Archive for October, 2011

Halloween

October 31, 2011

Today is Halloween. It doesn’t much feel like it since in Madison we had trick or treating last Saturday. Still, I thought I would mention it and say a few words.

The name “Halloween” is actually derived from “All Hallow’s Eve“, that is the day before “All Hallow’s Day” or All Saint’s Day. All Saint’s Day was and is a Christian, primarily Roman Catholic, holy day which celebrates all the saints in Heaven and includes prayers for those in Purgatory.

Halloween, however, is not a Christian holiday. It seems to have come from the Celtic festival of Samhain, which was a summer’s end or harvest festival. The Celts celebrated Samhain with bonfires to ward off evil spirits and sacrificed animals and sometimes humans to their gods. This pagan heritage has made Halloween controversial among Christians at times. The Protestant Reformers in England did not like the holiday and tried to suppress it because of its pagan and Roman Catholic origins. The Scots were more lenient and Halloween is celebrated there more than in England. The Irish, of course, still celebrated it as they remained Catholic and true to their Celtic Heritage. Halloween was not much celebrated in America until large numbers of Scots and Irish immigrated here during the nineteenth century.

As for the customs which have grown up around Halloween, it would seem that carving pumpkins into jack-o-lanterns is an American innovation. The Scots and Irish used turnips. Pumpkins, which are native to North American, turned out to be larger and easier to carve. Trick or treating seems to be derived from the Scottish custom of guising. Guising is the custom in which children would go from door to door in costume begging for treats and performing a trick or song in return. This custom was first noted in America in the early twentieth century. Trick or treating became the custom by the 1930’s. Haunted houses have also become popular since the 1970’s.

So, Happy Halloween, or Samhain.

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Citizen’s Arrest!!

October 30, 2011

I always liked this scene from the Andy Griffith Show.

 

The reason I bring this up is because of this story I saw in the New York Post. It would seem that in New York there are indeed two sets of laws, as Gomer Pyle says, one for the citizens and one for the police and their friends and families.

Hundreds of NYPD cops rallied in front of the Bronx County Courthouse yesterday to support 16 colleagues who were indicted in a long-simmering ticket-fixing scandal.

The Patrolmen’s Benevolent Association was out in force, passing out various signs to the off-duty protesters.

One sign asserted the supposed mild nature of fixing tickets: “It’s a courtesy, not a crime.” Another called it “NYPD Culture.”

Well, PBA culture, anyway.

When the trials get under way, it will be interesting to pull back the covers of these “courtesies” — and the underlying culture.

Apart from the blatant criminal charges against Jose Ramos, the police officer whose ties to a drug dealer first sparked the investigation in 2009, the “courtesy” in ticket-fixing seems pretty much an insiders’ game.

Call it cops’ “Friends-and-Family” plan — with union officials cutting breaks for the rank-and-file’s relatives and pals.

But over the course of the investigation, wiretaps revealed widespread fixing that extended beyond parking-violation favors to potential cover-ups of DWI and domestic-disturbance incidents.

In short, it’s serious stuff — and it sure doesn’t seem like a “courtesy” that’s ever been extended to the general public.

Another sign at the courthouse read, “Collective prosecution is unfair.”

Yeah, and so is “selective enforcement.”

Fact is, the best way to cultivate contempt for the law is to create the impression that the rules apply only to some.

It’s ultimately for a court to determine whether crimes were committed.

But if it comes out during the process that PBA officers plotted to help out friends, family and those in a position to help the organization, then the union itself needs to be prosecuted as a criminal conspiracy.

“A courtesy, not a crime”?

These police officers who are rallying in support of this practice fail to understand that if people begin to feel that there are two sets of laws, or that the police are to be considered above the law, that will, in the long run, make their jobs a whole lot more difficult.

Where is Sheriff Taylor, when we need him?

And thanks once again to Instapundit.

Les Miserables

October 29, 2011

Les Miserables is Victor Hugo’s literary masterpiece about a convict, Jean Valjean, who redeems himself and becomes a truly good man.  I have to confess that I was more than a little put off by the length of this novel and it took me quite a while to get through it but I do not regret the time and effort. This is quite simply the best novel that I have ever read. I fell in love with this book at the first chapter.  I loved all of the characters, even the villains, which is important in enjoying any story. Jean Valjean’s transformation is well told. The Thenardiers are thoroughly vicious. Javert, the policeman pursues Jean Valjean out of a too narrow conception of his duty. Marius is heroic, and so on.

