Yes, Virginia, There is a Santa Claus

Well, there was, at any rate. He was not a “jolly old elf”, he did not live at the North Pole, and he never made any toys or drove a sleigh with eight reindeer. He didn’t look like this.

He actually looked more like this.

Of course, I am talking about Saint Nicholas of Myra, the historical person on which the legends of Santa Claus are based.

Santa Claus is derived from the Dutch “Sinter Klaus”, and it was Dutch immigrants who brought over many of our ideas of Santa, including the idea of a man who gives out presents to well behaved children. Another influence was Father Christmas from Britain. And, of course there was the poem “The Night Before Christmas” which introduced the whole idea of the reindeer, going down chimneys, etc.The cartoonist Thomas Nast is believed to be responsible for the first portrayal of Santa in his red suit, and also the idea that he lives at the North Pole.

But the real Saint Nicholas was a bishop of the city of Myra in Asia Minor, or present day turkey. He lived from around 270-343. He was a Greek Christian whose parents died of an epidemic when he was very young. From his childhood he was religious. His uncle, also a bishop, raised him and when he was old enough made him a monk. Eventually he was made a bishop by the Christian community of Myra. There he stayed until his death in 343.

Nicholas apparently was quite a zealous bishop. He was imprisoned during the last great persecution of the Emperor Diocletian, but was released when Constantine became Emperor. He debated against and fought the pagans and the Arians, a heretic branch of Christianity, and participated in the great Council of Nicaea, where he lost control of his temper and actually slapped Arius. He was imprisoned for this but released after three days.

He was most famous for his acts of charity, many of which are probably legendary.The most famous story is that passing by a house he heard three daughters lament because their father could not afford a dowry for any of them. Without a dowry they could not get married and would probably have to resort to prostitution to survive. (Somehow this story never made into the children’s specials.) He threw a bag of gold into their window as each girl became old enough to marry. In one variation of the story, by the time of the third daughter, the father lay in wait to discover the identity of his benefactor. When Nicholas saw this, he threw the bag into their chimney.

After his death, Nicholas was buried in Myra, but in 1087, with Asia Minor being overrun by the Turks, some Italian sailors stole the remains and brought them to Bari, where they remain to this day.

Nicholas is a Saint in the Roman Catholic and Eastern Orthodox churches His feast day is December 6, today, and he is the patron saint of children, sailors, repentant thieves, pawn brokers, and others.

So, now you know the true story of Santa Claus.

 

If you want to know more about Catholic saints see here.

Bob Woodward vs. Al Gore

Bob Woodward apparently does not care much for the company of former Vice-President Al Gore according to The Hill.

If you plan on throwing a dinner party full of VIPs, whatever you do, don’t seat Bob Woodward next to Al Gore.

In a speech at the Organization for International Investment’s annual dinner at D.C.’s Ritz-Carlton Hotel on Thursday, the famed Washington Post journalist, who helped uncover the Watergate scandal, disclosed that he doesn’t enjoy the former vice president as a tablemate.

Describing an event where he was paired up next to the monotone-talking ex-vice president, Woodward said, “Now, sitting next to Gore is taxing.”

After some laughs from the crowd, Woodward continued, “In fact, it’s unpleasant.”

I don’t imagine that Gore would be a barrel of laughs.

I like some of the comments in the story.

I couldn’t think of anything more unpleasant then to have to sit at a table with both AL GORE and BOB WOODWARD. If there was ever two more boring people to have to sit with and fake laugh with it is them.

I would rather watch paint dry, bacon fry, or even listen to nails on a chalk board.

 

Bob Woodward is kind choosing his words about Gore.
I would have said that Gore is a f————g idiot

That last goes without saying.

The Politically Incorrect Guide to the Bible

If you find yourself annoyed by your atheist relative or friend who recites talking points from the New Atheists about the Bible; the Bible is Bronze Age mythology, unhistorical, supports slavery and genocide, Christianity retarded the advance of science, etc, then you need The Politically Incorrect Guide to the Bible by Robert Hutchinson.

Hutchinson begins by showing that the Bible is indeed historically accurate. Many supposed contradictions and inaccuracies are, in fact, the result of not understanding the literary techniques of the ancient world. He goes on to point out that, in a way, the Bible has been too successful. That is, to say, that the Western world has become so used to Biblical morality that we are often unable to understand fully the cruelty of the ancient world. Many advances in morals that we consider enlightened and modern had their beginnings in the Bible and the Hebrew culture that created it.

