Randy's Corner Deli Library

30 March 2008

FW: The World Evangelical Alliance Statement 3/28 NYT


A response to the World Evangelical Alliance (WEA) statement that appeared
as a full page advertisement in the NY Times on 3/28/08 and posted on eejh
and H-Antisemitism by Dan Leeson on 3/29. This posting is the joint effort
of Dan Leeson and Randy Shiner

To the World Evangelical Alliance:

We forgive you for your ignorance and insensitivity. You do not have the
ability to understand the mindset of your Jewish brethren even after a
couple of thousand years of chasing us around with promises of salvation,
threats, and acts of punishment if we continue to reject Jesus as our Lord
and Savior.

Now, having offered you forgiveness, it is our duty as Jews to remind you
that such evangelical intent has as its sole and central purpose, the
elimination of Judaism and Jews. In the parlance of antisemitism this is
referred to as supercessionism; that is, somehow Jews and Judaism are
obsolete remnants of a time long past. It is the same kind of smiling,
killing-with-kindness, loving-us-to-death antisemitism that was offered to
the Jewish world by Martin Luther and others. In Luther's case, when the
offer was refused, his true character was revealed in 1543 with the
publication of his infamous book, "On The Jews and Their Lies." (See:

The disrespect and outright hate and its history are seen through the eyes
of the church-goers in Trier, Germany in 1096, when after listening to the
Good Friday mass concerning the "perfidious Jews," our forbearers were
hunted down and slaughtered like animals. Lest we thought the second Vatican
Council improved relations with our Christian friends in 1965, let us
remember that the present Pope, Benedict, reinstated much of the same
language in the newly revised Latin mass. With the utmost sadness, we point
out that Christian-Jewish relations are not headed in the right direction.
The good people of the WEA just drove the point home for all to see in the
wicked statement presented in the New York Times and quoted in its entirety
on both eejh and H-Antisemitism.

So, members of the WEA, we have had a lot more experience in this kind of
thing than you. For more than 1,000 years well-meaning Catholics were
throwing Jews to the ground and forcibly baptizing them, sometimes with
ditch water, causing them to be lost to the Jewish family forever. Today,
Mormons not only chase us (and everyone else) with conversionist intent and
messianic fervor, they even undertake the disgusting and hateful act of
baptizing our dead.

The bottom line is this: we are experts in this field, and you are a bunch
of annoying amateurs. So pay attention to what we are saying, please. You do
not know what you are doing.

From a technical point of view, your document is awkwardly composed. Its
author(s)dance around their discomfort with the word "Jew" by not using the
word. People who continually refer to Jews as "the Jewish people," are
tiptoeing around a subject that they have trouble handling with any ease.
("Hey! Do we call them 'Hebrews' or 'People of the Jewish Persuasion,' or
what? How do we refer to those people anyway?") Perhaps they think that
calling us "Jews" might be interpreted as crossing the racial insensitivity
barrier and may be perceived as insulting, or worse, an ethnic slur. And
that coming from people who are trying to separate Jews from their glorious
tradition, which is all we Jews really do have to call our own, and out of
which has sprung the world's two other "great" religions: Christianity and

Evangelical friends, we are Jews. It is perfectly acceptable for you to use
that word unless some unpleasant adjective surrounds it or some ill intent
is attached to it.

The fourth point in the advertisement is perceived as particularly and
unpardonably galling -- we would say "chutzpadik" -- which is hard to
translate in this context. You say, "We deplore the use of deception or
coercion in evangelism; however, we reject the notion that it is deceptive
for followers of Jesus Christ who were born Jewish to continue to identify
as Jews (Romans 11:1)."

This is a botched and duplicitous way of bringing up the matter of
individuals in messianic Christian Churches who self-assert themselves to be
Jewish. Some of these individuals may have had a Jewish ancestor at some
time in the past. And they may even suggest that they are the "rabbi" of
their messianic Congregation having attended a Christian seminary. They act
as the straw man of evangelical conversionism. This is how it works. A
messianic Christian stops a person on the street and ask if he or she is
Jewish. If the answer given is "Yes," the straw man is brought into play and
says, "I am too. I just believe in Jesus as the messiah." They must think
that their intended audience has no brains. Let's be clear: any person who
is a Jew does not, by definition, even consider the possibility that Jesus
is the messiah. (As a side note, did the author of the evangelical text feel
that the reference to Romans 11:1, would somehow convince us?)

Evangelicals should be well and healthy, but, like the Tsars of old, they
should be far, far away from us when their conversion button is turned to
the "on" position. It takes a lot more than self-assertion or a tenuous
connection to a Jewish ancestor to be a Jew.

On the other hand, all that is needed to divorce oneself from the Jewish
world is the belief that a man can be a god. Once a Jew holds that view (G-d
forbid), he or she has become a former Jew. That such a person can have the
chutzpah to assert that s/he can be both Jewish and Christian at the same is
a demonstration of monumental ignorance and self-deception. Disagree with
such people and you will get an ill understood if not twisted recitation and
interpretation of the Book of Isaiah.

So do us a favor and keep away from us when you have you evangelical button
turned on because that is when we become unpleasant. We are Jews. Live with
us in respect and peace. Jesus would have asked for no less.

Dan Leeson
Randy Shiner

I. Randolph S. Shiner, Esq.
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29 March 2008

find somebody where your perversions match and who you can stand

It’s Not You, It’s Your Books

Published: March 30, 2008
Some years ago, I was awakened early one morning by a phone call from a friend. She had just broken up with a boyfriend she still loved and was desperate to justify her decision. “Can you believe it!” she shouted into the phone. “He hadn’t even heard of Pushkin!”

We’ve all been there. Or some of us have. Anyone who cares about books has at some point confronted the Pushkin problem: when a missed — or misguided — literary reference makes it chillingly clear that a romance is going nowhere fast. At least since Dante’s Paolo and Francesca fell in love over tales of Lancelot, literary taste has been a good shorthand for gauging compatibility. These days, thanks to social networking sites like Facebook and MySpace, listing your favorite books and authors is a crucial, if risky, part of self-branding. When it comes to online dating, even casual references can turn into deal breakers. Sussing out a date’s taste in books is “actually a pretty good way — as a sort of first pass — of getting a sense of someone,” said Anna Fels, a Manhattan psychiatrist and the author of “Necessary Dreams: Ambition in Women’s Changing Lives.” “It’s a bit of a Rorschach test.” To Fels (who happens to be married to the literary publisher and writer James Atlas), reading habits can be a rough indicator of other qualities. “It tells something about ... their level of intellectual curiosity, what their style is,” Fels said. “It speaks to class, educational level.”

Pity the would-be Romeo who earnestly confesses middlebrow tastes: sometimes, it’s the Howard Roark problem as much as the Pushkin one. “I did have to break up with one guy because he was very keen on Ayn Rand,” said Laura Miller, a book critic for Salon. “He was sweet and incredibly decent despite all the grandiosely heartless ‘philosophy’ he espoused, but it wasn’t even the ideology that did it. I just thought Rand was a hilariously bad writer, and past a certain point I couldn’t hide my amusement.” (Members of theatlasphere.com, a dating and fan site for devotees of “Atlas Shrugged” and “The Fountainhead,” might disagree.)

Judy Heiblum, a literary agent at Sterling Lord Literistic, shudders at the memory of some attempted date-talk about Robert Pirsig’s 1974 cult classic “Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance,” beloved of searching young men. “When a guy tells me it changed his life, I wish he’d saved us both the embarrassment,” Heiblum said, adding that “life-changing experiences” are a “tedious conversational topic at best.”

Let’s face it — this may be a gender issue. Brainy women are probably more sensitive to literary deal breakers than are brainy men. (Rare is the guy who’d throw a pretty girl out of bed for revealing her imperfect taste in books.) After all, women read more, especially when it comes to fiction. “It’s really great if you find a guy that reads, period,” said Beverly West, an author of “Bibliotherapy: The Girl’s Guide to Books for Every Phase of Our Lives.” Jessa Crispin, a blogger at the literary site Bookslut.com, agrees. “Most of my friends and men in my life are nonreaders,” she said, but “now that you mention it, if I went over to a man’s house and there were those books about life’s lessons learned from dogs, I would probably keep my clothes on.”

Still, to some reading men, literary taste does matter. “I’ve broken up with girls saying, ‘She doesn’t read, we had nothing to talk about,’” said Christian Lorentzen, an editor at Harper’s. Lorentzen recalls giving one girlfriend Nabokov’s “Ada” — since it’s “funny and long and very heterosexual, even though I guess incest is at its core.” The relationship didn’t last, but now, he added, “I think it’s on her Friendster profile as her favorite book.”

James Collins, whose new novel, “Beginner’s Greek,” is about a man who falls for a woman he sees reading “The Magic Mountain” on a plane, recalled that after college, he was “infatuated” with a woman who had a copy of “The Unbearable Lightness of Being” on her bedside table. “I basically knew nothing about Kundera, but I remember thinking, ‘Uh-oh; trendy, bogus metaphysics, sex involving a bowler hat,’ and I never did think about the person the same way (and nothing ever happened),” he wrote in an e-mail message. “I know there were occasions when I just wrote people off completely because of what they were reading long before it ever got near the point of falling in or out of love: Baudrillard (way too pretentious), John Irving (way too middlebrow), Virginia Woolf (way too Virginia Woolf).” Come to think of it, Collins added, “I do know people who almost broke up” over “The Corrections” by Jonathan Franzen: “‘Overrated!’ ‘Brilliant!’ ‘Overrated!’ ‘Brilliant!’”

