Monday, August 17, 2009

Pat Boone needs an idea thesaurus

Apparently the gerbils running around on the habitrail in Pat Boone's brain are very distracted these days, because he can't for the life of him figure out which bizarrely inappropriate comparison is the best one to use to indicate that he really, really doesn't like Barack Obama and his various plans for turning America into a gay Socialist death camp, or something. Here are a few of the worst he's made over the past few months to show just how bad things are.

How this happened is the stuff of dreams, of fantasy. The huge Titanic had sailed before and was highly celebrated, but eventually fell into some disrepair and needed some serious overhauling. A consortium of extremely wealthy men decided to buy the ship, which they did with all cash. They laid plans to redo it completely, changing everything about it, and they looked about for a man to bring aboard as captain who would look and act like a movie version of a ship commander, but who most importantly would scrupulously do whatever they told him to do.

In effect, they wanted a handsome puppet, and they found him. What they hadn't counted on, however, was that once selected and put in authority, he wouldn't be so easy to control. His new power was intoxicating, and he began to use it according to his own whim.

Um, which cabal, exactly, are we to believe, is behind Obama? And are they the same as the wealth-hating undercover Socialists he supposedly is doing the bidding of? How could Saul Alinsky afford a giant boat?

The nation – its economy and political body – has been strapped down, blindfolded and hosed. A new administration, empowered by control of both houses of Congress and the most liberal president in history, is immersing us all in a torrent of debt. While we gasp for breath and try to cry "Time out!" we continue to be flooded with staggering commitments neither we nor our children have approved or will be able to fulfill.

...And now, while we're strapped down by the Democrat-controlled Congress, gasping and gulping beneath a flood of strong-arm tactics, the "health reform" bill taking shape outlines a "minimum-benefits package" that will be universal – that is, required of every American's insurance plan, whether provided by a private firm or by the government.

...But we're not helpless yet, folks. We're drenched and near-drowned and gasping for breath, but there's a growing coalition of staunch Republican and "blue dog" Democrats in both houses of Congress digging in their heels and saying, "Wait! This is all too much, too fast! We need time to read and digest and consider this torrent of legislation. Mr. President, hold off!"

I think Pat's brilliant imagery is working. Reading that column certainly made me feel like I was drowning. Or maybe I was just wishing I was.

According to the Bible account, Esau didn't even think it over. "Hey, I'm so hungry I could die, and then what good would my ‘birthright' be? You got yourself a deal, little brother. Pass me the stew." So in that moment of temporary need, he gave up his future and all his father intended him to have.

He ate a big meal, filled his belly, and went his way. He didn't realize till later what a complete fool he'd been – and he "cried with an exceedingly great and bitter cry." As the Bible says, "he despised his birthright."

Today, I see Barack Obama as Jacob – and 300 million Americans as Esau!

...He's hoping we'll sell him our birthright for a "quick fix." Let's do what Esau should have done. Tell friend Barack "Keep your stew, brother. We can cook up something a lot better than this. We'll keep our birthright, thank you."

Apparently no one ever told Pat that Jacob is the good guy in the story. Whoops. What is it with Christians not knowing which Old Testament characters are meant to be seen as positive?

Last and best:

Suppose you own a grocery store. You've worked hard to build a clientele, you sell good groceries, and you make a decent living.

You find that your employee, a nice looking and personable man, has been luring young girls into the back room, propositioning, fondling and actually having sex with at least one of them – during store hours, at that!

How long would it take you to fire him?

Now, after you boot that scoundrel out, you hire a manager to run things for you. He means well, he tries hard, but he makes a lot of unwise decisions. He spends a lot of money on things you can't afford, he gets into legal scrapes with competitors, he just generally fumbles and makes a mess of things. He "manages" your store into serious debt and runs some of your best customers away. You give some thought to firing him, but he graciously retires.

At this point, you've got to find the right guy. And you think you've found him – a young, energetic, smooth-talking man that seems to have "a way" with folks. Though he's never run a store of any kind before, he exudes confidence and assures you he's qualified, college degrees and all.

He convinces you he's analyzed your market and knows just how to increase your business, cut your overhead and attract new customers. He looks like a godsend! You hire him and settle back to watch him rebuild your dream.

But before you really grasp what's happening, you find he's agreed to pay your suppliers more than before; he's rearranged everything on your shelves and ordered huge amounts of exotic stuff you know won't sell. He's hired some illegal aliens to stock and clerk for you, extending health insurance and other perks to them, which you'll have to pay for. Before you can get your lawyer on the phone, you learn that he's taken out a huge mortgage on your building – which you have no possible way of supporting – and that he has engineered a "hostile takeover" by a Chinese import company looking for American assets.

A nightmare? You bet. Far-fetched? Not really. We Americans have lived through some scenarios like this in the last 16 years and 6 months.

Good moronic point, Pat. Yes, things are really so much simpler when you reduce the major complexities of running a whole country as being equivalent to dealing with pimply-faced kids who can't resist rubbing their butt cheeks on the deli display case. Same thing, really.

If Pat's latest column (Obama as Jerry Springer) is any indication, this ongoing trend of making any random comparison that pops into his head bears no sign of slowing down anytime soon. My prediction is that next week, it will involve a badly run food court. Or maybe a car dealership.

If you look out the window on your right, you can see... MORE JEWS!

Lazer Brody likes nothing better than bragging about how humble he is. Well, maybe one thing. Has he told you about the time he was made an honorary Cherokee? It was kind of a quid-pro-quo for him declaring that the Cherokee were "totally" a Lost Tribe of Israel.

I looked for a drop of information that connects the Indians of North America to the lost tribes of Israel, exiled and dispersed by Sannherib and the Assyrians in 772 BCE, and encountered a flood of evidence indicating that the Indians, particularly the Cherokees, are certainly one of the lost tribes of Israel - some say Dan, others say Zevulun.
Sitting_bull High cheek bones? Jewish nose? Braided and untouched payis? Fringes on his shirt? Was Sitting Bull really a descendant of Israel? Many say yes.

