Sunday, January 30, 2005

A Great Day

I have to say, I breathed a sigh of relief when news came across that the election's been a resounding success in Iraq. And then got all choked up as I heard the president's speech and read more reports in The Corner (check it out). One nice piece from there can be found here.

You know what's hilarious? Wendy Shalit writes a piece in today's New York Times Book Review. (No, not the funny part.) I'm sure I wasn't the only one to think, "Hmm! She finally resurfaces!" (Still not the funny part- patience!.) What's funny is that the Times actually includes a special note not only acknowledging that the wunderkind had dropped off the face of the Earth- but more importantly, answering the second thing that popped into my- and, I'm sure, many others'- minds: "Is she married?" Welcome to the velt, NY Times.

Speaking of books, this link is not for the easily offended (hat tip to Stephen M. T.).

I'm trying to find a clean link to the new Rashi stamp from France. Can't yet. It's very nice, though.

Saturday, January 29, 2005


"Nathan Lamm" 886, "Nachum Lamm" (many of which aren't even me) 103. Yay Nathan!

Tuesday, January 25, 2005

"Scots, wha hae wi' Wallace bled..."

Reading the prodigious efforts of a friend and fellow blogger, I've been shamed into making a puny effort of mine own.

The title of this post is thus both an inside joke and a tribute to Robert Burns, whose birthday is today. Have some usquebaugh! Have some haggis (or kishka, if that's your bag)! Also, blink and you miss it, but it's Tu B'Shvat today! Yay!

Anyway, something substantial: I picked up that "Sixty Days for Sixty Years" book in shul. Actually very nice effort from our brethren (soon to be literally so for me) in the UK. Anyway, it seems to me that while in the US and Israel we commemorate the Holocaust with Yom Hashoah (and, to a lesser extent here, on the anniversary of Kristallnacht), throughout Europe, the commemoration is on the anniversary (this week) of the liberation of Auschwitz. I don't know if that means anything- my suspicious mind sees glorification of the "glorious Red Army" at work, but probably not- but it's something to consider about Israel/Diaspora relations, US/Europe relations, and so on.

Anyway. It's as good a day as any to remember them, and learn in their memory. Of course, the usual suspects in Europe are using this as an opportunity for more Israel-bashing (and, basically, anti-Semitism).

One more question- I am a humble lawyer, and thus can't understand the intricacies of staying an execution to see if someone was competent to refuse a defense- after he confessed, was convicted, sentenced, and sat on death row through appeals for two decades? Let's say he wasn't competent- so what?

Monday, January 24, 2005

"Never give in."

Do not let us speak of darker days: let us speak rather of sterner days. These
are not dark days; these are great days--the greatest days our country has ever
lived; and we must all thank God that we have been allowed, each of us according
to our stations, to play a part in making these days memorable in the history of
our race.
Winston Churchill, dead on this day forty years ago.

Wednesday, January 19, 2005

Peace Through Superior Firepower

Growing up, we were always told that Alfred Nobel established the prizes that bear his name because he was so wracked with guilt over inventing dynamite. Not so, apparently: Nobel felt that with dynamite available, nations would fear making war, and thus he'd already done his share for world peace.

The article that I read this in (about the latest Peace Prize receipient) pointed out that by that logic, Edward Teller should have received the Peace Prize (as, indeed, Sakharov did, albeit on other grounds). But, of course, the Nobel never actually goes to those who promote actual peace and freedom, like George W. Bush. No, it goes to people who talk the talk but don't walk the walk. Face facts: Most often, peace comes only through defeat of belligerents.

Deepak Chopra has some new book about "peace beginning with you," somewhat akin to Yoko's ad of a month or so ago on the same theme. Of course, these people are ridiculous. They ignore the facts that, on the one hand, there are people in this world who want to have war regardless of our feelings for peace, people who will not just "go away" with good vibes, and, on the other hand, just because we make war does not mean that we are not, in fact, bringing peace, perhaps the only or best way it can be brought.

