Wednesday, May 31, 2006

Facing the Future: Life, Judaism, & Graduation

It's been a bit busy this week, so I have yet to recap graduation [or the parts I want to]. But graduation puts you in a certain mood, so... here are a few things I've written to various people the last couple of days that you may find interesting.

In an e-mail about Holy Hyrax's post:
Life isn’t always heavy – it just is sometimes. HH got real, heartfelt responses by people who aren’t used to spewing rhetoric. It’s much more valuable that way. I think the best comment may have been the person who advised just forgetting about it all for a while – sometimes, getting away from it all lets you see it more clearly.

Good analogy: Play a game of chess. It’s much easier to see the board from the side than it is from behind your pieces, or especially if you’re one of the pieces on the board. Sometimes, looking at everything from the outside makes it that much more clear.
In a comment on Xvi's post:
The realization I came to on Sunday, sitting through my own graduation after not intending to go at all: Time to finish up and move on. No more of these games.

Your situation is far different, with more options ahead of you in some ways. But the philosophy is still the same - don't keep avoiding the future, embrace it. You don't have a choice anyway, so may as well make the most of it.

It's actually the flaw in the poem/essay. It is the unknown, it is scary. But the time has come to face it head on. The lesson from the past is that stuff happens for a reason, and we need to make the most of what comes to us. Just as we have done in the past, whether it is taking advantage of our opportunities or learning from the ones we blew, we now know better how to act in the future.

Sure it's the unknown, sure it's scary. But so was the past, until it happened.
In a comment to Holy Hyrax:
It's impossible to find the answers to everything. If we could, there wouldn't be debates on whether or not God exists, whether Judaism is the right religion, etc. There *are* holes in the Mesorah, and some are easily identifiable. Much like you, I had quick responses in my head to many of the points people were making above. And I recognize the difference in the way I (or Chardal, or Jameel, or GH...) can approach this as FFBs versus how you can as a BT. But I still think you're approaching this from the wrong direction.

I also think the best advice anyone gave here was remarkably simplistic: Take a step back for a bit.

... [sic]

In your case, I think taking a couple months off thinking about this stuff is a good idea. I also don't think the blogs are where you're going to find your answers: Not only do the blogs lack many serious experts on Torah, but a blog by nature generally debates and debates without coming to a conclusion. Afterwards, come back with a different approach - looking for that which *does* make sense, not by eliminating what does not but by evaluating what's there. Recognize that not all the answers are out there - no matter which way you approach it from. If skepticism were a religion, people would have trouble believing in it, simply because it's got so many holes.

I don't think religion is measured by how many or few holes it has. It's measured by the content of what it does have, instead.
Curious what people think... the floor (popup?) is yours.

Curry N' Rice Girl

For your entertainment purposes...

Ezzie's Blog Roundup, 5/31: Sleep-Deprivation

After yesterday morning's bris, I walked to our good friend who had kindly agreed to watch Elianna while Serach was at work until I got home. Walking back in the unbearable heat reminded me why sleeping just a half-hour out of thirty or so is not something I can do more than a couple of times a week, and after Serach came home I went to sleep for about 6 hours.

For years, my mother has tried to convince me that I need to get on a normal sleeping schedule, and I usually agreed somewhat while not actually being able to do so. I'm generally unable to sleep unless I'm exhausted, and that doesn't happen all that often: The coming of Shavuos this weekend reminds me of the time I stayed up for 69 consecutive hours, both to learn and to help take over for the cook of WITS, my high school [of 130 students], who was informed on the first day of the holiday that his father had passed away. (That's a story for another time.)

But how important is it really to be on a "normal" sleep schedule for someone in my situation? I sleep on average 4-5 hours, and can go on 2-3 a night for a few weeks if need be, even skipping a couple nights if there's something important to be done. [Perfect for tax season.] I work better later, rather than earlier; as most people are getting tired and burning out, I seem to get going. I seem to thrive in pressure situations, where the work/studying/essay needs to be done now, because it's due or the test is in just a few hours. I feel like I am better off remaining on my own "off-schedule" as long as it allows me to accomplish more.

Anyways, on to the roundup:

Jewish Community Issues:
BeyondBT discusses Internet in the home. Interesting debates in the comments.

Gil gives his two cents on the two sides of discretion. I thought I linked to this yesterday, but see I had not - it's a short, sharp read. Excerpt:
But what really bothers me are the communal figures who don't usually watch their mouths but are suddenly being so careful. Don't they realize that when they are quick to denounce everything and then suddenly don't denounce this, they are sending a huge message with their silence?
Orthomom discusses Bar Mitzvah boys and beer... and alcoholism in the community in general.

Nephtuli talks about the terrible approach some people have to solving shidduchim problems.
Am I crazy for thinking it's ridiculous for someone to choose his spouse solely on the basis of whether he can learn full-time for two or three years? Am I the only one who thinks this whole system is absurd? Why can't people see the obvious answer is for not everyone to spend years in kollel on someone else's income?
Jack hits two years. Check out some of the best posts of his - the one he marks as his first really great post will blow you away.

Town Crier has a number of other greats posts in Around the Blog.
(From heavy to light...)

Xvi questions his future.

Shoshana lives... and learns.

Godol Hador reflects on what seems to be his struggle in life.

Robbie drives away from the last segment of his life.

The PsychoToddler turns 5... but the blog keeps its name.

Stacey enjoys the apples of her eye.
Daled Amos remembers the time he got in trouble for performing magic. Kinda freaky, really.

Nephtuli gives the best review I've seen of United 93, and just why it's so important to see now.

Romach has an interesting take on tomorrow's same-sex court cases in NY.

WestBankMama wants your aliyah stories, which she'll round up just before Shavuos. Here's hers, on the 15th anniversary of her move.
Check it out! Worth noting: Holy Hyrax's post from a couple of days ago is still mired in serious discussion, and every two cents counts.

Tuesday, May 30, 2006

The NSA's Terrorist Surveillance Program: Is It Worth The Risk? [Part I]

The following is the first in a series of posts discussing the NSA wiretap program. The notes will appear as footnotes at the end of each portion rather than at the end. There will be four or five posts in total, spread out over the next week or so. David Kirschner is a good friend whose bio is in the second footnote.


David J. Kirschner[2]

For years, the United States Government has engaged in covert surveillance and intelligence gathering. Among the most effective methods of conducting such surveillance is through electronic eavesdropping, which is the wiretapping of a telephone or “bugging” of a geographical location. Historically, the government has used electronic surveillance to spy on the former Soviet Union, China and a host of other countries presenting a threat or a perceived threat to our national security. However, the government has also used it against domestic political opponents who posed no national security threat. Administrations from Franklin D. Roosevelt to Richard Nixon permitted, and sometimes encouraged, government agencies to engage in gathering political intelligence. Electronic surveillance methods have also been used on members Congress, numerous non-mainstream and some mainstream political figures, and even Supreme Court Justices. In fact, in the 1960’s, the FBI created a counterintelligence program known as “COINTELPRO,” which was intended to disrupt groups and neutralize individuals deemed to be threats to national security. Targets included the Klu Klux Klan, the Black Panthers and Martin Luther King, Jr.

