Monday, June 30, 2008

Success and Narrative Arcs

The issue of Israel returning terrorists to their homes distresses me. How is it that the remains of Israeli soldiers warrant the release of a living prisoner guilty of a particularly horrific crime? How is it that the life of on living Israeli soldier is worth that of possibly 1,000 incarcerated prisoners, many of whom have 'blood on their hands?'

One problem is that victory is gauged narratively by ultimate result. If one is free for one's whole life but dies in jail it is considered a defeat, but an 11th hour liberation is construed as triumph. This has nothing to do with Israeli, Palestinian, Lebanese or Korean, it is how stories are told, we build to a climax and interpret the narrative arc by examining the trajectory from beginning to end. To counter this sort of political interpretation would it be possible to release prisoners from jail for a decade, maybe two, conditional their return to serve out the remaining sentence? The families would be reunited with their loved ones, and they would have an opportunity to put their life in order, but would live every day contemplating their cold solitary end. To liberate prisoners such as Samir Kuntar can only bolster a narrative in which resistance is victorious, bolstered by a triumphant narrative arc. (So what if the agreement is not enforceable in a meaningful way, non-compliance would provide leverage for future negotiations.)

One theory (which I am not going to track down at the moment) is that Israel is getting all its ducks in a row before it bombs Iran and arrests any possibility of negotiations with its neighbors. It doesn't alter the problem of narratives, but it would lessen my frustration with Israel's hasty gov't.

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Bottega Veneta- Spring Fashion 2009

Totaly says, "I'm here to fix da'na cabl."

After going through the whole slide show I really think that some designers have been doing so much for women, that they have forgotten how to design for men. Gucci is always strange, but Armani? Come on. Much more comfortable with the Prada stuff, myself. I'll take the trench coats, you can have the pinstriped prison pants.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

No, you're more pretentious

I am kind of getting a kick out of people describing Barak Obama as an elitist. Mostly because it generally belies what elites they really are.

David Brooks made some comment a while back about how Barack Obama would not seem at home at an Applebee's salad bar for which Jon Stuart poked fun at him noting that Applebee's does not have a salad bar (what do I know?). Now Maureen Dowd asks Karl Rove "when was the last time he kicked back with a corncob pipe to watch professional wrestling?" That's right normal stuff. You know, good ol' Americana. Like having a banjo on my knee while shooting buck out on the prairie. Does Dowd know what people really do on Monday nights when MNF is not on?* But Rove is also a fool here for insinuating that being elite gives you any better an idea what a country club is (her characterization of the MacBook, Atlantic and NYT is spot on). Obviously, Rove is not a fool in that his purpose is to create the perception of an image (that of a WASP), even if Obama is, in fact, wholly ignorant as to the distinctions between woods and irons.

The more us educated types open our mouths, the more we demonstrate we have no clue what the rest of this country is up to.

*America for 400, the correct answer is: knocking back 40s while watching the WWE.

Sunday, June 22, 2008

Low pay ain't all it's cracked up to be

My quick thought on this article is that Not For Profits are often a joke. They are poorly run with loose objectives and lots and lots of development work. Asking people for money sucks, its begging really. Why choose a career that is often unstructured, with colleagues that do not share one's professional aspirations and where begging is a large component of the job requirement?

TFA is an interesting example. Many people hate TFA and are frustrated with its unrealistic goals (throw inexperienced overachievers in the poorest schools in America for two years and watch nothing happen). Worse, however, it is soul sucking. The poverty of the ambition comes from having the life sapped out of you every single day. The poor pay (in many NFP) just exacerbates the problem.

The bottom line is that when there is a bottom line things tend to run better and be more demanding. That is why they attract Ivy Leaguers.

(Just as a disclaimer, though my former employer in a NFP, it is run rather well.)

Wednesday, June 18, 2008


This is why right wing scholars believe that land-for-peace is a scam:
Israel offered on Wednesday to start direct peace talks with Lebanon, saying all issues would be negotiable including a tiny piece of Israeli-held land on the countries’ border that Israel has long argued does not belong to Lebanon but that the Lebanese say is theirs.
When the UN clearly sided with Israel in this regard on June 16, 2000 saying,
After consultations throughout the weekend, the Security Council this afternoon endorsed the work done by the United Nations as mandated by the Security Council, including the Secretary-General’s conclusion that, as of 16 June, Israel had withdrawn its forces from Lebanon in accordance with Security Council resolution 425 (1978).
This brand of diplomacy completely undermines credibility. Israel needs to go back to signaling school.

Monday, June 16, 2008


Congress has enacted a statute, the Detainee Treatment Act of 2005 (DTA), 119 Stat. 2739, that provides certain procedures for review of the detainees’ status. We hold that those procedures are not an ade­quate and effective substitute for habeas corpus. There­ fore §7 of the Military Commissions Act of 2006 (MCA), 28 U.S.C.A. §2241(e) (Supp. 2007), operates as an unconsti­tutional suspension of the writ. (Justice Kennedy writing for the majority in Boumediene v. Bush)

Sunday, June 15, 2008

What is wrong with AgriProcessors?

I have been assaulted in the last week with ethical concerns regarding consuming the meat of AgriProcessors, otherwise known to the Nissim's Deli counter at Topps as Rubashkin's or Aaron's meat. So far as I can gather from the internet (and please inform me if I am wrong) AgriProcessors has not been charged with any violations by the US DOJ.
No charges have been brought against managers or owners at Agriprocessors, but there were indications that prosecutors were also preparing a case against the company. In pleading guilty, immigrants had to agree to cooperate with any investigation. -NYT
I personally do not have any ethical qualms with hiring illegal aliens and aside from the dina demanchusa aspect, I am not terribly outraged. The artilce states that the scope of this raid is unprecedented in the criminalization of illegal immigration, which leads me to interpret that Agriprocessors was made an example of rather than it being the case that they were particularly malicious. Furthermore Argi is searching for a new CEO, so it looks like they are taking steps to sort our the furor internally. The NYT article did, however, go on to say that there are allegations of employees working overtime without consistent pay, which is both assur and bad. There is no follow up mention of abuse, sexual or otherwise. Please feel free to outrage me.

Addendum: I quickly read through the affidavit for the search warrant conducted at Argiprocessors. I found the following things that disturbed me:
#16- Allegations of a drug laboratory on premises (described as incidental and not ongoing).
#49- Allegations of verbal abuse by a Rabbi accompanied by the throwing of meat.
#98- Allegations of extortion by forcing workers to purchase cars from a specific dealer.
I did not consult the Des Moines Register as I neither had access to the archives from a month ago nor did I figure that the below mentioned accusations were terribly credible if they had not made their way to subsequent reports. The NYT, Forward and JPost have all written multiple articles on the story and have not reported accusations of assault or sexual abuse.

The vast majority of the affidavit was devoted to creating cause to search the plant on the grounds of immigration violations. With regards to these violations, yes, they are concerning. As I understand it, however, these are systemic concerns that derive from a backwards U.S. immigration policy. The food industries are a notorious destination for undocumented labor and a great many employers are complicit in overlooking patently forged documents. There are a slew of charges which could result from the immigration violations, but that is the face of America's 13 million person undocumented labor force. The human trafficking, for instance, that occurs with undocumented workers is most often not morally equivalent to that which occurs in Southeast Asia or North Africa. I am undecided whether I think it is ethically wrong, as in the end you are providing a living wage (yes, $5/hr is living in Mexico or Guatemala) to millions of people who would otherwise be worse off.

WRT the obligations of us kosher eating people, and particularly kosher supervising people: I think the Jewish community needs to do a better job of making sure that 'Jewish Industries' are clean. That is an a priori responsibility. I have not given considerable thought to when an ethical violation that does not translate into a criminal violation would force me to change my consuming habits. I have absolutely no idea if the OU has any responsibility to deny supervision to a Unilever plant because they suspect wrong doing (how much suspicion? How wide spread? If rampant, why not report it to the police?). There should be a policy whereby mashgichim can report concerns they have, but I don't know what would make a factory unfit for hasgacha (again, short of criminal labor abuse).

Friday, June 13, 2008

Tim Russert at 58

I have felt a connection to Tim Russert given our colocal roots. He was smart, honest and considerate. A Buffalo guy.

What is interesting is how his death has coursed through the news circuit. As the bureau chief of NBC news I think he had a lot of impact in the news world and in Washington, though he was only a talk show host to most of the viewership. Every once and a while you get to see the disconnect between what we see and what 'is.' Russert was obviously extremely influential though not an opinion maker in the way O'Reilly or Olbermann.

I have money on Olbermann to replace Russert at MTP. Anyone got a better guess?

Addendum: After reading this article in The New Yorker over shabbes I am going to side with Shmuli on this one.

Political Recognition in Arabic 103

My Arabic textbook show Israel without the West Bank or Gaza, but still circumscribing the Golan Heights.

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Public (read: Zev) Service Announcement

Just a reminder to all those loyal 3W readers out there that have not made their annual $5 gift to the UofC to do so before June 30th. It is a cut an dry collective action problem--you have less money, but if we all do it our degrees are worth more. And, aw shucks, I do have a fair share of dorky school pride (which translates into financial giving, through some unknown mechanism).