Saturday, October 29, 2005

While I Was Away . . .

Hi, everybody. I just spent a week doing things in the North Georgia mountains that three year olds enjoy and infants can tolerate. Thus, the putt putt golf courses, moderate length walking trails, and playgrounds of the region have all been visited and conquered.

There was one condition placed on the trip by the wife. No laptop.

So, anything happen with the Harriet Miers thing while I was gone? :D

Friday, October 28, 2005

It's a Word -- It's a Phrase -- It's Right-Wing Neologue!

Now that we have that whole "Miered" thing squared away, I think we need to mine the political insanity of the past few weeks for even more catchy neologisms that will attract the attention of wire services and Drudge. We have to be quick, though. When Miami's electricity comes back on, Jay will have so many pent-up puns to detonate he'll be sucking the oxygen out of the blogosphere for weeks. I'll start:

Dropping the Krauthammer: using a patently absurd excuse to explain one's unusual actions.

Oh, Just One More Thing...

"If Mr. Libby had only borrowed my raincoat, stood in the shadows of a Washington parking structure, and just told the reporter, "Follow the wife," he'd be the hero of a movie in a couple of years. Instead of a bum, which is what he is, let's face it.

It's such a fine line between stupid, and clever..."

It's a Dirty Job, But...

I'll do it.

Not mentioning Scooter Libby's indictment would be conspicuous in its absence, so here goes. I hate chores, but I'll try to make it enjoyable and also use the term "unscrupulously torpedoed" at least once.

Now, writers at The Reform Club assume their gentle readers have a certain familiarity with the issues of the day. The details of this affair can be found and litigated elsewhere, and besides being too lazy to recap them, we would rather drink bourbon instead of scotch than conduct remediation without compensation.

First and foremost, anyone who was implacable about the violation of "the rule of law" during the Clinton impeachment circus would best help themselves and the republic if they just shut up and take their lumps. (This means YOU, Kay Bailey Hutchinson.) If there is no underlying crime here (and it appears there isn't), neither was there with Clinton. I mean, the Jones lawsuit was a civil case, for one thing.

This also puts the shoe on the other foot, although admittedly not as tightly. But the Libby indictment is for lying and obstructing, again with no underlying crime, so if we're to frogmarch him to the gibbet over that principle, it must be noted that Clinton was equally guilty.

I find the underlying crime, which doesn't exist, more to my own interest than the Law & Order aspects of the case:

Except for the crocodile tears crowd, no one is seriously maintaining that Valerie Plame's "outing" endangered anything or anybody. If she herself were concerned about the fate of her contacts, she wouldn't have posed for that cheesy photo in Vanity Fair.

Joe Wilson is a opportunist and a liar. (Don't take just my word for it--after two official reports debunking him came out, the Kerry campaign, which had co-opted him as an "advisor," dumped him like a bowelful of bad clams.)

Has-been/neverwas Wilson used his wife's access to get back into the Big Game. He secured an unpaid gig to go hang at the pool and drink mint tea in Niger and play International Man of Mystery, and when he got back, wrote an op-ed in the NY Times completely misrepresenting what he discovered in order to try to unscrupulously torpedo the Bush Administration and the war in Iraq. (And mebbe make some new friends, like future president John Kerry.)

Scooter Libby, as any loyal defender of his liege would, promptly and unscrupulously torpedoed Wilson back. That he had it coming was only icing on the cake, and that he indeed got sunk was the cherry on top.

So here we are.

I'm sure Mr. Libby would do the same again, because you don't let twits like Wilson endanger foreign policy, and Libby will dutifully if not cheerfully fall on his sword if necessary. But as right-thinking Americans, I'm sure we'll all presume Brother Scooter is innocent until proven otherwise. Perhaps, as he predicted today, he'll be "completely and totally exonerated."

He looks guilty as hell to me, but if he somehow slips the noose, I hope he devotes the rest of his life to tracking down the real leakers.

Thursday, October 27, 2005

Alex Haley or: Why Perception Equals Reality

Recently on this blog, a regular and valued commenter put forth that the current endangered state of the Black family in America was due to the legacy of slavery.

This idea is commonly held by both the majority culture and by Blacks themselves. I mean, we've all seen Roots. Kizzy gets sold, and Chicken George's family is scattered to the four winds. Seems a reasonable conclusion, then. Certainly white folks have no personal knowledge about this.

Roots is history, but it really isn't. For example, "jumping the broom" is a European, not African custom, although it is observed in Black America today compliments of Alex Haley, the author of Roots.

