Tuesday, September 28, 2004

Assault Weapons and CBS

Somewhere, when I wasn't looking, the second Amendment became more important than the first. The Assault Weapon Ban - a perfect thing to need renewing during a presidential election - real smart guys - is history. Not that it mattered much anyway, I mean, considering that we can't go on a plane with nail clippers, America is that much safer. And 9/11 would clearly have been prevented if we all had AK-47s.

Anyway, as an avid reader of political cartoons (both through my subscription services and through Slate), I have slowly become outraged at the cowardice of the Press. I've been a critic of the pusillanimous Press for years now and I'm so glad that I didn't enter the field because I'd have to retire from the shame of my colleagues.

And I'm not only talking about the shoddy journalism of CBS and Rather. Rather sucked the moment he sat in Cronkite's chair (and I'm not just saying that because Roger Mudd was my professor at Princeton). I'm talking about the total timidity of the press in the face of the type of government they were empowered to battle.

If you check the list of editorial cartoons about CBS and Rather you'll see that many 'toonists are claiming that CBS works for Kerry. One 'toon said that Rather's replacement will be Michael Moore.


In this age where Fox is de-facto owned by the RNC -- DENY IT, COME ON, DENY IT! -- and where the Press has let Bush, Cheney and Rove run amok with the truth, the concept that anyone critical of the President is loyal to Kerry is just disgusting. The Press is supposed to criticize the government, that's why the constitution protects it.

The Press played along in a shamefully slack-jawed, lazy, frightened manner with the 'Swift Boats for Rove' crapola. So if they go after a legitimate story - based on those black things on white things called "words" and "paper" - about the gaps in Bush's military record... gaps which can explain why he can't handle responsibility - why that is considered acting on Kerry's behalf?! I understand why Fox would assert that, but there are a half-dozen toons and counting. I can't wait till I see one which says Osama is behind it.

Look, Iran just successfully tested long-range missiles. North Korea is rattling nuclear sabres. Our army is being chewed up like yellow pencils in Iraq and we're roaming the sinkhole of Afghanistan looking for an Osama in a haystack. We've lost more soldiers per day in Iraq after the 'transfer of power' than before. Why would saying these things be considered partisan. IT'S THE TRUTH DUMMIES!

Oh, forget it. I can see we're going to get four more years of this pencil-neck and his beady-eyed thuggery. The GOP in Ohio has rejected the new registrations of voters (mostly Democrats) because they registered on the wrong weight of card-stock. How many elections can they steal and still call this America?

Sorry to say, this is no longer the Styx; we're entering Hell.

{2009 Pic Update: First from here, second from here.}

Monday, September 27, 2004

I Can't Believe This Website Exists

Seriously. I signed a letter at this site: Dear Jon Stewart I am #700.. come join me. [My letter]:
Dear Jon,

I can't believe this website exists. I don't think you should endorse a candidate because you are already doing a wonderful job being the only objective source of commentary ('fake news') on TV


Friday, September 24, 2004

Heathcliff Watch

He's being served a subpoena.

Hurricane Jeanne

While schadenfreude against Texas and Florida could be fun, red and blue Americans must unite to say that it's enough; no more hurricanes.

What is it, FOUR, against Florida so far? And the season ends in November! (2nd?)

And because the names are the most trivia intensive part of the hurricane season, according to the government site: Worldwide Tropical Cyclone Names:
Since 1953, Atlantic tropical storms have been named from lists originated by the National Hurricane Center and now maintained and updated by an international committee of the World Meteorological Organization. The lists featured only women's names until 1979, when men's and women's names were alternated. Six lists are used in rotation. Thus, the 2004 list will be used again in 2010. Here is more information on the history of naming hurricanes.

The only time that there is a change in the list is if a storm is so deadly or costly that the future use of its name on a different storm would be inappropriate for reasons of sensitivity. If that occurs, then at an annual meeting by the WMO committee (called primarily to discuss many other issues) the offending name is stricken from the list and another name is selected to replace it.

Prince Harry with a Sword

No, I don't give a flying regal fig about the British royals. I clicked on this picture because I thought it was an Israeli soldier. But check out the photo credit:
AFP: Kirsty Wigglesworth
I wonder if it's her married name?

