Forget me not

The Seattle P-I has posted their “Five to remember” and “Five to forget” from 2005, and lookie who made the list:

And five to forget …

Stefan Sharkansky and David Goldstein

The right-wing Shark and left-wing Goldy have dominated the local political blogosphere, which during the governor’s race controversy sounded like a schoolyard shouting match.

Newspaper reporters dissing bloggers? Imagine that.

(Hmm. I’m guessing that if the JOA goes the way we all expect it to go, it will be Stefan and I who will be forgetting the P-I in a couple of years.)

Coalition of the Unwilling

The so-called “Coalition of the Willing” was always a load of bullshit, a flimsy cover for President Bush’s unilateral decision to invade Iraq… and it’s getting flimsier every day. Yesterday Poland announced plans to reduce it’s 1,500-weak force by 40 percent, just days after Bulgaria and Ukraine completed their troop withdrawals. And today the South Korea parliament voted to cut it’s deployment by about one-third to 2,300.

The U.S. has always provided over 90 percent of the foreign troops in Iraq, with most of the rest coming from the British. At 3,200 members the South Korean forces currently comprise the third largest contingent in the “coalition.” To put this in perspective, the U.S. still has over 30,000 troops stationed in South Korea.

For his Iraq War, President Bush’s father managed to put together an actual coalition, but all W could ever muster was a phrase. And an overtly Orwellian one at that.

Common ground? Do Stefan and I agree on Diebold software?

I’ve been a touch light on posting during the busy holiday season, so yesterday I filled some space with a little joke derived from the death of John Diebold, which prompted a comment near the top of the thread from our good friend Stefan:

Hey, Goldy, joking about the late Mr. Diebold is perfectly tasteless. But I’m glad we have common ground in finding flaws in Diebold election technology. After all, it is Diebold software and a Diebold business unit that help process King County’s mail-in ballots and which helped cause hundreds of ballots to be misaccounted for and illegally counted last year. I’m glad you agree with me that Diebold helped put the wrong person in our Governor’s chair.

As to his first point… um… duh-uh. Joking about anybody’s death is tasteless. But I’m pretty sure that the majority of HA readers prefer posts that taste good over those in good taste.

But it’s his second point I really want to comment on, because it is yet another example of the type of rhetorical bullshit the public has been treated to in its coverage of King County Elections. Stefan correctly states that KC uses Diebold equipment and software to count ballots, but then disingenuously insinuates that this flawed technology was manipulated to “put the wrong person in our Governor’s chair.”

But once again Stefan’s overeagerness leaves his own arguments open to ridicule, for as I wrote a couple weeks ago in reporting security flaws uncovered during tests in Leon County Florida, just because the Diebold system can be hacked, doesn’t necessarily mean it was.

It should be noted that while this is exactly the same type of Diebold system used in King County and throughout much of WA state, our state’s electoral integrity survived the most grueling and definitive test of all: the 2004 gubernatorial hand recount. Apart from the ballots legally added between tabulations, the difference between the hand and machine counts was statistically insignificant, proving that there was no manipulation of the data coming from the optical scanners or the GEMS central tabulator.

To imply that the software was fraudulently manipulated to alter the vote tally is utterly ridiculous… but wait… Stefan really didn’t imply that, did he? Carefully rereading his comment, no… but in the context of my joke about paper trails, that’s surely what he intended readers to infer. And that in a nutshell is really where most of the public’s misconceptions about the 2004 election come from… insinuations, inferences, and various “facts” intentionally misrepresented and taken out of context.

Furthermore, I find his sudden interest in Diebold’s security flaws doubly curious, considering how little attention he has paid to it over the life of the election controversy. GEMS is built on top of Microsoft Access for chrissakes! Who the hell would want to run an election on that? Yet this is the first I’ve heard from Stefan — a computer guy — that he has any concerns about running elections on buggy, proprietary software from companies like Diebold.

Stefan and his fellow travelers at (un)Sound Politics have become champions of election reforms that make it harder for people to vote, yet seem to ignore reforms that actually ensure that these votes are counted properly. Where’s their outrage over the touch screen voting machines in Snohomish County, where the prosecutor’s office received numerous complaints on election day 2004 about machines recording the wrong vote? Where’s their demand for voter verifiable paper trails? Where’s the debate on (u)SP over the merits of moving towards open source software?

