September 27, 2005

(Reb Yudel)

Yori Yanover meets Arik Einstein

Yori Yanover recalls his first blush with rock star fame on RadioHazak:

In the winter of 1970, superstar pop singer Arik Einstein gave a concert in the gym of my high school. Arik was tall and skinny, with a squinty-eyed feline face that made everyone who saw him swoon, boys and girls alike (the squint was the result of his severe near-sightedness, which later deteriorated to blindness). He was your dream big brother, your fantasy friend, your imaginary uncle. His voice was imbued with that sexy groan, just this side of hoarse. He was as hip and as beautiful as Paul McCartney, but with the harsher edges of John Lennon.

September 25, 2005

(Reb Yudel)

Who yanked the media back onto the Bush bandwagon?

The LA Weekly argues that it's the ownership, stupid!

If big media look like they’re propping up W’s presidency, they are. Because doing so is good for corporate coffers — in the form of government contracts, billion-dollar tax breaks, regulatory relaxations and security favors. At least that wily old codger Sumner Redstone, head of Viacom, parent company of CBS, has admitted what everyone already knows is true: that, while he personally may be a Democrat, “It happens that I vote for Viacom. Viacom is my life, and I do believe that a Republican administration is better for media companies than a Democratic one.”

and
Given all of the above, it comes as no surprise that, as early as that first Saturday, certainly by Sunday, inevitably by Monday, and no later than Tuesday, the post-Katrina images and issues were heavily weighted once again toward the power brokers and the predictable. The angry black guys were gone, and the lying white guys were back, hogging all the TV airtime. So many congressional Republicans were lined up on air to denounce the “blame-Bush game” — all the while decrying the Louisiana Democrats-in-charge — that it could have been conga night at the Chevy Chase Country Club.

And the attitudes of some TV personalities did a dramatic 180.

At MSNBC, right-winger Joe Scarborough had looked genuinely disgusted for a few days by the death and destruction that went unrelieved around him in Biloxi, even daring to demand answers from Bush on down. But Scarborough was back to his left-baiting self in short order. Inside FNC’s studio, conservative crank Sean Hannity had been rendered somewhat speechless by the tragedy. Soon, he was back in full voice, barking at Shep Smith (who was still staking out that I-10 bridge and sympathizing with its thousands of refugees) to keep “perspective.” The Mississippi-bred Smith boomed back in his baritone, “This is perspective!”

Worth reading thewhle thing, to get sense of the deep pockets and hot air that our fuelling the Category Five presidency.

(Reb Yudel)

The life you save may be your own

Effect Measure is fascinating when it discusses public health, and downright terrifying when it discusses Avian Flu and the potential for a global pandemic.

(Reb Yudel)

What would Moses do? Homeland Security agents work to protect pork

The Raw Story | ACLU sues Homeland Security for arresting, spying on vegans who protested ham


ACLU sues Homeland Security for arresting, spying on vegans who protested ham

RAW STORY

The American Civil Liberties Union today filed a federal lawsuit in Atlanta on behalf of two vegan protesters who were subjected to imprisonment, arrest and harassment by Homeland Security officials, RAW STORY has learned.

The lawsuit stems from a Dec. 2003 incident, when vegans Caitlin Childs and Christopher Freeman were protesting on public property outside a Honey Baked Ham store in Georgia's DeKalb County.

After the protest, the duo noticed they were being watched and photographed by a man in an unmarked car. They approached the car and wrote down the make, model, color and license plate number on a piece of paper. They then noticed the unmarked car was following them.


So Bush's goons defend the pig farmers... and then they wonder why God is pissed!

(Reb Yudel)

Kinky Friedman Propaganda

The Kinky Friedman For Governor campaign posts its first "Kinkytoon"

We don't have Rick Perry or Carole Strayhorn money to get our message out, so we're putting our ad online and counting on you to spread the word. Please distribute the ad to friends and family so that it spreads like a bad rumor.

Worth watching even if you're not registered to vote in Texas.

September 19, 2005

(Reb Yudel)

Looking on the bright side: Republicans hope to find good news for super-rich in Katrina's wake

Looking for a corpse to make a case (Time)

On Sept. 9, Alabama Senator Jeff Sessions called his old law professor Harold Apolinsky, co-author of Sessions' legislation repealing the federal estate tax, which was encountering sudden resistance on the Hill. Sessions had an idea to revitalize their cause, which he left on Apolinsky's voice mail: "[Arizona Sen.] Jon Kyl and I were talking about the estate tax. If we knew anybody that owned a business that lost life in the storm, that would be something we could push back with."

[...]

For now, getting repeal back on the agenda may depend on Apolinsky and his team of estate-sniffing sleuths, who are searching Internet obituaries among other places. Has he found any victims of both the hurricane and the estate tax? "Not yet," Apolinsky says. "But I'm still looking."

September 16, 2005

(Andrew Silow-Carroll)

Hypersensitive? Moi?

I posted. Eytan Kobre replied. I replied back.

(Reb Yudel)

Joseph Telushkin, however, we like...

We liked him even before he took a look at Torah and Company
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Torah and Company is wonderfully conceived and wisely executed. It will enrich you and your family's Shabbat table with wisdom that will carry over throughout your week.

—Rabbi Joseph Telushkin, author of Jewish Literacy and the forthcoming A Code of Jewish Ethics.


Torah and Company, by Judith Abrams, is published by Ben Yehuda Press

September 15, 2005

(Reb Yudel)

Dennis Prager: Fool or Tool?

