Protocols A group of Jews endeavors towards total domination of the blogosphere.
Saturday, April 03, 2004
So I've been in Boca Raton, Florida, since 10:38 AM on Friday, and this place never ceases to impress me. I just handled the sale of my chametz online at the local synagogue's web site. This is a perfect example of using the Internet as a resource to make the community's life easier. I've said before that it won't be long before every (smart) community has a blog, which, using RSS, could keep the entire community informed about everything from eruv status to the latest event to guiding congregants to news articles about people in the community.
Also at their Pesach page is a DVD video that can be downloaded which shows how to safely kasher a type of glasstop stove that is very popular here (my mother has it, but won't be bothered -- she's got a slew of electronic burners that get placed all around the kitchen; which would be a nifty idea for year-round, if they could only produce enough heat). When my parents moved into this retirement manse, my mother asked the rabbi about kashering the stove for Pesach, and he said it couldn't be done; a number of other community members had asked the rabbi before him (or something like that) and been told just to pour boiling water on it. Anyway, word has it that the rabbi gave in one year and tried to kasher his own stove, cracking it in the process. Hence the need for a video that demonstrates how the process can be done safely.
Just got an e-mail from the publicist for Wrestling With God and Men that they can't ship me the publicity copy I requested a couple weeks ago because the entire first printing sold out.
The second printing will arrive at the publisher in late April/early May. I don't know how many advance copies didn't make it out, but it'd seem fair to say that a decent quantity didn't, assuming my experience wasn't totally anomalous. So, without any significant amount of press on the book (and surely there'll be much) it's already exceeded sales expectations, and quickly.
I asked for information on the cover image we discussed earlier, and the publicist tells me it is Discord/Out of the Chaos, Jacob Wrestling with the Angel (Delacroix), 1999, by Linda James.
A leaflet distributed in Falluja on Thursday claimed that the previously unknown "group of Sheikh Ahmad Yassin" had killed the Americans in response to the Israeli assassination of Hamas spiritual leader Yassin last month. It was not immediately possible to verify the claim.
The incriminating documents were captured in the Mukata, Arafat's headquarters, two years ago during Operation Defensive Shield. While looking for PA efforts to fund terror organizations, security officials discovered that large amounts of money had been transferred to the Neturei Karta sect in Jerusalem. The captured documents show that Hirsch received from Arafat $55 thousand just two months before Operation Defensive Shield. Among the documents are receipts with Arafat’s personal signature authorizing the transfer to Rabbi Hirsch under the heading “outgoing expenses”. In the same period, Arafat allocated a much lower sum to terror operatives.
The captured documents include letters written in English by Hirsch to Arafat. The letters are addressed as to an eminent rabbi: “Dear Abu Amar (Arafat’s Arabic name), may you live a long and happy life”.
Hirsch has never hidden his relationship with Arafat. He is a regular member of the Palestinian National Council and served in the past as Minister of Jewish Affairs in a Palestinian government. Members of the sect recently demonstrated against Israel and for Palestine at the International Court of Justice at the Hague.
So, Tam Dalyell and all the others implicated in the oil-for-food scandal now have company. How many more Arafat supporters will turn out to have been paid off?
posted by Steven I. Weiss |
4:49 AM |
Thursday, April 01, 2004
In other Jewish stupidity, a Los Angeles family is suing the IRS to have its Jewish-school tuition deducted from taxes, claiming that their payments should be considered contributions, not payment for services.
In analyzing this lawsuit, courts may have to develop a "test" to indicate whether or not Jewish day school tuition is a contribution or a payment for a service. Let me suggest this test: if you'll end up in jail for not sending your kid to the school, the institution is providing a service. If Jewish parents want to claim a tax deduction because the school they send their kids to is more expensive because it has a large religious curriculum, the answer's pretty clear: pay up, or don't send your kid there.
The good news is that Jewschool made the Jerusalem Post. For Mobius' campaign to have people link Wikipedia's "Jew" entry with the word, "Jew", he's drawn deserved credit.
