Month: July 2012

Interesting Point About Religion

One of the things that honks me off is the phrase, “Judeo Christian”.

I consider it to be code words for “White European”.

Jews are not Christian.

More than the whole “Jesus thing”, there are profound differences in how textual analysis is applied to scriptures, attitudes toward sex in marriage, the application of historical data to the analysis, and the acknowledgement of the oft contradictory character of the writings.

In any case, I came across a rather interesting analysis of one of the more troubling parts of Torah, the divine instructions to engage in what essentially was genocide in the conquest of Canaan following the exodus from Egypt.

Dr. Science of Obsidian Wings, a Jew by choice, compares two blog posts, one from an Evangelical Christian minister, and one from a Reconstructionist Jewish Rabbi, and puts to words a core difference in the intellectual approaches that I have always found difficult to put to words:

The two ministers come across as reasonably similar in personality and emotional tone — I suspect they would get along quite well. Both read the Bible in historical-critical context, but they insist that it is necessary to read the Bible, not to just follow your bliss. Neither is willing to accept the “genocide commandments” as-is, but neither is willing to just throw them out or ignore them, either.

And they approach this text from different perspectives: asking different questions, using different tools. I was brought up as a Christian (in a Catholic/Lutheran family) but am now a practicing Jew, so I find a compare/contrast very illuminating. In this case, the Christian asks about the character or personality of God; the Jew asks what we Jews should *do*.

(Emphasis mine)

At its core, this is why fundamentalism is not really a part of normative Judaism.  (Maimonides made the point nearly 900 years ago that a strictly literal interpretation is not compatible with a meaningful study of Torah.)

If you view scriptures as instructions on how to conduct your life on a daily basis, it is impossible to take scripture literally, because the myriad contradictions and inconsistencies become manifest, thus you need to put your brain in gear, and ask yourself, “What does this mean, and what do I have to do?”

It’s why the term Orthodoxy, meaning literally one way of thinking, is really not an accurate description of observant Jews.  Their practice of religion is very nearly the same, they are all a bunch of guys in black hats, but when you ask them why, or attempt to get an opinion on a part of Tanach (Torah, Prophets, and Writings) you will find them coming to this from distinctly different viewpoints.  (See Orthopraxy)

I am Sick to Death of Right Wing Democrats

Case in point, the Obama’s OMB chair turned overpaid Wall Street puke ( Vice Chairman of Global Banking at Citigroup) Peter Ortag, who is suggesting that the solution to the problems of the US Post Office is to let the financial industry to steal it from the American people:

Those who believe in the usefulness of government must be vigilant about making sure all its activities are vital ones, since the unnecessary ones undermine public confidence. With this in mind, Congress should now privatize the U.S. Postal Service.

Further evidence for why this should happen came last week, when the Postal Service announced that it would be unable to meet billions of dollars in payments that are coming due in August and September for future retiree health benefits. Privatization is not always the best way to improve efficiency, but the problems facing the Postal Service will be difficult to address if it remains within the government, and there is no longer any sound reason for it not to go private.

This ignores the fact that the US Post Office, one of the functions specifically mentioned in the Constitution, is actually running a primary surplus.
It is having money problems because, in 2006, the Republicans required them to fully fund their pension plan out to 75 years over a 10 year period.

Right now, the Post Office is on track to default on a $5.5 billion pension payment to the US treasury tomorrow:

The U.S. Postal Service affirmed it won’t make a required $5.5 billion payment due tomorrow to the U.S. Treasury for future retirees’ health care, an obligation the agency said must end for it to become financially viable.

The service has said for months it couldn’t afford the payment, which was initially due last September, nor a $5.6 billion payment required by Sept. 30 for this year. Postal legislation passed by the U.S. Senate on April 25 would slow the schedule for those obligations. The House hasn’t acted on a different postal measure aimed at changes to help the service cope with declining mail volume.

“This has no effect on mail processing or delivery, no impact on post offices, and employees will continue to get paid,” Dave Partenheimer, a Postal Service spokesman, said today in a phone interview.

