Monday, December 31, 2012

Steelers - "Post" Season, part 2

My philosophy about the draft: there's a cliche that you're supposed to draft the 'best player' when your number comes up. I guess it should be assumed but everyone needs to repeat this caveat, but it's still based on your team's depth. For example, the Steelers don't need a first-round QB because Ben is still doing well (even if he is dumb, stubborn and I would trade him for Peyton/Brees/Brady/Rodgers because those guys seem to know how to follow a complex offense) and has around 4 years left in him, and a rookie in 2013 will be a free-agent by the time we need him. Depending on Ben's performance and health next year will determine whether we go for one in '14+.

I think what I get from the cliche (which is not what others say) is that I need to think of "first round" as All-Pro (especially if you draft in the first half). And given that, we can ask, do we need an All-Pro in that position? Here are my thoughts:

1. QB see above. Because it's a big risk, that if we draft an RG3 (for example), when would we use him?

2. All defense: this is a Steelers Culture issue. As I said earlier Dick LeBeau, the HOF defensive coordinator, gets #1 defenses and part of his MO is (a) to train and develop the players for a few years before they can start, (b) this training can turn low round guys into top quality (cf. Harrison).

3. O-Line: enough years of loading up on O-line has shown me that the problem is the coach and not the players (although stinkers like Kemoeatu had to go). But I think we have enough depth in this that we shouldn't waste a 1st round *even if a probowler is available*

4. Wide Receivers - This is one of the only positions where I think they actually have depth. I know Wallace is almost guaranteed to not be here next year and there are many who want his like again, but (a) he stunk this year, (b) Brown is better, (c)
from what I've been able to analyze, its much more important to have 2 halfway decent receivers than 1 real threat. In the former, the defense needs to cover both, in the latter they just need to double team (or have 1 great corner). How well has Larry Fitzgerald done for the past few years?

More soon.

Sunday, December 30, 2012

Steelers - "Post" Season, part 1

A few comments before today's game:

1. Seems like Polamalu agrees with me:
“James Farrior was a great leader here for a long time. So was Hines [Ward], Jerome [Bettis]; so was Joey [Porter],” he said. “James was not Joey, and Hines was not Jerome, but they definitely led in their own ways. So I think when you look for a leader, there‘s no need to look for the same cast those guys are built out of. You just look for someone who will step up that someone respects, and some of that is really natural.”

“When I look at the personnel that you lose, and I say, ‘Can we actually win a Super Bowl without them? Could we win a Super Bowl without Hines? Could we win a Super Bowl without James Farrior?‘ I think it‘s obvious that we can. But it took us a while to adjust when we lost Jerome. So I think this is kind of that adjustment period.”
Of course we shouldn't forget that the last time we had a disappointing losing season, 2009, had a strong similarity with this year in one big way: Polamalu was injured for much of the year. The stats are astounding.

2. When dealing with the draft and next season, there are things people have been saying we need. There's a saying that 1st round pick should be a passer, pass rusher, or pass-protector (Left-Tackle). OK, as far as it goes. But a few weeks ago, I was saying that we need to draft a Tight End, and that was before Heath got hurt! I will explain why.

My thinking was this: our defense is #1 this year (see below for more) and we lost not because of them but because of cruddy offense and special teams. I think we have talent for ST and all we need is a halfway decent coach. But what about offense?

Well, we were humming in the middle of the season; we had a running game and we were protecting Ben very well. Why/How? Because the o-line was finally working. What I hope is that now that we got rid of O-Line Coach Kugler - who I've disliked the moment I found out that he was the former ooach in Buffalo when they - whoda guessed it - had massive O-line imjuries. The guy is a problem and good riddance.

So with a better coach, maybe our O-line will be as good as they should be and that will mean that our running game will suddenly be good. Which will mean Haley's offense should shine. Those 3 games (Cincy 1, Washington, Giants) were indicative of what we should have been. Ironically the most indicative games were Cleveland and San Diego. Those games weren't lost because of our new Offensive philosophy but because our players weren't playing up to their necessary level. And I blame that on either (a) bad training and coaching, or (b) the fact that the players were spending so much time learning a complicated new offense that they didn't have time to spend on fundamentals. This especially goes for the Wide Receivers and Running Backs. One more year of training will help 'em.

So why do I think we should draft a Tight End? Because (a) the only spot where we have real depth is WR, and it's crazy to waste a 1st Round pick on WR anyway; but more (b) given Haley's offense, we need a TE because of the West-Coast offense (aka 'dink and dunk'). If we had another Heath Miller, or a Gronkowski, can you imagine how awesome the offense would be? Short passing would excel and a HM type would also support the O-line.

The other opinions say to get a pass-rusher. I think that this 'common sense' doesn't apply to the Steelers because (a) we need to see if Harrison will be able to rise back to his standard level, because he's still talented and as far as I know his contact restricts us; (b) all defensemen take at least a 2 years or more to learn LeBeau's defense. So I think our 1st rounders should go to immediate use (cf. Cameron Hayward).

Some comments that I will expand after the game:

3. A dude on Grantland made a good point, that the Steelers follow the pattern of teams with old players are almost always near the cap which limits depth (BTW, the older players should hate this system because it encourages firing them for cheaper rookies). The Steelers defense is old and many players seem not to be able to make it a full year. And this is part of the coaching/management culture and I'm not sure if it'll change.

4. The defense is probably better in stats than they should be because our special teams was so poor, and there were so many turnovers, that the defense had to deal with a lot of short fields. Also since the offense was so poor, and porous, the defense didn't have to give up a lot of points for the team to lose.

5. Our problem this year, IMO, actually wasn't injuries (except for the OL, and I blame Kugler, see above) given that our failures came from WR who couldn't run routes right and didn't try to get tough catches (especially the turkey, Mike Wallace). Also Rothlesberger, after his injury, was getting gun-shy, I believe. People think his new kid may be affecting his sleep, I think if anything it's making him re-evaluate his mortality. The big lug may be done.

6. A last question: has Tomlin actually drafted well? The great people seem to still be holdovers from Cowher: Big Ben, Polamalu, Heath Miller.

Friday, December 21, 2012

Sandy Hook Massacre

Like everyone, the Sandy Hook massacre has shaken me deeply. I can't think about it for long without weeping: my middle son just turned 6.

But I have 2 points: (1) This could finally be the "9/11" type event that changes our culture to reject the "unlimited guns." The case I use as a model is smoking. When I was a kid, smoking was everywhere and completely accepted. Then something happened, thank God, and it became socially unacceptable to smoke. Bam, it was done. I'm hoping that this is what happens with guns now.

(2) This leads to my second point. I will now say, without fear of stidency, that I believe we should consider a person who owns a gun a potential murderer. WHat I mean by that is that the biggest fallacy from the gun-nuts is the belief that you can somehow divide the population into 'good people (who should own guns)' and 'bad people (who shouldn't get guns).' As the Treyvon Martin case showed us, the gun-nuts have convinced people that the way to distinguish these two populations is by race. The nuts basically make the bigoted case that blacks shouldn't have guns because they are automatically criminals and everyone else is not. Naturally this view is evil and it got exposed in that case.

After Sandy Hook, we should just admit: everyone who owns a gun is on the verge of being a murderer. What difference is there between Adam Lanza, may his name be cursed, and his mother? His mother owned the guns he used for his massacre. The NRA would claim that you need to keep guns to protect yourself, but those very guns were what killed her.

Again, what separates a gun-owner from a "potential murderer." A gun can only do 1 thing, it can only be used to kill. A knife cuts bread, a car is crucial transportation, a gun just kills. Sure, there a sport where the goal is to kill animals, and we're OK with that for some reason, but is that "sport" so necessary for America that it means I need to accept a few massacres a year? Deer hunting is so important?!?

I've said in many different places that the experience of Jews in the Diaspora is that we're more afraid of our neighbors than we are of the government/police. I think everyone in America needs to have that view too. The US government is not my enemy. It is my representative. And I want that government to protect me from gun-owners. Punto final.

