Monday, December 27, 2010

Video Gives the GOP a Virus

I just flipped through a copy of FreedomWorks’ Rules for Patriots. Rule 9 is devoted to explaining “strategies” for the average citizen to make an impact on the political process. Along with encouraging the use of Facebook, Twitter, and blogging, Matt Kibbe, the organization’s President and CEO, explains the importance of YouTube: “Video has become the most powerful medium in the online world… You can start your own YouTube account for free… Having [various clips available] can prove invaluable.” It seems that a key strategy for American patriots is using video to their advantage. FreedomWorks, by the way, has been cited as one of the major organizing force behind the TEA Party movement.

The TEA Party has its share of critics on the right. Karl Rove, for instance, has termed the grass-roots organization “unsophisticated.” The guy who was termed “The Brain Behind Bush” seems to have a yen for criticizing the uncouth among us which is odd, considering he had no problem with the casual “middle country, middle class” drawl that he directed for 8 years. Rove has also criticized one of the TEA Party’s major spokespeople, Sarah Palin, for creating her own reality show with TLC: “With all due candour, appearing on your own reality show on the Discovery Channel, I am not certain how that fits in the American calculus of 'that helps me see you in the Oval Office’.” I guess the Republican strategist was not a big fan of Bedtime for Bonzo.

The fact that Sarah Palin has her own reality TV show freaks people out. It freaks out the left because they now have indisputable ratings that prove how likeable the former Alaskan Governor really is. It freaks out the right because they can’t imagine how anyone would take a reality TV star as a serious Presidential candidate. After all, if the CEO of the WWE can’t win Connecticut, there must be no hope!  Both sides can’t stop obsessing over the idea that Palin’s reality show is nothing more than a bid for the Presidency in 2012.

Oddly enough, right-wingers feel the same way about Chris Christie’s YouTube channel. Only, in the case of the bombastic Jersey Governor, this video stardom is a good thing. One former Governor interacting with average citizens where they work negates them from the Presidency, while another current Governor telling voters to quit their jobs translates into prime candidate material.

Republicans are fools.

The Liberals have a right to be scared of Sarah Palin’s TV presence. They know the last great conservative leader was nothing more than an actor—a registered Democrat, mind you—who encountered one man’s true story of Communism and “saw the light,” going from B-movie career to a political powerhouse that helped shape an entire American generation. Liberals may be socialists, but they are not stupid. If they did not see a formidable challenge in Palin, they would not be spending so much time trying to eviscerate her.

The right-wingers, the Republicans, the Conservatives on the other hand, from the establishment rovers to the average voters, are playing right into the Liberals’ hand. “Oh, Palin has to sit this one out,” I’ve heard. “That job has to be handled by a man,” is another familiar complaint. “She quit her job as Governor to be a TV star,” is another familiar one. Worst of all is the complaint voiced by many but worded exceptionally by Charles Krauthammer, that “the outside activities” the Governor is engaged in would not help her if she decides to go for a Presidential run.

“I told Alaskans I was going to do all that I could to promote Alaska,” Palin responded to Krauthammer’s criticism in a recent interview with Bill O’Reilly. The show, it seems, has little to do with promoting Palin and much to do with promoting our “domestic resources that can be tapped into” that would allow America to be “healthier, more secure, and more prosperous.” In other words, it is as if Sarah Palin is using video to illustrate the value of American Exceptionalism not only as an ideology, but as a strategy to improve the economy and national security.

Well, Chris Christie has used the power of video to tell a lot of teachers they could just find new jobs. I think that sounds a lot more Presidential, don’t you? It must be because he’s a man. I mean, if a female politician told the media they were “thin skinned” and followed that with,“you should really see me when I’m pissed,” she’d probably be accused of “not being ladylike.”

Oddly enough, Karl Rove was reportedly the one who put a bug in Chris Christie’s ear regarding a possible gubernatorial bid. I wonder if Rove was also the architect behind the Governor’s oh so sophisticated in-your-face strategy.

Christie has outright denied that he will put a bid in for 2012, leaving many right wing supporters out in the cold. Palin has only commented that if she felt she were the right person, she would put her hat in the ring. Already, the alarm bells are sounding. Sarah’s list of right-wing critics is a mile long. In the meantime, Christie’s supporters are inviting him into Congressional strategy sessions. This fall, while bill S1872, the Governor’s “stepping stone to school vouchers,” sat dying in committee, Christie was out campaigning for Republican candidates across the country (perhaps expecting his new Democrat teacher-turned-Clinton lawyer-turned Education Chief to take up the cause?); Palin resigns as Governor to avoid the encroachment of her personal life onto her public office, and she's deemed simply unfit for the job.

Video is a powerful tool in today’s political dialogue, but change is still a matter of personal choice. As long as right wingers choose style over substance the only kind of sophistication they’re looking to put in the White House equates to Tony Soprano in a RINO suit.

Saturday, December 25, 2010

Have Yourself a Merry Jewish Christmas

Originally published @

I am sitting here watching Glenn Beck’s “American Christmas” broadcast from Wilmington, Ohio, and I hear him say, “Everyone should have a Rabbi.”

He then expresses his desire to study the entire Tanak (Old Testament) in Hebrew with his friend, Rabbi Daniel Lapin, even if it means suffering through the blandness of eating kosher meals. (For the record, there is nothing bland about a good brisket.)

Why the growing interest in Jewishness?

Because, the gentile Mormon Glenn Beck is increasingly using Hebrew to explain the solutions to the moral problems we face as a nation. For instance, he proceeded to explain to his middle-American Christmas audience that the root of the Hebrew word for “love” (ahavah) is “to give” (ehav). Giving, Beck explains, is the root expression of love and, moreover, when giving occurs miracles happen.

As if to prove God’s linguistic point (because, as Beck said, Hebrew is the language of God) a miracle occurred: a Jew found a Christmas special that didn’t make them feel completely left out in the cold during the holiday season.

