened in Europe in the 20th century may be a precursor of what is to come in Latin America, the Middle East, Africa and Asia.
Really now? So how do you explain functional democracies with large numbers of different ethnic groups, like say, Brazil? And why are you ignoring that ethnonationalism seems to be the flip side of colonialism and expansionism? Maybe part of the reason the British Empire collapsed was that there was no good reason people in India would ever accept the legitimacy of a country ruling them from thousands of miles away. Maybe part of the reason Russia keeps havng to deal with breakaway republics is that the USSR's conquest of Asia and Eastern Europe was done at the expense-- culturally, economically, religiously, etc-- of the native people living there? If there are multiple causes of discontent, it stands to reason that boiling it all down to ethnic groupings is simplstic and misleading.
Americans, writes Muller, “find ethnonationalism discomfiting both intellectually and morally. Social scientists go to great lengths to demonstrate that this is a product not of nature but of culture. …
“But none of this will make ethnonationalism go away.”
Indeed, we see it bubbling up from the Basque country of Spain, to Belgium, Bolivia, Baghdad and Beirut. Perhaps the wisest counsel for the United States may be to get out of the way of this elemental force. Rather than seek to halt the inexorable, we should seek to accommodate it and ameliorate its sometimes awful consequences.
Like how, Pat? I thought you were against interventionism. Wait, don't tell me... does it involve reservations? No? How about ghettos? Miscegenation laws?

And we should look to our own land. According to Pew Research, there will be 127 million Hispanics here by mid-century, tripling today’s 45 million – and almost 100 million new immigrants. No nation faces a graver threat from this resurgence of ethnonationalism than does our own.
Look homeward, America.
Um, Pat... first off, what evidence do you have that all those millions of Hispanics are united towards any common goal other than jobs and living conditions? Second, I like that Hispanics "and new immigrants" are both seen and treated as vague omnipresent threats against America without you ever bothering to explain why. If all those different immigrants come from different places, there is no reason to assume that they will be motivated by ethnic nationalism one way or the other. This is just a rehash of the Nativist song and dance spewed 100-plus years ago about some "horde" or another attacking America's shores. Amazingly, those racist bozos were wrong. Given reasons and opportunities, immigrants will become Americans, and Americanized. Notice that this does not mean that all Americans can, or should, become the same.

One last one. Yes, it gets worse. Back in January, plugging the same professor, Pat claimed that Obama's view of a post-racial America might actually lead to the dissilution of the union and possible race war:
Barack won the African-American vote 97 percent to 3 percent over John McCain, and 90 percent to 10 percent over Hillary Clinton in the later primaries. McCain ran stronger than George W. Bush only in Appalachia, the laager of the Scots-Irish.
So... we can therefore conclude that only the Scots-Irish still see themselves as white? Or could it be that those sneaky German-Americans were really energetic in pulling for "their" candidate, seeing as he descends from Stuttgart emigres? Doesn't Obama's election (made only possible by many, many white voters casting their ballots for him) suggest that, at least in at this point in America, ethnic background may not be the primary concern when it comes to elections for higher office?
In Jerry Z. Muller’s “Us and Them: The Enduring Power of Ethnic Nationalism,” in Foreign Affairs, his thesis is summarized:
“...Once ethnic nationalism has captured the imagination of groups in a multiethnic society, ethnic disaggregation or partition is often the least bad answer.”
Disaggregation or partition, the man said.
Are we really in a post-racial America, or is our multicultural multiethnic America, too, destined for Balkanization and break-up?
No, because he said that this only happens when ethnic nationalism CAPTURES THE IMAGINATION of members of that society. So unless we start seeing large groups of Americans declaring individual states "Blackville", "Casa del Second Generation Hondurans" or "Scots-Irish Free State", I don't think we have much to worry about, as much as you enjoy being an alarmist crank.

Sorry to break it to you, Pat, but yes, the days of "Americans" being synonymous with "WASPs" are over (actually, they never really existed). And it happened a long time ago. If the Founders had wanted to stay "pure" and European, they should have all stayed on the East Coast and build a little wall around themselves, stopped having sex with Indians, stopped bringing over slaves, and oh yeah, stopped admitting immigrants in. Then we could be pure like Greenland. But shucks, that's not the way things turned out. You can whine about it, but the fight is long over. And, psst! For the record, we're better for it.

Sad Christian Attempts at Gematria

Apparently it's not just wacked out Orthos who can dishonestly distort the Bible to make crazy psuedo-mystical arguments. Thanks, WND!

An American Christian has produced a brief film for YouTube that connects one statement by Jesus in the Gospel of Luke to President Barack Obama.

His 4-minute video focuses on the direct quote: "I beheld Satan as lightning fall from heaven." (Luke 10:18)

"When I started doing a little research, I found the Greek word for 'lightning' is 'astrape', and the Hebrew equivalent is 'Baraq,'" said YouTube contributor "ppsimmons," a self-described Christian with a theological education and many years in the ministry, who spoke to WND under condition of anonymity. "I thought that was fascinating."