We will know, there will be many signs, before the government gets too powerful that we need to arm our citizens. I cannot imagine that there's a cogent argument out there to say that Americans owning guns have helped our country in any way, at least in the past century. Anyone?

Steelers Week 16

I've said many of these things before, but Sunday is our first play-off game, because if we lose to the Bengals - and I'm afraid we will - we will be out of the playoffs. But I hear a bunch of Steelers radio and these experts seem to be missing the big picture, and maybe because they know more than I do and thus underplay the issues I'm about to discuss, except for the following story.

After I blogged the first long Steelers post, a few weeks later I actually called into the Tunch & Wolf show on 970 ESPN. These guys (2 former O-linemen, from the sad 80s) are a lot of fun. Anyway, I mentioned to them that its probable that our troubles are from the fact that we have a new OC, a new special-teams coach, and we cut most of the leader-veterans. This is not even taking the injuries into account, which have been so significant, that people are finally talking about them. Why that's special is because "the standard is the standard" - i.e. every team gets injuries, etc. Except that some teams the injuries are so significant that it ruins their year... I'd say that's a major part of the Jets meltdown - they lost their two best players (1 considered the best Defensive Back alive, and another pro-bowl WR who was a Superbowl MVP).

However, as I had said, and people just seem to miss: our problem is clearly a coaching problem, but it may be unavoidable. And that's because back in March-April the cognoscenti asked the Steelers: "are you in a rebuilding year" and the answer "we don't rebuild, we just reload." That, to me, ranks with the line from Predator: "ain't go time to bleed." People love that line, uttered with swagger by Jessie Ventura, and it's all about him being a superman macho hero. But in context it was actually mocked by his fellow hero, who considers the utterance inane. And that's how I feel about the rebuild/reload line. Because sometimes you need to rebuild, and if you don't do it right, then it won't be effective.

Look we have a new OC, and we fired our Special Teams coach. Why is anyone surprised that our Special Teams stinks! Why is anyone surprised that any time there's a slight glitch, our offense falls apart. My theory is that all the offensive players are spending so much time learning the new - and complicated - Haley Offense, that they aren't spending time on their fundamentals. Like knowing how to catch a ball (I'm looking at you Mike Wallace) or how to hold onto the ball (I'm looking at everyone). Generally, I believe that WR must be the second dumbest guys on the field (#1 is likely the D-line) and it will take them some time to catch up to the new offense. This can explain the interceptions - because they don't know how to run the routes (another fundamental).

The 'rebuilding' issue has been exacerbated by the bad attitudes of two key players, our #1 receiver (Wallace) and #1 running-back (Mendenhall). Mendenhall is a jerk, so good riddance, but Wallace is a dumb prima-donna who has not been exerting himself nearly enough. And this is what makes the situation so tragic: the reason, I believe, we reloaded and didn't rebuild is because we had a special set of circumstances vis-a-vis those 2 players, plus the aging of other key players. For all we know, this could be the last year of Polamalu & Harrison, 2 of the best we have. Roethlisberger is getting older and QBs have a bulls-eye on his head; Heath Miller is one year younger. Too much of our talent is getting old!

I think the team we should be is the one from weeks 7-9: our O-line was intact and so was our running game; Big Ben and the receivers were clicking and humming. And then the Chiefs game. First of all, we played down to our opponents (someone gave stats that showed that this is a historic Steelers problem, and it's probably part of the culture) - which this year I think is a sign of the amount of hard memorizing work that the offense has had to endure with the new OC. But also when there's a key injury - and game 9 hurt our best receiver who is also our best kick-returner, Antonio Brown - we're like a Jaguar/sports-car. We hum and roar when all parts are working, but introduce one pebble and the car breaks down. Again, this SHOULD be expected for a team going through what we have.

I did call in again today to get more info about "rebuild" vs. "reload." What Tunch & Wolf said was that 'rebuild' means to clean house completely (e.g. what the Colts did at the end of 2011); what the Steelers always do, they say, is just make tweaks here and there. And that's why we've been so good so consistently. OK, I accept that.

However, we are paying the price for these tweaks - all of our stars have been injured this year for a long time and are not playing at a top level (even Big Ben, ever since the Chief's Game Injury, has been really gun-shy), and the young players are not doing well. The turnovers are insane!

Last point: the way I feel about the team this year reminds me of my dating days. When I would go out with someone, even for multiple weeks, there would quickly come a time when I would feel "this shouldn't be this hard." I meant that if she were "the one" then the dating process wouldn't have as many difficulties as would inevitably happen. I'd feel better after a date; the conversation would flow well; the sharing of ideas would be quick and bright. Basically, it would be fun. And when I met my future-wife, those problems didn't show up. I was right with my feeling - the other women were wrong and I knew it because it was too hard, not fun.

This is how I feel about the team this year (and last year): it is not fun. The team has great talent, but it's so not smooth; it shouldn't be this hard. I watch the Patriots, or Texans, and I see teams that just work. The Steelers just don't work this year. Heck, if we manage to win it all this year, I'll be proven wrong, and I will learn from it. But I think we shouldn't expect that with all of our reloading, and injuries, that we'd be better than we are right now.

Thursday, November 08, 2012

Florida Goes to Obama

Slate's reporting that Romney camp concedes Florida, thus making the win official: Obama 332 to Romney 206.

I told my family in the leadup to the election that while I just want Obama to win, I do find it symbolically important to win the major swing states, i.e. Ohio, Virginia, and especially Florida. It's not just a 2000 thing, it's about mandate.

Wednesday, November 07, 2012

Election 2012, After Action Report, part 1

I stayed up until 3am last night, awaiting the concession and victory speeches, and then generally having the post-victory high.  This was so important and don't let the pundits - a dying breed we all hope - tell you otherwise.  [Note, I am not a pundit; I am an independent blowhard.] A few points:

1. While Obama lost some states from 2008, you can't seriously have expected him to carry Indiana again, did you?  November 2008, like 1932, like 1976, was in the shadow of Republican catastrophe (and a bit of a mixture of both years, Bush being a combination of Hoover and Nixon).  We got lucky in 1932 and 2008 to elect a manifestly talented urban leader (not so lucky in 1976).  Yes, as I said yesterday, if the Democrats ran a white male (governor from a Southern state even more so), 2008 would have been a huge trouncing.  While I like style points, I invoke the Steelers manta: a W is a W is a W.

2. The broken Press wants to say that this is a narrow victory and a perpetuation of the status quo.  Nope.  Compare to 2000 when Bush lost to Gore 291 to 246, or in 2004 when Bush beat Kerry 286 to 251.  Those are close.  When Florida is counted for Obama, the win will be 332 to 206.  That's pretty big.  The popular vote margin is coming in as well, and Obama will likely get 51% to 48.  Again, that sounds small, but it's still more than Bush and Gore each in 2000; and it's worth remembering that the acclaimed Bill Clinton never broke 50%.

3. Another sign of a great night is that the Democrats gained in the Senate (they finally declared MT and ND), going from 53 to 55 - which sounds small, but this was a year when 22 of the 33 contested seats were Democratic (the class of 2006 when we spat in Bush's eye).  That's a significant margin of victory.   Also, many of the wins were against utterly noxious GOP thugs, like the pro-rape dudes in the Midwest, the wrestling tycoon in CT, and the nudie model in MA.  It was nice to retain VA, FL, OH, PA and other swing states.  And we also gained some seats in the House.

4.  Anyone watching last night found out how not close the race was by being reminded of what Nate Silver had been publishing all year - that Romney's coalition was so weak that he needed to win every toss-up to get to 270 (the metaphor that works for me is the NFL playoffs, "one-and-done"). 

