Originally published at Sultan Knish.
He Taught us to Laugh, He Made Us Believe, and then He Took All Our MoneyHe was the first black President of the United States, and he also became its last President when in 2019, after his term in office had been extended indefinitely by HR:0666 or “The Hope and Faith in Obama’s Everlasting Presidency Act” (Holo-Link), he was forced to leave office because the government had run out of money to pay for itself.
Though he lived a very public life, few could agree on even the basic facts of his life. For a man who spent most of his life in front of the camera, his death leaves us with few answers about who Barack Obama (Holo-Link) really was. Obama only added to the uncertainty swirling around him by using multiple names, multiple birthplaces and even passports.
The bestselling Presidential biographies of Obama, from Edmund Morris’ “America’s Greatest Con-Man” to Michael Beschloss’ “Obama: Citizen of the World” cover the range of opinions on Obama’s presidency.
And long after the fall of the United States, there is still no real consensus by former Americans on who Obama really was.
Yet to many Barack Obama represents a nostalgic time in history; the last years when such diverse nations as the Confederate States of California (Holo-Link), the Republic of New Hampshire, the People’s Republic of Minnesota, the Empire of Texas, El Reino de Aztlan and the Arch-Duchy of Upper New York were all part of one single nation that stretched from ocean to ocean.
Born in a hospital in some still undetermined part of the world, Barack learned to use multiple names and identities at an early age. Traveling from country to country, the young Obama or Soetoro, would quickly become adept at blending into any culture. This skill would prove crucial in his political career, allowing him to invent new identities and win the trust of his audience. If there is one thing his biographers agree on, it’s that he had a genuine gift for sensing what his audience wanted to hear. Unfortunately like most con artists, he lacked the same ability for long term financial planning, that he did for short term schemes to extract money from a gullible American public.
There is no denying that Obama cheerfully used fraud and strong arm tactics throughout his political career, but the chief weapon in his arsenal was flattery. Many of his supporters remember the special feeling of being made to feel that he was their friend. As one former aide wrote, “He taught us to laugh, he made us believe, and then he took all our money”.
This conflicted legacy helps explain Barack Obama’s popularity, even after his corruption and abuses of power destroyed the government, ending the era of the United States for good– he was ranked 4th on the prestigious Dow Jones’ “Most Likable Celebrities in North America in 2019″ index (Holo-Link).
It helped that Obama left the White House voluntarily after learning that there would be no more money left for his trips abroad, and that due to the failure of the Federal Reserve and the secession of 23 states from the Union, no national budget would be possible.
He did leave with everything of value in the White House that his family and associates could grab or pry out of the walls, but by then most Americans were too busy dealing with the problems of the Great Partition to notice. Even the farewell party that burned down most of the White House seemed a small thing in the wake of the Detroit Food Riots or the discovery of the Red River Gulag (Holo-Link).
His popularity afterward enabled Obama to begin several successful careers in the entertainment industry, including a long-running stint on the soap opera General Catastrope, his own line of shammy infomercials and a music career with such nostalgia singles as, “Where’s Da Money”, “Where All Da Money Go” and “What Happen to All Da Money?”
Even today viewers watching old fashioned television can still catch commercials of Obama in his older years, holding up a shammy cloth, dipping it in a spilled pool of olive oil and telling the audience to have faith that the mess would be gone. Even his famous tagline, “At a price that won’t bankrupt you, unlike me” was meant to be a good humored reference to his controversial two and a half terms in office.
A federal board changed the name of a pond in a small New Hampshire town from Jew Pond to Carleton Pond.
The name change by the U.S. Board on Geographic Names comes six months after Mont Vernon residents voted for a name change. The new name honors one of the town’s founding families.
Richard Masters, the town’s health officer, had called for the change two years ago, saying the name was disrespectful and offensive. Masters had learned of the official name of the recreational water hole while investigating an algae bloom on the pond.
The body of water had been known as Jew Pond since the 1920s, though there are no signs to that effect. The name, however, does appear on maps.
