Thursday, December 20, 2012

Another "running out" screech

From big-time self-publicist Mark Hertsgaard.  It's sort of tedious to keep pointing out how dishonest these screeches are but if we conceded everything he says below there is still no problem. Canada is already a big wheat grower and Canadian production would simply expand further North.  And right at the moment Canada is wallowing in a bumper crop of all grains.  And Canada is far from alone in having big wheat crops lately. So the screech below completely closes its eyes to the real trends at work.  See also here

A world without pasta seems inconceivable. Mac-and-cheese-loving children across the United States would howl in protest. Italy might suffer a cultural heart attack. Social unrest could explode in northern China, where noodles are the main staple.

But if humans want to keep eating pasta, we will have to take much more aggressive action against global warming. Pasta is made from wheat, and a large, growing body of scientific studies and real-world observations suggest that wheat will be hit especially hard as temperatures rise and storms and drought intensify in the years ahead.

Hurricane Sandy’s recent devastation of New York and neighboring states reminded Americans of what Hurricane Katrina demonstrated in 2005: global warming makes weather more extreme, and extreme weather can be extremely dangerous. But flooding coastlines aren’t our only worry. Climate change is also imperiling the very foundation of human existence: our ability to feed ourselves.

Three grains—wheat, corn, and rice—account for most of the food humans consume. All three are already suffering from climate change, but wheat stands to fare the worst in the years ahead, for it is the grain most vulnerable to high temperatures. That spells trouble not only for pasta but also for bread, the most basic food of all. (Pasta is made from the durum variety of wheat, while bread is generally made from more common varieties, such as red spring.)

“Wheat is a cool-season crop. High temperatures are negative for its growth and quality, no doubt about it,” says Frank Manthey, a professor at North Dakota State University who advises the North Dakota Wheat Commission. Already, a mere 1 degree Fahrenheit of global temperature rise over the past 50 years has caused a 5.5 percent decline in wheat production, according to David Lobell, a professor at Stanford University’s Center on Food Security and the Environment.

By 2050, scientists project, the world’s leading wheat belts—the U.S. and Canadian Midwest, northern China, India, Russia, and Australia—on average will experience, every other year, a hotter summer than the hottest summer now on record. Wheat production in that period could decline between 23 and 27 percent, reports the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI), unless swift action is taken to limit temperature rise and develop crop varieties that can tolerate a hotter world.


Tuesday, October 23, 2012

St. Abe

Jim Davies

When the Church of Rome has in mind to elevate one of its heroes or heroines to the status of sainthood, it follows a certain procedure – one element of which is to hear the opinion of an advocatus diaboli – a devil's advocate. His job is to reason against the proposed canonization, so reducing the probability of error.

That task fell in 2003 to Christopher Hitchens, with respect to Mother Teresa. He began his writing career as a Marxist, progressed to a humorist and general-purpose iconoclast, and was well on his way to becoming a libertarian when the Grim Reaper intervened in 2011. His take on Teresa appeared in 1995 in The Missionary Position: Mother Teresa in Theory and Practice, and in his associated remarks to Matt Cherry.

The Church of Government follows no such procedure, and pays no heed to any contrary view, when it decides to elevate to maximum honor one of its heroes. For example by building him a monument on the National Mall, by carving has face in the rocks of South Dakota, and/or by writing history that attributes to him all manner of good and none of evil, as a savior or mainstay of these United States.

I hold both these churches in low esteem, but think that in this respect the former has a far healthier procedure, even it if is mainly for show.

No saint of the latter has been more vigorously promoted by government than Abraham Lincoln, yet he was one of the bloodiest villains ever to walk the Earth. It's high time kiddies in its schools were made aware of that, and Thomas DiLorenzo has done much to ensure they will, in his splendid 2002 book “The Real Lincoln: A New Look at Abraham Lincoln, His Agenda, and an Unnecessary War.” This offers a short, if belated, review of that work.

Other authors have demolished the myth of the “Great Emancipator.” Jeffrey Rogers Hummel, for example, summed up Lincoln's war nicely in the title of his Emancipating Slaves, Enslaving Free Men. The profound hypocrisy of Lincoln's “Proclamation” that supposedly freed slaves is shown by the fact that it freed not a single slave in the territory Lincoln's government and army controlled, nor of course any of the slaves in those areas he did not control. But I did not know, before reading DiLorenzo's book, that this wicked fraud was recognized for what it was as soon as it had been published! Yet still, a century and a half later, government continues to propagate the fiction and the title it gave him.