5. Yet, all told, while the evening showed that it wasn't a "close race" that didn't come easily.  The reason Obama won was because of an amazing get-out-the-vote effort.  Without that machinery, this election could definitely have gone the other way: I still have nightmares of November 3, 2004.  I was sure that Kerry had won - mainly because Bush was patently horrible.  But Karl Rove worked the levers of the system better than anybody before.  Now Obama's crew can show how to fight back against voter suppression.

Thank God We Won

Whew!  And Nate Silver was right on the money too.  Wow, this is just really great.

Tuesday, November 06, 2012

Tonight's Election, part 2

Some other points, mainly in reaction to idiocy in the Press.

1. Is this a close election or not? There's been some bizarre attacks on Nate Silver of the heilige 538. Of course, I'm a supporter of rational analysis over gut-feelings, and of course the 2 parties differ on that self-same issue. The Democrats are the party of rationality, reason, facts, and science. The GOP has become the party of mysticism, magical thinking, and anti-science. It's very frustrating. So, according to Nate Silver, Obama has a 90%+ chance of winning tonight.

However, if you look at his data you'll see that the polling is still very close in each of the tossup states. Silver's main point is that the data has consistently and thus convincingly been in Obama's favor all year. My counter-point, speaking as a diploma carrying Sociologist, is that the polling data is terrible all-around. Very few polls can get people on cell-phones; we're potentially losing a huge group of people.

This isn't Silver's fault at all, and to his credit, he's been trying to deal with that bias. But it also means that I'm not popping a champagne cork until I hear the returns from Ohio, Virginia, and Florida.

2. Is this the most important election of our lifetime? Yes. And, yes, so was 2004, 2008 and 2012. I've read a bunch of stuff online from people who say that this is all partisan hype; that it loses all meaning when we say each time is the most important, etc. People who say this are largely idiots (case in point, Jeff Goldberg's dude here). But there can be a context for this whinge for people who are too young to remember 2000. If you recall, 2000 was *not* called 'the most important.' It was so apathetically received that many idiots thought (a) they could throw their vote away to Nader, and (b) there was "no difference" between Bush and Gore (cough cough gag).

But guess what happened after that apathetic yawp in 2000? We elected Gore but it was chucked in the garbage and Bush was installed by his brother's state and father's Supreme Court. And Bush proceeded to destroy America and quite nearly the whole world. Jeff Goldberg above quotes some idiot Palestinian who claims: "For the rest of the world, this is the most important election of our lifetimes only if you're three years old."

It's so cute when Goldblog tries to act all worldly and smart, no? It's possible that he wanted to make his friend sound like an idiot. Score, then. Because 2000 proves the point. The USA appointed Bush in 2000 who turned out (as predicted) an unmitigated disaster. He allowed 9/11, appointed 2 cavemen to the Supreme Court, allowed New Orleans to be destroyed, gutted government regulation, commanded torture, turned Clinton's budget surplus into wholesale plunder of the treasury, and then oversaw the collapse of our economy.

That last point had worldwide consequences, no? The Great Recession of the world's largest economy echoed everywhere. And if that isn't enough for the idiots, Bush attacked Iraq under false pretenses, making Iraq no longer a firewall against Iran, thus leading directly to the current nuclear crisis.

Only a clear idiot can claim that the American election does not have worldwide consequences. Point one. Point two is that ever since Bush's near destruction of the World, every US election has become The Most Important, and will remain so, until (a) we fix what Bush broke, and (b) the GOP rejects the Bush Administration Playbook. Because McCain/Palin in '08 and Romney/Ryan now actively endorse the horrific policies of Bush.

In some way, I apologize to the political commentators who don't remember 2000, who came of age after 2004, who think these claims are hyperbole. I'm sorry that we are living in an age of crisis. But that crisis is real. As my brother stated: if someone told you that the election is the "most important" back in 1928 you would've laughed but you would take it seriously in 1932, 1936, 1940, and 1944. Well, that's where we are now.

3. Some comments about Romney-Ryan. I'm running out of time, but I want to quickly state that the choice of Ryan was a recognition by the GOP that the race was basically lost and they wanted to galvanize the base for the down-ticket races. The GOP will keep the House, and they could have gotten the Senate if the modern-day KKK (aka the Tea Party GOP) didn't nominate rape-enthusiasts in key races.

I'll say more about this after the returns come in. I pray to God we'll be saved from the horrors of 2000 and 2004.

Tonight's Election, part 1

I haven't written much about the election tonight but, naturally, I have much to say.
  1. I endorse Obama 100% for president. It's a no-brainer. The GOP has become a party of actual evil. It's depressing how stark the choice is.

  2. I can dan l'kaf zhut for the frum Jews who want to support Romney, but to do give them the benefit of the doubt I need to accept that (a) they aren't racist (a tough argument to make since I have found out, to my horror, many many passive racists in the community, (b) that the vote for Romney is based on a faulty belief that either Obama is bad for Israel (which he's not) or Romney will be better for Israel (even less chance for that, see below); and that (c) the frum voter is utterly devoid of political literacy, critical thinking, or understanding of the 613 mitzvot.  When I said the GOP was evil, that wasn't an exaggeration.  The Onion captured it spot-on "Romney commits gaffe by reading the GOP platform out loud."
  3. Look, Obama made some serious rookie mistakes about Israel but I rationalize it away thusly: (a) first, it's Hilary's fault.  While that's a joke, it's also very true. She's been a terrible Secretary of State, which was predictable given that she's a female Mitt Romney (see below for why); (b) much of the blame of Israel-US tension must lay at the feet of Netanyahu and Avigdor Lieberman.  I am a Likudnik, but those guys are just clowns.  Bibi alienates *everybody* and Lieberman is a crude fascist; (c) lastly, let's remember that nothing actually bad happened to Israel under Obama.  As opposed to under Bush - i.e. the Iraq war debacle, the propping up of Hamas, just look under my tag for "Bush Bad for Israel."   Considering that there's no chance that Romney will be any different from Bush, the choice is clear.

  4. My support for Obama is not because he's black, but a certain amount of my fervor for his re-election comes from wanting to poke racists in the eye.  The racism that has been uncovered these past years has been truly horrible.   And racism is something every Jew should be committed to destroy, both because its evil and because we're second on the 'lynch list' of the Obama Haters.  This is something my Republican Jewish friends just don't understand... most of them have lived their whole lives in the Northeast, in major Jewish centers, and they just delude themselves into thinking that they would even be considered Republicans anywhere else in America.   Some of them buy into the whole GOP nonsense as a result, without realizing that a Mississippi Republican white male would be as happy to shoot and skin them as cross the street.

    Since I believe his reelection will further crush the scummy crest of racism in this country, or more importantly a Obama defeat will inflate the racists horrible worldview, we really need him to be re-elected.

  5. That said, Obama's race is one reason why both 2008 and 2012 are so close.  If a white male from a Southern state were on top of the ticket right now, this would be near to a blowout.  Of course, that's a bit of a flaky subjunctive, because I could argue that (a) the reason why the GOP has been taken over my the Legion of Doom is largely because they actively seek the groundswell grassroots of the 47% (made up number) of Americans who are irredeemably racist.  In order to get people to forget just how world-screwingly bad Bush was, the GOP seized on the scumbag underbelly of America, and that forced them to try to destroy everything about Obama.  Potentially, a White Southern Male Democrat incumbent would be facing a credible Republican party instead of this ragged mess of fundamentalist hoodlums.

