Sunday, January 28, 2018

From an Old Bear to a Young One

 Thoughts on the Parash Va'eira, 13 January 2018, 6 Tevet 5777.

Well, I looked, but there is not mention of soccer in the Bible.

The only mention of sports I could find in the bible is in the start of Genesis...and that's baseball.  So we won't go there.

<Oh no, in the Big Inning>

Now there are very few mentions of bears in the Bible either.

The most famous one is in Kings II, where she-bears devour wicked children who were mocking the bald head of the prophet Elisha.

That might please some please some of your relatives, but we won't go there either.

So I took a leaf out of your book, and looked at your Torah (Exodus 7:8-9:35) and Haftarah ( Ezekiel 28:25–29:21) to see if I could talk to you about anything there.

 And, what struck me is that they are both at some level about exiles. Ezekiel is in exile writing back home.

And as it often the case with exiles, writing back home.

As is often the case with exiles, he has perhaps more clarity than the folks back home.

He is in forced exile, hoping to prevent that from happening to the rest of his people.

He doesn't prevent that from happening.

Moses just returned from an exile.

He has returned to an Egypt where we're told no one knows him anymore.

So, it was a sort of an exile of both time and place.

And he is about to go out on exile again, and take his people out on an exile.

And be there for 40 years, and Moses will die in exile.

Exile is part of the heritage of the Jew; maybe it is one of the defining inheritances.

It's also part of life, from the very moment of birth.

Which is why, I think, newborns look so grumpy.

Exile is not a happy thing.

While it comes in many flavors, it generally is uncomfortable: an adversity.

Sweet are the uses of adversity
Which, like the toad, ugly and venomous,
Wears yet a precious jewel in his head;
And you thought you'd get through this without me quoting Shakespeare.

<No, I didn't>

So, you will go through life, and have already gone through, exiles.

The point of them is for us is how we deal with them going forward.

This will define an awful lot of about us.

I'd like to be there to help you with all your exiles, so would your mother.

But, by the very definition of exiles, I am not sure that we can be.

It reminds of a poem, actually a song that Claudia Schmidt used to sing beautifully.

It goes:
Farewell, my friends,
I’m bound for Canaan,
I’m trav’ling through the wilderness;
Your company has been delightful,
You do not leave my mind distressed.
I go away, behind to leave you,
Perhaps never to meet again,
But if we never have the pleasure,
I hope we’ll meet on Canaan’s land.

I hope that all your exiles are going forward.

I hope that they are as good for you as they can be.

And, as always:

That you should Grow and Be Strong and Do Justly.

Saturday, July 8, 2017

Who would vote against one's own interest.

There is a small industry on the soft left -- from Bill Maher to former classmates to NPR -- whose mantra seems to be
 "How can Trump’s supporters stick with him when his proposals hurt them the most?".
They might want to read this Washington Post article) The media fundamentally misunderstands conservatives on health care).

The article and analysis is hardly brilliant, but then to state the obvious doesn't require that.

The ending is worth quoting:
...Trump’s supporters...are more dedicated to the principle of freedom from government mandates than...worried about the loss of government subsidies...

Until Democrats can figure that out, their efforts to pry Trump’s supporters away from him — on health care or any other subject — an endless source of frustration.
Acting politically against one's self-interest (as perceived by others) is not necessary illogical or stupid.

If you want proof on that, consider that the author of this post is a member of a group that has reliably voted against its own self interest for the last 80 years.

Wednesday, June 28, 2017

We have been here before

The organizers of the Chicago Dyke March asked two women carrying Jewish rainbow pride flags (having a Star of David over the rainbow) to leave the Saturday afternoon march and rally.

I particularly like the justification of the organizers of the march that: "anti-Zionist Jewish volunteers and supporters are welcome."

Ah, only good Jews are welcome. After all, it has been vouch safe that feminists should not be Zionists.

If you are interested, there are some links below (I like article by Bari Weiss best).

When Jews groups often march under signs saying "We have been here before", at Trump Resistance rallies for instance, I like also to remember part of that 'before' was how much support we received from 'progressive allies'. 

Why, it almost makes one want to be a Zionist.

