Monday, June 27, 2016

Miriam, the Ish Kushite and US History

Does history repeat itself? Of course not. But for fun let's consider this historical coincidence:

Miriam takes offense to Moshe's wife and seeks to disparage her (Numbers 12). As mentioned previously, the Ri suggests Miriam was upset that Moshe elected to stay married to a Cushite* after becoming a top-tier-prophet. After rising to high office, he should have selected a woman of more prestigious origins and stature. By staying married to the Cushite* Moshe undermined the honor of all prophets, Aaron and Miriam included.

Floride Calhoun, wife of the Vice President in 1830, compels other prominent Washington women to socially ostracize Peggy O'Neill Eaton, wife of the War Secretary, due to what was considered her failure to meet the moral standards of a cabinet wife. (She had worked in a bar, and may had conducted a premarital affair with Eaton while still married to another man) By marrying Peggy, Secretary Eaton undermined the honor of all cabinet official and their wives.

Read more about the Eaton story here:
The Petticoat affair (also known as the Eaton affair) was an 1830–1831 U.S. scandal involving members of President Andrew Jackson's Cabinet and their wives. Led by Floride Calhoun, wife of Vice President John C. Calhoun, the women socially ostracized John Eaton, the Secretary of War, and his wife Pe...
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Who was the Isha Kushite?

The best explanation I've seen for the notoriously difficult-to-understand Isha Kushite story goes something like this:

Who is the Isha Kushite?
Tzipora, wife of Moshe (or alternatively she is a second wife, an actual Kushite)

Why is she called an Isha Kushite?

Its a term of disparagement. (or alternatively she is a second wife, an actual Kushite)

Why is Miriam upset?
Because Moshe elected to STAY married to her after becoming a top-tier-prophet. This fits the plain meaning of the verse. ("Miriam and Aaron began to talk against Moses because of his Kushitewife, for he had married a Kushite") Miriam thinks it unbecoming for a big guy like Moshe to remain married to lowly Tzipora. After he rose in stature, he should have upgraded his wife.

Clue #1: Miriam says "Has the Lord spoken only through Moses?” they asked. “Hasn’t he also spoken through us?” The point here is that she believes Moshe is degrading the institution of prophecy. He's not the only prophet in the world. The Lord has also spoken through us, and all of us prophets look bad because Moshe persists in staying married to Tzipora. The honor of the institution must be protected.

Clue #2: This story comes after the Eldad and Medad story, which is also about someone (Joshua) seeking to defend the honor of the prophets. He says, "“Moses, my lord, stop them!” In Joshua's view, Eldad and Medad have no right to prophecize because they have not been properly elected; their unsanctioned prophecy undermines the entire institution. This same concern for the honor of prophets is what animates Miriam in the adjoining story.

Consider this possible historical analog

Source: Bar Ilan Parsha Pages.

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Thursday, June 23, 2016

Yay us.

Matzav considers it NEWS that a FRUM PERSON does something nice. Fabulous

Was Leibowitz right?

In 1968 Yeshayah Leibowitz offered this dire prediction about the future of Israel and Zionism if the occupation was not lifted. Has it come to pass?

The Arabs would be the working people and the Jews the administrators, inspectors, officials, and police—mainly secret police. A state ruling a hostile population of 1.5 to 2 million foreigners would necessarily become a secret-police state, with all that this implies for education, free speech and democratic institutions. The corruption characteristic of every colonial regime would also prevail in the State of Israel. The administration would suppress Arab insurgency on the one hand and acquire Arab Quislings on the other. There is also good reason to fear that the Israel Defense Forces, which has been until now a people's army, would, as a result of being transformed into an army of occupation, degenerate, and its commanders, who will have become military governors, resemble their colleagues in other nations.
In the film The Gatekeepers (Israel Confidential), this exact quote was read to Yuval Diskin, a former head of the Shin Bet. His exact response was, כל מילה חקוק בסלע.