So out of driven curiosity, I researched the history of the American Black family for meself. Found a scholar named Herbert Gutman who discovered there was a grapevine network during slavery to keep track of family members.

So, slavery certainly fractured the family, but it didn't die. Anecdotally, after emancipation there were tales of Black men scouring the countryside for traces of their families.

But let's stick to facts. Move on to W.E.B. DuBois studying Black families in Philadelphia. As early as the 1890s, just 35-odd years after the death of slavery, Black marriage and family rates were already nearly the same as whites:

"DuBois finds the similarities in marital state
between blacks and whites surprising. He writes that
'On the whole it is noticeable that the conjugal
condition of the Negroes approaches so nearly that of
the whites, when the economic and social history of
the two groups has been so strikingly different'":

"...[I]t must be remembered that the Negro home and the
stable marriage state is for the mass of the colored
people...a new social institution. The strictly
guarded savage home life of Africa, which with all its
shortcomings protected womanhood, was broken up
completely by the slave ship, and the promiscuous
herding of the West Indian plantation....With
emancipation the Negro family was first made
independent and with the migration to cities we see
for the first time the thoroughly independent Negro
family. On the whole it is a more successful
institution than we had a right to expect...
"--W. E. B. DuBois, The Philadelphia Negro: A social study.(1899)

Before we approach the 1960's, when a lot of funky social stuff happened, we see that Black and white marriage and illegitimacy rates are nearly identical. This is from Ebony Magazine:

"The percentage of Black women who are married
declined from 62 percent to 31 percent between 1950
and 2002." [The rate for whites in 1950 was 66%, not a statistically significant difference.---TVD]

"In 1963 when Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. gave his "I
Have a Dream" speech, more than 70 percent of all
Black families were headed by married couples. In 2002
that number was 48 percent."

"The Black family has crumbled more in the last 30
years than it did in the entire 14 decades since
slavery," says Dr. Julia Hare, author, psychologist
and executive director of San Francisco's the Black
Think Tank."

So if I read my history right, the slave ships decimated the Black family, but Black folk adjusted to their heinous conditions, and after gaining their freedom quickly adapted to the American nuclear family structure.

The story of the American Black family is not an unbroken line from Kunta Kinte to 21st century baby daddies. Something happened in the 1960s, and I think we all know what it is. What's happened in these last 50 years has nothing to do with slavery and cannot be helped by politics. Social forces have threatened all families, but when whites sneeze, Blacks get pneumonia.

A call to return to the greatness Black America achieved, of adapting to an alien culture after being loosed from their chains with just the clothes on their backs, and not just surviving but thriving despite all the obstacles, seems to me a much finer message than one of perpetual hopelessness. I think mebbe there should be a march. A million men might show up to regain their legacy, one that was lost not so very long ago at all. Who knows?

I'm thinking mebbe whites should hold one, too. It's not like they're doing all that well, either.

Borking and Miering

AP mentions the Reform Club prominently in its story on whether "to Mier" will become part of the nation's political parlance:

A contributor to The Reform Club, a right-leaning blog, wrote that to get "borked" was "to be unscrupulously torpedoed by an opponent," while to get "miered" was to be "unscrupulously torpedoed by an ally."

S.T. Karnick, co-editor of The Reform Club, elaborated.

"If you have a president who is willing to instigate a big controversy, the prospect of being `borked' will be the major possibility," he said. "But if you have a president who is always trying to get consensus, then it's much more likely that nominees will get `miered.'"

You can read the full article here.

Art, Money, and Markets

An article on art, money, and markets, by this author, is now available on Tech Central Station. Read it here.

Go! Go! White Sox!

I can't let the day pass without commenting on something truly timeless:

The Chicago White Sox have won the 2005 World Series!

As a native Chicagoan and congenitally athletics-minded individual, I have been a White Sox fan since childhood. This is a dream come true. What makes it even sweeter is that this team has played the right way and won the championship in a really entertaining, inspiring, and edifying fashion. They have fought hard all season long for this achievement, without famed superstars or big egos, and they have stuck together as a true team.

They truly deserve our respect and congratulations, and I hereby offer them to all involved. Cheers!

Comments on Comments on Comments

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How Do You Spell Relief?

In April 2002, I was sitting at my desk in my office at the U. of Minnesota when the phone rang. It was my physician's office, telling me that a radiologist had spotted a suspicious shadow on what until that moment had been a routine mammogram, and could I please hold while Scheduling arranged an ultrasound test.

