Sunday, July 31, 2005

State legislator endorses racial profiling

Is a State Assemblyman fit for state office if he endorses the practice of a government agency racially profiling citizens whose bags it searches on the subway? It's a patently illegal and offensive recommendation, no matter how "effective" he thinks it is in fighting terrorism.

And I'm not even discussing the chilul HaShem aspect.

Twas the end of an era

In memory and appreciation of a very spectacular period of time combined with the hope and prayer that it lead to bigger and better things in the very near future.

Friday, July 29, 2005

The Reason the Letter Became Public

JPost has the dirt on why the OU letter (again, full letter here) to senior Israeli officials, as discussed yesterday, was first leaked to the press and then posted publicly. The OU takes the matter very seriously and, once they did not receive any official response from the Israeli government after a reasonable period of time, they decided to make it public and increase the pressure on the government to respond.

TTC has a good observation: if you don't think your organization should be involved in the affairs of a foreign government, why should that government care about what you think of their handling of their internal affairs even if it does relate to civil liberties?

But the point is that the OU does have a presence in Israel, too, it does represent tens of thousands of American Jews, synagogues etc, has a long and prestigious history, and should not be taken lightly.

The point stands, no matter who makes it: what's going on in Israel and some of the actions that are being carried out by the Israeli authorities in the days and weeks ahead of the disengagement is simply unacceptable and it must stop.

A Courageous Flip Flop - The Right Decision

Great news off the Senate floor this morning as Senate Majority Leader Dr. Bill Frist has changed his position, yet again, on the issue of federal funding for stem cell research in the United States. In a gutsy move that now places him squarely against the White House and the religious conservative base of his Republican Party, Frist has decided that his morals and ethics can both support the provisions of the Stem Cell Research Enhancement Act.

The bill would allow federal funding of embryonic stem cell research for cells derived from human embryos that:
1. are created for the purpose of fertility treatments;
2. are no longer needed by those who received the treatments;
3. would otherwise be discarded and destroyed;
4. are donated for research with the written, informed consent of those who received the fertility treatments, but do not receive financial or other incentives for their donations.
He says that while he did support the President's policy back in 2001, it has become clear that the 78 lines of embryonic cells that were to have been available to researches has become 22 and, of those 22, many
are starting to become less stable and less replicative than initially thought (they are acquiring and losing chromosomes, losing the normal karyotype, and potentially losing growth control). They also were grown on mouse feeder cells, which we have learned since, will likely limit their future potential for clinical therapy in humans (e.g., potential of viral contamination).
As a result, he says that
While human embryonic stem cell research is still at a very early stage, the limitations put in place in 2001 will, over time, slow our ability to bring potential new treatments for certain diseases. Therefore, I believe the President’s policy should be modified. We should expand federal funding (and thus NIH oversight) and current guidelines governing stem cell research, carefully and thoughtfully staying within ethical bounds.
He also discussed the future of the Stem Cell Research Enhancement Act which passed the House by 238-194 margin back in May. There's such lack of consensus within the Senate GOP caucus that several bills have been introduced on the issue. One, introduced by presidential contender, Senator Brownback of Kansas, seeks to ban it completely; a "middle ground" bill was introduced this week by Senator Norm Coleman of MN but does not do nearly enough and was received with only tepid support; and then there's the main, aforementioned, bill. Each bill's supporters are jockeying for support and because of the fractured nature of the party, the likelihood of any of them coming up for a vote was, previously, considered unlikely especially given the upcoming SCOTUS battle, budget bill debates etc and other issues that will take up floor time once the Senate returns from its August recess. However, Frist says that "the Senate will likely consider the Stem Cell Research Enhancement Act, which passed the House in May by a vote of 238 to 194, at some point this Congress."

The bill does, in his opinion, have "significant shortcomings" which he says "must be addressed." He believes that the bill:
  • Lacks a strong ethical and scientific oversight mechanism. He says a panel similar to the Recombinant DNA Advisory Committee that oversees DNA research should be implemented here, too. Since most of the embryonic stem cell research being done today is privately-funded (because federal guidelines are far too restrictive most researchers have gone to the private sector to do their work),there is a lack of ethical and scientific oversight that routinely accompanies NIH-(federal) funded research;
  • Doesn’t prohibit financial or other incentives between scientists and fertility clinics such that scientists could influence the decisions of parents seeking fertility treatment;
  • Doesn’t specify whether the patients or clinic staff or anyone else has the final say about whether an embryo will be implanted or will be discarded. Frist believes that the destiny of an embryo must clearly and ultimately rest with the parents.
In conclusion,
These shortcomings merit a thoughtful and thorough rewrite of the bill. But as insufficient as the bill is, it is fundamentally consistent with the principles I laid out more than four years ago. Thus, with appropriate reservations, I will support the Stem Cell Research Enhancement Act.
Immediately thereafter he addresses the religious right by saying "I am pro-life." And while he says that he believes that the embryo, according to his faith, is a complete living organism, "to me it's just not a matter of faith. It's a matter of science."

He also says that he supports further research on adult stem cells as well as stem cells taken from cord blood. But, in the end, he explains why embryonic stem cells are most promising and deserve increased federal funding.

I don't think this is a true Kerryesque flip flop. One must have the humility to constantly reevaluate important decisions and, if you feel you've made the wrong one in the past, it's never too late to change. In fact, it's incumbent that you change if you know your first decision was wrong. He says, "Policymakers, I believe, have a responsibility to re-examine stem cell research policy in the future and, if necessary, make adjustments." That statement should not merely be limited to stem cell research policy, but it's a start.

That takes guts. Kudos to Dr. Frist for finally coming down on the right side of this issue, it shows true courage and he is finally displaying the leadership that is so necessary in a presidential nominee.

A message from Gush Katif

Here's a letter I received written by Rabbi Chaim Eisen, a ra"m in Yeshivat Netiv Aryeh in Jerusalem's Old City:

Our Move to Gush Katif

by Chaim Eisen

Having just moved to Neve Dekalim, my family and I consider ourselves truly privileged to be among the newer members of an extraordinary group of people — the residents of Gush Katif. I refer not only to the oft-stated verities. We all know that the lands upon which the Gush was built were liberated with the Gaza strip in the wake of the Six Day War in 1967, precipitated directly by unilateral Egyptian aggression. This land, well within even the most restrictive interpretations of the borders of the Biblically ordained Promised Land, was a desolate wasteland. All of it was either previously owned by Jews (like Kefar Darom), state-owned, or ownerless — and legally unclaimed by any sovereign country. Our nation has lived here since Abraham and Sara and Isaac and Rebecca, at least 37 centuries ago. Even during two millennia of exile, Jews subsisted here almost continuously, until the British expelled them from Gaza, during the Arab pogroms and massacres of 1929. During the 1948 War of Independence, Kefar Darom heroically defended the fledgling state against the attacking Egyptian army, but eventually it was overrun. It was courageously reestablished immediately after the Six Day War. The resettling of the entire area was conceived by the Labor government of Golda Meir 35 years ago, as part of a network of Jewish villages, to impede Arab terror emanating from the Gaza strip. Some of the most dedicated idealists of this generation lovingly built the 21 towns and villages here over the intervening years, with reiterated encouragement by successive governments on the left and on the right. Overcoming daunting odds, the quiet farmers of Gush Katif not only caused the desert literally to bloom but also established a vast agricultural and industrial base, generating thousands of jobs and revenues of several hundred million shekalim annually. In doing so, they also provided employment and infrastructure for their Arab neighbors, which raised the latter’s standard of living immeasurably — until the Arabs launched a genocidal war of death and destruction to drive all the Jews from their midst. The true greatness of the farmers and workers of Gush Katif, however, was tested and proved with incomparably greater force in the crucible of suffering, during the past five years’ war of unrelenting terror.

