May 31, 2004

(Reb Yudel)

Aberbach, fled Hitler, published Elvis, dies at 95

Yahoo! News:
Julian Aberbach, founder of a music publishing company that owned rights to Elvis Presley's compositions, died May 17 in New York. He was 95.

Aberbach was born in Vienna in 1909. In 1939, after founding a music publishing company in Paris, he fled the growing Nazi power in Europe for the United States. He later joined the U.S. Army and returned to Europe during World War II.

(Reb Yudel)

The corporate tax: A good idea then, a great idea now!

SSRN-Corporations, Society and the State: A Defense of the Corporate Tax by Reuven Avi-Yonah

This article attempts to provide the first comprehensive rationale for defending the current corporate income tax.

It argues that the usual reasons given for the tax (primarily as an indirect way of taxing shareholders, or alternatively as a form of benefit tax) are inadequate. It then explains what the original rationale to adopt this tax was in 1909, namely to regulate managerial power, and that this rationale stems from the "real" view of the corporation, which was the dominant view throughout the many transformations underwent by the corporate form from Roman times to the present.

Turning to normative argument, the article then argues that the regulatory rationale given for taxing corporations in 1909 is still valid, since similar social conditions continue to exist, and in fact is strengthened by the rise of multinational enterprises.

Finally, the article argues that this rationale is necessary from a normative perspective to support the fight against the two crucial current threats to the corporate tax posed by the corporate tax shelter and tax competition phenomena.

(Reb Yudel)

When do workers get their share?

The Economic Policy Institute graphs how the recover affected labor and capital. Guess who came in ahead?
Despite recent good news on employment growth, the current economic recovery, now approaching its third year, remains the most unbalanced on record in respect to the distribution of income gains between corporate profits and labor compensation. Essentially, rapid gains in productivity have been translating into higher corporate profits without increasing the wage and salary income of American workers.

May 30, 2004

(Reb Yudel)

Why Yamit Was Razed (and what it cost us)

The prospect of evaucating settlements in Gaza recalls the razing of the settlement of Yamit in the Sinai desert. In Ha'aretz, Danny Rubinstein discusses the new memoir by Israel's then-ambassador to Egypt, and reveals that while Sharon controlled the bulldozer, it was Prime Minister Menachem Begin who made the decision.
One way or another, the razing of the homes in the Yamit bloc was perceived for a long time by the Egyptians as proof of the way the State of Israel viewed the peace treaty. The Egyptian press reported on the scorched earth that Israel leaves behind.
(Reb Yudel)

Vote Bush: Maybe this term he'll figure it out!

Joshua Micah Marshall summarizes:
The president now argues that he is best equipped to guard the country from the full brunt of the consequences of his own misguided actions, managerial incompetence and dishonesty.
(Reb Yudel)

Pin the responsibility on the elephant

Who is responsible for the Iraq situation? MaxSpeak explains: MaxSpeak, You Listen!: DER DOLCHSTOSS, CONT'D

We are progressing from Fifth Column rhetoric to scapegoating. The latter is designed for recriminations, after the war is over and lost. The former was aimed at amplifying the case for war by enraging the public against a non-existent internal enemy (i.e., Sean Penn, Michael Moore) and intimidating potential critics of the war.

Matt Yglesias pins the tail on the jackass, aptly likening scapegoat rhetoric to Nazi "stab in the back" talk after World War I....

...The logic of the scapegoat discourse crumbles at the touch. If political skepticism is sapping the war effort, it can only be because our Republican leadership is putting their own political interests before the nation's, by refusing to persist in a feasible, albeit unpopular course of action. In this case, isn't it obvious that those leaders bear primary responsibility for abandoning a difficult but winnable struggle?

On the other hand, if the course of action is not winnable, how can it be against the national interest to point this out and react to it at the earliest opportunity by cutting our losses? (See the ticker above.) To the contrary, there could be nothing worse than persisting in a lost cause (cf. Christmas bombing, war in Vietnam) for the sake of crass political considerations.

The simple truth is that, with control of all three branches of government, the responsibility for either a) launching an unwinnable project for "liberation," or b) abandoning a doable project is the sole responsibility of the Republican Party and its leadership.

(Reb Yudel)

The anti-Bush online adventure

Have you ever longed to see Howard Dean shoot down the tax-evading millionaire heiress? Ever wanted to move Mr. T across two decades of deficit figures? BUSHGAME.COM - THE ANTI-BUSH ONLINE ADVENTURE provides hours of educational, shoot-it-up, irreverant, alas-not-appropriate-for-children anti-Bush fun.
(Reb Yudel)

The hunt for red-state November just got tougher

The New Republic notes the implications of Tom Clancy as the co-author of General Anthony Zinni's recent entry in the library of disappointed Republican memoirs:
When Ph.D. candidates of the future write the literary history of the Bush presidency, the day that a Republican administration became the bad guy in a Tom Clancy book will surely stand out as a cultural Rubicon crossed.

