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December 2, 2014

Jonathan Tobin: Defending the Right to a Jewish State

Heather Hale: Compliment your kids without giving them big heads

Megan Shauri: 10 ways you are ruining your own happiness

Carolyn Bigda: 8 Best Dividend Stocks for 2015

Kiplinger's Personal Finance editors: 7 Things You Didn't Know About Paying Off Student Loans

Samantha Olson: The Crucial Mistake 55% Of Parents Are Making At Their Baby's Bedtime

Densie Well, Ph.D., R.D. Open your eyes to yellow vegetables

The Kosher Gourmet by Megan Gordon With its colorful cache of purples and oranges and reds, COLLARD GREEN SLAW is a marvelous mood booster --- not to mention just downright delish
April 18, 2014

Rabbi Yonason Goldson: Clarifying one of the greatest philosophical conundrums in theology

Caroline B. Glick: The disappearance of US will

Megan Wallgren: 10 things I've learned from my teenagers

Lizette Borreli: Green Tea Boosts Brain Power, May Help Treat Dementia

John Ericson: Trying hard to be 'positive' but never succeeding? Blame Your Brain

The Kosher Gourmet by Julie Rothman Almondy, flourless torta del re (Italian king's cake), has royal roots, is simple to make, . . . but devour it because it's simply delicious

April 14, 2014

Rabbi Dr Naftali Brawer: Passover frees us from the tyranny of time

Greg Crosby: Passing Over Religion

Eric Schulzke: First degree: How America really recovered from a murder epidemic

Georgia Lee: When love is not enough: Teaching your kids about the realities of adult relationships

Cameron Huddleston: Freebies for Your Lawn and Garden

Gordon Pape: How you can tell if your financial adviser is setting you up for potential ruin

Dana Dovey: Up to 500,000 people die each year from hepatitis C-related liver disease. New Treatment Has Over 90% Success Rate

Justin Caba: Eating Watermelon Can Help Control High Blood Pressure

The Kosher Gourmet by Joshua E. London and Lou Marmon Don't dare pass over these Pesach picks for Manischewitz!

April 11, 2014

Rabbi Hillel Goldberg: Silence is much more than golden

Caroline B. Glick: Forgetting freedom at Passover

Susan Swann: How to value a child for who he is, not just what he does

Cameron Huddleston: 7 Financial Tasks You Should Tackle Right Now

Sandra Block and Lisa Gerstner: How to Profit From Your Passion

Susan Scutti: A Simple Blood Test Might Soon Diagnose Cancer

Chris Weller: Have A Slow Metabolism? Let Science Speed It Up For You

The Kosher Gourmet by Diane Rossen Worthington Whitefish Terrine: A French take on gefilte fish

April 9, 2014

Jonathan Tobin: Why Did Kerry Lie About Israeli Blame?

Samuel G. Freedman: A resolution 70 years later for a father's unsettling legacy of ashes from Dachau

Jessica Ivins: A resolution 70 years later for a father's unsettling legacy of ashes from Dachau

Kim Giles: Asking for help is not weakness

Kathy Kristof and Barbara Hoch Marcus: 7 Great Growth Israeli Stocks

Matthew Mientka: How Beans, Peas, And Chickpeas Cleanse Bad Cholesterol and Lowers Risk of Heart Disease

Sabrina Bachai: 5 At-Home Treatments For Headaches

The Kosher Gourmet by Daniel Neman Have yourself a matzo ball: The secrets bubby never told you and recipes she could have never imagined

April 8, 2014

Lori Nawyn: At Your Wit's End and Back: Finding Peace

Susan B. Garland and Rachel L. Sheedy: Strategies Married Couples Can Use to Boost Benefits

David Muhlbaum: Smart Tax Deductions Non-Itemizers Can Claim

Jill Weisenberger, M.S., R.D.N., C.D.E : Before You Lose Your Mental Edge

Dana Dovey: Coffee Drinkers Rejoice! Your Cup Of Joe Can Prevent Death From Liver Disease

Chris Weller: Electric 'Thinking Cap' Puts Your Brain Power Into High Gear

The Kosher Gourmet by Marlene Parrish A gift of hazelnuts keeps giving --- for a variety of nutty recipes: Entree, side, soup, dessert

April 4, 2014

Rabbi David Gutterman: The Word for Nothing Means Everything

Charles Krauthammer: Kerry's folly, Chapter 3

Amy Peterson: A life of love: How to build lasting relationships with your children

John Ericson: Older Women: Save Your Heart, Prevent Stroke Don't Drink Diet

John Ericson: Why 50 million Americans will still have spring allergies after taking meds

Cameron Huddleston: Best and Worst Buys of April 2014

Stacy Rapacon: Great Mutual Funds for Young Investors

Sarah Boesveld: Teacher keeps promise to mail thousands of former students letters written by their past selves

The Kosher Gourmet by Sharon Thompson Anyone can make a salad, you say. But can they make a great salad? (SECRETS, TESTED TECHNIQUES + 4 RECIPES, INCLUDING DRESSINGS)

April 2, 2014

Paul Greenberg: Death and joy in the spring

Dan Barry: Should South Carolina Jews be forced to maintain this chimney built by Germans serving the Nazis?

Mayra Bitsko: Save me! An alien took over my child's personality

Frank Clayton: Get happy: 20 scientifically proven happiness activities

Susan Scutti: It's Genetic! Obesity and the 'Carb Breakdown' Gene

Lecia Bushak: Why Hand Sanitizer May Actually Harm Your Health

Stacy Rapacon: Great Funds You Can Own for $500 or Less

Cameron Huddleston: 7 Ways to Save on Home Decor

The Kosher Gourmet by Steve Petusevsky Exploring ingredients as edible-stuffed containers (TWO RECIPES + TIPS & TECHINQUES)

Jewish World Review Feb. 20, 2013 / 10 Adar 5773

Death Star petitions are just what we need

By A. Barton Hinkle




http://www.JewishWorldReview.com | A few days, ago a White House petition became the first to clear the new, 100,000-signature bar, which was raised in January, that is supposed to trigger an official administration response. It concerns Alexander Dolmatov, a Russian activist who killed himself after Dutch authorities turned down his request for asylum. Whether it will prompt a reply, though, remains an open question.

When the Obama administration launched the We the People petition initiative - which lets anyone start a petition on the White House website - it set the response threshold at 5,000 signatures. In the digital era, you can collect that many signatures for a petition to make navel lint the official textile fiber of the United States. So the White House bumped up the threshold to 25,000. Turns out that's a pretty easy bar to clear, too. Just look at the Death Star petition.

That petition asked the administration to start building a "Star Wars"-like Death Star by 2016. In short order it collected enough signatures to compel an official reply. The White House responded that it (a) "does not support destroying planets," and (b) opposes wasting money "on a Death Star with a fundamental flaw that can be exploited by a one-man starship." (Technically, the Death Star was destroyed by a Jedi apprentice who was aided by The Force, channeling Obi-Wan Kenobi, and firing proton torpedoes from an X-wing starfighter. But let's not get all "Big Bang Theory" about it.)

There have been many other tongue-in-cheek petitions as well. They have asked, e.g., that the folk-rock group the Mountain Goats be named poet laureate(s) of the U.S.; that the Twinkie industry be nationalized in order to "prevent our nation from losing her sweet creamy center"; and that funding be provided for the "genetic engineering of domestic cat girls."

True, most of the petitions are serious. Yet it's encouraging to see so many Americans using We the People to have a bit of fun. Putting out a suggestion box for the public is a nice idea in some ways. After all, not everyone can afford to keep a K Street lobbyist on retainer. But there are some other facets to the project that look a bit less nice.

For one, the Obama administration has been highly selective about the petitions it answers. It has ignored some with far more than the requisite number of signatures, while answering others with far fewer. This suggests We the People is less a noble exercise in plebiscitarian democracy than one more tool the administration can use to get its message out. (Big shock, right?) Nor is the there much chance a petition will change White House policy on any issue of genuine import.

That is because, as a megaphone for public concerns, the site is superfluous. Name an issue today that does not have a half-dozen well-staffed groups devoted to its cause. For those who don't care to join a group, social media offer another megaphone. Moreover: Political parties, campaign advisers and professional pollsters routinely log the slightest twitches in public opinion. The Obama machine itself has proved particularly adept at micro-targeting. So to the extent the administration takes public feeling into its deliberations, it already has.

Finally, the We the People site can look just a trifle condescending. After all, even today countless Americans who think something should be done about X, Y, or Z take it upon themselves to act. Running to Washington is not everybody's default solution.

Nevertheless, the farcical petitions have generated some dismay. They are Not Serious, and therefore stupid and worthless and waste the precious time of important government people. Or so say some. This seems an awfully humorless outlook - and there is nothing more dangerous than a lack of humor.

Constant wisecracking can grow old. But say what you will about wiseacres, they don't go around waging holy wars, wars of conquest or committing genocide in the name of racial purity. As a general rule, history's greatest atrocities are committed by people who take themselves and their causes extremely seriously.

Ridicule makes that harder. The level of public mockery of a government, therefore, is probably a pretty good proxy measure of where it sits on the authoritarian scale. If you live in a country where poking fun at the Maximum Leader or joking about The Prophet will get you executed, then you probably live in a country where most of the other liberties a decent society cherishes are lacking as well.

Recent example: Not long ago the editor of a newspaper in Chechnya put a question to Russian President Vladimir Putin. In doing so he made a sarcastic crack about how Chechnya had become "a region of peace and prosperity," which drew chuckles from the other journalists present. Chechen leader Ramzan Kadyrov promptly shut the paper down.

Such things used to happen all the time in the grim age of Soviet Communism, whose fall was supposed to usher in a brighter day. Instead, it often has simply installed a new generation of humorless tyrants. Little wonder if Alexander Dolmatov gave in to despair. As the great Willy Wonka once put it: "A little nonsense, now and then, is cherished by the wisest men."

Every weekday JewishWorldReview.com publishes what many in in the media and Washington consider "must-reading". Sign up for the daily JWR update. It's free. Just click here.

A. Barton Hinkle is Deputy Editor of the Editorial Pages at Richmond Times-Dispatch Comment by clicking here.


Previously:




02/13/13: ObamaCare proves law correct --- deep down you knew it would
01/29/13: It's Time to Get Judgy About Incompetency
01/23/13: Look who's mocking fascist fear-mongering now
01/16/13: Only in Washington could you get away with referring to spending and tax increases as spending 'cuts'
01/09/13: Obama begins his second term, Bush's fourth
01/07/13: Who's Attacking the Constitution Now?
01/03/13: Why, historically, January is the perfect time to debate the filibuster
12/26/12: When libs devalue diversity
12/20/12: Mark Your Calendars
12/13/12: Gun control, ad infinitum
12/11/12: Fracking can help fix the CO2 problem
12/06/12: Let's open the door to lots more immigration
12/04/12: Who's watching the kids? Just about everyone
11/29/12: The Real Middle-Class Champion was Mocked and Opposed
11/26/12: It's time to cut a deal on the budget
11/20/12: The case for a carbon tax
11/15/12: Cue the hysterics. Reports of Democracy's Death Greatly Exaggerated
11/07/12: The $4,000 Trash Can: We need regulation, but not this much
10/23/12: The Ballad of Islamist Rage Boy
10/17/12: Undermining the values that enable people in poverty to escape it? Sadly, yes
10/11/12: How Much Is This Tax Cut Gonna Cost Me, Doc?
10/04/12: Warrantless spying skyrockets under Obama
08/20/12: The wrong side absolutely must not win
08/14/12: America was not built on dirt alone
08/02/12: Libs Discover Their Inner Cheney
07/30/12: Feds want to help you --- whether you want help or not
07/23/12: Barack Obama, Storyteller-in-Chief
07/23/12: Nation's worst outsourcer? You
07/19/12: Listen up, America: You need to knuckle under
07/12/12: Obama, Romney: As Different as Two Peas in a Pod
07/05/12: Are teenagers big children --- or little adults?
06/25/12: Minorities treated as mere numbers
06/21/12: Memo to the the Little Guy: Seemingly innocuous activity could bring the federal hammer down out of a clear blue sky
06/19/12: We mustn't let America be buffaloed
05/31/12: Drop and Give Uncle Sam 20
05/15/12: The feds would like to know if you enjoyed that video
05/03/12: Obama inspires: 'America --- Still Not as Bad Off as Venezuela!'
04/26/12: It's everyone's favorite time of year again
03/29/12: GOP disillusionment is a good thing
03/27/12: Just what America needs: more red tape
03/20/12: Nation wondering: what happening to language?
02/21/12: Culture warriors resort to propaganda
02/15/12: Step away from that cookie and grab some air
02/08/12: Lessons in heresy
02/01/12: Do We Really Need Pickle-Flavored Potato Chips?
01/11/12: Shut up, they explained
12/30/11: A Modest Proposal: Let's Ban All Sports!
12/26/11: A Christmas letter from the Obamas
02/24/11: Will the next Watson need us?
12/24/10: Here Are Some Good Gifts for People You Hate
06/15/10: The Presinator
05/26/10: More than equal
04/08/10: Angry Right Takes a Page From Angry Left but guess who is ‘ugly’?
02/16/10: Either Obama owes George W. Bush an apology, or he owes the rest of us a very good explanation for his about-face on wiretapping
02/03/10: Talkin' to us 'tards
01/27/10: I never thought I'd see the day when progressives would howl in ragebecause the Supreme Court said government should not ban books
01/07/10: Gun-Control Advocates Play Fast and Loose
12/31/09: Nearly everything progressives say about neoconservative interventionism abroad applies to their own preferred policies at home





© 2011, A. Barton Hinkle

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