Wednesday, February 29, 2012

My grandparents didn't want to be converted

I wrote this for that other site (posted here), where a ridiculous number of people are attacking us for complaining about this issue. Because there's nothing wrong with wiping away any semblance of Jewish identity from the earth, even from dead people, right? Fucking idiots. Anyway, wherever it refers to "this site," it's that site, not The Progressive Zionist.

My friend Mets102 has posted a couple of diaries recently about Mormons converting dead Jews to their faith, including Daniel Pearl, who was murdered for no reason other than that he was a Jew, and survivors and victims of the Holocaust, including such notables as Anne Frank and the families of Elie Wiesel and Simon Wiesenthal.

All four of my grandparents were posthumously converted too. They were all Holocaust survivors, each of whom had a very large extended family before the Holocaust. Between them, they had but a single living relative after the Holocaust.

And repeatedly, Mets102 and I and several other Jews who have a problem with this have been told we're whining, or "feigning anger," or crying over something that doesn't matter, or complaining for the sake of complaining, or otherwise making a big deal about nothing.

So first, a brief message to many (if not all) of those people who have said some version of this:

Go. Fuck. Yourself. Preferably with a rusty metal implement.

Yes, I know saying that will turn some of you off. I couldn't care less if that bothers you, though, not if you're going to side with the folks saying this doesn't matter.

My grandparents, as I said, were all Holocaust survivors whose entire families were wiped out. My grandparents lived as Jews, they were proud to be Jews, and they went to their graves as Jews. Their relatives who died in the Holocaust were murdered for no reason other than that they were Jews. And indeed, we Jews have a long history of being sent to our deaths for no reason other than that we are Jews and someone else gets it into their head that their religion makes it ok to wipe us off the face of the earth.

We Jews also have a long history of being forced by members of other faiths to abandon our Jewish identity and convert to their faith. They think they're doing us a favor, that they're saving our souls. Because, of course, all Jews are condemned to burn in hell for all eternity. (I can't tell you how many times I've heard that from people who can only be described as "Christian-of-a-certain-variety." Never mind that Jesus was a Jew, and if you insist that all Jews are condemned to burn in hell for all eternity, well, I can't imagine condemning your savior to eternal hellfire would score you any points in the afterlife. But I digress.)

There's something these oppressors of Jews have in common, whether they prefer to murder us all for no reason other than that we are Jews or whether they prefer to harass us or even force us to convert to their faiths when we would not choose to do so on our own. Both groups have decided that there is something so superior about their ideology that makes it not only acceptable but even a moral imperative to wipe any semblance of Jewish identity off the face of the earth.

It really doesn't take a genius to see this for the antisemitism that it is.

And now we have this specific group of assholes who have decided that it's not only acceptable but even a moral imperative to wipe any semblance of Jewish identity even among dead Jews off the face of the earth via this forced conversion of the dead. (Do you want to dispute my characterization of this naarishkeit as "forced conversion"? Hate to break it to you, but when you convert someone who didn't give their consent, that's forced.)

And yet we Jews who voice our displeasure at this are told we're whining. We're feigning anger. We're crying over something that doesn't matter. We're complaining for the sake of complaining. We're making a big deal about nothing.

Which is why I suggest to those of you who say such things that you go fuck yourself with a rusty metal implement.

All too frequently, Jews on this site who complain about antisemitism are told that we're making a big deal about something that doesn't matter, or that the antisemitism we're complaining about isn't antisemitism at all, so we should just sit down and shut the fuck up about it already.

Who the fuck decided that converting Jews to another faith without their permission isn't antisemitic? Who the fuck decided that imposing your faith on another group of people just because you believe your faith is superior isn't a big deal? (Or is it only not a big deal when we're just talking about Jewish victims, living or dead?)

And on a personal level, who the fuck gave you the right to decide that the forcible conversion of my grandparents -- something that they never would have acceded to under any circumstances -- is no big deal, or that complaining about it is just so much faux outrage?

What gives you the right to decide what we as Jews find offensive to us? What gives you the right to tell me that my grandparents' names and legacies aren't threatened when someone substitutes their parochial religious ideology for what my grandparents wanted and lived?

I don't know, maybe you simply don't get it. Maybe you don't understand that, like any other group, there are certain things that are just sacred to Jews, and that attacking those things the way the Mormons who are posthumously and forcibly converting our people to their faith are doing isn't acceptable under any circumstances -- and so much more so when they've admitted wrongdoing for this exact same behavior in the past, they're repeatedly apologized for it, and yet they keep doing the exact same behavior for which they so falsely apologized in the first place.

Maybe this doesn't hurt you, but there are plenty of us who are hurt by it. Just because you aren't hurt doesn't make it ok. And when you so dickishly claim that we are whining, feigning anger, crying over something that doesn't matter, complaining for the sake of complaining, or otherwise making a big deal about nothing, at best you're being an ignorant twit. But you're also defending antisemitism, and there is simply no excuse for that.

So if it's just a matter of ignorance, try learning something instead of insulting us for having the audacity to complain about antisemitism to which you were blind. Ask us why it bothers us rather than imposing your uninformed and obnoxious judgment upon us.

But if it's not just ignorance? Find yourself a rusty implement, putz, and get to work.

When Will it Stop? Daniel Pearl Latest Dead Jew Baptized by Mormons

Reports emerged yesterday that Daniel Pearl Z"L was the latest Jew to be posthumously baptized by members of the LDS Church. This, unfortunately, is far from a new problem. It comes despite repeated apologies from church officials and promises to not continue the practice except at the request of a descendant. Last week, I wrote about a site that uses humor an attempt to respond to this practice. This week, frankly, I am infuriated.

Earlier this month marked the tenth anniversary of Daniel Pearl's murder. His yahrzeit was the day after my grandfather's. Like my fellow Jews who were murdered by Hitler and his evil henchmen in the Holocaust, Daniel Pearl was murdered because he was Jewish. Moreover, his parents and widow are still alive and his only descendant is his son, who was born after his father had been brutally murdered.

In response to this news, his parents, Judea and Ruth Pearl, said the following:

“To them we say: We appreciate your good intentions but rest assured that Danny’s soul was redeemed through the life that he lived and the values that he upheld,’’ Judea and Ruth Pearl said in an e-mail. “He lived as a proud Jew, died as a proud Jew, and is currently facing his creator as a Jew, blessed, accepted and redeemed. For the record, let it be clear: Danny did not choose to be baptized, nor did his family consent to this un-called-for ritual.’’

His widow, Mariane, in addition to joining Holocaust survivor, and Nobel laureate, Elie Wiesel in calling upon Mitt Romney to speak out against the practice, pointed out just how disrespectful this is not only to the families, but also to the person subjected to the practice:

“But there is a more serious concern behind it, of respecting people’s identity and integrity,’’ said Mariane Pearl, who is Buddhist. “It doesn’t traumatize me but, as a matter of ethics, I think it’s wrong.’’

In an op-ed in Canada's National Post today, Bernie M. Farber, the former CEO of the Canadian Jewish Congress, and himself a child of a Holocaust survivor, decries the practice. He points to the agreement made by Mormon leaders. He points to the many incidents, whether with Anne Frank or Simon Wiesenthal's parents or Elie Wiesel's parents. He points to the fact that Hitler and Stalin are among those that have received this posthumous baptism. The most compelling part, however, is his conclusion, which discusses the history of our people:

Throughout the ages, Jews always have been targeted for conversion. Whether it be the oxymoronic and deceptive “Jews for Jesus,” using subterfuge and artifice to convert modern Jews, or the work of Spanish Inquisitors forcing Jews to convert centuries ago, all Jews have viscerally felt this denial of our faith and traditions. The effort of posthumous conversion stings our collective Jewish soul.

While there may be those who will wonder what all the fuss is about, in Judaism there can be no greater good than honouring our dead, especially those who were murdered by the Nazis sanctifying God’s name (in the Hebrew faith tradition, al Kiddush ha-shem) many with the words of the sacred Jewish prayer Shma Yisroel — Hear O Israel the Lord our God the Lord is One — as they were sent to their graves. LDS practices not only re-victimize Holocaust victims, they dishonour their memory and disrespects our own holy tradition. They must stop.

While church officials have repeatedly apologized for this practice, and promised that it would not occur again, those apologies and promises ring hollow. This practice continues and there are no indications that those that engage in them suffer any repercussions. If this happened, the apologies and promises were issued, and the practice generally ceased, that would be one thing. However, report after report emerges that it continues despite the apologies and despite the promises. It pours salt in the wounds of survivors. It pours salt in the wounds of their families. It pours salt in the wounds of the families of those that were murdered. It pours salt in the wounds of the Jewish People. Enough!

