7 things @ 11 o’clock (7.24)

1. Goldman Sachs may be in trouble for running some kind of aluminum-hoarding commodities trading scheme. (In the case of Goldman Sachs, of course, “in trouble” doesn’t refer to criminal or civil penalties — those don’t apply to the Too Big to Jail firm. But if it can be proved that Goldman is doing something illegal, then lawmakers may crack down hard with several uncomfortable questions for the next Goldman exec nominated to a state or federal cabinet post. And that could be briefly awkward.)

Izabella Kaminska explains how this scheme works (free registration required) using a familiar story:

This is Joseph. He is a well-known commodity forecaster. This is Pharaoh. Pharaoh is worried about future scarcity of commodities …

Another reminder that the biblical Joseph is a pretty despicable character. Preying on the desperation of starving people to steal their land and enslave the entire world doesn’t make you a Good Guy. (Alas, my old post on this — “Joseph and the Appalling Tyrannical Despot” — got lost in the move to Patheos.)

Meanwhile, Consumerist’s Laura Northrup explains commodities trading by using a different set of familiar characters: Billy Ray Valentine and Louis Winthorpe III.

Turns out the insider-trading at the heart of Trading Places wasn’t illegal back in 1983 when that movie came out. It’s illegal now thanks to a provision of the Dodd-Frank Act. That provision is called “The Eddie Murphy Rule.”

2. World keep on turnin‘. … Stevie Wonder’s Florida boycott has picked up some big support, including Jay Z, Kanye West, Rihanna, Madonna, Usher and Justin Timberlake.

Wonder’s boycott calls for the repeal of Florida’s “Stand Your Ground” law. I think that’s a more constructive long-term challenge than the call for a retrial of George Zimmerman on civil rights grounds. It’s a specific and measurable demand, which could make this boycott an effective strategy — particularly if it broadens from entertainers refusing to perform there to include tourists refusing to go there. If attendance drops off at Disney and Florida’s beaches, that could really start to pinch.

3. This is terrorism.

4. Checks for the $40 million settlement over Skechers “Shape Ups” are on their way to consumers who bought the sneakers based on the misleading ad campaign that promised fitness results the shoes don’t deliver. I think of the brief, weird popularity of Shape Ups and its various, equally ineffective competitors whenever I see one of those ads for Lumosity.com. “It’s like a personal trainer for your brain,” the ads say, “improving your performance with the science of neuroplasticity.” I suspect that’s pretty much the same thing as neurophlebotinum.

“With shape-ups you can finally get in shape without going to the gym,” the old Skechers ads promised. Now Lumosity promises you can finally get smarter without going to the library.

5. This is what the actual Bible actually says in Ezekiel 16:49-50:

This was the guilt of your sister Sodom: she and her daughters had pride, excess of food, and prosperous ease, but did not aid the poor and needy. They were haughty, and did abominable things before me; therefore I removed them when I saw it.

I repeat that a lot. But I’ll keep on repeating it so long as there are biblically illiterate Christians out there pretending that the story of Sodom justifies the condemnation of gay people.

Future generations will look at the horrifically mangled exegesis that gave us the ugly misnomer of “sodomy” precisely the same way we now view the vile twisting of scripture that gave us all that racist “curse of Ham” crap.

6. Real Clear Religion offers a couple of link-sucking photo galleries: “The Ugliest Churches in the World” and “Even More Ugly Churches.” I suppose ugly is in the eye of the beholder, because some of these look beautiful to me.

7. Update your bookmarks and RSS feeds: Addie Zierman’s “How to Talk Evangelical” blog is now just AddieZierman.com. Jamelle Bouie has left The American Prospect to become a staff writer for the Daily Beast. If you’re not familiar with either of them, follow those links and check them out.



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  • themunck

    3. Reminds me of Fox’s coverage of the Utøya massacre. I could make it clear what I mean, but I’ll let Jon Steward speak for me:


  • eamonknight

    Re #5: Funny thing is, the minister at my fundy church was saying exactly this circa — wait for it — 1973. Homosexuality was still a sin, of course, you just couldn’t use the Sodom and Gomorrah story as proof-text for that. He relied instead on the Romans passage. (This may have had something to do with the fact that this was in Church of Christ, who tend to be radical dispensationalists, ie. pretty much anything in the OT is irrelevant as far as discerning what God wants; theology is driven almost exclusively by the NT).

