Friday, September 07, 2012
Akhnaten and Moses -- a connection?
The first monotheist known to secular history was the "heretical" Egyptian Pharaoh Akhnaten. To him the sun was the only God. When he died all his temples were torn down and much was done to erase his memory. Traditional Egyptian polytheism resumed.
So what about those Egyptians who had accepted Akhnaten's religion -- which after all was a pretty commonsense one -- You could see the sun moving about and feel its importance? The presence of other gods was much less evident.
So it is reasonable to believe that the Akhnaten cult was hard to erase and many true believers might have remained. Such believers would however be seen as a threat to the restored state religion and would no doubt have been persecuted.
And at the height of the persecution might they not have fled Egypt across the Sinai and into lands out of the immediate control of the Pharaohs -- Pharaohs who would indoubtedly have been weakened by the Akhnaten episode. And might they not have been led by a priest of Akhnaten named Moses?
So I wonder why the Israelites of old are not generally seen as remnants of the Akhnaten cult? The dates are reasonably close. Some put the Akhnaten cult before the Biblical exodus and some put it after. But both Biblical and Egyptian chronology contain considerable uncertainties so there is no real chronological reason to exclude the hypothesis. And one might note that the troubles of the Israelites in Egypt began when a "new king" came to power (Exodus 1:8).
The main reason for not making the identification would be that the Israeli God is not a sun God. He is more a personal God whom Moses and his assistant used to meet face-to-face (Exodus 33:11) and who was handy with stone carving and who thought it was very important to cook a young goat the right way (Exodus 34:1-26). But this personalization of the Deity (by Moses?) and giving him a personal name (Yahweh/Jehovah -- See Psalms 83:18) was a normal thing among the people of the times so I don't really see that as a major difficulty. That monotheism should have arisen in two neigbouring places at roughly the same time seems more than a coincidence to me. So am I alone these days in thinking that? I seem to be almost alone. Sigmund Freud mentioned the theory back in the '30s but it does not seem to have caught on. Though there is a slightly different exploration of it here.
I can understand that believers in the literal interpretation of the Bible might object to my account as the Biblical account is very detailed and yet has no mention of a monotheistic Pharaoh. But most historians of the period are not Biblical fundamentalists so it is their silence which rather puzzles me.
Even many Christians who see the Bible as inspirational history rather than literal history should, it seems to me, find an independent record of the emergence of monotheism in roughly the same time and place as useful (if broad) confirmation of one of the foundational event of Israel's history.
Just in passing, I note that it is fairly clear that the Torah is not literal history. As Wikipedia says:
"According to Exodus 12:37-38, the Israelites numbered "about six hundred thousand men on foot, besides women and children," plus many non-Israelites and livestock. Numbers 1:46 gives a more precise total of 603,550. The 600,000, plus wives, children, the elderly, and the "mixed multitude" of non-Israelites would have numbered some 2 million people, compared with an entire Egyptian population in 1250 BCE of around 3 to 3.5 million. Marching ten abreast, and without accounting for livestock, they would have formed a line 150 miles long. No evidence has been found that indicates Egypt ever suffered such a demographic and economic catastrophe or that the Sinai desert ever hosted (or could have hosted) these millions of people and their herds." -- for 40 years at that.
I would see the numbers given as a way of stressing that Moses had a big following.
Israel has much at stake in the November election
Yes. We're still talking about Israel -- about 3,000 years later. It's almost enough to make you religious
"President Obama has thrown allies like Israel under the bus." That's what Mitt Romney, Republican candidate for president, said in the high-profile speech accepting his party's nomination last week, repeating a slang phrase for sacrificing a friend for selfish reasons that he had deployed before, for example in May 2011 and Jan. 2012. This criticism of Obama fits a persistent Republican critique. Specifically, several other recent presidential candidates used or endorsed the same "bus" formulation vis-à-vis Obama and Israel, including Herman Cain in May 2011, Rick Perry in Sept. 2011, Newt Gingrich in Jan. 2012, and Rick Santorum in Feb. 2012.
These Republican attacks on Obama's relations with Israel have several important implications for U.S. foreign policy. First, out of the many Middle East-related issues, Israel, and Israel alone, retains a permanent role in U.S. electoral politics, influencing how a significant numbers of voters - not just Jews but also Arabs, Muslims, Evangelical Christians, conservatives and liberals – vote for president.
Second, attitudes toward Israel serve as a proxy for views toward other Middle Eastern issues: If I know your views on Israel, I have a good idea about your thinking on such topics as energy policy, Islamism, wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, AKP-led Turkey, the Iranian nuclear build-up, intervention in Libya, the Mohamed Morsi presidency in Egypt, and the Syrian civil war.