Naming a favorite book or author can be fraught. Go too low, and you risk looking dumb. Go too high, and you risk looking like a bore — or a phony. “Manhattan dating is a highly competitive, ruthlessly selective sport,” Augusten Burroughs, the author of “Running With Scissors” and other vivid memoirs, said. “Generally, if a guy had read a book in the last year, or ever, that was good enough.” The author recalled a date with one Michael, a “robust blond from Germany.” As he walked to meet him outside Dean & DeLuca, “I saw, to my horror, an artfully worn, older-than-me copy of ‘Proust’ by Samuel Beckett.” That, Burroughs claims, was a deal breaker. “If there existed a more hackneyed, achingly obvious method of telegraphing one’s education, literary standards and general intelligence, I couldn’t imagine it.”

But how much of all this agonizing is really about the books? Often, divergent literary taste is a shorthand for other problems or defenses. “I had a boyfriend I was crazy about, and it didn’t work out,” Nora Ephron said. “Twenty-five years later he accused me of not having laughed while reading ‘Candy’ by Terry Southern. This was not the reason it didn’t work out, I promise you.” Sloane Crosley, a publicist at Vintage/Anchor Books and the author of “I Was Told There’d Be Cake,” essays about single life in New York, put it this way: “If you’re a person who loves Alice Munro and you’re going out with someone whose favorite book is ‘The Da Vinci Code,’ perhaps the flags of incompatibility were there prior to the big reveal.”

Some people just prefer to compartmentalize. “As a writer, the last thing I want in my personal life is somebody who is overly focused on the whole literary world in general,” said Ariel Levy, the author of “Female Chauvinist Pigs” and a contributing writer at The New Yorker. Her partner, a green-building consultant, “doesn’t like to read,” Levy said. When she wants to talk about books, she goes to her book group. Compatibility in reading taste is a “luxury” and kind of irrelevant, Levy said. The goal, she added, is “to find somebody where your perversions match and who you can stand.”

Marco Roth, an editor at the magazine n+1, said: “I think sometimes it’s better if books are just books. It’s part of the romantic tragedy of our age that our partners must be seen as compatible on every level.” Besides, he added, “sometimes people can end up liking the same things for vastly different reasons, and they build up these whole private fantasy lives around the meaning of these supposedly shared books, only to discover, too late, that the other person had a different fantasy completely.” After all, a couple may love “The Portrait of a Lady,” but if one half identifies with Gilbert Osmond and the other with Isabel Archer, they may have radically different ideas about the relationship.

For most people, love conquers literary taste. “Most of my friends are indeed quite shallow, but not so shallow as to break up with someone over a literary difference,” said Ben Karlin, a former executive producer of “The Daily Show” and the editor of the new anthology “Things I’ve Learned From Women Who’ve Dumped Me.” “If that person slept with the novelist in question, that would probably be a deal breaker — more than, ‘I don’t like Don DeLillo, therefore we’re not dating anymore.’”

Rachel Donadio is a writer and editor at the Book Review.

A Not So Funny Joke

(c)2008 Randy Shiner All RIghts Reserved.


Julia, shalom,

I hope you had a peaceful Shabbat. I am watching the second of the four NCAA Basketball games this weekend – this is the biggest college basketball tournament in the country and all my (guy) friends are glued to their TVs. Even the Drunk-Driving lawyers advertise during these shows. That should tell you something about this tournament’s importance here.

Anyway, I am going through some old email, and find that I never answered this one from you. I remember when I first got it, I did not know exactly how to answer it. I do now, after reading some mail and journal articles and speaking with people on the state of the Israeli Rabbinate and its role and impact in Israel and, in too many cases now, ours. That it is so difficult there to have a religious, though non-orthodox, Jewish ceremony is impossible for most citizens who are not already “hechshered” by the “right” rabbi, like our ONE G-d gives a damn, is just a shondeh. The whole thing smells of hypocrisy and politics (sadly, the two are the same, yet different all the same) and believe me, if the Reform, Conservative and Modern Orthodox population of this country were told that their rabbis were not “Jewish enough”, you would see defections and disaffection en masse not to mention a whole lot of middle fingers. An Israeli would be the same as an American.

I no longer wonder why the Reform, Conservative and Modern Orthodox movements are not as strong there in Israel as they are here. (I attend a liberal Modern Orthodox shul, by the way, which does not believe that it has a monopoly on the truth, as if any human can claim one.) It’s almost that there is a ban on them there, imposed because, as I understand my Israeli history, Ben Gurion needed the ultra-Orthodox to put together a government in 1948, ensconcing them as the final arbiters, seemingly permanently, of what is and is not Jewish. And perhaps over the years, perhaps, there has been made a silent “deal” to leave the “liberal Jews” in America, and allow the situation in Israel to continue.

I predict that at some point, this will become such an intolerable situation – a crisis for the Jewish people’s very existence – that the situation will have to change, lest we cease to exist as Jewish Jews. I realize as I write this that the foregoing is dependent upon the assumption on my part that the basis of all Jews, whatever they call themselves, is the Torah. And no matter how secular you are, because you are Jewish, the existence of that Torah plays a role in your life whether you want it or not. Ultimately, it is definitional for all people who are Jewish. In the end, the ultra-Orthodox regime’s stranglehold on official Judaism – how that Torah gets implemented in everyday life -- has got to end; we are all one people and the schisms that develop between “branches of Judaism” is just ridiculous doublespeak, based on so much distance from reality. (Hitler did not care what Jews looked like or how frequently you attended Schacharit during the week. Or which rebbe you admired most. He made every one of the 6 million dead.) If that religious regime was somehow allowed to exist here, and we had nowhere to go, there would be even more disaffection with the religion and with affiliating than there is now in this country. I am an American Jew and don’t have to live or worship together in the same kind of shul in a state the size of New Jersey whose religious expression I do not feel a part of. So I fully understand the difference between an Israeli and a Jew. Now.

Have a great week. And thank you for opening me to some new thought patterns that feel better, not just about religion, but about Israel, too. When I argue for a new way to deal with the Arabs other than the Likud manner, I know I am not alone in the world. Just here – where if you publicly go against the Likud line, you are “anti-Israel”, “self-hating” “lefty anti-Israel” or something equally as bad and worse. It must stop. The terror must stop. The rockets must stop. There has to be peace. Somehow. As I write too frequently about things and people, the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over and over again and expecting a different result. I don’t know if I got that from you or not, but it is absolutely correct.


From: A
Sent: Thursday, March 13, 2008 10:05 PM
To: randy.shiner@gmail.com
Subject: Re: Jewish Joke of the Century

One short comment
You have conflated Jewish with Israeli.
The joke is about an Israeli soldier, not a Jewish one
Indeed the great majority of Israeli soldiers are Jewish, but there are Druze, some Muslims (a number of Bedouin Muslim men serve in the army as well), and of course Christians (from the immigrants from the former USSR)


"I Randolph S. Shiner" wrote:
To those not American:

Dan Rather is a famous newscaster here in the States – since the 60s and a former CBS evening news anchor. Katie Couric is the current CBS evening news anchor.

Sent: Thursday, March 13, 2008 8:49 PM
To: I Randolph S Shiner;
Subject: FW: a comment on the media

Dan Rather, Katie Couric, and an Israeli
sergeant were all captured by terrorists in
Iraq. The leader of the terrorists told
them that he would grant them each one
last request before they were beheaded.

Dan Rather said, "Well, I'm a Texan, so I'd
like one last bowlful of hot spicy chili."
The leader nodded to an underling who
left and returned with the chili. Rather ate
it all and said, "Now I can die content."

Katie Couric said, "I'm a reporter to the
end. I want to take out my tape recorder
and describe the scene here and what's
about to happen. Maybe someday someone
will hear it and know that I was on the
job till the end."

The leader directed an aide to hand over
the tape recorder and Couric dictated some
comments. She said, "Now I can die happy."

The leader turned and said, "And now,
Mr. Israeli tough guy, what is your final
"Kick me in the ass," said the soldier."

"What?" asked the leader? "Will you mock
us in your last hour?"

"No, I'm not kidding. I want you to kick me
in the ass," insisted the Israeli.

So the leader shoved him into the open
and kicked him in the ass. The soldier went
sprawling, but rolled to his knees, pulled
a 9 mm pistol from under his flack jacket,
and shot the leader dead. In the resulting
confusion, he jumped to his knapsack,
pulled out his carbine and sprayed the
terrorists with gunfire.
In a flash, all terrorists were either dead
or fleeing for their lives.
As the soldier was untying Rather and
Couric, they asked him, "Why didn't you
just shoot them in the beginning?
Why did you ask them to kick you
in the ass first?"

