Thursday, August 30, 2007


David Frum Makes Sense ...

(after all, what he says isn't exactly incorrect, for once) ... or maybe not.

What does he mean by, e.g., "huge security costs" in talking about our economy as a whole? If we are talking about the bottom line of one or other company, I could see his point, but in the grand scheme of things ... is anybody having to go without food or drink, clothing or shelter, or whatever because of security costs per se? Now specifically one could argue that, e.g., our commitment of National Guardsfolk in Iraq is what allowed Katrina to cause such a problem, but in general, do we really see that, because we're employing so many more guards at airports, we now no longer have enough people to build homes, harvest crops, make clothes, etc? Of course not.

So how are all these security costs hurting the economy as a whole? If we still can manage to produce enough goods and services to provide for all of us, even with diverting some people into the security field, it's clear that this diversion doesn't hurt our economy. And perhaps some of the people in security were un/under-employed, so you have more participation in the economy and it has grown.

In general, this is what's missing from our discussions of debt. We seem to view the economy as being made of money. But money is mearly a medium of exchange -- if we are producing enough goods and services, in reality, we are not collectively in debt. The problem is that we somehow are short, in key sectors, either that medium of exchange or capital to leverage to obtain that medium. This is what you see on a large scale in poor countries, where "you can feed a starving family for $1 a day" -- what does that mean? Does it mean that the country has so few resources it cannot feed itself? Maybe, but what it more likely means is that money is so un-available in that country people don't have $1 a day to get the food that others are willing to sell them for that cheap because they too lack the money -- the countries have effectively deflated their economies out of existence (as nearly happened to us in the 1930s -- and what got us out, pray tell Mr. Frum? the government spending about which you so worry) ... and even if they get a cash injection, well then, the inflation required to make their money internally worth what it fetches in the international market would kill those on fixed incomes.

The problem is not a lack of resources, but an economic imbalance. Some segments are awash in capital due to those demanding good investment vehicles (e.g. to save for retirement), and that demand distorts markets creating IPO bubbles and demand for dividends creates an incentive for companies to downsize, etc. Meanwhile other segments of society are lacking capitalization.

And a good safety net (as well as incentives for good, old fashioned savings which allows banks to ... wait a minute, y'all should know this ... they play It's a Wonderful Life on the TeeVee every year!) would go along way to helping the economy run in a more elastic and efficient manner. Even David Frum's argument of "oh noes, how will we pay for medical care and the rest of the safety net without breaking the bank" is off-base: if we can produce enough polo shirts, mini-yaughts, McMansions and over-priced cabernets and whatever else physicians require without other people starving because we cannot produce over-priced cabernets and enough food for the tables of the rest of us, then we do have the economic resources to fund socialized medicine ...

the issue is distribution of money, not the economy not having the resources per se. Yet the same people who have done much to squander our resources on un-necessary wars, etc. (and deny that what they have urged on is causing economic problems), now are complaining we don't have enough money to pay for things we actually could use? Methinks there is a pattern here ... hmmm ... I think maybe Grover Norquist or someone talked about this being a strategy once ... to over-extend government so their wouldn't be money for New Deal programs, etc ...


Anyway, as to credit card defaults, maybe I'm saying this 'cause I'm a debtor not a creditor, but cry me a river. Loan companies will gladly let you rack up tens of thousands of dollars in credit card debt, but then not allow you to take out a personal loan to consolidate that debt -- although they'll happily loan you money to pay off another company's credit card debts and happily let you slowly pay off the debt on your card. If they really wanted to prevent defaults, they could negotiate a personal loan with you to pay off your card (and cut your limit while you're paying things off): instead the company wants you to pay the minimum payment which insures you are paying them essentially a permanent annuity rather than paying pretty much the same monthly payment at rates typical for unsecured loans which would allow you to pay off the debt in 5-10 years, or even less.