High cheekbones? I wish I had me some of those. Guess I must be a Khazar like grandma always said. Also, I thought "Jewish nose" was a no-no, unless you're working from odd medical texts from the 1850s which describe it as "a good money-getting nose." Incidentally, braided hair is not the same thing as peyot (ah, but notice the linguistic similarities between peyot and peyote, hmmm....)

Lazer so impressed his Cherokee counterparts with his fawning Jew-dentials that they were eager to start strutting their stuff and rubbing it in other Natives' faces.

although other Indians hate to admit, it has always been known that the Cherokee has been blessed with gifted minds; that is also a result of our tribal roots in ancient Israel

That's right, the Cherokee are much cooler than the other Indians because they're Jewish, so there. Take that, you goyish Apaches!

But things have become a little more complicated recently.

Is the mystery of Navajo roots connected to the Priestly Garments dating back to the time of Moses, Aaron, and Betzalel? Is Navajo weaving the "Ma'ase oreg" mentioned in the Torah? Could the Navajos be another lost tribe of Israel?
Oh God. Just strike me down right here.

Rabbi Wolf Brother!!! The Navajo is a tribe you would love. Their refusal to assimilate is astounding and continues to this day. There are many on the Navajo rez that still do not speak or read English.

Ah, so they're the Hasidim of Native Americans. Lovely.

It is believed by some spiritual leaders here that just before Moshiach, the Navajo will be raised up by HaShem and become the spiritual forerunners of America (maybe because of the least sin of any natives, and maybe because they too are Jews?).

Sure, why the hell not. Everybody into the pool, I mean, mikvah.

Lazer, not only are you ripping off weird Mormon theology as well as spreading bizarro pseudoscience as conceived by weird early Anglo-anthropologists, you're also starting to incite not-quite-healthy rivalries between tribes about who can out-Jew each other. When I hear that the Ojibwe are opening a Kabbalah Centre, I'll know who to blame.

Friday, August 14, 2009

A new project

In honor of a god-awful book I found yesterday, I have a new blogging project, as part of my ongoing desire to never get anything productive done ever again. Enjoy, and tell a friend.

You Don't Know Jews

A little knowledge is a dangerous thing

I know I was raised with practically zero Jewish education. So it shouldn't be surprising when every once in a while, something totally comes out of left field and blindsides me.

For instance I knew that there was a Hebrew blessing called Birkat HaGomel, which is to be said when one has just survived a dangerous situation.

However, for the past five years, I thought it was a reference to, you know, Gomel.
The Bund, a Jewish left-wing organization, organized defense networks among Jewish workers and community members. Five months later, when a pogrom broke out in Gomel, the Jewish community actively resisted. Lambroza said, "Gomel might have been significantly worse were it not for aggressive Jewish defense measures."

1903 September 1, GOMEL/HOMEL (Russia)

Von Plehve, the Russian Minister of the Interior who helped promote the Kishinev pogroms, instigated another pogrom. In spite of a vigorous defense, twelve Jews were killed and two hundred and fifty homes were destroyed. Thirty-six of the defenders were prosecuted, together with the perpetrators of the pogrom.

Hey, it made sense to me. After all, I've seen Reform and Conservative prayerbooks that mentioned the Inquisition, Cossacks and Holocaust tacked on to the Yom Kippur martyrology. I just figured that we wanted to include a special mention of Gomel, too.

Turns out, no. It's Talmudic.

See kids, this is what happens when you study 20th century Eastern European Jewish social history instead of basic Hebrew. Listen to your parents. Be cool, stay in [Hebrew] school.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

WND fails Bio 101

WND is not big on facts, something you're no doubt well aware of if you've been following their involvement in the ongoing slow-motion train wreck that is the Birther movement. However I hadn't realized just how bad things were until this week.

First, Henry Lamb claims that "there must be some yet-undiscovered gene in the DNA of people who feel the need to control others. Kings, mullahs, tyrants, despots, dictators and Democrats are all afflicted with this malady."

Off the top of my head, I can think of four problems with this:

A- Not all royal rulers are necessarily evil despots (I've noticed a lot of evangelicals seem to have a giant hard-on for King David).

B- The Democratic Party has only been around since 1828. Where was this controlling gene before then?

C- Republicans don't like to control people? Which party is trying to stop abortions, preach abstinence only education, and ban gay marriage? Are you seriously going to tell me that the reason you can't buy sex toys in Alabama is because of "controlling Democrats?"

D- Political affiliation isn't really determined by genes, hence the timeless cycle of children pissing off their parents by rebelling and doing the opposite (c.f. my Republican Uncles).

Had enough? I thought not. It gets better. Check out this crack by Mychal Massie:

People voted for Obama out of hatred for President Bush, opposition to the Iraq War and a nebulous promise of change from a liquid-tongued salesman selling empty, feel-good promises.

But the majority of Americans are Americans first. And somewhere imprinted in our DNA there still remains the resolve of our forefathers to be independent and free.

American DNA? Really? Where can I find some?

Massie's idea is actually a fairly entertaining thought experiment. Let's try to put it into action:

- Massie is a crazy conservative.

- Pat Buchanan is also a crazy conservative. (I guess they have the same, non-Democratic genes.)

- They are both Americans.

- Therefore, one can logically deduce that they share the same proud American DNA. So simple, so clear, so right.

Only one problem.

This is Pat Buchanan.
A Wilsonian, Neo-Conservative Zionist Loon Blog attacks Pat Buchanan
And this is Mychal Massie.


Why not just come out and say it?

Remember back in 2007 when Ann Coulter made her stupid comments about Jews, and then acted put upon when people called her antisemitic? Remember how jackasses like Yaakov Menken and Dennis Prager defended her? Remember how we were told that Coulter was just stating her Christian beliefs, and how there was no way any honest person could possibly find offense with her?

