Thursday, January 31, 2008

What the Hell?

[Warning: racy language follows.]

You know, every once in a while I like to play Devil's Advocate. Sometimes this extends to positions I don't actually hold, like Jewish anti-circumcision activists.

But I have to say, even I have my limits. It's one thing to defend your personal choice to not circumcise your kid (and to ask people to stop throwing proverbial tomatoes at you). It's another to say something as positively boneheaded as, well, this from some weirdo named Erica Jong:

Ever wonder why Jewish boys are so fucked up about sex? Ever wonder why they fall for mile-high models from Slovenia who wear those big cold crosses? Ever wonder why they like Chinese girls, Chinese-American girls, Blonde shiksa cheerleaders from Kansas? Or those cool black models who dance like Beyonce?

It's because of the Covenant with Jahwah or G-d: I take this piece of your pecker, with your mother, father, grandfathers and grandmothers looking on, teary eyed. And you think of nothing but your pecker for the rest of your life!

First of all, lady, nobody calls it a "pecker" these days. Second of all, what burrowed up your butt and died? Third, what business is it who Jewish men choose to date, shtup, or, heaven forbid, marry? Maybe they're running away from Jewish women because they've only had the misfortune to encounter psychos like you.

You think female circumcision is bad? (It's hideous, health destroying and horrible -- and inflicted on women by other women). But at least women have other things to think about than their pussies -- like children, like politics, like writing. At least women don't focus nonstop on their vaginas... Men think about their pricks for the rest of their lives. Don't get me wrong, they think about them whether or not they're circumcised. But circumcision bumps it up to a whole other level.

Lady, get this through your head: YOU'RE CRAZY.

OK. Call me an anti-Semite. (I'm secretly a pro-Semite).

No, you're a malebasher and a racist. Is that better?

But how can you ever forget the pain, the fear, the confusion of being eight days old and having your pecker snipped? They don't remember, say the altacockers. They don't feel it, say the bubbies. We did it in the hospital, say the parents. He didn't feel a thing, says the mother (who was in the other room crying her eyes out).

Lady, I'm telling you, I was circumcised at THREE (for medical reasons, it couldn't be done in infancy) and I don't remember a damn thing. Ask most Jewish men and I'm sure they'll give you similar answers. There are legitimate reasons to have issues with circumcision, but the "it will psychologically scar you" argument makes about as much sense as saying that infants will be "scarred" by being born in a hospital and handled by a bunch of creepy looking weirdos in masks rather than popping out in "natural" structure like a hogan and being lovingly nurtured by midwives. The baby might care in the immediate short-term, and the parents probably have an opinion, but it's not going to haunt the kids down the line.

This woman continues on for another six rambling paragraphs, which include rants about Jesus and Kali, verbal slides of her summer vacation, and an apocalyptic future scenario in which her grandson is beaten up by skinheads for peeing in front of them. Since I feel nice (and nauseous), I'll spare you.

Hat-tip toJill at Feministe, who has some excellent observations of her own, such as,

They [Jewish men] fuck over-sexed black women but marry submissive Asian ones – congratulations, Erica, for racializing the virgin-whore dichotomy.

Plus, you know, Jewish women aren’t all sitting around waiting for Jewish men to get over their circumcisions and marry them.


you are out of your damn mind if you think that male circumcision is anything like most forms of female circumcision. The majority of female circumcisions involve removing part or all of the clitoris, which is simply not analogous to the removal of foreskin; a more appropriate comparison would be between removing the clitoris and snipping off the head of your dick. Female circumcision isn’t less bad because women don’t think about their vulvas (trust me, we do – and were you to suggest removing a part of mine, I’d be pretty damned opposed to it, despite my interests in children, writing and politics). It’s perfectly possible to question the cultural practice of male circumcision without playing the “what’s-worse” game with female circumcision.

Maybe Jews and Women can band together and go hunt down this crazy nut. Angry Guardians of the Internet, unite!

Someone explain this to me

Ok, my feelings on Aish's latest monstrosity can best be summed up here, but this seems particularly awful, even for something whose taste is already questionable by its very name- "Jewlarious."

Please, someone explain to me exactly what is funny about envisioning the first Jew elected President being a stereotypical Hasid? Odd, maybe. Fanciful, probably. An interesting thought experiment, sure. But FUNNY?

What about a Jewish President? Or better yet, an Orthodox Jewish President? Just what would our Nation look like...

Imagine with me that it's our year 5777 and the media is schlepping out to the White House lawn to see the inauguration of our first Chassidic President Elect Eli Gellerstein.

Because we all know that "Orthodox" equals being Hasidic. Just ask Yossele Lieberman.

A Torah is used for the swearing in ceremony; klezmer music and cantorial oratorio rather than the traditional gospel hymnals provide the soundscape of reverence and inspiration for this radically different induction. It's a cold winter in Washington D.C. so the fashion trend-setting new Prez is wearing his fur hat, or streimel, while he employs his peyos as make shift ear muffs. Such a fun-loving character, is our Eli.

Let's hope his English is also decent, is our Eli's. We've got enough tsuris from the goyim as it is. And why would you use a Torah and not a Tanakh? And why kezmer? How is that the Jewish equivalent of gospel hymnals (which, incidentally, I never noticed as being part of the inauguration).

Standing beside him is his basherte Shoshana, and not since Jackie Kennedy has there been a First Lady with hair so put together in the Washington D.C. wind (although in fairness, Shoshana is wearing the culturally required wig).

A wig! Hysterical! Don't you get it, she's got NO HAIR! I love it. And Jackie O jokes? Clearly, Jewlarious is putting a lot of money into hiring writers and making sure they've got fresh material.
Of course, every new president tries to remake the country to suit his culture, and Prez Eli is certainly causing a lot of shake ups in his first year in office. This Commander in Chief, who spends each Shabbos in contemplative relaxation at "Camp David Ben-Gurion,"

I hate you. So much.
has returned the Day of Rest to our exhausted Nation in the nick of multi-tasking time. The outcry of big box stores and malls was shrill at first, and America's citizenry in an uproar, but now, a year later, once compulsive consumers stop shopping at sunset on Fridays and actually relax and read with their families. Our country is far better off. Juvenile crime is down 50%, grades are up 120%, and, because folks actually have to walk on foot to visit friends on Saturdays, obesity is down millions of tons.

Wait, he's forcing non-Jews to observe the Jewish Sabbath, complete with a ban on cars? With what authority? Does the ACLU know about this guy? And way to work on demystifying Hasidim, Jewlarious- a Hasid gets into office, America becomes Meah Shearim. Wonderful.
Who knew a Jew would one day create a kosher White House, and hang a mezuzah on each and every door?

Especially the bathrooms and utility closets, right?
Who knew a giant spinning dreidel and a menorah of giant torches would replace the Christmas lights on the enormous fir tree on the front lawn of the White House at the end of his first year of office?

That's a horrible mental picture. I guess he's taking his decorating cues from Chabad.
So long Santa Claus.

Great, another visible Jew for Americans to hate. Fox News must be having a field day.
There are other traditional tales to tell Eli's ten kids, two of whom - the twins Moishe and Martin, just had their bar mitzvah bash televised live on ABC, preempting Monday Night Football.

A Hasid named Martin? Now we know you're delirious.

What makes this Presidency different from all other Presidencies? Unleavened bread is being broken, and the Hagaddah read to the listening world by Alan Dershowitz, our latest mensch on the Supreme Court Bench. I am happily in attendance at the first Presidential Pesach. Jackie Mason, our first Minister of Humor, has been regaling the folks at my table. (He has already claimed the centerpiece by hiding the matza under his own place setting, then pretended to find it-Ha hah HAH!) Many well known politicos are present at this "Super Seder-" and the U.N. Secretary General just found the afikoman!

Please, God. Shoot me in the head. End my suffering.

Why, just seeing Baptists Jesse Jackson and Mike Huckabee in attendance with yarmulkes perched on their venerable heads makes my eyes mist over with good fellowship. Acceptance of differences being embraced lovingly is the order of the day. This is the style of our Chasidic Prez Eli, known as the "Catcher in the Kosher Rye" when he was young, so notable was his kindness and purity of intent.

Die, Die, Die.

Not only is this not funny, it's downright offensive. To Hasidim, to Jews everywhere, to the Internet, and of course, to whatever once was called Jewish humor.


I have an upcoming mega-post on Israel/Diaspora relations that I've been sitting on for a couple of months. In the meantime, chew on this.

Someone found the last Chinese Jews still in China. What's their first thought?

"How sad, they don't know anything about the importance of aliyah. And even if they did, they probably will never be able to get there."

AARG! Hey look, some Jews (or descendants of Jews) living somewhere, complete with their own fascinating culture(s) and history. I know, let's ship them out!

Hey, we spotted another one!

Shoshana Rebecca Li, 29, made Aliyah [immigrated to Israel] two years ago from China, and recently underwent formal conversion by Israel's Chief Rabbinate. "For me, to have a proper religious Jewish wedding in Israel, it is a dream come true. I am very excited," Li said prior to the ceremony. "I was raised knowing that I am a Jew and I made Aliyah because of our tradition."

