Passover

April 14, 2014
The Israelites Eat the Passover (illustration ...

The Israelites Eat the Passover (illustration from the 1728 Figures de la Bible) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

 

At sundown yesterday, the Jews began the celebration of Pesach or Passover, to commemorate what is perhaps the most significant event of Jewish history, the liberation of the Hebrew people from slavery in Egypt. This year, Passover lasts until the evening of  April 21.

 

Exodus 12

The Passover

1 The LORD said to Moses and Aaron in Egypt, 2 “This month is to be for you the first month, the first month of your year. 3 Tell the whole community of Israel that on the tenth day of this month each man is to take a lamb[a] for his family, one for each household. 4 If any household is too small for a whole lamb, they must share one with their nearest neighbor, having taken into account the number of people there are. You are to determine the amount of lamb needed in accordance with what each person will eat. 5 The animals you choose must be year-old males without defect, and you may take them from the sheep or the goats. 6 Take care of them until the fourteenth day of the month, when all the people of the community of Israel must slaughter them at twilight. 7 Then they are to take some of the blood and put it on the sides and tops of the doorframes of the houses where they eat the lambs. 8 That same night they are to eat the meat roasted over the fire, along with bitter herbs, and bread made without yeast. 9 Do not eat the meat raw or cooked in water, but roast it over the fire—head, legs and inner parts. 10 Do not leave any of it till morning; if some is left till morning, you must burn it. 11This is how you are to eat it: with your cloak tucked into your belt, your sandals on your feet and your staff in your hand. Eat it in haste; it is the LORD’s Passover.

12 “On that same night I will pass through Egypt and strike down every firstborn—both men and animals—and I will bring judgment on all the gods of Egypt. I am the LORD. 13 The blood will be a sign for you on the houses where you are; and when I see the blood, I will pass over you. No destructive plague will touch you when I strike Egypt.

14 “This is a day you are to commemorate; for the generations to come you shall celebrate it as a festival to the LORD—a lasting ordinance. 15 For seven days you are to eat bread made without yeast. On the first day remove the yeast from your houses, for whoever eats anything with yeast in it from the first day through the seventh must be cut off from Israel. 16 On the first day hold a sacred assembly, and another one on the seventh day. Do no work at all on these days, except to prepare food for everyone to eat—that is all you may do.

17 “Celebrate the Feast of Unleavened Bread, because it was on this very day that I brought your divisions out of Egypt. Celebrate this day as a lasting ordinance for the generations to come. 18 In the first month you are to eat bread made without yeast, from the evening of the fourteenth day until the evening of the twenty-first day. 19 For seven days no yeast is to be found in your houses. And whoever eats anything with yeast in it must be cut off from the community of Israel, whether he is an alien or native-born. 20 Eat nothing made with yeast. Wherever you live, you must eat unleavened bread.”

21 Then Moses summoned all the elders of Israel and said to them, “Go at once and select the animals for your families and slaughter the Passover lamb. 22 Take a bunch of hyssop, dip it into the blood in the basin and put some of the blood on the top and on both sides of the doorframe. Not one of you shall go out the door of his house until morning. 23 When the LORD goes through the land to strike down the Egyptians, he will see the blood on the top and sides of the doorframe and will pass over that doorway, and he will not permit the destroyer to enter your houses and strike you down.

24 “Obey these instructions as a lasting ordinance for you and your descendants. 25 When you enter the land that the LORD will give you as he promised, observe this ceremony. 26 And when your children ask you, ‘What does this ceremony mean to you?’ 27 then tell them, ‘It is the Passover sacrifice to the LORD, who passed over the houses of the Israelites in Egypt and spared our homes when he struck down the Egyptians.’” Then the people bowed down and worshiped. 28 The Israelites did just what the LORD commanded Moses and Aaron.

29 At midnight the LORD struck down all the firstborn in Egypt, from the firstborn of Pharaoh, who sat on the throne, to the firstborn of the prisoner, who was in the dungeon, and the firstborn of all the livestock as well. 30 Pharaoh and all his officials and all the Egyptians got up during the night, and there was loud wailing in Egypt, for there was not a house without someone dead.

The Exodus

31 During the night Pharaoh summoned Moses and Aaron and said, “Up! Leave my people, you and the Israelites! Go, worship the LORD as you have requested. 32Take your flocks and herds, as you have said, and go. And also bless me.”