But this Google/JewWatch thing has gotten way out of hand, and Jewish media, which could serve as a guard against crazy people, is only stoking the flames.
Culprit the first is the JPost story itself, which plays up such inane notions as the possibility of censoring JewWatch.
Other culprits along the way have been various J-media institutions, but the jackass crown goes to the absolute fools at Remove Jew Watch, a bunch of activists so brave and forthright in their cause that they registered their website anonymously.
The idiocy of seeking to censor a website from Google is an achievement of mental incapacity so profound that I fail to even begin to grasp the motivations behind it. That a move so stupid is actually planting seed among some otherwise rational people disappoints.
Mobius' campaign is another thing entirely; I disagree with it, as I think Google-bombing does more harm than good, and wouldn't use any of my blogging effort to join it. Cetainly, the fact that JewWatch's high placement in Google does no harm motivates me in this direction. Nevertheless, Mobius' is a legitimate move that can be respected; these morons with their e-mail campaigns should find something better to do, and the idiots' clearinghouse that is the vast majority of the J-journalism world should just stop breeding more foolishness.
The great irony at this moment, of course, is that JewWatch is no longer the top link when searching for "Jew"; it is the first Web result, but the link above it is the news link to the JPost story. Does this mean the tinfoil-hat crowd can stop their campaign?
The Farm Animal Welfare Council (FAWC) said not stunning livestock before slaughter was “unacceptable” and urged ministers to make the practice illegal.
But the Government has decided a ban would just “export the problem”, with kosher and halal meat imported instead.
This issue comes up every now and then in a variety of forms in many countries.
posted by Pinchas |
11:59 AM |
Federal security planners are reviving a proposal to build a fence around the U.S. Capitol and Congressional office buildings to deter potential terrorist attacks.
A physical barrier would markedly increase security for lawmakers and visitors to the nation's seat of government, Gainer said during a hearing of the Senate Appropriations subcommittee on the legislative branch. The fence, he said, could cost $15 million to $50 million.
Senators objected, calling the notion an offense to a world-famous symbol of American democracy.
"Most Americans would rebel at the idea of their Capitol being fenced off. . . . It flies in the face of what Americans think," said Sen. Ben Nighthorse Campbell (R-Colo.), the panel's chairman.
Members of Congress have balked at requests to wall off the people's representatives from the public since 1985...
"An aesthetically pleasing perimeter security fence could be constructed around the Capitol Building grounds," the report stated, as quoted by Gainer.
You think there will be a debate over whether to call it a fence or a wall?
posted by Pinchas |
11:34 AM |
"Philanthropist Attacks University for Right Turn" my Chovevei report for the Forward. I've also got a small piece in this issue on Yeshiva University's new international affairs thing.
I've already mentioned Rosenblatt's article on the same event.
Right off the bat, I know that the most contentious part of the article will be its claim that, "many of the students are Y.U. transfers." My original version used "expatriates," and we tossed around different ideas for phrasing what we meant, but it's hard to describe what is really going on there. The editors obviously thought "transfers" was the best term to use, and I think that's a reasonable decision.
As to the rest of the story, well, I think a compare and contrast with Rosenblatt's article makes mine look pretty good. While Rosenblatt is coming from a different perspective (local paper, covering the dinner regardless) than mine (national paper, only covering the dinner if something newsworthy happens), there seem to be two obvious points of difference. In the first, Rosenblatt didn't do follow-up work with Jonas, which proved pretty informative. Second, and more importantly, Rosenblatt's story is cheerleading for Chovevei; there doesn't seem to be much room for an alternate reading.
This would seem to me to present a strong case for the ability to blog in an opinionated manner about issues while producing objective news reporting. I have my own opinions about Chovevei and YU, and their respective leaderships, but that didn't change the story: all the relevant sources were contacted, all their opinions were recorded without bias, and all points of contention are in the sources' words, not the reporter's. At the same time, I won't deny that I have various opinions on the matters at hand: I don't try to pull the wool over readers' eyes.
