Thursday, December 29, 2005

With Liberty and Tolerance for All

The Sydney Morning Herald ran an article this morning entitled, "Spielberg outrages terrorist." According to the article, "The Palestinian mastermind, [Mohammed Daoud], of the Munich Olympics terrorist attack, which killed 11 Israeli athletes, says he is outraged at not being consulted for the Steven Spielberg thriller Munich." Daoud went on to say that Spielberg "should have listened to both sides of the story and reflected reality, rather than serving the Zionist side alone." That Spielberg is mighty outrageous! I don't know for sure, but my guess is that the Nazis were pretty offended by Schindlers List. The movie was not balanced at all, but showed a definite bias toward Jews and hardly gave the Nazis any chance to tell their side of the story.

Wednesday, December 28, 2005

According to the Jerusalem Post, former Shin Bet chief Avi Dichter "says pullout proved itself, Kassams [are] now terrorists' only means to attack Israel." Gee, now I feel much safer!

Monday, December 26, 2005

Finally, Some Policy from Peretz

Peretz has done what one might think impossible. In a land battered by kassams, suicide bombs, terrorist stabbings, and shootings, Peretz is managing to run on an economic policy ticket. Let us not forget the continued existential threats from Iran, Libya, Syria, and Lebanon. One might think that minimum wage would not be the foremost issue in Israeli politics. Yet it is the issue on which Peretz is focusing. Comparing Israel's minimum wage to that of the US and Britain, Peretz claims, "our minimum wage is a fraction of theirs" (Jerusalem Post). That is certainly true numerically, as Israel's minimum wage is $3.70, while US and Britain both have over $5.50. But I would imagine that cost of living is considerably lower in Israel. Nevertheless, he has announced something of a foreign policy/ military policy recently, claiming, "We need to immediately . . . dismantle the illegal outposts," said Peretz. "I would also stop all funding to expanding communities there, and only continue with the minimum aid needed to maintain the communities," added Peretz. "Instead, we should put those funds into developing the Negev and Galilee, where we can expand opportunities for our youth" (Ibid.). While I am all for developing the Negev and Galilee, I am still curious as to what he plans to do about terrorism. I am not an economist, but my guess is that constant threat of serious attacks is not very good for anybody's wages.

Tuesday, December 20, 2005

Is Sharon a True Bush-Imitator?

In the past couple of years, I have noticed that Sharon's image has begun to look more and more like Bush's image. Sharon also began to wear the pin with the flag on his left lapel (only Sharon's pin is of Israel's flag). Sharon speaks in simple language to the media. He even has a "ranch" in the Negev, to which he periodically goes to refresh himself. His recent recovery from a small stroke has, however, led Bush himself to suggest to Sharon a way to become even more "Bush-like." In the words of Haaretz: "U.S. President George W. Bush told Prime Minister Ariel Sharon to eat less, work less and exercise more. . . . The president also reportedly told Sharon that he needs him healthy, and said he hoped to see results of physical exercise and weight loss when the two meet in a couple of months." The results of this change in lifestyle, Bush went on to say, could be crucial to the war on terror.

On Restraint

I am opposed to the Patriot Act, in part. While I don't like the Patriot Act, I recognize that many of the issues that upset me are not contained therein. However, the Patriot Act reauthorization has acted to raise public opinion and awareness about issues of privacy and security.

As Pres. Bush was so kind to specifically honor senators from NY, CA and NV as members who oppose the current formulation of the bill. As such we have received many calls in the past few days in support of the Patriot Act. A conversation might go like this:
Zev: Hello, senators office, how can I help you?

Constituent: I want to tell the senator that he should stop protecting the terrorists and start protecting the citizens of this country. How could he vote against the citizens of the country? Maybe he should be deported.

Z: Thank you very much for your opinion, may I please have your name, address and telephone number so I can pass your comment along to the senator.

C: My name is Robert Macarthur. I live at 78 North Terrace Rd Buffalo NY 14202 716-828-4590.

Z: Thank you very much for your call. We will just put your name through a central database of known enemies of the United States to ensure that no subversives unduly impact the American legislative process. Just for securities sake we will also give your name to the IRS to guarantee that you have no financial links to terror. If you get audited this year, that will be why.
But I show restraint, and cut myself off before that last part.

Thursday, December 15, 2005

Public Service Announcement

The senate is deliberating on the Patriot Act today. Call your senator to voice your opinion. I will suggest calling local offices, as the DC office is probably swamped. Offices are currently monitoring the issue.
Shmuli's Legacy Jig Posted by Picasa

Sunday, December 11, 2005

Broken Walls at Hillel

After 8 years, it looks like Rachel, Shmuli & co. are ending their tenure in Hyde Park. They leave with quite the legacy, and I wish them well up in their new neighborhood. With Shmuli gone, who will be around Hillel to break the walls?

Friday, December 09, 2005

Go shorty, it's your bat mitzva, we gonna party, like it's your bat mitzvah

A bas-mitzveh that cost over 10 million dollars! It included such "artists" as Tom Petty, Aerosmith, and 50 cent and had goody bags that included ipods and digital cameras. The goody bags were so successful that one 14-year old guest said that they were the "coolest" part of the part-ay. According to the Jerusalem Post, "The guest asked that her name not be used because she didn't want her friends to think that she had only attended the party for the bags." She added that she also liked the music.

One need not think that such an expensive bar or bas mitzve is necessary, however, and the Jerusalem Post lists a couple of tips on how to keep it affordable:
  1. Plan the event yourself. This can save thousands of dollars you would otherwise spend on an event planner.

  2. Make the tables' center-pieces yourself, this will save a $200/table fee for renting them for a night.

  3. Don't have famous musicians. This could save millions.
No matter what you do to keep down the costs, "at the end of the day there will always be the pressure to compete with other bat and bar mitzvas."

Even though my bar mitzveh had none of these gimmicks and cost somewhat less than the recommended minimum of $20,000, I still think I had the best bar mitzveh in town. I am also completely certain that those who came for the goody bags were sorely disappointed.

Thursday, December 08, 2005

The Islamic Scare

These allegations of gross infractions on human rights and international sovereignty are cause for immediate real concern. The justification for these acts sounds something like Sen. McCarthy on an irate diatribe. Whither Edward Murrow?

Update: Thank you one and all. As I was running out of the office on Thursday I wrote this post noticing that I ought to link to a different article. By that time it was too late, so I changed the link now. I still think "renditions" are a big deal though.

mmmmm

Sufganiot...
Modern donuts look like little cakes and soft donuts filled with inferior quality strawberry jam are almost a thing of the past.
So true, but so yummy.

Tuesday, December 06, 2005

Liberalism = -(Conservatism)

In my continuing struggle against fickleness, I am sorely bothered by the reversal of the liberal agenda in the course of the decade. In David O. Russell's 1999 film "Three Kings" he lays out the inadequacy of the American response to the first gulf War. A band of three rogue US soldiers led by Maj. Archie Gates (George Clooney) set out to abscond with Iraqi gold in the fog surrounding the American invasion. The soldiers set out to steal the gold, ignore the insurgent's (told to rise against Saddam by Bush I) and return without incident. After witnessing the wasteful slaughter of innocent Iraqis the soldiers are impelled to aid their cause and move this village of insurgent's across the boarder to Iran.

The message of the movie is clear, America let Saddam's opponents down in the wake of the first invasion. The US promised to topple Saddam, but instead left these poor people to be butchered by the state.

It seems to me that, irrespective of the false pretenses for war, the US had a moral obligation not only to topple Saddam's evil regime, but to aid in the reconstruction effort in Iraq. How the US could morally justify leaving these people in the midst of violent political turmoil is beyond me. The analogy to Vietnam is not fair. We are not trying to protect one nation from another in Iraq, rather here we are attempting to revitalize a failed state*. I don't understand why my fellow liberals don't agree, besides for a loathing to be the the same side of any issue with Bush II.

* Whether Iraq should be split into two or three separate nations is a good question, which I do not boast to have an answer to.

Aeon Flux on Style

I blog too much about movies and too little about books. So it goes.

I saw Aeon Flux motza"sh with my brother. It is a very cool movie. The really notable part about the movie is the design. The vision of the future is only minimally technologically futuristic; there is very little technology in the movie which indicates scientific advance. Rather, it is the lines and shapes which communicate to the audience that the time is no where near the present. The style, cut, fabric and lines of all the people imparts a deep feeling of temporal distance. I really liked that.

Thursday, December 01, 2005

$10 to anyone

who can understand this paper whose initials are not ML.

Thanks to Sam for pointing this out.

[offer void as of 12/1/05 2:12pm EST]

Wednesday, November 30, 2005

Priests will be Priests

Somehow many Americans do not find the Vatican's ban on heterosexual priests nearly as offensive as its ban on homosexual priests.