Is this blaming Israel? Not at all. No one is putting all the blame on Israel. No one is weighing blame at all. We're talking about our shortcomings, the things we've done wrong, the things we do that weaken and endanger us. What the other side has done, or will do is not relevant

And while I do think the problem that needs to fixed in the West Bank developed out of many factors, let's set that aside, and stipulate that it all developed in response to Palestinian actions and attitudes. So what? There was nothing inevitable about those responses. We might have responded in a thousand different ways. Now that we see that this particular response is weakening Israel, harming it, degrading it, let's pick another one.

Preemptive Response to those who will call me "biased" If we're aware of the same facts, yet have interpreted them differently, on what grounds do you suggest that my interpretation is any more or less biased then your own?

My assumption is that all of us are biased, just as every human being who has ever lived is biased. Only in this case, I would suggest that perhaps I am biased by my acute sense of justice, while those who disagree with me are biased by an acute sense of jingoism.

Wednesday, June 22, 2016

Me and Alex

I came to it honestly. After avoiding "Hamilton" on the grounds that it's musical theater I toe-dipped last Thursday and have become totally hooked. Call Hamilton a work of staggering genius and you're not exaggerating, and I say that as someone who has absolutely no affection for rap or hip hop. Lin-Manuel Miranda's masterpiece gives us great music, mind-blowing lyrics, a classic story, and an acceptable degree of fidelity to the actual historical source material. Had Hamilton delivered even one of those things we'd say dayenu. To have it all in one smart package is an embarrassment of riches.

Below is the clip that got me started on what is now a six day Hamilton bender...

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Tuesday, June 21, 2016

Carter and Apartheid

You psychologists in the audience can attempt to tease out the underlying cause, but I like to correct people when they are unmistakably wrong. And while the conventional wisdom might be that "DovBear always picks on Haredim," the truth is I'll go to toe to toe with anyone who is wrong. Case in point: On Twitter, the very famous journalist, Yvonne Ridley, is attacking Israel for its treatment of Palestinians. It's apartheid, she says.

I rose in Israel's defense, and was told by the famous journalist: "US President Carter called it as he personally saw & experienced it: an Apartheid State."

Only not so fast. As Carter has made abundantly clear HE DOES NOT THINK ISRAEL IS AN APARTHEID STATE. Here is his actual quote, which I've also attached as an image you should feel free to share with other idiots who misuse Carter's words. (and I mean Leftwingers like Yvonne, but also Rightwingers who wrongly criticize Carter for condemning Israel when he did nothing of the sort.
"It's not Israel. The book has nothing to do with what's going on inside Israel which is a wonderful democracy, you know, where everyone has guaranteed equal rights and where, under the law, Arabs and Jews who are Israelis have the same privileges about Israel. That's been most of the controversy because people assume it's about Israel. It's not. 
"I've never alleged that the framework of apartheid existed within Israel at all, and that what does exist in the West Bank is based on trying to take Palestinian land and not on racism. So it was a very clear distinction."

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Monday, June 20, 2016

Bye bye GOP

PERFECTLY OK: Keeping it easy for terrorists to buy guns 

THE MOST AWFUL THING EVER: Redacting a transcript.

[This is why the GOP is OVER!]

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Shame on B&H

I'm disturbed but not surprised to learn that B&H's labor practices are illegal. This looks like  a straight case of someone forgetting that the religion which commands you to close your store for the full eight days of Sukkot also tells you to treat workers properly.

Union rights are Jewish rights, Ari Paul argues. Have the Hasidic managers of the famed photography store not read the Bible?

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Friday, June 17, 2016

Lessons from our Gedolim

...because hollering at a child and scaring him half to death is preferable to watching TV for however minuscule amount of time  takes to gently ask for the set to be turned off.

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Thursday, June 16, 2016

Right wingers don't wish to be like Israel

If gun laws are so stupid and pointless why does Israel have such strict gun regulations. For that matter why are American right wingers so eager to copy every Israeli anti terror initiative EXCEPT their strict gun laws?

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Why Orlando isn't 9/11

People keep asking me why it's different this time. Why did the terrorist attacks of 2001 bring us together while last weekend's attack seems to be driving us further apart. What changed?  Three things...

1) Gays were not the 9/11 victims and too many of you stop thinking like rational, compassionate human beings when gays are involved.