{2009: note, link is down, I'll see if I can find it}

President's Yom Kippur Message

Yom Kippur, 5765

Thursday, September 23, 2004

Barney Miller

The first season of Barney Miller came out on DVD and I got the first disc today. Boy do I love this show. Check out this page for resources (and an MP3 of the theme song)

Two lines from the IMDB 'memorable quotes' section from the immortal (yet all too mortal) Jack Soo:
Yemana : [answers phone] 12th Precinct, Sgt. Yemana. Yes, sir. A stolen car? What kind of car, Mr. Ravolli? "Studebaker". Could you describe the car, please? "Black fendors", "Silver doors", "Green hood", "Polka dot seat covers", "Monkey fur dashboard". Maybe it wasn't stolen. Maybe it ran away. Mr. Ravolli?
Yemana : [eating Chinese take out with pencils instead of chopsticks] Just call your insurance company. Yes. Don't mention it.

[hangs up phone]

Yemana : Oh my God. I ate my eraser.

A Different Agunah Problem

I received an email about a seiruv against a man named Samuel Rosenbloom. The Baltimore Beit Din cited him in contempt for not showing up and for not giving his wife a get. The email then said that he owns the web-business succah.com and that we should boycott the business until he gives his wife a get.

I am all for helping the batei dinim, and the email made reference to a good organization, ORA, who posted a PDF of the seiruv.

But before I publicized this, I felt that I can't destroy a business - days before Sukkot - on the basis of an email. Email is very dangerous. Who knows how long an email has been bouncing around the netspace. I've been using email regularly since 1993 and the same hoaxes are still poppin' about.

So I called the Baltimore Beit Din. They confirmed that the seiruv is still effective. But the Rabbi I spoke to did not think Rosenbloom was still affiliated with Succah.com!

I then called Succah.com and asked the man who answered the phone if Rosenbloom was still with the company. He said no, it was solely owned by Debra Weintraub. I told him that this was a serious matter and I need to confirm that, and I identified myself and gave my phone number. He insisted that I didn’t sound genuine and that I should just email succah.com to talk about this. I asked him twice for his name and he evaded the question. Then he hung up quickly. So I emailed succah.com (that was yesterday, Thursday).

Today I called succah.com again and I reached Weintraub. She says she owns the company exclusively and has for 6 years. I told her of the gravity of the email campaign against her company. She didn't act like a person who was outraged by a slander campaign. She sounded defensive and evasive - just like bad mashgichim do when I ask for their credentials. I asked if she knew Rosenbloom and she said yes, he worked for succah.com and was important as a consultant… he also does heavy lifting for her (she said she couldn't physically do all the stuff alone).

I asked if he received a salary or had any financial stake in succah.com; she said no. I asked if her relationship with him was exclusively professional. She said they were just friends.

The person who sent me the original email said that she received it from her rabbi. I emailed him today and he responded just a few minutes ago (some Erev YK this is for the both of us!) saying that he got the info from the RCA! So I just emailed them.

My conclusions:
  1. If the RCA is sending this kind of message out, they need to do so with due-process.
  2. Because the due-process was not demonstrated in the emails that have bounced around, I implore anyone who receives that kind of message to *not* forward it around until due-process is met.
  3. The RCA - and the Baltimore Beit Din - must provide proof that succah.com should be boycotted. Otherwise, we are stealing money.
  4. Rosenbloom was likely the guy I spoke to on Thursday. Weintraub's description of her relationship to Rosenbloom and to the company sounds odd.
Why due process? Because:
  1. It's the basis of any legitimate legal system. It’s the *only* basis. The rule of law depends on equal treatment and clear transparent procedure. Without due-process, even a Beit Din with old rabbis with big white beards and thick spectacles is no more than a pack of vigilantes.
  2. We in the Jewish community need to trust our beit dins. This ain't the way to do it.
  3. We want people to support the practice of a ban/cherem/seiruv. It's one of the only weapons we have against recalcitrant husbands. What are we to do if we use the weaponry wrong?!
  4. We tend to believe the husband is wrong and the wife is right - and we're willing to err on the side of the wife. Except, I happen to know of one high-ish profile case of a woman who led a campaign against her ex-husband where it turned out the guy was totally innocent. The woman was a crackpot, the husband was a tzaddik, and the wife slandered him mercilessly. Eventually she kidnapped their child and fled the country. DUE PROCESS WILL PREVENT THIS.
Anyway, bli neder, after Shabbos I'll be able to discover more of the case's ins and outs.

