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Liberal Overconfidence Is Helping Romney

Thursday, October 4th, 2012

The 2012 election is once again proving that having most of the mainstream media in your pocket is a huge advantage for a presidential candidate. President Obama’s reelection effort has been materially aided by being largely able to set the narrative of the race as the year unfolded. Mitt Romney’s gaffes are treated as game-changers, while Obama’s misstatements and scandals, like the security leaks from the White House, are often treated like footnotes rather than major stories.

Media spin helped turn his convention into a hit and the Libya disaster, combined with Romney’s “47 percent” gaffe, has seemed to produce a genuine surge for the president in the past few weeks. Conservatives may dispute the accuracy of polls that may be based on samples skewed to the Democrats or based on expectations of a repeat of the “hope and change” turnout figures of 2008. But after months of the race being seen as a dead heat, there’s little doubt Obama is ahead right now. However, the glee on the left contains within it the possibility of a reversal.

The media narrative of the election having been largely decided in the last month is so strong that prominent outlets are openly expressing shock that the GOP hasn’t already conceded the election. They push this line about Romney’s incompetence relentlessly; accept speeches filled with misstatements and distortions at the Democratic National Convention at face value after treating GOP convention speeches as “fact-checked” lies and thereby help manufacture a post-convention bounce; and then declare the race (which is still largely within the margin of error in most polls) over and consider it a “curiosity” that Republicans still like their chances and understand tying their fates to Romney is a lot smarter than writing him off.

In other words, if Republicans don’t accept the media narrative and give up, they are in denial. It never occurs to the chattering classes that about half the country still plans to vote to turn President Obama’s incomplete into an “F” in November and that his wife shouldn’t be fitted for her second inaugural gown just yet.

Some are speaking as if Romney must not just win the debates but mop the floor with the president if he is to have a chance in November.

But the problem with this triumphalism on the left is that it can breed a fatal overconfidence. As encouraging as the president’s current poll numbers may be, his margins are still too small and there is still too much time left before Election Day for the left to assume the thing is in the bag. Even more to the point, it can breed a backlash against the media that can energize Romney’s camp and help fuel a competing comeback narrative.

The president may not only have peaked too soon, but the overkill on the part of his journalistic cheerleading squad could be just the shot in the arm Romney needed.

It should be conceded that with just a few weeks to go, it is a lot better to be ahead – no matter how large or small the margin – than behind. The president’s good month has encouraged Democrat donors and depressed those of the Republicans. Such a state of affairs could, if the GOP misplays its hand in the coming weeks, theoretically snowball into a repeat of the party’s 2008 debacle.

But the notion that Romney is already so far behind that he will never be able to catch up is risible. For all of his missteps, he remains within striking distance of the president. The economy is still poor and the idea that the patent collapse of his foreign policy vision as our embassies are attacked in the Middle East will help rather than hurt him among voters is highly debatable.

Moreover, Americans hate being told an election is over when they know it is still close. That gives Romney a clear opening to spend the remaining weeks running hard against the media as well as the president.

Nobody may like a heartless plutocrat – the false image the left has foisted on Romney – but everyone likes an underdog who is being undercut by a chattering class telling voters that all has been decided even before they vote. If Romney can tap into this sentiment, dissatisfaction with the president’s performance in office can still be the decisive factor in determining the outcome.

Designer Sukkah

Sunday, September 30th, 2012

I went looking for interesting Sukkah images online, and most of them repeated the familiar decoration themes, some with more natural ingredients, others with the more common, colorful paper cutouts. They were pretty, and I’m sure there are hundreds, if not thousands of Sukkot out there that are breathtakingly original and beautiful.

But so far, the image that hit me with its daring to say something brand new about the very concept of the Shukkah – and do it within the halachic guidelines, appeared two years ago on the website Tapuz.co.il.

So elegant, so different, so very designer…

We have gone the less imaginative route of the prefab Sukkah, which still looks delicious.

I’ve started to count the minutes until I get the chance to bench lulav in my little Sukkah, in Eretz Israel, Monday morning…

But for now, let’s all covet our neighbor’s designer Sukkah…

Despite Media Pile-On, Romney Isn’t Toast

Friday, September 21st, 2012

So while some of us were celebrating the Jewish New Year and taking the last couple of days off from politics, it appears a video has more or less decided the election.