2) We're in a rankoreous, partisan season.

3) Back in 2001 Democrats, including me, were willing to trust the president. The miserable failure bit us all on the ass with his lies, shoot from the hip decisions, and poorly executed wars but that all came later. In September 2001 we were willing to stand with Bush and let him lead. For all their talk about decorum and patriotism Republicans have never extended this simple courtesy to Obama.

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Friday, May 13, 2016

Mixed Messages

Earlier today, the Yeshiva World published an article praising a Bas Yakov grad, who is also the wife of a Kollel member, for being named valedictorian of a Rutgers graduate school. Now the post is gone, but you can read the cache here

Why was it removed? Did YWN consult with Das Torah and decide it was immodest to congratulate a woman? Did they discover that becoming a valedictorian of a secular graduate school is pretty much the opposite of what BY students are told to do? Why are they proud of her for going against the instructions of her teachers? Or is that why the article was deleted? So confusing!

Anyway here's the article, with some small comment.

Lakewood Kollel Wife Makes Valedictorian of Rutger’s Graduate School
[By Rabbi Yair Hoffman for the Five Towns Jewish Times]

Rutger’s [SIC] is an academic powerhouse with an international reputation.


It one of the best public research universities in the US and its graduate and doctoral programs are top –ranked – [SIC] alongside Harvard and Yale.


Mrs. Chedva Blumenkrantz, nee Farkas, a Kollel wife whose husband studies in Beis Medrash Gavoah of Lakewood, was chosen as valedictorian of Rutger’s Pharmaceutical program. She is a graduate of Machon Sarah TAG High School in Far Rockaway, one of the leading bais Yaakovs in the country.

The author is employed by this school and should have disclosed that - especially if he was going to claim his employer is one of the leading schools in the country (ROFL)

She is also an alumnus of BJJ, under the auspices [SIC] of Rebbitzen David. Her husband, the grandson of Rabbi Avrohom Blumenkranz z”l acclaimed author of the Pesach Guide, is an alumnus of Brisk in Yerushalayim, a Talmid of Rav Avrohom Yehoshua Soloveitchik.

Rutger’s Pharmaceutical offers a world-class faculty of scientists. Faculty members include a member of the National Academy of Sciences, principal investigators of federally funded research projects, patent holders, national medical journal editors and advisory board members, and winners of prestigious national research awards.

This is virtually word for word lifted from the school's website, which should have also been disclosed

“We are very very proud of Chedva, [SIC] she personifies the student that we aim to develop, both in limudei kodesh, limudei chol, and Yiras Shamayim, may she continue to always make a Kiddush hashem,” remarked Mrs. Miriam Tropper, assistant principal of Machon Sara TAG High School, in Far Rockaway.

The fact that this woman signs the author's pay checks should have been disclosed.

Mrs. Blumenkrantz’s academic excellence is reflective of the superior education that Bais Yaakov schools provide across the nation.

2) And the construction of this sentence is reflective of what...
3) A skilled propagandist would have put that sentence in a quote, rather than allowing it to transform a news article into an editorial.

Thursday, May 12, 2016

My Yom Haatzmaut Message

I am a Zionist in the same way that I am a Ranger fan.

Most of the time I'm not too interested in how the team is doing. I don't follow the team on Twitter, or get involved in the day-to-day story-lines, but the history of the team interests me and when something exciting is happening in the here and now I pay close attention. If the Rangers win the Cup, I'll be happy. If they get swept, I'll be embarrassed. In either case, I'll enjoy the camaraderie and support and friendship of other Ranger fans, even if they are far more passionate about the team than I am. I'm glad to say they almost always accept me in turn.

However.... while I love being around hardcore Ranger fans, in general, and count many of them among my own family members, there is one breed of Ranger fan I wish would disappear. I consider this type of fan a discredit to the community and I find their negativity wearying and a blight on everything that is good and fun and exhilarating about supporting a team. I am speaking of the Ranger fans who are inclined to turn two blind eyes to every mistake the team makes or to accuse the media, the ref and the fans of other teams of being partners in some huge anti-Ranger conspiracy that leaves our perfect, flawless team with no choice but to violate the rules of the game. I am also speaking of the rare Ranger fan who considers me a traitor to the Ranger cause because I don't attend every game or because I also pledge allegiance to the football Giants and make time for non-sport activities. Also insufferable are the Ranger fans who have chosen to attend every game in every city, and think that their choice, and the so-called sacrifices it entails, affords them an elevated status in relation to the rest of us and entitles them to special regard. These are the types of Ranger fans I want nothing to do with, and I hope you remember that I am speaking allegorically.

