Friday, December 10, 2010


I think it is wonderful to see two Republicans working together, don't you?

Obama-Clinton Briefing: Former President Endorses Tax Cut Deal (VIDEO)

In one sense, it amazes me that reactionaries are/were so hard on these two.

They really are continuations of the corporatist policies initiated by Carter,
and brought to fruit by Regan.

I would like to say I am surprised, but not. This seems to be the only
kind of Democratic president our system can produce. It almost
makes me believe in conspiracy theories about "the man."

Sunday, December 5, 2010

I will believe this...

Obama Tells Dems He'll Oppose Tax Cut Deal Without Unemployment Benefits, Other Relief

when I see iron float.

No one has the right to live without being shocked.

I just stumbled across Phillp Pullman: "No One Has The Right To Live Without Being Shocked" , recently.  You may already have read this, but I hadn't.

The statements were made by Pullman made on March 28 at Oxford in the defense of free speech after being challenged about the title of his novel The Good Man Jesus and the Scoundrel Christ.

It was one of those things I really wish I had said.

Questioner: Mr Pullman, the title of the novel seems to an ordinary christian to be offensive.
                       To call the son of god a scoundrel is an awful thing to say.

Pullman: It was a shocking thing to say and I knew it was a
                 shocking thing to say.
                 But no one has the right to live without being shocked. No
                 one has the right to spend their life without being
                 Nobody has to read this book. Nobody has to pick it
                 up. Nobody has to open it. And if you open it and read it,
                 you don't have to like it.
                 And if you read it and you dislike it, you don't have to
                 remain silent about it. You can write to me, you can
                 complain about it, you can write to the publisher, you can
                 write to the papers, you can write your own book.
                 You can do all those things, but there your rights
                 stop. No one has the right to stop me writing this
                 book. No one has the right to stop it being published, <
                 or bought, or sold or read. That's all I have to say on
                 that subject.

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Unfitness to Govern

Sanity is a useful tool in governing, so consider these two items:
I believe a classic definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different result.

Now, let me think, suppose I was president, should conciliate  people who have said their goal is only to destroy my policies by removing me from office?

How should I deal with traitors who try to kill necessary treaties, so I can't have a victory -- therefore letting someone run against me as in effective?

Is it as good idea to try to reach an agreement with people who do not  negotiate in good faith -- anyone remember the strung out talks of the Gang of Six?

Should I propose a meaningless cut ($2Billion a year), when I could go after pet overspending that my enemies use as pork -- such as agriculture, mining subsidies an unaudited and unauditable defense department, and inducements to off shore jobs?

If I want to seem weak -- and yes that matters -- then sure. But the first job of government is to govern.

There is contention that there were ideological reasons for the reactionary's* victories.  An ideological choice clearly motivated reactionary base, but I submit that perhaps the gormlessness of the party in power -- its leader in particular -- may have led to voting against the part in power.

Let me see if I get the idea, instead of standing firm for something, and getting credit for having principles, consistency and passion, we can show we don't have principles and still not get help from our enemies.

The first obligation of any political party and its leaders is to acquire effective control of events. Since being 'nice' doesn't work, a sane course might include not being nice....
"A prince must imitate the fox and the lion... a fox to recognize traps, and a lion to frighten wolves....If men were all good, this precept would not be a good one; but ... they are bad"
--The Prince
This gave James Macgregor Burns the title of his biography of FDR, The Lion and The Fox.  We appear to have neither.
*Reactionary is seeking radical change to restore a perceived past 'good'.
 Conservatism, seeks to conserve virtues of the present and  "make 

 [only] necessary  changes [forward or back] without getting swept away 
 by  abstractions" (Edmund Burke)

Friday, October 15, 2010

Women's Torah Completed

The Women's Torah Project, a project of the Kadima Community of Seattle, WA, is finishing the first woman-scribed sefer Torah created in modern times.

A siyum (completion celebration will be held this afternoon (Oct 15, 7 Chesvan), at which I have been invited to be ba'al tekiyah (shofer sounder) at the event.

A story in the Seattle Time can be read at

For more information see the Women's Torah Project Home Page or the Women's Torah Project Facebook Page, or the Kadima Home Page



Saturday, August 14, 2010

The Dismal Science

Here,are two articles which provide a simple example of there is a reason why economics can justly be called the dismal science*:

Any study that no one learns from is justly called dismal.

