Friday, June 30, 2006


Is This Guy Really "Good for Israel"?

I know even as of the 2004 election people were arguing that about GW Bush, but I hope by now, people realize what kind of person GW Bush is.

Part of it is that most of the people arguing this either had other political agendas they were not publicizing or they were Northeasterners who never really had any experience with White Christian Fundamentalists and hence don't viscerally understand the code words involved. Because of this lack of understanding coupled with a generally paranoid attitude that, unless demonstrating otherwise, a typical Gentile is an anti-Semite, too many Northeastern Jews tend to believe that liberal criticism of Israel, which really isn't anything more severe than, e.g., what the Prophets said about Israel -- and were the Prophets even anti-Zionist?, is evidence of underlying anti-Semitism whereas not understanding the code, they think fundie Christian support of Israel is evidence that the political right likes us, even if really the political right wants to kick us to Israel and out of this country so that they can have their Christian nation as well as us in Israel as cannon-fodder in Armegeddon. Now come-on? Who's more anti-Semitic, someone echoing the words of the Prophets or someone asking us Jews to be cannon-fodder? But alas, being generally paranoid but not knowing the specific code, too many Jews miss this. Northeastern Jewish anti-anti-Semites, who like anti-Semites ignorant of real Jews base their prejudices on ignorance of real anti-Semitic thinking, thus remind me of an old quip about anti-Semites (a case of becoming a dragon in fighting dragons?): pace Jackie Mason, the problem with anti-anti-Semites is that the miss the opprotunity to find specific faults in individual anti-Semites.

Thinking towards a possible future of moving back to the tri-state area and raising Jewish children in the Northeast, how do I impress upon whatever kids I may have the importance of understanding code words without counterproductively making them paranoid?

Thursday, June 29, 2006


Bush is right, the NY Times was wrong to do what they did

Why am I saying such a thing and risking the wrath of Kos, who appearently controls all of left-blogostan with his mighty e-mails?

Because, it has occured to me that when Bush & CO said that the NY Times revealed the existance of a secret program, they were correct! Of course the program revealed was something Bush & CO said they would do. Of course "follow the money" is the obvious thing to do in persuing those who perpetrated a criminal act (*). But since when does Bush & CO actually do what they said they'd do? Since when do they do the right or appropriate thing, e.g. in fighting terrorism? The SWIFT program may have been a secret hidden in plain site, but, it was still a secret. Perhaps there are more secrets like this? Perhaps Bush & CO have only appeared to act like bumbling fools who have since 9/11 been giving Al Qaeda exactly what it wants? Perhaps they are merely setting a trap? I am reminded of the late great Phil Hartman's portrayal of Reagan here.

< / snark >

* those who would claim that the terrorists who attacked us on 9/11 are more than mere criminals are giving the terrorists credit for their cause that they do not deserve. For a party which has been so good at framing issues in their favor and thus must understand the power of framing, it is amazing how easily the Republicans (as well as too many Democrats) framed 9/11 exactly how the terrorists wanted it to be framed -- as a key salvo in a war, a clash of civilizations. Are Bush & CO, who are so smart about the power of framing in terms of domestic issues and who realize that often it's he who frames the issues that wins the debate, that stupid that they allowed Al Qaeda to win the hearts of minds of many accross the world by letting Al Qaeda frame the 9/11 attacks? Do they really not care how many enemies we create? Or did they let Al Qaeda frame the issue on purpose? Are certain people, who claim to be so patriotic, really that anti-American? Am I being paranoid or a Cassandra? Certainly, they don't like the American (democratic system of) government (cf. Norquist) ...

Speaking of which, if what the Times did was treasonous, is Grover "drown the government" Norquist also guilty of treason for his speech?

Tuesday, June 27, 2006


Pre-mature Anti-fascism

A post title of Digby's reminded me of this label, yet another thing the right denies about its own history in an effort to associate us with Communists ... I wonder how long before those of us (e.g. the Clinton admin) who "got it" in re. the terrorist threat pre-9/11 will be tarred and feathered as "premature anti-Islamofascists"? I guess just about the time the powers that be decide "Islamo-fascism" is no longer the threat it once was and we have some new group against which to wage war?

Monday, June 26, 2006


Why the Fuss?

Riffing on something at Altercation -- why the fuss over the Fed. government snooping around financial records the fed. government has always had the power to snoop around, around which snooping is probably one of the key aspects of any sensible war on terrorism ("follow the money" would be Felt's advice in this war, nu? it certain has been Greg Palast's ... and many of our failures in fighting terrorism have been failures in following the money 'cause various people with power have good reason to fear where money trails may lead -- ooops ... answered my own question didn't I?) and for which snooping the feds properly obtained warrants anyway? Especially when compared with the media's rote repitition of the "if you're not guilty, you've nothing to hide" spin -- spin which the media, of all people, should know is factually wrong ... there are particular categories of not guilty people (except in the Christian sense of us all being guilty -- which depending on whether you are a Christian or a "Christian"(TM) would make you respectively feel very uncomfortable with the 'only guilty people have to fear X' line of argumentation as you realize we are all guilty of something or will make you perfectly comfortable with that reasoning "after all, we know that anyone targetted by any probe must be guilty of something ... we all are guitly of something ...") who have a lot to hide that if the media were doing their job would know a lot about, viz., whistleblowers -- on all the blatantly un-constitutional other 'spying' activities Bush & CO are perpetuating. It's almost as if some in the media have an interest in keeping financial records secret ... since when are reporters so rich that they have such records? Hmmm ... call me paranoid but maybe those who are not worried about the corporatization of the media (forgetting about the very basic issue of nationalized media often failing to adaquately provide coverage of local emergencies -- was this an issue in Katrina, btw? nobody seems to have brought this up ... of course, "they" may not have brought it up 'cause there was no story, but since when did not having a story stop "them" and since when did having one start them, so to speak?) should worry a little? Even more odd is how happily the media is criticizing themselves for even breaking the story ... as much as I think the government is right to look at, with appropriate warrants and/or subpeonas, financial data, news orgs are also right to investigate what the government is doing -- it's part of their job. Those who question news orgs on this are even more out on a limb than those thinking that the government shouldn't be looking at financials even if they don't care about the government spying on them ...