No, instead, one of the major reforms promoted by the (u)SP types is to eliminate hand recounts… thus eliminating the one absolutely foolproof audit on our vote tallying software.

The evidence shows that in the wrong hands the Diebold software can be hacked, but the hand recount proves beyond a shadow of a doubt that in 2004 in WA state, it wasn’t. So if Stefan and I really do share common ground in believing the Diebold software to have serious technical flaws, perhaps we can put the rhetoric over the 2004 election aside for a moment, and discuss some real solutions?

I’ll start. Hey Stefan… what’s your opinion on the relative security tradeoffs involved in moving to open source software?

McGavick draws “God fearing” primary challenger

Hey… it looks like annointed GOP senatorial nominee and Safeco CEO Mike McGavick will draw a primary challenger after all. Um… sort of. Fresh on the heals of his surprisingly strong third place finish in the 2004 Republican senatorial primary, Brad Klippert is once again seeking to represent the right wing of his party.

In the 2004 voter pamphlet Klippert wrote:

I, Brad Klippert, am a husband and father. I am a full time law enforcement officer, a veteran and active Major/pilot in the U.S. Army National Guard. I have a Masters Degree in Teaching and I am a licensed minister.

I am a God fearing, Bible believing, Ten Commandment honoring, evangelical Christian candidate. I firmly stand for and fully support traditional family values; the committed marriage between a man and a woman/husband and wife.

I believe that every life is precious and valuable with great potential; including the life of unborn children.

Hard to argue with any of that… that is, if you are a God fearing, Bible believing, Ten Commandment honoring, evangelical Christian. Which raises an interesting dilemma for McGavick, who needs to run to the left of his party to have a hope of capturing enough Democratic and independent voters to beat Cantwell, yet not so far to the left so as to disenchant the right wing of his party.

Now, I’m certainly not suggesting that Klippert can mount a serious primary challenge, but given the opportunity, his candidacy could serve to help Christian conservatives focus attention on everything McGavick is not. You know… one of them. Sure, he’ll try to pander to the religious right, but to win statewide he’s going to have to run one of those undefined, mushy centrist campaigns with a wink and a nod to the right. (Think Rossi.) But if Klippert forces him on a couple key issues, that won’t be so easy.

Where does McGavick stand on choice? On gay marriage? On teaching Intelligent Design? My guess is that the contrast between the ordained minister and the preordained nominee is pretty stark.

The problem for McGavick is that contrary to popular belief, Christian conservative voter turnout can be pretty soft, especially when the Republican candidate gives them little to get excited about. And as much as McGavick needs to draw votes from Dems and independents, he also needs a strong showing from the GOP base.

McGavick’s strategy will be to pretend that Klippert doesn’t exist, so don’t expect to see any candidate debates. But while the state GOPolitburo will surely treat Klippert like a fringe candidate, I hope the editorial boards give him his say and allow him to draw McGavick out on important issues of the day. Voters in both parties deserve to know where McGavick stands; it would be a disservice to allow him to duck controversial issues the way Dino Rossi did in 2004.

It’s not just McGavick who deserves a primary challenger… it’s the voters.

Diebold dies

John Diebold reportedly died the other day, and I was going to joke that doctors won’t confirm his death until they check the paper trail on the EKG… but as it turns out, he had nothing to do with vote fixing counting machine manufacturer Diebold, Inc. Too bad. Would’ve been a good joke.

So… um… rest in peace, John.

Statewide voter database goes live Jan. 1

One of the things that pissed me off about last year’s over-hyped election contest controversy — I mean, really pissed me off — was the constant abuse heaped on King County Elections about felon voters. Yes, hundreds of ex-felons who had not properly had their voting rights restored voted in 2004, but this happened throughout the state, in every county. But because the state GOP so successfully promoted their cherry-picked list of KC felons, many voters came away thinking this problem was mostly due to negligence and/or malfeasance in KC.

