Friday, October 31, 2008

Shabbat Shalom!

McCain & Khalidi

Shira the Bookkeeper

John McCain has latched onto Joe the Plumber and now Tito the Builder to buttress the lies that Obama's 'spread the wealth' statement is somehow Socialist when it reality it is nothing more than a progressive tax. Sarah Palin has stated: "And Alaska we're set up, unlike other states in the union, where it's collectively Alaskans own the resources. So we share in the wealth when the development of these resources occurs." She used the word collectively and the phrase 'share the wealth'. Can I now accuse her of being a Communist since she used the word collectively? Or is she is a Socialist because she used the phrase 'share the wealth'? Share the wealth is not much different from spread the wealth.

Seventeen years ago I fled from a brutal husband. I had nothing more than an Associates Degree, a job, a car, and a child to support. I took advantage of Section 8 housing out of necessity. Doing so, I was able to save on both electricity and housing costs. I also benefited from the Earned Income Tax Credit during those early years. Now some may consider the programs I mentioned as Socialist. But the end result proves them wrong. Even though I didn't pay Federal income taxes, I was still a tax payer. I paid taxes for Social Security and Medicare. I paid state income tax and sales tax. I paid property taxes on my vehicle. I paid Federal taxes on my phone bill.

What those programs did was allow me to regroup at a time when at the end of the week I was lucky to have $2.00 left in my checking account. I did not receive aid for families with dependent children, nor did I receive food stamps or benefit from Medicare. There has only been two times in my life when I had to use food stamps. The first was when I lost my job and the second was after Hurricane Katrina.

I'm one of those who also benefited from programs set-up to help people like me to buy homes. Through FHA, I was able to purchase an affordable home and Mississippi helped with the down payment. Because of that, I now pay property taxes.

Over the years, because of the programs I benefited from, my income steadily increased and I've moved up two tax brackets since then.

If those programs had not been there, I couldn't say what would have happened to me and my son. But they were there and they are set-up to help people like me.

Obama's tax plan is similar. It seeks to help ease the tax burden on those whose taxable income is less than $250,000 move up so that in the end they can too can moan and groan about the taxes they have to pay.

Call it Socialism if you like, but it seems it is more an investment in our country's future. The more people are able to move up into the middle class, the better off our country will be. I and millions of others like me, are not looking for a handout. We're looking for a hand-up and that is what those so-called Socialist programs have done.

There's Something About Sarah

I realize McCain is the Republican nominee but more focus has been on his choice for running mate. Given the erratic behavior of McCain these past weeks, little wonder so much focus has been on Palin. McCain hasn't been himself since he began campaigning for president.

He used to speak about how he was willing to cross party lines in order to facilitate solutions. It is sad that he has decided to run a negative campaign. We now hear from his campaign phrases such as the 'real' America, 'fake' Virginia, accusations that a raise in taxes for those whose taxable income is over $250,000 is 'socialism' or 'Marxist', and lately trying to paint Obama as a radical because of his ties to Khalidi. He does this while seeming to forget that an organization he chairs gave $850,000 to Khalidi's organization. Does this make McCain an extremist? No, no more than it makes Obama an extremist for listening to Khalidi at a dinner party. You can find out more about Khalidi and Obama.

McCain's campaign has been one of instilling fear. It has waged a verbal war of words against 'elitists'. By his choice of Palin, his campaign has devolved even further.

The United States has been a leader in scientific research. And yet both Palin and Mccain deride scientific research that has been both beneficial and cost-effective.

McCain blasted research on the DNA of bears and Palin blasted research on fruit flies. McCain could perhaps be forgiven for not understanding the purpose of the research on bears, Palin blasted fruit fly research calling it a waste of money. She was in Pittsburgh when she did so and her speech also focused on the issues of disabilities and special needs. Palin's youngest child, Trig, has Down's Syndrome. Too bad she didn't know that some research done with fruit flies includes autism.

Christopher Hitchins blasts her:

With Palin, however, the contempt for science may be something a little more sinister than the bluff, empty-headed plain-man's philistinism of McCain. We never get a chance to ask her in detail about these things, but she is known to favor the teaching of creationism in schools (smuggling this crazy idea through customs in the innocent disguise of "teaching the argument," as if there was an argument), and so it is at least probable that she believes all creatures from humans to fruit flies were created just as they are now. This would make DNA or any other kind of research pointless, whether conducted in Paris or not. Projects such as sequencing the DNA of the flu virus, the better to inoculate against it, would not need to be funded. We could all expire happily in the name of God. Gov. Palin also says that she doesn't think humans are responsible for global warming; again, one would like to ask her whether, like some of her co-religionists, she is a "premillenial dispensationalist"—in other words, someone who believes that there is no point in protecting and preserving the natural world, since the end of days will soon be upon us.

Videos taken in the Assembly of God church in Wasilla, Alaska, which she used to attend, show her nodding as a preacher says that Alaska will be "one of the refuge states in the Last Days." For the uninitiated, this is a reference to a crackpot belief, widely held among those who brood on the "End Times," that some parts of the world will end at different times from others, and Alaska will be a big draw as the heavens darken on account of its wide open spaces. An article by Laurie Goodstein in the New York Times gives further gruesome details of the extreme Pentecostalism with which Palin has been associated in the past (perhaps moderating herself, at least in public, as a political career became more attractive). High points, also available on YouTube, show her being "anointed" by an African bishop who claims to cast out witches. The term used in the trade for this hysterical superstitious nonsense is "spiritual warfare," in which true Christian soldiers are trained to fight demons. Palin has spoken at "spiritual warfare" events as recently as June. And only last week the chiller from Wasilla spoke of "prayer warriors" in a radio interview with James Dobson of Focus on the Family, who said that he and his lovely wife, Shirley, had convened a prayer meeting to beseech that "God's perfect will be done on Nov. 4."

There's just something about Sarah that I cannot trust. She reminds me too much of a fundamentalist who once told me I was going to hell. Can we really afford someone like that who is just a heartbeat away from the presidency? And what does it say of McCain's judgement in selecting her?

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Spreading the Wealth: Marxists!!!

Congress enacted a bailout plan a few weeks ago in order to help relieve the financial crisis occurring. Banks no longer trusted one another and didn't want to lend short-term to other banks or if they did lend to one another, the interest rates were prohibitive. So Congress, led by President Bush passed the $700 billion bailout plan, a very large redistribution of wealth.

From my understanding, the money was to help the liquidity of money the banks loan to one another. This is taxpayer money. The economy is such that banks do need to borrow short-term from one another. New details are coming out in which it seems some banks do not appear to be using the money from the bailout as intended.

Some are using the bailout money to pay stockholder dividends. Some of the troubled banks may use the bailout money to pay officers bonuses.

Clearly, we have a situation in which taxpayers money and its redistribution is not being used for the intended purposes. It appears some of the dividends in question will go to pension funds and mutual funds. In other words, our tax money earmarked for the bailout plan is clearly being used to spread the wealth. The wealth is also being spread to the executives of these troubled banks.

This time, the spreading the wealth is going upwards. His tax plan would relieve the tax burden on those whose net taxable income is less than $250,000. Since this spreading the wealth goes to those who make the least money, it is considered unfair by some and has been labeled as 'socialism' and 'Marxism'.

If Obama's tax plan and his comment about spreading the wealth is 'socialist' or 'Marxist', than clearly the bailout plan is as well. This country is just full of evil "Marxists'!!!!

Tuesday, October 28, 2008


Main Entry:

Samuel A. Maverick †1870 American pioneer who did not brand his calves
1: an unbranded range animal ; especially : a motherless calf
2: an independent individual who does not go along with a group or party

John McCain was once a maverick. He was a maverick to such an extent that some conservatives, myself included, were members of a group of bloggers who wanted any Republican nominee for president other than McCain. He was seen as being to socially conservative. He bucked the party line many times. He had a chance to change the direction in which the Republican party was drifting.

He had a chance to turn the Republican party away the divisive of 'us' against 'them'. As Senator, he worked closely with Democrats and other parties. He was truly a maverick knowing full well that only by working together can things be achieved. He became very unpopular with some Republicans because of his views.

He could have chosen to be the maverick in this presidential race. Instead, he chose to ignore his on record and selected someone I find intolerable to be vice-president. Sarah Palin is to be admired for raising her family while at the same time being elected mayor of Wasilla and then becoming governor of Alaska. She is very attractive and that is part of her appeal. My problem with Sarah Palin is that she represents the many things wrong with the Republican party.

