Wednesday, May 17, 2006

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Mendacity and the Los Angeles Times

Nomi Fredricks writes:

The Los Angeles Times’ staff seems to be following their normal protocol with their lackluster and bizarrely slanted coverage of the Anthony Pellicano case, at least according to an article by Jan Golab in Front Page Magazine from 2005. The dynamic duo of Pulitzer Prize winning LAT beat reporter, Chuck Philips, and his apparent protégé at the City Desk, Andrew Blankstein, apparently made a similar incredulous appearance reporting on the Biggy Small fiasco.

Sexual Coercion and Soul Searching in the Jewish organization

Zipi writes:

Not in LA. Take Wiesenthal / YULA Archdiocese: They practice bait and switch for the last 20 years. Yet, no one owned to the role of enablers. Lately, Aron Tendler and his uncle The Rosh Yeshivah Shalom Tendler announced that they are living their positions in the community. It seems to be from their own volition: "To pursue other ventures." Nobody was reprimanded Nobody apologized. NOBODY WAS HELD RESPONSIBLE.

For God's sake this is a Torah institution as well as a human rights organization Why are they getting away with it?

Aron switched ownership of all his assets, so he cannot be sued. Who took over the title to his assets? Who is keeping it safe for him?

Wiesenthal did the same for Dr. Gershon Hapner a few years ago the night before he went to jail for embezzlement and ... sexual abuse of his office staff? What about paying off Dr. Margolis's (Fomer Director of SWC who was shipped off to ADL) secretary $100,000 for sexual abuse by her supirior.

Let's not forget Ivan Boesky and Michael Milken who got the same courtesy right before they entered prison. There are some rock stars and one governor (who shall remain nameless, for now) who got the same laundering services. The moment any of them were accused of anti-Semitism, SWC met with them and... helped clear their name.

P.S. What about violating the mandated reporting any suspicion of child abuse?

Prof's Oral Exam

From the New York Post:

May 15, 2006 -- An anatomy professor at a prominent medical school solicited oral sex in exchange for good grades, according to the latest in a string of lawsuits against Yeshiva University in The Bronx. Marlen Abramova, a Queens woman with a successful academic track record, said she was expelled from the university's Albert Einstein College of Medicine after anatomy professor Todd Olson accused her of "professional misconduct" for allegedly cheating and lying to instructors about exams. But Abramova - a summa cum laude graduate of Queens College - said the cheating charge is a nasty payback for her own harassment allegations. "He solicited me for sex in exchange for good grades in his class," said Abramova, who filed the suit, seeking unspecified damages, earlier this month in Manhattan federal court.

Jewish Survivors More details

Sexual Coercion At Core Of Jewish Renewal Movement?

Steven I. Weiss writes:

Can there be any question that the organizations that hired Mordechai Gafni/Winiarz are not only morally culpable for failing to do a serious investigation into his previous acts of molestation, but for the very way that Gafni/Winiarz did religion?

The Jewish Renewal crowd, led by R’ Arthur Waskow (whose public letter on this topic you can read here) is now going through a soul-searching in which it wonders how the hell this happened. But there’s been no confrontation with the fact that their rabbinically-led naked parties/orgies are in and of themselves essentially abusive. You cannot have a sexually-ecstatic, clergy-led religion that does not include a strong element of coercion. Gafni/Winiarz was the big red flag of abuse in that community (and it’s likely that their overvaluing of a sexual ecstasy religion helped them turn a blind eye to claims that he was abusive), but there needs to be another conversation about the sexual coercion that lay at the core of this movement.

Un-Orthodox Jew and R’ Yehuda Kolko

Steven I. Weiss writes:

I’ve been extremely uneasy — as I think we all should have been — about UOJ’s pursuit of this story while under the cloak of anonymity. It’s one thing for a named person with known credibility and clear liability to pursue conversations with anonymous victims and publish their statements. It’s quite another for an anonymous individual with no credibility and no clear personal stake to pursue a story like this in the fashion that UOJ did.

...If we are to approach the issue of clergy abuse responsibly — and perhaps to decide that we, as independent Jewish bloggers, should go it alone without the mainstream Jewish media — we cannot allow conduct such as UOJ’s to go forward.

What does Steven mean "cannot allow"? We have no power over a person deciding to blog anonymously? The writers of the Federalist papers were anonymous? I don't think anonymity counts as much as merit.

Rabbi Mordecai Gafni's Open Letter

Rabbi Yosef Blau writes on Jewschool.com:

I have been aware of Mordechai Gafni/Winiarz and his problematic behavior with women for over two decades and have tried many times to warn others about him. Many have responded by dismissing the accusations, without making any serious attempt to contact the the women who were willing to speak out. Even the fact that he has left positions suddenly, changed his name and his location did not raise any doubts. At one point I was contacted by a private investigator in Israel who had no doubt that Mordechai should not be allowed to function where he had access to young women. The private investigator allowed me to give out his phone number which I did a number of times but it had little impact. Two years ago an article appeared in the Friday magazine of Maariv which seemed to clearly indict Mordechai from his own quotes but it was also ignored. It is tragic and saddening that more women were hurt before the latest revelations. If I had been the only one who complained I would have understood the defenders but there have been numerous others whose warnings were dismissed. There have been enough cases of charismatic gurus who were revealed to be abusers that minimally some controls should be put in place. Since the problem exists in all parts of the Jewish community (as well as in all other communities) a common protocol for seriously investigating accusations should be adopted. Rabbi Mark Dratch has created an organization JSAFE to initiate this effort. Treating abusers and their victims equally might sound like a universal expression of love, but in reality to enables the abuser and frightens those who might have had the courage to step foward. Judith Lewis Herman writes that both the abuser and victim turn to others but while the victim needs help all the abuser wants is for people to remain neutral.

The Role of Hustler Magazine in our Civic Discourse

I email:

Dear Mr. Rutten,

Do you have any thoughts on the job Allan MacDonell did with Hustler and how he informed the national conversation about our society's pressing issues?

PS If you purely had a physiological reaction to Hustler, it would be groovy to hear that too.

Tim Rutten (from The Los Angeles Times) replies:

I've never been a Hustler reader, so I'm afraid I don't have any thoughts on Allan MacDonell or his contribution. However, I always have admired the willingness of Huster, Playboy and similar publications to pay serious writers serious money to do serious journalism and to defend the First Amendment freedoms on which we all rely. I'm aware, of course, that they have economic and status reasons for doing so. . .but, at the end of the day, who cares? The fact remains that they did these things when others wouldn't. As far as my "physiological reaction to Hustler" goes, suffice to say that my response is about the same as that of most men when presented with pictures of attractive women unclothed.

Two Anecdotes About Rabbi Yosef B. Soloveitchik

These came from a reliable source who heard them straight from the lips of the Rav:

When Jimmy Carter was running for president, the Rav said, "I never trust anybody who says, 'Trust me.'