Li's husband, Ami Emmanuel, 25, arrived in Israel two years ago from Florida after studying film and directing. “No one in the world is as happy as I am," said Emmanuel. "I thought it impossible to marry a Jewish woman from China. However, it seems miracles do happen, and this is the biggest miracle of my life.”

The newlywed couple plan to make their home on Kibbutz Ketura in Israel's Aravah region, north of Eilat... The Shavei Israel organization, which helped arrange Shoshana's Aliyah, assists "lost Jews" seeking to return to the Jewish people. "This wedding symbolizes the beginning of the return of the remnants of the Jewish community of Kaifeng, China to the Jewish people and to the State of Israel," Freund said.

What an amazing accomplishment! We found the last remnants of the Kaifeng community and brought them to Israel! Sure, it may suck for any Kaifeng Jews still in China that one of the last committed Jews (or quasi-Jews) left and is never coming back, but the important thing is that one more Kibbutz gets a new couple. Because it's not like Israel's getting any more Jews anytime soon.

More from Freund.

"150 years after the Kaifeng Jewish community essentially ceased to exist," Freund said, "a wonderful young woman descended from that community is getting married to a new immigrant from the United States under a Jewish wedding canopy in Jerusalem. I cannot think of a more poignant example of kibbutz galuyot – the Ingathering of the Exiles."

Maybe it's my own biases talking, but you know what would might be even better than bringing ONE Kaifeng Jew "back" to Israel? Sending a delegation of rabbis and Jewish educators BACK to Kaifeng, LED by committed and knowledgeable Jews like Mrs. Emmanuel.

Of course, that's entirely at cross-purposes with visions like Freund's, which seems to think that the only place Jews belong is that tiny sliver next to the Mediterranean.

I'm all for aliyah. And I'm all for giving Jews (or those of Jewish descent) from far-off areas assistance to live full Jewish lives, in Israel or anywhere else. But there's a problem in the assumption- and putting that assumption into real practice- that the Diaspora is no longer viable as a place to perpetuate Judaism.

Places like Kaifeng are tremendously important to the history of Judaism and the Jewish people. It would be a shame if the organized Jewish community let them disintegrate because they're so obsessed with "Ingathering the Exiles."

Rabbi Shafran officially runs out of ideas

I don't know what R. Avi Shafran has been up to lately, but clearly it's affecting his writing schedule. His latest contributions to Cross-Currents are stale and, frankly, plagiarized. First he had the ever-popular Returns Welcome. Now he's tossed out this ancient chestnut, Dear Sean. Various versions of this astonishingly bad attempt at a last-ditch Jewish guilt trip have been circulating the net (and print) since at least 2000. I first encountered it at this extremely patronizing waste of server space (you can tell they're gloriously unbiased by how passionately they shill for the Orthodox).

Let's get to the actual text (though I can't really do much better than Ori at Cross-Currents did). Ori actually does so well in deflating the letter that other commenters are forced to wonder out loud what R. Shafran thinks he is accomplishing by reprinting it: "I am wondering if it’s possible that Rabbi Shafran intended to show the contradictions in the father’s position?" Even the esteemed Mrs. Katz seems stumped. "Ori: The letter you wrote (#2 above) is very eloquent and very powerful. It is hard to answer it from the POV of a secular Jew who wants his children to marry Jews — they really don’t have good reasons — except that the pintele Yid speaks from their neshamos when they contemplate the thought that they may be the last Jew in their family, the last link in a chain that continued for 3000 years and then snapped with them."

All right, enough stalling:

Dear Sean,
I know this might sound strange coming from a father who’s far from a religious Jew, but now that you’re dating, there’s something I need you to understand.
The single most important decision you’ll ever make in life will not be about your education or career but about whom you’ll marry.
Because who your wife is will determine, more than anything else in your adult life, the person you become, the family you’ll raise, what you’ll leave on earth when it will be time to go.
Wait a minute, who said I was going to marry a WOMAN? You don't seem to know me very well, "Dad."

I know the end of life isn’t something you probably give much thought to. Not many of us do, at least not until we became sick or old enough to see it hovering on the horizon. But a final day does arrive, sooner or later, for each of us. And when it comes, very few of the things we thought made such a big difference will seem to matter at all anymore. And other things we never gave much thought to will suddenly be very important. We’ll want to look back at our lives and feel that, in those areas, we pretty much did the right thing.
Sean, the right thing for a Jewish person is to marry another Jew.
To the exclusion of everything else? Because I have to tell you, Dad, knowing what I do about all the skeletons in our family's closet, it seems like we have innumerable cases of Jewish men and women marrying fellow Jews and then either treating them or their children like dirt. If that's the kind of love that "the tribe" passes on, I'm not so convinced.
Not only because our religion requires it. But because when Jews “marry out,” they disrespect who they are, they are disloyal to the Jewish past and they chip away at the Jewish future.

What a wonderfully emotionally blackmailing way of putting it! It seems to me that all this would be entirely dependent on what kind of home and FUTURE LIFE they create for themselves, their spouse, and any potential children they wind up having. Furthermore, there are a myriad number of ways in which one can, in one's personal or private life, contribute to the Jewish people and Jewish world, none of which have anything to do with one's choice of spouse. That takes care of disrespecting oneself and assisting the Jewish future. As for the Jewish past, this also doesn't necessarily follow. If you are someone intimately acquainted with and involved in preserving Jewish history, for instance, choosing to marry a non-Jew does not invalidate that. On what basis do we decide that activity X is the line-crosser which determines one's loyalty or betrayal of the collective "Jewish past?" Why isn't it eating bacon or driving to synagogue? They didn't do those in the Old Country either. Besides, coming from a secular Jew, any argument from religion seems like it's going to be pretty badly handicapped from the get-go.
Whether or not our family kept strictly kosher or celebrated the Sabbath or attended services often enough is all one thing. But the thought of bringing about the end of a proud Jewish line stretching back in time for centuries is something else. It’s more than some religious transgression.
First of all, there are plenty of halachic Jews, now and in the past, who might have chosen any number of other adjectives besides "proud." Second, you seem to be defining "Jewish" in a very limited way. What about patrilineal descent? It's not like Sean's deciding to go become a Methodist.
You never asked to be a Jew, I know. You were born one. But being Jewish isn’t a burden. It’s a gift. It means you are part of something bigger, much bigger, than yourself.
And there is no reason this not-quite-definable gift cannot be passed on to a child even if only one of their parents is Jewish.

Each of us Jews represents the hopes of so many Jewish ancestors. Don’t forget, you’re not just Sean, you’re Shmuel too. And even if you only used your Jewish name when you made the blessings over the Torah at your bar-mitzvah, it is still who you really are, an inheritance from your grandfather.
So am I "really" Shmuel when do any number of other things that grandpa wouldn't have approved of? What about you, Dad? How do you justify all the things you do that YOUR namesake wouldn't have liked? How is this one issue uniquely different?

And it was the same thing to him from an ancestor of his. You can’t just ignore the meaning of something like that. It’s a responsibility. All of my ancestors and your mother’s, all those Jews who came before us, lived, and sometimes died to keep their Jewish identity and heritage going.
But the fact that I never used my Hebrew name except for my Bar Mitzvah indicates that neither you guys nor I seemed to care very much about it. Which makes it as much your failing as mine. And suggests that most of this is your own guilt talking, many years after it's too late. Thanks.

I know that love is a powerful emotion. That’s exactly why I’m writing this as you begin to date. The young women you become close to will form the pool where you’ll find the person you want to spend your life with. Don’t give yourself the opportunity to fall in love with someone you cannot, as a Jew in good conscience, marry.
This seems like it's straddling a creepy pseudo-racism line, Dad. How is this different from telling a white person, "Don't give yourself the opportunity to make friends with someone you cannot, as a proud WASP, tolerate as a friend."

And never forget that what the world calls “love” isn’t all there is to a successful and happy life. Every marriage that ended in divorce or worse, after all, started in a rush of love. For a marriage to really work, there has to be not only attraction and care but shared ideals and goals. And part of a Jewish man or woman’s goals has to be to take their Jewish identity seriously, and to instill it into their children.
What about all the Jewish Communists? Or secular Jews? You guys don't seem to have done too well. What about Jewish marriages that fail?

I don’t care whether the girl you marry is white, black or yellow. I don’t care if she speaks English, Hebrew, Yiddish or Swahili. I don’t care if she was born a Jew or became one, legally, properly, and sincerely. But if she isn’t Jewish, I know there will be tears, in your mother’s eyes and mine – and also in heaven.
So NOW you care about heaven? Where were you the day after my Bar Mitzvah? And call me skeptical, but something tells me you would still care if I found the one Swahili-speaking Jew in existence. And what's with this "legal and proper" crap? Why is Sean's Dad following Orthodox-only halacha? After all, how religious can they be if they named him "Sean?"

