Friday, September 29, 2006

The Politics of Earring Shopping

I was just looking at some earrings at Amazon, and checked out the reviews of one I liked to see if anyone had written about quality, and this is what I found:
I was ready to purchase these earrings but when I viewed the page I saw:

Customers who bought this item also bought
Godless: The Church of Liberalism by Ann Coulter
Average Customer Rating:
Buy new : $27.95 Price: $16.77

I cannot in good conscious wear earrings that other people bought along with Ann Coulter's hateful, insulting, biased, ignorant BS

I don't think it's satire...

Thursday, September 28, 2006

China: Harvest Season Lasts All Year Long

Last April, I first reported on the horrific practice of forced prisoner organ harvesting in China - a practice that allows China to hold the dominant market position in a horrific industry. Essentially, they can harvest whatever organs they require - after DNA analysis - from the prisoners they hold - including, of course, prisoners of conscience.

And now the BBC - in its breaks from reporting on the scourge that is Zion and the USA under Bush - has finally deigned to pursue the matter.
The BBC's Rupert Wingfield-Hayes visited No 1 Central Hospital in Tianjin, ostensibly seeking a liver for his sick father.

Officials there told him that a matching liver could be available in three weeks.

One official said that the prisoners volunteered to give their organs as a "present to society".

He said there was currently an organ surplus because of an increase in executions ahead of the 1 October National Day.

China executes more prisoners than any other country in the world. In 2005, at least 1,770 people were executed, although true figures were believed to be much higher, a report by human rights group Amnesty International said.

In March, China's foreign ministry admitted that organs from prisoners were used, but said that it was only in "a very few cases".

Spokesman Qin Gang said that the organs were not taken forcibly, but only with the express permission of the convict.
Years ago, when I was studying at an ulpan at Hebrew U, the Hebrew language teacher who was originally from a kibbutz reported on a sociological fact, that people who left the kibbutz diverged, for the most part, into two types - extremely materialistic people and the exact opposite. Usually they were not middle of the road on this issue.

Thus it is no surprise, now that China was embraced capitalism, to find the kind of "capitalism" it practices is completely conscienceless. In Darfur, in order to receive cheap oil and here, with its own citizens, including prisoner's of conscience.

Friday, September 22, 2006

Shanah Tovah Umetukah

- A Good and Sweet New Year to everyone.

See you back here after the weekend after much praying and eating and socializing.

More Democrat Party Anti-Semitism

As an addendum to yesterday's post on George Allen's discovery that he is Jewish, we learn, via the Captain, that Allen's campaign is now reporting on James Webb's anti-semitic tricks in his campaign to replace Allen as Senator. Several of them are quite nasty:
"In the primary, Jim Webb produced and mailed a cartoon of his Jewish opponent depicting him with a long nose and money coming out of his pockets, calling him the 'anti-Christ of outsourcing'. His Democrat opponent rightly condemned this anti-Semitic ploy.

"Now, we learn that Jim Webb's campaign operatives, on his behalf, have been pushing a story that George Allen has Jewish relatives. In some perverse way Jim Webb believes that this will cost Senator Allen votes. Jim Webb is dead wrong.

But that, it turns out sadly, is par for the course these days for stalwarts of the Democrat party.

Where Exactly is the Line, Lisa?

We were remiss yesterday not to cover news of Columbia's invitation to Ahmadinejad to speak at the University at its World Leaders Forum. Eliana Johnon at the NYSun - still my favorite paper, even though for the last 3 weeks they have messed up my delivery entirely, meaning I'm not receiving the paper - reports the details.

Unbeknownst to Lee Bollinger, the president of Columbia University, our old friend, Lisa Anderson, dean of Columbia's school of international and public affairs, invited the distinguished gentleman to speak at the university. Bollinger, in the best news I ever heard about him - or more aptly - the only good news I ever heard about him - saw fit to cancel that invitation.
Mr. Bollinger said he canceled Mr. Ahmadinejad's invitation because he couldn't be certain it would "reflect the academic values that are the hallmark of a University event such as our World Leaders Forum." He told Ms. Anderson that Mr. Ahmadinejad could speak at the school of international and public affairs, just not as a part of the university-wide leader's forum.
Personally, I'd like to have heard that screaming match. You did what without informing me, the President of the University!