  6. Many people don't get the point, though, about how racism has kept the GOP in fighting contention.  Considering the GOP has declared war on women, gays, immigrants and science, the new generation of voters are being shown that the GOP is unable to legislate or govern.  In 2016, if the Democrat is white, the GOP will really find out how sunk they are.  West Virginia will suddenly be Blue again (and possibly a few other states, just look at what Clinton won in 1996:

  7. The GOP is thus enjoying a temporary reprieve for their descent into evil.  Will they continue this?  One way to understand this is in historical terms, is the GOP in 2012 the Democrats of 1924 or 1972.  '72 is more recent and thus more familiar.  Basically, the anti-war insane liberal wing of the Democrats took over the national machinery and basically rendered all Democratic nominees from 1972 to 1988 unelectable.  This is a long discussion (and I think I've covered the ground before) but if given half a chance, Democratic primary voters seem to prefer vapid bland technocrats like John Kerry if given half a chance.  Clinton was able to break that mold and the party is now a very robust big tent.  Case in point, Obama has better foreign policy chops than the GOP, that hearkens back to the FDR-JFK era. To apply to the GOP - have they gone so far off the deep-end that they will be extremely out-of-step from the US mindset for 20 years (starting with 2008, even though the full descent into Lawful Evil was in 2004)?

    The 1924 Democrats are another example. After Wilson, the Democrats descending into anarchy. The 1924 Democratic convention was dominated by the KKK which is the context for Will Rogers' famous quip: "I am not a member of an organized political party. I am a Democrat." The election was a blowout, and a specific reaction to the racist filth of the Democrats. See how the map below is like an inverse of our current map, with the Demos carrying only the solid South:

    The lesson for the Republicans is that they can recover like the Democrats did in 1932 - by repudiating their own KKK (the Tea Party) and embracing normal policies
I have more to say before the returns come in and that will be in the next post.

Hurricane Aftermath

So we got hit by the Superstorm Sandy and were out of power for a few days. Compared to everyone else, we got off rather easy. Meaning that while we lost power, and thus heat and our refrigerated food, we didn't sustain any house damage. The crazy part was that our family had just spent three days on a family trip to Upstate New York. We left Friday and returned Sunday afternoon... just in time to batten down the hatches in preparation for the worst natural disaster to hit our region in a century.

I kept repeating to myself that whatever stress I was feeling (and there was a lot) that my children were having it 10 times worse - because they don't have power knowledge or perspective.

After the power was out for a few days, we chose to go to my parents house in Maryland because (a) my kids' school was closed, (b) my wife's school was closed, (c) and my wife was slated to go to two conferences in 5 days. We drove down on Wednesday and stayed there until Sunday afternoon. Again, my kids were being whiplashed all around the country and it must have been hard on them (but I tried to make up for it with candy, heh).

The latest wrinkle is that 8:40 last night, I was able to look at my email and found out that the water treatment plant was having a catastrophic failure and a boil water advisory was taking effect at 9:00 pm. That was the cause of a major freakout because I had only a few minutes to fill up a tub and bottles. And I seriously just HATE the idea that water, the substance of life and cleanliness, can just be rendered dirty and poisonous. The town seems blase about it, but it was the last straw for me. The boil water warning is still in effect and I have to say that its insane. I didn't expect this level of incompetence from this state, but I guess the reputation of New Jersey is well deserved.

Monday, November 05, 2012

Steelers vs. Giants

Despite the best efforts of the refs (no exaggeration, it was worse than the scab referees), the Steelers beat the Giants like hosanna-bundles (too obscure?).   More, possibly, later.  But here's a great pic (from the WDVE guys) to sum up the game, captioned "Terrified Eli":

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Steelers Update

I think I can speak for Steelers fans in my reaction to Sunday night's win: whew. Some further thoughts, especially related to the previous post:
  1. Again, like every Steeler fan, I'm sure the first quarter and a half (first 3/8ths?) of the game made your stomach grow cold. Boy was I scared. How many times do we need to (a) commit penalties on the kick-returns?, (b) drop passes?, (c) just suck on defense? It was terrible. I was having flashbacks to NY Met games. But then, somehow they got their act together about 8 minutes into the second quarter (after 2 turnovers, 3 billion dropped TDs, and being down 3 to 14).
  2. Willy Colon takes credit for getting the team back in gear. He claims that he saw the Offense be dejected and lacking the eye of the tiger (I'm severely paraphrasing) and so he decided he needed to fire them up by some brutal blocking (see below)
  3. Before the game Roethlisberger told the Offense that they need to take the responsibility at the end of the games, especially when they were in a one-possession lead, to NOT DEPEND ON THE DEFENSE. This definitely has been the Steelers moo, and rightly so, for years.* This new attitude is both mature and smart - our offense is now our strength, so use that. And this change could be one reason why we won.
  4. Related to that, I have to give Tomlin credit. He always says that he plays to win, not to "not lose." So in the 4th Quarter, after an awesome 32 yard run reached the Bengals 8, the Steelers didn't go for the kill. We we 7 points ahead, could have made it 14 points, but instead they went for the victory kneel-down. It wasn't greedy (and despite my comment a few days ago, it's not what the Patriots would've done). It was classy.
  5. Ike Taylor finally did his job well. I don't think we can rely on it too much, though. While A.J. Green is a great player, and Ike did shut him down, the Bengals demonstrated what happens when a team has only 1 good receiver. If you have man coverage of that 1 guy (did they double him?) then you can shut him down. I do hope it's a trend, but I won't bet on it.
  6. Another issue is the neutralization of Harrison. The Sunday night guys did a good analysis and showed that Harrison's knee injury has severely reduced his effectiveness (see graphic below - last year he was able to slip by tackles with a 40 degree angle; now he's reduced to a 61). If he can't get back up to form, I don't know if he'll be anything better than an average linebacker.
  7. Aside from the first 3/8ths, we reduced our crippling penalties for a second week in a row.
So how did we win? Besides the above, I think of 2 main keys:
  1. No Injuries = I don't know how to keep that trend going, but I believe that when there's a major mid-game injury (and with us it's always multiples) the team doesn't adjust well. In this game we had none, and that's great (and a key to winning). See the graphic, again from the SNF guys, about who is already missing.

  2. Next Man Up = Starter in Waiting; so let them start. Related to point 1, I've felt for a long time that the Steelers get into big trouble when they insist on starting a fragile player, just to see him break down mid-game and since we don't adjust well on the fly (probably because of the new OC and loss of major team captains, see previous post), we fall apart. But when our Next Man starts that also means he practices and trains during the week. Which means he plays well! Look at our O-Line. We lost 2 starters last week but despite that the O-Line was spectacular against the Bengals! Despite a back-up center (who's really good but not pro-bowl Pouncey level) and a flappable rookie (Mike Adams), we had only 3 sacks and - crucially - over 100 yards rushing from our 3rd string running back! Is Dwyer better than Redman/Mendenhall? Maybe. But no RB will be good behind an uncoordinated line!

    I think we're going to keep making this mistake, though. Tomlin seems to want to start the "best" players (remember 2011 when Big Ben played against SF even though he was immobilized?), even if they aren't fully healed. But the Bengals game shows that practice and preparation are worth more than a wounded pro-bowler.
I hope the trend continues. What we can hope for is for the major injuries to sort out by the last third of the season. I.e. if Polamalu actually heals up, and if Harrison's knee gets better, and if our first-rounder DeCastro heals, then we'll have our best players for the crunch time. And like the Giants last year - the issue isn't a stellar record, but who is healthy at the end of the season.

* I was just watching a taped game from 2009, Green Bay vs. Steelers (12-20, Week 15), and the difference in defense in huge! Back then we were swarming, fast moving, smothering. In 2012 we are old, possibly wiser, but not that scary looking.

Friday, October 19, 2012

Steelers Thoughts

My beloved Steelers are playing like a bunch of sick nuns. In general, the AFC seems to be in big trouble, and I can explain that (see below) but the Steelers woes are more serious than the general malaise of the conference. I've seen every game and the offense looks robust - until they make a dozen penalties - and the defense looks porous and pathetic. What are my options as a fan?

Give Up:
Steelers fans are generally used to winning. That's not why I'm so loyal (I'm a Met fan too), my allegiance comes from my attachment to my birthplace. I've moved around so often in my life (upwards of 20 moves) that I think my Steeler fanaticism is my way of maintaining a consistent identity. And I like Black and Gold.

