Friday, November 30, 2007

Those Wacky Sudanis

As you've probably read today (e.g. this NYTimes story) the government of Sudan has convicted British schoolteacher Gillian Gibbons of Crimes Against Islam for allowing her 7 year old students name a teddy bear Mohammad (which, according to the Wiki, was chosen because its the name of a boy in the class). The punishment for Gibbons could have been death or whipping, instead she got 2 weeks in jail and deportation.

Today, hundreds of Sudanese protesters called for Gibbons' execution.

Now, I won't take the time to explain why this situation is disgusting. It does underscore just how dangerous it is to be a first grade teacher. Parent teacher conferences with radical Islamicists must be tense. I can imagine that there's heavy grade inflation.

But the real issue is that the people of Sudan are asking their government to execute this woman for her crimes against Mohammad. Because we all know he needs all the help he can get. However, this is also the same government that's in part responsible for the genocide in Darfur.

As the State department, uh, states:
The Sudanese government’s disastrous decision to arm, direct, and pay Northern Arab tribes, now called the Janjaweed, as their proxies in the war against Darfur’s rebels led to genocide and resulted in the deaths of hundreds of thousands of innocent civilians and the destruction of their villages and livelihoods
I just find that you need to have your priorities *seriously* out of whack when you consider a crime against a Teddy Bear to be of graver concern than ethnic cleansing.

Thursday, November 29, 2007

Great Line from Balloon Juice

Baloon Juice by John Cole is a great daily read. Cole was until recently a Republican, but the horrible malfeasance and icompitence of the Bush adminstration and the compicity of the GOP establishment has driven him away from the party. He's what we now call an indipendent which really means "former-Republican who can't recognize his/her party, but can't bear being formally aligned with the party of Ted Kennedy."

His anger at the GOP is even more vicious than mine (proof: his entire blog). Here's what he said at the beginning of last night's GOP debate:
Like a Cowboys/Browns Superbowl, I am rooting for injuries.
I forgot to add that he's a Steelers fan. Heh heh.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Peace in the Middle East?

I found this note I wrote to myself on Sunday, February 19, 2006 4:45 PM

Do you think there will ever be peace in the Middle East?



Because of every reason why we have war in the first place.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Billy Connolly Quotes

I just saw a well-recommended movie, The Boondock Saints (review anon, except to say [spoiler] that only an American director would cast a Scot as the father of two Irishmen) and it features a hiterto unknown (to me) comedian, Billy Connolly. Why he's significant for the movie is not only because he plays a crucial character but because the irresolute director decided to have him voice the entire commentary. Which is ludicrous on one side because he has maybe 10 minutes of screen time and he's a freakin' actor!

On the plus side, Connolly has a *great* Scottish accent and is a pleasure to listen to. And he appears to be funny, at least according to the IMDB quote page:
"In Scotland, there is no such thing as bad weather - only the wrong clothes."

"Before you judge a man, walk a mile in his shoes. After that who cares?... He's a mile away and you've got his shoes!"
{Backpost: the bulk of the message was here already, it was updated on Feb 23, 2009; pic from google-images, and the recommendation webpage needs further elaboration.}

Sunday, November 25, 2007

Kinsley Agrees With Me

A very good op-ed in the Post by Michael Kinsley, about experience, life experience, Obama and Hillary. I'd quote bits, but really the whole thing is gold.

Kinsley is an odd duck; I find that he's either wholly right or wholly wrong. But people like that are valuable to me because it's easy to tell when it's the one or the other.

He is now supporting Obama. I'm still with Edwards, mainly because the model Edwards represents is the 1940s-60s Democrat (economic populist, out to help the little guy, pro-Labor, culturally moderate and a foreign policy hawk). I'd choose Obama over Hillary in a heartbeat but I'm still worried that Obama's attitude of "Change the System" and "I'm Smart, Reverent and Thrifty so I'll Be a Good President" sounds way too much like the dreaded Carter campaign of 1975.

But, still, ANYBODY BUT HILLARY. Please, please, please.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Fun: The Bugle

The Bugle, is the 'audio newspaper for a visual world' by John Oliver & Andy Zalzman. Oliver is a senior correspondent on the Daily Show and, as the Bugle proves, a gifted comedian on his own. Zalzman is funny too, but in a standard 'all British people can be funny' type of way.

My favorite show so far is episode 10, but I have a lot of back issues to listen to.

Backpost finished 4/12/08, 8:44 PM, I had just the link, which would have been more useful when I originally logged it; sorry.

Monday, November 19, 2007

I Finally Figured Out What Hillary's Experience Is

It's not in leadership - of which she has none - but experience in CAMPAIGNing.

That's the lesson from the recent dustup. She's blaming Obama for being inexperienced, even though he's been in elected office longer than she has. It's a code not only for "my husband" but also "I can campaign better than anybody." And, note, by campaign I mean "sling mud and stomp on the faces and necks of voters til they barf all the way to the voting booth."

A lot of the verve for this desire in Democrats to have an "experienced" campaigner is to defend against the Swift Boat attacks that supposedly felled Kerry. Except why are we ignoring the fact that Kerry was a HORRIBLE candidate?!

More stories about the above (Ambinder, Digby).

Watson and race

James Watson, the larcenous claimant to the discovery of DNA is also a racist and eugenicist. How great.

See this recent UK Times story for some charming racism:
... [Watson] is "inherently gloomy about the prospect of Africa" because "all our social policies are based on the fact that their intelligence is the same as ours - whereas all the testing says not really", and I know that this "hot potato" is going to be difficult to address.
I've spent many years showing how hard-science cannot teach morality - it's not in its possible ends nor means. Watson, unwittingly, helps me in that goal.

h/t Sullivan and Slate. Pic from here. Backpost finished 2009-11-26.

Sunday, November 18, 2007

Idaho in 2002

In 2002, a congregant of mine when I was in NY told me that his father was running for the US Senate. In Idaho. As a Democrat. He all were sympathetic at the quixotic quest, but were supportive nonetheless. Now, when I'm looking at the open and (possibly) vulnerable GOP Senate seats, I see on the CQPolitics page for Idaho that in 2002 my friend's father was running against... Larry Craig.