Dug near a hotel and golf complex, the manmade pond originally was called Spring Pond, but reportedly became known as Jew Pond after two Jewish businessmen bought the hotel and its grounds. They intended to make the pond bigger and call it Lake Serene, according to The Associated Press.
The pond is now located in Carleton Park on land donated by George Carleton.
Conspicuously wearing my kippah, I walked out of a TJ Maxx in Cincinnati Ohio, where I was visiting family, when a car full of skinheads sped up to me with arms stretched out the window in a Hitler salute chanting “Sieg heil!” I sternly retorted: “I condemn and despise your hateful ideology but support your right to free expression!” If these Neo-Nazi skinheads thought Jewish people were strange, I’m sure my response confirmed it.
The Georgia Department of Transportation rejected the Ku Klux Klan’s application to adopt a highway because of the group’s hateful ideology. The American Civil Liberties Union is now defending the Klan. Despite the KKK’s despicable and hateful ideology, the First Amendment protects their free speech, and therefore their right to participate in Georgia state’s Adopt-a-Highway program.
At face value, Jewish law does not appear to support pure free speech. It does, however, recognize and espouse the benefits of rigorous debate. The interpretation of Jewish law is in fact created through heated debate, for example, between the schools of Hillel and Shamai. The Jewish approach tends not towards regulating different opinions, but rather promoting the “marketplace of ideas,” believing that is where the truth of matter will be revealed.
Laws prohibiting the government from regulating hate speech, excluding of course obscenity, defamation, and incitement to riot, are generally unconstitutional in the United States. U.S. Supreme Court opinions dating back to Chaplinsky v. New Hampshire 315 U.S. 568 (1942) affirm that speech directed at a specific individual meant to inflict injury or “incite an immediate” threat (i.e., yelling “fire” in a theater) is not protected under the First Amendment. However, unless you can show that the words pose a direct and immediate threat, hate speech is still generally protected.
The more difficult question is where do we draw the line when it comes to hate speech that is not designed to incite but is an expression of a hateful ideology? Should society regulate speech such as a sign bearing the insignia of the Georgia KKK on an interstate highway?
In Jewish law the punishment for hate speech (e.g. Lashon Hora) is a heavenly dermatological disease called tzaraat. In Numbers 12:10 Miriam is afflicted with the disease for criticizing the Ethiopian race of Moses wife. Interestingly, nature and the divine, not the justice system, afflict an offender with tzaraat (Artscroll Tanach, Leviticus 13, commentary, page 272). Those afflicted with tzaraat were marginalized from society, in designated camps, as part of their atonement (Leviticus 13:45-46). The inherent message is that we don’t need to ban or censor hateful speech, because the real solution is marginalizing hateful ideology through truthfulness. Harvard law professor Alan Dershowitz said it best: “Freedom of speech carries with it certain obligations. One of those is to condemn false speech. The best answer to false speech is not censorship, it is truthfulness.”
Racist, homophobic, and hateful organizations like the Ku Klux Klan undermine their ideology more than promote it. Allowing them to speak in public helps expose them for who they are. The best way to respond and defeat those ideologies is by exposing them.
By attempting to suppress their speech we only make them stronger. Racist ideologies thrive in countries like Austria, France, and the United Kingdom, where hate speech is restricted. For instance, the Netherlands islamophobic and racist Party for Freedom received almost 1.5 million votes in the 2010 election. Those guilty of hate speech often garner media attention, become martyrs, and use speech suppression as a recruitment tool.
In 2004 when the Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that the KKK had a free speech right to adopt a highway, the Missouri legislature used the opportunity to effectively and constitutionally combat the hate speech:
Lawmakers named that section of roadway the Rosa Parks Highway, as the New York Times reports. When a different white supremacist group adopted another highway segment, Missouri lawmakers renamed that road for Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel, a Jewish theologian who escaped Nazi Germany for the U.S. where he became a civil rights activist.
The best way to delegitimize racist and bigoted viewpoints is through the marketplace of ideas, not through government regulations infringing on the First Amendment.