"What?" replied the Israeli, "And have
you two assholes report that I was the

On Tony McPeak's Article and Statements About the Jewish Vote in America

The flap over Gen. McPeak’s recent statements as well as his fine analysis in the April 1976 edition of Foreign Affairs (which I have read in its entirety) on Israel’s security give this Jewish observer absolutely no cause for concern whatsoever. McPeak’s piece in Foreign Affairs was a brilliant analysis of what he felt it would take to bring an overall peace to the region. Unfortunately, little has changed in the 32 years since he wrote the piece with the exception of the peace with Egypt, which incidentally formed a large element of his analysis, and the exit from Gaza. McPeak warned against handing back territory to anything other than a responsible government which could demilitarize the de-occupied zones. This has worked in Egypt; it has not in Gaza as Israel did not hand that territory back to a responsible government which could demilitarize that area in order to ensure that the “land for peace” would actually work in practice. The rockets that rain down on Sderot and other areas from Gaza prove McPeak’s thesis.

As far as his statement about Miami and New York Jews, let me just say that it is organizations like AIPAC and others whose sole raison d’ĂȘtre is to actively seek to guide American policy toward Israel; nothing McPeak said should come as any surprise to anyone. The Jewish relationship to Israel is directly tied to the fear we feel of another Holocaust. Debate about Israeli government policy is more open and vigorous in Israel than it is here between American Jews. He is only speaking the truth and, to borrow a line from Jack Nicholson “[we] can’t handle the truth.” Anyone who strays publicly from Likud politics in America is branded as anti-Jewish, anti-Israel, a self-hating Jew or some combination thereof. The problem of late for Jewish Americans is the veneer of respectability given to Anti-Semitism in the guise of legitimate criticism of Israel, as recent works by Jimmy Carter and Professors Mearsheimer and Walt attest. This is a new and more pernicious form of anti-Semitism of which all of us, Jewish or not, should be concerned.

As far as Tony McPeak is concerned, he should just stay put. I recommend reading the Foreign Affairs article to get an idea of his views about Israel’s security. They are important to him. That the Republican Jewish Committee and others would call for his ouster borders on insanity. This is the result of doing the same thing over and over and over again and expecting a different result.

27 March 2008

Obama on ‘Renewing the American Economy’


March 27, 2008
Obama on ‘Renewing the American Economy’
Following is the transcript of Barack Obama's economic speech at Cooper Union in New York, as provided by CQ Transcriptions Inc.

Thank you so much for being here.

Let me begin by thanking Dr. Drucker and Cooper Union for hosting us here today. I have to say that the last time an Illinois politician made a speech here it was pretty good. So...


... the bar is high. And I -- I want everybody to know right at the outset here that this may not be living for generations to come, the way Lincoln's speech did. I want to thank all our elected supporters who are here. I want to -- there are a couple of special guests that I'm very appreciative for being in attendance: Paul Volcker, the former chairman of the Federal Reserve Board...


We appreciate his presence. William Donaldson, the former chairman of the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission. We thank you. And finally I want to thank the mayor of this great city, mayor Bloomberg, for his extraordinary leadership. At a time...


At a time when Washington is divided in old ideological battles, he shows us what can be achieved when we bring people together to seek pragmatic solutions. Not only has he been a remarkable leader for New York, he's established himself as a major voice in our national debate on issues like renewing our economy, educating our children and seeking energy independence. So, Mr. Mayor, I share your determination to bring this country together, to finally make progress for the American people. And I have to tell you that the reason I bought breakfast is because I expect payback at something more expensive.


I -- the mayor -- I'm no dummy.


The mayor was a cheap date that morning...


... and I figured there's some good steakhouses here in New York.


In a city of landmarks, we meet at Cooper Union, just uptown from Federal Hall, where George Washington took the oath of office as the first president of the United States. With all history that's passed through the narrow canyons of Lower Manhattan, it's worth taking a moment to reflect on the role that the market has played in the development of the American story. The great task before our founders was putting into practice the ideal that government could simultaneously serve liberty and advance the common good. For Alexander Hamilton, the young secretary of the treasury, that task was bound to the vigor of the American economy. Hamilton had a strong belief in the power of the market, but he balanced that belief with a conviction that human enterprise, and I quote, "may be beneficially stimulated by prudent aids and encouragements on the part of the government." Government, he believed, had an important role to play in advancing our common prosperity. So he nationalized the state Revolutionary War debts, weaving together the economies of the states and creating an American system of credit and capital markets. And he encouraged manufacturing and infrastructure, so products could be moved to market. Hamilton met fierce opposition from Thomas Jefferson, who worried that this brand of capitalism would favor the interests of the few over the many. Jefferson preferred an agrarian economy, because he believed that it would give individual landowners freedom and that this freedom would nurture our democratic institutions. But despite their differences, there was one thing that Jefferson and Hamilton agreed on: that economic growth depended upon the talent and ingenuity of the American people; that in order to harness that talent, opportunity had to remain open to all; and that through education in particular, every American could climb the ladder of social and economic mobility and achieve the American dream. In the more than two centuries since then, we've struggled to balance the same forces that confronted Hamilton and Jefferson.: self-interest and community, markets and democracy, the concentration of wealth and power and the necessity of transparency and opportunity for each and every citizen. Throughout this saga, Americans have pursued their dreams within a free market that has been the engine of America's progress. It's a market that's created a prosperity that is the envy of the world, and opportunity for generations of Americans; a market that has provided great rewards to innovators and risk-takers who've made America a beacon for science and technology and discovery.

But the American experiment has worked in large part because we guided the market's invisible hand with a higher principle. A free market was never meant to be a free license to take whatever you can get, however you can get it. That's why we've put in place rules of the road: to make competition fair and open, and honest. We've done this not to stifle but rather to advance prosperity and liberty. As I said at Nasdaq last September, the core of our economic success is the fundamental truth that each American does better when all Americans do better; that the well-being of American business (OOTC:ARBU) , its capital markets and its American people are aligned. I think that all of us here today would acknowledge that we've lost some of that sense of shared prosperity. Now, this loss has not happened by accident. It's because of decisions made in board rooms, on trading floors and in Washington. Under Republican and Democratic administrations, we've failed to guard against practices that all too often rewarded financial manipulation instead of productivity and sound business practice. We let the special interests put their thumbs on the economic scales. The result has been a distorted market that creates bubbles instead of steady, sustainable growth; a market that favors Wall Street over Main Street, but ends up hurting both. Nor is this trend new. The concentrations of economic power and the failures of our political system to protect the American economy and American consumers from its worst excesses have been a staple of our past: most famously in the 1920s, when such excesses ultimately plunged the country into the Great Depression. That is when government stepped in to create a series of regulatory structures, from FDIC to the Glass-Steagall Act, to serve as a corrective, to protect the American people and American business.

Ironically, it was in reaction to the high taxes and some of the outmoded structures of the New Deal that both individuals and institutions in the '80s and '90s began pushing for changes to this regulatory structure. But instead of sensible reform that rewarded success and freed the creative forces of the market, too often we've excused and even embraced an ethic of greed, corner cutting, insider dealing, things that have always threatened the long-term stability of our economic system. Too often we've lost that common stake in each other's prosperity. Now, let me be clear. The American economy does not stand still and neither should the rules that govern it. The evolution of industries often warrants regulatory reform to foster competition, lower prices or replace outdated oversight structures. Old institutions cannot adequately oversee new practices. Old rules may not fit the roads where our economy is leading. So there were good arguments for changing the rules of the road in the 1990s. Our economy was undergoing a fundamental shift, carried along by the swift currents of technological change and globalization. For the sake of our common prosperity, we needed to adapt to keep markets competitive and fair. Unfortunately, instead of establishing a 21st century regulatory framework, we simply dismantled the old one, aided by a legal but corrupt bargain in which campaign money all too often shaped policy and watered down oversight. In doing so we encouraged a winner take all, anything goes environment that helped foster devastating dislocations in our economy. Deregulation of the telecommunications sector, for example, fostered competition, but also contributed to massive over-investment.

Partial deregulation of the electricity sector enabled (inaudible). Companies like Enron and WorldCom took advantage of the new regulatory environment to push the envelope, pump up earnings, disguise losses and otherwise engage in accounting fraud to make their profits look better, a practice that led investors to question the balance sheets of all companies and severely damaged public trust in capital markets. This was not the invisible hand at work. Instead, it was the hand of industry lobbyists tilting the playing field in Washington as well as an accounting industry that had developed powerful conflicts of interest and a financial sector that had fueled over-investment. A decade later we have deregulated the financial sector and we face another crisis. A regulatory structure set up for banks in the 1930s needed to change, because the nature of business had changed. But by the time the Glass-Steagall Act was repealed in 1999, the $300 million lobbying effort that drove deregulation was more about facilitating mergers than creating an efficient regulatory framework. And since then we've overseen 21st century innovation, including the aggressive introduction of new and complex financial instruments like hedge funds and non-bank financial companies, with outdated 20th century regulatory tools. New conflicts of interest recalled the worst excesses of the past, like the outrageous news that we learned just yesterday of KPMG allowing a lender to report profits instead of losses so that both parties could make a quick buck. Not surprisingly, the regulatory environment failed to keep pace. When subprime mortgage lending took a reckless and unsustainable turn, a patchwork of regulators were unable or unwilling to protect the American people. Now, the policies of the Bush administration threw the economy further out of balance. Tax cuts without end for the wealthiest Americans. A trillion dollar war in Iraq that didn't need to be fought, paid for with deficit spending and borrowing from foreign creditors like China. A complete...


