Wednesday, March 19, 2008

What a President Should Sound Like


I listened to Barack Obama's speech yesterday not once, but five times. This was not a mere political stump speech or an elongated sound byte replete with platitudes and non-offensive buzz words. Obama delivered a lecture on racial history in America and how to go about reconciling those differences and animosities that still linger. It is those hatreds, resentments, and bickering that hold us back from addressing the problems that effect all races, creeds, and peoples equally. Obama put his life in perspective and in turn, showed the commonality all of us share. Obama dared to tell it like it is and, no doubt, lots of very timid people will complain about it.

I cried tears from sheer elation, listening to the brilliant thoughts of this highly educated and widely experienced man speaking a well-known, but seldom spoken, truth about our national heritage. Simultaneously, contrasting Barack Obama with the fucking nincompoop that currently occupies the Oval Office, I bawl from sadness. This once great and powerful nation has, for the last eight years, been subjected to the lowest common denominator and the meanest of intellects. The emptiness of the Neocon/Republican movement and the condescending nature of its purveyors becomes ever so much more evident in light of what Sen. Obama offers to the American people in terms of poise, ability, and compassion.

I had supported John Edwards in his bid for the nomination, but he unfortunately didn't catch on beyond the small dedicated progressive circles in which I travel. His talk of 'Two Americas' is true enough, but this country wasn't quite ready to hear that important message. Perhaps Sen. Obama, who seemed at times to be channeling Edwards, will be the inspirational leader that Edwards could not, for reasons which I do not know. Barack Obama preaches 'Hope'. Let's hope he comes through.

Should he get that far, he has my vote. Barack in 2008!

Please click on the title above for the video.

Kol Tuv

The Prodigal Amendment?


Imagine having a favorite child, a ‘prodigal son’ whose best interests, in your mind, take precedence over the concerns and care of all your other children. Spectators to this doting protectionism will invariably wonder as to why that ‘special’ child receives so much more attention than does his siblings. Your answer to them might entail claims to legacies and posterity, because this treasured child will become the future guarantor and protector of his not-so-favored brothers and sisters. They become, in relation to him, nothing more than appendages and remain forever codependent to that singular, all-important “wunderkindt”. Imagine being one of the ‘others’ for a moment, living in his psychological shadow, relegated to second tier status.

This favoritism is a common mistake of most 2nd amendment supporters in failing to recognize the inherit danger in affording special or elevated status to one particular right from among the Bill of Rights and the Constitution. I do not pick on 2nd Amendment advocates because I support gun control or gun confiscation, and this article should in no way be misconstrued as an attack on individual gun ownership. However, it does appear that 2nd Amendment supporters and lobbyists for the gun manufacturers tend to have a narrower overall focus than do those whose efforts are applied to 1st, 4th, 5th, or 14th Amendment issues.

This myopic view stems from two colossal errors in judgment, one principled and the other practical. The main roadblock is the predominate misperception that gun ownership among the general populace provides the sole guarantor of the other amendments in the Bill of Rights. The assumption, although not totally off base, is that as long as the forces of tyranny know that the people will shoot back, they will be very reluctant to ever exercise undue power over the citizenry. On its face, it sounds like a very good, common sense theory. The threat of a motivated and mobilized citizenry taking up arms in revolt, providing the necessary deterrent to government, hangs looming over the heads of agencies and politicians alike.

However, this assumption is patently false. Not that it couldn’t work in theory but, at least since the American Revolution, it just hasn’t ever happened. In fact, several periods of our history i.e. Sedition Acts when enacted in violation of the Bill of Rights and enforced, the bulk of the gun-owning American populace stood by and did nothing. The shot-guns, muskets, pistols, and revolvers sat in perfect quiescence. In many cases, it was the armed citizens themselves who offered to use those guns to help the government! Couple this with the realization that the overwhelming force of a modern and quickly deployed government agency cannot be outmatched by even by the most able of local insurgencies. A prolonged stand-off is possible; a victory, not likely.

In addition, supporters of individual gun ownership tend to be more conservative and Republican in their outlook, though libertarians tend to be very outspoken as well. In today’s divisive and polarized political atmosphere, there are no longer Democrats and Republicans, Liberals or Conservatives, but a highly charged, issue driven world of hatred borne from conflicting political, social, and corporate interests. If the ACLU, for example, supports the 1st Amendment right of a socially unfavorable group to disseminate literature, then the social conservatives will, without just cause, dismiss any and all issues the ACLU supports as ‘liberal’, and refuse to consider the deeper implications of censorship. The conservative never imagines that he or she might ever have any thoughts or ideas worth censoring, and therefore 1st Amendment arguments are moot. They would also falsely conclude that since they have nothing to hide, at least at the present, that the breaches of the 4th and 5th Amendments are also of no immediate concern.

The abrogation of civil rights is always acceptable when that violation is intended to affect the freedoms someone else deemed ‘subversive’, ‘foreign’, or ‘threatening’. As gun control advocates ask for stricter regulation on ownership, for more comprehensive background checks, or for the restriction of certain types of weapons, the 2nd Amendment supporters go, for lack of a better term, “ballistic”. Yet, when a critic of government policy is wrongfully jailed or persecuted for his beliefs by that government for some contrived reason, the gun owning, 2nd Amendment true believers are suddenly nowhere to be found. The gun they promised would protect and uphold the Constitution is again strangely silent. Their pens and keyboards seem to be gathering dust as well.

I can fully understand the desire of some to engage the latest technology in protecting our borders from real threats i.e. foreign invaders, terrorists, and governments whose rhetoric disparages the freedoms and liberties that we enjoy. I also understand the need for law enforcement to have the latest tools thwarting criminal enterprise and ensuring public safety. Yet, the eagerness of many gun advocates to permit government the carte blanche, universal surveillance of ALL Americans in the name of ‘national security’ befuddles me. How does one stand so strongly for one of the rights as inviolable and, one the other hand offhandedly discard the others?

Many who support the 2nd amendment right to bear arms, myself included, believe there is an element within that inalienable right that allows the people access to an ability and wherewithal to organize and engage in violent revolt when they feel the government fails to redress their issues or becomes tyrannical in other ways. This is where the FISA surveillance problem and the erosion of Habeas Corpus interfere with the practical implementation of your 2nd Amendment rights and the purpose for which that right was established.

Let’s say the horrific day comes around that the once docile and law-abiding American people have had their fill of warrantless wire-tappings, asset seizures, writs of eminent domain, and fewer government services even with much higher taxes. Their peaceful redresses of the various grievances fall upon the deaf ears of bureaucrats and elected officials alike. They sense a bad government and want a radical change to bring about new momentum moving us back to the old liberties. We, the people, decide then and there to take up arms. Yet, we have an insurmountable difficulty blocking our way. How exactly are we going to organize to fight an already organized government, even if we had a hope of out gunning them in the first place? A revolt requires a network.

During the 2nd World War, lightly armed underground resistance militias were very effective at hampering the occupying or advancing Nazi forces in several countries. This was possible because within these countries, both nationalist and Communist underground movements existed and were able to organize, assemble, and continue clandestine operations throughout the war. The Germans did not have the technological means to listen in on every telegraph wire, radio signal, transmission, or phone call and that inability allowed for the people, many who relied also on word of mouth or written communication, to actively organize a resistance. Their obscurity afforded them time to organize. Secrecy keeps you one or two steps ahead of your enemy.

Fast forward to our modern era to a technologically perceptive and advanced society, in which well-funded government agencies operate in league with complicit and submissive communication conglomerates to know everything they want to know about anyone they desire. Certainly, the claim is made for national security or criminal justice. They may claim it’s about terrorism and border security, but as we know, the definition of what constitutes ‘terror’ can be interpreted as foreign and it can just as easily be translated to take on a ‘domestic’ character. Speak of revolt or radical change and you instantly become a ‘terrorist’, irrespective of whether or not your cause is a noble one. Even quoting the Constitution can get one sent to prison.

Once our emails and telephone conversations are closely monitored and our ability to communicate is hamstrung by wiretaps and wide dragnets of our emails for ‘subversive’ elements, then how would we ever organize well enough to fight the government and exercise, what Thomas Jefferson called our ‘right’ to revolt? In practical terms, even should the right to bear arms remain sacrosanct, the stated purpose of said right loses its effectiveness in the erosion of any other right needed make that right an effective recourse to a government gone awry. The leaders of the proposed resistance would end up being singled out for arrest long before any organization could manifest and thus be quickly removed before the revolt takes hold. The government, that ominous monster so feared by gun advocates will, through closely monitoring communications, undermine the very purpose of the 2nd Amendment through destruction of the others.

Let’s not play favorites with the Bill of Rights. All those ‘children’ need to be loved equally. Ignoring the other ‘siblings’ to favor another will, in the end, leave a child standing alone without any help at all. The Founders were neither saints nor savants, nor were they always motivated from the noblest of desires, yet they were wise enough to forge an ideal from within a framework of interdependent political and social imperatives. We call these ‘rights’, and each right is mutually inclusive of the others.


“In every country, we should be teaching our children the scientific method and the reasons for a Bill of Rights. With it comes a certain decency, humility and community spirit. In the demon-haunted world that we inhabit by virtue of being human, this may be all that stands between us and the enveloping darkness.” (Carl Sagan, 1934 - 1996)

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Trouble in Beit Shemesh


From NPR:

A small group of ultra-Orthodox extremists has been intimidating fellow Jews who they deem to be not kosher or modest enough, or who don't keep the Sabbath the way they want them to.

Women wearing jeans or pants, Wahlbe says, are a distraction to what he calls "the focused, settled minds" of the Haredim. "When dealing with this issue of Torah, your mind has to be much more settled and can't be jumping around to all sorts of different planets and all sorts of different fantasies and thoughts that might come up on a teenager's head," he says.

Re: Focused, settled minds?

I almost laughed myself into an early heart attack over this one. Focused? Settled? You’ve got to be kidding me! Exactly how ‘focused’ and ‘settled’ can the Charedi mind possibly be if a few wisps of a woman’s uncovered hair and a bare elbow can throw it off its game? Besides, even without non-tznius abiding men and women haunting the streets of Beit Shemesh or Boro Park, the Charedi mind would still be a maze of irrational fears, money concerns, hero worship, guilt trips, inter-Orthodox infighting, jealousy, and denial of scientific reality. That a passing woman wearing blue jeans could somehow divert the God-fearing attentions of any person so completely engrossed with Torah and the above-mentioned day-to-day worries demonstrates either the super-powers of well-fitting denim slacks or, more likely, the manic, overzealous obsession with sexuality that turns all things quite simple into one very complex psychological monster.

Re: A teenager’s head?

Well, Rabbi. What about your head? It is interesting that this ‘rabbi’ deflects the problem from himself and other adult Charedi males, and instead seeks to foist the issue onto ‘teenagers’. This is his underhanded way of saying “Do it for the children!” He speaks as if grown Charedim don’t have sexual desires or thoughts and are quite blind, due to the high level of Yiras Shamayim no doubt, to uncovered women and girls. If you think for a minute that adult Orthodox men don’t check out pretty women, even those dressed according to halacha or local minhag, I have some bad news for you. They do lots more than just look. In any case, for this shmendrik to place the situation on adolescent boys is ridiculous.

Can you say Taliban?

My advice is for the Charedim to go about their business and, at the same time, mind their own business as well. No one is forcing sexual thoughts into their heads. If their educational-moral system isn’t strong enough or their rabbonim not sufficiently effective to stem the tide of these illicit ponderings, then maybe the fault isn’t in the non-orthodox society, but from a deep-rooted psycho-social defect within the Charedi community.

I used to be one of them, but NOT any of those.

Kol Tuv

Sunday, March 09, 2008

Shareholders vs. Consumers : An Old Trick

The defenders of corporate greed and institutional usury attempt to split the loyalties of consumers and investors who, often enough are the same person, into two rival factions. After all the other ridiculous pseudo-philosophical arguments and historical revisionism miserably fail to support their objective, they then turn back to the old ‘divide and conquer’ strategy. This is effective because it uses a truth, an obvious truth, and by some ‘logical’ extension, abuses that same truth to defend a detestable status quo.

This is similar to the rationale that says “Corporations are people, too.” Well, duh. The intent is to deflect the problems of corporations as entities by saying that they are, somehow, just like regular people. It’s bullshit. We all know it’s bullshit, but taking the time to break the claim down and explain why it’s bullshit is nigh impossible on the fly. The shortest answer might be to say, “Corporations are people, yes. But like people who behave badly or have misguided or dangerous notions, they should be carefully monitored and regulated to make sure they don’t act on those impulses.”

The ‘Shareholder vs. Consumer” tactic is more effective than the ‘corporations are people’ tactic, because it pits the conflicting interests of the same individual against himself! However, in the following ‘observations’ I will explain, or try to, why this is a fallacy that derives from the roots of corporate financing and misperceptions of how the market works. If you really believe that higher consumer prices are good for the common investor, then read on.


  1. Let’s do the arithmetic. While there is no doubt that consumers may also be shareholders, does the dividend the average shareholder receive equal to or exceed the amount of money now spent at the gas pump, either before or after taxes? I have some small investments in petroleum and not only does my monthly output because of the increased prices for everything exceed my dividend, the percentage of return that I receive on my stock has also gone DOWN, in spite of the price per barrel skyrocketing. I received a better dividend when oil was $25 per barrel than I do when it is over $100.
  1. The mega-wealthy shareholders who hold the most of the stock wouldn’t have to worry about gas prices anyhow, even if they didn’t own it. I don’t see why the majority of consumers should be required to feed their irrational greed for wealth they do NOT need. That the average American should have to fore go some small luxuries in order for someone else to earn a dividend is wrong. I won’t deny them a profit, but why s profit so holy that it allows all and any abuse in it’s attainment?
  1. I don’t understand why any consumer should worry about the problems of investors. If a person has enough money to gamble in the stock market or lend to a wealthy speculator, then it follows that they must have also enough plenty over to pay all their bills, take a nice vacation, and eat out once in a while. Many Americans can’t manage that much these days and much of it is due to the rapid increases in gas prices and petroleum derivatives along the ripple effect those increases place upon our economy. If a person has enough left over to play the market then why should their wants take precedence over the needs of those who aren’t so fortunate?
  1. I fail to grasp why corporations need investors at all. After all, isn’t it good business not run solely upon the ‘confidence’ of investors but rather upon sound business practice that turns the profits from real goods or services back into the company? For a company like Exxon-Mobil to have to ‘borrow’ money from others is ridiculous! Every other small businessperson buys his equipment, mows a few lawns, pays off his loans, and then turns some of the money into getting better or more equipment. His profits and reputation build with time without the need of complicated financial engineering schemes and political lobbying. A corporation exists solely to draw money from outside the company into the hands of those running the company so that they can PLAY WITH IT without taking any risk of their own. Their goal is NOT to put as much as they can into the company, but to take OUT as much as possible.
  1. If the defenders of the status quo are truly concerned for shareholders, then maybe a discussion of the bloated and exorbitant CEO compensation packages should be addressed. Every CEO that takes millions in salary and options robs each and every shareholder of monies they are due. Sure. The CEOs deserve to get paid well, but how well? As an investor, I have already done he company a huge favor by risking my money, so why should I also have to coddle a CEO, especially when it’s costing me? I didn’t invest in Enron to help Ken Lay. I invest to help myself. The billions and billions of dollars taken from corporations by individuals who do not risk nearly as much as I do, percentage wise, is obscene and it robs the common shareholder of his portion of the take.

An investor might begin to realize that his investing perpetuates the system and actually causes the inflation that downgrades the real value of his own investment. As corporations, financial institutions, and those who manage them feed the continuing addiction to wealth and ‘success’, it is the consumer AND shareholder who takes the hit, along with employees in most cases, to ensure the corporate profits.

“The chief weapon of sea pirates, however, was their capacity to astonish. Nobody else could believe, until it was too late, how heartless and greedy they were.” (Kurt Vonnegut, 1922 - 2007)

Kol Tuv

Private Water, Public Problem


Troops Sick from KBR-supplied Water (AP)

Dozens of U.S. troops in Iraq fell sick at bases using "unmonitored and potentially unsafe" water supplied by the military and a contractor once owned by Vice President Dick Cheney's former company, the Pentagon's internal watchdog said.

This is what happens when you ‘privatize’ anything. KBR privatized the water supply in Bolivia and ended up not only sickening the population they serviced but impoverished them as well through high fees and legally sanctioned restrictions on individual water collection. Corporations have no conscience. Not even for those who unknowingly and willingly risk their lives to fill the corporate coffers. Imagine what they’d do to workers! Oh wait, they already do.

Companies like KBR have been angling for a way to take over the water supply here in the US as they did in Bolivia. If you think the water bills are high now, just wait until it gets ‘privatized’ and YOU, the consumer who cannot live without the water, will have to pay for the bloated salaries and desired dividends of already filthy rich bastards just so you and your kids won't die of thirst. Then, of course, the cost of all food will inflate because the farmers have to pay those prices, too.

The problem with the military’s water supply was first noticed in 2004 and now, in 2008, the problem continues unabated. No one is being held accountable and the corporation is still getting paid! Is this a good example of privatization being better than government? No. However, this is typical of what happens when corporations run amok anywhere.

Fuck the corporation. And if you like them, then fuck you, too. If a corporation takes over anything, be prepared for a colossal ass-raping of the public.

Visit this link for more information : Water Privatization Overview.

Privatization is fine when it comes to automobiles, cosmetic products, and televisions. However, for the necessities of life, which are RIGHTS and not mere luxuries or conveniences, rigid government control and oversight are necessary. Local municipalities in the US have done an awesome job keeping our water safe and affordable for both residents and businesses. There is NO reason to change anything.

“It has always seemed strange to me...The things we admire in men, kindness and generosity, openness, honesty, understanding and feeling, are the concomitants of failure in our system. And those traits we detest, sharpness, greed, acquisitiveness, meanness, egotism and self-interest, are the traits of success.” (John Steinbeck, Cannery Row)

Kol Tuv

Friday, March 07, 2008

An Atheist's Creed


I believe in time, matter, and energy, which make up the whole of the world.

I believe in reason, evidence and the human mind, the only tools we have; they are the product of natural forces in a majestic but impersonal universe, grander and richer than we can imagine, a source of endless opportunities for discovery.

I believe in the power of doubt. I do not seek out reassurances, but embrace the question, and strive to challenge my own beliefs.

I accept human mortality. We have but one life, brief and full of struggle, leavened with love and community, learning and exploration, beauty and the creation of new life, new art, and new ideas.

I rejoice in this life that I have,and in the grandeur of a world that preceded me, and an earth that will abide without me.

(I did not write this piece, but how I wish I had! It’s brilliant and to the point! I would likely have ruined it with florid and verbose verbiage.)

Kol Tuv

Monday, March 03, 2008

Cheating Spouses & Stupid Americans : 9-11


“The most common of all follies is to believe passionately in the palpably not true. It is the chief occupation of mankind.” (H. L. Mencken, 1880 - 1956)

Americans are dumb asses. On one hand, we assume that Moslem peoples are ignorant and backward yet, at the same time, we give them credit for pulling off the most original, timely, and coordinated attack on modern America. You know, for the first few minutes after 9-11, I believed it, too. After all, Arabs are known for acts of such terrorism. They make the perfect scapegoats. They speak a different language, come from a different culture, and have different color skin. For most backward, knuckle-dragging, illiterate, racist white-American buffoons, Arabs, blacks, Jews, and anyone who can read is pretty much guilty of whatever can be attributed to them, lack of evidence or reason notwithstanding. I learned from 9-11 that my fellow American is a dumb shit.

AS I watched the continuous and repetitive coverage on CNN, FOX, NBC, and the various other media outlets I came to notice something rather odd. Initial interviews with persons who escaped from the buildings, in which witnesses clearly suggested that there were multiple explosions and detonations in the lower parts of the WTC buildings, ended up scrubbed from subsequent broadcasts as the day went on, until they were no longer part of the overall story. The BBC pulled the same wash-job, though it took them a few days longer to get in line with the cover-up.

THAT piqued my interest right away. It is known that in any conspiracy to control information, the first thing necessary is to scrub out any data or testimony that refutes the official version or events and then to attack or discredit the messengers of dissent.

For example:

I am planning a night out with a girl friend and I don't want my wife to fine out. In order to cover my ass, I enlist the help of my buddies. They are to say, if asked, that the bunch of us were playing cards at so-and-so's house until whenever and that I was there the whole night. I tell the wife that the place were are playing is some friend of a friend and that all I know is that it is somewhere at least 20 miles away. (This is, by the way, a classic conspiracy in motion. Remain vague enough in few details to stay flexible for later on.)

Problem is that life isn't limited to those involved in the conspiracy. Along the way to pick up the mistress, there are any number of things that can happen and I, being somewhat astute, have come up with some backup explanations or obfuscations should something not go exactly as planned. I can't control the all the information yet, since I don't know yet what information might be added to the story at this point.(This is also a basic part of any well-laid out conspiracy.)

Well, sure enough, something goes wrong with the plan. For example, I am stopping for gas or some soda and the mistress is sitting next to me in the car when one of my wife's co-workers, whom I do not notice, spots us together at a Quickie Mart. Subsequently, the next morning she mentions running into me at a convenience store the night before, at some distance from where I said I would be playing cards with the guys. Although she makes no mention of the woman, perhaps to be polite or non-nosy, my wife's suspicions are already aroused and she is planning to ask me a few questions later on.

Sue, enough my wife confronts me with eyewitness testimony that contradicts my version of events. How does a good conspirator handle it? First of all, I ask her to call my buddies and see if I was lying. If they are in synch, they will of course say “yes”. The problem occurs when she asks more detailed questions concerning what game as played, when it ended, and who won. She may start to receive conflicting reports as to when the game started, ended or how long I was there. She might even all their wives and girlfriends to confirm or deny the alleged course of events. My wife does not confront me with the conflicting information but rather with her co-worker’s eyewitness report of my being in said place at said time and NOT at card game when I said I would be there. Either way, there is a problem and now I have to scramble to fix it.

The best way to do that is to confuse the wife with mind games to plant the seed for denial and create the plausible impossibility of your being anywhere other than at a card game with Mike, Bob, and Hussein. There is more information than for what I planned and now I have to control or debunk the new testimony. Things like:

1) Is she sure it was me? After all, I don’t know the coworker that well and she could have easily mistaken someone else for me. (Maybe the coworker is sane but simply mistaken about who she saw.)

2) What time was that? Impossible. I can’t be two places at once. (True statements help. It IS in fact physically impossible to be two places at once. You have stated a fact, although it has no bearing on where you were, it is helpful. Maybe the coworker was also mistaken about when she saw me, meaning that she could not have seen me at all.)

3) Are you sure this coworker isn’t just saying that to mess with you? Does she have something against you? What kind of person would torture their coworker and fellow female with outlandish stories of husbands and mistresses? You need to watch out for people like her. She’s obviously a nut. (Now that you’ve planted some doubt to time and place, you must disparage the witness, who might persist in her claims, as a ‘loose cannon’.)

4) Whom do you believe? Me or some loonie and jealous coworker? She just wants to cause trouble in our marriage for some reason. I am absolutely and totally insulted by your lack of trust! Isn’t that hat our marriage is based upon? Who are you going to believe? Some ½ stranger who might hate you? There is no reason to ask anymore questions about that night.

5) I am not going to discuss it any more. You’re becoming as crazy and paranoid as that psycho who claims she spotted me with some ‘mystery’ woman who, by the way, doesn’t exist. If you don’t trust me, then that’s your problem. (Make the wife think she is unstable or unreliable for not trusting and asking questions.)

6) Hope the whole thing goes away and that your wife doesn’t persist in seeking any more truth.

7) Repeat process as necessary and enlist at least one good friend to defend your ‘honor’. (Turn yourself into the victim here.)

So, too, with the 9-11 cover-up. The story starts with a plausible tale of angry Moslems, threats against America, and smuggled box cutters and ends up with so many unanswered questions and incongruencies to the government story that the classical obfuscations became necessary, and on a grander scale than ever before. The 9-11 ‘Truthers’ are painted as loonies, but they are just like our suspicious wife who remains persistent in her doubts as to her husband’s ‘official’ tale of events.

As to the official storytellers of 9-11, they have acted just like our cheating husband in every way and then some. If you believe their version of events without question, you’re a damned fool and deserve to be cheated on.


Sunday, March 02, 2008

'Whims of Providence'? : 9-11 Excuses


I remain one of the many outspoken critics of the government’s 9-11 account. This ‘note’ was a response that I received via e mail some weeks ago regarding this apparent skepticism and my unashamed wearing of tin foil undergarments. I will not to republish the author’s ‘liberal’ use of pejorative or invective and will instead stick to the main gist of the comment.

Re: They (9-11Truthers) appear to have read no military history, which is too bad because if they had they'd know that minutely planned operations--let alone responses to an unprecedented emergency--screw up with monotonous regularity, by reason of stupidity, cowardice, venality and other whims of Providence.

You know, this statement is certainly true enough. In any job, it is possible for unforeseen problems or random mistakes to screw things up beyond belief. That orders are not properly given or followed, or that some piece of important equipment fails at the worst possible time is a common occurrence in any workplace. That a sudden emergency might, due to the sheer shock of the event, incite panic in those trained to handle the crisis is also quite possible. That man and machine would unintentionally collude to fail is an everyday thing. I will grant them that much.

Just how much irresponsibility, however, are we going to chalk up to these ‘whims of providence’? A ‘providential’ screw up of this kind would consist of one of the four hijacked planes getting through to strike its intended target, or maybe even if two were able to do so, should it be that all those highly skilled and trained Air Force radar operators were having a really, really bad day at the office. Then again, maybe those highly skilled and decorated professionals with top-level security clearances and fancy strips of ribbon are in reality complete fucking morons and nothing more than Keystone Cops in military drag. Who knows.

No matter how shocked or surprised the military was on that terrible day, ALL FOUR commercial airliners planes went virtually untracked or unstopped. To make matters worse, even after two of them had already successfully struck their targets and it was known then for certain an attack was underway, yet another airliner was permitted to crash into the most secure and heavily fortified facility in the western hemisphere! Considering the amount of ‘providence’ that had to occur that day, one has to wonder whether or not there was some deliberate lack of effort on the part of NORAD and the FAA in their abject failure stop any of these flights.

It is interesting, though not entirely surprising, that these mostly conservative ‘debunkers’ of alternate theories of 911 find it necessary now to BLAME OUR MILITARY for malfeasance while, at the same time beating the drums for war and begging America to ‘support our troops’. They also seem confident that we can ‘win’ the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan while fighting terrorism everywhere around the globe. Frankly, if the above “debunker’s” statement regarding ‘military history’ and the ‘whims of providence’ are true, then our military complex of men and machine is so hopelessly inept in the face of such odds that there is no way we could ever achieve victory! We are doomed.

I am not a fan of the military establishment or the corporate structure that feeds off it, but I reject outright any backhanded insult to their service. Soldiers are common citizens like you and I, trained to do their jobs efficiently and effectively, just as police officers and firefighters are, and they receive the sort of extensive training that enables them to respond quickly to both national and local threats to our security. They are, as part of that training, inculcated with a military discipline that requires them NOT to make decisions on their own, but to follow procedure wherever possible and to strictly follow the orders of their superiors. That somehow the entire unit watching the skies over America sat back, based on their own thinking, and did nothing, is an insult to their service. A captain, colonel, or lieutenant is never left to make that kind of decision on his or her own. A superior is must be consulted to advise on what measures to take, if any.

Allowing one hijacked airliner to crash into the most famous skyscraper in the world is, at best, a horrible error in judgment or timing on the part of an officer or maybe a group of officers on duty at the time. Two planes hitting the target is just plain malfeasance. For FOUR PLANES to have been simultaneously airborne and to have three of them, at different times, reach highly likely and visible targets is something that could have occurred only where a direct ORDER was given by Air Force command or the Pentagon to stand down.

The official explanations of 9-11 are a joke from top to bottom. Stop making excuses for the government.


Bill of NON-Rights (Rebuttal)

Some lame-brain conservative idiot posted these 'non-rights' on another message board. There were a few others besides those I've listed and rebutted here, but I seem to have misplaced the file somewhere. Although these 'non-rights' might seem obvious to many, they are actually, upon closer inspection, fairly insidious attempts at destroying some very important protections currently in the law.

(ARTICLE I: You do not have the right to a new car, big screen TV, or any other form of wealth.)

Whoever said that this was an inalienable right in the first place? Talk about stretching a nothing to look like a something! This is typical Republican shit. No one has ever suggested these luxuries be paid by taxpayers, although the politicians themselves appear to receive many such luxuries at taxpayer expense. That a politician derides the idea of anyone getting something for nothing is laughable. No one does less than a politician does and gets so much in return.

What exactly does “other form of wealth” mean? He is not very specific. Does he mean education, health care, savings accounts, stock portfolios, real estate, or employment opportunities? How does he manage to lump those in with big screen TVs and cars? At least he could explain his idea of ‘wealth’ a bit clearer. We all know that wealth is not about things we have but opportunities that provide long-term security and growth. That the author should harp on small-time material possessions is just plain fear mongering. Besides, wouldn’t making sure that everyone had a big screen TV be really good for the big screen TV makers?

(ARTICLE II: You do not have the right to never be offended. This country is based on freedom, and that means freedom for everyone -- not just you! You may leave the room, turn the channel, express a different opinion, etc.; but the world is full of idiots, and probably always will be.)

What he really means to say is that he has the right to offend you in any way he sees fit. He wants to wear a swastika in a synagogue or shout ‘nigger’ in downtown Harlem and expect no one to get upset about it. This is typical of the racist majority who acts the victim in order to shift blame away from his own divisive and infantile behaviors. He does not realize the effects of ‘mere’ words, or how ideas can shape society’s attitudes and overall demeanor. That he fails, perhaps deliberately, to grasp this simple concept is not surprising. It means he can be the childish, raving asshole he always wanted to be without consequence.

He is correct in one matter. The world is chock full of idiots and, if he takes a good look at his immediate surroundings, one idiot in particular should stand out.

(ARTICLE III: You do not have the right to be free from harm. If you stick a screwdriver in your eye, learn to be more careful; do not expect the tool manufacturer to make you and all your relatives independently wealthy.)

This is probably the worst NON right of all. The author posts what appears comman sense and obvious but really intends it as something dark and sinister. What he truly envisions is an economic and legal culture where one can make any product one wishes, no matter how awful or dangerous, and have no liability whatsoever should someone be injured by its use. He wants a world where ‘buyer beware’ is the only rule, whether it be apples, automobiles, or children’s cold medication. No law suits, no government oversight, no product testing, and no corporate liability or accountability. They assume the ‘market’ will correct the problem on its own, but care little about those who become ill, are impoverished, or die in the process. The ‘market’ corrects nothing on its own.

(ARTICLE IV: You do not have the right to free food and housing. Americans are the most charitable people to be found, and will gladly help anyone in need, but we are quickly growing weary of subsidizing generation after generation of professional couch potatoes….)

This right-wing asshole asserts that “Americans are the most charitable people to be found” yet, simultaneously he decries the notion of making this ‘charitable’ behavior part of our national policy. Amazing ‘logic’ he employs there. What gives? If we are charitable as he claims then why the opposition to social programs that HELP others? I don’t get it. One should not feel ‘forced’ or put out when performing an act that one would, or a least claims would, perform quite willingly.

As we are a nation that frowns upon negative behaviors and makes it part of the law to dissuade fellow citizens from engaging in such acts, why not, conversely, encourage good acts through the law? If we are ‘charitable’ people then we should encourage more charity! I cannot think of a better medium than government to promote such a noble public cause.

(ARTICLE V: You do not have the right to free health care. That would be nice, but if it would turn out the same way as current public housing, we're not interested in public health care.)

This idiot thinks that because he has some ‘philosophical’ objection to a program, therefore the rest of us shouldn’t have it. This is the basic reasoning behind all conservative ideals. He has no clue how national health care would or wouldn’t turn out in America because he really doesn’t care how it would turn out anywhere in the world. That’s not the real issue here. He just doesn’t like the idea and, by golly, we ain’t gonna have it! This in spite of the fact that the right-wing douchebag is himself a government employee receiving public, taxpayer-funded health care as part of his salary package. He loves having taxpayer funded medical care for himself and his family, but when it comes to you and I, suddenly the system he benefits from would become a horrific national nightmare.

Hypocrites abound.


Good Cop, Bad Cop

If invited to a social gathering and upon arrival I should discover there is a police officer present, I leave. I do not ever socialize with cops. I do not engage in illicit or illegal activities, but cops are paid snitches that spy on everyone except their own. Never trust that a police officer will casually overlook that which he is trained to spot or to forgive his own ingrained sense of suspicion. That I should find fault with anyone as cynical as myself in this regard seems duplicitous, but as my attitude does not really influence other people’s lives nor do I possess the power of state authority to act upon those impulses, my skepticism is of little real consequence.

Now, you may think that I am being overly harsh and general. Maybe you’re right. Yet, consider this for a moment. When was the last time you heard of an active-duty police officer speaking out publicly against the conduct of another police officer? This is the only profession where one employee cannot even with good cause speak out against the malfeasance of fellow employee or service provider without jeopardizing his own career status. If I call a plumber and ask which plumbers NOT to use, he or she will likely tell me who is crooked and who is not. There is no ‘thin blue line’ in the plumbing profession that protects the bad ones. So, why do we allow this for cops?

I know there are good, honest people that work in law enforcement. However, when those ‘good’ people see their fellow officers break the law or violate the civil rights of citizens, where is their outrage? What keeps them silent and ineffectual? If they are sworn to ‘serve and protect’ the community, does that not also include protecting it from other police officers gone awry? Maybe they forget, amidst the tumult of doing their jobs, paying their bills, upholding their own egos, and trying to protect each other that they must, while being in the public employ, do what is right and not what is merely safe for their own careers.

As a result, the professional courtesy that police officers, prosecutors, and judges extend to each other violates the bounds of community trust or benefit and most often results in the violation of civil rights and liberties of the common citizen. Sometimes, it means that someone dies in the name of the law and the law doesn’t hold itself accountable. It is time for the ‘good’ cops out there step up and go after their own rogue brothers in uniform. We cannot be expected to trust law enforcement if they cannot or will not police their own.

I am all in favor of legislation that would punish police officers (prosecutors and judges, too) with double or triple the penalties meted out to common citizens when caught breaking those laws they are entrusted, by oath, to enforce upon society. I’m sick and tired of reading about cops who run numbers, deal drugs, use drugs, shoplift, beat suspects, or whore out their own cocaine addicted wives and still end up with no jail time and take their full pensions upon ‘retirement’.

Biology Mine


Though unknown horizons beckon desired sanctuary

And divergent pathways draw me further away from home
A subconscious history awakens inner voices
Father and mother calling out from within
Their perverse biology forever mine to bear
Racing to discover elsewhere
Beginnings that never left me


Silent Salvation


Let the stillness of my own voice be respite enough
For uneasy pause do words turn to force and banality
Tear out this wagging, bantering rogue of a tongue
Should it beckon you not in meaningful earnest
That my indolent insecurities
Not rape your psyche with idle chatter
To which device you may choose matters not
Shut me up and save us both!


Monday, January 28, 2008

Please Leash Your Conservative


It has been stated, concerning many things, “Ignorance is the source of irrational Fear.” A man possessed by irrational and ignorance-based motivations, typically conservative by his nature and rejecting change out of some self-centered principle, becomes like the ill-mannered dog that howls at the vacuum cleaner simply because it makes a noise the he or she doesn’t like. The dog does not realize the ultimate purpose or benefit of the ‘evil’ machine or that it is, barring the accidental insertion of the errant tail or chew toy, a relatively harmless tool producing a loud but equally harmless tumult. The canine perceives itself under immanent attack from the noisy thing being pushed around the living room, and must bark in order to secure his own survival. This, in spite of the fact that its loving human companion, who it loyally trusts and loves, operates that very same diabolical thing of doggy destruction it fears most. It might take years of rigorous training to cure the dog from this behavior.

Similarly, the politically and socially conservative mongrel incessantly yelps out a fear-laden warning, crying out his mantra of ‘personal responsibility’ and ‘small government’ at any attempt that a society makes to help those in dire straits, be it of their own doing or as a result of being victimized by forces, natural or mega-corporate. He does not see the person crushed by natural disaster, poverty, war, greed, or physical or emotional illness as a victim, but as a major contributor to his or her own demise through lack of foresight or indolence. This dog thinks himself as the real victim, mercilessly hunted by those who threaten his very survival by showing the unmitigated gall to expect him to offer help others of his own breed. Somehow, to this conservative-type canine-like creature, the humming sounds and undertones of other organisms organizing through the power of government to assist fellow citizens in establishing a better sense of well-being and security is an anathema to his biological functioning. Like the dog who cannot share a food dish without snarling, he cannot feel safe or happy in a world where he is asked to relinquish one inch of ‘his’ territory or realm for the sake of another. This ill-tempered and paranoid beast imagines itself to be the true ‘victim’.

(In shelters, those types of dogs are usually put down, albeit humanely.)

The conservative position on most issues is symptomatic of this territorial ‘dog’ syndrome. They inject into the approach, diagnosis, and solution to social ills and their root causes nothing more than their own personal likes and dislikes. The sole concern is only insofar as what they fear it will cost them should we, heaven forbid, actually begin to treat social problems as diseases to be treated rather than as a crimes to be punished or markets to be exploited. In the fervor to maintain ‘principle’, as the old dog that adamantly refuses to learn even one new trick, the conservative fails to see that his justifications for such ‘principled’ stands cost taxpayers much more than would the clinical approach. He also denies that such a program could possible ever affect him or his loved ones for the better. Don’t ever bother arguing the point either, since he can’t hear you over the din of his own incessant barking.

There is also no compromising with such a creature. We cannot say to this dog "Hey, Buddy. I won't be giving him ALL of your food and not all the time. Just a little now and then is enough." Dogs cannot add or subtract on that level. This is why conservative ‘principles’ always entail all-or-nothing views with little room for maneuvering. Even should you explain that sharing allows him to partake of the system if it ever becomes necessary, should he not attack you outright, he will close off his ears and attentions before sulking off to lick his ‘wounds’. The fight-or-flight threat level of fear they manifest is wholly irrational and that fear, though a biologically fundamental function in all humans, could be brought under some rational control if other higher thinking and functioning human beings were doing the dog training.

The greatest myth that our conservative canine companion suffers from is that it believes that what it eats or possesses was made possible by its efforts alone. It thinks the food in that dish is either all the food there is to be had or, that his sharing of he dish means that he would be losing ‘his’ coveted dish altogether. This dog doesn’t realize that it is the careful planning and preparation of rational humans that provides it with a meal and warm shelter. It has no idea that the compassionate and caring human gives freely of his time, money, and ease to keep it safe and happy. It has no idea that sharing is what brought about its ‘success’ and he need not be fearful should that sharing seek out more ‘success’ in other venues.

It would not matter were one to spend a little or a lot of money on social programs like public education or national health care. Size is a meaningless measure. To the anxiety-driven conservative hound, should even a leashed and docile miniature breed of much lesser stature, that poses no threat at all, pass by ‘his’ yard, the much bigger and aggressive pooch will be pressed against the fence, frothing at the mouth with violent rage. Those kinds of canines cannot distinguish big from small, in the same way they can never seem to tell costly from truly efficient or productive.

Well, it's about time to vacuum the house.

Wednesday, November 07, 2007

Talmud : In Defense Of

Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket

Every so often, in one of the many chatrooms or message boards, the anti-Semites post various controversial passages from the Talmud in order to foster anti-Semitism in others. One would assume that anyone, in these modern times, who knows at least few Jewish people here and there, would think that these quotes are a complete fabrication of a hatred-driven delusional mind. Much like the ‘Protocols of the Elders of Zion’ and other hatred-inspired anti-Jewish propaganda, these passages are likely considered by most to be outright lies. However, they’d be wrong; at least most of the time.

The majority of these oft quoted passages, carefully culled for their provocative value, are absolutely true in that the Talmud does, in fact, say exactly (well, almost) what it appears to say. The Talmud, a vast and varied body of Jewish knowledge, does at times offer to its readership some very weird and disturbing ideas. Nonetheless, these Talmudic dictums, be they logical, mysterious, practical, or just plain crazy have to be understood within the context and circumstance under which they were conceived. This is not to excuse the import of such statements or rationalize them, rather that we should understand how these ideas developed and what role they played, or didn’t play, in shaping Judaism and the Jewish world outlook.

In assessing these passages, one has to remember that the language of the Talmud is primarily Aramaic, the language of the Persian Empire and therefore, was the spoken language of the Jews under Persian rule and demand. Talmud Aramaic is written utilizing Hebrew characters and is mixed with a great deal of ancient and Biblical Hebrew as well. Even some accepted translations of Talmud, no matter how accurate, become mistranslations when viewed in a narrow context. As is common with any foreign language, especially those of ancient times, the nuances of Aramaic and Biblical Hebrew, which developed and operated from within specific historical and cultural contexts, are lost to the reader whose sole venue for reading the Talmud comes from a simplified and historically distant English translation. The ‘Soncino’ translation, though indeed quite scholarly, still requires some tweaking on the part of the reader, once again requiring the infusion of context and ‘religious’ nuance to understand Talmud clearly.

One should, while reading these passages, also realize that the vast majority of modern age Jews today do NOT read or study the Talmud, let alone adhere faithfully to its rulings and philosophy. Talmud study, at least in any appreciable depth, is the pretty much exclusively the realm of the rabbinical/yeshiva academies and perhaps among a few secular academic scholars here and there. The tenor and tone of the Talmud, though it continues to provide a basis for much of Jewish religious practice, is often not the last word on Jewish belief. In the centuries since those rabbinic discussions occurred and their subsequent compilation into a single legal/religious tome, much has transpired to mitigate much of the nationalistic and paternalistic fervor of ancient Israelite thinking. Living, as we have, as an oft-persecuted and fearful minority, whilst surviving and thriving among sometimes very hostile neighbors, has forced Jews to be more understanding of racism and bigotry. This is why Jews have been, since the Enlightenment, at the forefront of egalitarian and socially conscious movements. Even the most devout of religious Jewish authorities vehemently forbid Jews from engaging in many of the behaviors spoken of in the Talmudic Era.

It is equally important to understand that the Talmud is not exclusively a legal tome or law book, rather a comprehensive record of the rabbinical debates and personal insights that sometimes would lead to a definitive legal decision or merely Biblical exegesis. The anti-Semite pulling quotes from the Talmud perhaps does not realize that the particular statement may be one of a single rabbi, whose minority opinion, upon closer reflection from his colleagues, becomes completely and utterly dismissed as sheer nonsense. As is often the case, these passages merely express the personal observations of a single authority. The reason that the Talmud includes these extraneous and often ridiculous notions is to teach us, reading these debates centuries later, the process by which the legal ends are determined. It is an almost exclusively Jewish method of using absurd arguments en route to proving a crucial point of law. The anti-Semite cherry-picking these statements does not know where in the debate process the passage occurs and therefore makes the mistake of thinking it is at the end, rather than somewhere in an obscure, rejected, and almost forgotten middle.

Now, one might ask at this point, why it is that the compilers of the Talmud chose to include these controversial and crazy ideas, knowing that the Gentiles would eventually have a copy and then, as we have seen so often, misunderstand the import and context? The answer is simple. Those who had to compile the Talmud, which is vast in its scope and coverage, due to time and persecution, had eroded much of the memory of it. The Talmud, referred to as the ‘Oral Law’, was not written down until centuries later and, as history shows us, these type of things are subject to wanton forgetfulness. The compilers, Rav Inu and Rav Ashi, put in every bit if whatever it was they could remember or gather from other sources, be it good, bad, or indifferent. Every bit of information needed preservation if for no other reason than for posterity.

Another very important point is to understand the various layers of Jewish thinking. Talmudic Judaism is quite legalistic. It concerns itself primarily with what is, according to Biblical tradition, the strictly legal guidelines regarding human behavior. It does NOT condone or advocate those seemingly horrible or cruel behaviors that it considers as technically ‘legal’, but simply states that, according to the religious law as written, these acts are not punishable by human courts. Rabbinical responsa penned since the Talmud era firmly and vehemently forbid, and for many reasons, many of the behaviors and attitudes that prevailed during Talmudic times. Actions that would be considered within the ‘letter of the law’ now became proscribed as violating the ‘spirit’ of Jewish practice.

This legalism also has three distinct and often contradicting positions to maintain. First, there is the Biblical law, which forms the basis for all Jewish law and, being of primary concern, must be shielded from any hint of violation. The rabbinical law stands as an extension of the Biblical Canon in that it provides for an enforced buffer zone, much like a behavioral ‘speed limit’, setting reasonable boundaries intended to keep the Jew one or two additional steps away from committing an infraction of Biblical magnitude. These laws sometime also apply to positive commands as well and serve to reinforce Biblical precepts. The Talmud also sorts out some of the ambiguities in Biblical language and law. Yet another layer regards civil law and ethics, which surprising at it may be to some, makes up a substantial portion of the Talmud. The rabbis had many social, economic, and political issues to address and although they fed upon both the Torah and the wisdom of their predecessors, many of their decisions were derived from the here and now, having based their legal on exploitable loopholes in the Talmudic law. It was flexible enough in its scope to allow for looser ‘interpretation’. Even when viewed from our modern perspective, this latter approach, favoring the benefit of the believer over the strict religious dogma, seems very a practical and enlightened way of thinking, much unlike other widely held religious doctrines.

There are times that the highly technical religious viewpoint has conflicted with political concerns. The well known Talmudic dictum of “Dina d’Malchusa Dina”, though never quoted by Jew-haters, provides an underlying principle of Jewish law in the Diaspora, showing that Jews are obligated to recognize and obey the laws of their host countries with the same tenacity and acceptance as they do their own religious teachings. There are many different circumstances and justifications surrounding this particular clause, but that differentiation between legality and social necessity is a common theme in Jewish Law. The Talmud, which was compiled under the dominion of foreign rule, provides some guidelines for maintaining that precarious balance between foreign secular rule and insular religious doctrine. Our national survival from within and our biological survival in the face of outside hostilities depend upon this peculiar ability to satisfy both obligations simultaneously.

Do not consider my defense as exhaustive or even effective. At best, and I am extremely hopeful in saying this, there will come a better understanding of Talmud, how it works, and what it offers in terms of wisdom, insight, insanity, irony, and humor. I remain the strongest and most vocal critic of Talmudic doctrine, rabbinic law, and their philosophy. Yet, even in my apparent heresy, I find no need to misrepresent or lie about that which I have chosen to reject. Telling the truth, the whole truth, is quite enough to provoke anger, thought, and even a profound insight or two.

The Talmud is not without its value. Anti-Semites, in their hurried rushing to quick judgment, are missing out on a golden opportunity to garner some bits of ancient wisdom and also learn something of Jewish history and the Jewish people.

Knowing your enemy can be quite a learning experience.


Tuesday, October 23, 2007

War on God? : Babbling Builders of Yore

Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket

(Genesis 11:1 - 9)

א ויהי כל-הארץ, שפה אחת, ודברים, אחדים
ב ויהי, בנוסעם מקדם; וימצאו בקעה בארץ שנער, ויישבו שם
ג ויאמרו איש אל-ריעהו, הבה נלבנה לבינים, ונשרפה, לשריפה; ותהי להם הלבינה, לאבן, והחמר, היה להם לחומר.
ד ויאמרו הבה נבנה-לנו עיר, ומגדל וראשו בשמיים, ונעשה-לנו, שם: פן-נפוץ, על-פני כל-הארץ
ה ויירד יהוה, לראות את-העיר ואת-המגדל, אשר בנו, בני האדם
ו ויאמר יהוה, הן עם אחד ושפה אחת לכולם, וזה, החילם לעשות; ועתה לא-ייבצר מהם, כול אשר יזמו לעשות
ז הבה, נרדה, ונבלה שם, שפתם--אשר לא ישמעו, איש שפת ריעהו
ח ויפץ יהוה אותם משם, על-פני כל-הארץ; ויחדלו, לבנות העיר
ט על-כן קרא שמה, בבל, כי-שם בלל יהוה, שפת כל-הארץ; ומשם הפיצם יהוה, על-פני כל-הארץ

Why is this story even necessary? If we removed it from the Torah, we might not miss it at all. In fact, it seems, much like the non-ending genealogies of hard to pronounce names, and wholly redundant. Yet, for the purpose of which the story becomes necessary, it fits right in with the aforementioned family trees. The tale of the Tower is not needed, in and of itself, but exists to fill in a ‘blank’. While reading thus far in the Torah, one wonders how multiple languages, human migration, and demographic diversity came to be. In the mind of the ordinary person, families stay close to families and, in those days, people stayed near the clan and rarely ventured very far from home. To anyone alive then, the idea of migrating away from your people was considered insane, so the Torah has to tell us that God 'forced' people to do the unthinkable and spread out far and wide across the globe. As we see with Cain, having to leave the family was a terrible curse!

Verse 11:1 tells us what humanity looked like immediately prior to the Tower and, at the same time, leads us to some more interesting questions. So far, despite the racial differences we are told existed between Noah’s children, they seemed to be, at least we imagine them to be, of one huge and very cooperative extended family, while speaking one common language among each other. There is no reason to assume otherwise and it makes perfect sense, should the Torah be correct, that one common means of verbal communication among these cousins was the norm. That everyone shares a bloodline, lives within the same community, and speaks a common language should come as no surprise. After all, they were grandchildren and great-grandchildren of the same man.

However, if we take allow ourselves a moment of respite from our Torah reading to take a quick glance at the world around us, we see something very confusing. Whether in ancient or modern times the various traders, merchants, mercenaries, ministers, refugees, and vacationers from distant lands, none of whom spoke the local language, began arriving within the boundaries of the fledgling human family. The clever child would immediately ask the obvious question, and the Torah anticipates that curiosity with the Tower story. It became necessary to explain to children (and I suppose some adults, too) how such varied linguistic diversity came to be if, in fact, the Torah, up to that juncture immediately prior to the Tower, was even remotely accurate. Thus, the telling of the tale of the Tower of Babel was needed to answer the obvious and keep the flow of the Torah narrative running smoothly.

Why did they build the Tower anyhow? The Torah says that the people were worried that they would become too spread out and wanted to establish the Tower as a beacon which people could see for many miles around, much like a lighthouse does for ships nearing the shoreline. There is nothing here to substantiate the Rabbis claims that these people were going to 'make war on God' and eventually climb the Tower to attack Heaven. I realize the Rabbis have to concoct that nonsense to try and make sense of the story, which is also nonsense, but they just make the whole problem even worse. From the plain Torah account, there appears nothing amiss or sinful in their motives for building a metropolis or a skyscraper within it. One has to wonder how, in light of the Tower story, this God allowed any cities to ever be established.

The Rabbis reasons for assuming a 'war on heaven' are two-fold. One, it provides a reason why God would be angry over this and two, it permits all kinds of other assumptions clearly not stated in Torah. We will deal here with only the first assertion. The obvious question becomes as to how exactly one wages war on an Omnipotent, Omniscient, Omnipresent being. It's not as if one could launch a direct assault on something which is everywhere nor could one ever hope to hold the high ground or use the element of surprise to any particular advantage. Besides, what weapons would they have been using? If God is vulnerable to spears and swords, whereas God being equally present everywhere one turns, He would have to fear the blade at sea level just as He might at 5000 km above it!

Why build the Tower in the valley and not on a mountain top? If their purpose was, as the Rabbis suggested, to ‘wage war with God’, then wouldn’t it make more sense in any case to use existing geography to their tactical and practical advantage? I think it's pretty clear that the Rabbis were talking out of their asses, merely trying to justify the Tower story through the smoke and mirrors of allegory or parable, rather than dissecting the Torah account to root out the apparent flaws.

Rabbis say that humanity's sin here was in developing too much self-reliance and not maintaining enough faith in God. The 'war on God' was not a literal war in the physical sense, but a psychological war whose indirect effect would be to lessen one's dependency on God. The Rabbis assert that the people, by establishing themselves as a civilization, were rejecting faith. Apparently, only nomads and farmers are steadfast in faith and belief and God was worried that living in anything other than tents that reek of dried camel dung and human urine would incite humanity to rebel against Him. If real faith can only exist in nomadic agrarian societies, then modern Judaism is utterly screwed. In either case, the Tower tale makes no sense at all.

Who is God asking to help confuse languages? When He decides that "We" should be doing something about the Tower, who is asking? This is a similar problem to the verse in genesis where God says "Let US make man". So who is us? Now you may suggest that 'us' here is perhaps angels, but why doesn't it just say 'angels' and not leave us guessing? I have no answer for this one, and it appears to be yet another instance where polytheism is strongly implied in the Torah. This problem, however, is not integral to our story.

What is God's problem with peaceful human cooperation? It seemed that humanity was doing quite well; without wars or other societal problems that, under the best of circumstances, tend to fragment a society. This is, in part, how you know the story to be false. I cannot, myself, imagine all of humanity, no matter how few in number, working toward one purpose so efficiently as to scare the bejeezus out of the Almighty. One has to ask what exactly it was about their peaceful and focused mutual effort that ticked off the Lord. Not only that, but you’d think that all this happy cooperation would be a really good thing and not pose a threat to God. After all, just a few generations back, God flooded the planet and damn near wiped out humanity for NOT behaving peaceably with each other! So now, they are conducting themselves quite nicely and God gets pissed off at that, too! No wonder people stop believing in God; he is just plain impossible to please!