In 1982, after Sabra and Chatilla, the Rav was very upset that Jews were complicit in the mass murder of defenceless Palestinian refugees. The Rav went on and on. He said that Jews should add to their penitential prayers that the Jews were passively involved in the murder of innocent people. He said the Jewish people had collective responsibility for what happened. It should've been foreseen and prevented.

In the 1950s, the Rav had the same view about the American Jewish community's tepid response to the Holocaust while it was going on and that the American Jewish community should do collective penance for standing by while innocent blood was shed (quoting verses by Joseph).

Larry Yudelson writes: "Talking about the Parsha one day in '84/85, he described Pharoah as you know, basically out of touch of what was happening in the periphery of the empire. Someone, it became clear, remarkably like then-president Ronald Reagan."

Reflections On Rabbi Mordecai Gafni

It was only a question of time. He was going to self-destruct. The only question was who would he bring down with him and how big would he desecrate God's name.

All these famous rabbis (many of them good people such as Joseph Telushkin) who went to bat for Gafni. What are they going to do? The odds are they will learn nothing. Had Rabbi Saul Berman ever contacted the victims? Did he ever return calls on this? Did Telushkin do any research before going on the attack against those who told Gafni's story?

Berman and Telushkin and company suffer from a willful blindness on rabbi-predators. Character-assassination is terrible, but it is even worse to stand by while the blood of your neighbor is shed.

Gafni reminds me of Rabbi Shlomo Carlebach. He has many of Carlebach's moral failings.

There must be something more going on with these new allegations against Gafni. He must've screwed up with the wrong person, with the wife or daughter or sister of someone powerful.

Gafni's teachings are all about the joys of eros, that it has been hijacked in the Jewish community and he needs to bring it back, so it is no surprise that sex would trip him up again.

I'm sure there are dozens of women who'd throw themselves at Gafni, but I think he wanted more. He wanted such passion to be a part of his ideology and quest for power.

The latest people accusing Gafni of sexual misconduct are his students and staff at Bayit Chadash.

What led to his dismissal from Bayit Chadash must be really bad. It must be more than just normal sex. According to the depositions, it is sado-masochistic sex, power exchange sex. He'd have women watch him masturbating. Women who had been abused in the past would come to him for healing and his laying on of hands would only make things worse for them.

I'm told that Gafni has admitted everything and said he's very sick and needs therapy. He's preparing his way for rehabilitation. He's apparently divorced his third wife and tried to ensure that she will stay silent.

A year from now, will we see Gafni on Oprah with a new book? He could say, "I was a monster but now I'm rehabilitated and you can be too." He could open up rehab clinics.

This is not the first time Gafni has had to leave a job because of scandal.

For years, Gafni has walked around in his briefcase with a file in his own defense, including a psychological evaluation that he's healthy. He has this Harvard lawyer girlfriend Erica Fox who purports to have found all sorts of holes and contradictions in the testimony of various women against Gafni.

It reminds me of this homeless man in Maryland who was once a college professor. He took advantage of a little known law that if you run for public office and you get enough people to sign for you, you get public funding. A newspaper picked up the story. It turned out that the man had been institutionalized for mental issues. A reporter asked him about this. The man's response was, "When I was released, I was given documents that attest to my sanity. I challenge my opponents to bring documents that attest to their sanity."

Mordecai walked around with documents that attested to his innocence.

Jacob Ner-David is the chairman of Bayit Chadash. He's rich and arrogant. Many people warned him about Gafni but Jacob said he knew better.

Jacob's wife, Haviva Ner-David, wrote the 2000 book Life on the Fringes: A Journey toward Orthodox Ordination.

From The Jerusalem Post May 4, 2006:

Haviva Ner-David is an Orthodox feminist who has been a leader of some of the most prominent struggles in Jewish women's lives. Just before Pessah, she received her PhD in Jewish studies from Bar-Ilan University. And then, on the eve of Pessah, Ner-David was ordained as a rabbi in Jerusalem.

Ner-David, who has journeyed through feminism, Judaism and social action for the betterment of the status of Jewish women, admits that she is still not completely aware of the tremendous significance of these two events. She knows that some Orthodox Jews will not accept her ordination and will not acknowledge her religious and social status as a rabbi.

Yet this young and quiet resident of Baka and mother of five says she is neither hesitant nor frustrated: the dream she began to cherish some 12 years ago is coming true.

Rabbi Aryeh Strikovsky, well-regarded in modern Orthodox circles, signed Ner-David's ordination, mentoring and guiding her through her process of study.

Strikovsky notes that the ordination that he gave to Ner-David is not the same as the more common ordination given to men.

Clearly the Ner-Davids love publicity. How much will they enjoy the publicity they deserve for giving shelter for years to Mordecai Gafni?

I hear that Jacob Ner-David has given the story of Gafni's dismissal to Gary Rosenblatt, Editor of The Jewish Week.

Why did Aron Tendler take so long to go down? YULA and Orthodox leaders probably took an ultra-halakhic approach that there weren't two witnesses to his wrongdoing (of course there are rarely witnesses to predatory sexual behavior) and that the problem would be solved by switching him to a boys school. Everyone in Orthodox LA leadership knew for almost 20 years that Aron had a problem with the girls.

The atmosphere has changed. The internet has given people to power to write about Aron and other predators and eventually the tide turned against Aron.

Aron's peers didn't believe the accusers. They didn't internalize the seriousness of it. They just wanted to get him out of the situation where people could accuse Aron.

The Orthodox need to create a special Beit Din (Jewish Law Court) that's trained in dealing with these matters.

Jewish Whistleblower writes:

If you want to clean up the problem, the first step is to fire Arthur Waskow and remove him from public life. He put his name behind Gafni. He treated Gafni’s earlier survivors like garbage as did his colleagues. Now he must take responsibility and be held accountable. This was not an apology in any way, shape or form. Waskow knew the allegations of sexual assault against children AND still claimed an investigation when there was none. He proclaimed Gafni’s innocence when he could not possibly claim so. He is personally responsible for what people have suffered. He put them in danger. He owes a public apology to past and current survivors of Gafni. Damn him and the rest of those who protected child abuser Gafni. Damn them all.

Mobius (owner of Jewschool.com) writes: "I am banning JWB from posting further as he/she has absolutely nothing further to contribute to this conversation and keeps writing massively long diatribes saying the exact same thing over and over and over and over… WE HEARD YOU THE FIRST 50,000 TIMES and it’s enough."

Larry Yudelson writes:

At this point, JWB/Jewish Survivors/Vicki Polin have become part of the problem, not part of the solution. They have sufficiently discredited themselves with their own craziness on their blogs and others that people like Tendler and Gafni have successfully deflected their attacks. The question is, is there a need for a group advocating for these issues? What would its charter look like? What services would it provide?