Let's back up, bozo. First off, let's clarify that you're starting from Luke supposedly quoting Jesus, which is not the same thing, particularly since this whole "cool coincidence" hinges on the phrasing. (This is all the more so ridiculous given that you're working from a not-very-accurate English translation of a Greek text.) Anyway, Luke says Jesus says he saw Satan "like lightning from heaven"- which, starting from the extremely little Hebrew I know, is closer to "Barak mi Shamayim." Hmm, not too convincing, there. This is verified by your OWN New Testament Lexicon Search engine.

So, off to a terrible start. Let's keep going, shall we?

As he continued looking into the rest of the words in the phrase, he focused on "heaven," and found that it can refer not just to God's dwelling place, but also "the heights" or "high places."

He then recalled Isaiah 14:14, where Lucifer, another name for Satan, is quoted as saying, "I will ascend above the heights of the clouds; I will be like the most High."

"I wondered what the word 'heights' is," said ppsimmons, "and I looked it up in the dictionary, and it's 'Bamah.'"

Hang on. So, having found a convenient NT phrase that uses the word Barak, you then take a huge random jump over to Isaiah, writing eight hundred years before Luke, and take a single word, heights, as opposed to, say, the total phrase, heights of the clouds, and use it to make a ridiculous connection. Just one problem genius. The verse doesn't say "height", which is "Bamma." (Related to the modern Hebrew word bimah, or stage.) It says "heights", or "Bammot." Oh, that pesky Hebrew grammar. The whole phrase, incidentally, is Bammot mi Annanim. Smoking gun! (According to bloggers with better Hebrew than I, it's actually bamatei.)

Thus, on the video, the announcer notes, "If spoken by a Jewish rabbi today, influenced by the poetry of Isaiah, He (Jesus) would say these words in Hebrew ... 'I saw Satan as Baraq Ubamah.'

Absolutely not. Barak Bamah means "Lightning Height", or "Lightning Mound." A good name for an electrified candy bar maybe. Any connection to an Antichrist reference? Not really. You are taking two verses supposedly about Satan from two books that have nothing to do with each other, written in different languages hundreds of years apart, selecting random words from the verse while ignoring the conextual grammar, and then, after all that, they still don't sound like "Barack Obama" so you have to add a random syllable. You might as well be taking random vocabulary words from Faust and Lucifer and mashing them together to find analogs to modern politicians' names. Hey, I bet it would be easy to get "Michael Steele," or even "George Bush" that way.

"Gosh, was Jesus giving us a clue or was this just a freak coincidence?" thought the filmmaker at the time of his research.

Yes the term "freak" seems quite applicable to your so-called "research."

"I want to emphasize I'm not ashamed of what I put there," he told WND. "I'm not proclaiming he is the antichrist, or that I'm some kind of a Hebrew expert, but the word associations are indisputable. The Hebrew word for lightning is 'Baraq' and the word for heights or high places is 'Bamah.'"

Of course, you're not proclaiming him the Antichrist, this an objective scientific enqury. Yeah, that would explain all the pictures of demons and flaming Satans you photoshopped in.

The movie has a prominent disclaimer stressing the film does not declare "BHO" [Barack Hussein Obama] to be the antichrist, but is merely pointing out the Hebrew words and their "striking" correlations to Jesus' statement.

Except that Jesus' comment didn't say anything about the Heights. Again, Mucho BS.

When WND asked if people should take the video seriously or with a grain of salt, its producer said, "I take the middle road. I don't take it with a grain of salt, but I don't use the Bible like a Ouija board either. It's not like a magical crystal ball. Clear prophecy is one thing. Making word associations is another. Just look at it. I wouldn't take it super serious and say that's the proof we need. It's a little weird."
It's not "weird," you gamed the system. I wouldn't be surprised if this guy started by looking for words that sounded like "Barack Obama" (Bamah and Obama aren't really the same thing, BTW) and then went backwards to find the random text he needed to "connect the dots."

Congratulations, doofus. You are an intellectually dishonest dope. As is WND for giving you press coverage.

Edit: Ye Gods. When you start the movie, the producer says that some viewers found it "enlightening and interesting". Lord help us.

Update: As Ecclesiastes said, "nothing new under the sun." My thanks and appreciation to various non-Jewish bloggers (some are even conservatives) who possess a good share of intellectual honesty and common sense. It is gratifying to know that wingnuts like WND don't dominate within the Christian sphere-- even if they're convinced they do.

WND throws Jewish readers a bone... made of stupid.

One of WorldNetDaily's two or three court Jews (I'm looking at you, Aaron Klein) must have mentioned that yesterday was a Jewish holiday or something, because the bozos are whipping out as much Jew-related content as they can (all, coincidentally written by the same Klein). Observe:

- Jews call Obama racist. Which Jews, you ask? Why, lovey-dovey kumbaya rabbis like Eliezer Waldman, one of the erudite and measured thinkers involved in inciting the murder of Yithzak Rabin. Darn, he's not pro-Obama? I'm just shocked.

