Is the taxi fatwa from the Muslim Brotherhood and Osama bin Laden?

Somali muslim cab drivers at the Twin Cities airport have been complaining lately about how they cannot carry fares who carry alcohol. This is a problem because as some reports claim, "About three-quarters of the 900 taxi drivers at Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport are Somalis, many of them Muslim. And about three times each day, would-be customers are refused taxi service when a driver sees they're carrying alcohol."

Investigative reporting by the Star Tribune has followed the source of this issue back the Muslim Brotherhood.
Ahmed Samatar, a nationally recognized expert on Somali society at Macalester College, confirmed ... "There is a general Islamic prohibition against drinking," he said, "but carrying alcohol for people in commercial enterprise has never been forbidden. There is no basis in Somali cultural practice or legal tradition for that.

"This is one of those new concoctions."It is being foisted on the Somali community by an inside or outside group," he added. "I do not know who."

But many Somali drivers at the airport are refusing to carry passengers with alcohol. When I asked Patrick Hogan, Metropolitan Airports Commission spokesman, for his explanation, he forwarded a fatwa, or religious edict, that the MAC had received. The fatwa proclaims that "Islamic jurisprudence" prohibits taxi drivers from carrying passengers with alcohol, "because it involves cooperating in sin according to the Islam."

The fatwa, dated June 6, 2006, was issued by the "fatwa department" of the Muslim American Society, Minnesota chapter, and signed by society officials.

The society is mediating the conflict between the cab drivers and the MAC. That seems odd, since the society itself clearly has a stake in the controversy's outcome.

How did the MAC connect with the society? "The Minnesota Department of Human Rights recommended them to us to help us figure out how to handle this problem," Hogan said.

Omar Jamal, director of the Somali Justice Advocacy Center, thinks he knows why the society is promoting a "no-alcohol-carry" agenda with no basis in Somali culture. "MAS is an Arab group; we Somalis are African, not Arabs," he said. "MAS wants to polarize the world, create two camps. I think they are trying to hijack the Somali community for their Middle East agenda. They look for issues they can capitalize on, like religion, to rally the community around. The majority of Somalis oppose this, but they are vulnerable because of their social and economic situation."

What is the Muslim American Society? In September 2004 the Chicago Tribune published an investigative article. The society was incorporated in 1993, the paper reported, and is the name under which the U.S. branch of the Muslim Brotherhood operates.

The Muslim Brotherhood was founded in Egypt in 1928 by Hassan al-Banna. The Tribune described the Brotherhood as "the world's most influential Islamic fundamentalist group."Because of its hard-line beliefs, the U.S. Brotherhood has been an increasingly divisive force within Islam in America, fueling the often bitter struggle between moderate and conservative Muslims," the paper reported.

The international Muslim Brotherhood "preaches that religion and politics cannot be separated and that governments eventually should be Islamic," according to the Tribune. U.S. members emphasize that they follow American laws, but want people here to convert to Islam so that one day a majority will support a society governed by Islamic law.
The S and T investigation get a bit aggressive, tracing the the MB back to the Egyptian Muslim writer Qutb who in turn influenced OBL.

Another example of how journalism in today's post-9/11 world makes a big spicy soup of the religions of the world.

My question is: I know of nobody who goes around an airport swinging a bottle of gin. How then do these drivers "see" that a person is carrying alcohol? Do they have special glasses, or do they check their booze detectors?

New MS iPod: Obscene in Israel and Canada

"What songs have you got on your f-ing iPod?" Yes the new Zune from Microsoft will be pronounced Z-une in Israel which in Hebrew is the f-word. By the way it turns out that it also allegedly is a French-Canadian euphemism for “penis”. The French word "zoune'' and the variant "bizoune'' are ways that children refer to male or female genitalia.

Israeli bloggers are having fun asking
?אז מי פה רוצה זיון and ?כמה עולה זיון

What is Bill Gates doing about it? Luckily he cleared this up with a press release, "While we do acknowledge the similarity in pronunciation to Hebrew zi-yun, that is not the intended meaning of the name Zune."

Intention is not the most important thing. It is everything. After years of screwing their users and competitors, perhaps Microsoft has started owning up to their real intentions.


India: Let's Get Our Own AIPAC

An Indian columnist, Ajai Shula, has criticized Indian lobbyists for their lack of clout in the US and compares them with the pro-Israel AIPAC organization which he says is, "variously called the Jewish lobby, Zionist agents, or the most successful lobby group on the planet." Apparently the Indians have asked AIPAC to share some of its practices with them. Here are some of the secrets they have learned so far.

The first secret of the AIPAC’s success is its simplicity of purpose, namely, to promote the interests of Israel in the US. In this endeavour the AIPAC is bipartisan, both internally and in its outreach, wooing Democrats and Republicans with equal fervour. The American Jewish community is no less divided than the Indian American community in many ways, but when it comes to Israel, the AIPAC sets aside local differences to work for the benefit of Tel Aviv. In contrast, various sections of the Indian American community tend to work with various likeminded political parties in India towards various goals, which exacerbates rather than overcomes differences.

Secondly, the AIPAC always frames its global aim in local terms that strike a chord within a constituency. As a prominent AIPAC lobbyist puts it: “The average American legislator does not wake up thinking about Israel, or, for that matter, about India. The first thing he thinks is, what do my voters want?” And since voters want different things in different places, the AIPAC functions through a country-wide network of local offices that are in touch with voter concerns in every electoral constituency. To voters concerned about homeland security, Israel is the frontline in the war on terror. To heavily immigrant communities (and America is predominantly immigrant) Israel is the ultimate immigrant homeland. To defence-manufacturing constituencies, Israel is the biggest buyer. So well-informed is the AIPAC’s network that the government of Israel has consulted it on likely US reactions before passing important legislation in Tel Aviv.

