All posts by Masonides

I'm a libertarian-leaning Orthodox Jew.

Donald Defeats Data

Hi.  We’re back… for a second.

We here at TJP declined to cover the 2016 Presidential (or any other) election for a variety of reasons, most of which are… boring.  But we did want to share a few musings in the wake of what is certainly the most revolutionary election in recent U.S. history.

To preface: we’re not big fans of Donald Trump.  Throughout his campaign, we were waiting for the punchline… and all we saw was a man consistently signalling that he is unfit for the decision-making required by the job and unready to embrace and defend the Constitution and its values.

Regardless, Trump’s victory

Old-fashioned intuition and ambition just crushed the data-driven world

For quite some time, we’ve been told to rely on the experts: the statisticians, the educated class, the entrenched experts with no stake in the outcome, in so many aspects of life.  The folks who painstakingly review methodology and data to arrive unbiased results.

Nearly all of those highly-educated elites have just had their professional lives rendered meaningless by a boor.  The pollsters, the campaign advisers, the data crunchers, the pundits,  the gurus… we’re not exaggerating when we say that thousands of professionals have lost their essential credibility. Their jobs were to analyze and advise, and yet the gulf between their thoughts and what actually happened could not, in reasonable terms, have been wider.

A different kind of man was right, though.  Trump.  The guy who eschewed traditional campaign structure, who took no advice from the political class, no money from the elites.  The guy whose proposals and style were, at every turn, despised and derided by the established experts.  That same guy took home more of the Hispanic vote than Mitt Romney, despite an xenophobic, afactual stance on immigration. Without defining his exact appeal — that’s above our pay grade — his campaign was at all times rooted in his intuition and boldness, and never in the data.  And he will soon be the President of the United States of America.

We can try to explain why this happened, but this is certain: we should not accept as credible any explanation that doesn’t fundamentally rethink the basis of the “expertise” that an entire industry accepted before this election.

Trump’s win signals potential for a new era of citizen government

Regardless of whether you like Trump, his victory demonstrates the possibility of meaningful citizen-led government.  Yes, he’s a filthy rich Manhattanite, but his ideas and campaign were at all times his own.  His persona and positions never melted into something acceptable to the entrenched political class like so many candidates with potential before him.

We hope that his victory encourages more candidates from outside the current political culture to mount campaigns that are theirs, not a party’s, not the established donors’, and not Washington’s.

Trump’s 100-day plan isn’t all bad

Really.  Take a look.  We bet there’s stuff in there that you like.  Plus, remember that he’s a deal-maker.  And that the Federal government is run like a Venn Diagram.  And that he has almost zero coalition behind most of his wackier ideas.

Considering his shockingly good acceptance speech, Trump could actually get a few things done.

Trump’s victory poses real dangers of populism in the U.S. right

One pundit put it well: Trump’s appeal seems similar to that of Hugo Chavez: a strongman who blames outsiders for the ills of a disenfranchised, angry portion of the citizenry.

Hillel Neuer Drops Some Knowledge

We like his strategy: quote one’s adversaries — or the adversaries’ bosses.

There’s plenty to discuss in this video.  What we think is most notable — besides Mr. Neuer’s overpowering command of the facts — is the fake reasonableness of Bill Van Esvald, the representative of Human Rights Watch.  His feigned evenhandedness is endemic to the approach that many NGO’s take toward the Israeli/Palestinian conflict.

Some context: Every single rocket that Hamas fires is aimed at civilians.  Every single rocket that Hamas fires is therefore a war crime and a violation of human rights, regardless of whether Israel has the ability to knock it down.  It’s that simple.

That Hamas is committing war crimes and human rights violations as its very aim in this and every conflict doesn’t require investigators “on the ground” or a “neutral inquiry.”  Yet the obviousness of Hamas’s crimes leads Mr. Van Esvald to minimize their significance when it should have the opposite effect.  Note how little time he spends discussing them or debating anything of substance with Ms. Buttu.  That makes no sense.


Europe: You’re a Coward. At Best.

Masonides here.

We here at TJP generally like to keep things all high-brow, see.  We tend to believe that the best way to lose an argument is to overstate it, and that the second-best way to lose an argument is to appear… uncouth.  But what’s going on in Europe right now is difficult to digest without belching up a few ad hominems.

Pictured: A coward. At best.

You see, Europeans are very, very upset about what’s going on in Gaza.  And this is natural.  Europeans have a deep concern for the universal application of basic human rights.  This is something we don’t always fathom here in America.  We’re too individualistic; we identify too much with strength.  And strength can be, you know… mean.

That deep concern for the universal application of basic human rights is, of course,  the source of widespread European opposition to Israeli policies regarding Gaza.

Just look at the peaceful, humanitarian nature of European actions of late:

Concern for the universal application of basic human rights is why synagogues and kosher stores in France are being attacked and burned down.

Concern for the universal application of basic human rights is why Germans are shouting ““Jew, Jew, cowardly pig, come on out and fight on your own” (“Jude, Jude, feiges Schwein, komm heraus und kämpf allein“).

Concern for the universal application of basic human rights is why (British, not Israeli) Jews in Stamford Hill are receiving death threats. Why a woman in a niqab in northern London stoned a Jewish boy riding a bicycle, hitting him in the head. Why “HitlerWasRight” is a trending hashtag on Twitter. Why the alleged human rights violations occurring in Israel and Gaza matter more to Europeans than those occurring in other places that are orders of magnitude greater in scale and tragedy.


Dear Europe:

It’s not “occupation” when Israel unilaterally withdrew from Gaza almost a decade ago, forcibly uprooting many Jewish families in the process.

It’s not “a concentration camp” when there’s a rather robust shopping mall in the middle of Gaza City and when Hamas pours 600,000 tons of concrete to build weapons tunnels instead of schools.

It’s not “apartheid” when Israeli Arabs enjoy more freedom and opportunity in Israel than in any Arab nation.

It’s not “genocide” when Israel sets up field hospitals to provide life-saving care for injured Palestinians and when the Israeli Defense Forces take unparalleled steps to avoid civilian casualties.

We scarcely need discuss “Israeli war crimes” (crimes allegedly committed after calling, texting, dropping leaflets, etc.) when every single rocket that Hamas fires is a war crime.  Think about that.

Perhaps Bill Clinton said it best:

“Hamas was perfectly well aware what would happen if they started raining rockets on Israel. They fired a thousand of them, and they have a strategy designed to force Israel to kill their own civilians so that the rest of the world will condemn them.” 

There aren’t too many explanations for the profusion of baseless anti-Israel arguments and clearly Antisemitic vitriol and attacks in Europe right now.  Ditto for the spineless expressions of bewilderment that seem to be the European’s stiffest response to the hatred on the streets.

We can think of only two explanations for the proliferation of  “protests” (read: “violent mobs spewing genocidal slogans”) throughout Europe — and please, if you’re more imaginative, let us know.  Europe is either too scared of its Arab/Muslim populations or too tacitly antisemitic to take on a simple, though perhaps dangerous task: to stand up and argue for the very Western values that Europe birthed.

And by “Western Values,” please don’t think we’re talking about some anti-Islamic (or otherwise xenophobic) crusade; that would be the antithesis of the Western values we’re discussing.  As we’ve argued before, Israel embodies many Western values, but we’ll keep this simple.  A basic Western value that could most easily be defended is simply the making of rational distinctions: like the distinction between genocidal aggression and the defense of a fundamentally liberal, fundamentally peaceful democracy.   Not too long ago, at least Churchill seemed to understand this.  And he didn’t shy away from a fight that needed to be fought.

But what’s needed in Europe now isn’t even the taking up of arms.  What Europeans are too afraid (or too antisemitic) to do is simply argue with the violent anti-Semitic ideologues who are drowning out reason across the continent.  The virtual absence of any argument on the issue of Israel in Europe only brings about a “new normal” in which otherwise thinking people accept violent Antisemitism as received wisdom.   And so Europe devolves into further self-contradiction: advancing human rights… through the extermination of the Jews.

Europe, your spinelessness (or antisemitism… take your pick…) is playing directly into the hands of terrorists whose stated aims are to destroy the very pillars of modern culture… pillars to which you should lay a well-deserved claim.  All you need to do is find a voice to call out the oxymoronic hate and violence that fills your streets.

But we don’t hear that voice.

For that, Europe, you are a coward.

At best.

On Gun Control: What a Friend of TJP Wrote to His Congressperson


First off, thank you for your work. I know your job is not easy.

Today I would like to urge you to address the tragic Newtown massacre with rational action, not with ineffective restrictions on sane, law-abiding citizens.

When crafting or voting on legislation, we must start with the facts. And even a few simple facts show that legislation like that proposed by Senator Feinstein completely misses the mark.  Continue reading On Gun Control: What a Friend of TJP Wrote to His Congressperson

Facts to consider in light of the Newtown tragedy…

We here at are extremely reluctant to wade into the debate about gun policy that’s taking place after this tragic event.  In private discourse, our impression is that anyone who wants to have a conversation about guns right now doesn’t really want to have a conversation about guns.  People on both side of this issue are reacting reflexively and emotionally.  That’s understandable, but still unfortunate.  So we’re not going to voice our (generally pro-gun) opinions here.  But here are some facts that thoughtful analysts of the issue should not neglect:

Andrew Sullivan and Walter Mead are Just Wrong on Israel

Someone showed us this blog post by Walter Russell Mead on Israel a few days ago. We responded to it in private, but we decided not to post on it because… well, because we were lazy. But now that Andrew Sullivan has waded into the mess, calling Israel’s policy toward Palestinians a “barbaric doctrine of creating ‘deterrence’ by mass murder and a stifling blockade,” we feel compelled to rise from our collective tuchus. Though we frequently disagree with Mr. Sullivan, he’s usually pretty well-reasoned. His thoughts on Israel, however, seem, to us, painfully out of touch with reason.

Mead’s post purports to address the question of why Americans tend to fully support Israel in Arab/Israeli conflicts, while the world — and here Mead means Europe — seems a bit more willing to see the Palestinian/Arab side. The post is interesting throughout; we recommend reading it and therefore won’t summarize it. We enjoyed its presentation of various philosophical theories of justice in war. But we were pretty appalled at Mead’s failure to connect those theories to the reality of Israeli conduct and America’s regard for such.

Continue reading Andrew Sullivan and Walter Mead are Just Wrong on Israel

We call a Mitt Romney win, because of this guy

Republican pollster Neil Newhouse is, quite frankly, betting his life on a Romney win.  We don’t see any Democratic pollsters willing to call that bet.

Ergo, Mitt wins…

Continue reading We call a Mitt Romney win, because of this guy

A meaningless story gets no headlines… and we’re shocked!

We here at are scratching our big collective head trying to figure out why the story below isn’t news… or at least the kind of quasi-news that one of the political parties (in this particular case, the G.O.P.) would want to push these days.

The facts are pretty simple. Earlier this month, terrorists in Gaza were photographed parading around with a couple of relatively rare, newly-developed guns. Specifically, the al-Quds Brigades literally had a parade, and during that parade some al-Quds members carried F2000 and AK-103 assault rifles. Do a little educated guess-work, as N.R. Jenzen-Jones did in the Rogue Adventurer blog, and it’s quite likely that the terrorists obtained those hard(ish)-to-find rifles from rebels in Libya. As we all know, under the Obama administration, we here in the U.S. provided some support to those rebels during their successful fight to overthrow Muammar Gaddafi — upwards of $1 billion worth, according to some sources.

So… bloodthirsty terrorists on Israel’s doorstep get ultramodern guns, probably from Obama-backed rebels in Libya.

Should be news, right?*  Not really… and surprisingly, no one seems to be treating it otherwise. Continue reading A meaningless story gets no headlines… and we’re shocked!

Our thoughts on the DNC 2012 Flip-Flop-Flub on Israel…

We’re sure you’re all up to date on the latest head-scratching kerfuffle at the Democratic National Convention.  In the first half of this episode, the Democratic Party removed key pro-Israel provisions from its platform, such as the provision declaring Jerusalem as Israel’s undivided capitol, and the one stating that Palestinian refugees should be resettled outside of Israel.  Predictably, Democrats got pummeled for the change.  In the second half, Democrats scrambled to restore the pro-Israel language to their platform, which had previously been (basically) unchanged for decades.  And then other Democrats tried pretty hard to vote that down.  So how did this mess come to be and what does it tell us?  Our thoughts, below the fold… Continue reading Our thoughts on the DNC 2012 Flip-Flop-Flub on Israel…

This is pretty ugly…

This interview from today on Situation Room with Wolf Blitzer makes it pretty obvious that Debbie Wasserman Schultz is resorting to the bottom-of-the-barrel politics we’ve called out before.  This time, she’s deliberately misleading seniors, apparently hoping that (a) they’re all as batty as the movies say they are, or (b) the batteries on their hearing aids give out before she looks ridiculous.  More under the fold… Continue reading This is pretty ugly…