Most other books on Lincoln are written by historians (reasonably enough), but Professor DiLorenzo is an economist, teaching that subject at Loyola. This leads to his unique contribution: he follows the money. And the power, or the pursuit of it, from 1776 onwards. Some have criticized “The Real Lincoln” on those grounds – and truth be told, I did notice a few minor flaws in the text which a professional historian would probably have avoided (the English protectionist “corn laws” were repealed in 1846, for example, not 1850.) They do nothing to detract from the importance of DiLorenzo's economic insight.

That insight centers on placing Lincoln's action in starting the war against the seceding states in the context of the struggle between two very different views of America that had been in rivalry ever since the Constitutional Convention: the Federalists led by Hamilton, and the Anti-Federalists led by Jefferson. The former wanted “consolidation”--a powerful central government in control of the states, while the latter wanted the state governments to remain supreme with the Feds in just a support role. The battle had continued for eight decades, back and forth. Adams began in the 1790s to strangle freedoms supposedly guaranteed in the Bill of Rights, Jefferson restored them. Twice a central bank was set up, twice it was ended. Now, in 1861, the question was whether or not the discontented Southern states could rightfully pull out of the Union.

Those favoring a big central government did so for the usual reason – a thirst for power – but were backed by businessmen of the kind that perceives government as an ally rather than a pestilence. The kind that always set out to emulate those in the Old Country who for centuries had made fortunes as “mercantilists,” by operating under the protection of royal monopoly grants. This class of parasite saw vast opportunity in America for what were then called “improvements,” (today, “infrastructure”)--roads, canals, and eventually railways. Their idea was not just to offer stocks to the investing public, then buy or claim land as required for the project and get to work under the eagle eyes of stockholders eager to see their money well used, but also to solicit government loans and favors.

It was easier that way. They could wine and dine influential pols and reward them with gifts of stock, in return for land grants and loans, then get to work, often in a rather careless manner. If they overspent, well, the railroad was needed for the great American public, so the loan had to be enlarged or forgiven, and so passed on to the taxpayer. A central bank was favored because that process could be made easier. The bank could make the loan with less Congressional oversight, then go begging for a bailout when it went sour. (Notes being then redeemable in gold, it could not, of course, just print up fiat “money.”) Few did without this scheme – but one of them was, in DiLorenzo's words, “railroad entrepreneur James J. Hill [who] even built a transcontinental railroad (the Great Northern) without a dime of government subsidy.” The Great Northern was the most solidly built of them all.

This racket required more and more money, and it had to come from taxes, so ever increasing taxes were levied, and they took the form of import tariffs because at that time nobody had figured out how to get around the Constitutional requirement that direct taxes (e.g. one on income) be apportioned. Therefore, Whigs and then Republicans stood for high tariffs and for “improvements.” And for a quarter century prior to 1861, Lincoln worked hard in both those parties for both those purposes. This was his true life's work.

High import taxes suited not only those eager to feed at the government trough, but also American manufacturers, most of whom were in the North and all of whom were selling against imports from more-experienced European competitors. High tariffs meant they could charge more, make better profits. Their customers in the North might grumble, but at least those profits stayed in the North. In the agricultural South, such machinery had to be bought (whether from overseas or from the US North) at artificially high prices, and none of the money stayed in the South. That was the real cause of tension between the two zones.

There was tension too over slavery, of course, but DiLorenzo scorns it as a prime cause of the war. Most Abolitionists were in the North, but he says there were “only 200,000” of them and hence, politically unimportant (though I wonder if he's quite right on that; the US population was only about 30 million, so it's a respectable minority.) More importantly, he says that racial bigotry was generally stronger in the North than in the South! -- and instances the dramatic effect in New York of “Emancipation”: “in July 1863 there were race riots in New York City as whites protested the Emancipation Proclamation (January 1863) and Lincoln's new conscription law (March 1863) by randomly assaulting (and sometimes killing) any and all black people unlucky enough to cross their path.” Northerners had been willing (and stupid) enough to fight to “preserve the Union,” but not at all to free blacks.

As the tension over tariffs rose to a snapping point, Lincoln saw danger and opportunity. If the South seceded, it would no longer collect import taxes or buy Northern machinery – planters would just import it from overseas – so his tax-and-”improve” racket would be undermined. If however he could use it to wage (and win) a war, central power in D.C. would be forever engrossed. That was the origin and cause of the war; it was fought not to emancipate, but to consolidate. In truth, Lincoln was the Great Consolidator.

DiLorenzo reasons that secession is a natural right, always accepted as such in America and never questioned, prior to 1861. America began by seceding from the then-legitimate London government, “illegally” of course – so the right to secede was integral to the new nation. It wasn't written in to the Constitution because nobody thought it needed to be. In his Foreword to The Real Lincoln, Walter Williams writes, “In Thomas Jefferson's First Inaugural Address (1801), he declared, 'If there be any among us who would wish to dissolve this Union or to change its republican form, let them stand undisturbed . . . .'” DiLorenzo musters in his Chapter 5 multiple reasons to support the thesis that secession was always understood to be such an “undisturbed” right; one of them considers the 1814-15 Hartford Convention of Northern Federalists, who considered leaving the Union because they thought the “three-fifths clause” gave too much representation to the Slave States. They wanted it scrapped, so that Negroes were not counted at all! But at no point during that Convention did anyone suggest that any state did not have the right to secede.