Thirdly, the AIPAC’s brilliant organisation makes up for small numbers and demonstrates that while being visible is vitally important, functioning effectively is much more so. The group monitors all legislation, pending or in process, and evaluates where its support is needed. Its workers cover every meeting on Capitol Hill that deliberates on matters relating to Israel, and hold some 2000 meetings with US congressmen each year. Through email, snail mail, flyers, community hall meetings and ballroom galas, it passes on to voters and congressmen the facts that support Israel, particularly each congressman’s voting record on Israel. The AIPAC thus helps to pass about one hundred pieces of pro-Israel legislation annually, and ensures the smooth passage of $2.4 billion in security-related aid to Israel. Indian communities, by similar record keeping, could make their local congressmen realise that a vote against India will not be forgotten.

So the blue billion sits at the feet of the blue and white 5 million to learn how to lobby. Interesting.

And by the way The "Blue Billion Express" is a Pepsi ad campaign aimed at a billion cricket fans with the catchy cheer, "Oooooh Aaaaah India, Aaaaah Yaaaaa India!"

Blue Billion Chase - video powered by Metacafe


Trow da Bums Out

The drive from the Twin Cities of Minneapolis and St. Paul to Rochester Minnesota is about ninety miles along a quiet country highway. It's a pleasant enough trip in the autumn. The fall foliage colors are near their peak. The John Deere Turbos and the R60 Gleaners are out in the fields along the road, harvesting the last of the year's corn. A good driver can progress quickly and without heed past the roadside pumpkins, cows and occasional bales of hay on the landscape of farms and modest front lawns. I was out on my way to lecture for my Jewish Studies continuing education extension course in Rochester.

There are few billboards along this highway after you get by the southern tier of the suburban extremities. I was driving this route back in 1990. Closer to Rochester, about seventy miles from the progressive Twin Cities, right next to Fox's Cafe and Standard Station, I found a rather blunt welcome to the republican municipality, twenty miles down the pike. To make its point against abortion, an indelicate billboard presented to motorists a depiction of a foetus at eight weeks.

But before I faced that abrupt greeting years back, as I drove south on Route 52, on a mild October day, temperature about 55 degrees, skies overcast and even a few ominous clouds on the horizon, and a few patches of blue clear sky came into view.

I was somewhere between Goodhue and Cannon Falls in Goodhue County, about forty miles past the airport and the Mendota bridge, a good fifteen miles before I reached the sleepy Zumbro River. I had not yet passed the Town of Zumbrota or the celebrated Zumbrota Cheese Mart. But the powerful signals of the metropolitan radio stations were starting to fade. And in that lull I sensed that here one might feel the gentle, steady pulse of America.

As I drove steadily south, I remember how I noticed that a homemade billboard stood facing the highway on a lawn beside a modest home. As I approached, the solitary hand-lettered plywood placard appeared independent, even self-reliant. When I came close enough to read its message I could see it announced one strident principle. The sign bore this three-word beat of 1990 citizen sentiment.


I’m endorsing this same crisp and clear platform for the election season of 2006.


Netanyahu to Goldman: Israel Ahead of US, China, Russia, Canada

Israel's economy is robust, Netanyahu told a Goldman Sachs meeting, according to the EJP News. (Thanks Yitz.)

LONDON (EJP)--- Israeli Likud party leader and former prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu told an audience in London that Israel’s economy “has a brilliant future”.

The former finance minister was speaking Thursday during a business event at investment bankers Goldman Sachs International, hosted by the British Friends of Bar Ilan University.

“Israel produces more goods per capita, after the US. Israel also has more registered patents, more than China and Russia. Israel has even overtaken Canada on the NASDAQ,” he said.

Threat downplayed

Netanyahu played down the threat of North Korea, who recently crossed the nuclear weapons threshold, calling them “local eccentrics”. He said they are a local threat more than an international one.

Militant Islam and globalisation are the real threats and the source of the world’s problems.

The Shia strand is more dangerous than Al Qeida, he said “Through the radical regimes and their production of nuclear weapons, they threaten not only the Middle East but also Europe and the US”.

“The future depends on leaders recognising this threat and carrying out policies to ward off this danger,” he said.

He said there is a “fabulous opportunity”. “There is a great threat and the threat should unite all of us in common action and this is something that Israel understands.”
If you are measuring spriritual achievements, Israel has more Torah learning per capita and more religious publications than any other country.


German Pol Slams Bush's Fundamentalism

Yes it may be hypocritical, says German Ex-Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder in an excerpt of his book, "Decisions: My Life in Politics" published in the German weekly Der Spiegel Saturday, according to a report by the AP. Bush thinks he can play both sides of the fence but is now getting called on the carpet from every imaginable side.

"What bothered me, and in a certain way made me suspicious despite the relaxed atmosphere, was again and again in our discussions how much this president described himself as 'God-fearing,'" Schroeder wrote, adding he is a firm believer in the separation of church and state.

Schroeder accused some elements in U.S. as being hypocritical when it comes to secularism in government.

"We rightly criticize that in most Islamic states, the role of religion for society and the character of the rule of law are not clearly separated," Schroeder wrote. "But we fail to recognize that in the USA, the Christian fundamentalists and their interpretation of the Bible have similar tendencies."


Video: The Absent Minded Suicide Bomber

"The Absent Minded Suicide Bomber"
starring Cary Broder and Fela Kiti
directed by Hank Jacobs
camera by Nick Santoro


Yom Kippur for Universities?

