Grading Obama: The Wall Street Test

The day Obama was sworn into office the stock market dived and Fox News knew who to blame: The President. They called it The Obama Bear Market though the market had been in free fall well earlier. (See transcript after the jump.)

However, now that the President has had time to implement many of his ideas into actual policy, the banking, automobile and housing sectors are back on their feet as the economy has turned around, and the stock market soared to new heights. According to the Bespoke Investment Group, Obama has joined an elite group of Presidents who have Presidencies were marked by rallies in the Dow Jones of 50% or more during their first three years in office:

  • Franklin Delano Roosevelt
  • Bill Clinton
  • Dwight Eisenhower
  • Calvin Collidge
  • Barack Obama

Strangely enough, Fox News has stopped using the stock market as a criteria to judge presidential performance.

Extract from Fox News’ Hannity (March 5, 2009) follows the jump.

Fox News’ Hannity (March 5, 2009)

HANNITY: The Dow is literally tanking. It’s going down here. The president said he’s not watching the gyrations of the stock market.

OBENSHAIN: Oh, my gosh.

HANNITY: I’m thinking, this is like, well, it’s just like a political poll. And I’m thinking, well, a political poll? When people lose now —

OBENSHAIN: Unbelievable.

HANNITY: — we’re heading to 5,000? And people lost, you know, 60 percent of their money?

OBENSHAIN: In two and a half months, Barack Obama has added more to the deficit than George Bush did in eight years fighting two wars and dealing with Katrina. Of course, the markets are in a free-fall, because they recognize what’s happening here.

NICK DiPAOLO (comedian): Exactly.

STEVE MURPHY (Democratic strategist): That’s not what it is, but go ahead, Nick.

OBENSHAIN: That’s part of what it is.

MURPHY: That’s not what it is.

DiPAOLO: The free market is allergic to socialism. This is the reaction you should — the Wall Street — it should be.

HANNITY: Well, wait a minute.

DiPAOLO: Wouldn’t you get scared if it went up?

MURPHY: Nick, they’re all socialists on Wall Street themselves.

HANNITY: Well, but I mean, that’s the point. It is a reaction. Wait, it is a reaction.

DiPAOLO: It’s an allergic reaction to his baloney.

HANNITY: If they had so much faith and confidence in his plan — because, remember, markets don’t react emotionally. Markets react to numbers.

OBENSHAIN: Right.

HANNITY: If they had faith and hope in his plan, why wouldn’t they react more confidently?

JSPAN Visits Occupy Philadelphia: Interview with Nathan Kleinman

JSPAN Board Member Nathan Kleinman has participated in Occupy Philadelphia, the experiment in pure democracy happening on Dilworth Square alongside the Philadelphia City Hall, since its earliest days. Newsletter Editor Ken Myers visited OP and interviewed Kleinman on October 22. Ed.

Ken Myers: We are together to discuss Occupy Philadelphia which is happening right here. Is this a political event with a capital P, or is it something else?

Nate Kleinman: I would say at this stage it is the beginning of a social and possibly political movement. It is impossible to predict where it is going to go. Nobody has the power to decide where it is going to go on their own. The group makes decisions through, as much as possible, consensus. When we vote on things if we cannot come to consensus we decide with a supermajority. And so it really requires a long process of consensus building.

Myers: You mentioned that in the evening, typically at seven 0′ clock you have what you call the General Assembly. So everybody gets out and shares ideas?

More after the jump.
Kleinman: Everybody who lives here and people from elsewhere all come together. We make announcements about things that are coming up. Various working groups, of which at this point there are probably 20 or 25, report back to the full Assembly. They talk about what they are doing, what ideas they are having, what they are planning, they say when they meet and reiterate that everyone is invited. Every working group is open to all, and anyone can start one.

The General Assembly and that whole process was started on Occupied Wall Street and this is modeled after it. There are General Assemblies happening all over the country. There is one meeting today in York, Pennsylvania. There is going to be one in Stroudsburg, there is one in Norristown today, not to mention of course the bigger cities in every state across the country.

