Friday, January 30, 2009

Superbowl Time!

And we're having a party.

Here's a great story in the NYTimes about the tzidkut of the Steelers (specifically about the Terrible Towel).

Update: This comic from today's paper is too good to pass up (it's a decent, new, strip: "New Adventures of Queen Victoria" by Pab Sungenis):

Tom Toles Wins the Internet, Again

Part of Toles metaphor, that's implied, is that Obama has not received any "honeymoon" by the GOP. The party is committed to destruction - of Obama, of the US, and as Toles puts so well, of themselves.

Update:

The GOP, and the "journalists" (which includes political cartoonists) who slavishly carry their water, are trying to maintain the culture of falsehood and aggression that was successful from 1994-2006. In some ways it still worked from 2006-2008, but since Rove as out of a job, and following Katrina, the press rebelled slightly. They resisted some of the gross falsehoods yet happily swallowing most. We saw this in the 2008 Election when the press largely gave McCain's clear falsehoods a pass and only choked a bit when they needed to swallow Sarah "W2" Palin.

So this is why the GOP has fought Obama from the git-go. Even when Obama gave them concessions - specifically large tax-cuts - the GOP voted unanimously against his bill. Let me repeat the crucial point: the Republicans unanimously voted against a tax cut. That's the level of intensity of their aggression.

Gary Varvel is one of the more craven of GOP cartoonist lackeys, as we see in the accompanying cartoon. He depicts Obama happily accepting only Democratic ideas while the GOP ideas are put in the trash. Har. Except, of course, that it's pure falsehood. Does Varvel know it's false? Does he *believe* the GOP's press releases and just ignores the facts, or does he know the truth and is willing to print slander in order to make sure his "team" wins?

Most of these Right Wing Cartoonists have the latter attitude; especially because they are often single issue voters: abortion. Glenn McCoy, a bad artist and worse thinker, is a good case in point (as the third cartoon attests). He likely hates the Democrats, and Obama, because of abortion and as a result needs to destroy everything his opponants do even if it's not related to abortion.

Whatever their reasons, the Vast Right Wing Idiocracy is desperate to extend their bullying of the truth because were the press to report accurately, and the American people to be better informed, then the GOP will be in deep trouble. But an aggressive, oppositional, defense is all the GOP has right now. And while Obama was referring to Islamic terrorists when he talked about those who destroy rather than build, it is also a good description of the GOP.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Old Post Reforms

I'm still cleaning up the old posts from 2003-2005 and adding pictures. Here's one that I'm using for the 2004 Election (a demotivator!)

Humidifer Season

So it's humidifier season and there's a sensation I want to describe. In general, we run the humidifier at night so, when walking into the room in the morning, the room's atmosphere is halfway to jungle. But at the beginning of the season we were advised to clean the filter and water tank with a water-vinegar mixture. We did, so far so good.

As such, when I entered the room this morning it was like entering into a walk-in pickle.

Pic of the giant dancing pickle, from here If the gif doesn't move in this blogpost, it behooves you to go to that link to see the dancing giant pickle in all his or her glory. Backpost from 2009-11-23.

Monday, January 26, 2009

Demotivator: Sense of Humor

OK, based on the previous post, I've decided to make my own poster. And, yeah, it stinks. But rather than be truly funny, I decided to highlight a crucial quote by my Rosh Yeshiva, Rav Ahron Lichtenstein about the need for a sense of humor. I've heard the quote by a few people, but the precise wording for the poster comes from the Funniest Rabbi in the World, Rabbi Fleischmann: "I don't know if it's my Western influence or a true Jewish value, but I know that if I'm around someone who lacks a sense of humor I feel very uncomfortable."

This poster features the best no-sense-of-humor icon, the profoundly unfunny Frank Grimes of the inexplicably well-regarded Simpsons' episode "Homer's Enemy."

I'll try to do better.

P.S. In case it's not clear from the above, I hate the "Homer's Enemy" episode and it disturbs me greatly that it is considered great by Matt Groening himself. That Ricky Gervais, of the equally unfunny Office (UK) TV Show, likes the episode makes perfect sense. Yeah, humor is all about taste, and clearly some people find making people uncomfortable (cf. The Office, What About Bob, Andy Kaufman) funny. Instead of funny, I call those people "jerks."

Make Your Own Demotivator

Here's one device to make your own de-motivation poster. This genre of humor is one of my very favorites. It's got the right combination of art, humor, and tar-black cynicism. A few choice examples:

William Kristol Finally Given the Boot

According to the tagline under his NYTimes column: "This is William Kristol’s last column." Kristol is by far the worst of the existing neocon morons and the fact that he was *still* employed by a non-neocon publication was a scandal. The NYTimes has done some stupid things in the past (among the many evil along the way: exhibit 1, ignoring the Holocaust, exhibit 2, actually liking it when Israelis are killed by terrorists), but hiring - and retaining - Kristol over the past year has to rank as one of the stupidest things in the past half-century.

Yeah, it's nice to have a balanced editorial page - it's one reason why I read daily, and subscribe to the print version of, the Atlantic - but that should require the editors to find columnists who are *honest* and (preferably) intelligent. But based on the living muppets Tom Friedman and Maureen Dowd - both whom might be too stupid to feed themselves - the Times columnists have been steadily shrinking in quality. Dowd is haphazardly opinionated, vapid, and holds a blinding vendetta against the Clintons and all male Democrats. Friedman's crimes against facts and sense are well documented.

Kristol took the NYTimes' callowness and idiocy into a new, twisted level. After Rove was ousted in 2006, Kristol became the de-facto head of the Republican party (the "intellectuals" at least) - it was he who pushed for Sarah Palin early and often, and managed to override the GOP nominee to install his own, hand-picked, meathead.

Kristol regularly lies in his written columns and all in the direction of purposefully helping the Republican party. Why should the Times participate in helping a pure partisan further his aims?