Bush/GOP Party Building Legacy

An excellent article from Sabato's Crystal Ball, with charts, numbers, data. Yum.

Upshot? From 2000-2004 it looked like "Bush" (aka Rove) was on his way to building a GOP majority akin to FDR's Democratic majority way back when.

But from 2004-6 all the trends reversed to below the levels they were at in 2000!

{2009 pic from here.}

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Writers Strike

Naturally, as a Democrat, I support the writers in their labor dispute. Also, because they're the guys who bring me the Funny every day on the Daily Show. This Youtube clip, written and acted by the Daily Show writers, shows just how logical their stance is. And my friend who's a TDS writer is mocked...

[h/t - Sullivan]

Is Ron Paul an Anti-Semite?

Rep. Ron Paul has been accused so it needs to be cleared up. (Some accusations: from John Podhoretz at Commentary, some guy at the NY Sun, and another random guy at the right-wing Pajamas Media).

Most of the accusers are neo-con wannabes who assume that anyone against the Iraq War (or their desired Iran War) are against Israel and thus anti-Semitic. Note, these wannabes also assume that when someone criticizes any "neo-con" or even uses the term then they are anti-Semitic. For the record, when the neo-cons start keeping Shabbas, then I'll listen to them about what is Jewish.

The two main arguments that he's an anti-Semite are that (1) racist and quasi-Antisemitic comments were made in a newsletter under his name, and (2) he has voted against American aid to Israel.

According to this July 2007 NYTimes story both accusations can be explained away via Paul's inveterate idiosyncrasies:
In the 1996 general election, Paul’s Democratic opponent Lefty Morris held a press conference to air several shocking quotes from a newsletter that Paul published during his decade away from Washington. Passages described the black male population of Washington as “semi-criminal or entirely criminal” and stated that “by far the most powerful lobby in Washington of the bad sort is the Israeli government.” Morris noted that a Canadian neo-Nazi Web site had listed Paul’s newsletter as a laudably “racialist” publication.

Paul survived these revelations. He later explained that he had not written the passages himself — quite believably, since the style diverges widely from his own. But his response to the accusations was not transparent. When Morris called on him to release the rest of his newsletters, he would not. He remains touchy about it. “Even the fact that you’re asking this question infers, ‘Oh, you’re an anti-Semite,’ ” he told me in June. Actually, it doesn’t. Paul was in Congress when Israel bombed Iraq’s Osirak nuclear plant in 1981 and — unlike the United Nations and the Reagan administration — defended its right to do so. He says Saudi Arabia has an influence on Washington equal to Israel’s. His votes against support for Israel follow quite naturally from his opposition to all foreign aid. There is no sign that they reflect any special animus against the Jewish state.
As far as I can tell, Paul is ideologically simplistic but his backing of Israel's right to defend itself is the most important aspect of his practical philosophy. I believe that he didn't say the racist stuff because many people have come forward and 'testified' that he doesn't talk like that. His support for Israel is limited by his even greater support for Libertarian Ayn-Randism.

His biggest problem as it relates to 21st Century Identity Politics is that his libertarianism is quite attractive to fringe groups, wackos, neo-Nazis, and the like. The fact that someone ghost wrote racist comments under his name is proof of this... that Paul attracts, and seems to hire, Klan type wackos who think he holds their views. Note, I don't think he does. But can he be held accountable for being passive about the wackos he attracts?

Well, the GOP has those same Klan wackos as part of their voting bloc (the whole immigrant bashing path demonstrates this). The GOP does more than Paul does in courting those people. Paul seems passive about the wackos; he doesn't pander to them like the GOP has done with the "southern strategy" racism and Tancredo anti-immigration-ism. Now *that* stuff is racist.

I'd say that Paul is too small time to be held accountable for the wackos he attracts but if he starts getting into a national office, he needs to be explicit in his anti-anti-Semitism and anti-racism.

And, note to the Republicans crying "anti-Semite" about Ron Paul: (1) clean your own house, (2) I thought you didn't like identity politics?, (3) you guys say vicious things about Muslims and anyone who makes unsubstantiated blanket statements about an ethnicity should be under suspicion for racism, so your claims of anti-Semitism are disingenuous (a.k.a. you're a bunch of slimeball liars).

{2009 Update: Ron Paul as Che T-Shirt pic from here.}

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Great Ike Quote

From Scott Horton's must-read Harper's blog, a quote from Pres. Eisenhower about military spending:
Every gun that is made, every warship launched, every rocket fired signifies, in the final sense, a theft from those who hunger and are not fed, those who are cold and are not clothed. This world in arms is not spending money alone. It is spending the sweat of its laborers, the genius of its scientists, the hopes of its children. The cost of one modern heavy bomber is this: a modern brick school in more than 30 cities. It is two electric power plants, each serving a town of 60,000 population. It is two fine, fully equipped hospitals. It is some fifty miles of concrete pavement. We pay for a single fighter plane with a half million bushels of wheat. We pay for a single destroyer with new homes that could have housed more than 8,000 people. This is, I repeat, the best way of life to be found on the road the world has been taking. This is not a way of life at all, in any true sense. Under the cloud of threatening war, it is humanity hanging from a cross of iron. […] Is there no other way the world may live?

–Dwight David Eisenhower, “The Chance for Peace,” speech given to the American Society of Newspaper Editors, Apr. 16, 1953.
Ike is considered a moderate Republican although I put him more in the Bloomberg school of the GOP - i.e. a Republican because that would get him the best shot at the office he wanted, not because he was ideologically committed to the party.

Does Edwards Hate Hillary?

I can imagine he does. Why? For ideological and personal reasons:

  1. He is against the politicians who are captives of the big corporations and their lobbies. What he did professionally as a trial lawyer was go after pharmaceutical companies, and other soulless little-people-crushers... and these are the people who give Hillary money. In fact, while it may have been a fatal error, his decision to go for public funding was to demonstrate you could run for president while not being in the Lobbyists' pockets.

