Thursday, April 27, 2006

Office Pool – Vote Up or Down on Rove Indictment

Lawrence O’Donnell on the Huffinton Post today says the question of whether or not Karl Rove will be indicted any time soon depends on who is behind his Grand Jury appearance. If it was the prosecutor, Fitzgerald, who asked Rove to show, it means there isn’t yet enough evidence to indict. On the other hand, if it’s Rove who asked for it, it means his lawyer knows something’s coming down and he pushed his client to speak up before the indictment is decided.

My sense is that you don’t resign your White House Position unless you think you’re becoming a liability in 4-3-2… So I believe there is an indictment coming. But my track record on major predictions stinks. I predicted a Kerry win in ’04, for crying out loud.

So, what do you think? And, please, try to use your name, or any name, when you comment. The anonymous thing is starting to annoy me. Thanks.

God’s Next Problem

A friend of ours was the editor of the Discovery-Times Channel’s new, compelling 1-hour documentary, God's Next Army, about Patrick Henry College, a six-year-old evangelical college on the outskirts of Washington, DC, which is intent on becoming Christianity's answer to the Ivy League, but more than that, is planning to conquer the battlefield of American politics.

The kids on the steps of Congress (from the HPC photo gallery)

As documentaries go, this one is extremely fair-minded in the way it permits its subjects to make their case to the viewer. The image which emerges from the many interviews onscreen is of an homogenous student body, 99% blond-white, most of whom were home-schooled by highly motivated, evangelical parents. Their teachers, too, appear cleancut, poised, friendly and self-assured. Overall, old-leftie prejudices aside, this crowd appears as non-threatening and promising as they come.

You’re prepared to forgive them the fact that they teach everything “through the Bible.” Who cares if their biology teacher employs Creationism? Who cares, even, if the school’s president, Michael Farris, poo poos the value of liberal arts and the classics, vowing instead to use the biblical prism in his approach to learning. You can go a long way with a biblical prism, and Creationism doesn’t scare me, and neither does the theory of Evolution, by the way.

Well, OK, the literalism of one Science teacher was a bit of a surprise, as she explained all geological changes being the result of the Deluge. I mean, it’s a cute Toireh, with the boiling waters turning the dinosaurs into soup, but away from the Shabbat lunch table it seems less than scientifically useful. But, again, what do I know (and care).

Here’s where the thing starts unraveling. PHC prepares its students, in the most unabashed way, to be tomorrow’s leaders of the Republican party and the world. As such they’re trained to beat the pants off of all other college debate teams. They are focused, informed, fast on their feet and, apparently, lethal.

It’s tough to understand the difference between a sharp debater and an actual scholar. They often appear very similar. I’ve long since given up on 24-hour news shows with their relentless matches, but those are the places where you can see master debaters who know nothing at all about much of anything, but defeat their opponents, hands down.

Frighteningly enough, in the American marketplace of ideas, a good debater usually beats out a good scholar. Hey, this nation always chooses the good looking, friendly seeming guy over his opponent in presidential races. Kennedy over Nixon, Clinton over Dole, Bush over Gore.

But even more scary is the agenda these supposedly Christian lads and lasses are carrying out into the world, and, most emphatically, into the power halls of DC. It’s all about prohibiting same-sex marriages and abortions, and, amazingly, about revoking the estate tax. That last one is justified biblically with some verse about God owning the whole world, “not the state.” But, wait a minute, you want to ask, if God owns it, how come your grandchildren get to keep it? Oh, stop it with your logic, this is America, we can barely understand the slogans, you want we should hear your rebuttals?

Here’s what’s missing from these whitebread Americans’ Christian agenda, as they peddle their pitches in congressional offices, on behalf of God’s Official Party: Any empathy for the poor, for the sick, for the elderly. Any concern for the well being of the planet. Maybe it’s there and the film has neglected to show it, but, somehow, I don’t think so.

The evangelical Me generation has managed to shape the gospel in its own image at HPC, and it’s soldiering up to retake what it sees as its rightful inheritance. It’s not as bad as bikers and neo Nazis, but it comes pretty close. Bikers and neo-Nazis you can still call the cops on, in many cities. These guys will be your cops.