How indeed does a University atone for its sins? Brown U convened a committe to study the issue of how to deal with the links between Brown and the slave trade. The Times reports today -- Panel Suggests Brown U. Atone for Ties to Slavery -- that the institution will issue a report with recommendations.

There are major glaring issues associated with this process. First, as I insinuated in the title, is there such a thing as the institutional guilt of a University? Is a school an entity that has a personification, a personality, a conscience, a sense of morality and guilt? I do not think the answer to this is so clearly yes.

Second, is it proper to judge 18th century founders by 21st century standards? The report speaks of guilt and of "acknowledging and taking responsibility for Brown’s part in grievous crimes." I'm certain that trading in slaves, owning them and using them to construct university buildings was legal, ethical and moral by the social norms of the 18th century. So what were the crimes?

Is this process of study and introspection not getting close to a reductio ad infinitum? A friend of mine used to say, "Behind every great fortune is a great crime." How far behind do we go? Every social institution can be traced to some taint in the past. Are we responsible to ferret all of that out?

Is it right for Brown President Ruth Simmons, who is black and a descendant of slaves, to use her position and power to divert university resources for a partisan investigation that is now establishing a new form of post facto morality and faux collective guilt?

Those are some of my questions. Here is some of the article:
BOSTON, Oct. 18 — Extensively documenting Brown University’s 18th-century ties to slavery, a university committee called Wednesday for the institution to make amends by building a memorial, creating a center for the study of slavery and injustice and increasing efforts to recruit minority students, particularly from Africa and the West Indies.

The Committee on Slavery and Justice, appointed three years ago by Brown’s president, Ruth J. Simmons, a great-granddaughter of slaves who is the first black president of an Ivy League institution, said in a report: “We cannot change the past. But an institution can hold itself accountable for the past, accepting its burdens and responsibilities along with its benefits and privileges.”

The report added, “In the present instance this means acknowledging and taking responsibility for Brown’s part in grievous crimes.”

The committee did not call for outright reparations, an idea that has support among some African-Americans and was a controversial issue at Brown several years ago. But the committee’s chairman, James T. Campbell, a history professor at Brown, said he believed the recommendations “are substantive and do indeed represent a form of repair.”

The committee also recommended that the university publicly and persistently acknowledge its slave ties, including during freshmen orientation. Dr. Campbell said he believed that the recommendations, if carried out, would represent a more concrete effort than that of any other American university to make amends for ties to slavery.

“I think it is unprecedented,” Dr. Campbell said, adding that a few other universities and colleges have established memorials, study programs or issued apologies, but not on the scale of the Brown recommendations. It was not clear how much the committee’s recommendations would cost to carry out.


Google Mishnah Yomi Calendar

It's a good practice to study Torah daily. The Mishnah is the basis for the Oral Torah that we believe was given to Moses on Mt. Sinai along with the written Torah. I had some time, so I imported the data for the schedule for the cycle of daily Mishnah study to a Google Calendar to which you can subscribe....



Ministry Checking Into Racist Remarks by Israeli Diplomat

If this turns out to be true, it sure is troubling.

The Age in Melbourne reports:

ISRAEL has recalled its ambassador to Australia to investigate comments he reportedly made on Asians.

Ambassador Naftali Tamir was believed to have been in Singapore on his way to Australia after a short holiday in Israel, when he received instructions to return immediately.

In an interview with the widely circulated daily, Haaretz, last week, Mr Tamir allegedly said Israel and Australia needed to co-operate because they were like sisters in Asia. "We are in Asia without the characteristics of Asians. We don't have yellow skin and slanted eyes. Asia is basically the yellow race. Australia and Israel are not — we are basically the white race," he was quoted as saying.

Israeli Foreign Ministry spokesman Mark Regev said in Jerusalem last night his ministry was checking whether the comments as reported were accurate.

"As they stand, they are obviously unacceptable and problematic," Mr Regev said. ...


WSJ: "Think 'Pimp My Ride' meets the MIT Sukkah"

On a Jewish Holiday, Backyard Parties Get More Elaborate --- The Ritual Huts of Sukkot Now Feature Hammocks, Organza and Sukkah-tinis
By Katherine Rosman 12 October 2006 The Wall Street Journal

Sukkot, the annual Jewish "Feast of Tabernacles" commemorating the 40 biblical years Jews spent wandering in the desert, is getting a makeover.

The weeklong holiday, which ends this weekend, is best known for the leaky rustic temporary huts celebrants put up to eat, sleep and entertain in during the holiday. They symbolize the tents lived in by Israelites after they were cast out of Egypt in Exodus.

Now, amid the do-it-yourself home-improvement craze and a movement among young Jewish families to integrate more ritual into their lives, families around the country are toting tools and prefab sukkah kits into the backyard.

One nationwide prefabricated sukkah manufacturer has sold out of its top-of-the-line model. It is made in China with pressed-wood walls and can be ordered with a bamboo roof and fake stained-glass windows. It sells for as much as $2,600. A Chicago Judaica company has sold 150 sukkah kits that range in price from $300 to $2,000 -- nearly twice as many as it sold two years ago. Last month, a Home Depot in Oklahoma City sponsored its first sukkah-building seminar.

A 12-by-14-foot sukkah was erected on Tuesday near Farragut Square in downtown Washington, D.C., with a rabbi offering lawyers and lobbyists the opportunity to eat pizza in the hut. Last Thursday, a Jewish organization at Massachusetts Institute of Technology held its first party devoted to elaborate sukkah decoration. "Think 'Pimp My Ride' meets the MIT Sukkah," said the invitation, alluding to a popular MTV show about decorating cars with extravagant details.