Tuesday, January 18, 2005


Dr. Rice, in her confirmation hearings, just made reference to the old chestnut (frequently touted by race-baiters like Jackson and Sharpton) about her ancestors being worth "3/5 of a person." Condi, of all people, I'd expect you to know better: The 3/5 compromise was meant to be favorable to slaves. If measuring the value of a person was absolute, the slaveowners would be looked on favorably- after all, they wanted to count their slaves as a full person (without letting them vote), while the Northerners wanted to count them as zero.

Friday, January 14, 2005

I'm Back!

Seems like leaving and returning is always cause for a big blog.

Well, I'm back, after a week in our nation's capital. Not much to report- mostly work. The first night I was there, I took a long walk around the city, looking over the impressive preparations for the inaugural (which, sadly, I don't think I'll be able to make) and various monuments. I'd never seen the Korean War Memorial before, and it's really nicely done. I'd had my doubts about the World War II Memorial, but seeing it for the first time, I was blown away. I also paid homage to Lincoln at his Memorial, and got choked up reading his Second Inaugural Address.

The rest, as I said, was pretty much work, meals at the JCC, davening at Kesher Israel, a very friendly shul indeed whose website was invaluable (and with a "Quf" of its name on the cornerstone clearly corrected from "Kaf"- hee!), and downtime at the (luxurious) hotel. (OK, I'll lay off the links a bit.) Some friends- especially a blogger and commenter at this site- called and made things much better. (If you're a Lamm, don't tell your family an ex [not the aforementioned blogger] called you, or they'll start planning your wedding.) By the way, I apparently look suspicious enough that they pulled me over for special screening both coming and going. At least, I hope it's suspicion, and not just random stuff to be fair to Arabs. (There was an elderly woman with me too, come to think. Oh, I feel secure.) Eh. I'll forgive this. I guess I have to.

Upon returning to shul this morning, I was greeted with all sorts of "The Kohen's back!" statements and remarks about how others "got to be Kohen" in my absence, how they always wanted to be kohanim, etc. I was polite enough, but these people? Have no idea. Don't get me wrong- I think it's great to be a kohen and would never give it up- but I wouldn't wish what I've been through because of it on anyone.

Speaking of religion, I find it odd that non-religious Jews see a need to justify themselves when they're around me. It's actually happened to me a few times- people refraining from eating non-kosher meat, opting for vegetarian stuff instead, etc. I guess that's a good thing.

Speaking yet further of religion, on the plane back, I sat next to a young man who spoke a Slavic language to his family. Before eating, he crossed himself extensively, and did so again when the plane landed. You know, I wish Jews were that comfortable in expressing their religion (as in the former action- of course, Christians are the majority here), but, more importantly, that we had that relationship with God in which we actually feel Him when landing in a plane. I imagine many of us do, but more should. Me, I missed saying tefillas haderech and only was reminded of it by this young man. To quote Joyce, "I wish we had something like that in our Church."

More religion! I seem to have missed the explosion of the Slifkin story into the general consciousness. My God, they've really screwed him. God bless him. Maybe I'll buy The Science of Torah after all. I hear this is really causing crises of faith for some. Pulling for you to see the light!

In time for Parshat Bo, I hear they're remaking The Ten Commandments. It's so cheesy, with that dialogue and all, but the actual Exodus scene always gets to me.

Yet more religion! Norman Lamm, as might be expected, has weighed in on the Gaza issue with the old "The Rav says pikuach nefesh outweighs kibush haaretz" argument. Of course, this is wrong on so many levels, halakha included- but let's look at logic. There's a concept of milchemet mitzvah, to conquer land. War involves risk of death, by definition. Hence, the Land of Israel does outweigh pikuach nefesh. Me? I blame all these midrashim that pretend that no Jew was ever killed in a war in Tanakh. It's childish and leads to mistaken notions like this. To repeat: We are commanded to wage war to conquer land. War is dangerous. Q.E.D.

