Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Jews in Europe

Here are two stories bearing on the subject of the continued residence of Jews in Europe.

Which one do you think is the most worrying?

  1. Copenhagen attacks reignite debate about safety of Jews in Europe
  2. France PM Manuel Valls 'under Jewish influence' says former socialist foreign minister [Roland Dumas]
I would say number two (despite the problematic nature of M. Dumas).

The casual assumption that Jews are inherently separate from the main political and social life of European nations is a recurring theme in European/Jewish relations.

The idea that Jews needed to be in control of their own destiny, and therefore need a state -- Zionism -- came from the conclusion that no matter what was said, when stressed Jews would never be part of Europe. 

It is worthwhile remembering that this conclusion was  derived from observation of France during the Dreyfus Affair -- then the most 'liberal' and 'secular' and 'integrated' (for Jews) European state.

It is this issue, not just or even primarily physical safety, which I would argue remains the reason Jews should never consider Europe a home.


Sunday, February 8, 2015

Speak not the truth loudly

It is rare that I find anything (outside of the comics) worthwhile in Seattle Times, but it does happen occasionally.

Pam Roach is a State Senator in Washington, and generally considered (by most of her own party as well as thinking people) a wing nut's wing nut.  She is also the state Senate President pro tem (see In twist, Democrats elevate GOP state Sen. Pam Roach to leadership for the reason why).

One of the signs of her wing nuttiness is that she fails to remember the rule "Speak not the truth loudly", so sometimes the truth gets out.

There were some bills before a committee she chairs having to do with placing some restrictions on petition signature gathering favored by (among others) he Washington Food Industry Association (WFIA), the lobby group for grocery stores in Washington. 

Now, during the last election, the WFIA gave Roach’s challenger, $1,150.  Roach narrowly won.

This was to do with Roach not supporting a particular bill they wanted.

So, when I spokesman for one of the grocery stores was speaking, she cut in with:

“Were you aware that legislators can be punished, after 24 years,
(when) they don’t support a bill that you want, even though they have a
perfect record with business,” said Roach, adding later: “Do you think
this is kind of heavy-handed, maybe?”
“I think it’s terrible, myself. Anyway, you need to know where your
money’s going.,”

“Because you know what? I won.”
For details see (A rare outburst of what money really means in politics and Pam Roach offers lessons in winning and government: ‘I won').

I love it, the truth about how to buy our officials, and what can happen if you don't buy a winning doggie in the window.

In the words of Jess Unru , late of the state of California:

Money is the mother's milk of politics.

Sunday, February 1, 2015

A Salutory Lesson in Ruthlessness

A recent editorial in the Washington Post, by Michael R. Strain, entitled End Obamacare, and people could die. That’s okay.

This article has created moral outrage in some quarter, for example in Crooks and Liars: Alan Grayson Was Right They Want You Die. I wish the reason for making this type of argument were obscure to me.

I suspect using points such as positive 'rights', sanctity of human life, and self evident goods in argument is laziness:  for it restricts discussion within a bubble of the converter,  and avoids the actual work of governing.  I suppose it could also be a desire to educate by providing a demonstration of what begging the question really means.

Never forget why the German state decided to become the first to create social welfare programs, including health care, 130 years ago: to increase the quality of recruits to their army, promote industrial production, and reduce labor unrest.

This, by the way, is why many socialist of the day rejected such moves -- viewing them as co-opting and delaying an more thorough going change, ie revolution.

So instead of pointing with disgust and disdain at reactionaries, let me suggestion that in making arguments in defense of any  policy, one begin with the following presuppositions -- not because they are necessarily right, but because by embracing them one can build more persuasive arguments and better political organization.
  1. All political actions will, at some level, determine who will live and die. 
  2. The system of resource distribution in a society implicitly must give human life  a economic (resource) value.
  3. Arguments based on what one believes is an a priori moral position cannot by their nature be persuasive in a polity which allows differing points of view. Opposition merely justifies its position with its own 'moral position and conversation stops.
The arguments for national health care are, to me, quite practical. They stand the best chance of improving the national economy by allowing labor mobility, increasing the velocity of money (by decreasing non-useful spending), and improving the aggregate health of the people.

The arguments by Strain and his ilk are refutable on this basis, and one can dismiss the (to my mind) false defenses of 'liberty/freedom' they invoke.

Drop the shocked outrage as a primary appeal, and speak about GDP, increased buying power, and less waste.

Or fail.

Saturday, January 31, 2015

Juis suis vraiment Charlie

I fully support this person's right to believe this, and to publish this thought.

I only wish I could be Charlie enough to draw a cartoon about what I thought of the person.

I can only use my (protected) speech and quote/paraphrase: "[They are] brutal, savage, unprincipled, uncivilized, treacherous - in every way
splendid examples of homo sapiens, the very flower of humanity. I found
them quite refreshing."

Extremism: The Key to Launching a Spiritual Revolution

As my father would say, "All fanatics are cousins."

Thursday, January 15, 2015

Open Letter to Jorge Mario Bergoglio

This may be the silliest thing I have ever done, but I sent it.

Thursday, January 8, 2015

Je Suis Charlie, quand je vois flotteur de fer

Consider just these stories News organizations wrestle with whether to publish Charlie Hebdo cartoons after attack,Fox News Has No Plans to Air Charlie Hebdo Cartoons, and Many Outlets Are Censoring Charlie Hebdo's Satirical Cartoons After Attack

While saying that they condemn the attacks, and support free speech, new organization for the AP, to British tabloids, to Fox News make the excuse that  it is against policy to "publish hate speech or spectacles that offend, provoke or intimidate, or anything that desecrates religious symbols or angers people along religious or ethnic line." 

I will believe that when I see iron float.

We hear that Cartoonists show solidarity after Paris Charlie Hebdo attack, in pictures.

We hear that he attack on Charlie Hebdo is supposed to be turning point.

There will be great protests and out pouring of sorrow -- but not rage.

The forces that take such actions do not care about the declarations of "Je suis Charlie".  I suspect, that they rather like it -- if the protestation is real, it gives more targets.

It will galvanize the democracies of the world in defense of its basic liberties.

I will believe that when I see iron float.

Prior to the attack, there were calls on the publication from 'right thinking' parties -- such as the government of the French State --  to not offend.

We are already hearing the 'yes, butt-ery' from critics such as the Financial Times' Tony Barber, or on another extreme Bill Donohue, president of the US Catholic League speak about going to far.

There will be more 'buts',  the issue of speech is nuanced, and we must be sensitive, humor should not wound.  One must not give into rage, even for liberty.

And in six months, no one will be Charlie, again.

Thursday, December 11, 2014

Torture, the devil, and the law

The problem with torture is not that "it is ... inconsistent with our values as a nation".

The problem with torture is not that the justification of torture -- that it is needed to ensure security-- is at best factually weak, and more likely false.

The problem is  that torture endangers us.

The character of Thomas Moore, in A Man for All Seasons, defends the law against zeal for even justice by saying:
And when the last law was down, and the Devil turned around on you--where would you hide ... the laws all being flat? ... I'd give the Devil benefit of law, for my own safety's sake.
To parapharase MacArthur to Roosevelt: When some CIA operative drowning, some Marine is being rectally fed, when some Airman is held without sleep for days*, there last words can be a curse on Cheyney, Hayden, and Bush.

*See Stalag 17.