To hear Dennis and Yaakov tell it, Ann is one the biggest friends of the Jewish community (the "real" Jews, anyway). She would never make an anti-Jewish remark or insult. To paraphrase Yaakov's lapdog apologetics, "She's anti-secularism, not anti-Jewish."

Keeping all that in mind, I wonder what Dennis and Yaakov's followers (those who can read, anyway) made of this throwaway comment in Coulter's latest column:
Then there's Barry Lynn, alleged "Christian minister," whose stock in trade is to denounce any mention of religion anyplace, anytime. Look, I'm a Christian minister, but even I have to admit that the sight of a kindergartner praying is terrifying to most folks. (The first person to post Barry Lynn's bar mitzvah photos or birth announcement (mazel tov!) wins a free copy of my latest book...
That's odd, according to my 5 seconds of research it appears Rev. Lynn is a lifetime member of the United Church of Christ, a liberal Protestant denomination. Yet, rather than criticize his church or Lynn's professional career as a Church-State Activist, Ann instead prefers to call him a fake minister, (and presumably a fake Christian,) who hates religion. A point she makes by accusing him of being a Jew. Classy.

Tell me, Yaakov, Dennis, and any of your fans out there, how best should we interpret this latest compliment to our religious heritage? (An homage to the Inquisition/Witch Trials, perhaps?)

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Dudes with ideas about things I should do

A year ago, I got to go on vacation with Shiksa Girlfriend and her family, doing typical goyish vacation things like hiking and sightseeing, as opposed to my family's time-honored vacation pastimes, sitting around doing nothing at all (at one point I was physically ejected from my easy chair by Shiksa Mom, who apparently flies into a tizzy when people are seen enjoying their free time doing lame non-sweaty things like reading a newspaper).

Besides fun cross-cultural mishaps like the above, SG had arranged our time with her folks to coincide with another important announcement: we planned to move in together. However, in her family, conflict is generally avoided like the plague, whereas my family views them the way knights do opportunities to break out the spiky sticks. So, it was not until 10:30 on our last night at the cabin that I was called down from packing my suitcase for "a talk."

Said talk consisted of Shiksa Mom twitching back and forth, SG nervously massaging my hand until her fingers were poking out the other side, and Habakkuk asking leading questions while refusing to get out of his horizontal Lotus Position with his legs up against the wall due to his injured back.

Sidenote: Habakkuk is also not very good at this conflict resolution thing. Shiksa Mom's sports-loving sister and brother-in-law had also come on this trip, as had their mutual friend. All were avid tennis players, a sport which apparently requires a fourth in order to be at all entertaining. Poor Habakkuk was forced to oblige them nearly every day. By the end of the trip, he had clearly had enough. Rather than man up about it, he instead tried to coerce me into doing him a solid, which he also refused to do in any sort of direct way. The conversation more or less proceeded like this:

Habakkuk: Man, it seems like I've played tennis a lot this trip.

Me: Mmmm.

Habakkuk: I think my ankle is shot.

Me: That's too bad.

Habakkuk: And my back is giving me trouble.

Me: Darn.

Habakkuk: But they really need a fourth for tennis... and I don't want them to not be able to play... What do you think? Do you like tennis?

Me: Not at all. Also, I can't wear any shoes other than my orthotic ones.

Habakkuk: ... Darn. My back is really killing me. And I just know they're going to ask...

Me: Hey, I know. Why don't you just tell them you don't want to play any more?

Habakkuk: I guess I could do that...

[Ten minutes later, we see Habakkuk limping off to the tennis courts.]

The most memorable exchange between Habakkuk and I centered around his totally-just-saying-question, "Is there any reason you're just moving in together, instead of doing something more serious? Like, say, getting married?"

To which my response was, essentially, "Yeah. We don't feel like it."

Luckily, centuries of Southern gentility prevented Habakkuk from having any programmed response available. That, and the fact that all the blood was rushing to his head.

I only mention the above because Shiksa Girlfriend told me an amusing anecdote yesterday. Apparently one of the black guys that makes deliveries for her store was chatting her up, and kept tilting his head at her. When she asked him what he was doing, he said he was looking for the ring on her finger. Confused, she said she didn't have one, at which point he clucked his tongue and said that since she and I have been dating for four years (next month), it's time I stepped up and "be a man" about this whole thing. Apparently she made a face or something, because his next tack was to quote Beyonce: "If you like it then you shouda put a ring on it." Touche.

Still unconvinced, and at this point more than a tad weirded out, SG tried to change the subject. Delivery guy was undeterred, and predicted that "by Christmas, you'll have yourself some sparkle on that hand." Charming.

SG came home and told me the whole thing, rather peeved. "He and my Dad would get along great!" she said, exasperated.

"Hey, they should hang out," I said. But remember: If he likes it, he needs to put a ring on it.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Really? Still?

It's a good thing I have these automatic news generators running next to the blog, because otherwise there's tons of nuttiness I might miss out on during the day. For instance, I had never heard of the Boise Christian Living Examiner. But luckily, the BCLE decided to do a story near to my heart, so I'm happy to give them some free publicity here.

All right, here goes...

Apparently the BCLE is run by a bunch of idiots.

But don't take my word for it, check out this piece of claptrap.

John Brown, a Christian from Texas who formed Zion Oil and Gas in 2000, recently raised $21 million to continue his search for oil in Israel. According to an MSN news report, Brown is using passages from Genesis and Deuteronomy -- verses that detail God's ancient blessing on the tribes of Asher and Joseph -- as his inspiration and guide for drilling in Israel. He expects black gold will be flowing within a few months. "There's no maybe -- it's going to happen," commented the 69-year-old Texan. In a France 24 report, Brown explained, "What started as a faith journey became more proof positive in that we have seismic and scientific evidence to back up what we're doing . . . It's the geology confirming the theology."
Really now? That's funny, because Brown and his brainless schmuckolytes have been saying this since... well, since ever, really.

