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Was the Sinking of the Titanic 103 Years Ago a Conspiracy?

Wednesday, April 15th, 2015 - by Robert Wargas

The Titanic sank precisely 103 years ago today. A huge ship made out of iron and steel strikes an iceberg and therefore sinks—a fairly straightforward scenario, one would think. During a casual stroll through Wikipedia, however, I came across a page called “RMS Titanic alternative theories.” One of these theories concerns—of course!—the Federal Reserve:

Several of Titanic’s passengers including John Jacob Astor, Benjamin Guggenheim, Isador Strauss, and George Dunton Widener were among the richest men in America. Some conspiracy theorists claim that these wealthy individuals were opposed to the creation of the Federal Reserve Bank and that financier J.P. Morgan saw the opportunity eliminate them by convincing them to sail with him on the maiden voyage of the new Titanic which was really the badly damaged Olympic that he planned sink in an insurance scam. As victims of a maritime disaster nobody would suspect that they had really been murdered to prevent them from opposing the Federal Reserve Act. In addition to Morgan, several of his close friends and associates are known to have cancelled their plans to sail on Titanic at the last minute, as did the wife of J. Bruce Ismay. Morgan also had several bronze statues he had planned to transport to America removed from the ship a few hours before she sailed leading to speculation that he knew her fate.

The writer of this passage provides no citations, but this sounded like something that members of the Ron Paul cult would believe. So I searched a bit more and found this 2013 post from—surprise!—The Daily Paul, titled “Did the Federal Reserve Sink the Titanic?”

Some people are just desperate to be rebels. In their quest to believe nothing, they’re willing to believe anything. Cynicism is the ultimate naiveté.

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Is This Book Really ‘the Best Account of the Whole of the Human Experience’?

Monday, April 13th, 2015 - by Dave Swindle

To my brother Jeremy,

I know I’ve already sent too many book titles to start sorting through and deciding what you like and what you don’t. But now here’s another to add to the pile. I’m going to try to grab this at the library this afternoon:

If you could have dinner with any three historians (dead or alive), who would you choose and why?

William H. McNeill, the world historian (born 1917): because he has the largest vision of the human condition. Bernard Lewis, the Middle East historian (born 1916): because he knows best the region I study. Richard Pipes, the Russian historian (born 1923): because I have known and learned from him all my life.

What books are you reading now?

Pierre van Paassen, Days of Our Years (1939) and Rodney Stark, How the West Won (2014).

What is your favorite history book?

McNeill’s The Rise of the West (1963), the best account of the whole of the human experience.​

I haven’t read any McNeill yet, but I’m very inclined to dig in because Pipes is one of the historians who has influenced me the most. His focus is the Middle East, but I’d encourage you to start first with his book on conspiracy theories and their accompanying ideology, Conspiracism. You’d probably find that the most interesting and applicable to your explorations in popular culture. Conspiracy themes have often been popularized throughout movies and TV and Pipes’ book can be very helpful for picking up on some of the more obscure ones.

Best wishes, bro, thanks for your great, fun writing,

Dave

P.S. A discussion prompt and challenge for all of PJ Lifestyle and Liberty Island’s contributors: if you could pick 10 history books for every American to read what would they be? If every American family was provided by the federal government with the 10 best books to understand America and Western Civilization what would they be in your estimation? (Top 5? Or a top 20?)

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Would You Kill Hitler if You Had a Time Machine?

Saturday, April 11th, 2015 - by Robert Wargas

From The Independent:

It is a common ethical dilemma set by philosophy professors – is it right to kill someone to prevent further deaths?

According to scientists the answer differs depending on your gender, with women less likely to commit murder because they have a stronger aversion to harmful action.

Researchers from the US, Germany and Canada analysed data that asked 6,100 people a range moral questions, including whether they would kill a young Adolf Hitler to stop the Second World War.

While men and women both calculated the consequences of their decision and computed how many lives might be saved, females found it harder to commit murder and were more likely to let Hitler live.

Of course there are logistical problems with this, as in any hypothetical time-travel scenario. Would this time machine drop you off armed with a suppressed pistol in Hitler’s bedroom while he slept, or would you simply be dumped onto Unter den Linden in broad daylight with nothing but a cheap folding knife? It says “kill a young Adolf Hitler,” but what fun would that be? Most people would want to kill the 1930s version—before the Holocaust, of course, but not so long before it that he’s not recognizable as the scummy dictator on the cusp of a genocide. Seeing him in full uniform and armband is a potent motivator.

Anyway, who might have guessed that men and women were different? It’s almost as though there’s some biological reason men and women are not exactly the same.

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How Gun Culture Created America And Defends Us Today

Saturday, April 11th, 2015 - by David Forsmark

American-Gun

Published after his tragic death, Chris Kyle’s American Gun gives everyone a chance to find out what it would have been like to hang out with the American Sniper, shoot guns and shoot the… breeze.

Kyle picks 10 American firearms that won wars, shaped law enforcement methods and, of course, won the West.  Then he tells stories about them, and the guys who—like him—used them effectively.

But beyond that, the book tells us a lot about Kyle that even his great bio, or the movie made from it, never quite got around to revealing. This is a relaxed Kyle, content with being home, with an easy sense of humor, and a deep, deep respect for the sharpshooters and gunman who came before him, and were the “sheepdogs” of their time.

Taken in order, the guns Kyle chooses also provide a surprisingly good backdrop for a quick overview of American history.

The stories are not all about badass Texas Rangers or Continentals picking off Redcoats, Kyle also takes some telling potshots at military procurement types who stood in the way of soldiers getting the latest weapons technology in the name of saving a few bucks, and at those who don’t get it that American gun culture is what makes American warriors what they are.

As each story unfolds, anyone who has seen American Sniper or any of Kyle’s television interviews, can just imagine him hunching up to a campfire with a beer in one hand, and starting out, “I bet you didn’t know…”

A Penny-Pinching General in Procurement Almost Lost the Civil War

You’ve probably never heard of General James Ripley, but this “backward looking . . . wizard of red tape, delay and obfuscation” probably cost more American lives than any military officer in the history of our nation.

Lincoln had ordered immediate purchase of the Spenser repeating rifle for the Union Army in the spring of 1861.  The Spenser repeater was a huge leap forward in firearm technology, a way for soldiers to fire multiple shots without reloading.

Ripley, believe it or not, thought muskets were good enough for the Army—after all, they cost half as much.

Besides, he reasoned, soldiers armed with these “newfangled gimcracks” would “only waste ammunition with a multi-shot gun.”

So, for nearly a year, to the frustration of the Commander in Chief, a general with powerful friends in Congress kept Union soldiers from weapons that almost certainly would have led to swift victory, no matter how talented the Confederate Generals opposite them.

It’s a lesser-known fact of the battle of Gettysburg that General Custer may have saved the day. Lee had dispatched Jeb Stuart’s cavalry to attack the rear of the Union lines while Pickett charged the front. Today, had Custer not stood firm, Pickett’s Charge would not be considered as historically futile as the Charge of the Light Brigade.

Kyle points out that one reason Custer was successful in repelling Stuart was that his 7th Michigan Wolverines were outfitted with Spenser repeaters who inflicted heavy casualties on Stuart before the somewhat better known “most dramatic, largest man-to-man, horse-to-horse, saber-to-saber galloping cavalry engagement ever fought in the Western Hemisphere” ensued.

So, while “the untalented Mr. Ripley” may have delayed the Spenser’s effect on the Civil War, it still arrived in time, arguably, to save the Union.

