Post-prayer reflections

So the National Day of Prayer 2010 has come and gone. President Obama’s proclamation contained the following words,

NOW, THEREFORE, I, BARACK OBAMA, President of the United States of America, by virtue of the authority vested in me by the Constitution and laws of the United States of America, do hereby proclaim May 6, 2010, as a National Day of Prayer. I call upon the citizens of our Nation to pray, or otherwise give thanks, in accordance with their own faiths and consciences, for our many freedoms and blessings, and I invite all people of faith to join me in asking for God’s continued guidance, grace, and protection as we meet the challenges before us.

Apparently, on National Day of Prayer, those “freedoms” do not extend to the freedom from religion. Non-religious Americans have every right to feel abandoned by their government on such a day. In inviting “all people of faith”, President Obama is slicing up the American people into those of faith and the rest of us who, on one day a year, are essentially barred from participation on a nationwide scale. Not only is this idiocratic, but it is unnecessary and counterproductive.

And where in the Constitution is there any mention of it being the President’s responsibility to proclaim such things as national prayer days? I’m not a constitutional scholar, but my understanding is that the government is bound to neutrality on religious matters and those of individual conscience. So it was slightly shocking to read:

IN WITNESS WHEREOF, I have hereunto set my hand this thirtieth day of April, in the year of our Lord two thousand ten, and of the Independence of the United States of America the two hundred and thirty-fourth.

The year of our Lord two thousand ten? Clearly, this was a call to Christian prayer, neatly undermining the much-heralded pan-religious propaganda of the event in question. I, as an American citizen, do not recognize the year 2010 as the year of my Lord, or any Lord whatsoever. That, as we say, is a private matter of conscience. It has no place on White House letterhead.

Are All New Yorkers Jewish Atheist Pornographers?

Well, Woody Allen had some fun with this meme in his latest film, Whatever Works. I’m not going to give it away, but I’ll just say that everything dissolves in the universal solvent of New York City. It’s fashionable, whenever a new Allen film comes out, to say things like, “Not his best screenplay” and then something derogatory about his latest starlet and the fact that all his movies are really the same movie, and all his male leads are really himself (all true, by the way). Of course, we’ve known this for a long time. What we never hear is that Allen’s track record for enjoyability is unmatched. So if you get nothing else from the movie than ninety minutes of unwholesome fun, shouldn’t that be worth something?

Next week a campaign will begin in NYC to promote the possibility that people can be moral without God.

The ads, which will begin appearing on posters in 12 subway stations Monday, pose the provocative question “A million New Yorkers are good without God. Are you?”

Predictably, not all New Yorkers are enthusiastic about such a campaign. But, President Obama noted in his inaugural speech, America is a country in which non-believers are citizens, too.

 A small step for humanism, a huge leap for humankind.

Ignorance Is No Longer Bliss

Dont be a pill, dude.
Don't be a pill.

Living in Italy, I don’t get the opportunity to watch American television much. I don’t even have Sky, which would enable me to watch hundreds of channels. Until a week or two ago, I lived a quiet life with four–count ’em!–channels: one in black & white, three in color and MTV (which doesn’t count because it’s all reality shows), and most of them owned by Berlusconi. So one might say I was living in the woods.

Now, after a week in the US watching faith channels and Fox News, I’ve finally seen something interesting.Today I watched the entirety of President Obama’s townhall speech on the healthcare (or health insurance) reform bill. I had seen the Obama-with-greasepaint-mustache posters, the swastikas, and I’ve even written about Obama-bashing here. I hadn’t been following this healthcare business closely because, well, I live in Europe. That happens. Anyway, it’s unavoidable now, so when I actually listened to Obama field questions from the public I was surprised at the elegance of his vision.

I know such praise will draw hellfire from the usual quarters, but this was my gut instinct. Here’s how it appears to me, an American who has set foot in this country for the first time since Barack Obama took oath in January, and whose approval rating is supposedly falling like hail fire over Egypt.

