Archive for October, 2019

Halloween

October 31, 2019

Today is Halloween. 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 1930s. Haunted houses have also become popular since the 1970s.

So, Happy Halloween, or Samhain.

 

Colored Person of Color

October 27, 2019

Something I have been wondering. Why is it that saying colored person is considered offensive and even racist while saying person of color is politically correct? Aren’t the two phases saying the same thing? If colored person is offensive then why isn’t the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) offensive? Shouldn’t they change their name to the National Association for the Advancement of Persons of Color (NAACoP)? I can understand why the word negro might be a problem since it sounds a lot like another, less polite word, but negro is not really the same word. Still, if negro is offensive, then why hasn’t the United Negro College Fund changed its name.

African-American is the current politically correct word for a Black person, but Black and African-American are not synonymous. It is possible to be a White African-American if you are a White immigrant from South Africa or North Africa. There is a tendency to refer to any Black person as an African-American even in science fiction or fantasy. A dark-skinned person in a story set in the distant future need not be an African American. He could just as easily be from Africa, France or Rigel 5. People who refer to all Blacks as African Americans may be trying to be politically correct, but sometimes they are simply being foolish.

The politically correct way to refer to people from places like China, Japan, and so on is to call them Asians. Orientals, the old word is no longer acceptable. Why? Neither word is accurate. Asia is a large continent and the word Asians covers a large and diverse population.  Indians, Iranians, Arabs, Turks and many other people could be described as Asians. Oriental simply means easterner. Anyone could be from the east. To a person living in France or England, a German, Russian or Greek could be an Oriental. Traditionally, Oriental was used to refer to people from what we now call the Middle East. Either way, it seems strange that Oriental is suspect while Asian is politically correct. Why is this?

The people who lived in the Americans when Christopher Columbus arrived used to be called Indians because Columbus thought he had discovered the Indies. This, of course, is more than a little ridiculous since the “Indians” have nothing to do with India or the Indies. More recently the proper term has been Native Americans. The problem with Native Americans is that the Native Americans are not the only people who are native to America. I am a native American. I was born here in America. I did not immigrate here from anywhere else. As far as I can determine, my ancestors have been here for two hundred years. How am I not a native? Lately, the proper term has been swinging back towards Indians or American Indians. Why?

Who decides what names are acceptable and politically correct and what names are wrong and why do the correct terms keep changing? Is there some committee somewhere that decides these things? Do they keep changing the politically correct nomenclature just to mess with the rest of us? Is this a way to get people in trouble by changing the vocabulary so that people who use old words can be condemned as racist when needed?

It seems to me that the people who are the most concerned with using the proper, politically correct jargon are less interested in promoting tolerance and harmony among people than in bullying and pushing people around. They may claim to be trying to eliminate racism and prejudice, political correctness really seems to be more about enlightened and tolerant few asserting power over the benighted and deplorable many. I have observed that these people who are overly concerned that every little group be called by the proper terms, lest they be offended and marginalized, are not really very concerned with treating their fellow human beings with tolerance and consideration.

It seems to me that how we treat people is far more important than the precise words we use to describe them and that If no offense is intended, then no offense should be taken. It is the actions and intent that matter, not the precise words we use. It matters less whether we say Asians rather than Orientals or Person of Color rather than Colored Person than whether we treat people of whatever race and color with justice, charity, and tolerance. Maybe we would all get along better if we worried more about how we act rather than what we say.

Columbus Day

October 14, 2019
Christophorus Columbus, portrait by Sebastiano...

Image via Wikipedia

Today is Columbus Day in the United States, celebrating the day that Christopher Columbus reached the New World. In Berkeley and some other Leftist enclaves, it is Indigenous People’s Day, in which Western Civilization is condemned for its many crimes against humanity. Columbus Day is no big deal, just a three day weekend for banks and such. Still, should we honor Christopher Columbus with a day?

I think we can absolve Columbus of the destruction of many Native American cultures and peoples. That was inevitable. Europe’s sailing and navigation techniques were advancing rapidly and it was only a matter of time before someone stumbled across the Americas. Since the natives were centuries behind in technology and had no immunity to smallpox and other diseases the Europeans brought, they were doomed. They weren’t entirely helpless victims though. They did fight, with varying degrees of success. But between the massive death toll from disease and their own disunity, often they were more interested in using the guns they acquired from European traders to fight traditional rivals than the Europeans, the Native Americans were doomed.

Still, Columbus did set the pattern by enslaving the natives of the islands he discovered.From the Wikipedia article there is this excerpt from his log.

