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July 23, 2016 / 17 Tammuz, 5776

Posts Tagged ‘online’

Did Biden’s Incivility Work For Him?

Wednesday, October 17th, 2012

The morning after last week’s vice presidential debate, Democrats were delighted. Vice President Joe Biden’s obnoxious display was exactly what was needed to cheer them up after a week of morose speculation about why President Obama was so passive and uninspired during the first presidential debate with Mitt Romney.

Indeed, the more Biden giggled, smirked and interrupted Paul Ryan, the better they liked it. While his condescending and bullying behavior contradicted liberal doctrine about conservatives being the ones guilty of polluting the public square with political incivility, it embodied their complete contempt for both Republicans and their ideas.

Biden’s nastiness may have reinvigorated a Democratic base that wanted nothing so much as to tell their opponents to shut up, even if it may have also alienated a great many independents. But it’s not clear the Obama/Biden ticket will benefit from Biden’s performance.

The reason for this is not very complicated. The Democrats cheering on Biden’s bullying, while ignoring the fact that he had nothing to offer on the future of entitlements and his disgraceful alibis about Libya, did so because at bottom they really do not feel Republicans or conservatives are worthy of respect or decency. Though they rarely own up to it, they don’t think Republicans are so much wrong as they are bad.

By contrast, most Republicans think Democrats are wrong, not evil. Ryan, whose polite behavior was entirely proper but was made to appear passive and even weak when compared to his bloviating opponent, demonstrated this paradigm by patiently trying to explain his positions even when he was constantly interrupted.

Hard-core Democrats would have been happy had Obama treated Romney the same way Biden did Ryan, and there were plenty of signs that he shares his number two’s contempt for the opposition. But while a vice president, especially one who has often been treated as something of a national joke during his four years in office, might be allowed to get away with playing the buffoon, a president cannot.

In terms of substance, both Vice President Biden and Paul Ryan had their moments of strength. Ryan was strong on foreign policy, while Biden squirmed and threw the intelligence community under the bus about administration lies about the Benghazi attack. Biden delivered class warfare body blows about Mitt Romney’s “47 percent” gaffe.

But the main difference between the two wasn’t so much their competing liberal and conservative ideas and arguments. It was the blatant disrespect shown by Biden for his opponent. Biden mugged throughout the debate almost every time Ryan spoke. He also interrupted the Republican almost at will without moderator Martha Raddatz saying a word to call him to order.

It may be that Democrats were so dismayed by Obama’s passive performance in the first debate that Biden was urged to be more aggressive. But what he did wasn’t merely aggressive; he was openly rude. That may have encouraged the Democratic base, but it remains to be seen whether that is the sort of thing most Americans are comfortable with.

Democratic spinners will say Biden is a “happy warrior,” that his nastiness and aggressiveness bloodied the Republicans and that it doesn’t matter that the way he did it was embarrassing.

They may have a point. People probably won’t decide not to vote for Obama because they think the giggling, smirking and interrupting was beneath the dignity of the office he holds.

If Biden’s job was simply to rally the base and attack his opponents, then his arrogant condescension will help the Democrats regain their momentum after a week in which they’ve lost a lot of ground.

But it is also possible that a lot of those Americans who saw the debate, even those who are Democrats but especially independents and undecided voters, will not think much of a vice president of the United States acting more like a schoolyard bully than a statesman.

Many Democrats will applaud Biden’s buffoonery and falsely claim that it was no different from Romney’s demeanor in the first debate even though there is no possible comparison.

Republicans can console themselves that while Ryan did seem a little nervous at times, he wasn’t intimidated. Nor did Biden succeed in painting Ryan as the monster that the Democrats claim him to be.

Jonathan S. Tobin

Hallucinatory Realism

Friday, October 12th, 2012

The Nobel Prize in Literature 2012 was awarded yesterday to Chinese writer Mo Yan “who with hallucinatory realism merges folk tales, history and the contemporary.”

I liked that description very much. I went looking for texts by the fresh winner. Among several offerings online, not all of which would befit a frum website, I found the following paragraphs, from his most recent work, “POW!” which is soon to be published in English:

Huang Biao snared a pig’s knuckle and examined it. What was he looking for? It was soft and fully cooked, and would be overdone if he let it stew any longer. But he threw it back in, picked out a dog’s leg, and went through the same drill, but this time he sniffed it. What are you doing, you moron? It’s ready to eat, so turn down the heat before it turns mushy. Next came a sheep’s leg, and once again it was examine and smell. Why don’t you taste it, you moron? . . . Now that the heat had diminished, the liquid was no longer roiling, although a few ripples remained in the spaces between the cuts of meat, whose song had softened as they waited to be eaten.

But then the whole gritty, peasant cooking scene goes way out of bounds when Huang Biao ends up using his bodily fluids as cooking wine, which was just too gritty for me.

I suppose we keep looking for bigger and bigger shock effects. So you should know, Chinese peasant life is pretty shocking.

Anyway, when you now see references to Mo Yan’s brutal style, you’ll have an idea.

Way too much culture gap for me.

Yori Yanover

Google Cultural Institute Presents Jewish Content in 1st Exhibits

Thursday, October 11th, 2012

Google introduced a new online historical collection of digitized material, highlighting several Jewish themes, events and institutional partners in its first wave of exhibits.

At least 13 of the Google Cultural Institute’s inaugural collection of 42 featured exhibits consist of materials from the Anne Frank House, the Polish History Museum, the Auschwitz-Birkenau State Museum, Foundation France Israel and Yad Vashem.

Highlighted exhibits announced Wednesday include the testimony of Jan Karski, the World War II Polish resistance hero who tried to convince Allied leaders of the horrors of the Holocaust; as well as the saga of Edek Galinski & Mala Zimetbaum, the couple who unsuccessfully attempted to escape Auschwitz.

Visitors to Google’s new online multimedia museum can also see the last known photograph taken of Anne Frank, and browse featured historical events that include the Nuremberg Trials, the 1948 Arab-Israel War and the 1958 bombing of the Hebrew Benevolent Congregation in Atlanta.

The new resource comes one year after Google published the Dead Sea Scrolls online, the result of a partnership with the Israel Antiquities Authority.

JTA

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.

Jonathan S. Tobin

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…

Yori Yanover

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.

Jonathan S. Tobin

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.

Malkah Fleisher

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/news/hebrew-university-classes-go-online-free/2012/09/20/

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