The Republican party seems to be nothing more than a rage machine. Palin, at one of rallies, speaks of little pockets of 'real' America. A McCain advisor speaks of 'fake' Virginia. In seems that those who lean liberal are not to be counted as 'real' Americans.

That in and of itself is not an American view. America is not a one-size fits all country. We are country of many different view-points. We are a nation of immigrants. I take pride in knowing that my country opened its doors so that my great-grandfather and grandfather were able to escape the tyranny of Ukraine. Like many immigrants and those born in this country, they took advantage of the great opportunities our country offers. My grandfather married a very liberal women. She worked as Adlai Stevenson's secretary. She died before World War II ended. I have her address book and it makes me proud that she worked with many committees to improve racial relations.

Palin, with her 'real' America stance implies that my grandmother was not a 'real' American. And yet, it is Americans such as my grandmother who show the true spirit of America. The idealism of all men are created equal and that all should be given the opportunity to succeed is at the heart of our country. The Statute of Liberty has inscribed on its base "Give me your tired, your poor, Your huddled masses yearning to be free,".

Palin's 'real America stance is not the only problem I have with her. She is part of the religious right. The Moral Majority and others in the Evangelical movement have been trying to foist their religious ideology on America. The latest attempt is to have Creationism, gusied now as Intelligent Design, taught in our schools. Many have castigated Obama for being a member of Reverend Wright's church. But what of the church Palin belongs too?

Back in August, the church Palin goes to invited the leader of the Jews for Jesus movement. Here is a brief excerpt of what Palin may have listened to:

Take a look at some of the sermons done by Palin's pastor. Take a look at what one of the guest speakers at her church had to say back in August:

Palin's pastor, Larry Kroon, introduced Brickner on Aug. 17, according to a transcript of the sermon on the church's website. "He's a leader of Jews for Jesus, a ministry that is out on the leading edge in a pressing, demanding area of witnessing and evangelism," Kroon said.

Brickner then explained that Jesus and his disciples were themselves Jewish. "The Jewish community, in particular, has a difficult time understanding this reality," he said.

Brickner's mission has drawn wide criticism from the organized Jewish community, and the Anti-Defamation League accused them in a report of "targeting Jews for conversion with subterfuge and deception."

Brickner also described terrorist attacks on Israelis as God's "judgment of unbelief" of Jews who haven't embraced Christianity. "Judgment is very real and we see it played out on the pages of the newspapers and on the television. It's very real. When [Brickner's son] was in Jerusalem he was there to witness some of that judgment, some of that conflict, when a Palestinian from East Jerusalem took a bulldozer and went plowing through a score of cars, killing numbers of people. Judgment — you can't miss it."

From the link above, you can read other sermons by Palin's pastor to get an idea of what she has been listening to.

The problem is that religion should not be tied up with politics. The United States does not have a national religion. Many say that because the majority of people who live here are Christians, we are a Christian nation. This flies in the face of our country. We are a united nation of Christians, Jews, Muslims, atheists, Wiccans, and many, many others.

Our greatest strength is the many different views that been integrated into our society. MccCain's campaign is run on 'us' against 'them'. McCain is no longer the maverick. He chose to go with the very tiresome and old politics of divisiveness.

Monday, October 27, 2008

Real America

Obama in Denver yesterday, 100,000+:

McCain(do not know when or where this was taken):

Photos from

Sunday, October 26, 2008


This past week has been one of celebration. Our congregation danced with our Torahs on Simchat Torah. We couldn't help but feel the specialness of this weeks parsha, b'reishit. It is fitting that the groundbreaking for our new shul should have been today. B'reishit tells of HaShem's Creation. We are moving forward from the devastation wrecked on our old shul by Hurricane Katrina. The forms and retaining wall have been created and the expected completion date is May 2009. We are facing a new beginning and it is one that is filled with hope.

It will be good when we can hold services in our new home.

Past Congregation President Steve Richer signs the retaining wall while being photographed by a photographer from the SunHerald. Rabbi Myrna Matsa is signing on the left.

The building committee worked long and hard. Because of their dedication, we will not have to worry about a mortgage. The new shul will be 5,100 sq ft, with plenty of room for expansion.

Et Tu?

Joining many, many others, The Anchorage Daily News endorses Obama.

Socialism in Alaska

If Republicans can call Obama's progressive tax plan socialism, than I see no problem with calling the payments Alaskans receive from oil royalties socialism.

So too did the depletion of Alaska's long-reliable reserves of oil, which are trapped in the same Arctic Circle reservoirs as clean-burning natural gas. Not only does that oil provide jobs, it pays for an annual dividend check to nearly every Alaska resident. This year's payment was $2,069, 25 percent higher than 2007 - plus a $1,200 bonus rebate to help offset higher energy costs.

Palin was elected as governor two years ago in part because of her populist appeal. Promising "New Energy for Alaska," she vowed to take on Exxon Mobil Corp., ConocoPhillips and BP, the multinational energy companies that long dominated the state's biggest industry.

Oil interests were particularly unpopular at that moment: Federal agents had recently raided the offices of six lawmakers in a Justice Department investigation into whether an Alaska oil services company paid bribes in exchange for promoting a new taxing formula that would ultimately further the multinationals' pipeline plans.

I'll not begrudge Alaskans their dividends. Mississippi will soon benefit from royalties on gas leases in the Gulf of Mexico. Palin and her pipeline goals for Alaska have other issues. There appears to be something very fishy how TransCanada won out over other companies who submitted bids to build a pipeline through Alaska and Canada.

As governor of Alaska, Palin ignored the recommendation that elected officials should avoid contact with those bidding on the pipeline.

-Instead of creating a process that would attract many potential builders, Palin slanted the terms away from an important group - the global energy giants that own the rights to the gas.

-Despite promises and legal guidance not to talk directly with potential bidders, Palin had meetings or phone calls with nearly every major candidate, including TransCanada.

-The leader of Palin's pipeline team had been a partner at a lobbying firm where she worked on behalf of a TransCanada subsidiary. Also, that woman's former business partner at the lobbying firm was TransCanada's lead private lobbyist on the pipeline deal, interacting with legislators in the weeks before the vote to grant TransCanada the contract. Plus, a former TransCanada executive served as an outside consultant to Palin's pipeline team.

-Under a different set of rules four years earlier, TransCanada had offered to build the pipeline without a state subsidy; under Palin, the company could receive a maximum $500 million.

There are more problems with this deal. The article is a lengthy one. It does give one an idea about Palin acted as governor. She disregarded her state legislature. The pipeline, if it is ever built, will cost taxpayers $500 million more through a subsidy that TransCanada did not ask for 4 years ago.

If this is the only thing Palin has to brag about while governor, it doesn't seem to be a sterling example of good executive practice and if the pipeline is ever built(Canadians don't appear to be fond of it), it will end up costing all taxpayers. Perhaps if the bidding process hadn't so slanted to begin with, there would not have been the need for the $500 million subsidy.

This deal is touted by Palin as her biggest and most impressive act as governor.

He Has It All!

Haveil Havalim-188: We've Got It All Baby!

Friday, October 24, 2008

Shabbat Shalom!

Obama Trying to Help McCain's Campaign

by buying ads on McCain buses. The proof is in the picture:

Truly, this audacious move on Obama's clearly means he is a SOCIALIST!!! Obama, by buying the ad is trying to spread the wealth of his campaign funding to McCain. Audacious and COMMIE!!!

I Don't Trust Them

I don't trust the Evangelical movement and their motives for embracing Israel. Some Jews argue we need to accept their help because they are staunch backers of Israel. Maybe I'm too harsh or cynical but I cannot help feeling going this route will end in disaster for Israel. Throughout history, we've seen those who offered welcome to Jews eventually turn against them.

History tells of the forced conversions of Jews in Spain. It tells of the mass expulsions from Europe. It tells us of Poland welcoming those expelled Jews. It even tells us hat happened after the welcome mat was withdrawn. My families history is entwined with one experience: Tulchin. Jews and Poles fought against the Cossacks in that town. Jewish defenders numbered 2,000 and Polish defenders numbered 600. The Cossacks convinced the Poles to give up the Jews and Rabbi Aaron agreed, warning that not to do so, Catholics would turn on Jews as well. After the Jews gave their weapons to the Poles, the Cossacks entered the town. They were given the choice of baptism or death. The thousand Jews who remained steadfast and rejected baptism were tortured and then murdered.

Time after time, Christians have called on easing hatred of Jews. This was done in order to try to attract Jews to Christianity. One of the most famous and vile of these was the leader of the Reformation Movement, Martin Luther.