"How dare he tell the Jews where they can or can't live! The era when Jews were banned from living in different places has ended," Waldman exclaimed.

Yes, while the era where everyone else (including Jews) tell Palestinians where they can live is still going strong. Three Huzzahs for selective morality.

"Obama beware. This insolence will bring about the downfall of the American leadership. Anyone who dares give an order to prevent Israeli life in Jerusalem or anywhere else in the land of Israel is destined to fall," he said.

Hmm, sounds a little omnious. Obama better hope he doesn't have any Jewish ancestors lurking in his family tree, someone might decide he qualifies as a Rodef.

Pinchas Wallerstein, director of the Yesha council of Jewish communities in the West Bank, told the crowds, "This week the American pressure reached new highs that are a shame to democratic societies."

Ah yes, if there's anyone who should be lecturing the State of Israel on how to be a responsible member of a democracy, it's the director of the Yesha council. (The backup speaker was the head of Eda Haredit.)

The construction project at the center of attention, financed by Miami Beach philanthropist Irving Moskowitz, is located just meters from Israel's national police headquarters and other government ministries. It is a few blocks from the country's prestigious Hebrew University, underscoring the centrality of the Jewish real estate being condemned by the U.S.

No kidding it's blocks away from Israeli landmarks; that's because it's in East Jerusalem, which, miraculously, happens to be right next to West Jerusalem. Proximity does not equal propriety. Guess what? The Temple Mount is right next to the Western Wall. Too bad there are some pesky mosques on top of it. So much for my plans to build a giant Borscht Belt resort on top of it (but where will Jackie Mason go?).

Klein goes on to parrot the govt. line about the house in E.J. formerly belonging to the Mufti of Jerusalem. Gershom Gorenberg put it best:

That the mufti supported Hitler is undeniable. The logic connecting that fact to moving settlers into Sheikh Jarrah is unfathomable. Though the competition for cynical use of the Holocaust is stiff, this surely deserves dishonorable mention.

- Not convinced/nauseated yet? Don't worry, there's more. See? Obama is "like Rome."

"The Obama administration is following in the footsteps of Rome. He is trying to do what the Romans did, passing anti-Jewish decrees at the time of the destruction of the Temple," Nadia Matar, the protest organizer, told WND.

Try to follow the logic:

A- Holding Israel's feet to the fire regarding settlements (much of which previous govts already cynically agreed to but never bothered to enforce) = anti-Jewish decrees.
B- Rome was one of hundreds of governments to pass "anti-Jewish decrees" (which apparently can be defined however it's convenient to Matar).
C- Therefore Obama is "like Rome."

Yeah, he's also like Rome insofar as he bathes regularly. Come to think of it, so is Matar (I hope). I guess the only thing left to do is to let these two Roman lovebirds have an old fashioned Roman orgy.

"We surrounded the Old City walls like a bride goes around her groom at the marriage canopy (during a Jewish wedding) and the couple pledge allegiance to each other," Matar told WND.

"We are married to the land of Israel and the Temple Mount and Jerusalem, and we are not ever going to give it up," she said.

Geez, Nadia, get off the sex thing already. Just decide, either you and Obama can go at it like crazed pagan Roman sex fiends or you and pure, demure, Jerusalem can get a room. But you can't swing both ways. That wouldn't be halachic. Also, 2 journalism points to Klein for fabricating his quoted headline (Obama 'like Romans who destroyed Jewish Temples') instead of just writing what Matar actually, you know, said.

Showing his usual disregard for facts and details, Klein also throws in ye olde BS about Tisha B'Av being the unluckiest Jew-day in the Jew-calendar for WND's goyishe readers, presumably to guilt them into sending more money to John Hagee or Yechiel Eckstein:

Aside from the destruction of the Jewish Temples, a remarkably large number of massive calamities befell the Jewish people on Tisha B'Av. Jewish rebellion leader Bar Kokhba's famous revolt against Rome failed in 135 B.C. Following the Roman siege of Jerusalem, the razing of Jerusalem occurred the next year. The first crusade pogrom against Jews in Palestine began on that date in A.D. 1096.

The Jews were expelled from Britain on Tisha B'Av in 1290 and were expelled from Spain that same day in 1492. The Warsaw Ghetto uprising was crushed by the Nazis on that day in May 1943, resulting in the slaughter of about 50,000 Jews.

Nationalists here also mourn the removal of Jews from the Gaza Strip in 2005, which began the day after Tisha B'av.

Lazy Aaron should read more J-blogs.

Friday, July 24, 2009

Doug Giles' Theological Schizophenia

I knew Doug was a nincompoop, particularly when it came to the Bible, but geez. I don't even know where to start here. How about the fact that, in an attempt to co-opt Judaism's Prophetic Tradition, he unwittingly makes one of the most simplistic, superficial and downright offensive comments we've endured in print since Henry Ford?

the prophets were wrecking cranes to wayward Israel’s facades. They were imperfect, difficult dudes who called a spade a shovel for a perfect God. They didn’t give a crap who you were, who your mommy was, if you were the King or Pastor Whoop-Dee-Frickin’-Do. They were fiercely devoted to God and His ways.