Of course, this isn't my only puzzlement as of late: I understand that in fighting a threat 'nurtured' in part by the information/internet-age (I cannot wait for the people on the wrong side of the net neutrality debate to invoke the war on terrorism for their cause -- ya know it's gonna happen ... unless maybe we invoke the GWOT first?), "information warfare" can be critical. But why (cf. Susskind -- who also reminds us of the "behavior modification theory" of going into Iraq -- "we're gonna teach tinpot dictators a lesson" ... of course, many of us predicted before hand we'd end up teaching tinpot dictators the wrong lesson, viz., get your nukes ready before we can invade ... in a just world those of us who called it right should all have lucrative pundit contracts while those who were wrong get the treatment accorded by the punditocracy to, e.g., Howard Dean, instead of it being the other way around -- but I guess among the Heathers of the media, wrong is the new right like pink is the new black? but can you where lime green -- I mean I can and do wear green with pink, but lime green -- to the extent anyone can wear that color in the first place -- with black? but I'm drifting off topic and to the previous 'two out of three' topic ... but hey, it's my blog and I can drift OT if I want to!) does Bush & CO feel the need to wage information warfare on the American people? Do they feel we're their enemies? That's a funny thing for a leadership of a "democratic" government to feel ... it makes a person wonder if Chomsky's right ...

Wednesday, June 21, 2006


My Outer Nominalist: Connonsoireship and Epicurianism

While, as I have mentioned with turns of phrase stolen from Gen. J.C. Christian, my tastes may run toward the essentialist, just the act of being vaguely a connosoir of things, being, if you will, an "Epicurean" is one of, not surprisingly given the "Epicurean" label, is nominalistic and "Darwinian" in nature: to be a connosoir, you have to be aware of and appreciate, if not enjoy, the variety available in of what you are a connosoir. It's selection in action -- you select the best from the best and enjoy it. But if there were no variety, how could you select the best from the best?

It is the same with evolution -- evolution emphasizes variety. And that, more than anything, is historically what has had people worked up about evolution. Contra Coulter, it's perfectly possible to believe in evolution and believe in God. But it's difficult to be a medieval essentialist and believe in evolution -- because the "action" in evolutionary-themed biology (which is all biology nowadays: especially in this "omics" and post-"omics" world) is not in learning about the perfect specimen, but in learning about the variety from which evolution can select better specimens (evolution is a metonymy for science as a whole, FWIW -- which is why opposition to evolution is anti-scientific: it opposes not only a particular, and particularly important, scientific theory, but also the opposing theories have very anti-scientific peri-physical implications) and the relations among specimens. And people who want to restore medieval essentialism 'cause they want to, for example, bring back the feudal order, thus oppose evolution.

But perhaps the connection between epicureanism and Epicureanism goes beyond this deep thinking back to the original concern of this post: connosoirship. Do those who oppose evolution also oppose the appreciation, from an aesthetic point of view, of the material world? Do they oppose the appreciation of God's creation? Are they what is innaccurately labeled "Puritanical" (the Puritans were not quite exactly of that sort which is their reputation)? And does this fear of the material world as being one of devilish temptation also play into opposition to evolution?

Perhaps Craig was onto something deeper than any of us realized when he got me thinking of the irony of referring to my "inner essentialist" in posts regarding my "epicurean" behaviors?

Tuesday, June 20, 2006


More Republican Spin from NPR

Usually NPR does a good job of announcing that they are repeating Republican spin (in the guise of reporting on it -- so conservatives can argue that the "liberal NPR is critical of our spin but not the Democrats'" -- but if nobody says our point of view, then how will people know it? what's that saying "any publicity is better than no publicity at all"?) -- but this morning in reporting the 'change of direction' by the Dept. of the Interior (shouldn't that be the Dept. of the 'Exterior' ;) ) re: national parks, they didn't even bother to do that. They made a big deal out of how this is an historical change as to how Interior Dept. has been operating the parks (they did manage to mention once the qualifier -- "over the last 6 years": what's with the media abusing useless qualifiers while barely mentioning useful ones, like timeline markers?) without noting that the Interior Dept. is actually returning to the historical mandate (how conservative of them -- to return to a conservative mandate to conserve parks) pre-Bush.

It isn't a major shift in policy for the Interior Department to realize what their mandate vis-a-vis the National Parks is -- a mandate that's existed since the inception of the Parks. It's the Bush administration realizing they've screwed up and returning to the way things were before those clowns came on the scene. Reporting it any other way is pro-Bush & CO bias. Drop the bias NPR -- just 'cause you're better than most, doesn't mean you're unbiased -- and it sure don't mean you're liberal as much as you'd like to think so!



Perhaps I am in no position to raise this question, not being a Christian myself, but isn't the relevent question for Christians to ask not "WWJD?", "What Would Jesus Do?" -- after all Christians believe Jesus is the Son of God and hard to immitate (and he is certainly anyway depicted as being rather inhuman in the NT) -- but "WWYD?" "What Would You Do?", i.e. if the situation were reversed. Isn't that what "do unto others" is about?

This thought occurred to me in connection with the Iraq war when NPR had a soldier pointing out that one challenge in Iraq is that they are a very gun happy culture, so knowing whether someone with a gun actually means you harm is quite a challenge. My first thought was "how are they any different than us then?" (cf. Meaning of Life).

Many have suggested, quite correctly IMHO, that part of our failure in both Iraq and the GWOT is our failure to understand foreign cultures. This is certainly true -- we do fail to understand the diversity that enriches our planet without which life would be dull. Indeed, many of us disdain a theory that explains progress from diversity (evolution) in favor of a theory that has an Enlightenment gloss but is almost medieval in its essentialism (ID). But we also fail to understand our own culture and our common human-ness. We want to understand how and why Iraqis are acting the way they do? Well how would Americans act if foreigners invaded and occupied the US -- even if this invasion were to displace a hated dictatorship? You know the answer? We all at some level do, and that's exactly how the Iraqis are acting.

