Monday, December 28, 2009

Jewish Songwriters and Christmas

From Jeff Jacoby:
JEWISH SONGWRITERS have created some of the most enduringly popular songs of the season -- Irving Berlin’s “White Christmas,” of course, but also “The Christmas Song,” “Silver Bells,” and “I’ll Be Home For Christmas,” among others. Some people might view that as a heartening, only-in-America expression of interfaith goodwill and warmth. But not Garrison Keillor:

“All those lousy holiday songs by Jewish guys that trash up the malls every year, Rudolph and the chestnuts and the rest of that dreck,” he fumed in a recent column for the Baltimore Sun. “Christmas is a Christian holiday -- if you’re not in the club, then buzz off.” His piece bore the sour headline: “Nonbelievers, please leave Christmas alone.”

Remember the days when Keillor was endearing and witty? It’s a shame to see him grown so cranky and intolerant. What kind of grinch thinks “White Christmas” is “dreck?”

Well, here’s hoping that all the songs written by those “Jewish guys” didn’t put too big a damper on Keillor’s Christmas this year. And let’s hope no one ruined it entirely by letting him know that the Jewish connection to Christmas didn’t start with Irving Berlin.
The Keillor column is actually a bit more nuanced that Jacoby lets on, since Keillor takes a swipe at a Unitarian church where (in his words) “I discovered that ‘Silent Night’ has been cleverly rewritten to make it more about silence and night and not so much about God.”

But the issue still remains: Is it really a bad thing that Jewish songwriters have written a lot of the most popular Christmas songs?

In the first place, all the most popular songs by Jewish writers are secular, and not religious in nature. There is a lot of holly, and no baby Jesus. So it doesn’t seem that Jewish songwriters have been asserting any theological concepts that they don’t believe.

In the second place, Christmas is a time of good cheer, family and giving for the 80% of Americans who claim to be Christians, and doubtless for most of the remainder who, whatever their religious beliefs, enjoy the vast majority of things that come with Christmas.

So should Jews, and particularly Jewish songwriters, begrudge any of this? Should a catering firm run by Gentiles refuse to cater bar mitzvahs? Only if one thinks that other people’s religious observances are illegitimate. We can think of some religious practices in some places at some times that really are illegitimate. But Christmas isn’t among them, and neither are any of the religious practices of American Jews.

And we can’t help wondering, of what religion was the person who wrote “Grandma Got Run Over By a Raindeer?”

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Monday, December 21, 2009

Detroit: Where Liberalism Leads

Bilingual Education: A Liberal Social Experiment That Hurt Hispanic Kids

From Heather McDonald, writing in the City Journal, a deconstruction of the corrupt push for bilingual education, which was often imposed on Hispanic kids whose parents didn’t want it.

On the face of it, it’s pretty obvious that if you want a kid to learn a language, you immerse them in it.

That, after all, is what affluent white parents do when they want their kids to learn a language. They send them to foreign countries. They put them in an environment where they have to speak a foreign language to get along.

But if affluent white parents, including liberal yuppies, know what works best, that doesn’t help working class and poor Hispanic parents, who have to endure what the interests of educrats, the political agenda of activists, and the interests of the teachers’ union impose on them.

Luckily, the public can overturn entrenched interests in California, because they have referenda there.

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Thursday, December 17, 2009

Why Shouldn’t We All Have One?

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

The U.S. Has Better Health Care Than Canada

From the National Bureau of Economic Research, a scholarly and detailed comparison of the U.S. and the Canadian health care systems.

It has lots of data. But read it, if you want the best scholarly read on the two systems.

It might seem that events in Washington are now leaning against a government takeover of U.S. health care. But the people who want government control have not given up.

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More on Poor Health Care in Canada

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Poll: 39% of Israelis believe Obama is Muslim

From Politico:
The New America Foundation’s poll of Israelis, released today, contains a finding suggesting campaign-trail rumors about Barack Obama’s religion penetrated deeply in the Jewish state.

