Sunday, November 18, 2012

18th Knesset Election Results in the West Bank

I noticed a confused soul on Twitter today claim the following:

Assuming "Beitanu (sic)" refers to Yisrael Beitenu, that's simply not true. Beitenu came in 3rd overall, with 11.7% of the vote in the most recent elections, those to 18th Knesset which took place February 10, 2009.But they came in 6th in the West Bank, according to my calculations. While Israel's election site doesn't provide that information explicitly, it was easy to calculate.

I began with the precinct-level results, a comma-separated value file available from the Knesset website. Then under, קובץ הישובים here, I got a file containing the names of each locality in Israel, as well as the official "symbol number" for the locality (which also appears in the precinct-level results file), and importantly which מחוז (region/district) each locality is in. Region 7 is the West Bank. From there it was some easy spreadsheet calculations.

The details of the calculation can be found online here in a Google Doc. However, I'll reproduce the results in the West Bank here (all other parties, including Hadash and the Arab parties, got less than 0.5%, unsurprisingly)

  1. Likud-31,406 (26.42%)
  2. National Union-23,664 (19.91%)
  3. United Torah Judaism-16,021 (13.48%)
  4. Shas-13,285 (11.18%)
  5. Kadima-10,195 (8.58%)
  6. Yisrael Beitenu-9,624 (8.10%)
  7. Habayit Hayehudi-9,262 (7.79%)
  8. Labour-2,784 (2.34%)
  9. Green Movement-Meimad-661 (.56%)
  10. Meretz 626 (.53%)
So Beitenu actually did significantly worse in the West Bank.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Precincts where Romney or Obama got 0 votes

Some Republicans have been yelling FRAUD because Mitt Romney got 0 votes in 59 precincts in Philadelphia. Now, while a lack of voter ID might allow someone to commit voter fraud by voting twice, it wouldn't have prevented a Romney supporter from casting a vote for him. Nevertheless, a bunch of Republicans on the Internet are claiming that there's no way this would happen unless there was fraud.

The more reasonable explanation is, of course, as follows:

  • Urban African-American voters are extremely overwhelmingly Democratic, even more so than African-Americans as a whole. In 2004, John Kerry won the overall African-American vote 88-11 according to the exit polls, but in Ward 7 and Ward 8, where 95%+ of the voters were black (most of the whites in Ward 8 at the time were at Bolling Air Force base and I believe vote absentee at home), but won Ward 7 and Ward 8 with over 95% of the vote, keeping Bush under 4% in both of them, getting over 97% in some of the wards
  • As the first black president/general election major-party presidential candidate, Obama's support among African-Americans is/was even higher than normal for a Democrat
  • The GOP's racism, from blatant remarks attacking urban black voters to Republican elected officials around the country embracing birtherism and other more subtle remarks/issues, probably made even some of the (few) conservative urban blacks think twice about voting Republican this year
The combination of these factors makes it quite plausible that in plenty of smaller near-100% black urban precincts, Romney may have lacked even one supporter

Indeed, it wasn't just in swing state urban precincts like the 59 in Philadelphia, 9 in Cleveland or precincts in the safely Democratic but admittedly known for fraud Chicago (37), where Romney got 0 votes Incidentally, because DC's precincts are rather large, the worst Romney did in a DC precinct was 3 votes. But precincts in solidly red states where Romney nevertheless failed to get a single vote include

  • Jefferson County, AL (Birmingham and suburbs) (9)-Precinct 136 [Obama 245, Romney 0, 1 write-in vote], Precinct 157 [Obama 18, Romney 0], Precinct 180 [Obama 165, Romney 0, 1 write-in], Precinct 197 ( [Obama 242, Romney 0], Precinct 206 [Obama 37, Romney 0], Precinct 256 [Obama 315, Romney 0, Johnson 1], Precinct 313 [Obama 406, Romney 0, Goode 1], Precinct 348 [Obama 305, Romney 0, Stein 1], Precinct 351 [Obama 69, Romney 0]
  • Pulaski County, AR (Little Rock) (1) 0130 [Obama 474, Other 2]
  • Fulton County, GA (most of Atlanta and suburbs) (6), Precinct 01C2 of Atlanta [Obama 4, Romney 0], Precinct CP83 (College Park) [Obama 327, Romney 0], Precinct SC08C (unincorporated South Fulton County) [Obama 88, Romney 0], Precinct SC17A (unincorporated South Fulton County) [Obama 44, Romney 0], Precinct SC30A [Obama 93, Romney 0], Precinct UC02B [Obama 5, Romney 0]
  • Dallas County, TX (22)-Precincts 1303-5406, 1707-5484, 2800-5961, 3110-6289, 3921-6638, 4104-6874, 1124-5361,1502-5446, 3015-6093, 3401-6415, 4116-6892, 4118-6895, 3094-6251, 3109-6285, 3200-6298, 4105-6875, 4537-6893, 4030-6747, 1105-5306, 4109-6881, 3025-6111, 3028-6114 [mostly very small precincts, Obama 703 Romney 0 in all 22 combined]
  • Lake County, IN (Gary) (7) 132-G2-05 [Obama 193, Romney 0], 139-G2-15 [Obama 284, Romney 0, Johnson 1], 142-G2-18 [Obama 332, Romney 0], 153-G3-11 [Obama 390, Romney 0], 163-G3-25 [Obama 205, Romney 0, Johnson 1, write-in 1], 172-G4-13 [Obama 323, Romney 0], 174-G4-15 [Obama 264, Romney 0]
  • Jefferson County, KY (Louisville) (4) H151 [Obama 1], L140 [Obama 325], M155 [Obama 153], M157 [Obama 5], N138 [Obama 42]
  • Allen Parish, LA(1) 02-05 [Obama 101, Romney 0]
  • Ascension Parish, LA(1) 00-74 [Obama 123, Romney 0]
  • Avoyelles Parish, LA(1) 02-02 [Obama 4, Romney 0]
  • Bienville Parish, LA (1) 03-07 [Obama 10, Romney 0]
  • Caddo Parish, LA (Shreveport) (2) 00-001 [Obama 310, Romney 0], 00-060 [Obama 565, Romney 0, Johnson 1]
  • Calcasieu Parish, LA (Lake Charles) (1) 00-303W [Obama 116, Romney 0]
  • Concordia Parish, LA (1) 00 4-4B [Obama 9, Romney 0]
  • East Baton Rouge Parish, LA (Baton Rouge) (3) 01 010 A [Obama 356, Romney 0], 01 032 A [Obama 394, Romney 0], 01 100 A [Obama 414, Romney 0, Johnson 1]
  • East Carroll Parish, LA (3) 00 10 [Obama 208, Romney 0], 00 11 [Obama 126, Romney 0], 00 12 [Obama 90, Romney 0]
  • Evangeline Parish, LA (1) 01 1110 [Obama 557, Romney 0, Stein 4, Other 1]
  • Jackson Parish, LA (4) 00 06A [Obama 31, Romney 0], 00 19C [Obama 1, Romney 0], 00 20 [Obama 68, Romney 0], 00 20 B [Obama 9, Romney 0]
  • Lincoln Parish, LA (7) 01 08 [Obama 3] 01 09 [Obama 17], 04 07 [Obama 44], 09 09 [Obama 104], 09 11 [Obama 8], 10 06 [Obama 54], 11 08 [Obama 24]
  • Madison Parish, LA (7) 00 15A [Obama 19], 00 16 [Obama 17], 00 18 [Obama 39], 00 19A [Obama 62], 00 20 [Obama 260], 00 22 [Obama 111, Johnson 1], 00 23 [Obama 75]
  • Morehouse Parish, LA (1) 00 17 [Obama 16]
  • Natchitoches Parish, LA (2) 01 05 [Obama 190], 04 02 [Obama 243]
  • Orleans Parish, LA (New Orleans) (22) 02 06 [Obama 344, Stein 1, Johnson 1], O2 06 A [Obama 45], 05 04 [Obama 68], 05 07 [Obama 294], 08 09 [Obama 370], 09 05 [Obama 202], 09 06B [Obama 105], 09 06D [Obama 152], 09 06F [Obama 137], 09 08A [Obama 210], 09 28E [Obama 299], 09 31B [Obama 205], 09 35 [Obama 137], 09 35A [Obama 221], 09 43M [Obama 441], 09 43N [Obama 337], 10 13 [Obama 253], 10 14 [Obama 235], 11 12 [Obama 252, Other 1], 11 13 [Obama 210], 17 11 [Obama 341, Johnson 3], 17 13A [Obama 259, Stein 1, Johnson 1] Note many of them are in the 9th ward, the mostly black ward that Hurricane Katrina pretty much destroyed, not so surprising nobody there has forgiven the GOP
  • Pointe Coupee Parish, LA (2) 00 08B [Obama 69], 00 13C [Obama 35]
  • Rapides Parish, LA (1) 00 C08 [Obama 207],
  • St. James Parish, LA (2) 00 07A [Obama 126], 00 17B [Obama 4]
  • St. John the Bapist Parish, LA (1) 04 12 [Obama 18]
  • St. Landry Parish, LA (1) 01 07 [Obama 359, Goode 1, Other 1]
  • St. Martin Parish, LA (1) 03 9 [Obama 39]
  • St. Mary Parish, LA (1) 00 46 [Obama 184]
  • Tensas Parish, LA (2) 00 05 B [Obama 13, Stein 1], 00 12B [Obama 1]
  • Terrebonne Parish, LA (1) 00 115 [Obama 40]
  • West Baton Rouge Parish, LA (2) 00 25A [Obama 28], 00 33A [Obama 5]
  • West Feliciana Parish, LA (1) [Obama 107, Stein 2, Other 1]
Additional note for GOP conspiracy theorists/voter fraud types: there were numerous (mostly rather small, the largest I saw had 40 votes for Romney) precincts across Louisiana (and elsewhere) in which President Obama received 0 votes; again, not a conspiracy/voter fraud, but showing just how little support Obama got in many deep South/rural white precincts. Here's a list of some of these precincts: If places like St. Louis city, Shelby County, TN (Memphis), Harris County, TX (Houston) had precinct results available (and the precincts weren't too large), I'm sure they had precincts with 0 votes for Romney as well