Let me briefly preface these observations by stating that I have never taken much of an interest in such debates; nevertheless, I’ve held numerous jobs in the United States, and never have I had a healthcare plan (except for a brief period when I was a member of the auto workers’ union, but don’t ask me how that happened). In Italy I am for the first time a beneficiary of “universal health care.” It is not a dream plan, but I can see a doctor when I need to. What Obama proposed sounds better than what I have in Italy, which is better than what many Americans have in America. Something is wrong in that equation.

Of course, I understand that there is a lot of fine-tuning to be done. Nothing is exactly as it appears, and there may be huge difficulties in funding such a program. And people will probably always fall through the cracks. But let me write what I heard Obama say, and not the pundits:

1. All Americans are entitled to healthcare. No exceptions.

2. If you like your existing healthcare program, you may keep it. The government will not force you to switch to theirs.

3. Wasted money–billions and billions of dollars–will be rerouted in order to finance such a program. These are dollars presently being squandered subsidizing insurance companies, not enriching care for their patients.

4. Everyone will be able to choose the healthcare plan they feel is best. Prices will most likely go down due to a public option.

5. The elderly will not be murdered wholesale by a shadow euthanasia plan.

None of this is highbrow stuff. I did not go and look anything up afterward. Let’s make believe I was an average Joey Bag-o’-Doughnuts in attendance. This is what I would’ve taken away from the encounter.

So the question remains: what is so explosive about all this? Why shouldn’t all Americans have health insurance? It sounds like a dumb question, but I can’t seem to get a straight answer so far.

American So-Called Jews

The ambiguous title of this post is an example of the brilliant commenting that takes place on the web. The full comment reads:

This article is insane, as 79% of American so called Jews. -Yigal

Here’s the article, if you’re interested. From The Forward:

Alarm bells have been ringing around the neighborhood pretty much nonstop since July 13, when President Obama sat down to talk Middle East policy at the White House with a pack of leaders from a dozen American Jewish organizations.

The meeting was supposed to help buff up Obama’s relationship with the Jewish community, which is bubbling lately with resentment at the president’s aggressive peace-processing. By reaching out to the community’s customary spokesmen, he hoped to build rapport and perhaps recruit a few backers for his policies. Instead he unleashed a whirlwind of attacks against himself, his administration and the Jews who met with him.

The critics accuse Obama of unfairly singling out Israel by demanding a unilateral settlement freeze, without requiring reciprocal Palestinian concessions, and disregarding past American promises to permit some construction. They say he is trying to curry favor with the Arab world, breaking a long-standing presidential tradition of siding automatically with Israel. Some say he is threatening the important legacy of George W. Bush. I didn’t make that one up.


If there is a substantive argument in all this, it’s the claim that Israel is being pressured for concessions while the Arab side is not. Obama himself conceded the point at that meeting. He’s now pressing Arab states for gestures to help Israelis get the medicine down. But freezing settlements doesn’t depend on that. Jerusalem is already committed to “freeze all settlement activity (including natural growth of settlements).” It’s written in black and white in President Bush’s road map, which Israel signed in 2003 — and which Avigdor Lieberman reaffirmed this past April 1 in his maiden Knesset speech as foreign minister. Israel was able to put off the freeze because the Palestinian Authority wasn’t honoring its commitment to crack down on terrorists. Now the Palestinians are cracking down, and Netanyahu is making up excuses.

As for Obama being the new Roosevelt, we should live so long. FDR, if memory serves, was the guy who defeated Hitler and saved the world, after the Japanese air force convinced congressional Republicans to let us join the war. If Obama has any tricks like that up his sleeve, bring ’em on.