April 2006:

"There is a number (quantifying how much oil the company thinks it will find), and when I see that number, I want to tell it to the world," John M. Brown told UPI.

I don't know about you, but I haven't heard any breaking news about oil deposits showing up on Mt. Carmel. Granted, the absence of evidence is not the evidence of absense. On the other hand, John Brown appears to be certifiably insane. The fact that every few years he declares "just a few more months to go" is the hallmark of a fraud. (I can't decide which comparison I'd rather use here.. so many choices!)

But look, the BCLE doesn't just take one guy's word for it. Reporter Marianne Davis has more:

Tovia Luskin, a Russian Jew and a trained petroleum geologist, has been drilling in Israel for over twenty years. Like John Brown, Luskin began his quest for Israel after reading about God's ancient blessings in the Old Testament, and his searching finally paid off. According to an report, Luskin's Israeli oil company, Givot Olam, discovered oil in three exploratory wells in 2004. Givot Olam "proved to the Israeli government that there was oil under their exploration license . . . to the tune of nearly a billion barrels . . . . The eighteen month exploration license became a thirty year production lease."

Uh huh. And since they've started drilling, they have produced... how much? There has not been a single media report about Givot Olam since December 2007. Something tells me things aren't quite going as planned.

Further displaying her utter inability to sift truth from smoke being blown her way, Marianne continues:

Is Israel really sitting on huge deposits of oil, then? Earlier this year, Noble Energy discovered three massive gas reservoirs off the Haifi coast at the Tamar prospect. Charles D. Davidson, CEO of Noble Energy, remarked, "This is one of the most significant prospects that we have ever tested and appears to be the largest discovery in the company's history." Jerusalem Post reported that the historic discovery will "meet Israel's natural gas demand for about 15 years and reduce the country's dependence on gas imports from Egypt and offshore from Gaza."

Better question: Are oil and natural gas the same thing? No? Well then it seems that there's no connection between the natural gas people, who seem to be basing their investments on things like research, and crazies like Brown, who are mistranslating a Bible verse about olive oil to justify looking for petroleum.

Fun fact: apparently Luskin isn't quite as crazy or in-Hebrew-literate as Brown. Rather, Luskin says he's "just" working off of the verses in Deuteronomy that talk about Joseph getting blessed with "precious dew from heaven above and with the deep waters that lie below." Luskin says this has "deep geological significance."

All right, fine. The deep waters, ok, I can see that. But what about this precious Heaven dew? Is that Manna? Acid rain? Falling diamonds?

Wait, of course! If we can just make acid rain into a fuel source... God, you trickster, you've done it again!

Bonus: For an extra-bad time, make sure to check out the BCLE page's comments. A particularly good one is Steve's, again showing a nice disregard of what languages actually mean, when he claims that Zion Oil's not-success is "proof" of a prophecy "that Jacob (Israel)would "suck honey out of the rock, and oil out of the flinty rock. (Deuteronomy 32:13)"

Interesting. Now please tell me, Steve, if 'oil from flinty rock' means petroleum, what on earth does 'honey' mean? Yellow-cake uranium?

I also like Justin's, which informs us that "What's even more exciting than Isreal finding oil is that Jesus will be coming to earth the second time. We can see everything going on in the world today(including Isreal [sic] discovering oil) and know that Jesus is at the door."

Unfortunately, Justin neglected to explain exactly where Jesus made this (accidentally) brilliant prophecy. However I would like to take the opportunity and state for the record that I believe Justin is right-on on this one: I have no doubt that Israel will be pumping oil before ol' J.C. comes back.

No Intellectual Honesty, No Gedolim

Last week while opining on why cloistered Haredi media is not really the same thing as major news organizations, I mentioned a sad paragraph that had appeared in the Jerusalem Post's coverage of the Tel Aviv shooting:

Meanwhile, a senior editor at the haredi daily Hamodia said that his paper would totally ignore the incident.

"We do not want our children asking questions about that community," said the editor, who was interviewed on condition of anonymity.

"Our philosophy is to stay away from that entire issue," added the editor. "Someone who walks into a perfumer's store comes out smelling good. But someone who walks into a tanner's comes out smelling bad."

I suppose this shouldn't be all that surprising, given the Haredi world's track record on "undesirable information." Similar thinking appeared in 2005 and 2006, when Israeli Haredim preferred to ignore the Gay Pride debacle rather than give it increased publicity. To a degree, I can appreciate the "if you have nothing nice to say, say nothing at all" sentiment-- except that when it comes to dealing with a problem in your community, say, hateful incitement, saying nothing is the moral equivalent of an emphatic shrug, or passing the buck. If anything, refusing to condemn the Tel Aviv shooting sends the message to youngsters that it's not such a big deal, which is indeed a big problem.

Now today we have a similarly bone-headed argument for censorship, only this time coming from a Mafdal, or Religious Zionist, rabbi, in fact, the Chief Rabbi of the IDF, who is irked that the army magazine did a series of articles about gay officers, in honor of Gay Pride Month. Ronski has said that he doesn't think homosexuality is an appropriate topic for the magazine. Apparently Rabbi Ronski was particularly disturbed by an article describing an officer who identified as both religious and gay. Today, the universe tried to achieve some karmic balance by having a group of religious gay IDF soldiers slam Ronski in the press.

A group of religious homosexuals serving in the Israel Defense Forces sent a letter of protest to IDF Chief Rabbi Avichai Rontzki yesterday over his statement that it is inappropriate for the army journal Bamahane to run articles on homosexuals in the IDF.

The statement, which was reported in yesterday's Hebrew edition of Haaretz, "gives us the feeling that we, religious homosexual soldiers and officers, have no place in the army," the soldiers wrote.