They say these days that most Jewish parents in America don’t care if their children marry other Jews or not. I hope it’s not true, but even if it is, we do. Remember what I’ve told you many times: Being a Jew means being ready to buck the tide, to say no to others – even a lot of others – when something important’s at stake. Sean, you’re the future of our family. I hope you’ll have the courage and the strength to do the right thing.
Thanks so much, Dad. I'm so glad the brain-chip that R. Shafran implanted in your head is working properly. Now that I'm furious at you, let's never talk about this again. Better yet, let's just not talk at all. Well, I'm off to college. Bye!

* * *
My own situation, luckily, is much simpler. I have the luck to be involved with a former Christian who, absent meeting me, probably would have been content to become a Unitarian Universalist. Ironically enough, at the moment (and there's no reason to think this will change), we are among the most knowledgeable and "religious" of anyone in my family. (My parents were simultaneously impressed and embarassed at a Bar Mitzvah quasi-recently where Shiksa Girlfriend knew more Hebrew than they did.) My and my brother also happen to be the only children in our entire extended family whose parents married fellow Jews (by accident, of course). Some of our cousins were raised Jewish (Reform), some were raised Christian (Lutheran, I think). Some identify as both depending on the time of year and which set of relatives they're visiting at the time.

The simple truth, especially these days, is that Jewish identity is complicated AND multi-faceted. You have all sorts of Jews (halachic and not) who identify themselves and their Jewishness in all sorts of ways. Are there still people like Sean's Dad? Sure. They're the kind of people who buy these books, which contain such brilliant advice as "bribe your kids- tell them you'll pay for dates with Jewish teenagers, but they have to pay to date non-Jews." They're entitled to their views. I don't agree with them, I actually feel sorry for them (though not as much as I do for their kids). But they're out there, and they're real. And that's ok.

But personally, I'm happy that I'm in a situation where I don't have to deal with hypocritical secular parents who have arbitrarily decided that the be-all and end-all of Jewish identity is if your child pops out of a womb with a Magen David on it. (related question: what about Gershom?)

Because the reality is that these days, it's really not as important (or, let's say, as vital) as some people seem to think.

New Mormon Prez Good for the Jews?

He probably won't be any worse than the last one, but I'm particularly curious about my own pet Mormon issue, baptizing dead Jews. Every few years someone catches the Mormons on this, and they always issue a mealy-mouthed apology and keep on doing it. I first discovered this several years ago while tracing a friend's family on the LDS genealogy website and found ancestors of his had been included in something called the International Genealogy Index- Mormon code for LDS Baptismal Rolls. Before I could gloat, though, I did some checking on my own family. Karma's a bitch. I had two g.grandparents and a set of g.g.aunts/uncles (apparently they found them via a marriage certificate- my g.grandfather put his brother down as a witness. Damn you, crafty Mormons!)

Particularly galling is just how duplicitous and cynical the Mormons seem to be every time this comes up. They always say it's their "right" to have proxy baptisms in which they "seal" individuals and families to the Mormon Church and then say they can't stop individual members of their Church from submitting names and don't have the resources to check them. Which just seems stupid, because a simple search in the IGI shows that some people have been baptized dozens of times. Check out any remotely famous Founding Father- say George Washington. There are 19 G.W.s with the same birthday. Another 7 have the same marriage date, and 22 have the same death date.

But let's get back to the Jewish stuff. How about the Baal Shem Tov? Presumably even someone who's spent their whole life in Utah and never met a Jew might be able to tell that someone named Israel ben Eliezer might be Jewish.

And yet...

Ok. What about the prestigious Halberstam family?


But so what, some might say. Who cares about Hasidim anyway? Good point. Here's a Litvisher family some of you may have heard of.


They've got the Gerrers too. As well as Rashi (3 times), Rabbenu Tam, the Maharshal (5 times), the Maharal (3 times), R. Joshua Falk, and plenty of others. Menachem Begin's family (his father 5 times, his brother 2 times), and so on.

If the Mormons really cared about this, they would re-vamp their entire system and run names through a database to avoid: A- baptizing the same person more than once (or, say, 20) times, or B- baptizing people on a "do not touch" list. Seriously, it's ridiculous how many historical figures they've got here. Lief Ericson, Gandhi, Al Capone, Genghis Khan, Shakespeare, various Kennedys, a good half-dozen Popes, MLK, Thomas Paine, Roger Williams, William Penn, Jean-Paul Sartre, etc. Apparently some members of the Catholic and Armenian Orthodox Churches are starting to get annoyed as well.

The exasperating thing is that the LDS Church's usual response is to either dismiss the problem as "water under the bridge" (to whom?) or simply delete the most famous Jews in their system- you won't find Albert Einstein or Sigmund Freud, for instance, but you'll find their entire extended families several times over. And in the meantime, the Church leadership continues to pretend like they give a damn about Jewish concerns while not bothering to explain the issue to their flock (who are at least honest about the fact that they don't understand or care about our issues), and perpetuating a pretty mixed message about honesty and principles. If the LDS Church isn't going to stop doing this, I'd rather they just told us all to shove it. But don't act like you really care and are going to do something and then keep on doing the same thing. We don't like being lied to anymore than we like our dead being desecrated.

I guess we're just funny that way.

P.S. Check out the Church's take on the whole thing here. Given how oblivious they seem to be about how many other Jews (including Holocaust victims like the Begins) are still in the IGI, I think we can safely guess not too much is going to change anytime soon.


New post up at Too Cool for Shul. Go enjoy.

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Another view of Mehadrin buses

Apparently some people seem to like them in Mexico:

Groping and verbal harassment is an exasperating reality for women using public transportation in this sprawling capital, where 22 million passengers cram onto subways and buses each day. Some men treat women so badly that the subway system has long had ladies-only cars during rush hour, with police segregating the sexes on the platforms.

But that hasn't helped women forced to rely on packed buses, by far the city's most-used form of public transportation — until this week.

Acting on complaints from women's groups, the city rolled out "ladies only" buses, complete with pink signs in the windshields to wave off the men.

As word spreads about the buses, the women seem delighted, while some men forced to wait a few minutes longer have shown their anger. Still others have stumbled on board despite the signs, much to their embarrassment.

On Thursday, passengers on one of the female-only buses spent most of their trip down the capital's tree-lined Reforma Avenue chatting or putting on makeup, instead of fighting off unwanted male attention.

When a man mistakenly climbed aboard, the women immediately began teasing him and shouting that he should read the "ladies only" sign.

"He's a gentleman! He should get off," shouted Yolanda Altamirano, a 64-year-old office janitor.

The man blushed and mumbled an apology, then ignored the taunts until he got off several stops later.

"Now he knows how women feel," Altamirano said, unapologetic for giving him a hard time.

Mexico City's female-only buses run along three busy routes throughout the day for now, but the city plans to add them to 15 other routes by April, said Ariadna Montiel, who directs the public bus system.

"Women were asking for this service because of the sexual harassment, especially groping and leering," Montiel said.

And while some men have complained that they have to wait longer for a bus, she said the women are thrilled: "The women are really happy and we have been getting a lot of e-mail and letters from them."

Juliana Romero, a 49-year-old secretary, said not riding with men is "fantastic."

"When the bus is packed, there will inevitably be a lecherous man who will bother you," she said.

Women-only buses or subways have been rolling for years in India, Brazil, Japan and other countries. Mexico City finally took the action as part of a growing responsiveness to complaints about discrimination against women, Montiel said.

While only seven female public bus users complained last year, she said the real number of offenses was probably much higher, because women rarely protest openly against sexual harassment.

Hmm. The folks over at Feministing aren't convinced.

While sex-segregated train cars aren't new to Mexico City, the most widely-used form of transportation, buses, are now including women-only vehicles. (And like Brazil, has pink included on the new "ladies only" buses.) While it seems that women in Mexico City are pretty happy about this change, we go back to the question - is it protection or segregation?

I have to say, why not a little hat-tip to the Haredim in Israel? Tsk-tsk. A little attribution wouldn't hurt. Lame, Mexico

They're Just Like Us!

Because too much Jewish navel-gazing can turn you into a Woody Allen stereotype:

Young Sikh Men Get Haircuts, Annoying Their Elders

Like many young Sikhs, he found the turban a bother. It got in the way when he took judo classes. Washing his long hair was time-consuming, as was the morning ritual of winding seven yards of cloth around his head. It was hot and uncomfortable.

“In the end,” he said, “it was a question of fashion. I felt smarter without it.”

Sikh spiritual leaders express dismay at the rapidity with which a new generation of young men are trimming their hair and abandoning the turban, the most conspicuous emblem of the Sikh faith. While there are no hard data, Jaswinder Singh, a lawyer and leader of a “turban pride” movement, estimates that half of India’s Sikh men now forgo the turban, compared with just 10 percent a couple of decades ago.

“The problem is very severe,” he said from the basement headquarters of his organization, Akaal Purkh Ki Fauj, or Army of God, here in Amritsar, in Punjab, the northern state where most of India’s 18 million Sikhs are based. “We are going to have to battle hard to turn back the tide. Otherwise, another 20 years will pass and India won’t have any more Sikhs in turbans.”