From MarcGafni.com:

Rabbi Marc Gafni has also been working with Erica Fox for the last several years on the development of the Harvard Negotiation Insight Initiative at the Program on Negotiation at Harvard Law School, which engages cutting edge conversation between the fields of conflict management and the great wisdom traditions.

Rabbi Marc Gafni's work has deservedly earned him the reputation as a modern philosopher and spiritual master: wise, compassionate, inspired and universal.

He has just completed writing his doctoral dissertation at Oxford University, an analysis of the possibilities of a humanism which emerges from the ground of non-duality in Hassidic sources, based primarily on the text Mei Ha'Shiloach by the Ishbitzer Rebbe, Rabbi Mordechai Joseph Leiner.

Like all great thinkers he has suffered attack, false accusation and being misunderstood; Rabbi Marc Gafni seems however to be weathering both the adulation and the slings and arrows with a smile.

From USAJewish 4/20/06:

Mordechai Gafni and Hershy Worch in Open Discussion of the Izbicer

There will be a Symposium... this coming Sunday afternoon with Rabbi Gafni and J. Hershy Worch and friends - between 3:00 pm and 4:30 pm.

''Magical'' Afternoon of Izbicer Study in Chicago

Yori Yanover Vs. Vicki Polin.

Do the Orthodox Jews have a Catholic-priest problem?

Robert Kolker writes in New York magazine:

On May 4, Framowitz filed a $20 million federal lawsuit against Kolko and Yeshiva Torah Temimah of Flatbush, Brooklyn, for what Framowitz says happened on at least fifteen occasions over two years, from 1969 to 1971—in the front seat of the Plymouth, and at the yeshiva at the end of recess, and at Camp Agudah in the Catskills, where Kolko worked for several summers.

...Framowitz’s attorney, Jeffrey Herman, was expected to file a separate, $10 million suit on behalf of an unnamed plaintiff who says he was abused by Kolko in the late eighties. All told, Herman says he knows of as many as twenty victims between the ages of 19 and 50 who say they were abused by Kolko.

...Rabbi-on-child molestation is a widespread problem in the ultra-Orthodox Jewish community, and one that has long been covered up, according to rabbis, former students, parents, social-service workers, sociologists, psychologists, victims’ rights advocates, and survivors of abuse interviewed for this story.

Reconstructionist Movement’s Well of Misandry

David Kelsey writes:

Non-Orthodox Jews are not just wrestling with an irreconcilable Patriarchy (and as long as there is circumcision for boys, it is irreconcilable), they are prioritizing it. And this constant–in your face—aspect of the struggle can be exhausting and alienating to many men. The constant jostling for greater gender parity frequently can feel like you are attempting to find a place on an express train during rush hour. And very few dare to even raise the issue. Only halacha is an acceptable complication bring as a possible objection.

Photos/Video Of Wife Caught In Adultery Ruled Inadmissable By Israeli Supreme Court

Jeffrey Woolf, a professor at Bar Ilan, writes:

Chief Justice Barak and Deputy Chief Justice Beinish were overruled by their colleagues, in a clear signal that when it comes down to it, when Jewish State collides with Post-Modern Liberal State, most justices will vote for the latter.

Then, the Supreme court rejected a ruling of both the regional and supreme rabbinical courts. The court ruled as inadmissible photos and testimony of a wife, in flagrente delecto, committing adultery. The rationale was violation of the right to privacy. The striking thing is that this is a classic case of where secular law and Halakhah, prima facie, cannot co-exist. If the testimony is acceptable, the Supreme Court would appear to be in violation of the rights of the husband who, by law, must divorce his wife.

Conversion, The Rabbinate and David Landau versus Modern Orthodoxy

ADDRabbi has, what I think is, the best interpretation of the current efforts by the Rabbinate to delegitimize the entire Modern Orthodox Rabbinate (including YU, RIETS, the OU and of course the RCA and its Bes Din). I urge anyone who's interested or affected by this business to read his posting and follow the highly instructive links he provides.

What has this to do with David Landau? It actually has quite a bit to do with him, though indirectly. Landau, a native of England and a graduate of the premier hareidi yeshivot, is the Editor-in-Chief of Haaretz. He is an articulate, highly intelligent person. He is also a committed Leftist, which has earned him the opprobrium of much of the Religious Zionist community.

Rabbi Mordecai Gafni Update

As of a year or so ago, I was banned from Stephen S. Wise temple. There was a picture of me in their guardhouse. Presumably, this was for what I had just published about their star teacher Mordecai Gafni. Stephen S. Wise rabbis and lay leaders vigorously defended Gafni and attacked those of us who revealed his unsavory behavior.

I was also personally attacked for my reporting on Gafni by Rabbis Joseph Telushkin, Saul Berman, Rabbi Shefa Gold, Stephen S. Marmer, MD, PhD [a leader at Stephen S. Wise temple], and Naomi Mark, ACSW. They wrote, in part (circa January 4, 2005):

The person who has partnered with Vicki in a number of unjustified and distortion-filled character assassinations has been Luke Ford, whom you have cooperated with as well, Rabbi [Yosef] Blau. Luke Ford is a discredited malicious gossip columnist for the pornography industry. He has made clear in his own writings that he does not check information, that he often reports information that is false, and that his definition of truth is that it expresses "the point of view" of the person telling him the information.

We find it shocking that you not only associate with Vicki Polin and Luke Ford, but that you are the major source of professional rabbinic credibility for Vicki Polin and the Awareness Center. Vicki Polin has written clearly that she only publishes materials from "reputable sources." It is difficult to imagine that under any definition Luke Ford's blog and reports would fit into that category.

Via phone or email or both, I reached out to rabbis Telushkin and Berman to discuss these issues. They would not speak to me.

I say to Joseph, Saul, Stephen, Naomi -- let God and judge between you and me on these matters.

Whose writing is more filled with "unjustified and distortion-filled character assassinations"? Which writers don't check their information? Who defines truth as the point of view of the person telling the information? Who is reputable in these matters and who is not?

Telushkin, Berman, Gold, Marmer, and Mark have no credibility in these things.

I'm not holding my breath for any apology from them, but it turns out that on Gafni and related issues, I was right and they were wrong. It was their mindset that helped keep people like Aron Tendler in positions of religious leadership for over two decades while (all the Orthodox religious leadership of Los Angeles knew what was going on and did nothing effective to stop it, that means you Rabbi Avraham Union, Rabbi Bess, Rabbi Nahum Sauer, Rabbi Shalom Tendler and any Orthodox figure in Los Angeles who considers himself a community leader) Aron was rubbing up against the ladies and using his rabbinic post to get laid.

I understand wanting to get laid. I understanding using your power to get laid. I'd love to be married and laid myself. My general beef is with Orthodox leaders who turn a blind eye to the predators among them. My particular beef is with Telushkin, Berman and company who go public to attack those who tell the truth about rabbinic predators.

