Wednesday, November 26, 2014
When the media yells 'fire' in a crowded theater
Not all types of speech are protected under U.S. Law. In fact most democracies have laws that specifically exclude hate speech and any expression that may endanger an individual or group, from free speech protections.
The classic example is the prohibition against yelling 'fire' in a crowded theater (assuming there is no fire) which as famously included in a written opinion issued by Supreme Court Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes Jr. in 1919:
"The most stringent protection of free speech would not protect a man falsely shouting fire in a theater and causing a panic. [...] The question in every case is whether the words used are used in such circumstances and are of such a nature as to create a clear and present danger that they will bring about the substantive evils that Congress has a right to prevent." [source]
This opinion was not focused on the problem of making false statements (which are dealt with quite nicely under laws related to libel and slander), but rather on statements that create a clear and present danger.
Throughout the media
feeding frenzy coverage surrounding the Ferguson shooting and subsequent Grand Jury decision not to indict the police officer involved, there has been, in my opinion, a deliberate and coordinated attempt on the part of the major news outlets to fan the flames of civil unrest and create a situation where protests would turn violent, and demonstrations would turn into riots.
The media obviously has a vested interest in fostering and sustaining such an atmosphere of violence and hysteria because, let's face it, court decisions and protests are interesting news... but regional, or even national violence is compelling news; the kind that sells papers and drives traffic to news sites.
I won't go into deeply problematic nature of the media predicting that a decision handed down by a sitting Grand Jury in the world's premier democracy, will trigger the type of riots, violence and looting normally only seen in the third world.
That the U.S. media created, or at least deliberately fostered, such an expectation is deeply problematic, and smacks of the worst kind of racism. Moreover, it infantilizes a significant portion of the population by making it seem a foregone conclusion that this particular demographic is incapable of expressing dissatisfaction and outrage in a peaceful manner.
But even that doesn't surprise me anymore. If the U.S. media wants to treat minorities as if they are children incapable of reasoned, adult discourse... and that population lives up (or down) to these low expectations, who am I to yell 'foul'?
But when the New York Times actively and deliberately fans the flames of racial hatred and creates and fosters an expectation of violence... and then publishes the home address of the police officer who is the focus of violent protests and riots, that, IMHO, crosses a red line that can't be ignored.
That the New York Times' reporters, Julie Bosman and Campbell Robertson, were allowed by their editors to publish the home address of the police officer who the Grand Jury decided not to indict, is tantamount to declaring open season on him, his new wife and their property.
The Times can't reasonably argue that they didn't expect anyone to attack the officer or his family because all of their reporting to date has mentioned (in a leading and encouraging manner) that violence in the wake of any decision not to indict was a very real possibility.
Some have suggested that a fair remedy would be to publish the home addresses and other private information of the Time's reporters and the entire Times editorial staff.
Nobody cares where in Greenwich or Scarsdale the Times reporters and staff call home.
Rather, I think that the two reporters, and every editor involved in the decision to publish the officer's home address, should be prosecuted as full accessories to any violent crime that befalls the officer, his family and/or property.
Then let them spend a few years reporting on the sorry state of the U.S. Department of Corrections... from an insider's perspective.
Wednesday, November 19, 2014
There is a time for everything
[A post by our daughter Ariella, who is a commander in the IDF]
In every day, everything has a time; A time to eat. A time to work. A time to play. And each day there is a time to pray.
Three times a day, actually, we pray. These pauses for prayer are a time of purity. A sacred time to be thankful. A time for spirituality. To cleanse ones soul. To be close to G-d... who created us and all living things. Who created us in his image.
And each and every time we Jews pray, we end with a prayer for peace.
Yesterday morning, just like every morning, Jews gathered for the morning prayers.
But in a neighborhood in Jerusalem, yesterday morning was not allowed to be a time for spirituality or purity... or peace.
Instead of being a time to thank G-d, people where begging him for their lives.
Instead of talking to G-d, five men were dispatched to meet him.
Yesterday morning terrorists walked into a house of prayer and learning, and desecrated that holy time and place by murdering and injuring four men who were in the midst of praying for peace... and a fifth who had taken a holy oath to preserve it.
My soul aches and I am filled with the deepest sorrow thinking about it. But in my heart I am praying; Praying that one day we will not live in a reality full of fear. That our prayers for peace will finally be granted.
I might be naive, but I will never stop praying.