How exactly did God mess up their communication and to what extent? Rashi tells us that if one worker would ask for a brick the other would hand him a hammer and this thwarted any effort to continue building the tower. Yet, to have total societal confusion spring from this incident, it would require much more than just the mere bewilderment of artisans and laborers. For God's plan here to unfold as desired, both husband and wife, parent and child, brother and sister, etc. would also have to become linguistically estranged from one another. The result would be that no one, even those on the most intimate of terms, would be able to communicate! Total chaos, and one well beyond what the Torah suggests here, would have almost instantaneously ensued. Yet, somehow, the people did not disperse as individuals in random chaos, but remained, even while migrating away from Shinar, in their basic family units.

This problem is further accentuated by the fact that, as the Torah claims, they were of "few words", implying a language very much based upon symbols, signs, and other forms of non-verbal communication. If we are to believe what Rashi tells us, then even if their spoken language went awry, the basics of their communicative abilities still remained. This applies even more so to the artisans and laborers whose skills, once highly developed, required no direction at all, as they were able to continue their work without need for spoken language. If a mason needed a brick he could simply point with his finger to the brick and the laborer would know what to do. In any case, whatever the Torah (or Rashi) claims to have happened either would have had a much greater or significantly lesser effect than the Tower story seems to imply and does not answer any of the obvious questions.

The list goes on, but I have no more time at the present to donate to this subject. Comments and ideas are always welcome.

Kol Tuv

Burying the Goldfish : Funny!

Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket

Conversation w/a Capitalist Doofus

There is nothing more entertaining that a Republican, corporate-brainwashed windbag trying to discuss economics and sociology. The scary part is that this person is convinced that he or she is right. His comments are in parentheses.

(Re: The overtaxed and over worked employers are entitled to make a profit.)

Correct, but at what price to everyone else involved? How much more of worker’s rights, safety codes, and consumer protections are you willing to do without in order for the owners and shareholders to make even more return than they are already? Besides, if a company cannot remain competitive in the marketplace simply by producing and selling their product or service, then perhaps that is the fault of the people running the company and they should be out of business altogether. Financial engineering does not a healthy economy produce.

Bottom line? Capitalists are too busy defending the people who don’t need any help while preaching that no one should be helped anyhow. Does that make any sense at all?

(Re: In spite of how hard you try, we are not a socialist country yet.)

I’m working on it though, and there are millions of working class and educated Americans who don’t buy the corporate bullshit anymore either. As American wages and buying power decreases, more average folks are seeing the light. Unfortunately, those at the top continue to manipulate the news and the numbers to show otherwise. In spite of all your bragging about ‘Capitalism ending the Cold War’ and ‘Communism dead and gone’, the right wing still trots it out as the great econo-political bogeyman when needed.

(Re: The uneducated, entry level worker does not deserve the same wage as the business owner, or upper level manager.)

No one ever suggested that an entry level worker should receive the same compensation. You are flaunting your ignorance of a subject you should avoid. The ‘entry level worker’ excuse is overplayed. They are earning money for the company and providing needed labor. To degrade the entry-level position as if it is some sort of hazing ritual is disrespectful to your fellow American who very often now, has to take that job because his former corporate masters relocated his job to Indonesia.

(Re: The "free" healthcare, the "free" bridge card, housing assistance, SSI, & SSA checks....Where does that come from?)

Same place corporate welfare comes from. Same place the military comes from. Same place from which the roads get paved and the school are built. Same place from where every federal employee and politician gets free health care. Same place that pays for all the tax breaks and subsidies given to lumber companies, coal companies, etc.

You are not opposed to welfare. You merely demand that it to go to those to don’t actually need it.

(Re: There should be no free rides.)

That is a very heartless thing to say. You would begrudge a hungry family a meal or shelter because they didn’t ‘work’ for it. Why does everything with you Republicans have to come with ‘work’. All you want us to do is work, work, work, work. If you are mentally ill, that’s too bad. The rest of us normal people would like more vacation and don’t mind one bit if our money helps another human being. All human beings are deserving of compassion. Even you.

In the Republican mind, which follows the old Calvinist ideal of will-breaking and hard labor, nothing is bestowed without maximum effort or endeavor. It’s a bullshit cultist philosophy that should have died out with the Pilgrims, but still survive in the psyches of Capitalists world over. As long as you slave for their profit, you remain worthy of sustenance, otherwise you are a drag on the system and to be caste out and forgotten.

(Re: The generation, after generation, of soulless, beat down, individuals. Who have no drive, no motivation, are living proof that Welfare does not work.)

People are alive, fed, and sheltered? Then it’s working! Before FDR’s New Deal we had people starving in the streets in this country, most of them elderly. I don’t know what you think social programs are supposed to accomplish, but their goal is maintain the life and welfare of the citizens. You also need an honest history lesson and not rely on the white-washed, brainwashed bullshit you heard in elementary school and on talk radio.

The New Deal saved lives. People like you opposed it then and still do today.

(Re: Take out the emotions, and insert the facts and figures, the math doesn't work)

Spoken like a true bean-counter. Amazing how you can detach yourself so easily from human suffering so to be able to earn .08% more on one of your many investments. Facts and figures, you say? Is wealth that all there is to life? The facts and figures don’t add up either. Your beloved capitalism is KILLING this country from the inside out.

You also need a good lesson on empathy.

(Re: Less people working every year, less paying into the system, more drawing and draining on the system.)

The people not paying their fair share into the system are those who can afford off shore tax shelters and can lobby for loopholes in the tax code. The people draining the system are wealthy people who don’t need SSI and take it anyway. I know a fellow, richer than you can imagine. Guy went out and bought a $50,000 car and paid cash. Yet, when his wife needed a hip replacement and Medicare asked a co-pay of $600, he went berserk!

(Re: The poor 25 year olds, working today, will have nothing from our government. I wish everyone had a nice home, job, and a car. )

Those 25 year olds won’t have jobs either, because the 50-75 year olds are still racing to get richer and richer by pulling the rug out from under the American economy through outsourcing jobs and other forms of crafty financial engineering. Besides, why do you worry about anyone taking SSI?

(Re: The way to achieve that is through work and determination.)

Tell that to the slaves, sharecroppers, and serfs throughout history. And, if you had brains or any experience, you’d know that many other factors besides hard labor determine success. To be successful, one’s labor has to be rewarded. One also has to be healthy. One has to be respected and honored by those he labors on behalf of and by the society in which he lives. One also has to be working in or investing into an HONEST system, and not the cutthroat trading games that exist on Wall St.

Most of all, to be successful, one has to be LUCKY. If you are not in the right place at the right time under the right circumstances, it won’t happen no matter how hard you imagine yourself to be working. Luck is the mechanism by which most everything honest occurs because it involves no conscious manipulation on the part of opportunists.

(Re: Stay strong Mr. President, you didn't cause the Hurricane (Katrina), the heat wave we are experiencing, but I know you will be accused.)

Right. Bush didn’t cause it. No one said he did. The POTUS simply dropped the ball on preventative measures and the rescue effort. Sure the fire department didn’t set the blaze, they just stood by while it burned, blamed someone else, and then reneged on their promises to help. .

I have to wonder at this point what you think a president’s job should be.

(Re: Consider the source, the bitter, hate filled Democrats who never got behind their President.)

You mean just like the Republicans got behind Bill Clinton? LOL

Bush was never my president. He was never elected. Not once. You obviously are not a believer in individualism or liberty if, as you assume, one must stand behind a leader no matter what the circumstance. Your ‘my leader/country right or wrong’ attitude is quite disturbing.

Now, you may say that this person's arguments are simplistic and easily debunked, but that really is not the case. Arguments in support of Capitalism have never changed, but have, at certain times gained support from pseudo-philosophies and fancy advertising, neither of which say anything about the consequences of their favored ideals. This fellow had all the requisite talking points well rehearsed.