Monday, January 28, 2008
http://www.lukeford.net Moral Leader Luke Ford puts aside the sacred texts to whip himself into shape as America's Next Great Love Machine.
http://www.lukeford.net Luke Ford takes a ride on the wild side.
Sunday, January 27, 2008
This month the most ambitious documentary on the American Jewish experience, a six-hour series called “The Jewish Americans,” aired on PBS stations around the country. The program, whose third and final segment was on Wednesday, is the most nuanced and sophisticated telling of the Jewish American story to date. The documentary invites us to reflect about what Jewish identity has meant in the past, what it will mean in the future, and how a minority group retains its identity.
Historically, there was never a single Jewish identity, there were many Jewish identities. As with any religious culture, there were different expressions of Jewishness that were products of interactions between people, their times, their inherited traditions, the larger cultures in which they were embedded, and their personal biographies.
Jewish identity in the first century in Palestine was very different than Jewish identity in Poland in the 17th century, which was very different than Jewish identity in Spain in the 12th century, which was different than Jewish identity in New Mexico at the end of the nineteenth century, which is different from the many kinds of Jewish identities in Jerusalem and Manhattan in the 21st century. In fact, when one studies the Jewish past, one discovers that identity is really a verb and not a noun — it is something that is continuously being constructed and not something that is static that one possesses.
If, as Israeli President Shimon Peres told the program participants, Israelis are always “divided between fear and hope,” this year’s conference opened at a moment when fear is ascendant, as reflected in three of the key issues discussed: Iran and its potential nuclear threat after the release of a National Intelligence Estimate (NIE) report in Washington that appears to undermine efforts to halt Tehran; a post-Annapolis assessment of the prospects for Mideast peace when little progress has been made; and the volatile domestic political situation in Israel on the eve of the final Winograd Commission report assessing the role and responsibility of the Olmert government during the Lebanon war.
Due out Jan. 30, the report is expected to deal harshly with the government and could lead to Prime Minister Ehud Olmert’s political downfall, though he has stated publicly that no matter what the report says, he will not resign.
Will Olmert Fall?
At one of the most highly charged sessions, on the Winograd report, Olmert’s attitude was sharply criticized as arrogant, undemocratic and a sign of “a loss of moral authority” on the prime minister’s part by Maj. Gen. (res.) Uzi Dayan, a former national security adviser and founding chair of the Tafnit political party. He and another panelist, Gideon Sa’ar, a member of Knesset from Likud, insisted that none of the military objectives of the war were achieved — defeating Hezbollah, stopping the missile attacks on Israel, and rescuing the kidnapped soldiers — and that Olmert must bear the blame and step down.
http://www.lukeford.net Luke Ford hangs out on set in Sunland with Jenny Hendrix, Evelyn Lin, Alexis Love, Faye Runaway, Alexandra
Friday, January 25, 2008
Thursday, January 24, 2008
"Shabbos Sheva Berachos: This meal should ideally be eaten at the home of the kallah’s parents. Alternatively, the meal should be eaten in a small catering facility. Only grandparents, the kallah’s siblings, and – only if they reside out-of-town – the chassan’s siblings are to be invited. In smaller families, the chassan’s siblings may be invited. Other close relatives, such as those of the kallah’s parents, should eat at other relatives and join the sheva berachos only for bentching." - The Satmar chasunah guidelines
Wednesday, January 23, 2008
Does anyone think that Israel's situation will actually be better rather than worse ten years from now? Twenty years from now?
Does anyone believe that Israel won't cede more land to its mortal enemy?
Does anyone believe that Israel will ever protect its citizens from kassam rockets?
Does anyone doubt that the Arabs will be launching more, not fewer, rockets in the ensuing decade?
Does any of this matter?
Perhaps Judaism only requires one to study Torah and perform mitzvos.
Perhaps controlling the land of Israel is a nice amenity but certainly not a necessity.
Or perhaps living as a sovereign people in one's own land is of supreme religious and historical value if one can do so in a peaceful manner. Shedding blood, however, for such a venture is simply not worth it.
Or rather, bleeding for the land is fine. Making others bleed is the problem. And if we Jews bleed to death.... well, so is the price of living in the Holy Land.