Monday, November 28, 2005

NYT Shout Out

I will not bother liking to the article, as it will be dead in a few days anyhow. On Friday (Nov. 25th) "Such Sound and Fury! Tradition! Einsteins in Food Fight of Words" led the NYT National Section (p. 21). UofC Hillel's Latke-Hamitashen debate gets top billing. Pretty cool, says I.

Thanks to Maggie for pointing it out to me.

Monday, November 21, 2005

The End of Israel's Left?

For five years now analysts have been asking this question, however, for all intents and purposes they have been wrong. The left (economically, socially and strategically liberal) has existed as a party with a measurable (though muted) effect on Israel's politics. I would contrast this to American politics which is economically "conservative" (by which I really mean libertarian: let companies run without intervention). In the US is assumed that companies should be able to do what they want, so long as there is not a specific political need. This is in contrast to Israel where it is assumed that companies need to request permission from the gov't to act.

The creation of a "centrist party" may in fact destroy the left. All Israelis are committed to two things: their security and livelihood. In the early 90's it looked to many Israelis as if their security could improve through Oslo. A reduced armed forces is first and foremost to limiting casualties (if such an opportunity presents itself). 12 years later most Israelis believe they can improve their security by isolating the PA and endorsing measures such as the fence, disengagement and a smaller, more efficient military. While Likud and the Centrist Party can debate over these specifics, Labor will struggle to present any viable third alternative. With a two party system the opposition party need only present the opposing opinion, in a three party system that becomes increasingly difficult for one of the two opposing voices.

With regards to Israel's economy there are very few who still endorse a socialist system. Particularly with Peretz, an old-skool socialist with a history of close camaraderie with his associates (read: corruption), Labor will find it difficult to deliver a real message to which the people will respond. The election of Peretz indicates that Labor is falling back on their traditional economic values, which are increasingly out of touch with the Israeli people. They are so desperate to retain their voice, that they have chosen one which is irrelevant.

The catch is the new party. If Sharon is truly ousted from within, the Centrist Party may collapse and leave the old two party circus. However, if Sharon is a viable leader (which I believe he is) this may constitute the death-spell for Labor.

Thursday, November 17, 2005

Israel's Next (Previous?) Enemy

Peretz said he hoped that an agreement on early elections would calm markets concerned at prospects of political turmoil as well as his pledges to roll back free-market reforms.

"I think that if we reach the Knesset on Monday with an agreement between the prime minister and myself, it will bring quiet to the political framework, it will calm the markets in Israel," he said. (Haaretz)

Roll-back free market reforms? And by "calm markets" I think he means "kill markets."

Georgia on Our Mind

or "Why's the North always a' Pickin' on Us?"

Once again my homestate has made it to the arena of national debate over her voting practices. Due to problems with this sort of thing in the past, Georgians have to submit all proposed changes in voting procedures that might affect minorities to the Justice Department up in Washington so they can continue to exercise control over our elections (see Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act of 1965). Anyway, here is the current problem (from Wash Post):
The [proposed] program requires voters to obtain one of six forms of photo identification before going to the polls, as opposed to 17 types of identification currently allowed. Those without a driver's license or other photo identification are required to obtain a special digital identification card, which would cost $20 for five years and could be obtained from motor vehicle offices in only 59 of the state's 159 counties.
That's not all:
Proponents said the measure was needed to combat voter fraud, but opponents charged that Republicans were trying to keep black voters, who tend to vote Democratic, away from the polls.
I guess the assumption here is that Blacks don't have driver's licenses or other photo id cards and many are too poor or would be significantly inconvenienced by going to a nearby county to buy an id card.

Anyway, I really can't see how this move specifically targets blacks. With the Mexican immigrant population in Georgia increasing daily, such measures could easily be understood to target them. Or perhaps it targets all poor people, or all lazy people. Or perhaps they are actually worried about voter fraud and think that people should have better ids.

I'm waiting for all you Chicagoans to explain to me why this really is against blacks and why we don't need to worry about voter fraud.

Tuesday, November 15, 2005

Results

In the summer of 2004 I worked to research International Security Initiatives in Post-Disengagement Gaza. As far as I can tell these are they--and I am sorely displeased. It appears that the Palestinians gained on every front.

The following is the text of an email I sent to my boss at the JCPA, I think it captures everything I have to say on the matter:

I have read the State Depts release on "Movement and Access" for the Palestinian controlled areas, it looks like this is the result to which our paper looks. I am very confused.

The PA seems to have won on every front. They "gain control over entry and exit from their territory" through Rafah [at least the way it works here, in Buffalo, is that the Canadians control entry and the US controls exit--from my perspective. Why does the PA get both?] A seaport is to be constructed and "the importance of an airport" is acknowledged. They are even afforded convoys between WB and Gaza! I recognize that it can be done securely, but I had thought that that World Bank proposal was off the table.

The US is to act as a security coordinator (a task you indicated they were not up to under Oslo) and the border control (which **** told me the US would oversee) is being looked after by the EU--the UK is not even mentioned.

Is it just my reading, or does Israel have very few security guarantee with this compromise? Why, so soon after disengagement, has the PA been afforded such mobility, despite their poor showing on the political front?

I guess this is it.

Monday, November 14, 2005

Make my life easier

For those of you who do not already know, Miriam Gedwiser and I are betrothed to be married in Boston on January 15, 2006.

If you are reading this blog, you are almost certainly invited. You will make my rather hectic life easier by emailing to my obassik-at-lehman.com your name, address, and possibly phone number. Thank you.

"Hate"

For those of you who are looking for a good movie to watch, particularly one that happens to have an uncanny similarity to the recent events in France, I highly recommend watching the movie "La Haine" (Hate), a Mathieu Kassovitz film, which won a Palm D'Or in 1995. The amazing thing about it is that even though it was produced 10 years ago, it contains the same exact storyline as the current riots - ethnic youths rioting against authority in the Parisian suburbs. Apparently the difficulties that the youths are currently experiencing has not changed for a while - it was the same when I was in Paris three years ago, and evidently it was the same back in '95. While Kassovitz had good foresight in producing this movie, and had J.M. LePen won the election back in '02, his movie would have become reality even sooner.

Thursday, November 10, 2005

On Andy Warhol

I heard an interview with John Updike this morning on NPR about his new book "Still Looking."

Updike explained Warhol in a completely new light, and in so doing, blew my mind. Warhol was known for making very ironic statements such as, "I like boring." I have always understood his art to be a jibe at the superficial, artificial culture. Updike maintains that, like all Pennsylvanians, Warhol is not ironic. He enjoys the boring and the superficial and his art embraces those very elements.

Updike once met Warhol at a party wearing a tuxedo. Updike thought it odd and put the question to Warhol who then lowered his pants to reveal jeans underneath.

It is all about what's on the surface.

Oh the Youth!

I tried explaining one of Churchill's whiticisms to my brother today.

Z: Do you even know who Winston Churchill was?
B: No.
Z: He was only one of the greatest statesmen to ever live. He was the leader of Britian in WWII.
B: Oh, this is kinda like the time I didn't know who Snoop Dogg was.

No Benny, its not like the time you didn't know who Snoop Dogg was.

Tuesday, November 08, 2005

Monday, November 07, 2005

Intifada 2005

This time it's in France. Consider this my formal recommendation that Israel send observers to France to ensure that they do not act against any international laws.

Monday, October 31, 2005

Supreme Strategy

Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nevada, was complimentary of Miers. He raised Miers' name during a September 22 breakfast meeting with the president in which Sens. Frist, Specter, Leahy and he discussed possible candidates with the president, Reid spokeman Jim Manley said. Reid believes Miers would bring a "fresh perspective" to the court, Manley said.

"I like Harriet Miers," Reid said in a statement. "As White House counsel, she has worked with me in a courteous and professional manner. I am also impressed with the fact that she was a trailblazer for women as managing partner of a major Dallas law firm and as the first woman president of the Texas Bar Association." (CNN)

Shmuli is the person who pointed out to me that Reid's endorsement of Miers is the linchpin to understanding the recent series of events. I stand utterly astounded that Reid can still stand by his endorsement of Meirs, in light of all the criticism which has ensued. At the very least it just seems ill-advised politically; but that is neither here nor there.

Bush attempted to choose a candidate for the Supreme Court that would have bi-partisan support. Who would not nominate their personal attorney to the bench, whose conservative views are clear and has the support of the Senate Minority Leader?! In the end, however, it was the conservative lobby, not the Liberals or Dems that forced Miers to withdraw. I had thought earlier that the Dems ought not attack Miers before the hearings, as then they would look like they were just playing partisan. The result has been that Bush, seeing that the Right brought his former nominee down, chose to rally his party around a strong conservative nominee instead of making another bipartisan offering. Because the Dems stayed pretty silent on attacking Meirs, there was no need to cater to their base--they are irrelevant.

