White Supremacy

Writing that postNot Teaching English about the teacher who decided not to teach her students proper English because speaking clearly and intelligibly has something to do with reinforcing White supremacy has got me wondering about the whole subject of White supremacy.

To start with, who exactly out there is promoting White supremacy? As far as I can tell, everybody in every major institution is dead set against any manifestation of White supremacy. Yet somehow, White supremacists are lurking around every corner, threatening to hold back people of color by reinstituting Jim Crow. There is not a single politician of either major party who is openly campaigning for White supremacy. There is no Theodore G. Bilbo out there. No corporation has adopted White Supremacy as a policy. Instead, corporations are falling all over themselves to issue statements affirming their support for diversity, inclusion, and equity, even at the expense of profitability.

The woke left assures us that evil racists bent on keeping people of color down threaten the whole country, but where are these racists? Most of the hate crimes the woke produce as evidence of the omnipresent White supremacists turn out to be hoaxes. The situation reminds me not a little of Orwell’s 1984. Everyone believes that agents of the evil Goldstein are everywhere, subverting the wise rule of Big Brother. Yet, somehow no one ever encounters any actual agents of Goldstein, except for the people on the telescreen who have been tortured into confessing. Maybe that’s the whole point of the anti-racist hysteria, to provide an Emmanuel Goldstein for the masses to hate.

I wonder how Whites came to be supreme in the first place. Are Whites somehow more wicked than other races? Are Whites more ruthless, perhaps, more willing to use violence to take what they want from others? Do Whites have some insatiable need to dominate and exploit the world around them, including the natural world, as well as people of other races? That is what the logic of woke anti-racism seems to suggest.
This anti-racist idea that Whites and whiteness are somehow evil seems more than a little racist itself. It is reminiscent of Nazi ideology concerning the Jews. If the Aryans were the master race, how was it that the Jews tended to be more successful? Well, the Jews must be cheating. They are parasites who rip off the efforts of the noble Aryans. If all races are equal, how did White Europeans come to dominate the world through colonialism? Whites must be more vicious.

If it were true that Whites are inherently racist villains bent on oppression, then there can only be one solution to the problem of White supremacy, a final solution, if you will. It will not be enough to continue teaching Whites to revile their own history of racist oppression. Sooner or later, the White instinct to dominate and oppress will come to the fore. The only way to ensure the end of White supremacy is to end the White race. That is far from a mainstream position even among the wokest left, but the logic is quite clear.

But are White Europeans really more violent and ruthless than other races and cultures? An honest review of world history: real history, not what the Marxist professors are teaching, shows that there is plenty of wickedness evident among every race and culture in every corner of the world. The sins that the woke attribute to Western civilization, slavery, and colonialism, are the sins of the whole human race. The colonial powers who conquered the Americas and ruled most of Africa and Asia may have been oppressive. Still, they were no worse than the indigenous rulers who preceded them. Indeed, in some respects, colonial rule was an improvement.

If Whites are no worse than other races, perhaps they are better. Maybe they are better. Maybe the reason that Whites became supreme is that they are, in fact, superior to other races, particularly those Whites from nations that became colonial powers. If this is the case, why should anyone be against White supremacy? If Whites have superior traits that have allowed them to rule most of the world, then Whites should be supreme for the good of everyone, especially the inferior races who may not be able to govern themselves.

So what are these White traits that have led Whites to colonize most of the world in centuries past? Perhaps we should look at the notorious chart issued by the Smithsonian Institute to see what it means to be White.

 


The curious thing about this chart is that many of the supposedly White traits, a strong work ethic, desire for competition, scientific and rational thinking, using correct language, and others are not uniquely White at all. There are many cultures all over the world that prize some or all of these traits; while there are many White cultures that do not. Individuals and cultures that value these “White” traits are successful. People and cultures that do not value these traits, no matter the color of their skin, tend not to be very successful. This assault on White supremacy is really an assault on the qualities that lead to success. These are values that should be encouraged in every young American, whatever their race or ethnicity.

This leads me to my final question. Why do people like that woke teacher want minority children to fail? By teaching them that working hard, being on time, and speaking proper English are examples of White supremacy, to be avoided at all costs by people of color, they are setting their students up for failure. As long as they fail, they will always need anti-racist White leftists to protect them. Woke anti-racism is about really affluent White Progressives holding power over people of every race by dividing us to rule over us.

 

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New Year’s Day

I think that New Year’s Day must be my least favorite holiday. The problem is the date, January 1. This has to be the worst time to start off the new year. It is only a week after Christmas. All the excitement of the Christmas season has dissipated and there is a general impression of anti-climax. The holidays are over and it is time to go back to the general routine of everyday life. In addition, January is the coldest, dreariest month of the year and January 1 is right in the middle of winter. I know that winter officially begins on the winter solstice, December 21 or 22, but in midwestern North America, the cold weather begins about a month or more before the solstice. It is possible to forget the dreariness of winter during the Christmas season, but by January, it feels that winter has been here forever and will never end.