  2. Hillary is a bad and constant liar. Edwards seems to be a true goody-two-shoes and he's against her style of politics.

  1. She's a mean person who has a good chance to lose in the general election. What's to like?

  2. She claims to be a feminist and a representative of all that's best in the roaring modern woman when she is clearly an anti-feminist figure. Edwards resents that (his wife talks about this).

  3. And now I find that there's bad blood in the past. See this story from a 2003 Newsweek: "When she wanted prime time [on CSPAN] -- and lots of it -- to explain in a lengthy floor speech why she was backing Bush on Iraq, [Hillary] Clinton asked [Senator] Byrd to give her a chunk of his time. He happily agreed. When the hard-charging and Hollywood-handsome Sen. John Edwards rushed to the floor at the last minute and asked to speak, Democratic leaders had no time left to give him. Clinton couldn't restrain a triumphant grin at the plight of a clear rival--in fact, one who is seeking the 2004 nomination. She spoke to him in a near shout--loud enough for the galleries to hear. "Just stand there and look pretty, John," she said. He smiled wanly, and rushed from the chamber." (Emphasis mine)
"Just stand there and look pretty, John"?! Even if I wasn't supporting the man, I'd be angry at that idiocy. She needs taking down (and she's dropping more now and just wait until tomorrow night's debate!)

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Dummies Update

OK. Here is the worst title of them all:

Depression for Dummies.

It'd be funny except I've known a few people who've attempted suicide in my time as a professional...

For Dummies

I really can't stand the title conceit for the "_ for Dummies" book. I guess it was cute for the first 15 minutes, and maybe it still helps give people a good shot of modesty. But, yeah, really? It's just insulting. And there have been some good authors who write these books and yet who can read a book that says "Judaism for Dummies/Complete Idiots."

An example of the absurdity of the Dummies books is this one: "Endometriosis For Dummies" Let's be serious here: how many people are not, uh, "dummies" when it comes to this topic? I have no idea what it is, and I'll be damned if I'll let an arrogant yellow book call me stupid.

Update: It can also lead to some VERY insulting titles, like this here "Alzheimer's for Dummies" or "Baby Names for Dummies" (e.g. my favorite? Moron P. Mouthbreather III) or its followup "Infertility for Dummies" (doesn't that just break the ice for a crushing emotional burden? "Here ya go dummies... kinda glad you can't breed!")

About Time! Beggars Banned from Kotel Plaza

According to the Jerusalem Post ("Praying, yes - begging, no", the Jerusalem police are finally cracking down on this odious practice:
Praying, yes - but begging, no.

That's the state's decision after years of mounting complaints of aggressive - and often violent - behavior by scores of beggars at the Western Wall.

The long-delayed decision to enforce the ruling starting Thursday was taken after groups of beggars disregarded warnings from Western Wall Rabbi Shmuel Rabinovitch over the last year not to harass visitors.

A year and a half ago, Attorney-General Menahem Mazuz instructed Rabinovitch and police to act against the beggars in accordance with the law. The haredi rabbi first tried to persuade the charity-seekers to change their violent ways, assuring them that if they asked for money in a respectful fashion he would not distance them from the holy site.

His pleas fell on deaf ears, and organized groups of beggars continued to come from the central region and violently harass visitors.

"They really went overboard and became brutal," Rabinovitch said, adding that he had received thousands of complaints from visitors, some of whom were even deceived into paying admission to enter the site. "It pains me that we have come to this."

Jerusalem police spokesman Shmuel Ben-Ruby said police were helping to remove violent beggars. But many of the panhandlers vowed not to leave.

For years, it has been almost impossible to reach the Western Wall without being accosted by a platoon of beggars rattling change or dangling ribbons for sale.

Visitors have been physically assaulted for giving "too little," while a donation - especially a sizable one - to one beggar often results in a swarm of others eager to get their share.

On Thursday, the beggars had been distanced from the Wall itself, but were still stopping visitors in the adjacent plaza, with their calls for a dollar or a euro in exchange for a red ribbon or a skullcap.

The Jerusalem Municipality has said the beggars usually do not accept assistance offered by city social workers.
And you add this to the awesome teshuva given by my new favorite Gadol Ha-Dor, Rav Shlomo Aviner:
24 Marcheshvan 5768
Prepared by Rabbi Mordechai Friedfertig

Question: When I visit the Kotel, there are so many people asking for money, should I give money to the beggars? What about people on the street? What about people who knock on my door and ask for money?

A. Most Beggars are Swindlers

The Halachah is that we do not give money to beggars until we clarify that they are truly poor. This is a "Takanat Chazal" (Ruling of our Sages) since most beggars are swindlers. This ruling is found in the Gemara in Baba Batra (9a) and the Shulchan Aruch (Yoreh De'ah 251:10) and it applies to this day. Ninety percent of people who ask for money today are swindlers. If someone asks for money we do not give it until he provides verification from a reliable Rabbi. If someone asks for food, however, we give him immediately. What if he is being deceptive? It is a potentially life-threatening situation and we therefore provide food without delay. Today, most beggars in Israel do not ask for food because there are many soup kitchens, and if you offer them food, they say that they prefer money.

B. Is Giving Tzedakah to Someone who is not Poor a Mitzvah?

The halachic authorities discuss if one fulfills the mitzvah of giving tzedakah if the recipient is in fact not poor. They point to the Gemara in Baba Batra (8b) and explain that not only does one not fulfill the mitzvah, but he also loses out on the mitzvah to give that money to truly poor people. Perhaps you will say that giving tzedakah is still worthwhile even if the person is not poor since it strengthens one's personal character trats (tikkun midot), as the Rambam explains in his introduction to Pirkei Avot, that by performing an act over and over, one will achieve proper characteristic traits. This, however, does not occur when one is performing an act which is not beneficial. A person is cruel if he does not give to the poor, but he is not kind if he gives to the wealthy. We have to give to truly poor people. A person should not buckle under emotional pressure from a beggar: I have many children and a husband who is sick, you have a kippah but you are not really observant, you give a shekel and they throw it down, etc… If a person was poor before he asked for money at the Kotel, after a day he would no long be considered poor: They collect 1000 shekels a day!