May 24, 2004

(Reb Yudel)

Ismar Schorsch: One Man, Eighteen Years, Two Articles!

JTS tonight is celebrating the 18th anniversary of Ismar Schorsch's ascension to the helm of the lead Conservative rabbinical school with a fancy $1000-a-plate tribute dinner (slogan: 1 Man. 18 Years. Infinite Reasons) and a more affordable interview with various members of the press, Jewish and otherwise.

So far I've found write-ups by the Jewish Telegraphic Agency and by the New Jersey Jewish News, whose editor, Andew Silow-Carroll, summarized the exchange in email as follows:

I don't know if I agree with Ismar, but I was impressed, now that I think of it, how he was honest throughout the discussion -- or at the very least never answered a question with relentless hasbara, as many another institutional execs would do. In fact, except in celebrating the educational achievements of JTS, he didn't have an answer that didn't sound downbeat. For example, asked about Masorti in Israel, he kvelled about the Tali schools, but added that the movement couldn't make any inroads in synagogue life. That was a typical exchange.
Andy's column, entitled "Minimalists, maximalists, and other centrists", puts the Chancellor's remarks in the context of Andy's own experience in a Conservative synagogue.

JTA  produced something more along the lines of he-said-she-said, a tone accurately conveyed by the headline and lead paragraph:

Schorsch marks 18 years at JTS, some say movement lacks leadership
By Joe Berkofsky
NEW YORK, May 19 (JTA) -- Rabbi Ismar Schorsch blasts the Bush administration for going to war in Iraq, and predicts that his Conservative movement will not alter Jewish law to accommodate homosexuality.

"For the Conservative movement, the issue is whether one can be politically liberal and religiously conservative," Schorsch, chancellor of the Jewish Theological Seminary in New York, said in a mid-May interview with JTA. "I happen to think that' possible and tenable."
What strikes me in that first quote is Schorsch's acceptance of a left-right spectrum as a valid way of measuring both political and religious ideology. Is it really that simple?

I wonder what you think, about the articles, Rabbi Schorsch, and the past 18 years of Conservative Judaism, after reading both articles. Let's take advantage of my new comments section, and discuss!

May 23, 2004

(Reb Yudel)

In Bush's fall, we spin all

So Bush falls off his bicycle. Is this an attempt to co-opt Bartlett's first West Wing episode, and appear presidential for a change?

Is it an ironic comment on his recent statement that Iraq would soon be ready to "take off the training wheels" when it came to self-government?

Or is it another opportunity for the administration, having failed to spin the wheels, to lie about them?

Daily Kos reports; you decide.

(Reb Yudel)

Enforcing copyright law for a better America

In this Washington Post article, Report: Kids Pirate Music Freely (, there's a guy who makes no sense at all:
Wayne Rosso, chief executive of the company that runs the Blubster and Piolet peer-to-peer networks, said that file-sharing companies and the recording industry have to find ways to cooperate instead of clamping down on online music distribution.

"Clearly the suggest that changes in the law need to be made," he said. "As opposed to throwing 53 percent of the young people in the country in jail, wouldn't it be better to make sure they can do this safely and legally and with respect for copyright law?"

What is that guy smoking? Doesn't Wayne Rosso understand that putting 53% of America's youth in jail would be wonderful, since it would:
  • Reduce underage drinking!
  • Boost the economy in rural areas that house prisons!
  • Please the important prison-guards union!
  • Reduce unemployment among young people!
  • Cut the average family's college tuition costs by more than half!
  • Give faith-based prison rehabilitation efforts a chance to save their souls!
Luckily for America (if not for Wayne), Congress understands that nothing is more important than protecting our children, and can be counted on to do the right thing!
(Reb Yudel)

The couple that learns together, burns together

From The Register-Guard in Eugene, Oregon, USA (via Romensko),
A Eugene woman is accused of pouring boiling oil on her boyfriend's face during an argument about a Bible verse, Eugene police said.
(Reb Yudel)

In Hollywood, no one can hear a scientist scream!

Intuitor Insultingly Stupid Movie Physics
The motion picture industry has failed to police itself against the evils of bad physics. This page is provided as a public service in hopes of improving this deplorable matter. The minds of our children and their ability to master vectors are (shudder) at stake.
(Reb Yudel)

Remember the booming 20th century?

Nuclear Weapons in the Strategic Air Command Arsenal
This chart describes all of the Strategic Nuclear Bombs designed to be carried by aircraft. It does not include those carried by the various missiles, nor the many nuclear shells designed for use by army artillery.
(Reb Yudel)

Doctorow's Orders

Comics writer Warren Ellis hosts Fast Fiction Friday on his "die puny humans" site. From Boing Boing editor Cory Doctorow (no, not that Doctorow) comes a sweet, silly piece, of which probably 10% is excerpted (did I say that Fast Fiction makes for fast reading?)