In ancient times, infanticide was a universal practice, except among the Jews and later the Christians. No one questioned slavery but the law of Moses softened and ameliorate the practice among the Jews by insisting masters treat their slaves justly and freeing them, with supplies to live on, after seven years. This is a marked contrast with the Roman conception of slaves as moving, talking tools, and living at their master’s whim. Later the Christians questioned slavery and ultimately Christians were responsible for abolishing slavery in the West.

It is a common belief that the Middle Ages were a time ruled by faith in which everyone was completely ignorant and science was at a standstill. Only when the Enlightenment philosophers shook off the restraints of religion was humanity able to progress. Hutchinson shows that this belief is entirely false. Science had its beginnings in the very religious and Christian Middle Ages. All of the founders of modern science, Galileo, Newton, Boyle, Pascal, and many others were devout Christians. In fact, there is a strong possibility that the Judeo-Christian worldview was especially conducive to the development of modern science. After all, it only arose in Christian Europe.

Our concepts of human rights come from the Bible. If you believe that God created man in His own image and that His son died for all of us, then it follows that each human life is precious and has the unalienable rights to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. If you believe that humanity was an incidental creation of the gods or evolved from primordial muck, then you might have a different, less exalted view of the rights of man.

I can do no more than suggest the arguments that Robert Hutchinson uses in his defense of Christianity and the Bible. I recommend it highly so that as Peter commanded,

“But in your hearts revere Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have.” (1Peter 3:15)

 

 

I Got a Tingle Up my Leg

Are you feeling just a bit discouraged because the Republicans have been preventing Barack Obama from bringing the hope and change we need? Do you find yourself no longer admiring the crease in his pants as much as you used to? Does listening to the One’s speeches no longer give you quite the same tingle up your leg? Then you need to read Frank J. Fleming’s Obama: The Greatest President in the History of Everything.

You will be reminded once again of the dark times in the BO (Before Obama) era. You will be able to relive the wonder and glory of The One’s election, of his masterful administration, his ingenious policies. You will recall His daring foreign policy in which He travelled around the world apologized for America’s many transgressions.  Best of all, Fleming provides the facts you need to refute the suggestions from your racist friends and neighbors that Obama may not be the Greatest President Ever.

 

And, if you don’t happen to be an Obama fan, you’ll at least have a few good laughs as the country and the economy goes down the toilet. Fleming really is a brilliant and hilarious satirist. Let’s hope this is just the first of many, many books

 

Happy Meal Ban Fail

Somehow I am glad to see this story. The San Francisco Board of Supervisors, having nothing better to do, decided to ban Happy Meals in McDonald’s earlier this year. Well, not ban exactly, but they made it illegal for a restaurant to give away free toys with meals unless they complied with strict nutritional requirements, which even the school lunches didn’t measure up to. That ban went into effect on December 1. Now we will see a new generation of San Francisco children growing up happier and healthier thanks to the progressive San Francisco Board of Supervisors.

Well, maybe not. You see the law bans giving away the toys. It says nothing about selling the toys. And that is just what McDonald’s is doing.

And yet it seems McDonald’s has turned lemons into lemonade — and is selling the sugary drink to San Francisco’s children. Local McDonald’s employees tell SF Weekly the company has devised a solution that appears to comply with San Francisco’s “Healthy Meal Incentive Ordinance” that could actually make the company more money — and necessitate toy-happy youngsters to buy more Happy Meals.

It turns out San Francisco has not entirely vanquished the Happy Meal as we know it. Come Dec. 1, you can still buy the Happy Meal. But it doesn’t come with a toy. For that, you’ll have to pay an extra 10 cents.

Huh. That hardly seems to have solved the problem (though adults and children purchasing unhealthy food can at least take solace that the 10 cents is going to Ronald McDonald House charities). But it actually gets worse from here. Thanks to Supervisor Eric Mar’s much-ballyhooed new law, parents browbeaten into supplementing their preteens’ Happy Meal toy collections are now mandated to buy the Happy Meals.