C. Rabbinic Verification Even to provide rabbinic verification is problematic today.

Anyone can print a Rabbi's letter or signature off the internet in thirty seconds. One time some people from a tzedakah organization in Ashdod came and asked for my signature. I did not know them and asked if they had other Rabbis' signatures. They told me that they had the support of the Lubavitcher Rebbe. I said: If so, I will blindly support it. Please send me the letter. When I received it, I saw that in the signature there was an extra "alef" in the last name "Schneersohn" and instead of being signed by the last Rebbe – Ha-Rav Menachem Mendel, it was signed by the previous Rebbe – Ha-Rav Yosef Yitzchak, who died almost sixty years ago! It was a forgery! Often times there are people who request money for yeshivot or organizations which do not exist, never existed and will never exist. One time I signed a letter in support of giving money to the poor. I found out that they were giving $1000 to anyone about to be drafted into "Nachal Ha-Charedi" (Ultra-Orthodox unit in the army) to convince them not to join. They claimed they were poor: They were in great spiritual poverty if they were about to join Tzahal. I called and requested my name be removed from the letter, but they did not. I called again, no response. I called again, no response. I sent a letter, no response. I sent a letter from a lawyer and they called: "Why not talk like a mensch? Come on, let's talk," etc… We have to be extremely careful about where we give our money.

In sum: We only give tzedakah to people who we can verify are poor or to trustworthy organizations. Give to one, two, three trustworthy organizations. It is not possible to provide for every poor person in any event. Most beggars are not evil people, they are mentally and emotionally unstable. We do not judge them, but we only give tzedakah to actual poor people.
I've been saying what Rav Aviner said for YEARS but have not been able to get a Gadol to back me up. Finally.

{2009 Update: Lego beggar pic from this fun site.}

Rabbi Akiva and his students

Recently, I commented on this this fellow's blog; his entry was:
Posted by Larry Lennhoff at 9:15 AM, Tuesday, July 31, 2007 A quick thought about Rabbi Akiva. It is out of season I know, but it occurred to me that 1000 pairs (couples?) of students died for each additional year Rabbi Akiva stayed away after from Rachel after he became a Talmid Chacham.
My response:
Hi Larry,

Just floated to your blog after seeing a comment you made on Hirhurim.

I gave a drasha on this topic. I think the answer to your question is seen in the Aggadata (TB Nedarim 50a) - when Rabbi Akiva returned after 14 years with his 24000 students, they repudiated Akiva's wife: "So she went to see him, but the disciples wished to repulse her. ‘Make way for her,’ he told them, ‘for my [learning] and yours are hers.’"(translation Soncino)

Hence I think the Gemara is telling us that the nature of the students' sin was related to Akiva's absence from his wife.
See this article for some more sources. Just to expand on the point I made in the Drasha: the fact that the original students - i.e. the ones who died - didn't get to see their Rosh Yeshiva in a human, loving, normal family relationship, they grew to believe that their Torah knowledge was more important than human relations. The fact that they would brush a woman aside - to treat her with disrespect - can be extrapolated to how they must have treated each other.

{2009 Update: Pic of Hadrian and Rabbi Akiva from here.}

Hillary the Bully

Seems that others echo my point about Hillary's attack on Edwards. According to the New Republic's Noam Schreiber and Mike Crowley:
the Clinton campaign relies heavily on what game theorists like to call “retaliatory escalation”—a.k.a. “club[bing] would-be attackers over the head with their own words.”

Case in point: Yesterday, John Edwards slammed Clinton for coaching audience members at a Q&A, calling the tactic “what George Bush does.” The Clinton team responded, “What George Bush does is attack Democrats and divide the country … Sen. Edwards' campaign resembles that more and more every day.”

And it worked! The exchange didn’t get much play in the papers, but CNN ran the headline, “Clinton camp accuses Edwards of acting like Bush.” Coaching the audience? Below the fold.
I really really hate Hillary.

What's the Matter with Iowa/New Hampshire

While I may still be a defender of the Electoral College system (more on that later), I am pretty pissed off over the primary system. The current system, or so I've been told, was introduced by the Democrats by Senator Loser McGovern following the 'disaster' of 1968 - when the Democratic nominee was not the winner of the primaries. Hubert Horatio Humbert Hubert Humphrey was the choice of the party bosses and not the rank-and-file Democrats. So in 1972 the rank-and-file got to choose their champion - and who woulda guessed it was Loser McGovern - and we've gotten horrible populist liberals for pretty much every cycle (except for the glorious anomaly of 1992).

Note, HHHH Humphrey could have won in 1968 if it weren't for Wallace. So why did we need to improve our system?

And the Wiki confirms the McGovern idiocy:
McGovern had led a commission to redesign the Democratic nomination system after the messy and confused nomination struggle and convention of 1968. The fundamental principle of the McGovern Commission—that the Democratic primaries should determine the winner of the Democratic nomination—lasted throughout every subsequent nomination contest.
The current season's primary weirdness (with many states jockeying to be 'first' or at least much earlier) seems to be tied all the way back to this McGovern Disaster.

As it stands, we have two states which disproportionately determine the candidates: Iowa and New Hampshire. I can't find statistics yet to prove this, but it's pretty common knowledge that the first primaries create a snowball affect, such that if you win Iowa and New Hampshire (and to a lesser extent South Carolina, the #3), then you got yourself the nomination. This, in recent history, is how we got reamed with John Freakin' Kerry as the nominee in 2004. [Barfing sounds]

It's bad enough that two states dominate the fate of our nation. And they're not bad, considering that both are "purple" states and represent two important regions (Midwest, Northeast). The problem is that they are freaky elections.

Iowa is not even a primary, it's a caucus. And it's crazy. Read this good Washington Post piece to get an idea of how crazy it is. Basically instead of a vote, the Iowaians have to go to a meeting - which lasts for hours - and argue out loud about the candidates and then - again after a bunch of hours - 'vote with their feet.' How dandy.

