Friday, November 30, 2007

"Peter Jacob" Talks about the Talks

Here is my first try at podcasting...Thanks to Esra'a at for the hosting and the help.

To listen right click and save target as "POLJ Talks to NYC"

Shabbat Ideas - November 30, 2007

Soviets were free, land was split and it is also Friday so here are my Shabbat Thoughts for November 30, 2007
Both have backgrounds centered on food, and to me, that’s where the beauty is.
Circle KE (Kosher Ethical if you didn’t get it)
Jewschool on the Times on Indie Minyanim… I suppose this is when I say something like because you made the Times it is all good…nah but mazel tov all the same.
Take a Swig…

I am a confused Jew. Much of what I believe is based deeply in modern and secular values. Much of that is based in Jewish thought. But I can’t believe the Torah was written by God, but then again I believe in God, while at the same time doubt God has any place in the world.

This is a very difficult issue for me living in and working in the Jewish community. It would be so much easier if I just believed or didn’t. I sometimes feel like if I was a heartless banker working 75 hours a week on Wall Street I would have an easier internal struggle. I know for sure that lots of people feel the same way. Just look at all of our self-important blog posts about the issue.

But what makes me wonder is why those of us with so many questions believe we also have answers. This week the New York Times did a major piece on the Indie Minyanim. As I said above this is great for those in the Movement. I suppose it should serve as an institutional wake up call for the institutional Jewish community. But I believe this is systemic in my generation…and I blame our parents’ revolt against their parents. (Self-serving, no?)

Over the past fifty years, we have seen the largest most personally interested generation of people ever to have roamed the earth. We have personal computers, personal assistance and personal trainers. It is a “me-centered” world. Due to the extreme concentration of wealth in the Western world, year-round fresh fruit, instant entertainment and self-gratification have become cultural norms. Our parents created a revolution against the system that produced the hardest working and “greatest generation” of Americans.

While the loaded term of “greatest” isn’t really fair to anyone after the WWII generation, (because I think the boomers are pretty snazzy) there is something to the fact the work they did was to promote community, family and country. There is nothing wrong with working hard for the money for yourself and yours, but even if you give a lot away after you make a ton of cash, your way up might have created more self interested walls of separation than were intended.

My parents worked very hard teaching me and my sister that no matter how much we had or didn’t have there would always be people with more and definitely people with less. We worked for different charities and gave money. I am happy that was part of my upbringing because it makes me understand that even if I was working 75 hours a week, I would still be fighting inside.

The self-serving, self-interested, self-centered mentality of many of my friends from college and life upsets me from time to time. But it also serves as a reminder that my personal conflict is what drives me to be community-serving and community-centered, and hopefully my actions will cause communal-gratification.

Shabbat Shalom

Thursday, November 29, 2007

Israel + Google = Cyber Spys?

This just in...
Google to hand over blogger's IP address

An anonymous blogger using Google Blogger slandered Shaarei Tikva councilmen.
Noam Sharvit 27 Nov 07 13:22
Google Inc. (Nasdaq:GOOG) has agreed to supply the IP address of an Israeli blogger who used "Google Blogger" for a blog in which he slandered Shaarei Tikva council members running for reelection. The election is being held today.

The slandered Shaarei Tikva council members asked Google for the blogger's name. They reached a settlement with the company on the basis of an Israeli ruling on the subject. The settlement stipulates that 72 hours before a hearing on the case at the Rishon LeZion Magistrates Court, the council members would leave the blogger a message on his blog summoning him to the hearing, or else his IP address would be handed over. The notice would invite the blogger to disclose his identity, participate in the hearing, or oppose the disclosure of his identity by filing a motion as "anonymous".

I don't like this one bit...

Hat tip JTA Daily Update.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Jackson Snubs Obama

Interesting piece came out of Rainbow/Push saying that all Democrats with the exception of John Edwards "who opened his campaign in New Orleans' Ninth Ward and has made addressing poverty central to his campaign - have virtually ignored the plight of African Americans in this country."

Interesting. I wonder if we are moving back to the "Obama isn't an African American/Black enough to be the Black Candidate."

Any thoughts?