..Yep, if you were out of sorts with God because of practicing whacked stuff or preaching Oprah instead of Obadiah, you were about to be publically roasted via the prophets’ sizzling invectives.
Need a mental image? Imagine Rush, Beck, Coulter, Miller or O’Reilly on steroids.
Doug, the only thing the Prophets have in common with any of the jackasses on your list is the utter brashness to throw all caution (in L&O's case, I'd add taste and judgment) to the wind that can only come with the certainty of knowing that God is on your side. The Prophets talked about things like supporting the poor, championing honesty, and exposing corruption among society's elite. With the exception of Shepard Smith, please enlighten me as to the last time any of your would-be-Prophets on Fox dared to point out a single element of the conservative agenda they didn't agree with (aside from bashing centrist Republicans for being too moderate, of course).

Apparently Doug likes the idea of a self-selected group of truthtellers telling society how screwed up it is-- as long as he makes sure they're the ones that agree with him-- because it lets him feel good about how smart he is, and how his opponents aren't only wrong politically, they're also in for a God-smiting.

if Israel turned from their profane BS (belief systems) and back to God, Yahweh would chill and relent from the attention-grabbing calamities He was heatin’ up on heaven’s back burner. The prophet, unfortunately, was officially out of a job if the Hebrews went the repentant route. Yep, Amos had to go back to fig picking.
However, when Israel blew the prophets off by condemning the messenger, categorizing the message as hate speech, jailing the prophet(s) or, as in some cases, killing the prophetic salvo, God would in turn switch to plan B to get His insubordinate group’s good ear.
God, not the one to run out of advanced repentance techniques, would allow Israel’s economy to go to hell, plagues to ravage their land, nature to convulse, and enemies the ability to pulverize them.
Yep, unless I’m reading the Bible upside down, it seems that when the nation went astray from God’s law and wouldn’t listen to the prophets’ calls to repentance and instead vilified the saving voices, God allowed one (or more) of the four aforementioned hammers to pound them until Israel became all ears.
This is, at least to me, a plain prophetic pattern within the Scripture. The $64,000 question you gotta ask yourself is this: If there is a God, and if the Bible isn’t a bunch of fairy tales written by a stack of whack jobs, then does God still roll today like He did with Old Testament Israel as He interfaces with 21st century nations that spurn His values to His face?
Which values? Kashrut? Tzniut? Niddah? Please do tell me, Rav Doug, which of the many mitzvot are you ever so certain God is irked about this time? Especially since your thesis is that God "rolls" like he did in the OT, where he seems to be a stickler for these sorts of things.

Ok, let's get this straight, so the crappy economy is God's punishment for... what, exactly? All the people in the midwest and the South eating pork? Eight years of Bush? What about the flush years under Clinton? My impression is he wasn't the most angelic of our Presidents. Maybe God was just asleep at the switch? Or was he biding his time, to kick us right when we least expected it, like, eight years after Clinton was out of office! Oh God, you sneaky brilliant devious bastard, you.
What with Doug being so gung-ho about the books of the Prophets, you might think that he'd have some understanding about the role of different religions in American society. And, like Doug, you'd be an idiot:
America’s not a Christian nation? Well, it’s not a Hindu, Buddhist, Muslim (yet) or Tai Chi nation. I know Barack is auguring for the USA to become an Obamanation, but heretofore from what I’ve read regarding our founders’ beliefs and original intent for this experiment in self-government, this Republic has a massive intentional Judeo-Christian bent to it and not a religiously neutral one. Stevie Wonder can see that.
Yep, our founding fathers liberally mixed our nation’s political cement with the rock-solid truths of the Judeo-Christian worldview. Christianity wasn’t the state’s declared religion, but our framers clearly stated that Christ and Moses were where this bad boy came from.
Oh really? Please enlighten us, in which historical documents do the Founders chatter on about Moses (or Jesus, for that matter)?

Luckily, Doug brought quotes. Five whole ones, in fact, from John, John Q., and Sam Adams. Hmm, makes me kind of suspicious that he only bothered to look at a single family. I mean, would you use the Sharon clan to claim anything representative about Israel?

Kudos to Doug for bothering to supply some quotes (a sharp detour from his usual Prager-esque pattern of just rambling on for two pages about truths he holds to be self-evident), though it would have made it a lot easier if he'd also given the sources- it took five whole minutes of Googling to find where the info came from-- turns out the Adamses are the first three entries. Lazy AND plagarizing!