Well, as I've prediction many times before, when Obama/Democrats took over, the Press - who from 2000-2008 were willing to swallow whole whatever garbage the Republicans spewed - now realize that they have new overlords. This will persist as long as Obama stays popular.

J.M. Marshall, of TPM, has long contended that the Beltway pundits weight the opinions of Republicans/Right Wingers as more serious than those views on the left... and I agree with his assessment. Which means that as soon as Obama's popularity dips, so Kristol will be taken seriously again.

See here and here (which has links to criticism of Kristol) for more data on the NYTimes decision. Pic from here.

Inauguration As Close as You Want It

Via Sullivan, absolutely incredible technology harnessed by David Bergman to allow you to view Obama's inauguration with stunning acuity. Go here.

The Robots Are Already Here

Holy frackin' frijoles! Remember this day as the one when you were told that the Martix-Terminator warnings have been ignored.

Read this story by P.W. Singer (h/t Sullivan):
The irony is that for all the claims by military, political, and scientific leaders that “humans will always be in the loop,” as far back as 2004 the U.S. Army was carrying out research that demonstrated the merits of armed ground robots equipped with a "quick-draw response." Similarly, a 2006 study by the Defense Safety Working Group, in the Office of the Secretary of Defense, discussed how the concerns over potential killer robots could be allayed by giving "armed autonomous systems" permission to "shoot to destroy hostile weapons systems but not suspected combatants." That is, they could shoot at tanks and jeeps, just not the people in them. Perhaps most telling is a report that the Joint Forces Command drew up in 2005, which suggested that autonomous robots on the battlefield would be the norm within 20 years. Its title is somewhat amusing, given the official line one usually hears: Unmanned Effects: Taking the Human Out of the Loop.

So, despite what one article called "all the lip service paid to keeping a human in the loop," auton­omous armed robots are coming to war. They simply make too much sense to the people who matter.
This is happening, even with the Onion proposing the absurdity of it all (Scientists Abandon AI Project After Seeing The Matrix). Foolish earthlings!

Pic from here.

Video of the Day: Stay the Night



or Another version here (Youtube page).

This video had these effects for me at the time (I was 12):
  1. I fell in love with the medium of music videos (which were new at the time)
  2. I got hooked on the band "Chicago" (I have all their albums and a number of bootlegs)
  3. I learned a lot about women (or so I thought at the time) - the main lesson was to stay away from spooky witchy women with pale skin, bright red lipstick, hoop earrings, and ambivalent feelings of pursuit (yes, she said "no", slapped our hero in the face, yet the conclusion of the affair puts it all into doubt; a much better version of the Blair Witch Project if you ask me)
Effects in retrospect:
  1. I still think the look of women circa 1984 is the best (I guess it's a puberty thing, were I born in 1572, I'd probably think that powdered petticoats and 6-month B.O. was pretty)
  2. The narrative is still great (not every video had a real story, this one is a cross between a comic book romance and the A-Team)
  3. OK, so I don't know how the truck can leap in the daytime and land, moments later, at night... nor to explode at night while stationary (after leaping over a ramp). The best answer I have is the same answer for how the mystery women ends up driving the ambulance: spooky witchy woman physics!
  4. Does anybody know who the actress is? What kind of car that is? I guess Mr. Google should know; or should I say Dr. Google, given his powers. Note, pseudo-scientist Dr. Nick Wikipedia, does not have much to add.
  5. Nary a year ago, this video was not to be found online. I'm very glad to have found it.
Update, lyrics:
I don't want you to misunderstand me
I just wanna say what's on my mind.
No need to hit me with an attitude because I haven't got the time.
I want you to know one thing's for certain
I surely love your company.
And I won't take "no" if that's your answer
at least that's my philosophy.

REFRAIN:
Stay the night
there's room enough here for two.
Stay the night
I'd like to spend it with you.
Stay the night
why don't we call it a day?
No one can stop us
nothing is in the way.

Have some friendly conversation
and if you still don't have a clue.
Unless there's something else you've got in mind
We've got better things to do.

REFRAIN

Just to have you near me
here by my side
Just to have you near me
And when I get next to your body

Just to have you near me
I wanna tell you something
make it perfectly clear
We're gonna have a very good time.

REFRAIN

I only wanna say: Stay the night
there's room enough here for two.

Sunday, January 25, 2009

New Colors

I just changed the Styx colors from the ho-hum (and quite ubiquitous) brown-orange to a more preferable, and royal, ermine-purple. Hope ya like it.

Video of the Day: Sabotage

Also, song of the day.



This is my favorite Beastie Boys song (they are largely irritating, but there's a half-dozen I like). The video really makes the song; the Boys are in my generation (they're 6-8 yrs older) and they grew up with (and are likely as obsessed with) 70s cop shows as I did/am. And the video is a narrative (which make the best videos - and songs) about a slamming TV show that I'd like to see.

Update, Lyrics:
I Can't Stand It, I Know You Planned It
Ima Set It Straight, This Watergate
I Can't Stand Rockin' When I'm In Here
'Cause Your Crystal Ball Ain't So Crystal Clear
So, While You Sit Back And Wonder Why
I Got This Fucking Thorn In My Side
Oh My God, It's A Mirage
I'm Tellin' Y'all It's Sabotage

So,So,So, So Listen Up 'Cause You Can't Say Nothin'
You Shut Me Down With A Push Of Your Button
But yo, I'm Out And I'm Gone
I'll Tell You Now I Keep It On And On

'Cause What You See You Might Not Get
And We Can Bet, So Don't You Get Souped Yet
Scheming On A Thing That's A Mirage
I'm Tryin' To Tell You Now It's Sabotage

Why; Our Backs Are Now Against The Wall
Listen All Of Y'all This Is Sabotage
Listen All Of Y'all This Is Sabotage
Listen All Of Y'all This Is Sabotage
Listen All of Y'all This Is Sabotage

I Can't Stand It, I Know You Planned It
I'ma Set It Straight This Watergate
I Can't Stand Rockin' When I'm In This Place
Because I Feel Disgrace Because You're All In My Face
But Make No Mistakes And Switch Up My Channel
I'm Buddy Rich When I Fly Off The Handle
What Could It Be, It's A Mirage
You're Scheming On A Thing That's Sabotage

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Thank God: Obama Orders Secret Prisons Closed

See the NYTimes: "Obama Orders Secret Prisons and Detention Camps Closed."