This 'caucus' naturally is better for the candidates that appeal to people who have WAY TOO MUCH FREAKING TIME ON THEIR HANDS. The counts out the young people, parents with young kids, parents in general, the employed. And yet this freaky state gave us Kerry - and the whole devastating loss of 2004.

New Hampshire is a straight out, good ol' meat and potatoes vote-in-a-booth primary. Except, get ready for more dandy-ness, it is not a "closed primary" - which means that independents can vote in the Democratic primary. On one side, I like that because independents are usually more moderate. On the other side, why are non-Democrats choosing my freakin' nominee.

The primary system is quite broken. My suggestion is to have a rotating lottery of primary states - the order set by the RNC & DNC together - and that way each region can get their turn to mess us all up.

Either choose a few states to go first or be nice to the candidates and split the U.S. into 8-10 regions, and pair them into opposite types (e.g. Southwest and California or New England and Texas) and choose randomly from the pairs.

{2009 Update: Many pics from this guy's website - he has a lot about the primaries through history. And it's either in Spanish or whatever the Basque speak.}

Monday, November 12, 2007

Fear of a Female President?

Yet another column from the New Republic by Michelle Cottle, about how people just don't like Hillary because it's ingrained in the American psyche to assume that any high-ranking woman is automatically a Bit-h (or is it b-tch? or bi-ch?). Anyway, because we think powerful women are mean and unfeminine, Hillary is seen that way. And, using a hidden syllogism technique unknown to Socrates, that's why Hillary is unliked.

So, by the numbers:
  1. I hated Hillary when she was Bill's wife. First ladies have no power.

  2. I don't hate all first ladies. Yeah, I didn't like Nancy, but I am indifferent to Barabara & Laura Bush.

  3. I have no problem with these women who are (currently) in power: Barbara Boxer, or Dianne Feinstein, or Elizabeth Dole, or Barbara Mikulski, or Amy Klobuchar, or Blanche Lincoln, or Olympia Snowe, or Susan Collins, or Claire McCaskill, and Nancy Pelosi.

    These are the current Senators from California (2), North Carolina, Maryland, Minnesota, Arkansas, Maine (2), Missouri and the Speaker of the House. I am bipartisan in my 'no-problem-ness' (except that I have an instinctive dislike for Kay Bailey Hutchison but just because she's a Texan and a Republican... I can only be so charitable).
Note, that Nancy Pelosi is the freakin' Speaker of the House. And I'm happy and proud that she's a decent, talented, Democrat. The only reason I may think she's unpleasant is that (a) she's from San Francisco and is probably more liberal than I could stand, and (b) her facial features seem pinched in public. But I have no negative feelings towards her and she's seriously in power.

I have no problem with Elizabeth Dole, even. Maybe because she's Southern and they've always been good at softening a politician's image.

But I hate Hillary!

I have hated her ever since the first Clinton term because she was a king-hell gonzo biyatch back then. She caused every single self-inflicted wound his administration: specifically the way she would attack the press, or anybody who she felt disagreed with her. Bill doesn't do that; he's truly a lover not a fighter. If Bill were married to any woman on earth, he would have been president because he is immensely talented. Hillary would never be near the Senate or now the White House if she hadn't married the big-horndog-teddy bear Bill.

So, sorry, Michelle and your brain-dead "pundit" ilk. Hillary is considered a b-tch by me and most of Creation not because she's a "powerful woman" but because she is a mean, nasty, woman.

{2009 Update: Weird Bill-Hillary mashup pic from here.}


I read all over the news and the liberal blogs that the Democrats surrendered again by allowing Mukasey to be Attorney General. See Sunday's Frank Rich, and the NYTimes editorials. Schumer, especially, is criticized for capitulating and blah blah blah.

Alas, this is another case of poor analysis and poor priorities. Read Schumer's op-ed on why he voted for Mukasey. Everything he says is plausible and reasonable. Here's the summary:

1. Chuck Schumer (CS) sympathizes with those who want to reject Mukasey over his bad answers.

2. But Bush has threatened that if Mukasey is rejected, there won't be another nominee. Rather a low-level staffer, who has not gone though Senate review, would be acting attorney general until Bush leaves office:
Should we reject Judge Mukasey, President Bush has said he would install an acting, caretaker attorney general who could serve for the rest of his term without the advice and consent of the Senate. To accept such an unaccountable attorney general, I believe, would be to surrender the department to the extreme ideology of Vice President Dick Cheney and his chief of staff, David Addington. All the work we did to pressure Attorney General Alberto Gonzales to resign would be undone in a moment.
3. Mukasey has said that if the Senate passes a law to clarify the waterboarding issue, Makesey will abide by it, even against the Unitary Executive horse-manure shoveled by Bush & Co.:
On Friday, he personally made clear to me that if the law were in place, the president would have no legal authority to ignore it — not even under some theory of inherent authority granted by Article II of the Constitution, as Vice President Cheney might argue. Nor would the president be able to evade a clear pronouncement on the subject from the courts. Judge Mukasey also pledged to enforce such a law.
4. Schumer felt that rebuilding the Justice department was far more of a serious issue than the ambiguity about waterboarding, especially given the Senate's ability to clarify issues with an actual law.

Yes, it's terribly disturbing that Mukasey isn't up-front about waterboarding as torture, but is the Senate's job to (a) prevent an otherwise important cabinet officer over that issue or (b) to actually make a law saying that waterboarding is torture. Just to remind you viewers at home, the Senate is part of Congress which - until the GOP took both houses over - is the body that makes the laws that govern the executive branch.

Schumer's points are correct: while torture needs to be rejected (and it's unbelievable that we're even talking about it as ambiguous - thank you Bush voters!) it's WAAAAAAY more important to actually clean up the Justice Department. Why? Because of (a) warrant-less wiretaps and (b) the vote-suppression tactics perpetrated by Karl Christian Rove and Alberto Gonzales.

In fact, any partisan Democrat should want Mukasey over some DOJ hack because until the DOJ is cleaned up, there's no way we can trust our own US elections to be held safely... yet another think we need to thank Bush voters for.