Baltimore Beit Din
(it has the same address of the synagogue Adath Yeshurun Mogen Abraham)
3 Pinelea Court
Pikesville, MD 21208 (the above pdf says Baltimore)
Fax: 410-922-7356
Rabbi Simcha Shafran (he's in the shul, I don’t know if he's in the beit din)
Phone: 410-655-0864

(301) 990-0466

The Organization for the Resolution of Agunot, Inc. 646.796.4551, info@getora.com

212-807-7888, 212-727-8452 (Fax)

Tabernacles Debate

As I said below (above?), the polls suggest that there is a core of disgruntlement with the direction of the nation. The population has not translated this lack of gruntles into a support for Kerry because he's as attractive as the DMV. Most people don't have an opinion about him!

I say this because of the polls, which have him at 31 favorable, 42 unfavorable, 5 don't know and 22% who say they haven't heard enough). True, that was a NYTimes/CBS poll - and I don't know who I don't trust more... NYT cannot tell the truth about Israel and CBS can't tell whether to rip of Janet's clothes or forge documents.

Anyway, Gallup for the week has 51 favorable, 44 unfavorable, and 5 no opinon - which is close enough and shows that the added category "need to learn more" is critical.

Kerry has a chance to affect those 22% with the debates. Gore underestimated Bush (big time) but hopefully the same holds true in '04 and the challenger has the advantage. Kerry may just need the national face time and just give off the ability that he can appear presidential and that may be enough.

If he does well in the first debate, look for Orange alerts in all the swing states. Terrorists will be stalking Florida!

And, naturally, the first debate is on Sukkot (Sept 30).

Iraq Assessment

Just in case you were attempting to believe the administration and their wholly owned subsidiaries, the Press, the situation in Iraq is bad. I don't want to say 'very bad' because its been this way for so long that the 'very' loses its context. See this story which came out Erev Rosh Hashanah

Wednesday, September 22, 2004

The Passion of the W

No, that's not a Sesame Street episode (much to my dismay), but a sad assessment of the popularity of the current President and why he is held in esteem by many. Just as Jews, secularists, and other non-Christians misjudged the eye-bulging power of Gibson's theocide fantasy "The Passion" so the popularity of the first Christian Right President has been misjudged.

George W does not seem to have much of an overt personality; his whole life he's been defined by someone else and by golly he's good at that. He was defined by Mommy, his Daddy, and Jack Daniels. Many non-Christian republicans (I think I know most of them personally) see him as the flag-draped defender of America after 9/11. He isn't, but he fills out a role well. It's the advantage of having an arid brain.

But for most of his rabid followers, and the core of the Republican party, George W is the embodiment of a devout Christian; and that makes him durn near infallible. The closest I can get to this view is if I were a Chassid and a fellow Chassid became President.

I say Chassid and not a fellow Jew because we Jews are notorious for attacking our own when they are in prominent positions (we may vote exclusively for Jewish candidates, but I heard too many people shy away from Gore in '00 because they didn't want Lieberman to be VP for "they may hate us" reasons)

The Christians in this country feel like an abused minority even though they consider themselves the "moral majority." They think the media is liberal and antagonistic and they believe there's no voice for them (despite the rabid vapid Right Wing press which is powerful and unapologetically partisan).

Again, see the "Passion" reaction - any attack on the movie was seen as an attack on Jesus H. himself. No matter that the movie - according to reliable reports - was badly made. Who cares about quality?! It's about Jeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeezuz. I see the exact same reaction about Bush. He's a devout Thumper and if you attack his idiotic worldview, his inability to handle contrary information, his profligate past before his rebirth in the blood of the lamb - these are all traits that the Christian Right considers positive signs of a true believer!

Bush's support should thus be seen as rabid. His reaction to 9/11 is seen as a holy war, a crusade, and in the mind's of the Christian Right, that's a good thing! When Bush says that he's following the (direct) orders from God, the XR thinks that's accurate and wonderful. Catholics have the Pope, American Protestants have their Papist-President, Bush II.

