Go to previous post:
Cato guy, reprobate, and frequently funny libertarian

Go to Electrolite's front page.

Go to next post:
My goodness.

Our Admirable Sponsors

June 11, 2003

That liberal media. Slate has been running a series of just-the-facts-ma’am profiles of each of the announced Democratic presidential candidates—in essence, baseball-card stats. Useful stuff. The latest is of Ohio congressman Dennis Kucinich.

Here we find that the long-shot lefty is a vegan, that his father was a truck driver; and that he’s a Catholic with a long-term Jewish girlfriend.

The headline on Slate’s front page currently linking to this brief article? “Dennis Kucinich, Jew.”

Further research reveals that Kucinich sometimes goes to synagogue with his longtime friend, and that they both keep kashrut. But none of that is in the Slate article. Failing further research, Slate’s headline strongly suggests that they think it’s witty to deploy “Jew” as a taunt againt Kucinich simply because he’s in a mixed-faith relationship, the weirdo. I’m not likely to become a Kucinich supporter. But what a bunch of jerks. [01:40 PM]

Welcome to Electrolite's comments section.
Hard-Hitting Moderator: Teresa Nielsen Hayden.

Comments on That liberal media.:

David Joseph Greenbaum ::: (view all by) ::: June 11, 2003, 02:18 PM:

Well, Slate did change the text, as of 2:10pm. The thing is, I read that quote - "Dennis Kucinich, Jew" - and I hear "Dennis Kucinich, Ju"d".
Bugs me. But they did change it.

BTW.Making Light is Lynx unfriendly in a way that Electrolite isn't, regarding dynamically generated and linked comments pages. To wit, I can read and post to yours because you have permanent hyperlinks, while Theresa's javascript makes my lynx browser barf.)

Avram ::: (view all by) ::: June 11, 2003, 02:22 PM:

If he's a vegan, then yeah, he keeps kosher. Once you've eliminated all meat and dairy from your diet, there's pretty much nothing left that can be treyf, except perhaps by very exacting standards. (A vegetable-based processed product might still be treyf if it was made in a factory that also makes meat- or dairy-based products.) (OK, now something about cats.)

Patrick Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: June 11, 2003, 02:34 PM:

As I remarked to David Joseph Greenbaum in email, if you're using the text-only browsers "lynx" or "links", you can simply Teresa's timestamp links (in the commoner sense of the word), rather than her comment links. That'll take you to an individual-post page where you can read all the comments and post a comment of your own.

--k. ::: (view all by) ::: June 11, 2003, 04:23 PM:

I'm also impressed with the hectoring, overbit photo they chose. If one were feeling generous, one might conclude Kucinich was jokingly imitating Gary Oldman's Fifth Element imitation of Ross Perot. --Bias? What bias? Where?

Mary Kay ::: (view all by) ::: June 11, 2003, 05:30 PM:

Sometimes I'm glad I live in an alternate universe where people don't see anything wrong or odd or different about being Jewish or black or queer. I hate when I have to leave my nice alternate universe and visit reality


zizka ::: (view all by) ::: June 11, 2003, 09:53 PM:

It's weird how hip, non-anti-Semitic people seem to think that it's funny to bring this kind of thing up. The whole Kerry thing was galling. By any but the Nazi standard, the story is simple: Kerry's grandfather was Jewish, Kerry isn't. But out of pure malice and cuteness people had to make a game of it.

And actually it is anti-Semitic. For example, one of my grandfather was Dutch and one great-grandfather was Welsh, but few people who know me know that. It just doesn't come up much, and who cares? But there's something about those Jews.

CHip ::: (view all by) ::: June 11, 2003, 10:03 PM:

zizka: the point about Kerry wasn't that he turned out to be Jewish; it was that he turned out not to be Irish -- which in Massachusetts can get you votes that liberal positions might lose -- and that he might have been deliberately dishonest about it.

I'm very bad at assessing what somebody will do when given enough power to lend force to their decisions, so I sometimes look for traits like revising history for one's advantage. Kerry would certainly be a better President than Shrub, but Trudeau was riffing on his ego problem most of 30 years ago.

Kevin J. Maroney ::: (view all by) ::: June 11, 2003, 10:25 PM:

CHip--do you have any evidence that Kerry actually presented himself as Irish? My loose understanding--based on a not-close reading of the facts--was that he was once identified as such by the Boston Globe but that was the limit of any attempts to say he was Irish.

Alter S. Reiss ::: (view all by) ::: June 12, 2003, 03:21 AM:


While Jews won't avoid the majority of vegetable products due to the laws of kashrut, it's possible to have vegan food, prepared in a vegan kitchen that Orthodox Jews will avoid due to certain agricultural laws (Shmittah, Trumot and Maasrot, and so on.)

In most cases, these laws are generally assumed to apply either only in the land of Israel, or only to produce of farmers who you know are Jews, so it generally doesn't enter into the equation for most Jews living in America.

Also, my cat's breath smells like catfood.