I bet you didn’t know that…

 1863-President-Abraham-Lincoln-Test-Fires-The-New-Spencer-Repeating-Rifle.jpg  450×367

Abe Lincoln Was a Gun Buff

Before he ordered the Spenser Repeater for the military, Abraham Lincoln tested it extensively—personally.

Lincoln, Kyle says with admiration, not only loved shooting and using the latest technology, he even once improved a gun he was test firing by whittling an improvised sight.

One can only imagine the New York Times story that would have been written about a meddling President who was pushing “an expensive weapons platform that even the Pentagon says it does not want or need,” had Pinch Sulzberger been publisher at the time.

But, as Kyle points out, even though Lincoln took his familiarity with weapons to a “whole new level,” most American Presidents before him did not panic at the thought of rifles in the hands of citizenry—because it wasn’t an alien concept to them.

Which brings us to another point that you might know but that the modern media sure doesn’t…

 

American Civilians Have Often had Better Guns than the Military

One of the hoariest clichés of the anti-second Amendment crowd goes something like, “When the Founding Fathers wrote the Constitution, they were thinking of muskets, not military weapons.”

Well tell that to Redcoat General Simon Fraser, cut down by a young Rebel named Timothy Murphy with his “Kentucky Rifle,” thus depriving General Burgoyne of his best commander at the crucial Battle of Saratoga.

Murphy was not issued his weapon by Congress, unlike the “Brown Bess” carried by British infantry. The British military issue weapon could not begin to match that of the American Long Rifle, even if the marksmanship of the troops had been equal—which it wasn’t.

Not that this never has a downside, Kyle makes passing mention of the infamous North Hollywood bank robbery where outgunned police turned to local gun-store owners so they could match the firepower of the bad guys. Something similar also happened during one of the most famous defeats of American soldiers in history.

Kyle recounts that after the Civil War a penny-pinching military denied American soldiers the latest technology in guns. While civilians understood the need for protecting themselves on the plains and not skimping on their firearms, the Army supposed that muskets re-engineered to fire a cartridge would be sufficient against bows and arrows. (Sound anything like today’s we-don’t-need-the-F-35 argument?)

Unfortunately, enough Winchester and Henry repeaters were on the open market by then, so about 25% of Sitting Bull’s force (that outnumbered Custer in the first place), were better armed than the average member of the United States Cavalry.

Betcha didn’t know that– or that…

 

Sergeant York Did His Best Work with a Pistol

When Michael Moore implied Chris Kyle was a coward, a lot of people (including me) brought up Sergeant Alvin York, the famed sharpshooting Quaker of WWI; probably remembering the iconic image of Gary Cooper in the biopic, licking his thumb and sighting his rifle on a distant target.

While, Kyle says, York was a crack shot who honed his skills with his Kentucky hills friends by having to hit a turkey in the head with the first shot, he “surrounded” the Germans in his famed one-man assault, mostly using his M1911 Colt .45 automatic. (Another reason this may be a surprise to you is that in the movie, York seems to be using a Luger.)

The M1911 Colt is most famous for its roots as a gun designed to knock down the drugged-up Muslim Filipino terrorists called the Moro. It became the standard sidearm for GIs through two World Wars and the favorite of some branches of law enforcement as well.

And over a century later, with few modifications, this gun is still going strong and a version of it is still a preferred weapon for Navy SEALs in their fight against modern Islamist extremists.

 

But wait, there’s more!

So, thrill to stories of Texas Jack Hayes and his sixteen dozen Rangers holding off 300 Comanche with their Colt Peacemakers; bankers and bakers getting their Winchester 73s out and decimating the James Gang; former bootlegger and Medal of Honor recipient Sergeant Leonard A. Funk who takes down a Nazi patrol with his Tommy Gun; Secret Service Agents protecting Harry Truman from Puerto Rican terrorists with their .38 Specials; and MP Leigh Ann Hester who fights off Iraqi insurgents with her trusty M-4 (which is basically an update of the M-16).

American Gun is one of the most enjoyable history books you are likely to pick up. Yes, gun buffs will quibble, either with details or the choice; as I’m sure history professors might debate the significance of some of the weapons and the events Kyle chooses.

But the singular point of view and the distinctive voice of Chris Kyle are as much a central part of the book as the information it contains. Seeing what someone cares about is often more revealing than hearing them talk about themselves.

So, read American Gun and celebrate what Chris Kyle brought to his country — and place him in the pantheon of the men (and women) he celebrates.

Kyle closes the book by saying, “Pick up a pistol, a rifle or a shotgun and you’re handling a piece of American history… an object that connects you to people who fought for their freedom. . .”

You can say the same about this book.

*****

image illustration via Wikipedia

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What Did Jesus’ Wine Taste Like?

Friday, April 3rd, 2015 - by Robert Wargas

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I do remember, during religious instruction as a child, hearing the constant references to wine in the Bible and wondering what it tasted like. Being quite young then, I imagined it was like my delicious grape juice. As I grew older and began to love dry red wine, I still wondered whether ancient wines tasted anything remotely like my Pinot Noir.

From the Orange County Register:

Grapes were the first cultivated plants mentioned in the Bible, she said. In her book, [author Kitty] Morse writes: “Grapes grew in even more abundance than olives… Wines from the Holy Land provided a significant source of income, especially during Roman rule. The wine from Bethlehem was of particularly high quality and considered a gift worthy of royalty.”

Still, she thinks it couldn’t have been delicious.

“It wasn’t intended for the Roman emperors,” Morse said, explaining that the peasants in the Middle East weren’t as sophisticated about wine as the ruling class. “They were happy if it fermented and if it cured some ailments.”

If that’s the case, then the wine served at the Last Supper would have been peasant table wine. Much more rustic than the wine enjoyed at the wedding at Cana, a special drink reserved for a stately occasion. The difference between the two would come down to farming and styling.

That peasant table wine can’t have been any worse than some of those horrendous pseudo-wines they sell in the supermarket. There are some great wines that are very cheap—one of my favorite Chiantis is about eight bucks—but most cheap things are cheap for a reason.

The article also mentions that Romans liked to spice their wine with cinnamon. Who else wants to try this immediately?

*****

image illustration via shutterstock / 

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Is It Time Women Start Apologizing for Being Feminists?

Friday, April 3rd, 2015 - by Susan L.M. Goldberg

With her song “Sorry Babe, You’re a Feminist” comedian and songwriter Katie Goodman reacts to the onslaught of millennial celebrities who refuse to take on the title of “feminist” with reasons ranging from the practical (“like voting, like driving?”) to the politically stereotypical rants about online conservatives (perhaps she has yet to encounter Christina “Factual Feminist” Hoff Sommers via AEI?) and obnoxious commentary about math being “hard.”

Where’s her line about being sexually subservient like Queen Bey, going on a local Slut Walk, or falsely accusing a male college student of rape? What about the needs of women in the Islamic and third worlds? She mentions education, but never bothers to acknowledge the anti-feminist mentalities that lead to generations of women growing up ignorant, sexually mutilated, or forced into marriages or sex slavery.

After hearing her rhyming rant of a tune, would you want to call yourself a feminist, or is Goodman merely personifying the many reasons why women are turning away from the feminist movement today?

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WATCH: Passover, Rube Goldberg Style

Friday, April 3rd, 2015 - by Susan L.M. Goldberg

Need a way to explain Passover to a kinesthetic learner or future engineer? Check out this video from Israel and you’ll be saying, “L’shana haba b’Technion!”

Chag Peseach Sameach!