Tensions Flare After Chicago Dyke March Demands Star Of David Pride Flag Carriers Leave Rally

I’m Glad the Dyke March Banned Jewish Stars

Pro-Israel And Queer? Why It’s Getting Hard To Be Both.

Sunday, June 4, 2017

Sayre's law and free thought

I think that the oppressive behavior at Evergreen, Harvey Mudd, Yale and elsewhere, as described in These Campus Inquisitions Must Stop, is unlikely to be arrested. (H/T Jack Ayer)

It is too good an example of Sayer's Law -- "In any dispute the intensity of feeling is inversely proportional to the value of the issues at stake." 

The special case is: "Academic politics are so vicious precisely because the stakes are so small."*

It is not inconceivable that such actions might allow certain groups to obtain power at certain institutions.  But it is hard to see these institutions actually changing the world around them.

Still it has the potential to secure the careers of some people, and temporarily (until graduation) 'empower' others -- political correctness largely for profit and fun.  So it won't stop.

But, I can't think a better method of defanging the 'left' as a serious participant in real politics.  I wonder if the Koche brothers are behind it.


*This quote is attributed to many people, including Samuel Johnson, Jesse Unruh, and Henry Kissinger (who promoted it to international diplomacy).

Thursday, April 6, 2017

We have met the enemy, and he is ....

Michel Foucault, biting his finger at us.
IT should be thumb.See Romeo and Juliet

French....?  No he is us.  (And must be a he, too, I suppose)

The article, How French “Intellectuals” Ruined the West: Postmodernism and Its Impact, Explained, is a fun, and I think accurate polemic to read.

It uses a term I had not thought of before, epistemic relativism: "belief in personal or culturally specific truths or facts [advocating the privilege of]  'lived experience' over empirical evidence."

That is a wonderful term, which I would say describes cast of mind that seeks a way that is easier than thinking -- one that the 'intellectual' left is as good at as the 'alternative' right.

H/T to Matthew Saroff for pointing this to me.

Monday, February 13, 2017

Press Innumeracy

Frequently, my limited store of patience is exhausted by the press and people.

One particular issue is Innumeracy.

Remember when we were told of the 250 fold increase in British queries "What is Brexit" after the referendum?

Rule one, ask the baseline.  Turns out the number of queries went from less than a couple dozen a week to a couple of couple hundred.

Here's another one Boris Johnson among record number to renounce American citizenship in 2016 , the increase is 26%.

If Obama was President, it would be blamed on the ACA by the reactionaries; as Trump is President, it is being blamed on .... Trumpness.  Seem a couple posted all about it....

The baseline problem, again.

You see, the total number of people renouncing citizenship is 5,411. 

The total number of people receiving US citizenship last year is approximately 750,000.

The rise in renunciations, which has been going on for the last few years, is primarily tax driven -- I seem to recall that Johnson was being dunned for a sale of London property.

The ratio between new citizens and renunications is aproximately .007.

And with me you get the baseline.

Monday, February 6, 2017

Giving gifts where they aren't needed.

Last summer, some older, social media spectators of current events, whom I know, gave a spirited defense of protesters who shut down a Trump rally. 

While, my most personal objection to these defenses of this sort of censorship was the disingenuous way they pretended to understand free expression.

What really lead me to despair (OK, I was there already) was the tactical stupidity.

I am glad to see that some of the people actually participating in protests against Trumpists, in this case Milo Yuiannopoulos, understand what is appropriate, and are worried about the consequences of self serving action.

From  The Milo protests did not go well:
One of the core arguments that Milo makes in his tour is that the left is intolerant of free speech and refuses to hear opposing arguments...What I do know is that Milo is happy as a clam right now. He thrives on the negative publicity that events like this generate.
and Berkeley's Milo Yiannopoulos Protest Was A Gift To The Alt-Right
The violent demonstrators played right into his hands, not to mention those of right-wing leaders across the country....
It is imperative that people of Milo’s variety are allowed to visit American universities and speak freely. Sure, arrange a peaceful protest of your entire student body. Go ahead – boycott the event so is forced to preach to a sea of empty seats. Be my guest and smear him on social media, write articles tearing him apart, or scream your frustrations into a megaphone.
Just don’t. Resort. To violence.
As soon as the fists or the fires or the smoke bombs surface, the other side has won
It almost gives me faith in younger people.