He stated at the beginning:

The Jews are blood-relations of our Lord; if it were proper to boast of flesh and blood, the Jews belong more to Christ than we. I beg, therefore, my dear Papist, if you become tired of abusing me as a heretic, that you begin to revile me as a Jew.

This was not an acceptance of Jews but merely a means of trying to court Jews to convert. When those conversions failed to appear, Luther turned on the Jews and gave the world some of the most vile anti-Semitism. Some of his one-liners:

What shall we Christians do with this rejected and condemned people, the Jews? Since they live among us, we dare not tolerate their conduct, now that we are aware of their lying and reviling and blaspheming. If we do, we become sharers in their lies, cursing and blasphemy. Thus we cannot extinguish the unquenchable fire of divine wrath, of which the prophets speak, nor can we convert the Jews. With prayer and the fear of God we must practice a sharp mercy to see whether we might save at least a few from the glowing flames. We dare not avenge ourselves. Vengeance a thousand times worse than we could wish them already has them by the throat. I shall give you my sincere advice:

First to set fire to their synagogues or schools and to bury and cover with dirt whatever will not burn, so that no man will ever again see a stone or cinder of them. This is to be done in honor of our Lord and of Christendom, so that God might see that we are Christians, and do not condone or knowingly tolerate such public lying, cursing, and blaspheming of his Son and of his Christians. For whatever we tolerated in the past unknowingly and I myself was unaware of it will be pardoned by God. But if we, now that we are informed, were to protect and shield such a house for the Jews, existing right before our very nose, in which they lie about, blaspheme, curse, vilify, and defame Christ and us (as was heard above), it would be the same as if we were doing all this and even worse ourselves, as we very well know.

Second, I advise that their houses also be razed and destroyed. For they pursue in them the same aims as in their synagogues. Instead they might be lodged under a roof or in a barn, like the gypsies. This will bring home to them that they are not masters in our country, as they boast, but that they are living in exile and in captivity, as they incessantly wail and lament about us before God.

Third, I advise that all their prayer books and Talmudic writings, in which such idolatry, lies, cursing and blasphemy are taught, be taken from them. (remainder omitted)

Mohammad also tried to woe Jews to convert to Islam and when they held steadfast, the curses rained upon them and the attacks began.

It has been barely two hundred years since Jews were freed from the ghettos of Europe. Even this was not a move intended to give Jews greater freedom but a way to speed up assimilation. We all know the atrocious horror of the Shoah. The words of Martin Luther were echoed by Hitler and are now echoed by Iran's leader. Just replace the word Jew with Zionists or Israel, the message of hate is still the same.

Today, Jews are facing another wave of anti-Semitism. Even in the US, synagogues in large cities have to have heavy security. Noted scholars openly state that the Jewish lobby has undue influence on US foreign policy. These same scholars ignore the vast lobbies of others. Since the financial melt-down, there have been more and more claims that Jewish financiers are to blame.

Evangelicals proclaim their love of Israel and are, on the surface, staunch supporters of Israel. But what is their motivation? Is it love of HaShem's Creation? Or is it the believe that by having all Jews in Israel, their messiah will come again? And what happens if their messiah doesn't show up at the proscribed time? Will their thoughts turn, as been the case many, many times through history, to destroying Jews? I know Ann Coulter is the extreme but when spouted that Christians are "perfected Jews", it was largely held that this is standard believe. We see some Christian groups calling themselves Jews for Jesus and trying by deception to convert Jews to Christianity.

History does have a nasty way of repeating itself. Each time Jews or their cause is welcomed, they are later turned on. It took a couple of hundred years for Poland to reverse its welcome mat. It took around a decade for Luther to stop praising Jews and to start vilifying them. What will happen to Evangelical support for Israel in the future? We only have history to go by and I don't trust their motives.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Political Signs

Along the Mississippi Gulf Coast during the last presidential election, there were signs every where, mostly for Bush. This presidential election there are very few signs. And surprisingly, Obama signs are outnumbering McCain signs 6 to 1. Latest polls show McCain ahead by just 10%, +- 4.6%.

Based on my very unscientific sign ratio, the reverse is true. Given the polls have a 4.5% plus/minus error, maybe the race is actually closer in Mississippi for Obama than the polls would indicate. We'll know soon enough in a couple of weeks.

Happy Birthday Al!

Today is Weird Al's birthday! In honor of this most stupendous occasion, here is his video:

Dancing in the Streets

Okay, my congregation didn't dance in the streets during Simchat Torah. We did dance with joy and love holding our precious Torahs. Our voices rang out with songs of joy. Each adult was given a turn dancing, men and women. Each held the Torah close.

It was my turn! After a long day and trying to fight back a cold, I tenderly held the Torah and carried it as I would an infant. As soon as I held it, the tiredness lifted and a spring came to my step. The dancers circled around me and the other Torah holder. Hands were joined and the music of our voices echoed through the building. The children made a circle within the adults circle and we were all embraced by the comfort, joy, and love our Torah brings.

We skipped like rams. We danced like trees in the wind. Our voices sounded as joyfully as water burbling in a stream. Our voices sounded like the mighty sea. Our Torah: Our joy and our life.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008


some say that liberals have an unreal view of the world. Some like, Palin, even state they are not part of 'real' America. Some like, Bachmann, even suggest they are anti-American. Some have labeled Obama's progressive tax plan as 'socialist', while forgetting inconvenient facts like Alaska receives more federal tax money than even Mississippi.

There are some who have bought into a divisive America where there are 'real' Americans and then there are liberals:

"There are Americans, and there are liberals," proclaims a bumper sticker that adorns my office. "Liberals hate real Americans that work and accomplish and achieve and believe in God," proclaimed Rep. Robin Hayes (R., N.C.) on Saturday at a rally in North Carolina. Speaking of Mr. Obama on the day before that, Rep. Michelle Bachmann (R., Minn.) expressed deep concern on MSNBC "that he may have anti-American views." And on the day before that, GOP vice presidential nominee Sarah Palin saluted "these wonderful little pockets of what I call the real America, being here with all of you hard working, very patriotic, very pro-America areas of this great nation."

Foursquare fans of perceived reality must have rejoiced when they beheld, on the hard streets of suburban Toledo, Ohio, that most authentic of men, Joe the Plumber: "the average citizen" in the flesh, according to Mr. McCain; "a real person," according to Mrs. Palin, who deftly ruined Mr. Obama's "staged photo op there" -- a subject on which Mrs. Palin can surely count herself an authority.

Joe the Plumber -- along with his just-discovered supporter, Tito the Builder -- has brought to the GOP what Richard Wirthlin went looking for so long ago: blue-collar affirmation. But consider the degree of reality-blindness it takes to kick out the authenticity like Joe does. The rust-belt metro area in which he lives has been in decline for decades. In 2007, the Bureau of Labor Statistics ranked it 335 out of 369 small metropolitan areas for unemployment; for home foreclosures, according to a 2007 article in the Toledo Blade, it is the 30 worst of all cities in the nation. According to Census numbers, median household income in the Toledo area, measured in constant dollars, has actually decreased since the late 1970s.

Joe's town may be circling the drain, but Joe's real concern, as the world knows, is that he might have to pay more taxes when his ship finally comes in. For good measure, Joe also declares Social Security "a joke": "I've never believed in it," he told reporters last week. Maybe that's because this realest of men knows that Social Security is just a hippie dream, despite the Census's insistence that 28% of his city's households received income from that source in 2003. Maybe all those people would be better off if we had invested Social Security's trust fund in WaMu and Wachovia -- you know, the real deal.

I too believe in America and am fiercely proud of my country and yet I lean liberal in many areas. My great-grandfather and grandfather emigrated to our country in 1914 to escape the pogroms in Ukraine. My sister's side of the family has been here since before the American Revolution. And yet, because I lean liberal on many issues, there are some in this country who do not consider me to be a 'real' American. There is something terribly wrong with those labels 'real' Americans and anti-Americans. It is this unreal attitude that seeks to divide rather unite. This unreal rhetoric is spurred by the Ann Coulters, the Rush Limbaughs, the Sarah Palins, and others who see two Americas: Those that are liberal and those that are 'real'.

I see a free country in which people can air their views and have disagreements and all are real Americans. I see in Obama's tax plan a reduction for those in the middle class. It is a strong middle class which helps to maintain our economic engine. When you have a great disparity of those with great wealth and those with great poverty and a small middle class, the economy becomes stagnant. For years, there have been warnings about the shrinking middle class in America.