Imagine that you’re a kosher wedding hall, catering exclusively to Orthodox Jewish events, and you’re approached by two gay gentlemen who are looking to hire your services to cater their wedding (just before the Sefira). Well, if your establishment were anywhere in the state of New Hampshire, you could lose your operating license for refusing to accommodate them.
The New Hampshire House of Representative Wednesday defeated by a 246-85 vote a bill that would have allowed photographers, caterers and others to turn away wedding gigs if they had a religious objection to the marriage.
The prime sponsor of House Bill 1264, Rep. Jerry Bergevin, Republican from Manchester, said no one should be obligated to provide services if the transaction is repugnant to them, because of their religious beliefs.
“This bill is written to protect a person of faith when they leave their house of worship,” Bergevin told the Concord Monitor. “If a Jewish catering company refuses to serve pork, they should be able to. If a photographer wants to photograph only heterosexual couples, he would be protected to do so. If a photographer wants to photograph only same-sex couples, he would be protected to do that.”
But Rep. Barry Palmer, a Republican from Nashua, a member of the New Hampshire Human Rights Commission, told the Union Leader the bill was unconstitutional, illegal, immoral, and mean-spirited.
“I have a rough idea of what discrimination is,” he said. “This bill is illegal by state statute and illegal by federal law.”
New York legalized same-sex marriages back in June, 2011, but the New York law has a provision for businesses “being managed, directed, or supervised by or in conjunction with a religious corporation, benevolent order, or a not-for-profit corporation … shall not be required to provide services, accommodations, advantages, facilities, goods, or privileges … Any such refusal to provide services … shall not create any civil claim or cause of action or result in any state or local government action to penalize, withhold benefits, or discriminate against such religious corporation, benevolent order, a not-for-profit explanation.”
“This should be a very alarming warning,” Rep. Bergevin said after the defeat of his bill. “It means we are moving into a brave new world. It may not be your ox being gored at the moment, but just wait, it will be.”
And said gored ox may not be the exclusive headache of Bergevin’s constituents. After all, “as New Hampshire goes, so goes the nation.” Political trends have a way of trickling down to the more populated states, where clashes against the background of newly legalized gay marriages could end up impoverishing religious businesses.
The eve of Rosh Chodesh Adar (this coming Monday) will mark one year since an Arab terrorist walked into Yeshivat Mercaz HaRav in Jerusalem and murdered eight yeshiva students, ages 15-26. In the months following the attack people honored their memory in different ways. Some sought revenge; others sought spiritual succor in increased ritual observance.
From the murdered boys’ schoolmates came a unique response. They compiled Princes Among Men, a book with stories, memories and divrei Torah about the murdered eight written by family, friends and teachers. The Hebrew edition came out in the summer. The translated English edition is due out next month.
“I feel this is such an inspiring book,” said Rivkah Moriah, mother of one of the eight students, 16-year-old Avraham David Moses. “It is such a comfort that it exists.”
Moriah, who grew up in rural New Hampshire before converting to Judaism and moving to the Holy Land 20 years ago, returned to Israel Sunday with her husband following a 10-day visit to the United States to promote the book.
“We’re here to promote the book,” she told The Jewish Press, “but I feel this is such an incredible book that it speaks for itself. So I don’t feel like I’m promoting it as much as sharing it.”
When she speaks publicly, she said, many people ask her how she and the other murdered students’ parents reacted in wake of the attack. “One of the tremendous sources of strength for us,” she explains, “was knowing that all of Am Yisrael really cared. So many people came to shivah or wrote – people who didn’t know us very well or didn’t even know us at all. It was incredibly comforting that we weren’t alone in our loss.”
In addition, she said, “I coped by focusing on how grateful I am. Of course I would have liked to see my son grow older and become a Jewish leader because he was an incredible kid, and motherhood is such a gift. But I was able to also focus on what I received and not just on what I lost [My son] was incredibly devoted both to being careful about mitzvah observance and also to studying. And although I’ll never become a talmid chacham, when I look at his willingness to always go that extra mile, it helps inspire me to try and learn a little more, do another mitzvah, become a better person, become a little more careful about my own mitzvah observance.”
Asked what initially inspired her to convert to Judaism 20 years ago, Moriah said, “I was moved by the possibility of sanctifying the mundane, which is really what Judaism is all about. It’s not about denying or escaping the physical aspect of society, but letting the holy side of how we were created affect and elevate the mundane side. And that’s something that we can do up to 24 hours a day.”
Readers can purchase Princes Among Menat Yeshiva University’s Seforim Sale (until February 22) or at Feldheim.com starting March 1.
Freshly minted Democratic heartthrob Wesley Clark has stumbled badly during his first days as a declared presidential candidate; in fact, for a fellow who’s allegedly sharp as a tack, he comes across as a spouter of shopworn cliches when speaking on message – and downright incoherent when talking off the cuff.
So unimpressive has the retired general been early on in his quest for the presidential grail that Ronald Bailey, science correspondent for Reasononline.com, was compelled to compare him with the mentally retarded hedge cutter made famous by Peter Sellers in the 1979 film “Being There,” based on the Jerzy Kosinski novel of the same name.
In both the movie and the book, writes Bailey, “vacuous statements made by a retarded gardener called Chauncey Gardiner get taken as profound insights by the rich and powerful around him. Is Democratic presidential hopeful Wesley Clark the Chauncey Gardiner of 2004?
“Consider this Chauncey Gardiner-like vacuity uttered by Clark at last week’s debate among Democratic presidential candidates: “I am pro-choice, I am pro- affirmative action, I am pro-environment, pro-health. I believe the United States should engage with allies. We should be a good player in the international community. And we should use force only as a last resort.”
“Ambiguous blather! As if anyone is pro-disease or anti-environment. What about the hard voter-losing questions? What about notification of parents of minors seeking abortions? What about minority quotas in college admissions or company hiring? Does he favor oil exploration in Alaska? Does he want to socialize medical care in America? What does engaging with allies mean? Who’s against engaging with allies anyway and who wants to use force as a first resort?
“Clark utters meaningless bromides and gets a boost in his poll numbers. Why? Like Chauncey Gardiner, Clark is an empty vessel and as such Democrats can project any of their fantasies and hopes onto him. I am not saying that Clark is retarded; he is a very accomplished man. However, Clark evidently believes like almost all other professional politicians and their spinmeisters that the only way to get elected in 21st century America is to act like Chauncey
Gardiner and make a lot of pretty noises, but say nothing. I fear that they could be right.”
An insightful bit of analysis on Bailey’s part to be sure, and now comes word that Chauncey, er, Wesley, may have attended one Star Trek convention too many. Brian McWilliams filed the following little eye-opener earlier this week on Wired.com:
“During a whirlwind campaign swing Saturday through New Hampshire, Clark…gave supporters one of the first glimpses into his views on technology. ‘We need a vision of how we’re going to move humanity ahead, and then we need to harness science to do it,’ Clark told a group of about 50 people in Newcastle attending a house party – a tradition in New Hampshire presidential politics that enables well-connected voters to get an up-close look at candidates.
“Then, the 58-year-old Arkansas native…dropped something of a bombshell on the gathering. ‘I still believe in e=mc2, but I can’t believe that in all of human history, we’ll never ever be able to go beyond the speed of light to reach where we want to go,’ said Clark. ‘I happen to believe that mankind can do it…I’ve argued with physicists about it, I’ve argued with best friends about it. I just have to believe it. It’s my only faith-based initiative…’
“Gary Melnick, a senior astrophysicist at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics, said Clark’s faith in the possibility of time travel was “probably based more on his imagination than on physics.”
“While Clark’s belief may stem from his knowledge of sophisticated military projects, there’s no evidence to suggest that humans can exceed the speed of light, said Melnick. In fact, considerable evidence posits that time travel is impossible, he said.
” ‘Even if Clark becomes president, I doubt it would be within his powers to repeal the powers of physics,’ said Melnick…”
And to think that many of the same liberals now swooning for Clark used to mock Ronald Reagan’s Strategic Defense Initiative as ‘Star Wars’ and worse.
Jason Maoz can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org