Thursday, November 8, 2012

Oy Vey Moments

No religion is safe from ideological bigots. 

After reading the names of organizations to which viewers could donate Superstorm Sandy relief funds, Jon Stewart of The Daily Show Monday night said a nor’easter was expected to hit the New York metropolitan area Wednesday, meaning there’d be more places to send in money “because somehow we’ve annoyed God.” Apparently, Stewart had not heard about Rabbi Noson Leiter, executive director of Monsey, NY-based Torah Jews for Decency.

Speaking Oct. 30 on Crosstalk, a syndicated radio program, Leiter intimated that passage of the state’s same-sex marriage law could have kindled God’s wrath toward New Yorkers. “The Lord will not bring another flood to destroy the entire world, but he could punish particular areas with a flood, and if we look at the same-gender marriage recognition movement that’s occurring, that certainly is a message for us to learn,” Leiter said. 

Leiter joins Pat Robertson and other evangelical ministers who have linked natural and man-made disasters, such as Hurricane Katrina and the September 11 attacks, to retribution for liberal positions on abortion and gay lifestyles. Stewart might have missed an opportunity to ridicule Leiter, but Gov. Andrew Cuomo did not. Leiter’s comments were “as offensive as they are ignorant,” Cuomo said (

Pray for Heat: Last Saturday there was no heat in the main sanctuary of our temple, which reminded me of the way churches and synagogues were in Europe a thousand, even hundreds of, years ago. Many a congregant in today’s Orthodox shul sways back and forth, or side to side. It’s called schuckling, said by some scholars to be a means to increase concentration and emotional intensity during prayer. I prefer thinking the practice started in the cold, drafty synagogues of Europe as a means of keeping one’s circulation going, of staying warm. 

Dumb or Cagey? Chevy Volt’s television ad uses real people to plug the benefits of its extended distance electric car. There’s Noble, Priya, Eric, Adam, Elissa. 

Priya? What possessed Chevy or its ad agency to pick a customer whose name evokes one of its main competitors, Prius? Who knows, maybe Chevy hopes that expanding the pool of hybrid car buyers will benefit it in the long run. 

It just seemed a little whacky to me.

Whose Side Was God On, Anyway? Republicans are blaming Superstorm Sandy for blowing an ill-wind Romney’s way and lifting Obama to victory. Could be some truth to that, if you truly believe in Divine intervention. Which would mean God wanted the president to be re-elected. So all you God-fearing Republicans out there, accept God’s will. Obama’s our president for the next four years and let’s work with him to make our country better and stronger.

Republicans Eat Their Young: The abuse being heaped on Gov. Chris Christie of New Jersey for complimenting Obama for his relief support after Sandy is reminiscent of the cries of traitor hurled at Chief Justice John Roberts of the U.S. Supreme Court after he cast the deciding vote upholding Obamacare’s constitutionality. After that post-decision smack-down by conservatives, court watchers speculated Roberts might abandon long-held principles and become more liberal, turning into a latter day Earl Warren or David Souter. Too early to tell if that will happen. But after Christie’s supposed life-line to Obama, whispers about his future went public. “It would not surprise me if Chris Christie at some point became a Democrat,” said Laura Ingraham, the right wing radio personality.

Perhaps nothing delineates the moral bankruptcy of the GOP more than its treatment of members who sway from party dogma, even if doing so is in the best interests of their constituents and the nation. Christie’s state is reeling from the devastation, yet he is called a Judas for acting like a governor should when the president of the United States provides support and comfort to his flock. Long-time Republican senators Richard Lugar and Bob Bennett, and before them Arlen Spector, are defeated in primaries for not being conservative enough. 

Speaking on NPR Wednesday, Norman Orenstein, resident scholar at the American Enterprise Institute, a conservative think tank, likened GOP political tactics to “tribalism,” especially at the state and local levels where special interest groups are investing huge sums of money to pack elected boards with right-thinking members. In the past, these races were run out of the proverbial shoe-box. But the introduction of PAC money has far-reaching consequences. School boards, for example, can influence whether evolution or creationism is taught. It’s not a very pretty prospect to contemplate.

A Foreign Thought: Speaking of Lugar, here’s a far-out, not far right, idea that just floated into my head. Lugar’s strength has been as a foreign affairs expert. With Hillary Clinton poised to step down as secretary of state, perhaps Obama might entertain appointing Lugar as her successor, assuming John Kerry doesn’t take the job. Yes, Lugar’s a Republican. But so was Robert Gates, whom Obama retained as secretary of defense. The position of secretary of state is supposed to be apolitical (notice, Hillary never campaigned during the election), so naming a Republican would not be too crazy if he shares Obama’s world vision. Plus, it would fit Obama’s “team of rivals” Lincoln-esque view of his presidency.

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