Obama the Machiavellian

Ron Rosenbaum writes:

I think Obama is a true Machiavellian. By abandoning “axis of evil” rhetoric, and by making that Cairo speech, however anodyne it was, and by not jumping in too soon, he turned the Iranian revolution into a pro America phenomenon, rather than allow the fascist mullahs to smear it as a pawn-of-America phenomenon. Not bad for a rookie.

And he made this point two paragraphs after congratulating Slavoj Zizek on an “uncharacteristically sensible and persuasive essay.” It appears Zizek actually has a mind capable of constructing complete, semi-linear thoughts when it feels like it. So why doesn’t he do it more often?

Whose Catastrophe?

Dick Morris & Eileen McGann have a new book out called Catastrophe: How Obama is Fucking Up America. Now, I wouldn’t bother even mentioning this, but there is a humorous sidenote. Pick up the book, turn to the author bio blurbs on the back flap, and read for yourself:

“[McGann]…works with Dick…specializing in using the internet to win elections.

Well, kids, Obama won the last elections, and there was much talk that websites like Facebook and YouTube–to name the obvious culprits–were instrumental in pushing his campaign over the top. My question for Morris & McGann is: what elections have you won recently?

The Other Cairo Speech

Mel Konner has a provocative post in which he writes the speech he wishes Obama had delivered in Cairo last month. He prefaces it with a lengthy criticism of Obama’s actual speech, in which he makes some salient points. He stresses that Obama “bowed too low”, just as he had to the Saudi king and Hugo Chavez. He may have a point, and I hope Obama read it. Being the good guy is great, but the world cannot risk an American president who appears weak. Ever.

So here’s my crack at the other Cairo speech, the one I believe many people heard in place of what Obama actually said. It begins like this:

Fellow Muslims…”

Marxist, Fascist, Muslim Obama

Here is a revealing comment to my recent post about anti-Obama hate speech. In fact, it is so perfectly blind in its sheer disgust of him that I felt it deserved a place of its own in a post instead of getting lost in the comments.The author calls herself The Mad Jewess, and mad she is. At what, it’s hard to say.

“I stood up to the excrement on Youtube, and advised them to REPENT: Rabbis4Obama, Jews4Obama, the list is ENDLESS of the sheep that voted in the Marxist, Fascist, Muslim Usurper in Chief..but remember, we dont make up a whole heckuva lot of the populace, and those that did NOT vote for the pig, NEED to get blogs and head almost far right, with a little balance.

As much as people dont want to admit it, MADOFF got rid of the JINOs; ACLU, and MANY, believe you me.”

Elsewhere, she decries feminism, blacks, abortion, divorce, the anti-christ, racism (against “white people”), Latinos, gun control, Bolsheviks…an this is all on the first page of her blog! If this is any indication of the general attitudes of the anti-Obama hate-clans, it’s a lethal cocktail of far-right xenophobia and the inability to distinguish one thing from another in order to make a cesspool of one’s personal hatreds. These people are not out to debate policy, they are out to offend by any means necessary.

Israelis need all the friends they can get to combat prejudice. But are Jewish xenophobes who court right-wing American bigots (the Left Behind people) the answer to Islamist death squads and anti-Zionist xenophobia on the far left?

The propaganda is essentially the same all around. Change the names, or melt them all together into a Zionist-Muslim-Commie-Fascist-Abortion-loving-Negro-hugging-Feminist hatefest to suit your own personal woes. There is nothing constructive about any of this, however. And it remains a mystery exactly why they think Obama’s policy on Israeli settlements is so unique. It may be ‘displacement’, but is is not really divergent or particularly original.

And Madoff is their hero.

Message to the Obama Blasters

The real enemy?
The real enemy?

Some 70% of American Jews voted for Barack Obama in the last elections. Now, we find out we voted for Hitler? This is something I can’t quite digest, this pro-Israeli Obama-bashing. How did the conservatives hijack Zionism?