This really was the most important step of the new administration - more than ending the Iraq War, ending domestic spying, or even the financial meltdown. This action is the crucial step to restoring America.

And it's something that would *not* have happened under Palin-McCain.

Bye bye Bush era; you were truly horrible.

Poem of the Day

From the poet laureate of the Styx, Ogden Nash:
The Octopus:

Tell me, O Octopus, I begs
Is those things arms, or is they legs?
I marvel at thee, Octopus;
If I were thou, I'd call me Us.

Backpost, finished on Nov 10, 2009. Pic from here.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Gang of Clowns

The picture to the left, by Annie Lebowitz, is from December 2001 and features the gang of clowns that nearly destroyed the country in their illicit time in office - from the 5-4 vote that put them in, to the attorney purges that reelected them in '04.

This picture accompanies an article that many have described as one of the best retrospectives yet of what these murderous clowns did: "An Oral History of the Bush White House" by Cullen Murphy and Todd S. Purdum in Vanity Fair.

I haven't read it yet (30 printer pages!) but it should be smack in the head.

Duke of Yorq

I must be the King of England because my son is the Duke of Yorq.

Let me explain. 15 years ago or so, my brother and I coined the term 'yorq' as a synonym for vomit (a.k.a. 'barf', 'boot', 'technicolor yawn'). I can't explain why in a public forum, but suffice it to say it involved a meal on York Avenue.

My eldest son is the Duke of Yorq just because he nearly had a spectacular case of yorqing that would have gone down in Styx family history. Thankfully, he missed. Had he not, it would have been legendary.

Setting the Stage

My sons share a bedroom and a special bunk-bed (pictured to the right), made only by Berg designers. Since my oldest is 4 and a half, he's too young for a full bunk bed (6 is the recommended minimum). And his brother (2 years old) would also be in danger. But the Berg bed allows the space-saving of a bunk (with many drawers, as you can see) with some safety.

My oldest has the top bunk, the youngest the bottom. The youngest was asleep. The oldest was coughing a bunch. Both had colds; but the oldest had yorqed earlier in the week (Shabbas) from the cold; the doctor explained (warning: do not read further if you're the squeamish type and/or never had kids) that he probably was swallowing some mucus. So if he's coughing too much, it can lead to yorq.

The Event

Around 7:30pm, my wife and I were downstairs in the kitchen, cleaning up and going over how crazy it still was in our new Boston life... we just felt over our heads because the house still needs a bunch of work, our car needs new brakes, the new semester has begun with stress on our schedules... then we heard our oldest call out over the monitor that his cough was bothering him. I went upstairs to see how he was, but also to quiet him down lest he wake his brother.

I came into the room and because I saw that, yup, his brother was asleep, I whispered "do you want a drink of water?" He said that he does. I went to get it, and he then asked (from the top bunk) whether he could come with me to get the water. I said that he could and walked back to him to help him walk down the steps of the bunk bed. And that point he coughed, gagged, and yorqed onto the lower bed.

What It Was and What it Could Have Been

There was no logical reason why he should have yorqed directly onto the lower bunk. Of the 360 degrees available to his torso and face, only 15 degrees was directly in line with his sleeping brother below. Yet that's where he booted.

Thank God, his brother was perched slightly away from the bed because the older narrowly missed hitting the younger. If it had connected, it would have been a family legend, remembered 90 years in the future by the two now old men, great-grandchildren at their knees, telling the story about how the older barfed on the younger while still toddlers. My younger would be telling his shrink in 20 years "I never feel secure;" when asked why he'd tell this story, because, honestly, who can feel secure when someone barfs on you in your sleep?

Anyway, I quickly picked up the younger from his bed so he wouldn't get hit by a probable second salvo. It took almost an hour to clean up the entire bed (nothing really escaped: books, toys, pillows) and the boys are fine now.

But I am the King of England...

Obama and the Steelers

Not only did Obama get the important Steelers endorsement from Dan Rooney that, no doubt, helped him in the PA Primary (see BJ if you don't believe me) but now Obama is making the right choice for the Superbowl:
The Pittsburgh Post Gazette said in today’s edition that Obama has a game ball from their victory in the AFC championship game Sunday over the Ravens. Dan Rooney and his son Jim personally delivered the football to Obama Monday night in Washington, D.C.

Obama also met with Dan and Jim Rooney in a separate room at the Hilton, where the pair gave him the game ball. “He’s a Bears fan first, he admits that,” Dan Rooney said yesterday at the Steelers UPMC training center. “But he’s a Steelers’ fan. He’s said it, and all his staff, they’re rooting for us [in the Super Bowl].”
Can he do no wrong? (note: I am joking)

Late Update (March 2009): Holy cow - Obama nominates Dan Rooney as Irish ambassador. Obama is a gracious guy!

Backpost finished on 2009-11-30.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Now This is a Benediction

Rick Warren was terrible (something I didn't expect). Very christ-y and dumb from beginning to end.

But Reverend Lowery was golden!

Onion's Bush: Conclusion

As I said here, the Onion has been printing over the past few weeks humorous - yet disgusting - stories of Bush being horribly, painfully maimed. My theory was that the Onion writers hate Bush as much as I do and realize that to write about his death may be treasonous, but there should be nothing to alarm the Secret Service if you etch a jocular tale of Bush having his testicles eaten by a crocodile... leaving the 43rd President in castrated pain.

So the series seems to have come to an end today; and proving my analysis correct, the last entry in this series is the death of Bush - achieved when it's no longer (possibly) illegal to write as such.