Just in case your wondering, the USPS is on a pace to lose about $12 billion this year, after taking into account paying for the retirement of people who haven’t been born yet.

Their pension is grossly over funded, (A true rarity in the US) and if they did not have to make these payments, then they would be turning something on the order of an $8 billion profit.

But according to Orzag, the real problem is that Post Office is not able to unleash its free market super-powers.

It’s really all about allowing his cow-orkers at Citi to generate the enormous fees that would be the product of any privatization this massive.

Oh No You Didn’t!!!

In an interview with Huffpo (no link, I don’t link to them), Harry Reid threw down in a most spectacular way:

Saying he had “no problem with somebody being really, really wealthy,” Reid sat up in his chair a bit before stirring the pot further. A month or so ago, he said, a person who had invested with Bain Capital called his office.

“Harry, he didn’t pay any taxes for 10 years,” Reid recounted the person as saying.

“He didn’t pay taxes for 10 years! Now, do I know that that’s true? Well, I’m not certain,” said Reid. “But obviously he can’t release those tax returns. How would it look?

Mitt Rmoney, you just been served.

High five to Harry Reid.

So, When is Mark Zuckerberg Going to Jail?

I’ve always thought that there was something odd about how Facebook does business.

Even by the litigious standards of the various dot-com bubbles, the number of law suits that have have been filed alleging that he took money from people to develop stuff,. and walked off with said work product.

It’s entirely reasonable to see the enormous amount of money involved as an inducement to file suits, after all, even a small settlement will still be a lot of money, but I’d make sure to dot my “i”s and cross my “t”s if I dealt with Facebook in a commercial capacity.

This is what online market provider Limited Run has discovered, when they realized that 80% of the ad click-throughs that they were paying through were bots:

Hey everyone, we’re going to be deleting our Facebook page in the next couple of weeks, but we wanted to explain why before we do. A couple months ago, when we were preparing to launch the new Limited Run, we started to experiment with Facebook ads. Unfortunately, while testing their ad system, we noticed some very strange things. Facebook was charging us for clicks, yet we could only verify about 20% of them actually showing up on our site. At first, we thought it was our analytics service. We tried signing up for a handful of other big name companies, and still, we couldn’t verify more than 15-20% of clicks. So we did what any good developers would do. We built our own analytic software. Here’s what we found: on about 80% of the clicks Facebook was charging us for, JavaScript wasn’t on. And if the person clicking the ad doesn’t have JavaScript, it’s very difficult for an analytics service to verify the click. What’s important here is that in all of our years of experience, only about 1-2% of people coming to us have JavaScript disabled, not 80% like these clicks coming from Facebook. So we did what any good developers would do. We built a page logger. Any time a page was loaded, we’d keep track of it. You know what we found? The 80% of clicks we were paying for were from bots. That’s correct. Bots were loading pages and driving up our advertising costs. So we tried contacting Facebook about this. Unfortunately, they wouldn’t reply. Do we know who the bots belong too? No. Are we accusing Facebook of using bots to drive up advertising revenue. No. Is it strange? Yes. But let’s move on, because who the bots belong to isn’t provable.

While we were testing Facebook ads, we were also trying to get Facebook to let us change our name, because we’re not Limited Pressing anymore. We contacted them on many occasions about this. Finally, we got a call from someone at Facebook. They said they would allow us to change our name. NICE! But only if we agreed to spend $2000 or more in advertising a month. That’s correct. Facebook was holding our name hostage. So we did what any good hardcore kids would do. We cursed that piece of sh%$ out! Damn we were so pissed. We still are. This is why we need to delete this page and move away from Facebook. They’re scumbags and we just don’t have the patience for scumbags.

(%$ mine)

I’m thinking that the people who will win if this story goes mainstream will be the newspapers.

Much of the allure of online advertising is its ability to closely track response to a specific ad. If that turns out not to be true, then print ads become much more attractive.