Hanukkah came early this year. Ask any American Jew and they will tell you they hate it when Hanukkah comes early, because it is even more of an excuse for the country to forget about us, the poor measly Jews, as they trample us underfoot on their way to see Santa, cut trees, and hang lights. These are the cultural traditions that make us as Jewish Americans fully aware that we are the outsiders during the one time of year when everyone is supposed to get along.

The funny thing is, without us Jews you folks would never have Christmas as you know it. Whether Garrison Keillor likes it or not, without Irving Berlin you’d have no White Christmas, without Johnny Marks you’d have no Rudolph, and without Jule Styne and Sammy Cahn you’d never be able to say ‘let it snow’. The only reason you know you “need a little Christmas” is because the Jewish Jerry Herman told you so.

At this point you’re probably asking, “Why would so many Jews invest their time and talent in writing songs about a holiday they don’t even celebrate?” Take a look at the lyrics. “White Christmas” expresses longing for missed loved ones and bucolic youth; “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer” is about the picked-on outsider who earns a place in history for rescuing the Chief and saving everyone’s favorite holiday; “We Need a Little Christmas” because we need “a little snappy Happy Ever After”. Were these Jewish American songwriters channeling the cultural imprint of loneliness and longing to fit in with the crowd? Perhaps. But, one thing is for certain; these Jewish songwriters are a major reason why this is the season of “goodwill towards men.”

Practically every popular Christmas song was composed by a Jewish American, and I’m not just talking the secular ones, either. Little Drummer Boy was co-written by Harry Moses Simeone and performed by his own Chorale & Orchestra. Lest you think we secularized your holiday, Little Drummer Boy is a song about a boy with no gold, frankincense, or myrrh to bring to his Messiah. Instead, the little boy presents the gift of his own talents to his king. Yes, even at Christmas we Jews are reminding you of the true spirit of your holiday season.

While we’re talking about Jewish contributions to Christmas, if it weren’t for that little Jewish boy from Bethlehem, your “Christmas” might still be called “Saturnalia” among other pagan titles. You’d be hanging evergreens to ward away witches and evil spirits, or encourage your sun god not to die in the freezing cold. Your mistletoe would be hung to entreat Nature Sprites to join you in your festivities, and your 12 day celebration would focus around a burning Yule Log meant to symbolize and welcome pagan gods and goddesses.

Face it: You don’t need a billboard telling you to, “Remember the Reason for the Season,” you just need a Jew. As Glenn Beck said, “Everyone should have a Rabbi.” And when it comes to Christmas, everyone should thank the Jews, not that we’d take the credit. We know better, but we’re still happy to pass on the praise.

After all, we speak the language.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Eight Crazy Clicks

In honor of Hanukkah I give you, dear readers, my 8 greatest clicks of the week (and it is only Wednesday!):

J Street Israel-office vs. Zionism/Oppression – Rosner’s Domain @ the JPost

Rosner does a glorified re-post of Omri Ceren’s entry @ Mere Rhetoric on a discovery circling the blogosphere—the head of the Israeli J Street office, Drew Cohen, is the same “Drew C.” who published a series of anti-Israel, anti-Zionist blog entries at under the name “Last Trumpet”.

This is yet more damning evidence against the claim that J-Street, co-founded by Daniel “there is no such thing as progressive Zionism because the re-establishment of Israel was ‘wrong’” Levy, is a “pro-Israel” organization—wording already removed from their on-campus promotions “to avoid alienating students”.

What’s the Hebrew word for “sticking your foot in your mouth”? Repeat after me: J Street.

Deadly Fictions – Lee Smith @ Tablet Magazine

The usually leftist Tablet printed the most thoughtful analysis of the infamous WikiLeaks scandal of the week. Smith compared the dissemination of State Department docs to the infamous Pentagon Papers leak of the 70s, noting, “The difference is that while the Pentagon Papers substantially vindicated the American left, the WikiLeaks cable dump vindicates the right.” The conclusion: What the media is printing isn’t always the truth and America has a blind electorate as the result.

Every single conservative pundit was quick to admit that the WikiLeaks story simply echoed what the right wing has been talking about for years; the Red Crescent is nothing more than a tool to transport terrorists; China has been working to supply Iran with nukes; the Arab world wants America to do their dirty work. The big deal? Finally, at least one leftist source is acknowledging that the MSM isn’t as “main stream” as it wants you to believe and that maybe, just maybe, conservatives are right: America and Israel do have some serious enemies in the world and we’re not going to sing them away with endless choruses of Kum-Bay-Ya.

Fair press for peace – Jerusalem Post

Distrust of the MSM continues with this scathing look at what the press isn’t talking about when it comes to Israel’s Palestinian peace partners. The Fifth Fatah Revolutionary Council honored Amin al-Hindi, one of the masterminds behind the 1972 Munich Olympic massacre of 11 Israeli athletes. Nothing says “we want peace” more than honoring a guy who planned and executed the murder of your fellow citizens. During the course of its meetings, the Council rejected the definition of Israel as a “Jewish state,” rejected the concept of “land for peace,” and rejected the idea of any compromise with the Zionist entity.

To be fair, Fatah did approve of a few measures including the Palestinian “right of return” for the purpose of wiping out Israel’s Jewish majority, and the ridding of large Jewish settlement blocs that take up 5% of the West Bank, because while they don’t believe in land for peace and they do want to move back into Israel proper, they still want all of Judea and Samaria for…a really big golf course to be named in honor of the late Yassir Arafat: A-Hole in One.

All of this along with a recent survey by the Israel Project that revealed growing militancy among the Palestinian population (56% in the West Bank & Gaza believe they will have to “resort to armed struggle again”) has gone unreported in the MSM. The results of this gross lack of reporting? A skewed press means a skewed public view, in this case one that is skewed against Israel.

