Sunday, July 31, 2005


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


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

gad·zooks (găd'zūks') pronunciation

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.