Full Text:
Most Democratic candidates are ignoring African Americans

November 27, 2007
Can Democrats get the votes they need simply because they're not Republicans? You might think so in this presidential campaign. African-American and urban votes are critical to any Democratic victory. Bill Clinton won two terms without winning the most white votes. His margin was the overwhelming support of black voters. George Bush learned that lesson; that's why his campaigns spent so much effort suppressing the black vote in key states like Florida in 2000 and Ohio in 2004. His victory margin was the tally of votes suppressed or uncounted.

Yet the Democratic candidates -- with the exception of John Edwards, who opened his campaign in New Orleans' Ninth Ward and has made addressing poverty central to his campaign -- have virtually ignored the plight of African Americans in this country. The catastrophic crisis that engulfs the African-American community goes without mention. No urban agenda is given priority. When thousands of African Americans marched in protest in Jena, La., not one candidate showed up.

Democratic candidates are talking about health care and raising the minimum wage, but they aren't talking about the separate and stark realities facing African Americans.

The civil rights movement succeeded in ending segregation and providing blacks with the right to vote. But the end of legal apartheid did not end the era of discrimination. And the ending of institutionalized violence did not end institutionalized racism.

Patterns of discrimination are sharply etched. African Americans have, on average, about half of the good things that whites have, and double the bad things. We have about half the average household income and less than half the household wealth. On the other hand, we're suffering twice the level of unemployment and twice the level of infant mortality (widely accepted as a measure of general health).

African Americans are brutalized by a system of criminal injustice. Young African Americans are more likely to be stopped, more likely to be searched if stopped, more likely to be arrested if searched, more likely to be charged if arrested, more likely to be sentenced to prison if charged, less likely to get early parole if imprisoned. Every study confirms that the discrimination is systemic and ruinous. And yet no candidate speaks to this central reality.

African Americans are more likely to go to overcrowded and underfunded schools, more likely to go without health care, more likely to drop out, less likely to find employment. Those who do work have less access to banks and are more likely to be ripped off by payday lenders, more likely to be stuck with high-interest auto and business loans, and far more likely to be steered to risky mortgages -- even when adjusting for income. And yet, no candidate speaks to this central reality.

The result is visiting a catastrophe on the urban black community. I and many others campaign for young people to stay in school, to graduate and not to make babies until they are prepared to be parents. My son and I write and teach about personal financial responsibility. Personal responsibility is critical. But personal responsibility alone cannot overcome the effects of a discriminatory criminal justice and economic system in generating broken families and broken dreams.

The Rev. Martin Luther King saw the movement to end segregation and gain voting rights as the first stage of the civil rights movement. The second stage -- to gain economic justice and equal opportunity in fact -- he knew would be more difficult. Now, 40 years later, it is no longer acceptable for candidates to turn a blind eye and a deaf ear to entrenched discrimination and still expect to reap our votes.

Yom Annapolis - Day of Peace

Today is the day! Finally we can sit down and have the Bush administration try to broker a peace deal in the Middle East. Thanks be the holy one, blessed is the name, who has allowed this day to come to pass. Wow! To think the first president to declare and endless war focused on the Middle East would be the one get everyone to sit down in the Mid Atlantic region of the US to talk about Peace...

But on a more serious note, no one really thinks this is going to work. The Jewish media has been covering it closely and it is interesting but I can't help but be cynical; nothing will happen here that has not happened before. On the other hand however, we could see a break through only possible with men with nothing left to loose.

I suppose that we always must be happy for any movement towards peace. Then again I can't take much of what Bush says about sustainable peace seriously. I do hope and pray today is a day of progress and Annapolis will become synonymous with peace. Time will tell.

Thursday, November 22, 2007

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Y-Love, Matisyahu and Idan Raichel

Nuf Said!

Mazel Tov Y-Love!

Rabbi Eliyahu is a Bad Person

So Rabbi Mordechai Eliyahu said Reform and Conservative synagogues "reek of hell."

I kid you not:
Reform and Conservative synagogues reek of hell [Gehinom] and a Jew should not even come near their entrance, former Sephardi Chief Rabbi of Israel Mordechai Eliyahu said last week.

"Once I was invited to be the sandak (godfather) at a brit in a three-story building," recounted Eliyahu in his weekly flyer called Kol Tzofayich, which discusses various halachic issues.

"On the first story was a Reform temple, on the second floor was a Conservative synagogue and on the third floor was an Orthodox synagogue where I was invited.