Jewish Americans for Sarah Palin

Former Jewish Exponent Editor Benyamin Korn has been busy since his tenure expired at the Philadelphia weekly last year. With more press coverage than you can shake a stick at, Korn has promoted this union of “academic, religious and political leaders, dedicated to promoting consideration of Gov. Sarah Palin’s political positions in the wider American Jewish community.” Perhaps the message behind Palin’s ever-present Israeli & American flags lapel pin is making its way through the Jewish community, one mystified viewer at a time.

The best part: Korn refers to his page (and his radio show on Philly’s WNTP) as “Independent”. Kudos to Korn for standing on conservative principals without playing into party politics.

Chelm-On-The-Med – Daniella Ashkenazy

For some brain candy, check out these translations of human interest and even some fluff from the pages of the Israeli press. The goal of translator Daniella Ashkenazy: To show the lighter side of Israeli life to Diaspora readers overwhelmed with endless stories of terror attacks and… not much else.

I found the link through Ashkenazy’s recent article in ZEEK that asks, What’s Wrong With Israel Education in the Diaspora? She remarks, “American Jewry needs to be weaned away from its addiction to Israeli victimology.” And she’s right. Israel needs a return to the victory ideology of ’67 as badly as America needs to revisit the patriotism of ’76. Our best bet in both cases: On the ground education from people who’ve lived and know the difference. And websites like Ashkenazy’s do their part to bring that much-needed perspective to the table.

Latma TV

According to its Wikipedia entry, “Latma is an Israeli group that produces political satire in Hebrew and occasionally in English for Internet broadcast. Latma was created to mock what the members view as Israel's leftist media. Caroline Glick, who is one of the web site's editors, told the Jerusalem Post that the group was founded with the intention of using comedy to critique the ‘egregious leftist slant of news coverage in this country.’ According to the New York Times, Latma ‘is an initiative of the Center for Security Policy, a Washington think tank’.”

Although it is funded by American sources, Latma’s satire is 99% Hebrew (subtitled in English) so my recommendation to American audiences is to check out their clips via the excellent Caroline Glick’s personal web site. While you’re there, avail yourself of her commentary on the latest in Israeli politics and Israeli-American relations, also published in The Jerusalem Post.

Smithsonian to Remove Ant-Covered Jesus on Cross Video From Exhibit – Fox News

A 4-minute video depicting a bloody Jesus on a crucifix covered with ants, A Fire in my Belly is a part of the Smithsonian National Portrait Gallery’s exhibit titled, Hide/Seek: Difference and Desire in American Portraiture -- or, at least it was until yesterday. The exhibit, intended to showcase gay and lesbian art, was so offensive that the museum actually-shock-took it down. Perhaps that’s because Republican lawmakers in Congress have now decided to look into the Smithsonian’s funding. After all, money talks.

So, why include this report in a Hanukkah post? Simply put, I wouldn’t appreciate a Torah scroll, Star of David, or Hanukkiah being immersed in ants, fecal matter, or any other substance in the name of art. Moreover, a Danish cartoonist does one sketch of Mohammed and the Muslim world explodes (all puns intended) – it is about time Christians learn to stand up for themselves and their beliefs. Finally we have a Congress who, in some regard, is willing to hit back at the system where it hurts—their pockets. Hopefully they’ll continue that trend over the next two years. In the meantime, the many religions and cultures of this nation need to stop hiding behind perversions of “Freedom of Speech” and start standing firm on the principle of mutual respect. Where better to start than through taxpayer funded art?

The Great Princeton Hummus Debate will decide the Future of Israel, More or Less (Probably Less) - Jeff Edelstein @ The Trentonian

The Global BDS (Boycott-Divestment-Sanctions) Movement strikes again, this time on the campus of Princeton University. The Princeton Committee for Palestine, led by Jewish Israel-hater Yoel Bitran, has demanded a University-wide referendum on the inclusion of alternative brands of hummus, claiming that The Strauss Group, the company that produces Sabra hummus, supports the IDF’s elite Golani brigade and, therefore, human rights violations against the Palestinians.

One could easily argue against buying any products produced by the Arab world, citing the human rights violations against women and non-Muslims in general, but that wouldn’t help to further the PCP’s true objective to “… start a conversation on Israeli human rights violations.”

Here’s a thought: Every supporter of Israel, from political conservatives to the members of CUFI, should friend Sabra on Facebook and be sure to include some Sabra hummus on their table this holiday season. The chickpea-tahini combo goes great as part of any hors-d’oeurves spread and by buying Sabra, you’d be doing your part to support the hardworking men and women of the Israeli military who were drafted by law to protect the last bastion of true democracy in the middle east and America’s only hope of a true ally in the region.

Friday, November 26, 2010

Keep the Lights On @ NJN

Editor's Note: I originally submitted this as a Letter to the Editor to every NJ newspaper I could think of.  As a result, I took a slew of 'confirmation calls' last week and, today, received a call from my in-laws that the first submission finally made it to print in The Trenton Times.  Afterwards I learned that the letter also appeared in the Star Ledger on Thanksgiving Day.   

The one question I kept being asked by every editor that called was, "Do you have any personal connection to NJN."  I chose to answer honestly: "Every taxpaying citizen of New Jersey has a personal connection to NJN that stretches from their wallet to the State House."  It is a fact that without NJN, New Jersey voters will have no connection to their own representatives.  As I argue below, in the spirit of honest and open government (let alone good financial practice) the Governor has the responsibility to ensure that the station's transition to private ownership is a smooth one that does not allow the spotlight on his office to go out.

This New Year could usher in a new era in the relationship between New Jersey voters and their state representatives, one that would be darker and more distant than ever.

If the State moves forward with the Governor’s plan to cut all funding to NJN as of January 1, we will no longer see the happenings of the State House on television. Debates will be held, laws and budgets will be passed behind doors closed to the cameras that were once the lifeline between voters and elected representatives. In the information age, our most vital lifeline to real time information—New Jersey Network—will be cut off.

How can this possibly be in the best interests of New Jersey?

