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Saturday, January 22, 2011

[JTA] Loughner’s Jewish mother? Not so much

The article/blog entry below from the JTA reminds me of the arguments about Lenin's Jewish ancestry. Now that we can look at the records, we know that Lenin had an ethnic Ashkenazi great-grandfather named Moshko Blank. Has author Kampeas really told us much about Jared Loughner's ethnic background? 

Kampeas analyzes places of birth and surnames.

One has to be careful with this type of analysis.

The mother's association at my prep school spent a lot of time back in the 60s and 70s -- when Jews were considered riffraff with money -- in trying to determine whether students had Jewish blood in order to make sure none of the Jewish-tainted would be invited to country club affairs. The mothers were not always completely accurate. I was always on the list of students with spotless non-Jewish lineage.

Nevertheless, the Mothers Association did conclude correctly that Kensington in some cases is a Jewish name. I discussed the logic in 
Heartbreak Kid vs Legally Blonde.

"Vivienne Kensington would be recognized as Jewish in NY, NJ, CT prep schools because Vivienne is used by Jews and practically no one else. It substitutes for the Hebrew name Chaya. Kensington would be identified as the Jewish name Keningsburg (Koeningsburg) with -burg translated as -ton and the s moved forward to create a WASPish sounding name. The mothers association at my prep school in the 70s used to spend hours in name-analysis to determine which students came from Jewish families trying to pass as WASPs in order to make sure that the crypto-Jews were not invited to affairs at the WASPs-only country clubs. They invariably invited poor gentiles in order to make the crypto-Jews understand that wealth and social quality were completely independent. Of course, nowadays with Jews on top, the situation is totally different, and the non-Jews often affect Yiddishisms and some sort of Jewish connection in order to be part of the elite crowd."

While I suppose Totman/Todtman/Todtmann could be a non-Jewish name, all the Totmans I have met have been Jewish.

The name comes up in the consolidated index of Jewish surnames.

Bleifuss is a much more interesting case. When I see Bleifuss, I have to think Blèves, Loire, France because Dreyfus/Dreifus/Dreifuss is etymologically derived from Trèves, i.e., Trier, Germany.

The Loire used to be a major Jewish center, but by the 14th century all the Jews in Loire had been forced to convert or to leave. It is fairly easy to suspect that an emigrant to Germany might take Blèves as a last name that would eventually soundshift to Bleifuss.

Of course, there is no reason to believe that such an emigrant had to be Jewish, and I could not find the name Bleifuss/Bleifus/Bleyfus/Bleyfuss in the consolidated index of Jewish surnames, but I could not find Jewish surnames that occur in my family in that database although there were many very similar names. A quick search for names similar to Bleifuss produced a tremendous number.

Anyone that believes "Irish-born" at the end of the 19th and the beginning of the 20th century means "impossible to be Jewish" has not read James Joyce.

Anyone that believes practicing Catholicism means could not be of Jewish origin is simply ignorant of all the Jews that opportunistically converted to Catholicism in the 19th and 20th century and that continued to maintain all their ethnic associations as did Heinrich Heine.

Arizona has historically been an important center of transforming Jews into gentiles, and the most prominent example was Senator Barry Goldwater. When my mother was young, she used to patronize the Goldwasser Department store. The NJ branch of the family never changed the family name, and to tell the truth I am not sure whether there was any legal connection between the NJ Goldwasser Department stores and the Goldwater Department store in Phoenix.