HMOs, university medical centers, and myself being what they all are, it was three weeks later when once again, as I sat at my desk, my physician's office rang me up. The more sensitive ultrasound test had identified the potentially cancerous lump as nothing more than a pocket of adipose tissue. Clean bill of health. For three weeks I had been denying I was at all concerned. I put my head down on my desk and bawled so immoderately that my secretary ran in with a box of tissues in one hand and an airline shot of single malt scotch in the other.

Just over three weeks ago, I was driving home after dropping my daughter off at school when Ann Compton broke into the regular morning talk show with an ABC Special Report: George Bush was nominating Harriet Miers to the Supreme Court. I whimpered in impotent rage and disappointment. I knew this was bad, but didn't know it would keep getting worse, day after day after day.

This morning, I was driving home after dropping my daughter off at school when Ann Compton broke into the regular morning talk show with an ABC special report: George Bush had accepted Harriet Miers's withdrawal from consideration for a seat on the Supreme Court. I pumped my fist in the air and bellowed, "Yes! Yes!!!!" The sun shines again in the District. Tomorrow there may be bad news, but today is a day of respite. Simple common sense dictates that the relief I experience today differs not just in degree but in kind from the relief I felt at the news I did not in fact have a mortal disease. But heck if I can tell the difference.

Now where the hell's my single malt?


A very interesting article by Robert McHenry, former editor in chief of the Encyclopedia Brittanica, on Tech Central Station considers what the author sees as a decreasing interest of journalists, academics, and the general public in getting their facts right, with a "rightness" of thought replacing mundane considerations of accuracy and conforming of one's ideas to reality. McHenry suggests that this trend is part of a general trend in American society:

I'm inclined to see this as a particular instance of a more general phenomenon, the replacement of the adult by the adolescent as the paradigm citizen.

Adolescents already know all they need to know. They are uninterested in what may have come before them and confident that it did so for naught. They see instantly into the heart of the world's problems and believe them to be simple of solution. They value sincerity, authenticity, getting real, over experience or effort. Approved attitude trumps informed opinion with them, and does so by means of social pressure rather than by, say, demonstrated efficacy. And their sense of entitlement can sometimes border on solipsism.

For some time now, and increasingly, our schooling, our politics, and our cultural life have played to the adolescent in us. Young students are encouraged to focus on their feelings and to express them in any way they find comfortable, while teachers are discouraged from correcting them. Officeholders and seekers rely on the sound bite and the scandal, not to mention their allies in the braying media, to steer or frustrate public policy. Jejune amusements are labeled "Adult." And the marketers who control our media and what passes for our national dialogue are only too happy to pander to the free-spending of any age or persuasion. It's a no-sweat world, and welcome to it.

The adolescentization of politics, begun in the 1960s, has given us the politics of gesture. A couple of years ago some 60-ish women of my acquaintance, as a protest of the Iraq war, went down to the beach and took their clothes off. This seemed to satisfy them, though as I watched the newspapers closely for days afterward I could detect no effect. We are increasingly countenancing an education of gesture, in which self-expression does not merely take precedence over but displaces that which is worth expressing; in which the tokens of achievement are wholly disconnected from achievement itself; in which teachers-in-training are being turned out of their chosen career, not on account of a subpar GPA, but because they fail to display the approved attitude toward certain issues of "social justice'; in which, to put it in plain and concrete terms, a majority of our high school graduates cannot read with comprehension the sixth-grade McGuffey Reader of yore. And do they care? lol

I think that McHenry's observations are indeed accurate.

Bush Triangulates

The interesting thing to me in the Miers withdrawal is the political angle: President Bush has managed to distance himself from the "radical right" wing of his party without noticeably damaging—and has perhaps even strengthened—the likelihood that he will be able to place another strict constructionist Justice on the Supreme Court. It is a classic case of triangulation.

It's a Nice Day to Start Again

AP writes,

Under withering attack from conservatives, President Bush ended his push to put loyalist Harriet Miers on the Supreme Court Thursday and promised a quick replacement. Democrats accused him of bowing to the "radical right wing of the Republican Party."
See, I told you there was nothing to worry about!

How I Suffer, Martyr-Like, Even

I've been seriously considering spending real actual cash money to subscribe to the centrist (I'm told) The New Republic. That's TNR as opposed to NR, the National Review, for all you acronym Nazis out there. (NR, for the record, is the official publication of the American Nazi Party. You should subscribe immediately.)