With barely a month to go before 147 workers are added to the already overburdened unemployment rolls of the state, a number of options are being thrown around. It is reported that the Governor favors holding onto the valuable FCC licenses in order to ensure that the state’s 40 year, multi-million dollar investment in NJN be used to produce Jersey-centric programming by a new entity.

Who this entity is, we have yet to find out.

The Governor seems to favor the idea of a possible takeover by WNET, a public television station that receives annual funding from New York State. Follow the money and you have to ask, how Jersey-centric could that relationship possibly be? WNET’s merger with Long Island PBS station WLIW was filled with empty promises of maintaining Long Island-centric programming. If WNET couldn’t even stay faithful to their fellow New Yorkers, what chance would Jersey stand in such a merge?

It is New Jersey money that purchased the licenses, towers, facilities, and equipment, and that helped to produce 40 years of Emmy Award winning programming. Whether by tax dollars or donations, since its inception NJN has been a station of the people, by the people of New Jersey. The Governor isn’t telling us it was a bad investment; we just don’t have the money to continue.

Now, the Governor is right; our state is in tough financial times. But when money is tight, shouldn’t cutting the lines of communication between government and her citizens be at the bottom of the list?

Assembly Speaker Oliver has said that she “will not sleep unless NJN stays on the air as of January,” and neither should her fellow representatives. Allowing NJN to go dark means putting their credibility at stake. Decisions must be made that ensure the survival of NJN as a Jersey-centric media outlet. One that, in the interest of keeping our residents in-jobs and in-state, continues to employ the talented staff that has faithfully brought this state to life over the airwaves.

After all, who will be able to stand guard if the lights go out?

Monday, November 1, 2010

To Care or Not to Care: That is the Question

Originally published at on Friday, October 29, 2010

Is anyone but me amused by the fact that “The Rally to Restore Sanity” is being held on Halloween weekend and “The March to Keep Fear Alive” is the opening act for Mischief Night celebrations—in our political capital, no less?

The irony of timing may be the funniest aspect of this weekend’s clash of pop culture and politics, and even that falls flat after a few laughs. After all, as any politico will tell you, an election is the kind of serious business that brings out Americans’ fear, anger, and rage likened to that of the mythical Arab Street each time an Israeli dares to breathe in the wrong direction. Listening to the conversation on MSNBC’s Morning Joe one can’t help but feel that voting booths are really incense-scented offices lined with leather couches bordered by tissue-laden end tables.

Thank God, then, for the punditry of Jon Stewart and Colbert. Without their spitball satire steering the U.S.S. Apathetic, how would we ever be able to navigate the dark, stormy seas of political emotion?

To be sure, more than one news outlet has commented on the vague blur between politics and humor that has officially been deigned “a rally for the people who’ve been too busy to go to rallies, who actually have lives and families and jobs (or are looking for jobs) — not so much the Silent Majority as the Busy Majority.” True to their postmodern ethic, the folks behind the rally imply their inability to draw on even their own desired demographic: Our audience would come, but they’re just too busy with real life to care. As glib as it may seem, it is more than self-effacing humor; the Rally’s permit application filed in September estimated a crowd of a mere 25,000, despite the 220,000 positive RSVP’s they received up to that point on Facebook.

So, the real question is: Why bother holding a rally if you don’t even think anyone would show up?

The entire event reminds me of a pseudo-prank a friend and I pulled in college. One afternoon we sat in the middle of the Student Center, handing out fliers, encouraging people to protest the fact that we had nothing to protest. About three people stopped to give a chuckle, while most just moved on without even taking notice. What started out as a joke quickly became my own personal reality check; it was as if I put my finger on the pulse of my generation and found myself pressing really, really hard to feel any sign of life.

The summer after that semester my friend and I joined a group of college classmates for a trip to the set of The Daily Show to see our icon, Jon Stewart. Here was a man who, in less than two years, took a fledgling parody program and quickly molded it into a serious attempt at comedic news. Ratings were soaring, especially on college campuses filled with jaded students who thought Stewart, with his sharp wit and “it’s all B.S.” attitude was the real straight-shooter in the news world. This was our chance to sit practically face-to-face with the man who held the world by the cajones. This was big.

After we filed into our seats we were told by some studio lackey that Stewart would take our questions before the show began. Anxious to impress, I formulated a question in my head regarding Arafat, Sharon, and the effects of the then-fresh new Intifada on the peace process. I had one shot to show this guy I was as informed as him, and I was going to do it right. And I did.

“I—make—the—jokes?” Stewart replied with mock-nervousness.

The audience laughed, Stewart proceeded to mock one of my friends for having a strange expression on his face, and then he took another question that was more on the level of what movies he liked to watch on Saturday night than anything related to the growing political nature of the show.

Right then is when I fell out of love with Jon Stewart. It wasn’t because he turned my serious question into an opportunity to garner laughs for himself; he’s a comedian. If people don’t laugh, he doesn’t get paid. It was because he purposely avoided answering a political question off-camera while simultaneously being as political as possible when he was on air.

Later, Stewart would go on to appear on several news shows on the Big Three and cable news—he even felt political enough to openly criticize the banter on CNN’s Crossfire (maybe because the cameras were rolling). But I knew it was all an act, political or not. I’d seen behind the green curtain; the wizard was there to do nothing more than promote himself. As a result, subjects like terror in the Middle East could easily become fodder for humor before the show, but as soon as the cameras were rolling, he could be as serious as necessary about the horrors of 9-11. Jon Stewart doesn’t play to a political agenda, he plays to a crowd.

And, apparently, his managers aren’t so sure the crowd even really gives a damn. Stewart and Colbert initiated this rally to “combat” the popularity of Glenn Beck’s 8-28. Yet, no Internet hack-news agency paid for buses to take Beck and his followers to the 8-28 Rally, nor did Fox News issue a memo to all its employees to go support Beck’s event. Perhaps that’s because what Stewart is pushing isn’t about the bigger picture. This is not the rally that’s going to ask America what they can do for their country; it is the rally that’s going to ask America to take a break. The real problem is that viewers and fans have already been broken by people like Stewart who are willing to sell out principles to parody and use policy to inflate their own persona.