From the 12 October 1492 entry in his journal he wrote of them, “Many of the men I have seen have scars on their bodies, and when I made signs to them to find out how this happened, they indicated that people from other nearby islands come to San Salvador to capture them; they defend themselves the best they can. I believe that people from the mainland come here to take them as slaves. They ought to make good and skilled servants, for they repeat very quickly whatever we say to them. I think they can very easily be made Christians, for they seem to have no religion. If it pleases our Lord, I will take six of them to Your Highnesses when I depart, in order that they may learn our language.”[39] He remarked that their lack of modern weaponry and even metal-forged swords or pikes was a tactical vulnerability, writing, “I could conquer the whole of them with 50 men, and govern them as I pleased.”[40

He seems not to have been a very good governor of Isabella, the first Spanish colony in the New World. He was charged with excessive cruelty and sent back to Spain in chains. These charges might be false though, since Ferdinand and Isabella felt they had promised him too much reward for his discoveries. Before he set out, they had promised him governorship any lands he discovered. As it became obvious to everyone but Columbus that he had discovered a whole continent, the king and queen wanted a bigger share.

Maybe the biggest reason not to celebrate is that he was wrong. The popular view is of Columbus bravely asserting that the Earth is round against the scholars and intellectuals of his time who “knew” the Earth was flat. Of course, everyone knew the Earth was round. Every educated person in the West had known the Earth was round since the time of the Ancient Greeks. The Greek scholar Eratosthenes had even calculated the size of the Earth with reasonable accuracy back in the third century. The scholars and intellectuals who opposed Columbus knew about how large the Earth actually was and they knew perfectly well that Columbus was fudging his calculations to make his voyage seem feasible. If the Americas hadn’t been in the way, his voyage would have ended in disaster. But the Americas were in the way and Columbus was able to make the most amazing discoveries in history, bringing the old and new worlds together.

For all that though, I like Christopher Columbus. Despite his flaws, and he was only a man of his time. He had courage and vision, two qualities that are rare enough in any time, especially our own. So, by all means, let’s celebrate this man and his deeds.

What is it with Twitter?

October 13, 2019

You may have heard the story of Carson King’s troubles with tweeting. If not, here is the story.

Carson King raised more than $1 million for an Iowa children’s hospital, borne out of a request for beer money on national TV. But old racist tweets ended his relationship with the beer company that promised to match his fundraising.

Anheuser-Busch announced it would no longer associate with King after he admitted posting two offensive tweets in 2012 when he was a 16-year-old high school student.

“Carson King had multiple social media posts that do not align with our values as a brand or as a company and we will have no further association with him,” the company said in a statement to CNN.

The 24-year-old shot to fame when he appeared on ESPN’s “College GameDay” program earlier this month, holding a sign that said “Busch Light Supply Needs Replenished” with his Venmo username.

Donations poured in, and after buying one case of Busch Light, he said he decided to send the rest of money to the University of Iowa Stead Family Children’s Hospital. Anheuser-Busch and Venmo promised to match whatever King could raise.

King said a Des Moines Register reporter pointed out the tweets while interviewing King for a profile, which prompted him to hold a press conference Tuesday before the paper’s story was published.

One of the tweets compared black mothers to gorillas and another joked about black people who were killed in the Holocaust, the Des Moines Register reported.

Carson King

One might wonder why it was necessary for the reporter, Aaron Calvin to go through years worth of tweets searching for offensive comments in what ought to have been simply a feel-good, human interest story. These racist tweets did not simply surface. Calvin had to spend some time going through King’s twitter feed. Why? One might also recall the adage that those who live in glass houses should not throw stones since it did not take long for offended readers to uncover offensive tweets by Calvin, which led to his being fired from the Des Moines Register.

What I wonder most is that whenever you hear about someone making some obnoxious, inappropriate, or racist joke or comment on social media, it always seems to be on Twitter. Why is this? What is it about Twitter that seems to bring out the worst in its users? Is it the 280 character limit? Does this character limit make it impossible to make nuanced observations, encouraging tweeters to make short, snarky remarks? Does the ease of tweeting whatever thoughts are on the top of one’s head make reflection and discretion especially difficult? Is there some sort of dopamine rush from seeing your tweets retweeted and commented upon, the more controversial, the more likely to become viral? Does online anonymity make it easy to be a jerk? What is it?

Whatever it is, it seems to me that of all the social media platforms that have come to infest our online world, Twitter is easily the worst. Twitter really does seem to bring out the worst in its users, encouraging them to express their most negative ruminations and setting people against one another. If the Devil were to design a social media platform specifically to bring as many people to Hell as possible, or to make the earth a hell, he would design something very much like Twitter. In fact, has anyone checked Jack Dorsey for horns and cloven hooves?

Jack Dorsey, or could it be Satan?

