Sunday, January 31, 2010

How Far Massachusetts Has Come on Abortion Rights

So apparently "Massachusetts Right to Life" endorsed Scott Brown in the MA special election.

This is despite the fact that his answer to "Are you pro-choice" is arguably just about the most liberal version of the staunchly pro-choice answer.

Asked if he is pro-choice, Brown said: "Yes, because I feel this issue is best handled between a woman and her doctor and her family."

Notice the absence of any religious figure or institution (or God), which is what NARAL Pro-Choice America says: "This decision is a personal one between a woman, her family, her doctor, and her God"

Still, though, I suppose they felt that, for one, any Republican holding a seat is better (this, along with Casey's support for birth control, led Planned Parenthood to urge votes "against Rick Santorum" in 2006; he did vote to confirm Sotomayor as well last year) than a Democrat, and that maybe Brown would vote for (or oppose overturning) the various restrictions in place, while Coakley would not. Additionally, I suppose Brown may be likely to oppose taxpayer funding of abortions anyway. But it is still a big compromise on what "Right to Life" groups consistently (and very offensively) refer to as a "Holocaust of the unborn"

However, the most interesting thing is how much Massachusetts has changed on the abortion issue in the last 35 years.

Back in 1976, Henry Hyde introduced his amendment banning taxpayer funding of abortions for the first time. It passed narrowly, 207-167.

Of course, the House had 291 Democrats and 144 Republicans at the time, but on the other hand, the proportion of Democrats outside the greater South (former Confederacy, Kentucky and Oklahoma) is higher today (68.2% vs 64.7%)

In Massachusetts, though, 2 of the 3 Democrats opposing it didn't even have to worry about an abortion affecting them because they didn't have sex with women; priest Bob Drinan and then of course Gerry Studds.

Of course, 113 Democrats voted against it and 33 Republicans voted for it, so things weren't nearly as party line (even more so on the Democratic side, where if I counted properly, the majority against it was rather narrow, 134 to 113).

Still, things have changed if the Right to Lifers will endorse someone with as blanket a pro-choice statement as Brown under any condition.

Saturday, January 30, 2010

Anti-Semitic Banker Gold-Digger Gretta Duisenberg

Nice lady; makes you want to donate to Geert Wilders legal defense fund in her honor; he may be a far-right ass, but at least he's not a Jew-hater (unlike most of his compatriots on the far-right like the BNP and the Austria Freedom party, not to mention the Eastern Europe far-right which is even worse)

Can't say the same for far-left nutjob Duisenberg, who married a wealthy banker who has since died.

This is because of two things; first, the Jewish lobby in Holland, like in the United States, is very strong and powerful, and it is still playing on our guilt feelings, although it is 63 years since the Holocaust.

In addition, whenever you have something against the Jewish people in Holland, they call you an anti-Semite

The "high" (on whatever, she is from Amsterdam) society member recently got off on incitement charges since nobody could prove it actually was her advocating for gassing Jews

Ma'an News Agency (Jan 20): Mahmoud al-Mahbuh Dies of Terminal Cancer

I was a bit harsh a week or two ago about Jared Malsin, the American journalist for Ma'an News who recently was refused entry to Israel after he refused to answer questions asked of him by Israeli security officers after landing at Ben-Gurion. My comments, however, were directed at Mr. Malsin, not at his employer.

Ma'an News certainly has a slant in its reporting, but it does seem to be independent. Certainly, at the very least, it doesn't coordinate that well with Hamas.

From Ma'an News, last updated on January 21, 2010:

Hamas' armed wings the Al-Qassam Brigades announced the death of its co-founder in exile Mahmoud Al-Mabhuh died of terminal cancer in a hospital in the UAE on Wednesday. (emphasis mine)

Of course, a few days ago they changed their story, likely realizing that ascribing Al-Mahbuh's death to the terminal cancer that killed him was missing a golden opportunity to blame something on Israel. From AFP:

The Islamist Hamas movement blamed Israel on Friday for the death in Dubai earlier this month of one of the founders of its military wing and threatened retaliation at a time of its choosing.

"Mahmud Abdel Rauf al-Mabhuh died a martyr in Dubai on January 20, 2010 in suspect circumstances that require an inquiry in cooperation with the United Arab Emirates authorities," Hamas said in a statement released in its Gaza stronghold.

"We hold Israel responsible for the assassination of our brother and leader," the statement said, adding Hamas would "retaliate for this Zionist crime at the appropriate moment."

Obviously, not a surprise that Hamas would do something like this. The whole thing reminds one of the antics surrounding Arafat's death. But it is slightly more of a surprise (slightly) that the traditional media would not even bother to find out that they'd said something completely different to Arab media (which was picked up and posted by Ma'an on their English language section, which Mr. Malsin worked for) the week before.

On the other hand, it is not that much of a surprise. The European media is hardly known for fact-checking or an interest in truth when it comes to Israel. Apparently not even as much as is the Palestinian media.

Friday, January 29, 2010

Why Amtrak Hasn't Gotten Riders, and How That Will Change

Amtrak, founded after the collapse of the rail industry (especially the passenger rail industry) in the 1950s and 1960s to continue to provide passenger rail service, has been a major whipping boy for Congressional Republicans pretty much since it was founded.

Freight rail has become profitable again, and if energy prices go up, it should do even better. But passenger rail is still barely ridden in this country, with the exception of the Northeast corridor.

The reason is simple: it's not easy to get people to take the train when it cannot even be competitive in terms of time with the personal automobile, much less with air travel (for limited distances; due to air travel's major overhead and, in many places, major delays), and if you cannot fill the trains, you have also got the problem of costs.

And often, the train is often not even competitive (much less beating) the peronal automobile in terms of travel time.

Below, the mean speed of a train on various tracks throughout the country according to their Amtrak timetables; when lines intersect with the Northeast corridor, I leave the part on the corridor out. When certain parts of a line are far slower, I note that as well. Specifically, I put the mean speed when we discount the time spent waiting at stations (when that time is specified in the schedule), just to point out how bad things are; these are speeds over time when the train is moving (minus I suppose some number of minutes at the brief stops)

I'm ignoring the few lines that go across national lines, because customs slows things down there.