It seems to me that it would be better to start the new year at the transition between one season and the next, preferably when winter becomes spring. What would be more appropriate than to start the new year at the beginning of Spring, when the cycle of nature is renewed and new life springs up? Spring is a time of new hopes and beginnings, so why not start the new year at the vernal equinox, March 21? If starting the new year at the beginning of a month seems weird, why not start the new year on March 1 or April 1? Well, maybe starting the new year on April Fool’s Day is not such a good idea. Why do we start the new year on January 1 anyway?

We have the Romans to thank for the date of New Year’s Day. as well as for our calendar, which is derived from the ancient Roman calendar. Originally, the Roman calendar did have March as the first month of the year. According to Roman legend, Rome’s founder Romulus established a ten-month calendar, beginning in March and extending to December. This is why our ninth through twelfth months, September to December have names meaning seventh through tenth months. Obviously, this ten-month calendar didn’t work out at all, so Romulus’s successor, Numa Pompilius, the second king of Rome, added the months of January and February.

It is not clear how true these legends are, but the twelve-month calendar attributed to Numa was used until Julius Caesar reformed the calendar in 46 BC. At first, the year continued to start in March, but during the republic, new consuls began their terms of office on the kalends, or first day, of January, named for Janus the double-headed god of new beginnings. The Romans did not number their years forward from a past year, as we do, Instead, they named each year after the consuls who served for that year. So, instead of a particular year being 132 since whatever, it would be the year Titus Maximus and Gaius Flavius were consuls. For this reason, it seemed to make sense to start the new year with the beginning of the consuls’ terms, and January first gradually became accepted as the first day of the new year, and when Julius Caesar introduced his Julian calendar, the first of January was officially established as the new year.

 

The Roman god Janus

After the fall of the Roman Empire in the West, New Year’s Day began to be seen as a holdover from Rome’s pagan past, and a variety of dates were used as New Year’s Day, including Christmas, March 1, and March 25. Calendars still began with January, however, leaving the actual date the new year began up to whoever had the calendar. January 1 was restored as New Year’s Day when Pope Gregory XIII promulgated the Gregorian Calendar in 1582. As the Gregorian Calendar became established as the most widely used calendar in the world, January 1 became the first day of the year worldwide. This means thanks to the Romans and Pope Gregory XIII we are stuck with the new year starting in the dead of winter, instead of spring, and there is nothing I can do about it.

The Nativity According to Mark

The Gospel of Mark does not include a narrative of Jesus’s birth. Instead, Mark gets right to business with John the Baptist.

The beginning of the good news about Jesus the Messiah, the Son of God,  as it is written in Isaiah the prophet:

“I will send my messenger ahead of you,
    who will prepare your way”
“a voice of one calling in the wilderness,
‘Prepare the way for the Lord,
    make straight paths for him.’”

And so John the Baptist appeared in the wilderness, preaching a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins. The whole Judean countryside and all the people of Jerusalem went out to him. Confessing their sins, they were baptized by him in the Jordan River. John wore clothing made of camel’s hair, with a leather belt around his waist, and he ate locusts and wild honey. And this was his message: “After me comes the one more powerful than I, the straps of whose sandals I am not worthy to stoop down and untie. I baptize you with water, but he will baptize you with the Holy Spirit.”

(Mark 1:1-8)

Then Jesus makes his first appearance, fully grown and ready to begin His public ministry.

At that time Jesus came from Nazareth in Galilee and was baptized by John in the Jordan. 10 Just as Jesus was coming up out of the water, he saw heaven being torn open and the Spirit descending on him like a dove. 11 And a voice came from heaven: “You are my Son, whom I love; with you I am well pleased.”

12 At once the Spirit sent him out into the wilderness, 13 and he was in the wilderness forty days, being tempted by Satan. He was with the wild animals, and angels attended him.

14 After John was put in prison, Jesus went into Galilee, proclaiming the good news of God. 15 “The time has come,” he said. “The kingdom of God has come near. Repent and believe the good news!”

(Mark 1:9-15)

English: John the Baptist baptizing Christ
English: John the Baptist baptizing Christ (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Mark’s gospel was probably the first gospel written. It is the shortest of the four gospels and seems to have been intended as a sort of FAQ for Christians wanting to know more about the central figure of their faith. Mark doesn’t include a lot of details about Jesus’s life and teachings. He just gives the basic facts about Jesus’s ministry, his miracles, and his death on the cross.

The earliest Christians weren’t really interested in the details of Jesus’s birth or His early life. Even His teachings were of secondary importance. For the early Christians, the most important fact about Jesus was that he was crucified, died, and then came back to life, defeating death and sin and redeeming the whole world. Paul, whose letters are some of the earliest Christian writings hardly mentions any details of Jesus’s life. He was surely not ignorant. Both he and the recipients of his letters already knew the information found in the Gospels. For both Paul and the people he wrote to, the most important thing was the death and resurrection. For the earliest Christians Easter, not Christmas, was the most important day of the year. Indeed, the birth of Christ may not have been celebrated by Christians until the third or fourth century.