I find it very odd that those who most supported this war, which corresponds often to those who most wish to consider this country a Christian (or "Judeo-Christian" in order not to alienate too much those neo-cons who like to kiss up to fundies anyway) nation, don't get that chief lesson of the religion they (including many neo-cons who themselves are not Christian but fancy themselves to be Strauss-- who's probably rolling in his grave considering what he would think of the neo-cons --'s philosopher caste, not bound by the mores of the common-folk) wish to impose on this country -- that whenever you do anything, you must ask yourself, not WWJD but WWYD -- what would you do if the shoe where on the other foot.

And this call to empathy is not merely a moral call -- it is a very "realistic" one. If you believe in the wisdom of Sun-tsu, e.g., you realize it is important to "know your enemy". But if we refuse to acknowledge how we would act and that our enemy is just like us, how will we ever know our enemy and overcome him? So, even if we are not Christians, we must still learn to ask WWYD? if we want to win the war on terror, e.g.

Just a final thought -- in my religious tradition there is a saying to the effect of "who is strong? he who makes his enemy into his friend". This is another lesson those of us so keen on presenting a "tough guy" image for our nation should learn and apply to international relations, nu?

Monday, June 19, 2006


Political Cartoons can be so Wonderful

This one of Sutton's manages to summarize a number of points some of us have been making about the flawed political calculus of "centrist" Democrats. Come-on folks -- take a strong stand on something that benefits real people and they'll vote for us. Continue to be wishy-washy and they'll vote against us 'cause they're more afraid of gay married terrorists having abortions than they are of Republican incompetence.

Sunday, June 18, 2006


Two Outa Three Ain't Bad

"It's the Jewish-nerdy-queer axis."

Why this post? 'Cause when you are waiting for a calculation to finish -- why not take advantage of an excuse to quote Mars Attacks!

I am reminded of a dorm-mate's review of Independence Day:

You have a movie about an ensemble of characters without much of a plot, but each character is a mere stereotype. You have a WASP president displaying "leadership" , giving orders: "Jew think for me", "Asian guy, do cool engineering tricks for me", "African-American guy, fight for me".

In the post "Mission Accomplished" world, perhaps it's time to think back and remember the well-deserved parody that was Mars Attacks!

Friday, June 16, 2006


Unsuccessful Commenting

I've been trying to respond to this comment, but have not been able to -- that website doesn't post my comment responses lately.

So I'll reverse comment-whore and place the gist of my response here:

"Science is a tool -- science doesn't have a realm" is a non-sequitor, ain't it (not that I am one to talk about non-sequitors: one time I even made one while complaining about one in the course of challenging my grade on a test!)? In fact, science as a tool has a definite sphere of usefulness -- just like any other tool. While new uses for a given tool are discovered all the time, one must still be careful that wielding a hammer, one does not view every problem as a nail.

Indeed, AFAIC, while morality must pay heed to reality (and moral systems -- and we all know which these are -- which, when confronting the complexities of reality surrender and say "oh well, you cannot help but sin" are hardly guides to living a moral life) which is best described by the tool of science, those who turn to solely to science for moral or metaphysical answers, being guilty of scientism, are really not all that different than those who insist that science back up their peculiar moral and/or metaphyiscal beliefs. The chief complaint about "Darwinism" (don't you just love that term -- it sounds like we worship Darwin or something) is that it has bad moral implications, and we argue back, quite correctly IMHO, you can infer morality from evolution no more than you can infer it from the laws of thermodynamics. But those who ask science to be a universal tool implicitly say the ID crowd is right in this regard. To turn it around, ID actually is an example of "scientism": both the "scienticists" on the left-blogs and ID proponants want to use the hammer of science where what is really needed is a spanner. The difference is that scienticists at least accept the results of science but don't accept the limits of those results whereas ID types want to bend the rules (including the peri-physics -- see my last paragraph) and results of science in order that science matches their moral and metaphysical commitments which they, like the secular scienticists, believe are not actually beyond the realm of scientific discovery (I am sure Rev. RMJ would have something interesting to say about the Greek roots of this notion of discovery underlying scienticism -- one can argue that the Ancient Greeks did not invent science, which is a product of a later era, although a traditional, secretly Romanophilic New England Baptist -- y'all know the type ... I had one of these for a math class in undergrad ... it was a fun and most informative class ... and I learned a little about math too -- might argue that science has its roots in the Franciscans, but that many were, even pre-science, scienticists.).

Of course, I do realize I have conflated morality and religion/metaphysics a bit here ... these are different questions, but the same concern of using science as a universal tool applies in both cases.

Also, in these discussions it is often useful to distinguish metaphysics as Popper uses the term from metaphysics as most philosophers have used it (about vs. beyond physics). Perhaps we should call to what Popper refers "peri-physics" and the more traditional meaning should be captured by the term "trans-physics"? I am sure even positivists then would have no problem saying science involves adopting certain peri-physical beliefs. While I could say I believe in Design as a metaphysical argument but also make the point that what irks ID types about evolution is not just the science but also the peri-physical implications of it (e.g. the importance of variation in the mean relative to the "type", i.e. nominalism over essentialism). Of course, as a non-positivist, I would say that even the statement "trans-physics" is meaningless is a transphyiscal statement, but at least by dividing up metaphysics into "trans-physics" vs. "peri-physics" we can better keep our philosophical disputes out of our common goal of defending science.


A Policy Idea for the Dems

Every so often various people (myself included) suggest that in order for the Dems. to win elections it is not enough for the Republicans to screw-up: the Dems. need to give people a reason to vote for them. Some even suggest the Dems. should come up with a list of (pseudo-) policies akin to the "Contract [on] America".

Allow me to suggest one such policy: universal pre-natal care. It sucks the wind out of the "Democrats hate the unborn" argument. It gives us a concrete policy to support (which the Republicans would have a problem finding blame with ... without pissing off their base, some of whom actually do care about the unborn rather than merely keepin' women in their place -- and that part of the Republican base would go for an occassional liberal economic program). And it's a necessary thing.

Of course the Republicans will screw up the implimentation -- but given the response to the screwed-up prescription drug plan, it seems people are finally getting wise as to which side it is that is screwing up implimentations: so we are less likely to loose from this with "the Dems. thought of universal pre-natal care and look at how bad the [Republican] implementation of it is" than we were in 2004 (when we lost the Dems. would have implemented the Iraq war better -- although that argument was somewhat different as even by 2004 it was becoming clear that the Iraq war wasn't a good idea to begin with, no matter who would have implemented it) or in 2002.