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

High Schoolers Denied Title Shot Because They Won't Play On Shabbat

A Houston high school basketball team is giving up the chance to win a state title. The reason? The semifinal they are scheduled to play in is on Friday night and they are Orthodox Jews. I can understand the argument that rules are rules and that these rules are being applied without regard to religion and that the school was informed this exact conflict could occur. However, Beren Academy's coach said the following to ESPN:

"I don't think moving games is impossible,'' Cole said. "We have spoken to other teams in the final four and the majority said it wouldn't be a problem if TAPPS moved the games. But there is no denying it would be an inconvenience.''

Additionally, the quarterfinal won by Beren had its date and location changed with the agreement of its opponent, per ESPN and several opponents throughout the season had agreed to scheduling changes per the New York Times. Thus, this would not represent anything particularly new.

While Beren's coach discounted the possibility that there is antisemitism involved, he did note the following:

"I don't think it has anything to do with our school being Jewish,'' Beren basketball coach Chris Cole said. "We were well aware it could come to this. But one thing that gave us hope that our game time might be changed was a Seventh Day Adventist school had games rescheduled in a TAPPS state soccer tournament a few years ago.''

Irrespective of whatever the motivation of TAPPS in not granting the appeal and allowing a rescheduling of the semifinal (at the moment I am inclined to take them at face value), I applaud the Beren Academy players for sticking to their beliefs. I was not an athlete in high school, so I cannot imagine how exciting it would be to play for a state championship. Similarly, I cannot imagine how devastating it must be to lose that chance when you are so close because the organizers refuse to make any accommodation for your religious beliefs.

If rescheduling the game caused it to be pushed to a Sunday or a Monday, I could understand, given the time constraints, of saying that the accommodation could not be made. However, it is something different when it means playing on a Friday afternoon or a Thursday evening. It is, as their coach said, an inconvenience, but it is far from impossible to do and would likely have little to no impact on the ultimate outcome.

For those interested, there is a petition in support of the players. If you are so inclined, please sign it. Needless to say, I already have.

Banker's 1% Tip? Turns out it was a hoax.

The story of how a banker, proud of being a member of the 1%, left a 1% tip for his server on a bill over $100 and told her to get a real job, has gone viral on the internet these past few days. Now, it turns out the whole thing was a hoax. The actually bill was for $33.54 and the patron left a tip of $7. That amounts to a tip of nearly 21%, a perfectly reasonable tip. Additionally, there was no language telling the server to get a real job.

Here are the photoshopped and actual receipts, side-by-side, as obtained by The Smoking Gun:


Trending Now additionally reports that the mistake was not corrected over the weekend because the restaurant's corporate offices were closed and that the website where the altered receipt was first posted was taken down back on Friday.

To the person responsible for the photoshopped receipt, all I can say is that we do not need your "help." The problems of income and wealth inequality and disparity are serious problems. They deserve serious discussion. The truth speaks for itself. We do not need people who falsely vilify the 1% and, in the process, bring discredit upon the efforts of those that seek to shine light on this problem and seek to correct it.

As with any other falsehood or hoax that is perpetrated, I hope they find the person responsible and there is some sort of public accountability, even if such accountability is merely having that person's name out there as responsible for the hoax.

Monday, February 27, 2012

The GOP's Last Chance to Fight History

Jonathan Chait has a great piece at New York Magazine about the decline of the Republican Party's current electoral model. In "2012 or Never," Chait calls the GOP political strategy a "hail mary" that will lead to an all or nothing outcome. He concludes, based upon the data, that the apocalyptic premonitions put forth by Republican leaders about this being their last chance is not mere hyperbole, but, instead, represents a credible statement. Simply put, according to Chait, the demographics make this the last time that the Republican Party, in its current composition, can credibly be expected to win an election.

The main thrust of Chait's argument is that offered by John B. Judis and Ruy Texiera ten years ago in their The Emerging Democratic Majority. As Judis and Texiera argued ten years ago, Chait argues that the declining portion of the white vote, the increasing proportion in the non-white vote and the increase in education among all Americans are the key factors in the Republican Party's electoral decline. As noted, external events are capable of thrusting one party, or the other, into power despite the overall trend, but, as the 2008 election indicated, a natural Democratic majority is emerging.

BREAKING: UNVERIFIED - Wikileaks - reporting Israel Destroyed Iranina Nuke Facility

This morning I woke up, opened up my Facebook and saw this staring at me from an Israeli Friend of mine. So... I had to check it out.
Yep, you read that headline right. No snark here. Wikileaks released a report claiming that Israeli and Kurdish Fighters destroyed the Iranian Nuclear Facility where weapons were being developed
According to Haaretz:
The mega-leaks website, WikiLeaks, has partnered with the hackers cooperative Anonymous, to publish internal emails of the American strategic intelligence company Stratfor. In one of the hacked emails, Stratfor officials discuss information obtained from one of their sources who reports that Israeli commandos, in cooperation with Kurdish fighters, have destroyed Iranian nuclear installations.....
....In one of the emails from November 2011, Startfor officials discuss the explosion at an Iranian missile base near Tehran and quote a source who "was asked what he thought of reports that the Israelis were preparing a military offensive against Iran. Response: I think this is a diversion. The Israelis already destroyed all the Iranian nuclear infrastructure on the ground weeks ago."
One company analyst responded dismissively to the possibility of an Israeli attack having already taken place, asking: "How and when did the Israelis destroy the infra on the ground?"
According to Wikileaks there is much more too this story, involving Oil prices, military alliances and so forth with regards to Russia, the E.U. and India.
In the email, an Israeli intelligence source was asked about Defense Minister Ehud Barak's comment "the more the merrier" following the mysterious explosion that killed at least 17 people at an Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps base near Tehran in November 2011. At the time, Iran claimed the blast was an accident, but US blogger Richard Silverstein said that Israel was the mastermind.
"I think this is a diversion. The Israelis already destroyed all the Iranian nuclear infrastructure on the ground weeks ago," said the Israeli source. "The current 'let's bomb Iran' campaign was ordered by the EU leaders to divert the public attention from their at home financial problems."....
Stratfor - the company who's email has been hacked said the following:
Some of the emails being published "may be forged or altered to include inaccuracies; some may be authentic," the company statement said.
According to the leaked emails, Europe and China would suffer from an Israeli attack on Iran (according to wikileaks) but that the Saudis and the Russians would benefit greatly. One can see the Saudi's but the Russians?
Again, this is an unverified report. HOWEVER, in any case it boxes Iran in a serious way. If they act on or accept this report, it means they acknowledge that they were indeed developing a nuclear weapon in a direct contradiction to their claims of the opposite. IF however, they deny this happened and that there was simply an attack on a Revolutionary Guard base then they are admitting to the world that Israeli and Kurdish forces were able to penetrate their most secure compound and wreck havoc. So much for their bellicose threats of retaliation, not too mention what message this sends to the Iranian People.

It will be interesting what Julian Assange says this afternoon when the documents are fully released.

"Progressive Except for Palestine"

One of the more annoying habits common to members of the anti-Israel movement is their moral posturing; an example of which is the term "PEP", which translates into English as 'Progressive Except for Palestine'. It's applied to anyone who does not share their views at the pitch and volume they favor, eleven on a scale of ten.

The underlying assumption, of course, is that there is only one acceptable Progressive position on the Arab-Israeli conflict, and they conveniently happen to hold it. The rather unsubtle implication is that the rest of the Progressive movement is a churning heap of reactionary neanderthals in sore need of enlightenment, to bring us more in line with their views on the subject. Which, coincidentally, is The Most Important Political Issue™ of recorded history, characterized by barbarism on a scale humanity has never seen. The Sack of Rome? Peanuts, and probably a Zionist conspiracy avant la lettre to boot.

Well, how about No?

I would imagine that Progressive values include honesty. That, unfortunately, is not something commonly in evidence in said movement. If you want to argue the destruction of the state of Israel, fine. That is, obviously, a morally abhorrent goal, but it's a free country, and people can hold whatever vacuous or cruel views they please. The problem is, of course, that they never admit - except by accident - that this, the end of the Jewish state, is indeed the goal. Call them what they are, anti-Israel, and watch the hackles rise and the outraged sputtering begin. It is, after all, only about the poor Palestinians, groaning under the uniquely heavy Israeli yoke, and their inalienable rights.

Except that it's not. Leaving aside the fact that there could have been a Palestinian state since 1947, had it not been for that awkward lost war, I'd warrant that the people who really sincerely care about their rights in the Western movement concerned with them are in a minority, vastly outnumbered by, to give the baby a name, people who happen to hate Jews. If it were otherwise, they'd expend some time on, say, the intolerable conditions in refugee camps in Lebanon, or even on the continued existence of these camps. But they don't, because there is no injustice worth debating unless it can be blamed on the Jews.

