Twitter and the Evil Tongue

For those of us immersed in social media, there is an endless assault on our senses by happenings large and small.

The president-elect sends a Twitter message criticizing the leader of a local union of the United Steelworkers for doing a “terrible job” and sending American jobs abroad. The tweet goes viral, and the union leader receives random threats from people on the basis of no known facts whatsoever.

A baseless charge linking Hillary Clinton to sex crimes is tweeted by a retired army officer, now in line to be the national security adviser in the new administration. The tweet is part of a deluge of fake news that reaches a particularly susceptible reader in North Carolina, who goes out and shoots up a pizza parlor to “investigate” the charge.

Comet Ping Pong is the pizza place in Washington where the shooting took place. Photo by Elizabeth Murphy from Alexandria, VA.

Comet Ping Pong is the pizza place in Washington where the shooting took place. Photo by Elizabeth Murphy from Alexandria, VA.

Being lampooned on social media is particularly harmful because there is no effective redress. Even if you find the source, there is no way to reverse the damage. The hundreds or thousands of viewers are beyond reach. Social media also offers an enticing immediacy and anonymity. Retweeting takes just a few keystrokes. One need not know the original author nor have any independent opinion of the worth of the message.

However, it would be wrong to single out Twitter in this regard. Moving at a slightly slower pace, but still beating out all news media, is Facebook. And not far behind is talk radio, a continuing stream of facts, fiction and innuendo.

We can’t help but respect movie stars, politicians and even friends and neighbors who achieve high numbers of “followers.” But we know that the path to achieving those inordinately large numbers is often just flavored or off-flavor gossip.

In Jewish law, gossip is a serious sin. Lashon ha-ra, the evil tongue, is a temptation we must resist. Yet in an age of social media, gossip is always too easy, too nearby and seemingly too impersonal.

Devout Jews perceive the injunction of lashon ha-ra to include two obligations: First, not to speak evil or gossip about others. And second, not to listen to gossip, because it is understood that the listener is an enabler and hence an inextricable part of the sin. So upon hearing gossip, a Jew should cover his ears, at one time a familiar motion.

Is there a similar defense while tapping on a cell phone, clicking at a computer or listening to your car radio? If not, we need to invent one. Perhaps there should be a special button on our electronics to mute evil gossip. Until that button is invented, however, we need to observe the mitzvah of “lashon ha-ra” and strike an electronic pose comparable to covering our ears.

Obama’s Unity Speech After the Election

Good afternoon, everybody. Yesterday, before votes were tallied, I shot a video that some of you may have seen in which I said to the American people: Regardless of which side you were on in the election, regardless of whether your candidate won or lost, the sun would come up in the morning.

And that is one bit of prognosticating that actually came true. The sun is up. And I know everybody had a long night. I did, as well. I had a chance to talk to President-elect Trump last night — about 3:30 in the morning, I think it was — to congratulate him on winning the election. And I had a chance to invite him to come to the White House tomorrow to talk about making sure that there is a successful transition between our presidencies.

Now, it is no secret that the President-elect and I have some pretty significant differences. But remember, eight years ago, President Bush and I had some pretty significant differences. But President Bush’s team could not have been more professional or more gracious in making sure we had a smooth transition so that we could hit the ground running. And one thing you realize quickly in this job is that the presidency, and the vice presidency, is bigger than any of us.

So I have instructed my team to follow the example that President Bush’s team set eight years ago, and work as hard as we can to make sure that this is a successful transition for the President-elect — because we are now all rooting for his success in uniting and leading the country. The peaceful transition of power is one of the hallmarks of our democracy. And over the next few months, we are going to show that to the world.

I also had a chance last night to speak with Secretary Clinton, and I just had a chance to hear her remarks. I could not be prouder of her. She has lived an extraordinary life of public service. She was a great First Lady. She was an outstanding senator for the state of New York. And she could not have been a better Secretary of State. I’m proud of her. A lot of Americans look up to her. Her candidacy and nomination was historic and sends a message to our daughters all across the country that they can achieve at the highest levels of politics. And I am absolutely confident that she and President Clinton will continue to do great work for people here in the United States and all around the world.

Now, everybody is sad when their side loses an election. But the day after, we have to remember that we’re actually all on one team. This is an intramural scrimmage. We’re not Democrats first. We’re not Republicans first. We are Americans first. We’re patriots first. We all want what’s best for this country. That’s what I heard in Mr. Trump’s remarks last night. That’s what I heard when I spoke to him directly. And I was heartened by that. That’s what the country needs — a sense of unity; a sense of inclusion; a respect for our institutions, our way of life, rule of law; and a respect for each other. I hope that he maintains that spirit throughout this transition, and I certainly hope that’s how his presidency has a chance to begin.