That’s the assumption of much of the mainstream media about the impact of the release of the video of Mitt Romney speaking back in May at a private fundraiser about the 47 percent of the country that doesn’t pay taxes. They think this means it’s time to put a fork in the Republican candidate. They believe the pile-on from both the Democrats and their media allies will be enough to effectively push Romney far enough behind the president that he will never be able to make it up in the weeks remaining to him.

This is, to understate matters, something of a self-fulfilling prophecy since the reason the video is considered to be such a big deal is because it has been covered as an earthshaking gaffe that ought to spike Romney’s hopes of ever winning the presidency.

The assumption that Romney has been fatally damaged is incorrect. The initial reaction to the video clips will probably damage Romney, but it will not affect the bulk of his support in a race that is still close.

The reason the video hurts is that it played into Obama’s greatest advantage: a pliant media quick to dismiss his blunders but sure to make a meal out of any of Romney’s gaffes. But it is time for the Romney campaign to understand it must exploit the fact that half the country believes the liberal media are out to get him. Romney must tell the country that it must not let the chattering classes decide the election before they’ve had a chance to vote.

Let’s specify that Romney’s statement was dumb. No presidential candidate should ever make such a sweeping generalization. Romney has a habit of making gaffes and this was yet another example of one of his weak points as a leader. Yet for all of the fact that he painted those who don’t pay income taxes with a broad and inaccurate brush, his comment was still based in a correct interpretation of the philosophical divide between the approaches of the two parties to the entitlement welfare state that has played such a destructive role in American society.

But as much as some of the carping about the Romney campaign from Republicans has been justified, let’s understand the reason this video is being seen as the turning point in the election is that the liberal media, determined to reelect the president, are saying so.

This is the same media after all that were faced with a similar gaffe four years ago when Obama was caught on tape at one of his private fundraisers making similarly stupid comments dismissing much of America as “clinging to guns and religion” because of their fears and small-minded natures.

While that video did not go unreported at the time, the reaction from much of the press was indifference. Right-wing bloggers and columnists screamed about it but it was not treated as front-page news in mainstream newspapers. The explanation for that is not exactly a mystery. If most reporters and their editors didn’t play it that big it was because most of them shared Obama’s contempt for religion and guns and those that cling to them.

Let’s also remember that the president’s “you didn’t build that” gaffe has been endlessly defended and rationalized by the media instead of being covered as an open and shut case of his being out of touch with much of the country’s beliefs. The president’s open microphone moment earlier in the year, in which he promised Russia’s president that he could be more “flexible” in accommodating Moscow after his reelection, was also underplayed.

Any Republican who runs for president and is surprised to find the deck is stacked against him in the media doesn’t deserve the office. But that doesn’t mean Romney should take this double standard lying down. Rather than play defense on this issue, the Romney campaign must make it clear it intends to treat this story as being more about media bias than about the candidate’s stupidity. If played right, that could not only jazz up a GOP base that despises the media, but put the Republican’s tormenters on the defensive.

Hebrew University Classes Go Online – Free

Thursday, September 20th, 2012

People interested in getting educated at the Hebrew University can now do so – for free.

Though the graduate and undergraduate courses will not count for credits, some Hebrew University classes will now be available online through the educational organization Coursera.

Assignments, forums, and exams will also be part of some of the courses.

Hebrew University is the first Israeli university to join Coursera’s program, which already features lectures from leading universities such as Cal Tech, Johns Hopkins, Princeton, and Stanford.  The first three courses out of Jerusalem will be by Professor Idan Segev, head of the Department of Neurobiology and member of the Interdisciplinary Cdnter for Neural Computation, Professor Yaakov Nahmias, director of the Center for Bioengineering, and Professor Jonathan Garb of the Mandel Institute of Jewish Studies, 2010 winner of the HU President’s Prize for Outstanding Researcher.

Coursera’s free classes are downloaded by over 1.3 million students worldwide.

