Saturday, December 31, 2005

Halacha, Results, and Discretion

Richard Posner is known as one of America's greatest legal theorists, and is probably the leading supporter of a legal philosophy called pragmatism. Posner disagrees with the standard refrain that legal theory is governed by rules and that judges just apply the rules without any discretion. His theory requires judges to use their discretion to resolve difficult legal questions, because the rules do not always lead to a clear answer.

Sometimes we will have two rules that conflict and the judge will be required to make a discretionary decision. Or sometimes there will be no rule. For example, let's say someone argues that the 13th Amendment (banning slavery and involuntary servitude) bars government regulation of abortion because it forces women to carry a child to term, and that is a form of involuntary servitude. How is a judge supposed to decide this question?

No rule really exists to help us decide if the Amendment should apply to abortion. So the judge can look to see if the argument is plausible. But that's just a form of using discretion.

Judicial ideologies, such as originalism, were designed to deal with the discretion question. The judge will look to see if the original understanding of the Amendment included abortion. If it does, then he will strike down all abortion laws that conflict. If it doesn't, then he will allow them to stand.

Of course judicial ideologies create problems of their own and also, despite arguments to the contrary, leave much to the judges' discretion.

What exactly is discretion? Discretion is the judge's "common sense." Common sense is something that is dictated by experience, which is why Posner suggests that courts be diverse, to take into account society's different perceptions. But common sense is also something that stems from a result-oriented look at the law. If a judge feels that abortion is murder, he is more likely to believe, when no legal rules guide his decision, that a reasonable interpretation of the law would ban abortion.

How does any of the above apply to Halacha? Well the same problems that confront judges bother poskim (legal decisors). What is a posek (legal decisor) to do when faced with a question that has two equally plausible answers? If the posek uses his discretion, is he not supplying his own personal beliefs to answer the question?

Asked another way, how does Hashkafa (religious outlook) influence Halacha? Is it a mere coincidence that Rav Herschel Schacter, who is Modern Orthodox, supports Slifkin while Rav Elyashiv believes, at the very least, that his views should not be read? Or that in Mea Shaarim, a very gender segregated society, women shave their heads because of strict interpretation of Jewish law? Or that in places like Lakewood, where Torah learning is considered paramount, Halacha is interpreted to require men to study Torah rather than learn a livelihood?

I don't believe that Poskim interpret the law according to their own personal whims. I'm sure they try to see what's reasonable under the circumstances. But someone needs to do a study to determine whether Hashkafa does influence Halacha, to see whether people with stricter Hashkafas decide Halacha strictly.

Someone Has DovBear Pegged To a Tee

Charles Fried, who has been a law professor, judge and Solicitor General, makes some very good points about the NSA wiretapping scandal. Key points:

"We should ask ourselves what concrete harm is done by such a program. Is a person's privacy truly violated if his international communications are subject to this kind of impersonal, computerizerd screening? If it is not, at what stage of further focus do real, rather than abstract and hysterical concerns arise? And to what extent is the hew and cry about this program a symptom of a generalized distrust of all government, or of just this administration?

If of all government, then we are in a state of mind that renders us incapable of defending ourselves from real threats. If of this administration, then can we afford to disarm the only government we have until the result of the next election, which is likely to be as partisan and closely divided as the last?"


(Hat Tip: Instapundit)

When All Else Fails Blame Israel

Mahmoud Abbas, just like his predecessor, is using strong arm tactics to insure his reign at the top continues. In response, Abbas is getting lambasted by civil rights activists and other lawmakers. But the worst outcome is the protest vote for Hamas, which, despite all its flaws (you know being a bunch of murderous thugs) is not corrupt. Hamas gains support partly by at least having the veneer of honesty and by providing social services.

So what is Fatah going to do about their sad chances in next month's election? Cancel elections and blame Israel.

"Less than a month before parliamentary elections, all indications are that Abbas's Fatah is headed for disaster. That's why many Fatah leaders, including Abbas, are praying for a miracle that would provide them with a good excuse to postpone the vote. Their biggest hope is that Israel will launch a major military offensive just before the election or ban Arab residents of Jerusalem from voting.

As one senior Fatah put it this week, "It would look better in the eyes of the world if we could hold Israel responsible for disrupting the democratic process."

The more things change, the more they stay the same.

Friday, December 30, 2005

Do They Really Want To Be Like Us?

On the heels on this story about a segregated mall in Bnei Brak and this one about putting women in the back of bus, we have a Yated "observation" about how women in Saudi Arabia are happy with their lifestyle of no driving or voting.

President Bush's primary assumption underpinning the war in Iraq is that everyone wants freedom. But is that true? Do people really strive for freedom? Do they really want to throw off the shackles of tyranny?

