Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Stolen II - Checkbook

Unknown to me, my knapsack contained a checkbook. The friendly individual who stole my knapsack then proceeded to write himself a rather large check, and cash it.

Luckily I had overdraft protection.

Yesterday I filed a police report, closed that account, opened a new one, filed a fraud claim with the bank, put an identity theft alert on my credit report and ordered a new credit report monthly, along with immediate notifications on any change, for the next 6 months.

I'm sure there'll be more to the saga soon. Hopefully, once this quiets down, I can start blogging again.

Monday, November 13, 2006


By now you're all wondering where I've been. After all, I said I would begin posting, and its been almost a week and a half since my last post. So where have I been? Where are all those posts I promised?

Good question.

Y'see, on Election Day I donated blood. While I usually take my knapsack with me (the blood drive was at school), this time I left it in the waiting area, where I could see it if I did turn around. Which I did, numerous times. Sometime between finishing the blood donation and eating oreos and apple juice, someone walked off with my knapsack.

Inside the knapsack, as you've already guessed, was my laptop. Luckily there was nothing important on the laptop (aside from aforementioned blog posts), though I am somewhat bothered by losing two notebooks and a really old, much loved and worn, fleece sweatshirt. The last is what I'm actually most upset about. I also lost my copy of "The Wisdom of Crowds" - which provided an interesting window into how we view halacha.

So, those blog posts will be back soon. My new laptop arrived today. Like my last, its a Thinkpad.

Sunday, November 05, 2006

Health Reports & Kashrus Reports

With the whole 5Towns VAAD and Gourmet Glatt scandal going on, I came up with a great idea.

Kashrus reports.

Nowadays, walk into a restaurant, and on the wall is a City/County/State certificate with the most recent inspection date and a message that, if you want, you can ask and see the most recent health report.

Imagine doing the same for kashrus. You walk in and say "I'd like to see the latest kashrus report." The owner gives it to you, or the VAAD does. Cmon, they inspect these places all the time too. What's wrong with a little transparency?

Except of course, both the restaurant and VAAD, both businesses, gain from the secrecy. When it comes to media wars like the Gourmet Glatt story, they can each point the finger, without divulging any evidence.

Victor's Justice

Later today, a court in Baghdad will hand down its verdict in the trial of Sadaam Hussein. Does anyone really think he might be acquitted? And if he is, does anyone really think they won't get him on some other charge? C'mon, the laundry list of accused crimes is so long, he'll hang for something.

That's just victor's justice. From the moment he was captured, Hussein was destined to die at the gallows, or in exile, or in jail. He'd never be free to walk the streets of Baghdad again.

That should scare us. Using kangaroo courts to convict someone. But he deserves it. Maybe its good, that even when someone like Hussein deserves death we give the pretense of legality by running a trial. Or maybe we should be even more scared. Sorta like Nuremberg.

Justifying Protests/Rioting

I had an interesting discussion over shabbos with a couple of friends of mine.

Yerushalayim has seen rioting over the last several days, all due to the upcoming Gay Pride Parade. The question was whether or not the rioting was a chilul hashem or not.

On the one hand, they're rioting/protesting (to an extent, the difference is in the eye of the beholder) against a chilul hashem. On the other hand, well, they're rioting.

Like many other things, whether its a chilul hashem or a kiddush hashem is dependant on how its executed and for what purpose.

Jealousy can be good or bad.
Taking a life can be good (soldier in war, self defense) or bad (murder).
Protesting can be good or bad.
So can rioting.

In my mind, the question was how the riots were being conducted. Were the rioters thinking "We're doing this for God" or just to blow off steam? And I don't mean by the majority, I mean were even 5%, or the original rioters, doing it for God. Mob behavior can lead the majority to do it for venting purposes, but its the instigators I'm looking at.

The second question was the impact the protests and rioting would have. Would the parade be cancelled? It seems like it might be, so maybe the rioting had a purpose. While the cost benefit analysis must be done a priori, that the protests and riots were successful still gives some validation.

The last question was the impact the protests and riots would have *on ther rioters.* In a manner of speaking, the successful cancellation of the parade would be seen as an act of condoning rioting. With the other (objectively inappropriate) riots, the case of the father who killed his newborn daughter, Ponovich, etc, maybe we should push for a zero tolernace riot/protest policy.

Whether to protest (with the aim or substantial likelihood of riots) the gay pride parade or not is a difficult question. By no means is it black or white.

Anyway, I'm off to bed. I'm sure this will engender some discussion and some outrage. I hope to further refine my thoughts over the course of the week.

Thursday, November 02, 2006

Hashgacha Violates Halacha

David commented:
Are you suggesting that breach of contract isn't a halakhic problem?

In a manner of speaking it isn't.

Read the Vaad's letter. The Vaad states that there have been serious halachic and contractual violations. They're the ones that make the distinction.

Had the contract violation been, in their view, a halachic violation, the last paragraph should read that getting a second hashgacha, in addition to being a violation of its contract, also violated halacha.

Of course, explaining to someone that getting additional hashgachot violates halacha, especially in a world where the more hashgachos, the more titles given to the rav and mashgiach, and the more machmir you are the better, might require a bit more nuance than most people are willing to accept. Not to mention a good poker face.