Perhaps some Jews would run the country differently if they were in charge, but since they're not in charge, bleeding on the cross of national suicide would then constitute morality of the highest order.
But why am I going on? Does any of this really matter? Does it? Isn't Hashem truly in charge, and isn't whatever He wills going to happen anyways? So why bother getting angry, depressed, excited, active, revolutionary? Why?
Glory is for previous ages. An age like that of the Maccabees. An age of the "give me liberty or give me death" American revolutionaries.
Our age is one in which we wait for the hand of God. When He decides to redeem us, then we will be redeemed and sing His holy praises. And until then, we will cry, we will pray, we will perform mitzvos.
God wants nothing from us except to bleed on the altar of passivity. Proud, jingoistic patriotism is for non-Jews. Especially non-Jewish is patriotism translated into action.
Jews are international and spiritual. We don't need a land. We certainly don't need to fight for it. And certainly not when fighting for it requires sacrifices of a degree that many of us have not even begun to conceive of.
In order to distract themselves from the daily trials and tribulations of "surviving" Hamas & Hizbollah rocket threats, a vindictive Prime Minister, $6 a gallon gasoline, high taxes and a stifling bureaucracy, Israelis amuse themselves with various forms of prime-time entertainment, ranging from a local version of "Survivor" to the "Hillary vs. Obama" gladiator battles.
The local version of "Survivor" underscores the brutal reality of what it means to be a Jew and and an Israeli. Stubborness, rebellion and a stiff-necked disposition are on display as Israelis from all walks of life including several immigrants from the FSU (former Soviet Union) play out physical and spiritual mind games on an island chain within the territorial waters of the Dominican Republic. The Israeli version goes one step further in toying with the suffering of those who've been eliminated. Instead of sending them straight home, the "eliminated" are sent to an "island of death" where they must battle each other once more in order to stave off permanent elimination.
This is a painful exercise to watch... but if one compares the contestants reactions to what Jews have endured over the millenium, from brutal slavery in Egypt, medieval Crusades, Inquisitions, the Holocaust and enduring wars in contemporary Israel, "Survivor" becomes a metaphor for "am k'shei oref" (a stiff-necked people). For good and bad...
Which is why, so many Israelis tune into their prime-time evening news to watch in-depth coverage of the "Hillary vs. Obama" episodes. It's one long episode of "American Survivor" which is colored by race, money and vicious politics - something that Israelis actually hunger for when it comes to local politics. Israeli politicians, especially the "front-runners" (i.e. Olmert & Netanyahu) would never debate each other face-to-face in front of a national audience over a period of months. Their egos just wouldn't fit into the same room. And, their personal foibles would be exposed, which would be too much for their spinmeisters.
Israeli politics are most certainly colored by ethnicity, money and a viciousness that rivals Hillary vs. Obama. But most Israeli politicians are cowardly survivors who will manipulate in order to administrate. Most Israelis would pay to see Olmert and Netanyahu marooned on an island, just to see who could survive the longest without the trappings of physical prestige.
http://www.lukeford.net/archives/updates/080123.htm Luke Ford muses about the conflict between freedom and community.
Saturday, January 19, 2008
It's hard for the average Jew in North America to have a proper understanding of what is taking place in Sderot. There are those who believe that Sderot (which Secretary of State Rice called SDAY-ROT) is located either somewhere in the "territories" or in the middle of the Negev desert.
In reality, Sderot is located less than an hour by car from metro Tel Aviv, adjacent to Kibbutz Yad Mordechai, one of Israel's most productive agricultural farms. In fact, the gas station/restaurant at Kibbutz Yad Mordechai bears a striking resemblance to a Route 17/Quickway "pit stop" one would pass on the way up to the Catskills.
Sderot also borders one of the country's main roadways heading south towards Beersheba, the capital of the Negev. Sderot looks like any other mid-size Israeli town, except for the fact that the red-tile roofs on the villas are becoming craters in the aftermath of incessant Kassam rocket attacks from nearby Gaza.