But I still feel the need to nit-pick. First, most of Doug's quotes only talk about Christianity in the most general of terms; for instance, one comment says "The general principles on which the fathers achieved independence were the general principles of Christianity", in other words, that the values articulated in the Founding Documents (which have no explicit Christian content) are, in Adams Sr.'s eyes, essentially identical to Christianity's core. Also unfortunately for Doug, almost none of them are from any public documents, but rather are from things like diaries and private letters-- which can certainly show that the Adamses as individuals might have thought Christianity was awesome, but certainly didn't have any legal bearing. (Incidentally, both Presidents Adams were Unitarians, so I'm not sure how Doug squares that away with his vision of them being super-manly proto-evangelical Christ-warriors.)
With Sam Adams, Doug is on even flimsier ground. Wow, who would have thought that the governor of a state founded by Puritans as a quasi-theocracy would reference Christianity in public speeches? And even there, all Adams is doing is encouraging Massachusetts citizens to pray-- something that was regularly done, and is totally Constitutional. No problem, and not really even something all that controversial today, just look at Bush's Jesus Day.
The only quote that seems remotely close to what Doug's talking about (government support of Christianity) comes from John Hancock, a man that Doug would normally outright dismiss as a lace-covered pansy except that he happens to be conveniently agreeing with him:
And lastly, for now, we have John Hancock, signer of the Declaration of Independence, president of Congress, Revolutionary general (you remember him, don’t ‘cha?) and governor of Massachusetts said the following, much to the secularists’ and wussy RINOs’ chagrin:
“Sensible of the importance of Christian piety and virtue to the order and happiness of a state, I cannot but earnestly commend to you every measure for their support and encouragement."
I tried to find more on the quote. The closest I got via the list-compilers was from, which added this tidbit:

John Hancock was the first signer of the Declaration of Independence and member of the Continental Congress. He stated: "Sensible of the importance of Christian piety and virtue to the order and happiness of a state, I cannot but earnestly commend you to every measure for their support and encouragement…Manners, by which not only the freedom but the very existence of the republics are greatly affected, depend much upon the public institutions of religion."
Manners, huh? That's kind of an odd comment within the context of talking about what makes a state successful. Makes me curious...

After much Googling, I discovered that only a single website,, has the entire quote (taken from Hancock's Inaugural Speech as Mass. governor). And guess what? Not so simple.

Sensible of the importance of Christian piety and virtue to the order and happiness of a state, I cannot but earnestly commend to you every measure for their support and encouragement that shall not infringe the rights of conscience, which I rejoice to see established by the Constitution on so broad a basis ; and if anything can be further done on the same basis for the relief of the public teachers of religion and morality, and order of men greatly useful to their country, and who have particularly suffered in the defense of its rights by the depreciation of currency; as also for the relief of widows and orphans, many of whom have been distressed in the same way, and who are particularly committed by Heaven to the protection of civil rulers, I shall most readily concur with you in every such measure.
In other words: Hancock is saying that, in his opinion, Christian piety and virtue is important to keeping a state orderly and happy and therefore wants to support them, as well as support public religious education. It is interesting he makes a point of talking about various other interest groups he also feels deserve government funding.

He continues:

A due observation of the Lord's Day is not only important to internal religion, but greatly conducive to the order and benefit of civil society. It speaks to the senses of mankind, and, by a solemn cessation from their common affairs, reminds them of a Diety and their accountableness to the great Lord of all. Whatever may be necessary to the support of such an institution, in consistence with a reasonable personal liberty, deserves the attention of the civil government.
This one is pretty clear-cut. Hancock thinks it's cool for elected officials to impose their personal beliefs about taking a day off on their constituants. Plenty of states and countries still have Blue Laws and the like-- including Massachussetts, Israel and France. I don't disagree with Hancock's philosophy per se (actually it kind of reminds me of Heschel), it's just a basic disagreement about where you draw the line with government support of religion.

Then we get to that last, odd snippet:
Manners, by which not only the freedom, but the very existence of the republics, are greatly affected, depend much upon the public institutions of religion and the good education of youth; in both these instances our fathers laid wise foundations, for which their posterity have had reason to bless their memory.
This is actually kind of funny, particularly given Hancock's being adopted by "Christian-Nation-Ho!"bags like Doug. Even though Hancock thinks Christianity helps keep a state on the straight and narrow, wants the government to fund religious education and be a government Sabbath Patrolman, he still has the insight to realize that religion is not the be-all-and-end-all-- he also points to the importance of education.
From a modern political perspective, Hancock does seem to be articulating some fairly conservative viewpoints. On the other hand, given that the man had never been to a non-Christian country, nor perhaps ever even met a non-Christian in his life, it might not be so surprising that he thought that his faith was the only civilized one around.
I close with a parting shot from Doug, master of the word... well, some words, at least:
all you RINO wonks who want Christians and Christianity scrubbed from the GOP because you think we are ruining the party, you ought to read the following, as well. Christians are ruining the party? Puh-lease. Uh, we started the party, dillweeds. You’re the ones who’re whizzing on it.
Actually, the French Enlightenment "started the party", Doug, as evidenced by the fact that even at their most pro-religion fervor, the Founders believed in balancing Faith with things like Reason, Freedom, and Truth. If you want to carry on about how awesome Christianity is, go nuts. Yes, there were plenty of Christians among the Founding Fathers. There were also quite a few that either weren't Christian, or were not nearly as doctrinally Orthodox as you might like to pretend. Many combined some Christian affiliation with Deist ideals; Jefferson made his own Bible by slicing out parts he didn't like, and I've read speculation that John Adams may have dabbled in Satanism in his later (and non-public) years. Ben Franklin, though raised in the Puritan tradition, stopped attending church in his early years and stayed away for most of his life.
Were any of these men Christian? By whose standards? Does it really matter? Whatever the answer, I kind of doubt they'd appreciate the degree to which you simplify or skew their names and words just to shore up your own POV, Doug. Yes, we all have agendas, but at least mine doesn't require me to pretend every Founding Father was the 18th century equivalent of Pat Robertson. Good luck convincing people on that, though.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Correction, Please