33 The Egyptians urged the people to hurry and leave the country. “For otherwise,” they said, “we will all die!” 34 So the people took their dough before the yeast was added, and carried it on their shoulders in kneading troughs wrapped in clothing. 35 The Israelites did as Moses instructed and asked the Egyptians for articles of silver and gold and for clothing. 36 The LORD had made the Egyptians favorably disposed toward the people, and they gave them what they asked for; so they plundered the Egyptians.

37 The Israelites journeyed from Rameses to Succoth. There were about six hundred thousand men on foot, besides women and children. 38 Many other people went up with them, as well as large droves of livestock, both flocks and herds. 39 With the dough they had brought from Egypt, they baked cakes of unleavened bread. The dough was without yeast because they had been driven out of Egypt and did not have time to prepare food for themselves.

40 Now the length of time the Israelite people lived in Egypt[b] was 430 years. 41 At the end of the 430 years, to the very day, all the LORD’s divisions left Egypt. 42 Because the LORD kept vigil that night to bring them out of Egypt, on this night all the Israelites are to keep vigil to honor the LORD for the generations to come.

Passover Restrictions

43The LORD said to Moses and Aaron, “These are the regulations for the Passover:

“No foreigner is to eat of it. 44 Any slave you have bought may eat of it after you have circumcised him, 45 but a temporary resident and a hired worker may not eat of it.

46 “It must be eaten inside one house; take none of the meat outside the house. Do not break any of the bones. 47 The whole community of Israel must celebrate it.

48 “An alien living among you who wants to celebrate the LORD’s Passover must have all the males in his household circumcised; then he may take part like one born in the land. No uncircumcised male may eat of it. 49 The same law applies to the native-born and to the alien living among you.”

50 All the Israelites did just what the LORD had commanded Moses and Aaron. 51 And on that very day the LORD brought the Israelites out of Egypt by their divisions.

 

Although Christians do not generally celebrate Passover, it does have great significance for Christianity. The Last Supper of Jesus and his disciples was a Passover seder.

 

Luke 22

Judas Agrees to Betray Jesus

1 Now the Feast of Unleavened Bread, called the Passover, was approaching, 2 and the chief priests and the teachers of the law were looking for some way to get rid of Jesus, for they were afraid of the people. 3 Then Satan entered Judas, called Iscariot, one of the Twelve. 4 And Judas went to the chief priests and the officers of the temple guard and discussed with them how he might betray Jesus. 5 They were delighted and agreed to give him money. 6He consented, and watched for an opportunity to hand Jesus over to them when no crowd was present.

The Last Supper

7 Then came the day of Unleavened Bread on which the Passover lamb had to be sacrificed. 8Jesus sent Peter and John, saying, “Go and make preparations for us to eat the Passover.”

9 “Where do you want us to prepare for it?” they asked.

10 He replied, “As you enter the city, a man carrying a jar of water will meet you. Follow him to the house that he enters, 11 and say to the owner of the house, ‘The Teacher asks: Where is the guest room, where I may eat the Passover with my disciples?’ 12 He will show you a large upper room, all furnished. Make preparations there.”

13 They left and found things just as Jesus had told them. So they prepared the Passover.

14 When the hour came, Jesus and his apostles reclined at the table. 15 And he said to them, “I have eagerly desired to eat this Passover with you before I suffer. 16 For I tell you, I will not eat it again until it finds fulfillment in the kingdom of God.”

17 After taking the cup, he gave thanks and said, “Take this and divide it among you. 18 For I tell you I will not drink again of the fruit of the vine until the kingdom of God comes.”

19 And he took bread, gave thanks and broke it, and gave it to them, saying, “This is my body given for you; do this in remembrance of me.”

20 In the same way, after the supper he took the cup, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood, which is poured out for you. 21 But the hand of him who is going to betray me is with mine on the table. 22 The Son of Man will go as it has been decreed, but woe to that man who betrays him.” 23 They began to question among themselves which of them it might be who would do this.

 

Jesus’s crucifixion is regarded as a sacrifice like the passover lamb and Christians regard the deliverance of the Hebrews from Egypt as a foreshadowing of Christ’s deliverance of the whole human race from the slavery of sin.

 

26 Such a high priest meets our need—one who is holy, blameless, pure, set apart from sinners, exalted above the heavens. 27 Unlike the other high priests, he does not need to offer sacrifices day after day, first for his own sins, and then for the sins of the people. He sacrificed for their sins once for all when he offered himself. 28 For the law appoints as high priests men who are weak; but the oath, which came after the law, appointed the Son, who has been made perfect forever.  (Hebrews 7:26-28)

28 so Christ was sacrificed once to take away the sins of many people; and he will appear a second time, not to bear sin, but to bring salvation to those who are waiting for him.  (Hebrews 9:28)

 

So, Chag Sameach to any Jewish readers.