Forgive me for joining Dov Bear in piling on the latest from former Jewish author and thinker Dennis Prager. I qualify the word with former, because as we'll see, his latest piece, The feminization of society: Judeo-Christian values: part XXII, can't be fairly said to be either Jewish or thought

I think it's worth picking apart a few paragraphs, because Prager's fallacious argument is typical of those that convince 40% of the American public that George Bush is doing a better job as president than would be carried out by your average supermarket check-out clerk.

Herewith, Dannis Prager:

As a result of the repudiation of Judeo-Christian values, we are witnessing the ascendance of the feminine in Western society.

Seems like a simple sentence. Let's count the assumptions:

  1. There is such a thing as Judeo-Christian values
  2. Said values have been repudiated
  3. There is such a thing as the feminine
  4. There is such a thing as Western society
  5. The feminine is becoming ascendant in Western society
  6. Said ascendance is a result of the repudiation of the aforementioned values
  7. (implied: ) Said ascendance is A Bad Thing
Now, given that this is part XXII of presumably a DCXIII part series (assuming my recollection of of the Latin-Roman values is correct), I'll give him a pass on #1, and #2.and even #3. But he sure is making a lot of claims. Let's see if any hold up.
There are two reasons for this.
I assume that "this" means the causal connection between the repudiation of JChristian values, and the ascendance of the feminism.
One is the overriding belief in equality, which to those who reject Judeo-Christian values means sameness. Judeo-Christian values emphatically affirm the equality of the sexes.
Prager apparently wants to have his equality and beat it too. There is a bad equality, meaning sameness. And a good equality, apparently a homonym meaning something different.

So, what is the Good Equality of Moses and Jesus?

In fact, given that the creation story in Genesis proceeds from primitive to elevated, the last creation, woman, can easily be seen as the most elevated of the creations.
Oh. So for Prager, "equality" means "elevation." Judeao-Prager equality and post-Christian equality are apparently not just homonyms, but antonyms. It's enough to make a man want to either cleave to his wife, or put a cleaver to Prager's head.

But besides the linguistic nonsense, it's worth noting that for Prager, two religions is apparently worse than one, because he misreads Bereshit something awful. Genesis one, the hierarchal order of creation, makes men and women simultaneously: zachar v'nkevia bara otam, b'tzelem elohim bara otam. Genesis 2 creates the woman second, but leaves out the great chain of being.

If you really want to explore and think about Judeo-Rabbinic views on this topic, check out the relevant Gemara toward the end of Berachot, particularly as masterly explicated by Rachel Adler in her Engendering Judaism Put simply, it's not that the Talmud is necessarily opposed to equality; it's just that the idea makes the stam's head explode.

Every man knows how much a good woman helps him transcend his animal nature.
Wow. The universalizing "every" is balanced by the minimizing "how much" and set off by the rather ambiguous "a ... woman".

Do I know how much my wife helps me transcend my animal nature? Is that her goal or mine in this marriage?

And does David Souter really know how much a good woman would help him transcend his animal nature? Is this sentence to ridiculous for words?

I'm going to stop here, after a mere two paragraphs of Pragerisms. Examined closely, Pragerism is more an illusion of argument designed to convince the supportive reader that he is a lone standout defending embattled "Judeo-Christianity" against its evil, female repudiaters, than it is enough of an argument to even look up the logical fallacies. Stay tuned for more....

(Reb Yudel)

Coming to an online bookstore near you

In my first dip into the waters of Amazon Listmania, I compile an annotated guide to the season's new Torah books.

September 14, 2005

(Andrew Silow-Carroll)

The "I" of the hurricane

Avi Shafran's "far be it from me to understand the ways of God" essay on the hurricane:

Although the destruction wrought by Katrina affected a broad swath of the Gulf Coast, the city with which the hurricane has become inextricably coupled is New Orleans. Might the venue of the recent tragedy hold some meaning for us?

What occurs, at least to me, is that the "Big Easy" received its nickname from the lifestyle it exemplified, one of leisure and (in the word's most literal sense) carelessness. The city is probably best known -- or was, at least, until now -- for the unbridled partying and debauchery that yearly characterized its annual Mardi Gras celebrations.

I cannot and do not claim to know "why" the hurricane took the terrible toll it did; but our inability to understand should not preclude us -- those of us who believe in a G-d Who wants us to reflect on, and grow from, events around us -- from trying to respond to the wind-driven wake-up call by asking a "what": What can I do spiritually as a result? And one message we might well choose to perceive is the need to recognize how belittling to meaningful life is the contemporary culture of recreation and entertainment.

Forget the implied theodicy -- that's another discussion. It's the concept of "bitul" that fascinates -- the self-assurance shared by certain people (clergy, poets, English professors, abstract impressionists)that the work they are doing is vital and crucial, while the things other folks busy themselves with are superficial and recreational. Would an anthroplogist see any qualitiative difference between a man who spends his days reading and discussing ancient Near Eastern texts, and a jazz trumpeter who spends his waking hours jamming and swapping licks and inspiration? Would a brain scan be able to see any difference in neurological activity between the mental strain -- and, let's face it, pleasure -- being experienced by the two men? (And let's not pretend there isn't pleasure or "entertainment" to be derived from a shiur.)

I can understand a pediatrician, paramedic, or political activist who is disdainful of how other people waste their time on "entertainment." At least they can easily justify their endeavors as having a demonstrable impact on bettering humankind -- or at least affecting it on one way or the other. But if we didn't say so ourselves, would anyone consider 15-hour days bent over a Gemara "useful" or "meaningful"?