Perhaps that is why the managers of the Rally are anticipating that no one will care enough to show up.

Afterward our Protest to Protest the Fact that We Have Nothing to Protest, I wrote an article for the student arts & entertainment magazine called Passionate Apathy in which I begged the student body to find something—anything to care about. Even then I could see we were a cause-less generation. Today, on MSNBC’s Morning Joe, Arianna Huffington was blaming the President for not doing more to organize the nation and motivate Americans to work together. I laughed.

Isn’t she one of the people spending a lot of money on a rally telling Americans not to give a damn?

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Freedom of Newspeak

Author's Note: A version of this post appears at

When I began traversing the blog world in 2004 it was commonly argued that the Internet was the last bastion of free speech.  If my arugment regarding mainstream media "bias" holds true, then it makes sense that the blogosphere plays home to the last vestiges of communication liberty.  After all, it isn't like most of us bloggers are actually pulling in a salary and benefits for typing about what we believe, so we don't have to worry about what our bosses will think when they read our blogs or listen to our podcasts.  Oh, if only freedom paid the bills, then we could all say what we really thought without fear.

Isn't that right, Juan Williams?

When I read in the news this morning that NPR fired one of their Senior News Analysts, Juan Williams I didn't need to eat breakfast; I was too busy scraping my jaw off the floor.  I've listened to this guy for years; he's calm and collected, incredibly professional and well informed.  He is not Rick Sanchez.  What the hell could Juan Williams have done to get fired from NPR?

Oh, that's simple:  He admitted to being nervous around traditionally-garbed Muslims in airports.  According to the NPR story on Williams's demise, his exact words were, "Look, Bill, I'm not a bigot. You know the kind of books I've written about the civil rights movement in this country. But when I get on the plane, I got to tell you, if I see people who are in Muslim garb and I think, you know, they are identifying themselves first and foremost as Muslims, I get worried. I get nervous."

The official NPR stance is that Williams' "...remarks on The O'Reilly Factor this past Monday were inconsistent with our editorial standards and practices, and undermined his credibility as a news analyst with NPR."  The "editorial standards and practices" NPR is talking about refer to their policy that News Analysts like Williams are not permitted to express opinions on the stories they cover. 

Okay, so NPR doesn't want their "Analysts" expressing their opinions on air.  Williams must have known this when he was hired and accepted that unwavering objectivity was part of the job.  Nina Totenberg must have as well when she wished AIDS upon Jesse Helms on the air in 1995 and proceeded to be-- oh, wait, Nina Totenberg was never fired for proclaiming that if there was "'retributive justice' in the world... Jesse Helms would 'get AIDS from a transfusion, or one of his grandchildren will get it.'" Over a decade later, in fact, Nina Totenberg is NPR's Correspondent for Legal Affairs in DC.

Maybe she can refer Williams to a good First Amendement lawyer.

It is one thing to claim Fox News leans right and MSNBC leans left.  It is quite another for a national radio network that operates on taxpayer dollars to fire one of their employees for expressing an opinion they obviously didn't like.  But it was about more than just one slip of the tongue for Juan Williams.  Apparently, NPR has been building a case against their former employee since he signed on as a contributor to Fox News in 1997.  The NPR story on Williams' firing states blatantly that, "Williams' presence on the largely conservative and often contentious prime-time talk shows of Fox News has long been a sore point with NPR News executives."

NPR seems to be developing a track record for taking aim at employees who do business with Fox News.  Back in December, Politico reported that NPR political correspondent Mara Liasson was asked " reconsider her regular appearances on Fox News because of what they perceived as the network’s political bias."  According to the report, "NPR’s focus on Liasson’s work as a commentator on Fox’s Special Report and Fox News Sunday came at about the same time as a White House campaign launched in September to delegitimize the network by painting it as an extension of the Republican Party."

Isn't the idea of the White House "controlling" the media supposed to be the stuff of fiction?  Didn't the days of yellow journalism die with William Randolph Hearst?

Last week I was concerned because one host walked away from another.  Now we have a publicly funded news network firing employees who dare to "talk to the other side".  Bernard Goldberg is right, media bias is rampant.  Perhaps the blogosphere is the last, true bastion of free speech after all.

Speaking of which, Fox News reportedly offered Juan Williams  "...a new and more lucrative contract" that "...would be worth “nearly $2 million, a considerable bump up from his previous salary.”

Maybe it still does pay to speak your mind in the mainstream media after all.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

A Shanda fur de Bill O'Reilly

So, Bill O'Reilly was on the purile morning pap known as The View this morning. 

Anyone who watches The View has no doubt of the political persuasions of the majority of its hostesses.  If you're like most thinking Americans and you don't watch The View (except when a particularly humorous excerpt shows up on The Soup) compare the treatments of 2008 Presidential candidates John McCain and Barack Obama and the political views of Walters' women reveal themselves fairly quickly.

Hey, they never claimed to be journalists. 

Well, in any case, they never claimed to be unbiased.

On The View, the problem has never been having a particular view (unless you're Elisabeth Hasselbeck) so much as it has been having to encounter guests whose views aren't in line with your own. 

Usually, this problem can be handled fairly easily through tactics like playfully mocking you if you're an elderly man, or shouting over you if you're a young blonde woman.  But when you encounter a middle-aged white male (demographic alert!  demographic alert!) with a pair of big clanging balls who could care less if he strikes a few sour notes in your ear... walk off-set.


To summarize the clip, Bill O'Reilly argues that Americans are "seeing a widening gulf between the President and them, personally," and when questioned on that, he goes on to cite a CNN poll that indicates nearly 70% of Americans do not approve of the building of the Ground Zero Mosque, in comparison to President Obama's refusal to "comment on the wisdom" of building a mosque in that location. 