Obviously, such use, or rather misuse, is categorically unacceptable and unjustifiable. Traditionally, there exists a clear distinction between domestic criminal investigations and matters of involving issues of national security. The former guarantee’s protection to citizens, lawful permanent residents, and even in many cases even illegal aliens, from having evidence obtained in violation of the Fourth, Fifth and Sixth Amendments used against them in domestic criminal prosecutions. Conversely, foreign intelligence gathering has had little, if anything, to do with criminal domestic matters.

With the advent of terrorism and terrorist-related activities, however, exclusive reliance on such a distinction became problematic. Domestic terrorist activities could easily appear to be little more than another criminal case while simultaneously emblematic of an ongoing terrorist campaign against the United States on its soil. The obvious question, then, is whether proscribed conduct is a matter of national security or within the purview of the criminal justice system. If a person, citizen, permanent resident or nonresident, is charged with having violated a domestic criminal statute, they would be entitled to all constitutionally protected rights. When that person and his activities threaten our national security, however, it is an entirely different matter. Arguably then, intrusion of any constitutional safeguards, otherwise taboo in the prosecution of domestic crimes, might well be justified and may even be absolutely necessary to thwart terrorism. And so the pressing question is to what extent, if any, must we afford a foreign power or its agent’s constitutional protections who intend to bring unimaginable death and destruction to us on our soil? Before analyzing this question, however, consider how we are to handle agents of those foreign powers who are also citizens or permanent residents? Should the Justice Department’s criminal justice system have jurisdiction or the National Security Agency?

[1] This article is adapted from a lengthier work which, outlines the United States government’s historical and traditional use of electronic surveillance, analyzes the legal issues surrounding its use in matters of national security and examines some of the legal and practical issues presented by the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) and its progeny, The Uniting and Strengthening America by Providing Appropriate Tools Required to Intercept and Obstruct Terrorism Act of 2001 (USA PATRIOT) Act. I extend my sincerest appreciation to the following law school professors whose scholarly works on this topic provided me with a comprehensive review of these issues and greatly assisted me in preparing the background and foundation of this article: Orin S. Kerr, Associate Professor of Law at George Washington University Law School and former counsel with the Computer Crime and Intellectual Property Section of the U.S. Department of Justice’s Criminal Division. Internet Surveillance Law after the USA Patriot Act: The Big Brother That Isn’t, 97 Nw. U. L. Rev 607 (2003); Peter Swire, Professor, Moritz College of Law of the Ohio State University and John Glenn Scholar in Public Policy Research. Professor Swire also served as Chief Counselor for Privacy in the U.S. Office of Management and Budget during President Clinton’s Administration and was asked by Chief of Staff John Podesta to chair a fifteen-agency White House Working Group on how to update wiretap and other electronic surveillance law for the Internet age. The System of Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Law, 72 Geo. Wash. L. Rev. (2004). Lastly, I wish to express appreciation to my former student, Desiree Cameron, for her research assistance. The views expressed herein are exclusively those of the author and do not represent or reflect the views of the Bronx County District Attorney.

[2] David J. Kirschner is an Assistant District Attorney in Bronx County, New York, where he supervises covert investigations involving the use of electronic surveillance. As a senior member of the Investigations Division’s Rackets Bureau, Mr. Kirschner has successfully litigated cases relying upon evidence obtained through electronic eavesdropping and regularly prosecutes white collar crimes including racketeering, enterprise corruption, extortion, usury, gambling, fraud and public corruption. In addition, he frequently oversees the office’s arrest, intake and arraignment process. Mr. Kirschner also teaches trial advocacy at Hofstra Law School’s National Institute for Trial Advocacy, Cardozo Law School’s Intensive Trial Advocacy Program, and is an Adjunct Assistant Professor of Business Law with the City University of New York at Queens College and Touro College.

Reb Abe: "If Only I'd Become A Marine Instead..."

Longtime reader and commenter Reb Abe posted this as a comment to this post. I asked his permission to post this where everyone would see it, and he obliged. Reb Abe is a great friend whom I've known for about five years, and who I have the deepest respect for. After reading this, you will too.
Thank You
Thank you from an (Orthodox) American Jew.

This past weekend, our great country once again honored our fallen soldiers, those who made the ultimate sacrifice in the field of battle. Sometimes Memorial Day represents nothing but a day off from work and a chance to spend time with the family.

But I find myself wondering what life would have looked like in different circumstances. What life would have looked like had I volunteered for the Marines fresh out of high school, instead of going to Israel to study in Yeshiva? What would 9/11 have been like if instead of being placed under a lockdown in my isolated Yeshiva in Israel, I would have been part of a mobilized unit sent to protect key installations? What would it have been like if instead of studying for finals, I would have been preparing for combat overseas? What would it have been like to be awoken to bomb blasts, machine gun fire and the sounds of screaming wounded, as opposed to the screams of “SHACHARIS…TIME TO GET UP!” It surely would have been different if instead of coming home to graduate college, I was only coming home to see my family for two weeks before heading back to Iraq.

I don’t always give the proper due to the brave men and women who serve our country with such pride and valor. Sometimes I don’t thank them at all. So here is a word of thanks from a grateful American Jew.
Thank You and God Bless You.

Ezzie's Blog Roundup, 5/31: The Bris

I'm getting up bright and early tomorrow morning and heading to Stamford, CT with a friend for the bris of the son of our friends Dovid & Katie. Mazel Tov!

If Elianna doesn't go for him, maybe he can take a shot at the daughter of A Simple Jew, whose wife just gave birth to a baby girl - Mazel Tov to ASJ, a blogger whose stuff I should read more often.

A bris is a nice time to reflect on the strange journeys of life - as is a death. Either way, it is always pleasant when people are able to celebrate the life that was led even in death, as PsychoToddler is doing with his father. Read Bernie The Cuban, a wonderful pair of stories about his father.

Some of those journeys and trials of life are perfectly summed up in Holy Hyrax's first-ever post, hosted at Jameel's. An excerpt:
They do not deserve this. My wife deserves the husband she once new -- a happy, caring one. So if Judaism is causing me such great misery, why should I keep up with it? I just don't know anymore. All I know is that I wanted to be frum, I really did. Anyone that knows me can testify to that. But how can I go on any longer.

So my question remains. Can a BT with doubt remain frum?
It's a post from the heart, and one which left me speechless, even with the privilege of having met Holy Hyrax once. It should strike to all our cores.
EDITS: After seeing Yitzchak's Linkim, I realized that I got the date wrong. Ouch. He also points to a number of good posts, including NY's Funniest Rabbi's J-Blogosphere Exam - interesting.
Rest of the roundup...
Daled Amos has 10 links to start your week with.
News Media:
Judeopundit notes a somewhat anti-Israel Hebrew lesson in the Baltimore Sun. I always hated that paper when I was in Baltimore...

Meanwhile, FrenchHill notes that Google is not just censoring for China anymore - now, it's taking out sites that are deemed 'offensive' to Islam, as well.

And WestBankMama notes what is not in the news after a brutal murder (and it's not the murder).

Treppenwitz notes another story that's not in the news: This life-saving operation of a Palestinian girl by Israeli doctors was anything but routine, but not because of who was saving who.
Yosef is seeing red over those who stand up for Judaism by doing the antithesis of it. I don't blame him.

JoeSettler is seeing red over those who don't have enough respect for their own people.
Sadie/Ezer K'Negdo will be hosting the 7th Kosher Cooking Carnival! Send her your recipes and links.

Sarah puts on a scarf, takes a picture.

AbbaGav finishes his hilarious "Oprah in Jenin" series by going on the Oprah show himself.

And Robbie has Part II of his literary masterpiece.
Check it out!

Monday, May 29, 2006

A Philosophy In Life

The following is an excerpt taken from Joel Trachtenberg's address given at the commencement exercises of Touro College on May 29th, 2006. It is written from memory, which means it has almost no resemblance to what he actually said - but enjoy it anyway.

"When I was a dean at Boston University, my father called me one day. 'Son, your mother is away this weekend, and I haven't seen you in a while, so how about I come take a train to visit you in Boston?' Even a college dean isn't too busy for a request like that, so I had no way out of it. 'Sure, Poppa, no problem.' That weekend, my dad came up to Boston to visit, and we had a nice time.

On Sunday, he wanted to go out to eat, and I thought that was a fine idea. Before we went, I took a pillowcase and threw a number of shirts into the pillowcase to take to the dry cleaners. We stopped at the dry cleaners on the way, I handed them the pillowcase, and we went on to the restaurant. I saw my father was thinking hard about something, and let him be for a while.

After a while, I said to him, 'Poppa - was this really about having a free weekend, or is there a lot more to this visit? Is something wrong?' 'No, no son - I'm just thinking hard about what you did before.' 'What are you talking about, Poppa?' 'When you handed in your shirts at the dry cleaners, you didn't count them first. How could you not count the shirts?!'

'Ah, but that's my philosophy in life.'

'Your philosophy in life is about shirts!?'

'Think about it: Let's say I count the shirts before I give them in. First of all, then I have to count them again on the way out - otherwise, there was no point in counting them on the way in. Then, there's only 3 options: Either there are the same number of shirts; more shirts; or less shirts than I had originally.

If it's the same amount of shirts, then what did I accomplish? I'd justed counted my shirts twice: For nothing.

If there are more shirts than there were originally, it's a bigger pain. Let's say I handed in 10 shirts, and now there are 11. I have to go through all 11 shirts to figure out which one is not mine, upon which I then have to give that shirt back to the dry cleaners, and I've gained absolutely nothing. Who needs that?

Finally, let's say I gave in 10 shirts, and I only get back 9. Now what? I am required to say something to the man behind the counter, because otherwise, what was the point in counting the shirts in the first place?! So I say something to the man behind the counter, with whom I've had a good relationship for years, and what happens?

First of all, suddenly, he doesn't understand a word of English. Second, he gives me an angry look, and points me to a sign on the wall:
The dry cleaners assumes NO responsibility for LOST or DAMAGED clothing.
Or, he might point to another sign indicating store policy on lost shirts, saying that they pay $20 to replace lost shirts. But of course, $20 doesn't do anything for you. This shirt was the $40 Brooks Brothers shirt you bought last year. Now, even if you take the $20, you're ticked off because you know you just got swindled out of half the price of your shirt.

Either way, you can no longer go back to that dry cleaners. So from now on, you have to walk many extra blocks out of your way to another dry cleaners that's not nearly as good as your original one, and for what? A shirt?!

How many shirts are you really going to lose in a lifetime, anyway? Maybe ten? Ten shirts at $40 each comes out to $400. That $400 amortized over a lifetime comes out to... well, over a lifetime, it doesn't add up to all that much per year.

That's why I don't count my shirts.'

My father thought about this for a while, and finally responded:
'It's nice to have a rich Poppa, isn't it?'"

Memorial Day

On this Memorial Day, perhaps it would be appropriate to approach the day a bit differently that one would think. This country has always honored its dead on this day by laying wreaths, visiting graves, and having moments of silence for those who have fallen in dedicated service to this country.

Today, more so than in other years, our soldiers who have fallen in recent times are doing so to protect our way of life. This is not to say that the soldiers of the past were not doing so; undoubtedly, they were. Rather, this is to say that the threat of terrorist attacks are more directly linked to how we live our lives in these United States of America, enjoying the freedoms and liberties that are the integral parts of our lives as Americans.

Let us honor our soldiers with moments of silence - then, let us honor their sacrifices by taking advantage of the freedoms they have protected. Have a pleasant Memorial Day.

Others on Memorial Day: BeyondBT, EditCopy, Orthomom, SeraphicPress (not on MD per se, but on his father's service as a chaplain), SoccerDad.

UPDATE: A great one from Sephardi Lady about her former classmate.

UPDATE II: Whoops! Forgot those with the broken feeds... Jack & Chaim. Sorry!

Now That Graduation Has Passed...

...there is still much work to be done. Sadly, this is not a metaphor: With graduations usually scheduled well in advance of the end of the semester, there is still plenty of course work that still needs to be completed. On top of that, after taking a couple of months off the job search, I received a call this week which signalled that it is now time to get going again. It seems that the job hunt for September is starting in earnest about now, which is doubly difficult for myself as we have to decide what city we want to live in.

Time to get crackin'. More on graduation itself later.

Sunday, May 28, 2006

Pleasantly Surprised at Graduation

After my lack of excitement in the previous post, it is only fair to mention that Lander and Touro both pleasantly surprised me with their respective graduations. I have much more to write on this, but for now I just wanted to be fair and honest about what happened today in the end.

And to all my friends who graduated this year, Mazel Tov everybody. It's been awesome.

Elianna at Graduation

 Posted by Picasa

Oh, Yeah: I'm Graduating

In about an hour is the awards ceremony for the Lander College for Men. I should be excited, but I'm not. In a sadly unsurprising turn of events, much about today was simply messed up by Touro and Lander, resulting in just about nobody from Lander having caps and gowns or tickets to the Touro graduation ceremonies in the city this evening. That Lander doesn't perform its own graduation, even though it's [supposedly] a completely separate division is bad enough; that it wasn't properly taken care of to ensure everyone received what they needed is just icing on the cake. It would be embarrassing to be the only ones without a cap and gown at our own graduation, so at this point, I and most of my friends who are graduating simply will not be attending the ceremonies in the city.

And that's sad.

Haveil Havalim #71 is up!

Haveil Havalim #71 is up at WestBankMama.

A quick definition of HH:
Haveil Havalim is the carnival of Jewish blogs -- a weekly collection of Jewish & Israeli blog highlights, tidbits and points of interest collected from blogs all around the world. It’s hosted by different bloggers each week and coordinated by Soccer Dad. The term “Haveil Havalim”, which means "Vanity of Vanities", is from Kohelet, Ecclesiastes, which was written by King Solomon. Solomon built the Holy Temple in Jerusalem and later on got all bogged down in materialism and other “excesses” and realized that it was nothing but “hevel”, or in English, “vanities.”
Check it out!

Last week: SoccerDad hosted #70.

Next week: Jack of the Shack will be hosting. E-mail Jack (or Shola!) at talktojacknow at sbcglobal dot net with your submissions!

In general, Haveil Havalim could really use more volunteers to host. It's great, it's fun, and you don't need to do a hundred links like many have done. It really brings to light some of the great posts you may otherwise not see, and gives greater exposure to some of your own stuff as well. E-mail David at dhgerstman at hotmail dot com if you'd like to volunteer.

Why The Poor Should Pay More Taxes, Part II

Part I is here. A more accurate title of the first part would be: The poor receive benefit from the existence of government, too. A more accurate title for this part would be: You're only screwing the poor. These posts are in response to DovBear's post, "Why the rich should pay more taxes."

The rich do get great benefit from government, and probably more than poor people. But the top 5% of the country already pays 95% of the taxes, and it has been proven (repeatedly) that lower income taxes provide great benefit for the economy as a whole, for unemployment, for inflation, and for every single major indicator in this country. Those that gain the most are those who now *have* jobs, whose costs are low, and whose products are better and far more available than ever.

If you're seriously afraid of revolution, putting down those who are poor is not the way to guard against it. Essentially saying, "Here, take this, be a good boy" is demeaning and disgusting. The best way to guard against social upheaval is to make available to everyone the opportunity to succeed.

People don't like being on welfare. People don't like standing in an unemployment line. People don't like handouts. It's degrading. Sure, people aren't generally stupid, either: And if they qualify for WIC, they'll take it. If they qualify for unemployment, they'll take that, too. And if they can get a tax break or an earned income tax credit, you better bet they're going to put it down.

But people aren't interested in being poor. Stop throwing pennies at them to keep them from earning dollars. Give them the means to earn real money, by providing greater - fair - opportunities for employment. Give them the means to save money by allowing companies to invest in R&D which in turn allows them to create goods for less, making it cost less for those who need it. Give the means to invest money on their own instead of being forced to put it in Social Security, where it earns an average of 1.7% a year - when Treasury Bills earn 4%.

Stop trying to screw the rich - the only ones who get screwed are the poor.

Why The Poor Should Pay More Taxes, Part I

...okay, not really. But this post by DovBear got me a bit riled up, so I felt compelled to respond. Please read the whole thing, and the next post, which is a bit of a rant against the economic policies many would prefer without having thought through the issues fully. They are comments I made on the thread by DovBear.

: You will not understand this post without first reading DovBear's.

The poor should pay more taxes, because the poor get more from the government.

Consider defense, for example, which makes up 20% of the budget. Defending the country benefits everyone; but it benefits the poor more, because they have more to gain. While the rich can afford to some extent to protect themselves, the poor cannot.

Social security: A program which soaks the working class to their long-term detriment, giving them money back at a lower rate than even the safest treasury bills. Those below a certain income level don't have to contribute much, if anything, to Social Security.

Investments in the nation's infrastructure-- transportation, education, research & development, energy, police subsidies, the courts, etc.-- again are more used by those with less. Public transportation is key to those who need it to get to their jobs - jobs which sometimes barely keep them alive. Police keep poor neighborhoods from breaking into all-out war, where the strong would overwhelm the weak. Courts keep criminals off the streets: and the streets criminals usually walk on are those of the poor.

As for public education, the beneficiaries are the lower and middle class. The very well off ship their offspring off to private schools; and while it is their companies that benefit from a well-educated public, those who are educated have a much greater gain: the ability to find a job and support themselves. (If you don't think that's a benefit, go find a good job, or even a min wage one, without an elementary and high school education.)

Beyond all this, the federal budget is bottom-heavy with welfare. Counting tax breaks and expenditures, there is $116 billion spent on DIRECT programs for the poor, seperate from all the indirect gains they get.

Meanwhile, the $400 billion that corporations save in tax breaks and receive in grants allows them to keep that many more people with jobs while simultaneously helping them constantly improve our products and security - which also reduce costs of everyone in the country, including those of lower incomes.

Then, of course, there's social spending: Giving many people enough that it's worth it for them not to work, or to only have one parent work, because increasing their wages would decrease their benefits versus the work being put in. Rather than supporting those who need it, social spending is wasted on those who do not, resulting in a negative overall impact from that spending.

And don't waste your time trying to respond to specific points. I'm not even claiming to agree with everything I said: My point is simply that there are arguments to be made both ways, and that you are undervaluing the *direct* gains poor people receive from the government.

[continue with Part II]

Friday, May 26, 2006

Lebron Commercial

Okay, I know this is an old fake, but it's still great. Especially because it's Lebron James. :)
Good Shabbos!

This Blog Now Has Six Digits

...and for that, I thank you. From the guys at the Jester who made me realize there are intelligent people out there, to SoccerDad who showed me the existence of the J-blogosphere and gave me my first link, to Shoshana and PsychoToddler for showing me there are positive, inspiring, and funny people in that sphere, to DovBear and the others whose links sent people here, to the Wall Street Journal for asking to publish one of my posts, and to all the others whose blogs and opinions I've come to enjoy and respect, even when I disagree - thank you all.

It's been wonderful - and iyH will continue to be. Have a great Shabbos, everybody!
Mazel Tov to my dear friend Dovid and his wife Katie on the birth of a baby boy! They're having the shalom zachar tonight, and I know Dovid wants to me to put up those Erev Shabbos videos, so if he's going to be checking this blog at all right now, it will be today.
Yet another suitor for our Elianna! :)

Just Because

All right, let's try this again...

Ezzie's Blog Roundup, 5/26: Untitled

A quick note, since a certain Polish Housekeeper complained: Happy Birthday to my dear friends, Doc & Josh, who both celebrated birthdays yesterday! Both are engaged to be married, Josh in just a week and a half to Steph, Doc in about 6 months [don't ask] to PH. We love all you guys, and next year y'all will be celebrating your birthdays as married couples. That's awesome.

Roundup time: (I've [finally] become more discerning lately, picking 10-12 a night, I believe)

*Post of the Day*
This year in review by Fudge about her first year in college (wow, can this girl write). Her words really struck a chord with me, possibly because I will be going to my own college graduation this Sunday afternoon. Though I haven't really been in college this semester, it's starting to hit home that I'll finally be finished with school in a couple of months (have to finish up an elective), and that a huge group of friends will be moving on with their lives - and away from here. It's one thing to think "Okay, we might move away from everyone," but they're still there; it's another to think that when you come back, you won't recognize anybody and all your friends are gone. I have much more to say about this, but I think I'll leave that for another post.

Her dad, PsychoToddler, recaps the shiva for his own father. I wish I could have made it there to express my condolences... for now, this will have to do.
Had I not seen that post quite late at night, this one by Jameel would have been the must-read:
Secular Kids in Religious Schools. There are a number of great comments in that thread, so check it out. Sharpest line in the comments part:
Oh, I forgot -- a great line of the evening from one parent was: "I think we should check to make sure that these families don't speak lashon hara in their homes to see if they are religious enough. After all, none of us do. Right?"

[uncomfortable silence]
Meanwhile, on the topic of education, this is a must see, from Jewish Atheist: Mr. Rogers secures $20 million bucks from the Senate. I always loved that show.

And Jonah is halfway through grad school!
Blasts from the Past:
Elder of Ziyon has some maps of old Jerusalem. Really Old Jerusalem.

DovBear has a photo from the late 19th century - who knew Jews acted in such a way!?

Cruisin' Mom flips back just a couple of decades to the Westwood Theatre.
Olmert, Abbas:
Daled Amos notes the tough threat Abbas made to Hamas. I guess he's not interested in what Judeopundit notes they're offering any more than Israel is.

Meanwhile, EoZ didn't like the NYTimes on Olmert's speech. Rafi didn't like the speech.
Krum hilariously describes Shavuos night. Too true.

On the Main Line discusses some historical context for a piece of Gemara. My father-in-law would be so proud.

Robert gives his opinion on Al Gore's movie and on Al Gore - and points to a great piece on the subject.

How I Met Serach, Part V: Caramel Latte

This is Part V of a series about how I proposed to Serach. Part I is here, Part II is here, Part III is here, and Part IV is here. I'm currently giving the background of the story... starting from the first date. I'm about to meet Serach face-to-face for the very first time, wearing my OJ sweatshirt, slip-on Skechers, and with a very unshaven face. Hey - I didn't know it would turn into a date, okay?!

It was a nice night, clear but cool. It was the night before Thanksgiving, however, in late November, so it was starting to get very cold very quickly. We were to meet on Main Street, just after the strip of stores and restaurants, but Serach was a bit unsure of where to go, so she called me. She was walking from one end, I from the other; I saw her far off in the distance, but she didn't see me, so for some reason - and to this day, I'm still not sure why - I thought it would be funny to scare her. The way that particular block of Main Street is set up, the street widens just prior to the stores, which means I can be around a corner from where she is... and "boo" her.

Keep in mind that Serach has never met me before, and that I'm dressed in a hooded sweatshirt, am 6 feet tall, and weigh [back then] about 185 pounds. (Wow, has that changed.) Serach is 5 feet tall and petite. Tiny, some might say... at least until they find out she's a black belt. She's on the phone with me, but can't see me, so I tell her to keep walking straight until she's just past me, then to stop. Meanwhile, I close my phone, and walk right up behind her, her curly hair just 3 feet in front of me... and about a foot below, and yell:
She jumped, spun, and screamed "AAAH!" with a look of terror on her face, as I calmly pulled the hood off my head and smiled at her.
E: "Hey, how are you?"

S: "Oh my gosh, you scared me! ... Hi!"
After a minute or so of talking, I noticed she was holding a little gift bag. (Brain: Uh-oh.) "What's that?" "This is a gift I bought you when I was in Seattle." "You didn't need to get me anything!" (Especially considering I'm empty-handed...) "Well, I wanted to. Plus, it's something you want." "Heh. (Uh-oh, what is she talking about?!) What is it?" "Try and guess!" "It has to be something to do with Starbucks, right?" (Whew, save!) "Good guess! Can you be more specific?" "Umm... well, it can't be coffee, or it would be really bad by now..." "Well, actually... it is coffee." She opens the bag, and pulls out what's inside, narrating all the way...
S: "See, it's a Starbucks mug - sorry, they didn't have any with a handle - filled with coffee beans. I hope you don't mind, I opened the bag [holds up bag] of coffee beans to fill the mug, thought it would be nicer that way. And *here* [takes out squeeze bottle] is the caramel sauce, so you can make your own caramel lattes! I know you said the normal sauce in the Starbucks stores aren't kosher, but the ones they sell separately have an O-U, so I bought that. Do you like it?"

Brain: Oh, crap. This is really, really nice! And I have *nothing*?! She actually listened to some little comment I made about how I love Starbucks' caramel lattes, and went out of her way and bought all this stuff for me! That's really nice... and I'm a moron. Now what do I say?!

E: "I really like it! Thanks!" Okay, that wasn't too bad.
So we start walking, Serach and I, heading past the now closed restaurants and stores that make up Main Street. She is dressed very nicely, wearing a light purple sweater that has one of those extra folds at the top for style [or something like that], with her hair up and flats. She looked very, very pretty, wearing no makeup that I noticed, and with a brilliant smile. She also had this funky rainbow-colored scarf that was maybe 4 inches thick but quite long swung around her neck. I was very impressed: For a girl from New York, in New York, who stands just 5 feet tall, to dress like she did? Almost unheard of. The stereotypical frum girl* in New York gets dressed up and made up with their hair ironed and straightened just to go to an all-women's college, wearing 2-inch heels and a lot of black. Here she was, in full living color.
She looked beautiful, and always will.
Ezzie: I'm writing the story as I remember it, and unfortunately that sometimes results in skipping some details. When I remember them, I'll try to fill them in; possibly in the comments, possibly in the posts if it won't make it too disjointed. If anything is unclear or you have any questions, feel free to ask! Serach won't admit it, but she's been reading the story - maybe she'll fill in some of the details and her perspective at some point. I'm still hoping. :)

* Note to single Orthodox young women: Most guys don't care if your hair is straightened or if you're dressed to kill, or if you wear heels or not. They would much rather you be comfortable, able to walk, and having a good time. They usually don't notice what clothes you wear, and probably won't realize if you wear the same thing on the 7th date as you did on the first. And they definitely won't care. They're more likely to wonder why you can't walk straight and why you look so uncomfortable in whatever you can't breathe in - and they almost always think in their minds, "Why the heck is she wearing so much crap on her face?!" Don't look like a shlump, fine. But don't kill yourself. Guys want girls they can marry, not girls they can show off. And the ones who do, you don't want.

And oh yeah - most guys [I know] prefer curly hair by a mile anyway. :)

Thursday, May 25, 2006

LATimes Supports Holocaust Revisionist

Here's a weird story, via the Volokh Conspiracy. The LA Times and San Francisco Chronicle are not known for its support of Republicans, so when they endorsed Pete McCloskey for Congress, it stuck out. The Times called McCloskey "the best thing that could happen for the district, the state, the nation and possibly the Republican Party," failing to note one other notable aspect to McCloskey: He is a Holocaust revisionist who thinks that the number of Jews killed in the Holocaust was far less than 6,000,000. From Volokh:
McCloskey said at the time [2000], "I don't know whether you are right or wrong about the Holocaust," and referred to the "so-called Holocaust."

According to the San Jose Mercury-News,
McCloskey said Friday that he has never questioned the existence of the Holocaust, and the 2000 quote referred to a debate over the number of people killed.
Okay, then.

Note that McCloskey's speech to the IHR was covered by the L.A. Times at the time.
The IHR is the Institute for Historical View, a leader in the faux history of Holocaust denial. There are a number of interesting comments on the thread, with this one possibly the most eye-opening of them all:
I used to respect Pete McCloskey. I don't know what's happened to him. Here's the quote from the LA Times story:
(Holocaust denier David) Irving's appearance was the highlight of a conference of some of the world's best-known Holocaust revisionists, who met at a secret location in Irvine to promote their demands for new investigations to prove there was no mass extermination of European Jews during World War II.

Joining their ranks was former Republican Rep. Pete McCloskey, who is bringing a class-action lawsuit against the Anti-Defamation League of B'nai B'rith that seeks damages for the Jewish organization's alleged illegal spying on U.S. citizens critical of Israel and of the former apartheid regime in South Africa.

"I came because I respect the thesis of this organization," McCloskey said at the gathering, "that thesis being that there should be a reexamination of whatever governments say or politicians say or political entities say."
The thesis of the organization is that the Holocaust is a Jewish conspiracy to gain sympathy and power by claiming falsely that about six million Jews were murdered by the Nazis during World War II. It is not a thesis worthy of respect. It is not a thesis endorsed solely by governments or political entities either.
Read through some of the thread if you have the time. It is interesting to note that the Times and Chronicle both endorsed a Republican, a rarity for either of them - and he happens to be a known Holocaust denier. Food for thought.

ABC Gets Itself Sued?

(Hat tip: JBlogMeister)

Just hours after Democrats got a bit excited at the prospect of House Speaker Dennis Hastert being investigated in the probe against William Jefferson (D - LA), it turns out that the story may have been completely false. So false, in fact, that Hastert is considering a lawsuit against ABC:
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - House Speaker Dennis Hastert might sue ABC News for libel and defamation for a news report that said he was "in the mix" in a corruption investigation, according to a letter sent by Hastert's lawyer on Thursday.

The letter from Hastert counsel J. Randolph Evans said statements in ABC's report constitute libel and defamation, and asked who could "accept service of process to remedy this intentional falsehood."

Citing anonymous law enforcement sources, ABC News reported on Wednesday that Hastert was under scrutiny in an FBI corruption investigation centered around former lobbyist Jack Abramoff.

ABC updated its story later to say Hastert was not a formal "target" or "subject" of the investigation, but was "in the mix."

Hastert's spokesman called the story "absolutely untrue" and demanded a retraction, and the Justice Department said the story was wrong.

At the Capitol, Hastert told Reuters: "They made an accusation. The Justice Department denied it."
This is a continuing trend in reporting over the last few years: News media are jumping at stories, consistently basing themselves on anonymous sources, and then finding out later on that most of the story is in fact false. That the retractions and corrections usually go unnoticed is a seperate issue, as is the effect repeated false claims have no matter how clear the retractions are or how false they are proven.

How is it that media keep getting away with airing false stories? It is this jumping that will soon result in journalists being required to divulge sources on penalty of imprisonment on a consistent basis. Journalists have not been at all careful in what they report and how they verify it, and their assumption that people are covering up the real story will now get them in serious trouble. The Justice Department clearly stated the story was false - much as Verizon and AT&T did a week ago regarding the wiretap story. Did the reporter in this case not even ask the Justice Department? Obviously the Justice Department did not verify the story - did the reporter ask and get a denial? If so, why print it? If he or she did not ask, why not? Was getting the story out more important than verification?

Now, ABC might get sued. Assuming the story is false, as the Justice Department says, I hope they get sued and lose, and be required to pay huge fines. Perhaps journalists need a lesson in common sense and honesty.

Yom Yerushalayim, 2002

Four years ago, at the height of the intifada, just after the months where there was a suicide bombing almost every single day, the people of Yerushalayim celebrated Yom Yerushalayim to its fullest. Though everyone knew a victim, they were determined to forge on. It was one of the most inspiring nights of my 2 years in Israel.

One of the highlights every year is the march many hundreds (thousands?) of people make from Yeshivat Merkaz HaRav on the western side of Jerusalem across Rechov Yaffo (Jaffa Street) to the Old City and right up to the Kotel. In the yeshiva, there are a series of inspiring speeches from prominent rabbis and politicians. I must say that most were incredible speakers. With flags waving and loud singing, the crowds make their way slowly down the road, inspiring passerby to join in the march. There are a few vehicles, and I recall a friend jumping on top of one van with a group of guys for a while. There are police and soldiers guarding the yeshiva as the speeches take place before the march (the second year a close friend was on voluntary guard duty before walking with me on the march), and those same police and soldiers keep a sharp watch on the march itself - a march which is a prime target for a suicide bombing.

As the march continued, I remember that our group got slightly ahead of all the others, so we went back to rejoin them. Everyone staying together as much as possible is a theme, as everyone wants to show as much unity as possible. After passing the Tachana Merkazit (Central Bus Station) and Shuk (large Jerusalem Market), we came closer to the "Merkaz Ha'ir" - "Center of the City". Suddenly, the crowd stopped moving, stopped singing cheerfully, and formed a circle. As the circle formed, some people started singing sadly, almost in a lament. We were at the corner of Rechov Yaffo and HaMelech George (Jaffa St. & King George) - on the first Yom Yerushalayim since the infamous bombing of the Sbarro restaurant the previous August. 15 people, including 7 children, were murdered by a suicide bomber as they sat with friends and family in a pizza restaurant; 130 people were injured. Tears were flowing down the cheeks of all those present as the crowd stayed there for around 15-20 minutes before finally moving on. I was standing directly in front of where the Sbarro's restaurant had been (and now, is once again). I am finding it difficult to continue, so I will just sum up the rest of the march: After walking down Yaffo, the crowds walk through the gate into the Old City of Jerusalem. Rather than taking the normal circuitous route to the Western Wall, the crowd is escorted by the police straight through the Arab Quarter, singing all the way; the Arab community is placed under strict curfew on this night every year. After this portion of the march, which takes about 30-45 minutes, everyone finally reaches the security checkpoint. On this morning, I don't recall for certain, but I am reasonably sure they simply waved everyone through. Following this, everyone marches down the steps and up to the Kotel (Western Wall). The singing continues in full force as everyone forms a circle right in front of the Wailing Wall, dancing the night away. Finally, as it starts to get light, the minyanim start in order to daven k'vasikin.

This is too much for me: Suffice it to say that the march was inspiring, the davening incredible.

Yom Yerushalayim Sameach.

Ezzie's Blog Roundup, 5/25/2006: Yom Yerushalayim

Today is my brother-in-law's 29th birthday, so although he doesn't read my blog (ever), happy birthday to him!

I'm going to put up a seperate post from when I was in Yerushalayim for Yom Yerushalayim of only pictures. Or maybe I'll put them here. Who knows...

Okay, straight to the roundup (Daled Amos has even more great links):
Elie's Expositions has finished the series of posts about his son, Aaron, who passed away just over a year ago. He has links up on the side if you want to donate to Aaron's memorial fund.
Yom Yerushalayim:
Ze'ev has the famous recording, along with a transcript, of the Israeli forces recapturing Jerusalem in 1967. It is so incredibly powerful and moving, and a must-listen whether you understand Hebrew or not.

Treppenwitz has the transcript as well, along with some comments.

My Obiter Dicta will be teaching his students about Jerusalem.
The Bear hits a nice Jewish number: 600,000.

OM points out a very good article about blogging by a rabbi from JSafe.

Sarah, Rafi, and Shoshana all get blog makeovers. Very nice, all.
Nephtuli wonders if halacha understands women, now that he's getting married.

I'm Haaretz PhD introduces her husband.
Finally, Jack links to a link from BaconEatingAtheistJew about anti-Semitism. This is truly a great presentation, so check it out.

Wednesday, May 24, 2006

What Do You See?

This is what I see when I read my blog, using Mozilla. I have a feeling that many people are reading it in Internet Explorer, and it probably looks far worse in IE (yet another reason to use Firefox!). So tell me... what do you see?

Thank You Everybody

I meant to post this earlier, but I was (thank God) busy with something else. I couldn't have achieved this without all of you (especially seeing as how the counter doesn't count my own visits), so thank you so much for your readership and support - even those of you who read the RSS feeds and don't affect the counter. :) I hope you're all enjoying, and that you keep coming back.

Death & Taxes... Or Both

My latest post, "Death & Taxes... Or Both" is up at Just Another Jewish Conspiracy. Check it out, tell me what you think.

"So-Called" Holocaust

Life-of-Rubin has a video of some Niturei Karta members protesting on the street, until another Jew comes over and gives them a piece of his mind. The NK are notoriously sick bastards who are not at all representative of Judaism or the Satmar sect which they claim to be a part of; but I didn't know they were Holocaust deniers as well. Watch the video, and listen to his first couple of sentences.

Ezzie's Blog Roundup, 5/24: Milestone Week

Elianna is 2 months old today!! Woohoo!! We're still working on getting a camera with which to take pictures, ever since I lost our last one... it looks like it may wait until the next paycheck comes in. In the meantime, you'll just have to picture for yourselves how cute and adorable she is, and how scarily smart she seems to be already. She knows how to kick the blanket off her feet and out of her snap n' go; how to hold in her motzetz or take it out; and has just found her thumb, too.

About a month ago, I glanced at the SiteMeter and StatCounter at the bottom of this blog. At the time, I was getting around 350 hits and 700 pageviews a day. I did a few quick calculations, and thought: "Cool! Wouldn't it be funky if I hit 50,000 hits and 100,000 page views right as the blog turns a year old?!" Alas, it wasn't meant to be. R' Gil mentioned me at the RCA Convention, a few posts got very popular, and suddenly I was up to 450-550 hits and 1,000-1,200 pageviews a day (Shabbos brings down the average). Now, it looks as if I will be hitting 50,000 hits sometime around noon today, with 100,000 pageviews coming in a couple of days. My blogiversary is not until June 1st, next Wednesday.

Anyways, thank you to all my loyal readers. I have really enjoyed this blog and the others I take part in and read, and that's primarily because of the people I've "met" and the ideas I've been introduced to across the blogosphere.

What is enjoyment if you can't share it with others? Not much - so here's tonight's roundup:

Orthonomics has a roundup as well, and Judeopundit has his Linkim. I was going to link to the Oprah posts as well, and this post also really stuck out at me.

*Post of the Day*
Um, look here.
Oversights from yesterday:
I'm amazed this isn't a bigger story. This could be the key to energy in the 21st century... and it's so obvious!

A brilliant post and shmuess from an inside-outsider regarding abuse... Da'as Hedyot.

A video clip at Life-of-Rubin I meant to show a couple days ago, and have now seen a number of times.

Chainik Hocker has a fascinating post about immigration.
Quote of the Day:
Dave's got it from Jack himself.

Though this one from Ayelet's son is up there... check out her other posts, too. It's nice to have some happy blogs out there.
Waxing Reminiscent:
Kasamba's Artichoke is uprooting from their home.

JewishAtheist misses his rose-colored glasses.
Falling on my face, sooo...
RafiG discusses why Jews try to be more Jewish out of Israel,

Joe explains why the ruling about conversions is wise,

and Jameel gives a sample from the settler e-mail group. Hilarious.

Tuesday, May 23, 2006

Post of the Day: What Judaism Is About

*Post of the Day*
"What Judaism Is About", by Brooklyn Wolf
Judaism is about living up to one's obligations, both personal and communal. It's about providing for our families and about setting up communal institutions such as yeshivos, mikvaos, tzedakas, etc. that serve the community. It's about personal responsibility - just as one is responsible to make sure that he gets up in the morning and davens, so too is one responsible to see to it that (to the best of his ability) his family is fed and cared for, nurtured both spiritually and physically.
Judaism is not about abdicating responsibility. It's not about finding out how many government programs you can cheat your way on to, it's not about finding ways to avoid paying taxes and it's not about relying on the community to carry you.
Read the whole thing.

Watching, but not Worshipping, Idols

I'm watching the final performances on American Idol tonight, as Serach is seeing United 93 with a friend. So far, Katherine McPhee was good with her first song, while Taylor Hicks blew away the show with his. So far, Taylor is winning; he has the entertainment factor edge over Katherine even if her voice is more pure.

Of course, Katherine just showed how her pure voice could win, by singing "Somewhere Over The Rainbow" again, and singing it absolutely beautifully. Wow. To be continued...


Taylor's second song was okay at best, so the second round went to Katharine. The third round was the debut of each one's "single", with Katherine singing "My Destiny" and Taylor singing "Do I Make You Proud." Much as the judges said, the song Katherine sang just wasn't all that great, and she sounded decent but not incredible. Taylor's song was perfect for him, and he sang it perfectly, giving him the edge.

The only reason Taylor wouldn't win is because of just how good the "Somewhere Over The Rainbow" Katherine sang was, especially compared to the song of his that followed. But beyond that, Taylor was incredible while Katherine was not.

I liked the little touch of having Daniel Pawter singing "Bad Day" to end it, too. Great song.

A Growing Conspiracy

Just Another Jewish Conspiracy is off to an excellent start. Thanks to all those who have joined in the discussions. It appears that all of the members have posted once, with my own reprint of a (relevant) post the only "copout" of the bunch. A quick listing of the posts:
  • Welcome! by Responding2JBlogs
  • A Republican Monopoly on Values by Responding2JBlogs
  • Abortion Poll & Law by Ezzie
  • Al Gore in '08 by Jewish Atheist
  • Why Bush isn't as out of line as most Liberals think by Charlie Hall
  • Polygamy, Incest, and Bestiality by Classmate-Wearing Yarmulke
  • Democracy & Originalism by Nephtuli
  • Check them out, read the comments, join in the Conspiracy! And, as noted in the Welcome! post, we are always looking for guest posters, so please feel free to submit posts. Thanks.

    Response to Canonist's "Importance of Weighing Evidence"

    Steven I. Weiss of Canonist e-mailed me in response to my previous post. I wrote a short response to him, which inspired him to write another, longer e-mail which he also posted. I didn't notice the post until a few minutes ago, but here is the response I sent him, with a few points removed as they are not relevant.
    Well, acceptance of claims is a big deal. The heart of the abuse problem, as one of those extremely few rabbis who does something about it will tell you, is that every rabbi has his defenders in spite of overwhelming evidence, and that the evidence of abuse is not sufficiently aired or accepted so as to prevent future abuses.
    The fight of the past decade or so between advocates and the community that enables abusers has rested most profoundly on this point: of the first allegation not being enough; of repeated similar allegations not being enough; of assertions that even if the claims are true, technically there's no problem with what's alleged on specific halachic grounds (with statements entirely similar to that attributed to R' Pinchas Scheinberg being a very common theme); of the rabbis and advocates pushing the issue having their own credibility called into question or being sufficiently blackmailed/leaned on that they choose to back off; and throughout all of it, the rest of the community throwing up its hands saying "I don't know."
    The halachic argument is sickening; the blackmail just as bad. But the allegations alone should not be accepted as truth.
    But far more importat than anything Gil Student suggested is an articulation of what circumstances would make an allegation of abuse accepted, and why in each specific case he and everyone else finds the allegations credible or not.
    That’s the point, though. There’s a middle ground: It’s not a matter of ‘either it’s true or not’ and you have to pick one right away. I wrote in a comment when someone made a similar argument: “I think that's the mistake many are making. There is a choice between acceptance and denial. Not accepting the claims outright is not denial, and is not putting pressure on the accuser to be quiet. It's saying: "Wow. That's terrible. Let's investigate and prove this is true before we just accept it at face value."”
    David Framowitz signed a lawsuit stating the claims laid out in the New York Magazine article, which comes on penalty of perjury. He was joined by two as-yet-unnamed individuals in filing suit who face similar penalties of perjury if their claims are found to be false, all while being counselled by a lawyer known for filing judicious claims in similar cases. And their story was reported out by an investigative reporter of unquestioned credibility at a news publication that has never retracted a major investigative story and has high standards for fact-checking.
    I am not particularly familiar with the New York Magazine, but I was unimpressed with many of the assertions in the article. They seemed to have an unfounded bias and made claims that had no basis (Orthodox Jewry’s attitude towards sex leads to greater incidences, there are more cases in the OJ community, etc. – no statistics to prove it, merely opinions, but it was stated as near-fact). And again, that someone is willing to risk perjury charges does not mean they are telling the truth. It means there is reason to believe them (and from people I’ve spoken to who are closer to it I have more reason to believe this case specifically), but it does not mean that we should accept such allegations as fact.
    The charges are at least credible enough to warrant suspension until they reach a resolution, by any reasonable standard in America generally.
    Student doesn't think it's enough to go on, but the only reason why is because he doesn't think signed affidavits and an investigative report are credible enough to warrant action; what he can't tell us is what *would* be credible enough, and why any Jewish institutional apparatus would be capable of producing a more credible account.
    I don’t think that’s what he’s saying at all – he’s saying don’t accept it as factual truth and assume guilt, but he’s not saying that all the necessary precautions shouldn’t be taken. My guess is if you’d ask him, he would agree that (for example) immediate leave should be given.
    You can't just say "I don't know," and sit on your hands. You have to honestly look at and sort out the claims, and explain precisely why you think they aren't credible enough, and put yourself in a position to be contested on those points.
    And the reverse as well: At this point, it’s a ‘he said he said’ match. We have no way of determining which story is true and which is not, though we must act in terms of the children as if it is true. You have to explain precisely why it *is* credible enough, and that the person signed a court document simply isn’t enough to convict.
    Baruch Lanner was convicted in the proverbial court of public opinion by the New York Jewish Week well before it was at all clear that any law enforcement agent could even put together an indictment and then a conviction. If no indictment had come forward, it would still be our responsibility to keep Lanner out of the rabbinate. And there have been too many times when I've had a conversation with some communal leader who really didn't think Lanner had done anything wrong -- and even a few who in recent months have told me they were under the impression Lanner had never been found guilty!
    I doubt that Student could reasonably explain why the Jewish Week expose should be considered so much more credible than the New York Magazine story, especially given that the latter would be considered more credible by most objective observers as it comes with a sworn statement.
    That’s a good question, though my *guess* is his opinion would be that the Jewish Week would take more care not to make allegations without reasonable basis. But the question is better than the answer.
    Mordecai Tendler has yet to have the charges of sexual exploitation against him aired, reviewed, and determined by any Jewish organization, as the RCA proved unable to produce a result without Tendler's participation, which speaks to the same basic element that occurs with each accusation of abuse: the voluntary participation required for rabbinic determination will always keep these cases from being examined properly by a communal organization, and there will almost always be enough rabbinic allies to protect the rabbi from an unequivocal determination.
    If it weren't for the Jewish Week expose, Baruch Lanner would likely never have been exposed, and were it not for the paper's follow-up reporting, he would have been allowed to complete some form of therapy and return to education. Even with the Jewish Week's reporting, the overwhelming quantity of enablers remain in their positions, unscrutinized.
    Would Student let his kids be in Kolko's class? Allow his wife to be counselled by Tendler? Allow Lanner to oversee his kids' youth group meetings? My bet is that he wouldn't, despite his protestations about not knowing. And all that does is protect his family from the problem while essentially advocating for everyone else's to be vulnerable. And the same goes for anyone else in the "I don't know" camp.
    That goes back to what I said before: There is a middle ground, where action is taken but guilt not presumed.
    If you want to say there's not enough there, you have to acknowledge what it does have and very specifically why it's not enough, and exactly what it would take to get you turned around on the subject.
    Something more than just allegations. Unfortunately, cases such as this are difficult: It’s hard to get proof, and it’s often a case of one person’s word against the other person’s. This makes people want to lean sympathetically to the alleged victims, and rightfully so; but this shouldn’t be done at the expense of the accused, who may be innocent (and whose innocence we are supposed to presume). The more victims, the more believable, which is (IMO) proper; and we must do all we can to investigate claims and prosecute those who are guilty. But we must not presume guilt, or we open up the door to easy false allegations which destroy lives.
    Overall, the quantity of false claims of this type made -- of multiple victims against a single person they all knew -- is profoundly small in America generally, and to claim that of all people Orthodox Jews are overzealous in pursuing abuse claims is profoundly absurd. This is yet more so when it comes to claims of pedophilia. Even the baseline of rape charges made against people unkown to the accuser comes out to 70% credible claims. There's a reason why Dorothy Rabinowitz's book has so few cases .The idea that the question of protecting rabbis from false claims is anywhere near the size of the problem of keeping abusive rabbis away is so far from reality as to suggest a lack of engagement with the general evidence of abuse.
    Nobody is saying it’s close. But we can’t just swing from one extreme to the other, or all we do is reverse the problem. What happens when claims are believed too easily? Let’s say 3 straight claims turn out to be false, once the door has been opened wide to any claims: Then what? People will simply stop believing those who are telling the truth, and you’ve created a worse problem than before. At least coverups can be broken at some point; but if you’re shouting and everyone’s ignoring you, you’re stuck.
    And to suggest that claims like those made by David Framowitz are not sufficiently credible without a very clear explanation why is to suggest a lack of engagement with the evidence of the Kolko case and a serious weighing of its claims.
    What do you mean? His allegations should be accepted simply because he brought it to court?
    Without this kind of individual vigilance, inspection and open debate among community members, none of the changes Student proposes mean anything, because they'll always be able to be invalidated by claims of "I just don't know" from the rabbinate and the soon-to-be-abused-again populace.
    I don’t think anyone disagrees with that, particularly Gil (or myself).