As for the notion that the "venue of the recent tragedy [might] hold some meaning for us," it should be noted that the image of New Orleans as a city of leisure and carelessness is a concoction of its entrepreneurs, playwrights, and tourism officials. You could just as easily call it a city of industriousness (its port complex was the world’s busiest); of cultural invention (jazz is its gift to the world); and culinary triumphs. But most people there probably just call it home, and, given its poverty, I doubt many of the folks you saw huddled in the Superdome spent a lot of time lazing about and letting the good times roll.

Rabbi Shafran asks:

Could we not all benefit from critically confronting that fact, from recognizing the toll such reductionism takes on the deepest meaning of our lives? Could we not benefit, in other words, from pointing our fingers at ourselves, the consumers of the crudeness?

Sure we could, but why drag God and the hurricane into it? Enemies of crudeness could find plenty to dislike about New Orleans whether it was flooded ornot. Why does its destruction make those questions any more urgent? If I see a crack addict on the corner, I'm inclined to ponder the choices I've made and luck I enjoyed that prevented me from becoming him. My exercise in self-scrutiny wouldn't change if he was to be suddenly killed by a falling air-conditioning unit, which could happen to anybody, high or straight. Unless I thought there was a message in his death...a sort of gravity-driven wake-up call, from, you know, the Big Guy.

I think there's something decadent and reductionary in asking how any of us might benefit "spiritually" from the hurricane, when the real scrutiny and hard questions should be applied to the unfathomable human errors that compounded this tragedy. If God really wants us to "to reflect on, and grow from," events like the hurricane, I suggest that His first lesson would be, "This isn't about you, or how you feel about New Orleans. Write a check, open your homes, and make your leaders accountable for the mistakes they made."

To his credit, Rabbi Shafran says this at the beginning of the essay. I would have stopped there.

(Reb Yudel)

David Kraemer likes Torah & Company

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Urging the reader though central lessons of the weekly Torah readings, Abrams selects wise and appropriate rabbinic teachings to take the discussion to even deeper levels of inquiry, and her leading questions are thought-provoking and instructive.

There is not another book like it, and I have no doubt that readers--in the company of their families and friends--will be grateful for having had the opportunity to learn from such a masterful teacher."

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Buy Torah & Company today!

September 13, 2005

(Reb Yudel)

Logical fallacies

The logical Fallacies: Index

Fallacies of Distraction

* False Dilemma: two choices are given when in fact there are three options
* From Ignorance: because something is not known to be true, it is assumed to be false
* Slippery Slope: a series of increasingly unacceptable consequences is drawn
* Complex Question: two unrelated points are conjoined as a single proposition


I only excerpted a partial list. Stay tuned as I work through them all.

(Reb Yudel)

How bin Laden was lost: A reminder that the Dubya stands for 'wimp'

Lost at Tora Bora - New York Times


Now, as the last major battle of the war in Afghanistan began, hidden from view inside the caves were an estimated 1,500 to 2,000 well-trained, well-armed men. A mile below, at the base of the caves, some three dozen U.S. Special Forces troops fanned out. They were the only ground forces that senior American military leaders had committed to the Tora Bora campaign.

(Reb Yudel)

Supporting the family meal

From the Washington Post, Ties That Bind at Mealtime:

The family that prays together stays together, as the saying has it, and perhaps that's true, but prayer isn't the only way to strengthen and enrich family bonds. So, too, as Miriam Weinstein argues in "The Surprising Power of Family Meals," is the simple act of sitting at the same table and breaking bread together. For generations it has been a "basic human ritual," but now "everyday family supper is no longer a given." Pressured by two-career households and soccer-mom-carpooling obligations, to cite two of the many distractions of contemporary life, more and more American families dine not at a common table but separately and/or on the run.

This may reflect inescapable realities of early-21st-century culture, but that doesn't necessarily make it a good thing. Family supper, as Weinstein calls it, isn't just a meal, it's a ritual from which all who participate benefit: "Family supper is important because it gives children reliable access to their parents. It provides anchoring for everyone's day. It emphasizes the importance of the family nonverbally. It reminds the child that the family is there, and that she is part of it."

Of course, we at YudelLine use only the latest in Torah technology to keep everyone on the same page coming Shabbos dinner.

(Reb Yudel)

Muslims: Razing of synagogues was a shanda!

From alt.muslim - your muslim news community:

The fact that Israelis have not shown the same respect to mosques dating before the creation of Israel should not be used to excuse this behavior. As Muslims, we do not get our values from those who abuse us - we get them from the teachings of the Qur'an and the example of the Prophet Muhammad.

Even if 100 mosques were burned, we should not stoop to their level and do the same to other houses of worship. We are (or should be) better than that.

(Reb Yudel)

Four Years After

Scott Rosenberg notes the 9/11 anniversary with a little timetravel:

Here is how the conversation might go if we could step into a Wayback Machine and travel back to, say, a couple of months after 9/11 to have a little conversation with our previous selves:

"2005?!?! My god, fill me in. These last few weeks have been rough! Give me some hope, okay?"

"Well..."

"Come on! Four years! Where did they finally find Osama? And what did they do to him?"

"Well..."

"I assume the Taliban are long gone from Afghanistan, right? This war we're fighting can't take too much longer."

"Well..."

"And what with the outpouring of international support for the U.S. these days, there must be some wonderful achievements in global cooperation!"

"Well..."

"Oh, yeah, now there are these bizarre anthrax incidents... Who was it, anyway? What a relief it must have been to find that out!"

"Well..."

"You're not saying very much. What gives?"

"You remember all that talk about Iraq at the start of the first Bush administration? They invaded."

"Yeah? Don't tell me -- Saddam was behind the anthrax!"

"No, no..."

"Or, what, did he finally find a way to launch his own terrorist attack?"

"Nope."

"They caught him building a nuke!"