  • Lori

    #3. The very first comment on that article is some women claiming that the point is untrue (which it’s not) and then engaging anti-Ukrainian prejudice. Way to totally miss the point Sue R. You are a truly credit to the British people—in opposite world.

  • de_la_Nae

    I read that and facepalmed. Also notice how most of her examples of terrorism that is labeled as such are…starting to get a little old? Maybe I’m missing something here, being a U.S. citizen and all, but I thought I remembered a lot of the outright fighting with the IRA ramping down a while back.

  • alfgifu

    You probably have to be on the ground while a wide-scale terrorist campaign is being conducted to appreciate how much the idea lingers. For those of us in England, the IRA were an active threat only a couple of decades ago – as the fighting in Northern Ireland died down, the terrorist campaign intensified.

    I remember several times being evacuated in a hurry – from school, once – because of a credible bomb threat, and seeing the actual bombs on the news regularly sort of reinforced that ‘it could be you!’

    So, wrongheaded as the comment is, I wouldn’t be surprised if Sue R has experienced the IRA as a direct threat to hir own safety relatively recently. It is quite possible that somebody zie knows was killed or injured.

  • de_la_Nae

    Yeah, that seems like it makes sense when you put it like that.

    Man, you know what would be crazy? If they somehow were close to all 3-4 examples they gave. That’d be, like…the worst luck.

  • aunursa

    How did that 2010 boycott of Arizona work out? Most boycotts don’t succeed, especially when the target is a popular tourist state.

    Reminds me of the boycott called by the Southern Baptists of Walt Disney World because of Disney’s gay-friendly policies — that boycott failed spectacularly.

  • Lori

    The boycott of Arizona didn’t do much at all, and a general boycott of Florida probably won’t do anything either. The boycott of Sun City, South Africa did have some effect though, as did the refusal of some stars to play segregated venues during the Civil Rights Movement.

  • aunursa

    And if your goal is a repeal of “Stand Your Ground” laws, then you also need to boycott Alabama, Arizona, Georgia, Indiana, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, Montana, Nevada, New Hampshire, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, Texas, and Utah.

  • Lori

    Stevie Wonder at least is. He has said that he will no longer perform in any state with a SYG law. I don’t know about the rest of them.

  • http://blog.trenchcoatsoft.com Ross

    The news I heard this morning claimed that was a hoax. At least one of the artists reported to have signed on is scheduled to play a concert in miami this week and hasn’t announced otherwise.

  • Lori

    Obviously I don’t know anything for sure, but the fact that someone is doing a concert this week doesn’t prove that they aren’t planning to boycott Florida in the future. Any show this week would involve contracts signed months ago and the artist can’t just cancel because s/he no longer want to play in Florida. The issue will be the scheduling of future shows.

    Sort of related, this same basic issue came up when John Scalzi announced that he would no longer attend cons that don’t have clear anti-harassment policies and enforcement mechanisms for those polices. Other people co-signed his pledge. The issue was raised about what to do about cons that a co-signer had already agreed to attend. There weren’t even the same kinds of contractual issues in play and Scalzi’s position was still that people should do what they felt was right, but personally he’d fulfill existing commitments but would not make future commitments to cons that don’t meet his standards.

  • http://blog.trenchcoatsoft.com Ross

    Yeah. It startled me the blowback he got over that. But then it always startles me that there are so many people with nothing better to do than to freak out and abuse John Scalzi whenever he attempts to be a decent human being.

  • Lori

    The only good thing that can be said about the crap Scalzi gets is that it’s a public service of a sort, clearly identifying shitty people that decent folks should avoid. It is truly a shame there are so many of them though.

  • Carstonio

    Strange that you’re not sharing an opinion about the Stand Your Ground laws themselves, but simply ridiculing the opponents who favor boycotts. Even if the boycotts are ineffective as anything more that protest, why should you care?

    Personally I see such laws as one half racism and one half John
    Wayne macho mythology.

  • http://apocalypsereview.wordpress.com/ Invisible Neutrino

    That’s okay, he just didn’t have an opinion poll for it ready at hand yet.

  • aunursa

    Alas, no survey for this issue. But if you like, I would be happy to share the latest ABC national poll showing the percentage of women who support some restrictions on late-term abortions. ;-)

  • aunursa

    No, I’m not ridiculing opponents of Stand Your Ground laws. I’m noting that politically- and ideologically-based boycotts are largely ineffective.