 

 

 

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Denouncing the Koch Brothers

April 13, 2014

Former Secretary of Labor Robert Reich emailed me to let me know that he has started a petition at Moveon.org denouncing the Koch Brothers for corrupting our democracy.

We, citizens of the United States, denounce you, Charles and David Koch, for using your vast wealth—more than the combined wealth of the bottom 40 percent of Americans—to corrupt our democracy. You are thereby undermining the most precious gift we possess, our democratic system of government. You deserve to be shamed and condemned by all Americans.

We do not denounce the Koch brothers because their wealth of more than $50 billion exceeds the combined wealth of the bottom 40 percent of all the citizens of the United States, or because they run and own one of the largest petrochemical businesses in the world, or because of their right-wing views.

The Koch brothers are entitled to their wealth and to their opinions, but when they use their vast wealth to overpower the voices of average Americans, that is unfair and they should be held accountable.

They’ve established a political front group, Americans for Prosperity, and are building their own permanent political machine, including hundreds of full-time staff in at least 32 states. They are pouring money into federal and state races—including more than $30 million already to help Republicans win the Senate this year. 

The Koch brothers are thereby using their vast wealth to undermine and corrupt our democracy—a shameful betrayal of our nation for which they deserve to be widely denounced. It’s time we join our voices together to publicly denounce the Koch brothers and their dangerous, corrupting influence. They may not be swayed by our voices, but when enough of us condemn what they’re doing, taking their money will become a political liability.

Click here to add your name to this petition, and then pass it along to your friends.

Thanks!

–Robert Reich

I keep wondering why the Democrats are so obsessed with the Koch Brothers. What crimes have these men committed? Don’t they have the right to spend their money however they wish? How exactly are they undermining democracy or overpowering the voices of average Americans? Are they preventing anyone else from speaking or from supporting political candidates?

Robert Reich acts as if the Koch Brothers were doing something uniquely evil by spending large amounts of money to influence politics. Yet, if you look at Open Secrets’ list of top political donors, Koch Industries is all the down to 59th place with a total of $18,283,448 in contributions from 1989 to 2014. This does not include their efforts with Americans for Prosperity and other fundraising, but it is a starting point for comparisons. The top political donor from 1989 to 2014 is ActBlue, a Democratic leaning political action committee. They contributed a total of $100,887,828. Second and third are the American Federation of State, County & Municipal Employees and the National Education Association with contributions totaling $61,339,129 and $61,339,129 respectively. Both these organizations contribute almost entirely to Democrats. In fact, the top sixteen donors either support the Democrats or are on the fence. Of these sixteen, eleven are labor unions. Say what you will about the Kochs, at least they are spending their own money, not money taken from members’ dues. The ones who contributed to both parties seem to be some of the largest corporations in America, like AT&T, Goldman Sachs, J. P. Morgan, and others. The top Republican donor is United Parcel Service with contributions totaling $32,565,382. 

Why doesn’t Robert Reich denounce any large donors, except for the Kochs? Why doesn’t he denounce the actions of the labor unions who not only contribute large amounts of money to Democrats but also provide many of the foot soldiers for their political campaigns? What about Hollywood? Even a mediocre actor can get a lot a attention for any political cause he may want to support, and most actors are liberal. Aren’t these examples of overpowering the voices of ordinary Americans. He also has nothing to say about large corporate donors who contribute to both parties. Why not? If a corporation is contributing to both the Republicans and the Democrat, chances are it is not promoting any particular ideology but is trying to buy favors or protection. At least the Kochs can credibly claim to promote a conservative/libertarian ideology beyond their business agenda.

 He states that he does not condemn the Kochs because of their wealth or their right wing views, but does he really expect anyone to believe him? I think it is precisely because of their right wing views that the Democrats single out the Koch Brothers for condemnation. Corporations buying concessions and favors from legislatures doesn’t seem to bother them. Trying to promote the libertarian viewpoint of a smaller, less powerful government seems to bother them quite a lot. Demonizing and denouncing some of the most prominent supporters of that viewpoint may help others to reconsider donating to conservative causes. Like so much else on the left, denouncing the Koch Brothers is all about power and bullying.

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Palm Sunday

April 13, 2014

Today is Palm Sunday, the Sunday before Easter. Palm Sunday commemorates Jesus’s entry into Jerusalem and the beginning of the climax of his earthly ministry.