It is time for the middle class to have a real break. Many of the small businesses which the Joe the plumbers own do not come close to making over $250,000 a year in taxable income. It is the unreal believe that a tax plan which reduces the tax burden on Joe the plumber and places it on those who make over $250,000 is 'socialism' that will continue to keep our economy stagnant. It is the effort of Evangelicals to keep pushing the religious dogma of Intelligent Design as science in our schools that will continue to harm our education system. It is the believe that some how there is something wrong with having a college education that will keep our country stagnant.

We no longer live in a frontier country where rugged individualism was needed in order to survive. Most people now live in cities where community building is necessary. This more than anything is why we need Obama. His message is not one of 'real' Americans versus liberals but one of together we can work to improve the lives of all. And it starts by relieving the tax burden of the middle class.

For years, we've been hearing that the tax breaks on businesses will help create jobs and yet time after time, jobs go overseas. Small businesses have been the job creators in our country and most make under $250,000 a year. Isn't time they had a tax break?

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Nuclear Iran

Many in the Jewish community feel McCain would be the best choice in supporting Israel. I don't think either candidate will put the needs of Israel against those of the US. McCain has promised to move the US embassy in Israel to Jerusalem, just as President Bush did and others before him.

Bush refused to meet with Arafat and that made me respect him. We mustn't forget it was a Republican president, Reagan, who gave safe passage from Lebanon to Arafat and other members of the PLO. It was another Republican president, Eisenhower, who plied pressure on France and Israel to stop the attack on Egypt after Egypt seized the Suez Canal. It was a Republic president, Nixon, who didn't think Israel needed all those tanks and weapons during the Yom Kippur War.

It was a Democratic president, Truman, who not only instructed the US delegation to the UN to vote for the creation of the State of Israel but also was one of the first of the world leaders to recognize Israel. I cannot ignore the fact that the US also restricted the sales of arms to Israel before Israel declared statehood.

It was a Democratic president, Johnson, who sped up arms to Israel during the Six Day War.

It was a Democratic president, Carter, who brokered a peace deal between Israel and Egypt. Since then, Israel has not been invaded by the armies of Arab countries. I cannot ignore the vile hatred Carter has spewed against Israel these past decades. Nor can I ignore his slanderous words of calling Israel an apartheid state.

President Bush keeps asking Israel to make concession after concession as "confidence boosting measures" for Abbas. While all these measures are ongoing, the Israeli town of Sderot sees a daily bombardment from Qassams, an Israeli yeshiva saw the murders of students, and a new tactic of terrorism: The use of bulldozers and cars to run over Israeli citizens.

These are threats but none trumps what Iran plans. The world largely ignored Hitler's speeches against Jews. The world doesn't seem too concerned with Iran's threats to wipe Israel off. Iran's president is given carte blanche at the UN and is embraced by UN officials. At least the US delegation and a few other countries had the decency to walk out when the president of Iran was introduced.

It made for go show. The US is supposed to be an ally of Israel and yet its actions have been reminiscent of the Eisenhower presidency. You would think the US, especially led by the Republican president, would do more to help ease the threat of Iran to Israel. Yet, the US is seemingly hampering Israel's efforts to defend itself against Iran's nuclear threat.

As of late, the regime in Tehran has been praising and glorifying the barbaric sacrifice of children as human mine clearers. Apparently, there is a reason for this.

Iran’s advancement towards a nuclear bomb and the international community’s inaction in stopping it necessarily give rise to the option of Israel having no choice but to act on its own. However, our great ally, the United States, is making it difficult for us to build this option.

At first we had the leak to the New York Times regarding the long-range exercise carried out by the Air Force above the Mediterranean. This was followed by the statements of Admiral Mullen, the chairman of the joint chief of staff, in respect to the danger inherent in an operation against Iran. Later, according to media reports, the US rejected Israel’s request to purchase systems that would improve the Air Force’s ability to operate against long-range targets.

Yet then came the compensation; a compensation prize in the form of an advanced American early warning system to be deployed in the Negev. This radar, which is connected to a satellite system, will extend the warning of incoming ballistic missiles by precious minutes. The chance to intercept these missiles will also grow. The system to be deployed in the Negev will be manned by US troops or citizens.

This gift improves Israel’s self-defense capabilities, and we should be thankful for that. However, it limits our freedom to act both operationally and diplomatically. Our problem is not only how to protect ourselves. We need to be able to act against those who made the State of Israel’s elimination their top priority. This ability of ours has been undermined. The message inherent in the granting of the radar system is the same message of American refusal to our previous requests: Do nothing. There is no certainty that the words uttered by presidential candidates McCain and Obama against the Iranian nukes will be translated, in 2009, into a more forceful policy than that of the current US Administration.

Israel is being checkmated by US policy. McCain will more than likely continue this course. Iran, once it has the nuclear weapons will not be concerned that Palestinians will be slaughtered as well as Israelis. Iran will not be concerned about those in Lebanon or Jordan who will be affected by any nuclear strike against Israel. It will be concerned with only thing: The destruction of Israel.

It was past Democratic presidents who had the courage and the moral imperative to buck prior US policy. It is at best, a tenuous argument but Israel really cannot afford more of the same of what it is seeing from Republican policies.

Monday, October 20, 2008

Peyton Place

The new scare word for the desperate McCain campaign is socialism. They base it on Obama's "spreading the wealth" comment when he was explaining his tax plans to "Joe the Plumber". Palin reiterated that stance. In the linked article she states that 40% of Americans pay no income tax. What about the other 60% who do?

I watched Peyton Place yesterday. It was made in 1957 and is set during World War II. It focuses on the people of the small town of Peyton Place. There are the usual characters; gossip mongers, drunkards who abuse their families, the kindly doctor, those that fear change, and many others. In Dr. McSwain's speech at the trial of Selena, he makes a stirring speech on the qualities of helping at one another. He notes that there are people who live in tar shacks on the outskirts of town and that the community needs to help them. Each in the community needs to be more open to the needs of those who live there. He notes that spreading gossip and rumors are destructive. Far from being socialistic, Dr. McSwain's words are based on sound Jewish teaching. We are to take care of the poor among us. Gossip can ruin lives.

Obama's tax plan will help 60% of those that are struggling in these times. For someone making between $20,000 to $50,000 a year. getting an additional refund of around $500 a year will help a lot. Didn't President Bush just send $300 to $600 to most taxpayers in the US? I don't remember too many calling it socialism.

Those whose taxable income is over $250,000 a year will hardly see their finances devastated by a 3% increase.

Bush's tax cuts were supposed to create new jobs. Instead, we've seen more and more jobs going overseas.

Sukkot Edition

Haveil Havalim-187:Sukkot 5769 Edition is up.

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Little Pockets of Real America

A group of progressive thing men got together 232 years ago and decided to try something new. They worked together. They fought the British. In the end, they came up something pretty remarkable: The US Constitution and the Bill of Rights. It is a remarkable document. Just take a look at the First Amendment:

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.

Sometimes we forget how good we have it this country. The Chinese government continually blocks its peoples access to the Internet. In some countries such as Saudi Arabia, the government controls the press. Even in Europe, people do not have the right for hate speech. The US still holds that hateful, ignorant, and hateful groups like the KKK, the Aryan Nation, and Hebrew Israelites can speak their vile hatred.

One of the most precious items in the First Amendment is the freedom of press. Without a free press, we will cease to be a free country. there has been much complaint from some quarters that the press is biased. This is true to some extent. No one is free from bias. It is part of who we are. Some say that the press isn't digging up dirt on Barack Obama and his relationship with Bill Ayers. Some have said the news media focuses too much on Sarah Palin. Some even suggest that the press needs "behavior modification":

UPDATE: Related thoughts from Jennifer Rubin:"If MSM wants to be treated as impartial arbiter, a 'watchdog' and not a lapdog of one candidate, its members should consider some behavior modification."

Behavior modification, hmm. Her post doesn't indicate what kind of behavior modification would be appropriate. It has the connotation that journalists need to go to a re-education camp. Perhaps people like Ms. Rubin can glean some ideas from the Soviets. They were masters at "behavior modification" for journalists and others who didn't toe the line to the governments rule. To me, to even suggest behavior modification for journalists is not very pro American.

Perhaps Ms. Rubin is upset that the news media dared to report on a speech Sarah Palin gave in Greensboro, NC:

"We believe that the best of America is not all in Washington, D.C. We believe" -- here the audience interrupted Palin with applause and cheers -- "We believe that the best of America is in these small towns that we get to visit, and in these wonderful little pockets of what I call the real America, being here with all of you hard working very patriotic, um, very, um, pro-America areas of this great nation."