Alito looks to be a good guy (read: qualified- well educated and experienced, and has a family for what it's worth). From Scotius, anyhow, he does care about issues like feminism, racism and people with disabilities--he is just more strict about applying laws. I can live with that.

Friday, October 28, 2005

I immediately

thought of Oren when I saw the title to this post at Crescat.

Saturday, October 15, 2005

It's educational!

Either Crimson columnists hate graduate students, or this one's attempt at humor is sorely lacking. Shorter Kreicher: "Waah! Waah! My TF has a Chinese accent! I have been at Harvard for 4 years and I still don't know what disinterested means!" Even worse, the college admissions office used to hate loud-mouthed Jews and short people. Seriously, last week's New Yorker article is great. Not only does it insult Harvard, but it mentions Chicago in contrast; you'll have to read the article to find out where. Like me, you can sneer, then feel a little lame about it.

Tuesday, October 11, 2005

Proof: the Movie

So I saw Proof with my sister Motza"sh. My sister liked it more than I did. Atop the fact that the movie was only ok, I (like The New Yorker) felt that they kept on talking around the math. A more thorough explanation of the central theme of this movie than, "this is the most important proof in the last 50 years." might have felt more true to life. Excessive jargon is bad, but none at all indicates that the actors on stage are guarded-- they know you are listening and, in deference to your ineptitude, don't want to bore you with details. But you did decide to spend your Saturday evening at movie called, "Proof," you can't hate math that much and I, for one, like hearing words I don't understand. A good movie allows all involved, both actors and audience, to feel comfortable. Maybe I know too many Mathies, but no one refers to a Theoretical Physicist as a Theoretical Physicist; it just sounds wooden.

That being said, the lack of math detail is made up by the incredible amount of HP subtlety. The movie was filmed in HP, Northwestern and England-- with the house being in England (so I gather). The penultimate scene of the movie has Paltrow opening up a drawer in their house revealing, amongst other things, a matchbook (or something like it) from the Medici. Someone had to cart that thing thousands of miles just to give the illusion to people who know HP that the house is really located there. Hats off.

Monday, October 10, 2005

The Nobel Prize for Economics

has followed me to Hebrew University in Jerusalem. When I was at Chicago, they were winning the prize. Now that I am at Hebrew U . . .

I am currently on vacation in Athens, so we'll see if anyone here wins it.

Friday, October 07, 2005

King of the Hill

While reading online about the Miers nomination I saw (I forget where) a reference to my favorite King of the Hill line.

HANK: I thought you were busy teaching girls to blow up basketballs. When did this turn into a desire to ruin wrestling?
PEGGY: Oh, give me a break. I don't see how having a girl on the team would ruin it. Did a woman judge ruin the Supreme Court?
HANK: Yes, and that woman's name was Earl Warren.

I wonder

if taller women are less into getting gifts from their men?

Monday, October 03, 2005

Meirs Market

Anyone willing to venture odds on Meirs conformation? Even Cons on the blogosphere seem to be shouting patronage. Just a guess- 2:13 she goes down.

Shanna Tova

To all those that I have not had the presence of mind to call personally (I hesitate to list them, for the sake of monotony) Shanna tova techatev vetechatem le'alter chaim tovim vesholom.

Yuri Undershaft

There can be no doubt that "Major Barbara" (George Bernard Shaw) lies as the literary precursor to Nicholas Cage's newest movie "Lord of War." Intellectually, they are really talking about the same thing: how can you sell that which you cannot morally defend? In the proximity to the question, Lord of War puts us on the front-lines of African massacres-- Yuri Orlof (Cage) is given full knowledge of what lies ahead for the weapons he peddles while Andrew Undershaft can only dream. Oren also pointed out to me that, for at least part of the movie, you want to be Yuri. He has money, power, and family all thanks to his nefarious business. But there is where the movie peaks.

After seeing Major Barbara this summer at Shaw Festival (greatest show on earth!) I was really excited to see a modern day equivalent. Needless to say Shaw is unique. Shaw creates a villain so perfect, so idyllic that all slander is forcibly syphenned off to the side. He never drinks, cheats or gambles. The antagonist is polite, courteous and a generous philanthropist. As a result of Understaft's clean record, all eyes are perched glaring at his one flaw-- he sells guns. Because Shaw is so funny, the villan always wins. By the end of the play Undershaft convinces Adolfus to join his factory, and all the other characters are shown to be more or less buffoons. The play causes you to completely rethink your moral reservations with the subject matter or only at the very end does it give you some hope that your intuitions are not completely in err.

Yuri has none of these graces. He is self absorbed (which is only accentuated by Cage's boring monologue throughout the movie) and not a very nice person. He cheats, never sees his family, does hard drugs and loses control of himself from time to time. In light of all these offences he does not come across as a moral purist. The supporting characters are weak and supply no counter-balance to Yuri. Even the Interpol investigator comes off looking like a stupid attack dog lacking the refinement to parry Yuri's rather weak blows.

It is hard to compete with Shaw's whit and brilliance, but Lord of War comes no where close.

UChicago Law

Look at the new UChicago law blog. Looks to be a real blog, instead of essays, like Becker-Posner. We can expect many good things.

Sunday, October 02, 2005

Foreign Law is History

Now that Roberts and Ginsburg have both successfully refused to answer questions that would predict future rulings, one of the few areas of controversy left to quiz nominees on is the citation of foreign law. The anti-foreign law position (the GOP stance) is easily justified to the public and the Democrats have nothing to gain policy-wise from pushing the point. A future Democratic President will probably avoid the controversy by appointing only nominees who will state that they will not cite foreign law.

Monday, September 26, 2005

My freinds are cooler than yours

As evidenced by the fact that they (well she really--Adina Brickman) play football in international fora. How many frum women can say that?!

Friday, September 23, 2005

Persecution and the Art of Blogging

In an effort, no doubt, to give evidence for Leo Strauss's theory that in times of persecution writers had to hide their meanings in their works so as to avoid censorship, the leftist organization Reporters Sans Frontieres has released a handbook to inform bloggers who live under tyrannical regimes how they can avoid censorship. The main technique for avoiding censorship appears to be for a blogger not to disclose his identity. This allows the bloggers to say whatever they want about the regimes under which they live with a lower level of risk of persecution since the government cannot identify them. This is significantly easier than what earlier authors had to do, according to Strauss's theory, since unknown bloggers can disclose their true meaning without having to hide it in the text of their document. Nonetheless, I wonder how safe their anonymous disclosures can be from increasingly techno-savvy regimes. If I were dissenting in a regime that might kill me for it, I still might follow the old method of hidden meanings. But perhaps this is a sign of my own cowardliness.

Thursday, September 22, 2005

Schumer, Roberts and Dr. Zhivago

I have tried to pay pretty close attention to the hearings (especially now that I might get questions about it at work), but alas, I was not able to give my undivided attention to the proceeding the past few days. I have, however, tried to keep up with Schumer's remarks to Roberts.

Now the question, to my mind, is not whether Roberts will be confirmed, but whether the Dems should endorse him. Frankly, I think he is a wonderful candidate and will make a fine justice, but what I have heard of the hearings the last four days really upsets me. Through hours and hours of questions, through three days of questioning the most substantive things Roberts told the commission was that he believes in the right to privacy, as found in the liberty clause of the 14th amendment and that two of his favorite movies are "Dr. Zhivago" and "North by Northwest," the man was a tar baby.

Generally I felt that Roberts was taciturn on many issues which were "softballs" (in the words of Schumer-like stupid comments of Pat Roberts and asking for an apology for using the word "amigo" in a memo). More importantly though, he repeatedly refused to answer direct questions from senators about his view of the law. While I think that questions like, "Well, how would you have voted on Kelo?" are stupid, questions which ask how he understands basic legal principles like the interstate commerce clause (which he kind of did open up to Schumer on day 4) ought to be taken seriously. That he was not forthcoming indicates to me that he knew he would be confirmed and thus any answer would only put him at risk.

In Schumer's remarks today I think he said as much when he announced he would vote against the nomination. Again, the senate vote by Schumer is not one for Roberts's conformation, but against meaningless hearings.

Not Just a Jewish thing...

So women want to stay home. This is not new. The question is why? Why don't these women feel that their future husbands should sacrifice their careers instead?

Belated Birthday Blessing

17 Elul, exactly two months after my birthday, was Shmuli's birthday. Though I searched ויקיפדיה and Wikipedia, I was unable to find lists of famous people born on that day or famous events that happened. We shall have to settle for Shmuli's birth as a momentous enough day, without which Yavneh and probably the entire U of C Hillel would not exist.