The fact is, felon votes were pretty evenly distributed throughout the state, and were the result of a decentralized and inefficient system of reporting convictions. Indeed, the problem was so well known and so widespread that a federal law was passed in 2002 requiring the development of statewide voter registration databases to help clean the voter roles of felons, dead people, and duplicate registrations.

Well, WA’s database goes online Jan. 1, just in time to meet the federal deadline, and while it’s not a cure-all, it should make a huge a difference. For example, the new database is hooked directly to records from the prison system, State Patrol and the courts, rather than relying on haphazard communications at the local level. And one of the biggest improvements comes in removing registrations due to death…

To remove dead voters from the rolls, county auditors currently rely on reports from the state health department or obituary notices in newspapers. But those sources may be insufficient if a voter dies while out of state.

With deaths, the new system’s reach will be nationwide, Excell said, because of a tie-in to information from the federal Social Security Administration.

“If you’re dead, we got you,” [Pierce County Auditor Pat McCarthy] said.


See, what pisses me off is that King County Elections was publicly crucified for problems that had nothing to do with King County, and for which solutions were already under development at the state level. There was absolutely nothing nefarious or peculiarly incompetent about the way KC handled these registrations… these registrations were the result of a poorly designed system — nationwide — that was in the process of being fixed.

And yet the headlines from last year told a different, inaccurate story… a story that will shape public perceptions of KC elections for years to come.

It has been pointed out to me that it was Assistant Sec. of State Steve Excell to whom I should have attributed the “If you’re dead, we got you” quote. Ooops.

Rodriguez withdraws from race for state Dem chair

Last week I wrote that Dwight Pelz had the inside track on being the Democrats’ new state party chair, but now that former state senator/supreme court justice/gubernatorial candidate Phil Talmadge has entered the fray, I hear it could be a horse race. Already the landscape has changed, with former King County Democratic chair Greg Rodriguez withdrawing from the competition.

I like Greg. I don’t feel particularly qualified to pick a party chair, but I’m sorry to see his voice lost from the debate. In a letter to supporters Greg said his decision to withdraw was mostly due to family matters, but he also sounded more than a bit disappointed by the tone of the politicking against him. I’d heard the questions about his fundraising prowess, but nothing more personal than that. But then, appearances to the contrary, I’m not much of a party insider, so who knows what’s been said?

Greg’s letter also contains some suggestions for what he’d like to see from the new chair, and I think they’re worth repeating:

First and foremost we must run our Party in a more business like fashion. We need to provide our Districts and counties with up-to-date and efficient communications, lists and training resources. We must find and hire the most professional people and insist on the utmost levels of ethics and accountability. The thoughts and ideas of the Eboard, Chairs, and caucus leaders should be listened to and acted upon much more than they have been. Decisions should be made collaboratively and not done in back rooms and assumed that everyone will go along with them.

We must improve our voter file and technology presence. It is true we have one of the most advanced systems in the country, but that does not mean we should rest on our laurels. We must utilize the people that have the technological know how and who have offered support to this Party (but have been turned away) to make our system better and more user-friendly. Our website must be translated into Spanish and other languages as well as any printed materials we develop.

We have to pay more attention to our Democrats outside the I-5 corridor. This means in rural and urban places on both sides of the mountains. We will never regain a Democratic stronghold if we write these places off. It will not happen over night, but we must find ways to get our message out, recruit and train candidates, and work with our local County and District organizations to strengthen the Democratic base across this state. In addition, we must utilize all of our caucuses, our friends in labor, choice and peace groups, environment and yes even business to craft and deliver messages appropriate to the different demographics and geographies of the State of Washington .

We need to develop a Party leadership mentoring program and learn how to encourage our youth to take on more positions of leadership. We must end the politics of personal and organizational destruction that occurs even within our own Party. This will get us nowhere and in fact has caused people to leave the Party organizations in this State. While so many of our goals in this Party may be different, we have far more that are the same and should work more and more to find that common ground and assist our rising stars and growing organizations in achieving their fullest potential.

Good points all. That said, I also like both Pelz and Talmadge.

