Monday, October 31, 2005

Madonna Defends Kaballah, Invokes Nazis

According to Haaretz, Madonna defended her membership in the Kaballah Center to the NY Daily News:
"It would be less controversial if I joined the Nazi Party," the singer told the New York Daily News newspaper Monday.

She went on to say:
"It's not hurting anybody," she said. "What do you mean, you study the Torah if you're not Jewish? What do you mean, you pray to God and wear sexy clothes? We don't understand this. It frightens people. So they try to denigrate it or trivialize it so that it makes more sense".

Gee, that makes a lot of sense in light of the fact that her organization defrauded a cancer a victim out of tens of thousands of dollars. I suppose bilking people out of money never hurt anyone. And she would know. How much money has the Kaballah Center gotten out of her?

Alito Background

Here is an article recommended byAlthouse for the quick read on Alito. Time willing I will take a closer look in a future post.

Sunday, October 30, 2005

Supreme Court Pick Expected Tomorrow

Looks like we are in for another interesting day tomorrow. The CW is Altio or Luttig, but then again, Roberts was fairly under the radar until the actual pick.

Strange Bedfellows on Special Counsels

One the Kossacks feels fit to trash a recent op-ed by David Rivkin and Lee Casey which called for the end to special counsels and their open ended investigations. Their argument is basically Justice Scalia's dissent in Morrison v. Olson, 487 U.S. 654 (1988):
What would normally be regarded as a technical violation (there are no rules defining such things), may in his or her small world assume the proportions of an indictable offense. What would normally be regarded as an investigation that has reached the level of pursuing such picayune matters that it should be concluded, may to him or her be an investigation that ought to go on for another year. How frightening it must be to have your own independent counsel and staff appointed, with nothing else to do but to investigate you until investigation is no longer worthwhile -- with whether it is worthwhile not depending upon what such judgments usually hinge on, competing responsibilities. And to have that counsel and staff decide, with no basis for comparison, whether what you have done is bad enough, willful enough, and provable enough, to warrant an indictment. How admirable the constitutional system that provides the means to avoid such a distortion.

The left is eager to paper over the fact that no violation occured ex ante the grand jury investigation. Any argument against the office of special counsel, is therefore, in their mind, an effort by the right to detract from the seriousness of the charges against Libby. The argument against the special counsel, however, does not minimize the deleterious effects of false testimony, but points out the fact that these investigations tend to create crimes rather than investigate crimes that have occurred.

And this argument is not only put forth by conservatives. In a recent WSJ op-ed, two Georgetown Law professors, Dinh (a conservative) and Katyal (an uber-liberal), argue against the institution of the special counsel as well. They argue that the politcal atmosphere in Washington is such that special counsels are improperly injected into the political system and open themselves up to charges of overzealous prosecution.

To my mind when you find liberals and conservatives agreeing, there is truth to be had. Kosian (heh, almost rhymes with Coasian) whining notwithstanding.

Musings on the Afterlife

One of the central problems with religion is the cute, pat package it presents. Everything in religion is explained, and all injustices have some higher meaning. In this vein, the afterlife assumes a central position in explaining the injustices of this world. In mystical thought, death and the afterlife are explained as reuniting the soul with the essence of God.

Quick question: Why is there no Bibilcal source for the afterlife? Why do all the Bibilcal prohibitions relate punishment in terms of this world? How does one go about thinking of the afterlife? Is it a continuation of the consciousness? Do you get to lounge around in a toga eating grapes and sipping wine, basking in the presence of God?

I've been meaning to post something on the afterlife, and this one was rotting away in my draft box, so I figured it was time to air it out.

Godwin's Law, Or Damn Fine Jurisprudence?