"Well, no."

"So...?"

"They told us Saddam had weapons of mass destruction. But we never found the weapons, even after we toppled him. Then they told us it didn't matter because we were building a better democratic Iraq. Then they told us not to give up despite thousands of American casualties, because if we pulled out we'd be dishonoring the soldiers who'd already died."

"Damn. I guess that means Bush lost the election in '04, huh?"

"Well..."

"Anyway, the most important thing is that, four years later, the U.S. has had enough time to plan and prepare for another horror. The next time an American city is endangered, we'll be all set, right? Swift response. Leaders who spring into action. Better communications. Organization. The can-do American spirit."

"Well..."

"Enough! Get back to the future already! You're just bumming me out."

"Hey, you're bumming me out, too!"

(Andrew Silow-Carroll)

ZOA shocked, shocked by synagogue razings

The latest press release from ZOA, under the headline "PALESTINIAN DESTRUCTION OF GAZA SYNAGOGUES ONLY LATEST IN HISTORY OF DESTROYING JEWISH HOLY SITES":

New York - With Israel's unilateral retreat from Gaza, synagogues abandoned intact have been destroyed by Palestinian mobs....Despite claiming respect for Judaism, the PA has a long, disgraceful record of allowing synagogues and sanctuaries to be attacked and destroyed wherever it has been in control...

Question: When does a synagogue stop being a synagogue? And what was anybody expecting -- that the Palestinians would have kept the synagogues as a loving tribute to their former neighbors? Everyone knew this was a demolition project waiting to happen -- the question was whether the Israelis or the Palestinians would be in charge of the demolition. Is it worth bringing up how many shtiebl-like mosques and prayer spaces were removed when Israel expanded the Western Wall plaza?

It is important to remember the background to this "desecration":

The Israeli defense minister, Shaul Mofaz, ordered the demolition of the synagogues to stop after it had begun on Friday morning, saying that as a religious person, he found it "very difficult to give the order to destroy synagogues." He said he preferred that the Palestinian Authority take responsibility for them, a request that the Palestinians had already refused.

Mr. Mofaz's statement embarrassed the government of Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, which had voted numerous times to destroy the synagogues rather than leave open the possibility that they would be desecrated by Palestinians. The government had also fought in the courts to win an order for their destruction.

On Thursday, Israel's highest court rejected an appeal by rabbis and supported the government's plan to pull down Gaza's synagogues.

On Sunday the Cabinet reversed itself and voted 14 to 2 not to tear down the synagogues.

Can you blame Mohammed Dahlan, the Palestinian civil affairs minister, when he described the Israeli decision about the synagogues as a "political trap"?


September 12, 2005

(Reb Yudel)

Politics and Race

Rehnquist. Fallwell. The segregationist stain lies deep in the contemporary Republican party. Digsby discusses what this racism means for liberals:
The sad fact is that in that great sea of Republican red, there are many whites who would rather do without health care than see money go to pay for programs that they believe benefit blacks to the detriment of whites. Their prejudice overwhelms their economic self-interest and always has. They vote for the party that reinforces their belief that government programs only benefit the undeserving african american poor.

That is why liberals have to accept that race must be part of the argument. We are making progress. Things are better. But progress requires staying focused on the issue and ensuring that there is no slippage, no matter how difficult and cumbersome this debate feels at times. The liberal agenda depends upon forcing this out of the national bloodstream with each successive generation not only for moral reasons, which I know we all believe, but it also depends upon forcing it out of the bloodstream for practical reasons. Until this knee jerk reaction to black poverty among certain whites (and Pat Buchanan), particularly in the south, is brought to heel we are fighting an uphill battle to muster the consensus we need to create the kind of nation that guarantees its citizens a modern, decent safety net regardless of race or class.

September 9, 2005

(Reb Yudel)

First hand reports are coming out from New Orleans tourists

Daily Kos aggregates stories from North Carolina, England and Canada:

"The first four days were spent trying to contain us, to herd us," Johnson said. "There was no thought given to evacuation. It was all police and National Guard, and it was all, contain, contain, contain. Focus on the looters. Shoot to kill anybody after dark. Get everybody together under one roof so we can control them. We didn't need that. We needed out of town."

(Reb Yudel)

Learning from our Russian "soulmates" and Chinese creditors

When I was a kid, the sort of state-organized, Party-promoting glory and propaganda parade scheduled for September 11 and described in this Washington Post report was a halmark of Communist totalitarians. When Bush looked into KGBnik Putin's eyes and said he found a soulmate, I guess he wasn't kidding:

The march, sponsored by the Department of Defense, will wend its way from the Pentagon to the Mall along a route that has not been specified but will be lined with four-foot-high snow fencing to keep it closed and "sterile," said Allison Barber, deputy assistant secretary of defense.

The U.S. Park Police will have its entire Washington force of several hundred on duty and along the route, on foot, horseback and motorcycles and monitoring from above by helicopter. Officers are prepared to arrest anyone who joins the march or concert without a credential and refuses to leave, said Park Police Chief Dwight E. Pettiford.

What's unusual for an event on the Mall is the combination of fences, required preregistration and the threat of arrest.


Happy September 11, folks. Remember: If we become Soviet, then the Islamic Fundamentalists will have lost!

September 8, 2005

(Reb Yudel)

Party, Politboro, and People's Deputies Determined to Investigate Katrina

And the pundits ponder: Will bin Laden, Monica Lewinsky, or Emmanuel Goldstein be found responsible? How else to explain the sheer, brazen disrespect conflation of Party and Congress found in the foll Washington Post story:
"Congress is actively responding to the disaster caused by Hurricane Katrina," House Speaker J. Dennis Hastert (R-Ill.) and Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist (R-Tenn.) said in a statement released during an appearance attended only by Republicans, after an all-GOP planning session.