If you want to be weak and do nothing about your fellow rabbis who are predators, that's one tihng. But why go to such efforts to attack those who've responsibly and accurately reported on the abhorrent behavior of your peers?

I wonder if Telushkin and Berman will publicly apologize for how publicly wrong they've been on these matters. I wonder if they've learned anything.

The Jewish Week's Editor Gary Rosenblatt broke the story on Gafni but he placed the focus on Gafni's behavior more than twenty years ago. By contrast, I focused on Gafni's ongoing creepy behavior.

In response, Rosenblatt told many people that I was an unreliable journalist and they should pay no attention to my work.

Well, let people now judge who did the most accurate and important work on Gafni - Gary or me.

From Jewschool.com, this email from Arthur Waskow:

Dear friends,

Once again we face the news that a position of spiritual leadership has been turned into a platform for sexual abuse.

I am sending you a statement issued Friday by Avraham Leader, head of the Board of Bayit Chadash in Israel a community dedicated to the spiritual renewal of Judaism..

The statement announces that its Board has just fired Rabbi Mordechai Gafni (its founder and chief teacher) because of his actions described in the formal depositions of four women, and the statements of others some who had been students and subordinate staff that he had had sexual relationships with them, and had sworn them to secrecy. Leader affirms his and the Board's conviction that the accusations are true.

I hardly need to say how sad, how angry, and how betrayed Gafni's behavior makes me feel And how much it raises questions once again about how to walk that thin line between spiritual ecstasy and the domineering frenzy that is not only damaging in itself but sometimes even leads to sexual abuse.

I am grateful that these women have come forward to say the truth.

There is a lot more to say. Some of it I will say below, after inserting here Avraham Leader's announcement so that we can all know what we are talking about.

I must share with you that yesterday women from our community filed complaints of sexual misconduct against Rabbi Mordechai Gafni with the police. I was aware of this situation because I had previously read the depositions that these women had declared to an attorney. I also personally heard the testimonies of these women, as well as that of another woman from an institution where Rabbi Gafni previously worked. I shared my findings and recommendations with Jacob Ner-David, the chairman of our board; with Shantam Zohar, a Bayit Chadash teacher and leader; and with Or Zohar, a Bayit Chadash teacher and our CEO.

My colleagues agreed with me that in the present situation, we should recommend to the Bayit Chadash steering committee that Rabbi Gafni’s tenure in Bayit Chadash be ended immediately, or alternatively, we would collectively resign. After the members of the steering committee read some of the depositions, they decided to remove Rabbi Gafni from the Bayit Chadash staff. The decision of the steering committee was further reinforced in light of the complaints filed with the police.

Were this was a matter solely related to Rabbi Gafni’s private life, this would not be my concern, and certainly not that of the community. The problem is that this involves women from our community, staff members and students. Although these relationships were apparently consensual, it is our position that there is no place for relations like this between a rabbi and his students or between an employer and his employees. It would seem that this is also the opinion of Rabbi Gafni, since he swore all the women involved to eternal and absolute silence.

The women, however, decided to speak. I have no doubt that they speak truth, and willingly risk my personal credibility and integrity on my support of their testimony. I may add that my colleagues arrived at similar conclusions.

As to the criminal aspect of his actions, that is up to the police and the courts to decide. Beyond that, judgment is in the hands of the Judge of all the world.

The sense of disappointment is very great, for me personally as well. Mordechai always treated me with friendship and respect. At times like this our sages say that one should scrutinize one’s own actions, and meditate upon why one is part of such a story. Certainly there is much to learn from such a difficult and painful experience.

May we all see, fear and tremble, may healing to our shared soul come swiftly, and may this healing encompass all involved and all who are witness, in this and all worlds.

Avraham Leader, on behalf of Bayit Chadash Iyar 14, 5766, the 29th day of the Omer, Friday, May 12, 2006

Back to me, Arthur Waskow:

There is a great deal we could do in all communities of spiritual depth – Jewish, Christian, Muslim, Buddhist, Hindu, no doubt others to prevent or minimize this deformation of the Spirit into an idol – an event that has happened in each of these traditions, and not just once.

Not only must the teachers who might fall into this idolatry be taught how to celebrate in joy but not in frenzy; those learners or on-staff subordinates who might fall into the role of victim also need to empower themselves to access their own inner rebbe,  not feel that the only rebbe-energy that they can access comes wrapped in domination.

And in this they need the help of the community in creating a culture that encourages each of us, all of us, to see ourselves as rebbes, able to be in touch with God.

Of course this involves not just theory or theology but also the real-life suffering of many people. (Truthful theology always flows from the lives of the people – the Images of God.)

Avraham Leader says on his own behalf and that of Bayit Chadash, At times like this our sages say that one should scrutinize one’s own actions, and meditate upon why one is part of such a story.

True enough. And I ask myself the same question. Mordechai Gafni taught at both ALEPH Kallot and at Elat Chayyim retreat center. Both organizations will need to respond in their own voices. What I know, having also taught and learned at both places, is that both have extremely strong and clear prohibitions on any sexual relationships between teachers, davvening leaders, and other such persons in positions of authority with any students, participants, etc. Those prohibitions are communicated not only to the teachers but to all participants.

When reports surfaced about Gafni having been an abuser 25 or so years ago – none till now ever surfaced about any occasions more recent – rigorous investigations went forward. Persons in leadership at Elat Chayyim deliberately interviewed women who were in a position to know whether Gafni was violating the ethics standards. No evidence surfaced that he was. Outside the sexual sphere, he was rebuked several times for behavior in classes that was domineering, and seemed to restrain himself thereafter.

I myself have been accused by a few people on the Internet of having defended him. What I did defend was a process for investigating allegations – a process that insisted on serious evidence, not second-hand or third-hand statements like I have been told that … I continue to believe that this is the only way to deal with any allegations of wrongdoing, including this kind.

And in this case, nothing emerged that indicated any problem less than 25 years old – and even those seemed unconfirmable.

It is true that there is an unusual problem in applying this standard in this kind of situation. Some or all of the women who have made statements in regard to his behavior at Bayit Chadash have said that Gafni swore them to secrecy — and they agreed, till now. The fusion of spiritual power and sexual abuse is liable to create such a situation when even people who might be thought to have every reason to reveal violations feel so overawed or so beloved by the abuser that they do not define what is happening as abuse, or are unwilling to talk about it.

So that means it is a lot harder to get the kind of evidence that can justify dismissal, etc. At Bayit Chadash, when such evidence did surface the institution responded. I am open to suggestions on how to act in some other way that as the tradition commands, will pursue justice, justice–pursue the ends of justice by using just means.