They don't care -- they, like the health care industry or what have you, are willing to cut off their noses just to eke out a little bit more profit where they can. I bet these people can't even calculate expected utility right! How many people defaulting on ARMs would have been able to pay off a regular mortgage? It's reasonable (if not fair) enough to say "I want to have the same expected profit from any borrower, so if the borrower is higher risk, I'll charge him more interest". It's not reasonable to assume that a customer has the same likelihood of default regardless of interest rate -- at some point (and you'd think people who lurve themselves some laffer curves would understand this as it's the same principle), you charge more interest and the borrower is more likely to default so your expected profit decreases! If lenders are in this regime, they ought not to get any sympathy for defaults!

C.f. Reich's arguments, businesses should welcome regulation (and many in fact do) because it forces them to do what really is the best thing for them to have done in the first place. The market doesn't work miracles folks! There is no market fairy magic ... and marketolatry is just a form of idolatry (c.f. Francis Bacon).


Bonus Marketplace silliness (didn't this show used to be a good show -- and very balanced considering its name and target audience -- at one point?):

Glenn Melnick teaches health care finance at the University of Southern California:

Glenn Melnick: The market does work. It works in general, and it works in health care as well.

Um, this is actually what we mean sometimes when discussing a "market failure" -- this is certainly not a success unless you believe it's better that dermatologists spend their time giving botox over treating cancer (certainly no dermatologist believes this -- all the ones I know would rather be actually practicing medicine than pampering rich folk with overweaning senses of privalege -- but they gotta pay back their med school loans, as well as for polo shirts, etc). The point is that the market induces dermatologists to spend more time giving botox injections than treating cancer. That dermatologists respond to such market pressure is a failure of the market-place to achieve desirable goals. It's only an indication that the market is working if you define the market working as "the market actually induces people to respond to it" -- which is a rather silly definition if you ask me. Is it a market success if people sell more crack if the price of crack goes up?

Monday, August 20, 2007


Now Back to the (not so) Regularly Scheduled Weekly Parsha Blogging: Shoftim

Chapter 16 of Deuteronomy (split between Re'eh and Shoftim) contains three apparently unrelated (groups of) commandments: commandments related to the sacrifices at the festivals, the famous injunction to appoint magistrates and establish courts of law as "justice, justice you shall pursue" and the commandment not to plant sacred posts or trees.

The justice mentioned in connection with establishing courts of law is not "mishpat" (or specifically procedural justice) but rather a more general, and un-attainable notion of "tzedek". But even if tzedek is un-attainable, we are not supposed to throw our hands up in the air and say "we cannot achieve divine perfection, therefore we are condemned to sin and require some external force to save our souls", but rather we are to pursue this kind of justice. And not just with courts of law (though these are important) but also we are to pursue distributive as well as procedural justice (note the double mention of justice).

This is the connection with the festival sacrifices: the key part of these sacrifices (which continues to this day when the bread, some of which is burnt as the challah sacrifice, is shared to all at a festive meal) is the sharing of food. A good, just and holy society is one in which the joy of the harvest is amplified by the joy of a festive meal in which the poor and marginalized (including the landless -- and through their jobs constantly exposed to impurity -- priests who seem, in their descent from the punished figure of Levi, to be originally an untouchable caste of priests akin to the Osu of the Ibo, as I believe I've hypothesized before on this blog) share in the goodness of the land, which is not truly ours but is God's holy land.

To adapt Pirke Avoth, which also warns us of the calamities which may befall for breaches of justice, without the sustenance for all provided by sharing of the harvest, there is no Law. And without the Law there is no sustenance. Thus, distributive and procedural justice work hand in hand -- whence the double commandment to pursue justice.

But what is the connection with the prohibition of Asheroth? As I have mentioned no doubt before, I wonder if the term Asheroth is, in origin, a Hittite term, related to the Ashuras of other Indo-European groups. If so, then we might consider the commandment to eschew Asheroth by reference to other, Indo-European mythologies. In particular, let us consider, of all things, Wagner's retelling of the Niebelungenlied. What starts the chain of events the ultimately leads to the dawn of the brave new world and twilight of the gods? Wotan's cutting of the World-Ash tree.

Such mythical sacred trees were common among Indo-European peoples and the worship of them, as was the sanctification of posts in Ashera worship among the Hittite-influenced Canaanites. But what was the function of the World-Ash tree? It was from which the Norns wove the fate of humanity. By cutting the tree down, Wotan gave humans free will.