About a month ago one of UTJ's newer (well, actually, older) MKs announced he had an important point to make. Unfortunately it revealed a laughably myopic and self-important view of Jewish history and religion:

Knesset Member Menachem Eliezer Moses, chairman of the Haredi-religious United Torah Judaism party, has found that an animal welfare bill supported by the government could make his shtreimel an endangered species. The shtreimel is a unique fur hat traditionally worn by members of Hassidic sects on special occasions.

MK Moses wants fur imported for use in making shtreimels be exempted from the general prohibition. "It is inconceivable," he said, "to support a bill that outlaws imports for such a clear and important religious need."

Pardon my ignorance, sir, but exactly what "clear religious need" is that? As a friendly neighborhood rabbi, I'm certain you'd be happy to show me the many detailed halachot on shtreimels. Inquiring minds want to know.

Moses, who is a Belzer Hassid and also a rabbi, explained to the coalition representatives the meaning and importance of the shtreimel to the sector his party represents.

he UTJ leader was at pains to explain that he does not oppose the proposed law entirely, "but I request that the law include an appropriate exception stating that import for religious purposes will not be infringed and will not be considered a violation of the law." With a call for the government ministers to amend the law, MK Moses added, "We are not in the Middle Ages, when Jews were forbidden to use explicitly Jewish symbols."

The shtreimel an explicitly Jewish symbol? Um... no. We stole the shtreimel from Polish noblemen, who presumably then stopped wearing them because even back in the 1700s, Jews were not considered all that cool.

It's funny MK Moses mentioned the Middle Ages because, contrary to what he's semi-implying, we didn't HAVE shtreimels back then. The frigging Reform movement has been around longer than Jewish shtreimels. This guy claims that the earliest Jewish use of shtreimels were by the early Chabad hasidim, which would still only be c. 1770s. He also notes that Peter the Great, or should I say Pinhas ben Alexei, the Tzaddik of Romanov, wore a shtreimel.

Thanks to the power of the internet, I was lucky enough to find a picture of this magnificent specimen of Torah-True History:

Agh! The Yiddishkeit, it buuuurns!

Incidentally, I like this last line. Apparently someone at Arutz Sheva has a sense of humor:

The shtreimel can be made from genuine or synthetic fur, with the latter actually more common among Israeli Hassidic Jews than those overseas. The Rebbe of the Gerrer Hassidic sect, in fact, issued an edict that his followers may only purchase spodiks (a style of shtreimel) made of fake fur and that cost less than $600.

Hmm, if only the Belzer rebbe (or Viznitz?) would follow the Gerrer's lead.

No Twitter in Shul, please

I read this article in Time a week ago and was a bit weirded out:

Voelz and David McDonald, the other senior pastor at Westwinds Community Church in Jackson, Mich., spent two weeks educating their congregation about Twitter, the microblogging site that challenges users to communicate in 140 characters or less. They held training sessions in which congregants brought in their laptops, iPhones and BlackBerrys. They upped the bandwidth in the auditorium.

As expected, banter flourished. Tweets like "Nice shirt JVo" and "So glad they are doing Lenny Kravitz" flashed across three large video screens. But there was heartfelt stuff too.

"I have a hard time recognizing God in the middle of everything."

"The more I press in to Him, the more He presses me out to be useful"

"sometimes healing is painful"

There's a time and place for technology, and most houses of worship still say it's not at morning Mass. But instead of reminding worshippers to silence their cell phones, a small but growing number of churches across the country are following Voelz's lead and encouraging people to integrate text-messaging into their relationship with God.

In Seattle, Mars Hill churchgoers regularly tweet throughout the service. In New York City, Trinity Church marked Good Friday by tweeting the Passion play, detailing the stages of Jesus' crucifixion in short bursts. At Next Level Church, outside Charlotte, N.C., it's not only O.K. to fuse social-networking technology with prayer; it's desirable.

If this is working for people, Mazel Tov. Personally I think it's weird as hell.

At first I was going to write a semi-smug victory post about how at least the Jews aren't doing weird crap like this. Unfortunately, Google had to go and ruin it:

The Reason your Church/Synagoguge Must Twitter

Using Twitter to Broadcast Synagogue Services
(token mention)

Why is your Synagogue Using Twitter?

This last link has an insightful comment:

Churches and non-profits have cottoned on to Twitter a while ago, but it’s been moving much slower and with more contention in the Jewish sphere.