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Modern tales of our gedolim

When Levi Yitzhak of Bardichev met this man, the saint lifted his eyes heavenwards to proclaim: 'See how wonderful Jews are. Even while choosing tattoos they wear tefillin.'

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Wednesday, May 11, 2016

Cross Currents is the universe's defining authority on holiness

It is is beyond R Safran, beyond me, and beyond anyone I know who has seriously studied Torah that a holy blog like Cross Currents should force its readers to look at a nude statue of a gender-ambiguous cherub while reading a post on holiness.

(I'm worried the reference won't be understood, so let me explain that this is a parody of the post's last paragraph. The image below is what they chose to accompany the post. We have no clear indication as to what the figure's hands are doing but the Cross Current Rabbis are against it.)

More later maybe

Rabbi Safran’s important piece stimulated a flood of comments and responses, the vast majority as of yet unpublished. Most fall into a few discrete categories, and might best be dealt with en masse. Here is a brief attempt to cover a good deal of…

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Let's improve Yom Hazikaron

I'm fine with the idea behind Yom HaZikaron but I think there are some design flaws in how it's commemorated.

PROBLEM #1: The rituals are all about Jews in a country that is 25% gentile

CHALLENGE #1: Design a Yom HaZikaron ritual that includes all Israeli citizens.

PROBLEM #2: Religious Jews complain that the day is marked with rites such as the siren and the reading of names that are not Jewish in character and origin.

CHALLENGE #2: Design a national Yom HaZikaron ritual that is fully and completely based on precedents found in classic Orthodox Jewish sources.

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Tuesday, May 10, 2016

In which I fisk that dumb Cross Currents masturbation post

Shorter Cross Currents
Those pro masturbation JOFA sluts need to stop bothering that nice Rabbi Pruzansky

Think I'm joking? Find it hard to believe that a Very Serious Blog such as Cross Currents would see the subject of female masturbation as an opportunity to attack JOFA and provide additional support for a rape apologist? Read it yourself.

The first thing we see is a note, in which the editors let us know that they intend to publish some dirty words for the express purpose of saving yiddishkeit. They had no choice, see? Preserving the mesorah demands it! NO OTHER WORDS WOULD DO!

Unfortunately, and to my great disappointment, the article contains no vulgarities -- all we get are words like "masturbation" and "vibrator."Y awn. But hey, now that you know such words have magical mesorah preserving abilities, please be sure to use them all the time.

[Editors’ Note: The piece that follows contains frank and graphic language, the kind that those faithful to derech Yisrael sava and kedushas Yisrael avoid using without euphemism, and then only in private. Nonetheless, there are times when dramatic means are necessitated to meet a challenge to mesorah. Readers are forewarned that the essay that follows is not for children, and indeed, not for many adults. We are mispallel for the day that Hashem will repair the pirtzos of Klal Yisrael.]

After the warning, the article begins with a rather bland, not very scholarly dvar torah. Be holy, blah blah, because the verse says "be holy" and its written in the present tense so you have to be holy all the time. An orangutan with access to a Stone Chumash could have done a better job.

As Jews, we are powerfully aware that the past is never just the past. The lessons, the struggles and even the victories of past ages are ours to relive in one generation after the other. In the Haggadah, we read, “You shall tell your child on that day, it is because of this that the Lord did for me when I left Egypt.” The reading is forever in the present tense, in my life. I am not to tell my child what the Lord did for the Hebrew slaves at the time of the Exodus. No, I tell what the Lord did for me.

The reading is forever in the present tense because its addressing the actual generation that actually left Egypt. You know. Context.

God’s freeing us from bondage is constant in all our lives.