Tuesday, November 18, 2014
Let the Media Report from Somewhere Else
Because of the relative safety and security here (not to mention easy access to creature comforts and libations unavailable, or even forbidden, elsewhere in the region), most of the world's media outlets base their Bureau Chiefs and reporting staff for the entire Middle East here in Israel.
Although the close proximity and ease of access keeps Israel under a microscope, one would think it would at least have the benefit of ensuring accurate reporting.
One would be wrong.
Aside from the media's usual rush to justify or excuse this savage attack, two of the most 'respected' media outlets got it so wrong that it is impossible to believe that these were honest mistakes.
First, CNN was in the midst of an interview with Jerusalem Mayor, Nir Barkat, when they put the following banner across the screen for viewers to see:
Yes, that's right, for those who had their TV volume turned down or who were not paying full attention to the interview, those savage Israelis had attacked a house of worship of the 'Religion of Peace'.
And as I type this, the New York Times still has the following as their front page online coverage:
Here's a closer look:
Note that nowhere in the article on the left does it mention who carried out the attack. Not "Two Arab assailants...". Not "Two Palestinian assailants...". Just "two assailants armed with gun...". And look at this! Despite the availability of countless moving photos of the synagogue and victims, the Times editorial staff decided to run with a photo of two masked Israeli policemen wielding assault rifles... which could lead the uninformed (i.e. the Times' target audience) to surmise that it was these Israeli police officers who had inexplicably carried out the attack on the Jewish worshipers!
Even when presenting information that is technically / factually correct, the media - NY Times chief among them - loves to arrange the written and visual information in such a way as to confuse the facts and vilify us.
There's an old saying, "Just because you're paranoid doesn't mean they aren't out to get you!"
The Palestinian terrorists I can't do anything about. They are lower than animals, and such barbarity is in their nature. But nowhere in international law does it say I have to compound my suffering by playing host to a foreign press bent on destroying my standing in the international community!
I think the time has come to give deportation orders to every last foreign journalist in the country.
I'm not kidding. We give them unprecedented access and freedom of movement (as befits a modern, open democracy) and they still go out of their way to make us look worse than Al Qaeda and ISIS combined!
Seriously, the anti-semites of the world will hate us no matter what we do (or don't do). But I see no reason to play host to a hostile media that spends a disproportionate amount of its time and resources trying to convert the rest of the world into anti-semites.
If the media is going to lynch us even when we are in-arguably the victim, let them do their reporting from somewhere else.
I hear Damascus and Baghdad are nice this time of year.
Monday, November 10, 2014
Today in the center of Tel Aviv, a 20 year old Israeli soldier was stabbed repeatedly in the stomach by a Palestinian terrorist from Nablus (Shechem) who had illegally infiltrated.
The terrorist first tried to steal the soldiers weapon, but after a brief struggle, fled the scene and was arrested by the police a few blocks away.
The soldier was rushed to the hospital with massive blood loss and is currently listed in critical condition.
Getting back to the title of this post, at this point in the proceedings, one typically hears Arab Members of Knesset and EU / UN apologists explaining why the poor Palestinians are driven to such lengths to get out from under the jackboot of Israeli occupation.
And in fact, someone did rush to make such a connection:
"These are hard days for the State of Israel. Terror must be fought against but it must be understood that everything is connected – Jerusalem, Tel Aviv, Gaza, Judea and Samaria." [source]
But instead of some fifth column Arab MK or a European anti-semite, Israel's own Justice Minister - Tzipi Livni - is the source of that little gem of wisdom.
Mind you, this was her first statement following the attack!
All I can say is, Really?! There's something about this unprovoked act of terror that must be 'understood'?!!! You can look the Israeli public in the face and suggest there's a 'but' here?!!!!
There is only one 'butt' here, and anyone who asks the citizens of the State of Israel to 'understand' terror attacks is hereby invited to kiss mine.
I was recently in the US on a whirlwind visit to see my parents, and while I was there I reconnected with one of my favorite flavor memories from my youth; concord grapes.
Having grown up in upstate New York (yeah, yeah, I know New Paltz isn't technically 'upstate... get over yourself, Zahava!), and Connecticut, fall is always full of wonderful sensory memories for me: crisp air, beautiful foliage, apple picking, hay rides, pumpkin carving, leaf burning... and of course, eating lots and lots of concord grapes.
Concord grapes have a deep purple skin and a green interior, and are the perfect combination of sweet and tart.
There aren't many things I deeply miss (relax, I said 'things'!) from the states, but concord grapes almost certainly top the short list.