She tried to clarify her comment about "the real America" and that all she was suggesting was that the best of America was not necessarily centered on Washington DC. She didn't address what she meant by pro-America areas of the country. Do pro-Americans only exist in those areas she visits? Does she consider areas where there have been major protests against the Iraqi war to be anti-American and unpatriotic? Since she hasn't visited vast areas of the United States, does she mean those areas are anti-American and unpatriotic?

I would have given her the benefit of the doubt that she just misspoke and that she didn't mean to say that those Americans who live in big cities are anti-American and unpatriotic. However, it seems McCain campaign advisors consider certain areas of the country to be fake, specifically, North Virginia. Ben Smith has the video.

But it is not just the McCain campaign that keeps harping on the theme of being anti-American. Representative Michelle Bachmann of Minnosota, a Republican, keeps linking the words liberal, Leftist, and anti-American:

She stops short of calling most of the members of Congress anti-American and suggests the news media should look into it. The video has been heavily edited but a Youtube search turns up some other interesting ones.

Leftists, liberals and anti-American, perhaps Bachmann would be happy to be the next Joseph McCarthy

A lot of divisive discourse has been coming from McCain, Palin, and many Republicans. Words like"little pockets of real America", fake Virginia, or calling liberals and Leftists anti-American do not seek to unite. Blaming the problems of Palin and McCain on the press seems a very desperate measure. It is all these factors which has lead me to research on my own who Barack Obama is and what he hopes to accomplish. He doesn't speak of "little pockets of real America", fake parts of Virginia, nor does he equate those with differing views of being anti-American.

From his convention speech:
But what I will not do is suggest that the Senator takes his positions for political purposes. Because one of the things that we have to change in our politics is the idea that people cannot disagree without challenging each other's character and patriotism.

The times are too serious, the stakes are too high for this same partisan playbook. So let us agree that patriotism has no party. I love this country, and so do you, and so does John McCain. The men and women who serve in our battlefields may be Democrats and Republicans and Independents, but they have fought together and bled together and some died together under the same proud flag. They have not served a Red America or a Blue America - they have served the United States of America.

So I've got news for you, John McCain. We all put our country first.

America, our work will not be easy. The challenges we face require tough choices, and Democrats as well as Republicans will need to cast off the worn-out ideas and politics of the past. For part of what has been lost these past eight years can't just be measured by lost wages or bigger trade deficits. What has also been lost is our sense of common purpose - our sense of higher purpose. And that's what we have to restore.

We may not agree on abortion, but surely we can agree on reducing the number of unwanted pregnancies in this country. The reality of gun ownership may be different for hunters in rural Ohio than for those plagued by gang-violence in Cleveland, but don't tell me we can't uphold the Second Amendment while keeping AK-47s out of the hands of criminals. I know there are differences on same-sex marriage, but surely we can agree that our gay and lesbian brothers and sisters deserve to visit the person they love in the hospital and to live lives free of discrimination. Passions fly on immigration, but I don't know anyone who benefits when a mother is separated from her infant child or an employer undercuts American wages by hiring illegal workers. This too is part of America's promise - the promise of a democracy where we can find the strength and grace to bridge divides and unite in common effort.

I know there are those who dismiss such beliefs as happy talk. They claim that our insistence on something larger, something firmer and more honest in our public life is just a Trojan Horse for higher taxes and the abandonment of traditional values. And that's to be expected. Because if you don't have any fresh ideas, then you use stale tactics to scare the voters. If you don't have a record to run on, then you paint your opponent as someone people should run from.

I would have been happy to support McCain. He is a decent person and has served our country well. The divisive rhetoric he and Palin have been spewing lately have made me fearful of the direction McCain and Palin and their supporters want to take our country. I think the audacity to hope is the way to go. I am a "little pocket of 'real' America" and so are the other 300 million of my countrymen.

Friday, October 17, 2008

Shabbat Shalom!

Prayer for our country

Our G-d and G-d of our ancestors, we invoke Your blessing upon our country, on the government and leaders of our nation, and on all who exercise rightful authority in our community. Instruct them out of Your law, that they may administer all affairs of state in justice and equity. May peace and security, happiness and prosperity, right and freedom forever abide among us.

Unite the inhabitants of our country, of all backgrounds and creeds, into a bond of true kinship, to banish hatred and bigotry, and to safeguard our ideals and institutions of freedom.

May this land under Your Providence be an influence for good throughout the world, uniting all people in peace and freedom, and helping to fulfill the vision of Your prophets:

“Nation shall not lift up sword against nation,
Neither shall they learn war any more.”

“For all people, both great and small,
Shall know the Lord.”

Spreading the Wealth

By now, most Americans have seen the Joe the plumber's encounter with Obama. You see him ask the question about taxes on those businesses who make over $250,000 and then Obama's answer of spreading the wealth. McCain has even made an effective TV ad about it. What you don't see in the majority of news sound bites nor in McCain's ad is the intervening 6 minutes between Joe's question and Obama's answer.

Not exactly Marxism or socialism, is it?

I wrote in a post last evening I was going to take some time out but this morning I read The New York Times article on the presidential nominees views on science and technology. I found the following very interesting:

Mr. Obama embraces the theory of evolution and argues that the teaching of intelligent design and other creationist ideas “cloud” a student’s understanding of science. While Mr. McCain says he personally believes in evolution, he has also said children should be taught “all points of view.”

While not stating it, Senator McCain's statement seems to suggest Intelligent Design(Creationism) is a valid subject to be taught in schools. Intelligent Design can be described best as a pseudo-science and a little disguised effort to bring religious teaching into schools. It would be like teaching the beliefs New Agers have on pyramids and crystals.

Intelligent Design has no place in our schools. It is a matter of personal religious beliefs. I believe G-d created the world and science gives us a glimpse into the order in which He did so. My religious views or any other's have no place in science education. Philosophy, yes, science, no.

The US struggles behind other countries in science and math. Intelligent Design(a oxymoron) will not improve matters. I go with Obama's views.(Science Debate 2008) I also agree with many of Obama's ideas for propelling the US back into the forefront of scientific and technological discovery and development. Many will gasp at the price tag of his ideas. According the article, Obama's plan would cost around $85 billion and McCain's, around $78 billion, excluding McCain's proposed tax cuts.

This election is making me do more research than in others past. The economical future for our country is unknown. At first glance, the answer would seem to be to cut unnecessary spending. Our country is facing debt it hasn't seen since the aftermath of World War II. And yet, when the Russians were pulling ahead of us in space technology, President Eisenhower created and heavily funded NASA. his vision propelled and kept the US as a leader in space technology, telecommunications, and other technological advances. We stopped being leaders in most of those fields when Nixon cut funding to those programs. Why spend more money on space programs when we've already been to the moon?

Nixon's and subsequent presidents lack of vision has led directly to the decline in our technological leadership. It has led to a decrease in the number of American students who go on to fields of study in science, math, and engineering. One of the bills McCain proposed and was able to pass, led to a further decrease in US exports of technology. It was based on security concerns but many feel those concerns were unjustified.

There's a saying that it is better to teach someone how to fish than to give a fish. Obama's plans would teach a larger number of people how to fish than McCain's would. It will help spread the wealth by education and by expanding the US's economy.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Time Out

I'm going to quit thinking about the upcoming presidential race. I keep fluctuating between Obama and McCain. I had an interesting discussion with some friends today. My problems with McCain was picking Sarah Palin for vice-president and reservations about his health care plan.

I've been thinking about Obama's "share the wealth". And it struck a cord with me. In an ideal world, this would be fine. But it would put a damper on those who have the ability to create jobs. Creating jobs is the most effective way of "sharing the wealth" and businesses cannot be overtaxed to the point where jobs cannot be created. Over taxation will also lead to loss of jobs in these uneasy financial times.

In the debate about a week ago, McCain spoke of his plan for building more nuclear power plants. His plan would create jobs.

In short, the government needs to do like I and many Americans are doing now; cutting expenses, trying to save, paying down debt owed, and not buying anything on credit.

As the price continues to drop, it will help to lower the price of food and material goods. Still, caution with finances is the key until the financial markets settle down.

I'm also still concerned about Obama's foreign policy, especially in regards to Israel. It is telling that he says he is willing to meet with Iran's leaders but is canceling scheduled Jewish debates that include the Republican Jewish Coalition.


Conservatives keep saying that deregulation is good for business. They did unsuccessfully try to enact legislation to regulate Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac but were unsuccessful and now we have the sub-prime mess. Other businesses have been deregulated from telecommunications to airlines.

Deregulation seems like a good idea and one that would unfetter businesses to become more competitive. However, some of the regulations seek to protect consumers. The legislation enacted by President Carter to deregulate airlines proved a disaster.