Israeli Law May Be the Funniest

Hagai Amir

The Yediot Aharonot Ynet website in English is quite selective about the items it chooses to translate and publish. Which is why you’d be deprived of this amazing story unless yours truly rolls up his sleeves and translates away, like in the old days.


Hagai Amir, who is serving a 16-year prison term for his involvement in the Yitzhak Rabin murder (Yigal Amir, the shooter, is his brother – YY) was sentenced this morning (Thursday) in a Netanya Court to a year in jail, following his conviction for threatening the life of former premier Ariel Sharon…

The prosecution argued that on October 31, 2004, Hagai Amir asked a guard at the Ashmoret prison to dial his parents’ and sister’s numbers for him, so he could talk to them. After there was no response from the two phone numbers, Amir said to the guards: “What are you afraid of, that I would finish off Sharon?” After which he told them, “I can make one phone call and get Sharon finished and blown up.”

The judge, Ruth Lorech, warned about the threat posed by imprisoned persons who have already been convicted for involvement in the assassination of a sitting premier.
Do you get the feeling her honor is not trusting so much the competence of the Israeli prison system?

I’ll tell you, the things they send people to jail for… Used to be the response to the threat above would have been, “Oh yeah? You and what army.” But that’s how children settled such conflicts. Governments have ways of making you regret having a mouth at all…

Wednesday, April 26, 2006

I Did My Civic Duty Thing and It Cost Me Next to Nothing



Yesterday, my wife and I come back from our health walk in the East River Park, and as we’re crossing the pedestrian bridge over the FDR Drive, we see two workmen on an impossibly tall, tram-worthy cherry picker, hosing the side of the Williamsburg Bridge with enormous force.
I’m quite dense on environmental issues, but my wife spotted the problem right away: “They should be covered up, they can’t just let all that [expletive] spray out to the street,” she said. Indeed, the [expletive] was overflowing, ripe with exhaust soot, led, seagull droppings and whatnot.

My call to the 311 office landed me on a 10-minute hold. So I called our local community board 3 office instead and explained the problem. They were responsive, intelligent and swift. This morning I’m coming back from my health walk and voila – the cherry picker was covered up in blue plastic sheets.

Thank you, thank you, I was just trying to do the right thing. Thank you. No, thank you!

My Brother-in-Law Sent This

A wealthy man was having an affair with an Italian woman for several years. One night, during one of their rendezvous, she confided in him that she was pregnant. Not wanting to ruin his reputation or his marriage, he offered to pay her a large sum of money if she would go to Italy to secretly have the child. If she stayed in Italy to raise the child, he would also provide child support until the child turned 18.

She agreed, but asked how he would know when the baby was born. To keep it discreet, he told her to simply mail him a post card, and write "Spaghetti" on the back. He would then arrange for child support payments to begin. One day, about 9 months later, he came home to his confused wife. Honey, she said, "You received a very strange post card today." "Oh, just give it to me and I'll explain it," he said. The wife obeyed and watched as her husband read the card, turned white and fainted.

On the card was written: "Spaghetti, Spaghetti, Spaghetti. Two with meatballs, one without."

How We Deal With Dishonesty and Hypocrisy

No site uses my name and work without permission more than the Jewish Survivors of Sexual Violence Speak Out blog, run by the multi-personalities of Vicki Polin, Mara and Dina Tamar. She quotes my work out of context, she tries to show me up by using a photograph taken by my daughter to illustrate a humor piece. She hates my guts, and most of all she hates the fact that I exposed her as Rachel, the young freaky woman who went on the Oprah Winfrey show and accused the Jews of Chicago of being a Satanic cult.

But the most annoying thing she does is publish my entries on this blog on her own website, add some curses, innuendo and misinformation, and invite herself, posing as anonymous readers, to trash me. Then, when I attempt to answer the idiotic charges in a polite and civilized manner, she simply blocks me.