Immediately, Whoopi Goldberg and Joy Behar become so offended that Bill O'Reilly agrees with the 70% of Americans cited in CNN's poll and not the two of them (as they shout, "But I'm an American!  I'm an American!") that they literally get up and walk off the set.

What?  Shouting and witty repartee weren't good enough this time around? 

I am Jewish, which means that I know a good argument when I get into one.  There is a reason we need ten men to say a prayer and 70 to make a decision; to say we are opinionated is an understatement.  So, needless to say, when I see the Jewish woman in the room get up and walk away from an argument, something in my kishkes makes me squirm. 

Whoopi I can understand; after all, she's just a poser anyway.1  But, Joy Behar, how could you?  Shanda fur de goyim!  Seriously, what kind of Jewess are you that you can't have a good argument?  Agreeing to disagree is the fourth pillar of our faith!

The situation brings to mind a conversation I had with a friend (who also happened to be Jewish) a few years ago about television news networks.  For some reason, Fox News came up and she immediately remarked, "They're SO biased!"

I replied that I thought all news networks were biased, one way or the other.  The first thing any good media professor will tell you is that television is a business.  The entire point of television is to appeal to a demographic in order to make money through advertising.  Therefore, most television programming is geared towards the particular age/gender/race Neilsen says will be watching at that particular time of the day.  Hence, Saturday morning cartoons are on at 9 am on Saturday morning and not 9 pm on Tuesday night.  So, if Fox News is biased, they are only biased inasmuch as they are seeking to appeal to a demographic previously underserved by their peers (in this case, the political right wing) in order to win ratings and, in turn, increase advertising revenue. 

Her grand reply was, "Well, I don't agree with them, so they are biased."

Wait, is that how we justify who we do and don't talk to, by whether or not they agree with what we have to say?  Where's the Jewish in that?

One scholar, Deborah Schiffrin, wrote an article stating that "Jewish Argument" is a social tool used to "display solidarity."  In other words, getting up and walking away from someone because they disagree with you is about as Jewish as eating pork at the Passover seder.  It is antithetical to the Jewish neshama to turn your back on someone who disagrees with you.  If anything, it is your responsibility to make them dinner during the discussion!

Why is it that Jewish Americans like Joy Behar have lost their ability to argue peacefully, and to disagree and remain on friendly terms?  While her "talk or walk" opinions may promote political comraderie, they do nothing to unite the Jewish American community at large, of which roughly 1/2 do not currently approve of the President's performance, let alone the American Jewish community's relationship with their fellow Americans, of which roughly 1/2 do not currently approve of the President's performance.  Even more importantly, in losing our ability to interrelate with people who hold different opinions, we are losing a key element of our Jewishness that has ensured our survival for thousands of years: The ability to see another person's point of view while holding onto our own. 

Stated simply: What do you think gives a person their character, their ability to echo an opinion, or their ability to express one?

If Netanyahu threatened to walk out of this latest round of proposed peace talks as often as Abbas did, Jewish Americans of Joy Behar's political persuasion would be in an uproar.  How will we ever achieve peace, they would argue, if we can't at least sit at a table together and talk things out?!

There is nothing Jewish about walking away from an argument.  Disagree with Bill O'Reilly and you certainly won't be the first.  But, if you really want to make a statement, invite him to lunch after the show.

After all, what good Irish Catholic boy would say no to a lox and whitefish buffet?

1. "Born Caryn Elaine Johnson...  Goldberg also adopted her stage name, which began as Whoopi Cushion, but later adopted the "Goldberg" surname because her mother felt the original was not "Jewish enough" to make her a star."  For more on this offensive idea, see last week's entry regarding "Joos Controlling the Media".

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

The World's Oldest Profession

Pardon me while I dump the vomit out of my yarmulke.

I didn't need Rick Sanchez to throw accusations of a Jewish-controlled media in my face to make me realize that some people still think we own the world.  All I needed was to sit in the backseat of a beat up Ford (oh, the irony ) and get eyed up through the rear-view mirror by a lanky, brainless grad student and his Turkish gal-pal.

"Why are there so many of you in the media?"  His beady eyes betrayed him; his girlfriend already told him the answer, he was just testing me.  WASPs can be so sneaky sometimes.

"What?"  You see, not knowing I was a twin--let alone multiples in any amount--I was grammatically confused and decided to play it from that angle.  Jews can be so gracious sometimes.

"Why are there so many Jews in the media?"  This time he asked point-blank.

Silly me, I answered like a reasonable, educated individual, explaining why this was a popular assumption based on a period of time when us "Joos" weren't allowed to be doctors, lawyers, or any number of other accredited "professionals" so we resorted to owning our own businesses--one of which happened to be, at first, movie theaters and then, movie studios.  But, since that era is long gone, there is a virtual panoply of ethnicities, genders, sexual-orientations, and creeds (we're talking "United Colors of Benetton" here) "in the media". 

The Turkish exchange student gave her protoge a sideways glance that said, "Told you she'd say that."

The two shared a knowing grin.

And I left the car.

The first thing I did when I got in the door was call the President of my campus chapter of Hillel.  I told him the whole story.  His grand response was a half-hearted,  "Yeah, well, that's a shame, isn't it?"

Then I got the lowdown on the annual Kosher Chili Cookoff.

Today, Entertainment Weekly asked, "So, should Jon Stewart accept Rick Sanchez's apology?" after detailing Stewart's on-screen response in which he mocked Sanchez but, quite honestly, couldn't really give a damn about his accusations.

Sanchez's official statement is as pathetic as any other media persona's "official statement" about their verbal faux pas.  Reading that was like listening to a nine-year old forced to say they're sorry to the kid they tortured on the playground so their guidance counselor can close the case file and get home for dinner.  Say what you will about Mel Gibson, at least he actually apologized to "the Jewish community" and not just "anyone else" he "might have offended."

