Sunday, January 28, 2007

Good Evening, Madam Speaker

On the whole, Mr. Bush did not perform especially poorly in his latest State of the Union Address. He said all of the standard cliches, made all the usual promises, and left us knowing little more than we knew before. But that's to be expected given the complexities of leading America and the low level of understanding in the populace. So I can't really fault him. The only thing of substance in the speech was the Health Insurance Tax Exemption, which sounds like a decent idea; probably becomes problematic when you look at the numbers: the money must come from somewhere. What kinda gets me is the President's dogmatic way of speaking, as if what he says is really true. He leaves no room in his rhetoric for the vicissitudes of the real world.

Spreading opportunity and hope in America also requires public schools that give children the knowledge and character they need in life. Five years ago, we rose above partisan differences to pass the No Child Left Behind Act, preserving local control, raising standards, and holding those schools accountable for results. And because we acted, students are performing better in reading and math, and minority students are closing the achievement gap.

Now the task is to build on the success, without watering down standards, without taking control from local communities, and without backsliding and calling it reform. We can lift student achievement even higher by giving local leaders flexibility to turn around failing schools, and by giving families with children stuck in failing schools the right to choose someplace better. We must increase funds for students who struggle - and make sure these children get the special help they need. And we can make sure our children are prepared for the jobs of the future and our country is more competitive by strengthening math and science skills. The No Child Left Behind Act has worked for America's children - and I ask Congress to reauthorize this good law.

Could you get any more vague and still be inaccurate?

Extending hope and opportunity in our country requires an immigration system worthy of America - with laws that are fair and borders that are secure. When laws and borders are routinely violated, this harms the interests of our country.

Should I accept that because You said it, Mr. Bush? Do you have any evidence that this indeed harms the interests of our country? Do you have one critical thinking cell left in your brain?

To secure our border, we're doubling the size of the Border Patrol, and funding new infrastructure and technology.

Yah, that'll do it.

Yet even with all these steps, we cannot fully secure the border unless we take pressure off the border - and that requires a temporary worker program.

Oh, so it won't be enough with the doubling Border Patrol thing?

We should establish a legal and orderly path for foreign workers to enter our country to work on a temporary basis. As a result, they won't have to try to sneak in, and that will leave Border Agents free to chase down drug smugglers and criminals and terrorists.

Oh, the joys of ignorant bliss. If we let them apply to Immigration and wait six years after filing a mountain of paperwork for a chance to come to the US for a year, maybe they won't try to sneak in. Come on, Mr. President!

(Notice how he throws in the line about the terrorists. They're his favorite.)

We'll enforce our immigration laws at the work site and give employers the tools to verify the legal status of their workers, so there's no excuse left for violating the law.

Just like in the movies.

We need to uphold the great tradition of the melting pot that welcomes and assimilates new arrivals. We need to resolve the status of the illegal immigrants who are already in our country without animosity and without amnesty. Convictions run deep in this Capitol when it comes to immigration. Let us have a serious, civil, and conclusive debate, so that you can pass, and I can sign, comprehensive immigration reform into law.

The melting pot dream of Thomas Paine, Herman Melville and others was essentially discarded in the United States some years back in favor of multiculturalism. Someone apparently forgot to inform our esteemed leader of this. Mr. Bush's concern for the "great tradition of the melting pot that welcomes and assimilates new arrivals" is not only anachronistic, however, it it also insulting. To the millions of American who are proud to be Dominican Americans, Chinese Americans, African Americans, Jewish Americans, American Indians, Irish Americans, Italian Americans, Latino Americans, Pakistani Americans and so on, the melting pot is not a "great tradition". Bigotry is not a "great tradition". They are not interested in giving up our heritage to start over as assimilated new Americans. They cling to their individual history and ethnic origins, hold sacred their old traditions in their new country.

This country's dedication to freedom has secured for these groups their right to contribute their unique qualities to the broad mosaic of America. Unfortunately, our president fails to recognize and respect these hard-won rights. To Mr. Bush, immigrants must be "Americanized" to be worthy of the title "Americans". The implication that assimilation and Americanization is somehow an evolutionary process; that to be assimilated into the "great tradition" is somehow better than the culture of our ancestors is deeply disturbing. An individual in Mr. Bush's America is not to be accepted for who he or she is as a person, but only as a cog in his "great tradition"-al machine. This platform is not in the spirit of our country's current ideals. Our country's "great tradition" is marred by slavery, civil rights abuse, war, and crime. A speckled past. We can rise above this and learn to respect one another. Let's begin.