Oh, and why was the vote done so swiftly (midnight Thursday)? According to the TPM it's because Sen. Reid made a deal with the GOP:
According to sources inside and outside the Democratic leadership, Harry Reid allowed a vote on Mukasey because in exchange the Republican leadership agreed to allow a vote on the big Defense Appropriations Bill, which contains $459 billion in military spending but doesn't fund the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.
And because the Times and other mush-heads don't understand what Reid did, I'll explain. Mukasey was supposed to be a cake-walk for the GOP. Because of Democratic opposition - which still wasn't enough to prevent his confirmation - Reid was able to pass a bill that funded the military WITHOUT FUNDING THE CRAZY WAR.

Reid triumphed; Schumer chose the lesser of the two evils that have been forced upon us by the scumbag Bush crew. And, yet, the Democrats are blamed for rolling over and playing dead.

Why doesn't the GOP get such bad press for all the crap they do? To be honest, because of the liberal bias in newspapers: the journalists *expect* the GOP to be scumbags.

Celebrities vs. Pundits vs. Journalists

I am cleaning up my hard-drive and I saw an old clip (at least June 2006) of a Charlie Rose interview with George Clooney. Rose spoke about how Clooney challenged Bill O'Reilly to a debate. It's a weird combination of talking heads and it reminds me of a standard Right-Wing talking point: that celebrities have no right and/or no place to be commenting on political matters.

Why should anybody care about what Jane Fonda, Robert Redford, Susan Sarandon, Al Franken, Rosie O'Donnell, or George Clooney have to say about politics.

On one side, I agree. I think actors are, for the most part, vain and stupid. The job requires vanity as part of it's skill set and there's no reason to believe an actor is any more intelligent than a person engaged in any other type of physical profession. I don't think athletes are presumed to be intelligent, and acting is just another form of athletics.

Comedians are generally pretty intelligent (it's a brutal business), so maybe they should be able to offer their political views. But then the second aspect of the Right Wing Point is: these people are famous for making people laugh, what expertise, experience, training, or skills do they have that would allow them to offer political positions?

Here's where I differ from my Right Wing brethren. Cuz, uh, what expertise does any specific journalist have that would allow them to offer *their* opinions about politics. When a journalist does actual journalism - ya know, find out facts and report them accurately - then I will give them credit for being a specific and separate profession. [This is holding aside the fact that journalists, by and large, seem to be unintelligent, conceited, and as a group not very good at what they are supposed to be doing; exhibit A: the lead up to Operation Iraqi SNAFU]

But what in the world is the difference between a pundit - a talking head who offers his/her opinions about politics - and an actor? Opinions are opinions. And when you recognize that the 'pundits' are themselves in the entertainment business, then you realize that the reason why the Right Wingers don't like celebrities talking about politics is because the real celebrities (e.g. Clooney) are more believeable and convincing than the Right Wing celebrities (e.g. O'Reilly, Hannity, Coulter).

One more thought about Yigal Amir

A recent blog entry by one of my favorite reads (The Reality-Based Community) brings up the issue of Yigal Amir and conjugal visits.

As I wrote about below, I find the entire concept that the Chief Rabbinate would allow this shkutz Mechalel Hashem to marry is unconscionable. Then, over the weekend, I read Rabbi Student's Hirhurim article that says the "Gadol Hador" has claimed that a conversion done by a rabbi who believes the world is more than 5768 years old is invalid.

Combine this naarashkeit with the concerted program of the Chief Rabbinate to up-end and devalue the American Orthodox Rabbinate - to ruin our conversions, to challenge our identity as Torah-True Jews, and then add onto it the Chief Rabbinate's denigration of their predecessors' Heter Mechira... and then realize that these are the same people that allowed a marriage for Yigal Amir.

I say that Yigal Amir should be in cherem. Instead, the Chief Rabbinate says he's fine to marry but people from my conversions can't.

2009 Update: A video of the interrogation of Amir. The video and the pic from here.

One Mean Lady

So it's come out that Hillary Clinton has been planting people in her crowds to ask her soft-friendly questions. Pretty scummy and precisely what Bush & Co. has been doing. And who has the guts to bring Hillary to task? My man Edwards. And what's Hillary's response? A smear:
Clinton Aides Prompted Queries at Events - New York Times: "One of Mrs. Clinton’s opponents in the Democratic presidential race, Mr. Edwards, used the incident to chide her, telling reporters yesterday that voters at campaign events “expect you to stand in front of them and answer their hard questions, and they expect it to be an honest process.”

“What George Bush does is plant questions and exclude people from events, and I don’t think that’s what Democrats want to see,” Mr. Edwards said in Iowa.

In response, Mr. Elleithee said: "Senator Clinton has taken hundreds of questions here in Iowa and across the country from voters and reporters, and she will continue to. What George Bush does is attack the Democrats and divide the country, and John Edwards’s campaign is resembling that more and more every day.”"
To review: Hillary does something scummy, Edwards tells people it's scummy and Hillary responds by claiming Edwards is the bad guy.

And yet she's the front-runner. Stop her, you Iowa freaks! Stop her now!

{2009 Update: Pic from here.}

Thursday, November 08, 2007

If All Else Failes, Edwards v. Dole

There's a good website out there called "Campaign Diaries" that is bringing up a lot of details about the races in all 50 states. In his post-October set of Senate race rankings, he places North Carolina at #11.
11. North Carolina (Incumbent: Elizabeth Dole; Last Ranking: 12)

North Carolina has turned out to be quite a frustrating race for Democrats. They are convinced that Dole is vulnerable, and polls have shown she would be an underdog if Governor Easley ran against her. But he is not, and neither are any of the state's (numerous) Democratic heavyweights. After many more developments in October, Democrats now have two candidates: state Senator Kay Hagan and investment banker Jim Neal. Neither makes the race automatically competitive, but Dole consistently polls under 50% and this could get tight if the DSCC commits to the race.
My feelings is that if Dole is vulnerable and if Edwards can't get the nomination, maybe he'll go back to being a senator.