Myers: Do you see a tendency within this group to try to create a fourth political party (I say that because I give the Tea Party credit for being one)?

Kleinman: I am not sure. I think how this movement exercises its power in the political arena is still very much up in the air. But I have heard a lot of ideas, there was a lot of talk about it, and I think eventually we will come to consensus on a way forward . It seems likely to me that it will attempt to influence the political process. Some people want to run candidates for Congress next year in every single district in the country. That would certainly be something I would support because I think it’s not just Republicans that need to be asked, there are plenty of Democrats who could use a good challenge.

Myers: The Philadelphia Inquirer, in a comment today, talked about the potential for anti- Semitism in this movement. Do you see that as a serious problem?

Kleinman: No. No, I have not seen that at all. There is a huge number of Jews participating in this, and, to the extent that there may be anti-Israel or anti-Semitic comments they are from individuals. I have not seen it and it is not representative of the whole group if it does exist.

Myers: You are chairing a human rights program in a few minutes. What is your hope for this effort?

Kleinman: This is just another working group that we announced yesterday to talk about human rights, broadly defined to encompass poverty, racism, discrimination, oppression, violence, and hopefully come to some statement of principles that we in the working group can agree upon and bring to the General Assembly for their agreement. If it passes then maybe it can be sent to other General Assemblies around the country and around the world for their consideration, debate, discussion and possibly agreement. That is the only way we can come to consensus on a national and international level and be united moving forward together

Myers: A few days ago the Philadelphia Inquirer, writing up Occupy Philadelphia, seemed to summarize this movement under the flag “99 and one”. Is that a good solid summarization of the movement?

Kleinman: It is a characterization that came from some individuals in New York, and a lot of people like it because they think it dramatizes well what we are up to, that we do stand for: that we are representative of the 99% of the people who do not have 40% of the wealth

Myers: One more question. For our readers and members, if they want to follow what is happening, what is the best way for them to do that?

Kleinman: There are a lot of different places they can look. They should get on Facebook and check out our Facebook page. There is a page called Occupied Together that is bringing a lot of information from all the movements around here. But here in Philly I would say our Facebook page is the best one, with over 20,000 people following it. Look under Occupied Philly. Our media task force is doing a great job 24-7 to get the message out, and to make sure that we tell our story and the media do not have a monopoly on that.

Myers: Thanks very much for your comments.

Reprinted courtesy of JSPAN.

Nathan Kleinman is a graduate of Abington Friends School and Georgetown University’s School of Foreign Service. He is a human rights activist, a community organizer, and a veteran of several political campaigns in Pennsylvania.

Jewish Leaders Denounce Right-Wing Smear of Occupy Wall Street

We are publicly engaged American Jews who support both Israel and the ideas behind Occupy Wall Street and who also strongly oppose right-wing attempts to smear that movement with false charges of anti-Semitism.

It’s an old, discredited tactic: find a couple of unrepresentative people in a large movement and then conflate the oddity with the cause. One black swan means that all swans are black.

One particularly vile example was a television ad during Sunday talk shows paid for by something called the Emergency Committee for Israel that is organized by William Kristol and Gary Bauer.

It is disingenuous to raise the canard about Jews and Wall Street in order to denounce it.

Occupy Wall Street is a mass protest against rising inequality in America, a fact documented last week by the non-partisan Congressional Budget Office. Anyone who visits Zuccotti Park understands that it has nothing to do with religion and everything to do “with liberty and justice for all.”

All of us irrespective of party or position should expose and denounce anti-Semitism where ever it occurs, but not tar hundreds of thousands of protestors nationwide because a handful of hateful people show up with offensive signs that can’t be taken down in a public park open to all.

We are pleased that the Anti-Defamation League agrees that some random signs “are not representative of the larger views of the Occupy Wall Street movement.”