H/t Naked Capitalism.


The Democratic Party has decided to place a marriage equality plank in the party platform:

The Democratic Party platform drafting committee approved on Sunday language endorsing same-sex marriage in addition to other pro-LGBT positions as part of the Democratic Party platform, according to two sources familiar with the drafting process.

Retiring gay Rep. Barney Frank (D-Mass.), who sits on the committee, told the Washington Blade on Monday that the 15-member panel unanimously backed the inclusion of a marriage equality plank after a national hearing over the weekend in Minneapolis, in which several witnesses testified in favor of such language.

“I was part of a unanimous decision to include it,” Frank said. “There was a unanimous decision in the drafting committee to include it in the platform, which I supported, but everybody was for it.”

Frank emphasized that support for marriage equality is a position that has been established for the Democratic Party, from the president, who endorsed marriage equality in May, to House Democratic lawmakers who voted to reject an amendment reaffirming the Defense of Marriage Act earlier this month.

There is a lesson to be learned here, if you relentlessly hound Barack Obama, protest his fund raisers, confront his contributors, and organize a donation boycott, then he will EVENTUALLY he’ll do the right thing.


I’m generally not a superstitious person, but I have 2 rules:

  • I will not have anything to do with the Hope diamond. (Like that would happen)
  • I’ll avoid doing substantial on Tisha b’Av.  (Literally the 9th of the Hebrew month Av) The history is just too bad:
    • The reports of the spies, which led the Jews to spend 40 years in the desert.
    • The destruction of the 1st temple.
    • The destruction of the 2nd temple.
    • The crushing of the Bar Kokhba rebellion.
    • The first crusade, which set of an orgy of pogroms and murder.
    • The expulsion of the Jews from Spain.
    • The expulsion of the Jews from England.
    • The start of WWI.
    • Etc.

So, making a political trip to Israel on Tisha b’Av is not something I would do.

I’d move it a week one way or the other.

It is the saddest on the Jewish calendar, and it is observed by a day of fasting, and by listening by the chanting of Eicha (Lamentations).

One of the peculiarities of Tisha b’Av is that if it falls on a Shabbos, as it did this year, the observance is moved to the next day.

Whether you subscribe to my particular bit of superstitious silliness or not, it is self evident that if you decide to hold a $50,000 a plate fundraising banquet that starts while the fast is still ongoing, you don’t have a bad luck problem, you have a “Your an idiot problem”:

Presumed Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney will host a fund-raising event in Jerusalem this month at $60,000 or more per plate, The Jerusalem Post learned on Wednesday.

Delegates are set to fly in from the US for the event on July 29, which a Republican source said would be “a small meeting, but a big fund-raiser” as the Tisha Be’av fast ends. Immediately after the fund-raising meeting, Romney will host a conference in Jerusalem, where he will lay out his Middle East policy.

To be fair, the actual serving of food was not to start until after the fast was technically over, and once it blew up in Mitt’s face, they moved it to a breakfast get together the next morning.

But still, what sort of Rmorons does Mitt Rmoney have working for him?

Yep, No Racism Here

The former head of the Florida Republican party is now saying that the Republican voter ID law was specifically intended to suppress the black vote, and that this was explicitly discussed behind closed doors:

In the debate over new laws meant to curb voter fraud in places like Florida, Democrats always charge that Republicans are trying to suppress the vote of liberal voting blocs like blacks and young people, while Republicans just laugh at such ludicrous and offensive accusations. That is, every Republican except for Florida’s former Republican Party chairman Jim Greer, who, scorned by his party and in deep legal trouble, blew the lid off what he claims was a systemic effort to suppress the black vote. In a 630-page deposition recorded over two days in late May, Greer, who is on trial for corruption charges, unloaded a litany of charges against the “whack-a-do, right-wing crazies” in his party, including the effort to suppress the black vote.

In the deposition, released to the press yesterday, Greer mentioned a December 2009 meeting with party officials. “I was upset because the political consultants and staff were talking about voter suppression and keeping blacks from voting,” he said, according to the Tampa Bay Times. He also said party officials discussed how “minority outreach programs were not fit for the Republican Party,” according to the AP.

One hopes that his testimony is introduced in the suits that the DoJ is filing against Rick Scott and his merry band of racists.

This is the proverbial smoking gun.


You know, I’ve never been a fan of the zombie genre.

I’ve never sat through a whole zombie movie (though I do want to see the genre bender Shaun of the Dead), and I really don’t get the whole zombie walk thing.

However, the ziomnbie protest of Fred Phelps’ twisted bigoted family is a genius:

Counter-demonstrators dressed as zombies outnumbered protesters from the Westboro Baptist Church at a military base near DuPont, Washington over the weekend.

Melissa Neace, 27, launched a Facebook group to organize the zombies event after she learned that the radical ant-LGBT church would be picketing Joint Base Lewis-McChord near Seattle.

“We wanted to turn something negative around, into something people could laugh at and poke fun at,” Neace explained to The News Tribune. “It was the easiest way to divert attention from something so hateful.”

Over 200 people committed to attending the event on Saturday, which she called “Zombie’ing Westboro Baptist Church AWAY from Fort Lewis!”

Of course, this is completely unrealistic.

Zombies eat brains, and they’d starve if they had to depend on Westboro Baptist.

Obama’s Torture

It looks like there is going to be testimony offered on the torture of Pfc. Bradley Manning by the military with the active support of the administration:

A comprehensive motion containing allegations and evidence from the defense for Pfc. Bradley Manning, the soldier accused of releasing classified information to WikiLeaks, was filed on July 27. The 110-page motion, which Manning’s defense lawyer said should “shock the conscience of the court” during a motion hearing this month, included a request to the Fort Meade court to dismiss all charges with prejudice because he was subjected to “illegal pretrial punishment” while imprisoned at the Quantico Marine Brig for nine months.

The defense’s motion was not approved for publishing; however, two other motions involving the defense’s request for witnesses to appear during argument on “unlawful pretrial punishment” were posted to the defense’s website. One of the motions reveals Manning will likely take the stand to give testimony on how he was subjected to “unlawful pretrial punishment”—what many have called cruel and inhuman treatment or even torture. His testimony may include what he knows about a video of his interrogation at Quantico, which the government claims does not exist.

Obama knew, or was deliberately and willfully blind to Manning’s torture.

He admitted this in an open press conference, when he said:

With respect to Private Manning, I have actually asked the Pentagon whether or not the procedures that have been taken in terms of his confinement are appropriate and are meeting our basic standards. They assure me that they are. I can’t go into details about some of their concerns, but some of this has to do with Private Manning’s safety as well.

Manning was arrested in 2010.

Everything that has been done to him, in what is a transparent attempt to coerce Manning into providing false testimony against Julian Assange to allow for a prosecution under the 1917 Espionage Act.

One of the positions of the Obama administration is that officials should not be prosecuted for matters of policy.

I could not disagree more. (Roll prosecushun kitty)

We won’t begin to fix the damage done to core rights, and the concept of the rule of law until the most senior members of the executive branch face criminal prosecutions.

My Heart Bleeds Borscht

TV stations are required under federal law to provide their lowest rates to candidates, but this does not apply to Super PACs:

To make his closing argument to Iowa voters on the day of the Jan. 3 caucuses, Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney spent $1,000 to air a minute- long television ad during one of the Des Moines market’s top- rated morning news programs.

That same airtime on CBS affiliate KCCI-TV was in demand by a super-political action committee helping Romney, and Restore Our Future paid a 50 percent premium to place its commercial.

Come September and October, when Romney and President Barack Obama, House and Senate candidates and dozens of outside political groups will be demanding ad space, super-PACs can expect stations to begin charging what Democratic media consultant Peter Fenn calls “super-gouge rates” of as much as four times what candidates pay.

“Stations are rabid for this money,” said Kip Cassino, research director of Borrell Associates, which tracks the television industry and is based in Williamsburg, Virginia. “The super-PACs are like a kid with money burning a hole in their pocket.”

While I am not a fan of the TV industry, I am still amused gouging the Super PACS and their rich pig backers.

What a Surprise

When another vote comes up on a bill to audit the Federal Reserve, the Democratic Leadership in the House whips against it:

Yesterday, on the House floor, there was a furious debate over the prospect for HR 541, Ron Paul’s bill to audit the Federal Reserve. The Republicans are by and large supportive of this bill, seeking to hamstring the ability of the Federal Reserve to act in secret. Democratic members, were they left to their own devices, would be split. But on votes on bills like this, party leaders can choose to endorse a position, or not endorse a position. Some votes are what’s called “whipped”, and some aren’t. There’s an intricate system of whips and assistant whips and staff networks who encourage members to vote a certain way, so when the party takes a position on an issue, it has a big impact on the final vote count. This is a whipped vote, which means that this is one of those times where the Democratic leadership – Steny Hoyer, Barney Frank and Nancy Pelosi – are putting their stamp on an issue. They have come out firmly for Fed secrecy.

Here’s the whip notice from Democratic leadership on the House side encouraging members to vote against transparency at the Fed.


UPDATE: The bill passed, 327-97. A bunch of Democrats flipped against an audit. Just glancing at the roll call, Louise Slaughter, Lynn Woolsey, Marcy Kaptur, Heath Shuler, and Donna Edwards (among others) cosponsored the bill either last Congress and/or this Congress, and then voted against it on the floor. Go Team Blue!

UPDATE, AGAIN: The Democratic leaders, despite whipping, barely got a majority of the caucus to vote no. This is a massive failure on their part, and shows how weak they are.

It won’t ever make it to the floor of the Senate, and if it passed there, Obama would veto it.

I am not a Ron Paul gold nut, but I do think that the Fed, with regard to its non-monetary activity in particular, should be more accountable, and I think that opposition to that idea is because they (they being the usual suspects) want to make sure that the Fed is free to bail them (them being the usual suspects) the next time that they (they being the usual suspects) drive themselves (they being the usual …… you get the point) off a cliff and need rescuing.

This Quarter’s GDP Numbers

Click for full size

H/t Paul Krugman for the Graph Pr0n

The GDP numbers for the 2nd quarter sucked:

The U.S. economy probably expanded in the second quarter at the slowest pace in a year as a softening labor market caused Americans to cut back on spending, economists said before a report today.

Gross domestic product, the value of all goods and services produced, rose at a 1.4 percent annual rate after a 1.9 percent gain in the prior quarter, according to the median forecast of 81 economists surveyed by Bloomberg News. Consumer purchases, which account for about 70 percent of the world’s largest economy, may have grown at the weakest pace in a year.

As the good Doctor notes, the real; problem is that the stimulus was too small in the first place, and too short as well, so we are effectively doing austerity in the worst recession in 80 years.

Twitter Joke Conviction Overturned

Finally, some sanity in the courts, though it’s across the pond.

Perhaps we’ve finally found judges who have a clue about Twitter:

A bloke found guilty of tweeting a “menacing” joke about blowing up a UK airport has had his conviction quashed by the High Court today. A collective sigh of relief was heard moments later from comedians addicted to the micro-blogging website.

Paul Chambers, 28, was waiting to fly from Doncaster’s Robin Hood airport to Belfast to see his girlfriend, whom he met on the social networking site, when snow closed the airfield and delayed his flight.

He vented his frustration in a series of tweets to his squeeze Sarah Tonner, now his fiancee, including a suggestion that he had considered “resorting to terrorism” to ensure he could visit her.


Mr Justice Owen and Mr Justice Griffith Williams said in the High Court today that the facts needed to be considered in context, pointing out that the tweets had clearly appeared to be a reference to the airport closing due to adverse weather conditions.

“There was no evidence before the Crown Court to suggest that any of the followers of the appellant’s ‘tweet’, or indeed anyone else who may have seen the ‘tweet’ posted on the appellant’s time line, found it to be of a menacing character or, at a time when the threat of terrorism is real, even minimally alarming,” the High Court heard.

His comedian supporters were stoked:

‘Phants Ceding PA

It looks like both the Rmoney campaign and the super PACS that support him, are pulling out of Pennsylvania:

One of the early peculiarities of the advertising campaign is the half-hearted effort in Pennsylvania—a state which figured prominently in the electoral calculus of the last three presidential elections. Despite that place in recent electoral history, Romney hasn’t aired any ads in Pennsylvania since the general election began. And although the Obama campaign and the super PACs have waged a low-intensity ad war in Pennsylvania, the most recent data suggests that even these limited efforts might be winding down.

For the first time in the campaign, Republicans are completely off the air in Pennsylvania. According to The Washington Post’s ad tracker, neither Crossroads nor Restore Our Future have aired ads in Pennsylvania since the beginning of July, and although Americans for Prosperity purchased buys for the early half of July, they appear to have gone off the air as well. This could be temporary, of course: there were weeks when the GOP went off the air in Michigan, only to return a few weeks later. Americans for Prosperity isn’t airing any ads this week, and they were carrying the load in Pennsylvania before dropping off the air, so they might start contesting Pennsylvania again once they return to the presidential race. But the decision to cease advertisements shouldn’t be overlooked: ads quickly lose their punch once the airwaves go quiet, so it’s important to remain persistent once advertisements begin.

Why is Pennsylvania falling off of the radar? Although the state is typically characterized as a white working class state reminiscent of the Midwest, the Democratic coalition in Pennsylvania is far more diverse and upscale than Ohio or Michigan. Democrats also have a large registration advantage in Pennsylvania, and a Romney victory would require a degree of crossover appeal that he has not yet demonstrated. Instead, Romney and his allies appear more interested in testing the waters of the Great Lakes, where demographics or electoral history are arguably more promising than Pennsylvania. Obama is more dependent on white working class voters in Michigan than Pennsylvania, and recent polls provide cause for Republicans to be hopeful about their chances. This week, Crossroads turned up the volume in Michigan and spent nearly $600,000 on advertisements. That’s not as much as other battleground states, but it’s a hefty investment. For comparison, Obama spent $1 million in Ohio—a slightly larger state, generally considered more likely to decide the election. The RNC has also announced it will invest in Wisconsin, a state where Obama looks strong but that Kerry won by just 14,000 votes in 2004.

This is unsurprising.

The last time that Pennsylvania went Republican was in 1988, and that was close.

For all the talk of it being a swing state, it isn’t.

I’ll Have a Side Order of Racist Ratf%$# with That

Yes, the Rmoney campaign has denied it, but one of his surrogates just threw out a blatantly racist agitprop:

As the Republican presidential challenger accused Barack Obama of appeasing America’s enemies in his first foreign policy speech of the US general election campaign, advisers told The Daily Telegraph that he would abandon Mr Obama’s “Left-wing” coolness towards London.

In remarks that may prompt accusations of racial insensitivity, one suggested that Mr Romney was better placed to understand the depth of ties between the two countries than Mr Obama, whose father was from Africa.

“We are part of an Anglo-Saxon heritage, and he feels that the special relationship is special,” the adviser said of Mr Romney, adding: “The White House didn’t fully appreciate the shared history we have”.

Mr Romney on Wednesday embarks on an overseas tour of Britain, Israel and Poland designed to quash claims by Mr Obama’s team that he is a “novice” in foreign affairs. It comes four years after Mr Obama’s own landmark foreign tour, which attracted thousands of supporters.

(emphasis mine)

Romney promptly disavowed whoever said this, and the most likely suspect for this is a Heritage Foundation puke by the name of Nile Gardiner, (he has denied it) who is rather fond of the the phrase.