Wednesday, November 28, 2007


I Would Have Thought Edwards Would Know Better

... than to propose the kind of mandate he's proposing ... c.f. my comment to this post at Young Ezra's place.

I always figured Edwards, being a kick-ass trial lawyer would know how to make a case to people (e.g. juries). But it seems that he's lost his touch or something. And he doesn't have any mad management skillz to run the federal bureaucracy. I'm just not too happy with any of the crop of Dem. candidates I guess ...

Monday, November 26, 2007


Legal Question

I'm sure I've asked this here before, but what the #@%$ does it mean when our money says "this bill legal tender for all debts public and private" (emphasis added) if even government agencies do not accept cash as payment for debts or other transactions? I perfectly understand why a business or agency would not want to accept cash. But doesn't the wording on our money indicate they have to accept it? And if it doesn't mean that, why the #@$% do we waste ink writing that on our money?

Wednesday, November 21, 2007


Let's Get Our History Right

Ad copy running 'round the left side of the nets says:

FDR passed the National Labor Relations Act to protect workers.

Bzzz ... wrong. FDR passed such legislation to protect capitalists from their own excesses. That richer frat-boy didn't care so much about workers (though his wife did) ... but what did he get for trying to save his own class? They called him a traitor and have been trying to undermine his New Deal since.

Nu? What can we learn from this ingratitude in this season of Thanksgiving when we should be gracious? I dunno ... but I betcha we can learn something!

Friday, November 16, 2007


Last Minute, Pre- (and now post-) Shkia Parsha Blogging

Isn't it interesting how Isaac and Jacob, the (not oldest) children favored by their mothers rather than their fathers, constite the line from which the Israelites are descended? What does that say about us Jews that we'd construct our founding narrative this way? In particular also that we'd construct the narrative that we have been established by such a Loki figure as Jacob?

And what does it say that kind Rivka liked Jacob while boyish yet (according to Midrash) overly studious Isaac like Esau? What are the weakness implied in the judgement of character by those who are too kind or too studious?

In general, echoing previous blogging on the subject of Toldoth ("history", "generations") what is the meaning of the tropes (ha! ha! aren't I punny?) in Genesis?


Now I have only about 16.5 hours (for 8 of which I'll be asleep) to figure out what I'm gonna say when I give a D'var Torah to the kinder at the Youth Minyan tomorrow. My students don't understand me when I try to teach them Hebrew ... how'll they understand me when I try to get into the d'rash of this week's Torah portion?


Updates (17 Nov 2007): pardon the spelling errors ... also blogging for this last week's Parsha is in the comments.

Thursday, November 15, 2007


The Immunity Deal

I know the Blue-Dogs supposedly representing me in Congress won't listen to this -- but maybe one of you readers lives in a district where someone will listen?

Anyway -- here's, in my not so humble opinion, what the Dems. should do on Telecom immunity: make via law a real immunity deal (or at least an immunity deal like those you see on the TeeVee): i.e. if the Telecom execs, et al, testify as to illegal goings on (e.g. to Congress), they'll get immunity, not only to lawsuits but also to any crimes that they essentially confessed to in their testimony (no worry about self-incrimination) as well as immunity to any intelligence leaks that may occur when they spill the beans on BushCO malfeasance.

The Dems. should trumpet how this gives everyone what they want: companies don't have to worry about lawsuits or criminal penalties (the pro-immunity rhetoric all but admits the companies have broken the law), the investigations can go ahead without people getting in trouble for leaking information (perhaps Congress can allow for closed-door hearings with only those members with appropriate security clearence in attendence ... however, they must insist that sworn testimony be given and transcribed -- even if the transcripts may become classified -- and sufficiently distributable that they can be used, with appropriate redaction, in any criminal trial).