My only complaint, and it is a minor one, was the way in which Victor Hugo went off in tangents with essays about French history or culture. These essays were interesting but they tended to interrupt the action of the story and I think that on the whole the plot would have moved along more briskly without them.

The translator, Isabel Hapgood seems to have done a terrific job translating the book from the French, though since I don’t read French, I cannot tell for certain.  In any event this is a book you must read.

 

 

The Last Testament

October 28, 2011

Brent Bozell, the founder and President of the Media Research Center usually writes about liberal bias in the media or our rapidly decaying popular culture. This week, however, in his column at Townhall.com, he writes about a book called The Last Testament, shortly to be published by Simon & Schuster. The Last Testament, written by one David Javerbaum, is a book length parody of the Bible, allegedly written by God Himself.

Those prestigious publishers at Simon and Schuster selected All Saints Day to unleash the book world’s latest attempt at mocking Christianity. It’s called “The Last Testament, by God.”

The author is David Javerbaum, a top writer for 11 years for “The Daily Show” on Comedy Central, perhaps America’s leading religion-hating TV network. Is it any surprise that the critics love it?

Publishers Weekly raves, “The Almighty opens up in this blithely blasphemous satire of monotheism.” God, in this alleged autobiography, is “a complex, troubled Deity: vain, petulant, desperate for praise and burnt offerings, guiltily pensive in the after-wrath of unhinged smitings. Adherents of every Abrahamic faith will find plenty of hilarious, offensive manna for thought in these revelations.” Kirkus Reviews bluntly adds, “Damned comical. Amen.”

Hilarious, offensive.” What they mean is that it’s hilarious because it’s offensive.

Simon and Schuster’s Executive Vice President and Publisher, Jonathan Karp announced the book by poking fun of the Jews. “We feel like we are the chosen publisher,” Karp cracked to Entertainment Weekly. “A lot of writers are creative, but this writer is really creative.” Karp was much more obsequious and reverent last fall in selling the last testament of Ted Kennedy, the posthumous memoir “True Compass.” Perhaps it’s because it’s Kennedy, not just God.

Javerbaum’s God is a doofus full of imperfections. In the beginning, God created the world so he could dominate someone. “In my humble opinion, thou canst hardly call thyself the LORD, if thou hast created no other beings to LORD it over,” Javerbaum imagines. “I had a burning ambition to rule the world, but I knew such a world was not going to create itself; no fully formed planet was going to suddenly appear and say, `Here, LORD, take these 20 burnt offerings,’ or `Here, LORD, take these 50 infidel heads,’ or `Here, LORD, take these 200 years of religious warfare.'”

You should really read the whole column to get a better idea of what this book is about.

Have you ever wondered why it is acceptable, even cool to make fun of Christianity while another certain peaceful religion is off-limits?

I guess that is the answer. Make fun of Christianity and all your liberal friends praise you for your courage. Make fun of Islam and you risk your life, plus your liberal friends will ostracize you as a Islamophobe.

 

 

Update: I understand that Mr. Javerbaum does, in fact, make fun of Islam in his book. You wouldn’t know it from the description in Amazon.com and frankly I am surprised that Simon & Schuster  had the courage to publish a book critical of Islam. It must have slipped by their editors. That doesn’t invalidate my central point, though. People who pat themselves on the back for their courage in mocking Christianity or Judaism tend to be curiously reticent about mocking Islam, probably because they don’t want their arms pulled out of their sockets.

 

Don’t Stay at the Hutton Hotel

October 26, 2011

If you happen to be in the Nashville Tennessee area, you might not want to stay at the Hutton Hotel. It seems that Robert Spencer and Pamela Geller of Jihad Watch had planned to have a “Preserving Freedom” conference there. Unfortunately some unnamed Muslim groups (probably CAIR) complained, and others made threats so the hotel cancelled the entire conference.

Here is more information. And here, and here.

What the heck, just go over to Jihadwatch. You should be anyway.

I actually think the hotel had every right in the world to cancel the conference, but I, for one, am not going to patronize such a spineless company. I don’t like bullies who want to suppress free speech and I don’t like cowards who cave in to them.

 

Dennis Prager Prefers Envangelicals

October 26, 2011

Dennis Prager prefers Evangelical Christians over Left-wing university professors, even though he is Jewish.I don’t blame him. Here is just a section of his column.