There's a built-in transparency to blogging which, to my mind, only helps in reporting. Whether or not one agrees with that last premise, it certainly seems that blogging hasn't adversely affected my reporting on a specific event relative to the editor of a J-weekly, and I think the combination serves the readers better.
That's a pretty interesting result to come out of a meeting with the head of the Congressional Black Caucus. Of course, one wonders if Jackson was even aware of which country's flag he was waving.
UPDATE: According to "Entertainment Tonight" just now, the imposing fellows around Jackson as he waves that flag are his crew from the Nation of Islam.
7:30 p.m. -- Rabbis and Jewish leaders hold service to lead a prayer for Israel and solicit donations for ``Friends of Gush Katif''; West Side Institutional Synagogue
7:30 p.m. -- Lubavitchers close off four blocks of Eastern Parkway at its world headquarters to celebrate Rebbe King Moshiach's 102nd birthday; 770 Eastern Parkway.
7:30 p.m. -- Jewish Community Relations Council present Jewish High School choirs in concert; Merkin Concert Hall-Abraham Goodman House, 129 W. 67th Street.
8 p.m. -- Richard N. Haass, president of Council on Foreign Relations, examines prospects for Middle East peace at opening of Yeshiva University's center for International Affairs; Park East Synagogue, 164 E. 68th Street.
Read that Lubavitcher one again: the Associated Press sends it out to reporters that way, which means there's a decent chance it'll be reported that way.
posted by Steven I. Weiss |
8:01 PM |
Jewish health and social service agencies that use a blend of public and philanthropic money should brace themselves for major cuts in government funding if the pending congressional budget proposals are enacted, a senior Jewish lawmaker warned this week.
Rep. Ben Cardin (D-Md.), a senior member of the House Ways and Means Committee, said that if the recently passed GOP budget resolution is implemented, “this game plan would have the federal government reduce its partnership in many of these programs by up to 25 percent in the next five years.”
“In the course of a year, the UJA-Federation network in New York serves 1 million people,” said Ronald Soloway, managing director of government relations for UJA-Federation of New York. “A 5 percent reduction in government funding means that 20,000 people will not have access to some of the services they need.”
Lets be honest, this piece appears in a Federation publication and so cannot be taken entirely at face value. But it does raise some legit questions.
posted by Pinchas |
7:36 PM |
Gary Rosenblatt on the Chovevei dinner. I have a story on the dinner coming out in the Forward, which in theory we could have had up on the Web earlier if I hadn't been sick. Whatever, sometimes you get scooped, and sometimes you scoop others. My story's a bit different, and we'll discuss that when it goes up. Meantime, there's one graf of Rosenblatt's story that I actually find troubling:
Interviewed following his speech, and after being told that some Chovevei Torah officials and supporters had asked that his remarks be considered off the record, Jonas replied: “Print what you want,” and went on to detail his falling-out with YU some years ago.
I was part of that three-person conversation with Rosenblatt and Jonas, and was surprised when Rosenblatt asked the question; I'm even more surprised that he printed it, and took a whole graf to do so. One of the biggest challenges facing those trying to bring some real reporting to J-journalism -- a challenge in which, it should be noted, Rosenblatt is often on the right side -- is the extreme liberty given to sources wishing to make attacks off-the-record or unnamed.
There isn't a chance in hell I'd have given any credence to a request that Jonas' comments be taken off-the-record, and there are two main reasons why I'd have laughed at such a request:
1) A statement in front of three hundred people can almost never be entirely off-the-record.
2) The assumption going in would have been, "Print what you want," and it was only after Jonas said something controversial that they idea of having anything be off-the-record crossed their minds. They're entitled to make such a request as much as they want, but in such circumstances I wouldn't give such a request a second's thought. Off-the-record status is something negotiated, not simply requested and acceded to.
I should note that Chovevei's Dov Weiss did ask me if I was going to print Jonas' remarks, and I truthfully replied that I wasn't sure at that point, that I'd have to check with the editors at the Forward. I went to the dinner not expecting to write a story about it, but to gather background information for potential future stories (something I, and other reporters, often do). Newsworthiness is one of the most arcane aspects of reporting, and I realize that my editors are the ones capable of making such decisions for their publications. In the perspective of myself and the Forward in this case, the dinner alone wasn't newsworthy, and even then Jonas' comments were most newsworthy when put into a larger context, which I hope my story will reflect.