Third, the Republican criticism of Obama points to a sea change in what determines attitudes toward Israel. Religion was once the key, with Jews the ardent Zionists and Christians less engaged. Today, in contrast, the determining factor is political outlook. To discern someone's views on Israel, the best question to ask is not "What is your religion?" but "Who do you want for president?" As a rule, conservatives feel more warmly toward Israel and liberals more coolly. Polls show conservative Republicans to be the most ardent Zionists, followed by Republicans in general, followed by independents, Democrats, and lastly liberal Democrats. Yes, Ed Koch, the former mayor of New York City, also said, in Sept. 2011, that Obama "threw Israel under the bus," but Koch, 87, represents the fading old guard of the Democratic party. The difference between the parties in the Arab-Israeli conflict is becoming as deep as their differences on the economy or on cultural issues.
Fourth, as Israel increasingly becomes an issue dividing Democrats from Republicans, I predict a reduction of the bipartisan support for Israel that has provided Israel a unique status in U.S. politics and sustained organizations like the American Israel Public Affairs Committee. I also predict that Romney and Paul Ryan, as mainstream conservatives, will head an administration that will be the warmest ever to Israel, far surpassing the administrations of both Bill Clinton or George W. Bush. Contrarily, should Obama be re-elected, the coldest treatment of Israel ever by a U.S. president will follow.
Obama's constipated record of the past 3½ years vis-à-vis Israel on such topics as the Palestinians and Iran leads to this conclusion; but so does what we know about his record before he entered high electoral politics in 2004, especially his associations with radical anti-Zionists. For example, Obama worshipfully listened to Edward Said in May 1998 and sat quietly by at a going-away party in 2003 for former PLO flack Rashid Khalidi as Israel was accused of terrorism against Palestinians. (In contrast, Romney has been friends with Binyamin Netanyahu since 1976.)
Also revealing is what Ali Abunimah, a Chicago-based anti-Israel extremist, wrote about his last conversation with Obama in early 2004, as the latter was in the midst of a primary campaign for the Democratic nomination for the U.S. Senate. Abunimah wrote that Obama warmly greeted him and then added: "Hey, I'm sorry I haven't said more about Palestine right now, but we are in a tough primary race. I'm hoping when things calm down I can be more up front." More: referring to Abunimah's attacks on Israel in the Chicago Tribune and elsewhere, Obama encouraged him with "Keep up the good work!"
When one pus this in the context of what Obama said off-mike to then-Russian president Dmitry Medvedev in March 2012 ("This is my last election. And after my election, I have more flexibility"), it would be wise to assume that, if Obama wins on Nov. 6, things will "calm down" for him and he finally can "be more up front" about so-called Palestine. Then Israel's troubles will really begin.
The Charlotte Democrats
Hope and change have given way to a grim determination
The Democrats gathering in Charlotte this week are united behind President Obama but more than a little nervous about their November prospects. The thrill of 2008 is gone, replaced by an almost grim determination. The party of hope and change has become the party of grind-it-out, slug-it-out, and hope to win as less awful than Mitt Romney.
This isn't the way it was supposed to be. The Obama Presidency was going to usher in a new era of long-term Democratic dominance, and the circumstances to make it happen were on their side. Democrats took power in a recession they could pin on Republicans, knowing they could take credit for the inevitable economic recovery and ride that to re-election. Young people went for them 2 to 1 and might have been loyal for decades. It all might have worked had they made the economy their priority.
But this misjudges the modern Democratic Party. Four years ago in Denver, we wrote that the country deserved to know that the Democrats who would really be running the country in 2009 would be named Henry Waxman, John Dingell, John Conyers, David Obey, George Miller, Barney Frank and James Oberstar. Those were—and mostly still are—the liberal barons of the House.
They weren't about to let a crisis go to waste, and so they went about using their accidentally large majorities to drive through a generation of pent-up liberal legislation. Mr. Obama famously let them write the stimulus and health-care bills. Republicans were helpless to stop them for two years. Liberals got nearly everything they wanted—which is what may be their ultimate undoing.
Democrats of the Obama era are united by cultural liberalism, but above all else they agree on the goal of expanding the reach of government. The Democratic Leadership Council, the centrist idea shop of the Clinton years, is moribund. The vanguard of ideas for the Obama White House is the Center for American Progress, which churns out proposals for government to mediate every sphere of economic life.
In this view, the entire American economy is a giant market failure—except perhaps Silicon Valley. Health-care costs can be controlled by dictating prices and medical practice. The climate can be controlled by putting coal out of business and subsidizing wind, solar and ethanol. Wall Street can be controlled by more rules and hanging the occasional banker in the public square as an example.