Indeed, coming here only recently, I concede that arrogating to ourselves the status of Gush Katif residents is unconscionably pretentious on our part. After all, the brunt of the Arab terror war that has thus far rained down almost 5,900 mortar shells and Qassam rockets upon the Jews here is, we pray, behind us. We were not here when the men, women, and children of the Gush were left to cower in inadequate shelters as, on some days, the shells fell almost incessantly. Nor did we live daily with the mind-numbing anxiety of a routine, daily commute to Kissufim, knowing it could explode at any moment into the nightmare of a sniper attack or a roadside bomb, amid a maelstrom of broken glass, splattered gore, and shattered lives. Perhaps most hurtful of all, we were not forced to endure the effective disenfranchisement — the institutionalized insults, marginalization, and demonization — inflicted upon the people here by a demagogic, self-serving government. Finally, if — G-d forbid — Jews are once again expelled from their homes, the people of Gush Katif will be homeless; we (for the time being, at least) still have our flat in Jerusalem.

Nevertheless, we are here now, in awe — not only of the breathtaking landscape and glittering sea. Since we arrived, we have learned, like the locals, to ignore the background din of exploding artillery shells and the thunderous boom of Qassam rockets (all shot exclusively at us, since the government has forbidden the army to return fire). We have grown accustomed to the town’s public address system announcing nonchalantly, sometimes several times each day, an impending controlled detonation (of an unexploded shell) or advising the good citizens to seek cover in a sheltered area because of an imminent barrage. The ongoing daily miracles of survival notwithstanding, last week a couple of people were wounded when a private home suffered a direct hit. Saturday night, the one exit road was closed, after middle-aged grandparents, visiting their children for Shabbat, were ruthlessly murdered in a hail of bullets. (Even then, the army remained under orders to refrain from any response; the terrorists were eliminated only by the swift intervention of the local civilian security chief, who was wounded in the process.) Moreover, relentlessly, we see and hear the tales of unprovoked police brutality and deliberate degradation, even against law-abiding women and children. Nonetheless, through it all, we bear witness to a tenacity of the people here that defies the imagination. When circumstances are so utterly extraordinary, the ordinary itself becomes extraordinary. The quiet dignity of the people here, in maintaining a routine as if nothing has changed, is humbling.

We walk through Gush Katif as if in a dream. Little children (apparently, by far the largest age group) laugh and play. The town center of Neve Dekalim evinces the hustle and bustle of small city life. People shop, make and keep appointments, and altogether go about their business. Yeshivot are filled with students engrossed in study, and the list of Torah classes offered for adults — already impressive by any standard — only continues to grow. The dozens of magnificent, ornately decorated synagogues (presumably, slated by the government for, G-d forbid, either destruction or conversion into mosques or worse) are full three times a day for regular services as usual. Garbage is collected, streets are meticulously cleaned, and gardens are manicured and watered. The vast majority of the farmers prepare for next year’s planting withal.

But the tension, for me at least, is palpable. We are teetering on the brink of a precipice. Relentlessly, the police, acting on government orders, tighten the noose. The “closure” becomes more and more a siege, a stranglehold. Upstanding citizens are subjected to humiliating searches at proliferating checkpoints, where even grandmothers have been dragged from their cars and beaten mercilessly. Close relatives are denied permission to visit their loved ones. Some supplies have begun to disappear from the supermarket’s shelves as inventories are depleted. Regular bus service into and out of the Gush is reportedly being discontinued. Yesterday, we heard that plainclothes police officers have begun infiltrating communities to seize and peremptorily expel anyone without satisfactory papers, including people who have lived here for months. Daily government threats rain down upon us like Arab artillery shells. According to the declared schedule, soon the health clinic, the post office, and the bank will shut down. Later, they plan to disinter the dead and dismantle the cemeteries. Then, they will come for all of us. On the one hand, repeatedly, we invoke the Talmudic dictum, “Even if a sharp sword is put to a person’s throat, he should not withhold himself from [beseeching G-d for] mercy” (Berachot 10a). We believe earnestly in miracles — such as the one, in the Six Day War, that liberated these lands in the first place. Yet, on the other hand, we have no guarantee that we will merit being the beneficiaries of such extraordinary intervention again, in this new war being waged against the people of Israel, this time by its own government.

Still, we try to remain hopeful. The recent replacement of regular soldiers manning the blockades by higher-ranking officers was undoubtedly intended to increase the pressure on the people here. However, it also betrays the government’s cognizance — and fear — of growing unrest among the rank and file whom it has charged to execute its decrees. Even left-leaning newspapers like Ma‘ariv have confirmed that thousands of people have entered Gush Katif since the government imposed its “closure” order. Our own observations fully corroborate that conclusion. Presumably, some of the best-trained soldiers of one of the most skilled armies in the world could have done a “better job” on behalf of the government, had they felt motivated to do so. When we entered Gush Katif (with valid permits), we plainly saw how halfheartedly and lackadaisically ordinary soldiers were enforcing the directives they had received. Our teenage sons, who were all present at the standoff in Kefar Maimon, all reported that most of the soldiers they saw took every opportunity to express (surreptitiously) their heartfelt support for the protesters. The universally acclaimed, exemplary conduct of the protesters obviously further reinforced these sentiments. More generally, the brutally antidemocratic and manifestly illegal tactics of the police have appalled most of the country. The tide of public opinion that once seemed, in the wake of the government’s slick campaign of slander, implacably set against us, has by all accounts shifted dramatically in our favor.

The aforementioned soldiers who were in Kefar Maimon have thus far refrained from explicitly disobeying orders. We nevertheless hope that, on the day of reckoning, these and the other soldiers will see with their own eyes, before it is too late, the evil that their government has summoned them to perpetrate. Then, we pray, they will inexorably heed the voice of their consciences and follow their many comrades who have already informed their commanders that they cannot and will not execute the orders they were given. In the same vein, we can only admire Timor Abdullah — a decorated Druze sergeant, court-martialed and imprisoned for his opposition to expelling Jews from their homes — and his father Nazia, who publicly expressed pride in his son’s refusal to commit this “crime against humanity.” Granted, a deliverance mediated by a breakdown of some of the most fundamental institutions of law and order carries a terrible price. Yet, when a cynical oligarchy hijacks those very institutions in attempting to perpetrate a manifest crime, we are left with no choice. As the philosopher Edmund Burke noted, “Bad laws are the worst sort of tyranny.” The alternative to the institutional breakdown — a breakdown of morality and decency, instead — is immeasurably more terrifying still.

This, in the end, is why we are here. Granted, we had many important reasons to come. On a cosmic plane, we came — without exaggeration or cynicism — on behalf of Western civilization, however thankless it often is. One can scarcely imagine a greater boost to international Islamic terror than requiting an unrelenting five-year terror war against innocent men, women, and children by expelling them from their homes and awarding those homes to their attackers. The inevitable consequence — a recidivist terror state of an emboldened Hamas in Gaza — is almost too horrific even for nightmares. On the most intimate plane, we came to demonstrate tangibly our support for and commiseration with our brothers and sisters and close friends in Gush Katif. To indulge in understatement, they have already suffered far more than enough. And, on a national plane, we came on behalf of the nation and State of Israel, the most insidious threat to whose survival lies in sundering the elemental sense that we are, after all, one people. It is difficult to conceive of a more conclusively fatal blow to that abiding sense of nationhood than the willful ruin of one segment of society by another. It is harder still to see how a nation thereby compromised and demoralized could possibly persevere in the face of the ongoing threats to its very existence. “Disengagement” — which has already proven mere divestiture, in exchange for nothing — is aptly named indeed. It entails disengaging from our G-d-given heritage, disengaging from our brethren, and, in the end, disengaging from our future.