One reason mentioned in another article is the issue about Sabbath observance, but here are a few of my decidedly non-Ortho thoughts. But to start, a disclosure: I have never used Twitter, therefore I may not know what I'm talking about. Actual Twitter users please feel free to post a comment and share your thoughts.

First, on the technology front, I tend to be proudly behind the curve. I have little interest in high-tech toys, and not just because I'm cheap/poor, but also because many seem highly unecessary. I tend to purchase electronics as I need them, not as they become available. I have continued to resist getting a smart phone and the idea of bringing a laptop into a synagogue strikes me as downright silly.

[Brief Aside: Regarding smart phones-- the reason I don't have one is because I don't WANT to have access to technology 24/7. The Verizon guy actually seemed annoyed when I went to upgrade my phone and told him I didn't want a data plan. "Really? Because you can use it to check traffic, bus times, restaurants, weather..."

"That's fantastic. But what I really want to do with it is make phone calls, and possibly send some text messages."

He looked at me like I had just peed on his leg.]

Second, since I have gotten a texting option on my phone, I have gotten further confirmation that I am a wordy little bastard (as if this blog wasn't evidence enough), so I don't think that Twitter would be a very useful program for me to attempt to use.

Third, when I go to shul, I try to stay focused on what's actually happening-- of course I kibbitz a little, but my goal is to keep that to a relative minimum. I'm not explicitly there to chat with people-- certainly not random strangers-- and have zero desire to beam my inner thoughts onto a giant screen in the middle of the sanctuary.

I think this rubs me the wrong way-- and potentially other folks as well-- because no matter how you slice it, I still see Twitter as ultimately being either a distraction (what is someone else saying?) or a exhibition (look at me! read me! I have an opinion!) In the same way I hope I never blog from shul, I have zero desire to tweet from it either. In addition to being rude, it doesn't seem like it would be a productive way to get something out of a service.

Perhaps one reason it is more popular among Christians (the Time article only mentions Protestant churches) is because they are using them in less formalized services, during extensive sermons or prayer sessions. Comparing an evangelical Sunday to a Shabbat service, there is simply less "down time" in which you would be able to Tweet coherently about a topic. Furthermore, given that there are prescribed prayers that you are supposed to be getting through, Twitter seems like it would be distracting you, and possibly preventing others, from concentrating on the task at hand. (Ditto for more formalized Christian denominations, such as Catholicism or Eastern Orthodox.) Try as I might, I can't see Twitter being useful during davening, and while I admit there is (porentially) more intellectual leisure time during High Holidays, it seems more apt to be distracting than productive, at least not without a lot of prep work by the shul.

None of this is to say that Twitter can't be a good tool for shul or community organizing or networking. But I don't think it's going to be all that popular in actual services. Nor, frankly, do I think it should be.

Edit: A Gray area?

Anything to advance an argument

Lazer's back with some great new theodicy. And by great, I mean disgusting.

Feast your eyes on this bit of (apparently-kosher) tripe submitted by a Lazer correspondent named Elliot:

I have compiled a catalogue of recent events in the UK which demonstrate how Hashem takes care of those who hate us.

And by "takes care of," he means in the Godfather sense.

The first example is ok. Jacqui Smith barred Moshe Feiglin from coming to Israel, now she's hit by political scandal. Fine, whatever. It has all the usual problems with theodicy, but it's not as horribly objectionable as what comes next.

During the recent Gaza war, a member of the British House of Lords called Lord Nazir Ahmed stood up in parliament demanding that any British citizen who has served in the IDF should be arrested and imprisoned. This, he said, is because the IDF were 'killing innocent civilians'. A short while later it was announced on the news that Lord Ahmed had been sentenced to imprisonment for dangerous driving. He was texting on his mobile whilst driving his car at speed, and caused a fatal accident in which an innocent motorist was killed.

Oh snap! And it's extra ironic because the MP killed an innocent "civilian" of the road! Man, what a wicked sense of humor that God has. Hey, Elliot, quick question, though-- I know Lord Ahmed was an enemy of Hashem and all, but what exactly did the motorist do to get on his bad side? (Wait, wait, don't tell me... did he forget to get his car's mezuzahs checked?)

The next story is almost spooky in its obvious 'turn for a turn'. In January 2004 Jenny Tonge, a Liberal Democrat Member of Parliament for Richmond Park, London, publicly expressed sympathy for Palestinian suicide bombers. She said if she was a Palestinian, she would be suicide bomber.

Oh, you mean like Barak said in an interview ten years ago?

Later that year an article appeared in the national press that could easily have been missed. A woman, daughter of a London MP, died in a freak accident in her kitchen, she was electrocuted. Her mother, yes, Jenny Tonge, she who empathised with the savage murderers of Jewish children lost her own child. She hasn't yet got the message because she is still involved in demonstrations showing her hatred of Israel; but we can certainly learn and take note.

Again, I like how we're jeering that a political opponent has "gotten what's coming to them" through the death of an uninvolved third party. Given that Elliot wants us to take notes here, I guess the lesson is, "If your parents say things God doesn't like, make sure you stay far away from them, maybe change your name, get plastic surgery, etc." Also, apparently Elliot's God hasn't read Deuteronomy 24:16 or Ezekiel 18:20.

