You are currently browsing the daily archive for September 18, 2009.
I’m pretty sure that means Happy New Year, otherwise known as Rosh Hashanah.
Addendum: A fascinating review of Norman Podhoretz latest book. He is a conservative Jew, lamenting as he asks “why are Jews liberal?” And further:
“To most American Jews, then, liberalism is not, as has often been said, merely a necessary component of Jewishness: it is the very essence of being a Jew. Nor is it a ‘substitute for religion’: it is a religion in its own right, complete with its own catechism and its own dogmas and, Tertullian-like, obdurately resistant to facts that undermine its claims and promises.” Tertullian was the Christian apologist of the early third century who notoriously remarked that he believed what he believed precisely because it was senseless or impossible. In this vein of anti-intellectual spite, Podhoretz invents “the Torah of liberalism”: if it were not absurd, then they would not believe it. And if he does not believe it, then it is absurd. As if from the pulpit, he scolds that “where the Torah of contemporary liberalism conflicts with the Torah of Judaism, it is the Torah of liberalism that prevails and the Torah of Judaism that must give way.”
The reviewer, Leon Wieseltier, responds in conclusion:
Podhoretz’s book was conceived as the solution to the puzzle that Milton Himmelfarb wittily formulated many years ago: “Jews earn like Episcopalians and vote like Puerto Ricans.” I have never understood the reputation of this joke. Why should Jews vote like Episcopalians? We are not Episcopalians. The implication of the joke is that political affiliation should be determined by social position, by levels of affluence. In living rich but voting poor, the Jews of America have failed to demonstrate class solidarity. Never mind that parties of the right in many Western countries have always counted on the poor to make the same betrayal, and support causes and candidates that will do nothing to relieve their economic hardship but will exhilarate them culturally or religiously or nationally.
It is not a delusion, not a treason, to vote against your own economic interest. It is a recognition of the multiplicity of interests, the many purposes, that make up a citizen’s life. When, in the Torah of Judaism, Moses commands the Jews to perform acts of social welfare, he sometimes adds the admonition that they were themselves strangers and slaves. The purpose of this refreshment of their memory is plain. The fact that we are no longer strangers and slaves is not all we need to know. We may not regard the world solely from the standpoint of our own prosperity, our own safety, our own contentment. We are proven by the other, not by the same. The question of whether liberalism or conservatism does more for the helpless and the downtrodden, for the ones who are not like us, will be endlessly debated, and it is not a Jewish debate; but if the answer is liberalism, then the political history of American Jewry is neither a mystery nor a scandal.
So many celebs dying lately. Irving Kristol was one of the more brilliant conservative thinkers, arguably the father of “neo-conservatism” who as an ex-liberal described himself has having been “mugged by reality.”
I vehemently oppose the bulk of his politics, and even more so those of his son. But he was a great writer and a briliant thinker who could challenge anyone with an open mind.
An aside note – according to the Washington Post obit, the term “neo-conservative” was coined by socialist Michael Harrington. I didn’t know that.
The photo comes from the American Institute for Public Policy Research.
Of course, being part of the liberal media elite, CBS meticulously edited out all of the evidence. But someone leaked the unedited version. Was he high? Decide for yourself.
Oh, and in case you missed it, here’s the back story to Rep. Joe Wilson’s outburst at Obama’s address.
My first thoughts went along the lines of this Kos poster, but then I thought about it. In this high stakes political fight, everybody is going to be investing capital, political and literal, into a system we hope works. The biggest catastrophy for social medicine prospects in this country would be to get most of what we want and have the program fail – either due to structural defect or simple mismanagement. We are treading onto new territory, and setting up the beurocratic apparatus for an optional public program can be problematic. It’s very easy to say “just expand medicare,” but since it will only have the premiums of citizens voluntarily signing up for the program, budgets could be a whole lot more difficult to calculate and plan. Plus a younger crowd has different needs, although presumably the costs would be lower than Medicare which serves only the older people who need more care. Still, standards have to be set up to determine the necessities and priorities, and children also have special needs to be accounted for.