Watching last nights debate, to me, Senator McCain's health care proposal looks almost to be a call for deregulation. As Senator Obama pointed out, employers would have the ability to go with insurance companies located in other states where those companies offer fewer benefits. Also, McCain's proposed $5,000 credit for individuals to buy their own insurance is great as long as you don't want coverage for your family. Sure, an individual's insurance premium will be under $5,000. But if you want to cover your spouse and/or children, the credit falls $3,000 to $7,000 short.

We've seen how great deregulation has worked the airline industry and for Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. Since, the telecommunications industry was deregulated, phone bills, cable, etc has gone up. In short, deregulation in the telecommunications industry hasn't really spurred all that much competitiveness.

The deregulation of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac looks to be leading this country into a deep recession. And that deregulation really didn't help the people intended. House prices were unrealistically inflated. Also, the sub-prime mess allowed middle income people to speculate in the housing market and buy property with interest only loans. The majority of those with interest only loans sought to sell the property purchased at a higher price. This too, over-inflated housing costs.

McCain's plan sounds very good for the employer but doesn't do very much for average Joes who can barely afford health insurance premiums now. And it isn't going to result in more people being to afford health insurance.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008


There are a lot of McCain supporters who are very pleased with his choice of Sarah Palin as his choice for running mate. I'm not one of them. There's no doubt her and her family are very attractive and appeal to the sentimentality of a Norman Rockwell portrait. In her speech at the Republican convention, she gave the following quote:

"We grow good people in our small towns, with honesty and sincerity and dignity," the vice-presidential candidate said, quoting an anonymous "writer

It seems innocuous enough. It praises those hard-working individuals who come from small towns across America. And yet there is a very big problem with it. The writer is hardly anonymous. The quote was penned by Westbrook Pegler. Pegler supported Joseph McCarthy. He also stated that during an assassination attempt on President Franklin Roosevelt, the wrong man was killed. Some of his words were very anti-Semitic and included such gems as Jews are "goose steppers".

In one of his columns, he was okay with the idea of lynch mobs taking the law into their own hands. Some of his attacks on liberalism read like a text book for those who rant about liberalism today. He also saw Communists behind every tree and I suppose that is one reason he could support McCarthy.

It's more than likely Palin didn't write the speech she gave at the Republican convention. It does, however, speak volumes about those McCain surrounds himself with. And it speaks volumes for those who attempt to label Obama as a Socialist. If Obama is a Socialist, than so is McCain.

I've wondered in the past why so many Mid West states such as Iowa have increasingly voted Democrat. After all, with all the praise Republicans give to small town America, it would seem that those in the small towns in Iowa, Kansas, and other farming states would flock to the party who says they have the best interests at heart. I must admit, I've been too lazy until this election to even pursue the issue.

Why are so many small towns across the US almost ghost towns? Why are so many farmers forced to sell-out to big conglomerates? Was it caused by those so-called social elites from the Democratic party? No, it resulted from the policies of the Republicans.

No. For decades now we have been electing people like Sarah Palin who claimed to love and respect the folksy conservatism of small towns, and yet who have unfailingly enacted laws to aid the small town's mortal enemies.

Without raising an antitrust finger they have permitted fantastic concentration in the various industries that buy the farmer's crops. They have undone the New Deal system of agricultural price supports in favor of schemes called "Freedom to Farm" and loan deficiency payments -- each reform apparently designed to secure just one thing out of small town America: cheap commodities for the big food processors. Richard Nixon's Agriculture Secretary Earl Butz put the conservative attitude toward small farmers most bluntly back in the 1970s when he warned, "Get big or get out."

Republicans have been using the politics of fear for many years. There has been the fear of Communists, the fear of drugs, and now, the fear of Socialism. The Republicans bemoan so-called East and West Coast elites. In years past, it used to be a badge of honor for someone from a small town to make it to colleges such as Harvard and succeed. Now those graduates are labeled as elites. It's almost like having an education is as bad as being a drug pusher.

The specifics have changed in our new century, but the vitriolic animus of right-wing populism preached by Pegler and McCarthy and revived by the 1990s culture wars remains the same. The game is always to pit the good, patriotic real Americans against those subversive, probably gay “cosmopolitan” urbanites (as the sometime cross-dresser Rudy Giuliani has it) who threaten to take away everything that small-town folk hold dear.

Th rhetoric coming from Palin and others like her is divisive and plays into the fears of many. It demonizes those Americans who live in New York, Chicago, Los Angelos and other urban areas. New York is our largest city and it suffered one of the must brutal terrorist attack on 9-11. After 9-11, our country was united all too briefly. Were those who were murdered that horrible day elitists? Labels were put aside as those from small towns and large cities joined in grieving the loss of so many precious lives.

The people in New York work as hard as those in Des Moines. The stock market trader's job is as vital to this country as the farmer's.

Instead of uniting people and seeing across the differences, Palin and others like her divide our country. Those who support abortion, gay marriages, and are against the death penalty are not seeking to destroy the fabric of American society. They seek to live up to the values inherent in the US Constitution. All men are created equal.

Monday, October 13, 2008


I was looking for a video to post for Sukkot. I found the one below. They were going to King David's Tomb last Sukkot.

It reminded me of this:

And David again gathered together all the chosen men of Israel, thirty thousand. 2 And David arose, and went with all the people that were with him, from Baale-judah, to bring up from thence the ark of G-d, whereupon is called the Name, even the name of the LORD of hosts that sitteth upon the cherubim. 3 And they set the ark of G-d upon a new cart, and brought it out of the house of Abinadab that was in the hill; and Uzzah and Ahio, the sons of Abinadab, drove the new cart. 4 And they brought it out of the house of Abinadab, which was in the hill, with the ark of G-d, and Ahio went before the ark. 5 And David and all the house of Israel played before the LORD with all manner of instruments made of cypress-wood, and with harps, and with psalteries, and with timbrels, and with sistra, and with cymbals.

Civil Discourse

The presidential election this year seems to bring out a high level of feeling among voters. There is the whispered fear that if Obama loses, there will be riots. My whispered fear is if McCain loses, there will be riots.

The polarization is not just in the presidential race. The Mississippi special Senate race between Wicker and Musgrove has degenerated into a well of sewage from both candidates.

Republicans are mad because they feel Sarah Palin is unfairly attacked. Democrats, for years, have compared Bush to Hitler.

The scrutiny of Sarah Palin is called for. Let's face it, from the debate last week, McCain is a very old man. Time after time, we've seen how the presidential office wears people down. McCain's health is not very good. Palin must face scrutiny.

Instead of focusing on the boos Palin faced by a Philadelphia crowd and other non-issues, more focus needs to be made on not just Palin's political views. Just as more focus needs to be made on McCain's and Obama's platforms.

I've been rereading Leon Uris's A God in Ruins. It was written in 1999 and is about the 2008 presidential election. It is scary how much it parallels what is going on today. The very popular Democrat nominee has a huge lead against the incumbent Republican nominee. Both candidates are white but the Democratic nominee receives a life-changing revelation two weeks before the election. He was adopted and his half-brother finds him. He discovers he is Jewish. He shares his discovery.

Led by the Republican nominee, derogatory comments are made and the fires of hate are stoked. People begin rioting. Jewish homes and synagogues are attacked. The President does nothing. It takes ordinary citizens to stop the chaos and riots. They put their bodies in front of the rioters to protect their Jewish neighbors. The book speaks of the basic decency of ordinary American citizens.

There are a lot of angry, bigoted, and scared people in America today. The fear is running rampant. McCain has faced being booed by his supposed supporters because he states emphatically Obama is a decent family man. Not since John F. Kennedy's run for president has this much hysteria among voters been seen.

Whoever wins the presidential election, will the basic decency of Americans come through or will fear win out?

In the words of Franklin D. Roosevelt:

So, first of all, let me assert my firm belief that the only thing we have to fear is fear itself—nameless, unreasoning, unjustified terror which paralyzes needed efforts to convert retreat into advance. In every dark hour of our national life a leadership of frankness and vigor has met with that understanding and support of the people themselves which is essential to victory. I am convinced that you will again give that support to leadership in these critical days.

A Matter of Luck?

I watched National Geographic's Earth: The Biography Sunday evening. The narrator kept saying over and over the Earth may be the only planet in the universe to hold complex life. Several reasons were given and for each one he stated it was a matter of luck. According to the show, it was a matter of luck that when the Earth formed it was much smaller and it had a twin. The two collided and the Earth gained more mass and the moon was formed from the debris.

