Thursday, October 30, 2008

WND must be shaking it its boots...

You can tell WingNutDaily is getting really nervous- this was on their home page:

Now by "with", they actually mean "to." And by "mentor," they mean, "old kooky drinking buddy of Obama's grandfather." Wow, trying to dig up skeletons from when Obama was all of 13? Stay relevant, WND.

But wait, there's more.

Of course, what can you expect from WND? Check out the "breaking news" in the top right column.

World Net Daily: Your one-stop shop for important news like "Obama's grandmother once kicked a dog while wearing a Mao hat" and "some gum I stepped in last week looked like St. Bartholomew!"

Who's the Flip-Flopper?

According to Neal Cavuto, when it comes to the economy... it's McCain.

Cavuto: Frankly, neither of your numbers adds up. But I’ve come to see a consistent pattern in Obama's. For the life of me, Senator Straight Talk, I see no such straight thing with yours.

...You rail against big government, yet continue to push cockamamie spending plans that make a mockery of it. That's why you're losing right now, Senator McCain.

Not because you don't have the courage of your convictions. But because on economic matters, you have no convictions, period.

People may not like Obama's position on the economy- Cavuto certainly doesn't. But at least there's something there.

Hat-tip: Crooks and Liars.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Final Campaign Thoughts III

We've covered social issues and foreign policy. Today I'm talking about what some on the right have been trying to present as Obama's weakest point, Israel.

On a personal note, this is only slightly adapted from an email sent to my grandmother, Bubbe Yid, this morning:

First, Obama has received a high rating from AIPAC. He received a standing ovation when he spoke there, and emphasized repeatedly that Israel's security was sacrosanct. Not only that, he recognizes that neither party in the Arab-Israeli conflict gains anything through continued violence and wasn't afraid to talk about both Jewish and Palestinian suffering in front of some potentially hostile crowds, which suggests a different perspective than what we've seen the past eight years where Bush paid little less than lip service to Israeli suffering and not even that to the Palestinians. AIPAC has repeatedly said that they are more than satisfied with Obama's record of support of Israel and think he would continue to do so if elected President.

Second, a lot has been made of different Obama positions over the past months. Dividing Jerusalem has been a big one I've seen brought up again and again. What people aren't talking about is that not only would Obama (or McCain) obviously not be the final decider on big issues like Jerusalem, but that nothing Obama has said is at all surprising or new to Israelis. There are many people in Israel on the left and even center who believe that there will need to be some division of Jerusalem as part of a final settlement. Even Olmert admitted it recently. The same goes for talking with our enemies, which some people have jumped all over Obama for, not realizing that first, talking with your enemies neither requires you to agree with them nor actually legitimizes them (Nancy Pelosi met with the President of Syria six months ago and I haven't noticed anyone saying that we all respect Syria now), but also that there are plenty of countries, including Israel, that have never had such a strict policy because they recognize that it shoots them in the foot. Israel has been
meeting with Syria for decades trying to get rid of the Golan. It met with the Palestinians when the PLO was still exiled and it was technically illegal. It is even sending feelers to talk to Iran. If Israel isn't afraid to talk to its enemies, why should the US? As an interesting note, even conservative thinkers like William Kristol have admitted that, except for having a timetable on Iraq and on potentially talking with Iran, Obama and McCain's Middle East positions are essentially the same- this includes that both are highly supportive of Israel.

Third, I've seen some commentary about how Obama's associations and advisers are troubling when it comes to how he will look at the Middle East and Israel specifically. While some of his advisers, such as Brzezenski, have not been the best friends of Israel, most of them have very strong pro-Israel records, such as Dennis Ross, chief Clinton Advisor at Camp David II and Daniel Kurtzer, former ambassador to Israel under Clinton and Bush. My understanding is that Obama's group of advisers reflects his belief that the best way to understand an issue is to have a lot of different perspectives on it. However there is also no reason to assume that the handful of people critical of Israel will drown out the majority who support it. I also think that by including different voices on the Israel issue, Obama is more likely to be focused on how to solve the conflict and place it higher on his agenda than someone like McCain, who seems more interested in maintaining the status quo with Israel and the rest of the region, or perhaps like Bush, putting all his eggs in one basket to engage with it and then throwing up his hands when it all falls apart.

Think back to the Clinton years. Camp David II may have failed but at least it was on Clinton's to-do-list. He was motivated to try to negotiate a settlement, he was knowledgeable about the personalities and issues behind the conflict, and no one can say he didn't try to solve it. Bush effectively ignored the conflict for most of his first term, letting the Israelis try to solve the Intifada on their own (which didn't work out too well) and letting the Palestinians throw themselves on their own swords. Obama, like Clinton, seems interested in engaging with other countries and helping them do the right thing, even if they don't necessarily want it . McCain seems to prefer the laissez-faire approach. My worry is that on Israel McCain will decide that "Israel should take care of its own problems with the Palestinians." Yeah, because that's worked so well over the last eight years. Exactly what has Israel accomplished during Bush's term? What has it achieved? Ok, we have a wall through the West Bank and have reduced the ammount of terrorists getting through dramatically; that's awesome. But is there anything happening which will prevent more people from BECOMING terrorists? You've got more radicals than ever and now they're becoming more creative thanks to things like super-long-range Qassams and bulldozers. If America is really Israel's friend it should be helping it solve what has been the continually biggest existential problem since its creation. Not bringing it up because we don't want to seem critical does not consitute "friendship." That's like saying friends don't make friends go to the oncologist to get that tumor checked. America cannot settle the conflict independent of the two sides, but it can sure do its hardest to push them to the table and show them that a deal benefits them.

Lastly, despite all the noise about how bad Obama will be for Israel, there are plenty of Israelis who think differently. Many in the Israeli press who have been following Obama for the last couple of years are thoroughly convinced that he believes in supporting Israel's right to exist and defend itself. I think it's interesting that a lot of people who actually live in Israel and have a lot more to lose if an "anti-Israel" President was elected not only support Obama, but have positions very similar to his, including wanting to come to a final agreement with the Palestinians, clamping down on terrorism, and being honest about what concessions it might involve. Clearly, not everyone in Israel (or the American Jewish community) supports Obama, and that's ok. But the Israeli left is not suicidal. They would not support a candidate they thought would actually be likely to harm their country. That a large number of them think Obama is the right man for the job, to me at least, speaks volumes.

So there you go. AIPAC supports Obama thinks Obama is just as good as McCain, a lot of Israelis support Obama, and when you really look at their positions, Obama and McCain's differences are really only about degree, not kind. Obama is not going to negotiate about Israel's right to exist or defend itself, though he may be more interested in trying to solve the mess with the Palestinians. There may be other reasons to not vote for Obama, but Israel isn't one of them.