I'm not going to go so far as to take some meaning from the fact that Rosenblatt was asked the off-the-record question and I wasn't. But there's no question that the laissez faire attitude towards holding sources accountable is a problem for J-journalism, one that sources are obviously aware of and very willing to take advantage of. Indeed, some of the best evidence of this is the way that J-journalists retreat into requesting that their own comments be taken off-the-record when they are being reported on, and I've seen a lot of that at the New York Jewish Week, as well as at numerous other J-papers. Surely, such lack of ethical foundation is found in reporters everywhere, even in media reporters. But it is unquestionably far more widespread in J-journalism, and that's a huge problem.
Can J-blogging do a better job? Well, I'm inclined to say that J-weeklies can do a better job in the first place. But since bloggers are stepping up to fill in gaps in reporting anyway, and since the gist of the coments to my post below is that readers enjoy that extra reporting, it'd seem that we can make a collective choice to get tough. A lot of blogging is holding people accountable for what they say anyway, with the instant research and linkability the medium provides. It seems every day that a wider variety of J-blogs is getting contacted by this or that source wanting to see a story makes its way up the news chain; by being tough with sources and holding them accountable for what they say, such J-bloggers can not only compete with the J-weeklies for legitimacy, but come close to supassing many of them rather quickly.
posted by Steven I. Weiss |
7:31 PM |
So, for more discussion on blogging and its contribution to Jewish dialogue, I'd like to have some reader suggestions: What should J-blogs be doing that they aren't?
Rabbinical Students to Pull Off April Fools Stunt Throughout Streets of Manhattan
I'm interested to know who came up with the headline -- the Lubavitch or the people posting the release.
Curiously, this release is filed under Yahoo! Finance.
posted by Steven I. Weiss |
3:02 PM |
Now maybe I'm just delusional owing to my sickness, but has Yeshivat Chovevei Torah always utilized the spelling "Chovevei"? I've been using the spelling, "Chovovei" for some time, and I thought I recalled having switched to that spelling after noticing it spelled as such on the website. But now the website clearly utilizes the spelling, "Chovevei."
After shelving the original report, it seems as though the EU whimped out and played gross moral equivalency with the rising anti-Semitism in Europe. Excerpts obtained by the Financial Times say that:
According to the new report, incidents in which Jews are targeted as Israelis - regardless of whether they are Israeli nationals or not - are "not anti-Semitic, because this hostility is not based on the anti-Semitic stereotyping of Jews".
Let’s reserve complete judgment until tomorrow when the complete report is presented. But from where I sit at the moment it seems as though they have completely missed the point.
posted by Pinchas |
11:09 PM |
...the BBC portrayed the event as "Israel's cynical manipulation of a Palestinian youngster for propaganda purposes," he wrote.
The report, he said, "has not only set a new standard for biased journalism, it has also raised concerns that it was tainted by anti-Semitism." ... he continued, BBC correspondent Orla Guerin "did not feel it inappropriate to use an attempted suicide attack by a child to point cynically to Israel's attempt to manipulate the media. By applying such a gross double standard to the Jewish state, it is difficult to see Ms. Guerin's report as anything but anti-Semitic."
...In his letter, Sharansky quoted Guerin as describing to viewers how the IDF "paraded the child in front of the international media," then "produced" the child for reporters, "posed" him a second time for the cameras, and then "rushed him back into a jeep." He continued that she reported that the entire event was under "Israeli army control," which meant that "we were not allowed to get his [the child's] version of events."
Such language, Sharansky said, casts doubt on what has happened. The report ends with her saying, "This is a picture that Israel wants the world to see."
MOChassid has a report on a messianist rally in Israel similar to the one being held in Brooklyn tomorrow night:
I just spoke to an Israeli musician who played at the Chabad rally in Israel commemorating the last Rebbe's 102nd "birthday", the New York version of which was brought to our attention by Protocols.