My God, it's like looking into a hairy mirror. I can almost hear the kiruv anthem in the background: "We are fighting the silent Holocaust of assimilation!"

He puts the start of rapid decline at the mid-1990s, as India began liberalizing its economy, more people began traveling abroad and satellite television arrived in the villages of Punjab. Working mothers are too rushed to help their sons master the skill of wrapping a turban, he said, and increasingly they just shrug and let them cut their hair.

“Everyone is working harder to buy themselves bigger cars,” he said. “They don’t have time to teach their children about the Sikh heroes. Boys take film stars as their idols instead.”

...“There is this terrible, misplaced urge to merge with the rest of the world,” said Patwant Singh, a historian and the author of “The Sikhs” (John Murray, 1999)

....Outside the Army of God offices, there is a turban clinic offering free classes for boys — one of a series of Sikh revival programs. Standing before full-length mirrors, an instructor shows teenage boys in baggy jeans and sports shoes how to twist the cloth into neatly layered folds on one side and smooth the pleats into sharp lines with a hooked silver pin, which is then concealed beneath the hair at the back.

A “Smart Turban 1.0” CD-ROM offers step-by-step instructions to create fashionable looks and guides new turban wearers on how to choose the most flattering style according to face shape.

To promote the turban as a fashion item, Sikh leaders have also started holding Mr. Singh International pageants. Contestants are judged by looks, moral character, personality, knowledge of Sikh history and principles, and turban tying skills. The sixth World Turban Day will be celebrated on April 13 with a march through Amritsar by thousands of turban-wearing Sikhs.

Hey, there's an idea we could borrow. I really want to see what Mr. Frum International looks like. Presumably his peyot would be a thing of wonder.

There's more:

Cutting the hair renders a Sikh apostate, or “pati”, but many boys are now copying the hairstyles of Bollywood stars.

Alarmed by the trend, Sikhism’s leading religious group, the SGPC, has declared the April 13 harvest festival of Baisakhi as International Sikh Turban Day.

In addition, two turban-tying schools have been founded in Sikhism’s holiest city of Amritsar, and a competition to select “Mr Singh International”, is expected to attract widespread participation.

Every region in Punjab has its own distinct style of tying a turban, with each claiming theirs to be the best, and Mr Singh contestants are to be judged on how stylishly their headgear is tied.

I wonder what the Jewish equivalent of this would be. Maybe a cholent cook-off, or a contest to see "whose hat looks coolest." Say, wasn't that what caused the Vishnitz split?

Now that we know about the Sikh equivalent of Reform Jews, it's time we were introduced to their version of Mea Shearim's Modesty Squads:

Within days of the the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh describing Sikhs as part of the Hindu samaj [society], Delhi's top Sikh administration has announced strict enforcement of the wear-turban rule at its schools, saying pupils found defying their religious traditions risk expulsion.

"These directions will strictly apply to Sikh students. It is our duty to ensure our traditions remain intact. Otherwise, forces like the RSS will succeed in their malicious campaign against our faith," Delhi Sikh Gurdwara Management Committee chief Paramjit Singh Sarna said.

The notice by the DSGMC, which administers a number of schools and colleges, is also prompted by concerns over rapid vanishing of turbans in Punjab, the heartland of the Sikh faith and home to the Golden Temple, the SGPC and the Akal Takht, the community's highest temporal authority.

A growing number of young Sikh men are now unfurling their turbans, wearing caps, shaving their beards and trimming their locks into crew cuts, mullets, spikes and other more exotic coiffures in a phenomenon seen as a cultural crisis at the heart of the community.

"This is sacrilege. If we cannot protect our identity, which makes us stand out distinctly, what good are we for? We will have to explain to our young men and women the significance of culture and tradition," Sarna said.

What's the Punjabi word for "tradition! (Bitty bum-bum)"?

And last, Sikhs are so close to Jews that they've even progressed to faking assaults against themselves in order to justify abandoning their identities.

NRI Sikh community in British Columbia want to see charges laid against a 17-year-old Sikh youth who said five white men jumped him, ripped off his turban and cut off his hair two weeks ago.

They say hate crimes are a serious matter, and incidents such as this could diminish the response to real hate crimes against Sikhs.

...On Saturday, police said the youth admitted he made up the story to account for the fact that he had cut his own hair, even injuring himself to lend credibility to his story of five men punching and robbing him. For religious reasons, the boy's hair had never been cut.

Wait a minute, wracked with guilt at compromising your traditions? We totally came up with that! That's like, old school Al Jolson stuff.

You know what, forget all this "Jews and Blacks are the same" crap. What we need to do is get a couple of good ethnic comedy movies about Jewish and Sikh college roommates. Maybe "The Amazing Adventures of Shlomo and Singh," or "Chaim and Joginder go to a park and eat apples so they don't violate anyone's dietary laws," or maybe just, "There's Hair in the Bathtub Again."

It's nice to see that there are other cultures in the world struggling with the same existential crises as us. Because let's face it, everything isn't all about us, and sometimes problems we consider to be uniquely our own are actually incredibly universal.

"Abortion is a War"

That's the word from pro-life blogger Jill Stanek over at WND. She's got some choice rhetoric (something about whores I couldn't parse and some grisly jokes about blood-stained carpets) as she dissects a recent op-ed from two pro-choice leaders in the LA Times. While most of the op-ed seems to be a fairly banal bit of soul-searching as to why the pro-choice movement is losing some steam, Stanek seems more interested in using it as a platform to bash the writers and movement as a whole:

If I were a pro-abort I'd be suicidal after reading the piece, but then again they're all so narcissistic or secretly afraid they really are going to hell I doubt that will happen.

Wow. That was... random.

Stanek also accuses the writers of the op-ed of inconsistency.
while they said on one hand, "We support a public discussion of the moral dimensions of abortion," they said on the other, "Pro-choice forces must adjust to regain the moral high ground." If they agree some part of abortion is morally problematic, how can it be morally superior?

Clearly Stanek isn't Jewish, where moral ambiguity pops up all the time. It's quite simple, Jill. You can acknowledge that there are sticky issues with abortion- exactly where does life begin, is it moral to privilege an actual life over a potential life, what are justifiable reasons (and less justifiable ones) to terminate a pregnancy, etc... and yet still conclude that, despite all these issues and concerns, that abortions being legal and visible is still far preferable to driving the practice underground, or criminalizing an entire swath of medical practitioners, to say nothing of women patients.
And how could they call for fresh ideas when they regurgitated tired old lines such as this one in their very opening paragraph: "The Supreme Court affirmed in Roe vs. Wade that women have a fundamental right to choose abortion without government interference"?

First, I think they're saying they want new ideas on how to present their case. This is just as disingenuous as saying, "How can the Republicans say they want an honest discussion on how to argue for new Tax Cuts and then reject my idea about going Communist?"

Second, it may just be me, but both the pro-life and pro-choice camps seem like they're significantly tapped out when it comes to new ideas. How many different times and ways can we argue over what a fetus is and how to count it? (And in any event I wouldn't be throwing stones about tired old lines when you're going on about how abortion-supporters are narcissistic.)

Stanek concludes by bitch-slapping some would-be pro-lifers' attempt to dialogue:

I am concerned that some on our side see Michelman and Kissling's piece as some sort of mea culpa, and pro-lifers should stand ready to hold hands with them singing "Kumbaya." Wrote Steve at the Stand to Reason blog:
It appears from their article that Kissling and Michelman are calling for an internal discussion of the effective pro-life challenges they've highlighted, but I would encourage them to go further. Talk to pro-life advocates about them. We're ready to listen, understand and build common ground first in order to really hear your concerns and perspective.
I for one will never try to "build common ground" with the abortion industry. There is no common ground. The culture of death is the sworn enemy of the culture of life. This is a war, a clash of civilizations.
I do stand ready to dialogue with those in the mushy middle who don't understand the abortion cartel's agenda. But we will never have a meeting of the minds on abortion.

Well that's a relief. Now I don't have to invite Jill Stanek to any of my abortion tupperware parties. Though it is a little strange to hear the "clash of civilizations" patter again. I hope she isn't planning on any Jihad stuff.

Anyway, this reminded me of one of Toby Katz's (comparatively) better columns from last November in which she noted how the traditional Jewish view of abortion doesn't really jive with either camp.
Many people think that Jews and Christians are on the same page on these issues, but it isn’t so, and it’s our own fault, because we have been such passive and silent allies to the pro-life movement, rarely telling anyone what Judaism actually teaches about when life begins or when the soul enters a fetus.
In truth we have many good reasons to ally ourselves with religious believers in the pro-life movement, because the “pro-choice” movement is so horrendously murderous and immoral. The entire point of the pro-choice movement is to guarantee “sex with no consequences”—in fact, you could put that on a bumper sticker, it sums up the whole pro-choice agenda. Despite our disagreements with conservative Christians about stem-cell research, IVF and the morning-after pill—despite those issues, we appreciate that at least Christians recognize the sanctity of life.
They might be wrong about the sanctity of an eight-celled blastocyst but they are fundamentally right about the larger issue that is tearing American society apart—the wholesale slaughter of millions and millions of babies each year, some well past the point of viability.
We Jews need to speak up about this, about where we agree and where we disagree.
But it isn’t enough for us to pipe up and say, “Well, no, Jewish theology is not the same as Christian theology, we don’t agree with them about this or that detail.” We have to be an active PART of the pro-life movement, we have to be more vocal and involved with it. We can’t just be another bunch of kibitzers from the sidelines, heckling the good Christians and telling them they’re wrong about this, that and the other. We also have to be seen as allies and supporters of the pro-life movement, so that our voices can be heard WITHIN that movement. We have to honor the pro-life movement and thank the foot soldiers who have fought so bravely and so untiringly, in the face of vilification and bile, to keep alive in America the very notion of the sanctity of life.

Frankly, I'm not sure that Orthodox Jews SHOULD be trying to associate themselves deeply with the pro-life movement, given how dominated that group seems to be by conservative Christians, particularly given that OJ's views are significantly different from those of most pro-life Christians (as noted here and here by DovBear).

Don't get me wrong, Toby Katz should feel free to align herself with any political or cultural organization she wants to. But I can't help thinking that this particular decision has more to do with her own political affiliation (and corollary feelings of, shall we say, hostility, towards her opponents) than an honest evaluation of exactly where OJ's position lies.

No, Orthodox Jews shouldn't just be sniping from the sidelines. But they should also be honest that at the end of the day, the Jewish position isn't really pro-choice or pro-life, and as such, any decision to implant themselves within either camp is problematic, to say the least. If Toby Katz thinks that she's actually making a substantial impact by being a clarifier of the "authentic Jewish position" within the pro-life movement (where most people, let's be honest, neither know nor care about what the Jews think), she's just as deluded as any counterparts she might have among the pro-choicers. Not to be unkind, but the whole prospect seems incredibly naive.

I'm not saying Jews can't participate in this debate. I know I do. But I don't use the Torah as a proof-text, and I don't claim to be speaking for "the Jews." In this case, Torah is actually more nuanced than either of these modern-day ideologies. To pretend otherwise does our tradition a disservice.

Play it again, Pat

Remember Pat Boone's tirade about semi-competent women back in June? Where he dismissed the achievements of female leaders throughout history as merely being the results of the men of the period coming up short?

Back then Pat regaled us with such gems as

Is it likely that these very accomplished and brilliant women would have attained these positions if there had been men in evidence who seemed equally or perhaps even better qualified?

and also
Is it likely that women would be chosen for our leaders in politics and government and business, if men assumed their traditional, time-honored and expected responsibilities of leadership and direction?

Pat concluded by ruining the book of Judges, a personal favorite, by claiming that it illustrates that God only asks women to do things when men are incompetent (this suggests Joseph was his first pick as surrogate mother, a-la this monstrosity).

Well, guess what. Pat's run out of ideas, so this week, he decided to plagiarize himself. Yep, after reassuring us that Pat has nothing against a black President (only he thinks it would be more fitting it they came from the party of Lincoln), we get treated to another rehashing of Deborah and Barak:

Many will bristle when I say this, but – while I'm well aware there are women who can do almost anything a man can do – in my long considered view, they shouldn't.

...Women shouldn't be trained to kill, to engage in hand-to-hand combat or to risk death facing hate-crazed enemies. What man wants to let that happen, no matter how it might appeal to some women themselves? Sure, they can … but they shouldn't. If it must be done, it's a man's job, a man's duty.

Yes, I 'm well aware of Deborah, in the book of Judges in the Bible, who led Israel to a resounding military victory. But God first called on another Barak, the Israelite general, to mount the charge, and he refused to do it unless Deborah went with him, almost to hold his hand! So God turned the battle over to Deborah, and it became a woman's victory – to the everlasting disgrace of Barak, the intended and preferred leader.

And that's how I feel about the idea of a woman president. Face it, Americans will elect a woman their leader only if there seem to be no qualified men – only if they feel she's the best we can come up with. Have we come to that? Can neither party present a man who so clearly has the leadership qualities we need that we'll decide to accept a woman – to sit across from Vladimir Putin or the Chinese, Korean or Pakistani leaders who all despise the idea of having to treat a woman as their equal, politically or otherwise? A woman to be the commander in chief of our armed forces? Can you imagine Hillary vowing to "pursue Osama to the gates of hell" as Sen. McCain did, or declaiming from the Berlin Wall "Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall!" as Ronald Reagan did?

Wow, where to begin. First, we don't need someone to vow to chase OBL to the gates of hell. Sometimes less rhetoric and more action is a better combination. Look how productive Bush's rhetoric has been.

And second, anyone who's studied Golda Meir, Margaret Thatcher, or Indira Gandhi would know that will and strength can often be enough to demand and command respect across a negotiating table- REGARDLESS of how the other side feels about you personally.

Pat likes to say that his wife and four daughters shield him from any charges of male chauvinism. Maybe so, but I'd sure be interested in hearing what they think about dear ol' Dad's views on female leadership. They certainly seem to belie any claim towards an American meritocracy.

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Is Not!

This is just getting silly. Doug Giles, famous round these parts for his valiant attempt at explaining why the South doesn't suck, is now going after Obama's claims to be a Christian. I have to admit it, this is a new one.

Giles' argument basically comes down to the fact that while Obama SAYS he's a Christian, he doesn't seem to be the kind of Christian Giles is. Heretic!

Barack Hussein Obama (or B-HO, as I like to call him) charismatically and emphatically denied reports this week that he is a closeted Muslim and instead declared candidly and with youthful verve that he believes in Jesus Christ.

Now, Doug didn't feel the need to disclose his own middle name, but I did some digging and managed to turn it up. So continue onward, Doug Douchebag Giles:

Yep, this week the junior state senator made it clear that he is not a Muslim but a believer in the Lord Jesus Christ. Y’know, the Jesus Christ who’s totally cool with:

1. Abortion being available to mommy in all nine months of her pregnancy

Can we get some chapter and verse, please? I don't think J.C. knew from RU-486.

2. Parents not being notified when their 13 year-old girl goes in for an abortion

Was this in Luke? I never got to Luke.
3. Opposing any and all bans on partial birth abortion (an act that includes delivery of the baby up to the head, the crushing of the baby's noggin, the vacuuming of the brain matter and then completed delivery of the child's deflated cranium)

Or maybe Acts? It sounded boring, so I skipped it. (Actually, first I thought it was "Axe" and was going to take a look, but then I got to the first page and realized my mistake.)

4. Advancing the radical homosexual activist lobby in their pursuit to destroy traditional marriage and voting against the defense of traditional marriage (you know, that old Adam and Eve thing God came up with in Genesis? Well, that’s so yesterday with B-HO’s Jesus and his Church of the New Groove)

Funny, Jesus seemed pretty interested in overthrowing social norms when he was kicking ass in the Temple. The sacrificial system was pretty old, but it didn't stop him. In fact, Doug's given Hay-seuss an e-five for it:

Christ is portrayed in the gospel according to Mark... as a dragon slayer. Yes, the Incarnate One showed up on this terra firma 2,000 years ago as a throttler of the works of darkness. Mark whipped out his inspired quill and depicted Jesus as a warrior picking fights with that which was detrimental to people and places.

Whether it was in the whipping of the avaricious religious glitterati who were desecrating the Temple, casting a nest of demons out of a 1st century Emily Rose, publicly rebuking a bad politician or priest or foreswearing the wrath of God upon those who would harm kids—one cannot skip away from the holy script thinking Christ was cool with creeps. That is, unless of course, he chooses to close his eyes to these ubiquitous texts.


5. The creation of “special rights” for people who engage in homosexuality for the sole purpose of putting them at the front of the line on issues of employment, housing and litigation

I don't know, Jesus was pretty progressive on some of the issues of his day. Lepers, for instance.

6. The advancement of all “hate crimes” legislation, which ultimately could be used to silence pastors who believe—according to their own convictions—that homosexual behavior is . . . uh . . . wrong . . . and preach the same from biblical texts

This one's tricky. I don't support banning free speech. On the other hand, Jesus seems to like bitch-slapping people that disagree with him. So it's really an open question.
7. The continued funding of Planned Parenthood clinics in our nation's inner cities, which are performing genocide against the populations of African Americans living there
Was that Revelations? I'll be honest, I got bored.
8. B-HO going to a church that propagates anti-white, anti-American and anti-Jewish blather, zany 9/11 “was our fault because we’re racists” rancor, and a “black value system” (Hello! Can you imagine if a white guy did this?)—all via a pastor who has hung out with Qaddafi and honors Louis Farrakhan. Isn’t that special?
But Southern Baptists, THEY walk with the Lord, right?
As far as I’m concerned, B-HO is to Christianity what Michael Jackson is to heterosexuality: He might be one, but he’s certainly not the poster child for the cause.
When did he ever claim he was, you nutjob? He only started talking about being a Christian because Conservative mudslingers started saying he was a Muslim. And now you want to shit on him because he isn't Christian ENOUGH. That's like Yehuda Levin trying to cockblock Elliot Spitzer by saying he's not Jewish enough. When do we get to talk about Giuliani's Catholic credentials? How do we know Romney's really the "right" kind of Mormon? We don't want any Reform Mormons in OUR White House!

The only way Obama and his followers can keep Christ and their liberal credo is to blow off huge chunks of the Bible and replace Scripture with the make-believe notions of SP's new malleable “Gumby Jesus” who offers “suggestions” instead of thundering commandments.

The giddy, in love with B-HO Christian skipping around the maypole wearing rose-colored glasses needs to understand something: If it were left up to the punch drunk secular Left, evangelical Christians would officially be SOL in the USA, fo’ shizzle my nizzle.

Not SOL, just not in the elevated place they've been in under Bush. Of course, to folks like Giles, that amounts to religious persecution.

Are you kidding me?

The National Organization of Women's NY chapter issued a very interesting press release yesterday responding to Ted Kennedy's support for Obama:

Women have just experienced the ultimate betrayal. Senator Kennedy’s endorsement of Hillary Clinton’s opponent in the Democratic presidential primary campaign has really hit women hard. Women have forgiven Kennedy, stuck up for him, stood by him, hushed the fact that he was late in his support of Title IX, the ERA, the Family Leave and Medical Act to name a few. Women have buried their anger that his support for the compromises in No Child Left Behind and the Medicare bogus drug benefit brought us the passage of these flawed bills. We have thanked him for his ardent support of many civil rights bills, BUT women are always waiting in the wings.

And now the greatest betrayal! We are repaid with his abandonment! He’s picked the new guy over us. He’s joined the list of progressive white men who can’t or won’t handle the prospect of a woman president who is Hillary Clinton (they will of course say they support a woman president, just not “this” one). “They” are Howard Dean and Jim Dean (Yup! That’s Howard’s brother) who run DFA (that’s the group and list from the Dean campaign that we women helped start and grow). They are Alternet, Progressive Democrats of America,, Kucinich lovers and all the other groups that take women's money, say they’ll do feminist and women’s rights issues one of these days, and conveniently forget to mention women and children when they talk about poverty or human needs or America’s future or whatever.

This latest move by Kennedy, is so telling about the status of and respect for women’s rights, women’s voices, women’s equality, women’s authority and our ability – indeed, our obligation - to promote and earn and deserve and elect, unabashedly, a President that is the first woman after centuries of men who “know what’s best for us."

I just think this is sad. It's like a bad parody of angry feminists from Fox News. I understand why they would be miffed, especially after everyone was assuming that Kennedy might just as easily have decided to support Hillary, but saying that anyone who opposes Hillary opposes "us?" Give me a break. And I love the way NOW-NY declares that their feelings and those of all women are synonymous. It's "really hit women hard?" Really. Where's that poll, exactly? I spoke with my parents last night and my mother commented that it made her think about changing her vote. She didn't say anything about "betrayal."

News flash: the election of a President invariably involves picking someone that presumes they know best. That's where the checks and balances come in (in theory). Yet I would hope that very few men would try to make the same argument that electing or supporting Hillary would constitute a betrayal of men's views, or a subjugation of men's voices. Some people just DON'T LIKE HILLARY. Sorry to break it to you. This is like when everyone was doing celebratory Cossack dances because Joe Leiberman was named as Gore's VP- hooray, a Jew, a Jew! Never mind that most people had never heard of him and that a large majority of American Jews' policies were nowhere close to his. Similarly, folks like my paranoid grandmother (sorry, Bubbe) were convinced that Gore lost the election because of antisemitism. Not really. Even if that was a factor, I think (or would at least hope) that any votes Lieberman cost Gore had to do with his policies.

It's positively boneheaded to say that a person's support or lack thereof for the only female candidate in the race automatically determines their support or respect for women's views, opinions, right, etc. Hillary is no more the Pope of women than Obama is the Pope of black males. And frankly, not only is framing them that way not very helpful or productive, I don't think it's very healthy for the political process, either. That would mean that everyone who didn't vote for Richardson is anti-Hispanic, or that everyone who didn't vote for Kucinich is anti-idealistic Wood Nymph.

Get a grip, ladies. Please. Before the Republicans hear about this.

Hat-tip: Americablog.

Edit: Shiska Girlfriend pointed me towards this. Thank God, there are still sane people with ovaries:

In case you didn’t get that, women have been betrayed by voting on the issues instead of according to what’s in their pants. It’s like the Lifetime Movie version of a shitty-to-begin-with press release.
Not only am I not a die-hard Clinton supporter, but I work for Alternet, which is apparently on the release-writer’s Organizations to Kill list. I suppose I must have been psychologically gang-banged into whoring for the patriarchy — it’s the only possible explanation.

Monday, January 28, 2008

My feeble attempts at Liveblogging the SotU speech

(My clock was 2 minutes ahead of CSPAN's. I couldn't be bothered to change my time-stamps.)

6:07- Bush walks in. What a pretty blue tie. And there's Hillary, in a bright red pantsuit. What delicious red/blue state irony. Good one, God. (Condie Rice seems to be trying to stay neutral in a nice little oatmeal number.)

6:09- That's right, Cheney and Pelosi are standing on the same podium. I bet they had some fun conversation waiting for this thing to start.

6:10- "I have the distinct honor of presenting the President of the United States." And one lone person huzzahs or something. Huh? What is this, the House of Commons?

6:11- "We faced hard decisions about peace and war." Really? WE did? Funny, I thought you were pretty determined to do whatever you wanted.

6:13- "We believe in the powers of individuals to determine their destiny." Sort of, kind of, maybe. *Middle East cough cough*

6:14- Well at least he's giving lip service to bipartisanship. Of course, it's a little late.

6:15- Tax relief, eh? Good point about the little guy getting screwed in taxes, except that they aren't really the ones assisted by Bush's tax policies.

6:17- And the veto comes out. Bipartisanship, right?

6:17- I like the idea of trimming the fat off the budget. However I anticipate Bush's and my ideas of what's essential may not be the same.

6:18- "You guys really sucked at stopping this earmark thing." He sounds like an annoyed Vice-Principal. Good point, but I don't remember him talking so tough when his own party was controlling Congress.

6:22- "No one can deny NCLB's results." Really?

6:24- Bush on trade. Free trade good. Apparently we like trading with Peru. Really? If you say so. Something about how people like our products. Call me cynical, but exactly which American products are being bought in Peru?

6:26- Helping Columbia is vital to preserving the well-being of our hemisphere. Hemisphere, that's a word we haven't used in a while. Yeah, go NoHem! Screw you, Chile. Go ask someone in your dinky Southern Hemisphere for help. Maybe Australia.

6:30- We need to make sure American scientists remain the best on earth. Are we declaring war on India and China? I think that's going to have to be step one.

6:31- "Congress should ban unethical practices of buying, selling, patenting or cloning human life." Who's going around PATENTING life? This is a new problem I haven't heard about.

6:32- "The Constitution means what it says." Truly, an orator not heard since the likes of Cicero.

6:33- "The Armies of Compassion" sounds like a new offshoot of Islamic Jihad. Just saying.

6:34- Is Pelosi reading a damn book? What the hell Nancy? It's not like you don't know your hands (and bosom) are on camera. Bush's head is RIGHT IN FRONT OF YOU.

6:35- "We will never fully secure our border until we find a lawful way for immigrants to come here and support our economy... Illegal immigration is complicated but it must be solved according to both our laws and our highest ideals." This, I like. Not sure how the hell to do it, though.

6:36- "We trust that when given the chance, people will choose freedom and liberty." Except when they vote for Hamas or Al-Sadr. Not quite sure how your "always choose liberty" doctrine deals with that.

6:39- "In the long run, men and women will reject terror and choose liberty." Except in Russia. Sigh.

6:40- No, Afghans are "defending their freedom" by building up the armies of local warlords, you boob! It's the same old problem!

6:41- The Surrrrge! Yar! Yes, it's great that the Sunni Awakening councils have been helping us fight Al Qaeda, but we're still ignoring that the problem is a lot deeper than Al Qaeda versus everybody else.

6:45- "Al Qaeda will be defeated." Hooray, but Al Qaeda isn't what's stopping Iraq from being a successful nation-state, the CIVIL WAR is.

6:50- "Political reconciliation." Well, at least he knows the buzzwords.

6:52- A "new cause for hope" in Palestine? Really?

6:53- As long as we're talking about a democratic Israel, can someone get working on writing it a Constitution? I mean, it would be pretty embarrassing if the Palestinians got one before Israel did, wouldn't it?

6:54- "We respect the traditions and history [of Iran]." This is a lovely sentiment, but I'm quite curious as to what Bush knows about Persian history.

6:55- "We will defend our interests in the Persian gulf." You just know this asshole is laughing his head off.

6:57- "The time to act is now." And the Republican cheerleaders come out. It really is the House of Commons. "Yeah! Yeah!"

6:58- "We oppose the genocide in Sudan." Yes we do. Now what?

6:58- ZimBABwe. There's a "bob."

7:00- More money for AIDS research. Always good.

7:01- "Increase funding for veteran's pensions." There's the cheering again. Wait, now I get it, those aren't Republicans- it's the Marines! "Ooo-rah!"

7:04- Articles of Confederation? That's a little obscure. Well, at least maybe it will make the kids go look something up.

And thus concludes this evening's entertainment. Thank god I'm watching this on CSPAN without all the idiots chiming in.

Havel Havalim 151

Courtesy of Jack, who was also gracious enough to include one of my posts (without me even submitting it).

Jackie Mason Still a Crank

I saw Jackie Mason in "concert" once with my mother and some elderly relatives. I was enjoying myself until he started making racist jokes about Puerto Ricans (being from the West Coast, I've not only never met a Puerto Rican, I don't even know what the stereotypes about them are supposed to be). At that point I took a look around the concert hall and realized that most of the people in the audience were wearing yarmulkes, black hats, and Linda Richmond hair. That was when I started getting really creeped out. The next creepy moment came when my great-aunt leaped out of her chair and started shrieking about Puerto Ricans along with Jackie. I slunk into my seat and looked for an escape hatch.

Anyway, over the years Jackie's schtick has largely remained the same (Gentiles like beer! Jews like cake!), but he seems to have gotten increasingly political. Needless to say, our views don't seem to match much. In addition to saying delirious things like "the current President has done more for minorities than any President since Johnson" and that "Nobody in America including the Jews themselves has worked harder than Pat Robertson and Jerry Falwell to support the state of Israel."

Mason's most recent book, Schmucks (don't be fooled, it's not an autobiography), has a whole "chapter" (two whole pages, and this is with a co-author and who knows how many ghostwriters) devoted to Reform Jews, who the former Orthodox rabbi apparently feels are "getting their noses done and changing their names everyday to appear more Gentile." Yeah, Jackie, because so many people are still changing their names these days. I'm pretty sure most of the name changing was over and done with oh, 80 years ago. But way to use relevant topics.

Jackie's got other fresh observations, too. He notices that Reform Jews are giving their kids weird first names too, like Tiffany, Ashley and Rex, oh the shanda. I'm no fan of a name that conjurs up a Barbie doll, but things could always be worse, Jackie. It's not like Yerucham, Nimrod or Chanania are such prizes. Or, say, Jyll.

Mason continues with the Reform Jews and nose-jobs patter, adding that they also seem to like tanning beds so they can brag about how people "mistake them for Greeks, Italians or other Mediterranean peoples." Yeah, that's clearly the provenance of Reform Jews. That would be news to my olive-skinned great-grandfather from Poland. And the timing on these, wow. Nose job jokes? No one's ever heard one of those before. Where do you get your ideas. Presumably it involves a time machine.

Why so much ire? Oh, no reason. I just came across a semi-recent Video Blog of his from November where he goes after that freshest of targets, France.

Money quote: "The French as a people are just miserable, nauseous, obnoxious, hateful and contemptuous people. That's the perfect description for all the people in France."

Funny, I thought that was the perfect description for Jackie Mason.

Jews and Chavez: Part 3

Apparently Chavez just won't stop going after the Jews:

One of the first points of tension was the April 2002 coup attempt against Chavez. Michael Penfold-Becerra, a political scientist at Caracas’s institute of superior administrative studies, said that among some government officials, suspicions against Jews were fueled by the alleged support of prominent rabbi Pinchas Brenner for the authors of the short-lived coup, as well as by the perception that Israelis and Jews were active in the arms business.

The first raid, in 2004, heightened the tensions, especially since it took place early in the day when hundreds of children were on their way to school.

The tensions escalated again during the 2006 summer war between Israel and Hezbollah in Lebanon, when Chavez accused Israelis of behaving like Nazis. He recalled the charge d’affaires of the Venezuelan Embassy in Tel Aviv, and Israel, in turn, called back its ambassador. Although the Israeli diplomat returned to Caracas a month later, and Venezuela sent a low-level envoy to Tel Aviv, the relationship remains fraught.

The Jewish community turned to Argentina’s government to intercede with Chavez, and last January the self-described “Bolivarian” leader agreed to meet with CAIV following a request by Nestor Kirchner, then president of Argentina.

Through it all, Benshimol and others have stressed that there has been no instance of physical violence against Jews in the country. And they have, on occasion, defended Chavez against accusations of antisemitism aired by such American Jewish groups as the Simon Wiesenthal Center.

But the atmosphere has worsened lately, first and foremost because of Chavez’s increasingly inflammatory talk about Israel and its supporters. A television program called “The Razor,” broadcast on a state-owned channel, has featured lengthy rants about the presence of Mossad agents allegedly in the country working to unseat the Chavez regime with the support of the United States and opposition forces in Venezuela. The host of the show has also questioned the loyalty of leading Jewish figures to their home country. Despite repeated complaints by CAIV, the authorities have taken no action.

In March 2007, there were no government officials in attendance at the 40th-anniversary celebration of CAIV. Benshimol said that the government has had no official ties with his organization for the past year.

The deteriorating atmosphere has prompted a sizable exodus of Jews from Venezuela. While precise numbers are hard to come by, the number of children attending the school at the Hebraica center has dropped some 37% in the past decade, while membership at the club has slipped 30%.

Kind of scary, but at least there's been no substantial violence... yet.

Mona Charen wonders why the world Jewish community isn't speaking up about this more.

You might expect an outcry from other Jews around the world -- and there has been some. But within the U.S., many of the leaders of large Jewish organizations are seeking to stifle those, like Rabbi Avi Weiss and Rabbi Shmuel Herzfeld of the Coalition for Jewish Concerns, who are urging members of Congress to hold hearings on the matter. Weiss reports that Rep. Elliott Engel (D., NY) was willing to call a hearing but was dissuaded by the Conference of Presidents of the Major American Jewish Organizations.

Dina Siegel Vann, speaking of behalf of the American Jewish Congress, published an op-ed in the Miami Herald scolding those who want to make as public a protest as possible. "Shouting and screaming from the safety of the United States may feel good to some," she wrote, "but the goal of the exercise is not to satisfy their needs; rather it's to ensure the safety and well-being of thousands of Venezuelan Jews . . ." Her title: "Let's use diplomacy, not public protests."

Well, diplomacy has its place, but this isn't it. When the Soviet Union was denying exit visas to Jews wishing to emigrate and persecuting those who sought to leave, only the loud and persistent protests of Jews in the United States and elsewhere (combined with congressional action) caused the Soviets to relent. Bill Buckley quipped at the time that he hoped the Soviets would release every Jew who wanted to emigrate except one -- to keep alive the Jewish pressure that was so helpful in the larger Cold War. The Venezuelan Jews themselves have asked for such international pressure. They believe Chavez is very sensitive about international opinion. It would be naive to place faith in diplomacy alone.

Charen is correct that diplomacy can only go so far, but you do need to strike a balance when you're dealing with a very vulnerable population whose fate can rise or fall at the whim of a totalitarian government (or in this case, dictator). Calling Chavez out to treat his country's Jews better does no good if it makes their lives even worse.

On the plus side, the Forward says that Venezuela's Jews are getting sick of Hugo's crap and are starting to stand up for themselves.

When two dozen heavily armed policemen came to search the Hebraica community center in the Venezuelan capital one night last month, the Jewish community here finally snapped.

The government officers who entered the sprawling, country club-like complex were ostensibly looking for a stash of weapons and for evidence of “subversive activity.” They found neither. In the subsequent days, the Venezuelan Jewish community’s umbrella organization, the Confederation of Israelite Associations of Venezuela, fired off a statement denouncing the raid as an “unjustifiable act” aimed at creating tensions between the community and the government of socialist President Hugo Chavez.

This would not be remarkable in the United States, where Jewish groups routinely state their views with little trepidation. But their counterparts abroad have tended to be less confrontational, especially in countries with small communities and a volatile political environment. In Venezuela this has been the case until recently, despite a long series of problems that includes an earlier raid on the Hebraica center, antisemitism on state-controlled media and anti-Israel pronouncements by Chavez. The calculated quiet ended with last year’s December 1 raid.

“We’re facing the first anti-Jewish government in our history,” Simon Sultan, president of Hebraica, told the Forward in an interview in his office, located in a tony Caracas neighborhood.

The December operation took place on the night preceding a crucial referendum on proposed constitutional reform that would have granted Chavez broad powers and the possibility to run indefinitely. The reform was rejected by a thin margin.

“It seems that the only interpretation is that this was an intimidation by the government,” Abraham Levy Benshimol, president of CAIV, told the Forward.

...In the end, though, it was not the immigration but the raid that convinced the community to speak up. The operation was led by the equivalent of the FBI, whereas the more recent raid was done by officers from a police force under the control of the Interior Ministry and, as such, closely tied to the presidency. While there is no evidence that Chavez himself ordered the latest raid, the all-powerful Interior Ministry is one of his strongest levers.

...Jewish communal leaders also believe that another element might be at work. Sultan noted that Tarek al Assaimi, a former far-left student leader whose father was the representative of Saddam Hussein’s Baath party in Venezuela, is the deputy Interior and Justice minister in charge of internal security and, as such, could have been involved in initiating the raid.

A few days after the raid, Sultan and Benshimol went to the interior and justice ministries to meet with a prosecutor who opened a probe into possible irregularities surrounding the police operation, which was ordered by another prosecutor. A previous probe into the 2004 incident never produced any official outcome — and neither leader expressed much optimism that the outcome would be different this time.

I know biting our tongues and letting other people take the reins isn't really the forte of American Jews, but maybe the American Jewish community would do better to ask the Jews in Venezuela how we can help them HELP THEMSELVES rather than try to take everything onto our shoulders, regardless of what result it will bring.

Gandhi's Grandson Gone

I almost feel sorry for the guy- he's resigned (entirely voluntarily, I'm sure) of the peace center he helped found more than 15 years ago. Guess there's a lesson there- if you're not big on the Jews, might want to avoid talking about them. Or at least have some sounding board people before you write screeds against them in the Washington Post. The sad thing is that some of Gandhi's points- that Jewish identity must go beyond historical persecution, for instance, are legitimate. Of course, they also aren't anything new, and at this point, nothing that anyone in the Jewish community would really contest.

"My intention was to generate a healthy discussion on the proliferation of violence," Gandhi said on Friday, a day after the board of the MK Gandhi Institute for Nonviolence at the University of Rochester accepted his resignation. "Instead, unintentionally, my words have resulted in pain, anger, confusion and embarrassment. I deeply regret these consequences."

...Gandhi's resignation "was appropriate," because his remarks "did not reflect the core values" of either the university or the institute, University of Rochester president Joel Seligman said in a statement.

The Anti-Defamation League's Abe Foxman said it was "shameful that a peace institute would be headed up by a bigot. One would hope that the grandson of such an illustrious human being would be more sensitive to Jewish history."

God dammit, Abe, go read a freaking book and stop sucking up to people who only know about Gandhi from that Ben Kingsley movie. Jesus.

More background and news coverage here, including some very interesting snippets of how the media in India is receiving the news. (Spoiler: it's not helping their views of Jews.)

America’s omnipotent Jewish community has forced Mahatma Gandhi’s grandson, Arun Gandhi, to resign from the institute he founded in the US 17 years ago to spread the message of the Father of the Nation.

New Delhi cannot afford to even tangentially annoy the American Jewish community because successive Indian governments have relied on this community for at least 15 years to bring Indo-US relations to its present health. The nuclear deal between India and the US would not have got to its present phase of implementation without the active involvement of the American Jewish community in its favour.

Arun’s offer to resign follows several days of grovelling apologies by him, by the moderators of the online discussion on the Post website and defensive statements by University of Rochester president Joel Seligman for having associated with the M.K. Gandhi Institute for Non-violence.

Hundreds of messages assailing Arun and The Washington Post were posted on the website, most of them clearly by Jews. The powerful American Jewish Committee’s executive director David A. Harris pre-empted any Indian reaction by hinting in a statement that India was being ungrateful for all that his organisation did for New Delhi.

Wow. And India's going to be one of the new superpowers. That should be fun.

Sunday, January 27, 2008

Fishman Goes Swimming

In the deep end. Of a drained pool. Head-first.

I'm not a fan of Israel's overzealous incitement laws that result in honest folks like R. Nati at Mystical Paths being hauled in for questioning, or lovable nutso Tzvi Fishman getting arrested at a protest rally for HOLDING A SIGN. I don't agree with much these two guys say, but police harassment is always disturbing and it's another reason Israel consistently gets on my nerves (to say nothing of my prospects of making aliyah anytime... well, ever.)

On the other hand, Tzvi's time in the lockup seems to have done wonders for his writing. Just look at this hilarious post.

I am declaring myself a national leader. To this end, I am establishing a new political party that will be constituted, at the very beginning, by Americans who have come on aliyah. The Jews who came to Israel from Europe, and the Israeli generation that followed, have made a mess of things. Today, the country needs the idealism of the Jews who gave up the comforts of America to take a part in the building of Israel. A little good old fashion “American know how” can go a long way in cleaning up the mess that the Zionists, Pseudo Zionists, and Post Zionists have made.

Yes, apparently Tzvi is finally putting his money where his mouth is, and throwing himself beard first into the rough-and-tumble world of politics.

Check out his platform:

*All Arabs must leave the Land of Israel.
*Any Israeli politician who voted in favor of Oslo or the Hitnatkut [Disengagement], or who promotes the Road Map Plan, will be brought to trial as a national traitor.
*Relations with the United States shall be suspended until Jonathan Pollard is freed.
*All atomic facilities in Iran will be immediately destroyed.
*Any missile launching on Israel will be met with a devastating retaliatory attack.
*Anyone who propagates leftist propaganda will be deported from the country.
*All missionaries will be tried in court for kidnapping and murder, and crucified on the Mount of Olives.
*The judges of the Supreme Court will be replaced by rabbis who will judge all cases according to Torah law.
*TV and radio will be shut down on Shabbat. Driving on Shabbat will result in license suspension.
*Women who dress immodestly will be fined. Repeated offenders will be imprisoned.
*All non-medical abortions will be forbidden.
*No woman will serve in the army.
*All secular newspapers will be shut down.
*Israeli television will be run by a board of rabbis, and Arutz7 will be the only authorized Internet news service.
*All computers will be equipped with anti-pornography filters.
*Teacher’s salaries will be doubled.
*Massive funds will be allotted to promote aliyah, and all Jews who refuse to immigrate to Israel within three years will forever forfeit their right of return.
*Haredim will donate the funds to rebuild Gush Katif, and they will do all of the hard labor or face imprisonment.

Wow. Some good stuff here, and I'm glad Tzvi had the presence of mind in the midst of such important issues like creating Haredi chain gangs to work the Gaza strip to remember that the root of all evil is digital boobies.

I really liked the comments to Tzvi's list, particularly from RW-activist Daniel Pinner, who thinks Tzvi's gone off his nut:

There are many legal, ethical, and halachic problems with your platform:

1) "Anyone who propagates leftist propaganda will be deported from the country." Define "leftist": if someone promotes social welfare, socialized medicine, or the environment, will he be deported?

2) "All missionaries will be tried in court for kidnapping and murder, and crucified on the Mount of Olives." Without a Sanhedrin there is no death penalty; Halacha never uses crucifixion as a death penalty; and unless someone has kidnapped or murdered, he cannot be executed for these crimes.

3) "Driving on Shabbat will result in license suspension." And if someone has to drive to hospital/police in a life-threatening emergency? And if the driver is not Jewish, but a ger toshav?

4) "Women who dress immodestly will be fined. Repeated offenders will be imprisoned." Define "immodestly" - showing their wrists? Displaying their hair? Both eyes? If a woman's hair is uncovered, will she have to show proof that she is unmarried? And where oh where in halachah do you find a source for imprisoning a scantily-clad woman?!

5) "All secular newspapers will be shut down." Including Time, Newsweek, Economist? Including "Ha-Shavua bi-Yerushalayim"? Including "Eretz" magazine? What about an honest, right-wing, nationalist nespaper? What about a viciously anti-Israel religious newspaper (one put out by Neturei Kharta, for instance?) Who defines "religious"?

6) "Arutz7 will be the only authorized Internet news service." How do you propose to enforce this? Why do you want to ban Steven Shamrak, Rotternet, etc?

7) "All Jews who refuse to immigrate to Israel within three years will forever forfeit their right of return." The most outrageous of all. For a Jew to live in Israel is a Torah-ordained mitzvah, and no Jew has the right, under any circumstances whatsoever, to prevent another Jew from making Aliyah. This is equivalent to saying that any Jew who has not kept Shabbat and kashrut for three years will be forever forbiden to keep them. How do you feel about that one, Tzvi?

8) "Haredim will donate the funds to rebuild Gush Katif, and they will do all of the hard labor or face imprisonment." Why only Haredim? All Haredim? And how do you define "Haredim"? Do you include Habad? National religious who wear black kippot? Those who wear black hats on Shabbat and t-shirts the rest of the week? Yourself?

One final point, Tzvi: If merely spending a few hours under arrest qualifies you to be a ntional leader, then there are thousands of people more qualified than yourself - Rabbi Arye Deri, for example, or Omri Sharon.

Daniel's right. Al Capone for Prime Minister!

I personally like the idea of an American olim party. Tzvi said he wants ideas for a name, and I'm always happy to oblige:

- United Jews of Israel

- Israel the Beautiful

- The Star Spangled Tallis Party

- The Benei Liberty Party

- The Yesha-Crats

- The Nativists

- The W(h)igs

- Uncle Shlomo Wants You!

And my personal favorite...

- The Yankel Doodles.

Add your suggestions here. I'll be sure Tzvi gets them.