Sderot is NOT a settlement. It is working-class town that has become cannon fodder for Hamas and political fodder for PM Ehud Olmert's peace games. Sderot is INSIDE the so-called pre-1967 ceasefire lines and yet its citizens are paying a heavy toll for being near the bottom of the country's economic and social scales. The throngs of mostly Ashkenazic Israeli reporters who descend upon Sderot each time there's a massive barrage, have yet to challenge the secular elite businessmen and politicians who reside in chic Tel Aviv to trade places with their Sderot brethren in order to understand their anger and frustrations.
If Hamas or Hizbullah successfully fired a rocket at central Tel Aviv, there can be no doubt that the Gaza Strip and Southern Lebanon would be turned into an "urban renewal" project in a matter of hours. Yes, a form of social racism actually determines military and political policy in Jerusalem.
Think about it. What would you do if you lived in Brooklyn and missiles were falling on friends and family on Long Island? Would you allow the president to actually negotiate with the enemy at the gates?
Below are excerpts from an interview I conducted several months ago with Dr. Heskel Haddad of WOJAC (World Organization of Jews from Arab Countries), which did not appear in the paper edition of The Jewish Press.
Are Iranian Jews safe? Are they allowed to leave?
They are not persecuting them now. They are as safe as second-class citizens can be. Many of them want to leave but they can’t because the Iranian government knows they will go to Israel and they don’t want them to go to Israel.
How about Syrian Jewry? How many of them are left?
About 100. I don’t think these 100 Jews want to leave. They are not mistreated; they are okay. They have money, they have homes, and they don’t want to leave them.
Some people claim that the Israeli governments of the 1940's and 1950's were responsible for many Jews from Arab countries becoming irreligious. Can you comment?
When the Jews from Arab countries came to Israel, they were told “If you want to work, the pinkas adom, [the red membership book of the socialist Mapai party] should be your Bible” – because Mapai controlled the Histadrut labor union. And for the jobs they were given, they had to get up very early in the morning, with no time to go to the synagogue. So a lot of Jews lost interest in the religion “mikotzer ruach u'meavodah kasha – from shortness of breath and hard work” (Exodus 6:9). But gradually these Jews came back to religion.
Did the Jews from Arab countries flee or leave willingly?
Those who left out of Zionism, I would say, are less than two percent. The majority were forced to leave their homes by persecution. For example, in Iraq all the workers in the government were fired. So there was 90% unemployment among the Jews of Iraq.
In talking about the founding and purpose of WOJAC, Dr. Haddad said...
Between 1948 and 1951, almost one million Jewish refugees came to Israel penniless because all their property and assets were confiscated by the Arab governments. And nobody talks or says anything about them. Only 600,000 Palestinian Arabs left Israel. So we're talking about a de facto population exchange.
We want to negate the right of return and we want to have mutual compensation.
The Hillary Clinton presidential campaign is getting louder and uglier by the minute as racial and gender politics threaten to fracture the Democratic base, and even those media outlets that in the past had defended or at the very least tolerated the Clintons give every indication of having finally lost patience with the shopworn act.
But did anyone expect anything other than a three-ring circus, particularly with a publicity-seeking missile like Bill Clinton launching himself at any available microphone or television camera?
Really, was there ever a president quite like Bill Clinton? The Oval Office has seen more than its share of questionable characters, but rarely had one embodied so many of the traits we normally abhor in a low-level political hack, let alone a president of the United States.
There is no need to recite here the dreary and extensive litany of Clinton’s flip-flops on both domestic and foreign policy. Suffice it to say that the man is a political chameleon who, as the editors of National Review once put it so memorably, “has been ruled ineligible for Mt. Rushmore because there isn’t room for so many more faces.”
Nor is it necessary to revisit the sordid details of all the controversies and scandals that came to attach themselves to a man for whom the word “shameless” always seemed the mildest of sobriquets.
The wonder of it all is not that Clinton twice managed to get elected president – he failed, after all, to garner a majority of the vote in both 1992 and 1996, and his victories owed much to the ineptness of his Republican opposition and the unbridled ego of Ross Perot.
No, the remarkable thing about the Clinton years is the narcotic effect they seemed to have on Americans, large numbers of whom were content to sleepwalk their way through the accumulating detritus of White House sleaze.