"As religious men loyal to the path of religious Zionism," the letter continued, "we view military service as a duty and a privilege. With God's help, your words and your effort to prevent articles in Bamahane will not succeed in harming our integration into and advancement in the IDF."

The soldiers, all graduates of hesder yeshivas or religious pre-army academies, said they "believe it is everyone's right as a private individual" to hold racist or homophobic views. "But because you are an IDF officer and serve as the IDF's chief rabbi ... we expect you to be the rabbi of all IDF soldiers, including religious homosexual soldiers," they wrote.

The IDF is dismissing the calls for Ronski's resignation by saying that he "has a habit" of saying boneheaded things. But I think there are some deeper issues here. First is the mater of the Mafdal world becoming more Haredi in its thinking- again, Ronski is a good example of the trend.

There has been tension growing between Modern Orthodoxy and Haredi Judaism for 15-20 years, but the past few have seen some big rifts developing, as hot-button issues like Zionism and feminism continue to stir the pot. The fact that the Haredi response to anything threatening is to either ban, ignore or censor it does not improve matters.

The bigger problem, however, is that Modern Orthodoxy, including the Mafdalim in Israel, continues to sublimate itself to Haredi Judaism, in thought if not outright deed. As an outside observer, I continue to be unable to understand exactly why this is so, particularly since, unlike, say, ignorant secular Jews' love affair with Chabad, Mafdal folks know their halakha and, in theory, should have enough education and pride to be able to stand up for their traditions and practices and not cave in to a group whose primary intellectual argument seems to be the ability to yell very loud.

Mostly, though, I find this all particularly sad because of the impact the Haredi approach towards life has on the BIG QUESTIONS, such as Truth, or in Yiddish, Emes. In theory, Emes, both pursuing it, and wrestling with it, should be one of the guiding questions for all people, particularly religious people. Truth is not only worthy of deep intellectual discussion and engagement, but also a bedrock value to countless belief systems.

However, when it comes to dealing with uncomfortable questions, the Haredi approach to Emes seems to be, again, a shrug. When you have Haredi newspaper editors who say they are going to ignore news of the day because "we'd rather not get into that," you have crossed a point of no return. That is the home of crazies like Bill O'Reilly who say they don't want to have their kids "exposed" to gay people (or anything else that makes them uncomfortable) because they don't want to feel obligated to actually act like a parent and "have to explain it." Yes, clearly all you have to do is shelter your kids from homosexuality until they're 18 and they will never have to find out it exists. Run away from Bill O'Reilly, my Haredi brothers and sisters. This man is not a role model!

The origin of my previous post had been one by DYS over at DovBear talking about why the so-called Sages of this Generation... weren't. Later in that comment thread, I wrote,

Torah and Emes do not have to be mutually exclusive. But I do not see the Gedolim even interested in the question of Emes, whether in regards to science, history (making of a Godol), or, even worse, personal relationships (see for instance the treatment of Slifkin and Kamenetsky). And that is truly sad.

Not only is it sad for the Haredim who claim to be the truest representation of our religious heritage to the world. Not only is it sad for the state of Israel who for reasons unfathomable to me continues to privilege this worldview above other Jewish approaches and beliefs. It is also sad because this seems to be the direction Modern Orthodoxy is leaning. Modern Orthodoxy, which, as its triumphalist ambassadors remind us at every opportunity, may very well account for the majority of "real" Jews left in America in 100 years. If this is the straightjacketed moral and intellectual compass that Modern Orthodoxy is going to follow, Lord help them. Yes, they may wind up being the only demographically viable denomination (whatever that means) by 2100-- but if they have sacrificed their cultural and intellectual integrity to become Haredim in lighter clothes, what's the point?

If what's left of the worldy Orthodox want to constrict their minds with Haredi blinders, I invite them to do so. I will stay on the sidelines with my Shiksa Girlfriend and Chinese food. Somewhere between us two groups of sinners, we'll find one Perfect Jew. And then at last we'll have at least one Godol.

Simple, really.

XGH posted a tweet on DovBear's feed this morning:

YWN calls gay people "The To'evah Community" What should we call the @YWN Community?
Only one word will do:


There, I fixed Judaism. Where's my cookie?

Friday, August 07, 2009

Fox needs help

These guys are screaming for a competent producer. The other day I was watching Fox News as the two American journalists were coming back from North Korea. Of course, since there are no cameras on the plane but it's still an important story, all the networks are going to stall, having no new developments and nothing to say. I get it. CNN wasn't much better.

However, this was downright ridiculous. As they started showing the plane, they started talking about the owner, Steve Bing, a Clinton friend and donor. Up pop pictures of Clinton and Bing. Did I know, they asked, that Bind had previously dated Elizabeth Hurley (pop up picture)? How about Nicole Kidman (pop)? Sheryl Crow (pop?)

By this time I was ready to eat my TV. Hey, I bet Bing also wears pants! And probably has a dog! Do we have pictures of that? No? Well then, never mind. (I tried to find a video link, but this was the closest I could get. It really doesn't do the clip justice, though I do like how it works in a few extra Clinton jabs having nothing to do with the story.)

Now, I thought this was the dumbest, non-topical tripe that Fox had to offer. But fear not! Yesterday had more-- much more. Take it away, Cavuto:

Now it's war, a turf war. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi throwing out this term "Astroturf" to put down protesters. My next guest is put off. We thought we would kind of get a different angle on this and talk to someone who is in the AstroTurf field. So this guy is the biggest in it. Michael Dennis is the chairman of Astroturf, which invented Astroturf, and is the premiere maker of Astroturf.

You know, Michael, when I hear Nancy Pelosi, and the San Francisco district, an area that she covers — do the 49ers and do the Giants, do their stadiums have Astroturf?

Would you ever want to wrap these politicians in Astroturf?
Oh, the universe... How I hate you.