This is the real problem the overwhelming majority of Americans have with those people who think the Evils of Zionism™ are something you can chat about at a cocktail party. As a people, we are not actually all ignorant mouth-breathers. Some, yes, but overall, we have functioning bullshit detectors.

But the real point is this: there will always be hateful or dishonest people in any political movement. Human nature, I suppose. That's no excuse, however, for the anti-Israel movement, which is riddled with both, and seems completely unconcerned with what to the rest of us, Progressive or otherwise, is glaringly obvious.

This is the reason - not hasbara, of which there is far less than some claim, or anti-Arab racism, or a nefarious conspiracy of the Zionist media, or anything else - why people who throw around the term PEP are shunned by the mainstream Progressive movement and the American People at large. Because there is too much hate, a very old one that many of us recognize. No massaging of polls or any number of flash mobs in Grand Central will change that.

The losers in this game, of course, are as always and ever the Palestinians themselves. They have rights and deserve their own state. They are, however, ill-served by condescending whackadoodles who see a conspiracy under every rock, think anti-Semitism isn't that much of a problem, alienate the mainstream of American society, and are kept at significantly more than arm's length by the only force that might be of use to them, the Progressive Movement itself.

Monday Open Thread

Because we need more of these!

BDS Wins(tm) again!

Or not...

Eat it!

The first judicial ruling on the tangled mess regarding Olympia Co-op's boycott is due today.

Meanwhile, here in Portland at 4:10 AM Pacific this morning (I'll be back on East Coast time in 17 days!) it's 1986 again. Fuck yeah!

Sunday, February 26, 2012

Thomas Jefferson's Reply to Rick Santorum

Rick Santorum, in stating that the separation of religion and state "makes [him] want to throw up," appeals to the Founding Fathers and their vision when establishing our country. In response, we point to the First Amendment and the religious beliefs of our Founding Fathers. We point to the history with which they were quite familiar. There have been two really good diaries on that here today. This diary will not rehash those details. Instead, I prefer to let the words of one of our Founding Fathers, those people that Rick Santorum appeals to, speak for themselves.

In 1802, less than a year into his administration, Thomas Jefferson penned his famous Letter to the Danbury Baptists, which should be required reading for Rick Santorum and everyone else that seeks to erode the separation between religion and state.

To messers. Nehemiah Dodge, Ephraim Robbins, & Stephen S. Nelson, a committee of the Danbury Baptist association in the state of Connecticut.


The affectionate sentiments of esteem and approbation which you are so good as to express towards me, on behalf of the Danbury Baptist association, give me the highest satisfaction. my duties dictate a faithful and zealous pursuit of the interests of my constituents, & in proportion as they are persuaded of my fidelity to those duties, the discharge of them becomes more and more pleasing.

Believing with you that religion is a matter which lies solely between Man & his God, that he owes account to none other for his faith or his worship, that the legitimate powers of government reach actions only, & not opinions, I contemplate with sovereign reverence that act of the whole American people which declared that their legislature should "make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof," thus building a wall of separation between Church & State. Adhering to this expression of the supreme will of the nation in behalf of the rights of conscience, I shall see with sincere satisfaction the progress of those sentiments which tend to restore to man all his natural rights, convinced he has no natural right in opposition to his social duties.

I reciprocate your kind prayers for the protection & blessing of the common father and creator of man, and tender you for yourselves & your religious association, assurances of my high respect & esteem.

Th Jefferson
Jan. 1. 1802.

This separation of religion and state does not preclude religious figures from participating in the political discourse and seeking to influence public opinion. They are free to do so, if that is their choice. What it does preclude, however, is the creation of laws that lack an independent and legitimate secular basis. When Santorum speaks of laws based in religion he is not only advocating a position contrary to our Constitution, he also advocating a position contrary to the vision laid out by our Founding Fathers, as evidenced by Jefferson's own words.

Finally, one last thing given Santorum's constant statements about infringement on the freedom of religion. Santorum fails to understand that freedom of religion also involves freedom from religion for those not professing the religious belief in question. Furthermore, it also includes the right of religion to be free of government involvement. The moment that any religious doctrine becomes the basis of our law is the moment that that religion becomes subject to our government's involvement. It is exactly this type of entanglement that our Founding Fathers were trying to prevent.

Saturday, February 25, 2012

What's Cooking?

If you ask me, we need some open threads here. And I'm all about good food. And it's the weekend. So let's have some fun and see if this flies!

I am leaving Portland in just under 19 days now, moving cross-country again. Back east to Philadelphia this time. Although I've never had too much of a pantry*, my last couple of weeks here I'm going to be focused on using up everything I have, so I can move as lightly (and as easily) as possible.

Found a jar of tomato sauce which was gifted to me last Fall by a friend from her garden bounty, and I just so happened to also have two eggs left over from the last farmers' market I hit two weeks ago. My first thought? Shakshouka! So I did a simple version of that for my (very) late lunch an hour or so ago. Just poached the eggs in the sauce with roughly a quarter of an onion (diced), a couple pinches of ground cumin (I never measure when sprinkling - baking is chemistry, but cooking is art!), along with the end of a medium-ish baguette I had lying around from the Vietnamese bakery down the street on the side.

Ideally, I would have included something spicy (peppers!) in the sauce, but again I'm pretty much running low on everything right now (by design) and just winging stuff. And it's not exactly the season for that here, either. But it was still a great lunch, regardless. Anyway.

So what'cha cookin?


*Shame on me! I will build quite an impressive one in Philadelphia though, since for the first time in my life I will have an actual backyard (not too much space - it's pretty much just a 72-square foot concrete pad tucked behind a North Philly rowhouse; but it's all mine and I plan to grow vertically, and have room for a grill and a smoker back there this summer, too!)

Friday, February 24, 2012

A Candidate’s Religious Beliefs Can Be, But Are Not Necessarily, Relevant

First, let me start by saying that a candidate’s religion is never relevant. It is completely irrelevant if a candidate is a Mormon or a Catholic or a Muslim or a Baptist or a Jew or a Hindu, etc… Similarly, it is completely irrelevant if a candidate is an atheist or agnostic. The belief or disbelief or questioning of any deity or deities is absolutely irrelevant in determining his or her fitness or qualifications for office, both from a legal perspective and an actual perspective.

Where a candidate’s religious beliefs matter is in the intersection between those beliefs and the implementation of government policy. When a candidate, or anyone for that matter, cites, or intimates, their religious beliefs as a primary guiding force behind a particular policy position it becomes a legitimate question. An example of this would be Rick Santorum when he is discussing marriage and his opposition to marriage equality. It is fair to question the extent to which his opposition is grounded solely in religious belief, and without any secular reasoning, particularly when he seeks to link homosexuality to pedophilia and bestiality.

I am a religious person. I have never hidden the fact that my religious beliefs are at the core of my liberalism. I understand that this opens up a whole can of worms for me to be put in the same exact position I am putting others. However, unlike Santorum, and others, I ask myself an extremely important question before I come to advocate that a position grounded in my religious beliefs should become government policy: Is there an independent and legitimate secular purpose in this policy?

If the answer to the question I posed at the conclusion of the preceding paragraph is "yes," then I will not hesitate to advocate for this position to become, or remain, government policy. If, however, the answer is "no," then I will oppose this position becoming government policy. Simply put, just as our government is supposed to do on the whole, I maintain a personal separation between religion and state; I apply my own personal Lemon Test.

This, perhaps, is not the best, or most eloquent, answer, but it is how I come to my decision-making process as a person that is religious, believes in the separation of religion and state, and believes in individual liberty. It is not for me to tell others what to do so long as they are not harming me or others. Therefore, I will never force my religious beliefs on others and will oppose any efforts to use the power of the government to do so, even when the government’s position is concurrent with my personal religious beliefs.

So, as the title suggest, a candidate’s religious beliefs are not always relevant, but, depending upon the circumstances, they can be relevant. On that note, I am off in about two hours because Shabbat is coming. For those of you that observe in some way, shape or form, Shabbat Shalom. For everyone else, enjoy your weekend.

Hey Republicans... YOU OWN THIS!

Cross Posted at Daily Kos

Last nights Republican Arizona debate was truly a Wacktastic event. The candidates covered a gamut of subjects in what might be the Wackiest event I think I have ever heard.

First - if you want some real laughs... Here is the transcript of the debate. Read it and laugh or weep (I am still trying to figure out what to do). Either way - here are some of the gems....

First we have Former Governor Mitt Romney suggesting we use the Saudi Arabians and Turks to arm the Syrian Rebels to help overthrow the Government of Bashir Assad.

We need to work with — with Saudi Arabia and with Turkey to say, you guys provide the kind of weaponry that’s needed to help the rebels inside Syria. This is a critical time for us.