Judy Jackson, the leader of Columbia's chapter of Scholars for Peace in the Middle East, a nonprofit group that aims to combat anti-Semitism and anti-Zionism on college campuses, defined the problem a little bit differently.
A professor at the school of public health, Judy Jacobson, said Ms. Anderson "didn't see what line she was crossing." When asked to clarify the substance of that line, Ms. Jacobson paused. "Ahmadinejad is a Holocaust denier and inciter and I think that causes him to go far over the line," she said.
Yep. I'd say not seeing what line she is crossing sums up Lisa's behavior in a multitude of actions.

Thursday, September 21, 2006

The Knights of St. John, Reverse

The other day I reported on an historical victory the Knight's of St. John had against the Ottoman's on September 11th, 1565 on the island of Malta.

What I didn't know at that time, however, is that the Knights had kicked Jews off the island the entire time they ruled there, except for merchant Jews taken as slaves, who needed to be ransomed by the Jewish community who lived elsewhere in more freedom.

Jews were not freed from slavery on the island, nor allowed back to live there in more normal circumstances until Napolean, in turn, freed the island from the Knights in 1798.

"In 1530, Charles V made over Malta to the knights Hospitaller of the Order of ST. John, who had been driven from Rhodes nine years earlier by the Moslems. The whole raison d'etre of the body and its tenure of Malta lay in the supposition of a continual state of hostility between the Moslem world and Christendom, of which the members of the Order were, in a sense, the knights-errant. Accordingly, they waged continual maritime warfare, hardly distinguishable from piracy, against the Moslem powers. Seaports were raided and their inhabitants carried off.

Shipping was preyed on indiscriminately, captured vessels being brought to Malta, and crew and passengers sold into captivity. Throughout the rule of the Knights, which lasted until they capitulated to the French in 1798, the islands were thus a last European refuge of slave traffic and slave labour.

The victims were any persons, of whatever standing, race, age or sex, who happened to be sailing on the captured ships. Jews made up a large proportion of the Levantine merchant class and were hence peculiarly subject to capture. Because of their nomadic way of life, disproportionately large numbers were to be found in any vessel sailing the Eastern ports. Also they formed a considerable element in the population of the Moslem ports subject to raids. So, soon after the establishment of the Knights in Malta, the name of Malta begins to be found with increasing frequency in Jewish literature, and always with an evil association.

The islands became in Jewish eyes a symbol for all that was cruel and hateful in the Christian world. Whatever the truth of the contemporary rumour that the Jews financed the great Turkish siege of Malta in 1565, certainly they watched with anxious eyes and their disappointment at its failure must have been great. "The monks of Malta are still today a snare and trap for the Jews", sadly records a Jewish chronicler at the end of his account of the siege. A messianic prohecy current early in the seventeenth century further expressed the bitterness of the Jewish feeling, recounting how the Redemption would begin with the fall of the four kingdoms of ungodliness, first amongst which was Malta.

A typical capture, and one of the earliest mentioned in Jewish literature, is related in the "Vale of Tears" by Joseph ha-Cohen:
`In the year 5312 (1552), the vessels of the monks of Rhodes, of the order of Malta, cruising to find booty, encountered a ship coming from Salonica, wheron where seventy Jews. They captured it and returned to their island. These unhappy persons had to send to all quarters to collect money for the ransom exacted by these miserable monks. Only after payment were they able to continue their voyage.'

I wonder how much truth there was to that rumor that Jews helped finance the siege of Malta in 1565. Since this was how the Knights treated them, you certainly can't blame them for it.

So George Allen Is Jewish after all

Does it make a difference? Not much, although one day it might to him.

Still, at the very least, it's an interesting story. His mother is from the well known Jewish Tunisian Lumbroso family. But after witnessing her father's treatment by the Nazi's, apparently she grew fearful of revealing her own Jewish past. And her husband to be, Senator Allen's father, wanted her to conceal it from his mother.

I think this distinguishes him from the Madeleine Albright method of coping with a Jewish past - she was entirely disingenuous when she "learned" that she was Jewish. Her Jewish first cousins later revealed that they had had a close relationship growing up, and that Madeleine was aware of her heritage at that point. But, later on, "forgot" about it when it wasn't convenient.