Sunday, November 4, 2012

There are no "Reagan Democrats" in Western Pennsylvania

The Romney campaign's attempt to win Pennsylvania has been described as everything from expanding the map to the same last-minute attempt every Republican has made since 1992, in this case due to his inability to pick off OH, IA, WI and a lack of ad saturation in PA, plus the lack of an early vote in the state.

Whichever of these descriptions is true, a common theme in articles giving Romney a shot at Pennsylvania discuss the legions of "Reagan Democrats" that supposedly exist in Western Pennsylvania.

Third, Romney would need to win the other swing bloc, conservative male Democrats concentrated in the Western part of the state around Pittsburgh, Johnstown, and Erie. Once known as “Reagan Democrats,” they’re older, blue-collar, and socially conservative.

In order for Western Pennsylvania to be considered a "Reagan Democrat" area, Ronald Reagan would have needed to have performed well there in comparison to his national performance (as well as in comparison to other Republicans). He did not manage that. In fact, Reagan's performance in Western Pennsylvania (relative to his national performance) was about as bad as it gets; they were anti-Reagan Democrats. In 1984, Mondale won Western Pennsylvania by 6.6 points, a better margin than Carter in 1976 or Gore in 2000 (both of whom won the state), and far better in comparison to his national performance than any other Democrat.

The following graph shows how many points over (or in the case of Obama in 2008 in Western PA, under) their national performance the Democratic candidate for president performed in Western Pennsylvania and in Pennsylvania as a whole. Incidentally, notice that Pennsylvania has been more Democratic than the nation in every election from 1960 to 2008, though usually not by more than a few points. Only five other states (New York, Maryland, Massachusetts, Minnesota and Rhode Island) have been consistently more Democratic than the nation as a whole in those 13 elections (Hawaii was narrowly more Republican in 1960, and has been more Democratic in the last 12).

However, the path to Democratic victory in Pennsylvania has changed somewhat. Before 1996 was come out of Philly + suburbs with at least an 8 point margin and win in Northeast, and then the West would be enough to overcome the 20+ point deficit in Central PA (which James Carville famously referred to as "Alabama"). The new path, for Obama in 2012 is going to be: massive turnout in Philadelphia, split/slight win in the Philly suburbs, win Biden's birth region of Northeast PA by 10, hold central PA to like 15 point deficit, and avoid losing by more than a few in Western PA

Call them Democrats who got shafted by NAFTA (note the precipitous proportional decline for Clinton between 1992 and 1996) or Democrats who cling to their guns and religion, as Obama described them, or for that matter, do as the late Jack Murtha, who knew the area about as well as anyone, and call them racist Democrats (Obama in 2008 was the first candidate to underperform in Western Pennsylvania relative to his nationwide performance since at least 1956, and probably earlier). But don't call them Reagan Democrats. They couldn't stand the guy.

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Republicans in Congress Who Agree with Akin and Mourdock on Rape

While only a few Republican members of Congress have stated their views on pregnancies as a result of rape in as a despicable manner as Rep. Todd Akin and Senate candidate Richard Mourdock, most of them agree 100% that if a woman gets pregnant from rape, she has to continue the pregnancy and bear her rapist's child, and for that matter, agree with the "it's life, a gift from God" reasoning of Mourdock (how many they feel "only 'legitimate' rape is rape" is less clear)

Anyone who sponsors a bill changing the law to define life as beginning at conception is stating exactly that, and they ought to be asked to explain themselves to their consituents. My guess is most will sound just as offensive as Akin and Mourdock if they're forced to give an off-the-cuff explanation.

Roughly half the GOP caucus co-sponsored the Life at Conception Act

To implement equal protection for the right to life of each born and preborn human person

Where "human person" is defined as

The terms `human person' and `human being' include each and every member of the species homo sapiens at all stages of life, including the moment of fertilization, cloning, or other moment at which an individual member of the human species comes into being.

This act does have an exception which would technically allow a woman to perform an abortion on herself without committing a crime (although it appears doctors or anyone else involved, doctor, could be charged with murder or accessory to murder).

However, no such exception exists for the Sanctity of Human Life Act which has 66 sponsors.

Notable members of Congress (sponsors of either bill) who believe rape pregnancies are a gift and  are considered to be in potentially close races include

Todd Akin (of course), Roscoe Bartlett (MD-06), Joe Walsh (IL-08), Jeff Denham (CA-19), Allen West (FL-18), Dan Benishek (MI-01), Chip Cravaack (MN-08), Joseph Heck (NV-03), Jim Renacci (OH-16), Quico Canseco (TX-23), Daniel Webster (FL-10), Larry Buchson (IN-08), Steve King (IA-04), Michelle Bachmann (MN-06), Bill Johnson (OH-06), Sean Duffy (WI-07), Steve Southerland (FL-02), John Kline (MN-02), Bob Gibbs (OH-07), Kristi Noem (SD-AL), Scott DesJarlais (TN-04) [the guy who's pro-abortion when it comes to himself being in a sticky situation], Scott Rigell (VA-02), Reid Ribble (WI-08).

Thursday, October 4, 2012

Israel Trip Summer 2010 Diary: 5/17/2010

I kept a fairly detailed journal of my trip to Israel in the summer of 2010, and having now been settled as Modern Orthodox for a while, I think it's time to post it on the Internet. I will be posting the original along with some stylistic edits since I wrote it short-hand in black, and I will be posting comments on the original from my current perspective in red.


On the Plane

Okay, it's NOT easy to lay tefillin on an airplane. After "waking up" (I believe the quotes are because I didn't get much sleep. I should've done what Daniella B. did and take some Tylenol PM to knock me right out), I absolutely had to, if only because on El Al, I could do so without fear of bringing the plane down (unlike the tefillin bomber).

I had some interesting conversations on the plane. First there was a brief situation where my blow-up pillow managed to go flying into a Haredi guy, I apologized and was rather flustered, but he was all cool, saying "אין דבר. בסדר" with a big grin. This was at the beginning of the flight.

But the real conversation was later. First, a Haredi guy named "Duvid," with a u, no last name to protect him (even in my hard copy) sitting across from us in the other row works as a plumber in Brooklyn. He says it's a "cash business, no taxes." Has "goy" helpers-he prefers the Mexicans as they are, in his opinion, better workers. Second, a guy named Sam Cohen (name is common enough that I can post it, I think) doing Birthright as well, albeit on a different trip. Sitting next to him and talking with him is what I figure must be a young dati leumi woman (pregnant with her second child, I think 25). I also remember that her name was Or, which I thought and still think is a boy's name, girls name should be Ora, no? Also, how could I have not written down how/to what extent/whether her hair was covered!!!! ;) she was born in Israel, served but then got married to an American and taught at a yeshiva/day school in New York. 

Crazy dynamic with this Haredi guy and Sam Cohen and his amazement at Sam's total lack of knowledge about Judaism. 

Oh, and weirdly, despite Mr. Ahmadinejad's rhetoric, El Al has NOT wiped Iran off of its virtual map in the video screen. 

Monday, September 24, 2012

Obama's Meetings with Netanyahu

A handy list of the 9 meetings I'm aware of: May 2009, September 2009, November 2009, March 2010, July 2010, September 2010, May 2011, September 2011, March 2012. I don't think he's met with any other head of state that many times, but I could be wrong

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

1960-1980 Gap in GOP Platform Even More Shocking than 1980-2012 Gap

The New York Times today pointed out the major shift rightward from the 1980 GOP platform, which at the time was seen as a major victory for conservatives. I decided to see what the 1960 GOP platform looked like, and the results are, to say the least, utterly shocking.

