Monday, August 30, 2004

Turt-le Bay!

This afternoon and evening, National Review had a pre-convention get-together at Turtle Bay on the East Side. Good times, good times. Packed to the gills when I got in (early), and it only got more crowded. I met lots of people I know only electronically, and I'm sure I saw many others who I didn't identify. (And I even got mistaken for Stanley Kurtz! Hee!) Anyway, this allows me to demonstrate my new expertise with photoblogging. So here goes: (Click to enlarge, if that's your bag, baby.)

Here's a reason I came early: Goodies! Buttons, a lapel pin, and, of course, the most recent NR. (Well, I'll get it in the mail soon anyway, but why not?) The buttons say "John Kerry: Just Say Non!" against a French flag- it took me a bit to get that one; "Kerry is #1 (Senate Liberal)"; "I Don't Believe The New York Times" (perhaps I'll wear that when reading the rag in public); "Save A Hamster- Vote Kerry"; and "I Believe the Swifties" (ah, but which? Kerry would ask). The lapel pin is laid out like a cover of the magazine with a flag. As for the issue itself- well, you're gonna have to buy it. Or, better, subscribe. There's a handy link right at the top of their site.Posted by Hello

Here's Jonah Goldberg, National Review Online Editor-at-Large, holding court at the bar. Don't worry, it gets better. (A bit of the old demon liquor- ok, a beer- helped get my courage up to actually approach these people, as you'll see.) Posted by Hello

A view of the banner on the balcony above the second floor room where the shindig was held. This particular place is actually hosting a few RNC-related events this week. The balcony looks empty now... Posted by Hello

Here's Rich Lowry, the Editor-in-Chief of National Review (the Dead Tree version). He was standing by the door greeting everyone, and I even had a few words with him. The NR crew is rather young, cu ne? (A bit of Esperanto there.) Not that there's anything wrong with that...else this wouldn't have happened, perhaps. Posted by Hello

Ah, the reason I came. (Well, a big one of many.) Me and Derb, the great John Derbyshire. Derb was the first of a few who not only allowed me to take a picture, but offered to take one with me. He was patient enough to wait for the guy to figure how to work the camera, which, of course, figures- he's a gentleman. He even said he remembered our correspondence. Made my evening. Posted by Hello

Jim Geraghty, who writes "The Kerry Spot" for NRO. Jim is worried, rightly, that people might lose their jobs because they spend all their time at work reading him. Yes, he's that good. And younger than me, I think. Posted by Hello

Kathryn Jean Lopez, editor (editrix?) of National Review Online, who I think set the whole thing up. Hurrah for K-Lo! (As she's called.) The guy with her had some role in setting it up too, I believe, but I'm afraid I don't know him. Posted by Hello

Me and Ramesh Ponnuru, an NR senior editor and all-around nice (and brilliant) guy. Alas, I didn't get to compliment him on any specific pieces, but they're all great. Posted by Hello

Me and Jonah! Yay! Another unexpected offer of, "Why not take one of us together?" I look a bit poleaxed here. Chalk it up to hero worship. Jonah may not have gotten onto the LOTR DVD. Sniff. Posted by Hello

This is another view of the balcony- by this point, it had even gotten crowded up there. And no, I don't think the woman in pink is waving to me. Posted by Hello

Here's a view of only some of the crowd, taken from the stairs to the balcony. It's something, huh? The place was packed even at 4:30, and only got more so. The guy in the hat is Roger Simon, who I believe is Someone Important. Posted by Hello

Here's a view to the bar itself, again to show a bit of the crowd. When I turned around after taking this one, I saw Lindsay Young of the Manhattan Institute and Fabiani Society, and we had a few friendly words- I thanked her for emailing a list of events, and asked about her plans for the year. Posted by Hello

This is John J. Miller, the NR political reporter. He seemed a bit surprised someone would want to take his picture- they're a modest bunch that way. Posted by Hello

I was on my way out when a few more people with yarmulkes came in (there had been a few before- I think I even saw a chassid). One was Rabbi Daniel Lapin, the famous Jewish conservative. Maybe they'll call me that one day- a guy can dream, can't he? Or maybe I should aim for "the famous conservative." (That's K-Lo behind him, who'd just greeted him, which is how I knew who he was.) Posted by Hello

Well, this is the place where it was held, Turtle Bay on 2nd Avenue between 52nd and 53rd. I took this on my way out, going to the train. (K-Lo assured me there'd be no speeches, or I'd have stuck around even longer.) Note the large crowd even outside. Posted by Hello

As a test for the above (posted in reverse order), a picture of my brother Sam and his friends M. Hirschman, M. Gombo, and Z. Zelingold, after the wonderful aufruf we had this past weekend. (Obviously, no pictures from the Sabbath day itself, which rocked. Everyone and his brother came to the davening, and my old friend and poster to this site, M. Sussman, stayed for the meal as well.) Great guys, great time. Posted by Hello

Thursday, August 26, 2004


So this morning, I only had a twenty with which to pay for the one dollar Forward at the stand I always get it. Guy wouldn't take it. So I went to the office, got change, and bought it from a machine. Guy's lost a customer, I think. Although I will miss the dog.