For some of my thoughts of how we might address and act on this whole matter of the relationships among spiritual leadership, sexual energy, and sexual abuse, see my essay on our Website (It was written years ago in response to a previous case, and of course I will continue to keep thinking and writing about this issue.)

May all those who are involved in this, the victims first and most of all and ultimately the perpetrator too find a healing that includes tzedek and mishpat, both restorative & transformative justice.

To use the Kabbalistic language about God's aspects or emanations not just Chesed (overflowing lovingkindness) and not just Gevurah (rigorous boundaries) and not just a balance between them but their profound synthesis in Tiferet / Rachamim, that womb-like, heart-like outpouring of life that is rooted in powerful boundaries, just as the powerful and strongly boundaried heart-muscle sends life-blood pouring through the body, and the powerful and strongly boundaried womb-muscle births new life into the world.

In setting forth this prayer, I do not mean to leave its fulfillment in the hands of God. Or rather, I do – in the sense that when human beings act in a holy way, they are indeed the hands of God.


So Waskow maintains he was right all along. What repercussions will he face?

Audio (.wav) Files

Audio Kevin Roderick Interviews Los Angeles Times Editor Dean Baquet April 30, 2006

Audio Dr. Wafa Sultan, Syrian psychiatrist, speaks against Islam May 3, 2006 to the CSPC

Audio South Park Conservatives author Brian C. Anderson speaks to the CSPC

Audio Cathy Seipp debates David Brock on media bias Feb 7, 2006

Audio Cathy vs. David part two Feb 8, 2006

Audio LA Press Club debate May 11, 2006 about the implications of the "infamous Danish cartoons mocking the prophet Muhammad."

Audio Independent Film panel discussion April 30, 2006

Audio Actress Ericka Locket discusses her journey to Judaism.

Audio Audio Tom Sizemore interview about his spiritual journey. Oct 20, 2005.

My LA Weekly Photo Shoot

pic pic pic pic pic pic pic pic pic pic pic pic pic pic pic pic

Appalled By Ann Coulter

Jewish Journal Editor Rob Eshman writes March 31, 2006:

At a private dinner for major supporters of the University of Judaism’s (UJ) Public Lecture Series, the guests of honor each rose to say a few words to the 100 or so diners. Coulter immediately referenced the massive immigration rallies that were taking place across Los Angeles.

“I don’t remember the last time I saw that many angry Mexicans,” she said.

Not a titter. Nervous shifting in seats. Guests cast apologetic glances at the legions of Latino waiters and busboys.

“Now I know why my towels were a little late coming up to my hotel room.”

More silence. Whispers among the crowd: How could she say that?

Virginia Maas, chair of the UJ’s Department of Continuing Education, followed Coulter to the podium and offered a polite but pointed rebuke: “As a proud Mexican American and a Jew,” said Maas, referencing her own background, “I want to thank Ms. Coulter.”

Franken, in his comments, said the genteel dinner guests “just got a little taste” of what they were in for.

“By the way,” he said, “the last time I saw that many angry Mexicans, the United States had invaded Mexico and was fighting Santa Ana, looking for weapons of mass destruction.”

And from there, as the festivities moved to the public event, things got even nastier.

Five University of Judaism professors write to the Jewish Journal (May 12, 2006 issue):

...[W]e are ashamed and disgusted by the performance of Al Franken and Ann Coulter in the Department of Continuing Education’s Speaker Series (“Sectarian Violence,” March 31). Some of us expressed our opposition when the event was announced. Over our objections, the event went forward.

The UJ claims to speak for Judaism, a tradition that warns of the destructive power of negative speech. We are dismayed that the UJ has been co-opted into the worst aspects of the political culture of violent verbal confrontation and ethnic slurs. The UJ, like American society more generally, has benefited from racial and ethnic diversity. We are disappointed that the UJ has enabled, and paid, a speaker who would voice the worst types of ethnic stereotypes and slurs.

We call on the administration, the Department of Continuing Education and the board to apologize to the Latino members of the University community, our students and co-workers. Furthermore, we call upon the Department of Continuing Education program and other appropriate members of the UJ to ensure that we do not select as future speakers those whose biases so clearly violate our principles regarding the treatment of fellow human beings. We hope that in the future, all of the UJ’s public programs will reflect the core mission of the UJ, teaching its students to be informed by Jewish values and to be leaders who seek justice in democratic ways and are cognizant of the global community of which we are a part.

I love this letter for many reasons but I will only comment on one -- "...Judaism, a tradition that warns of the destructive power of negative speech."

While Judaims does condemn the needless hurting of innocents in any form, via speech or behavior, the sacred texts of Judaism overflow with negative speech. God commands the Israelites in the Torah to commit genocide. That sounds negative to me. Male homosexuals and Sabbath stick-gatherers are condemned to death. Not nice.

The prophets in the Hebrew Bible castigate Israel in terms more vicious than Ann Coulter uses. In the Talmud, the rabbis frequently attack each other (not just ideas). As for the later rabbis, Ibn Ezra said that you would not find one rational explanation in Rashi out of a thousand. And so forth.

Jews, be they religious or secular, have long been known for their verbal violence. Ann Coulter's remarks about Latino waiters are innoc

I remember that during the second Intifada, much of my Orthodox community longed for the death of LAT Israeli correspondent Tracy something.

Usually when Jews invoke Judaism's prohibitions of lashon hara (evil speech), it is to put a stop to a type of hurtful speech that they don't like. But the very same people usually feel perfectly righteous in using hurtful speech to go after those they don't like. When invoked by those in power, "lashon hara" usually means "don't criticize me and my friends."

There are Jews who abide by Judaism's prohibitions of hurtful speech, but out of every ten Jews who invoke "lashon hara" to shut you up, about one in this ten practices this value in his own life.

There are plenty examples of hurtful speech worth condemning. I don't believe that these particular words of Coulter about the immigration rallies are worth getting excited about.

I've Got A New Disorder

"Masochistic Personality Disorder. A masochist is very concerned about their own needs, and consistently avoids getting most of them met, except the ones that cause pain and discomfort."

I Apologize For My Flip Email Style

"Never thought you were being flip. You just have the email writing style that practically any typical hetero guy does that I've ever corresponded with. It's the odd time that guys write more than a sentence."

Reform Romeo, Conservative Juliet

By Marnie Alexis Friedman, an actuary who loves living in Los Angeles.

The Role of Hustler Magazine in our Civic Discourse

I email Reason magazine senior editor Brian Doherty: "What is its cultural significance and does it play a significant role in your history of libertarian thought in America?"