"I wondered how I would manage to pass by those two synagogues that reek of hell. I asked if there was a way of detouring those two entrances and I was told that there was a kitchen through which it was possible to reach the third floor. I announced that I would not go up any other way besides through the kitchen so as to avoid passing by those prohibited synagogues."

I don't have words for such hate. I have friends from across the religious spectrum. We disagree upon many issues (who is a Jew, who can be a rabbi, who makes the best kuggle) but we are civil. Rabbi Eliyahu needs to stop using such causeless and blameless hatred.

As a rabbi he should be teaching the masses about his message of Judaism. He should not be spreading sinat chinam. This is sickening. I showed this to a friend today and she said "really makes you want to go to Israel." Clearly she was being sarcastic. Why would anyone want to live in a place where your own brothers call you the spawn of hell?

I don't know where he gets the chuzpah to say such things. But the Conservative Movement is taking him to court...lets see if that helps.

Monday, November 19, 2007

Don't spend it all in one place

This week Iran and Venezuela called upon OPEC to change its reserve funds from the dollar to another hard currency. This is very bad.

Joseph Nye, co-founder of neoliberalism (which sounds surprisingly like neoconservativism but hasn't caught on as much) said that "soft power" will win the next generation of wars. Much like the idea that the "market" will free people from the bonds of slavery and other such economic oppression, this theory takes into account the fact that there will never be a time when a government won't have a hand in its country's economic and/or fiscal policy. So when a stronger government gives another government the means by which to strengthen its home economy, odds are the recipient won't try to destroy the other country. However, when a country wants to step up without shooting a gun, it can do so with an affront to the other's economic it market warfare.

Now the governments of Iran and Venezuela have used economic power against the US to start a fight. Even though OPEC didn't change its reserves from the Dollar, it was discussed. Ahmadinejad and Chavez may be nuts, but they have control of A LOT of oil, and therefore both actual and political power.

Nye's view is correct and makes a lot more sense than his counterparts who are currently in charge of the world. Here is the statement that I will make now and most likely until January of 2009: we need to figure out how make sure our economy doesn't collapse to the point where the Euro is the currency of choice for the substance our country uses more of, per capita, than any other country in the world.

Supporting our economic future is true national security policy - not blowing up Iraq, Iran, or anywhere else.

Friday, November 16, 2007

Shabbat Idea - November 16, 2007

It is Friday, I am really busy but here are my Shabbat Thoughts for November 16, 2007

The Talmud According To Norman Mailer: “…with his strong and distinct voice intact, began to loudly declaim his favorite talmudic section, which discusses when prayers can continue once an ox has defecated near a synagogue.”
For Shame
A Christian Humor Blog, really

Shada for Yeada Schlak de Fabai Geht!
"Too bad for every hit that misses" – A Yiddish Teaching

So when ever “bad” people would be killing/fighting/etc each other, my mother would say this in the harshest Yiddish accent she could muster. It always made me laugh. The fact that such a saying exists is funny. We even lament the negative in our celebration of the pain of our enemies. Got to love Jewish culture! But I digress.

Y-Love at This is Babylon wrote this week on the fights that broke out in Prague this week at a pro-Nazi rally. Read his post if you want the details. He asks is it good when our enemies start beating on each other instead of on us?

While it is nice to say that is good for every hit that misses, eventually the shots will land. And they will blame the Jews.

So as the neo-Nazis and proto-Commies beat the crap out of one another, we sit back and celebrate. But violence begets violence and sooner or later they are coming for us…history is tricky and tends to repeat itself. A complicated situation to say the least…

Shabbat Shalom

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

East Village Manliness

So I knew I liked the East Village Mamele. She wrote this long first person piece for Jewcy all about hairy men! Word! I am hairy. Really men are hairy. Get over it pretty boy, real mean have chest hair.

Money Quote:

To some, body hair is icky, smelly, sticky. It gets in the sheets and clogs the drain. But to me, it’s primal, manly, sexual. I view my Lycanthrophilia (ok, I made that word up—it means love of werewolves in Greek) is a sign of sophisticated taste. Hairy men are mysterious, Other. Hairless men are…well, girlie. Comfy. Familiar. They look like…me. Hairy men are imported dark chocolate; hairless men are drugstore malted milk balls.