Jesus Comes to Jerusalem as King

1 As they approached Jerusalem and came to Bethphage on the Mount of Olives, Jesus sent two disciples, 2 saying to them, “Go to the village ahead of you, and at once you will find a donkey tied there, with her colt by her. Untie them and bring them to me. 3If anyone says anything to you, say that the Lord needs them, and he will send them right away.”

4 This took place to fulfill what was spoken through the prophet:

5 “Say to Daughter Zion,
‘See, your king comes to you,
gentle and riding on a donkey,
and on a colt, the foal of a donkey.’”

6 The disciples went and did as Jesus had instructed them. 7 They brought the donkey and the colt and placed their cloaks on them for Jesus to sit on. 8 A very large crowd spread their cloaks on the road, while others cut branches from the trees and spread them on the road. 9 The crowds that went ahead of him and those that followed shouted,

“Hosanna to the Son of David!”

“Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!”

“Hosanna in the highest heaven!”

10 When Jesus entered Jerusalem, the whole city was stirred and asked, “Who is this?”

11 The crowds answered, “This is Jesus, the prophet from Nazareth in Galilee.” (Matt 21:1-11)

Palm Sunday is often celebrated by palm leaves to worshippers in churches. If palm leaves are not available locally, than other tree branches may be substituted. In many churches the priest or other clergy blesses the palms and they are saved to be burned at Ash Wednesday the following year.

The actual date of Palm Sunday, like Easter varies from year to year because the date is based on a lunisolar cycle like the Hebrew calendar. The date differs between Western and Eastern Christianity because most Eastern churches still use the Julian calendar for their liturgical year, even though the Gregorian calendar is universally used for civil purposes.

Palm Sunday begins Holy Week, or the last week of Lent.

Jesus entering Jerusalem on a donkey

Jesus entering Jerusalem on a donkey (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

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Uninstall Firefox

April 8, 2014

Dennis Prager says it better than I ever could in his latest column.

 

In 31 years of broadcasting, and 40 years of writing, I have never advocated a boycott of a product.

Quite the opposite, in fact.

During the 2012 presidential campaign, when the left attempted to destroy Chick-Fil-A for its owner’s views on same-sex marriage, I suggested on my radio show that the Republican candidate, Mitt Romney, stand in front of a Chick-Fil-A restaurant while enjoying some Ben and Jerry’s ice cream. In that way, I argued, he could show one of the great moral differences between the right and the left. Though Ben and Jerry are leftists, we conservatives do not believe that company owners’ views should matter to consumers. We believe that products should speak for themselves. If the ice cream is good, despite whatever repugnance we might feel regarding the views of the makers of that ice cream, we will still purchase it.

 

Actually, I have avoided Ben and Jerry’s ice cream, not so much for their political views as their insufferable self-righteousness. I really don’t care how much they want world peace or social justice, just make ice cream.

 

Anyway.

 

The left does not see things that way. The left is out to crush individuals and companies with whom it differs. This is especially so today on the issue of same-sex marriage.

Perhaps the most dramatic example of this took place last week. The governing board of the widely used browser, Firefox, forced the company’s CEO, Brendan Eich, to resign. The Firefox board had learned that in 2008, Eich donated $1,000 to the Proposition 8 campaign in California. Proposition 8 amended the California Constitution to define marriage as the union of one man and one woman. In classic Communist fashion, gay rights organizations demanded that Eich publicly recant. When Eich did not, gay rights and other leftist organizations called for a boycott of Firefox. Firefox immediately forced Eich out.

All these years, the left, after coining the term “McCarthyism” in order to disparage the right, had fooled most people into believing that it is the right that suppresses liberty. The truth, of course, has been the opposite. Worldwide, with the exception of Nazi Germany (which was a uniquely race-based totalitarianism, neither left nor right — while it rejected Marxist class-based struggle, it supported socialism (“Nazism” was short for National Socialism), every genocidal totalitarian regime of the 20th century was leftist. And domestically, too, the left has much less interest in liberty than in forcing people to act in accord with its values. A totalitarian streak is part of the left’s DNA. How you think matters and what you do away outside of work matters: More than 20 states prohibit judges from being leaders in the Boy Scouts — because the left deems the Boy Scouts homophobic.

During the McCarthy era, the left (and not only the left) screamed when people were falsely charged with supporting Stalin and Communism, one of the greatest evils in human history. But the left also screamed when people who really did aid and abet Stalin were dismissed from their jobs. In other words, for those on the left who celebrate Eich’s ouster, it was evil to deprive a man who supported Stalin of a job, but it is right to fire a man who supports the man-woman definition of marriage. Such is the left’s moral compass.