So, despite having ample and wealthy support, Lincoln took no chances. He did not invite even the rump Congress of Northern representatives to declare war, but rather called the secession a “rebellion” and asserted powers as Commander in Chief to quell it. Further, he provided FDR, 80 years later, with a blueprint of how to begin a war while appearing not to: he manipulated the South into firing the first shot. Fort Sumter was a Federal outpost in South Carolina territory, so after secession was declared, it “should” have been evacuated. Jefferson Davis even “appointed peace commissioners, in conformity with a resolution of the Confederate Congress, whose mission was to travel to Washington, D.C., in March 1861, before the attack on Fort Sumter, and offer to pay for any Federal property.” Lincoln refused to see them (!) and instead, sent ships to replenish its provisions – which were, as expected, fired upon. Thus the War began. Unprecedented power was about to pass to the central government, exactly as Lincoln intended.

The Real Lincoln continues by presenting a short account of the War's conduct, and it's well done and quite horrible; I don't often feel nauseous after reading, but this was one of those times. (Others were The Black Book of Communism and Death by Government, and as a most interesting aside, I noticed while preparing this article that Prof. DiLorenzo has spotted an omission in the latter; author R.J. Rummel did not list 300,000 Americans in his awesome catalog of worldwide democides. Those were the civilians killed during the War to Prevent Secession.) Lincoln micro-managed his generals, so bears full responsibility for the butchery their armies carried out. One American in 60 was killed, but Lincoln's aim was fulfilled. We are living with that result to this day.

DiLorenzo's chronicle doesn't end in 1865, but gives a good account of “Reconstruction,” also managed by Republicans in full accord, he reasons, with Lincoln's aims and policies. It, too, makes sickening reading. He writes: “The primary effect, if not the intent, of the 'Reconstruction' policies of 1865–1877 was to centralize and consolidate state power in Washington, D.C., and to establish Republican Party political hegemony that would last for some seventy years. Even when the Republican Party did not control the White House during those years, its mercantilist policies generally prevailed until the Franklin Roosevelt administration of the 1930s, at which time government became even more interventionist.”

One disappointment in The Real Lincoln, for me, was that it didn't comment on what would have happened if Lincoln had failed to start the 1861 war, or if the “First Bull Run” battle in July 1861, won by Confederates, had been immediately followed by the capture of the capital; Stonewall Jackson begged Jefferson Davis' leave, saying “Give me ten thousand men and I will take Washington tomorrow!” Davis refused, and ever afterwards regretted it. Presumably, Lincoln's bid to centralize power would have failed there and then. The Confederacy would have continued, tariffs would have been slashed, and “improvements” would all have been built by free enterprise, like J.J. Hill's. The FedGov would have remained as a minor role-player in American life.

Would that have been good enough? Not in a million years. State and local governments are just as arrogant and intrusive as the Federal one. The problem is not the size or the scope, but the very existence and nature of government, denying as it always does the absolute right of every human being to own and operate his or her own life.

That said, without doubt a large and inescapable government is far worse than a small one from which one can readily escape by moving to another's jurisdiction. Lincoln brought about that large government, and right now, with its worldwide tax laws and treaties and its burgeoning no-fly lists, it is busy preventing such escape.

Call Thomas DiLorenzo an advocatus diaboli if you will, but I reckon he did a good day's work. In my portrayal of the day government evaporates, I visualized that the celebrants on the National Mall will decorate the Lincoln Memorial with appropriate graffiti; having now read The Real Lincoln, I think that in the succeeding weeks they will also hammer it to bits, no doubt selling fragments, like the cubic inch of concrete on my bookshelf from the former Berlin Wall, as mementos of a truly evil man who could be regarded as a “saint” only by those with an utterly twisted sense of morality.

Monday, September 24, 2012

Australian Federal MPs say no to gay marriage

GAY marriage advocates have urged supporters to "maintain their rage" after federal Parliament delivered a crushing defeat of proposed changes to the law.

Prime Minister Julia Gillard, Opposition Leader Tony Abbott and former party leaders Kevin Rudd and Malcolm Turnbull all voted against same-sex marriage as it was beaten in the House of Representatives by 98 votes to 42.

It came as Mr Abbott sacked Senator Cory Bernardi as his parliamentary secretary after he commented that the push for gay marriage could lead to legalising bestiality and polygamy.

Senator Bernardi told the Senate the "next step" after gay marriage could be "creepy people" who want "consensual sexual relations between humans and animals".

He said: "In the future will we say, 'These two creatures love each other and maybe they should be able to be joined in a union?'."

Mr Turnbull, who supports gay marriage but voted against it because Coalition frontbenchers did not have a free vote on the issue, blasted Senator Bernardi's comments as hysterical, alarmist and offensive.

Mr Abbott said Senator Bernardi had been "ill-disciplined" but was a "decent bloke with strong opinions".

He said after a fairly forthright discussion Senator Bernardi offered his resignation and he accepted it because it was crucial the Opposition be a "strong and disciplined Coalition".

Labor MP Stephen Jones, who sponsored the Bill to change the Marriage Act, urged supporters to "maintain your rage" and predicted he would be attending gay weddings within 10 years.


Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Greenies against the Jews

Followers of Hitler in that respect too

“The desert is groaning”, declares Cornerstone magazine, the Palestinian Sabeel Theology Center’s publication. “The Israeli army and settlers have polluted the Palestinian areas,” writes Reverend Naim Ateek, who heads the notorious anti-Jewish Christian center.

Despite the fact that Israel is the only country to enter the 21st century with a net gain in forest growth, Green activists today are among the most virulently anti-Jewish. The Green Party mayor of Aachen, Hilde Scheidt, has just waged a media campaign against Israel. Prominent German author Henryk Broder called her a “Green anti-Semite,” after she defended a cartoon depicting a man sporting a Star of David on his bib as he devours a young Palestinian boy with a fork draped in an American flag and a knife with the word “Gaza” written on it.

Back in 1991, German Green Party’s spokesman Hans Christian Stroebele defended Saddam Hussein’s rockets on Tel Aviv because “Iraq’s attacks are the logical, almost compelling, consequence of Israel’s politics vis-à-vis the Palestinians and the Arab states,”

The Green lies about “the ecology of occupation” are now spreading at the highest European levels. The French parliament’s Foreign Affairs Committee recently published an unprecedented report accusing Israel of implementing “apartheid” in its allocation of water in Judea and Samaria.

Meanwhile, environmentalists accuse Israel’s army of being a major cause of cancer in Palestinian children. This blood libel began in 1999, when Suha Arafat declared that Israeli gas is poisoning Arab children: “Our people have been subjected to the daily and extensive use of poisonous gas by the Israeli forces, which has led to an increase in cancer cases among women and children.” She also said that Israel has “chemically contaminated about 80% of water sources used by Palestinians.”

Nazi-style rhetoric

The pollution myth spread through the literary milieu as well. British dramatist David Hare wrote that the Jews have “polluted” the Promised Land and “do not belong here.” According to this racist belief, “native species” originate in a certain place and that is where they “belong.” Hence, Israel’s "colonization" threatens the “original” Arab environment.

Green NGOs accuse Israel of “warfare ecology,” “deforestation,” “erosion of agricultural lands,” and “expropriation” of Arab land for Israel’s national park. European geographers denounce settler “cementification” and the “architecture of occupation" in a growing topography of hatred.

Elsewhere, Architects and Planners for Justice in Palestine,” led by the British Richard Rogers, has called for a boycott of architects, planners and companies involved in building the security fence, which stopped the suicide bombers. Eyal Weizman, an Israeli architect living in London, calls it a “war crime.”

Elements within the Green movement have adopted Nazi-style rhetoric to blast Israeli businesses. Literature distributed by the boycotters outrageously describes Judea and Samaria citizens as “parasites.” Products from the Golan Heights, such as wines, mineral water and milk are targeted. Flowers are targeted by the BDS movement, because since Israel entered the flower export market in the 1970s this business has been blooming.

The Ahava cosmetics company is also targeted by Green activists. In the last three years, thousands of Western women in bikinis, belonging to the feminist association Code Pink, protested outside Ahava shops in the US and in European capitals. They are usually streaked with mud, some featuring the words “Ahava is a dirty business.” The slogan of the campaign is fashionable and catchy: “Stolen Beauty.”

Dutch government promoted an investigation to determine whether Ahava should enjoy tax privileges granted to foreign goods. Elsewhere, Sex and the City actress Kristin Davis was suspended by humanitarian group Oxfam International after joining an Ahava advertisement campaign.

In the final analysis, environmentalists have launched a primitive diatribe against Israel that smacks of classic, medieval-style anti-Semitic blood libels. It demonizes the Jews for “dispossessing” and “polluting” a fabricated, “archetypical Palestine.” Yet this campaign has proven, again, that anti-Semitism is the most dangerous pollutant.


Monday, January 09, 2012

ADL: Fighting Yesterday's Battles

Charles Jacobs

The ADL is now caught flatfooted by its own paralysis

Republicans are all over national TV, arguing passionately over which (and whose) approaches - given the sorry state of American society - might best set things right. They know Democrats will use the best barbs they throw at each other against the eventual GOP nominee; even so, the most thoughtful among them value sharp debate about our serious problems - to test and clarify ideas. So if Republicans can do this, why not the Jews?

World Jewry is under significant strain. Iran presents an existential threat to Israel; the age-old virus of anti-Semitism has morphed into anti-Zionism - more difficult to fight; Muslim clergymen on every continent rage against the Jews; much of the far left loves "Palestine." The media and academe daily assault the Jewish state. Indeed, the story of our epoch is that the Jews live in a new time defined by a new threat: a Left/Muslim alliance - that attacks both Israel and Jews. This alliance menaces Europe's Jews and has spread to parts of the American elite, especially on our campuses.

Do Jews have the right leadership and organizations to deal with this threat? Why is public discourse on such vital issues absent? Who would try to block such a critical conversation? The ADL, for one.

It was sad to read the Anti-Defamation League's letter to The Advocate ("ADL fires back," Dec. 16 - see below), not solely for its personal attack, but also because it reflects how a once respectable and important Jewish organization has now reached new lows. The problem for the ADL, and this is not restricted only to this group, is that it has been unable - decades - to adjust to the new reality, and is now caught flatfooted by its own paralysis.

For decades, as Israel was defamed in the media, I watched ADL choose not to be the Anti-Defamation League for the Jewish state. (That's precisely why CAMERA was born.) For years, as Islamic Jew-hatred and leftwing anti-Zionism overtook rightwing anti-Semitism as the bigger threat to Jewish life, we've seen the ADL flinch. Students from around the country told me that ADL did not answer their calls as they were harassed and intimidated by anti-Israel faculty, students and administrations. (That's precisely why the David Project - and Stand with Us - were established.) But sure enough, when ADL found a swastika on some bathroom stall in Iowa, my mother-in-law got a fundraising letter.

Shifting the focus away from skinheads, neo-Nazis, and Christian bigots and onto radical leftists and Muslim Jew-hatred would be extraordinarily difficult. It would require a massive and unpopular effort: leading the Jews to think difficult thoughts about their new situation, thoughts that put them at odds with their comforting universalist theology of Political Correctness. And it would be costly: ADL would forfeit loads of leftwing money - and its liberal bona fides. The organization would hardly ever get a letter published in The New York Times. It would be viciously attacked by Islamist leadership. CAIR would be relentless. Abe Foxman, ADL's head, acknowledges that Islamic Jew hatred is the biggest threat we face (he's still shy about the radical left) - yet ADL spends much, much more time, effort, resources and focus on the older, less dangerous threats while practically ignoring the new, more ominous ones.

Stuck between a rock and hard place, the response of Ken Jacobson, ADL's national director, to our criticism (with an arrogance that only a $50 million budget might explain) could do nothing but call me names (the Defamation League?!) and skirt the issues.

Jacobson calls our study of ADL press releases - showing they are all but silent on Muslim anti-Semitism - "amateurish." But in the absence of information about ADL's internal budget - what proportion of funds is spent on Christian, Nazi, leftist, skinhead vs. Leftist/Islamic anti-Semitism - the data on ADL's press releases was the best statistical stand-in we could find. We strongly recommend that ADL's donors review its budget for a true understanding of the organization's priorities.

Jacobson suggested better indicators of ADL's deep concern about Islamic anti-Semitism. He cited its Center on Extremism. But see for yourselves that the center seems stuck in another world, almost totally devoted to Nazis and skinheads - with not one Islamic group named. In his letter last week to The Advocate, Professor Barry Rubin of the Interdisciplinary Center (IDC) in Herzliya, Israel, wrote that a visit to ADL's Web site might leave you thinking that left-wing anti-Semitism, "the most significant form of Western-origin anti-Semitism," just doesn't exist.

Jacobson says ADL issues more reports today on Arab anti-Semitism. Yes, ADL loves to monitor and issue reports. In the age of video, who is reading these reports? For the most part, Jews and the public don't have a clue about the nature and extent of Islamic hatred. Finally, he says ADL trains law enforcement officials. Can he mean about the theory and practice of Islamic Jew-hatred in the West?

Jacobson mocks our concerns about ADL's backing a sale of a Michigan school building to the radical Islamic Cultural Association (ICA). He says we're "playing six degrees of Islamic separation." Actually, it's one degree: the ICA was originally funded by the North American Islamic Trust, identified by federal officials as a Muslim Brotherhood front.

Most tellingly perhaps, ADL's letter is silent on the shocking matter of its continued presence on a Detroit interfaith committee that includes CAIR, a Hamas front. ADL's excuse is that the NAACP and law enforcement groups also sit on the committee. But aren't Jews funding ADL to do the hard work of exposing our enemies? Shouldn't the ADL chapter quit the committee and then educate black leaders as well as law enforcement officials about the menace of Islamic anti-Semitism? Isn't that what the ADL is supposed to be doing?

The transformation of ADL into to a politically correct, liberal organization creates a leadership vacuum for the Jewish community. This, combined with the lack of public debate on the Islamist-Leftist threat, increases our vulnerability.

An orgy of hatred

Atheists in America hate Christians. Atheists in Israel hate the ultra-Orthodox

In recent days I’ve been quarreling with all my friends. They are good people, these friends – liberal, tolerant, moderate and sensitive to any injustice. These are people that in our complex reality were never confused between good and bad. This is why I love them, among other things. I’d like to think that we are cut from the same cloth. That’s why I’m so amazed to see how uncaring and hateful they become when a group of people known as the haredim comes up for discussion.

My liberal friends propose various steps against the haredim and religious: A cadet who cannot bear female singing will not be an officer in the IDF, said one friend. As simple as that (“as simple as that” or “at once” are words that always accompany discussions about the haredim.) A segregated bus shall be stopped! The driver and bus operators should be sent to jail. A yeshiva that will not teach the core curriculum shall be closed at once! We shall not allow primitive ignoramuses to be raised here, and at our expense no less. A neighborhood that features separate sidewalks for women shall immediately lose its municipal services! They can go ahead and choke in their own garbage.

There are more proposals that are even more terrifying. Disconnect haredi neighborhoods from electricity, water and whatnot. The same people who would quiver, and rightfully so, if such proposals were made about Gaza, forget that behind the dark clothes, odd views and challenging (and annoying) behavior lie human beings. They are different than us, but they are human beings.

I’ve been following haredi society for many years yet I don’t remember such anger. And that’s odd, because the secular fury comes at a time when secularism is winning while the haredim are on the defense. Once upon a time the haredim sought to educate us. They made pretenses of telling us where and what to eat, what to do on Shabbat, where and how to be buried, and how to get married. Some time has passed, and the seculars won most battles.

Today it’s the seculars who wish to educate the haredim. The seculars are upset by the segregated bus routes. This doesn’t upset haredi women, but it does upset the secular Tania Rosenblit. The seculars are upset that math is not being taught at yeshivas. They know better than haredi parents what’s good for their sons. The seculars are upset by the relationship between men and women in haredi society. Why can’t the haredim be like us?

Wild incitement

I look at the holy secular anger and fail to understand it. It lacks the modesty of one who looks at another society from the outside. It has no hesitation – maybe we are wrong after all? Perhaps we failed in understanding the other?

I, for example, very much want the haredim to study the core curriculum, I will try to convince them this is needed, but I won’t enforce it upon them. Why? Because somewhere in my head I’m not certain that the core curriculum is truly important for the life meant for a haredi child. Perhaps for him math and English are less necessary than another Talmud class? In all such matters I will hesitate, because in my view when a civilized liberal looks at someone who is different, this should be done with the required modesty.

However, the seculars are furious and are unwilling to show any modesty in the way they look at the haredim. Had I been a religious Jew, I would be concerned. I would take this fury seriously and understand how I contributed to it. I would try to calm the atmosphere through some concessions.

And here I get to the heart of the matter: We need a new social covenant. The old status-quo may have secured political calm, yet caused a flare-up in secular-haredi relations. Both sides must be brave and go for a new covenant premised on a simple principle: Life in the country will be secular in every way. The haredim will let go of their need to care for our secular souls. This means buses on Shabbat, civil marriage and everything associated with a modern state.

On the other hand, the secular majority would allow the haredim to have full cultural autonomy within their neighborhoods. This means letting go of the need to education them and allowing them to live their life as they see fit. And yes, this means segregated buses in haredi population centers and tolerance to haredi education.

That’s the principle. Implementing it isn’t simple because there would be red lines, of course. If the haredim want to educate their children by beating them up, we won’t agree to. However, within the boundaries of logic, we must make every effort to accept the differences of the other.

In my arguments with my liberal friends, one of them sometimes places a hand on my shoulder and asks in a concerned voice: “Amnon, what happened to you? After all, you are secular, a devout atheist; what’s happening to you?” So here is the answer: It appears to me that being a liberal, progressive and humanist today means resisting this blatant incitement against the haredim; standing up against the bon-ton and saying: I’m not taking part in this orgy of hatred.

Are Jews better off in Israel?

By Spengler

Israel's immigration ministry stopped running television ads exhorting Israelis living in America to come home after American Jewish organizations complained, the New York Times reported December 2:

"One video advertisement shows a Jewish elderly couple distraught that their Israeli granddaughter in the United States thinks Hanukkah is Christmas. Another shows a clueless American boyfriend who does not get why his Israeli expatriate girlfriend is saddened on Israel's memorial day. A third shows a toddler calling "Daddy! Daddy!" to his napping Israeli expatriate father, who finally awakens when the child switches to Hebrew: "Abba!"

"While we recognize the motivations behind the ad campaign," the Jewish Federations remonstrated in a December 1 statement, "we are strongly opposed to the messaging that American Jews do not understand Israel. We share the concerns many of you have expressed that this outrageous and insulting message could harm the Israel-Diaspora relationship." The Jewish organizations complained after a liberal blogger, Jeffrey Goldberg of the Atlantic Monthly, denounced the ads.

The message that Jewish life in America is deficient is "outrageous" and "insulting", to be sure, but it has a single redeeming quality, namely truth. The vehemence of the official Jewish response to the Israeli advertisements betrays a guilty conscience: Jewish life in America is dying, as the same Jewish organizations warn in ever-gloomier studies of Jewish demographics. It seems inconsistent of the Jewish organizations to bewail the inexorable decline of American Jewish life on one hand, and condemn the Israelis for pointing to their manifest achievements in sustaining Jewish life.

The tragedy is that Jews have stopped being Jews because America has stopped being America. The Pilgrim Fathers founded the Massachusetts Bay Colony in conscious emulation of the people of Israel, undertaking a new Mission in the Wilderness to found a new Chosen People in a New Promised Land. From this emerged what Abraham Lincoln called an "almost-chosen people", a secular and democratic nation defined by the biblical concept of covenant.

Mainstream American culture holds in contempt the idea of a divine grantor of rights who has established individual freedom beyond the prerogative of any government to impinge. For the minority who understand the American founding as a continuation of the covenant of Mount Sinai, the survival of the Jewish people is proof that God's promises never attenuate; for mainstream culture, the Jews are a curious remnant of antique superstition. That is how most American Jews see the matter, and that is why most of them do not much trouble to be Jewish.

In principle, Jewish life should flourish in the United States. As Eric Nelson of Harvard demonstrated in his 2010 book The Hebrew Republic, the political theory by which America was founded drew on post-biblical rabbinic sources. Nowhere (except in the State of Israel) should Jews feel more at home than in America, whose founding drew on their classical sources.

Sadly, American Jews stand out as a horrible example of demographic failure. In the United States, secular and loosely affiliated American Jews, that is, the vast majority, have the lowest fertility rate of any identifiable segment of the American population.

As I wrote in my book How Civilizations Die (and Why Islam is Dying, Too):

"Nowhere is the fertility gap between religious and non-religious more extreme than among American Jews. As a group, American Jews show the lowest fertility of any ethnic group in the country. That is a matter of great anguish for Jewish community leaders. According to sociologist Steven Cohen, "We are now in the midst of a non-Orthodox Jewish population meltdown. ... Among Jews in their 50s, for every 100 Orthodox adults, we have 192 Orthodox children. And for the non-Orthodox, for every 100 adults, we have merely 55 such children."

Half of the non-Orthodox children, moreover, marry non-Jews, and very few children of mixed marriages will remain Jewish. As Reform Rabbi Lance J Sussman wrote in 2010, "With the exception of a number of Orthodox communities and a few other bright spots in or just off the mainstream of Jewish religious life, American Judaism is in precipitous decline ... the Reform movement has probably contracted by a full third in the last ten years!"

In Israel, by contrast, the Jewish fertility rate stands at around 3 children per female, by far the highest in the industrial world. Aside from the ultra-Orthodox minority, which has seven or eight children, the non-Orthodox Jewish fertility rate is around 2.6 children per female.

Jewish Fertility by Religious Current

Average Number of Children per Woman

Ultra-Orthodox 6.72
Modern Orthodox 3.39
Conservative 1.74
Reform 1.36
Secular 1.29

Source: Anthony Gordon and Richard Horowitz, National Jewish Population Survey (2000)

Israel's Jews identify with Jewish nationality more than American Jews, but they also observe the Jewish religion more than their American cousins. Daniel J Elazar of the Jerusalem Institute for Public Affairs observes:

"Israel's Jews are not divided into two groups but into four: ultra-orthodox, religious Zionists, traditional Jews, and secular. Some 8 percent are ultra-Orthodox. These are the strangely (to Western eyes) garbed, black hatted Jews who are featured in all the pictures, despite the fact that they represent only 8 percent of Israel's Jewish population. Another 17 percent are religious Zionists... similar to the modern or centrist Orthodox Jews in the diaspora, partaking of most or all aspects of modern civilization, except that they maintain Orthodox observance of Jewish religious law and tradition. The third group consists of the vast majority of Israeli Jews, some 55 percent, who define themselves as "traditional." ... They cover the whole range of belief and observance from people of fundamentalist belief and looser practice to people who have interpreted Judaism in the most modern manner but retain some of its customs and ceremonies."

Most Israeli Jews are not secular, but are partially observant. In a Jewish state where everyone speaks Hebrew, public school students have 12 years of Bible study, and Jewish holidays also are official holidays, it is easy to maintain a loose affiliation to Jewish observance. In the United States, nothing but the comprehensive commitment of Orthodox life sustains the Jewish community over the long term.

If present trends continue, Orthodox Jews will form the majority of a much-diminished American Jewish presence within a generation or two. And it is the Orthodox who identify most with the State of Israel; their children often spend a year at an Israeli yeshiva before college, and many serve in the Israeli army. None of the Orthodox organizations seem to have objected to the expat-come-home videos, and for good reason: living in the land of Israel is one of the most important commandments, and the Orthodox respect those who observe it.

On reflection, American Jews should reconsider their umbrage at Israel's Immigration Ministry. Their own organizations are painfully aware that loosely affiliated Jews of all shadings are falling away from the Jewish community, failing to bring enough children in the world to replace their existing numbers, and failing to raise them as Jews.

The controversial videos, in short, did nothing to insult American Jews. But the fact is that the Israelis run circles around their American co-religionists. One sees this in their accomplishments in a number of fields, for example, classical music, about which I know a bit.

Last year, I spent some time in Israel for The Tablet, a Jewish webzine where I write music criticism, to investigate the improbable success of Israelis in the classical music world. At New York's Mannes Conservatory, where I taught music theory a generation ago, there always seem to be one or two Israelis among the top 10 pianists - but rarely an American. The others are mostly Asian or Eastern European. Considering that China alone has more than 30 million piano students, five times' Israel's Jewish population, the Israelis punch 10 times above their weight.

Two generations ago, half of American music students, perhaps, were Jewish. Americans today, Jews included, lack the drive and discipline to practice eight hours a day. Not so the Israelis. The head of the piano department at the Tel Aviv Conservatory, Tomer Lev, explained why:

"This country, its existence, its continuity cannot be measured by realistic and rational gauges. Everything that happens here has a component of a miracle. The way people think here is not completely rational. It's a very interesting blend of rational modern thinking and quasi-religious mystical thinking. People here take the risk of trying a musical career even if they know on a rational basis that there's little money and security. Taking risks in Israel is part of life. You are taking a risk simply to live here.

Life in Israel is perhaps too intense. Art creates an outlet to this intensity. For sensitive people, the artistic outlet is a necessity; you need it or you go crazy. And we are a society of individualists, perhaps the most individualistic in the world, perhaps to an extreme. In such an atmosphere, the individual spirit has a great deal of freedom to be unique, to be special, not to be suppressed."

After interviewing a cross-section of Israel's top musicians, I concluded, "The sense of a future in Western classical music evokes the basic emotions with which human beings regard the future, namely hope and fear. When Israeli musicians speak of performing with a sense of risk, they mean the capacity to sustain hope in the presence of fear. It takes a certain kind of personality to do this on the concert stage, with all the attendant artistic and technical demands. Israel, whose existential premise is the triumph of hope over fear, incubates a disproportionately large number of musicians with this sort of personality."

Of course, music is only a small corner of Israeli life. As I wrote earlier in this space, Israel today occupies the position of the Dutch Republic during the Thirty Years War. It is the most entrepreneurial economy in the world. The 2009 bestseller Start-Up Nation by Dan Senor and Saul Singer asked, "How is it that Israel - a country of 7.1 million, only 60 years old, surrounded by enemies, in a constant state of war since its founding, with no natural resources - produces more start-up companies than large, peaceful, and stable nations like Japan, China, India, Korea, Canada and the UK?"

Israelis grow up with sense of urgency for excellence; in their neighborhood, First Prize is the chance to compete for First Prize once again, and Second Prize is, you're dead. American Jews live under no threat whatever; having made good in America, they have all the room in the world for indolence and self-deception.

Whatever the Jews are, they are not stupid, and American Jews knew perfectly well in 2008 that the Republican candidate, Senator John McCain, was a more reliable supporter of Israel's security than Barack Obama. Yet 78% of American Jews voted for Obama, in part because the liberal social agenda mattered more to them, and in part because they continued to believe in the Rabin-Arafat handshake long after the Israelis had written it off. (Audience: If you believe in the Peace Process, clap your hands!)

Liberalism is a self-liquidating proposition, and there are no liberals like Jewish liberals, who are a soon-to-be-endangered species. The sad thing is not that the liberal leadership of American Jewish organizations is complaining about Israel, but that they won't be around much longer to complain about anything.