In Judaism, a similar thing happened when Adam and Eve ate (rather than cut down) the fruit of an important tree. But while certain Christian groups view this as the "original sin" which renders mankind completely alienated and incapable of achieving divine justice, we might view this as the evolutionary dawn of humanity: we humans have knowledge of good and evil and are not bound by fate or instinct. While we mere mortals might never be able to achieve divine justice, we are not to think ourselves as completely debased (c.f. Pirke Avoth). Rather justice is something we can and must pursue. However, without knowledge of good and evil and without freewill, justice is meaningless -- as those who are punished must have mens rea for the punishment to be just.

Thus, like the cutting of the World Ash tree and the burning of Valhalla, the eating from the tree of good and evil and the revelation of the tree of life are critical steps in us becoming human and copartners with God in creation. It is not that our humanity alienates us from God so justice is futile to pursue, but because we are human and not mere beasts, we must pursue justice, even if we, as humans and not God, can never obtain it.


Using an old disk ...

... to shuttle between my old home computer and my computer here at work, I found an old poem of mine ...

The Sculpture

It is a great art uncovered from stone,
A fountain embedded among the jewels
Amidst the carnival yard yet alone.

As low designs atop a marble throne,
Lanterns shine on the work of artists' tools;
It is a great art uncovered from stone.

A naked figure the lanterns have shown:
An oasis that the hot desert cools,
Amidst the carnival yard yet alone.

Artisans have ripped off stone clothes to hone
A diamond floating in blue courtyard pools;
It is a great art uncovered from stone.

Out of the plain, Lot's salty wife has flown,
Only to be a pillar among fools,
Amidst the carnival yard yet alone.

A colosus blasted from Vulcan's cone
Can be as pretty as a weaver's spools;
It is a great art uncovered from stone,
Amidst the carnival yard yet alone.

20 December 1998.

Wednesday, August 15, 2007


We Are All Arabs Now

Yesterday I was listening to an NPR report on Lebanon. A Lebanese fellow was saying how the recent attacks on Israel by Hezbollah were a good thing because the Arab world has been humiliated so many times and it's good for them to have had a victory.

A few thoughts:

If humiliation is what drives Arab resentment against the West and Israel, though, is it so good for Israel to have policies all but designed to humiliate Arabs and stoke resentment?

If you'll pardon the Godwin's law violation: isn't this the same logic used by some to support Hitler?

This was a key reason, both in rhetoric as well as de facto, as to why invaded Iraq post-9/11 -- to show we were still strong. Perhaps post-9/11, it wasn't the case that "we are all Israelis now" but that "we are all Arabs now". Nu? So how are "they" different from "us" then?

Tuesday, August 14, 2007


Spinelessness in Perspective

As some have already pointed out on these here intertubes, what has been happening lately with our imperial executive is a breakdown of the Madisonian scheme to prevent power from accumulating in the hands of one person or group of people. The spineless Democrats in Congress certainly are to blame, as is the media.

The Democrats are accused of being spineless for political reasons, nu? From the point of view of the Federalist Papers (in particular #51 ... btw, if the Constitution is our secular Torah, would the Federalist Papers be our Mishna?, and the collected works of Parson Weems, et al., our secular Midrash Rabbah?), the problem is not that Democrats are being overly concerned about political calculations but that political calculations indicate spinelessness is the best course of action rather than opposing the President. In the Madisonian system, political concerns are supposed to promote vigorous opposition -- "ambition must be made to counteract ambition" -- rather than spinelessness. The idea that political calculations are themselves the problem is inherently un-American.

And you see this not just in federal politics and the elite media. I have a friend who works as a security guard in South FL. She is something of a fabulist (as are many who suffer from mania), but even if only half of what she tells me is true, these "security" companies are managed by bullies who are wont to violate so many workplace health and safety rules and workers' rights that all these "security" companies should be shut down immediately.

Now you'd think some publicity seeking politician would decide to make a name for himself by launching an investigation. Or some enterprising journalist would decide to make headlines by investigating. But this just ain't happening. Why? Imagine what'd happen to that journalist or that politician: the journalist would be dismissed as being a moonbat biased reporter and the politician would end his career as everyone would accuse him of playing politics and attacking business for political gain. Today, Ida Tarbell could not get her famous articles printed except in places dismissed by "serious" people as outlets for moonbats (c.f. also what happened to Dan Rather and his associates), and Harry Truman would have been tarred and feathered and necklaced as un-patriotic for daring to criticize military contracts in a time of war.

Ambition is not counteracting ambition because ambition dictates you just play along with the powers-that-be. The system is failing in a way such that our energy crisis can be solved by hooking a turbine up to Madison's bones: he must be spinning in his grave so vigorously.

Why is this happening? Some blame the 1960s. Some blame Watergate. They say we've become too cynical. But there wasn't a time of innocence in the past. We always were cynical. Ida Tarbell and her kind were denigrated as Muckrakers, even by their fellow Progressives! Back in the day, people didn't engage in the Trumanolatry they did now: certainly many people very well thought ... "oh that Harry Truman, he's just a hack politician trying to make a name for himself".

The difference is not the motives people ascribed to the ambitious, but rather that today we condemn ambition to a degree never condemned in this country in the past. I don't blame Watergate for this, but I do blame Nixon -- for the "Southern Strategy". There was one part of the country in which ambition was always dismissed: the neo-manoralist (I hesitate to say "feudalist" because feudalism implies a system of reciprocal obligations which the Southern gentry always dismissed as infringements upon their "liberty") South, where an ambitious person of the lower orders, unless he served as a perfect retainer for the upper-classes, would be dismissed as "uppity".

The Southern Strategy, itself a product of Nixon's ambition as well as desire to destroy those Patrician Northeasterns with whom Nixon agreed ideologically far more than with the hard right but who despised Nixon so he despised them back, mainstreamed and nationalized what had been regional failing in its body politic. Together with the integration of pre-millenialists -- both literal pre-millenialists, largely themselves from the South as well as the de facto pre-millenialism of the former leftists and their descendents who make up the neo-conservative movement and who, like both Leninists and traditional pre-millenialists, figure any Progressive (rather than radical) change to be futile -- into politics, which they philosophically view as a futile and vain activity, the result has been a transformation in our understanding of the value of ambition counteracting ambition: where before we may have been cynical about politicians' motives but known that the system was designed with such motives in mind, now we dismiss any political gamesmanship to the point where the truly ambitious become, rather than publicity-seeking troublemakers as Madison intended, yes-men and retainers for the powers-that-be.

It should be noted that the South, in which ambition that checked ambition was not rewarded but punished, remained backward until the Reconstruction (really the first Construction of the South, which had not at that point developed at all) frustrated post-civil-war was finished by the New Deal, Fair Deal and Great Society. Now the current political trend is to undermine the very programs that developed the region from which this political trend has largely come. Not just our political, but also our economic and social health, depends on the checks and balances famously described in Federalist #51. Today we are too comfortable with greed, aristocratic privilege but not at all with ambition and meritocrats. For the sake of our nation, we must reverse with what we are comfortable and with what we are discomforted. Ambition must be made to counteract ambition once again!

Monday, August 13, 2007


The GOP Primary

It'll be interesting to see behind whom the right gets.

If they get behind Huckabee, one can argue that social conservatism is a bona fide position: these people really deeply believe that "morality" is what they claim to believe it is ... even at a sub-conscious level. Which means that Huckabee's like of frighteningness is ironically more frightening than if they were supporting an authoritarian nut: it's one thing to think that righty-tighties take the positions they do because they can be used as cudgels, but sometimes it's the true believers who, even if they are kinder people, are really scarier.

OTOH, if the right gets behind Giuliani, doesn't that show that they really, deep down, don't care for social conservatism but really are just in it because their "morality" is such a good cudgel?

Of course, it could be that right-wing support for either Huckabee or Giuliani would be the equivalent of left-wing support for Kerry: they figure that the kind-hearted Huckabee (see I made a movie reference ;) ). or the more socially liberal Giuliani would be more "electable" than the others. In which case, since I am feeling charitable, I'll remind my friends on the right how well Kerry worked out for us moonbats ;).

Meanwhile, from what I can tell, the religious right seems to be growing more and more accepting of Romney, FWIW.


Weekly Parshas Blogging

Parshas Re'eh, among other things, reiterates the laws of the Sabbatical year with an emphasis on the cancellation of debts.

We are constantly told, by both liberals and conservatives, that we, as a society and as individuals, live beyond our means. But at an individual level, what does that really mean? If individuals make an average of $40,000 a year and spend an average of $41,000 a year, where does that extra $1000 go?

You may say the correction question is "where does it come from?" and answer it with "the banks". Which is, in a sense, true: we are, as is becoming more and more obvious, a debtor nation. But that really doesn't get to the root of the issue. If each individual spends $x over the course of a year (or whatever period) on goods and services, so that in total we spend collectively $X, but each individual only makes $y over the course of a year, so that in total we make $Y < $X, somehow, in total $X - $Y is spent on goods and services but doesn't end up in the pockets of those who provide goods and services, those who invest in the businesses providing those goods and services, etc. So where does this money go?

We cannot all be living beyond our means. I know that "zero sum thinking" is anathema to :"serious economic thinkers", but speaking as a physical chemistry type, there is a first law: there must be some sum to which things add up. Money cannot disappear, can it? So to whom is that $X - $Y disappearing? Call me a commie, but if people producing all those goods and services are living beyond their means to buy those goods and services, the issue is not that people are literally living beyond their means -- i.e. they consume more than they produce -- but that they are living beyond their means is a matter of an economic fiction, but one from which some people, in fact, must be benefiting!

What does this have to do with this last week's parsha? Well, imagine it this way. Supposing we had a Sabbatical year. Supposing we had even a Jubilee year. We'd all be debt free, have some land, etc. And then we'd go to work, and some of us would make more money and some of us would make less money. But at the very beginning of things, everybody could only spend money to buy goods and services commensurate with however much they produced. If $X were spent, therefore, in total everyone would earn $X. Money would stop disappearing.

Perhaps this is the reason of the Sabbatical and Jubilee years? Right now, we suffer from a liquidity crisis. So much money has "disappeared", we've got collectively nothing to spend. What could happen now? Money might itself become so valuable, deflation will occur, but that'll just make matters worse as the $x - $y we owe on average will now be all the more of a bite out of our finances. Which'll cause the money to "disappear" faster, which is how depressions happen. But if we just were to be able to force things to add up every so often, then liquidity crises wouldn't happen, would they?

But of course, something deeper is going on in the Torah portion: redistribution of wealth, though justifiable on callously pragmatic grounds or through an appeal to divine command, is given another edge. The korbanos are not all sacrifices, but, as we learn in this past week's parsha, many of them are essentially big BBQ parties in which all share a festive meal.

When people, right and even left, complain about (predatory lenders egging on) people living beyond their means, there is an element of "how dare those poor people consume so much?" to the complaints. But what is that $X - $Y spent on? Food, rent, maybe an occasional luxury. But by in large, as Deutero-Isaiah wisely points out: why spend money on that which does not satisfy? The $X - $Y is largely spent on that which does satisfy. But when it "disappears", it ends up effectively getting spent on that which does not satisfy by those into whose pockets it disappears. If it were spent on food, etc., it would go back into the system and not disappear.

But in spending it in a joyous festive meal, all who are thirsty can buy food without money. Or with money they earn through production. Money becomes merely a symbol of the production and not something which can disappear. I know my thoughts are not fully coherent yet, but I think that there might be yet another layer to the "spiritual materialism" of both the Deuteronomist and Deutero-Isaiah. Another layer we need to figure out soon and heed before too much money disappears and we end up being thirsty and having no money to spend even on that which satisfies.

Update: one class of people who produce more than they consume and hence you'd think might be a sink for money are those 'furriners' at the other end of our trade deficit. 'Cept the reason we buy so many foreign goods is because they are cheaper ... correcting our trade imbalance thus would likely leave us all more in debt (as we have to spend even more money to achieve even a modest standard of living) even as we collectively would likely easily produce enough to satisfy ourselves if we purchased without money and only purchased that which satisfied, following the advice of Deutero-Isaiah.