So why not launch a campaign for federally subsidized, univeral pre-natal care?

Tuesday, June 13, 2006


A Thought on the Electoral Calculus of Moderation

With recent discussion in the left blogosphere of, e.g. the follies of "Holy" Joe Lieberman and the silliness of saying "what if Scoop Jackson got the 1974 +/- 2 years Democratic nomination?", I thought I would briefly address the larger electoral calculus issue here:

The DLC, et al., argue that we Dems would shoot ourselves in the foot (as they shoot other Dems in the foot -- do you see Republican moderates attacking their right wing? no ... they just speak in a more careful code to their right wing or attack the right only when the media is looking -- and, of course, the far right doesn't believe the media anyway ... so they'll consider the attacks on them to be from the media not from the Republican) to not nominate centrist, mainstream (TM) (i.e. not necessarily representing the views of people as polling results indicate -- and here I differ with olvlzl slightly ... it isn't polling that's the problem so much as the misrepresentation of polling results by the innumerate and biased MSM -- but representing the views the MSM tells people they should have if they want to be "reasonable") candidates.

Of course, prima facie, there is a problem with the argument that Dems err in not nominating mainstream candidates (well besides the inherent anti-Democratic and anti-democratic sentament of it: we Dems are too stupid to nominate a good candidate? the electoral process is inherently inconsistent?): if a candidate cannot receive support even from fellow Democrats, from whom can that candidate receive support? The DLC, those who think Scoop Jackson could have won in 1972, et al. base their arguments on two points which themselves do not sound unreasonable (in fact they sound "pat yourself on the back clever" for opposing the more naive argument I first raised in this paragraph):

(1) no matter whom the Dems. nominate, the vast majority of people who've voted in the primary will still vote for the Dem candidate in the general election

(2) a more moderate Dem. candidate has a better chance of attracting swing voters or even Republicans

Point #1 is true as far as it goes: even if a candidate is not the optimal choice of many Dems, most will hold their nose and vote for whomever the party nominates in the general election. This kinda renders moot the naive electoral calculus: a candidate who cannot get even the majority of Democratic votes in the primary will at least get those votes in the general election. However, the key word is "vast majority", not 100%. In an environment of squeeker elections in which swing voters are by-and-large turned off by both parties and in which Republicans are generally able to turn off or turn away more potentially Democratic voters than the other way around, the vote of every voter committed enough to vote in the primary counts. Of course the argument could also be made that nominating a more liberal candidate would turn off a few moderate voters, but the fact of the matter is that the more popular in the grass-roots of a party a candidate is, the fewer voters would be turned off by nominating that candidate rather than another.

As for Point #2 -- this is assuming swing voters are swinging because they are ideological moderates in the middle of the mainstream as defined by the punditocracy. In reality, this is not the case: people are, as un-democratic as this is, looking for "strong" leadership. A clear thinking moderate is indeed more likely to win over swing voters than is a clear thinking liberal (it is a myth of the beltway chattering classes that we blogospheric liberals insist on ideological conformity to our cause -- consider our relative support of the very moderate Reid over the more liberal Lieberman: alas, you will see pundits distorting things even more as they try to make a horse-race between Murtha and that other guy in which they will paint the moderate Murtha as a flaming liberal because he has obviously reasonable, and hence dangerous to those who consider themselves to be the artbiters of un-obvious reason, views on Iraq while the paint the more liberal other guy as a moderate).

But how many moderate candidates are not so much dedicated moderates as wishy-washy folk? Or Republican-lite? Republican-lite candidates are not a good idea (cf. Truman's famous comments on this subject). And as to wishy-washy candidates: here -- in spite of the pundits' claims that people want candidates to represent their point of view (and most people are wishy-washy, so they would want a wishy-washy candidate) -- in fact, most people at least have a mindset democratically republican enough to realize they want the "best man" to win rather than a carbon copy of themselves ideologically* -- after all the role of the Head of State in a democratic republic is to do a job -- i.e. lead the nation -- and citizens in a democratic republic, like stockholders and their board, have a responsibility to themselves to hire the best woman/man for the job of Chief Executive Officer. While many American citizens are still a little unclear on this concept, I think we have stepped back from the quasi-fascist, our Head of State should be an "everyman" who serves as a front for the powers that be and gives them a human face (I hope for the sake of American enterprise stockholders and boards have also stepped back from their version of this thinking) precipace over which our nation was starting to fall. A strong moderate can win votes of swing voters ... a wishy-washy candidate will only prompt swing voters to say "if this joker qualifies to be president, well so does my idiot neighbor" ... even if such a voter doesn't vote Republican, that voter isn't voting Democratic either and so long as less than 35% or so of the voting population (and about 35% of people will vote Republican -- even some that hate Bush will continue to vote Republican 'cause they fear Dems. more ... and anyway, Bush is not running anymore, so we cannot win on merely hatred of Bush) is actually bothering to vote Democratic (i.e. a turn out of 70%, which is relatively high for our apathetic voting population, with the election split about evenly), the Republicans will win as they are motivated. Unless we have a Democratic candidate who can motivate people, whether swing voters or the base, to vote for that candidate, the Dems. will loose -- and let's face it, swing voters are, shall we say, a bit wishy-washy and not so likely to turn out as the base (something Republicans learned a long time ago).

So why not motivate the base and forget the swing voters -- at the very least, they'll respect us more if we stop pandering, even if we are pandering to them (sometimes playing "hard to get" is the best strategy). In the end, I think even after considering the truths of the DLC electoral calculus, the naive calculus wins out as being more correct (and those who dismiss naivity too blithely are themselves often naive: sometimes the tradition, the intuition of the layman, etc. are more correct than the fancy, e.g. economic, model) -- the idea that if only the Democrats would nominate the perfect moderate they would win in the general elections is simply foolish: sometimes the best candidate does win ... and if that candidate doesn't win in the general elections it isn't because we chose the wrong candidate in the primary but because we Dems need to strengthen our party more and more effectively get the word out about what we really stand for.

