Tuesday, February 28, 2006


Day after my defense blogging

Well ... I was semi-successful. I have 2 out of 4 signatures on my application for my Ph.D. (one committee member wants to finish reading my dissertation before signing off and the other wants to make sure I fully understand a few things) ... so I guess I am no longer DAS, A.B.D. but not yet quite DAS, Ph.D. ... maybe I'm DAS, Ph?

Anyway, it was a good enough excuse to spend some time with my best friend from my school days who's also made it to the East Coast and have some whisky (note the spelling) and a cee-gar.

Sunday, February 26, 2006


Day before my defense blogging

Tommorrow is the big day: I hope I will soon be Dr. DAS Alberich, the 10th.

Anyway -- I know I've been lax about blogging the weekly portion.

This past week's was a biggie, though: Mashpatim. It's one thing to have all sorts of moral principles or to talk about living by God's law. But this portion, with all it's details shows that living by any law involves a forest of statutes and case law. Anybody who thinks that somehow a few magical bits of legislation that prohibit certain sex acts some people find "icky" will keep us all away from evil is deluded. And any morality that somehow can only tell you what is good and what is evil without managing to get into details about which choices are better in the real world, where sometimes there are no truly good choices of action (or any morality which throws its hands into the air and says -- "well, there are no truly good choices ... this happens, this is why we say everyone is tainted by sin and cannot repent or manage to do the right thing on their own accord") is woefully insufficient.

In order to live a life on the good path, you sometimes need to make choices -- between two seemingly good paths (a la Frost) or two seemingly bad ones. And the choice makes all the difference.

Meanwhile, speaking of those who claim we need morality enforced by legislation including the banning of abortion -- how do they square their so-called "Old Testament" morality with, what must be from their perspective, the Bible's (in Mashpatim) rather cavalier treatment of the life of a fetus:

"If men quarrel, and hurt a pregnant woman, so that her fruit depart from her, and yet no further harm follows; he shall be surely punished, according to what the woman's husband will lay upon him; and he shall pay as the judges determine" (Exodus 21:22).

Some translations even leave out the word "further" which may or may not be implied by the Hebrew text.

Does this sound like how the Bible would treat a fetus if it were a human life? No ... if the fetus were considered part of the covenant (religious social contract), the actions of the men fighting would be manslaughter (open and shut case). Since the actions are not manslaughter -- a person must not have been slaughtered. This is not to say that Judaism says abortion is always ok (although in many cases Judaism allows abortion ... in some cases, it requires it!), but it does say something about how the Bible views the fetus.

So if the fetus is not part of the religious social contract, why should it be part of the secular one (as far as those who would want to base our laws on "Judeo-Christian" religious laws)? And if it's not such a part, by what rights does the government have to tell you that you cannot have a generally safe medical procedure done on your body. Right to privacy? Sounds like a matter of who "owns" your body ... if you own your body, you can do what you need to to maintain it ... last I checked nobody else owns your body ... we have a little thing called the 13th amendment after all (although some would like to chip away at that one, e.g. by eliminating the law of the soild, etc. -- frightening stuff if you ask me).

Friday, February 17, 2006



I apologize to my readership (all two or three of you ;) ) for the light posting ... so many things are going on in the world ... so many interesting things in the Torah portions to comment about -- I could be posting up a storm.

But instead, I am rushing to finish a draft of my dissertation so it can be ready when I defend in a little over a week.

Anyway -- just a little something I'm not sure anybody has caught regarding how un-democratically minded the people in charge of our country are.

As has been widely reported, Dick Cheney complains one problem with our government is our lack of ability to keep secrets.

Aside from the self-serving "piss in the wind and say it's raining" aspect of this quotation (coming from someone who may very well be behind one of our most damaging leaks in recent years -- the revelation that Brewster-Jennings was a CIA front) and the scary (and for the admin ultimately self-destructive -- so maybe not so scary for us) "when do they call in the plumbers" aspect of what Cheney may wish to do about it, there is a little matter of the following quotation, which used to be a favorite of even certain "get the gummint off my back" conservatarians:

Secrecy, being an instrument of conspiracy, ought never to be the system of a regular government. - Jeremy Bentham

As some have already asked -- if, as Bush & CO defenders on wiretapping are wont to point out, "if you are innocent, what do you have to hide?", then shouldn't Bush & CO be more forthright about their energy policy meetings, etc.? Unless they are not so innocent, in which case their reckoning will come, even if it may be dangerously delayed.