Thursday, September 15, 2005

Racism at the U of C

One of the little mini-controversies over the Roberts nomination was his use of the term "War Between the States" rather than "Civil War". The former supposedly suggests segregationist sympathies. It seems to me that both terms are equivalent in their neutrality. The official U.S. term is "War of the Rebellion" clearly takes sides but almost nobody uses that one. There apparently is also a name for the Civil War that clearly takes the side of the South. I used to know a Southern fellow at the University of Chicago who would refer to the "War of Northern Aggression". For this fellow's sake he best not choose a vocational field where liberal sentiment is strong. In any case, if Roberts' use of "War Between the States" shows insufficient opposition to segregation, then what are we to say of my former acquaintance?

UPDATE: To be fair, I understood this fellow to be speaking in jest. As another mini-controversy from the Roberts nomination shows, however, that won't save you from stern reprimands from Senatorial blowhards.

On September 15, 1980

my wife was born. As per our prenuptial agreement (not to give gifts to eachother) I did not give Rachel a birthday present. Not only have I always held true to my promise to Rachel, I have also forgiven her for the few times she broke her corresponding promise to me. Given that we share our wealth, we both feel it is silly to purchase something the other obviously chose not to purchase.

I will admit that I have been criticized by other married men for my practice. "Never mind what Rachel says," they argue, "all women are crazy and need gifts to feel appreciated." I ask the married and committed men among you - are your women sane enough to appreciate you NOT getting them gifts?

Saturday, September 10, 2005

Dunk the Man from US News

I would assume that many people who read this page are disgruntled with the US News rankings of Chicago (15, tied with Brown, ew). Here is a quick way to get a little esteem back through silly ratings contests. The Chicago Tribune is having an online poll of the seven great wonders of Chicago, of which one nominee is UofC. So get out there and vote!

My picks were:
1. Chicago Blues
2. The Lakefront
3. Millenium Park
4. Wriggley Field
5. Sears Tower
6. The Watertower
and 7. the UofC

Wednesday, September 07, 2005

R'Ovadia

I was particularly impressed with R'Ovadia's recent statements, correlating Katrina with Bush's support of the disengagement. Throw in the racist statements, and it surpasses all inflammatory remarks that he has made in the past.

Sunday, September 04, 2005

מזל טוב

It is my pleasue to wish Oren Bassik and Miriam Gedwiser mazal tov on the occasion of their engagement.

I am almost as happy as a jumping monkey.

Thursday, September 01, 2005

Economics of Katrina

I am sort of confused about the economics of city building, maybe on of you could help me out.

Let's say a city is worth X. X is probably a pretty big number considering all the infrastructure and revenue a city produces. Then Y is the amount of money it would cost to rebuild that city. Y can also be seen as "how bad do you really want it?" Obviously if Y is greater than X you just scrap the city and start over somewhere else. It also seems to indicate (to me, at least) that the value of the city is X+Y or the "actual" value of the city plus "how much do you really want it?" As it appears that no one is really talking about scrapping New Orleans just yet, which would indicate that cities are hugely undervalued. If there is enough capital to rebuild the entire city from scratch (almost) then the New Orleans market was hugely undervalued for all those years that it was not underwater (and thus every other major city). Is the "market" on N.O. that off-base or has it really been accounting for this risk all along?

Happy 10,000!

Thanks you for all the clicks over the past year. 10,000 clicks is a lot of clicks. I should know, I probably made half of them myself!

Tuesday, August 30, 2005

Back in the USSR

I returned to Cambridge a few days ago after a long, sunny San Diego summer. Now I have to furnish a new apartment, organize seminars and study. Many of the readers of this blog are mathematicians, so I have a question for you: have any of you read Stasheff's pair of papers "Homotopy Associativity of H-Spaces" or LNM 161? If so, I have a few questions that may better be exchanged in private. Sadly, I have nothing humorous to add—this is the life of a graduate student.

Monday, August 29, 2005

Finally a Good Word on Coffee

According to the Washington Post, "Coffee not only helps clear the mind and perk up the energy, it also provides more healthful antioxidants than any other food or beverage in the American diet, according to a study released Sunday." This should help explain the thinking behind the Yavneh Coffee Club. Jak and I were thinking not only of clear minds and energy perks, but especially of those healthful antioxidants. In case you were wondering, the Wash Post also tells us what antioxidants are good for: they "are thought to help battle cancer and provide other health benefits." Unfortunately, as the article goes on to say, "that does not mean coffee is a substitute for fruit and vegetables."

Thursday, August 25, 2005

Proof

Apparently the movie (http://www.apple.com/trailers/miramax/proof.html) is set to open Sept. 16th. Even if it is not so hot (which I read in one review in Premiere Magazine) I still get to see UChicago again!

A Visit to The House of Justice

In order to facilitate the completion of our tax requirements as residents of Jerusalem, Sara and I made a trip to the court house yesterday and made a declaration of our finances before an offiicial clerk. This trip greatly contributed to my apprehension of mismanagement among Israel's government officials. The court house building, that austere physical representation of Justice, was a run down building with so many rooms off a long hallway that I believe the building must have served, in an earlier time, as either a hospital or a dormitory. Indications that the building had once housed a large number of people could be seen in the court house's central courtyard where a number of clothing-lines were still drawn, many indeed with clothing actually drying on them. The Israeli informality, which I have at this point grown to expect, did not permit the addition of a reception desk to the austere building's entrance and after a rigorous security check, we were left to wander the building unguided in search of the appropriate office. There not being many signs, we wandered quite awhile and it was only after some time that I noticed something suspicious about our fellow wanderers. Many, but not all, of them bore, in addition to their hoodlum-like appearance, hand-cuffs on their arms. Some were even chained on their feet as well. They, like us, were searching completely unattended and unguided for the office in which their affairs could be settled, though I daresay ours was not the same office. Upon the completion of our declaration, we initially made for the nearest exit, but stopped ourselves when we noticed that that exit was situated next to a temporary jail room into which a number of the hand-cuffed hoodlums were being herded. Afraid of the reprecussions of either being harmed by the hoodlums or accidently being herded in with them, we returned to the place of our initial entrance and made that our final exit.

Monday, August 22, 2005

No sleep till Brooklyn

Matisyahu is very popular in San Diego. The La Jolla Tower Records prominently displays his live album; it was their top seller last week. Lou's Records in Encinitas is also promoting it. I have heard "King Without a Crown" a few times on FM 94.9, the local "classic alternative" radio station. What's going on in the rest of the country? Do any of you own the album?

He's the frat-boy reggae successor to Sublime, I think. There are a few differences: he is more dancehall than punk, he is probably not going to OD on heroin in a motel, and he is not going to write a bunch of lame-ass songs ripping off "The Chronic." Of course this may be bad for his career, but may be good for his soul.

The religious thing is uncomfortably personal. I felt the same way when I saw Jimmy Cliff last summer in Baltimore and he played "Rivers of Babylon." For that matter, Burning Spear reminds me of my Reform rabbi in high school, who was a huge fan. How do Muslims feel when they listen to Brand Nubian or the intro to "Mecca and the Soul Brother"? How about Christians and "Jesus Walks"? Maybe if Matisyahu sang more songs about weed, like the Klezmatics or Bob Marley, he'd be more palatable to close-minded Jews like me. Then again, I don't like the Klezmatics or Bob Marley and don't smoke weed, so there. Come to think of it, I hate psychedelia.

On a completely different note: check out this article in the Times Magazine. It reminded me of the 90's Yiddish culture craze and my own attempts to feel out my Jewish identity in college.

Thursday, August 18, 2005

Color War


While perusing Flickr.com I could not help think what a great Color War disengagement makes. Though, in my day, it was not the custom to throw acid in the face of your opponent.

Wednesday, August 17, 2005

Last Week's Antidisengagementarianism: by the time I got to a place where I could see the Kosel, the battery on my camera died. So this is the plaza to the side of the plaza in front of the Kosel and that is Al Aqsa in the background. Posted by Picasa

Monday, August 15, 2005

Congratulations Sarah B.

Another commendation for an excellent post on bangitout. U of C is finally making her mark on the (American) Jewish world!

Friday, August 12, 2005

Thursday, August 11, 2005

You know you are are University when...

you have your own Banitout Top 10. Thank you Sarah B (who, by the by, should join the Blogosphere).

Tuesday, August 09, 2005

Will Tenure Cease to Exist?

A few weeks ago, I had a conversation with one of my past professors. In telling me about the incoming and outgoing faculty at the UofC, he mentioned something that I thought was very interesting - that tenure will cease to exist in 25 to 50 years. While he thought that there would always be tenured professors at top tier institutions (i.e. Chicago, the Ivies, etc.), he believed that second and third tier institutions (i.e. Illinois St., SUNY Buffalo), will eventually stop to offer tenure.

