Posted by David Suissa
It appears that Rabbi John Rosove is excluding liberals like himself from the category of people influenced by recent scientific findings.
In his latest blog post, titled "Republican Craziness and Hubris Explained," the rabbi refers to two recent columns which quote new scientific studies that show “partisanship undermining reasoning skills.”
As the rabbi writes:
“If the researchers are correct, then the more real facts, information and logic that bonafide experts in various fields (e.g. economics, health care, science, climate change, etc.) present, the more convinced will be the extremist ideologues and their followers of whatever nonsense they started out with in the first place, and they will stick to what Stephen Colbert once called ‘Truthiness!’”
So far, so good.
But here comes the hitch: Even though the study applied to ALL humans --liberals included-- the rabbi writes that the study explains REPUBLICAN behavior:
“We now have brain science to explain the bizarre and destructive impulses and positions taken by the Republican Party and their irrational and extremist base vis a vis The Affordable Care Act, the United States budget and the US debt ceiling.”
Does he make any mention whatsoever that this new brain science may also explain the stubborn, ideological behavior of NON-Republicans?
In other words, he is ignoring a new fact from “bonafide experts” and sticking to his ideological guns.
Unwittingly, the rabbi has confirmed the very finding of the study: That real facts don’t influence ideologues, whether they're liberals or Republicans.
In the good news department, this just shows we’re all humans.
11.26.13 at 2:44 pm | There are plenty of good reasons to dislike the. . .
10.1.13 at 3:32 pm | “It’s as dangerous as the break-up of the. . .
9.22.13 at 12:31 pm | It appears that Rabbi John Rosove is excluding. . .
9.10.13 at 8:09 pm | “Imagine your congregation gathered to witness. . .
9.8.13 at 8:07 am | As President Barack Obama looks in over his head. . .
9.1.13 at 8:23 pm | The U.S. Congress must reject President Barack. . .
11.26.13 at 2:44 pm | There are plenty of good reasons to dislike the. . . (32)
7.5.13 at 4:21 pm | If you look at the brouhaha ignited at Sinai. . . (5)
7.3.13 at 3:42 pm | It’s tempting to see the chaos in Egypt, with. . . (4)
September 10, 2013 | 8:09 pm
Posted by David Suissa
“Imagine your congregation gathered to witness the first strokes of the Scribe’s quill on new parchment... Feeling a real connection to the shape of the letters, the texture of the parchment, the concentration of the Scribe, holding his quill, preparing to write the name of G-d.”
This is how my friend Rav Shmuel Miller, who passed away suddenly last week during Rosh Hashanah, described on his Web site his lifelong passion for enscribing Hebrew letters on holy scrolls.
He devoted much of his working life to the shape of these letters, the texture of parchment, the holding of a quill, with the concentration of a man always prepared to write the name of the Creator.
I first met Rav Miller when I moved to Pico-Robertson about seven years ago. I had just started writing my column, so I was making the rounds of the different shuls and rabbis of the neighborhood. I had heard from my French buddies about this unusual French-speaking rabbi (his friends affectionately called him “R’bbe Shmuel”), who had a little shul in his backyard.
As I got to know him better, I started to understand why he was so unusual.
For one thing, he looked like he came from another century. He had a glorious, regal look about him. He was tall and always stood up straight, ready to greet you properly. His eyes were dark and soulful, but with a mischievous sparkle. He wore his beard perfectly trimmed, framing a face ready at any moment to light up in laughter.
At home, he often dressed in jelabas and baboushes, much the way I remember my grandfather dressed in Casablanca.
As I wrote in 2007, Rav Miller would have looked right at home on the set of “Lawrence of Arabia.”
Although he was an expert in Hebrew letters, he had a lifelong fascination with Arabic and became an expert in that language as well.
His interest in Arabic, he once told me, started because he wanted to study the writings of Maimonides in his original text. This is what I wrote at the time:
“He says this [knowing Arabic] gave him a deeper, ‘more palpable’ understanding of Jewish ideas. For example, the word in Arabic that Maimonides uses for the Hebrew daat (knowledge) is eidrak, which refers to a knowledge that you ‘apprehend’ or ‘take in.’ It is a union between the modrak, the one who understands, and the modrik, the one who is understood.
"Whereas the Hebrew daat denotes something external and impersonal, the Arab eidrak defines a knowledge that is more personal and contemplative, one that ultimately becomes part of you.”
Ordained as an Orthodox rabbi, Rav Miller was an intellectual who seemed to know a lot about everything. When he gave classes at my house about the philosopher Emanuel Levinas, he would weave in sources from the Talmud, the Midrash and the prophets, as well as the Zohar.
For years, he was my go-to person for anything Jewish. We would meet early mornings at a Coffee Bean and Tea Leaf on Wilshire Boulevard, and I would pepper him with questions on a subject I was writing about. Usually, before I would finish my question, his face would light up with a big “Ah!,” as if to suggest he had a few surprises in store for me.
