Tuesday, October 31, 2006


Noach Blogging

At the end of the celebration of Sukkoth, we continue the joy of the harvest season by reading of the creation of the universe. However, the next week, as autumn really begins to settle in -- the leaves are falling, the nights are getting longer and colder, etc. -- we read about destruction: of the Flood, of the Tower of Babel. The seasonally appropriate lesson of Koheleth sinks in: there is a time for building and a time for tearing down, etc. But lest, things get too depressing, we also read from Deutero-Isaiah about rebuilding. Indeed, we read the inspiration for the famous Rabbinical lesson, traditionally read every Sabbath evening either after reading the laws of Erev Shabbos or after singing of the offering of sacred incense in the days of the Temple:

R. Eleazar said in the name of R. Chanina: The disciples of the sages increase peace throughout the world, as it is said: "And they shall be taught of the Lord; and great shall be the peace of thy children". Read not here banayich, thy children, but bonayich, thy builders. Great peace have they that love thy law; and there is no stumbling for them. Peace be within thy rampart, prosperity within thy palaces. For my brethren and companion's sake I would fain speak peace concerning thee. For the sake of the house of the Lord our God I would seek thy good. "The Lord will give strength unto his people; the Lord will bless his people with peace."

Alas, too many people claim to love God's law, but they have no peace but stumble often: for in fact, they do not love the law but rather view it as a burden: if they view the law as the sine qua non of social order, as they often do, they secretly wish to not be civilized but rather to live outside of the social order. Since they cannot so live, they view such non-conformity as sour grapes. But this does not allow them to appreciate the sweet grapes of the law: at best, they like Noach will taste fermented grapes and be shamed in their intoxication with the law. But if we are as students and love learning the law as if they were children learning it for the first time, but with enough perspective and maturity to appreciate that which they learn, then great will be our peace for we will be God's builders.

But we must remember, that not all builders, even of God's city, will receive peace, but only those who remain eternal students with the same wonder toward Creation that children have. And this sense of wonder comes not from faith, which makes us feel too confident in the world, which blinds us to the wonders of creation (if you insist on discovering Intelligent Design in the Universe, you will only be frustrated by its lacking; if you happen upon an example of it as a jewel in the rough, however, you will have your eyes opened to a wonder of creation) and which makes us feel as if we have already been taught of the Lord and need not be taught more (which leads away from the above-described path to peace), but rather comes from doubt, which allows us to see even daily natural occurrences as completely unexpected and miraculous.

Sunday, October 29, 2006


Why I Ask Questions

Some of y'all may be wondering why I am so concerned about trying to understand the different tribes of the right and why they feel and vote the way they do. Y'all might think this is counter-productive. It isn't. You can bet, from the early days of the Southern Strategy through Atwater and Rove, Republicans have been asking "why do working stiffs full of mindless prejudices vote for urbane, open-minded liberals? ... and what can we do to change this?". From this thinking came the Southern Strategy, etc.

Some liberals complain about those of us going on about "what's the matter with Kansas?", but the fact is that in order to win electorally we need to face some hard questions and then use the answers to find weaknesses to exploit. It's how the GOP has done so well since the defeat of Goldwater. And interestingly, it's exactly the strategy we liberals propose, e.g., to use in the war on terror.

One of the overlooked ironies of modern electoral politics is that the GOP has done so well by following quite precisely the sorts of strategies proposed by liberals (and which they, and their over-worked refs in the media, poo-poo as unserious and tantamount to appeasement) for dealing with, e.g., international terrorism: e.g., know your enemy, use that knowledge to find exploitable weaknesses and to stop your enemy's recruitment techniques, etc. And we liberals have done poorly by pursuing the strategy (minus the bellicosity and non-constructive appeals to warfare, although some liberals are bellicose when, and only when, they ought not to be) the GOP has effectively pursued in the war on terror. The reason for this is that the GOP views politics as a war game but too many in the GOP view the fight against terror as more a matter of maintaining national pride (and waving around one's dick ... er, arms) than actually accomplishing the goal of terror reduction. Similarly, while we liberals, gaining our principle support from areas that have lost more than pride in terror attacks, actually want to accomplish something beyond dick-waving in the war on terror, too many in the Dem. leadership display a strategically incompetent high-mindedness not seen in Washington DC since the days of the Dulles brothers: so the people in charge in the Dem. party, not caring about winning, and liberals more concerned about honor and pride of ideology than winning, mount an election policy that, if it involved needless wars and opportunities for profiteering, would be a mirror of the GOP's foreign policy even as their successful electoral policy mirrors our proposed foreign policy.

So we Dems. know how to win: it's part of our ideology as well as something we ought to have learned watching the GOP. So why do liberals, so often dismissed as effete whiners when they seek to "know thy enemy" abroad, dismiss those who try to do the same at home as effete whiners? The Dem. party needs to learn from the GOP's electoral successes and, well, adopt the liberal ideas for dealing with enemies that the GOP knows work, as they use those ideas electorally: are we Dems. that high minded we refuse to even consider elections as battles? Or is something else going on?