There is a lot of talk, these days, about the War on Christmas, and I have written posts about the Secular Christmas Grinches who seem determined to ruin Christmas for everyone, or at least strip it of all meaning until it is a generic “Holiday”. As Christians, we should remember the importance of Christmas and should fight against the increasing marginalization of the Judeo-Christian worldview that this nation was founded upon. Still, we should also remember that Christ’s death and resurrection was the reason he came into the world. If Jesus is the reason for Christmas, Good Friday and Easter are the reason for Jesus. We should remember Christ on the cross as well as baby Jesus in the manger.

The Nativity According to Matthew

 

Matthew begins his Gospel with the genealogy of Jesus. I’ll skip the genealogy and go straight to his account of Jesus’s birth.

 

18 This is how the birth of Jesus the Messiah came about: His mother Mary was pledged to be married to Joseph, but before they came together, she was found to be pregnant through the Holy Spirit. 19 Because Joseph her husband was faithful to the law, and yet did not want to expose her to public disgrace, he had in mind to divorce her quietly.

20 But after he had considered this, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream and said, “Joseph son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary home as your wife, because what is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. 21 She will give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins.”

22 All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had said through the prophet: 23 “The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel” (which means “God with us”).

24 When Joseph woke up, he did what the angel of the Lord had commanded him and took Mary home as his wife. 25 But he did not consummate their marriage until she gave birth to a son. And he gave him the name Jesus.

After Jesus was born in Bethlehem in Judea, during the time of King Herod, Magi from the east came to Jerusalem and asked, “Where is the one who has been born king of the Jews? We saw his star when it rose and have come to worship him.”

When King Herod heard this he was disturbed, and all Jerusalem with him. When he had called together all the people’s chief priests and teachers of the law, he asked them where the Messiah was to be born. “In Bethlehem in Judea,” they replied, “for this is what the prophet has written:

“‘But you, Bethlehem, in the land of Judah,
are by no means least among the rulers of Judah;
for out of you will come a ruler
who will shepherd my people Israel.’

Then Herod called the Magi secretly and found out from them the exact time the star had appeared. He sent them to Bethlehem and said, “Go and search carefully for the child. As soon as you find him, report to me, so that I too may go and worship him.”

After they had heard the king, they went on their way, and the star they had seen when it rose went ahead of them until it stopped over the place where the child was. 10 When they saw the star, they were overjoyed. 11 On coming to the house, they saw the child with his mother Mary, and they bowed down and worshiped him. Then they opened their treasures and presented him with gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh. 12 And having been warned in a dream not to go back to Herod, they returned to their country by another route.

13 When they had gone, an angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream. “Get up,” he said, “take the child and his mother and escape to Egypt. Stay there until I tell you, for Herod is going to search for the child to kill him.”

14 So he got up, took the child and his mother during the night and left for Egypt, 15 where he stayed until the death of Herod. And so was fulfilled what the Lord had said through the prophet: “Out of Egypt I called my son.”

16 When Herod realized that he had been outwitted by the Magi, he was furious, and he gave orders to kill all the boys in Bethlehem and its vicinity who were two years old and under, in accordance with the time he had learned from the Magi. 17 Then what was said through the prophet Jeremiah was fulfilled:

18 “A voice is heard in Ramah,
weeping and great mourning,
Rachel weeping for her children
and refusing to be comforted,
because they are no more.”

19 After Herod died, an angel of the Lord appeared in a dream to Joseph in Egypt 20 and said, “Get up, take the child and his mother and go to the land of Israel, for those who were trying to take the child’s life are dead.” (Matthew 1:18-2:20)

Most people think that the slaughter of the baby boys in Bethlehem involved the murder of hundreds or thousands of innocents. Remember, though, that Bethlehem was a small village at this time with a likely population of a few hundred. It is doubtful that more than half a dozen children were killed, not enough to make it into any other sources we have for Herod’s rule. Herod was certainly ruthless enough to order such a massacre. He had no trouble killing members of his own family if he thought they threatened his rule. In fact, Herod being an Idumean (or Edomite) and not a Jew, was a foreigner and so was as despised by many Judeans as a Roman governor would have been. If he had heard that there was a potential rival to his throne, even a child, that the Jews might rally around, he would have wasted no time in disposing of that rival.

 

The word Magi usually refers to Zoroastrian priests. In Greco-Roman usage, the term Magi had connotations of magicians or sorcerers, exotic figures from distant lands. It is not clear just who the Magi actually were. They may indeed have been Zoroastrians. The references to the Star of Bethlehem suggest that they may have been astrologers. The Babylonians had a reputation for being skilled in astrology and magic so the Magi may have come from Mesopotamia. They may also have been Jewish since they were seeking for a king of the Jews. The fact that they were unfamiliar with the prophets may prove that they were Gentiles. The number of the Magi is not given in the Gospel. The reason that three are usually pictured is that there were three gifts; gold, frankincense, and myrrh.

 

It is also not clear just what the Star of Bethlehem was. There have been several theories presented, but none of them are entirely satisfactory. The star might have been a supernova, perhaps in a nearby galaxy. There is no way to know for certain since any supernova remnant so far away would be difficult, perhaps impossible, to detect. It might also have been a comet. This is rather unlikely. Although a comet would behave much as the star is said to behave, hanging in the sky over a certain location for several nights, comets were universally perceived as being harbingers of disaster in ancient, and not so ancient, times. The most likely explanation is a conjunction of the planets Jupiter and Saturn. The astronomer Keppler discovered that there was indeed such a conjunction in the year 7 BC. The following year there was another conjunction of Mars, Jupiter, and Saturn. This might have been very impressive to the Magi. It may also be that the Star was a supernatural phenomenon and one that cannot be studied today.