Jon Stewart's response is equally as pathetic.  He's the kid on the playground who got punched, and he's willing to play nice in front of the guidance counselor as much as he has to, in the hopes that the bully won't follow him home and try to beat him up again.  Only, this time, Sanchez was really disciplined--he got fired-- and Jon Stewart still played nice.

In the end, nothing was ever done about the two grad students who eyed me up in the backseat of their car.  Nor, in a related note, was anything done about the other grad student (this time a Pakistani from Dubai) who cornered me alone in the grad student lounge and confronted me with the now-disproven "evil actions of my bretheren in Jenin".  

And, in the end, Rick Sanchez's antiSemitic outburst will be lost in history's database of old information, something for our kids to find one day as they browse through the Wayback Machine. 

All the while, the stereotype lives on to surface another day.  Let's see; it was about two months between Oliver Stone and Rick Sanchez's matching accusations.  What'll be our Hanukkah present from Hollywood this year?

Wait a minute...I thought we were in charge?

Well, then again, I guess we are as long as we keep imitating Jonny and taking it like a man.

Friday, September 24, 2010

Big Pimpin', Flashin' G's

Benyamin Cohen over at The Huffington Post is being critical of the well-endowed Esther Petrack, the "Modern Orthodox Jew" who shed her tzinus on America's Next Top Model for the chance to make it big.  According to Cohen, Petrack, first chose to take pride in her Jewishness, telling Tyra she was from Jerusalem and taking the time to explain her beliefs. But once she realized that the rigors of the show would conflict with her Sabbath observance, Esther opted to switch gears and take pride in something else that made her unique: Her comedically enormous breasts.

This immediate about-face -- a proud Modern Orthodox Jew one moment and sashaying in a bikini and heels on national TV the next -- was a sad commentary. After all, the contestant is named after the biblical Queen Esther. That historical figure also competed in a beauty pageant, and even hid the fact that she was Jewish. But, when the chips were down and the time called for a hero, Queen Esther used the opportunity to reveal her faith and saved the Jewish people from imminent annihilation. It's her self-sacrifice that we celebrate each year on the festival of Purim.
There are three major points to be made right here:

1.  Petrack walked into that contest knowing full well that being an "American model" would require her to live a lifestyle that is in complete conflict with the mores of Modern Orthodoxyism-- a fact Cohen admits to later in the article. So, spare me your idealism.

2.  Telling someone you're from Jerusalem has nothing to do with expressing pride about your identity.  It's a fact.  I taught plenty of American college students who were born in the U.S. and had a complete lack of pride for this country, but they weren't about to tell people they were born in France.  So, spare me your idealism.

3.  Now you're trying to make a pun on the fact that her name is Esther?  Seriously?  We're turning one girl's fall into the ring of celebrity D-List hell known as America's Next Top Model into a Talmudic appeal for Jewish pride?  See points #1 & #2 for my response to this rabbinic-inspired gem.

And if those three advents of hypocrisy in 200 words or less aren't enough to make your eyes roll out of your head, Cohen doesn't just go after the Good Jewish Girl Gone Wild, he goes after the editors and producers of ANTM, claiming that, while Esther's personal choices were made before she went on air, "...the producers edited it in such a way that she appeared to be, as many grandparents would say, 'finishing Hitler's work.'"

If the Rabbinate can't send her to hell via minyan, they will convict her--with the show's crew as accomplices-- on the grounds of Godwin's Law.  The girl shakes her jugs on cable TV and she's sending a nation to the gas chambers.  Quick!  Where's my chicken?!  Esther shed her clothes--I feel the need to shed some blood!

Moral choices aside, the painful truth is this: If your entire life is governed by a set of rules and regulations that prevent you from living your dreams, why wouldn't you shed those traditions in favor of moving forward to accomplish your goals? 

Like the perfectly Modern Orthodox Jew he is, Cohen concludes his commentary with, "So, should the Modern Orthodox blogosphere be upset with Esther? Well, yes and no."  Yet, his opinion of Esther, the next member of the local Hitler Youth, is very clear:  By turning her back on a Modern Orthodox lifestyle and worldview, Esther has not only failed her religious community, she has failed the Jewish world.

And, in my own culturally Jewish way, I have to ask: Don't Esther's actions make you wonder if this rapid-to-criticize Jewish world hasn't failed her?

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Anti-Social Media

I hate technology.

Scratch that.  I don't hate technology.  I hate the fact that people use technology as an excuse to call themselves "connected" when, in reality, they are the most disconnected, anti-social, and often the most anti-informed people on the face of the earth.

Social Networking technology is nothing more than an excuse to communicate through a machine, something only the extremely disabled did not more than a few years ago.  What?  We're all into being the next Stephen Hawking minus the brain?  Is that what's cool?

Recently, I was asked if I was familiar with Wikis, a tool created to facilitate interoffice communication by eliminating as much face-to-face communication as possible.  Mind you, I was asked this by co-workers whose offices are literally twenty steps down the hall from mine.  I'm "encouraged" to come to the annual staff dinner, but when it comes to actually working on projects together who needs a face and a voice when you've got an Internet connection?

But it's worse than that.  I've been at social gatherings where the attendees are too busy blogging or Facebooking to actually talk to the people sitting next to them-- who are also hooked into their laptops or texting on their phones.  We're so busy being virtually social that we've literally lost the art of holding a good conversation.

Check out Beloit College's Mindset List and you'll find that, to the incoming class of 2014, "'digital' has always been in the cultural DNA, they've never written in cursive and with cell phones to tell them the time, there is no need for a wrist watch. ...They will be armed with iPhones and BlackBerries, on which making a phone call will be only one of many, many functions they will perform."  Most strikingly, the Mindset List notes that incoming freshman, "...will now be awash with a computerized technology that will not distinguish information and knowledge." 