As I’ve previously stated, Pelz can be a bit of an asshole… but he’s our asshole; if local elections were decided by a barroom brawl between party chairs, I’d want Pelz slugging it out for the Dems. As it is, there’s something enticing about the thought of Pelz verbally kicking Chris Vance’s fat tuchus all over the evening news. But maybe that’s not the chair’s primary role.

I understand that Talmadge can be a bit of an asshole too (again, in a good way), but mostly, I like him because he’s smart. In fact, last night at Drinking Liberally there was some discussion as to whether Talmadge was too smart to be chair.

I’m not suggesting that Pelz isn’t smart too, it’s just that Talmadge is all about being smart… and he’s not shy about letting people know it. The couple of times I’ve had the opportunity to talk to him I’ve found him insightful, passionate, and incredibly well informed on a wide variety of issues. But again… maybe that’s not the chair’s primary role.

What do I know? Neither Talmadge nor Pelz might be the best choice for party chair… but either one should be fun to watch in the role.

Union-busters bust jetliner

An Alaska Airlines MD-80 was forced to make an emergency landing Monday when a hole in the fuselage blew out at 26,000 feet.

An investigator with the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) said baggage handlers had bumped the plane’s fuselage with loading equipment and caused “a crease” in the side of the aircraft. The handlers are contract workers hired to replace unionized workers in May.

Hmmm. I suppose there can be consequences when a company cheaps out, replacing experienced, loyal, unionized employees with the lowest bidder.

About 20 minutes after takeoff, the crease blew into a 1-foot-by-6-inch hole, said Jim Struhsaker, an NTSB senior air-safety investigator.

Port of Seattle police weren’t notified about the incident until Tuesday, when operations staffers for Alaska contacted them, airport spokesman Bob Parker said. The airline asked police to fill out a “hit-and-run report” because an employee struck the aircraft with a baggage tug, he added.

Alaska saw an increase in ground-damage incidents at Sea-Tac after it replaced 472 unionized workers in May with workers from Menzies Aviation, based near London, the airline said. The switch contributed to a sharp increase in delayed departures from Sea-Tac.

I know that organized labor is a favorite Republican whipping boy, but I’m wondering whether even the righties amongst you can enjoy the same peace of mind flying Alaska, knowing that the airline’s “Always Low Prices” approach to maintenance and ground crews almost brought down yet another jetliner?

Are well-paid, well-trained union employees more expensive? It depends on how much you value human life.

Mississippi turning?

Trent Lott may not run for reelection, and according to righty columnist Robert Novak, Mississippi Republicans fear the seat might go Democratic.

Trent Lott within the next week plans to decide between seeking a fourth term in the U.S. Senate from Mississippi or retiring from public life.

That could determine whether Republicans keep control of the Senate in next year’s elections. For the longer range, Lott’s retirement and replacement could signal that Southern political realignment has peaked and now is receding.

Mississippi, one of the reddest of the red Republican states, has not even been on the game board of the Washington analysis forecasting the 2006 Senate outcome. But in Mississippi, prominent Republicans are worried sick. They believe Lott will probably retire. If so, they expect the new senator will be a Democrat, former State Attorney General Mike Moore. Republican politicians in Mississippi believe Rep. Chip Pickering, the likely Republican nominee if Lott does not run, cannot defeat Moore.

2006 is shaping up to be an awfully tough year for the GOP. If they’re worried about defending their turf in the Deep South, it’s hard to imagine them mounting a tough challenge out here in the Pacific Northwest.

Drinking Liberally

Settled into those post-Christmukkah, pre-New Years doldrums? The Seattle chapter of Drinking Liberally meets tonight (and every Tuesday), 8PM at the Montlake Ale House, 2307 24th Avenue E.

I’ll bring a menorah, we’ll all say the barucha, and then we’ll unwrap a pitcher of Manny’s.

Times endorses all-mail voting

I thought it worth pointing towards today’s Seattle Times editorial on all-mail voting, mostly because it’s conclusion echoes the main point in my previous post on the subject:

FOR all the political huffing and puffing about a plan to make elections in King County all-mail voting, the key thing to remember is that voters chose the new system.

A vote-by-mail system is inevitable. Elected officials are catching up with the public.