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Counter-Culture Wars, Part 1: Why the Fellow Travelers Hijacked Folk Music

Monday, March 16th, 2015 - by Allston

Screen Shot 2015-03-16 at 12.14.38 PM

“This machine kills fascists.” ― Woody Guthrie

Since the end of the Cold War, many a suspicion has been confirmed of how devious Communist operatives worked their way into our national institutions. After the fall of the USSR, for a brief time, Russian authorities were fairly forthcoming in their release of documents and secrets: Academia, Hollywood, the State Department, Alger Hiss, the Rosenbergs. Among these (not generally known to most) was Sean Penn’s Blacklisted father, a Hollywood writer, which explains a great deal about his angry Liberal act, doesn’t it? Truly, the acorn fell very close to the tree indeed.

Consider Folk music.

Folk renders down to two distinct themes – “a song all about the plight of the common man,” and, “a song about how we’re all outraged, and we’ll fix all of the problems facing the common man – or else!” The former may be considered authentic, simply a chronicle of good times and bad times, a lament, if you will. The latter is a vehicle for social unrest, public dissension, rabble-rousing. Chanting crowds, with flaming torches and sharpened pitchforks, coming soon to a neighborhood near you.

Knowing this is why Communists latched on to the art form so eagerly.

So let’s look at the sordid affair of Pete Seeger and the Folk music act “The Weavers.”

You may remember the Weavers from their 1951 song, “Wimoweh” (a later major hit by the Doo-Wop group, “The Tokens,” reprised as “the Lion Sleeps Tonight”):

Pretty tame 1950s fare, isn’t it? Well, understand the message behind the song: it’s all about Shaka Zulu, the Lion, he who fights against the forces of the white Imperialists. He sleeps yet, to someday awaken to righteously destroy the Colonizers, woe be unto them. A definite “Progressive” message embedded there.

“Tail Gunner” Joe McCarthy thought there was something awfully fishy about this band and their shady past associations, so he called in the two leads, Pete Seeger and Lee Hays, to make a deposition before the 1955 hearings held under the auspices of HUAC – the “House Un-American Activities Committee.” The Senator from Wisconsin wanted answers, and by God he was going to find out.

Each, in their own way, threw this back in the face of McCarthy. In the case of Hays, he simply refused to acknowledge anything, citing First Amendment rights; Seeger did answer, but prevaricated. Despite this, he broadly declared where his allegiances lay. This was exactly the kind of thing he had been deposed about – Seeger’s associations with Communist groups had been known going back to the 1930s.

Seeger’s deep Communist roots and his influence are mentioned in Richard A. Reuss’s 2000 book, American Folk Music and Left Wing Politics, 1927 – 1957:

“David Noebel, once a young minister in Billy Hames Hargis’s Christian Crusade, observed in a similar vein, The Communist infiltration into the subversion of American Music has been nothing short of phenomenal and in some areas, e.g. Folk music, their control is fast approaching the saturation point under the able leadership of Pete Seeger, SingOut!, Folkways Records, and Oak Publications Inc.’”

The “able leadership of Pete Seeger?” In other words, he was a known, active Communist subversive, dedicated to utilizing his status in the Folk music world to spread propaganda and affect the minds and opinions of Americans.

Seeger’s refusal to honestly testify ended with his indictment for Contempt of Congress. In March of 1961, he was convicted and sentenced to jail time, although his conviction was overturned on appeal.

As to the Weavers: ultimately, in 1962, and having been dogged by their known associations, they had been scheduled to be guests on the Jack Paar Show on NBC. At the last minute, the network required the band to sign a statement indicating their non-Communism. The entire band refused. End of appearance. The act broke up shortly thereafter.

Seeger continued on as the “Folkie Emeritus” of the genre until his death earlier this year, having inspired entire generations of Folk musicians to follow. Dylan, Baez, Mitchell, et al., and all their successors, who proselytize us to this day.

So the next time Billy Bob is singing folk to you about the plight of someone, be very cautious. He may well be plucking at your heart-strings, working you up to overthrow your leaders, and install a pack of Socialists in charge. For your own good, Comrade!

Kinda like today…

*****

Please join the discussion with us on Twitter. The essay above is the twenty-second in volume 2 of the cultural discussions between the writers of PJ Lifestyle and Liberty Island exploring the history of counter-cultures, the future of conservatism and the role of new, emerging counter-cultures in restoring American exceptionalism. Want to contribute? Check out the articles below, reach out, and lets brainstorm: @DaveSwindle

Volume II

  1. Frank J. Fleming on February 26, 2015: What Is the Future of Government? Why It Won’t Look Like Star Trek 
  2. Aaron C. Smith on February 26, 2015: What Is the Future of Superheroes? Why They Need To Start Killing Super-Villains
  3. Mark Ellis on February 26, 2016: What Is the Future of Gen-X Manhood? Adam Carolla Vs Chuck Palahniuk?
  4. David S. Bernstein on February 26, 2015: What is the Future of Fiction? You’ll Be Shocked Who’s Fighting the New Conservative Counter-Culture
  5. Aaron C. Smith on March 2, 2015: The House Loses: Why Season 3 of House of Cards Utterly Disappoints
  6. Michael Walsh on March 2: What the Left Doesn’t Get About Robert A. Heinlein
  7. Frank J. Fleming on March 3: 8 Frank Rules For How Not to Tweet
  8. Susan L.M. Goldberg on March 4: 7 Reasons Why Backstrom Is Perfect Counter-Culture Conservative TV
  9. Frank J. Fleming on March 5: What Is the Future of Religion?
  10. Aaron C. Smith on March 5: The Future of Religion: Why Judeo-Christian Values Are More Important Than Science
  11. Spencer Klavan on March 5: Not Religion’s Future: ISIS and the Art of Destruction
  12. Chris Queen on March 7: 5 Reasons Why Big Hero 6 Belongs Among The Pantheon Of Disney Classics
  13. Jon Bishop on March 8: Why I Am Catholic
  14. Frank J. Fleming on March 11: 6 Frank Tips For Being Funny On the Internet
  15. Becky Graebner on March 11: 5 Things I Learned In My First 6 Months As a Small Business Owner
  16. Frank J. Fleming on March 12: This Is Today’s Question: What Does It Mean To Be ‘Civilized’?
  17. Mark Ellis on March 12: The Future of Civilized Society: One World
  18. Aaron C. Smith on March 12: Why Civilization Is a Gift to Bullies
  19. David S. Bernstein on March 12: Nihilism & Feminism for Girls: Has Judd Apatow Let Lena Dunham Self-Destruct Intentionally?
  20. Susan L.M. Goldberg on March 15: Why I Am Jewish
  21. Chris Queen on March 15: Why I Am Non-Denominational Christian

See the first volume of articles from 2014 and January and February 2015 below:

2014 – Starting the Discussion…

January 2015 – Volume I

February 2015

image illustration via Wikipedia 

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Why I Am Jewish

Sunday, March 15th, 2015 - by Susan L.M. Goldberg

The essay is the second in a series of inter-faith dialogues, see the first from Jon Bishop on March 8, “Why I Am Catholic.”

Despite the multiple accusations I have received from my own brothers and sisters any time I’ve dared to make a critical observation about our people, I very proudly declare myself to be a Jew. This is not because I feel an obligation to my ancestors, my community, or my tradition although I respect them and their roles in the formation of my identity.

Rather, I choose to be a Jew just as Abraham did, because I choose to be free.