My initial reaction was that abolishing tenure would be inconceivable, as tenure seems to be fundamental to the university setting . Yet, upon second thought, it makes sense, particularly for lower tier universities. As costs rise, universities with smaller endowments and less incoming cash than big name schools will simply not be able to cover the costs of a) retaining top talent; and b) covering the large benefit packages of tenured profs. For professors in the sciences, there is less cause for concern, as they are more easily capable of producing income for their schools (through grants and research). However, professors in the humanities will face more pressure, as their work and services are not as greatly in demand as their counterparts in the sciences. Moreover, I feel that the concept of "publish or perish" will be more and more the case, where senior professors who are taking in much, relative to their younger counterparts, will have to in some way justify their pay and benefit packages.

While I can not claim to be familiar with the pertinent figures on this matter, I am somewhat familiar with the general operations and aims of universities, on current and historical bases. As much as schools are centers of intellectual growth and debate, like firms, they too look at finances as the bottom line.

Monday, August 08, 2005

יום ז'אב

For the second year running I am planning on observing Yom Zev (this Friday). I ask people to do something "Zev-like" (or Zev-esque, if you prefer) in honor of the day.

Check It Out

My entry won #8 on the bangitout.com caption contest. Also check out my honorable mentions below the list.

Friday, August 05, 2005

Who Knew?

So the World Bank thinks Israel is corrupt. Someone at the ministry of finance should call in protectzia at the World Bank to have them edit that report.

Wednesday, August 03, 2005

The DEBKA Challenge

I challenge all of you to write in and tell me about mistakes from DEBKA. I would be surprised if you found any -- other than slightly inaccurate estimates of people killed in terrorist attacks (which inaccuracies can be found in any newspaper btw). As for the liberal media, every time they neglect to call a terrorist a terrorist they are committing a far graver error than one that you could find on DEBKA. In addition to their timely, well researched reports, Debka writes concise, readable articles that don't focus on someone's individual problems. For these reasons and more I maintain that DEBKA is the best newspaper around and challenge any reader of this blog to find and show me the error of its ways.

Tuesday, August 02, 2005

Special Report: Hell Freezes Over

For years now, Steve Jobs has forbidden Apple to unleash a two button mouse. He scorned PC users who insisted on use the productive, yet unsightly, second button. However, to Jobs's credit, he is having his cake, eating it too AND having the last laugh! This new one button/two button mouse solves Jobs's issue with the ugliness of the second button, and has all the functionality of a two button (plus some really cool extras, like a scroll button and built in Expose tool!) -pause- I am taking this time to be enamored. Wow.

Granted it is 20 YEARS LATE, but Apple certainly delivered in style.

A Fatwah we've All Been Waiting For

It finally cam this week. A real anti-terror fatwah. According to Debka (which is no less accurate than the New York Times these days), Tantawi, a senior Egyptian imam, has ruled that
no Muslim fighter who blows himself up may be declared a martyr or reach Paradise – unless he fights in Palestine.
His mention of "Palestine" includes Tel Aviv, Jerusalem, and Netanyah -- all of which are on Israel's side of the wall. Furthermore, he is probably just a government imam and most "Muslim fighters" (or as we call them "terrorists") won't listen to him. Let's just say that if I were running the airports, I would still check for illegal weapons.

More Happy Birthdays

Yesterday was my mother's birthday and Shabbes was Dan's.
Happy Birthday, Mom!
Happy Birthday, Dan!

Sunday, July 31, 2005

Nonantidisengagementarianism

Finally a really long word! I figure this word ought to mean the movement that is against those who combat disengagement (embodied by people such as R. Amital and R. Riskin). At a full 28 characters long it matches that gem of a 3rd grade spelling extra credit word, antidisestablishmentarianism. I really want other suggestions for how to make this word even cooler!

Thursday, July 28, 2005

A Note on Oren's B-day

According to my calculations, my Hebrew birthday, which was celebrated nationally by fasting, was on July 24. Orens's English birthday was on July the 27th. 27 - 24 = 3 !!! Thus contradicting the seven-day principle. Whew! Oren, it's a good thing you and I aren't in math no more.

Wednesday, July 27, 2005

Gadzooks!

In my unending quest to understand odd words I looked this one up on the OED.com and found no hits! Could it be? A word missing from the OED? Well this is what Answer.com told me:

gad·zooks (găd'zūks') pronunciation
interj.

Used as a mild or ironic oath: “Gadzooks! Is there a panic detector, akin to a smoke detector, that sniffs anxiety in the air?” (George F. Will).

[Perhaps alteration of God's hooks, the nails of the crucifixion of Christ.]

Rav Meidan and John Locke

In Rav Meidan's impassioned interview with Haaretz he had a remark which caused me to pause.
[H]ere there is a specific matter of many people, perhaps a quarter of the army, who are being asked to do something contrary to their belief. I do not think it is right to break their belief.
I have been (and still am) a bit confused regarding how the evacuation from Gaza (or "uprooting,"as R. Meidan calls it) is qualitatively different from Kelo. Eminent domain, kick people out of their homes, give them money, end of story. If you had to build a huge highway through Gaza, you would not see thousands of people complaining and burning tires in bright orange that they are losing their houses of n generations.

The issue here is Religious Zionism (RZ), as R. Meidan points out. RZ has created a myth for itself over the course of the last century--that Israel is the first step in redemption. And as crazy as many believe Chabad is for their eschetological rhetoric, RZ's do the exact same thing. Now that they are being forced to pull back they are undergoing a religious conundrum; their whole theology is being challenged. But who is to blame?

As John Locke points out so eloquently in his Letter on Toleration:
But, after all, the principal consideration, and which absolutely determines this controversy, is this: Although the magistrate's opinion in religion be sound, and the way that he appoints be truly Evangelical, yet, if I be not thoroughly persuaded thereof in my own mind, there will be no safety for me in following it. No way whatsoever that I shall walk in against the dictates of my conscience will ever bring me to the mansions of the blessed... Faith only and inward sincerity are the things that procure acceptance with God. The most likely and most approved remedy can have no effect upon the patient, if his stomach reject it as soon as taken; and you will in vain cram a medicine down a sick man's throat, which his particular constitution will be sure to turn into poison... How great soever, in fine, may be the pretence of good-will and charity, and concern for the salvation of men's souls, men cannot be forced to be saved whether they will or no. And therefore, when all is done, they must be left to their own consciences*.
In a similar vain, R. Meidan invokes this sacred notion of conscience to exonerate those soldiers who request not to be assigned to certain duties--because it is just against their conscience.

Violence, as R. Meidan articulates, is out of the question, but isn't it wrong to compell a man to do something which he fundimentally rejects (like a conscience objector)? Those RZ in Gaza are not to blame for refusing to move, nor is the government wrong to expel them. It is qualitatively different than Kelo because it is a matter of conscience. That being said, I am delighted that a wrecking-ball is being taken to that messianic-conquest element to RZ. You are not what you own, and the sanctity of the Jewish people is not no way relative to the size of their country. Happy Birthday Oren.

*This passage from Locke, as I understand it, stands as the foundation for the concept of toleration. While it is obvious from the passage that it refers directly to the state's ability to coerce a faith upon their subjects, it has subsequently been expanded to encompass tolerance as a whole. Spinoza spends much time on this idea in chpt 15 & 16 in his TPT too. Spinoza is really, really smart (much smarter than Locke). Also I just really like this quote from Locke.

Diversity on the Hill

So last week I spent some time in DC hoping to find myself some (not so gainful) employment. Jobs on the Hill are terrible. They pay about 25 starting and demand ~45 hours of work a week. I figure 2 hours a day for minyanim, 10 for work, 8 for sleep, 1 for commute, 2 for meals leaves one to read a book. Well there must be some incentives.

The thing that really struck me however was the lack of ethnic diversity on the Hill. I say two Black people (only one of whom was in a senators office) and one Indian, but no Latino/Hispanics that I could recognize. I was told that the percentage of minorities on the Hill reflects the number of minority elected officials. This strikes me as odd considering Harvard, Yale, Princeton, etc. graduate more minorities than 2%.

Furthermore, while there are many Jews on the Hill, few frum ones wear a kippah. Now it is very hard to argue how many frum Jews there are (i.e. how many wore a kippah before they started working on the Hill), but there does seem to be a sense of homogeneity which appears to keep people from wanting to look different. One of my friends explained that a woman in a hijab might scare constituents in the Mid-West (or anywhere, for that matter), but how many constituents really see a congressman's back office?