List of co-signers follows after the jump.
 
Cosigners

  • Stuart Appelbaum, President, RWDSU*
  • Jeremy Ben-Ami, founder and President, J Street
  • Richard Brodsky, former Assemblyman, New York
  • Richard Cohen, Washington Post
  • Danny Goldberg, President, Goldve Entertainment
  • Mark Green, former Public Advocate for New York City
  • Elizabeth Holtzman, former Congresswoman and District Attorney (Brooklyn)
  • Rabbi Steven Jacobs, founder, Progressive Faith Foundation
  • Rabbi Jill Jacobs, Executive Director, Rabbis for Human Rights-North America
  • Madeleine Kunin, former Governor, Vermont
  • Jo-ann Mort, CEO, ChangeCommunicaitons
  • Eliot Spitzer, former Governor, New York State
  • Andy Stern, President Emeritus, Service Employees International Union
  • Hadar Susskind, Vice President, Tides Foundation
  • Margery Tabankin, President, Margery Tabankin Assoc.
  • Randi Weingarten, President, American Federation of Teachers

*Institutions for identification purposes only.

Occupy Wall Street – Commentary Still Doesn’t “Get” Young Jews

— by Kenneth Bob

“It’s déjà vu all over again,” Yogi Berra’s overused aphorism, fits this moment perfectly.

Mid-week before Yom Kippur, Daniel Seiradski, a new media activist, asked on Facebook whether people would attend a Kol Nidre service at the site of the Occupy Wall Street. First there were a hundred people who responded in the affirmative, then two hundred and by the time the service was held a few days later, press reports estimated that there were 1000-1500 people in attendance.

In addition to the impressive numbers, the press quotes and online comments from the mostly young attendees, whether they skipped their regular synagogue observance or would not have attended services otherwise, were uniform in their appreciation of the organizers and in their sense of meaning they felt from their participation. All in all, an inspiring story of organization and communal engagement.

Mathew Ackerman, writing for Commentary, was not pleased. He admitted that

“it must be said there is, of course, justification to be found for specifically economic protests of a leftist variety in the prophets, perhaps most especially Isaiah. But it stretches truth far beyond the breaking point to claim such texts based on conditions in ancient Israel offer much guidance for the policy questions of our day, or impel a religious believer to a particular side of the political aisle.”

His tone became harsher, suggesting that “the organizers’ attempts to combine Judaism and today’s fashionable politics are simply incoherent.”

Seeing this critique of young, Jewish progressives by a Commentary writer took me back 40 years. In the February, 1971 issue of the magazine, four articles were dedicated to the Jewish role in the brewing “revolution” in America. In particular, writers took aim at Arthur Waskow‘s recently published The Freedom Seder and the entire radical Zionist movement that emerged on campuses at that time in response to the anti-Israel New Left.

More after the jump.
Norman Podhoretz, the magazine’s editor, wrote that the The Freedom Seder should be considered “a contribution to the literature of Jewish anti-Semitism” and suggested that Waskow and his ilk “belong to the tribe of the wicked son.”

Walter Laqueur, the noted historian, wrote that “the hope that young radicals of this generation will become “good Jews’ is a slender one, comparable perhaps with the hope of a psychoanalyst for the recovery of a patient with a weak ego structure or a serious intellectual deficiency.”

With the benefit of time, we now know that these “young radicals” have become Jewish Federation directors, Rabbis, not-for-profit executives, Jewish Studies professors, Jewish journalists, and active lay leaders in a wide range of Jewish life. Laqueur also challenged the sincerity of the movement’s “strong identification with Israel,” but that prediction was terribly off the mark as well when considering the number of kibbutzniks, social activists and others the movement produced for Israel.

As satisfying as it may be to settle old scores, what is truly important is that the Jewish community ignore >Commentary’s hope regarding the organizers: “Let their successes be few, and the passage of their movement from the American Jewish scene swift.” On the contrary, efforts like those on Kol Nidre should be encouraged and supported by the community.