28 of WA’s 39 counties voted by mail this November, and 5 others are in the process of making the change. Perhaps King County is making the switch a little sooner than we had expected, but the timing is right for a number of reasons.

The recommendations from three outside reviews of KC elections all focused on the immediate need to consolidate operations into a single elections center. But it makes absolutely no sense to design and build a new multi-million dollar elections center to handle an elections system (polling place voting) that is destined to become obsolete in a few short years.

No doubt the move to all-mail voting will be a challenge. While less than 30 percent of KC voters cast ballots at the polls last month, that still represents more ballots than cast by any means in any other single county in the state. To put this in perspective, moving us remaining, stubborn polling place voters to mail-in ballots will be like adding all of Pierce County into the system.

If the county council approves the switch (and with Bob “Swing Vote” Ferguson on board, that seems a sure thing) it must also appropriate the funds necessary to do the job right. That includes building the consolidated elections center everybody agrees is absolutely necessary. Now.

Happy Boxing Day

Another Christmas has passed, and alas, so has the Jewish secular humanist war on it… at least until next December. I spent the weekend in nonstop celebration with my daughter’s large Irish-Catholic family (in truth, the celebration continues later this morning with brunch), and I must glumly report from the front that we have once again lost the war. It was a joyous day for all. Damn.

A couple weeks back I wrote about the bogus “War on Christmas”, pointing out that it was far from just a harmless marketing ploy to bump ratings for Fox News. Such rhetoric cannot help but stir latent, anti-Semitic sentiments:

Gibson and O’Reilly are careful not to name the enemy, but the vile rhetoric and its impact are unchanged. For who else would wage a “war on Christmas” than Christianity’s favorite 2000-year-old enemy… the Jews?

The right’s war on the “war on Christmas” is a political strategy intended to divide the nation along religious and cultural lines, and like all wars, there will be victims. How many Fox viewers have openly and angrily derided this attack on Christian America, and how many Jewish children have already been harassed by their schoolmates as a result? Anybody who has ever been a child should understand that this sort of open hostility happens everyday, and that the subtle strains of discrimination that lie beneath the surface of 21st Century America are not so subtle to the children who are its target.

Okay… maybe I was wrong to warn that anti-Semitism lies just beneath the surface of American society. As several of my readers made clear in the comment threads, anti-Semitism and other forms of racial discrimination remain an open wound for all to see. Curiously, in addition to the usual gloating over my inevitable consignment to the fires of Hell, one of the Christian soldiers’ recurring themes was to question my Jewishness. I was dismissed as a “JINO”, accused of being an enemy of Israel… I was even compared to Hitler. (Unfavorably.) I suppose their tactic is to undermine my critique by destroying my credibility as a Jew… a stunning lack of insight that demonstrates by example the rarely understood fact that anti-Semitism is more about race than religion: it isn’t our Judaism that people hate, it’s our Jewishness.

But it’s not just old “Nazi behind every bush” Goldy who sees the “War on Christmas” for what it really is. In yesterday’s New York Times, my favorite columnist, Frank Rich, points out the obvious anti-Semitic undercurrents. ["I Saw Jackie Mason Kissing Santa Claus."]

Rabble-rousing paranoia about a supposed assault on Christmas also has a strong anti-Semitic and far-right pedigree. In Salon, Ms. Goldberg noted that fulmination about supposed Jewish opposition to Christmas dates to Henry Ford’s infamous “The International Jew” of 1921. That chord is sounded in the very first anecdote in the book by the Fox News anchor John Gibson, “The War on Christmas: How the Liberal Plot to Ban the Sacred Christian Holiday Is Worse Than You Thought”: a devastated father discovers that his 4-year-old son has brought home preschool artwork showing a Hanukkah menorah and Kwanzaa candles, rather than a Christmas tree. But Mr. Gibson goes on to add ecumenically that “not just Jewish people” are out to kill Christmas. As he elucidated on Christian radio, all non-Christians are “following the wrong religion,” though he reassures us that they will be tolerated “as long as they’re civil and behave.”

