Wednesday, October 27, 2004

Red Sox Wins

The Red Sox have won the World Series over the hated Cardinals (they're all commies, if you ask me).

I hate the Cardinals, not for the religious reasons you might think but because during the brief 5 year period that I actually watched and enjoyed baseball - 1984 thru 1988 - I was a strong (nominal) Met fan. And in my rudimentary, Homo floresiensis baseball brain, the team I identified as the Met's greatest rival was the Cardinals. Maybe some baseball historian can back me up here; I just hated them. And I was so frustrated when they went to the Series instead of Houston; not only because I wanted a Texas-Massachusetts warmup, but because I knew the Red Sox would lose and that meant the hated Cardinals would win!

Oops. Curse or not, the Sox on on top (of pop?) with a fox, eating green eggs and beer on a box.

Also, Arafat is doing worse and the projected final results - given the recent polls - is Kerry 288, Bush 250.

Remember the 13th of Cheshvan!

Paging all Snowballs in Hell

Hmm, Arafat collapses and is in bad shape and the Red Sox may win the world series... all in one day!... mark this day on your calendars, people, because it's a special one.

Rabbi Kenny Brander to Join Yeshiva Leadership

Ye gads! Joel strikes again!

From the YU Commentator: Rabbi Kenny Brander to Join Yeshiva Leadership

Sunday, October 24, 2004

The TNR Endorsement of Kerry

I was told the link to the New Republic didn't work, so here is their endorsement reprinted without permission through the magic of cut-and-paste

Kerry for President
by the Editors
Post date: 10.21.04, Issue date: 11.01.04

There was a time, in the aftermath of September 11, when this magazine liked what it heard from George W. Bush. He said America was at war--not merely with an organization, but with a totalitarian ideology. And he pledged to defeat Islamist totalitarianism the same way we defeated European totalitarianism, by spreading democracy. For a publication that has long believed in the marriage of liberalism and American power, this was the right analysis. And its correctness mattered more than the limitations of the man from which it came.

Three years later, it has become tragically clear that the two cannot be separated. The president's war on terrorism, which initially offered a striking contrast to his special interest-driven domestic agenda, has come to resemble it. The common thread is ideological certainty untroubled by empirical evidence, intellectual curiosity, or open debate. The ideology that guides this president's war on terrorism is more appealing than the corporate cronyism that guides his domestic policy. But it has been pursued with the same sectarian, thuggish, and ultimately self-defeating spirit. You cannot lead the world without listening to it. You cannot make the Middle East more democratic while making it more anti-American. You cannot make the United States more secure while using security as a partisan weapon. And you cannot demand accountable government abroad while undermining it at home.

And so a president who promised to make America safer by making the Muslim world more free has failed on both counts. This magazine has had its differences with John Kerry during his career and during this campaign. But he would be a far better president than George W. Bush.

On domestic policy, Bush has been Newt Gingrich without the candor. Like Gingrich, he envisions stripping away many of the welfare-state protections that shield economically vulnerable Americans from the vagaries of the free market (while insulating corporations ever more from those same forces). But, rather than explicitly opposing popular government programs, as Gingrich did, Bush has pursued a more duplicitous strategy: He is eviscerating the government's ability to pay for them. His tax cuts, while sold as short-term measures to revive the economy, actually represent long-term assaults on the progressive tax code. If allowed to fully take effect, they will substantially shift the tax burden from unearned wealth to income, dramatically increasing inequality. And they will produce what Bush's former Treasury secretary, Paul O'Neill, has privately called a "fiscal crisis"--a collapse in government revenue just as the baby-boom retirement sends Medicare and Social Security costs skyrocketing. This crisis will sap America's ability to wage the war on terrorism--since government will lack the funds to adequately safeguard homeland security or expand the military. It will create enormous pressure to eviscerate the government protections that guarantee poor and middle-class Americans even the meager economic security they enjoy today. And it will be entirely by design.

The tax cuts are typical of a president who cloaks a relentlessly ideological domestic agenda in moderate, problem-solving language--and gets away with it by distorting the facts. In 2001, Bush presented his policy on stem cells as a pragmatic compromise--in which research on preexisting stem-cell lines would be funded but research on new ones would not. But the supposed compromise was based on a falsehood. Bush vastly exaggerated the number of viable preexisting stem-cell lines, thus pretending he was facilitating the medical research most Americans support while actually crippling it in obeisance to his conservative Christian base.

On prescription drugs, the story is similar. With elderly Americans demanding that the government cover their prescription-drug costs, Bush endorsed a bill that administered such coverage not through Medicare but through the private sector in which his administration harbors a near-theological faith. Since private insurers had to be lured into the market with large subsidies, Bush's plan offered less coverage, at greater cost, than it would have under Medicare. But, when Medicare's chief actuary tried to estimate the bill's true cost, his superiors threatened to fire him. Only after the legislation passed did the Bush administration admit that it would cost $134 billion more than it had previously acknowledged.

By contrast, John Kerry has a record of fiscal honesty and responsibility that continues the tradition of Bill Clinton and Robert Rubin. Unlike most Democrats, he supported the Gramm-Rudman-Hollings deficit-reduction plan. Unlike most Republicans, he supported Clinton's 1993 deficit-reduction package. And, unlike President Bush, he supports the "pay as you go" rules that, in the 1990s, helped produce a budget surplus.