Fear of Population Control

I've noticed a fear amongst certain conservatives of any strategy or plan for "population control", to the point where the very idea that over-population could ever be a problem is denied (and does the use of population densities, which people who claim over-population is not a problem use to make their arguments, really make sense? does a comfortable population density necessarily remain constant over the denominator used in calculating such densities? c.f. body mass which ought not to scale with the obvious denominator of volume ...). What is going on here? Is it a worry about the techniques which may be applied to solve this problem: is it fear of the use of abortion as a population control technique or even the opposition of many (though not all -- a variation in opinion which has yet to be properly exploited by liberals) social conservatives to birth control? Is it a fear that concern about over-population reflects a hidden racism or at least a general misanthropy ("why would someone want to decrease the number of people around unless they hate them?") and a fear that an idea motivated by racism or misanthropy cannot amount to any good or at least a desire not to encourage such feelings? Is it a desire to "increase the flock"? Do those who set the agenda in the conservative movement hope to, under the cover of movements believing life to be priceless, increase the labor pool rendering the cost of labor cheaper and the price of life null? Is it a worry that measures to control population growth are linked with modernization which would tend to level the income inequalities on which our current quasi-colonialist world economic order feeds? Is it a worry that such measures empower women?

I seriously have no clue and suspect multiple reasons, some acknowledged by the right (fear of increasing abortion rates and a dismissal of concern about over-population as racism) and some un-acknowledged, are at play.

Friday, October 27, 2006


Heckuva Job Bushie

So ... the US voted against even doing a study about how to reduce arms trafficking ... e.g. trafficking of weapons that could easily get into the hands of terrorists. Why? 'Cause of the GOP's friend the NRA, which used to be a respectable 2nd Amendment supporting organization that's now an extension of the gun lobby?

Well, if Bush & CO were really serious about keeping weapons out of the hands of terrorists, they might have at least abstained ... or at least given a good reason for voting no on this. But instead, they just voted no? So much for the GOP realizing that "after 9/11 everything's different" and being "serious about national security".

I trust the Dems. will be pointing this out? Or are they too afraid of offending gun nuts?


Meanwhile, somehow, in MSM-land, MJ Fox having emotional ads opposing candidates who oppose (and are lying about their opposition to) stem-cell research is equivalent to racist GOP ads. I guess our media is not smart enough to understand the difference between an ad that maybe is unfair 'cause it tugs at people's heart strings a bit too strongly compared to the intellectual content of the argument being made (yet they praise GOP 'strategery' when the GOP does this sort of thing -- while the GOoPers get upset at such praise because talk of the GOP being "strategic" makes the GOP look insincere ... as if the MSM praising the GOP with faint damnation is the only thing making the GOP look bad?) and an ad that's truly beyond the pale 'cause it tries to resonate with people's racist stereotypes? Meanwhile, GOoPers are upset 'cause the anti-Mike DeWine ads are a bit over the top ... wow: what it must be like to have such a delicate sensibility! I guess you get to be blind as to really outrageous things then, eh?

Thursday, October 26, 2006


When to Translate

I notice in the media they have a tendancy to translate some words from foreign languages but leave others untranslated, e.g. "Mahdi Army" rather than "Jaish al Mahdi" or "Army of the Messiah". To translate "Jaish" into army (or alternatively into militia) is not neutral ... it's making a statement as to whom these people are. It also is not neutral to leave Mahdi untranslated ... leaving an un-translated Mahdi gives people a very different (and exoticized) image of who this militia is rather than translating Mahdi to it's nearest English equivalent would.

So when should the media translate terms from foreign languages and when should they not? Should the media try to preserve neutrality? If so, how? Or should the media strive to give people a familiar perspective on the world? Should the media try to keep foreign terms exotic or try to make them familiar?

I don't know the answers here ... does anybody? I know Bueller doesn't ;)

Wednesday, October 25, 2006


Overdrawn Correlations

I was thinking about how to respond adaquately to a previous conversation thread (my response: John Locke ... if that doesn't work: Thomas Hobbes ... how 'bout Spinoza?) and this got me thinking: given the number of philosophers from the European continent who thought in the analytic vein, to what degree is the correlation between Continental vs. Anglo with Rationalistic/Existential vs. Analytic philosophy overdrawn? To what degree are the underlying distinctions themselves overdrawn?

Tuesday, October 24, 2006


Snatching Defeat from the Jaws of Victory

... seems to be the greatest skill of the Dems. (being a Dem. is like being an Angels fan back in the day): the political stars are all aligned for the Dems -- because people are tired of the antics of Bush & CO and want some opposition in Congress. And what are so many Dem. candidates doing? They are trying to sound moderate, unpugnacious and friendly! Wha?! It's as if they've listened to too much GOP spin and are themselves afraid of Nancy Pelosi or something. It's bad enough when you believe your own spin -- it's horrid when you believe your opponants.