I was in jurisprudential ecstacy when I read Judge Kozinski's dissent in Silviera v. Lockyer, 328 F.3d 567 (9th Cir. 2003):

All too many of the other great tragedies of history--Stalin's atrocities, the killing fields of Cambodia, the Holocaust, to name but a few-- were perpetrated by armed troops against unarmed populations. *570 Many could well have been avoided or mitigated, had the perpetrators known their intended victims were equipped with a rifle and twenty bullets apiece, as the Militia Act required here. See Kleinfeld Dissent at 578-579. If a few hundred Jewish fighters in the Warsaw Ghetto could hold off the Wehrmacht for almost a month with only a handful of weapons, six million Jews armed with rifles could not so easily have been herded into cattle cars.

My excellent colleagues have forgotten these bitter lessons of history. The prospect of tyranny may not grab the headlines the way vivid stories of gun crime routinely do. But few saw the Third Reich coming until it was too late. The Second Amendment is a doomsday provision, one designed for those exceptionally rare circumstances where all other rights have failed--where the government refuses
to stand for reelection and silences those who protest; where courts have lost the courage to oppose, or can find no one to enforce their decrees. However improbable these contingencies may seem today, facing them unprepared is a mistake a free people get to make only once.

Fortunately, the Framers were wise enough to entrench the right of the people to keep and bear arms within our constitutional structure. The purpose and importance of that right was still fresh in their minds, and they spelled it out clearly so it would not be forgotten.

Despite the panel's mighty struggle to erase these words, they remain, and the people themselves can read what they say plainly enough: A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.

The sheer ponderousness of the panel's opinion--the mountain of verbiage it must deploy to explain away these fourteen short words of constitutional text-- refutes its thesis far more convincingly than anything I might say. The panel's labored effort to smother the Second Amendment by sheer body weight has all the grace of a sumo wrestler trying to kill a rattlesnake by sitting on it--and is just as likely to succeed.

You can read it all here.

Kozinski sounds like a rare voice of reason on the Ninth Circuit. Not surprisingly, many want to recruit him for the Supreme Court.

Kaballah Snakewater

No surprise here:

A devotee of Kabbalah, the ill woman put her faith in the center and contributed USD 36,000 to the organization. When her condition deteriorated, members of the Israeli branch recommended she donate another USD 25,000. Meanwhile, rabbis recommended that she also purchase holy water to improve her condition - at an exorbitant price.

I suppose there is one born every minute, but it's hard not to feel sorry for the victim.

Via Drudge.

J-Rant Added

I have added my blog to j-rants and hotlinked their logo for sidebar. If this is a no-no, I encourage their webmaster to contact me.

Friday, October 28, 2005

Libby Indicted

By now you all know that Libby has been indicted.

Here is a link to the indictment.

Nothing in the indictment indicates that Plame was anything more than an analyst at the time of the disclosure, nor is there any indication that a CIA operative was killed as a result of the disclosure, a possibility that elates the insane left.

Monday, October 24, 2005

Greenspan Replacement Expected

President Bush is expected to announce the next chair of the Federal Reserve at 1:00 PM. Whoever he picks is sure to inflict an incredibly boring confirmation process, although I would expect much ado will be made about the putative housing bubble. The Economist expects Don Kohn, a man I don't know much about but seems to be the sort of monetary policy wonk on would expect to head the Fed. Either way, Greenspan is a monolith who will not easily be replaced.

According to Drudge, the WSJ reports that President Bush will name Ben Bernake, chair of the Council of Economic Advisers. Look for Dems to cry croneyism.

Update II:
Toldya so.

Sunday, October 23, 2005

Us and Them: Part III

I came across this little gem on Chaptzem. Apparently it's a Forward article, but since bugmenot does not have an entry for them, I will quote from the Chaptzem post:
In some ways, Saudi Arabia's laws regarding women are more permissive than the religious edicts in New Square. For example, a Saudi woman is allowed to ride in the front seat of a car if the driver is her husband. While husbands and wives in Saudi Arabia are allowed to walk with each other, New Square men and women always must walk on different sides of the street. In strong contrast to Saudi Arabia, the government does not enforce the religious rules in New Square; violations do not result in any form of corporal punishment. But those who frequently violate the rules in New Square are blackballed from the community.