So let's see... we want to give the Wahabite Government of Saudi Arabia money or weapons to influence the overthrow of the Damascus Regime. The same Wahabite Sect that spawned Al-Qaeda, the same Wahabite Sect that runs one of the most backward regimes in the world - we want to have them surrounding our friends in Israel and Jordan? Yeah.... that makes sense. How in G-d's name does that make the situation any better than it is now.

OR... we want Turkey, a country that openly trades with Iran and has become increasingly hostile to both Israel and the U.S. to be sponsoring this change. Okie dokie, that too makes sense (well not really unless you live in the bizarro world that the Republicans seem to be inhabiting).

Of course the biggest FAIL line of the night.... goes to Newt Gingrich who said this:

And I agree with — with Senator Santorum’s point. This is an administration which, as long as you’re America’s enemy, you’re safe.

Perhaps we should ask Osama Bin Laden and a large former portion of the Al-Qaeda leadership about that... Oh wait, we can't - they're dead. Whoops.

But lets not forget "the Mad Elf" and noted racist Ron Paul with this pearl of wisdom:

The Iranians can’t possibly attack anybody. And we’re worrying about the possibility of one nuclear weapon.

Okay, why worry about just one bomb, I mean what can just one little nuke do... And hey Iran can't attack anyone anyway because we have them surrounded. I guess Mr. Paul has never heard of using proxies in war or using these modern things called Missiles. Someone might want to let him in on this. Perhaps our friends on the right who call Mr. Paul a "staunch ally of Israel" or "simply misunderstood:" can clear up just how this total unconcern can translate into "staunch ally".

But there was much, much more and on different subjects. Here, we once again have Mr. Paul on immigration:

Why is it if an illegal comes across the border and they go on private property, why isn’t that trespassing? And why don’t you have the right to stop it?

Gee, I wonder what Congressman Paul is really saying.... No, actually I don't wonder at all. We all see the "No Trespassing signs" that are posted (usually with pictures of a Gun) - so what does he mean "why don't you have a right to stop it"? Individuals do have a right to stop trespassing particularly if they see someone sneaking over the border. They can call the Border Patrol, or Police - THAT is what they can do.

Ok, so outside of advocating "stopping trespassing" another pearl of wisdom from the Congressman:

But once again, the question is, if you voted for Planned Parenthood like the senator has, you voted for birth control pills. And you literally, because funds are fungible, you literally vote for abortions because Planned Parenthood gets the money — “Oh, I’ll buy birth control pills,” but then they have the money left over to do the abortion.

Thus, in Congressman Paul's world if you support Planned Parenthood and you buy birth control pills then really you are funding and supporting abortion. Of course, for Congressman Paul and his associates, this exercise in illogic escapes them. Here is Rick Santorum on the same issue:

"Over 40 percent of children born in America are born out of wedlock. How can a country survive if children are being raised in homes where it’s so much harder to succeed economically? "

And Mitt Romney:

"Because these kids are raised in poverty in many cases, they’re in abusive settings. The likelihood of them being able to finish high school or college drops dramatically in single-family homes. And we haven’t been willing to talk about this."

And this lack of sensibility in a nutshell is where the Republicans and their candidates COMPLETELY FAIL.... They oppose Birth Control and education about Birth Control as well as groups that promote Birth Control and yet they whine about how there are so many unwanted pregnancies and abortions - THE VERY THING THAT BIRTH CONTROL PREVENTS!!!!

Do they think by teaching morality in schools they are really going to cut down on sex? Apparently they do.

So for those who support Republicans or those who suffer ODS and refuse to support President Obama in 2012.... You own this. This is your future. This is what you are voting for or advocating for when you argue against the President's re-election. Now, dissenters will say "Oh no.. I am just sending the President a message" or "Oh no, I don't support any of this". Well.. newsflash... These are the guys that WILL get elected if you vote against the President OR simply don't vote.

One may disagree with President Obama on issues - I certainly have complaints on a number of things (mostly related to the economy and the lack of focus on economic justice), but, I have no illusions regarding what would be happening if the President had not been elected and I have no illusions about what will happen if he is not re-elected. So, is he the perfect candidate... no but, he is a darn good candidate AND he is a whole lot better than those running against him.

A Conservative's View of America

Since I was up late last night I decided I would have some fun with Powerpoint and make good on the humorous idea that had been bandying about inside my head for the past week or so. Below the fold are two maps. One is a map of our entire country and the other is a map of just the Northeast. They are humorous representations of how some conservatives view our country as they head into the voting booth to select the craziest candidate to go up against President Obama.

What will be easy to notice is the simplistic view of our country and the bigotry that goes with it. Also, you will exactly why birthers believe that President Obama was not born in the United States. The answer was so obvious I cannot believe that we have all missed it for the past four years since then-Senator Obama emerged as the Democratic frontrunner. Without further adieu please follow me below.

Conservative Geography

Northeast Inset

The really sad parts about these maps? One has to wonder how many of the Republican presidential candidates, both still in the race and those that left the race, and how many of the tea party members of Congress view our country in these same simplistic terms. Then, putting those candidates and officeholders aside, one must also realize that even those candidates that do not see our country in such simplistic terms are so determined to appeal to the crazy that they are appealing to those that do see it like that. As Rep. Barney Frank said, "We're not perfect, but they're nuts!"

Thursday, February 23, 2012

GOP Rep Offers Non-Apology After Saying Kill Senators to Pass Budget

Rep. John Sullivan (R-Oklahoma), courtesy TPM, after advocating for the Paul Ryan budget:

You know but other than me going over there with a gun and holding it to their head and maybe killing a couple of them, I don’t think they’re going to listen unless they get beat.

Yes, a Republican member of Congress really said this. This even after it is only about a month after Gabrielle Giffords resigned from Congress so she could more fully focus on her recovery. This barely more than a year after then-Representative Giffords was shot, twelve others wounded and six killed in an attempt on her life. This Republican representative is talking about killing members of the United States Senate just so he can get a budget, one which would gut the social safety net and benefit the wealthy at the expense of the middle class and the working class and the poor, passed. Even if he was joking it was so far over the line that if the line is in New York he is standing in the middle of the Pacific Ocean.

Audio of the town hall meeting where this happened below.

And, after TPM came across the audio, Sullivan's spokesman offered one of those non-apology apologies:

The Congressman offers his sincere apologies to anyone he offended (emphasis my own) and for using a poor choice of words to make his point — which was that Senate Democrats are refusing to pass a budget or even vote on the 28 House passed jobs bills.

What ever happened to admitting that you made a mistake? What ever happened to admitting you screwed up? What ever happened to simply apologizing? Is it so difficult to say:

I should have never suggested violence as a means to solve political problems, even jokingly. I made a mistake. I am sorry.

These non-apology apologies that happen today are not worth the paper they are printed on. They are meaningless. They mean that you are not really sorry for your actions. If you were sorry for your actions you would say, "I'm sorry," and not offer any qualifications, such as, "if I offended anyone."

In the second half of the statement, Sullivan's spokesman states that the congressman does not condone violence. However, the cat is already out of the bag. The words are out there. People have heard them. They have been injected into the national discourse. They cannot be taken back. The non-apology apology offered by Sullivan's spokesman ignores those facts.

If the congressman would have said, "I'm sorry. I should have never used such language. I can never condone violence as a solution to our problems in Washington," I would have somewhat respected him. I would have recognized that he is a human being and he made a mistake. I would hope that he learned from his mistake and, if he repeated it, I would have recognized that there was a pattern and that despite his straightforward apology it turned out to be meaningless. This, though? This is absolutely meaningless. It is a real apology that is called for here.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Want to Convert My Dead Relatives, Mormons? I'll See That and Raise You.

Many people are aware of the Mormon practice of baptizing the dead, including of Jewish Holocaust victims without the approval of family members. While the LDS church has apologized for the practice, and agreed to not engage in it except at the request of descendants, those apologies and promises ring hollow. Earlier this month, it was reported that the parents of famed Nazi hunter Simon Wiesenthal were posthumously forcibly converted. Today, CNN reported the same fate befell Anne Frank. I just learned from a friend of mine, who is the grandson of survivors, that his grandparents were forcibly converted after their deaths. It is clear that despite the repeated apologies and promises this practice still continues.

Oftentimes, humor can be an effective response, even to offensive practices. I do not know how many people reading this have already seen it, but my friend whose grandparents were forcibly converted after their deaths sent me the link to this site. The premise? So long as they continue forcibly baptizing our dead relatives, we will "convert" their dead relatives to homosexuality. Of course, there is the element of the absurd there, which is what makes this so effective. The truth is that you can "convert" the religion of a dead person as much as you can "convert" a person's sexuality — which, of course, is to say that you simply cannot do so. Still, the stress release involved is fun and the whole process is quite amusing.

A screenshot of the site is below.