With regard to those evangelicals — and for that matter those ultra-orthodox Jews — who believe that the earth is less than 10,000 years old and either that there were no dinosaurs or that they lived alongside human beings, my reaction has always been: So what? I believe that the earth is many million years old, that “six days” is meant as six periods of time (the sun wasn’t even created until the Third Day, so how do you quantify a “day” before then?), and dinosaurs preexisted man by millions of years. But what real-life problem is caused by people who believe otherwise? Does it affect any of their important behaviors in life? Do they not take their children to doctors? Do they oppose medical research? Do they reject the discoveries of scientists that affect our lives? No. Not at all. Are there no evangelical or ultra-orthodox Jewish doctors? Of course there are, and apparently they are very comfortable learning and practicing science. Compared to the many irrational beliefs of secular-left intellectuals — good and evil exist even though there is no God, male and female are interchangeable, international institutions are the hope of mankind — evangelical irrational beliefs are utterly benign.

And as regards same-sex marriage, why is the normative Christian and Jewish belief that marriage should be between a man and a woman anti-science and anti-intellectual? What we have here is the usual left-wing tactic of smearing opponents. If you disagree with race-based affirmative action, you are a racist; disagree with the ever-expanding welfare state, you lack compassion; disagree with redefining marriage in the most radical way ever attempted in history, and you are a hater. No wonder the Left developed the foolish and destructive self-esteem movement — no one has anywhere near the self-esteem leftists have. They are certain that they are better human beings in every way than those who have the temerity to oppose them.

This Jew will take the evangelicals’ values and the evangelicals’ America over those of left-wing intellectuals any day of the year. If evangelicals come with some views I find irrational it is a tiny price to pay compared to the price humanity has paid for the Left’s consistently broken moral compass — about America; about Communism and Islamism; about the superiority of peace studies over waging war against evil; about America’s role in the world; about Israel; about the welfare state; about Fidel Castro, Hugo Chavez, and all the other left-wing dictators the Left has celebrated; about the belief that men and women are basically the same; about the greater worth of any animal than of the unborn human; and about nearly every other major moral issue.

Believing the Earth is 6000 years old and dinosaurs were contemporary with human beings is silly, but harmless. Believing that the Earth is going to be destroyed by global warming unless we destroy the world’s economy, or believing that Socialism can actually work is a whole lot sillier and catastrophic.

 

 

 

General Charles James Napier

October 26, 2011

Chances are, you have never heard of General Charles James Napier. You might have heard a famous story about him. General Napier was a British general and Commander-in-Chief in India.

When the British took over India, they discovered that in many villages had  a charming custom called suttee or sati. Suttee refers to the practice of a Hindu widow who would throw herself upon her husband’s funeral pyre. I am not sure what the religious justification of this practice might have been, but I imagine that the idea was that there was no point in keeping an old woman around after her husband was gone. If the widow didn’t want to immolate herself and was strong-willed enough to resist the social pressure to do so, the male villagers would throw her in anyway.

The British were horrified by this practice. Although the British East India Company did not usually attempt to interfere with local customs, under pressure from Christian missionaries and Hindu reformers, the British banned suttee in the regions of India under their direct control in 1829.

Napier was the Commander-in-Chief of the British forces in India from 1849-1851. During his tenure, a delegation of Hindu notables complained to him of the ban on suttee. His reply was priceless.

You say that it is your custom to burn widows. Very well. We also have a custom: when men burn a woman alive, we tie a rope around their necks and we hang them. Build your funeral pyre; beside it, my carpenters will build a gallows. You may follow your custom. And then we will follow ours

If the British of that period had the same sort of politically correct, multi-cultural mush in their heads that all too many in the West have nowadays, Napier would have been instantly recalled for his racism and ethnocentrism. “How dare he assert that British customs are in any way superior to Indian traditions. “, the liberals would have said. No doubt they would have opposed any attempts to ban suttee in India and would have encouraged the authorities in Britain to ignore the practice in the immigrant communities.

For all their faults, and they did have them, the Victorians British at least had the self-confidence and moral clarity to assert that a civilization that does not burn widows is, in fact, more civilized than a civilization that does burn widows. I wish we, in the West, still had that self-confidence and moral clarity. I wish our intellectual elite understood that the civilization that brought things like modern science and democracy to the world has nothing to apologize to savages for.

End of the Global Warming Cult

October 25, 2011

Michael Barone reports that the global warming cult is rapidly losing influence on public opinion. it seems that the more people know, especially about the costs of policies meant to combat climate change. I suppose that it was inevitable that the public would turn against these charlatans. Their mistake was their ceaseless alarmism, which began to stretch the bounds of credibility some time ago.