The Man Who Engineered the Muhammad Movie Rage

Wednesday, September 19th, 2012

Sheikh Khalid Abdullah, an Egyptian Salafist and TV personality, aired a show more than a week ago about a film called “The Innocence of Muslims,” which reportedly slanders Islam’s prophet Muhammad. The way the Islamists in Egypt and their fellow Islamists have chosen to magnify a 13-minute online video into a streaming wave of violence and anti-Israeli and anti-American hate shows the true side of the Muslim Brotherhood, which has been claiming to be pro-democracy and anti-violence, and that the Muslim Brotherhood and the Islamists in general have not changed because of the Arab Spring. All of this should serve as a rude wake-up call to the US administration, which has been tolerating — even accepting — Islamists’ spurious adoption of democracy.

For a start, it is worthwhile learning more about the man behind the sweeping Muslim rage over the film. Sheikh Khalid Abdullah has a popular talk show on Al-Nas satellite TV, and — according to the Telegraph – “has long prided itself on baiting liberals, Christians and Jews.” Although the video has been online since July with not much attention, a little over a week ago, Sheikh Khalid Abdullah, after airing clips from the online video, called for its maker to be executed. Additionally, YouTube and other websites are full of anti-Islamic videos — possibly much fewer in number than anti-Semitic and anti-American online videos produced by Muslims — and we yet have not seen Americans or Israelis attacking Muslim Embassies.

Sheikh Khalid Abdullah is a controversial figure: Last year, when a group of moderates, liberals and non-Islamist protesters protested against Egypt’s military council’s alleged control of the country’s political life, a young woman wearing a hijab was beaten then undressed down to her undergarments by the Egyptian anti-riot police. This incident was caught on camera and the entire Egyptian nation saw it; nonetheless, the Salafist media, headed by Sheikh Abdullah, stood in defense of the Military Council. Sheikh Abdullah even went as far as to mock Egyptian Noble Prize winner Mohammad Al-Baradei for defending the assaulted women. Sheikh Abdullah said: “Al-Baradei told the Military Council: don’t you feel ashamed for stripping young women of their clothes” Abdullah then laughably commented “Oh You (Al-Baradei) …you faithful boy”.

In another episode of his show, Sheikh Abdullah goes even further in slandering the assaulted woman. He said, “A veiled woman, what was she doing in that place at such a time amid the chaos; so she can end up being caught by someone to take off her Niqab and then beat her up and then the devious satellite TVs come out saying the Muslim Brotherhood and the Salfists only care for being in the Parliament and they could not care less for the lives of people…I’ve told you a thousand times, don’t be too smart with the Muslim Brotherhood and the Salafists trying to lure them into a game they know very well”.

Last year, Sheikh Khaled Abdullah accused the protesters, who were in Tahrir Square and demanding further reforms from the Military Council, of being in a disgusting indiscrete situation: “When my friend saw them he almost threw up in disgust about what was happening in the tents…young men are sleeping with young women in the tents!” As a Salafist Sheikh, he must know that in Islam, accusing an innocent person of committing adultery or pre-marital sex is considered one of the seven deadly sins; thus, the Sheikh, and the media face of Egyptian Salafists, both exhibited a willingness to break even the sacred laws of his own faith to make a political point against his fellow Muslims, let alone against Christian and Jewish “infidels”.

The question remains, was the fiasco ostensibly resulting from the video a coincidence, or was it part of a greater trend of Egypt’s Islamists to demonize the U.S. and Israel and to bite the hand of the U.S. administration which had sympathized with the Egyptian revolution of January 2011.

Also, is Sheikh Abdullah different from other Islamists in Egypt? According to Al-Ahram, Egypt’s largest newspaper, the Muslim Brotherhood official Twitter account expressed its deputy head’s “relief none of the U.S. Embassy staff in Cairo was hurt,” and its hope that the U.S.-Egypt relations could weather the events — while at the same time, the Muslim Brotherhood’s Twitter account in the Arabic language expressed support for the protesters trying to storm the U.S. Embassy in Cairo, as also in an article on its official website in Arabic. The U.S. Embassy made a response on Twitter: “Thanks. By the way, have you checked out your own Arabic feeds? I hope you know we read those too.”

It seems that Egypt’s Islamists are coming out of their “non-violence” façade pretty fast. And they are proving their ability to lie and deceive anyone to achieve their desired goals: they are lying to the Egyptian people and outwitting the gullible U.S. Administration, who tolerated them and possibly even believed their plea that “Islam is democracy.”