"At this rate, I can imagine Sukkot soon becoming as widely observed as Passover," says Steve Henry Herman, a co-owner of a company in Chapel Hill, N.C., that makes sukkah kits and golf-tee targets. Dr. Herman's business is doing so well he quit his day job as a professor in the psychiatry department at Duke University Medical Center.

The recent embrace of Sukkot represents a marked increase in stature for a holiday that until recently was largely overlooked by all but the most observant Jews. "It was way, way down on the ladder," says Rabbi Judah Dardik of Beth Jacob Congregation in Oakland, Calif. In part that was because of where the festival fell on the Jewish calendar, after the most solemn holidays of the year, Rosh Hashana and then Yom Kippur.

The other big change is that people traditionally didn't spend $5,000 erecting elaborate sukkot for the harvest holiday, and they didn't have marketers and event planners on hand to urge them to party.

On Monday night, a Jewish professionals group in Los Angeles hosted a "Sukkah Sports Night." Fifteen dollars at the door entitled attendees to "Kosher wings, cold beer and Monday Night Football," according to the event's promotional material. Also in Los Angeles, 700 revelers attended "Hookah in the Sukkah 2006," a party at the Vanguard nightclub featuring a picture of a water-pipe on the promotional material. Tickets at the door cost $25. On the club's back patio stood a 10-foot-by-10-foot sukkah. Yesterday, a group of Jewish community activists were to hold a Sukkot party at a club in Portland, Ore. On the drinks menu: the Etrog Lemon Drop and the Sukkah-tini.

The etrog is a citron grown in northern Israel and elsewhere and is part of the observance of Sukkot. Avrom Fox, the owner of Rosenblum's World of Judaica in Chicago, says he has sold about 3,000 etrog this year. The fruit can cost between $40 and $200. "Some people are willing to spend a lot" for an etrog that is "perfectly shaped, like a jewel," he says.

Part of the allure of Sukkot is its festive tradition. Sukkot are meant to be welcoming -- just as Abraham sat outside his tent, looking for guests to invite in.

For newlyweds Jay and Kari Ceitlin, both 28 years old, Sukkot has presented the perfect opportunity for them to become closer to their religion, and to entertain friends at their home in Dallas. The Ceitlins' sukkah had the traditional elements but also hinted of nightclub decor: Harvest fruits and vegetables, including miniature pumpkins, hung from the roof of the lighted sukkah, casting shadows over the guests lounging on a brown and white polka-dot day bed and a plush couch with thick white pillows.

Musicians played songs like "All My Ex's Live in Texas" on their guitars until nearly 2 a.m. "It's important for Kari and me to establish a Jewish home and share that experience with our friends," says Mr. Ceitlin.

This year, for the first time, Dan Cohen, 37, built a sukkah outside his Piedmont, Calif., home. It's a place for festive family dinners with his wife and 3-year-old daughter. It's also an after-bedtime lair where he and his buddies can smoke Hoyo de Monterrey cigars and drink 1974 Glen Spey scotch. "I get to build a clubhouse for the first time in 30-plus years," he says.

For a bar mitzvah last year that took place during Sukkot, party planner Debbie Geller says she oversaw the construction of a sukkah that took up the back garden of the Four Seasons Hotel in Beverly Hills. The structure was 60 feet by 40 feet and the walls were made of green organza. In the party's main room, floral arrangements were shaped like miniature sukkot.

In Far Rockaway, Queens, an architect and his father have decked out the family sukkah with hammocks, glass windows and a sculpture of city skyline made from cut bamboo. "It brings everything together -- my family, my religion and my artistic cravings," says Elliot Lazarus, 27.

Jassi Lekach Antebi, 24, says that last year she built a sukkah in her Golden Beach, Fla., yard in the hopes of impressing her fiance who was visiting from New York. With the help of hired handymen, she built the sukkah with fresh bamboo poles that were set in wood boxes and secured in concrete. The roof was made of palm branches and bamboo. From the roof, she hung glass globes with candles inside that glowed on the shimmering white gauze drapery that made up the sides of the sukkah. In all she spent about $5,000.

Some worry that commercializing Sukkot is contrary to the spirit of the holiday. Todd Stern, a vice president at Goldman Sachs in New York, says his sukkah, sitting on his driveway in White Plains, is decorated with artwork created by his nieces and his two-and-a-half-year-old son. Using duct tape, Mr. Stern attached a lamp to the roof of his sukkah so he and his friends can see their cards when playing "sukkah poker." Otherwise, his hut is fairly threadbare. "If you get too high end, I would be concerned that you miss that sense of being outdoors, of being exposed," he says.

People who put a lot of care into their sukkah say the purpose is not to be over-the-top but to create something beautiful as a family. Before marrying a Jew 12 years ago, Michelle Golland, a psychologist in Los Angeles, converted to Judaism from Catholicism. Dr. Golland, 37, embraced the religion fully -- even insisting on building a sukkah eight years ago despite her husband's initial lack of enthusiasm. Now it's a family tradition and evokes sentiments that transcend religion. Last year, as Dr. Golland was preparing to erect the prefab sukkah, her 4-year-old son ran up to her, wanting to know whether he could help hang the plastic fruits, vegetables, birds and orange raffia bows that always adorn the booth. "He was just like I was with Christmas when I was little," she says.

Beautiful Story: Lender to the poor wins Nobel Peace Prize

My grandparents were proud to constantly support Free Loan Societies and other wonderful charities throughout their lives. The recognition of this man Muhammad Yunus and his bank encourages all of us who follow the path of altruism.... What a great story.

Yunus, Grameen Bank win Peace Prize
Since Yunus gave out his first loans in 1974, microcredit schemes have spread throughout the developing world and are now considered a key approach to alleviating poverty and spurring development.

Yunus's told The Associated Press in a 2004 interview that his "eureka moment" came while chatting to a shy woman weaving bamboo stools with calloused fingers.

Sufia Begum was a 21-year-old villager and a mother of three when the economics professor met her in 1974 and asked her how much she earned. She replied that she borrowed about five taka (nine cents) from a middleman for the bamboo for each stool.

All but two cents of that went back to the lender.

"I thought to myself, my God, for five takas she has become a slave," Yunus said in the interview.

"I couldn't understand how she could be so poor when she was making such beautiful things," he said.

The following day, he and his students did a survey in the woman's village, Jobra, and discovered that 43 of the villagers owed a total of 856 taka (about $27).

"I couldn't take it anymore. I put the $27 out there and told them they could liberate themselves," he said, and pay him back whenever they could. The idea was to buy their own materials and cut out the middleman.

They all paid him back, day by day, over a year, and his spur-of-the-moment generosity grew into a full-fledged business concept that came to fruition with the founding of Grameen Bank in 1983.

In the years since, the bank says it has lent $5.72 billion to more than 6 million Bangladeshis.

Worldwide, microcredit financing is estimated to have helped some 17 million people.


Forward: The FLEXIDOX Revolution Has Arrived and BORAT is on his way

Jay Michaels writes in this week's Forward all about flexidoxy:

The first known use of the word “flexidoxy” was in 2003 by Rabbi Gershon Winkler, who called it a corrective to Orthodoxy, “reflecting its original intent and spirit as opposed to its otherwise superficial extremities.” For Winkler, whose own journey from ultra-Orthodoxy to flexidoxy was described in his memoir “Travels with the Evil Inclination” (North Atlantic Books, 2004), flexidoxy is the belief “that you can do Jewish right by following the forms of Judaism” as traditionally understood, or by following different forms, such as “the fledgling version of it offered by those Hebrews who preceded Moses.”
The cover story of this week's Jewish Standard covers the Borat revolution.

Borat, for those who have not seen Baron Cohen’s "Da Ali G show" on HBO, is "Kazakhstan’s sixth most famous man." At his film premiere, he was wearing his trademark ill-fitting gray suit, gangly arms braced for a big double thumbs-up, his manic grin flashing wide beneath a full mustache that Baron Cohen has said takes a month and a half to grow. The crowd screamed and cheered. "The festival people say this is the movie that’s causing all the frenzy," said a nearby I’m-pretending-to-be-so-bored-it-must-mean-I’m-press voice.

Funny: Deleted from Wikipedia "Judaism"

Wikipedia keeps track of funny material deleted from the encyclopedia. One recent page, Wikipedia: Damn it, Jim, I'm a Bad Joke, not Other Deleted Nonsense (Reference to: "Damn it, Jim, I'm a doctor, not a [other role]", from Star Trek) has the following materials.

From Judaism

Judaism is the religion of the Jewish people. (That's funny. Judaism doesn't look Jewish.)

As YHWH himself was originally a war God ("YHWH of the hosts"), the worship of fertility gods such as Baal (or the Baalim) was attractive once the Israelites had settled down (after which YHWH became the mascot of the Israelite football team, for which YHWH smited a few Israelites).

Modern Orthodox is a common traditional form of Judaism, which has a broad adherence to historic traditions, and practices, and worship and belief in traditional form, except that the people like to visit delis, wear baseball caps, and eat bagels and lox on Shabbat afternoons.

(A characteristic of the Reform Movement) is its rejection of the binding nature of Jewish ceremonial law as such and instead believing that individual Jews should exercise an informed autonomy about what to observe, unless they are in a frathouse, in which case every day is Purim and they get drunk.

(On Sukkot) They (Jews) decorate it (a sukkah) with fruit and vegetables and play country/Western music at dances, called "hoedowns". The roof is made of pine tree branches so that you can see the stars through the ceiling. Jews all around the world eat and sleep in this Sukkah, freezing their butts off, for 7 days and nights.

(On Rosh Hashanah) Bobbing for honey apples is customary, as is pouring applesauce on each other.

(Purim) is characterized by public recitation of the Book of Esther, giving mutual gifts of food and drink, giving charity to the poor, and a celebratory meal (Esther 9:22); other customs include drinking alcohol, wearing of masks and costumes, and huge joyus and sometimes wild parties. In short, Jews hire a frat and pretend they're in a frathouse, which amounts to the same thing.

In "Lifecycle Events": Brit milah - Welcoming male babies into the covenant through the rite of circumcision on their eighth day of life (if the mohel is bad, a castration, eeeww!).

Fun with Pope Benedict XVI: Arrange things so his skullcap reads BAR/BAT MITZVAH OF {your favorite relative), (MONTH)(DAY)(YEAR) on the underside. That'll REALLY have the Vatican in cackles! (Better yet, label it "Bar Mitzvah of Joseph Ratzinger...")

Many congregations, especially larger ones, also rely on a:

- Gabbai (sexton) - Calls people up to the Torah, appoints the shatz for each prayer session if there is no standard shatz, and makes certain that the synagogue is kept clean and supplied.
- Baby - Cries and whines in the sanctuary during services, the purpose of which is to annoy people.


Death Sentence for Islamist Who Preached Violence

It is a start. The justice system somewhere has come to terms with Islamic violence -- 22 years after the fact. The BBC Reports:

Nigerian cleric sentenced to hang

An Islamic cleric has been sentenced to death by hanging for inciting religious riots in 1984 which led to the deaths of thousands of Nigerians.

Musa Ali Suleiman persuaded followers of his sect they would go to heaven if they killed non-believers or died themselves in the violence.

He fled from northern Nigeria to Cameroon, but was arrested in the capital Abuja after returning in 2003.

The judge said religious freedom should not mean the freedom to kill others.

Mr Suleiman's lawyer says he will appeal.

"From the evidence before this court, I find you guilty on the three count charge of criminal conspiracy, inciting public disturbance and culpable homicide," the judge in the northern Nigerian state of Adamawa was quoted by Nigerian radio as saying.

The Maitatsine Islamic sect he led is said to believe only in the Koran and is opposed to modernity. They brand other Muslims as infidels who must be converted through violence, say correspondents.

Published: 2006/10/11 17:35:17 GMT

Macaque Monkey "Gods" to be Moved from New Delhi

These monkeys are also known as macaques. That's the species made famous recently by Senator George Allen in his "Macaca" slur, see the video.

The average New Yorker could learn a thing or two from the Indians about how to prevent the government from changing anything in their town. Hindus in Delhi claimed for years that the macaques were "manifestations of the monkey god Hanuman". Good job blocking progress.
300 monkeys to be banished from New Delhi
Associated Press

NEW DELHI - The Supreme Court ordered wildlife authorities to catch hundreds of monkeys that roam the Indian capital, often terrorizing residents, and relocate them thousands of miles away, a newspaper reported Wednesday.

The roughly 300 Rhesus macaques will be shifted from New Delhi to the dense jungles of Madhya Pradesh state, whose government will receive $54,000 from the federal government to cover the cost of reintroducing the monkeys to the wild, the Hindu reported.

Government buildings, temples and many residential neighborhoods of New Delhi are overrun by an army of macaques. The monkeys scare passers-by, and occasionally bite or snatch food from unsuspecting visitors.

For years, state animal welfare agencies have tried to rid the capital of the simian scourge, but their efforts have been defeated, in part, by Hindus who believe that monkeys are manifestations of the monkey god Hanuman.

Many feed the monkeys nuts, bread and bananas, encouraging the animals to frequent parks, temples and other public places.

Scores of monkeys caught by animal handlers have been left to languish in cages while the government ponders what to do with them. This has sparked protests by animal rights activists.

The Supreme Court ruling Tuesday was prompted an animal rights activist's petition saying that the animals would die if held in captivity for too long.

Six states in north India have refused to take the New Delhi monkeys, saying they already have enough of the animals, the government's counsel told the court, according to the newspaper.

Court officials were not available to comment Wednesday.

Other initiatives to rid residential and office neighborhoods of the monkeys, such as scaring them off with langurs - a particularly fierce breed of apes - met with limited success when the monkeys moved to nearby locations.


British Say Take Off That Veil: The Culture War Has Begun

The AP reports on the growing struggle in Britain over whether Muslims should be pressed to assimilate by asking women to remove their veils.

LONDON - Prime Minister Tony Blair and author Salman Rushdie praised a British official on Tuesday for raising the difficult issue of whether Muslim women visiting his office should remove their veils.

The comment by Jack Straw, a former foreign secretary who now is leader of the House of Commons, has plunged Britain into a debate over Islamic integration.


NY Times: Kids Flee Fundamentalism - God Sent Pervert

The Times today has several religion stories. The top item tells us that church leaders are in a panic state about mass defections by their kids.

At an unusual series of leadership meetings in 44 cities this fall, more than 6,000 pastors are hearing dire forecasts from some of the biggest names in the conservative evangelical movement.

Their alarm has been stoked by a highly suspect claim that if current trends continue, only 4 percent of teenagers will be “Bible-believing Christians” as adults. That would be a sharp decline compared with 35 percent of the current generation of baby boomers, and before that, 65 percent of the World War II generation.

While some critics say the statistics are greatly exaggerated (one evangelical magazine for youth ministers dubbed it “the 4 percent panic attack”), there is widespread consensus among evangelical leaders that they risk losing their teenagers.

“I’m looking at the data,” said Ron Luce, who organized the meetings and founded Teen Mania, a 20-year-old youth ministry, “and we’ve become post-Christian America, like post-Christian Europe. We’ve been working as hard as we know how to work — everyone in youth ministry is working hard — but we’re losing.”

The board of the National Association of Evangelicals, an umbrella group representing 60 denominations and dozens of ministries, passed a resolution this year deploring “the epidemic of young people leaving the evangelical church.”
Jewish leaders should take note and start to worry. Cultural trends eventually show up in Jewish communities in one form or another.

The second item deals with a strange religious group that has been going around the country picketing funerals of Iraq war veterans. They were dissuaded from picketing the funerals of the Amish girls by a radio personality. Their notion was that God sent the pervert who committed the murders as a sign that perverts are killing us all. Strange people come up with stranger theological ideas. What kind of nutty God would.....? Well, you know the lament by now.

The article is Air Time Instead of Funeral Protest:

Mike Gallagher, a nationally syndicated talk-radio host, turned over 55 minutes of his program yesterday morning to representatives from a fringe Christian group in exchange for a written promise that its members would not picket the funerals of the five Amish girls killed on Monday by a gunman inside their Pennsylvania schoolhouse.

Some representatives of the group, the Westboro Baptist Church of Topeka, Kan., led by the Rev. Fred Phelps, have contended that the Amish community bears some responsibility for the girls’ deaths as a consequence of its religious practices.

The group said it was also seeking to draw attention to its dispute with Gov. Edward G. Rendell of Pennsylvania, who signed legislation this year barring pickets near funerals, a response to the church’s efforts to protest near the funerals of American soldiers killed in Iraq. The group said the military deaths were a result of God’s disappointment with “the sins of America.”

“The Lord your God is ramping up the issues, is smiting this nation,” Shirley Phelps-Roper, a church representative and a daughter of Mr. Phelps, told listeners of “The Mike Gallagher Show,” in reference to the shootings in Lancaster County. “What he did with one stroke on that day, sending a pervert in — because America is a nation of perverts — it’s appropriate he sent a pervert in to shoot those children. The Amish people were laid to an open shame because they are a false religion.”
Now given this lunacy in the name of God, is it any wonder that the kids are running away from religion?


Riddle: When is a rabbi not a rabbi?

A: When he "pursued rabbinical studies".

For instance (from numerous sources):

"Rabbi Yaakov Menken, director of the Torah.org Web site, is the author of hundreds of Torah commentaries and holds a bachelor's degree from Princeton University. He pursued rabbinic studies in Yeshivas Ohr Somayach, Bais Medrash Gavoha in Lakewood and Jerusalem, and the Mirrer Yeshiva Jerusalem before founding Project Genesis in 1993."

More Religion at Harvard: The Report is in the mail

Profs Await Report After Mailing Error

Published On 10/5/2006 3:49:10 AM
Crimson Staff Writer

The unveiling of the new general education report left many waiting with bated breath.

Hard copies of the much-anticipated proposal to replace the Core Curriculum were set to be delivered to faculty boxes yesterday. But an apparent snafu within the Harvard University Mail system has delayed delivery for at least a day.

“We’re all baffled and plan to double check on this in the morning,” Professor of Philosophy Alison Simmons, a co-chair of the task force that drafted the report, wrote in an e-mail yesterday evening.

Simmons said her committee still had no plans to release the report online. Co-chair Louis Menand, Bass professor of English and American Literature and Language, said in an interview Tuesday that “the idea is we want this to be an internal Harvard document.”

“We’re just reluctant to put it around the world right away,” he said.

Nevertheless, the committee’s preliminary report, which would require students to take courses on religion and U.S. history as part of a new set of 10 mandatory areas of study, started making waves across the nation yesterday. In an evening dispatch, The Associated Press called the task force’s recommendations “surprisingly bold.” And The Wall Street Journal gave prominent treatment to news of the proposal on its website.

On campus, many professors were reluctant to offer their opinions of the report before they had read the actual document.

Saltonstall Professor of History Charles S. Maier ’60, a member of the Committee on General Education that drafted earlier reports, said he had obtained a copy of the report yesterday and supported most of its proposals.

But he said the report’s recommendation to replace the three Literature and Arts requirements in the current Core with a single “Cultural Traditions and Cultural Change” course needed further discussion.

“Students need to develop a sense not only of culture as tradition, but an aesthetic sensitivity as well,” he said.

Former Dean of the College Harry R. Lewis ’68, a frequent critic of the current Core Curriculum, said he was already impressed by the outlines of the proposal as described in news reports. “It’s a structure that proceeds from a sensible rationale, based on observing the ways in which the student body has changed over the years,” Lewis said over the phone last night. More...


First "Kosher" Wal-Mart in Dallas (of all places)

So now acccording to the news flash in the elevator that I was reading today, there is a Kosher Wal-Mart in Dallas. This is the only evidence I could find about the story:

Clued in on kosher: Wal-Mart in Far North Dallas is retailer's first to cater to Jewish diet
Tuesday, October 3, 2006
By MARIA HALKIAS / The Dallas Morning News

Wal-Mart is picking up some street smarts in the big city.

Now, at the new Supercenter on Montfort Drive in Far North Dallas, in a neighborhood of synagogues and across the street from the Jewish Family Service office, Wal-Mart Stores Inc. is getting a lesson in kosher foods.

John Murphy, Wal-Mart's regional vice president, wants to make the Montfort Drive Wal-Mart the first kosher-certified store in the chain. But he admits the company got off to a slow start and has a long way to go.

"I'm driving the surrounding neighborhoods with our dairy buyer, Dan Irwin, and he says, 'Do you notice there are several synagogues?' " Mr. Murphy said.

As a company, he said, "we thought we could order some jars of gefilte fish and matzo ball mix and put it in a section on Aisle 3 and we'd be serving this community. That's basically what's in our computer database."

Fortunately for Mr. Murphy and Wal-Mart, there is no shortage of helpful local residents to set them straight. ... (more)
I'm not sure how Kosher that Wal-Mart will be. Any ideas?


Bad Idea: AZ Cardinal's Stadium to Get U of Phoenix Branding

The AP reported recently,
The University of Phoenix, the nation's largest private university, will pay $154.5 million over 20 years for naming rights to the Arizona Cardinals' new stadium.
The naming-rights deal is the first sports-marketing venture for Apollo Group Inc., the University of Phoenix's parent company, Apollo president Brian Mueller said Monday, and is part of a major new branding campaign for the school.

The University of Phoenix has 250,000 students, most of them working adults. Its parent company had $2.3 billion in revenue last year, ranking it among Arizona's largest companies.

"We want to lend more credibility to the students who earn degrees from here," Mueller said.
In my view, this is a bad deal for both parties and will do nothing to enhance anyone’s credibility.

From the University’s side, having a stadium named after a school will not add to the credibility of degrees. It might sell more courses to more sports fans. It might attract more registrations from football followers. But the credibility of degrees depends on the substantive achievement of educational goals, not on a higher brand profile.

The story continues with the team’s point of view on the deal,

"We are thrilled to be affiliated with the largest private university in America, one whose home base is in Arizona but that has national and international reach," Michael Bidwill, the Cardinals' vice president and general counsel said in a statement. "The new home of the Arizona Cardinals is distinctly Arizona, and so is our stadium partner."

In the NFL, naming-rights revenues are not subject to the league's revenue-sharing agreement and thus have become an even more valuable income stream for the teams involved.

Michael Bidwill said the Cardinals would use the money from the University of Phoenix deal, to be paid annually over the 20 years, to field a competitive team.

"That's what we're about is building a championship team," he said. "This revenue is a big piece of allowing the team to go out into free agency and to move forward."
From the Cardinal’s side, this deal takes money from students to buy more expensive football players to help one team to win. If I were a student, this would not inspire me to choose the U of P for my education. This deal is not good for students.

This deal smells like a ploy by executives to grasp at a fast way to make their company look prosperous. And indeed, that is what has happened before.

A few years back some dot-com companies took from their IPO monies to name stadiums as a quick road to “credibility”. There was the PSINet Stadium and the CMGI Field. Some ordinary firms, now defunct, such as TWA and Adelphia, took from their corporate funds to name sports fields.

I absolutely don’t like this deal. But one writer (Rick Aristotle Munarriz on The Motley Fool) defends the deal as follows,

…Let's not compare Apollo's lofty expenditure on naming rights … with that of past pretenders. This isn't a company that just whacked the IPO pinata, and suddenly has nothing better to do with its greenbacks. Apollo is the leader in for-profit education. It commands an $8.6 billion market cap, educating a nationwide class of more than 300,000 degree-seeking students.

The University of Phoenix is a real-world presence, and its University of Phoenix Online arm has the potential to grow even larger with naming-rights exposure. That is naturally a high-margin area just waiting to be expanded, and if Apollo gets to win the mindshare battle one Sunday afternoon at a time, the pass-happy Cardinals won't be the only ones gunning for the score.
This surface analysis ignores the U of P claim that the deal is meant to enhance its credibility. It focuses on the obvious purpose of the move – to generate more revenue. While you could argue that these go hand-in-hand, here is why I think not.

I think that capitalists make for bad teachers and for-profit-corporations run terrible schools. I insist that “credibility” in education must be earned by performance in the teaching process, not by buying visibility on the gridiron.

If so, you ask, what must a school do to achieve educational credibility? They must do lots of simple things that have nothing to do with naming a stadium.

For instance, to have any smattering of credibility, teachers must be able to fail students who don’t master the subject matter. If teachers cannot independently assess the work of their students, then they are of no value. If schools must pass all students regardless of their performance, then the degrees that they award are worthless. Does U of P fail any of its students?

And further, what kind of teacher has value? The educator whose A students excel by objective criteria and measures, whose B and C students perform less well and whose D and F students fail by any external assessment. Does U of P provide any credentials based on objective assessments?

The teacher who is popular and entertaining and the school which is profitable without such validating evidence of student achievement should gain no special credibility. The educator who knows, adheres to and enforces standards, ought to be treated to the rewards of the profession. Is that how U of P evaluates its teaching staff?

The awards to successful teachers need to be other than immediate monetary remunerations. Cash incentives may increase sales and hence success in the market place. But monetary rewards alone may tempt a teacher to give unearned higher grades, to curry favor with both students and administrators.

What type of degree then has credibility? One that derives from credible courses taught by credible teachers who are motivated by the status and ideals of a lofty profession.

There are lots more criteria to discuss when considering the reputation and credibility of a school, its staff and its degrees.

Lofty brand profile, deriving from a company’s association with a sports stadium is definitely no substitute for the traditional incentives, achievements and values of professional education.
Dr. Tzvee Zahavy has served as a professor at the University of Minnesota, the University of California at Berkeley, the College of William and Mary, Macalester College, the University of North Carolina at Charlotte and most recently at Fairleigh Dickinson University.


Can a Farrakhan supporter do teshuvah?

The Wingnut Powerline blog has posted an attack on Keith Ellison, democratic congressional candidate in Minnesota and former Nation of Islam supporter. They cite a letter he wrote to the JCRC and claim he misrepresents his past activities. I read what they posted and yes in that letter he is down-playing his past associations as any candidate trying to enter the mainstream would.

To me it is clear that Keith says he has repented sincerely of his past transgressions.

That is one major difference between liberals and conservatives. The conservatives assume that nobody can be sincere no matter what they say. Politics to them is just one big power game of gotcha - hence the name of the blog discussed here is "Powerline". Liberals on the other hand have ideas and ideals.

Here's the start of the anti-Ellison Powerline post.
Keith Ellison for dummies

After he unexpectedly won the endorsement of the DFL nominating convention for Minnesota's Fifth District congressional seat on May 6, Keith Ellison faced a serious problem. The problem was how to deal with his well-known involvement with the Nation of Islam. Had Ellison not managed to dispose of the problem, his candidacy would likely have been irreparably weakened in the competitive DFL primary field.

Ellison chose to deal with the problem by writing an audacious letter to the Jewish Community Relations Council on May 28. In the letter, Ellison staked his campaign on three assertions: That his involvement with the Nation of Islam was limited to a period of 18 months around the time of the Million Man March in 1995, that he was unaware of the Nation of Islam's anti-Semitism and that he terminated his involvement with the Nation of Islam when he became aware of it. ...
Powerline is obsessed with Ellison - publishing more than 50 articles against him to this date. The simplistic theory behind these posts is - once you have stepped in doo-doo you can never clean it off your shoe.

On this eve of Yom Kippur we reaffirm that teshuvah, repentance and atonement are at the core of human life.

We must accept sincerity and restore it to our political processes.