So speaking of the big story in the Forward, I don't see how it extends further than the schvuntz it's about. How does it touch on any organization? And what could they do? He wasn't doing anything illegal.

Meh, is what I say.

Outrage of the day? I've learned that Charedi papers give female author's only first initials, so nobody will know it's a woman. (Of course, if some people have first names, you gotta wonder about the rest. Unless there's a more misogynistic point being made here.) This is disgusting. At least if they didn't hire women, it would be consistent, if also wrong. But this...

Feh, is what I say.

I choked up a bit watching this video. I think the anchor did too.
Here's a question to John O'Neill from a discussion at The Washington Post:
Mr. O'Neill, you are questioning the validity of medals awarded to John Kerry by the U.S. government. Aren't you also by implication questioning the competency of the medal eligibility determinations made by U.S. military brass? If so, aren't you in reality calling into question the authenticity of every medal awarded to every U.S. serviceman? If so, how do we differentitate the "good" medals from the "bad" medals?
"You can say what you want, but I won't stand here and let you insult the United States of America! Gentlemen!" [Walk out, humming "The Star Spangled Banner."]

Wednesday, August 25, 2004

It's a sad state of affairs when Jews don't realize that "Episcopal" and "Catholic" are two separate things.

Thursday, August 19, 2004

Call me jingoistic, but reading something like this makes me proud to be an American. O brave new world that has such people in't!

Meanwhile, today's Times has an article about the soon-to-open National Museum of the American Indian. (Well, it's always been in New York- now it's moving to Washington.) Oddly, this article, too, stirred up some good ol' patriotism in me. And then came this:
But not only the sunny side of Indian history will be on display. Some of the
knottiest topics will be addressed, Mr. West said.
Actually, I was waiting for this. Will the museum talk about tribal warfare? Bloodthirsty practices? Scalping? Oh, no: They mean how badly the Indians were treated by the Europeans. Well, that's all well and good. But honesty is honesty.

Jonathan Rosenblum has really crossed a line with this piece. You want to talk shunning, Jon? (I hope that's all you want- but if you do, you're quite naive.) Decent people should shun you.

Speaking of indecency, the Jewish weeklies seem to be having a treif-fest. Last week, the crown jewel of Anglo-Jewish journalism (monkey*) saw fit to devote the major cover story and two whole pages within to Jews who participate in eating contests (non-kosher, of course). So not only is it treif, it's gluttonous treif. Lovely.

Oh, but the Forward will not be left behind. This week's number includes a recipe for- I kid you not- mealworm latkes.

OK, people, I know you don't keep kosher. But a little sensitivity? And leaving kashrut aside, a little, well, taste?

Finally, National Geographic, predictably (and ignoring my vote against) made its latest global warming fright-piece its cover story. (It seems on the newsstand version, too.) The editor freely acknowledges that controversy exists in his introduction- so why, in a huge three-part piece, isn't there the slightest hint of that? Not one dissenter interviewed? Not one word? (The insults in the online forum are precious.)

One letter in the issue is quite funny- a woman demanding that US troops pull out of all places they supposedly aren't needed. Of course, now that the President has proposed just that, I imagine it still won't make her support him. Hell, John Kerry called for it only a week or two ago, only to reverse himself once Bush declared for it. Yolds.

I'm back to ranting, baby!

*A TWoP term meaning "not."

Life imitates art

A little while back, I shared a bus ride with a graduate of Morehouse College (he was wearing a T-shirt). Today, as part of my job, I looked into Ralph's. Name the works of fiction these bring to mind.

Some light stuff

Don't worry, the serious stuff will follow soon:

Cleo strikes again, with another masterpiece.

The Washington Post gets in on the act.

Wednesday, August 18, 2004

Halakha and latent O.C.D. make a grand cocktail...

Too true. There was once a piece in The Commentator about this, and the author tried to link every obsession with the words, "He worries that his prayers will not be accepted if he doesn't..." and the like. That's wrong: Obsessive people don't need a reason. They (we) just do this stuff. This article is a must-read. Nice ending, too, for the religious amongst us.