    I don’t have a personal opinion of Stand Your Ground laws.

    Even if the boycotts are ineffective as anything more that protest, why should you care?

    In general I have a dim view of politically-based boycotts, regardless of the issue. Other than that, no, I don’t care.

  • Carstonio

    I meant that you seemed to be ridiculing boycotters, not all opponents.

    “Dim view” suggests that you do care.

    I would agree that boycotts are ineffective at causing change by themselves. They’re really about personal conscience and public protest.

  • aunursa

    If I were ridiculing, then I would also be ridiculing Evangelicals who boycotted Disney and and conservatives who boycotted 7-Eleven.

    If boycott promoters stated up front that they are ineffective, I would agree with you. But most boycotts begin with a stated goal to effect a change in policy or punish the offender.


    “We feel after nine years of boycotting Disney we have made our point.”

    And what was your point … that your boycott failed?

  • Carstonio

    Any change in policy would be an indirect effect of the boycott, not a direct effect. That’s because a boycott would have to be very large indeed to directly impact the company’s bottom line, particularly one as large as Disney. The indirect effect would be bad publicity for the company, or other companies backing out of deals like with Paula Deen. The evangelical boycott of Disney failed partly because the general public rejected the group’s moral argument.

  • stardreamer42

    The evangelical boycott of Disney failed partly because the general public rejected the group’s moral argument.

    That’s the key, right there. Boycotts can help a movement, but not if they’re pushing back against the tide of history. Which type this will be is yet to be seen.

  • aunursa

    A change in policy is often the stated goal of a boycott. Most boycotts aren’t called in order to cripple a company financially, but to get it to change a policy. If the company does change the policy because of a boycott or even the mere threat of a boycott, I would consider that to be a direct effect.

  • http://accidental-historian.typepad.com/ Geds

    “The Ugliest Churches in the World”

    I’m not gonna lie. The airplane church at the end is kinda awesome.

  • John

    The curator of that “ugly church” collection evidently has a dislike of creative architecture.

    And the first one wasn’t so much the building as the rather ugly sculpture in front of it.

  • The_L1985

    True, but some of them are just plain bad design ideas.

    Frankly, I think more of them should have been interior shots, as that’s where people have an unfortunate tendency to be creative in unintentionally-ugly ways. My favorite examples are “Eggbeater Jesus” (a rather odd mosaic on a church in the Huntsville area, dating from the 70’s or so) and “Ninja Jesus” (St. Mark’s in Cooper City, FL has a crucifix-minus-the-cross above the altar–Jesus looks like he’s jumping down to attack from above instead of dying on an invisible cross).

  • Lori

    Ninja Jesus” (St. Mark’s in Cooper City, FL has a
    crucifix-minus-the-cross above the altar–Jesus looks like he’s jumping
    down to attack from above instead of dying on an invisible cross).

    Maybe that’s intentional and it’s supposed to be Turbo Jesus, instead of crucifixion Jesus.

  • The_L1985

    No, because I’ve seen tons of crucifixes in my day, and this Jesus was clearly in the being-crucified pose. It’s just not an effective image without the cross behind it.

    The same church also has stained-glass windows all the way around, with images of flames on them, and false “braziers” under each window. It looks like there’s incense burning inside them. I thought that was a nice touch.

  • SisterCoyote

    The curator of that “ugly church” collection evidently has a dislike of creative architecture.

    Seriously! I’m with you and Fred on this one – a lot of those churches are actually rather pretty.

  • Elizabeth Coleman

    A lot of them are Catholic, which doesn’t surprise me. In the past century or so, Catholicism has been big on this variety of harsh, expressionistic art that I despised as a child, but I now appreciate. It seems a little more real and emotional than the sappy shiny crap a lot of people put out. (Not to say Catholicism doesn’t have its share of sappy stuff. At my aunt’s convent, there is a painting of a golden-haired, rosy-cheeked young Jesus tenderly holding a dove whose neck it looks like he’s about to snap.)

  • zmayhem

    I really, really don’t understand what’s up with the judgment on the mosque in particular… I looked at the exterior and interior photos for a solid five minutes and couldn’t find anything about them that wasn’t deeply, eyeball-nourishingly gorgeous.