OK, one more religious piece before I go on to secular politics. I just got the latest Torah U-Madda Journal. It has a review of the whole Reinman-Hirsch book. Besides having a pedantic first footnote (reading between the lines: "I wish I didn't have to use the goyish term 'Orthodox.' I wish I could pointedly refer to Reinman, and not Hirsch, as 'Rabbi'."), it fails to point out that Hirsch chose Reinman as a strawman, who, sure enough, couldn't respond to many of his arguments. The only reason Reinman comes out on top is because Hirsch is even more ignorant than him.

Today, by the way, is the 35th anniversary of the infamous Radical Chic party. Read the book.

So, the New York Times, arbiter of all that is Right and Good in this world, gleefully announces that media- and power-whore Eliot Spitzer has nailed Macy's for racially profiling shoplifting suspects. Here's one line:
The store's official policy is to handcuff detainees if they are determined to
be dangerous, but in a number of cases investigated by Mr. Spitzer at New York
City stores, almost everyone was handcuffed, regardless of age, size or
behavior, according to officials close to the investigation.
Of course, one wonders if they handcuffed regardless of race. That, after all, is the whole point here- and if they did, there's no racism claim. Well, there's also this, earlier in the article:
Mr. Spitzer's investigation found that most of people detained at a sampling of
Macy's stores around the state were black and Latino, a disproportionately high
number when compared with the percentage of blacks and Latinos who shopped at
those stores, according to the complaint.
Of course, one may wonder if the proportion of shoplifters is disproportionately minority. If so, Macy's was just doing its job. But as Peter Brimelow once said, this is a question we may Never Ask.

Thursday, January 06, 2005

Happy Birthday, Mr. Sherlock Holmes!

It's also Twelfth Night, or day, or whatever. Good times all around.

Question: Is Mr. Sharon at all embarrassed at the fact that his plans are proceeding only through outright bribery? Are the charedim of Israel, their parties, or their leaders at all embarrassed that they are the eager recipients of such bribery?

Likely answer: No. No, they're not. (See here to see how ridiculous it can get.)

Wednesday, January 05, 2005

"You know about Henry VIII and Anne of Cleves?" I asked a friend. (Don't ask why.) "As in the Get* of Cleves?" he replied.

I'd never thought of that- two of the most famous divorces in history, both from the same city. Go figure.

*Jewish Divorce. One account of this famous story can be found here, but focuses on another angle and omits the happy twist at the end.

Monday, January 03, 2005

A little while back, I wondered about consecutive multi-term wins. Now, with the New York mayor's race beginning, I'm wondering about a possible effect of term limits: Do you think that once someone is term-limited, the public is more forgiving when they run for reelection, thinking that the candidate doesn't have long in office anyway? Consider that since Eisenhower, the first president affected by term limits, five presidents have won reelection and only two (not counting Ford, who was never elected and could have run twice) have lost. I'll have to crunch the numbers of everyone from before, though.

I also wondered about Religious-Zionist accommodation of chareideim. Looks like some of the backlash (toward the end of the piece) has begun, thankfully.

Meanwhile, Safire and his good buddy Sharon continue to be blithering idiots, with Safire all busy justifying Mazen's support of terror. And there's this beaut: "But disengagement or relocation, euphemisms for withdrawal..." Why not, "Withdrawal, a euphemism for expulsion of Jews..."

Elsewhere on the op-ed page are two good pieces on France: The one by John J. Miller (picture on this blog!) is great, of course, but surprisingly, the other piece, which I suppose was chosen to "balance" it, isn't bad either. Sort of a "Yeah, Frenchmen are jerks, but be nice to us" thing. I would add one point to his reasons Americans don't like France: There may be something of a backlash against the "high culture" France supposedly represents, and which we're all supposed to be in awe of.

Rush has a Kojo Annan song. Hee! Question: Can anyone find a picture of him? It's for my mom.