At this point, I felt certain the dirty-words warning related to an S&M theme. Don't get excited spankos. Not happening.

So too, when God commands us to “be holy” it is clearly not a directive only to the generation in the Sinai. It is a command to all of us, for all time.

Like, um, every other commandment? Failing to see what the chidush is. Also, failing to see why we needed to go through Egyptian bondage in order to get here. Unless, you know, kink.

Each age and generation makes specific demands on those who live it. Ours is no different. While every generation confronted salaciousness and sexuality, what other generation has had to wrestle with the ever-present Internet? What other generation has had to endure a constant barrage of pornographic images rain down on it from billboards, television screens, movie theaters, radios, and concert halls?

Who can tell me where I can find this magic radio? The one I own doesn't provide images. Also, the poor dear! He keeps wandering into porno theaters and ordering smutty PayPerView and buying tickets to dirty stage shows and tuning his magic radio to the naughty sports station! Why doesn't he open a sefer instead?

The images, language, and messages benumb us. We become calloused. We become inured.

Sure, if like the writer, you spend all your time searching for pornographic billboards and radio programs you're going to eventually get a little jaded.

Happily, us ordinary folks aren't busy looking for it with every waking breath. And if you're not actively seeking it out, porn can be pretty hard to find. I've been online today for several hours, and not one salacious website has spontaneously appeared on my screen.

In doing so, we make the mistake of also becoming accepting of this pornographic tsunami. Oh, of course not “accepting” in the sense of thinking any of this is good. But we become accepting in that we simply allow it to continue in our world, viewing it as the necessary backdrop of our lives.

In doing so, we fail to take account of the damage it does to us and, more importantly, our children.

How does this generation protect itself from this onslaught?

We'll pause to note that no real evidence of any onslaught has been provided.

God’s call for us to be holy is an eternal call. It is as immediate a call today for us as it was to the Hebrews in the desert of Sinai. Holiness must be protected in order to preserve its spiritual essence. While it must be hidden and protected, our teaching is clear that creation is good. We are not to remove ourselves from the world. We must function in the world. We must engage the world.

If we are to be holy, that must mean that holiness also needs to function in the world.

But, in a very deep sense, it can never be of the world.

Those who try to compromise holiness, to fail to see the eternality of the command, do lasting damage to themselves and to the Jewish people. There is no place where the challenge of kedusha is more at risk than when it comes to sexual behavior.

There is no more self-serving 

Heh. Self serving

or hurtful excuse for the lack of kedusha than the excuse that it is “for mental health”. That is, for sexual health. Imagine, rationalizing deviant behavior, countering Torah teaching, for a positive reason! The world has been turned upside down!

This is where the article fails in fundamental way. Rather then provide us with any sources that confirm that female masturbation is forbidden by Jewish law the writer simply declares it deviant. And rather than provide any arguments in support of those sources, he chooses to just shriek about it. While our writer may have abdicated his obligation to persuade or convince, he does perform an admirable imitation of the preacher's wife from The Simpsons.

The Jewish Orthodox Feminist Alliance has taken hold of God’s divine declaration and rendered it a nullity. By aggressively championing sexual behavior – not just knowledge that a wife might use to benefit the sanctity and joy of marriage – JOFA stands opposed to the call to kedoshim tiheyu.

If Cross Currents wasn't wearing a hard-on for JOFA they might have written that sentence any number of different ways. For example:

  • The Haredi Community of Jerusalem has taken hold of God’s divine declaration and rendered it a nullity. By rioting in the street and assaulting Jewish policeman the HCoJ stands opposed to the call to kedoshim tiheyu
  • The Satmar Community of Kirya Joel has taken hold of God’s divine declaration and rendered it a nullity. By coddeling and protecting pedeophiles the SCoKJ stands opposed to the call to kedoshim tiheyu.

But Cross Currents doesn't write this way. Smashing liberalism is their one and only reason for existence. A bearded phony who behaves obscenely has nothing to fear from the self-appointed mesorah guardians at Cross Currents.

As reported in by Susan Schneider, JOFA is committed to “explicit and liberating sex education.” Interesting that sex education would be considered “liberating” when it was God’s liberation of the Children of Israel from Egypt to led to the command for us to be holy.