So here’s what we gonna’ do, for the sake of decency: I’ll go back to visit Dingo and her wild band of 1 on a regular basis, copy and paste her comments and respond to them.

We can do a lot with this concept, you know. Keep coming back, it works if you work it…

Look What They’ve Done to my Speech, Ma’

I told a friend of mine in Jerusalem about the case of Rabbi David Lipman and I could hear over the phone how his jaw dropped. Sometimes we need to hear familiar news as it is reflected through the eyes of someone in a slightly different culture to refresh your sense of horror.

The state of Arizona received a report from a Child Protective Services hotline complaint, the cops went to Lipman’s office to question him about inappropriate touching of his (step) daughter and he responded in a self-incriminating manner. He then proceeded to mess his own case up in a fantastic way, disappearing for several months, neglecting to make his court appearance, in short, being self-destructive.

The state launched some 13 complains of child sexual abuse against Lipman, which he initially was not present to answer. All the complaints stemmed from his daughter’s report to someone in or connected to the CPS system.

Now check this out: The cops impounded Lipman’s office computer and discovered pornographic material on its drive, including, reportedly, child pornography.

For the possession of this material, Lipman got 13.5 years in jail.

For the child sexual abuse conviction he got probation. This was because his daughter, who complained about his misbehavior, pleaded with the judge not to add more time to his sentence.

This is American Democracy, 2006. It is twisted, cruel, hysterical and injurious. But I, like many Americans, have grown callused to this frightening bit of medieval justice. It took the shocked and awed response of my friend to remind me of what has been happening to our free speech over the past couple of decades.

In the 1960’s Phil Ochs sang Mississippi, find yourself another country. I think it’s time for Arizona to go looking, too.

Monday, April 24, 2006

''Magical'' Afternoon of Izbicer Study in Chicago

An interview with Rabbi Hershy Worch, following his Sunday study session with Rabb Mordechai Gafni( much publicized by the enemies of both participants).

USAJ: So, how did it go? What's the No Exit Cafe like?

Hershy Worch: It's a performance, exhibition, artsy, trendy place in an area of Chicago where the arts and poorer housing live side by side

USAJ: Rogers Park?

Worch: East Rogers Park. Well away from the Orthodox neighborhood.

USAJ: It's an international neighborhood, a lot like Brooklyn's Atlantic Ave.

Worch: Yes. not on such a big scale, but yes.

USAJ: How many people showed?

Worch: Fewer than 20.

USAJ: More than 15?

Worch: Yes, about

USAJ: All of them Izbicer aficionados?

Worch: Not all – all of them connected either to me or to Mordechai or to both and to Izbicy Torah. All members of congregations of the searching spirit. People who study Torah, who study Jewish meditation

USAJ: What's the difference between the Izbicer and the rest of the hasidic scholars?

Worch: He is about three or four hundred years ahead of them.

USAJ: Wait -- I'm doing the math...

Worch: He was active about 175 years to 150 years ago, and he's still at least 150 years ahead of any contemporary thinkers.

USAJ: What's the 20-word essence of his methodology?

Worch: The goal it to reach intimacy with one's own personal truth.

USAJ: Inside the context of Mitzvot?

Worch: Everyone has their own personal truth which is the divine originality in the person.

USAJ: Sans commandments?

Worch: Once a person is in touch with it, he teaches that it is not absolutely necessary to be bound to the entirety of the Divrei Torah.

USAJ: Wow.

Worch: Because the p’rat (individual) becomes more important. The p’rat is the individual Torah of each person. An example we talked about was Mordechai, whom the Izbicer uses as an example. Mordechai had an understanding of his individual truth which, by the way, sprang from his relationship to Saul and the story with Agag, King of Amalek.

Mordechai knew he had to provoke and needle and act as the catalytic incendiary to Haman, even though he jeopardized all of Israel for no good purpose. He put us all in mortal danger for a non halachich whim of his. But, you see, when a person follows his truth he brings Ge'ula (redemption) to the world, because he reveals the divine in a new way

USAJ: Did you get the sense Gafni has a satisfying grasp on the Izbicer?