It is true that, in this campaign, Kerry has proposed more spending than his partial repeal of the Bush tax cut will fund. But he has also said that, if the repeal does not bring in enough revenue, he will scale back his proposals. In fact, one of the virtues of Kerry's health plan is that, unlike Clinton's, it can easily be broken down into modest reforms. Even if Kerry merely makes good on his pledge to dramatically expand Medicaid and schip, programs that offer health coverage to poor children and adults, he will have done more to help struggling Americans than Bush has in his four years.

On foreign policy, Kerry's record is less impressive. His vote against the 1991 Gulf war suggested a tendency to see all American military action through the distorting prism of Vietnam. And his behavior in the current Iraq debate has not been exemplary. To be fair, his position has been more consistent than his detractors give him credit for. Republicans mock him for "voting for the war" before opposing it. But Bush himself urged congressional authorization for war as a way to force U.N. inspectors back into Iraq and to disarm Saddam Hussein peacefully. It was reasonable to believe that only a credible U.S. threat of force would produce an intrusive new inspections regime (which it did). And Kerry is right that, if Bush had allowed those inspections to continue, they would have eventually revealed that Saddam lacked weapons of mass destruction and eviscerated the rationale for war.

Kerry's greater failure was his vote against the $87 billion supplemental to equip American troops and rebuild Iraq. He was right to support funding the supplemental by repealing part of the tax cut (particularly since Bush officials like Paul Wolfowitz had shamelessly suggested that the war would cost America virtually nothing). But, once that effort failed, he should have supported the legislation anyway, as Senator Joseph Biden did. Building "firehouses in Baghdad"--a notion Kerry has repeatedly mocked--is not only something we owe the Iraqi people, it stems from the fundamentally liberal premise that social development can help defeat fanaticism. Abandoning that principle under pressure from Howard Dean is the most disturbing thing Kerry has done in this campaign.

But Kerry's critics are wrong to cite his opposition to the Gulf war--and his criticism of the current Iraq war--as evidence of his supposed reluctance to forcefully wage the war on terrorism. It is conceivable that, in the coming years, the United States might need to launch military action against another Muslim regime (though, given how greatly Bush has overextended the military, it is hard to see how we would do so). But the war on terrorism is far more likely to require military action within states, to secure lawless areas that terrorists have exploited.

The Bush administration's misguided tendency to see Al Qaeda as the instrument of rogue governments made it more willing to use force against Iraq but less willing to use force in Afghanistan after the Taliban fell. Kerry, by contrast, seems inclined to use American power where it could genuinely damage Al Qaeda. Even during the Democratic primaries, he attacked the Bush administration for not sending U.S. troops into Tora Bora to destroy Al Qaeda and Taliban remnants in the waning days of the Afghan war. He has proposed doubling U.S. Special Forces for operations just like that. And he has proposed strengthening America's capacity to act--including even militarily--to prevent nuclear proliferation, an issue on which the Bush administration has proved astonishingly passive.

Kerry's apparent willingness to act within states is particularly important because the U.N.'s obsession with sovereignty renders it impotent in such circumstances. His support for the Kosovo war, waged without U.N. approval, is encouraging in this regard, as is his openness to using U.S. troops--presumably without the Security Council's blessing--in Darfur, Sudan. These encouraging signs counterbalance his worrying tendency to describe multilateralism--and U.N. support--as an end in itself rather than instrument of American power. If elected, this tension will likely be a theme of his presidency, as it was of Clinton's.

Critics also call Kerry a narrow realist uninterested in battling Al Qaeda in the realm of ideas. But he has suggested an ambitious effort to support democratic civil society in the Muslim world. And, while we don't know whether Kerry would actually carry out such a campaign, we know that Bush--for all his grand rhetoric--has not. The administration's Greater Middle East Initiative, supposedly its signature effort to promote democracy in the Muslim world, was gutted after protests from the very autocracies President Bush pledged to reform. And, while the Iraq war was supposed to inspire liberals throughout the region, it may be doing the opposite. Anti-Americanism has reached such toxic levels that dissidents in Muslim countries seem increasingly fearful of any association with the United States. This is the bitter fruit of an occupation conducted with such shocking arrogance and carelessness that it calls into question whether the Bush administration's pledge to turn Iraq into a model democracy was ever really sincere.

But the war against Islamist totalitarianism is not merely a struggle for Muslim minds; it is a struggle for American ones as well. In the weeks after September 11, Bush presided over a country more united--with more faith in its government--than at any other time in recent memory. He has squandered that unity and trust for the cheapest of reasons. His administration has used the war on terrorism as a bludgeon against congressional Democrats and has implied that its critics are aiding the enemy. And it has repeatedly misled the public--touting supposed evidence of Iraq's nuclear program that American intelligence analysts knew was highly dubious, rebuking General Eric Shinseki for telling the truth about how many troops it would take to occupy Iraq successfully, and firing Lawrence Lindsey for saying how much it would cost.

The result is a country bitterly divided, distrustful of its government, and weaker as a result. The next time an American president tries to use force in the war on terrorism, he will not merely lack the world's trust, he will lack much of the American people's as well. That may be Bush's most damning legacy of all. He has failed the challenge of these momentous times. John Kerry deserves a chance to do better.

The Scariest Guy for America

There's no evidence whatsoever that Al Queda is planning to attack on or around Election Day. However, for those who want to be scared, highlighted that this guy is the one who's still loose and free and very willing to attack America: FBI Seeking Information - Adnan G. El Shukrijumah

Happy hunting.

