Friday, August 01, 2008

Link Roundup: Secrets in the Orthodox Community, the DOJ Scandal, McCain's Dishonesty, and Corruption in Congress

  • Abandoning Eden on the secrets in her family, which I think is applicable to the majority of Orthodox families.
    My dad's parents have 8 grandchildren. Now that I have this new information, I know that at least four of them are not religious, including 3 dating non-jewish people. 50%. And yet the other 50% (plus our parents, so really it's 4/12, or 33.34%) completely controls our actions. We disguise ourselves, my brother and Y with kippas and me and N with skirts and high-cut 'modest' shirts, and do it so well that we don't even know the other people are exactly the same as us, until some third party, still religious, but totally in the know about everything, lets out the big secret...

    [M]ost of the people I was friends with as a teenager are no longer religious, and many of them are dating not-jewish people. And not telling their parents about it. The people my age who I wasn't friends with all seem to be having thousands of babies and their facebook profiles all say "Jewish- orthodox". And yet us non-religious folks bow to the will of the religious ones, by keeping our situations private or secret.

    Have they socialized us so well that even though we completely disagree with them, we have internalized the shame they feel about us?

  • Illegal and disturbing hiring practices at Bush's Department of Justice:
    For nearly two years, a young political aide sought to cultivate a "farm system" for Republicans at the Justice Department, hiring scores of prosecutors and immigration judges who espoused conservative priorities and Christian lifestyle choices.

    That aide, Monica M. Goodling, exercised what amounted to veto power over a wide range of critical jobs, asking candidates for their views on abortion and same-sex marriage and maneuvering around senior officials who outranked her, including the department's second-in-command.

    An extensive report by the department's Office of the Inspector General and Office of Professional Responsibility concluded yesterday that Goodling and others had broken civil service laws, run afoul of department policy and engaged in "misconduct," a finding that could expose them to further scrutiny and sanctions. The report depicted Goodling as a central figure in politicizing employment decisions at Justice during the Bush administration. [Previously on Goodling and the hiring of incompetent Christianists.]

  • Via Matthew Yglesias, McCain's dishonest attacks:

    Obama’s cancellation of a visit in Germany to visit wounded U.S. troops has been adequately explained: that his campaign was advised by the Pentagon that since Obama was on a campaign trip and spending campaign resources, it would be viewed as using the wounded as props whether cameras were allowed in the hospital or not.

    This ad asserts a McCain campaign talking-point that Obama wouldn’t make time for wounded troops unless cameras were allowed to follow him, but did make time to work out at a gym. This, of course, is a lie. It’s a blatant lie. Steve Schmidt, a disciple of Karl Rove’s who worked on George W. Bush’s 2004 ad/communications effort, though, is playing the Rovian playbook that says that it doesn’t matter if it’s true as long as your target audience (non-college educated white working class voters) won’t bother to find out the actual truth, and believe that it “sounds like it might be a true.”

    For the second time in a week the non-partisan takes McCain to task for a false ad [false, btw, is another word for lie].

    And USA Today wrote an editorial about last week’s ad scam from McCain, blaming Obama for higher gas prices. The paper wrote: “Even by the elastic standards of political ads, this is more than a stretch. It’s baloney. It’s also a marker on the path toward the kind of simplistic, counterproductive demonizing that many expect will poison the fall campaign.”

    What the McCain campaign doesn’t want people to know, according to one GOP strategist I spoke with over the weekend, is that they had an ad script ready to go if Obama had visited the wounded troops saying that Obama was...wait for it...using wounded troops as campaign props. So, no matter which way Obama turned, McCain had an Obama bashing ad ready to launch. I guess that’s political hardball. But another word for it is the one word that most politicians are loathe to use about their opponents—a lie.

  • Lawrence Lessig has a great post about Congress, Ted Stevens, and Corruption:
    On Tuesday, Senator Ted Stevens was indicted by federal prosecutors for failing to report gifts he had received from an oil company to help him renovate his Alaskan home. The charges were not a surprise, though official Washington mustered its collective, and requisite outrage. Senators Dole and Sununu were quick to return campaign contributions from the now-tainted Stevens. Editorials across the nation were quick to condemn the obvious graft targeted by the government.

    But I confess, I don't get it. Not that I don't see the wrong in what Stevens has done. That's obvious. What's not obvious to me is why this wrong is so different from everything else that DC thinks is right.

    The concern with the gifts that Stevens allegedly took from oil companies is clear enough. If a Senator takes a gift from a special interest, he's less likely to weigh the interests of that special interest properly. If he's getting gifts from an oil company, for example, he's less likely to weigh concerns about global warming properly. He's more likely to ignore those concerns. He's more likely, in other words, to put his private interest (in continuing the gifts) above the public interest (dealing with the threats from global warming)...