The announcement came a day after President Bush said his administration would conduct an investigation into the Katrina response and House Majority Leader Tom DeLay (R-Tex.) ordered the House Government Reform Committee to suspend plans for immediate hearings. Democrats denounced both actions, and they called the Frist-Hastert plan inadequate. They vowed to push their own proposals for helping the storm's victims and investigating government agencies' responses.

Oh, and just a word about balanced headlines, such as the Post's "Parties Scramble for Post-Katrina Leverage": They work in all situations. For example, "Jews, Stormtroopers Scramble for Post-Krystalnacht Leverage."
(Reb Yudel)

Edah and Brain Death; or: Quck, someone pull the plug!

Hmmm. Maybe Rabbi Tendler is right, that Edah is full of lies. I'm going to do a bit of fisking of What Edah Wants Us to Learn from Katrina, an oped distributed by Edah and written by by Rabbi Chaim Steinmetz, the spiritual leader of Tifereth Beth David Jerusalem in Montreal, Quebec, and is a member of Edah's editorial board.
The images of suffering are overwhelming. Watching TV coverage of Hurricane Katrina, you can feel the anguish of the victims of this awful disaster. An unpredictable confluence of circumstances brought about a "perfect storm" that killed thousands and left hundreds of thousands homeless. Katrina is a true human catastrophe.

As unpredictable as this hurricane may have been, the human reactions to it are all too predictable. Immediately, there is finger pointing. On the political front, President Bush is blamed for a variety of failures ranging from a slow response to the disaster to having caused the global warming which lead to the hurricane. Religious authorities with agendas of their own come to speak in God's name and blame the catastrophe on their opponents.

Thank you, Mr. Canadian Rabbi, for spreading the President's lies. Storm was predictable. Bush promised that keeping Americans safe was his highest priority.
These finger pointing explanations are not only deeply flawed, they are also deeply insensitive. The Talmud says that anyone who gives a grieving person an explanation that the victim's sins caused his own suffering has violated the prohibition of verbal abuse.
Look, Chaim: Don't conflate blaming the victims -- as done by many government officials -- with blaming the perpetrators. When I see Bush grieving -- over a single goddamn thing -- I'll ease up on him for a bit. I've spent too many of these past five years grieving -- for neighbors orphaned, for local national guardsmen going off to fight a senseless, unwinnable war, for my wife's home town destroyed and babies and grandparents left to die by an unfeeling, lying government -- to care for the heartless, brainless, cowardly man in the White House.

Really, Chaim, if you feel so much for him, maybe we can swap citizenships. Because I would really love to be in a country whose government doesn't seem intent on waging a war on its people.

As you proceed to quote Rav Soloveitchik, I have to wonder: Were you ever in the Rav's class?

Because I was a student of the Rav, for a few months, in his final semester. And having been a student at the end, when the requirements for admission to the Rav's shiur had been greatly relaxed; and having been the least studious and serious person in the class, I have always assumed that for all of the decades that the Rav held court, that I was the most sorry excuse for a student he ever had.

Until now.

To R. Solovietchik, the real question that has to be asked is: How do I respond to tragedy? Our obligation in the face of a catastrophe is to act: to comfort and aid those who have suffered, and to use human creativity to prevent future catastrophes. The only Jewish response to tragedy is to restore human dignity and rebuild the world.
Amen to that, brother. But alas, in your final conclusion, you prove either your total ignorance, or you total submission to the Party slime machine.
The response to this tragedy is to join hands in rebuilding the world, rather than point fingers. The most important lesson of any large scale disaster is the commonality of all human beings; we have all have the same vulnerabilities and the same aspirations. Most importantly, we are all created in the same image of God. It is up to us to learn how to live together as brothers and sisters, and help each other with their burdens.
Where to start?

If we're going to quote the Rav: Well, the Rav was not known to suffer fools gladly, the age and disease-induced mellowness that enabled me to garner a few crumbs of wisdom from him excepted. I can't imagine him tolerating George Bush. He ridiculed Reagan as a Pharoah-like, out-of-touch figure -- and American citizens and American cities weren't dropping like flies on Reagan's watch.

Might I suggest that if you wish to restore human dignity, the response of those of you north of the border should not be to defend the callous caliphate in Washington, but to petition your own government to invade the United States and try President Bush for crimes against humanity?

Might I suggest as well that the rule of malchut harasha is a perpetual rebuke to malchut shadai, and that any efforts of tikkun olam which do not involve a renunciation of malchut harasha -- which is to say, that Caesar who fiddled while his people starved -- is as hollow and empty as the fasts for which our ancestors were rebuked?

Can there be any tikkun olam which ignores the command of m'dvar sheker tirhak -- and can there be any courage when one fears to speak truth to power, and to call a tepid, cowardly, callous response what it is?

How can we think of "rebuilding the world" when the government that has watched as two cities were destroyed stays on, putting all of its powers in defending its image and lies and none in help the people?

Edah boasts of "the courage to be modern and Orthodox." Let me tell you, buddy, it takes no courage to follow the modern Party line of Orthodox fidelity to the latest Party propaganda points, and decide that the Dear Leader is above criticism, that it's not his fault, and that the Great Leader loves each and every one of us.

But, yea, verily, it is as the Torah taught us you many centuries ago: ad matai ha Edah harasha hazeh.

Harachama hu y'varech et midinatenu arzot habrit, v'yagen alehah m'oyveiha, sareiha, v'hanifei sareiha.