I missed out on the social conformity gene. Never have I managed to fit into any particular social group. At times I was hated for it, but contrary to popular opinion of what being a Jew means, it was thanks to being Jewish that I learned to love being a stand-out in the crowd. At 15 I told my teachers I was legally changing my name to Shoshana, and because of that brash declaration I became one of the coolest kids in school. Why Shoshana? Because that’s what Susans in Israel are called and Israel is the culmination and fulfillment of being a Jew. We don’t just get our own houses of worship, we get an entire nation to call our own. Land is freedom.

And when you are so different and so unique, that spatial freedom is essential to your survival. Whether prophets, cowboys, American patriots, or Zionists, the experiences that speak to me echo the Word of God:

Trust the Lord with all your heart, do not rely on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge Him and He will level your path.

It felt good to stand apart from the crowd precisely because human thinking never made very much sense to me. God makes sense. And what I still do not understand remains the most intriguing mystery in all the universe to comprehend. “I want to know God’s thoughts,” Einstein said, “the rest are just details.” Ben Carson told me to “think big.” You can’t get any bigger than God. “I have broken the bars of your yoke so that you can walk upright,” God reveals to the wandering Jews. God is freedom.

God’s freedom is eternal.

Torah is a guidebook, a covenant that when undertaken agrees that we “choose life so that we may live.” Ezekiel’s dry bones rose from their graves and breathed new life in 1948. While the rest of the world amuses itself with the walking dead, we trust in the words of Isaiah:

Your dead will live, my corpses will rise: awake and sing, you who dwell in the dust; for your dew like the morning dew, and the earth will bring the ghosts to life.

I do not need to wage war or rage in desperation, wear black spikes or combat gear, raise my fist in defiance, align myself with a cause, or fence myself into the opinions of others in order to be free. I simply need to live as God intended in covenant with Him. God spoke creation into being and the word of the Lord breathed life into the dead. Tanakh is freedom.

“How did you find it in you to survive?” I asked my cantor who lived through the Warsaw Ghetto and the Auschwitz death march.

He replied, “I saw the skull and crossbones on the Nazi soldier’s belt along with the words ‘soldier of God’. They were lying. ‘This is not God,’ I thought. And that gave me the will to survive.”

I am a Jew, and I choose to be a Jew, because despite what the world may lead you to believe, being a Jew means dwelling in eternal freedom.

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Does Being Jewish Mean Going to Temple, or Going to Israel?

Sunday, March 8th, 2015 - by Susan L.M. Goldberg

Last week I expounded upon why my husband and I have chosen not to join a synagogue. The backlash I received, oddly enough primarily from Christian readers, essentially boiled down to accusations of selfishness on my part and an unwillingness to contribute to a community. My question in response is simple: What exactly defines “community” in terms of being Jewish? A reader by the name of Larry in Tel Aviv wrote:

I agree wholeheartedly with every one of your points and you could add a few more! Such as one wouldn’t know the first thing about anti-Semitism in the world today, the nature of the threats Israel faces and related, from the rabbis and synagogue politicos. In fact you wouldn’t know anything important about anything that matters, not from synagogue, not much from Hebrew School neither (even Hebrew is largely poorly taught, with exceptions).

Which prompted me to ask myself: Do Jews in America know how to be Jewish without institutional backing?

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Based on some of the comments I received from Christian readers, it would seem that religion in America requires some kind of institutional affiliation in order to be legitimized. Whether it’s a church, temple, or yoga studio religious folks of all stripes need a facility through which to connect to one another in order to establish and reinforce their religious identity. Historically speaking, Mordecai Kaplan emulated this concept when he reconstructed the idea of synagogue as community, the physical center of Jewish life in Diaspora America. Why don’t Jews necessarily need this institutional bond today? The answer is simple: We have Israel.

As I mentioned in my last article, one of the reasons why my husband and I have elected not to join a synagogue is that we’d rather spend the money going to Israel. Some of those reasons include the reality expounded on by Larry in Tel Aviv. If you want a solid geographical, cultural, historical connection to being Jewish, you find it in Israel. If you want to understand that being Jewish is both secular and religious at the same time, you learn that in Israel. If you want to know how to establish a lasting Jewish identity, you figure it out in Israel. We were not a group of popes and monks called upon to cordon ourselves off behind incensed walls in medieval monasteries. We were and are a nation and a national identity requires more than just a religious makeup in order to thrive.

Everything is more honest in Israel. The rabbinate openly functions as a political entity and the population treats it as such. As many Jewish Israelis that don’t attend synagogue do profess faith in God. When they talk about religious freedom it has nothing to do with the Almighty and everything to do with the almighty rabbinical overlords who abusively claim heavenly authority to determine who is and isn’t Jewish, who can and can’t marry and divorce, and who should and shouldn’t serve in the military.

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6 Ways ISIS Is More Humane than the Prophet

Monday, March 2nd, 2015 - by David Forsmark

Not long ago, Bill O’Reilly took justifiable flack for his 1950s all-religions-are-nice-and-deserve-respect attitude when he stated:

“I don’t believe the prophet Muhammad wanted a world war to impose Islam on everybody. I don’t believe that.”

What Bill was trying to do in his own way was to slam ISIS for the bloodthirsty death-loving fanatics that they are. But in doing so, he came close to what he criticizes Barack Obama for when the President says the Islamic State is “not Islamic.”

My colleague Andrew Bostom thoroughly debunked O’Reilly’s bowdlerized rose colored glasses outlook here, but recent events have got me to thinking: Is it possible that ISIS is not only a logical outgrowth of historical Islam, but that they are actually more humane and modernistic in outlook and methods than the Prophet would condone?

Consider with me a few examples…

1. The Prophet Burned People Slowly

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Sure, burning people in cages is horrific, but at least ISIS uses accelerant.  The prophet burned infidels using wood and tinder which takes far longer.  ISIS at least is humane—or lazy– enough to use rocket fuel, which means the victim is tortured to death in minutes.

Even if these bastards just think the woosh makes for better video, it’s still quicker.

2. The Prophet’s Beheaded Bodies Went to Waste

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When ISIS lines up 21 praying Christians and beheads them—or as Obama would say, 21 Egyptian citizens who randomly ended up in the wrong place and met up with generic really mean criminals—dozens of other lives are possibly spared as a result.

Why?  ISIS sells organs on the black market to raise cash for their jihad.  But who cares about their motives?  As liberals love to say—“If only one life is saved…”

3. The Prophet Only Converted by the Sword

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This one is not just a matter of degree.  The Prophet warred and pillaged his way across the Arab world, saying convert or die.

Sure, ISIS does that too, but at least SOME of their converts are voluntary.

ISIS uses videos, magazines and evangelism to spread their word, giving deluded, evil loners a purpose in their lives.

And frankly, I’d just as soon let them all go join them—don’t stop them, track them

4. The Prophet Didn’t Have a Female Outreach Program

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When the Prophet’s soldiers needed wives (or temporary wives as he allowed in the Koran) his army just grabbed them up at the next village or city on the conquest list.

ISIS at least takes time to woo them from afar.

ISIS had produced videos calling for Muslim women to come and join the Caliphate.  They show them cooking and cleaning together for their virile warrior husbands.  True, the reality is even harsher than that, but every pick up line is a bit of a sales job, right?

And oh, yeah, their propaganda doesn’t seem to be aimed at attracting 9 year olds.

5. The Prophet Didn’t Care about Your Abs

Now here is progress.  This Egyptian ISIS recruit has produced a workout video for all the world to see.

Now, in the Prophet’s defense, when you are leading an army across arid, barren landscapes and you have to loot and pillage for your supper, you don’t have to worry that much about jumbo jihadis waddling though the wadis.

But ISIS didn’t selflessly keep this fitness fanatic to themselves; they shared him with the world.   Now even infidels can go on a jihad against jiggle and become lean mean fighting machines.