Certainly there are women in Saudi Arabia who enjoy their lifestyle. That lifestyle includes the requirement to always be accompanied by a male relative or female compatriot, to be dressed a certain way, and to be limited to certain opportunities.

I think we in the West assume that women who are fine with this (actually they claim their lifestyle is better than the West's) are brainwashed. Perhaps they never experienced anything better. Or if they have, they are so stuck in their ways that they thought freedom is slavery and slavery is freedom.

But is that true? The same argument, albeit on a much lesser, is used by Feminists who argue that women who do not fight against patriarchy and are content with our current system simply do not know better or are too brainwashed to be objective. But most of us do not agree with that, do we? So why do we assume it to be true on a greater scale?

I think it's a matter of degree. There's a big difference between not being able to vote or honor killings and an unbalanced share of the domestic chores. But of course the difference is a matter of perception. We think one is worse than the other because that's our viewpoint.

So I'm not sure there's an answer to the women who claims that she likes wearing a burka.

Thursday, December 29, 2005

Is Alito Just Another Cog In King George's Powergrab?

Sanford Levinson, over at Balkinization, argues that Alito was chosen not just because he wants to overturn Roe v. Wade and because he favors a less expansive definition of the Establishment Clause, but because he supports almost plenary power for the President in his guise as Commander-in-Chief.

Of course I wasn't privy to the discussions among the President and his advisors, so I can't comment on why Alito was nominated. What I can say is that I disagree with Levinson's assertion that the Bush administration is attempting to stack the Court so it can acquire absolute power. What Bush and Cheney favor is not unlimited power, but a return the days before executive power was curtailed.

The President clearly has powers by virtue of being Commander-in-Chief. How those powers interact with Congress' ability to regulate war and with the Bill of Rights is an important question. But the President is not arguing for unlimited power; he merely wants to resuscitate executive power. Where the President's actions do not clearly violate the Constitution (as in the case of the wiretaps) or a Congressional statute (less clear in wiretaps), it would make sense for the courts to allow him to exercise his power. I don't see this as a power-grab, but as a necessary element of fighting the war on terror.

More On The Yated

One point I forgot to make in this post is that the Yated seems to believe that the goal of the Israeli government is to make people stop learning. Like ministers sit around all day thinking up ways to get Charedim to stop learning. It has nothing whatsoever to do with getting people off government assistance. Nothing at all.

This viewpoint just perpetuates the cycle of hatred. I'm not going to pretend that Shinui votes dislike Charedim for only noble reasons. There is bigotry in every society, especially one that is so fractured.

But the Charedi "no-compromise" position that is underpinned by the view that "everyone is out to destroy their Judaism" makes, at the very least, good fodder for the haters.

I know I'm hardly the first to talk about this topic, but let's take a look at why the average secular Israeli might have animosity toward Charedim. A large percentage of the society does not work, and therefore does not pay income tax. The vast majority do not serve in army. They receive a large percentage of public assistance. And some seek to impose their values on the rest of society (protests against driving on Rechov Bar Ilan on Shabbos, refusal to allow civil marriages, opposition to the gay pride parade, etc.)

I'm not saying there are no good reasons for their course of conduct. There is Halachic support for sitting in kollel and refusing army service. Israel is a Jewish state and they believe Halacha should play an important role. And everyone else takes money, so why shouldn't they?

But what they need to understand is that people who dislike them are not out to destroy their Torah learning. Most Israelis couldn't care less about what they do in their spare time. But most Israelis also do not agree with their reasons for not working and not serving in the army, and to the person with a different world-view, they look like leeches who take but don't give.

This post was not meant to bash Charedim or their lifestyle. Charedim do a lot of good for Israel. But they need to understand that not every policy is designed to destroy them. The victim complex does no one any good.

Yated Stupidity

Check out this editorial about Yeshiva students and army service. Choice paragraphs:

"The common thread is the recommendation to seek economic security or even comfort, at the expense of Torah study. Worried about a "social time bomb" or "economic disaster" that is, according to their calculations, inevitable if things continue along the trend lines that have been established, they opine that fewer people should learn full time and more should work.

We say that this echoes the threat we faced in the time of Mattisyohu: to make us forget the Torah. In our spiritually impoverished days, we need all the learning that anyone is willing to do."

My G-d, do they really believe that? That any initiative to get people out of kollel and into the workforce (and therefore no longer supported by the public coffers) is similar in any way to the threat posed to us by the Greeks? The people who criminalized learning at the threat of execution?

So let's see if I have this straight: Creating incentives to get people off welfare by helping them become self-sufficient echoes imposing capital punishment for Torah study. I've heard of ridiculous analogies, but this tops them all (except for the idiotic Holocaust comparisons).