But Spidey got a hero's welcome at the World Intellectual Property Organization. The US delegate took him up to the high cafeteria for Biftec et Cafe et Babybel, and introduced him to the sleek and cultured delegates from around the world. The French delegate shook his hand gravely and promised him that it would WIPO's top priority this year would be trademark protection for superheros. The way that the distributed vigilante gangs had appropriated and diluted their intellectual property -- it was a disgrace.


May 20, 2004

(Reb Yudel)

Texas to Unitarians: Go to Hell

Over in Texas, Electrolite: reports Electrolite, the state has decided that Universal Unitarianism doesn't cut it as a religion:
But according to the office of Texas Comptroller Carole Keeton Strayhorn, a Denison Unitarian church isn’t really a religious organization—at least for tax purposes. Its reasoning: the organization “does not have one system of belief.”

Never before—not in this state or any other—has a government agency denied Unitarians tax-exempt status because of the group’s religious philosophy, church officials say. Strayhorn’s ruling clearly infringes upon religious liberties, said Dan Althoff, board president for the Denison congregation that was rejected for tax exemption by the comptroller’s office.

So is this a new way to pander to the theocrat vote: Outlaw non-theist religions? Somebody better warn the Society for Humanistic Judaism.

Now even though the Comptroller has already been overruled by the state court, here's a scary thought: She's the mother of the White House press secretary.

(Reb Yudel)

Fool by choice

In The Misunderestimated Man - How Bush chose stupidity, Slate's Jacob Weisberg comes up with a read-worthy grand context for the "Bushisms" he has been collecting for the past four years. This excerpt doesn't do the whole justice:
The most obvious expression of Bush's choice of ignorance is that, at the age of 57, he knows nothing about policy or history. After years of working as his dad's spear-chucker in Washington, he didn't understand the difference between Medicare and Medicaid, the second- and third-largest federal programs. Well into his plans for invading Iraq, Bush still couldn't get down the distinction between Sunni and Shiite Muslims, the key religious divide in a country he was about to occupy. Though he sometimes carries books for show, he either does not read them or doesn't absorb anything from them. Bush's ignorance is so transparent that many of his intimates do not bother to dispute it even in public.

As the president says, we misunderestimate him. He was not born stupid. He chose stupidity. Bush may look like a well-meaning dolt. On consideration, he's something far more dangerous: a dedicated fool.

Do what the President won't, and read the whole article.
(Reb Yudel)

Insert Tom Lehrer reference here

Admit it: When you heard that 55 Western nations were holding a conference on anti-Semitism, you weren't sure if they were going to be for or against. --Andrew Silow-Carroll, The new anti-Semitism: A consumer's guide

One quibble: Is today's "New anti-semitism" -- which Andy dissects in his piece -- really that different than the "New anti-semitism" of my Oil Embargo-era youth, also promoted by the ADL? And if not, shouldn't this really be called the middle-aged (as opposed to Medieval) anti-Semitism ?

(Reb Yudel)

Philogos fun factoid

From the Forward's Philogos language column:
Non-Hebraic first names among Jews in Slavic countries were distinctively Jewish ones that had sometimes been preserved for centuries from distant lands, such as the Spanish-derived Shprintze (from Esperanza) for a woman, or Shne'ur (from Spanish Senyor) for a man.

I wonder if founding Chabad rabbi R. Shneur Zalman of Liadi knew the origin of his name?

(Reb Yudel)

Long time gone

Counterspin Central suggests the following survey:
"Compared to 4 years ago we as a nation are __________"
A. Better off.
B. Worse off
C. Pissed off.
D. Fucked.
(Reb Yudel)

Viva Press likes new Knessiat Hasechal record

Reviwing Kenssiat Hasechel's new album, Yadayim Lemala (NMC), Jerusalem Post's Sabra Sounds declarse: Hasechel still on top

When Knessiat Hasechel entered the Israeli rock scene at the beginning of the 1990s, people turned their heads to see where such a new sound was coming from. With every release since then, fans have continued to pay attention to this Sderot-made band's output. And rightfully so. Singles along the way included "Rutz Yeled," "Ratziti Lirot," "Lemaya Yesh Ekdach" and "Ani Ma'amin," to name but a few.

The band's fifth album, Yadayim Lemala, (Hands Up) includes 11 great tracks. The music combines stylishly textured wording, catchy choruses and memorable guitar licks.

I haven't heard it myself, but I guess it's time to head over to NMC's site and give it a listen.

May 19, 2004

(Reb Yudel)

Running like a liberal....

It's not fair to say that Bush never takes responsibility. From the New York Times comes a heart-burning story of responsibility claimed, albeit not earned,as White House Trumpets Programs It Tried to Cut:
For example, Justice Department officials recently announced that they were awarding $47 million to scores of local law enforcement agencies for the hiring of police officers. Mr. Bush had just proposed cutting the budget for the program, known as Community Oriented Policing Services, by 87 percent, to $97 million next year, from $756 million.