The survey, by Jim Gerstein, asked Israelis (both Jewish and Muslim) whether a series of terms describe President Obama well, and 39% of respondents said the term “Muslim” describes the president, who is Christian, well. Of those, only 15% said the term described him very well.

A plurality, 49%, said Obama isn’t well-described as a Muslim.

But in a country engaged in decades of violent conflict with its Muslim and Arab neighbors, the fact that well over a third of Israelis buy into the groundless rumors about Obama’s faith suggests the depth of his image problems.

ALSO: About 11% of Americans think Obama is a Muslim, a number that has remained stable since the rumor spread widely in 2007.
Of course, this is a boneheaded thing to believe, but there is a sort of logic here, even if it is oversimplistic.

Obama, compared to previous American presidents, has tilted strongly against Israel and strongly toward the Palestinians.

Somebody, knowing full well that Jews support Israel, and that American Christians support Israel, might think that Obama comes from the group that most visibly dislikes Israel.

The flaw in the argument is that there is another group that doesn’t like Israel: secular liberals and leftists. That group includes Obama.

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Political Correctness: There Won’t Always Be an England

From the American Spectator, some selected parts of the article:
As Britain approaches a general election, commentators on the present “British sickness” or “British crisis” usually dwell on one of several areas. Here are some of them:

• Destruction of trust in the Parliamentary and political system. About half Britain’s MPs have been found to have broken either the spirit or the letter of the law with dodgy expense claims, “flipping” primary and secondary residences to avoid capital gains tax and in other ways showing contempt for the taxpayer -- a contempt now being heartily reciprocated. It is hard to see how any major party will be able to find enough cleanskins to form a ministry after the next election. Coupled with this is the rise to power of bizarre figures like Lord Mandelson, virtually de facto Prime Minister although elected by no one, once a young far-leftist activist, now a friend (if that is the word) of Russian oligarchs and recently a shooting partner of Colonel Qaddafi’s son on the Rothschild Estate.

• The threat to Britain’s historic cultural identity through massive and aggressive Muslim immigration. This has already created large no-go areas for non-Muslims and particularly unveiled women in London and some other cities. This has been connected with selective attacks, in the name of multiculturalism, on Christian institutions (a nurse of 40 years’ experience who suggested prayer to a distressed patient on a training exercise recently was not rebuked or corrected but instantly sacked). Other Christian workers have been sacked for displaying small crucifixes as necklaces or lapel-badges. There is also a rising tide of anti-Semitism, the last particularly at some universities. Jewish, or to be correct Israeli, students have actually been banned from attending some courses and journal refused to publish contributions from Israeli academics until protests came from America. Various government and private organizations have banned staff from displaying toy pigs in deference to alleged Muslim sensibilities. Police ordered one householder to remove a display of toy pigs from her window lest they be seen by Muslims passing on the road, though no Muslims had actually complained. British police forces were recently described as having become the paramilitary wing of the far-left Guardian newspaper.

Young British Muslims appear to be becoming much more extreme than their parents, probably largely in reaction to the cultural decadence they are daily confronted with. A recent poll found 36 percent of British Muslims aged 16 to 24 believe those who convert to another religion should be punished by death. Forty percent of British Muslims would like to live under Sharia law and 20 percent have sympathy for the London tube bombers. Masked Muslims marched through London carrying placards proclaiming “Behead those who insult Islam” and promising another 9/11 and another Holocaust while protected by massive numbers of British police. Anjem Choudary, Principal Lecturer of the London School of Shariah, declared recently: “There is a spark that has ignited and its flame has become unstoppable. We find ourselves in the year 2009, waiting for Rome to fall, waiting for the White House to fall and indeed waiting for Buckingham Palace to fall.” Buckingham Palace, he foresaw, would become a mosque, with suitable architectural re-design.

Then there are the revelations in October of Andrew Neather, speechwriter for Tony Blair, Jack Straw and David Blunkett. Neather claimed a secret government report in 2000 set out to deliberately change Britain’s national identity and cultural makeup irrevocably and forever: “I remember coming away from some discussions with the clear sense that the policy was intended -- even if this wasn’t its main purpose -- to rub the Right’s nose in diversity and render their arguments out of date,” he said. This is not only a matter of votes, as many migrants do not vote for years, but also a matter of jobs, prestige and perquisites for the Labour-supporting caring professions.