September 7, 2005

(Reb Yudel)

Karl Rove: Bush is a A Category Five Wimp

The new Party line is that the president would have loved to have helped, but he was waiting for an official invitation. He couldn't order in the national guard , or order the army to readiness, or do a gosh-darn thing without the local officials signing off on the pretty-please paperwork.

The can-do president was too much the southern gentleman to wrestle Katrina on his own.

So, the message from the Bushistas is that their beloved President was too much of a wimp to rush in and save people's lives?

Dubya a wimp?

That would explain his war record.

The president a wimp?

That would explain his reading the Pet Goat as New York City burned

Bush Jr. a wimp?

That would explain his failure to veto a single pork-laden, deficit-ballooning spending bill, despite his obstensible commitment to "small government"

Bush a wimp?

That would explain why he didn't think to challenge his cabinet officials who were predicting that a war in Iraq would require no post-war plans, and that the occupation administration could be staffed with 25-year-old Party activists.

Bush a wimp?

So I guess the official Party line is now this:

CAJUNS CRUSHED BY COMMANDER-IN-CHIEF'S COJONE CRISIS

And that's what his defenders are saying!

September 6, 2005

(Reb Yudel)

I guess Kabbalah really is nonsense after all

How else to explain the title of this post on the Kabbalah For Women blog: How Could Katrina Happen To A Country With A God-Fearing President Like Bush?

(Reb Yudel)

What part of Lo Ta'amod Al Dam Re'echa do the Bible-thumping, Bush-fellating Party Faithful not understand?

Salt Lake Tribune - Utah:
Firefighters say they want to brave the heat, the debris-littered roads, the poisonous cottonmouth snakes and fire ants and travel into pockets of Louisiana where many people have yet to receive emergency aid.

But as specific orders began arriving to the firefighters in Atlanta, a team of 50 Monday morning quickly was ushered onto a flight headed for Louisiana. The crew's first assignment: to stand beside President Bush as he tours devastated areas.

(Reb Yudel)

How many roads must a man walk down, before you can call him a man?

Yes, and how many American cities can be devastated, before you can call the President the fucking moronic brain-dead retard that he is?

Lower Manhattan in ruins. New Orleans devastated. Anyone want to place guesses on what city is going to fall next to win Bush a trifecta?

September 4, 2005

(Reb Yudel)

Call for leadership: McCain / Gore in '05

For four years, Bush said homeland security was the top priority.

He didn't do diddlysquat.

Arthur Silber put it concisely:

[T]he Bush administration’s use of fear is revealed as a lie from beginning to end—as a political strategy, with no further meaning. They never took any of their own endlessly repeated warnings of calamity seriously at all. They never meant any of it.

So now what?

Calls to "impeach Bush" are meaningless, because Bush is not the problem; Bush is the symptom.

The problem is an administration without grownups. An administration that doesn't believe in planning. An executive that doesn't know how to execute.

The problem is George Bush, Dick Cheney, Donald Rumsfeld, and Condalisa "Shop-a-lot" Rice.

The problem is a Party-controlled Congress, that marched in goosestep lockstep with the Administration. A Congress that enabled a disfunctional presidency.

It's time to give Congress a choice: They can all be tarred and feathered with the brush of George "Louisana Baby-Killer" Bush.

Or they can get us new leadership of the executive, and return to the systems of checks and balances.

It's to demand that our Congressmen -- both Democrats and Republicans -- support a resolution calling for:

  1. The resignation of Dick Cheney
  2. The appointment of John McCain as vice president
  3. The resignation of George Bush
  4. The appointment of Al Gore as vice president
  5. The full and complete pardon of George Bush and Dick Cheney for any crimes committed in office
  6. A renewal of Congressional oversight
  7. A renewal of the traditional role of the Congressional minority party
  8. A pledge to oppose any judicial appointments who had given excessive deference to the decisions of George Bush

Could this work? Could this be a platform for an outraged populace and disgusted Congress? Damned if I know. But I do know that generic calls to "Impeach Bush" are meaningless.

And I am convinced that three and a half more years of Bush / Cheney will cost us at least one more American metropolis.

Democrats won't like a Republican in the White House who could run for re-election in '08. Republicans won't like having a Democrat as veep, and resurrecting the career of a failed Democratic candidate.

But John McCain understands Congressional oversight, Al Gore understands executive branch oversight, and it's time to put aside the ass-covering of the Bush Administration, and move forward to save this country.


(Reb Yudel)

A post-Katrina addition for birkat hamazon

To be added to benching (Grace after Meals):

harachaman hu y'varech at midinateinu artzot habrit, v'yagenah m'oyveihah v'sareiha.

May the Merciful One bless our country, the United States, and protect her from her enemies and her leaders.

September 2, 2005

(Reb Yudel)

Bush Co.: Politics for me but not for thee

Shorter Arthur Silber: Government can politicize 9/11, but victims can't politicize hurricane catastrophe.

(Andrew Silow-Carroll)

All we are saying is -- oh, I forget

Where do the Jewish organizations stand on the war?

Who says they're standing? I try to explain:

And that is probably the biggest factor that keeps antiwar sentiment from boiling over in this country — within the Jewish community and well beyond it. You can agree that the war was a colossal mistake, but the clock cannot be turned back. Now what? Pull out our troops and leave the country to a civil war that we stoked in the first place? Pour in more troops in the hopes of establishing martial law — and a Marshall Plan — in a country rife with ethnic and religious divisions? If President Bush were to go on television tomorrow and apologize to Cindy Sheehan, were Dick Cheney and Donald Rumsfeld to resign, then what?