    So far, so good. But what about the other ways that oil companies act to make it less likely that a legislator weighs in the interests of special interests properly? How do the laws and ethics of DC police this?

    Consider the most obvious example first. Ted Stevens was elected to the United States Senate in 1968. As the Republican with the longest tenure in the United State Senate — ever — he had perfected the business of getting reelected to serve his state. Individuals and special interests helped him secure that tenure. Since 1989, those contributions have exceeded $11 million. Close to $1 million in that eleven has come from the Energy and Natural Resource sector. Oil and gas has given him almost 1/2 of that.

    These "gifts," of course, were not to Stevens personally. They were gifts to his campaign, for the purpose of securing Stevens' tenure. But as someone for whom tenure is quite important, it is bizarre to me that anyone would see this distinction as a distinction that matters. If Microsoft gave Stanford $1 million to persuade Stanford to give me tenure, or if the RIAA gave Stanford $1 million to persuade Stanford not to give me tenure, there'd be no doubt that I would be disqualified from judging whether either was entitled to special benefit. Yet in DC, the doubtless is not. There's nothing wrong, in the world of DC, with Stevens' voting on matters that affect the industries that have worked so hard to secure his tenure.

    And the gifts don't stop there. As Ken Silverstein described in Harper's last March, despite their relatively modest salary, many Congressmen and Senators live a life of extraordinary luxury. Not because these representatives come to Washington with their own private wealth (though more and more often, of course, they do). Rather, they live a life of luxury because more and more of their day to day existence is paid for by their campaigns. As Silverstein put it, "[t]he most lavish benefit of winning a congressional campaign is, ironically enough, the right to keep on campaigning—and therefore to keep raising and spending donor money." And that spending increasingly substitutes for the sort of stuff most of us have to pay for out of our own salary. Again, Silverstein: "[T]he FEC has permitted virtually any expenditure, from a night on the town to a resort stay with big contributors, to be drawn from [campaign] funds." Thus while it is a crime for VECO Corporation to pay to have Stevens' house renovated, there's no problem with VECO's PAC and senior executives giving Stevens' campaign many times more than that which Stevens' is then free to use to fly to a resort in Montana, or entertain senior executives at DC's most expensive restaurants.


Comrade Kevin said...

I simply don't understand why the race between McCain and Obama has been so close.

Perhaps it's because the economic downturn is giving people reason to have pause to back Obama, but again, I truly have no clue whatsoever.

Anonymous said...

Comrade, I suspect people on both sides of the political divide wonder now, as they often have, what the other side sees in their candidate.

I won't get into a debate about the relative merits of the candidates, but if you're curious about the other side of the argument--why not everyone considers Obama the obvious choice--consider this:

Many Americans, I among them, find it hard to believe that so many would choose for a leader someone with so little in the way of political experience or achievements, especially at the national level, who has numerous long-standing questionable, even alarming, associations; someone from a fragmented family of origin; a radical local political background, and who has been mentored himself, and has raised his children, within an anti-white, race-based, and grievance-focused church community.

When a candidate has little relevant track record, it's reasonable--indeed anything else is reckless--to try to gauge his character: what are his formative influences, his loyalties, his values? And because we cannot read minds, we must look at what the candidate has said and done in his life to date--especially before the presidential campaign, when one would assume he'd become cautious and try hard to be inoffensive.

And when we look at Mr. Obama's past, the best one can say is that some of his actions and associations are not as bad as they look, that it was merely naivete and not ideological solidarity that made him a 20-year disciple of Jeremiah Wright and persuaded him to expose his young daughters to such Black Liberation Theology resentment and victimization; merely naivete that had him partner with someone who bombed Americans and has explicitly stated he regretted not being involved in more bombings...

And I'll stop the list there at a couple of its most egregious items. But even the generous interpretation of these actions on the part of Mr. Obama still involves a disturbing lack of judgment about affiliating with bigoted and violent people, about parenting, and more. Other interpretations are far worse. And if, in addition to lack of experience, and a voting record in the senate that has been exclusively liberal, more so even than most other Democrats, and he has also demonstrated appalling judgment when it comes to recognizing or separating himself from hateful or destructive people, just what qualities of leadership, aside from a soothing personality and grandeloquent speechmaking does he really offer?