It is important to further note that gay employees at Firefox acknowledge that Eich never discriminated against gays, whether in employment, benefits or any other way. But that doesn’t matter to the left because a totalitarian streak is part of the left’s DNA.

As Princeton Professor of Jurisprudence Robert George warned on my radio show, today the left fires employees for opposition to same-sex marriage. Tomorrow it will fire employees who are pro-life (“anti-woman”). And next it will be employees who support Israel (an “apartheid state”).

The reason to boycott Firefox is not that it is run by leftists. Nor is the reason to support the man-woman definition of marriage. It is solely in order to preserve liberty in the land of liberty. If Firefox doesn’t recant and rehire Eich as CEO, McCarthyism will have returned far more pervasively and perniciously than in its first incarnation. The message the gay left (such as the Orwellian-named Human Rights Campaign) and the left in general wish to send is that Americans who are in positions of power at any company should be forced to resign if they hold a position that the left strongly opposes.

And right now that position is opposition to same-sex marriage.

Think about that. In the United States of America today, the belief that marriage should remain defined as the union of a man and woman is portrayed as so vile by the left that anyone who holds it is unfit for employment.

A handful of those on the gay (and straight) left have spoken out against the forced resignation of Eich. If their words are to mean anything, they must join in the call to boycott Firefox. Otherwise, their protestations are meaningless, made solely to preserve their moral credibility.

The battle over Firefox is the most important battle in America at this particular moment. If you use Firefox, uninstall it. Instead use Internet Explorer, Chrome, Opera, Safari, or try Pale Moon for Windows, which is based on the Firefox engine and will import all of your bookmarks. For mobile devices, you can try Puffin.

America can have liberty or it can have Firefox. Right now, it cannot have both.

 

I would like to add that if you are gay or support same-sex marriage, you should know that the sort of left-wing activists Prager is talking about do not really care about you and are not your friends. This is not about same-sex marriage. This is about power and bullying. Right now they support gay rights in the hope that they can weaken the influence of religion  in this country and damage conservatives. If it were politically expedient, they would just as soon throw homosexuals in jail, or stone them.

 

 

 

 

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Out of the Silent Planet

April 7, 2014

Sometime in the 1930s, C. S. Lewis and his friend J. R. R. Tolkien were complaining about the state of contemporary English fiction. “Tollers, there is too little of what we really like in stories”, Lewis said to Tolkien, “I am afraid we shall have to write some ourselves”. After some discussion on the subject, the two writers agreed that Tolkien would write a time travel story while Lewis would try his hand at a space travel story.

The results were typical of the very different styles and personalities of the two men. Tolkien was a perfectionist who was never satisfied with anything he wrote and his proposed story was never finished. Lewis was more energetic and managed to write the three novels that make up his “Space Trilogy” in less than a decade.
Out of the Silent Planet is the first book in the trilogy. The story begins when Elwin Ransom, a philologist who is spending his vacation walking around the English countryside, comes across two men, Weston and Devine, trying to force a retarded young man into some structure. Ransom rescues the young man, only to be taken himself on what turns out to be a space ship traveling to a planet called Malacandra, or Mars. Along the way, Ransom discovers that Weston and Devine intend to deliver him as a sort of human sacrifice to the Malacandrans and as soon as they land, he escapes.

Out of the Silent Planet

Out of the Silent Planet (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Ransom quickly encounters the Malacandrans and learns that they are not the savage, primitive monsters he had been led to believe they were. There are three species of Malacandrans; the seal like Hrossa, the tall, wise Sorns, and the handy Pfifltriggi. A fourth race, the invisible Eldili live in space and are more like spirits or angels. All three races are unfallen and thus lack the inclination to evil that the inhabitants of our Earth or Thulcandra, the Silent Planet. The only word in the Malacandran language that Ransom can find to express the concept of evil is “bent”, perhaps the most apt word to describe the problems or humanity that I have ever heard.

 

There is not much action in Out of the Silent Planet, and there are slow places, but the plot is far from dull. I think the depictions of the extraterrestrials are among the best I have read in science fiction. The science is badly dated, though Lewis made the best use of contemporary theories and knowledge about Mars available at the time. In the climax, Ransom is brought before the ruling eldil of Malacandra, the Oyarsa. He discovers that the Oyarsa of Earth is bent and confined to Earth’s immediate region in space. As a result, Earth is inaccessible to the Eldil and is named Thulcandra, the Silent Planet. Ransom answers the Oyarsa’s questions about life on Thulcandra and affirms things are very bent indeed. Weston and Devine are brought forward, but they insist on treating the Malacandrans like ignorant savages, even speaking in a ridiculous pidgin. This scene is a send up of modern man’s pretensions of superiority over “primitives”, and Ransom’s translation of Weston’s speech asserting Human superiority over the Malacandrans is priceless.