OTOH, apparently Saudi men really know how to drive.

Big Round Numbers

Apparently our liberal friends attach great signifigance to large, round numbers. Although, my fellow wing-nuts are not above it either.

Sorry Ez, congrats.

[hat tip: LGF]

Friday, October 21, 2005

How to Blog Good

IowaHawk treats us to another installment of "How To Blog Good:"
While anger is a time-proven crowd pleaser, many bloggers prefer to wield anger’s prissy grad student brother, snark. This can be a surprisingly effective tool for attracting readership, just as a good poetry club slapfight can often be as entertaining as a brass-knuckled donnybrook at a biker bar. Often, however, inexperienced bloggers make the mistake of confusing snark with its mopey teenage cousin, sarcasm. Remember -- any pimply Goth kid can be sarcastic, but it takes a cool coffeehouse intellect and a GRE-honed vocabulary to craft the kind of aloof snark that draws readers like flies.

Thursday, October 20, 2005

Common Sense Attack at Capitol

Two pieces of common sense legislation in one day, whodathunkit?

The first shields the firearms industry from wrongful death lawsuits, although it does allow for suits in certain instances (such as a defect in the product).

The second shields the fastfood industry from claims that their food makes people fat (which seems like a scientific truth, not a legal theory in a lawsuit). The irony in this case is that one of the bill's principal sponsors is Jim Sensenbrenner of Wisconsin, a state, if my sources are correct, contains a goodly amount of obese folk.

Succos Explained

Humorous article on Succos and associated holidays.
Succos - This means, "Eight day zoning violation" and celebrates the time the Jews broke the Guinness record for wandering the longest before finally asking for directions. The Jews built sukkahs for shelter when they left Egypt in middle of the summer. Therefore, we logically commemorate the event by scheduling the holiday for the beginning of winter.

In Israel, Succos lasts for 7 days, but everywhere else it lasts for 8. This is because outside of Israel, scientists have cloned humans, viewed galaxies that are billions of light years away, played with remote control cars on Mars, but have not been able to determine when exactly the new moon begins.

Abbas in the Oval Office

I am sure Dov Bear will do some gloating over this story.

My current thinking on the Palestinian situation is this. A civl war (erradication of terror-oriented groups) is basically the only thing that will ultimately bring stability to the region. At this point, Abbas is the only one in the position to do this, but needs beaucoup support to ever be strong enough. The White House visit is hopefully the first step in allowing the PA to actually do something to combat terror without being deposed by the more radical Palestinian elements.

Dog Day Late Morning

Good dog story.
Bad dog story.

Sunday, October 16, 2005

Us and Them: Part II

Us. Them.

I know there is a vast difference, my point is not that Judaism is the same as Islam. Far from it. A comparison of our extremes, however, is just a tad discomforting.

The What Went Down to Georgia?

The intersection of ignorance and assertiveness in parents is always embarrassing to watch:
Robert McLean opined that "A high school band director would be fired for playing 'Amazing Grace' but no one bats an eye for the playing of a song about the devil ..."

Us and Them

Unlike this ban, this one is not a joke.

One of the thoughts that keeps me up at night is whether my new found skepticism has anything to do with the rise of religious theocracies and religious extremism. It's one thing to feel all spiritual all the time like this dude, but it's quite another to ram it down another's throat. While leaps and bounds separate mainstream Judaism from mainstream Islam, at the extremes we are not that different in thought. Although they are the ones who actually have state power behind their religious edicts. Oh, and we're right and they're wrong.

[Hat tip: Dark Blue Hat]

WiFi Utopia

The WaPo has a story on the wonderful possibilities presented by massive WiFi coverage and how the telecom lobby will never stand for it.

Staged News

The Political Teen has video of a staged event that is far more distrubing than rehearsing a live satellite feed.


Looks like Kanye West did something I approve of. Not that I have high hopes for the movie.