In contrast, Senator Allen appears in fact only to have learned about his Jewish background only last month. From an interview with Etty Allen, senator Allen's mother in today's Washington Post:
Henrietta "Etty" Allen said Wednesday that she concealed her upbringing as a Jew in North Africa from her children, including Sen. George Allen (R-Va.), until a conversation across the dining room table in late August.

She said Allen asked her directly about his Jewish heritage when he was in Los Angeles for a fundraiser. "We sat across the table and he said, 'Mom, there's a rumor that Pop-pop and Mom-mom were Jewish and so were you,' " she recalled...

"What they put my father through. I always was fearful," Etty Allen said in a telephone interview. "I didn't want my children to have to go through that fear all the time. When I told Georgie, I said, 'Now you don't love me anymore.' He said, 'Mom, I respect you more than ever.' "...

[H]is mother said she had sworn him to secrecy.

"I said, well, I just didn't want anyone to know," she explained. "I had said, 'Please don't tell your brothers and sister and your wife.' The fact this is such an issue justifies my actions, and my behavior."
It's pretty clear, after all the years of concealment, she is still feeling somewhat paranoid about this fact of her upbringing.

Now that it is out in the open, and assuming that Senator Allen survives his challenge by James Webb in November, I certainly hope to see him speaking up on issues concerning Israel.

Some fascinating historical details about the Lumbroso family, from an article in the Forward

According to information compiled from several Sephardic genealogical Web sites, the Lumbroso family originated in Portugal but made its way to Livorno, or Leghorn, in Italy after the expulsion of the Jews from the Iberian Peninsula in the 15th century. "Lumbroso" means "luminous" and is a translation of the Hebrew word "nehora."
Dr. Jeffrey Malka, an expert on Sephardic genealogy, told the Forward in an e-mail that in Portugal the Lumbrosos became conversos — unlike Spanish Jews, Portuguese Jews were not allowed to leave and were forcibly converted en masse — who escaped to Livorno, where they were able to return to Judaism. Malka called the Livorno community "fascinating" because, invited by the Medicis, they became wealthy and powerful traders, setting up branches in Tunis and ransoming Jews captured by Barbary pirates.

Among the most famous members of the family, Malka said, was Itzhak Lumbroso, an 18th-century rabbi and rabbinic judge who wrote a commentary on the Talmud, "Seed of Isaac," that was the first book printed in Hebrew in Tunis.
Not too shabby - I particularly like the effort to combat the barbary pirates. And the Talmud commentary is pretty neat, too.

A yeshivah teacher of mine once said, when the End of Days come, and we learn who actually was Jewish (and who wasn't Jewish who thought he was), there will be a lot of surprises. Certainly, George Allen is a surprise that way.

Our blog friend, Pillage Idiot, has compiled Top ten signs that Sen. Allen's mother is Jewish. And congrats to him for his guest blogging gig at Protein Wisdom.

I also learned yesterday that Barry Goldwater had a Jewish father. Didn't know that one either. His Jewish name was Baruch. There's a thread about it at Volokh's with some interesting comments.

And now for some important news

Christopher Tolkien has completed an unfinished story of his father's, left in several drafts, due for publication in the coming year.
Christopher Tolkien has spent 30 years working on The Children of Hurin, which The Lord of the Rings author started in 1918 and later abandoned....

"It has seemed to me for a long time that there was a good case for presenting my father's long version of the legend of The Children of Hurin as an independent work, between its own covers," Christopher Tolkien said in a statement.

The story involves the elves and dwarves that feature in much of Tolkien's work.

In other important news, according to J K Rowling herself, apparently the fact that James Potter's invisibility cloak ended up with Dumbledore, after James' death will become a fact of significance in the final tome of the Harry Potter series.

Any theories on why?

Sunday, September 17, 2006

Abraham's Test: A Problem in Jewish Theology

Here's an interesting theological problem that occurred to me after reading part of the Pope's recent speech. The context is the issue of where religion fits between faith and reason.

Here is part of that speech.
[Emperor Manuel II Paleologus] goes on to explain in detail the reasons why spreading the faith through violence is something unreasonable. Violence is incompatible with the nature of God and the nature of the soul. God is not pleased by blood, and not acting reasonably is contrary to God's nature. Faith is born of the soul, not the body. Whoever would lead someone to faith needs the ability to speak well and to reason properly, without violence and threats... To convince a reasonable soul, one does not need a strong arm, or weapons of any kind, or any other means of threatening a person with death....

