Jews as a race
My recent posts about the Jewish religion questioned its antiquity. My submission was that modern-day Judaism and modern-day Christianity both arose at the same time as ways of adapting the ancient Hebrew religion to the destruction of the the Jerusalem temple by the Romans and the expulsion of most Israelites from Israel -- with Judaism being, if you like, the more conservative solution and Christianity the more radical solution.
Neither religion does things that the ancient Israelites did -- such as killing homosexuals or burning animals on altars -- but both have remained close to the major ethical teachings of the Torah, with Jews remaining true to more minor teachings too. So both religions are only about 2,000 years old rather than the 3,000 years or thereabouts that some Jews claim for their religion.
I may not have convinced anyone of all that but it seems to me that I should complete the picture as I see it by looking at another important Jewish claim: That they are indeed the same people as the ancient Israelites; that they are the modern-day descendants of the exiles from Israel. And I will jump the gun a little by saying that I do see some substance in that claim.
And that claim is a central one for orthodox Jews. They really do believe that Jewish Israelis are the same people in the same land speaking the same language as of old. And some of my Jewish correspondents are so strongly attached to such a view that they see no difficulty in the fact that Jews from Lithuania mostly look like Lithuanians (blue eyes, blond hair) while Jews from Egypt mostly look like Egyptians (black hair, dark eyes). And at the last Pesach seder I attended we were honoured to have a Sabra family present -- who were by far the most dark-skinned people in the otherwise Ashkenazi congregation.
And that is the central difficulty for the orthodox claim: As we see in the famous story of Ruth, Israelites have never been wholly endogamous. The marrying out that is the despair of many a Yiddisher Momma in NYC today has been going on for a long time. So Jews from Lithuania are largely Lithuanians and Jews from Arab lands are largely Arab. Any genetic connection to the Israelites of old would appear to be tenuous indeed.
A second difficulty is that there is a very clear sense in which Judaism is a religion -- and that was the starting point of my posts of a few days ago. You can BECOME a Jew, just as you can BECOME a Christian. The requirements are more severe in some ways for Jews than for Christians but both conversions do happen. You cannot change your race but you can change your religion so is not Judaism simply a religion?
The answer lies, of course, in abandoning two-value logic. Jewry could be BOTH a religion and a race. And it seems that it is. The last I saw of the genetic findings, about half of Ashkenazi Jews do show some distinctively Middle-Eastern genes. So despite the exogamy, some genetic connection to ancient Israel would appear to remain among modern-day Jews. So many or maybe most Ashkenazim who make aliyah are indeed returning to what is at least partly their genetic home. And the fact that their religion is partly that of ancient Israel makes it their home too.
The situation with the Sephardim is harder to disentangle and may require further developments in genetic research to progress. But that the Ashkenazim have hung on to their original ancestry to some degree for so long is obviously encouraging.
So the holiest of holy cities has indeed regathered to itself its people.
Jewish humor is of course legendary and I am a great devotee of it. I was probably started off by being taken to see Marx Bros. movies as a kid. It often has tragic undertones, as one might expect. A totally mad example of that which I can never get out of my mind is the crack by Milton Berle: "Anytime a person goes into a delicatessen and orders a pastrami on white bread, somewhere a Jew dies". So let me end up my comments on endogamy/exogamy with an equally mad cartoon on the subject
And should I mention that I always order my Pastrami on rye?
Confirmation that Goldstone is really soapstone
You can easily carve soapstone into any shape you like. Jewish judge Richard Goldstone has now done a stunning re-evaluation of his own anti-Israel report. The Arabs must have stiffed him (i.e. not given him his expected reward)
In a stunning and unexpected turn of events, Judge Richard Goldstone has essentially reversed himself on the findings of the Goldstone Report. He does, of course, qualify his remarks to make it appear that he has not reversed himself. What he does, in effect, is to say that if only Israel had cooperated with his investigation from the start, he would not have reached the incorrect conclusions of the now famous and highly influential report. Israel, of course, had quite good reasons to distrust Goldstone, as his report did major damage. But one would rather have Judge Goldstone now blame Israel for his original damaging conclusions than to have him blame Israel for intentionally being the major human rights violator in the Middle East.