Anyway, we're used to winning. We're tied for most Super Bowls appearances (8), and we have the most wins (6). What's also impressive is that the Steelers have been to more conference championships than any team (15! runners up are Cowboys with 14, 49ers with 13, and Raiders with 11). And 20 Division championships AFC Central: 1972, 1974, 1975, 1976, 1977, 1978, 1979, 1983, 1984, 1992, 1994, 1995, 1996, 1997, 2001 AFC North: 2002, 2004, 2007, 2008, 2010 (all data, and links, thanks to Wiki).

However, we've had our losing streaks. The late-Noll era, especially 1984-1992, is especially bleak. But even in the Roethlisberger era, when we went to the Superbowl 3 times in 6 years, we've slumped every third year. And that's this year. So I can be fatalistic and say we're due.

Another response is to recognize a few structural problems

1. The whole NFL is in trouble because of the referee-strike.

As I said in the previous post, I have no sympathy for the NFL owners. They screwed up spectacularly with the referee union. As a result the first 3 games of the season were not a reflection of each team's abilities.

Yeah, I can hear the yahoo say that it was the same for each team, or that official stats are the way they are, and that I'm just making excuses. To rebut this idiocy, I will remind y'all about the 2000 presidential election.

We all know, and presumably hate, that the 2000 win was given to George W Bush, but the facts said that Al Gore won. Bush "won" because he gamed the system, played the refs - as its called - and was able to sneak past the finish line. Yes, it's a win, but it teaches nothing about how politics normally (and ideally) works... since Bush cheated.

Anyone who looks at the lead-up to the election to learn from GWB about how to win is making a mistake because everything he did before election day was bad enough to make him lose. The only lesson for people who want to win is to know that you can make all sorts of mistakes and then cheat at the critical moment.

For example, if you use 2000 data to try to predict poll-number prediction for eventual victory, then you should use the data as if Gore won - because he did. To do otherwise is to fundamentally not understand cause and effect.

So here we are in week 6 and many pundits are saying how the AFC is bad because only 2 teams are above 500. Yet 3 is half of 6, and those 3 games are not acceptable data. So we really have no idea how good any of the teams are here in the early weeks because everyone's record is too loaded with noise. Wait a few more weeks, so to dilute the 3 games, and we can get a better picture of each team.

2. That said, the Steelers are pretty bad on the road.

We've played 2 games since the referee's have been reinstated and we lost to a "bad" team, the Titans. True, they could actually be pretty good, given the 3 week problem (dagnabit data) but probably not. This is why we fans are scared. I felt this way all last year but we still managed to finish 12-4 (and lost 2 of the first 4 games). However, it was the offense that was bad last year (bye bye Arians) and the defense kept us alive all year. Yet, by the playoffs, our defense disintegrated. The loss to Tebow was on the hands of the defense, O did fine.

I can make excuses. Out of the 5 games we played, there's an excuse for each bad performance:
1-3: refs
4: rusty from the bye
5: short week (thurs night game).

I can also bring up the catastrophic string of injuries. Yeah, all teams suffer, but gevalt! The Steelers are old, yeah, but one reason is because we lose so many people. In preseason we lost our 2012 round 1 and 3 draft picks to injury and every week we lose a pro-bowler or key starter. It's downright scary.

We would have won last week, seriously, if we didn't lose - in one game - our pro-bowl Center, 2 other O-lineman, and our 2 starting Running backs. ONE GAME! We already were missing our hall-of-fame Safety (Troy Polamalu) and the key matchup of Batman-Robin (aka Harrison and Woodley)

Most commenters (e.g. Bleacher) ignore the above factors or dismiss them as whining (cf. 2000 election above).

However, nobody has mentioned something we were all talking about just few months ago. Again, we want to know why there's been so many penalties - ascribed to lack of discipline - and inconsistent defense.

Let's remember that this past Spring the Steelers fired: (1) the offensive coordinator (deservedly) and (2) all three player captains! Offense captain Hines Ward, Defense captain James Farrior, and special teams captain Arnaz Battle.

With leadership gutted (plus major starters injured, especially on defense) no wonder it's taken so long to get disciplined! A new OC can take a long time to get a handle on things; Farrior was a leader and the defense play-caller.

I wonder if leadership is the cause of the massacre of injuries. Bad coaching can lead to safety ignorance or something, especially on the O-Line (Sean Kugler has now had 3 years of annihilated O-Lines! I'm suspicious)

Culture Problem

Another major issue is that even if we keep our current players un-injured, we probably won't make it to the playoffs. The defense is too old and our cornerback problem is acute. Our running-backs are mediocre and they won't go anywhere with the craptascular O-Line we seem cursed with Ironically, the only part of the team which is superb is the passing attack. We've got a top-5 QB, 3 great WR, and a great TE. Logic says we should emphasize our strengths. Ah, but then there's Steeler Culture.

We've always been known as a top-notch defense plus a grinding running attack. And, to be honest, that's how I like it. It's old-school, yadda yadda. To do the opposite, to be a gun-slinging team, is to become the Patriots!

Sadly enough, we may need to become the Patriots until we can draft or buy new players for our key problems (e.g. corners, Nose Tackle, O-Line).

I have to admit, though, that even that may be too much. I have to admit that our offense could be so successful because other teams haven't had time to analyze our new OC's style. Haley seems to change his tactics based on his personnel, so our opponents haven't been able to predict him yet. By the last third of the season, our offense could unravel like our special-teams and defense.

Maybe the first option above (accepting the 3rd-year slump) is really the most plausible.

NFL Thoughts

I ask myself (so you don't have to) how I can be an NFL fan despite all the injuries and other related scandals. Well, I'll answer it.

1. I must be clear that I am a fan of the National Football League, not football itself. I have actual disinterest to antipathy for high school and college football. NFL is a job; football for HS and college is a dangerous and even nihilistic perversion of institutions of learning. Colleges and HS should be about education and not sports. The only silver lining - so I've heard - is that sports are fund-raisers for the school... but there's a reason why we've outlawed child labor.

One can argue that the NFL relies on HS and college players to feed the team rosters. I counter-argue that if nobody played football until they were an adult, and were playing it as a job (with risks-benefits) and not the virtual-servitude of NCAA, then it'd be fine for me. Let kids play basketball until graduation and then try to learn the NFL as rookies. The system can change.

2. NFL injuries are a concern, however since I'm in the upper middle class I can separate my entertainment prodution from consumption. My cohort will never be football players and so I put the players in the category of blue-collar workers.

3. I thus consign the injuries to the fact that most blue collar jobs are dangerous, which is why we assign it so much nobility, and people seem to go into the jobs with eyes open. While the military is a solid comparison, it is unseemly to compare any job with the sacred defense professions (no joke) of (a) military, (b) police, and (c) firefighting.

But compare football to coal-mining, iron working, etc and I see the threat level to be the same.

4. What I am concerned with are: (a) injuries to children playing football, which has been exacerbated by the (b) complete indifference to injuries by the white-collar administration at every level. I'm a Democrat because I'm a second-generation Jewish-American which means my grandparents were blue collar (and big Union people) so I have little sympathy for NFL owners, college football, etc.

5. The problem with football hasn't been the terrible injuries as much as the way (a) the owners force the players to ignore the injuries in order to keep their jobs and (b) the owners then discard injured players, without health-care or pension, when they are no longer useful.

My description is not skewed, I think all would agree the facts are accurate, yet when I put it this way, it makes the NFL (and their disgusting clones in the college and HS world) sound like sweatshop owners of 100 years ago. And they are.

So I watch the sport because I support the class of blue-collar workers to get paid for their skills and I decry the owners who treat them terribly. I also wear clothes made in China.