• The “broken society,” with rates of family breakdown and teenage drug abuse, drunkenness and pregnancy among the highest in Europe. Teenage pregnancy has often tended to increase most rapidly in the areas with the most extensive and expensive sex-education programs. The taxation system seems -- without any exaggeration at all -- deliberately created to reward unmarried motherhood and family break-up. Even Russia, a byword for dangerous, drunken chaos, has a lower rate of teenage drunkenness. Violent crime by girls, generally operating in drunken gangs, is also increasing rapidly.

• Material and moral weaknesses in the armed forces. Many deaths of servicemen and women in Iraq and Afghanistan have been blamed on inadequate equipment, a situation that remains unrectified after years of complaints and official findings by coroners’ courts and others and complaints and resignations by senior officers. For the first time in many years the actual quality of troops, as distinct from leadership or equipment, is being questioned. According to many accounts the British Army’s performance in Basra left much to be desired. The Royal Navy is now smaller than the French Navy and cannot even arrest Somali pirates in case Britain is then forced to grant them asylum under EU Law. It recently emerged that on October 28, 2009, the armed British Naval auxiliary tanker Wave Knight stood by and did nothing while pirates a few yards away seized and kidnapped the British couple Paul and Rachel Chandler, transferring them from their yacht to a hijacked Singaporean container vessel. At the time of writing the Chandlers are being held for a $9 million ransom. For the first time since Admiral Benbow’s captains were shot in 1703 for deserting him in battle the Royal Navy has been publicly accused of cowardice, though if it makes any difference the real culprit has been the culture of political correctness.

Other kinds of pirates have been dealt with more sternly, however: Local councils have prohibited pirate flags being flown as children’s parties as “unneighbourly.” Handing power to local councils, an article of faith for both major parties, has resulted in an overweening Nanny State with a peculiar combination of wimpishness and Draconianism. To take one recent example among countless others: when a coastal footpath was built by a Rotary Club to allow ramblers to enjoy the scenery along Loch Ryan, in Scotland, Dumfries and Galloway Council would allow only organized groups to use the footpath, and only if supervised by a “trained outdoor specialist.” Christmas lights outside shops have been forbidden both on grounds of multiculturalism and for health and safety reasons. In “Operation Napkin” undercover police have been sent to dine at Chinese and Indian restaurants, presumably with concealed truncheons and handcuffs at the ready, to arrest diners asking for “flied lice” or otherwise mimicking the accents of staff.

• Nanny-State Draconianism and senseless punishments. An ex-soldier who found a shotgun and immediately handed it in to police was arrested, tried before a jury, convicted and at the time of writing faces a minimum of five years prison for possessing it, the judge having instructed the jury that the law against possessing firearms was to be construed strictly and the fact the possessor was acting innocently and with public-spiritedness was irrelevant. Police are routinely arresting people simply to record their DNA profiles on the national database, according to another recent report. At the same time overcrowded jails and racially based sentencing guidelines (magistrates have been directed to regard black burglars and muggers as “quirky Lenny Henry characters”) mean large numbers of serious criminals remain at large.

• A drastic decline in teaching standards, and at tertiary level a collapse in the hard subjects. Lesley Ward, president of the Association of Teachers and Lecturers, claimed recently that countless children are not even toilet trained when they started school, are unable to dress themselves, can only eat with a spoon or their fingers and could scarcely spell their own names, still less pass basic literacy or maths tests. Regarding higher education, a third of Britain’s university physics departments have closed in the last few years.

• Continuing National Health scandals. A few months ago it was reported that up to 1,200 patients had died unnecessarily due to bad conditions at the Mid-Staffordshirre Foundation Trust NHS hospital. Ministers, including the Prime Minister, apologized abjectly and claimed it was an isolated occurrence and that such a thing would never happen again. Now it has emerged that similar conditions of poor nursing care, filthy wards and lack of leadership at Basildon and Thurrock University NHS Hospitals Foundation Trust have led to the deaths of up to 400 patients a year.