Now, Goldstone asserts, “We know a lot more today about what happened in the Gaza war of 2008-09 than we did when I chaired the fact-finding commission.” Poppycock! As Goldstone’s numerous critics pointed out as soon as the report was issued, its many vulnerabilities were known at that very moment. One could look no further than the lengthy and devastating critique by Moshe Halbertal that appeared in The New Republic, or the many commentaries on it by Alan Dershowitz.
As Dershowitz wrote at the time: “It is far more accusatory of Israel, far less balanced in its criticism of Hamas, far less honest in its evaluation of the evidence, far less responsible in drawing its conclusion, far more biased against Israeli than Palestinian witnesses, and far more willing to draw adverse inferences of intentionality from Israeli conduct and statements than from comparable Palestinian conduct and statements.”
Mr. Goldstone may prefer that we forget all this, but savvy readers will have no problem finding many sources that pointed to the report’s many flaws in 2009. Nevertheless, it is refreshing to find today that Goldstone now says: “That the crimes allegedly committed by Hamas were intentional goes without saying – its rockets were purposefully and indiscriminately aimed at civilian targets.” As for serious crimes against civilians that resulted from Israeli defensive action, Goldstone now writes that “civilians were not intentionally targeted as a matter of policy” by Israel.
The moral equivalence, thankfully, has now disappeared in the judge’s new conclusions. Moreover, where possible violations of human rights were committed by Israel, Goldstone now writes that in one case if an Israeli officer was found to have acted inappropriately, and is “found to have been negligent, Israel will respond accordingly.”
He now argues, perhaps out of guilt or perhaps he decided his critics were correct, that “the purpose of the Goldstone Report was never to prove a foregone conclusion against Israel,” and that the original mandate of the UN Human Rights Council “was skewed against Israel.” Score yet another point for his critics.
And, Goldstone adds, Israel “has the right and obligation to defends itself and its citizens against attacks from abroad and within.” He also stresses, although one would be hard pressed to find this in all the press reports about it, that “our report marked the first time illegal acts of terrorism from Hamas were being investigated and condemned by the United Nations.” Rather strange, then, that all the coverage emphasized Israel as the sole villain, and few could find any emphasis in the Report about Hamas and its war crimes.
If they were at all lax, and here again is Goldstone’s attempt to pass the buck, it was because they were not able to “include any evidence provided by the Israeli government,” which did not cooperate with them. Now, he says, Israel has in fact carried out investigations of rights violations in “good faith,” and yes — “Hamas has done nothing.” Surprise, surprise!
As Goldstone admits underhandedly, saying that his critics were correct: "Some have suggested that it was absurd to expect Hamas, an organization that has a policy to destroy the state of Israel, to investigate what we said were serious war crimes. It was my hope, even if unrealistic, that Hamas would do so, especially if Israel conducted its own investigations. At minimum I hoped that in the face of a clear finding that its members were committing serious war crimes, Hamas would curtail its attacks. Sadly, that has not been the case. Hundreds more rockets and mortar rounds have been directed at civilian targets in southern Israel. That comparatively few Israelis have been killed by the unlawful rocket and mortar attacks from Gaza in no way minimizes the criminality. The U.N. Human Rights Council should condemn these heinous acts in the strongest terms."
And later on, he writes that “there has been no effort by Hamas in Gaza to investigate the allegations of its war crimes and possible crimes against humanity.”
Goldstone indeed writes: “In the end, asking Hamas to investigate may have been a mistaken enterprise.” No kidding. It seems it has just occurred to the judge that a terrorist organization committed to destroying Israel cannot, unlike democratic Israel, have any stake in investigating its own human rights violations. Did the judge really not comprehend this in 2009?
And as for right now, Judge Goldstone adds that “the Human Rights Council should condemn the inexcusable and cold-blooded recent slaughter of a young Israeli couple and three of their small children in their beds.” Yes, Yes, Yes! What the judge does not say, of course, is that we all know that this will simply not happen. A Council that until recently had Col. Qadaffi’s Libya as a member is not about to do this, despite Goldstone’s recommendation.
A type of medical care that delivers real value -- so may be attacked by the levellers
And $1500 a year seems cheap to me -- compared to the cost of normal private insurance
Every year, thousands of people make a deal with their doctor: I'll pay you a fixed annual fee, whether or not I need your services, and in return you'll see me the day I call, remember who I am and what ails me, and give me your undivided attention.
But this arrangement potentially poses a big threat to Medicare and to the new world of medical care envisioned under President Barack Obama's health overhaul.