Have we fallen so far?

Yes, our ability to use words correctly, and in a variety of semantic senses is just one more example of our moral decline! Down with deviant synonyms! Take your slutty homonyms backs to Gomorrah, you gutter dwelling pervert!

In the article, Ms. Schneider writes, “Bat Sheva Marcus, a sex educator, has a new tool for enlightening not just the Orthodox or ultra-Orthodox women who are the base of her clinical practice, but the rest of the human race as well. She is the lively and genial — and often funny — co-host and resident sexuality expert for a new podcast series, ‘The Joy of Text,’ a forum for rabbinic and psychological perspectives on sexual behavior, from masturbation before (and during) marriage, to the use of sex toys, to whether fantasy can be a religiously approved aspect of sexual behavior. One such podcast which was recorded live at LimmudNY recently featured Marcus in conversation with Miryam Kabakov, author of the lesbian anthology “Keep Your Wives Away from Them: Orthodox Women, Unorthodox Desires”. In another segment, Marcus and her co-host, Rabbi Dov Linzer, answered a listener’s question about whether it’s permissible to “talk dirty.” Earlier episodes discussed premarital condom use and “sneaking out to the mikveh.”

Our writer seems to taking an awfully close look at JOFA's dark sexual underbelly. He's read their articles, and heard more than a few of their filthiest podcasts. I'm sure all this is being done for the article plus research and/or preserving the Mesorah, so let's applaud the little eager beaver's selfless, and possibly self-abusing, dedication.

I have quoted here verbatim because I don’t know that I could have found words to come close to capture how disturbing this all is.

Yes, you're bad with words. Which is why your article is basically one long whine, with no arguments or sources. About the only details you provide relate to the content of the scores of sexually descriptive podcasts you've been hearing.

Bat Sheva Marcus is, after all, a woman whose doctoral dissertation in human sexuality was on women and vibrator use!

Good heavens! In Donald Trump's America!

She takes great pride in telling high school students in Jewish day schools to intimately examine their bodies in a mirror and telling them to find the most pleasurable way to masturbate!

Oh My God! Note, I am not saying OMG because I think its terrible for a woman to teach other women about women things. I am saying OMG because I can't believe the moron who wrote this article thinks writing a sensationalist sentences passes for an argument. Again and again he begs the question (in the old fashioned sense) by simply asserting what he's should instead be demonstrating. We're more than half-way done and he still can't be bothered to give us even a single reason to oppose female masturbation. He just don't like it, and he can't believe people are talking about it for non-mesorah saving purposes.

Could anyone stand not before a mirror but before any of our rabbis and sages – let alone God – and convincingly explain how these animalistic teachings conform with kedoshim tiheyu?

Maybe not. Maybe yes. But that's not the point. You're against it. Tell us why. Don't skip that part!

Ramban teaches us that the concept of holiness is not limited to the observance of any particular category of commandments. To be holy is not to adhere only to the letter of the law but to embrace the fullness of holiness. In the words of our Sages, not only by refraining from what is expressively forbidden but from too much of what is permitted! How could JOFA answer that admonition?

By pointing at all the fat stomachs and all the big Jewish houses. In short, we are a self-indulgent people. We're gluttonous and greedy, and no one Rabbinic blinks. Why don't we say a few angry words about those bad habits before penning a complaint about female lust.

But is this screed really about female lust? ? The lack of sources suggest an agenda, as does the gratuitous mention of JOFA. Then, right at the end, we have this:

On whose book shelf of good and sacred books would “The Joy of Text” reside? Not on the shelves of those who would answer God’s call to holiness. Not to those who would heed JOFA’s vicious attacks and condemnations of a New Jersey Orthodox rabbi for openly speaking out about lifestyles that have the potential to lead all to what is decidedly not holy.

Yup. It seems this whole thing was about Pruz. JOFA took a shot at him, so here comes the Pruz brigade doing anything it can to throw some mud at people who have rightly and correctly criticized him for being a rape apologist. Terrible work guys. If you hadn't shown your hand at the end we never would have caught on to your real purpose.