This is too funny. Apparently, crotch-grabbing and wedgie-giving are legal moves in Olympic (all?) water-polo.

Tuesday, August 17, 2004


It takes some kind of chutzpah to use Moshe's speech to Reuven and Gad as proof that chareidim shouldn't be serving in the IDF.

Of course, when chutzpah is needed, Shas is sure to step to the bat.

Sunday, August 15, 2004

A Thought

When you begin blogging, you start getting a compulsion to blog almost anything that comes up. Lord knows it's happened to me, and I know- or can tell- that it happens to many (most? all?) others. And true to my neurotic self, I make lists of what to blog, and then never get around to it.

Which is a blessing in disguise. Because the cure for this compulsion? Is to just let the urge blow over. Give it some time (or a little procrastination), and the urge passes, either because the intended post becomes irrelevant (either because it's old news, if it's a news item, or because it doesn't apply anymore, if it's a personal thing) or you just don't feel the urge to talk about it anymore. (When actually blogging, I've found this is also a solution to a related phenomenon, the compulsion to stick in links for every last thing. And no, this post has nothing to do with the comment below.)

Clarence Thomas was once asked why, unlike other justices, he asks few if any questions during oral arguments. He answered that, first, he's noticed that most of the questions asked are unnecessary- the justice (or any judge, I'd say) asking them knows the answer already, and is trying to make some other point (if that). He also gave another, more personal, answer: He was raised speaking Gullah, an African-American (literally) dialect of the Carolina coast.
He didn't speak standard English until relatively late, and then, for a while, only with a thick accent. As a result, he was somewhat embarrassed to speak up in school, and even when he began to speak well, this reluctance carried over to law school and beyond. One thing he observed, thanks to this trait, was that if one has a question, it will invariably be asked by someone else.

And so it is in the blogosphere. Want to mention a news item? Someone else- likely with more exposure- surely will do so, or already has.

So what to do? Should I simply collect my links into one spot, tell my readers to go to them, and give up?

Of course not. Blogs are, at least, a great place to vent, and just maybe I'll occasionally have something original to say. I'll have more to post later. But for now, just these general thoughts. Have a great week, all!

Tuesday, August 10, 2004

A bit of Googling reveals that this latest bit of anti-Bush idiocy can be traced to a someone with a JTS address. Typical.

You know, in the old days, Jack Ruby killed Oswald.

Thursday, August 05, 2004

"Kahane is the Jew of Israel"

(With apologies to Yoko)

I once read that Jews are sort of a "litmus test"- that is, you can judge a society based on how it treats the Jews living within it. (I suppose this might hold true of any minority, but it probably fits Jews best for various reasons- history of persecution, etc.)

Anyway, I've decided that Kahanists are a similar litmus test for Israeli politicians and American journalists. They're so universally condemned and despised, it's easy to fall into the defaming masses. If I see someone falling into that, I know I don't like him.

For example, Jeffrey Goldberg keeps up his baseless accusations against the Israeli Right- for which he's already been lauded by Gary Rosenblatt- in today's Times. (As with Chaim Strauchler and Yossi Klein Halevi, he's discovered that the true ticket to success comes from attacking Kahanists, better if you were once one of them.) The article, of course, is quite disgusting, once again dealing in innuendo without foundation. (Is that redundant?) The Kahanists, and Israeli right-wingers in general, particularly the evil American ones, want to kill Sharon, blow up the Dome of the Rock. "I have met dozens more who would not sit shiva," he writes, "certainly not for the Dome, but not for their prime minister, either."

I imagine he means "sit shiva" in a figurative sense. (The Times assumes the phrase need not be explained for its kike readership.) Jeffrey, you yold, want to know how to get me not to "sit shiva" for you? Write an article advocating more administrative detentions. Yup, there it is, right in the article: "Let's lock up more Kahanists without cause!" (I doubt many Times readers know what "administrative detention" is, but to define it would probably result in many of them being turned off from it, and so it, too, is left unexplained.) The Times, of course, wouldn't even advocate such a thing for Al Qaeda members in Guantanamo Bay, but it's thrilled to print this piece.

Oh, and then there's his- and surprise! Abe Foxman's- ridiculous call for "the rabbis" to do something. He doesn't elaborate, because it's a nonsensical call.

As for Israeli politicians, some, ironically from the left, protest such tactics. The right, fearful they'd lose support to Kahanists, always took the lead in banning them. And now the latest right-wing "savior," Effie Eitam, has come out for the detentions. His main reason? Not that Sharon is at risk, but that it "could cause untold harm to the entire right-wing camp". Oh, that's nice. His precious party is at risk, so let's lock up some more people.