Most important, government spending can conjure private growth by "investing" in whatever seems like a good idea. So taxes must rise and rise again to pay for these "investments."
The same priorities prevail, by the way, in the rare states where Democrats still dominate. While a wave of GOP Governors elected in 2010 have been reforming government, Democrats in Illinois, Maryland, Connecticut and California are bent on protecting every corner of government they can. The first three have raised taxes enormously, and Jerry Brown is desperate to get voter approval in November so he can raise the top income-tax rate in California to 13.3%.
There are very few Chris Christie Democrats. The closest might be Andrew Cuomo in New York, but his productive first year has given way to status-quo accommodations to unions on school and pension reform and a tax increase. This reflects today's Democratic coalition, which is dominated by affluent cultural liberals, voters who depend on government, and especially public-employee unions.
Here and there in the hinterlands, you can see a glimpse of new Democratic thinking. Gloria Romero in California wants to reduce the power of teachers unions, and treasurer Gina Raimondo dared to rein in public pension benefits in Rhode Island. Even President Obama sometimes sounds like a reformer on education, until election years when he resorts to proposing more federal spending to hire more teachers.
But those reform voices won't be anywhere in evidence in Charlotte, where the message will be four more years of more of the same. The main theme is to preserve the government that Democrats have expanded. Democrats made a generational bet in 2009-2010 that the country was ready to be yanked sharply to the left, and they know that nearly all of their grand ambitions will be undone if Mr. Obama loses.
Yet the liberals who dominate the party believe that if Mr. Obama wins, however narrowly, their gamble will have been a great success. They may have lost the House in 2010, and perhaps they'll lose the Senate this year, but those can be won back.
Meanwhile, ObamaCare won't be repealed, its subsidies will start to flow in 2014, and then another huge chunk of the private economy and voting public will be dependent on the government for decades to come. Nancy Pelosi will take her bows as an icon of the entitlement state.
Thus the frowning resolve to grind out a victory by whatever means possible. It's hardly an optimistic vision and it's far from commanding the oceans, but if Democrats win, what you've seen is what you'll get.
Democrats Won't Admit Their Side Lies
"They lie, and they don't care if people think they lie," California Democratic Party Chairman John Burton told reporter Joe Garofoli before a state delegation breakfast Monday. Burton even brought up that "as long as you lie, Joseph Goebbels, the big lie, you keep repeating it, you know."
First off, Nazi analogies are obnoxious; they trivialize Adolf Hitler's atrocities. For his part, Burton is not above spewing hate himself. In a radio interview, he told KCBS' Doug Sovern that Republicans are likely to take his remarks as a compliment. Later in the day, Burton issued a statement that stipulated he never said the word "Nazi" and included an apology "if" he offended anyone.
Secondly, there's something annoying about Democrats' apparent belief that Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan have been untruthful but that their side has not. Never their side.
Nonsense. Addressing the Faith Council at the Charlotte Convention Center, Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz, D-Fla., told a whopper when she insisted that Romney and Ryan believe "we should give more tax breaks to millionaires and billionaires -- more tax breaks to people who are already doing really well -- and make sure that they can do even better and have the middle class and working families pay for those tax breaks."
Where does this silly charge originate? On Aug. 1, the Tax Policy Center came out with a report that said Romney's tax proposals "would provide large tax cuts to high-income households, and increase the tax burdens on middle- and/or lower-income taxpayers."
Here's the problem: The Tax Policy Center report starts with the caveat, "We do not score Governor Romney's plan directly, as certain components of his plan are not specified in sufficient detail." Analysts made a number of assumptions, also known as guesses.
They ignored the fact that Romney wants to cut everyone's taxes by 20 percent, not raise them. The analysts purposefully and explicitly ignored Romney's pledge to cut federal spending. Then they jumped on the most impossible-to-imagine scenario of Romney's approving a tax increase on the majority of American workers -- with the help of a spineless Congress, no less.
Now, I agree that Romney's blurry economic plan -- which promises a tax rate reduction paid for by eliminating as yet unspecified tax deductions -- has the dangerous potential to increase the deficit. That's my concern with the Romney tax package. Of course, I have much bigger concerns on that score with President Barack Obama.
Wasserman Schultz has cover for her charge: She can cite fact check groups such as the Tax Policy Center because it laid out its assumptions, and given its assumptions, its scenario works. But a politician of her acumen knows that a Romney White House would not pass a big tax increase on to middle-class voters. Romney doesn't want to do it. Likewise Congress, where pols of both stripes nurse an abiding fear of incurring the wrath of American voters.
Then again, as Burton said of the Republicans, operatives can be "very cynical." And: "They do not care about the truth."
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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)
Posted by JR at 12:36 AM