* Indeed, most people are very uncomfortable with their own ideology: especially on social issues. One way to explain the divergence between polling results suggesting people generally support, e.g. gay rights, abortion rights and due process of law, with election results suggesting they are afraid of "gay married terrorists having the right to an abortion" is that people do support liberal positions but find those positions "icky" (cf. Atrios on the subject) and hence do not trust any politician that too strongly advocates for the views they support but they feel politicians who take the opposite point of view must be "moral" and hence trustworthy. There seems to me, based on my personal experiences, a racial divide here: many non-Jewish whites (we Jews of any color are just weird ;) ...) tend to vote more conservative than are their personal views while many African-Americans of my aquaintance OTOH don't trust politicians whose views on social issues are as conservative as their own and who, in the political sphere, take a very pragmatic attitude on social issues -- a phenomenon often noted by frustrated Republicans and their water-carriers in the MSM to the extent of "how come more Blacks don't vote for Republicans who better match their views on social issues" but rarely pursued in any direction other than to whine about various aspects of the Democratic party in a quasi-classist (cf. the conservative put-down of Chavez in Venezuela: "those people only support him 'cause he gives them bricks and milk" -- and what's that, chopped liver?) and quasi-racist way. There are lessons here for we Democrats: we don't loose votes by not being socially conservative, so moving to the right there is not going to help us -- and may hurt us as people correctly judge us to be aprincipled panderers should we do such a thing (the very people who agree with social liberalism but get turned off by its supporters would also get turned off by those who pander for similar reasons -- the "social liberalism is 'icky'" crowd is obsessed with purity, nu?). Indeed, what is suggested is that we Dems can get people to vote for us even if they disagree with us on social issues, provided we give people another reason to vote for us. This also will help with the "social liberalism is 'icky'" crowd as it would place us as something other than defenders of social liberalism. I.e., again the DLC is wrong -- we cannot move by going to the right, only by moving to the left on economic issues so that we have a stark contrast between us and Republicans on something other than social issues in which we loose by keeping our liberalism intact but we loose even more by abandoning our liberalism (we loose what really is the moral high ground and are seen as pandering besides). But not to knock the pro-choice movement (indeed I have marched for it), but where are the marches for, to borrow a phrase from that movement, the rights of the already born (and not pregnant)? Where are the marches for the rights, e.g., of mine workers to have safe working environments, etc? If we Dems. communicate that we are not interested in social liberalism, that would be bad. But we should communicate that our party is about something other than the rights of "gay married terrorists to have abortions".


Storm Blogging

Fortunately it seems the state of FL has averted a hurricane. Which is good, 'cause I don't know how to spell hurricane.

Hopefully the state of FL will similarly avert new rules that will prohibit county election officials from revealing who's behind the curtain when it comes to voting machines, so to speak.

Monday, June 12, 2006


Stormy Weather

It looks like I might experience my first huricaine (although the sat. image of this storm appears about as organized as the Democratic party). Hopefully everything will be ok. Hopefully it'll just turn into a tropical depression and give this place some much needed rain.

Should I be like a pundit or a member of the 101st Fighting Keyboarders and claim that, once I go through a tropical system, I can understand and hence pontificate about the experience of Katrina survivors?


In other news -- I'm still feeling too lazy even to commentwhore properly, but check out the thread on the post to which Atrios links to under the title "Wanker of the Day: George Will". I wonder how many people who respond to global warming with "let's wait until all the evidence is in" proudly supported going into Iraq, and still do, even though not all the evidence was in? Of course, any rational analysis of the situation would have to include costs of both action and inaction: and the costs of inaction in Iraq were overstated by bedwetters and the costs of action were understated (perhaps because GWB has ensured that the bedwetters don't personally have to pay anything for the Iraq war? it's our children and grandchildren who will have to pay the monetary costs ... and it's "those brave men and women" who risk their lives -- not any of the bedwetters who are obviously too scared to risk their lives: and who can blame them?) whereas the costs of action on global warming are also overstated by many of the same people -- go figure. In such a rational analysis, of course, going to war without all the evidence? -- not prudent! making absolutely sure we don't Cheney Mother Earth? Very prudent indeed. Whatever happened to the days when conservatives said "better safe than sorry"?

The rhetoric, though, is one of the most peculiar things about Iraq (i.e. cf. the global warming debate) -- how anti-reactionary the rhetoric of the supporters of the war was. Even before the war, paleo-cons criticized the neo-cons (former lefties or the descendents thereof) for "maintaining an activist point of view". Already we are seeing the war blamed on "liberals". This war should discredit at least a certain branch of conservativism, but do you think given the rhetoric used to justify the war, it'll end up being the case that we liberals will get blamed for the war? And was the "liberal" rhetoric used done as part of an "if it goes wrong, let's make sure the liberals get blamed" strategy, or am I being too paranoid. IMHO, the "invading Iraq will be good for Israel" argument was also just something used to sell the war to certain people with more influence than sense that revel in behaving acording to anti-Semitic stereotypes of how they have dual loyalties -- but if my paranoia extends to this selling point as well, then certainly it is the case that GW Bush is no friend of the Jews, eh?

I cannot wait for the Germans to say we Jews stabbed them in the back regarding WWI, er for the 'Murkin people to say we liberals stabbed them in the back regarding Iraq.


Meanwhile, tying together a few topics that were all quite the subjects of discussion a while back, another commentwhore.

Sunday, June 11, 2006



When I was a kind, I was wont to develop a mixture of coffee and tea I called "coftea" (sheeze, that sentance is awkward and affected -- English needs an imperfect tense post-haste!). I have since been told that this beverage is enjoyed by the Chinese under the name of Yin-Yang and I have since made it myself as soon as I got a coffee maker.

I've now figured out that Chock-full-o-Nuts French roast is perfect for this beverage (I finally cleaned out my coffee maker and used it this morning): some coffee, some green tea, a dash of Czar Alexander, some tea masala, some golden tisane, a pinch of hot-white-chocolate mix (any more will clog up the coffee filter) and a star anise -- brew it up, add some honey, et voila ... the yummiest coftea you could imagine.