Let's assume for the moment that any given class at Harvard graduates 25% minority students. Even if you were to argue that 5-10% of them are not as academically gifted as their white counterparts (which I only pose as a greatest lower bound for the sake of argument) then at least 15% of any "prestigious" field should be filled by minorities. As far as I could tell, less than 2% of employees on the Hill were from minority backgrounds. So where do these 15-25% of minority students go after graduation?

Tuesday, July 19, 2005

The other white meat

But Zev, what about Canadian chicken? I saw a few packages of it in Albertson's yesterday. At first I figured it was a southern California thing, but no.

Their parent farm has a delightfully bad website—check out the photos of MIT and the rabbi. If you poke around for a while, you can find their kashrut certification from Organized Kashrus Laboratories. It expired six months ago. On the other hand, so did the elevator certification in my apartment, and it still works.

Gotta say, the name is unfortunate. It is too tempting to pronounce it "tchai tchicken." And when you're buying meat, do you want to think of life?

New Phone

I lost my cell phone a few days back, and got a new one. So:


  1. If I haven't been responsive lately, I apologize.
  2. I need your phone number.
  3. I also now have a digital camera! Not a great one, of course, but it works.


Please email me your number, or call me. Thanks.

My New Bike

I bought a new bike a few weeks ago. It has double suspension and 21 speeds. It cost me about 370 nis. Well, the bike isn't actually new, but it looks new and I thought that would keep people from damaging it unnecessarily. Anyway, the day after I bring it home someone slashes a chunk out of the seat while the bike is chained up outside. They didn't take anything or break anything else just random knife-blows. Perhaps it is because of the bike's bright orange color, but I have no idea. Someone else in the building also has a bike. He doesn't even lock his. But no one has touched that bike.

Beef, it's what's for dinner

now that we can get Canadian beef. You have no idea how hard it has been, here in Buffalo, to get good meat. First one butcher closed, then the other went out of supervision, so we went to Hamilton to get meat. Great meat, that Hamilton butcher, but then the USDA clamped down on Canadian cattle because of mad cow disease (even though the cow it was found it was originally American) so for two years we have suffered poor meat. No longer!

This Blog Will Be No Fun

if every one deletes their embarassing posts.

Thursday, July 14, 2005

Rove's Narratives

A. So Karl Rove has done it this time. He has really messed up. In his attempt to maintain the president's rigid control of the White House, Rove intentionally set out to punish one of Bush's most open and important opponents by outing his wife's cover in the CIA.

B. "When senior Bush adviser Karl Rove uttered the now-famous words "Wilson's wife" to a Time magazine reporter, the intent was to correct errors being spread by former U.S. diplomat Joseph C. Wilson IV, not to unmask his CIA employee wife."

The truth of the matter is that it is impossible to figure out which version is correct, A or B. What Rove did was not nice, but most of politics is not nice; the question is was it illegal? As far as I understand everyone agrees what Rove told Cooper something to the extent of, "What would Wilson know about WMD, apparently it is his wife, over at the CIA who is the real expert." Or it could just as easily have been, "What would Wilson know about WMD, you know his wife, over at the CIA, is the real expert." It just depends where you put the punctuation and emphasis.

In my opinion, Rove will never get stuck with this unless it turns out that he really did have access to specific information about covert agents or a memo appears that shows a malicious intent to out Plame to punish Wilson (which is very unlikely--that the memo appears, not that, in fact, it is the case). If it was just a "common knowledge" issue (one of those things that is known in those circles in Washington) then there is no way Rove will ever be severely penalized for exposing a covert agent from her desk job at Langley. And as my mom pointed out, even if Rove is fired, then what, he will stop talking to the president? Not likely.

Wednesday, July 13, 2005

A Dudelike Moment...

For all the Dude fans out there...while shopping in the great 24 hr Jewel near my apartment last Sunday morning at 1:30am, I happened to come across genuine Sioux City Sarsaparilla. The Dude abides.

Friday, July 08, 2005

Should Bush appoint a politician or a judge?

Recently Senators Reid, Spector, and Schumer have been suggesting that Bush look outside the judiciary for a Supreme Court nominee. This recalls Clinton's desire to appoint a "big-hearted" politician such as Babbit, Cuomo, or Mitchell to the Court. Clinton backed down because of the likely opposition such politicians would have faced compared to judges like Ginsburg or Breyer. The reason, though, that he initially wanted such nominees was that he believed they would be more likely to implement "big-hearted" policies (i.e. act as super-legislators rather than judges). I suspect that is one reason these Senators want Bush to look outside the judiciary for nominees. Politicians are more likely to enact their favored policies from the bench.

The other obvious reason is that they are Senators and like the idea of once again making the Senate a major souce of Supreme Court nominees. I think this reason is somewhat misguided. A major reason Presidents liked to appoint Senators to the Court, as well as the cabinet, was Senatorial courtesy. Nominees that would otherwise be considered unacceptable would be confirmed. FDR's appointment of Hugo Black is an example. FDR did not believe he could get through as liberal a nominee as Black (today Black would be labeled a right-wing extremist) without the benefit of Senatorial courtesy. The Democrats in the Senate, however, do not seem inclined to allow all Senators through, even the most qualified such as Cornyn. Presidents therefore have a reduced desire to appoint from the Senate.

Supreme Court Reform

If the GOP really cared about reducing judicial activism they have a wonderful opportunity right now to introduce amendments that would serve this purpose. The Democrats may be more amenable because of Bush's potential to change the direction of the Court. My own pet idea is to introduce 9 year terms so that there is one appointment a year. The justices would still have life tenure as appelate court judges. I believe that such a court would act less like a super legislature and defer more to Congress. Further, I suspect that such a court would look more to the actual constitution when striking down legislation.

Thursday, July 07, 2005

London Bombing

My first thoughts on the matter are that the death toll is really quite low and the power of the explotions quite weak. It has been reported that the roof of the bus which the explotion hit was torn off, but if you look at any of the suicide bus bombings in Israel of recent years all that is left of the busses was a charred shell. This would initially lead one to believe that the bombings were not meant as much to destroy as to disturb. Had they occurred even 36 prior they could have really messed London's chances of bringing home the 2012 Olympics. While I could care less where the olympics goes (aside from the FDI that it generates) it appears that every news agency yesterday felt it was really important--top billing over the G8 summitt for instance.

I don't know that this adds up to anything, but it seems to me that this bombing is slightly different than the Trade Center or Spanish railway attacks.

Palestinian Jews

Al Jazeera has a really interesting interview with a Libyan Jew living in Gaza. While I understand politically it would be a disgrace to leave Jews behind in Gaza and watch them get abused, without any martial or military protection, it is a very sweet idea, in the abstract.

My favorite exerpts:
I [Avi Farhan] met [Mohammad] Dahlan four to five years ago in Eli Sinai in my fish restaurant.

I told him if you could give me assurances of peace, we could make something great from Ashkelon to the al-Arish, and it could be better than the French Riviera, but you have to make peace from the heart, not political peace.

He said: "You can stay here if you become a Palestinian settler." I told him, "You don't scare me with this talk. If you agree to this, I will get elected in the Legislative Council before you do - I have more friends than you in Gaza."

But Israeli settlements are racist by their very nature - only Israeli Jews can live there. Palestinians from Gaza cannot live there. On the other hand, you can live in Um al-Fahem.

I can't even walk by Um al-Fahem - I'll get shot.

Theoretically speaking…

A few hundred metres away from me there are Arabs living here. But there still isn't enough goodwill for them to live inside the settlement. I'm sorry to see things this way, but it's not a one-sided problem.

I think this demonstrates some of the sentaments of how difficult life in the Palesinitan territories really is and how the secular end of the arab world recognizes how far the PA leadership has to go in order to create a true liberal democratic state.

Will this help anything? Of course not. It is just nice to read once in a while, is all...

Tuesday, July 05, 2005

White Sox Posted by Picasa

Monday, July 04, 2005

A Poem on the Death of my Dog, White Sox

Multas per gentes et multa per aequora vectus
advenio has miseras, canis, ad inferias,
ut te postremo donarem munere mortis
et mutam nequiquam adloquerer cinerem,
quandoquidem fortuna mihi tete abstulit ipsum,
heu miser indigne canis adempte mihi.
nunc tamen interea haec, prisco quae more parentum
tradita sunt tristi munere ad inferias,
accipe fraterno multum manantia fletu
atque in perpetuum, canis, ave atque vale.

Sunday, July 03, 2005

Oren better get married

before this comes to America.

Friday, July 01, 2005

Politicians have ideological beliefs too

The Senate passed CAFTA yesterday with the GOP 43-12 in favor and the Democrats 33-11 opposed. The partisan split on "free trade" matters is not new and was also apparent when Clinton presented NAFTA to Congress in 1993. I think the reason for the split is primarily ideological rather than tied to different constituencies. Certainly labor unions are overwhelmingly opposed to free trade accords and are also overwhelmingly a Democratic constituency, but when labor unions aren't a player (i.e. farm subsidies) Democrats are still less supportive of "free trade" than Republicans. This isn't to say that Republican politicians are doctrinaire free traders, they clearly aren't, or that popular opinion doesn't affect how politicians act, just that the difference between Republicans and Democrats in Congress on "free trade" issues is principally based on different ideology not on different constituency.