Try to find even one example of this kind of generous spirit in the Prophet’s outreach.

6. The Prophet Waged a World War to Establish a Caliphate and Convert People

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Oops, that’s right, Bill O’Reilly, this is one way they are exactly the same.

So while the White House slanders ISIS as violent extremists with no connection to Islam, the fact is that they are well within the tradition of their founder, and have even moderated some of their methods to the modern world.

It’s more of a modification than a Reformation, but hey, potato potahto.

Baby steps.

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image illustrations via here, here, here, herehere

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4 Astounding Archaeological Discoveries in the Holy Land

Sunday, March 1st, 2015 - by P. David Hornik

Editor’s Note: See the previous installments in P. David Hornik’s fascinating series on the Hebrew language: “4 Ways That the Hebrew Language Redeemed the Jewish People in Our Time,” “4 Ways the World Changed for Me When I Learned Hebrew,” “4 Biblical Sayings That Spice Up Today’s Hebrew,” “5 Ways Hebrew Is (Very) Different from English,” and “10 English Words That Are—at Heart—Hebrew Words.

Hebrew goes back very far in the Holy Land. The earliest inscription believed to be in Hebrew, discovered in 2008 at the Khirbet Qeiyafa archeological site, dates from the 10th century BCE.

Professor Gershon Galil of the University of Haifa is convinced that it’s a Hebrew inscription and says it

indicates that the Kingdom of Israel already existed in the 10th century BCE and that at least some of the biblical texts were written hundreds of years before the dates presented in current research.

Other scholars, though, believe the inscription is written, at least partly, in other ancient languages like Phoenician, Moabite, or Canaanite.

Other finds, however—including, of course, the Dead Sea Scrolls themselves—are indisputably in Hebrew. What follows are some of the more notable examples out of many.

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How the Western Intelligentsia Denies Islam’s History of War and Crime

Saturday, February 28th, 2015 - by Robert Spencer

The Western intelligentsia is very, very anxious to make sure that you have a positive view of Islam. Thus we see a steady stream of articles in the mainstream media assuring you that the Qur’an is benign, the U.S. Constitution is Sharia-compliant, and the Islamic State is not Islamic. These articles come in a steady stream, and they have to, because they are asking non-Muslims to disregard what they see every day — Muslims committing violence against non-Muslims and justifying it by referring to Islamic texts — and instead embrace a fictional construct: Islam the religion of peace and tolerance.

This takes a relentless barrage of propaganda, because with every new jihad atrocity, reality threatens to break through. It wasn’t accidental that Hitler’s Reich had an entire Ministry of Propaganda: lying to the public is a full-time job, as the cleverest of propaganda constructs is always threatened by the simple facts. This propaganda comes not just from the Left (the Huffington Post, Salon, etc.), but also from the Right, or at least the Right-leaning media (Forbes); it seems as if whatever divides Americans politically, they’re all united on one point: Islam is just great, and only bigoted, racist “Islamophobes” think otherwise.

Yet the pains that must be taken to establish this betray the futility of the enterprise. A sampling: establishment academic Juan Cole, a board member of the National Iranian American Council (NIAC), which has been established in court as a front group lobbying for the Islamic regime in Iran, pointed out last Tuesday in The Nation that Rudy Giuliani and Paul Wolfowitz had taken issue with Barack Obama over whether Islamic terrorism was really Islamic, and asserted that this question was “actually about what philosophers call ‘essentialism,’ and, as Giuliani’s and Wolfowitz’s own interventions make clear, it is about absolving the United States for its own role in producing the violent so-called ‘Caliphate’ of Ibrahim al-Baghdadi.”

Oh, really? Yet I readily agree with Cole that Bush’s removal of Saddam Hussein and naive trust that a stable Western-style republic would take its place was ill-considered, as I argued back in March 2003. And the Islamic State filled the vacuum thus created. But this is an entirely separate question from that of whether the Islamic State has anything to do with Islam or not. Whatever Paul Wolfowitz or Rudy Giuliani said or did is simply irrelevant to the question Cole claims to be investigating: if Giuliani and Wolfowitz are right that Islamic jihadis have something to do with Islam, that does nothing whatsoever to absolve the U.S. “for its own role in producing the violent so-called ‘Caliphate’ of Ibrahim al-Baghdadi.”

As for “essentialism,” Cole added:

Essentialism when applied to human groups is always an error and always a form of bigotry. Zionists bombed the King David Hotel in British Mandate Palestine in 1948, killing dozens of civilians and some British intelligence officials. If a British official had responded then by arguing that ‘everyone knows that Judaism has something to do with what we’re fighting,’ it would be fairly clear what that official thought about Jews in general.

“Essentialism when applied to human groups” may be “always an error and always a form of bigotry,” but when applied to belief systems it is not. Cole is, perhaps deliberately, conflating Islam and Muslims, and claiming that to speak of what Islam is and is not, which is established by reference to Islamic texts and teachings, is to make a bigoted judgment against all Muslims. Islam in all its forms teaches certain things. Its teachings are knowable. To speak about Muslims acting upon them, when they themselves explain and justify their actions by referring to those actions, is not bigotry, despite the endless charges to the contrary from leftists and Islamic supremacists. It is simply to notice reality.

Cole then embarks upon a labored argument to establish that the Salafi jihadis are a “sect” and a “destructive cult,” charging anyone who disagrees with him with the cardinal sin of “Orientalism,” claiming that “it is now typically forgotten that in the early twentieth century the Ku Klux Klan was a Protestant religious organization or that it came to power in the state of Indiana in the 1920s and comprised 30 percent of native-born white men there. It was a large social movement, with elements of the destructive cult, in the heart of North America. More recent groups such as Jim Jones’s People’s Temple and David Koresh’s Branch Davidians may have begun as high-tension sects, but at a certain point they became destructive cults. The refusal to see ISIL in these terms is just a form of Orientalism, a way of othering the Middle East and marking its culture as inherently threatening.”

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What is the Future of Fiction? You’ll Be Shocked Who’s Fighting the New Conservative Counter-Culture

Thursday, February 26th, 2015 - by David S. Bernstein

Many conservatives are upset that American Sniper and director Clint Eastwood were (predictably) snubbed at the Oscars; but they shouldn’t be. The fact that a film with an overtly conservative message, directed by an openly conservative pop-culture icon, has grossed more than $400 million is a sign that conservative messages hold a powerful resonance with the American public.

American Sniper is hardly an aberration.

When high-quality entertainment that reflects conservative and/or libertarian ideals is presented to the public, it finds a broad and enthusiastic audience. From the various Marvel Films superhero barn-burners to novels by authors such as James Patterson, Brad Thor, and the late Vince Flynn; from graphic novels like Frank Miller’s 300 to TV shows like Downton Abbey, great stories with conservative sensibilities have proven to be commercial winners.

Note what all of these examples have in common, though: none of them are political polemics. Rather, they are well-crafted pieces of middle-brow entertainment, aimed first and foremost at telling a compelling story that (as any great story does) reveal truths about the human condition. Any specific political or ideological message is, thankfully, secondary.

It’s exciting (and rare) when a surge of creativity jibes with consumer preferences. In fact, I believe we are witnessing the start of a great renaissance in conservative creative culture. As the Publisher of Liberty Island, I’m continually impressed at the quality of the short fiction and novels that come across my desk from self-described conservatives and libertarians. These are not folks who can get their scripts produced in Hollywood or on Broadway, nor can they expect mainstream publishing houses to take a chance on their novels. However, they are the farm team, the next generation of conservative creators who will replace the Eastwoods and the Flynns.