Also, at that time, the Earth began to revolve and the Earth's iron core was formed. Both things were necessary for life to begin. The Earth's rotation keeps it from experiencing extreme temperature ranges. The core's massive gravitational pull keeps the atmosphere from leaking out into space. According to the narrator, it was a matter of luck.

Also, it was a matter of luck, according to the narrator, that the Earth is placed just right. It's not too far away from the Sun that water will freeze over like Mars. It's not too close so that water will boil off into space like with Venus. Water is the key ingredient for life to exist.

According to the narrator, Jupiter's massive size and location was lucky for Earth as well. Jupiter's size and relative proximity to Earth draws most of the large comets and meteorites to Jupiter and therefore Earth has been spared many bombardments which would have devastated Earth. A couple did get through. Sixty-five million years ago, dinosaurs ruled the Earth. Mammals were few in number and usually lived underground. The dinosaurs were wiped out and it gave mammals the chance to evolve and for humans to come into being. The narrator also states this was just a matter of luck.

To me, it seems it was much more than luck.

Sunday, October 12, 2008

I Like the Title

Haveil Havalim-186: First Sin of the Year is up!

Palling With Terrorists

Sarah Palin has made that statement in regards to Barack Hussein Obama. It throws light on his association with Bill Ayers, the infamous domestic terrorist. She states this while blithely ignoring her husband's membership in the Alaska Independence Party for 7 years.

Can you guess who made this statement "My government is my worst enemy. I’m going to fight them with any means at hand.”? Was it Bill Ayers?

It was made by Joe Vogler, who founded the AIP. Volger also had plans to address the UN in 1993. Sponsorship was to be provided by Iran, that bastion of freedom. Volger was murdered by another member of the AIP before he could make his speech. I wonder if it would have been along these lines:

Before his strange murder in 1993, party founder Vogler preached armed insurrection against the United States of America. Vogler, who always carried a Magnum with him, was fond of saying, “When the [federal] bureaucrats come after me, I suggest they wear red coats. They make better targets. In the federal government are the biggest liars in the United States, and I hate them with a passion. They think they own [Alaska]. There comes a time when people will choose to die with honor rather than live with dishonor. That time may be coming here. Our goal is ultimate independence by peaceful means under a minimal government fully responsive to the people. I hope we don’t have to take human life, but if they go on tramping on our property rights, look out, we’re ready to die.”

Todd Palin joined the AIP soon after Volger's death.

The AIP was instrumental in the rise of Sarah Palin's political career:

So long as Alaska remained under the boot of the federal government, said Chryson, the AIP had to stand on guard to stymie a New World Order. He invited a Salon reporter to see a few items inside his pickup truck that were intended for his personal protection. “This here is my attack dog,” he said with a chuckle, handing the reporter an exuberant 8-pound papillon from his passenger seat. “Her name is Suzy.” Then he pulled a 9-millimeter Makarov PM pistol — once the standard-issue sidearm for Soviet cops — out of his glove compartment. “I’ve got enough weaponry to raise a small army in my basement,” he said, clutching the gun in his palm. “Then again, so do most Alaskans.” But Chryson added a message of reassurance to residents of that faraway place some Alaskans call “the 48.” “We want to go our separate ways,” he said, “but we are not going to kill you.”

Though Chryson belongs to a fringe political party, one that advocates the secession of Alaska from the Union, and that organizes with other like-minded secessionist movements from Canada to the Deep South, he is not without peculiar influence in state politics, especially the rise of Sarah Palin. An obscure figure outside of Alaska, Chryson has been a political fixture in the hometown of the Republican vice-presidential nominee for over a decade. During the 1990s, when Chryson directed the AIP, he and another radical right-winger, Steve Stoll, played a quiet but pivotal role in electing Palin as mayor of Wasilla and shaping her political agenda afterward. Both Stoll and Chryson not only contributed to Palin’s campaign financially, they played major behind-the-scenes roles in the Palin camp before, during and after her victory.

Ayers remains unrepentant for his role in the murders of fellow Americans and the terror caused to many more. Chryson half-jokingly states the AIP isn't going to murder US citizens. If people are so concerned about the influence Ayers might have on Obama, how much more so would Todd Palin's membership in a decidedly strange political party be on his wife? The founder of AIP openly advocated shooting federal agents. Reminds of moonshiners who used to say they would shoot any of those revenuers from the government.

While Sarah Palin was never a member of the AIP, her husband's political views would affect her more than Bill Ayers could ever hope to influence Obama. The AIP has not been involved in any domestic terrorism. The same cannot be said for Bill Ayers and the Weather Underground. It's useless to speculate but I wonder what would have happened if Volger hadn't been murdered. Would we have seen more Oklahoma City bombings?

I have a big problem with Sarah Palin apart from her husband's membership in a very fringe party. For decades now, Christian groups have been trying to get prayer in schools. While this may seem like a good idea, it defeats the very purpose of our Constitution. The Constitution is designed to keep mob rule from infringing on the rights of minorities. While the majority of US citizens are Christian, there are millions of US citizens who are not. The Constitution protects the rights of Jews, Muslims, Buddhists, pagans, atheists, and others to live their lives as they see fit. Religion should not be a matter for public schools. It is a private issue and while some do not see the harm of allowing prayer in schools, it harms those whose beliefs are different from Christians.

Since the steam-roll of the cry for public prayer has largely failed, Christian groups are now focused on another tactic and it is one that Sarah Palin instituted while mayor of Wasilla. One of her first acts as mayor was to declare Wasilla a City of Character. Sounds like a good idea but what does it mean to be a "City of Character" and who or what is behind the idea?

Thanks to Palin’s efforts, Wasilla is now among roughly 200 cities nationwide (and others in 27 countries around the world) that have committed themselves — in name, at least — to following the teachings of the International Association of Character Cities (IACC), an organization that purports to be secular but is modeled on the evangelical teachings of the Institute in Basic Life Principles (IBLP).

Palin’s personal connection to IACC, and her efforts to bring its agenda to Wasilla as mayor, sheds new light on her connections to the Christian far right, as well as her willingness to infuse government with its ideals rooted in religion. Her championing of IACC principles raises further questions about Palin’s views on running government, including the hiring and firing of government employees, an area in which she has come under intense scrutiny in part due to her involvement in “trooper gate.”

By becoming a City of Character, Wasilla under Palin committed to adhering to 49 “character qualities” as outlined by the IACC, which are secularized versions of IBLP’s 49 “character qualities” derived from the Bible. Critics have charged that the organization and its affiliated Character Training Institute are for all intents and purposes a front group for the evangelical IBLP.

IBLP was founded in 1974 by evangelist Bill Gothard “for the purpose of introducing people to the Lord Jesus Christ,” and is “dedicated to giving individuals, families, churches, schools, communities, governments, and businesses clear instruction and training on how to find success by following God’s principles found in Scripture.” IBLP claims to have taught over 2.5 million people its Basic Life Principles seminar, and boasts assets exceeding $100 million, an affiliated correspondence college course program and an unaccredited law school.

I wonder if one of those 49 "character traits" covers deceitfulness? It would seem that lying would be a serious character defect and yet the very group who promotes the "City of Character" program lies about it. Some cities have found some of the programming to be alarming:

The IACC feeds into the Christian Reconstructionist nostalgic notion that if America could rebuild as a Christian nation on biblical principles, then social ills could be cured. Although the IACC strategically dodges the separation of church and state issue by eliminating explicit references to Christianity or religion, the character traits, while on their face innocuous guides to good behavior, have fundamentalist overtones.

“These are biblical principles,” acknowledges Steven Menzel, director of the IACC. “Character qualities set standards of morality and ethics, which has been hands-off for many years. Communities are finding out that being hands-off isn’t going that well.”

Former Mayor Byron Black is among those who signed the 1999 resolution. An ardent supporter of the program, Black acknowledges that its character traits are “Bible-based,” but says they can apply to Christians and non-Christians. At a recent meeting of the Character Council, Burleson’s moral rudder that meets monthly at City Hall, Black said, “If there are religious aspects, that’s OK. Governor Bush stressed character in the schools, and he can’t be wrong.”

Some of the character traits stressed by the "City of Character" program include:

Obedience figures largely in the Character materials. In the book, How to Build Character as a Family, obedience is mentioned no less than 10 times in a 68-page discussion of character traits, and is described as a protective force. Security: “I will look to my authorities for protection.” Flexibility: “I will respect the decisions of my authorities.” Honor: “I will obey cheerfully.” Justice: “I will respect the authority of the law.” Loyalty: “I will not mock authorities.” Obedience: “I will obey my authorities immediately.” Enthusiasm: “Not only does enthusiasm brighten the face and give light to the eyes, but it also acts as a natural medicine that builds strong and thick bones.”

