Tuesday, October 30, 2012

United States Elections 2012 (i)


Having lived abroad for the last 3 years, my perspective of the United States of America is once again coloured by a European filter. Nevertheless, I am still a registered Democrat, and last week faxed and posted my absentee ballot to be counted at the City Hall in Waltham MA.

The choice for me was not difficult. The Republicans generally seem so far to the right these days that a vote for them would be voting for my own death sentence. It's just so sad that so many are voting against a particular candidate instead of for someone. As my blogroller Echidne of the Snakes wrote recently:

"How should I put this best? Voting for Barack Obama is like choosing shingles. Voting for Mitt Romney is like choosing a terminal illness. I prefer the former, though naturally I'd love to feel perfectly healthy. But we are all going to have one of those two conditions, and in my view the Obama-condition is much more bearable and less dangerous."

It is also a bit scary that the entire election may rest on the way that the candidates respond to Hurricane Sandy. If Barack is Presidential, he may gain voters; and if Romney is not, he will sink. O well, at least it's a better basis for choice than who has the best hair (in London last weekend, Margaret Cho suggested that elections are often won by hair, e.g., JFK vs Nixon, Clinton vs Bush 1 and Ross Perot).

Thinking of those currently victims of the hurricane ...

Monday, October 29, 2012

Savile Scandal

Jimmy Savile was a DJ and broadcaster in the 1960's and 1970's. He was incredibly popular, and known to my generation as a weird but charitable man who made people's dreams come true in his show "Jim 'll Fix It". It turns out that he was a sexual predator who may have abused myriad young girls. A television programme recently revealed the alleged crimes of the star, who died one year ago today, and there has been intense media frenzy ever since.

We are shocked and disgusted by Jimmy Savile's behaviour, all the more so because we thought he had been a positive force in the charity world, e.g., raising c. £40 million for various organisations. What I don't understand is the hysteria engendered by this discovery. This weekend, the Guardian reported that dozens of celebrities are frightened that they will be implicated in the scandal. Also, the Catholic Church of England,

"... has contacted the Holy See to ask if the papal knighthood awarded to (Savile) could be removed"
(the rest of the article may be found here.)

How many priests within the church have committed similar crimes? Where are the public requests to the Holy See for action against those men? Do the leaders of the Church believe that making a big deal about one public figure will be compensation to all the victims of the everyday non-famous perpetrators? For crying out loud, turn that energy and interest to the parishioners who need your protection and support!

Meanwhile, what about publicist Max Clifford's comment in the Guardian article:

"I am hoping that the real predators are the ones we are going to find out about ... not people that were randy young pop stars in the 1960s, 70s and 80s even, that had women throwing themselves at them everywhere they went, because that is a whole different area and a whole different situation. No one had heard the word 'paedophile' in those days"

Since the women were "throwing themselves", the men had no power to resist? Ok, we know about rock culture, groupies, etc. I do get uncomfortable, though, with the inference that the women wanted it so that made it ok. It's not a question of my being overly PC here. It is to do with the current and past lack of protection for vulnerable people who come into contact with the entertainment world. It has always been the case that fame and celebrity seem to breed indulgence when it comes to immoral behaviour. There are no 'real' and 'unreal' predators. If lives have been damaged and destroyed by those "randy young pop stars", and speaking out about it might bring healing, why not? Except of course that is an utterly naive and idealistic perspective, since what will probably feed a call for such revelation is more likely to be the economic aspirations of the tabloids.

Monday, October 22, 2012

Support for Anat Hoffman & Women of the Wall

In Jerusalem, at the Western Wall aka the Kotel, a Jewish woman was arrested last week for the crime of singing the Shema, i.e., praying. Her name is Anat Hoffman. She is currently the Director of the Israel Religious Action Center aka IRAC.

Click to learn what is actually illegal according to Israeli law

Background to the issue of a pluralistic group of women praying at the Wall may be found here.
There is also a 2009 story in the NY Times here.
An American perspective from the Jewish Journal may be found here.

Here are some links to the latest part of the struggle for egalitarian status in prayer at this site:

Why I was arrested for praying at the Western Wall via Huffington Post
Anat Hoffman after arrest in Haaretz
Police shackle Anat Hoffman for saying Sh'ma at the Kotel by Debra Nussbaum Cohen in the Jewish Daily Forward

Rabbi Laura Geller talks about Anat and Henrietta Szold
A view from the Velveteen Rabbi
Who has the right to pray at the Western Wall by Rabbi Daniel Brenner
What is the textual source of Kol Isha? by Rabbi Judith Abrams

There was a live webcast with Anat this evening. The most popular question for her was - how may we help to support her and the work of Women of the Wall? She replied with the following suggestions:

1.  sign the petition to liberate the Wall on the IRAC website.  The link is here.
2.  visit the Women of the Wall website
3.  buy the WOW tallit - Anat used some of the funds to pay her legal fees, and said that she loved the idea that the subversive act of wearing a tallit also supports the struggle in Israel
4.  Organise a Rosh Chodesh service outside the Israeli consulate in your home town
5.  Write your sentiments in the Jewish and the Israeli press
6.  Persuade your Israeli relatives to vote for measures to change the situation in Israel
7.  Donate financially whatever you can!

@kungfujew18 trawled the Twitterverse for us to bring this selection of Tweets sent during the webchat

You can join in also via projects such as
Hear O Israel: The Global Sh'ma Flashmob
Reclaim and Liberate the Kotel

btw, there were two other women arrested alongside Anat!

Friday, October 05, 2012

Colosseum Piglet

It's been a while, Piglet fans. Here is a shot from his recent visit to Rome. It was his first time there, and the first thing he did on his first day was to check out the most iconic place in the city - the Colosseum.

NB it's totally worth 30 Euro for a 3-day pass called the Roma. Not only do you get free travel on bus and train, but also it lets you walk past the 2-hour queue to get into the Colosseum and enter immediately!


O Obama! It hurts, y'know. Look at him in this pic - he's laughing in our faces. Those of us who put our trust in you cannot understand how general opinion after the first debate is clear that Romney "won". Since there seem to be myriad citizens of our country that cannot see how utterly bonkers he is, we need you to be strong.

It breaks my heart that people will make such an important decision as the choosing of a President based on surface impressions, rather than listening to what is being said and figuring out what is true and what is a lie, what is factual and what is spin. Your guys gotta get your into shape here, c'mon!