Thursday, October 28, 2004

Refuah Shleimah (A Complete Recovery) to Deanna Favre

I've never been much of a Packers fan. And while I respect Brett Favre as a quarterback, I've never rooted for him before (he's certainly no John Elway, may he live and be well). But I know that I am rooting for him now. His wife was recently diagnosed with breast cancer. B"H, she is expected to make a complete recovery.

Brett, please know that I feel your pain and I know only too well what you are going through. As difficult as it may be, you need to remain strong and steady for her, even if you are freaking out inside. If she is anything like you, I am confident she is a fighter and determined to get through this and that kind of positive attitude is more than half the battle. Our prayers are with you, Deanna and your whole family. May she have a speedy recovery and may you live many, fruitful, happy and healthy years together.

Curse is Foiled, At Last

Congratulations to Red Sox Nation on winning the World Series! Mazal tov also to all the old-timers who never had a chance to taste this kind of victory. From Joe Cronin to Double-X Jimmie Foxx to Teddy Ballgame to Bobby Doerr to Dominic Dimaggio to Carl Yastrzemski to Luis Tiant to Rico Petrocelli to Jim Rice to Pudge Fisk. Next year is finally here, boys. Also congrats to Bostonians such as Chayyei Sarah and Sox fans like Peter King .

Now that you guys have finally taken care of your business, could you please put in a couple good words for my Cubbies? Please? When you are done celebrating, at least?

Wednesday, October 27, 2004

Good news?

Well this could certainly change the political landscape in Israel.

Certainly not counting chickens before they hatch, and of course it's always a shame to lose any of G-d's creatures, yada yada. But if he dies, what does that mean?

My first guess is that there is a scramble for control (way to go out on a limb there, BroncoBuddha) and the Palestinians are thrown into a state of civil war. Will the democrats win? Not likely because they are probably not as well-armed as Hamas and/or Islamic Jihad, but we can certainly hope. Will Hezbollah try to step in?

If these groups all start focusing on knocking off one another, does that mean there will not be time to send terrorists into Israel? Perhaps they will have "time", but will prefer to use the munitions on their local rivals. Who will each of Saudi Arabia, Syria and Iran support (the first guess here is they will wait on the sidelines until a leader emerges)?

Either way, I think Israel needs to get that security fence up really quickly and needs to pull people out of Gaza kicking and screaming, if necessary, to prevent getting caught in the crossfire. It might even pay for the US (and perhaps even Israel) to arm the democrats and their sympathizers to at least give them a fighting chance. And I wonder who the EU and UN will push for.

Wow, so many options. I hope someone has been considering this eventuality with everything else going on also. It would be a shame not to be able to take advantage of it if the end of Arafat's dictatorship is truly here.

Request for technical help

How do I set up to get an email notification when someone leaves a comment if I am using Haloscan for my comments instead of blogger?

Anybody see 380 tons of weapons lying around?

OK. By now we've all heard about the missing weapons and why were they gone, when they were gone, who knew, who is trying to influence the outcome of the election, etc. So I thought I'd share my thoughts on why this is important news but why it still shouldn't change our minds from supporting Bush.

First off, the NYT played up the wrong aspect of the story. I actually think the story IS news because from 1998, when the inspectors were first kicked out, to 2002, when they returned, only about 10% of the stockpile at Al-Qaqaa had disappeared. However, from the time those new inspectors saw the stockpiles in the fall of 2002, to april 2003, the rest of the munitions vanished. Certainly that proves that there were no incompetent soldiers who had these weapons taken away from under their noses. However, it is not that big a stretch to say that had the sanctions remained in place, and inspectors remained in Iraq, they might not have disappeared. If our actions precipitated the disappearance, then we made a mistake. The counter-argument to this is that it presupposes that the weapons would not have slowly (or more quickly) been bled into use as Saddam continued to fight off and weaken the sanctions or that he could not have moved them at any time to a more strategic location and/or owner.

All that being said, I still think we were justified in going to war. Please keep in mind what has conveniently been forgotten. We went into Iraq not because he HAD WMD, but because (among numerous other reasons):
1) we had good reason to think that he did have or soon could get WMD and 9/11 taught us that to wait around for a smoking gun is to wait too long (the fact the WMD were never found does not mean we made a BAD decision, just an INCORRECT one);
2) going in showed the world that threats we face are taken seriously and threats we make are not idle and therefore countries should think twice before doing or supporting something that we might reasonably view as a threat;
3) history taught us that Saddam posed a danger to American interests elsewhere in the world (read: Israel) by paying rewards to families of Palestinian terrorists, among his other accomplishments;
4) 9/11 taught us that the world is a very small place and that even a relatively small country 10,000 miles away could inflict serious damage on our homefront via terrorism and that therefore we need to separate the "Bad Guys" from potentially dangerous materials sooner rather than later;
5) Saddam was recognized in the US, but more importantly in the Arab world, as the guy "wearing the biggest Black Hat" in the eyes of the US because of his continued defiance of us and the UN as demonstrated by what everyone recognized was the sham he made of the "Oil for Food" plan, his eviction of the weapons inspectors in 1998, his challenging of the "no-fly zone" and his flaunting of the sanctions, which by 2003, had effectively been emasculated;
6) by democratizing Iraq, we could establish a free government that could serve as a paradigm for other nations in the Middle East and the world, particularly for a Palestinian state, which, when it will be established and signs a peace treaty with Israel, will effectively take away the scapegoat that other Arab dictators have been using for the last 55+ years to oppress their populations. That will lead each of those other nations to ultimately push for democracy at home.

Obviously, there are more reasons why the war was justified, but I think these are the salient ones (and the first to come to mind during the few minutes I could spend at work typing this up).

Monday, October 25, 2004

Red Bush

I was over at a friend's for dinner on Friday night and when they were serving dessert, they offered tea. When I was looking through the fancy tea box, I looked at the different flavors (anyone else wonder how they come up with the names? Lemon Zinger? Sleepytime?) and the one that caught my eye was called "Red Bush".

I don't know about you, but it was a name that evoked images for many of those present. One friend asked if there was also a "Blue Kerry" flavor. His wife, who grew up in the former Soviet Union, said it brought to mind images of the Communist government. Had it been near Passover, or when we read the beginning of the Book of Exodus, I might have thought of Moses and the Burning Bush.

I, on the other hand, thought of something very different and much less mature. I guess I still have a 3rd-grad boy's sense of humor. At least I'm not alone in my dirty mind. When I played a word association game with several friends, all in their early to mid-30s like me, they all had the same reaction I did. What does that say about us? Oh well.

Wednesday, October 20, 2004

Relax, Yankees fans

Don't be worried. Keep in mind there is a historical inevitability to the result of this series that Boston cannot overcome (I know something about the power of baseball curses, remember). My personal feeling is that the Yankees (or at least the ghosts of Yankees past) purposely blew games 4-6, just so that when they win the series, it will be that much more painful to the Red Sox and their fans. That's probably why the Sox will have a lead at some point tonight. And for those of us who do not have strong feelings one way or the other, at least it's making good (albeit excruciatingly long) theater.

Interesting question is if the Sox win tonight (obviously that's hypothetical; like saying "if the Cubs win the pennant…"), will they realize they still have another series to play? After all, Boston has gotten to the World Series before (48, 67, 75, 86) only to lose each time in a Game 7. Even if they beat the Yankees, it does not mean the curse is dead.

Monday, October 11, 2004

A sad day in Metropolis

I woke up to the news that Superman is dead. Condolences to Lois Lane, Jimmy Olsen and the whole staff at the Daily Planet. This is traumatic. Will the world ever be safe again? And since I now live in Teaneck, I am most grateful that he saved Lois's grandmother in Hackensack, which is a neighboring town.

I must have seen the 1980 version of the movie 20+ times. And saw each of the sequels multiple times as well. I am replaying many scenes in my head. All we have now are our memories (and videos, DVDs, etc.)

May we know no more loss.

Sunday, October 10, 2004

Intestinal gas on the brain is not necessarily debilitating, or it is possible to overcome Jake Plummer’s brain farts

The Broncos are making a habit of giving me indigestion while winning. Today, we managed to do it despite two Jake Plummer interceptions at extremely inopportune moments. One was as we were going in for a score that was nearly returned for a touchdown the other way. There were also two dropped passes inside the 10-yard line that made us settle for field goals instead of touchdowns. Somehow, despite this, the Broncos managed to win 20-17, behind a strong running game (thank you, Ruben Droughns – who? Yes, Ruben Droughns) and more good defense.

The next two weeks bring road games against the Raiders and Bengals, both of whom we should beat. That probably means we will go 1-1, at best. But if we keep winning ugly, I will stay happy, albeit with an upset stomach.

More visitors means more responsibility

Welcome to all of you who have found my site from the link at JDaters Anonymous.

I guess if people are going to be linking to me, then I have a responsibility to post more often. Hopefully, with the Holidays coming to a close, I will have more time. Although work, and the social life are still fairly busy.

In any case, feel free to say hello and stay for a while. And maybe you, too, will become convinced that I am off my rocker. Let me know and I'll be sure to add you to the list.

Up Against the Wall

I suspect this is a subject the Renegade Rebbetzin hears from her congregants on occasion, but since she hasn’t posted anything devoted to it yet, I thought I’d weigh in while it is still original.

The subject is seating in shul. For those of you not familiar with seating in synagogues, there is a whole philosophy over having a “makom kavu’a”, a designated place to pray. Some people feel that this refers to a specific seat, others to a general area in the synagogue and still others that anywhere in the synagogue qualifies. This all comes into play when you walk into shul in the morning and head to your normal seat. If someone is there, what do you do? If you have a preferred seat, it can be quite distressing. You don’t want to ask the offending congregant (or worse, a visitor) to move, because that’s just rude. But sitting somewhere else can be disconcerting if you are a creature of habit (guilty, as charged). Officially, most synagogues have an official policy that there are no assigned seats, so first come-first served. But the “regulars” tend to respect the seats of one another.

I talk about this because as I’ve noted before, my synagogue recently completed an expansion in time for the High Holidays. This meant everyone had to find a new seat. We were assisted in this endeavor by the committee that assigned seating for the High Holidays. They sent out a diagram of the new seating chart, asked everyone to put down their preferences and managed to squeeze us all in, trying to meet our seating requests as best as possible. (As an aside, this is traditionally a thankless job that always leaves many people upset and the seating committee thoroughly frustrated. Therefore, I appreciate the tireless efforts of these wonderful people and recognize that they only have the best of intentions.)

I got a seat in the second row, to the left of the ark, which is where I sat in the old construct. Great, right? Well, not exactly. The new seat was against the mechitzah (the wall that separates the men’s section from the women’s section). I prefer to be on the aisle (more legroom, easier to take 3 steps forward and back, easier to get in and out without bugging everyone else). I understand the wisdom of being against the wall in that if someone in your row has kids, they are not constantly climbing over you and you have something against which to rest your head if you need to catch a couple z’s. Additionally, on Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur I tend to take a lot longer to say the prayers than most people (I have lots more to repent for than most) and being on the wall keeps me out of everyone else’s way. But I am also a Kohain who needs to duchan (say the prayer that blesses the congregation) and that requires running out to get my hands washed and then coming back to get my siddur before going up in front of the congregation. That’s lots of back and forths in a short time and I hate walking over people. So the aisle is for me.

Ok. So I can deal with being on the wall for RH and YK because I was in the past, and I figured for Sukkos and Shabbos, I would reclaim my seat on the aisle. The problem is, that the aisle seat in my row was given to someone who used to sit on the wall on the right side of the ark in the old synagogue. And the other rows on the left were for some reason given to other people who used to sit on the right. And all those people who got those seats on RH and YK seemed to be happy there and were staying there on subsequent days as well. As a result, all the aisle seats close to the front on the left side were taken. Ok. So by extension, that means there should be seats open on the right side, right? Well, not exactly. The people who were assigned those seats for RH and YK also seem to be very happy there. I have tried sitting on the right side a few times, and aside from needing to get used to the different view, I have noticed that there are other people (some of whom are good friends) who look at me a little funny like I am taking their new seat that they like.

I don’t want to be a possessive jerk, but I want my aisle seat that is close enough to the ark and rabbi that I am not likely to hear (or be tempted by) a lot of talking. I tend to get to shul right at the beginning, which makes it easy for me to get a jump on the prime locations. But realistically, if someone who feels he has a claim on the same seat gets there just a few minutes after me, it may get a bit uncomfortable since I am less established in my new location than my friend.

So how am I supposed to manage this? Very frustrating.

Tuesday, October 05, 2004

Does someone feel a draft?

One of the malicious lies the Democrats are spreading to try to turn the election is that reelecting Bush will lead to a military draft. This, despite the fact that everyone in the Defense Department and the administration say that they want to keep the military all volunteer and have shown no indication of doing otherwise. Bush even made reference to keeping the military all-volunteer during the debate last week. But the rumors persist. A friend brought this article to my attention as evidence that it will need to happen.

Allow me to explain why this is faulty reasoning. Another friend applied to enter the military after high school and lost out to another candidate. He complained that the motivation for the other candidate to apply was not patriotism but “bribery” in the form of tuition assistance.

I take issue with the implication that people choosing the military because of auxiliary benefits (healthcare, cash incentives, tuition, etc.) is a bad thing. I would posit that it is fairly common in this country that when someone is choosing between taking two job offers, it very often comes down to which job offers a better (in the candidate's mind) set of benefits, relative to the downsides of each job. Two people might make different decisions with the same choices available because of their own determinations of risks vs. rewards. Clearly, taking a military job has the downside of danger (as would a job as a police officer, firefighter, construction worker, window washer, etc.), but those brave young men and women who choose to go into the military have determined that the potential upside is worth the potential downside, relative to other opportunities that were available to them. It's also why I think that rather than requiring a draft to meet increased troop requirements, the government only needs to provide a better pay and benefits package and let the forces of supply and demand take over to get more people to enlist. Granted, this might mean the cost of the military might be higher than anticipated. But it does not imply that there will need to be a draft.

Another complaint about the military is that minorities are over-represented and therefore they are unfairly bearing the burden of national defense. A draft, in theory would spread that burden to a greater cross-section of society.

But that is also a weak argument. Are minorities and people of lower socio-economic classes over-represented in the military? Sure, but they are also over-represented in other blue collar and/or "high danger" jobs. I don't know if that's "bad" so much as that "is". But they are aware of the potential danger associated with the job as soon as they are handed an M-16 and realize it's more than just an implement for scratching one's back. Why would you want a military comprised of people who did not want to be there and could not figure out how to escape service. That’s not to imply that everyone who would in theory be drafted would fall into that category, but I think this certainly qualifies as a situation where one bad apple could spoil the whole lot. That's one of the big reasons (though not the only one) in my mind to maintain a volunteer military. Think about the types of books you read as a child. If you were anything like me, I loved the books that I "discovered" on my own, but when they were assigned by teachers who required a book report to follow, I had a lot more trouble getting motivated. Let the people who judge the potential rewards of military service as greater than the potential risks be the people who serve. The result will be that we will have a more dedicated, more motivated armed forces.

The moral of the story? Take off that sweater; the draft you think you are feeling is just your imagination. If you don’t want to serve, you won’t have to.

Monday, October 04, 2004

Thoughts on the first debate

I Tivo’d it because it took place over the holiday so I could not see it live. And by the way, why did no one tell me that my earlier post had already been made the subject of a Sex and the City episode? I stumbled across it this weekend on HBO. Good to know that great minds think alike. (If Darren Star can be considered such.)

Clearly Bush lost. There were numerous times that he stared at the camera looking dumbfounded (quit it with the stupid jokes already) and some of his pauses were way too long. When he kept hammering home the idea that everything in Iraq is moving forward, but it’s hard work (gosh, how many times did he fall back on that line?) the image that stuck in my mind was that of Kevin Bacon’s character at the end of Animal House (repeating “Remain Calm. All is Well.” right before he gets stampeded and flattened like a pancake). It was miserable. Referring to Iraq as the enemy that attacked us on 9/11 was a huge flub.

Kerry did manage to articulate how his flip-flopping ways were actually consistent. Whether or not anyone bought it is yet to be seen, although the polls seem to show he got a boost.

That being said, I felt a bit vindicated by a couple of things. Firstly, while Kerry noted that his focus if he becomes president would be to win the war, he made a reference to being focused on establishing stability in the new Iraq and that he did not believe we should make establishing democracy throughout the region a priority. He referred to Iraq repeatedly as a diversion from the war on terror. In contrast, Bush noted that Iraq was an integral part of the war on terror (and implied that Kerry did not understand the objective) because by establishing free societies, we are reducing the influence of the terrorists. This is a clear difference between the candidates and exactly the point I have made previously . Nevertheless, IMHO, Bush did not make the point as eloquently as he could have or even as eloquently as I have (“cutting off the oxygen to the flames of terrorism”). Since both candidates ostensibly want to win the current war, the question now becomes do you want the guy (Kerry) who can arguably better manage the current situation and has not made any mistakes to call into question his managerial style, but who does not see the big picture, or do you want the guy (Bush) who sees the big picture, but is presumably mismanaging where we are now? My preference is for the guy who sees the big picture. But it would sure be nice if he could execute better. It gets me back to the point that the Dems would be much better off if their candidate saw the big picture and thought the Purpose of the war was correct but wanted to change the Process. They would probably lose 5-10% of their support to Nader or non-votes, but would likely get 10-15% of the electorate from Bush. They would likely be up by 5-10% in the polls and that would be the election. But they chose not to nominate Lieberman and now they are struggling for their electoral life.

Secondly, Bush scored some points when he spoke of needing to keep China involved in the negotiations with North Korea. Once again, I previously highlighted that China’s presence keeps North Korea honest to a point. Kerry for some reason wants to abandon multilateralism when it comes to NoKo and Bush was rightfully incredulous when Kerry stumbled here. However, I thought Bush’s explanation was fairly weak; he failed to connect the dots enough for the viewing public and I don’t think he scored as well as he could have on this point.

Tomorrow the VP’s go at it. I would imagine that Edwards stands a huge advantage. He smiles, looks good and reflects optimism. Cheney talks with his head down, a grim expression on his face and comes across as a bully. Nothing new here, but I am guessing the public is going to look at them and decide that they want to identify more with Edwards. It actually highlights that the Democrats’ pick of Edwards was a masterstroke. Edwards remains above the traditional Veep role of the one who attacks the other guy and is able to show off his personality. He can do this because the Dems have outsourced the attack dog role to Howard Dean (appearing on the Letterman show this week), who is not subject to being in a debate. He can choose to only accept the tv appearances where he does not have to face a Republican and therefore his charges go unanswered. The Republicans meanwhile have Cheney as their attack dog, but that only reinforces the image the Dems are trying to promote of the GOP as warmongers. I don’t see how Cheney can win other than by not losing terribly. But I hope I’m wrong.

Winning ugly

Well it wasn't pretty, but at least the Broncos won again. Apparently this is going to be how they'll play all year. The days of scoring 30+ points every time out are behind us, and we need to let the defense win games for us. No complaints because so far it's working. Maybe it's Champ Bailey, maybe John Lynch, maybe DJ Williams, although I'm hearing that Kelly Herndon's development at cornerback is a major factor. And defense wins championships. Baltimore and Tampa Bay have both won Super Bowls in the last five years behind great defenses and mediocre offenses.

A few key differences, though.
1. Is Jake Plummer an efficient enough (i.e., mistake-free) quarterback to keep from giving away points to the opposition. I still have my doubts. He throws the ball behind his receivers a lot on crossing patterns and overthrows the deep routes. Plus, he's liable to the occasional brain fart.
2. Those defenses created a lot of turnovers and returned them for touchdowns. Often those defenses outscored the opponents by themselves. Denver's defense is still not creating enough turnovers, let alone turning them into points.
3. Those teams had great special teams play. So far, the Broncos special teams have been above average for the most part in terms of punting, placekicking and returns, but they are giving up at least one 30+ yard return each game. That has got to stop.

We need to fix that stuff before we can be taken seriously. Even though we are likely to win the pitiful AFC West.

Only the Cubs...

I spent the holiday with my sister, who does not have a newspaper subscription. Since I couldn't watch tv to find out what was happening in baseball, I was out of touch until I came home Saturday night and found out what my Cubbies had done over the past 4 days.

Would someone please explain to me why I had the misfortune to be born in Chicago and therefore wound up rooting for a team that is eternally doomed? Bartman last year and now a collapse to rival the Phillies of 1964 and the Cubs of 1969. Ouch.