Tuesday, February 07, 2006


My Letter to Sen. Specter

Feel free to send your own -- mine is heavy on the snark:

Sen. Specter, Chairman Sen. Judiciary Committee:

I am writing to you in support of your and your Republican colleagues' decision not to swear Alberto Gonzales for testimony yesterday. While other liberals may disagree with this decision, I see no point to place Attorney General Gonzales in a position where he may very well perjure himself.

Certainly, given Gonzales' past sworn testimony to your committee in which he declared a program we now know about and about which he knew at the time to be entirely hypothetical, it seems that swearing in Gen. Gonzales would not have in any way ensured that his testimony would be truthful. Indeed, I wonder how many of the "hypothetical" issues raised by Sen. Feinstein will turn out are already occurring: if Gonzales previously said warrant-less wiretapping was "hypothetical" when he knew it was already occurring, could it be that media manipulation, covert ops on US soil, etc., that Gonzales said were hypothetical are now occurring and he knows about them?

I find no fault with you not insisting the Gonzales be sworn in: after all, past experience has shown that he views oaths to be meaningless anyway. The real question is why the administration has continued to allow a demonstrated perjurer, someone who committed a crime for which Clinton was impeached, to remain in a cabinet level position.

David Snyder


Seeing the Forest for the Trees

Some liberals lambast the mainstream media for dutifully reporting Republican talking points (is this part of the media manipulation that Gonzales pointed refused to deny is occuring?) about the Democratic opposition to illegal spying being a loosing issue for the Democrats. But aside from the fact that when you talk about something enough it becomes true (especially when the media, which is assumed by many, in spite of all evidence, to be on the side of the Democrats talks about what is good for the Democrats), the mainstream media may very well be right.

The problem is that a good percentage of people are hearing about Bush's illegal wiretapping and are saying "this guy is willing to break the law to fight terrorists? that means he's really dedicated" even if the reality is that all it means is that Bush doesn't give a flying Cheney and is so lazy he can't even be bothered to follow the law. But, anyway, too many people accept the argument of Roper:

‘Roper: So now you’d give the Devil benefit of law!

‘More: Yes. What would you do? Cut a great road through the law to get to the Devil?

‘Roper: I’d cut down every law in England to do that!

‘More: Oh? And when the last law was down, and the Devil turned round on you -- where would you hide, Roper, the laws all being flat? This country’s planted thick with laws from coast to coast -- man’s laws, not God’s -- and if you cut them down -- and you’re just the man to do it -- d’you really think you could stand upright in the winds that would blow then? Yes, I’d give the Devil benefit of law, for my own safety’s sake.’

that when it comes to fighting the devil you must bend the law -- to many people find More's position, well, utopian .. and hence silly.

Of course the reality is that More is right, but people who fancy themselves to be tough minded often are so tough they can manage to ignore reality when it bites them in the face.

But given this electoral environment in which so many people have bought into the un-democratic and (in the Roman sense) fascist Roper-Republican mindset that laws are luxuries in a time of fighting the devil, how are we Democrats ever going to get this democratic republic of ours back?

What if the media is right (and that in large part because, out of the interests of their corporate masters, they have helped to craft this opinion in the body politic) that people will actually support the President because he has broken the law? Pretty frightening to me -- but there are some frightening people out there. Have you ever been to Bobo's world (Bobo hasn't, of course)?

And yet the fate of our republic lies in the hands of such people who don't even understand how a democratic republic is supposed to work and how our country has worked, albeit with flaws, like gangbusters?


Thursday, February 02, 2006


Follow the Money

As Pat Robertson, who is in a position to know about such machinations of corruption, might put it, there is a thread (see if you can catch the pun) linking Abramoff and Gitmo.