Kerry has no chance against that. First, he's an unholy papist… and he's not even that frum! Again, showing that Edwards would have been a smarter choice. And I'm just assuming because he's a smiley gentile from North Carolina that he's frum.

I've said again and again that Jews need to be very careful with the Christian Right. They do what they want and that often means Holy War against those they consider unholy. They appear to celebrate ignorance and intolerance. And Bush is their prophet.

Pic found in 2009 here.

Monday, September 20, 2004

Patriotism, Yay

Just in case I am considered less of a patriot because I consider our president, and the current government, a pack of reprobate thugs, help support our troops. Patriotism is fun, nutritious, and the right thing to do.

The Lost Generation

I remember, barely 5 years ago, during the doldrums of Clinton, when all people could complain about was a President with a roving eye and moderate politics, the Youth of America needed to find a cause to complain about. They chose globalization as the bad-boy bugaboo - for reasons that were not adequately explained to me at the time. Oh, how they huffed and puffed, they demonstrated and wept, they toked and popped as one.

Where are these weenies now? The current conflict is our generation's Vietnam! If they wanted a fight, why aren't they taking to the streets. It's not like I want a redux of the 60s - what I know of the era, the music was the only thing decent to survive - but I am calling for ideological consistency and accountability.

Hebrew Democrats Merchandising

Buy Kerry '04 T-shirts, buttons, hats, etc. in Hebrew

Also, check out this important site, for the faithful (Jews for Kerry)

Healthcliff: Gambling

Obscure reference today to the "football pool" - something that I would clearly have understood at age 9.

Wednesday, September 15, 2004

The Story of the Campaign So Far

The polling numbers are inconsistent across the board. No one poll even slightly agrees with another.

For example:

June 12

ICR, Bush: 52, Kerry: 44, Undecided: 2

June 9

Zogby, Bush: 47, Kerry: 45, Undecided: 8

Time, Bush: 54, Kerry: 42, Undecided: 4

June 5

CNN/USA Today/Gallup, Bush: 52, Kerry: 45, Undecided: 3

Besides the maddening concept that there can be undecided at this point - that there's some psychological profile in 2-8% of the nation of people who are willing to vote yet incapable of making a decision (I always thought that the percentage of people in America who have an opinion is greater than those who are willing to vote. I guessed wrong), there’s no consistency in the poll except Bush being ahead (maddening in its own right). The conventional wisdom is that the incumbent’s numbers are solid, that the undecideds will either vote for the challenger or stay home. Bu there’s another even more important poll, the ‘direction of the country.’

The problem with polls in general is the same problem with all language/communication – what means one thing to me, means another to you. The more refined a question, the more accurate. To ask someone who they will vote for is a complicated request that is based on a number of factors (do I like X enough, hate W enough, plan to be sober on a Tuesday, etc.) Whether you like the way the country is at the very moment is a direct question and is much more accurate in determining how the vote will be in November.

Polling Report - Direction of Country

September 7-10
  • Newsweek: Satisfied: 39, Unsatisfied: 53, Undecided: 8
  • AP: 44, 52, 4
  • Gallup: 44, 55, 1
September 2-3
  • Newsweek: Satisfied: 43, Unsatisfied: 49, Undecided: 8
  • Time: 45, 50, 4
August 3-5
  • AP: Satisfied: 39, Unsatisfied: 59, Undecided: 2
  • Time: 44, 51, 5
July 29-30

Newsweek: Satisfied: 36, Unsatisfied: 58, Undecided: 6

July 5-7,
  • AP: Satisfied: 41, Unsatisfied: 56, Undecided: 3
  • Gallup: 41, 57, 2
OK, yeah, how there can be undecided about *this* is even crazier. It demonstrates that drug use must be worse than obesity in America. Anyhoo, these numbers should make Bush wake up screaming in the middle of the night for Cheney and warm milk. To hover around 40% for satisfaction? Egads.

And for comparison on these, there were 60s for good chunks of 2002 and 2003.