OTOH, there is a class of people who are acting as a sink for money -- i.e. they produce goods and services we purchase but don't return that money back to the economy: middle class landowners saving for retirement. Housing is not liquid and landowners in a housing bubble might purchase new housing and trap a whole bunch of money in property (an argument for some form of Jubilee year to liquify, so to speak, property? again, the Bible has some good ideas for solutions to our woes, but alas, those most likely to propose "Biblical" solutions are too obsessed with teh hawt sex and only care about what they think the Bible has to say regarding that subject to the exclusion of everything else!).

Moreover, people saving for retirement are producing goods and services, which we are buying with our $X, but they only bring, with their purchases, the amount of money that can pay us back for our labor up to $Y < $X. Ideally, of course, the money that is saved in banks, invested in the stock market, etc., goes back into circulation as loans, advances of capital to companies, etc.

But with low interest rates, few people are placing money in banks (which is a whole 'nother direction -- part of the reason for the subprime mortgage market is there is a lot of demand for capital, but regular banks are undercapitalized -- plus they don't make economically smart decisions due to prejudice, etc ... so much for markets providing freedom and allieviating prejudices -- so they don't have the money to lend, etc.). And most of the money invested in the stock market is invested in ponzi schemes buying already established securities. And to the extent that a massive $X - $Y influx of new money comes into the stock market, all it does is influence the market to respond to the demand for securities in ways that are not necessarily socially beneficial: the new securities offered fuel IPO bubbles like the tech bubble, demand for income stocks causes companies to try and squeeze out additional profits via lay-offs, etc.

In general, while profit is a motivator and investment in the market provides the capital on which our economy runs, these things are like inefficiency in a heat engine -- the second law says that without them things won't run, but they are inefficiencies ... sinks for money nonetheless. And by having so many people investing so much, there is too much money (energy) entering into the $X - $Y black hole as "heat".

In the debate about privatizing Social Security, few people discussed the fact that what we need is less rather than more investment. I suspect even the founders of Social Security did not appreciate its economic role in preventing depressions by lessening the need of a population that increasingly has a longer expected retirement time (due to people being able to live longer after retirement) to tie up money in less than liquid savings or "heat" producing investments. We do have enough productivity, I reckon, to take care of our elderly. Perhaps what we need to shore up capitalism is another New Deal/Great Society dose of social welfare programs? By beefing up Social Security so people don't have to "save" so much for retirement, there will be less money removed from the economy by people producing but not consuming commensurate with their production? And the extra production required to feed those whom our society has told not to save so much in order to keep our economy liquid? Perhaps if the market cannot generate the supply, we can have New Deal government works project to generate the goods and services required for them to buy food without money ...

Wednesday, August 08, 2007


The Times Two Step

First, the NY Times barely provides any coverage of the changes to FISA provided by Bush & CO.

Then the NY Times prints an article titled "Democrats Scrambling to Expand Eavesdropping", making it seem that whatever stupid things come out of the changes to FISA, it's the Democrats who thought of them.

Then, once the bill is passed, the NY Times (already having copped to consistently mis-spelling Gonzales' name ... I hope I've spelt it right ;) ) writes editorials, etc., saying how spineless were the Democrats for passing this bill?

I can't believe this is all just coincidence ... the NY Times can't be this bad of a newspaper by accident can they?

True ... the Democrats who supported the bill for reasons of political calculation were being craven (and counter-productive to their own political future). But from their POV, what was their situation? "even the liberal NPR is saying that the Democrats need to fix FISA", etc. If the NY Times really wanted the Democrats to not have passed the bill, they need only have done their job and reported, without burying the lede and without visible partisanship about it, that the bill was not what the President was claiming it was. That would have provided the Dems. political cover to unite against the bill (btw ... why didn't the Dems, um, write their own #@&!ing bill! ... they could have made the exact fix everyone said was necessary ... and when Bush & CO misrepresented their bill and accused the Dems. of playing politics by wasting time writing their own bill, they could simply have pointed out how Bush & CO didn't give 'em a "clean bill" -- wave Bush & CO's rhetoric back in their face! that's how it's done, ain't it?).