He also loved music.
On Tuesday nights, a group of hipsters would gather in his home for a kind of spiritual Middle Eastern jam session.
“We would sit in a circle and chant Tehilim until gravity no longer had any effect on us,” is how my friend Maimon Chocron, who played the bendir (north African snare hand drum) during the sessions, described it.
He had a small but intense following. He didn’t get much press, nor did he seek it. His home and shul became a gathering place for the eclectic Jews of Pico-Robertson.
For all the bohemia that surrounded him, there was a precision to everything Rav Miller did. Although there were stretches in his life where he experienced hardships, both personally and financially, his dignity never suffered. His thoughts and movements were always refined and meticulous, just as when he held his quill to shape letters on holy scrolls.
These scrolls are now read in countless synagogues on Shabbat, every time a Torah is opened. The letters in those scrolls are his personal legacy to our community.
His life itself, you might say, was a like a holy scroll. It had the Old-World texture of parchment, the sharpness of brilliant ink, and the permanence of great ideas.
In his distinguished, regal way, he spent a lifetime preparing to meet God.
September 8, 2013 | 8:07 am
Posted by David Suissa
As President Barack Obama tries to dig himself out of his self-inflicted Syrian fiasco, there’s one aspect to this crisis that few people are talking about.
What Obama can learn from Israel.
The president may run the world’s most powerful country, but Israel has vastly more experience navigating the treacherous ways of its unforgiving neighborhood.
Let’s take as one example the U.S. objective of deterring Syria from using chemical weapons.
Deterrence is a fancy diplomatic term for putting the fear of God into your enemy so that he won’t mess with you.
Obviously, Obama’s verbal attempt at deterrence—warning that the use of chemical weapons would cross a “red line”—didn’t exactly work, as Syrian President Bashar Assad had the nerve to call his bluff, not once but twice.
As the leader of the free world, though, Obama couldn’t afford to be publicly humiliated and jeopardize his country’s credibility and deterrence.
So, after Assad's second violation, when 1500 people were murdered, the president was forced to react. With great fanfare, he announced that he would send a “shot across the bow” to the Syrian tyrant, presumably to make the point that if you mess with him again, the next shot will be a lot worse.
But again, this latest attempt at deterrence is not likely to succeed, as Obama has hinted strongly that there won’t be a next shot— that his military strike will be “narrow and limited.”
It’s no secret that the last thing Obama wants is to get his hands dirty in another war, especially when he knows that forcing a regime change at this point might spawn an even worse regime.
With no good options, but feeling trapped into "doing something," Obama is trying to avoid humiliation by splitting the difference. As a U.S. official was recently quoted in the Los Angeles Times, Obama seeks a level of intensity “just muscular enough not to get mocked." How’s that for a clear military objective?
This pattern of ambivalence and weakness, Charles Krauthammer writes in the Washington Post, was there from the beginning:
“Assad has to go, says Obama, and then lifts not a finger for two years. Obama lays down a red line, and then ignores it. Shamed finally by a massive poison-gas attack, he sends Kerry to make an impassioned case for righteous and urgent retaliation—and the very next day, Obama undermines everything by declaring an indefinite timeout to seek congressional approval.”
As if things weren’t messy enough, this timeout is allowing the enemy plenty of time to move civilians to military targets and military targets to civilian areas. If the president ends up going through with a military strike, we shouldn't be surprised to see Assad parade lots of dead bodies killed by those big bad Americans.
Now let's compare all this hesitating, wobbling, grandstanding and zigzagging to Israel’s approach to deterring Syria.
When Israel sees that Syria is behaving badly, as when it tries to move weapons of mass destruction to Hezbollah, Israel doesn’t waste time with words or posturing.
It doesn't call any press conferences or give the enemy any advance warning of what it will do.
It just sends in its commandos, destroys the threat, goes home and never says a word. When the enemy senses that you mean business, that's called deterrence.
It’s not a coincidence that for the last 30 years, Israel’s border with Syria has been remarkably quiet.
Imagine if Obama had used this quick and decisive Israeli-style approach in dealing with Syria—if, for example, he had ordered punitive strikes a year ago as soon as Syria first crossed his red line on chemical weapons.
Or, for that matter, if he had decisively supported and armed the opposition early on, before it got so dominated by jihadists.
Had he shown such hard-nosed resolve from the start, would the president be in the pickle he’s in right now? Would America be looking so lame? I don't think so.
If the leader of the free world wants to make it in the Middle East, he’s going to have to think more like an Israeli.
It’s not so crazy to think that Obama should quietly consult with his Israeli allies whenever a tricky situation comes up in any part of Israel’s violent neighborhood—which, these days, is pretty much always.