 

The Nativity According to Luke

Linus tells us what Christmas is all about

Linus is quoting from the Gospel according to Luke.

In those days Caesar Augustus issued a decree that a census should be taken of the entire Roman world. (This was the first census that took place while Quirinius was governor of Syria.) And everyone went to their own town to register.

So Joseph also went up from the town of Nazareth in Galilee to Judea, to Bethlehem the town of David, because he belonged to the house and line of David. He went there to register with Mary, who was pledged to be married to him and was expecting a child. While they were there, the time came for the baby to be born, and she gave birth to her firstborn, a son. She wrapped him in cloths and placed him in a manger, because there was no guest room available for them.

And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night. An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. 10 But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people. 11 Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord. 12 This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.”

13 Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying,

14 “Glory to God in the highest heaven,
and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests.”

15 When the angels had left them and gone into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, “Let’s go to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has told us about.”

16 So they hurried off and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby, who was lying in the manger. 17 When they had seen him, they spread the word concerning what had been told them about this child, 18 and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds said to them. 19 But Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart. 20 The shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things they had heard and seen, which were just as they had been told.

21 On the eighth day, when it was time to circumcise the child, he was named Jesus, the name the angel had given him before he was conceived. (Luke 2:1-21)

Luke is a historian of the Hellenistic school, like Herodotus or Thucydides. Although he tries to establish times and places, he is less interested in being precise than in understanding the meaning of the events he records. In fact, it wasn’t so easy to give exact dates in those times, given that every city and region had its own calendar and way of numbering or naming the years.

There is a considerable amount of skepticism about the census, both on the dating and the procedure. Most skeptics regard it as extremely improbable that the Romans would make people travel here and there to register in their home towns. As a matter of fact, that is just how the Romans conducted their censuses.

Every five years, each male Roman citizen had to register in Rome for the census. In this he had to declare his family, wife, children, slaves and riches. Should he fail to do this, his possessions would be confiscated and he would be sold into slavery.
But registration meant freedom. A master wishing to free his slave needed only to enter him in the censor’s list as a citizen (manumissio censu).
Throughout the entire republican era, registration in the census was the only way that a Roman could ensure that his identity and status as a citizen were recognized. Fathers registered their sons, employers their freedmen.
Primarily the census served to count the number of citizens and to assess the potential military strength and future tax revenue. Most important, the census transformed the city into a political and military community.
But the census performed a highly symbolical function. To the Romans the census made them more than a mere crowd, or barbarian rabble. It made them a populus, a people, capable of collective action.
To the Roman the census was one of the foundation stones of their civilization.

As the Roman Empire expanded and citizenship was given out to other cities in Italy and around the Mediterranean, I would imagine that every Roman citizen had to go to his native city to register. Presumably, there were lists of citizens kept in major cities and in Rome. Paul claimed to be a Roman citizen at various times in Acts and you might wonder how he was able to prove it. Well, every Roman citizen had a sort of ID or diploma which would have been issued in his city.

But with the steady extension of the citizenship by individual grants to provincials isolated in peregrine communes, and with the informal settlement of large numbers of Italian immigrants in the provincial territories, a more effective means of registration became necessary. Formal documentation of the grant of citizenship to provincial soldiery appears first in 89 B.C., in the shape of a bronze tablet recording the decree of a proconsul enfranchising a unit of Spanish cavalrymen in the Social War, who are all named in a general list. Presumably each soldier received a copy. The cities of persons of higher status enfranchised by Octavian in c. 40 B.C. received a copy of a decree detailing all the privileges of their new status, while his auxiliary veterans could acquire copies of the enabling edict that enfranchised them. But it is only with the regularization of the grant of citizenship to the all time-expired auxiliaries by Claudius that a standardized document appears. This is the small bronze diptych known as the diploma civitatis, containing a brief and uniform formula conferring the Roman citizenship on the holder and his descendants, who is indicated by his name and military unit. These documents were not normally used for civilians, who received instead a copy in libellus form of the brief imperial warrant authorizing the registration of their enfranchisement in the archives at Rome.

Diplomata and libelli provided for new citizens. For the mass of the citizenry, for whom censorial registration at five-yearly intervals was an inefficient instrument, adequate provision was finally made by the creation of an official system of compulsory birth registration under the social legislation of Augustus (A.D. 4)… The Roman citizen was required to register the birth of his children within thirty days before a Roman official, and he received a wooden diptych recording the declaration, which acted as a certificate of citizenship for the child for the rest of his life. Like the military diplomata this contained the names of seven witnesses, and provided a presumptive proof of citizen status… Similarly the enfranchisement of freedmen, which depended upon a formal act, was recorded in a documentary tabella manumissionis. Citizens of diverse origins thus came to have some form of documentary evidence of their status.