Yet, on the most fundamental plane, apart from all these cogent considerations, we came here, simply, because we must. There is no middle course. Burke famously observed, “All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing.” Inaction is equivalent to acquiescence, which is tantamount to collusion. Maintaining a routine today in Gush Katif exemplifies heroism; elsewhere, it betrays indifference and complicity. And complicity with evil — however tacit — is always evil. In the worst event, G-d forbid, who on the day of reckoning will be able honestly to declare, “Our hands did not spill this blood, and our eyes did not see” (Deuteronomy 21:7)? Conversely, as Rabbi Menachem ibn Zerach Tzorfati commented, “A little light dispels a great deal of darkness” (Tzedah LaDerech, ch. 12). We pray every morning, “May You shine a new light on Zion, and may we all speedily merit that light.” May we all, like the brave men, women, and children of Gush Katif, demonstrate the tenacity to fend off despair and persist uncompromisingly in our just struggle to kindle that light. Whatever you do, do something! Only by our doing everything incumbent upon each of us, we may hope to merit the divine blessings that will crown all our efforts, individually and collectively, with success in advancing that ultimate goal.


For almost a quarter century, the author has taught at various yeshivot in Israel and lectured extensively on Jewish thought and Jewish philosophy throughout Israel and the US. As founding editor of the OU journal Jewish Thought, he also wrote and edited numerous essays in these fields. He currently teaches at the Seymour J. Abrams Orthodox Union Jerusalem World Center and in the Torah Lecture Corps of the IDF Rabbinate (res.). When he is not living in Gush Katif, he lives in Jerusalem with his wife and three sons.

Thursday, July 28, 2005

Of note

For the second consecutive week Martin Peretz at The New Republic has written noteworthy articles on the state of affairs in Israel, with a specific focus on the upcoming disengagement plan. Last week's Anticipating Withdrawal: Eyeful in Gaza has been followed with this week's Word Choice. The former reminded a colleague of what Herman Wouk wrote-a conversation between himself and Ben Gurion-in his book The Will To Live On. It is fitting to keep in mind in our post 9-11 and 7/7 world, as well. This conversation took place way back in 1955 but, as he said, ain kol chadash tachas hashamesh.

“This is the only place for Jews like you. Here you will be free,” – David Ben Gurion to Herman Wouk in 1955

Free? Free? With enemy armies ringing you, with their leaders publicly threatening to wipe out ‘the Zionist entity,’ with your roads impassable after sundown -- free?– replied Herman Wouk

“I did not say safe, I said free.– answered Ben Gurion

Tough Times in Israel

First the OU sent a letter (actual letter available in PDF format here) to various Israeli officials last week informing them that they deemed actions of the IDF, Israeli Police, and Border Police etc. "intolerable and unacceptable." JWeek follows up with an editoral and Gary Rosenblatt's column is dedicated to the issue. He ends with a terribly sad quote from the mother of one of the boys arrested for protesting recently:
“My husband was in prison from 1969 to 1972 because he wanted to come to Israel,” she told me.

They came in 1973, and raised seven children, their sons all serving in the army.

“We love this country,” Malka said, “but American Jews should know what is happening here. My husband has been told he must go to Petach Tikvah to be interrogated [presumably in connection with their son’s arrest].

“In Russia it was the KGB. Here it is the Shabak. But this is worse,” she said, “because here it is the Jews doing this to us.”
Wow, this is what it's come to.

Conflict of Interest

Anyone notice anything fishy about how glowingly positive the JWeek's story on the new Blue Fringe album "70 Faces" is? In this article you'll find the band being compared not only to Dave Matthews Band but Coldplay, too, both of which are COMPLETELY out of their league and demonstrates how pathetic and incredibly sycophantic the author really is.

(If anything, here's a band that is worthy of those accolades especially when considering that the lead singer is a big fan of both of the aforementioned groups and is a very talented musician himself.)

Anyone else think it's more than just a coincidence that they got this great PR piece because the lead singer's father is the editor of the publication? Just a hunch but I could be wrong.

One last thing, from the end of the story:
A few feet away, Hoffman faces his amplifier, his back to the band. He is focused — in his dedication he looks more like a Talmudic scholar than a rock guitarist.
Avi Hoffman was valedictorian of his class in high school and had an amazing mind for lumdus before going off to Israel for a year of learning (I think he went to O.J.). I hope he is still on path to become that Talmudic scholar.

Wednesday, July 27, 2005


I've never done this before but I'll break precedent here and ask that my readers please pray, do acts of kindness, give charity etc. in the merit of Baila bas Chai Golda (yes, Chai, not Chaya) the mother of a friend of mine who is in dire need of mercy from heaven. I promise to keep anyone who's interested in her progress posted-just drop me a note.

Thank you in advance.

Two months of Adsense

Since I started using Google Adsense on May 27th, has received over 1,900 hits, averaging 950 a month. Thank you to my dear readers for sticking through the good, bad, and the hideously ugly...along with the days on end when I didn't post at all. Your support means a lot and inspires me to keep blogging.

Thank you.

Thank you for your service

As today marks the beginning of the end for a good friend and mentor, I'd like to take the opportunity to thank his boss, The Honorable Governor George Elmer Pataki, for his 10.5 years of service (and counting) and for making New York State the great state that it is today. I wish him and the dedicated members of his staff much luck and success in their future endeavours. I'm privileged to have served as an intern in his Executive Chamber last summer under the supervision of his highly capable Jewish liaison and am confident that he, along with the other people I worked with will continue to help the good people of the State of New York for a long time to come.

Yasher Koach for a job well done!

Tuesday, July 26, 2005

Quote of the Day

This one comes from Vice President Cheney's speech during a visit to Staten Island last night::
"'s great to be back and to visit Staten Island..."
You may ask, "Why does that comment deserve 'quote of the day' honors?" Well, it's because Cheney hasn't been to Staten Island since he was elected to office and one has to wonder when the last time he was there at all. The only way out that I can think of is that he was saying that it's great to be back in New York and it's great to visit Staten Island.

In any event, the only reason he came was for a fundraiser for the somewhat-weak Rep. Vito Fossella who won a rather close race last year. Fossella never ever wavers from the party line and one would guess this is his reward: a few hundred thousand in cold, "hard" cash.

On the side, a not-so-close reader will notice that Cheney used the same exact speech for Fosella from 6:40-7:00pm as he did earlier in the day for Rep. Tim Murphy (R-PA) from 12:30-6:45pm in Pittsburgh.

Monday, July 25, 2005

Quote of the Day

Three for today:
"He's a Turkey"
"They're savages"
"That judge is an alter-cocker"
-M.S., Esq. at last night's meal

Thursday, July 21, 2005

In the end, it's a "compromise," at least for now

This just in:
Reps. Upton & Markey (the original sponsors of the Daylight Savings Time [DST] extension proposal) offered a compromise amendment shrinking the scope of weeks of the DST extension to one week in the fall and three weeks in the Spring, which the House members supported.

However, it doesn't take effect until after the Energy Dept. has several months to undertake a study of whether this will actually save energy and then explicitly reserves that Congress may act to reinstate DST as it was previously.

Sen Craig supported this "compromise" amendment and it was accepted by the Conferees.

Crisis Averted-Hopefully

This just in, according to a source in DC:
*_At 1 PM TODAY, Senator Craig is to offer an amendment striking the entire Daylight Savings Time issue from the Energy bill_*. He replaces it with a study of the matter.

This amendment has the support of Senators Domenici and Bingaman as well as the US Secretary of Transportation & the Administrator of the FAA.

Please call or email the following Senators ASAP asking that they support the Craig Amendment to the Energy bill. *_The conference meeting begins at 1 PM. The calls/emails must be made before then._*

Senator Pete Domenici (R - NM)
Chairman, Energy Committee
(202) 224-6621
Web Form:

Senator Jeff Bingaman (D-NM)
Ranking Member, Energy Committee
(202) 224-5521

Senator Orrin Hatch (R - UT)
(202) 224-5251
Web Form:

Senator Ron Wyden (D-OR)
(202) 224-5244
Web form:
Basically, an ammendment will be offered to the conference committee that will strike the daylight savings time extension proposal from the pending energy bill in favor of an ammendment to "study" the matter further. This ammendment, offered by Senator Larry Craig (R-Idaho), has the support of the FAA, and DoT as well as the chairman and ranking member of the Senate energy committee, Pete Domenici (R-NM) and Jeff Bingaman (D-NM), respectively. Call now, you've got less than an hour!

