TanakhCast #93: The Fremdschämen und Schadenfreude Edition


iwkad22rIn this week’s episode: Isaiah 12–15.  We continue in the book of Isaiah with a consideration of empathy and reveling in the suffering of others.

And ICYMI, the Atlantic piece about concepts that need a pithy word in English can be found here and the journal article about the connection between empathy and fremdschämen can be found here.




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Ten days in.

cubs-win-18-by-24-print-ws-375x500I have cycled through the various Kübler Ross stages.

I began during the playoffs.  When my Cubs were making their history-making run for the World Series, I was also frequenting Nate Silver’s fivethirtyeight.com.

Under the aegis of ESPN, the site tells stories using data and numbers.

I would head on over to FiveThirtyEight to track the election. I would check often. Sometimes three times a day.  Sometimes four.  I had to know how well or how bad Hillary’s chances were based on polling data and the other ingredients Silver and associates added to the secret sauce.  Eyes of newt, perhaps?

And I would also look at the right column which had baseball data.  At first, sixteen teams and their chances at making it to the Big Show.  Then eight.  Then four.  And when it counted – the World Series itself – it did not look good AT ALL for the Cubbies.

And then someone flippantly observed: Trump has a better chance of being President than the Cubs have at winning the World Series.

My stomach dropped.

But that feeling of the plunge dissipated when, in fact, Rizzo, Rossy, Zobrist, Schwarber and the boys finally brought it home on November 2nd.

And I reveled in that victory!  CUBS WIN!  CUBS WIN!  I could hear Harry Caray’s enthusiastic yelp ringing in my ears.

And then Donald Trump was elected President less than a week later.

And then Donald Trump appointed a venal antisemite to be his chief White House Advisor.

And then Donald Trump nominated a man who traffics in Islamophobic conspiracies to advise his national security team.

And then Donald Trump nominated a legislator who was deemed too racist to be a judge to be his attorney general.

This is the list as of right now.  I am sure the list will get longer.

And I guess this is what happens when the other team wins in politics.

They get to nominate, make the appointments, fill the posts, make the policies, and carry the day.

But for all the folks who are saying we should give President Elect Trump a chance, to wait and see what he really does (as opposed to what he says), I still cannot get past a simple truth.  (And yes, I know truth is in short supply these days.  This one is grandfathered in from before…)

When racists, antisemites, White nationalists, and the KKK are excited about something, decent people should worry about that thing.

If you are a decent person, you should be very worried right about now.


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Looking for that catchy German word, or my thoughts on Trump’s victory

Jasmin Mujanović, one of the folks I follow on Twitter, made a bold statement about Slobodan Milosevic. Below is the first of 16 tweets.  It’s an interesting read.  Worth clicking through.

I look back to 1996 when Bibi beat Peres in an election no one thought would go the Likud’s way.  It was mere months after the Rabin assassination.  Depending on your politics, either Bibi fanned the flames of incitement against Rabin and the Oslo Accords or stood idly by and basked in its murderous heat.  Many were convinced – myself included – that there was no way that decent Israelis would ever allow Netanyahu anywhere near the chair Rabin warmed just seven months before. I remember going to sleep with Peres in the lead and waking up to a different reality.

I would not repeat the same mistake on Tuesday night, November 8.

When folks ask me for my take on the outcome, I reply: I wish there was a German word that expresses my sadness and lack of surprise.

Because after what I saw in Israel in 1996, and again and again and again over the next two decades, I realized that, in democracies, people get the leaders they want and the leaders they deserve.  And it broke my heart.

The Israeli voter wants Bibi.  The Israeli voter deserves Bibi.  And Bibi and his henchmen have delivered!

They have been instrumental in fundamentally changing the way Israeli democracy works.

They have spearheaded a full-throated assault on the Supreme Court.

They have vilified and sought to use the law to harass non-governmental organizations who advocate for civil liberties and human rights in Israel.

They have declared war on the sectors of the Israeli press that dare criticize or hold the government accountable.

They raised the electoral threshold to minimize the representation of undesirable, smaller parties in the Knesset.