Well, I for one am not willing to be civil and behave, and some of my righty readers have shown their intolerance in response. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: I don’t hate Christmas. What I hate is the way assholes like Gibson and O’Reilly stir up hate and resentment towards minorities by perpetuating this cynical myth of an oppressed Christian majority.

How the Kvetch Stole Chanukah

[The first night of Chanukah falls on Christmas day this year, and so with apologies to the late, great Dr. Seuss (but not to the greedy, litigious bastards at Dr. Seuss Enterprises, LLC) I would like to honor the occasion by making an annual tradition out of reposting the enduring holiday classic, How the Kvetch Stole Chanukah. Happy Christmukah.]

Every Joo
Down in Joo-ville
Liked Chanukah as such…

But the Kvetch,
Who lived just north of Joo-ville,
… not so much.

The Kvetch hated Chanukah, the whole Chanukah season.
Now don’t ask me why. What? Should I know the reason?
It could be he wasn’t a mensch, that is all.
Or his petzel, perhaps, was two sizes too small.
Such meshug’as comes from one thing or another,
But like most Joo-ish boys, we should just blame his mother!

The reason, whatever,
His mom or his putz,
The Kvetch hated Chanukah. Oy, what a yutz!
For he knew every Joo down in Joo-ville tonight
Was busy preparing menorahs to light.

“And they’re giving out gelt!” he sighed as he said
“I need waxy chocolate like holes in my head!”
Then he nervously whined as his fingers tapped horas,
“I MUST stop the Joos from igniting menorahs!”

The Kvetch knew that soon…

… All the Joo girls and boys
Would say the baruch’ha, then unwrap their toys!
And then! Oh, the oys! Oh, the Oys! Oys! Oys! Oys!
If it’s not what they wanted, the OYS! OYS! OYS! OYS!

Then the Joos, young and old, would sit down for a nosh.
And they’d nosh! And they’d nosh!
And they’d NOSH! NOSH! NOSH! NOSH!
They would nosh on Joo-latkes, and Gefilte-Joo-Fish,
Which was surely the Kvetch’s least favorite dish!

They’d do something
Which made the Kvetch plotz!
Every Joo down in Joo-ville, Bar Mitzvahed or not,
Would sit down together, their proud ponim’s grinning.
Then dreidels in hand, all the Joos would start spinning!

They’d spin! And they’d spin!
And the more the Kvetch thought of this Joo-Dreidel-Spin,
The more the Kvetch thought, “I can’t let this begin!
“Oy, for fifty-three years I’ve put up with it now!
“Chanukah, Schmanukah! Stop it!
But HOW?”

Then he got an idea!
And the moment he had,
He said
“I’m no Einstein, but this… not half bad!”

“I know just what to do!” Then he donned an old sheet,
And dug up some sandals to wear on his feet.
“I’m the Prophet Elijiah! They’ve set me a plate!”
(For the Kvetch couldn’t keep Joo-ish holidays straight.)
“The Joos ‘ll oblige ol’ Elijiah, no doubt!
“I will simply walk in. Then I’ll clean the place out!”

“All I need is a camel…”
He looked far and near,
But this wasn’t the desert, and camels are dear.
Did that stop the old Kvetch…?
That pischer? No, never:
“If I can’t find a camel,” the Kvetch said, “…whatever.”
So he called his dog, Max. Then he took an old sack
And he tied a hump onto the front of his back.

He climbed on this
dog-dromedaryish mammal.
You never have seen
Such a schmuck on a camel.

Then the Kvetch cried “Oy vey!”
As old Max started down
Toward the homes, while the Joos
Where still schmoozing in town.

All their driveways were empty. Just SUV tracks.
All the Joos were out last-minute-shopping at Saks,
As he rode to a not-so-small house on old Max.
“It’s a good thing I brought” the old Prophet Kvetch thought,
“All these bags with to stuff all the stuff the Joos bought.”

Then he looked at the chimney. It seemed quite a stretch
That a fat goy like Santa could fit, thought the Kvetch,
“Still, the goyim believe stranger things, that’s for sure.”
Then the Kvetch shrugged his shoulders, and walked through the door
Where the little Joo dreidels were all strewn about.
“These dreidels,” he grinned, “are the first to go out!”

