Friday, October 31, 2008

EPIC FAIL, the best stories from around the web

Its ok, sometimes people are busy, they don't have time for the frivolous pursuit of FAIL. Luckily, we here at the St. Lou Jew have done some of the leg work for you. Read on for FAILARITY. . .

For those who don't know, FAIL is an internet meme based on things going wrong, irony, or just plain stupidity. The 'Mission Accomplished' sign on the aircraft carrier is a perfect example of this.

Another great example comes in the form of a group of Christians who recently prayed at the Morgan Stanley Golden Bull to ask god for a return to a bull (growing) market.

Perhaps they don't know that a calf and a bull share some pretty interesting commonalities known as species. Perhaps they haven't heard of this little thing called the golden calf... or perhaps (in the case of Catholics) the line between depictions of god and idols have become somewhat obscured. In either case, there is a really interesting article about it that may have you asking for a pair of tablets just so that you can throw them to the ground. Talk about worshiping the almighty dollar!

To stay on the whole prophetic tip, comes a story from the Onion, making fun of the meteoric rise of 'Joe the Plumber' who was turned from a caricature into a living caricature by John McCain. The interesting thing about this article is that it was written 15 years ago and still has incredible relevance today.

Joe the Plumber gets the FAIL award for being unable to articulate a reason for his 15 minutes of fame or defend a single position. If these are the people McCain wants to showcase, he is probably further in the can than any of us imagined.

Finally, after reading both of those, and coming incredibly close to losing all faith in humanity, more people watched Barack Obama's 30 minutes of primetime television than watched the World Series. Granted, the WS was only on one channel, while Obama was on 7, but never-the-less, for that many people to be taking an interest in something as relevant and important as Obama, and pushing America's past-time into second place.. well, I guess that means that Obama is more American than baseball!

The only FAIL here is baseball, whose yearly salary pay outs are probably far higher that the bailout package.

/Please excuse the ADD nature of the above post, supplies of generic D-amphetamine have fallen faster than gas prices and stock portfolios.
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Thursday, October 30, 2008

Between a rock and a hard place

There has always been a very close relationship between war and natural resources – from cavemen fighting over a hunt to colonialism to a whole host of conflicts since. As time has passed, many of these conflicts have gone soft – meaning non-violent confrontations via soft power, which are equally as destabilizing. We may be seeing the rumblings of another conflict of just this sort. The next American president is going to face a tough decision between two gas lines through the Caucuses: either Europe gets natural gas from Iran, or Russia gets to horde the continent’s energy supplies for a generation. Neither is a very tantalizing choice.

They may seem like to diverging conflicts: Iranian influence and nuclear weapons and Russia’s threat to European security. Iran will be an existential threat to the Israel and the stability of the world, and if Russia decides to sell its rockets and war heads or air-defense systems, or vetoes sanctions, even more so. By contrast, Russia’s threat to Europe is a slowly evolving reality: Europe ends up more beholden to Russian energy czars in a politically unhealthy way.

Europe’s energy future lies in a much talked about but thus far unrealized independent pipeline, the Nabucco (meaning “freeing the slaves”). The line would take gas from Central Asia and the Caspian via Turkey to the Balkans and Central Europe in the hopes of replicating the success of two lines that cross Georgia, which have significantly dented Russia’s grip on the east-west routes (see: the August War). Russia is trying hard to block this line. It has revived the idea of an international gas cartel with Qatar and Iran, and offered an alternative project, the South Stream pipeline (again, see: the August War). Backed by Gazprom and Italy’s ENI it already has support from Austria, Bulgaria, Romania, and Serbia. This creates exactly the kind of contest that the Kremlin likes, in which European countries battle each other to get the best deal from Russia.

This only works because the EU is disorganized and flailing. European leaders publically maintain that the two lines are not competitors, which could not be further from the truth. Nabucco means relative energy independence from Russia, who has always used energy supply as a means of political leverage against Europe, while South Stream means increased Russian dominance and control over Europe’s energy supplies and costs. Complicating matters is the lack of gas independently available. Securing the Nabucco would mean huge, orchestrated diplomatic pushes from the EU and America in countries like Turkmenistan, and would require the construction of a Transcaspian gas pipeline.

Nabucco is technically easier to build than South Stream (South Stream would go through the deep, toxic, and rocky depths of the Black Sea). However, it faces legal obstacles and could be vetoed by both Russia and Iran. As Zeyno Baran of the Hudson Institute recently argued, “the fortunes of the two pipelines are inversely related.”

And here is where the next American president will find dilemma. Befriending Iran, as it appears a President Obama may attempt to do, would create problems for Russia. An Iranian bypass around the Caspian allows Turkmen gas, and Iran’s reserves for that matter, to flow to Turkey and then on to Europe via the Nabucco. But the American officials, politicians, and analysts who are concerned about Russia tend to also be skeptical about starting talks with the mullahs or even allowing Iranian gas to flow through an American-supported pipeline, for good reason (this would create another huge funding sources for terror groups – see Funding Evil: How Terrorism Is Financed – an excellent and well researched read, increase Iran’s political stock, empower current leadership by opening an Iranian commodity to a huge market, etc).

Supporting the Russian project would mean subjecting our European allies to the whims of hostile Russia, yet it would also mean a higher likelihood of receiving Russian support at the UN for sanctions and actions against Iran. Supporting the European project would mean increasing the influence of Iran in the world and demonstrating, for the first time, that America is reassessing its support of Israel. Neither a President Obama nor a President McCain is going to want to have to entertain this thought, but one of them is going to have to.
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Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Anti-Semitism and Harassment in St. Louis

First it was 'Hit a Jew Day', now it seems like you can't even live in a University City ghetto with out being harassed for being ultra-Orthodox

According to this story, being reported in local news, there have been about nine incidents involving slurs and one case of a family being egged.

Now, while it may be incredibly ironic to egg pro-lifers at an abortion rally, throwing eggs at the observant isn't really that ironic, or fun, or permissible.

Sure, in Israel there are occasionally bands of ultra-orthodox who consider themselves the 'modesty police' and use a little violence here and there to force their beliefs on others, but that is the Middle East, where we expect barbaric behavior, strange customs, and the triumph of faith over logic.

But right here in our back yard?

When the 'Hit a Jew Day' story broke, it focused on a school which had an extremely small number of Jews. This newest report focuses on the University City area, which is ground zero for Frum (religious) Jews in St. Louis.

An interesting question is whether these incidents are related to the recent economic distress.

There are myths abound that the whole collapse was caused by Jews lending money to poor African-Americans, or that Lehman transferred several billion dollars to Israel just before declaring bankruptcy.

Maybe people are just getting ansy. Its always to pick on Jews, especially the religious ones that you can pick out of a crowd.