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Newsweek to Die

The Times is reporting that Newsweek is closing (Newsweek Will Cease Print Publication at End of Year - They deserve to (I've been critical of their crap for years). The added special twist? "Tina Brown, the founder of the Daily Beast Web site and the driving force behind its merger with Newsweek..." Tina Brown is the hack who almost destroyed the New Yorker until she was canned. I see she set her sights lower, and succeeded. Good riddance to bad medicine on both.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

What I said

Nate Silver of the invaluable 538 (and NYTimes) says in his Oct. 16 column: :
potentially suggestive that some of Mr. Romney’s gains since the Denver debate reflect the increased willingness of those who might be inclined to vote for him to participate in surveys, rather than very many Americans having changed their minds.
This was precisely what I said after the Obama numbers started falling after the first debate. It was the only answer for such a swift fall. Hey, maybe I learned something from my time in SOC after all.

Friday, July 20, 2012


Adam Gopnik one of the best New Yorker writers, says in reaction to the latest mass murder:
Of course, we don’t know, and perhaps never will, what exactly “made him” do what he did; but we know how he did it. Those who fight for the right of every madman and every criminal to have as many people-killing weapons as they want share moral responsibility for what happened last night—as they will when it happens again. And it will happen again.
Yes. This happens way too much in America. One thing we need to realize is that there are many prices we pay, as Americans, for our freedom and Federalism. We are a huge country, and each state is different enough from the other that what is a blessing for some areas is seen as a curse in the others. The problem with the gun situation is that the people who think they are a blessing seem to rarely be the victims.

As a country we seemed to believe that we would restrict our freedom when it comes to air travel and new immigrants in order to not have another 9/11. Yet we seem determined to retain the same freedom - for guns - that will allow domestic terrorism to run amok. I believe the same impulse is behind both aspects of this paradox - the same people who ruin air travel, and who never liked immigrants in the first place - are the same people who demand the guns. The impulse is either myopic xenophobia (which we don't own the patent for), or the adolescent need to have someone else pay for your pleasures.

America has at least two major cultures that at times conveniently line up to the red-state blue-state divide. But suffice it to say that the reason why the US will never truly be an enlightened moral leader of the free world has to do with the burden of the South (and, if necessary, all the Red States). They are the ones who (a) are the worst Xenophobes, (b) hate education in favor of backwards religion [note to surfers, I am a clergyman], (c) want to hit their own kids and lock up other kids in prison for adult crimes, (d) enjoy the death penalty (not support, these guys love it), and the list goes on.

Like many things, American exceptionalism and supremacy - something I grew up believing and want to exist - was a historical necessity during the Cold War. The world was divided into slave and free, seen as Communist vs. Non (South Africa for some reason was part of the 'free' team) and we were the biggest, baddest of the non-Commies. It helped that we weren't damaged by World War II. But even more crucial is that we are a huge unified land mass with crucial natural resources and bordered by two oceans. We have plenty of room for crops and industry, and being under one government allows a stupendous synergy for business. This means we'll never be out of the top 5 world powers - as long as we stay unified, see Russia and China for proof of this. And we're better off than those 2 because much of our land is useable and we have warm-water oceans.

Our might made us right, and thank God we were on the side of freedom. But one aspect of our freedom is that we allow less than half of the population residing in states that due to Federalism give them disproportionate electoral power. These 'freedom loving' states hate much of the world, and distrust anyone who doesn't look like themselves (case in point: Obama hatred... do you believe that people still think he's stupid? You can call him arrogant, aloof, even foreign - there's proof for all of that- but stupid? It makes sense only if you are an inveterate racist, of which there are many).

Is this the freedom we want in America? So far, our vision of freedom not only ensures we have an insane health care system, but also mass murder of our children.

Thursday, July 19, 2012

How Bush Seriously Hurt Israel

I've been thinking more about the anti-Zionist jackholes on the Left, specifically my recent confrontation with Robert Wright and his ilk (and by that I mean his commenters). Since I try to be wise, I have refrained from commenting on most websites, but this is hard because like anyone born before the internet revolution, I treat emails/blogs as if they were personal communications. If a person said something to me personally what they normally put in a blog, or email, I would react with verbal violence. That was the world until 2000 or so.

Before the internet: to insult someone is to commit an act of violence and can be responded with equal venom. But the internet changed the etiquette in 2 ways: (1) the commonly recognized "internet jackass identity takeover" (aka Online disinhibition effect), which is, to quote the Wiki: "loosening (or complete abandonment) of social restrictions and inhibitions that would otherwise be present in normal face-to-face interaction during interactions with others on the Internet." People know about this, right? It's pretty common.

However, I am claiming that there's an important balance to this, which is (2) that you will interact with people on the internet that you will never encounter in normal life. This is true on philosophical and practical levels. Philosophically, you can potentially meet all 3 billion internet users while online - and in real life you probably have interacted with, at most, 5000 people (more if you're a public figure). But practically it's true because the disembodied words you read could be coming from a raging, drooling lunatic that you would run from in real life. As the iconic 1993 New Yorker cartoon stated: On the Internet, Nobody Knows You're a Dog.

There's probably more to add - I have my sociology knowledge confirmed now, as I have achieved my terminal MA in SOC - about how people who comment on websites are more likely to not understand polite human interaction and/or are partisan shills who in either case will be more extreme, rude, and belligerent than anyone you would barely associate with.

You may ask what does this have to do with George Bush and Israel? Well, I have been wondering why the left-wing hates Israel so very very much. I have a few theories, some I will try to publish one of these days. But here are a few of them (I'm sure I've talked about a lot of these things before, so I'm sorry to repeat myself):
  1. The current government of Israel is one of the worst right-wing groups in Israel's history. I actually believe this. Bibi has aligned himself with Avigdor Lieberman and the Haredi parties, and the glimmer of hope that we had for rationality - the joining of Kadima to the gov't - was quashed yesterday over a Haredi issue. So, just as the anti-American sentiment skyrocketed while Bush was in office, so anti-Israeli sentiment has under Bibi-Lieberman. It's sad but true. And just as people all over the world asked in 2004 how Americans could be so dumb, painting all of us with that brush, so Israelis are painted with the anti-Likud brush.

  2. The key problem is this: Bush and crew committed two sins that the American left will not forget (for 15 more years, if the post-Vietnam amnesia is any indicator): (a) we attacked Iraq under false pretenses, and (b) Bush supporters, especially the shadowy 'neocons' who trumpeted for war, put pro-Israelism as the centerpiece of their rhetoric and policy positions.

    Now, as I've said many times, Bush was a terrible 'friend' of Israel. He (i) destabilized the region with the botched attack on Iraq, which eliminated the historic buffer on Iran, and also convincing Iran (and every other Axis of Evil card-member) that they'd need nukes to prevent another crazy invasion. Bush (ii) forced Palestinian elections which led to the legitimation of Hamas, and (iii) whenever it was convenient, Bush held Israel's feet to the fire for concessions.

    Despite the truth of all this, there are many Jews (mostly Orthodox) who believe that Bush was great and that we need more Bush wackiness. So the Left has a legitimate belief that "pro-Israel" people can be aligned with Bush policies.

  3. The two problems come together in this way: The Left believes that just like Iraq was pumped up to be a threat when they weren't, so is Iran. And just like the supporters of the Iraq war were also big supporters of Israel, so are the people who talk about Iran's threat. And it's not helpful that the Press constantly describes Iran's potential nukes as primarily a problem because of Israel.

  4. Now, you might say, that Iran is truly a threat, unlike Iraq. And that Iranian nukes are feared by all the countries in the region, as the Wikileaks documents showed. And that Iranian nukes would be a direct threat to the US, whether its in our military bases, or citizens traveling abroad, or even to the 'homeland.' Yes, all three points are correct. And those who don't understand the 3 points are dangerously ignorant (or purposefully so due to their hatred of Jews, cf. Mel Gibson). And that's where we bring it all together:

  5. Because (A) Bush completely invented the Iraqi threat out of thin air, because it was an elaborate con-job that involved the Defense Dept, the State Dept, and the CIA, and because (B) Bush followers focus so intently on Israel, and because (C) the current Israeli government displays the same belligerent idiocy as Bush's = that allows generally low info or low concern people (i.e. 99% of Americans) to think that the Iran situation is the same BS as Iraq in 2002.
Again, the Leftist anti-Zionist idiots are contemptible and I don't exonerate their hate. But I believe that Bush's policies made the current situation that much harder for those of us who want *all* Americans to take Iran seriously.