St. Albans, Vermont, to Albany, NY: 40.2
Albany to New York Penn, 56.4.
Rutland, Vermont to Albany, NY 32.4d (15 minute wait in Albany)
Rouses Point, New York to Albany, NY 34.2
Bellingham, WA to Seattle, WA: 38
Seattle, WA to Portland, OR: 53.4
Portland, OR to Eugene, OR: 50.9
Washington, DC to Raleigh, NC: about 53
(having trouble with the rest of the route until Jacksonville, FL along the east coast, but mean speed seem to remain in low-to-mid 50s)
Jacksonville, FL to Tampa, FL: 48.4
Winter Haven, FL to Miami, FL: 47.9
Chicago, IL to Omaha, NE: 58.9
Omaha, NE to Denver, CO: 56.6
Denver, CO to Salt Lake City, UT: 38
Salt Lake City, UT to Emeryville, CA: 49.8
San Jose, CA to Sacramento, CA: 43.1
Washington, DC to Cumberland, MD: 46.3
Cumberland, MD to Pittsburgh, PA: 34.8
Pittsburgh, PA to Cleveland, OH: 48.3
Cleveland, OH to Toledo, OH: 49.8
Toledo, OH to Chicago, IL: 53.4
Washington, DC to Clifton Forge, VA (43.1)

And it goes on like that, basically maxing at the low 50s as a mean speed when moving, except on the incredibly flat, straight Chicago to Omaha stretches and such; also, I believe the Albany to NYC tracks may have had some improvements done.

Except, of course, on the Northeast corridor, where NYC to Washington is 65.9 mph on average, better than a car can do straight without speeding.

I cannot find the distance for the track from NYC to Boston, so I can't provide an estimate there.

The point is, though that even 110 mph max track would be good enough to significantly increase ridership; it worked on the line between Philly and Harrisburg, where the 59.4 mph mean speed on the Keystone route has greatly increased ridership.

It'll work on the other areas as well. And of course, California and to a lesser extent Florida will be revolutionized.

This is why the work being done to get even semi-high train speeds (and genuine high train speeds in Florida and especially California)

You Owe Me Two Hours, Census Bureau

Why in the world would you choose to compress using "Compression 98?"

The algorithm, also known as PPMd, was written by Dmitry Shkarin, a guy in Russia. Do they not know that in Soviet Russia, algorithm compress YOU!

But seriously, Winzip is basically the only zip utility that can handle it

And why for that one (and its state-level equivalent,;

Took me nearly two hours to get around the limited account privileges on the only
Windows machine I have access to so I could install Winzip and unzip.

Thursday, January 28, 2010

All Aboard! Department of Transportation Issued "High Speed" Rail Funding Decisions

The biggest winner is, justifiably, California, which is getting $2.25 billion for its truly high-speed rail plan that passed as a voter initiative (or was it a referendum?) in 2008 along with the hated Prop 8.

Truly in that it actually will be really high-speed like the trains of Europe, Japan and now China.

For great coverage of California's High Speed Rail, I would urge you to read my friend Robert Cruickshank's excellent blog devoted to it

Initially, it'll connect Los Angeles to San Francisco. That trip will be approximately 2 hours and 40 minutes each way, compared to the 6 hours by car it takes along Interstate 5. It's also going to make for a quicker trip point-to-point than flying would for many people, given the major amount of time you have to spend going to the airport, waiting in so many lines, waiting for a whole bunch of other things, etc. etc.

A similar speed train would get you from Boston to Washington DC in less than four hours (maybe even only about 3 hours 30 minutes), making it frankly competitive with air travel as well.

Such a train would be hands-down fastest by quite a bit to get from New York to anywhere on the Northeast Corridor, given the terrible airspace congestion leading to major delays in the New York area and the fact that it's in the middle (though closer to Boston)

Of course, what would be really amazing would be a Maglev train (up to 350 mph) from Boston to Atlanta

Laila Abdelaziz: Obama's Questioner about Israel in Tampa

You know someone's going to be stirring things up when they get a reaction like this to stating their name and status

Q Hello, Mr. President. My name is Layla (phonetic), I'm a student at the University of South Florida. (Applause.)


Of course, it becomes immediately clear that it was because they knew what she would be asking about:

My question is, last night in your State of the Union address you spoke of America's support for human rights. Then why have we not condemned Israel and Egypt's human rights violations against the occupied Palestinian people and yet we continue to support financially with billions of dollars coming from our tax dollars?

The video can be viewed below.

I find it somewhat funny that whatever Palestinian activist group planned to act the question had the "normal white American" girl ask the question rather than the far more "Arab-looking" guy next to her who eventually chimes in to repeat her final "our taxes" line.

Of course, as it turns out, the girl, Laila Abdelaziz, is one of my fellow Palestinians, though her most recent Palestinian ancestors were Muslim, while mine were Jewish; of course, I would not be surprised if it turned out Ms. Abdelaziz is in fact descended from Jews 2000 years back.

To be fair to Ms. Abdelaziz, from what I can tell, she seems relatively moderate, quite possibly among the group of Palestinians to whom I could come to an agreement with on parameters for ending the occupation of the West Bank and the creation of a Palestinian state, depending on her views on the Old City and the "right of return"

Though I can't see what groups she belongs to, the only Palestinian politician among her pages is Mustafa Barghouti (not to be confused with his relatively distant cousin Marwan), head of the Palestinian National Initiative. The PNI, unlike the three top-vote-getting parties in the last Palestinian election that took place several months after Israel withdrew from Gaza, Hamas (which is itself a terrorist group), PFLP (ditto) and Fatah (which still maintains significant affiliations with the terrorist group Al-Aqsa Martyrs' Brigade), have no ties to any armed militant groups. I could wish she supported Ray Hanania's candidacy-awareness campaign, of course.