So regional pilot programs, in populated areas where the concept is actually more popular, might serve not only to get the thing passed, but to ease into completely new bureaucratic terrain. Additionally, much the 25 to 45 percent of the people who currently oppose the public option might warm up to it if it actually works. It would also reduce the immediate need for much of the spending which would be required to set up a national system.
I’m not saying I support the concept. Just some thoughts.
But hey, as long as we’re going there, how about choosing a willing state for a pilot single payer program? Maybe even a social medicine program?
Addendum: TPM summarizes where we are with the health care reform political process and what comes next.
Meanwhile, Sen. Snowe, who just got hit with a poll of her constituents (albeit from a very liberal source, but which has performed well) showing overwhelming support for a public option, is talking a break from her party on the issue. Snowe on the GOP – “I haven’t changed as a Republican. I think more that my party has changed.”
Her vote is crucial to Max Baucus, because two Finance Committee senators have now pledged that they will not support a bill without a public option. He needs at least one of those votes to get it out of committee.
Some scary numbers from conservative think tank Oklahoma Council of Public Affairs.
Ten questions, chosen at random, were drawn from the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) item bank, which consists of 100 questions given to candidates for United States citizenship. The longstanding practice has been for candidates for citizenship to take a test on 10 of these items.4 A minimum of six correct answers is required to pass. Recently, the USCIS had 6,000 citizenship applicants pilot a newer version of this test. The agency reported a 92.4 percent passing rate among citizenship applicants on the first try.5
Of course, immigrants have had an opportunity to study for the test-a distinct advantage-so we might not necessarily expect a 92 percent passing rate from Oklahoma’s public high-school students.
On the other hand, most high-school students have the advantage of having lived in the United States their entire lives. Moreover, they have benefited from tens of thousands of taxpayer dollars being spent for their educations. Many immigrants seeking citizenship, meanwhile, often arrive penniless and must educate themselves on America’s history and government.
After seeing the questions for yourself, you the reader can judge whether a 92 percent passing rate is a reasonable expectation for Oklahoma’s high-school students. Unfortunately, Oklahoma high-school students scored alarmingly low on the test, passing at a rate of only 2.8 percent. That is not a misprint.
Sadly, that result does not come as complete surprise. When the same survey was done recently in Arizona, only 3.5 percent of Arizona’s high-school students passed the test. As the nation’s largest newspaper, USA Today, editorialized: “[T]he Goldwater Institute, a non-profit research organization in Phoenix, found that just 3.5 percent of surveyed students could answer enough questions correctly to pass the citizenship test. Just 25 percent, for example, correctly identified Thomas Jefferson as the author of the Declaration of Independence.
And we wonder why our voting rates is so much lower than those of other countries? We can blame education in general, but I also believe it’s cultural. Social studies is a demeaned discipline at the high school level, particularly in rural areas where history teachers are often hired for their skills as football coaches having majored in psychology or something just to get through college playing football. Yes, I’ve had personal experience in this respect. It is also a subject in which parents often actually reinforce the typical high school attitude about all subjects, “I’m not going to use it in real life so why do I have to learn it?” Believe me, it’s nearly impossible to inspire a student when his or her parents don’t value education, and we’ve acquired an acute anti-intellectualism as the downside of an culture of individualism in which we presume we already know what we need to know. Hence talk radio, which often involve huge opinions based on little actual knowledge.
And no, it’s not just a right wing phenomenon. Since 911 I’m astounded at the number of engineering experts who’ve never so much as computed a high school level lever equation, and yet proclaim with all confidence and certitude, “I just don’t understand how Building Seven could have collapsed! Who needs physics? I read Crossing the Rubicon!”
This month’s National Geographic showcases an article by Mike Fay who trekked from the southern end of coastal redwood country to the north to document the health of the redwoods forests. I met him when he passed through Sohum and he had already the makings for a fascinating article. I’m not finding the article online yet, but the NG site has some information here and here. Heraldo also has some information here and here.