And yet, we have Sen. Nelson sounding so fatuous he makes Rep. Harris sound intelligent and well-spoken. We have Bob Casey talking a good talk about bench-marks but then making "bench-mark" into the "lock-box" of 2006 by bringing up the word as if the very existance of some goals is supposed to keep the President in line. If people were paying me the big bucks to be a campaign consultant, I'd tell Casey, you go on the air in your interview and say this, if they ask you about what Congress should do if proposed bench-marks are missed ... for heaven's sakes don't dodge the question and sound like a mealy mouthed politician: IT'S THE LAST THING THE AMERICAN PEOPLE ARE LOOKING FOR! Instead, give an actual answer (that will be good politics because it seems like it's such bad politics -- and since people hate politics, it'll actually score you political points):

It's probably gonna be politically disastrous for me to say this, but I feel that as someone asking the voters of the state of Pennsylvania to be their public servant, I gotta be honest. And the honest truth is that we need accountability in Washington: so if the President misses a bench-mark, we need to hold him accountable. We need to be flexible in terms of how we do this -- perhaps we could use Congress's power of the purse. Of course, that would be politically disastrous for us as the President would accuse us of not funding the troops. But if he fails at his job -- does it make sense to give him more money so he can continue to fail at it? If we cut the funding because he didn't do his job, then it's his fault if he wants to keep the troops in Iraq. After all, Congress never declared war -- Congress gave the President the authority to use troops if necessary. The President said: "trust me". And Congress -- and the American people -- did. And now it's obvious our trust was misplaced. The President put the troops in Iraq -- that was his decision -- Congress just said "ok we'll go with whatever you do, chief". But if the President is failing to do his job, it's time for Congress to fulfill its constitutional rule and provide some checks and balances on the President. I probably shouldn't be saying this ... I'm probably turning off some voters who are saying "the President is our leader, we're at war ... we must follow him". Well, if you feel that way, you can vote for my opponant, Mr. Rick Santorum. If you, on the other hand, feel that the President must, like anybody else in this country, be held accountable for his decisions: you can vote for me, Bob Casey.

And if they ask "are you proposing we 'cut and run'?", don't respond with a simple "no" ... here's where you want to dodge the question:

I personally happen to agree with those who want to keep our troops in Iraq in order to build peace there, but if the troops are not accomplishing anything -- and this would be the fault of the civilian leadership not our military, which is the best in the world[*] -- there's no point in risking the lives of our boys and girls by having them there. Let's be honest here -- this demonization of people who want a scheduled withdrawal as wanting to "cut and run" is deeply unfair and dishonest. While reasonable people -- and myself as well: do I get to count as reasonable? -- may disagree with having a time-table for withdrawal, those who want to place a time-table are not "defeato-crats" or un-patriotic: more often then not they are battle-tested patriots like Jack Murtha who certainly know more about how military action works than people like George W. Bush. While I disagree with Rep. Murtha's approach, to impugn the motives of a true American patriot who maintains regular contact with those still serving our country as many have been doing indicates ... well, I just cannot say that sort of thing on the air ... let's just say people who've been tarring and feathering American patriots for political gain while wrapping themselves in the American flag and the mantle of patriotism and national security ought to be ashamed of themselves.

Ya know ... if Dem. candidates actually stood for something (or even now stood against something), they'd get people to the polls and we'd have a Dem. congress come Jan. But the way things are going, why should people go out and vote for Dems? Yet again, the Dems. are working to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory. Why? Who knows. All I know is that our country deserves better.

[* doesn't matter if it's true or not ... it's necessary spin ... you cannot be the bearer of too much bad news and expect to do well politically: it may be a bug and not a feature of democracy, but, as my gf would say, "it is what it is".]

Sunday, October 22, 2006


Booze Blogging: In Honor of Scotchtoberfest

They have "Irish Cream" liqueurs, why not "Scottish Milk"? I.e. Scottish mist with some spices, maybe some chocolate and/or coffee flavoring mixed into milk/silk?


Bereshis Blogging

This past week marked the beginning of this year's Torah reading cycle with, appropriately, the reading of the Story of Creation and the Generations of Man. Many people take this story literally, or even if they do not, they seek to have physical and natural science validate the super-natural and meta-physical designing of the universe by God through a doctrine of "intelligent design". They feel anything less would represent an affront to their religious faith, as apparently, their so-called faith cannot admit doubt, even though it is through skeptical observation of nature, without any agenda to prove God's existence, that we obtain faith: faith the sun will rise again, etc. What kind of faith is it that requires scientific confirmation to know the sun will rise again tomorrow? That darkness is separated from light? What kind of faith can only proclaim God's unique existence when one has one's eyes open?

But doesn't Genesis itself place the physical origins of the universe and living organisms with God? Yes. But this story is an allegory. The Torah is notoriously spare with detail and filled with some rather puzzling turns of phrase, both of which defy literal interpretation and ask us to interpret the Torah as it would apply in our times. We are not told merely to follow the tradition given to our ancestors but rather that we were metaphorically at Sinai as well, so the Torah is given to us. So where the Torah alludes to myths and legends universally known to the its audience from 2500-3000 years ago but which we know not, we must fill in, via Midrash, our own myths and legends so we truly can understand the Torah at the same level as those who were closer in time to Sinai.