Whatever the case, we are all going to have to be more careful about what we post on social media, and maybe we should avoid twitter altogether. Perhaps we should adopt the adage that whatever you wouldn’t say in front of your mother, or a live audience, you should say on social media. Maybe there should be some sort of statute of limitations. Surely, something that someone posted ten years ago when they were younger and less mature is not very relevant to the person they are now. We should also learn to be more tolerant of one another and to judge someone based on a single tweet. Just because someone makes an obnoxious comment, that does not make them a bad person. We should judge one another if we must judge at all, on the totality of their lives, and not on a single incident. Carson King seems to be a good man. He didn’t have to give millions of dollars to the children’s hospital. He could have kept it all to buy beer. A couple of racist tweets from years ago do not make him a bad person. None of us should be judged by the most foolish things we have done.

 

Yom Kippur

October 9, 2019

Yesterday evening at sunset Yom Kippur or the Day of Atonement, the holiest day of the Jewish calendar began. Yom Kippur is observed on the tenth day of the seventh month, Tishrei, of the Jewish calendar. This year that corresponds to October 9.  On this day Jews ask for forgiveness for the sins they have committed against God and their fellow men over the past year.  They fast for 25 hours on this day, starting about 20 minutes before sundown the previous day and continuing until evening of the day. Jews also attend Synagogue services for much of the day and there are five services in contrast to the usual three prayers on most days and four on Sabbaths. After the last service, they recite they Shema, “Hear, O Israel, the Lord is our God, the Lord is One”, and blow the Shofar.

Here is the Biblical description of the Day of Atonement.

1 The LORD spoke to Moses after the death of the two sons of Aaron who died when they approached the LORD. 2The LORD said to Moses: “Tell your brother Aaron that he is not to come whenever he chooses into the Most Holy Place behind the curtain in front of the atonement cover on the ark, or else he will die. For I will appear in the cloud over the atonement cover.

3 “This is how Aaron is to enter the Most Holy Place: He must first bring a young bull for a sin offering[a] and a ram for a burnt offering. 4 He is to put on the sacred linen tunic, with linen undergarments next to his body; he is to tie the linen sash around him and put on the linen turban. These are sacred garments; so he must bathe himself with water before he puts them on. 5 From the Israelite community he is to take two male goats for a sin offering and a ram for a burnt offering.

6 “Aaron is to offer the bull for his own sin offering to make atonement for himself and his household. 7 Then he is to take the two goats and present them before the LORD at the entrance to the tent of meeting. 8 He is to cast lots for the two goats—one lot for the LORD and the other for the scapegoat.[b]9 Aaron shall bring the goat whose lot falls to the LORD and sacrifice it for a sin offering. 10 But the goat chosen by lot as the scapegoat shall be presented alive before the LORD to be used for making atonement by sending it into the wilderness as a scapegoat.

11 “Aaron shall bring the bull for his own sin offering to make atonement for himself and his household, and he is to slaughter the bull for his own sin offering. 12 He is to take a censer full of burning coals from the altar before the LORD and two handfuls of finely ground fragrant incense and take them behind the curtain. 13 He is to put the incense on the fire before the LORD, and the smoke of the incense will conceal the atonement cover above the tablets of the covenant law, so that he will not die. 14 He is to take some of the bull’s blood and with his finger sprinkle it on the front of the atonement cover; then he shall sprinkle some of it with his finger seven times before the atonement cover.

15 “He shall then slaughter the goat for the sin offering for the people and take its blood behind the curtain and do with it as he did with the bull’s blood: He shall sprinkle it on the atonement cover and in front of it. 16 In this way he will make atonement for the Most Holy Place because of the uncleanness and rebellion of the Israelites, whatever their sins have been. He is to do the same for the tent of meeting, which is among them in the midst of their uncleanness. 17 No one is to be in the tent of meeting from the time Aaron goes in to make atonement in the Most Holy Place until he comes out, having made atonement for himself, his household and the whole community of Israel.

18 “Then he shall come out to the altar that is before the LORD and make atonement for it. He shall take some of the bull’s blood and some of the goat’s blood and put it on all the horns of the altar. 19 He shall sprinkle some of the blood on it with his finger seven times to cleanse it and to consecrate it from the uncleanness of the Israelites.

20 “When Aaron has finished making atonement for the Most Holy Place, the tent of meeting and the altar, he shall bring forward the live goat. 21 He is to lay both hands on the head of the live goat and confess over it all the wickedness and rebellion of the Israelites—all their sins—and put them on the goat’s head. He shall send the goat away into the wilderness in the care of someone appointed for the task. 22 The goat will carry on itself all their sins to a remote place; and the man shall release it in the wilderness.