While I was shopping with my mom during this recent visit, I noticed a fruit stand selling concord grapes and bought a big bunch. I was in heaven! I went through them so fast we had to restock a few more times just to keep up with my noshing.
What I can't figure out is why these grapes aren't grown in Israel. Is the soil here not suitable for this particular vine? Hard to imagine, given the wide variety of wine and table grapes that are grown here.
Needless to say, if anyone knows where I can find concord grapes in Israel (or has any info as to whether they can be easily grown here), I will be eternally in your debt.
Thursday, November 06, 2014
Vehicular Intifada: How Hamas will Punish Fatah
With this new vehicular intifada starting to gain momentum, I am feeling a bit helpless. Like most people here, I spend a fair amount of time on the roads, and my children (at least my older kids) find themselves standing at bus stops several time per week.
Israel has gotten so good at heading off terrorists before they can act that it has forced the leaders of the terror organizations to come up with new terror methods that are impossible, and more importantly illegal, to anticipate.
Unlike, say, a terrorist wearing explosives or carrying a bomb, knife or gun, a person who intends to use a vehicle (or heavy construction equipment) as a weapon is nearly impossible to preempt or anticipate, because up until the moment that the vehicle impacts someone or something, it and the person operating it are acting completely within the law.
In a free and open democracy, it is perfectly legal to walk around with criminal thoughts, and even criminal intentions. But until you act on those thoughts/intentions, you have not done anything against which agents of the state may legally act.
- Building a bomb is a criminal act.
- Donning a suicide vest is a criminal act.
- Carrying an illegal knife or gun is a criminal act.
- Getting behind the wheel of a car or tractor and starting to drive is not a criminal act...
... until the moment you deliberately drive the car or tractor into someone or something.
The Israeli government has taken baby steps towards anticipating this vehicular intifada. Many bus stops and places where pedestrians congregate are protected from approaching vehicles by big blocks of heavy concrete.
But these blocks are not aesthetic, so the police and military have, so far, resisted placing them in city centers and other places where tourists might be given the impression that there is 'trouble in the holy land'.
As of this morning, the Jerusalem Light Rail platforms (the site of two vehicular terror attacks) have now been blocked off with these unsightly concrete cubes.
And although most of the bus stops in Judea and Samaria (the West Bank) already have these concrete bulwarks, it is only a matter of time before bus stops inside the green line will be forced to put up these unsightly barriers.
To be clear, that is the goal.
Just is in the previous intifadas, the goal of the terror leaders is not to maim and kill Israelis. It is to strip Israel of its veneer of aesthetic beauty and security, and force Israelis in general (and the security forces in particular) to view every Arab as a potential terrorist.
One of the things that vexed Hamas during the last Gaza war was the relative silence and indifference shown by the Palestinians living in the West Bank to what was happening in Gaza.
One can debate whether the West Bank Arabs were truly indifferent. But their silence was predicted quite accurately many years ago when Netanyahu became Prime Minister. He predicted that the best way to achieve peace (or at least quiet) with the Palestinians was to help them achieve economic success.
People with good jobs, businesses and homes, he presciently reasoned, had too much to lose to participate in another intifada (or, G-d forbid, a war).
Which is why for the most part, the relatively affluent Arab residents of the West Bank and Israel sat quietly on the sidelines and at most, attended a small demonstration against the last Gaza war.
The flaw in Bibi's strategy is in thinking of the Palestinians in Israel and the West Bank as a unified entity. He forgot that Hamas won the last Palestinian election, and that despite PA (Fatah) crackdowns, there remained many Hamas cells and much sympathy for the group.
It is Hamas and its sympathetic cousin, Islamic Jihad that are firing these first shots of the vehicular intifada. It doesn't matter that the overwhelming majority of Israeli Arabs and West Bank Palestinians are indifferent to the 'resistance' (as armed terror is euphemistically called).
Actually it does matter. The entire point of this new terror endeavor is to force a new wedge between the complacent, silent Arab population and the Israeli Jewish population and create an atmosphere of distrust and hate which will almost certainly result from the inevitable security crack-down, roadblocks, raids, revenge attacks and general distrust caused by these escalating vehicular attacks.
I wish I had a solution to offer. But sadly, the only thing that can throw a wrench in this current uprising is a vocal outcry from the silent, complacent Arabs themselves; some sort of grass roots 'not in our name' up-swell of outrage at these vicious attacks.