On the other hand, I certainly have several criticisms/questions that I'd like to hear her and other similar-minded people answer.

For instance, in her interview afterward with Florida radio station WMNF, she said:

Of course we love a two state solution, but there has to be trust and dialogue between two sides. The Palestinian people are ready for a two state solution, but the Palestinian people are the ones being occupied by Israelis. How are the Palestinian people supposed to do anything if they're the ones being occupied? The occupiers have to allow for something to happen which they have not yet allowed to happen. I asked President Obama why he says America as a nation supports human rights, but at the same time, one of our greatest allies is Israel, a country that does not support human rights, and has many human rights violations.

Regarding dialogue: Abbas and the PA have refused to even come to the table for dialogue. It's worth noting that Israeli opinion columnists from Akiva Eldar on the pretty far to the left to Barry Rubin on the right have pointed out (or predicted months ago) that this refusal on Abbas' part would majorly curtail any pressure Obama would put in Israel.

As for her question arguing hypocrisy about human rights-because one of our greatest allies in Israel? Seriously? Not "at the same time, one of our greatest selves is the United States of America." After, all the US is not occupying a country; we're occupying three countries-Afghanistan, Iraq, and (according to several countries, including France) Haiti.

Denying civil rights to people born in our territories? I'm sitting right now in the capital of this great nation, which still suffers from "taxation without representation;" of course, this Obama cannot be blamed for; we really need a constitutional amendment to remedy this, and a president has no part in it.

Finally, I found it rather interesting that she brought in Egypt in addition to Israel in terms of violating the human rights of Palestinians. While Egypt is hardly innocent of human rights violations, when it comes to Palestinians, not so much. Human Rights Watch didn't mention them in their latest report on Middle East human rights, though they did call out majority-Palestinian Jordan as well Lebanon on their violations of human rights of Palestinians.

As for Obama's response, I liked it just fine.

A Little over 1% of DC Residents are Homeless

So said the Metropolitan Washington Council of Government in the yearly estimate from about half a year ago.

They estimated 6,228 people were "literally homeless" in 2009 in the District of Columbia, a little over half of the total homeless population of the DC metro area (which is about 9 times the size of the relatively small [in square miles and in population; DC being one of the few cities [though I guess it wasn't part of the city at the time] to have shrunk in square miles rather than grown from its original size]) city itself.

I remember once walking home from the Hawk and Dove freshman year, and passing a bunch of homeless men sleeping in front of the IRS building, which really hit me.

Counting the homeless presents a unique challenge for the U.S. Census Bureau.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Silence from European Press and "Human Rights Organizations" On Gaza Fuel Situation

From Ha'aretz

A new dispute between Hamas and Fatah has drastically reduced production at the Gaza Strip's only power plant, exacerbating its chronic electricity shortage, officials said yesterday.

The current crisis emerged when the European Union, one of the biggest donors to the Palestinian Authority, decided to scale back aid ...
The plant provides electricity to about 25% of Gaza. The rest gets power from Egypt and Israel.

If Hamas had the people of Gaza's interests in mind, it would agree to Quartet's reasonable demands and Gaza would get the fuel and everything else it needed; of course we know they do not, particularly Meshaal who gets to sit pretty in Damascus. But maybe this EU action will convince them to give in.

Still, Hamas spokesman Fozzie Bear has a point; this action by the European Union is indeed just as much a crime against humanity/collective punishment as anything Israel has done.

Yet a fairly significant search of Google News yields nothing from European newspapers, nothing from European "human rights organizations" who never miss an opportunity or non-opportunity to attack Israel. Palestinian and other Arab news sources, Ha'aretz, and the Chinese Communist newspaper are all I see.

Which is of course not a surprise; actions taken by the EU don't have the kind of "blame the Jews" appeal that attracts most anti-Israel activists.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Shapira and Nafa both belong in Jail

The insane Yitzhak Shapira of Yitzhar was arrested for refusing to answer questions about his involvement in the mosque arson; hopefully he'll stay in custody for a good, long while.

Also, Said Naffaa of the ultra-nationalist Balad party was stripped of parliamentary immunity in connection with his meeting with Khaled Meshaal of Hamas and the leader of the Marxist terrorist org Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine.

Good. They both belong in jail after a fair trail. I hope they do the same for Ben-Ari next bullshit he pulls.

Monday, January 25, 2010

Shmuley Boteach Comes out in Favor of Gay Marriage?

Well, perhaps not quite. But it wasn't that far off, and I'd be surprised if he doesn't get roundly condemned for not being sufficiently anti-"toeiva marriage," as unfortunately most frum Jews call it.

In a glowing article about the Chabad movement urging it to strive for what some might call playing into classic anti-Semitic themes, i.e. "affecting the world media, governments, the broader culture and the non-Jewish world," Rabbi Boteach dropped this bombshell:

While Christian evangelicals have taken over the airwaves, attempting to convince us that the solution to the disintegration of marriage is opposition to gays, Chabad continues to operate shofar factories and erect Hanukka menoras. These things are profoundly important, but not to the exclusion of promoting Chabad as a profound collection of ideas that can rehabilitate one's family and rejuvenate one's spiritual life.

Now, I suppose technically you could read this as Rabbi Boteach not saying anything about the evil of lack thereof in gay marriage, and just pointing out that gays and/or gay marriage have about zero to do with the very real disintegration of the institution of marriage. Hell, maybe you could (although this would really be stretching things) claim that Rabbi Shmuley was just stating a fact about what Christian evangelicals do on the airwaves.

But it really seems to me like he's saying, at least, that gay marriage is not all that big of a deal.

Now, halacha may be interpreted otherwise, at least applied to civil marriages of non-Jews in the United States. Halacha (as it currently stands; that verse CAN be interpreted in other ways, though I do not see that happening given the "strict constructionist/precedence-always" view that poskim take) is against the sex acts between two men, not the marriage.

However, the word coming out of the frum areas in New York and more recently out of Lakewood and such places in New Jersey was that "to'eiva" marriage must be stopped.

I wonder if he'll get flak for it.