On Israel

In the Middle East, we shall continue to support the integrity and independence of all the states of that area including Israel and the Arab States.
With specific reference to Israel and the Arab Nations we urge them to undertake negotiations for a mutually acceptable settlement of the causes of tension between them. We pledge continued efforts:
  • To eliminate the obstacles to a lasting peace in the area, including the human problem of the Arab refugees. (emphasis mine)
  • To seek an end to transit and trade restrictions, blockades and boycotts.
  • To secure freedom of navigation in international waterways, the cessation of discrimination against Americans on the basis of religious beliefs, and an end to the wasteful and dangerous arms race and to the threat of an arms imbalance in the area.

Economic Policy

... To that end we favor: Use of the full powers of government to prevent the scourges of depression and inflation.

Labor (Yes, they actually had a plank on that)

Republican action has given to millions of American working men and women new or expanded protection and benefits, such as:
  • Increased federal minimum wage;
  • Extended coverage of unemployment insurance and the payment of additional temporary benefits provided in 1958-59;
  • Improvement of veterans' re-employment rights;
  • Extension of federal workman's compensation coverage and increase of benefits;
Seven past years of accomplishments, however, are but a base to build upon in fostering, promoting and improving the welfare of America's working men and women, both organized and unorganized. We pledge, therefore, action on these constructive lines: ...
  • Upward revision in amount and extended coverage of the minimum wage to several million more workers.
  • Strengthening the unemployment insurance system and extension of its benefits.
  • Improvement of the eight-hour laws relating to hours and overtime compensation on federal and federally-assisted construction, and continued vigorous enforcement and improvement of minimum wage laws for federal supply and construction contracts
  • Continued improvement of manpower skills and training to meet a new era of challenges, including action programs to aid older workers, women, youth, and the physically handicapped.
  • Encouragement of training programs by labor, industry and government to aid in finding new jobs for persons dislocated by automation or other economic changes.
  • Improvement of job opportunities and working conditions of migratory farm workers.
  • Assurance of equal pay for equal work regardless of sex; encouragement of programs to insure on-the-job safety, and encouragement of the States to improve their labor standards legislation, and to improve veterans' employment rights and benefits.
  • Encouragement abroad of free democratic institutions, higher living standards and higher wages through such agencies as the International Labor Organization, and cooperation with the free trade union movement in strengthening free labor throughout the world.

Various Other Issues


We are confronted with major problems in the field of environmental health. We pledge:
  • Strengthened federal enforcement powers in combatting water pollution and additional resources for research and demonstration projects. Federal grants for the construction of waste disposal plants should be made only when they make an identifiable contribution to clearing up polluted streams.
  •  Federal authority to identify, after appropriate hearings, air pollution problems and to recommend proposed solutions. 


Republican conscience and Republican policy require that:
  • The annual number of immigrants we accept be at least doubled.

Monday, August 20, 2012

Long History in GOP of "Legitimate Rape" Victims Don't Become Pregnant

Now, in addition to being unbelievably offensive for implying that there's such a thing as rape that's not "legitimate rape", Todd Akin also seems to be quite wrong on the science. The most recent study (admittedly slightly at odds with previous studies on the subject) found rape victims are twice as likely to become pregnant as women having consensual unprotected sex.

But this "'actual' rape victims don't get pregnant" idea has a long, long history in the GOP.

It has also shown up in letters to the editor

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Talmud Censorship and Variation in Berachot 7

I have decided to attempt learning Daf Yomi, and I hope to at least get through the first tractate (and hence the first Order, since only the first is part of Daf Yomi, as there was no Gemara written in the Babylonian Talmud for the rest of the Order Zeraim [Seeds, which deals largely with laws of Agriculture which largely applies only to the Land of Israel]. Today's daf (page) is page 7 (both sides) of Berachot (blessings). Until I get back to Atlanta, at which point I may begin ordering the new Koren Talmud, I have been learning it by listening to Rabbi Eliyahu Fink's shiur while following along on a printout of Shas Neharda (Moznaim Publishing, 2008), which is primarily as far as I can tell the Vilna Edition of the Talmud with some extra commentary both on the sides of the pages (in particular, when the Talmud references part of the Tanach (24 books of Hebrew bible), it quotes the entire verse with vowels) and presumably in the back as well.

Anyway, I was on the first side, about two thirds of the way down, when I ran into something that confused me. On the paper in front of me it said:

א"ר יוחנן משום ר' יוסי שלשה דברים בקש משה מלפני הקב"ה ונתן לו בקש שתשרה שכינה על ישראל ונתן לו שנאמר הלוא בלכתך עמנו בקש שלא תשרה שכינה על עובדי כוכבים שנאמר ונפלינו אני ועמך ונתן לו בקש להודיעו דרכיו של הקב"ה ונתן לו שנא' הודיעני נא את דרכיך

R. Yochanan further said in the name of R. Yosi: Moses requested three things from the Holy One, Blessed Be He, and He gave them to him. He requested that the Divine Presence would remain among the people of Israel and it was given, as it says, "Is it not that you go with us." He requested that the Divine Presence would not remain among the idolaters [literally: worshippers of the stars], as it says "So that we are distinguished, myself and your people". He asked to know the ways of the Holy One, Blessed Be He, and He gave it, as it says "Show me the ways"

However, Rav Fink read the bolded section as

בקש שלא תשרה שכינה על אומות העולם שנאמר ונפלינו אני ועמך ונתן לו
He requested that the Divine Presence would not remain among the nations of the world, as it says ...

I was confused, but then I remembered that manuscripts of the Talmud has more variants in the text than the Masoretic text of the Tanach (where they even tell you when something is supposed to be read as if it was spelled differently than the way it is printed). In fact, Googling the phrase as he read it led me to the Yalkut Shimoni, (see Wiki page) a medieval rabbinical compilation of aggadot on the Torah (difficult to translate, but legends/stories/exegesis on the text rather than halachot [laws]), quotes this section of the Talmud, with "nations of the world" instead of "idolaters." This version seems to present a somewhat more narrow version of things. By excluding only idolaters from having the Divine Presence among them, the Muslims, Sikhs and (possibly) the Christians [presumably at least the Unitarians] may still merit it, but by excluding the nations of the world, it would seem that only the Jewish people merit it.

But it may have been more than a variation. By this, I mean that fear of, or active participation of the non-Jewish censors may have played a role. An edition of the Babylonian Talmud printed in Amsterdam in 1714 has the bolded section as

בקש שלא תשרה שכינה רק על ישראל שנאמר ונפלינו אני ועמך ונתן לו
He requested that the Divine Presence should not stay anywhere except on the Jewish people" ...

An edition from Prague in 1728 has

בקש שלא תשרה שכינה אז רק על ישראל
He requested that the Divine Presence should not stay anywhere then except on the Jewish people" ...
This is interesting because it seems like they're saying it only applied then and didn't apply to the time it was printed (this was almost certainly the censors/out of fear.

And the first printed edition (there are older hand-written manuscripts but I don't think those can be found online although I could be wrong), by Daniel Bomberg in Venice in 1523? It has אומות העולם (nations of the world), just like in whatever edition Rav Fink was using. Unfortunately, I can't seem to find it in an edition he could plausibly be using; perhaps it's not in the Hebrewbooks library? Update: Hebrew U has apparently scanned a whole bunch of Talmud manuscripts (site itself is Hebrew navigation only) in their Online Treasury of Talmud Manuscripts. Awesome!

Thursday, August 2, 2012

Is Harry Reid's Source a Mormon High-Ranking Official?