Edited for clarity.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Favorite Aggadot

Jameel pointed me towards this interesting story:

YNET and Bnei Akiva teamed up to host the "Aggadic Appreciation Competition" and asked 6 "people of the arts" to state their favorite "Aggada" -- and people can vote for their favorite one.

...What's your favorite aggadah?

I gave it some thought, then came up with these two stories, both featuring, not surprisingly, some independent streaks of thought.

Has someone come back? Makkot 23b:

In discussing a matter of Jewish theology, several rabbis got into an argument. Rabbi Yochanan said, “The colleagues of Rabbi Chanania disagree with his opinion.” Rabbi Ada b. Ahaba said in the name of Rabh, “The Halakah nevertheless agrees with Rabbi Chanania. Rabbi Joseph, rebuking him, said, “How do you know? Has someone gone to Heaven and come back?”

The point of this short excerpt (indeed, the story continues, with another rabbi attempting to explain to Joseph, somewhat lamely, how we can indeed know that the Halakah agrees with Rabbi Chanania) is to point out a very nice tendency in Judaism which I really like. Namely, that Jews tend to try to avoid claiming direct links to God.

Judaism has long prided itself on not believing in the necessity of any intermediaries between humans and God. Quite the contrary, Judaism maintains that all people have access to God. The interesting thing there, however, is the democratic impulse it implies. We are all in the same boat, Judaism claims. A rabbi is only distinguished from someone else by his learning. He is not spiritually distinct from other people. However, believing that people can connect with God is not the same thing as making the claim that
you know what God thinks. That seems to be the argument Rabbi Joseph is making. He is cautioning his fellows against saying, “Well, I know I’m right, God (or Halakah) said so.” Judaism is famous (or notorious) for its love of multiple, multiple, opinions. There are procedures in which opinions are codified and made authoritative, but they are always opinions, and, as anyone knows, opinions are something which everyone has.

The tale serves as a model for the participatory and democratic instinct in Judaism. Unaffiliated Jews who feel turned off by Judaism because they ask too many questions or because they don't think religion is interested in complex questions would do well to read this story. it reinforces that minority opinions do not equal being beyond the pale. This story demonstrates that Judaism is not always about getting answers, per se, but asking questions, and the desire to not just swallow other people’s answers, but to find, and question, on one's own.

I believe this is the spirit of Rabbi Joseph’s question; no one has all the answers. None of us know God’s mind, and it is nothing short of spiritual arrogance to claim otherwise. Judaism, for its part, is not afraid to admit this. Everyone has opinions, and there is room within the Jewish tent for them to, if not correspond, then at least coexist. Having a dissenting opinion does not mean that non-Orthodox Jews have to remain outside the tent.

Oven of Akhnai- Baba Metzia 59b:

There was a dispute between the rabbis regarding a certain oven, which had been constructed out of broken vessels and then cemented together in the shape of a serpent (“akhnai”). The question was whether the structure could be considered a simple oven, that is, a single, unified entity, and which therefore could transmit impurity, or if it should be seen as merely a composite of broken vessels, which cannot transmit impurity.

All the rabbis declared that the oven was a singular oven, and thus, “unclean”, except for one man, Rabbi Eliezer. Eliezer brought forth “every possible argument”, but his peers would not accept them. Frustrated, he tried a different tactic.

“If the Halakah is with me, let this tree prove it!” He pointed to a tree, and it flew through the air

His fellows were unimpressed. “No proof can be brought from a tree.”

Eliezer tried again. “If the Halakah agrees with me, let this stream prove it.” He glanced at a stream of water, and it began to flow backward.

“No proof can be brought from a stream.”

Frustrated, Rabbi Eliezer looked around and said, “If the Halakah agrees with me, let the walls of the house of study prove it,” at which point the walls began to fall. But another rabbi, Rabbi Joshua, angrily rebuked them and said, “When scholars are engaged in debate, what right have you to interfere?” And out of respect for both rabbis, the walls remained bent.

Finally, Rabbi Eliezer stood before the others and declared, “If the Halakah agrees with me, let it be proved from Heaven!” And a Divine Voice, a Bat Kol, cried out from above: “Why do you disagree with Rabbi Eliezer? The Halakah always agrees with him!”

Rabbi Joshua stood up and protested, quoting the book of Deuteronomy: “You told us, ‘the Torah is not in Heaven’! We pay no attention to Divine Voices because long ago, at Sinai, You wrote in Your Torah, ‘After the majority must one incline!’”.

Many years later, a man named Rabbi Nathan, who had heard of the famous story, encountered the prophet Elijah, and asked him what “What was the Holy One’s reaction?” Elijah replied, “He laughed with joy, and said, ‘My children have defeated Me.’”

There is a lot going on in here. We have a group of rabbis debating an issue of purity after the destruction of the Temple, physically affirming their commitment to perpetuating Judaism, Temple or not. In addition, they are showing the full depths of their creativity now that they do not have to focus Judaism through the prism of the Temple. They are showing that Judaism can still exist without the Temple and Priestly system; that its central message and ethos can transcend the material requirements it presently lacks. We also see a somewhat surprising representation of God- rather than a stern authority or an amorphous God-Israel love, we see a God with a sense of humor, whose reaction to being verbally shoved out of an argument is to chuckle. This has always brought a smile to my face.

As readers, we do not seem to know quite who to sympathize with: the underdog and miracle-worker, Eliezer, or his mostly nameless and faceless crowd of peers? I find this story personally fascinating because it demonstrates some of the most important values of Judaism to me. Christian friends of mine who have heard the story often take away a different interpretation. Eliezer is right, they say, and everything around him proves it- both natural phenomenon as well as the Divine Voice, a proxy of God. Therefore, Eliezer is right, case closed.

But these are not the values the story assigns within itself, and that is what is so intriguing. Even as Eliezer is making trees fly and water reverse itself, he is being told that these are invalid arguments. Not only do they not convince the other rabbis, at various points it is explicitly stated by Rabbi Joshua that these “outside interferences” are entirely inappropriate! Essentially, he tells nature, and the walls of the study hall, and even the Divine Voice of God, to “butt out!” How can we explain this?

To me, this exemplifies one of the really interesting things about Jewish tradition: there is a long history of being wary of people who claim to speak with the direct authority of God (see the first story discussed above). The Jewish sages long ago realized that no one has a “direct” line to God, that all of us are, at a basic level, just trying to figure things out. It was this same reasoning that led to genius rabbinical declarations that Jews should not waste their time contemplating the afterlife (which no one can really know much about anyway), or calculating/planning the arrival of the Messiah. The logic went, “You can’t know definitively, and there doesn’t seem to be much, if anything, to be gained, so why do it? Spend your time doing important things, like living.”