Loughner’s Jewish mother? Not so much

I noted the other day that an acquaintance of Jared Lee Loughner, the accused gunman in Gabrielle Giffords shooting in Tucson, believed his mother was Jewish.
Bryce Tierney told Mother Jones that Loughner listed Mein Kampf as a favorite book in part to provoke his Jewish mother.
Nate Bloom, the noted Jewish roots columnist and researcher, has done the legwork -- and pretty much buries this notion.
I'll hand it over to him:
It is appalling how one comment---a friend of Jared Loughner telling a Mother Jones’ reporter that Jared Loughner’s mother is “Jewish”---goes viral in an instant. 
In hours, "this fact" was all over on anti-Semitic sites.  And, of course, there are the “commentators” who love to ‘blame the victim’ via some pop psychology theory that Jared acted out of “Jewish self-hatred.”
I figured that this was the moment to try and get “truth” dressed, and into the public arena a lot faster than usual.  In other words, to use the tools of the internet to determine the veracity of what this friend told Mother Jones.
I cover Jews in popular culture for Jewish newspapers and I know how often famous people are mis-identified as Jewish or mis-identified as not Jewish. I also know that a lot of people are not outright lying about claiming someone is Jewish---they just get it wrong.
So, with my friend Michael, we ran down everything we could from public records on Jared Loughner’s mother’s family background.  It took a lot of “search terms” and databases to find what we did.
Here’s what we found:
Jared Lee Loughner’s mother is Amy Totman Loughner;
Amy Loughner---Known Parentage from Public Records:
Her [Amy’s] parents were Lois May Totman and Laurence Edward Totman.
----Lois M. Totman died in 1999 and Laurence E. Totman died in 2005. Both were registered nurses. Laurence worked at a VA facility in Tucson. We both found this info via google news archives, social security death index.
From 1930 census records
Laurence E. Totman was born in Illinois in 1925.
His (Laurence’s) parents were Laurence A. Totman and his wife, Mary.
Laurence Totman pere (the elder) was born in Kansas to a Pennsylvania father and an Illinois mother. Mary was from Illinois, as were both of her parents.
A sister-in-law named Myrtle M. Brennan is listed as living with them also.
1920/1910 census records---Totman Family:
In 1920, Lawrence Totman, (Jared’s) great-grandfather, is living with his aunt, Rosa Clarke, who was born in illinois to two Irish-born parents.
Rosa is his mother's sister. On the 1910 census, his (Laurence, the elder) maternal grandparents are listed as Irish-born.
Father, Orvie Totman was born in Ohio to Ohio-born parents.
Amy Loughner’s Mother’s Line:
See obit, below, from Arlington (Illinois) Daily Record, June 24, 1999---Obituary of Helen Medernach of Virgil, Illinois. Helen was the sister of Lois M. Totman (the mother of Amy Totman Loughner). Helen was the great aunt of Jared Loughner.
As you can see, Helen’s funeral (mass) was held at a Catholic church. Helen (and Lois) were the children of Anton Bleifuss and Jessie Bleifuss (nee Anderson).  Lois M. Totman died just days after her sister, Helen.
According to the census records, Anton Bleifuss was born in Bremen, Germany, to German parents. Jessie Anderson Bleifuss was born in Illinois to a father born in Denmark and a mother born in Illinois.
Conclusion---It is exceedingly unlikely that Amy Loughner has any Jewish ancestry. The only “line” not traced his Amy’s father’s mother’s family. The other three lines (Amy’s father’s father, Amy’s mother’s father, and Amy’s mother mother)---show, to all but the most obtuse, that these were/are not Jewish families. Moreover, it is quite clear that Amy’s mother, Lois Bleifuss Trotman, came from a Catholic family.
At OpEd News, Rob Kall interviews Rabbi Stephanie Aaron of Giffords' shul, Congregation Chaverim, she dispenses with any notion that the Loughner's were in any way associated with the community:
 "We had a meeting of the Tucson Board of Rabbis. We all looked at our rosters from many years back. No one has ever heard of the family -- him, his parents, any of them. I can say with absolute certainty that we do not know him in pretty much the entire affiliated community." 
I would add this: Bleifuss may be a Jewish name. (The noted investigative journalist, Joel Bleifuss, is Jewish.) Anton Bleifuss, Jared Lee Loughner's great-grandfather, might then have been Jewish -- but not so committed that he didn't defer to his wife when it came to raising the children as Roman Catholics. 
As I noted in my earlier posting, Jared Loughner is not the most reliable of reporters, and Tierney's recollection was added as an aside. Mix into this the fact that Amy Loughner's brother is Anton Totman -- apparently named for his mother's father.
Loughner's family was in no way Jewish, nor was his mother -- but she might have mentioned her Jewish grandfather, beloved enough to live on in her brother's name, with pride or interest. Under those circumstances Loughner, who sought "chaos" according to Tierney, might have sought to provoke his mother and his uncle by pretending to admire (or actually admiring) Adolph Hitler. He might have told Tierney that his mother was Jewish as a shorthand, or might have seen her as Jewish -- like I said, not the most reliable reporter. Or he might have explained the lineage, and Tierney might understandably have conflated it as "mother Jewish."
It sets up a fascinating contrast: Gabrielle Giffords, who plunges into public service when she is 30, just the same age she delves into her father's Judaism and chooses to embrace it; and Jared Loughner, who learns of a distant Jewish connection deep in his family's past -- and reviles it as he retreats into madness.
An obituary for Loughman's great aunt, Helen Medernach, is after the jump.
Date: June 24, 1999
Section: Business
Edition: Cook
Page: 10
Column: Obituaries 
Helen Medernach of Virgil
A funeral Mass for Helen Medernach, 77, will be held at 10:30 a.m. Friday, at S.S. Peter & Paul Church. Fr. Aloysius Neumann will officiate.
Born Sept. 21, 1921, in Sycamore, the daughter of Anton and Jessie (nee Anderson) Bleifuss, she passed away peacefully Sunday, June 20, 1999, at Bethany Care Center in Sycamore, where she had made her home since May. Interment will be in S.S. Peter and Paul Cemetery, Virgil.
Helen grew up in Sycamore and graduated from Sycamore High School, class of 1939. She went on to take business courses which shortly landed her a job at Anaconda Wire Company in Sycamore. She went to California with her sister, Lois, and was employed in a business office for a few years before returning to work in Chicago. The last 20 years of her working career were spent in the business office at the Duplex Company in Sycamore.
She was united in marriage to William H. `Willie' Medernach on May 16, 1959.
They made their home in Sycamore for a short time before moving to Virgil where they lived across the street from the church for many years.
Survivors include her sisters, Virginia Stran of DeKalb, Irene Luty of Covina, Calif., Lois (Lawrence) Totman of Tucson, Ariz. and Dorothy (`Trig') Troeger of Sycamore; several nieces and nephews; and a family of dear friends. In addition, she leaves the quiet, simple legacy of one who cared. Her many thoughtful words of thanks, encouragement and friendship were patiently penned into countless cards that found their way into the hearts of many friends and neighbors through the years.
She was preceded in death by her parents; her husband in 1997; and brothers, Albert, Lyle, Leslie and Donald Bleifuss.
Friends may call from 4 to 8 p.m. today, at Conley Funeral Home, 116 W. Pierce St., Elburn, and from 9:30 a.m. until the time of the Mass Friday, at the church.
Memorials in her name may be made to Masses in her memory.
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[MetalInvestors] Gold and the Giffords Assassination Attempt