{2009 Update: It's sad to see all my enthusiasm over Edwards, the slime-bucket. Anyway, the pic is a map of Hawaii from 1937 drawn by Parker Edwards for the Dole Company; hence it is the Edwards-Dole map. No kidding.}

Wednesday, November 07, 2007

Who Loves Lucy?

All this talk of Obama and his mixed-race heritage, and listening to all the novelty songs - specifically Weird Al Yankovic's "Ricky" made me wonder - were Lucy and Desi Arnez the first inter-racial couple on TV?

If so, and a quick google search turned up nuthin', then its a pretty impressive milestone, even before the Civil Rights Act! The show ran from 1951-1960, and, according to the Wiki:
"I Love Lucy was the most-watched show in the United States in four of its six seasons, and was the first to end its run at the top of the ratings (to be matched only by The Andy Griffith Show and Seinfeld)"
This seems big... even though I find the show unwatchable, it had a big effect on the country. A blow for redheads' rights (and/or Cubans; maybe this shows that Cubans weren't really considered Latinos?)

Pic from the Wiki. Backpost finished on 2009-11-26.

More About Hillary's Anti-Feminism

From this article on "Feminists split on HRC sexism defense" by Ben Smith and David Paul Kuhn.
One prominent feminist who was critical of Clinton, former NARAL Pro-Choice America President Kate Michelman, has endorsed John Edwards. In tandem, Smeal’s comments suggested that the reaction of female activists may be driven more by their candidate preferences than their feminist sensibility.

“Any serious candidate for president should make their views clear and let the American people know where they stand on issues,” Michelman said in a statement released by the Edwards campaign.

“And any serious candidate for president should be held to the same standard — whether man or woman. Have we have come a long way? Well, far enough to know better than to use our gender as a shield when the questions get too hot.”
Michelman says the exact things I've been saying and, naturally, she's an Edwards supporter as well.

Monday, November 05, 2007

Pakistan Problems

Pervez Musharraf, Prime Minister of Pakistan, declared "emergency rule" on Saturday. He dissolved the Supreme Court, and has been arresting people he doesn't like. According to the AP-Wire:
Musharraf, who took power in a 1999 coup and is also head of Pakistan's army, suspended the constitution on Saturday ahead of a Supreme Court ruling on whether his recent re-election as president was legal. He ousted seven independent-minded Supreme Court judges, put a stranglehold on independent media and granted sweeping powers to authorities to crush dissent.
Here's my cynical take on the situation, based on my earlier analysis of Turkey.

While Bush, Rumsfeld, Wolfowitz and the rest of the so-called neo-cons could be considered non-"realists" in foreign policy (a nice way of calling them morons), I've always felt that Cheney was a realist. Mainly because Cheney, like Nixon and his ilk, couldn't give a good goddam about liberty and freedom. Realists know that the best foreign government isn't a free Democracy; it's a dictatorship that's loyal to US interests.

Allied dictatorships, while being oppressive and against human rights and all that, have the wonderful tendency to do what we want them to do. And I can imagine that Musharraf - seeing the writing on the wall with Bhutto returning - felt that it was time to tighten his reign on power... and asked Cheney for his blessing. And got it.

What's the downside? Pakistan becomes even more able to crush the Islamicist threat, hunt down Osama, and all it takes is for the US to wink at 'em. The only people who lose are Pakistani lawyers. And human rights, yeah, but all kidding aside I'm not sure how well Pakistan was doing before the current power-grab.

In any case, the silver lining to Musharraf's gambit is that we get a better ally in the region. And all due to the realist school of foreign policy. Messy business, this.

Election and Guy Fawkes

Fascinating! Scott Horton, the stunningly erudite blogger for Harper's Magazine, is one of my daily must-reads. In today's entry, he writes about November 5th - Guy Fawkes Day (or, as it may now be known, V-for-Vendetta-Day). This is a big day/night in England what I know of the day from my life, the V movie, and from Horton, it's a day mixed up with English history, torture, terrorism, and freedom.

Horton points out that in 1775 George Washington, while he was the true Commander in Chief, forbade the army from celebrating Guy Fawkes Night with the traditional minhag of burning the Pope in effigy. GW felt it was insulting to our allies, the Canadians, and just an odious practice in general. Horton quotes the "Order in Quarters issued by General George Washington, November 5, 1775":
As the Commander in Chief has been apprized of a design form’d for the observance of that ridiculous and childish custom of burning the Effigy of the pope–He cannot help expressing his surprise that there should be Officers and Soldiers in this army so void of common sense, as not to see the impropriety of such a step at this Juncture; at a Time when we are solliciting, and have really obtain’d, the friendship and alliance of the people of Canada, whom we ought to consider as Brethren embarked in the same Cause. The defence of the general Liberty of America: At such a juncture, and in such Circumstances, to be insulting their Religion, is so monstrous, as not to be suffered or excused; indeed instead of offering the most remote insult, it is our duty to address public thanks to these our Brethren, as to them we are so much indebted for every late happy Success over the common Enemy in Canada.
Gotta love the real George W.

The extra fascinating thing is that Horton suggests that Washington purposefully replaced Guy Fawkes Day with a better, American, custom: Election Day! I will do more research to see if there's proof for this (the Wiki denies it, but if Horton's right, I'll fix the page).

Update: This webpage supports it. It quotes from: Election Day in New York, by Ernest Ingersoll: pp. 3-16, p. 81 in The Century; a popular quarterly. Volume 53, Issue 1 (The Century Company Nov 1896 New York):
The moment the polls close the liquor-sa-loons open,....The streets overflow with boys who hardly wait for the earliest dark-ness to institute their picturesque part of the day’s doings. The New York citizen be-gins to break election-day laws as soon as he can toddle about the block. Bonfires are strictly prohibited, yet thousands of them redden the air and set all the windows aglow before seven o’clock. Antiquarians inform us that this custom is nothing but a survival in America of the old English celebration of burning Guy Fawkes on the 5th of November, in recollec-tion of the Gunpowder Plot of 1605, which the children have transferred to the mov-able feast of our election day.
(emphasis mine)

Mircosoft and Norton

I switched from a Macintosh to a PC four years ago. I was forced to do it - against my very fibre of warps and woofs - for two reasons: (1) my mac up and died, (2) all the decent Torah software (e.g. the Bar-Ilan CD-ROM, Dagesh) were written exclusively for the PC. So I switched. And I have hated my (computer) life ever since.