Anywayz, my subscription to TNR was just a couple mouseclicks away 'til I got my TNRArts email newsletter:

The Family Man
by Christopher Benfey
Post date 10.22.05 | Issue date 10.31.05
During the half-century since his death in 1955, James Agee has maintained a saintly aura, though it remains unclear just what sort of martyrdom he suffered. He had in excess what used to be called "advantages." Born into comfortable circumstances in Tennessee in 1909, he was educated at Exeter and Harvard and employed by the Luce empire at Fortune and Time. Among his closest and most loyal friends were influential editors and publishers, many of whom he had known at school.

Tall and rangy, Agee was (as photographs attest) spectacularly good-looking, attractive to women and to men. As a writer, he was a quick study and a dazzling stylist, adept at many forms and many voices. His vices were those of his generation: alcohol, womanizing, a marauding egotism. Not quite a poète maudit--where is the curse in a Harvard education or a Luce paycheck?--Agee settled for the lesser role of the bad boy in powerful organizations; he had a temper tantrum when the Fortune editors tampered with his piece on the cultivation of orchids.

And yet the sense of martyrdom persists. His friend and Time colleague Robert Fitzgerald called the callous on Agee's right middle finger "one of his stigmata as a writer."...

You gotta be kidding me. I dunno who James Agee was, and I'm sure I would have found his spectacularly good-looking tall and rangy self attractive, but I hope he rots in hell, one not-quite-a-poète maudit to another. (And if Hunter Baker messes with my upcoming piece on hydrangeas, he's going to get some C4 up his wazoo, not some lame middle finger.)

I ain't no martyr.

And oh, yeah, TNR, you can forget about my 60 bucks, you godless bastards.

Wednesday, October 26, 2005

Geese, Ganders, &c.

I'm not big on charging folks with hypocrisy. I suppose the difference to me is how one goes about things--if you aspire or try to inspire toward virtue but fall short, it goes with the territory of being human.

On the other hand, if you judge and condemn others for their shortcomings, then for with what judgment ye judge, ye shall be judged, like the man said. But still, I don't get much pleasure from purveying fire and brimstone, even when somebody has it coming.

Peter Schweitzer, though, (via S.T. Karnick) highlights something quite cynical and quite unrelated to moral smugness:
"After researching the book I really truly believe that the leading lights of the Left — Moore, Franken, Clinton, Pelosi, Kennedy, etc. — really honestly don't believe what they are selling us. Their own experiences teach them that their ideas don't work."

Wow. Imposing standards that you don't even hold yourself? This is a whole 'nother kettle of fish.

For instance, in the Atlantic a few months ago, reliable NPR lefty Sandra Tsing Loh wrote of her spirited attempt to get her own little sub-genius into private school. (She failed.)

Due to a bit of testing ineptitude on the part of her little darling, and a lot of a lack of money (she got fired for cussing on the air), little Sandra Jr. is now an inmate of the Los Angeles Unified Skool District. But what a turnaround from Mom! I was duly impressed with Ms. Tsing Loh's spirited defense of public schools in last Sunday's LA Times, castigating the paper for treating the LAUSD system as if it had "cooties." She's also taking a newfound joy in the cultural diversity that the public school system offers, and she suggested that "Times editors and writers should be required to live in the neighborhoods and send their kids to the public schools the paper covers."

Now, imposing standards on others she herself did not hold even a few months ago might open her to charges of hypocrisy, but not from me. I say good onya, Sister Sandra. But like anyone who gets religion late in life, say, Anne Rice finding Jesus, it'll be interesting to see if it sticks.

Welcome Home, Vampire Maker!

Novelist Anne Rice, author of numerous, bestselling gothic novels such as the highly influential series that started with Interview with a Vampire (and some oversexed romances under a pseudonym), has returned to the church after an absence of many years. (She left at age 18 and is now 64.)

According to Newsweek, Rice said that she "will publish Christ the Lord: Out of Egypt, a novel about the 7-year-old Jesus, narrated by Christ himself. 'I promised,' she says, 'that from now on I would write only for the Lord.' It's the most startling public turnaround since Bob Dylan's Slow Train Coming announced that he'd been born again."

It certainly is an interesting event, but as in Dylan's case, each author's earlier work provides hints of the change that would ultimately come. The Newsweek article notes that Rice "sees a continuity with her old books, whose compulsive, conscience-stricken evildoers reflect her long spiritual unease. 'I mean, I was in despair.' In that afterword she calls Christ 'the ultimate supernatural hero . . . the ultimate immortal of them all.'"