Saturday, January 23, 2010

All significant U.S. Orthodox Rabbinates Together for Releasing Rubashkin

A Press release from DJC Communications says the following

A group of the nation's most prominent Rabbis will hold a news conference Tuesday to oppose the premature imprisonment of Sholom Rubashkin, former vice president of Agriprocessors, Inc., once the country's largest kosher meat processing plant. The Rabbis will urge the U.S. Department of Justice to closely scrutinize the demands by federal prosecutors in Iowa that Rubashkin be imprisoned before he is sentenced. The group also will request a meeting with U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder.

They've got the National Council of Young Israel, Agudath Israel of America, the Rabbinical Council of America, the Rabbinical Assembly of America, and then two more local NYC rabbinates who decided to come down as well.

And yes, I am aware that their protest is that he should be allowed out until he gets sentenced. The reason they have not let him out is that he is most definitely a flight risk, and the rabbis are not going to change anyone's mind.

But seriously, do they not realize how bad it is for kashrut and for them to be defending Rubashkin?

On another note, it's kind of ironic that they are using a communications firm run by a female who probably doesn't meet standards of tznius in her picture on her website to do their press work.

Friday, January 22, 2010

"Tefillin Bomber" Diverts Louisville-Bound Flight to Philly

A lot of people have heard by now about the White Plains kid who tried to lay tefillin on board US Airways Flight 3079 from La Guardia to Louisville, scaring the flight attendant and eventually causing the plane to land unscheduled in Philadelphia.

He explained that the scare began when the young man was “in the process of praying.” The flight attendant noticed the tefillin and asked what he was doing.

The young man’s response was straightforward, Lieutenant Vanore said: “He gave the explanation he was in prayer.”

But the flight attendant was concerned about the tefillin. She called the cockpit and “described it as best as she’d seen it,” Lieutenant Vanore said, “and there was an item wrapped around his head, straps or wires.” “The straps did appear to be cables or wires to her,” he said. “To the naked eye looking at it, it looked like that. She said it had wires running from it and going up to his fingers. When they notified the pilot of that, he had to follow his protocol. It’s hard to Monday-morning-quarterback it.”

Now, I feel really bad for Caleb Leibowitz (the young man in question). But I do have to question his judgment.

First, kid, that's like what, an hour flight? Hour and a half at most. Next time just say Tfilat Haderech quietly when you're taking off and then, I dunno, read the Daf Yomi or read a magazine or a book or something.

But more importantly, dude, you do realize how little Americans (or anyone else) know about the religious practices of others, particularly non-Christian religions. Heck, there are for that matter plenty of Jews (though obviously not Orthodox ones) in the U.S. who have little to no knowledge about tefillin. I admit even I can't even put them on correctly myself--mind you, I can't really put a necktie on correctly either.

But seriously, look at some of the articles about your ordeal and the errors they contain about Judaism.

The Louisville Courier-Journal has a picture of you with the following caption:

Caleb Leibowitz (center) prays during the afternoon/evening service at Congregation Anshei Sfard

Well, which was it? Afternoon (mincha) or Evening (maariv)?

Monday, January 18, 2010

Newspapers in the Google News Archive

One great resource for free older newspapers For some reason, Google does not plainly list anywhere the newspapers it has full-image archives for in its "Google News Archive."

Why, I do not know; it makes things very annoying for people who know what kind of paper (based on geographic location, etc.) might have what they are searching for.

Here's a non-exhaustive list via searching manually. Note that Google may be missing some individual issues in the "Google Holding Dates" range; these are merely the earliest and latest I found for them.

Part 1:

NamePublishing PeriodGoogle Holding Dates
Montreal Gazette1785-8/28/1928-
Miami News1896-19886/12/1940
The Evening Independent (St. Petersburg, FL)?-1986Complete
The Age (Melbourne, Australia)1854-3/15/1943-3/4/1955

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Real Question: How does Rav Shteinman have that kind of money lying around?


While Maran HaGaon HaRav Aaron Leib Shteinman Shlita was attending a kinos in Betar Illit on Thursday night, thieves were helping themselves to $50,000 in cash and checks worth “hundreds of thousands” according to a report. The theft occurred in the Rav’s home, 5 Chazon Ish Street, in Bnei Brak.

When the Rosh Yeshiva and his escorts returned to his home after 10:00pm on Thursday, they noticed everything was in disarray, realizing the money, cash and checks, were all gone. The funds were given to the Rav, as is customary, to distribute on rosh chodesh, to yeshivos, kollelim, roshei yeshivos and various institutions.

As a result of the physical findings and the fact there was no evidence of a forced break-in, police believe the thief had a key and is someone with knowledge of the Rav’s schedule, to the extent that he was aware on Thursday night, the Rosh Yeshiva was in Yerushalayim and Betar Illit.

That town is worse than dirt poor. And anyway, I can't think of any profession except drug dealer or the mafia that would have $50,000 in cash in the house.

I guess he may spread that money around, though, so it would be best to do more research before condemning him

Thursday, January 14, 2010

On Jared Malsin-A Look at His Past Work

I decided I'd take a look at the past work of the Jewish-American who lives in the West Bank and writes for the Palestinian newspaper Ma'an, and has apparently been detained and may be expelled.

Now, since he attempted to come in through Ben-Gurion Airport and was detained there, Israel has the right as a sovereign state to not let him in. Great Britain (Michael Savage and a bunch of others), Canada (George Galloway) and others also prevent people from entering their countries; were he seeking to enter the West Bank via Jordan, that would be another thing entirely.

But I'm more looking here at some of his past work (pre-working for Ma'an), to get an idea about this guy.