Like any renaissance, this one requires nurturing and encouragement of nascent creators and that is a job we take very seriously. All of this has come with a surprising finding: we’ve found that the greatest enemy of creative conservatives isn’t the liberal cultural establishment; after all, it’s easy to bypass gatekeepers in the age of digital distribution.

Rather, the real enemy is a DC-based conservative establishment that is indifferent or outright hostile to cultural pursuits. They argue that building a conservative counterculture is a waste of time, and will make no difference. Some even go so far as to argue that middlebrow culture is inherently liberal or corrupting.

It’s as if the right side of the conservative brain has atrophied to such a degree that the people who claim to speak for us can’t see beyond the next election cycle or next Sunday’s news shows.

The very people who claim the legacy of Ronald Reagan denigrate the medium that made his career, and made him the extraordinary leader that he was. Reagan understood the power of the narrative; and he further understood that the story of the average man doing extraordinary deeds defined both conservatism and American exceptionalism.

That, more than any policy choices, is the legacy Reagan left to conservatives. And I firmly believe that the next Reagan will be found not among politicians and lawyers and investment bankers but among writers and directors and actors.

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Join the discussion on Twitter. And submit your answer to David’s question for publication at PJ Lifestyle: DaveSwindlePJM [AT] Gmail.com

The essay above is the fourth in volume 2 of the cultural discussions between the writers of PJ Lifestyle and Liberty Island exploring the history of counter-cultures, the future of conservatism and the role of new, emerging counter-cultures in restoring American exceptionalism.

Volume II

See the first volume of articles from 2014 and January and February 2015 below:

2014 – Starting the Discussion

January 2015 – Volume I

February 2015

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Contemporary Feminism’s War Against Women in the Name of Radical Islam

Wednesday, February 25th, 2015 - by Susan L.M. Goldberg

Owen Jones opines in the UK Guardian that women are “taken less seriously than men” and, as a result, the “pandemic of violence against women will continue.” Coming on the heels of the famed Arquette faux pas at the Oscars, his essay easily reads as more of the same old “War on Women” schtick, and to a great extent it is. However, his opening argument is worth noting for what it does say and for what Jones does not. Somehow, like most contemporary feminists with a platform, he manages to acknowledge the grotesque abuses of women living in Islamic cultures while completely refusing to point out that radicalized Islam is the number one serious threat to women across the globe.

Jones begins by recounting the story of Özgecan Aslan a 20-year-old Turkish college student who was tortured, raped and murdered, her body then burned as evidence, by a bus driver.

Across Twitter, Turkish women have responded by sharing their experiences of harassment, objectification and abuse. But something else happened: men took to the streets wearing miniskirts, protesting at male violence against women and at those who excuse it or play it down. Before assessing how men can best speak out in support of women, it’s worth looking at the scale of gender oppression. The statistics reveal what looks like a campaign of terror. According to the World Health Organisation, over a third of women globally have suffered violence from a partner or sexual violence from another man. The UN estimates that about 133 million girls and women have suffered female genital mutilation, and believes that nearly all of the 4.5 million people “forced into sexual exploitation” are girls and women.

He stops there, short of pointing out that the WHO statistics cited clearly show that the greatest threat of violence against women exists in primarily Islamic countries. While he mentions female genital mutilation, he again neglects to tie in the fact that FGM is most commonly practiced in Muslim countries and among extremist Islamic cultures.

Jones bases his argument in a story of a Muslim girl tortured and murdered by a man in a Muslim country that is growing more religious by the day, only to devolve into the same demeaning politically correct tropes of contemporary gender feminism. He finds it ironic that men dare to call themselves feminists and decides “…men will only stop killing, raping, injuring and oppressing women if they change.” Change what? Their gender? For Jones, as it is for so many other feminist activists, it is easier to just throw a blanket of blame onto men than to confront the source of evil that exacts a real “campaign of terror” against women: radical Islam.

What’s worse, Jones doesn’t hesitate to make his case for women all about gay men. In yet another ironic twist, after accusing men of co-opting the feminist movement for their own egotistical needs, he uses gender feminist theory to defend a tangent on gay rights:

And while men are not oppressed by men’s oppression of women, some are certainly damaged by it. Gay men are a striking example: we are deemed to be too much like women. But some straight men suffer because of an aggressive form of masculinity too. The boundaries of how a man is supposed to behave are aggressively policed by both sexism and its cousin, homophobia. Men who do not conform to this stereotype – by talking about their feelings, failing to objectify women, not punching other men enough – risk being abused as unmanly. “Stop being such a woman,” or “Stop being such a poof.” Not only does that leave many men struggling with mental distress, unable to talk about their feelings; it also is one major reason that suicide is the biggest killer of men under 50.

If gender stereotypes are a cause of male suicide, they only have gender feminists to blame. Wait – wasn’t this supposed to be an argument in favor of feminism and the female voice?

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Are They Killing ‘Folks’ Again?

Tuesday, February 17th, 2015 - by P. David Hornik

It’s hard not to notice certain parallels between Saturday’s events in Copenhagen and events in Paris last January 7 and January 9.

In the latter case, first people were attacked (at the Charlie Hebdo offices) for having insulted Islam, and then “folks” (in President Obama’s memorable formulation) were attacked for being, well, folks. In the Copenhagen case, similarly, first Islam-insulters were attacked, and then…folks.

In both cases the “folks” were Jews—what a coincidence.

Of course, sarcasm aside, it wasn’t really a coincidence at all. For thousands of jihadists in the world and many millions of Muslims—certainly not all, but significant numbers—who support them, having been born a Jew is sufficient grounds to be killed. In an earlier iteration, this was known as Nazism.

Yet, while there is clearly an Islamic tradition of antisemitism rooted in the Koran, Jews and Jew-killing have generally not been an obsession in the Islamic world. What makes our era different, of course, is the existence of that intolerable outrage known as the state of Israel, which occupies one-sixth of 1 percent as much land as the Muslim Arab countries, and of course, an even tinier proportion of the total land mass of the Muslim countries.

If Israel didn’t exist and there were only some Jewish minorities in today’s world, jihadists and their supporters would not be obsessed with them and attacking them. Because of Israel’s existence, jihadists now view all Jews, wherever they live, as members of the same accursed, demonic tribe that has no right to life. Hence the current situation in Europe, where synagogues and Jewish schools require the presence of armed soldiers and police officers.

It would be one thing if the assault was basically being mounted by part of the Muslim world while the rest of the world was standing behind Israel and the Jews. Unfortunately, that is hardly the case. The sad reality is that, seven decades after the Holocaust, the Jewish state is the most vilified country in the world, and the Western countries play a large role in the vilification.

A poll this year, for instance, finds that Britons view only North Korea as worse than Israel, while viewing Iran, Pakistan, and Saudi Arabia more favorably than Israel. Also this year, a poll finds 35 percent of Germans equating Israeli policies with those of the Nazis and 48 percent having a “poor” opinion of Israel. More generally, a BBC poll of world opinion in 2013 found only North Korea, Pakistan, and Iran to be less popular than Israel.

Other examples abound, of course. The goal of the BDS movement, increasingly trendy on Western campuses, is Israel’s eradication pure and simple; no comparable movement exists regarding any other country. The body known as the UN Human Rights Council is a kangaroo court for ritual denunciation of Israel—one that Western countries participate in and finance. And as former AP journalist Matti Friedman has powerfully documented (here and elsewhere), Western media deliberately pursue an Israel-vilifying agenda, poisoning its image in the minds of millions of mostly poorly informed people.