UPDATE: It would be nice to call Sen. Craig's office, too, to show some hakaras hatov. His office number is (202) 224-2752.

Wednesday, July 20, 2005

Urgent call to action!!!

It's not often that I send an email to all my friends, even those not politically inclined, to call, email, and/or fax their House representatives and Senators down in DC about a pending legislative matter. But this is different.

According to an email I received from CQ Midday Update on Monday:
Energy Bill Conferees Poised to Endorse Extended Daylight-Saving Time
A House proposal to extend daylight-saving time by two months each year would be part of the final energy bill under a partial draft released today.
Conferees on the bill (HR 6) are scheduled to take up that proposal along with other staff-recommended language at an open session tomorrow morning. The agenda includes seven of the less controversial sections of the bill, covering issues such as energy efficiency, coal, nuclear power, and vehicles and fuels.
The House version of the energy bill, which passed April 21, included an amendment to extend daylight-saving time a month on each end by moving the start date to the first Sunday in March and the end date to the last Sunday in November.
The efficiency title also includes energy-saving mandates for improving federal buildings and procurement processes, consumer awareness programs, and new efficiency standards for a host of products such as battery chargers and commercial freezers.
The OU's political branch, the IPA, has issued an action alert today urging all its members to contact their representatives and urge them to oppose the legislation. I don't know when it will come up for a vote but it's essential that as many people as possible call now to get it out of the conference report so that it never comes up for a vote in the first place.

t's particularly difficult to oppose this from a secular perspective
because almost everyone is in favor of reducing the nation's
independence on foreign oil (something this bill would help us do).
However, as orthodox Jews we must be compelled to to oppose the means
used here for it would prevent daily tefilah b'tzibur on a very tragic

Here's why: if DST were extended, sunrise would end up somewhere around 8:15AM at its latest point and it would be near impossible for many working men to daven before they go to work, especially those who need to be in early.

Furthermore, as the action alert points out, it becomes a safety issue in that children will be forced to wait for their school buses in the dark and accidents are more likely to occur as children wait in the dark and drivers have less visibility.

To the extent that we can, we should all be committed to doing our utmost to block the passage of this part of the energy bill. It would be a tragedy for klal yisrael and we can't sit idly by and watch this pass. Click here, get a sample letter and email, fax, write, and call your representative NOW!

My first thought on the John Roberts nomination

Well, Wonkette says it better than I ever would so just click here.

Tuesday, July 19, 2005

Quote of the day

"One of those shows that exists solely so that clips can from them can be replayed later when people are actually awake."
-"The Daily Show's" Jon Stewart talking about NBC's "Meet the Press."

Honorable mention:
"Sad to see the administration powerless in the face of the overwhelming force that is the former Ambassador to Gabon."
-"The Daily Show's" Jon Stewart on the WH attacking Joe Wilson.

Role of foreign judgements in interpreting American la

An interesting hearing is being held in a half hour in Rayburn-2141 on the House side of the Hill by the Judiciary Committee's Subcommittee on the Constitution regarding the appropriate role of foreign judgements in the interpretation of American law.

[UPDATE: Live webcast available here.]

[UDPATE TO THE UPDATE: Ranking member Nadler is having a hissy fit in the form of an opening statement. This is great television ladies and gents!]

Antonin Scalia got hammered by liberals last fall when he said, "Acknowledgement of foreign approval has no place in the legal opinion of this court."

I believe that it's our nation's constitution that must be followed, not some international document (though we must abide by international treaties and agreements to which we are a party). American laws and court decisions are based on the American constitution and while some nations might have different laws on certain issues i.e. gay marriage, the death penalty, abortion etc., that is not our judiciary's concern. So long as the laws in our nation are different than laws in other nations, we should not be considering foreign rulings when deliberating cases here at home.

UPDATE: Minutes after posting the above, I was directed to JCN's masterful new ad which just so happens to be on this topic. I updated the line on Scalia above to include the quote I had in mind (which is quoted in the ad).

Side point: why in the world was Rep. Gary Ackerman (D-NY) having lunch with the Indian Prime Minister today?

New Gas Mileage Standards

Instead of extending daylight savings time for an extra two months, as is currently included in the final draft of the energy bill being finalized in the House, why not just improve fuel efficiency in vehicles that leave plenty of room for improvement, like SUV's?

According to today's WSJ,

The Bush administration is preparing new fuel-economy regulations for light trucks and sport-utility vehicles based on size, with smaller vehicles required to achieve higher gasoline mileage than larger ones, industry officials and safety and environmental advocates said yesterday.

The rules, if adopted, would represent the most significant change in how the government gets auto makers to make their vehicles more fuel efficient in three decades, since the Corporate Average Fuel Economy, or CAFE, system was adopted.

The current system rates manufacturers on how their entire light-truck fleets perform, calculating the average fuel economy achieved. During a transition period, auto makers would have the choice of following the old rules -- albeit with higher thresholds -- or the new rules. After a few years, all companies would have to comply with the new system.

Here's the timeline for implementation:
The proposal, developed by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, is now before Secretary of Transportation Norman Mineta, who will send it on to the White House Office of Management and Budget. A special OMB task force will review the proposal before it is formally proposed in the Federal Register, probably next month.

A final rule for light trucks must be adopted by April 1, 2006, if it is to apply to the 2008 model year. That means a proposal must be published within the next month or so in order to leave time for public comment and for the agency to consider those comments before finalizing the matter, administration officials say.

The current system tends to favor companies including Honda Motor Co. that principally manufacture small SUVs and trucks that have little trouble meeting the current standard. By contrast, companies like Ford Motor Co. and General Motors Corp., which make large pickup trucks and SUVs that get poor mileage, have to work hard to be sure they sell enough small, more fuel-efficient vehicles to make up for the big guzzlers.

Under the current standard, a manufacturer's light-truck fleet must achieve an average of 21 miles per gallon for the 2005 model year, a standard that is already slated to rise to 22.2 mpg for 2007.

Slow news day?

I missed it yesterday (as I said, twas quite the busy day), but #11 on the most emailed article list on right now is one by Terry M. Neal entitled "Iraq War Hasn't Made United States Safer, Author Says." That's all fine and well, except that the article is based on an excerpt from a book that Stephen E. Flynn, a Senior Fellow in National Security Studies at the Council on Foreign Relations, published in CFR's Foreign Affairs last October ahead of the book release!

First Kennedy makes a big deal about something Santorum wrote many years ago and now we've got journalists who don't get around to books and/or articles till almost ten months after they're published! Why can't people just keep up with things? Yes, it's hard, but it's a journalist's job. If we simple folks can manage, so can they.

And the winner is....

The White House has asked the networks to broadcast POTUS' speech tonight at 9pm during which he will announce his nominee to fill SDA's seat on the SCOTUS.

Word on the street is that his pick is Judge Edith Clement, 57, who was nominated by George H.W. Bush in 1991 to serve on the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Louisiana before being elevated to the U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals (5th Circuit) in 2001 by George W. Bush. A member of the Federalist Society (which is a good sign), she's a graduate of the University of Alabama and Tulane University Law School. Clement worked as a lawyer in private practice in New Orleans for 16 years before beginning her tenure on the federal bench, specializing in civil litigation involving maritime law, representing oil companies, insurance companies and the marine services industry in cases before federal courts. Analysts say Clement has not attracted attention for her judicial opinions, so it is unclear which of her decisions, if any, might become the focus of a confirmation battle.

Yo, check it dawg!

Nevermind reading comprehension or logical reasoning, here's what I really learned during my LSAT class tonight.