What’s stifling the antiwar movement is the challenge Cindy Sheehan faced as soon as she morphed from a mom with a question — “Why did my son have to die?” — to spokeswoman for a political movement: What’s your plan for ending this thing? Fair or not, it’s a question that sunk John Kerry’s presidential campaign and is tying Democrats in knots.

(Reb Yudel)

The false equivalence of the right

Lots of fallacies have fueled the Republican Party's control of America.
Life-of-Rubin provides an example: The fallacy of false equivalence.

Rubin's fallacy can be summed up in his headline:
LIFE-of-RUBIN: You Know Who Else is an Idiot? Al Sharpton

Here's a secret, Rubin: I know that Sharpton's an idiot. So does everyone else. There's a reason he hasn't been elected dog catcher.

The fact that there's an idiot on TV does not balance the idiot in the White House. The idiot in the White House has a job to do. And people who appointed him have to decide: Is he up for the job?

I didn't vote for Al Sharpton, and I won't, because he's an idiot.

For those of you who voted for George Bush, the question is not, is he the biggest idiot on the planet. The question is, is he up to the task of protecting our country? Is he up to the job?

Proving that Bush isn't the biggest idiot in America is no challenge. Because, frankly, those of you who gave him the car keys are far bigger idiots.

(Reb Yudel)

How Bush Buries Bayou in Horseshit

Bush surprised evacuation and rescue going poorly? Shocked that children and grandparents are dying?

Maybe he should have prayed harder against the Hurricane.

Because he sure didn't choose his FEMA director with an eye to competence:
FEMA Dir. Mike Brown fired from prior job at Horse Assoc.


The man responsible for directing federal relief operations in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, sharpened his emergency management skills as the "Judges and Stewards Commissioner" for the International Arabian Horses Association... a position from which he was forced to resign in the face of mounting litigation and financial disarray.

This is what Bush voters support. This is what Bush supporters approve of. This is what a compliant Congress endorses.

(Reb Yudel)

DeLong: An Economist Views With Dismay

Brad DeLong's Semi-Daily Journal: On Hurricane Katrina--for Marketplace Radio


I guess I was naive.

I thought that in the wake of Katrina's passing we'd see flotillas of helicopters, fleets of boats, and public health and public safety professionals from all over the country giving booster shots and restoring order within hours. I expected to see rapid, active, and aggressive disaster-recovery response from rescue assets prepositioned nearby but out of the reach of the hurricane.

After all, having a hurricane hit a city is nothing new. New Orleans's vulnerability as a bathtub waiting for the ocean is obvious. Louisiana is crucial to America's oil industry, and New Orleans is--was--an incredibly valuable touristic and cultural jewel.

But it appears that such was not the case. One hospital ship is scheduled to leave Baltimore tomorrow, rather than a week and a half ago.

The effect of the Hurricane Katrina catastrophe on the broader economy is still a question mark. We don't know, yet, how much damage was done to the Gulf Coast oil sector. Refineries are shut. Drilling platforms are missing. And we don't know, yet, what other hurricanes will come roaring through.

Current estimates are that Hurricane Katrina has destroyed something like $100 billion of American wealth. Almost all of these losses will fall on the perhaps 1 and a half million refugees. Figure average wealth losses of $70,000 per affected household. Then figure it'll take several months to begin to rebuild and reknit economic activity in Louisiana, Mississippi, and Alabama. That's an extra $10,000 lost per household. Insurance won't cover more than a fraction.

When rebuilding starts--assuming that New Orleans can be pumped out in a reasonably short period of time, and that businesses are willing to risk rebuilding--the lower Mississippi should see lots of work to be done. That is, provided that the federal government, state governments, and businesses are willing to finance it.

If the Gulf Coast oil sector is in good shape, it won't be that many months before measured real GDP is about what it would have been had Katrina never come ashore.

But the GDP number won't count the $100 billion or so of destroyed wealth. The already-poor lower Mississippi Valley will be much poorer for a long time to come. People who were office professionals will be construction helpers. People who were middle class will be working class. People who were working class will be working poor--for seasons if not for years. And that's if the reconstruction effort goes well.

(Reb Yudel)

Tryin' To Get To Heaven

Forget about the new albums of old material from 1966 and before. It's the later songs that have been going through my head.

From 1997's Time Out of Mind, here's Bob Dylan: Tryin' To Get To Heaven

The air is getting hotter
There's a rumbling in the skies
I've been wading through the high muddy water
With the heat rising in my eyes
Every day your memory grows dimmer
It doesn't haunt me like it did before
I've been walking through the middle of nowhere
Trying to get to heaven before they close the door

When I was in Missouri
They would not let me be
I had to leave there in a hurry
I only saw what they let me see
You broke a heart that loved you
Now you can seal up the book and not write anymore
I've been walking that lonesome valley
Trying to get to heaven before they close the door

People on the platforms
Waiting for the trains
I can hear their hearts a-beatin'
Like pendulums swinging on chains
When you think that you lost everything
You find out you can always lose a little more
I'm just going down the road feeling bad
Trying to get to heaven before they close the door

I'm going down the river
Down to New Orleans
They tell me everything is gonna be all right
But I don't know what "all right" even means
I was riding in a buggy with Miss Mary-Jane
Miss Mary-Jane got a house in Baltimore
I been all around the world, boys
Now I'm trying to get to heaven before they close the door

Gonna sleep down in the parlor
And relive my dreams
I'll close my eyes and I wonder
If everything is as hollow as it seems
Some trains don't pull no gamblers
No midnight ramblers, like they did before
I been to Sugar Town, I shook the sugar down
Now I'm trying to get to heaven before they close the door
(Reb Yudel)

A glimpse of hope? Has 4th estate broken off four-year honeymoon with Bush?