Compared to Europe and the Muslim world, of course, the situation in the United States is much better, with Congress and a large majority of the population showing support for Israel. The same, however, cannot necessarily be said about the administration. With Jews—or “folks,” if one insists—now increasingly being targeted in murderous attacks as a corollary of Muslim rage against Israel, is it time for the administration to rethink its prominent role in the Israel-bashing?

In 2014, for example, the State Department called Israeli actions “unacceptable” 87 times; only Syria, Iran, and North Korea tolled higher numbers, while Pakistan, Russia, Afghanistan, and Iraq got fewer “unacceptable” tags. With Israel it’s a “scandal of the week” onslaught: approves building plans for Jews in Jerusalem! Bombs a UN school! It goes without saying that no other U.S. democratic ally gets anywhere near such an amount of criticism; most, actually, are not publicly criticized by Washington at all.

And then there is the severe vilification of the thrice-elected Israeli prime minister, Binyamin Netanyahu. “He spat in our face publicly and that’s no way to behave. Netanyahu ought to remember that President Obama has a year and a half left to his presidency, and that there will be a price.” That Mafia-style bluster was an administration official’s reaction in January to Netanyahu’s accepting an invitation to address Congress. In October it was: “The thing about Bibi is, he’s a chickenshit.” Of course, you’ve never heard the administration talk that way about David Cameron or Angela Merkel—or even Hafez Assad. It seems the leader of the “folks” gets a very unique treatment.

It is said that Obama, in his last years as president, is concerned about his “legacy.” Unless things change soon—which is not exactly likely—helping create a climate of aggression toward the Jewish state and Jews is going to be part of it.

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David Byrne: Creepy Liberal Hypocrite

Monday, February 16th, 2015 - by Kathy Shaidle

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Hey, remember the early days of rock & roll?

Even if you don’t remember them, surely you’ve heard the story:

How white people stole rock & roll from black musicians, paying them a pittance (if that) for their music, then getting rich and famous?

How decades later, a bunch of almost forgotten, destitute black artists sued and won millions in royalties?

Not everybody knows the other side of the story, though, because naturally that would ruin the liberal narrative.

The “other side” being that sometimes, black artists were ripped off by… other black artists.

That’s right: Rock & roll was a black-on-black crime.

For instance, Little Richard is revered today, and quite rightly, as a musical pioneer.

But whenever I see him referred to as “an original,” I smirk.

Many insist that Little Richard lifted his whole “thing” from a guy named Esquerita and — contrary to that prevailing narrative — made quite a bit of money in the process.

(Esquerita, on the other hand, died of AIDS, broke, at age 48.)

And by the way, Little Richard wasn’t even that busted up about Wonder-Bread-white Pat Boone doing insipid covers of his incendiary tunes:

After all, he said, the kids bought both records, so he got paid twice.

And I’ll ask again:

If America is so evil, how the hell did TWO out-there black guys — one of whom was obviously bisexual — who wore makeup and hairspray, banged on pianos and screamed about loving either teenaged girls or Jesus not get either locked up or lynched?

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Which 5 Presidents Do You Respect the Most?

Monday, February 16th, 2015 - by PJ Lifestyle Daily Question

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2nd Bonus question: which 5 presidents did the most damage to America?

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Jews, Whiteness & the Idiocy of Racial Identity

Sunday, February 15th, 2015 - by Susan L.M. Goldberg

Finally, they’re Jew-ing up Downton Abbey. Rose, the troublesome teen who nearly ran away with a black American jazz singer last season, is now falling for Ephraim Atticus Aldridge whose family escaped Russian pogroms. What makes this love affair more acceptable to the Granthams, whose own matriarch comes from Jewish blood? Well, the money and the title help, but the reality is that Atticus is white. Tom the socialist chauffeur worked his way into the heart of the family sans money and title, but could a darker-skinned outcast have done the same? Not in an England where appearances were everything and eugenic theory was at an all-time high. Russian royalty ex-pats won’t accept Atticus as anything but a “Jew” and the jury is still out when it comes to the Crawley clan. Perhaps because, even in today’s England, just because Ashkenazim (European Jews) know how to play the game doesn’t mean they always win.

When I joined the Hillel as a grad student in Texas I was excited to finally not hear the one comment that had plagued me throughout many of my Jewish encounters growing up: “You don’t look Jewish.” Each time I heard the seemingly benign statement from some gorgeous, dark-haired, dark-eyed, olive-skinned individual with obvious Ashkenazi roots and a tinge of a New York accent I thought, “Weren’t you in history class when we talked about the Holocaust and the dangers of so-called racial identity?” Our problem with race extends beyond America’s borders. While Israel is the proof that being Jewish has absolutely nothing to do with how you look, Israelis still struggle with “whiteness” and race. The idol of race is a dangerous fence that has to be hacked down if we’re ever to survive as a people.

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Does American Jewish Survival Rely on the Holocaust?

Sunday, February 8th, 2015 - by Susan L.M. Goldberg

For a while now, my editor David Swindle has been plaguing me to start a series on Jewish identity. Like any good family we disagree with each other about practically everything, cultural and religious identification included. I can’t think of one Jewish setting in which I wasn’t directly or indirectly accused by fellow Jews of being a “bad Jew” for some mundane reason or another. One incident involved the infamous “pepperoni pizza at a Hillel event, for or against” argument. (Truly the greatest Jewish American struggle of our time.) Joseph’s brothers beat him up, threw him in a ditch, and not much has changed since, attitude-wise. Need further proof? Check out the latest argument over how Jewish Americans relate to the Holocaust.

Apparently 73% of us rank the Holocaust as our top-rated “essential” to being Jewish. This disturbs renowned academic Jacob Neusner who’s made a career out of entwining himself into the vines of the Ivy League. Neusner’s argument boils down to the concept that American Jews have no real sense of or connection to their own identity. Therefore, they need to go outside the geographical box to find themselves, either through the Holocaust or Zionism.

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The Roman Catholic Church: History’s First Global Organization

Sunday, February 8th, 2015 - by Pierre Comtois

Editor’s Note: Check out the previous installments in Pierre’s ongoing series exploring the big ideas in Catholic life: 

The idea of all the countries on Earth gathering under a single roof to address issues of international concern had been a dream of mankind for who knows how long before Woodrow Wilson was finally able to convince the nations of Europe to finally do it as a League of Nations.

And though nations managed to come together in the past, it was usually borne of necessity to form military alliances or negotiate treaties for peace or trade among two or more of them and rarely for any other reason than that.

But well ahead of all such limited agreements, was the Roman Catholic Church which brought together representatives from at first, every corner of Europe, and then the world. Bound together by faith, tradition, and Canon Law, members of the Church also found unity in a common language. With Latin, Church members in Italy could communicate with those in China and Uganda and Paraguay.

And as communications, and travel, between nations improved, so were senior members of the Church, its bishops and Cardinals, able to convene on a regular basis, further tightening the collegial connections and fraternal relationships among its leaders.

The Church’s worldwide reach and global character was present from the very start when Jesus Himself instructed his apostles to “make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.” Through His actions while in the world, Jesus set the example, dealing with those outside the Jewish tradition such as the Samaritan woman at the well.

Upon his conversion, St. Paul got the message and took the Gospel outside of Israel to the eastern Roman world. Following the Council of Jerusalem where Peter agreed that Gentiles did not have to strictly adhere to Mosaic law in order to be followers of Jesus, he and other apostles left for other lands, scattering over the entire Roman Empire and beyond. By 313, after a long struggle for acceptance by Rome, Christians were freed from the fear of persecution and began to send out missionaries beyond the fringes of the Empire taking the first steps in becoming a truly international organization.