It makes sense. They're angry because Romney didn't tithe the proper amount to the Mormon church and so an official leaked it to fellow Mormon (who I'm sure is 100% paid up on his tithing) Harry Reid. This explains why Reid won't reveal his source. Anyway, that's the rumor going around ;)

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Anna Breslaw Hates Her Mom, Dad, Family

Jewish world is all abuzz by a pretty awful article one Anna Breslaw wrote in Tablet magazine.
My father’s parents were Holocaust survivors, and in grade school I received the de rigueur exposure to the horror—visiting geriatric men and women with numbers tattooed on their arms, completing assigned reading like The Diary of Anne Frank and Night. But the more information I received, the less sympathy the survivors elicited from me. Each time we clapped for the old Hungarian lady who spoke about Dachau, each time Elie Wiesel threw another anonymous anecdote of betrayal onto a page, I eyed it askance, thinking What did you do that you’re not talking about? I had the gut instinct that these were villains masquerading as victims who, solely by virtue of surviving (very likely by any means necessary), felt that they had earned the right to be heroes, their basic, animal self-interest dressed up with glorified phrases like “triumph of the human spirit.” I wondered if anyone had alerted Hitler that in the event that the final solution didn’t pan out, only the handful of Jews who actually fulfilled the stereotype of the Judenscheisse (because every group has a few) would remain to carry on the Jewish race—conniving, indestructible, taking and taking. My grandparents were not excluded from this suspicion. The same year, during a family dinner conversation about Terri Schiavo, my father made the serious request that should he fall into a vegetative state, he would like for us to keep him on life support indefinitely. Today he and I are estranged for a number of other reasons that are all somehow the same reason.
This is an awful, awful story. But (as sort of implied even here by the italicized parts) this woman's main motivator for her hate seems to be that she hates her family and absorbed Jew-hate through this family hate. She seems to have issues she needs to work out with a therapist. Back in 2010 she wrote about dressing as Anne Frank for Halloween
I happen to have an Anne Frank face, not to mention the following qualities: • Female • Jewish • Young(ish) • Oversharer • Uncomfortable in small quarters • Attracted to ambivalent men So for Halloween 2009, I cut a Star of David out of a yellow cereal box, wrote “Juden” on it, taped it to a blazer and carried a Moleskine notebook around ven though my mom didn’t want me to.
She was born the same year as me (per her tumblr) and so was 22 at the time and had apparently already graduated from college, so this "even though my mom didn't want me to" was more than petty childhood/teenage defiance. But she seems to have an undue focus on family issues even where the Jews don't come up. Take this piece in The New York Times:
This aversion seems to run in our genes. My extended family consists almost entirely of fatherless, brotherless and husbandless women. We’re skinny and bright, with a capacity for imagination that lends itself to paranoia and social anxiety. We all possess an encyclopedic knowledge of cinema from the classic to the terrible. Acquiring this knowledge is easier than it sounds. All you have to do is possess a terror of actual male interaction.
Under the banner of People you might not want to have casual sex With, she ends it with "That divorced friend of your father’s." While the rest may not have been personally experienced, I wouldn't be surprised if this was one she experienced (and was sparked by her daddy issues). In short, get thee to a therapist, Anna.

Monday, July 16, 2012

Nuchem Rosenberg Gets Write-In Vote in Dem Primary for Congress

New York City is one of the few places cool enough to publish write-in vote totals even though, on an electronic voting system, it takes basically no extra effort. Since New York is also the kind of place where write-in votes are probably going to be more entertaining than, say, Smalltown, Iowa. Of course, primary election write-ins are never as interesting as the general election, Nuchem Rosenberg, child advocate in New York's Orthodox community, got a write-in vote for Congress in the 7th District's Democratic primary. The 7th district takes in, among other neighborhoods most of Nuchem's home neighborhood of Williamsburg.

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Romney: $60,000 a plate Fundraiser in Jerusalem on Tisha B'Av

Update: The fundraiser has been cancelled after everyone complained (or in my case, laughed their head off). But according to an oleh who apparently remains a Republican strategist, the Romney campaign knew it was Tisha B'av and still thought it would be a good idea.

Jonny Daniels, a leading Republican political strategist in Israel, told The Huffington Post that the campaign had been aware of the date of the holiday when it scheduled the fundraiser. The campaign thought it could hold the event in a way that would not offend, he said, but was taken by surprise at the ferocity of the public outcry over the timing. Apparently the now campaign is claiming such an event was never planned, while a potential donor said it was always supposed to happen after nightfall.
And I just figured someone didn't check a calendar.

Mitt Romney's holding a $60,000 a plate fundraiser in Jerusalem at the end of the month. Unfortunately, I will not be able to attend. Not only because I'll be in San Diego, but because I, along with other religious Jews, will be fasting.
That's right, of all the days he could've chosen to hold a big shebang fundraiser with food in Jerusalem, he chose to hold it on July 29th, when we observe Tisha B'Av (technically the 9th day of the month of Av is July 28th, but that's a Saturday and the only fast day that takes precedence over Shabbat [when you can't fast normally and should be joyful not mournful] is Yom Kippur, so we observe Tisha B'av the next day this year)

Tisha B'av is the saddest day of the Jewish calendar, when we mourn many, many calamities that have befallen the Jewish people, from the destruction of the First and Second Temple to the expulsion of the Jews from Spain to the beginning of mass deportations from the Warsaw Ghetto to Treblinka. Along with Yom Kippur, it is the only full 25-hour fast day (from evening to evening; there are several minor fast days which are sunup to sundown).

Practically, this seems to be a big gaffe since religious American expat Jews won't be able to attend, and it seems especially insensitive after the last "big" (ha!) Republican, Chris Christie, davened with an Artscroll at the Kotel. However, it may be the case that Mitt will bring in some students from the Mormon Yeshiva in Jerusalem to fill the chairs. Hopefully his advisers will realize it's a bad idea to take Mitt to the Kotel that afternoon, as no doubt he'll be terrified by the black straps everyone has on and assume there's about to be a mass terror attack. I'd urge them instead to take him to Yad Vashem, the Holocaust memorial, where I'm sure Mitt will give a great speech about all of his fellow Mormons who perished at the hands of the Nazis.

Monday, July 9, 2012

People Gay it Up in Israel; Earthquake happens

There was a 5.6-6.1 magnitude earthquake in Israel today. As the esteemed Rabbi Yehuda "I almost choked on the kosher salami" Levin would no doubt confirm, the only possible explanation is that people are gaying it up in Eretz Yisroel.

This is listed in the Talmud (or at least the Yerushalmi [Jerusalem Talmud, which is generally seen as less authoritative to Jews today than the Babylonian Talmud]) as one of the possible causes of earthquakes is indeed, gay sex.

Said R. Aha, “[The earth quakes] on account of the sin of homosexual acts. God said, ‘You made your genitals throb in an unnatural act. By your life, I shall shake the earth on account of [the act of] this person’".
Of course there's also something about circuses

Thursday, July 5, 2012

Anti-Semitic Elmo is Actually Adam Sandler

In case the anti-Semitic Elmo story wasn't already crazy enough, the New York Times found a serious bombshell about the guy's past: running a "Welcome to the Rape Camp" porn site in Cambodia, for which he was expelled and banned from the country. While he changed his legal name to Adam Sandler (one of the few people who could lower the reputation of that name), his original name was Dan Sandler. After Cambodia and before Elmo, he worked via a temp agency for Girl Scouts of the USA.

But the Cambodia thing, that just brings the awfulness to a new level and without the humorous absurdity that anti-Semitic Elmo had by himself.

If his sexual bondage show caused violence against women in the United States -- the community of the target audience -- that was acceptable, even desirable. “It might promote violence against women in the United States, but I say, ‘Good.’ I hate those bitches. They’re out of line and that’s one of the reasons I want to do this … I’m going through a divorce right now. … I hate American women”
Apparently he would have gone to Cambodian prison if not for US intervention.
Although Sandler faced up to five years in jail in Cambodia for violating the law on human trafficking and sexual exploitation, United States officials intervened with the Cambodian Interior Ministry to assist him. U.S. officials arranged that he not be prosecuted, but deported.

Oh, on a Google groups forum, he apparently referred to himself as

Dan Sandler
Cambodia's 1st internet pornographer and a number one supporter of women rights in Cambodia.

Monday, July 2, 2012

Iran "Several Years" from Nuclear Weapon

Not to downplay the danger of Iran acquiring a nuclear weapon or anything, but it would be nice if intelligence agencies had a clue as to how far Iran actually is from obtaining a nuclear weapon. Because this "several years" thing is getting tiresome.

USA Today, September 1, 2004:

Iran denies that it intends to make weapons and is still believed to be several years away from having the capability to turn nuclear fuel into working bombs.

Mail & Guardian (South Africa), May 24, 2005

Chipman said that even if Iran resumes its activities, the country will still be “several years away” from being capable of making nuclear weapons.

New York Times, January 13, 2006

Fortunately, Iran is believed to still be several years away from being able to produce nuclear weapons. But it has now embarked on a course that can have no other plausible intent.

New York Times, May 3, 2006

Here are two final thoughts, one comforting, one not. First, there is time: Iran appears to be several years from making nuclear weapons. Time can bring surprises, including regime changes.

The Economist, February 8, 2007

This is a promising approach. The diplomacy at the United Nations proceeds at a glacial pace. But Iran is thought to be several years from a bomb.

Bloomberg, October 28, 2007

Still, Iran should open its nuclear program to inspections and halt attempts to enrich uranium, a step necessary to build an atomic bomb, as demanded by the UN, ElBaradei said. He said U.S. officials estimate that Iran is still several years away from being able to refine material for a weapon.