The administration has been particularly energetic in publicizing health programs, even ones that had been scheduled for cuts or elimination. Tommy G. Thompson, the secretary of health and human services, announced recently that the administration was awarding $11.7 million in grants to help 30 states plan and provide coverage for people without health insurance. Mr. Bush had proposed ending the program in each of the last three years.

The administration also announced recently that it was providing $11.6 million to the states so they could buy defibrillators to save the lives of heart attack victims. But Mr. Bush had proposed cutting the budget for such devices by 82 percent, to $2 million from $10.9 million.
(Reb Yudel)

Dear New York Times: I don't want you to think I'm a religious supremacist fanatic, but.....

From the Times' letter's section
To the Editor:
Re "Tyranny of the Minorities," by Thomas L. Friedman (column, May 16):

I am one of those settlers who mobilized to persuade my fellow Likud Party members to oppose Prime Minister Ariel Sharon's plan to withdraw from the Gaza Strip, which was indeed defeated. That does not make me a messianic extremist who disdains man-made laws.

I believe, as the Jewish people did for thousands of years and the Zionist movement more recently, that the Jewish homeland includes Gush Katif, Hebron and all the land from the Mediterranean to the Jordan River. Non-Jews who live in this small strip of land are welcome to live with us as long as they are peaceful and law-abiding.
Where to start?
"Non-Jews who live in this small strip of land are welcome to live with us as long as they are peaceful and law-abiding".... and don't demand the vote. And don't demand for their share of public resources. And don't get all uppity. And don't dare call us bigoted for treating them as non-citizens....
(Reb Yudel)

If Bush is pro-life, why is he making death tax-exempt?

The Gadflyer explains how to talk to Republicans about taxes:
If there has been one principle guiding Bush's tax policies, it's that work should be taxed, but wealth shouldn't. That's why Bush has worked to eliminate taxes on inheritances, stock dividends, and capital gains, but never considered cutting payroll taxes -- a tax on work.

So ask your conservative friend: shouldn't the tax system offer incentives for people to work harder, instead of waiting around for their stocks to give them dividends or their millionaire grandfather to die?
(Reb Yudel)

Bush's Responsiblity Era meets Abu Ghraib

Slate's Timoth Noah predicted that "right-wing culture warriors would soon be blaming the Abu Ghraib prison scandal on the depravities of the 1960s." Sure enough, he catalogs the ways that Bush apologists deflect responsiblity once again, and instead choose to blame:
  • moral relativism.
  • gays.
  • pornography
  • feminists
  • Quentin Tarantino
  • the Farrelly brothers
  • women in the military
  • the academic left
  • the liberal media/entertainment complex
  • journalists
  • our sick society

Even if the right sincerely believes that they are victims of all these outside forces, shouldn't they by now be expected to know about these insidious forces, and plan accordingly?

May 18, 2004

(Reb Yudel)

A picture is worth a thousand genomes

Worth1000 presents Photoshopped animal hybrids
Create a new animal using at least three but no more than four animals. Make sure your new creature looks believable and natural - let's create some new net hoax legends here!
(Reb Yudel)

Evil Empire

NYTimes: Officer Says Army Tried to Curb Red Cross Visits to Prison in Iraq
Army officials in Iraq responded late last year to a Red Cross report of abuses at Abu Ghraib prison by trying to curtail the international agency's spot inspections of the prison, a senior Army officer who served in Iraq said Monday.

Guess it's a good thing our new ambassador to Iraq has experience in covering up American-funded massacres in Guatemala....

(Reb Yudel)

Henry Everett, z'l

The JTA has the sad news:
Henry Everett, 78, remembered for his devotion to social justice
. The obituary tells of his life-saving anti-tobacco activism, his willingness to be a nudnick in the cause of good, and he and his wife Edith's second date at a Norman Thomas lecture.

The JTA obit doesn't mention his important role in helping the Jewish Student Press Service in the '80s, at least long enough for me to have my first job there as editor. (The collapse of JSPS in the immediate wake of my departure is another story, one in which Henry had no involvement.)

May his memory be for a blessed inspiration.

May 17, 2004

(Reb Yudel)

Bush's Uncle Is Executive At Bank Fined for Lax Oversight of Saudi Money

Here's the latest from the the family of Mr. I'm-So-Tough-On-Terror-I'll-Prevent- Any-Attack-For-Which-I-Have-Fair-Warning, another sleezy tale of petrodollars laundered, eyes averted, and Bush dollars bundled.

David Sirota pieces together the story from The New York Times, the Washington Post and the Wall Street Journal.

May 16, 2004

(Reb Yudel)

The evil of the banal

Read Semour Hersh's latest, The Gray Zone, for yourself.
The roots of the Abu Ghraib prison scandal lie not in the criminal inclinations of a few Army reservists but in a decision, approved last year by Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, to expand a highly secret operation, which had been focussed on the hunt for Al Qaeda, to the interrogation of prisoners in Iraq. Rumsfeld's decision embittered the American intelligence community, damaged the effectiveness of élite combat units, and hurt America's prospects in the war on terror.
Oh, and if you're worried whether the Pentagon's denials should be taken seriously, has a very careful parsing of the denial... or should we say, the non-denial denial?
(Reb Yudel)

YudelLine Flashback 1999: The day after Barak's victory

Check out Yudeline
from five years ago, to remember the defeat of the previous Likud premier.

No snarky comments here, folks. Just looking back five years and wondering....

(Reb Yudel)

You say saint, we say shmuck....

In the latest reminder that the dash in "Judaeo-Christian morality" passes over a lot of graves, Pope John Paul II has made a saint of a woman who died after refusing an abortion.
The Vatican has long championed the case of Gianna Beretta Molla, an Italian pediatrician who died in 1962 at the age of 39 - a week after giving birth to her fourth child. Doctors had told her it was dangerous to proceed with the pregnancy because she had a tumour in her uterus, but she insisted on carrying the baby to term. In proclaiming her a saint, John Paul praised her "extreme sacrifice" and her simple but profound message.
The Independent reminds us that
The Pope has made creating new role models one of the hallmarks of his papacy. He has now proclaimed 482 saints in his 25-year pontificate, more than all his predecessors over the past 500 years combined.
(Reb Yudel)

Church to Dems: Go to Hell

From the Denver Post:
The bishop of Colorado's second-largest Roman Catholic diocese has issued a pastoral letter saying Catholics cannot receive Communion if they vote for politicians who support abortion rights, stem-cell research, euthanasia or gay marriage.

Of course, it's not the entire Church, up to JPII, who excommunicated the Denver Democrats; but given that Bishop Michael Sheridan is on the cutting-edge of some interesting Church-state issues, but hasn't yet been slammed down by his bosses, I'll let the unfair headline stay.

Remember, Bush has directly caused more deaths through what the Vatican considers an unjust war; Kerry's votes on abortion have directly hurt no fetuses.

Fun discussion in the comments over on Atrios

(Reb Yudel)

Malcolm far-to-the-right-of the middle

The Forward's Ami Eden updates on the President's Conference
Nick Berg’s father, Michael Berg, is reportedly a supporter of ANSWER, an anti-war group that opposes the U.S. presence in Iraq and Israeli policies in the territories. He also blames his son’s death on President Bush.

The Conference of President of Major American Jewish Organizations, however, used the occasion of Nick Berg’s death to send a different message.

Read for the whole message sent out in the name of American Jewry.
(Reb Yudel)

America reviews Tangled Up in the Bible

America, The Catholic Weekly Magazine, reviews the new book on Dylan & the Bible; the Jesuit novice who reviews it concludes thusly:
At the core of Dylan's music is a solitary individual in search of truth, love and fulfillment, and he endears himself to the listener in a precisely religious way. More than a protest singer or a bluesman or a minstrel or a preacher or a prophet, Dylan has always been a pilgrim, disaffected and disillusioned but still seeking. It is a stance and a journey that brings many other pilgrims on many other quests to connect with him emotionally, from presidential candidates to Jesuit novices. Dylan may be a Jew, he may be a Christian, he may be agnostic, he may be an atheist, but his musical career has always signaled a constant search for the transcendent, what his scriptural sources call God.

Amen, brother!

May 14, 2004

(Reb Yudel)

Best Science Fiction 1953

Via Boing Boing, we have the list of Hugo and Retro Hugo Nominations for the 2003 and 1953 publishing years. No surprise, I've read all of the 1953 nominee novels:

The Caves of Steel — Isaac Asimov (Galaxy, Oct.–Dec. 1953)
Fahrenheit 451 — Ray Bradbury (Ballantine)
Childhood's End — Arthur C. Clarke (Ballantine)
Mission of Gravity — Hal Clement (Astounding, April–July 1953)
More than Human — Theodore Sturgeon (Ballantine)
and none from 2003:

Humans — Robert J. Sawyer (Tor Books)
Ilium — Dan Simmons (Eos)
Singularity Sky — Charles Stross (Ace Books)
Blind Lake — Robert Charles Wilson (Tor Books)

The real highlight of the nominations is that you can access all of the current short fiction nominations via Multivac the worldwide information network Internet.

Maybe I'll even review them if I actually read them.

(Reb Yudel)

Our Mr. Magoo-In-Chief at the morning papers

Joshua Marshall reads the latest Washington Times profile on the President closely, and finds the secret to the Bush Administration.:
At least from his self-presentation, the president seems to see his news reading largely, if not entirely, as an exercise in detecting liberal media bias. That, and he seems to see shielding himself from opposing viewpoints as a key to maintaining what he calls a "clear outlook" and what [author] Sammon refers to as being an "optimistic leader".

I guess we can all relate to this, can't we?

How 'frustrating' it is to have to listen to "somebody's false opinion or somebody's characterization, which simply isn't true" (i.e., information that contradicts our assumptions and viewpoints)?

It (i.e., critical thinking) really gets in the way of having a "clear outlook", right?

Now, certainly no one is perfect when it comes to subjecting and then resubjecting their viewpoints to fresh facts or challenging their assumptions with intelligently stated contrary views. I can't claim to be. But it's one thing to fall short of the mark and another to work out a system of self-rationalization and denial to ensure you come nowhere near the mark. And this is it in spades.

He doesn't even need the yes-men who "extract" the "facts" from the news articles. He's his own built-in yes-man.

How could we have ignored so many warnings, so much expert advice, so many facts staring us in the face? The president just gave you the answer.

Just for emphasis (and in the hope that casual readers will misattribute Marshall's insight to me), I'm going to repeat Marshall's conclusions about Bush:

How could we have ignored so many warnings, so much expert advice, so many facts staring us in the face? The president just gave you the answer.

May 13, 2004

(Reb Yudel)

What the ACLU wasn't supposted to tell you about the Patriot Act

According to this Washington Post article, ACLU Was Forced to Revise Release on Patriot Act Suit (, here's the paragraph the feds didn't want you to read:
"The provision under challenge allows an FBI agent to write a letter demanding the disclosure of the name, screen names, addresses, e-mail header information, and other sensitive information held by 'electronic communication service providers.'"
Bottom line: They don't need any warrant to lookup the information at your ISP.

So here's what's been oddly lost amidst the brouhaha over Google's new Gmail service automatically putting ads in their email service: Once the data is resting permanently on Google's hard drives, will the government need anything more than an FBI letter to start rummaging around through all sorts of data-mining techniques?

Remember: According to the Bush Doctrine, you don't have to be guilty to be locked away forever; you just need to be a suspect.

(Reb Yudel)

Free comic reading

Full issue preview of Ultimate Fantastic Four #7, featuring script by Warren Ellis.

(Reb Yudel)

New Yehudah Amichai Poem

Zackary Sholem Berger finds and begins to translate a posthumous poem published in Haaretz:
It's called Onot, or Seasons. The first few lines could be translated this way:

So summer kept dwelling on the blood,
burning, bright and quick in dealing judgment.
The wind, afterwards, moved over our faces, but
someone ushered it away, over
the mountains. After that the rains came
and washed the stains from the highway.

As always, though, it's best to read Amichai in the original.
(Reb Yudel)

Gospel for Israelites

Voices of Shalom is Gospel music from New York's Black Israelite community. As The Village Voice observes:
Their second independent CD, Daily Bread, surrounds the linear melodies a temple cantor might sing with subtly orchestrated melismatic colors derived from blues and funk. And where it departs most from Christian gospel is in God-centered lyrics with no mention of Jesus. Otherwise, their radio-friendly tunes deploy the same MIDI magic and driving syncopation that keep Mary J. and Destiny's Child on the pop charts.

Personally, I'd prefer less AOR radio hipness and more old-fashionedness in the music, but if you want to listen to Gospel without the kids starting to sing to Jesus, this might be a place to start.

Update: Speaking of Old Fashioned Gospel, since1968 interviews Lance Ledbetter, whose Goodbye, Babylon is a boxed set of over 150 gospel songs and sermons from the first half of the 20th century

(Reb Yudel)

Forward: Being Jewish may have cost Nicholas Berg his life

Steven I. Weiss and Ami Eden investigate latest Al Queida victim Nicholas Berg:
The Forward has learned that the slain American had, during the past year, intensified his study and observance of Judaism, and taken to wearing tzitzit, or ritual fringes. His father, Michael Berg, mentioned that his son had a set of tzitzit with him in Iraq, in an interview with the Associated Press.

The Islamic militants who executed Berg claimed to be followers of Abu Musab Zarqawi, the one-legged Jordanian terror master with links to Osama bin Laden and the Al Qaeda network. As reported in March by the Forward, terrorism analysts believe that Zarqawi places a higher value on Jewish and Israeli targets than does bin Laden and his other associates.

Read the whole piece. Meanwhile, as Oliver Willis notes,
Abu Musab Zarqawi, the man who killed Nick Berg, the man who has killed hundreds of Iraqis, could have been taken out long ago by President Bush - but he didn't do it because it would have hurt his case for war.
That is, according to an NBC News report,
[L]ong before the war the Bush administration had several chances to wipe out his terrorist operation and perhaps kill Zarqawi himself — but never pulled the trigger....

Military officials insist their case for attacking Zarqawi’s operation was airtight, but the administration feared destroying the terrorist camp in Iraq could undercut its case for war against Saddam.

As Willis says,
My biggest gripe, to this day, against George Bush is that the terror attacks of 9/11 deserved a response where we hunted down Al Qaeda and their affiliated groups to the ends of the earth. Kill them, and kill them all. It started of okay in Afghanistan, and that should have been a launching pad for destroying Al Qaeda in Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, Europe and right here in America. Instead, he invaded and occupied Iraq - which took away resources from hunting Bin Laden and Al Qaeda and is now a royal mess.