    Also, sigh. I knew my local cathedral (a.k.a. Our Lady Of the Spin Cycle, as when you drive all the way around it it looks *exactly* like a washing machine agitator) would be on the list. The thing is, once you go inside it’s quite beautiful. The agitator is a giant cross, and what looks from the outside like big black stripes is actually four ground-to-sky panels of stained glass. The very modern architecture is balanced by plain homely pews of polished but unadorned blond wood, and the few bits of art inside are all designed to draw your eye up and up and up. It’s filled with light, and it feels like a place where something startling and wonderful either has just happened or is just about to happen.

    I wish we could see more interior shots — I wouldn’t be surprised to see that many of the experimental-ugly-on-the-outside ones are, well, bigger on the inside.

  • P J Evans

    Some of them aren’t new, either: I recognize two built in the 60s, and one of them is a design be Le Corbusier that appears in just about every art-history class.

    The cathedral in Los Angeles has been described locally as the box that a cathedral comes in. It’s supposed to be impressive inside.

  • aunursa

    Regarding Joseph: If you’re going to blame someone, blame God. According to my Chumash…

    All the countries affected by the famine trooped to Egypt to buy food, with the result that Pharoah’s treasury amassed huge amounts of gold and silver. This was God’s way of preparing the way for the fulfillment of the prophecy to Abraham that his offspring would leave the land of their enslavement with enormous wealth. (Zohar)

    And I can’t find anything in the Bible to indicate that God disapproved of Joseph’s actions.

  • http://anonsam.wordpress.com/ AnonymousSam

    History, victor, etc. Kind of like how Jacob was a murderous rapist thief who was loved by God and his loving and forgiving brother was always hated.

  • Rakka

    *twitch* PharAOh. It’s basic spelling, not rocket surgery.

  • ReverendRef

    Re: #5 — I’ve been saying the same thing. Last week’s sermon was about paying attention to content, context and connections, and being Bible-focused over verse-focused.

    As it so happens, the prelude to Sodom & Gomorrah (Abraham challenging God down to 10 righteous men from 50) is the first reading this coming Sunday. I am working on the sermon today and tomorrow.

  • christopher_y

    “The World’s Ugliest Churches” chiefly demonstrates that the Roman Catholics have embraced modernist architecture more successfully than most other denominations. Some of them are great, some of them less so. I also like the Baptist one in Detroit and the Mosque in Istanbul.

    A lot of them are clearly buildings erected as something else which have been repurposed. And why not? There’s a church down the road from me which has been converted into sheltered flats for elderly people. Does that make it the world’s ugliest block of flats?

  • Cathy W

    What I’m finding from looking through that is that brutalist architecture (stacked concrete blocks) doesn’t do a lot for me, but a lot of other modern styles are at least interesting, even if the featured buildings don’t scream “I Am A Church”.

  • Vang

    Yeah, at first I had some that I agreed with, some that I thought were clever, but all in all they were interesting bits of creativity. Then once it got to the point where he was picking on what seemed to be abandoned storefronts, I just got kicked out of it. Seriously, you’re going to complain that a church in what looks like a somewhat run-down area is using an old storefront as their building? Uh, no.

    It’s one thing to do a list of ugly churches for churches that seemed to have plenty of money for the design and construction, but picking on people who look like they’re doing what they can with what they have left a bit of a sour taste.

  • P J Evans

    The old cathedral in Los Angeles got repurposed, without changing any more than necessary (mostly seismic retrofits).

  • ReverendRef

    Re: Ugly Churches.

    I’ve actually been to Christ the King cathedral


    I attended the ordination of a seminary friend there. Driving up to it, it seemed to arise out of nowhere and I felt like I was entering a Monty Python movie. It was constructed during the tenure of Bp. Bennison and received the not-so-lovable nickname of “Fort Bennison.”

    I will admit, though, that the inside was kind of cool. They had a huge skylight in the center of the building positioned directly over the altar which made for some impressive lighting. Everything was also made of concrete. That was odd ….

    Oh yeah …. a sermon …. right.

  • danallison

    Wonder hasn’t been in Florida in 20 years anyway (or had a hit in 30) — how convenient

  • Lori

    Are you trying to be a jerk or are you simply unaware of Wonder’s history with the Civil Rights Movement and with the fact that he acknowledges that this boycott is, for him, a personal stand and largely symbolic?

    Also, Jay Z has been in Florida much more recently and I think he’s had a hit or two in the last few years, as have the other people Fred mentions.