I'm not making this up, you know.**

*Thomas Carlyle in Occasional Discourse on the Negro Question, in which he was arguing for the reintroduction of slavery as a means to regulate the labor market in the West Indies.

Anna Russell.

Sunday, August 1, 2010

Again, Schwer zu Sein a Yid

I was raised to be proud of the ADL because it was not just Jews fighting for Jews, but Jews fighting for everyone.

The organization has been drifting rightward or the years, and involving itself in international issues inappropriately, but I thought it was still trying to do this.

Given the  ADL's opposition to the possible Islamic Center (Cordoba House) near Ground Zero (see

The basically argue, yes a lot of opponents of mosque are bigots, but we should let them win anyway.  

Because of some "pain" people might feel.  Following this logic out would mean banning anyone appearing  Muslim or Arab from the ground zero area.

Never mind that  Cordoba House's charter is to "[promote] tolerance, reflecting the rich diversity of New York City," and the Muslims who also died in the attach on the Twin Towers.

I have a simple rule are either for liberty and against it.  And liberty either applies to everyone or to no one.

This is another example of what Peter Beinart was speaking about in The Failure of the American Jewish Establishment.

"You shall not wrong a stranger [ger] or oppress him, for you were strangers in the land of Egypt" (Ex. 22:20).

Saturday, July 31, 2010

Edmund Burke and the Jews.

An article entitled Name Game: How Traditional Is The Conservative Movement?
recently appears The Jewish Daily Forward.

The issue is well summed up in two quotations from the article:
When [Judy] Gold mentions her Conservative affiliation in her act, “you can see people’s heads exploding” because they think she means that she’s politically conservative — something the lesbian single mother of two is decidedly not.
This growing misunderstanding of the name “Conservative movement” is proving a problem for rabbis, as well.
“Twenty years ago, when I introduced myself as a Conservative rabbi, people understood. But now they think I’m defining my political or theological stance as opposed to just labeling my denomination,” said Rabbi Nina Beth Cardin, director of the Baltimore Jewish Environmental Network. “This is a real issue. Now I simply introduce myself as a rabbi, not a Conservative rabbi, and that’s harsh.”

Ordinarily I would say that this is a matter of no interest to anyone on the outside. 

But what appalls me is what it says about political language.

Historically, the definition of conservative in Anglo-Saxon polities has been traced to the 18th Century British politician and political philosopher, Edmund Burke.  For the record, he was acknowledged as a leading influence by William Buckley and Russel Kirk).

It was characterized by an opposition to government  based on abstract (ideological) ideas, a preference for what could be described as 'organic' change, and a care to respect political liberties (which led him to support the American colonists petitions of grievance and relief to Catholics).

It has not, historically, ever implied a particular economic strategy (though Burke was an 18th Century liberal --- that is supported what we would call a free market), no a doctrine.

The choice of the name Conservative for the "middle" movement of Jews in America (between Reform and Orthodox) was chosen to encompass this idea.  That is the movement wanted to conserve that which was of value from the past, modifying with care and over time practice.

Let's not address the place in Jewish thought of this "conservative" position -- besides mentioning the fact that I agree with it.

Instead, I contend this  position is consistent with the historical meaning of "conservative." One which I in fact subscribe to.

That reactionary positions -- that is ideologically driven (as opposed to pragmatic) free marketism, coupled an expressed desire to dramatically reverse that last 100 years of history -- are called conservative is a debasement of political language.

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Violence Works

The most missed object lesson about the Shirley Sherrod business is that in this country, at this time, violence works.

Or more specifically, reactionary violence.

We have seen how the Oklahoma bombing and the suicide attack on a Texas IRS building have, in the end, been adopted as "regrettable but needed," by the reactionaries in Congress. They have been effective rallying points.

The use of borderline armed propaganda last summer during town halls, coupled with implicit and explicit threats of violence, enabled the formation of the reactionary block known as the Tea Party.

The use of, what my father used to call, verbal violence has been established, defined, and implemented as policy of elected political the right (see Newt Gingrich's 1996 GOPAC Memo ), and by the main reactionary media (Fox, Limbaugh, etc).

And it works.  There is no countervailing force from the other side.  There are no armed progressives protesting outside of reactionary political events -- "we reject violence" is the riff you are more likely to here, no militias of our own,  there is no coordinated use of language to counter attack -- hammering home the point, and the reaction to verbal or threatened violence is to 1) wring hands, and 2) duck and cover.