Where the Torah uses confusing phrasing, perhaps common at the time of its writing but now beyond our comprehension, it invites us and requires us to interpret its writings so that we may understand the Torah at the same level as those who were closer in time to Sinai. Jewish tradition presents us with two approaches here: Rabbi Ishmael argues that since the Torah is written in the language of its audience presumed to be literally at Sinai, we should not take the exact words of Torah so seriously but rather should understand fully the lessons Torah, our teacher from another time and place, is trying to teach us: a necessary challenge in any learning experience as our teachers, with wisdom we students have not, are necessarily as if they were from a foreign country -- that land of wisdom. On the other hand, Rabbi Akiva argues that as the word of God, we must read very carefully into the precise words of Torah. In either case, however, the presence of confusing phrasing is an invitation for us readers to either read the Torah less than literally or read the words of Torah very carefully and perhaps to have a meaning different than the literal meaning one obtains at a level of basic reading comprehension.

The creation story is one such place in Torah: e.g., the first word of Torah is b'reshith, which literally means, "in the beginning of [emphasis added]" ... in the beginning of what? Also, there is no first day, only "day one"; the light is created and separated from darkness before that which produces light is created, etc. The Torah invites us to take it at a different level than the literal level. Whether one uses the approach of Rabbi Ishmael which frees on to consider the creation story as an allegory attempting to explain important truths to an audience not ready to understand them literally or whether one uses the approach of Rabbi Akiva and focuses on the peculiar turns of phrase, one cannot limit oneself to a literal reading of the creation account and have a true understanding of Torah as if one was at Sinai (a similar argument can be made about the bizarrely phrased prohibitions in Leviticus taken by many to apply to homosexuality but which, in the spirit of either Rabbi Ishmael or Rabbi Akiva, beg us to understand them as prohibiting something else and perhaps even -- in the spirit of left-handers placing T'fillin on their right hand as they should read "right hand" as "left hand" as their right hand is to them as the left hands of us righties are to us --prohibiting gay men from having sex with women as much as we straights are prohibited from having sex with men -- bisexuals maybe even get a complete pass on this one -- making the ex-gay movement the abomination in the eyes of God, and the gay-rights movement holy).

Coincidently or perhaps not, the most recent Science Friday dealt with genetic evidence for evolution. Since, in a lesson to free-market-types who assume Darwinian processes result in some sort of magical efficiency and economy, DNA even when rendered useless only disappears or becomes meaningless so fast (if it ever does disappear or degenerate into a random sequence), each of our genomes bears fossil genes displaying our evolutionary origins. Why would an Intelligent Designer place such genes in our genome? The universe may be designed -- it may be fine-tuned for life, etc. -- but at a physical and natural level, the hypothesis of design is clearly disproved unless one believes in a malevolent or un-intelligent designer.

But this is just the tip of the iceberg on why "Intelligent Design" as a scientific hypothesis is bad theology. Assuming it were true (and the Designer's neither stupid nor entirely malevolent), why the creation of genetic fossils that might trick us into believing in evolution? Some would argue that these are tests of our faith much like Abraham's test with Isaac. But Abraham was "tempted" as some translation would have it, not tested (I'll go with an Akiva-esque like approach with that, for now): and Abraham failed the test, but he did not stumble, and God stopped the procedure before he stumbled. On the other hand, if we are spiritually blind not to accept "Intelligent Design", then the presence of genetic fossils is a stumbling block -- we have indeed stumbled and fell away from belief in "Intelligent Design" -- before we who are blind, the placing of which stumbling block is against God's commandments! Does God violate his own law?

This is a deep question, which is part of a larger line of questions separating Judaism and Christianity: when does God violate divine law and when does God not do so? What sins can God forgive and under what circumstances?

As to the latter question, Christianity tends to appear more lenient: even the most horrid of sins can be forgiven, according to certain strains of Christianity, so long as one accepts Jesus as the Christ and Son of God. But from a mechanistic soterological perspective, it is Judaism that is more lenient. The Christian, or at least either the fundamentalist or orthodox Christian, would say that God cannot forgive any sin as such forgiveness would violate an extra-legal (and shall I say rather Hellenistic and foreign to the Hebrew mindset) notion of God's perfection. Thus God requires a sacrifice (in the orthodox formulation, to purge the Original Sin ... which also relates back to differences in interpreting parts of this week's parsha, so I'm still on topic ;) ... for a very indirect Hassidic critique of the notions of "original sin" and vicarious atonement, see one of the readings in Machzor Hadash, which I mentioned in a post over a year ago: yep, this here blog thingy's now over a year old!), which, in His mercy, He's provided: His Son. Judaism, on the other hand, would say that since forgiveness after restitution is part of God's law, it would make no sense to have God sin by being un-just and un-forgiving. Thus, even though Judaism demands "T'shuva" (repentance, lit. return) to achieve divine forgiveness, which for grave sins becomes nearly impossible to achieve and thus makes Judaism seem strict, Judaism is really more lenient as it considers God to be forgiving of any sin, so long as the sinner truly demonstrates a return to the right path.