And he schvitzed, as he shlepped, with an odor unpleasant,
Around the whole house, as he took every present!
Barbie dolls! Mountain bikes! Brios! And blocks!
Pokemon! GameBoys! And all of that shlock!
And he stuffed them in bags. Then his arms spread akimbo,
He shlepped all the bags, one by one, out the wimbo!

Then he shlepped to the kitchen. He took every dish.
He took the Joo-latkes. The Gefilte-Joo-Fish.
He cleaned out the Sub-Zero so nimbly and neat,
Careful to separate dairy from meat.
Then he shlepped the Joo-nosh right out the front door-a.
“And NOW!” kvelled the Kvetch, “I will shlep the menorah!”

And he grabbed the menorah, and started to shlep on,
When he heard a whine, like a cat being stepped on.
He spun ‘round with shpilkes, and coming his way,
It was Ruth Levy-Joo, who was two, if a day.

The Kvetch had been caught by this small shaina maidel,
Who’d been watching TV on her big RCA’dle.
“The Prophet Elijiah?” she quizzed the old fool,
“You visit on Pesach, they taught us in shul.”

And although the old Kvetch was surprised and confused,
It’s not hard to lie to a girl in her twos.
“Bubbeleh… sweatheart…” he started his tale,
“Your dad paid full price, when this all was on sale!
“And like any good merchant, I just want to please ya.
“I’ll ring it up right, then I’ll refund your VISA.”

Then he patted her tush. Put a Barney tape in.
And she spaced-out as fast as the spindle could spin.
And as Ruth Levy-Joo watched her mauve dinosaura,
HE went to the door and shlepped out the menorah!

Then the match for the shamas
Was last to be filched!
Then he shlepped himself out to continue his pillage.
On the walls he left nothing at all. Bubkes. Zilch.
And the one speck of food
That he left in the house
Was a matzoh ball even too dense for a mouse.

He did the same schtick
In the other Joo’s houses.

Leaving knaidlach
Too dense
For the other Joo’s mouses!

It was quarter to dusk…
All the Joos, still at Saks,
All the Joos, still a-shmooze
When he packed up old Max,
Packed him up with their presents! The gelt and the dreidels!
The chotchkes and latkes! The knish and the knaidels!

He hauled it all up to his condo in haste!
(A Grinch might have dumped it, but why go to waste?)
“Shtup you!” to the Joos, the Kvetch loudly cheered,
“They’re finding out Chanukah’s cancelled this year!
“They’re just coming home! I know just what they’ll say!
“They’ll ask their homeowners insurance to pay,
“Then the Joos down in Joo-ville will all cry OY VEY!”

“All those Oys,” kvelled the Kvetch,
“Now THIS I must hear!”
So he paused. And the Kvetch put his hand to his ear.
And he did hear a sound rising up from the shtetl.
It started to grow. Then the Kvetch grew unsettled…

Why the sound wasn’t sad,
It was more like the noise
Of a UPS trucker
Delivering toys!

He stared down at Joo-ville!
And then the Kvetch shook,
As truck after truck
Replaced all that he took!

Every Joo down in Joo-ville, the Golds and the Steins,
Re-ordered their presents by going online!

Chanukah HADN’T been cancelled!
…On UPS trucks… but it came just the same!

Then the Kvetch, staring down at the gifts where they sat,
Stood kvitching and kvetching: “For this, I did that?
“It came without traffic! It came without tax!
“It came without shopping at Bloomie’s or Saks!”
And he kvetched on and on, til he started to shvitz,
Then the Kvetch thought of something which might make him rich!
“Maybe stores,” thought the Kvetch, “don’t need mortar and bricks.
“Maybe toys can be bought with a few well-placed clicks!”

And what happened then…?
Well… in Joo-ville they say
That the Kvetch raised
Ten million in venture that day!
And the minute his web site was ready to go,
He raised ten billion more on his new IPO!
He sold back the toys to the homes they came from!
And he…

… he the Kvetch…!
Founded YA-JOO.COM!

©2000 by David Goldstein
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Sliding towards totalitarianism

A little more of that iceberg is beginning to bob above the surface: “Spy Agency Mined Vast Data Trove, Officials Report.”