It will be interesting to see whether the novel is any good. Newsweek quotes Rice as acknowledging the risk: "Rice knows Out of Egypt and its projected sequels—three, she thinks—could alienate her following; as she writes in the afterword, 'I was ready to do violence to my career.'"

That is probably the best sign of all.

Tuesday, October 25, 2005

Governments and Vaccines

Reform Clubber Dr. Ben Zycher has an excellent column in today's Los Angeles Times, in which he analyzes why, in the light of "a possible—but unlikely—flu pandemic caused by a potential breakout of avian flu among human populations," the "greedy pharmaceutical producers" of the United States have not been "moving mountains in anticipation of this huge potential need, with all of the dollars that would follow."

Zycher's answer: previous federal government behavior toward makers of vaccines and pharmaceuticals—"orchestrated by those pro-business, pro-free enterprise, pro-capitalism Republicans," he correctly notes—has decimated the U.S. vaccine industry: "No business will make large investments that are likely to be confiscated by government, because investors will not allow it."

Zycher points out that although it is perfectly legitimate to say that people should contribute to the betterment of their fellow human beings, is is quite another thing for the government simply to take things from private individuals, without proper compensation, in order to keep their budget numbers looking good, as has been the case in the federal vaccine and pharma takings. Such policies discourage the production of things that benefit mankind and are therefore shortsighted and foolish:

The larger question is whether vaccine producers have a moral responsibility to accept large losses in order to save lives in the here and now. Those who respond with an unqualified "yes" commit two errors: They argue in the name of compassion that government ought to confiscate unlimited amounts of other people's money (products), and they ignore the future lives that will not be saved because of an artificial decrease in incentives to develop new and improved medicines. Yes, pharmaceutical producers have a moral responsibility to those in need. All of us who are more fortunate have that same responsibility, which therefore should be fulfilled through the public budget without confiscation of private property. After all, the 5th and 13th Amendments to the Constitution prohibit takings and involuntary servitude precisely so that political majorities may not impose losses upon unpopular groups.

If the government deems it a public good that people be given free access to a vaccine, the treatments should be paid for out of tax dollars.

Robbing Peter to vaccinate Paul will eventually kill both Peter and Paul.

Political Hypocrisy

Kathryn Lopez has an interesting interview with Peter Schweitzer on National Review Online today, discussing his new book, Do As I Say, Not As I Do. Schweitzer's book documents the many ways in which today's most prominent political left-liberals refuse to live according to the codes to which they hector the rest of us to adhere. The book shows, for example, how wasteful Barbra Streisand is, even though she perpetually criticizes the rest of us for falling for the consumer culture. It shows that Al Franken, who calls conservatives racists, has a worse hiring record of hiring African-Americans than Bob Jones University does. It points out that Michael Moore invests his money in Halliburton, Boeing, and HMOs, and that Moore, Nancy Pelosi, Ralph Nader, and many other left-liberals go out of their way to avoid hiring union labor.

Schweitzer acknowledges that conservatives have hypocrisies of the own, but that the press are aggressive in exposing these transgressions, and that, more importantly, the hypocritical acts of conservatives have a self-regulating component: they damage their own lives and those of their families, etc. The sins of left-liberals, however, actually make their lives better.

Yes, we are all hypocrites and I talk about that in the book. But liberal hypocrisy and conservative hypocrisy are quite different on two accounts. First, you hear about conservative hypocrisy all the time. A pro-family congressman caught in an extramarital affair, a minister caught in the same. This stuff is exposed by the media all the time. The leaders of the liberal-Left get a complete pass on their hypocrisy. Second, and this is even more important, the consequences of liberal hypocrisy are different than for the conservative variety. When conservatives abandon their principles and become hypocrites, they end up hurting themselves and their families. Conservative principles are like guard rails on a winding road. They are irritating but fundamentally good for you. Liberal hypocrisy is the opposite. When the liberal-left abandon their principles and become hypocrites, they actually improve their lives. Their kids end up in better schools, they have more money, and their families are more content. [Their] ideas are truly that bad.

Hence, Schweitzer's point is not that we should not listen to left-liberals because they are morally bankrupt as shown by their hypocrisy, but because their lives show that the ideas they advocate are not good, that they are well aware that what they are asking of others is unreasonable and unwise:

Lopez: Is there something about the book that sums something up philosophically about the Left?