• A general attack on traditions and values. A survey found three-quarters of teachers believed it was their duty to warn pupils about the danger of patriotism. With pupils possibly taking them at their word, war memorials have been reported vandalized at the rate of more than one a week for the past year. Ex-servicemen have found that Union Jack tattoos, even if invisible under clothing, have cost them the chance of jobs with police and fire departments, lest they be found intimidating. This links to a general decline in historical memory, with many surveys indicating that large numbers think the likes of Winston Churchill or the Duke of Wellington are fictional if they have heard of them at all, though they often display exact and pedantic knowledge of the history of rock-bands. One in 20 of 2,000 children aged nine to 15 surveyed recently believed Adolf Hitler was a football coach.

All this is before even considering the more conventional stuff of political debate -- monetary and fiscal policy, levels of taxation and spending -- but here matters are in a more-or-less comparable state. Britain remains in recession, lagging behind other major economies such as France, Germany, the U.S. and Japan. The Governor of the Bank of England has warned that the public finances are in such chaos that Britain’s credit rating may be cut.

The British elephant today is the result of 11 years of Gramscian leftism in power, not only or perhaps even principally at the level of the national government, but in all sorts of quasi-governmental institutions, and with an Opposition often unable to acknowledge or recognize what is happening, and indeed sometimes actively conniving with it. A few of the results are almost comic, many are very serious, but they are part of a single whole.
Pretty much everything here can be found in the U.S., but usually to a much lesser degree.

The the same forces of liberalism exist here, and are fighting for the same ends. The have a harder battle, being faced with a culture that is Christian, individualistic and “liberal” in the classical sense.

But they are here, in places like humanities departments and education schools, and their agenda is the same.

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Thursday, December 10, 2009

Why Americans Favor Israel

From Jeff Jacoby:
Of all the ways in which the United States marches to the beat of its own drummer, few are more striking than the American people’s consistent and deep-rooted support for the Jewish state. In a recent nationwide survey, the Gallup organization asked Americans: “In the Middle East situation, are your sympathies more with the Israelis or more with the Palestinians?” For the fourth year in a row, 59 percent — nearly 6 in 10 — said their sympathies were with Israel, while just 18 percent sided with the Palestinians. When respondents were asked for their opinion of various countries, 63 percent said they had a favorable view of Israel (21 percent said very favorable), compared with just 15 percent who thought highly of the Palestinian Authority.

Conversely, only 29 percent of Americans told Gallup that their opinion of Israel was negative, even as a whopping 73 percent expressed a negative attitude toward the Palestinians.

This overwhelmingly positive feeling for Israel is normal for the United States, but it puts Americans sharply at odds with the rest of the world. At the United Nations, for example, nothing is more routine than the castigation of Israel. Similarly, any time Israel is forced to use its military power in self-defense, it comes under the harsh glare of the international media, which subject it to a scrutiny far more unforgiving than any other country receives. It was only a few years ago that a poll commissioned by the European Union found that a plurality of Europeans regarded Israel as the greatest threat to world peace — more menacing than even North Korea or Iran.

So what makes Americans different?

Foreign policy “realists” could certainly suggest reasons why close friendship with Israel is not in America’s interest, beginning with the fact that most of the world doesn’t share it. There are 300 million or more Arabs in the world, and they sit atop a vast share of the world’s oil supply. Why endanger American access to that oil by maintaining such close ties to a nation with only 6 million people and no petroleum to export? Why risk incurring the wrath of Islamic terrorists by supporting Israel, a nation most of them detest? Surely it would make more sense — so a “realist” might argue — for Americans to distance themselves from the world’s lone Jewish state, and tilt instead toward the much greater number of nations and governments that are hostile to Israel.

Yet most Americans instinctively reject such advice. The national consensus in support of Israel is longstanding and durable, and it isn’t grounded in economics, energy policy, or a quest for diplomatic popularity. Nor, as some conspiracy-minded critics have claimed, is it because a “Zionist lobby” in Washington routinely hijacks US foreign policy, manipulating America into serving Israel’s ends.