Here's some links and quotes:

May 12, 2008

Obama (or his ghostwriters) even published a drooling, sycophantic opinion piece in one of Israel's more right-wing newspapers on Friday:

As the festivities surrounding Israel’s 60th anniversary get underway, Israelis can be forgiven if they don’t feel in an entirely celebratory mood. With terrorism and rockets from Gaza, a serious threat posed by Iran’s nuclear ambitions, hostages held by Hamas, and too many of its neighbors playing tired old games rather than working toward peace and security, Israel can at times feel like a nation facing enormous challenges. It is, but is also much more than that. It is precisely at this moment that, despite the challenges, Israelis should take stock of what they have built, and their hearts should swell with pride. And it is also at this moment that Israel’s friends around the world should raise their voices in a chorus of support. Because Israel has more than just friends -- it also has legions of admirers. I am proud to be one, and I know that millions of Americans join me in saluting the State of Israel and its vast array of achievements over these past 60 years.

Writing from where, I am, in occupied Palestine, this is truly vomit-inducing stuff. Even many Israelis will feel patronized that Obama "forgives" them for having critical thoughts about the situation their country is in.

That is "truly vomit-inducing stuff"? Furthermore, the man is either lying or misinformed (most likely the former) about the slant of Yedioth Ahronoth in the spectrum of Israeli newspapers.

First, note that according to the BBC (not generally considered an "Israeli apologist"), Yedioth Ahronoth is a centrist mass-circulation Tel Aviv newspaper, and notes in a second article about the press in Israel "The paper offers the reader a wide range of views, giving space to commentators from the political right and left. "

Of the 11 daily non-financial Israeli newspapers, including 6 general Hebrew dailies, 1 Hasidic daily, 1 Misnaged (i.e. Lithuanian) daily, 1 Arabic daily, 1 English daily and 1 Russian daily:

Descriptions by the BBC:

Ma'ariv: Center-right line
Ha'aretz: Left of Yedioth Ahronoth and Ma'ariv
Jerusalem Post: Originally left-wing, with a "marked shift to the right" in 1989 ... "he paper's tougher line on issues such as security and the Palestinian territories has remained constant"

other newspapers
Makor Rishon (from Wikipedia): "identified with conservative national and religious values."

Israel Hayom: owned by Sheldon Adelson, who has said something on the order "Everybody thinks I started it solely to help Bibi"; right wing

al-Ittihad: run by the Israeli Communist Party (Maki)

Vesti (Wikipedia) "Vesti has a right-wing editorial stance, like Israeli Russian-language media in general."

Hamodia (Wikipedia): "it is right of center in its Israeli coverage."

Israel Post: a free metro daily, not categorizable

Yated Neeman: misnaged, uncategorizable for several reasons

So it is at worst the fourth most left Israeli daily out of the 9 that are categorizable, definitely left of Hamodia, Vesti, Jerusalem Post, Makor Rishon, Israel Hayom, and probably third, to the left of Ma'ariv.

From his blog, July 27, 2006


Nice guy.

Balad Dismisses MK Said Naffaa-for contact with Lebanese Druze Leader Walid Jumblat

It appears that the ultra-nationalist Arab-Israeli party Balad has decided to dismiss MK Said Naffaa from the Knesset for having met with certain foreign leaders.

Now, Naffaa has been in the news recently. In December Attorney General Menachem Mazuz announced plans to indict him for meeting with foreign leaders:

Last December, Attorney General Menachem Mazuz said he intended to indict Naffaa over an alleged 2007 Syria meeting with Talal Naji, deputy chief of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine and visiting the offices of Hamas politburo chief Khaled Meshal, although he was not present at the time.

The prosecution accused Naffaa at the time of having "knowingly contacted a foreign agent without a reasonable explanation for doing so."

A roughly equivalent U.S. analogy would be Dennis Kucinich meeting with Osama bin Laden as a sitting Congressperson. Of course, even former Congresswoman nut-job Cynthia McKinney does not seem to have gone that far.

So, is Balad actually standing up against such despicable behavior by Naffaa? Of course not. They are angry because Naffaa also (at a different time) met with Lebanese Druze leader Walid Jumblatt without informing the party.

Jumblatt, of course, held talks with John McCain and a delegation of members of Congress last week. McCain can do so because, unlike Talal Naji and Khaled Meshal, Walid Jumblatt isn't a member of a U.S.-designated Foreign Terror Organization. Of course, although the U.S. designates them, the PFLP and Hamas concentrate mostly on Israeli targets.

And (not that it should matter from a state standpoint or a humanitarian standpoint, but to make Balad look even nastier) it's not like Palestinian terrorist groups take extra caution to avoid killing Arabs, either.

Arab victims of Palestinian terror include Marwan Abed Shweika, Hussam Fathi Mahajna, Jamil Qa'adan, Muhammed Mahmoud Jaroun, Hani al-Mahdi, Lutfi Nasraladin, Salah Ayash Imran, Munam Abu Sabia, Ibrahim Kahili, Salem (Sami) al-Kimlat, Tarek al-Ziadne, Adham Shehada, Hussein Abu Leil, Sa'id Jahaja, Araf Azbarga, Hafez al-Hafi, Khalil Zeitounya, Aiman Ghadir, George Elias Khoury, George Matar, Samer Fathi Afan, Hana Francis, Mutanus Karkabi, Ghalab Tawil, Hassan Ismail Tawatha, Maryam Atar, Kamar Abu Hamed, Samih Sweidan, Madin Grifat, Aiman Sharuf, Suad Jaber, Malik Grifat, Iman Kabha, Maysoun Amin Hassan, Nawa Hinawi, Suheil Adawi, Salim Barakat, Ahmed Mazarib, Mofid Sawaid, Ashraf Hawash, Ibrahim Hamadieh, Hana (Eli) Abu-Ghanem, Wael Ghanem, Rujayah Salameh, Madhat Yusuf, Samar Hussein, Salman 'Id el-Hawashla, Fadiya Shalabi, Samir Mugrabi, Jamal Suwitat, Wael Kawasmeh, Sarina Angel, Muhi A-din Othman

Which really says something about Naffaa and Balad.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Democrats Hold All 10 NOVA seats in VA Senate

Well, technically, I suppose there are 2 other seats on the outskirts of Northern Virginia (containing parts of Loudoun and Prince William, respectively, as well as counties outside of what I'd call Northern Virginia), Northern Virginia defined as Arlington, Fairfax, Prince William and Loudoun counties, as well as Alexandria and the other independent cities in and around the area.