See the last 4 here:

Bush's Eyelid Accidentally Nailed To Wall
December 8, 2008 | Issue 44•50
WASHINGTON — President George W. Bush sustained a perforation injury to his right eyelid when a pneumatic nail gun malfunctioned and shot a 12-centimeter-long iron nail that entered Bush's superonasal sclera, exited through his upper eyelid, and then penetraed the wall of the White House Blue Room. The president remained pinned to the wall for a period of 27 hours before help arrived. According to witnesses, Bush was found passed out with blood dripping from his right tear duct. Doctors confirmed that the intraocular foreign body was removed during a four-hour operation Sunday, and reported significant damage to Bush's supratrochlear nerve, likely caused by the president's unsuccessful attempt to forcibly rip his eyelid in half to escape. It is unclear whether he will ever regain sight in his right eye. Bush is resting comfortably at Bethesda Naval Hospital.

Single-Engine Cessna Crashes Into Bush
January 6, 2009 | Issue 45•02
CAMP DAVID, MD—The Federal Aviation Administration said engine failure was to blame for a pilot losing control of a four-seater Cessna aircraft that crashed head-on into President Bush Thursday. According to the FAA report, the nose of the Cessna 350 impacted with the president's face at 110 mph, instantly killing pilot James Morris, 45. Bush reportedly suffered third-degree burns on 95 percent of his body, a broken spine, 20 shattered ribs, one collapsed lung, a basilar skull fracture, and minor leakage of cerebrospinal fluid. Bush, who had been hiking alone in an isolated region of the 125-acre presidential retreat before the accident, was trapped under the burning engine block for 45 minutes before rescue crews reached the crash site. While doctors said they worked swiftly to remove the smoldering wreckage from the president's body, much of the plane's burning debris had already fused to his skeleton before he could be airlifted from the scene. Bush is resting comfortably at Bethesda Naval Hospital.

Spider Eggs Hatch In Bush's Brain
January 14, 2009 | Issue 45•03
WASHINGTON—President Bush collapsed to the floor of the Oval Office during a meeting with advisers when spiderlings hatched from thousands of egg sacs affixed between the hemispheres of his brain, according to a White House memo released Monday. The spiders severed the president's corpus callosum and ate through the motor-control center of the brain, doctors said, causing Bush's body to jerk involuntarily as a scurrying mass of crab spiders emerged from his mouth and crawled down his face. Witnesses confirmed that a number of spiders also discharged from the president's tear ducts. Secret Service agents restrained the president and carried him to the White House medical facility, but doctors said that by the time Bush arrived, the arachnids had already consumed his corneas, pupils, and vitreous humor. Bush is resting comfortably at Bethesda Naval Hospital.

Bush Dies Peacefully In His Sleep
January 20, 2009 | Issue 45•04
WASHINGTON—George W. Bush, 43rd president of the United States of America, passed away painlessly in his sleep Monday night, White House sources confirmed. The 62-year-old Bush was reportedly discovered lying unresponsive in his bed by first lady Laura Bush, a gentle smile still on his lips. "It was as though he knew it was his time to go," said longtime family physician Dr. Harold Ditmas, who pronounced the president dead of natural causes at 7:24 a.m. Plans for Bush's funeral have been postponed indefinitely following an unexpected incident in which the president's corpse was sucked through an Air Force One jet engine.

News from the Onion

The Onion is one of the great things in life, no doubt. And one of my favorite features (second only to Rawlings) is the 'American Voices' a.k.a. "What do you think." Not only is it consistantly funny, but since it's based on fact, I often learn some important new fact. Like this - only from them did I learn that Texas elected their first Jewish speaker of the House.

Backpost finished 2009-11-25; the pic is of the guy who - for no real reason - my brother and I think is given the funnier lines.

Dept. Head Rawlings

Yes! How could I have missed it, my favorite Onion dude is back!

See here for more.

The 44th President

Finally.

P.S. What was with the feshtunker musical interlude that prevented the oath from being uttered before high noon??!

Inauguration Imminent

I plan to watch the inauguration in the Brandeis student center with a hundred or so screaming fans. Not as good as freezing my tush off at the Capitol, but warmer and closer to my 1 pm class.

Here's a good AP story about some inauguration data.

Maintenance and Labels, Part 1

I've been spending time fixing the formatting of early posts as well as updating and tightening the labels. I'll provide below a key to what certain labels mean. Note, I haven't included the self-evident ones (American Politics), or those that deal with specific events that can be understood by looking at the content (attorney scandal); the following are the idiosyncratic 'codes' that I choose to organize abstract themes:
  • Personal Titles (Herr, Citizen, Comrade) = Herr is a title for evil politicians (and the appropriate gender specifics, e.g. Herr Cheney, Frau Coulter); Citizen for good guys (for the most part; I'm being generous by including Krugman here); Comrade for bad leftists (e.g. Ralph Nader).

  • humor/comedy = a distinction I make but a blurry one nonetheless... 'humor' is something funny and 'comedy' is the category of things that are humorous, e.g. a joke is humor but analyzing jokes is comedy (or the profession of humor is 'comedy'). Sadly, these definitions are subject to change.

  • ethics/morality = another blurry distinction, but following the same pattern as humor/comedy; 'ethics' are the rules of good behavior and the general hierarchy of value, 'morality' the study of and/or the application of those rules. This definition is also subject to change.

  • Shotgunning Puppies = a reference to a particular type of Right Wing evil, where it's not enough to refuse aid to the unfortunate, but one must hurt them as well. This is particularly true for downright evildoers like Karl Rove & Dick Cheney

  • Monkeys in clown suits = sometimes I'm referring to literal monkeys in literal suits, but other times it references the lowest form of fool.

  • Bellyaching = my whining (or 'whinging' as the Brits call it, for no discernible reason)
Pic from here. Backpost finally put up on 2009-12-17.

No Bush Pardons?

I predicted here that Bush will give a blanket pardon for his whole administration. Did that happen and I just missed it or did the probable gambit (not indicting Cheney etc to allow future non-GOP prosecution) work?

He has 90 minutes left, maybe it will come. If not, then we all have a chance for prosecution of the war crimes!