In that same vein, part of the reason for the vehemence of the argument, it seems, is that Rabbi Eliezer is trying to get around the issue of his inability to argue his case by relying on other proofs: trees, water, the voice of God, and so on. But, as Rabbi Joshua points out, you can’t prove anything that way. And, as if to make the point as explicit as possible, the story tosses in a direct confrontation between Joshua and the Bat Kol. This was the part my Christian friends really couldn’t get their heads around. “God’s voice just told this pipsqueak that Eliezer is right. Who does he think he is?”

In the simplest of terms, Joshua is a Jew par excellence, challenging God, part of a long chain stretching back to Abraham and Jacob. Someone can offer all the “proofs” in the world, someone can even claim to have a direct pipeline to God- Judaism doesn’t care. It’s irrelevant. Notice that Joshua doesn’t try to challenge the Bat Kol; he doesn’t try to say that it’s wrong. He just says, “We don’t listen to Bat Kols around here. You gave us the Torah. Now it’s ours. We have to struggle with it; we have to decide what it means. The Torah is not in Heaven.” In the course of the story, we see a sudden reversal of roles: suddenly Eliezer is the show-off, by claiming to know God’s true mind, by saying, “I am right, the Halakah is with me, everything agrees with me.” Joshua is now the underdog, not only arguing with Eliezer, but God, too.

It's also interesting that the story of Oven of Akhnai story is not about the oven as much as it is the debate, arguments and process of discussion. Similarly, Rabbi Joshua points out that God did not give the Jews uniform answers carved in stone; but a Torah to be discussed, analyzed, and debated. Again, we have an emphasis on process rather than end-result. Not only the written Torah was given to the Jews at Sinai, but also the Oral Torah, the process of Biblical interpretation and exegesis, which, perhaps more than anything, is the central point of Judaism: the idea that there is always something deeper. This story seems to exemplify that.

The addendum of God’s reaction is very interesting if only for the fact that it seems to reaffirm the spirit of the challenger Jew in Jewish folklore. In this story we actually have two challenger Jews: Eliezer who challenges his fellow Jews, and Joshua, who challenges God. I believe that it is the obligation of every Jew to embody both these impulses, and that it is only in this way that Judaism can remain dynamic, just as it had to in the days of Eliezer and Joshua. If this story is any indication, God does not mind being challenged; in fact the suggestion seems to be that, just as a parent rejoices in seeing their child succeed, the Jewish God desires something similar. God does not want automatons; God does not want little Jewish robots who already know what is right and what is wrong. God wants us to struggle with it. God wants us to be devoted to the process of Judaism and Jewish-ness, to the process of discovering, or deciding, what those terms mean. Again, we see the focus not on the end of the race, but on the process of action.

There is one more gloss here, and it is one that I think is just as important as everything else that has been said. If the story is about anything, it is about respect, or perhaps the lack of it. Neither side of the disputation is willing to give an inch; neither side shows the slightest sign of being willing to even consider the other’s point of view. Eliezer essentially throws a tantrum when he cannot win the argument rationally, and throws his surroundings into disarray, both literally as well as metaphorically. It is not dissimilar from cursing someone out when you cannot out-argue them. For their own parts, Joshua and his supporters are not much better. If there is one example in this story that all Jews could benefit from emulating, it is the walls of the House of Study: who, out of respect for both rabbis, neither fall down, nor stand up, but bend. Only the walls, who ironically are made of brittle material that by definition is not made to bend, be physically capable of bending, are willing to do so. More than anything else that happens in this story, is that not the most fantastical thing of all?

Maybe some of my readers see themselves in this story. I know I do, in all of the different characters. I have been Eliezer, the individualist, perhaps a little too proud and a little too obstinate in my desire to be both right as well as free from others’ control. I have been Joshua, refusing to see anyone else’s point of view. And, on a very few occasions, I have tried to be the walls, if not agreeing with, then at least respecting, the positions of others.

We must learn to be aware of the process; we must remind ourselves that the law is not in Heaven, but with us. And perhaps, most of all, we should learn to bend.

Final Campaign Thoughts II

Yesterday I wrote about why I am supporting Obama on social issues (basic recap- he is a liberal Democrat and while he may not implement everything he says he'll work for, at least I can expect him to not actively sabotage or oppose any of them as a McCain administration would). Today I'll talk about foreign policy.

First, my ideological background: I think that I am like many Americans in that I don't fall into either extreme of either isolationism or extreme interventionism. Pure isolationism amounts to callous selfishness which, particularly in cases of genocide or humanitarian crisis, could accurately be described as evil. Reading about the various massacres of the twentieth century, be they the millions of Ukrainians starving under Lenin to the brutalities of King Leopold in the jungles of Congo, to the gas chambers of Auschwitz or the killing fields of Cambodia makes the idea of standing by while innocents die repugnant to me.

Yet at the same time, policing the world is no small matter. Contrary to the Neo-Conservative view, the mere political system of democracy cannot solve deep-seated issues of culture or civilization. We associate democracies with pluralism and tolerance, but there are many places in the world that do not share these values, and merely giving such people the power to vote will not solve their problems, or ours. Neither can we avoid considering the tremendous costs of invading another country, subjugating its armies, destroying its infrastructures, and then trying to rebuild it all from scratch. (That's even assuming we were at a point where we could sustain yet another invasion/war with a third country, which we're not.)

We all know that the world is an ugly place, and as a nation with power our job should be to use that power wisely and fairly on behalf of those that need us. Of course, we should consider our own priorities in any foreign policy situation but should not let our self-interest be our only motive. One of the most important things we have learned under the Bush administration is that no matter how powerful you may think you are, allies are crucial to winning a war. Our foreign policies have alienated many countries that formerly supported us and as a result, we are more likely to carry future burdens alone. For a nation with any possible motivation to help improve the world, whether motivated by altruism or self-interest, the consequences of this are clearly disastrous. We cannot solve every problem ourselves. We do need allies, we do need the rest of the world, we do need to remember that our view is not the only one that matters-- and also realize that we are stronger if we can convince others of the moral or strategic advantages of supporting us in whatever efforts we undertake.

What I am trying to say is that, particularly as we attempt to regroup and refocus the War on Terror, we need to be particularly aware of how we are going to fight and win it. Our military resources, both in manpower and equipment, are strained if not depleted. Our country is deeply divided, and our morale, well our morale seems to vary depending on the day and the time. Some days the news seems to make it look like we will be able to leave Iraq in a few years, other days it looks like we'll be stuck there for generations. In the meantime we have other dangers that need our attention as well: Russia trying to regain its power and influence over Europe, China using amoral economics to pursue its will towards supremacy, North Korea testing nukes, Iran probably close to acquiring them, Syria and Lebanon financing and supporting terrorism, and of course the ongoing mess that is Afghanistan, Pakistan, and the Taliban. The list goes on.