I also told my team today to keep their heads up, because the remarkable work that they have done day in, day out — often without a lot of fanfare, often without a lot of attention — work in agencies, work in obscure areas of policy that make government run better and make it more responsive, and make it more efficient, and make it more service-friendly so that it’s actually helping more people — that remarkable work has left the next President with a stronger, better country than the one that existed eight years ago.

So win or lose in this election, that was always our mission. That was our mission from day one. And everyone on my team should be extraordinarily proud of everything that they have done, and so should all the Americans that I’ve had a chance to meet all across this country who do the hard work of building on that progress every single day. Teachers in schools, doctors in the ER clinic, small businesses putting their all into starting something up, making sure they’re treating their employees well. All the important work that’s done by moms and dads and families and congregations in every state. The work of perfecting this union.

So this was a long and hard-fought campaign. A lot of our fellow Americans are exultant today. A lot of Americans are less so. But that’s the nature of campaigns. That’s the nature of democracy. It is hard, and sometimes contentious and noisy, and it’s not always inspiring.

But to the young people who got into politics for the first time, and may be disappointed by the results, I just want you to know, you have to stay encouraged. Don’t get cynical. Don’t ever think you can’t make a difference. As Secretary Clinton said this morning, fighting for what is right is worth it.

Sometimes you lose an argument. Sometimes you lose an election. The path that this country has taken has never been a straight line. We zig and zag, and sometimes we move in ways that some people think is forward and others think is moving back. And that’s okay. I’ve lost elections before. Joe hasn’t. (Laughter.) But you know.

(The Vice President blesses himself.) (Laughter.)

So I’ve been sort of —

THE VICE PRESIDENT: Remember, you beat me badly. (Laughter.)

THE PRESIDENT: That’s the way politics works sometimes. We try really hard to persuade people that we’re right. And then people vote. And then if we lose, we learn from our mistakes, we do some reflection, we lick our wounds, we brush ourselves off, we get back in the arena. We go at it. We try even harder the next time.

The point, though, is, is that we all go forward, with a presumption of good faith in our fellow citizens — because that presumption of good faith is essential to a vibrant and functioning democracy. That’s how this country has moved forward for 240 years. It’s how we’ve pushed boundaries and promoted freedom around the world. That’s how we’ve expanded the rights of our founding to reach all of our citizens. It’s how we have come this far.

And that’s why I’m confident that this incredible journey that we’re on as Americans will go on. And I am looking forward to doing everything that I can to make sure that the next President is successful in that. I have said before, I think of this job as being a relay runner — you take the baton, you run your best race, and hopefully, by the time you hand it off you’re a little further ahead, you’ve made a little progress. And I can say that we’ve done that, and I want to make sure that hand off is well-executed, because ultimately we’re all on the same team.

All right? Thank you very much, everybody. (Applause.)

Vote Wisely

Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton smiles as Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump speaks during the presidential debate at Hofstra University in Hempstead, N.Y., Monday, Sept. 26, 2016. (Rick T. Wilking/Pool via AP)

Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton smiles as Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump speaks during the presidential debate at Hofstra University in Hempstead, N.Y., Monday, Sept. 26, 2016. (Rick T. Wilking/Pool via AP)

Hillary Clinton is the only choice for president.

It’s easy to say both sides do it and they’re all the same because often those clichés are true — that’s how they became clichés. But have we become so cynical, so intellectually lazy, so unable to tell right from wrong that we really believe that Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump are equivalent?

Hillary is not perfect — no candidate is perfect. But Trump is more corrupt and dishonest than any major party presidential candidate in our lifetime. The media likes to tell a story, and the story of a qualified candidate with mainstream ideas running against an utterly unqualified, bigoted, hateful candidate is not much of a story. So now we’re seeing a false equivalence, as if both candidates are equally flawed. That’s just wrong.

Jay Michaelson explains that while there is good reason not to trust Trump, on the Clinton side, the evidence against her is “mostly smoke and mirrors.”

Jonathan Chait writes that “Trump is the figure whose corruption stands out on a historic scale.”

Seth Meyers framed the dilemma:

Do you pick someone who’s under federal investigation for using a private email server?