A complete disdain for pay-as-you-go budgeting, coupled with a generally scornful attitude toward oversight and enforcement, allowed far too many to put short-term gain ahead of long-term consequences. The American economy was bound to suffer a painful correction, and policy-makers found themselves with fewer resources to deal with the consequences. Today those consequences are clear. I see them in every corner of our great country as families face foreclosure and rising costs. I see them in towns across America, where a credit crisis threatens the ability of students to get loans and states can't finance infrastructure projects. I see them here in Manhattan, where one of our biggest investment banks had to be bailed out and the Fed opened its discount window to a host of new institutions with unprecedented implications that we have yet to appreciate. When all is said and done, losses will be in the many hundreds of billions. What was bad for Main Street turned out to be bad for Wall Street. Pain trickled up. And that...


... and that's why -- that's why the principle that I spoke about at NASDAQ last September is even more urgently true today. In our 21st century economy, there is no dividing line between Main Street and Wall Street.

The decisions made in New York's high rises have consequences for Americans across the country. And whether those Americans can make their house payments, whether they keep their jobs or spend confidentially without falling into debt, that has consequences for the entire market. The future cannot be shaped by the best-connected lobbyists with the best record of raising money for campaigns. This...


This thinking is wrong for the financial sector and it's wrong for our country. I do not believe the government should stand in the way of innovation or turn back the clock on an older era of regulation. But I do believe that government has a role to play in advancing our common prosperity, by providing stable macroeconomic and financial conditions for sustained growth, by demanding transparency and by ensuring fair competition in the marketplace. Our history should give us confidence that we don't have to choose between an oppressive government-run economy and a chaotic, unforgiving capitalism. It tells us we can emerge from great economic upheavals stronger, not weaker. But we can only do so if we restore confidence in our markets, only if we rebuild trust between investors and lenders, and only if we renew that common interest between Wall Street and Main street that is the key to our long-term success. Now, as most experts agree, our economy is in a recession. To renew our economy and to ensure that we are not doomed to repeat a cycle of bubble and bust again and again and again, we need to address not only the immediate crisis in the housing market, we also need to create a 21st-century regulatory framework and we need to pursue a bold opportunity agenda for the American people.

Most urgently, we have to confront the housing crisis. After months of inaction, the president spoke here in New York and warned against doing too much. His main proposal, extending tax cuts for the wealthiest Americans, is completely divorced from reality, the reality that people are facing around the country.


John McCain recently announced his own plan. And, unfortunately, it amounts to little more than watching this crisis unfold.


While this is consistent with Senator McCain's determination to run for George Bush's third term...



... it won't help families that are suffering and it won't help lift our economy out of recession. Over 2 million households are at risk of foreclosure. Millions more have seen their home values plunge. Many Americans are walking away from their homes, which hurts property values for entire neighborhoods and aggravates the credit crisis. To stabilize the housing market and to help bring the foreclosure crisis to an end, I've sponsored Senator Chris Dodd's legislation creating a new FHA housing security program, which will provide meaningful incentives for lenders to buy or refinance existing mortgages. This will allow Americans facing foreclosure to keep their homes at rates that they can afford. Now, Senator McCain argues that government should do nothing to protect borrowers and lenders who've made bad decisions or taken on excessive risk.

And on this point I agree. But the Dodd-Frank package is not a bailout for lenders or investors who gambled recklessly; they will take their losses. It's not a windfall for borrowers, as they will have to share any capital gain. Instead, it offers a responsible and fair way to help bring an end to the foreclosure crisis. It asks both sides to sacrifice, while preventing a long-term collapse that could have enormous ramifications for the most responsible lenders and borrowers, as well as the American people as a whole. That's what Senator McCain ignores. For homeowners who are victims of fraud, I've also proposed a $10 billion foreclosure prevention fund that would help them sell a home that is beyond their means or modify their loan to avoid foreclosure or bankruptcy. It's also time to amend our bankruptcy laws so families aren't forced to stick to the terms of a home loan that was predatory or unfair.


To prevent fraud in the future, I've proposed tough new penalties on fraudulent lenders and a home-score system that will allow consumers to find out more about mortgage offers and whether they'll be able to make payments. To help low- and middle-income families, I proposed a 10 percent mortgage interest tax credit that will allow homeowners who don't itemize their taxes to access incentives for homeownership. And to expand homeownership, we must do more to help communities turn abandoned properties into affordable housing. The government can't do this alone, nor should it. As I said last September, lenders must get ahead of the curve rather than just react to the crisis. They should actively look at all borrowers, offer workouts and reduce the principal on mortgages in trouble. Not only can this prevent the larger losses associated with foreclosure and resale, but it can reduce the extent of government intervention and taxpayer exposure. But beyond dealing with the immediate housing crisis, it is time for the federal government to revamp the regulatory framework dealing with our financial markets.


Our capital markets have helped us build the strongest economy in the world. They are the source of competitive advantage for our country.

But they cannot succeed without the public's trust. The details of regulatory reform should be developed through sound analysis and public debate. And so I won't try to cross every "t" and dot every "i" in this speech. But there are several core principles for reform that I intend to pursue as president. First, if you can borrow from the government, you should be subject to government oversight and supervision.


Secretary Paulson admitted this in his remarks yesterday. The Federal Reserve should have basic supervisory authority over any institution to which it may make credit available as a lender of last resort. When the Fed steps in, it is providing lenders an insurance policy underwritten by the American taxpayer. In return, taxpayers have every right to expect that these institutions are not taking excessive risks. Now, the nature of regulation should depend on the degree and extent of the Fed's exposure. But, at the very least, these new regulations should include liquidity and capital requirements. Second, there needs to be general reform of the requirements to which all regulated financial institutions are subjected. Capital requirements should be strengthened, particularly for complex financial instruments like some of the mortgage securities that led to our current crisis. We must develop and rigorously manage liquidity risks. We must investigate ratings agencies and potential conflicts of interest with the people that they are rating. And transparency requirements must demand full disclosure by financial institutions to shareholders and counter parties. As we reform our regulatory system at home, we should work with international arrangements, like the Basel Committee on Banking Supervision, the International Accounting Standards Board, and the Financial Stability Forum, to address the same problems abroad.

The goal should be to ensure that financial institutions around the world are subject to similar rules of the road, both to make the system more stable and to keep our financial institutions competitive. Third, we need to streamline a framework of overlapping and competing regulatory agencies. Reshuffling bureaucracies should not be an end in itself. But the large, complex institutions that dominate the financial landscape don't fit into categories created decades ago. Different institutions compete in multiple markets. Our regulatory system should not pretend otherwise. A streamlined system will provide better oversight and be less costly for regulated institutions. Fourth, we need to regulate institutions for what they do, not what they are. Over the last few years, commercial banks and thrift institutions were subject to guidelines on subprime mortgages that did not apply to mortgage brokers and companies. Now, it makes no sense for the Fed to tighten mortgage guidelines for banks when two-thirds of subprime mortgages don't originate from banks. This regulatory framework...


This regulatory framework has failed to protect homeowners and it is now clear that it made no sense for our financial system. When it comes to protecting the American people, it should make no difference what kind of institution they are dealing with. Fifth, we must remain vigilant and crack down on trading activity that crosses the line to market manipulation. On recent days, reports have circulated that some traders may have intentionally spread rumors that Bear Stearns (NYSE:BSC) was in financial distress while making market bets against the country. The SEC should investigate and punish this kind of market manipulation and report its conclusions to Congress. Sixth, we need a process that identifies systemic risks to the financial system.

Too often we deal with threats to the financial system that weren't anticipated by regulators. That's why we should create a financial market oversight commission, which would meet regularly and provide advice to the president, Congress and regulators on the state of our financial markets and the risks that face them. These experts' views could help anticipate risks before they erupt into a crisis.

These six principles should guide the legal reforms needed to establish a 21st-century regulatory system, but the changes we need goes beyond the laws and regulation. We need a shift in the cultures of our financial institutions and our regulatory agencies. Financial institutions have to do a better job at managing risk. There is something wrong when board of directors or senior managers don't understand the implications of the risks assumed by their own institutions. It's time to realign incentives and the compensation packages so that both high-level executives and employees better serve the interests of shareholders. And it's time to confront the risks that come with excessive complexity. Even the best government regulation cannot fully substitute for internal risk management. For supervisory agencies, oversight has to keep pace with innovation. As the subprime crisis unfolded, tough questions about new and complex financial instruments were not asked. As a result, the public interest was not protected. We do American business and the American people no favors when we turn a blind eye to excessive leverage and dangerous risks. And finally, the American people must be able to trust that their government is looking out for all of us, not just those who donate to political campaigns. I...


I fought in the Senate for the most extensive ethics reforms since Watergate, and we got those passed.


I've refused contributions from federal lobbyists and PACs. I have laid out far-reaching plans that I intend to sign into law as president to bring transparency to government and to end the revolving door between industries and the federal agencies that oversee them.



Once we deal with the immediate crisis in housing and strengthen the regulatory system governing our financial markets, we have to make government responsive once again to all of the American people. And our final task, in fact, is to make sure that opportunity is available to all Americans. You know, the bedrock of our economic success is the American dream. It's a dream shared in big cities and small towns, across races, regions and religions, that, if you work hard, you can support a family; that if you get sick, there will be health care that you can afford; that you can retire...


... that you can retire with the dignity and security and respect that you've earned; and that your children can get a good education and young people can go to college, even if they don't come from a wealthy family. That's our common hope.