An Arab proverb goes: “A long dance starts with little moves.” It will be illuminating to see how far the Islamists’ moves will evolve, all under a US administration in the habit of giving in to the Islamists of the Middle East.

Originally published by the Gatestone Institute.

When Jews Look At Barack Obama, How Many See Jimmy Carter?

Wednesday, September 12th, 2012

President Obama may be enjoying a slight, if likely temporary, bounce in the polls this week. But one of the surveys showing him with a lead in a tight race over Mitt Romney also provides a breakdown of the data that confirms predictions that he is losing up to a quarter of the Jewish votes he got in 2008.

The Investors Business Daily/Christian Science Monitor/TIPP Poll gives a breakdown of religion along with other demographic groups and shows Obama leading among Jews by a margin of 59 to 35 percent with six percent undecided. While that is still a majority, it is a dramatic decline from the 78 percent of the Jewish vote he got four years ago.

Obama has a 46-44 percent lead over Romney in the TIPP poll. That means Obama is suffering from a decline in support throughout the electorate from his 2008 victory when he won 53 percent of the vote. But the president’s loss of approximately 25 percent of Jewish voters this year is not matched by a similar decline in any other demographic group. Indeed, even in the unlikely event that Obama wins almost all the undecided voters in the survey, that would barely match Michael Dukakis’s 64 percent of Jewish votes in 1988.

Far more likely is a result that would leave the president with the lowest total of Jewish votes since 1980 when Jimmy Carter received 45 percent in a three-way race with Ronald Reagan and John Anderson. While some losses in Jewish support could be put down to disillusionment with his economic policies that is shared across the board, the only conceivable explanation for this far greater than average loss of Jewish votes is the administration’s difficult relationship with Israel.

Over the past year, Jewish Democrats have scoffed at predictions of a dramatic loss of support for Obama. The president’s attitude toward Israel was a major issue in the special election in New York’s 9th Congressional District and allowed Republican Bob Turner to steal a longtime Democratic stronghold with a disproportionately large Jewish population. But Democrats dismissed that result as an outlier and have been predicting that the president, who has conducted an election year charm offensive toward Jewish voters after three years of constant fights with Israel, would recoup any potential losses by election day.

Given the fact that a majority of Jews identify as liberals, the Republican Party’s social conservatism would seem to set up Romney for the same shellacking among Jewish voters that every GOP candidate has received since 1988. Instead, the TIPP poll shows him threatening to rival Ronald Reagan’s modern record set in 1980 when he won 39 percent of Jewish votes, the most by a Republican since World War One. Since it is unreasonable to assume that Jews are more riled up about the economy than any other faith or demographic group, the only possible explanation for this stunning result is dissatisfaction with Obama on Israel.

While Jews constitute a tiny portion of the total electorate, anything close to a 59-35 percent result could have a major impact on the outcome in Florida with its large Jewish community. But it could also be meaningful elsewhere, especially if states like Pennsylvania or Ohio turn out to be close.

This problem was highlighted by last week’s fiasco at the Democratic National Convention when pro-Israel language was first removed from the party’s platform and then clearly not supported by the majority of delegates when some of it was put back into the document. The spectacle of the majority of Democratic delegates on the flower booing when both God and Jerusalem were put back into their platform will linger with viewers. Though Jewish Democrats like Democratic National Committee Chair Rep. Deborah Wasserman Schultz have sought to dismiss this incident as a non-story, the TIPP poll illustrates its importance.

For decades, Jewish Republicans have sought a GOP candidate who could equal Reagan’s achievement but they were mistaken. They needed a Democratic opponent like Jimmy Carter and in President Obama they may well have found one.

Jonathan S. Tobin is senior online editor of Commentary magazine and chief political blogger at www.commentarymagazine.com, where this first appeared. He can be reached via e-mail at jtobin@commentarymagazine.com.

Charge: Facebook Pages Spew Blood Libels, Attack Jews and Aborigines, Mock Anne Frank

Tuesday, September 11th, 2012

There is no scientific equation to determine what is hatred, but a Facebook picture of a smiling Anne Frank surrounded by the caption, “What’s that burning?  Oh it’s my family” is an easy one.  So is a Facebook picture of a baby on a scale emblazoned with a Jewish Star, where the bottom of the scale is a meat grinder with raw ground meat (presumably, a baby’s) oozing out.