Most people in America recognize that the use of force is a necessary evil, even if only as a threat or deterrent. But the question is how do we make our policies work for us and help us? How do we fight smarter? Take another look at that list above: Russia and China are on their way towards being Super Powers and are very eager to get there (and are not likely to play nice when they do). Iran and North Korea, Syria, Lebanon, Afghanistan, Pakistan. That's six countries, six hot spots, from memory, without even doing so much as a Google Search. The world is too big for us to police it alone. The issue is not whether America is weak, it is whether it is supported. Think of the supporting beam of a house. You might think that if you only have a single pillar that you'll be ok, that you can hold up any weight, but you can't. Eventually if enough weight is placed on it, you'll buckle and fall. But if you have many pillars, many supports, you have a better chance of holding up under the weight. Our enemies understand this, why can't we?

One of the commonalities of the past Empires that collapsed is not only that they were overextended, but also that their size and power had alienated others who either stood by and watched their decline, or actively helped in destroying them. America did well during the two World Wars not only because of its military but also because it was not the only one carrying the burden. You don't need all of your enemies to launch a unified attack on you in order to fall; if there are enough of them and you're all alone, it will happen all on its own.

Under the Bush years America's image abroad has been significantly damaged. While initially we may have been admired for our willingness to defend ourselves in Afghanistan, and (perhaps) even in our successes in bringing freedom from a brutal regime in Iraq, as these conflicts have gone on, we have lost much of our support. Right or wrong, every mistake of these wars have haunted us, being stored up as ammo for our opponents. And as our allies in our War have decreased, so too has our ability to fight it.

McCain seems to think that we do not need world opinion, that it is inconsequential as long as we are in the right (or think we are). There is truth in the idea that something does not become wrong even if everyone else says it is. But we also need to remember that we do not exist, or act in a vaccuum, and that we ignore our would-be allies at our peril. Going it alone makes us weak; it makes us a target, and it makes us vulnerable.

As President, we need someone who is willing to confront threats to our and the world's security, be they Islamist, Nationalist, or other. I do not doubt that McCain would be a capable bulldog President. But I think that we are stronger when we have others supporting us. I think that Russia and China are less likely to try to openly oppose us or to go behind our backs if we have the ability to confront them with not only American sanctions or American forces, but also those of the European Union and friendly countries in South and Latin America. I think Obama has more of an understanding of how a global or regional alliance can work, and how to rebuild the coalitions that have suffered under a Go-It-Alone-President. I don't see McCain being able to do that, especially given that internationally he continues to be identified, through party affiliation if not ideology, with Bush.

I think that many of the candidates' responses on foreign policy would be similar- if there is a legitimate threat, both would act to neutralize or contain it. The key difference is in tactics and approach. For instance, at this point the debate over Iraq is mostly arguing over semantics; neither candidate would be interested in leaving an Iraq that would be likely to incinerate as soon as we left. Thanks to the Surge and the Sunni Awakenings, it looks like the standard operating procedure will be to gradually turn over security to provinces as they get their acts together. The question is whether the focus will be on improving security regardless of how long it takes or pressuring the Iraqis by letting them know that we're on our way out. I'm not sure that somewhere between the two positions wouldn't be best.

The bigger issue in Iraq, and one that conservatives touting the Surge have consistently avoided, is that security is only part of the equation- as long as Sunnis and Shiia are at each other's throats, Iraq will continue to be a divided and unstable state. There is no question that security is important- but without political cooperation and unity, we won't be able to leave. The Sadrists seem to have calmed down for the time being, but it remains an open question as to what they will do should the Americans leave or the government doesn't give them their way. As long as there are Shiite militias (some which have infiltrated the Iraqi army) and armed Sunni Awakening Councils, the country is still a tinderbox. If we don't pay attention to this component, we aren't getting out of there. Period.

What should our priorities be in a new administration? Keeping China honest about its economic policies (which includes making sure we don't fall any more in debt to them). We should encourage fledgling democracy movements in countries like Cuba (the Castro brothers are on their way out and everyone knows it). We must show Russia we mean business and will not allow them to intimidate their neighbors. And we need to reach out to the people of Iran and North Korea (and Syria and Lebanon) while letting the government or terrorist forces dictating their policies that we intend to stand firm by our red lines. And we need to re-engage with the Israelis and Palestinians, an area sorely neglected by the Bush administration for most of its first term and then, as if trying to make up for it, using a one-two-punch of hyping up impossibly high standards with little to no follow through. This was sort of like trying to cure cancer by giving someone some Ace bandages and then instead of addressing the obvious weaknesses with the treatment, paying an ad agency to promote just how awesome Ace bandages are. (More on Israel specifically in a later post.)

My gut feeling is that, especially post-Bush, both McCain and Obama will be paying attention to foreign threats, both military and economic and will try to do their best to respond appropirately to them. Unfortunately I don't see McCain as being a personality that will help us move away from the world's impression of America as a self-centered bully. We need to reclaim our image and conscience, and I think that when it comes to winning the war of perception, which will strengthen America's resolve and shore up support among our allies to help us present a united front to our opponents, Obama is a much better candidate. If we pick McCain the warrior we may have a man that understands the military and how to present "a hard line" very well but we run the risk of being left out in the cold internationally for another four to eight years- something we and the world cannot afford.

Monday, October 27, 2008

Earth to Everyone: Can we PLEASE rise above this crap?

News flash to this asshole: you are an asshole, you are not funny, you are being counter-productive to your community and your party, and did I mention you're an asshole?

On the other hand, memo to outraged conservatives:

Can you imagine if someone were to hang an effigy of Barack Obama in a mock lynching. Imagine the outcry that would occur and the worldwide media attention it would get.

It's happened. Repeatedly. And I at least, hadn't heard about it. The fact that so many conservatives seem to be phrasing their comments like you suggests they didn't, either.

However, kudos to liberal bloggers and media pundits like Olbermann for denouncing this jackass as the tool he is. By the same token, kudos to conservatives across the blogosphere for denouncing this madness and reminding us that the way to deal with political disagreements in this country is to VOTE.

Reading some of these responses actually makes me feel better about politics. It's encouraging to hear people recognize that there are people behind the politicians, and despite all the crap being thrown back and forth, it's heartening to see people acknowledge that as much as we disagree, we do not wish each other ill-will.

Let's all please remember this as we move forward.

P.S. Malkin does deserve a shout-out for keeping her nose to the grindstone on this wacko. But I wonder if we'll see retractions from bloggers who blamed this on "Democrats attacking anyone who disagrees with them."

Hat-tip: Jill @ Writes Like She Talks.

Final Campaign Thoughts I

I decided I would try to blog a little bit about the campaign, and my reasons for supporting Obama, a little each day for the last week before the election.

Today's topic- social agendas.