He replies:

In the current draft, no role at all, though I am aware that writings of a libertarian nature have appeared in HUSTLER's pages. The researching of such magazines, saved and archived in few libraries, is difficult, and time is a scarce resource for any book one actually wants to finish. I focused in my forthcoming RADICALS FOR CAPITALISM: A FREEWHEELING HISTORY OF THE MODERN AMERICAN LIBERTARIAN MOVEMENT not so much on every eruption of libertarian thought or action in our culture, of which Hustler has certainly represented some (its very existence and certain legal actions and suits it has been involved in represented a valued expansion of freedom of the press, which I do firmly believe should and ought to apply to the impossibly offensive, and Flynt had a least a brief flirtation with support for the LP, if I recall correctly--was this before or after his brief turn to born-again Christianity?), as on those thinkers, institutions, and publications that a self-conscious movement libertarian recognizes as "part of our story."

In truth, I'm sure I don't know as much about HUSTLER as I ought. Nothing like writing a book to give you that nagging feeling about all sorts of things. I do intend to read that new book about it Adam P is publishing. I might have avoiding learning about it ever since finding a copy of it in the woods as a 9 year old with pictures of women smoking through their anus. (Perhaps that was in Penthouse? I'll never know, I suppose.) I did hope to interview Playboy's Hugh Hefner for my book regarding certain libertarian-important figures who worked for him (such as Robert Anton Wilson) and libertarian-important articles he ran (such as Karl Hess's "The Death of Politics") and whether he saw any explicitly libertarian implications in his "Playboy philosophy" and how he can make that philosophy jibe with any of the standard political party and ideological choices in our culture, but got no response from his p.r. flaks and had no direct means to contact him.

The Open Source Legal Motion FAQ’s

By: Justin Levine

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) regarding the Open Source Legal Motion:

“What’s in this for me?” – It provides a way to test your legal skills and reasoning (even if you don’t have a law degree). Also, anyone who ends up contributing an original improvement to the final product that is both tangible and identifiable will be given credit both on the pages of this blog as well as in either a footnote or page attachment on the court motion itself.

“Does your client know about and approve of this?” – Of course. If you think otherwise, then you obviously don't know Luke Ford.

“Isn’t this engaging in an unauthorized practice of law?” – Nope. I and my client are the only ones who have final say and responsibility over what is contained in the final draft of the motion which will be thoroughly vetted by me. This is simply a way of asking people their opinions and listening to their critiques and suggestions. Therefore, you aren’t practicing law without a license, and I’m not encouraging the practice of law without a license.

“Are you doing this simply because you are lazy and don’t want to write the motion yourself?”
Nope. I should think that the first draft I have already provided should be proof enough of that. However, if this experiment turns out to be successful, then I reserve the right to use this process in order to enable future laziness.

“Aren’t you afraid that you will be ‘tipping your hand’ to the Plaintiff by publishing your proposed arguments ahead of time?” – Nope. Why should I be? Nobody can change what the law currently is or what the facts are in this case. So what difference would it make? Heck, I’d even welcome constructive input from the Plaintiff’s attorney regarding these arguments before the motion is filed (assuming it will be). Maybe it would lead one side or the other to rethink their position after such an exchange (which seems to me to be positive). My way of thinking is: If you feel the need to win your case based on “secrecy” and “surprise” by keeping your arguments and evidence under wraps, then you might want to rethink just how strong your case is to begin with.

“I couldn’t help but notice that the law provides for the other side to pay for your attorney’s fees if you happen to win this motion. If I contribute to this, shouldn’t you be sharing those fees with me?” – Believe me when I tell you that nothing, absolutely nothing, would give me greater pleasure than to share my attorney’s fees with you and the rest of the Internet community. But unfortunately, California’s Rules of Professional Conduct for attorneys specifically prevent me from sharing such fees with others unless they are licensed attorneys and my client consents to it ahead of time. Darn the luck!

“I’m thinking of applying to law school. Would contributing to the Open Source Legal Motion look good on my resume?” – I would think so. But then again, I don’t work in law school admissions office. So who knows?

“Why don’t more attorneys do this?” – Beats me. But I can still speculate. Maybe they don’t have the time to do it since most motions are written on strict deadlines and they can’t wait for constructive input from others. Maybe a key element to their case involves confidential information that the client wishes to keep secret. Maybe most attorneys have developed a “law firm” culture that prevents them from experimenting with new ways to practice law because they can’t think outside the box or fear that they might upset some partner in the organization. Maybe they just have fragile egos and don’t want to find out that they really aren’t as smart and knowledgeable as they think they are (just like the difficulties so-called “professional” journalists have had in coming to grips with the blogosphere). Or maybe they just haven’t thought of it before. Who knows?

“What if I put all of this work in research into helping to improve your motion only to find out that your client has decided to settle the case before the motion is filed?” – Tough noogies. It’s my client’s prerogative to change his mind whenever he sees fit. After all, it’s his ass on the line. This would still be good practice for you (and constructive for me) regardless of the eventual outcome, so you could still consider it to be a productive academic exercise in that event.

Rabbi Mordecai Gafni Strikes Again?

Jewschool's Dan Sieradski aka Mobius writes:

Gafni, nee Marc Winiarz, who reportedly fled the United States for Israel to avoid either prosecution for previous charges of sexual assault or the social repercussions of such allegations, has been oustered from his position at Bayit Chadash, the spiritual community in Tel Aviv-Yaffo, amidst five distinct allegations of sexual harrassment and one charge of rape.

Letters are presently circulating to the directors of various spiritual communities here in North America at which Gafni regularly teaches, warning them not to invite the man onto their premeses. I should have one of these letters in my possession shortly. More details will follow.

Gafni, by the way, also writes parshat hashavua for ynet. I can't wait to see how they report this when it hits the press, if they report it at all.

Jewish Whistleblower writes:

In light of the events in recent days being reported by Jewschool's Dan Sieradski concerning Rabbi Mordecai/Marc Gafni/Winiarz "b(e)ing oustered from his position at Bayit Chadash, the spiritual community in Tel Aviv-Yaffo, amidst five distinct allegations of sexual harrassment and one charge of rape." I demand nothing less than the immediate resignation and removal from any public role in any Jewish institution the following rabbonim:

Rabbi Saul Berman; Rabbi Joseph Telushkin; Rabbi Arthur Waskow; Rabbi Zalman Schechter-Shalomi; Rabbi Avraham Infeld; Rabbi Haviva Ner-David; Rabbi Michael Zedek; Rabbi William Berk; Rabbi Marcelo Bronstein; Rabbi Leonid Feldman; Rabbi Tirzah Firestone; Rabbi Arthur Green; Rabbi Rolando Matalon; Rabbi Joe Schonwald; Rabbi Daniel Siegel; Rabbi Avi Weiss; Rabbi Eli Herscher; Rabbi Eric Yoffie; and all other Rabbis that publicly supported rasha Gafni and ignored the cries of his survivors.

I demand the same of all medical and mental health practitioners that publicly supported alleged rapist Gafni and not his victims. Hopefully, we can name more of them shortly.

Damn each and every one of them.

Sex and the City Day: How to Have It All

Dr. Ruth Westheimer, Smadar, Esther Kustanowitz and others.