In general, the violence has worked to cow any official progressive leadership.  And behavior that is rewarded is reinforce, that which is not is extinguished.

This time, with Shirley Sherrod, the truth got lucky.

As luck is the residue of design, the rest of us may not be so lucky in the future.  And that being the case, a logic of deterrence and the needs of the republic may require -- at the very least politically -- that both sides are armed.

Thursday, July 8, 2010

They're at it again

`I'll whisper it,' said the Messenger, putting his hands to his mouth in the shape of a trumpet, and stooping so as to get close to the King's ear. Alice was sorry for this, as she wanted to hear the news too. However, instead of whispering, he simply shouted at the top of his voice `They're at it again!' 
Chapter VII, Alice through the looking glass.
It is cheap, but it does look list a Lewis Carol world out there.

Below are just a few of the articles on the latest attempts by BP to inhibit news coverage.
What boggles my poor little mind is: "Why does the Obama Administration let this happen?"

It looks as if Obama has completely gone to sleep about the political implications of this.  (I have a moral certainty that they have decided to ignore the ecological and economic issues.)

This would prove an opportunity for Obama to put on his Superman cape, to appear forceful and truthful and overruling these new restrictions, admonishing the various parties, and perhaps sicing the FBI on them.

This sort of thing almost make you wonder if the conspiracy loons are right, and the multinationals do actually run the world through a dark cabal, dictating the elected leaders. 

I don't really believe that, as those who run multinationals are probably too dim to actually do this.  And given the choices in  politics -- corporate Democrats and flat earth Republicans -- they don't need to.

My low opinion of Obama continues to descend, as he attempts to get along with everyone (in this case BP), seems set on reinforcing the "Democrats can't govern" impression, and laying us open to reactionaries running the government again.

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

The Apple

For those of us of a certain age and bent, Apple can conjure up  the image of blond wigged people walking through the mouth of a giant lizard statue.¹

Ah to have our life controlled by an all wise technology, living in primitive bliss, our simple needs always taken care of...

Of course there are other meanings of Apple today. 

Frankly, I hope that article in the Why Apple Should Fear Android in the Daily Beast, has some truth in it. 

I will admit I have never been a fan of Apple -- I don't like cuteness and smugness, nor do I have a lot of use for its industrial design. -- and don't have much use for a smart phone.  (Smart phone reminds me of the comment about Artificial Intelligence -- e.g. that it is for those who can't handle the real stuff.)

In particular, I have been disappointed in their not really challenging Microsoft in the PC world.

Now, I see this deference as professional courtesy².  They want to do to the mobile world what Microsoft did to the PC, and more.

Here's hoping for open source solutions....
¹The Apple (Star Trek: The Original Series) ² You know, the old joke about asking a lawyer how they manage to swim through a pack of ravening sharks?  He replies "Professional courtesy."

Special Committee for the Proper Deployment of Yiddishism

I don't think there is much I could add to this item in the Forward.
The Tukhis Police

Getty Images

Thursday, June 24, 2010

A major issue missing from the McChrystal affair

More amazement seems to have been generated about how access was given and used (by a free-lance Rolling Stone reporter, no less) to expose the insubordinate behavior of McChrystal and his team, than surprise at what was said.

What this behavior says about the chain of command in the United States* or the intelligence of officiers seems to have been missed by major new figureheads (Matthews, Cooper, etc).

One specific item seems to have surprised them: that  a reporter might actually forgo potential future access to print a meaning full story now.

What a concept, doing the job comes first, careerism later.

As Donald Rumsfeld would say "Gosh." 

Here are two worthwhile links about the issue

*For those who think this is a "thin skinned" reaction, consider what would happen to an NCO
  talking like this about the new 2nd Lieutenant.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Post-Holocaust (Shoah) book...

I am not particularly interest in most real-life Holocaust (Shoah) stories, films, memoirs, and derived fiction.

Perhaps it is the production line quality of the works (there does seem to be an industry), that puts me off, and while many people find the personalization of events important -- I do not.  I suppose can be moved by statistics, and agree with Mary Renault in the Praise Singer, though in another context " I can picture the death ... without seeing it enacted before my eyes."

There are some works do move me -- the theme of corruption and justice in Judgment at Nuremberg, the relentlessnes of Claude Lanzmann's Shoah , the unromantic (and slightly weird) King of the Jews by Leslie Epstein.

But as a general rule, I do not rush to read or see these items.