Moreover, the feeling that Israel somehow benefited from the Bush evil, and that they want more of the same from America, is allowing latent anti-Semitism to rise in America, and to give legitimacy to the rabid anti-Semites, under the guise of "Israel criticism."


I've been thinking about the value of journalists vs. columnists, sparked by a number of outrages and incidents over the past few months. I've been studying journalism for close to 20 years now (e.g. I wrote my senior thesis on the subject after studying with Roger Mudd) and I believe strongly in the 1st Amendment, a free press (sorry: A Free Press), and the need to keep tabs on government & unregulated business, and generally to be the voice of the populace.

Sadly, as I've pointed out often the commercialization of the press has brought down this mighty tool. And while I agree that we're actually living through a great age of information, there is something fundamentally flawed with a press who needs to be interested in sales as opposed to their Constitutionally protected and necessary role. Especially since all the journalists I read and know all believe that what they do is 'speak truth to power' or something like it.

That's why it's key to distinguish between a reporter and a columnist. Both could be under the category of 'journalist', but a reporter appears to still be the role for the fact-gatherer. The columnist is the opinion spewer. And what is clear is that they operate under different grundnorms.

The reporter is an academic-lite - both fields are ostensibly about amassing expertise, knowledge, facts and then publishing (reporting) them. Reporters are held to a lower level of book knowledge but they are to make up for it with street knowledge and with speed. The grundnorm is both cases is the desire for fact. This ability to acquire and publish fact is the real freedom of the American system and the keystone of our liberty: the 1st Amendment (which, even more than the text of the Constitution, is the most important contribution to world history).

A columnist, however, is in the politics or entertainment field and their grundnorm, besides the lust for power/money could be the "ethic" of free expression. This is a more recent "ethic" - it's like the 1960s hippie BS mixed with the 1970s+ self-esteem movement. Whatever its source, it is ugly. And that is what I see in the work of most online columnists (and probably those in print, but I almost never read a print newspaper unless its Shabbos and I'm at someone else's house).

Columnists are definitely a scourge of our democracy but, as my vaunted 1st Amendment asserts, I need to protect their rights. But I can still condemn them.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Stage 4 Sullivanism = Stage 1 Gibson

So, Wright has quickly moved into a new category. I don't know if it's a new 'stage' of Sullivan, but Wright's reaction to the murder of Israeli tourists in Bulgaria is to claim - citing some an unlinked person - that Israel has been attacking Iran *in order to* have Iran kill Israelis *in order to* allow Israel to go to war:
US officials have privately expressed concern that one of the purposes of Israeli attacks in Iran has been to generate an Iranian response that could serve as a casus belli for Israel. That way, Israel could target Iran's nuclear facilities without paying the heavy political cost of starting a preventive war.
Got it? Wright believes that Israel desperately and un-reasoningly wants war. As if there's no 'casus belli' between Iran and Israel already, given the constant state of attacks from Iranian proxies against the State of Israel and Jews all over the world. Nope, to haters like Wright, the only reason for Israel is what Wright's putative hero, Mel Gibson, said: Jews are the cause for all wars. Enough. The Atlantic needs to get rid of this guy.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Stage 3 Sullivanism

The Atlantic is one of my daily reads but they have had an irritating tendency to employ and promote some idiot columnists (a dirty word in my house, as in "hey who was the columnist who spilled bat guano on my tuxedo and didn't clean it up?!.") But the worst they have, as of now, is Robert Wright, as I mentioned here.

He exhibits the classic trappings of a columnist: many opinions, little fact, and a whopping great ego. Now, I too have a big ego, so my complaint isn't as much about the size but about it leads ignorant fools (aka 'columnists') into aggressive solipsism.

For a wonderful example of how a columnist can convince himself that he can and should comment on anything, see Wright's set of 3 columns from July 2 to July 7. The first, entitled, Turkey's 'Islamists' Remarkably Like Republicans. I was intrigued enough to read it despite my near allergic reaction to journalistic idiocy. Naturally, as soon as I delved in I got brain hives. How are the Turks like Republicans? Well Rob discovers that the right-wing party in charge of Turkey has a coalition made up of uneducated religious fanatics as well as the (de-facto secular) moneyed elite.

What's galling is not that he's right, it's the fact that he finds it news that a right-wing party is made up of these groups. As any student of modern History will tell you: ALL RIGHT WING PARTIES ARE MADE UP OF THESE GROUPS. It's what right-wing stands for: nationalism. Speaking as an academic, I find that I won't comment on a subject if I don't feel knowledgeable enough. That fear is excised from the typical columnist.

Then, soon after I discovered what a complete raging idiot Wright is - as if being anti-Israel wasn't a tip-off - his next column was entitled: "What This Higgs Boson Thing Really Means." So now the ignoramous about Mideast politics, and history, was switching to physics? This was confirmed by the next column title: "Higgs Boson Continues to Not Make Sense."

Who the hell does he think he is? OK, so cutting-edge particle physics doesn't make sense. To you. And that's news? The hubris is astounding.

However, I didn't pause in my exam prep just to vent about Robert Wright's past idiocy, as he graced us with some new idiocy, back in his 'expertise' in hating Israel.

His column is entitled: Neo-McCarthyism. What's his problem now? Well he claims in his first line that "The charge of anti-Semitism is starting to lose its force" - and this is entirely predicable for Wright to say because, as the title of this post states, Wright is at the third stage of becoming Andrew Sullivan.

Sullivan used to be a decent read but at some point his utterly confused mind decided that he should hate Israel. And when Sully hates, he hates. It was stunning to watch. At first, I just checked it off to Sully being British - and UK has a built-in anti-Semitism that's hard to fathom. But now that Wright is following the same path, I can say that there's a real pattern to the descent.

Stage 1 Sullivanism is to start by being a columnist - which means to prize your self-satisfied ego, avoid facts and research, and to believe that whatever opinion pops in your skull is worthy for everyone to believe (and unbelievers are heretics to the Pantheon of You). Yet not all columnists become Israel haters, and not all Sullivans are columnists (Mearshimer and Walt come to mind). The egoism is the path to darkness here: the person is question needs to not have anything to do with Israel or non-secular Jews. Israel is the 'other.' And if the person was raised with a religion, it helps for that religion to be a good solid elder-brother hating Christianity (Sully is Catholic, Wright says he was raised bible-belt Baptist).

At stage 1, the columnist will see Israel as the embodiment of what they hate in their own lives. This is the root of anti-Semitism as well, for those keeping score. Moreover, these guys will have sentimentality as their prime ethical impulse - if something makes them feel bad, then that thing itself is bad. So moral difficulties get reduced to the solipsism that governs their working life.

Stage 2 Sullivanism is when your creeping dislike of the Jewish state makes you frequently quote with approval other, more rabid, anti-Semites and to use their rhetoric (e.g. "Israel Lobby" or "Israel Firsters" or "Mein Kampf"). The common people to quote are Mearshimer and Walt, Andrew Sullivan, and - increasingly - Peter Beinart. Now Beinart isn't a clear anti-Semite, but I've seen his views be repeated so often by the Sullivans of the Internet, that I believe approval of him is a sign of anti-Zionism/Semitism. And since Beinart is almost certainly a self-hating Jew - he loves himself, but the hate the Jews that will make the goyim reject him. Quite standard policy for the self-hater.

Stage 3 Sullivanism is when you lose your understanding of anti-Semitism completely. Basically, in Wright's column, he weaves an utterly confusing story of he-said-this-about-what-someone-else-said-about-another-guy, that I have no idea who is what. Suffice it to say that Wright is just so fed-up of people using the term "anti-Semite" that he rules that it is losing its meaning. Oh, and since using the term 'anti-semite' is meant to 'silence' someone, ipso facto calling somoene an anti-Semite is an act of McCarthyism.