Maybe I'm under-reacting, after-all, the ADL treats every incident incredibly seriously, why shouldn't I?

Or perhaps I'm just skeptical that these issues somehow represent a shift in the social fabric.

Time will tell on this one, but in the meantime, perhaps we should start up local Beitar groups. Shmirah duty anyone?

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Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Want to know what's going on in Israel beyond the conflict?

Israel 21c provides "Beyond the Conflict News Service"

The mainstream Israel media outlets are almost always focused on Israeli security issues, especially if you just look at the headlines. For many though, a real connection with Israel includes exposure to domestic issues, which we know receive much less coverage. Israel 21c, located at, aims to provide diaspora Jews and anyone interested in Israel with substantative coverage on business and innovation, culture, technology, democracy, and health issues affecting Israel. The website seems especially concerned with reaching the 20s and 30s age groups through a Facebook group and Youtube channel as well as providing sources for Israeli music exposure and Israeli television. Check it out.
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Thursday, October 23, 2008

Hit a Jew Day Makes Borat Laugh, Y? Cry

I bruise easily, so I wasn't thrilled to hear that, in my own back yard, kids are hitting Yids.

This story first came to my attention on Google News last night during the first intermission at the Blues game (Red Wings FTW!). Today, I check everyone's favorite Israeli newspaper, Haaretz's website, and I that this story has legs.

The short summary is that, after several 'hug a friend day', 'high five a friend day', etc., a few students at Parkway West Middle School in Chesterfield decided that 'hit a Jew day' sounded like a good idea.

To the students who hit a Jew, you win an article on . .just as soon as I figure out how to create a topic.

To the students who got hit, I suggest the Jewish Defense League, or maybe one of those army programs in Israel.

To the parents and everyone going into hysterics, stop bitching and do something about it.

I was one of the very few Jewish kids in my (Cincinnati Public) elementary school. My parents made a point to come into class around some of the holidays and explain a bit about why I wouldn't be in class, and what I would be doing instead.

It is much harder to hate something you understand than something you don't.

This seems like the perfect opportunity to bring drop some knowledge.
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Wednesday, October 22, 2008

My parents lied to me

They told me I was 25. Nope, turns out I'm 28.

This campaign has been fraught with lies and damn lies, and finally someone has taken the time to expose the biggest of them all: age. We’ve all been told that John McCain is 74 years old but his REAL age is actually 64. Barack Obama is also younger than we’ve been told, though the difference is not 10 years. Thank G-D we have Dr. Michael Roizen and his website,, to expose the truth.

But this revelation is much further reaching than the campaign. You’re going along your normal day, thinking you’re 25, and then within an hour come to find out that you are really 28. That’s right, my parents lied to me, and your parents probably lied to you too. I’m 3 years older than they’ve been telling me. All those birthday cakes growing up were 3 candles short. 25 birthdays times 3 candles, on my next birthday cake I want an additional 75 candles to make up for it. I don’t even need the cake, just a piece of earth with 104 candles in it, blazing orange and yellow.

I’m going to have to get a new drivers license, change all my insurance information, and seriously, what happened to my REAL birth certificate? The bureaucratic nightmare this is going to cause. And come to think of it, when I was “16” and dating a 16 year old girl, I was really 19, and could’ve been sent to jail! I hope her parents don’t find out. I’ve almost always dated girls who are older than I, but now it turns out not so much. My friends, my world has turned upside down - it’s as if I’m looking at the Peters Projection Map.

And here I thought I had 3 more years until I was 28. It’s as if I lost 3 years, that I’m 3 years behind, because I had an idea of where I wanted to be at 28, and to find out I’ve come this far short, it’s really depressing. People have been telling me I’ve had a good life for 25, experienced a lot in those years. Now when I tell them I’m 28 they may not speak so kindly.

I’m a big boy though, I can handle it. After all, I’m 28, and knocking on 30’s door. I just became eligible for a whole other age bracket of women too, though I suppose that means leaving a younger bracket behind. Damn, I need to get serious with myself. The expectations that come with 28 are of greater weight than those of 25. You’re expected to have accomplished a fair amount in those 3 years between 25 and 28.

And think about this: according to numerous studies and reports, the populations of most of the West and China are aging significantly. If John McCain is actually 10 years younger and I'm 3 years older, and none of us are the age we think we are, this could totally throw off those studies and reports. Someone needs to get to the bottom of this, because there are serious implications on how the government portions stuff like social security and Medicare.

If you would like to experience a similar mind trip, visit the following links:

Real Age

Why and how Real Age is legit:

Peters Projection Map:
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Proposition M

With all of the presidential election hype, it is easy to lose sight of issues that have an immediate effect in our back yard. Prop M is one such issue.

Proposition M will cover the deficits that Metro is projected to have this and next year as a result of a reduction of federal and state funding.

PROPOSITION M - Public Transportation

Shall St. Louis County, Missouri impose, in addition to an existing County-wide sales tax of one-quarter of one percent for the same purpose, a county-wide sales tax of one-half of one percent (0.50%) which shall have a sunset date twenty years from the date on which the tax is first imposed, for the purpose of providing a source of funds for public transportation purposes, with the revenues from one-quarter of one percent (0.25%) to be used for expansion of a light rail system and revenues from the remaining one-quarter of one percent (0.25%) to be used for the maintenance and operation of existing public transit facilities?

Now, I don't live in the county, but if I did, I would probably be thinking to myself, "why should I have to pay any more taxes to pay for a mismanaged failing public transportation system that barely benefits me?"

Thank god, I don't live in the county and can clearly respond that:
A. The half cent sales tax increase means that for every $100 that you spend, fifty cents more go to the government. That's really not that much. Also, you aren't bearing all the burden, St. Louis City passed a quarter cent sales tax increase that is dependent on this tax passing in the county, so the tax burden is shared, even if it isn't an even split.
B. More people are taking the Metro than ever before, partly because of higher gas prices, partly because the buses are more reliable than ever before.
C. Metro has been independently audited and no mismanagement has been found.
D. If Prop M doesn't pass, 28 of the 60 bus routes will be cut, including all service outside of 270.

Now that those issues are settled, I want to discuss the larger implications of public transportation in this city, again.

It is clear that the cities that work do so in large part thanks to government subsidized public transportation systems that require huge initial investments.

Public transportation supports the population density necessary to attract businesses, development, and the cost-effective administration of government funds.

If you live in the county, you have the opportunity to vote for Proposition M. Please do so as an investment in the future of St. Louis as a viable metropolis.
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Tuesday, October 21, 2008

More on Diplomacy

An article in today’s International Herald Tribute reads, “Top U.S. and Russian Military Officers Meet.”

“The United States and Russia sent their top military officers to this neutral capital [Helsinki] for an unannounced meeting Tuesday to seek and define common ground and to try to move bilateral relations back on track, American officials said.

American officials said they anticipated that the war in Georgia would be high on the list of issues to be discussed. But other topics also have bruised bilateral relations. The recent agreements with Poland and the Czech Republic to host American missile defense sites have angered the Kremlin despite repeated statements from the United States that the modest system of radars and 10 interceptors poses no threat to the vast Russian nuclear arsenal.

"It is important that we have a dialogue with Russia and sustain a meaningful relationship," said a senior U.S. military officer.” ”

This is the right conversation to have with Russia for the moment because it addresses the short term goal of placating Russia for the time being and it helps address some long term concerns that will help smooth the way towards better bilateral relations in the future.

However, this is the nightmare scenario for Georgia and US allies following the August war between it and Russia over South Ossetia and Abkhazia, which are internationally recognized territories of George, not “disputed territories” as Barack Obama characterized them in the second debate (meaning that either he agrees with Russia on the issue, doesn’t understand the issue, or doesn’t care).

To quickly recap, in the 12 months leading up to the war, Russia distributed Russian passports to the peoples of these territories and armed native militias favorable to Russia. When Georgia sent its military into the territories to confront these militias, Russia invaded under the dubious auspice of protecting its own citizens who, after all, carried Russian passports. To be clear: everything Russia did was illegal, and not the sort of action the world needs its big countries to take.

Yet here we are, two months removed, and the American military is now meeting with the Russian military to talk closer ties. From its little expedition into Georgia, Russia has succeeded in destabilizing the Georgian government and intimidating regional NATO allies. And from this, they are rewarded with closer US ties.

In the long term though this stands to create some real problems. It sends a terrible message to Russia that the US will not punish it for invading and destabilizing developing independent democracies. It sends an even more terrible message to US allies that the US will not protect them and in fact will become friendly with their aggressors. It sends a yet more terrible message to the world that America will not stick to its moral code or keep its word. And above all, this will accelerate the already-started arms race in former Soviet states that would prefer to align themselves with the West.

Meetings between America and Russia are necessary right now. But this is how difficult diplomacy is, and exemplifies its limited reach. The dearth left by diplomacy in this scenario is that it serves as absolutely no deterrent for future Russian aggression, which is one reason the US has pursued the missile defense shield that protects US and NATO allies as well as increased efforts to lobby Brussels for the inclusion of Georgia and Ukraine, which would mandate NATO response to Russian aggression. Diplomacy is not the magic wand many would have you believe.
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Monday, October 20, 2008

A Dumb Question: Joe the Plumber

From a concerned reader:

"I'm getting ready to buy a company that makes 250..270 uh 280 thousand dollars a year, your new tax plan is going to tax me more, now isn't it?"

When I heard the now famous Joe quoted on my NPR pod cast asking that question, I let forth the same series of expletives I normally reserve for Bushisms. What a stupid question! Yes, if you are making two-hundred and fifty THOUSAND dollars, you should pay more taxes then someone like me who makes on the order of 25 thousand/year. Even at the proposed higher tax percentages, you still have a s**t load of money.

Call me a socialist - and yes, I will admit to having lived on a kibbutz - but I like having community and government programs. I like schools. I like police forces. I even like roads. And I want my central governing body to govern these systems and programs that are utilized by everyone in my community / country. Furthermore, as a logical thinking citizen, I want everyone to contribute to the financing of these programs. Because, let's face it, the small town volunteer-part time fire department that works ok on limited equipment in a small rural town population 400, isn't going to cut it in St. Louis city. Jews especially should recognize the importance of supporting community structure, because the concept of community is central to our religion. Not only do we have an additional obligation as Jews to tithe 1/10 of our income towards tikun olam (Literally fixing the world), but also think about the nature of the synagogue, the structure of our holidays, and the value placed on inherently communal aspects of society such as a school or the mikvah (ritual pool). Interestingly, the money that we set aside for tithing isn't even really ours to give, but we should think about it as if we were merely the one responsible for allocating it . So if you can agree that we need these services, and we as a community benefit from the existence of these services, then you must realize that someone has got to anti-up the cash.

So why should Joe, who probably doesn't have kids in school or need medicaid, have to give more to fund these services? I'd like to invoke the Marxian statement "each according to his ability," but I have a feeling you would jump on my ironically not red behind and stop reading. So let's take a Jewish example of undue burden. A synagogue needs to pay its bills, and high holiday tickets are a key source of funding. While $100 a seat is nothing for my parents, that kind of fee would be a serious burden for me. I'm sure many of you enjoyed your free seat at services a few weeks ago - or if you didn't go, at least cost wasn't the obstacle. The same applies to our larger, more secular community. Why should a family be forced to choose between health care and food? It's not just a percentage, but an impact factor.

Now you might be saying, "I get it - I pay my taxes. I just don't want to pay MORE taxes then I already am." Wake up and smell the poverty. Look around you, not in tower grove or the central west end, but a little further east. I'm not writing to argue about wasteful government spending, but - fact - there are people in need. And as a Jew - and as a person - I am obligated to do what I can to help them.

Sadly, taxes are just one example of our nation shunning civic duty. While sitting at a conference last Friday, I overheard the gentleman sitting behind me bragging about how he made himself enough of a nuisance to be excused from jury duty. I almost punched him. He was proud of his failure to provide his peer with the most fundamental component of our judiciary system. Now this is St. Louis city, so probably the person on trial shared little of this graduate student's socio-economic, racial, or cultural background. But, I'm sorry, since when do civic duties - jury, taxes, or otherwise, stop at those boundaries? I'll get off my soap box now, but I had to say something. Particularly for a young, Jewish blog, the posts were just getting too conservative.

--Editor's note: We strive to incorporate a diverse range of opinions, and our bloggers love to hear from you. If you have a comment please comment on specific posts, as different authors tend to espouse very different viewpoints.
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Sunday, October 19, 2008

Colin Powell Endorses Barack Obama

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Friday, October 17, 2008

Bullies, Saber-Rattling, and the Weeks Between the Election and the Inauguration

Last night, I had the opportunity to attend a special event hosted by Renaissance Financial, at which Greg Valliere was the main attraction. Aside from describing various election and financial scenarios he raised the situation in which Israel might try to knock out nuclear sites in Iran in the period between the election and inauguration of the new president.

I took the opportunity to ask him, during Q and A, what evidence he has seen that Israel has the ability to pull this off. Given that Israel doesn't have the long range refueling equipment it would need (and the US recently refused to sell it, opting instead to place a powerful, but US controlled radar station in the Negev), the fact that targets in Iran are spread out, buried, and heavily reinforced, that they may acquire new Russian anti-aircraft systems, and that the airspace to get there would require a fly through Iraq (meaning that the US would have to be informed of and at least tacitly approve in advance), what are the real possibilities that this could happen.

His answer referenced a book, called "Rules of Engagement", that I cannot seem to find anywhere. The book was a work of fiction that detailed specifics of what an attack on Iran might look like. Apparently the book was good enough that President Bush contacted the author to get some insight into the issue.

Despite all of the saber rattling which is holding the populations of both nations hostage, I came across an interesting article about an Iranian boy who needed advanced cancer care and was eventually admitted to and is currently being treated in Israel. His father made a point to say how touched he is by the sympathies and support of the Israeli people, and also was very explicit to say that the Iranian people themselves do not hate Israel.

It is nice to see that even in the midst of such a tense situation, there are still those who treat humans as humans and have removed the politics, if only for a moment.
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Thursday, October 16, 2008

Having your pick of cool things to do in Saint Louis? Priceless

Thursday, October 23rd, a week from today, a curious thing is happening, never mind that it is by accident, or that it might ruffle a few feathers (you know, cuz competition is bad).

That's right, I'll put it out there, I think its good that people have a choice. Not that I don't love having a designated place to know I'm going to see everyone, and not that I particularly like spreading thin an already (relatively) small number of interesting people, but to me, it's not unimportant that I have to make a choice between three events that I want to attend. Were I in Chicago, NYC, etc. etc., this would be a weekly, if not daily dilemma.
Therefore, I'm kind of excited.

Ok, you are raving about three quality events, what are they?
..Right, sorry, so the events, in terms of timing are:

Saint Louis Graduate Students happy Hour
Just what it sounds like, except that you don't need to be a graduate student to attend. And the best part, first $200 bar tab on Hillel!
Date: Thursday, October 23, 2008
Time: 6:30pm - 9:30pm
Location: Culpepper's Central West End
Street: 300 N. Euclid
City/Town: Saint Louis, MO
Contact - Phone: 3149359044 Email:

Nolad Lirkod aka Born to Dance at the Gramophone, presented by the Saint Louis Israel Connection aka SLIC.
I'm excited for this event because the Gramophone is awesome, there will be hilarious dancing, and discounted drinks.

Time: 7:00pm - 9:00pm
Location: The Gramophone
Street: 4243 Manchester Ave.
City/Town: Saint Louis, MO

Contact - Phone:3144423770 Email:

Finally, Metrobowl!
Making public transportation sexy, grab your friends for a night out bowling and get discounts just for riding the Metro!

Show your Metro ticket at the door and get your hand stamped for free shoe rental and half off on your second game. And when the night is over, let Metro be your designated driver.

Brought to you by the Public Transportation Initiative of St. Louis Urban Corps. Urban Corps’ mission is to create a framework through which young persons who want to become civic leaders can conceive, develop and implement initiatives that will improve the quality of life in St. Louis.

Date: Thursday, October 23, 2008
Time: 7:30pm - 10:30pm
Location: Flamingo Bowl
Street: 1117 Washington Avenue
City/Town:Saint Louis, MO

I'm giving you a week's notice so that you can clear your schedule and make it to at least one of these great opportunities to meet great people.
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Behind the Music: Joe the Plumber

So turns out John McCain's friend, "Joe the Plumber" isn't really a plumber at all...

"Joe the Plumber" isn't really a plumber at all, at least not one I would want fixing a leak in my house. It seems that a basic check of local licensing agencies in Ohio and Michigan show on plumbing licenses for Samuel Joseph Wurzelbacher, or even a name close to that.

So what does all this mean? The real question here is, if the Toledo Blade could figure this out, why couldn't a man vying to be the most powerful man in the world? Or did he know that he was twisting the facts, and hope he could sneak one by the American people? Either way, not an auspicious start to McCain's home stretch here.

On the way out, no, McCain did not land any body blows in last night's debate, appearing rather condescending and, yes, erratic. There's a long way to go, but it's becoming harder and harder to find the coalition McCain needs to pull this thing out. Disagree? Discuss below, it's Thursday and I'm up for a good fight.

//Edit by Y?- Sleep now and Zuz to cause an anti-matter black-hole in 3..2..1..
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Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Baltimore Holocaust Memorial

Recently I took a trip to Baltimore, Maryland. I was lucky enough to stay in the Inner Harbor, which is a one of the most beautiful parts of the city. What I like about the location even more is its proximity to Little Italy and Fells Point, which has a similar feel to 6th Street in Austin, only with more history, a maritime feel, and the residence of Michael Phelps. I had some of the best pizza of my life in Little Italy and went into a time warp at Max’s in Fells Point, downing Belgian beer I hadn’t had since I lived there.

The highlight of the trip though was my visit to the Baltimore Holocaust Memorial ( The story of the Memorial, like the Memorial itself, is as simple as it is powerful. Back in the 1970s, a ninth grade Hebrew class told their teacher that they did not believe that the Holocaust happened. Shortly thereafter, the Baltimore Jewish Council approved a proposal submitted by the Hebrew class teacher to build a memorial.

The Memorial takes up one city block, right in the heart of the Harbor district. It is entirely open air and outside, and we’re talking prime real estate. The block is owned by the adjacent Baltimore Community College, which houses a Holocaust resource center. What amazes me is that the college could use this plot of land for just about anything else it and it would bring in money, yet they chose to donate the use of it to a free memorial.

The Memorial itself is quite simple, yet powerful and moving. It simulates a railroad track yard with, at one end a concrete structure representing a train with words written by an Auschwitz survivor written across it: “On both sides of the track rows of red and white lights appeared as far as the eye could see… …with the rhythm of the wheels, with every human sound now silenced, we awaited what was to happen…. …in an instant, our women, our parents, our children disappeared. We saw them for a short while as an obscure mass at the end of the other end of the platform; then we saw nothing more.” At the other end stands the most moving sculpture I’ve ever seen. You have to check out the website to see it, it’s amazing.

There is much nuance to the Memorial that I cannot describe in words – it must be seen. If you ever find yourself in or near Baltimore, make the trip to the intersection of Lombard and Gay streets only a few blocks from the Inner Harbor.

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Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Putting the "Dip" in Diplomacy

This election has raised the issue of diplomacy to a recent high. The Democrats have lofted diplomacy to a level of almost a deity. In the process, they have demonized anyone who has questioned its virtuosity. Yet the history of diplomacy is not an impressive one, and I can find no application of it, even one within the context of our current situation, which justifies this kind of emphasis. It is important to understand diplomacy within its historical context to properly assess its potential, so let’s look back at America’s modern (Hitler to present) experience with it.

The most sited example is Richard Nixon’s trip to China in 1972. However, for all the success dramatically reported, it was by no feat of diplomacy that Nixon was able to convince China to change its tune. Numerous secret talks between Henry Kissinger and his Chinese counterparts were needed before Nixon made the trip to China. These talks led Kissinger to explain afterwards that, “Only extraordinary concern about Soviet purposes [and the large buildup of Soviet forces on along the Chinese boarder] could explain the Chinese wish to sit down with the nation heretofore vilified as the archenemy.” The Chinese were lacking the technology and resources they needed to provide for and protect their country. Thus there ensued over a period of many years a series of third-party backdoor messaging leading first to secret talks with Kissinger and finally to Nixon’s visit.

Of Nixon’s visit to China, Kissinger wrote, “I know of no presidential trip that was as carefully planned. The voluminous briefing books…contained essays on the trip’s primary objectives and on all subjects of the agenda previously established…they suggested what the Chinese position would be on each topic and talking points on what the President might follow…Nixon committed the talking points to memory and followed them meticulously in his meetings with Chou En-Lai.” The responses from Chou and Mao were no less prepared. The direct Presidential talks, in reality, formalized rather than caused the desired changes in Chinese policy. The cause was entirely unrelated to the diplomatic efforts of the US government, which served only as the final stage in a very long process in which Chinese realized, before it even met with the Americans, that it needed America more than it needed the Soviets.

Another oft-cited example is Anwar Sadat’s trip to Jerusalem in 1977. Again, however, it took a long process in which Egypt realized, through no diplomatic efforts of the US or Israel, that it needed peace more than it needed conflict. Sadat had led Egypt away from its anti-Israel position since his surprise attack on Israel in 1973. In fact, Sadat went so far as to expel the Soviets from Egypt out of fear for not only his own strength as President but also out of fear for the implications it would have on its relationship with the rest of the world. In an interview with ABC News, Sadat signaled his desire to end the conflict with Israel. Two days later Begin responded with a TV ad inviting Sadat to Israel and eight days after that Sadat landed in Jerusalem. At no time before Sadat’s arrive had diplomatic efforts been used to secure the changes in Egyptian policy.

Yet another example of a re-positioning, a very significant one, was the dissolution of the USSR and the end of the Cold War. Mikhail Gorbachev met with Reagan in 1986, 87, and twice in 88. He then met with Bush Sr. in 1989. No Gorbachev accounts, nor the accounts of those involved in these meetings, provide any evidence that the meetings influenced his evolution towards policy changes. Gorbachev has described the evolution as being driven by the wish to modernize and revitalize the country he ruled. By his third year he was making comments on the USSR system giving him a “troubled conscious” and the need for “democracy like air.” This evolution was a product of Soviet reality, not American diplomacy.

Finding an example of diplomacy bridging a gap with an enemy or hostile country is very difficult. In fact, the success rate is negative, with results from major diplomatic pushes bringing at best neutral and at worst hugely costly.

After WWII, the heads of America, USSR, Britain, and France got together in the heralded spirit of unity, “the spirit of Geneva,” that ended a year later with Soviet tanks rolling over Hungry and Nikita Khrushev threatening London and Paris with nuclear attacks over Suez. Four years later the US and the USSR held their first bilateral talks at Camp David, ending with nothing beyond the inevitable agreement to hold another meeting. By May of the following year, Khrushev demanded an apology for the invasion of a US spy plane that they shot down. President Eisenhower refused and the meeting never materialized. And for the presidencies of Kennedy, Johnson, Nixon, Carter, and Bush Senior similar patterns followed. 35 years of US-Soviet diplomacy lay exposed, showing no demonstrable effects on Gorbachev’s final positions towards the dissolution of the USSR and his attempts to make peace with America.

But the breadth, or rather dearth, of diplomacy goes beyond our relationship with the Soviets. Similar stories can be told of Vietnam, North Korea, Iraq, and of course Germany and Hitler. No case better disproves the idea that “we have nothing to lose by sitting down and talking with their leaders” than the Munich agreement.

This era of diplomacy was extremely costly, both in lives and in face. In 1935, when Hitler defied the disarmament provisions of Versailles, British Foreign Secretary John Simon began pushing for talks. Ignoring Germany’s violations, he agreed to a new pact aimed at limiting naval forces. Meanwhile, France sent its foreign minister to Moscow to sign a defense pact with Stalin and to Rome to offer Mussolini the opportunity to take part in Ethiopia. Upon Mussolini’s later declaration of his goal to conquer Ethiopia, England sent its man to buy him off with a chunk of Ethiopian land. Convinced that these actions illustrated weakness and a lack of resolve, Mussolini declared the formation of a “Rome-Berlin Axis.” Emboldened by this series of events, Hitler moved into Poland and Czechoslovakia, culminating with the Munich agreement. This ultimate act of diplomacy, as if previous pacts with Hitler had worked, put the Allies on a direct and unavoidable path towards war – by not confronting the threat up front, and emboldening the enemy by not enforcing agreements, Hitler was left with no reason not to take the next step, and the lives of 70 million people were lost.

None of this is to say that diplomacy has no role. Obviously, the recipe for success is a cycle of diplomacy and action. But in all cases of both, the purpose and message should be simple: it will be more costly to be against us than with us. Deterrence 101 says that you can only be in a position to influence if you own and clearly sell a credible threat that the other party believes in and can avoid by not ignoring it. Diplomacy cannot mean offering carrots and sticks for coercion if the other party can get what we are offering from someone else. What the US can offer, that most other countries cannot, is total destruction. This threat needs to be made credible, and while that does not mean a regular cycle of war, it does mean that we need to keep to ourselves the likelihood of waging war. This is where President Bush went wrong – he made threats the other side knew he could not keep, and warned of repercussions the other side could avoid by joining forces with another country.

Perhaps the most successful act of diplomacy was the way America ended WWII with Japan. In the summer of 1945, the Allies issued the Potsdam Declaration, which offered the Japanese either a peaceful surrender or a final blow. While many in Japan believed that their country would be devastated by the impending attack, made credible to them by previous Allied actions, the Allied side did not make credible enough the threat of the final blow because they did not accurately communicate the means and level of devastation. Japan refused the offer, thinking that they could counter the Allies and win a more acceptable settlement, and two weeks later America dropped two nuclear bombs on Japan. Having then made the threat credible, the Allies were empowered to embark on a serious and mastery diplomatic effort that resulted in Japan becoming one of our closest allies. Diplomacy can be a spoke in the wheel of change, but it needs to be done with the utmost care and used selectively based on suitability. It is not the magic wand many would have you believe.
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Policy Forum: Obstacles, Solutions and a Vision for the Future of St. Louis Public Transportation

I am a firm believer that a strong public transportation system is essential for strong urban redevelopment. That's why I'll be at the policy forum tonight, schmoozing with a former mayor, amongst others, and getting more information about what can be done to revitalize STL. Details in the full post

Tuesday, October 14, 2008
6:00pm - 8:30pm
Cummel's Cafe
1627 Washington Ave
Saint Louis, MO

Policy Forum: Obstacles, Solutions and a Vision for the Future of St. Louis Public Transportation

With panelists:
- Vincent Schoemehl, former mayor of St. Louis and a member of the Metro Board of Commissioners
- Thomas Shrout, Executive Director of Citizens for Modern Transit
- Max Starkloff, President of The Starkloff Disability Institute
- Nancy Cross, VP of Service Employees International Union Local 1

Networking 6-7

Panel Discussion/Q&A 7-8:30

These highly esteemed panelists will talk with us about what can be done to improve public transportation in St. Louis, what are the obstacles, how might the obstacles be overcome, and what can we do to help. Cummel's offers a selection of coffee, soft drinks, and a delicious menu of meals and snacks.

Co-hosted by St. Louis Urban Corps and Metropolis St. Louis.
Metropolis St. Louis’s mission is to create and promote an environment in the City of St. Louis that attracts and retains young people. St. Louis Urban Corps’ mission is to create a framework through which young persons who want to become civic leaders can conceive, develop and implement initiatives that will improve the quality of life in St. Louis.
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Monday, October 13, 2008

What's Wrong with the Republican Camp

We’re a month out, and while you can’t call it yet, things aren’t looking so hot for John McCain. He was neck-and-neck with Barack Obama until the financial crisis hit, and when that kind of event happens, it pretty much guarantees success for the party not in office. You have to give Senator Obama some credit, but he shares it, at best equally, with the McCain campaign’s long list of failures, poor decisions, and terrible strategy. Don’t get too excited though, my list of what’s wrong with the policies of Barack Obama is much longer, and I still cast my vote for John McCain. But this column isn’t about the campaign.

I’ve worked for the Republican Party. I’ve voted for Republican candidates about 85% of the time. And yet this election makes me feel good about not being a registered Republican. In the spirit of Martin Luther, I want to post a list of the serious problems I’ve seen with Republicans. Don’t worry, I’m not going to pull out 99, but I do want to cover the top 8 (in no particular order).

1. They are out of touch with the next generation of Americans. The next generation of Americans is, by-and-large, out of touch with the reality of the world, but Republicans have reverted to the purist conservative judgment that says the status quo is to be defended at all costs. Change is needed, but in our present day political climate politicians lead from the rear, evidenced by decisions being made after polls mirroring the consensus view of those polls. The change that we need is someone that leads from the front. While Senator Obama is not a frontline leader, that’s no excuse for Republicans to not take the drivers seat of changing the status quo, which obviously needs tweaking.

2. They pick the wrong fights. The Republican base has been for the last 14 years Christians, but it is looking like a significant amount of Christians will be voting for Senator Obama. On the surface this makes no sense. Historically the two most important domestic issues for Christian voters have been abortion and gay marriage, yet Senator Obama is very liberal on both. We are seeing a changing of the guard among the Christian voting bloc, yet the Republicans continue to cling to a dated value set. Say what you will about sticking up for what you think is right, but these issues are not addressed by the federal government – they are largely reverted to the states, and the Republican President and Vice President nominees should not waste their efforts on issues they will likely not address when in office.

3. They give the ten word answer. My least favorite thing, when I writing speeches, is writing the second document with the 10 word answers to each of the target issues the speech addresses so that the speaker can cut to the crux. This is an incredibly complex nation and world, and 10 words do not provide a sufficient answer to any of the issues we face. The idea of having 10 words is that you can address every issue any voter might be concerned with. This is far less convincing and far less comforting than the 100 or 1000 word answers for the 10 most important issues.

4. Ignorance and indifference to the concerns and arguments of the opposition. Chanting “drill baby drill” distorts the virtues of drilling off the shores of America. Senator McCain has always said that he supports offshore drilling as a short-term measure to help us bridge the gap from where we are to the alternative energy future we need, but every time CNN shows footage of a John McCain rally with the crowd chanting “drill baby drill” it gives off the entirely wrong impression, and the opposition latches on to it to swing moderate and undecided voters in their direction. Be smart.

5. They vote for the wrong reasons. I’ve never chosen to not vote for a Democrat because he/she is a Democrat. I actually consulted for one Democratic campaign. Most Republicans vote party line because they like Republicans and hate Democrats. The amount of bad Republican politicians competes with the amount of bad Democratic politicians. When I attended a McCain/Palin rally I was encouraged to wear red to symbolize the desire to keep Missouri a red state. Putting aside the fact that I don’t like wearing red and don’t own a single piece of red clothing, I could care less that Missouri is a red state; I’d rather it be a smart state. The issue of voting is not about voting for a party but rather about voting for the best ideas, be they red, blue, or neon lime.

6. The idea embodied by Sarah Palin. I wrote an article on this blog not too long ago making a case for Sarah Palin, and I stick by the arguments I made. But she would be a less than stellar Vice President, not because of inexperience or policy specifics, but because she represents the idea, the mentality, that embracing the common denominator, the average Joe, is striving for greatness. This is not the mentality that made this country great. More than intelligence and education, we need leaders who allow for possibilities rather than shield us from them.

7. Two decades ago Republicans stood up and told the country that “Democrat” meant soft on crime, soft on the law, soft on education, soft on values, and soft on national security. And instead of standing up to this, the Democrats cowered in the corner and said, “Please, don’t hurt us.” Now, Democrats are saying that “Republican” means stupid, barbaric, and ignorant, and Republicans are running for the same corner of the house. These are salami tactics that should not be used in the first place and responded to with positive reinforcement of ideas and policies.

8. Swinging for the fences. It’s a sign of desperation, and no one sees it the way it’s wanted to be seen.

So there they are, the 8 things I find most discouraging about the Republican Party. In fact, you could remove the party slant and write almost the same article, the same 8 things, about what is wrong with the American political system. That would be even more depressing.

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Sunday, October 12, 2008

Thought Leadership

With all of the Obama/Ayers controversy, that seems to be the latest focus of the McCain campaign, I found this video of Obama speaking with Bill O'Reilly, on Fox, discussing his past associations.

You probably won't be convinced of anything new for or against Obama or O'Reilly, but either way, I think that you should take note of the way that Obama responds to the questions.

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Friday, October 10, 2008

A Fresh Start

At well over 6000 views, and having survived a full day of fasting leading into a delicious break-fast (which may have featured some of the most wonderful food EVER), we are back at it again with some even bigger things happening.

Earlier this week, I had a chance to meet with Barry Rosenberg, Vice President of the Federation, Yid-lover, Mensch, and as it turns out, a supporter of what we are all about (which, in case you need to be reminded, is bringing together post-college Jews to create a fly young community).

I think that there is a lot of possibility that came out of our discussion.

First, it is clear that even in the highest ranks of the Federation, there is an understanding of our importance of a demographic, as well as the fact that current outreach attempts are perhaps not at the level they would like.

Second, they are willing to act on these understandings, which shouldn't be underestimated as the Federation has quite a bit of clout, and resources.

The trick here is to find a solution that provides for the accountability that Federation must provide its donors, as well as the flexibility that we need so as not to become encumbered by too much structure. After all, we are building relationships, which need to be able to mature at their own pace and in their own way.

Really, as much as we have been placed in the role of leaders by default, we want to know what we could do that you would be interested in being a part of.

Should we carpet our basement, get a pool table, maybe a keggerator?

Should we try to set up weekly Hebrew lessons so that we can talk about attractive members of the opposite sex at bars without them knowing?

What are you interested in? I'm happy to do the leg work to turn the best ideas into reality. So go ahead, comment, email, SMS, whatever. But make yourself heard. It's your community too, what do you want it to look like?
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Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Hidden Gems Part 2: The Gramophone

One of the key factors in deciding whether or not I like a city is always the availability of a diverse range of live music, preferably cheap or free, and the environment in which it takes place.

While I didn't just unearth this gem last night, I want to make special mention of the Gramophone

I've been checking out the Gramophone periodically since it opened a few months ago.
Last night cemented the Gramophone as my jazz spot in STL.

I used to be a Wednesday night jazz at Riddles (Penultimate) die-hard. Drinks were affordable, cover was waived, and Ptah brought the faux ivory of his keyboard to life.

On the negative side, it was always really smokey, and the place isn't really set up very well as a venue.

The Gramophone, on the other hand, is a smoke free bar that doubles as a musical venue in the Grove (aka Tower Grove), an up-and-coming area previously known for gay-friendly bars such as Novack's.

Last night, New York jazz band Shift 4 was the main attraction. The band was unique in that the only chordal instrument was a vibraphone (instead of the usual piano or guitar), which lent a much softer and loftier tone to the performance.

Shift 4 started out fairly relaxed, with a more contemporary back-beat driven jazz sound and built up to spiraling, almost free jazz intensity as their crescendo reached a peak.

Saxaphonist Logan Richardson led the group through several unique compositions which didn't end as much as one faded into the other. Tommy Crane, fantastic drummer, and native son of STL made a triumphant return. Mike Pinto crushed it on Vibes, and Chris Tordini held down the bass grooves.

The Gramophone was packed, probably the most busy I've seen it, or at least, since 80's night a month or two ago.

Couple that with Sound Clash, a mash up filled Thursday night, hosted by DJs Crucial and Needles, two of the top hip hop and beyond DJs in the city, and you have a very unique place.

Which is exactly what Roo Yawitz, co-owner (with his wife) wanted to create.

Even their beer list is eclectic, ranging from cans of Schlitz and PBR to unique finds like Anchor Porter and McEwen's Scotch Ale.

This place is worth a visit! And if you haven't been, consider Thursday October 23rd a perfect time. Meet up with the Saint Louis Israel Connection for a night of Israeli music, dancing, and drink specials.

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Pulling Away?

Following last night's debate, an interesting perspective from an unlikely source...

Much of what is being said about last night's presidential debate is pretty standard... they both did well, no one made a big mistake, no one landed the knockout punch, yadda yadda yadda.

But here is a perspective from the Christian Science Monitor, suggesting that McCain is having real trouble gaining traction and exciting voters throughout the Christian conservative base. The problem for McCain is, we are no longer months away from the election, we are weeks and soon days. And as the election inches closer, the story continues to be can John McCain catch up, can he kick-start his campaign, not that he is and that it is working.

I'm a sports fan, so it breaks down easiest for me like this. John McCain needs a game-saving drive, and time is running out to make it happen.

Amen to that.
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Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Bad karma on Yom Kippur

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Sunday, October 5, 2008

Catch A Fire

This past Friday night, 50 people, ranging from Wash U undergrads, graduate students in OT, PT, Med school, law school, young professionals, and a few bums gathered at a beautiful mansion in the Central West End to celebrate Shabbat.

What does this mean for the future of St. Louis' Jewish community?

Aside from showcasing my press release skills. . . nothing that dramatic perhaps, but all the same, getting together that many young, interesting, and interested people to simply connect with one another is pretty cool.

There is probably a lesson for the Federated community in here somewhere, but I can't quite put my finger on it (at least until I figure out how to monetize it).

Maybe it was the wine. Perhaps the copious amounts of free food. It might have something to do with not letting in socially awkward people.

Hyperbole is a passion of mine. But let me explain why. This is was the first event that I have been to in St. Louis since I graduated that brought together so many young Jews without preconditions or expectations (ok, so maybe we asked for a bottle of wine here, a salad there).

Its been a personal struggle to justify being in St. Louis as opposed to Chicago, New York, Boston, DC, or Tel Aviv.

But a little more than a year out of school, I think we've changed something.

Sure, it's small, but it's proof that it is possible to have a thriving young (and I don't mean sans-AARP membership) Jewish community in St. Louis.
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Friday, October 3, 2008

The Ibos of Nigeria: Members of the Tribe?

Many years ago, when the Ethiopian Jews were 'discovered', there was a lot of skepticism around whether or not they were Jewish, and how to assimilate Jews jam-packed with melanin into the collective consciousness.

A story from the yesterday's Forward (yes, the Forward) bring to light Jewish Ibo of Nigeria, and their struggles for legitimacy.

When most Americans are asked to describe a Jew, they probably imagine that person to be fairly pale (unless she spent a lot of time in a tanning bed), with curly dark hair (unless she straightened and dyed it), and is smart, left-leaning on social issues, and upwardly mobile.

But Jewish communities in India, Ethiopia, China, and now Nigeria make that stereotype a bit outlandish.

Still, even within the Jewish community, the Ibo Jews of Nigeria (because most Nigerians aren't Ibo, and most Ibo aren't Jewish) face a struggle for legitimacy within the world-wide Jewish community.

Despite having rituals in common such as circumcision and the shiva mourning period, the estimated 30,000 Nigerian Jews have not yet been recognized by Israel, a process which requires a thorough vetting (insert Sarah Palin reference here) by historians, politicians, and rabbis.

It will be interesting to see how this plays out as Israel tries to walk a fine line on this issue.

Check out the full article here.
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Thursday, October 2, 2008

Master Debaters

First, Shana Tova to everyone, may this year bring us all, our country, and Israel new life, peace, and prosperity.

On the occasion of today's Vice-Presidential Debate, at Washington University, I wanted to try to give some insight, having been one of the lucky few, who, four years ago, witnessed the presidential debates at WU.

My presence at the debate was an example of Jewish geography at its finest: a friend of the family had a friend who worked for the Commission on Presidential Debates.

I walked from Wash U into Clayton to pick up the ticket, using an International Student ID card (which happened to make me 21) on the way to pick up a bottle of wine for the lovely ticket providing friend.

Being still a doe-eyed freshman, the whole ordeal seemed larger than life.

Hordes of media, security, and excitement.

People were excited to see the President of the Unites States... and perhaps more excited to see the man they hoped would become the President of the United States.

In a situation not too unlike the Vice-Presidential debate this year, four years ago, the Presidential debate pitted a Democrat noted for his master debating skills against a Republican for whom the bar was set abysmally low.

Let me tell you what I saw unfold in that debate.

I heard John Kerry give lucid, fairly-well reasoned responses in a somewhat academic manner. The students who were hidden from the cameras in the upper level of the auditorium nodded appreciatively at the reason and pragmatism.

I also heard President George W. Bush act a little defensive, a bit anti-intellectual. He was the defender of Joe Six-pack, even if he'd never actually been a Joe Six-Pack. His arguments were emotional in nature, and while they drew scowls and suppressed jeers from the audience up above, the randomly picked town-hall participants seemed put at ease by his simple black and white answers.

History has a way of repeating itself, or so I'm told repetitively.

If Sarah Palin has a chance, it is this same tactic, the bullied underdog, constantly being attacked by pesky things like 'facts', 'logic', and appeals to reason.

It's not that I think her unintelligent. I just haven't seen any proof yet of her grasp of complex issues.

Ultimately though, I found the debate to be an exercise in evasive tactics. Neither candidate answered a single question directly, using the question instead to return to talking points again and again
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The Case for Sarah Palin

I’ll admit, as a staunch John McCain supporter and rhetorician, I often find myself somewhat less than enthusiastic when asked to defend the choice of Sarah Palin as Vice President.

I’ll admit, as a staunch John McCain supporter and rhetorician, I often find myself somewhat less than enthusiastic when asked to defend the choice of Sarah Palin as Vice President. Do I agree with her policies? No, not many of them. Am I impressed by foreign policy experience? What foreign policy experience? Am I impressed by her leadership? A bit. Do I enjoy Tina Fey portraying her? Strongly yes. But she does have one legitimate thing going for her that frankly neither candidate on the Democratic ticket can claim, and I’m throwing out gender.

Governor Palin rose from beauty queen to sports reporter to city councilwoman to mayor to governor, landing her governorship in a very impressive fight by beating the incumbent governor in the primary and a former two-term governor in the general election. And now she’s the most popular governor in the country, which is saying a lot when you consider that she’s made many politically unpopular decisions along the way, especially amongst those of her own party. She has done more in her 2 years than any governor before her to clean up Alaska’s government.

Along the way, she made some questionable calls. I do not intend to justify her decision to keep the money from the “bridge to nowhere” (though you would be hard pressed to find a governor who has not pulled that sort of thing). But she has put herself in the position where decision making was not a luxury, but rather a requirement, numerous times, and she did so because she wanted to. She wanted to make decisions. And the positions from where she has had to make decisions have been held solely by her, not jointly with 99 other people. This you cannot say about Barak Obama or Joe Biden.

Taking nothing away from the membership of Barak Obama and Joe Biden to the United States Senate, but they have never led; they have never, as elected officials, been the final stop executive decision maker. In fact, in the case of the top ticket holder, Senator Obama, the man routinely voted “maybe” in his days in the Illinois legislature. Since September 2007, he has missed 80% of Senate votes, no doubt due in part to his campaigning, but that’s the point. It has become clear that since his time in the Illinois legislature, he has either not been present or voted “maybe” on many of the most important and/or divisive issues, including abortion, security, foreign aid, bridge safety, and the AMT, so that he can campaign without a track record that could contradict claims he may make.

His most controversial opinion (at least at the time the decision was being made) was that he did not support the Iraq War. That’s a pretty easy position to take when you have no vote on the matter, because of course he was not in the federal government at the time and did about as much as I did to affect the decision. However, since he has been in the US Senate, he has voted with Hilary Clinton, John Edwards, Joe Biden, and Christopher Dodd on every significant bill pertaining to the Iraq War, perhaps suggesting that, given an actual vote on the matter, he may have voted with them to approve the war too.

For the last 6 days, I have not been able to get a quote out of my head. Some of you reading this have heard me recite it. It’s truly one of my favorites. It popped into my head last Friday when reading a Wall Street Journal article. Here’s the sentence that reminded me of the quote:

“During a morning meeting on Thursday, Sen. Barack Obama called the cellphone of Sen. Christopher Dodd, the Connecticut Democrat, to take stock of the talks, according to people familiar with the matter.”

Senator Obama was taking more of a hands-off approach, claiming that presidential politics should not taint the process. Someone might have reminded the Senator that he and Senator McCain were not the only people involved and that partisanship was tainting matters plenty already. However, one thing their attendance would accomplish would have been to illuminate their positions on the matter, so I understand why he would want to stay in the background given his history. This train of thought is what reminded me of what Alexandre August Ledru-Rollin, a 19th century French radical, said upon seeing a crowd of people marching through Paris: “There go my people. I must find out where they are going so I can lead them.” Classic.

And then I watched the debate, and I heard Senator Obama say “John’s right on this” or “I agree with John” in double digit frequency, and I realized something. Senator Obama is only comfortable leading when it is politically expedient. This may strike you as odd considering he wants to be the leader of our country, and I’m struck by that too. As president, you cannot opt out of the role of leadership. But ask yourself this: when has Senator Obama truly stood up, when his name and issue were both on the line at the same time, and he was in a position to influence the outcome, and stated his position unambiguously and voted that way? I’m not sure I can come up with a significant instance. While this is not unheard of behavior from a politician, it is not to be respected.

This is what Governor Palin has going for her. She may have been on a city council, but that’s grassroots. After that, she went straight for the executive role, and sought and achieved other executive positions of greater responsibility, because she wanted to make more important decisions, and she wanted the ultimate power in making those decisions. She does not shy away from taking the lead; she shows up every time, even when it matters most. She is a reliable leader precisely because of these things. You may not agree with what she did when she showed up, but she always showed up, unlike her opponents who ridicule her. You have to respect that.
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Jewish Alliance for Change

As if people didn't need another reason to think that Jews control the world, the Jewish vote is being more intensely scrutinized and fought over, than almost ever before. Read More......