Or do you pick someone who called Mexicans rapists, claimed the president was born in Kenya, proposed banning an entire religion from entering the US, mocked a disabled reporter, said John McCain wasn’t a war hero because he was captured, attacked the parents of a fallen soldier, bragged about committing sexual assault, was accused by 12 women of committing sexual assault, said some of those women weren’t attractive for him to sexually assault, said more countries should get nukes, said that he would force the military to commit war crimes, said a judge was biased because his parents were Mexicans, said women should be punished for having abortions, incited violence at his rallies, called global warming a hoax perpetrated by the Chinese, called for his opponent to be jailed, declared bankruptcy six times, bragged about not paying income taxes, stiffed his contractors and employees, lost a billion dollars in one year, scammed customers at his fake university, bought a six-foot-tall painting of himself with money from his fake foundation, has a trial for fraud coming up in November, insulted an opponent’s looks, insulted an opponent’s wife’s looks, and bragged about grabbing women by the…?

In a similar vein, Slate goes into even more detail.

David Frum makes the conservative case for Hillary, writing that

To vote for Trump as a protest against Clinton’s faults would be like amputating a leg because of a sliver in the toe; cutting one’s throat to lower one’s blood pressure.

Yitzhak Rabin’s daughter, Yuval Rabin, writes that she is convinced that Hillary Clinton has “more than proved [her] loyalty to not only to Rabin and his memory but even more so to Israel’s security and well-being,” and she asks that we watch a short video on the right.

David Horovitz, the founding editor of the Times of Israel, writes that

If Donald Trump wins next week’s elections, which he might, America will have chosen as its leader a self-centered, misogynistic rabble-rouser, whose nasty bluster should have doomed his candidacy in its infancy. It will have confused the skills required to succeed in reality television with the skills required to succeed in reality.

The Economist endorsement of Hillary mentioned that Trump “would be a terrible president” and that “his ideas on revenue and spending are an affront to statistics.”

No Jew should vote for Trump. And whether you’re Jewish or not, listen to James Franco: Vote wisely.

Trump’s Secret Server Connected to Russia

 the Trump Organization has a secret server registered to Trump Tower that has been covertly communicating with Russia,

Trump Tower Server connected to Russia.

In response to a new report from Slate showing that the Trump Organization has a secret server registered to Trump Tower that has been covertly communicating with Russia, Hillary for America Senior Policy Adviser Jake Sullivan released the following statement Monday:

This could be the most direct link yet between Donald Trump and Moscow. Computer scientists have apparently uncovered a covert server linking the Trump Organization to a Russian-based bank.

This secret hotline may be the key to unlocking the mystery of Trump’s ties to Russia. It certainly seems the Trump Organization felt it had something to hide, given that it apparently took steps to conceal the link when it was discovered by journalists.

This line of communication may help explain Trump’s bizarre adoration of Vladimir Putin and endorsement of so many pro-Kremlin positions throughout this campaign. It raises even more troubling questions in light of Russia’s masterminding of hacking efforts that are clearly intended to hurt Hillary Clinton’s campaign. We can only assume that federal authorities will now explore this direct connection between Trump and Russia as part of their existing probe into Russia’s meddling in our elections.

[Read more…]

Gen. Castellaw on Trump’s Latest Insult to US Military

Former Chief of Staff Lt. Gen. John Castellaw released this response yesterday to Trump’s comment that he could sit down and teach a couple of things to former Army War College dean and retired Army Colonel, Jeff McCausland:

— by Lieutenant General John Castellaw

Retired generals and admirals hold a press conference supporting Hillary Clinton for Commander in Chief.  (Photo: Meredith Tibbetts/Stars and Stripes)

Retired generals and admirals hold a press conference supporting Hillary Clinton for Commander in Chief. (Photo: Meredith Tibbetts/Stars and Stripes)

Donald Trump’s disrespect for our military knows no bounds. This week, as brave American troops embarked on a crucial mission supporting anti-ISIS forces in Iraq, Trump was already declaring defeat. He called our leaders stupid for not following his uninformed advice. And now he’s personally insulting a military expert and retired Army Colonel who served for 30 years for knocking his ‘plan.’

A complex operation to take a major city – with hundreds of thousands of civilians, untold traps and IEDs, and the possibility of street-to-street fighting – requires careful planning and methodical execution, not a fly-by-night bum’s rush.

But sadly, none of this is surprising coming from Donald Trump. Over the course of this campaign, he has claimed to know more about military operations than our generals do. He has mocked U.S. prisoners of war. He has insulted Gold Star families. He has joked about how he always wanted a Purple Heart. He has never apologized for any of it. He calls our military a ‘disaster’ and then turns around and asks the country to make him our Commander-in-Chief. It’s a disgrace, and we can never let him assume that sacred role.

