Posts filed under ‘Politics’

Rosa, Martin, Barack

“Rosa sat so Martin could walk. Martin walked so Obama could run. Obama ran so our children could fly.”

Thanks to Lisa Colton, Rabbi Laurie Hahn Tapper, and whoever wrote this

October 29, 2008 at 2:46 pm 4 comments


A few weeks ago I had the pleasure of being on a panel for a joint conference of the Indiana Muslim Alliance and the Islamic Society of North America. The topic of the panel was social justice from the perspective of the three Abrahamic faiths. My Muslim and Christian colleagues both gave eloquent, passionate speeches about our respective edicts to help the poor, feed the hungry, take care of widows and orphans, etc. All three Abrahamic faiths have strong social justice components – in both Islam and Judaism to do so is mandatory.

After our presentations we took some questions from the audience. The first question posed to us was ‘can you relate your faith’s social justice perspective to the war or politics?’ My colleagues were thoughtfully quiet, but I jumped t the chance to speak about something that’s been bothering me.

During this election season (which is thankfully almost over) I’ve heard much said about taxes – how both candidates will cut taxes for me (a middle classer). At the same time I hear the voices of supposed ‘people of faith’ saying we need to take care of others, but at the same time they refuse to pay more taxes. My question is, if we cut taxes, how do they suppose we take care of those who have less?

I admit, I’m a liberal, at least when it comes to social justice issues. My faith teaches me that it’s not an option to provide for those who are needy – it’s an obligation. I also understand that government is not always the most reputable source of aid and I agree with those who say we need to hold social programs accountable, both fiscally and programmatically. But what I cannot reconcile are those who purport to be ‘good people of faith,’ (especially in my own state) who uphold ‘family values’ and then flat out refuse to financially support programs that aid those in need.

Many say we need to rely on our faith communities to provide this aid. I agree. But the reality is they cannot do it and we have ample evidence of their lack of success. If churches, synagogues and mosques could provide all the aid necessary, we wouldn’t still need government programs. We do.  

The Republican principle of less government is not a bad idea except when it becomes exclusionary, particularly for those least able to advocate for themselves. When it does it is elitist, exclusive, self serving and discriminatory. If that’s what people want, I advocate their right to say so. But don’t call it an expression of any faith – it’s not.

I can hear conservatives labeling me a bleeding heart liberal. If that’s so, I gladly accept their critique and will paint myself pink. When did caring for others, doing the right thing, and loving justice become a weakness or a shortcoming?

October 28, 2008 at 11:50 pm 1 comment

Ron Howard’s Call To Action

October 23, 2008 at 7:53 pm Leave a comment

do we really realize how important this election is?

Early voting in Evansville

from Politico,


Here’s an early voting story from a medical student in Evansville, Ind.:

I squeaked in just before the 7pm deadline to find two very frustrated poll workers and a line of a couple dozen people, due to problems with the computerized voting system not accepting people’s driver’s licenses. It was taking about 7-10 minutes per person just to get the computer to accept them as valid and to print out their ballot, causing very long delays.

For me the most moving moment came when the family in front of me, comprising probably 4 generations of voters (including an 18 year old girl voting for her first time and a 90-something hunched-over grandmother), got their turn to vote. When the old woman left the voting booth she made it about halfway to the door before collapsing in a nearby chair, where she began weeping uncontrollably. When we rushed over to help we realized that she wasn’t in trouble at all but she had not truly believed, until she left the booth, that she would ever live long enough to cast a vote for an African-American for president. Anyone who doesn’t think that African-American turnout will absolutely SHATTER every existing record is in for a very rude surprise.

There were about 20 people in front of me but remarkably not a single person left the room without voting over the 2 hours it took to get through the line.

October 23, 2008 at 1:42 pm Leave a comment

Dear red states…

Dear Red States…

We’ve decided we’re leaving. We intend to form our own country, and we’re  taking the other Blue States with  us.

In case you aren’t aware, that includes Hawaii, Oregon, Washington, Minnesota, Wisconsin, Michigan, Illinois and the entire Northeast. You get Texas, Oklahoma and all the slave states.  We get stem cell research and the best beaches. You get Ken Lay.

We get the Statue of Liberty. You get Dollywood.  We get Intel, Apple and Microsoft. You get WorldCom. We get Harvard. You get Ole’ Miss. We get 85 percent of America’s venture capital and entrepreneurs. You get Alabama. We get two-thirds of the tax revenue; you get to make the red states pay their fair share.

Since our aggregate divorce rate is 22 percent lower than the Christian Coalition’s, we get a bunch of happy families. You get a bunch of single moms.

Please be aware that Nuevo California will be pro-choice and anti-war, and we will want all our citizens back from Iraq at once. If you need people to fight, ask your evangelicals. They have kids they’re apparently willing to send to their deaths for no purpose, and they don’t care if you don’t show pictures of their children’s caskets coming home. We do wish you success in Iraq, and hope that the WMDs turn up, but we’re not willing to spend our resources in Bush’s  Quagmire.