Wednesday, December 28, 2005

Orthodoxy and Everything Else

Going back on this post, I'm going to try to explain how and why I distinguish between Orthodoxy and Conservatism. This is a layman's effort, as I've done limited study on theology and hashkafa, so if you don't want to hear me pontificate, move on along. Orthodoxy requires some mixture and belief and practice. These two elements underpin Orthodox Judaism as we know it. I'm not quite sure what the mix is though.

Is there really a clear, bright line between Left-Wing Modern Orthodox and Right-Wing Conservative? Let's think of the classic differences. Conservative Judaism does not believe that the Oral Torah comes from G-d. But does Orthodoxy? Some branches believe that every single opinion in the Gemara (Talmud) was told to Moshe at Har Sinai. Left-Wing Modern Orthodox, or even Right-Wing Modern Orthodox does not believe that. They believe certain principles were passed down, but they were applied by human decisors. Certainly an element of divine assistance was at play, but the decisions were human. That's precisely why there are disagreements in the first place. Any other position presumes much of the Oral Torah was lost. I remember Rabbi Herschel Schacter making such an argument.

So in reality what's the difference? Both groups believe that most of the Halacha we have today us man-made. In my mind, the lone difference is the willingness to discard precedent. Conservative Judaism is much more willing to ignore precedent and reverse earlier decisions. Orthodoxy takes a much more conservative (with a small 'c') stand and doesn't move too quickly.

So we see in theology the differences are not so clear. In reality, the primary distinctions are practice. Orthodox Judaism requires certain forms of practice that the other branches no longer do.

I'd say the biggest difference between the groups is keeping Shabbos and Kosher. That seems to be the arbitrary line set by society. Halacha recognizes a specific class of people who violate Shabbos openly. But for whatever reason Orthodox society views keeping Shabbos and Kosher as two of the most important mitzvot.

So the line between Orthodox and not-Orthodox is not so clear. It has become more of a societal concept rather than theological. Keeping these two commandments places one in the Orthodox category, and while the theology is important, the way someone is viewed by society is more based on practice than anything else.

Orthodoxy and Bad Faith

A while back, I had an argument about what makes someone Orthodox. A guy believed that he was Orthodox because he believes in morality. The Orthodox people in the room disagreed, pointing out the fact he doesn't believe in G-d and Orthodox Judaism requires that belief.

My friend, however, argued that as long as a person has Orthodox beliefs, he is Orthodox, even if he does not follow through on any of those beliefs. In other words, a person could violate Shabbos, eat pork, sleep around, and still be Orthodox as long as he believes in G-d, that the Torah is of divine origin, and that there is a mesorah (oral law). As one person put it, a person can be Orthodox if he conducts himself in bad faith, meaning he knows what he's is doing is wrong.

This definition seemed wrong to me. Let's leave out the fact that Orthodox belief is more complex than just G-d and the Torah. The thirteen Maimonidian principles are, according to most contemporary scholars, required belief (notwithstanding Marc Shapiro). So a person can believe in G-d, but if he doubts resurrection or the coming of the Messiah, it's hard to imagine him being Orthodox.

But another problem confronted me. This definition only includes the "dox" aspect; it ignored the "prax." The term Orthodox was not a self-created label. Before the term was applied to Orthodox Jews, the standard terminology was "Shomer Torah U'mitzvos" (someone who keeps the Torah and G-d's commandments). It strains credibility to argue that someone can refuse to follow a single commandment and still be Orthodox.

Orthodox Judaism recognizes the primacy of Halacha (Jewish law). It requires all types of actions by Jews every single day. Someone who follows none of them cannot be a keeper of Halacha. And the requirement to follow Halacha is certainly a central aspect of Orthodox Judaism.

The next post will deal with what I think should be the dividing line between Orthodox and the other branches of Judaism.

In Case You Thought Otherwise

Armando, in the comments on Concurring Opinions, admitted that the purposes of the Daily Kos are largely partisan and that they "advocate for what we believe is the Democratic point of view." I'm not saying conservative blogs don't do that, but lots of the big traffic blogs (Instapundit, Volokh, etc.) don't. Maybe the law blogs are more objective, I don't know, but it sure seems like the liberal law blogs (Balkinization) are consistently anti-Bush.

No Wonder Everyone Wants To Vote For Kadima

Labor and Likud have come out with their security/peace proposals.

Labor: Lease large settlement blocs from the Palestinians in exchange for cash. Supposed to be like the Hong Kong agreement where the British leased the province for 99 years, after which China took it back.

Obviously the idea is to avoid having to evacuate hundreds of thousands of settlers, while giving the Palestinians sovereignty over 100% of the West Bank.