So, perhaps 10 out of 12 would be more accurate. This is, of course, as a result of Dave Marsden's upset victory.

Virginia's incoming governor Bob McDonnell (R) congratulated Virginia's newest senator Dave Marsden (D) tonight on his upset against Steve Hunt (R) in Fairfax County.

"I look forward to continuing to work with him in the years ahead in his new capacity,'' McDonnell said. "In these tough economic times, Virginians need leaders in Richmond who will work together to create new jobs and more opportunities. While we may not agree on every issue, I know that Dave and I share a commitment to making this a better Virginia for all our citizens."

Northern Virginia and the difference therein is also largely why the Republicans have such a commanding control of the House of Delegates, since the Republicans have 11 of the 26 seats in Northern Virginia, although the Democrats are in a worse situation outside of NoVA in the House of Delegates as well.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Google Considers Pulling Out of China

And yes, that is definitely a double-entendre, given that China's other recent Internet-related activities include paying Internet porn surfers to report porn sites to the government for a crackdown.

But that's another story altogether. Google is mad, and they aren't going to take it anymore.

We have decided we are no longer willing to continue censoring our results on, and so over the next few weeks we will be discussing with the Chinese government the basis on which we could operate an unfiltered search engine within the law, if at all. We recognize that this may well mean having to shut down, and potentially our offices in China.

What precipitated this? The People's Republic of China's hacking Google to access human rights advocates' Gmail accounts.

In mid-December, we detected a highly sophisticated and targeted attack on our corporate infrastructure originating from China that resulted in the theft of intellectual property from Google. ...
As part of our investigation we have discovered that at least twenty other large companies from a wide range of businesses--including the Internet, finance, technology, media and chemical sectors--have been similarly targeted.
... We have evidence to suggest that a primary goal of the attackers was accessing the Gmail accounts of Chinese human rights activists.

Elsewhere in the post David Drummond (Google's Chief Legal Officer) links to an interesting report by Northrop Grumman for the U.S.-China Economic and Security Review Commission. Now, any scenario of military conflict between the U.S. and China is utterly terrifying, which is much of what the report focuses on. Of course, it also focuses on cyber-espionage:

The return on present investment for targeting sensitive US information in this way (the intelligence gain) can be extraordinarily high while the barriers to entry (the skills and technologies required to implement an operation) are comparatively low. Many countries are in the process of developing capabilities to either respond defensively to this threat or build their own offensive network operations programs, however, China is most frequently cited as the primary actor behind much of the activity noted in media reporting, and US officials are increasingly willing to publicly acknowledge that China’s network exploitation and intelligence collection activities are one of this country’s most consuming counterintelligence challenges.

In other words, Ceiling Cat is watching you. At least, he's watching you until he gets eaten by Chinese restaurant-goers

NAACP hypocritical regarding 2010 Census 'Negro' Controversy

Now, I would wholeheartedly agree that the term 'Negro' is definitely outdated. Obviously it was less offensive back in the bad old days; Rube Foster, Satchel Paige, Josh Gibson, Cool Papa Bell, etc. all played in the Negro Leagues before #42 Jackie Robinson integrated the American pastime for the Brooklyn Dodgers (another outdated term) at Ebbets Field in Flatbush back in 1947. However, today it does carry an element of offensiveness.

Nevertheless, hypocrisy abounds. From the San Jose/Valley Mercury News:

"My first reaction when I saw that was we take two steps forward to take one step back," said Rick Callender, former president of the San Jose/Silicon Valley NAACP. "African-Americans in this country have not referred to themselves as Negro since the 1950s."

Question 9 on the census, which asks for a person's race, lists as one of the options: "Black, African Am., or Negro." The controversy arose earlier this week as the Census Bureau started its road tour in New York.

"I wouldn't say it offends me, but it makes me feel uncomfortable," said Austin Jackson, a 16-year-old from Fremont who serves as president of the NAACP Youth Council in Alameda County. "It's unfortunate they would use such a clearly outdated term."

The NAACP is saying a term is 'clearly outdated.' The NAACP. The National Association for the Advancement of Colored People.

Jeez, that was outdated even when Negro was not.

Monday, January 11, 2010

Kerry Picket Errs Regarding Citizenship Question in 2010 Census

In an article for the Washington Times, Kerry Picket writes that the 2010 census lacks citizenship question. Now, on a certain technical weasel level, she is correct. It is indeed the first decennial United States census (since 1880, but I suppose that's relatively minor compared to her other errors) in which zero citizens will be asked their citizenship status.

However, it is also the first decennial census since 1870 in which zero citizens will be asked their marital status. It is the first since 1960 which will not report poverty status. The first since 1840 which will not report on school attendance. The first since 1930 which will not report on educational attainment (i.e. high school grad, college grad, etc.). The first since 1860 which will ask zero citizens about where their parents and/or ancestors were born. The first since 1840 which will ask zero citizens what they do for a living. The first since 1840 which will not ask if they live on a farm.

Why all these cuts? Because the Census Bureau, pursuant to legislation, replaced the long form of the Census with the American Community Survey (ACS).

From the Census Bureau's Introduction to the ACS

The Census Bureau’s American Community Survey is an ongoing survey that produces important statistics about our nation’s people and housing. It covers the same type of information that had been collected every 10 years from the decennial census long form questionnaire. The American Community Survey eliminated the need for a separate long form in the 2010 Census.
With the American Community Survey, it’s no longer necessary to rely on a single snapshot of an area that becomes increasingly dated throughout the decade. Instead, the survey provides a moving picture of community characteristics — a more efficient use of taxpayer dollars.

As it so happens, the most recent American Community Survey form, the 2009 American Community Survey, does, in fact, ask about citizenship.

Now, in 2000, the Census Bureau only asked about citizenship on the long form, which went to 1 out of 6 households. The American Community Survey asks about 3 million housing units these questions each year, so about 30 million housing units over a 10 year span. The United States has about 130 million housing units according to the latest available Census estimates, and 30/130 is greater than 1/6, so a larger percentage of people are being asked about citizenship this decade than last decade by the Census Bureau.