Worch: He has an encyclopedic grasp of Izbicy. Astonishing. He knows it backwards and forwards. We share many insights, we disagree on much, but that is because Izbicy is so deep, not because either of us is necessarily wrong.

USAJ: For instance?

Worch: In the concept of Desire and desire of Desire I think Gafni and I have different ideas because my derech (methodology) in Izbicy is very emotive, Gafni is very scholarly: The empty space, the idea of tzimtzum as Desire. Mordechai may have seen Izbicy as the natural outgrowth of the Torah of the Arizal, but I see a total rejection of the same. We didn’t really have time to pursue it. I think the Izbicy rejects the Ari in subtle ways. Natural catastrophe does not dominate Izbicy thinking. Not even as the backdrop.

USAJ: In your version, the Izbicer is both completely ascetic and at the same time seeing desire as the natural plateau on which God and Man correspond.

Worch: I think Mordechai sees Desire in Izbicy as the lens through which we look at the Torah God and the World, while I see Desire as God. Desire is the Shechina. But, as I said, we did not have time to pursue this thought.

USAJ: Which introduces the conflict of how can the Deity have wants.

Worch: Right. the Zohar talks of Shabbes Mincha as being ra'ava d'ra'avin, Desire for Desire. it precedes Creation.

USAJ: V'ani tefilati -- et ratzon…

Worch: Precisely. And also the death of Moses is Shabbes Mincha, because Moshe is the ultimate desire, min hamayim m'shitihu, from desire he is drawn. So Moshe's death is desire of desire, which is the place between the end of the Torah and its beginning, the burial place of Moshe. We did not talk of this though.

USAJ: Did the audience follow?

Worch: The audience is very knowledgeable and intuitive. They know a good thing when they hear it. Between Mordechai Gafni and me we have about 60 years of Izbicy study.

USAJ: No brawls?

Worch: We did not argue except about one concept, about chauvinism in Izbicy. The Izbicy contrasts the nefesh Israel with the nefesh of the goy. There is no comparison in Izbicy where the Israel has a shoresh (root) in chayim amiti (true life) while the goy does not, no real life force. Gafni's interpretation is that Izbicy is a product of his epoch. He is enlightened but his enlightenment can only be expressed through the zeitgeist at the stage of human development and evolution that was then.

USAJ: It's a bit insulting to the old master.

Worch: Yes, but the mystical experience can continue to be reexamined and mined for nuggets as human consciousness evolves beyond parochial ethnocentrism.

USAJ: Future plans?

Worch: We talked of the importance of having a yearly symposium of Izbicy scholars who can meet and present papers. It was a magical afternoon. Everyone who attended could feel it in the atmosphere sparking huge thoughts that could have started conversations lasting weeks. We were hurrying to finish thoughts so we could move on and cover the main material but everyone got the impression we were swimming on the surface of an ocean.

Sunday, April 23, 2006

The Haute Couture of Public Shaming

The other day I received an urgent email from a friend of a very good friend. He asked that I be made aware of an “urgent” email sent out by Vicki “Dingo” Polin of the “Awareness Center.”

Polin writes below a verse from Leviticus 19:16 – You shall not go up and down as a slanderer among your people. Neither shall you stand idly by the blood of your neighbor. I am God – which defines the parameters of reporting another man’s actions. One should not be spreading baseless rumors, but, at the same time, if there is a critical situation, whereby someone’s blood is about to be spilled, or similarly dire circumstances, then you should do your best to intervene. And pray to God for inspiration and intuition, meaning, be sure your actions are for the sake of heaven.

Under that ambitious slogan, Polin is sending a blanket email with the subject: URGENT - Gafni and Worch Speaking in Chicago? Below which she states, in her unique version of the English language: According to a blog ran by Yori Yanover, Rabbis Marc Gafni and Hershy Worch are planning on speaking at a cafe in Chicago…I understand that the majority of Jews would not attend this function, the problem is that many unsuspecting, unaffiliated Jew's and non-Jews may attend.