Presumably, Paul registered at Tarsus while he lived there. To get back to the census; obviously, Joseph wasn’t a Roman citizen and Judea was under the rule of Herod, not the Romans. The census could have been a small-time affair, the mention of Caesar Augustus being either an exaggeration or a long-standing policy of Augustus to encourage the provinces to conduct censuses but conducted according to Roman norms, with every resident registering in his home town. You must not imagine, however, large crowds of people traveling to and fro. Remember that at this time most people would have lived their whole lives in the same village. Joseph’s journey from Nazareth to Bethlehem would have been very much an exception. The only thing really odd about this account was his taking Mary with him. As a woman, her residency would not have mattered much. On the other hand, she was also of the line of David and perhaps her presence in Bethlehem might have been desirable. Again you must not imagine that Mary was on the point of giving birth as they traveled. They could have spent several weeks in Bethlehem.

The Story of Hanukah

Hanukah begins at sunset today, so I thought I would write a little about this holiday. Hanukah is the Jewish Festival of Lights. It is an eight-day celebration that lasts from the twenty-fifth day of Kislev to the second day of Tevet. Since the Hebrew calendar is a lunisolar calendar, the days float around from November to December in the Gregorian calendar. This year the days of Hanukah are celebrated from  December 18 to 26.

English: Hanukkah menorah, known also as Hanuk...

Hanukkah was not a major holiday in the Jewish calendar, unlike Passover or the High Holy Days. The festival has increased in importance among North American Jews because of its proximity to Christmas. There is even a tendency among Gentiles to regard Hanukkah as some sort of Jewish Christmas. This is unfortunate since the backgrounds of the two holidays are quite different. The story of Hanukkah is one of the Jewish people fighting for their freedom to worship God in their own way. I think this story is inspiring and worth learning, both for Jews and Gentiles.

The history goes back to the time of Alexander the Great. He conquered the Persian Empire in one of history’s most remarkable military campaigns. Unfortunately, when he died in 323 BC, he left no provision for any successors and so his generals fought among themselves, and eventually Alexander’s empire was divided among them. One of these successors was named Seleucus and he gained control of what is now Iran and Iraq. His kingdom is known to historians as the Seleucid Empire. This time is known as the Hellenistic Era.

Around 200 BC the Seleucids defeated the Egyptians and gained the territories of modern Syria and Israel. During this time the Jewish religion was tolerated and respected by the Ptolemies of Egypt. During this time, also, the Greek language and culture spread far and wide among the conquered peoples. Greek culture had become “cool” and everybody wanted to be a part of it. People who adopted Greek culture could be said to be “Hellenized” from Hellene, the Greek word for Greek. This caused no little consternation among the more traditional Jews. They were afraid that in the rush to embrace Greek culture, many Jews would fall into the worship of the Greek gods and so to idolatry. So, to some extent, the events which followed were as much a civil war as a war between the Jews and the Seleucids.

Antiochus IV

In the year 175, Antiochus IV Epiphanes ascended the throne of the Seleucids. Unlike previous Hellenistic rulers, truly believed himself a god and was eager for everyone in his realm to pay divine honors to the Greek gods. For most of the people in the Empire, this was no great burden as a few more gods didn’t matter all that much. For all but the most Hellenized Jews, this was an impossible demand. There was only one God. When fighting broke out between Hellenized and traditional Jews, Antiochus sided with the Hellenized Jews and in 167 sent an army to capture Jerusalem and compel the worship of the Greek gods. A statue of Zeus was placed on the altar of the Temple and the Jewish religion was banned.

 

This sparked a rebellion and a guerilla war which was led by a priest named Matthias and his five sons. The most prominent of these was Judas Maccabeus. Antiochus IV had many other problems, especially with the Persians to the east and the rising power of Rome to the west, and could never spare the forces necessary to crush the revolt. By 165, the Maccabees were able to retake Jerusalem and cleanse the Temple of the defilement of the pagans.

 

According to legend, there was only enough oil to light the Menorah for one day, and yet miraculously, they were able to keep it lit for eight days until more oil could be procured. These eight days became known as the Festival of Lights and to commemorate this victory and miracle, a nine-branched menorah is lit. A more prosaic explanation for the origins of this holiday is that the first Hanukkah was a belated celebration of Sukkot. Whatever the truth of the matter might be, I wish everyone a Happy Hanukkah.

 

The Real Threat to Our Democracy

I have always been told that President Nixon’s actions in covering up the break-in at the Democratic National Committee headquarters at the Watergate hotel was a severe threat to democracy in American history, and so Nixon was obliged to resign. I have also been told that President Trump was such a grave threat to our democracy that he should have been impeached not just once but twice. If this is the standard, then what are we to do with a president whose administration colludes with big tech to suppress negative stories even before it is elected? Then, once elected, this administration attempts to establish a Board of Disinformation that actively creates an atmosphere of censorship that even a totalitarian regime such as the People’s Republic of China might envy.