Looking back on the month that is about to end, full of festivals dealing in part with both the notion of repentance and the harvest as it was, we now have an interesting perspective in which to think of sin and repentance. On Rosh Hashanah in the ritual of Tashlicht, we cast bread, representing our sins, upon the waters. But on Sukkoth, we read in Ecclesiastes of casting our bread upon the waters meaning something quite different. Or does it? Perhaps it is through sharing the harvest, the real purpose of the sacrificial system, we repent for our sins and also ensure our own prosperity. Too many supposedly religious people nowadays have a bad attitude about wealth redistribution: but it's in the Bible as a means of both atoning for sin and assuring the general welfare and wealth of the nation!

And what are we to make of the contrasting in the Unesaneh Tokef prayer between rest, ease, tranquility, poverty and humbling with wandering, harassment, affliction, wealth and exaltation?

So many questions, so little time to think about them, nu? But to read the Torah carefully, one cannot and ought not to avoid asking questions: and one either has to confront the irregularities in the text with either a careful reading or a loose reading. One cannot avoid the problems of the text by being a literalist. Similarly, to expect hard and fast proof that a regular miracle will continue rather than to doubt it will continue and fear that it will not -- to have both the fear of God and the fear of the lack of God -- is not to have the highest faith, e.g. that science can and will establish the truth of religion, but to fundamentally lack the true faith which comes from doubt.

Friday, October 20, 2006


Dare to be Stupid

It's always a smart idea to read Stupid's letters on Slacker Friday at Altercation, but this week Stupid is especially un-deserving of his moniker. His letter is quite nuanced and really, albeit indirectly, calls into question the supposed foreign policy idealism of the neo-cons and the realism we who oppose them are accused of having. I'd explicate all the implications, but I'm busy doing 4D peak picking (thousands and thousands of peaks ... maybe some of them are real?), so my brain's kinda shot and I have little time besides. So you'll have to discuss this one amongst yourselves.

Update ... also read Larry Howe's letter today. I've not always agreed with Mr. Howe in the past, but those of us who would call ourselves "left-wing conservatives" have been saying this sort of thing, though not as eloquently, for some time now ... I bet conservative Democrats like my friend Nate might also second these thoughts, nu?



Pardon the temporary double post ... I'm having some sort of problem with something. You get what you pay for?

Or sometimes not: last night I was desparately trying to find some sherry to use in cooking mincemeat (with ground lamb, which is almost as good as ground goat or bison, but more available than the former and cheaper than the latter -- I guess I need to try left-over short-ribs: they would probably work well also!), but I couldn't find any real (Spanish) sherry, so I went with a < $6 California sherry (Fairbanks ... their un-specified sherry, as opposed to their cream or "cocktail" versions -- the version I purchased seems to be like an Amontillado). It obviously wasn't the same as a Spanish sherry (for twice the price), but it was fine for cooking and decent enough for drinking. I guess after this experience and my positive experience with Ballatore, I need to rethink my wine snobbishness -- such as it is: after all, I never did feel I fully appreciated big, fancy wines anyway (well, of the ones that I've been able to try ... I may very well appreciate a $100+ wine if someone would buy some for me ;) ). And while I do feel I appreciate a $15-30 wine, there are some bargains to be had. I'm not enough of a lush to drink bad, cheap wine, but not enough of a snob to avoid wine simply 'cause it's cheap and not the best available.

Anyway -- a (post-Sukkos) sherry cocktail recipe (small, David-style portion)

* about 3/4 shot sherry (chilled)
* a capful Drambuie (chilled)
* dash bitters
* twist of citron peal

Mix and serve (cold) while waiting for your mincemeat to finish simmering.


Politics as Evil

While many of the reasons why and how Bush & CO have been able to drag the country around without seriously being checked or balanced have been amply and intelligently discussed in left blogistan, if not in the MSM, one key step has rather escaped the attention of many: the demonization of politics.

The way this country's supposed to work (e.g. according to Madison in The Federalist Papers) is that "ambition [is supposed to] balance ambition": if some politician would otherwise get too big for his britches, what'll keep him in line is that other politicians will oppose that politician, because they can score political points by mounting such an opposition. However, today, in part because of the increasing political power and participation of pre-millenialist Christians who view politics as inherently evil (and whose views are just as much radical in a Leninist sense as reactionary, cf. The Rhetoric of Reaction which goes into more detail on the reactionary origins of Lenin's thinking) and in part because of a concerted Republican effort to attract to and capitalize upon the presence of pre-millenialists in the political sphere as well as being part of their anti-gummint rhetoric in general, many view such "political posturing" as bad rather than as a necessary part of the functioning of a democracy. So, instead of rewarding a politician who opposes another politician who's got too big for his britches, many in our electorate would punish the opposing politician for "trying to score political points in important matters".