 
Out of the Silent Planet seems to be a promising beginning to the Space Trilogy and can stand on its own. I am not sure if it can really be classed as properly science fiction so much as a theological fantasy, or an up to date medieval romance, but however you might classify it, it is worth the effort of reading.

 

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Stinkburgers

April 7, 2014

Last week, President Obama spoke in Ann Arbor Michigan. Among other things, he expressed support for raising the minimum wage and attack Republican policies. Here is an article from the Washington Post.

President Obama compared the Republican budget plan to a “stinkburger” or “meanwich” during a speech here Wednesday, using a series of zingers in an attempt to strike a contrast with the GOP on economic issues in an election year.

In a speech to an enthusiastic crowd of 1,400 at the University of Michigan, Obama repeatedly mocked Republican ideas about how to improve the economy, as he touted his own proposal to raise the minimum wage.

Obama, who visited the local Zingerman’s deli before the speech, said that Republican proposals to cut taxes for wealthier Americans and federal investments in education, as well as replace his federal health-care program, would harm the economy.

The GOP has proposed the same ideas so many times, Obama said, “It’s like that movie ‘Groundhog Day,’ except it’s not funny. If they tried to sell this sandwich at Zingerman’s, they’d have to call it the stinkburger or the meanwich.”

Obama’s appearance here was the latest in his bid to put pressure on Republicans to support his proposal to raise the federal minimum wage from $7.25 an hour to $10.10 an hour. Republicans have opposed the plan, citing federal estimates that it could eliminate up to 500,000 jobs, even as it raised wages for many more.

In the state that is home to the U.S. auto industry, the president cited the example of Henry Ford more than a century ago, who Obama said gave workers raises so they could “afford to buy the cars they were building.”

Setting the stage for a vote on the plan in Congress, Obama said the GOP will have to make clear whether they support paying the lowest-paid workers more money: “You’ve got a choice: You can give America the shaft, or you can give it a raise.”

Stinkburgers? Meanwiches? Has Mr. Obama been getting Malia and Sasha to write his speeches for him? I know what points he was trying to make he was trying to be humorous, but that just sounds silly. I am afraid that our political discourse has come a long way since the days of the Lincoln-Douglas debates.

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Boycotting Mozilla

April 6, 2014

By now, just about everyone who might be reading this post knows something of what has going on with Mozilla and its eleven day CEO Brendan Eich. For the heinous crime of donating $1000 in support of California’s  anti-gay marriage Proposition 8, a position held by none other than then Senator Barack Obama. For this thought crime, Mr. Eich has been obliged to leave.

This isn’t about gay marriage. It isn’t really about freedom of expression, or the right to donate to political causes without fear of retribution. This is about the most fundamental right of all , the right to be left alone to live our lives as we see fit.

There is a class of professional activists; the hyper sensitive, the perpetually aggrieved, the would be do-gooders and reformers, for whom everything is subordinate to the glorious cause. For these people, life is a Manichean struggle of ultimate good and evil. No one can be neutral or indifferent to the struggle. If you are not with them, you are against them and must be destroyed by any means necessary. No decision or action can be strictly personal. Everything is political. In Mr. Eich’s case, the fact that he was a co founder of Mozilla and had invented JavaScript was irrelevant. He had opposed the cause and could not be tolerated. Remember that notorious video that British environmentalists made.

 

Notice that the people who were blown up were not actually opposed to the Green agenda. Their crime was simply that they were not sufficiently enthusiastic. I don’t want to live in that kind of world. I don’t want to boycott Mozilla or stop using Firefox. I don’t want to make decisions on what I buy or use based on the political ideas of the providers. I would rather just live my life and express my opinions and let everyone else alone. If there are differences of opinions, I would rather discuss or debate the matter and not have to worry about being punished for taking the wrong side, or punishing others for disagreeing with me. It would seem, however, that those of us who want to be left alone and to leave others alone are not going to be allowed to do that. Since this is the world the busybodies and the bullies seem to want, I guess we will just have to push back until they go away.