Some references on the death of Melting Pot America:

America's Melting Pot Reconsidered

Charles Hirschman. Annual Review of Sociology, Vol. 9, 1983 (1983), pp. 397-423

The Disuniting of America: Reflections on a Multicultural Society
Schlesinger, Arthur M., Jr., Arthur Meier Schlesinger, Jr. (1998)

Melting Pot or Salad Bowl: Some Evidence from U.S. Investments Abroad
Utpal Bhattacharya, Peter Groznika.
EFA 2003 Annual Conference Paper, 2003

Constructing Ethnicity: Creating and Recreating Ethnic Identity and Culture
Joane Nagel. Social Problems, Vol. 41, No. 1, Special Issue on Immigration, Race, and Ethnicity in America (Feb., 1994), pp. 152-176

Sunday, January 21, 2007

Fashion. Well, Almost

Been short on time lately. Finals. On the European system and taking Spring on the US system, so I don't even get a Winter Break. That's life, I'm not complaining. I'm happy. And learning about happiness in school. Which is cool.

Random Wiki: Sagging

Oh, and we like comments.

Bush and Paglia

Watch out: Mr. Bush is set to make a fool out of America again in tomorrow's State of the Union address. Stay tuned for analysis.

A copy of Camille Paglia's Sexual Personae fell into my hands by chance yesterday. It made an interesting read. So did this. I agree that sexual abuse is a crime, but I'm not sure all sexual interaction is necessarily abuse. It's a fine line.

Fixed the links from 2 posts ago. Sorry for the inconvenience.

Saturday, January 20, 2007

The Update

Shabbos was great. Went to Efrat, stayed by these wonderful people there. Loads of fun. Getting ready for the USA.

I love meeting beautiful people.

I feel like supporting Clinton for President 2008 today. This is not yet our official endorsement; there's is still time and much to do, but for now, that is my leanings. That's it for now.

Thursday, January 18, 2007

short on time

Thanks to DeviantArt, Brent Corrigan, and random things popping up on my computer for the last post.

I thought about where to find information on Judaism, Papke. While I doubt any of them fully do justice, here are a few selections.

The Eye of a Needle. Yitchak Coopersmith.
The Way of God. M. C. Luzzatto.
Listen to Your Messages. Yissocher Frand.
Halakhic Man. J. B. Soloveitchik.

Gotta run, more info soon.

Some New Pics

Monday, January 15, 2007

Tribute to the King

How much more than ever now do we need a man like Martin Luther King Jr. today: A man of integrity, a man of learning, a fantastic speaker; a man who uses his talents to foster peace, and one who refuses to foment violence as too many of his fellows have unfortunately done.

In the process of gaining our rightful place, we must not be guilty of wrongful deeds. Let us not seek to satisfy our thirst for freedom by drinking from the cup of bitterness and hatred. We must forever conduct our struggle on the high plane of dignity and discipline. We must not allow our creative protest to degenerate into physical violence. Again and again, we must rise to the majestic heights of meeting physical force with soul force...

I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed: "We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal."

I have a dream that one day on the red hills of Georgia, the sons of former slaves and the sons of former slave owners will be able to sit down together at the table of brotherhood.

I have a dream that one day even the state of Mississippi, a state sweltering with the heat of injustice, sweltering with the heat of oppression, will be transformed into an oasis of freedom and justice.

I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.

I have a dream today!

I have a dream that one day, down in Alabama, with its vicious racists, with its governor having his lips dripping with the words of "interposition" and "nullification" -- one day right there in Alabama little black boys and black girls will be able to join hands with little white boys and white girls as sisters and brothers.

I have a dream today!

I have a dream that one day every valley shall be exalted, and every hill and mountain shall be made low, the rough places will be made plain, and the crooked places will be made straight; "and the glory of the Lord shall be revealed and all flesh shall see it together."

This is our hope, and this is the faith that I go back to the South with.

With this faith, we will be able to hew out of the mountain of despair a stone of hope. With this faith, we will be able to transform the jangling discords of our nation into a beautiful symphony of brotherhood. With this faith, we will be able to work together, to pray together, to struggle together, to go to jail together, to stand up for freedom together, knowing that we will be free one day.

And this will be the day -- this will be the day when all of God's children will be able to sing with new meaning:

My country 'tis of thee, sweet land of liberty, of thee I sing.

Land where my fathers died, land of the Pilgrim's pride,

From every mountainside, let freedom ring!

And if America is to be a great nation, this must become true.

And so let freedom ring from the prodigious hilltops of New Hampshire.

Let freedom ring from the mighty mountains of New York.

Let freedom ring from the heightening Alleghenies of

Let freedom ring from the snow-capped Rockies of Colorado.

Let freedom ring from the curvaceous slopes of California.