Dead Mormons

So, if you want to have some fun and protest, in your own little way, just go over to the site and enter a dead Mormon's name or, if you don't know any, the site will search the database and provide one for you. Me? I entered George Romney. Why? A nod to the request of Nobel laureate Elie Wiesel, who lost his parents in the Holocaust and survived the horrors of Auschwitz and Buchenwald.

My ancestors lived and died as Jews. My grandfather went over to Europe to fight the Nazis during World War II. He enlisted even though the War Department had him listed as dead. He lost his cousin, who was like a brother to him, in Italy. His relatives that remained in Europe, instead of coming to America, like his parents did, were almost all killed by Hitler and his evil henchmen. Today, I live my life as a Jew and I hope I would make Papa (what I always called him) proud. I'll be damned if anyone tells me that any of them are anything other than the proud Jews they lived their lives as.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Listen Up, Ricky! There was only one Hitler.

I'm writing this as a human being. I'm writing this as an American. I'm writing this as someone who lost family to Hitler — both fighting him and in the Holocaust. I'm writing this as a Jew. That I'm a Democrat is completely irrelevant. When you compared our president — don't forget, he's your president too — to Hitler you've crossed so many lines, and displayed so much ignorance of history, you don't even want to know.

Do you even have any idea what Hitler stood for? Do you, Rick? He believed in the idea of a master race. In fact, that was his whole guiding philosophy. It informed every other position he held and every action he took. He wanted to establish the supremacy of the "Aryan race." While he was at it, he wanted to exterminate people of "inferior" races — people like me.

If Hitler had his way, then I would not even be here to write this. My grandparents would have been killed before my parents were born. Perhaps they would have simply been shot where they were found. Perhaps they would have been rounded up, placed in cattle cars and taken to a concentration camp. Maybe they would have been worked to death as slaves, dressed in striped uniforms, barely fed and subjected to whatever diseases were passing around the camp and to the whims of the guards. Maybe they simply would have been sent right to the gas chambers, their remains passing as ashes through the chimneys of the crematoria.

THAT is what Hitler stood for.

Tell me, Ricky, what exactly is it, in your mind, that makes our president compare, in any way, shape or form to the man who is the personification of evil?

Is it that he believes women should have control over their own bodies?

Is it that he believes in individual autonomy?

Is it that he believes we are all unique individuals and that we all deserve respect and dignity and have inherent self-worth?

Is it that he believes freedom of religion also means religion is not free to impose its will on everyone else and have the sanction of the government to do so?

Is it that he believes we are our brothers' and sisters' keepers and have a responsibility to our fellow human beings?

How about me, Ricky? Do I compare Hitler?

I believe women should have control over their own bodies. This includes the right to choose, both to determine when they want to start a family, if they ever want to, and to terminate a pregnancy.

I believe that individuals should have control over their own bodies without the government telling them what to do.

I believe that we are all unique. I believe that we are all deserving of respect and dignity. I believe we all have inherent self-worth. I believe this includes the right to marry the person we are in love with regardless of their gender and regardless of our gender.

I believe we have a responsibility to our fellow humans beings — that we are our brothers' and sisters' keepers. I believe that there should be freedom from want. I believe we should not have to choose between putting food on the table or covering our health care costs or those of our loved ones. I believe that we are all entitled to a dignified retirement in our later years.

Listen up, Ricky. There was only one Hitler. Until anyone starts speaking about master races and how others are inferior and how they need to be killed off they do not come close to comparing to that evil man. So, as far as I'm concerned, you can sit down, shut up and proceed to crawl back under whatever ugly fucking rock you came out from.

Hey, 1%! That Money Will Do You No Good When You Can't Breathe or Drink.

Many of us look at the 1% and we can immediately understand why they vote Republican. After all, they do derive economic benefit from the Republicans’ desire to further cut taxes and erode regulation. They will not have a need for the social safety net in their retirement. They are not going to be dependent upon that Social Security check or that pension check. They will not have to worry about not having health insurance or whether Medicare will be solvent. Despite all that, I still cannot understand why the 1% vote Republican.

Let us, for the moment, put aside the economic issues. Let us put aside the arguments of many economists that in the end a system that completely wrecks the 99% will wreck everyone, including the 1% in the end. Let us put aside the argument that the wealthy will not really notice the difference between being worth $9 million or being worth $10 million or being worth $9 billion or being worth $10 billion. All these are points worth discussion, but they are irrelevant to why I fail to understand why they vote Republican.

Why I fail to understand why the 1% votes Republican comes down to one issue: Environmental laws and regulations. This issue, in fact, has universal applicability. In the end it is irrelevant whether you are the 1% or you are the 99%. It is irrelevant whether you are the top 1% or the bottom 1%. Ultimately, we need to be able to drink the water and breathe the air. Nothing yet has been invented to circumvent those requirements of nature.

All the money in the world does not matter if you cannot breathe the air or drink the water.

Let me repeat that:

All the money in the world does not matter if you cannot breathe the air or drink the water.

When we speak of environmental impacts and the battle between the environment and jobs we lose sight of that. Not only should we point out how green jobs are jobs and they are the future. We should also be pointing out that it is not going to matter how many jobs we create if we destroy the environment in the process. We all share this planet, for better or for worse. Even the wealthiest amongst us lack the ability to leave this planet on a permanent basis. Thus, we must all live with the consequences of what we do to the environment.

I understand that the wealthy can be just as stupid as the rest of us. I understand that they can be blinded by greed. I understand that they are just as capable of focusing on the accretion of additional wealth as so many are about dreaming or focusing on becoming members of the 1%. However, it still comes back to the point I make in this piece. We only have one earth. All of us will share in the consequences of what we do to it. Therefore, when people advocate for weakening our environmental laws and regulations, or repealing them completely, they are advocating against their own self-interest -- even the 1%.

Orthodox Jews Come Out for Marriage Equality in Maryland

When most people think of Orthodox Jews and marriage equality they think of opposition to marriage equality. This is no different than the perceptions about devout Catholics or evangelical Protestants. However, as with every other community, there is not uniformity despite the public perception. Last night, I received an email from a friend that lives in Maryland and was a letter written to members of the Maryland legislature by Orthodox Jews that support marriage equality. The text of the letter is below.

Dear Maryland State Senators and Delegates,

As Orthodox Jewish supporters of marriage equality in Maryland, we urge you to support marriage equality for all committed and loving Maryland families. Tens of thousands of gay and lesbian Marylanders deserve to be treated just like everyone else.

The United States and Maryland offer unprecedented freedom for Jews to practice their religion, and as Orthodox Jews we benefit from this on a daily basis. However, as important as our freedom to practice our religion is to us, we are equally committed to the separation of church and state and do not wish to impose our religious beliefs on others.

Marriage is not just a religious institution; it carries significant civil and legal consequences. Disallowing part of Maryland's population access to those civil and legal consequences based on religious convictions represents an unwarranted and unwelcome commingling of religion and politics.

We are Orthodox Jews, and although we don't advocate or expect that religious organizations will perform same-sex marriage (and know that under the proposed law they will not be obligated to do so), we strongly believe that any two loving, consenting individuals should have the right to enter into a state-sanctioned marriage and receive all the benefits -- emotional, social, and legal -- that the institution confers. Denying them this opportunity is denying them a basic civil right.

Marriage, whether civil or religious, makes communities and societies stronger. When two people are legally bound by matrimony, they generally live longer, are happier, and provide stability for their children. To deny tens of thousands of citizens the right to make a commitment that has such tremendous benefits and responsibilities is just plain wrong.

Marylanders from all walks of life, including religious walks, understand that gay and lesbian couples share the same values as everyone else, like commitment and family. And, like everyone else, they want the opportunity to marry and have all the rights and responsibilities that marriage confers under Maryland state law.

Please do the right thing and vote in favor of marriage equality.


This letter does not tiptoe around, or address, any religious arguments for or against marriage equality. Instead, it dismisses them as irrelevant in a secular state where religion and state are separated. It focuses on what marriage equality is — a civil rights issue — and the communal good that comes from guaranteeing equal rights to all citizens.

When it discusses marriage as both a civil and religious institution, and the separation of religion and state, it explicitly rebukes the arguments made against marriage equality. Remember, those arguments are about the "sanctity" of marriage. That, necessarily, grounds itself in religion and disavows a secular purpose. Remember, if the secular purpose is procreation, and the raising of those children, then elderly couples should not be allowed to marry and there should be tests to determine fertility before marriage.

However, no one is suggesting that because, while marriage might once have been about procreation, it is no longer about that. It is about something totally different. It is about sharing one's life with the person one loves. It is about intimacy. It is about the right of the individual to find contentment with another human being. It is about the pursuit of happiness that Jefferson writes of in our Declaration of Independence.

Religion is a matter of conscience. Just as my conscience directs me to support marriage equality, I cannot, in good conscience, force any religious institution to marry a couple in violation of its religious doctrine. However, unlike those that oppose equality, I doubt you will find a supporter of marriage equality that would compel an Orthodox rabbi or a Catholic priest or any other clergy member to solemnize a marriage in violation of their conscience and religious doctrine.

Oh, and for the record, I am a proud Conservadox Jew that is equally proud in my support of equal rights for all.

Friday, February 17, 2012

Good News: Derangers Out of Touch On Israel, Iran

A quick bit of good news to end the week. A poll has come out from Gallup exploring Americans' views of various other countries.

The poll has confirmed that the loud voices we know from places such as Daily Kos, where people feel an intense love for the Iranian regime, and an obsessive, deranged hatred for Israel, are very much in the minority in this country.

Iran is the least popular country of the 23 included in the survey, with only a 10% favorability rating in Americans' minds, even below such luminaries as North Korea and Iraq. On the other hand, Israel has a 71% favorability rating, which is pretty darn good, although coming in behind major American allies Canada, Australia, UK, Germany, Japan, France, and, curiously, India.

It is interesting to see socialist-ish Canada with a 96% favorability rating, and even the cliche right wing villain and tourist-abusing France coming in at 75%. In general, it seems that in spite of both right wing and far left deranger propaganda, Americans have pretty good taste when it comes to other countries.

Tzipi Livni Speaks Out

Today's Haaretz has a fascinating interview with Kadima leader Tzipi Livni. The questions are direct, the answers seem very straightforward. I recommend reading it here:

Will there be a next time

Some of the highlights include an in depth discussion regarding the The Peace Process, the relationship with the P.A. and an entire view of the Settlement Issue.

Here are a few quick comments:

Haaretz Commentary: ....He’s a partner,” (Abbas) she says, releasing a cloud of smoke in the living room. They met a few months ago in Jordan, and Livni took Haim Ramon, Tzachi Hanegbi and Roni Bar-On with her. They talked for three hours. “Tzachi and Roni emerged with the realization that we’re missing a historic opportunity here,” she says.

That was Livni’s first meeting with Abbas since becoming leader of the opposition. “I thought it was undemocratic to meet with him. A government was elected and I won’t conduct parallel negotiations,” she says.

Q: So why now?

L: “There have been no negotiations for a long time, and he’s accused of not wanting them. I wanted to see for myself what the real situation was, because it’s possible that a few months from now it will already be impossible to solve the conflict. Before the meeting I informed Netanyahu and I contacted him afterward too. I told him that if he would release the people imprisoned before the Oslo Accords, Abu Mazen [Abbas] would return to the negotiating table. Netanyahu refused.”

Q: Does Abbas want to reach an agreement?

L: “I think so.”

Q: Had you been elected prime minister in March 2009, what would you have done about the diplomatic issue? What have we lost in these three years?

L: “An agreement.”

Q: A final status agreement?

L: “A final status agreement. I believe it would have been possible.”

WOW... Powerful stuff. Certainly there is a difference between what Livni and Netanyahu are seeing.

Some other items.....

Q: You meet with Benjamin Netanyahu regularly for personal updates. Is his comparison between [Iranian President Mahmoud] Ahmadinejad and Adolf Hitler, between the Holocaust and Iran, a manipulation for public relations purposes?


Q: Does he really believe that Hitler is sitting there in Tehran and planning another Holocaust? Is it profound and authentic for him?

L: “I think so. Absurdly, Netanyahu and another group that’s with him are turning the State of Israel into a collective, larger ghetto, out of a Jewish fear of a Holocaust. Netanyahu’s perception of the threats is that of a small country surrounded by enemies, and that’s become an ideology that may be politically advantageous. One day as he stood on the dais he made a statement that really made me angry: “What is happening to us, the isolation of the State of Israel, is not because of what we say or do, but because of what we are.”

Q: Classic victimhood.

L: “Exactly. It makes no difference what I do, the only thing left to us is to gather together, preferably in a shelter, and wait until the danger subsides. What I consider dangerous is that it leads to fear of the ‘other’ among us, draft bills that undermine equality and minority rights, that silence people. He recently said that the newspaper you write for is an existential threat to the State of Israel. Haaretz and The New York Times. Haaretz and its six readers. The problem is that those six readers are English-speaking readers, and that’s why it bothers Netanyahu. Israel is now ruled by the most right-wing and weakest government in its history, because we have no legitimacy to act. The Churchillian thing to do would be to try to reach an agreement related to the Israeli concept of security. Netanyahu sees that as something Chamberlain would do, an act of surrender. He sees an agreement as surrender.”

Q: What do you think of the Netanyahus’ attempt to control the media?

L: “He believed that his downfall during his first round as prime minister was related not to his actions or his character, but to media criticism. That’s why he came to power with the intention of controlling the media. And that was done in several ways: One is Israel Hayom. The same person [Sheldon Adelson] who now distributes the freebie newspaper that reflects the prime minister’s agenda and exalts his name, is also trying to ensure that the person Netanyahu thinks he can get along with [Newt Gingrich] will be elected president of the United States.”

As I said very interesting stuff. Please read the whole article at Haaretz (link at the top) it is very, very interesting.

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Elie Wiesel to Mitt Romney - Stand up for what is right! Who are really our friends?

This year the Republicans and fellow their fellow ODS (Obama Derangement Syndrome) sufferers are trying to make a huge push for Jewish voters to turn from their traditional role as strong supporters of the Democratic Party to becoming Republican voters (particularly in "swing" states like Florida and Pennsylvania) and donors. In addition to continually ignoring or worse yet, lying about the Presidents record regarding Israel and Jewish people, these hapless Republicans continue to make tactical mistake after tactical mistake regarding our constituency.

The latest is in GOP Front Runner (and party establishment favorite) Mitt Romney. For all of his "lip service" to the Israeli Right, Mr. Romney is proving himself to be far from a friend to the Jewish people. How is this? Well, Mr. Romney is a member of the Mormon (Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints - LDS) Church. Part of the practices of this church are to conduct posthumous conversions of people to Mormonism in an effort to gain them access to heaven.

So, what is the issue here? Well it seems that the family of the late (and great Nazi Hunter) Simon Wiesenthal is upset that a Mormon official performed a baptism on the parents of Mr. Wiesenthal after they died. To be fair to the Mormon Church in this instance they immediately apologized - HOWEVER, they did not say that they would cease this practice.

In today's Haaretz the great Elie Wiesel calls out Mitt Romney for not addressing this issue:

Republican presidential hopeful and former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney should have spoken up against Mormon posthumous baptism of Jews, Nobel Peace Prize laureate Eli Wiesel said in an interview on Wednesday....

.......Speaking to MSNBC's The Last Word with Lawrence O'Donnell's on Wednesday, Wiesel mentioned the name of Republican presidential hopeful and Mormon Mitt Romney in relation to the affair, saying the former governor should have communicated his position on the matter.

"Mitt Romney is a Mormon, and I respect all religions, including the Mormon religion," Wiesel said, asking: "How come he hasn't spoken up after all?"

"It's not, I'm sure he's not involved in that. But nevertheless, the moment he heard about this, he should have spoken up, because he is running for the presidency of the United States, which means it's too serious of an issue for him not to speak up," he added.

The Wiesenthal Center also expressed it's condemnation:

Following news of the posthumous baptism of Wiesenthal's parents, the Los Angeles-based Simon Wiesenthal Center denounced the baptismal rites.

"We are outraged that such insensitive actions continue in the Mormon temples," said Rabbi Abraham Cooper, associate dean at the center.

Indeed, how would we feel if our parents were posthumously converted to another religion. Would we consider the church that carried out these practices to be friends of the Jewish people? While I appreciate that the LDS church did apologize - rather than apologizing they should simply cease this odious practice. moreover, Mitt Romney as a Presidential candidate and self described devout Mormon needs to address this issue.

But this is not the only case of Republican insensitivity towards the Jewish people and religion. We all know about Ron Paul (who polls between 15-20% of Republican base) and his Neo-Nazi connections. How Republicans and the ODS sufferers think we can ignore that is simply beyond me. But, they do. They keep saying "Don't vote for the Democrats, we will support you" but they simply refuse to address the problem that one in five or six Republican voters supports this bigot. It is like they want us to simply look the other way while a sizable part of their voting base flirts with people that want to actually end the State of Israel and hangs out with people found at hate sites like StormFront or Mondoweiss.

Or how about Rick Santorum (the new, not Mitt). Mr Santorum is a true religious Christian who makes all kinds of noise about supporting the Israeli Right and their quest to annex the West Bank. Nevermind that this act would end the existence of the State of Israel as a Jewish AND Democratic State (something Republicans and ODS'ers care very little about particularly the Democracy part), in a typical act of arrogance Mr. Santorum sent a Chanukah card to his Jewish friends with the following quote on it:

"I am the light of the world: he that followeth me shall not walk in darkness, but shall have the light of life."

Ummmm, someone needs to tell Mr. Santorum that having quotes from the NEW TESTAMENT on a holiday card does not express respect for those of us who are Jewish. YET, we are are told to ignore all of this and vote against a man who has gone out of his way to provide friendship for the Jewish people (and Israel) and:

1. Held the first ever Seder in the White House

2. Named a month of the Year - Jewish History Month (May 2011)

3. Has had, not one but TWO Jewish Chiefs of Staff

4. Has been termed an "exceptional" friend of Israel by Israeli leaders across the Political Spectrum from President Shimon Peres (Kadima), to Defense Minister Ehud Barak (Atz'maout) to Deputy Foreign Minister Danny Ayalon (Yisrael Betainu).

I would ask individual Jewish voters given this... Which party is it or which candidate is it that seems to have our best interests in mind? I think the choice is pretty obvious.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Norman Finkelstein Pulls a Finkler

In the recent book The Finkler Question, author Howard Jacobson explores the current politics of antisemitism in the UK. The character Professor Finkler is a Jewish philosophy professor who is obsessed with being publicly "ashamed" about Israel in order to stay trendy. However, due to a culmination of events, this national figure has a shocking pro-Israel outburst during a conference. The outburst is in response to a woman who segues from anti-Zionism to antisemitism one too many times, as such anti-Zionists tend to do. It is a very interesting scene.

In a case of life imitating art, I was reminded of the whole thing in the protracted outburst of Norman Finkelstein against the BDS movement that has just come to light. A video which BDS didn't want to get out is making the rounds, in which Finkelstein is being interviewed by some BDS person and absolutely rips into their entire movement for 30 long, awkward minutes.

For a bit of background, Norman Finkelstein is a notorious Israel-bating figure, who for some time was faculty at a number of schools. He has expressed solidarity with Hezbollah and Hamas, criticized what he calls the 'Holocaust industry', and called Israel a "lunatic state". So he's like an extreme - and much less successful - version of the fictional professor Finkler. Even the names are eerily similar.

In short, Finkelstein is almost a prototypical Jewish antisemitic deranger, in the mold of Gilad Atzmon. And yet in the recently obtained video, he savagely calls BDS to task for many of the exact same things that pro-Israel commenters, neutral observers, and many others have over the years! Specifically, Finkelstein:

1) repeats over and over that BDS is trying to play it cute but fooling nobody about their ultimate plans for Israel itself - not the occupied territories - and the Jewish people living there.

2) repeats that BDS is alienating mainstream people and has achieved no success

3) repeats that BDS is "a cult" so many times that I lost count

4) takes BDS to task for its selective use of 'international law'

It is absolutely fascinating to watch the whole video, and also to wonder what caused this seeming abrupt direction shift for Finkelstein. Watching the video, as it focuses relentlessly on his face, he also seems generally disturbed, ready to be hauled off to a mental institution at any minute. He readily admits several times that he was in his own "Maoist cult" in his youth, and alternates between righteous indignation and whiny self-pity.

I would hesitate to say that Finkelstein has had a change of heart in regard to Zionism, the Jewish state, and antisemitism, but it seems that something has pushed him over the edge in the same way that something pushed Professor Finkler over the edge, at least temporarily.

I will say this to BDS and like-minded folks. If you are too deranged for even Norman Finkelstein, it is time to pack it in!

Now of course the accusations have started to fly about Finkelstein being a Zionist plant the whole time, about how he betrayed people, and is a Jew anyway so why is he allowed to say anything. For once, it is time to sit back and enjoy.

Update: All Youtube versions of the video appear to have been removed for "copyright violation". However the video at the link above is still available.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

"Combat Outpost Aryan"

Last week, news broke about some Marines using the SS insignia. Now, it is being reported that a U.S. military base in Afghanistan is named "Combat Outpost Aryan." For those unfamiliar, "aryan" was the term used by Nazis to describe their "master race," and is still used by neo-Nazis today. The Huffington Post reports that concerns over the name were reported to superiors, but that those concerns were ignored. The military, meanwhile, attributed it to a misspelling, with the intended spelling to be "arian."

In a letter to Defense Secretary Leon Panetta, Randal G. Mathis, an attorney for the Military Religious Freedom Foundation, writes (PDF):

The implications of the name and obvious discriminatory, religious and racial connotations are clearly outrageous. Disclosure of the base being named "Aryan" comes only three days after the shocking revelation last week that the Nazi SS insignia had been used by the 1st Recon BN Charlie Company in Sangin, Afghanistan.


Today's stunning information concerning the base near Kandahar being named "Aryan" is simply too much to be coincidental. Viewing either as trivially inadvertent would be preposterous. The horrific religious and ethnic connotations are beyond dispute, as is the horribly wrongful nature of either the base name or the use of the SS insignia.

Let us put aside for a moment the military's claim that this was an innocent spelling error. That, frankly, is irrelevant. The officers responsible for naming our bases should be aware of the history of that term. They are, mostly, college graduates, and one would expect they had something beyond a purely cursory study of World War II, particularly as related to its causes, in which Nazi racial ideology would play an important factor. That alone should be sufficient to cause them to not use such a name, regardless of spelling and what it is intended to represent.

Then we get to two other additional, and important, pieces of information. First is the fact, reported by MSNBC, that other bases "carry clearly American names such as 'Terminator' and "Michigan.'" Second is the aforementioned report from the Huffington Post that various persons aware of the name reported their concerns to their superiors and those concerns were brushed aside. Taken in combination this is particularly troubling because of the departure from practice and the complete ignoring of legitimate concerns.

Tens of millions died because of the genocide perpetrated, and the war unleashed, as a result of Nazi racial policies and their belief in an "Aryan" "master race." Among them were hundreds of thousands of Americans who gave the last full measure of devotion to save democracy and liberty and religious freedom and everything else that we hold dear. They did not storm the beaches of Normandy or fight up the Italian peninsula or at the Battle of the Bulge so that we could have a base named "Aryan" nearly 70 years later. My grandfather did not enlist in the Army after the War Department had him listed as dead so that we could have a base so named, nor did his cousin give his life for that reason.

Is it really too much to ask those responsible to be cognizant of, and sensitive to, history? Is it really that difficult?

Note: I have the greatest respect for our troops. They do a difficult job and the overwhelming majority of them do it with such a high degree of professionalism. They deserve our respect and admiration. They do not deserve to have their reputation tarnished because of a few bad apples. They should not be held responsible because the judgment of their leaders, oftentimes, can be lacking. Therefore, please do not use this failure of judgment from the leadership to paint all our men and women in uniform with a broad brush.

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Daniel Pearl Z"L

Ten years ago, Daniel Pearl was murdered because he was an American and a Jew. The anniversary of his death on the Gregorian Calendar was February 1st. However, his yahrzeit, the anniversary of his death on the Jewish calendar began last night at sundown. Every year, on the anniversary of the death of an immediate relative (parents, siblings, spouse and children) many Jews will light a yahrzeit candle in memory of their deceased relative. Today is that day for Daniel Pearl.

Translated into English, Z"L means "of beloved memory" or "may his (or her) memory be a blessing." As a fellow Jew, and as a human being, I remember Daniel Pearl. I remember his life. I remember his pride in being Jewish. I remember the dignity and grace with which he faced the gravest of situations — one that would eventually cost him his life. His memory is a blessing for all of us that share and honor our common humanity.

In the video released after his death, Pearl spoke words that I can speak as well:

I am a Jewish American... My father's Jewish, my mother's Jewish, I'm Jewish. My family follows Judaism.

My father is Jewish. My mother is Jewish. My family is Jewish. I am here today because of my ancestors. I am here today because my ancestors proudly held to their heritage and their beliefs. They did not give in to the persecution. They remained Jewish when it would have been so much easier for them to convert to Christianity.

I am here today because my ancestors came to this country when we still had relatively open immigration. Most of those family members they left behind in Europe were murdered in the Holocaust. I do not know if they were shot or they were gassed or they died simply of starvation. I do not know if they were buried in some mass grave or their remains passed through the smokestacks of crematoria as ashes. What I do know is that they died simply because they were Jewish.

Daniel Pearl was born after Nazi Germany passed from the present to history, its remaining criminals forced to live their lives on the run from their past. Nonetheless, he died for the same reason that six million died in the Holocaust and the same reason that countless Jews were slaughtered before then. He was murdered simply because he was Jewish.

I live my life as a Jew. Decades from now, hopefully, I will die as a Jew. I am proud of my heritage. I am proud of the legacy my ancestors have given me. I am proud of the legacy of my people. Daniel Pearl is a part of that legacy of our people. On this, 19 Sh'vat 5772 — the tenth anniversary of his death — I remember Daniel Pearl. Let this piece serve as a stone to make it known that I remember.

I'm Movin' Out... (Philadelphia!)

I tried. I failed. I can live with that.

Three weeks ago I was going nowhere, stuck in a dead end with no apparent way out. Then...

A light! Everything aligned! My landlord inexplicably put me on a month-to-month lease, after 4 years of 12-month leases, and I said, I said...

"Oh shit, I'd better call them and get myself on another one-year lease so I don't get kicked out. After all, the hipsters have discovered my SE Portland neighborhood so I'd better lock myself in while I can!"

But then after a second, I says to myself, I says...

...hey now, wait a minute.

Some people love New York, some people love heaven, some people love Disneyland, some people love Singapore, some people love Paris.


I love Philadelphia.

More than I can ever put into words. And always have, since I was a little boy over three decades ago and from the first minute I learned to even pronounce the word.


What a beautiful word. Call me whatever you want, but there's really no other place in the world I'd ever rather be. And the City takes my heart away every time I see it.

So wait, wait... could I could I could I???

Could I maybe end this failed experiment out here in Portland, where, okay it's a cool city, but ummm... I've only had like four good months out of the 60-something I've been here?

Yeah, okay. I tried. I failed. I can live with that. Time to move on.

There's an apartment available in Kensington, Philadelphia, and oh wait oh wait oh wait...

I want it! I got it!

Holy shit, I'm moving to Philadelphia in four weeks!!!


Something finally went right in my life for once, I'm gonna be a Philadelphian soon!!!!!!!!!!


I'm gonna hit the Reading Terminal Market in a few weeks, and when I leave I'm not gonna say, "I'll be back in a month or a year or two years."


Because this time, I'm gonna say - "The Market - Frankford El is gonna take me home in 15 minutes, and I can be back tomorrow or any other fucking day of my life because I live in Philadelphia! Whoo!!!!!!"


Music, please!

I'll never live in Jersey again, but ah shit I feel I'm coming home...

I still dig The Spinners!

Even though I'm from North Jersey, Philly's what I think about when I think of home. But hey, whatever. I understand...


I'll be home soon!

Welcome to Kensington, indeed. 34 days!!! :-D

Saturday, February 11, 2012

"Israel Apartheid Week" is coming

It seems that the 8th annual "Israel Apartheid Week" is coming. Actually, antisemitic Israel derangement gets an entire month from February 20 to March 11 worldwide dedicated to pushing the false meme that Israel is a racist state and is practicing Apartheid in the manner of the former South Africa.

Never mind that such a notion has been debunked by a prominent South African anti-Apartheid activist and former favorite of the anti-Israel set, or that common sense dictates that given the history and nature of the Israeli-Arab conflict, and the nature of Israeli society, there is simply no valid comparison. The derangers who for some reason think that only Jewish people should be denied self-determination, and that radical Islamists and genocidal maniacs should be embraced, are going to have their week

There will apparently be events across the USA including in my current home region, the Bay Area. At the moment, the IAW website seems to be horribly out of date, listing events from 2010 and 2011 as upcomming, but I assume the derangers will be out in force around here.

This time, rather than just being an armchair warrior, I'm actually going to fight back, by having a counter-protest when these terrorist-loving derangers and/or useful idiots show up in the Bay Area*. Here is the poster I'm going to make, and anyone should feel free to use it or riff on it:
poster - mini
Good times! Who's with me? I think we should start more actively fighting this slanderous and ridiculous deranger shit.

*Unless of course the local events are during my upcomming trip to Hawaii.

Friday, February 10, 2012

Santorum claims President Obama helping Iran get Nukes... HUH???

Just when one would think the GOP Presidential field could not get whackier than it already is.... (Ok, ok I realize that is sort of silly - given this group they have a lot further they can go) they up the ante just that much more.

At the CPAC conference these folks are simply trying to one up each other with flights from reality. So what craziness comes out today? Well here we have Rick Santorum ripping out a doozy:

Rick Santorum: Obama helping Iran obtain nuclear weapons

Now this one gets a full Scooby Doo HUH?


"We're throwing Israel under the bus because we know we're going to be dependent upon OPEC," Santorum said during a speech in Oklahoma City. "We're going to say, 'Oh, Iran, we don't want you to get a nuclear weapon — wink, wink, nod, nod — go ahead, just give us your oil.' Folks, the president of the United States is selling the economic security of the United States down the river right now." ....

......Santorum told CNN: "The president fought tooth and nail against putting sanctions on Iran and only capitulated at the end. This is a president who is not standing by our allies, is trying to appease, trying to find a way to allow — clearly to allow Iran to get this nuclear weapon. He's doing absolutely nothing in a consequential way to make sure that they do not get this weapon."

....The Obama administration has rejected Republican charges that it has been weak in its response to Iran and points to sanctions and diplomacy as a cautious but effective way of dealing with a situation that could upend oil markets and the world economy.

The Obama campaign responded to Santorum's remarks by reiterating its position that more pressure than ever has been placed on Iran and that the president has led the international effort to sanction Iran.

Of course as Rick whined:Obama signs executive order freezing Iran assets in US
Obama signed an executive order implementing parts of a new sanctions passed by Congress late last year. The measures block all property and interests of the Iranian government, the Central Bank of Iran (CBI) and all Iranian financial institutions that come within US jurisdiction
Previously, US institutions were required to reject, rather than block, such Iranian transactions. The measures, passed with wide majorities in Congress last year, also included a requirement for Obama to impose sanctions on foreign financial institutions that do business with the CBI or other Iranian finance firms....
....Senior White House officials are currently studying the measures passed by Congress to find a way to implement them that maximizes pain for Iran, but does not cause a huge spike in oil prices, for instance, that could harm the fragile US economic recovery.
One can make any claim they like regarding whether or not the President has been effective in trying to stop Iran from developing a nuclear bomb, BUT, one cannot say and believe that he is "encouraging" this project without one taking a serious departure from reality.

So, Mr. Santorum seems mad that the President is trying to find a way to penalize Iran for its research into a nuclear weapon but doesn't want to subject either the world or the U.S. economy to a crash that could be caused if something like the Straits of Hormuz were closed or other rash actions.

But candidate Santorum must not care that a major strike on Iran without the International community would most likely kick off a regional war which would in turn threaten a Global conflict, which would most likely at a minimum (aside from the horrors that it would produce for the people of the region) completely crash the U.S. economic recovery.

But then again maybe it is not that he doesn't care - maybe that is what he wants..... remember, he is a candidate for the Party whose one goal is to see President Obama as a one term President.

A Jewish Perspective on Some of Our Marines Using the SS Emblem

Almost every Ashkenazi Jew, and many Sephardim as well, lost family in the Holocaust. Some are among the survivors that still bear witness, first-hand, to the cruelty and depravity of Nazi Germany. Some are the descendants of survivors. Many Jewish Americans, like me, lost our family that remained in Europe. In six years, from 1939 to 1945, six million of my people died. Over two-thirds of European Jewry was slaughtered, buried in mass graves or their ashes passing through the smokestacks of concentration camp crematoria.

We are acutely aware of the need to bear witness and remember those that perished. There are Holocaust deniers out there. There are neo-Nazis out there. There are many other antisemites out there. What we did not think is that in the American military we would find a unit that used the emblem of the SS — the group which had primary responsibility for the implementation of Hitler's Final Solution and the destruction of the Jewish People. Unfortunately, as recent news reports indicate, this is not the case.

Last night, Meteor Blades wrote an excellent diary detailing the story. I have thought on the words I can use to accurately convey how seeing that image makes me feel. Here are those words:

Why do I leave it blank? Because there are no words to accurate convey how I feel. There are no words to accurately convey my disgust. There are no words to convey what seeing such an image does to me. That emblem is the emblem of the organization that murdered my family that did not come to this country. That emblem is the emblem of the organization that murdered six million of my fellow Jews. That emblem is the emblem of the organization that murdered eleven million of my human beings.

Nearly 70 years ago, the Greatest Generation gave their all to defeat Nazi Germany. My grandfather was in the army during World War II. He entered several of the camps in the west after they were liberated. His cousin — a man he grew up with and was like a brother to him — was one of our many soldiers who gave his life so that we may be here today. Now, we see a unit of our military use an emblem of that regime? Inexcusable certainly fits, but it does not truly come sufficiently close to describing just how lacking in explanation this is.

I respect and honor the service of our troops. They are brave. They are heroes. They are also human beings. They make mistakes. When they do make mistakes, like any of the rest of us, they should be held accountable. Secretary Panetta, as an American, as a Jew, as a human being, I ask that you hold those responsible directly accountable for their actions.