But wait, there's more! Sometimes Hashem takes his revenge on you even if you don't say ANYTHING!

Going back in time a little, one time British Foreign Secretary Robin Cook demonstrated he was no friend of Israel. On an official visit to the country, after the obligatory visit to Yad vaShem he made a point of visiting Deir Yassin to lay a wreath there. Every self-respecting anti-semite knows all about Deir Yassin, where legend has it that Israelis committed an isolated atrocity against Arabs during the 1948 War of Independence. The story has been refuted by the very Arabs who were there. Nevertheless, Mr Cook had to balance his nasty little equation; the Holocaust and Deir Yassin.

Uh huh. Interesting side-note, guess who DIDN'T refute the Deir Yassin "story"? The Irgun.

Shortly after this Mr Cook's sordid private life was publicised in the national press. After years of cheating on his wife, he cruelly left her for his younger secretary and the papers had a field day. Ann Robinson of the Daily Express asked "Who would fancy that ugly little gnome?" Not long afterwoods he had an untimely death. No one remembered his political achievements; only the sordid stuff.

Boo-ya! He laid a wreath, and was smitten! In your face, gnome-man! The power of God and heart disease takes out another enemy of the people. Just in the nick of time, too. We all know how damaging laying wreaths can be, and how the Lord doesn't tolerate jerkwad politicians honoring the enemies of his precious children. Also, the comment about people only remembering "the sordid stuff" makes me think of another recent untimely death-- maybe the reason the media is concentrating on making Michael Jackson's demise into a total circus is because he pissed off God with that dumb song about "Jew me, Kike me." Just a thought.

You'd think Lazer would be embarassed to post this crap on his blog. You'd be wrong. Look at what the wunderrabbi wrote himself the day before.

One of the basics of emuna is that everything that happens in the world is the product of precision Divine Providence. One who attributes events to fate or coincidence scores "zero" in the field of spiritual awareness. Going through life without spiritual awareness is like riding a fast motorcycle on a pitch-black night without turning on the headlight. The outcome is a deadly collision course...

Uh huh. Notice that people that disagree with Lazer don't have a different opinion, aren't even just merely incorrect, they're spiritually dead. Nice. So, what, Lazer, your dear friends in Israel that have been killed over the years were, what, dirty, dirty sinners? Or maybe they were SOOO awesome that Hashem needed them as his ghost warriors up on high.

Also, Lazer, I know you like to use heymishe analogies so you can connect with the simple folk (and you seem to have a strong preference for manly and military objects, no doubt due to that whole "Rambo Rabbi" image you like to cultivate), but this time it seems a bit off. Saying that everything that happens in the world is because of Godly decisions AND therefore suggesting that people's spiritual decisions determine if they get what they deserve or not is more like deliberately deciding to ride a fast motorcycle in the dark with no headlight because you're wearing tzitzit and reciting Psalams, and there's no way Hashem would let such a tzaddik like yourself crash-- and besides, you don't need a helmet because the power of emunah will protect your holy, holy noggin.

Anyway, read on and throw up:

July has become a bloodbath month for American troops in Afghanistan. Last week (July 12th) on Israel National Radio, I went on record in saying that if Obama doesn't back off Jerusalem, he'll pay a nasty price in Afghanistan. Since then, there hasn't been a day when the US hasn't lost troops, a chopper, or a jet fighter.

I know, Lazer, who would have thought that we would continue to struggle in Afghanistan? Especially when the past eight years have been such a cakewalk? Incidentally-- I seem to recall the British and Russians getting hosed in Afghanistan as well 100-plus years ago: were they really threatening holy Yerushelayim as far back as the 1800s?

With typical ignorant arrogance, a U.S. military spokeswoman in Kabul, Lt. Cmdr. Christine Sidenstricker, said she has not heard anything to suggest a common thread tying the tragedies together. "I don't think they're related," she said. Meanwhile, yesterday, four more Americans were killed by a roadside bomb. Hashem's message on deaf ears, or rather ears that don't want to hear.

Yes, I can't believe that the administration is too dumb to connect two events which have nothing to do with each other and which aren't even happening on the same continent. Geez! It's like that time when Bush didn't connect the dots about the Gaza disengagement causing Hurricane Katrina (or was that the 2004 Tsunami?)

...The US Administration is too arrogant to add 2+2.

Maybe they're just bad at "spiritual math." No? "Emuna Algebra?" Wait, I've got it: "The Calculus of Hashem!" Nice. Lazer, I expect royalties on this one.

Obama has called Afghanistan, "My War," and was drunk with victory because of the first 5 days of success. But, your friend Lazer disagreed with Time Magazine, and said on Israel National Radio that the more the USA puts the squeeze on Israel in the matter of Jerusalem, the more Hashem will put the squeeze on the USA in the matter of Afghanistan.

Hmm, how delightfully random of him. It seems like it would be easier to stymie Obama on everything he tries to do.

Even more so, anything that carries Obama's name is doomed to failure.

Touche, God.