I do not know if the people who run Mozilla are cowards who give in to the least pressure, from the right sort of people, or if they can be included among the bullies. It really doesn’t matter. They have shown that they are on the side against liberty and so do not deserve any support from me. I will uninstall Firefox.

No Firefox

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Ararat

April 1, 2014

Maybe it is because of the recent movie on the subject, but I seem to be writing a lot about Noah and his ark. I wrote about a possible shape of Noah’s ark about a week ago, and now I would like to write a little about where his ark ended up.

Mount Ararat is a mountain in the easternmost region of Turkey, close to Turkey’s border with Iran and Armenia. It is a dormant volcano with two peaks, Greater Ararat and Lesser Ararat with elevations of 16,854 and 12,782 feet respectively. Mount Ararat is the highest mountain of the Armenian plateau and the ancient Armenians revered the mountain as the home of their gods, much as  the ancient Greeks revered Mount Olympus. More recently, many Christians have believed that Mount Ararat is the place where Noah’s ark landed. There have even been expeditions over the years to try to find some remains of the ark. Despite urban legends to the contrary, the ark has never been found.Of course, you really couldn’t expect that a vessel made of wood would survive for thousands of years, but perhaps they are looking in the wrong place.

Ararat_3d_version_1

The actual account in Genesis reads:

But God remembered Noah and all the wild animals and the livestock that were with him in the ark, and he sent a wind over the earth, and the waters receded. Now the springs of the deep and the floodgates of the heavens had been closed, and the rain had stopped falling from the sky. The water receded steadily from the earth. At the end of the hundred and fifty days the water had gone down, and on the seventeenth day of the seventh month the ark came to rest on the mountains of Ararat. The waters continued to recede until the tenth month, and on the first day of the tenth month the tops of the mountains became visible. (Gen 8:1-5)

Notice that it says the mountains of Ararat. This does not seem to be a reference to a single mountain, nor is it likely that the ark would be large enough to extend across several mountains. If I were to say that the plane landed in the Rocky Mountains, I wouldn’t mean that the plane landed on a mountain called Rocky nor that the plane was perched atop several mountains. I would mean that the plane landed somewhere in the mountain ranges known as the Rockies. Similarly, the “mountains of Ararat” must refer to a mountainous region that the ark came to rest in.

So, where are the mountains of Ararat? In the Armenian plateau, between the River Tigris and the Caucasus Mountains, there was a kingdom, centered around Lake Van, known as Urartu. This kingdom began as a collection of tribes and kingdoms around 1200 BC. They were conquered by the Assyrians but reemerged as a united kingdom around 850, during a period of Assyrian weakness. They managed to resist the Assyrians until 745 when they were conquered again by Tiglath Pileser II. Urartu regained some independence, as a vasssl of Assyrian but they were subjected to invasions by the  Cimmerians, Scythians, and later the Medes. When the Assyrian Empire was overthrown, Urartu recovered its power somewhat until it was finally conquered and destroyed by the Persians around 590. The Phrygians and the ancestors of the Armenians settled in the region and Urartu ceased to exist. Modern Armenians trace their heritage back to Urartu, and it has come to play a role in Armenian nationalism.

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The story of Noah and the ark originated in the flat plain of Mesopotamia. The Sumerians realized that an ark or ship in a receding flood would more likely come to rest at a higher altitude than their own lowlands and the highlands that later came to be known as Urartu seemed a logical place. The Hebrews were, of course, familiar with the region of Urartu which was rendered Ararat in the Hebrew language.  Mount Ararat is, of course, to be found in the mountains or Ararat, but any searchers for the remains of Noah’s ark are going to have to look over an entire region rather than a single mountain.

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The Story of Mohammed, Islam Unveiled

March 28, 2014

After the terrorist attack on September 11, 2001, many of our political leaders took pains to assure us that Islam is a religion of peace. The nineteen men who committed the atrocities on that date were said to have followed an extreme version of Islam, a version not shared by the vast majority of peace loving Muslims. Many people, however, cannot help but wonder whether a religion whose adherents are responsible for most of the terrorism in the world today might not promote violence in its teachings. Being a religion with more than one and a half billion followers, contemporary Islam is of course very diverse. There are many, many Muslims who are indeed peaceful, and many who are not. How, then, can we determine whether the doctrines of Islam promote peace or violence?

One way, might be to go back and look at the founder of the religion. After all, a tree is known by its fruits. The Prophet Mohammed in Arabia founded Islam more than fourteen centuries ago. To this day, Muslims look upon him as a perfect man to be emulated. Stories of his sayings and deeds, known as the Hadiths, are second only to the Koran as a guide to Muslim behavior. So then, learning whether Mohammed was a man of peace or of war should go a long way in determining whether Islam is a religion of peace or of war.