  • de_la_Nae

    Your cynicism is showing. That’s not always a bad thing, to be cynical, but it can eat you alive too if you’re not careful. I don’t know you, I don’t know your situation, I can’t judge it. Just…remember that, okay?

  • lowtechcyclist

    The WayBack Machine is a wonderful thing:


    Joseph and the Appalling Tyrannical Despot

    Since it’s in the news, I thought we might revisit a story about
    Egypt — a story from long, long ago, from the book of Genesis. It’s a
    story that I’ve long found confusing and disturbing.

    The book of Genesis, as its name suggests, is a collection of origin
    stories. It’s not a history book. Most of it isn’t even set in history,
    but in prehistory — a setting that allows for an exploration not of how the world began, but of what it means and how we are to live in it.

    Origin stories are an odd genre. They’re not usually mainly about
    their nominal topics. A story that seems to present itself as being
    about why different peoples speak different languages turns out,
    actually, to be about hubris and the human condition. A story that
    presents itself as being about where rainbows come from turns out
    actually to be about consequences, responsibility and stewardship.

    If you’re unfamiliar with origin stories, or if you’re tempted to
    abuse them by reading them as histories, then it might be good to
    revisit Rudyard Kipling’s Just So Stories.
    Kipling’s adaptations and inventions of folkloric origin stories are
    excellent examples of the elliptically didactic function of such
    stories. The stories are lessons, but the lessons aren’t usually about
    the purported subjects of those stories. When Kipling wrote of “How the Camel Got His Hump,”
    he was really writing about something else. Not cause, but meaning and
    ethics. It’s not a story about adaptation or genetics, but rather a
    story that enlists the camel as a symbol to remind readers/listeners
    about fairness and responsibility.

    Much of Genesis works the same way. The story of Noah, for instance,
    isn’t a clumsy guess about the origin of rainbows by some neolithic
    ignoramus who didn’t understand about refracted light. It is, rather, a
    didactic story that enlists the rainbow as a memorable symbol to
    reinforce its lesson. Whenever you see a rainbow, the story says, remember this.

    After the collection of very short, very abstract stories in its
    first 11 chapters, Genesis shifts tone a bit with the introduction of
    Abram. Here the stories become a bit more grounded in history than in
    prehistory, but they are still Genesis stories — origin stories.

    To me, the oddest of all of these Genesis stories — and that’s
    saying quite a bit — is the one involving the 11th of Abraham’s
    [great-]grandsons, Joseph. This is a famous story, well-known from
    children’s books and even Broadway, but get past the familiarity and
    you’ll find something strange and disturbing. If this were a Just So
    story, it might be titled something like “How Egypt Got Its Tyrant.” The
    story of Joseph is, in part, the origin story of Pharaoh as absolute
    ruler and oppressor.

    I think probably that Pharaoh in this story is serving as a symbol —
    playing the role of Kipling’s camel or of the legless serpent, the
    rainbow or languages in earlier stories from Genesis. It is often the
    case in origin stories that the purported explanation suggests that
    things aren’t the way they ought to be. Genesis’ Just So story of “How
    the Serpent Lost Its Legs” underscores its lesson by suggesting that
    snakes weren’t really supposed to be slithering about. That the
    world isn’t the way it’s supposed to be is, of course, central to the
    lesson of that story — and whenever you see a snake, remember this. The
    same goes for the “Babel” of languages in that later story and it’s
    probably also true of this story of how Pharaoh came to be the absolute
    leader of an enslaved people. Pharaoh’s tyranny here is just a given, an
    unfortunate reality that can serve as a memorable symbol for the
    lessons of this didactic story about providence in time of need.

    That makes this story a bit less disturbing, but it’s still pretty awful. Here is the part of this story I mean, from Genesis 47,
    describing how Pharaoh — with Joseph’s vital help — exploits a
    massive famine to turn his people into landless serfs and debt-slaves:

    Now there was no food in all the land,
    for the famine was very severe. The land of Egypt and the land of Canaan
    languished because of the famine. Joseph collected all the money to be
    found in the land of Egypt and in the land of Canaan, in exchange for
    the grain that they bought; and Joseph brought the money into Pharaoh’s
    house. When the money from the land of Egypt and from the land of Canaan
    was spent, all the Egyptians came to Joseph, and said, “Give us food!
    Why should we die before your eyes? For our money is gone.” And Joseph
    answered, “Give me your livestock, and I will give you food in exchange
    for your livestock, if your money is gone.” So they brought their
    livestock to Joseph; and Joseph gave them food in exchange for the
    horses, the flocks, the herds, and the donkeys. That year he supplied
    them with food in exchange for all their livestock. When that year was
    ended, they came to him the following year, and said to him, “We cannot
    hide from my lord that our money is all spent; and the herds of cattle
    are my lord’s. There is nothing left in the sight of my lord but our
    bodies and our lands. Shall we die before your eyes, both we and our
    land? Buy us and our land in exchange for food. We with our land will
    become slaves to Pharaoh; just give us seed, so that we may live and not
    die, and that the land may not become desolate.”

    So Joseph bought all the land of Egypt
    for Pharaoh. All the Egyptians sold their fields, because the famine was
    severe upon them; and the land became Pharaoh’s. As for the people, he
    made slaves of them from one end of Egypt to the other. … So Joseph made
    it a statute concerning the land of Egypt, and it stands to this day.

    That’s a reprehensible tale of exploitation, oppression and
    enslavement. It betrays that “something in the soul that cries out for
    freedom” we were just discussing recently.

    Perhaps it’s not surprising that a modern, Western reader would
    recoil from Joseph’s behavior in this story, but it isn’t simply my
    21st-century, democratic sensibility that is put off by this. The
    authors and compilers of the rest of the Pentateuch also share my
    discomfort with this story. Joseph and Pharaoh, the story says,
    conspired to amass wealth and consolidate power by preying on the
    hungry. That behavior is condemned and forbidden by each of the other
    four books of Moses — a prohibition that is frequently grounded in the
    reminder that “you were once slaves in Egypt.”

    The book of Exodus, in particular, isn’t satisfied with the ending of
    Joseph’s Just So story. It begins with a different tyrant on Egypt’s
    throne, but Pharaoh is still Pharaoh, and Exodus wastes little time
    going after him with fury and ferocity. One plague is deemed
    insufficient for this oppressor — he gets hit with 10, and then, for
    good measure, he and his army are swallowed by the sea.

    More recently, John Calvin also found this Just So story of Joseph
    and Pharaoh difficult and distressing. Calvin thought this story was
    something to be contended with. His commentary on Genesis 47
    flails about when it gets to this story, trying on various arguments to
    “defend Joseph” from what appears to be “the height of cruel and
    inexplicable avarice” and a “miserable spectacle” in which Joseph
    “abused their penury.”

    Ultimately, not wholly satisfied with any of these defenses or even
    with their cumulative effect, Calvin settles on simply warning his
    readers not to follow Joseph’s example:

    Let those who are too intent on wealth
    beware lest they should falsely employ Joseph’s example as a pretext:
    because it is certain that all contracts which are not formed according
    to the rule of charity are vicious in the sight of God; and that we
    ought, according to that equity which is inwardly dictated to us by a
    secret instinct of nature, so to act towards others as we wish to be
    dealt with ourselves.

    The Golden Rule, Calvin says, must be our guide. It must be the lens
    through which we view everything else, the rule by which we evaluate
    everything else because, as Jesus said, “this is the law and the

    That approach, broadly, is the same one taken by Rabbi Rachel Kahn-Troster,
    who wrote about this story of Joseph and Pharaoh for the American
    Jewish World Service. I’ve browsed through a dozen or so articles and
    commentaries on this story and Rabbi Kahn-Troster’s is the one I found
    most helpful. She discusses the moral implications of Joseph’s behavior,
    quoting Leon Kass:

    Israel is … cursed by Joseph’s policies. …
    Joseph’s consolidation of Pharaoh’s power will result in the practice
    of wholesale slavery. Thanks to Joseph’s agrarian policies, Egypt is
    transformed into a nation of slaves and Pharaoh becomes Egypt’s absolute

    But “despite our own moral indignation” at this story, Kahn-Troster
    says, “the Torah does not condemn Joseph for his actions.” At least not
    within this story itself. Those same actions are certainly condemned
    elsewhere in the Torah, however, and Kahn-Troster does not hesitate to
    apply those condemnations to Joseph. The long-term impact of his
    actions, she notes, “extends a system of indebtedness and servitude to
    future generations” and thus “Joseph’s moral choices leave a lot to be

    Kahn-Troster goes on to discuss the systems of indebtedness and
    servitude that plague our world still, and to discuss our individual and
    corporate responsibility to oppose them. If I were assigned the task of
    preaching on this text from Genesis 47, I think I would take
    Kahn-Troster’s article as my model.