Update: Some stories about Bush's (lack of) pardons. SF Chronicle. Toronto Star.

Bush Did Not Keep Us Safe

I know it's obvious to anyone with critical thinking skills but some things need to be said explicitly: Bush did not keep us safe.
  1. He was asleep at the wheel for 9/11 despite clear warnings by the CIA and others. For that crime, he cannot be exonerated.
  2. He drove us into a war based on false premises, killing thousands of our citizens (we call them "soldiers") - more than on 9/11 - and maiming thousands more. And killing/maiming hundreds of thousands of others. That's not "safe"
  3. His direct actions have made the world much less safe to be an American.
  4. The people of New Orleans were and are not safe.
There are more examples but between the Iraq War and Katrina, it is asinine to claim that Bush kept us safe.

Yes, there wasn't another 9/11 on our shores during his presidency (if you count the first 9/11 as a mulligan, and Katrina as a non-9/11) but that kinda irrelevant based on the other disasters. But it's the method of right wing idiots to move the goal-posts after the kick.

Update Here's Glenn "Freeper" McCoy to show you how stupid it is (he makes it worse by saying Bush "kept everyone alive" - a patent falsehood:
(click to enlarge)

Monday, January 19, 2009

Tomorrow is Finally Here

Even though I'm working hard on a number of projects, I feel it necessary to say (especially since I may not be able to blog tomorrow) that the Bush Era will finally be OVER! And, if that isn't enough, we're finally going to have what purports to be a decent, brilliant, ethical president. Finally, finally, finally.

One thing I've been doing over this long weekend is cleaning up the old blog posts from my archives (2003-2004) and I have been reading all of my apoplexy over the 2004 election. I was pretty angry back then and I knew in my bones about all the horror we were going to see in 4 years. And that will finally be over.

Let there be Truth and Reconciliation, let there be Justice. And thank God for a new president.

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Steelers!!

We did it baby! What a brutal game. More on that later. But we're going to the Superbowl! And, BE"H, my brother's coming over with his family and join us (me, my wife and two sons) to watch our team fricassee some red birds.

Steelers Today


My Steelers are in the AFC championship game today with their (new, yet old, funny about how DNA goes even to sports teams) rival the Baltimore Ravens.

As I've said before, I'm not much into sports but I do like football and I do love my Steelers. And while I appreciate that the name is meaningless (what does a Steeler do? Steel themselves to get hit? I guess "make steel" but that's not used anywhere else, is it? It's probably a pun to correspond to the other, older (1887 v. 1933) Pittsburgh team, the Pirates); and I also appreciate that the Ravens are named after a literary character; but I'm still psyched for the game.

If the Steelers win today they're going to the Superbowl; making them #2 in all-time appearances (catching up the hated Cowboys) - but more importantly, if we win, we'll lead the sport in most Superbowl titles. Yay.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Emeritus Blog Import News

Blogger has finally given me the technology to bulk import/transport all the files from my first blog (the 2003 blog, not to be confused with the Old Styx - the email newsletter of 1995-2000). The import will be happening soon; I just need to modify some old posts (and remove incriminating information).

Monday, January 12, 2009

M.J. Rosenberg's True Colors


For a while, TPM has had M.J. Rosenberg as the de-facto official voice of American Jewish opinion about Israel. I've long felt that MJR is a complete tool and a self-hater. Finally here's some clear proof that he's not a friend of ours:
Well, here's one that is decidedly NOT good for the Jews. Franken and Coleman, both Jewish, come together in support of Israel's Gaza war.

They hate each other. They agree on nothing. One is a Mideast hawk. One is a dove.

But when it comes to Israel and its Gaza war, they join hands and sing Kumbaya, I mean Hava Nagila.
It's breathtaking how he has full confidence that the Gaza War is so evil that it's just 'crazy' to support it, and his full knowledge of Judaism is properly summed up by an invocation of 'Hava Na-Frickin-Gila.'

For a decent response, here's some dude on the Volkh Conspiracy.

Pic from here. Backpost finished 2009-12-06.

Saturday, January 10, 2009

Video of the Day: Spongebob Casablanca

I don't know who did this (it sounds like the real voice pros) but this is a scene from Casablanca, Singing in the Rain, and the Godfather with the cast of Spongebob Squarepants reading the lines. My favorite is Casablanca:
Rick = Spongebob
Laszlo = Patrick
Louis = Squidward
Ilsa = Sandy

Friday, January 09, 2009

Brief Movie Notes: The Dark Knight (2008)


I hated this movie on so many levels. I have much to say but it's taking a while to make it coherent. To substitute for me, read the 100% correct review by David Edelstein of New York Magazine. The original review, and his response to the drooling idiots who attacked his negative review.

Image nabbed from here.

Constitutional Amendment for the 21st Century

The 20th Amendment changed the transition date of the US presidency from March 4th to January 20th. It was a swiftly passed change to the Constitution following the agony of Herbert Hoover. Not only was the bum thrown out of office in 1932 but we needed to wait 4 months to actually have the throwing occur.

I propose that while 4 months worked in the 18-19th centuries, and 2 months for the 20th, we live in an even more swift and dire age and can have an even quicker transition. I propose the transition should be in 2 weeks.

Oh, I hear you cry, that's not enough time for the new president to get up to speed! Look at Obama; he's filled his cabinet in a much faster time than his predecessors but it still takes time and even for him its not finished.

I counter-argue that the whole point of a chief executive is that he controls the cabinet. If the new president took over in two weeks, then even if the previous cabinet were to be in place, they would need to follow the directives of the new guy. And even if they were all to resign at once, then (a) the President could not accept the resignations, or (b) the career bureaucrats who fill up the cabinet offices could take over until new guys are found. Even as it stands it's not *enough* time to really get the new cabinet up to speed to their new jobs, and my solution could actually be a better way to transition in.

My ultimate point is that things are rapidly going to hell even quicker than in 1932 (Bush is like a combination of Herbert Hoover and James Buchanan - bad war and bad money) and we need new leadership fast fast fast.