Some may contest the claim that the Democrats push farm subsidies more than Republicans but they would be clearly wrong. In 1995 the new GOP Congress cut farm subsidies in their budget bill only to have Clinton veto it. In 1996 Congress (with a heavy partisan split) again cut farm subsidies and Clinton signed the bill with criticism. In 1998, the GOP Congress raised subsidies less than the Democrats wanted and Clinton vetoed the bill and the GOP surrendered and raised subsidies even more. In 2001 the Democratic controlled Senate passed significantly higher subsidies than the GOP House and only Bush's veto threat convinced the Senate Democrats to back down. In 2002, with an election in the offing, Bush and the House GOP (the vote was even in the House, the only time in my recollection that the Democrats didn't more heavily support subsidies in a vote) completely rolled over and supported a large subsidy increase.

Soma time, living is easy


my girl's tall with hard long eyes
as she stands, with her long hard hands keeping
silence on her dress, good for sleeping
is her long hard body filled with surprise
like a white shocking wire, when she smiles
a hard long smile it sometimes makes
gaily go clean through me tickling aches,
and the weak noise of her eyes easily files
my impatience to an edge--my girl's tall
and taut, with thin legs just like a vine
that's spent all of its life on a garden-wall,
and is going to die. When we grimly go to bed
with these legs she begins to heave and twine
about me, and to kiss my face and head.

e. e. cummings


Good shabbos everybody.

Thursday, June 30, 2005

Who says San Fransisco liberals aren't religious?

One common response to the critics of Kelo has been that the Supreme Court merely ruled eminent domain for private gain constitutional, but it certainly isn't mandatory and legislatures can easily ban the practice if they desire. Now of course this argument can be used against any SC restriction on government behavior and I doubt it's Kelo proponents would find it persuasive in many other contexts. Nevertheless, House Minority Leader Pelosi apparently didn't get the memo. She apparently so worships the SC that government activities they suggest permissible she considers mandatory. I suppose her deification of the SC could be distinct from her confusion of permissible and mandatory, but altogether it was a bizarre press conference from she who would be Speaker.


Here is the relevant excerpt:

Q Not on the Court, withhold funds from the eminent domain purchases that wouldn't involve public use. I apologize if I framed the question poorly. It wouldn't be withholding federal funds from the Court, but withhold Federal funds from eminent domain type purchases that are not just involved in public good.

Ms. Pelosi. Again, without focusing on the actual decision, just to say that when you withhold funds from enforcing a decision of the Supreme Court you are, in fact, nullifying a decision of the Supreme Court. This is in violation of the respect for separation of church -- powers in our Constitution, church and state as well. Sometimes the Republicans have a problem with that as well. But forgive my digression.

So the answer to your question is, I would oppose any legislation that says we would withhold funds for the enforcement of any decision of the Supreme Court no matter how opposed I am to that decision. And I'm not saying that I'm opposed to this decision, I'm just saying in general.

Q Could you talk about this decision? What you think of it?

Ms. Pelosi. It is a decision of the Supreme Court. If Congress wants to change it, it will require legislation of a level of a constitutional amendment. So this is almost as if God has spoken. It's an elementary discussion now. They have made the decision.

Tuesday, June 28, 2005

For you Lorax lovers

My sister-in-law Tobie has the business school version.

If I understood Shmuli correctly,

then the fact that my birth has not had a significant effect on human history is a strike against me. In any case, several important people were born on June 28, if not in 1983:
(source: wikipedia)

On June 28, 1983

NASA launched Galaxy-A and a Greenwich, CT bridge collapsed . It was altogether a remarkably insignificant day in human history.

Monday, June 27, 2005

Mother Russia

Snot and Whatnot

A great little post someone got onto the Yavneh listhost. I was rolling on the floor:
If I may, I'd like to add a view from Jerusalem. I actually don't think the
issue is "eating child snot." I would prefer not to eat adult snot either.
The issue is snot, simpliciter. However, if the point is to separate adult
snot from child snot, I am not sure how I feel about that. Maybe some kids
don't want to eat adult snot, some adults don't want to eat child snot, and
some adults and children don't want to eat any snot, regardless of its age
or gender. Until we settle some of these basic questions, I am not
convinced that separate tables--or a mehitzah--will solve the problem. The
only unequivocal solution, which does strike me as a tad Draconian, would be
to eliminate kiddush. Or maybe even the minyan.

Yes, as Jack reminds us, fascism is often preceded by anarchism. Now,
there's something to look forward to.

Some people are really much funnier than they appear.

Sunday, June 26, 2005

On Residing in Lakeview....

Now that I've got DSL for my apartment, I can finally start to contribute. So here's my first entry of substance....

It's now been 3 weeks since I've moved from sleepy, ol' Hyde Park, up north to Lakeview. All in all, things have been going just fine, although my apartment is still a mess (but is in the process of obtaining some sense of order). A few observations on the neighborhood, and Anshe Shalom:

1) The bus ride to work has been rather different than the one I had while coming up from Hyde Park. It's pretty clear how segregated this city is, and apparently iPod sales must be booming in this neck of the woods, as everyone seems to be sporting the white headphones. Now that I am amongst the yuppies and bourgeois, does this make me a yuppy or bourgeois? I certainly hope not, but my pink shirt seems to indicate otherwise.

2) Anshe Shalom is really big. Never again will I ever have to feel guilty about coming to minyan late because I might be that 10th guy. Also, I would imagine long gone are the days when I get to lein every week. It's so big, that I think it's almost too big. To some extent, I sorta miss having to scratch and claw for a minyan, and having the honor of leining every week (although I'm sure my occasional no-shows won't be missed). The flip side to being in such a large community is that a) the kiddush is really large (and doesn't have snot on it); b) there is an eruv, and apparently a mikveh on the way as well (in which I'd hope there are no sharks); c) plenty of learning opportunities (into which I hope to infuse myself).

3) As I sit inside trying to study for another regulatory exam I have coming up (clearly the studying isn't that effective), I can't help but notice how many people are partaking in the Gay Pride parade outside. Several people from shul urged to me check it out, saying how much fun it is. Would I ever receive such encouragements from people at Yavneh? Probably not, as they'd be too busy urging me not to get my snot over the potato chips on the kiddush table.

Is Lakeview the anti-Hyde Park? Time will tell...

Friday, June 24, 2005

Eminent Disaster

The American supreme court has ruled "that fostering economic development is an appropriate use of the government's power of eminent domain" (New York Times). The idea is that the government can take land from private citizens and give it to private companies. Not surprisingly it was the more liberal judges who were for this. Scalia and Rhenquist were both opposed. I found the liberal justification for this action surprisingly Lockian: developers will make better use of the land than the citizens who were living there previously.

Funny story: in Israel, where a similar argument is being used to justify the expansion of Jerusalem and other cities, the liberals are radically opposed to the government's use of eminent domain.

Tuesday, June 21, 2005

Stumpo's and Cheesequakes

On our drive to Ben's wedding yesterday Oren and I stumbled across two fine parts of New Jersey: Cheesequake State Park and Stumpo's Italian Restaurant. There were, obviously, other landmarks we passed, but none took out attention quite like these.
What is a cheesequake? How does it occur? When was the last great cheesequake? Are they doing anything to prevent another of similar magnitude? It soon became clear that Stumpo had saved the entire village from the certain decimation of a vicious Cheesequake and in recognition of his brave rescue and sacrifice, they named a restaurant in south Jersey in his honor. At 11p last night, while driving home to Oren's melodic snores, I composed a ballad of Stumpo's intrepid battle against the Cheesequake to the tune of Paul Robeson's "John Henry." But I have forgotten it now. It started something like,
Oh it happened many years ago
That Philly cheese came a-rainin' from the sky
and it did cascade down the mountain
yes the Cheesequake of aught six had arrived
but I forget the rest...

Checkpoints have a purpose

Zionist thugs humiliate Palestinian woman.

Kosher Wines

There has been a recent explosion in the interest of wines. Not just kosher wines, where Jews are discovering that there is more to life than Carmel, but also an interest in small, fine wineries from remote parts of the world. "Sideways," as I see it at least, was only an indication of this trend.