Bush & CO have thrived because of a lack of meaningful opposition. While we would hope that well-meaning folk would oppose the immoral actions of Bush & CO because it would be the right thing to do, the fact of the matter is that politicians are in the business of getting elected. So long as the electorate dismisses meaningful opposition as "political posturing" rather than rewarding such political posturing, which is how our system is supposed to work, there is no motivation, and in fact a substantial dis-motivation, for politicians to oppose the Bush & CO juggernaut. The Republicans have sown the seeds of demonization of politics for years (even their crazy sniffing around in Clinton's sex life benefitted the GOP in the long run because it made political opposition look bad, c.f. P.J. O'Rourke's comments about Republicans believing government is bad and then getting elected and proving it) and now they are reaping.

We liberal moonbats have done a good job of calling spades spades ... so let's start going after the elephant in the room: politics, as Toqueville could have told us, as part and parcel of Americana -- we are a democratic republic not just in large ways but small ways and everything in America is political because we ought to be a universally political people as befits a self-governing citizenry. While some playing politics does get to be extreme (and the biggest players here are reactionaries who not only play to win, but even if they don't win, their antics further make their case about playing politics being problematic) -- e.g. in the politicization of science by fundies and corporate interests -- in general the demonization of political posturing is, frankly, un-American.

Why do the media pundits, the GOP leadership, pre-millenialist fundies, etc., hate America?


Also, if GW Bush & CO do get deposed in 2008, would it be o.k. to do unto them as they did to others? I.e. to declare them enemy combatants and ship them off to Gitmo with no right of habeus corpus, etc? Or should we be just in spite of the Golden Rule? I'm thinking here justice might make better politics than the Golden Rule?

Thursday, October 19, 2006


Attracting People with Mixed Ideologies

As many have noted, most people are neither "liberals" nor "conservatives" nor the "split the difference" pseudo-centrists that seem to populate the much of the media and swaths of the Democratic establishment, but rather they have some liberal views, some conservative views, etc.

The GOP has done a good job of attracting such voters, not via appearing to be moderate, but by targetting specific voters' beliefs with code words as well as making such voters more afraid of the left than the right. One doesn't win over such voters by being a moderate, but by emphasizing those aspects of your ideology in which they agree with you as well as those aspects of your opponant's ideology which those voters find scary or at least icky.

However, there is a fly in the ointment -- I've noticed that such voters, in spite of sincere concern about partisanship (e.g. when Dems. do it) display a partisan attachment to Republicans. Indeed, one notices such phenomena as social conservatives who supported Schwarzenegger but now that he's playing nice with Dems., though mainly on issues with which these social conservatives ostensibly agree with the Dems, they have decided to sour on Schwarzenegger. What gives here?

Are maybe some of these self-proclaimed "social conservative, cultural liberal [i.e. reactionary when it comes to matters of teh sex, but liberal when it comes to matters of teh intellect], economic moderate" Republicans maybe less ideologically diverse than even they would admit to themselves? How has the GOP convinced even thinking people that gay marriage and abortion (and, ironically given what I will say next, Dem. partisanship) are so scary that even being bipartisan with Dems. is evil? Part of it is neurotic paranoia: some of these voters have "personal issues" ... but how do we prevent individuals' bits of mishugas from derailing our country?

Monday, October 16, 2006


Forgot About This Source of Amusement

These comic strips are teh funny. I cannot believe I forgot about them until a friend reminded me of them this weekend.

(warning ... not all of these are exactly work-safe)

Sunday, October 15, 2006


Last Night I Had the Strangest Dream ...

I don't remember all the details, but in it I was some sort of leader of folks struggling through some sort of end-times scenario ... a wierd dream for a nice Jewish boy like me to have, nu?


Sukkoth/Shemini Atzereth Blogging

During this harvest festival we read the book of Ecclesiastes? Why?

* Well, at the time of the end/beginning of the Torah reading cycle it's appropriate to consider wisdom in general as well as to ponder specifically "for every reason there is a season, unto every time a purpose under heaven [...]"

* In our time of joy, it is good to remember that we have but limitted years on this world, and we serve God in joy ... and the harvest is the fruit of our years ...

Anyone else have anything to add? Anyone? Bueller? Anyone?


Much Delayed Jonah Blogging

Was Jonah (not the appropriately named Jonah Goldberg, the Biblical Jonah) the world's first chickenhawk? Discuss ...

If you think this post is too short, maybe I should provide for you a computer and blogging software and then provide a worm and magnetic field to destroy it -- and tell you that if you cared so much about the computer and software which you did nothing to create, why should I not care about this blog which has 250+ posts and many comments also? ;)


Remember the Levites

At the times of the festivals, we are commanded, among other things to include in our celebration those without means of support, e.g. the Levites. The Levites are the priestly caste -- they have no means of support? Well, because of religious centralization, the Levites are indeed rather under-employed and provided Israeli society with a solution to the problem of the "natural rate of unemployment": so it's interesting to consider this year's Economics Prize in the context of this time of year, nu?