Donald Johnson ::: (view all by) ::: June 12, 2003, 08:30 AM:

I normally agree with you Zizka, but I think you are being a little too hard on Slate. Slate, as you recognize, thought it was being hip and cool and funny by alluding to the John Kerry thing. I'm a little fuzzy on the details now, but I think some media jerk jumped on Kerry for allegedly concealing a Jewish background.
Slate probably thinks that it is making fun of anti-Semites with that headline, like Mark Twain ridiculed racists by depicting them as saying exactly what racists would have said. I'm thinking of the scene where a steamship accident kills a black man and when someone is asked "Did anyone die? ", another person replies "No ma'am. Killed a

Of course, the danger in trying to ridicule racism in this way is that some people might miss the point and take it literally. People might laugh with Archie Bunker and not at him. Twain could pull it off, Norman Lear couldn't quite but made a good try, but Slate's attempt was just clumsy and stupid.

Though, having said all that, Slate tries so hard to be hip and cool and funny and above it all that comparing them in any way to Mark Twain gives them far too much credit. They're just jerks.

Okay, Zizka, maybe I agree with you on this.

Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: June 12, 2003, 08:38 AM:

Donald, isn't it cool when that happens? Putting your thoughts on paper sure does help clarify, doesn't it?

zizka ::: (view all by) ::: June 12, 2003, 12:18 PM:

OK, then, what about kosher pickles. That's cucumbers in salt water, no vinegar, right? Where in Leviticus is that one covered.

John Farrell ::: (view all by) ::: June 12, 2003, 02:03 PM:

My loose understanding--based on a not-close reading of the facts--was that he was once identified as such by the Boston Globe but that was the limit of any attempts to say he was Irish.

I think you're right. But what has irked some local journalists and commentators is that Kerry never bothered to correct Boston VIPs or press who perpetuated the idea over the years that he was Irish. Kerry was always a presence at the famous Billy Bulger St Patty's Day Breakfasts in the 1980s and early 90s and, as far as I know, he didn't disabuse those present of his lack of Irishness. He would joke instead about his WASP side. He clearly knew it was in his interest for Irish Dems to think he was.

For what it's worth, Jay Fitzgerald has blogged on this (somewhere) over the past few months as I recall.

John Farrell ::: (view all by) ::: June 12, 2003, 02:05 PM:

I should add that it doesn't seem to me like a huge flaw or act of deception on Kerry's part. The media's having a lot of fun with it around here.

I'm not a liberal, but in person I've found Kerry to be a very decent, honorable guy.

Patrick Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: June 12, 2003, 02:10 PM:

With all due respect, John, the fact that a Massachussets politician would (1) attend the "Billy Bulger St Patty's Day Breakfast" and (2) not happen to trumpet his non-Irishness...somehow fails to outrage me.

John Farrell ::: (view all by) ::: June 12, 2003, 09:03 PM:

That's good, Patrick! You're outside the Twilight Zone....

Patrick Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: June 12, 2003, 09:05 PM:

I should have noted, John, that my previous comment crossposted with your immediately prior one.

Matt Weiner ::: (view all by) ::: June 13, 2003, 09:05 AM:

[jaw drops]
If the folks at Slate thought posting "Dennis Kucinich, Jew" was a hip/funny comment on the Kerry kerfuffle, that's part of the problem, not part of the solution.

Also, Kerry's not being Irish and Kerry's being Jewish are two separate stories. It had been known that Kerry's grandfather wasn't Irish for a while--I mean, Kerry had known that, and had said so whenever he was asked directly. The new news was that Kerry's grandfather was Jewish.

I think that many commercial products, in order to be considered Kosher, must be supervised and certified by rabbis. Doesn't matter whether they're vegan.

Alter S. Reiss ::: (view all by) ::: June 14, 2003, 04:49 PM:

In re: pickles.

Leviticus 19:19 (you can't grow those cucumbers as an admixture with other crops)
Leviticus 25:3-7 (you can't grow those cucumbers during the sabbatical year)
Leviticus 27:30 (you have to give a tenth of those cucumbers as a tithe -- if said tithe isn't taken Orthodox Jews don't eat it.)
Deuteronomy 14:22 (you have to take a second tithe of your produce and eat it in Jerusalem.)
Dueteronomy 26:12 (in years when you don't take the previous second tithe, you have to give a second tithe to the poor).

There are other rules that will apply to wheat or other cereals, as well as rules that apply specifically to fruit, rather than vegetables.

And that's ignoring the possibility that the vinegar in question is wine vinegar, in which case it's going to fall under all of the above rules, as well as having additional stringencies associated with wine.

As I said, most of the agricultural rules only apply to the produce of the land of Israel, and thus tend not to be an issue in the states.

And yes, because the list of ingredients on packaging is not sufficient to pass halachic muster, prepared foods will generally require some sort of rabbinic certification to be considered kosher.

Mr Ripley ::: (view all by) ::: June 21, 2003, 02:50 AM:

You know what else people do in order to ridicule Kucinich? Every time they mention his name, they put the Homer Simpson interjection, "D-OH", after it. Even his soi-disant supporters have been known to do that. What gives?

Patrick Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: June 21, 2003, 09:37 AM:

Yeah, it's like the way every time they mention John McCain, they razz him. What's that about?