There's a website called Gizoogle that translates any website into ebonics. It's absolutely hysterical, and here's what this blog looks like when you translate it.

Da web won't eva be da same yo!

(Now I can speak like "Twas" and "Shoo Shoo" do!)

Monday, July 18, 2005

Joe Lieberman sports the shloshim beard

If Joe can do it in the U.S. Senate, why can't we all do it during the "3 weeks" which begin on Sunday, or at least the "9 days?"

[I know one avid reader is really looking forward to my beard...I'm still not into it, for the record ;)]

My 500th post

'Twas (and still is) a very busy day and I don't have too much time but since it's the 500th post on this grandiose blog, here's your quote of the day, courtesy of Karl Rove who appeared on ABC's "Good Morning America."
“I was a very weird child. I mean, everybody — you know, what was your fifth grade civics paper that had you to write about? Mine was about the theory of dialectical materialism. I mean, talk about a sad little guy.”

Sunday, July 17, 2005

Another scandal brewing

Just before I call it quits for the day, here's one article that was buried in the front section of today's Times. It's likely to come up in the future, especially if the policy discussed therein was actually implemented, over the deep and vocal opposition from Congress. WaPo picks up on it, too.

Ken Mehlman is outraged

First Cooper shed some light on what he said while testifying last week during his visit to Tim Russert on "Meet the Press." Then Ken Mehlman repeated the same exact thing at least five times this morning on "Meet the Press." Now I think I'm done covering the whole RoveGate, at least for today. You can read transcript, along with the appearance of former Clinton CofS John Podesta, here.

There's a lot out there tonight, from the news that came out of Cooper's appearance on MTP, Wilson's appearance on FTN, Cooper's first-hand account of his grand jury testimoney in this week's Time, and intimations that Scooter Libby (VPOTUS's CofS) may be a big player in the kerfuffle, too.

You can check Time (stories here, here, here, and Cooper's account here), NYT, WaPo, Newsweek (stories here, here, and here) and all the other regular suspects to read more. I'm taking a day off from this whole thing.

But before I let you go, here are some stats from Mehlman's appearance today:
  • He used some version of "the information out this week exonerates and vindicates, does not implicate Karl" four times.
  • He used the word "outrageous" six times.
I hate when people repeat things over and over and over again. I heard you the first time, Ken.

Cellphones in the air?

With the government trying to regulate cellular phone usage in the air (to stay a step ahead of the terrorists it argues) once the technology to use them is in place more widely than it is today, here's a story about why it's taken so long for the debate to come up at all. Contrary to popular misconception, using your phone will not blow up the airliner.

Mea Culpa

Last Thursday I wrote that a banner ad sponsored by the Judicial Confirmation Network that appeared on the website of National Review Online included an "appeal to emotion, a horrible reasoning error."

I was quickly admonished, via email, by a friend who argued that while the ad was an appeal to emotion, it was "eminently justified by the facts." I thought that I had been taught that appeals to emotion were reasoning errors, no ifs, and, or buts about it and argued as such in my response. He retorted that appeals to emotion are not reasoning errors and that "emotion can be eminently rational!" and questioned whether I was "a Vulcan from Star Trek."

He's right, of course. After consulting with the professor who taught me how to reason effectively, I realized that my friend was correct. While appeals to emotion often are reasoning errors in the course of an argument, they needn't always be so. For example, the banner ad stated that "The Government Can Take Away Your Home." While that is most definitely an appeal to emotion, it is also what SCOTUS decided and, therefore, is not an error. Here the ad was providing necessary information to the reader. Yes, it was emotional, but it does not constitute a reasoning error on behalf of JCN.

I was wrong, you were right. Case closed.

What took so long?

Today's NYT has a story and an op-ed (by one of David Letterman's talented writers) about the new 7-11 that opened last week on Manhattan's E. 23rd and Park Ave. The article says that thousands of free sandwiches and slurpees were given away during its grand opening celebration. The question is why did it take so long for the national chain to penetrate the greatest city in the world? One can only hope they spread around Manhattan so that more people will avail themselves of the free slurpee next July 11th.

Saturday, July 16, 2005

Karl's Indispensable

So says a meaningless piece in NYT "Week in Review" section today. It goes through a history of aides to have been booted from the West Wing and concludes that Karl is above it all and will most likely survive. The best line: "It is difficult to imagine intervention by other political power brokers without the consent of Mr. Rove himself."

Frank Rich, on the other hand, is looking for blood in a compelling piece in Sunday's Times. While he says the story is not about Rove, or Cooper, or Miller, or Novak, or Fitzgerald, or Wilson, or Plame but the President, he ends by saying that Karl will fall when all is said and done. That's a new way to ask for his head-blame it on the other guy and call it collateral damage.

In Saturday's Times, John Tierney says that Karl's version of events now looks less like a smear and more like the truth. Shocking, indeed.

NYT had an article in Saturday's edition discussing a State Dept. memo that SecState Colin L. Powell had with him on his way to Africa on July 7, 2003-just one day after Wilson's piece was published in the Times. It's a confusing piece (at least to me) and I'm not sure what's its significance (if any) is.

WaPo details the long history of the Plame kerfuffle. It goes allllllll the way back to how and why Wilson was sent to Niger in the first place, what happened to his memo, how he got so enraged etc. It's well-worth reading. Here are some excerpts:
Wilson set out to discredit the charge, working largely through back channels at first to debunk it. He called friends inside the government and the media, and told the New York Times's Nicholas D. Kristof of his findings in Niger. Kristof aired them publicly for the first time in his May 6, 2003, column but did not name Wilson. This caught the attention of officials inside Cheney's office, as well as others involved in war planning, according to people who had talked with them.
Wait, so wasn't Wilson giving top-secret information to a journalist without clearance to do so? All because no one in the WH read his memo didn't mean he could pass along that information like that! Isn't it illegal to do that?

Administration officials set out to rebuff their critics, Wilson in particular. By the time The Washington Post published Wilson's allegation questioning the intelligence (but not citing his name) on the front page on June, 12, 2003 -- one month before the Plame affair was public -- Wilson was on the administration's radar screen.

The more Wilson pushed, the more the White House was determined to push back against a man they regarded as an irresponsible provocateur.

Up until this point, Wilson had worked mostly behind the scenes, but on July 6, he penned an op-ed in the New York Times, writing, "Some of the intelligence related to Iraq's nuclear weapons programs was twisted to exaggerate the Iraqi threat."

Here's one really biting comment:
As for the Bush administration, the investigation has exposed how an administration that publicly deplores leaking has engaged aggressively in the practice to advance its goals.
But in the end:
Yet much of the case remains a mystery. Did the White House leak the identity of a CIA operative? Is it a crime? Did Bush have any knowledge of it? Will Fitzgerald have spent this much time pressuring officials and reporters and not deliver an indictment? Those questions may be answered soon, as the grand jury's term is set to expire in October.

Britain's fab four

Authorities in Great Britain have released this picture of the four terrorists as they entered the Tube on their way to bombings that killed over fifty people a week and a half ago.

Live 8 did little for Africa

Somehow I missed this great op-ed in Friday's Times which said that while millions worldwide enjoyed the "Live 8" concerts that raised awareness of the plight of the African people, not one performer said anything about introducing democracy to the continent.

It's a great point. We're in the middle of the War on Terror, trying to help democracy flourish in Iraq, and POTUS spoke about the American value of spreading liberty and freedom during his second inauguration address just six months ago. Why did G8 focus only on health, poverty, and famine while completely overlooking the systems of government that are in place?

The authors make some excellent points and while it's unlikely to change anything and we'd might as well try to eradicate AIDS, poverty, and famine on the continent before we try to change their governments, it is definitely something to keep in mind.

Brooks endorses McCain & Rudy

Just three days after "suggesting" Michael McConnell to fill the vacant seat of former SCOTUS' associate justice SDA, David Brooks has some more suggestions for those willing to, it's read, in this case.