Each character trait also has an opposite. The opposite of obedience is willfulness, which Shetter says might be desirable for some employees. “I don’t want a city manager who will do whatever City Council says,” he says. “And if I hire a finance director in charge of auditing, I want someone with a degree of willfulness.”


The emphasis on obedience echoes that of the institute, which demands that wives be submissive to their husbands, and women, in general, assume passive roles. Institute materials used in New Mexico’s women’s prisons prompted the Freedom From Religion Foundation, a Madison, Wisconsin-based nonprofit, to sue the state and Corrections Corp. of America. In institute workbooks, says foundation co-president Annie Laurie Gaylor, “even if authority is wrong or corrupt, it says you must obey it and let God deal with the authority.”

The "City of Character" program is being promoted as something that is very American. But it isn't really. Thomas Jefferson, George Washington, Thomas Paine, and so many others did not obey the authority of King George III. They protested the taxation without representation and other issues. They drafted and enacted a Bill of Rights that has a built-in right that if "the government of the people by the people" ever fails to be that, US citizens can change it. It gives us the freedom of speech to mock our leaders and authorities. It gives us the right to question authority. Far from the "City of Character" program being a model of US citizenship, it seems to promote the suppression of our given rights, those rights that so many have died for from the American Revolution to Iraqi war.

The McCain-Palin slogan for the presidential run is "Country First". I am reasonable certain that McCain's vision of our country is to promote the rights of all US citizens. I'm not so sure about Palin's based on some of the things I've found out today. Her views are a concern given how old McCain is. We are not a Christian nation. Nor an Islamic, Jewish, or Hindu nation. We are nation of Christians, Jews, Muslims, Buddhists, Wiccans, atheists, and others. Evangelicals are seeking to destroy the very fabric of what makes our nation so great. So many still come to our great land seeking those freedoms. It is alarming that the US military is embracing this program.

Friday, October 10, 2008

Shabbat Shalom!


The 25 hour done for Yom Kippur is to be an affliction. It is supposed to cause us discomfort. It is not only about not eating or drinking. We are note supposed to wear leather, perfume, etc. We cannot use any of the creature comforts we are used to. Toward the end of the Musaf Service, my stomach began to growl and my lips and mouth were dry. This discomfort led me to think about others. How are the cantor and rabbi continue to be able to chant, to lead, while their mouths are parched? How does the shofar blower manage to that last, long blast that ends the Yom Kippur evening service?

As my stomach growled, images of those starving in Sudan came to mind. It makes me want to do more to feed the hungry. As my mouth grew dryer, it made me think about all those millions who don't have access to clean water. As the day wore on it made me think of how I can better help those in my community who are worn down.

It made me think of how I can do better to increase shalom among my family, congregation, and neighborhood.

For some reason, as those thoughts were going through my mind, the hunger and the thirst were pushed into the background and during the Nei'lah and Yom Kippur services there was only joy at the mercy HaShem shows for His people and that we need to do the same with others.

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Your Vote Counts!

You can help your favorite animal shelter win $10,000. You just need to vote. I chose the Waveland Animal Shelter.

You can select and vote for the Waveland Shelter by clicking here. They really need your help. Please vote! Thanks!

The Day

Beginning at sundown today, we Jews will begin a 25 hour fast. It will not end until the triumphant blast of the shofar is sounded tomorrow evening. There are many beautiful prayers. Below is part of one:

It is true that You are their Creator and You know their inclination, for they are flesh and blood. A man's origin is from dust and his destiny is back to dust, at risk of his life he earns his bread; he is likened to a broken shard, withering grass, a fading flower, a passing shade, a dissipating cloud, a blowing wind, flying dust, and a fleeting dream.

G'mar Chatima Tova. May you have an easy fast. May you be inscribed and sealed in the Book of Life.

Tuesday, October 7, 2008


I've done my civic duty and finally watched a debate. It's pretty obvious that no matter who is elected, much money will be thrown around. The thing to decide is whose proposals will be best for the US. I know who I favor on foreign policy: McCain.

On domestic policy, I believe McCain's proposals on health care and energy are more fiscally sound than Obama's. McCain expounded on his energy goals. What he said about France, Japan, and other countries reusing spent fuel from nuclear reactors is very correct. Nuclear power is the ultimate clean energy. And if more and more cars are going to be hybrids and/or electric, nuclear is the way to go. McCain is also correct that we need to drill more along our coastlines. As an interim measure until those nuclear plants, wind farms, solar, etc, drilling for the available fossil fuels in our country is a sound move.

Obama's tax proposals are not very sound at this stage in the economy. Placing higher taxes on those who have the capital to invest in new endeavors and create jobs is not the way the go. The reason the middle class is feeling such a pinch in pocket books is not because of high federal taxes. It is because of the higher costs of everything due to raise in fuel costs. Food prices will probably continue to raise because of the floods in the mid-west and because of the disaster of the legislation that was passed by Congress and proposed by President Bush to promote ethanol. While corn is renewable, it is a food item, not only for people but for dairy and beef livestock.

McCain's proposal to buy those sub-prime mortgages and then renegotiate them at a lower value in order for people to keep their homes is scary. How much is that going to cost??? ( Update: Powerline has the details of the plan. It looks like the funds to be used for this would come from the recent bailout plan. Also, only those homeowners who have good credit and have paperwork that didn't falsify earnings will be eligible. )

One thing about Obama, I see why so many people are drawn to him. I like him a lot better than McCain. If the economy wasn't so volatile right now, I would be voting for Obama. One thing McCain did score points on as far as I'm concerned, Obama's proposals for the economy would have the same effect Hoover's did and that led to the Great Depression. It was pleasing to see both McCain and Obama express the love they have for the United States.

Obama is an unknown and his association with violent radicals like Ayers is cause for concern. Also, McCain was much more assertive on the threat Iran is to not only Israel but to the mid-east.

The world-wide economy is a big factor for me now. The turmoil we are seeing in the American stock markets is a calm sea compared to what is going on in the Russian and European markets. One part of me tells me that Obama, like FDR, would have the words necessary to inspire and comfort during these times. The other tells me that McCain's proposals would be the best to guide us through the morass we are facing.

I like Obama better than McCain. But rhetoric alone is not going to be able to steer us through. I'll have to go with McCain.

Solution for the Sub-Prime Mess

It's a good one! See if you don't agree.

Check out some of the other entries at that site. Best remedy ever for banks collapsing in Europe and for when stock markets plunge.

Monday, October 6, 2008


We are supposed to have deep kavvanah while praying and for different mitzvot. The haftarah read on the first day of Rosh haShanah has in it Hannah's Prayer. enters the sanctuary at Shiloh and prays earnestly and is accused by the High Priest of being drunk. She responds that she isn't drunk but has poured out her soul to HaShem. The High Priest tells her to go in peace.

This is how we are supposed to pray. The reading teaches it very well. The reading teaches us other things as well. In Modern Orthodox and ultra-Orthodox shuls, women are separated from the men and their voices are not supposed to be heard. But from Hannah's prayer and they way the High Priest acted toward her, it seems that women were not only supposed to be in the sanctuary but their voices were to be heard in prayer. Why else would he consider her to be drunk? She wasn't acting in the proscribed manner and gained the High Priest's attention. Not only did the High Priest question her directly, he also learned a valuable lesson in kavvanah.

It also teaches that women were expected to be heard during prayers. During the long and tragic Diaspora, Jews adopted many customs from the countries they found themselves in. From what I've read, the custom of separating men and women during prayer services started some time in the 1100s. To me, it is a harmful custom and teaches that the efforts of women to approach HaShem are some how less than a man's. The Torah teaches us different. Time and again, it has been the actions of a woman that teaches us much. We have the examples of Sarah, Rachel, Leah, Rebecca, Miriam, Ruth, Deborah, and Hannah to show us. Sarah laughed. Miriam sang and danced. Deborah judged. Ruth words are some the most stirring words on the faith of the Jewish people: for whither thou goest, I will go; and where thou lodgest, I will lodge; thy people shall be my people, and thy God my God; 17 where thou diest, will I die, and there will I be buried; the LORD do so to me, and more also,

The megillah of ruth is read on Shavuot. It is fitting that it is so. When Moses led Israel to Mount Horeb, the voices of men and women proclaimed together that they accept and will do the mitzvot.

Because of the kavvanah of Hannah, the prophet Samuel was born. Because of the love of Ruth, King David was born. If the voices of these women had been silenced, what would have been the outcome?