I'd commentwhore if I weren't feeling so lazy today ...

Saturday, June 10, 2006


Naso Blogging

A few questions/comments leap to mind regarding this week's portion (Numbers 4:21-7:89, Judges 13:2-25):

* The "unclean" and "impure" were not supposed to contaminate the encampment of the Israelites: how ought religious communities today receive those who have sinned? how should those who have sinned, even those who are somehow repentent, but in a major way such that the people they have hurt can never recover, be received in a religious community?

* Judaism has abandoned the Temple-dependent ability to take vows to become a Nazir. Many in Judaism may desire a sort of monastic life, if only for a short period -- such desires are frankly not well accomodated by Judaism. Should Judaism reintroduce the Nazirite vows in some for to accomodate this spiritual yearning? Is the lack of a monastic tradition in post-Temple Judaism one of Judaism's flaws or is it a feature?

* As many have pointed out, the story of Samson can be read as a cautionary tale against leading the Nazorite lifestyle for an entire life (cf. the previous point -- although, presumably Judaism would not have, even if it introduced monasticism, people be monks from birth) ... I would go a step further and read it as a cautionary tale for not living life to the fullest and against keeping yourself too sheltered: if you don't have an opportunity to face temptation from the get-go, when temptation comes at a particularly perilous point in your life/vocation, you might succumb precisely when it is the worst time to do so. I wonder what the "will someone think of the children" branch of the religious right would think of this lesson from Judges? Or would they just focus on the Bible viewing Samson as a Nazir from in utero and consider that an example of how the Bible is anti-abortion after all (even though, by that reasoning, life begins, according to this passage, before conception) all the while taking this story as a cautionary tale about the evils of being seduced by women and furriners? Of course, the tale might not be cautionary at all -- after all, the angel didn't say Samson would finish the job, only that he would start it (cf. Pirke Avos on finishing the job).

* Somehow I must intuitively believe in some sort of critical position regarding Biblical authorship -- the Book of Judges somehow always seemed to me more hoary than the Books of the Torah. But does this reflect the more primative nature of the c. 1100 BCE "dark ages" the book of Judges is describing relative to the higher civilazation of the periods of the Torah?

Friday, June 09, 2006


Remember ID?

Well, evidently this fad won't go away anytime soon, as indicated by the harpy of the right -- Ann Coulter -- "believing in it" (those who ask whether she is opportunistic or crazy miss the third option -- both).

Anyway, Pharyngula has blogged on this already. The reason why I am blogging on this too is because Ms. Coulter goes right to the heart of one of the concerns of "anti-Darwinists" -- the morality one can infer from Evolution. Dr. Myers and commentators already make good work as to the ridiculousness of the idea of inferring morality from physical laws (although it must be said, morality ought to respect what is physically/biologically possible/impossible: a moral system that is feasibly or biologically infeasible is hardly a moral system worth using). But I would like to add that by conflating the scientific theory of evolution with the moral "implications" some find therein, the ID crowd actually invites a blind acceptance of the "moral implications" of evolution (e.g. libertine social Darwinism) by anyone smart enough to reject the available alternative hypotheses to evolution. As I have mentioned before, this is one of my problems with teaching ID in schools -- far from encouraging students to be sceptical of evolutionary claims, such teaching leads students to believe that social Darwinism is a "scientific" world view and hence students, most of whom will consider science as something best left to the professionals, will come to blindly accept the "Darwinian" claims of social Darwinists, monetarists and the like, as scientific even if they are not. Indeed, sometimes I wonder if the real import of the push to teach ID in schools is precisely to ensure students are apt to confuse the scientific theory of evolution with the extra-scientific implications of evolution that some would wish to consider as scientific: whether they are trying to speak against evolution as immoral rather than amoral or whether they wish to claim their social Darwinism is science rather than b.s.

Of course, there are also theological problems with ID, AFAIC (even among those of us who accept some extra-scientific/meta-physical form of the Design Argument may be queezy, to say the least, about reducing this kind of Design into a quasi-scientific argument and we may very well find this to be a perversion of theology). And the other important aspect of the opposition to evolution is the importance it places on variation as opposed to type characteristics. In this aspect, the battle between proponants of evolution and the ID theorists is a continuation of the medieval Nominalists vs. Essentialists debate. In fact both the conflation of the extra-scientific implications of evolution (of course, evolution's early defenders were often no help in clearing up this aspect of the debate) and the nominalistic implications of evolution in what Popper might call metaphysics and the rest of us would maybe call peri-physics, were from the get go the prime-motivators, even more than religious fundamentalism per se, of opposition to Darwin's theories. FWIW, I guess I should mention that in terms of science, I accept evolution (natch), in terms of periphysics I welcome rather than oppose the nominalistic implications of evolution (and cladistics is a good way to keep one's outer nominalist and inner essentialist in harmony ;) ) but metaphysically I believe in a Design Argument even if I find that its perversion into a matter of quasi-science (e.g. in ID theory) is morally reprehensible (for reasons that have been well outlined in left-blogostan).

Of course, there is, as I have mentioned in comments (have I blogged about it or merely comment-whored?) the "lost cause" aspect of creationism as pointed out by Lind and others ...

Thursday, June 08, 2006


The WH Gets Its "Justice"

So the WH has got its man -- or at least the man of the past few years.

Before the WH starts getting into full crow mode (according to the NPR spin, in my translation from "snooty, we're 'liberal' elites" to English, they are delaying this lest they be forced to eat crow) about capturing Zarqawi, let me make a few points. If I am wrong, sign me up for a book contract as wrong is the new right (cf. Ted Rall). If I am right -- allow me in a few years to say "I told you so" -- as I did, right here and now. All five of you who read this blog.

(1) Bush calls this killing "justice"? It is nothing of the sort -- justice means the murderer getting tried and then sentanced to life in prison rather than dying a martyr's death. What happened was vengeance, maybe. Maybe part of war and is thus not vengeance, but something a little more acceptable (I know -- I'll get flamed by people from more pacifist traditions than I), but it surely is not justice.