Lt. Gen. John Castellaw, USMC (ret) led Marines around the world for 36 years while flying more than two dozen different types of aircraft. Castellaw served with the UN during the Siege of Sarajevo, commanded the American force in the multi-national security and stability operation in East Timor, and as the chief of staff for the U.S. Central Command at the height of the war in Iraq.

Trump Senior Adviser Promotes Leading Anti-Semitic Hate Site Endorsement

ajdelgadoretweetmore1— by Eric Hananoki

A. J. Delgado, a senior adviser to Republican nominee Donald Trump, retweeted a Trump endorsement from an anti-Semitic website that started an online campaign harassing Jewish people.

Members of the alt-right and white nationalist movement have been heavily supporting Trump’s campaign, and the candidate and his team have been courting members of the movement, including appearing in white nationalist media, refusing to denounce them, and retweeting their messages.

On October 11, Delgado retweeted the anti-Semitic website The Right Stuff, which wrote:

At this point anyone not insane enough to want a war with Russia should vote Trump.

ajdelgadoretweetmoreThe tweet prior to the message that Delgado retweeted was an anti-Semitic attack on Republican strategist Dan Senor. The site’s Twitter account header image is of Confederate soldiers.

As Media Matters noted, The Right Stuff is a white nationalist blog that frequently leads anti-Semitic attacks on Jewish people.

The Right Stuff started the virulently anti-Semitic “parenthesis meme” in which Jewish names are surrounded by parentheses — “(((name)))” — often in order to target them for online abuse on social media. The Anti-Defamation League has added the symbol to its online database of hate symbols, with CEO Jonathan Greenblatt stating:

The echo symbol is the online equivalent of tagging a building with anti-Semitic graffiti or taunting someone verbally.

According to The Right Stuff’s editors, they started the parenthesis meme because “all Jewish surnames echo throughout history.” They add: “The inner parenthesis represent the Jews’ subversion of the home [and] destruction of the family through mass-media degeneracy. The next [parenthesis] represents the destruction of the nation through mass immigration, and the outer [parenthesis] represents international Jewry and world Zionism.”

The site’s leader, Mike Enoch, told The Guardian that the site believes in racial separation:

Other adherents emphasize their desire for racial separatism. Mike Enoch, from the site the Right Stuff, a major hub for the dissemination of alt-right materials, says: “The core principle, in my view, is ethno-nationalism, meaning that nations should be as ethnically and racially homogeneous as possible.

Enoch wrote in a Reddit AMA on the “Alt Right” subreddit that “if there had been a more stingent [sic] restriction on Jews entering academia and the media and lobbying politically many problems would not have arisen. The country was basically given over to Jews after 1965 and they had lots of power even before that.”

He added: “I think the idea that race is the foundation of a nation is the key. And yeah, I stand by that statement. I don’t care if a country has a social healthcare policy or something like that as long as it is white.”

Natalie Portman Campaigns in Lower Merion

Natalie Portman headlines voter registration drive at Clinton campaign office in Ardmore.

Natalie Portman.

The award-winning actress Natalie Portman made several stops in the Philadelphia region as she campaigned for Hillary Clinton, on Monday, October 10th. At the Lower Merion-Narberth Democratic Committee headquarters in Ardmore, a large crowd gathered, including State Senator Daylin Leach and his daughter Brennan.

I got to ask the last question and Ms. Portman gave an insightful and extensive answer.
Earlier in the day Mike Pence, Trump’s running-mate, had held a press conference, avowing his acceptance of Jesus. He pressed his Christian faith, and accepting grace and forgiveness. He called Trump’s “apology” sincere.

I asked Ms. Portman, on the eve of Kol Nidre and Yom Kippur, what she felt about Pence’s pulling the “Jesus Card.” Ms. Portman looked pained as she rattled off all the different ethnic groups and women whom Trump has offended, insulted and threatened. She does not believe religion should be used as a club to beat anyone or any group. And she is really looking forward to having Hillary Clinton as the first woman President.

At another area event, also on October 10th, Ms. Portman’s talk was video recorded. She started by talking about being a mother. (She did not let her five year old son watch the Clinton-Trump debate Sunday night!) Then she reminded audience members that Tuesday, Oct. 11th is the last day to register to vote in Pennsylvania. She ended with questions from the audience. Video credit: Splash News and the Daily Mail.

B’nai B’rith Hurricane Relief

Remains of House in Haiti

Remains of House in Haiti. Photo: AP

B’nai B’rith International is opening its Disaster Relief Fund to provide aid to the victims of Hurricane Matthew living in the United States, Haiti and Cuba. Hurricane Matthew started as a tropical storm in the mid-Atlantic and quickly rose to hurricane status, traveling up the U.S. coast. [Read more…]