Wednesday, May 31, 2006

Osirak - 25 Years Later

25 years ago eight fighter pilots flew a mission which astounded the world. In less than two minutes, Iraq's Osirak nuclear reactor was destroyed. Despite numerous risks, including the jettisoning of fuel tanks surrounded by 1,000lb bombs, all of the Israeli F-16s, and their pilots, returned to base safely.

The Jerusalem Post is running a pair of articles (I, II) which all should read. I also highly recommend the book "Raid on the Sun" which details preperations for and the actual attack.

Menachem Begin on Eve of Osirak
"Saddam Hussein is a hard-headed megalomaniac, cunning, sophisticated and cruel. He is willing to take high risks and drastic action to realize his ambition for self-aggrandizement. His possession and use of a nuclear weapon will enable him to threaten and strike Israel and, thereby, win supremacy over the Arab world. He is prepared to act at an early opportunity, even in the awareness that retaliation might follow." --Opening paragraph of the Mossad's psychological portrait of Hussein.

"What greater act of self-defense could there be than to demolish Saddam Hussein's weapons of mass destruction, designed to bring Israel to its knees, kill our people, vaporize our infrastructure - in a word to destroy our nation, our country, our existence? Over these past months I've told you again and again, Sam, that either the US does something to stop that reactor, or we will have to" -Begin to Sam Lewis, US Ambassador to Israel

[P]rowling the room, head down, face grim, arms behind his back, his lips moving imperceptibly in the manner of one muttering Tehillim" -Begin, as he awaited word on the attack

Leader of the Osirak Raid
"Everything went as well as we could have planned. If I were religious, I would tell you it was the hand of god." -then-Lt. Col. Ze'ev Raz, Commander of the F-16's which destroyed the reactor

Tuition "Crisis"

Orthomom and others have spent the last few weeks discussing the tuition "crisis." I missed most of it because of finals, but wanted to throw out a couple of points. Is there really a tuition crisis?

1) Both public and private schools spend an obscene amount of money on student education. Do yeshivas really spend more? Take into account that a Yeshiva has a double curriculum, has more teachers, keeps the kids for more hours. Kosher food is more expensive and many yeshivas are open on Sunday as well.

2) Parents, wake up. Education is the most valuable gift you can give your child, and therefore will be the most expensive. You have to be an idiot to think it'll really cost only $5,000?! Are you nuts? So you tell me, how much do you think education should cost? Break it down by year if you want, making it more expensive as the kid gets older. But give me a number. And, if you're feeling really adventerous, a plan on how you can actually get to that number.

3) Continuing on the last point, expect your child's tuition to cost a significant (if not the most significant) portion of your income. And realize that amount will only rise with the number of children that you have. That's the way things work. A house costs more the bigger it is, two cars cost more than one, and educating 5 kids is a heckuva lot more expensive than educating 3.

3) Yeshivas should be more transparent. Yes, they are private entities, but they exist on tuition the parents give them, as well as money from donors. Pool yourselves together, unionize, and demand that the school open their books. See how much they're paying the teachers, the principals, and see where they are wasting money. Hold them accountable, or open your own school and do better.

4) School vouchers are a partial answer, but realize that if the yeshivas are guarenteed money from the state through vouchers, tuition will continue to rise at very fast rates. First step, hold them accountable for the money, your money. If you don't do it now you won't do it when the state gives you vouchers. And when tuition rises at 30% instead of 12% you'll be back in the same position.

5) Just because education is expensive doesn't mean there's a crisis. It just means its expensive.

Conclusion: Make yeshivas accountable and transparent.

Same Sex Marriage - Today

Yesterday I posted about gay marriage and how some, even opponents of gay marriage, should be worried about banning it, not because gay marriage should be allowed, but because all marriage should be deregulated. Dan Crane, a professor at Cardozo Law School, has a great article on the subject, titled "A 'Judeo-Christian' Argument for Privatizing Marriage" which will be published in the Cardozo Law Review.

Killing in Self Defense

The problem with this story? That it starts off stating that Autry won't be charged in the girl's death. They only get to what happend at the end of the story. Four people, with a shotgun and pistol, tried robbing the ex-Marine. He fended them off armed with only a pocketknife, killing one and critically wounding the other.

The first paragraph should state that he's being awarded a medal, or the keys to the city.

Tuesday, May 30, 2006

Same Sex Marriage - Tomorrow

Tomorrow, the highest court in New York State, the Court of Appeals, will hear four cases on whether or not the state can bar same sex marriage. According to the NY Sun, there will be a gathering tonight (probably finished already) at B'nai Jeshurun, on Manhattan's Upper West Side, a sort of vigil.

When asked to testify about abortion, many, including the Agudah, have begged off, stating that it isn't their job to push their religious views on others. That's smart for numerous reasons, including that non-Jews and Jews have different laws. Try explaining that, and then decide what non-Jews have to do, and you'll have more than a mess.

Is a vigil really the right thing to do? Will allowing gay marriage really cause more gays? Will it really make it more or less acceptable? People live together all the time, married and not, but do you see one as being less acceptable in the eyes of society? Obviously the best avenue is to convince someone the correctness of your cause, and just as obviously, many don't think that's possible, and seek to impose their views.

But should we? Would you like it if the legislature began passing laws on what constituted a bris milah, when it could be done and how? Or if NYS paskened that we allowed only chasidishe shechita, or forbade it? Its not really the state's decision or their role. Those against gay marriage are wrong because the state shouldn't forbid it. But those in favor are wrong too, since the state shouldn't sanction it. Maybe the state shouldn't be involved.

Monday, May 22, 2006

Men vs. Women Learning - Why?

Everyone is familiar with the Mishna containing the opinion that equates teaching women Torah with tiflus. Fewer realize that this isn't the lone opinion and that many, including recent luminaries, advocate women's learning, even if limited. After all, how do you expect a woman to remain religious if she has a college education but no religious background? Forget about all those that went to law school, medical school, or have PhD's in other areas. You can't turn your brain off, and having a doctorate with a second grade religious background is sure to be dangerous.

To those who say its because women are better at twisting things, sorry. Its not like women have an ability to twist Torah and pervert it that men lack. Look at the major apikorsim of the last two thousand years. Men or women?

So why limit women? Men have an obligation to learn, women do not, and I think that's the crucial point. Only recently has education become prevalent (though from news stories and test scores one might wonder). For the past two thousand years, women and most men were uneducated and illiterate. A little knowledge is a dangerous thing, just look at some statements made today, both in the name of religion and outside of it. If you're uneducated and given a little Torah knowledge you can do great harm, even when well intentioned.

Men had no choice. They had an obligation to learn. There were risks, yes, but when you're obligated you have to chance it. And if no one were obligated to learn, what would happen to Torah? Someone had to do it. Women had no obligation. There was nothing to balance out the
danger, no obligation. In that case, it may well be that they had an obligation not to chance it, and men had an obligation to limit any potential damage to Torah.

Today the situation is radically different. Women regularly peer perform men in any area, if not outperform. The dangers of have too little knowledge are muted, everything is available ot everyone. Women still lack an obligation to learn, but the risk associated with anyone's learning has shrunken. Including for women.

Thursday, May 18, 2006

Academic Gown Colors

In case you were wondering how colors are chosen for academic gowns (from bachelor's until doctorate), piping, etc, the American Council on Education has a guide

Tuesday, May 16, 2006

Lag B'Omer Mini Meme

My compadre CWY pegged me with this meme:

"What's the first song you listened to this morning?"

I'm one of those that does listen to music during sefirah, with the usual (live) some unusual caveats. Since I've been studying most of the day, I actually haven't listened to anything. So the first song to randomly play is...Evanescence "Bring Me to Life" Yeah, I know, Christian rock on Lab B'Omer.

Monday, May 15, 2006

Racial Groups for (almost) Everyone

A Democratic candidate for AG in Alabama, Larry Darby, is going to speak at a pro-white organization that many view as racist. Darby also denies that the Holocaust happend, saying at most 140,000 Jews died, mostly due to typus. I'm sure Alabama voters won't elect him, from the rest of the article he seems to be one of those candidates that crops up in every election.

He's speaking at a "pro-white" group. So what? Obviously its politically incorrect for whites to get together for racial purposes, moreso than any other group. Latin, Black, Asian, Jew, Muslim, every group can have their association except for whites.

Historically of course there have been problems with white groups. Just look at the KKK. But there are problems with Muslim groups now, and blacks haven't been angels either. I don't know enough about those of Asian descent, but suffice it to say that Japan and China haven't been the most racially tolerant of countries in the not-so-distant past. Nor have all Jewish groups. There is a double standard when it comes to white racial groups.

After all, they don't have to be racist (at least if you use the same definition for the NAACP, Muslim, Jewish and Christian groups, etc). Indeed, thinking that they are automatically racist, that somehow, whites can't have their own racial groups, that they lack the ability to meet with their own without hating others, is the definition of (bad) racism.

Tuesday, May 09, 2006

English Speaking Israeli Chareidim

Apparently English and Math are now part of Charedi education in Israel (link).

Friday, May 05, 2006

Kennedy: Drinking or Medication - Does it Matter?

Patrick Kennedy (D-R.I.) was involved in a car accident the other night, slamming into a barricade after narrowly missing a police cruiser. Many are inferring that he was drunk. It was around 3am, his eyes were red, he was staggerin the full 8 hours. etc. But someone, not Kennedy, ordered the patrol officers to drive him home, without conducted field sobriety tests.

Imagine if Kennedy were a Republican. But put that aside...

Kennedy claims that he was taking sleeping medication, Ambien. He was also taking Phenergan for gastroenteritis, which can magnify the effects of Ambien. Interestingly, Kennedy did sleep, but woke up, disoriented (a side effect of the drug) before getting into his car and driving.

I'm willing to give him the benefit of the doubt. From what I hear, Ambien is some pretty powerful stuff. If I take 2 Benedryl I get knocked out, and when I was on Vicodin I was knocked out pretty quickly too. But there is an interesting legal question here. Should it matter?

Should it be any different if someone goes out drinking, then, disoriented, gets behind the wheel of a car? Or if perscription medication, with known side effects, and whose purpose is to put you to sleep? People are only supposed to take the drug if they know they can get 8 hours of sleep. Kennedy, who awoke for some odd reason at 3am, presumably would have had time to sleep

There is no doubt that societally we frown more on drunk driving than on disorientation from medication, but that may be due to frequency, there are more drunk drivers than Ambien drivers. And, assuming they aren't addicts, drug takers have more of a need for medication than anyone needs alcohol.

I'm about to start finals, and last year's Criminal Law course is the last thing on my mind. But both the legal and policy points are interesting.

Thursday, May 04, 2006

Same Speech, Different Views

Compare the stories written in Ha'aretz and the Jersualem Post on Olmert's recent policy speech.

First paragraph:

Ha'aretz: Olmert: Settler blocs to be part of Israel forever

Interim Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, setting out government policy guidelines as he presented his new government for Knesset approval on Thursday, said that major settlenent blocs in the West Bank will be part of the sovereign state of Israel forever.

JPost: Olmert: Isolated settlements put Israel in danger
Incoming Prime Minister Ehud Olmert laid out his vision for Israel's future borders in a major policy speech to the Knesset on Thursday, saying that settlements in Judea and Samaria put Israel in danger. He said however, that Israel would maintain control over large settlement blocs forever.