Macintosh has largely been free from the evil influence of Bill the Gates and all of the ancillary problems; in fact, while I think Microsoft makes and markets barely disguised trash, it's the fact that it's the most popular platform that attracts the greatest threats: spam and viruses. Your run-of-the-mill mamzer anarchist writes viruses and spyware for Microsoft software first and then decides to zombie up Macs later. As such, to use a PC, I need to use powerful virus and spyware protectors. Which leads to my second horrific purchase: Norton Anti-Virus.

It's taken a few years of abuse till I finally realized that most of my problems with Microsoft - and the main program I use, Internet Explorer - have been caused (probably) by Norton Anti-Virus. I have purchased a new AV program - Kaspersky Lab Security - and we'll see if I can un-install Norton and if my maddening problems cease.

What problems you ask? (Note, I've seen people complain about the same things, so I assume my irritations are from Norton):
  1. EVERYthing runs slow - opening programs, documents, sending/receiving mail; I compare it to our post-9/11 immigration inanities (which my wife just went though, needing a frick-frackin passport to go to CANADA!);
  2. my system freezes and crashes from having "ccApp" balloon in size, taking all my RAM, restricting use for other programs
  3. Internet Explorer becomes impossible to use - and this is what prompted me to finally dump Norton - I was at first restricted from seeing videos from Youtube (and I can no longer download them - at all - using my favorite devices). Originally I thought this was a IE cruelty and so I tried to (finally) switch to Mozilla... but I was prevented from downloading it! I thought this was a vicious MephistoBillgatesian trick to preserve IE's monopoly. But the more I investigated, I realized it was instead a Norton cruelty.
  4. The Youtube/Mozilla indignity was the last straw. While Gates would be mean enough to prevent a download of another web browser, Norton was just being a shoddy project... and I should have realized that this fit the pattern of over a year whereupon Norton has "protected" my homepage from being hijacked (a decent idea) by making Norton's homepage my permanent - never can switch it - homepage. Yes, they hijacked me in the name of my security. And they have eliminated cookies so I need to sign into every website each time and I can't use scripted windows in blogger, blah blah blah
Note, all these problems could still be caused by Gates and IE, but I'll know which way is up soon.

Sunday, November 04, 2007

Chilul Hashem Alert: Yigal Amir Edition

What are the odds... that the assassin of Yitzhak Rabin would: (a) still be alive, (b) would be allowed to marry, (c) would be allowed to have children with his wife, (d) would have a son, (e) whose birth would be 8 days before the (secular) anniversary of his father's despicable act. Put another way: Yigal Amir's is celebrating a bris on Rabin's (secular) yahrzeit.

I may puke.

Just to remind people: Yigal Amir committed an act of cold-blooded murder in a manner that has created a chilul Hashem that will last for centuries. The murder has been cited by any number of self-hating Jews for their anti-Orthodox animus (cf. Noah Feldman, Ariel Toaff, etc.)

I've said many times: Amir should be considered in cherem, a "dead man walking." The fact that the Chief Rabbinate has allowed him to marry is yet another sign of their bankruptcy.

{2009 Update: Image of the bris from here.}

Friday, November 02, 2007

One More Hillary Comment

As I've mentioned before, one reason why I don't like Hillary is from a feminist perspective. Yeah, she may be the first female US president but she won't be the first US woman to be elected to fill her husbands old political post. There's a long list (which I can't find right now) and it's not impressive. The whole idea that a woman can (only) become powerful if she's married/related to an even MORE powerful man is disturbing.

Now she plays the second anti-feminist card. After the most recent debate - where she became the target of the other candidates - her PR team came out with this message: "What happens when the “politics of pile-on” replaces the “politics of hope?” Hillary comes out on top... One strong woman."

Ya see, she's trying to depict herself as a big strong woman, yet still a woman who cannot be attacked. She's trying to play the victim - which would NEVER be attempted if she were a man - and hope that the female Democratic base will rise up in anger at Obama/Edwards for being mean to a lady.

And, ya know, this tactic may work. Women may instinctively support Hillary even more because she's being treated badly by the old-boy club. And sure, playing the victim just enrages the menfolk who really don't want to ever see that tactic played. It enrages me because it's anti-feminist.

There's a Dilbert comic with Alice and Tina about the glass ceiling which I'm trying to find to illustrate this...

Update: There's a story in the Times right now about this.

Why I Still Like Edwards

I'll get into a longer discussion of the Democratic field soon, but you readers know that I really don't like Hillary and I've been supporting Edwards as the next president since 2003. I'm not rabid behind him - I actually like Obama as a full package because he's the smartest and most thoughtful out there - but Edwards is the model of a modern major general, uh, president.

As 1964, 1976, 1992 showed, Democrats are equally able to be elected president as long as they come from the South and are White (with good hair).

But the reason why I'm still supporting Edwards in the coming primaries is because he has been first, and best, in a lot of issues I care about. He is the best about Labor, the class/economic inequality, about Israel, and about Health Care. And he got the right answer on these issues earlier than the others. The GOP hates him because they fear him - as I showed in an earlier post. The GOP would love for Hillary to be the nominee because she is defeatable.

The most recent Edwards "first" is that he is making the best, most effective attacks against Hillary.

It's always dangerous to be negative in the primaries because if you're unsuccessful in toppling the front-runner, then you've crippled your party's chance to win. If you're a small-timer and you launch against the big-guy (e.g. Jerry Brown vs. Clinton or Bradley vs. Gore) then it's folly to go negative.

However, despite the early numbers, we're not stuck with Hillary yet. If Edwards weakens her enough then either he or Obama could be our next president. So Edwards' attacks against Hillary are important. Let's see if it works.

Here's what Edwards put out today: