Tuesday, January 31, 2006

Only yesterday

did Rachel and I get an invitation to the Bassik-Gedwiser wedding. The reason for the tardiness, no doubt, is that Rachel and I moved to Skokie. Of course, the tardy invitation is no excuse for my absence from the wedding. Miriam sent me multiple e-mails asking me whether I would come. I was incredibly rude and didn't even respond. In general, I am terrible at responding to e-mails, but here I also acted (or did not act) out of some absurd notion that saying I wouldn't come would prevent me from changing my mind. We should not, however, let my rude and obnoxious behavior distract us from the real atrocity - Halper's absence.

The corrosive effects of living in Hyde Park, Chicago

I was speaking to a friend yesterday about Jack Abramoff. I told my friend, "at least he will be in federal prison rather than state prison." My friend responded, "He'll probably go to that federal prison in Connecticut that has a daily minyan". For some reason, though, I first understood him to say "Daley minion". Only when he mentioned the daf yomi shiur at the prison did I realize my error.

But Why?

News reports of another person "going postal." Though I don't feel like digging through the GoogleNews to find the recent episodes of such mania, the expression indicates the tendency for postal workers to act out violently. Does anyone have a reasonable hypothesis as to why postal workers appear more inclined to return to their place of employment, and shoot their coworkers?

How much worse off are the homeless?

According to Newsday,
Homeless adults in New York City had higher rates of HIV and tuberculosis, were more likely to be hospitalized because of mental illness or substance abuse, and died at twice the rate of adults with homes.
This is quite a claim! When I was last in New York City (over two years ago) I believe the death rate was still what it was for the last 5766 years, viz. 1 to a person -- irrespective of any facts pertaining to home-ownership

Monday, January 30, 2006

An Intelligent Word

on the Palestinian elections was said by David Warren, a prominent Canadian journalist.

Sunday, January 29, 2006

On the Possibility of Future Attacks by Hamas...

On the possibility of future terrorist attacks by Hamas, Shaul Mofaz said it (Hamas?) would be the subject of an "unprecedented attack."

The one thing that I found to be surprising about this statement is that Mofaz would be so public about such a strategy - I thought he would've approached the topic a little more subtly.

Friday, January 27, 2006

On Hamas

So as everyone knows by now, Hamas has claimed 79 of the 132 seats in the Palestinian election. A result, I may add, which none of the pollsters and all of the journalists predicted. This indicates an interesting facet of Palestinian/Arab public opinion, which for whatever reason, is difficult to quantify, a priori.

The relevant question, as always, is: Is it good news for the Jews? On this point I am uncertain. I can see three distinct courses history could take, but have no notion of how to quantify them (e.g. 30% likelihood, 40%, 7%). In my thinking, however, I take for granted that Hamas is not a "viable partner for peace" (much like Arafat), and barring radical and sustained changes on behalf of Hamas, Israel will likely be forced to take further unilateral action in the coming years. Only a fool or a madman could attempt to negotiate with a PA representative (e.g. Abbas) who does not represent the present government (Hamas).

First scenario (less likely): A friend of mine asked me last night, if all the polls show that the vast majority of Palestinians want peace, how can they vote for Hamas? I think this answer is obvious. The results indicate that the majority of the Palestinians are concerned with infrastructure and social welfare and do not currently wish to engage in negotiations towards a final status agreement. Throughout America's history we have swayed back and forth between imperialism and xenophobia (to take two extremes) and I see no good reason why the Palestinians should not feel the same. In this scenario the Israeli-Palestinian dynamic remains static for the coming three years. With Hamas engaged in its role as a social welfare provider, it will not have the means to concertedly combat the "Zionists." Moreover, any Hamas provocation would likely provoke an Israeli response which would be contrary to the entire impetus for voting for Hamas in the first place, namely, building civic infrastructure.

Second scenario (more likely): Remember friends, because so many forget, Israel exists. And just like France, it is not going to dissolve any time in the future. So many in the neo-con camp seem to overlook the fact that Hamas does not pose a significant threat to Israel (Iran is something different, however). Therefore, the doomsday scenario in my eyes is that Hamas will use its position of authority to procure weapons and foreign support for its terrorist campaign, and ramp up its capabilities. It seems hard for me to believe that Hamas will be able to kill too many innocents before Israel would intervene and inter Hamas's political officials, but unlike Hamas's prospects in 1997, it does not look like their group will dissolve in the near future.

The final scenario, which is much less likely, is that Hamas, representing the Palestinian extreme, will actually be able to compromise and come to a lasting agreement. While Begin and Sharon were able to forge lasting arrangements due to their particular positions on the right, it does not seem to me that 1. Hamas is nearly mainstream enough 2. They have been involved long enough. Maybe after 30 years of political involvement Hamas could take a position of compromise, it does not seem reasonable that it will happen in just three.

One of the big wild cards here is how closely are rhetoric and policy linked in the Arab Politic? Can Hamas act moderatley while preaching violence? In the past Jihad means Jihad, but, for instance, I don't think Iran is going to attempt to wipe Israel off the map in the near future, despite Ahmadinejad's rhetoric to the contrary.

So is it good news for the Jews? I frankly see it being better than the current state of affairs. As my dad pointed out last night, truth is better than fiction. For the past months the world has been under the fiction that Abbas could restore order to the Palestinian territories. Now Hamas runs the region both in name and in fact and thus would seem easier for Israel to monitor, and identify a unified Palestinian voice (rather than bargaining with one voice, and bombing with another). Additionally, politics has its devilish way of making people complacent, maybe it will work its magic on Hamas as well.

Wednesday, January 25, 2006

Pork Soup

Apparently one of France's traditional meals is posing some problems for some of the poor within France. While there have been steps to denounce such actions, this strikes me as, yet again, another way in which the far right has been able to remain a legitimate political force in France.

Saturday, January 21, 2006

A Note on the Value of Elections

Traditionally, even the greatest supporters of liberal society have been wary of the democratic value of elections. The American constitution (article 2) created a system of electors in order to ensure that the presidential elections were slightly removed from a purely popular vote. The well-known European thinker, Edmund Burke, has the following to say about the value of popular elections:
To govern according to the sense and agreeably to the interests of the people is a great and glorious object of government. This object cannot be obtained but through the medium of popular election; and popular election is a mighty evil. . . . They are the distempers of elections that have destroyed all free states. ("Speech on a Bill for Shortening the Duration of Parliament")

Despite such warnings, our contemporaries appear to have come up with the idea that democracies are constituted by and only by popular election. Thus we learn that Egypt is democratic, Iraq is democratic, and even Palestine (though it is not yet even a country) is democratic. By the way, the list of parties running in the Palestinian elections would make anarchists blush. This list I have found (source) includes five parties:
  1. Fatah

  2. Hamas

  3. People's Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP)

  4. Third Way (for people who have grown disillusioned with Fatah, but are reluctant to endorse Hamas' program)

  5. Independent Palestine (headed by Mustafa Barghouti)
Three of those parties are well known terrorist organizations. The other two appear to be made up of independent terrorists. If these are the representatives of a democracy, there may be more "distempers" to worry about than those caused by the elections.

Wednesday, January 18, 2006

All of the Fun

none of the shvitz. It's Oren and Miriam wedding photos.

Tuesday, January 10, 2006

Wide or Narrow?

I am fasting today, and thus I am not entirely there (and I really wanted to see Apple announce the 13.3" iBook that they did not. Bummer.) so please excuse this post if it is not to your liking. On my last day here at Schumer's I have been listening to the Alito hearings and have been tuning in and out (More out than in during the MacworldExpo Keynote Address). I did catch something this morning something that caught my interest. Alito opined that his judicial philosophy would instruct him to rule, "not going to broader grounds when a narrower is a fair one." Why is that the case? Why should we think that Occam's Razor should apply to law (i.e. simpler is better)? I could image that lovey-dovey liberal environmental laws were enacted to evoke the most liberal reading possible. Why then should they be interpreted narrowly?

Reality Check on Douglas

While I will never be able to compete with the storied writings of Yo Miss! but I still think cataloging things kids say is important.

I substituted at Kadimah last week, the local day school, and I stayed to help out in the extended-day program. Sitting at a table of third and fourth graders reading a wonderful short work by Justice William O. Douglas "Points of Rebellion," I was trying to explain how important Justice Douglas was to those present. One of the kids interjected, "Well, my parents are still divorced."

Man, she schooled me.

Mmmmmmm. Shwarma

"In an attempt to stimulate the senses of ailing Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, well-wishers brought [shwarma] into his hospital bedroom at Hadassah En Kerem" (JPost). This well wisher also tried to bring Sharon a delicious laffa full of shwarma (with pickled eggplant and hummus). Unfortunately the shwarma looked so good that I ate it on the way to the hospital. Mmmmmm shwarma.

Monday, January 09, 2006

Mazal Tov

to Dave and Tikva Levitt on the birth of a baby boy on Friday. Bakol mikol kol, as they say.

Monday, January 02, 2006

Why I want to go to Penn

A. Finishing 7 grad apps of my own and
B. finishing 3 college apps for my brother and
C. the imminent prospect to moving to the Penn campus

I found this Doonesbury hysterical

If one wishes to meet the king of Sweden, I can recommend better colleges to attend.

The Presidential Hanukah Bush

This is the Hanukiah in front of the President's House in Jerusalem.
Between the Hanukiah and the presidential entryway, one can see a bush.