Associated Press, August 6, 2008

Israel believes Tehran will have enriched enough uranium for a nuclear bomb by next year or 2010 at the latest. The United States has trimmed its estimate that Iran is several years or as much as a decade away from being able to field a bomb, but has not been precise about a timetable.

May 21, 2009

Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton told a Senate panel that she was concerned about a series of developments in Iran that could set off an arms race in the Middle East. She warned that if Iran obtained a nuclear capacity in the next several years, it would constitute an “extraordinary threat,” saying, “Our goal is to persuade the Iranian regime that they will actually be less secure” if it moves ahead with its nuclear program.

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

More "Beyond Normal" Crazy in the Texas GOP platform

By "beyond normal" I mean what passes for normal in today's Republican party. Anyway, here are my "favorite" crazy provisions of the 2012 Texas GOP platform

  1. "All adult citizens should have the legal right to conscientiously choose which vaccines are administered to themselves or their minor children without penalty for refusing a vaccine."
    I really hope "without penalty" doesn't mean that schools can't require vaccinations for enrollment with only serious (i.e. Christian Scientist level) and medical exemptions, because disease knows no borders.
  2. We support the right of individuals to make their own dietary decisions. We oppose any laws regarding the production, distribution or consumption of food. Government should not restrict non-genetically engineered seeds.
    Notice the "non-genetically engineered" provision. I guess Texas Republicans are scared of anything done by scientists so restricting GMO is cool.
  3. We oppose the teaching of Higher Order Thinking Skills (HOTS) (values clarification), critical thinking skills and similar programs that are simply a relabeling of Outcome-Based Education (OBE) (mastery learning) which focus on behavior modification and have the purpose of challenging the student’s fixed beliefs and undermining parental authority
    Seriously, no critical thinking skills? Seriously, Texas?
  4. Juvenile Daytime Curfew - We strongly oppose Juvenile Daytime Curfews. Additionally, we oppose any official entity from detaining, questioning and/or disciplining our children without the consent of a child’s parent.
    Late night street parties in front of GOP committee member's houses, kids?
  5. Electronic Privacy – We believe all law-abiding citizens should be free from government surveillance of their electronic communications except in cases directly involving national security, by court order. Except for non-citizens, we further oppose any national ID program, including the Real ID Act and the use of Radio Frequency Identification Chips (RFID) on humans.
    Wait, they're cool with implanting RFID tags in visitors to the US? I guess then they wouldn't have the embarrassment of arresting important German auto executives who left their passport at the hotel. They could just check his RFID tag.
  6. We support the principles regarding the public economy as stated in the Republican Party Platform of 1932 to wit:
    Resolution Regarding the Public Economy
    Whereas, constructive plans for financial stabilization cannot be completely organized until our national, State and municipal governments not only balance their budgets but curtail their current expenses as well to a level which can be steadily and economically maintained for some years to come. We urge prompt and drastic reduction of public expenditure and resistance to every appropriation not demonstrably necessary to the performance of government, national or local. The Republican Party established and will continue to uphold the gold standard and will oppose any measure which will undermine the government’s credit or impair the integrity of our national currency. Relief by currency inflation is unsound in principle and dishonest in results. The dollar is impregnable in the marts of the world today and must remain so. An ailing body cannot be cured by quack remedies. This is no time to experiment upon the body politic or financial.
    So not only are they're going to follow Ron Paul to his pot of gold at the end of the rainbow, but they chose the GOP policy from when they caused the Great Depression?
  7. Federal Reserve System – We believe Congress should repeal the Federal Reserve Act of 1913. In the interim, we call for a complete audit of the Federal Reserve System and an immediate report to the American people.
    Sound Money – Our founding fathers warned us of the dangers of allowing central bankers to control our currency because inflation equals taxation without representation. We support the return to the time tested precious metal standard for the U.S. dollar.
  8. United Nations – We support the withdrawal of the United States from the United Nations and the removal of U.N. headquarters from U.S. soil.
    I guess I'm a little surprised they consider "wicked New York" to be US soil instead of "communist country"(except of course for Ground Zero)
  9. We believe rental of a woman’s womb makes child bearing a mere commodity to the highest bidder and petition the Legislature to rescind House Bill 724 of the 78th Legislature.
    What ever happened to the support of free enterprise without government interference?
  10. We affirm that the practice of homosexuality tears at the fabric of society and contributes to the breakdown of the family unit. Homosexual behavior is contrary to the fundamental, unchanging truths that have been ordained by God, recognized by our country’s founders, and shared by the majority of Texans. Homosexuality must not be presented as an acceptable “alternative” lifestyle, in public policy, nor should “family” be redefined to include homosexual “couples.”
    "recognized by our country's founders?"
  11. We strongly support women who choose to devote their lives to their families and raising their children. We recognize their sacrifice and deplore the liberal assault on the family.

Did the Ron Paul wing mess with the Texas Republican platform?

So there is plenty of coverage of the 2012 Texas Republican platform's utter insanity, but the coverage seems devoted to insanity that is more or less in line with the crazy that passes for "normal Republican" these days. But some provisions seem to have some Ron Paul influence.

Patriot Act - We urge review and revision of those portions of the USA Patriot Act, and related executive and military orders and directives that erode constitutional rights and essential liberties of citizens.
Emergency War Powers and Martial Law Declarations - We strongly urge Congress to repeal the War Powers Act and end our declared state of emergency. Any Declaration of Martial law should be approved by Congress. Real ID Act - As the Real ID Act effectively creates an unconstitutional and privacy-inhibiting national ID card, we hereby call for its immediate repeal.
While some Republicans indeed have opposed the most egregious portions of the Patriot Act, the majority have not, except of course for the Ron Paul wing. As for the War Powers part, it's a little vague but it sounds like what they want repealed is the "state of emergency" provision. This may just be Obama Derangement Syndrome but it may be the Paul people. The same goes for Real ID.
Government Intrusion into the Internet – We oppose the government’s ability to shut down websites either directly or through intimidation without a warrant or judicial hearing.
This provision seems particularly Paul-oriented, as the biggest lobbiers for this provision has been various entertainment corporations (who generally command overwhelming support from both parties in such things except when particularly egregious).

Friday, June 15, 2012

Vagina mentions by Republicans in Congressional Record

Rep. George Radanovich (CA), Jan 9, 2009, honoring county supervisor Dianne Fritz: "Supervisor Fritz has always been active in the community; she performed with the Vagina Monologs and other fundraising activities in support of the Mountain Crisis Services programs for victims" Rep. Ted Poe (TX), June 26, 2008, in support of the death penalty for raping children, "She was bleeding profusely from the vaginal area. The victim was transported to Children's Hospital. An expert in pediatric forensic medicine testified that the victim's injuries were the most severe he had ever seen from a sexual assault in his years of practice. A laceration to the left wall of the vagina separated her cervix from the back of her vagina , causing her rectum to protrude into the vaginal structure. The injuries required her to have emergency surgery." Rep. Roscoe Bartlett (MD), June 25, 2007, justifying his opposition to embryonic stem cell research. "And the sperm which are released in the uterus, in the vagina really, and then they make it up through the cervix into the uterus, they make their way all the way up the Fallopian tube, and some of them get out into the body. And if the ovum has not made it into the Fallopian tube, they may be fertilized out in the body, and we call that an ectopic pregnancy, and that has to be interrupted because neither the fetus nor the mother will make it if we let that continue." June 21, 2006, opposing embryonic stem cell research again. "Once in a while it is not picked up and the ovum will go on out here in the body cavity, and the sperm, which are released, of course, down in the vagina . They go up into the uterus, and then they swim against the current, by the way, because there is some little cilia in here" Sen. Tom Coburn (OK), December 8, 2006, discussing HPV: "Condoms are ineffective against HPV because the virus is prevalent not only in the mucosal tissue (genitalia) but also on dry skin of the surrounding abdomen and groin, and it can migrate from those areas into the vagina and the cervix." Sen. George Voinovich (OH), March 11, 2003, discussing the Partial Birth Abortion Ban Act: " Deliberately and intentionally delivering into the vagina a living unborn child, or a substantial portion thereof, for the purpose of performing a procedure; that the person performing such procedure knows will kill the unborn child and does kill the unborn child. "

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Pascrell-Rothman Results: Purely Territorial

Some people for whatever reason think that issues played a role in the primary. In fact the results were overwhelmingly geographical. Rothman won overwhelmingly in his former district's territory (Bergen), Pascrell won overwhelmingly elsewhere. But far more of the district had been represented by Pascrell In the Bergen part of the district (I believe Rothman had represented all of it, if not he represented well over 90% of it), Rothman won overwhelmingly, Bergen results. Rothman 14,483 (73.4%), Pascrell 5,376 (26.6%). In the rest of the district, which had mostly if not entirely been represented by Pascrell, Pascrell won (slightly more) overwhelmingly, Pascrell 24851 (84%), Rothman 4635 (16%). Of course, since more of the district was previously represented by Pascrell (a good portion of the old 9th went to the 5th and to the new Latino-majority 8th), this transformed into a solid victory for Pascrell.