The decisive statement in this argument against violent conversion is this: not to act in accordance with reason is contrary to God's nature. The editor, Theodore Khoury, observes: For the emperor, as a Byzantine shaped by Greek philosophy, this statement is self-evident. But for Muslim teaching, God is absolutely transcendent. His will is not bound up with any of our categories, even that of rationality. Here Khoury quotes a work of the noted French Islamist R. Arnaldez, who points out that Ibn Hazn went so far as to state that God is not bound even by his own word, and that nothing would oblige him to reveal the truth to us. Were it God's will, we would even have to practise idolatry.
Let's repeat: Moslems believe: Were it God's will, we would even have to practise idolatry.

Now where does that leave Abraham, the originator of what eventually became Judaism?

He, uniquely, in the time before the covenant, was given the hardest test of all - akedat Yitzchak - the binding and sacrifice of Yitzhak. And Aviva Zornberg, an eminent Biblical exegete, points out that we have to visualize this scenario as an actual binding - as of an animal to be sacrificed.

Abraham, of course, lived before the age of Greek reason. Before rationalism. Nevertheless. Given the fact that he is the paradigmatic man of faith in Judaism, and that, in Jewish tradition, we believe God required this test of him; and therefore, because God required it, Abraham was prepared to do even this, though it contradicted God's promise to him that his progeny would multiply like the stars in the sky.

At that point in history Judaism, in its pre-formative state, shares this similarity with Islam: Abraham was tested, beyond reason, to enact God's will, even though the test, by every measure, went against reason and, by every moral standard that we understand, was wrong, except in that God had required it of him.

Later though, in Deuteronomy 13:1, we are explicitly told: Be careful to observe only that which I enjoin upon you: neither add to it nor take away from it. At this point, then, this extreme mode of faith, permitted in Islam, is explicitly forbidden to Jews.

Which is in itself an interesting theological reversal.

If we take this explicit reversal seriously, the conclusion appears to be that Abraham had the moral standing to be tested in a way far outside the bounds of what Jews of normal moral capacity - the benonim - could stand.

Indeed, the idea that someone could wander off on their own test of faith, reminds me of this evocation from Nietzsche, Beyond Good and Evil, part 29:
Independence is for the very few; it is a privilege of the strong. And whoever attempts it even with the best right butwithout inner constraint proves that he is probably not only strong, but also daring to the point of recklessness. He enters into a labyrinth, he multiplies a thousandfoldthe dangers which life brings with it in any case, not the least of which is that no one can see how and where he loses his way, becomes lonely, and is torn piecemeal by some minotaur of conscience. Supposing one like that comes to grief, this happens so far from the comprehension of men that they neigher feel it nor sympathize. And he cannot go back any longer. Nor can he go back to the pity of men."
I always find this passage evocative of the fate of Elisha ben Abuya,, the notorious Jewish heretic, who some also believe was an early model for the myth of Faust.

Saturday, September 16, 2006

September 11th ... 1565

A friend alerted a list I'm on by email of another significant battle between the West and Islam that occurred on September 11th. But that one, fought between the Knights of St. John and the Ottoman Empire on Malta was won by the West.

This is an episode that becomes even more important in today's environment given that the Pope is now living under Jihadi threat for his recent remarks, and as a result, has had to beef up his security. And the misinterpretation of his speech has been used as an excuse to firebomb and otherwise damage several churches in Moslem land.

From Lt Col P at
The fifth anniversary of September 11th 2001 is upon us. It is fitting that the day should see both a solemn remembrance of the dead and the renewal of a cold-hearted resolve to win the war that was declared on us.

There is however, another September 11th that we should also remember, and from which we can take heart in our own struggle. It is September 11th 1565; the scene was different and so were the actors too, but the nature of the battle was all too familiar. On that day, a small force of European knights and the entire population of Malta dealt Ottoman Turkey a decisive defeat, and in doing so probably saved western civilization.

In May of that year, a Turkish invasion force landed on the island of Malta, held only by a combined force of knights, their hired soldiers, and the mobilized population of the island. The Turkish aim was to seize the strategically located island and clear the way for the expansion of the crescent flag of Islam into the western Mediterranean and western Europe. The Turks, under Sultan Suleiman the Great, also sought to exterminate the last vestige of a crusading order that was still proving to be a dangerous foe.