Clearly the patients are in charge of asylum USA.

A mentally ill Jew (Jared Loughner) shoots a non-Jewish congresswoman (Gabrielle Giffords), who has delusionally or opportunistically claimed to be Jewish, and the Department of Homeland Security starts worrying about anti-Semitism.

Anyway Loughner put the gold standard in the news unfortunately in the context of attempted murder.

From the Gold Information Center:

Jared Loughner on Gold and Currency 

Posted by Nick Flamel on January 8, 2011 at 4:15 pm
If the psychotic ramblings posted on YouTube and MySpace are, in fact,  the work of Jared Loughner and he is, in fact, responsible for the shocking and unthinkable assault on Congresswoman Giffords and the bystanders, he should be  permanently separated from society – one way or another.

Unfortunately, his babblings about gold, silver and currencies are already being associated by extension to political and economic issues of concern to our community.  His rants are not based in reality and we, of course, repudiate them and his incomprehensible actions and offer our prayers and condolences to all of the families affected.

From Salon

MONDAY, JAN 10, 2011 18:17 ET

Jared Loughner's goldbug delusion 

Is it madness to call for a return to the gold standard? Or just an inability to accept the world as it is?

The attempt to derive any kind of real meaning from the ravings posted on YouTube and the Internet by Jared Lee Loughner, the mentally unstable gunman who shot Arizona Rep. Gabrielle Giffords on Saturday, is a risky business. His ramblings are so blatantly disconnected and obtuse that a conspiracy-minded theorist might be excused for immediately concluding that they are planted, designed to cover up hisreal agenda by making him look deluded on purpose. We're talking Hollywood blockbuster Mel Gibson over-emoting mint-plated crazy here.

In fact, in some corners of the Net, people are already running for cover, hoping to avoid collateral damage from Loughner's madness. Take, for instance, a comment that concluded one of his YouTube videos and immediately rocketed around the globe: "No! I won't pay debt with a currency that's not backed by gold and silver! No! I won't trust in God!"

If you were one of the vocal proponents of a return to the gold standard as the solution to all that plagues the modern global economy, you likely winced at the sight of those words. As one gold fan lamented at thewebsite Gold Information Center, "unfortunately his babblings about gold, silver and currencies are already being associated by extension to political and economic issues of concern to our community."

But if you believed that "goldbugs" are already crazy as loons, then you merely saw confirmation of your prejudices. Jared Loughner believes in government mind control ... shooting politicians, judges and little girls in cold blood ... and the gold standard. That's not the kind of public relations that opponents of fiat currency like to see.

Mainstream economists tend to pooh-pooh the notion of a return to the gold standard as a realistic option for contemporary governments. (A recent New York Times "Room for Debate" forum on the topic had five out of six discussants agree it was a terrible idea.) The standard view is that hanging on too long to the gold standard exacerbated the Great Depression -- the countries that went off the standard earliest were the least affected. Another commonly heard criticism is that the fact that inflation or deflation would be a consequence of how much gold was being dug out of the ground at any given time hardly seems a sensible way to run a 21st century economy. Still another critique is that countries that commit to a fixed exchange rate between their currency and gold bullion lose the ability to manage monetary policy in response to economic downturns. So when a recession hits, the people get screwed.

Of course, to many advocates of the gold standard, restricting government freedom is precisely the point. This is a major reason why a return to the standard has always been popular with a subset of libertarians and is a staple of Tea Party discourse. If all currency was backed by gold, there would be physical limits on the amount of outstanding debt governments could carry. Big government wouldn't be so big! We'd be forced to live within our means!

The fantasy that there is some gold-plated deus ex machina that could tame big government, all by itself, seems to misunderstand ongoing political reality. Even if the U.S. did return to the gold standard, it could and would just as easily go off it again, if the domestic economic situation degenerated enough to require direct action. If you go back and look at the late 19th century, which many gold standard fans seem to regard as a golden age, you see an era of recurring massive economic dislocations and fierce fights over the monetary system that make current rhetoric seem positively mild.

As William Jennings Bryan so famously orated at the Democratic National Convention in 1896:
If they dare to come out in the open field and defend the gold standard as a good thing, we shall fight them to the uttermost, having behind us the producing masses of the nation and the world. Having behind us the commercial interests and the laboring interests and all the toiling masses, we shall answer their demands for a gold standard by saying to them, you shall not press down upon the brow of labor this crown of thorns. You shall not crucify mankind upon a cross of gold.
There is no magic cure. Money, of whatever kind, by its very nature, requires faith. You can't eat gold or use it to keep the rain off or burn it for warmth. If you use it as a means of exchange, you have to trust that others will do so as well. Ultimately, the strength of the U.S. dollar depends on the world's trust in the idea that the U.S. will manage its economy wisely. That trust may well be misguided, but a constitutional amendment reinstating the gold standard wouldn't by definition make us any more responsible.

It's more than a mite destabilizing, perhaps even a bit crazy-making, to contemplate the global economy and ponder the fact that it functions in large part because we believe that it will continue to function. Maybe that explains the passion behind gold standard advocacy -- the idea that there could be a physical reality to money offers us a hard place to stand on in a world full of shifting sands. There's a reason why so much goldbug advocacy sounds a little nutty -- it's rooted in a fear of the world as it is today, a fear that seems to have overwhelmed Jared Loughner's mind.

But in truth, a world of floating exchange rates is a much better metaphor for how the world works than a gold standard. Because we are all making this up as it goes along.
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