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

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