The funny thing about kosher wines, however, is that they are completely identical to non-kosher wines. Ideally, whereas non-kosher food contains ingredients which either by themselves, or mixed together are trief, a non-kosher wine consists of nothing which is physically assur. Rather wine, through Rabbinic edict, must be "made by a Jew" (whatever the technical definition of that may be). It is thus very frustrating for a wine coinsure that the wine, so rich and subtle, which he or she may have enjoyed in a past life, is no longer permissible for merely artificial and ethereal reasons.

You enter a large wine supermarket and are overwhelmed by the choice and selection at hand. There are wines from known and venerable wineries, along with new, smaller groves. While those instantiated wines are known for their exquisite composition, you can always get a surprising and novel new wine, with a palette you could have never otherwise dreamed of. As you go through the store you accumulate a basket full of wonderful, exotic, rich, complex wines which have been fermented and crafted with the utmost care. As you proceed to the register you remember that you ought to check the bottles for a hechsher. Nothing. They are all trief. You put them all back, one by one, shedding a tear as you replace every bottle individually. But as you replace a certain highly touted and specialized New Mexican '85 vintage you can't help but pause and sigh.

"Can you please direct me to the kosher wines?" you inquire of one of the attendants. The kosher wines are kept in a small ill-lit room in the back. There exists a wide variety of fruity, bubbly and overly sweet Mascato D'Asti-esque beverages (which seem filled with mostly air) and Baron Herzog White Zinfendels, the complex (yet acerbic) end of the Jewish palate. As you rummage through the selection in desperate yearning for a kosher run of that New Mexican wine you love so much--or any other respectable wine for that matter-- you are at a loss. Nothing. Where are the sweet, soft, light, complex and intriguing bottles that you had discovered just moments earlier? While at one time you were amused by some of the Israeli and Australian attempts to mimic good wine, you know that today is lost.

You leave the market, bowed head and bowed shoulders, lamenting the dismal array of kosher wines. Oy me haya lanu. Pausing, you compose yourself-- DAMN IT! DAMN IT!!! you then yell in a fury which could only echo the cry of Hades when he lost Persephone-- and then regain calm. There is no guarantee you will ever be able to find the a kosher bottle of that New Mexican you once cherished so. But you must face the truth, Jews do not know how to make fine wine. So you wait, as others do for the messiah, for the once a decade kosher runs from your favorite trief wineries. You must be patient and not lose composure, settling for the second rate Binyamina or Dalton, but remain composed for the best wines to become kosher. It takes a combination of luck, patients and discernment, but it can be done. Hamevin Yavin.

Sunday, June 19, 2005

End of a School-Year

Well, folks, my school-year is officially over -- excluding exams and papers which will continue throughout the summer. I am pretty much done with my coursework here and I am considering sticking around to do my PhD here as well. If I stay here, I will work on the connections between Greek philosophy and Jewish and Islamic philosophy. Particularly the poltical philosophies of both and the connections between (religious) law and philosophical ideals.

I am also nearing the one- year anniversary of my arrival in Israel. Unfortunately I cannot seem to remember on which day exactly I arrived. I think it was between June 20 and 22, but the trip was such a nightmare that I am blanking on the details.

Anyway, I hope you are all enjoying your summer.

Saturday, June 11, 2005

For Zev, with Love


HOG Butcher for the World,
Tool Maker, Stacker of Wheat,
Player with Railroads and the Nation’s Freight Handler;
Stormy, husky, brawling,
City of the Big Shoulders:

They tell me you are wicked and I believe them, for I have seen your painted women under the gas lamps luring the farm boys.
And they tell me you are crooked and I answer: Yes, it is true I have seen the gunman kill and go free to kill again.
And they tell me you are brutal and my reply is: On the faces of women and children I have seen the marks of wanton hunger.
And having answered so I turn once more to those who sneer at this my city, and I give them back the sneer and say to them:
Come and show me another city with lifted head singing so proud to be alive and coarse and strong and cunning. 10
Flinging magnetic curses amid the toil of piling job on job, here is a tall bold slugger set vivid against the little soft cities;
Fierce as a dog with tongue lapping for action, cunning as a savage pitted against the wilderness,
Bareheaded,
Shoveling,
Wrecking,
Planning,
Building, breaking, rebuilding,
Under the smoke, dust all over his mouth, laughing with white teeth,
Under the terrible burden of destiny laughing as a young man laughs,
Laughing even as an ignorant fighter laughs who has never lost a battle, 20
Bragging and laughing that under his wrist is the pulse. and under his ribs the heart of the people,
Laughing!
Laughing the stormy, husky, brawling laughter of Youth, half-naked, sweating, proud to be Hog Butcher, Tool Maker, Stacker of Wheat, Player with Railroads and Freight Handler to the Nation.


Update: This poem is by Carl Sandburg.

Friday, June 10, 2005

Why a Mac Mini?

As my old computer entered college with me, it is time for a new one. Although I have been oggling over a iMac G5 for many moons, I think I am going to go with the Mac Mini. Here's why:

1. Apples move to Intel- if the chipset is going to be so vastly improved over the course of the next year, it seems silly to invest in old technology.

2. Disposable computers- the Mac mini is cheap enough to replace every 15 months. I figure that I spend $2000 on a computer for four years. Why not invest in a cheap machine that can be upgraded more frequently? Present value, and all that.

3. Gaming- There is an age old adage about Mac gaming: If you want to be a Mac Gamer buy a PC. Why should I buy a high end G5, which will allow me to play a few, very nice games (e.g. Doom 3) when I can buy a PS2 (or maybe 3) and hook it up to an external monitor
3.5 External monitor- imagine the possibilities...

4. External monitor redux- If and when I do choose to get a higher end machine, I can use the monitor that the Mac mini used as a second monitor. That would also allow to get the 17" and not the 20" iMac (thus saving $300+)

5. It works- 1.5 GHz is enough for me to do the photoshop and other graphics processing work I want, which is really the most intensive process I use.

6. All Macs go to heaven- after a year or so of faithful service I can still use the Mac mini as a server, DVD player or other such piddling uses.

My rant ends.

Thursday, June 09, 2005

Will Zev leave a legacy?

This past weekend was alumni weekend here at the UofC and included a 5th year reunion for Rachel's graduating class, the class of 2000 (perhaps the greatest ever). Apparently only one Hillelite, Eugene Rabinovitch, showed up from that class. Eugene's presence sparked Josef Stern to ask me who were the Hillelites from that class. I mentioned Rachel, Eve Krakowski, Dashiell Shapiro, and Daniel Pilarski among others. When I mentioned Daniel Pilarski, though, Josef simply had no recollection of him. This astounded me because Daniel was the Zev before Zev. Well maybe they weren't that similar, but they were both red-headed tyrants of Yavneh. I can only imagine that in five years, if someone mentions Zev Berger to Josef, his response will be a bewildered "who?". Now I think that it will be different for me. I will be better remembered than Daniel or Zev, if only because of my family's notoriety.

Conversation in 2011 between Josef Stern and Yehuda Halper (who has returned to the UofC).

Y: Do you remember Shmuli Soloveichik?
J: I think so. Wasn't he the guy whose kids dropped Hillel library books from the third floor in an attempt to get them in the small wastebasket next to the staircase on the first floor. (Shmuli- in all fairness only Yosef was trying to drop them into the wastebasket, Chaim thought the point of the game was simply to throw books)
Y: Yeah that's the one.
J: What about him?
Y: Do you know he still hasn't given me the Family Guy DVD's he bought for my wedding present.
J: Scoundrel.

Wednesday, June 08, 2005

Weekday Update

In no particular order, an incomplete list of books I've read in the past months:

1) The Illuminatus Trilogy by Robert Anton Wilson et. al.
2) The Image and other stories by Isaac Bashevis Singer
3) The Magician of Lublin by Isaac Bashevis Singer
4) Love in the Time of Cholera by Marquez
5) Dune by Frank Herbert
6) Maps in a Mirror, by Orson Scott Card
7) The Crying of Lot 49 by Thomas Pynchon
8) Winning Low-Limit Hold'em by Lee Jones
9) The Unbearable Lightness of Being my Milan Kundera

I recommend all of these, though most are appropriate only for specific audiences.

Some random thoughts on academia, from an aspiring (cough) academic:
1) Academics really don't work hard, unless they choose to, and even the ones that choose to work hard work much less than similarly skilled professionals in the field.
2) That's what's great about academia, and there's nothing wrong with that. Society likes smart people to have a second to think, and (some) smart people care more about that free time than they do about the higher pay in industry.
3) Academic jobs in fields which pay extraordinarily well in industry (law,business, medicine, and once upon a time CS) are really sweet jobs. I may want to do this one day. You get paid a fraction of what your colleagues in industry earn, but three times what your colleagues who teach sociology earn, and you don't really work much harder. The anecdotal evidence I've heard suggests it's easier getting these jobs than other jobs in academia (at least in business). The downside is, well, the money, and grad school.