With  the Blue States in hand, we will have firm control of 80 percent of the  country’s fresh water, more than 90 percent of the pineapple and lettuce,  92 percent of the nation’s fresh fruit, 95 percent of America’s quality  wines, 90 percent of all  cheese, 90 percent of the high tech industry, most of the U.S. low-sulfur  coal, all living redwoods, sequoias and condors, all the Ivy and Seven  Sister schools, plus Harvard, Yale, Stanford, Cal Tech and  MIT. We get Hollywood and Yosemite, thank you.

With the Red States, on the other hand, you will have to cope with 88 percent of all obese Americans (and their projected health care costs),  92 percent of all U.S. mosquitoes, nearly 100 percent of  the  tornadoes, 90 percent of the hurricanes, 99 percent of all Southern  Baptists, virtually 100 percent of all televangelists, Rush Limbaugh, Bob Jones University, Clemson and the University  of Georgia.

Additionally, you will enjoy those 38% who believe Jonah was actually swallowed by a whale, 62 percent who believe life is sacred unless we’re  discussing the death penalty or gun laws, 44% who say that evolution  is only a theory, 53 percent that Saddam was  involved in 9/11 and  61 percent of you believe you are people with higher morals than we  lefties.

Peace out, Blue States

anonymous… someone brilliant!

October 21, 2008 at 8:07 pm 4 comments

the internet as a force for democratization

I’m going to leave the decision of who won the 2nd presidential debate to the politicos. However, there was a fascinating experiment going on during the debate. NPR teamed with Plodt to use Twitter as a tool for gathering immediate feedback on each candidates performance. Confused? Well, me too and I was part of it!

But, despite the confusion, it was a fabulous social science experiment, enabling those of us twittering the debate to give and get immediate feedback on the candidates. I would add it was far from representative of the American populous – NPR listeners tend to be more liberal (and intelligent… ooh, did I say that?). I know it kept me engaged in a way I’ve not been for past debates.

I hope this sets a precedent for future public conversations. Viva la internet!

P.S. If you’re interested, the final tally… Obama 8, McCain 4 and you can read my comments at

October 8, 2008 at 1:47 pm 1 comment

Don’t Vote!

OR, don’t be an idiot and make a difference!

October 1, 2008 at 10:21 pm Leave a comment

Obama and the Jewish Vote

An excellent article from RealClearPolitics by Professor Pierre Atlas at August 01, 2008

By Pierre Atlas

In order to win the “Jewish vote,” candidates often try to out-trump each other in demonstrating their support for Israel. The media play into this game, as many journalists and pundits tend to assume, along with politicians, that American Jewish opinion is monolithic (and uniformly hawkish) when it comes to Israel: that no criticism of Israeli policies or actions will be tolerated, and that no pressure should ever be put on Israel to make compromises.

As Barack Obama traveled to the Middle East last week, his every move was scrutinized by the media. Was he pro-Israel enough to secure the vote of American Jews? Would any nuance in his statements be interpreted to mean he was pro-Palestinian?

It does a great disservice to both American foreign policy and to the Jewish community to portray American Jews as of one mind, marching in lockstep and demanding that all candidates read from a script when it comes to Israel. Contrary to popular belief, the majority of Jews are not single-issue voters. George W. Bush, arguably the most “pro-Israel” president in American history, was able to garner only 24% of the Jewish vote in 2004. Fully 76% voted for John Kerry according to exit polls. Jews have traditionally voted overwhelmingly for Democrats since the 1930s. That didn’t change after the Second Intifada, 9/11 or the invasion of Iraq. Indeed, Bush was able to increase his Jewish support by only 5 percentage points from the 2000 election.

One reason for the widespread belief in a monolithic and inflexible Jewish position on Israel is the success and perceived power of AIPAC. The American Israel Public Affairs Committee has played a key role in helping to establish and maintain bipartisan support for Israel in Congress and the executive branch. AIPAC, which has become increasingly pro-Likud in recent years, is a textbook example of a successful interest group, on par with the NRA, AARP, and the farm lobby.

But American Jewish opinion, although not as diverse as that of Jewish Israelis, is more varied on Israel than AIPAC’s pronouncements would suggest. According to the November 2007 American Jewish Committee’s annual survey of Jewish opinion, 46% of American Jews supported the creation of a Palestinian state, with 43% opposing and 12% not sure–this, in a poll taken just months after Hamas’ violent takeover of Gaza. Asked whether they were “willing to compromise on the status of Jerusalem as a united city under Israeli jurisdiction” in a permanent peace deal with the Palestinians, while 58% said no, 36% said yes and 7% were not sure.

Reflecting this diversity of Jewish opinion, American pro-Israel peace groups such as Brit Tzedek v’Shalom and J-Street, the new pro-Israel PAC, have emerged as more moderate alternatives to AIPAC.