Difficult as it might be to believe that something like that could happen in America, this was precisely the intention of the Biden administration and the Secretary of Homeland Security Alejandro Mayorkas. As Jazz Shaw over at Hot Air reports:

It would appear that Alejandro Mayorkas has “some ‘splainin to do,” as the kids like to say these days. As you may recall, the Biden administration briefly attempted to set up a Ministry of Truth under the Department of Homeland Security earlier this year. The quickly abandoned office was fancifully named the “Disinformation Governance Board” and it was planned to be headed by Nina Jankowicz, who quickly left the government after the effort was curtailed and went on to register as a foreign agent for Great Britain. When Congress looked into the attempt to establish the board, Mayorkas offered lengthy testimony as to what had been going on and sang lofty praises of Jankowicz. But newly revealed documents presented by Senator Josh Hawley and others strongly suggest that the board had progressed far further than Mayorkas testified and he seemingly lied under oath about some of the details

During his testimony in May, Mayorkas claimed that the Ministry of Truth had only been in its planning stages and that the board “had not yet met” to plan any actions. But the leaked documents show that the board had initially met on Feb. 4, 2022, and had continued to schedule weekly meetings thereafter, despite not having been formally approved or established.

Further, the documents indicate that the board’s plans to partner with the Big Tech companies were “far more extensive” than Mayorkas or the Biden administration ever revealed. The Disinformation Board planned to meet with Nathaniel Gleicher of Meta, who was in charge of the company’s security policy group when they acted to suppress the Hunter Biden laptop story.

These revelations only serve to add another layer to the cake of badness surrounding the Biden administration’s coordination with social media platforms in an effort to suppress free speech in the name of “battling disinformation.” These efforts to enlist the aid of Big Tech to silence voices critical of various government policies are a clear violation of the First Amendment’s assurances of the right to free speech. They should be seen as obvious justifications for the impeachment of not only Mayorkas but Joe Biden himself. Of course, with the Democrats still controlling the Senate, that will almost certainly not happen, but this is a worrisome sign of how vastly the federal government has grown out of control and how the fundamental rights of citizens are being trodden upon or simply disregarded.

This attempt to give the federal government, in conjunction with Big Tech, the ability to censor dissenting voices is a threat to our liberties greater than anything Nixon did in the Watergate scandal. Nixon was only trying to cover up a tawdry and pointless effort by his campaign workers to attempt to influence the election of 1972. The Biden administration has been conspiring with social media gatekeepers to suppress information damaging to the Democratic Party’s electoral prospects. They have been attempting to establish totalitarian control over social media. That is a direct threat to the first amendment and to the constitutional order that guarantees American liberty. That is far worse than any other scandal in recent history.

The Biden administration must not be allowed to get away with this. Joe Biden must be impeached and removed from office along with Alejandro Mayorkas and anyone else implicated in these actions. The Department of Homeland Security should be abolished, along with the whole surveillance state that was set up in the wake of 9/11. It is becoming increasingly evident that the greatest threat to our lives and liberties comes not from Islamic terrorists but from our own government using the powers we have entrusted it to fight the threats from without, turned against us. We need to pare back the state to its constitutional limits if we’re to have any hope of maintaining the legacy of freedom bequeathed to us.

 

Thanksgiving

Today is Thanksgiving in the United States. The story of Thanksgiving that we remember, with the turkey meal, etc is based on the Thanksgiving celebration held by the settlers of the Plymouth colony in 1621. They had a lot to be thankful for. These Pilgrims had decided to immigrate to the New World so that they could practice their religion freely. They had intended to settle at the mouth of the Hudson River but their departure from England on the Mayflower had been delayed and the trip across the Atlantic had been rough. They reached America farther north than they had intended, at Provincetown Harbor in November 1620. While they did not really have a legal right to create a colony in what is now Massachusetts, no one really wanted to spend the winter at sea so, on December 21, 1620, the Pilgrims began to build the settlement at Plymouth.

Model of a 17th century English merchantman sh...
Would you spend any more time in a leaky ship like this than you had to? (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The first winter at the new colony was very hard. About half of the colonists had died by spring. By what must have seemed incredible luck or divine providence, the colonists were able to make contact with two Natives who could speak English. One of these was named Samoset and he had learned some English from English trappers and fishermen. He introduced the Pilgrims to the other man, Squanto, who had a truly remarkable life. Captured by Englishmen, he was taken to England and instructed in the English language in the hope that he could serve as an interpreter. When he was brought back to New England, he was captured again, this time by members of John Smith’s expedition who planned to sell captured Indians as slaves in Spain. In Spain, some friars learned of this plan and had the Indians freed and instructed in the Catholic religion. Squanto was able to make his way back to England and then across the Atlantic. There, he discovered that his whole tribe had been destroyed by the diseases, probably smallpox, that the Europeans had brought to the New World.

Squanto was willing to help the Pilgrims and taught what they needed to know to survive in New England. The harvest in the summer of 1621 was good enough that the Pilgrims did not need to fear starvation that winter. They had a feast that Autumn to celebrate their good fortune and to give thanks to God. This celebration was not considered to be very remarkable. Thanksgiving celebrations were fairly common at the time, especially among people who had successfully made the difficult and dangerous voyage across the ocean. It was not really the first Thanksgiving.