Carrie Bradshaw of Sex and the City said, "In New York, they say you're always looking for a job, a boyfriend or an apartment. So let’s say you have two out of three and they’re fabulous. Why do we let the one thing we don’t have affect how we feel about all the things we do have?”

Join us for a day dedicated to spicing up your life. Learn how to throw a dinner party, present your best self to potential dates and find a job suited to your personality.

The day opens with a keynote address by renowned sex therapist Dr. Ruth Westheimer, closes with a performance by Israeli singer Smadar and features a panel discussion led by columnist Esther Kustanowitz. A buffet lunch is included. A copy of a book by Dr. Ruth goes to the first 25 who register.

Will any of us making a career out of talking about our loneliness ever find love?

Love and Other Bruises

I call an Orthodox friend.

Friend: "Teresa Strasser. She'd never date you. She hates Jewish men. I can only imagine what she thinks about converted Jewish men.

"You did not pick up Amy Klein?"

Luke: "It was a joke."

Friend: "The Torah condemns faggotry? Oh boy. You've done it now. The Conservative movement is going to have let in gay rabbis. They are way behind the clock on it."

Luke: "Those who are learned in Talmud generally won't want to make the switch."

Friend: "[UJ provost] Elliot Dorff?"

Luke: "He's for the switch but he's moderate."

Friend: "It's frightening how many rich Jews there are in Los Angeles. If they ever wanted to fix the budget deficit, they should just confiscate money from Jews.

"The only Jewish charities that don't get money are the schools. They're all going bankrupt. I see Shalhevet is starting an elementary school for whites. Hillel and all those places, there are too many Israelis and Persians. Westside Jews don't want their kids running around with Israelis and Persians. Old fashioned racism makes the world go round.

"Did your cover on the LA Weekly get you laid?"

Luke: "No. I haven't been with a Jewish woman in six years."

Friend: "You're pathetic. You should go to bars and say, 'I'm this man.'"

Luke: "I couldn't do that."

Friend: "You don't drink?"

Luke: "I don't drink but that's not the reason. I don't like to hang out in bars. I will not pursue sex, no matter how much I want it. If it happens, I'm not strong enough to say no.

"I was on VH1 and nothing. I'm in a slump. I've met a lot of women. They just have no interest in sleeping with me."

Friend: "There's always Friday Night Live."

Luke: "They have no interest in me.

"I'm good at meeting women but as soon as they Google me, they're horrified, as they should be."

Friend: "Call Teresa Strasser."

Luke: "She wouldn't date me. I adore her. She's a great writer."

Friend: "I don't think she's that great. She's pretty good."

Luke: "She's the best at the Jewish Journal."

Friend: " That's not saying a lot. She's really good on that TV show - Fix This House. I don't like her attitude towards Jewish men. Who is she? Though I hear she has a great rack."

Luke: "Natural Bs."

Friend: "I hope she stays streamlined and doesn't flare. That's a real problem. Women do that. I have a diet for women -- ice chips and spinach leaves. That's all they should eat. You can live off that. No single woman should have more than that in her diet.

"That's the problem with women -- they eat too much. Have you ever watched women eat? It's revolting. It's worse than men.

"You know how I succeeded with women? My looks with women on a 1-10, with 10 being highest, I was a 1.7. I invited chicks to dinner. That's all you need to do. Jesus Christ, I was amazed at how much they could put down. Take them to Cheesecake Factory. I wasn't always kosher. Holy hell. I couldn't believe it."

Luke: "I was with this pot head who'd want to order pizza at 2 a.m. I was fine with her being 10 pounds overweight, but when she added another five, I lost my attraction to her. And I have a wide tolerance because beggars can't be choosers."

Friend: "My friend went on JDate. He got laid a lot and met a lot of weirdos. A girl who'd had a bad day at work would want to blow him in the car."

Luke: "I've never had that."

Chaim Amalek writes:

How long had it been since you last inserted your penis into a Jew's vagina? Me, it's been a loooooooooooooooooooooooooooong time.

And now my DVD player has stopped working. Now I know how the Jews felt as they were being led into the gas chambers of Treblinka.

That does it - I'm going on Jdate. Are the women there that slutty? Nutty is a given, but that slutty?

The Jews of LA are so rich and you are a Jew, so why aren't you rich?

Wald v. Ford: Luke's lawyer wants you!

TabloidBaby reports May 12, 2006:

Never mind the Pelican.

Hollywood’s most bizarre and potentially important lawsuit has just gotten more bizarre. The defense lawyer in the case wants you to join his team.

Yeah. You.

Internet journalism pioneer and personality Luke Ford is being sued for defamation by notorious Hollywood agent, producer, manager and ex-husband of Helen Reddy (referred to only as “Number Two” in her recent autobiography) Jeff Wald, for posting items about Wald on his sites. Some of the material came from original interviews conducted by Luke. Other information was from existing articles and other material-- you know, the stuff you find on the Internet.

The case has been bouncing around the Los Angeles Superior Court system since last July. Now Luke’s new lawyer has put out a call for help in his defense. He’s not ringing Robert Shapiro or Bert Fields. And we guess he can’t hire Anthony Pellicano to dig up dirt on the other side. He's put out an open casting call for help at the defense table.

Justin Levine has posted this on the Southern California Law Blog:

“Welcome to the Open Source Legal Motion-- a groundbreaking experiment to harness the collective force of the Internet to help improve legal motions that will be filed in real cases...

“I will post a first rough draft of a motion that I am working on in the case of Wald v. Ford. You (or anyone else) can read it, comment on it, and give me feedback. Maybe you can rewrite some passages to make it better. Maybe you can come up with some theories, arguments, or legal authorities that I haven’t. Maybe you can provide the best counter-arguments on the other side...

“Anyone who ends up contributing an original improvement to the final product that is both tangible and identifiable will be given credit both on the pages of this blog as well as in either a footnote or page attachment on the court motion itself.

Tell your friends..."

Read Levine's entire posting, and lots of background on the case, here (and that means you, L.A. Times reporters-- though the New York Times will probably beat you to the punch on this historic Hollywood case, too).

Justin Levine? Luke tells us he’s taken the case pro bono. Either the guy’s a genius who’s really onto something or he’s in over his head.

In any case, it sounds like a movie. We’ll put in first bid for the rights. We’re already casting in our heads.

'I'm Off My Meds!'

Audio (.wav) of the panel discussion.

I charge into the LA Press Club at 6:30 p.m. Thursday, find Matt Welch in a natty suit and tie studying silently, jam my tape recorder into his face and bellow into his ear, "I'm off my meds!"

He turns to me and smiles. "Hi Luke."

"What contribution to the civic discourse that makes democracy possible has Hustler magazine made?"

Matt claims he's seen only two issues. "At the front of the magazine," says Matt, "they have these terrible graphic jokes."