On July 16, J-Street released the results of a new survey that demonstrates “a remarkable gap between the attitudes of American Jews and the conventional wisdom about how Jews view America’s role in the Middle East.” According to the survey, 86% of Jews would support the US “playing an active role in helping the parties to resolve the Arab-Israeli conflict [even] if it meant the United States publicly stating its disagreements with both the Israelis and the Arabs.” Eighty-one percent would support the US exerting pressure on Israel as well as the Arabs “to make compromises necessary to achieve peace.”

American support for Israel is longstanding and bipartisan and the reasons go well beyond AIPAC’s influence. The political, cultural, religious, scientific and economic ties between America and Israel are substantive and multi-faceted. Both Obama and McCain understand Israel’s security needs and its existential anxieties. Regardless of which man becomes the next president of the United States, the special relationship between the US and Israel will continue.

Many Israelis, however, are concerned that Obama might be hostile to the Jewish state. The false assertions that he is a Muslim and that he was raised in a radical madrassa in Indonesia, concerns about his association with Rev. Wright, and even his middle name have all played into the fears of some Israelis–just as they have with some Americans. When I was in Turkey last month, I spoke with an Israeli tourist in my Istanbul hotel who was convinced that Obama would be “bad for the Jews.” When I asked him why, most of the “facts” he cited about Obama were patently false, based on the same email rumors and innuendo that have been sent to American Jews.

Obama has sought to reassure Jewish voters and his trip to Jerusalem and Sderot was an important move. Yet he too may have bought into the simplified image of American Jews. When he spoke before the AIPAC convention in June, Obama declared that Jerusalem “will remain the capital of Israel, and it must remain undivided.” In so doing, he unnecessarily went further than the official US position on Jerusalem, which states that the city’s fate should be left to the final status negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians.

Obama’s declaration came off as pandering for the Jewish vote. Ironically, while it caused consternation in the Arab world and dismay among peace negotiators, it is doubtful whether the statement did anything to satisfy the more hawkish Jewish and Christian supporters of Israel in the United States.

In its three-thousand year history, Jerusalem was divided for only eighteen years, from 1949 to 1967. This was a disaster and should not be allowed to happen again. But for a two-state solution to succeed, Jerusalem must become the capital of both Israel and Palestine. Israeli and Palestinian negotiators have been exploring the idea of dual municipalities for years. Imagine if Obama had told the AIPAC audience that while Jerusalem should not be re-divided, it ultimately must be shared. He could have shown bold leadership and vision on one of the most vexing issues of our time, and he would have been supported by a large number of American Jews.

If the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is to be resolved, the next president will need to take steps that facilitate Palestinian statehood while also maintaining Israel’s security. This will require bolstering Palestinian moderates in their political struggle against extremists, encouraging key compromises on both sides, and rewarding cooperative behavior by neighboring states.

The questions posed to McCain and Obama should not be simplistic queries as to who supports Israel the most, but how they plan to move the peace process forward. What is each candidate’s vision for a new Middle East, and what role does he see for the US in achieving it?

For both the candidates and the media, acknowledging the diversity and sophistication of American Jewish opinion will be a much needed first step.

As for Obama, if he can debunk the false rumors and make the case that he is no less supportive of Israel than previous Democratic candidates, he should have little problem attracting Jewish voters, who tend to be liberal on social issues and are most comfortable with the Democratic Party. He won’t have much difficulty convincing younger Jews. The real challenge will be with the older Jewish voters.

Atlas is an assistant professor of political science and director of The Richard G. Lugar Franciscan Center for Global Studies at Marian College.

August 1, 2008 at 1:41 pm 1 comment

Boston Legal – Its AntiSemitic to dare to criticise Israel!?

I love this show, especially the ending cigar chats. This 1:30 clip explains a lot!

July 1, 2008 at 5:14 pm Leave a comment

Honor the Image of God: Stop Torture Now


Rabbis for Human Rights North America and K’vod Habriot have joined with the National Religious Campaign Agains Torture (NRCAT) to bring the anti-torture message to congregations across the country. Get your synagogue to order a Stop Torture banner to hang in your community!

What are the goals of K’vod Habriot?

  1. Build the first-ever, national network to mobilize Jewish commitment to human rights.
  2. Mobilize the Jewish community to address other human rights issues.

K’vod Habriot Statement of Principles:

  • “Every human being is created in the image of God” Bidmut Elohim asah oto: It is incumbent on each of us to act in a way that affirms the fundamental dignity of every human being. Respect for each human being is the foundation of Jewish ethics.
  • “[We must] do what is just and right.” La’asot Tzedek U’Mishpat: For a nation to have legitimacy, it must enforce a system of law that is fair, equitable, and just.
  • “Do not oppress the stranger, orphan or widow.” Ger, Yatom, V’Almananah Al Tonu: We have a duty to promote a society that cares for the economic well-being of all of its members, especially those who are most vulnerable.
  • We believe that the Universal Declaration of Human Rights flows from these Jewish values, as well as from our own historical experience, especially that of the treatment of Jews during the Holocaust. Therefore, it is incumbent on us, as Jews, to defend the human rights of all who are oppressed.

March 24, 2008 at 8:58 pm Leave a comment

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