Is there any doubt in your mind that those images constitute hate speech (one of the official categories for removal under Facebook’s Terms of Service) and should be removed from Facebook?  That was the basis for the complaints filed by the Online Hate Prevention Institute last month.

Facebook disagreed.  The pictures remain up.

The Australia-based Online Hate Prevention Institute was launched in January this year.  Its mission is to help prevent, or at least control, abusive social media behavior which constitute racism or other forms of hate speech.

Dr. Andre Oboler is the chief executive officer of OHPI.  Oboler has been involved in analyzing and monitoring online hate for five years.   In the time that he’s been monitoring Facebook, the response time has improved, but the results have not.

“OHPI submitted documented complaints following the Facebook complaint protocol, and, true to their word, we received a response within 48 hours,” Oboler told The Jewish Press.  “It’s quite amazing; the Facebook reviewers took down the images, reviewed them, and put them back up with a ‘no action’ decision within 48 hours.”

Oboler waited until the Facebook reviews were completed before posting OHPI’s findings.  The methodical process and the constructive suggestions OHPI made could be held up as models of what to do when confronted with hate speech on social media, except that at this point the diligence does not appear to have paid off.

The suggestions included:

1. Remove the offensive images

2. Close the offensive pages that are posting them

3. Permanently close the accounts of the users abusing Facebook to spread such hate

4. Review which staff assessed these examples and audit their decision making

5. Take active measures to improve staff training to avoid similar poor decisions in the future

6. To institute an appeal process as part of the online reporting system

7. To institute systematic random checks of rejected complaints

At this point, Oboler is hopeful that if sufficient attention is generated, Facebook will feel compelled to re-examine their procedures.  What he would like is for there to be a “systematic change to prevent online-generated harm in the future.”

One way to generate that attention, Oboler suggested, is for Facebook users who think the images described above are offensive to go to the Facebook OPHI site and “Like” it.  Another is to sign the OPHI petition urging Facebook to stop allowing hate speech on its site.

OHPI is also critical of the way in which Facebook has chosen to respond to complaints about offensive Facebook Pages.  Its standard response to pages that are entirely devoted to offensive material is to insert the bracketed phrase: [Controversial Humor] before the rest of the page title.  That phrase acts kind of like the warning label posted on cigarette packages.  The page remains vile, just as the cigarettes remain carcinogenic, but by slapping on the Controversial Humor disclaimer, it appears Facebook is seeking immunity from liability.  Or at least from responsibility.

OPHI discovered this Facebook method when it was engaged in an effort to eradicate hate-filled Facebook Pages dedicated to brutalizing Aborigines.  Remember – OPHI is based in Australia.  After engaging in some promising responses to OPHI’s complaints, Facebook ultimately responded that “While we do not remove this type of content from the site entirely unless it violates our Statement of Rights and Responsibilities, out of respect for local laws, we have restricted access to this content in Australia via Facebook.”

But that just doesn’t make any sense, according to Oboler.  As he pointed out, “Facebook’s ‘Statement of Rights and Responsibilities’ says at 3.7 ‘You will not post content that: is hate speech’. We find it very hard to understand how Facebook can look at this material and decide it is not hate speech. Ultimately, this is where Facebook is going wrong.”

Is there anything Facebook has determined to be sufficiently offensive that it will be removed? Yes, but not much.

Oboler explained that thus far the only hate speech kind of content that has been permanently removed by Facebook is when it is directed against an individual, rather than at an entire race or religion.  In other words, the same problem that hate speech codes on campuses have encountered, plagues complainants hoping for a non-offensive inline community.  Unless the nastiness is directed at a specific person, the default Facebook position is to not remove it.

But really, is it possible for anyone to consider the words accompanying the Anne Frank picture anything but impermissible hate speech?  Facebook apparently does and will continue to do so unless enough people tell them they are wrong.

 

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/news/breaking-news/charge-facebook-pages-spew-blood-libels-attack-jews-and-aborigines-mock-anne-frank/2012/09/11/

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