Of course, teenyboppers have always loved and will always love the hairless boys. They’re training wheels on the road to real men. They’re slender, feminine girl-boys: Unthreatening. (There’s a reason Justin Timberlake was the cute one and Joey Fatone was the funny one.) But why do so many grown women skeeve at the sight of male fuzz? Is it because they see hairless men as gentler, more likely to respect a woman’s equality? Is a womanly preference for dainty smoothness a statement about our growing economic power and the mainstreaming of feminism? Or does it show our own ambivalence about gender roles?

Back up off it Justin, I am bringing Sexy Back now!

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Seven Crazy Nights!

BZ posits a very interesting political and religious question in his post about Jerusalem and when and how long to celebrate Purim in the modern city.

This isn't an issue for the Reform Jew for she celebrates a single day of the Holiday. She joyously engages in Sukkot for seven days, spends one day in prayer and introspective thought during Rosh Hashanah and takes Lactaid for one night of Shavout. However when it comes Chanukah, she lights the candles for all eight nights. Why?

I could guess it has to do with American culture of the "Holiday Season" or perhaps it is lack of education. However an academic and thoughtful answer would be nice...

Rabbis? You got something?

No Logo's Logo

Naomi Klein, author of No Logo, has come out with a new short film and book called "The Shock Doctrine." I would go so far to call it disturbing and well done post-modern propoganda.

While I comiserate with her point of view and some of the ideas she presents in No Logo, I think she goes too far. For example when I Googled the words "No Logo" I was given the option of buying the book at Target. She clearly is getting enough money to make these films, write these books and travel the world to see what is happening.

The Economist feels as if Klein "needs to grow up." It is not surprising that The Economist would disagree with Klein, but the article does make a few good points about her ideas. I would suggest reading it. But this pretty much sums up this kind of Luftmentsch ideology:
Certainly, Ms Klein is for justice, “deep” decentralised democracy ... autonomous spaces and diversity of every kind. All these things can presumably be reconciled with the ambitious goals she would doubtless wish to see pursued in welfare spending, environmental protection and income redistribution—aims which, on the face of it, call for a high degree of centralisation and some reduction in the amount of autonomous space—but readers and listeners are never told how this contradiction might be resolved.

I was one of these rebels back in the day. I marched on Al Gore's fundraising party in Santa Monica, I took part in rallies to fight Gap and the like, but there comes a point when you want to see the real change you are talking about materialize. (I choose that word intentionally)

Klein goes after Free Market policy when she really should go after greedy corporations. There is a huge difference between the Free Market, which most likely will never exist and the industrial giants that use governments to suppress the people into making "stuff" in factories. Milton Friedman said that no government intervention should ever be used in the economy. He too is a Luftmentsch; it is impossible for the government to stay completely out of the economy and Friedman knew that as well.

The idea that Klein puts forth is that right-wing and conservative people are out to get the little guy. Fair enough. The proof is in the pudding. However, creating major works of political art to prove something that everyone knows is a waste of good energy. While it seems pretty clear to me that major disasters are times when things go crazy and wars seems to be profitable to those who are in charge, what does this film or book try to do about it? Besides the PSA of "stay informed" that bookends the film, nothing is discussed as a real way to fight this issue.

Outside of all the rhetoric of evil Free Market Shock Treatment, Klein is using YouTube (owned by Google) and printing books (by Picador, a major imprint) that are sold in major retail outlets (see above with Target). She sells out speaking engagements and book tours. While her message may stay the same verbally, selling tickets, books and films (note she did release it online for free) does speak the to system she is fighting (capitalism) and changes the message symbolically. It may be name calling, however the critics like The Economist have a pretty good argument.

Naomi, a response?

(The War on) Christmas comes early this year

Last year around this time, or really about a month from now, I spoke a lot about The War on Christmas. While I believe this is a ridiculous concept and I sign up for Rightwing Christian email lists for a laugh, in this case these people have a point. In an Action Alert from the "American Family Association" I learned that Lowe's (the mega hardware store) is calling Christmas trees "Family Trees" in the winter catalog.

Now really, what does this accomplish? I understand and respect the idea that it is the "Holiday Season" and lot of people are offended when their holiday isn't observed by the civil society. However, it would be extremely offensive of Lowe's or any other store called the electric Chanukiah they sold during the "Holiday Season" a Winter Time Family Fun Light.