Jews in particular were enamored of Bill Clinton, and his approval ratings in Jewish strongholds from Great Neck to Beverly Hills were positively Rooseveltian. It was said in the 1940’s that for American Jews there was di velt (this world), yene velt (the next world) and Roosevelt; in that sense Clinton was FDR revisited, a man who could do no wrong in Jewish eyes, facts – and Israel – be damned.
The fact is, Clinton left office with Israel’s situation considerably more precarious than it had been at the end of the first President Bush’s lone term. And while Israeli leaders bore a considerable portion of the blame, it was Clinton who pulled, prodded and pressured Israel – and directly intervened in the Israeli political process – whenever he felt it necessary to sustain the mirage of Oslo.
And Hillary of course always was the perfect sideshow to Bill’s Main Event, someone who simply by opening her mouth in public during the Clintons’ White House years made the pundits cringe, her poll numbers plunge, and general chaos ensue.
It was Hillary, as author Sally Bedell Smith reminds us in For Love of Politics, her recently published account of the Clinton presidency, who almost single-handedly ran national health care into the ground. It was also Hillary whose behind-the-scenes machinations resulted in Travelgate and Filegate, among many other such Clintonian hijinks.
And, as Smith convincingly relates, it was Hillary’s insistence that her husband ignore the advice of his attorneys that necessitated the court depositions which eventually led to Bill’s impeachment.
By the time Hillary gave an excruciatingly embarrassing 1999 interview to Talk magazine (since defunct), once-sympathetic observers like the liberal columnist Richard Cohen were beginning to see the unflattering truth behind the first lady’s carefully cultivated veneer.
Describing Hillary as a “bit of a ditz,” Cohen asked, “What can we make of a woman who talks the language of afternoon television – an amalgam of psychobabble and fortune-cookie wisdom, with a dollop of religion here and there?”
The Talk article, Cohen conceded, “raises real questions about her sagacity, her knowledge of how she sounds to others and – not least – her political wisdom.”
Later in 1999, the Suha Arafat imbroglio (Hillary had embraced Mrs. Yasir Arafat moments after the latter accused Israel of poisoning Palestinian women and children – and then offered up a series of excuses and explanations for her behavior) threw into sharp relief all the weaknesses exhibited by Hillary throughout her career as a public figure.
Those weaknesses were overlooked or forgotten as Hillary rather deftly settled into her role as U.S. senator from New York. But apparently they were always under the surface and have now reemerged: the transparent posturing, the dissembling and denial whenever her actions or statements blow up in her face, and the political spinning – always the political spinning.
Thursday, January 10, 2008
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Your Moral Leader
I don’t have an entrepreneurial bone in my body. This is all very awkward for me. I want to just write and to know I’ve got at least $500 a week coming in.
I feel like I am running in a circle.
In 1995, I realized that my odds of making it as a working actor were tiny. I subscribed to all these make-money-through-mail-order programs and gorged on the self-help teachings of such gurus as Tony Robbins.
Jay Abraham seemed like the best of the mail-order teachers but I never made any money. I only lost money. I spent my last remaining dollars and then realized I needed to write a book and I should support myself through temp work until my ship came in.
Twelve years later, I’m reading endless reports on how to make money online. I’m studying Jay Abraham again.
I am so desperate that I listened for 75 minutes this afternoon to a "webinar" on "How to Make 2008 Great with Real-World Action Steps and Techniques."
Most of it was a critique of "The Secret." We were given these visualization exercises for picturing the type of life we want.
I hate that stuff. That’s not me. I’m a hardbitten cynical reporter. The only things I visualize are things that are against the Torah.
Well, at least I built ten websites on blogger today and stuck three Google Adsense templates on each of them.
I hate this! This is not the life I envisioned for myself. I should be able to write about my feelings and have the money flow in. I should simply paint my exquisite soul and have women swoon over my blog. I should send in RSVPs for film premieres and get back grateful replies. Instead I get silence.
I scream into the void. I stop. I listen. I hear nothing.
Wait, I hear you. I hear voices in my head. I see dead people…
I am getting some feedback. Thank you for the tips on making money online and letting me know what I’m doing right and wrong.
I’m not the type of chap who has good judgment. I suspect I’m doing things right and wrong but I only truly know this when I receive feedback from people I respect and that feedback pings with a tiny chord of common sense buried deep beneath my narcissism.