Why be wary of philosemitism

The Washington Post writes about a trend among Evangelical protestants to be fans of Jews. The article explains that some Jews are uncomfortable with the trend, but the balance of the explanation is wrong.
One source is concerned that philosemitism that is motivated by the role of the Jews in bringing the Second Coming is actually a form of long-range antisemitism, since the Jews will convert to Christianity in the end times. An academic is concerned that making Jews the center of attention is another form of unhealthy obsession.
Abe Foxman gets it right, I think, when he expresses concerns that the fundamentalist Christians who love Jews also have an unashamed agenda to make the US into an overtly Christian nation. US law would be based on the bible, politicians elected based on religious beliefs, and Christianity promoted in public schools. Some Jews agree with these positions, believing that a so-called JudeoChristian state would be better than the secular state we have now.
There are centuries of historical evidence showing various ways that theocracies persecute minority religions. Most Jews in the US, I suspect, feel safer in a secular state designed to be tolerant of the private practice of any or no religion than in a theocracy.
Personally, I think it’s encouraging and heartwarming that an evangelical seminary is inviting Rabbis as guest lecturers: “We’re looking at rabbinic literature and how we can better understand the Bible through rabbinic eyes.” One of the problems with the judeochristian myth is that the majority culture doesn’t seek to understand how Judaism sees even its shared heritage differently from Christianity. Jews have a different take on the Adam and Eve story, the meaning of religious law, the historical role of the Pharisees, the religious importance of the afterlife, and more. Liking Judaism enough to talk to Jews and understand Judaism is a good thing.
But theocracy is bad for the Jews, and theocrats aren’t good friends.

Yes, Google Video is Evil

Google gives the content industries freedom to set their own prices, starting with Free. This will be popular with content providers, who hate Apple because Steve Jobs insists on setting his own prices for online music and video.
But Google does not allow video producers to set their own terms of use. Google Video has their very own, proprietary DRM that doesn’t let users save the video to their PC or portable players. No time-shifting, space-shifting, excerpting, or other hallmarks of fair use. Fair use is forbidden according to Google’s support documentation.
If Google wanted to be Not Evil, it would allow video producers the choice of providing content in DRM-encumbered or DRM-free formats. Video providers who wanted to allow users to download, time-shift, excerpt, and mash-up would be able to do so. Video producers who want to restrict content could do so too. If restricted content loses viewers to sources with more convenient terms, that would be neither here nor there to Google.
Many video producers who upload their content to Google Video are small non-commercial players, or obscure sources like this sushi documentary that have much more to gain from exposure than from restricting use.
Google gets a very small bye for beta — maybe giving content providers their choice of format is a soon-to-come future feature. If not, Google Video really is evil.

How to defang lobbyists

Chip links to a Slate article about how lobbying really works — it’s not so much outright dollars for votes, but dollars for access and influence. And making overworked staffers lives easier by writing bills for them.
The problem with the game isn’t just access, it’s the anti-access that the rest of us have. When doing some citizen lobbying at the Texas legislature, we needed to beg for copies of the bills that the lobby was negotiating and helping to write.
In Congress, bills often aren’t available until minutes before a vote. The congresscritters and their staffs don’t even have access to the bills, let alone the public. Large bills are available on paper only, locking out anyone who isn’t physically in DC.
So, it would be a significant reform to mandate that bills be posted, in full text, on the internet, with a reasonably long lead time, like a week or more, between bill posting and vote.
That would give citizens more opportunity to contact their legislator before a vote. It takes a lot of citizen contacts to outweight a few lobbyists in fancy suits, but lots of citizens can have some influence.
The big finance reform would be public finance and free media. That’s a huge step for our well-bought system. Instead, we get incremental proposals that cause money to slosh back and forth among different contribution structures, but have less affect on the economy of access.
Openness can do at least as much as more campaign finance regulation can to improve the access equation.

Aggregated shopping

Donata.com writes about auto advertisers shifting budget from tv and print ads to the internet. He’s predicting a new trend in online advertising, away from search context ads (Google) and an unstructured database (Craigslist), and toward structured, decentralized, XML-based ads. In this model, each dealer would post their list of available cars, with price and options. Now, there are already a plenty of centralized aggregator services. Froogle can find you deals on desk lamps and rain boots. If Froogle let users subscribe to a search by RSS, that would be a long way toward the vision.

Idiotic terms of service

Vongo is one of a burgeoning number of online video services. When you download their client gizmo, the terms of service (if I’m reading them right) say that you do not have the right to criticize the product.

“You may not use the Starz Marks to imply endorsement of your product or service, or to disparage Starz, Starz

Farewell My Concubine and Chasing Amy

When I rented both of these movies, I didn’t know that they had the same plot.
Both movies are love triangles between two men who are artistic partners and a woman with a promiscuous past who becomes involved with one of the men. One of men has an unrequited crush on his buddy.

The settings and tone couldn’t be more different. Chasing Amy takes place over a year in gritty-bohemian North Jersey and the world of aspiring comic book artists. Farewell My Concubine takes place over fifty tumultuous decades in North China, in the glamorous world of the Peking Opera.

Farewell My Concubine is an intense melodrama in a world of shocking cruelty. At beginning of the movie, a desperate prostitute brings her young son to train for the opera. They won’t accept him because he has a sixth finger on one hand, so she shields his eyes and amputates the finger. The Japanese occupation, nationalist regime, communist takeover, and cultural revolution put the relationships among the characters under unbearable strain. What I loved about this movie was the exploration of loyalty and betrayal under test.

Chasing Amy is a bittersweet romantic comedy in a mundane world of diners, little club parties, comic book tradeshows, and business decisions balancing nuances of artistic purity and commercial success. The movie is at its best when it is dramatizing GenX sexual mores, when Joey Adams and Jason Lee trade stories of bad highschool sex, and when Jason Lee and Ben Affleck slowly realize they are at a lesbian bar. Lauren Adams gets to preach the film’s moral in a PC sermon about sexual exploration and true love. Ben Affleck can’t act, but the rest of the cast and the clever dialog add up to an entertaining movie.

According to this poll, 70% of high school seniors support gay marriage (53%) or civil unions (20%). In a few decades, plots about doomed and unrequited gay love may go the way of plots about doomed women who try to get jobs.

Wisconsin requires public review of voting software – update: not so much

As reported in <Badger Blues via Daily Kos, and Slashdot the law requires that:

“If a municipality uses an electronic voting systm for voting at any election, the municpal clerk shall provide any person, upon request, at the expense of the municipality, the coding for the software that the municipality uses to operate the system and tally the votes cast.

This is a great step toward making voting technology serve the public rather than voting system vendors.
Wisconsin law already required voting machines to produce paper ballots that can be used in a recount.
UPDATE: Unfortunately, the report was based on an old version of the bill. The