I don't know where to start with this idea. What happens at the end the lease? All those settlers go under Palestinian control? I realize that won't happen for another 100 years or so, but what kind of deal requires hundred of thousands of Israelis to be transferred to Palestinian control?

There are certain areas that majority of Israelis do not want to cede. Gush Etzion is legendary. Even the symbolism is important. Granting the Palestinians sovereignty would undermine one of our symbols.

Would the Palestinians even support this plan? Sure they'd have sovereignty, but it would be a meaningless form. They'd be paid, but they've been pushing for control over all the West Bank with the settlers leaving. While they've allowed for land swaps, I can't see the current Palestinian leadership accepting a deal that denies them effective control over large parts of the West Bank. And it seems like the Peretz wants to work with these Palestinian leaders.

Likud: Withdraw to defensible borders after negotiations. This plan makes sense if we assume that a Palestinian state or other parts of the Arab world are a military threat and that we need borders to defend ourselves. It allows Israel to avoid having to control Palestinians, and therefore they don't have to deal with the demographic problem.

Netanyahu is very vague on what he intends to keep. The article includes "settlement blocs in Judea and Samaria." Is that all of the blocs? That's quite a bit of land (and they don't even get to collect rent). Who in their right mind thinks any Palestinian leadership will allow Israel to keep large swaths of the West Bank? They need some land to built a state.

Both these plans avoid the difficult problems of creating a Palestinian state. The Palestinians need a legitimate amount of the West Bank to build their state. Because of that, some Israelis (probably a decent number) will have to be evacuated. No one wants to talk about that, so they go on about defensible borders (keep the land) or lease it (and thereby avoid removing them).

Barak's answer was in the middle. We keep the major settlement blocs (including Ariel). No leasing (because that solves nothing). We give up the rest (no talk about defensible borders because no Arab country is remotely a threat to Israel). It's called compromising. Israel and the Palestinians will need to do it when push comes to shove.

I doubt Sharon will go as far as Barak, but if he's willing to give up 85 - 90% that will suffice. Keep the settlement blocs that are too difficult to remove and give the rest up. That's the only reasonable way to achieve peace.

Tuesday, December 27, 2005

I Just Don't Get It

I've been careful to stay away from the whole Slifkin controversy. But the recent RCA letter (Hat Tip: Hirhurim) made me think a little. The RCA claims that belief in evolution is not heresy. Others believe it is. I don't need to rehash that which has been completely beaten into the ground and dealt with in a much better capacity by far more qualified bloggers.

I'm no expert on evolutionary biology, and I haven't taken a science course since high school. But let's think this through for a minute. Evolution is overwhelmingly accepted by the scientific field. The support for evolution seems be just as great as for gravity.

Let's assume evolution was proven beyond a reasonable doubt (some say it already has been). According to those who believe such a belief is heretical, are we required to ignore our senses? Does Halacha expect us to deny the reality and just move on based on faith? I'm not sure I follow.

The idea of heresy seems to only make sense when we have different alternatives, all of which are plausible. Faith should help us choose between those choices and reject the others. But when one choice is supported by the overwhelming evidence, should faith contradict reason? Is that what the Slifkin banners expect?

Faith should not be the basis of a world view. It should only supplement reason. Do the Slifkin banners disagree?

A Balanced But Flawed Solution

Amnon Rubenstein, one of the founders of Meretz, analyzes the pros and cons of withdrawal and remaining in the territories. Ever since I started following Israeli politics I've found Rubenstein to be one of the best writers on the conflict. I don't always agree with him, but unlike most writers, he takes into account all of the pros and cons, not just the ones that fit his predetermined world view.

Rubenstein proposes placing the West Bank under international control (another mandate for Palestine) or putting it under the control of Egypt and Jordan. Martin Indyk proposed an international trusteeship a few years ago.

Rubenstein recognizes that withdrawal and the creation of a Palestinian state is a bad idea right now since Palestinians are becoming more and more radical, as evidenced by their support for Hamas. A Palestinian state will become a haven for Islamic terrorists of all stripes, including those under support of the fanatic Holocaust deniers in Iran.

But Israel cannot stay either. He believes the occupation is bad for Israel because it "runs contrary to the very principles of our democracy, endangers the Jewish majority in Israel proper and causes daily suffering for the Palestinians."

His solution mitigates both problems: it minimizes the contact between Israel and the Palestinians, thereby decreasing tensions, while preventing the creation of a Palestinian state until the populace deradicalizes.

An interesting idea, but one that just ignores some of the basic problems. It's not Hamas that refuses to compromise on the West Bank, Jerusalem, and the Temple Mount. The Fatah controlled PA has always demanded Israel withdraw from 100% of the West Bank. That's not going to happen, so what amount of territory must Israel turn over to the mandate? We have the same problems we've always had.

Moreover, neither of the two rulers of the mandate is acceptable to both the parties. Anyone who thinks an international force will be safe from Islamist attacks must have forgotten to read up on the news in Iraq over the last few years. Islamists are suspicious of westerners and are not about to sit quietly while the US or EU calls the shots in Nablus or Ramallah. Welcome to Iraq II, except the Islamists have far more support in the West Bank than in Iraq.

Israel will not accede to Egypt or Jordan controlling the WB unless they promise to annex it. While Jordanian annexation is beneficial to all parties, Jordan isn't stupid. They gave up their claim to the West Bank in 1988 for a reason; they don't want the Intifada spilling over into their territory. And Egypt never wanted anything to do with the territories.

Will either of these countries take their responsibility to help foster democracy seriously when neither is a democracy itself? Will they risk their soldiers for the sake of Israelis? Israel cannot trust them to take their job seriously.

I understand Rubenstein's problem with Israel's presence in the West Bank. But I don't think turning it over to foreign powers is the way to go.

Nothing Better To Do Apparently

Northern Israel was hit today by rocket fire from Lebanon. Correct me if I'm wrong, but this is the first time in a long time that Kiryat Shimona sustained a missile attack. Moreover, from time to time Hamas has been launching quassams into Southern Israel. Seems like a pretty big deal right?

Not to Amir Peretz. He's lambasting Sharon for not taking down fourteen illegal outposts in the West Bank.

Don't get me wrong. Illegal settlements have to go. But come on, seriously, what is a greater threat: rocket fire from foreign states or a few tents that could be removed in a matter of hours? I realize it's all campaign rhetoric, but some responsiblity is in order.

From the Haaretz article:

"Nabil Abu Rdainah, a spokesman for Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas, said, "Settlement activities severely hurt Palestinian efforts to maintain calm." He urged Israel "to cease these activities and uproot the outposts.""

But rocket fire is all fun and games?

Monday, December 26, 2005

Sharon's Medical Condition and the Election

The news that Sharon is to undergo catheterization of the heart in two-three weeks comes after he suffered a mild stroke last week. As it stands, Kadima is way ahead of the pack, with some polls predicting over 40 seats.

But what exactly is this party? Does this party have any selling points besides for Sharon? If the Israeli electorate loses confidence in Sharon's health, would that adversely affect Kadima's chances of making a strong showing?

Kadima is, in essence, the home for many of the big names in the Likud and Labor. Labor moved in a different direction with the election of Peretz, and Peres became upset and decided to join Sharon. Most of the bigwigs in the Likud are now sitting in Kadima. But if G-d forbid Sharon becomes ill and cannot continue, would all those Kadima voters trust Ehud Olmert or Tzipi Livni?

Of course that's the million dollar question in the media. But the question assumes one important fact: that Israeli voters would rather vote for some other party or not vote at all rather than take the risk of Sharon not being able to serve.

Let's assume Kadima will get 40 seats. 20 of those seats come from people who like centrist policies on security and peace. The other 20 are voting for Sharon, period. The first 20 are likely to vote for Kadima anyway, since no other party will fill their need (with the exception of Shinui, which might benefit a little from Sharon's bad health, but in reality runs on an anti-Charedi platform). The other 20 would have to think long and hard about voting for Kadima.

But who else would these 20 vote for? Shinui? Shinui has no chance of becoming a major player in the game and therefore will have little influence over policy. Likud? Maybe, but do they trust Bibi? What exactly is Bibi offering right now on the peace and security front? Does anyone know? Labor? Very few people who are considering voting for Ariel Sharon are going to just switch and vote for the socialist party. I don't see too many people going to Shas and UTJ either. And anyone who will vote for Sharon after disengagement is not going to turn around and vote for National Union/NRP or Yachad.

Will they just stay home? I guess it depends on the risk. Sharon is old, and he has some health problems. But how bad are they? Is it not worth the risk to vote for him and hope he continues the policies policies people like rather than just do nothing? Is Olmert that much worse than the alternatives? I don't believe people think so.

So what is comes down to is the risk of Sharon not finishing the term weighed against the benefit he bring to Israel if he does. I can't see too many Israelis forgoing Kadima just because of that risk.

Saturday, December 24, 2005

Scare Tactics At Its Best

Great movie by the ACLU. I thought it was a joke when I first saw it, but they're serious. You can always count on the ACLU to blow something out of proportion.

Friday, December 23, 2005

Where'd I End Up?

Everyone is taking this Orthodoxy test, so here are my results: User Test: The Orthodoxy  Test.

Left Wing Modern Orthodox: 65%
Right Wing Modern Orthodox: 90%
Left Wing Yeshivish/Chareidi: 50%
Right Wing Yeshivish/Chareidi: 10%

This means you're: Left Wing Modern Orthodox.

Not sure why I'm Left Wing Modern Orthodox if I'm 90% Right Wing Modern Orthodox, but OK.

Thursday, December 22, 2005

Finally Done

I'm finally finished finals. Five finals in two weeks is a bad idea.

Wednesday, December 21, 2005

What The Hell is Wrong With Our Judges?

This is a request for a temporary restraining order against David Letterman that was actually granted by some judge in Nevada. I don't know whether to laugh or cry.

Update: It's quite possible that David Letterman is not allowed to own a gun.

Friday, December 16, 2005

More idiotic flash ads

This one from NARAL.

Best line:

"Just one thing has stood in their way of their ultimate goal of overturning Roe v Wade: the Supreme Court."

You think?

Wednesday, December 14, 2005

Activist Judge Destroys Christmas

Here's the scoop:

WASHINGTON, DC—In a sudden and unexpected blow to the Americans working to protect the holiday, liberal U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals Judge Stephen Reinhardt ruled the private celebration of Christmas unconstitutional Monday.

"In accordance with my activist agenda to secularize the nation, this court finds Christmas to be unlawful," Judge Reinhardt said. "The celebration of the birth of the philosopher Jesus—be it in the form of gift-giving, the singing of carols, fanciful decorations, or general good cheer and warm feelings amongst families—is in violation of the First Amendment principles upon which this great nation was founded."

In addition to forbidding the celebration of Christmas in any form, Judge Reinhardt has made it illegal to say "Merry Christmas." Instead, he has ruled that Americans must say "Happy Holidays" or "Vacaciones Felices" if they wish to extend good tidings.

(Click on the link for more)

(Hat Tip: ProfessorBainbridge)

Tuesday, December 13, 2005

What Makes Someone Black?

It hasn't been really big news, but the head of the NAACP in Philly recently wrote an article criticizing Eagles QB Donovan McNabb for being a mediocre talent, hiding behind the race card. Besides for being eerily similar to what got Rush Limbaugh fired, the article needlessly brought race in the picture. He attacked McNabb for helping perpetuate the stereotype that Black quarterbacks are not as good because they run, rather than stand in the pocket. In other words, McNabb is betraying his race because he refuses to run.

This argument is obviously dumb. Black and White has nothing to do with it. Quarterbacks who run primarily are just not as good. Name the last running QB who has won a superbowl. Football is about standing in the pocket and finding receivers, not about leaving the pocket after all the WRs are covered.

But I digress. This post is not about football. The idea that a QB is more "Black" if he runs is another element of the Black cultural element that defines "Black" by having a certain upbringing, speaking a certain way, and acting a certain way. John Smallwood for the Philly Daily News has an excellent article on the can of worms the criticisms opened.

I'm not going to arrogate myself to define Black culture. I'm not Black and share none of their experiences or history, so it's not my place. But the element of victimhood embedded in the culture too much reminds me of how Jews cry "anti-Semitism" whenever someone criticizes them. How many times have we heard someone denounce a critic of Israel as an anti-Semite? Jew hating, like racism, surely exists, but not every critic is a hater. I think both Jews and Blacks need to remember that because sometimes criticism truly can be taken to heart.

Sunday, December 11, 2005

Funny Video

I need to stop blogging, but this video is hilarious.

(Hat Tip: Bench Memos)

Update: So is this one.

Ten Random Things

I have so much work to do for a final I have tomorrow and I'm not ready, but I've been tagged by David, so here goes:

1) Studying for finals when you haven't done any work all semester is hard. Really hard.
2) Babies are really cute.
3) Ever since I've started walking more, I've come to realize that I don't hate the cold as much as I used to.
4) Waking up in the morning is the hardest thing to do.
5) I can fall asleep in a matter of seconds, which probably is related to my inability to get up.
6) The choice of pasta or schwarma for dinner every night really gets old quickly.
7) Overall Lakewood probably beats Flatbush, but that's like saying Stalin was better than Hitler.
8) The villiage is filled with lots of really, really weird people who do lots and lots of weird things.
9) I can't explain how a key can work in the morning but not at night.
10) Despite evidence to the contrary, I don't hate dating.

I'm tagging: Classmate-Wearing-Yarmulka, Romach, SerandEz, Eli7, Josh, Sara, and Dovbear (I could use the link). Since I'll be posting infrequently over the next few weeks, this meme will give me something to read.

Friday, December 09, 2005

Same-Sex Marriage Ruling Reversed

I've been too busy to read this decision, but the Appellate Division reversed a Supreme Court ruling that required the state to recognize SSM. Commentary here.

The case was decided under the NY State constitution, not the federal one. Readers who wish to know my opinion on SSM can read my earlier posts found here.

Wednesday, December 07, 2005

Wow, Who Would Have Thought?

I took this test. Wonder which character I turned out to be?

(scroll down)

Which Fantasy/SciFi Character Are You?

Yoda was damn cool in the ROTS, so I'm taking it as a compliment. But something tells me Yoda has an easier time getting up in the morning....

Sending Chills Down My Spine....

A person could get physically sick from a story like this.

It's hard to imagine there are people who would do something like that to their own child.

Tuesday, December 06, 2005

Gavison is a No-Go

Unlike in the US, where the President nominates members to fill judicial openings and the Senate confirms, in Israel the appointments are made by a majority of the judicial selection committee. The Committee has nine members: three judges, two members of Israel's bar association, two members of the government, and two members of the Knesset. Historically, the judges have been able to veto choices even if they were in the minority.

In the case of Gavison, the three judges plus MK Avraham Shochat (Labor) and a member of the Bar oppose her confirmation. That's a majority and will make it very unlikely that she'll sit on the Court.

The opposition stems from her statements about the role of the court in a democracy (i.e., separation of powers). She has crazy fanatic beliefs like the courts shouldn't dictate policy over the will of the majority. Since, as Robert Bork once said, Israel's SC is the most activist court in the world, Barak does not want judges who oppose that ideology.

Barak's problem?

"Since the creation of the Supreme Court, we have never asked candidates for their opinion on the role of court. These are things that a judge learns, internalizes and defines in the process."

That's retarded. Judges are not supposed to understand their role before they get on the Court? What does that mean? That's like saying pitchers aren't supposed to understand the rules before they start playing the game. If rules exist in the legal world, and some of those rules deal with the boundaries of the court's power, then a judge must have a position on what those rules are before she sits on the court. How can she decide a case that involves striking down a legislative act without understanding what her job is supposed to be?

This whole opposition is a pretext. And the scary thing is the farce is not designed to keep a right-winger off the court; Gavison is no such thing. They refuse to confirm her because she wants to limit the court's power so it cannot protect democracy from itself.

Monday, December 05, 2005

When Words Mean Something Different....

Funny letter in the National Review Online this week:

"Dear Jay,

My mother is a kindergarten teacher. Her class is drawn from a comparatively lower-income neighborhood. After Thanksgiving, she put out the Christmas books (i.e., Night Before Christmas, plus various other "Happy Holidays"-type stuff for diversity's sake). Yesterday, child comes up to her. "Teacher, there's a bad word in the new books." Puzzled, Mom goes to check them out. The bad word he points to? It's Santa Claus, saying "Ho, ho, ho."

So, there you go — jolly ol' Saint Nick's famous phrase, courtesy of gangsta rap, is now an epithet.

How much should civilization weep for a five-year-old who reads the word "ho" and thinks
"whore" instead of "Santa"???

Merry Christmas."

Sad, really.

Netanya Bombing

Five Israelis were killed in today's suicide bombing outside a mall in Netanya. The Palestinian Authority's response:

"This operation ... against civilians causes the most serious harm to our commitment to the peace process and the Palestinian Authority will not go easy on whoever is found to be responsible for this operation," the statement quoted him as saying."

Wow, good to know. They won't go easy on whoever is responsible. That's especially great since everyone knows who is responsible. Islamic Jihad took responsiblity. So I should expect the PA police to start dismantling IJ soon, right?

OK, back to reality. The PA is not going to do anything about this mess. Why not? Apparently they can't. It seems the terrorist groups have gotten their hands on so many weapons that they just can't do anything about them.

Let's assume that's true. Gee, whose fault is that? Whose responsibility was it to keep guns out of the hands of Hamas and IJ during Oslo? How about now? It's safe to say Israel didn't allow weapons in. So why didn't the PA try to stop them for obtaining weapons when they could have? Because the terrorist groups were fighting their war for them. They were a useful tool. Now they aren't. But the PA cannot complain after turning a blind eye to the growth of these terrorist organizations. They are reaping what they sowed.

Sunday, December 04, 2005

No More About Dating

After my recent blogging fiascoes and the real-life arguments it generated, here's an email I sent a friend:

"I'm placing a moratorium on myself until after the semester regarding anything related to dating, girls, guys, or any variation thereof, with the exception of good faith questions relating to my current dating situation."

So don't expect to see any dating pearls of wisdom for next month or so. At least not from me. If anyone would like to guest blog about it, I'm all ears.

On another note, here's the headline for an article in today's WaPost (via Instapundit):

"Disappearing Act: Where Have the Men Gone? No Place Good"

Since my moratorium just started and this article clearly falls within its terms, I'm not going to comment. But feel free to do so in the comments.

Prisoner Escape

Four of the most dangerous Afghani prisoners in US custody recently escaped. Pretty pathetic. But in the Muslim world where conspiracy mongering is the norm, some believe that the Americans let these guys out to be double agents. The Americans, of course, denied it. What I don't understand is why.

Why not deny it, but subtly hint to its truth? Worst case scenario, they don't believe us and we're no worse off a position. Best case scenario, they do believe us and they kill them. What do we have to lose?

Here's a link to a picture of those who got away (can't get the picture to upload). If I met those guys in a dark alley, I be pretty scared.

Friday, December 02, 2005

Destroying Idolatry

Over at Hirhurim, Gil responds to the argument that being part of the government of Israel is idolatry by omission. The Satmar Rav argued that Christianity is idolatry for Jews and we therefore have the obligation to destroy the churches in Israel. When Israel don't do that, the government is implicitly accepting idolatry.

Gil points out that it's unclear that we have such an obligation even in theory. If it's not idolatry for those practicing it, there's no obvious requirement to destroy their houses of worship.

His last point is the most fundamental. In a nonredeemed world, destroying churches would put both the state of Israel and the Jewish people at risk. This cost would negate our obligation (if one exists even in theory) to destroy the churches.

I believe this argument can be extended to cover other situations, such as transfer. Even if we assume that the transfer question is moot (I argued in the past that it isn't) the same costs would apply to transfer. Israel would be put in a perilous situation and Jews around the world would be in danger. Our theoretical requirement would be mitigated because of these probable outcomes.

Thursday, December 01, 2005

Dating Rules

Let me start out by saying that rules are often a good thing. They allow people to avoid having to make the same decision over and over again. They codify conduct to prevent indecisiveness. In the shidduch dating world (it's a broad world), rules can be effective because guys and girls are often segregated until they are in the parsha ("ready for marriage") and have no clue how to interact. Rules give them guidance.

That said, many of the rules suck. This list is not nearly exhaustive, as there are dozens of rules: Let's list the ones that bother me the most right now while I'm studying for evidence:

1) Guy picks up the girl. Why? How old are we? The girl can't find her own way to wherever they are meeting? She can't take the subway? She can't drive?

The idea behind this rule is twofold: It allows the girl's parents to meet her date and shows he's willing to go out of the way to make a good impression. Neither of these reasons makes sense in the 21st Century.

Girls are more independent today. Certainly the parents should meet their daughter's perspective husband prior to marriage, but there's no reason to meet him on the first date. Girls are intelligent enough to make their own decisions without her parents getting involved. And obviously this rule makes things uncomfortable for the guy.

On the second issue, picking up a girl is an indicator of nothing. Here's why: in most circles the girls do not expect the guy to spend a lot of money on the first date, the reason being that it's stupid to go broke over someone he hasn't even seen before. This logic applies to picking her up as well. Why should the guy go out of his way to pick her up when it's possible the moment he sees her he'll know it's over?

I'm not asking the girl to pick up the guy (although that's not the end of the world either). I'm asking her to meet him in a central location that's convenient for both parties.

Note: This rule makes sense when the girl would have to go home by herself after a certain hour. Maybe I'm a chauvinist, but I believe girls are more likely to get attacked than guys and he should bear the cost of protecting her.

2) Guy makes all the decisions. In some ways this makes sense. He pays, so he should decide. But guys often ask girls for their opinions and get back the inevitable "whatever you want." Why can't girls give advice on dates? Do they not have opinions? I was once told girls really don't care. That's hogwash. Maybe they don't care if the choice is between Dougie's and Kosher Delight. But they don't have an opinion between dairy and meat? Between ESPN Zone or Toys R' Us? That's highly unlikely.

This rule probably has its origins in the idea that the guy is the man and he should be making all the decisions. Of course it never works like that in marriage, so this aspect of dating is completely unreflective of marriage. Plus, it puts all the pressure on the guy to make the dates, and forces the girl into annoying situations (perhaps she doesn't like bowling).

3) Girl can't call the guy before a certain number of dates. This rule even applies when the guy calls her first and leaves a message. This one is beyond me. He called her, left a message, and told her to call him back when she has time. Wouldn't the most efficient step call for her to return his phone call when she's available rather than have him keep calling back? Am I missing something?

This rule probably has its origins back in the day when women were less pushy and didn't want to seem forward. I'm not expecting girls to ask the guy out. I'm asking them to return a phone call.

OK, my study break is over. Can anyone think of rules that hurt the girl more than the guy? And I mean rules, not expectations. There's no rule that requires a girl to be a size 4 even though many guys (stupidly) require it.

Update: After a whole bunch of arguments with people I know about this issue, I'm going to retract rule #1 as long as the guy has a car. I'm still sticking to my original point when the guy has to rent or borrow a car for every date.