However, I thought I would pass on a review by Jesse Kornbluth in the Huffingtonpost of a "post-Shoah" memoir called Broken Birds, The Story of My Momila.  One which I actually plan to read.

How much of what is described in this family is part of the real legacy of the Shoah, and how much is due to the immigrant experience is hard to say from the review. Some of the behavior described might fit some of my own family's 1st and 2nd generations.

However, that goes, I think the review  The Holocaust Ended? In Jeannette Katzir's 'Broken Birds', Her Mother Brings It With Her To Los Angeles  is worthwhile reading. 

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Missed Opportunity

I have often said that I would like to be an evil henchman when I grow up.

Here is an example of that sort of thinking.

The Obama administration has missed a wonderful opportunity to take lemons and make lemonade -- that is to bash the Republicans -- on immigration.

He should not have sent the National Guard down there, nor taken any other action.

Instead, he should have said he was carrying out the policy of Congress and the legacy of the Bush administration -- which is correct practice -- pending a new immigration bill.

Then Obama could, "I would like to add these National Guard and other changes to secure the boarder, but the Republicans are having a fit of pique.  It seems that by trying to increase the priority of the immigration reform, over the energy bill, some members of the opposition such as Lindsey Graham have had their feelings hurt. Well too bad, we need the reform, and they should help, so I can beef up things on the boarder."

It has the advantage of being largely true.

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Jews For Jesus Founder Dies

From the site*: Jews For Jesus Founder Dies. (Posted using ShareThis)

The discussion on that site  is modestly interesting. I select three that caught my eye...

  1. The author of the blog writes:
    "Actually, what Rosen was is a deceitful man who lied, cheated and misrepresented to ensnare vulnerable Jews. May his name and his memory be blotted out."
  2. A party identified as Mr. Apikoros**
    "But for you to say that Martin Rosen's name should be "blotted out" shows that you're ... intolerant... We have freedom of religion in this country, and that includes the freedom for a Jew to convert to Christianity."
  3. An A. Nuran writes:
    "His name should not be blotted out. If it is we will forget what he did and be more vulnerable to that sort of con in the future. Better it should live ... as a warning to us all."
I have some agreement with all three. 

My initial, visceral reaction coincides with the author's rather traditional phraseology.  The author could have added that Rosen should have not place in the word to come.

My secular side agree with Apikoros, but with a cavet. The pusillanimous nature of pretending that conversion is not leaving the people is not forgivable to me, particularly given history.  Though I defend the right of these people to do what they do, and anger me.

As a practical matter A. Nuran has a rather wise insight into how to deal with those who do us evil.

Blotting out is not so good as remembering with an edge.

*The messiah specifically referred to in the website name
  is Mendel Schneerson.

**Apikoros is probably a corruption of the Greek  term "Epicurean", and
   reflecting the view -- widely held by during antiquity and not by Jews alone
   -- that Epicureans were a literally godless. 

   Strictly speaking it designates a person who rejects normative Judaism,
   rabbinic tradition, or who insists that God is not active in the world.

   Currently it is used, mostly by the orthodox, to describe anyone holding
   heretical or heterodox views.  Like me...

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Curse you ....

Thanks to Dan Froomkin
                                       Stuart Varney

                                                                       James Galbraith

         and the 'Naked Keynesianism' At The University Of Texas, Says Fox News (VIDEO)
I desparately need to find mental steel wool.

I have to get the idea of naked economists out of my head.

Rand Paul supporters accused of voter intimidation, ACORN soon to be blamed

This reminds me of the old joke about a Jew reading anti-semitic newspapers, "I like to read this because according to them, we rule the world..."

Rand  Paul supporters accused of voter intimidation.
                  ACORN soon to be blamed                      

Tuesday, May 18, 2010


My despair has been twigged by two recent items in the media: first, the expulsion of reporters from the "trials" at Guantanamo (Veteran Reporter Barred From Guantanamo) ; the second Charles Krauthammer's slightly triumphalist column A consensus on Miranda?

There are several way I can relate these two issues, but the gloomiest connection is that in both cases, the current administration is surrendering on the national security front.

Although one shouldn't rule out incompetent management of the issues, the motivation seems to be to avoid being challenged as "soft on terror,"  and a related unwillingness to challenge the military.

This also appears to have been the reason in the surrender on the issue of civilian trials (see White House drops plan for New York City terror trials), and Obama's vote on FISA in 2008 (see Obama's FISA Shift ).