When you see how America has lost so much credibility and influence with so many key players in the region, can anyone say that America would not be better off today had Obama sought the valuable advice of his only true ally in the Middle East?
If Israelis understand one thing, it's reality. They have no illusions about the neighborhood they live in.
This neighborhood's explosive brew of tribal, sectarian and ethnic conflicts, combined with economic stagnation and social uprisings, has created a dangerous minefield that only hardened and wily local warriors can navigate.
Israel is not only that hardened warrior, it’s America’s best friend.
However the Syrian mess unfolds, with three years left in his term, Obama would do well to take advantage of that friendship.
September 1, 2013 | 8:23 pm
Posted by David Suissa
The U.S. Congress must reject President Barack Obama’s attempt to lay his Syrian mess at their doorstep.
The president had two years to do the right thing in Syria, while more than 100,000 people were being killed and millions displaced, and he chose to drag his feet and do virtually nothing. This apathy and inaction allowed murderous jihadists to take over the opposition to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s murderous regime, and, guess what?
Now it’s too late to pick a good side. There isn’t any. They're both horrendous.
Obama has been trapped by his own negligence.
When Assad called Obama’s bluff two weeks ago and used chemical weapons, the president found himself in a real pickle.
On the one hand, he couldn’t be made to look like fool, not after calling the use of chemical weapons in Syria a “red line” he wouldn’t tolerate.
On the other hand, a "narrow and limited” military strike would also make him look like a fool, as Assad would certainly celebrate his heroic “victory” of surviving the wrath of the Great Satan.
There are a lot of unknowns in the Syrian morass, but this much we know: Obama has neither the will nor the inclination to start another Iraq war. No boots on the ground. No regime change. No nation building.
Obama knows that if we remove the Assad regime now, we can expect a chaotic terrorist state that would make Lebanon look like Club Med.
So, by the perverted rules of the Middle East, any limited U.S. attack that won’t remove the regime will only strengthen the hand of the very regime we are trying to punish.
Like a smart politician once said, “That’s what I’m opposed to. A dumb war. A rash war. A war based not on reason but on passion, not on principle but on politics.”
That was Barack Obama in 2002, before he met the temptations of power, passion and politics.
It was the president’s passion for politics that made him naively push for a “negotiated solution” to the Syrian civil war, while tens of thousands were being murdered and while it was still possible for the U.S. to arm and strengthen a more moderate opposition.
“Obama’s efforts largely stopped at calling for the Geneva II conference,” Michael Young wrote recently in the Beirut Star. “The president never sought to integrate a military strategy in Syria with his political aims…Early on American officials said that President Bashar Assad had to leave office, as if a mere statement would push him to book a flight out of Damascus. Yet nothing was done to turn that thought into a reality.”
As a result, “Syrian opposition has come to be defined, and to an extent overcome, by its most extreme elements.”
The effort to oppose Assad’s rule, Young adds, was crippled by “discord between the more moderate opposition figures, the bankruptcy of the Arab states, the futility of the Western Europeans,” and, most of all, by “the cowardice and lack of foresight of the United States.”
This cowardice and lack of foresight came to a head when Assad murdered 1,500 of his own people with chemical weapons and forced Obama’s hand.
What statement will Obama make if he attacks now? That it’s okay to murder 100,000 people as long as you use only regular weapons?
Try telling that to any of the thousands of Syrian mothers who’ve watched their children die from regular bombs and bullets.
When Obama says, as he did last Friday, that “the murderer of innocent children must not go unpunished,” those grieving Syrian mothers have every right to shout back at him: “Where were you the past two years while our own children were being murdered?”
He was playing politics without a military spine, something otherwise known as negligence.
Well, now that he wants to play G.I. Joe, it’s simply too little, too late.
At this late and messy stage, any “limited” U.S. military action would not only risk a major conflagration in the region, but also demonstrate how little power the U.S. has these days to exert a positive influence in the roiling Middle East.
As Fareed Zakaria wrote on CNN.com, "The manner in which the Obama administration has first created and then mismanaged this crisis will, alas, cast a long shadow on America’s role in the world."
Having painted himself into this very tight corner, on Saturday morning Obama went back to what he knows best—politics— by trying to draw Congress into a trap of his own making, or, as The New York Times put it, “into a box he made.”
Congress must say no to Obama's transparent search for political cover and hold him accountable for the strategic mess he’s created.
At the very least, as Marc Thiessen writes in the Washington Post, it should demand that "Obama show he has a plan beyond firing a 'shot across the bow' in Syria — a comprehensive strategy to alter the balance of power by strengthening the secular, moderate pro-Western elements of the opposition, so that al-Qaeda-backed Islamic extremists do not come to power and the regime that eventually replaces Bashar al-Assad’s is not worse than Assad’s."
The message is not that military action is wrong, but that, at this point, the proposed action is too lame and too late.