    In responding to this troublesome story, both the rabbi and the
    reformer provide examples of how to approach conflicts in scripture. I
    grew up in an American evangelical tradition that isn’t well-equipped to
    deal with such conflicts because our primary means of dealing with them
    was not to. We’d simply pretend no such conflicts existed in the text.
    We’d pretend that this diverse, messy anthology of stories, songs,
    sermons and screeds nowhere contained opposing points of view. One
    effect of such denial was that we wound up with whole territories of
    scripture we avoided so as to minimize our exposure to the undeniable
    conflicts that exist in the Bible.

    But the larger, more pernicious effect was that we denied ourselves
    the resource employed above by Calvin and Kahn-Troster — we rendered
    ourselves unable to evaluate the conflicting voices, unable to know
    which side of the arguments to side with. Should we celebrate Pharaoh’s
    consolidation of power and his enslavement of the people? Or should we
    celebrate his overthrow and their liberation?

    Because we were pretending that there could never be any need for any
    overarching rule we tried to get by without one — reading our Bibles
    without the focusing lens of the “rule of charity” Calvin cited, without
    the governing principle of the Golden Rule.
    That’s a haphazard and hazardous approach. Take that approach to the
    Bible and you’re likely to wind up using it to support systems of
    indebtedness and servitude, abusing the scriptures to justify your
    position at the right hand of Pharaoh.

  • SamEtic

    Fred, I found it copied in full on a Google+ post through a Google search as well.

  • Ville Vicious


    The Temppeliaukio Church was the center of some contravercy when it was built in the late 60s. The young radicals from the Cristian Students Union at Helsinki University questioned spending the money on the church when there was famine in Biarfa.

    Also while many churches give the Tapiola Church (called anti-devil bunker by the locals) a run for it’s money in sheer ugliness. http://is12.snstatic.fi/kuvat/tapiolankirkko/img-1288355736946.jpg

  • SisterCoyote

    It is indeed a shame your Joseph and the Tyrannical Despot post was lost, Fred – that’s one of the ones that I remember more vividly. There’s nothing quite like hearing a Biblical passage for the nth time with a completely new and astounding meaning coming clear.

    Ye gods, it would be nice to see Goldman Sachs – or any of the Too Big To Jail firms – get a little more than an inconvenience as penalty, one of these days. Where is this world’s Arkady Bogdanov, John Boone, Hiroko Ai? All we seem to have is Phyllis Schafly Boyle.

    (Also. Unrelated, but after spending a week resigning myself to being homeless for the interval to the fall quarter, and/or hitchhiking a few hundred miles to the nearest family member, someone at the school’s registrar (and then housing) office was finally able to help me get the paperwork in order to get an extension on the housing contract. I do not know that I have ever been so relieved and grateful. I have been trying to be less whiny about circumstances, and it’s actually really awesome to have something to be un-whiny about.)

  • Lori

    I’m so glad that you were able to work out the housing situation. Good on the person who helped you.

  • SisterCoyote

    Thank you. I honestly did not think they were going to be able to help me at all – but he pretty much enrolled me in enough credits to qualify for housing, handed me the slip, and went “At least now you’ll have a place to live for the summer; you can rewrite this with your adviser in the fall.” Which is passing-out levels of thank-you-so-much. Awesome people are awesome.

  • MarkTemporis

    I’m hoping HI can pick up Florida’s tourist business; not only won’t you be shot by random citizens, even our crooks don’t usually shoot you! Look at what Dog gets away with dealing with some of our so-called violent offenders!

  • David_Evans

    On #6, I agree that many of those churches are beautiful. Most of them are at least eye-catching. The Metropolitan Cathedral of Christ the King in Liverpool doesn’t look great from the outside, but the interior is awesome.

    On #3, your link says “Terrorism against Muslims by people of European Christian heritage is almost never called ‘terrorism’ in the press”. Every report I have seen in the UK media has called it terrorism. Even in the Daily Mail, which can normally be relied on for white chauvinism.

  • http://algol.wordpress.com/ SororAyin

    “Now Lumosity promises you can finally get smarter without going to the library.”