Simple Pleasures

The local generic Shaw's brand of yogurt is:
  1. OU
  2. fat free
  3. and already mixed (i.e. not "fruit on the bottom").
Anyone who keeps kosher will understand what unbelievable fortune this is.

"Fruit on the bottom" yogurt is like eating communism. And "already mixed" yogurt is usually chock full of gelatin (read: horse bones). I don't know how this is kosher, but I'll let the OU get away with it this time.

Pic swiped from here.

The Totten

As he was for the 2006 Lebanon, Michael Totten is an important source in the current conflict as well. He's a philo-Semite and very knowledgeable about the Mideast (don't let the commentary magazine address throw you; as far as I know he's not a Kristolian neocon dunderhead).

Totten cites this Israeli blog as good too, see especially this post about "The Israeli Way of War."

Gaza Thoughts 2


Part I asked the question how not only will the Gaza War end, but the whole Arab-Israeli war? My quick answer: end oil as a valuable commodity. Let me expand:

1. First Dispel the Thousand Year War Myth

This is a clear sign of vigorous ignorance: if a blowhard says that the Arabs and Jews have been fighting for centuries, so there's no way the war will ever end, call bull-scheisse. Yes, there's been fighting in that region for centuries, but those battles (a) did not involve Jews except as victims, never as belligerents, and (b) many of the battles were between Christians and Muslims, and no matter how much both sides would like to claim otherwise, Jews and NOT interchangeable with Christians.

A side note to explain that point: Muslims seem to consider Jews and Christians part of the same category and since Jews have thrived in the western (read: Christian, usually Protestant) democracies, modern Muslims just seem to think we're the same. So the crusades were Jewish both because they were fought by infidels, and what's the difference among 'em, and because Jews and Christians work together nowadays so they must have always worked together! People who have not risen up into modernity (like most of the Muslim world) are stuck with the ahistorical Medieval frame of mind which flattens the present into a permanent past.

Now the modern Christians - in the US - identify the Jews as a form of Christian. Note, this is not done (as far as I've seen) in Europe. Not only are there gads of Catholics who have long memories of roasting Jews on open fires for their Traditional Christmases, but Europeans in general have clear Us-Them battle-lines drawn in their brains and Jews are permanently on the Them team.

But American protestants think of Jews as just another form of Christians. First of all, American Judaism is so watered down that its basically protestantism anyway. But for the fundamentalists, who see Jews as part of a religious plan, they see Jews - and Israel - as just a form of Christianity. My feeling is that a random fundamentalist Christian would be shocked to know Jews think Jesus wasn't a savior but a cranky hillbilly carpenter, at best. Fundys read the Old testament as a Christian document, and Israel is *theirs* because it's Jewish. I could elaborate more, but that should be enough for now.

So: to say that there's been Jewish-Muslim violence for centuries is to say (like Muslims) that Jews are just anti-Muslim, like the Christians, or to say (like the Fundamentalists) that the Jews are acting as Christian agents in the most recent crusade. Both these ideas are stupid and wrong. Call that bull-schiesse!

There's a third option, though, for the morons: to claim that the *region* has been in war for centuries and the Arabs and Israelis are just acting out some kind of war-curse the region engenders. Somehow these idiots think Israel is the hotel from the Shining. Morons who say this are usually atheists (or anti-religion theists) who think that religion makes people bloodthirsty and insane. And thus they depict the Arab-Israeli wars as religious conflicts.

Pardon me while I laugh derisively. These atheist dimwits (Michael Ramirez is one of them, when he's not sucking the Gooper trough) don't take the time to understand that Israel is pretty damn secular. Even though the settlers are generally Orthodox weirdos, the majority of Israel - every single Prime Minister for example - are secular. So boom goes that canard.

The bottom line is that the current Arab-Israeli conflict is about 150 years old - speaking expansively - and before 1948 the "war" was generally the Arabs massacring Jews. Since 1948 there has been the current conflict. So even give the innumeracy of the pundits and associated bellyachers, 60+ years does not equal hundreds.

And it bears repeating over and over: this is not a two sided war. As I said (somewhere) that the old slogan from the Hippie 60s was "What if they declared a war and nobody came?" is beyond stupid because of the Arab-Israeli conflict which is "what if they declared a war and only one side showed up?" There'll be a war for as long as the Arabs and/or Muslims have the *means* to destroy Israel. Because they are committed to do so, because of religion or because of some broken vision of their grandiose past. We need to take away their means...

2. The Arab-Israeli War Has Had Two Phases

From 1948-1993 the Arab-Israeli conflict must be seen in the light of the cold war. Simply put, the Western World gave a flying fig for Israel - and the world cared about the Arab states - mainly as a proxy battle between the US and the USSR. The Arab armies were aligned with the Soviets and their weaponry (and money) came from that massive part of the globe. The US supported Israel in the same way we supported South Korea, Taiwan, Greece, or the Contras.

The great tragedy of Oslo was that a point when the Cold War was over the PLO was poised to become irrelevant. All of their resources and support dried up because the Russians had bigger fish to fry. Just like we could have gotten total control of the Western Wall and of Hebron - but gave it away due to idiotic ideology - so too we could have lived without the PLO. But nooooo; Rabin-Peres took a failed organization, dazed and dashed along with the Berlin Wall, living in exile in Tunisia, and gave them an international platform.

However, one can argue that even without Israel giving the Palestinians relevance, they would have risen up on their own because of the second source of funding (and now sole source following the breakup of the Soviets): Arab oil.

Post Oslo (which is post-Berlin Wall) the Arab world maintains a relevance because they are stinking' rich off oil money.

How else can Iran fund both Hamas and Hezbollah? Why would we even care about Saddam Hussein? How is it that Muslim terrorists can be so well funded and protected? Why is it that France rolls over and kisses Arab tush? Because of oil. Oil is what protects the Palestinians and what makes the whole world listen to the raving hatred of the petro-nations that hate Israel.