Today, the Church is represented in virtually every nation on Earth, each with its own hierarchy which in turn, connects directly to the Vatican in Rome. That connection among Catholics all over the world, is further tightened by use of the internet, websites, and email.

By the 6th century, as the Church grew and was forced to organize, the College of Cardinals was created and by 1059, its role as selector of Popes firmly established. Over the centuries, the College has been occupied primarily by Western Europeans with a scattering of eastern and North African members; but as the Church’s presence in the Middle East diminished with the rise of Islam, the College assumed a definite European character.

So matters stood into the 20th century when things began to change.

Following World War II, the role of Europe in the rest of the world shrank and in its stead, new nations arose. After the Second Vatican Council, held between 1962-1965, it was decided that governance of the Church needed a more international cast to better reflect its worldwide presence. Since then, many new Cardinals have been created with members coming from every corner of the globe.

The international scope of the Church has again been confirmed with the recent announcement by Pope Francis that he would appoint 17 new Cardinals this year with most coming from South America, Asia, and Oceania.

Among those to join the College of Cardinals on Feb. 14 will be Archbishops Berhaneyesus Demerew Souraphiel of Ethiopia; John Atcherley Dew of New Zealand; Pierre Nguyen Van Nhon of Vietnam; Charles Maung Bo of Burma; and Francis Xavier Kriengsak Kovitchavanij of Thailand.

Also on the lists are Bishops Arlindo Gomes Furtado of Cape Verde and Soane Patita Paini Mafi of Tonga.

“The most evident criteria is that of universality,” said Vatican spokesman Fr. Federico Lombardi, confirming that the object of Francis’ choices is that of collegiality and global representation in a Church that’s expanding most quickly in the developing parts of the world.

The duties of the College of Cardinals include advising the Pope in the governance of the Church, electing his successor, and often acting as papal envoys. Some may be officers of the Roman Curia while others serve as bishops of major diocese around the world. Eligible to vote for a new Pope until age 80, the number of cardinals has traditionally been held at 120.

Anyone looking at the red garbed Cardinals on television when they gather for a papal election or conference is instantly struck by the variety in its sea of faces. Sure, most are still of European descent, but many more obviously hail from Africa, South America, and the Far East. And unlike secular global institutions, they may disagree on some policy issues but they remain united in a single overriding belief in Christ and His Church which informs all of their actions.

And so, even as other international institutions are sundered by disagreements and threaten to break down over security, social policy, economics, even climate change, the Catholic Church, after twenty centuries, continues to remain viable as the only global entity still capable of speaking with a single voice.

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image illustration via shutterstock / 

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10 English Words That Are—at Heart—Hebrew Words

Sunday, February 8th, 2015 - by P. David Hornik

In the previous article in this series I noted some differences between Hebrew and English—differences that are not surprising since the two are from different language families. And yet, at the same time, in large part via the Hebrew Bible, Hebrew has considerably influenced English. 

As this informative article notes:

Both because of a desire to read the Bible in its original tongue and a belief in Hebrew as “The Mother of Languages,” it figured prominently in the Puritan movement in England…. English Puritan emigrants were also instrumental in promoting Hebrew as part of the curriculum in such prominent American universities as Harvard, Columbia, Yale, Brown, Princeton, Johns Hopkins, Dartmouth and Pennsylvania (Yale, Columbia and Dartmouth still bear Hebrew inscriptions on their seals). In Harvard’s early years, more time was devoted to the study of Hebrew than Latin or Greek.

It makes sense, then, that not a few common English words originate in Hebrew—and the following, of course, are just examples.

1. Camel.

The word camel comes from the Hebrew gamal (גמל). Camels—or gamalim (plural)—were a common sight in biblical times, and these days tourists still take camel rides in Jerusalem, in the Negev desert, and elsewhere in Israel.

Camels are especially common in the Book of Genesis. For instance, when Isaac (Gen. 24:63) “went out to meditate in the field at the eventide,” he looked up and—“behold, the camels were coming.” Among the riders on these beasts was Rebekah, arrived from a different land and soon to be his wife.

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Here’s How One Small-Government Conservative Chose to Die

Wednesday, January 28th, 2015 - by Kathy Shaidle

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Late in the previous century, when the Toronto Star spiked my column debunking Kwanzaa — the editor scolded me for wanting to “ruin other people’s fun” by telling the truth, which in hindsight would make for an apt if ungainly personal motto on my (non-existent) coat of arms — I sent the piece to Canada’s only conservative magazine, the (since defunct) Alberta Report.

Link Byfield, the magazine’s publisher and editor, snapped it up, and asked for more.

I’d been a professional writer for years, but now my career as a right-wing writer had begun.

Byfield died of cancer this week, at 63.

My fellow AB contributor Colby Cosh was and is a libertarian (some might say craggily contrarian) atheist who was nevertheless embraced right out of grad school by the unabashedly Christian so-con Byfields.

Cosh — today, like many former Report writers, a star columnist at a national publication — quickly composed an obituary of Byfield that is, not surprisingly, insightful, elegant and stringently unsentimental.

(The Byfields have a keen eye for talent, if I do say so myself…)

Another longtime colleague, Peter Stockland, attended a tribute to Byfield last September, an event arranged after he was diagnosed with terminal cancer.

Stockland explained Link Byfield’s influence on recent Canadian history with this succinct formula, one that resembles the mnemonic verse British schoolchildren used to learn to keep their kings and queens straight.

Stockland wrote:

No Byfields, no Alberta Report. No Alberta Report, no Reform Party as it was formed. No Reform Party, no [Progressive Conservative Party] collapse. No PC collapse, no [Conservative Party] Harper government.

Some perspective for American readers:

My husband and I attended a lecture about Israel by Melanie Phillips a few years back.

Phillips, while correct on so many issues, remained convinced that Europe’s “fringe” “right-wing” populist political leaders, while anti-sharia, were also racist, anti-Semitic losers and therefore unwelcome allies in the counter-jihad.

Afterwards, my husband took her aside and explained — to her visible surprise –  that Canada’s “fringe right wing” populist Reform Party had once been condemned as backward, bigoted and doomed, too; yet one of its founders, Stephen Harper, was now the staunchly pro-Israel prime minister of Canada, having just won a second federal election.

Non-Canadians are, presumably, more familiar with our “free” “healthcare” system, as I call it.

On that topic, Mark Steyn once quoted a fictional Canadian — OK, Quebecois — character’s decision to die a principled death:

Sébastien wants his dad to go to Baltimore for treatment, but Remy roars that he’s the generation that fought passionately for socialized health care and he’s gonna stick with it even if it kills him.

“I voted for Medicare,” he declares. “I’ll accept the consequences.”

But Link Byfield was a real man, not an imaginary one.

That makes what follows all the more notable.

Stockland writes:

Yet what truly mattered to [Byfield] was having lived out, as far as possible in the midst of a train wreck, a principled reality.

I mentioned an e-mail he sent last summer explaining his choice to forgo chemotherapy because it would not save him, yet would cost taxpayers $100,000.

I said I could not imagine other Canadians who would factor such public policy considerations into their personal health care.

“But that would have been standard thinking among politically literate citizens 50 ago,” he said. “People wouldn’t even articulate it. It would just be something they would think.”

When I asked his source for thinking that way, he said: “Thou shalt not steal.”

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VIDEO: Here’s Why You’re Wrong About the Dark Ages

Monday, January 26th, 2015 - by PJ Lifestyle Daily Question

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