Jeff Jacoby

Musings, random and otherwise

By Jeff Jacoby
December 27, 2009

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JEWISH SONGWRITERS have created some of the most enduringly popular songs of the season - Irving Berlin’s “White Christmas,’’ of course, but also “The Christmas Song,’’ “Silver Bells,’’ and “I’ll Be Home For Christmas,’’ among others. Some people might view that as a heartening, only-in-America expression of interfaith good will and warmth. But not Garrison Keillor:

“All those lousy holiday songs by Jewish guys that trash up the malls every year, Rudolph and the chestnuts and the rest of that dreck,’’ he fumed in a recent column for the Baltimore Sun. “Christmas is a Christian holiday - if you’re not in the club, then buzz off.’’ His piece bore the sour headline: “Nonbelievers, please leave Christmas alone.’’

Remember when Keillor was endearing and witty? What a shame that he’s become so cranky and intolerant. What kind of grinch thinks “White Christmas’’ is “dreck’’?

Well, here’s hoping that the music of those “Jewish guys’’ didn’t put too big a damper on Keillor’s Christmas this year. And let’s hope no one ruined it entirely by letting him know that the Jewish connection to Christmas didn’t start with Irving Berlin.

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A liberal friend, conventionally “green,’’ once asked me how a scientific issue like global warming had become a battleground in the culture war. I replied that the left had made it one by treating climate change as an imperative for sweeping ideological change. Climate alarmists insist that the earth is doomed unless we radically change the way we live by reducing freedom, limiting choices, and aggrandizing government. The struggle is not about the science of global warming, in short; it’s about the theology of global warming - a theology that commands us, in Al Gore’s formulation, to “make the rescue of the environment the central organizing principle for civilization.’’

This religious aspect of climate alarmism, which many conservatives and libertarians grasp intuitively, is not often acknowledged openly by its adherents. But now and then it is stated with unabashed directness, as with this headline in the Guardian, an influential London daily, during the Copenhagen conference: “This is bigger than climate change. It is a battle to redefine humanity.’’ Precisely.

*   *   *

Spot the hypocrisy, Round 1:

As a candidate for Massachusetts attorney general in 2006, Martha Coakley refused to debate a candidate who had no chance of winning - Cambridge attorney Larry Frisoli, the GOP’s sacrificial lamb and Coakley’s only opponent that year. But as a candidate for the US Senate in 2009, she insists on debating an opposing candidate with no chance of winning - Libertarian Joseph Kennedy, a State Street Corp. vice president.

Said Coakley in 2006 - when a debate with Frisoli might have cost her some votes - “I’m not going to waste my time’’ debating a little-known candidate. Yet Coakley says now - when increased visibility for Kennedy could siphon support not from her, but from the GOP candidate, Scott Brown - “I think it’s very important . . . that everybody on the ballot be involved in these debates.’’

Spot the hypocrisy, Round 2:

In her campaign to win the Democratic Senate primary, Coakley was adamant: She would absolutely vote against any health care bill that restricted abortion coverage. “It’s personal with me,’’ she said in one debate. A matter of being “principled,’’ she asserted in another. She even called her refusal to budge on the issue “a defining moment’’ in the campaign. Yet with the primary over and her prochoice base locked up, Coakley’s line in the sand has suddenly vanished. Now, she says, she supports the bill she had promised to oppose.

Bay State voters are on notice: When Martha Coakley says something, she means it. Until she doesn’t.

*   *   *

The first decade of the first century ran from Year 1 through Year 10. The first decade of the 21st century, therefore, consists of the years 2001 through 2010, no matter how many “Decade in Review’’ essays, roundups, recaps, and slideshows you’re being bombarded with as 2009 comes to an end.

All this premature enumeration reminds me of a lapel button the late David Brudnoy took to wearing in the last weeks of 1999, amid the countdown to Y2K and the “end’’ of the 20th century. “The century will end on December 31, 2000,’’ it read. “Please be patient.’’

Jeff Jacoby can be reached at

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