May 12, 2004

(Reb Yudel)

Scapegoat for Iraq

In Ha'aretz, Aluf Benn examines the costs and consequences of the Iraq War.
Did the war do Israel any good, or would it have been better to have left Saddam in place as a weakened and pursued tyrant? The answer is complex. Israel received generous guarantees for the rescue of its economy, the threat that had developed in Libya was removed, and Iran has encountered increasing pressure against its nuclear programs. This was the situation in the first moments of victory. But from the moment the wheel turned, and Iraq became a second Vietnam - a war without reason or purpose - the inevitable fallout from America's weakness has landed on Israel, its satellite in the region.

The problem is not only in making Israel a scapegoat because the architects of the war are Jewish. The failure also has a diplomatic price....

The Americans do not understand the first thing about the Middle East and the Arabs. Bush's interview to the Egyptian newspaper Al Ahram demonstrated the gap. The Egyptian interviewer asked about the rights of the Palestinians, the stealing of their land and the right of return, and the president talked about "help to stimulate the entrepreneurial class so businesses will grow" in the Palestinian state.

Israel is now reaping the benefits of this ignorance. But the benevolent hour is waning. Even if Arab culture is foreign to the Americans, the skyrocketing prices of oil are well understood in Washington and in Texas. The stronger the reaction to the war grows in the United States, the stronger the call will be to exact a price from Israel. And this poses a complicated challenge to Sharon and his partners in the Israeli leadership.

(Reb Yudel)

Another fun game....


(Reb Yudel)

Looking for the old YudelLine?

The old incarnation of YudelLine can be found here. I do plan on bringing the archives and other relevant links onto this site.

(Reb Yudel)

Isn't it a crime to lie to federal officials?

Daily Kos points out the following concerning the recent Supreme Court arguments where the Bush Administration defended its claimed right to arrest you and me indefinitely without trial:
Asked about checks on torturing prisoners, Bush's lawyer answered that the government "would honor its obligations under the 'convention to prohibit torture and that sort of thing.'" And the Bush Administration already knew about the Abu Ghraib torture incidents.

Another Bush administration lie, this time to the Supreme Court.

(Reb Yudel)

Daily Kos on Nicholas Berg

Daily Kos explains the Berg murder to us:
So what does the Berg murder tell us? That the prison torture scandal led to the killing? Not even close. Terrorists (and al-Zarqawi is undoubtedly one) don't need such excuses to do their dirty work.

The lesson is that not finishing the job in Afghanistan and invading Iraq with no good rationale gave Al Qaida and similar groups time to catch their breath, reorganize, and direct their efforts against a conveniently near target -- Iraq. This is the neocon "flypaper" theory in all its glory. It's working. The neocons WANTED it this way.

And they got it. Congratulations.

And in the process, the killing of thousands of innocent men, women and children by errant American bombs, artillery shells, mortars, and bullets have swelled the recruiting offices of every militia and terrorist organization in the Mideast, in and out of Iraq. Congrats with that as well. You can't have flypaper if you don't have an enemy shooting at you. So we energized our existing enemies and gave rise to new ones who didn't seem to understand that "collateral damage" is acceptable in war.

And the abuse of Iraqi prisoners -- up to 90 percent of which could be innocent according to the Red Cross -- just added fuel to the fire.

So no, the prison abuse didn't cause Berg's horrific murder. Bush's (inept) War, in all its glory, did. The Neocon agenda, in all its folly, did. The war cheerleaders now trying to use this for propaganda purposes, in all their idiocy, did.

Congrats. Your war spirals ever out of control. Good luck trying to wash the blood out of your hands.

May 6, 2004

(Reb Yudel)

Bremer Warned of Terrorism Threat 6 Months Before 9/11


The head of the U.S.-led coalition in Iraq, Paul Bremer, warned six months before the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks that the Bush administration seemed to be paying no attention to the problem of terrorism and appeared to "stagger along" on the issue.

Bremer, who in 1999 chaired a national commission on terrorism, gave a speech on Feb. 26, 2001, in which he said the "general terrorist threat" was increasing.

"The new administration seems to be paying no attention to the problem of terrorism," Bremer said in remarks to the Robert R. McCormick Tribune Foundation.

"What they will do is stagger along until there's a major incident and then suddenly say, 'Oh, my God, shouldn't we be organized to deal with this?"'

As par for the course, Bremer disavowed his three-year-old statement the next day. Something about "had I received a warning that I would get a horse head in my bed, I never would have said this."