To review some important facts:

  1. Robert Wright is not Jewish. He is a White Anglo-Saxon (ex) Protestant. He is a prominent journalist columnist. He has power, probably money, and is part of the complete majority of US History starting from the 17th Century. He has no place to determine when a historically persecuted minority is allowed to complain about their treatment. This is a self-test for everybody: if you think the historical victims of organized mass murder are 'too sensitive' then you may be part of the problem.

  2. I should remind everyone that anti-Semitism, like most hatreds, are public health problems. There was a point in history when anti-Semitism was leading cause of death for Jews in Europe. It is one of the main causes in Israel today. It is creeping back up in Europe today as well. Anti-Semitism is real and it kills.

  3. Anti-semitism is not only those with arm-bands and guns. The Holocaust happened because most people in Europe and America felt that it was OK to eliminate the Jews from their midst. If you need a historical note, recall back to the 1980s when most people openly believed that AIDS was fine because it would kill of only gay people. Hatred kills even in its small forms. And bigotry is never good in any dose.

  4. Censorship and McCarthyism only apply to the government, not to your fellow citizens. The government telling you to shut-up is censorship, my telling you to shut up is free speech.

  5. The reason why Wright, a now stage-3 Sullivanite, *thinks* it's McCarthyism is because he is so egotistical that ANYTHING that reduces his ability to shriek, or the impact of those shrieks - such as someone thinking he's wrong - then he considers that censorship.

  6. For cases in point, see the post-Mein-Kampfing of Mearshimer and Walt who just hate it when they are told by private organizations that they are anti-Semites; or Norman Finkelstein, or Tony Judt, or other well-established "misunderstood anti-Zionists."
Ultimately, the reason why Wright claims that "anti-semitism" is losing force is because all the people who he agrees with, starting with himself, are being called anti-Semites. And since he doesn't think of himself as a bigot, ipso facto, the term is meaningless.

Well, OK, the term may be meaningless to Wright, or to others who use anti-Semitie in the same way as 'racist' to mean "a wholly unredeemable caveman," but for those of us who could be killed by this disease, the term still carries some meaning. Wright cares about the term only insofar as it can affect a reputation or 'discourse.' He has no idea - because he's the guy in charge and has nothing really to fear - that people like him are the reason why my relatives were murdered in Europe and are killed around the world til this day.

Monday, May 21, 2012

Two Disco Giants Die

In my advancing years, I've come to appreciate Disco as a sporadically talented offshoot of Funk (and undisputed good). And over the past few days, two of the very greatest of the genre passed away: Donna Summer and Robin Gibb.

Below are two songs that I think are apporpriate for my nostalgic tribute to great musicians. For Donna Summer, I can't put the 17 minute "I Feel Love" so this is "Dim All the Lights"

For the Bee Gees, it's hard to choose. While their best song is "Stayin' Alive" not only is that inappropriate for an obituary, it's also overdone. I've chosen two, because they made so many good songs (I'm not joking - only a churlish ideologue can deny the quality of the Bee Gees). Here's "Tragedy" and "Inside and Out"


Inside and Out

Tuesday, May 08, 2012

Written Comps Tomorrow

After months of frantic reading, I am primed for my comprehensive exams tomorrow in Jewish Studies. I have never read so many books so thoroughly in so short a time before. I may have book poisoning. Sure, I read constantly, but in the past when I found that a text was idiotic, I would stop reading it. I don't have that choice with comps!

For your use and mine, here's my reading list:

Biblical Medicine (6)

1. Avalos, Hector, Sarah J. Melcher, and Jeremy Schipper. 2007. This Abled Body: Rethinking Disabilities in Biblical Studies. Atlanta: Society of Biblical Literature.

2. Avalos, Hector. 1995. Illness and health care in the ancient Near East : the role of the temple in Greece, Mesopotamia, and Israel. Atlanta, Ga.: Scholars Press.

3. Brettler, Marc Zvi. 2005. How to read the Bible. Philadelphia, PA: Jewish Publication Society.

4. Droge, Arthur J., and James D. Tabor. 1992. A noble death : suicide and martyrdom among Christians and Jews in antiquity. San Francisco: HarperSanFrancisco.

5. Levenson, Jon Douglas. 1993. The death and resurrection of the beloved son : the transformation of child sacrifice in Judaism and Christianity. New Haven: Yale University Press.

6. Milgrom, Jacob. 1991. Leviticus 1-16 : a new translation with introduction and commentary. New York: Doubleday. Pp. 742-1008 (chapters 12-15)

Medicine, Science & Judaism (6)

1. Bleich, J. David. 1998. Bioethical dilemmas : a Jewish perspective. Hoboken, N.J.: Ktav Pub. House.

2. Dorff, Elliot N. 1998. Matters of life and death : a Jewish approach to modern medical ethics. Philadelphia: Jewish Publication Society.

3. Heynick, Frank. 2002. Jews and medicine : an epic saga. Hoboken, NJ: KTAV Pub. House.

4. Rosner, Fred. 2001. Biomedical ethics and Jewish law. Hoboken, NJ: KTAV Pub. House.

5. Rubin, Nissan. 2008. Time and life cycle in Talmud and Midrash : socio-anthropological perspectives. Boston: Academic Studies Press.

6. Zohar, Noam J. 1997. Alternatives in Jewish bioethics. Albany: State University of New York Press.

History & Sociology of Halakhah (10)

1. Berger, Michael S. 1998. Rabbinic Authority. New York: Oxford University Press.

2. Berkovits, Eliezer. 1983. Not in heaven : the nature and function of Halakha. New York: Ktav Pub. House.

3. Boyarin, Daniel. 1993. Carnal Israel: reading sex in Talmudic culture. Berkeley: University of California Press.

4. Cohen, Shaye J.D. 1999. The Beginnings of Jewishness: Boundaries, Varieties, Uncertainties. Berkeley, CA: University of California Press.

5. Halbertal, Moshe. 1997. People of the Book: Canon, Meaning, and Authority. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.

6. Halivni, David. 1986. Midrash, Mishnah, and Gemara : the Jewish predilection for justified law. Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press.

7. Katz, Jacob. 1961. Tradition and crisis; Jewish society at the end of the Middle Ages. New York: Free Press of Glencoe.

8. Katz, Jacob. 1989. The "Shabbes goy" : a study in halakhic flexibility. Philadelphia: Jewish Publication Society.

9. Roth, Joel. 1986. The halakhic process : a systemic analysis. New York: Jewish Theological Seminary of America.

10. Sokol, Moshe. 1992. Rabbinic authority and personal autonomy. Northvale (N.J.): Jason Aronson.

American Jews (8)

1. Cohen, Steven M. and Arnold Eisen. 1998. The Jew Within. Boston: Wilstein Institute of Jewish Policy Studies.

2. Davidman, Lynn. 1991. Tradition In a Rootless World: Women Turn to Orthodox Judaism. Berkeley: University of California Press.

3. Elazar, Daniel Judah. 1995. Community and polity the organizational dynamics of American Jewry. Jewish Publication Society .

4. Fishman, Sylvia Barack. 2000. Jewish life and American culture. Albany: State University of New York.

5. Heilman, Samuel C. 2006. Sliding To The Right: The Contest For The Future Of American Jewish Orthodoxy. Berkeley Univ of California Press.

6. Heilman, Samuel C., and Steven M. Cohen. 1989. Cosmopolitans & parochials: modern Orthodox Jews in America: University of Chicago Press.

7. Sarna, Jonathan D. 2004. American Judaism : A History. New Haven, CT, USA: Yale University Press.

8. Smith, Tom W. 2005. Jewish Distinctiveness in America: A Statistical Portrait. New York: American Jewish Committee.