But unfortunately it is unlikely to happen. Because even though this is designed as a way to punish the silent, compacent Arabs of Israel and the West Bank (by turning them into objects of suspician and hate), as Bibi previously observed, ideals are expensive... and they have too much to lose.
Monday, November 03, 2014
The 'Unsubscribe' button (no, not the truth) will set you free
Remember when your email account was virginal and new. Nobody but a few friends, and perhaps your family, knew your email address. And any email that arrived in your inbox was something for you that you genuinely wanted to read.
Now think about your current relationship with your inbox.
It happens so gradually that one doesn't even notice it. One by one, you are added to automated email distribution lists that send out daily, weekly and monthly junk emails, political emails, commercial emails, religious emails, conspiracy emails, joke emails... and on and on.
Until one day you realize that the first thing you are forced to do when you open your inbox every single day is spend ten minutes deleting dozens (or on bad days, scores!) of unwanted emails that you have no intention of reading.
If you go on vacation or take a few days off from your computer, it is not unusual to come back to find literally hundreds of unwanted emails waiting for you that must be deleted, one by one (lest you inadvertently delete an important email... the virtual equivalent of throwing the baby out with the bathwater).
It is only after you've performed this onerous task that you can set about actually reading the email communications that are relevant to your life (or at least of momentary interest).
Some email programs allow you to mark unwanted emails as SPAM, and theoretically from then on, emails from those senders will be filtered out before they hit your inbox.
That's all fine and good for emails that are truly SPAM, such as come-ons for discount/black-market pharmaceuticals that are meant to, ahem, enhance one's prowess in the bedroom or increase one's anatomic dimensions in the same realm.
But let's say you are getting 10 or 15 emails every week with Divrei Torah (discussions of the week's Torah reading), and an equal number of comercial and political emails letting you know about sales or discussing current events, etc.
While you may not have signed up for them (and can't quite figure out when/how you got on their mailing list), to signal to the overlords at Google that these are SPAM would flag them to be filtered not just from your inbox, but from all Gmail inboxes.
Unlike the Viagra and Cialis ads, I'm sure many of the people who receive political and religious emails every week actually want to get them, and I wouldn't want the good people who toil over those weekly missives to be tagged as spammers in the Google gateways where real spam is filtered out.
Same goes for the commercial emails from the likes of LL Bean, Amazon and Groupon. Many people like getting those offers... and I know I ended up on their distribution list, not as part of some nefarious plot, but because I bought something from them and forgot to check (or uncheck) the box to opt out of future email offers (usually tucked at the bottom of the screen where you set up your account).
Like spring cleaning, it pays to periodically set aside all your distractions and spend some time ruthlessly getting yourself removed from the email distribution lists you don't want to be on.
At the bottom of pretty much every mass distributed email, there is a sentence or two that looks like this:
You need to pick a day and ruthlessly click on that link to be removed/un-subscribe from the various emails you don't read. The most expedient way to do this is to go into your deleted items folder and go through a couple of weeks worth of junk-mail; scrolling down to the bottom of each one and clicking on the 'unsubscribe' link (and then following the directions).
The first time you do it, it will be time consuming. You may invest up to an hour or more doing it.
IMPORTANT: Make sure you read each screen carefully or you could accidentally end up removing yourself from only a portion of the sender's distribution lists, or worse, subscribing to new lists from the same sender.
After the first time you perform this unpleasant task, you will see that by the second or third day, you are getting almost no unwanted mail (and each of those you do get can be dealt with quickly in the same way I described above).
After a week, you may see a small surge in junk mail because you forgot to un-subscribe from a couple of the email lists that only send out once every two weeks.
But that's it. Once you do this, your daily email routine will be something you look forward to again, and not some hated chore that you dare not neglect because it will build up and bury you.
From then on, anytime you get a new unwanted email, be diligent to un-subscribe immediately. Don't just delete it!
Oh, and if one or two of the emailers doesn't heed your request to beremoved/un-subscribed from their distribution list... go ahead and mark them as SPAM using the tool supplied for that purpose by your email provider. It'll serve them right to end up on a universal blacklist.
The bad news is that what I've described above only works with email distribution lists that are done in an organized, professional manner If you want to stop getting the monthly family update emails from your weird aunt Eunice (the one who subscribes to 'Fate Magazine' and who gets most of her current events updates from supermarket tabloids), you're on your own.
If you don't want to hurt her feelings or cause a family rift... you'll have to continue deleting those emails manually as soon as they land.
[Don't thank me... I'm a giver!]