He extolls the virtues of "courage politicians" such as McCain and Giuliani and ends by asking whether "we Americans [are] so blessed with political talent that we can afford not to use the courage politicians we do happen to have in our midst?"

Guests on the Sunday morning talk shows

Recently, WaPo has begun informing us who will be appearing on Sunday's morning talk shows. This is a great service to the talk show-watching public, as we don't need to waste time seeing which poor souls are on "This Week" and who on Bill Schieffer's "Face the Nataion" is up against Tim Russert's "Meet the Press."

And, to make it even simpler than providing you with a link to the page, here's the complete list:
FOX NEWS SUNDAY: Sens. Mary Landrieu (D-La.) and Arlen Specter (R-Pa.) and Rep. Jane Harman (D-Calif.).

THIS WEEK: Preempted by the British Open.

FACE THE NATION: Sens. Lindsey O. Graham (R-S.C.) and Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.), Rep. Roy Blunt (R-Mo.) and former ambassador Joseph C. Wilson IV .

MEET THE PRESS: Time correspondent Matthew Cooper , authors Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein , Republican National Committee Chairman Ken Mehlman and former White House chief of staff John D. Podesta .

LATE EDITION: Sens. Joseph R. Biden Jr. (D-Del.) and Orrin G. Hatch (R-Utah), Iowa Gov. Tom Vilsack (D), British Defense Minister John Reid and Mehlman .

Looks like a good day to wake up late, skip "This Week" and "FNS" and tune in to either "FTN" or "MTP." Those of you who have cable can watch Vilsack repeat the Dem's talking points and provide an update on how the governors considering a run at the WH in '08 (including NY's own GEP) are doing during this weekend at National Governors Association meeting in his state. (WaPo story here.)

Even 'framing' things properly won't help the Democrats

The cover article in this weekend's New York Times Magazine is one by Matt Bai all about 'framing,' specifically its role in US politics, how inept the Democrats are at framing things properly, and how it won't really help unless the ideas behind the frame are good ones.

I learned all about schemas and frames last spring from Prof. Michael Krasner who taught "Politics & Media" at Queens College. Interestingly, he never quoted the central figure in Bai's article, Prof. George Lakoff.

[UPDATE: Via email, Prof. Krasner responds that, "Lakoff and I were moving on parallel tracks, but he got there first in public, so that's how these things work." I wonder if he was aware of Lakoff a few years ago, whether they were influenced by the same people etc. If I can, I'll update further if Krasner is willing to share some details about this.]

Here are my comments on the article, feel free to leave your own at the bottom.

First, the Democrats were not unaware of this problem before Lakoff was escorted into the Beltway. In fact, they prefer "estate tax" over "death tax" and "right to choose" over "right to life." Neither of those are new in 2005.

It's interesting that the very same people who were a part of Kerry's failed campaign last year (Cutter and Mellman) were tasked with putting together a "war room" on the fillibuster issue for Minority Leader Harry Reid last year. Why would you let proven failures lead the way again? Lucky for Reid, his gamble paid off. The only one missing from the roster of rejects was

The Democrats are such geeks! Members of both houses, "carried laminated, pocket-size message cards -- 'DEMOCRATS FIGHTING FOR DEMOCRACY, AGAINST ABUSE OF POWER,' blared the headline at the top -- with the talking points on one side and some helpful factoids about Bush's nominees on the other." You'd think they'd be able to remember that kind of stuff; it's their ideology, isn't it? And, what, if they forgot would they actually whip out the cards in front of a tv camera etc? What losers!

The "American people" (yes, that's you) are perceived to be idiots by the minority party down in our nation's capital. You're gullible enough to have believed the lies the Democrats sold you! Here's just one example:
The facts of the filibuster fight hadn't necessarily favored them; in reality, the constitutional principle of ''checks and balances'' on which the Democrats' case was based refers to the three branches of government, not to some parliamentary procedure, and it was actually the Democrats who had broken with Senate tradition by using the filibuster to block an entire slate of judges. (''An irrelevancy beyond the pay grade of the American voter,'' Garin retorted when I pointed this out.)
Yes, Geoff Garin and the rest of the Democratic party thinks that you're too stupid to understand the nuances of the Constitution and American history!

It's funny how the Democrats, notably those who bashed Lakoff in TNR and Atlantic Monthly, dismiss him so easily. Why not give him a chance? None of the ideas the Democrats have been presenting as of late are any more successful anyway!

Among the more entertaining sections of the piece:
"Lakoff does say in ''Don't Think of an Elephant!'' albeit very briefly, that Democrats need not just new language but also new thought; he told me the party suffers from ''hypocognition,'' or a lack of ideas."


The pamphlet is titled ''The House Democrats' New Partnership for America's Future: Six Core Values for a Strong and Secure Middle Class.'' Under each of the six values -- ''prosperity, national security, fairness, opportunity, community and accountability'' -- is a wish list of vague notions and familiar policy ideas. (''Make health care affordable for every American,'' ''Invest in a fully funded education system that gives every child the skills to succeed'' and so on.) Pelosi is proud of the document, which -- to be fair -- she notes is just a first step toward repackaging the party's agenda. But if you had to pick an unconscious metaphor to attach to it, it would probably be a cotton ball.
Here's the last paragraph:
Democrats are still unwilling to put their more concrete convictions about the country into words, either because they don't know what those convictions are or because they lack confidence in the notion that voters can be persuaded to embrace them. Either way, this is where the power of language meets its outer limit. The right words can frame an argument, but they will never stand in its place.
In short: the Republican majority is here to stay!!!

Thursday, July 14, 2005

The Orange Party for Israel...but really for Gush Katif

In my inbox today was an email informing of "The Orange Party for Israel" which will be taking place next Thursday evening here in NYC. On top of a picture of Israelis holding their flag under a clear blue sky, it says, "All money raised will go towards to communities of Gush Katif and Shomron."

Two questions come to mind:
  • What exactly will the communities be doing with this money? Will it help them when they relocate in a month or so? Or will it be siphoned to the Yesha Council?
  • Why, and this isn't the only party that's been/being held in the area of late, are we partying in support of Gush Katif? Surely there's a more appropriate way to raise awareness of the plight of the Gazans being kicked out of their homes than partying!

Meet the Judicial Confirmation Network

As I skimmed NRO this morning, where they're just as pleased as we are with David Brooks' piece endorsing Michael McConnell, I noticed a great ad by the Judicial Confirmation Network. The banner ad at the top said, "The government can take away your home."

This is clearly a reference to the recent SCOTUS case that decided that the government of New London, Conn. can take away private property using the principle of eminent domain if the plans the government has for it outweight the private benefit, such as commercial development in an economically depressed neighborhood. It's obviously an appeal to emotion, a horrible reasoning error, but still a great ad. Check it out for yourself by clicking here.

There, I've just fulfilled the request of a good friend who inspired me to begin this blog in the first place; a friend who (coincidentally) is now working for JCN.

The tables have turned

Wow, remember when checkpoints in Israel were used to keep Arabs out of places they weren't supposed to be? Remember when the leftists were monitoring the checkpoints to document abuses of Palestinians by members of the IDF? Do you think they'll show up in Gaza today to monitor the situation down there? Yeah, just about as likely as a blizzard in New York City today.

Beginning yesterday morning at 10:30AM local time, the IDF began using checkpoints against its own citizens-those in the Gaza Strip. The Strip is now a closed military zone and only those with permits (either "permanent" for residents [meaning for the next month or so until they're kicked out] or "temporary" for visitors) can enter these days.

I know it's been discussed for a while but a picture's worth 1,000 words.

"Elected" to fill O'Connor's seat?

As I drove home yesterday and heard details of POTUS' comments to the press following his cabinet meeting yesterday morning, I heard that he is mulling replacing Associate Justice O'Connor with an elected official.