The roots of America’s bond with Israel lie elsewhere.

First, Americans stand with Israel because in it they recognize a liberal democracy much like their own: a nation in which elections are lively, fair, and democratic; in which freedom of speech and the press are core values; in which the political rights of minorities are respected; and in which a commitment to civil liberties and justice is woven into the very fabric of society.

Second, Americans know that Israel is a stable ally in one of the world’s most critical and volatile regions. Its intelligence service is perhaps the world’s finest, its military is the best in the Middle East, and its painfully acquired expertise in counterterrorism is invaluable — all the more so as we wage our own war against jihadi terrorists.

Third, Americans sympathize with Israel because they understand that the enemies of Israel state hate the United States as well. The suicide bombers who revel in the death of innocent Jews, the fanatics who chant “Death to Israel,” the Iranian- and Syrian-backed forces that launch rockets from Gaza or Lebanon with the aim of shedding Israeli blood — they are steeped in the same murderous ideology as Osama bin Laden and the Islamists who slaughtered so many Americans on Sept. 11, 2001.

And fourth, there is a deep religious bond between American Christians and the Jewish people, a bond that stretches back to the earliest era of American history. More than a century before the Revolutionary War, the Puritan leader Increase Mather taught his followers to anticipate the day when the Jews would return to their homeland and establish “the most glorious nation in the whole world.” In 1819, former President John Adams wrote of his wish to see “the Jews against in Judea an independent nation.” Today, tens of millions of American evangelicals passionately support — even love — the Jewish state, and consider it nothing less than their duty as Christians to stand with Israel and her people.

Why are Americans so pro-Israel? For reasons practical and idealistic, religious and strategic. They are linked by the kinship of common values — an affinity of strength and decency that reflects the best of both nations, and sets them apart from the other nations of the world.
The simple truth is that Israel is hated by a literal unholy alliance of decadent, secular Europe and Muslims with a deep-seated hatred of the Jewish state. It speaks well for America that we are Israel’s friend. It speaks badly for certain groups here (academics, leftist activists, Marquette’s Student Affairs office) that the consistently side with anti-Israel terrorists, and not with the victims.

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Wednesday, December 09, 2009

Problems That Only Exist in Lancaster, PA

From an e-mail correspondent, an interesting example of irresponsible driving behavior:
A slow-moving horse and buggy led to the arrest Sunday night of a Paradise man, who was charged with drunken driving.

Police said Elmer Stoltzfoos Fisher, 22, was found slumped over and asleep in a buggy that was moving slowly in the first block of North Ronks Road.

East Lampeter Township police received a call around 9:05 p.m. Sunday from off-duty Quarryville police Officer Jesse Blank.

Blank was driving a car on North Ronks Road when he pulled up behind the buggy, which Blank said was moving at a walking pace. The horse was straddling the center line as it pulled the buggy.

Sensing a problem, Blank stopped his car. His passenger, Nate Perry, got out and approached the buggy on foot. Stopping the horse, Perry found Fisher slumped over and asleep, police said.

Perry pounded on the buggy door until Fisher woke up.

Police said Fisher showed signs of intoxication, including a strong smell of alcohol on his breath and bloodshot, watery eyes.

Police said they administered a breathalyzer test, which showed Fisher’s blood-alcohol content was 0.18 percent. Pennsylvania residents are considered legally intoxicated if their blood-alcohol content is 0.08 or above.

Tuesday, December 08, 2009

The Real Agenda Behind “Hate Crime” Laws

From the Washington Examiner:
This story comes to us from Broward County, Fla. Teah Wimberly, 16, is charged with murdering Amanda Coll, a friend and classmate at Dillard High School in Fort Lauderdale. Both girls were 15 at the time of the shooting.

According to police, Ms. Wimberly wanted more than just a friendship with Collette, whom she’d known since childhood. Wimberly wanted a lesbian relationship with Collette, who rebuffed the idea, news reports indicate. On Nov. 12 of last year, police say, Wimberly took a .22-caliber handgun to school and fatally shot Collette.

Wimberly’s trial started last week and is expected to continue this week. This may be the first time you’ve read about the case, unlike when Matthew Shepard was murdered in Wyoming or when James Byrd was dragged to death in Jasper, Texas.

My guess is you know plenty about those latter two incidents. Shepard was gay; two men beat him to death because he was gay. Byrd was a black man whom three white supremacists chained to a truck, dragged through the streets of Jasper and beheaded.

Both grisly crimes, to be sure. And when President Obama signed a new federal “hate crimes” law recently, it was called the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act.

That’s a misnomer, because the law prevents nothing of the sort. And it creates classes of victims and perpetrators, as if some victims of violent crime are better than others, or the perpetrators of the same are worse.

And therein lies the answer about why Wimberly wasn’t charged with a hate crime. She’s the wrong sexual orientation: lesbian. Had she been a heterosexual teen who shot a lesbian, you’d have been able to repeat the details of this story verbatim, because that’s how many times you’d have heard it.

Wimberly is also the wrong race: She’s black, or, as the current PC term goes, African American. Her victim, Colette, was also a “person of color,” to use yet another annoying PC term.

I’ll repeat what I’ve said about “hate crimes” laws for some time: They should be more correctly called “bust whitey’s hump” laws. These laws target whites who commit crimes against “people of color.” You’ll rarely see them used against “people of color” who commit crimes against whites. And it’s even rarer to see them used against “people of color” who commit crimes against other “people of color.”

Ever heard of Cheryl Greene? She was a black girl killed by members of a Mexican-American gang in Los Angeles. There have been some very nasty brown-on-black crimes committed in Los Angeles recently, but like the Amanda Collette murder, most media outlets give them little to no coverage.

The victims are the right color, but, dang it, the perps just aren’t. Nothing makes for the perfect hate crime like a white perp and a victim who’s a “person of color.”

Or, if you’re like the Obamas of the world, a victim who’s gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender or transsexual. The purpose of the Shepard-Byrd Act was to add them to the list of approved “hate crimes” victims. At least that’s what the law’s supporters would try to con us into believing.

The truth is this: Supporters of “hate crimes” laws don’t want to criminalize the conduct of those who commit crimes based on race, religion, ethnicity or sexual orientation. Wyoming and Texas both had murder statutes on the books that allowed the killers of Shepard and Byrd to be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law. It’s not like the murderers escaped punishment.

No, supporters of “hate crimes” laws want to criminalize certain thoughts and ideas. That makes them far more dangerous than those who commit nonviolent “hate crimes.”

The yokels who’d burn a cross on a lawn, paint a swastika on a synagogue or yell the dreaded “F” bomb at a gay couple are, at worst, insufferable bigots. At best they’re simply royal pains in our collective neck.

But those who want to criminalize thoughts and ideas will soon lead us down the path to totalitarianism. Given my druthers, I’d gladly suffer the annoyance of the silly, nonviolent acts of a few idiotic bigots than trust an advocate of “hate crimes” laws to govern this nation.

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Wednesday, December 02, 2009

Latin Mass Tonight

St. Robert Bellarmine Society will be sponsoring a Latin Mass tonight, at the Joan of Arc Chapel at 7:00 p.m.

The mass will be led by Reverend Canon Olivier Meney, Rector of St. Stanislaus Oratory in Milwaukee.

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Global Warming Fascism: A Roundup

ClimateGate, much in the news recently, is a scandal that erupted when a bunch of e-mails from a British climate center were leaked, showing scientists literally conspiring to cook data to support the idea of global warming, conspiring to withhold data from critical scrutiny, and to prevent the publication of views they didn’t like.

While it has made a big splash only recently, it is merely an outcropping of something that has been around for years.

A climate “concensus” in the political and scientific communities has taken on the character of a relgious dogma, with heretics being fired, banished, threatened or shunned.

A web page called Stifling Decent (pun intended), by Roger King, has the details. They are hair-raising.

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Twelve Days of Global Warming