And the Dems. can also be seen as being willing to compromise and the GOP will look intrastringent -- you wanna win by being seen as willing to compromise? Well, then offer the compromises on your terms! taking up other people's offered "compromises" just makes you look weak. And refusing to take up those compromises makes you seem "partisan". So why can't the Dems. realize they are now in power and can offer compromises on their terms and when the Pres. or whomever refuses to accept, they can now accuse the Pres or whomever of being intrastringent and destructively partisan? Of course, to do that they'll need to make sure that they don't have "centrist" Dems. whining left and right to the media about liberal Democrats being unwilling to compromise and they'll need to make sure they don't have bomb throwers throwing bombs but rather spin this (and self-consciously so as a chosen strategy -- the meta-politics will impress the pundits) as the President and his allies refusing to compromise and that all the GOP talk of partisanship of Dems is mere projection.

So what are the Dems. doing instead? According to NPR, they'll stick the bill to the American taxpayer. Now that's actually fair -- if the government is doing something on our behalf we should either tell 'em to stop it or be willing to pay for it ... and since the American people had there chance in 2004 and didn't take it up, we should be willing to pay. But that's political suicide. As is, as Diane Feinstein seems won't to do here, giving political cover to your most strident opponents (i.e. the people that subtly made jabs at your heritage and last name when you ran for governor). And Feinstein thinks she's being politically smart? Oy ...


Anyway, the Dem leadership should get the Senate to pass the funding for the troops bill. The Pres. will veto it and complain. Now the trick then is that the Dem. leadership also needs to craft some talking points so that no matter whom NPR chooses to interview, we listeners won't hear some party hack sounding partisan and like he's after political gain nor will we hear some faux-moderate deriding other Dems. for being overly partisan, but rather we'll hear how the President is refusing to fund our troops and wanting to keep us bogged down in Iraq forever. Something tells me that the Senate won't pass the bill (allowing the GOP to talk about how the Democrats can't even manage to fund the troops), and even if they do, something tells me the GOP will be able to get out their talking points just fine even as the Dems. will be in complete disarray. Look -- if you can't manage to one-up the GOP, even as they are so predictable, how will the Dems. keep us safe? Better Dems ... please!

Tuesday, November 13, 2007


Stupid Democrats or Biased NPR?

Or both? ...

NPR did a whole segment on the energy bill this morning. They played more clips of Republicans than Democrats. And whenever you heard a Democrat, the Democrat was talking about "sausage making" rather than what they actually want in the energy bill whilst the Republicans were talking about why they were opposing the Democrats' bills.

Was NPR biased in how they selected statements to play in this story? If so, shame on them. OTOH, even if NPR was biased, if Democrats didn't talk about sausage making (*) but rather talked about "policy" (TM), NPR wouldn't be able to play statements such that the Republicans come off as sincerely interested in policy while the Democrats come off as only being interested in politics and hence being political: people don't care about sausage making, they care about what you want to do. And yet the only time in the story I heard any Democrat talk about what she was going to accomplish was an HRC campaign commercial (which everybody'll figure is a lie since it's a frickin' campaign comercial and everyone knows politicians lie to get elected!).

I know, Democrats will point out "well, if we did talk policy, we'd bore everyone to death as well as give the GOP more statements they could distort and use against us" -- well, that's true. But note that I didn't say Dems. should talk about policy ... I said they should talk about "policy"(TM) ... with quotes and a (TM). Democrats need to learn how to craft talking points and how to bloody stick on message. Democrats are afraid of appearing more partisan and political? Well, ironically, it is by actually being partisan and political and forcing everyone in the party to stay on a politically in tune message that one appears less partisan and political.

The GOoPers have their talking points they repeat: while some Dems. talk how they'll throw bombs whilst making sausage and others talk "compromise" and complain about the partisanship of the former group. Now pretend you're hearing all this over the radio or TeeVee -- which appears more partisan and political? The party which talks about what they'll do? Or the party which is always talking about sausage making? Of course we know which one actually requires more party discipline and politicking -- but politics is about appearance. Nu? Why can't the Dems. learn how to play that game? I know ... I know, pretending it's a game is the GOP frame anyway while Dems., who actually believe the political process can accomplish something, are loath to treat it like a game. But unless you play the game, you can't win ... the Democrats'll have as much of a winning record as Homey the Clown if they refuse to learn how to communicate to the American people.

And if we do believe the political process can do some good, shouldn't we learn to engage it so we can do that good? Otherwise, we make matters worse for ourselves, if only because our haughtiness about politicking comes off as "elitist". Remember a lot of hatred of the "liberal media" occurs simply because of how the GOoPers have defined liberal -- we need to redefine liberal ... but that's a whole 'nother topic entirely ... we liberals do have a problem staying on message, don't we?

(*talking meta-politics to pundits is good, though -- pundits love to feel like they're "in" on the strategy ... but there is a difference between talking meta-politics to pundits and including details of sausage making in statements about specific bills)

Friday, November 09, 2007


How Can She be So NOT Ready for Prime Time?

And yet, HRC is not ready for prime time. Evidently there was a Cheney-up somewhere in IA and a waitress didn't get a tip from HRC and CO (and now they are spinning in all directions: "we put the tip on the credit card" [even though the machine didn't allow that], "we left a hundred dollar bill" [how's that gonna be split again?]). Of course, "even the liberal NPR" is having a field day with this.

You can say "double standard", "right wing media conspiracy", "trivialization of media coverage", etc., all you want -- and I'll agree with you. But this is the reality: the media will be out to get the Dem candidate, especially if that candidate is HRC. And the candidate will have to deal with this reality. It may very well be distorting and problematic and result in the election of Presidents based on who turns Tweety on whether or not they can deal with the realities, e.g., of international affairs, but the fact still remains: if HRC can't manage to put together a team that can ensure a waitress gets tipped, how will she handle the ship of state? If she can't deal with the bullying from "even the liberal NPR", how will she be able to deal with bullying tyrants abroad?

If HRC (or Edwards or to whomever this kinda stunt has been pulled) lets situations like this happen, people will start to figure "wow, if even the liberal NPR doesn't like HRC, she must be an ineffectual liberal". Which'll cause HRC to move further to the right, e.g. on Iraq, thus further alienating her from the American mainstream, which mainstream will feel alienated, but not know the words to express it, so they'll just say "HRC's too 'liberal'", which'll cause her to tack further right ... lather, rinse, repeat.

HRC, or whomever, has gotta stop tacking and start taking on the bullies at home (as well as make sure SNAFUs are minimized so there is less to pick on as well as to prove managerial competency) ... she needs to stop worrying about being "tough" and actually start acting assertive: Nu? the media is unfair? Nu? Deal with it! That's what you'll have to do as President. So, why not start now and show the American people you're up to the job?

And HRC, after all she's been through, should have realized all of this by now. What does it say about her that she continues to Cheney things up like this? What does it say about her and her people that she's still cursing the darkness rather than dealing with the media as they are? How can she be this unprepared for prime time after being in politics (either directly or as a political spouse) for so long? Something's not right here -- and people realize this. The problem for us liberals is that they'll link her unpreparedness with her (supposed) liberalism and turn against liberals, and by extension, Dems, rather than realizing the problem is that she's just another DLCer and real liberals generally are not this dense.


Shorter Republicans interviewed on NPR: everybody disagrees with Bush & CO on Iraq, so we need to make sure they vote with their hearts rather than their heads. Obvious translation: the GOP is gonna run a "you may know intellectually that GWB has discredited GOoPerism, but in your heart of hearts, don't you just hate icky people who do icky things like gay married terrorists who have abortions? so screw 'intellectually', intellectuals are just a bunch of effete defeatists -- including those neo-cons who convinced GWB to abandon the great ideals of conservatism to invade Iraq" campaign. Of course, the GOoPers will be mad at NPR for spilling the beans, er, finding some guys who said what they said, thus making the GOP look bad ... cry me a river, GOoPers -- I'll feel sorry for you vis-a-vis the Republicans they choose to interview as soon as they actually start playing the statements of actual Dem. leaders on issues of contraversy (after they've just played a tape of the Pres. or another bona fide GOP leader) rather than pairing a tape of Bush (speaking suddenly suspiciously eloquently, c.f. theories that when he is eloquent vs. when he trips over himself say something about him and his real ideas, agenda, desires and mental state) with a tape of some random back-bencher political bomb thrower (to give the Villagers something about which to clutch their pearls vis-a-vis "the Dems are too partisan") or Blue-Dog (who'll just agree with Bush and wish other Dems were less "partisan" and would "compromise", c.f. that same Blue-Dog's rhetoric on Israel -- why be willing to compromise with the bullies at home but not those abroad? ... which is my point about HRC, eh?) ...

Thursday, November 08, 2007


I Write Letters

My local Blue-Dog Rep's Newsletter was about "honoring the Vets. on Veterans' Day" or some such, so I fired this e-mail off to him:

Rep. Boyd,

Today in my e-mail inbox, I received a newsletter from you asking us
to honor our veterans. Perhaps the best way to honor our veterans is
to make sure that they have not served in vain but rather to protect
our freedom. Perhaps the best way to honor our veterans is to ensure
that our involvement in Iraq ends swiftly so that soon to be veterans
can come home before this war takes any further tolls on them.

And yet, the Democratic party, elected to a majority in Congress do
something about the war, elected to do something about President
Bush's assaults on the freedoms which so many veterans have fought to
defend, has failed to place any meaningful checks and balances on
President Bush. I urge you and your fellow Democrats to start showing
some spine in opposition to President Bush, to start showing some
party unity in message in your opposition to the horrendous policies
of our current President.

True, many Democrats fear that by opposing Bush's war-mongering they
will look weak, that by putting up a unified partisan face, they will
look partisan. But, as that great hero of America and the Democratic
party, FDR, once famously said, "the only thing we have to fear is
fear itself." Ironically, it is the very weakness of the Democrats in
opposing Bush, the bully at home, that convinces people that the
Democrats are too weak to deal with bullies abroad; it is the
Democrats' failure to unify around a message -- that some Democrats
insist on trying to present themselves as "moderate" while inevitably
presenting other Democrats as "radicals" -- that makes those who do
oppose Bush seem "partisan" rather than representative of the majority
of Americans.

The media may allow the President and his allies to present their spin
while they muddle the Democratic message, and the pundits may, pace
the Federalist Papers which describe how political ambition can secure
liberty, be aghast that politicians act politically, the media may
then turn around and sneer at the GOP enough so that people, including
evidently a fair number of Democratic politicians, think the media is
on our side (c.f. Eric Alterman on "playing the refs"). But if
Democrats stand strong, together and on message, no matter whom the
media chooses to speak to, the American people will learn that the
Democrats stand for them -- not for some idol of bipartisanship or
that a few Democrats are partisan bomb throwers; the American people
will learn that the Democrats stand for liberty and justice for all,
no matter how the media tries to frame the issues.

But first the Democrats have to take a stand and take it in a
graceful, unified and well-articulated manner. I urge you and your
fellow Democrats to do such a thing.

[D. Alberich S.]

Monday, November 05, 2007


Weekly Parsha Blogging

What does this last week's parsha have to say about the Israeli/Palestinian conflict? It can be applied in multiple ways ranging from "the land is all ours" to "Zionism is right, but we shoulda bought the land from the Palestinians themselves, like Abraham got the concent of the Am Ha-aretz, rather than had the British partition land that wasn't theirs to partition" to "c.f. the reconcilliation between Ishmael and Isaac" ...

So which tack do y'all take?

Also, from last Shabbos, a local Rabbi raised a very interesting point: what is the real meaning of Antigonus of Sokho's (in)famous lesson in Pirke Avos? E.g., what if by "Rav" (master), he's not referring to God but to a religious leader? What is he after really? Is he really after the kind of mentality of "if I serve the (cult) leader well, I'll be rewarded" the helps supply cults with cultists? Is he after undermining cult-leaders by discouraging a quid-pro-quo mentality amongst potential cultists?

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