Anyway, if the religious right really wanted to institute Levitical law in this country, they'd stop worrying about what people do in their bedrooms and start pestering farmers not to glean their crops, instituting the laws of release and jubilee and organizing society to support a body of under-employed potential workers to keep the labor market flexible without condemning those on the bottom rungs to destitution and/or wage slavery. Yes, the laws of Moses do care about teh sex. But they care far more about teh economics.

But of course it's much more fun to care about teh hot sex, nu?


Foley vs. Studds

Because speaking ill of the dead is yet another IOKIYAR activity, I figured I'll pre-emptively blog about the difference between what Studds did and what Foley seems to have done, 'cause we all know right-blogostan will be talking about Studds non-stop now that he's no longer alive to defend himself:

Studds did something wrong -- he had an affair with an under-age page. Foley seems to have been a serial hounder of pages and his activities were covered up by others. Do people not see the difference? Alas, unless news analysts (I'm talking to you Danny Schorr) actually explain this to people rather than regurgitate the news on command, people will be convinced not to get it.


Meanwhile, it seems Bush has definitely lost the support of Daniel Schorr, who's now snarky toward Bush instead of repeating Bush's opinions as if they were fact. Still, though -- I'm with ya Dan when you wonder why Iran wants to have bilateral talks with us (does anybody know why? Schorr suggests the Rodney Dangerfield reason -- they want to get respect), but you cannot figure out why North Korea, dependent as they are on China, would rather not have talks with China (did your teenage kids wanna talk with you much? they were dependent on you, but that only made them, wanting to be adults, wanna listen to you even less, eh?) not to mention former enemies like South Korea and Japan. I never understood the attitudes of those in our foreign policy establishment and the punditocracy who act as if "all those Asian countries are together on everything" and don't get that just 'cause South Korea, Japan, China, et al are neighbors doesn't mean they see eye to eye on everything. What's with the subtle anti-Asian prejudice, and why aren't the media and foreign policy establishment called on it?

Tuesday, October 10, 2006


Who's Afraid of Nancy Pelosi?

A lot of people it seems: maybe it's some sort of biased media coverage, but a lot of "everyday folk being interviewed" still are saying "I dunno about those Republicans, but I'm not gonna vote Dem. lest we end up with Speaker Pelosi". But what is so frightening about Pelosi? How did she get a reputation as such an extremist partisan bomb-thrower with no counterpart in the GOP? Perhaps it's a matter of standing out? A GOoPer version of Pelosi would just be part of the partisan, bomb-throwing crowd, but when you have folks like Lieberman 'round, Pelosi looks like a rabid (moon)bat?

Still, what's so frightening about Pelosi? Or even more confusing to me: Reid? Or H.R. Clinton? Are people that conservative, or even merely that afraid of gay married terrorists having abortions, that they think even the latter two moderates are too frickin' liberal, or are people just that farchadat about where the center of the political spectrum is and where, for that matter, they are? It is amazing how carefully the Republicans have set up the playing field, framed the game and worked the refs (e.g. the constant complaining about the "liberal media"), nu?

Update, cf. Rev. RMJ who as of late has very much adapted a plus ça change, plus c'est la même chose attitude toward any change in "leadership", which, if believable, would make one wonder what all the "I'm so scared of Pelosi" fuss is about ...

Monday, October 09, 2006


What Liberal Media?

I dunno about whether this deal was smart or not, but it certainly would not play well in Peoria with the "Bush will keep us safe from the scary people" crowd. Given what's happened so recently in North Korea, if we really had a liberal media, this "old story" would be getting a lot of play right now, dontcha think?

Sunday, October 08, 2006


Speaking of the Harvest ...

It's about time for the olive harvest ... NPR had some Palestinians talking about olive groves being burnt and/or destroyed by settlers. Of course, this may not be true, and NPR should be taken to task for appearantly not trying to verify whether these stories are true ... but if it is, destroying such fruit bearing trees is a horrendous violation of Jewish law, and, to allude to an old joke, it's bad enough that there should even be rumors. So where is are all the frummie Rabbis on this? Or is it just more fun to pester us liberal Jews about how we go about observing Jewish traditions in our particular zone of comfort?


Sukkoth Blogging

From the Sukkoth Readings --
Leviticus 23:22:
And when ye reap the harvest of your land, thou shalt not wholly reap the corner of thy field, neither shalt thou gather the gleaning of thy harvest; thou shalt leave them for the poor, and for the stranger: I am the LORD your God.
I know that these verses only apply to the land of Israel, but if the religious right is so keen to place the U.S. under the yoke of Levitical law, why are they not pushing for government to regulate farming so that it conforms to this most important law? If we are to establish the New Jerusalem here, shouldn't implimenting the laws the Bible describes as necessary for the Israelites to stay in the Holy Land be of top priority? But I guess worrying about people's sex lives is more fun, eh?