That's our common hope across this country. That's the essence of the American dream. But today, for far too many Americans, this dream is slipping away. Wall Street has been recently gripped by gloom over our economic situation. But for many Americans, the economy has effectively been in recession for the past seven years. We have just come through...


We have just come through the first sustained period of economic growth since World War II that was not accompanied by a growth in incomes for typical families. Americans are working harder for less.

Costs are rising, and it's not clear that we'll leave a legacy of opportunity to our children and our grandchildren. And that's why throughout this campaign I've put forward a series of proposals that will foster economic growth from the bottom up and not just from the top down. And that's why the last time I spoke on the economy here in New York, I talked about the need to put the policies of George W. Bush behind us, policies that have essentially said...


... policies that have essentially said to the American people, "You are on your own."

We need policies that once again recognize that we are in this together. And we need the most powerful, the wealthiest among us -- those who are in attendance here today, we need you to get behind that agenda.

It's an agenda that starts with providing a stimulus that will reach the most vulnerable Americans, including immediate relief to areas hardest hit by the housing crisis and a significant extension of unemployment insurance for those who are out of work.


If we can extend a hand to banks on Wall Street when they get into trouble, we can extend a hand to Americans who are struggling, often through no fault of their own.


Beyond these short-term measure, as president, I will be committed to putting the American dream on a firmer footing. To reward work and make retirement secure, we'll provide an income tax (sic) of up to $1,000 for a working family and eliminate income taxes altogether for any retiree bringing in less than $50,000 per year.


To make health care affordable for all Americans, we'll cut costs and provide coverage to all who need it. To put Americans to work, we'll create millions of new green jobs and invest in rebuilding our nation's infrastructure.


To extend opportunity, we'll invest in our schools and our teachers and make college affordable for every American. And to ensure...


And to ensure that America stays on the cutting edge, we'll expand broadband access, expand funding for basic scientific research, and pass comprehensive immigration reform so that we continue to attract the best and the brightest to our shores.


I know that making these changes won't be easy. I will not pretend that this will come without costs, although I have presented ways we can achieve these changes in a fiscally responsible way. I believe in PAYGO. If I start a new program I will pay for it. If I intend to cut taxes for the middle class, then we're going to close some of the tax loopholes for corporations and the wealthy that are not working for shared prosperity.


So we're going to have fiscal discipline. I know that we'll have to overcome our doubts and divisions and the determined opposition of powerful special interests before we can truly advance opportunity and prosperity for all Americans. But I would not be running for president if I did not think that this was a defining moment in our history.

If we fail to overcome our divisions and continue to let special interests set the agenda, then America will fall behind, short-term gains will continue to yield long-term costs, opportunity will slip away on Main Street, and prosperity will suffer here on Wall Street.

But if we unite this country around a common purpose, if we act on the responsibilities that we have to each other and to our country, then we can launch a new era of opportunity and prosperity.

I know we can do this because Americans have done this before. Time and again we've recognized that common stake that we have in each other's success. It's how people as different as Hamilton and Jefferson came together to launch the world's greatest experiment in democracy. That's why our economy hasn't just been the world's greatest wealth creator, it's bound America together, it's created jobs and it's made the dream of opportunity a reality for generations.

Now it falls to us. We have as our inheritance the greatest economy the world has ever known. We have the responsibility to continue the work that began on that spring day over two centuries ago right here in Manhattan, to renew our common purpose for a new century and to write the next chapter in the story of America's success.

We can do this, and we can begin this work today.

Thank you very much.



Longtime WGN radio host Wally Phillips dead at 82

I don't usually post obituaries of media personalities. But this man was "the voice of Chicago" when I was a kid. I remember when I was 12, there was some discussion about drilling for new oil off the intercontinental shelf; I called his show and he put me on the air so I could tell people what I thought of the issue. 12. Talk about giving a voice to the community. May his memory be for a blessing. RS

Longtime WGN radio host Wally Phillips dead at 82
Tribune report

8:53 AM CDT, March 27, 2008

Wally Phillips, whose wit and charm dominated the art of the on-air radio personality in Chicago for two decades, has died after battling Alzheimer's disease for the last five years, WGN Radio announced Thursday. He was 82.

Phillips was the morning program host on WGN Radio from January 1965 until July 1986, and was number one in the morning slot from 1968 until his departure for an afternoon radio slot in 1986. He retired from WGN in 1998 after 42 years with the station, but came out of retirement the following year to host a weekly two-hour program on WAIT-AM, a station based in Crystal Lake.

Phillips was an individual with a personality as unique and unforgettable as his voice, though both were gentle and calming, in a way that made him, to many, feel like a member of the family. He set a moderate but steady pace of news, interviews, commentary and regular applications of wit that seemed to come out of nowhere, that listeners sometimes didn't realize was funny until it was past.

Phillips' delivery occasionally had an edge to it, like the time he tracked down formal-wear mogul Ben Gingiss on a cruise ship on the Pacific Ocean and got him on the phone, saying "We're down here at the store. . . . Where do you keep the fire extinguisher?" More typical was the morning when he started his broadcast by chatting with farm reporter Orion Samuelson about the coming Stomach Rumbling Finals in Stuttgart, Germany.

He was number one in his morning time slot from 1968 until leaving that post.. In the spring 1986 Abitron ratings, he drew a 15.7 share of the audience, far outdistancing second-place WBBM-AM 780 with its 8.7.

Phillips was born on July 7, 1925, in Portsmouth, Ohio, one of four children. When he was 6, his father died and the family moved to Cincinnati. He dropped out of high school to enter the Army Air Forces in World War II, ending up in Georgia in a tow-target squadron assigned to fly targets for pilots and the artillery.

Returning to Cincinnati after the war, he attended a drama school run by actor Tyrone Powers' aunt, sent out some tapes and landed a disk-jockey job in Grand Rapids, Mich.

A year later he was back in Cincinnati at a radio station where he developed his madcap style by messing around with prerecorded interviews. In one instance, on a Doris Day tape, she had answered a question by saying "Yeah, that was half the fun of it." The jock was supposed to ask, "You've been all around, meeting all these different people . . ." Phillips' question was "Doris, I understand there are innuendoes that you and the guys on the bus got just plain drunk, that it was nothing but an orgy from place to place."

The station eventually fired him for inserting a phony item into a news broadcast.

"I wrote, 'All members of infantry company so-and-so report immediately to your draft board,' and I described an insurrection in some phony country. He read it on the air. Hell, they even had the FBI all over the station," Phillips said in an interview published in the Tribune in 1976.

Phillips was succeeded as WGN's morning man by Bob Collins, who died in a plane crash in 2000.

Copyright © 2008, Chicago Tribune

26 March 2008

Just In Case You Were Even Thinking About Voting for Hillary Clinton

Ya Think?
03.25.08 -- 11:00PM By Josh Marshall

As you know, earlier today Hillary Clinton tried to stoke the Jeremiah Wright controversy by telling an editorial board meeting in Pittsburgh that Jeremiah Wright "would not have been my pastor" and then going on to note that she had denounced Don Imus in contrast to Obama's allegedly more tolerant attitude toward hate speech.

Later in the afternoon she repeated the same comments at a press conference and when asked why she had chosen to engage Obama on the Wright controversy she seemed to suggest that rather than being intentional she was only providing an answer to a direct question. "Well I answered a question in an ed board today that was very specific about what I would have done," Clinton told the reporter, "And you know I'm just speaking for myself, and i was answering a question that was posed to me."

Now obviously, Hillary's been in the political big leagues for a while. She knows how to deflect a question. But it's actually much richer than this. This afternoon Greg Sargent and I were talking this over and one of us realized that this wasn't just any Pittsburgh paper. It was the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, the money-losing, vanity, fringe sheet of Richard Mellon Scaife, funder of the Arkansas Project, the American Spectator during its prime Clinton-hunting years and virtually every right-wing operation of note at one point or another over the last twenty years or more.

In fact, what I only discovered late this evening, when Eric Kleefeld sent me this link at National Review Online, is that not only was it Scaife's paper. Scaife himself was there sitting just to Clinton's right apparently taking part in the questioning.

This alone has to amount to some sort cosmic encounter like something out of a Wagner opera. Remember, this is the guy who spent millions of dollars puffing up wingnut fantasies about Hillary's having Vince Foster whacked and lots of other curdled and ugly nonsense. Scaife was the nerve center of the Vast Right Wing Conspiracy. Those of us who spent years defending the Clintons from all that malarkey learned this point on day one.

But there's more.

Let's game this out. Hillary's saying this wasn't some planned thing. She just got hit with this question and she answered it. But here's my question. You think Richard Mellon Scaife might want to dig into the Jeremiah Wright story? This is sort of like, 'Hey, I go on Hannity and next thing you know he's asking me about Wright and Farrakhan. How was I supposed to see that coming?'

I don't know just how this went down. But the idea Sen. Clinton and her staff went into an editorial board meeting with Scaife and his lackey reporters without a clear sense that they were going to get at least one choice Jeremiah Wright question just somehow doesn't ring true to me.

25 March 2008

Commentary on Obama from Mike Huckabee

The following comments were reported in the Atlanta Journal-Constitution on March 21,
2007 and nary a peep has been heard from ANYONE about them. Why isn't the Obama campaign making some hay out of this? Comprends-pas. Huckabee is being completely honest in this assessment without consideration of party alliances, as if he could ever be anything other than the minister he is.

”Obama has handled this about as well as anybody could. And I agree, it’s a very historic speech. I think that it was an important one, and one that he had to deliver. And he couldn’t wait. The sooner he made it, maybe the quicker that this becomes less of the issue. Otherwise, it was the only thing that was the issue in his entire campaign. And I thought he handled it very, very well.

“And he made the point, and I think it’s a valid one, that you can’t hold the candidate responsible for everything around him that people may say or do. You just can’t, whether it’s me, whether it’s Obama, or anybody else.

“But he did distance himself from the very vitriolic statements. Now, the second story — it’s interesting to me that there are some people on the left that are having to be very uncomfortable with what [Jeremiah] Wright said when they were all over a Jerry Falwell or anyone on the right who said things that they found very awkward and uncomfortable years ago.

“Many times those were statements lifted out of the context of a larger sermon. Sermons, after all, are rarely written word-for-word by pastors like Reverend Wright, who are delivering them extemporaneously and caught up in the emotion of the moment. There are things that sometimes get said that if you put them on paper and looked at them in print, you’d say, ‘Well, I probably didn’t mean to say it quite like that……’

“And one other thing I think we’ve got to remember.

“As easy as it is for those of us who are white to look back and say ‘That’s a terrible statement’ — I grew up in a very segregated South.

“And I think that you have to cut some slack — and I’m going to be probably the only conservative in America who’s going to say something like this, but I’m just telling you — we’ve got to cut some slack to people who grew up being called names, being told you have to sit in the balcony when you go to the movie, you have to go to the back door to go into the restaurant, you can’t sit out there with everyone else. There’s a separate waiting room in the doctor’s office. Here’s where you sit on the bus.

“And you know what? Sometimes people do have a chip on their shoulder and resentment, and you have to just say, ‘I probably would, too.’”

Mike Huckabee, March 19, 2007
On "Morning Joe" on MSNBC

The Fools of Spring Available for Comment: a Snapshot of Impressions of Madness at Dawn

Robbie Baitz is spot on with his assessment not nutty to feel that if Obama is not elected, this country will have made a horrible choice to turn away from the future in retreat to the past. Hope will be gone. The talking heads have a commercial stake in keeping the Democrats' gutter-sniping alive; I don't view this as Sysyphean. Sysyphus rolled that boulder up the hill and his curse was that it could never be rolled OVER the hill; it would just come back down, and he would have to start all over again. The people that you see as Sysyphean are not. They have choices to make: they can continue to talk about the same old same old or they can, in line with Obama's challenge of last week, roll that boulder over the hill and discuss real issues that are of real importance to Americans. There is, sadly, more money in dirt than issues. I do not watch MSNBC all day long any more; it was driving me mad, too, just exactly for the same reasons it was him. I know on a gut level what is right and wrong and what the issues are that are facing America. And we get Olbermann talking about bed-bugs at Fox News and who called whom Judas Iscariot or something other than a patriot. THAT is madness. WE are not mad. We have been through a civil war and we have been through McCarthyism. It seems that the thirst for hate and pettiness knows no bounds in this country any more, so much so that if there is anyone to blame, we need collectively only look in a mirror.


The Fools of Spring Available for Comment: a Snapshot of Impressions of Madness at Dawn
Posted March 24, 2008 | 08:30 PM (EST)


Read More: Barack Obama, Bill Richardson, Chris Matthews, Hardball, Hillary Clinton, Iraq, James Carville, Joe Scarborough, John McCain, John Ridley, Msnbc, Pat Buchanan, Breaking Media News

Turn on MSNBC at dawn. Invite Babel into your home at six a.m. It's hallucinatory. It might be Pat Buchanan in his last act, to offer a shrill diorama of white rage. It might be Joe Scarborough, a good boy, honest injun', trying for reason, trying for something contemporary, something "now" something hip -- but still, aswirl in the miasma of tit-for-tat politics most of the time.

It might be someone marvelous, like the elegant Jonathan Capehart, or someone totally wiggy and weirdly watchable as John Ridley. Scarborough is oddly sympathetic, posing as buffoon in a fleece sweater thing, but really smart. His honor peeks through in the weirdest way. But it diminishes to keep the very stupidest stories alive. I can't get enough of that show. It's America itself; arguing, bitching, brothers and sisters going at it, always coming back the next day -- leaving their grudges behind. It might be Ms. Brezinski, smarter than anyone in the room, but still endlessly playing tape of the good Reverend Wright. They talk and they talk and they talk and they captivate and guide the national conversation, along with Anderson, and Wolf, et al, but they all remind me of the thing I don't like about Hillary Clinton -- there is a patina of condescension in every last bit of discourse, in every last analysis and in every last precis sentence they offer up for "debate".

And they are stoked, fueled, enlivened by the theatrics of the surrogates for both candidates. Oh the surrogates. Carville as Sancho Panza, Reverend Wright as some sort of Farrakhan manque as it is written. (I've heard the same things he said at the most diverse dinner parties on both coasts, except the speaker wasn't black and wasn't yelling.)

As the day goes on, you start to feel insane, if you keep MSNBC on. Bill Clinton implied or didn't imply that Obama was not a patriot. Discuss. Discuss some more. ( I think "who is getting paid for this debate?") Because the same stuff is rehashed in a sisyphusian cacophony from dawn to midnight, with some breaks for shows about prisoners and their tattoos. On MSNBC I think the vice president of the United States just shrugged again about the dead children of America. You can see the blood slowing and thickening in his arteries, occluding and blocking all the impulses that are responsible for decency.

Everybody has something to say. All of us. Me. You. We yell and fight and roar and score points.


Okay. There are two candidates for the Democratic nomination. They have to talk about the millions of uninsured, the children of this country who have been bypassed by life itself, by opportunity and by hope. They have to talk about the economy and the war and our absurd financial indiscipline -- but all they can do is take defensive positions on the endless babel spewed out by their surrogates.

By eleven, one is exhausted, and feels poisoned. The commercials alone -- atop the presidential panoply -- make one feel like it's a bad smog day in L.A. No matter where you are.

It's seven p.m. There's Hardball with Chris Matthews, who seems also like the last honorable schoolboy, but somewhat....compromised by the sheer concretizing effort of putting on that show day after day. Everybody wears a tie and has a haircut. The women, passionate and committed, go out and sell it. Whatever it is. Katrina Vanden Huevel is on as I write, promoting Richardson as VP for Obama (of course), while Ron Brownstien (author of a perfect book about Hollywood's intersection with Washington) shrugs and plays cool. Buchanan is back with his inability to ever, ever see the shade of gray.

Chris bemoans the soap opera of the Democratic war, while never mentioning that he's one of the guys stoking it on and on and on.

THERE ARE FOUR THOUSAND SOLDIERS DEAD TODAY. It is used as the anchor for a "discussion of the surge".

Some shit has gone down in Detroit with the mayor and perjury over sex. The distractions are like bubble gum to bad breath; a temporary relief at best. Now it's Olbermann, the bastard love child of Howard Beale and Hamlet, and I watch him tell us about bedbugs(!!!) at Fox-news - I watch, feeling a bit like Jimmy Stewart in Vertigo, when the lens does something unknowable, stretching, elongating, bending...

And yet there is real life. It remains ever present. We can not avoid it. Journalism is insufficient to the task, and art seems to have lost a certain metaphoric elegance -- it doesn't draw people in.

I send money every month to the Children's Defense Fund. I think about the things I can do.

It is no secret that I am madly in love with Obama and everything he stands for. I talk to my shrink about an America that does not elect him. I think it will be the end of some hope, some dream for the realization of everything that Martin Luther King stood for.

If it doesn't happen, I will retreat. Into the small and the quiet. My friends, my family, my work. No public hope. I worry that my anger at Hillary Clinton is muddy, but then I think about the impression of falsity and the condescension she exudes. To me. I know she doesn't hit everybody the same way. I think about my friends who keep asking me not to slam her anymore.

MSNBC in the background. Iraq. In the background? How do we get out? Matthews is speaking to Richardson about Carville and the Clintionian sense of entitlement (only within their staff -- I disagree).

I know I will do anything I can for her if she is the nominee, but my dreams for this country will have died. I wish Senator Clinton and Senator Obama could silence the gutter-sniping and solely talk to the issues of what it means to be an American circa 2008.

I am terribly angry over the Clinton's praise for John McCain; so craven, so vicious, so cynical and so wrong. In the background, Richardson is passionately extolling the virtues of his guy
and the night goes on, the talk goes on, unabated and I watch, I judge, I scribble, my passions agitated. What next?

23 March 2008

Black Guy Asks Nation For Change

The Onion

Black Guy Asks Nation For Change

CHICAGO—Some residents reported seeing the black guy waving wildly and quoting from the Bible, while others said they spotted him shouting about global warming.

22 March 2008

Leading Obama Adviser Attacks Ex-President for Remarks

Because Bill Clinton is so calculating a person, let there be no doubt as to what he was implying by exclusion. Disgusting. This should be Hillary's "Reverend Wright" moment. RS

March 22, 2008
Leading Obama Adviser Attacks Ex-President for Remarks
MEDFORD, Ore. — As Senator Barack Obama folded his arms and looked on, one of his leading military advisers forcefully defended Mr. Obama’s patriotism here Saturday and accused former President Bill Clinton of trying to employ “divisive attacks” to promote his wife’s presidential candidacy.