Friday, October 22, 2004

A Lesson in Objectivity

Spun News:
The hometown newspaper of Bush endorses Kerry!
The hometown paper of Kerry endorses Bush!
Objectivity: Boston does not have a 'hometown' paper because there's another large paper in town (the Globe) and who knows how many others. Moreover, the Herald is called a "conservative tabloid" by The New Yorker.

The 'hometown paper' of Crawford Texas, The Iconoclast was formed in December 2000 - after Bush left to infest the White House and was doubtless formed to criticize their homeboy.

Objectivity. Good stuff, eh?

Democracy Corps

James Carville is my ninja. He may be all this nation has to protect itself from the ravages of Karl Rove. His organization is The Democracy Corps and the DC's polls are considered to be the most accurate (this is based on the DC's performance in the 2000 election).

Check out this most recent survey by Dem Corps (Oct 20-21) in PDF form.

The results are startling. The negative campaigns have been largely successful but there's a consensus that Bush is better for foreign and Kerry for domestic. For example, when asked who's better for each issue (I'm simplifying the results):

ECONOMY: 50 Kerry, 44 Bush
TAXES: 44 Kerry, 47 Bush
WAR ON TERROR: 41 Kerry, 52 Bush
'BEING ON YOUR SIDE': Kerry 47, Bush 44
RAISING MIDDLE CLASS LIVING STANDARDS: Kerry 50, Bush 38 (I kid you not)
SOCIAL SECURITY: Kerry 49, Bush 41
HOMELAND SECURITY: Kerry 38, Bush 54 (whoa!)
HEALTH CARE: Kerry 52, Bush 39 (double whoa)

Whether or not these perceptions are accurate, the polling itself is purported to be very accurate. Our question is whether the voters, especially the Undecideds, favor domestic over foreign.

This is answered later in the survey; asking specifically "swing voters" which is more important 'health care & economy' or 'make us safe':


If the Corps is correct, and the election isn't stolen again, then Kerry will win.

God Did Not Support Iraq War

OK, prepare for another weird Bush ally reversal. As you may have noticed, Bush does not hold onto allies well. All the decent people of his administration have bolted (except for Powell whose loyalty can be ascribed either to a favor to Bush Sr. or his military ethics). O'Neill, Clarke, my man DiIulio, etc. Now even the wacky are fleeing.

Pat Robertson, the evangelical politician/cleric (dual class!), said on CNN Tuesday night that God was worried about the war but Bush scoffed at the warning.

A key passage:
Robertson, in an interview with CNN that aired Tuesday night, said God had told him the war would be messy and a disaster. When he met with Bush in Nashville, before the war Bush did not listen to his advice, Robertson said, and believed Saddam Hussein was an evil tyrant who needed to be removed.
Considering that Bush is a non-denominational evangelical Protestant superfreak, and so is Robertson, you'd think Bush would listen to a master. Nope.

Robertson, like other Bush allies who utter uncomfortable truths (see Duelfer about WMD and Rumsfeld about the Sadam-Bin Laden link) had to rapidly retract:
White House spokesman Scott McClellan said, "Of course, the president never made such a comment."

Robertson released a statement about Bush late Wednesday in which he said, "I emphatically stated that I believe 'the blessing of heaven is upon him' and I am persuaded that he will win this election and prevail on the war against terror in order to keep America safe from her avowed enemies."
I'd be more entertained if I weren't so scared.

The New Republic Endorses Kerry

No surprise. But for those people sitting on the fence - looking for good reasons to support Kerry - read their long long analysis. I wish I could quote the entire thing here (and I will if this link doesn't work for non-subscribers). [Someone test it please.]

Thursday, October 21, 2004

Anti-Bush Grist

From the Nation (yeah yeah, I know) who did extraordinary research for this:100 Facts and 1 Opinion

They explain why Bush is a walking nukyuler disaster and back it up with sources

(e.g. 9. The Bush Administration has spent just $1.1 billion of the $18.4 billion Congress approved for Iraqi reconstruction. Source: USA Today)

And, another good one:

Check out this piece, in "Willful Ignorance" by David Corn (Washington editor of The Nation, and author of The Lies of George W. Bush: Mastering the Politics of Deception

This is not happening... Dave go bye-bye

Augh! According to this story:
Dave Barry, The Herald's humor columnist for the past 20 years, said Tuesday that he will take an indefinite leave of absence from the newspaper. He may return in a year.
[Sound of The Styx weeping]
Barry said he has not decided whether he will return to writing his weekly column in 2006.
And, no, I don't think the Styx is a good substitute for The Barry. You need to go to the source. Of course, his columns from the early 80s are the best stuff he's done, so maybe he can recharge his funny-batteries... aw, who am I kidding [more weeping]

Thomas Too

According to this Washington Post story, if Bush is re-elected then when Rehnquist steps down as Chief (which is imminent) then Bush is thinking of nominating Clarence Thomas as the new chief.
Ken Foskett, the author of "Judging Thomas: The Life and Times of Clarence Thomas," claims that top Bush administration officials have discussed with Thomas the possibility of his succeeding William Rehnquist as chief justice.
I don't see why not; in the choice between Cheney, Rumsfeld, and Ashcroft, Thomas is the least likely to want to kill me personally with his bare hands. But the thought of that low-grade Uncle Token as the chief terrifies me.