A similar but more peaceable fate is befalling believers in what I think can be called the religion of the global warming alarmists.

They have an unshakeable faith that manmade carbon emissions will produce a hotter climate, causing multiple natural disasters. Their insistence that we can be absolutely certain this will come to pass is based not on science — which is never fully settled, witness the recent experiments that may undermine Albert Einstein’s theory of relativity — but on something very much like religious faith.

 

But like the Millerites, the global warming clergy has preached apocalyptic doom — and is now facing an increasingly skeptical public. The idea that we can be so completely certain of climate change 70 to 90 years hence that we must inflict serious economic damage on ourselves in the meantime seems increasingly absurd.

I am intrigued, however by Barone’s comparison of the global warming movement.

All the trappings of religion are there. Original sin: Mankind is responsible for these prophesied disasters, especially those slobs who live on suburban cul-de-sacs and drive their SUVs to strip malls and tacky chain restaurants.

The need for atonement and repentance: We must impose a carbon tax or cap-and-trade system, which will increase the cost of everything and stunt economic growth.

Ritual, from the annual Earth Day to weekly recycling.

Indulgences, like those Martin Luther railed against: private jet-fliers like Al Gore and sitcom heiress Laurie David can buy carbon offsets to compensate for their carbon-emitting sins.

Corporate elitists, like General Electric’s Jeff Immelt, profess to share this faith, just as cynical Venetian merchants and prim Victorian bankers gave lip service to the religious enthusiasms of their days. Bad for business not to. And if you’re clever, you can figure out how to make money off it.

Believers in this religion have flocked to conferences in Rio de Janeiro, Kyoto and Copenhagen, just as Catholic bishops flocked to councils in Constance, Ferrara and Trent, to codify dogma and set new rules.

 

It is possible to go overboard with this sort of comparison. There is no actual Church of Global Warming. If there were though, would Al Gore be its Pope ? Still, I think it is a good point. I don’t imagine that many people who are active in the radical environmental movement are much involved in any conventional religion. Since it is a part of human nature to worship something, if someone will not worship the Creator of the universe, they, might well come to worship the universe itself.

Paul wrote to the Romans’

25 They exchanged the truth about God for a lie, and worshiped and served created things rather than the Creator—who is forever praised. Amen. (Romans1:25)

He was writing about the pagans of his time, of course, but he could have said much the same about the followers of the global warming cult.

 

 

 

Orcs in Wall Street

October 24, 2011

Some time ago, I said that if the Tea Partiers are Hobbits than the liberals who oppose them are Orcs. I can’t think of a better illustration of my thesis than the Occupy Wall Street protests. While the Tea Party Hobbits behaved themselves, cleaned up their messes, and went home when they were done, the OWS people break laws, make messes for others to clean up, and stay on and on and annoy everyone who has to put up with them. And, they fight among themselves, just like Orcs.

This article in New York Magazine tells us a lot.

As the protest has grown, some of the occupiers have spontaneously taken charge on projects large and small. But many of the people in Zuccotti Park aren’t taking direction well, leading to a tense Thursday of political disagreements, the occasional shouting match, and at least one fistfight.

It began, as it so often does, with a drum circle. The ten-hour groove marathons weren’t sitting well with the neighborhood’s community board, the ironically situated High School of Economics and Finance that sits on the corner of Zuccotti Park, or many of the sleep-deprived protesters.

“[The high school] couldn’t teach,” explained Josh Nelson, a 27-year-old occupier from Nebraska. “And we’ve had issues with the drummers too. They drum incessantly all day, and really loud.” Facilitators spearheaded a General Assembly proposal to limit the drumming to two hours a day. “The drumming is a major issue which has the potential to get us kicked out,” said Lauren Digion, a leader on the sanitation working group.

But the drums were fun. They brought in publicity and money. Many non-facilitators were infuriated by the decision and claimed that it had been forced through the General Assembly.

“They’re imposing a structure on the natural flow of music,” said Seth Harper, an 18-year-old from Georgia. “The GA decided to do it … they suppressed people’s opinions. I wanted to do introduce a different proposal, but a big black organizer chick with an Afro said I couldn’t.”

To Shane Engelerdt, a 19-year-old from Jersey City and self-described former “head drummer,” this amounted to a Jacobinic betrayal. “They are becoming the government we’re trying to protest,” he said. “They didn’t even give the drummers a say … Drumming is the heartbeat of this movement. Look around: This is dead, you need a pulse to keep something alive.”