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Synagogue in Frankfurt-Thoughts

Reporting from Darmstadt (where my conference is), after about 2 days in Frankfurt. I didn't actually go to any exhibits or any death/concentration camps (the camps are all pretty far to the east and I had no extra travel time) but in Frankfurt (I was in a historically Jewish area of the city with a still-active synagogue, I davened there yesterday [but I wasn't fully shomer Shabbat, of course, chas v'shalom I should miss a day of tourism, especially since I sadly managed to sleep through a bunch of Friday.]) There were a lot of plaques in the sidewalk saying "Here lived [name of Jews], deported to [insert name of ghetto/death camp] in [year], murdered in [possibly different death camp] [year]" and I guess those hit home pretty hard. And the Jewish names were not even identifiable as Jewish, the first names were 100% German As for the synagogue, I'd gotten the impression it would be a Chabad affair, but it was actually a legit old German synagogue (from 1908), that had (to a significant extent) survived the Shoah. Oh, and Shabbat morning the chazzan had a legit chazzan hat (you know like this guy and while the primary siddur present used a (pre-Artscroll, with comments on what to do in Yiddish, and the actual siddur printed in New York) version of Siddur Kol Yaakov (some people had newer siddurs with German translations and the Prayer for the State of Israel/IDF in them, both of which were recited) and they I think did their best to do old German traditions; for instance, they did Shir Hakavod (Anim Zemirot) BEFORE the Torah reading instead of at the end of Musaf. Anyway, very glad I went even though I was too shy to try to talk to anyone [there were a few Israeli expats who I could've probably talked to if I kept it simple even if nobody there spoke English well], or at least anyone except the Israeli security guard [there was also a seemingly permanent police post right next door, I guess they sadly need it all year round]) who I was able to pretty easily convince I was a Jew by starting out with him in Hebrew till he got impatient (like all Israelis!) and had me switch to English ...

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Is Proud "Jewbag" Dani Gilbert Actually a Clone of Debbie Wasserman-Schultz?

Note: serious part is at the bottom

So Democratic Jewish outreach liaison Dani Gilbert is getting criticized because Adam Kredo took the journalistic initiative to stalk through her Facebook page to reveal a picture from 6 years ago when she was in college, taking an ironic pic with her Jewish female friends involving horns/big noses/cash money/general Jewish stereotypes that she titled Jewbags!. Bad form, Adam Kredo; when you stalk a lady's Facebook page you should never reveal you actually did it. I hope you at least kept all of your hands above the waist for the duration and didn't let yourself daydream about Ms. Gilbert performing a "Duct Tape Rosenthal" on you.

But that's enough about Mr. Kredo. What really disturbs me is that Chairwoman Debbie Wasserman-Schultz and Dani Gilbert appear to be the same exact person at different ages. Seriously, take a look.

Debbie Wasserman-Schultz is on the left, Dani Gilbert is on the right, but it's hard to tell it's not just a younger Debbie W-S. Perhaps that's because it is. Yes, I will come right and out and say it: a thorough search of her public statements reveal that Debbie Wasserman-Schultz has never publicly denied growing a clone in the lab to use as a staffer.

And they've frankly been basically blasting this terrible truth out there for anyone who was looking. Several Halloweens ago Ms. Gilbert even dressed up as Debbie Wasserman-Schultz; the office called it a costume but I think it's clear there's more there. Adam Kredo, I am counting on you to really get to the bottom of this.


Serious part:
On a more serious note, this is the stupidest controversy ever. She's a Jewish girl who made some jokes about Jewish stereotypes with some of her Jewish female friends on Facebook, with the (mistaken, but not her fault; Facebook's fault) expectation that it wouldn't be available to the general public. A LOT of Jews joke with each other about Jewish stereotypes. It's been our way of mocking the anti-Semites for years and years (which is what they were doing, pointing to their stereotypically Jewish noses, putting up fake horns, kissing a dollar bill). I've done it myself a LOT. Even once directly to an anti-Semite.

Last year I was in a parking lot in Toco Hills (area of Atlanta metro with large Orthodox Jewish population) at the Kroger with a major kosher selection when a guy with a thick Southern accent sees my friend's tzitzit and asks "What are those strings hanging out of your pants." The friend responds, "It's to remind me to do good deeds." The guy didn't seem to understand, so trying to make it relevant to the guy, he said, "You know, it's like a What Would Jesus Do" bracelet. The guy responds, "I thought you guys didn't like Jesus. If you did, why'd you kill him." Of course, we went the 'mock the stereotype' route. I responded by paraphrasing the great Lenny Bruce: "Because he didn't want to become a doctor. What kind of Jewish boy becomes a carpenter." Other friend had to one-up me with: "The real question is, will we kill him again when he comes back." Now, this probably wasn't the smartest thing to do in Georgia when the guy could well have been armed and shot us (fortunately he just mumbled something about how "Eye-ran has your number. They're gonna get you" and drove off). The point is that this wasn't out of character, and
a frum guy I know who's done work for the Republican Jewish Coalition on something or other found it hilarious when I told him about it.

The point is that this is stupid. I mean the girl at age 11 won the prize of a free trip to Israel in a South Florida-wide contest on knowledge of the history of Zionism (article is pay-per-view although it wasn't several days ago ...) and gave the tickets away because her mother does tours to Israel.

More recently, she was a was a researcher associate for Dan Senor (a Jewish Republican who's at least nominally Orthodox), helping him with the facts and research behind his book Start-Up Nation, which describes and attempts to explain Israel's hugely disproportionate number of start-up companies, especially technology companies. I believe the book's only critics have been Israel-haters.

Of course, it's even stupider to bring her parents into this like Politico (in theory not a right-wing nut website) is doing.

Her mother Nancy Gilbert is, as I mentioned, a travel agent who does tours to Israel.

Nancy Gilbert is the CEO and President of Travels and Dialogues and its subsidiary The Masorti Travel Bureau, companies specializing in tourism to Israel. Since 1995, Ms Gilbert has organized groups for tens of thousands of passengers, winning awards and commendations from El Al Israel Airlines and the Israel Ministry of Tourism. She developed the pilot itinerary for what is now known as BIRTHRIGHT ISRAEL, an international program which provides trips to Israel for young Jewish adults around the world. She has served on the executive boards of the South Palm Beach County Jewish Federation, The National Council of Jewish Women Boca–Delray Section, The Levis JCC in Boca Raton, Florida and was an honorary board member of the Palm Beach County Chapter of the American Jewish Committee.

Seriously, she did the itinerary for the pilot for Birthright. She got awards from El Al and the Israeli מסרד התיירות (Ministry of Tourism?). Served on the board of pretty much every possible Jewish organization in the Palm Beach area? How is this supposed to annoy Jewish voters?

Monday, April 2, 2012

Chris Christie Davens at the Kotel-With an Artscroll?

I'm not a fan of Governor Christie, and don't think he should run for anything (and not just because I'm worried that his running will cause an earthquake). Nevertheless, the pictures of him at the kotel are precious, because he's davening (praying) with an Artscroll.

Yes, that's an Artscroll. You can see it more clearly in this picture, where it's in-depth enough to see that it's Psalm 20. Nosson Scherman and Meir Zlotowitz must be sheppin' nachas.

However, I do have some questions.

  1. Since when does Artscroll make a Nusach HaNotzri siddur? Obviously this siddur exists, as Kosher Jesus must have used it for his own davening. However, I figured only Shmuley Boteach put out an edition of it, and hadn't realized Artscroll had moved in.
  2. Did they have to widen the Jaffa Gate again so Christie could enter the Old City?
  3. Is it mutar (acceptable according to Jewish law) to use Chris Christie as a mechitza (barrier for prayer.

Thursday, March 29, 2012

U.S. Has Unfortunately Never Recognized Jerusalem as the capital of Israel

So there's a hubbub about an Obama admin State Department official refusing to say whether Jerusalem is the capital of Israel, saying "We are not going to prejudge the outcome of those negotiations, including the final status of Jerusalem." It is, as the author of the above article notes, an "amazing" (in the sense of bewildering) position, as the Knesset is well inside West Jerusalem, which is recognized internationally as within the boundaries of the state of Israel. However, despite what certain people like Adam Kredo might have you believe, this is not a new, radical position by the Obama administration.

Rather, it's the exact same position presidents and presidential candidates have been taking since Geula Cohen got the Basic Jerusalem Law passed in 1980. They have consistently pandered to the Jewish community (and perhaps these days, to the evangelical Christian community as well) regarding an undivided Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, and yet their administrations have consistently refused to recognize Jerusalem (even West Jerusalem) as the capital of Israel.