Thursday, October 05, 2006


For the Sake of Democracy, Will Someone Please Start Showing Reruns of Hogan's Heroes?

NPR Letters Today (in which, btw, a federal judge points out that Yoo pretty much was lying about the contents of Bush's "undo the Magna Carta" bill; and even if he wasn't -- how is it at ever all constitutional to hold someone indefinitely -- i.e. until we've defeated the technique of terrorism which is when hostilities in a war on terror would be over, nu? -- without trial? ... as another correspondent all but pointed out): some yahoo, who should have known better as being in the reserves they should have taught him about, say, POW camps, was saying that we need the capability to detain enemy combatants until hostilities have ceased, after all, you cannot just release them so they'll fight against you again.

Hunh? Except for a few moonbats made of straw, nobody's taking that position. The point is that we've already a mechanism for dealing with such "enemy combatants": it's called taking "prisoners of war", which activity was already legal under US and International Law and regulated by those there Geneva Conventions.

Are the people defending our country so ignorant that they don't know about the concept of a POW? If so, then that's kinda a problem in case they get captured, nu? They might not realize what rights they have and might spill the beans on who knows what thinking that they've no other choice ...

I mean, sheeze ... haven't these people heard of Hogan's Heroes? Or John McCain, Patron Saint of Pseudo-Bipartisanship (R-Keating)?

Better citizens, pu-leeze!

Wednesday, October 04, 2006


If the Dems Do Win This Year ...

... they need to act like they have a mandate. The Foley scandal may be just what tips the election (it's always about sex, ain't it?) -- presuming, of course, FOX doesn't manage to convince the public that Foley's a Democrat -- but it also provides the Republicans the perfect cover in case they loose: "the election wasn't a rejection of our policies, but it was about Foley". The temptation will be for the Dems. to listen to this spin (which, a careful listening to NPR* will indicate is already starting to occur) and be fretful about really having a mandate and thus being too cautious in changing the course of government policies and being a bullwork against Bush & CO.

The Dems. should be extra careful not to be so concerned: in 2000 and 2004 the Republicans did not win an overwhelming mandate, yet they acted as if they did. And it really hasn't hurt them electorally yet, and if the Dems. do win only 'cause of the Foley scandal in 2006, the GOP's acting as if they had a mandate would then not have hurt them electorally even then. Heck, even in 1994, the GOP (and media) acted as if the election were more of a landslide than it really was -- and were there recriminations for the GOP until they became too obsessed with the Clenis?

If the Dems. act as if people voted for a change, then people will figure that's what they did. But if the Dems. try to actually respect a possible will of the people for moderation (as perchance the GOP should have done in 2001 and forward), then how will they run in 2008? As the party of "we know this is a divided country, so we stuck to the middle path"? People will say to themselves "loosers" and vote GOP. If the GOP is able to spin a possible 2006 loss for them as due to the Foley scandal (and the media will be helping them here), then people can too easily be convinced in 2008 to vote for a "cleaned-up" GOP. If the Dems. win this year, they have to make sure the narrative becomes that the Dem. victory was a repudiation of GOP politics and policies, not merely due to a scandal here or there. If they can do this, then 2008 will cary forward Dem. momentum, possibly even to the White-House, but if they cannot, then, since the narrative is the reality nowadays, the GOP can claim in 2008 that it was never repudiated and win back power.

* On a side note: NPR is now referring to the Washington Times as a "conservative paper" -- it's about time ... but why not call a spade a spade and also point out who owns it?

Tuesday, October 03, 2006


Quote to Ponder

"All governments lie, but disaster lies in wait for countries whose officials smoke the same hashish they give out." - I.F. Stone


Feeling Better ...

but being confused by work-related stuff* and am still a bit brain-dead from being sick (not to mention, I still have a bit of a cough). I do have some time on my hands, but my thoughts are not together enough for a coherent Yom Kippur-related blog entry. Anyway, Rev. RMJ put up the Haftarah from Yom Kippur morning on a recent post (after I mentioned it in a comment): so definitely consider this an opportunity to ponder Isaiah's message. Interestingly, the message in this part of Isaiah is very, well, in a sense, anti-religious (cf. the poem I linked to about the Akedah, etc), but rather humanistically materialist (cf. my favorite verses). Isaiah pans those who "seek God" but rather urges us to help the poor, etc.

I guess, in case I don't manage to get anything more together (I should at least do a post on Jonah since I didn't do one last year -- btw: I notice looking back on my now about a year old blog, some of what I came up with to say for my sermon I was already thinking of a bit last year), y'all can discuss the humanism of Deutero/Tritero-Isaiah and the relation of that humanism to the Akedah (or heck, even to the story of Jonah, if you can find a connection).

* update: figured out the problem -- I made a big error in the work I had my computer doing while I was sleeping off my illness: it's fixed and now my computer's busy (redoing the calcs), so I don't have to be ...

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