The National Security Agency has traced and analyzed large volumes of telephone and Internet communications flowing into and out of the United States as part of the eavesdropping program that President Bush approved after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks to hunt for evidence of terrorist activity, according to current and former government officials.

The volume of information harvested from telecommunication data and voice networks, without court-approved warrants, is much larger than the White House has acknowledged, the officials said. It was collected by tapping directly into some of the American telecommunication system’s main arteries, they said.

Distracted by the bogus Iraq front in the so-called “War on Terror”, Americans are only beginning to notice how much of this war is being fought on our home soil, against our own citizens. Should our nation eventually ease itself into dictatorship (no doubt a uniquely American form of dictatorship), it may be impossible to look back and determine the exact turning point; like Nazi Germany before us, these things can happen gradually — even innocently — with good, well meaning citizens blindly handing over their freedom to a corrupt autocracy, out of a mix of fear and patriotism.

I know, I know… some of you will malign me as paranoid and hyperbolic for even imagining a United States sliding towards totalitarianism. Yet those who would put a tin-foil-hat on my head are the very same folk who choose to believe that the greatest economic, political, and military power in the history of the world, is so threatened by a bearded, turbaned, dialysis patient, that we should willingly surrender the fundamental liberties set forth in the Bill of Rights… the most sacred document a secular nation has ever produced.

Do not kid yourself that Americans are somehow special or that our system of government is somehow immune to the excesses of executive power, for our nation’s history is filled with examples of presidents unconstitutionally crushing our civil liberties, particularly in time of war: Adam’s Alien and Sedition Acts of 1798, Lincoln’s suspension of habeas corpus, Wilson’s notorious Espionage and Sedition Acts, and of course, Roosevelt’s shameful internment of Japanese-Americans. Those absolute defenders of Bush — those defenders of unbridled American empire — should study their history: Rome did not fall to barbarian invaders… it collapsed from within.

But enough of my pontificating. Instead, I’ll leave you with the pontificating of the New York Times editorial board, who warns today about Supreme Court nominee Samuel Alito, and recently released memos on illegal wiretaps and overriding legislative intent.

With the Bush administration claiming sweeping and often legally baseless authority to detain and spy on people, judges play a crucial role in underscoring the limits of presidential power. When the Senate begins hearings next month on Judge Samuel Alito, President Bush’s Supreme Court nominee, it should explore whether he understands where the Constitution sets those limits. New documents released yesterday provide more evidence that Judge Alito has a skewed view of the allocation of power among the three branches – skewed in favor of presidential power.
These memos are part of a broader pattern of elevating the presidency above the other branches of government. In his judicial opinions, Judge Alito has shown a lack of respect for Congressional power – notably when he voted to strike down Congress’s ban on machine guns as exceeding its constitutional authority. He has taken a cramped view of the Fourth Amendment and other constitutional provisions that limit executive power.

The Supreme Court and the lower federal courts have had to repeatedly pull the Bush administration back when it exceeded its constitutional powers. They have made clear that Americans cannot be held indefinitely without trial just because they are labeled “enemy combatants.” They have vindicated the right of Guantanamo Bay detainees to challenge their confinement. And they will no doubt have to correct the Bush administration’s latest assertions of power to spy domestically. The Senate should determine that Judge Alito is on the side of the Constitution in these battles, not on the side of the presidency – which the latest documents strongly question – before voting to confirm him.

Read the whole thing. And worry.

In a powerful editorial that describes President Bush’s actions as “an invitation to tyranny,” conservative business weekly Barron’s (published by Wall Street Journal publisher Dow Jones), has printed an editorial calling for Congress to investigate impeachment:

Willful disregard of a law is potentially an impeachable offense. It is at least as impeachable as having a sexual escapade under the Oval Office desk and lying about it later. The members of the House Judiciary Committee who staged the impeachment of President Clinton ought to be as outraged at this situation. They ought to investigate it, consider it carefully and report either a bill that would change the wiretap laws to suit the president or a bill of impeachment.

I’d say when the folks at Dow Jones are talking impeachment, the shit has finally hit the fan.