(2) Not only will the killing of "Number 2" not decrease violence, it will increase violence: Zarqawi's death will be seen as a martyrdom or as an act which requires vengeance -- those who support Zarqawi will try to avenge his death and those who oppose him will feel even freer to kill in his absence. If this prediction is wrong -- I'll be happy. But if this prediction is right -- remember you read it here! Of course, Bush would understand this if he understood the concept of justice or even read the Bible he claims to venerate (didn't he ever wonder what the deal with "cities of refuge" was?). At the very least you would think GWB would learn from Israel's mistakes and realize that targetted assassinations don't help anything but only make matters worse (actually GWB is probably thinking "let's do a targetted assassimation like they do in Israel -- those Jewsians are so clever: we should do what they do").

(3) The WH will no doubt use this killing of a major leader of world-terrorism as an example of how the war in Iraq is part and parcel of the Global War on Terror (TM). People should, but given the nature of the memory-hole ADD society we live in unfortunately will not, remember, however, that (A) we had a chance to do this targetting before the war but did not do so precisely so we would have an excuse to fight this war and (B) Zarqawi certainly was, as NPR keeps reminding us, a formidable global terrorist before the Iraq war, but he became so prominant precisely because of our war. If the Iraq war is now about fighting terrorists, it is because we allowed the terrorists to flourish there. Indeed, this was part of the bad-faith "flypaper strategy" used to justify the war -- but such a strategy begs for an insurgency. How would you feel if a hyperpower invaded your country so terrorists would flock there? Would you hate the terrorists or the hyperpower? I would suspect both -- and taking away one enemy will thus allow the insurgents who hate, rather than supported Zarqawi, to focus on us. Of course, this may not be a bad thing -- if all the focus is on us, then we cut and run it may give the Iraqis a unifying victory on which to build a real representative government (for supposed patriots in a country founded by insurgents I am disturbed by the lack of empathy hawks have for the insurgents -- not that the insurgents deserve our sympathy but to solve the problem of the insurgency requires our empathy).

Of course as usual, NPR is carrying water for the admin: repeating every talking point the administration could want in the guise of reporting what the administration will do or interviewing the NPR's definition of the left flank of acceptable discourse, Joe Biden. Does NPR interview a Republican and repeat Dem talking points (except in a tone of voice indicating ridicule?)? No ... so why are they gleefully repeating admin talking points?

Thankfully, Joe Biden actually said the right things rather than doing his best, as the un-official spokesman for the Democratic party, to make Democrats look silly.

Monday, June 05, 2006


Wen Ho Lee

Atrios reminds us of that flap, so I'll comment-whore since I didn't catch the post until so late in the day.

BTW -- whatever happened to the "horrible China threat (TM)" from the 1990s? I was paranoid enough, FWIW, to think that it was all a set up: the religious right whines and complains about Chinese (shall we say, at many levels both in terms of what they did and their motivations, Imperial Rome-like -- i.e. admittedly horrendous) treatment of Christians and the racist element frets of the "yellow peril" so that viewing China as a threat becomes the domain of the whackos only. Meanwhile the very real threats (the fake Wen Ho Lee threat vs. the real Leung threat, writ large) posed by China (in particular and largely ignored was the role of China in starting the domino effect regarding the nuclearization of South Asia -- India's impetus for developing the bomb was largely due to the fact that, as we often forget, it has a long standing border dispute with nuclear China -- China not only gave India cause for developing the bomb but also helped Pakistan which further helped others with nuclear development) got ignored by the general populace: as occured with NAFTA, the focus of opposition to being made and only made by the loonies gave big-business cover to do something against the nation's best interests.


We Need to Work Out a Code

There has been a lot of discussion about the whether having real liberals challenge more centrist Dems. in primaries is a bad or good thing. While my general attitude has been, if the Club for Growth didn't hurt but rather helped the Republican party, why should liberal primary challengers hurt us?

However, listening to NPR (which is supposed by many to be on "our side") and it's coverage of Jane Harmon's primary challenge has got me thinking that maybe liberal primary challengers can be a problem. How? Well, because now we have on tape centrist Democrat Jane Harmon pandering to liberal special interest groups in a very explicit manner. To the extent that some view any Democrat as a liberal, such pandering by centrists won't matter (but to the extent to which wankerishness and being in the spotlight seem to correlate with centrism ensures something worse -- that public perceptions of liberals are based on the wankerishness of "centrist Dems"), but to the extent that some do correctly place people like Harmon in the center of the political spectrum, such pandering only re-enforces the notion that Dems. only care about "special interest" groups in their base and even the most conservative of Democrats is way to the left of the mainstream at heart.

But, you say ... Republicans do the same thing. How come it isn't a problem for Republicans? While my wont would be to answer in terms of the IOKIYAR media double standard or to simply quote JFK and say "whoever said life was fair", there is something else going on here. When faced with liberal challengers, centrist Democrats can and ought to display their liberal credentials just as Republicans do when faced with conservative challengers: a party cannot do well electorally in today's political environment unless it can energize its base and give people a reason to vote for them. On the other hand, we Democrats need to learn from the Republicans how to be more discrete about throwing meat to the base. While you see even "centrist" Republicans visiting right-wing institutions, they are always careful about what they say to their base even as they pander to them. While Jane Harmon explicitly mentions specific "special interest" groups in her bragging about how liberal she is (otherwise a good sign -- centrist Dems are starting to realize that liberal is not the "L word" -- to the extent that all Dems are viewed as liberals, Dems cannot win elections if they run away from liberalism rather than run toward it), you would never see a Republican do a similar thing -- the Republicans speak in code that way they are not on the record as supporting conservative special interest groups. People hear Harmon speak about the groups she supports and think -- "wow, what a pandering liberal even Jane Harmon is" ... the Republicans are smart enough not to say such things directly in regards to their support of and by groups even further from the mainstream lest people think "I thought Rep. X was ok, but he's in bed politically with the whackos and racists".

It is fine and good for people like Jane Harmon to realize we in the base count for a lot. In the long run such a realization can only help Dem. election prospects, if only by getting out the Dem vote and by reminding people "liberal" is not a bad word. But such a reminding will only work if the "special interest" aspects of liberalism are hidden a bit. People like Jane Harmon need to realize that their words spoken at liberal institutions will be carefully noted: thus they need to learn from the Republicans not only the lesson sof the importance of energizing your base and not running away from how you are labeled (look at how the Republicans changed the overtones of the word "conservative" from bad to good and "liberal" they changed the other way), they need to learn how to speak in code.