The long-term goals of the neo-cons like Krauthammer and Liz Cheney,   in trying to avoid using the criminal justice system are not clear to me -- I will avoid a paranoid ranting -- though the short-term undermining the administration is undeniable.

You have to admire their effectiveness.

The long-term results are potentially disastrous, both for liberty and for security.

Considering liberty, I have to ask don't the people among the neo-cons and in the administration  remember why criminal rights were developed? (The same could be said about Tony Blair and the abridgment  of the right to silence.)

They were not really created to protect criminal defendants, but to prevent political manipulation of the criminal process.

This is why the Hutaree terrorists (see Militia Charged With Plotting to Murder Officers) were not denied Miranda warnings and  termed illegal enemy combatants. For that matter, why  Randy Weaver was not denied those rights.

The possibility of  using these techniques for harassing those speak out are obvious and not hypothetical (see Holder v. Humanitarian Law Project).

The arguments that we are at war (which I would suggest we are not, as Congress has never declared a state of war, merely authorized force), and that Muslim terrorist were caught in the act are not germane.

If we were really to be at war, then we would be taking prisoners of war.  This does not preclude  trials for war crimes for some, such as Khalid Sheikh Mohammed.

This would answer the question of prolonged detention -- you keep prisoners until the war is over -- and remove the absurdity of trying someone for throwing a grenade at solider.

Of course,  being prisoner of war is a privilege.  Criminals aren't treated as gently.

To paraphrase a story MacArthur told, when, not if, a member of our armed forces is captured and tortured, without recourse to their rights as a combatant, I am glad that they can curse Obama, Bush, Krauthammer and Cheney; but not the citizens who wanted the law followed.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

MoveOn.Org Seattle Council Meeting

Following attending a community forum, I attended a MoveOn Council meeting.

In theory, the Councils are "MoveOn members who work together locally to organize MoveOn events".  This is  supposed to be sort  of a combination focus group, and core membership team. It is also supposed "a great way to meet other MoveOn members", as I fall into the "I love mankind, it is people I can't stand," school of politics, I find the latter something of a chore.

The issue that we are supposed to be rallying  to challenge one out-of-control corporations, most specifically "person hood" of corporations.  

The genesis of this focus was, of course, a reaction to the Citizen's United v FEC and Davis v. Federal Election Commission, decision.

There was a lot of talk about "participation" being the theory behind their efforts -- which was sort of disappointing as that isn't a political theory.  I suppose I am old fashioned, but I really think that a political theory is needed in a political movement...and that participation should be organized by working with people who accept most of the theory.

I was, as usual, a  something of a contrarian. Specifically, before we go forward fixing the corporate establishment, I wanted to know what they meant by  "corporation".  I assume they meant the joint stock/limited liability companies where the stock holders don't have much control.

At one level, I think that this is a correct understanding and what really needs to be address.  However, the issue was discussed mainly in terms of "getting money our of politics." This may be useful, but does not go as far as I would like.

What we are talking about is means of organizing and governing economic organizations on an an on going basis.

I know that there is some serious thinking about how to define and manage this sort of corporation, but I personally am not really familiar with more than some main currents.  I had hoped when I asked what was meant by a corporation I might get an answer.

Similarly, I really wanted to get a better answer to the question of the theory behind the movement.

It may make me sound like someone from working on the Popular Front in the 1930', but I think that actually addressing the theory of state and economy we plan to be working with (first defining a theory and then getting assent or acceptance from participants)  makes politics actually effective.  Frankly for all their loopiness the right wing does have a theory.

The upshot of the meeting to organize calling parties to get Sen. Patty Murray to sign on to the Fair Elections Now Act.  Worthwhile I suppose, but considering that Obama opted out of the campaign finance for president, probably largely irrelevant.

It was all a bit disappointing, but not surprising. There may be a kernel of a new party -- and I say that rather than movement, because parties govern -- but there is also a lot of the old chaff.  A lot of feeling and not much thinking. 

But as they say in bad magazine articles, time will tell.

Friday, May 7, 2010

An introduction, such as it is

Why is this blog being written? 

Why is any blog written?

I argue about ideas with myself from time to time --  while washing up, listening to an inane NPR report, or during the small hours. Generally, I don't listen to what I say (see "I talk to myself" by Free Hot Lunch), which is all well and good.

But sometimes, I do spend some work on the idea, so I thought I would try the discipline of writing, and see if I can make something or them.

These posting constitute my "strange writings, the start chart/On the inner walls."