(Reb Yudel)

JJ Goldberg Blasts Jewish Leaders on Iraq

Today's Forward editorial:
Jewish community leaders need not issue any apologies for taking the administration at its word on the immediacy of Saddam's threat. But, having done so, they should now be leading the push for an investigation into why America's pre-war intelligence was so flawed and whether the country was misled by a White House bent on war. They should be encouraging a national debate over whether the war has hurt or helped the war against Al Qaeda. And, finally, as reports of poor planning, cronyism and prisoner abuse in Iraq mount, Jewish leaders have an obligation to call for an accounting from the administration. They took a stand a year ago. They owe it to their constituency to speak out now.

The Jewish communal leadership has a credibility on the national and world stage because of its presumed moral stature as the voice of a community of conscience. Its silence now represents a betrayal of that trust.

May 5, 2004

(Reb Yudel)

More Agents Track Castro Than Bin Laden

If the Bush Administration thought terror was a crisis rather than an opportunity, wouldn't they try to stop it?

The Treasury Department (news - web sites) agency entrusted with blocking the financial resources of terrorists has assigned five times as many agents to investigate Cuban embargo violations as it has to track Osama bin Laden's and Saddam Hussein's money, documents show.

May 4, 2004

(Reb Yudel)

Binary for Babes

Robin Debreuil's animated representation of binary counting.

(Reb Yudel)

Shopping Tip

Note to self: I buy my hats at Shushan's.
Retailers of Ecuadorian Panama Hats,Greek Fisherman Caps, Tilley Endurable Hats,Hawaiian Shirts,Guayabera Shirts,and much more!

Five years ago when I discovered them, their web presence was spread across several free hosting services. But they had what I wanted, and that was what counted.

May 3, 2004

(Reb Yudel)

Israeli censorship at Richmond Hillel?

So alleges an "Open Letter to Hillel" from "Jewish Voice for Peace," which claims that Hillel fired its student president for failing to toe the political line.
For the past year, Jilian Redford served as president of the University of Richmond's Hillel chapter. By all accounts - including those of her overseers at the Richmond Jewish Community Center - she was a superlative president, the driving force behind virtually all Hillel programming. It was only when she began to express her views on Israel that the organization called for her ouster.

In February 2004, after having received unsolicited emails from the Israeli Embassy for months, she asked the embassy to remove her from its mailing list. In her message, she wrote that the solution to Israel's problems lay in reconciliation with the Palestinians, not with the "radical Zionist propaganda" that the embassy had been sending her. Within 24 hours, she was summoned to meet with her supervisors at the JCC. They told her that the embassy was calling for her dismissal and demanded that she apologize for her "unprofessional [behavior] that demonstrated a total disrespect."

Given that the signatory of the open letter, Robert Blecher, won the The Middle East Research and Information Project's New Writer award in 2002, it's not hard to guess where Jilian picked up her politics, or what they were. Nonetheless, are we back to the days of an Embassy/Federation/Hillel blacklist? Is Breirah our only choice?

(Reb Yudel)

The Anatevka Moving Picture Show

Sing-Along Fiddler Screening at L.A.'s University of Judaism (The Jewish Journal)

Five-hundred people -- some bold enough to come in costume -- sang along with the memorable songs of "Tradition," "If I Were a Rich Man" and other classic "Fiddler" tunes. The UJ singalong event capitalizes on the popularity of participatory shows, such as "The Rocky Horror Picture Show," "Tony and Tina' Wedding" and "Grandma Sylvia' Funeral."

UJ staff passed out kitschy props highlighting key points in the film -- ring pops for "Matchmaker" and boxes of gilded chocolate coins for "If I Were A Rich Man." When the sun set on Friday evening at Tevye's house, the audience munched on mini challahs.

(Reb Yudel)

Naming Dylan's Rabbi

The Washington Post, apropos of Dylan's recent Victoria's Secret ad, interviews A. Mark Neuman, 41, who serves as Victoria's Secret's trade counselor in Washington and lets us Jewish Dylan fans in on a major secret:
"Turns out Neuman has another odd Dylan connection: "My dad tutored Bob Dylan for his bar mitzvah." Rabbi Isaac Neuman, a Holocaust survivor, helped 12-year-old Bobby Zimmerman (Dylan's real name) study Hebrew back in Duluth, Minn., in the mid-1950s. Bobby's mother drove him from their home in Hibbing for the lessons, Mark Neuman explains.

Another of Rabbi Neuman's students, this time in Cincinnati, also became famous: Jerry Rubin, the late Yippie-leader-turned-marketer. "The rabbi recalls that he kicked him out of class on the first day," says Neuman. Who knew!

No surprise that this contradicts Dylan's own, far more romantic story of a wandering rabbi who got of the bus in Hibbing in time to tutor the Zimmerman boy....

(Reb Yudel)

Counting on Reform Judaism

Protocols points out:
Interestingly, if you go to the Union of American Hebrew Congregations homepage, there's a current display of the Omer count. Head over to the homepages of Conservative institutions JTS and USCJ, or Orthodox Union, and you'll find no mention of the Omer on the front page.

Why exactly do we need Conservative Judaism again?