Token? That's pretty harsh. Would I say that Powell is a token. No; because he's the top of his game and actually gave Bush legitimacy (a opposed to those other clowns who take away from this administration every passing second). Do I think Condi Rice is a token? Hell yes. She is as dangerously incompetent as the fat white guys - so why is she there? Tokenism.

What's the difference between token and affirmative action? AA recognizes that the minority in question has been disadvantaged by centuries of continued discrimination. Tokenism recognizes that you can hide your racism by publicly displaying whatever minority dude is callow enough to sell out their fellows. It works best when the token doesn't have much talent. Paging Dr. Rice, paging the Honorable Thomas.

To be honest, I think Georgie W. is a token. He was chosen for his last name and his booze weakened mind. As long as he can keep his prep-school inbred frat-boy arrogance in check, he can pass as a civilian. It's been showing more and more lately (especially in the last debate).

If Team Bush "wins" again in November, then we get the token choosing the token. And I wonder if Ashcroft will then get the bench?

Muslim Clerics

Am I the only one who objects to the preferred journalismese used to describe the religious leaders of Muslim terrorists? They're called "muslim clerics" and I think this downplays their potential and actual menace. I mean, by calling them 'clerics' I expect that the worst they can do is hit me with a mace while 'curing light wounds.' Let's get serious, people!

Wednesday, October 20, 2004

Leno's Laugh Line

From the AP Story "Comedians on the Political Campaign"
"In an interview in USA Today, Teresa Heinz Kerry said she didn't think Laura Bush, who was a public school librarian for nine years, had ever held a 'real job.' Let me tell you something, if you're a librarian married to George W. Bush, there is no harder job on earth."

The Real World Series

So, the Red Sox survive to game 7 of the playoffs. Am I the only one who wants to see a Red Sox-Astros matchup, just so we can see the Presidential race in miniature?

Tuesday, October 19, 2004

Chapter 11 disclaimer

Holy cow!

I want to assure all those who are members of my current synagogue that I was not referring to you at all. I got an impassioned email from a congregant that made me realize that just as I had to silence the Styx when I got my job in New York, I am again going to have to severely silence the Styx now that I'm in New Haven. I am going to now go through my recent posts and eliminate everything that could be offensive. It'll just be updates about my kids, political screeds, movie reviews, and odd observations. Anything that has to do with me personally will no longer be blogworthy. I was foolish to think otherwise.

Monday, October 18, 2004

The Thrill of Nixon

I always wondered how people could have been so enthusiastic for Nixon in 1972 - despite the growing record of lying, thuggery, and arrogance. He was already controlling civil liberties, escalating the war, and treating the constitution like toilet paper, but people were happy to reelect him. And even when Watergate was heating up, there were still crazy loyalists.

After seeing these past years, and especially the current campaign, and seeing the Bush supporters, I can now understand the Nixon phenomenon.

Nixon was anti-Communist; his democratic opponents in '72 were so liberal that who knows what they would have done... and a vote for Nixon, support for this Dark Idiot, meant an attack against communism.

For those who support Bush - especially for those Republicans who finally recognize that he is an unhinged, irresponsible pinhead - a vote for Bush is a vote against Terror. And for the Jews it's a vote for Israel.

No matter that the facts are that Bush has made us less safe. That the war in Iraq takes away from the war against Al-Queda and other world terrorists. That Iran & North Korea have gotten bolder. All those facts are piffle.

No matter that Bush lies so much that whatever he says cannot be trusted whatsoever. He lies more than an ordinary politician; he lies way more than Clinton and about things that matter more. He is filled with such falsehood that his supporters must actively seek ignorance in order to keep agreeing with him.

A person serious about attacking terrorism and supporting Israel cannot vote for Bush. He is not going to help us, save us, protect us. Will Kerry? Who knows, but having NOBODY in the White House is better than Bush.

For all those out there still going to vote for Bush, ask yourselves if you still support Nixon.

Friday, October 15, 2004

Chapter 11

Well, it's come down to this, I'm declaring Chapter 11 but for time not for money. At least I hope I can do that. I'm going to tell my time-creditors that I am seeking protection of my time assets. Let's see if it works.

{2009 Pic update: the Mac Bomb, from here.}

Thursday, October 14, 2004

The Most Liberal Senator

John Kerry is the most liberal senator who ever lived. Who ever *can* live. He is the platonic ideal of liberal and when he dies he'll be buried in the liberal section of the most liberal cemetery. How do we know he's so liberal? Because the National Journal says so.

In a recent story they re-emphasize that Kerry is the most liberal senator out there. Surely so liberal that Bush wasn't lying when he said last night:
"As a matter of fact, your record is such that Ted Kennedy, your colleague, is the conservative senator from Massachusetts."
To prove his point, here's the National Journal article list:

SENATOR (Year First Elected Or Appointed) -- Liberal Score
1. Mark Dayton, D-Minn. (2000) 90.3
2. Paul Sarbanes, D-Md. (1976) 89.4
3. Jack Reed, D-R.I. (1996) 89.3
4. Jon Corzine, D-N.J. (2000) 88.8
5. Edward Kennedy, D-Mass. (1962) 88.6
6. Barbara Boxer, D-Calif. (1992) 88.5
7. Tom Harkin, D-Iowa (1984) 87.6
8. Richard Durbin, D-Ill. (1996) 87.3
9. Frank Lautenberg, D-N.J. (1982) 86.2
10. Patrick Leahy, D-Vt. (1974) 86.0
11. John Kerry, D-Mass. (1984) 85.7
12. Carl Levin, D-Mich. (1978) 85.5
13. Hillary Clinton, D-N.Y. (2000) 83.9
14. Patty Murray, D-Wash. (1992) 83.8
14. Debbie Stabenow, D-Mich. (2000) 83.8
16. Barbara Mikulski, D-Md. (1986) 82.4
16. Charles Schumer, D-N.Y. (1998) 82.4
18. Daniel Akaka, D-Hawaii (1990) 82.0
19. Maria Cantwell, D-Wash. (2000) 81.0
20. Russell Feingold, D-Wis. (1992) 80.0
21. Ron Wyden, D-Ore. (1996) 79.8
22. Christopher Dodd, D-Conn. (1980) 78.9
23. Tom Daschle, D-S.D. (1986) 78.8
24. Jay Rockefeller, D-W.Va. (1984) 77.3
25. Joseph Biden, D-Del. (1972) 76.6
25. Daniel Inouye, D-Hawaii (1962) 76.6
27. John Edwards, D-N.C. (1998) 75.7
30. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif. (1992) 70.9
37. Bob Graham, D-Fla. (1986) 64.7
39. Robert Byrd, D-W.Va. (1958) 64.3
40. Joe Lieberman, D-Conn. (1988) 64.1
48. Zell Miller, D-Ga. (2000) 35.0

OK, I'll admit, it's scary to think that Hillary is not as left wing as Kerry, but where's Bush and his oafs come off calling him to the right of Ted Kennedy and the most liberal?

It's because when the Republicans are losing, they need to tar the opponent as a liberal. They're like evil smurfs, except with the word "liberal," e.g. "He's so liberal liberal that he'd liberal his own mother."

Another reason why Bushoafs got this wrong was that they read the wrong list. On this page we see that the NJ used a strange ranking "...Is More Conservative Than __% Of The Senate" as opposed to using a voting record. The key to statistics is to understand that they are to reflect reality and mean something.

Postcript on Derrida

As an anthropology student in a comp-lit dominated department, naturally I needed to read Derrida (luckily my mother, a Comp Lit professor, had a copy in the home). Anyone who went to college with me, and even people in outlying states, heard my voluble tirades against this overwrought con-artist.

His death (the New Republic entitled their obit/study "The Death of the Author") has brought all the penny-ante academists out of the woodwork (myself included) to sound educated by giving an opinon and interpretation of this Frog of One Color.

Today's times has an op-ed by a Williams professor (What Derrida Really Meant) who claims in his first paragraph:
Along with Ludwig Wittgenstein and Martin Heidegger, Jacques Derrida, who died last week in Paris at the age of 74, will be remembered as one of the three most important philosophers of the 20th century. No thinker in the last 100 years had a greater impact than he did on people in more fields and different disciplines.
Normally I was going to let Derrida's death slide into the inevitable obscurity but that first sentence got me a-raging all over again.

In the top 3 of the 20th Century, eh? I guess if we limit philosophy to things that have nothing to do with reality (and therefore leave out the scientists, psychologists, and statesmen that made more impact - leave out Einstein, Freud, Jung, Feynman) then we still have more important and influential thinkers.

I never thought I'd say this, but Foucault is far more important than Derrida ever dreamed (and did). And I hate Foucault.

Bertrand Russell? John Dewey? Santayana? I guess they didn't have much impact as Derrida... if you're a professor at Williams. But deconstructionism is an invalid philosophy, a philosophical gumdrop in a world that demands bread.

{2009 Pic update: Surreal Derrida from this philosopher pix site. Isn't the internet great!}

Bush on Osama

From tonight's debate:
BUSH: Gosh, I just don't think I ever said I'm not worried about Osama bin Laden. It's kind of one of those exaggerations.
[note, Bush's eyes bulge out when he said the word 'exaggerations' - good boy, W, here's your chew toy]

From a White House Press Conference, March 13, 2002
Q But don't you believe that the threat that bin Laden posed won't truly be eliminated until he is found either dead or alive?

THE PRESIDENT: Well, as I say, we haven't heard much from him. And I wouldn't necessarily say he's at the center of any command structure. And, again, I don't know where he is. I -- I'll repeat what I said. I truly am not that concerned about him. I know he is on the run. I was concerned about him, when he had taken over a country. I was concerned about the fact that he was basically running Afghanistan and calling the shots for the Taliban.
Bush's pants are on fire.

{2009 Pic Update: Pants on fire from here.}

President Bush & Congressional Black Caucus

Kerry has got some 'splainin to do. According to this press release, Bush did meet with the Caucus in February 2004. President Bush Reviews Haitian Crisis with Congressional Black Caucus

Wednesday, October 13, 2004

Voter Fraud

Were the Democrats to do this, I would be tempted to leave the party. But when this kind of thing happens - on the Federal level - unfortunately our experience has been that Republicans do it.

From ABCnews in Las Vegas:
Employees of a private voter registration company allege that hundreds, perhaps thousands of voters who may think they are registered will be rudely surprised on election day. The company claims hundreds of registration forms were thrown in the trash. [....]

The I-Team has obtained information about an alleged widespread pattern of potential registration fraud aimed at Democrats. The focus of the story is a private registration company called Voters Outreach of America, AKA America Votes.

The out-of-state firm has been in Las Vegas for the past few months, registering voters. It employed up to 300 part-time workers and collected hundreds of registrations per day, but former employees of the company say that Voters Outreach of America only wanted Republican registrations.

Two former workers say they personally witnessed company supervisors rip up and trash registration forms signed by Democrats.[....]

Eric Russell managed to retrieve a pile of shredded paperwork including signed voter registration forms, all from Democrats. We took them to the Clark County Election Department and confirmed that they had not, in fact, been filed with the county as required by law.

The landlord says Voters Outreach was evicted for non-payment of rent. Another source said the company has now moved on to Oregon where it is once again registering voters. It's unknown how many registrations may have been tossed out, but another ex-employee told Eyewitness News she had the same suspicions when she worked there. [....]

The company has been largely, if not entirely funded, by the Republican National Committee. Similar complaints have been received in Reno where the registrar has asked the FBI to investigate.
Never thought I'd see something so low that it embarrasses Reno Nevada! Karl Rove (or an acolyte) has done just that.

Stress Levels High

While nowhere near the stress levels when I just moved in, these late-Tishrei stress levels are still off the scale. I'm laboring under some delayed obligations - from people who I'm sure look at the chagim as a suspension of work - and new ones piling on every day (from people who look at this as a new season full of new promise). Where's a fire-hose when you need one?

{2009 Update: 3-D version of Munch's Scream from here.

Tuesday, October 12, 2004

Heathcliff Watch, Cat Drugs

I don't know how to characterize catnip, but he's plowing a field of catnip using a plow drawn by a team of chihuahuas.

2009 Update: Here it is in its glory. What a crazy strip.

Monday, October 11, 2004

Asymmetry Crush

My brother (Shlita) has emphasized in his unpublished philosophy that a key to understanding success through life is to recognize and use asymmetries. First developed in recognition of traffic patterns, it applies to all game-playing/political ventures of everyday life. You win by exploiting asymmetries, you lose by being caught in the opposite end of the ratio. Be a numerator, not a denominator.

That said, I am now caught in the pincers of a nasty asymmetry. While this happens every year after the chagim, this year is particularly onerous. Basically, the chagim are time-consuming for everyone and people with secular jobs find themselves having to makeup lost work. This is nothing compared to the burden of the workingman pulpit rabbi. We all know it, we call it our "busy season" (like April for CPAs) but who else has a busy season of hammerlike repetition where you can't write/record or relax?

Normally, after Shabbat, I try to take some time to recall the things I said/sermonized/taught. The crush of 3 three-day yom-tovim - all those ideas! - one after another and then Shabbat Bereshit!

Ya see, this year there's a happy happenstance in the Jewish calendar - every parsha has its own week. The combo of the holidays not being on Shabbat plus a leap year makes that possible. So I pledged this year to take the time a develop a workable preliminary commentary on the Torah. Then Bereshit - the largest parsha for a commentary - becomes inaccessible! Argh!

The chagim asymmetry combines with the other crushes - the Moving Houses, the Baby, the Intro to a New Community - all piled on each other making repair and review arduous and nearly inaccessible.

I was hoping to take part of this week off. Won't happen. Firstly, I've had to put off all outside requests and demands so I could concentrate on the chagim. And, sadly enough, a beloved member of the community passed away on Simchat Torah - which means shiva minyanim… and as the only clergyman, I can't take off.

Asymmetries - respect them.

{2009 Pic Update, of the Archimedes lever, from here.}

Christopher Reeve, 52

What a week. First my man Rodney, then Jacques Derrida (which didn't affect me much as I thought he was already dead and I thought his theories actually made people dumber) and now Christopher Reeve.

In Rodney's honor, I've been watching Easy Money and later tonight I'll watch Superman.

Every obit for Reeve will mention that he played Superman, just as it was mentioned in every report of his spinal injury. It's not just because that role made him a star, and not just cuz the rest of his career didn't measure up (which is understandable given that his accident in 1995 - when he was 43 - got him in his prime).

It's mentioned because Superman is a critical part of American culture -- and by extention Western culture -- and he was so damn good in the role. A character created by two Jews in 1939 invented the Superhero (and guaranteed the perdurence of the Comic Book; the role had many inhabitants, but Reeve was the best to a level beyond anyone who ever played the role, or who played any Superhero.

Reeve acted so well, was convincingly this man in the way that only few actors have managed - the only one close enough was George C. Scott as Patton. In those two cases (any more?) the actor and the man became synonymous. And Scott was based on a real person! Reeve inhabited a cultural icon and it made that movie the best comic book movie yet made, and that legacy is indeed a cause for honor.

Sunday, October 10, 2004

Strength for Israel

I will write soon B"N about why Orthodox Jews seem convinced that you are not frum unless you will vote for Bush. I will also B"N try to explain why a good frum Jew does not need to vote for Bush and quite possibly should not vote for Bush.

Until then, I wish to dispel one more lie. In the Edwards-Cheney debate we saw that Edwards - and by extension Kerry - was very strong for Israel. Cheney, and by more than just extension Bush, was disappointing.

I give you the transcript's exchange:
EDWARDS: Well, first of all, I do agree that we've been largely absent, not entirely absent, but largely absent from the peace-making process over the last four years.

And let me just say a couple of preliminary things and then talk about where we are now.

First, the Israeli people not only have the right to defend themselves, they should defend themselves. They have an obligation to defend themselves.

I mean, if I can, just for a moment, tell you a personal story. I was in Jerusalem a couple of years ago, actually three years ago, in August of 2001, staying at the King David Hotel.

We left in the morning, headed to the airport to leave, and later in the day I found out that that same day, not far from where we were staying, the Sbarro Pizzeria was hit by a suicide bomber in Jerusalem. Fifteen people were killed. Six children were killed.

What are the Israeli people supposed to do? How can they continue to watch Israeli children killed by suicide bombers, killed by terrorists?

They have not only the right to the obligation to defend themselves.

Now, we know that the prime minister has made a decision, a historic decision, to unilaterally withdraw from Gaza. It's important for America to participate in helping with that process.

Now, if Gaza's being used as a platform for attacking the Israeli people, that has to be stopped. And Israel has a right to defend itself. They don't have a partner for peace right now. They certainly don't have a partner in Arafat, and they need a legitimate partner for peace.

And I might add, it is very important for America to crack down on the Saudis who have not had a public prosecution for financing terrorism since 9/11.

And it's important for America to confront the situation in Iran, because Iran is an enormous threat to Israel and to the Israeli people
Cheney's response:
In respect to Israel and Palestine, Gwen, the suicide bombers, in part, were generated by Saddam Hussein, who paid $25,000 to the families of suicide bombers.

I personally think one of the reasons that we don't have as many suicide attacks today in Israel as we've had in the past is because Saddam is no longer in business.

We've been strong supporters of Israel. The president stepped forward and put in place a policy basically that said we will support the establishment of two states. First president ever to say we'll establish and support a Palestinian state nextdoor to Israelis.

But first, there has to be an interlocutor you can trust and deal with. And we won't have that, we don't have it now, in a Yasser Arafat. There has to be reform of the Palestinian system.
To summarize: Edwards says that Israel has a right to unilateral response, Arafat is not a peace partner, Israel can attack Gaza even after they pull out and that Saudi Arabia is a big threat

Cheney says that Saddam Hussein was causing terror attacks in Israel [presumably taking time out to coordinate the 9/11 attacks] and that Cheney is so so proud to say that he supports a Palestinian State.

Who's the friend of Israel??

Sullivan too

Bush, Cheney, Ashcroft, Rumsfeld... they may be the only people who still believe all the manure. I just peeped at Andrew Sullivan's blog to find this post:
Saturday, October 09, 2004

ME TOO: Josh Chafetz reflects on where he is in this race. Bottom line: "Undecided ... but leaning more towards Kerry than I was before." That's where I am. Josh's arguments are very close to my own thoughts as well. I cannot support Bush but I'm amazed I'm this close to considering favoring Kerry as president. I'm not there yet. Don't rush me. But after two debates, I feel far more comfortable with the thought of him as commander-in-chief than I once thought possible.
True, Sullivan is gay and this Bush is no pal of that issue, but it runs even deeper. I feel the people who strongly support Bush are either (1) doctrinaire conservatives, (2) people who don't follow the news, (3) people who watch Fox (see #2).

Fox is an embarrassment. Their headline about the second debate: "Is Sen. Kerry too inconsistent in his political positions to lead the nation?"

No other news organization is as biased. In fact, they are all struggling under their own idiocy: that somewhere along the line the goal of 'objectivity' was replaced with 'balanced' which means 'purposeful distortion of facts to appear impartial.'

I'm not joking. Objectivity has nothing to do with being 'balanced' in a quantitative sense. It means 'being able to argue all possible interpretations based on the facts. It's a test of analysis, not factual reporting. Instead, the news has applied their standards to which actual events they state and quote.

Take the current brouhaha about the ABCNEWS memo from Political Director Mark Halperin. Matt Druge - ever vigilant for another Paula Jones - claims that this memo shows the bias in the mainstream press for Kerry.

The key lines in the memo are:
The New York Times (Nagourney/Stevenson) and Howard Fineman on the web both make the same point today: the current Bush attacks on Kerry involve distortions and taking things out of context in a way that goes beyond what Kerry has done.

Kerry distorts, takes out of context, and mistakes all the time, but these are not central to his efforts to win.

We have a responsibility to hold both sides accountable to the public interest, but that doesn't mean we reflexively and artificially hold both sides "equally" accountable when the facts don't warrant that.
We can learn a few lessons from this.

1. we now have proof that until that memo the press has been purposefully distorting their reporting to give equal quantitative space to different "sides" instead of telling us the facts and giving us multiple interpretations

2. Drudge and the rest of the Right Wing Press consider the admission that Kerry is different from Bush an act of partisanship instead of a rational, informed choice. They, of course, would consider attacking Kerry at every opportunity just telling the facts, ma'am.

3. Bush can get away with murder.

4. Clinton lied about his intern; Gore exaggerated about minor things - they were impeached and ridiculed respectively. Bush & Cheney have lied about the reasons to go to war, the conduct of that war, and the current state of the war (and the economy, environment, heath care, jobs etc) and the press has been rolling over and smooching their behinds.

The great test for the press has been given and they have failed. They do not report, they do not analyze, they are not our watchdog, they do not protect. They just feed.

Viva la internet - the only source, now, for accuracy.

Wednesday, October 06, 2004

VP Debate

Well, I got to watch this one and over and over I felt that greatest of American feelings - I could do better than these guys. Edwards had Cheney so many times in his sights and he just MISSED. He repeated too many of the same sound-bites from Thursday and I was able to think of bone-crushing one-liners while Edwards would just tap or bunt. Grrr.

The good news, though, is that Edwards (and by extension Kerry) came out actually STRONGER on Israel than Cheney. Among his many goofball lies, he even said that the reason why terrorist attacks have slowed in Israel is because Hussein is not around to give his 25K checks.

Usually, when meeting a delusional windbag, you wonder what it's like on their planet. Alas, Cheney has turned our world into his alternate reality... and that's why we need to unemploy him again. {Pic from Life.}

Tuesday, October 05, 2004

Dangerfield Dies!

Rodney Dangerfield:
Dangerfield who had a heart valve replaced Aug. 25 died Tuesday, Oct 5, 2004 in Los Angeles at the age of 82.
One of my favorites for many years, ever since "Caddyshack." Alav ha-Shalom.

Pic from here.

Krugman Test

I love it when Paul Krugman agrees with me (as he did in today's column):
Last week President Bush found himself defending his record on national security without his usual protective cocoon of loyalty-tested audiences and cowed reporters. And the sound you heard was the scales' falling from millions of eyes.

Monday, October 04, 2004

Zombie Grocers

There's a grocery store on Whalley Ave near our house that looks like it's been closed for a decade. The sign out front has no lettering on the movable type placard-board. There are no cars in the parking lot. The paint on the building looks sandblasted and peeling. There are no posters for weekly specials, save a lone pale announcement for Pepsi at 89 cents.

But the lights are on. And there appears to be occasional movement inside.

I am convinced it's a grocery store for zombies. My wife told me that she'll take it upon herself to protect the family should the Zombies from the store overflow and enter our neighborhood. In return, I am to slay all insects in the home.

Foolishly, I accepted. I just didn't think... she gets to wield the shotgun and the flame-thrower while all I can use is rolled up newspapers. Think next time dude, think!

{2009 Update: Google Maps provides a picture}

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Debate #1 Analysis

We missed the first debate because of the Chag but I was able to watch the footage afterwards from C-Span. My wife is an ardent Republican (along with the rest of her family) and I am - to say the least - not. As such, I needed to contain my glee when I watched Kerry staple Bush's pasty white rump to the wall. Again and again. It wasn't because I'm a fan of Kerry, Lord knows, but because Bush has needed a good rump-whupping for all his life. He got one Thursday.

One reason why he was knocked cold is because he cannot handle criticism. He cannot admit a mistake (possibly because he is so devoid of achievement, mistakes and success all looks the same to him). And his handlers have been trying to protect him from even the tiniest hint of criticism whenever Bush ventures out of his Oval Playpen.

You can see it in the debate - every time Bush releases a one-liner he pauses for the laughter and/or roaring applause. He has been so sheltered by Rove, he doesn't know what it's like to have somebody tear your ideas apart. And even if Bush could withstand Kerry's pounding, Bush found no solace without the applause.

Bush also suffered the pitfall of an underperforming politician - he can only repeat over and over his meager accomplishments. For example, Kerry said we should be doing more for Sudan; Bush tried to say that he too thinks we should do more for Sudan… but then he got stuck by the concept that he's already supposed to be doing that.

In the 2000 debate, Bush was devoid of accomplishments but the country was willing to have that. We had unprecedented peace and prosperity under Clinton and people were willing to put up with Elvis but not his insufferable sidekick. Why not elect a bonehead? It was Harding all over - we're doing so well, we can afford to elect a vapid partying thief and we're doing *too* well to suffer the droning of a wooden wonk.

We'll see if Bush's handlers prepare him better - emotionally - for the next debate (which will be on Friday night!!!!!). If not, then we're going to have red and orange alerts till November.

New Hope

While I'm on the topic of Greedo, I should mention that I have not yet purchased the Trilogy for my kid so if anyone wants to get him a late (or early) birthday gift, it would be perfect.

Also, I'd like to point out that now that we have all 6 titles we can see that the best title goes to the worst film (so far). The Return of the Jedi is a great title, and yeeeeuch...

{2009 Update: I have since acquired all 6 movies}

Viewers Cuts

As a cineast, I watch as many movies as I can and naturally I will seek out a "director's cut" so I can see the director's vision in its full expression. Sometimes, the director was cheated by the studios (this is often the case with James Cameron; his d.c. of The Abyss, for example, is an awesome movie... I've never seen the released version, which is why I love it and most people barf when they hear the title).

Now, in the age of DVD, we can enjoy the deleted scenes at our discretion instead of suffering through a release of a DC. Sometimes, the directors ONLY release the DC on DVD so we're forced to live through their reheated bad judgment. Case in point, my beloved Blues Brothers. It is the second best movie ever made, and only the DC is available on DVD. The extra scenes are wild but wholly unnecessary - they should have remained extra.

Most of the time, however, my irrepressibly critical eye creates a "viewer's cut" while I'm watching the movie. You can see how the movie could be better, or even just good, were certain cuts made.

One example of this, in an odd milieu, is to eliminate certain narrative anachronisms (narrachronisms). I was watching Magnum Force the other day (got it cheap, had to see if it worked, hoo hah) and besides the long slow stretches that could have been pruned, the movie suffers from Black Sidekick syndrome - common until the early 80s - that the black character is both subordinate to the hero and one of the first to die.

In Magnum Force he dies, after surviving a few attempts, and it made no narrative sense. I propose that I should be allowed to change the movie. In this new digital age when we will download and watch our Hollywood treats, when addled tyrants can make Greedo shoot first, I think we should be able to change these culturally iconic films to fit narrative logic.