The Reagan administration:

President Reagan, trying to calm Jewish fears about his Middle East policy, says he prefers to keep Jerusalem undivided under Israel rule but also favors a "Vatican-like solution" to preserve free access to the city's holy sites.

The White House said, however, that Reagan's views about Israeli control did not reflect official U.S. policy, which is for the future of Jerusalem to be determined through negotiations.

An administration official who asked not to be identified said Reagan's remarks represented "a viewpoint that the president is willing to express to Jewish leaders but not one he is willing to translate into policy for the United States.

"The policy is that we don't accept the Israeli annexation of East Jerusalem." the official said. "We do not accept Jerusalem as the capital of Israel."

Unsurprisingly, it continued during the George Bush Sr.'s administration.

Jewish settlers accused the State Department of interfering in their efforts to retain control of a housing complex in the Christian quarter of Jerusalem's Old City.

U.S. policy holds that Jerusalem's status must be determined through negotiations among all parties and does not recognize it as the Israeli capital.

To the Clinton administration.

During the campaign:

"Jerusalem is the capital of Israel and must remain an undivided city accessible to all." Clinton said last summer, departing from the Bush administration's position that the city–holy to all three major monotheistic religions–must be determined by negotiations.

During his administration (being attacked by Newt Gingrich when that guy was taking a break from shaking hands with Arafat and cheating on whichever wife he was on at that point).

The question of Jerusalem, claimed by both Israel and the Palestinians as their capital, is one of the most explosive in the Arab-Israeli conflict. The Clinton administration, like most world governments, has held off recognizing the city as Israel's capital until its final status is settled in peace talks.

To George W. Bush. During the campaign:

Gov. George W. Bush today accused the Clinton administration of taking sides in last year's Israeli election and of trying to make Israel conform to American ''plans and timetables'' for peace. The governor said his own support for Israel was ''not conditional on the outcome of the peace process.''
Mr. Bush, who was repeatedly interrupted by applause, said little on the Middle East that he had not said before. Once again, he pledged that as president he would ''begin the process of moving the U.S. ambassador to the city Israel has chosen as its capital,'' a reference to Jerusalem.

As president, he decided via a "signings statement" that he'd rather unilaterally ignore parts of a law he signed as "non-binding" than do anything to actual recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel.

The Bush administration on Tuesday ignored congressional instructions that it change the way it treats the city of Jerusalem, arguing that the instructions were merely non-binding recommendations.

State Department spokesman Richard Boucher said the U.S. consulate in Jerusalem continued to report directly to Washington, not to the U.S. ambassador to Israel as specified by legislation President George W. Bush signed on Monday.

Neither has the U.S. government changed its documents, such as its consular information sheets, to identify Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, Boucher told a daily briefing.
The law said that the consul general should report to the ambassador, that government documents should identify Jerusalem as the capital of Israel and that Americans born in Jerusalem can insist that their place of birth be listed as Israel.

In an accompanying statement, Bush said the administration would interpret the provisions as advisory. "Such provisions, if construed as mandatory rather than advisory, would impermissibly interfere with the President's constitutional authorities to conduct the nation's foreign affairs", the president added.

To Barack Obama. During the campaign:

Jerusalem will remain the capital of Israel, and it must remain undivided."

and of course, the other day, his administration did the exact same thing all the previous administrations have done.

This fact led the not-at-all-pro-Obama (and presumably in her opinion [if, after this, perhaps not all that many Israelis'], very pro-Israel) Jennifer Rubin to not only defend Obama's administration's position as consistent with previous ones, but to even defend the position itself.

But the ham-handedness and unnecessary eye-poking aside, critics of the Obama administration should be careful on the substance. No American president has made — nor, I would argue, should make — a definitive judgment on the disposition of Jerusalem.

Friends of Israel should not encourage irresponsible and unachievable pandering on the status of Jerusalem. The United States has signed multiple international agreements specifying that Jerusalem is a final-status issue. We only invite fights about apartment buildings and imperil our own ability to influence events by jumping the gun to declare as a matter of U.S. policy what we think the final disposition should be.

This is actually to my left, as I personally would not defend it. No city's municipal boundaries are set in stone. Atlanta (where I live), for instance, has annexed a good deal of territory in the last 60 years, most recently some territory in Southwest Fulton County outside of the Perimeter. And of course today's boundaries of Jerusalem are not the boundaries of Jerusalem 60 years ago (a significant amount of territory on nearly all sides of the city was annexed into the city in the intervening period) which were not the boundaries of Jerusalem 200 years ago (which were essentially those of today's Old City) which were not the boundaries of Jerusalem 2000 years ago when the Second Temple was still standing (if I recall correctly, it took in territory south of today's Old City and left part of today's Old City out). That being said, having a position that a city's municipal boundaries should be up for negotiation should in no way preclude recognizing that city as the capital of a country (Jerusalem, Israel's capital, to be clear) and moving your country's embassy there.

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Filling in the New Republican Haggadah

So the National Jewish Democratic Council had an amusing post in 2012 entitled The New Republican Haggadah.

However, the Haggadah was highly abridged and would not be suitable for any serious Republican Jews, and probably not even for RINO Jews. I wrote a more complete version in 2012, but could not quite finish it. This is the complete version.

Bedikat Chametz בדיקת חמץ

It is strictly prohibited for a Jew to own chametz (products of the five grains, wheat, barley, rye, spelt, oats) during the Pesach holiday. On the night before the first Seder, traditional Jews make a formal search for bread crumbs (that have been placed around the house immediately before the search), and then burn them along with any other leaven products the following morning, afterwards saying the "Kol Chamira," an Aramaic declaration that any other chametz that may have been missed shall be considered to be dust of the earth. Republican Jews should instead perform a bedikat aruchat tsohoraim בדיקת ארוחת צהרים. Instead of scouring their homes for leaven,

Kadesh קדש

The bracha (blessing) is the same (mekadesh yisrael v'hazmanim), but instead of reclining to the left while drinking the wine, Republican Jews of course recline to the right.

Urchatz ורחץ

Not only (as is traditional) is no blessing said (because we are not about to eat bread) during this washing of the hands, Republican Jews do not bother to get up to wash. Instead they wait for the water to trickle down (from the original)

Karpas כרפס

Traditionally, a green vegetable (such as parsley or lettuce) is dipped in salt water.
Republican Jews follow the ruling of the Rav Ronald Reagan that ketchup qualifies as a vegetable. Ketchup is (usually) not green, but green is the last thing any Republican would want to be.(from the original)

Yachatz יחץ

Most Jews break the middle matzah into two roughly equal pieces, replacing the smaller piece on the Seder plate and hiding the larger piece as the afikoman. At Republican Jewish seders, the leader (or in Republican parlance, the Seder CEO) to keep 99 percent of the matzah for himself and let the other participants share the remaining 1 percent.(from the original)

Magid מגיד

This is the part of the Seder where the story of Pesach (Passover) is told.

Ha Lachma Anya (Bread of Affliction) הא לחמא עניא

In this case it's technically this is the bread of the job creator so should be something like (Ha Lachma Borei Melacha) הא לחמא בורא מלאכה
"At more than 20 dollars a pound, this is the bread of the job creator . Let all who are hungry be declared ineligible for Food Stamps. Let all who are needy suck it up. This year we are in America. Next year may we demagogue Israel to all get-out. This year we are slaves to the income tax. May next year be entirely tax-free.

Four Question (Ma Nishtana) מה נשתנה

The child with the largest trust fund asks:

Why is this night different from all other nights?

On all other nights we eat food picked and processed by illegal immigrants that take jobs away from real Americans. Why on this night is our matzah watched in the field by old Russian ladies?

On all other nights we eat all sorts of vegetables except arugula; after all, we're not elitist organic-loving hippies. Why on this night do we eat only bitter herbs (maror).

On all other nights we only dip once. Why on this night will we give Obama 100% of the blame for a potential double-dip recession?

On all other nights we eat in whatever position we like, sitting up or leaning. Why on this night do we lean even farther to the right than usual?

The Pesach Story

We were slaves to Pharoah in Egypt. When God brought us out of there with a mighty hand and outstretched arm, we didn't hold onto the plantation mentality. If the Holy One Blessed Be He, had not brought our ancestors out of Egypt, we'd still be slaves to the Pharaohs in Egypt because private property rights are sacrosanct. Since God knows we're not wise or knowledgeable or familiar with constitutional law, it's required that we tell the story of how we left Egypt.

It is related that Eric Cantor, Paul Ryan, John Boehner, Kevin McCarthy and Dave Camp spoke all night in the Cannon House Office Building about cutting benefits for the poor until morning when their interns came in with coffee and said, "Sirs, the time has come for the vote to end Medicare as we know it."