I don't understand, why would we want someone who's never written an opinion or handed down a verdict in their entire lives to deliberate and decide the most important cases in the nation? In fact, of the justices on the current court, only "The Chief" had never been a judge before ascending to the SCOTUS (he was an assistant US A.G. when Nixon tapped him in '71).

It seems, however, that history is on Bush's side.
Of the 108 people who have served on the Supreme Court, only 48 - fewer than half - were drawn from the ranks of sitting judges. And while judges do make up the biggest single biographical category, there have also been 25 practicing lawyers, 9 attorneys general or deputy attorneys general, 7 holders of other cabinet positions, 6 senators, 2 members of the House of Representatives, 3 governors, 2 solicitors general and 2 law professors.
While I still think it's important to have a judge fill the seat, especially when any "elected" is likely to be a partisan hack who'll be susceptible to political pot shots from the left during his/her confirmation hearings, it's clearly not that simple. I'd still prefer to see a judge. And if not now, I think that whoever replaces The Chief upon his retirement should absolutely have a judicial background.

UPDATE: In a great piece, David Brooks argues in favor of "a philosophical powerhouse," someone "capable of writing the sort of bold and meaty opinions that will shift the frame of debate and shake up law students for generations." Someone like Michael McConnell who has an excellent record on church-state issues. I hope they're circulating the article in the West Wing today.

USA Today clears Rove...sorta

According to today's USA Today, Rove probably isn't guilty of "outing" former CIA agent, Valerie Plame, in a way that would have violated the law. However, some people think Special Prosecutor Fitzgerald might get him on a case of perjury or obstruction of justice a la Martha Stewart.

Here's the important part:

The alleged crime at the heart of a controversy that has consumed official Washington — the “outing” of a CIA officer — may not have been a crime at all under federal law, little-noticed details in a book by the agent's husband suggest.

In The Politics of Truth, former ambassador Joseph Wilson writes that he and his future wife both returned from overseas assignments in June 1997. Neither spouse, a reading of the book indicates, was again stationed overseas. They appear to have remained in Washington, D.C., where they married and became parents of twins.

Six years later, in July 2003, the name of the CIA officer — Valerie Plame — was revealed by columnist Robert Novak.

The column's date is important because the law against unmasking the identities of U.S. spies says a “covert agent” must have been on an overseas assignment “within the last five years.” The assignment also must be long-term, not a short trip or temporary post, two experts on the law say. Wilson's book makes numerous references to the couple's life in Washington over the six years up to July 2003.

“Unless she was really stationed abroad sometime after their marriage,” she wasn't a covert agent protected by the law, says Bruce Sanford, an attorney who helped write the 1982 act that protects covert agents' identities.


Though that key law may not have been broken in leaking the name, Fitzgerald must still be pursuing evidence of some type of wrongdoing, said Victoria Toensing, another of the attorneys who helped draft the 1982 act. Like Sanford, she doubts Valerie Wilson, as she now refers to herself, qualified as a “covert agent” under that law. She and Sanford also doubt Fitzgerald has enough evidence to prosecute anyone under the Espionage Act. That law makes it a crime to divulge “information relating to the national defense” that “the possessor has reason to believe could be used to the injury” of the nation.

But, Toensing said, “reading between the lines, I'd say he's got a ‘Martha Stewart case' ” involving perjury or obstruction of justice. In other words, though a crime may not have been committed at the start, one may have occurred during the investigation when someone lied to Fitzgerald or to a federal grand jury.

Bloomberg reports that, "people familiar with the inquiry say Fitzgerald also is reviewing testimony by former White House Press Secretary Ari Fleischer, though it isn't clear whether the prosecutor is focusing on him or seeking information about higher-ups. Fleischer last night refused to comment."

For those keeping track at home, that's the first time his name's come up regarding this case.

By the way, is it true-as Rush Limbaugh asserted on Tuesday-that only 1% of the American public knows who Rove is? I've asked some of my friends (none of whom bother reading the newspapers or my blog) and none of them know who he is. Could Rush be right?

Wednesday, July 13, 2005

Keeping abreast of Conservative Judaism

The title, regarding this absurd story, is just one of many I could have come up with but me being a young yeshiva bochur and this being a family-friendly blog I'll leave it at that.

The author also says that "Synagogue sanctuaries are hardly immune from social challenges. Some Orthodox congregations recently began banning most alcohol consumption; one Orthodox synagogue on Long Island has prohibited talking during religious services." Hey, news flash for the author, Ms. Cohen: you're talking about the same synagogue! Yes, the same Young Israel of Woodmere, under the rabbinic supervision of Rabbi H. Billet, that banned alcohol at their weekly kiddush (which eventually led to the OU ban) was the same synagogue to recently distribute a petition to its membership pledging not to speak during davening. Having been there this past Sunday for my cousin's son's bris, I saw the pledge for myself.

(BTW-anyone else hear that R' Billet is taking time off to be a rabbi at Howard Jonas' IDT yeshiva in Newark, NJ? If he moved to the Garden State it would be considerably more convenient for his wife, the principal of Ma'ayanot in Teaneck, NJ).

What's up with the shoddy reporting at the NYJWeek this week? This article, on the novel proposals to bring down yeshiva tuition costs in the 5Towns, includes one new quote but, otherwise, is basically lifted in its entirety from a LI Herald article. In college my professors would call that plagerism. And, to make matters worse, it's an outdated story!

Elsewhere in JWeek, Adam Dickter tries to keep Weiner in the NYC race for Gracie.

Of course, we can't have an article in any J-pub about RLUIPA without a quote by the esteemed Director of the Institute for Public Affairs, Mr. Nathan J. Diament. This one's a "background" and is a must-read. He's also mentioned in a Forward piece on the position of J-org's regarding the upcoming SCOTUS nominee battle.

After the State Dept. spokesman said he was unaware of any Israeli request for additional aid to implement the Gaza Disengagement plan which, by the way, happened the same day Israeli officials said that the delegation that visited DC this week was to request such a package, it is being reported that a grant to the Jewish State will be unlikely given the current budget tension in Congress over veterans and homeland security etc.

(It's cute how the article cites the ZOA's poll after the ADL one...and then proceeds to flesh out the ADL's findings without returning to the ZOA's.)

Further, the same article discusses a meeting of members of the OSCE without any mention of one of the newest members, Sen. Sam Brownback. How disappointing.

Gil Troy, brother of "my good friend" Tevi Troy (former Jewish Liaison to the American Jewish community, Policy Director at BC'04, and currently Deputy Assistant to the President for Domestic Policy), opines that Hadassah deserves the Nobel Peace Prize. They'll be lobbying the passage of the stem cell bill in the Senate (which we discussed here) when they host their national gathering in our nation's capital next week but are they worthy of a Nobel? Read the piece and judge for yourself!

And, speaking of former Jewish Liaison's who still work in the White House, the father of another former liaison, (Rabbi?) Jacob Neusner (father of Noam, currently only a spokesman at OMB), writes about the departure of JTS chancellor Ismar Schorsch and the fallout within the Conservative community. (Wow, we've never blogged about the Conservative side of Judaism so much as we are in this one post!)

Having been asked about a comment a relative through marriage made about my family, I'm wondering if this will happen to me when I get there.

I haven't blogged in a while but just made up for it...should this have been broken up into several more manageable posts? Phew, I'm finally done!

Monday, July 11, 2005

Acela back in service

Amtrak's Acela Express is back in service today. Anyone interested in getting me a belated birthday present in the form of a round-trip ticket from NYP to WAS should please drop me a note. Otherwise, this news isn't at all relevant to me.

Free Slurpee Day!

Because today is July 11th, which is 7/11 shorthand, 7-11 is giving away free Slurpees all day!

UPDATE: I visited my local 7-11 and asked if today was free slurpee day. The woman looked at the clock on the wall and said, "Yes, but it ended one hour ago." I asked her what time it ended and she said, "It ended" and walked away.