Mr. Clinton, in a speech to voters in North Carolina on Friday, said “it would be a great thing if we had an election year where you had two people who loved this country and were devoted to the interest of this country.”

At a town meeting here Saturday, retired Air Force Gen. Merrill A. McPeak, who is a co-chairman of Mr. Obama’s campaign, read the quote from Mr. Clinton. A few members of the audience gasped and hissed at the former president’s words.

“Let me say first, we will have such an election this year because both Barack Obama and John McCain are great patriots who love this country and are devoted to it — so is Hillary Clinton,” General McPeak said, speaking over loud applause. “Any suggestion to the contrary is flat wrong.”

Mr. Obama, on his first trip to Oregon before the state’s primary on May 13, did not address the comments from Mr. Clinton. He stood a few feet away from the retired general as he made his remarks before a crowd of more than 1,500 people in a Medford community center.

“I’m saddened to see a president employ this kind of tactics,” said General McPeak, who served as Air Force chief of staff in the early years of the Clinton administration. “He of all people should know better because he was the target of exactly the same kind of tactic when he first ran 16 years ago.”

The Clinton campaign dismissed suggestions that the former president had been questioning Mr. Obama’s patriotism during his remarks to a veterans group in North Carolina on Friday.

“I think it would be a great thing if we had an election year where you had two people who loved this country and were devoted to the interest of this country,” Mr. Clinton told the group in Charlotte, N.C., according to a report by NBC News. “And people could actually ask themselves who is right on these issues, instead of all this other stuff that always seems to intrude itself on our politics.”

In response to reporters in Oregon on Friday, General McPeak compared the former president to Senator Joseph R. McCarthy, who aggressively pursued those he believed to be communists in the 1950s. “I was going to college when Joe McCarthy was accusing good Americans of being traitors, so I’ve had enough of it,” General McPeak said.

The bitter exchange between the surrogates for Mrs. Clinton and Mr. Obama highlighted the rising tensions between the two Democratic presidential candidates in their prolonged fight for the party’s nomination.

“To liken these comments to McCarthyism is absurd,” said Phil Singer, a Clinton campaign spokesman. He said General McPeak was misinterpreting the remarks, suggesting it was an intentional effort to divert attention from a controversy involving inflammatory statements by Mr. Obama’s former pastor.

Leading German Rabbi Condemns Pope's Good Friday Prayer

This makes me so sad to consider, but we must nevertheless keep talking, and doing so constructively and respectfully. I'd appreciate any additional viewpoints.


03/21/2008 03:18 PM'INSULTING TO JEWS'
Leading German Rabbi Condemns Pope's Good Friday Prayer
Jewish groups around the world have condemned Pope Benedict XVI's new version of a Catholic Good Friday prayer. SPIEGEL ONLINE talks to prominent German rabbi Walter Homolka about why the prayer is insulting to Jews and discusses alleged anti-Semitic tendencies within the Catholic Church.

Rabbi Walter Homolka: "The Catholic Church does not have its anti-Semitic tendencies under control."
Around the world, millions of Catholics are celebrating Good Friday, when they commemorate the crucifixion of Jesus Christ. But for many Jews, this year's ceremonies leave a bitter aftertaste, due to a controversial new version of a prayer that many claim is anti-Semitic.

Last month, the Vatican announced that Pope Benedict XVI had revised the so-called "Good Friday Prayer for the Jews" which forms part of the Tridentine Mass, often referred to as the Latin Mass. The new version, translated from the Latin, reads: "Let us also pray for the Jews: That our God and Lord may illuminate their hearts, that they acknowledge that Jesus Christ is the Savior of all men."

Several leading Jewish organizations, including the Anti-Defamation League, the American Jewish Committee and the International Jewish Committee on Inter-Religious Consultations, have strongly criticized the new wording of the prayer. However only the very small minority of Catholics who celebrate the Good Friday mass in Latin will actually hear the allegedly anti-Semitic version of the prayer.

The new wording is similar to the original version of the prayer, which read: "Let us pray also for the faithless Jews: that almighty God may remove the veil from their hearts; so that they too may acknowledge Jesus Christ our Lord."

This original version was toned down at the 1962-1965 Second Vatican Council which introduced many far-reaching reforms of the Catholic Church, including replacing the Tridentine Mass with vernacular liturgies. The Good Friday Prayer then became: "Let us pray for the Jewish people, the first to hear the word of God, that they may continue to grow in the love of his name and in faithfulness to his covenant."

In contrast to his predecessor Pope John Paul II, who was feted for his efforts to build bridges with other religions, Benedict has succeeded in alienating members of other faiths on several occasions since he took office in 2005. He offended Muslims with a 2006 speech at the University of Regensburg in which he quoted a Byzantine emperor who described Islam as violent. Many Jews were disappointed with Benedict's 2006 visit to Auschwitz, having hoped for a stronger message on the Church's role in the Holocaust. More recently, Jewish groups criticized Benedict's meeting with a notoriously anti-Semitic Polish priest in August 2007. The latest incident is likely to further jeopardize efforts to promote Catholic-Jewish dialogue.

SPIEGEL ONLINE talked to German rabbi Walter Homolka about why he considers the prayer to be offensive and the likely damage to Catholic-Jewish relations.

SPIEGEL ONLINE: Mr. Homolka, you -- and around 1,600 rabbis worldwide -- are sharply protesting the Vatican's revival of the Latin Good Friday Prayer, which reads: "Let us also pray for the Jews: That our God and Lord may illuminate their hearts, that they acknowledge that Jesus Christ is the Savior of all men." Do you consider Benedict XVI to be anti-Semitic?

Walter Homolka: He is trying to focus on the specific aspects of his church -- that's his duty. But in this case he has lost his sensitivity. It is insulting to Jews that the Catholic Church, in the context of Good Friday of all things, is once again praying for the illumination of the Jews, so that we can acknowledge Jesus as the savior. Such statements are made in a historical context which is closely connected with discrimination, persecution and death. Given the weight of responsibility that the Catholic Church has acquired in its history with Judaism, most recently during the Third Reich, this is completely inappropriate and must be rejected to the utmost degree.

SPIEGEL ONLINE: What is the effect of Benedict's new version of the Latin phrase?

Homolka: He indicates that he believes that the path to salvation, even for Jews, can only go through Jesus, the savior. This opens the floodgates for the conversion of Jews. The Internet is already full of comments by conservative, right-wing Catholics who say: "Wonderful, now we finally have the signal to convert the Jews." This kind of signal has an extremely provocative effect on anti-Semitic groups. The Catholic Church does not have its anti-Semitic tendencies under control.

SPIEGEL ONLINE: So Benedict is encouraging anti-Semitic tendencies?

Homolka: He is accepting them, at the very least.

SPIEGEL ONLINE: Isn't the current version of the prayer harmless compared with the original version from 1570, which was used for centuries? It suggests that the hearts of Jews are veiled, that they wander in darkness and that they are blinded and perfidious.

Homolka: I consider Benedict's version, too, to be more than unfortunately worded. He is making, on a central liturgical occasion, namely the Good Friday liturgy, a theological statement that Jews cannot help but perceive as aggressive and crass. Throughout history, Jews have repeatedly been subjected to persecution and death on Good Friday. Christians have often translated the message of Good Friday into the question: "Where are the murderers of Christ?"

SPIEGEL ONLINE: But wasn't this danger eliminated long ago?

Homolka: In 2006, the chairman of the General Rabbinical Council of Germany, Rabbi Henry Brandt, expressed himself in very clear words to (leading German theologian) Cardinal Walter Kasper. He said that any approach to the possibility of a mission by the Church to convert Jews is essentially a hostile act -- a continuation, on a different level, of Hitler's crimes against the Jews. These are strong but honest words. The Catholic Church should acknowledge the fidelity of God, who abides by his choice of the nation of Israel as his chosen people.

'Good Friday This Year Is a Black Day in Jewish-Catholic Relations'

SPIEGEL ONLINE: Very few German parishes will use the Latin version of the prayer. Isn't your protest exaggerated?

Homolka: The issue is not where this extraordinary form of the prayer will be used. The pope, by choosing the wording himself, has made an important, precedent-setting change and has given it his personal seal of approval. In doing so, he deprives the acceptable 1970 form of the prayer of its credibility. The pope could simply have used that text for the Tridentine Mass: "Let us pray for the Jewish people, the first to hear the word of God, that they may continue to grow in the love of his name and in faithfulness to his covenant."

SPIEGEL ONLINE: Christianity is a missionary religion. Isn't it logical that it would also seek to convert Jews?

Homolka: No, because the controversial Good Friday Prayer completely ignores the unique status of the Jews as God's chosen people. God called us Jews to be a "light for the nations," so we certainly do not require illumination by the Catholic Church. The younger sister has clearly struck the wrong chord here.

SPIEGEL ONLINE: Jesus himself was of course a Jew and he proselytized among the Jews.

Homolka: Jesus put forward his arguments within the context of an internal Jewish dialogue. What the Church turned this into was something completely different. It made Jesus the rabbi into a deity. On top of that, it claims that the crucifixion of this rabbi is relevant to my personal salvation. Such teachings would have been news to Jesus.

SPIEGEL ONLINE: You see the new Good Friday Prayer as an offence to many Jews. With his speech in Regensburg, Benedict also hurt the feelings of many Muslims. What's behind all this?