People in Crystal Balls shouldn't throw stones...

Like his fellow Breslover alarmist Tzvi Fishman, Lazer Brody has been beating the doomsday drum for American Jewry for quite some time. After all, otherwise they'd have one less reason for American Jews to make aliyah.

Whether you believe in the autistics or not, they have blood-chilling forecasts about what's in store for America's Jews.

No, you didn't read that wrong. Not "statistics," autistics. Apparently around Lazer autistic Jews operate much like Tom Cruise's "precogs" in Minority Report. Who knew?

Obama's job is to hasten the Geula by forcing us all to return to Hashem and return to our Holy Land of Israel. Start making plans now, because you never know when the gates will be slammed shut.

Jews must leave a hostile country "before the gates shut yet again"? Now you're stealing Yechiel Eckstein's shtick, Lazer. Shame on you, the man only has so many schemes.

And there's more.

Now, he's your President. He wants to create and fund his own Brownshirts, a mandatory civilian "defense force" stronger than the army. Has America, particularly Jewish America, totally lost its sense of smell? One can't smell with one's head in the ground...

First of all, Lazer, civil defense forces in the US have been around since World War One, albeit not always with the best results. There is nothing wrong or sinister in wanting private citizens to be well-trained to respond to natural disasters or emergency situations. Admittedly, such a program should also be organized to be well-integrated with state and federal agencies as well. However, comparing the very idea to the Brownshirts isn't just insulting, it's downright stupid.

Think about this: Neighborhood watches are civil defense forces. Zaka is a form of a civil defense force. Hatzalah is a civil defense force. Volunteer firefighters are a civil defense force. Many of these organizations have excellent reputations among the communities they serve. There might be reasonable issues to take with the idea of a national civil defense force explictly designed to be more powerful than the army, but suggesting that Obama is trying to organize a Hitler Youth or a Putin-style Nashi movement (or, for that matter, Jr. Askonim) isn't just off-base, it's dishonest fear-mongering.

But that's not the best of it. On the same week Lazer is proclaiming that US Jews should abandon all hope and "head for the hills" (of Judea), what bright news do we get from the holy land?

- Haredim attacking gay youths for putting up signs protesting attacks on gay youths.

- The government continuing to hold thousands upon thousands of non-religious Israelis hostage to Orthodox halacha, preventing them from marrying whoever they please.

- Continued insanity from the Chief Rabbinate refusing to recognize any Orthodox diaspora conversions except those done by the few that "they trust", leaving everyone else in limbo. (Even Lazer thinks this is nuts.) On the flip side, you have the High Court finally forcing the Rabbinate to stop discrminating against non-Orthodox movements and fund their conversion activities too, which I predict will be met by both a firestorm of criticism and as much heel-dragging as possible.

- Even when a dati leumi rabbi suggests having a shul that is "friendly and open to women", theoretically something not very controversial, he still gets hammered for it and has his credentials questioned.

I don't know, it sounds like Israel might not be the best place for us non-Ortho, gay loving liberals, Lazer.

But wait! It gets better! On the same day that Lazer is trying to scare American Jews to move to Israel because it isn't safe, what should happen at the focal point of the Breslover universe, the site of the famous annual pilgrimage, an area that has seen tons of money and goodwill invested over the past two decades as Breslovers try to reclaim Uman for Nachman's holy soul?

Ukrainian television reported Friday that a building housing Rebbe Nachman of Breslov Hasidim in the city of Uman has been set on fire.

A sign! Uman isn't safe for Jews! The gates are closing. Make Aliyah now Lazer!

Hmmm... maybe they had a point a year ago.

Which Street?

Tablet had a short feature on Z Street, which came about as a right-wing response to J Street, which was a left-wing response to AIPAC, which somehow convinced Americans that it was the only group qualified to talk about Israel...

Personally, I don't much care about any of this alphabet soup. The little I've heard about J Street seems to indicate that yes, it is fairly left, and seemed to make some mis-steps during the last war in Israel. However I would be more inclined to attribute that to some boneheaded errors in judgment as a result of being a new organization that isn't yet used to playing rhetorical politics as opposed to being indicative of an Israel-hating agenda.

As for Z Street? I know even less about them. Their positions mostly seem to boil down to wanting to correct misinformation (a worthy goal, if done right), advocating the right of Jews to live anywhere (pro-settlements?), pointing out double-standards applied to Israel (fair enough), and, perhaps most interestingly, "Categorical rejection of agreements with, or concessions to, terrorists (or their supporters) who are dedicated to Israel's destruction."

On the one hand this makes intellectual sense; on a practical level I'm not sure where it leaves us as far as dialogue or peace-making. Then again these days that seems to be a fairly theoretical issue anyway.

When it comes down to it, I have continually been surprised by the fact that, as vocal as Jews as a community are about countless issues, including the Middle East (remember this joke?), that on Israel, a single organization has claimed for decades to be truly representative of the community's viewpoint. As far as I'm concerned, there should be more voices in this discussion, if only to show that there are common grounds the Jews do agree on, and also perhaps to moderate some of the different parties (though, of course, it is always possible the exact opposite could occur). J Street, Z Street, upside-down polka-dot street, whatever. The more Jews involved in Israel/peace activism, the better the conversation will get-- both internally, and externally.

Thursday, August 06, 2009

Um, no.

DYS had a decent post over on DovBear about how there is no reliable way in this day and age to determine which rabbis are "qualified" to be known as those uber of the uber, "gedolim" (sages). Of his various good points, one was that many of the gedolim don't keep up with the news of the world, using CNN as an example.

Daganev jumped all over this, first saying that CNN was biased, and then that all news sources are second-hand (at best) information that has been filtered through someone else's POV, suggesting that a major news network is no less accurate than rumored word of mouth news passed on through a rabbinic aide or mucky-muck.