Why? Regardless of your view of Occupy Wall Street (I am supportive) the related Jewish effort inspires creativity, develops leadership and results in community. Are these not all values that the Jewish community strives for?

I, for one, would expect that “graduates” of 2011 Wall Street Kol Nidre service and other such events will be activists in our community for years to come.

And one footnote, for historical purposes, linking this span of 40 years that I have described. Arthur Waskow, the author of the The Freedom Seder, is now a Rabbi and contributed the inspiration that became the New York Kol Nidre service this year.

Kenneth Bob is the National President of Ameinu.

Jews Among The Many: Where Should We Pray This Yom Kippur?

— Rabbi Arthur Waskow

Who ever imagined the question: “Where should we pray Yom Kippur?”

For centuries, the answer has been obvious: In our own sacred space  — a synagogue, or mini-fellowship, a havurah.

For more information about this extraordinary decision, please email Daniel Sieradski, visit the Facebook event page or call 347.560.0440.

But this weekend  — In the glowing light of “Occupy Wall Street,” more than 60 Jews in New York City have decided to take Kol Nidre, this Friday evening, into public space – God’s public holy space.

“Prayer is meaningless unless it is subversive, unless it seeks to overthrow and to ruin the pyramids of callousness, hatred, opportunism, falsehoods. The liturgical movement must become a revolutionary movement, seeking to overthrow the forces that continue to destroy the promise, the hope, the vision.” — Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel

More after the Jump.
Dan has asked us to make absolutely clear that this effort is a personal initiative of his own, not connected to any workplace or other institution.

The Shalom Center applauds this as one among several possible ways of honoring YHWH, the Interbreathing God of freedom,  in the midst of Yom Kippur.

That way may remind us that at the Burning Bush, God declared public holy space on behalf of freedom from suffering and oppression- “Take off your sandals,” spoke the Voice to Moses, “for this is Holy Ground.”

A second way:  Bring the values and visions  of “Occupy Wall Street” into highest awareness in the already established Jewish holy space of synagogue and havurah. This is not hard to do:

We have a profound teaching that on Yom Kippur morning, we read the passage from Isaiah in which he breaks into the official liturgy and calls for us to “FAST” not only by feeding the hungry and housing the homeless but by breaking off the hand-cuffs from our imprisoned millions – a very political act.

When you reach haftarah time on Yom Kippur morning, read it as an incitement to action. Intersperse the Isaiah passages with news stories straight from the daily paper or progressive magazines and Websites, of the struggling middle class and suffering poor in America.

See our translation and read past the translation itself into my comments on what Isaiah was doing – and what we should do.

Third way: Do Kol Nidrei and Yom Kippur morning in synagogue, and then come pouring out into the streets to visit your local focus-point of “Occupy Wall Street.”

When you arrive, read the Isaiah Haftarah aloud. Reclaim for the Spirit, for Judaism, for all the great religious traditions, the radical roots that say deep prayer is subversive, and that sacred public action for justice can be prayer — if it is done in compassion and nonviolence.

Beneath these ideas is a basic question: Jews, who for millennia have felt  we were “on our own” and had no allies to our basic values, have been unwilling to sacrifice our own unique spiritual-political practices and spaces and symbols amongst the larger bodies of the Spirit.

Are we still so isolated? Or can we turn the question upside down? Can we come out of our closet to make our own symbols and practices available to enrich the work of others?

Is the outpouring of “Occupy Wall Street” the teaching of our God of Ironies that it is time for all the peoples to make a “Yom Kippur” in which we face a Planetary Death and choose whether to choose life instead?  —  Jews can name where their own truthful wisdom comes from, while others bring and create their own —  they do not need the label.

Can we choose life in plural parallel? That is the basic question, and we will keep exploring it.

With blessings for this Turning-time in the history of the earth, that we choose shalom, salaam, healing, peace —  Arthur