NEW LINKS: Check out the new sports and blogger links on the left column of the site. One of the foremost bloggers (and writers), Steven Den Beste in now linked, including the must-read Baseball Prospectus. Both are mentioned in my blog today.
ATTACK ON IRAQ...BEFORE NOVEMBER?: This from Ha'Aretz, by way of the French. The excerpt below, describing what the French think will happen if Hussein's government falls, is crucial:
Regarding the Israeli-Palestinian context, the establishment of a pro-Western government in Baghdad would loosen the stranglehold on Jordan, "which is, in effect, only a buffer-state between Iraq and Israel and is run with the inspiration of the IDF and Mossad," said one French source. Without an Iraq hostile to Israel breathing down Jordan's neck, the Palestinians would have to sober up from their far-reaching illusions and chances would grow for an arrangement that suits the needs of all three sides - Jordan, the Palestinians and Israel. And an end to PA Chairman Yasser Arafat's regime is also now acceptable to France's planners, in the spirit of the "change the regime" rule Bush set in place in Kabul and his plans for Baghdad. If it's good for them, why not for Ramallah, say the French officials.
If you ask me, I think Powell should resign. (Not like that's going to happen.)
SINCE WHEN IS A JEWISH EDUCATION AGAINST AMERICAN VALUES?: Well, since Richard Just of the American Prospect said so. He wrote an article criticizing Jews who support vouchers to send their children to Jewish day schools, and contends most Jews don't care about their religion and, hence, that's why major Jewish organizations oppose them. Here's the relevant -- and ignorant -- excerpt:
In a piece contending that such religious splintering would not be a mere by-product of school choice but rather part of the point, Seth Leibsohn and Chester E. Finn Jr. argue that Jews should embrace vouchers as a vehicle for reducing assimilation. "School choice would confer many benefits on America," they write. "One of them is helping to solve the problem of declining Jewish-American identity." They note the success of Orthodox communities in using Jewish day schools to ward off assimilation, and predict that school vouchers will entice less devout Jews to flock to similar schools. They then go on to ridicule the secular Jewish establishment for publicly worrying about assimilation while opposing a major policy initiative -- school vouchers -- that would help keep assimilation at bay.
So there we have it: The purpose of vouchers is to help religious groups -- and here we are talking primarily about Christian fundamentalists -- withdraw themselves and their offspring from American pluralism, and do so with help from taxpayer dollars. That a few conservatives have now decided to give their antidemocratic designs the veneer of multiculturalism by encouraging Jews to do the same doesn't make their mission any less scary -- or any less un-American.
But there's a deeper problem with the analysis offered by Leibsohn and Finn: They have badly misread American Judaism. They assume that American Jews see themselves as a primarily inward-looking community -- that is, a community much like Christian fundamentalism, one concerned primarily with its own preservation and expansion, the larger world be damned. Of course, that's not the case at all. Except for the ultra-Orthodox (who are, in some ways, quite analogous to Christian fundamentalists), secular Jews in America have long perceived themselves as thriving on pluralism.
To be sure, American Jews have always believed that Israel needs to exist; but they also believe that to be Jewish while being fully, unapologetically and patriotically American is to participate in the greatest experiment in pluralism the world has ever known. So yes, there are Jews who would like to shut themselves off from the rest of America and live in places such as Kiryas Joel and Borough Park and send their children exclusively to Jewish day schools. But they mangle the spirit of Judaism as surely as Christians who seek to withdraw from American life mangle the spirit of their own faith. And if National Review and friends think the path to secular Jewish votes lies in lining the pockets of Hasidic schools with taxpayers' money, they should think again: Most Jews are pluralists at heart.
Two points need to be made:
-- First off, Orthodox Jews largely send their kids to yeshivot anyways; you'll be hard-pressed to find many Orthodox Jews in the public school system. Certainly near 100%
of all "black-hat" Orthdox, such as the ones mentioned in Kiryat Joel and Brooklyn, send their kids to private yeshivas -- and would do so regardless of vouchers.
-- It's apparent that Just hasn't visited a Jewish day school in his life. Nearly all Jewish day schools graduate well-rounded students, knowledgable about their religious heritage who make contributions to all aspects of life in America. They generally have rigorous secular academic programs, as well as the standard Jewish classes of: Hebrew, Bible, Rabbinics and Jewish History. Jewish day schools offer the best of both secular and religious education and many are non-denominational. Since when did raising children with knowledge of their religious traditions become "fundamentalist?" Unbelievable.
As the famed liberal attorney Alan Dershowitz has written many times, Jewish day school education is the key to Jewish continuity by giving world-class secular educations (much better than many public schools offer) and religious knowledge and values to be used in modern society. By misrepresenting Jewish day schools as enclosed yeshivas that teach students to memorize Torah leads Just to make manymistaken conclusions throughout his article.
Many of us have justifiably criticized the Jewish community's obsessive focus on the Holocaust, insisting that we teach our children the beauty and power of Jewish tradition rather than frighten them into a victim identity. But while Jews need to be careful about lapsing into hysteria and self-pity, something familiar and sinister is stirring again, and we'd be fools to ignore it.
Tuesday, July 16, 2002
QUOTE OF THE DAY: "It's all more anti-marketing from a man [Bud Selig] who is perfectly willing to make people hate baseball in an effort to pay less than market value for labor. It's not about competitive balance, it's not about growing the game, it's not about markets and it's not about the fans. It's about lowering labor costs."