In fact, this is a larger percentage of citizens since they asked about citizenship on the short form in 1950 (the year, and all other years cited, come from a compilation of Census questions by Grace York at the University of Michigan Library). Apparently President Eisenhower was a major fan of illegal immigrants or something and dropped the question.

Of course, that's not fair to President Eisenhower, despite his suspiciously foreign-sounding name, nearly as bad as Obama. After all, the Census Bureau has never asked about the legal status of people. They have asked whether someone was free or a slave, back in the day when slaves were counted as 3/5 of a person, but never about their legal status in the country.

The 2010 Census: Short Forms for Everybody, and Gay Couples Will be Counted

I had not realized this before, but apparently the Census Bureau's long form is no more. The 2000 Census was its' final hurrah.

One of the most significant changes in modern census history will occur in 2010 ― for the first time since 1930, all addresses in the U.S. will receive a census short form.
In recent censuses, most addresses received one of two forms: either the short form, which focused on the population count and demographics; or the long form, which included additional questions on socioeconomic and housing characteristics. Nationwide, about one-in-six addresses in 2000 received the long form. Together, the two parts of the decennial census showed not only the number of people living in America but also the way we live: education, housing, jobs and more. This information will still be part of the decennial census, but it will be collected on a continuing basis as part of the American Community Survey.

The American Community Survey is sent out to some number of households every few months; this allows the government to have a more up-to-date estimate of important demographic/social/economic/etc. issues, as a lot changes in 10 years.

Instead, the head of each household this year must answer only 10 questions, plus an additional 7 questions for each other household member. The form can be viewed here.

The questions include the following:

  1. For the head only Number of residents in the place of residence
  2. For the head only Whether any additional people were staying in the place of residence on April 1, 2010 that were not counted in question 1.
  3. For the head only Ownership status of residence-owned with mortgage; owned and fully paid off; returned; occupied without paying (squatting)
  4. For the head only Telephone Number-so they can contact you if an answer cannot be understood
  5. I wonder how many people will get confused, since these days pretty much every other form these days specifies specific types of phone numbers (cell, work, home)
  6. For everyone Last Name (15 characters; a poor decision on the Census Bureau's part. They really could've minimally redrawn the form to allow for last name to be on its own line and have a limit of as much as 21 characters. However, thankfully, the 15 character limit just fits my own last name), First Name (13 characters, which is also perhaps a poor decision, but perhaps not) and Middle Initial
  7. For everyone EXCEPT for the head of household How this person is related to the head of household; categories include:
    • Husband or wife
    • Biological son or daughter
    • Adopted son or daughter
    • Stepson or stepdaughter
    • Brother or sister
    • Father or mother
    • Grandchild
    • Parent-in-law
    • Son-in-law or daughter-in-law
    • Other Relative I suppose this was in the interest of space as they felt other things would be uncommon enough
    • Roomer or boarder (i.e. someone who pays rent to you)
    • Housemate or roommate (i.e. equal to you)
    • Unmarried partner (for all those Americans living in sin today)
    • Other non-relative I guess a catch-all for those who don't like the other categories
  8. For Everyone What is this person's sex? Male, female only, though I suppose that technically doesn't affect transgendered people since they still answer one or the other
  9. For Everyone Age, as well as month, day and year of birth
  10. For Everyone Hispanic, Latino, Spanish origin; this is still not considered to be a race. The three "popular" subsets of origins are still Mexican/Mexican Am./Chicano, Puerto Rican, and Cuban; all other Hispanic,Latino, Spanish origins must write in their specific origin by hand
  11. For Everyone Race: White, black, American Indian Alaska Native (with tribe as a write-in), a bunch of different Asian country origins, and some other race
  12. For everyone Whether or not they sometimes live or stay somewhere else

There are several interesting things about the Census form.

There is obviously the whole Negro controversy on the Census form; it says "Black, African Am., or Negro"

The interesting thing about the 'related' form is that it does allow the government to track same-sex couples (if the person checking husband or wife or unmarried partner is the same gender as the head of household) in a way that doesn't "offend" conservatives. After all, it would be far more convoluted and nasty to have to design the form in a way that would prevent such information from being collected. It could be done, I suppose, but it would be pretty terribly convoluted and probably mess up Census data.

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Haredim Should Do the Jobs 'Israelis Won't Do' Instead of East Asians

Ha'aretz, in a story about the rejection of a citizenship process request for a (past childbirth age, for what that is worth) Filipina woman so she could stay with her Israeli partner, dropped this bombshell:

A document obtained by Haaretz reveals that the decision reflects a trend of trying to prevent marriages between Israelis and Filipinas.

"Too many Filipinas are going this road. It must stop and they must be removed from the country," the document states.

Before the second intifada, a lot of menial jobs in Israel were done by Palestinians (not all of them, but a good number; obviously Jews did some and Arab Israelis did some as well). One of my memories from living in Israel (on Antigonus Street in Jerusalem) in 1997 was that the groundskeeper was Palestinian. I remember this primarily in the context that he could not come to work for a few weeks after the Mahane Yehuda suicide bombing.

After the second intifada began, Palestinians were (not unjustifiably) deemed to be a security threat, and so it became far harder for Palestinians to work in Israel, though many West Bank Palestinians still do. As a result, there was a menial labor shortage, and Israel began importing East Asian "guest workers" (Thai, Vietnamese, Filipino). Since Shas head Eli Yishai became Minister of the Interior (which controls immigration policy, among other things), he's been pushing for deportation of children of workers who were born in Israel, and of course this latest memo, among other things.

Levi Brackman, a Haredi (I believe Chabad) rabbi from Colorado, notes that Haredim are contemplating selling kidneys to pay for his daughter and her husband-to-be to have an apartment so her husband could study Torah.

This is in fact what the great sages of old wanted when they said that the study of Torah must be accompanied by working at a trade or business to make a living (Ethics of the Fathers 2:2).