In other words, these kids today are so busy pushing buttons and absorbing whatever shows up that they're too busy to tell if what they're encountering is fact or fiction.  This is postmodernism at its finest: move over, Peter Griffin; you're not as fast and flashy as Facebook. 

Speaking of which, I've spent more time screwing with the code bugs on Facebook in order to get readers to this blog than actually writing content.  Then again, who cares?  Content doesn't matter; hits do.  Who cares what you say, how you say it, or even if it is correct-- as long as spell check has done its thing and you're writing in 140 characters or less, you're a hit.  Or a thousand.  That all depends on the speed of your fingers and your wireless connection. 

Wait a minute-- when did the need for speed and accuracy take place over the need for quality content?  Have our thoughts finally entered the industrial age?  Is our ability to independently think and express now gauged solely by how quickly we can distribute those expressions far and wide?  Since when did delivery matter more than content when it came to ...thinking?

There are scary real-life consequences to this lack of attention span and absent fact-filter among today's "Generation Y" (ages 30 & younger).  A new survey released today indicates that Gen Y Moms communicate with their children via Facebook, text, and email versus face-to-face dialogue.  Those kids are going to have some serious social skills when they grow up.  If you think receiving your wedding proposal via text is cute, try typing just your part of the whole ceremony.  Think of the savings!  "Sorry, we would've had a reception, but we didn't have time to book the venue, the food, or the entertainment.  So we all got you these disposable phones so you could Facebook the wedding instead.  Thanks for coming!"

This factoid is a real gem:  The Yahoo News article titled "Generation Y is Giving Cars a Pass" quotes one expert who says, "“This generation focuses its buying on computers, BlackBerrys, music and software and views commuting a few hours by car a huge productivity waste when they can work using PDAs while taking the bus and train."  Cars, the symbols of freedom and independence, are now shoved to the side in favor of digital devices that connect audiences of one with the rest of the virtual world.  The article also cites the fact that many Gen-Y'ers see cars as "damaging to the environment."  Yeah.  Right.  That's why they're so eager to pile onto those mass transit vehicles that send exhaust soaring into the atmosphere--something they'd know of and avoid if they were driving in the cars behind those nasty Public Transit buses.  They don't care about carbon footprints, where they're going, or who is in the driver's seat:  This generation just wants to be left alone with their techy toys.  Now that's what I call connected.

George Orwell wrote of a time when Big Brother monitored thought criminals through telescreens.  As futuristic as Orwell's writing was for the audience of his day, today's generation only knows Big Brother as a British television import.  I suppose that's because an hour of nothing is faster and easier than a few hours of ideas that are real and lasting and have even more meaning today than when they were originally put to paper in 1949. 

To be sure, life is faster and easier with technology.  And because we've foregone the ability and the time to analyze and contemplate the world that we have become, one-by-one we're making the ride down the cultural toilet faster and easier by-- however fast your wireless connection can take you there.

Now, please pardon me while I go Facebook and Tweet that this posting has been made.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Shegetz in the HOUSE

For the record, I grew bored with HOUSE three years ago, at least.  Whatever season it was when they decided to throw the old cast into the ER and hire replacement lookalikes so HOUSE had some fresh emotional baggage to sift through was when the Americanized Hugh Laurie jumped the shark for me.  I suppose his redeeming qualities (namely Blackadder and Jeeves & Wooster) left some love in my heart for the snarly, depressed drug addict, enough to intrigue me into watching last night's season premiere. 

That and I've always been a sucker for a good train wreck.  Nothing could be a better train wreck than the emotionally convoluted Cuddy sucking face with a rehabbed walking bottle of vicodin.  Throw their neurotic, self-appointed pseudo-superhero oncologist into the mix and the next words out of your mouth should be, "Iceberg ahead!"

Ah, but then, the writers of HOUSE always find a way to disappoint, and last night's season premiere was no exception.  "I don't want this," House declares after a day's worth of uninterrupted animal passion.  No one with a child, he argues, should have somebody like him in their life.  Why?  Because he is a child, you can hear yourself say, a whiney, self-involved brat who can't get over the fact that shit happens in life.

If Cuddy is going to strap herself to a goy, why pick a miserable one?  At least with a miserable Jew she'll get a good sense of humor.  House is just, well, miserable.  Where's the fun in that?  As much of a Woody Allen fan as I am not, you have to admit that if Cuddy wanted neurotic she's got plenty in the tribe to choose from.  Why get stuck with some miserable drug addict who needs either pills or sex to distract him from his endless navel-gazing?  There's no mystical, Talmudic majesty in self-obsession; just ask Larry David.  At least, if she had Larry David, she'd be entertained. 

Let's face it: Hollywood loves interrelating Jews and gentiles.  Usually its the shiksappeal that draws in good Jewish boys like Ben Braddock, Gaylord Focker, and the Zohan in major motion pictures, and let's not forget prime time's poor Bernie Steinberg (we know how well that turned out).  Rarely do we get to see a shegetz walk onto the screen (I suppose all us Jewish girls slighted by our male tribal counterparts just become Jewish nuns, whiling away our childbearing years playing Mah Johngg) so when he does, he's got to have more to offer than a bitter tongue and a secret stash.  Like Maxwell Sheffield, he should at least be able to offer some decent real estate and a few celebrity connections.  Okay, so we might not be able to score the good-hearted nurses or the bushy, rock-hard Mossad agents, but middle-aged navel-gazing nihilists?  Is this Jewish Mother syndrome biting us in the tuchus?  Really, what did us good Jewish girls ever do to you?

As far as HOUSE goes, the iceberg has already melted out of boredom, leaving the Titanic known as Cuddy&House to drift into the same lackluster oblivion occupied by Dr. Cameron, 13, and the hoards of other women unfortunate enough to get distracted by TV's attempt at a modern-day Lord Byron. 

Lisa, listen to your inner mameleh and make a quick exodus while you can.  You're still young, vibrant, and successful: If anyone can rescue the Ari Ben Canaans from the shiksas, it's you.