He told me that there were about 10,000 people in Yad Eliyahu Stadium, many, but not all of whom, were Chabadniks. He said that the program consisted of a combination of very right wing political talk on one hand and Meshichist talk on the other, with a bunch of music from a number of performers, including MBD, thrown in throughout.
My musician friend, who was the only one not from the Boro-Park-Rock, Armani-suit, shiny-black-shoe school, was chosen because he had recorded a very popular tune a couple of years ago called Zman Hageulah (Time of Redemption). He told me the place went WILD when he played that tune. He also told me that they tried to get him and MBD to wave yellow "Yechi Adoni Melech Hamoshiach" flags but they both refused.
There is no doubt that this was just a paying gig for MBD. I leave for others to consider whether MBD should have done the gig in light of its Meshichist nature. On the other hand, my Israeli friend is a young, totally trusting, somewhat naive, b'simchadik guy. He clearly had no idea what he was getting into.
Sorry for the slow posting in recent days; I've been sick, and may get over it soon.
Jeff Sharlet at The Revealer takes part in a Christian journalism panel, and is troubled to find ignorance of Catholic blogs. I'll first say that it's a bad idea for Sharlet and others to go around touting the medium with nickname ("St. Blog's Parish" in this case), since it creates an insider language that unnecessarily challenges those trying to enter into the dialogue. Whenever I'm promoting J-blogging, whether to rabbis or journalists or whomever, my first question is, "Do you know what a blog is?" It's not patronizing or presumptuous to ask that question, and I think it goes a long way toward establishing a sense of medium humility when dealing with potential readers.
It should be noted that Sharlet was speaking with a reporter each from the Boston Globe and the NYT; both large dailies have a particularly prudish approach when it comes to the blog world generally.
Various blogging emphases have varying levels of novel relevance. It's understandable that the NYT could be dismissive of, say, bloggers' reporting on national politics, since for the most part they just don't have access to the same sources as the White House press corps. Hyperlocal blogging, an experiment being pioneered by Jeff Jarvis, is an example of a situation where access to sources is more complete for bloggers. Sites like Gizmodo, as publications whose importance is recognized by the industry, can also achieve a lot.
Religion blogging can achieve more than any of these, however. While Jarvis speaks of hyperlocal blogging as a supplement to, and not a replacement of, other local media, religion blogging can in many ways actually replace traditional sources of religious news and opinion.
In part, this is because "traditional sources of religious news and opinion" are scarce in the first place; in another part, it's because they often suck. There simply isn't a whole lot of religion reporting going on at the Globe or the NYT, and smaller dailies are most often either somewhat worse or somewhat (but not significantly) better. The explicitly religious publications have a number of problems, including, but not limited to: a) infrequent publishing, b) lack of web presence, c) poor reporting standards/training, d) a significant quantity of conflict-of-interest.
Blogs obviously win for (a) and (b), and while many aren't any better at (c), well, that's the point: they're just not better, but many would have to try to be worse. As to (d), well, when a conflict does exist, it's more explicit, and therefore more honest; everyone knows that Elder Pinchas is the spokesperson for the World Jewish Congress, and can read his posts through that prism.
But perhapst most importantly, the one major advantage that dailies have in national political reporting is not one that they have for religion reporting. Clergy and religious administrators are relatively accessible to anyone with just a tiny measure of reportorial tenacity.
So, in part, my response to Sharlet's worry over a lack of mainstream media respect is: "So what?" They've been screwing it up all along, anyway, and if we do our job well enough, it won't matter if they continue to do so.
11 a.m. -- International Commission on Holocaust Era Insurance Claims announces $16 million in payments to 16,000 claimants in 60 counties;
Noon -- Panel discussion of ``The Passion of the Christ''; Brooklyn College Student Center, alumni lounge, Campus Road and East 27th Street, Brooklyn.
After weeks of pressure from Cartman, Kyle finally sees “The Passion” and, much to Cartman’s delight, is forced to admit that he has been right all along. Inspired by Kyle’s change of heart and a powerful love for Mel Gibson, Cartman incites many of the film’s hardcore fans to band together and carryout its message. Meanwhile, Stan and Kenny also see the movie and embark upon a quest to find Mel Gibson.