Rabbinic leadership is needed on the highest level to change a system that is forcing many in their communities to take desperate steps just to cover their families’ basic needs.


this does not exempt the haredi community from learning a profession or vocation so that they can become productive members of society. Many more haredi professional and vocational schools need to be developed and the societal pressure to become a full time Torah scholar or a teacher needs to be removed.

Of course, there are plenty of jobs in Israel which the (secular/professionally useful) education-lacking Haredim can do.

Agriculture would allow them to fulfill a whole bunch of mitzvot, and can be done in a perfectly tzniut way in today's world. Ditto for caregiving; they'd just work only with the same sex. As for construction; if Rabbi Hillel could be a carpenter, they can do construction work.

Oh, how I wish someone would propose this to Yishai. I'd love to see his reaction.

Saturday, January 9, 2010

An Open Letter to Jonathan Rosenblum

Rav Rosenblum,

I read with great interest your recent article in the Jerusalem Post entitled, A Question of Governance, and I think you brought up some good points about the problems facing the Israeli economy. However, I'm wondering why you didn't delve just a little bit further into the data on the Israeli educational system.

The data from the latest Statistical Abstract of Israel seem to show that the problems in the educational system are not equally distributed.

For instance, take a look at Table 8.23, which lists the total number of students in 12th grade, how many took the bagrut exam, how many passed the bagrut exam and how many met the entrance requirements for university. There are three groups of students of whom over 50% of the 12th grade classes meet the university entrance requirements. These are Jewish students educated at state secular schools (general) [55.5%], Jewish students educated at state religious schools (Administration of Religious Education) [54.0%], and Arab Christian students [53.1%].

Now, I am not saying these numbers are terrific. The American Jewish Committee has estimated in their yearbooks (go to and download the most recent one there) that 94% of American Jews over the age of 25 have a bachelor's degree. Of course, the United States does not have exams similar to the bagrut. However, American Jews tend to do quite well on the SAT and the ACT. If you look at the list of candidates for the Presidential Scholar's Program from 2005 (the year I graduated), an award for which extremely high SAT and ACT scores determine eligibility, a highly disproportionate number are probably Jewish based on their surnames. It is especially impressive since they set the qualification bar by state to try to equalize the number of students receiving the award in each state. This puts Jews at a disadvantage, 2/3 of American Jews live in one of the 6 largest states (which make up 40% of the total population of the country) and 93% live in one of the 20 largest states (which make up 74% of the total population of the country). And it is not just "secular/assimilated Jews"; a striking 3 of the 40 or so people who were in my grade at Solomon Schechter Day School of the Raritan Valley made the cut. So to summarize, yes, Israeli students from these sectors could do better, but it's not that bad. After all, only 27% of Americans as a whole over 25 have a bachelor's degree (though that's arguably a problem for America, which is another story entirely).

However, only 31% of Muslim 12th graders and 37.1% of Druze 12th graders meet eligibility requirements for university. And only 22.7% of ultra-Orthodox 12th graders even took the bagrut exams, and a miniscule 4.7% of them met the requirements to enter university.

And it is worse than that, as not all students in the Arab sector or the ultra-Orthodox sector make it as far as 12th grade. According to Table 8.31, 7.6% of ultra-Orthodox students drop out yearly between 7th and 12th grades, as do 5% of Arab students (but only 2.1% of state secular and state religious students)

Given that the Arab sectors (in particular the Muslim Arab sector) and the ultra-Orthodox sectors have much higher birth rates than the rest of the population, these disparities may have already been responsible for the poor overall numbers mentioned in your column. More importantly, because of the high birth rates, things overall will presumably get worse if the poor performances in these sectors is not addressed.

So, to make a long story short: is there a reason as to why you left these huge disparities out? And what do you think is causing them? And what should be done about it?

Thanks in advance.

Haredi Women Getting Abortions?

Mind you, they really cannot support the extra kid (or even the ones they have). However, maybe it's really time to ease up on the less-than-crystal-clear halacha regarding female birth control measures.

It's not like they're not being fruitful and multiplying (I'd say they are exponentiating), after all, and the spilling seed thing would only prohibit condoms. Also, since abortions apparently delay the coming of the Mashiach or something or other, surely birth control can be justified on those grounds.

Of course, the Efrat people may just be making things up

"Since the beginning of the financial crisis there has been an increase in the number of women opting for abortions, including religious and haredi women who can't bear the costs of raising another child," said Rabbi Dr. Eliyahu Schussheim, chairman of the Efrat foundation for the prevention of abortions.

I guess on the plus side, the Efrat foundation seems to focus on an individual level rather than a legal one.

Friday, January 8, 2010

Are Haredim Planning to Expand their Shabbos rioting?

Apparently so, according to this; they're going after anything else that's happening on Shabbat

In other shabbos matters, the head of the Vaad L’maan Shabbos, Rabbi Yosef Rosenfeld, has prepared a list of food stores opening operating on shabbos, in gas stations in the capital. Addressing a vaad meeting, the rav called on members to address this alarming reality as well as to prepare a list of stores operating in the city on shabbos, trampling the kedusha of the day

Bravo to the anonymous 60-year old Tear Gas (Pepper Spray?) Lady

Rosa Parks meets Malcolm X for the win in an incident on the mehadrin (gender-segregated) buses in Jerusalem in Israel.

Tear gas spraying the douchebag 18 year old who apparently gets turned on by 60-year old women (this being the 'justification' given for all the tzniut / tznius bullshit). Hopefully she'll get off under self-defense.

an 18-year-old Orthodox man noticed the woman, 60, sitting at the front of the bus on a route on which men and women are segregated for purposes of religious modesty.

The man objected to the woman's seating location, and asked her to move to the back, police said, but she refused to budge.

The exchange quickly escalated into a confrontation, police said.

After being cursed at repeatedly, the woman told him to "shut up," adding, "What do you care where I sit? So what if this is a religious bus? Nothing will happen if I sit at the front," according to her police interrogation transcript.