That is just what Harry Richardson has done with his book The Story of Mohammed, Islam Unveiled. Mr. Richardson tells the story of the life of Mohammed using Islamic sources including the Koran. Along the way, he shows how Mohammed’s example is used by terrorists to justify their actions. For, Mohammed was not a man of peace. He and his religion were peaceful enough when they were a small sect in Mecca. After the move to Medina, where Mohammed took power, the new religion quickly became very violent and intolerant. Under Mohammed’s rule, any atrocity or betrayal was justified if it furthered the cause of Islam. As Mr. Richardson shows, this same ends justify the means mentality is still used by all too many people in the Islamic world.

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Harry Richardson covers most of the same ground as Robert Spencer does in his books about Islam. I think though, that Richardson’s approach is more accessible than Spencer’s. He begins with the assumption that the reader knows little or nothing about Islam and explains the results of his own research referring to his sources. Although Mr. Richard may have begun his studies knowing little about Islam, he was clearly spent a lot of time and effort educating himself. He is also less confrontational than Robert Spencer often has been.

I can strongly recommend that anyone interested in what is going on in the world of Islam read this book and then go on to read the Koran and other Islamic scriptures. If we are to prevent more attacks, we need accurate information about those who regard us as the enemies of Allah. Our leaders are not interested in telling us the truth about Islam, so we must educate ourselves. Harry Richardson’s book is a good place to begin.

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Indiana Rejects Common Core

March 27, 2014

Walter Russell Mead has some interesting things to say about Indiana’s recent rejection of the Common Core federal education standards. He approves of the move not so much because of any defect in the standard but from a sense that a one size fits all program for a nation as large and diverse as the United States is not desirable. Here are his reasons.

First of all, families should have as much freedom as possible to shape their children’s education. And the closer to the grassroots level educational decision-making resides, the more likely it is that parents can help shape important decisions about their kids’ education.

Secondly, it’s clear that our educational system is in the midst of a period of change, as it needs to be. Society is changing, the economy is changing, yet our educational system is still a product of the Industrial Age. It’s designed to produce people who are good at following directions, coping with boredom, and sitting still for long periods of time. Coming up with a new model suited for the 21st century is going to take time and experimentation. Letting cities and states (to say nothing of individual schools, whether public, charter, or private) try out new approaches is the best way to do this. Let a hundred flowers bloom.

More broadly, as the U.S. continues to grow, we need to work much harder to keep important decisions at state and local levels for the sake of national unity and the health of democratic society. The individual American has almost no influence over decisions at the federal level, but at state and local levels grassroots coalitions and social and civic organizations can make a real difference. America is based on the idea that ordinary people should be responsible for their own lives; a mass society dilutes that necessary freedom and authority. Our democratic society will wither away if Washington tries to make all our important decisions for us. Centralization of power also tends to exaggerate and heighten political polarization. Let Texas live as it pleases, and let Vermont be Vermont. America will be happier and more peaceful when smaller units of government make more of the really consequential decisions.

This last argument is one to keep in mind. We think of ourselves as a democracy, the sort of country in which the people rather than a king or dictator rules. Yet, how democratic can a country with a population of over 300 million actually be if all the major decisions are made by a centralized government in a distant capital? One person out of 300 million simply has no voice. Pundits and professional worriers always complain when fewer than half the electorate actually votes in any national election, but why should they? One person voting in any national election, presidential , senatorial or congressional really isn’t going to make a difference. As centralized government over a country as large as the United States can’t really be very democratic at all, despite the number of elections that are held. By necessity, any such government must tend to be despotic just in order to get things done. Three hundred million people are never going to come to any consensus on any issue.  For this reason,we would be a whole lot better if most of the decisions that affect people’s lives were made at the state and local level, where an individual could make a difference.

I also think that a lot of the so-called culture wars over social issues would be a lot less intense and divisive if we got away from the idea that the federal government should impose one solution over the whole country. Take same-sex marriage. Why not let California legalize it while Iowa could ban it? That way people in both places could be happy.The same could apply to abortion, gun control, and many other issues. If you don’t like the way an issue is handled in your state, well, it is easier to change policies at the state level and you could always move.

Of course, the progressives hate the very idea of the federal government yielding any of its power. It is a lot harder to make fundamental changes when you have to deal with 50 states than with one federal government. They always profess to love diversity, except in matters where diversity really counts.

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