One of the reasons I have been so bored and turned-off by the campaign coverage, both on TV and online, is that it has alternately centered on either personal aggrandizement or personal attacks. The truth is, though, that I am less interested in electing an individual than supporting specific policies, values and issues that I agree with. The reality of politics these days, for good or bad, is that the vast majority of the time, politicians will stay with their party line, or if not, with the ideological niche they have carved out for themselves. At the end of the day, that is the job they are being elected to do- to vote and write legislation, to decide court cases, or to sign bills, appoint judges, and influence policies how they see fit.

Character is not insignificant, but it should not be the determining factor of who gets your vote. Personality traits do not necessarily predict who will be a good President. The most frustrating element of Bush's 2000 campaign was that he was able to turn the focus from who was most qualified or informed to who people would rather have a beer with- as if any of the people who voted for Bush ever got to have that beer.

Should we go out of our way to elect morally questionable people? Certainly not. But most of the attacks laid at Obama's feet about supposed radicalism, much less links to bad people, have been overstated, overblown, or downright wrong. And the truth of the matter is that it does not matter if Obama sat in Ayers' living room many moons ago, because this fact is going to have zero impact on what he will do as President (particularly since Ayers has become such a hot media focus). I also believe that the "Obama character" issue is basically a strawman because few of the people that have done so much to try to sling mud at him (including members of my own family) would ever have any intention of voting for a Democrat at all. It's an issue of politics and issues. At this very moment I am watching Elisabeth Hasselbeck ranting about how great it is that Palin wears a flag pin- is there any better example of how superficial the talking heads can get? (Yes, liberals can be superficial as well- the whole "Palin clothes"-gate thing comes to mind. However I don't think anyone has suggested that Palin's clothes disqualify her from being VP material, or have questioned her patriotism because of it.)

Some people object to the idea of "voting your party, right or wrong." I understand that view and have some respect for those who call themselves independents and try to think about each issue before making up their mind instead of just going with whatever their party says. On a national scale, however, you have to look at the long-term ramifications of your vote.

Eight years ago, McCain was far more moderate than he is now. Eight years ago he was the only Republican I remember Abbot Yid commenting, "I actually wouldn't mind that much if he became President." Sadly that McCain no longer seems to exist. I have no doubt that Senator McCain still cares very much about this country and if elected would hopefully pay closer attention to our national and foreign policy issues than President Bush has for much of his term. However on the national social agendas, we are worlds apart and there is nothing that can bridge that gap. McCain's "maverick" status these days seems limited to palling around with Joe Lieberman (sorry John, once a Dem speaks at the GOP convention, I think you lose any claim to bipartisanship points). It is possible that Obama may not be much better when it comes to reaching across the aisle, but I can be optimistic.

The fact is that I know that Obama will support the social causes that are important to me: as much progress on the same-sex marriage as we can get; ensuring that Roe v. Wade stands; supporting comprehensive sex-education; making sure that the evangelical wing of the GOP is kept in check on the Church-State stuff (and maybe shutting up whoever keeps harping on about that damn culture war crap); maintaining government safety nets for people that need them (while hopefully still looking for ways to fund them); focusing on renewable energy research (let's be honest, we need a dozen-barreled shotgun on this one, whatever can be safe, practical and effective, and yes, that includes some drilling if necessary- but it can't be all!); battling global warming and climate change; working towards a humane and effective immigration policy; supporting stem cell research; defending civil liberties; and, fingers crossed, will also get to put a few judges on the bench to shore up the liberal/conservative balance.

Should people not be allowed to delve into Obama's past? Of course not. But who at this point has not heard of Wright or Pfleger? Who has not heard of Ayers? Fox News is screaming these things at the top of their lungs, and despite all that, polls seem to be showing that a lot of people simply DON'T CARE. Obama's choice of former pastor is not going to have an appreciable impact on these people's lives, and they know it.

Let's be honest. Character is important. Personality is important. But we aren't voting for just a guy. We're voting for a party, we're voting for an agenda, and we're voting for a vision, plan and direction for the future. Even if you have misgivings about Obama as a person, if your agenda even remotely matches his, it seems like your decision is straight-forward.

Tomorrow: Foreign policy.

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Let's agree to disagree- but if you disagree with me, you're a Hellenist traitor

Avi Shafran is just dying to explain why all good Jews MUST support Prop 8 in California to ban same-sex marriages.
What is more, and here more to the point, societal “officializing” of such unions – i.e. calling them “marriages” – is particularly condemned by unimpeachable and authoritative Jewish sources. They consider a society that “writes marriage documents for men” to be endangering its very existence.
Really? Where is that line, exactly? Was this a problem they encountered a lot in Jewish antiquity? Was the issue in Sodom not roving squads of gay rapists but rather commitment ceremonies? And sometimes they made kids watch (or worse yet, throw flowers). Oh the humanity!

A Jewish case can certainly be made for a libertarian approach to matters of personal behavior, for a “live and let live” attitude that, for all its morally objectionable yield, can help ensure the protection of religious and other fundamental freedoms. In any event, the behavioral issue is legally moot; the highest court in the land has declared unconstitutional laws that criminalize homosexual acts between consenting adults. But Proposition 8 is not about legislating personal behavior – be it same-sex, multi-partner or incestuous, all of which have their proponents. It is, rather, about preventing a twisting of the time-honored and timeless definition of marriage, a definition whose upholding the rabbis of the Talmud considered to be one of humanity’s saving graces.

Fun with semantics. Yeah, it doesn't legislate personal behavior at all, except for legislating personal behavior by forbidding gay couples to get married. Whoops.

Here's where it gets good:
We Jews as a people have a tendency toward “progressive” movements and tend to welcome all societal change as inherently healthy and good. Some such change, of course, is indeed so, and Jews can be rightly proud of having been at the forefront of social causes like racial equality and employees’ rights. But headlong rushes to a “more enlightened future” have landed some Jews in some unsavory places, like the forefront of communism in the early decades of the previous century. Or, centuries earlier, among the Hellenists of ancient Greece. Or even earlier, dancing in celebration of a golden calf.

Got that? The Golden Calf was the liberal Israelites' fault! I guess that makes Aharon an early Bill Ayers, or whoever conservatives are claiming to be the liberal Pope these days. Incidentally, I'm no fan of the Jewish Communists responsible for thousands and thousands of deaths in the Soviet Union, but it's not like sequestering oneself in a reactionary bubble is a much better alternative. Modesty squads, anyone?