Homolka: I cannot imagine that these were simple slips. What we have here is a captain on the bridge of his supertanker. A new course was set with the Second Vatican Council. Now the captain wants to turn around and set another new course within a short period of time. And one or two explosive devices are needed to get the ship into its new position. For the pope, the Church of the Second Vatican Council has lost too much of its power to retain the faithful, and university theology has become too feeble. This is why we are seeing these massive changes in the Catholic Church.

SPIEGEL ONLINE: But there have also been positive developments in the Catholic-Jewish relationship: the Catholic Church's admission of guilt, Benedict's visit to the Cologne synagogue and his meeting with Vienna's chief rabbi, Paul Chaim Eisenberg. And he also visited Auschwitz.

Homolka: In Auschwitz, he put forward a view (of the Holocaust) which made it sound as if neo-pagan forces had descended upon the German people and seduced them. After the Holocaust, Rabbi Leo Baeck drew a very different conclusion: What is the value of a church that could not assert God's fundamental teachings during the Third Reich? This makes the claim to absolute truth exhibited by Christianity seem rather absurd.

SPIEGEL ONLINE: Nevertheless, after World War II the Catholic Church sought to develop a good relationship to the Jewish people. Rome acknowledged that Christianity comes from Judaism, that Judaism possesses a promise of salvation from God, and that Jesus was a Jew.

Homolka: Yes, but there are also contradictory signals. During the canonization of Edith Stein, who was murdered (by the Nazis) because she was a Jew and was then elevated to martyrdom by Christians, part of the Catholic Church's aim was to make a Catholic out of a Jew. And now we have this affront with the Good Friday liturgy. I accept it when someone makes a personal decision to change faiths -- and this applies to both sides. The Christian-Jewish dialogue has come to terms with that. But a collective expectation of Judaism to acknowledge Jesus as savior is a heavy imposition.

SPIEGEL ONLINE: What is the point of a dialogue in the first place, if it is clear from the beginning that the two sides will ultimately be irreconcilable?

Homolka: The purpose of the dialogue is not unification or incorporation. We want to learn to understand each other. That includes avoiding insults like the one we have received in the form of the pope's Good Friday Prayer. I am afraid that, on the Jewish side, Jews will begin voting with their feet, and people will withdraw from the dialogue.

SPIEGEL ONLINE: How can things continue?

Homolka: Good Friday this year will be a black day in relations between Jews and Catholics. We are still waiting for a promised explanation from the Vatican. Four Jewish speakers have already cancelled their participation in the German Catholic Convention. Nerves are raw on the Jewish side. A few months ago, (Jewish intellectual) Micha Brumlik warned of an "ice age" and now it has arrived. Relations between the Catholic Church and the Jewish community suddenly face a crucial test of the sort that hasn't been seen in decades.

Interview conducted by Alexander Schwabe. Translated from the German by Christopher Sultan.


21 March 2008

Obama blasts Hamas Op-Ed

Obama blasts Hamas Op-Ed
Ron Kampeas
U.S. Senator Barack Obama (D-Ill.) slammed a Hamas official's opinion piece that was initially published in the Los Angeles Times and later reprinted by Obama's pastor in his church's bulletin.

Published: 03/21/2008

WASHINGTON (JTA) -- Sen. Barack Obama says that a pro-Hamas Op-Ed printed in his church's bulletin was "outrageously wrong."

In an issue dated July 22, 2007, in a section titled "Pastor's Page," the Trinity United Church in Chicago reprinted an article by Hamas official Moussa Abu Marzook. The article, which originally appeared as an Op-Ed in the Los Angeles Times, justifies the Palestinian terrorist group's denial of Israel's right to exist.

The church's pastor, Jeremiah Wright Jr., who retired this year, has stirred controversy for Obama's campaign for the Democratic presidential nomination with statements likening Israel to colonialists and blaming attacks on the United States in part on its support for Israel.

In slamming the Hamas piece, Obama noted that he strongly rejects some of his longtime pastor's views.

"I have already condemned my former pastor's views on Israel in the strongest possible terms, and I certainly wasn’t in church when that outrageously wrong Los Angeles Times piece was re-printed in the bulletin," Obama said in a statement e-mailed to JTA late Thursday. "Hamas is a terrorist organization, responsible for the deaths of many innocents, and dedicated to Israel's destruction, as evidenced by their bombarding of Sderot in recent months. I support requiring Hamas to meet the international community's conditions of recognizing Israel, renouncing violence, and abiding by past agreements before they are treated as a legitimate actor."

Obama has consistently condemned Hamas and defended Israel’s military responses to rocket attacks.

The reports about the church bulletin and Obama's response come just days after intensifying focus on Wright's controversial anti-American statements prompted the Democratic candidate to deliver a major speech on race relations in America. In the speech, Obama, a U.S. senator from Illinois, condemned Wright's most inflammatory comments but said he would not "disown" the man who inspired him to embrace Jesus.

In a short introduction to the reprinted piece, Wright wrote, “Islam has as many manifestations as Christianity and Judaism, but most Americans are only fed a media diet on Islam as it relates to the ‘war on terror’ and the Palestinian muslim problem in the ’state’ of Israel.”

The newsletter was posted by BizzyBlog and reported by WorldNetDaily, a right-wing Web site that has played a key role in advancing the idea that Obama and his advisers are not supportive of Israel.

The WorldNetDaily report ran under the headline “Obama church published Hamas terror manifesto." One line in the Op-Ed directly defended strikes against Israeli targets: “Hamas," Marzook wrote, "has never supported attacks on Westerners, as even our harshest critics will concede; our struggle has always been focused on the occupier and our legal resistance to it -- a right of occupied people that is explicitly supported by the Fourth Geneva Convention.”

Dov Hikind, a New York state assemblyman, issued a news release condemning Wright and calling on Obama to sever his pastor and his church.

The New York lawmaker, who is in the Israeli town of Sderot for the holiday of Purim, urged Obama to visit the town "to see what support for Hamas terror looks like, and he will see why he must sever his ties to Wright and his church."

Hikind, who was in Israel for Purim and could not be reached for comment, has his own ties to a controversial religious figure. Before being elected, he was an adviser to the late Rabbi Meir Kahane, a leading advocate for the mass transfer of Israeli and Palestinian Arabs out of Israel. Kahane founded the Jewish Defense League and Kach, a group that has been banned in Israel and classified as a terrorist organization by the U.S. State Department.

In addition to his statement on the Hamas article, Obama issued a separate statement timed for the Jewish holiday of Purim – a holiday rarely remarked upon by candidates or congressmen.

Obama's statement spoke of "the story of Queen Esther and her uncle Mordechai saving the Jews of ancient Persia from destruction."

"Even as the parties are held, the songs are sung, and the noisemakers are rattled, the history of a people that has had to fight for its survival, remains at the heart of the Purim story," the statement said. "In our day, the celebration is mingled with a determination to ensure that Israel remains safe and strong, that we fight anti-Semitism wherever it occurs, and that the American Jewish community continues to play such an active and vital role in the life of our nation."

This week, the Obama campaign circulated a photograph of President Bill Clinton shaking hands with Wright at a September 1998 event for religious clerics, which was held the same day the Starr report on Monica Lewinsky was made public.

The Obama campaign's move prompted a series of name-calling back-and-forths between it and the Clinton campaign, underscoring how potent the Wright issue has become.

"A picture — oooooooo!" was the mocking response of Howard Wolfson, a top Clinton campaign official, to the New York Times.

Jay Carson, another Clinton spokesman, told Politico that the Obama campaign was "pathetic" to peddle the photo. "Less than 48 hours after calling for a high-minded conversation on race, the Obama campaign is peddling photos of an occasion when President Clinton shook hands with Rev. Wright," he said. "To be clear, President Clinton took tens of thousands of photos during his eight years as president."

The Obama campaign countered, "After their top surrogates pushed this story line and Senator Clinton's campaign outlined this as a central strategy in her plan to overturn the will of Democratic voters, I can see why they wouldn't want a photo out there that shows the kind of hypocrisy we've all come to expect from their campaign."

It's hard to say who is peddling the Wright narrative at any given time, but those pushing the story to JTA, at least, are not part of the Clinton campaign. In any case, there may be a positive Jewish spin: At the White House breakfast for clerics, Clinton drew on a number of writings on repentance – particularly Yom Kippur.

JTA Managing Editor Ami Eden and reporter Ben Harris contributed to this report from New York.

Emirates permits world's first in-flight cellphone call, plane doesn't crash

Emirates permits world's first in-flight cellphone call, plane doesn't crash
Posted Mar 21st 2008 3:08AM by Thomas Ricker
Filed under: Misc

Like it or not, a new era has dawned. More than a year later than anticipated, Emirates says that the world's first authorized cellphone call was made by a passenger during an Airbus A340 flight between Dubai and Casablanca. Once the aircraft reached cruising altitude, passengers were permitted to make and receive both calls and text messages. Emirates plans to fit additional aircraft with the interference-blocking AeroMobile system later this year while adding BlackBerry and "other data services." To keep the annoyance factor to a minimum, the flight crew requests passengers to silence their ringers and will shut off the in-flight service when appropriate. For example, during long-haul, red-eye flights or breaking celebrity scandals on TMZ... we hope.

[Thanks, Jonathan F and Andrew B.]
Tags: aeromobile, emirates, in-flight, in-flight calling, in-flightcalling