“The dhimmi in the White House” has increasingly become a sort of anti-Obama rallying cry. The scope is not to discuss or criticize Obama’s ideas on Israel (entirely debatable,as ever) but to dirty him with the dhimmi brush. He has been tarred and feathered as an enemy of Israel and the Jewish people and a lackey of Islamic rejectionism. As my blogger friend Jew With a View posted recently (quoting Joseph Farah):

I hope my Jewish friends remember this well. Many of them voted for Barack Obama. Many of them voted for Hillary Clinton. These are not your friends. These are the same kinds of people who turned away ships of Jewish refugees from Germany in the 1940s. These are the same kinds of people who appeased Adolf Hitler at Munich. These are the same kinds of people who made the reformation of the modern state of Israel so difficult.

We have gone from understandable criticism of Obama-administration pressure on Israel to stop existing settlement growth to a mischaracterization of Obama as–what? Hitler? Ahmadinejad? Appeasement incarnate, apparently. Farah goes so far as to call this “ethnic cleansing”, perhaps borrowing his human-rights jargon from the anti-Zionist hard left. My baloney detector is going haywire.

Is Barack Obama a cosmically-charged enemy of the Jewish people? Was he sent by God (or the Adversary) to beguile and destroy Jewish continuity in the guise of the president of the USA? Is he, as we are expected to believe, completely subservient to the Islamist lobby? Is he ransoming the State of Israel to appease the likes of Osama bin Laden and the Iranian regime? Does any of this sound familiar?? It sounds like the Mearsheimer-Walt thesis turned on its head. If only everything in politics were so black and white.

I’m all for crticism where it is due, and Obama is no exception. I used to feel disgusted at the hatred against Dubya, though I’ve never felt close to the Republican party or kinship with American conservative causes. I even stood up to fellow liberals when they crossed the line from criticism to hate speech. And there was a lot of that back then. Now it’s back–with a vengeance.

Can’t we say shoyn genug* to conspiracy theories once and for all?

* “enough already!”

The Plight of Venezuela’s Jews

My friend Rabbi Barbara Aiello sent me an article from the Wall Street Journal entitled The Politics of Intimidation.

In a report to be released today, the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom puts Venezuela on a watch list of countries where religious freedom is threatened. “Anti-Semitic statements by government officials and state media,” it says, “have created a hostile environment whereby some Venezuelan citizens have harassed and threatened rabbis, vandalized Jewish businesses with anti-Semitic slogans, and called for a boycott of all Jewish businesses in Venezuela.” In a report on global anti-Semitism last year, the State Department listed Venezuela as a state sponsor of anti-Semitism.

Clearly, trouble is brewing. The crux of the matter is Obama’s recent overtures to what were once considered America’s enemies–or, at least, not best friends. Now, it’s fine and good to reach out and offer the hand of friendship, even to your enemy. It’s mighty Christian, as they say. But the problem for Obama is that on one hand he expresses concern for Israel and the Jews (White House seder et al.), and on the other he extends an olive branch to precisely those regimes who not only preach anti-Americanism, but specialize in anti-Jewish measures and hatred of Israel.

I voted for Barack Obama, though I never bought into the messianic rhetoric of his most ardent supporters. I believed him to be the better candidate and a true friend of the Jews and Israel. I still believe he is. Perhaps he is an amateur at foreign policy after all. Now that he’s been in office for more than 100 days, the beautifully wrought rhetoric of his campaign is beginning to fade somewhat, leaving us with the reality of pitiless facts and tough choices.

No one said it was going to be easy.

And then there’s Caroline Glick’s shrewd analysis of the upcoming elections in Lebanon. It’s anything but uplifting.

It is too early to know how Obama will react when he like Bush is no longer able to deny that his strategy for winning over the hearts and minds of the Islamic world has failed. We don’t know if like Bush before him, he will simply ignore reality and pretend that nothing has happened; if he will blame his political opponents or Israel for not joining him in his contrition; or if he will cast about for another central organizing principle that will explain hostile Islamic behavior.