Rabbi Shafran's position is not unlike the rabbis of Europe who, at the dawning of the modern age, prayed for the success of the Russians against Napoleon, fearing that liberal reforms like citizenship and other rights would give Jews opportunities to become modern people and, heaven forbid, leave the ghetto and its strictly enforced communal standards. They preferred to live as subjects under a repressive autocrat than give their people the mere choice of how to live their lives. More than a century later, this same fear and distrust of change (or challenge) contributed to the tragedy during the Shoah, when rabbis preached violently against leaving for America, Israel, or anywhere else, because no place but the shtetl could ever be as safe, stable, or controllable. We know what happened to those loyal followers. Had they been willing to take a chance on a "change" they could have contributed unknown gifts to their communities and the world. Instead they remained where they were, as they had always been, and were massacred.

Much of the world considers reformulating the meaning of marriage to represent progress. And many Jews, as in past “progressive” movements, are giddily jumping on the burnished bandwagon.
Jews, though, who understand what it means to have been chosen by G-d to stand for holiness – which the Talmud teaches has a primary meaning of “separation from immorality” – know that all that glistens to a liberal eye is not gold, or even good.

No, not all change is automatically good, but neither is the status quo. Child labor was not so good. Denying women the right to vote, not so good. Slavery, not so good. And on a religious scale, Judaism has benefited from modern innovations and ideas, ranging from decisions on new medical procedures to new ideas like Hasidism, Musar, or Reform. The Orthodox Judaism of R. Shafran is actually the result of fairly recent "changes" from just the past few centuries.

Judaism is not, and has not historically been, a static movement. And the alternative to change, stagnation, is certainly not ideal, either. Jews are not supposed to be Amish or Samaritans. We are supposed to engage, confront, argue and wrestle with the world as it comes. If you support Prop 8 that's your business. But when you conflate Jews fighting for a better world (in many ways and over many centuries) with the Hellenists and Communists of yesteryear, you create a fallacy of "change for change's sake" vs. "ol' faithful Judaism." Not only is the ideal somewhere in the middle, both extremes are strawmen anyway.

Monday, October 13, 2008

They're nothing if not efficient

Sure, some people are mad about crap like this:

But look at it this way: at least they managed to get all their disinformation onto a single billboard. That's something of an accomplishment, right? (At least there's only one of them.)

"Look out! Obama will turn your aborted fetuses gay, have them get gay marriages, tax them for it, AND deny them the right to carry guns!

... Oh, and he's a Muslim."

Also, who does this bozo think he's convincing with his sign? Last I checked Missouri wasn't exactly a contested state.

Sunday, October 12, 2008

World Net Daily: nothing if not optimistic

Also, insane.

Walter Williams had a particularly mind-numbing column in WND a while ago right before the big bailout bill debacle which reminded me a bunch of the "blacks shouldn't complain about slavery because at least they weren't being eaten by lions" dreck you sometimes see out in dark corners of the blogosphere. Except Walter's was about the economy and how we should have some perspective about things. The basic argument seems to revolve around the theory that people only have the right to be pissed off about things once per century.

Sen. John McCain took his economic adviser, former Sen. Phil Gramm, to the woodshed for saying that America had "become a nation of whiners" and described the current slowdown as a "mental recession." Had Sen. Gramm added that economically today's Americans are better off than at any time in our history, he might have lost his job altogether. Let's look at it.

Dr. W. Michael Cox and Richard Alm, of the Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas, in the July/August 2008 edition of The American, have an article titled "How Are We Doing?" Wages and income are frequently used to measure progress, but Cox and Alm say that a better measure is consumption. For example, while gasoline prices have skyrocketed, the average worker has to work about two hours to earn enough to purchase 10 gallons. In 1935, it was six hours and in 1950, over two hours. A basket of groceries that took four hours of work in 1950 to purchase now takes 1.7 hours. Annual hours of work have fallen from 1,903 in 1950 to 1,531 today. Real total compensation – wages plus fringe benefits, both adjusted for inflation – have been rising steadily for several generations. Fringe benefits have become a greater share of our earnings, thus dampening statistics on wage increases.

So, the fact that workers make more than they do seventy-plus years ago means that we should ignore all economic problems now. Yeah, I'm sure people losing their homes are going to take a lot of comfort from the fact that if they lived 100 years ago they would be made into indentured servants of their bank instead of being let off so easy by "just"becoming homeless. What lucky times we live in. Incidentally, wasn't the car still a largely unaffordable luxury back in 1935 (particularly given that it was right in the middle of the Depression)? This is like telling someone mad that his car died that "at least you don't have to get to work on a mule!"

Today's Americans are healthier than ever. In 1950, life expectancy was 67 compared with today's 78. Death rates from diseases, once considered a death sentence, are in steep decline. With advances in medicine and medical technology we're receiving much better health care.
Hey, and we don't even have to deal with things like Black Plague, either! (Just SARS and poisoned pet food from China.)

Recall that during President Carter's last year in office in 1980 what was called the "misery index," which was defined as the sum of the inflation and unemployment rates, was about 22 percent: inflation averaged 14 percent; unemployment was 7.5 percent. Today's inflation just became 5 percent, having been between 1 and 3 percent for a decade, and unemployment is 6.1. Cox and Alm say that today's problems "will turn out to be mere footnotes in a longer-term march of progress." They add that, "Since 1982, the United States has been in recession for a mere 16 months, the present slowdown notwithstanding. Over that period, the country more than doubled its inflation-adjusted output of goods and services and created jobs for an additional 50 million workers."

How about the fact that our National Debt is presently over 10 trillion dollars and grows over 500 billion a year? Under what "big picture" circumstances will that become a footnote? Nuclear winter? Discovering oil underneath the Capitol?

Things are not nearly as gloomy as the pundits say. Most of today's economic problems, whether it's energy, health care costs, financial problems, budget deficits or national debt, are caused by policies pursued by the White House and Congress.
Oh good, well, since they're "just" caused by the government, clearly we don't need to worry about them. Brilliant. I sure am glad Walter wasn't around in the 1920s to convince suffragettes that since we already had the 15th Amendment that fighting for a19th would just be greedy.

Lest you think Walter is the only loose screw over at WND, well, you'd be mistaken. Jack Cashill has been beating his chest since July that Obama did not write his autobiography "Dreams from my Father." Who knows, maybe he's even right. Obama would certainly not be the first politician to have used a ghostwriter. But what's so great about Cashill is his dead certainty about who the ghostwriter MUST have been:

As I have documented earlier, one thread that ties Ayers to "Dreams" is the repeated use of maritime metaphors throughout both books, a testament to Ayers' anxious year as a merchant seaman.

Come again?

I re-examined the one relentless linguistic thread that ties Ayers' "Fugitive Days" to Obama's "Dreams," a thread that leads back to Bill Ayers's stint, after dropping out of college, a merchant seaman.

The experience had a powerful impact on Ayers... Although Ayers has tried to put his anxious ocean-going days behind him, the language of the sea will not let him go.

"I realized that no one else could ever know this singular experience," Ayers writes of his maritime adventures. Yet curiously, much of this same nautical language flows through Obama's earth-bound memoir.

...In reading Ayers, one senses that he is unaware how deeply his seagoing affects his language. "Memory sails out upon a murky sea," he writes at one point.

Indeed, both he and Obama are obsessed with memory and its instability. Obama also has a fondness for the word "murky" and its aquatic usages.

"The unlucky ones drift into the murky tide of hustles and odd jobs," he writes, one of four times "murky" appears in "Dreams." Ayers and Obama also speak often of waves and wind, Obama at least a dozen times on wind alone.

"The wind wipes away my drowsiness, and I feel suddenly exposed," he writes in a typical passage. Both also make conspicuous use of the word "flutter."

Not surprisingly, Ayers uses "ship" as a metaphor with some frequency. Early in the book, he tells us that his mother is the "the captain of her own ship," not a substantial one either but "a ragged thing with fatal leaks" launched into a "sea of carelessness."

Obama, too, finds himself "feeling like the first mate on a sinking ship." He also makes a metaphorical reference to "a tranquil sea."

More intriguing is Obama's unusual use of the word "ragged" as an adjective as in the highly poetic "ragged air" or "ragged laughter."

Both books use "storms" and "horizons" both as metaphor and as reality. Ayers writes poetically of an "unbounded horizon," and Obama writes of "boundless prairie storms" and multiple horizons – "violet," "eastern," "western."

In "Dreams," we read of the "whole panorama of life out there" and in "Fugitive Days," "the whole weird panorama."

Ayers often speaks of "currents" and "pockets of calm" as does Obama, who uses both as nouns as in "a menacing calm" or "against the current" or "into the current."

The metaphorical use of the word "tangled" might also derive from one's nautical adventures. Ayers writes of his "tangled love affairs" and Obama of his "tangled arguments."

On at least 12 occasions, Obama speaks of "despair," as in the "ocean of despair." Ayers speaks of a "deepening despair," a constant theme for him as well. Obama's "knotted, howling assertion of self" sounds like something straight from the pages of "The Sea Wolf."

In Obama's defense, he did grow up in Hawaii. Still, he gives little hint of having spent time at the beach or on any kind of real ship, and yet his memoir is awash in aquatic imagery.

Wow, let's hope Cashill never develops a grudge against Nathaniel Philbrick; he'll probably accuse him of having Ayers write his books, too.

Huckabee proves Jew-Baiting has a long shelf life

Mike Huckabee's new show is really awful. But at least it has a good time slot- 8 pm on Saturday nights when hopefully no one is really paying attention. The last episode featured a particularly dumb segment, "Are you smarter than your Congressman?" By Congressman, Huckabee apparently meant the Speaker of the House, Nancy Pelosi, because the only clips he showed were of her, and they were both about the speech she gave on Sep 29- a scant two weeks ago. How topical!

The first clip featured Pelosi talking about the impending recess and urging Congress to remember that Americans were hurting significantly and needed help. Huckabee then asked a dimwit named Sherrod Small for his thoughts. This is funny for a few reasons:

A- Small is from New York, thereby making Pelosi actually the exact opposite of his Congressman.

B- Small is a quasi-well-known comedian from VH1's Best Week Ever, a show not exactly known for its sympathy to Huckabee's political positions. Why on earth did they pick this guy to be a participant in this segment? Small has nothing in common with anyone in this audience.

But it got better, because Huckabee's spin was that Congress was lazy for going "on a holiday." Small picked up on this and ran with it (Huffington Post has video and transcript):

PELOSI (video): But my colleagues, as you go home and see your families and observe the holiday and the rest, don't get settled in too far. Because as long as the Americ - this challenge is there for the American people, the threat of losing their jobs, their credit, their savings, their retirement, the opportunity for them to send their children to college - as long as in the households of America, this crisis is being felt very immediately, and being addressed at a different level --"

HUCK: Okay Sherrod, are you smarter than a Congressman? What would YOU have said instead of what we just heard Ms. Pelosi say?

SHERROD: Well, first of all, what she said was, 'Before you go home and enjoy your holidays and buy gifts and a Christmas tree, and turkeys, just keep in mind that some people are losing everything.' Which I think was the wrong thing to say. I would have said, before we go on vacation, let's straighten all this out.

HUCK: Yeah. I think that might be a good idea.

SHERROD: [inaudible]...before we go buy a Christmas tree.

HUCK: Sherrod, I think you ARE smarter than a Congressman.

Minor problem. The "holiday" Congress was adjourning for was Rosh Hashanah. Not so many Christmas trees associated with that one. (Also, who has a Christmas tree in September?)

Not only is this little bit of misinformed Jew-baiting disturbing, it's also old news. The past two weeks have seen plenty of stupid commentary on the fact that Congress was taking off during the middle of the financial meltdown. Never mind the fact that the Senate REMAINED in session, or that using the Jewish holidays as the beginning of the recess has been standard practice for years:
Representatives get a break for Easter, Passover, Rosh Hashanah, Yom Kippur, and Christmas Day. The Senate operates according to a very similar schedule, except it remains in session for Yom Kippur and, at least in 2008, for Rosh Hashanah.

The holiday schedule can vary from year to year. Leaders from both parties set up a tentative list of days off every January, before Congress convenes. Lawmakers can adjust the schedule as needed and suspend holidays in case of an emergency. The tentative 2008 schedule for the Senate, for example, listed two days off for Rosh Hashanah. The chamber remained in session anyway, although no votes were scheduled to take place between Monday morning and Wednesday afternoon.

The AP has more:

The first Jews weren't elected to the House and Senate until the 1840s, and through most of the 19th century, Congress only met from December through the spring. Because lawmakers could not easily return home in those days, they often met on Christmas Day, according to Senate historian Donald Ritchie.

Even after the schedule changed in the 1930s, Congress generally worked from January through the middle of the year, not conflicting with the Jewish holidays.

Even when circumstances required Congress to be in session during Rosh Hashanah or Yom Kippur, the day's agenda was usually planned so as to require very little to do, and no voting to take place, which doesn't seem to be very disimilar from the practice of meeting as infrequently as possible around Christian holidays like Christmas or Easter.

The griping about the recess being poorly timed and specifically complaining about the Rosh Hashanah thing seems to be focused in two areas. Some people are using it as a quasi-dig that somehow its the Jews' fault that Congress went home (sorry folks, math dictates it was going to be the same date this year whether there was a crisis or not).

The other point, which I accept to varying degrees, is that given that most members of Congress are not Jewish, perhaps it would have been a good idea to reassess the recess by a day or so. (Then again, how would they have handled not having forty-odd Represenatives present?) Also, I don't buy the line I was seeing throughout the blogosphere that a lot of people would demand Congress stay in session if it coincided with Christmas, too (I can think of a few Congressmen who probably would complain about it, and certainly some conservative commentators who would probably have some line about us not respecting our Jesus-Christian heritage).