The First Thanksgiving, painted by Jean Leon G...
The First Thanksgiving, painted by Jean Leon Gerome Ferris (1863–1930).

There were proclamations of thanksgiving at various times in American history, especially during the Revolutionary War, but the holiday we know of as Thanksgiving really began in 1863 when President Abraham Lincoln issued a proclamation that a national day of Thanksgiving was to be celebrated on the final Thursday of November. It might not seem that there was all that much to be thankful for in the middle of the Civil War but the tide was turning in the North’s favor after the victories at Gettysburg and Vicksburg that July and the country was continuing to grow in strength and prosperity despite the horrors of the war. Lincoln’s proclamation set the date for the national holiday that has been celebrated ever since. Franklin Roosevelt set the date a week earlier in 1939 in the hope that an earlier date would mean a longer shopping season for Christmas, thus helping the economy still mired in the Great Depression. This was not without controversy and in October 1941 Congress officially set the date of Thanksgiving on the fourth, and almost always the last, Thursday in November.

So, enjoy your turkey but remember to be thankful to God. If you happen to be an American you really are one of the luckiest people on Earth.

COINTELPRO

Lately, there has been increasing skepticism among conservatives about the Federal Bureau of Investigation among many on the right. The raid on Mar-a-Lago, the involvement of the FBI in the plot to kidnap Michigan Governor Whitmer, and perhaps the ‘insurrection’ of January 6, harassment of prominent Trump supporters such as Mike Lindell, and arrest of pro-life activists have all contributed to the impression that the FBI has become a corrupt and repressive tool of the Democratic Party and the deep state elites.

This new skeptical attitude represents a sea change in the positions of the Right and the Left. It used to be liberals who expressed doubts about the power and possible civil rights violations of federal law enforcement agencies while law and order conservatives have tended to blindly support the police at every level and ignore all but the most obvious cases of corruption and violations of civil rights. Now that the force of the federal government has become increasingly weaponized against conservative dissent, the Right is awakening to the very real dangers of an over-powerful FBI. The Left, which now benefits from the increased repressive power of the federal government now supports federal, though not local, law enforcement, and we see the strange spectacle of the same people who urged defunding the local police suggesting that questioning the FBI is somehow unpatriotic and taking the side of the domestic terrorists.

The fact is that contrary to what many conservatives believe the corruption of the FBI is no new thing. The FBI has, in fact, been problematic since its beginning, with a long history of civil rights violations and prioritizing suppressing dissent over fighting crime. Most people have been unaware of the dangers posed by the FBI because they have generally targeted unpopular fringe groups. It is only recently that the FBI has used its power against mainstream organizations. The danger has been there all along, however.

To see the threat the FBI has posed to our liberties, one needs to look no further than COINTELPRO. According to Wikipedia, COINTELPRO was:

a series of covert and illegal projects actively conducted by the United States Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) aimed at surveilling, infiltrating, discrediting, and disrupting domestic American political organizations

COINTELPRO began in 1956 and only ended when the program was revealed to the public by the Citizen’s Commission to Investigate the FBI in 1971. The Citizen’s Commission managed to steal documents from an FBI office and get them published by the Washington Post. Congress subsequently investigated COINTELPRO as part of the Church Committee’s general investigation of illegal surveillance and covert actions by intelligence and law enforcement agencies of the U. S. government.

The targets of COINTELPRO included:

 feminist organizations,the Communist Party USAanti–Vietnam War organizers, activists of the civil rights movement and Black Power movement (e.g. Martin Luther King Jr., the Nation of Islam, and the Black Panther Party), environmentalist and animal rights organizations, the American Indian Movement (AIM), Chicano and Mexican-American groups like the Brown Berets and the United Farm Workers, independence movements (including Puerto Rican independence groups such as the Young Lords and the Puerto Rican Socialist Party), a variety of organizations that were part of the broader New Left, and far-right groups such as the Ku Klux Klan and the National States’ Rights Party.

Now, to be clear, most, if not all, of these organizations deserved at least some scrutiny from law enforcement. The Communist Party and associated Socialist organizations were, at least in theory, committed to the violent overthrow of the US government, and the Communists were funded by a hostile foreign power. The Ku Klux Klan and the Black Panthers were both racist organizations with a history of violence. Not all of the anti-Viet Nam war protestors were peaceful flower children. It would have been entirely appropriate for the FBI to conduct surveillance on many of these groups. Indeed it might have been negligent for them not to keep an eye on them. The problem is the FBI did much more than simply watch these groups. The FBI actively sought to harass, break up, and discredit organizations that held unpopular fringe political opinions. The FBI’s methods included:

  • Infiltration: Agents and informers did not merely spy on political activists. Their main purpose was to discredit, disrupt and negatively redirect action. Their very presence served to undermine trust and scare off potential supporters. The FBI and police exploited this fear to smear genuine activists as agents.
  • Psychological warfare: The FBI and police used myriad “dirty tricks” to undermine movements. They planted false media stories and published bogus leaflets and other publications in the name of targeted groups. They forged correspondence, sent anonymous letters, and made anonymous telephone calls. They spread misinformation about meetings and events, set up pseudo movement groups run by government agents, and manipulated or strong-armed parents, employers, landlords, school officials, and others to cause trouble for activists. They used bad-jacketing to create suspicion about targeted activists, sometimes with lethal consequences.
  • Harassment via the legal system: The FBI and police abused the legal system to harass dissidents and make them appear to be criminals. Officers of the law gave perjured testimony and presented fabricated evidence as a pretext for false arrests and wrongful imprisonment. They discriminatorily enforced tax laws and other government regulations and used conspicuous surveillance, “investigative” interviews, and grand jury subpoenas in an effort to intimidate activists and silence their supporters.
  • Illegal force: The FBI conspired with local police departments to threaten dissidents; to conduct illegal break-ins in order to search dissident homes; and to commit vandalism, assaults, beatings and assassinations.The objective was to frighten or eliminate dissidents and disrupt their movements.
  • Undermine public opinion: One of the primary ways the FBI targeted organizations was by challenging their reputations in the community and denying them a platform to gain legitimacy. Hoover specifically designed programs to block leaders from “spreading their philosophy publicly or through the communications media”. Furthermore, the organization created and controlled negative media meant to undermine black power organizations. For instance, they oversaw the creation of “documentaries” skillfully edited to paint the Black Panther Party as aggressive, and false newspapers that spread misinformation about party members. The ability of the FBI to create distrust within and between revolutionary organizations tainted their public image and weakened chances at unity and public support.

These methods go far beyond what ought to be acceptable for a law enforcement agency in a free, constitutional republic. These are police state methods, the sort of procedure you might expect from the KGB or the Gestapo. All of the members of the political organizations targeted by the FBI had a perfect right to belong to and promote the ideology of those organizations so long as they obeyed the law and abstained from violence. There is no law, and ought not to be a law that prohibits anyone from being a Communist, a Black Panther, a Klansman, or anything else they want to be.

COINTELPRO officially ended in April 1971. The FBI was supposed to have ended the illegal surveillance and harassment of law-abiding citizens, but there is good reason to suspect their illegal shenanigans have continued. Over the years, members of fringe movements on both the right and left have complained about the FBI’s actions. Lately, the FBI has been more blatant in its actions against groups deemed to be threatening to the political order, and as the FBI, along with many other federal agencies, has become less professional and more politicized under the Obama and Biden administrations, it has increasingly targeted mainstream conservatives.

The history of the FBI has generally been that of a rouge agency that threatens rather than defends the life and liberty of American citizens. A law enforcement agency with wide-ranging powers and contempt for the rights of the American people has no place in a constitutional republic. If there is, indeed, a need for a federal law enforcement agency like the FBI as part of our government, it should be an agency of strictly limited jurisdiction and under the oversight of Congress. I do not believe the FBI can be redeemed or reformed. It must be defunded and abolished.

Rosh Hashanah

Today is Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year, and the first of the High Holy Days. To be more precise, Rosh Hashanah actually began yesterday evening, since the Jews traditionally begin a new day at sunset. This holiday takes place on the first two days of the month of Tishrei in the Hebrew calendar. Because the Hebrew calendar is a lunar calendar, the dates wander a bit in our Gregorian calendar. This year it takes place on September 25-27. The New Year is celebrated for two days because of the difficulty of determining the precise day of the new moon.

Rosh Hashanah, which means “the head of the year”,  is not mentioned as such in the Bible. Instead, the day is called “Zikaron Teru’ah” a memorial of the blowing of horns in Leviticus 23:24, and “Yom Teru’ah” the day of blowing the horn in Numbers 23:9.

 23 The LORD spoke to Moses: 24 “Tell the Israelites, ‘In the seventh month, on the first day of the month, you must have a complete rest, a memorial announced by loud horn blasts, a holy assembly. 25 You must not do any regular work, but you must present a gift to the LORD.’”  (Lev. 23:23-25)

1 “‘On the first day of the seventh month, you are to hold a holy assembly. You must not do your ordinary work, for it is a day of blowing trumpets for you. 2 You must offer a burnt offering as a sweet aroma to the LORD: one young bull, one ram, and seven lambs one year old without blemish.  3 “‘Their grain offering is to be of finely ground flour mixed with olive oil, three-tenths of an ephah for the bull, two-tenths of an ephah for the ram, 4 and one-tenth for each of the seven lambs,note 5 with one male goat for a purification offering to make an atonement for you; 6 this is in addition to the monthly burnt offering and its grain offering, and the daily burnt offering with its grain offering and their drink offerings as prescribed, as a sweet aroma, a sacrifice made by fire to the LORD. (Num 29:1-6)

I mentioned that the Hebrew calendar is a lunar calendar. That is not quite correct. A fully lunar calendar would be based solely on the phases of the moon that would cycle through the year, as the Islamic Calendar does. Instead, the Hebrew calendar is a lunisolar calendar. The twelve months add up to 354 days, so to keep up with the seasons extra, intercalary months are added in a nineteen-year cycle. Seven intercalary months are added during the cycle so that a thirteenth month is added every two or three years. This means that the dates wander a bit compared to the Gregorian calendar but stay within the appropriate seasons.

Anyway, Shana Tova everyone.

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