Friday, May 30, 2008


Misc. Updates

* I've gotten into Schumann lately

* I can't read the new Pandagon site on my computer at work: where will I go if I feel like making a Niebelung out of myself in front of a bunch of Puritans?

* I've stumbled upon an interesting blog that makes some points I'm wont to make -- The True Conservative -- I wonder how he feels about Viereck? I wonder how my friend Nate would feel about him?

* How is it that purchasing a computer cluster is so hard and so expensive? I never knew how much money and how much effort it would take to purchase a handful of high end computers and a switch to link them all together ...

* I'm hungry: what should I eat to fill myself up so my tummy isn't all rumbling for Erev Shabbos services?

Thursday, May 29, 2008


Make it go away ...

The Dems. need to figure out how to disappear the FL and MI primary issues. Having "people in FL aren't being counted" in the news (or, alternatively, if the Dems. do count FL, "the Dems. can't even stick to their own rules") just paints the Dems. as hypocrites. Moreover, it's "unprofessional" so to speak -- "if the Dems. can't run their party, how can they run the government?", people must be asking.

The GOP made this schtuss go away (while their race was still contested) ... why didn't the Dems?

Monday, May 26, 2008


Back from Italy ...

... land of rectangular toilet seats and orange egg yolks ... and Grappa (which is quite the opposite of what I expected: instead of being rough and harshly flavored, it was smooth and creamy flavored, albeit with a definite sulfurous note, presumably from the sulfites in grapes and also added to prevent bacterial growth in the wine-making process).

However, I did have a certain sugar cane derived product from a certain country we'll call "Habanero Klub". It was wonderful. It had the herbalness of Cruzon and the just plain-rummyness of Barcelo -- all in one good package. When we trade with China so we can purchase shlock for even cheaper prices, the economic openness will help bring democracy, but the FSM forbid we get affordable yet luxurious consumer goods from Cuba, eh?

Thursday, May 15, 2008


Who'da Thunk This Would Be So Controversial?

Maybe I shoulda given how nobody seems to be able to answer the question:

Why don't working class African-Americans vote like working class white folks?

It's the lament of many a Reaganite culture warrior (and now, thanks to HRC's ability to play the GOP game -- maybe she could beat the GOP at their own game? or maybe she's just giving the GOP good ammunition to use against the Dems later -- the lament of many a Clintonite), but nobody seems to quite get why. Are "Reagan Democrat" types just bigots plain and simple? Are church going, socially conservative African-Americans secretly social liberals or afraid enough of the crypto-racist appeals to "Reagan Democrats" to vote conservatively? Or is something else going on?

At Ezra Klein's place (too lazy to link), I suggested it was cultural: it's easy to appeal to lower class resentments of fancy talking, over-educated rich folk when you are appealing to people who've barely had any direct interactions with someone who talks fancy or has more than an Associates' Degree. It's hard to appeal to lower class resentments of fancy talking, over-educated rich folk to people who themselves drop their 'r's as if they were Scarlet O'Hara or Rhett Butler and who listen to sermons given by a feller with a Ph.D. (or at least a D.Div. or an Ed.D.) every Sunday.

Venture an explanation involving racism and you're immediately labeled as a bigot yourself for thinking all working class white folks are racist. But venture an explanation involving some very real cultural differences (*) between working class whites and blacks -- and pointing out that the mores of rich slave-holders may have shaped the culture of the latter to have "rich values" -- and people will completely miss your point, accuse you of buying into the worst stereotypes about African-Americans, etc.

If we want to succeed politically, we should maybe understand why we fail to reach out to groups with whom we should be doing better (e.g. working class whites) and also why we are able to do so well amongst groups who you'd think would vote GOP (just as "Jews earn like Episcopalians and vote like Puerto Ricans" -- of course, now you could say the same thing about some of those Episcopalians themselves ;) -- African-Americans pray like Southern Baptists and vote like secular humanists). However, we won't be able to understand the difference if all possible explanations just get shot down with ad hominem attacks and without proper consideration.

It's almost like too many Dems. are too comfortable loosing -- being the never winning but never defeated opposition, etc.

(*the so-called "lower class values/mindset" that got the late Sen. Moynihan all worked up in a tizzy are, in fact, not lower class values per se -- e.g. the values of poor white Southrons -- but rather the values of the pre-Victorian English gentry and their Southern planter heirs: c.f. commentary about us Jews, when we were mainly poor, still having "middle class values")

Monday, May 05, 2008


The Golden Rule

Garrison Keillor made an interesting statement in his dispatch from Lake Wobegon last weekend -- that Christianity is an extremely hard faith as it requires you to love your neighbor with no easy steps in between: no half-way point of "love some of your neighbors", etc. Just love your neighbor and love them all.

We Jews tend to think of Christianity as an "easy faith" and our own faith as a hard one (and we almost are proud masochists in our proclaimation of such). But what makes our faith hard -- all the rules and regulations -- we thank God for, in Divine Grace, giving too us. Why? Because they provide us with the tools of spiritual discipline that should ideally help us to love our neighbor.

We don't have to jump right into loving our neighbor, even though it is the central command of our faith. Rather, the very same Book that gives us that commandment, Leviticus, gives us a whole slew of duties that, as obscure and backward as they might seem, all help us to love our neighbor. Rules on tithing, not gleaning, etc., give us ways to love our neighbor. The Holiness Code, which includes the great commandment, in this last week's parsha allows us to set ourselves apart ("be holy") and thus bring out the divine within us so that we may love our neighbor as God loves us.

Leviticus is largely a priestly and not a Prophetic book. As obscure and hidebound as it seems, in some ways it is actually the most humanistic book of the Torah as it describes how we as individuals can engage with the divine and not die spiritually like Aaron's sons. Interestingly, c.f. Keillor's joke about Episcopalians in last week's PHC, those traditions within Christianity that most maintain the Priestly tradition of Judaism (often more than Judaism itself does*) do seem to provide the most stepping stones toward the goal of loving your neighbor.

A faith which just says "love your neighbor" and doesn't guide you toward that goal sets in front of you, it may be argued, a stumbling block before the blind (**) -- also from this last week's parsha. And to say "well you just have failed the impossible test, so you can't achieve salvation (of your own accord)" seems austere to the point of nihilism (c.f. Nietzsche). A pragmatic and graceful God would make it easy on us, not by exempting us from the Law as if we were mere young children, but by being a loving parent and instilling discipline in us as we grow, and to help us grow, spiritually.

In a sense, we Jews have it easier than the Gentiles (c.f. the morning b'rachos) -- we have a Law that guides us toward higher levels of spirituality and gemilus hassidim. Now the question is why (ironically in the name of being observant of Halacha) we Jews get caught up in the details of the cobblestones and don't see the Path (Halacha) that God, in Divine Love, has placed before us.

* from (orthodox/catholic) Christianity to Hassidism, Judaism has this habit of spinning off movements that are, in their beginning, ostensibly anti-clerical and anti-hierarchical but end up being hierarchical (a Jewish Pope? a Rebbe outside of Hassidism?) in a way Judaism never has been.

** a Catholic friend of mine argued "how can 'iconoclastic' Protestants be Christian -- by sending Jesus down to Earth, God made a graven image of himself, so why should Protestants protest (pun intended) when Catholics do the same?" From a Jewish point of view, though, isn't the Christian God, by making himself graven, placing a stumbling block before the blind who themselves crave images (c.f. Harrison's Hare Krishna song)?

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