Those old crusaders were the Sovereign Military Hospitaller Order of St. John, of Jerusalem of Rhodes, and of Malta. Originally founded in the eleventh century as a hospital order to provide relief to Christian pilgrims in the Holy Land, they quickly grew into a formidable military force that also protected those Christian pilgrims. (They still exist as hospitallers, but if they existed today in the same form as in 1565, they would surely be the strangest NGO in the world. Imagine a merger of Catholic Charities and Blackwater; imagine Mother Teresa with a .45 and the will and skill to use it.)

The Knights of St John were by 1565 already living anachronisms. (Today, wouldn't they be called warmongers and the religious right?) The crusades from they derived were old history even then; the Order had been expelled first from the Holy Land and then from the fertile island of Rhodes. They were given the rock of Malta as much to keep them away from Europe as to allow them to get at the Turks, who they saw as mortal enemies. They waged ceaseless war against the Sultan in the form of commerce raiding and other operations.

The Knights knew their enemy well. The Order's intelligence network gave early warning of the Turkish Sultan's preparations for a massive attack to crush the Knights for good. Under the Grand Master, Jean de la Vallette, they prepared their defenses and called in their brethren from estates across Europe...

...On September 8th, when at last a relief force from Sicily appeared bearing 8,000 Knights and soldiers from across Europe, the Turks began to withdraw. But they left a force ashore, hoping to draw the Knights and their soldiers into an ambush that would secure them the victory in the open that they could not gain in the siege. Their fleet was still mostly intact, and even with the arrival of a relief force the issue was still in doubt. The Grand Master recognized what was afoot but was determined to finish them off; he gave orders to sortie a force to meet the Turks and push them into the sea...

And so it was that on Tuesday, September 11th 1565, the Ottoman Turks were driven from the Malta by the stalwart defense of a small group of living anachronisms and the island's own brave inhabitants. The greatest military force in the Mediterranean was broken on the walls of the island's fortresses, and the swords, spears and shields of the islanders and the Knights.
By the way, among the reasons we should take heart, is that earlier on, in the 1550s, the leadership of the Hospitallers on Malta under Juan de Homedes, an aristocratic Spaniard, was so disunited and corrupt and weak that such a decisive victory against the Ottomans is impossible to imagine.

With a change in leadership on Malta, and the decisive will to win, victory became possible.

These days Europe is once again on the front line, but at this point, much of its leadership is weak, indecisive, corrupt, and the people of Europe have not yet manifested the will to win whatever battle may lie ahead. In fact, many of them refuse to admit that there is, in all probability, a battle looming over the horizon.

Michael Totten On The Second Lebanon War

Michael Totten interviews Yaacov Lozowick, the archivist at Yad Vashem, the Holocaust museum in Jerusalem, on the Second Lebanon War. Lozowick is essentially a centrist and he provides Totten with another informed perspective on Israel and the Lebanon war besides the left wing one he already had two members of Peace Now.

It's an interesting interview, and although longish, Totten's interview style makes it a quick and enjoyable read.

And although I would not classify myself as a centrist, I happen to agree with most of Lozowick's conclusions - at least his one's on the second Lebanon war. Not his evaluation of Bibi Netanyahu's prime ministership or his opinion about disengagement from the West Bank. But that goes outside the point I am making in this post. Although I still think Totten should have gone to the West Bank and talked to settlers himself to gain, firsthand, a sense of their perspective.

Here's Lozowick on the Lebanon war:
Lozowick: Okay. So tens of thousands of people live [in the Hezbollah suburbs of Beirut]. We killed 500 of them? That means that most of them weren't there. Right? Now, clearly it's easier to do this in Nablus than in the [southern suburbs], and I think from the perspective of the Israelis that a certain amount of collateral damage was inevitable. But ... what for? Killing Lebanese civilians in order not to achieve anything ... there's no justification for that that any of us can see.

So we stumbled into this thing without thinking, we set very high goals, we had international backing at one point to an unprecedented degree, and then within days we were killing hundreds of civilians which ... we don't like. The army was saying, "it will take us ten days and we'll kill off Hezbollah." So had we killed off Hezbollah and had 600 dead Lebanese civilians, nobody would have been happy about it, but maybe you say, okay, maybe there's no choice. Hezbollah hides itself among civilians, etc, etc, etc. I don't know. The question would have been raised after the war, not during the war, and it would have been raised in any case, but maybe we would have said there was no choice.

But by the second week of the war the air force clearly wasn't going to beat the Hezbollah. And then we squandered a week doing absolutely nothing. And then in the third week of the war, and the world is getting more and more impatient with us, the goodwill that had been there was being dissipated. We finally started going in there with totally the wrong forces. They were sending in small units. You know, it wasn't even done right.

I made much this point on this blog several weeks ago. Over a month ago, on August 11th, I said:
I myself feel that the destruction Israel wrought on Lebanon is less morally defensible for serving so little purpose. Since that damage was not in service of some useful end, like destroying Hezbollah, or destroying Hezbollah more than it did, if there is no useful, strategic, moral point to it, than it is harder to see the point of it at all.

Lozowick also discusses the current angry unanimity among Israelis vis-a-vis the government and the military leadership.
When Israelis are angry at one another, they're angry. And they're not angry at one another right now. They're angry at their government and they're angry at the generals. You get this movement of soldiers and parents who are from two different directions and have somewhat different agendas, but they're merging. The two groups are the parents and the soldiers. It's not left and right. There are left and right in both of those groups. They haven't worked together for twenty years and they will not work together again for the next twenty years. But right now they're working together. And everybody is conscious of all those three sentences. They know that they haven't in the past, they know that they won't pretty soon, but right now they know who they are. Because everybody is aggravated and furious at the political leadership for totally mismanaging the war and at the military leadership.
One of the commenters at Totten's site is guessing it will take six months to rid Israel of this government. We'll see.

Michael Ledeen's Tribute to Oriana Fallaci

Michael Ledeen writes of Oriana Fallaci, a friend of his, at the Corner:
Like all creative persons, she was a bundle of contradictions, for those inner turmoils are what drive such people to create. She reveled in her non-conformism and her independence, but she was also profoundly traditional, both privately and intellectually. She could not bear to live in Italy. She was repulsed by what had happened to her Florence, but she was also intensely Florentine and I never doubted that she would find the strength to go there to die. She loved to make trouble, even for her family and closest friends, but her thoughtfulness and humanity required her to be close to the family cemetery when she left. She didn't want to be a burden.

She had enormous respect for the great thinkers and leaders who preceded her, and she knew what she was talking about. She was a cultured woman, she had studied hard and long, and she was definitely not one of those modern gabbers who simply tell you what they "feel." She was a terrific cook, and proud of it. She was very feminine, and she was offended by her physical decay, much more than by the approach of death.

Finally, she was a challenging friend, she insisted that friendship had to be total. No deviation was tolerated, no 'but' was permitted to interrupt total support. Few of us could meet that standard, but all of us were delighted and honored to have been her friends.

Friday, September 15, 2006


Proving God, through neurology.

There's been some advance in the field of neurotheology, which is the attempt to understand how the brain mediates the human mystical experience of God. The expectation among neurotheologists was that there would be a God module in the brain, a specific region of the brain that would light up on screens when a human was experiencing God mystically.

It turns out, however, that this model is incorrect.

In a new study published in the journal, Neuroscience Letters, 15 Carmelite nuns volunteered to be tested by reliving a mystical experience of God. Which makes sense, since it is pretty hard to get those things to occur on demand. And the results were fascinating.
Rather than reveal a spiritual centre in the brain, a module of neural circuits specifically designed for religious experience, the study demonstrated that a dozen different regions of the brain are activated during a mystical experience.

In other words, mystical experiences are mediated by several brain regions and systems normally implicated in functions such as self-consciousness, emotion and body representation.

This research, by the way, neither proves nor disproves the existence of God. It merely points out that there is a consistent template in the brain of various regions that are acted upon [if one believes in God] or interact themselves [if one prefers God neutral language] to mediate our understanding of the human mystical experience of God.

Though I do wonder the differences one would find in the areas that light up between Carmelite Nuns and Jihadists, for example, whose mediated experience of God is far more violent. For even in such areas as mysticism, there is, of course, a great deal of cultural baggage that is carried by the generations, extraneous to the originitive intuition of God - to get Hegelian for the moment, or at least to borrow his terminology from the Philosophy of Religion.