Friday, October 14, 2005

Yom Kippur Liturgy

You cannot be comprehended by any science,
and there is no intellect that can understand and know
Anything about You and what You are like,
or how You created everything without anything.
Extra points if you know where it is from.

I think one of the facets of my current crisis is the dichotomy between early Jewish thought (e.g., Genesis), and the later stuff that tries to explain it away (e.g., the verse above). The former seems to be the foundation of our religion, while the latter seems to be nothing more than apologetics.

For example, this very verse states the obvious points about God, yet Judaism is replete with instances of explaining God (e.g., tikkun olem), and indeed understanding God is the very purpose of religion. Is that because religion has its origins in the anthropomorphic primordal soup of paganism? Certainly seems plausible.

More to come on this (I am re-reading Guide for the Perplexed, but it will take a while). That being said, I really enjoy certain moments of the Yom Kippur liturgy, most particularly the section from which this quote is taken.

Wednesday, October 12, 2005

Life in the Wasteland

I'm not sure if life is supposed to follow cliched sitcom scripts, but a friend of mine from back in the day is now with child and without a husband. My first reaction is to blame the educational system she grew up in (Brooklyn Yeshivas), but it's kind of hard to believe this sort of thing still happens among, like, college graduates. I am fairly certain, however, that a little sex-ed back in junior high, or even high school, might have helped her.

Instead, we get folks like this one (relatively healthy) on one end of the wasteland and my friend on the other(definitely not healthy).


This is funny as hell. Read it, laugh, and then weep, 'cause it's true. And if you don't believe me, read this.

Monday, October 10, 2005

Merkel Tops Schroder

This took long enough. Of course, the much needed fiscal reforms are now doomed to a weak unity government.

...Who Will Live and Who Will Die...

As I was cooling down from today's run, some poor sod on a Vespa tangled with a car. By the time I reached the intersection there were four passers-by attending to him, so I figured that I would do more harm than good. What was interesting was that the intersection is in front of a diplomatic facility belonging to a semi-friendly nation (hint: in FY04, they were the third largest recipient of US foreign aid). They surely have a first-aid kit and probably someone who knows how to use it. Would it have killed them to help out?

Hashkafa Update

During my recent travels (3,000+ miles in the past month), I reconnected with a rabbi I always admired and laid out my case against Judaism (jeez, that sounds harsh). In retrospect, I am not sure why I bothered, I knew what his answers would be in advance (Watchmaker, learn Tanya, don't eat chalav akum (I don't)). Here is my case in brief:

Even if you accept that God put all this stuff here to begin with (ex nihilo), that doesn't support the myth that God formed Adam out of sand. The rabbi's argument was that if God could have put this stuff here in the first place, than clearly it is in his power to form Adam out of sand. That is all well and good, but the only reason why I accepted arguendo God as First Cause, is because the evidence suggests it (although not really, because God is not the answer, just a copout), but there is no evidence of God creating Adam from sand and a mountain of data suggesting that evolution might have played some part in it. At this point, someone like GH would tell me to get over Genesis-as-literal-truth, but since the rabbi is UO, that is not an option.

But Genesis-as-metaphor is such a ridiculous concept, I am not sure how critical thinkers can accept it. The book was not written as metaphor. It was not accepted as metaphor. It was not even considered metaphor until it was clear that its teachings do not match reality. Then a whole line of clever apologists start reading in new things into it to reconcile the writings with reality. Here's a question- if the Torah contains the secrets of the Universe, would it have killed it to tell us about penicillin?

I think I am going to have to save the rest for another time, since I am working my way back into my old routines and have a lot of mileage to cover.

Staving Off Madonna's Super Powers

What's more embarrassing than a Madonna song about Kabballah? Some rabbis' response to it:
"Such a woman brings great sin on kabbalah," Rabbi Israel Deri told Maariv. "I hope that we will have the strength to prevent her from bringing sin upon the holiness of the rabbi (Yitzhak Luria)."