Were oil to become worthless, then Saudi Arabia, Iran, Iraq, etc wouldn't be able to fund terrorism, the world would consider the Arabs to be as important as undeveloped backwaters like Bangladesh or sub-Saharan Africa.

3. Green=Peace

Support alternative fuels! The idiot Republicans - and their poster airhead Sarah "Drill, I have Babies, Drill" Palin - talked only of ending our dependence on "foreign oil." That little world "foreign" is the rub. It sounds like an innocuous addition and that's the power of PR/Marketing - to create logical sounding slogans for unpleasant truths. (e.g. When did toilet paper become bathroom tissue?! I know there's a difference! I'm shomer shabbat: bathroom tissue is kosher on Shabbas and toilet paper ain't. Stop messing with words, Madison Avenue!! Ahem)

"Ending dependence on oil" means to switch to alternative fuels; "ending...foreign oil" still means we're dependent on oil, but it means we'll just buy more domestically. It's so stupid that people just swallowed it up: it sounds 'green' but is in fact designed to line the pockets of Texans and Alaskans. Goopers are even worse than the bathroom tissue people.

Anyway, by ending dependence on oil; if we turn the world onto cheap fuel (e.g. remember coal?) then we can end the Arab-Israeli conflict: (1) the bad guys won't have the money for weapons, and (2) the world won't need to listen to the Arabs complaining about Israel/Palestine because who listens to poor sand-farmers?

How will the war end? The Palestinians will wake up one day and realize that nobody is giving them money to kill 100 of themselves for every Israeli (the current ratio, or so it seems) and they'll then do what all petulant parasites do when the cash cow dies: they'll get jobs. They'll build roads and schools instead of bombs and will find it better for day-to-day life to actually let Israel live in peace.

Thursday, January 08, 2009

Gaza Thoughts 1


1. Think Like a Nation, Not an Individual

It's important to remember that right and wrong to even a thoughtful, moral, intelligent, educated person is different for collectives, especially nations. A leader, a person responsible for others, must think above the individual. A simple example, when it comes to halakha, is the classic debate over allowing emergency-rescuers break Sabbath laws in order to save a life. The rescuer is allowed to break the Sabbath not only in running to save the life, but also to return back to his home. To small minds (and there are plenty of these even among rabbis), it is wrong to allow the rescuer to break the Sabbath to return home. While these miniminds will grudgingly acknowledge that a life is worth more than the Sabbath, that condition should end when the rescue has occurred, no? Well, say the wide-thinking and responsible leadership: if we refuse the rescuer from returning home, then he won't come in the first place for fear of ruining his day.

The miniminds rebut: how dare we impugn the noble heart of the Torah-True-Jew(tm)?!

The rabbis respond: Hey, we're with your rosy view of human nature, but over the years we noticed that people were not showing up to rescue others in need! We're the same ones who came up with sfeik-sfeika: the concept that when you have a doubt (safek) on top of a doubt (safek) then you are allowed to be lenient in halakha. So rescuers were applying the sfeik-sfeika themselves: maybe I won't get to the rescue site on time, and maybe others will get there before me, making my trip superfluous. Heighty-ho, I should just stay home with my family and not ruin Shabbos...

Yes, the Torah-True-Jew(tm) is noble; except that we rabbis have to think of the long term and of the whole community. And the sociological pattern (see the bystander intervention studies of 1960s BCE) is that unless there is an overarching moral compulsion, an even noble and intelligent individual will think in the short term and not do what's best for society. That's the job of the rabbis: to make social rules that better society. And we're saying that the rescuer can violate Shabbat to return home.

The miniminds still retort (and here there are many rabbis unfortunately in the group): OK, OK, we bow to the wisdom of the rabbis. Except that Yankel Shmoikel, my EMT cousin, doesn't want to return home on Shabbas and because he so noble, he will still rush off to rescue people on Shabbas! So there!

The rabbis again respond: Please do not violate the rabbis rules. We thought of Shmankel. Ya see, first of all, when you think you're above the law, when you second guess Societal Ethics using Individualist Logic, then you will most likely end up violating the law. We believe either/or: (a) that Shmankel will think of himself as noble but will subconsciously decide not to run off to rescue because he knows the burden, or (b) that Shmankel will decide that others will take care of the rescue, he's needed more in his house.

Ya see, one more reason (a noble one) for the rescuer to return home: because as a rescuer (especially a doctor/nurse/EMT) is needed to help others. If we had the fire-brigade rush off to the boonies on Shabbas, then get stuck there starting Friday night, then they won't be available for the inevitable Cholent-Blech fire across town. Etc.

This is a large issue and I'm bring the point up in brief (and I need to create a good overall term for this ethic) but the lesson is this: leaders think in terms of long term consequences and not for the individual case.

This applies to the Gaza war. A soldier can't think of individual cases, he has to follow orders. That's well understood. But the generals need to think of the big picture which can result in individuals getting killed. Even innocent ones. This is why war must be the last resort of any moral state. We just hope that the generals (and in the modern democratic state, the elected officials who command the army) think like leaders and are seeking the proper long term goals.

When Bush rushed off to war, we feared that his feeble moral intellect didn't understand the cost of war. Especially since he ran away from Vietnam, yet always felt that he was a solider. He threw lives away for political gain. This was also the specter of the second Lebanon War.

The Gaza War is real, though. Gaza was given over to the Palestinians who immediately turned it into a terrorist state hell-bent on Israel's destruction. Cease-fires didn't work and ultimately negotiation is fruitless without a partner. These are large, nation, issues that don't fall into most people's consciousness. They just think of the loss of life. And it's good they care. But it is morally wrong to apply an individualist code of ethics to national needs.