But not only that:

Let freedom ring from Stone Mountain of Georgia.

Let freedom ring from Lookout Mountain of Tennessee.

Let freedom ring from every hill and molehill of Mississippi.

From every mountainside, let freedom ring.

And when this happens, when we allow freedom ring, when we let it ring from every village and every hamlet, from every state and every city, we will be able to speed up that day when all of God's children, black men and white men, Jews and Gentiles, Protestants and Catholics, will be able to join hands and sing in the words of the old Negro spiritual:

Free at last! Free at last!

Thank God Almighty, we are free at last!

Hamas accused by Fatah of plans to assassinate PA president Abbas (story at BBC). Interesting that the BBC calls the plot "murder" instead of "assassination"; I wonder what this means.

Nuevo Riche Victoria Beckham aka Posh Spice spends big in 90210 (story here).

California woman dies of water intoxication after radio drinking contest to win a Nintendo Wii gaming system (story).

YouTube is great for sampling international music. Incidentally, did you know YouTube founder was recently knighted by the Queen? Freakish.

Sunday, January 14, 2007

Mahmoud Abbas to Condi Rice: No!

PA Pres. says "No" to a temporary independent Palestinian state. In doing so, he follows predecessor Yassir Arafat's lead in denying his own people their statehood so they can unfairly blame their plight on Israel which offered concessions. Abbas has again verified the claim that what the Palestinians really seek is the Israel's destruction, not a state of their own. (story here)

Thursday, January 11, 2007

Smack This, Akon

According to Ryan Seacrest, Mr. and Mrs. Smith, aka Brangelina, aka Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie will be teaming up again for a television comedy series that will be "like Married with Children, with guns".

Also, in an interview on Seacrest's AT40, Akon talks about his recent escapades.

"Why were the cops chasing you?"
"It was a stolen car."

Akon said he was running from the LAPD and "had 'em beat" but then crashed his car into the mayor's mailbox and drove straight into his house. Akon sounded really funny on the air. He might consider a side career doing standup. But he's dangerous. I mean, we like his music but he's a real live criminal, you dig? He's been arrested, spent time in jail, and he's doing stuff again. This is the role model for American youth. Specifically, if you'll forgive my language, for Black youth.

"Some of your lyrics were obviously written for adult listeners."
"Yah, they were for sure meant for adults, but it's funny how all the kids found this stuff and they're eating it up."

This is the big post # 100. How should we celebrate?

This is Outrageous

Outrage as Oxford bans student for being Israeli (see story). Anti-semitism and ethnic discrimination at its worst as Oxford's Professor Wilkie rejects a PhD applicant on ground of having served in the IDF according to Israeli law. A criticism on government policy is one thing, and may be on principle (human rights violations, etc.) or at worst anti-Israel. But once you take it to the personal level, it's just flat out anti semitic, racist. The biggets irony is that Israeli academics are the ones who are most sympathetic to the plight of the Arabs and are most outspokenly critical of their country's mistakes. They are seeking better solutions, but this is an intractable problem. We still need time.

Good News for Soccer Moms

Posh Spice is moving to Beverly Hills, LA with hubby David Beckham, an international soccer superstar who recently signed a deal with the LA Galaxy worth $250 million dollars. Not bad money in a league whose team salary cap is just $2 million. The team took advantage of the "Beckham Law", a new rule that allows one player on a team to be exempt from the cap. I kinda feel bad for his teammates: they split a 2 mil pie, while Beckham earns 8 figures. What does that do to a guy's morale? The pundits think this Beckham can revive football (soccer) in America. Our take: the salary cap still needs more bending before the sport can go mainstream and compete with pro baseball, American football, and basketball in the US. But it's a fun game, so play away kids.

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

Economics of our Environment

This is an issue we will be hearing more about. Global environmental factors create our economic situation; the current rates of production and consuption, in turn, reflect back on the environment in a giant cycle that affects everyone in totally unpredictable ways. Exciting! And there are loads of funny people who think they understand it. Which makes for great comedy. We can sit and laugh at people like Sir Nicholas as they scream like headless chickens. That is not to say we should ignore the issues, rather caution is the buzzword. Try not to spend 1/2 the GDP on a dubious "environmental" project.

Should we just plant lots of trees and see what happens? Dell Computer began doing just that in an effort to offset environmental damage caused by its electronic devices. The catch: they want customers to pay ($2 extra for a laptop, $6 for a desktop). Michael Dell has called on fellow electronics companies to follow suit. See the LA Times article on the Gates Foundation to see why this may be at best a gimmick, at worst, folly.

Economics diversifies its portfolio: see story, see also Freakonomics.

Build a brain research institute. It's become a popular hobby today among people with cash to burn. Check back here for the list of those who have done it.

Happiness, the final frontier. The Economist ran a front page article, "Happiness (and how to measure it)," in its Christmas issue. The NY Times discussed Happiness 101, the new so-called Positive Psychology that has become the rage on college campuses across the country.

Economics was always about money, psychology dealt with mental illnes. Now, these disciplines are turning their tools on a goal so elusive, the DoI promised only the right to pursue it, never to attain it.

Howard Stern is earning almost $600 million for luring record subscribers on satellite radio.

To recap: environment, economics, neuroscience, and radio

Tuesday, January 09, 2007

Mr. and Mrs. Smith (2005)

Mr and Mrs. Smith: Two thumbs up. Not really meaningful in a permanent way, but it doesn't try to be or apologize for that. It's fun. It doesn't answer it's questions, but they are minor and don't bug you the whole time. The movie isn't a "things that make you go huh" like so many movies are. I can't tell you how many times I sat through a movie where half the time I was thinking, "Huh? What's going on here? What's the point?" But Mr and Mrs. Smith was straightforward, cool, and classic. It basically distinguishes itself by not trying stupidly to distinguish itself. Lots of guns, the necessary car chase. PG-13, bring the whole family. With Brad Pitt, Angelina Jolie. Fast fact: Jolie's character, Jane Smith, says she's Jewish (oh, and that she's done 312 men. Some were 2 at a time).

And now, it's time for some sleep. G'night.

P.S. Did you ever notice that some magazines drop the period after Mr. and Mrs.?

Monday, January 08, 2007

Demographics of Power

Minorities are the wave of the future in America as the "melting pot" view increasingly gives way to multi-culturalism.

Jews make up 3% of the US population; 8% of the 110th Congress. Blacks comprise 13% of the nation; 8% of Congress. Women comprise approximately 50% of the population in the United States (so why are they called a minority?); they received 17% of the seats in Congress. All three groups acheived new records of representation in the 2006 mid-term congressional elections.

13 Jewish Senators, 3 Hispanics, 2 Asian Americans, 1 senator of Arab descent, 1 African-American and a whole bunch of WASPs.

Joe Lieberman made a mockery of his party by winning re-election on the Connecticut for Lieberman ticket after the Democrats deserted him.

Another child hanging story: chris and chris
Everybody's doing it: The see-through color

More than half (55%) of all online American youths ages 12-17 use online social networking sites, according to a new national survey of teenagers conducted by the Pew Internet & American Life Project. (PDF)

What's most surprising about the numbers is that there is virtually no racial or economic divide in terms of who is most likely to use these sites: male, female, rich, poor, black, white share nearly identical numbers.

Sunday, January 07, 2007

Invitation to a Hanging

Kids are taking theirs lives left and right in copycat hangings attributed to Saddam's execution. This brings the old debate about TV violence back into the sphere of debate. The essential argument that has plagued me for a long time is this: Whether or not television violence makes kids, on average, more violent is irrelevant. For every display of ingenious criminality on TV, there will be one or more copycat crimes, given a population as large as the TV audience is. Therefore, it is not unreasonable to hold the network heads liable for premeditated murder every time someone is killed in a copycat crime.

The counter-argument, a friend recently enlightened me, is that once you take things to the macro scale, you can't predict with great accuracy the global effects of any action. For example, a terrorism show that gives bin Laden an idea for his next bomb may also give the Dept. of Homeland Security a heads up and lead to countermeasures to close the vulnerability. Perhaps a child was martyred on the lap of Saddam this week, but the world will think differently about public hangings the next.

Incidentally, does anyone still remember the old Saddam, the ruler of Iraq, before they dressed him up in a beard and suit, stripped him of power, and put him in a courtroom. A man's legacy is only as good as his final hours. We have already rewritten all that histroy...

Relatedly, the killing of Hussein has also sparked dozens of new deaths in the Iraq insurgency.

Women like bags. Comments?

New study shows that having younger siblings can increase risk of brain cancer. Wtf? I'm going to have to look into this.

Did you notice the picture of that cute altar boy next to the report of child suicide? Is there any connection between the two things? No. Did the juxtapositioning implant in your mind the insinuation of a connection? Maybe. Did the picture of innocence and potential in children influence your perception of the horrors of child suicide? I don't know. I think these things make a difference.

When you throw around lots of dough, you make a difference. It's hard to know what will happen. The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation tries hard to do good for the poor. Problem is, we are only human. (see article)

Seemed interesting, but I didn't have time to read it: dialogue at Slate

Did you know: Of course Google has pages in English, Spanish, Hebrew, etc. but did you know they have pages in Elmer Fudd?