Rabbi Elazar ben Azariah said "I am a seventy year old man, and all the days of my life I live in fear of having to go before the Obama death panels." Ben Zoma explains that "all the days of my life" refers to the fact that the death penal brigades may even fly to your house in their black helicopters and break down your door at night. The sages, however, say this refers to the fact that the Democrat party sheep saw Obama's election as the beginning of the times of the Messiah.

Blessed be the Omnipotent Invisible hand of the free market.

Four Candidates

The party speaks of four candidates: the "wise" candidate (Gingrich), the wicked candidate (Paul), the simple candidate (Santorum), and the candidate who does not know how to ask (Romney) (from the original)

The "wise" candidate, what does he say? "Where did Obama get his Kenyan, anti-colonial worldview?"

The "wicked" candidate, what does he say? "Why does the Israeli lobby play Congress like a cheap harmonica?"

The "simple" candidate, what does he say? "How do I fix the Google results for my name?"

The candidate who does not know how to ask? He says "Who let the dogs out? Who, who?"

In the beginning of our time in America our forefathers served the idols of socialism but now the GOP has brought us close to its service. As it is said, "Your forefathers used to live on the other side of the river in the Lower East Side, and they voted for Socialists for Congress."

Blessed is he that calculated the end of our bondage under the oppressive Obama regime, as God said to Abraham, "Your seed will be enslaved by oppressive regulations and will suffer for four years. But through the (non-Hispanic) Catholics on the Supreme Court I shall judge the Affordable Health Care Act to be unconstitutional, and within the year after that taxes on investment income will be slashed and you will end up with great wealth.

Vehi Sheamda והיא שעמדה

This is what has stood by our fathers and us! For not just one Democrat alone has risen against us to destroy us. From Franklin Delano Roosevelt, who didn't bomb the railway lines to the death camps. To John F. Kennedy, who destroyed the hat industry, making men dress immodestly. To Jimmy Carter, the rasha [evil man], about whom no more need be said. To Bill Clinton, who defiled our precious daughters of Israel! To the current socialist Kenyan Muslim Hussein Obama, in every generation they rise against us to destroy us, and the Holy One, blessed be He, saves us from their hands.

Republicans have a minhag [custom/tradition] of refusing to read anything longer than three pages, and so they skip the detailed textual analysis and go right to the ten plagues.

Ten Plagues עשר מכות

In addition to taking ten drops out of the wine cups for the plaques, Republican Jews also take them out for ten types of taxation.

The income tax, the social security payroll tax, the tax on dividends, the gasoline tax, the property tax, the cigarette tax, the alcohol tax, the sales tax, the "fee" that is actually a tax by another name, and finally, the death of the super-rich parent tax.

Rabbi Yehuda put them in three categories: the consumption taxes (gasoline, cigarette, alcohol, salex, fee), taxes on income (income tax, payroll tax), and the worst of all, the taxes on wealth (dividends,property, death of super-rich parent).

Rabbi Yose the Galilean, said: How can you assert that the Egyptians were smitten with ten plagues in Egypt, and at the Red Sea they were struck with fifty plagues. That's fuzzy math!

Dayenu דינו

If Obama increased sanctions on Iran, but not restored Israel's military edge, it wouldn't have been enough.
If President Obama had restored Israel’s qualitative military edge after years of erosion under the Bush administration, but not increased security assistance to Israel, it wouldn't have been enough.
If President Obama had increased security assistance to Israel to record levels, but hadn't boycotted Durban II and Durban IIIit wouldn't have been enough.
If President Obama had boycotted Durban II and Durban III, but hadn't increased U.S.-Israel military cooperation, it wouldn't have been enough.
If President Obama had taken U.S.-Israel military and intelligence cooperation to unprecedented levels, but hadn't vetoed one-sided anti-Israel UN resolutions,it wouldn't have been enough.
If President Obama had cast his only veto in the U.N. against the one-sided anti-Israel Security Council resolution, but hadn't stopped unilateral Palestinian statehood,it wouldn't have been enough.
If President Obama had organized a successful diplomatic crusade against the unilateral declaration of a Palestinian state, but not opposed Goldstone, it wouldn't have been enough.
If President Obama had vehemently opposed the Goldstone Report, but not stood with Israel against the flotilla, it wouldn't have been enough.
If President Obama had stood with Israel against the Gaza flotilla, but not intervened to rescue Israelis with Cairoit wouldn't have been enough.
If President Obama had immediately intervened to rescue Israelis trapped in the Egyptian embassy, but had not given orders to help with the Carmel fire,it wouldn't have been enough.
If President Obama had given orders to give Israel “whatever it needs” to put out the Carmel fire, but hadn't supported the policy of nuclear ambiguity,it wouldn't have been enough.
If President Obama had given 'unprecedented support' for the policy of ambiguity on Israel’s nuclear weapons, but hadn't condemned Palestinian incitementit wouldn't have been enough.
If President Obama had repeatedly condemned Palestinian incitement against Israel and attempts to delegitimize Israel, but not pulled out of exercises with Turkey,it wouldn't have been enough.
If President Obama had pulled out of joint exercises with Turkey after Turkey excluded Israel, but hadn't pushed for more Iron Dome money,it wouldn't have been enough.
If President Obama had pushed for more money for Iron Dome to protect Israelis from Gaza rockets, but had never been to a Seder in his life,it wouldn't have been enough.

Of course, Obama has done all of those things, and has had a Seder at the White House every Passover, but it's still not enough.

Rabbi Rick Perry said, those who become president and do not eliminate three departments have not fulfilled their duty, namely Education, Commerce, and ... he can't remember the third one. The Sages say the third department is the Department of Energy, but Ron Paul says in the name of Rabbi Ludwig von Mises that above all things we must End the Fed.

The Department of Education, why do we cut it? Because only a snob like President Obama believes everybody ought to go to college.

The Department of Commerce, why do we cut it? Because it contains the Census Bureau, and who trusts the Acorn thugs with that kind of information.

As for the Department of Energy, we cut it so that we may, as it says, "drill, baby, drill."

In every generation, it is required for true red-blooded Americans to deny that their ancestors ever left the land of intolerance and poverty to immigrate to the United States.

Rachtza רחצה

One washes their hands again, this time with a blessing since bread will be eaten.
Blessed are you, Hashem our God, ruler of the universe, who has sanctified us with His commandments and has commanded us concerning washing our hands.

Motzi Matza מוציא מצה

Blessed are you, Hashem our God, ruler of the universe, who has brought forth bread from the earth; as for the poor, let them eat minei mizonot!

Maror מרור

Korech כורך

Shulchan Orech שולחן עורך

Tzafun צפון

Barech ברך

This portion of the Seder consists of the Birkat Hamazon, the blessing after the meal. The blessing generally begins with the zimun, the formal invitation to one's fellow diners to say the blessing. In traditional Judaism, this is done only if three or more adult males (or three or more adult females and no males) are present. Republican Jews believe that if the meal was eaten on corporate property, one may count the corporation as one of the three, because, as it said, "corporations are people, my friend" and you, your friend, and the corporation make three. However, if one is including a corporation, one must be sure to say ברשות איחוד האזרחים נברך אלוקנו שאכלנו משלו (with the permission of Citizens United we will bless our Lord from whose food we have eaten)

Hallel הלל

Please Hashem, save us from Obama.
Please Hashem, save us from Obama!
Please Hashem, give us success this November.
Please Hashem, give us success this November!

Nirtza נרצה

Echad Mi Yodea

Who knows one? I know one. Number One is the only guy I look out for.
Who knows two? I know two. Two is the only amendment in my copy of the Constitution.
Who knows three? I know three. Three are Newt Gingrich's wives.
Who knows four? I know four. Four are the candidates still running for the GOP nomination.
Who knows five? I know five. Five are the Supreme Court justices who will do our bidding.
Who knows nine? I know nine. Nine-nine-nine is the tax plan for me.
Who knows ten? I know ten. Ten grand is what Mitt Romney bets on a whim.

Chad Gadya

Chad Gadya, Chad Gadya! Which my father bought for two zuzim. Chad gadya, Chad Gadya.
Then came the cat and ate the kid, which my father bought for two zuzim. Chad gadya, Chad Gadya
Then came the dog and ate the cat which ate the kid, which my father bought for two zuzim. Chad gadya, chad gadya
Then came Barack Obama who ate the dog that ate the cat which ate the kid which my father bought for two zuzim. Chad gadya, chad gadya.

Update: Praise for the New Republican Haggadah by Jewish Republicans.

John Podhoretz, editor of Commentary and editor of the New York Post: "a witless parody of conservative thinking."

armchair conspirator, future Republican Governor: "this is my haggadah"