A conclusion I make from this, as a die-hard Democrat, is that my fellow party-voters are a collection of fumbling chuckleheads. Back in the primaries they voted not for the candidate they wanted, but for somebody they thought “Swing Voters” would vote for. In general, as an anthropologist, I am reluctant to call a group of people, a culture, idiotic. Generally, a mass of people do something that is in their best interest. Not in this case.

I said it back then, too, Kerry is a poor candidate. He has the charisma of untanned leather. He makes Gore look like P Diddy. He also has gaping gaps in his trained moral reasoning. How could he support the Iraq war? I’m not talking about flippy-flops, and despite my support for the war (see my post on 9/11/03 for nuances) – if Kerry were any fashion of real deal he would have voted against the war. The comparisons to Vietnam are clear for a sidelines observer, for someone who ostensibly based his youth on ‘Nam-opposition, he should have been the first to vote against. He didn’t. He’s a weenie.

The Democrats primaried Kerry because of what they thought someone else would want. This is stupid because of a countervailing psychological rule: when in doubt choose real over potential. Put simply, the Democrats liked Edwards, but thought a Swinger will like Kerry better. Except that Edwards had inherent and established value while Kerry had potential value. Is it any surprise that people still like Edwards and nobody – even Democrats – like Kerry?

If I had a chance to talk to the Democratic leadership (alert me next time a pig flies) I’d tell ‘em straight out – the only way a Democrat wins is with charisma. That is it. Yet the party keeps nominating these policy robots (Stevenson, Humphrey, McGovern, Mondale, Dukakis, Gore, Kerry) as if the power of ideas will outweigh the natural human desire to look up to a leader.

Successful Democrats? All charismatic bastards. JFK, Clinton, LBJ, even Truman. A Republican doesn’t need charisma in America, despite the majority of the country’s population being democrats, the state-electoral college thang makes the states significant, and there are more Republican states. The GOP can run moral reprobates (Nixon, Bush II) and spineless crackers (Bush I) and win as long as the opposition is a standard Democrat weenie.

Both parties know these heuristics:
  • Evil GOP vs. Robot Dem, GOP wins
  • Weenie GOP vs. Robot Dem, GOP wins
  • Charisma, no matter whom, always wins.
1960: JFK v. Nixon – Charisma/evil
1964: LBJ v. Goldwater – Charisma
1968: Humphrey v. Nixon – evil/robot
1972: McGovern v. Nixon – evil/robot
1976: Carter v. Ford – the only exception which is manifest evil is hard to win
1980: Carter v. Reagan – doofus/Charisma
1984: Mondale v. Reagan – Charisma
1988: Dukakis v. Bush – possibly the worst election in my lifetime; gads what a waste
1992: Clinton v. Bush v. Alf – Charisma
1996: Clinton v. Dole v. Alf – Charisma
2000: Gore v. Bush v. Nader – don’t get me started on the election results

If the Democrats had only nominated any one of the candidates with charisma – this would have been no contest. E.g. if the ticket were flipped and you had Edwards as the candidate with Clark, Dean, or even Kerry as VP, then we'd be having red-terror alerts every day of the summer just for Bush to barely catch sight of the donkey's rear.

Tuesday, September 14, 2004

Map of Springfield

As has been forwarded to me by an avid Slashdot reader, the detailed map of Springfield, USA (United Simpsons of America): map of Springfield

P.S. I don't see "Springfield Heights" on the map (place of Apu's alma mater, Springfield Heights Institute of Technology)

Monday, September 13, 2004

Heathcliff Watch

Naturally, I take comics seriously. Yeah, who doesn't. But my childhood dreams of making drawing a comic strip are irrepressible, and I have channeled that creative drive into reading pages and pages of them. I subscribe to two lists: Mycomics.com and Ucomics.com. I will bore you later with my lists of the good, bad, and ugly but I was struck, yet again, by the inexplicable presence of the comic "Heathcliff"

Those who lump all long-running animal comics in a pile (e.g. Garfield, Marmiduke) think that Heathcliff is just another wacky personification with zany antics. Except that Heathcliff is almost R rated. The cat has a bookie, a parole officer, and a convict father; he drinks and gambles, and if ethnic stereotypes persist, he hangs out with mobsters. Great stuff, yep, but for kids?