Today and tomorrow mark the last days that put-upon parents can satiate their youngsters by simply throwing down $2.18 for a Happy Meal toy. But, thanks to the new law taking effect on Dec. 1, this is no longer permitted. Now, in order to have the privilege of making a 10-cent charitable donation in exchange for the toy, you must buy the Happy Meal. Hilariously, it appears Mar et al., in their desire to keep McDonald’s from selling grease and fat to kids with the lure of a toy have now actually incentivized the purchase of that grease and fat — when, beforehand, a put-upon parent could get out cheaper and healthier with just the damn toy.

If I want a Happy Meal and McDonald’s is willing to sell it to me, why is that any business of the Board of Supervisors or the legislature or Congress, or anyone else? This whole business began when San Francisco Supervisor Eric Mar discovered that his daughter had a pile of Happy Meal toys in her room.

As Mar later told reporters, he was shocked to discover a trove of toys from McDonald’s Happy Meals stashed in her room. Mar was the one taking his daughter to McDonald’s and buying the food — but he said that the “pester power” of a preteen was simply too much for him to withstand on his own. So he proposed that the city ban restaurants from including toys with meals of more than 600 calories that lack agreed-upon amounts of fruits and vegetables.

So, because he couldn’t control his daughter and be an actual parent, everybody in San Francisco has to suffer. Maybe they deserve it for living in San Francisco.If I lived in a city run by that kind of meddling nanny-staters, I would move out.

The other thing that occurs to me is that I really wish that politicians at every level of government would consider carefully the consequences of the legislation they propose. If they cannot anticipate the likely consequences, which would be almost every time, maybe they should leave the matter alone.

The Jewish Annotated New Testament

Walter Russel Mead has been awaiting the arrival of the Jewish Annotated New Testament, which he has ordered from Amazon.com. This is a look at the New Testament by prominent Jewish scholars. As Mead puts it;

This is a book that any serious Christian student of the New Testament will want to consult; anytime a familiar text is read from an unfamiliar angle, new insights are likely to come.  More to the point, rabbinical Judaism and Christianity are the two great religious legacies of first century Palestine.  Learning to see Jesus through Jewish eyes is a way for Christians to encounter another side of the man we recognize as son of God and savior.

Considering that all but one of the authors of the books of the New Testament are believed to be Jews (Luke was the exception). and that Jesus and his disciples were all Jews, it is amazing that no one ever thought of doing a project like this before. Well, perhaps not since the mutual antagonism between these two great faiths has only declined this century with the lessening of anti-semitism among many Christians. As Mead points out, this process began with the Protestant Reformation and the reformers’ translation of the Bible into vernacular languages.

This began to change with the Reformation — although Martin Luther’s anti-Semitism helped embed some deeply destructive memes in German culture.  First and foremost, the translation of the whole Bible into the vernacular languages coupled with the invention of printing put the Jewish scriptures into the hands of ordinary Christians for the first time.  In Medieval Christian preaching and liturgy, the New Testament got more attention than the Old, the gospels got more than the epistles of Paul, and the Passion narratives got more attention than the rest of the gospel story.

 

The consequence was that most Christians spent most of their time with the parts of their Bible in which Jesus was engaged in theological controversy with Jewish religious leaders, or being handed over to the Romans for execution by a faction of the Jewish religious leadership of the day.  Every Sunday the liturgy of the Mass retold the story of the crucifixion; every year reached its religious climax with the intense focus on the sufferings of Christ in the last week of his life — arguing with Jews, and ultimately dying at the instigation of his (Jewish) enemies.

But as Christians encountered more of the Bible, this picture began to change.  Calvinists and others who believed in the literal and eternal truth of the Word of God came to believe that the promises God made to Abraham were still valid today: that the Jews still had a place in God’s plan, that the gift of the Holy Land to the physical descendants of Abraham remained valid, that Jews would return to that land before the end of history, and that God commanded the rest of mankind to bless and help Israel, rather than to curse and attack it.

More, acquaintance with the Old Testament exposed Christians to Jewish heroes of faith: to kings and prophets and warriors who walked with the God of Abraham and from whose teachings and experiences Christians had much to learn.  Where Calvinist, Anabaptist and Quaker influence was strong, Christian parents began to give their children names from the Jewish scriptures: Hannah, Caleb, Esther, Josiah, Ruth, Joshua, Ezekiel, Rebecca, Ezra, Nathaniel, Naomi, Seth and Sarah entered the English speaking world.

This includes the Puritans who settled New England. An archeologist of the future who examined cemeteries of seventeenth century Massachusetts might well come to believe that the colony was settled by Hebrews based on the names on the grave stones.

I think that I will get this book too, if it can be gotten for the Kindle. I have no idea what Jewish scholars might have to say about the New Testament but I am sure that their insights will be interesting and profitable. I would be especially interested in reading how the teachings of Jesus related to the various Jewish factions of his day.

 

Climate Change

I don’t know if anyone else has noticed it yet, but it seems to me that the weather has been getting colder for the last month or so. I think we may be in for another ice age, no doubt caused by CO2 emissions or something. We have to put together a world-wide treaty protocol that will destroy the world’s economy in order to prevent this coming climate catastrophe.

I have also noticed that the days seem to be shorter lately. I wonder if maybe the sun is going out.

Mars Science Laboratory On its Way

To keep from being too depressed by the news, I’ll post something positive. The Mars Science Laboratory launched November 26. This probe includes a rover named Curiosity. Here is the news from NASA.

NASA began a historic voyage to Mars with the Nov. 26 launch of the Mars Science Laboratory, which carries a car-sized rover named Curiosity. Liftoff from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station aboard an Atlas V rocket occurred at 10:02 a.m. EST (7:02 a.m. PST).

“We are very excited about sending the world’s most advanced scientific laboratory to Mars,” NASA Administrator Charles Bolden said. “MSL will tell us critical things we need to know about Mars, and while it advances science, we’ll be working on the capabilities for a human mission to the Red Planet and to other destinations where we’ve never been.”

The mission will pioneer precision landing technology and a sky-crane touchdown to place Curiosity near the foot of a mountain inside Gale Crater on Aug. 6, 2012. During a nearly two-year prime mission after landing, the rover will investigate whether the region has ever offered conditions favorable for microbial life, including the chemical ingredients for life.

Curiosity’s ambitious science goals are among the mission’s many differences from earlier Mars rovers. It will use a drill and scoop at the end of its robotic arm to gather soil and powdered samples of rock interiors, then sieve and parcel out these samples into analytical laboratory instruments inside the rover. Curiosity carries 10 science instruments with a total mass 15 times as large as the science-instrument payloads on the Mars rovers Spirit and Opportunity. Some of the tools are the first of their kind on Mars, such as a laser-firing instrument for checking the elemental composition of rocks from a distance, and an X-ray diffraction instrument for definitive identification of minerals in powdered samples.

To haul and wield its science payload, Curiosity is twice as long and five times as heavy as Spirit or Opportunity. Because of its one-ton mass, Curiosity is too heavy to employ airbags to cushion its landing as previous Mars rovers could. Part of the Mars Science Laboratory spacecraft is a rocket-powered descent stage that will lower the rover on tethers as the rocket engines control the speed of descent.

The mission’s landing site offers Curiosity access for driving to layers of the mountain inside Gale Crater. Observations from orbit have identified clay and sulfate minerals in the lower layers, indicating a wet history.

I can hardly wait for the Mars Science Laboratory to reach Mars. Here, on NASA’s website is a countdown to its landing.

 

Muslim Brotherhood Gaining in Egypt

Oh, crap. Islamist parties, including the Muslim Brotherhood seem to be doing very well in the Egyptian elections. I didn’t expect any other outcome but I don’t like reading about it. Here is the story in Israel National News.

Judges overseeing the vote count in Egypt’s parliamentary elections say Islamist parties have won a majority of the contested seats in the first round. The judges spoke on condition of anonymity because official results are expected to be released later Thursday.

They say the Muslim Brotherhood could take 45 percent of the seats up for grabs. The liberal Egyptian bloc coalition and the ultra-fundamentalist Nour party are competing for second place.

Together, Islamist parties are expected to control a majority of parliamentary seats by March. This week’s vote was the first of six stages of parliamentary elections that will last until then.

Continued success by Islamists will allow them to give Cairo’s government and constitution a decidedly Islamist character. It could also lead Cairo to shift away from the West towards the Iranian axis.

I think that it might not have been such a good idea to throw Mubarak under the bus quite so quickly. He may have been an SOB but he was our SOB and probably won’t be as bad as whoever ends up running Egypt.

Why do I keep having flashbacks to 1979?