Instead, as it was, there was every indication that, had Reid and Pelosi destroyed the bill, they would have been raked over the coals, even in the NY Times, for failing to provide a much needed fix for the FISA bill. Note that the NY Times headline made it seem like the Dems. were the ones who wanted to do the eavesdropping in the first place! Of course, the Dems. should realize by now that the media is not their friend, and they should not try to do what'll play well in the media as it never will.

But the media meanwhile does, after the fact of course, all it can to make itself seem "liberal" (which convinces many Dems. that, like Charlie Brown hoping to kick the football, next time they might get favorable coverage from the media if they play their cards right) and biased ("see the liberal media can't even bother to spell the AG's name right!"). So whenever they may go against the GOP, it'll be dismissed as biased. Why is the media playing this game? It can't be an accident, can it? We've seen it happen just one too many times ...

Update: it turns out there was a cleaner bill, but the Democratic leadership killed it. I don't fully understand what exactly they did (and I was on University Senate for a few years ... long enough to have experience and understood some very bizarre parliamentary procedures wherein ostensibly voting for something meant in the end you were killing it and ostensibly voting against something meant you were giving it new life), but for some reason the Democratic leadership killed their own bill! What numbskulls! No wonder people don't trust Democrats to govern ... they can't do it! And it isn't as if these are Republicans who claim that government can't work anyway. If you claim government can work, you better be able to make it work!

Update #2: It turns out that Rove, like a comic book villain, revealed his plans previously. The Dems. can't even deal with villainy of a comic book level of obviousness? How pathetic!

Sunday, August 05, 2007


Eikev Blogging

The Torah reading this past week included the Second Paragraph of the Sh'ma. At shul, the person doing the d'rash this week, brought this to our attention.

Also, we are reading some of the most beautiful parts of the "spiritual materialist" Deutero-Isaiah. Do note the connection between Deutero-Isaiah prophesizing upon the return of the Judeans to Israel and the Deuteronomist who established Judaism as a religion rather than a national cult to keep our people together in the diaspora (consider also how this is part of the already established Jewish trend of seperating sacred from the rest ... and of seperation of church and state!). Note that both hearken back to earlier Prophets (respectively, Isaiah and Moses) ... and that both are, in a way, secularists.

Of course, I'll either have more to say about the philosophy of Deutero (Tritero) Isaiah next week if I have the time (and the links between the Torah and Haftarah for this coming week), otherwise I'll link to what I wrote last year ;)

Wednesday, August 01, 2007


The Fairness Doctrine

I realize that reinstituting the Fairness Doctrine will just encourage the media's tendancy toward balancing "the moon is made of rocks theory" with "the moon is made of green cheese" theory, but we need to do something.

Yesterday, in my travels, I saw a CNN news crawl in which a decent chunk of space was given to Giuliani alleging Edwards will raise our taxes by some outrageous amount (which was obviously a cooked statistic). Either the Edwards camp, figuring brevity was the soul of wit, deemed that a brief response would automatically display wit (it said nothing memorable -- if this is how Edwards deals with attacks, we can't have him as our nomination -- I'd expect better from one of them trial lawyers, though) or (more likely) Giuliani's allegations were presented in full with space given to neither a full response from the Edwards team nor any fact checking.

I should write a letter. I guess I'll write it (I figure I'll cc the e-mail to CNN to Edwards' camp, Giuliani's camp -- for fairness -- and maybe other news orgs: if everyone can be obsessed about whether WSJ will be able to cover Faux News' gaffs now that Rupert Pupkin, er, Murdoch's in charge, people might wish to wonder why "competing" media outlets won't look critically at each other and, um, compete?) whenever I write a letter to Baskin-Robbins asking them why the $#@^ they replaced their amazing Daiquiri Ice with an off-balance "Lime Daiquiri Ice"?

Anyway, was it Giuliani who was proposing offering tax credits for health insurance? What about those of us for whom health insurance costs pretty much equal our taxes? What about those for whom health insurance costs exceed their tax burden? Health insurance ain't cheap, folks!

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