I wonder if they will have a Foxman character...
posted by Pinchas |
7:45 PM |
In regard to the messianic rally, a reader writes in:
with regards to MBD performing at a chabad concert:
i just saw a similar poster here in jerusalem, that had him advertised as well, performing tonight. It was practically an exact copy of the one you're showing on the blog, except in hebrew. (although they did write the date as 2003, i think it was referring to tonight, and not a year ago (typical israeli high quality work)
So, in discussing Leon Wieseltier's appearance on The Sopranos last night, you can go straight to the source. Those who followed the Easterbrook flap might be led to wonder how Wieseltier could respond so quickly, given his apparent incapacity for "instant thought."
Apparently, the IDF is tithing its produce, essentially discarding 10% of all the fruits, vegetables and the like that it purchases. Lots of social activists chime in, and the military replies:
In response, the IDF stated that the defense establishment does not actually pay for the expense of the tithe, which is assumed by the supplier. The same source explained that according to Jewish law, the army cannot make a symbolic tithe but is obliged to give 10% of its food supply to zoos or to garbage disposal units. The tithe cannot be used for human consumption and as such cannot be given to the needy.
posted by Steven I. Weiss |
3:39 PM |
Messianist rally this Wednesday night:
(Click for larger image) This is interesting in so many ways, other than the obvious.
The poster announces the rally will be done "with the participation of Rabbonim, Mashpi'im and Dignitaries." Just which dignitaries will be worth finding out.
Also, there's the note towards the bottom (almost a footnote), "This gathering will also protest the dangerous path being followed in Eretz Yisroel." That could mean a thousand different things, but the implication seems to be a protest against the Yassin assassination (assuming, of course, that the poster was printed after the assassination took place).
Lastly, there's the promise of a "Special appearance by world famous Chasidic singer Mordechai ben David." One reader who sent this declared, "I think it is alarming that a mainstream, non-Lubavitcher Jewish singing star like him might participate, giving strength, credibility and encouragement to the messianic Lubavitchers." Such a concern would seem to me yet another claim that the yeshivish/chasidic music stars are to be considered role models, or that there's much more to their motivation beyond the money; this has consistently proven to be a poor claim to make. Nonetheless, it's hard to imagine how any non-messianist Jew would take part in this event in any fashion, and I wonder if he'll go through with it.
Here are a couple of individuals speaking out on the issue of the Cardinals in the Beis.
Eugene Korn, an invited guest of Rabbi Lamm to the encounter
Jeremy Wieder, RIETS Rosh Yeshiva and participant in last year's encounter with the French Priests
Julius Berman, Chairman of RIETS
Incidentally, I heard that the good doctor from "To Mo" was in the 5 Towns this shabbos and spoke out on two issue I am sure he knows everything about, the Passion of the Christ and the Cardinals in the Beis. Any readers present?
With regards to the Passion, this story may cause us to revisit that age-old question: Is it good for the Jews, or bad for the Jews?
OSLO (Reuters) - A Norwegian neo-Nazi has confessed to two bombings a decade ago after a pang of repentance triggered by watching U.S. director Mel Gibson's controversial film "The Passion of the Christ".
Johnny Olsen, 41, went to police after watching the movie about the death of Christ to admit that he was behind the previously unexplained bombings against anarchist squatters in Oslo in the mid-1990s.
PLEASE NOTE: Tomorrow is the drop-dead date on my AOL e-mail address; e-mails sent there will not be read. Please send any correspondence to the e-mail address linked in the sidebar.
My AIM name will, for the time being, remain the same.
IsraellyCool's father-in-law got pulled from Israel National Radio, ostensibly for referring to a co-worker as, "The delicious Devorah." IsraellyCool brings in various reasons why it may seem that INR was grasping at straws, or why the termination wasn't warranted. The thing is, it's perfectly reasonable to terminate someone for such a comment, at least in the US.
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