The problem is politically correct mentality has failed. We need to be careful, inclusive and pluralistic. We do not need to neuter religious tradition in favor of some picture of society. Call the trees what they are: forest killing traditions.

That said with a little research I found that Lowe's does call them Christmas Trees, just not in the big print.

Monday, November 12, 2007

Green Blogging

So it was green day for the Daily Metro, the world's largest daily paper... Irony?

Last week was Green Week on NBC. I wonder if any of the lights on set were turned off?

I know this is coming off as me being a bitter old man but the building I work in doesn't recycle, and neither does my city. (at least on the streets)

I like the fact that Al Gore was on 30 Rock and wrote a column for Metro. I like that millions of viewers and readers have leaned little ways to make a difference.

But that isn't enough. We need to change and do something. DK would say it should energy independence (I agree). others would say CFL bulbs. It does not matter but the action has to be more than watching TV or reading a paper. (maybe if your TV is energy efficient it is ok)

Friday, November 9, 2007

Shabbat Idea - Novemeber 9, 2007

It has been one year and here are my Shabbat Thoughts for November 9, 2007:
I didn’t make it this year…but there is always next year.
Brad on the (non) Jewish-ness of the strike

I am back and pissed. So all is right with the world. I really didn’t think writing this thing would be useful, but then I read another blogger, and thought I would try to be useful and important.

Judith Warner of the New York Times wrote on her blog that daddys who stay home have a double standard. Ok now I don’t know because I am not a dad who stays home, but I was raised by one, here is my take on Warner’s assault on the double standard issues but really her attack on parents who stay home in general.

Stay-at-home fathers are not common even though stay-at-home dads have increased by more than 300% over the past few years, they still make up less than 5% of the staying-at-home parent population. I am in my mid-twenties and when I was little my dad was strange, weird, and questioned about his manhood because he stayed at home with my sister and me. My mom worked. She also was questioned and thought of as a freak. And this all happened outside of the Cosmopolitan New York City.

These days, more dads are staying home as women work. Yet in places far from New York or LA (or Chicago for you out there who think it is a big city) dads don’t stay home and they are still seen as freaks. Warner however take this to an entirely ridiculous level, by calling involved parenting “ninnyishness” that once was seen as “a uniquely female thing.”

Shut-up PLEASE! This piece is more about values than who is making the statements stay home morality as she calls it. Warner has chosen a high powered writing career which is hard and filled with deadlines where you get to express your creativity and oh boo who! Parents who choose to stay home also have a lot of work to do and I would venture an important position in the world. Second Shift? Ever heard of it? Working at home as if you are working at a job...double standard this!

It is a good thing if a parent can stay home and raise children. It was wonderful having a parent at home who was involved in my life and cared about what happened to me. (For the record, my mother didn’t miss a single game or performance for either my sister or me.) But this crap about ninnyness and other such put downs about parenting as a burden reinforce the idea that people who don’t work are weak, people who talk about their “boring” life’s work (be it parenting or another unacceptable service profession, Ms Warner) don’t belong at socialite parties.

My goal in life, and I have said this before, is to be a good father. Other stuff will come because I work hard and try to live right. But being a good father is hard work that doesn't come just from working hard. Ms Warner seems to discount the fact that parenting is a useful and important aspect of our society. Just because it doesn’t yield exciting conversation for you and yours Ms Warner, doesn’t mean that working on the home front as apposed to the Iraqi front is less important. Arguably I would say raising the next generation of children is much more important than writing your hard-hitting column.

As a closing note: One Year ago, this blog started. I have written on lots, I have received some links, made some virtual and real friends, and pissed off a lot of other people. I don’t believe I have made much of a difference, but at least I make a few people read and think about things that I think are important. Thank you to DK, Annie, DovBear, Mobius, Oriyenta, MidEastYouth, Jspot, Jewlicious, Soccer Dad, Yael, KesherTalk, Esther K, East Village Mamele, red bun, David Singer, BZ, Ex Texan, Uppity Wisc,Winding Road and others who have visited, linked and commented.

Shabbat Shalom

Friday, November 2, 2007

Shabbat Idea - November 2, 2007

It is Shabbat and here are my thoughts:

I am officially taking a break. I will return when I feel the need to be pissed off. Thanks to those who read regularly.

Shabbat Shalom