Luke: "A lot of them are racial. Just plain racist."

Matt: "I haven't seen that. It's harder core than I'm able to enjoy in my pornography. But as those jokes intersected with politics, I found them amusing and useful by juxtaposing and occasionally disgusting sexual acts with political issues and personalities of the day, it treated politics with the seriousness and perhaps accuracy that it deserves."

I email journalists I know, beginning with Reason magazine's Editor Nick Gillespie, because he's the most indulgent of my antics:

Dear Dr. Gillespie,

As one great magazine editor, do you have any thoughts on the job Allan MacDonell did with Hustler and how he informed the national conversation about our society's pressing issues?

PS. If you purely had a physiological reaction to Hustler, it would be groovy to hear that too.

Nick replies: "Luke, interesting interview (as always). I'm afraid I haven't read Hustler in something like 15 or 20 or more years, so I can't comment on the job Allan MacDonell did with it. He sounded pretty sharp, though I disagree with his admiration for Lewis Lapham."

The other indulgent Editor I know is Rob Eshman of the Jewish Journal. He responds to the same question: "Huh?"

A certain female journalist at a certain ethnic/religious weekly claims she's never read Hustler.

I don't know if I can trust her journalism now.

Jack Shafer of Slate.com Press Box replies:


My reflections: As long as Larry Flynt is publishing Hustler we can be assured that nearly all possible editorial options are being considered in America.

Why this Chinese wall of silence?

Why can't we have an adult discussion of Hustler magazine in this greedy uptight society?

Why do we live in a country where an author of four books who was once Hustler's Asshole of the Month can land on the cover of LA Weekly and not find comfort in the arms of a loving woman?

Welch says he has special glasses to adjust to his oddly-shaped face.

I tell Matt that he looks like Billie Jean King who grew up a block away from Matt in middle class Long Beach.

Adam Parfrey (Feral House) wonders if Matt and Billie were extracted from the womb by the same tongs.

I'd like to get Matt fired from the Times so I won't feel inferior to him anymore.

I use Emmanuelle Richard's phone to call Cathy Seipp but she's taking a bath and won't deign to speak with me.

I'll show her. I lean over and tell a man that Adam was Cathy Seipp's first boyfriend. The man gives me a disgusted look and says that's too much information.

Ben Sullivan notices and appreciates that I've lost 20 pounds (from not taking my lithium).

I tell a leftie that John and Ken at KFI radio have an impact on the electorate because they articulate and give direction to to what were previously unformed emotions. I often listen to the radio or read an article and say, "Yes, that's it!" Someone has crystalized my thinking and given me impetus to do something.

Four people sit on the panel:

Censorship, Cowardice, or Good Taste? The L.A. Press Club is pleased to host a lively panel discussion debating the ongoing fallout of the infamous Danish cartoons mocking the prophet Muhammad. Were newspapers prudent or cowardly for refusing to reprint the images? Do smaller publications and websites who reproduced them deserve praise or scorn? Are Muslims truly offended at all depictions of all religious figures? Is it censorship when private entities like Borders Bookstores refuse to carry issues of the Free Inquiry that include the cartoons?

Panelists include:

Eddie Tabash -- Chair of Center For Inquiry-West, constitutional lawyer, and chair of the national legal committee of Americans United for Separation of Church and State. www.tabash.com.

Edina Lekovic -- Communications director of the Muslim Public Affairs Council (www.mpac.org).

Brian Doherty -- Senior editor, Reason magazine (www.reason.com), and author of the forthcoming Radicals for Capitalism: A History of the Modern American Libertarian Movement.

Moderated by Matt Welch (www.mattwelch.com), assistant editorial pages editor of the Los Angeles Times.

"This set-up is so like Insider the Actor's Studio," says Edina who charms most of the audience.

The conversation is carried on at a high level that makes me feel comparatively dirty. How can I think impure thoughts about girls when Muslims are dying in the streets protesting blasphemous cartoons?

Luke Y. Thompson wears a t-shirt that pictures a man fornicating with a dog.

I tell him I can't set him up on dates because of his proclivity for tattoos, piercings, colored hair and obscene t-shirts.

"I didn't realize that the crowd you hang out with had such lofty standards," says Luke. He notes I also color my hair.

Yeah, but I'm more subtle. My hair looks natural, thick and alive, pulsating with my manliness.

Nathan Nance writes me: "Luke Y. Thompson is my personal hero and fave movie critic. I'm glad to see he garnered a mention from the L.A. Press Club event."

Brian Doherty exceeds my expectations. He takes the least time and makes the best points. Why doesn't Europe get rid of its blasphemy laws, hate laws, etc?

Eddie Tarbash says his mother survived Auschwitz yet he wants to rescue Holocaust-denier David Irving from an Austrian jail where he's incarcerated for the crime of denying that six million European Jews were murdered during WWII.

Tarbash looks like the quintessential Jewish nerd -- he's short with bad eyesight and a paunch. His eyes blink rapidly and his face twitches constantly while on stage. He's hyper-intellectual and hyper-verbal.

Sartorial Splendor award goes to Eddie. Matt gets an honorable mention. Edina's OK. Brian's as rumpled and ratty as you'd expect from someone at that pot-smoking dog-f---ing filthy rag Reason.

A man who runs an organization to turn Iranians secular gives a long disjointed speech at the end (I clap and yell my approval at its conclusion), "which is a marvellous note to end on," says Matt Welch.

"Let such people blog!" I scream when asked my opinion of that last speaker. "When people are that socially inept, that inconsiderate of their audience, that unable to get to the point, let them blog!"

"But would you read their blog?"


I tell Diana of the LA Press Club that they can auction me off for dinner (but not to a cannibal or a homosexual predator).

I badger the COO of the Center For Inquiry-West about his lack of a sex life. What kind of star power does his COO title carry at bars? He says he doesn't go to bars but we suspect we know the answer to my question.

So what's the point of doing something if you don't get Heaven or chicks?

I demand to know why he's not screwing around on his wife (she lives in Illinois). He's an atheist, he has the whole building to himself, he can offer to show girls a bust of Steve Allen, enlargements of his publication's covers, or his etchings of David Hume, yet he's as chaste as a monk.

He has dropped 40 pounds over the past six months so maybe he's preparing to do something with his life

What's the point of being an atheist if you're not going to screw around?

He says atheists can have morals too. Yeah, of course they can, but what's the point?

I feel full of myself and people look at me bemused.

Will writes:

I am pleased to see so much progress in your therapy. You are off your meds, and you have gained insight into the reality of your multiple disorders.

For me, living without medication and diagnosis was the start of becoming sane. Sanity, to me, is not the ability to react appropriately in every situation or to develop the coping skills necessary to hold a really boring job: Rather, sanity is the ability to accept one's own reality - however flawed that reality might be or might become.