Please call the "No Exit Cafe" to help verify that Marc Winiarz (AKA: Mordechai Gafni, and Hershy Worch are speaking. If they are, please WARN the owners of the cafe that both of these individuals have serious allegations of sexual violence made against them.

No Exit Cafe: (773) 743-3355

She adds links to her website, which I consider pornography under the guise of public service.

I wrote the friend’s friend:

The woman who sent you this email participated in the Oprah show in the 1980's where she accused the Jews of Chicago of belonging to a Satanic cult. She said she was forced to eat her own babies, which were the fruit of sex with her father. Go to my website for the full transcript, the video is to follow, I hope, soon. She and a small group of her allies -- there are not more than 4 or 5 of them -- have made it their task to destroy rabbis, whether they have a smidgen of proof or they don't. She is quoted by numerous White Power and Jihad websites, showing that rabbis are, indeed, "sexual predators" and "mind-manipulators." It is a mitzvah, in my view, to support her victims in any way possible.

One of her minions has attacked me personally, published the names of my wife and child online, published a list of my clients, urging people to call on them and convince them to stop advertising in my magazine. He urged people to report me to the IRS. He tried to torpedo a local event I was hosting, by sending anonymous emails to the participants, accusing me of terrible things.

I don't know much about Gafni, but I know my friend Hershy, and I support him as I will support all of my friends, without limit. That woman has attempted to destroy my friend with similar allegations, of being able to control the minds of females with a Svengali-like hypnotic power. The source was a dejected girlfriend who copied his hard drive and used private content plus her own embellishment to ruin him. At this point I don't even care to explain why the claim of mind manipulation is BS -- if you think it can be done, I say bottle it and sell it. In my view this Polin woman is the sick conductor of a witch hunt, and I am determined to stop her. For now, as far as I'm concerned, whenever she says it's night, it is day.

To which he responded:

Let me assure you that I don't believe in mind - control but yes I do recognize many charismatic figure including Rabbis who use their charisma for exploitation. My info. on Gafni does not come at all from Vicki Polin but from several other totally reliable sources (including his own admission of having committed many years ago what is now considered statutory rape of a minor). I have never heard of your friend hershy and i do not rely on Polin's website for info. The reason I sent this to you was my sense that maybe you did not know of Gafni's past and that you should know it - if you are hosting or promoting him in any way. I hope sending you this did not cause harmful agmat nefesh to you- I had no idea you had a history with the Polin website people.

To which I say:

According to my own sources, Gafni was 19 at the time, and the girl was 14, and they did not have sex as it was defined by the legal system at the time. Incidentally, he was not a rabbinical student at the time.

Do you really see merit in destroying him?

What about Polin's other most recent "call to action," against Peter Yarrow, of "Peter, Paul and Mary," who will be performing at the Baltimore Hebrew Congregation next Saturday evening. According to her (atrocious spelling in the original), "Peter Yarrow plead guilty to taking immoral and improper liberties' with a 14-year-old girl back in 1970." Do you really endorse this?

Are you aware that Polin's allegations are highly prized by numerous anti-Semitic sites? Are you aware of the amount of hard-core pornography she has online, posing as information? Are you aware of her accusing the Chicago Jewish community of being involved in a vast Satanic cult?

Case after case on this terrible woman's website is rumor and innuendo, supported by nothing except the faulty judgment of some YU rabbis who have since abandoned her, but refuse to take responsibility for the horror they helped create. If anyone should be stopped, and by stopped I mean be brought to trial on charges of unmitigated slander, quite in line with the verse from Va'Yikra that she quotes in her email, it’s this horrible woman.

Thursday, April 20, 2006

Mordechai Gafni and Hershy Worch in Open Discussion of the Izbicer

A gig for Chicagoans...
There will be a Symposium at the
No Exit Cafe
6970 N. Glenwood, Chicago

this coming Sunday afternoon with Rabbi Gafni and J. Hershy Worch and friends - between 3:00 pm and 4:30 pm.

If you'd like to come and meet some of the other local Chevrah, you'd be most welcome. Bring your questions and curiosity...

Yours truly will be listening online via Skype and might get into the discussion if they'll let me...