Either way there seems to have been a bit of an unfair (and insulting) "it's just the Jewish New Year" attitude circulating around this issue. Which is funny, given that taking a break was probably helpful in getting both parties to regroup and pass the bill.

Oh, and FYI, some people have been bashing Rep. Roy Blunt for possibly suggesting that Republicans were stressed out over the bill because of Rosh Hashanah, accusing him of being anti-semitic (or pandering to that sentiment). Just one problem- Blunt's wife is Jewish. Whoopsies.

Wednesday, October 08, 2008

Glass Houses on Yom Kippur

As we get ready for Yom Kippur and begin contemplation of such heady matters as atonement, responsibility and unity, I thought it would be interesting to take a look at what Sultan Knish is up to these days. As always, I was not disappointed, and quickly found something to get the old bile going. Sultan, in his ever-so-black-and-white binary way, has important news for all of us. Not surprisingly, it's pretty much the same old message as ever: there is a right and a wrong, and guess who's who?
In the same way that for Americans in general the 2008 Presidential election at the committed activist level serves to winnow out those who understand what America is and what it is meant to be from those who despise what America is and seek to destroy it-- the election winnows out those Jews who have a Jewish identity from those who have a liberal identity wrapped in foil thin Star of David gift wrap.

How fortunate that elections offer objective demonstrations of who does and doesn't understand "what America is." This is particularly funny since Sultan is by his own admission voting for the (twice-) lesser evil, first having supported Giuliani, and then Romney, over McCain. Question: if you're voting for someone you don't really like and have major disagreements with, who really exactly is the one that "really" understands America? You or your candidate? Or do you split the difference?

The assimilationist agenda of liberal American Jewry has metastasized with each succeeding generation to produce two Jewish Americas, one of committed religious Jews and one that has reduced Jewishness to an ethnic joke in the service of a liberal creed.

Long live inane stereotypes. Because Jews, of all people, know just how easy people fit into "one or the other" categories. And stereotypes flow the other way, too. We could just as easily pick on the "committed religious Jews" as being the ones who don't mind supporting pedophilia in yeshivas or inhumane "kosher" slaughter as long as they can brag that their kid's learning Talmud or they don't have to pay extra for their kosher hamburgers.
A river now flows between us and many of those on the other side of the river are not even Jewish in the ethnic sense and few are religious in any sense. Their belief system is liberalism, their synagogue is the activist's bus, their prayer book was written by Saul Alinsky and their messiah is Barack Hussein Obama.

As usual, Sultan is big on rhetoric and low on facts. My prayerbook informs me it was written by the "Mishkan T'Filah siddur committee," which includes a Yoel, David, Peter, Elliot, several Elyses, Simons and Samuels, and, God help us, someone named Yeroham, but not a single Saul. Incidentally, how many liberal Jews had even heard of Saul Alinsky before a few weeks ago, much less worshipping the pearls of wisdom he apparently excretes?
I have never had much in common with their kind, but today I have nothing in common with them at all, for the commonality of a people must be based on a mutual commitment to that people, and in their list of commitments Jews come worse than last, not simply neglected but sacrificed time and time again on the altar of liberalism.

Whether it is bus bombs going off in Israel or rioting mobs besieging the Jewish community of Crown Heights, time and time again they have stood with the Arafat's and Dinkins', the Sharptons' and Abbas' over their own brothers, which makes them no brothers of mine.

Here we get to the core of the problem, which people like Sultan do not appear to understand. The issue is not just mutual commitment to the greater idea of "the people", but also on mutual respect for each other and everyone that makes up that people. It is undebateable and undeniable that as the Orthodox world moves increasingly rightward, their distrust, hostility and antipathy towards their Jewish brothers and sisters who are different than them grows exponentially. The few sane voices in the Orthodox world who beg for understanding (because tolerance is apparently too far a stretch of the imagination) are marginalized and attacked by their own as being potential traitors to the cause.

There is a legitimate argument to make about liberal Jews not always supporting their Orthodox counterparts in their struggles. But I see very little evidence that supporting non-Orthodox Jews in pretty much anything (except, of course, becoming Orthodox) is even on anyone's radar in the Orthodox community. Different ventures by liberal Jews which DO seek to make their Judaism matter (be it new Reform prayerbooks or the new Conservative hechscher) are ridiculed or dismissed as pale imitations of the real, authentic, Torah-true product. There certainly are causes which should unite all Jews- but the Orthodox are not the only members of the Jewish people whose causes matter. Not all Israeli issues are necessarily or automatically
"pan-Jewish issues." And, let's be honest, not every issue is one on which all Jews can, or must agree in order to still be considered "good Jews." The right, be it religious or Zionist, does not always get to set the terms of the debate.

Sultan cannot decide which group of Jews he has more disdain for: he sneers over the grandchildren of today who suposedly have zero connection to Jewish values (it's not like those prophets cared about things like justice, right?) while also carping over betrayals in the 1940s of all those Jews who refused to vote FDR out of office.
Little wonder then that it is the senior citizens that represent the toughest demographic to hack because they have still preserved more Jewish values than their degraded grandchildren...

Sultan seems to have forgotten that the same Jews who were doing nothing (or not enough) during the 1940s are the same ones who have apparently "some" Jewish values today (apparently not voting for blacks is a "value;" who knew?) He is also confused when it comes to things like cause-and-effect; if today's young Jewish liberals are so degraded it is because they are the descandants of those original immigrants who, for all sorts of reasons, left the shtetl and its mindset behind. Values are a funny thing. I would not necessarily call most of my values Jewish per se, but they are family values. Then again, most of my family has not been Orthodox in over four generations. So who's to blame?

Sultan says Yom Kippur is a time for liberal Jews to forget their materialistic trappings and to repent for their worship of false idols. Fair enough, but they are not the only ones who have sinned, they are not the only ones who have fallen short. At least some of us are honest enough to admit our fallibility. Sultan says the Jewish identity of American liberal Jews is dead, and that the only ones who will live on will be those who cling to their people, ideals, beliefs, culture and identity. Ironically more liberal American Jews are doing this today than ever before. But Sultan and people like him do not want to see or admit this, because we are still not kosher enough for them. Luckily, we do not- and never have- needed sanction or approval from the Orthodox. Let them think of us what they will. We have endured. And we will keep going. But make no mistake: brotherhood is, and has always been, a two way street, and on the age-old problem of Jewish (dis-)unity, there is still plenty of blame to go around.

P.S. For a bad time, take a look at the post comments, too. Best line: "[liberals] are entirely true to their 'real' nature which isnt jewish at all."

Yeah, I feel really encouraged to come together and bond with these guys. Can't you just feel the brotherhood?