And though McCain is far from a perfect candidate or leader, if a person truly can't see why the race is not a runaway for Obama--that a good percentage of Americans would prefer a man who sacrificed and suffered for his country and comrades; and who offers the stability of decades of experience in national politics; and who has an actual history of taking unpopular stands against his own party--may I suggest one isn't thinking hard enough.


Anonymous said...

Comrade, in reading your comment again, I'm not sure whether you thought it should be a runaway for Obama or McCain. So if my comment doesn't apply to you, please disregard it, and consider it offered to those who are puzzled as to why many people would, given the available choices, vote for McCain.


asher said...

Amazing how JewishAthiest can only find these strange articles about McCain when Obama really leaves me with a good smile every day. Lately he's actually claimed that we don't have to drill for more oil if we only "correctly inflated our tires and got regular tuneups" the oil crisis would be avoided.
The winner for saying absurd things in public used to be Teresa Heinz Kerry who was given a pass because she was so rich. Apparently, the US populace has given Obama a pass because he is
half black, half white, and makes a point of telling you that. It says alot for a man of 48 to have written two autobiographies. A man who is so self centered he leaks his special message to God in the Western Wall in Jerusalem to the press. And a man who fails to visit troops in the hospital when he was told he cannot bring his press corps along. Is this the change we were promised?

JA I want to see some positive articles on Obama. Please do some reseach..there has to be one or two.

G said...

Abandoning Eden on the secrets in her family, which I think is applicable to the majority of Orthodox families.

...and that thought is based on what might I ask?

jewish philosopher said...

I think Abandoning Eden may be typical of left wing Modern Orthodox.

Jewish Atheist said...


You're a propagandist's dream. Never have I met a better "dittohead."


...and that thought is based on what might I ask?

Just personal experience. I grew up with a lot of families pretending not to have gay relatives or ex-Orthodox children, etc. And a lot of Orthodox Jews who were constantly looking over their shoulders to see if anyone was watching them not live up to the perfect standards set by others.

G said...

More is the pity. As I have said before here, there are many people/places unlike that throughout Orthodoxy.

careful not to cast your life's "facts" as Fact.

Jewish Atheist said...


If there is a community where families openly talk about their gay and formerly-Orthodox friends and family and regularly include them in their lives while their friends and neighbors are around, I'm not aware of it. And how many people/families secretly watch t.v. on shabbos or sometimes answer the phone but pretend to be upstanding fully-Orthodox members of their communities?

Then there are also the ridiculous things like those places that will do genetic testing and purposely not tell you if you are a carrier, as long as your potential spouse isn't, because people are so scared about potential shidduchim for siblings. Or even worse, how it's a big secret if there is a relative with some kind of genetic disorder and nobody should ever talk about it.

If you don't know about these things happening in your community, maybe it's because people don't think they can be honest with you about what they do in private. So many Orthodox people are terrified of what their neighbors are thinking of them.

asher said...

Thanks JA,

Rather than responding to anything I said you simply call names.

Would that be "spewing the party line" or being a "Kool Aid drinker"? Which would you prefer to be called?

Jewish Atheist said...


Every single thing you said there is or was literally a GOP talking point at some point, and most have been easily refuted. If you're still using them, you obviously don't care enough about the truth to have bothered doing any research. Between that and our previous exchanges, I've realized that there's no point in contradicting you. You've never changed your mind on even the smallest point that I know of, and you rarely even responded when I did address your points in the past.

G said...

Again, because things take place does not mean that they are automatically "applicable to the majority of Orthodox families".

That's all I'm saying.

Sometimes you get yourself very wrapped up in the idea that the whole, or the vast majority, of Orthodoxy is as you describe it above. It is simply not true.

abandoning eden said...

just a small correction there- I was raised pretty right wing modern orthodox, not left wing at all. For instance, I was not allowed to wear pants, went to an all girls school, was forbidden from dating other than for tashlich, and not until I was 17, kept glatt kosher and chalav yisroel, my mom covers her hair, my dad has a gemerah learning group that met up once a week for about 4 hours, etc. The only way we may have been modern is that my dad had a real job, we had a tv and went to movies...but nothing ever rated above PG, and the tv was in my parents room and we didn't have cable (so tv use was supervised and limited).

And we were the most "modern" family in my entire extended family. My cousins who became non-religious weren't modern orthodox at all- they were black hatter types.

asher said...


When you present only side of any issue and refuse to even acknowledge that anyone might disagree with you, we have a word for that....propaganda.

You are the change we have been waiting for. We can do it. A light will shine above your head and you will say, "I will vote for Obama".
Can't wait for October.

Baconeater said...

Abandoning Eden, you mean to say that JP is wrong? LOL
JP couldn't pick the winner of a horse race with only entrant.

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