Federal Budget: Last Tuesday night I went to an MIT Club dinner meeting with a speaker (Josh Gordon of the Concord Coalition, which exists to educate people about the federal budget) talking about the future of the federal budget. When I arrived, the organizer asked me if I had anything to do with the federal budget and I explained that my job touches on parts of the defense budget, so he decided I should sit at the head table. That meant some reasonably lively conversation with the speaker (and, of course, the others at the table.) I don’t think I learned much from the talk, but it was fairly interesting. Too many of the questions focused on health care for my interest level. In short, every other developed country has decided that single payer is the way to go to achieve good health outcomes at an affordable price. I formed my opinion on that long ago. For the record, our for-profit insurance system is inefficient, as a very low percentage of the money taken in actually goes to health care. The fact that there are thousands of people who are paid to figure out what code to use for a large number of different insurance companies is evidence enough of the absurdity.
The Anthem Controversy:I have no interest in football, but I do have a few things to say about the anthem controversy. First of all, it is clear that people have the right not to stand for the anthem. However, there are lots of other examples of first amendment rights not applying in the relationship between employers and employees, so the owners could require players to stand. That would send an undesirable message, but it wouldn’t be illegal. It would be akin to not allowing you to use corporate resources to write a letter to the editor of the newspaper.
Second, that particular protest is not inherently disrespectful to the flag or veterans or apple pie. One can argue about how effective it is, because it doesn’t really tie directly to the issue at hand (namely, racism in policing) but that is a separate (and irrelevant) matter. I can’t really fault people whp have a public platform for using it to speak up about important matters.
Third, some people have shown pictures of President Trump standing without his hand over his heart during the anthem as a statement of hypocrisy. While the Flag Code does say that the right hand over the heart is proper, it isn’t the case for the military, who are supposed to stand at attention. I would argue that the President, who is Commander in Chief of the military, could acceptably do that. And, by the way, remember that Obama was also criticized for not putting his right hand over his heart during the anthem. I will also note that when I was growing up, we put the hand over the heart during the Pledge of Allegiance, but not during the national anthem.
Application to My Workplace: By the way, our all-hands meetings at work start with the Pledge of Allegiance. This annoys me, but I don’t feel like I could not say the Pledge. I do ignore the applause when I am sitting in a conference room at the opposite end of the country where the actual meeting is taking place. We’re muted, so what’s the point of clapping?
Rosh Hashanah: I went to Sixth and I, which had its pluses and minuses. The traditional service was almost traditional. The deviations did, alas, annoy me – calling multiple people for an aliyah, for one, and not really doing the priestly blessing, for another. On the plus side, I thought Cantor Larry Paul did an excellent job of the balance between cantorial showiness and congregational participation, with most of the people around me singing quite a lot. Rabbi Avis Miller’s sermons could have been more tightly written, in my opinion. (I apparently missed Ruth Bader Ginsberg, who was there Wednesday night.)
The main thing I wanted to note was that the shofar blower during Shacharit had an interesting technique. I can’t really describe it well, but his shevarim had two notes, in a way that made a siren-like sound. I don’t know if that is specific to some particular region (e.g. I have heard a Yemenite shofar, which sounds somewhat different, but that is because it is made from an antelope horn, not a ram’s horn), but it was really quite striking. He did this both with the plain shevarim and the shevarim teruah, by the way. (For those who have no idea what I am talking about, there are three different shofar calls. Tekiah is the long drawn-out one. Shevarim is three shorter notes. Teruah is 9 or more short blasts.)
Mail: Both my email and my snail mail seem to have been especially slow last week. Should it really take 4 days for something to get less than 20 miles from where it was sent to my mailbox? And the 5 days for an email to reach me was even weirder.
Don’t Analyze This Dream, Part 1: I don’t remember the entire dream, but the gist of it was that two men, one American and one Israeli, had to kill and drink the blood of people to keep from being eaten alive by aliens who looked like a cross between spiders and starfish. They both kept journals about this, with the focus on their trying to be sort of avenging demons. For example, they directed three Korean women to a good diner and paid for their meals, and then went to kill the people who had been keeping the three women as slaves. It is possible that one of the men was actually Bat Boy. At least there was a scene where he was hanging upside down from the crown molding of a room, supported by his toenails.
Don’t Interpret This Dream, Part 2: I was at a restaurant for brunch. For some reason, I had to order at the hostess stand, not at the table. I knew what I wanted (a Mexican omelette), but couldn’t figure out what this particular restaurant called it on their menu.
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