2. You Can't Compare the Morality of a Democracy with a Tyranny.

I wrote an op-ed back during the second Lebanon war (can't link to it because it would divulge my thinly veiled identity) that argued this point. Citizens in a democracy are sovereigns which means that the army's actions are the will of the collective will. If the war is unjust and wrong (as Iraq was) then the populace will rebel, either by ballot (like we did in 2006-2008). Citizens of a tyranny do not have the power to change the government's mind; if the war is unpopular then so what; if the tyrants want to use the citizens as soldiers so be it. As such, citizens of a tyranny aren't really civilians the way that citizen's in a democracy are. Just think of the Japanese and Nazi citizens during WWII - they did not have a choice to change the government's mind short of rebellion. Note that rebellion is what actually ended World War I - both the Russian Revolution but more importantly the rebellions in Germany.

Let me emphasize that point again: World War I ended only because the a tyranny was (almost) overthrown. I'll get into the tragedy of the end of WWI elsewhen, but suffice to say that democracies have civilians in the true sense but tyrannies do not. The only ethical thing to do, from the democratic point of view, is to end all dictatorships. However, since that would require almost non-stop warfare, it's not really possible to do that (despite what Bill Kristol and George W. Bush wanted).

The next best thing would be the idea proposed by John McCain: the League of Democracies. During the election, the League concept was discredited by the cognoscenti because McCain is an airhead and there's guilt by association. But I think it just makes sense: democracies need to band together to protect themselves from the common threat of tyrannies. For the reason set above: that tyrannies can commit crimes against democracies who cannot respond in kind. But there's strength in numbers!

The Gaza situation is a case in point: if there were a League - which is broader and more relevant than the cold-war dinosaur NATO yet not soaking with sordid dictatorships like the UN - then the moment a rocket flew from Gaza into Israel the whole League would declare Hamas a threat. It's basically what we did in the first Gulf War and as a permanent function, a super-NATO as it were, it would help everyone. And like we're seeing with NATO, it may induce countries to drop their tyranny earlier than expected to get the benefits.

3. When Will It Ever End?

There's the short term and the long term ends, and the realistic ends and my pipe-dream ends. The short term end of this war is in the hands of the Israelis. The leadership of the major industrial nations have to balance their public opinion reactions (and since Israel absolutely irrevocably sucks at PR - it's like a point of pride to Israelis to act like arrogant boneheads) with what they recognize as the goals of their nations.

Any country that has to deal with angry Islamic citizens will call on Israel to cease as soon as possible; countries that don't care about this subgroup (e.g. US) will be less circumspect. But all the major countries have as a vested national interest to have Hamas be destroyed. Gaza is totally Hamas and Hamas is a vicious, implacable terrorist group. There's no positive for Hamas; this is one reason why the PLO is helping Israel with the battle. So the nations of the world will let Israel do as much as possible to weaken Hamas.

The war, plus the general world condemnation of Hamas, may serve to topple the Gaza government and give it into the hands of Israel. There is no way for Israel to make peace with the Palestinians until the P's can speak with unity and until Hamas is driven into an angry ineffectual nub (like "Islamic Jihad" - remember them) then there's no short term peace plan.

And I repeat, if we had a League of Democracies then it would be very hard for Hamas to shoot more than one day's worth of missiles without getting a return smackdown from the worlds' Democracies. And the smacking wouldn't be violent at first - there'd be an economic carrot and stick from the League first.

Ah, but you'll respond, won't the tyrannizes of the world pick up the economic slack? Indeed. That's a problem with the Arab-Israel conflict, there's world interest in the players. But this leads to second solution, the long term one, which I think will eventually put a lot of this to bed: alternative fuels. More on that in the next post.

Wednesday, January 07, 2009

Brain Freeze Summary

Brain freeze: can come from eating ice-cream too fast and also from having too many things to write about: from Mumbai to Madoff to Gaza. Also I have some foot-freeze going on (my basement office is unheated and the portable heater I bought from Bed, Bath and Things just plotzed). These three are important to interrelate; each are Jewish tragedies, made special for the modern world. Mumbai was a hi-tech terrorist attack that we often see depicted in movies: a bunch of good-looking bad-guys technologically integrated moving with lethal efficiency. What fun! Well, see my stuff on misanthropic entertainment: I don't like the glorification of evil and now that I have children, I like it even less.

But the evils of Mumbai were washed away by the Jewish super-villian Bernie Madoff. Wow: he may be the world's biggest non-tyrant crook. I need to add the tyrant caveat because one thing that dictators can - and do - do better than others is to steal in massive scale. 50 Billion in made-up money is crazy, but compare that to Mao-Zedong or Fidel Castro who stole entire countries.

In any case, as I said elsewhere, the scale of his crime is so grave that it's the first time I can understand the death penalty for a thief. He has destroyed thousands of lives and in a psychopathic drive of greed. While it still cannot equal the tragedy of Mumbai, as some have said, there's quick and there's slow death. The Sages claim that impoverishment is like death and that makes sense in a world without a safety net... yet Madoff may have successfully destroyed the safety-nets of many people.

And then we have Gaza. I may have more to say on this (I will have more about Mumbai and Madoff), but the international reaction is perplexing after Mumbai. Didn't people get the picture that people like Hamas will torture and kill Jews just for the fun of it? This is pretty black and white: Hamas is evil. The only reason to not call them Nazis is because they lack the means, not the will. Maybe I will devote more to this, because if this isn't clear now, in this world, then its quite revealing.

Book Widget

One thing I would love to design for online use: a book widget where I could enter in a set of ISBN numbers and the widget would search out where to buy them all at the cheapest prices - taking into account the different shipping policies of different sites. Some places have free shipping (like here, yay!) and most have discounts for multiple purchases from the same shipper. When I learn to program, this is the first project.

Catch Up

I've got 175 drafts in my blog inbox plus a few dozen 'notes-to-myself' in my email... its been a strained blogging hiatus due to final exams & papers. I was officially on vacation in the middle of December, but I still had papers to turn in. Then I was at the Association of Jewish Studies conference in DC (also visiting my parents), and even after I got back to Boston, my kids were still out of school. It betrays my age to say that I *like* it when the kids are in school (fie!) because then I can get my work done. So very old...

Anyway, I will try to catch up on my blogging duties. Sorry for the delay.