The PM’s office would like us all to remember that Israel is a democracy, the only one in the Middle East! However, in practical terms, that does not say very much.  Israel is ranked 101st by Reporters Without Borders in their 2016 Press Freedom Index… right in between Gabon and Uganda!  And two slots up from Kuwait!!  Israel is ranked 32nd on the 2015 Corruption Perceptions Index by Transparency International… right in between Cyprus and Lithuania!  The United Arab Emirates, BTW, is ranked 23rd.

Most important, the Israeli voter wants the corrosive and illegal Occupation to continue – and Bibi continues to deliver it to them.

Without shame, and despite his claims of wanting peace, Bibi takes credit for dismantling the peace process with the Palestinians.

It took Netanyahu and his cronies about 10 years to chip away at the cornerstones of Israeli democracy… and ten years more (with some breaks) to thoroughly compromise the foundations.

Oh, and let us also not forget this last minute plea / naked appeal to racial animus from the 2015 election:

Which is all to say that, I believe, Trump is embarking on a similar course.

He has vilified Mexicans and Muslims.  Antisemites and racists have flocked to his rallies and his side.

He has pledged to change libel laws so that he can avenge himself on journalists who criticize him too much.

With the stroke of a pen, he intends to undo America’s commitment to fighting climate change and scuttle the Iran deal which many in the Israeli military and intelligence community support.

He wants to reinstitute torture as a tool of American intelligence gathering.

Though pledging to “drain the swamp” in Washington, his court jesters (Chris Christie who will be criminally implicated in the Bridgegate scandal, Rudy Guiliani who wants to take the racist and unconstitutional policy of stop-and-frisk nationally and Newt Gingrich who is just repugnant) will bring their own tanker truck of even dirtier swamp water.

(Oh, and let’s not forget the fifteen women who have come forward to claim that he sexually assaulted them – a criminal offense.)

But the biggest concern is that there is no branch of the American government to tell him NO.   The House and Senate are solidly GOP.  The Supreme Court will be stacked shortly GOP-ward.

I guess this is what a majority of American voters want.  (I am aware that as of now, Hillary won the popular vote but not the electoral college.  I suspect that statistic will change in the coming days.)

I have heard from Trump supporters that NOT ALL Trump voters are racists, antisemites or xenophobes – and that it’s not fair to fit them all with the same Klan hood.  Many are staunch supporters of the GOP, patriots, lovers of Israel who sincerely believe in conservative policies or that Trump is better for Israel. Perhaps they even held their noses and voted Trump.  Many just hated Hillary more.  Fair enough.  But you did vote for this guy.  You should own it.  He’s your boy.  The mess he might make is yours too.

I hope I am wrong.  But I have seen how this goes in one democracy.

I am sad but not surprised.

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TanakhCast #90: The Celebrity Cause Edition


bandaidIn this week’s episode: Isaiah 1-3.  We begin the book of Isaiah with an introduction to the Latter Prophets and a consideration of celebrity goodwill-making and its effectiveness.

ICYMI, here’s proof that, despite the evening news, the world is getting better!

And here are the clips to all the benefit songs alluded to in this week’s episode…

I would have embedded Northern Lights’ “Tears Are Not Enough”, but “embedding was disabled by request” so click here to watch Canada’s pride sing for Africa.  The same is true for Rene & Nathalie Simard / Celine Dion who sang “Les yeux de la faim” (“The Eyes of Hunger”) so click here if you are so disposed.



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TanakhCast #89: The Secret Book of Kings Book Club Spoiler Special Edition


secretbookcoverIn this week’s episode, a Book Club Spoiler Special with Dan Libenson, impresario and showrunner for The Secret Book of Kings.  We discuss Yochi Brandes’ book and consider canon, innovation and living in transitional times.

In truth, we don’t spoil all that much, but we could have if we wanted to!

You can learn more about The Secret Book of Kings (and even buy a copy) here.


AND you can subscribe to Dan’s podcast Judaism Unbound here or by clicking on the image below.1475253852134




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TanakhCast #85: The Small Move Edition


Fake, real, mine or yours?

In this week’s episode: 2 Kings 12-15.  We continue in the Second Book of Kings with a consideration of how the small move might achieve much more than the grand gesture.

And here’s the link to Radiolab’s “More Perfect” podcast about deliberate plaintiff selection.

And here’s a piece from Biblical Archeology Review about the last round of legal shenanigans surrounding the Yoash Inscription.



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