The spread of "concierge medicine," where doctors limit their practice to patients who pay a fee of about $1,500 a year, could drive a wedge among the insured. Eventually, people unable to afford the retainer might find themselves stuck on a lower tier, facing less time with doctors and longer waits.
Medicare recipients, who account for a big share of patients in doctors' offices, are the most vulnerable. The program's financial troubles are causing doctors to reassess their participation. But the impact could be broader because primary care doctors are in short supply and the health law will bring in more than 30 million newly insured patients.
If concierge medicine goes beyond just a thriving niche, it could lead to a kind of insurance caste system.
"What we are looking at is the prospect of a more explicitly tiered system where people with money have a different kind of insurance relationship than most of the middle class, and where Medicare is no longer as universal as we would like it to be," said John Rother, policy director for AARP.
Concierge doctors say they're not out to exclude anyone, but are trying to recapture the personal connection shredded by modern medicine. Instead of juggling 2,000 or more patients, they can concentrate on a few hundred, stressing prevention and acting as advocates with specialists and hospitals.
"I don't have to be looking at patient mix and how many are booked per hour," said Dr. Lewis Weiner, a primary care physician in Providence, R.I., who's been in a concierge practice since 2005.
"I get to know the individual," Weiner said. "I see their color. I see their moods. I pick up changes in their lives, new stressors that I would not have found as easily before. It's been a very positive shift."
Making the switch can also be economically rewarding. If 500 patients pay $1,500 apiece, that's gross revenue of $750,000 for the practice. Many concierge doctors also bill Medicare and private insurance for services not covered by their retainer.
MDVIP marketing executive Mark Murrison says its doctors do not sell access, but a level of clinical services above what Medicare or private insurance cover. The cornerstone is an intensive annual physical focused on prevention. About half the patients are Medicare beneficiaries.
Retainer fees range from $1,500 to $1,800 a year, and MDVIP collects $500 of that for legal, regulatory and other support services.
Murrison said the fee is affordable for middle-class households when compared with the cost of many consumer goods and services. "One of our goals is to democratize concierge medicine," he said.
For now, there may be fewer than 2,000 doctors in all types of retainer practice nationally. Most are primary care physicians, a sliver of the estimated 300,000 generalists.
The trend caught the eye of MedPAC, a commission created by Congress that advises lawmakers on Medicare and watches for problems with access. It hired consultants to investigate.
Their report, delivered last fall, found listings for 756 concierge doctors nationally, a five-fold increase from the number identified in a 2005 survey by the Government Accountability Office.
The transcript of a meeting last September at which the report was discussed reveals concerns among commission members that Medicare beneficiaries could face sharply reduced access if the trend accelerates.
"My worst fear _ and I don't know how realistic it is _ is that this is a harbinger of our approaching a tipping point," said MedPAC chairman Glenn Hackbarth, noting that "there's too much money" for doctors to pass up.
Hackbarth continued: "The nightmare I have _ and, again, I don't know how realistic it is _ is that a couple of these things come together, and you could have a quite dramatic erosion in access in a very short time."
John Goodman, a conservative health policy expert, predicts the health care law will drive more patients to try concierge medicine. "Seniors who can pay for it will go outside the system," he said.
MedPAC's Hackbarth declined to be interviewed. But Berenson, a physician and policy expert, said "the fact that excellent doctors are doing this suggests we've got a problem." "The lesson is, if we don't attend to what is now a relatively small phenomenon, it's going to blow up," he added.
When a primary care doctor switches to concierge practice, it means several hundred Medicare beneficiaries must find another provider. Medicare declined an interview on potential consequences. "There are no policy changes in the works at this time," said spokeswoman Ellen Griffith.
Excerpt from an email I received from a Democrat operative:
Sounds good to me
Twenty-three is how many Senate seats Democrats have to defend in 2012. That’s a boatload. Ten is how many Republicans have – less than half.
Four. This number really gives me heartburn. The GOP gains four seats, and they’ll have the votes in the Senate to pass anything coming from the House
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The Big Lie of the late 20th century was that Nazism was Rightist. It was in fact typical of the Leftism of its day. It was only to the Right of Stalin's Communism. The very word "Nazi" is a German abbreviation for "National Socialist" (Nationalsozialist) and the full name of Hitler's political party (translated) was "The National Socialist German Workers' Party" (In German: Nationalsozialistische Deutsche Arbeiterpartei)