Schweizer: After researching the book I really truly believe that the leading lights of the Left — Moore, Franken, Clinton, Pelosi, Kennedy, etc. — really honestly don't believe what they are selling us. Their own experiences teach them that their ideas don't work.

That is indeed the right argument to make.

Monday, October 24, 2005

Comments Policy

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Sunday, October 23, 2005

Frozen Out of Comments, But I Must Comment

The abortion issue always gets my attention, but blogger is freezing me out of the comments section. So forgive another post.

Connie raised utilitarianism as an answer to the abortion issue, to which I respond:

Utilitarianism is a bankrupt philosophy. That has been demonstrated repeatedly. If you accept greatest good for the greatest number you can easily justify punishing the wrong person (even if you know it is the wrong person) for a crime in order to deter others from committing similar crimes.

What really happens with utilitarians is that they inevitably have to sneak other philosophical value models into their own in order to make it work. There is always a "why" lurking in the utilitarian's choices that goes well-beyond "greatest good for the greatest number" because it is a largely vacuous concept aside from the stark opportunity for one person to jump on a grenade to save several.

But EVEN that example raises questions. Why should one individual commit suicide to save a number of others? Why are several people more valuable than one? What is the justification there? I suppose it would have to depend on the value of persons. Utilitarianism takes that for granted and thus relies on some other value system (like Christianity), which is not shocking considering the heritage of the folks who started pushing utilitarianism. (Is Christ the ultimate utilitarian? He who ransomed his life for the billions? Unlikely, for he also emphasized leaving the flock untended to go after the single stray.)

Still, let's just accept utilitarianism in the abortion dispute. It gives us no answers. One utilitarian could say, "We must allow abortion because it is usually poor mothers who would give birth to these unwanted children and we would experience a strain on our social services PLUS we'd probably have more crime down the road." Another utilitarian could say, "We should compel these women to have the children because we have a growing population of the aged who must be supported by a growing pool of workers among our younger population." Both would be using utilitarian reasoning but delivering the opposite result. In neither case would either have any concern for human rights, which has interesting implications for utilitarianism as a method of governing.

Jay wondered why his fellow Jews are so detached from the pro-life movement which he believes is their heritage, to which I respond:

I think about Francis Schaeffer in this connection, Jay. When Roe v. Wade came down, the evangelical Christian society was out to lunch. They didn't care. You can find quotes from heavy duty Christian types expressing basic cluelessness on the issue. Schaeffer brought the sanctity of life issue to his community via the prophetic mode.

His basic message? This is evil and wrong. It is so evil and wrong that I and everyone else must question whether Christianity is real at all if you have no will to oppose it. You don't oppose it because you are too caught up in your real values of personal peace and affluence to care. He pierced some shells of indifference with that message and the evangelical world joined the Catholics as opponents of abortion on demand.

If a Christian can be prophetic about abortion, I KNOW a Jewish person can do the same. Who is that person, Jay?

Wilma, Meet Solomon

There is a longstanding Jewish tradition that the standardized cycle of Bible readings throughout the year is somehow prophetically attuned to feeding you the appropriate information at just the right moment.

With Hurricane Wilma bearing down on us here in South Florida, I bestirred myself to the synagogue today to hear the once-a-year reading of Ecclesiastes, always done on the Sabbath which falls during the nine-day holiday of Tabernacles (which began last Monday night and ends this Wednesday night).

I was struck by the timeliness of the following verse (11:5): "Just as you do not know what is the path of the wind, like the enclosure of the full womb, so you cannot foretell the actions of the Lord, Who makes all." (My translation, radically unlike King James: "As thou knowest not what is the ways of the spirit..." The word ruach in Hebrew sometimes means "wind" and sometimes "spirit".)

The classic commentator, Rashi (1035-1105), explains: "There are times that you think you can recognize in the clouds that the windstorm is coming, but it does not arrive there because it passes by and heads to a different land... as you do not know the things that are closed and sealed in the full womb, and despite the fact that you can see the outward bulge you do not know what is in the womb... so, too, the decrees of the Omnipresent concerning poverty and wealth are hidden from you. Therefore you should not hold back from charity for worry of losing assets and becoming poor; you should not say 'I cannot take time from work to study the Torah or I will become poor'; you should not say 'I cannot get married and have children because they are too expensive'."

How's that for a lesson from the uncertain path of the hurricane?