CELEBRITY FAUX PAUS, PART TROIX: "Rosie O'Donnell. And now I need a good woman matchup for her. Anne Heche. We're going to have to live with the weight disadvantage.''
-- Braves pitcher Tom Glavine on who he'd like to see in a celebrity boxing match to the death, from the Miami Herald.
COLUMN UPCOMING: My newest column, which will be coming out sometime this week, is how conservative commentators preach the value of the free market (and appropriately so) when it comes to the nation's economy, but preach socialist economic theories, such as revenue sharing and salary caps when it comes to baseball. I've never seen such hypocrisy, and whether it's Charles Krauthammer, Fred Barnes, or Rich Lowry, all these famed conservative commentators have stated that there's too much competitive imbalance, players are making too much money and rich teams need to help support poor teams. It's ironic, because what they've been saying about baseball directly contradicts their statements when it comes to policing the "big-market" corporations that have been accused of breaking the law lately.
Check out this convo between Barnes and Liasson on last week's Fox News Sunday: (I'm not going to pick apart Barnes' specious argument, I'll save that for the column.)
BARNES: It does look like we won't have a World Series because of a strike. Now, remember, the players, their average salary is $2.4 million a year.
SNOW: You almost said billion. You were -- that's a nice contract.
BARNES: Yes, I almost -- well, you know, million, billion.
HUME: That's what they want. That's why it's a deadlock, Fred. They want $2.4 billion.
BARNES: This is hardly a working class group. I mean, they're certainly handsomely remunerated.
Baseball has one big problem and that is, no salary cap. And the -- we have one in basketball. We have one in pro football. But in baseball...
SNOW: We have one at Fox News.
BARNES: And we have one at Fox News.
WILLIAMS: Is that right?
BARNES: And what this has created is...
LIASSON: ... for a salary cap.
BARNES: Wait a -- I'm just going to explain that to you.
BARNES: And what this has produced is complete imbalance in the league. Three-fourths of the teams can never get anywhere because they don't have enough money. But the Yankees, the Red Sox, the Braves, the Dodgers, half a dozen teams have -- because of their local broadcast contracts, have all the money and they can buy up all the good players or many of them and they always wind up winning. This imbalance has to be dealt with. And the only way -- in order to save pro baseball and the only way to do it is a salary cap.
LIASSON: That doesn't sound like a conservative principle. What about the free market? They should make as much as they can.
Mara, for a non-baseball fan, you hit the nail on the head.
CELEBRITY FAUX PAUS, PART DEUX: From Howard Fienberg's blog, a quote from Kathy Ireland:
"Who is Yom Kippur?" "I'm very embarrassed to admit that. It was an attempt to make conversation which ended up being a disaster."
-- Supermodel Kathy Ireland confirms to Vanity Fair that she once overheard people discussing the Jewish holiday Yom Kippur at a photo shoot and asked: 'Who is Yom Kippur? Is that the name of the new Japanese designer?' "
At Wednesday's ESPY awards, John Madden mistakenly used the women's makeup room for a restroom and didn't lower the toilet seat before actress Brooke Shields entered. "I apologized to her," he said. "She said it was no big deal but later admitted she kicked the seat down with her foot."
Sunday, July 14, 2002
DAVE SHEININ'S ANGELOS SUCK-UP WATCH: From Washington Post Orioles' beat reporter Dave Sheinin's weekly baseball column today:
The Baltimore Orioles were widely criticized for trading catcher Charles Johnson to the Chicago White Sox in 2000 without seriously attempting to re-sign him. But the Orioles have been vindicated by the precipitous decline of Johnson's production.
From the second half of the 2001 season through the first half of this season -- the equivalent of a full season -- Johnson has hit .223 with five homers and 39 RBI for the Marlins.
This gratuitious addition to his baseball notes column, which has no element of timeliness (it could have been written four months ago), is a weak defense of Peter Angelos and Syd Thrift's trade of Charles Johnson. The criticism at the time wasn't the trade of Charles Johnson. Rather, it was who they received for him -- Brook Fordyce, a veteran catcher with only one good half-season to his record and a bunch of non-prospects. At the time, Johnson was under contract, perceived as a great defensive catcher and was among the best offensive catchers in the game. He clearly had a lot of market value.
Considering that catchers who fit that profile of good-glove, good-hit are rare, you'd think that Thrift/Angelos could get a lot more for him than a mediocre catcher in his 30s (who was promptly signed to a 3-year $9 million/yr contract after the Johnson trade) and a bunch of players who were considered nothing more than throw-ins. In fact, at the time of the trade the White Sox had a surplus of young, promising catchers in Josh Paul and Mark Johnson, who the Orioles weren't interested in. Instead, they preferred Fordyce who is currently hitting .208 and resigned to the end of the Orioles' bench.
Sheinin continues to insist on defending every move the Orioles make, despite reams of evidence to the contrary. Of the many so-called prospects netted in the fire-sale trades of BJ Surhoff, Charles Johnson, Mike Bordick, Will Clark and Mike Timlin, only Melvin Mora has been even somewhat productive in the major leagues. (Non-prospect Jose Leon also debuted this month.) The fact that Sheinin sees Charles Johnson's recent struggles as vindication for the ill-advised trade shows his true role as Orioles' owner Peter Angelos' mouthpiece.