You keep people from voting for the party of their choice, you have the same tired old faces in control year after year, you lock people up without cause, you should be worrying.

Edited to add one item to that last list: You threaten to expel them from their homes. Or is Goldberg suggesting that if the US government decided to expel him from his (Upper West Side, I bet) home, he'd meekly go along with it?

Wednesday, August 04, 2004

The question for someone over on the Agudah end of the spectrum (as well as some others) can be boiled down to this: With the arrival of Mashiach, we can safely assume that the nation then established will require police, a fire department, courts, sanitation, an army- maybe even a parliament. As the modern State of Israel supplies all such things, isn't it logical to assume that they will simply continue (as, lehavdil, Mandatory institutions did)? And if this is the case, isn't there some level of significance to the State as a first step toward an age of Mashiach? (I won't approach of the question of whether the modern day State, with some ideological changes not outside the realm of possibility, might one day accomplish the acts required of Mashiach without there being one recognizable [at least at the time] individual in that role.)

To someone of the Satmar or Neturei Karta persuasion, the answer is not difficult: No. To them, the State is an evil that must be entirely swept away, consequences be damned (although they're blindly not really concerned about those), before a Messianic age may arrive. But they're evil gits. I'd like to assume that the Agudists are not.

But I don't have much cause for optimism. In another context, Meir Kahane would say, "I say what you think," and sometimes I wonder if Satmar fulfills that role for much of the Charedi world.

For example: You can't get much more mainstream charedi than Artscroll. Once, out of curiosity, I looked into the Artscroll Talmud to see what they say on the "Three Oaths." Now, they could simply say, "There's too much to discuss here, and there are numerous opinions." After all, it's not halakhah, and it doesn't play much of a central role in Judaism to anyone outside the Satmar. And, indeed, Artscroll begins its comment with exactly that line. However, a few pages later, it goes on- despite its own introduction- to give one point of view. It doesn't say there are other views, and it never mentions that the view it gives is the most extreme, namely, that of the Satmar Rebbe. It's too identical to be a coincidence. I imagine that almost all of the Modern Orthodox Jews who are Artscroll's main market, and almost all of the Charedim who use this Shas as well, have no idea what it is they're being presented. This is troubling- far more than the relatively silly ways in which Artscroll sanitizes history or translations or Bible commentary. And yet no one, so far as I know, has commented on it. (Off to Google...)

Jains and Jews

You know, I'll get to the Zionist question in a bit, but I just noticed a few points in Rosenblum's piece I couldn't ignore:

1. The whole point of the piece is how we should be nice, how he was mean to Heilman, how nice Heilman was, etc.- and then he included a parenthetical remark about how Heilman probably just despises him and doesn't want to deal with him. Oh, that's nice.

2. He mentions Sherer as being a model of civility. One thing I'll always remember about Sherer is that he contributed an essay to the second edition of The Sanctity of the Synagogue (it's in the third edition as well). Now, he could have written an article about Mechitzot, etc., like every else. But no, he had to take the opportunity to attack YU, the OU, and the RCA.

3. On Sherer's style: "On many occasions, that respect translated into concrete benefits for the Torah world on such bodies as the Claims Conference." Of course, the Agudah is well known for opposing any cooperation with non-Orthodox bodies, and attacking anyone who disagrees- but to get money out of Germany? (And, unintentionally I trust, create chillulei Hashem, as described in a Times column yesterday?) Money? The Agudah is right there, just as they're right there for Sharon for the same reason in the coalition talks going on in Israel now.

Hey, money makes the world go 'round. But don't make a point of acting sanctimonious about your values when you chase it.

On another note: Jains, members of a religious group in India, cover their mouths to avoid inhaling insects. A new chumra for the velt? Why not?

Tuesday, August 03, 2004

This blog is about rants, right?

Well, my planned rants are now yesterday's news. One involved some guy that smuggled artifacts from Iraq, got arrested, and hid behind a Jewish phrase. A nice chillul hashem (worse in Iraq, already prone to Jew-hatred, where it came up, I believe) made worse, and so, of course, Brafman for the defense. Note: If you don't want to have the image of a "mob lawyer," it helps not to dress and style your hair like one. Well, it helps even more not to defend mobsters, but hey. Anyway, yesterday's news. Hopefully, Brafman will be one day as well.

Another rant involved the fact that of forty-odd books on Barnes & Noble's "Meet the Writer" list for August, approximately one-quarter- one-quarter- are anti-Bush. (One, by Malachy McCourt, seems particularly silly). Don't these people realize how over-the-top they've gotten with this sheer hatred of the man?

On that topic, the radio informed me this morning that Mrs. Kerry, a.k.a. (within the Kerry campaign) "Stepmoney," responded to a bullhorn-wielding protestor shouting "Four more years!" by starting a chant of "Three more months!" Um, Mrs. K.: Presidential terms end in January, not November. Our favorite Mozambiquan also stated that Republicans want "Four more years of Hell." Hell? What? Have the last four years (apart from one terrible day) really been that bad?

Hell, by the way, is the news media picking up Dean's wacky claim that the latest terror alert is politically motivated with such alacrity. Again, don't they realize how hateful and, well, just plain predictable they've become?

Well, on to the glory that is Jonathan Rosenblum.

Rosenblum includes a tricky and cute (he hopes, hopes that I will dash) line in his piece apologizing to Ephraim Zuroff. Zuroff has claimed that during World War II, the Vaad Ha-Hatzalah was only saving yeshiva people. Rosenblum points out, incidental to his main point, that the Vaad included both Charedi and "Mizrahi" (sic) rabbis. (Use of the word "Mizrachi" is a dead giveaway that one is fighting fights of the 1950's, or was taught by someone who did.) And therein lies an interesting sociological point.

A few years back, Moshe Meiselman, nephew to the Rav, wrote an essay in Tradition about his uncle's views on contemporary issues, especially women's prayer groups.* There was an interesting footnote where Meiselman suggests that Kol Dodi Dofek isn't as Zionist as people think it is.** (Let's grant this ridiculous assertion for a moment.***) He then wonders: Why do Religious Zionist schools teach it?****

This, of course, is Meiselman projecting his views on others. Since he's a happy book-banner in his own yeshiva- he even banned his own mother's memoir because it was too truthful about history- he assumes that everyone else is, and should shun books they don't agree with. Of course, the whole point of Modern Orthodoxy (well, one of them) is lack of fear- just because we disagree doesn't mean we have to avoid something. (Me, I studied the Satmar Rebbe's point of view on Zionism in YU. More to follow.)

This mindset is what gets Rosenblum to try his little "trick." After all, Rosenblum reveres his gedolim. To him, they can't do any wrong. Therefore, with his blinkered worldview, he assumes that Modern Orthodox Jews feel the same. So if he points out that the rabbis Zuroff is criticizing include some "Mizrachi" ones, then Modern Orthodox Jews' reaction should be, in his mind, "Oh, 'our' gedolim did the same thing! We'd better shut up!" Of course, one point of Modern Orthodoxy is that gedolim are not sacrosanct, so Rosenblum's little ploy falls flat.*****

Thinking of Rosenblum led me to some questions on Zionism, which I shall post later.

*When criticized, Meiselman's only defense boils down to "I'm the Rav's nephew, so shut up." Come to think, that's probably how he gets to appear in Tradition in the first place. Why he'd want to be in Tradition is beyond me. Probably because no one further to the right cares what the Rav thought. Maybe his nephew-hood pasuls him elsewhere. Poor man.

**This is a classic example of how Da'as Torah operates. While claiming to follow gedolim blindly, it often boils down to changing the views of gedolim to suit oneself. After all, one can't reject gedolim (more on this further on), especially if it's the one gadol who's your meal-ticket to get Modern Orthodox followers, as the Rav is for Meiselman, but one really doesn't want to change one's own views. Ergo, the gedolim's views are altered, ironically.

***Of course, the essay is complex, but it's still more Zionist than Meiselman would like to think.

****He does not ask why they teach it "as Zionist literature," which would make (slightly) more sense. (My God, this has turned into an anti-Rosenblum piece with an anti-Meiselman piece tacked on as footnotes.)

*****If it's a footnote, it must be Meiselman. Anyway, he, of course, is falling into the same trap by trying to prove a point based on what the Rav felt.

Monday, August 02, 2004

Happy Tu B'Av!

In honor of the day, and the YUWO invite, I wonder what questions shadchanim would have had to ask back in the First Bayis period:

-Do you plan on sacrificing your firstborn to Molekh?

-When was the last time you brought an offering to Asherah?

Fortunately, it seems there were no shadchanim then.

Birthday went great, by the way. In the words of his fiancee, my brother is "gorgeous." (Apparently, that's Brit-speak for "terrific.") I got an amazing gift from him, cards from my sister and parents (they bought a talking one in England featuring "Basil Fawlty" and the Mrs. giving birthday wishes), e-cards, phone messages...the works. I've got a good circle of friends.

We tend to have lots of birthdays cakes among the Lamms. I was wondering when one would show up during the Friday night meal- they come out as a surprise- but was still taken off-guard. And then, another during the day! Wow. That was a surprise.

I've got some rants, but they can wait.