Does anyone know to whom I can address my complaint? Clearly it is still July 11th and nowhere that I've seen on the 'net does it say that the freebie expires at a certain time of the day. I think she lied to me. I think I'm not going back there anymore!

Rove was the leaker

NYTimes, Newsweek, Financial Times et al. and all the broadcast news outlets are buzzing with word that Karl Rove was the one who informed Matt Cooper, Judy Miller, and Robert Novak that Valerie Plame was Joe Wilson's CIA-agent wife.

What's surprising is that they're all reporting it with such confidence as if it's definitely true.

If it is, will he do jail time or will the "special investigation" turn out to be so partisan that he'll go unpunished for committing a federal offense? Will the downfall (if that even happens) of "The Architech" lead to the downfall of this Administration?

So many questions, only time will tell.

Friday, July 08, 2005

No jail time for the jerk who infected my laptop

They've finally caught and sentenced the author of the Netsky and Sasser worms. But instead of having him rot in prison for a while, he's been sentenced to one year and nine months probation. That doesn't seem like enough of a punishment for the individual whose creations accounted for a full 25% of all virus reports in the first half of 2005.

Good thing I don't live in Florida...

...where it's illegal to tap into a neighbor's unprotected wireless network.

Anyone know if the statute is on the books in NY, too?

More $ for terrorists

Among the results of the just-concluded G8 summit is a pledge by the member states to give $3 billion dollars to the Palestinian Authority so that, in the words of British PM Tony Blair, "two states, Israel and Palestine, two peoples and two religions can live side-by-side in peace." The White House release merely states that the G8 leaders recommited themselves to advancing peace in the region by "stimulating financial contributions over the coming three years to help build the Palestinian economy; and calling for an absolute ends to all acts of violence and terrorism."

Before I get completely cynical, I just hope that the money will be distributed under aegis of transparent and accountable organizations that will keep track of where the money goes, in whose hands, and to whom. They deserve better living conditions but the question is whether that's what the money will be used for, or if it will merely feed the corrupt and fickle regime in Ramallah.

Also, $50B for Africa.

What I have to look forward to

In the aftermath of last week's meetings, the OU/IPA tells us what they're up to regarding the Gaza "disengagement."

Wednesday, July 06, 2005

Freedom of press

A judge has just ordered New York Times reporter Judith Miller to jail for refusing to divulge her source to a grand jury investigating the Bush administration's leak of an undercover CIA operative's name.

"There is still a realistic possibility that confinement might cause her to testify," U.S. District Judge Thomas Hogan said.

Miller stood up, hugged her lawyer and was escorted from the courtroom.

What a sad day for freedom of speech and freedom of the press. Meanwhile, Novak's still a free man!

Cease fire "to breathe and rest"

Thomas Friedman argues that Condi Rice should get more involved in the Gaza Disengagement, both, before and after, to help resolve the outstanding issues and ensure a peaceful transition. That's a noble, if unlikely, thought considering that (as Ha'aretz points out on its homepage) it's only 40 days away.

One sentence is quite telling, IMHO. Friedman quotes Hamas member Ghazi Hamad, editor of its Al Risalat newspaper, as saying that Hamas agreed to the 'cease-fire' in order to "to give people a chance to breathe and rest."

Doesn't "to breathe and rest" sound sort of temporary?

The end of NYC2012

Around 6:30AM EDT the announcement came from Singapore: New York City will not be hosting the 2012 summer olympic games.

I'm so terribly disappointed. Here's why:
  • We won't be building monstrous buildings for years and years ahead of a two week stay by athletes, their coaches, tourists, dignitaries etc.
  • We won't be using billions of dollars for a private recreational event that, historically, has never resulted in profits for the host city.
  • We won't have to knock down houses (remember the eminent domain case two weeks ago?), change the layout of lakes in Queens, or anything else that won't really help us "the morning after."
  • We won't have to be at "Code Red" on the Department of Homeland Security Advisory System.
  • It will be impossible for NYC residents (and those living in the suburbs) to live their normal lives. Just look at what happened during the Republican National Convention last year!
If you have any other reasons as to why not having the Olympics is a good thing, please lets us know!

You don't know Jack...but you're learning quickly

It's been a long long while since AbramoffGate first swung open and there seems to be no end in sight to the flow of new information about his disturbing (and dare we say illegal)behavior over the past ten years. The NYTimes dug deeply for a long story in today's edition that includes interviews from former employees at Signatures, where Abramoff is (for now, at least) a part owner.

The more interesting and newsworthy item is that Richard W. Pombo (R-CA) and Nick J. Rahall (D-WV), chairman and ranking member of the House Resources Committee respectively, have written to AG Gonzales asking him to broaden DOJ's corruption inquiry into Abramoff. According to NYT, the letter "cited a flurry of accusations of wrongdoing involving Mr. Abramoff's multimillion-dollar lobbying on behalf of the Northern Mariana Islands, a small American commonwealth in the Pacific, and said that "any allegations of criminal matters of this sort are best addressed to the Department of Justice."

Things are trickling out ever so slowly but I'm guessing that once the investigators (both in Congress and in the Executive Branch) put everything together (and it is readily apparent that doing so will be no small task), things will move more quickly. There appears to be a preponderance of evidence against him, it's just a matter of time before he pays the price.

Monday, July 04, 2005

Hold the chumus, please

There's a kerfuffle brewing in Israel between Rav Ovadya Yosef and Rav Mordechai Eliyahu over the status of roasted sesame seeds, whose byproduct-tehina sauce-is used in the production chumus, arguably Israel's national food. Apparently, when sesame seeds used to make the tehina paste for hummus are roasted and shelled by non-Jews, the resulting hummus is not kosher, according to R' Eliyahu. His aide, Rav David Lahiani, said that when non-Jews are involved in the cooking process of foods, this causes them to be designated non-kosher according to Jewish law.

But bishul akum is kosher, so long as it's under a reliable hashgacha, isn't it? I think that either the article is incorrect or there's something wrong with the psak.

Anyone have any ideas?

Sunday, July 03, 2005

Rove met with Cooper in the summer of '03

Apparently "The Architecht," Karl Rove, met with Time Magazine's Matt Cooper shortly before Valerie Plame was outed by Robert Novak back in the summer of 2003. Predictably, Rove's lawyer is insisting that he was not the source of the leak.

...We'll see about that. But considering all the hoopla about SDO's resignation and the jockeying that is going on to ensure that an 'acceptable' nominee is put forward, it's pretty poor time for Rove to be in the news like this.

Frist Flip Flops

Sorry, I just can't seem to get rid of my penchant for alliteration following my brief forray into the world of poetry these past three and a half weeks.

The Washington Post has a very important article I'd like to bring to your attention. It describes Senate Majority Leader Dr. Bill Frist (R-TN) [who was also the source of today's "Quote of the Day"] and his flip flop on stem cell research. Just four years ago, before he had serious presidential aspirations, he supported more robust research and had the guts to disagree with President Bush. But the allure of living in the White House has resulted in a reversal of policy positions and he is now in lockstep with POTUS on this one. What the article fails to mention is that he even expressed support of stem cell research during his recent visit to Israel. I don't know the source of the previous sentence but I'm 99% sure I recall reading it around the time he visited in late April. This is just another reason he should not be the GOP's nominee in '08.

Related items (in chronological order): here, here, here, here, and here.

Quote of the day

So much going on, so many articles in the Washington Post that are blog-worthy, but so little time. Instead of staying on the computer forever, I'm enjoying a few days off, the beautiful weather, a friend's wedding in Monsey tonight (yay, Jason!!!), LSAT studying, hopefully the fireworks in person tomorrow night (for the first time), trying to keep happy and not nervous from the good news from Thursday, and great friends.

Here, however, is an old quote that will function as today's "Quote of the Day":
"Get some devastation in the back."
-Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist (R-TN), quoted by the AP, to a staff photographer taking a picture of him before leaving tsunami-stricken southern Sri Lanka.