AMERICAblog:
brings word that after four years, the media finally is willing to play hardball against the incompetent goons in Washington:


Ted Koppel Rips, Rips RIPS Michael Brown of FEMA on "Nightline
by Michael in New York - 9/02/2005 12:08:00 AM

Some choice highlights.

Koppel (on the number of people at the convention center -- the mayor says 15,000 to 25,000 and FEMA said only 5000): One of you is wrong. It's either 5000 or 15,000. Do you know?

Brown of FEMA: Blah blah blah. 25,000.... We just learned of the convention center -- we being the federal government -- today.

Koppel: I've heard you say during the course of a number of interviews that you found out about the convention center today. Don't you guys watch television? Don't you guys listen to the radio? Our reporters have been reporting on it for more than just today.

Brown of FEMA: We learned about (the convention center) FACTUALLY today that that's what existed.

(Brown responds to another question by saying troops are going to be moving in soon.)

Koppel: Here we are essentially FIVE DAYS after the storm hit and you're talking about what's going to happen in the next couple of days.... You didn't make preparations for what was going to happen in the event that [a category four storm hit]. Why didn't you?

(Brown then complains that poor people who don't own cars and can't afford hotel rooms didn't jump into their SUVs and head to the Hyatt in Atlanta. He then sidesteps Koppel by implying it was the city's fault for not having buses available for the very poor.)

Koppel: I'm not asking you why the city didn't have buses available. I'm asking you why you didn't have National Guards with trucks to get them out of there. Why you didn't have people with flatbed trailers if that's what you needed. Why you didn't simply get as many Greyhound buses from surrounding states as you could lay your hands on to get those people out of there. Why you haven't done it TO THIS DAY.

Transcript and video coming soon.

Thank God Koppel is there to ask the common sense questions we've been talking about all day. And how soon before Brown gets his Medal of Freedom?

Remember: If the head of FEMA has time to go on TV, the American people have time to demand the truth from the Bush.

September 1, 2005

(Reb Yudel)

How to Kill Babies on $400,000 a Year (and take 5 weeks vacation, too!)

Kevin Drum at The Washington Monthly provides a timeline that outlines the fate of both FEMA and flood control projects in New Orleans under the Bush administration.

In all fairness, it should be noted that every Bush action was approved by a lockstep Republican Congress that passed bills without consultation with the opposition party.

(Reb Yudel)

YudelLine: Katrina is God's Punishment on the American People for Hiring Bush

Just as God punishes people who jump out of airplanes without parachutes, or who douse themselves with gasoline and light a match, God punishes those who hire a man who never worked a day in his life to manage their country.

Maybe I'm just bitter, because I've always placed work responsibilities ahead of vacation.

Maybe because I was taught that those who lead have to work the hardest -- not take the longest vacations.

But I think there's a real lesson here, and that is that America cannot survive another three and a half years of this administration. It is time for impeachment.

To plagiarize from
Digby,
who quotes Wolcott:


No, this is the time for politics, none better, because I can tell you just from being out of NY a few days that a lot of people in this country are shocked and sobered by New Orleans, but they're also worried and pissed off. They're making the connection between the money, manpower, and resources expended in Iraq and how raggedy-ass the rescue effort has been in the Gulf. If you don't say it now when people's nerves are raw and they're paying full attention, it'll be too late once the waters receded and the media-emoting "healing process" begins.


This event is emblematic of Republican governance. It encompasses every fuck-up they've perpetrated since they took over the entire national governament --- failure to plan, embracing only the best case scenario, lagging response, ignoring the experts, slashing funds and endless, endless happy talk that we can SEE WITH OUR OWN EYES is bullshit. (They are already saying that nobody is reporting all the "good news.")


The fact that most of these refugees (a word that I can hardly believe I'm typing) are black and poor residents who were unable to leave and were therefore, left to die, is emblematic also.


No, this is all about politics. It is about a GOP era of massive tax breaks for very rich Americans, billion dollar a week elective wars that we are losing while more and more people fall into poverty and the infrastructure of this country crumbles around our ears.


This failed experiment in free-market magical thinking can be summed up entirely by pictures of dead elderly Americans on the streets of New Orleans.


(Reb Yudel)

Republican Party responds to catastrophe: Now is the time to fight "death tax"

Crooks and Liars has the email of what is apparently Ken Mehlman's most important issue today.

Given that most of the people whose corpses are decomposing in New Orleans didn't flee town because they couldn't have SUVs in which to flee, that's a pretty tasteless issue to take up now.

But then, for the Republicans, taste always comes second to profits.

(Reb Yudel)

Drowning Jefferson Parish

Just less than a year ago, a report on how, inexplicably, Louisana failed to get disaster preparedness money under Bush Administration criteria:

The Federal Emergency Management Agency shook up its way of distributing disaster preparedness money when it introduced its Pre-Disaster Mitigation (PDM) grant program in 2002. Given the program's criteria, Louisiana appeared to have been a shoo-in for federal dollars for 2003, the first year the program began awarding money. Instead, Louisiana got nothing.
Be prepared. Sigh. I guess noone ever claimed that W. was a boy scout....

(Reb Yudel)

How George Bush Destroyed His Second American City

It is becoming clear that it is no accident that George Bush is the first president to preside over the deaths of thousands of Americans in two separate American cities in two separate catastrophes. He doesn't believe in government. He doesn't believe in the common good. He doesn't believe in planning. He doesn't believe in thought.

And he doesn't believe in accountability.

Those who believe in accountability need to start reading about what Bush did to the FEMA.
Laura Rozen posts a piece of it.