Call me paranoid, but perhaps this administration's love of lawless zones like that in Gitmo is about more than just a few sadists in high places wanting to get their jollies off of abusing POWs. Remember a place called Saipan? Being part of the US, clothes made their could be labeled "Made in America" and foreign laws did not apply there, but being not really part of the US, US law and protections did not apply either. And apparently in such lawlessness there is profit -- and of course, Jack Abramoff and his cronies were up to their necks in all of this. I guess soon we can expect clothes "Made in America" to be made by prison labor in Gitmo under US military supervision?

Now, what other country, which the Fundies claim to hate but their leaders secretly love, has prisoners making cheap goods under military supervision? Could it be China -- a country transformed not so long ago by Mao who was not so long ago a hero of many who now call themselves neo-conservatives and who are trying to transform this country? When I put on my tinfoil hat I start wondering how odd it is that as soon as the Commies lost the Cold War, they started laying plans to take over this country and the world through us (PNAC). We should not let their Republican affiliations confuse us -- the neo-cons are Commies. Interestingly, the Commies were quite reactionary at times as well.

The ironic thing, though, about the fight of the right to undermine the rule of law in this country and around the world, is that, even though they claim they need to do this to fight terrorism, terrorists thrive in places without the rule of law (e.g. Afghanistan). Are we merely becoming dragons as we fight dragons or is there something more sinister here -- that certain folk at the highest levels of government are actually trying to create situations where terrorism will thrive (look at what we've done in Iraq) so as to make sure that our new and profitable "Cold War" against terrorism will never end -- unlike in our previous Cold War where the gravy train was stopped by the Russians crying "Uncle".

Or is it just about the benjamins -- is it just about richers trying to create spheres of lawlessness in which they can build their own manorial domains? Is it just about reinstating feudalism but without reciprocal obligations?

Wednesday, February 01, 2006


Talking like a Democrat

Rachel Madow (sp?) pointed out something interesting -- last night GW Bush was channeling Jimmy Carter. I don't mind Republicans sounding like Democrats, but

(1) when Republicans do this, how come high profile Democrats aren't pointing this out? why doesn't the Democratic response go something like:

We are happy to hear that, like Nixon going to China, former oil-man GW Bush is concerned about our dependence on oil. Of course, we were concerned about this 30 years ago, but when Jimmy Carter said as much, he was widely ridiculed. Anyway, we'll let by-gones be by-gones if the Republicans are now willing to put something behind the President's wonderful rhetoric -- we have proposed an alternative energy plan that has bipartisan support but which the President is currently blocking. If the President is so concerned about our addiction to oil, he should work with us on promoting alternative energy rather than to work against us.

(2) if it's good politics for Republicans to sound like Democrats, why, according to the "conventional wisdom" is it not good politics for Democrats to sound like Democrats?

Why does the Pres. use Dem. rhetoric? Because, as much as people have been convinced that liberals are evil and Democrats, being liberals, are evil, most people agree with at least some of the liberal agenda.

If Dems. would stop trying to run away from being evil liberals (and every Dem. to the left of Zig-Zag-Zell, even Joe Lieberman, is considered a liberal by most Americans) and would just clearly lay out our liberal ideology, maybe they would get more public support.

In spite of occassional Republican aping of Democratic talking points (and Clinton's aping of the Republicans was successful, it must be said -- and look at how angry the Republicans were about him), the Republicans did not get to where they were by pandering to the mainstream of public opinion (indeed, Dems. should take pains to point out such pandering and declare it a victory for them -- as people want to support winners and hate to support panderers) but rather by declaring that the mainstream supported their positions and the mainstream followed (with the help of a media, whose refs were so worked that they were afraid to voice any opinion except those to the right of Atilla the Hun, but who's perceived as so liberal that any criticism by them of Republicans is ignored while criticism of Democrats gets traction in the public's perceptions). Democrats should, no matter what the media says, take the same tack -- act as if the mainstream is liberal and the mainstream will eventually be more liberal!

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