    No, Fred. It’s not quite that simple. Going to the library won’t help with the kinds of learning Lumosity claims they can help you with. See, there’s two kinds of intelligence at work: fluid and crystalline. Crystalline intelligence can be improved with study and experience. Going to the library would be effective. But, Lumosity claims to be able to help with attention span, puzzle solving, adapting to new situations, etc. That sort of thing is fluid intelligence.

    Now, here’s where things get really ambiguous. While people obviously can improve crystalline intelligence, psychologists long doubted that any amount of learning or training or what have you could improve fluid intelligence. For example, nobody can be taught to have a longer attention span than they already possess. Then, a study was published (Jaeggi and Buschkuehl 2008) that changed everything. The participants seemed to improve in reasoning skills after a certain amount of training sessions. This was all pretty exciting.

    Here’s the problem. Jaeggi and Buschkuehl only did the one study. As I understand it, there was recently an attempt to duplicate Jaeggi and Buschkuehl’s results. It was unsuccessful. But again, that’s only one study.

    So basically, Lumosity may be total bunk. Or not. More research is needed.

  • banancat

    I’m pretty sure that my degree in engineering vastly increased my problem-solving skills. I guess it’s possible that I had some latent talent that the education just brought to the surface, but in any case I don’t think I would be as good at it without the education. Sure, Luminosity is no replacement for a 4-year degree, but I think there are aspects of intelligence that are improvable beyond just obtaining knowledge.

  • Bob Gifford

    Fred, you’re missing the boat on Lumosity and its competitor, Posit Science. My wife is suffering from cognitive impairment as she ages. It’s unclear what the cause is, but all the clinical evidence, according to her psychiatrist, seems to indicate that mental “exercise”, if you will, slows or reverses cognitive decline, depending on the cause. We’re not talking about education or intelligence, but short-term memory and the ability to grasp and think through day-to-day challenges. It seems to be helping my wife (although that’s anecdotal, so not meaningful clinically I realize).

    Your analogy is wrong. Lumosity or Posit Science (the one my wife uses) is exactly like going to the gym. I’ve seen the exercises they put you through. They’re *hard*. They’re *work*. There’s no free lunch. It shouldn’t be hard to believe that using your cognitive abilities improves your cognitive abilities.

    Maybe you can learn more about the science at the library? ;-)

  • Bethany Kok

    “More research is needed.” Actually, Lumosity is based on a great deal of interesting cognitive psychological research, and they collaborate with scientists to assess the effectiveness of their activities (which is to say, the scientists said “hey, free data to test our hypotheses, awesome!”). Here is a list of studies based on Lumosity data: http://hcp.lumosity.com/research/completed

    As a research psychologist myself, and someone who has dabbled in Lumosity, I can say that a lot of the activities they use are much-prettier-but-functionally-identical-versions of tasks that have been shown in studies unrelated to Lumosity to slow or stop cognitive decline due to aging, for example. (“use it or lose it” principle, basically)

    And as Bob Gifford mentions, those activities are hard work.

  • http://algol.wordpress.com/ SororAyin

    Hmm. See, I’m not a research psychologist; I’m only someone who has an undergrad degree in this. It’s entirely possible that I allowed the dim view some of my old professors had to Lumosity to unduly influence my own opinion. I’ll have to give Lumosity another chance.

    Thanks for pointing out that there’s more the Lumosity’s research than only Jaeggi and Buschkuehl (2008). I didn’t know that.

  • LL

    I hope the boycott works. I don’t even want to see any of those people in concert, but it would be nice to see them effectively use their influence to do something besides inspire consumerism.

    They all know Miami is in Florida, right? Just checking…

  • scarlet

    5. See, I’ve tried that route, but the rebuttal is always that the bit about doing “abominable things before me” is clearly code for GAY GAY GAY.

  • http://tinygrainofrice.wordpress.com/ Kristycat

    #2: Umm… when pushing for a boycott of Florida, please do keep in mind that some of us have to live here. And as much as we complain about tourists, the vast bulk of our economy comes from tourism. If people stop coming to Disney, for instance, several of my friends become unemployed.

    I’m pushing for an end to Stand Your Ground as much as anyone, but I’m giving the hairy eyeball to anyone who’s pushing for it in a way that’s going to primarily hurt the people on the ground. Governor Skeletor may feel the heat if tourism starts losing profits, but he’s not going to worry about feeding his kids if it happens. Me and mine will.