Another point worth knowing is that this line of research developed from the observation that epilectics were prone to religious hallucinations.
Speculation about the God spot was triggered when a team at the University of California, San Diego, saw that people with temporal-lobe epilepsy were prone to religious hallucinations.

This led Michael Persinger, a neuropsychologist at Laurentian University in Canada, to stimulate emporal lobes artificially to see if he could induce a religious state. He found that he could create a "sensed presence".
The fact that this state can be induced also proves or disproves nothing. In point of fact, drugs can sometimes replicate the mystical state as well. Creating a mystical state "artifically" does not mean that such experiences are not real. Particularly, I would say, for the person experiencing them.

Meanwhile, this phenomenon makes me recall a related fact, that Prince Myshkin, the main character in The Idiot, by Fyodor Doestoevsky, a man of great religious and mystical sensitivity, is also an epilectic. Which is a very interesting observation on Doestoevsky part.

For example, Sir John Taverner, the well known composer, has spoken openly about how his late onset epilepsy has effected his music.
He has also suffered in recent years from temporal lobe epilepsy, a condition associated with out-of-body experiences and quasi-religious visions.

Does he ever wonder whether his angel of inspiration might be a trick of biology?

"My neurologist kept asking me after my first attack, 'Has your music changed?' and I said, 'In a way it has, yes, it has become more contemplative.' He told me about the conversion of St Paul, that they knew in some form that he had epilepsy. But, my neurologist said, this in no way discredits the authenticity of the experience of a vision - indeed medical conditions can actually bring about this spiritual state."

So if his music is divinely inspired, what is he, as a composer, adding to it?

"Well, when I return from my walks, my ideas get noted down on different pieces of manuscript - probably in the end there are a hundred little jottings and scribblings strewn all over the room. That's where the medieval concept of composer as craftsman comes in.

"The ideas that come from that other place, wherever it is, may seem chaotic, but they are not. That's what's really mysterious. I look at all these sketches and scribbles and see there is a connection between all of them. That is the stage at which I wrestle as a craftsman with the mathematics of the composition, the form and structure. But that's a wonderful wrestling, there's no angst involved, no ego."

Does he worry that one day the angel will stop visiting him?

"Yes. As I draw near to the end of a piece of music, I have an almost obsessive desire to start another one, just in case. Nowadays I have faith that it will happen, but even if there are two hours when there is music not actually coming to me, then that bothers me. It's very difficult for me to relax in that sense, because I've always said that writing for me is prayer, it's my umbilical cord, my reason for existing."

Sunday, September 10, 2006

Minhag Anglia

Sorry for the lengthy break.

Seem I needed to take a break from blogging.

And now I'm back, to some extent anyway.

Melanie Phillips, in one of her bravura pieces, calls British Jewry to task for failing to make a peep while Israel was culmniated left, right and center, during the recent War in Lebanon. Nary a peep from the Jews, which leaves the state of the argument about Israel in Britain solidly in the hands of Israel's adversaries.
With such a torrent of lies and distortions crying out for rebuttal, such behaviour is simply astounding. In Israel, people were amazed and distressed by the silence of British Jews. In America, they simply could not believe it.

American Jews expected Britain to respond as they would have responded to such an assault upon the Jewish people: full page ads rebutting the lies, mailshots to MPs, questions in Parliament about the blatant manipulation of journalists by Hezbollah, protests by prominent community leaders, public rallies, articles placed in the press.

There was none of that. It was left instead to a few non-Jews, such as Freddie Forsyth, Julie Burchill or other voices of gentile conscience, to ask why the country had taken such comprehensive leave of its senses.

It’s shocking — but not surprising. It’s minhag anglia, the historic custom of the leaders of British Jewry, to be craven and servile, to be terrified of rocking the boat and drawing attention to the fact that they are different, that they are Jews.

They are frightened for their reputations and their interests, for their place in British society. They are frightened of being accused of being partisan and not properly British, of being demonised as extremists, of being stamped as supporters of Jewish war criminals.

They are frightened, indeed, that the big lie that Israel is guilty of war crimes might be true. Above all, they are frightened that if they say anything about antisemitism they will provoke even more of it.