Sunday, April 29, 2007

Trouble in Paradise

Tensions are rising in the Israeli suburban town of Ramat Beit Shemesh between English-speaking immigrants and haredi Israelis.

"A group of teenagers were on their way home from an Independence Day celebration last week in the largely Anglo enclave of Ramat Beit Shemesh when they were pelted with eggs and tomatoes." (cross-currents, haaretz)

Very distressing to hear. Very painful.

What if Israel Relaxed the Draft?

I have to agree with a fabulous point the Real Adiel made about the secular Israeli government's approach to Haredim. Israel has a draft. Every 18 year old male citizen must serve in the army. However, the ultra-religious refuse to serve because of religious concerns and use "dchuyot" and "peturim" (deferment and exemptions) lehitchamek (to escape) their service. This is a sore point among secular Israelis who accuse the religious of disloyalty.

The Real Adiel points out that if the government would stop insisting on drafting the religious, they could integrate them in other ways to become a healthy constructive part of society. The current situation hurts everyone. The religious won't serve in the army anyway, but the current means of escaping army service often preclude their ability to get an education and a job. If the government would allow for unpunished conscientious objection, the country would benefit from the talents of the religious, albeit not in the military.

Would Israel really suffer if it relaxed the draft? Most Israelis I've spoken to made their own decision about army service. They all got drafted. Some chose to serve, while others used various means to dodge the call. Many feel it is a duty, honor, and privilege to serve and protect their country. Others feel that joining the IDF threatens their religious identity and morals. Conscription is not such a great factor. It may be time for Israel to experiment with relaxing the draft. This can also have a huge positive impact on immigration, because many are afraid to make aliyah knowing they will have to send their kids to the army.

Friday, April 27, 2007

Applause for Governor Spitzer

A response to Spitzer Pushes For Shameful Bill.

Since when was a doctrine of tolerance "shameful" to Jews? Have we forgotten the centuries of oppression we suffered because others could not accept our religious way of life? Should we now be in the business of depriving others of Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness just because the winds of power have shifted?

If, as religious Jews, we are not permitted to engage in an act or way of life, that doesn't mean we ought to impose our values on our neighbors. As Jews, we must continue to champion the ideals of freedom if we hope for our religious rights and freedoms to endure. Let us stop judging others and dictating the "right" way to live, lest power shift again and leave us the ultimate losers.

Thursday, April 26, 2007

Blog Whore

Your blog is your personal space, where you can write what you want. You can set up the page how you want it to look, you are free. You decide.

But then you want to generate traffic. Or, more specifically, you want people to read what you have to say. You want to receive feedback and share ideas. You want to connect with people.

So you begin to add elements to your page that are designed to attract a wider audience. These may not be what you want on your page, but you need them in order to draw a crowd.

Suddenly, your blog is not your own space. You share it with so many others. You have lost control. Yet you have a readership. You are getting hits. You made a trade off: less control for more attention.

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

The Hidden Costs of DVD

Remember the good old days when you popped a VHS into your TV and fast-forwarded to the beginning of the movie? Now you have to wait for the DVD to go at its own leisurely pace until you get to watch your movie which you paid $15.00 for.

It was supposed to be that TV was ad supported and free, but movies you pay for the privilege of watching ad-free. Now we pay and get bombarded with ads. The movie companies don't like us, do they?

I started watching Memoirs of a Geisha after I read the book, and it was so bad I had to stop. It is so melodramatic and unrealistic. The book was very touching and real. It was about a young girl and her life. It was about beauty and oppression and strength. The movie just rips all of that away and leaves you with random camera angles, poor lighting, and bad directing. (Disclaimer: I didn't see the whole thing. It was so bad, I couldn't watch it. There is that odd chance it gets better later.)

Disturbia was decent. Not worth all the hype its got, but ok. The first scene had me saying, "No, no, bad idea. I was thinking scary but not sad and sick." But it turned out ok.

There is a tendency in some movies to take a good looking actor and mangle his face in the first scene (think Lucky Number Sleven), but they let Shia LeBeouf keep his cute looks after the crash, so it was alright. There was one scene, when he looks into the car at his father, where he looks just like a young George Bush. Anyone notice that?

Monday, April 23, 2007

Emmanuel Fires Teacher for No Good Reason

Unacceptable behavior by Emmanuel College as teacher Mr. Winset is fired for discussing Va. Tech shootings with his class (story). This extremist behavior is to the detriment of us all. Like the little kid who covers his eyes and thinks you don't exist. If we ignore him, maybe he'll just go away. My own school said it is reviewing its security policy in light of the shootings. I felt a depth of loss that they would respond so unthinkingly with knee-jerk platitudes and a lack of real open intellectual debate. My school often embarrasses me that way. America needs to face the real issues. It's not campus security. It's not limiting people's rights because they write dark stories (more about that later). Agav, Joyce, Marquez, Poe, and Hitchcock would all have been to the slammer. We would be an empty, Fascist regime.

First, the incidence of such violence is low. This was the biggest mass killing in America since 9/11. By comparison, Iraq saw 3 mass killings bigger in the last three weeks alone. Second, there are some freaks in every society. As long as we take social steps to discourage a mindset where this behavior seems appropriate, we are ok. We do not need to lock people up. Just need to build a peaceful society. As for the freaks who will always want to kill, we need to make sure they don't have access to the weapons.

Give Him a Call

Got something on your mind? Got nothing on your mind? Call Ryan.

I'd love to do this myself, but I just can't right now. If I got a second cell phone for these calls, I would. Keep up the good work! (I hope it is good work. You can never *really* know, but it seems like good work.)

Abortion Ban Upheld by Court

Disclaimer: Abortion is a necessary and proper tool in many cases, and there are a variety of procedures used to accomplish one. The following deals with a specific class of procedure called D&E that is often used in second trimester abortions. Please don't let the details of this procedure bias you against all abortion in general.

The Unites States Supreme Court delivered a decision last week in Gonzalez v. Carhart upholding the Partial-Birth Abortion Ban Act of 2003. Clinton had vetoed similar bills twice during his presidency, and Bush finally signed it into law on November 5, 2003 (you can just imagine his silly proud smile as he signed the thing).
The doctor, often guided by ultrasound, inserts grasping forceps through the woman’s cervix and into the uterus to grab the fetus. The doctor grips a fetal part with the forceps and pulls it back through the cervix and vagina, continuing to pull even after meeting resistance from the cervix. The friction causes the fetus to tear apart. For example, a leg might be ripped off the fetus as it is pulled through the cervix and out of the woman. The process of evacuating the fetus piece by piece continues until it has been completely removed. A doctor may make 10 to 15 passes with the forceps to evacuate the fetus in its entirety, though sometimes removal is completed with fewer passes. Once the fetus has been evacuated, the placenta and any remaining fetal material are suctioned or scraped out of the uterus. The doctor examines the different parts to ensure the entire fetal body has been removed.
Surprise! This procedure is not the one on which the Court allowed a ban. No, this is okay. The banned procedure is similar, except instead of ripping the baby apart as they take it out, they coax it out gently and then crush the skull. This is illegal if the baby is first partially delivered until "in the case of a head-first presentation, the entire fetal head is outside the body of the mother, or, in the case of breech presentation, any part of the fetal trunk past the navel is outside the body of the mother".

If I sound like I'm anti-abortion, describing the details of the procedure and all, I'm not. I'm just pro-life. Just kidding. I'm pro-abortion. No, wait, then I'd have to say I'm pro-choice, right? Talk about abortion and you suddenly get all these stupid euphemisms. Know what the pro-abortion organization that brought one of the suits in the Supreme Court was called? Planned Parenthood Federation of America. How is anyone supposed to know what they stand for? You might get a fund raising letter from them and donate thinking, "Yah, I'm on the pill and my bf uses rubbers, so yah, I support planned parenthood," and then they'll go and rip apart a little newborn baby. Planned Parenthood, indeed.

For the record, I don't have a strong opinion yet on the issue. I just find it fascinating the way different people approach the topic, with cool intellect or with all their raging emotions flying off the handle when it doesn't even concern them. If the issue comes before me for a psak, I'll render one.

Interestingly, when I first read the description of the half-born fetus flailing its little arms and the doctor sticking his scissors into its skull and spreading them and then sucking the baby's brains out with a suction tube, I thought it seemed wrong. How can we end that precious little life (my personal hesitations on the value of life aside)? But then I remembered that a life isn't just a cute little baby. That baby will grow up. An unwanted child. Cared for by a mother who doesn't believe herself capable of raising the child. Often, the unaborted fetus will grow into a criminal, making life more difficult for not only its mother and father, but also other innocent victims. The innocent baby is liable to become a monster. Does that make it right? I don't know. It's just a thought.

Saturday, April 21, 2007

Therapy Mashup

What you do isn't who you are.

Then what are you?

If you can't derive happiness from your job, that doesn't mean you can't be happy.

Depression stems from loss. Loss can be loss of something you had, such as a loved one. It can also be something you never had, but feel incomplete without. That is also loss.

What is the earliest memory you have?

I remember being in kindergarten. Not a specific event, but the scene. An idea of what the room looked like, the teacher talking, something happening like kids playing with blocks or whatever.

What diagnosis would you give yourself? How would you treat yourself if you were the shrink? Can it be that when you say you feel selfish and don't put yourself out to help others, that is merely a manifestation of insecurity?

Well, great going, Chuck.

Inconsistency in American "Establishment"

Why is the phrase "In God We Trust" a fixture in the Courts but illegal in the schools?

Thursday, April 19, 2007

Link Bombs

I know this is old news, but I just tried it myself and it is pretty cool. If you search for "miserable failure" on Yahoo and many other search engines (not Google anymore, they changed it), President George Bush's official page at the White House will pop up as the number one result. There are other link bombs, too. How it works: Search engines use links to sites as one of the ways they determine a site's content. If lots of people call their link to Bush "miserable failure" search engines think that the Bush site talks about "miserable failure" (which, in the opinions of many, it does).

Random Stuff that Caught my Attention

Andrew Christian has an interesting line of underwear and swimwear. It is like the gayest company around. Check out Kyal Marsh, star of TV show Neighbors. I feel so sick right now. Maybe kissing people with colds isn't such a good idea. Started rereading 1984. Every so often, I'll go and pull out one of my old books, you know, make sure it still says what I remember it as saying. Anyway, it's a great read, and more relevant than ever.

Whoops, that's Neighbours with a u. It's not an American show.

UPDATE: Here is the link everyone's looking for; it is surprisingly simple (pics, vids, whateva)

Thursday, April 12, 2007

Should You Start a Business?

Here's another personality quiz thing. This one from WSJ, who I thought would have more self respect. Here's how I did.

Achievement: 66
Affiliation: 49
Power: 42

Your score: You're motivated primarily by achievement. Most entrepreneurial people are driven by the need to achieve.

From StartupJournal, a service of The Wall Street Journal.


Wayne Hodgins, interesting
New choices in search Grokker, KartOO

Think I'm not patriotic? I have my ringer set to the Star Spangled Banner. I hear the anthem more than you do.

Ever sat and watched the rain?

Ever sat and watched the rain?

These days, who watches anything that doesn't have a fast forward button?

I figure I'll get the Joost thing out of the way once we are on the topic. They bring TV to your PC. Great, isn't it? Yah, if they did it 10 years ago. Thing is, today we already have something much better than TV. TV subjected you, me, the viewer, to the whims of some dude in Hollywood. We would have to sit idly and watch whatever they stick in front of us. Now, we have TiVo. We have YouTube. We don't have to put up with your content and your schedules. We are free!

Media executives are worried they are losing market share to websites like YouTube and Google Video, so they plan to offer us the encrypted and pirate-proof fully-censored and ad-supported service, Joost (from the makers of Kazaa and Skype, if you're wondering about the name). It works like TV; just plug it in and turn it on. Old-fashioned simplicity in an increasingly complex world. I'll reserve judgment. The test of any 21st venture must be: are they trying to provide a service or a hindrance?

P.S. Brothers can be extremely annoying.

Friday, April 06, 2007

The Legal Limits of Looking

The Kuna High School girls basketball team is in town for a game at Bishop, and the Bishop Kelly High School boys are ready. A group of teenage boys excitedly cluster around an office window with a propitiously discrete view of the girls locker room. Or so they thought. Shortly after the girls begin changing into their uniforms, some of them notice the blinds on the window glancing open. They quickly dress and call their coach. Parents of the girls immediately call the police, who promptly arrest the boys, confiscate and search 13 cell phones, and begin a detailed investigation. The boys face up to five years on misdemeanor or felony charges of Voyeurism.

Voyeurism is a relatively recent addition to the growing list of "Don'ts" here in America. Criminal voyeurism includes any "use of mechanical or digital equipment to watch or record people in any place where they can reasonably expect privacy, which includes any place in which they are expected to be in a state of nudity." Many States have added new voyeurism laws in recent years, and the Sexual Offences Act 2003 imposes Federal sanctions.

What began as a simple harmless act that most of our parents engaged in as teenagers almost landed the BK boys in jail. Luckily, no incriminating pictures were found on any of their cell phones and police had to let them go. The school is still considering whether punitive measures are in order, but the larger issue is whether society really needs to be so highly regulated.

Most Americans buy into the myth of Law and Order because we have been spoon-fed this line since childhood. However, as John Hasnas points out in, "The Myth of the Rule of Law," Order doesn't necessarily equate with Law. There can be Law without Order and Order without Law.

But at a more elementary level, what harm has really been done here? If the boys went and raped the girls there would be a serious problem. But all they did was look. According to Boise Police, the girls were not naked at the time of the incident. Is this a free country? Come on, boys will be boys. And besides, it doesn't hurt to be looked at. Where is the harm? Stop being such a baby. If I was a 14-year-old basketball player and my mother called the police on the kids from the school I was playing against because they looked at me in the locker room, I'd die of embarrassment!

A side point - there were a group of girls dressing together in the locker room. They complain that boys peeked in , yet they all were free to look at each other. Why is this not sex-based discrimination?

with information from
Patrick Orr, The Idaho Statesman, Boise

A 19 year old lifeguard was also charged with photographing a woman at the swimming pool where he worked.

Thursday, April 05, 2007

Short on Time, Quick Update

Happy Passover! It's been a real challenge spending the past few days at home with my whole family, but rewarding as well. Family is one of those things that are worth putting up with.

Loads of wine and matzah were consumed by all.

Now I need a research topic relating to trial consultancy. I'm thinking of comparing rulings in elected-judge jurisdictions with those in appointed-judge jurisdictions against public opinion in the district. Are judges affected by politics?