Never mind if other people cannot function with drums beating 24 hours a day. We have to preserve the flow. In any sort of a movement, you do have to have some structure leadership or nothing will get done. The Tea Partiers understood this, which is why they organized and got into politics. They didn’t just sit around in tri-cornered hats and wave Gadsden flags.

I like this part.

The drummers claim that the finance working group even levied a percussion tax of sorts, taking up to half of the $150-300 a day that the drum circle was receiving in tips. “Now they have over $500,000 from all sorts of places,” said Engelerdt. “We’re like, what’s going on here? They’re like the banks we’re protesting.”

No, that’s like the government these people want.

And it just gets better. You wouldn’t think that keeping your camp clean would be all that controversial. I mean, everybody knows the importance of sanitation, right?

All belongings and money in the park are supposed to be held in common, but property rights reared their capitalistic head when facilitators went to clean up the park, which was looking more like a shantytown than usual after several days of wind and rain. The local community board was due to send in an inspector, so the facilitators and cleaners started moving tarps, bags, and personal belongings into a big pile in order to clean the park.

But some refused to budge. A bearded man began to gather up a tarp and an occupier emerged from beneath, screaming: “You’re going to break my fucking tent, get that shit off!” Near the front of the park, two men in hoodies staged a meta-sit-in, fearful that their belongings would be lost or appropriated.

 

Other organizers were more blunt. “If you don’t want to be part of this group, then you can just leave,” yelled a facilitator in a button-down shirt, “Every week we clean our house.” Seth Harper, the pro-drummer proletarian, chimed in on the side of the sitters. “We disagree on how we should clean it. A lot of us disagree with the pile.” Zetah, tall and imposing with a fiery red beard, closed debate with a sigh. “We’re all big boys and girls. Let’s do this.” As he told me afterwards, “A lot of people are like spoiled children.” The cure? A cold snap. “Personally, I cannot wait for winter. It will clear out these people who aren’t here for the right reasons. Bring on the snow. The real revolutionaries will stay in -50 degrees.”

Another argument broke out next to the pile of appropriated belongings, growing taller by the minute. A man named Sage Roberts desperately rifled through the pile, looking for a sleeping bag. “They’ve taken my stuff,” he muttered. Lauren Digion, the sanitation group leader, broke in: “This isn’t your stuff. You got all this stuff from comfort [the working group]. It belongs to comfort.”

And as I spoke to Michael Glaser, a 26-year-old Chicagoan helping lead winter preparation efforts, a physical fight broke out between a cleaner and a camper just feet from us.

“When cleanups happen, people get mad,” Glaser said. “This is its own city. Within every city there are people who freeload, who make people’s lives miserable. We just deal with it. We can’t kick them out.”

In response to dissatisfaction with the consensus General Assembly, many facilitators have adopted a new “spokescouncil” model, which allows each working group to act independently without securing the will of the collective. “This streamlines it,” argued Zonkers. “The GA is unwieldy, cumbersome, and redundant.”

From today’s battles, it’s not yet clear who will win the day: the organizers or the organized. But the month-long protest has clearly grown and evolved to a point where a truly leaderless movement will risk eviction — or, worse, insurrection.

As the communal sleeping bag argument between Lauren Digion and Sage Roberts threatened to get out of hand, a facilitator in a red hat walked by, brow furrowed. “Remember? You’re not allowed to do any more interviews,” he said to Digion. She nodded and went back to work. But when Roberts shouted, “Don’t tell me what to do!” Digion couldn’t hold back.

That article didn’t even mention the increasing incidences of theft, sexual assault, drug use, and hate groups. Orcs indeed.

We are the 99%

We are the 99%

 

Sharia Law in Libya

October 23, 2011

Lest anyone get too optimistic about Libya’s post-Qaddafi future there is this news item from Yahoo News.

The transitional government leader Mustafa Abdul-Jalil set out a vision for the post-Gadhafi future with an Islamist tint, saying that Islamic Sharia law would be the “basic source” of legislation in the country and that existing laws that contradict the teachings of Islam would be nullified. In a gesture that showed his own piety, he urged Libyans not to express their joy by firing in the air, but rather to chant “Allahu Akbar,” or God is Great. He then stepped aside and knelt to offer a brief prayer of thanks.

Laws that contradict Sharia would include such concepts as freedom of religion and speech, not to mention treating women as thought they were human beings. I would imagine the new government based on Islamic law would encourage jihad against the infidel.

As incredible as it may seem, the time may come when we miss the madman of Benghazi.

 


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