We Dems. all need to get together and develop a set of code words via which politicians can throw meat (or given the nature of our base, tofu ;) ) at the Dem base without being seen as pandering to special interests. So how do we get our code?

Sunday, June 04, 2006


Hassidism and the Enlightenment

I was thinking about the notion of "original sin" and how it informs today's "market oriented" conservatives who seem to trust impersonal markets more than the laws of mankind, whom they feel to be corrupted by some form of original sin. I was thinking about how this differs from the far more optimistic views of even those who practiced "the dismal science" of econs in the Enlightenment -- even if people like Smith, et al., thought of mankind as far less pure than many other Enlightenment era figures, they still thought that at least markets could channel the base qualities of humankind (rather than replace the decisions of base men) into something positive.

And this got me thinking: are there still stones unturned in analyzing the roots of the modern Hassidic movement in Judaism? People have already looked into the Jewish roots of this movement, the pietistic roots, the roots in dissident and mainstream Eastern European Christianity. I've already wondered about African roots (there is an African community in Lemberg -- or whatever it's called nowadays, L'viv, L'vov, L'vuv .... Lemberg's easier! or is my religio-cultural bias showing? -- was it there in the 18th century? if so ... hmmm ...). But maybe Hassidism is closer to the Enlightenment than either a Hassid or Maskil would admit? They both emphasized the channeling of the base qualities of mankind into worthy goals ...

Of course, much of what we today would consider "fundamentalist" "un-Enlightened" religion followed very much from the "Enlightenment" ... consider Jon Edwards and his motivation for how he preached, for example ... he was and considered himself to be very much a part of the Enlightened spirit of the times.

In this vein, maybe it should not be so surprising (and maybe my original thought here in distinguishing the attitudes of those who established market theory with those who worship it today was an over-reach) that "libertarians" who fancy themselves to be Enlightenment era liberals should find such common cause with the religious fundamentalists? Maybe the "big tent" of the Republican party is not merely an alliance of convenience in which "economic conservative" richers are trying to use social conservativism to get the rubes to vote for them ... but maybe the alliance really is one of conviction -- a conviction Dems underestimate at their own peril?

Sorry I am so disorganized in my thoughts -- I should be working ... but I thought I would get the blogging bug out of my system this mid-day ...


A Thought on the "History" Covered by the Bible

I was thinking -- the Hebrew Bible in its coverage of history glosses over the high points of the Bronze age? It takes us through the days of Civilization's birth (with Noach and the story of Babel) then skips the apex of the Foundational Civilizations in Egypt and Mesopotamia and takes us to the time of Abraham when civilazation is in a period of "reorganization". The whole glories of the New Kingdom of Egypt occur between Genesis and Exodus which picks up the story again in the period of decline of the New Kingdom. It isn't until we read the Axial Age that we start really seeing civilization in the Bible.

Why is that? Is the Bible merely a book celebrating un-couth sheephearders and frowning upon "Hamitic" civilization while hoping for a unification of hearding Semitic and Indo-European peoples? Does the Bible's bias relate to the political and foreign policy positions vis-a-vis Egypt of the Prophets who formed the D school and those who helped redact the rest of the Bible (and were those Prophets so un-worried about the threat associated with not aligning with Egypt because they realized that "settler Judaism" was the past and diaspora Judaism was the future? or did they merely think that any aliance would be futile? .... so many questions ...)? Or is something more going on here?

Just a thought ...


Readings from Shavuos

Habakkuk, Ch. 3, the Ten Commandments and the standard festival readings from Deuteronomy and Numbers.

I am not sure if I am up to discussing Habakkuk now, but it is a fascinating short little book (why do we read from it on Shavuos? that might make an interesting discussion ...). What I will mention now are two things:

(1) Some of the 10 commandments are longer than the one sentance commandments people are used to seeing. In particular, the commandment about Sabbath observence, in the version in Deuteronomy, emphasizes our captivity in Mitzraim. Do those who are so keen to place the 10 commandments everywhere treat their employees properly? Do they give them adaquate vacation time, sick leave, etc? If not, then they are hardly observing the 10 commandments, nu? Also the two version of the 4th commandment link our memory of creation with keeping a rest to commemorate our liberation. Do those who are so keen on "Intelligent Design" remember God's rest as the final act of creation? Do they remember to liberate themselves and their employees through rest and relaxation? If not, then they fail to observe the 10 commandments.

(2) The festivals are intimately linked in Torah with the laws of release. Co-equal with ritual religious observance is release from debt (both from sins as debts to God and monetary debts between people) and liberation. Cf. Isaiah (?) on "is this the fast I seek?". Again, those who are so keen on instituting public, "Biblical" religious observances should ask whether they are really willing to do that -- since part and parcel of the Biblical system of public religiosity was the forgiveness of debts in the Sabbatical year and the proclaimation of liberty unto the land and its inhabitants in the Jubbilee (link to Shavuos, nu?) year. Public religious observance in a Biblical theocracy is vain (and hence violates one of the 10 commandments in as much as the name of the Lord would be invoked at such observances) without the observance of the laws of the Sabbatical and Jubbilee years. So why do so many of those who so claim to treasure the 10 commandments and "Old Testament" morality want to impliment it in a way in which they will cause us all to be guilty of violating it? Of course, such people are championing a morality they themselves feel is futile to observe anyway -- so what gives?

Maybe after thinking about certain peoples' mishugas enough, I'll be in the mood to right about Habbakuk?
I am sure if I think about neo-cons some, I might come to being on Habbakuk's side!

Thursday, June 01, 2006


More Commentwhoring

The cat is away, the mice are playing and I am comment whoring:

On class and 'Nam.

See also my comment subsequent to this.

Somehow I do seem to post my best stuff, IMHO (or not so H, as the case may be -- although I did say "my best" and not "the best"), in dead threads.

My response to a good point by Atrios (following from Nim's similar response).

I might add more to this post later ... or I might not.

This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours?