|It’s become increasingly common for some observers to question President Biden’s mental acuity. A recent struggle the president had with pronouncing a word brought an inordinate amount of criticism.|
My take on the hand-wringing (and worse) can be read here.
Category Archives: Politics
Have you read about how Ukrainians in Russia have planted bombs in public places, how they terrorize and murder Russian civilians, jumping unsuspecting Muscovites and viciously stabbing them? How they preach hatred for all Russians? How they declare their wish to push them all into the Arctic Ocean?
No? Well, that’s probably because, needless to say, nothing of the sort is remotely true.
And not all Molotov Cocktails are alike.
To read what I mean, please click here.
Diversity in the Court!
A sour taste was left in some mouths back in January, after Supreme Court Justice Stephen Breyer announced his retirement from the Court and President Biden pledged to nominate a black woman to assume his seat.
Personally, I don’t care if the president sought a Samoan-born, hard of hearing, left-handed candidate to further diversify the Court. As long as the requisite credentials and talents were there, fine with me.
So, does Ketanji Brown Jackson, the president’s nominee, have what it takes to be a High Court judge?
My thoughts on the matter are here.
Letter and Response in Ami Magazine
Ami Magazine received a good number of letters about a column I wrote about the Ottawa trucker protest, wherein I noted some concerning elements that were part of it. The magazine wanted to publish three of them and I offered a response. In the end, due to space considerations, only one letter was published, the following one, which, here, is followed in turn with my response:
A few weeks ago, Rabbi Shafran wrote an article discussing the fact that it is inappropriate to determine a true impartial conservative standpoint on anything political lest the opposing side’s argument is hearkened and comprehensively reviewed. It is a very rational perspective I totally agreed with. But lately I have gotten the impression that Rabbi Shafran has taken it too far. His views have moved ever more to the left and it almost seems as if he’s grown a bias against the right wing, versus impartiality.
There were, for example, his take on the radical steps taken by the AG against vocal parents and his smearing of only Republican politicians who used Holocaust analogies, while ignoring the long list of Democrats doing the same. So I wasn’t surprised at last week’s article condemning the massive truck protest in Canada, though I did think some disagreement was warranted.
The unconstitutionality of these draconian vaccine mandates and those who raise the fact that it is illegal are dissociated, and the fact that James Bauder believes in some conspiracy theories doesn’t make his argument any less compelling. The right to protest on the other hand, however big a disruption to people’s lives or to commerce, is an elementary right in every democratic country.
Yet in this article, it is somehow deemed more disquieting than a breach of the most basic of freedoms; being coerced via unconstitutional mandates and taxations to jab a widely speculated vaccine (however illogical the speculation) into one’s own body. The article also mentions how the word “freedom” has morphed “from when it meant the desire of slaves to live normal lives to… the refusal to help stem the spread of a disease.”
So, needless to say, the dictionary was created long before this topic came up and actually defined the word “freedom” as the power to act, think or speak without hindrance and restraint. Only the left gets so stuck on slavery and racism with regard to anything and everything.
Now, the response Canada has taken is heavily outrageous. It definitely won’t help, for these protesters are so driven against vaccines that they’re ready to lose their job, getting arrested probably won’t deter them either. But there is a large-scale difference between being arrested for clogging up the traffic purposefully in Ottawa, even the minority protesting with hateful slogans, and those committing acts of violence. And that’s not happening here.
The kind of language and activity that has now been invoked by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau in Canada, is actual tyranny. The use of the Emergency Act in order to clear protesters off the streets, is something that in the United States would receive heavy consternation on a major-scale. When Senator Tom Cotton wrote an op-ed in the New York Times suggesting that rioters be cleared off the streets via the use of the US military if need be, the entire left went so insane that the op-ed editor for the paper was fired for the crime of having printed that op-ed. And he was talking about rioters, he wasn’t talking about protesters, he wasn’t talking about people marching peacefully on the street, yet he was so strongly censured.
Los Angeles, CA
Dear Reb Moshe,
First and foremost, thank you for sharing your perspective. I write to stimulate thought; and responses, positive or otherwise, indicate I’ve been successful.
To some of your points:
I am neither on the “left” nor on the “right.” I’m not into clubs and I eschew groupthink, the yield of partisanship. I engage topics by reading varied viewpoints, doing rigorous fact checking and formulating my own opinion. You can find very “conservative” articles of mine on issues like assisted suicide and public school prayer at Fox Opinion; similar ones about moral issues and feminism in Forward; and about discriminatory Covid restrictions at NBC-THINK. But I don’t automatically endorse what any political party or philosophy may embrace.
If my research on any particular issue leads me to a different conclusion from others’, well, that means that… I have a different opinion. Please don’t shoot.
The “draconian vaccine mandates” in Canada are neither draconian nor, precisely speaking, mandates. Nor have Canadians been “coerced” or been subjected to “egregious human rights violations.” Our neighbor to the north has not held Canadians down and vaccinated them against their will, which would arguably be a violation of their rights. It has simply extended a border-crossing vaccine requirement to include truckers, who most certainly do interact with other people during their runs, deliveries and pick-ups. That is not a curtailment of freedom, but a responsibility placed on citizens intended to protect others. One might well feel that the new rule was unnecessary or even objectionable. But one might feel otherwise, too. There can be, and often are, two different reasonable positions on a topic.
There is indeed a right to protest in Canada, as in our country. But all rights have limits. Police in both countries routinely move demonstrators, even with force, when they become disruptive of others’ rights. And Canada waited several weeks, during which Ottawans endured noise and the inability to get around, before obtaining a judge’s approval, warning the truckers to disband and only then clearing them out.
If my invocation of slavery in America to illustrate the morphing of the word “freedom” as it is used politically these divisive days was somehow offensive, let me replace that example with the freedom Hashem granted Klal Yisrael from their shibud in Mitzrayim. Contrast that oppression with the plight of the truckers.
And speaking of racism, a useful thought experiment would consist of our imagining that the Canadian truck protest was about (real or perceived) mistreatment of African-Canadians, and sponsored by a BLM group. Would you champion a weeks-long disruption of lives and commerce, and be so outraged at someone who pointed out the disturbing record of the organizers, or the ugly actions of some of the demonstrators? If so, then at least you’re consistent. If not, well, then… you’re not.
Mr. Trudeau’s invoking of the emergency powers act, later endorsed and extended by the Canadian House of Commons, took place after my column was submitted for publication. I didn’t find it egregious, though, and, incidentally, I felt the same way about Mr. Cotton’s suggestion, and felt that the criticism of him was wrong.
The reason I wrote my column was just to point out some disconcerting facts about some of the protesters and one of their officials that I felt were likely unknown to readers.
• Aside from the Nazi flag and multiple Confederate and QAnon ones, and from the protester who danced on the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, others desecrated the statue of celebrated cancer research activist Terry Fox with political and anti-vaccine signs; and others urinated on the National War Memorial. Signs with angry obscenities abounded. Numerous photos and videos show the less-than-“heartfelt and touching” signs.
• Polling firm Innovative Research Group found (in a survey from Feb. 4-9) that a mere 29 percent of Canadians expressed support for “the idea of the protest” while 53 percent disapproved. A separate survey by Léger, released on February 8, found that 62 percent of Canadians oppose “the message that the trucker convoy protests are conveying of no vaccine mandates and less public health measures.”
• Ontario’s Special Investigations Unit, a police watchdog, is investigating two injuries among the thousands of protesters, both having occurred after a crowd refused to disperse. Only one injury was serious, that of a 49-year-old (not, as another letter writer claimed, a83-year-old) woman, and it has not yet been determined whether a horse struck her or she was knocked down by other protesters amid the commotion. No one was (as the letter writer claimed) “trampled.”
• 13 people connected to the trucker protest in Alberta were found with more than a dozen long guns, hand guns, ammunition and body armor.
Again, my thanks for sharing a different perspective, which, even in disagreement, I fully respect. I can only ask that you give the same consideration to my perspective, and the facts I have offered in its support. And that you accept my sincere assertion that I stand not on “the left” nor on “the right,” but rather where the facts and my best shot at objective judgment take me.
Maple Leaf Meshugas
“Freedom” has morphed considerably from when it meant the desire of slaves to live normal lives to… the refusal to help stem the spread of a disease.
Some information and thoughts about the Canadian truckers’ protest are at: https://www.amimagazine.org/2022/02/16/maple-leaf-meshugas/
We should hire Deborah Lipstadt to combat antisemitism, not punish her for doing so
Also, an essay I wrote for Religion News Service about the stalled Deborah Lipstadt nomination can be read here:
Defining Indecency Down
It may have started back in the summer of 2020, when a Kansas Republican county chairman posted a caricature of the state’s Democratic governor Laura Kelly on his newspaper’s Facebook page. Ms. Kelly had issued a public-setting mask mandate, and was depicted wearing a mask with a Magen David on it. In the background was a photograph of European Jews being loaded onto train cars. The caption: “Lockdown Laura says: Put on your mask … and step on to the cattle car.”
The next summer, we were treated to Congresswoman Marjorie Taylor Greene’s criticism of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s mask requirement for the chamber, in which Ms. Taylor Greene declared: “You know, we can look back at a time in history where people were told to wear a gold star… were put in trains and taken to gas chambers in Nazi Germany. And this is exactly the type of abuse that Nancy Pelosi is talking about.” Under pressure from her peers, the congresswoman later apologized; but her point, such as it was, had been made, and likely energized her like-minded supporters.
Then came Oklahoma GOP chairman John Bennett’s comparison of private companies requiring employees to get vaccines to — three guesses — the Nazis’ forcing Jews to wear a yellow star.
The odious comparisons just seemed to pile up, across the country. They were getting attention, after all, and attention is catnip for political felines. Of course, the offensive comments, each in turn, were all roundly condemned by Jewish groups. Wash, rinse and repeat.
Last week, though, may have offered us the Mother Of All Such Slurs, when broadcaster Lara Logan, once a respected CBS News foreign correspondent and now a Fox Nation commentator, appeared on the “Fox News Primetime” program, where she addressed Dr. Anthony Fauci’s recommendation that Americans get fully vaccinated, including booster shots, in the wake of the appearance of the Omicron COVID variant. Her words:
“This is what people say to me, that he doesn’t represent science to them. He represents Joseph Mengele, the Nazi doctor who did experiments on Jews during the Second World War and in the concentration camps. And I am talking about people all across the world are saying this.”
A cursory search turns up no one but Ms. Logan saying such a thing, but maybe those people all across the world spoke with her privately.
As usual, Jewish groups rightly rushed to condemn her statement. But she was impervious to the criticism, later re-tweeting to her 197,000 Twitter followers a Jewish fan’s comment: “Shame on the Auschwitz Museum for shaming Lara Logan for sharing that Jews like me believe Fauci is a modern day Mengele.” Well, that makes two people, anyway.
This introduction shouldn’t be, and probably isn’t, necessary, but for any readers not fully familiar with Josef Mengele, yimach shemo vizichro: He was a Nazi doctor given the title “Todesengel” — German for malach hamaves. At Auschwitz, he performed deadly experiments on prisoners, selected victims to be killed in the gas chambers and helped administer the Zyklon B, or hydrogen cyanide, gas.
Mengele was particularly interested in twins, separating them on their arrival at the concentration camp, and performing experiments on them, including infecting them with germs to give them life-threatening diseases, performing operations on them without anesthetics and killing many of them to compare their and their siblings’ internal organs.
As to Dr. Fauci’s sin, it is being cautious — overly so, to his critics — about public health measures.
Aside from the insult and offensiveness of the Holocaust comparisons, the repeated use of the murder of six million Jews as a political tool should bother us for another reason:
With each one, even dutifully followed by condemnations, the memory of Churban Europa is further dulled a bit, the force of its historical reality subtly blunted. The public mind is, slur by slur, lulled into regarding the Holocaust as a mere metaphor. That may be of no concern to the offenders, but it should be to us.
Because the cascade of casual co-optings of the Holocaust to score political points dovetails grievously with the diminishing number of living links to the events of 1939-1945.
And all the loathsome little Holocaust deniers and revisionists are just licking their lips as they wait in the wings.
© 2021 Ami Magazine
Letter to the NYT about abortion
To the Editor:
Judaism permits, even requires, abortion in limited cases, and responsible Jews cannot endorse measures that give a fetus the same protections as a born child.
But, with regard to Sarah Seltzer’s rumination on Judaism’s abortion position, there is nothing whatsoever in the Jewish religious tradition that permits abortion as a mere “choice” to be made for personal, economic or social reasons.
(Rabbi) Avi Shafran
The writer is director of public affairs at Agudath Israel of America.
“After prosecution, the chair, the gallows, or lethal injection?” was the question posed on a Facebook page featuring an image of National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID) director Dr. Anthony (“Tony”) Fauci superimposed over a noose.
It wasn’t the page of some intoxicated pajama-clad couch potato but the official Congressional campaign page of Wyoming State Senator Anthony Bouchard.
Over in Kentucky, General Assembly Representative Regina Huff tweeted a photo of mass murderer cult leader Jim Jones next to one of Dr. Fauci.
The Fauci-as-fiend motif has gained momentum — after more than fifty years of the doctor’s lauded service to every president since Ronald Reagan and his receiving the Presidential Medal of Freedom from President George W. Bush — beginning the moment he first dared, during the early days of the pandemic, to contradict virus-related statements and prognoses made by former president Trump.
But, of late, the vilification has built to a fevered pitch.
On social media, the latest big Fauci story was an old one, about how, in the 1980s, he sponsored clinical drug research in which minority children were supposedly targeted for trials, ripped away from their families and in some cases died as a result of the trials.
Days earlier, there was “Beaglegate,” the accusation by an animal rights group that the NIAID funded a project that allowed a lab in Tunisia to “drug beagles and lock their heads in mesh cages filled with hungry sandflies, so that the insects could eat them alive.”
On the Senate floor, Kentucky Senator Rand Paul, when not busy delaying a Senate vote on a bill to expedite Iron Dome funding for Israel, has been shouting at Dr. Fauci, calling him a liar (and asking the Justice Department to investigate him) for denying to Congress that the National Institutes of Health funded “gain of function” experiments — research exploring how viruses can become more virulent or lethal — at the Wuhan Institute of Virology.
These days, there is more interest in fingering foes than in ferreting facts, but, for anyone interested in the latter, here goes.
The 1980s trials involved HIV-infected foster children and sought effective therapies to prevent that virus from resulting in AIDS. A BBC documentary at the time reported accusations made by a fringe figure as fact. The Beeb later apologized for the documentary, admitting that it hadn’t properly investigated the claims referenced above, which a 2009 investigation found were not true.
As to the beagles, the NIH did indeed partially fund research on dogs conducted at the University of Georgia to test the efficacy of a potential vaccine for lymphatic filariasis, a parasitic disease. A university spokesperson indicated that the testing was necessary and that all humane standards set by applicable agencies were adhered to. The dogs were infected with the parasite through injection, not by being exposed to flies — and were certainly not “bitten to death by” them.
The issue of “gain of function” research, though, that has consumed Senator Paul and assorted talk show bloviators is a real one. Credentialed experts are divided over whether the use of the funding at issue in fact meets the definition of that phrase, so the senator and doctor will likely continue to spar over the charge of the latter’s “lie.”
But, biological semantics aside, the entire “gain of function” issue arose only because of the assertion that the Covid-19 virus was caused by the NIH-funded experiments.
Now, it is entirely plausible that the virus emerged not from Chinese animal markets but from a China-directed lab experiment gone awry (or, horrific to consider, but consider we must) the intentional unleashing of a new virus.
But the naturally occurring coronaviruses that were studied under the NIH grant, analysis of genomic data proves conclusively, “could not possibly have caused the COVID-19 pandemic,” according to NIH Director Dr. Francis Collins. “Any claims to the contrary,” he added, “are demonstrably false.”
As psychologists and life readily affirm, in times of distress, some people experience an intense urge to find someone to blame and vilify. When that quest yields fabricated accusations, unfair depictions and imputations of malevolence, it might smell familiar to history-conscious Jews.
So, Dr. Fauci: 1) Thank you for your service, and 2) Welcome to the club.
Critical Race Leery
“Critical Race Theory,” which rests on the assumption that racial bias remains hard-wired in our country’s laws, policies and institutions, is dangerous nonsense. But perfectly legitimate topics for discussion and inclusion in school curricula are things that many mistakenly conflate with CRT. Those two points comprised the topic of my Ami column last week, which is at https://www.amimagazine.org/2021/10/27/critical-race-leery/