23 “Then Aaron is to go into the tent of meeting and take off the linen garments he put on before he entered the Most Holy Place, and he is to leave them there. 24 He shall bathe himself with water in the sanctuary area and put on his regular garments. Then he shall come out and sacrifice the burnt offering for himself and the burnt offering for the people, to make atonement for himself and for the people. 25 He shall also burn the fat of the sin offering on the altar.

26 “The man who releases the goat as a scapegoat must wash his clothes and bathe himself with water; afterward he may come into the camp. 27 The bull and the goat for the sin offerings, whose blood was brought into the Most Holy Place to make atonement, must be taken outside the camp; their hides, flesh and intestines are to be burned up. 28 The man who burns them must wash his clothes and bathe himself with water; afterward he may come into the camp.

29 “This is to be a lasting ordinance for you: On the tenth day of the seventh month you must deny yourselves and not do any work—whether native-born or a foreigner residing among you— 30 because on this day atonement will be made for you, to cleanse you. Then, before the LORD, you will be clean from all your sins. 31 It is a day of sabbath rest, and you must deny yourselves; it is a lasting ordinance. 32 The priest who is anointed and ordained to succeed his father as high priest is to make atonement. He is to put on the sacred linen garments 33 and make atonement for the Most Holy Place, for the tent of meeting and the altar, and for the priests and all the members of the community.

34 “This is to be a lasting ordinance for you: Atonement is to be made once a year for all the sins of the Israelites.”

And it was done, as the LORD commanded Moses. (Lev 16:1-34)

Since the Temple was destroyed in AD 70, the ceremonies pertaining to the Most Holy Place cannot now be performed. Instead Jews remember the Temple ceremonies in the Avodah service. Orthodox and most Conservative Synagogues have a detailed recitation of the Temple Ceremony.

Here is a detailed description of the Yom Kippur Services.

So, G’mar Hatimah Tovah.

 

Feminist Vegan Restaurant Closes

October 3, 2019

Here is a wacky story from Down Under.

A lesbian-owned, vegan restaurant that charged an 18% “man tax” has closed its doors after less than two years of business in BrunswickAustralia.

Handsome Her, a small restaurant billed as “a space by women, for women,” made international headlines in 2017 after announcing upon its opening that female customers would get priority seating and men would be charged an optional 18% tax “to reflect the gender pay gap.”

Less than two years later, the cafe’s owners announced that they would be closing up shop in order to continue their mission with more “hands-on work.”

“When we opened Handsome Her in 2017, we expected that perhaps we might make a stir through our brazen public discussions of structural inequality and oppression,” the cafe said in a Facebook post. “The man tax blew up the internet, an idea that we didn’t think was all too radical, yet the way the world responded showed us how fragile masculinity is and solidified the necessity for us to confront and dismantle patriarchy.

The idea of charging a “man tax” seems radical to me and I wonder how this man tax did not run afoul of Australia’s anti-discrimination laws. It certainly seems to be discrimination based on sex, but perhaps discrimination against men doesn’t count. Maybe the fact that the tax is optional is enough to keep them out of trouble. I also wonder how these women expected to stay in business when they were alienating half of their potential customers. More than half really, since I am sure that many women did not appreciate the discrimination against the men they loved.

It is easy to make fun of these foolish women with poor business sense, but I think there is an important lesson for more established businesses here. The reason that any business exists, whether it is owned by a single proprietor or a great multi-national corporation is to make money for its owners. Any business must make a profit or it will eventually go out of business. The only way for any business to make a profit is to please its customers by providing goods or services they desire in a manner they desire. If the owner or manager of a company decides to pursue any goal besides making a profit by pleasing its customers, such as pursuing social justice, it will cease to please its customers and will eventually go out of business. This is particularly true if the pursuit of virtue-signaling results in policies that alienate customers. Yes, I am looking right at you and your new gun policies, Doug McMillan, CEO of WalMart. Trying to impress the social justice warriors, who despise WalMart and would never willingly shop there, while alienating gun-owning customers is simply not a good business policy.

Ultimately, the CEO of any corporation works for the stockholders, the owners, of the corporation. It is his or her job to serve the interests of the stockholders by pursuing policies that legally and ethically maximize profit for the corporation. As I stated above, any company can only make a profit if it provides goods and services that customers want to buy. If the CEO of a corporation decides that impressing his elite peers with virtue-signaling is more important than providing customers with the goods and services they want, he is not pursuing policies that will maximize profit and therefore is not serving the stockholders. He is in the same position as any of his employees who pursue outside interests while on the job.

Businesses should concentrate on the business of making money and pleasing their customers, not engage in political activism or pursue social justice. When I decide to buy something from Walmart or some other store, the only thing I want to consider is whether I am getting a good deal. I don’t want to have to be in the situation of having to consider whether the money I am spending is going to serve a bad cause. I don’t want every decision in my life to have political considerations. Not everything has to be about activism.

 


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