Yet again proof to me that either I was an exceptionally dim child (that I didn’t catch on) or I had *nooooo* idea what these symbols/pictures/implications meant.

Anyway, whenever a daily Heathcliff strip demonstrates these illegal and/or immoral activities in front of our nations youth and illiterates, I will let you know. (Also, if anyone has evidence of Marmaduke shooting craps, drop me a line).

Computer Music

Recently, I took possession of a new computer - state of the art, the whole nine bits. There's a fallacy floating around that an old computer is perfectly fine for standard actions (word processing, surfing the net), except that software is constantly getting more complicated and memory intensive - to match the progress in hardware. It's a sad cycle, but often to read a normal website you need a new computer.

Moreover, my normal computer consumption requires 7 to 8 programs open at once - which also requires the most advanced technology commercially available.

I got a Dell even though I personally endured their horrible customer service (long story) - 2 hour long phone calls with sub-continent illiterates, surly and stupid American counterparts, you name it. Dell also was hundreds of dollars cheaper than the nearest competitor, so I fear I was thinking with the pale dollar signs in my eyelids.

I *would* have bought a Macintosh, as I am a loyal Macophile (Machead? Macaninny? Macadoolde?) since 1986. But the key Torah software does not work on the Mac. And I need the Bar Ilan disc and Dagesh. Grrr.

One benefit of my voluminous hard-drive (370 Gigabytes, so large I could store a rhino) is that I can stockpile and play my entire CD collection. A genetic flaw I inherited from my father is the need to acquire the latest audio/video venues for my favorite artists. I remember my father’s 8-track tape player and the day we upgraded to CDs. I owned an extensive VHS collection which I now have almost completely replaced by DVDs.

When MP3s were invented, my CDs were shelved. I was never much of an album listener; I preferred singles and hours of random variety, making MP3s perfect. However, I lacked the technology to rip and store CDs, and people weren’t making MP3s of my favorite stuff. Now I have the power (add the He-Man reverb).

It took a while, but I entered and copied my CDs into my computer. It’s 21.7 Gig if you’re curious. And I now can use my computer for its most mundane, but for my tastes most necessary task – playing music.

Thursday, September 09, 2004

Archive Overboard

Had to eliminate the archive... for some Java freak reason the Blog wouldn't publish with it.

Wednesday, September 08, 2004

Gush News

According to last night's special announcement:

"Ben Shemonim LeGevura " (Avot 5:25)

In light of HaRav Amital's upcoming 80th birthday, and upon HaRav Amital's request, the Roshei Yeshiva and the Administration have decided to choose Rav Yaakov Medan and Rav Baruch Gigi to serve as Roshei Yeshiva alongside HaRav Amital and HaRav Lichtenstein - may they continue to serve many more years. The appointment of Rav Y. Medan and Rav B. Gigi as additional Roshei Yeshiva will go into effect during the 5766 academic year.

This isn't surprising - although I'm not sure how the yeshiva will have 4 roshim- and I don't know how welcoming Gush will be when those two will be the main heads. We knew this day would come; somehow I thought they'd keep one RY who spoke English...

Not AWOL, not a deserter, but not good by any means

The analysis of some of Bush's 'missing' documentation

Tuesday, September 07, 2004

The Sandman

Long have I been interested in Neil Gaiman's Sandman. I can't say it is the best graphic novel ever made, that distinction goes to the yin/yang of the Dark Knight Returns and The Watchmen (the debate over which one is greater is unwinnable). Yet the Sandman transcends that all because it was commissioned by DC comics to be a standard piece of work and it just blew the doors off. It raised the level of graphic novels to the level of mid-range literature; there's more in there than in Dickens and Melville (although Gaiman would hate me saying that).

Anyhoo, I have wanted to acquire the books for some time now, and nobody sells them for under $20 in good condition. Three weeks ago, in a stroke of good luck, some dude was selling the collection of 10 books for under $10 each - and I was able to grab it before the first bid with a 'buy me now' (for those who frequent Ebay, this is a great thing... true, some ebay ghouls out there might advise waiting until the last moment and snipe some fool... but I am often that fool and auctions are for chumps).

For fellow fans:
(Pic link from here, found in 2009)