At this point I interjected, saying that the basic point was solid-- there is something wrong when your average schmoe who reads the newspaper or watches the news knows more about what is going on on an international, national, and potentially even local level than leaders who purposefully avoid interacting with the outside world, or (potentially) even with other Jews from communities/background different from their own.

Think about it. The Gerrer rebbe reportedly refuses to meet with anyone that does not keep Shabbos to his satisfaction. Rabbi Elyashiv is 99 years old and spends almost all his time studying Talmud. Rabbi Shteinman did not know how a credit card works. These leaders are incredibly cloistered, partially by choices resulting from their personal beliefs about the corrupting nature of the outside world, and I suspect partially by the movers and shakers in their communities who use their influence over these old men for personal power and gain (see the Slifkin and Kamenetsky cases).

Now, potentially being hyper-focused on your own community can be beneficial, insofar as you have a very personal relationship with them, know their needs and problems, etc. However, to be considered a great leader in this day and age, IMO, it helps to at least have some sense of what's going on outside your zip code.

Daganev kept going:

Why would Yated Ne'eman or HaModia be any different from CNN or FOX or MSNBC? They are all news agencies are they not?

I would expect that gedolim get information first hand from the relevant sources for the relevant situations. If they are gedolim, they should have access to people and information that most people do not.

Here's the problem, Dag. First of all, that's like saying there's no difference between the Tanakh and the Satanic Bible because they're both Bibles.

Off the top of my head, I can think of four main differences: size, access, outlook, and internal vetting.

As a major news corporation with a national and international focus, CNN has hundreds if not thousands of correspondents whose job it is to monitor the airwaves, internet, and maintain private sources to know what is going on in the world under their "beat." Haredi media are comparatively tiny compared to major news corporations. I do not know the particulars of Yated's organizational structure but my impression is their resources are rather limited.

For the access issue, let's look at two examples: the White House and Iran. For the White House, CNN has several correspondents out there almost daily, who attend Press Corps briefings, have regular access to White House staff, have years of journalistic experience, and who are in a position, however personally biased, to more accurately interpret information as they directly receive it. How many resources do you think Yated devotes to White House coverage? To the Knesset?

Ditto for Iran. CNN employs Iranian-American commentators, has Farsi-speaking journalists who monitor Iranian media, etc. When necessary they can speak with experts in Iranian culture, Shia theologians, etc. Going out on a limb, I doubt you'll see any of this in the pages of Yated.

This also goes to outlook. My impression is that Yated, et al, are frankly not that interested in events that occur outside of their circumscribed field of interest. Add to this the issue of outright censoring (proudly) or ignoring events that they feel either show bad lessons, or potentially corrupt their readership, and you basically wind up with media whose primary job is upbeat navel-gazing. Observe:

Meanwhile, a senior editor at the haredi daily Hamodia said that his paper would totally ignore the incident.

"We do not want our children asking questions about that community," said the editor, who was interviewed on condition of anonymity.

"Our philosophy is to stay away from that entire issue," added the editor. "Someone who walks into a perfumer's store comes out smelling good. But someone who walks into a tanner's comes out smelling bad."

Believe me, I'm not a fan of the Crossfire-style "Left/Right screamfest" so endemic to American news these days, but there is at least a token understanding that there are multiple points of view on a subject. Look at most Israeli media and you'll see a similar pattern: Ha'aretz, for all its left-leaning tilt, runs op-eds by right-wingers. Ditto for the Jerusalem Post. Is the debate stilted? Maybe. Manufactured? Perhaps. But at least it's acknowledged and given expression. Where is the debate in the pages of the Yated?

The last point is that as a huge corporation whose interest is in making money, CNN has a vested interest in not alienating its viewers, and therefore has at least some motivation to tell a story honestly, or at least not outrageously skewed. It, like all major news organizations, has a number of internal structures, such as ombudsmen, who monitor the output and (hopefully) take steps to rectify mistakes or issues of bias. In theory at least, CNN can be reproached by the public if it screws something up, and has an interest in fixing it.

Papers like the Yated and Hamodia, TBMK, are pet projects of their patrons, Elyashiv and Alter, respectively, and therefore their primary interests is in spreading their leaders' message to the flock and in selling news consistent with their leaders' opinions and POVs.

Bias exists everywhere. But call a spade a spade. The New York Times, or BBC, or even Fox News, for all their individual failings, are professional organizations whose mission is to cover information occuring all over the world. They are in fact, a little different than a mimeographed fact sheet produced by a lone kook in Montana.

Edit: And he's still going... apparently only "rank and file" people need to have credentials. The "best of the best" don't need to bother with such pesky matters. Oy.

Wednesday, August 05, 2009

Calling out Pat Buchanan

Dear Pat,

It has now been over two years since the shooting at Virginia Tech, in which you accused and maligned immigrants and illegal aliens (typically never bothering to differentiate between the two) as being fundamentally different from the European immigrants who came here before them. For two years, I have watched you railing against the evils of multiculturalism, and claiming that the elemental fact of ethnic nationalism will invariably lead to the Balkanization of America as individual ethnic groups decide to declare war on America to recreate their homelands (apparently these same immigrants are too oblivious to notice that they went to a lot of trouble to leave those same homelands and live freely here). Two years of distortion, fear-mongering and outright race-baiting as you have desperately tried to show that there is something inherently alien about non-white Americans. And very often, you have shamefully gone back to the same shameful argumentation you used after the murders in April 07-- the idea that America was some sort of Caucasian utopia before we opened our doors (after having closed them) and let the colored hordes invade, and that problems in our culture, particularly crime, can all be laid at the feet of these evil, foreign outsiders.

So my question to you, Pat, is this. Exactly which immigrants, legal or otherwise, were responsible for this madman ? He doesn't seem all that different from Cho Seung-Hui: both were longtime loners, burning with the anger stemming from years of rejection, both were deep narcissists with violent inner thoughts, and both ultimately blamed others for their life's problems and sought to achieve immortality through the slaughter of innocents. George Sodini and Cho Seung-Hui, and for that matter, James von Brunn, were not products of their race, or even, arguably, their cultures, but of their own psychotic selves. (How ironic, I thought Pat was supposed to be the straight-talking paleoconservative and I the bleeding-heart, moral relativism liberal?)

Look in a history book or read the news, Pat. White people are just as capable of being crazy and violent, Pat. Legal, naturalized, established American citizens, with no seeming "culture war" motivator, are also capable of slowly, or quickly, snapping, and killing their fellow Americans. And if anyone were to make the same inane connections you have between non-white spree killers and "cultural determinism"and apply it to white people, something tells me you'd be (rightly) frothing at the mouth. Think about that the next time you open yours.

No facts, please. I'm blogging.

Sigh. In light of the whole Tisha B'Av thing, I've been trying to be a little more measured in spreading "baseless hatred" around. But wouldn't you know it, Tzvi Fishman seems determined to push me to my limit.

One of the hallmarks of Tzvi's articles is that they often, shall we say, don't make much sense. Furthermore, the arguments often aren't very substantive. I assume this is part of the reason Tzvi decided a while ago that the best way to pad his writings on A7 was by using snappy visual aids, which not only supposedly illustrate his points, but also make it seem like he has a lot more to say by taking up space.

For instance, there was this gem from a few days ago, in the context of Tzvi pontificating about how America is clearly not the home of the Jews by virtue of the fact that blessings over cookies don't mention Los Angeles. I especially like the caption.

Obama praying at Grauman's.

Thanks for reinforcing that wonderful stereotype of older frum Jews viewing all black people as interchangeable, Tzvi.

Another of my favorites was this one. Again, Tzvi's caption demonstrates that he is a master of both taste and perspective.

Rounding up Jewish Settlers

Where was I? Oh yes. So you can imagine my eagerness this morning when I surfed over to Tzvi's to see what latest claptrap would be waiting for me.

Baruch Hashem, Tzvi did not disappoint.

Not only does he ramble on about how the human genome is full of Hebrew letters floating around (reminiscent of Lazer's award-winning "Deity's Cursive" series). Not only does he claim that mitzvot contain some mysterious "life-force" and that, when the mystical mitzvot letters and human soul letters collide, it produces a cosmic explosion which in addition to magnifying the "letters of a person's soul" with an "accelerated life force," also continually renews the world's energy (physics, please?). Not only does he assert that because Israel is the primordial home of Mitzvot, people in Israel are spiritual giants compared to anyone in the Diaspora.

In addition to all of this, he also provides a picture.
Jew from Israel (right) with friend from the Diaspora

Now, there's just one thing about this picture, Tzvi. I'm sure you found it after doing an exhaustive Google search for something like "giant" or "huge guy" or "giant feet" or something. But, through a childhood interest in human weirdness, I happened to recognize the man is this picture. The man is Robert Wadlow, the tallest documented person to ever live. The reason he was so tall is that he had a disease of the pituitary gland. And, while it made him famous, it also, for all effective purposes, ruined his life. Wadlow was in constant foot pain, required braces to walk, and died at the ripe age of 22.

So while I know you meant this to be a delightful dig at us Diaspora midgets, Tzvi, I find it more than a little appropriate that your posterboy "giant" was actually a tragic, ill child, who died way before his time, whose "gift" was actually a curse, and who, had he had the option, almost certainly would have had the operation to stop his growth. Not necessarily a guy I would suggest people strive to emulate.

Surely Tzvi selected this picture to make some sort of point about Religious Zionism, Aliyah, and Jewish perceptions about Israel. And I think a point can indeed be made from it. But I doubt it's the one he intended.

Food for thought.

Saturday, August 01, 2009

Postscript to Pat Buchanan

I was still steaming about Pat Buchanan's crack about Los Angeles' crime problems (specifically with gangs) being related to the fact that it has so many different nationalities living in it.

Funny thing, is, I just saw "Public Enemies" last night, and the more I read about Dillinger and his cronies, the more apparent it becomes that a pure European-American melting pot is hardly a guarantee against crime. Dillinger associates included Belgians (Baby Face Nelson), Lithuanians (Alvin Karpis), Canadians (Karpis and Red Hamilton), Dutchmen (Homer Van Meter) Scotch-Irishmen (Barker gang) and, of course, the obligatory half-dozen plain old WASPs or as Pat might prefer, unhyphenated Americans.

But wait! There were plenty of other notorious Depression-era gangsters, who, wouldn't you know it, were like, totally white! Mad Dog Coll (Irish), Bugs Moran (Polish-Irish), Charles Dean O'Banion (go on, guess), the Gusenberg brothers (German), Louis Alterie (French), Shotgun George Ziegler (Polish), and so on. That's without even mentioning the obvious ones like the Italian and Jewish mafias (or the new ones popping up in the 80s and onward from the USSR, the Russians, Ukrainians, Armenians, etc). Hell, apparently even the Greeks have a mafia.

Bad news, Pat. All the criminals I mentioned were white, and most were committing fairly atrocious crimes as far back as the 30s, and it doesn't seem to have had a thing to do with immigrants, legal or otherwise. In fact, in a time of severe economic crisis, all these white folks seemed to mainly target other white folks (granted, almost certainly not because of color). It's almost like ethnonationalism played no role at all in their thought process! For a real treat, Pat, why not read Herbert Asbury's Gangs of New York. You'll get to hear about all sorts of white-only gangs, going as far back as the 1860s-- long before Latinos ever darkened our door step.

Well Pat it's looks like yet again we've seen that race, immigration and crime have almost nothing to do with each other, or certainly aren't causal, as you delight in implying.

Your move.

More on Pat and his weird ethnic nationalism fetish, and the strange places it takes him, here. Apparently even neocons think it's creepy.